In Her Shell
Thursday, August 31, 2006
  I'm Afraid I Can't Do That, Dave

Is it possible for a computerized voice to sound annoyed? Because I think my voicemail lady is irked at my sentimental saving of messages. When she informs me that three of my messages are "about to expire," she sounds positively chirpy. But when I listen to them again, and they make me smile again, and I re-save them, again, she drones through "this message will be saved for twenty-one days" in a decidedly chilly tone. If she had teeth to clench, they'd be clenched. I resent this kind of judgement.
  Fall and A Poem
Lulu inspired me with her melancholy fall reflections, and even though I am going back to work tomorrow and haven't looked at my lesson plans yet, I am taking a page from her book and posting one of my favorite fall poems.

My November Guest
Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds have gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so.
And they are better for her praise.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
  Way Better Than Original Tag

My beloved CP has tagged me, and this time I'm all psyched to play. Why? Because Reading Is Sexy and don't you ever forget it.

A Book That Has Changed Your Life: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
(Because it inspired me, the second I finished it, to sit down and write and every time I re-read it I am inspired again.)

"You were a wanted child, God knows, she would say at other moments, lingering over the photo albums in which she had me framed; these albums were thick with babies, but my replicas thinned out as I grew older, as if the population of my duplicates had been hit by some plague. She would say this a little regretfully, as though I hadn't turned out entirely as she'd expected. No mother is ever, completely, a child's idea of what a mother should be, and I suppose it works the other way around as well. But despite everything, we didn't do badly by one another, we did as well as most.
I wish she were here, so I could tell her I finally know this."

A Book That You Have Read More Than Once: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
(All the books on a certain shelf in my room could fall into this category, but this is one that I will pick up again and again, just to read certain passages.)

"The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier, minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word. The groups change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath--already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the center of a group and then excited with triumph glide on through the seachange of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing light."

A Book That Makes You Laugh: Glory Goes and Gets Some, Emily Carter

"So I'm hovering over this Lara, and like always with really small women, I feel like Alice after she took the one pill that makes you larger, big and--here's the word--galumphing. Galumphing, good word, and that of course makes me feel this heady sensation of protectiveness toward the smaller woman, and then the usual realization dawns on me. Oh My God I Am A Lesbian. And not one of those hip stylish ones who write avant-garde movie scripts and get their pictures taken in nightclubs either. I'm some sad old thing sitting at the bar while my little femme fatale girlfriend cheats on me with anything, male or female, that happens to be around. In other words, I get treated the way I've treated certain men in my life, which as a thought is worse than thinking about car accidents."

A Book That Made You Cry: Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"There was nothing there but a flash of yellow close to his ankle. He remained motionless for an instant. He did not cry out. He fell as gently as a tree falls. There was not even any sound, because of the sand."

A Book You Wish You Had Written: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson
(Because it is my favorite and everything I like in a book: funny and poignant and simply stated and lyrical with a dash of magical realism.)

"Like most people I lived for a long time with my mother and father. My father liked to watch the wrestling, my mother liked to wrestle; it didn't matter what. She was in the white corner and that was that.
She hung out the largest sheets on the windiest days. She wanted the Mormons to knock on the door. At election time in a Labour mill town she put a picture of the Conservative candidate in the window.
She had never heard of mixed feelings. There were friends and there were enemies.

Enemies were:
The Devil (in his many forms)
Next Door
Sex (in its many forms)
Friends were:
Our dog
Auntie Madge
The novels of Charlotte Bronte
Slug pellets

And me, at first."

A Book You Are Currently Reading
(Lest anyone not believe me when I claimed membership in Lulu's Book Addicts Club...)
The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean
Everything Is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
God: A Biography, Jack Miles
The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
The Culture of Fear, Barry Glassner
Lighthousekeeping, Jeanette Winterson
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
The Cheating Culture, David Callahan
Teacher Man, Frank McCourt
How the Universe Got its Spots, Janna Levin
Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino

A Book You Have Been Meaning To Read:
(And here's the other half of my bedside table...)
Side Effects, Woody Allen
The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
War Talk, Arundhati Roy
Islam, A Short History, Karen Armstrong
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, Jerry Mander
The Fifties, A Women's Oral History, Brett Harvey
All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren


Whew. That was fun. I'm spent.
Friday, August 25, 2006
  Real Irritating
Someone got me a gift subscription to Real Simple. As much as I enjoy the clean layout and pithy quotations sprinkled throughout, I think it is really Martha Stewart Living in plain linen clothing.

Most of their suggestions are silly and unrealistic, but fun to read ("Use an old spring as a desktop organizer for letters and bills!") More and more, however, the concept of a magazine devoted to making life easier for the overprivileged is chafing a bit.

This month's most offensive article, "Letting Go of Your To-Do List," by personal and executive coach and motivational speaker Gail Blanke, goes beyond frivolous to ridiculous.

Here are Gail's "5 steps to living more of your life":

1. "Think "easy." Ask yourself several times a day, no matter what you're doing, no matter how overwhelmed you feel, "How easy, how simple, how absolutely delightful could I make this task?""

You're right Gail. I'm sure this Bolivian boy is thinking that right now as he herds his flock! "How absolutely delightful!"

2. "Stop measuring yourself based on how much you get done in any given day, and start celebrating yourself based on how much you discover. Let go of being the world's greatest efficiency expert and embrace the role of lover and adventurer."

So true. If only this Bolivian girl and her friends would stop counting fish and start DISCOVERING things, they could stop being "just child laborers," and start their real adventure!

3. "Look up from your to-do list at least three times a day and take in your surroundings. Look for delight in the most unexpected places."

That would definitely be a spirit-booster for this Columbian boy.

4. "Listen to the people you love best as if you've never met them before. Don't assume that you know how they feel or what they're thinking. Listen for who they are now, what they're passionate about now, what delights them now."

F* you, Gail.

5. "Look for the magical moments, those unextraordinary, brief moments when they're playing "The Way You Look Tonight" or someone has made you cry with laughter. Embrace that person and say out loud, "Right now, isn't this great? Here we are together. And we love each other. Aren't we lucky?""

6. "Sit down for just five minutes. (Just kidding.)"

Unless it will get you docked a day's pay.

According to the UN website, "More than 250 million children between the ages of five and 14 are exploited for cheap labour, according to a United Nations agency, the International Labour Organization (ILO)."

Gail's article may only be redeemed by its closing lines, in which she hopes that all her readers will be able to have tombstones inscribed (in part), "SHE WAS REALLY LUCKY."

  Another Theory To Help You With Your Life
Behaving like a depressed person will make you depressed.

I was really psyched about finally having a week all to myself. Sleep in, shuffle around all day in pajamas, lie on the couch alternately reading and watching TV, then shuffle to the computer and sit there for several hours. Eat a lot.

For the first day it was luxurious and lovely. By the second day I was getting antsy. Four days later and I was crawling the walls and feeling completely useless. Yet somehow, despite having nothing to do, the simplest tasks went undone.

Turtle the First's birthday present still sits in a box at my feet, unmailed. Two disposable cameras from my trip to Chicago have not been dropped off at the camera store for development. Bills need to be paid and phone calls made.

But "Judging Amy" is back-to-back on TNT. I'm mesmerized.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
  Me Too, Kid
In the aisle at the Stop and Shop:

Four year old boy: Mom! I want you to call me Treat Man!
Mom: Oh yeah?
Boy: Yeah! Call me Treat Man because I loooooooove treats!
Mom: I know, you do.
Boy: Treat Man!

What a frigging great nickname. Right on.
  Are You There God? It's Me, Wonderturtle

This book sucked. Sucked! It absolutely symbolized my complete failure to be a normal girl.

I wasn't even aware of this book until after everyone in my grade had already read it. This was unsurprising, as my bandwagon book-reading habits had followed a similar pattern with Sweet Valley High, Sweet Valley Twins, and Anne of Green Gables. I had to put my foot down when it came to The Babysitter's Club, but that is probably because only a small sub-section of the popular girls actually read those.

So Judy Blume. Turns out that here was this book that was supposed to unlock the mysteries of what pre-teen girls were really thinking. "Finally," I thought, "someone to clue me in!" I always felt woefully inadequate in my quest for average girldom.

I may be alone in this, and I feel almost as nervous about saying it as I have about using this forum to publicly diss Debbie Gibson and Oreos in the past. But I really, really did not like this book.

I thought this Margaret chick seemed whiny and pathetic, and she was far too obsessed with boys who were mean, and the girls who were supposed to be her friends were mean, too. But this was a book about the average pre-teen girl. If I didn't have Margaret's fears and concerns, what did that say about me?

Looking back now, I realize that instead of reassuring me that my fears and concerns were OK, it only made me suspect that I had missed something, and was terribly behind in what I was supposed to be afraid of and concerned about.

Training bras and menstruation, apparently, were supposed to be the penultimate teen girl experiences, and I had neither. She prayed a lot in this weird, chitchatty way. The title, perhaps meant to be endearing, gave a creepy feeling that I now recognize as existential.

I think this book was absolutely not written for pre-teen girls. It was meant to be, but it's not. When I read it then I felt like it was an adult's imagining of my experience, which is weird since Judy had actually been a pre-teen girl herself. But maybe the actuality of being thirteen is too difficult to define on a page.

I have yet to read a book that truly, successfully re-creates the paradoxical darkness-and-innocence of those years. And even if I thought I found one now, it would only be what I recognize through the glass of all the time since.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
  All Right, All Right.
HB wants me to do this. I think the game of tag has instilled in many the combined longing/dread of being "It," but I am doing it anyway. Heart you, HB.

4 jobs I've had:
1. Camp Counselor
2. Videotape Librarian
3. Graduate Assistant
4. Teacher

4 movies I could watch over and over:
1. The Breakfast Club
2. Rushmore
3. Back to the Future
4. Can't Hardly Wait

4 places I have lived:
1. In my parents' house (in the middle of our street!)
2. In Trenton, NJ
3. In Cricklewood, London, UK
4. In Queens, NY

4 TV shows I love to watch:
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
2. Six Feet Under
3. Law & Order
4. Project Runway (see below)

4 places I have been on vacation:
1. Alaska
2. Ireland
3. Hawaii
4. Costa Rica

4 websites I visit daily:
1. Google News
2. All the blogs in the sidebar. It's very time consuming. Can you people be less interesting, please?

4 favorite foods
1. sushi
2. garlic
3. tomatoes
4. godiva chocolate (sorry Lu & E)

4 places I'd like to be right now:
1. on the couch
2. on a boat (good one, HB)
3. back in any of those vacation locales, or greece
4. at a barbeque

4 tags:
1. KY Transplant
2. I think the rest of you have already done this. And I don't want to reinforce the childhood dread. But let me know if I'm wrong.

Heart you HB!
Monday, August 21, 2006
  Another Theory To Help You With Your Life
Prince is an effective balm for PMS.

Chocolate, cheesy movies, and alone time notwithstanding, I have just discovered something else that will soothe the beast within me. And it is Prince. Five feet two inches of spaz, sex, and tragic melodrama. Allow me to recommend his more overwrought hits, like "Purple Rain" and "When Doves Cry" for serious cases.

He only wants to see me laughing in the purple rain.

Sunday, August 20, 2006
  Another Reason To Love Project Runway
"I'm not trying to be Captain Saves-A-Ho, like we say in the 'hood..."
-Michael, on his defense of Angela in the Bradley's-sewing-machine argument

Captain Saves-A-Ho!
Start using it immediately.
  Another Theory To Help You With Your Life
Everyone has a Default Face--the expression they lapse into when not emoting.

The Default Face probably says a lot about a person. My mom's used to be stern and angry, the corners of her mouth pulled down in displeasure, eyebrows knit. Since her new independence over the past few years, during which she has begun to do things for herself and has been a lot happier, that's changed, and now her Default Face is contented, and gentler.

You have to know a person pretty well to know their Default Face. I don't know my own, because I usually look in the mirror with either curious appraisal, surprised skepticism, or dread. I hope it's not one of those.
  General Query
Did you ever feel like you were having a Bad Face Day?

Bad skin, surly expression, little to be done for it.

At least it's Sunday.
Friday, August 18, 2006
  He's Not Heavy, He's My

I recognize the usefulness of anonymous tip lines, but that doesn't make it any less disturbing to see this painted across the back bumper of a police car:


  For Everything Else, There's
They managed to get my $90. By They, I mean American Airlines and the persuasive gnomes who live in the E-ticket machine. I got there early enough for my return flight that They suggested that I could upgrade to First Class and Lunch for my Two Hour Flight home for only $90. About half what I paid for the whole round-trip ticket.

First Class and lunch. I bit.

Here is my a cost-benefit analysis:

Cushy seat: $8
Wide armrest for drinks: $12
Enough legroom for 5'9" me to stretch out in: $30
Cups of water before we even left the ground: $10
Water in a real glass with a lemon wedge: $6
Regular refills: $3
Warmed mixed nuts in a real ceramic bowl: $7
Hot towels, just like in that Adam Sandler movie: $2
Grimy bathroom shared with only 10 other people: $1.75
Surly businessman who didn't want to move his laptop so I could go to said bathroom: $0.25
Surly's joke later about Tiddly-Winks when he had had a few too many Bacardi & Cokes and accidentally flung his little straw at me: $10
Lunch: priceless

Damned if I've had a better lunch in some time. We're talking warmed pesto pasta salad with artichoke hearts and black olives, generously topped with grilled chicken, in a real glass bowl. I got a cloth napkin, a side Caesar salad, some fresh fruit, and a package of chocolate mint Andes candy cookies. Surly was too cool for lunch; he was busy watching a DVD of Kurt Russell fighting giant creatures in the desert, as best I could tell. It was sublime and I'd do it again as long as I never balance my checkbook so I never know what a stupid idea it is and I've never ridden First Class before, can you tell?

  Actually, It Wasn't That Windy
I'm back from Chicago, where I successfully:

1) Crashed with Lu and met Bob; a surprising alliance was formed.
2) Explored Madison and met a 9-foot boa named Xena, not an ally.
3) Stayed with E. and L. and ate lots of good sushi, discussing marriage equality and shoes.
4) Ate copious amounts of sushi, again.
5) Wandered about, bought too many used books, ate scones.
6) Road on a boat, looked at buildings.
7) Managed to get some color on my pasty self.
8) Ate vegan with everyone's favorite activist/anarchist. He'd be your favorite too if you knew him.
9) Reconnected with an old and good friend, and met her baby!
10) Fit it all in my carryon for the trip home. (Not the baby, or the activist, or the boat. Unfortunately. Mostly just the used books.)

In other interesting news, the TSA official sniffed my deodorant as he sifted through my bag at the security checkpoint. This must be a great job for fetishists.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
  My Kind of Security Alert
I'm off to Chicago til next Thursday. So unless I can get on Lulu's computer while I'm there.... miss me!

Hope I can borrow your conditioner, Lu!

And yes, it's scary. And no, I'm not trying to make light of it. But I sort of am. Because how else would I leave the house, ever?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006
  Wednesday is Quantum Physics Day
Today I will take a complicated principle of a complicated field, oversimplify it, and make it all about me. Ready?

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
"One of the basic ideas behind quantum theory/physics/mechanics is the H.U.C. It states, more or less, that the more you know about one aspect of a subatomic particle, the less you can know about the other. This means the more you know about the velocity of a particle, the less you can possibly know about its position."

So just when you figure out one thing--say, how fast a particle is moving or in which direction--you realize that in doing so you have completely lost sight of something else that is key to understanding that particle. Like, say, where it is.

Can I possibly know where I am and where I am going, simultaneously? I can't even change the radio station and watch the road at the same time. Damn you, Heisenberg!

On the other hand, knowing about this when I was going through my post-college navel-gazing quarter-life crisis would have been extremely comforting. Of course, had I majored in Physics instead of Television and Theatre Production, perhaps I wouldn't have been living in an armpit and answering phones for lousy jerks.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
  Now. Now, I Say!
Frankly, you should all visit the websites of two of my most wonderful friends.

ltan tunes features at least one of her newest songs, and if you are in the NYC area you can most certainly come out and see her when she plays next. And you can help me harass her to play again soon! Think throaty, folky chick with a guitar who has no idea how cool she really is. Ltan laughs more, and more infectiously, than anyone I know.

Manic Turtle Productions is the brainchild of my friend Jeremy, who once described himself as the male version of me. So you know, off the bat, he's pretty cool. Featuring original films with titles like "My Grapefruit, My Father," how can you go wrong? And if you are on the West Coast, he will make your movie for you.

Thank you.
  A Helpful Graphic

L. made this for me, having reviewed my recent post about her. I thought you could print it out and put it up next to your computer monitor, or on the dashboard of your car or something. You know, just as a reminder.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
  Googles, or This Post Lacks Irony
It is pretty cool to meet someone who will sit with you on a Saturday night re-reading A Midsummer Night's Dream while you re-read Harriet the Spy, and every once in a while you read funny passages aloud to each other, and then you somehow get to talking about Hamlet and whether or not he's crazy and why Rosencrantz and Guildenstern show up, so then you both look at Hamlet to try and prove your points, and this all goes on for hours until you both have to get up and get some leftover pasta out of the fridge. And then you listen to some Rage Against the Machine.

Sorry. It is very difficult to be sardonic when this happens.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
  Uh Oh
"It seems to me that the problem with diaries, and the reason that most of them are so boring, is that every day we vacillate between examining our hangnails and speculating on cosmic order."
~Ann Beattie

I think she's been reading my blog.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
  Senator Robert Menendez Totally Has A Crush On Me


1. He has sent me three letters in the past week. One was about marriage equality (HOT), one about reproductive freedom (HOTT), and one about animals, I don't really understand that one because my question was about the environment, but it is still HOTTT! Granted, I wrote to him first, but he totally wrote back right away.

2. He started the third letter with the phrase "As your partner..." We are not in business together. "'Partner,'" as Turtle the First says, "is only used by gay guys and really cool straight guys." Senator Robert Menendez is really cool!!

3. He put his phone number in every letter! That's three times that he gave me his number! He really wants me to call! But I'm totally not going to make the first move.
  The Electric Slide Makes Me Want To Kill Myself
I've narrowed it down to the following depressing reasons:

The Tempo. It is just slow enough to grind on forever. I suppose it is designed to minimize heel and toe injuries (I feel you, Grant), but even a half-beat faster would make this less of a death march.

The Unpleasant Association with the Eighties. British New Wave, "Video Killed the Radio Star," Cyndi Lauper = Good. AquaNet, Buster Poindexter, Debbie Gibson = Bad. I know I may take some flak for that last Debbie Gibson comment. So be it.

That Enthusiastic Sweaty Old Guy in the Back. He doesn't know it. He's not going to know it. But he's had a few drinks, and by gosh, he's going to try it!

That Lady Who Falls. Ouch. She's laughing it off now, but that's just the pride talking. It's going to leave a mark.

The Lack of Irony. I heart irony. Weddings are ironic, don't you think? So should be the dancing. YMCA dancers throw themselves into it with full awareness, or maybe despite full awareness, of the cheese factor. The Electric Sliders do not see the cheese. Don't go up there if you are going to f* around.
  More Classwork
We are putting together our final portfolios for the course, and I had to respond to the following questions:

"Who are you as a writer?"

I am a seeker, a reflector and a reacher. I write to work things out—the kinks in my head. Does this make sense? On the page, it makes more. Talking it out helps but I get ahead of myself, especially with a wise and witty partner. I need to see the words on the page; it’s the comfort of bedtime stories and bookstores. The wonder of the first time I folded some typing paper in half, stapled it in the middle, and wrote my very own title on the front. I can do this too: I can join in the conversation. That’s what I am trying to do, every time. Turn those flitting, spinning ideas into something more concrete that I can look at later. Other people can look at them, and I’m reaching out to see if anyone else feels the same way. If I will feel the same way in two years or two minutes. Two weeks later and I’m off on another tangent, following the letters down dark holes and burrowing under blankets to see where they will lead. It is as if I cannot know what is in my own mind unless I can write it down. I make incredible discoveries in this way.

"Who are you as a teacher of writing?"

I am an evangelist. I have found this way—let me share it with you! You would not believe the things that will fall out of your own head! You will not believe the way you can shape them like clay once you see them there! To those who feel powerless: please, look here for tools of power. I am a reacher here too. I am reaching to those who love to play with words and those who don’t yet realize that they do. Those who resist are afraid. Words have meant failure to them before. Now they can mean a torch lifted for others to wonder at, or to follow. I can carry that torch? Me? I desperately want them to see. I am a cheerleader, I am a stepstool. I am a mirror. I am a beanbag chair. I am a mean-seeming personal trainer, and I don’t want them to get flabby. This keeps me from getting flabby. I am scared too. I don’t want their voices to get drowned out in my own. I don’t want mine to be lost in theirs. We are negotiating this space, and our words are our tools.

My Photo

In a move that seems to amuse only me, I pull lines from the blogs I hit on the Next Blog button, and arrange them into found poem form.

April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / August 2010 / April 2011 /

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