Sunday, January 30, 2011

They have long necks.

I swear this is a true story, though every part of it does sound dubious.

For reasons that are better left unelaborated, Neruda and his fellow exiles sought recently to rent a giraffe. They called the office of an organization that advertised itself as hiring out "large exotic animals." The woman with whom they spoke said, "Well, we don't have a giraffe per se..." When Neruda wondered what that could possibly mean, she said, "We have an ostrich."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Have they reformulated blueberries?, or, A Gastrointestinal Mystery

(NB: This post = way, way TMI. You've been warned.)

I eat mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and cheese. (It's not a religion, or a fanaticism, I just don't really have a sweet tooth, and I'll happily eat stuff like white-flower tortillas and English muffins, which I make at home though I don't pretend that's for any noble reason: they're just yummier homemade.) (Indeed, all my dietary moves are because I think it's yummier.) And I eat a lot. I also drink a LOT of water.

As you'd expect, I am, as my late grandmother would have put it "very reg'lar." Like, bionic. I poop 5 or 6 times a day, usually. Twice in the morning, once after lunch, once or twice around dinner, and once after I go running. It's a system. Predictable as any other part of my daily schedule.

So why is it that in the past couple of months, I am getting arrested mid-run? Every couple of days, I'll get about three miles into my course, and suddenly I realize that it's Now. Time. To head home. Via the least circuitous route. Possibly walking with controlled breathing toward the end. I haven't changed my diet. I haven't changed my running routine. I haven't changed my sleeping schedule. But my post-run ritual is asserting itself earlier into the program.

I blame Socialists.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Never again.

I'm nearing the end of a three-year term as the president of a regional scholarly association. It has been, on the whole, a decent gig, marked by collegiality. And I think I've contributed something to the association: I've found a permanent home for our records, I've streamlined the organizational documents, I've increased our profile in the wider scholarly community by doing some joint things with other associations.

I don't know how I got suckered into it, but I'm co-organizing this year's conference. A few years ago, we needed a host site for 2011, and a very prolific, near-living colleague of mine who happens to be an independent scholar said that the two of us should organize it together. I shrugged and said, "Sure."

I don't know whether it's that we're organizing this conference in an executively transitional year (in which the president-elect will take the helm at the upcoming conference, and a new secretary, and all this just after the treasurer's position having transferred last year), or that the unaffiliated status of the lead-organizer means that we're doing it without the conference being attached to an institution (also, my institution is too far from the conference site to host, really, and it was the independent scholar's baby in the first place), or the fact that this independent scholar seems to be taking advantage of my own responsibility gene and leaving a lot of the details (like how in hell we are to take registration payments) to me....

Whatever it is, it's living hell, and I'm never ever going to organize a conference again.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pop quiz

If you were a graduate student, and your professor let you borrow a rare book from her personal collection so that you could complete a short research assignment while she left town for the MLA weekend, would you:

a) Guard the book with your life until you could return it directly into your professor's hands after she was back at school the following week?

b) Leave it with the department secretary and let the professor know in whose safe hands the book awaited retrieval?

c) Leave the book, when you finish using it on Thursday night, in the department copy room on a counter, without notifying the professor that it's there so that she might send someone to get it before her return five days later; and then, when queried (in sick horror) about the book's whereabouts when it is nowhere to be found, shrug and say, "Wow, sorry about that"?

If you selected c), congratulations! You must be my shitwit student.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A course in comparative gerontology

Men at Forty

by Donald Justice

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it
Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father's tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.


RG at Forty

So much for reflection and rumination. Happy birthday to me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

English professors are cool!

I just found this, which may be old news to all y'all, but will be useful in my early Brit survey, in which students must jump through the recitation hoop (a hoop I'm including because I enjoyed doing it years ago):

Monday, January 3, 2011

Collateral damage

My leave ends as of tomorrow at 12:05 pm. Sigh. Got some stuff done, banged out most of a book, and though its chapters do not yet transition one into another, at least the guts are there.

Still, some things became the innocent victims of my full-bore dedication to writing.

* My yard: mowed the lawn maybe 4 times this summer. Never weeded the grass. Raked leaves in the front yard, but never in the back, so that I must have piles of molding blackness under all that snow out there. And speaking of snow, I shoveled two tire-tracks up my driveway every time it snowed, and that's about all. I weeded the garden haphazardly, and watered when I remembered. It's looking a little unkempt around here.

* My festivity: I put up one string of Christmas lights on my porch--didn't climb up on the house to do the whole shebang--and I didn't carve pumpkins, and I didn't put a wreath up in my gable, in fact a brass sun is still shining bravely there.

* My hair: Haven't cut it since April.

* My fingernails: Heh. At least they're UNIFORMLY nubbish. That makes it look intentional.

* My ass: Let us not discuss my ass.

* My record-keeping: Baby books, photographs, journals for Things all utterly forgotten in the past year.

* My cultural awareness: Haven't seen a movie in a year. Except Black Swan, which I saw with a friend, and liked. But then, I have very little to compare it to.

* My professional engagement: I swore off conference papers until I've finished this book, so I haven't even looked at a CFP since last January. Also, haven't attempted to get a poetry reading anywhere in that time.

* My mountains: I hiked twice in the last year, and have not yet XCskied this winter but for one time, and all with the Things, because if I didn't have the Things, my butt was in this chair.

* My good humor: Occasionally, but also

* My sense that my value as a human being was tied to this book. Not sure how that happened, or where along the way. Perhaps just the doing it, the seeing that it could be done, helped me to understand that it's just something one does, not something one is. Hoping to place this book, certainly, and hoping to place it well, but maybe I've finally shed my conviction that I'm a dilettante, a poseur, a fraud. Because I did, in fact, write a book.

Happy new year, all.