Sunday, July 31, 2005

blogging withdrawal

Okay, folks, the girl and I are working on getting settled in the new place in Bloomington and it is so so great. The only problem right now is that my DSL connection isn't hooked up yet--ARGH--so I had to come into school on a Sunday to check email and blog, otherwise I might've experienced cardiac arrest.

Few quickie notes for regular readers :
1. There is no way in hell the beast can get out of the new yard. Chain-link fence all around and a nice sturdy gate. There are two small dogs who live next door--Eliza and Max--that she can chase up and down the fence line.
2. French doors on the bedroom. Beautiful. I feel so elegant and shit.
3. Bathtub the size of a thimble. Whooh.
4. Big basement with lots of spiders.
5. Beautiful beer-drinking front porch. Just beautiful.
6. Cable is set up and Animal Planet is channel 48.
7. Walk to the Saturday morning farmer's market.
8. Walk to the bars.
9. Great, funny, helpful neighbors.
10. Landlord who does what he says he's gonna do.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Belly's last Normal hurrah

So. We're moving tomorrow, right? Belly had one last chance to yell at the Normal mail carrier this afternoon, but the mail came without a sound. This startled me more than her yelling ever does. The little shit had run through the screened-in porch one last time after I absent-mindedly forgot to replace the pieces of lumber after I made a trip out to the new house this morning. She wanted one last tour of Normal.

Two neighborhood boys helped me catch her and all they got for their trouble was a good yelling at from the Belle. Just when you think she's getting older and more mature....

Watch out, Bloomington. Belly's coming to town.

India: a wet washcloth

Oh. My. God. How much fun would it be to sponsor a bad writing contest like this with students? My version of the bad writing contest is a few days' worth of work on bullshit, but this, this is good.

"We want writers with a little talent, but no taste." 'nuff said.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

more on why I'll never go to church again

This month's Harper's has an excellent essay by Bill McKibben called "The Christian Paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong." I read it last night because, well, I have no tv for a week, remember? McKibben argues that as a nation, America identifies itself as Christian, but at the same time it neglects the most fundamental Christian principle: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Instead, 75% of Americans believe that the Bible teaches that "God helps those who help themselves." No, that would be Ben Franklin who said that.

Just got into a discussion with Julia about why I'll never read crap like The Purpose-Driven Life, which McKibben observes is the best-selling of all Christian books in recent years. Julia argues an excellent rhetorical principle: how can I argue against Christianity if I won't read what they're saying? How can I not address the arguments already being made? My closed-minded answer is that I don't want to know what they're saying because I don't want to get angry. Nor do I want to spend my time that way, tv or no tv. If this were my scholarship, sure, I'd read it. But it ain't. So I'm not.

I don't believe that all Christians are represented by the Christian right in this country. I know better than that. But I sure do hate it when religion is used to sell me beliefs I know better than to subscribe to.
The power of the Christian right rests largely in the fact that they boldy claim religious authority, and by their very boldness convince the rest of us that they must know what they're talking about. They're like the guy who gives you directions with such loud confidence that you drive on even though the road appears to be turning into a faint, rutted track. But their theology is appealing for another reason too: it coincides with what we want to believe. How nice it would be if Jesus had declared that our income was ours to keep, instead of insisting that we had to share. How satisfying it would be if we were supposed to hate our enemies. Religious conservatives will always have a comparatively easy sell. (37)
One more thing: I know how defensive this post sounds. I am aware that when it comes to religion, I let go all of my critical thinking, most of my training in constructing sound arguments. That's because this is emotional: and emotion is more persuasive for me in this case than any logic ever will be.

Monday, July 25, 2005

no tv for a week

Today the Dish Network people came to take the whosyamawhatzit off the dish that's on the roof, so now I have zero access to television until Saturday morning when the cable people come to hook me up in the new place. I've ditched the dish and am going straight cable because, while it might SEEM like Dish is cheaper per month, all the stupid fees and charges make it no better than cable, and with cable, people, I'm happy to announce, I will have Animal Planet! Whoopee! In the meantime, if anything important happens on tv between now and Saturday, give me a holler.

oh, Satchel

I laughed out loud when I read today's Get Fuzzy. Ah, the prank calls that could be performed in the days before caller ID.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

question of the day

What's the difference between being cooped up in the house when it's twelve below zero and being cooped up in the house when the heat index is 110?

Belly and I were up at 7:15 to take a 30-minute walk. Many other neighborhood dogs were out with their owners, too, which made me feel like a smartie.

I don't like complainers and I try not to be one, but holy sheet. Remember the 1995 heat wave in Chicago when all those people died? I get it now, I do.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

one month left

One month from today is Tuesday, August 23, the first day of two of my three classes. That means I have three syllabi to prepare in essentially three weeks (giving myself a week to get settled in the new place). So, let the teaching anxiety dreams begin.

Here's my new reasoning for why I have so many teaching anxiety dreams: I would probably literally die without teaching, and so the thought of messing it up is extremely upsetting to me. The one semester at Syracuse when I wasn't teaching and I was no longer taking courses was indeed one of the most depressing times of my life. The contact with others makes me feel human. Most anxiety dreams have me arriving late to class or unable to find the right classroom, but the very worst ones have me unable to control the class. They're all shouting which makes me have to shout, all of which stems, I know for a fact, from my VERY brief stint teaching fifth and sixth graders in Cincinnati. I literally cried every night. Post-traumatic stress syndrome of another sort.

Anyway, in the spirit of getting ready for back to school, I offer this wonderful line from Thomas J. Roberts' "On Low Taste": "We all do seem to have the capacity to disregard the facts when they threaten to cloud those deeper truths about ourselves that we prefer." Indeed, indeed.

Friday, July 22, 2005

simply poyfect

I used to be a perfectionist, but I wasn't very good at it, so I quit.

This was today's deep thought in the shower. Perhaps it's time to get back to teaching?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Jesus shaves

I stole that title from David Sedaris, but I don't think he'll mind, since he's a funny, funny, generous guy and I'd marry him if he weren't gay. Hell, I'd marry him gay if he'd have me. Anyone who can make me laugh every day has got potential. To hell with heterosexuality.

Anyway, back to shaving. Jesus really has nothing to do with this post. The damn legs, I tell you. The more you shave them, the more they need to be shaved, but in the summer it's not as though you can give them a few days off unless you want others to see you as the hairy beast you're sure to become. If it weren't one thousand degrees here, I'd just wear pants and save everybody the trouble--the trouble of shaving and the trouble of seeing the resultant stubble. But for this I am grateful: no hair above the lips to speak of.

One of the women who frequents the dog park with her black lab, Molly, is a retired speech therapist, so I gave her my CD copy of David's Me Talk Pretty One Day so she can listen to "Go Carolina." Revised title of this post: Jethuth Thaves.

one hundred degrees

I'm not kidding. This weekend's forecast calls for a "straight" temperature of 100 both days and a heat index of 110. Holy mother of god. Guess who's not getting very long walks these days. Good thing I took Annabelle swimming yesterday before it got so hot that to even put her in the car is an act of cruelty.

Too bad a window unit air conditioner doesn't work in a car. That would look pretty. A dog head sticking out one side of the car and an air conditioner on the other.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Shakespeare at moonlight

Last night I went to the Illinois Shakespeare Festival for the first time. We saw MacBeth, and in a couple weeks I'll go again for Twelfth Night. Henry VIII is also playing this summer, but I don't think I'll have the patience to sit through it. Last night's weather was perfect, warm with a slight breeze, and the almost-full moon shone brightly down on us. There were a couple points in the play when my ability to translate Shakespeare was tested, but I did appreciate many of the bard's more clever lines. The best part of last night's performance was the three witches' "double, double, toil and trouble" scene. The visual effects were fun.

All in all, a good way to spend a midsummer's night.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

happy reading

Last semester in a discussion in my graduate authorship course, a student made a distinction between being "happy" and being "content," and told the class that there's a such thing as "happiness studies" in the academy now. Interested, I was I was. Happiness, apparently, is ephemeral while contentedness is lasting, at least according to this student, so one should aspire to be content with life rather than to be happy all the time because to do the latter almost guarantees failure.

But think about the times when you realize you're happy. It may be when you're having a great time with wonderful people or when you take the time to reflect on things that are going your way. I find that I recognize happiness most when it's a state of being rather than a momentary occurrence. To say, "I'm happy," means that one is generally happy with things as they are. Contentedness seems to me to be a few hairs shy of happiness and more of a feeling one gets when one has settled in some way.

So then I come across this book review of three recent books devoted to the subject. I give you this on which to chew:
It is tempting to make fun of happiness books: they are such an easy target, soft and plump, just asking to be pinched. The new ones have the imprimatur of science on observations that have been made for centuries: money can’t buy happiness; human beings need social bonds, satisfying work and strong communities; there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so; a life based entirely on the pursuit of money and pleasure ultimately becomes pleasureless. Layard and Martin’s work, however, has the virtue of asking readers to think about why it is that, though we know what makes us happy, we consistently organize our lives and make choices in such a way that makes us unhappy.

What happens to people who study happiness? Are they so ultra-aware of their own states of being that they convince themselves they're happy? Or do they go home and beat their wives? (All three authors featured in the review are male.) What do they do when they're unhappy? Are any of them on antidepressants?

Here's something that makes me happy: I bought a copy of Bark Magazine today and smiled at the photos of the smiling dogs. My favorite is Murphy on page 2.

Monday, July 18, 2005

why I'll never go to church again

Driving around Normal this afternoon, I pass one of the many churches in town. This is one that puts up one of those ridiculously stupid pun-phrases--they're so stupid that I can't think of a single one except the one I saw today. I was mad because it actually made me think for about a nanosecond.

You think it's hot here.

That's it. Christ.

I was scared away from religion at a very early age. Seven, to be precise. That was the year I went to my first confession and didn't know that I was supposed to say "forgivemefatherforIhavesinned" because I had skipped the week before and sat in the park talking to the pigeons like an old man. I remember that on confession day my Sunday School teacher held my hand until we got to the confessional entrance and then she sort of pushed me in. It was dark. I held my head down, afraid to look up. After a couple minutes of heavy silence, the priest asked me if I had anything to say. I began to say something about having stolen a quarter from my mother’s purse the week before (a lie). He stopped me in the middle of my confession, steered me back out of the confessional, and reprimanded my teacher for not having properly taught me the rules of confession. Bring her back when she knows the rules. Imagine if I’d confessed what I’d really done that week: Would the father have forgiven me for confessing that I’d sprayed cologne on my sister’s toothbrush, hoping it would kill her? Would he forgive me if I’d confessed that I was angry that it hadn’t seemed to work? That I was still cursing God? Even then I knew that it would probably be better for me to make up a story about a stolen quarter than to admit my deepest desires: that my sister keel over dead from ingesting my mother’s Jean Nate.

A rhetorician at age seven.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Annabelle has a new cousin and Kramer has a new little brother. Yesterday Julie and Rob adopted a five-year-old Lhasa Apso named Buddy from the Humane Society. He's got what's called the puppy haircut, so he doesn't look like the Lhasa Apsos you see on dog shows with the hair that goes past their feet and is done up in crazy ways with pony tails and such. He's gray, short, and very, very sweet. His previous owner was a 72-year-old woman who had to have knee surgery and couldn't take care of him anymore.

While his official name is Buddy and Julie doesn't want to change it because, well, that's what his mom called him for the past five years, Julie and I will also be calling him Scrumpet, Scrumpy, and Scrumpifier. 'Cuz, well, he's quite the little scrumpified scrumpet.

Belly hasn't met him yet, but when I came home yesterday from Julie's, she didn't stop sniffing me for 5 minutes straight and then I had to push her away because one can only take so much of a dog's nose attached to one's leg.

In other news, Julia's back from Virginia, where she was collecting research for her research on Appalachian dialect. Belly and I missed her and Tucker and Callie, so we can't wait to see them.

I think I'm beginning to stress out about the approach of August, which means the start of school and no more complete freedom. I know that when the time comes, I'll be ready because I'll have had enough unstructured time, but right now I'm not ready. Erg.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Happy birthday to my sweet sweet Annabelly. Today's agenda:
1. Walk
2. Sleep
3. Treats
4. Sleep
5. Party at the dog park, complete with birthday hats and home-baked beefy treats
6. Smile for the camera
7. Sleep
8. Eat part of Mommy's dinner
9. Sleep
10. Walk
11. Rawhide
12. Sleep

For those readers who haven't seen Annabelle in almost a year, you wouldn't believe what a grown-up doggie she is. Apparently she's gone through a crisis of adulthood at about the same time as her mom. She listens to me much better than she ever did even a year ago, she comes when she's called, and she generally just wants to please me. Sometimes at the dog park, instead of running around with the puppies, she stands right by me and listens in on the adult conversations, punctuating them once in a while with a shout of agreement. As if to say, I know, I know, these puppies can be something, can't they?

Yesterday I wrote about what a lucky girl she is. Today I write about what a lucky girl I am to have found such a wonderful dog. Here's to ten more great years, little girl.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

beefy cookie dough

Is my dog the luckiest dog in the whole world or what? Tonight, in preparation for her small birthday "party" at the dog park tomorrow, I baked doggie biscuits. Keita had given me the mix for Christmas and I'd forgotten all about it until I was cleaning out that cabinet. So, as I was baking the first batch, I decided to give Belly a bite of beefy cookie dough. She loved it. Just as we humans love our chocolate chip cookie dough. I gave her two more bites.

I cut most of the cookies in the shape of small bones for all Belly's doggie friends, but I made two special ones for her from a dog-shaped cookie cutter. Canibalism indeed. She loved them best because they're bigger than the puny bones.

Three hours later the house still smells of baked beef goods. Annabelle is loved.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

rain, lifetime, and Carter's little pills

Who'da thunk I'd be welcoming a rainy day? But oh, it's such a nice change. Variety, variety, people. We've had sun for, what, fifty days straight? It's nice to be able to wear pants and a little bit of makeup without fear that it will drip down my face from the heat. And lord knows the crops around here need this rain.

Last night I watched Lifetime's Murder in the Hamptons. I am such a sucker for movies like this, even though I know exactly how they're going to turn out because they're so formulaic. Last fall in my rhetoric class I made the mistake of mentioning my gullibility with respect to Lifetime movies and oh, did they have a good time making fun of me. So much so that when the class was over one student gave me a "signed" portrait of Jimmy Carter (that's another story, but I'll make it brief: we were studying campaign slogans from past presidential campaigns and I, the teacher, said, "What about the one about 'he's got more problems than Carter's got pills'?"* There were students in that class older than me; otherwise I probably would've been passing on this "knowledge" to the younger students in the class. Lord above)... Anyway, the signed Jimmy Carter portrait came complete with a box of Carter's little liver pills and it said, "To Amy, Here's to a 'Lifetime' of learning." I keep it in my office for all to see.

*Yeah, cuz that's a great campaign slogan. I heard my mother say it all the time when I was growing up. Here I thought Jimmy Carter had lots of medical issues and so needed lots of pills. This from the girl who also thought that Jimmy Carter was married to Linda Carter because, well, they have the same last name. Hi, I have a PhD.

Monday, July 11, 2005

life is good

I have three t-shirts from the life is good company and I LOVE them. My favorite is my yellow "walk on" short-sleeved shirt. The little guy is walking on the globe.

Anyway, the deep thought that shall begin this week: if you keep telling yourself that life is good--and wearing shirts that tell others that you think life is good--life really is good. Shit. I don't want to get all "woo woo," as Julie would say, but I'm really beginning to understand the value of surrounding myself only with happy, funny people who appreciate how goshdarn funny I am. Ha! The thing that this culture doesn't allow is self-praise--it's immediately translated to narcissism. While talking with Treasured Life Director the other day, we got around to talking about this very thing: about how the people you surround yourself with really have an effect on your mood and your emotions. Happy that I have happy funny people in my life who get what I think is funny.

The point of all this: It's July and I'm still keeping my 2005 New Year's resolution to be thankful for what I have instead of wanting what I don't. Is there somewhere an award for a resolution kept this long?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

slowly moving

This, as opposed to moving slowly. I got the key to my new house a couple days ago, and, consistent with my "get-it-done" personality, I've begun moving things in that will fit in my car. A bookshelf. The shoe rack and all winter shoes. Winter coats. Bunch o' kitchen stuff. This makes me happy. I brought Belly over to the new house a couple times and as soon as I let her off her leash, she runs around the empty rooms, happy happy happy and then looks for her water bowl, which is not there. Thirsty girl. There are two little yippy dogs who live next door, so Belly'll have fun yelling at them and chasing them up and down the fence. Ah, a dog's life.

Did zero academic work this weekend. Now my brain is ready to get to work on book prospecti and the collaborative forgery/plagiarism piece tomorrow.

Friday, July 08, 2005

a blogger is a blogger is a blogger

A blogger, in other words, cannot possibly also be a job seeker. My favorite line from the ridiculous Ivan Tribble piece in the Chronicle, "Bloggers Need Not Apply," is this one: "What is it with job seekers who also write blogs?" Imagine if we took that last word off the question. What the hell is it with job seekers who also write? Who do they think they are? Christ.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

teaching anxiety--already!

In last night's dream, I had an 8:30 class and an 11:00 class, two sections of the same course. Taught the 8:30 fine. But when it came time for the 11:00, I didn't have my books, my notes, or even my schedule that told me where the classroom was. When I finally found my schedule, it said the class was in the "vocational building" and then, in parentheses it said "(at least 20 minutes away by car)." So I said, fuck it. I didn't go. And then I was all stressed out that the two sections were going to be off, so I'd have 2 preps after all.

Then I had a dream about eating too many peanut butter cups. Julie told me she once had a dream that the house she was living in was made of Nestle Crunch. ha!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

reading, ADD

Just finished reading Empire Falls and now I'm dying to see the HBO miniseries. I went to Borders yesterday and bought Nobody's Fool, though I remember when that movie was out, I wasn't all that interested. But Russo's awesome. Love him.

Monique Maria Schmidt, friend from Syracuse's MFA program, has published her first book, and I'm anxious to get myself a copy. It's called Last Moon Dancing, and I'm sure it's wonderful. Plus, it's memoir, which I love, as you all know.

Have to say I was disappointed with Welfare Brat. Didn't get very far before quitting. I just didn't care about the characters quickly enough, I guess.

This has nothing to do with reading, but here it is: every time I move, I tell myself I don't really have all that much stuff. Then I start packing and I've instantly proven myself a liar. I have a lot of crap. And I brought 6 big boxes of books to school. I guess when you've got this much crap, it's good to have friends to help carry the crap. Thanks, friends.

Made a new friend this week, too. Kelly is from New Jersey, teaches elementary P.E. and is a fucking laugh riot. Sillier and more sarcastic than me. What could be better? She observed while talking with me at lunch today that I'm an ADD talker and she's completely right and I know why. Because I know if I don't say something the minute I think of it, I'll forget it and go, "I meant to tell you something else, but now I can't remember." Which I do ALL the time.

Oh, and today's date is 7-6-5. My slight tendency toward OCD makes me recognize such things. Like, I still remember that Sarah Ferguson had a baby on 8-8-88 because the date was so awesome.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

softball on the 4th

Had such a fun time yesterday at Bill and Cherlyn's 6th annual 4th of July par-tay. When they picked teams for softball, I began to feel like I did in 6th grade and I feared I'd be the last kid picked, but Bill chose me early on. Must've been my Team Gold Bond shirt that made him think I'd be okay on the field. Our team name: The Gay Mets. Lord. I can't even remember the other team's name, but shit, we had fun. We played with a 16-inch softball, so we didn't use gloves, and one catch I made hurt my left pinky. Injured. And then I fell on my butt trying to make it to second base to get Julie out (which I didn't). But we all laughed a lot in the process.

I took Annabelle over to the Normal fireworks display when I got home. She was such a good girl, not the least bit afraid of all the booms. She's a huntin' dog alright, nonplussed by all the loud shots. She was much more interested in getting lovin' from complete strangers. Which she did.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

well, huh: Goodwin's plagiarism

Reading, reading, reading today for texts to use in my English 101 course this fall. The course will focus on the politics of writing: who writes, who reads, who gets published, who you have to know in order to get published, and most importantly, the relative arbitrariness of it all. This pedagogy is indebted to Susan Miller and to Pierre Bourdieu. But anyway, my point is that I was reading a chapter in Jon Wiener's new book, Historians in Trouble, called "The Plagiarists: Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose" wherein I learned that Goodwin covered up her "plagiarism"--call it what you will, the jury's still out--fifteen years before it became public. "Goodwin's publisher and attorney's then negotiated an agreement in which she paid McTaggart [the author whose work she plagiarized] a 'substantial' sum in exchange for McTaggart's silence about the plagiarism" (183). Wiener observes that
virtually all the discussion in the press focused on the plagiarism and somehow ignored the more serious fact that Goodwin had paid to keep the plagiarism secret. (184)
Question I'm thinking about as I'm reading this stuff: to what extent does the kind of writing presumed to be plagiarized predict the public's outrage? The public is outraged by Goodwin and Ambrose and by Joseph Ellis, the Mount Holyoke professor who lied to his students about his serving in Vietnam. In these cases, trust was at stake--the public's trust and students' trust.

Second question: what kinds of beliefs are at stake when we learn that a text has been forged or plagiarized? History: who we are as a nation, our collective identity. Mormonism: who we are as a people, why we do what we do from day to day, what we have to look forward to in the afterlife. Student writing: this student has learned how to write, and I as writing teacher have the ability to detect when she is not doing the writing herself. National, religious, professional idenities on the line. Plagiarism and forgery threaten our fundamental beliefs about who we are.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

thank you, Brooke

Brooke Shields speaks out in response to Tom Cruise.
If any good can come of Mr. Cruise's ridiculous rant, let's hope that it gives much-needed attention to a serious disease.
Of course, she means post-partum depression here, but the nice thing is that Cruise's ridiculous rant also calls attention to his serious disease: pathologically self-confident idiocy. Ain't no pill for that one, Tommy boy.

Friday, July 01, 2005

happy July

Today's my big brother's birthday. Guy turns 36. Happy birthday, bro. Holy shit, that makes me almost 33. Egads. It's also the birthday of my high school boyfriend. We all four (with Guy's girlfriend) would go to Denny's on July 1 so the boys could get their free meals.

This is also the month of Annabelle's birthday. She'll be four. More on that on Bastille Day.

My last month in Normal. Sigh.

Had to turn off comments on that last entry because some asshole decided to tell me what a loser I am, to get a life, etc. Stop reading strangers' blogs, asshole.

Okay, back to work. The really, really good news has to do with work. I've got two weeks to revise an article for publication. Of course, obsessive as I am, I'll have it done in three days. So so glad I only have two weeks to think about it.