Friday, December 10, 2010

A Spenserian Stanza On the Pathetic Fallacy

The pathetic fallacy is a farce.
Ask anyone who has ever seen a dog,
Their tails wagging in the park
Or when their master comes home. Or for fog
On cat feet, is there another analog?
Or for a parakeet dancing away
To nothing more than a simple theme song?
I will attribute human feeling any day
To my natural world. Screw John Ruskin anyway.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I swore that I would not abandon this blog.

She says a month and a half from the previous entry.

To be fair, things have been nuts. Teaching, taking classes, wedding planning, dealing with my mom being sick, etc. Absolutely insane. There hasn't been a whole lot of time for reading for pleasure; to be honest, there hasn't been much time for reading for school either. Articles here, articles there, library books scattered everywhere with Post-it notes in the margins.

And in the meantime, Bergie is howling. I think he's lost in the house somewhere. But why should that be any different than normal?

Anyway. First, a couple of updates on the Kindle - I figured out how to turn off the highlighting feature, so it doesn't show other people's notes. However, I can't make the highlighting feature work consistently for my own highlights. More meddling to come. Also, the battery lasts way longer than the previously discussed three weeks. Which is awesome. I will say that, since I am using many of the free books, it paid for itself within 24 hours of me having it.

Still, some of the pricing on new books is ridiculous. I'd been looking forward to The Reckless Bride for sometime. I checked on Amazon to see how much it was for the Kindle--the same price as it was for the regular book - $7.99. (btw, what is up with book prices these days? Honestly, it's ridiculous!)

So, I bought the book at Walmart for $5.84. Much more reasonable, and I have a solid, actual book that I can loan out, read in the bathtub without much risk, and resell to Half Price Books at a later date and actually get money out of. (This is why the Kindle won't kill the book market completely.)

Speaking of, The Reckless Bride was a decent close to Stephanie Lauren's Black Cobra Quartet. It wasn't spectacular, by any means; the ending was sort of contrived. There was a nice twist to the end that I never saw coming. Also, unlike The Brazen Bride, I didn't stop and go, "Wow, there's a ridiculous amount of sex in this." More than her other novels, certainly, but not eight scenes in the first 150 pages.

Also recently read, Side Jobs by Jim Butcher.

Excuse me while I squee a little bit.

First of all, there were a ton of stories that I'd never read. Mostly because I'm too cheap to go buy an anthology of short stories when I really only want one--namely, Dresden. Second, because there was an all new novella that took place forty-five minutes after the end of Changes.

Have I mentioned that Murphy kicks copious amounts of ass?

Also, there was a little bit of Harry/Murphy romance, and that made me happy. Buy it. Read it. Now.

The only other book that I've read completely (for the first time) was Jack Stillinger's Reading The Eve of St. Agnes. It's a scholarly work on Keats' poem and was decently interesting. The man is a scholarly genius and basically did all the work for my Keats presentation for me (no joke, it has everything you could possibly want to know. I wanted to take the book to class, say "read this" and have that be my presentation). Of course, I also have to find a new way to go about writing my paper, because Stillinger has done a lot of the work already, and if there's one thing hammered into your head in English programs is to be original and to contribute to the conversation. (I'm giving you my strained grin right now. It's hard to be original and to contribute to a conversation when your head is ready to explode with all the stuff you have to do.)

(By the way, College of Graduate Studies? You suck.)

I did also finally finish Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell and was immensely disappointed when I got to the end...and it was the end. The woman didn't have the decency to finish the book before she died! The main character pissed me off, because she was a doormat. She could have had everything she ever wanted if she just grew a pair and stood up for herself. No, in all seriousness, I looked it up on Wikipedia, and apparently, Gaskell had a happy ending planned, so at least it didn't end on a completely depressing note. Still, all she was teaching her gentle readers was to be a doormat and everything will come to you.

It's a miracle we ever got the vote.

Anyway, that's a quick run down of the last month and a half of reading. Time for me to go to bed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I am remiss, I know.

Yes, I am aware that it's been a month and a half since I blogged here. But here is what's gone on since August 30th.

1. I moved.
2. As a consequence of that moving, I spent two weeks without internet at home. Cue gnashing and wailing of teeth.
3. School started.
4. As a consequence of school starting, I started teaching again--two sections of ENGL 1010, and I'm teaching it in a way much differently than I taught ENG 101 at Eastern, so I'm having to kind of wade my way through a new teaching philosophy and how it works in practice.
5. Mom has gotten much worse. She goes back to the neurologist on Monday. We have given up hoping for better news and are simply hoping for not worse.
6. My baby brother turned 17.
7. My car broke down ten miles outside of Hazard, aka five hours from Murfreesboro. Fortunately, I have some awesome in-laws-to-be who took care of all of this.
8. Fall TV season started. Hello, NCIS, how I have missed you.
9. I got a Kindle.
10. I don't really have a ten, but it seemed odd to stop the list at nine.

I realize that it's not much of an excuse, but whatever. My blog.

But this is a book blog, so let's get to the bookery!

Q. What is the coolest piece of booktech out there? A. Amazon's WiFi Kindle!

My friend, our favorite Snarky Writer, has a Nook, which I gave serious consideration to. But here's a comparison of the two, which I think will explain why I prefer the Kindle.

1. The actual machine. The Kindle's outside is a dark gray, just textured enough to keep light from reflecting off it. The Nook, by comparison, has a high gloss finish that I find distracting. The Kindle is also slightly smaller and lighter than the Nook.

2. The buttons and keyboard. The Nook does have an advantage on the Kindle with the regular screen at the bottom, giving a touch screen that lets you flip through books much like you might albums on an iPod touch. However, the Kindle has a full QWERTY keyboard instead. It's not big enough to type, but you have distinct buttons, which make it easier to type notes.

Furthermore, the side buttons to flip pages are smaller on the Kindle. I think this makes it a little easier to hold than the Nook without the risk of flipping pages.

3. The screen. Both the Nook and the Kindle feature e-ink technology, and can be read in direct sunlight. I haven't been able to compare refresh rates side by side, so I can't tell which moves faster.

4. The content. Barnes and Noble has over 1 million books available for the Nook. In comparison, the Kindle has 1.8 million free out-of-copyright (pre-1929) books. When it comes to .pdfs, however, B&N has the advantage so far. Both SW and I have been attempting to download .pdf files to our respective e-readers for class. I can open .pdfs from places like JSTOR fairly easily, but .pdfs of scanned books, etc. don't show up well--if at all. The Kindle, at least, also doesn't have any magnification ability for .pdfs, so heaven help you if you have bad eyesight. The Nook also has some trouble opening these scanned .pdfs, but SW has been able to open files I haven't. Still, when it comes to doing dissertation research, I think I'll save a lot of trees this way.

5. Memory. The newest iteration of the Kindle can hold up to 3500 books. The Nook, by contrast, holds 1500. Still, both B&N and Amazon let you delete books from the device, and your purchase history is saved, letting you download the book again if you would like at a later date.

6. Power. The Nook's charge will last for 10 days with wireless turned off. The Kindle will last for three weeks with wireless on and a month with it off.

7. Price. The Kindle's WiFi version is $139, and 3G is $189. B&N's WiFi is $149 and 3G is $199. I did go ahead and invest in the two year service agreement, which I normally don't do, but I think it's worth it in this case.

For me, the Kindle was the best choice, despite the fact that I often abhor some of Amazon's business practices and the fact that I love Barnes and Noble as a store--I'm a member of B&N, and I'd much rather buy a book in the store than order it from Amazon--not to mention that if you go to the counter at a B&N and ask them to order a book for you, there's no shipping and handling, and many of those books are in within five business days, well before Amazon's free shipping would get it to you (even if you live right outside the Amazon distribution center, which I have).

All my rhapsodizing aside, there are some things that still need fixed/updated. The first is the page turning buttons, which aren't necessarily intuitive. A flip forward button and a flip backward button are on both sides, the forward button being bigger on the bottom and the backward being smaller on top. Still, I keep trying to use the left flip forward button to flip backward, and I think this might be more intuitive, at least for readers of English.

.pdfs need more support, zoom, and a scrolling ability so you can scroll down a single, zoomed in page.

The Kindle's voice features, which reads books aloud to you, still needs a little work. Don't get me wrong, it sounds more like a human voice and less like Stephen Hawking's computer than anything I've heard yet, and they've made massive improvements. This I expect to see improve as voice technology improves, not something Amazon or B&N can necessarily take care of.

Highlighting. The Kindle shows frequently highlighted passages, with the option to see how many people have highlighted that passage. Even if you select the option to hide how many people have highlighted a certain passage, you still have a little message at the bottom of the screen that tells you that you can go see how many people have highlighted the passage, and I find that both distracting and annoying. Amazon needs to add the option to turn off where other people have been highlighting - not just the message, but the highlight itself. (Fortunately, they do offer an option to share your own highlights or keep them private. While highlighting statistics seem to be anonymous, I don't really want to contribute to that.) I understand how this could be helpful to students at a lower division level, but I'm in graduate school. AND it disrupts pleasure reading more than a little.

Organizing. Trying to add books to certain categories is more than a little difficult, because when you add books, it shows every book on the Kindle, not just the ones that haven't been categorized yet. Amazon needs to add an option that would allow you to toggle between these.

So, there you go, my review of the newest booktech. For me, it's hands down the Kindle. Next time, I'll talk a little about what I've been reading on the Kindle so far (read: Ph.D. preliminary exam material--much of which is free from Amazon.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

My dad is a fanboy.

Me: *placidly quilting and watching Buffy*
Dad: *comes in from work* What are you watching?
Me: Buffy. Spike's come back and Buffy's about to kick his ass.
Dad: Ah.

Few minutes later:

Dad: Is he trying to bite Willow?
Me: O.o? Do who with the what now? Whaaaaa? Willow?
Dad: What? I can't know my pop culture?
Me: *facepalm*

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Well, this has been fun.

On the whole, last week sucked ass.

Start with TA orientation. Orientations, like meetings, while important, are not typically fun, but things were going okay. This was until they decided to test the fire alarms in the building on Tuesday. After ten minutes of strobe lights, I had a migraine that lasted three days and kept setting off low-level panic attacks.

My mother went to her emergency neurologist appointment Wednesday. The neurological degradation continues to worsen, and he scheduled her for an MRI the next day and another appointment immediately afterward. The MRI did not show anything in particular that would explain things, so he's scheduled her to have an EEG and a spinal tap on Tuesday.

After a couple go arounds with the new rental company, I finally have an apartment and began to move some of my stuff over. A good bit is over--everything that I can fit in my tiny car--and SW loaned her truck to the cause and helped, as did Fitz's Person. Moving is always stressful, and this was compounded by the fact that I knew that I was going to be here in KY until probably Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. My dad had originally been going to go to Houston for work, but given the spinal tap, he's not going. I'm sticking around anyway until after the procedure at least.

In moving things Friday morning, however, I stepped wrong off the sidewalk. It didn't hurt too much until later that afternoon. But there was no swelling, so whatever, right? I got back to KY in time for family dinner for Mom's birthday, put some ice on it. Stayed off it Saturday for most of the day until the Boy came and took me out on a date. By the time the night was over, it was time for more ice. Fast forward to today, and thirty minutes after getting out of the bed, and my limp was pronounced. Still no swelling, though. Had to go find one of the crutches to get around today as Starving4Scotch and CatieStorm and I went to pick out their bridesmaid's dresses for my wedding!

That's not to say that there were not high points to my week. The aforementioned date the Boy took me out on--a trip to Old Chicago Pizza, Half Price Books and Comedy off Broadway to see Kevin Pollak. The trip to David's Bridal and the mall today (incidentally, should one find one's self with a busted up ankle and require one of the provided wheelchairs in order to get around the mall without a ridiculous amount of pain, one should not let S4S drive. No matter how much she asks). Packing Friday morning with SW and FP was also enjoyable, because things that suck can always be made better by the presence of awesome friends.

Am kind of worried about my ankle at the moment, as it seems to be getting worse rather than better. If it's not better by the time I get back down to Tennessee, I'll be making a trip over to Student Health.


Oh, hey, books! The trip to Half Price netted me 24 dollars, and I managed to buy copies of Jude the Obscure, and Oroonoko for my preliminary exam list and S.M. Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time, which had been recommended to me over at Rebel Tales (and still came away with 9 dollars). I did read Jude the Obscure this afternoon, and was pleasantly surprised. I understand why it garnered so many objections at the time, because I imagine it was quite shocking--tales of unhappy marriages, divorce, adultery, lost faith, child death, suicide, remarriage. In my world, though, we call that dealing with very real adult issues. And who in graduate school hasn't felt some of Jude's frustrations when it comes to trying to get the education you want?

I really liked it. I've liked Hardy ever since I read Tess of the D'urbervilles. Bad things happen, and Hardy was one of the first to deal with some of the hard decisions that result from these things. And the character development was so spot on with Jude and Sue. Jude became depressed and bitter; Sue lost it after the death of her children and repressed herself and everything she was afterward because she blamed everything that happened on her actions.


I also bought a book that surveys the history of astronomical discoveries, including some translations and excerpts of primary documents, especially in the early years. I left it in the other room, so I don't have the title off hand, and I'm not getting up to get it. I'm comfy, my foot is elevated. May start on that one tomorrow.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Wraiths in the Night....

Aaron Allston is writing a new Wraith Squadron book, set for 2012.

Consider this me flailing about in joy. When I sold almost all my Star Wars books to Half-Price, the only ones I kept were the new Fate of the Jedi ones (because I may need to go back and read all of them again to figure out what's happening in the new one), the ones by Tim Zahn, and the X-wing books, by Allston and Mike Stackpole. Of course, Allston's books from the NJO and Fate of the Jedi have really been the saving grace of a series that includes Troy Denning (I shake my fist at you, Denning, and your absolute lack of respect for established canon. This is the man who came up with the abhorrent idea of Jedi bug sex. I never made it through the first four chapters of the last Swarm War book because I THREW IT ACROSS THE ROOM).

ANYWAY. Allston joy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Road to Hell...

Suffice it to say my good intentions this weekend went awry. Of all the things I planned to do out of the list of things I wrote in my last entry, I baked a cake, boxed up some books, and played WoW (but my game time has run out so I'm back to actually, you know, doing productive things).

I did, however, read Through the Looking Glass, and continued to be boggled by it. Several of my friends love Lewis Carroll, but I've never been that big a fan. It's part of the reason that I don't often some postmodern works as well--I don't do well with nonsensical. That said, there are some definite gems: "The Walrus and the Carpenter," and Alice's conversation about words with Humpty Dumpty are two.

I also read a chapter or two of Bleak House. I'm about two-thirds of the way through it (which means I still have probably 300 pages to go) and have been since May. The Boy always maintains that Dickens was a hack, and I usually argue that while yes, Dickens was a hack, so am I, and besides Dickens was at least a good hack. I don't particularly enjoy Great Expectations or Hard Times, but I love A Christmas Carol (who doesn't?) and A Tale of Two Cities has some of the most brilliant lines in English literature.

Bleak House? Well, okay, dear. I admit it. Dickens is a hack, and not always a good one.

I also started rereading Jim Butcher's Storm Front this weekend, partly because The Boy has read them all more recently than I have and keeps bringing up stuff that I forget. Very much struck by the difference between the writing of Storm Front, the first Dresden book, and Changes, the twelfth and most recent. Since the Dresden Files are written in first person, the changes are all in Harry's voice--and over twelve books, he's gotten a lot wiser, a little bit darker, little wearier, and a whole lot more determined to do what it takes to protect the people he loves.

Plans for today include:
  • Finish Comp/Rhet paper. This is non-negotiable, as it's due tomorrow at noon.
  • Write paragraph for the college of graduate studies outlining my summer research. Also non-negotiable, as it's $*@&#
  • Go to library and return carrel key. Also non-negotiable, as they will blister my ass if I don't get it back.
  • Office Depot. Need printer cartridge, necessary for finishing paper, as I need to print it out to proof it.
  • Publix. I need food. Also non-negotiable, because I am sick and tired of eating pasta.
Well. That's certainly enough.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I wanna know...have you ever seen the rain?

I always think of the last episode of Stargate SG-1 when I hear that song now, oddly enough.

No, the rain is holding off for the moment, but I think everyone in the greater Nashville area is thanking God that it is on its way. The heat index was 118F yesterday, which is beyond ridiculous, and we have been in desperate need of something to cool the area down. Severe thunderstorms? Bring it on. I have no serious plans for the day that require getting out (not that I'd have been out in this heat anyway). My plans include baking a cake for a get-together at a friend's house tomorrow night, testing out grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner with some of the homemade bread I made this week, and perhaps boxing up some books for a trip to Half Price.

My plans for this weekend include using the last four days I have on my game subscription to WoW, writing up a short paragraph about what research I've done this summer towards studying for prelims (um...I read Villette?), finishing the save the date cards and addressing them for the wedding, and possibly taking a good hard look at my closet and maybe even doing something about it.

The book packing up for Half Price is always a little emotional. I've pretty much made peace with giving up most of my Sherrilyn Kenyon books (Snarky Writer, if you want to read them, speak before I head back north again or forever hold your peace), but I'm still debating giving up my Stephanie Laurens books, as I really, really love the Cynster novels and yes, perhaps, I do read them over again every once in a while.

I do always hate giving up books or selling them back. One good thing about selling them to Half Price (other than the money, which is sometimes not much) is that I know they will go on to good homes, either by being resold or by being donated to non-profit organizations, or if they aren't in a condition for either of those destinations, are recycled. Still, sometimes it feels as if I'm giving up a favorite pet or something. I still have all of my Nancy Drews and most of my Anne of Green Gables books--they simply aren't something I can give up. After all, it was only recently that I was able to finally part with (most of) my Star Wars books, which were a great source of entertainment (and in some cases, comfort) during my teenage years.

(I feel like I should point out that at this point in my blog posting, which admittedly has been punctuated by lunch, lolcats and facebook, the sky has grown quite dark and is hence promising impending doom. Still, the heat index has gone down in the last twenty minutes from 105F to 88F, so not too bad.)

Anyway, back to books, which is what this blog is really about anyway (or supposed to be). I finally finished Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison, and might have wanted to tear up in sections, but I'm glad to see that Rachel is finally starting to get herself OUT of some of the trouble she's in. She's by no means in the clear, but she's better off than she was. (Oh, hey, rain!)

I also read River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters. It's the newest book in her Amelia Peabody series, but it's set between The Ape Who Guards the Balance and The Falcon at the Portal, but has very little interaction between Ramses and Nefret, which made me sad, but the majority of that tale has already been told in other books--very well, I might add. I really want to go check out the books that involve Ramses and Nefret as principal characters in their own right again, because I really did enjoy them. But I also enjoy Peters' knowledge. She is an Egyptologist herself (a profession I did aspire to one summer), and her expertise shows. I also think that I may have to check out the Vicky Bliss series, which is somehow connected to this one, though I'm not sure how. In fact, I'll add it to the wish list (which gets ever longer).

Speaking of wish lists, Amazon's newest generation of Kindle is on mine now, specifically the cheaper $139 version, which comes without 3G. I don't particularly see the point of having 3G, unless you wanted to look something up, but since it comes with WiFi, all you have to do is find a Starbucks or McDonalds and use their connection. Technology continues to amaze me.

The storm begins in earnest. Perhaps I'll take this opportunity to sit back with a glass of iced tea and read. Hmm...what shall I pull off the bookshelf next?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Squirt Getting Married

I ran out to Walgreen's after bobby pins earlier today, and while I was there, it occurred to me that I probably needed to pick up a card for my brother's wedding tomorrow. Standing in line in the Walgreens, I looked down at the card. Despite the wedding plans that have been going on for months, the trips to get my bridesmaid's dress, even pulling things out of the closet for the reception tomorrow, it didn't hit me until I looked down at that card.

My little brother is getting married.

Oh, it's kind of hit me previously, but mostly in a "What the hell?" kind of way. No, today it really hit me solidly and seriously. My little brother is getting married. Tomorrow. Tears might have threatened. Note to self: waterproof mascara.

I still want to make a snarky "what the hell?" kind of statement, but I won't. But working out what to say seriously is a whole lot harder.

Squirt, you've been a pain in my ass for twenty years. But you're my pain in the ass, and while there might be some experiences I would have traded in, I think I'd hold on to most of them. You still piss me off and irritate the hell out of me, but I do the same to you, and I don't imagine that's going to change any.

And after all, I don't really know what I would do without that particularly unique pain in my ass. But I've gotten snarky (big surprise).

Congratulations, little brother. I wish you all the happiness in the world (and then some).

Your sis

Sunday, July 25, 2010

EReaders, critical pedagogy and no fun.

Here's an interesting article on the various e-readers available on the market--interestingly, the IPad has apps to read books from both the Kindle and the Nook stores. Also, for those interested in trying them out first, Target is going to start selling the Kindle in stores.

I've spent most of the last week not reading anything terrible interesting, mostly focusing on critical pedagogy research. I read the aforementioned Stanley Fish's Save the World on Your Own Time, read Kompel's Critical Pedagogy: An Introduction, most of Pat Bizzell's Academic Discourse and Critical Consciousness, and of course, the book that started it all, Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Still not convinced that this is a good method. It presupposes that Marxist/leftist ideology is correct without investigating the dominant discourses behind it (oddly enough), it was meant for liberating the oppressed in Third World countries, and is often abused in practice (I speak from experience as one of the abused). It also seems strange to me to be using it in the American classroom, where to some extent, oppression really isn't an issue. I'm not saying that dominant discourses aren't being reproduced, etc. I'm saying that the very fact that our students live in the United States--and the fact that somehow or another, they are attending an institution of higher learning--

Well, I don't know what I'm saying. I'm still trying to work all this out in a way that's not going to sound like a right-wing diatribe, because that's not what I'm going for. Despite the fact that my fiance claims I'm a closet conservative, I think I'm closer to being a moderate. But I don't like the assumption that seems to be pervading a lot of this that conservatives are wholly reactionary and are committed to a dominant discourse that disenfranchises others. I don't think that's the goal of conservatives at all. And of course, anything I come up with is going to be drastically oversimplifying the situation. All this is simply my take on it, and I'm not even real sure of that.

So, like I said, no fun. Also, I'm now wondering, how long can pizza stay in the fridge? cause I just took a bite of mine and it's kinda nasty. *frowns*

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I don't like this at ALL.

I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

My guess is that my overuse of the dash has been responsible for this travesty, but out of four different texts pasted in, I got James Joyce for three of them. I got Dan Brown for the first one, so I'll be happy with Joyce, I guess. Still, I maintain that of all the people I know who have claimed to have read Ulysses, I believe only one of them.

In other news, I'm finished with Yeats! That does not mean all the work is over; on my agenda for today is a 15-page journal review of College English which examines the trends in composition and rhetoric research.

But since Yeats is over, I've had time to read not school-related books, starting with, of course, Kim Harrison's White Witch, Black Curse. Read: Rachel Morgan getting herself into yet more trouble. Apparently, witches do like the Amish and shun members considered deviant. This is going to put Rachel into a world of hurt, and I'm looking forward to Black Magic Sanction and how she deals with the long-term consequences of all of that. Also, I was kinda disappointed in Marshal for running scared when she did get shunned, but I suppose that, to a certain extent, Harrison is putting forth a very realistic portrait of the modern woman's search for love. Con men who keep turning up like a bad penny, seemingly upright guys with no spine, backstabbing ghosts, faithful vampires... Seriously, though, I think a lot of women will recognize the underlying issues with some of these men and why they couldn't work out. And some of them will likewise recognize some of the good things--Kisten may have been a screwed up vampire, but he loved Rachel unconditionally (after all, he went up against Cincinatti's vampire leadership for her).

Besides that, I also treated myself to The Brazen Bride. It's marketed as a romance novel, fits the category. I've read almost all of Stephanie Lauren's books. They're well written, decently researched (she writes Regency romances) and always feature some really interesting characters that you remember when you've put the book down.

I feel that I should point out, in my own defense, that my next statement is made because I am trained as a literary critic to notice things. I notice patterns, things people like to do the same, etc. Stephanie Laurens generally likes to include three sex scenes in her romance novels. They usually take place in the latter half of the novel, and they follow a very particular pattern.

In some aspects, the title of her newest novel is entirely appropriate. Brazen is the word for it, because as I read, my first thought was...Wow, this is a lot of sex. So, to confirm, I went back and looked at one of her other novels. Yup, three scenes. Went back and looked through The Brazen Bride. Eight. Almost all of which were in the first 150 pages.

O.o? What? Seriously? Eight? I got halfway through the book and started wondering if there was a plot anywhere. There was, but the plot that has been driving this quartet of books was almost non-existent, and the hero losing his memory seemed contrived, as if she was trying to avoid having to deal with those chasing after him from India to England.

It was well written, don't get me wrong, but I prefer my romance novels to, you know, actually have a plot, and I was enjoying the plot of this quartet. And I am very much looking forward to reading the final book of the set, The Reckless Bride, when it comes out in November.

I've also added Holly Lisle's Talyn to the reading list, thanks to my favorite Snarky Writer, who loaned it to me. I've got Black Magic Sanction checked out from the library, and I have plenty to read in any case. I need to get back to Through the Looking Glass as well, so I can knock that off my reading list.

But schoolwork (that's due tomorrow) comes first. Here's hoping the cats don't go completely insane while I'm trying to do this. They've already made my morning interesting.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I'm sorry, what was that? You heard frustrated screaming from this general direction?

I imagine that happened quite often to those who read Kim Harrison's For a Few Demons More. I hate it when people kill off characters I've become attached to.

Still, I can appreciate why she did it. It's a bit like when Chewbacca and Anakin Solo were killed in the New Jedi Order. It's to underscore just what a big bad the Yuuzhan Vong were. Did that help any? Hell no. We were all still pissed as all get out--R.A. Salvatore may be one of the most hated men to ever write Star Wars (though he's running a close race with Troy Denning, and it's not because Denning killed Anakin--it's because Denning's a hack).

I will say this: when it comes to painting characters into a corner, Kim Harrison does it better than anyone, including Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden may get himself in all kinds of trouble, but he can usually get out of it (the end of Changes not withstanding here, as I have no idea how he's going to get himself out of that particular corner without ruining the paint job). But Harry usually gets into trouble and then gets out of it for a little while, enjoying brief periods of peace. There's never quite the sense that Harry is actually responsible for most of his own scrapes--they just kind of happen.

Rachel Morgan, on the other hand, just keeps getting in deeper and deeper and deeper, and demons are far more dangerous than the Sidhe of the Dresden Files. I also finished up The Outlaw Demon Wails this afternoon, and it does present an interesting question about how far one will go to save their own lives--versus how far one will go to save the life of someone they love, as Harry Dresden often does.

Still, parts of it are frustrating. I, like the Snarky Writer who started me on this series, am ready for the whole Rachel/Ivy tension thing to resolve itself. It's no wonder they managed to find each other--despite the whole set up that put them together which I still don't think has been satisfactorily explained yet--because there was never a more screwed up pair of friends. And Rachel's relationships with men? Well, needless to say, Rachel is one of those Type A adrenaline junkies and it shows in literally everything she does.

I have plenty to read for the upcoming week, foremost being the last year's worth of issues from College English (booooring). Thursday is the end of Yeats, which means I can indulge in The Brazen Bride, which is currently sitting here mocking me. I need to be trying to finish Through the Looking Glass and what Alice Found There for my reading list. SW is bringing me a book by Holly Lisle, and perhaps if I ask nicely, White Witch, Black Curse--I'll be snagging Black Magic Sanction when I return my Yeats books to the library tomorrow morning. If Honest Abe was right when he said that "my best friend is one who will give me a book I have not read," then SW is definitely in the running for the top of that particular list.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Long Weekend

Since my Yeats paper was turned in last week, and this weekend was a long weekend as well as my birthday weekend, I trekked back up to Kentucky for the first time in almost two months. Needless to say, I've had a good weekend, which began Thursday night when I was welcomed home by my parents, my dog and a cold diet Ale-8. My parents immediately gave me my birthday gift--a little stool in the shape of a cat! I went searching online for a picture of it, but I couldn't find one, so it will have to wait until I can borrow a camera.

On Friday, The Boy came in. He brought me a lovely new robe that is so very comfortable (I had been completely jealous of his) and a wonderful card from his mom and dad (it had bulldog puppies on the front!). My dad made dinner for all of us kids. It was nice to have almost all of our crew in our house--Oldest Brother came in, Middle Brother came in, but had to leave his fiance at home, as she was sick, and Youngest Brother also invited his girlfriend. We had a houseful, and it was wonderful. So much laughter. Afterwards, The Boy and I went out and met up with his brother and sister-in-law and some friends.

I slept late Saturday morning, then the Boy and I went to the quilt store to look for some fabric for his mama, then over to Gran and Bud's for lunch. Then the Boy went to visit his brother, and Youngest Brother and I went bowling (he's a freak of nature, by the way), watched fireworks in the backyard and played video games.

Oldest Brother came back over Sunday morning for breakfast, and Dad made French toast and sausage balls, which were both very, very tasty. Then the Boy and I ran to Lexington, stopped by to see CatieStorm, and made our way to Half-Price Books. I came away with the next two Kim Harrison books--A Few Demons More and The Outlaw Demon Wails--the latter being in hardcover and on clearance for two dollars. Also bought Richard Ellmann's Yeats: The Man and the Masks, because despite being as sick of Yeats as I am, I could see doing work on it later, and it's a definitive biography.

Then the Boy and I went and met with the cake decorator--we are going to have the most beautiful wedding cake ever. Then Dad made dinner (there was red velvet cake involved), we watched the John Wayne marathon on AMC and sat out on the porch and watched fireworks and enjoyed each other's company.

This morning, we both had to skedaddle, after Dad fixed another massive and delicious breakfast (I have eaten a ridiculous amount this weekend). I stopped by Walmart and stocked up on diet Ale-8 with the gift card my brothers had bought me. I also went ahead and snagged The Brazen Bride with it while I was there, with the proviso that I will not let myself read it until Thursday afternoon after Yeats is over for the semester.

I should be doing homework right now, but I stopped midway through my reading in order to eat dinner. I'm a little down right now--the end of my birthday, and I'm sitting in my apartment doing homework and missing the Boy terribly. I'm twenty-five now--officially, it's after 9:01 EDT--and this is the last (good) age milestone, since my car insurance has gone down! The next one is thirty. I don't know that I'm exactly where I thought I'd be at twenty-five, if I ever gave it that much thought. But I can't be unhappy with it. A little lonely, perhaps, but that won't last. This time next year, the Boy and I will be married, and I will have a hug just waiting for me. In the meantime, I will satisfy myself with my bad cats and my homework, which I better get back to. Yeats waits for no woman.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This week's books

So, despite the fact that I've been snowed under by work for my Yeats class, I've spent a fair amount of time reading for myself and a little time reading for my preliminary exams, all of which has been productive. Incidentally, I've also written a twenty-page paper for Yeats, and while I should be doing homework right now, I'm choosing to write this instead. Perhaps I will work on Yeats later this evening. I do need to get some work on it done, as I've a quiz due tomorrow and the final paper is due Thursday, but I only have some minor revisions that need completed for the paper. Still, I want to be able to spend time with the Snarky Writer and Fitz's Person tomorrow for FP's birthday tomorrow.

But anyway, back to my procrasti-blogging. SW, as previously mentioned, has started me on Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan books, and in the last week, I've devoured The Good, the Bad, and the Undead and this evening I've raced right through Every Which Way but Dead. Both were amazing--the protagonist has a singular ability to get herself into trouble that I've perhaps only seen happen to characters like Stephanie Plum and Harry Dresden. Also, hello, Kisten? I've got an image of him being David Boreanaz--hey, if I'm going for good-looking vampires, why not?

I also indulged myself in a nice long soak in the tub this week with Julie Garwood's latest, Sizzle, which was so-so. The plot wasn't quite there, but the first line of the second chapter made up for it: "Grandmother was stealing holy water again." For those unfamiliar with Julie Garwood, this has nothing to do with Gramma trying to ward off vampires, as a grandma in Kim Harrison's books might, and everything with thinking that blessed waters would help her flowers grow. There was also a strange bit with the hero being a dual citizen of the U.S. and Scotland. I'm sorry, but I would imagine that having an FBI agent with a Scottish brogue might result in some operational security issues, in that he would be really, really noticeable.

Last night, I also finished Charlotte Bronte's Villette, which I've been working on a bit at a time over the last several weeks, and was fairly unsatisfied with the ending, as I had thought I might be. Still, I have to agree with the critical interpretation--it's a much better book than Jane Eyre. Part of that is Bronte's characterization of women--she's less concerned with creating the Gothic imagery that's so evident in Jane Eyre and focusing more on the character itself. And it is a powerful lesson in what can happen when you're too scared to make opportunities for yourself. I couldn't help but feel bad for poor Lucy Snowe--she got so close to happiness, first with Dr. John, and then with M. Paul, but neither really panned out. She still leads a productive life, though, and seems to be happy with that, so I suppose there's a lesson in there about lives well lived or something.

In other news, I just realized that Catherine Coulter has a new FBI thriller out, Whiplash, which I would be very excited about it Knock Out hadn't been sitting on my bookshelf in hardcover since it came out. I've also got A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book on the shelf, Christine Golden's Star Wars: Allies is now out, and of course, how can one forget that Stephanie Plum is returning in Sizzlin' Sixteen? Lula and Grandma Mazur are entering a barbeque contest. This does not bode well for anyone involved.

So, I'm going to add a sidebar to this blog with the books I want to read, because there tend to be so many at one time that I will forget I want to read them.

I also need to add to the reading list another book from my prelim list. I'm inclined to put Fanny Hill on the list, just for the hell of it (hey, it's on the reading list, I kid you not) but I don't have a copy of it at the moment. Still, I'm going home this weekend, and I saw it the last time I was at the half-price bookstore. No, I need to focus on a book that I already actually own. At the moment, this means I can finish reading Bleak House (I'm about three-quarters of the way through it, which means I've got about three hundred pages yet to go), can read Gulliver's Travels, or I can attempt to find my copies of Persuasion and Mansfield Park, which, to be honest, are probably what I'm going to end up going with, since Austen tends to be somewhat easier to read and I rather despise Jonathan Swift.

In any case, that is the update from the bookshelf. When you hear it groan, you'll know I've started in more on the 18th century list.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A two-part update

I moved to Murfreesboro not quite a year ago, and thought it was a pretty welcoming community. That was until the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro wanted to expand and all of a sudden, hatemongers started coming out of the woodwork. (In case you watch Diane Sawyer, this was the center covered by ABC World News last week.) I had a lot of thoughts about this, starting with a puzzlement over some of the protesters and their misunderstanding of Islam, Christianity, the First Amendment and zoning processes. I even had a full argument laid out about just how wrong they were.

But the more I got to thinking about it, I had to wonder if it would do any good. Those that agree with me agree with me, and those that don't aren't going to change their minds because of my well-thought-out and incredibly snarky rebuttal. So I won't offer my opinions on the issue. Instead, I'll offer the following:

This whole situation brought up something that we've been talking about in composition class. In the past, composition teachers were kind of the unnamed moral police of the university, teaching our students the way they should go. Part of our duty as composition teachers is not to simply teach composition, but to also teach critical thinking skills.

This brings me back to the whole idea of students having a right to their own language (as established by CCCC in 1974). If they have a right to their own language, then they also have rights to their own beliefs, as backwards and intolerant as I think they may be. I also know that it's impossible for me to keep my own political and religious biases out of the classroom, though I try as much as I am able. And I have dealt with hate speech in the classroom before (not particularly well that first time) and I've taught selections from the Qu'ran, as well as from Genesis, Matthew, the Dalai Lama and the Bhagavad gita.

I've seen students with certain viewpoints about Islam or Mormons or Catholics or Buddhists or Christians and done my best to help them apply their critical thinking skills to the situation. Some of them followed what I was trying to say and started thinking about it. To be honest, I don't know that there was a student I was more proud of than one who did apply critical thinking skills to it and then presented me with a well-thought-out argument for why he believed what he did. I didn't agree, but I could respect his conclusions.

But my question is not if I have a duty to introduce my students to these different viewpoints, because I firmly believe I do. It is whether or not I have a right to push them towards changing their own views. Or am I? If I can respect the student above, am I pushing them? I don't know.

The adventures of teaching in a multi-cultural society.


Back to what this blog is really supposed to be about: books! I've read a lot of Yeats research over the last week, and finally finished my annotated bibliography (I think). I read a very interesting book by Virginia Moore called The Unicorn which gave an overview of Yeats' occult beliefs and how they intersected with the Christianity of the day.

Also, my favorite Snarky Writer loaned me Kim Harrison's Dead Witch Walking, which was a very entertaining read. I had to laugh that the Hollows (the supernatural portion of Cincinnati in the novel) was across the river in Kentucky. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Covington, the Midwest's supernatural crossroads. I got far too much joy out of that. I also got a lot of joy out of the protagonist transmuting herself into a mink. That squeaked at her pixy friend. Definitely looking forward to the next one, but it may have to wait as my Yeats paper is due next week. Time to put in some quality Word time.

I'm also halfway through Charlotte Bronte's Villette, which is much more enjoyable than I thought it was going to be. Despite the fact that I know, I know, that there's not going to be a happy ending (have you ever met a Victorian lit novel that did?), I keep hoping that Lucy Snowe is going to stop fearing heartbreak and let herself be swept away by her handsome doctor. Not going to happen, but a girl can dream. If it wasn't on my prelim reading list, I'd stop there and let myself pretend she lived happily ever after.


Okay, so this is a three-part update, despite the post title. Leave me alone.

My dad is awesome. Seriously, he rocks. He works awfully hard to keep our family above water, and I don't mean just financially. I mean that he works on keeping us together--on keeping us a family, rather than a group of people who sometimes share the same space. He's taken care of a lot more than any man should ever have to, and he's done it with grace and courage.

I know he doesn't read this, but I'll say it anyway.

Happy Father's Day to the best dad in the world. I love you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

All kinds of Fae

So, despite the fact that I have been inundated with Yeats homework and focusing mainly on the 50 entry annotated bibliography I have due in little over a week, I took a break from focusing on poetry, symbolism, Rosacrucians, hermetic orders and other seemingly endless references this afternoon and read Charlaine Harris' Dead and Gone.

Still some faeries there, but whatever. I wasn't looking for a complete un-faery-related read, just something non-academic but not quite as fluffy as the stack of romance novels. Not that there wasn't plenty of romance in Dead and Gone (thank goodness!). I think I may have to watch True Blood for no other reason than to have Alexander Skarsgaard firmly in my brain when reading the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, but I have to admit that I've been on Team Eric since the beginning, as I find Bill kind of skeevy.

Not that Eric's that much better, mind you, but I do also keep wondering in the back of my mind when Sookie's going to realize that the vampires aren't going to do it for her and get together with Sam. But that's beside the point. I was very pleased with the developments of this particular novel (Team Eric woo!).

Yes, I realize that there has been a new novel released since then: Dead in the Family. But I showed remarkable restraint in not buying Dead and Gone in hardcover--and in fact borrowing the paperback from my favorite Snarky Writer instead--and now we are both waiting for Dead in the Family to come out in paperback or to at least show up at the library. It's not that Charlaine Harris isn't worth putting the money out for--I just don't have it.

And to be honest, there are a couple of novels that are ahead on the list, money-wise, the first being Christine Golden's Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Allies (it's something when a book title requires three colons to get through). I do have a friend who has read it already and was pleased with Golden's addition to the Star Wars author roll (I enjoyed her first in the series as well, Omen, much more than anything Troy Denning has ever written, though Aaron Allston remains the best writer in the trilogy, hands down).

I've also got Star Wars: Crosscurrent on the to-read list, but I do actually have a copy of that, as it came out in paperback. I'm also waiting for Mary Balogh's newest, A Secret Affair to come out in paperback, which I imagine will be sooner rather than later, since it is a romance novel (but a much higher quality than the romance novels I have been reading--yes, I've been reading Harlequins. Leave me alone. Or go take it up with the gals at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.) Also waiting on Stephanie Laurens' newest (in paperback) to come out at the end of the month: The Brazen Bride. It will be my "Yeats is over, hallelujah!" treat to myself, I believe.

Also still on the list? Charlotte Bronte's Vilette, which SW gave me a copy of, but which I haven't gotten to. I need to get a few more of the preliminary exam books on the to-read list, as I now have to provide an accounting of my summer "research project" to the graduate school, and I don't suppose "I read. A lot." is going to suffice for that particular report. (It should.) Certainly, "I had classes in Yeats and Comp/Rhet, went to my brother's wedding and played World of Warcraft" is not going to suffice, no matter how true it might be of my summer activities....

But for now, I will take Virginia Moore's The Unicorn: W.B. Yeats' Search for Reality to bed with me, along with my notes and hope I don't dream of faeries. You never know when they might take off with you.

Monday, June 7, 2010

St. Augustine, Part 2

So, where was it that I left off? Saturday morning, I believe. I don't really have much in the way of nerves presenting anymore, but the stress that it had been had certainly laid off a bit. Snarky Writer, however, was presenting Saturday morning and was continuing to stress out over her first presentation (and chairing her session). I helped her do her makeup, and Poe Girl did eventually roll out of bed after an incident with a malfunctioning alarm clock (damn time changes).

SW did present her paper without hyperventilating or having to club other panelists over the head for going too long (it might have been close on the last part), and she did an excellent job, just as PG and I told her she would. We discussed going to the fort and to the beach, but the plans to return to the beach were nixed with a look at the radar. So we ran out to Winn-Dixie and got ourselves some lunch time food (and ice cream) and returned to our room and ate before heading back out towards the shops and downtown St. Augustine, kind of wandering in and out of stores.

Then one of the thunderstorms hit with a vengeance, scaring the living daylights out of people and pouring the rain. We hung out in one of the indoor shop corridors until it mostly ended, then went for our last hurrah at Scarlett O'Hara's, celebrating what had been a very successful trip with alcohol and sweet stuff.

After that, we were ready for naps. Mine was interrupted halfway through by a call from my dad with an update from home that was not particularly uplifting. In any case, that evening, they screened Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog and "Out of Gas" from Firefly, and there's nothing quite like sitting in an entire roomful of people singing the "Ballad of Serenity."

We sat around and talked and learned what a small world academia really is--people who know people who know people! Then we returned for one last night's semi-sleep on uncomfortable beds, happy, exhausted and ready to go home to our animals and our own beds. (Hold on to that thought for a minute.)

After a small snafu trying to get checked out of the dorms Sunday morning, we finally packed up and headed out. Fortunately, SW had checked Google Maps again, and we discovered to our chagrin, that we could take I-75 almost all the way from Jacksonville to Chattanooga, avoiding what we had not so politely termed Podunk, Georgia. I should note, SW did not hear banjos until we stopped in East Tennessee for gas.

PG was kind enough to drive most of our way through Georgia, as by the time we stopped to fill up, I was having trouble staying awake, and she had napped some in the car. There was also plenty of swearing at traffic and weather on the trip northward, as well as the obligatory road trip parts: getting stuck in traffic, having a skeevy guy perv on you (or he was getting ready to go through a serious road rage issue, neither of which was comforting), and a stop at Cracker Barrel.

We did arrive home, and I was terribly happy to come back to my apartment. That would be until I got in the door and discovered a broken lamp, a farked up monitor and a full-blown flea infestation. Since then, I have washed all of my bed linens, banned my cats from the bedroom, treated them with new vet prescribed flea medication, combed them out, and bought a flea fogger which I will use in the morning before I go to class. Still, as SW was unfortunate enough to be in her truck this morning when her brakes failed, I will (mostly) cease my complaining and instead give thanks that SW made it to school safely.

And on that note, I am going to go let the freshly treated Cat out of the bathroom in here to play with Bergie, and go to bed.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

St. Augustine, Part 1

Thursday morning, my favorite Snarky Writer, myself and Poe Girl loaded up my car with the necessities and began the journey towards St. Augustine and the 4th Biennial Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses. The trip took us about eleven hours, all told, and we only got lost once, which right there was enough to officially declare it a road trip. (By the way, Google Maps sucks terribly.) Lots of laughing, lots of music, lots of swearing at idiotic drivers. SW navigated (and no, it was not her fault we got lost) and PG sat in the back seat and dispensed snacks and drinks and "That's what she said" jokes.

We did arrive, got checked in with little difficulty and made our way up to the reception, where we met up with Dr. Buffy (yes, I am being facetious with his name). As PG put it, there's not much better than drinking free alcohol--in Florida--for work. SW took part in the Not Ready for Prime Time Whedon Conversationalists--Dr. Buffy does a rather interesting and comical impression of Joss Whedon, complete with evil laughter.

We are staying in the dorm here at Flagler College, which is a beautiful campus in the historic district of St. Augustine. Palm trees, Spanish moss, and the combination of Spanish/Moorish architecture all combine, especially at night in the lamplight to create what looks like set pieces from Pirates of the Caribbean. It's also a private college, about 2500 students, and--well, the nicest dorm room I ever spent time in at Eastern was less than half the size of these and much more dilapidated.

After supper Thursday night, we went out to find dinner, which was very tasty, tasty pizza. Then we hit up a bar called Scarlett O'Hara's, which attracted quite a number of Slayage conferencers that evening, and walked back to the dorm in the dark and the almost quiet.

Friday morning, we got up and got breakfast before heading to the keynote speech, which was absolutely fantastic. I wish that I had more background in music, because I might then be able to explain what she talked about better, but it was about musical themes in Buffy and how they build upon one another to create emotion. Very interesting.

After the keynote speech, we had time to spare, and being in St. Augustine and close to a beach...we went to the beach at Anastasia State Park. Swimsuits and towels in hand, we made our way through soft, white sand to the ocean. We frolicked in the waves--which was fantastic--before settling down on the sand. PG swam a bit longer before joining SW and I on the beach--SW read, and I, in a fit of regression, built a sand castle, which I completed just as it began to rain.

Packing back up, we came back to the dorm, by which time it had, of course, finished raining, so after a brief dip in the shower, we went in search of lunch and through some of the shops that had been closed when we were wandering last night. It was much busier, being Friday, and I expect that it will be even busier tonight as the tourists get in for the weekend. We returned to the dorm for a nap--because we were exhausted--and then I gave my presentation, which was considerably less academic than the other two papers on the panel, but went well nonetheless.

A trip to Target (which required a scenic route - read: we got lost again) was then in order, as PG needed a pillow, SW needed some makeup, and I needed some soap that wasn't Bath and Body Works Enchanted Orchid, which while smelling really good, is making me itch like crazy. We also picked up (cheap) dinner, and came back to the room, ate, talked, laughed and finally went to bed--fairly early--because again, we were exhausted.

Which leads us to today! We missed the keynote speech this morning, unfortunately, but exhaustion, the inability to get out of the bed and on PG's part, a malfunctioning alarm clock caused us to hang around here a bit longer. I gave SW a makeover (though she really didn't need makeup for her presentation, she's beautiful the way she is) and now we are waiting to go to her presentation. After that, I'm not sure what our plans are, though I do believe another trip to the shops is in order, and we may go visit the fort. The beach may even be calling us once again, but it depends entirely on the cooperation of the weather. Tomorrow, we will not be leaving as early as we might have liked, but we will head back to Murfreesboro, exhausted and happy--and then we start school Monday.

Personally, I vote that all conferences be in Florida.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rain and other random thoughts

I had been irritated this morning to find that we were expecting (yet more) rain in Middle Tennessee today. Yesterday was hot and sticky, over ninety degrees, and I'd been looking forward to my apartment complex opening their pool today.

Today, the weather is cool, and the sky is a pearly grey, and the rain is falling. It's not a heavy rain--the kind of gentle rain that you must think plants look forward to, the kind that you could go out and dance in.

I have...not been reading. I did get (most) of my schoolbooks for summer in the mail yesterday, which was nice, but I haven't opened them yet. Instead, I moved some furniture around into what I hope is going to be a more work and writing friendly setup (it involved putting the computer in such a spot that I have my back to the television). Then I spent some time last night competing with a friend on Write or Die (she won with 597 words in ten minutes to my ~460). Still, I put 900 words down last night, which is not too shabby, and I have a few more scenes sketched out in my head to hopefully keep suspense going a little better.

My plans for the afternoon involve eating lunch, watching Firefly, and sewing. It's only May and the Christmas presents are far from done (this would be last Christmas), but my friends are fortunately not only very cognizant of the semester I had, but also my ability to procrastinate and don't mind. I would ideally like to be able to finish the binding on one quilt today--hand stitching it, and then to machine stitch the binding on the other one tomorrow. Then if that gives me time to actually quilt on one I'm making today, that suits me just fine.

I'd also like to do some more laundry and dishes, neatening up the house before I leave for St. Augustine on Thursday. I always remember cleaning house being an important part of pre-vacation plans--that way you came back, happy and exhausted, to a clean house.

In other good news, my impatiens survived a week with me gone and being thirsty and are bouncing back quite nicely.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


We went to an auction today in Richmond, and I'm not sure I've ever really seen quite such a dichotomy--perhaps quite so many dichotomies--in action at one time.

This particular auction was an estate sale for a woman named Anna Marcum. She was elderly, of course, and from some of the items in the sale, one could tell she'd been in poor health (they sold a hospital bed for about $12.50, I think). The first thing I thought going into the auction was how very sad it was, seeing all of this poor woman's life laid out for public consumption.

Perhaps I shouldn't say that she was a poor woman. My great-grandmother wanted everything of hers to be sold an estate sale, and most of it was. But I still couldn't feel quite right sitting there and watching everything be sold to whomever came in.

A good number of the potential buyers were junk dealers, and there was quite a bit of junk, probably accumulated from the garage. There was also quite a bit of very nice furniture, most of it cherry, a collection of amber Depression glass, and some beautifully handmade quilts.

The woman herself was dead, but there was a flurry of activity around. The auctioneer's voice seemed to never stop, going on and on and on, amplified by the speaker system, and his assistants yelled out to alert him to each bid. People milled about, young and old. One child, still unsteadily walking, toddled around, taking in the noise and the sights.

Part of what struck me was also the dichotomy between rich and poor. This woman had lived during the Depression; that was obvious. Part of this was from the Depression glass; her quilts also showed their age. Though they'd been well taken care of, they were made of the printed fabric that came in feed sacks, and then had been painstakingly hand stitched--stitches so close together than the fabric was puckering in places the way that those old quilts did. Of all the things that I saw there, the only one that I would have bid on was a double wedding ring quilt, but it very quickly rose to $225, which was well out of my price range.

Despite this display of Anna's own economical ways, I could also see that by the end of her life, she was comfortably well off. Some of her furniture was dated; it resembled the furniture that belonged to my father's mother that my great-grandmother kept until she died, veneered stuff that had a curved upper edge to it. Most of her furniture, however, was good quality cherry, the kind that had been bought and made to last and be passed down and used by generations to come. Her sofa and chairs were upholstered in a fabric print that went out of style in the early 80's, but you never would have known that it had ever seen anything more than slight use--my guess is that it was her good living room furniture, the kind that never got used except for company.

There was also a collection of sports memorabilia, UK basketball related. There were two or three scrapbooks, filled to the brim with pages and pages of painstakingly clipped articles about UK basketball stars from the 1940's. I don't know if these were scrapbooks kept by Anna or her late husband, but whoever it was would have been voting for Richie Farmer in the gubernatorial election (if he runs), simply on UK nostalgia alone. The handwritten scores didn't look written in a particularly feminine hand. Still, they were important enough for Anna--who didn't seem to be particularly pack-rattish--to keep for sixty years.

In the midst of this, my fiance came to see me for a brief moment before he had to run off to other things. He picked me up and took me to lunch, and we sat in the Richmond Mall parking lot, sitting on the tailgate of the truck and ate.

It was strange to see all of these things put out, laid out on tables. My mother came away with two small drop-leaf cherry end tables and one of the quilts. It's a quilt I'm not sure I'm going to ever want to use, though. I have no doubt that it was stitched together with as much love as any of the quilts my great-grandmother made, probably pieced on the treadle Singer sewing machine that was in the auction (much like the one we have from my great-grandmother's house). But that love was not for me, and I don't begrudge it, because there is plenty of love in the ones we have.

I have other thoughts, but they are probably best unwritten right now. They are too close and too personal to display for the public, much like some of my things. Though I realize that my belongings are just things, I do not know that I could handle them going elsewhere--though most of those are things that belonged to my old people. Mamaw Retta's hope chest, Mamaw Ree's dresser and the glass dish that holds the marbles from our house, the books that belonged to my dad's mother that I got from Mamaw Fannie's house. I have two small figurines from my Mamaw Puzzle, and I have the cup and spoon that my Papaw Doug would take his coffee in. Mom let me take two framed prints that Mamaw Ree had given her. I suppose the one quilt I have finished, or some of the paintings I have created, or the Willow Tree figurines my parents and fiance have given me are the few items I would not want someone else--outside of my family and friends--to own, the few items I truly care about that are solely mine, have only ever been mine. (And my guitar.)

Perhaps Anna had it right. Perhaps she saw clearly what I cannot--a transient life and things that are not as important as memories.


On one final note, my word count is up to over 11k. Despite the reflective mood I've been in, I've been getting a lot done.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nostalgia bites.

And as one of my students so eloquently stated on Facebook earlier today--so do bugs.

The last couple of days have bothered me a bit. Part of it is related to some writing I've been doing, which is only tangentially related. In creating a memory for a character, I pulled out a memory of my own:

Summer evening, the air just barely cool as the sun goes down. My brothers are about seven and three respectively. My father is out on the porch, standing over a grill--probably charcoal, which brings its own distinctive smell. Mom is inside, finishing up corn on the cob. The window in the family room is open, letting the cool air and the sounds of the crickets and the cicadas into the house. Outside, I can hear a dog bark, Mittens, our adorable mutt who loved Steven to distraction. The house smells like cake and icing from the birthday cake Mom decorated earlier in the day. She shooed Steven and I outside to play, but I took a glass of ice water and a book and sat up in the fort and read while Steven ran around the back yard.

If it's close to the Fourth of July, we sit on the front porch instead of the back porch. Dad pops some popcorn in the big pot on top of the stove and and dumps it in the top of the big cake keeper, which serves as a family style bowl for us. Mom pours on the season salt, and the boys and I chase lightning bugs around the front yard while Mom and Dad sit on the porch and rock. The same cool air gives us a shiver as we watch the fireworks, and I am filled with excitement, not just because of the holiday, but because the next day is my birthday, and Mom says, "do you know what I was doing ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen--twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four years ago right now?"

Somewhere, somehow, I feel the cool air and hear the Reds on the radio. I think it is perhaps because my father's old truck had no air conditioning, and he rode around with the windows down and the game on, and I would go with him. Still, somewhere in the background of the crickets and cicadas, I hear the crackle of AM radio and the laughing voices of Marty Brennamen and Joe Nuxhall, and I hear my mother tease my father about the fact that if Dave Concepcion hadn't hit a home run, he would have missed my birth entirely.

These are the days when Steven's best friends are the hordes of imaginary Tiny Guys, when Sam's main mode of locomotion is a stick horse. These are the days when I ride my bike over into Stonybrook to spend time with Paige and Katy, and we make cards on the front porch, and enjoy our American Girl club in the bonus room over their garage. My father works in Winchester and comes home for lunch every day, we visit my Mamaw Fannie after church on Sunday (my father loses his tie the moment we get in the car), our house smells like cake all the time, and I can sit at the bar and watch my mother turn globs of icing into roses. My curfew is not ten or eleven or midnight or whenever I decide to get home, but I must be home by dusk so I am not riding my bike home in the dark.

These are the days before depression and medication and lupus.

Still, the days are not bad. Steven and I drive to Eastern every day--I am eighteen and he is fourteen and we are both sophomores in college. I make the twenty minute drive listening to my own music, while he sits in the passenger seat with his headphones in. Eastern is a place of friends and books and fun times. It smells of that unique dorm mold and mildew that you can only quite detect outside in the spring time, and the fourth floor of the library smells of old musty books.

Last night, I stood out on my porch in Murfreesboro. The air was cool, but I did not hear the crickets sing, or smell charcoal, or hear the comforting crackle of the radio.

Today, I drove the same path home from Richmond to Winchester, but even Eastern is changing. The new science building is a badly needed behemoth.

This afternoon, I drove downtown and found that another bastion of my childhood had disappeared. It was bad enough when the Corner Drug was forced to move out of the building where my Papaw Doug would take me to eat; now it has disappeared altogether. It hurt, deep inside.

This evening, I sat and talked to my youngest brother. He has started a new job, has a girlfriend, has bought a car. Somehow, in the last two weeks since I've seen him, he stopped being a boy and started being a man. But he has been home alone, taking care of Mom, for quite a while now, and he's probably been a man for quite some time. It just took me until today to recognize it.

This has turned into a more lengthy post than I intended, and it's completely un-book-related, which was not my intention when I started writing this blog. But perhaps I needed the catharsis of letting go of some of these memories. Perhaps I needed the catharsis to hold on to them.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I had my wisdom teeth taken out last week, which naturally was an adventure. I'm going back Wednesday for a followup, but until then, I've been recuperating around my house, generally pretty well medicated. Standing up requires a little more effort than I'm used to. As long as I stay sitting, my vertigo isn't too bad.

So during the less psychedelic moments I had Friday, I managed to move my computer over to the couch, one piece at a time, very slowly. That way, if I feel like I need to fall over, I can, right on to the couch, and the cats can get up on the couch with me and take care of me.

I should also send out a huge kudos and thank you to my favorite snarky fantasy writer, who not only drove me to and from the oral surgeon's office, but who also babysat me all day Thursday (and cleaned up cat puke at one point that day too). On top of this, when my oldest cat started having seizures Saturday morning, my friend came and got her and took her to the vet for me, as there was no way I could drive. (The cat seems to be just fine, however. Not real sure what was up--waiting on bloodwork to come back from the vet).

But while I've been recuperating, I've been thinking about storytelling. Part of this is because I have a paper to give at Slayage the first weekend in June on Firefly. My particular topic is how Malcolm Reynolds is a Campbellian hero. Secondly, I've played a lot of Star Trek Online this week, and I've been rather impressed with the way that story lines that were not quite resolved in certain series are being woven into the game. In some ways, the game is retconning a lot of fan explanations for plotholes into the greater franchise universe.

I've also been brainstorming ideas for the other Star Trek game I play, Kepler Station. We've got some interesting plot lines coming up, full of intrigue. I've also been plotting out a book of my own. Not quite ready to give details on that yet, but I'm hoping to actually start putting words down on the page today, beyond the detailed synopsis I have in my notebook.

I wish I could say that I had some grand insight into storytelling, fueled by pain medication and jello, but I honestly don't. The best that I have is a statement about how much fun I have brainstorming plots. It truly is my favorite part of writing fiction--deciding where a story is going to go, how some actions have consequences, how characters will react. I tend to write scenes in my mind well before putting them down on paper, almost envisioning them as a movie in my head. I like it so well, in fact, that I almost hate actually sitting down to write, because I'm having so much fun otherwise.

But every time I read an article by writers about their craft, they always stress discipline. I suppose that means I should quit procrastinating and get to writing. Looks like it's time to break out the Write or Die program.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Book Stack Grows Ever Taller

Because of the torrential rainfall and extensive flooding in the metro Nashville area, I have spent much of my weekend (and today) reading various and sundry things rather than spending time in the library where I should have been to focus on schoolwork. I also need to return a stack of books that seems to be growing exponentially.

But over this (long) weekend, I've read quite a bit, not least of which the aforementioned Being Abbas el Abd. I also re-read Joanna Russ' The Female Man with my post-it note flags by my side, marking relevant passages so I could find them easily later. I did the same thing with Stephen Toulmin's The Return to Cosmology: Postmodern Science and Natural Theology, which was a very interesting book about how the specialization/fragmentation of science during the Enlightenment separated science from theological concerns. Adding that to Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, which outlines the quest of string theory to combine Einsteinian physics and quantum mechanics, and I'm starting to put together an interesting view of postmodern cosmology--something that has been fragmented into many, many pieces, but over which humanity still tries to force an overarching theory of everything.

Somewhere in that paragraph lies the thesis for my postmodernism paper. Somewhere.

In the meantime, I did find time to read Laurie King's newest Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes novel, The God of the Hive. It follows almost immediately The Language of Bees, but doesn't have quite the ratiocination (to use Poe's term) that the previous novels have used--it's more in the style of an adventure novel than previous installments and moves much further away from Conan Doyle's Sherlock.

I also read Nora Roberts' newest, Savor the Moment. Yes, it's brain candy (tasty, tasty brain candy), but everyone needs fluff now and then, especially fluff that doesn't require you to parse complex literary machinations. I might have paid a little too much attention to the cake decorating descriptions, having watched my mother decorate cakes for years, but overall, it was satisfying enough. It did make me long for my wedding to get here a little faster.

I've also been trying to put together a list of things I want to read during my copious amounts of spare time over the summer. I know I've got to read Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth and The Hero with a Thousand Faces again, as I'm writing a paper on Campbellian heroes in Firefly
for Slayage in June. Also on the list is Charlotte Bronte's Villette, as my friend Shiloh gave me a copy of it--it's on my preliminary exam reading list. I'd also like to have time to read Catherine Coulter's Knock Out, which I've had for months and haven't opened; the same goes for Elizabeth Peters' newest, The River in the Sky, which I just bought a few weeks ago. A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book is sitting on my bookshelf looking lonely as well.

I've also had an urge to open up some of my old Nancy Drew mysteries. Most of them actually belonged to my mother, the gray volumes with two books bound into one. They've started to get that wonderful smell that old books get, a musty smell of comfort. I guess the older that I get, the more I want to sit back and remember my childhood and so many, many hours sitting back and engrossing myself in the adventures of Nancy, Bess and George. I always, always had my nose in a book.

Still do.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I'm always surprised when I read a book and it has some incredible relevance on my life. For example, after a visit from Gloria Steinem to my university and a rather upsetting argument with one of my colleagues, I read Joanna Russ' The Female Man for my class in Reading Postmodernism. It's a tale of four women--who might all be aspects of the same woman--moving through life, discovering and deciding what it means to be female.

The last book for my Postmodernism class has been an Egyptian novel, Being Abbas el Abd. Moving past the (postmodern) fact that it has been translated from Arabic into English, it is a book that I found primarily about fear and mental illness.

I should point out that I read Being Abbas el Abd in my bathtub. No, it was not with a lit candle and a glass of wine, as I might have preferred. Instead, I was hunkered down with pillows and a blanket, riding out three separate tornado warnings for the county. (I decided that if I was going to be spending that much time in the tub, I might as well be comfortable, and there is little as comforting as the heaviness of a quilt.) I have a deep fear of tornadoes, a fear known as lilapsophobia, a word unknown to me until today, a fear stemming from a traumatic childhood experience in a tornado.

Being Abbas el Abd is not necessarily a comforting book when it comes to fear--if you want a book that gives you strength in the face of fear, try Dune instead (fear is the mindkiller). But it does present an accurate picture of the cognitive process of someone with a mental disorder that heightens fear. As someone who has experienced that, I appreciated the depiction. It's something that I think postmodern literature does very well, something I also noticed in Chester's The Exquisite Corpse this semester. The fragmentation in the novels mirrors the fragmentation in the mind, and I cannot help but hope that novels like these will continue to help maintain the acceptance we are starting to exhibit for mental illnesses--both the severe and mild.

In the meantime, you'll have to excuse me. I may be spending the night in the bathtub.