Sunday, April 29, 2007

Memo from Course Assessment

As some of you know, I (and some of you!) was lucky enough to participate in a course assessment in the past few days. Yes, it stretched out longer than expected with some of us bringing papers home to finish up. (But not until we'd self-medicated with vodka, watched some TV, slept a little, etc).
Here are some highlights from student prose that remind me of why teaching is often an (unintentionally) funny business.
  • "Throughout time, students have always brought guns to school"
  • "As I was in a situation where a drunken man holding a butterfly knife began to be irritated and angry"
  • "all of which makes a paper sound like a symphony"
  • "somewhat glib goes by many different names"
  • "I would like to end here so that you may reflect"

I also learned that I should keep my big mouth shut and just nod and agree (I've learned this several times, but it hasn't taken yet!).

Also: I don't like reading student papers. Also: the smell of magic marker lingers on the papers and gives me a huge f*ing headache. I would like to convey more lessons I gleaned from this experience, but that may take some more vodka.

I will end here, so that you may reflect.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Not Funny

Am I the only person on the planet who didn't find Borat funny?
We started watching it last night. I didn't find anything about the opening village scene funny. The only funny thing in the first fifteen minutes was the chicken getting out of his suitcase on the subway. And the fact that most Americans threatened him with violence. That seemed like an insight into Ameircan culture.
But the rest of it was just stupid. "Let's make fun of retarded people! And Jews! And women!" Haven't heard that since, when, seventh grade?
I appreciate complex humor. Even simplistic humor done well. But this wasn't any of that.
So we turned it off (and returned it, promptly, to Netflix), and watched some TV. It's depressing. The success of "Borat" and the general stupidity of the evening news does not give me hope for the future of the American people.

Monday, April 23, 2007

We're Almost There....Where?

We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Is it an on-coming train? The happy light of the ever after?
It might, possibly, be the sun. Or maybe a funnel cloud of love and illumination. Or maybe it might just be the sneaking suspicion that all of humanity is not devoid of intelligent thought and compound-complex sentence structures. Maybe it's something like optimism.
Maybe it's an hallucinatory image of ourselves sitting in the cozy breakfast nook writing something that came out of our very own heads. Something we made up. Something strange and familiar. Something that makes us smile with its unpredictability. Something that scares us with its fierce insistence to be written.
Maybe it's just an idea. That would be novel.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


I'm addicted to the following things, in no particular order:
  • Potato chips (specifically: salt & vinegar, thai spice)
  • Chips and Salsa
  • Avocados
  • Thai Food
  • American Idol (we will now celebrate the departure of Sanjaya. Yeah!!)
  • Chocolate (dark)
  • Red Wine
  • Crossword puzzles/sudoku (alternately)
  • Listening to music late at night on my iPod when I should be sleeping
  • Procrastination
  • Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies (in season)
  • Rice
  • Smoothies
  • TV Shows that are in danger of being cancelled or that networks just stop showing (Love Monkey, Studio 60, Men in Trees)
  • All of your blogs (you know who you are!!)
  • Gossip (my new fave: Jake & Reese!)
  • Imagining myself in really sexy outfits when I'm wearing khakis and tennis shoes (my uniform)
  • Counter-transference
  • Talking about stuff I really don't know about (Judith Butler?)
  • Talking about all the stuff I'm working on when I'm really not doing anything
  • Rewarding myself when I feel bad by eating bad stuff (see Potato Chips)
  • End of the semester pep talks from self and MB ("It's all good! It's almost over!! Good job!!")
  • Imagining dancing while listening to Shakira
  • Protein
  • Cookies
  • Hugs from Son
  • Sunshine
  • Days with no school
  • Saying I will do things that I'm not sure I can actually do (more on this after the 27th)
  • Lists

Monday, April 16, 2007


In light of the shootings at Virginia Tech, I feel it is appropriate to reopen the question of guns in the classroom, something we've been discussing in our fair state for, oh, ever. But not only that. Not only guns on campus, because, as gun rights advocates state, even if we have rules, people will break them. But guns in general.
When I was on a ferry once from England to Ireland a nice man asked me "Why do Americans love guns so much?" What could I say? I'm an American. I don't love guns. He referred to a deadly school shooting in Scotland and said that less than a month afterwards it was more difficult to get a gun in Scotland. "Why doesn't America do that?" he asked. Why indeed.
But I've gotten off track. I meant to say that, as a teacher, I don't want to be afraid that a student who got a bad grade will hunt me down. I don't want to be afraid that a student will come in and threaten me with a gun. I don't want to be afraid that the classroom will not be a place for the free and open exchange of sometimes unpopular ideas because students are afraid that a peer might not agree and bring a gun.
As a parent, I'm afraid that my son will encounter a bully with a gun, or anyone with a gun, at his school. Probably not at the school he attends now, but he can't go there forever.
Even more, as an American, I'm sick of having to turn the channel when an ad for a violent TV show or movie comes on when I'm watching TV at 7 pm with my son. I'm sick of our culture that thinks killing and violence is entertaining. I'm sick of watching PG-13 movies that treat violence as an everyday occurrence that we should not react to with outrage and horror.
Show a nipple and you get an X rating. Show hundreds of people being murdered by machine gun fire, PG-13. (I don't know this for a fact, but based on my own movie viewing, this seems to be true).
What I'm really sick of is turning on the radio and hearing that someone, any one, the number does not matter, has been killed by another lunatic with a gun. I'm tired of gun rhetoric. I don't feel like I need a gun, and I sure as hell don't think anyone should be able to buy one at their local big box retailer.
I'm sick of lines like "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Sorry. A person without a gun is just an angry person. An angry person with a gun can kill someone. I can deal with an angry student. I do it more often than I'd like. An angry student with a gun is, unfortunately, sometimes a murderer.
My thoughts are with the survivors in Virginia. My thoughts can't do a lot. How about a law?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

So It Goes

Kurt Vonnegut has died.
Here is where I would say something profound and beautiful about the myriad ways in which he shaped my aesthetic and helped me to become the writer and person I am today.
Let me just say that I read Slaughterhouse Five because my father told me that I should read every book that had ever been banned. I started with Slaughterhouse Five and I became addicted to Vonnegut. So I worked my way through many Vonnegut novels. I learned from him that a book can be funny and make a bold political statement. That it can be imaginative in the largest sense of the word and can say something huge about the way we live.
I think for me this is the first time I have confronted the death of one of my literary heroes. I definitely would not be a writer today if I had never read Slaughterhouse Five. Or Cats' Cradle. Or "Welcome to the Monkey House." My favorite for a while was a sappy little story called "A Long Walk to Forever." It is sappy, but kind of sweet.
Vonnegut is dead. Long live Vonnegut!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

When the Goose is Away

I know that's not the phrase, but it's apt. This weekend while Middlebrow was pursuing his Tallness Studies, I bonded with the wee one. We played Sorry (he wins every time!), read a few chapters of The Incredible Journey, played baseball in the backyard, and let Gus tug us along for a walk.
I watched a girly movie, "The Holiday," which I actually liked for many reasons.
  1. Cameron Diaz: despite myself, I'm starting to actually like her; see "In Her Shoes."
  2. Jude Law: dimples. No explanation needed.
  3. Kate Winslet: already liked her. still like her.
  4. Jack Black: not overly jokey, for once. Great!
  5. Adorable sub-plots: kids, old men.
  6. Amanda (Diaz) makes movie trailers for a living. Sometimes she hears movie trailers for her own life in her head. Complete with the movie trailer voice guy. These were some of my favorite surprising moments. I want someone to make a movie trailer for my life!
  7. Heart: Lately I just want a movie with heart. Some emotion. Down with irony and cynicism! I want my romantic comedies to be romantic and funny with happy endings.

I also managed to drink a little too much red wine (oops!) and stay up late listening to Justin Timberlake and Shakira (and the Dixie Chicks and Cheryl Crow) on my iPod while doing (actually, messing up) Sodoku.

I also discovered I make a terrible single mother because I forgot to do the Easter Bunny shopping and had to have a friend do it for me. Easter was made more fun by my mid-afternoon nap which made me late picking up Middlebrow from the airport. Luckily, in the spirit of Easter, he was forgiving.

Made the basic potatoes-lamb chops-green bean Easter dinner. All in all it was a fun weekend. Did I mention the bottle of pre-made Margaritas? No? Well, those were good too. And the first meeting of my uber-writing group. All good.

Now it's the mad dash/sprint/grading marathon to the finish line.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Alanis Morissette "My Humps"

I actually like the Blackeyed Peas version of this song (good for running), but hearing Alanis sing it makes you realize (once again) how ridiculous the lyrics are.
It's hilarious! Must watch!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Not Another Spring Sonnet

Inspired by the contest over at Prarie Home Companion, I decided to write a non-spring Spring poem. Plus I still owe Hightouchmegastore about 9 poems from September. Plus it is Poetry Month and I hear tell that several poets are doing NaPoWriMo. Not me, but someone, somewhere. So here it is. And forgive my wonky lines. It's my first poem since September!

So here’s your sonnet, without daffodils,
sentiment or rain. Lacking any reference to green,
anything floral, fecund, or new. Not full
of love or harmony or peace. Do I seem
bitter? I’m not. It’s just when the pollen
comes out, I sneeze, and then I think
of all the chores still to do, chairs to haul in,
grill to put out. My husband needs to fix the sink.
Also, my perennial failure to maintain a garden.
But too, I’m glad. For one thing, this year
I vowed to give up on a lush yard. In
winter it’s easy to do. But I’ll renege, I fear.
Because, once again, I love every growing thing.
Despite myself, in spring I love the spring.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright

I've had that song in my head ever since I got back from Spring Break, where I visited Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's haven in the desert. The development in Scottsdale is so insane that it almost reaches out to the site. But when he bought the land (in 1937) there was no running water, no electricity, no road. He's spinning in his grave!
But the place was gorgeous, and the structures amazing. FLW was way before his time. He would be happy now, with the developments in environmental architecture and what not. But I had a good time. My father and I went on the "Behind the Scenes" tour, which included a snack inside the dining room, and several talks by intimates of FLW. What sticks with me is that FLW said that "architecture is frozen music" (actually I think someone else said it and he was just fond of it) and that architectural fellows used to be asked to bring a musical instrument and a formal outfit. Every once in a while they had big dinners and the fellows provided all the entertainment. That was back in the day when people were well-rounded. Now we just want to be good at one thing.
I'm in a bit of architecture obsession. I'm reading Devil in the White City, which Frank Lloyd Wright appears in, however briefly. The book has a lot of architecture big wigs in it (Olmstead, Sullivan), which I didn't know. Of course it makes sense, but I wasn't aware before I started reading it. The book combines two of my major obsessions: architecture and crime.
My obsession with architecture really has to do with an essay project I'm researching, but not really working on yet. It's called First Person Spaces, and it connects to the stuff I've done before, but I want to do a more sustained project, maybe linked stories and at least one essay.
I appreciate all the comments (two) about my blog silence. I've been busy and tired. Doing what, you might ask. Who knows? So far I know I'm not allergic to wheat, corn or tomatoes. I'm not allergic to decaf coffee. I've snuck in some beer and wine. I also ate three vegan cookies at a potluck and I didn't die. So I guess I'm okay. Slated for this week: oats, yeast, and maybe butter. I'll let you know. I have two boxes of Girl Scout Cookies in the freezer that call to me incessantly. The prognosis is not good.
On the up side, I did run a few times and I'm sore! I've also done yoga. Also sore.
I love you all, my pretties.