Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Found this list through the forums: "The 9 Most Annoying People I Always See at the Bookstore." I will vouch for its validity. What gives me the credential? I, er, recognized the store in the picture as a Borders (corporate America is nifty like that--see one franchise, you've seen them all, whether it's the decor or layout).

I digress. A highlight:

Hey, you who stormed in. Have you really never been to a bookstore before, or do you just enjoy drawing attention? You remind me of the old people I see at the post office who make buying a roll of stamps a 10-minute process of discovery and indecision. You gaze around in faux confusion for a moment before making a beeline for the help desk – or, aggravatingly to those of us waiting patiently in line, the checkout counter – and half-angrily ask, “Where’s (insert title here)?” as if you just arrived at the hospital emergency room and were looking for your trauma-victim daughter. Hey, Magellan, see those big signs hanging from the ceiling that point out the subject sections? That’s where you’ll find it. You’re in a nicely organized bookstore, not a vast warehouse of a Sam’s Club or Costco.
Some of the categories in the article are unique to huge chain stores (people who go just for an overpriced coffee), while others are more universal, like the above excerpt. Still, there's a way to avoid many of them: find your own local and/or used bookstores. It truly is a different demographic, generally scruffy looking college students and eccentrics. Bonus? If they're in the store buying, chances are they've sold back to said store--and what interesting reads I've found in the used book stores. That cuts down half the annoyances and certainly brings an element of serendipity to the book hunt and likely save money.

Of course, my problem is this: I can resist the $20 book I don't really need. It's the 20 books for $1 apiece that I can't pass by. Oi vey, this weekend ended up being a book binge.

Now playing: David Rovics - Pray For The Dead And Fight Like Hell For The Living
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Multimedia Friday: Thrice

Thrice has been a favorite band of mine for a while. Why? Oh, so many reasons, lyrical amazing-ness and musical versatility being top of the list. Previously, my favorite album of theirs was Vheissu. Then came The Alchemy Index. Volumes I and II, Fire and Water, respectively, were good. Fire was very much along the lines of their older material--an articulate assault of sound. Water hooked me in though, which was surprising--the synthetic ambiance isn't my usual sort of music.

Volumes III and IV, Air and Earth, just came out, and they're almost singularly responsible for Thrice steadily climbing up my profile. Air is other-worldly, but Earth is. . . is. . . amazing. It goes down to musical roots with an indie-folk feel that I've been increasingly gravitating toward.

I could easily go on and on and on about the albums. I can link to Youtube videos of them. Or I can one-up that, let you listen for yourself--a track from each volume.

The Flame Deluge [Lyrics] - A delicious deluge of sound.
Digital Sea [Lyrics] [Video] - Creative take on the water theme. Cool, mellow song.
Daedalus [Lyrics] - We've all heard the story of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun; this is his father's story. Broke my heart in a good way.
Come All You Weary [Lyrics] - Music with soul. Literally sent shivers down my spine.

I only ask for a comment in return - anything from, "Good lord, you really don't have any taste in music" to "Wow. [Song] is really good."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Full of win

This has been a pretty good week. Positive things:

  • Playing in the dirt, er, doing yardwork. Love it.
  • This game.
  • Realizing just how much music I have and adding to that collection.
  • Extra tutoring hours--more pay, amazing co-workers.
  • Getting call from university offering me an adjunct job for fall semester (i.e. the position I interviewed for).
As it turns out, I can haz job. Teaching writing.

Yeah. Again. By choice.

Back in December, I had a lot going on--a lot of personal things that needed to be sorted through. I was very unhappy, and the most obvious and easily remediable frustration was my job. It turned out that with that job out of the picture, I was still unhappy. Clearly, other things were contributing to the negativity that I couldn't snap out of; the decision to leave that job was one of the best things I could have done for myself, though. Figuring out what something is not can be very useful in figuring out what it is--sort of existential troubleshooting, if you will.*

Teaching, while occasionally irritating and often time-consuming (three different courses meant three different lesson preps and three different and often conflicting grading periods, and all this on the heels of grad school), was actually the best thing I had going--and as noble a profession as teaching is, when your job is the best thing in your life, your life isn't much to speak of. Better to learn that now than at 40, I figure.

I wouldn't say I quite resolved all the things in my personal life that were wearing me down, but they're better now. Much better. I'm learning to--radical concept here--actually talk more about what's bothering me instead of isolating myself, clamping my mouth shut, and letting things fester. Ironic for a blogger, huh?

Anyway, I guess this means more teaching posts will eventually be forthcoming. I'm looking forward to it.

Now playing: So They Say - A Beautiful Plan
via FoxyTunes

* - And metaphors like this demonstrate what happens when computer programmers' daughters get degrees in English...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

If this ain't poetry...

...please tell me what is.

I speak in many tongues to many men;
Argue with angels and I always win,
But I don't know the first thing about love.

I prophesy and know all mysteries;
All hidden things are opened up to me
But I don't know the first thing about love

I have the keys to open any door;
I give all of my possessions to the poor,
But I don't know the first thing about love

And moving mountains ain't nothing to me;
I've faith enough to cast them to the sea,
But I don't know the first thing about love

But all other things shall fade away;
While love stands alone and still holds sway
All other things shall fade away;
Into the ground into the grey.

I give my body up unto the flames;
And never once have I denied your name
But I don't know the first thing about love.
--Thrice, "Moving Mountains," off The Alchemy Index, Volume IV: Earth
The music it's put to is amazing as well. But these lyrics just grabbed me. And it's still National Poetry Month.

Now playing: Thrice - The Earth Isn't Humming
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hark! the power of nature

Early on this Earth Day, Mother Nature decided to assert her power in a spectacular thunderstorm. It must have been around 2:30-ish, because I was woken by the cat leaving the pillow.

She paced the room restlessly after I shut the window and went to try to fall asleep again. Just as I started drifting off again, I heard a pathetic meow from the foot of the bed. I figured my poor arthritic kitty was trying to get back up on the bed, so I went to help her up (spoiled? I know not the meaning of that word).

No cat. I looked around in the dark, didn't see her. Still, the sound had come from near the foot of the bed. Playing a hunch, I looked under said bed . . .

. . . to find one frightened cat huddled there, eyes large from fear and the dark.

My cat does not run from dogs five times her size; indeed, her refusal to move left a stray dog trapped on our deck once, scrabbling to climb over the railing in order to avoid the calico cat guarding the steps. She goes on the offensive if another cat comes within five feet of her, and if separated by a door, she will yowl and snarl and pace at the door.

But one good storm had her cowering for cover. It amused me.

And I decided to write a sappy pet post.

Now playing: Underoath - A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White
via FoxyTunes

Fun with flora and fauna

On second thought, that title sorta reminds me of this Sinfest comic. I, ahem, do try and keep this blog PG rated.

No, what I have are decent, wholesome pictures of flowers. Yes, more flowers.

I love this tree/shrub, though again I don't know what it's called.

These violets dominate about half the back yard...

...and the other half (and front) is dominated by these lovely yellow wildflowers.
I mean, they're flowers, right? Quite hardy, they are--my sort of flower.

It's yardwork time, and I couldn't be happier--I came in the house with mud on my pants and under my fingernails. And bug bites. And sneezes. Yay seasonal allergies.

Now playing: Chuck Ragan - It's What You Will
via FoxyTunes

Friday, April 18, 2008

Multimedia Friday: Silence! I kill you

It's been a long week for me, and I'm tired. So for this week's Multimedia Friday (can I even say that in good conscience? It's more like a bi- or tri-weekly thing), I'm posting an old favorite of mine.

Achmed the Dead Terrorist is a riot. It's not politically correct, but hey, most cutting humor isn't. The comedy routine takes on terrorist attitudes, pop culture figures like Lindsay Loh--you know who I'm talking about--and has-been pop stars whose faces have been ruined by too many plastic surgeries, the Washington Monument, and even that Verizon guy. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


According to different Internet quizzes, which we all know are legitimate gateways to deep-seated self-understanding, I am quite neurotic. I'm not sure whether to agree with that assessment or not, though.

On the one hand, I have a job interview tomorrow for a position I really want--and I'm surprisingly calm. Mild nerves, but not the stomach-clenching fear of certain failure.

On the other, I'm a little worried that I'm not more worried.


Now playing: Mindless Self Indulgence - Straight to Video
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Six word memoir

So I got tagged to play along and write a six-word memoir by Danny over at Whatever Comes to Mind. A six-word memoir. Brevity's not my strong suit (graduate work, it seems, defeats any brevity one formerly may have had), but I will give it a whirl. I will assume, for the purposes of bloggerly integrity, that we are all functioning on the assumption of a memoir as factual, in spite of recent revelations to the contrary, hmm? Very well.

The Rules:
1. Write your own six word memoir.
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want.
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to the original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere.
4. Tag at least five more blogs with links.
5. Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

Here are a few renditions:

Read too much, lived too little.
Funny, but I wrote that in past tense, more like an epitaph. Interesting. Re-phrase: Reads too much, lives too little. The point still stands.

Or on more humorous notes:
Crazy cat lady waiting to happen.

Yes, she does call that music.

So, tag time.

Hopeful Cynicism
William the Coroner
Speech from the Speechless
Life, Work, and Play in a Vintage House

Now playing: The Flobots - Fight with Tools
via FoxyTunes

Barefoot weather is here

It seems like I had to wait forever, but the nearby flowers have finally exploded into bloom.

Violets and the greenery of the wild strawberry plants that run rampant in the backyard.

These two shots are different trees, one from the front yard, one from the back. I don't know what they are and honestly have just been too lazy to research it. The blossoms, while pretty to look at, don't smell too sweet, though.

I like contrasts--the color of the new blooms and the dead leaves of last year.

I can't wait to see what else my camera can capture now that the weather turned nice. These were the humble offerings of my immediate vicinity; no doubt the parks I love have more things to make this hippie throwback happy.

Now playing: The Flobots - Rise
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, April 12, 2008

So generous

April 15 is almost here, innit? I suppose I should actually take that last step between filling out my copy of the form and submitting it electronically, shouldn't I? It just needs one more once-over.

I followed all the instructions and think it should probably be accurate (though seriously, if they want to audit me--half the 2007 year is grad assistant wages, half is adjunct wages, and throw in some very part time hourly pay as a tutor... enjoy the windfall, Uncle Sam). What threw me off was the surprise at how much money they'd be giving me back this year--more than I've gotten back in previous years, though of course, that's in part because I've made more in the last year than before. And then, this thought--

Hold up. I'm getting excited over getting back part of the money that was taken from my paycheck to begin with?

What a generous Big Brother I have.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

National Poetry Month

This former English major dropped the ball in terms of announcing National Grammar Day last month. I won't neglect to announce April as National Poetry Month. has some suggestions for celebrating. I've already subscribed to their newsletter, and it's easy to get spoiled by a poem a day in my inbox. Here's one that tickled my fancy.

Don't get caught up in "I don't like poetry" or "I just don't get it." Just read the words, take them in, and enjoy.

by Alan Shapiro

after the downpour, in the early evening,
late sunlight glinting off the raindrops sliding
down the broad backs of the redbud leaves
beside the porch, beyond the railing, each leaf
bending and springing back and bending again
beneath the dripping,

between existences,
ecstatic, the souls grow mischievous, they break ranks,
swerve from the rigid V's of their migration,
their iron destinies, down to the leaves
they flutter in among, rising and settling,
bodiless, but pretending to have bodies,

their weightlessness more weightless for the ruse,
their freedom freer, their as-ifs nearly not,
until the night falls like an order and
they rise on one vast wing that darkens down
the endless flyways into other bodies.

Nothing will make you less afraid.

I do quite like the idea of writing poetry on the sidewalk, though...

Now playing: Hot Water Music - The Ebb And Flow
via FoxyTunes

Monday, April 7, 2008

Rawr! Or, Take THAT, Monday!

I don't, on principle, like Mondays. The alarm is just that much louder, that much more irritating when it comes on the heels of a couple days off. Even though I adore my Monday colleagues, the Monday-ness still overshadows the day. So I decided to do something about it this morning. I found the secret to taking the teeth out of a Monday.


Bad ass boots and a cape.

Oh, yes. Who knew it could be so simple?

I decided on a skirt today since the weather is nice. A skirt naturally calls for boots. And I don't take my boots lightly, mind you. My boots are bad ass. For one thing, most of them have buckles. Buckles are by definition bad ass. The ones I wore today are the ones my dear mother once dubbed my dominatrix boots--three inch heel, knee-high, decorative buckles on the side boots. Not boots you want to mess with. The perfect boots for kicking Monday's bedraggled spirit to the curb, where the miserable thing belongs.

The boots then led to the cape. I hadn't worn it until today. For one thing, the weather needed to be right--cool enough to need something light, warm enough that it could be slightly impractical. And a cape, no matter how cool it is, is impractical. My cape is exactly what it implies: long, down to my shins, complete with hood. It's black with burgundy at the edge. It's pretty bad ass, too. Did I mention I made it? Crocheted it over winter break. I obviously made it because I wanted a cape, but the aspect of wearing it out was one that made me slightly wary. It'd be perfect to wear to the Renaissance Festival, but outside of that context, it's a little, well, out of place. Eccentric, even. I needed to be in the right mood to shrug off the possibility of gaping stares. Today was that day. Armed with amazing boots, I donned my cape. It felt good. No wonder super heroes like the things.

Boots. Cape. Attitude.

Monday never had a chance.

Now playing: Puscifer - Indigo Children
via FoxyTunes

Sunday Scribblings: Photograph

I don't have much in common with the cousins on my father's side. Distance and culture are powerful forces, and it's hard to stay in touch with people you didn't grow up with and only see for a couple weeks every few years, if that.

However, we do have one commonality that seems to have skipped directly from my grandfather to each of us grandchildren: a love of photography.

My grandfather was quite the photographer in his day; an accountant by trade, he took pictures in his spare time. They're good pictures, too, and I believe some won prizes in their day. Last I saw, they were tucked below his desk, faded and dust covered--the one with the view of the boats on the river in the early morning light, the one with the impressive lion statue at one end of the bridge.

"What's missing from this?" he asked a few visits ago, before the Alzheimer's took away his faculties.

I stared and stared at the picture, couldn't figure it out.

He pointed to the lion's face. It had no whiskers.

We like taking pictures of different things, the cousins and I. One is virtually the family historian. While my grandmother has the boxes of old photographs of her children, grandchildren, and cousins of cousins of cousins' acquaintances, my cousin has folders and folders of family portraits on his laptop.

Whenever we all go out, he's there with the camera. Out to see a tourist site? Group photo. On the beach? Group photo. Nice restaurant? Group photo. It's tricky to get us all in the shot, but he's patient and persistent, always on the prowl for pieces of family heritage. When my younger sister leans in close to my father, his arm around her shoulder, my cousin shoots. When my grandfather is having a lucid evening and he and my grandmother walk in front of us, idly holding hands, he shoots.

I take some pictures of family. Some. Like the shot I took of my other cousin lounging in a not-so-flattering position. Or the time I was trying to take a picture of the ocean panorama and my uncle thought I was trying to get a shot of him and his family; he'd beckoned everybody over before I could find a polite way to say, "but I wasn't trying to take your picture." I have a picture of my great-aunt and my maternal grandmother, their arms around each other for the last time (my great aunt died last summer). I have one of my younger cousins when they decided to stuff teddy bears in their pajama pants so it looked like they had clown pants on (don't ask; it was a slumber party gag).

Even the youngest cousin has the photography bug. Nearly ten years separate him from the next youngest cousin, so he's a bit spoiled and managed to get hold of the camera from his sisters. He shoves the camera in one's face and shoots, the flash making her recoil and let out a strangled "yaargh" sound. Her brother waits for the image to appear on the screen, then laughs delightedly; it's one of those photos you hope your family doesn't pull out for blackmail material. When it vanishes, he asks her to help him find the picture--"the one where you said 'yaargh,'" he explains, replicating her expression.

I wonder what will happen to all the photos. Will the next generation peer at them in confusion, wanting to know who each relative is and what convoluted twist of the family tree connects them? In what medium will they view the shots? Will it be just like pawing through grandma's box of photos or somehow different? Will the shots that survive be more spontaneous, thanks to the liberating aspect of digitized photography, or will the posed group photos prevail?

Now playing: Mindless Self Indulgence - You'll Rebel to Anything (As Long As It's Not Challenging)
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cultural reference points

I tend to be suspicious of popular things, be they movies, musicians, books, or whatever. Sooner or later, though, I get curious about what all the fuss was about, and I investigate simply out of curiosity. Some things I will never get--the popularity of Nicholas Sparks or Mitch Albom, the cult following of Napoleon Dynamite, or the smashing success of a series of blonde bubble-headed pop princesses who sound increasingly alike. The point is, contrary to popular belief (heh), I make an effort to watch/read/listen before I criticize; one thing I absolutely can't stand is when people speak authoritatively on the merits or flaws of something without having actually investigated.

I'm not a huge movie buff to begin with, and I also get the majority of movies from the library (no rental fee :)), so it takes a while before I see huge box office hits on DVD. Recently, I watched Kill Bill for the first time. Not bad. Wouldn't go out of my way for it, but it was a darkly entertaining way to pass a couple hours. The whole time, though, I kept thinking, Man, Monty Python could foresee Quentin Tarantino:

Now playing: The Gaslight Anthem - 1930
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Probably not FDA approved

"Do you want to know how to make a longevity potion?" my colleague, Aspiring Historian, asked today.

"A what?"

"A potion to live a long, youthful life," she responded. "You'll look just like a healthy, 30-year old man--well, woman, in your case," she added for the benefit of both me and our Experienced Colleague.

"Sure," Experienced Colleague said. "But where are you getting this stuff from?"

Aspiring Historian showed us the book, a research reference for a paper she's writing on Medieval ideas of magic and cures, or something along those lines. "You need fingernail and hair clippings from a recently deceased relative."

We pondered this for a bit; given that fingernails and hair appeared to grow after death, it seemed pretty apparent why they would hold supposedly magical properties. But how recent was recent? How close was close? Did they have to be gathered strictly post-mortem?

"That'd be an interesting request," Experienced Colleague remarked. "'Could you let me know when you're going to kick the bucket so I can have some fingernail clippings?'"

"Yeah..." Aspiring Historian trailed off.

"What other remedies have you found?" I asked.

"Oh! A love potion."

"Could be useful. What's in it?"

She made a slight face. "An umbilical cord."

"From a dead baby?" asked Experienced Colleague.

"No. I think it can be from a live one."

"OK, so does it have to be your own or a relative's?"

"It doesn't say. Probably someone close; who else would you give something like that to?"

The topic drifts away after that, but not until we've left our boss shaking her head and remarking that she's not sure she wants to know what we're talking about.

As I'm getting ready to head out, Aspiring Historian is still flipping through the book for remedies. I think she might've been looking for something to cure the myriad of illnesses that are floating around campus. I cough, scowl, and make a crack about my humours being out of balance, especially mucus right now. [Correction: The accurate word is "phlegm." My bad.]

Right before I leave, an exchange with Tutor Who Shaved His Head in Honor of His Brother leaves me laughing and then coughing uncontrollably.

"Excuse me while I hack up a lung," I choke out as the cough subsides.

"Just don't get rid of it," Aspiring Historian tells me. "We might be able to use it."