Sunday, September 30, 2007

Meet-up with La Brown Girl

It was a first for me on Saturday as I met fellow blogger La Brown Girl in person. She was giving a presentation at the Southwest Book Festival at the El Paso Main Library (which is awesome, by the way). I was a little nervous since it was my first time meeting someone from the blogging realm in real life.

It took me awhile to find the right room. I finally found it but then I wasn't sure which person she was, as she doesn't have a picture posted on her blog. I sat for a few minutes and then a young woman in jeans and a Wonder Woman T-shirt said to me, "Are you Annette?" and I said yes. So this was the girl I've been corresponding with these past couple of years. I'll admit to having made up an idea of what I thought she looked like and she did not look like that at all. I was a little surprised at her jeans and T-shirt and short haircut, since I guess I have this idea of what elementary school teachers look like that involves denim jumpers and big earrings. But it goes to show how stupid stereotypes are.

We talked for awhile and then finally the presentation got under way. She read two of her essays that were published in a book, Windows Into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives. They were excellent pieces, both about her experiences growing up in a Hispanic family. For the second story I got a lump in my throat and almost cried. It was cool that some of the family members mentioned in the essays were there in audience--her mother, and her brother holding his daughter in his arms. It hit me that La Brown Girl is a Writer. A real Writer, not the sort of bloggy scribbling writer that I am. The girl can spin a story.

She signed a copy of the book for me ("To my blogging buddy") and we exchanged "real person" info, but then she said, "I know where to find you," which, of course, I know she does.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday afternoon reading: George Orwell's Politics and the English Language. Some excerpts:

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language -- so the argument runs -- must inevitably share in the general collapse.
...[T]his mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing...prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.
In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a "party line."....A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.
I think the following rules will cover most cases:
(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Worth reading: Fight for the Top of the World, the cover story from TIME magazine I mentioned yesterday.
The current interest in the Arctic, in short, is a perfect storm seeded
with political opportunism, national pride, military muscle flexing, high energy
prices and the arcane exigencies of international law....Not even strict
adherence to the Kyoto accord on limiting greenhouse gases would stop an Arctic
meltdown, which means the Arctic, like nowhere else on Earth, is a place where
efforts to mitigate global warming have yielded to full-bore adaptation to its
impact. That process is freighted with irony. With gas and oil prices near
historic highs and with scant prospect of any decrease in world demand for
energy, it is only prudent to get a sense of what resources lie below the newly
accessible sea. But there is something paradoxical about seeking in the Arctic
the very carbon fuels that are melting the northern ice. "The rush to exploit
Arctic resources can only perpetuate the vicious cycle of human-induced climate
change," says Mike Townsley of Greenpeace International.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I'm back. I keep starting posts and never finishing them. Yesterday I wrote a post but decided not to publish it because it made me seem depressed. Depressed isn't the state, just busy and a little tired. Overwhelmed, maybe? I'm not used to that feeling of there not being enough hours to finish everything, where there's not enough time to sleep and iron my pants and do a brilliant job on a paper proposal for my class. Teaching isn't a job you go to and then forget about the rest of the time. There are lesson plans to be made. There are papers to grade. The students are going to be there, you'd better be ready. Then there are my classes that I'm trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to stay afloat in. I don't know if it's humanly possible to read everything I'm supposed to read. Should you read something even if you think it's boring or a retread of something you read last year? There's my dilemma.

Today I spent 20 minutes reading TIME magazine and it was like a breath of fresh air. I used to keep up with things like that--you know, news, important things going on in the world that affect us all--but lately I haven't kept up with the news at all. I haven't had time to read TIME in weeks. I read textbooks with breakfast instead of the El Paso Times. I'm becoming part of the ignorant masses, cloistered in my own little world. But today I got my fix of Hillary Clinton's health care plan and how Russia claimed the North Pole (or something like that), and it felt really, really good.

It was a good day in class, too. I've noticed that the times I'm most animated are the times I start talking about politics or social issues. Not surprising, since I've been interested in those things for a long time, so I know a little about them. But I guess it never really occurred to me that that was something to talk about in an English class.

So that's how my life is going. I apologize for the lack of posts. I miss writing here and I'll do my best to make it a more regular habit, for my own sanity if nothing else.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

- Driving to school/work the other morning, I found myself in the middle of a convoy of UPS trucks. I think there were about six or seven of them headed in the same direction. I had one truck in front of me and one behind me. A flock of boxy brown trucks--for some reason it reminded me of a kid playing with toy cars and it was strangely cute.
- I think being a teacher has made me bossier. Today I took my students on a quick field trip. I saw some people occupying the area that my class was headed into and I used my "teacher voice" to ask them to leave. They left. You have no idea how much of a departure this was from my usual way of acting. I felt like a P.E. coach.
- I broke down and bought myself a bottle of Coca-Cola today. For years I'd have a can of Coke every afternoon. About 18 months ago I rid myself of the habit, but judging from how good that first sip tasted today, I don't think I'll ever lose the taste for it.
- I think I may be forgetting how to write.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Interesting quote from NewMexiKen: "And there is always this to keep in mind: High school is about how to learn, college is about what there is to learn, and graduate school is about where to learn it."

I agree with the first two; I'm still pondering the third. One of my professors said that graduate school is where you find out how to ask good questions.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Short but amusingly honest interview with The Killers guitarist Dave Keuning. "It was a great crowd, but it was put together in, like, a high school gym, and it was really hot. " Not going to this concert, unfortunately, since it's sold out.
UTEP lost. I was there in Aggieland to witness it (and to hear the chants of "UTEP sucks"). Can't win 'em all, I guess, but ouch, this one hurt.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bush speech word analysis

Listening to President Bush's speech last night, I thought it might be interesting to do a little word analysis. Using the NY Times transcript and Word's find/replace feature, I compiled a list of the number of times Bush used the following words, which I think says it all. Could this speech be any more misleading about the true situation in Iraq?
  • al Qaeda: 12
  • free/freedom: 12
  • terrorists: 9
  • success/succeed: 10
  • fail/failure/failed: 1
  • Sunni: 6
  • Shi'a: 1
  • Iran: 5
  • democracy: 3
  • insurgency: 1
  • Sept. 11, 2001: 1
  • civil war: 0

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I think I'm developing a sleep deficit. I set the alarm for 5 a.m. today. Can anyone think straight at 5 a.m.? I'm tired and cranky and I haven't seen Oprah all week...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Loch Ness Monster's Song by Edwin Morgan. Some of Morgan's poetry was included in a lecture I attended today. All I could do was give the lecturer a puzzled look. But I still think experimental poetry is cool.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I was feeling nostalgic and decided to make some Rice Krispies Treats today. In less than 12 hours more than half of them are gone, so apparently I'm not the only one who enjoys their gooey deliciousness. It's kind of amazing what you can do with a bag of marshmallows and a box of cereal.
From Slate, Carolyn Cassady's recollection of Jack Kerouac:
"My first impression of it was that Jack was unusual in that great celebration of all kinds of life. Whether it was rivers or mountains and Indian names or hobos. He was so unjudgmental and so thrilled by everything that was alive. The glorification of nature—I thought it was pretty rare. Our generation was reacting to the horrors of World War II. So what they were really trying to do, both of them, in their living and reading about things, was to find out, Why are we all here? What is life all about? They were looking for 'it.' There were an awful lot of people concerned about that. That was their big quest, all of ours, really. Then the hippies came along. They thought Jack gave them freedom to turn the world into chaos. They thought he was giving them carte blanche to be selfish. That's why he vowed to drink himself to death. "

Thursday, September 06, 2007

- Worthy of a bumper sticker: "Well-behaved women seldom make history," a quote by women's history scholar Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Read about Ulrich's latest book project in this Slate article.
- Could the age of electronic books be at hand? Says the NY Times: "Hopes for e-books began to revive last year with the introduction of the widely marketed Sony Reader. Sony’s $300 gadget, the size of a trade paperback, has a six-inch screen, enough memory to hold 80 books and a battery that lasts for 7,500 page turns, according to the company. It uses screen display technology from E Ink, a company based in Cambridge, Mass., that emerged from the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and creates power-efficient digital screens that uncannily mimic the appearance of paper."
- Funny article about, a "Facebook for the few," again from the NY Times. " 'If anyone is looking for a private island, I now have one available for purchase in Fiji.' " If only.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

It's Wednesday and I'm totally tired. Too bad I have about three hours of work left to do before I can pack it in for the night. My future is a gi-normous stack of textbooks and academic journal articles. Finished with one, start with another. Such is the life of a grad student. But I signed up for it so I can't complain, right?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Two good movies: Year of the Dog and The Lookout. Year of the Dog is a little strange (indie film with a weird ending) but The Lookout is highly recommended for all.

Monday, September 03, 2007

August photos

I took most of these photos while walking around my neighborhood one August afternoon. It was oh-so-hot and muggy that day but I just love the way the clouds look in August.

This one was taken during a storm about three weeks ago:

Saturday, September 01, 2007

TIME photo essay on the 30th anniversary of punk. A nice primer on punk and the photos are awesome.