Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snowing. On. March. 30th. Seriously.

Or, rather: Seriously?

Am I crazy or didn't we used to wear shorts to school in March back in middle and high school? (Surely we were crazy, but that's not the point. The point is that it was at least possible, if not advisable, reasonable, and whatever other -able you can think of.) 

Yes, it's real, true snow you see. In March. 

Have I actually done anything today?

Do you ever think about the basic facts of your day? I can't say that I usually do, but I'm sitting here, alternately writing an assignment for my students, working on an assignment of my own, checking my e-mail, and reading blogs, and I start to hear this noise. A small, phlegmy-sounding noise. I'm like, What in the world is that? 

Oh, it's P.J. She's snoring on the back of the chair about a dozen feet away. And, for some unknown reason, this makes me think, I'm sitting in my house with a snoring cat. What else do I have to say for myself today? What I've come up with isn't impressive: 

-- I'm on Mt. Dew number 3. (Yeah, it's that kind of day.) 
-- Still wearing the fleece pants and t-shirt I slept in, despite having gone to the chiropractor this morning. 
-- Oh, and I'm wearing Brad's one-size-fits-all men's bathrobe. (Very comfy.) Spent half the morning wearing the coat I'd thrown on to go to the chiropractor, so this seems like a step in the right direction. 
-- For lunch, I ate pistachios. More than I usually eat for lunch, but still nothing to cheer about. 
-- My socks don't match. 
-- There's a random black glove sitting next to me on the couch. 

And my cat is snoring. It's just about the cutest thing (next to this sweet strange breathing Fuzzy was doing last week while laying on me - I videotaped it with my phone), and I have no idea why it's motivated me to think about the absurdity of my day, but there it is.

In the Trenches

Tomorrow I will begin teaching The Hours to my class of freshmen for the second half of our fiction unit. The above title might at first seem more applicable to the first part of the unit - for which we read The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien's classic, 1990 National Book Award-nominated collection of short stories about the Vietnam War, memory, and storytelling - but I assure you, it's not. 

My students loved O'Brien's book even more than I hoped they would. And it makes sense: I was their age when I was first introduced to his work, and over the years he has come to be possibly my favorite author (though there's a strong case for the award going to Hemingway). 

While for me and certainly those generations older than me (read: those who were alive during the Vietnam War or its immediate aftermath), the potential stickiness of the topic is obvious. But these students are too young to have any investment in Vietnam and, to a large extent, anything more than the most superficial knowedge about Vietnam. And so, while the book's stance (anti-Vietnam Wat, though decidedly not anti-American soldier) is surely contentious to me or you, none of them seemed to interpret this as a political issue and, therefore, none took umbrage with it. 

Michael Cunningham's 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning The Hours (which was the original working-title of Virginia Woolf's 1923 novel Mrs. Dalloway), however, is a littttttttle bit of a different story. 

Some of you may have seen the (very gripping) movie with Meryl Streep (love her!), Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore (who I could totally do without). It came out when I was a junior in college, so, 2003 or 2004. If you have seen it, jog your memory a bit. Yep, there you go - now you know why I'm anxious to see how teaching this book will go over with a group of freshman. Two of whom are in seminary. Many of whom have probably never interacted with a person they knew to be gay. 

Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf 
Basically, the novel follows the lives of three women in three very distinct historical time periods - the 1920s, 1950s, and the very end of the 20th century. One of these women is an open lesbian, another (a fictionalized version of Woolf) suffers from debilitating mental illness that leads to suicide, and the third contemplates suicide b/c she feels suffocated by her role as a 1950s suburban housewife. Oh, and did I mention Richard? He's a gay man suffering from AIDS, which has basically eaten away a large part of his brain. 

Yesterday, after they finished their peer workshop on their papers, I put a few of the book's "thematic concerns" on the board for them to consider as they read. My list looked something like this: 

Gender - questioning the traditional definitions and roles; questioning the relations b/t genders 
Sexuality - homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality 
Mental illness/"madness" - how is it represented in society? in fiction? what are the effects of its being stigmatized? 
Performing "roles" - what does it mean to be a "wife," "mother," etc. 

There were not a few wide eyes when I mentioned "homosexuality." I was impressed, however, that when I asked for the difference b/t sex and gender (which, interestingly, we also talked about in my theory class later in the day), someone actually had an accurate answer. That, if nothing else, seemed promising. 

After a book focusing on all male characters, I'm glad to throw some female in the mix, but this experience might end up being one minefield after another. However, if I don't expose them to these issues, who will? I guess we'll see how this goes . . . .

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Big Freakin' News!

The moment that probably, well, none of you except Brad have been waiting for . . . . 

I'm going to be a published fiction writer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Scream with me! Ahhhhhhhhhh! I'm so happy! 

And it gets even better - there's $ involved! 

Here's the scoop: two months ago I was flipping through Brad's Poets & Writers and I came to the contests page. Well, I says to myself, Self, you might as well enter this one and that one b/c they don't sound so bad and they ain't so expensive. So I enter this one (but then forget about that one) - I pay my $15 and send off my short-short (usually 1000 words or less) through the online system - and then I go on my merry way . . . 

My celebratory flowers, courtesy of 
my hubby 
Yesterday, late afternoon, I get the most unbelievable e-mail: I won (!) and my story will be published in a print journal (!) and then on the website of the group that sponsored the contest (!) and . . . the prize is . . . $1000! 


I don't know if I can possibly convey how exciting this is for me. The profs that I told today seemed actually impressed by the journal my piece is going to come out in - which was awesome since I know about 15 journals (the biggies - Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Threepenny Review, Tin House, Epoch, etc.) and am generally clueless about the others, many of which are very good. And, not only am I getting paid for my writing, but I'm also going to be a real, true published author! I can finally say I'm a fiction writer and not feel like a fraud! 

The scholarly article publications are exciting, of course, and I'm not denigrating their importance and value at all. But I am a fiction writer at heart, and fiction is my love, and beyond all that, fiction is art. And art is what I love. So, this is HUGE for me. And, it's amazing motivation to get back to work on that novel this summer and send out my darn stories!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Yummy yummy True Blood

Ryan Kwanten, aka Jason I've-got-
existed Stackhouse
(Okay wait, that kind of sounds like I'm talking about the synthetic blood drink . . . no, no, I stick to Mt. Dew and Starbucks, I swear.) 

After watching Season 1, I feel comfortable making the following assertions: 

-- The show's awesome
-- And it's pretty much all about sex
-- And that's okay b/c the vast majority of characters are scrumptious: Jason, Sam, Bill, Sookie, Eric (even if he's an a-hole), Lafayette, Amy (even if she's unbearably annoying), even Dawn. 

Okay, plus the acting's good, the stories are compelling, and they know how to do mystery/suspense. Brad and I suspected every single person of being the Season 1 murderer (well, every single guy) except for the person it actually was. And yet, that storyline was totally believable. And satisfying. 

If you saw the Sept. 2010 Rolling Stone cover with Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, and Alexander Skarsgard, then you know why I wanted to watch these beautiful people award-winning actors. I'm mean, yikes. 

BUT, if you need more than fabulous bodies to entice you (I shudder to think such a thing is possible!), I've got some "legitimate" reasons in my bag of tricks, too. (And, I'm about to contradict my claim that it's all about sex. Except I did say it was pretty much all about sex - not completely.) The show is timely, relevant, and unabashedly provocative in its engagement with 

Eeks! they're oozing sex all over my blog! 
-- homosexuality and intolerance/ignorance 
-- political hypocrisy (also know as "hypocritism" by me) 
-- racism and race relations (vamps and humans in the show, obviously - given the deep South setting, however, the real race issues are barely even under the surface) 
-- extreme, fundamental religion 
-- drug laws and enforcement 

and surely myriad other topics that I've been too dense to notice. 

Further, it should be noted that I praise the show not out of the now-popular adoration of all-things-vampire. I got over Buffy long ago, circa 1999, and I think the cult following it has achieved is, well, silly. It's really not all that good, and Sarah Michelle Geller's voice is fantasically irritating. It always sounds like she needs to clear snot out of her throat. (As some of you know, there's nothing like an annoying voice to prickle me.) While Brad and I religiously watched Angel during my early college years, that was less a function of quality (which, decidedly, is not high) and more a function of that's-what-was-on-TNT-when-Law-&-Order-reruns-weren't. 

And while I do love the Underworld movies and 30 Days of Night, I ask you, Who in her right mind doesn't!? 

Basically, True Blood's a smart show that will draw you in in no time flat. It might even make you think. And did I mention how sexy it is?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

0 for 5 or 5 for 5? (Are you a Pessimist or an Optimist?)

In the past 10 months I have applied to - and been rejected from - 5 conferences. Actually 4 conferences, b/c I submitted twice to ALA. The others: Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), the Narrative conference, and MLA, my most recent diss. 

I got the "Thanks, but no thanks" e-mail from the MLA panel organizer just this Monday, four minutes before I got the e-mail telling me my article was accepted by the journal I'd submitted to. Unsurprisingly, the article acceptance trumped any disappointment I might have felt (which was minor anyway - an MLA rejection is pretty much a given). 

Still, my streak is worth noting and appreciating. If, like me, you are a realist - I balk at the claim that I'm a pessimist! - I'm 0 for 5, quite the feat of loserness. Can I can go 0 for 10 by the end of 2011? Butcher found me a good panel at the Modernist Studies Association (MSA) conference, and there are 1 or 2 others there that I might submit to, so the possibility for getting to 10 in the next 9 months seems wholly possible. 

However, the optimists out there might say I'm 5 for 5. Five tries and five rejections: I'm nothing if not consistent! 

Although, even if you are a so-called optimist (or, what I yesterday termed "delusional" while talking to the chiropractor), you can't get around the fact that this is still an amazing feat of loserness . . .

I think I've found my calling

Every day is Women's Day. Or at least it ought to be 

Okay, that whole calling thing is a bit of an exaggeration, especially b/c you most likely need to have a lot more energy than I do to respond to a calling, but I do think I've found something (finally!) that I like re: literary/critical theory. 

It should surprise, well, no one that what I'm talking about is feminist theory. It doesn't surprise me, as I always figured if something was going to interest me in terms of theory, it would be feminist, but even so, it's a pleasant revelation b/c I've definitely got no love for deconstruction and the rest of post-structuralism nor for reader response theory. 

And, as it turns out, this year in my papers I've actually been using some of these fem. theory concepts (and even some of the theorists) without knowing it. And, just as interestingly, the little that I've read so far is ridiculously applicable to my own fiction. It's making me think about my own work and its preoccupations in a whole new light. 

Talking about the prevalence of illness in women's fiction/poetry, for instance, Susan M. Gilbert and Sandra Gubar (whose Madwoman in the Attic I read part of - and loved - last semester, having no idea it was feminist theory) explain, "the woman writer feels herself to be literally or figuratively crippled by the debilitating alternatives her culture offers her, and the crippling effects of her conditioning sometimes seem to 'breed' like sentences of death in the blood shoes she inherited from her literary foremothers." Um, yeah - like, this kind of stuff is all over my work. Who knew I was writing in some kind of tradition (albeit - and I have to say this - one hindered by the patriarchy)? I kind of feel empowered. (Brad is now officially wary of my taking feminist theory this coming fall - and to think, not two days he was encouraging it.) 

Just the other day, one of my classmates asked me if all this theory stuff is affecting my creative writing. I responded, "That's such a cute idea - like I have time to write creatively right now." But had I answered her seriously, I would've said, No, I think most of the stuff is either nonsense or it's interesting and has no place in practical discussions of creative work and no place in actually doing that work. Now, I'm not so sure about that. 

As for a theoretical stance apart from my own fiction, this fits me pretty well; it's in line with my interests, my politics, and my concerns (even while Kristeva and surely a host of others seem like idiotic nonsense to me). To end, an oh-so-true thought from Simone de Beauvoir's brilliant The Second Sex

"Thus, as against the dispersed, contingent, and multiple existences of actual women, mythical thought opposes the Eternal Feminine, unique and changeless. If the definition provided for this concept is contradicted by the behavior of flesh-and-blood women, it is the latter who are wrong: we are told not that Feminity is a false entity, but that the women concerned are not feminine."

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Friday 4: Best-ever Billy Joel Songs

Title Continued: excluding "Piano Man" b/c it's just not fair to include it 

Billy Joel is my favorite singer of all-freaking-time. I've seen him in concert twice - 1999 and circa 1993 - and would loooooooooooove to go again. 

Forget about the 3 marriages (that's not so bad for show biz, baby!), the, um, drunk driving and unchecked alcoholism (which are NOT acceptable), and whatever other complaints you might have. Let's, instead, focus on the fact that he's been a music icon for decades, that his songs are marvels of sound and emotion, and that his voice soothes me. Picking these songs - 4?! how can I be expected to settle for 4 measly songs?! - is quite the task, but I'm asking myself, "If I could only have 4 Billy Joel songs for the rest of forever, which could I not live without?" (Actually, we can't forget "Piano Man"! I get to have 5!) 

Here's what I've got, though 
 a. I'm willing to entertain reasonable, well-argued oppositions backed up with sufficient evidence; and 
b. I reserve the right to revise this list at a later date or various later dates. 

4.  "She's Always a Woman" from The Stranger (1977) 

She's frequently kind / and she's suddenly cruel / She can do as she pleases / she's nobody's fool / And she can't be convicted / she's earned her degree / and the most she will do / is throw shadows at you / but she's always a woman to me 

This song is just a lovely evocation of what honest-to-goodness adoration is - loving someone's flaws and foibles as well as all the good stuff. And - yeah, yeah, get ready to laugh - it's the song that I, for years in high school, wished some guy would play for me and say, "This is what I think about you." And then, of course, I would fall madly in love with him - or at least agree to a second date, which I seemed incapable of doing at the time. 

3.  "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," also from The Stranger 

Nobody looked any finer / or was more of a hit at the Parkway Diner / We never knew we could want more than that out of life / Surely Brenda and Eddie would always know how to survive 

Okay, this song is a perfect mix of fast and slow (but not too slow). You can work out to it (this, however, might tell you something about the intensity of my workouts . . . ), you can get nostaligic to it, you can jam in the car to it. I've loved it for a long time, but as I get older, I appreciate what it's saying more and more and more. 

2.  "Summer, Highland Falls" from Turnstiles (1976) 

They say that these are not the best of times / but they're the only times I've ever known / And I believe there is a time for meditation / in cathedrals of our own / Now I have seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes / and I can only stand apart and sympathize / For we are always what our situations hand us / It's either sadness or euphoria 

Sing it, Billy Joel, sing it. I had a hard time deciding b/t this and #1. But, I went with the other b/c it was my favorite all the way back during the summer before 9th grade, when I was still 3 years away from hearing of this song for the first time. For me, that's a sufficient tie-breaker. But, I will say that I wept and wept - probably even more than when he played "Piano Man" - when Billy Joel played this at his 1999 concert. I'd never heard it before, and his live performance was enough to win me over 200%. 

Side note: Turnstiles is a totally under-rated album. "Say Goodbye to Hollywood," "Angry Young Man," "New York State of Mind," "Miami 2017" - this is classic stuff. If you haven't listened to it, I highly recommend you do.

1.  "The Longest Time" from An Innocent Man (1984) 

I had second thoughts at the start / I said to myself / Hold on to your heart / Now I know the woman that you are / You're wonderful so far / And it's more than I'd hoped for 

I don't have much to say, except this song gets me every time. It's hopeful and melancholic all at once, and it's so fun to sing along with. This song reminds me that sometimes you just have to embrace the uncertainty, let things flow, let them happen - and have a little faith that they'll work out. (I'm known for being able to listen to the same tune over and over again for, like, hours [sound familiar . . . Amanda?], and this is a definite pick for the "repeat" button.) 

*(Very) Honorable Mentions: "Two Thousand Years" (River of Dreams); "Goodnight, Saigon," (The Nylon Curtain); "I Go to Extremes" (Storm Front); "An Innocent Man" (An Innocent Man); and "Only the Good Die Young" (The Stranger)

Monday, March 21, 2011

As Promised . . .

First (of course) a narrative: 

So, I'm laying in bed this a.m., not wanting to get up, flip-flopping over b/c my hips hurt, but it's 8:10, and it's time to move my behind. I know the article decision is coming in oh-so-soon b/c the status on the online system changed Friday to "Awaiting ME decision" and it's been more than 4 months. So before getting up, I do what every normal American does (bah!) before climbing out of bed on a Monday morning: I check my e-mail on my new smarty-pants smart phone. 

What do I find? Well, none other than a big fat rejection from the Modern Language Association (MLA) conference. 

This ain't lookin' like a great start to the week. I may or may not mumble some not-allowed-b/c-of-Lent obscenities, then right away text  Brad to report the bad news. Then I text Butcher to report not only the bad news but also that he owes me $5. (In a moment of low self-esteem on my part, he bet me $5 that my proposal would get accepted at MLA. Of course I will not accept my winnings b/c I know, even if he denies it, that he was simply being a good friend b/c I felt like crap at the moment - I know this is why b/c there was no reason at all to believe I'd get into, like, the best literature conference ever. Thanks, Butcher, that was sweet.). 

Now, of course, no one texts at the speed of light like I wish they would, so while waiting to hear back about my rejection, instead of twiddling my thumbs I go back to my e-mail to read the e-mail again and spur on the moping. But . . . ! 

In the time it took to send two text messages, I've gotten a new e-mail . . . I squint at the teeny-tiny text . . . I read, "We are happy to inform you that we have accepted your manuscript" - !!!!!!!!!!! 

Naturally, I go bat-sh*t crazy, lunge out of bed, call Brad, shout happily in his ear, and relay all of the exciting details. Repeat with Butcher. Repeat with Mum. Text to Shannon. E-mail to Amanda. There: now you have my morning. 

Happy me! 
And now, the exciting details . . . 

The reviewer's comments were really positive (!), which is amazing considering

1.  This is an unrevised paper turned in for a class, the majority of which was written in 3 days. (Anyone who knows me and my writing, knows I don't roll like dat.)

2.  Reviewers can be niz-asty. I've heard many a horror story about reviewers' responses, so it definitely could have gone another way.

This reviewer, who recently taught the book on which I wrote in a seminar for English majors, said my presentation of research and historical context was "valuable material for teaching the novel." Which makes me want to shriek with excitement - ! But it gets better! She - it's a blind review, so I don't know that the comments come from a woman, but there's something in the wording and tone that suggests to me they do - thought my paper was "very timely, full of good information as well interesting analysis" and said my application of theoretical material to the novel was "first-rate." 

Like, ah! Thrilled! Not feeling as stupid as usual when it comes to the literature stuff! 

Her suggestions for revision include: 
- cutting out a handful of lines to make the paper not-so-long (it's only as long as it is b/c I was trying to make a page requirement for class; a requirement which, it should be noted, I still did not meet);
- replacing a phrase with a less (politically) contentious one; and 
- "strengtening the conclusion if possible" so that it's as strong as the intro. 

Not half-bad for a neurotic grad student who hates theory, eh?! 

They didn't give me a deadline for returning it, but the last (and thus far, only) time I was in this position, I had virtually no work to do, and I still dragged my feet. I hope to knock these changes out in the next, say, three weeks, so the article can get slated for an issue. Scholarly publishing takes FOR-EV-ER, meaning the sooner I get this back to them, the sooner it will see the light of day (that is, the pages of a pretty darn good journal!).

Ahhhhh! Double Ahhhhh!

My article got accepted! 

Straight-up accepted! Of course the reviewer suggested some small revisions (which I will definitely make), but nothing "mandatory" and nothing conceptual! 

Maybe good things come to those who (are forced to) wait 19 weeks?! 

I could hardly be more thrilled! Details later!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

This is why I can't have nice things

That's a Butcher line. He's said it to me on numerous occasions, usually having to do with me leaving my things somewhere and him remembering them before we walk out the door. I'm officially stealing it. 

And actually, I just think that's a catchy title (I have not yet discoursed here on my love of titles, but I will. Oh I will) - what I'm really about to say is "This is why we can't take naps." 

Although most of the time napping doesn't work for me anymore and I just lay there for 45 minutes not-sleeping, when it does work, I end up sleeping for three hours. Yep, that's right: Brad and I just pulled out one of our three-hour naps on the middle of a Saturday afternoon when I should have been doing any number of school-related things like I should be every other Saturday afternoon of the school year. I mean, people, there's True Blood to watch tonight (love you, Netflix!) and bathroom chair rail and baseboards to be painted. The work's gotta get done before that can happen, and a three-hour hiatus for shut eye isn't helping too much. 

Still, it was soooooooooo enjoyable to lay there, relaxed and comfy, on this lovely (but chilly) almost-spring day . . . Don't you just love a good nap?

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Friday 4: Places I Wanna Go

I'm not a good traveler. I like traveling in theory, but I'm not so great at the actual doing of it. (This sounds like my attitude toward a lot of other things, such as running and eating healthy.) Despite my sub-par travel-a-tude though, I do so love the idea of it, and, with proper funding, I firmly believe I could enjoy myself. Luxurious acommodations, lots of dough for food and shopping, seeing the sights regardless of the costs of entrance and travel to said sights, etc. - this sounds like my kind of trip. Not the kind of trip I've been on too often, but the kind I sure would like to go on. 

Oh, and I'd really really like to know enough of the language to find a bathroom and take a bus. 

4.  San Francisco  
Feels like Full House . . . 

Ten (almost eleven) years ago, I went to CA with my parents, and, among other places, we set up temporary shop in the great San Fran. We spent 4 days and 3 nights there, and I fell in love pretty much instantly. The hills (!), the coffee shops, the cultural diversity. So very cool and so very fun. And then there's the bay and the street cars. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. 

What wasn't so fun was sharing a room with my parents whose snoring is a form of domestic terrorism. We stayed at (isn't this cool?) a hotel called the Canterbury Inn (there really were murals from the Canterbury Tales on the walls!), and I spent more than one night in the lobby, curled on a chair by the grand piano, reading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and trying to keep my eyelids open, while the two of them slept soundly and loudly five floors up. This lack of sleep, as you might guess, didn't make for the most fun trip. And, then one morning, there was a fire drill - like wtf? That was a completely random and odd experience. 

So, on my return visit (and I shall have a return visit, esp. since Brad's never been there), I will definitely be well-rested. 

3.  Athens and the Peloponnesus 
Did you know that other writers over the ages have referred to Aristotle as "the Philosopher"? Brad taught me that. Well, any nation that could spawn the Philosopher and serve as inspiration for Gerard Butler to be unforgivably sexy whilst leading an array of sexy, sweaty men (300, duh) gets a whole lotta kudos from me. 

The Acropolis 
Along with all the goodies of Athens - the temples, the Acropolis, the Parthenon - I would of course make a trek to Corinth and Sparta on the Peloponnesus. 

2.  Hemingway's Spain 
If Hemingway wrote about a place, chances are I want to go there, and nowhere more than the cities of The Sun Also Rises and the mountains of For Whom the Bell Tolls. (If you have not read these books, you really must. And I don't usually assign reading to anyone but my students.) 

The Pamplona of Sun is passionate, riotous, a fever of life. I'd probably lose my lunch at a bullfight (I don't even eat lunch, usually, unless I'm scarfing down five - yes, five - pieces of pizza at Amanda's), but Hemingway's writing makes me want to see one anyway. And, while I'm not a mountain person, the Guadarrama range of For Whom is so evocatively rendered that you feel like you're breathing mountain air and stepping barefoot over broken branches - so, yeah, I'd like to rock that in person. Toss in Madrid, Barcelona, and all the beautifully depicted small towns from his novels and reporting, and you've got a drool-worthy trip. 

1.  Rome 
If you haven't gathered already, I am obsessed with Roman history, Caesar, Latin, and all that good stuff. Ever since high school Latin - where I was, I must say, a star - with a teacher who knew her ancient Rome like nobody's business, Rome has been under my skin. 

To go to Rome would be, like, so ridiculous for me. There would be gaping. Gasping. Face-hurting smiles. (On my part; hopefully not on the parts of the Italians interacting with me.) My eyes are tearing up a little just thinking about it (I'm being serious here). For me, ancient Rome is such an amazing site of culture, law, politics, romance, letters, architecture, public speaking, and intrigue. So much intrigue! 

A trip to Rome would be - and I say this fully aware of the cheesiness - a dream come true. (We talked about the various connotations of "dream" in my freshman English class yesterday, so it seems timely to characterize a trip to Roma as such.) 

Sigh: the Colosseum 

Definite stops: Colosseum, the Roman Forum, St. Peter's Basilica, the Appian Way (Via Appia for you Latin buffs), Porta Maggiore, Nero's Aqueduct, and the Pantheon. And that's just the beginning. 

Brad and I will make this trip happen someday. It's just too bad Brad got a C+ in Italian in college.

This is just more than I can take without sharing

Because I don't already have enough to do, Brad made me listen to this: "Friday" by Rebecca Black." Don't just listen, watch. Or, don't just watch, listen. It will make your soul cry. 

In so many ways, I CANNOT believe this video exists. Although, now Brad has made me feel bad (just a little) b/c this girl thought she was having the experience of a lifetime and now every person who sees her video is shredding it and her. 

About 60% of me believes this is fake - one article suggested it was a Lonely Island-esque endeavor. And, quite frankly, I hope so, b/c that would mean this is not someone's idea of reasonable music. 

Regardless, what makes this whole situation even more special is the cover by, as Brad terms him, "Mock Bob Dylan." 

Oh, enjoy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Cleaning

That is, cleaning up my blog's look for spring. From dark to light, more feminine, with a little bit of nature in there for good measure. I feel winter wandering away already! 

Can you believe Brad says I'm stuck in my ways - bah! - just b/c I still use Microsoft Word 2000 and went kicking and screaming into the land of smart phones (and away from flip phones. So sad, so sad . . . )?

Another writing reminder to me

More happy writing news! (And no, I didn't get a story picked up by a literary journal - although that would be, like, the happy writing news of the century in my life. I don't even have any pieces out there for consideration right now. I know, I know, isn't there a book-long master's thesis full of short stories sitting on my computer? Yeah yeah, tell me something I don't already know.) 

Turns out the prof. who was supposed to teach the summer intro. to creative writing class (fiction, poetry, nonfiction) had a change of plans, and . . . the head of my dept. asked me (!) today if I want the class! I'm like, Heck yes! 

Doris Day, rockin' the chalkboard 
There's a chance the course won't run due to insufficient enrollment, which is pretty much always a possibility with summer classes. But I'm just jazzed that she asked me and that the class might happen. And of course, my c.v. could definitely use another creative writing class on it. Plus, the $2500 summer teaching pays wouldn't be too bad either, esp. since I don't get a paycheck from mid-May through mid-Sept.(yikes!). Score!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Reminder: I am a writer

Sometimes it's easy to forget that. Sometimes it's easy to not be - to just, well, stop doing what I love, which is writing fiction, and feel completely disconnected from it. 

Me and good ol' fic-ti-oni, we've got a love-hate relationship one-third of the time, and the other two-thirds we're like cousins who live on two different continents and every now and again one of us (me) thinks either fondly or snarl-ly about the other (who does not think and, therefore, does not think about me) in a sort of far-off way. Like, I remember that one time when . . . 

Grad school is draining, and it's hard to keep the creative writing going when all your mental energy's being sucked up by writing critical nonsense, but I don't need an excuse even half as good as that; I'd spend most of my time not-writing even if I weren't slaving away. It's what I do all summer while I sit on my hiney. In fact, I'm so good at not-writing that one might accurately label me a fiction not writer

But alas. This is supposed to be a happy post. And it will be. As of now. 

Okay, so I usually use a computer - but 
this just looks so much nicer! 

Last week, a writing professor at my school asked if I wanted to read in the department's reading series next year. It's not some big thing - usually just Pittsburgh writers or lit. professors who write creative stuff on the side, that sort of thing - but it made me feel really, well, good. And excited. 

It's not too often that somebody who actually writes and publishes fiction gives a darn about mine. He's never read my stuff - though he's offered to, which is really cool - so for all he knows (and all I know), I'm terrible. But the fact that he took me and all that darn MFA hard work serious reminded me that I am a writer. And it got me re-siked (def. not a real word) for working on that novel I've been fiddling with for not a short amount of time. 

To be a writer, all you need to do, I remembered, is write. It's not about how many pages you produce, it's not about if the piece gets published, it's not about what other people think about your work.

It's about writing. Pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, brain bouncing along. And that's a kind of freeing thing to think about.

It's a sad day for history . . .

Today is 2055 years since Julius Caeser was murdered. The Ides of March and all that jazz. Kinda cool, huh? Not the whole stabbing part  . . . but the fact that we know the exact day that it happened more than 2 MILLENIA ago. 

A few quick thoughts on Caesar, who is without a doubt one of my favorite historic personages (I feel a Friday 4 coming on . . . ): 

1.  Whoever invented Caesar dressing deserves a medal. (The person who invented creamy Italian deserves a bigger one, though). 

2.  No matter what other people say, Julius Caesar really is one of Shakespeare's best plays. Or at least it was when I was in the 10th grade (or as Butcher the Canadian would call it, "grade 10") and had only read one other Shakespeare play (I bet you can guess which). 

3.  Jeremy Sisto, who plays Caesar in the so-bad-it-really-truly-is-delicious TNT Julius Caesar movie, is really hot. I own the DVD of this movie, in case you want to borrow it. (Brad special ordered it for my birthday a few years back b/c seeing it once - on tv, of course - just wasn't enough for me.) Also stars Christopher Walken as Cato (he's simply too much - fabulous); Chris Noth (also hot) as Pompey; and Richard Harris (poor guy died before the movie "came out") as Sulla. 

4.  Okay, okay, here's something actually about Caesar: he's responsible for leap year/day. Dude restructured the calendar, put the 365 into the 365-days-a-year, tacked another sunrise and sunset on every four years, and voila! (Some pope tinkered with the calendar about 1500 years later, but don't even get me started on popes.) 

Basically, I think Caesar's the stuff. Ain't nothin' like him if you have (as do I) a fancy for two of the most interesting areas of history out there, Roman and military. The man was a lion. He was a descendant of Aeneas, for crying out loud! That means he's got some goddess (Venus) in him . . . 

Yeah, don't try to deny it - you know he's cool.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I'm part of the problem

Yesterday, I started a post on Charlie Sheen's bizarre-o antics. In fact, I wrote an entire post, but it felt like two separate efforts. About 5/8 (probably my second favorite fraction) of the way through, I did an about-face, switching from light-hearted mockery to serious appraisal of his situation and the nation's attitude toward mental illness. And then I felt icky about what I'd written. I couldn't click the big orange button to send it into cyberspace b/c something just felt wrong. 

Then my mom came over to help with the powder room renovation, and when we got to talking about Sheen's behavior (we both get sucked into celeb gossip), she grew serious: "Yes, it was funny - for a while. But then it went on and on, and I started to think, There's a real problem here - something is not right with this situation." 

Her sentiments were very similar to those at the end of my unposted post. But my mom didn't laugh. Not for the first 5/8 of the conversation; not at all. 

So, having had a day and a half to sit with this, I write now to say two things. First, shame on me. (This will be echoed, deservedly, below.) Last weekend I laughed at Sheen when Brad and I had friends over; a few days ago we watched Jimmy Kimmel lampoon Sheen and cracked up, and we even talked about it the next day. Shame on me. Shame on me for being part of the problem. 

The problem is the second thing I want to talk about. What follows is excerpted from my initial post. The first two lessons - I now lower my head as I say it - were jokes at Sheen's expense, rife with references to winning, Adonis, and Tiger's Blood. But the third one is the only one worth reading, and the others have vanished into the world of "cut" text. 

"Lesson 3No one is exempt from the threat of mental illness, and as a society, we need to revamp our attitudes toward it

All joking aside (and I do love joking), Sheen's behavior isn't just weird, it's off. There's a pretty real chance that Sheen suffers from bipolar disorder or some other serious - and untreated - mental health problem. And if that's the case, then this post and all 6 million Charlie-Sheen-mocking articles out there are contributing to a really really big problem in this country - an insensitive and ignorant approach to mental illness. And, if this is indeed what I'm contributing to, as someone who takes mental illness very seriously, let me be the first to say it: Shame on me

In 'Charlie Sheen Isn't Funny' from the LA Times, a long-time sufferer of bipolar disorder comments on the social stigma associated with mental illness in this country: 'In Hollywood, "it's easier to say 'I was smoking crack and hanging out with hookers' than admitting 'I'm deeply depressed or deeply in pain,'" said Abbey, who spent years working in the entertainment industry. "People are quick to judge you when you're manic depressive. I think Charlie Sheen, like a lot of us, doesn't want to wear that label."' 

It's quite likely that something serious - beyond an unpleasant personality - is plaguing Charlie Sheen and contributing to his very, very public meltdown. And while lots of people realize this, many more don't. It took me several weeks (and a newspaper article) to even consider the possibility. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 25% of the country's population suffers from some form of mental illness during a given year. That's a HUGE number. These problems are very real for the sufferers, their parents, children, spouses, and friends. As a culture, our general lack of knowledge about what constitutes mental illness and what it "means" leads to lack of awareness about how to handle it and a lack of sensitivity to the subject. I don't believe most people are purposely cruel. I'm certainly not. And yet, to read my unposted post, you'd have every reason to believe I was. 

Mental health problems are just that - health problems. They should be no more a source of shame and embarrassment for those who suffer from them than is a torn rotator cuff, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, or heart disease. But that's easier said than done. Any hope for a change in people's attitudes toward those with mental illness will have to derive from education. Our society needs to become educated about the signs, symptoms, and causes of mental illness. We can't stick our heads in the sand - these problems aren't going away." 

So ends the only respectable part of what I wrote yesterday. 

A super-size ego is funny, but manic depression is not. Arrogance - amusing; self-destruction - not at all. And I'm pointing a finger at myself.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Friday 4: Ways You Know You're Getting Old

And by "you," of course, I mean "me." 

4. Your pop culture references receive blank stares and furrowed brows from your students

Gotta love Grady Tripp 
Hey, I can toss out a Jay-Z reference with the best of 'em - but when I mention a movie like  Wonder Boys or The Hours (both of which are books! the second of which I'm teaching later this semester!), and my students respond with the same look that, say, Dirty Harry or The French Connection, would get from them, it's a sign I'm no longer on the cutting edge. (Not that I ever was. But still.) 

3. Five years ago, you could name about 150 of the 200 people you graduated high school with; now, 75 is pushing it

My graduating class had 217 people. In June 2000, when I departed from those hallowed halls, I could name roughly 217 of the people who left with me. About five years ago, I probably still had a good 150 names locked away in my brain. I have for years marveled at how people forget the last names, faces, etc. of former classmates they spent YEARS around. Then the other night - b/c I do useless things like this - while I was laying in bed, I tried (in my head) to name as many people by first and last name as I could. To say I got 75 is a stretch. And it's not like more useful things have filled my noggin since 2006 and taken up the name-space. 

I think I can feel the memory dripping out of my head . . . . 

2. Your teacher has to increase the font size on the projected computer screen to 18 pt. so you could read it

On Tuesday, my professor projected a Word file -
standard Times New Roman, 12 pt. font - onto the screen at the front of the classroom. Squinting, I still had difficulty making out the words. I asked him to make it bigger, and he increased the font to 18 pt., which wasn't bad, though I was still leaning forward. People in the class chuckled at my request. Whatev. The kicker is my teacher's response: "You're like me." No biggie, until I explain that two weeks ago he got his first pair of bifocals. Oh, and that's he's 40. 

1. You consider sleeping till 9:30 a.m. "sleeping in." 

Never thought the day would come. Never. Still in a bit of denial that it has. As recently as Christmas break, I could snooze till 11 a.m. with ease; this past summer, 12:30 was easy as pie. 

But something's happened. Now, even on days when my alarm isn't set for 6 a.m., I'm usually up before 8. On the weekends, if Brad and I get out of bed around 9 or 9:30, I think, "Wow! We sure slept late!" What's next?! Wearing my pants up to my armpits and driving 14 mph down the highway?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chips 'n Sh*t

I'm Lutheran (as are Brad and the rest of my family), not Catholic, but in my younger years, I tried and failed to give up a variety of things for Lent. The last time I made such a 40-day attempt was probably college and it probably lasted about 2 days. But Brad reminded me this morning of a particularly ridiculous story from 8th or 9th grade that I'd shared with him at some point, and it's serving as a bit of motivation: 

Oh, Lays, how I love thee! 
This all must be prefaced with the explanation that I love potato chips the way some people love spending money. I'm instinctively drawn to them, they cause me all kinds of joy for a brief period of time, and then I end up feeling sick. ("Reflux sucks" could be the title of an entire post.) I've loved potato chips for as long as I can remember (probably as long as I've had teeth) - Lays, Ruffles, Snyders; plain, sour cream 'n onion, barbeque. You name it, I like it. And, back in the day, they didn't wreak havoc on my stomach. 

So, circa 1996, I decide to give up potato chips for Lent. I'm going strong. We're reaching the 20-day mark, then the 30-day mark, then 35 days. Somewhere in these last 5 or so days, however, I begin to get desperate. The chips, you see, have not disappeared from my house since I began my "chip fast." (Sounds like Slimfast made of chips. Ick. And yes, Amanda and I used to drink Slimfast. We also used to run 3 or 4 times a week. What can I say? Bad and good habits just seem to disappear . . . ). Instead, they're just hanging around in the cupboard longer b/c, although my mom and dad eat chips, they don't harbor an out-of-control love the way I do. 

Day 36 or thereabouts, things start to get dicey. I miss my snack. I've got a mad craving for some flat, fried potato. I take a bag of Snyder's barbeque up to my room. Stare at it awhile. It's me vs. the chips. The chips are winning. I open the bag and sniff. Dear goodness, this is what dreams are made of. I turn away. Must be strong. But they're calling me. I reach my hand in and pull out a chip. It feels so crisp and delightful. Only. Four. More. Days. I sniff the chip. It's everything I remember and more. 

And then, the moment of truth: I lick the potato chip. Yes, I did. I licked it, tasted the delicious barbeque flavor, breathed in the smoky aroma. And then recoiled in horror at my weakness. Okay, not quite a recoil in horror, but a shameful dropping of the chip to my lap. I continued no further, and if I remember correctly, I finished out the 40 days without actually eating a chip. It was a flawed effort, but my best to date. 

This year, I've decided to tackle a biggie: no swearing. I know there will be screw-ups along the way. In fact, there have been 5 already this morning/afternoon. (And that's only those that I was cognizant of. Surely there were more.) But, I'm not going to quit trying even though the words seem to just fly out of my mouth. This chickadee's gonna clean up her language over the next 6 weeks. At the very least, she's gonna try really, really hard.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rock on, Ladies (and some of you Gents)

Okay, I have no idea what International Women's Day is, but the Google homepage informs me that today is its 100th anniversary. (Thanks, Google; your completely random information is appreciated in this instance. Now, please don't take over my identity/mind/country/the world.) 

I've never heard of this day, it's true, but then again I've never heard of most things. So I'm gonna take this opportunity to say: 

1.  Women rock. 

Mum and me 
2.  My mom rocks. She is the awesomest woman I know, and if I'm just a little bit like her, then that makes me happy and proud. 

3.  Being a woman rocks. Yeah, cramps suck and we don't play in the NFL, but high heels make me feel sexy. There's so much about being a woman that I love, and I wouldn't trade it for $10 million. Anyone who knows me knows that's true. 

4.  Betty Friedan, Margaret Sanger, and Gloria Steinem rock. Oh, and Judy Brady, too. (Please read her 1971 essay from Ms. magazine "Why I Want a Wife." It's so good - and short! - it's scandalous.) 

5.  Men who are feminists rock. This includes John Stuart Mill and my hubby. 

Rock on, ladies, rock on.

Failure x 5


Monday, March 7, 2011

P.J. rocks

Imagine me whispering this post: 

Shhhh - I've got a sleeping kitty on my belly as I type this! She almost never sleeps/sits/lays on a human being. Not even on Brad, whom she stalks around the house (in a very annoying manner, if you ask me.) (Jealousy, anyone?) She prefers pillows, blankets, bookbags, magazines, and yes, even a piece of paper. 

But she jumped up and took 15 minutes (literally) getting settled in on me! And here we are. It's simply delightful. As I lay here trying to move as little as possible and make as little noise as possible with my typing, I'm thinking that resting my arm on a sweet, fat, warm kitty who's sound asleep on my belly is about the awesomest thing I could be doing at this moment. 

Look at that sleepy kitty! 

The Got-to-Do List

And so ends Spring Break, and so begins Real Life. 

For the past ten days, I have avoided making a to-do list. I knew it would oppress me (I felt oppressed enough by all of the work that had piled up without needing a list to remind me), and I knew that I'd never get to half of the reading, grading, etc. listed. And so it seemed best not-to-do the to-do list. 

But here we are: Monday. Tomorrow I head back to campus, teach a class, sit through another. I'm prepared for neither of these ventures and not likely to be prepared for the second even when it rolls around. Which is a shame b/c I actually like that class (which is an unexpected twist with me). Plus, I've got a paper due on Thursday that's only about 5/8 done despite the hours and hours I've put into it over the past week. 

So: I've made my "got-to-do" list, which includes only those things I've absolutely got to do to be feasibly prepared for tomorrow and on-track for having my paper ready to turn in at 6:00 p.m. Thursday. And let's just say, this beast is scary looking, even though it's a lot more utilitarian than the dream list I'd have penned a week and a half ago; we're waaaaaaay beyond the dreaming stage at this point. 

I guess it's a good thing I got up at 6:30 a.m. Though we've all seen how that sort of thing's turned out for me in the past.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

To Tweet-er or not to Tweet-er

Yeah, it's Twitter, I know. I know. But I did just call it "Tweeter" by mistake (a mix-up of "Twitter" and"tweeting," that's all, for crying out loud) and garnered the mockery of my tech-savvy husband. 

The title refers to Bradley, not me. I think Twitter is stupid. Sorry to offend if I have offended. Well, not that sorry, b/c I do think it's stupid. Maybe I just don't get it. I mean, for sure, I don't get it. And maybe that's the only reason I think it's dumb; then again, maybe not. Maybe it just is dumb. 

Anyway, we're sitting at Starbucks presently, and my dear hubby announces, "I think maybe I'll start doing Twitter." 

Me:  twitching, half-laughing, trying to appraise his seriousness-level. 

Him:  serious. 

This man I am sitting across from with whom I share a home and cats and myriad other things just said to me, only half-jokingly (and how I wish it were more than half), "It's a revolution in communication." 

I sigh. Were we not in public, I would weep. He's not interested in blogging, but this whole Twitter thing is, somehow, appealing. He says he wants to use it, at least in part, professionally. I have no idea what that means, and he hasn't quite articulated what that means. Does this mean he doesn't know what that means? What do I mean? What does the universe mean? What do I mean by "mean"? Okay, now I'm being unnecessarily silly. 

Anyway, my husband may soon become the next Mr. Twitter, joining the ranks of Demi Moore, Jim Carey, and apparently a host of "profressionals" who are tweeting about who-knows-what. Will that make me Mrs. Twitter? I really, really hate the sound of that . . .

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Taking a quick break to ponder a career change

Okay, not really. But, I am taking a momentary break from writing a paper (not fun) to muse about how I would have loved to be a historian. For the paper I'm currently working on, I've been reading chunks of the National Book Award-nominated Land of Desire by William Leach. It's about the rise of consumerism and the department store in America, and it's the sh*t! Well-written, engaging, super smart, and without the slightest hint of judgement on its part, the book's even managed to make me feel shallow, materialistic, and ashamed of my love of stuff. This is economic, social, and cultural history at its best, if you ask me. And I'd rather read this than a book of literary criticism any day. 

The problem with the become-a-brilliant-historian plan, however, was the usual problem: I couldn't imagine ever coming up with an idea to write a dissertation about. (Yes, as a 21- and 22-year-old undergraduate, I was already thinking things like that). So that got checked off the list with psychologist and all those other things that required original ideas I'd never have. 

Plus, there was this bizarre instance my junior year: 
(Me:  me; Professor H: history professor who taught my junior seminar and from whom I earned an A and wrote a long-arse paper on Patton, Montgomery, and WWII). 

Me:  Would you be willing to write me a rec. letter for law school? 
Professor H:  Sure, I'd be glad to. Your paper was really good, by the way. Law school sounds like a great idea. The market for history jobs in the university is so bad right now, I don't really recommend that people go to grad school for history unless they're really really the top of bunch. 
Me:  Right, cool. 
Professor H:  Yeah, like Jackie, she's got a great idea about WWII and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. 

I mean, was it really necessary to shoot me down when I hadn't even suggested any interest in pursuing graduate studies in history? Was I really that bad!? 

(I would like to note that I took two graduate courses during my MFA program, and the teacher of one of those classes - from whom I earned my only A- during my three-year program, grrrrr - recently published an essay in an OXFORD collection in which he credits my paper for his class with providing some of the ideas he "adapted" for his paper. Isn't it lovely that he cited me by name only after noting that I had been a graduate student in his class? That is, only after basically trying to say he was responsible for me having had the ideas in the first place!)

The State of the Language, Part 2

(For part 1, go here

Part 2:
Vagueness, that icky trait of language, seems to me largely to result from protection of pride. If you (not you, of course) commit to an idea or a way of expressing it, you claim it, own it, put your stamp on it. You say, "This is what I believe. I stand behind this. It is an expression of me." This is nothing less than a wager of pride: you're opening yourself up to all manner of criticism should your ideas be deemed wrong/misguided/unpopular/unfashionable/(you get the point). 

Dramatic? Maybe. But but but, let's just think about it for a hot minute. Some anecdotal evidence: during the 17 student paper conferences I had a few weeks ago, only one of my students without fumbling, mumbling, and hedging, actually articulated a coherent answer to the question I posed. I'd only asked them to verbalize what they'd already written in their papers (which they had right in front of them). Yet they bumbled about, unwilling to assert what they'd already (semi-)asserted in writing (it seems their high school teachers never seemed to expound on the evils of the word "seems" like mine seemingly did all the time). 

Why are they so reticent? Trust me, it's not b/c I'm some imposing figure. I've never had to yell at this group (which is totally weird), and at 5' 5" and 110 pounds, I'd get my butt whooped by most of these students in a fight. 

But it's not just freshmen: I hedge and hem and haw (and whatever other h-word you can think of) with the best of 'em in any class where I feel even slightly outbrained. I start sentences with, "Well, something that I'm just thinking now that I, I, uh, haven't fully fleshed out, is, uh . . . " Do we have so little self-confidence in reserve that we can't put 2 ounces on the line? Have our egos become so fragile? So many people (obnoxious political commentators excluded, of course) would rather be "safe" by being "not wrong" (and, importantly, they end up being "not right" either) than risk criticism/censure/failure/a learning experience for the sake of self-expression and all those other lovely words that could go here. 

So: here comes my dorky prescriptive statement, get ready. I think we need to take back the language. Yes, I just said that really dork-face thing. But I mean it! 

We need to rescue our speech (and writing) from the dangerous pits of vagueness and ineffectuality and say what we really mean. We need to use language - and teach our students to use language - in a way that is empowering and assertive. (Without, of course, being over-powering and bullying. There's already enough of that out there.) 

I don't yet have a plan for enacting this with my own speech . . . BUT, as a teacher, the place I'm going to start is by calling out my students on their hedging and asking them, WHY?!?! they do this. I'm going to call their attention to their habits. I'm going to insist that they take a risk and take a stand in their speech and with their ideas. After all, they're paying lots of money to tell me what they think . . . .

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Friday 4: Fab Hairstyles

The subtitle I really want seemed excessive, so I'll put it here: 

Fab Hairstyles I Wish I Had the Guts/Ability to Get (but don't) 

There. Much better. And actually, coming back after having written most of this post, I think I need to add a sub-subtitle: Some Random Notes about Prom. Now, onto the haircuts: 

4.  My husband (and mother and friends and neighbors) would have a panic attack if I got this done to my hair. (And I'm pretty sure I would, too.) Is he one of those guys who likes long hair? Of course. But he also likes my hair short. Just not as much. His health is not the reason I don't go for Michelle Williams's pixie look, however; it's b/c I would look, well, stupid. I don't have the face shape for it. My mom, Brad, and I have been unable to figure out precisely what shape of face I do have, but whatever it is, it's not the one you need to pull this look off. 

3.  Yeah, this is the second time Kate Beckinsale has appeared on my blog in a month's time. What of it? I mean, she's gorgeous, has great hair, and plays a vampire in the movies. There's not a whole lot more that I ask for from celebrities. Anyway, Kate's long wavy hair doesn't look complicated or difficult. And, for her and her team of a bajillion stylists, it probably isn't. But real hair doesn't do this sort of thing. And certainly not my hair. Fullness without poofiness, soft waves that stay wavy without the hardened look of hairspray (which doesn't work in my hair anyway and which I haven't used since probably my senior prom) - this is movie/photo shoot/photoshop magic. 

2.  I simply adore this hairstyle. I don't quite know what's going on with it - like, is this the work of a blow dryer and round brush? hot rollers? a curling iron? 800 nearly undetecable layers? It's really hard to say. But this bob is just so darn cute - too cute for me, in fact. I'm just not that cute of a person. Note: I really can't stand Katie Holmes. She's done nothing of interest in the past decade (marrying Tom Cruise is NOT of interest), and I tired of Joey Porter at about the same time my hunky date to my first prom noted that he and his hunky friends adored Dawson's Creek and watched it religiously. Talk about 2 birds, 1 stone. 
1.  Ohhhhhhhhhhh, lovely. Lovely! I've been a huge fan of this hairstyle for years. The texture and thickness of my hair is not dissimilar to Reese Witherspoon's, so I could probably rock the long, straight layers pretty well. But bangs - esp. straight-across-the-forehead one - take guts. Guts I don't have. Taking the leap for my current side bangs (which now can be pulled back into a ponytail!) was like choosing a single stock in which to invest a life savings. But I did it, and then I loved them. For three seconds. And then I hated them. For three months. Finally, I learned how to fix them, and we now maintain a sometimes cordial, sometimes strained peace with one another. 

*For the sake of consistency, I guess I'll say something about my junior prom as well. Um, my hair looked awesome and my dress was fab and unlike anything anyone else wore, but my date was a dud. I only asked him (yes, I asked - so what?!?!) b/c I knew my mom was imagining scenarios where I didn't go to the prom and turned into a troll and lived forever in her house, husband-less and eating bon-bons all day. He was the younger brother of a friend, cute enough, but lacking seriously in the smarts and personality arenas.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Am I really eight years behind the rest of the world?

So, I've frequented Starbucks this past week or two, and, if you've been there for any chunk of time, you know they have a tendency to play songs over and over again. When you're there for 3 or 4 hours, you get pretty familiar with whatever you can't block out with ears plugs, John Coltrane, or index fingers. Plus, the annoying guy sitting to your right helps you out b/c he sings every other line out loud, humming the tune in b/t. (Sorry, I had to complain about him again. He really put a damper on my Tuesday.) 

But anyway. I am currently obsessed with a Jayhawks' song called "Save It for a Rainy Day" that I've heard umpteen times at that delicious coffee shop. (And please, I don't want to hear how it's so commercial and bourgeois, etc. etc. Their coffee tastes good, and the place is relatively clean. There:  it's officially met my requirements for coffee-selling establishments.) So, I look the tune up today, and it turns out it came out in 2003. I'd been thinking either late last year/early this year or maybe the 1960s (seriously). How do I miss things for EIGHT years? 

Are the Jayhawks super famous? No. Am I a super-up-to-date music person? No. But this song is right up my alley, and in 2003 I was a college junior still 300% into finding new music. I mean, I'm out of touch, sure, but it's a little shocking for me to learn I'm this out of touch. 

(The video's actually pretty cool - it's got Mary-Louise Parker wearing old school clothes. I guess that means it officially meets my requirements for music videos . . .)

For just one day - just one!

For one day - that's all I'm asking - I would like to not spill something and, as a result, not have to clean something up. 

Today (it's currently 11:51 p.m. on Wednesday) was almost almost that day. Then about 15 minutes ago I kicked over an open bottle of over-priced-yet-totally-worth-it-b/c-I-haven't-been-able-to-find-it-in-7-years IBC black cherry pop, and it went cascading across the coffee table. (Yeah, hon, I'm glad you were asleep for that one.) And I, of course, followed with a mound of papertowels, both wet and dry, and cleaned it up. 

Yesterday, I spilled rice, from the pot, onto the tablecloth and the hardwood floor. I can't remember what I spilled on Monday, but trust me, I spilled. The day before I spilled my water when Brad and I were at Starbucks. Most memorable in recent history is the half mug of Dr. Pepper I spilled on my leather couch. That was a sh*t show if ever there was one. I can't remember the last time I moved so fast. 

I'm not sure what my problem is. Do I have a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of thing going on here? Are my motor skills just that bad? Or maybe it's my memory since I put something down, make a mental note not to knock it over, then proceed to knock it over with uncompromising swiftness (sounds like a little bit of option 1 in there, too). Perhaps I am just a klutz, plain and simple. 

I don't know why I can't go even a day without messing up a shirt or a couch cushion, but I so frequently spill Mt. Dew, Snapple, water, and every type of solid food you'd never imagine someone spilling (like, oh, Bagel Bites) that Brad's thinking about putting restrictions on my use of dish towels. I dirty those suckers faster than he can clean 'em.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Addendum (revision?) to "Addendum"

(This feels meta, but I think everything is meta, so it's probably not.) 

Turns out, I do have reason for my misanthropy: 

         17 student papers to grade
     +  guy singing/mumbling the lyrics to the music at Starbucks 

If you'd prefer, I've got another: 

         book I NEED for paper I'm writing is to be found everywhere
              except places that are convenient 
     x  STILL waiting to hear about my essay after 16.5 weeks 
         double grrrr 

I could keep going, but subtraction and division wouldn't really make sense here. Besides, I'd rather spend the energy on hate.

Addendum to "A Thought on Birth"

Upon further reflection, I think perhaps King Lear had it right a few hundred years ago: 

     When we are born, we cry that we are come 
     To this great stage of fools . . .

The king had reason for his misanthrophy, even if I don't.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

No, Thanks. Really

It took me 20 years to try the stuffing at Thanksgiving dinner, and yeah, I'm glad I finally did b/c, as it turns out, my mom makes a mean freakin' stuffing (esp. for someone who isn't much into cooking). Excepting that experience, however, I'm pretty set in my food-ways, and I'm fine with that. 

Most everyone I went to school with during my MFA days equated exotic/expensive/complicated/odd foods with being cultured/sophisticated/intelligent/worth a damn. Perhaps I am none of these things since I do not eat such foods. (I've eaten duck though! And sampled lobster!) But I also don't eat - as in, have never and will not - A LOT of other things that I would classify as "typical" foods. If I'm unsophisticated etc. b/c I don't eat prosciutto and capers, then what am I given that I don't eat tuna salad (or tuna, for that matter)? Or any of these: 

Gravy, anyone? Methinks not. 
macaroni salad 
potato salad 
hard-boiled eggs 
egg salad 
thousand island dressing 
bleu cheese dressing 
beef chili 
pulled pork (and ham bbq, if that's different from pulled pork - ?) 
beef stroganoff 
Please don't pass the potato salad. 
brussel sprouts 
hot sausage 
salisbury steak 
candied yams 

(Though tempted to alphabetize these b/c they'll look so much nicer, I'm restraining myself . . . just barely . . . .)