Thursday, September 27, 2007
But that's beside the point. I lived through my virus, I'm upright (a big improvement), and I almost have my head on straight from taking on the new class and getting caught up with my regular classes. If I can live through this week, I feel sure I'll be able to get my head on straight and not feel so freakin' overwhelmed. Cross your fingers.
I found out a very happy accident this morning. Far Away Community College has fall break on October 8th and 9th. B. and I have big plans (if they don't fall through) to go vacationing in the Smoky Mountains that weekend to do a bit of sightseeing, much relaxing, and much much gambling. Fall break at one college--while not breaking at the other--means that I would need to shirk off my Monday night class in order to go vacationing. Found out this morning that we can't meet that night anyway because the high school extension where I teach has open house!!! Woohooo! A free night off. Swwwweet.
Not much else going on. I got the new SIMS 2 expansion pack--Bon Voyage-- and I effin' love it. If I could spend every waking moment on my computer, I would. That's how wonderful it is. If you haven't yet given in to the pull of the SIMS, do it now. But make sure you have some sick days saved up.
Reading reading reading, writing articles, working on my short stories, yadda yadda. I should be back to you with a book review tomorrow or perhaps later on in the weekend. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Also, the newest issue of Della Donna is out! I have an article in the 'zine this month entitled, "Contentment...Apparently it Does Exist," that originally ran as a blog post here. Be sure to check out the issue. April has done a fantastic job as always.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Apparently, a fellow adjunct at Far Away Community College (the one that pays 3/4 of my bills) quit. Sooo, there are two classes that need teachers here in week 5. One of them meets immediately after, and next door, to my 8am class, so I'm taking it for the remainder of the semester. Which means more money, YAY! But also means more work, BOO!
Now, that means that I'm teaching five classes, working in the Writing Center, attempting to write my first book that I'll seriously want to get published, keeping up with Estella's Revenge, nurturing a relationship, attempting to clean the house once or twice a month, and have a few minutes to sleep.
Something's. Gotta. Give.
So, I'll probaby be ditching my freelance job. I love my freelance job. It's EASY money, but something's gotta go, and I'm not willing to toss any of the other things. Besides, the extra class I'm taking on will more than make up the money I usually get from the freelance gig.
In the meantime, DAVID SEDARIS!
For those who aren't familiar (I seriously think I might be the last person on earth to read this book), Me Talk Pretty One Day is about Sedaris's childhood in Raleigh, NC (right down the road a piece) and his later years living in France and struggling to learn the language.
Elise has been telling me to read the damn book forever now, and I finally did, and I can only apologize to Elise for taking so long to read the best book ever. Just to illustrate the book's hilarious awesomeness, I took it to class with me one night to read while my students were testing. Now, before you tell me I'm a horrible teacher, I have a tendency to perch on a desk in the back of my class while they're testing--all 7 students, that is--and watch them when I know they can't see me. It gets rather boring, so I will look at a book while I wander. This particular evening, I was reading an essay called "Big Boy." The big boy referred to in the title is a very large turd. One that Sedaris discovers when he goes to the restroom at a party to wash his hands before a meal. Not wanting the other guests, who know he's adjourned to the restroom, to think he left such a gargantuan artifact, he struggles to flush. But it doesn't budge and it doesn't budge. And I won't tell you how this saga plays out, but I assure you it's very funny, and I was biting every last square inch of my tongue to keep from giggling maniacally while my students were testing.
Not all of Me Talk Pretty One Day is so gross and boy-humored. In fact, Sedaris is perhaps the least boy-humored man I've read ever.
Oddball intellectual, check!
Sedaris certainly has a unique take on every facet of everyday life, and he's lived through some pretty grotesque and unusual experience (the hair nest built by an "artist" in "Twelve Moments in the Life of the Artist," comes to mind). Likewise, his family is just as odd and wonderful as he is, and one of my nighttime writing classes enjoyed listening to "Jesus Shaves" as an example of how to foster one's writerly voice.
I could rant and rave and praise and gush on and on and on about this book, but, instead, I'll just give you a sample to end this sorta review.
As a rule, I'm not great fan of eating out in New York restaurants. It's hard to love a place that's outlawed smoking but finds it perfectly acceptable to serve raw fish in a bath of chocolate. There are no normal restaurants left, at least in our neighborhood. The diners have all been taken over by precious little bistros boasting a menu of indigenous American cuisine. They call these meals "traditional," yet they're rarely the American dishes I remember. The patty melt has been pushed aside in favor of the herb-encrusted medallions of baby artichoke hearts, which never leave me thinking, Oh, right, those! I wonder if they're as good as the ones my mom used to make.
Part of the problem is that we live in the wrong part of town. SoHo is not a macaroni salad kind of place. This is where the world's brightest young talents come to braise carmelized racks of corn-fed songbirds or offer up their famous knuckle of flash-seared crappie served with a collar of chided ginger and cornered by a tribe of kiln-roasted Chilean toadstools, teased with a warm spray of clarified musk oil. Even when they promise something simple, they've got to tart it up--the meatloaf has been poached in seawater, or there are figs in the tuna salad. If cooking is an art, I think we're in our Dada phase.
If you haven't heard Sedaris read, click HERE and watch a video from one of his Letterman appearances.
Now reading: The Secret Lives of People in Love (Simon Van Booy), The Journal of Dora Damage (Belinda Starling)
Thursday, September 20, 2007
While I had visited the awe-inspiring, life-changing mother of all fish markets before, this time I would be going with an expert. The plan was to meet Togawa-san at his restaurant, run over to Tsukiji to do his day's shopping, then return to his restaurant and eat myself silly. I've written about Tsukiji in the past, and used up most of the superlatives I can think of. Just take my word for it: It's the Taj Mahal, the Colosseum, the Great Pyramid of seafood. All that unbelievable bounty, spread across acres and acres of concrete, wriggling and spitting from tanks, laid out in brightly colored rows, carefully arranged like dominoes in boxes, skittering and clawing from under piles of crushed ice, jockeyed around on fast-moving carts, the smell of limitless possibilities, countless sensual pleasures--I am inadequate to the task of saying more. There is nowhere else. Believe me.
In A Cook's Tour, Anthony Bourdain embarks on a trip around the world in search of the fabled "perfect meal." While he ultimately comes to understand, through his travels, writing and pondering, that such a thing is an evanescent dream, the journey is really where the fun is found. From Mexico to Vietnam, from Russia to Cambodia, from Japan to France and beyond, Bourdain experiences not only great meals, but life-changing interactions with the people that he visits. And there are some near death experiences as well.
Bourdain, if you're familiar, smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish, and personally, I wouldn't have him any other way. He won the "sexy bitch" award in my over 50 bracket a longgg time ago, and it only compounds my ridiculous lust that the man is an impressive writer.
Each chapter deals with a specific location on Tony's trip around the globe, and the way he describes the food is just magical. I could see it clearly in my mind, brightly colored and sparkling (and sometimes slimy and disgusting). I could smell the smells, hear the people, and just generally fell into the world he creates in this foodie/travel memoir.
I enjoyed Kitchen Confidential, his first book, very much when I read it a few months ago. However, this book is heads above the first. The writing is much more mature, and he fully explores the cultures and foods he samples on his travels. He has a deference for culture that guides his tastes and wanderings, and for that I certainly applaud him.
If you have any interest in food or travel writing, definitely give A Cook's Tour a try, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Thank you, Lord! My literary nemesis is stomped asunder and I reign supreme!!!! Yes, that's right my literary lads and lasses, I finally won. It took me approximately two weeks to read it, but I DID IT!
So, you're probably wondering, if I endured three failed attempts at reading Wuthering Heights before I completed it this fourth time, what was different this time around? The answer to that is, I haven't the foggiest. Maybe it was just the "right time." Maybe I finally was nosy enough to find out what happens to ole Heathcliff and Cath, or maybe it was the motivation of the Thematic Classic Challenge group.
For those of you who might've heard of Wuthering Heights but haven't had the opportunity, or gumption, to read it, here's a short synopsis.
Everyone is miserable and crazy.
Wait, no. Well, yes, but that wasn't the one I meant to post.
Heathcliff is an orphaned child brought to Wuthering Heights by the owner, Mr. Earnshaw. Heathcliff and the master's daughter, Catherine Earnshaw, become fast friends and later fall in love. The majority of the story is driven by Heathcliff's thirst for revenge after being scorned by Cathy (not a spoiler).
Yes, the "Everyone is miserable and crazy," bit is a fair assessment of this novel, but it really is worth the read in spite of the miserable horribleness. In all honestly, what would a Victorian, gothic, creepy novel be without crazy people?
Aside from the memorable characters and being "in" on the literary allusions I've seen in a zillion other works, this book is wonderfully written. Brontë's writing is often compared to Matryoshka dolls...those Russian goodies that stack and nestle inside each other. The reason being, the narrative is intricately woven by two narrators (Nelly Dean and Mr. Lockwood), in flashbacks and in second and third-hand accounts expressed by those aforementioned narrators. It's all quite intricate, although rarely hard to follow. Emily Brontë had quite the deft hand for storytelling even if her subjects were a bunch of nutters.
I'm glad I read it. I'm glad I endured. I'm glad I gave it one. more. shot. And it marks the first book I've read for Carl's R.I.P. II challenge! I feel so accomplished.
Now reading: A Cook's Tour, by Anthony Bourdain. It's fantastic, and I expect to finish it within the next day or so. Keep an eye out for a review.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
- Grilled ham and cheese sandwich
- Sugar cookies
So take that! Not a real vegetable in the group! I like to think that by Thursday I'm under significant enough duress to wear really ugly, ill-fitting clothes, flat shoes, eat horrible food and generally hermitize myself by staying in the office all day. I have to be here for FOURTEEN HOURS. So, by God, I'm gonna be comfortable and well fed. I might have a baked potato with chili on it for dinner. Then I might take a nap.
Or not. I would kinda like to live to see tomorrow and all.
New addiction of the day: Facebook! If you're a member, lemme know and I'll add you. If you'd like to exchange last names away from ye olde blog, e-mail me at trippingtowardlucidity (at) yahoo (dot) com.
But that's really beside the point. I come to you today with a rant. A book rant (there went half the blog readers right there...*waves bye-bye*).
A while back, I watched an interview with Harold Bloom on BookTV, and while I was completely rapt--neverendingly interested in this squat, rotund man's point of view--he also angered me a little. Well, perhaps angered isn't the right word...perturbed? Ruffled? Whatever, he threw me into at least 15 minutes of serious reflection.
And I should mention, for those not familiar with Sir Bloom, he's a professor at Yale and NYU who advocates an aesthetic approach to literary interpretion, as opposed to all those "isms" and "ists": Feminist, Marxist, etc.
In part, Bloom discussed his ideas on the state of reading and literary study today by going on about the tragedy that is multi-culturalism. Bloomy thinks it's ridiculous that intellectuals study various cultures in literature for the sake of culture. That is, he's pissed that people are interested in Mexican literature or African American literature or Slavic literature because he claims that those individuals are more interested in the culture than the literature itself. As a result, he says, people will study any old crap in the name of their preferred "ism."
Now, I have to tell you, and I'm sure you won't be surprised to know, that I am NOT a traditionalist when it comes to...anything, really. That's not to say that I don't enjoy tradition or that I don't appreciate books that are traditionally included in the Western literary canon, I just don't get all crazy about it. And I get MORE than a little excited about all things literarily contemporary. For God's sake, I focused 98% of my Master's degree on Children's Literature and Graphic Narrative (comics). Not so much with the traditional, yes?
Bloomy says, "Take Dante as your textbook." And he ripped it off from someone, but I'm not at home to watch the show and see who he was talking about (and I'm entirely too lazy to Google it). In any event, Bloomy thinks we've forsaken the "greats." The greats, he concludes, are Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes, and he doesn't list many others, although I'm sure they're plentiful and very, very dead. I know he likes Cormac McCarthy, but that's as contemporary as he happened to mention in that particular interview.
Rambling? Yes! I realize. Hang with me...
I find it a disturbing thought, and quite a tired sentiment to think that multi-culturalism and other fields of cultural study are destroying literature and literary study. Bloom strikes me as one who is ridiculously brilliant and also significantly resistant to change. I personally chose to study Children's Lit and Graphic Narrative because 1) I enjoy them 2) they are challenging 3) they suit my interests and proclivity for visual narratives...a hangover from my art school days 4) they're hot and sexy in today's academic market. They've always been around (for the most part, anyway), they just haven't been studied much up to this point. They've been underappreciated and underexamined. And, like it or not, they are a cultural mirror.
So, I guess, at the end of the day, I just wish Bloomy would get his panties out of a twist. Essentially, I don't disagree with him, we should certainly take Dante as our textbook, but then we should move on to others with our abilities to think, analyze and reimagine and apply those skills to what's new and what's evolving.
Or maybe I'm just one of those evil multi-culturalist bastards out to kill literature. Who knows?
And for the hell of it, a very short list of my favorite old dead white guys (canonical, traditional) and some of my supa-contemporary favorites:
- Hamlet and Othello, Shakespeare
- Inferno, Dante
- Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens
- Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
- Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser
- Lolita, Nabokov
- The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster
- The Human Stain, Philip Roth
- The Road, Cormac McCarthy
- The Blindfold, Siri Hustvedt
- Beasts, Joyce Carol Oates
- Ghost World, Daniel Clowes
- American Born Chinese, Gene Yang
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I hate Paris in the springtime,
I hate Paris in the fall.
I hate Paris...
Why oh why do I hate Paris?
Because my love...is...there....
With his SLUT girlfriend...........
No idea where it came from, but there it is.
Currently...still at work at 5:03 and no signs of slowing til 9:45
Eating...chicken and corn chowder with a side of mini Triscuits and a package of Knott's Berry Farm strawberry jam shortbread cookies.
I'm a proud new member of GoodReads.com. Because I neeeeeded to catalogue my books online at yet another site. However, while I love Shelfari dearly, and will continue to use it, GoodReads is a little quicker and easier at times. So I'll do both. It's twice the reason to procrastinate. If you want to "friend" me because you're a GoodReads user, too, just leave me a comment, I'll e-mail you and give the contact info. God knows I don't need any more SPAM in my inbox because I put the address on this blog. Oy!
Still reading: Wuthering Heights and A Cook's Tour and loving both.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
I have a plethora of stuff around me...books, papers, a mostly-empty water bottle (I always have one with me). I'm lamenting the fact that I didn't bring my card reader with me, so I can't post pics.
I have two books with me to read: Wuthering Heights and Me Talk Pretty One Day. I should probably be making conference reservations for November, or grading something, or running off tests.
OK, fine, I'll share some of the procrastination I've been engaged in recently:
This, dear friends, is a ring. A cute, sweet-lookin' ring that you can purchase for your very own at Robin's Jewelry Box (an Etsy store). Go over and take a look at the other cute, food themed jewelry: a toaster pin, an icing bowl ring, an ice cream cone necklace. I have a little disposable income at the moment, so I think I'm going to dispose posthaste.
And something SOOOO cute from Cute Overload.
Oh, and before I forget, I am doing Carl's RIPing 5 Challenge. Here's the deal:
The challenge will coincide with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge II running from September 1st to October 31st, 2007.
Again, the challenge is this: make some positive healthy changes to your lifestyle that will become habits leading to overall better health and a longer life. To stay focused I have included the goal of losing 5 pounds during this time, but please remember, you can sign up to join in without having to focus on the number of pounds lost.
- Drink more water, fewer cokes (cokes, in Texas, meaning anything sodalike in the rest of the world)
- Take the stairs. I climb a buttload of them in a day, so I might as well make a concerted effort to skip the elevator and get some exercise.
- Eat out less. Always a goal.
- Make healthier choices when eating out. Just say no to grease.
- Shave off much of the sugar in my diet. I've eaten WAY too much lately.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
First off, there's a new issue of Estella's Revenge online now, and guess what?? Heather interviewed MARKUS ZUSAK! If you're not rolling around on the ground suffering fits of overwhelming excitement right now, then you probably don't know who Markus Zusak is. He's the author of a fantabulous book called The Book Thief. Just go read it right now. Or look up a blurb on Amazon or something. It's amazing and really popular and Heather is AWESOME!
Now, it's certainly not my intention to downplay, in ANY WAY, the other articles because we have some real doozies this time around. The theme is "confessions" and, boy, do we have a lot to confess!
In other news, today is my 14-hour day at work. Yes, 14 hours. I want to die. It's my first 14-hour day, as a matter of fact, and I forgot my Excedrin. I shall probably be a worthless slug by the time 9:45 pm rolls around, but I comfort myself with the wads of money I'll have my grubby little paws on come September 15th.
5:45 - get up
6:45 - 7:30 - drive to work
7:30am - arrive at school
8:00am - teach first class
9:00am - 10:00 on Mon/Wed - office hours
9:00 or 10:00 - 12:00 - break
12:00-3:00 - work in writing center
3:00-7:30 - break (dragggg)
7:30-9:45 - second class
9:45-10:30 - drive home
And if you count the drives it's way more than 14 hours!
Given, it's not THAT darn much work in a day's time, but by the time I get done driving the 40 mins to and from school, sitting around being useless, and teaching, it's a bitch of a day. But, as is habit to tell myself when the schedule looks gloomy--I can do ANYTHING for a semester.
Labor Day weekend was mostly uneventful. Some hospital visiting, lots of chilling out and sluggery. With a teensy bit of housework thrown into the soup.
I did get some reading done. In fact, I finished Nick Horby's The Polysyllabic Spree just before August ended. Reminder: Nick Hornby, the guy I ripped the previous post off from.
To further remind, The Polysyllabic Spree is a collection of 14 of Hornby's monthly book columns from The Believer magazine. Hornby has written quite a bit of fiction. To non-readers, his two most famous are probably High Fidelity (made into a movie starring John Cusak and Jack Black) and About a Boy (starring Hugh Grant and Toni Collette).
I tried reading High Fidelity once, and I didn't make it through, however, I have to admit wholeheartedly, that Hornby is one funny bloke. Hilarious in fact. Despite that fact, I found The Polysyllabic Spree more spectacular in premise than execution. One of the main reasons could very well be that Hornby's reading tastes and mine are rather divergent. We don't have a whole heck of a lot in common save Charles Dickens novels and the occasional off the wall non-fiction. I did enjoy reading his thoughts on his reading and book buying, his barbed remarks about the Spree (the men and women who run The Believer), and life in general. However, it became a bit tedious reading about a bunch of books that I didn't particularly want to read for myself.
And therein lies the second reason why I didn't completely lust and drool over the book: I read it in probably 2-3 days. That's a lot of column. A lot of schtick. A lot of the same format. So, dear readers, if you undertake the task, do spread it out over a week or two in order to maximize your lust.
There is a second book of Hornby's columns entitled Housekeeping vs. Dirt, and I will certainly give it a go. Why, you ask? Because I enjoyed this first one enough even if I wasn't blown out of the water. I would even buy the second book because all of the proceeds from these collections go to charity. ALL PROCEEDS. For The Polysyllabic Spree, I believe the two charities were a writing workshop in NYC and a foundation for autistic children in London. Most excellent, I say.
Final rating: 6.5/10
Now I'm off to drink Cranberry Tea from Sonic (my new obsession) and enter names into the computer. Don't you wish you were me? (Hyeah, right.)
Oh, and I did snap some pics of the campus today, so I'll try to upload those tonight or tomorrow. Most likely tomorrow since I'll be lucky to roll into the house still upright tonight.