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Showing posts from September, 2010

What This Woman Wants

I want to be able to wear pink, lace, lipstick and/or high heels if I feel like it.
But I do not want to feel like it is either wrong or obligatory to wear pink, lace, lipstick or high heels simply because I am a woman.

I do not want to be fat and/or out of shape.
But I do not want to feel like I need to be rail thin and/or perfectly sculpted in order to be beautiful.

I want to be paid the same amount as the men who do the same level of work that I do.
But I do not want to be expected to do the work in exactly the same way if I feel that there is a more appropriate way for me to approach the problem.

I want to enjoy watching "chick flicks" and reading Shopaholic if I am in the mood.
But I do not want to be expected to like something simply because it is written by and/or about other women.

I want to feel free to wear a veil over my hair if it is cold outside or the scarf goes with my outfit or it feels appropriate in context, e.g. a mosque or a church.
But I do not want to be require…

As Baron Says

Some things my sister learned during her yoga teacher training with Baron Baptiste:

1. Everything is okay, you are okay, there is nothing you need to be doing any differently. That is, don't spend all of your time thinking about things that you should be doing or wishing that you were doing or feeling like you are inadequate. What you are doing right now is fine. A.k.a. "loving what is."

2. Do what you love, love what you do. As an added bonus to being successful because you are doing what you love, you will find that if you do what you love, you will always have enough energy to do it because you will get energy from doing what you love. Also, what you love is what you are supposed to be doing (see #1). A.k.a. "follow your bliss."

3. Even if everybody knows these lessons already, it's worth repeating them over and over until they hear.

Roger Waters' “The Wall" 2010

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I've never been much for going to concerts of any sort, but especially rock concerts. Before last night, I think you could probably count the number I'd been to on one hand.* But when my husband and I learned that Roger Waters was bringing his new production of the "The Wall" to Chicago, we knew that we had to go if we could, especially after we learned that it was the brother of one of my closest friends who would be singing the part of David Gilmour.

We went last night, and, yes, it was worth the trip. The music, the lights, the giant puppets, the floating pig (or was it a warthog?), the fact that it was (did I say?) my friend Rebecca's brother Robbie who was up there on the wall singing "Comfortably Numb,"** and, oh, yes, the Wall that the stage crew built up across the front of the stage over the course of the first part: it was all a great show, really great. If I were less of an introvert, I might even have gotten into the little party that wa…

Comfortably Numb

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Sung by Roger Waters (on stage) and Robbie Wyckoff (in light), Chicago, September 23, 2010

Bear's Request

I ask your prayers for my friend Andrea who is in the hospital with an undiagnosed illness, perhaps an infection complicated by pneumonia, perhaps a virus. Pray that she gets better so that she can go home to her family. Lord, in your mercy....

Another Day, Another 1000 Words

You know what's the best thing about blogging, the very best thing about blogging, as compared with, for example, writing a paper for a conference or an article? You don't have to re-read what you've written over and over and over again for the ten days, four weeks, three months it takes you to write the wretched thing. You say what you want to say, and then it's out there. You don't have to proof read it more than once, you don't have to take it through editors and copy editors and readers' reports and yet more copy editors. It's just there, what you want to say, in type so that everyone can read it.

I spent all last week very productively working on a paper for a conference, but, guess what? It's not finished yet, so I get to start all over again. I don't want to reread again what I wrote a week ago. It's fine, well, it was fine until I had to look at again a few minutes ago. Now I hate it. It sounds so lame and uninteresting. R…

A Guest Room

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I'd have one, maybe even two, if I lived, say, here.
















Or here.

But I don't. I live in an apartment. A very nice apartment, mind you. Even a four bedroom apartment. But the fourth bedroom is really more of a wannabe bedroom for the maid, not a proper bedroom where family members might stay. And the third bedroom is necessarily a study, so that leaves only two, one for my husband and me, and one for our son. Ergo, no guest room.

We had a bed, well, a futon couch in the maid's room, which was amazingly comfortable, almost as comfortable as a real bed. But it more or less filled the room once you pulled it out, leaving no way to get into it other than diving into it from the doorway. Not really a situation you would want to put, say, your mother into. Not a proper guest room at all. So we sold the futon and plan to make a little sitting room out of the fourth "bedroom." Now, if anyone comes to visit, we're going to have to put them on the couch in the livi…

A Taxonomy of Writing

1. Diaries, journals
2. Personal letters, emails
3. Blogposts
4. Newspaper columns
5. Journalism, creative non-fiction (including popular science, travelogues, essays for Harper's or The Atlantic, memoirs like Eat, Pray, Love)
6. Academic writing, humanistic (art and literary criticism, history, philosophy, theology)
7. Academic writing, social scientific* (sociology, economics)
8. Academic writing, scientific (mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry)
9. Legal briefs and papers, legislation, specifications
10. Business or administrative memos and reports
11. Computer programs (scripting, html, coding)
12. Screen plays, plays
13. Advertising copy
14. Sermons, political speeches, papers given at conferences
15. Self-help advice
16. How-to manuals (sports, crafts, spiritual exercises, cookbooks, computer manuals)
17. Letters of reference (yes, a genre all of their own)
18. Reference (dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, travel guides)
19. Poetry, including song lyrics**
20. Nove…

Road Shark

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Just when you think it's bad enough bumping along an unpaved road high in the New Mexico mountains wondering when the asphalt is going to reappear, there's a shark* waiting to chomp on you. Kinda the way working on this paper feels at the moment....**


*Or maybe a bear.
**Just in case you've been worried about why I haven't been posting this week!

An Experiment

How do you encourage your students to take risks with their writing while at the same time validating it as something worth reading by somebody other than just their professor? We shall see...

Flu Dreams (Like Fever Dreams, But Without the Fever)

3:34am* Driving home late one evening and getting lost off the interstate, turning down a road with signs to an Italian restaurant but seeing only the neon signs, stopping at a house and finding three beds, lying down and falling asleep only to wake when a woman came in with her grown son who seemed to be have some difficulties, trying to decide whether to let them know I was there, but not wanting to in case they made me leave because the bed was so comfortable.

4:15am Driving with my sister to the airport to catch a flight to go visit our mother, being forced off the road by construction (no signs, just trucks in the road spreading asphalt), ending up in a bus station, helping an old woman who had fallen, who then called out, "Nona Dale," thinking how odd, that's my mother's name, and finding the old woman was calling to my mother, who was getting on a bus to travel cross country. "Oh, Mom, why didn't you tell us you were coming through Chicago?" &qu…

On the Unbearable Persistence of Subjectivity, Despite the Best Efforts of Parascience to Kill It Off

"I consider the common account of the sense of emptiness in the modern world to be a faulty diagnosis. If there is in fact an emptiness peculiar to our age it is not because of 'the death of God' in the non-Lutheran sense in which that phrase is usually understood. It is not because an ebbing away of faith before the advance of science has impoverished modern experience.

"Assuming that there is indeed a modern malaise, one contributing factor might be the exclusion of the felt life of the mind from the accounts of reality proposed by the oddly authoritative and deeply influential parascientific literature that has long associated itself with intellectual progress, and the exclusion of felt life from the varieties of thought and art that reflect the influence of these accounts [e.g. most recently, E.O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett].

"To some extent even theology has embraced impoverishment, often under the name of secularism, in order to…

Thank God It's (Nearly) Autumn

Because, you know, I really hate summer. I hate the heat, I hate the clothes, I even hate the air-conditioning. But, above all, I hate the expectations. "What are you going to do this summer?" "Do you have big plans for the summer?" "Are you going anywhere this summer?"

It's bad enough getting this kind of thing about the weekends. But summer, it's just a recipe for failure. There is no way--NO WAY--for any summer, no matter how varied and otherwise exciting, to live up to this. "I fenced at Summer Nationals and got a medal in Vet 40 Women's Foil. And my family and I took a driving trip down to Texas and New Mexico and spent a week taking walks with our puppy in the mountains." "Oh, that sounds really nice. All I did was finish off a few articles and do some primary research in the British Library." Sigh.

I was day-dreaming a post yesterday listing all of the books that I read this summer. It's quite a list, b…

Why I Study the Middle Ages

I always wonder what people hope I will say when they ask me this question. Do they imagine that I had some great revelation when I was (I don't know) six that studying the Middle Ages was to be the purpose of my life? Maybe the Virgin Mary appeared to me when I was ten and told me that she wanted me to serve her by studying the history of her cult. Or maybe I spent my childhood reading nothing but books on history, certain that I would dedicate my life to unraveling the mysteries of causation and chronology, by the by rescuing the Middle Ages from its modernist critique.

If only. I can't tell you how often I've wished that there were a clear-cut, easily-narrated justification for my interest. Typically, when asked The Question, I dodge, mumbling something about having taken Latin in high school or having gone on an ALSG trip to Europe when I was 16. "I really liked Europe," I might say. Or, "I was so impressed with the Gothic cathedrals," I migh…

Phrase of the Week: Learned Helplessness

How is it that I could have seen this phrase in almost everything I've read over the past few days? Is it a sign? What I am supposed to do with this idea?

It's shown up twice in Harper's, once in an article on on our political situation*, once in an article on psychology**; and once in a email from Lisa Brown on sports psychology. I'm sure I've seen it more than that, but I've been surfing a bit so I can't quite remember where. The reference is to a famous experiment done in the late 1960s by Martin Seligman, who subjected dogs to electric shocks and noticed that after awhile, when it became clear that there was nothing they could do to stop the shocks, the dogs gave up, even when later they were given the opportunity to turn off the shocks.

Apparently, this state afflicts pretty much everybody in our current society: liberals, athletes, you name it, we have a hard time believing that there is anything we can actually do to change our circumstances. My p…

Why Study When There's Pleasure To Be Had?

"Thus you see, sir, these people [the Turks] are not so unpolished as we [English] represent them. 'Tis true their magnificence is of a different taste from ours, and perhaps of a better. I am almost of opinion they have a right notion of life; while they consume it in music, gardens, wine and delicate eating, while we are tormenting our brains with some scheme of politics or studying some science to which we can never attain, or if we do, cannot persuade people to set that value upon it we do ourselves.

"'Tis certain what we fell [sic] and see is properly (if anything is properly) our won, but the good of fame, the folly of praise, hardly purchased, and when obtained, poor recompense for loss of time and health! We die, or grow old and decrepit before we can reap the fruit of our labours. Considering what short lived, weak animals men are, is there any study so beneficial as the study of present pleasure?

"I dare not pursue this then; perhaps I have already …