Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Finally, Fall Fashion.

In my view, it's almost impossible to think about fall fashion in July. It's hot, it's sticky, and the idea of fabrics that I love (tweed, merino) send me into itchy paroxysms just thinking about them. So, it's early, even for me, to start thinking about fall. But I had to go to this weekend retreat of fellow writers, right? I've met with these people before--two years ago. At that time, we were meeting to decide on a project and to celebrate the retirement of our teacher and mentor. It was a weekend of discussions and much drinking and dining. And I suppose I should have known that it would require something a bit dressy, but in my defense: April. Southern California. Hippie school. I spent four years there in cut off jean shorts and bare feet. Nine years later, I'd upgraded to shoes--how much further did I need to go?

Apparently much further. Almost everyone else managed that SoCal hipster cool, and I was a shlub. Hate that!! So this time, I was determined to be prepared. I didn't need an entire wardrobe of cute, because: July. Southern California. But I figured I'd need one--one dressy casual to redeem me from the underdressed debacle of '05. After some hunting with Mumsy (who, while very patient, gets a bit antsy during the day-long shopping trips now), I found this:

See how even the model is wearing flip flops? You throw some exciting necklace onto this puppy, and you're good to go. [I hope it's not the influence of HomeTown, which has a serious history of fashion faux pas of the video vixen sort, but I think I can forego the cami underneath. You know, for a party and all?] Cute with sandals AND heels? Wrap it up!

The irony, of course, is that this time, the entire group was ridiculously casual. It may be attributed to the 95 degree weather, or the less celebratory atmosphere. Regardless, the dress sat in tissue paper for the entire weekend. When I returned to HomeTown, Mumsy and I (why am I calling her that, all of a sudden?) scheduled my annual pilgrimage to the Anthropologie store. I left an offering or two, circled round to the east and then the west, and came upon this:

It's far less impressive in chocolate brown, in my opinion. I saw it in navy, and got all excited. A bit more of a modest neckline here than above, and a bit shorter, kimono sleeves instead of three-quarter ones. But how many cotton jersey, empire-waist dresses can one girl own?

At least two, and here's why: I'm betting that these are easy to accessorize for multiple seasons. Sling-backs or peep-toed pumps in the late-summer, early fall, with either a big chunky necklace or a couple of long ones. Boots and tights in the fall/winter, with scarves and cardigans or jackets. And did I mention the comfy? Sooooo comfy. Thank you, empire waists!

I have long neglected the dress as a fashion option. I've got the world's longest torso, which means that the waist of any dress is always on my ribs. Yay--both uncomfortable and unflattering: the dessert topping/floor wax of couture. Enter empire waist dresses--fixes the torso problem right quick. And if it drapes right, it doesn't even make you look pregnant! (I say that now, but if you see me and I do, it's your ethical duty to tell a sister. Got that?)

So, that's my first fall fashion strategy. It gives my shoe shopping raison d'etre.


Monday, July 30, 2007

We Now Pronounce You...

Well, you asked for fall fashion, and I'm on it, I swear. But it will require pictures. And I can't locate my camera cord right now. But it's next on my list, I promise!

Since Ashley mentioned the joyous, drunken weeping occasion of my nuptials, I thought I'd go there. Last week marked the Fluff seventh anniversary. Seven, the mystical number. Seven, the year of the impending itch. Seven--but a blip in comparison to my grandparents 56 year marriage, but half the length of my parents'. Seven years, plus the three that we spent together prior to the event, makes a solid decade together, and nearly a third of my life. There's some math for you!

As much as I wanted to get married (and make no mistake, I was the one who had to talk Senor Fluff into it. I say "talk"--being gallant, he won't use the word "badger," which might be more appropriate), by the time it actually rolled around, I had some second thoughts. "Twenty-five is awfully young to get married," mused I. "Only prom queens and Mormons get married at 25!" [I'm not saying that I was a religiously-tolerant 25, am I now?] And if I admit it, 25 was young to get married; I was just finishing up my comprehensive exams, about to start the dissertation. Senor Fluff had just gotten his first tenure-track job in a teensy Mid-Atlantic conservative town. We had a small (and quite lovely) little ritual in my hometown, and then buggered off to a new place, where we knew no one and had to inhabit new roles. My advice? Not the way to begin your first year of marriage.

In many ways, I owe the fact that I'm not a young divorcee--a la Britney--to Senor Fluff. It might be because his own parents have been married for 30+ years, or because he's a huge fan of inertia (some of his old pals call him "Mr. Don't Fuck with It," in fact). In large measure, however, we're still together because he gently expects that I will discuss the things on which we disagree. My natural tendency is to throw things and stomp around the house, but it's nigh on impossible to do that when someone asks you to tell them what it is that's bothering you. Dammit.

A newly-married friend just wrote that "marriage is about sharing." I adamantly disagree. Forget sharing. I'm all about having something for yourself, and your spouse having his/her own things. I think marriage is about articulating and accepting difference. [You like to sit in a booth? I like to sit at a table. You hate eggplant? I love eggplant! You want hot dogs and tater tots? I want swanky French bistro food! You love Jim Jarmuch movies? I think they're boring as hell! Really? I never would have imagined!] Assume that you share the same ideas and you're dead in the water. Embrace the gulf between your own preferences and those of the person you live with--that's our game plan.

Until recently, I think I was unconsciously convinced that, eventually, I would end up divorced. It just seemed like the thing that happened. But perhaps by picking someone who refuses to let me play out either some Simpson/Lachey Newlyweds drama or my parents' "quiet lives of desperation" pattern, I've backed into something that promises to survive the long haul.

Of course, by writing that, I've probably jinxed myself.

Fall fashion coming up, y'all.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

I'm (almost) Baa-aack!

Tap, tap...is this thing still on?

Sorry for the radio silence, y'all. [In my fantasies, you've all been faint with worry about my disappearance from the blogosphere. In reality, you're now trying to remind yourselves when you put this feed in your Bloglines account, right?]

I'm leaving the 'rents' house in homestate today, so I'll be back in Urbania tomorrow, and prepared to give a full accounting. Try to contain your excitement. What's on the list of topics?

  • Weekend meeting with alums and writers contributing to collection. Angsty!
  • Nostalgia for home and region. Sappy!
  • How lingerie sales vary from place to place. East Coast/West Coast smackdown!
  • Acquired self-knowledge about group dynamics and writing process. Navel gazing!
  • Fall fashion strategy. Insider tips!
  • One more wedding anniversary. Awwwww!
I think that should do it for awhile. Feel free to let me know what you'd like to hear first. Assuming that you're not coming to this blog looking for Harry Potter spoilers. Although my mother, through her library mob contacts, has filched a copy right out from under the 7,000 youngsters on the waiting list. These retired schoolteachers: sadists, all of them.

Til tomorrow!


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Madre de Teach-o

I may just have to face the fact that it is physically impossible for me to work on an article two days in a row unless there is a large, loin-cloth wearing, whip-wielding Viking standing behind me. (You know, I just spent five minutes on Google images looking for a picture of that. Why can't I find it? Doesn't everyone have that mental image of the big bald oily guy whipping the rowers?! From whence does that image arise? On another note, this may explain why I don't work so efficiently...) The only other way I get stuff done is when I have the deadline equivalent of the whip-wielding guy; or, as my dear dissertation director said once, "march or die!" And that occasionally occurs, but not so much. Not right now, anyway. Instead, I've been hanging out in my office talking to my mother---because God knows I couldn't talk to her from the comfort of my own home! Does anyone else's parents call them at the office?!

Article, shmarticle.

My mother taught elementary and middle school for 30 years. And yes, she's still largely sane. Now that she's two years into retirement, however, she does have far fewer migraines. Possible causal connection? Go figure. Suddenly, she's been approached by the department head of her local U. because he's recruiting retired, veteran teachers to teach methods courses to education majors. I love this for so many reasons: on a social level, I think it's dandy that teachers who lived to tell the tale can impart some of their wisdom to new teachers. I've often wished that I could bring my mom in to talk to the education majors in my classes. Often, they seem so sweet and idealistic, and I just want them to get a shot of practical and kindly advice that won't crush them, but will give them a sense of what they're signing on to do. There also seems to be a significant intergenerational benefit here; like the social security system, those arenas where people cross generational boundaries a bit can act as community glue. When I was twenty, the only people I knew that were retired were my grandparents. It feels like I could have developed some ways of interacting with non-Gen-Xer's if only I'd had some means of accessing them. And wouldn't that have helped me in my current job! Up yours, alma mater that denied me access to old people!

On a more personal level, I love the idea of my mom teaching college students. So much of what I know about teaching I've learned from her. Somewhere down the line, she mastered that whole: I like and respect you as a person, but I won't accept this behavior. (I don't think I'm confusing this with her parenting style, but there may indeed be significant overlap.) It would be so easy to get mad at students (especially middle school students!), write them off, think that they're stupid, or behavioral problems, etc., but instead, she was always looking for some way of integrating them into the class. My mom also has this deep-seated devotion to student learning, even in the face of oppressive state and national standards. I don't know many other teachers of 13 year olds who would hold to the idea of discussing the Civil War with 40 of them, but she did. Five periods a day, for years. (The mere thought of that gives me the willies.)

The even more personal reason that I'm into it is because I think it would be great for my mom. Like any good second generation Asian American, she has an awe about higher education. She likes to give me the speech about how great it is that I'm a professor, that I have a PhD., that I know all this stuff. (To which I say, "hah." And then again, " HAH!") I think that ingrained belief that scholars are to be respected blinds her to how much she knows from so many years of teaching. As if somehow, experience can't possibly compare to all the book learnin' I've done. As if somehow, teaching history to 13 year olds and not murdering a single one of them doesn't qualify you for sainthood. Or, as she said to me today when we were talking about this: "You have all this practice knowing what you think about something. I don't know what I think about things. I'd have to do a lot of research." To which I replied: "Or, there's the times when I assign a book that I like just to see what happens."

But here was the clincher. I asked her what she would tell new teachers just starting out. Here was her reply (and it's paraphrased, of course):
Oh, well I'd tell them that the most important thing is survival. I mean, you can have the best intentions in the world, but you can't let it be your whole life. The school system is so political now; you have to be able to give them what they want while holding on to some semblance of what you know is learning.
How great is that? That's my mom. She rocks the free world and the developing nations.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Afflicted, Part 2

Okay, god knows y'all (shout out to Paula Deen!) have heard enough whining here nowadays. "I don't want to write!" "I have the plague!" I'll try to rein it in forthwith. Since there's so little out on the net about the experience of pityriasis, however, I wanted to document the down and dirty (or down and spotty?) day-to-dayness of it. Warning: graphic descriptions ahead!

As of tomorrow, it will be three weeks since my symptoms first presented. Yesterday was my first day without significant itching---quite a relief. According to the numerous websites, a small minority of people experience the itching; most people just get the spots. Well, in most people the spots only occur on the trunk, but I've got them in significant quantities on the insides of my thighs (yummy. I'm sure there's a porn fetish in there somewhere), a few on the back of my knees and the insides of my elbows. The spots and the itching are also worse (more red, more inflamed, more prone to make me want to use a cheese grater to scratch) on my bathing suit parts. Extra points if you've figured out the common denominator here. My theory is that it's all the body parts that get hot and sweaty (I don't have necessarily super sweaty boobs, you understand. But 90 degree heat plus bra plus shirt=more warm than other places with a single layer). The upside to all of this is that people really stay away from you when you're scratching your crotch all the time. So good for us introverts.

There was a brief and shining moment just before week two when I thought I was in the clear; the spots had flattened out and started to peel (charming to look at, but certainly less itchy). That was when the second string appeared---all over my back and butt. Round two of scratching, except this time it was hard to reach. And sitting--say, in front of a computer--was no fun, as it aggravated the field of bumps on my ass. So, lots of laying on the stomach in front of the laptop.

I don't think it's unusual to have the second round of bumps, it's just depressing. I may have aggravated it in one of two ways: it was, for a few days, wretchedly hot and humid here. That could have set off the symptoms. I also caved in and went to the gym. Twice. It's probably not a coincidence that the most resilient itchy bumps are in the channel between my shoulder blades (you know, where you sweat).

Should this ever befall you (and if I had had a choice, I'd have gone with the locusts or the river of blood, for sure), a couple of cautions and suggestions. What I have done this past week is take doses of evening primrose oil, which has a compound that's good for skin. I read about that in Andrew Weil's column, and thought "what the hell?" It may be coincidence that the leprosy has dried up since I've been taking it, but there may be a connection. If at all possible, I'd avoid the heat and any kind of friction you can. I've never spent so much time without underwear on, but it was an absolute necessity. If I could have conquered my prudery and gone to work that way, I would have been more comfortable. One might also want to warn one's roommates and spouses that being itchy all the time makes one cranky. (Note the use of the third person here.) One might also want to warn one's spouse that no matter how cool he might think being called "Leopard Woman" is, it is definitively not.

So there you have it, folks. The anatomy of a skin condition. I'll let you know when it's totally disappeared, but all praise the gods Cortisone and Anti-histamine for their non-itch benevolence.

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Monday, July 02, 2007


Say what you will about the vast and wonderful benefits of the globalization of cuisine. I know that I certainly benefit from it. Urbania manages to maintain a Korean restaurant, a few decent sushi places, a vast battalion of Italian joints, and two truly fabulous and pricey French bistros.

Despite this, however, I feel empowered to say that Paula Deen, doyenne of Southern cooking on the Food Network, is simply not allowed to feature an episode of "Home Cooking" called Thai for My Guy, in which she runs the viewer through Pad Thai, Tom Yum soup (although she doesn't call it such), and coconut flan. It's just wrong. It's particularly wrong when she explains how "y'all" might procure kaffir lime leaves. It's even more wrong when she demonstrates her ineptitude with chopsticks. Come on, dammit!

Despite the results of my personality test, I suppose it's safe to say that the judging is back.


Scut Work

For some reason, it always feels like I have to clear the decks of old crap tasks before I can begin the task that I'm excited to work on. Why is that? Is that just me, or is it the state of human existence?

I've got a big ol' stack of books about media that I'd like to be reading, but before I really can, I'm ethically bound to finish work on a project about a famous and controversial South African novel. Is this totally outside my field? Yep. Do I have the critical wherewithal to really address it? Nope. Am I writing it anyway? Sure 'nuff. I'm working with a group of people from my undergraduate institution on this book, and it's a festschrift, of sorts, and I'm co-authoring this sucker. So, were I to back out, I'd well and truly suffer the pains of disappointing not only these peeps, but also my dearly beloved undergraduate advisor (who, by the way, officiated my wedding, so it hardly seems right that I back out on his retirement gig).

Oh, but the pain of it all! You know how it's hard enough to write on something that you're totally jazzed about? The "ass in chair" iron discipline that it takes? [If not, that's a good thumbnail of my own sad writing psyche for you.] It's perhaps doubly difficult to churn out stuff when you're not totally jazzed. In fact, I'm not only frustrated by the deceptive complexity of this novel, I'm on the verge of offended by its politics. Sadly, I've been assigned to address a particular topic in the novel that underpins its politics. Let's be frank: my co-author and I are writing about the representation of rape in the novel. If there is anything that I'd like to spend less time thinking about this summer, it's the representation of rape. Our initial forays have sent us reading everything from Mackinnon to the Biblical story of Dinah. I now have an academic and literary historical view of rape. Wheeee. None of it seems to get at the suffering of the characters in the novel, which just makes it all the more frustrating to write about. And to top it all off, I have this sneaking suspicion that the other people writing about the book are focusing on other characters. Thus relieved of the responsibility of having to grapple with the rape survivor, they're free and clear to theorize about the main character's epiphanies, his coming into a state of grace, etc. Which just pisses me off---it's a bit too close to the emotional economies of our current culture, isn't it?

Hmmm. not just cranky about the taskness of the task, but rather about the particularities of this task, it seems. My mother, bless her pragmatic soul, would say "oh well, sooner started, sooner finished." [Of course, she would also say things like "writing papers was the worst part of college," so I don't know how much help that would be.]

With a whine in my heart, I'm off to work on this godforsaken article.