Pish Tosh

Friday, April 29

Did I mention my exam proposal? How it's all done?


(1) My slightly-tardy application will be accepted without fuss or trouble.

(2) My baby and me are going out for Indian food.

The weather's crappy (I think it's honestly in the 30s), and I'm still avoiding a work-related e-mail because I feel guilty about extracting myself from said work. Still, I've decided I've turned a corner and it's onward and upward and people in the blogosphere are so funny, it makes me pleased.

In which I nick "brain-on-stick"

As of oh, about eleven this morning, my exam proposal is done. It's pretty good, I think. Which is not to say people won't change things, but in terms of staking out turf, I think it does the trick. Also the writing is pretty good. And it's interesting to read.

I'm not as excited as I was tempted to be earlier, because there's this: another job to apply for. One I really want. And -- kicker -- I've had the application ready for more than week. I just haven't dropped it into the proper campus mailbox because I don't go to campus. I was waiting till I could also deliver the exam proposal. Saving energy. Fossil fuel.

When I set off to deliver both just before 1 p.m., I checked the job announcement.

Application was due today. But at NOON.

I wrote a humble e-mail requesting a save. We'll see.

About the prpopsal itself, though, I feel good. And here's the best part: I quoted Bitch. Ph.D. For, as I wrote, Dr. Bitch has provided us with
a formulation that economically figures the experience of three-dimensional people inhabiting one-dimensional categories.

Yes, that's right: brain-on-stick. I nicked it, with attribution of course, then used it as shorthand for articulating what I WASN'T interested in versus what I WAS.

I don't know. I also had a burrito and wrote an outline for a dissertation. Probably that'll change, hm, and will become hopeless unseeable and tough to hack my way through? Right now, it seems like it'd work.

Probably there's room in my project for more from bloggers. It's not about blogging. But it is about domestic experience and alternate communities.

So don't be surprised if you show up in my book a few years hence :)

Thursday, April 28

Names I Didn't Name My Cat

From a pair of star-shaped pieces of paper I found while cleaning the office.

Tigerlily (His name at the pound was "Tiger.")
Apple (Hey, was Gwenyth reading my notebook?)
Lady Chatterly's Lover

Monday, April 18

Dear Husband

Thank you for starting the garden.

garden plot

Though I was the one who was pushing for it and you were reluctant, it wouldn't have happened if you hadn't.

Also, I don't mind that you accidentally cut the cable for the modem.

It's kind of funny.

You didn't mean to.

And we do have dial-up.

I didn't get the job

"We hope you will apply later in your program, as you have a great deal to offer..."

I will not reapply.

I am tired of having my talents always at the disposal of any old institution that needs them, but at THEIR convenience: last minute, next year, anytime but now.

I do not want to coordinate composition.

All I want is a tiny modicum of stability, a source of income that does not demand all my time and is not designed to invoke all my anxieties by seeming to place an unreasonable amount of expectation on me, giving me an unreasonable amount of papers to grade/miles to drive for an unreasonably small wage.

I want the support that will allow me to reach "later in [my] program."

I would like to be able to know that I can work on my work, and also continue to pay the rent come summer and fall.

That is all.

Thank you.

Any Trick in the Book

So... someone got to Pish Tosh by Googling: "Ione: How to pronounce." I had an entry where I told about our old babysitter of that name, pronounced I Own, though the search string started me thinking about the far more lovely pronounciations of the name, such as that of Ione Skye, who was Diane Court in Say Anything, a perfect movie. (The tiny kid with the guys at the Gas-and-Sip: "Bitches, man.")

Then I happened to quote a tiny thing about Kirsty Hume, knitting model.

Which brought other people here, disappointed people looking for Wedding Pictures Donovan Leitch Kirsty Hume, not pictures of me or meditations on anxiety.

However, in idly looking up Donovan in solidarity with these people I discovered: Donovan Leitch the younger is actually the brother of Ione Skye.

Who, as you may or may not know, used to be married to the soprano Beastie, Adrock.

The cap on the coincidence is this: Since the whole Ione-pronounce string, I've had the adorably goofy lyrics to "Get it Together" in my head, including
Adrock down with the Ione
Listen to this shit cause both of them is boney
Got to do it like this like Chachi and Joanie
Cause she's the cheese and I'm the macaroni.

Which, partly to exorcise, I just chose as the new subtitle for my blog, yesterday.


I know, I know. But it was write this, or snark about my f**ed up keyboard or parents who don't think 700 is a good enough SAT math score for their child. (Another coincidence: my college b-friend took a class that met once at the home of a sweet lady named Hazel, who turned out to be MIKE D'S MOTHER.)

I love Beastie lyrics. Another fave is I am the king of Boggle, there is none higher, I get eleven points for the word 'quagmire.' RAPPING ABOUT BOGGLE SKILLZ, PEOPLE. Skillz only an English major could love.

That lyrics like this can happen is almost enough to make me forgive America a little bit.

Sunday, April 17

Things That Happened Yesterday

He made me pull onto the painted pie-shaped median between highway and exit, sit there in my car like a tiny boat, ride slamming waves of compressed air as traffic zinged on around me. But he didn't give me a ticket.


We sit parallel on the sunny bed and watch Porco Rosso before dinner, then A Beautiful Mind during and after. Gradually I feel I'm forgiven.


When she goes to visit him in the mental hospital, they embrace fervently. He pulls her over to a table. "Talk quietly," he says. "They're listening to us with microphones." His eyes roll around as he says this, checking behind his back.

"I think I'm going to cry," I say. This is, after all, the scene of my own proposal to marriage.

He puts his hand on my leg. "I also thought I had an implant, in my armpit," he says.

"What was it for?"

"I didn't know."


I am officially in love with T.C. Boyle. Drop City was amazing, but A Friend of the Earth is good too, plus the guy in it is really angry about all the people in the world, just like I feel in traffic, eco-terrorist fiction seeping from my ipod and all around me idiots ON THEIR CELL PHONES. In SUVS YOU COULD LIVE IN. Huts on foul legs.

The guy who reads it is a great reader but he keeps misprouncing words. Read. (He said it like "red.") Striated. Quebecois.

It bugs me.

However, when I say "chives" or "pen," I get corrected myself, by my husband. The one with an implant in his armpit.

Entries from My Journal Written One Year Ago

Before I can go gently into that good night, rules dictate I have to bring something into the world. Okay then -- this. Acrid sulfite taste of jarred red pepper: disappointing, as jarred red pepper would be a solution though one that lacked a problem.


palisades glaciers lackadaisical popsicle creamsicle sweet potato pie intimidating juniors mind control --- What does language
add to sensation?

pools. mormons. trampolines.

Thursday, April 14

How I Feel When I Get Just What I Want


Wednesday, April 13

Though I Suppose this Counts as a Step For Me

Thesis: My exam proposal is due Monday. I have prioritized this as number one, the most important project for the current week.

Antitheses: (1) Last night, my SAT coordinator called and told me that a formerly-cancelled class was ON.

(2) The "on"-ness of this class necessitates three commutes to Big City in the next four days.

(3) Plus all the time spent in Big City.

(4) Not to mention prep.

(5) Plus my laundry needs doing.

(6) Plus the office: not quite finished.

(7) Plus I have an anxiety disorder, which is mostly under control, only DON'T GET IN MY WAY OF GETTING MY PROJECTS DONE, BUDDY, OR I FREAK THE HELL OUT.

(8) Plus, I'm supposed to work at the bagel store, twice.

(9) All before my exam proposal is due, Monday.


Conclusion: Because I can't possibly teach my classes, write my proposal, make my boss happy by working at the bagel store, AND take care of myself and the household and stay sane... I have to make a tough decision.

Here's the thing: I hate making people mad at me. To the point that I'll swallow my anger and do what I'm "supposed to," i.e. work at the laundromat, the bagel store, whatever, ALWAYS AT THE COST of my own happiness and productivity.

I feel totally terrible and guilty telling a "boss" I won't do something I agreed to.

Even though said bosses -- this makes me mad too but seems understandable -- can call me with "bagel emergencies" or other people not showing up, can you please come in? evey single day.

Normally I would have passive aggressively not shown up. But I made myself go down to the shop and say I CAN'T WORK WEDNESDAYS ANYMORE I'M SORRY I JUST FOUND OUT I FEEL TERRIBLE BUT I CAN'T.

And, oh, was he mad. Enough so that I felt TERRIBLe on the way home, TERRIBLE...

but the thing is? I HAD TO MAKE THIS DECISION. I wasn't given lead-in time, either. I did not deliberately set out to be a flake. And I went to the trouble of going down there and telling him as soon as I realized it was inevitable. There's always those few hours where you think "Oh, maybe I CAN work all afternoon, make dinner, do laundry, then knock out 5 pages..."

But realistically, doing so would make me even angrier come Friday or Saturday, when I hadn't made anybody ELSE angry (except my husband, because of talking about it for hours), but I hadn't written any pages.


I'd be proud of myself if I wasn't so used to feeling JUST TERRIBLE on behalf of characters like Little Bagel Boss, thin-skinned to the point that he can't take criticism from Big Bagel Boss. LBB is a nice, funny man but not good under critique... who has the penchant for hiring girls from bagel lines and signing them up for shifts without knowing their names.

If I were to write a business-practice manual for Little Bagel Shop Bosses, rule number one would be "Graduate Students, esp. advanced ones, are crazy; don't hire them for minimum wage jobs because while they are poor and are happy to get money, they are also subject to get angry when they are supposed to give up working time for $5/hour." I did not, however, write the business-practice manual.

I'm sorry, Little Bagel Boss. Think of me as a lesson you need to learn, a hard lesson. We're victims, you and me, Little Bagel Boss. Victims of the economy, of business structure that puts no investment in the well-being of its lower-level employees, of the problematic economic structure of Academe. It's not personal, Little Bagel Boss. For either of us.

I feel better now, amused even, so I will do the CHARACTER BUILDING activity of acknowledging I just put myself first and implied my needs were more important than were the psychic needs of Little Bagel Boss, and, acknowledging such, will calmly shower, clean the office for half an hour, and write the rest of the day away.

Until it's time to make couscous.

Tuesday, April 12

My New Favorite Search String Is

"Love and Lexapro"

The offspring of Corned Beef Hash and a beer stein

Okay. I'll play.

Favorite food to crunch: Raw broccoli. Thick salt-and-vinegar potato chips.
Favorite picnic lunch: Picnics are overrated. My college boyfriend and I, though, used to sneak onto the roof of our dorm and eat cheddar cheese (chunks hacked off with his Swiss Army knife) and drink red wine. Then the dorm burned down. No wait. My favorite picnic lunch is when CV's father had a heart attack and CV let himself into my apartment to use the phone, because his phone was down. Then we got co-op sandwiches and went to the beach, the little lake-beach. Then we came back to his place and cooked a delicious broccoli stir fry and ate it really late. Then we had sex and got back together, cause we'd been broken up.
Favorite food scene in movie: The only thing I can think of besides the obvious like Tampopo or Mostly Martha or Like Water for Choclate is Parker Posey always ordering a falafel and baba ghanoush from the cute street vendor, in Party Girl. Also, there's a Simpsons where Lisa is a vegetarian, and a South Park where Stan becomes a vegetarian and tries to save the veal calves, though disappointingly vegetarianism results in you breaking out in pussies all over your body. Can I possibly be remembering that right?
Favorite food lyrics: "Starfish and coffee/maple syrup and jam/butterscotch kraut, tangerine/a side order of ham. /If you set your mind free, baby, maybe you'll understand." (Prince, "Starfish and Coffee")
Best food smell memory: Will you take most vivid? Me. A visiting friend. New York City, 1996. Thanksgiving. (The one where the cute pothead skaterboys I lived with cooked turkey, including removing giblets and sewing up the back with black thread. While they cooked we listen to Tricky and drank gallons of cheap red wine, and when they were done we ate at a table which was a packing box covered with a bedsheet.) Friend and I had lunch at a vegetarian/hippy place near NYU. And the salad came with house dressing: a kind of yeast paste. It smelled exactly like come. I couldn't believe it: heady, rich, a little bit like sprouts and a little bit like feet. I kept looking around to see if anyone else noticed. IT SMELLED EXACTLY LIKE COME. Like come fresh released from a boy, and meanwhile my boyfriend was in Italy.
Food that reminds me of the ocean: Don't have a lot a associations with ocean. One time, for spring break we visited friends in Rhode Island. It was overcast and windy and freezing cold, and I was the only one who stood in the ocean, to my ankles. When we got back to their apartment, we cooked Potato Corn Chowder, which was a soup that required for its making an ACTUAL BAY LEAF. This was a culinary first, for me.
Favorite winter snack: Pretty much anything. Crunch-n-Munch? Peanuts? Whatever garbage I can find in the fridge?
Most likely to eat for lunch: Egg or fake sausage on a bagel. Avacado and butter on wheat bread. A steamed pinto-bean burrito from my favorite place downtown. Sushi from the co-op.
Least likely to eat for lunch: Doughnuts. (Obviously, those are for late-night snacking!) A hamburger.
Makes me gag: Lunchmeat. Movies about factory farms and egg production. When I think they accidentally gave me a chicken burrito.
Food tradition I hate: Meatloaf. "Meat and potatoes." Jell-o salad.
Saturday night food: Beer. Something oily or covered in cheese.
Favorite wild foods: In what sense?
Favorite food for sex play: Brunch. But I can say something about food most often used for sex, which is Strawberry Kiwi Fruitopia, which for some reason I used to drink mouthfuls of before going down on my boyfriend.
Favorite medicinal food: Weed.
Food that reflects my heritage: Cottage cheese, mixed with Miracle Whip and salt and pepper. Tuna salad with American cheese on an English Muffin. Turkey cheese hotdogs wrapped in a refrigerated tin of biscuits. Omelets with ham and cheese. Chocolate Jell-o pudding. Knadle. Dumplings. Beer.
Favorite raw food smell: Well, it's hard to top fresh basil and cilantro. But I most like fingers. Fingers which have been cooking, and so which smell like: garlic, onion, ginger, and hot pepper, in addition to basil or cilantro.

I would add:
First dinner you ate at a lover's house: "Passion pasta." It's just curly pasta, but with tomatoes and other chunks of stuff thrown in. This is what his dad made: we were in highschool. Also, French Silk Pie. (Delicious.) Also, The Pirates of Penzance. A bit of a detractor, that last one.

Monday, April 11

"Adequate Progress"

I'm tired, sweaty, angry, and my back is sore. This is because, after finally buffing up and posting the posts that had been festering in my draft queue, I attacked the day's official task: applying for a position at Big Midwestern University.

It's nothing fancy, nor overly lucrative: some kind of low-level composition coordinator. This means a little more money, one fewer class, and the joy of organizing and running the new-teacher orientation.

Because I applied THREE TIMES to teach in this summer program, before they finally accepted me because by that point they had to, but because the summer before that it was a CRIME I didn't get accepted everyone said, a CRIME, only before I knew I didn't there were all these weeks and weeks and weeks of nervous anticipation because by that point I had all the qualifications they were looking for... anyway, I have bad feelings about applying for things at BMU.

Even though I made a point of not getting worked up about it this weekend, and didn't even agree to begin working on it today until after I'd finished the other tasks I'd set out for myself (GO ME! PRIORITIES!) and even though by this time I've (usually unsuccessfully) applied to so many academic positions that I have plenty of files from which to crib a Reflective Teaching Statement... 4 o'clock still found me hunched over several three-ring binders on the floor, yoga-posture-mindfulness kicked to the curb, swearing at the computer for taking so long to load cds when I needed to find this old file, like, now. The voices in my head were going IT'S STUPID TO HAVE FOUR SYLLABI BUT ONLY ONE FROM BMU and the other voices were going YES BUT THESE ARE THE MOST RECENT and still other voices were going SHIT, WHERE ARE THE EVALUATIONS FOR THIS CLASS? IT'S STUPID TO PUT IN A CLASS BUT NOT PUT IN THE EVALUATIONS FOR IT and other voices were going WHISKEY, STAT. Then I thought the papers, though all neatly holepunched, looked kind of messy when they were all in the binder. Then I thought that it was a breach of etiquette to fail to have written up a description of each section. Also, that it looked stupid that I couldn't find all the assignment sheets, so I just put in whichever ones I had. Really no rhyme or reason. And that I couldn't find the thing I'd written up that explains why my design for that one class was ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT, thought I did pack too much reading into it, but I'd learned from the experience. Plus some of those syllabi till had typos. And some had tiny font. And some had goofy little pictures. And I spilled on one of them.

Then CV (needs. new. acronym.) drove me to campus and I turned it in and then came home. I'm wearing exactly what I wore to the dogpark this morning: tanktop I slept in, stained pants, unshowered, haven't touched my hair. This tells you something about my current relationship with campus.

I did, however, put on a bra. A nice rounded one, which is to say padded, which is to say no chance you can see my nipples. This also tells you something about my relationship with campus.

I'll say it: I have immense confidence -- some would say FOOLHARDY confidence -- in my ability to do certain things. Cook delicious dinner, even if the odd EXPERIMENT turns out wrong. Not everything I write is good or interesting, but I can write those ways sometimes. I can jog three miles. I believe that, if I had time to commit to training, I could run a marathon. I suppose I even believe that I can teach, if only because of the sheer miracle that every time I'm supposed to do it, it appears to happen in that the end of class always successfully arrives.

But I don't believe I can sell myself to the BMU department. A part of me, in the context of BMU, is still twenty-two, skinny as all hell, in a major war with my roommates, and pissed off. And, as so often accompanies, defensive. My first comp class and evaluations sucked monkey balls. Workshop wasn't taking to my writing in the way that I had hoped. Everyone seemed to think I had to "finish stories." I hated teaching anything that wasn't creative writing, because I wasn't very good at it. Or because my students didn't really listen to me because I was a skinny pissed-off twenty-two-old, with a nervous giggle and hair like a cocker spaniel , and these were were angry, meathead eighteen-year-olds, more interested in being schooled in the intricacies of the beer bong than in the intricacies of the thesis statement. And I didn't really blame them. I was pissed off I was teaching this stupid-ass, hard-as-hell curriculum (6 papers! With drafts!) I didn't understand, which took FOREVER to do and grade for and I wasn't getting any writing done and in spite of it taking forever I always also felt guilty for not doing it as good as I should be doing it, for example as good as my roommate I totally hated. AND FOR ALL OF THIS, I BLAMED BMU, the bitchgoddess who lured me here with her siren song of "more reputable program" and "better opportunities," then left me to wallow in my own dispensability!

So there's still a hint of a feeling of defensiveness. Is it leftover? Or is this a new defensiveness, that just seems like an extension of the old one because there was never a time of not-feeling-defensive-ness, that is to say never a break. Making them seem like both part of one long defensiveness.

For instance. We were at a baby shower the other week. Unrelatedly, at this baby shower there were no fewer than THREE enormous pregnant women, plus one woman with a 3 month old baby. Then there were a bunch of unpregnant women, and we sort of congregated by ourselves for awhile, as if we needed to protect ourselves. From the Baby Rays: they seemed so tangible. And CATCHING.

The mother-to-be whose shower it was had invited her advisor, a tall and dramatic woman who talked at length about how embarrassed she was by her fellow academics at a recent conference held in I've-forgotten-what-Caribbean-locale, fellow academics who wore BLACK LEATHER! on THE BEACH! Not even trying to blend in!

So someone got around to relating that I hadn't gotten teaching this semester. YES. MY VERY FIRST SEMESTER OFF CONTRACT, A CONTRACT I MYSELF SUPPLEMENTED BY TAKING WORK ELSEWHERE, the department didn't have any courses to offer me, with the Enrollment Crisis and all. All the faculty are so shocked to hear this. "Faculty never hear these things!" my advisor said to me when she met me downtown to "strategize," which turned out to mean sip coffee and chat. (Also, she said all the things a mentor would say in your fantasy, but that you hardly see in reality.)

So Dramatic Advisor, who was also being sympathetic, said to me at this baby shower, "And you're making adequate progress?"

Though I said something affirmative, in reality this question touches off some defensiveness, old or new I can't quite say.

Adequate progress? In the eight years I've lived here, I've earned an MFA and an MA, have completed all coursework for the PHD*, have turned out one hell of a reading list and well, hm, some preliminary versions of an exam proposal. About which my advisor said someone said, "You're lucky to have a student working on that."

Took me a few years to come up with the focus, but I have it now, and it's good. Pretty good.

Also taught for 1.5 years elsewhere, most of it full-time. Lot of driving.

Plus now I have read Moby-Dick, not to mention that I can read AND UNDERSTAND entire sentences by: Derrida, Judith Butler and ALL your other mucky-muck theorists.

Also have become vegetarian, become political(ish), start to date, stop dating, start again, stop again, start again, then start again then temporarily commit to the asylum then married a guy, won $1750 in various writing contests, bought some cars. I had never made spaghetti before**, and last night I made pasta with homemade walnut pesto, greenbeans, new potatoes (also some peapods we had) with a side of sauteed kale and cannelini in wine, and the night before that I made vegan scalloped potatoes that were delicious.

So is that Adequate? Huh BMU?***

Just playing with you. I'm not THAT in a wad about it. Although, on the other side, I've been a graduate student for eight years, and I haven't taken my exams. If I had come in as a PhD student, maybe it would be a little embarrassing, especially because the new word on the street is that BMU wants to be able to say its program is doable in 5, maybe 6 years. In practice, people are around a lot longer, or they drop away. I know personally, like, two wonder boys from the program who got a job in 6 or something years. Mostly we don't get done, BECAUSE WE TEACH SO MANY CLASSES AND SO MANY PAPERS IN THOSE CLASSES. Or else, because we get know teaching which means SCRAMBLING literally up until the last minute (CV got a call, remember, three days before the new semester started, offering him a class) and then taking a stupid-ass bagel job (which admit it, you kind of like, a little) or some time-consuming-ass job driving 150 mi/day to teach SAT classes to kids who's allowance is more than your ENTIRE SALARY.

In all honesty, part of my "defensiveness" feels self-righteous, because in their approach to my case BMU has been slipshod: rules weren't in place, chairs were in flux, &c. Um, sure you can enter the master's program! A new teaching contract? Let's see. We'll give you a new contract, because you're now in a new program, but how about if we pretend your new contract started two years ago. You won't be done then? No problem, you can always get an extension.

Except that you can't, not really, at least not this semester.

I have either false confidence or false modesty, I can't decide which.

*Except: yes. That German class. I haven't forgotten.

**Though I HAD made omelets and cookies and special, special salads; I wasn't a total culinary idiot, I just didn't have much experience. How often do dorm kids have occasion to make spaghetti?

***Ooo! Plus I'm less angry now, and my diet is better and I drink less coffee, so to some extent I'm less sweaty. Also less skinny! Ain't progress grand?

Blogs as Literature of Domestic Chaos, Part Two: What We Write About When We Write Before Finishing the Dishes

On Pinning Together a Self with Humor

For years I’ve also operated under the assumption that when you define your desired occupation as “writer,” especially as “essayist,” then no days are entirely lost days. BECAUSE EVEN ON DAYS WHEN YOU ARE TOTALLY LAZY, AND DRINK TOO MUCH, AND SPEND ALL DAY EITHER SURFING THE NET OR RE-WATCHING EPISODES OF FIREFLY ON DVD, even on these days, you’re “exploring.” The “modern condition.” Of the “literate female.”

And if you can salvage wits enough at least to make lines about it in your diary… well then, you’re well on your way to having material for the kind of non-fictional study which begins:
When I was in my twenties, I succumbed to the boredom and ennui of modern life and spent five years doing nothing but drinking whiskey, tormenting the cat, and watching Firefly on DVD…

Or whatever. (Plus, you can pretend that when you are rewatching your favorite episodes -- “Out of Gas,” say -- you are really STUDYING, really LEARNING the conventions of writing-for-TV… such that if it ever happened that Joss Whedon called you up and needed you to help with a writing episodes for new series… well, you would be up to it.)

To sum, if you operate under the belief that your “real” occupation is “observer/writer” and that you take as your provenance “contemporary life,” really there’s an extra little fart of justification for any old lazy thing you might want to do.

This “extra justification” has extended, from the beginning, to blogging, both my reading of blogs and my (sometimes) writing of and on them. An interest in innovative fiction led me to an interest in hypertext fiction which led me ALL ALONG to a sense of blogs as texts, as something I might write a paper about someday. As RESEARCH.


In spring, a young wife's fancies turn to thoughts of how not only is her exam proposal due in like a week, but also now that she is a wife -- not a "grad school live in girlfriend"* -- maybe she really should get that crap off the floor of the office. And maybe try to resurrect her blog like the houseplants.

Already, you can see the dilemma. The young wife has a limited store of energy, and these are major tasks. How can she solve this problem?

One answer might be, to make these tasks as close together as possible. Whatever happens? Is what you write about. Here, again, the housewife-authors of previous generations have already thought of this solution. In Laura Shapiro's account, this dilemma led to the creation of a genre she calls "the literature of domestic chaos":
[T]he woman at the center of many tales of domestic delerium is a professional writer, constantly trying to get her work done amid the tumult of family life. Clearly, one reason women writers adapted this genre was that it really did offer a solution to the problem of how to combine home and work: Anything that happened in the course of a day could be mined for material.

Hmm, isn’t that what I said at the beginning of this post? And here's where I remind you about my obsession with quoting Dooce**:
The evening that the cyst exploded I asked Jon if he would like to take a look at the damage. Not surprisingly it was like I had just asked Chuck, “Chuck, wanna treat?” and before I know it he’s sliding across the hardwood kitchen floors so fast he ends up head first into the wall. Jon had on his headlamp within 10 seconds and was coming at me fast with cotton balls and a look of mad scientist/teenage boy who just got a Playboy subscription for Christmas in his eyes.

I was just as interested in the dissection of the primitive life form in the back of my knee, so I contorted my body in wholly impossible ways to see what was happening as he squeezed and squeezed and squeezed. I will spare you the details of the consistency and make-up and amount of foreign substance that leaked out of my knee, but what I won’t keep my lips shut about is the part where the pressure was so intense that it suddenly popped and hit Jon in the eye. It happened so fast that it looked like someone was living in the back of my knee and was so upset about the invasion that he took out a rifle and shot Jon’s eye out.

...So I did what any drugged patient would do and started laughing uncontrollably... Except, if you really think about it, it’s not funny if your eye is the eye being attacked by goo FROM SOMEONE ELSE’S INFECTED SORE. Yes, we may use the bathroom with the door open and share a bed and talk about poop, but the line has to be drawn somewhere AND THAT LINE IS GOO BEING SHOT FROM ONE PERSON’S KNEE INTO THE OTHER PERSON’S EYE.

Pithy. Funny. And with a sly comment on the psychodynamics of contemporary marriage. A noble transfiguration of pus to gold.

But then Shapiro goes on, about the writers of the literature of domestic chaos:
But the genre was fueled as well by the enthusiastic participation of beginners: women at home, with a sinkful of dishes and a vague yen to write. This subsection of homemeakers has always constituted a large and restless population…

Yikes: not quite as flattering. Look at me, little PhD student, with my brand-new husband, all my dirty dishes, and my “vague yen….”

Still, Shapiro's analysis strikes me as applicable to a lot of blogs on my roll:
Amateur or professional, the writers who chose home as their subject matter were creating a solution for themselves to a psychological problem that would resonate for everyone else into the next century. These women found they could reconcile—at least at the level of imagination—the clash of identities endemic to working mothers.

(For evidence of "the clash of identities" in blogs, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and a whole bunch of others.)

For Shapiro, Shirley Jackson was the inventor of the new genre, with its conventions of "rambunctious but witty children, laconic but witty husbands, and beset but witty houwewives," though Jackson herself (of "The Lottery" fame) revealed the dark underpinnings of housewifery, the sense that one is "barely fending off disaster." Then there's the sheer ephemerality of it all:
It’s as if the homemaker’s presence or absence is immaterial, as if all the work she pours into family life is destined to evaporate when day is done. That, of course, is the nature of housework: it evaporates and leaves no trace. [Note: unless you’ve written about it!] Jackson knew how easy it was for women to feel the same way about themselves, to fear that they, too, might disappear from their own lives without anybody’s noticing. The nameless narrator of her family stories uses humor to keep daily life pinned to its moorings, and herself secured within it.

So it turns out that housework is an existential problem, and the “housewife” a role worthy of psychological thriller. “It evaporates and leaves no trace” – UNLESS YOU WRITE ABOUT IT. By the same token, your presence as the doer of that evaporating work is secured BY WRITING IT.

(Which is another way of handling/obscuring the messiness of real life: I love Shapiro's account of Shirley Jackson, in her own essays this plucky homemaker, in reality “Overweight, sloppily dressed, a chronic smoker, heavy drinker, and terrible housekeeper… she served steak dyed blue and mashed potatoes dyed red, practiced a little witchcraft… and didn’t mind giving the kids a smack if they acted up.”)
To rig up a sense of self large and resilient enough to encompass both mother and professional, wife and money earner, homemaker and intellectual was an unwieldy emotional project, especially for a middle-class woman who could have afforded to stay home if she chose…

The purpose of this post is to suggest a larger--and, yes, political--context for blogging housework, kids, and departmental duties. Habermas wrote about the public sphere which was founded on the private sphere -- it's worth exploring what's up in the private sphere.

I'm not the only person who thinks so.

This is also why I find the “debate” over women’s blogging and politics, or rather, the "lowly" "boring" nature of domestic particulars over vast abstracts, annoying but so obviously built on incomplete reasoning to be barely worthy of noticing, like gnats. Somewhere in here someone said that women just wrote about tampons, but I can't find it now; maybe I made it up. [Edited to add: it's here; Thanks Dr. B! Its's even better than remembered, because while it's fake, it uses, multiple times, the word "douche."]

Don’t you know, Mr. Imagined Sir, that tampons – born from an industry, after all – are mere flotsam on a wider existential sea, the sea of wondering where subjectivity comes from, or what it amounts to, in a world where tampons are designed so you can continue to wear white pants so that you can go to the country club supper and then have the gals over for margaritas and canapes, nights when you don't serve the husband meatloaf?

Blogs about tampons: that’s where the REAL news of the world is.


But anyway, humor***. The binding agent, apparently, for the “pin[ning] to its moorings” of daily life.

Is something similar going on in blogs? You know I think it’s fun to read funny, which is why I did this as an occasion to quote from some of my favorite funny folks.

But what about Shapiro's apparent suggestion that humor is a useful existential matrix? Is that going on, too, in these blogs?

Or is it as simple as the desire to make people love you, even when you burn something …
By virtue of her role as narrator, she was able to stand apart from the disasters roiling around her and comment on them, like a Greek chorus in a housedress. That ability to remain ever so slightly above the fray, thanks to a sharp sense of humor, gave her a great deal of charm and far more charisma than just about any other housewife in literature.

I may fall short. (Esp. since I haven’t done the dishes or taken my junk to the Salvation Army, and off it’s time to go to the bagel store.) But if I can charm you occasionally with the humor of my shortfalling ways, it’s a kind of justification. ESPECIALLY IF IN BECOMING CHARMED YOU WANT TO HIRE ME TO WRITE SOMETHING FOR MONEY, PREFERABLY A LOT OF MONEY, IN WHICH CASE LET ME REFER YOU TO MY E-MAIL ADDRESS OVER THERE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF YOUR SCREEN.

Synchronicity. Two birds, one stone. I exist, and writing happens.

*True story. Cleaning out the office, I found an old Solstice card from (he who is temporarily still known as) CV, which read To B., you're the best non-telelological fuckbuddy ever! To be fair, he was quoting me.

**Who, GET OUT, graduated high school the same year as me.

***Yup, that's me: artiste of the graceless transition.

Sunday, April 10

Blog as Literature of Domestic Chaos, Part One: Background

(On Toggling Between an Exam Proposal and a Wedding Registry on Which Appears a Sky-Blue Volvo-Colored Mixer.)

My own particular intervention into mindfulness – that is, into the reconciliation of what one WANTS to do right now with the dictates of master narratives specifying what one OUGHT to be doing – has been to design my doctoral project around food. Thereby enabling me to label things I might do anyway, like knocking off early to drink whiskey and eat cheese while reading the letters of MFK Fisher, as “research.”

Specifically, my doctoral research seeks an overlapping narrative area between culinary practice and affective, sensual, lived national identity.

Although there are probably downsides to this nexus of my interests and my methods, I am not interested in them. Instead, here is a list of upsides:
*Cooking dinner always counts as killing two birds with one stone.

*One may approach home furnishing as a meta-project. When you are “surfing” the nicer design sites (Design Within Reach, say, or even West Elm), you are not only “window shopping” – a “selfish” and “unimportant” occupation – but also you are constructing a sense of the possibilities and limitations of private spheres! You are pursuing context! It’s like doctoral research, filtered through a real live experimental body – mine!

*The purchasing and reading of cookbooks is always permitted.

The flip side of this same coin dictates that I can’t manage to keep the chatty narrative voice (the barometer or Greek chorus concerning WHAT IS REALLY HAPPENING, IN THE REAL WORLD) out of my “work.” For example, the current draft of my exam proposal spends a good deal of words on the STRANGE CONJUNCTION that exists for me currently, as I devote time to reading books like THESE TWO by Laura Shapiro, which trace the history of the housekeep and the role of the bride through the 20th century.

For a teeny peep of context: housework began to change in the very early 20th century, with the introduction and gradual spread of labor saving devices like washing machines. EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY, some visionary women invented “home economics,” which turned into a joke and a big old bane of the culture, but started out as a way of giving women access to scientific and technological realms… the “home” was a place as in need of technical expertise as any man’s job. Separate spheres, but this time, EQUAL.

Food, too, became increasingly abstracted away from pleasure and taste and into numbers and technical principles, so many grams of this with so many grams of this, spawning all those Jello-mold salads I still remember from church suppers of my youth. Women could go to school, to cooking school, where they would learn to prepare meals all in a single color, by frosting everything and processing it until it was unrecognizable. (Middle-class) women handled food, but needed to be protected from its actuality as much as possible – via gelatin, “white sauce,” boiling the hell out of it, etc.

Then came war. Women went to work (white women – other women had already been working). Then the men came back and it was the 50s. And during this time, we’re told, the food industry triumphed at removing women from the need to drudge in the kitchen, presenting us with fishsticks, tv dinners, and frozen orange juice. (But failing to turn us onto frozen milk, frozen water, onion-flavored turkey sticks, or lentil sticks.)

But also during this time, proponents emerged culinary elite like James Beard who wanted everything delicious and either regional or French. And then came Betty Friedan and her Mystique, just saying what lots of people already thought.

And lo, it came to pass that that they debated the role of the woman-housewife in a world of many conflicting domains. “They” was the women’s magazines, the home economics departments (in which women were allowed to get the PhDs barred them in many other fields), even the law making bodies, though they didn’t take it all that seriously. And lo, a handful of decades passed in much the same way.

So then we arrive at me, writing my exam proposal about narrating culinary national identity and the national, gender, economic and moral loops around the housewife, a proposal in which I also CHATTILY and NARRATIVELY describe my own meta situation: toggling between my proposal document and my Williams-Sonoma wedding registry, on which I have collected NOT ONLY some lovely enameled pots in light green (“lemongrass”) and bright dark yellow (“Dijon”), BUT ALSO have added the requisite Kitchen-Aid mixer in the most beautiful princess-blue color (“Sky Blue”), the color of the boxy old Volvo I used to covet, and a beautiful, beautiful piece of machinery.

Because get this. I AM, LIKE, A WIFE. And it turns out that even if you elope to Las Vegas, you can’t entirely escape the archaic social system’s, er, family’s desire to sanctify your wife-ness by having opportunity to look at and make fun of what you’ve registered for. So that they can ply you with goods, some useless, the better to feather your nest and your cap and further to weigh you down with things so that you can’t fly away but will instead be available for playing Bingo at Christmas, sending birthday presents to their children, and attending all their own occasions, preferably at a moment’s notice if necessary.

Like I said, it makes things really meta. For instance. It’s tempting to believe that I am (working on inventing myself as) a NEW kind of housewife, with taste and drive! Who serves tasty, classy, healthy organic vegetarian meals to the husband and often enough to friends, decorates in a tasteful modern style, gardens her own fresh herbs, and provides for the comfort of all… and builds up a successful writing career on the side, while also getting a PhD! Who, if any kid should come into the picture BUT PLEASE ONLY AFTER WE HAVE MONEY IN PILES sufficient to buy a jogging stroller and a part time grad student nanny, will raise her/it/them with taste and respect, nurturing their creative and ethical selves and turning them into funny, cosmopolitan, health-conscious citizens who will change the world, and make it better-decorated too!

But. Turns out, housewifes have been thinking this – some of them, it ain’t no monolithic category you know – since the 50s at least!

Yes. I with my sky-blue mixer-lust am a plain-vanilla aspirant to that old chestnut of the chichi white American middle-classes, “Gracious Living.”

And the new housewife, the woman who rejects career climbing not because culture MAKES her but because she WANTS to? Because she loves her home and role? Oh, she’s been around the block already too.

House Beautiful, 1956:

“[We’ve] watched the clear emergence, since the war, of a new attitude among women toward homemaking. They are finding that housekeeping and family management are fascinating, enjoyable pursuits, offering the fullest opportunities to express themselves and their capabilities.”

(via Something from the Oven.)

Organic Style, 2005:
“Not many people have the guts to pull out of successful careers wh they’re in their mid-twenties, but that’s what model Kirsty Hume did in 2001. The face for Gucci, Chanel, and the Gap simply wanted to take time out for what mattered most: being with her husband, musician Donovan Leitch, whom she married in 1997 in her native Scotland, and pursuing creative passions like knitting and painting.”

Friday, April 8

en-LightenUp-ment (TM) ?

This so sounds like it's from a George Saunders story. About masturbating.

With a fresh, humorous twist on the topic of spirituality in a modern-day world, Cynthia muses: "A modern-day goddess is a woman who focuses more on her inner spirit and inner soul than her inner thighs!"

Cynthia encourages readers to take an "en-LightenUp-ment" (TM) journey, meant to inspire and entertain you as you explore your own divine inner self:

• Dial your angels direct
• Be kind to your mind and love your body
• Nurture a cranky inner child
• Send yourself flowers, act surprised when they arrive
• Make peace, make a difference, make love
• Take the road less traveled, but not when it's grid-locked
About the Author:

A native of Connecticut, Cynthia currently lives in Santa Barbara, California, where she enjoys goddess country living.

Also, her own divine inner self.

Thursday, April 7

Lexapro Update

Also, a recipe for a special kind of symptom-diminishing fudge!

Besides S*x* B*b*s*tt*rs, my public comes to my site seeking guidance on "Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms." So here's an update:

I haven't had any Lexapro since a week last Monday, mostly because I ran plumb out, my bank account has in it $50, I owe the bursar for the university nearly a thousand dollars and they really would like me to pay 'stead of charging more Lexapro to the account, and the stupid student insurance I had to buy when my department failed to have any classes for me to teach hasn't paid for one drop of my Lexapro, because of that whole "pre-existing condition" thing that basically means, if you ever had a prescription for anxiety or depression before, tough shit, we don't have to pay for it now. (The rationale for this, for them not having to pay for medication you might need, totally eludes me.) So instead of the 400 bucks on insurance, I should have just kept the 400 bucks for MEDICINE. Live and learn.

That makes this day 11, and I read somewhere online (can't now find the link) that the height of terrible symptoms peaks at day 10.

Symptoms? Haven't really had any. Unless you count crying, which I did once the other day at the end of a beautiful sunny day because a paper I needed got thrown away, and once for 30 seconds today when Blogger cut out for a few seconds and took my entry with it. But that could just be the PMS. (Here you can read about when I first started tapering, and here and here for more about my experiences with lexapro side effects and lexapro withdrawal or withdrawing.)

A couple of weeks ago I had a really bad... allergies? Cold? I slept all day, then summoning my meditative belief in the power of the mind, I decided that I'd go to bed early, and that when I woke up the next day I'd be healed.

All of me. Sinuses and mentality.

"Decided" isn't right. "Felt."

Then I was. Oh, I still have my allergies such that I kind of feel like someone has strapped water balloons inside my neck, and I'm kind of mad about having to go to work, the work which is not my work.

But I'm not obsessed with feeling bad. I have too many books to read and things to write!

So maybe it's all seasonal with me anyway, like with my winter-loathing dad. It's sunny now (well, RIGHT now it's overcast, but it's been a sunny season lately) and so all is well, or at least I don't attempt to diffuse any criticism from the outside world by reciting "I hate myself" under my breath. I hate myself so you don't have to! Stupid, I decided. You just go right ahead and hate me, I'll be over here eating a spinach bialy.

Thus, lexapro-withdrawal-symptom seekers, you're not necessarily doomed. I'm off, and I appear relatively fine. I can go running when I have time, it's warm enough now.

Other sites provide the horror-story list.

Though also with suprprising hope! This from one of the sites above:

I will be completely honest with you, my wife and I just smoked a joint, and I feel outstanding. It does not stop the shivers, no..... I am not sure what these things are.... it is almost like another world trying to get in..... the pot just makes them more tolerable.... it seems to help you just go with it.....

And then:

Author: Ellie
Date:   03-30-05 10:24

Weed totally helps!

 THC - Totally Helps Completely
Author: Jack
Date:   03-30-05 10:38

HEY FOLKS LISTEN TO Ellie !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It came from the Earth, it is one of the few things the scientist have not been able to screw with.

There is not a single documented case of anyone dying as a result of Marijuana usage. Historians can trace usage back to several thousand years "BC" (mind you BC bud is some of the best out there.....)

You know why the docs, government, and drug companies don't like it????

You can grow it if you can grow tomatoes!!!

Legalization would collapse the US alcohol industry, the US tobacco industry, the US PHD Counseling industry, and the US Pharmicuticals Market.

Don't get me worng folks, it does not cure the brain shivers or the rage, but it makes it SO MUCH MORE TOLLERABLE.....
(Names changed to protect privacy.)

And there you have it, folks. A home remedy endorsed by the withdrawers, also by Christians.

Also, inadvertently, by Alice B. Toklas, the "Recipes from Friends" chapter of whose cookbook includes a recipe for
Haschich Fudge
(which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)

This is the food of paradise... it might provide an entertaining refreshement for a Ladies' Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR.
[Blurt's Note: Ha!]

Take 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon coriander. These should all be pulverised in a mortar. About a handful each of stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of canibus sativa can be pulverised. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved ina big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.

Goes on:
Obtaining the canibus may present certain difficulties, but the bariety known as canibus sativa grows as a common weed, often unrecognised, everywhere in Europe, Asia and parts of Africa... in the Americas, while often discouraged, its cousin... has been observed even in city window boxes. it should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.

According to Laura Shapiro in Something from the Oven, "[A]ssembling the book had been nightmarish for [Toklas]. She called the job 'miserable' and 'tormenting," barely met the deadline, and had to beg her friends for a chapter's worth of recipes just to make the ms. long enough. She sent all the recipes to Harper & Bros. without bothering to test them, nor did she proofread teh manuscript, which was probably why she overlooked the recipe called Haschich Fudge, contributed by her friend Brion Gysin, a painter..."

Toklas was reportedly "furious," since "fans and skeptics alike had been wondering for years whether Stein was on drugs when she wrote, and now they thought they knew," but if your withdrawal symptoms are bad, you might just give it a whirl...

Dear Blogging Public

I spent 1.5 hrs today putting the links into a blog entry that then... disappeared. I have a draft still but it's not ready. Meanwhile my new SAT students need attending to.

I apologize for the lack of fascinating new content. (Not that you all aren't too busy to need to hear my squackings.) Two long posts are near completion, and I have several more in my head if only this pesky need to make ends meet didn't keep getting in the way.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share today's newest addition to search strings with which I can't possibly help:

rhetorical analysis are the homeless crazy


All in good time, gentle readers. All in good time.

Tuesday, April 5

Recent Searches

Statistics like this are one of my most favorite parts of having a sometimes blog!

I continue to get multiple hits for S*x* B*b*s*tt*rs. I am the fourth highest hit for this!

Also, pish eating porn. I don't know what pish is, though, even though I've looked it up. Similarly food-ish are the hits for better pish. Can anyone tell me what these people are talking about?

It's not all R-rated around here; people also come looking for sample of capitalizations for grade one students.

And finally, trap "my kids" mice mouse "peanut butter" kill.. Um... I'm confused and little worried. If you think of the mice as your kids, why kill them? Or is it that you want the kids to perform the kill, the peanut-butter kill?

Words I Like



Words I Don't Like



(Instead, try Yowza, Cripes, Criminy, Holy Cats, or You Go! It's Your Birthday!)