n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Thursday, December 30, 2010

goodbye, year of J

It's hard to believe I dubbed it that. And I'm skeptical about whether it truly turned out to be the Year of J, but it was an interesting year, full of bumps, ruts, jumps, and intrigues. Maybe that's what made it the Year of J?

Oh, and a Solstice Eclipse:

solstice eclipse
Most Important Happenings

I exercised steadily at the gym for three months, which lets me know that I can do it if I set my mind to.

My friend became significantly sick for months and then mostly recovered, which shocked, confused, instructed, amazed, and resonated within me: life so tenuous, stability so fleeting, and the simple details so important... and I'm grateful for charities and resources... and I'm reminded how tied together we are... and I'm curious about how we will all grow... and I'm resolved to be more healthy and stake out a space for that health...

My writing is frustrated and needs a change. I tried the writing conference, which was good, but didn't solve the lack of will, or willpower, or desire, or discipline. For that, I need something new. Ho hum, what will it be?

I'm definitely a gardener. It was my saving grace while trying to deal with N's stuff this year. I went to my little 15" x 20" enclosure, gardened for an hour or so, then called her and let her say horrible stuff to me, while I kept my hands in the soil or on the leaves. I'm getting better at setting boundaries. I'm getting better at respecting them. I'm getting better at letting go, and asking my mind to calm down.

I became quite a bit closer to SP and her friends, finally allowing myself to participate in that community. It's still hard for me, and I still need lots of space, but I reckon it's been healthy. We've camped, barbequed, partied, sung, played games, shared artwork, squabbled, traveled, and supported each other. I can't think of any real drama. Only good shared moments.

I've made friends with several of my work colleagues and I like them. Very much so.

MH has to be one of my favorite people (I have many favorites, and she is one of them). I was talking to N about her, and NM suggested that she was very much my "kindred spirit," and I knew she was right. N said, "It must be nice because I don't think you have many of those, other than Ellen." I suddenly was worried about whether she was feeling left out or jealous, so said I thought maybe we were too, and she said, "Really?" in such a way as I had to think about it. Then I realized that sometimes friends, even best friends, aren't "kindred spirits" and that doesn't mean we don't love each other, but that finding a kindred is special and different. I think N is right -- she is a best friend, but sometimes we have to struggle to understand and be patient with each other. She drives me bonkers, but she also respects me. I think sometimes she idealizes me, and that can be uncomfortable. She also wants to talk to me too much.

With MH, we are silent much of the time. Mostly, we go on hikes. Here's the one we went on yesterday:

Lost Lake Trail
We took a hike up to Fragrance Lake and then ducked around to see Lost Lake as well. It was a long hike and I'm quite sore today. When Herald got home last night at 6:30, he sacked out, and barely could wake himself up in the morning. But it was incredible - started snowing after an hour, first with a thick hail-like snow, then with gentle tufts. After it did that for about an hour, the clouds cleared and there was blue sky for the first time in forever, with thin clouds shuttling through it. As you might imagine, it was cold but we had both dressed perfectly for it and so didn't have to shed clothes nor whine about being too cold. Herald and Lucy (her dog) ran and ran, growled and gambled, showed off and protected. I knew it was cutting things pretty close to add the Lost Lake trail to the Fragrance lake trail, but MH had never been there, so we had to go.

I was startled to realize the last time I had taken that trail was with SS, and that time, we'd decided to take a 'shortcut' and ended up walking miles and miles, so far in fact that once we hit a logging road, the dog we had with us simply sat down and refused to move. It was nice walking with MH in the winter and remember walking with SS during that long-ago summer.

So, we added the 5 miles (there and back to the other trail) and sure enough, just as we finished the main ascent back from Lost Lake to the Chuckanut Ridge, we hit the sunset.

Lost Lake Trail
Lost Lake Trail
Lost Lake Trail
Perfect, right? And then we walked back home in the dark, our feet aching, the dogs subdued, the night quiet and cold and embracing. I haven't had a night walk in too long...

Anyhow, not to say that MH and I don't talk at all, but we do frequently alternate in comfortable silence. And we don't know each other super-well, so there's lots to discover, like, for instance, the discussion about how she would become super-enraged when her family members let branches flip back at her as they walked through them. We discussed whether she would become super-enraged with me if I did the same, which we decided up on as a negative since we didn't have the "long complicated history." Shortly after that was decided upon, I accidentally let a pine branch flip back at her, and she had a laugh while I waited to examine her fury, which never arrived. I decided I can't imagine her angry, but I can believe it.

Sometimes NM and I are quiet as well, but either we're filling that silence with grading or more frequently, sad thoughts. I can tell; I know both of us well enough to know that our silences with each other are often not as productively spent as they could be. N came up here just after Christmas, and she is still chasing emotions between sadness, fear, and anger. I think it's catching up with her that her g-friend acted like a git, but I still can't figure out how much she's re-writing her experience, and how much is what she is simply remembering and seeing anew. Dealing with memory is strange like that. And she hashes over much of that thought with me, and sometimes that hashes up thoughts in me that I don't want brought back anymore. That's a difference between friends you've known for years--over 8 years for NM now--and those you've just met. Both silence and discussion is quantitatively different with MH than with NM.

So, it's nice to have so many different types of friends. And strange.

I was a bridesperson! That was pretty darn significant. It was.

I realized I like being friends with people. I like my friends and who they are, and I like myself and being by myself. I like being liked as I am by my friends who I like as they are. Especially this winter month, I feel the world circling around me and liking me, me liking it back, it liking me liking it back and liking my friends who like me as I am just as I like them for who they are, and even liking the idea of liking things. I've received the right kind of love lately.
Lost Lake Trail
Okay, this doesn't really fit under realizations of the year, but I went down to Portland recently. I stayed with AKR and her partner and their cute dog Charlie, and I visited my sister's best friends, who have a newborn baby, along the way, and then I also visited with SS, her husband, and their two babies.

I was in a touch of a panic about the trip because I wanted to see SS before she left the country, but we haven't been in touch for awhile. She's been really busy with motherhood and moving, but also some distance has grown between us as friends (and former partners) for whatever reason. Our last visit was distant and polite and broke my heart a bit. So, I wanted to see her, but I didn't want my heart broken even a bit. So, I begged SP to come with me, thinking that having someone with me might help everyone feel more comfortable. And it did, I think. Or at least it made me feel more comfortable.

It was a really big deal for me to ask SP for this. I have a hard time asking for favors for fear of the strings that are often attached. But I think this was worth accepting a bit of string.

And it was an excellent trip with SP, and we only squabbled once. Seeing SS, her husband and kids was sweet and pleasurable, though hurried: we swam together and also visited a bookstore, where her older boy read a book to me and ate chocolate pastries from my fingers. Seeing AKR and her partner was great; we had Cajun food and then played Apples to Apples together while sipping beer and wine. Seeing my sister's best friends was splendid (I forgot how much I like Olympia and holding babies!). Sometimes trips aren't messy and frenzied; sometimes they are smooth and svelte.

Christmas was good... although it was hard not having my sister and Pedro. I can't help thinking of the alcohol-induced brawl I had with Pedro two Christmases ago and looking forward to the future Christmas when we can regard it with amused nostalgia and chagrin. It was pretty bad, but completely ridiculous and nonsensical as far as family fights go. As NM once again (for the fourth Xmas in a row) had a nasty fight with her brother, and SP had a cruel mashup with her family... one has to reflect on how lucky I've had it. And how much I love having the whole crew together. Which this year meant SP and NM coming down after Christmas morning. And hopefully next year will involve a happy and adorable sibling and sibling-in-law.

To end this, I will tell you of the embarrassing thing my father has done for two Christmases in a row, which I just found out about. Apparently he gives my mother's partner CR some cheap Irish whiskey each year, which CR is okay about. But he puts it in a fine scotch box before gifting. The first time, he didn't tell CR this; just let him pull the cheap whiskey out of the fine scotch box and be surprised. This second time, he let him know it wasn't "the same as the box." But then he spent all evening drinking CR's fine scotch, until it was gone the next day. Apparently, he prefers the expensive stuff hisself.

What a douche.

AND also, I got the cutest book from my god-daughter - one of those digital photos albums... Weird how fast children grow up! From beautiful babies to beautiful children! Weird how many friends have babies these days! December O' Babies and Baby Sadness. January O' Creative Writing. I will have to think of new resolutions and nomers for the coming year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

grading, check; writing, check; reading, check; enough time, no check

So glad to be done grading. So very glad. Though it happened on Monday, fairly early into the day, I am still very, very glad. I need to get one student's comments back by tomorrow, but other than that, I am on to planning the new class, which I feel slightly panicked about. Last night, in fact, I dreamt about teaching said creative writing class, and it was a bit of a mess. I only pulled my way out of it by clowning around.

Do any of you know of a good essay or small book about how to read as a writer? I.e. how to read with an eye to craft?

Okay. Nuff of that. I've experienced a bit of a crisis about my spider book and realized that maybe it's not the book I should be shooting to finish by February. The story of my life, right? One project to the other to the other, never finishing any of them. But the spider book wasn't feeling right, and I have to say maybe it's not the kind of nonfiction I can write. How is it possible to write about my thoughts on friendship, community, and interconnectivity without talking about my experience, which I don't want to talk about? Every time I start talking about my experience it starts sounds whiny, but that's not the point... the point(s) are the thoughts that experience has produced, but I can't get there without talking about the experience, which then starts to sound whiny, and so it's this big circle. What is it about creative writing that makes it so damn hard to discuss things? All that show show show the story (and pretty precise lovely language) stuff getting in the way.

So, in my frustration, I swapped back to the short story I've been working on as an alternate piece, and suddenly I realized that it was good. It's maybe only a third done, but it is good, and has direction. When I get going in the wrong direction on it, I just back up and start over where it got bad, and slowly bit by bit, this has been working for me. Funny thing is that I think it's about some of the same issues I am working on in the nonfiction piece, though not all of them, and it's covering them more adroitly than the nonfiction... through someone else's eyes, and experience, I guess.

And the nonfiction was making me sad. And I don't want to be sad. So... I think I'm going to swap back to the short stories for awhile and just try to trust myself on them. My voice is changing in my writing and it feels a little, hmmmm, bulky. But I like it too.

Everything else is going okay, but I wish WA wasn't on the quarter system; two weeks between quarters just isn't enough time to prep, get some of my work done, visit friends, and go through the holidays. Not to mention resting.

I've been spending more time with SP, which is always good but still confusing. We have certain things worked out, like we're not an exclusive couple, but other things not worked out, like how precisely we feel about each other. See, I decided a while back that I'd been shown enough of the ways that romantic love can fail and/or can damage the crap out of you, but that I really need to keep myself open to what romantic love can still teach me, regardless of what that might be. So, I feel open, but I don't feel directed like I used to... like I'm not sure whether it's going to ebb errr... flow; that I don't even know what love is, what it's capable of; and that all I really understand is that it's not what I used to think. Like I was wiped free of any preconceptions of romantic love, and all the Cinderella stories disappeared, and all the Beauty and the Beast stories disappeared, and all the round, fat little hearts with their chocolate bubbly centers disappeared, and in their place is just a quiet little blank spot.

SP has had a hard time with me, I think, for this reason; she sees that spot differently than I do, and I have a hard time recognizing whether what she sees is what I want, whether it is even realistic, how it coincides with what I feel, etc. I remember too how multiple people (ex's predominately) have told me that I was closed to love, and that I would end up alone and bitter because of it. But I feel open, just not sure like other people seem to be. If I don't see commitment with people who do see commitment, does that make me closed? Anyhow. Right now, I try to just enjoy the time, see SP and myself for who we are, and not push and prod, or even resist, the future.

And I've been feeling restless again. Like I ought to be applying for other jobs outside of Bville... that it is time for me to look away, and that maybe I don't need the safety I sought here. It was strange, but I moved and moved and went here and there, by myself finally, and tackled everything on my own, bravely. And then I just felt like I needed refuge. Stability. Not having to scrape and scrape just to keep going, although I do recognize that is what everyone (but the rich) does. And now, I might be ready to scrape and scrape again. Not right away, but maybe in another year. So... time to start looking where to go, what to do.

That's about it. Other than that I'm fit to be tied with NM again. It's impossible to talk to someone who is just day by day holding on about how she is driving you absolutely up the friggin' wall. But I need to say something, just don't know how. Sigh. Friendship shmendship.

Okay. I promised myself some write time before I go have dinner with my father, so off I go.

more luminarius

luminarius in hibernation
This immature specimen of the Luminarius spectatorina was photographically recorded in 1963 by a Japanese tourist walking along the coast of Wales. She told authorities that it didn't move "until she kicked it" and then it curled around her so quickly "she lost her brain pebbles." When she came to, it was nowhere to be seen and she had small puncture wounds along the back of her knees. These were inspected at the local hospital by one Dr. Sneville, who called in the locally-renown psychozoologist Dr. Breton to take a second look.

Dr. Breton reputedly became very excited, although neither she nor the medical doctor could locate anything untoward about the puncture wounds, other than that there were seventy-three of them, measuring .5 mm in length and .23 mm in width, and every last one of them was located on the back of the knees only. Dr. Breton asked the Japanese tourist to stay in contact and notify her if anything further occured, which the tourist did. Unfortunately when Breton returned her call, the tourist had already succumbed to what her family reported as "pulsing lights inside her veins." Breton is still unclear what this means, though she has several theories.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Seeing faces in windows today. Strangeness and grading. I'll be happy when Monday is gone and I can contemplate what next. In the meantime, I'm balancing between grading, movie-watching, cuddling, and making wry faces at my dog. (He makes wry faces back).

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

a blessed few weeks

Today is my last class of the quarter, tomorrow my last day at school, and next Monday or Tuesday the last day for me to turn in grades. I'm not looking forward to all the grading... I had 100% retention in my one graded class, which means I have 25 research portfolios (approximately 400 pages) to read. I have been grading-as-I-go, but still... lots of reading.

But then! Break! I know it's a little silly but I'm really, very excited about planning my creative writing class next quarter! It's going to be speeeeeecial and incorporate everything I've loved about creative writing classes in the past, and nothing I hate (workshops). I've already been planning, planning, planning. But I have to read too and start gathering reading materials to scan in. That part is less fun, but still fun.

Last night, I got together with two co-workers from the college, and SP joined up later. We had ritzy drinks and talked and talked... it ended up being a perfect fusion between shop-talk and non-shop-talk. I've been frustrated with conversations with my friends because 98% of what NM talks about is teaching and the other 2% is her health and well-being practices, and I've forgotten what it's like almost (well, except for SP) to have an interesting conversation that doesn't make me feel like my life is all teaching, nothing else. The two co-workers are rather interesting characters - very different in personality although similar I think in outlook. One is reserved and disciplined, mysterious; the other outgoing, jumbled, quirky. Both of them are smart though, and several times perked my ears with thoughts I hadn't thought of before. Twas lovely.

And today I'm going to take Herald on a walk to celebrate less than two weeks of waning light, and a few weeks of pause before the next storm.

Friday, December 03, 2010

I watched Glenn Beck

Okay, so I thought it was a fair insight on the part of my student to note that I assign some pieces that are very anti-Fox News, perhaps in the attempt to get my students to diversify their sources at the very least. But maybe I don't watch the sources that I am so virulently opposing (that was the insight). It's a fair criticism and truth is, I tend to try to watch Foxish News in the interest of not talking about what I don't know anything about, but I frequently get so offended by the first three seconds of what I watch that I switch the channel, afraid of the likelihood that I might smash the TV or kick my innocent dog in a mad rampage.

Surely there is some in-between ground?

Herald tells me there is in-between ground, especially in the leaves that he and ultra-conservative-owned dogs shit. "We all shit near the trail," he tells me, "and you all have a choice whether or not to pick it up." I'm sneaky, in that I pick it up on main trails, but hide the shit under leaves and branches if I think nobody will notice and I'm off-trail enough that I can imagine it won't affect the drainage. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one, political group notwithstanding. I still feel bad.

But not bad enough to pick up the poo when it looks so contextualized, so natural, so... at home in its chosen receptacle of mulch.

As I've mentioned before: it's tough teaching, and it's really tough teaching people who believe fundamentally different things than you, especially if you're a quiet queer just making the art-studio rent and utilities while living at home, and yet still seeking to care about what you're doing. I've ditched composition textbooks in the interest of seeking (cheapish) texts that represent different, yet interesting and modern, interests. Composition textbooks tend to be unrelentingly liberal, sometimes smugly and irritatingly liberal. So I develop topics, and try to find a range of academic weigh-ins on said topics. The problem is the 'academic' part. Why is it that conservatives don't write semiotic critiques on socially-aware comedy, sustainability issues, the problematics of cultural representations, or the difficulty of wading through various ideologies in order to find common ground?

I've always tended to think it's because many conservatives are racist, classist, homophobic, self-protectionist, wealthy (if they're educated) douchebags who don't care about the peoples at community college who are striving for a decent, productive education. My bias? Yes and certainly, so prove me wrong. I'm just dying for intelligent academics to come up with something interesting on these topics. So far, I haven't found the sources although I've searched and keep searching.

So... my conservative students are forced to go to "patriot-patriotism-of-ultra-patriotism" or "conservatives-hate-liberalmedia.dot.com" to find outside sources, which they consider balancing everything. But my liberal students don't go to "communist-communism-with-socialism-as-a-misnomer" or "unregulated-capitalism-is-unsustainable.dot.com" for sources... instead, moderate liberal critiques seem so well-represented in various academic journals, textbooks, and library books that seeking radical alternative voices doesn't seem to be even remotely necessary. Hmmmm; why is it that their extremist viewpoints aren't validated by the 'educated elites'? I have my theories; no doubt they have theirs.

(Thank god for the quarter of my students who try new things, like me, talk to me, let me know about new things I hadn't thought about, and appreciate the fact that I see them. Because I do, I see all of them.)

But I'm tired of every piece of information being attacked by my conservative students as the product of 'liberal media'. Many of my students challenge well-documented scientific, reputable research in ways that they would never consider using to examine their own opinions. Prove it, they say; but the proof means nothing when it's offered. It's like Senator McCain and the Pentagon Report: unless something supports his a priori opinion, it doesn't actually count. Conversation is useless, because nothing is considered 'real' that doesn't occur unilaterally.

My new saying and mantra as a teacher: "challenge yourself first." It amazes me, and is the topic of much of what I think about: how we are so frequently our own worst obstacles.

Anyhow, I'm just a small-town teacher, and I only see the small-town students--mostly young high school students, but also veterans, small business owners, single-parents, regular religious parents seeking to expand their thinking, intellects who don't know where to go, artists who have decided to study economics, former drug addicts seeking to clean up their lives, people scared. So, really, don't I have to consider it all? But what does considering it all really mean?

So, I watched Glenn Beck. My thoughts:

*Why does he mimic the 'elitist' educators he mocks constantly? Vest, tie, pressed shirt, framed glasses. Jeans that proves he is cool (classic academic move).

*Why does he bring in 'elitists' to verify his credentials by talking about how his choice to not finish his college education has allowed him to "think outside the box"? Like he could think outside the box less if he had more education? How is it that education--information, varying thoughts, contradictory experience, dedicated study and practice--must obviously deter any kind of talent for imaginative insight? Is it because of the liberal tendency to bring out the big screen with spirally liberal spirals that hypnotize one into thoughtful consideration of the difference between communism and socialism, or ideal economic systems versus actual ones? Is that the box?

*I think Beck's true skill is that he starts smart. That is, he begins with statistics, concerns, fuck-ups, differences, worries that are genuine and problematic. He lures us in with his accuracy in locating the base.

*But he refrains from any degree of contextualizing.

*Then he over-inundates with information. Beck goes back and forth from blackboard to blackboard. Each is decorated underneath with the hubcaps no doubt collected from 'real' working America. First, he is there. There is the fancy chalk image of the world. There are the facts all tallied up - all four of them. Next chalkboard, also with hubcaps, five statistics this time. Discuss one chalkboard, consult expert who flatters his nontraditional education and talent for scrying the inevitable. Consult audience, poor fucks who are constantly asked what they think, only to be cut short. (Is it me, or do all three of those who talk sound prepped). Switch to next chalkboard, consult expert who is cut off this time because he already served his function. Compare one chalkboard to another. Make bizarre comparisons that sound smart because Beck started smart. Consult audience, interrupt what they have been possibly coached to say in order to ask for other thoughts, swap to chalkboard. Talk about the big picture, which is only related to what came before by vague topic. Scariness. Scaresville. Doom and Gloom and Beck-Boo!

*One quarter of what he says makes sense. It really does. Greece really is a problem nation in the economy of the EU. It could potentially fuck a lot up (no need to mention the banks that deliberately hid its dept and recommended its inclusion into the EU despite what all the experts surely surely knew was true. no need to mention deregulation of the banks that were providing said misinformation. no need to mention our part in the fiasco.)

*But then it's time to remind everyone that Germany supported the most fascist horrific episode in recent history. Merkle, the Green Party, and all that economic progress that is actually rather impressive, despite having its own problems, etc., is actually nothing more than a reflection of its past. Fascism. Fascism is mentioned a couple of times. Along with socialism, its natural brethren.

*America is different. It is not nationalist. Beck talks about nationalism, and how Germany is still nationalistic. We wouldn't want to get trapped into the patterns of the past, and patterns of the past are clearly local, not behavioral, right?

I figure I'll have to keep watching, but the tendency already makes me sick. Condescend to people while validating their particular knowledge so they can feel like experts even if they don't know (or maybe only can't articulate in the two seconds given) the difference between socialism and communism, or regulated markets versus non-regulated markets. Use enough real problems and statistics without exploring the actual root causes (except to blame everything on everyone else), so that the viewing public is amazed when he is right, and... and... the economy gets FUCKED UP, just as it has been since Bush fucked us over with a rubber dildo up the wazzoo (I want to say all governments in the past 30 years because Clinton did his mess of shit, but at least he balanced the budget).

But hey, really if we don't locate blame at home, we don't have to make changes, other than root for the government that toes our line. And we all know who precisely that is for Beck: people like my students who tell me that sustainable living is a "communist-socialist plot to destroy humanity as we know it," people who are scared of change, people who are never going to own up to their mistakes. Never mind the portion of the government and culture that has participated equally, if not predominately, in the shitstorm that his condescended-to audience is told to blame on everyone else. Just, you know, like, admire his jeans.

I'll keep watching because, as my student noted (p.s. there's really only ever 1.5 students. so why is it that they take up some much of my attention? is it that they represent a quiet seething majority? is it that I fear them? is it that I seek their approval? why the undo attention?), it's not fair for me to assign criticisms about that which I am unfamiliar with. I doubt this is a favor likely to be reciprocated. And unlike the Democrats, a party I don't belong to because they're such pussies and rollovers, I will listen and seek out new sources, but I'm not about to "compromise" (bellyup) just because it makes me more popular with my kiddos. For starters, I seriously doubt my compromise would serve the hopes I have: balanced budget, sustainable living, less war, more compassion, equal playing field, education for all, more pursuit of life, more pursuit of the freedom to be whomever you are, and more pursuit of happiness. For seconders, I don't like their style.

And Herald doesn't like their style either. "Bite them," he says, "give them some nips." "Herald!" I say. And he says, "Yeah, right? You didn't know I cared. But I am fluffy too, you know." And I say, "You are, Herald. You're really fluffy and even adorable. Thank god for puppies like you." Then he mutters about not having enough walks...

Thursday, December 02, 2010

another favorite student mispellering

"American Exceptionalism" - a term meaning, as far as I understand it, the idea that America is exceptional, that we believe we stand outside history as a unique occurrence sprung from the inglorious past, a new land set aside from the futures chosen by those like the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. A term used to describe our belief that we are, as the Beacon on the Hill, a country founded under a mandate given by God unto His People to establish the Promised Land, to follow the strict Christian covenant, specifically the laws and values of His Kingdom, in order to retain the sanction given unto the promised loyal and filial people to uphold His Vision. And as such, we are to hold ourselves above outside wicked influence and international un-exceptionalism.

Student Version = "American Expectionalism" - fill in the blank.