Sunday, September 30, 2007


Quote from Andy, the hot hot hot slacker/pothead/brother-in-law:

Bush invaded a sovereign country in defiance of the UN. He’s a war criminal. And now I’m supposed to be one of his disposable thugs with a fucking target on my head in the middle of the desert waiting to be blown up by a car bomb rigged by a 12 year old who loved Friends and Metallica until one of our missiles blew up his house?!

Friday, September 28, 2007

things happening right now

It is Friday afternoon, and I am listening to the Mountain Goats sing, "I did not come to play handball."

It is a gorgeous, crisp, sunny day. My friend, the debate coach, is driving to Vermont this afternoon with a minivan full of college students.

I would rather not work on my tenure paperwork. My friend, the professor, told me that the paperwork and form-filing that occupies a first year prof would be sort of overwhelming. Oh, yes indeedy. Paperwork makes me anxious.

"You're Just Somebody that I used to Know" by Elliot Smith is playing.

Last night, I went to see the New York Philharmonic play Tchaikovsky. It was sublime. The tone of instruments together felt like part of my skin. All those people who talk about how difficult it is to language the sublime--not just whistling dixie.

After the Tchaikovsky, it was also difficult to emerge into a crowded New York street and ride a hot, overcrowded subway. But, in the end, I didn't mind so much. I like opposites and contradictions.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Back then that was tomorrow

Here's some simulated love for ya:
Thanks, Professor X, for the share!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I am making chicken soup today

It’s too warm for soup, but I am homesick this afternoon.
I chop carrots and celery and onions,
Placing them into the water
With sprigs of parsley and
Bay leaves
And garlic.
And I am caught in a memory-stirring moment—
The movement of hands and fingers,
The scent of fresh vegetables and spices,
The hot smell of simmering stock...

I remember the photographs I threw away
So I would not think about the angle of your neck
When you lean in to kiss me,
Or see the soft, vulnerable skin under your jaw
As you stretch in the morning.
I threw all of those photographs away…
On purpose.
To erase the images of your hand on my back,
Your grin at the birthday party,
And our sunset shadows, mingled,
Like short stories waiting to happen.

The photographs are gone,
And I am walking determined.
This is my kitchen, and this is my chicken soup.
But almost-ghosts are everywhere
(the Things That-Might-Have-Been),
Despite my best efforts to erase them.
They wander through the city with me,
Quietly keeping me company as I laugh with
New acquaintances,
Whispering suggestions as I shop
For shoes,
Singing along with the songs stuck in my head.

Breasts, Ideals, and Halal

I went shopping at H&M yesterday afternoon with my new football friends (before Alabama lost to Georgia in an ultimately disappointing but better-than-I-thought-it-would-go game). There are some delicious new sweaters and colors out there, so, on the one hand, I am very excited about the Swedes. On the other hand, I have a bone to pick... I bought this beautiful, gray silk dress--it looks like a jumper (E, darling, you will be very excited about this purchase). And I didn't try it on in the store because I had no desire to grapple with pre-pubescent customers or languid sales-clerks in the small, hot, dark dressing rooms.

Instead, I try on the dress this morning, and it looks fabulous EXCEPT for the fact that it won't zip up over my breasts. Good length, good material, good color, good fit everywhere else. And then the Jessica Rabbit effect. Nice. I am taking it to the tailor--"Tailor, my friend," I'll say, "we must adjust this dress away from the French ideal of perfect breast size (fitting into a champagne glass) toward the American ideal (fitting into a... well, a more substantial container, I imagine)." I hope that my tailor will work with me.

One more thing--had a deliciously Manhattan moment before the Bama game. We were standing outside their apartment on 53rd street, waiting for plates of yummy Chicken and Rice. That's right, this food stand has its own wiki. And, man, is that wiki deserved... super tasty, cheap, and the yogurt sauce is awesome. Of course, because of their reputation, the lines are always long. We got in line about 7:30 (game started at 7:45 but they have TiVo. Plus, all we missed was stupid Georgia scoring on the first fucking drive. Stupid Georgia). We got our food at about 8:20... and the line was still growing when we walked away. Chatted with some interesting dudes behind me--one of them is beginning his dissertation at Princeton. His field is Islamic Studies, and he's thinking of writing about the concept of duress in discussions and applications of Islamic law--i.e. when in situations of coercion and duress, when are laws being broken? Does the Koran allow for recants if admissions were made under duress? I don't know anything about those discussions, but it did remind me of our boy, Aristotle, and his inartistic proofs.

So that was my Manhattan moment--chicken and rice, Islamic studies, and Aristotle under a New York moon. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

These are my people

I am from the South, and I have always been conflicted/intrigued by the rhetorical constructions of what "the South" actually is. Songs like "Redneck Woman" and "About the South", movies like "The Color Purple" and "Fried Green Tomatoes" and "Mississippi Burning," books like "The Color Purple" and "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and "Gone with the Wind" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Growing up in Mississippi"... The people and places populating these rhetorics are endlessly fascinating. The South itself becomes a kind of compost heap--of organic protest and racial hatred and historical aphasia. And, the thing is, as fictional as some of these constructions may seem (especially the ones with happy endings), I have met these people. I have danced with them, been to weddings with them, seen them at the carnival and Krystal, listened to their ridiculous politics, gone to class with them, flirted with them at football games... Dear E! told me, this morning, to listen to this song, so I hope you do, too--and read what's written below with these words and images in your head.

My little sister has recently developed a new hobby--she is a dancer in this group that travels around my hometown--at various venues and places. So, last night, to support her in this new (and somewhat puzzling) endeavor, Mom and Daddy went to watch an "Ultimate Fight" match.

No. I am not kidding.

Naturally, I was desperate to hear what had happened, so I called Mom way too early to find out. Now, I just gotta remind (or inform) you that these parents of mine are not the Ultimate Fighting types. They are more the US Open/PGA Tour types. But they love us, unconditionally, and they have always been supportive of the weird things that my dear sister and I do. My dear, dear parents, in their inimitable fashion, had a couple of different things to say about the fights.

Mom's Take:
"Well, the announcer had dark black hair and that deep announcer voice--you know, everything is sort of a yell. And most of the people (there weren't many people there, altogether) were sitting really close to the ring, getting very excited about the boy that they wanted to win. And sometimes one boy would be on top of another boy, and I would ask your dad, "Does it look like he's winning? I think that boy on top is winning." But then he would give up and throw in the towel and the other boy would get the belt. I really have no idea how they determined who won and when. At one point, the boy on top was losing his pants, so I said to Daddy, "That boy on top looks like he's losing his britches." And Daddy said, "I think that's the least of his problems."
And there were Hooters girls there. And some people brought their children--little boys and girls--and I thought that was unfortunate.
I overheard a conversation between one spectator and another guy, describing a fight that had happened before. He told his friend that one roundhouse punch (I think that's what it's called) looked like the puncher had started from the floor--"that punch had so much power; he swung all the way from the floor up to the other dude's face." And all I could think was--"if the punch started so far away, couldn't the other boy have gotten out of the way?"

Daddy's Take:
"They looked like incompetent gladiators."

There are all sorts of interesting things going on in these stories--about class and race and region and worldviews. Mom and Daddy are very good observers of the world; they notice things (kindly and with reverence) and they have taught me and my sister to do the same. At least, that's what we try to do. Mom and I laughed quite a bit at her understanding and descriptions of the fights, the participants, and the spectators--because these things are funny. I know that they are funny.

But that's not all they are.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Before Buffy, there was Ripley

Books I need to read:
1) Being and Time
2) The Pickwick Papers
3) Alien Woman--a book about Lt. Ellen Ripley, my favorite favorite favorite movie character ever. (The cover says this: "Alien introduced audiences to their first enduring, self-reliant female hero, Lt. Ripley. Subsequent writers and directors of Alien films in the 1980s and 1990s, left to grapple with a strong female protagonist, re-envisioned Ripley to express and promote changing ideas about gender, sex, the female body, and woman's place in the 20th century.")
4) Things by Levinas. I will, of course, need help with this. Wanna start a book club?
5) Reading Lolita in Tehran
6) Biographies of presidents. My friend's dad did this--starting with George Washington, he read biographies of each pres, in historical order.
7) A Confederacy of Dunces

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Things a Samurai notices

For my favorite... my dearest, loveliest anonymous:

"Generally speaking, fixation and binding are to be avoided, in both the sword and the hand. Fixation is the way to death, fluidity is the way to life. This is something that should be well understood."

See? Told ya.

If a samurai says it, it must be true.

There's something about Samurai

I am reading Miyamoto Musashi's "Book of Five Rings" right now. It is an explanation and exploration of Musashi's martial arts in both theory and practice--he was a rogue samurai, and, according to Musashi, was never defeated (in, like 60 battles).

This is a very certain book, and I am seduced by his certainty. I like certainty-- mostly because it's foreign in my country. That being said, here is a bit that every teacher (coach, carpenter, trainer, parent, warrior) should put on her wall:

"Efficiency and smooth progress, prudence in all matters, recognizing true courage, recognizing different levels of morale, instilling confidence, and realizing what can and cannot be reasonably expected--such are the matters on the mind of the master carpenter."

Musashi has got a thing for carpenters--the building, the care required, the various and sundry uses to which even the crappiest piece of wood can be put--it all comes together for him in a delicious and symbolic construct. I like that certainty. I like that the world described by Musashi (a world almost 400 years old) is a nonsensical place that still deserves care and deliberation. I like that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Being and Time

I finally got my Heidegger book. Gonna be a rollicking good time, I can already tell.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This just in

1) Seventh grade cliques are the new scholarly forum. Seriously. Pick a side, call yourself critical OR material (you have to choose... red pill or blue pill ? red pill or blue pill? red pill or blue pill?), and do it quick, man!

2) If you are as ridiculously bad at resisting temptation as I am (oh, you don't even know the HALF of it, people), never bring a magazine and a scholarly book (bothatonce) to the laundromat, thinking that you will read the book and not the magazine. You will read the magazine. Instead of re-visiting the structure, meaning, or significance of Systems of Objects, you will learn about interesting new trends in systems of objects (apparently, hotel Botox parties and high-heeled oxfords are going to be all the rage this fall, just fyi)...

3) I want to hang out with this person.

But the real question is: "Will there be a nasty, one-sided rhetorical forum (which isn't really a forum at all, actually) about "Leaving Britney alone" in the next issue of "Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies"? I think we should start posting the forums on youtube. I'm gonna suggest that to the editorial board.

Alabama 41, Arkansas 38

Sweet, Sweet Victory. I love Alabama football.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I love this site, but I take their conclusions with a grain of salt because, right now, it's about 61 degrees outside my door. And they say I don't need a jacket.

I suspect that they are Yankees.

Words that Work, Part II

"For all this I know that I was in my heart so innocent and pure, so earnest, so passioned and so true, that while I laugh, I mourn a little, and while I think of the discretion I have gained since then, I remember with a touch of sorrow, what I have lost."

-"DC", manuscript version

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A New York State of Mind

Student: "james, I finally remembered this morning who you remind me of."
Me (shuffling peer evaluation forms): "Oh? Who is that?"
Student: "Do you ever watch 'Reba'?"
Me (oh no, I have a sinking feeling it's not Reba): "Yes, I've seen it a couple of times. It's funny."
Student: "You know Barbara Jean?"
Me: "The gigantic ridiculous blonde?"
Student (giggling): "Yes. You remind me of Barbara Jean."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Another Technological Triumph Deserves 2 posts in 1 day

I could be working on the chapter for Barry (which is going to be about Ninja Warrior).
I could be typing up a peer evaluation form for my student speeches tomorrow.
I could be working on my paper for NCA (which is about masculinity, cultures of violence, and simulation).
I could be reading about sidewalk ethnography or punk rock Buddhism or samurai worldviews or sweet, sweet David Copperfield.
I could be sweeping.

Instead, though, I am playing with my camera phone and missing my Johanna. Stupid, rainy, New York Tuesday.

Welcome to China, Janine

If you find yourself suffering from insomnia, here's a way to pass the time: watch "Home Movies" on youtube, adore Coach McGirk, and eat sour patch kids. Delicious and good-for-you.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Words that Work

"I began, by being singularly cheerful and light-hearted; all sorts of half-forgotten things to talk about, came rushing into my mind, and made me hold forth in a most unwonted manner. I laughed heartily at my own jokes, and everybody else's; called Steerforth to order for not passing the wine...

I went on, by passing the wine faster and faster yet, and continually starting up with a corkscrew to open more wine, long before any wine was needed...

Somebody was smoking. We were all smoking. I was smoking, and trying to suppress a rising tendency to shudder. Steerforth had made a speech about me, in the course of which I had been affected almost to tears...

Somebody was leaning out of my bedroom-window, refreshing his forehead against the cool stone parapet, and feeling the air upon his face. It was myself. I was addressing myself as 'Copperfield,' and saying, 'Why did you try to smoke? You might have known you couldn't do it.' Now, somebody was unsteadily contemplating his features in the looking-glass. That was I too. I was very pale in the looking-glass; my eyes had a vacant appearance; and my hair -- only my hair, nothing else -- looked drunk."

-"David Copperfield"

It's nice to know that there are some constants--even if one of those constants is the idiocy of too-much-wine.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Something Intriguing

This link will keep you going for the rest of the day. Promise.

DMV = 2, james = 0

The computers were down. No processing today.

I'm off to the NYC DMV

Round II, bitches...

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Definitionally Speaking

"My school-days! The silent gliding on of my existence - the unseen, unfelt progress of my life - from childhood up to youth! Let me think, as I look back upon that flowing water, now a dry channel overgrown with leaves, whether there are any markers along its its course, by which I can remember how it ran."
-"David Copperfield"

I am always meeting interesting, informed people in (and not in) this profession. They tell good stories, they share charming anecdotes, and they quote philosophers. I get the feeling, alot of the time, that I am definitely (and definitionally) not-in-the-loop... I find myself wondering, as I listen to these charming, philosophically grounded anecdotes--do these books get read for fun? Is there some big, fun book club in which people discuss these things? How do I become a member?

Maybe this is not a definitional issue; perhaps it's disciplinary. Because you know what kind of books I read for fun? FUN BOOKS. Like Fitzgerald and Austen and "The Red Tent" and "Lord of the Rings" and stuff about traveling Swedes. The other stuff, the Agamben-Levinas stuff--that's work. And I have no problem with those two classifications-in fact, I kinda like the typology (I know, I know, E! is going to have a moment with this)... So I read work books during work time--and, apparently, retain none of the cute anecdote material. And I read fun books during fun time.

Oh, I can quote Dickens. Yes, I can.
Not so much with Heidegger.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Roll Tide

I love football season, but we should probably leave before Zack starts calling everybody bitch.