Thursday, January 29, 2009

What's a Good Metaphor for this?

In class this week, one of my students said, "Being a student here feels like being a passenger in a taxi with a drunk driver." He was not referring to my class, but to the fact that he had signed up for classes in his major, arrived at said classes on the first day only to be told that the program no longer existed. This is a problem for many reasons: first, the president of our college said that "no one has lost their jobs." I had thought this was a semantic truth (at least) because the people who have, in fact, lost their jobs, would not do so until the end of the fiscal year. Not true. Some people have already lost their jobs. Second, as my student pointed out, couldn't they have given the students some warning? Like, at least called them over the break? How many of them can there be if this program is considered "expendable"? Third, he went to talk to his adviser about what he could do so that he wouldn't lose his financial aid, and she had no idea that the program had been eliminated.
Oh. Problematic on so many levels.
But after speaking to this student, who said during our class introductions that "if I wasn't in college I'd be in jail or dead," I thought, no, the passenger in the drunk taxi isn't quite right...because the student isn't just paying, he's participating. He wants to participate. He showed up on the first day! He's already figured out a school to transfer to. He's alert.
The only analogy I could think of was being on the back of a bicycle built for two, when the person in front is steering, not telling you where you're going. Then, the person in front suddenly stops, gets off, and says "I'm done. I will go no further." Sure, chances are you could maybe find a random stranger to help you out, maybe pedal home with you, but haven't they just left you in a shitty situation? What are you supposed to do with this bicycle built for two when you're only one person? Only one person who, maybe, only recently started bicycling in the first place.
I know. You can find someone to teach you how to ride this tandem bicycle alone. Only that "teacher" will be far away, and you'll need a computer and/or cell phone, and you'll actually have to do all your riding by yourself with no direct feedback from this "solo tandem bicycling" expert. Oh, you don't have a computer or a cell phone? You want an actual teacher? Sorry. We can no longer help you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another Thursday, Another TV

So, here's what happens on Thursday:
  1. I teach. But it's only one class. Question: How to get the students to f*%&ing talk about poetry?? huh??
  2. I "have office hours" and by this I mean, sit in writing center and talk to students or former students. Whatever.
  3. Go home. Today, I did this in a round about way that involved going to the wine store, doing the car swap with MB, having lunch at a Thai place (bringing home take out for dinner!), and catching a bus home.
  4. Maybe co-op at Son's school or maybe go home to do whatever. Today was a whatever day that included finishing "The Big Clock," doing stuff on-line, napping, etc.
  5. Eat take-out.
  6. Try to get Son to bed in a way that doesn't interfere with "The Office" and "30 Rock." Don't I have my priorities straight? TV first!!
  7. Watch "The Office" and "30 Rock."
  8. Flip between "ER" and "Private Practice" getting attached to neither and secretly being mildly interested in both.
  9. Watch the last episode of "Lipstick Jungle" on-line. Mourn for the loss of trashy TV until (maybe?) more episodes appear next year.
  10. Check email, do Facebook, etc etc, finally sleep.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Quick Sundance Update

On Monday, we saw "Cold Souls," and our friend Don also happened to have a ticket, so he stood in line and saved us seats. I liked it a lot and gave it four stars, but I think Middlebrow gave it three. It could have used some editing in a few places, but parts were quite lyrical and beautiful. And it was funny and tragic. I like Paul Giamatti, but I LOVE David Strathairn. The story of this film was different from your average movie, and I think the filmmaker, Sophie Barthes, did a good job of mixing the strange with the every day.
On Tuesday we saw "500 Days of Summer" with Hightouch and The Historian. I loved this film, first because it stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. What's not to love? The movie started with an author's disclaimer, and Middlebrow claimed that from that he knew it was going to be good. It was a failed romance told from the perspective of the male, which was refreshing. My only complaint was that I don't believe anyone would ever break up with JGL. It's just not believable. He's adorable! I loved the dance number and the transtitions between scenes. This movie was part of the Premieres, not in competition, which means it already has distribution, etc. I think it could be quite successful, because it is funny and a little heartbreaking. Also, did I mention Josephy Gordon-Levitt? And his adorableness? Definitely see this movie when it comes to a theater near you. I'm sorry, but I don't know when that will be.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


  1. Set my alarm for 5:45 so I could run with my friend Peta.
  2. Got up at 5 when Son woke up to puke.
  3. Closed my eyes at 5:40 for about 10 minutes.
  4. Ran for 35 minutes.
  5. Went to school.
  6. Taught a poetry class (by "taught" I mean: read some poems aloud, talked about them, tried to get students to see poems as "made objects," enthused about language, tried to get them to talk, posed many dualities, wished them well)
  7. Sped to Son's school to eat healthy, salad lunch with him
  8. Got coffee at local shop (and biscotti!)
  9. Helped kids with math (this is WAY more difficult than it sounds and includes one nearly crying boy, one boy with incessant drawing disorder, manic math girls, one boy who is irritating simply because, and others)
  10. Helped kids write adjectives and nouns on papers, along with colorful pictures (this might not sound difficult, but they don't really get "adjectives": my favorite? Pimply Pickles...good job G.S.)
  11. Did the carpool thing successfully, despite large truck driving apple eating mother parked in cross walk (insert swearing rant here)
  12. Purchased dinner at Whole Paycheck (hello sushi!)
  13. Purchased necessary beverage at UDABC (can you say Big House Red?)
  14. Scrubbed the bathroom sink (why am I always the first one to be so grossed out I can't take it any more?? Why???)
  15. Made guacamole
  16. Ate guacamole
  17. Read this charming interview
  18. Drank wine with friend who has not lost her job despite today's layoffs at her place of employment (I'll drink to that!)
  19. Got Son to eat, shower, and pack his bag
  20. Ate dinner
  21. Watched some of "The Office" (Oh Dwight!)
  22. Put son to bed
  23. Ate m-n-m's, drank wine and watched "30 Rock" (Tina Fey, why do you remind me of Lis? Is it because you make funny? Or is it the cardigan?)
  24. Flipped through shows and decided, "Yes, they really are ALL that stupid." But isn't Rufus Sewell the bomb? (do they still say that? "the bomb"?)
  25. Filled in six crossword answers
  26. Listened to iPod while Facebooking
  27. Decided the iPod is the best invention EVER and that if Steve Jobs really is that sick, I could take over for him
  28. I can't name all the songs I heard, but here's who I love in no order: David Byrne, The Cardigans, Amadou & Miriam, Depeche Mode, Leonard Cohen, John Hiatt, Soul Coughing, Billy Bragg & Natalie Merchant, OutKast, INXS (the new), Cranberries.
  29. Did I forget to mention Justin Timberlake? Well then, Justin Timberlake!!
  30. Messaged with friend via Facebook
  31. Talked to husband when he came home from basketball
  32. Thought, "What the hell am I doing up this late? Don't I have to get up at 5:40 for swimming?"
  33. In the future, I will go to bed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What I've Done

  1. Started school
  2. Taught 4 classes
  3. Added too many students to my comp classes
  4. Swam at 6 a.m.
  5. Ran 6 miles
  6. Played tennis
  7. Made pizza in my small kitchen
  8. Made chicken rice soup from homemade broth
  9. Made a pot roast
  10. Read a book
  11. Watched the Golden Globes (and blogged about it at TWIT)
  12. Went to an OC Meeting
  13. Ate chocolate
  14. Went out to a "the semester's starting, let's have a margarita" dinner with a colleague
  15. Went to bed early and got a good night's sleep
  16. Had coffee with a newly-laid-off colleague
  17. Walked and had tea with a friend I haven't seen in a long time
  18. Hung out with Son on his sick day and watched a terrible movie on Netflix
  19. Put away (most of) the piles of paper that filled our living room
  20. Reorganized some stuff
Okay. That's what I did.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Deciding to be Happy: The Small Kitchen

If you know me, and you do, you know I often lament the size of our tiny house (I feel I can call it tiny, as those who advocate living in the "small" house are often talking about 2,000 square feet, and our house is much smaller). Foremost among my complaints is the size of the kitchen.
Leave it to The Minimalist to shame me into satisfaction. This morning I read "So Your Kitchen Is Tiny, So What?" which is a great column about how he makes all his amazing meals in a tiny, NYC-apartment-sized kitchen (click on the link to the picture and be amazed).
I got to that column via today's column, "Fresh Start for the New Year? Let's Start in the Kitchen." It's a great list of must-haves for your pantry. (Pantry? Do I have a pantry? No.) I was pleased that many things on his list were already in my possession. Also, that I understood a lot of his tossed off recipes ("just steam this and throw in that" etc.). I have to admit that I do have the spray oil, (and packaged broth!) which I will use until gone and not replace (I may be a health freak, but I don't like to waste). But I also have real maple syrup, tomato paste in a tube, quinoa, and three kinds of rice.
I set out to find Mark Bittman because he wrote a book that extends Michael Pollan's argument (from In Defense of Food) called Food Matters, which includes recipes. I read about it on Salon. I've also wanted How To Cook Everything for awhile.
So, my first lesson in happiness this year comes from The Minimalist. It's not the size of the kitchen, it's the imagination of the chef.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

My Day: A Photo Essay

I went to Soldier Hollow with a friend. It was 10 degrees.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Death of the Superhero: A Lamentation

I know I am not going to endear myself to all the movie lovers out there with this one, but. But....MB and I finally saw "Dark Knight" and we were not, to put it mildly, impressed. We mostly thought it was too long and too violent. As MB said, that's 2 and a half hours of our lives we're never going to get back. It was hard not to think that for the price of "Dark Knight" one could make 8 or so independent films that aren't perfect, but still leave you with something. Something!
What did I not like about it? So many things. Too much pointless violence. I know, I know, "cartoon" violence, but the Joker didn't feel cartoony, he felt much too cynical and real, with his knives and crazy makeup.
The film didn't have a coherent narrative arc, it had about 3 sub-narratives, none of which were central and therefore none of which were satisfying.
The fight scenes? I have to agree with the Davids (Edelstein and Denby) that they were so confusing. I couldn't figure out what was going on half the time. And mostly I didn't care. I did like the one stunt with the semi that flipped over.
I know that Heath Ledger will probably get an Oscar, because he should have received one for "Brokeback," but I didn't find his performance that great. It was probably the best thing in the movie, but that's not saying much. I mostly kept thinking about the dark places he had to go to in order to play that kind of role, and how that led to his taking drugs in order to sleep and that led to his death. Pretty sad.
I forgot that I had taken a vow not to see any more violent movies, and now I will enforce that promise. Luckily, MB has taken it too.
Mostly, I'm sad that superhero movies are no longer for kids. All the superhero movies I've seen lately are not really pitched to kids ("Iron Man," "Hancock") in the way "Superman" was when we were kids. I know optimism and a belief in justice aren't really popular these days, but what's wrong with letting kids believe in Superman? That he could reverse time in order to save Lois Lane? It's cheesy, I know. It's beyond cheesy. But I, for one, am sad that we live in such a post-post modern era that the only superheroes we have are not suitable for children. Is it really so hard to make a movie in which the violence consists of a few punches to the jaw instead of a man with half a burned face threatening a child with a gun? I mean really.
Mostly I'm just bummed that the movie seemed so pointless. At the end, I was just glad it was over. And I was really, really tired.
(for the record, MB wants it noted that he also disliked the movie. Greatly.)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Resolutions: A Review

Here are my resolutions from last year, with a recap:
  1. Go to bed earlier. (sleep is good!) *I don't think I accomplished this*
  2. Exercise more. (Swimming, Running, Yoga) *This I definitely have accomplished. Recently*
  3. Worry less. *Still unsuccessful on this front*
  4. Ski this winter. *I did ski, but I want to ski more this year*
  5. Be nicer. *I tried. Not sure if I succeeded. Maybe?*
  6. Be more patient. *No*
  7. Write more. *More? Maybe? Probably not*
  8. Read more. *Yes. Successful on this one.*
  9. Watch less TV. *No.*
  10. See more movies in the theater. (this one seems doable!) *Yes. I accomplished this*
So, all in all more success than not. This year, I'll limit myself to five.
  1. Sleep. (sound familiar?)
  2. Do a triathlon.
  3. Write. (ie: finish The Novel)
  4. Read.
  5. Hang out with friends (dinners, movies, etc.)
I think getting rid of "more" insures success on the resolution front. And I'm all for success.