Tuesday, January 30, 2007

the weight, it has been lifted

Let's talk about the five-thousand-pound weight that's been lifted from my crooked shoulders this last week.

It was a big one.

It affected most every minute of my day so that even when I was not "working," I would be thinking about working. When I'd be reading something that ultimately would, I knew, contribute to my work, I'd stop every ten minutes or so and just look over at the pile of crap on my desk and wonder how I was going to magically transform it into something we in academe might call job security.

The big sigh of relief I let out on Saturday, well, it turned out to be a massively cold one, so cold that I just walked the dog for all of five minutes and our nuts fell off. Five degrees out there, not taking into account wind chill.

When I'd be reading at night "for fun," I'd feel this invisible pull coming from my home office, nagging me about the work I wasn't getting done.

I went to a therapist for about a year to try to learn how to just be and to let the work come as it would. It worked for a while. But the thing I learned most about myself is that I don't know how to not work. Work has been for so long my safe place.

Hillary asked me the other night what I'll be stressing about now. The book. My weight. There will always be stuff to stress about, but with these two top-tier publications accepted, I can breathe. Holy shitters, I can breathe.

Never fear. There will still be plenty of tirades and fears to come. But for now, I'm working on my breathing.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

a very special class visitor

Or, show and tell.

Whichever you prefer.

In my senior seminar, we're reading Richard Lanham's The Economics of Attention, and so far I think students are digging it, especially since one of his primary claims is that it's folks with degrees in the humanities who become central because they're by training economists of attention. On Thursday I wanted to illustrate Lanham's point about what he calls "attention traps"--that the meaning of my very special guest "would be supplied by all the interpreters waiting out there to make sense of such artifacts" (50) with a very concrete example. English majors. Trained to interpret, analyze, speculate, argue.

So I brought Darth Tater to class. Even as I was walking down the hall to class, I was aware that I had created an attention trap. You can imagine the looks I got.

I set him on my desk and asked students to write about him. They hesitated, unsure what on earth I was getting at, but they stepped up to the plate, as it were. And here are some of the arguments, speculations, and analyses they came up with simply by attending to Darth Vader in an attention structure known as "college English."

1. Darth Tater represents the ways that some movies turn into cults, or if not cults, then a reason for the establishment of community. People who collect Star Wars paraphernalia are a part of something, have an immediate sense of belonging.
2. Darth Tater represents a nostalgia for beloved childhood relics like Mr. Potato Head. Despite Darth Vader's actual character, Darth Tater makes us happy.
3. This representation of Darth Vader is far more innocent than the actual character, which provides a way into a reinterpretation of Star Wars. (it's all in his eyes)
4. Darth Tater represents an ingenious marketing strategy--which made students wonder about the collaboration between Hasbro and Lucas: who owns Darth Tater?
5. I as professor can ask students to pay attention to anything I want them to, because, and this is I think a direct quote, "you like power."

And then when I was showing them all the details of his potato body, his butt cover fell off and it took me nearly all of class to get it back on. The result was that Darth Tater looked like he was wearing a hospital gown with his poor butt exposed. The rattle of his spare teeth and ears was a bit distracting, I'll say.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

if you were here, I'd kiss your feet





Two in one day.


Let the book begin.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

hello crazy dreams

Dang, it was so damn real.

I was very hugely pregnant with what I knew to be a baby girl and I couldn't for the life of me remember the name I had picked out for her. I kept asking the nurses at the hospital if they had any baby name books so I could jog my memory, but nobody could find one. So I'm running through a list in my head...none of my favorites, but they would do. Kendra....Shauna...but I know the one I really really liked had an "m" in it.

Meanwhile, as I'm practicing my breathing, I realize that it's 6:15 and I was supposed to pick up one of our job candidates at 6:00! So I freak out, stop practicing my breathing, tell the nurses that I'm gonna have to put this birthing thing off a little bit while I figure out how to get in touch with the candidate at her hotel. It takes me a while, as dialing telephones in dreams always does, but when I finally get a hold of her, I tell her that the reason I'm not there is that I'm in labor. And I think she takes that to mean that I'm simply working, not actually giving birth. She doesn't get it. So she's upset. And I decide to wait on this birth business and get in the car to go get her.

And all the while I'm in amazement at my own excitement about having this itty bitty baby. I actually want it. I want to find a snugli for her so I can carry her around everywhere.

It's not exactly rocket science to go back and read this dream inserting "book" for "baby." Except the names, I don't think they'll work out so well. Gotta be more academic, I'm thinking.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

biting my nails

and all of the skin around them. A coworker once told me that by forcing my body to continuously reproduce so many cells around my fingernails, I'm essentially sowing the seeds of cancer. Nice. I don't believe that explanation, but still. Nice nonetheless.

There are too many unknowns in my professional life right now. Publications, grants,.... Okay, so just publications and grants. Three of the first, one of the second. And I know for sure that I'll hear about two of them next week, which makes me nervous. What's worse? Hearing bad news or just carrying on with life, not knowing? Note that I haven't really left room for good news. I'm at that pivotal point: the third-year review comes in April. If I'm really going to write this book--and I am and it's going to be damn good--I have to feel secure about other publications so that I don't find myself in the unfortunate situation of sinking all my time into one big thing when the smaller things didn't work out.

Welcome to the inside of my head. Where fire-breathing dragons wait around every corner. And trap doors look like lollipops. And the lollipops shatter as you're falling falling falling (so you can't even taste the sweetness).


Monday, January 22, 2007

one of my favorite lines from Lanham

"No idea comes to us without traces of the company it has kept. We have always wished in the the West, and especially in America, that this were not so" (19).

One of my favorites because it highlights the sociality (word?) of ideas interacting with one another. They're not objects, they're not property, they're instead keeping each other company.

Lanham, Richard A. The Economics of Attention. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

I can't even come up with a post title

Nothing to blog these days, but I want to blog nonetheless. Which highlights, of course, the social nature of blogging. I do this to establish contact. With myself. With my readers, both real and imaginary.

Classes began last week and I know I'm gonna LOVE them. I already do love them. We've already had such meaty dicussions in the senior seminar that I'm looking forward to meeting up with them again on Tuesday.

I've been persuaded by the life director that I do, indeed, need to write a book, and I then turned to my computer and persuaded myself that I do, indeed, have enough to say to fill five chapters. So off I go to read read read some more so that I can write this spring and summer away. The great thing about my senior seminar and to some extent my advanced writing class is that the reading we'll be doing is only going to help me develop my ideas about affect and plagiarism. So I shall indeed become a woman obsessed.

And I can now take my jeans off without unbuttoning or unzipping them. This, my friends, is what I call progress.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

protecting Scully

Scully, aka sausage with legs, has a bad habit of eating books. She's no longer allowed in S.'s office for this reason, but until recently she's not bothered any of the books on the living room shelves. Last week S. came home to find shreds of the cover and the corner of a hardcover book all over the living room floor--and this was a book he's not yet read. Angry. Not happy. Scully, his favorite baby girl, was in the doghouse. At least it wasn't any of his 9/11 books. This is how he comforts himself.

To prevent further book consumption (heh), S. put photo frames and big ol' candle jars on the bottom shelves of the living room bookcases.

Yesterday I got to S.'s house for dinner before he got home from work--he'd stopped at the grocery store and it'd taken longer than he'd expected. This happens when you buy two of everything. My sweet hoarder. So I sat down at his computer desk off the living room and got right back up again when I saw the paper shreds in the living room. Scully had knocked over the picture frames and taken out one of the 9/11 books and, well, chewed the cover and one of the top corners to shreds. Honey not gonna be happy. I cleaned up the mess and hid the book. Then I transferred all books from the bottom shelves to higher ones. I told Scully she was lucky I was the first one there.

He'd had a bad day at work. He comes in with all the groceries and, as I'm helping him unpack all his stuff, including a cool new plastic spatula, he senses something's wrong.

S.: Something's wrong. What is it?

me: What makes you say that?

S.: You're being far too accommodating. You're not giving me shit about buying two of everything and you're not making a fuss about throwing the old spatula away.

me: Well, I was waiting to tell you.

S.: What is it? Just tell me.

me: You're going to be really angry.

S.: [moans]

me: It has nothing to do with us. I'm trying to protect Scully.

S.: She didn't eat another book, did she?

me: Uh, yeah.

S.: Not one of my 9/11 books.

me: Uh, yeah.

And so it went. But the best part was the discussion later.

me: What made you realize something was wrong? Was I really being that nice?

S.: Not nice so much as accommodating. You weren't giving me any shit. You always give me shit.

me: Huh. That's funny.

S.: Actually, it was kinda scary.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

in which she reflects on being old

For some reason it occurred to me yesterday that I graduated from high school 17 years ago. Which means that I'm exactly twice the age I was when I graduated. Which means I've been out of public school as long as I was in it.

Which means I'm farting dust.

Monday, January 15, 2007

why the reading list might get confusing

Good thing we're not in the habit of referring to authors by their first names. In my senior seminar this spring, there are 4 books on the reading list--2 by authors named Richard and 2 by authors named Simon. What're the chances of that?

Richard A. Lanham, The Economics of Attention
Richard Sennett, The Corrosion of Character
Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman
Simon Worrall, The Poet and the Murderer

And then there's the issue of the 2 Simon books' titles. These could easily get confusing and we might find ourselves referring to the Professor and the Murderer or to the Poet and the Madman. Even better, how about the Madman and the Murderer? The poet and the professor could very easily be one person, as could be the madman and the murderer.

This is a course loosely themed around the question of what is at stake in the study of language--as you can see from the titles, to say it's a matter of life and death would not be overstating the case. I'm excited about the undercurrent of crime in the readings, but I'm even more excited about teaching Lanham's book. If you're interested at all in authorship theory and you haven't already read the chapter "Barbie and the Teacher of Righteousness," you must. This means you, Becky. Saying no is not an option.

How 'bout Barbie and the Madman? Or The Teacher of Righteousness and the Murderer?

Ah, the possibilities....


kiss me, darling

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Hershey kiss. Dee-licious.

The post office is issuing a stamp in its honor. Sealed with a kiss, as it were.

Right after we graduated college, Keita and I set off on a three-week cross-country drive and our first stop was Hershey, PA, where the lampposts are shaped like kisses, alternating between wrapped and unwrapped.

And then when I was in my mid-twenties, I taught at the Milton Hershey school in Hershey, PA. Interesting story behind that school, info. on which can be found here. The best part of that job was, of course, the loads of free chocolate. But then there was the smell of chocolate in the air each morning as I set off on my daily walk. Driving by the Reese's factory, however, was not such a pleasant olfactory experience.

Ah, the good ol' days....


Saturday, January 13, 2007

portrait of a sleeping Booda

I realized that most of my photos of the girl are when she's awake and giving me that beautifully pathetic look of hers, so I thought I'd capture a few of her snoring away.

My little snuggle bug.


Friday, January 12, 2007

I dunno, maybe Eliot had it wrong

It seems to me lately that January is the cruelest month.

It's the metaphorical sugar crash after the binge of the holidays. (of course, it's also PMS, but shhhhh, I'm trying to make a case here)

I just read Nels' post about his baby Auggie girl, and I started crying. Can't stop now.

It's gray and raining and warm and not January weather at all, and I want a big ol' snowstorm to stomp through with my girl.

My oldest and dearest friend in the whole world is going through some tough times, too, though it doesn't seem right for me to blog about that. But it's just more evidence for my claim about Eliot. (ha)

S. and I have been taking all four dogs on walks every night, and it's such a sight to see us all out there, Belly pulling to be out in front at all times, which doesn' t take much since the other three are, as S. likes to put it, "long on the tooth," so quite a bit slower. Kylie's wrapping herself around S.'s legs, Mulder's stopping to sniff everything and anything, and Scully's just bopping along, happy as all hell to be outside, her ears flopping as her little sausage body tries to keep up with Daddy. I usually take Mulder and Belly, cuz despite the sniffing, Mulder's the only one who can keep pace with the big one. I love how little Mulder's butt wiggles when she walks, her tail swaying cuz she's so happy to be out in the world of new and exciting smells.



Thursday, January 11, 2007

just don't try that card trick on me

Poor S. He didn't know what he was getting himself into when he suggested last night after dinner that he show me his favorite card trick. What he hadn't counted on is a facet of my personality that I'm slowly becoming more and more conscious of: my intense need to feel as though I'm not being fooled, which results also in a distrust of anyone who thinks they understand my motivations. See, this is cuz I like to think I can figure out other people's motivations. But it's more than that.

But first the card trick.

Poor S. I have to say it again. He dealt the cards into three rows and asked me to pick a card in any of those rows but not to tell him what it was. Just tell him which row it's in.

Row three.

I watched as he gathered up the cards and put row 3 on top of his pile. He then dealt them such that the rows he created now divvied up all the cards that were in the original row 3 and asked me to tell him which row the card was in now. So I did, and he did a similar thing, with me watching his every move--which row of cards went on top, etc. And the whole time he's doing this and I'm watching him, I'm asking suspicious questions after he asks me to simply pick a row. Well, why? Do you want me to pick a row that contains my card or one that doesn't? When the cards were face down in four piles and I'd pick pile 2 and 3, he'd pick them up. Yet when piles 1 and 4 remained and I chose pile 4, he picked up pile 1. Inconsistent. And I said as much.

S.: You sure do know how to ruin a card trick.

I don't like for people to try to figure me out, yet I keep a blog.

Well that one's just so simple I can't even engage it.

This is why I hate salespeople with their fake pitches and why I'll more often than not be contrary when I think someone's on to me rather than let them know they're right.

And if I'd let S. do the card trick without my being a pain in the ass, I don't think I would've been able to stifle the urge to tell him I knew exactly what he was doing all along.

This is why we play games of strategy instead. Scrabble, anyone?


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

oh, a little clarification

That's all.

1. I am not, nor do I ever plan to be, pregnant. COOKING for two, not EATING for two. Let it be known to all who read this that no offspring shall ever sprout from this body with its depressed, overweight, mildly obsessive genes.

2. S. and I are not living together. We're eating dinner together more because I've had time last week and this week to cook things more complex than a frozen pizza. I'm actually reading recipes and using spices in interesting ways--something I've never really done.

3. I don't really know how two people live together. I mean, I understand the logistics, but I don't really get the day-to-day stuff. That'll take some working on. It's the merging of two very separate lives that I can't envision. This isn't to say that it's never gonna happen, just that it's gonna be all completely new to me. Which brings me to a reflection on one of the things that holds me and my oldest friends together: none of us had any kind of model for what a healthy marriage looks like.

4. I've found the cleanest coffee pot in the whole world. You know how the plastic gets stained so easily and the pot itself always has streaks of brown (no, not your underwear, the coffee pot)? Well, this weekend I bought a new coffeemaker at Macy's--a brand I'd never heard of: Russell Hobbs. And there's something about the plastic on this thing that makes it sparkling clean every time. No stains here. I'm loving it.

5. I love babies. Anyone who knows me also knows this. I just don't want them to live with me (see 3, above).

6. I'm kinda happy. If I could just get those two damn articles published, I'd be even happier. Dang.

7. Tonight's dinner is filet mignon with a dee-licious tomato sauce topping. I know it's dee-licious because we had it last week and I couldn't stop exclaiming how good it was with each bite. Yummers.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

who me? an evil streak?

Overheard at the park today as I'm running after Annabelle with the controller to the shock collar Nan lent me:

Someone: I think that Robillardi's* got an evil streak.

Someone else: Look how she encourages Belly to roll just so she can shock her. Evil, I tell you. Evil.

Me, hollering back at them: I'm NOT evil! I just want to teach her a lesson.

Someone: It has been a while since she's had a teachable moment.

See, Nan lent me the shock collar so that, if Belly rolled in shit--or, the sewage-like substance that seems to be seeping up from the ground in spots at the park--I could shock her, teaching her that that's WRONG. It's just so wrong because it smells so GODDAMN BAD. And it doesn't come off easily.

She rolled once, and I ran after her with the remote, but apparently the 5 setting isn't strong enough to get her to sit up and take notice. She kept rolling. But luckily, it was not in shit or sewage. Seems she musta just had an itchy back.

The rest of the time at the park I was hoping she'd roll so I could teach her. Not because I'm evil, but because I wanted to use that opportunity to prevent future stranglings.

*This is one of the things the dog park crew calls me. Somehow someone got the idea that I was Italian, so they added an "i" to the end of my name, and it stuck. The other thing they call me is "Da Docta."

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

and then there are the days I'd like to strangle her

The Belly girl, that is.

I mostly write on here about how funny and sweet and downright snuggly wonderful my girl is, but yesterday when we got back from the park she was banished to the back yard for 2 hours or so. I was so mad at her I had to have her away from me.

We went to the park as we usually do on Saturday mornings. First thing she does is promptly drop a bomb, but that's nothing new. Get that out of the way, and time to play. Except instead of playing or running or even simply yelling at all the other dogs, she got her grubby little paws on a MASSIVE rawhide that some asshole a) brought to the dog park and b) left there for my girl to find. Every dog owner in the world knows that rawhides start fights.

This was a fight between me and my girl. She ran around the park looking like she had a big cigar hanging out of her mouth. As soon as I'd get two feet from her, she'd up and run, making me look like quite the ass for continuing to try to chase her and get the damn thing from her.

In the end, we were at the park for about 45 minutes--that's how long it took her to finish the damn thing. She got no exercise, ate a 1/2 pound of rawhide, and then came up to me when she was finished like nothing had happened. Grrrrrr.

To the yard, young lady. To the yard.

In other news, I don't want to give too many details, but let's just say that eating better and actually cooking better is a hell of a lot easier when you're cooking for two.



Thursday, January 04, 2007

sometimes the blog is a place for keeping track

Deaths in the past week:

Saddam Hussein

Gerald Ford

Tillie Olsen

Donald Murray

A dictator, a former president, a feminist working-class activist writer, and a journalist/compositionist.

In J. Z.'s doctoral seminar on literacy at Syracuse, we read Olsen's Silences, and I went on to assign it in my own graduate course on social class and composition here at ISU. I'll never forget the night in that doctoral seminar when I was to present to the rest of the class on Olsen's work. Instead of doing the same-ol same-ol presentation with discussion questions, I asked everyone to write, including J.Z. Choose a passage from Silences that struck you in some way, and write in response to it. We all did, and then we all read aloud, and it was one of the most moving moments in a grad class I've ever experienced. And I remember thinking, "we don't do enough of this"--writing in class and sharing that writing. Since then, I've made a conscious effort to include not just content instruction in my grad courses but writing instruction and practice. I think Donald Murray would approve.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

all she wanted for Christmas...

was a George W. Bush doll to chew up. In this photo, though, she's a bit too tired to be doing any chewing. I took this on Christmas Day after she and S. and I took a very long walk. She was P-O-O-P pooped, which is why she's keeping that big red bow on her back.

The George Bush doll is too much. In one back pocket he's got "Guide to English as a Second Language." In the other he's got a book called "How to Be Prez." In his front jacket pocket are "Bad guy cards" and there's a note "taped" to his front that says "If found, please return me to the White House." And perhaps the very best part are his red cowboy boots. Hee-HAW.


Monday, January 01, 2007

resolved, part two

No big life-changing resolutions here, folks. Instead, I want to write this down for the record: I will never again travel ANYWHERE by plane without a sensible pair of shoes. Three years ago at MLA I ended up buying a cheap pair of sneakers after the first day because my feet were going to fall off if I didn't. This year at MLA, I mistakenly trusted the Hampton Inn's website description of its location as being half a block from the Marriott. Um, it was a bit more than that. So once again I purchased shoes, this time ones that I'll actually wear again, but still. I'm thinkin' the department's not gonna be reimbursing me for those anytime soon.

Had a lot of fun last night, but I feel like I need three days just to recover. Traveling makes me feel so old and crotchety. I'm beginning to really dislike huge crowds of people. I want order, not chaos. I am probably middle-aged by now (34 x 2= 68...).

Happy new year, my friends.