Saturday, February 28, 2009

Smart Dissatisfied Females

I met Haven Kimmel through Girl Named Zippy. Great memoir, right? Funny and sweet and with an eye open to imperfection and contradiction. Loved it.
I think I read The Solace of Leaving Early next which I also really liked and will talk about more in a sec, then She Got Up Off The Couch. Zippy plus. Good. I think Zippy seems her purest sort of effort.
I just finished her latest Iodine. The story follows Trace/Tracey Sue/Ianthe who is working through a repression-fraught and sexually charged (complicated) childhood, trying to make sense of the thing. Using a lot of Freud and Jung to guide her.

I don't want to do a book review necessarily, but. Kimmel does beautiful descriptions. She does great descriptions of ugly and good characterization based on surface details (Ianthe's transformation from goth waif to what comes next is pretty seamless and believable, even as it's extraordinary) and presents a pretty believable main character's head through which you swim. As she did in Solace she presents you with a really brilliant outcasty heroine. This novel is far less redemptive, however, but draws you deeply enough into Trace/Tracey Sue/Ianthe's head that by the time you realize just how broken this kid is it's too late and you're reeling right there with her. (It's like the time I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind while half dozing and had to turn it off and go for a walk because I was pretty sure my mind was melting.

Issues with the book: 1. Because Kimmel played so much with hallucinations and repression and dissociation I'm not sure if she was cheating. And she could've been. Could all of this happen? Did it? What did and what did not? Most of the action (all of it I think after a certain point) is told as an extension to the heading Dream Journal. So each chapter starts with a dream and trolls through old memories and ends up somehow in the present tense of the book. And truth be told I'm not super motivated to go and piece this all back together so maybe it's my fault, but it seems to me like she was cheating. Ex deus machina-style pulling memories from nowhere and deleting years and it all gets pretty messy.

That being said, Ianthe is studying (or obsessed with or something) Freud and Jung and I think that Kimmel justifies the conceit she's using through tenets of psychoanalysis. Kind of cool. Actually kind of my favorite part: all of this mixing of dream and reality is germaine to the content of Trace's mind. And Kimmel plays a couple of very cool parlor tricks with psychoanalytic theory and she has the presence of mind to set most of the action in the vague late 80s when all of this theory was hot hot hot.

2. I resent being a demographic. I was reading--entirely engrossed, not getting my oil changed again this week because I was so taken in--aware of the traps she laid to appeal to me. She name drops (there was a tryst or at least a really great convo with Galway Kinnell, she delves and delves into theory and mythology) . She sets a good chunk of the action (and the main romance) in the English Department. She kind of condescends to middle class normal life livers (Trace avoids her classmates by shopping and showering at truck stops, where real people live). Aaach Haven Kimmel, I'm not a machine! The book is intellectual porn: enough intellectual to make you feel really smart, not enough to challenge you away. It's perfectly designed to grab smart dissatisfied females by their frontal lobes and not let them go until they're dizzy and tired and delighted.

So. Good at what it's trying to do. Enough problematic not to get involved. (And truth be told it took me a good month to get involved enough to finish it.) (And my mom gave it to me because she thought it was too weird.)

Read Zippy though, it's great.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ever wondered what the extra "r" is for?

What is it about February? Yeah I was kind of bummed but I rode my way through December and January with style. Even that 2-week-long inversion late in the month didn't get me down noticeably (I mean, I whined a bit but isn't that just white noise anymore?). This week has beat me down something awful. And I've been sleeping (a lot) and running (not a lot).

I tried to pull myself out of the funk today by teaching fun things, but instead I managed to ruin comic theory and make the kids dread an assignment to write/draw a comic adaptation of the Odyssey. What? This is my best idea all year. Drag drag drag. Complain complain complain. I've lost my ability to pull myself out of bed and turns out my alarm clock only goes for an hour an a half before the snooze gives out.

I might have read all day yesterday (Understanding Comics is 100% genius, thank you Jared for the intro. Everyone will love it) and gone to bed at 8. 8! I might also have had a donut and Diet Coke for lunch.


Dear May:
I love your guts. Wish you were here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Wisdom of the Nineties

So I remember a couple of things being drilled into my head as a child. Basic and fundamental things that defined the way I acted and viewed the world. Like the time in high school when some sixth graders were trying to convince me that the best course of action when lost in sub-zero temperatures was to sit still. Because you might lose a limb, but better than lowering your entire body temperature? I still think their teacher was wrong and leading these poor kids to their deaths.

Example 1: Stranger Danger

Do you remember these lessons? Occasionally set to music. Don't take candy from strangers. Don't get into a stranger's car. Set up a secret password with your family so if your mom has to send someone from work or whatever you can verify that s/he actually knows your mom. (Ours was "pickles" I think.) Don't wear t-shirts with your name on them. (I remember being crushed when I learned about this one. I didn't have a t-shirt with my name on it, but my fondest dream was born and smashed in the same moment.)

So how can people justify this:

Not only do strangers have your names and placement in your family, but they know if you like soccer or have a pet. A whole generation of parents is putting their kids in grave danger! How is this allowed?

Example #2: Hole in the ozone layer

Remember when, pre-global warming, the hole in the ozone layer was environmental concern #1? Remember how that hole was caused almost entirely by aerosol hairspray? And the 90's, so fraught with aerosol hairspray abuse.

So imagine my horror when, in the search for product this weekend, I could find nothing BUT aerosol hairspray? Even brands whose non-aerosol products I've used had nothing to offer in the pump-variety. What happened? Where did all the environmentally conscious hairspray go?

When I was living in Armenia I spent the autumn in constant panic: leaf disposal there is largely a matter of unsupervised burning. My "No Burn" desert social conscience suffered an aneurysm daily.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Blow my mind

So I asked my kids to put together a presentation for a mythology project. I said "be as creative as you can" and this is what a couple of them came up with. How do I even grade this?I feel like crying. (Sometimes my job is the coolest.) (Or my kids are at least.)

To get this as much attention as possible, for your viewing pleasure:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Love, Rachel

Reasons to Survive November
by Tony Hoagland

November like a train wreck—
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.

The sky is a thick, cold gauze—
but there's a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.

—Or maybe I'll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.

I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself

with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.

But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,

and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over

and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.

(a. I wrote the opposite of this poem 2 years ago.

b. Yes and yes.

c. So I won't lose it.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Happy President's Day

a) I promised I would post some pictures of my room. A long time ago. I kept waiting till it was cleaned up and all sunlit, but that happens like once every two months. So. Messy. Dark. Kind of yellow because my light fixture is a little yellow too. So cute.

Bed, unmade.

Vaulted ceiling, or whatever (so light and airy).

The style nook.

Closet (color-coded) and curtains.

My wall of books. Heart.

b) I have a challenge for you, dear readers: defend Bladerunner. I saw it this weekend and was under the impression that it was some sort of classic. Like in a good way. What I saw: too-ambitious (disorienting) special effects. Lots of unaccountable weirdness. Lots of unaccountable references to Christ. An entirely unaccountable dove. What? Campy, yes. I can imagine a sort of "that's soo crazy" love for this film, but so far, its place in the canon seems entirely unjustified.

c) Sometimes Valentine's Day is fun.

Mr Kilmer.

Aging tragically:

And aging less tragically.

Also, contemplating a political career.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


1. Subway is a genius.

Have you seen this? Subway now offers--in addition to sandwiches on 4 kinds of breads, wraps, salads and flatbread sandwiches--pizza?! And it sounds a lot like I'm making fun, but I have had Subway pizza two lunches in a row. Tomatoes, olives, and extra onions (because I have something against cooked green peppers, a bad pita experience I think). Heaven.

2. Red leather day.

When the going gets rough, the rough put on fishnets and red shoes. Seriously. I wasn't sure on Wednesday that I was going to be able to get through my day. But I spent some time in the a.m. (didn't have a lot of it) lining my eyes and dressing up all fancy. It worked like magic. When I write a book for first-year teachers I am going to recommend they purchase fishnet stockings and red shoes with their blazers and all-function skirts. I'm not sure how this would translate for male teachers, but can't imagine it wouldn't have some effect.

3. 4 days and counting.

I haven't had a Diet Coke in 4 days. Wait, 5. Laugh if you must. Scoff if you must. I'm so proud of myself. I have been sleeping 9 hours a night (except for the night of 5 or whatever), and sipping a grape juice and cayenne cocktail which was recommended by a friend (I kind of love it), and I did give up the sugar fast for now (one stimulant at a time I figure), but I think I've survived withdrawals! The obscenely grumpy part of them at least.

4. ke for?

I went to a lecture/screening the other night put on by an organization called Provo for Palestine the other night. It was cool, and I went to see what they were all about, and saw some old friends. The conundrum I found (find) myself facing: I know that my talents could be an asset to this kind of organization. If not this one, something else--grass-rootsy, altruistic, art-based, I don't know. I'm good at organizing, I'm good at pep talking, I'm not great at managing, but I'm ok at design, and I'm great at getting things done. Half of me wants to jump in and make a difference somewhere, to dedicate myself to something big or deeply good or kind of sweet and international. The other half, though, is entirely exhausted at the prospect.
I helped with an art show a couple of years ago (with many of the same people) and it was a smashing success and really fun, but I walked away entirely drained and with almost no desire to ever help anyone again.
The caring, too, is an issue. I fight against apathy in my kids and kind of always have, but the prospect of hleping anyone...huge, kick my trash. But I could be doing more. (Not in the self-loathing way that that sounds, and no "you're making such a huge difference" pep talks, I know and I love it and am great.) But I do wonder about starting something big. While I'm young enough to do it. And getting overseas, that is to not-Europe, in a helpful way. There is a tug toward that in me still.

Anyway. Happy birthday Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Darwin. Good job shaping the modern world. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Arm Wrestling

This post is a downer. Just PS.

So the most exhausting thing about teaching high school is the constant power struggle. There I am, cute and smart and young and female, clashing constantly with boys who are probably very nice but also seem hell-bent on reminding me that I'm not in charge of them.

I know that antagonism shouldn't be part of teaching. I try and remind kids of that every day, that I'm there to help and guide, not to fight or correct or whatever. Antagonism is not conducive to teaching, but.

I warned against plagiarism. It's dumb. It's a bad idea. Whatever. I let them know how easy it is to search online and find it out. And then I get sentences like this: "The Greek pantheon is the group of gods that are in charge of all the main principals of matter." or "They believed in an afterlife and a proper burial using time-honored rituals." My teacher sense starts freaking out. Main principals of matter (misspelling notwithstanding)? Time-honored (correctly hyphenated)? You've got to be kidding me.

Ok, but the antagonism is already set up. I've already approached this kid. I already made a big deal about plagiarism. So anything I say is inherently accusatory. Why do I have to fight this fight? (Because they're paying me to and because I feel somehow bound, honor-bound, whatever, to help these kids.)

I'm just trying to help, stop picking on me!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Dear Mr. Bale

I want to say first that I'm a huge fan. I've been following your career since Empire of the Sun, and I think you've done some brilliant things.

I wanted to congratulate you, too, on your recent successes. Thanks for your contribution to resurrecting the Batman franchise. I just saw the trailer for your new film and it looks very exciting. I'm glad you've found such great success (it was touch-and-go there for a second).

I've been talking with a friend, however, and we are both concerned that you haven't had a film that really takes advantage of your great talent in some time. We wonder if a softer, gentler film, something with that gives your poor gravelly voice a rest, might not round out your persona and give you a break from explosions.

A children's film, perhaps. Something literary. May we suggest Danny the Champion of the world. Something beautifully shot and quietly triumphant. You could play Danny's dad, display again that lovely accent of yours.

Anyway, a thought at least.

Best of luck, ke.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Moms are Great

This is a picture of my mom and me at a party my family put together for my graduation. It was a fantastic party: Anne did (planned) food, Rachel did decorations, Dad lent us his gorgeous backyard, it was a very lovely melding of Evans family talent.
You'll notice that I look a lot like my mom, which I'm proud of and excited about. It means I get to be lovely forever.

The other day my mom was telling me about a book she was reading, something about how talent is overrated. The author pulled some studies and proved (like insomuch as is possible) that really great musicians practice more often and at more productive times of day than less great musicians. The book went so far as to argue that Mozart (and Tiger Woods) wasn't a genius, but just had a good dad and practiced a lot, at which point Dave took issue. Whatever.
So I saw this book and the first thing through my head, because I think like that, was "I'm toast. I will never be great because I'm sort of lazy and not very disciplined." Where Mom went with this though was "I think you're good at [whatever it doesn't really matter] because you do it every day." And it was true. I do practice some things regularly, and they pay off. Moms are great for that. It's their job, right?

Also a couple of years ago I was pretty mad at my dad for something and was kind of bothered because his mom, my grandmother, seemed always to take his side. From my point of view, at the time, this was kind of inexcusable. But after talking to my mom about it, I understood and kind of celebrate the loyalty.

I think we all deserve someone to be on our side entirely. And they'll be misguided sometimes because none of us are perfect or really can earn this privilege. But there's a strength in knowing that no matter how dumb you are, there's someone rooting for you and someone who thinks you're the bees' knees. Moms aren't always this, my mom is getting better and better at this, but it seems like everyone needs one of these.

Anyway. Thanks Mom. And thanks all the rest of you. (I've like an entire cheer squad of family and friends and feel very very lucky.)

A ke Divided

Most of me has been rejoicing over President Obama: his campaign and his election and his beautiful beautiful speeches. I have been body surfing on this wave of hope and it's been really nice. Hawaii native and all.


That conservative portion of me, that Ayn Rand-tolerant fan of capitalism that has been poking less and less frequently at my heart and soul over the last several years, is starting to play with my adrenal glands. Whispers of "Nationalization," of "Redistribution of Wealth," of 700, 000, 000, 000 send me reeling briefly into panic.

Maybe it will work? What have we done?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Thanks Randy!

I thought Sufjan was brilliant in the studio but would drive across the country to see him. If he would play. :(

Seeing the world. Or Elko.

So one of the deals I made with myself when I decided to take the teaching job in Lindon was that I'd make sure to travel. I'd been doing fairly well for myself (thanks in part to the recent diaspora of college buddies), but January really sealed the deal. I've managed 4 states (including Utah which is cheating I know, but wait for the symmetry) in 4 weeks. And I'm working full time. So great.

This weekend I went with some (now) friends to Elko to visit an old roommate and the Cowboy Poetry Gathering. What I loved about the weekend:

Not the poetry, alas. I didn't catch good acts or was too achy/grumpy to appreciate them (late weekend afternoon post-roadtrip? boo). But I found some fantastic music. The Quebe Sisters and Don Edwards and I fell absolutely in love with The Streets of Laredo (there was a great bluesy version too--killer) (Johnny Cash also does a couple of versions. The later one is beautiful. The earlier is very schmaltzy.)

Getting to know cool people. The friend dynamic in my life has altered significantly lately and it was great to realize that Provo is full of funny smart ambitious kids. Usually only a friend away (Facebook tells me these sorts of things.) Also good to remember that I'm capable of making friends. I forget. This includes adults, by the way. I'm coming to appreciate adult relationships more and more and getting better at talking to grown ups. Because I'm not 16 and awkward even though sometimes I feel like it.

Sun and blue skies. Elko doesn't do the inversion thing. This is the inversion my smile did when we drove back into Utah Valley and the grey murk. :(

Renewing old friendships too. People do this. I haven't seen Sarah in a couple of years and it was great and we chatted like old times and she's fantastic.

The West. One of the music acts presented old Irish/Scottish ballads before they sang the cowboy songs based off of the originals. What a beautiful transfusion of culture into the frontier. (Also, I love melodrama but can only handle it acoustically. These songs fit my tastes precisely.) The border thing struck me again when someone was talking about horsemanship. It was all redolent of stately Spanish horsemen, precise and trotting and decked out. The West couldn't be what it is without these other influences. Imperialism and oppression notwithstanding, I think the influences that ended up mixing together in the West are cool.

And there was just a cool dynamic in the people gathered. Not at all my usual scene: earnest and over the top and entirely without guile. Such a great weekend.