Monday, December 31, 2007

Cormac McCarthy may be a Genius: Exhibit A

His voice is reminiscent of Hemingway's: telegraphic and startlingly and starkly descriptive and utterly lean. And he does translation the way that Hemingway (or really anyone writing Spanish for English readers) does--elevated diction and a dancing twist of syntax. But I think there's something more to McCarthy. The timbre of his voice varies with his characters and his narrators and his stories more than I anticipated it would and more, I think, than Hemingway did. I just finished the priest/hermit's narrative in The Crossing and a) was completely enthralled despite the abstractions and woven-through crazy, b) caught myself not once startled at and convinced by the authenticity and integrity and discreteness of the voice. I thought I might've been fooled by Oprah and that maybe McCarthy has been oversold, but the more I read the more I'm being persuaded.

Ode to Curmudgeons

Over Thanksgiving I was in Arizona and went to Frank Lloyd Wright's summer home/academy Taliesin West. It was pretty incredible--I think I liked the Cabaret Theatre the best. What we learned is that Wright was not a nice man. The students at his academy were referred to as apprentices and they pretty much spent their time at Wright's beck-and-call. All of the natural stone, for instance, which is used everywhere, was hauled down from the mountains by the apprentices. Wright was bad at being married and bad at his finances, "If you pay for luxuries everything else will take care of itself," and overall kind of a character--which is charming in a way.
What I wanted to say though is that he was a genius because he was a curmudgeon. Exhibit a: you know those lighted aisles in movie theaters? You know who invented those? FLW. He hated ushers and their flashlights so he invented lighting to get around it. He did other things too, I think most of his career was based on being crotchety, but don't remember. But I think a lot of genius comes from not liking things the way that they are and putting up a stink and changing them.

Friday, December 28, 2007

My blog is

a work in progress. I flip from loving the standard to wanting something new to realizing that color (particularly with a limited palate and zero webmaster skills) is a daunting design element indeed. Any ideas are welcome.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

True-life confession

Joni Mitchell. Prince. Queen.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I am Legend

Just finished the book. It is one of two things: a) a very deeply witty satire of the horror genre that I, a novice, cannot appreciate because the tropes fly so fully over my head. b) trash. Not fun trash, either, icky distracting, poorly written trash.
I am Legend has a really interesting premise (which the three movies based on it banked on) and a kind of cool twist at the end. The final sentence is really quite brilliant. A kind of cool twist. And the appeal ends there.
Robert Neville is a self-loathing and unlikeable fellow. The other characters, briefly as they appear, are unrealistic and also unloveable. Dialog is sparse of course, but wooden and splintery when it comes up. Meh: not compelling, not that interesting, no climax to speak of.
This could be Matheson's intent. Truth be told, the inner and external dialog sounds a lot like it's being thought by a man who doesn't have much experience with conversation. The emotional climax of the film resolves with Neville understanding that overwhelming hope is not the path to sanity, but an abiding plodding effort. Maybe Matheson is inviting us inside Neville's head by creating just this kind of environment.
The last issue I had with the book (and understand, I am a critical and demanding reader, but really tried to enjoy this story for what it was. I'm not great at that, but I put forth an effort) was that Neville was bizarrely driven by sex and violence. Possibly this is a guy thing. Maybe it's beyond my understanding. I definitely read things with my feminist glasses on (they suit me smashingly), but am not sure that the psychology of the character could really hold water. Any thoughts?


So, just finished Spirited Men by Brian Doyle and it was fantastic, of course, and smashed full of all the random-seeming, delightful, useless, picturesque, poingnant, telling, tiny facts about men Doyle loved as humanly possible. And I realized that I'm channelling Doyle and I'm honored. These are resolutions of mine: to read more and learn more and know more. To follow my passions (which a certain faux-hawked Colombian who will remain nameless has been telling me for years but for some reason coming from her it seems beyond the reach of a mere live-action mortal like me. Though why it's more credible coming from this near-saint of an essayist and one of the biggest hearts I've every shared a room with and Joyce and Paul Desmond and Van Morrison escapes me). To learn how to listen. To learn how to tell stories, which is a lot like listening, but the concrete, harder end of it. To listen to great music. To love better and more fully.
Personal application: 1. Learning how to tell stories? I know stories. I have funny stories, but I am no good at telling them. Can I learn? Also, are stories important for everyone? I feel like there are some cultures for whom story-telling is this driving genetic need. Like the Irish for instance are always talked about in terms of their oral tradition and also I went to church with the Spanish-speaking branch Sunday and I don't really speak Spanish, but I will say that the speakers did not have notes and they were charismatic speakers even through a lauguage barrier and even though I could tell the second was kind of a condescending ass who was deigning to teach us all about the Roman empire instead of bearing his testimony which is all, eventually, that matters. So the question is, can I be cool without learning how to tell stories? Can I instead do things like analyze arguments and know cool things or less cool things and pass that off? (Methinks the answer is no: all of the people on my top-ten people to bring to a party when it really matters that the people there like you list are storytellers.) There is an interesting question here though (though a very thinky one for the vacation): what is the difference between cultures who produce epic story tellers and those who don't? If cultures don't produce storytellers, what do they produce? Lastly: how do I learn how to do this? (Because isn't sitting and watching people telling stories while taking notes in my head the exact opposite of telling stories? Doesn't that make me less a storyteller just by virtue of doing it possibly by virtue of imagining it?)
2. I'm finishing I am Legend. I'll let you all know how it goes.
3. I'm going to have a book at hand always for the rest of my life and my house is going to be full to brimming with books that I will buy used from libraries when I call there once a week. I'm halfway there already, but it's time to hop in and take this seriously. Really.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Because of the German thing, Christmas is officially over for me. My sister and I went up to Sandy to celebrate with my sister and her family, my parents, and my grandma. So fun: lovely, excited nephews (who I wrestled with after dinner, love it), a nice dinner and good conversation. It was really sweet to see Randy surprise Rachel (brother-in-law and sister). Gifts are such a frivolous delight. The snow almost killed us on the way up (we drive a Ranger). Despite the salt in the bed for weight, we almost didn't make it up Wasatch Blvd.
My 9-year-old nephew confronted his dad yesterday: Is Santa Clause real? Randy gave it to him straight: no Santa, no Easter Bunny (who in their house eats Halloween candy that's left out), no Tooth Fairy. Poor Josh's worldview was deeply disrupted.
Do you remember believing? I don't know that I ever did earnestly. I was near the end and I think by that time the cat was pretty well out of the bag.
So I just finished taking ornaments off our tree and am enjoying the left-on lights in the dark. The tree is dead and wilting and looks delightfully Suessian. I will either read I am Legend which my sister advised not to do alone in the dark (it's awfully written, yet enthralling) or some Cormac McCarthy...delightful options.
So my Christmas message: I hope that all of you get to spend some good time with your family, that you get at least one gift that surprises and delights you, and that you enjoy whichever lovely traditional dish that your family always makes and eats. He lives, indeed. Merry Christmas! ke

Friday, December 21, 2007


How I know I am not in school
1. I was in bed till noon today (with my laptop doing useless things). In my pj's till 1.
2. I just spent two hours catching up on movie trailers/reviews (Charlie Wilson's War looks fun, I will not see Sweeney Todd or No Country for Old Men [2 one-minute clips made me squeal. It looks brilliant, but there's no way], Juno starts playing in Utah on the 27th, Persepolis looks incredible, I might see Across the Universe if the opportunity presents itself...etc.) (Does this count as informed? Do I care?)
3. I spent some time with the NYTimes book review. I was buying Christmas presents for my family today and realized I had no idea what was new and interesting. What kind of English major am I?
4. I have watched 6 movies in as many days.
5. My pile of borrowed books is fatfatfat.
6. Sustained trains of thought today: a. eggnog mixers. b. how Once can make me want to kiss someone and not kiss anyone at the same time. c. Christmas presents I would buy for ex-boyfriends if they were not ex. d. who my audience is on Facebook and how to appeal or not appeal to them.
All kinds of happy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lo How a Rose Ere Blooming

So have you heard this song? I was completely unaware of it until this year when I got three different renditions (Sufjan Stevens, Feist, MoTab) on three different holiday mixes from three different people. And some kids in my ward sang it quartet-like for our Christmas program on Sunday. (This was gorgeous by the way.) Renditions range from the almost medievally classical sounding to folksy and acoustic. The hymn is one of those that can handle the range--deeply biblical with great, simple harmonies.
The line that keeps coming back to me is "Isaiah twice foretold it," and I'm not certain why. Perhaps because this idea manages to be both epic and intimate. That is, we're talking about Isaiah here which automatically gets you credibility points both for style and for doctrine. But we talk about him in a really specific way--not about the overarching and intense prophecies, but about two finite and specific prophecies. We get a glimpse of the writerly Isaiah maybe is the appeal?
Also, just in general, the song is very beautiful. I love the symbolism and going through the same conscious exercise to unpack it as believers have done for millennia. Also, the visual of a rose blooming--the visual of the night and the stable and Mary's face and Joseph's face lit radiant by the light of the star or the light of the child. The rose blooming and casting about it light and love and peace. Thanks Isaiah.

Monday, December 17, 2007

No Country for College-aged Girls

So I had this great discussion once about violence in art. We talked about how violence is often a metaphor for divine experience and how maybe that's because during violent encounters humans must come to terms with their humanity--with the dual nature of our bodies and spirits connected tenuously (for now) in mortality. We realize, when we're in physical danger, the tie between the physical and the spiritual in us. We went on to compare violence to sexuality in the sense that sometimes it's ok and sometimes it's not and also in the sense that perhaps violence creates a bond between the aggressor and the victim. Also that there can be a pornographic shade to violence--if we watch it without being involved and get some kind of kick out of it. Anyway. Cool ideas.
What I've been thinking about lately is violence in film lately. We have No Country for Old Men, we have Sweeney Todd, and it's been increasing for a long time. Not only is violence becoming more prevalent, it's becoming more stylized. When I read No Country, I was kind of appalled by the violence, but I was so engaged by the style. I heard it about Sweeney Todd too...I wish I'd seen some of this stuff so I could back it up with facts, but at any rate.
What does this say about trends in our culture? Ideas: these films/movies seem to turn violence on its head. Within the acts themselves the means are questioned. Right? I want to tie this back to post-9.11 something and a sensitivity to the excesses of postmodernism (which is one of my favorite phrases). I'm not sure.
I'm also not sure how I feel about it. Yeah, I like the idea of reevaluating violence and its motives and its widespread effects on culture, but is using itself to question itself as counterproductive as it seems? Aren't we just saturating ourselves more fully with violence?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Reading Days

5 movies in 3 days. Can anyone voice a defense for Love Actually? Was the fragmentation anything more than shallow and distracting? Granted, I saw an edited version, but really...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Just because I'm thrilled with myself and can't keep it quiet: I ran 8 miles yesterday! Eight! I ran home from Lindon. I'm working on training for a half marathon and this was huge, not only because I ran 8 miles, but because previously I've only run 6 which shows that my little body can push itself to extremes. I suspected, but one never knows. Also, I only have to run 13 miles for the half marathon and the training schedules I have say I only need to run 11 before the race and 8 is practically there.
Last night I was exhausted and this morning my throat is a little scratchy and my hip a little out-of-joint, and also I have a small abrasion where an article of clothing was rubbing at my torso, but other than that I am alive and well. 8 miles.

Which leads me to conclusions. The triangultion is this: I'm accidentally good at school+I can run 8 miles (do hard things)=shouldn't I try for a teaching gig next year and also study for the subject test and apply for doctoral programs next winter? Perhaps this is waffling (when I talked to my mom about mt MA last week she got the same tense tone in her voice she used to try to persuade me not to cut my hair and dye it red, sigh). Perhaps also this is coming to terms with destiny. We'll see.

Speaking of which...

In reference to the Elliot Smith post: this is why Sufjan Stevens does such great Christmas music. He has the whole melancholy thing pegged. He manages to be nostalgic and melancholy and innovative so avoids kitsch in the bad way and achieves holiday nirvana. I tried to buy his collection on iTunes but the system would not let me.
Christmas and Romanticism? Does melancholy suggest a connection between the two--one that I'd resent and don't understand yet.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Togh Dzun Ga!

Yesterday was brilliant. First there was the snow. It just kept coming and coming and when I thought it was done it started up again with new fury. I spent the first half of my day listening to Christmas music and hanging out with friends while also being productive (Christmas miracle!) For a brief middle part of my day I was in the JFSB in a lounge watching the snow fall and fall through those enormous windows that I don't think I've ever properly appreciated. The day ended with 2.5 hours of Bollywood. A date who was willing to sit through 2.5 hours of Devdas, very impressive. A really lovely day.

Devdas was flashy and overdramatic and over the top so brilliant. What does it say about Indian culture, this Bollywood phenomenon? I've been, as an American, judged on the basis of Dallas often enough that I know any inference I could draw would have to be indirect, but I wonder.
The romance was so passive aggressive and teasing and violent. The tragedy (we didn't stay till the end, but I got a summary from S who owns it, and the ending was even worse than I could've anticipated) was agonizing to the point of melodrama. Then there were the class conflicts that provided the main action of the film. And the whole design of it--entirely sparkles and visuals (the dances particularly) and dancing and singing! All of this makes me very curious.

This morning we made turkey. Someone else is bringing stuffing, so we had to season it as we saw fit. I did a chicken this way and it was good, but I'm not sure how it will translate--we filled the body cavity with garlic and onion, then rubbed the fellow down with salt, pepper, and thyme. Then added some cooking sherry (not enough to make a difference I don't think) for good measure. Turkey is never highly seasoned, why is that? (Perhaps we will find out.) Also a note: meat is gross. This feeling has been growing on me for some time now (particularly since I roasted that garlic-thyme chicken) and I've cut back on consumption (Guru's chicken caesar salad the other day was a big mistake, not hardly worth it). Will I, can I, commit to vegetarianism? I broke my no-coke-I'm-in-training resolution yesterday after like a week which makes me doubt it. Anyway.

Bring on the sabbath please! I am so looking forward to charging my batteries. ke

Friday, December 7, 2007


So my roomates have found me out. I'm a latent kitsch hound. Apparently the wolf t-shirt (the one that came with an irresistible sticker: "Find the 8 Hidden Wolves!" from a giftstop in Anchorage) was the initial tipoff, but decorating the Christmas tree sealed the deal.
How could I resist a bright yellow blown-glass Christmas ball from Venice? The articulated gold fish I found in Arizona? And my latest project: glittery picture frame ornaments. I found this pea-green glitter that is to die for.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Today I was observed by my principal-to-be. Things went ok I think. My first class was kind of shaky (I got 5 hours of sleep, after all, and it was like 8:00 and I was lecturing on the rise of the Islamic empire which entailed two dynasties and two invading peoples...and tenth graders) but I was the sub and not that concerned.
My ninth grade class, the one I was observed in, went well. We talked about the Odyssey--the account of the underworld and how the Greek perception of the afterlife influenced norms of Greek society. Yeah, I did kind of bs my way through it. It was lovely. But the kids really got it and it was so fun.
Also, we talked about Hades, how it's bad because you can't do the things you love best. Achilles, for instance, was disempowered completely. This hulking man of action is stuck with a withered, ephemeral body, and he can't do anything. Really wicked idea I think.
In my last period I was on fire. On fire=talking really fast and being really animated. I roasted through my lecture, leaving me with an entire hour to spare. With a little care I probably could've stretched it out, but what do you do? We focused more on the pattern of conquest and domination: some spark begins a revolution, the movement gains power and money, too much money and power facilitate mass corruption, which leads to a power struggle and eventual split. Anyway. That's probably enough for today.


I'm sitting next to my Christmas tree right now. I'm sitting next to my Christmas tree, chewing on a candy cane, and I just finished a paper and I'm listening to Elliot Smith.
There is something oddly festive about Elliot. Something to do with December. Like, Christmas is great because it's a bright spot in the cold. It's something to look forward to when the days are so dark and cloudy and awful. And you get to wallow in the dark and the cold, it's a part of enjoying the holiday properly. I think Elliot Smith captures the mood perfectly--these beautiful vocals and instrumentals and the undercurrent of sad. Festive.
Also, I fell in love with Elliot over a Christmas break a couple of winters ago. It was this terrible break: I was completely broke, working (intermitently) at the Gap, all of my roommates were out of town, and I was contemplating major life changes. I would come home to an empty apartment nights, put Elliot on repeat and curl into fetal position on the floor. What is it, that you're allowed to wallow in the dark places during Christmas break because there are Christmas lights everywhere and carolers and neices and such? Is it just me?