Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Look what I can do!

Travel into the future.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Because I'm Pretty Sure

that Brian Doyle is less than a year from stardom on the Mormon circuit, and I'm big into being there first (hats off to those of you who were actually first, Pat, Amanda, and co.), I wanted to get my two cents in.

I was feeling dark and detached late last night and couldn't sleep despite my near fatal (definitely uncharming and frustrated) exhaustion during dinner earlier in the evening and was nosing around the open boxes that are serving as bookshelves in my half-packed room. I needed something of substance, but didn't want equivocation. Enough with making things more complicated. (Doctorow, Lethem, Rushdie, Wallace all out out out.) I found Leaping. Of course. I read the Credo from "Altar Boy." Lyrical. Clear. Earnest. It was perfect and I finished the essay and I fell asleep.

I've been finding comfort in Doyle more and more often. When I finished Leaping first (in a comfy chair at the Cheers house with a manic kitten on the loose) I was ambivalent. Despite the loveliness, my comfy cynical undergraduate self wasn't sure what to do with so much hyperbole. So many adjectives. But lately, amid the mad tectonics that have defined my 26th year, I want to weave Doyle's taut clear belief and wild fluid prose into a blanket and take a nap in it.

Here is another Credo (and some pretty lame pictures, Online Catholics). Enjoy!

Aaaah. That's What They're up to.

or: How the Flaming Lips Suddenly Make Sense.

Wayne Coyne.
Making the room brighter.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why I Love Sports Night

If you know me well, you've heard me talk about Sports Night. One of those critic's darlings that gets canceled tragically after the first couple of seasons. Aaron Sorkin (of the West Wing's) early attempt. Brilliant though, brilliant. Clips of the show are making their way slowly onto YouTube and in honor of the first couple of shows that I just watched, I wanted to tell you why:

The show is earnest. Earnest bordering on preachy. But in a TV landscape filled with snarky sarcastic one-dimensional characters, Sorkin writes characters with depth, who stand for things, with interesting and troubled pasts who truly care about each other.

I respect particularly Sorkin's male characters. The female characters are great too, BTW, assertive and smart, but I think that male characters are so often simplified to meat-headed sex machines that the loyal and thoughtful men on Sports Night are beyond even refreshing. Here's me and earnest: they're awe-inspiring. They make me want to help my students be good kids and to raise good sons and to fight for goodness. It's weird and fantastic. (I suspect you see this on West Wing too. Something about a group of dedicated people fighting the good fight just makes me glad.)

And it's about sports. And I still love it.

(If you're a first-timer: they do this really bad gimmicky laugh track the first part of the first season. It goes away.)


Some highlights from this weekend:

"It's raining babies!"

"It's better to swear on the wall than swear at your mom."

"That's one way, at least, that Wagner and Woody Allen are similar."

I love my life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Pursuit of Happiness (kick Will Smith out of your head immediately)

Radio West today: A few years ago author Naomi Wolf traveled across the country talking about what she sees as threats to American liberty, and what struck her was how powerless Americans felt to make change. So, she set out to learn from the nation's original revolutionaries what freedom actually means, and she quotes the 18th century philosopher Diderot when she says "everything must be shaken up, without exception and without circumspection."
A little inflamatory. The kind of inflammatory that gets me thinking and also sets like lead in my stomach because if she's right I need to restructure my belief systems and MO. Again. (And doesn't it feel right, a little? Like we might be living during a major downswing in innovation and motivation? My whole body hurts thinking about this and trying to see through the politics and faulty assumptions to something true.)
She talked specifically about the pursuit of happiness. About how we throw around that phrase these days in connection with things like buying a new car or getting a really good burger or shopping online in our underwear. But how it means much much more than that. How that right, guaranteed, means that we have the opportunity and obligation to make our lives the very best they can be and to use our time and energy to help others. Sounds very familiar. Like maybe it's eternally the case.
And this is something I've been wrestling with: it is my responsibility to make sure that I'm happy. It is no one else's and if I fail then I'm not only denying myself that happiness, I'm hindering the good I can be doing and my longterm progression. Again and again the choices I'm making come back to this: I have to fight for my happiness. It's not easy to be happy, but is worth the fight. More than that: giving up on that fight is giving up everything everything everything.
But what does that mean? What will make me happy? There are the obvious things, of course, but more and more, as I'm in a place when I'm making decisions that are going to have long-term consequences (I always hated this notion, but now even more than when I was an undergrad I feel sooo weighed down by choice)--habits that I'm making and thought-channels I'm grinding--I'm confronted by these sorts of questions. What will make me happy? What do I want? I can make it happen, I just need to decide what I want and do it.
Theoretically. But as a friend said recently, (and by said I mean gchatted) "i'm just waiting to look back on any part of my life and say 'uh-huh, I planned that.'" Yes, this agency and choice thing is all well and good in theory, but actually I know that the universe is a very unpredictable place. What's the point of planning if the plans all end up foiled in the end anyway?
And this: part of me wants to throw caution to the wind entirely, let myself be lead by these impulses, leave behind my obligations and live for me only; a thing that, though I'm self-centered certainly, I've never really done. But part of me knows that those impulses are fleeting and that there is happiness in sticking. How to stick without feeling stuck?

All very heavy stuff.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Barack Obama is not the Anti-christ

For those of you who were wondering.

Also, I love this website a lot. I love that it exists. And though it may only be a sort of illusion of balanced objectivity (because who can believe that that exists anymore?) I love that illusion (I live in relative world and I am a relative girl, it's appealing certainly, but exhausting). Like my feather comforter on a cold night.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Provo/Orem Bound

For those of you who live locally and haven't yet: go to the Orem Public Library. Go today. Get a card. I was down perusing their film selection and was almost brought to tears. Nico Icon? The literature section? (Readings by Grace Paley, Czeslaw Milosz, Louise Gluck)? I'm entirely in love.

Also, the book sale, which isn't always great, was: Pale Fire. Fifty cents. Also, if anyone has a record player, there are some great spoken-word albums to be had.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Did you hear it snowed this morning?

In one of the Ender's Game series, somewhere toward the end (they get more weird as they go) Ender and his crew (which includes a boy-aged version of his sociopath brother somehow) are flying toward a home planet of the human race's old nemeses, the Buggers. This is a race descended from ants who don't communicate verbally but chemically. In preparation for this method of communication, the spaceship Ender and gang are flying is equipped with sensors that read the molecules the Buggers send. Anyway, they're approaching and they get this chemical message that resembles heroin. They have to decide if their hosts are trying to convey how happy they are to see them, or if they're trying to dope the pilot of the ship out so they can take them out more easily. I don't remember how it ends.

I was thinking about this last night as I was making soup. I love soup. I love making it and I love eating it. I honed the skill on my mission. At first it was just another comfort food (give those Snickers bars a rest), but I remember at one point making a new trainee who had a viscious stomach problem a bowl of chicken vegetable and hoping and praying that she'd like it, that it would make her feel better, and maybe that it would help her feel welcome in the country and in our companionship. A tall order for a bowl of soup, yes, but I'm satisfied that it did its job.

The moral of the story is this I guess: I wish I didn't have to talk. At least not about my feelings. I wish I could communicate solely through the medium of soup. It comforts in a way that I've never really been able to. And making a good soup is a lot like composing a poem: you add spices and stir and drain, all driven by smell and taste, trying to find a unity which supercedes individual ingredients.

Last Night's Soup
1 med onion

1 small zuchinni

6 C chicken stock

1 russet potato, diced and boiled
3/4 roasted acorn squash, mashed
2 small tomatoes, diced

1 can black beans
1 can garbanzo beans (If I did this again I would cook the beans myself--canned beans inescapably taste like the can. Ick.)

Rosemary, italian seasoning, cumin (I can't leave it alone).

1 egg
1/3 C white flour
1/3 C wheat flour

Sautee onions in a little vegetable oil. Add halved and sliced zuchinni and chicken stock. Boil for 5-ish minutes. Add drained potato, squash (I mashed my squash into a measuring cup and mixed in 1/2 C of broth before returning mixture to pot), tomato, beans, and bring to a boil.

In small bowl beat egg. Add flour until dough-y but not dry. When soup is boiling, drop spoonfuls of dough into soup, continue boiling until the noodles are cooked.

Would be good with a little parmesean.

=It's a chilly Saturday and you're dressed like a hobo and it's ok.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


A manager of mine at Ross Dress for Less (the ex-military guy with the white mustang convertible and penchant for X96's 10:00 mosh-pit) told me about a friend-of-a-friend who went completely nearly homocidally crazy. She went to a psychiatrist who had a simple explanation: she drank too much Diet Coke. Apparently the stuff will bug you out to the point of wanting to strangle people just to feel their Adam's apples bob.
I don't believe the manager of course, but the threat has stuck in the back of my brain like Crush by David Archuleta (have you seen the video? Not sure how I feel about it, but congrats David, on #1) on a bad day. It pokes its over-long little nose into my subconscious on days like this, when I'm just bugged. And today had such potential too. But my haircut makes me look like I'm 17 and I kept having to pansy out to child's pose ("do you feel like moderate or intense this morning?" Moderate of course, it's Saturday morning, are you crazy?) and got sucked in to 2 episodes of Americas's next top model interspersed with the Daily Show which, while it has lovely moments, is so angry and negative. Diet Coke for lunch. Bugged.

Positives are these: I enrolled, finally, in my 401k. Yes, actually, on the very day that the Dow was at its lowest in memory. My economist step-father (in that subversively positive/pragmatic way that economists are so great at) pointed out that it's a good time to invest, prices are low at least. Also, I'm going to DC this week for fall break and the timing couldn't be better.

Also: I wonder about TV. I heard this article on NPR about how advertisers, due to TiVo and other commercial-avoiding technologies, are getting more aggressive/skillful at product placement. They sited 30-Rock's Soy Joy episode (I thought it was a joke, too), where a character's hand gets stuck in a vending machine trying to grab a Soy Joy (bar?) as one of the more obvious/pointed examples. They also talked about reality tv. It's cheap (no writers, no sets) and lucrative (hey you models, drink this Diet Coke, would you?), and terrible TV (except when it's fabulous, like Dominque facing off Claire and two other girls 3 cycles later). So what's keeping the networks from doing all-reality all the time? Pertinent here, too, are shows like 30-Rock that are brilliant and critically acclaimed, but that don't get all that many viewers (because people are blind?).
So what happens to TV next? A theory: the appetite for sequels and for TV on DVD (commercial free an always on) combine to form a new medium: Independent Television. But it won't be television. Show made especially for DVD. We've already begun, sort of, with Dr. Terrible's Sing-along Blog. A friend of mine made a claim that this is the Golden Age of television, and what better way to keep that gold shiny than to separate TV from the commercial realm (could it survive?)?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I'm tired

of 7:30 (6:30, 5:30, 4:30).

of grading.

of whispering.

Next week will be better (fall break).

External indicator of internal unrest: a messy desk, a messy room, diet coke for breakfast.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

10 hours and counting

Just in case you are also still at school at 5:30 grading too many end-of-term papers and needed a little pick-me-up. Club Narwhal, you have saved my life yet again.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


There are unformed beginnings of many posts in my head right now. I think I'm going to list them willy-nilly and see if next week I can get something more cohesive down.

I feel pretty confident that the Killer's new song is a reflection on Brandon Flower's lapsed mormonism. What business of it is mine, you say? None, not at all, and I wouldn't inadvertently want to add to the mass of LDS urban legend (though I think this Elvis thing is pretty delicious), and I'm not trying to imply that everytime that everyone refers to "on my knees/looking for the answer" that it means some kind of soul-searching confessional lyric, but I do think that emblemizing the unreachable perfection that cultural mormonism seems occasionally to imply is the ideal as "dancer" ("are we human, or are we dancer?") would be literary genius. Genius I say.

I love my family. I think that A brings it out most in me, and I know Jeremy brings it out in Rachie, but we seem always to end up in lovely debates of all flavors. Last night: Presidential politics and same-sex marriage. Lovely discussions both, but the best part is arguing with my family. I get kind of uncomfortable arguing with friends: we do it all the time, but I come out arguing the conservative side and never feel sure of what I'm arguing and am always worried about social implications. With my family I rarely feel defensive and generally end up the crazy liberal one, which position I'm almost always more comfortable supporting. Odd. So fun though. There was also a moment during conference when we were all lounging on the couch, Jeremy asleep on Molly's shoulder and I felt so completely content.

I'm constantly writing notes to myself/inanitmate objects in my head. Why do I do this? Some examples from this week:

Dear Kjerstin-of-the-future,
Those brown pants you're trying on right now are a bad idea. Brown pants never work and you will certainly regret the purchase. Trust me.
Love, Kjerstin-of-the-past.

Dear basil,
Welcome to my garden! You are beautiful! I wasn't sure you'd grow and now all I can think about is caprese salads with tomatoes from Connie's.
Love, Kjerstin.

Dear Diet Coke,
Thanks for saving my life. Again. If you ever need anything, just let me know.
Love, Kjerstin.

I'm loving teaching this week. A lot. I'm finally getting it through to me that if I really work hard at something and engage in it then it's fun and I'm successful which is also fun. I have an outline for goodness' sakes (and a planner from Connie that is indescribably comforting and helpful. I'm a much less calm person if my life isn't color-coded).
As I'm preaching the value of education (the longest day revolved around a less-than-successful field trip which necessitated a period-long pep talk about how these kids aren't screw-off eighth graders anymore and the only thing coming between themselves and the Ivy Leagues, or whatever else they really want to do, is them) I'm really converting myself. Like, why do we get an education at all? Not to get a better job. To be better people. I've convinced myself entirely that education is the key to making something of your life, to adding value to every second, to making people better. Also, everything you learn will help you--the more stuff you know, the more potential connections there are in your head, and what is knowledge but making connections?
On the one hand this goes even further to convince me that teaching is for sure the place for me. On the other hand, what the hell am I doing with only a bachelor's degree and one little-used language? I need to learn Spanish. I need to learn German. (Russian, French) There's so much history (particularly the history of the Israelites/Hebrew/Jews is fascinating me right now) and literature and math and chemistry that I don't know. Physics!: I haven't even touched physics.
Where do I go? (Turkey.)
What do I do?

The Gilmore Girls

Healthy/unhealthy addictions: Diet Coke vs. Ice Water, 24-hour Fitness vs. napping, vs. the Gilmore Girls (there is a striking similarity in the feeling you get opening a book-filled mail box and watching Dean and Rorie's first kiss. Just me?).

General Conference! Rhetorical analysis as well as practical application.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Why didn't I know?

I'm in heaven.