Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Over the River and Through the Woods

We're off, the Dr. Middle-Write-Brow contingent, to Inkom, Idaho for what promises to be another Thanksgiving packed with too much food and wine and too little exercise. I promised Son that we would go for a hike. Doesn't look like there will be any snow.
When I asked Son what he most liked to do at Grandpa's house he answered, "Trains, the tractor, that card game, or playing with toys." He has his priorities in order.
My Dad actually does have two old tractors that he tinkers with and occasionally drives around his big backyard. Son loves to take rides on it. I'm always afraid it's about to tip over, trapping Son and Grandpa beneath it. So far it hasn't happened.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday: there's no gift shopping to do before, so you can really concentrate on what's important: food. I love turkey and stuffing and pie. Pie may be my favorite dessert. But then, I love cake too.
What am I thankful for: Son, Middlebrow, my job, the fact that I'm healthy and happy, all the cliches. Also: HBO (Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Sex and the City), good movies (Capote, Motorcycle Diaries, any documentary), the fact that people keep writing and reading books, no matter how trashy.
Really, I'm thankful that Jennifer Aniston has hooked up with Vince Vaughn (I never was a Brad fan) and that the media have found something to talk about besides Tom Cruise (though when the alien baby is born, they'll be back on the front page) and Iraq.
Oh yeah: I'm grateful that the wheels of justice are grinding and just might crush Tom Delay. Hey, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a little graphic violence. I prefer good old fashioned politics to football anyday.
Unless I'm the one playing football, of course. I'm a good QB.
Happy Turkey Day all.
And be thankful. W hasn't shut down the blogisphere. Yet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My Son, the Rock Star

Monday evening, when MB was out at his basketball game, Son and I turned the living room into a performance space. I was the drummer, clanging two beaters (from the electric mixer) together while Son sang into another beater, while gesturing wildly and doing some dance moves I've not seen before.

A sampling of Son's lyrics:

The house and it's covered with black
The sky is full of black
The carrot that you eat
The bunny-rabbit that you are
Wallace and Grommit!!!!!
You lied!

Imagine these screamed out in a rock star way, and you've got it. Son had some great hand motions as well, a behind the back, over the head, grasping fist/hand gesture that I'm sure will be famous some day.

I think it's time to start guitar lessons.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

M/MLA Redux

Things accomplished in Milwaukee:

  1. Dirty Martini consumed at Blu, on the 23rd floor of the upscale Pfister Hotel. We had a view of The Lake, the gas building, and a ginormous bank. The mood: swanky hotel bar, complete with couches and comfy chairs. Bonus: I swiped the matches! I don't smoke!
  2. Had a beer. In the interest of authenticity, Fine Arts Friend and I visited Mader's, where we each had a huge beer (it lasted through the salad course, the entree, and into dessert) and we split a Bavarian Platter, which was basically just different kinds of meat: bratwurst (from Usinger's Sausage, right across the street), knockwurst, and pork loin? Also sauerkraut, of course, and some potato thing of indeterminate origin.
  3. Ate several things I probably shouldn't have, including: two different chocolate based desserts; appetizers whose second ingredients were cheese (but they were so good!); I think that's it? Maybe the potato thing (see above).
  4. Asserted myself with hotel staff. When I arrived, so late on Thursday evening, I was given a room with a bed designed for a little person (and I don't mean a kid). I don't consider myself tall, but when I laid in the bed, my feet hung off the end. The next morning I called the front desk. While I was at the conference on Friday, they moved my stuff to a bigger room with two beds. Hurray for assertiveness!
  5. Did not locate Laverne and/or Shirley nor any L/S paraphernalia. But FAF said she might be able to make me a sweater with a big L on it. Or sew a big L on a pre-existing sweater. Something. I think she has an expensive sewing machine, so if anyone can do it, she can.
  6. Networked with people who have no connection or power in any related field I may or may not be interested in. M/MLA wins, hands down, over the regular old MLA for friendliness. I met an Indian woman from Tennessee, and a comparative lit professor from Northern Milwaukee, both times when I was just sitting alone drinking coffee. Gotta love those friendly Midwesterners.
  7. Met a Super Cool woman (who was on the "Mothers, Maidens, Murderesses" panel with me) who has a PhD in Scandinavian Literature and Language. Her paper was on "Bad Mothers" in Norwegian novels. My favorite part was that her introduction was all about "Alias." Of course, she was from the Northwest (but now teaching in Indiana).
  8. Attended panels of extreme relevance to our current "Five-Year-Plan" discussion. More to follow on this.
  9. Caught up on meaningless television (That 70s Show, Malcolm in the Middle, Sex in the City).
  10. Read two novels that were okay, but not great: Shop Girl by Steve Martin (a summary or an outline of a novel, really. Okay, I know it's a novella. But if you are going to use the "several months pass this way" technique, couldn't it have been a novel?); and The Dog's Ransom by Patricia Highsmith (quite disappointing, not very suspenseful, not very well written, no incredibly creepy yet charming characters, kind of boring, but compared to staring out the window at cornfields, well, I guess the novel is better than some things).
  11. Went to Milwaukee Art Museum. Saw the sail/wing structure flexing at Noon when we arrived. Hurray for serendipity!
  12. Attended Live! Performance Art Showcase: a man, who looked naked, lifting up silver mixing bowls and spoons and "transforming" into a raven. My favorite part was when he put on a purple shirt while wearing a white shirt. It did look a little like feathers. But I was sort of giggling on the inside. After this piece I asked my FAF, "why is modern dance the only art form that has completely missed out on irony?" It was so earnest, I felt responsible somehow; some very good slam poetry from the Milwaukee Slam team (I won't comment here on the "my trauma is worse than your trauma" aspect of some of it; my favorite was a guy who was part stand-up comic, part love-poet, very sweet); and the star of the night: the middle-aged hula-hooper. She stood on stage in a polka-dotted dress and worked the hoop while doing some miming-type activity to Tracy Chapman's "Mountains of Things." In the second-half she came back again, this time with k.d. lang's "Constant Craving" while a video cuts of Wal-Mart and George W. played on a screen behind her. She was in really good shape! There was also a woman pouring water, doing some astrology thing that was only amusing once or twice. And a "Fash Attack!" sort of a new take on a fashion show. Mildly amusing. Certainly worth the $7 my FAF paid for the tickets (I got the wine at Polaris, the rotating restaurant atop the Hyatt, where we were staying. Many questions: why is it called Polaris? How fast was it turning? How bad is the food? The bar where we sat was not spinning, the result being that we couldn't look out the windows because we got motion sick trying to figure out why the people were moving, but the windows weren't. On the plus side, we felt drunk without actually drinking.)
  13. Promised FAF and beer-drinking beau that I would return with Middlebrow and Son at some point in the future for a Milwaukee pub crawl. I think Milwaukee is the antithesis of Salt Lake City. For example: when I got to the MMLA conference around 10 a.m. on Friday, there were many people in the Lobby Lounge drinking beer. Also: at the Performance Art show they were selling liquor in the lobby in plastic cups. Two words: free pour. AND you could get beer, in bottles, to take into the show. Also: two pubs on every corner. Also: the Pabst Theater, the Miller this or that. You get my point.
  14. Overall: Milwaukee a rousing success! Love Milwaukee! Had faith in basic corn-fed, dairy-laden goodness of Midwest restored. What's wrong with Kansas? It ain't Wisconsin, that's what's wrong with it!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


So I'm off to the midwest! Wish me luck in procuring foodables that are not 90% dairy!

Actually, I don't leave until tomorrow, but since I will be spending my last 24 hours stateside doing such things as packing, consoling Son, and finishing my paper (this is how it's done, I've been assured; at least I won't be revising in the hotel lobby), I decided to say good-bye today. Here's a list of tasks I hope to accomplish in Milwaukee:
  1. Drink a filthy martini in the swanky bar, Blu, on the 23rd floor of the convention hotel.
  2. Find the brewery where Laverne and Shirley worked.
  3. Get a sweater with a big Laverne style "L" on the chest.
  4. Drink some beer.
  5. Go to the Art Museum with my Fine Art friend (FAF).
  6. Read a trashy novel on the way to and perhaps during and on the way back from the convention.
  7. Eat something I probably shouldn't be eating, like bleu cheese mashed potatoes. Or maybe some garlic fries?
  8. Visit a couple pubs. My FAF assures me she can get the password to an exclusive pub which she also assures me will be like all the other non-exclusive pubs: dark, serving beer, maybe a little creepy.
  9. Work out two days in a row (must investigate hotel work out facilities. Avoid Lis's tragedy with the treadmill).
  10. Sleep? Maybe.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I'm Foxy!

I thought I'd take a break from boring academics to alert you all to a new development in my existence: I'm foxy! This according to a few drunk men at a party I went to Friday night. Before the party, two different women said I looked like I had lost "a lot of weight." One even asked if I was sick. Should I feel flattered?
Then at the party, a few people were staring at me in such a way to make me feel self-conscious. Like, do I have green salsa all over my chest?
I think that I may have looked thinner because I had my hair pulled back. Plus, I was sick for about two days right before the party, so I may have appeared thin/sick.
But it was just a weird experience for me. I mean, I trained for a half-marathon all summer and, as far as I could tell, I didn't lose a pound. Then I stopped running.
And suddenly I'm FOXY!
Go figure.
I think this means I can drink all the beer I want in Milwaukee.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Motherhood and Work in Three Stories by Lydia Davis

Here is the beginning of the presentation I will be giving this week at MMLA. Comments, questions, feedback PLEASE! I figure if I post a bit every day, it will help me hone (and finish it!) before I go.

The less one feels a thing, the more likely one is to express it as it really is.
-- Flaubert

The three stories I will be discussing, “The Old Dictionary,” “Marie Curie, So Honorable Woman” and “Mothers,” deal with the subject of motherhood in radically different ways. In “The Old Dictionary,” Davis contrasts the treatment of an old dictionary with that of a son. “Marie Curie” describes incidents in the life of the famous scientist, events that describe not only her work but also her status as a mother. The story “Mothers” treats the subject of mothers and motherhood from an objective, almost sarcastic point-of-view. In all three stories, Davis employs her signature distance, which imbues the subjects (whether “I,” “she” or “mothers”) with a sheen of otherness. This otherness allows the narrator to deal with the emotions and conflicts of motherhood without sentimentality. In fact, sentimentality seems impossible, for the separation of the speaker and the subject matter is so complete that, like Marie Curie, the speaker seems to be observing the characters through a mechanical apparatus. That apparatus is narrative itself. Focalization, that is Davis’s ability to distance the narrative “I” from the character “I” or “she,” allows the narrator to analyze rather than experience events. This narrative distance gives the stories a detached, almost hermetic feel. The effect of this distance is to render the events described in these stories both anonymous and universal, so that the mothers referred to in the stories are at once non-existent (no one) and universal (every woman). Davis’s fiction demonstrates that narrative can be structure of objectivity that returns the subject (both the content and the character) to the realm of emotion via distance.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Joy of Cooking (with Son)

Last night Son and I had our first cooking-together experience. It was fantastic! I bought Rachel Rae's Cooking Rocks! book and we made Fried Chicken Toes. Son was especially proficient at crushing Corn Flakes for the breading. Once we put them in the oven, he said, "I'll put the plates on the table." We had bought some orange candles and he wanted to put them on the table. "We should put some flowers on too!" he said. Unfortunately, we had no flowers. But I was pleased to note that Son recognizes the importance of presentation. It's not only about the food, it's about all the pleasing things around the food. I was proud of him, and he was proud of himself. He likes cooking (mostly the dumping of ingredients into a bowl, cracking eggs, and stirring. He's not so fond of getting his hands dirty).
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I'm especially looking forward to it this year. Maybe I'll let Son pick out the flowers.