Sunday, May 29, 2005

Tennis, Tennis, and more Tennis

We are now solidly into Grand Slam tennis season with the beginning of televised tennis. I'm happy to see that both Williams sisters are out of the mix (Serena was never in it; out with a sore ankle. Venus eliminated by a fifteen-year-old!). Unfortunately, Capriati is out too (injured?). Davenport carries all American hopes now, which are few (love Davenport, but she's slow). My new favorite is Sharipova. She's Kornikova (sic) with game. She made over $800,000 last year in prize money alone. Check her out in The New Yorker (in a camera ad).
The American men are out too. Every year I root for Agassi knowing full well that he is no competition for the young Latin men (Spanish AND South American). I don't want to like Roddick, but he's fun to watch. I despise Hewitt (a combination of the facts that he's a racist pig and he's arrogant). I like Guga, but I'm not sure what he's doing this year.
Wimbeldon is my favorite. Again, it's nostalgia. I remember the finals of my youth, eating strawberries early in the morning while watching the epic matches of MacEnroe and Borg. Of course, I rooted for Borg. But now I love MacEnroe as a commentator, he's lost none of his arrogance, but at least he makes fun of himself. And he seems to prefer women's tennis, which you have to love.
My guess is that Sharipova's going all the way. I have no idea who will win the men's side.
This season always makes me want to play more tennis, so hopefully that will happen too.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Last Day of School

Today is Son's last day of school. When I asked him if he was sad, he said no. But then he asked if I had signed him up for summer school. Summer school is about four times as expensive as regular school, so no.
We've already signed him up for Tee Ball (which begins in June). Soccer ends next week, and we're going to sign him up for swimming lessons sometime. How much activity does a four-year-old need?
Having a child means waxing nostalgic about the summers of my youth, when I would wake up in the morning when it was still cool, but you could feel how hot it was going to get. My favorite times were walking with my sisters to the tennis courts (which were not close, about a twenty minute walk) for our summer lessons. We all had crushes on our tennis teacher, a high school boy with black hair. He asked us trivia questions about Althea Gibson and threw tennis balls at our racquets. The next year we all went to see him in the high school production of "Kiss Me Kate." Needless to say, this did nothing to end our crushes. One year I took golf lessons because the tennis lessons were full. What I liked most about golfing was the club house, complete with soda and jawbreakers.
My other favorite summer memories are of the racquet Club. We would spend all day at the pool. They had a snack bar with french fries and frozen yogurt, which was containers of yogurt that they put in the freezer. I think they also had frozen candy bars.
I feel like this summer is about getting enough exercise to counteract the amount of beer, chips and popsicles I will invariably consume. Also, I want to go to Otter Butt's house and sit in her kiddy pool with her. We could drink some nice non-alcoholic ice tea. Also, I want to read a trashy novel. So far my summer reading has been way too highbrow. Maybe I'll do some book reports ala seventh grade. Speaking which, remember Lizard Music?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Back to Work!

I just wrote 1,119 words on the new "new" novel. It's the same as the old novel, but with a new way into the story. I think it will work, and in any case it is giving me a structure that will make it easier for me to move forward. I had to get Son to take a nap in order to do it. And ignore the cleaning I should be doing right now because my dad is coming through on his way to Pennsylvania. Plus there are a lot of dishes in the sink. And there are some dead bugs lying in various locations around the house. I think writing, really writing, means just ignoring other things and sitting at the computer. Unfortunately, I'm often very bad at ignoring other things. But I think I could learn to ignore cleaning and the dirty dishes. Yes, I think I'll become very good at that.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Phoenix Redux

Boy am I glad to be back in the land of reasonable temperatures. 80 today. I can handle that.
Here's a run down of all the Phoenix happenings:

High temperature during vacation in Phoenix: 112
Number of days spent at swimming pool: 3
Most expensive swimming pool excursion: $3.50 (for entire Middle-Write-Son family at pool with two slides and three pools!)
Number of books completed: 2 (Sight Hound and Unconditional Parenting)
Number of trashy magazines read: 1 (Only People! Suprise Wedding! Who the hell is Kenny Chesney?)
Number of Margaritas consumed: 3? (one at a restaurant, the SuperBigGulp of margaritas! Two at my mom's retirement party from machine rented from company named "I Need A Margarita")
Number of flamingoes planted in my mother's front yard in celebration of her retirement by a company named "Flamingoes by Night": Unknown. I'd guess 50? I didn't even notice because my step-father has some flamingoes in the backyard anyway, and I thought maybe I just didn't notice that he had put some in the front yard.
Hours spent in car (roundtrip): 24
Number of vegetables Son consumed on vacation: 0
Orders of fries Son consumed on trip: 3
People in our house who are upset because they missed the season finales of Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy: 2

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ode to Summer

Middlebrow, Son and I drove into town on a hot night. The heat rising up from the pavement and the smell of Phoenix (what is that smell? It's heat and wood and some kind of flower. That's as exact as I can be) reminded me of my childhood. On the drive down I had remembered the summer my mom, two of my sisters and I lived with her parents. It was a sad and strange time, but I recall thinking that Phoenix was the center of civilization and, compared to Pocatello of course, it was. Phoenix has Metro, a mall with an indoor ice skating rink, and about a million pools. What else does summer require? Oh yeah, a bowling alley and a suitcase full of books. One summer I flew down by myself to stay with my grandmother, who now, as fate would have it, lives next door to my mom. But that summer, when I was 11 or 12, I brought a suitcase full of books to read. I did some art projects with my grandma and swam every day. What else is summer for? When did I get so worried about accomplishing things during what should be "summer vacation"? I think we went to the circus that summer. That might also have been the summer I almost fainted at a flea market because it was 100 degrees at 9 a.m. And I'm a thirsty person, even in the wet Northwest.
So by coming down here to Phoenix, we have somehow skipped over the transition of spring into summer and have gone directly to f*in' hot.
Did I mention that I forgot to pack shorts? My sister finds this incredibly funny.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Foetry Debacle

Okay. Maybe it's not fair for me to call it a "debacle." But I've been following, from a comfortable distance, the debate going on over there at Today there is a Chronicle of Higher Ed story on Foetry.
This past week I've been posting and responding on the website, which was probably a big mistake. The posters there are angry and are not really interested in dialogue. They want to have angry exchanges with each other about "foets" whom they get to designate without really having an explicit criteria for who is and who is not a "foet." For sure Jorie Graham, in their opinions, is a "foet." There is a strange, paranoid conspiracy theory feel to their "conversation" which doesn't involve much listening or ideas about what to do about poetry contests, which they say are "rigged." I guess their next idea is to sue some University Presses using the Consumer Protection Act. The problem is, what constitutes "proof" of "unfairness" in a poetry contest? It's not like a contest at McDonald's, where everyone who gets a game card has an equal chance of winning. Unlike the lottery, there is some skill involved. It is a bit like the lottery, I guess, if choosing numbers is like writing poems. And if the person who shoots the number balls out of the big barrel (is that how it's done these days?) chooses the number of their friends or former students. But the idea of "rigging" or unfairness bypasses the aesthetic argument, which seems to me the most compelling.
I'm not saying Jorie Graham isn't unethical for choosing her former students or lover as the prize winner. I'm just saying that it's possible, theoretically, that she really did like the manuscript of that person best. (Maybe she was responsible for shaping the writing and THAT'S why she liked it). All I'm saying is that, in theory, it is possible to like one poet's work more than another's, and it may not even be because you shaped that aesthetic or because you love or even like the poet.
That's my five cents.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Exercise or Writing?

Lately (okay this week) I've been really good at keeping to my exercising regimen. I can't say as much for my writing "schedule." Why is that? Why is it so easy to go to the pool or get to the gym but I can't make it the few feet down the stairs to my "office" to "write" my "novel"? And why do I find myself using scare quotes to say "write" or "novel"? Because they are only concepts that have no application in the real world, i.e. here, where I live and dwell and fail to write. I want to write, I think, but then I find myself doing anything but. Again, I think I'm putting too much pressure on myself to write the perfect novel.
Time to reaquaint myself with Anne Lamott and "shitty first drafts." I resolve to write a really shitty part of something I'm working on tomorrow. And then the next day, I'm going to write something even worse. Yes. These are goals I can accomplish. And I will.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Those Wacky Brits

I have a question: why are the Brits (and the Canadians for that matter) so much funnier than Americans? It's not just the charming accents, though that may be part of it. Middlebrow and I just watched the first season of "The Office" and were quite entertained, though we couldn't always get all the jokes because of the accents. And then there was an ad for another BBC comedy, "Coupling." Both of these comedies were translated for American audiences by NBC (I think) and both flopped. I didn't see the American versions, but I heard they were terrible. But the British versions are hilarious. Why? The show (I'm referring to "The Office" now) doesn't shy away from the uncomfortable silence after a joke that bombs. The whole premise, the bad boss who thinks he's a great boss, is uncomfortable. Plus the British sense of humor is just, well, funnier. Like when one office worker puts the other guys stapler into jello and hides it in his desk. And the uncomfortable sexual politics of the office that make you cringe. I think American comedies are afraid of the real funny material, because true comedy is funny because it makes you uncomfortable.
There is also a pretty funny Canadian comedy on PBS about an American guy who moves to Toronto to do a morning show. I don't know what it's called, but again, funny. And they make jokes about Canadian Zinfandel. Must be good, right?
So what is it? Part of it is the dryness of the wit. Part discomfort. Part lack of laff track? Part poking fun at themselves and their foibles.
Also: BBC world news is far better than anything produced in America. They were covering Sudan when American news was still obsessed with Michael Jackson. (and still are, right?)
Also: My new favorite show, "Spy," is a BBC production that shows on PBS on Saturday nights. It's a terrible time and I've missed more than I've seen, but it's a spy reality show. You know what is great about it? They are forbidden from messing around with each other, so it actually is about spying and the techniques and not about who is sleeping with who and who will get voted off. The only way to get ousted is to screw up. So far, only one woman has. I highly recommend it. And I look forward to your theories on why the Brits are so much funnier than we are. (Is it the blood pudding?)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Raising Good Post-Modernists

In my recent reading with Son, Frog and Toad & Owl at Home, both by Arnold Lobel, I have realized that many of the writers who are publishing today probably grew up reading Mr. Lobel. I only mention this because I find so many of the stories dwell on indeterminacy and I find it so odd. An example:
Toad sipped his tea. "Frog," he asked. "Are you making this up?"
"Maybe yes and maybe no," said Frog. (from "Shivers)

This is just one example. My favorite may be from the owl book. An example: Owl is making "Tear-Water Tea" and so he thinks of sad things to make him cry.
"Songs that cannot be sung," said Owl, "because the words have been forgotten...Spoons that have fallen behind the stove and are never seen again. ..Mornings nobody saw because everybody was sleeping," sobbed Owl.

The stories are a weird mix of topics children would be interested in, like baking and eating cookies, with a decidely post-modern sensibility. The cookie story, for example, becomes a story about self-control, with Frog and Toad putting the cookies in a box to keep themselves from eating them. They end up throwing them out in the grass for the birds to eat and then Frog goes home to bake a cake (or something). And there is one about how Toad makes a list of things to do and then loses it, so he can't do anything. I think the ways we write now are a direct result of Arnold Lobel. He's like Donald Barthelme for toddlers. Son seems to like it.

(in unrelated news, Son said this morning, "Jedis don't take showers." So if you needed to know the real reason why Leia chose Han Solo over Luke, aside from that little incest taboo, it's because Jedis have B.O. And we know why.)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Stop the Madness! (all of it!)

I am:
"You're a damn Commie! Where's Tailgunner Joe when we need him?"

Are You A Republican?
Thanks to Susan, I took the test. I'm glad to report I'm even less Republican than she is!
I'm also proud to report that I have done very little grading. Yesterday, I took Son to the park. Okay, I did a little grading there. And today I took Son to the park. And I read a book. A mystery book. A paperback. It wasn't that trashy. But maybe just a little trashy. Did I mention that I love summer? If anyone has any good trashy reads they want to recommend, I'm open to suggestions. The key is to be just trashy enough that it doesn't seem like "work" and not so trashy that I'm embarassed to be seen holding it on the bus. Okay, maybe the bus is a bad example. Let's say the beach, but a beach where you are likely to run into a friend that you don't want to think you are too stupid. It might be okay if she thinks you are a little stupid. It's the beach after all. And it's summer. What does she expect?