Wednesday, April 30, 2008
it's like the musicals you love, only evil

So. Excited. Can't. Breathe. Must! Go!

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overheard in my classroom
Spoken by a very sweet but cripplingly naïve high school freshman girl:

I definitely want kids. Three or four, at least. So, I’ll go to college, get a job – a vet I think, because I really like animals – and then start having kids right away. And I want to have them all before I get too old, you know? Like, be done by 23 at the latest…

(So, did I then pipe up and tell her that 23 is far from old, that having four kids by age 23 isn’t really likely unless she starts in her teens, that veterinary medicine requires at least eight additional years of higher education, that it’s one of the most academically rigorous degrees one can obtain, and that her current 2.0 GPA simply ain’t gonna cut it? Nope. Couldn’t do it. You dream on, you absolute little dream!)

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random posts of pretty
From E.W. White's Charlotte's Web:
"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."

"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die... By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heavens knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008
inspired by this week's book: three time periods i am infinitely grateful i wasn't born into, because i'm fairly certain in them i'd fail

#1:  The Renaissance
Literary/Scientific/Artistic Boom
Gallant Knights
Gorgeous Dresses
Beautiful Castles

Restrictive Corsets
Public Sewage (or lack thereof)
A Firmly Entrenched Caste System
Bear Baiting
The Bubonic Plague

Why I'd Most Certainly Fail
Hygiene would be my Achilles' Heel. Amazingly enough, water was believed to be bad for one's health, so people didn't drink it or bathe in it.  On the up side, this belief ensured that everyone spent the better part of their day sporting a healthy wine/ale buzz. On the down side, they stank.  My gag reflex is far too healthy and sense of smell much too heightened to live in an era where changing one's shirt once a week suffices for bathing.  And I don't even want to think about oral hygiene.  Honest to goodness, every time Gwyneth Paltrow and what's his name got down and dirty in Shakespeare in Love I couldn't help but imagine how rank their breath would be if all things were historically accurate.  My stomach turns just thinking about it.

#2: The American Old West
Little to No Local Law Enforcement
The Romance of Charting the Unknown
Fresh Air

Little to No Local Law Enforcement
Small Pox
Indian Warfare
The Near-Extinction of the American Buffalo
Dying of Dysentery on the Oregon Trail

Why I'd Most Certainly Fail:
I've watched enough Deadwood to know that as a woman in the Wild West I'm either doomed to the brothels or the laudalin.  Probably both.  Thank you, no.

#3:  Colonial America
Freedom from Religious Persecution (so long as you're Puritan, of course)
Mandatory Education for all Children, both Male and Female
and, um...Plenty of Cod....? 
(This is hard.  I'm pretty sure it would be fairly awful being a Puritan.)

A God who Tests Us on Our Best Days and Loathes Us on Our Worst
A Dour, Black Wardrobe
Three Hour-Long Fire and Brimstone Sermons on Hard Wooden Benches
A Constant, Oppressive Feeling of Paranoia
A Firm Belief in a Tangible Satan who Lives in the Woods, Possesses our Disenfranchised Brethren and Whose Hand Guides Our Every Misstep

Why I'd Most Certainly Fail:
Several aspects of my personality make me confident that I would have made a positively shite Puritan.  I laugh in church, regularly read "suspicious literature" (i.e. fiction), and, generally speaking, am a sassy, sassy lady.  Furthermore, I've always had a slight fascination with the occult.  No, I don't actually believe in fortune telling, but I have a working knowledge of palmistry and I know my way around a deck of Tarot cards.   Knowing me, I'd be dancing naked in the woods whilst conjuring spirits with my voodoo house servant.  Point me in the direction of the gallows, for lo, I be doomed.  

Monday, April 28, 2008
monday book review: all shall be well; and all shall be well; and all manner of things shall be well
Most days I'm a woman who's fairly comfortable in her own skin. Perhaps I wasn't born into the wealthiest family, didn't come from the most glamorous of places, and was certainly dealt a rather short and befreckled genetic hand; but even still, I'm generally pretty content being me. I do, however, recognize that there are loads of people in the world who don't share my contented outlook: women who feel they were meant to be men, men who don't feel truly fulfilled unless wearing a dress and heels, fans who are at their happiest conversing in Klingon at a Star Trek convention, and kids like the one in my first hour who create full-body fox costumes (now complete with a head!) because they feel as if they'd be better off born cartoon fox than human.

And whatever. Can't say I get it, but if no one's getting hurt then go do whatever weird thing you need to do to be happy, you.

But although I really can't relate, I can't help but be fascinated with people who are so uncomfortable in their own skin that they reject their gender, species, culture and/or time period in favor of another. And Burt Hecker - protagonist of Tod Wodicka's horribly titled debut novel - is one such person.

Burt (known as Eckbert Attquiet to his fellow medieval enthusiasts) is a man lost in time. Orphaned at birth and raised by nuns in an upstate New York monastery, Burt had always felt that he was better suited for the 1100's than the 1900's. Whenever possible, he spurns modern inventions such as coffee, potatoes and pants in favor of his medieval homemade mead, oat gruel and tunics. He doesn't drive or work, and spends most of his time with his fellow eccentrics hosting huge medieval reenactments in the backyard of the bed and breakfast he calls home. Considering all this, I'm sure it's not too much of a stretch to imagine that Burt's personal life is a bit of a mess.

Although the timeline of the novel bounces around through Burt's life, it begins with him as an angry old man in Germany, recently widowed and seeking the forgiveness of the son he adores but who will no longer speak to him. The tragic reason for this distance is revealed during his trek through Bohemia, and although I still couldn't relate to Burt by the novel's conclusion, I found myself smitten with the weird little curmudgeon nonetheless.

Many reviewers touted this book as being a black comedy; but while it's definitely wry, I certainly wouldn't call it funny. By and large, All Shall be Well... is a melancholic, odd, and beautifully written tragedy - one that most people will probably overlook due to the title and subject matter. And it's a shame, that. I sort of loved this book.

All Shall be Well; and All Shall be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall be Well
Tod Wodicka
2008, 264 pages

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Saturday, April 26, 2008
random posts of pretty
My second favorite moment from my all-time favorite movie, Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude:

(Can you think of a more eloquent anti-war visual statement? I can't.)

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Thursday, April 24, 2008
things i'm fairly certain cease to be cute immediately upon turning thirty (because it's gonna happen in 28 days whether i like it or not):
  • Pigtails
  • 95% of MTV's programming
  • Instant message speak, unless used ironically
  • Absolutely anything Hello Kitty, even if meant ironically

  • Hello Kitty tombstone? Not cute.

  • Jumping up and down and clapping one's hands with glee
  • Stripping to earn money for college/child care/retirement*
  • Not having a retirement plan
  • Techno music
  • Raves
  • Public Drunkenness
  • Hysterics
  • Sweatpants with suggestive words printed across the bum

  • Calling one's own butt juicy? So incredibly not cute.

  • Aimlessness
  • Flashing your rack at a NASCAR rally*
  • Bisexual experimentation*
  • Body glitter
  • Midriff tops
  • Tramp stamps*

  • Biblical quotes on your crack = whack.

  • Training to be a Justin Timberlake back-up dancer (esp. when the living room blinds are drawn and your entire neighborhood is getting the free show from your big picture window)
  • Angst
  • Tantrums
  • Freckles**

  • *Not that I have first-hand knowledge of this, mind you. I'm just saying what the good Lord loves to hear.



    Wednesday, April 23, 2008
    my students on the subject of: normalcy
    Taken from a 9th grader's research-based photostory project on the AIDS crisis in Africa:

    "Surveys show that Africans spend more time at funerals than they do doing normal things such as getting haircuts, flossing their teeth or barbecuing."


    random posts of pretty
    Liam Finn performing "Wise Man" at South by Southwest

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    Tuesday, April 22, 2008
    happy earth day!
    Most days I love the Earth. Sure, come fall when we have to rake the mountain of leaves the huge trees in our yard produce my love is diminished slightly. And when our plumbing suddenly seized up last Saturday and we had to call a guy out to clear a mass of tree roots from our underground pipes, my love was a bit…tempered to say the least. But yes, most days I really do love the Earth. So, in honor of Earth Day here are a few Earth-friendly links I’ve found to help celebrate.

    Obviously, recycling is one of the best things you can do for the environment, and Swaptree is a very cool website that helps you swap stuff you don’t want and gain something you do. The site allows you to trade in used DVDs, CDs, books and video games for something else, and all you have to pay for is shipping. How cool is that? (Thanks to VSL for the link.)

    Speaking of recycling, being the nerd for the written word that I am it figures I’d be smitten with these journals made out of recycled hardcover books. I've got my eye on you, vintage Nancy Drew...

    I’ve never been much of a fan of greeting cards, but these plantable cards available over at Etsy are functional, biodegradable and adorable. In other words, expect to get more mail from me.

    Of course one very simple thing the average person can do to help the environment is switch to reusable grocery bags and swear off bottled water (Which, considering that the FDA has little to no control over the bottled water industry and tap water is much more rigorously regulated, more bacteria has often been found in bottled water than in most tap water and as much as 40% of bottled water is only filtered municipal city water - Nestle and Coca-Cola have both admitted their product is merely bottled tap water - it shouldn’t be too much of a burden swearing off the bottle assuming you have access to city water. Why people would pay money for bottled tap water is a mystery to me).

    But speaking of water bottles, I was devastated to hear that the Nalgene bottle I’ve been religiously using every day for the better part of two years leaches bisphenol A, a chemical “linked to neurological and behavioral problems in infants and babies, along with certain cancers, diabetes” miscarriages and birth defects. Of course nothing is ever 100%, but I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to my heath, so I’ve since abandoned by trusty blue Nalgene bottle and am substituting it with a way cuter, safer and more durable metal SIGG bottle. (And since I love you and want you to be safe, I think you should too.)

    And finally, this site helps you calculate the size of your carbon footprint. Unfortunately, my Energy Conservation Score is 347, which is slightly above average in large part due to all the driving I have to do and the fact that I live in The Motor City - a place notoriously unfriendly to public transportation. But you know, my birthday is coming up, so perhaps a fancy new Hybrid vehicle would be a good gift! (Of course, I’m joking. Sort of.)

    Monday, April 21, 2008
    monday book review: the boys in the trees, by mary swan
    Set in 19th Century rural Canada, Mary Swan's debut novel tells the haunting story of a an inexplicable murder in a small town and its ripple effects on everyone it touches.  Reading more like a collection of short stories than a novel, Swan weaves together a series of character sketches to reveal the tragic story of a poor immigrant who - suddenly and for no clear reason -murders his wife and two daughters.  Rather than telling the story directly, Swan adopts a variety of points of view: the slain wife, the murdered daughters - one sickly and troubled, the other sweet and kind - a teacher who feels a certain level of responsibility for the events, a small boy who befriended one of the murdered little girls and more, although noticeably absent is the voice of the man whose crime sets the wheels in motion.  Each story provides a piece of a puzzle that is never exactly solved, but - at least for me - that seemed to be the point.  Who really knows why horrific events happen?  The point isn't really the why so much as  the effect violence has on both those it is inflicted upon and the ones forced to bear witness.

    For some reason I've always been a bit of a sucker for crime dramas, and when they are written in an elegant, artful and psychological manner I'm over the moon.  However, I  must admit that I didn't choose The Boys in the Trees based on its subject, but rather for a much more superficial reason.  I heard absolutely nothing about it, the blurb on the back didn't sound particularly interesting and I had never heard of author Mary Swan, but the cover was so pretty that I simply couldn't resist it.  It wasn't perfect - a tad uneven and confusing in spots - but the overall effect made these issues relatively easy for me to overlook.  Fortunately, the image on the cover perfectly captured the story inside: nothing particularly groundbreaking, however elegant and poetically beautiful nevertheless.  I love it when that happens.

    Mary Swan
    2008, 224 pages

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    Sunday, April 20, 2008
    pretty sunday prayer

    Nate and I had the amazing opportunity to usher an event featuring the Dalai Lama today. Listening to him speak was inspiring, calming, and unexpectedly funny, and I'm so thankful for the random chain of events that allowed me to spend the day listening to his thoughts on religion, life, responsibility and the environment. I could probably write a tome on the experience, but I'm pretty tuckered out right about now, so instead here's a small sample of what we heard. I'm unfortunately forced to paraphrase since today was one of the rare moments when I found myself without a pen or one of the five journals I typically carry with me everywhere I go, but I believe I'm still being pretty faithful to his original words, which, of course, were beautiful:
    Our only true purpose in life is to be happy. It does not matter if you are Buddhist, Christian, or do not believe at all; use whatever philosophy you need to get you there...True happiness comes from having compassion, and having compassion means practicing altruism. If you are Buddhist, imagine Gautama. If you are another faith, imagine Jesus or Allah or Muhammad. If you have no faith, be altruistic. If for some reason you cannot do this, then at the very least do less harm.
    Amen to that.

    Saturday, April 19, 2008
    postcards from our super skeeeeery gator hunt:

    ...and, of course...

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008
    three things, right quick
    Okay, so I lied. The Interwebs are the exact opposite of plentiful where I am. Nonetheless, I'm still grabbing a "quick" dial-up connection (it's like using the Internet under water, I swear) because I feel compelled to share a few small things. To list:

    1. Nathan saw five alligators on the golf course today, and managed to not get bit by a one.

    2. I think I might be experiencing death by sunshine. I don't much mind. I can think of at least five worse ways to go.

    3. I wrote three pieces a few months back, they must have been decent enough because they were accepted into a book, and that book was released for purchase today. You should check it out, because I hear that's what all the cool kids are doing. You do want to be cool, don't you?

    And that's it. Please to enjoy the rest of your week.

    Saturday, April 12, 2008
    why so quiet
    In a few hours we'll be boarding a plane to sunny, gun-lovin' Florida where I plan to spend at least 75% of my week lounging poolside with an endless string of fruity drinks in hand. I've packed five books, eight skirts, two bathing suits, twelve pairs of shoes and a huge bottle of aloe (for lo, but I do have me some pasty, pasty skin), so I'm thinking I'm pretty well set. There will be plenty of Interwebs where I'm going, but even still I may not be coming around here much, and I just wanted to give you a head's up in case you thought I abandoned you.

    Because I didn't, love. Baby's just on vacation 's all.


    Friday, April 11, 2008
    your friday video: the cutest three minutes of your day
    Today was one of those days.

    You know - the sort where you woke up late, hence hurried through the morning routine in order to minimize the damage already done to the day's schedule. This rushed morning means you look like a shlub, which unfortunately means you spend the entire day feeling like a shlub as well.

    Due to all the rushing, you lose nearly everything you lay hands on, from important office building keys, to your lunch, to your wedding ring. (Found the first two, however am still looking for the third. Eek.)

    As your day progresses, you realize you have to guide others through a technological program you are completely unfamiliar with, but have been reassured how so very easy it is. Of course it's not easy, nothing works and the tech lady decided to take her vacation a day early, leaving you stranded in a sea of loud, impatient teenagers who - although hyped up on energy drinks and the promise of Spring Break looming just over the horizon - you are somehow charged with controlling, an act as futile as trying to control a hurricane’s course.

    To round it all off, you then discover that your city has been infiltrated by a roving pack of vampiric zombie ninjas hell-bent on world domination. By noon they’ve either slaughtered or infected nearly all of your students and colleagues, leaving only yourself, one scrappy custodian and the snarky school secretary left to take them down, which you somehow manage to do using weapons you’ve crudely constructed out of dustless chalk, staplers, ketchup packets, overhead projectors and that weird powder janitors use to clean up vomit.

    It’s over now and you’ve survived (unlike the scrappy janitor), however the day’s events have left you feeling dazed, tired, and unable to tolerate anything more complicated than watching a fuzzy little kitten squirm around on a blanket.

    We’ve all been there, right?

    So...........lookit! Kitty!!!:

    (P.S. Happy Friday.)

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    Thursday, April 10, 2008
    what i imagine the cartboy thought upon discovering my wallet, accidentally left in the cart I abandoned in the middle of the store's parking lot
    (For some reason, my imagination insists he's British. Mind you, not authentically British, but rather a completely absurd parody only an insulated Midwestern American such as myself could dream up.)

    Oh bloody hell! What’s this - a cart left ten paces away from the cart return station? Honestly, how hard can it be to take ten steps and return it proper, you lazy cow?

    Oi! What have we here...A wallet? Ace! This must be my tip for your blatant rudeness. (peeking inside) Bugger and blast! There’s no money in here! Not a single penny! You’re not only a lazy cow, but a broke one at that, aren’t you (searching for identification)…Mrs. White? Hmm…well, where there’s no cash there is something even better: credit cards! (searching for credit cards) Oh, sod off! Are you taking the piss? Debit cards? Doubt a skint bint such as yourself would have much money in the cash machine to even make it worth the risk.

    (searching some more) Blimey. Not so much as a single picture in here either? Aren't you a sad sack, Mrs. White! A dead broke bint with no one to love. I almost feel right sorry for you. Might consider nicking your social security card and selling the digits, but one would have to be off their trolley to want to be you, love!

    Ah shite. Best just turn it in, then. How I've got you sussed you have enough problems without a bloke like me nicking your wallet.

    Daft twit.

    an open letter to the person(s) in charge of determining gas prices
    Dude, you’re killing me.

    I spent nearly twenty dollars for five gallons of gas this morning. This is not okay.

    Make. It. Cheaper. Or else!

    Mrs. White

    (What can I say? After the success of yesterday's open letter, I thought I might once again grossly oversimplify a complex situation for my own personal benefit. It’s worth a shot, right?)


    Wednesday, April 09, 2008
    random posts of pretty
    Photographs by Zoe Strauss


    an open letter to the detroit tigers
    Stop. Sucking.

    I mean it. Just....stop it!

    Mrs. White


    Tuesday, April 08, 2008
    in the past 72 hours i've graded...
    84 essays, mostly terrible;

    39 research paper outlines, mostly tolerable;

    39 works cited pages, mostly ghastly;

    and an endless string of random odds and ends, mostly late.

    I'm exhausted, my eyes are blurry, I can't make a fist with my writing hand, and I'm faintly high from all the Sharpie fumes.

    Consequently, tonight I'm making celebratory "I'm done!...for now!" cupcakes, and celebration's going to taste like Mexican chocolate, methinks.

    (Bottom line - I'll holler more substantively atcha tomorrow. Today, me sleepy. Me want cupcake.)

    Monday, April 07, 2008
    monday book review: the savage detectives, by roberto bolaño
    Where to begin?

    The Savage Detectives is one of those titles I couldn't seem to avoid. When it was originally released in 1998 it won a slew of awards I had never heard of, and upon the release of its 2007 English language translation it was met with a loads of new praise. The New York Times named it one of the Ten Best Books of 2007, it was featured in the Morning News's Tournament of Books, and the dust cover is littered with glowing reviews from at least ten critics, calling it "brilliant," "important," "a glittering diamond," "magnificent," and Bolaño lauded as a "genius" and "the next Garcia Marquez." Oddly, what the dust jacket does not say is what the book is about.

    Turns out there's a very good reason for that, since the book isn't really about anything. (And since it clocks in at a whopping 557 pages, I, for one, found that tremendously annoying.)

    To the best I could figure, The Savage Detectives tells the story of a semi-fictitious underground poetic movement native to Mexico and operating in the 1970's called visceral realism, a movement which I wasn't much closer to understanding at the end of the book than I was before I began. The first 120 or so pages focuses on a young college student's discovery of visceral realism and his interactions with the outlaw, oversexed oddballs connected with the movement, but after this first act the novel completely shifts. The remaining 400+ pages are a collection of short interviews with 20-30 people conducted by an unknown interviewer who's attempting to piece together the stories of Ulises Lima and Arturo Belano (modeled after Belaño, I presume) - the founders and leaders of the visceral realists. This section is difficult, occasionally entertaining but more often interminable, and a reader needs a flowchart to keep track of the myriad narrators. Even then there's precious little storyline tying this mess together.

    And now I'm left wondering: What did I miss? Did I read the same book as everyone else? Part of me even wonders if the critics who hailed it ever bothered to finish reading the cumbersome, beastly thing, or if they dubbed it brilliant simply because it's so damn difficult to read. Call me crazy, but difficulty need not be the standard to which brilliance is measured. There's often brilliance in simplicity, and while interesting sentences and experimental styles certainly have their place, if you're going to go on for nearly 600 pages, there should at least be a satisfying story to make it worth the reader's while.

    (But with that said, there were a heckuva lot of super sexy/borderline obscene parts in the book, in case that does it for you.)

    Roberto Bolaño
    1998, 2007, 577 pages

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    Sunday, April 06, 2008
    random posts of pretty
    "Down the Line" (Live), José González

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    Friday, April 04, 2008
    your friday video: on the trail
    Inspired by something I saw over at Feministing, I had this very serious post planned for today regarding America and acceptance and immigration and the issues campaigning politicians choose focus on versus the ones they neglect.

    And then I chucked the idea. No one really wants that on a Friday afternoon.

    So for this Friday, I've decided to keep with the political theme but use a more lighthearted approach. Consequently, here are my two favorite funny politician moments of the week. Both of these videos have been around the block and back by now so chances are likely you've already seen them, but that's okay. Enjoyment can still be had from multiple viewings.

    Inspired by Sarah Silverman's confession, here's Hillary making one of her own: (A warning for my more sensitive readers - the clip is a bit...colorful.)

    And, although my feelings regarding McCain have changed dramatically in the past eight years, I can still appreciate when a cantankerous old man is willing to ham it up on late night television:

    And on that note, have a happy weekend, all!


    random posts of pretty
    From Life of Pi by Yann Martel:
    When you've suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling. My life is like a memento mori painting from European art: there is always a grinning skull at my side to remind me of the folly of human ambition. I mock this skull. I look at it and say, "You've got the wrong fellow. You may not believe in life, but I don't believe in death. Move on!" The skull snickers and moves ever closer, but that doesn't surprise me. The reason death sticks so closely to life isn't biological necessity - it's envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud.


    Thursday, April 03, 2008
    where the wild things are
    I was rather alarmed when I first heard this story on my drive into work today, mostly because the broadcaster made it sound like the experimental embryo was equal parts cow and human and created just so scientists with Dr. Frankenstein complexes could say they did it.  Of course it only took a cursory glance at the story to realize that the "monstrous" embryo was actually 99.9% human, and it was created in the interest of stem cell research.  Obviously, the story is still worthy of controversy, however the facts make it all sound so much more reasonable.

    But ethical can of worms aside, I have to admit that my first reaction was to laugh.  If you look back to my April 1st post (which I took down for a few hours since the issue ended up getting even bigger and weirder than I ever expected was possible), it appears that  anthropomorphism appears to be the theme of my week.  

    And that's okay.  It could be worse.

    But since it's now clear that a half cow/half human (or, "cuman") can actually be genetically engineered and that we may one day live among them, then it's clear that several questions remain.  

    - With a compartmentalized stomach and the ability to derive nutrients by snacking on cud, wouldn't cumans have the neatest lawns in the neighborhood? And how would that affect the livelihood of local lawn services and industrious neighbor boys?
    - Would it be considered cannibalistic for a cuman to eat a hamburger?
    - With free dairy always at hand, would that spell doom for the dairy industry?
    - (Imagine a milk mustache joke that I have enough couth to refrain from making, but not enough to refrain from hinting at.) 
    - And most importantly, if a cuman tips over, will it be able to get up?

    Did the mad British scientists even consider these momentous questions before proceeding with their voodoo experiments?!

    Sorry.  I've been dealing with a half fox/half girl (or "firl") issue all week, and I think it's made me a bit crazy. a fox!

    (No really, sorry.  They can't all be winners, you know.)

    we three
    Well heck. It completely slipped my mind that I had another piece up over at Six Sentences yesterday. Here it is if'n you're interested.

    (And it's fiction, obv. I'm not sure exactly what I weigh, but it sure the hell ain't 97 lbs.)

    Wednesday, April 02, 2008
    welcome distractions
    Here's a few reasons why, although I collected a mountain of essays on Monday, nary a one has been graded yet:

    Boy oh boy did I love Mad Magazine as a kid, although my husband insists I must have been the only little girl ever to read it. Whatever. I also tooled around on a boy's black Huffy and sometimes played with my little brother's He-Man toys. Anyone got a problem with that? But regardless of your gender, just try not to spend half an hour playing with these interactive Mad Magazine commemorative fold-ins. Go on. I dare you.

    Speaking of daring, there used to be an old, abandoned asylum only a few miles from where I grew up, and as kids we found it fascinating. Of course the asylum was steeped in rumor, legend and conjecture, and on more than one occasion we'd try to talk each other up for heading out there for some nighttime exploration. Unfortunately, (fortunately?) we never got up the nerve to do it. The threat of ghostly patients long since dead wasn't what dissuaded us, rather fear of squatters and Satanists using it for their demonic rituals, but since I never made it inside my own abandoned asylum, at least I have Jeremy Harris's amazing "American Asylum" photographs to appease my curiosity.

    And on the subject of disturbingly beautiful, I also can't help but want one of Jessica Joslin's animal skeleton statues:

    If I could afford one, I would totally put these on display in my house, although I'm sure most guests would find me strange and stop visiting. And I can't say I would blame them. Although my tastes sometimes lean toward the unconventional, I can still appreciate how most people would rather not be stared at by a skeletal money while trying to sleep in someone's guest room.

    On to living beasties, if you haven't seen them yet, these pictures of the giant and previously unknown sea life found off the coast of Antarctica are amazing. (Although looking at that picture of the giant sea spider is enough to remind me why I'm terrified of the deep ocean. Eek!)

    And finally, support a fellow blogger and go watch Titlepage's newest installment. This one features authors David Gilmour, Mary Roach, Louis Masure, and David Hadju, and it's very good and worth the time.

    (All distractions but the final one were discovered via Boing Boing. You're welcome.)

    Tuesday, April 01, 2008
    on what should have been an april fool's joke, yet wasn’t
    Having spent months building up to it, today was the day I finally assigned the biggest project of the year – the one where little buggers have to research and create on a current social injustice. We’ve read several classic pieces of literature to set a context, scoured the media for current examples of social wrongs, spent endless hours discussing endless issues, and tomorrow they begin the grunt work.

    (Meaning: tomorrow I’ll be running around the computer lab like a mad woman for an hour putting out 28 separate fires, repeat x3 for the next ten days. Best chuck the heels, methinks.)

    Since topic selection is clearly the first concern, we’ve compiled a list of pre-approved topics for them to choose from - a wide and varied list including everything from the Chinese/Tibetan conflict, to the AIDS crisis in South Africa, to The Gap’s use of child-trafficked sweatshop labor, to the mafia-induced garbage crisis in Naples, Italy. It’s a fairly thorough and sobering list, so most students were satisfied to focus their research on one of these pre-approved topics.

    Most students.

    Torii* is one of those kids who is so out of touch with reality that you worry how she will ever function in the real world. (Until you realize how many loopy adults are functioning in the real world, and you suddenly feel a bit silly for wondering.) Torii is obsessed with Manga, insists on signing her papers with her self-selected Japanese pseudonym rather than the perfectly weird enough name her parents selected, and reads voraciously but refuses to even crack whatever I assign. When I made them respond to an in-class timed writing prompt on The Holocaust, she turned in a large-eyed sketch of some Japanese bear-thing framed by three haiku. When we watched the 1962 film version of To Kill a Mockingbird, she squealed with delight because (according to her) the character of Dill was played by the same child actor who acted a in 1993’s The Sandlot. (I tried explaining how a 30 year time difference between the two movies would make this impossible, however the mechanics of the passage of time appeared to be a foolish and unconvincing argument.)

    So yes, Torii’s rather…unique. Should I then be surprised when she lingered after class to ask whether or not she can research discrimination agains Furries - which, after some cursory research, appears to be a subculture comprised of some very confused nerds who like to dress up in giant anthropomorphic animal costumes, attend sci-fi conventions, role play, and occasionally have some weird form of cartoon sex with with another?

    Why no. Of course I shouldn't.

    (My research also uncovered that - when not marching in Fury-pride parades or playing Second Life - Furries really enjoy bowling. Huh.)

    *As always, we're using code names.