Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ret it out and ret it in

In my defense for posting this video, I'd just like to say that I LIKE KITTENS AND RAINBOWS BERRER.

P.S. (This baby is Korean. Chris, listen to him *correctly* pronounce "ahn young ha say yo").

Only in California

I'm doing traffic school on-line because I got a speeding ticket back in December.

Below is a question taken verbatim from my quiz:

6. The "Spirit of the Law" refers to the ____________________ of the law.

1. Actual wording of the law
2. The ghost manifested when chanting the law
3. Intent or purpose of the law

I was tempted to choose answer choice "2," but then I realized that this wasn't a Dickens novel. Instead it's a piece of text that says things like, "First you have to understand the laws of physics (nature)."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Carry On, Carry On, Nothing Really Matters

My mother came to visit me last Tuesday and is at the airport right now on her way home. I love it when my mother visits because I am reminded of my cookey heritage (how do you spell the word "cookey," not like the American biscuit that rhymes with "bookie," but the one that rhymes with "dookie"?). Anyway, I really enjoy being around my mother, and I especially enjoy all of the funny things she says. Below are a few Laura-Ellenisms from our week together.

* My Mom is notorious for unintentionally saying dirty things in Spanish when she means to say something else. For example, she once told the wife of the Bishop in Costa Rica, "Mi esposo trabaja con computas" but the way she said it (and she said it very loud and in front of the entire family) it sounded like "Mi esposo trabaja con..con putas." For those of you who don't speak Spanish, she was trying to say "My husband works with computers" but instead said "My husband works with pussy."
Her first night here I had her wait in the car in the Mission district (the neighborhood in SF where there are a lot of native Spanish speakers) while I went into El Farolito and got a burrito. As we were leaving she asked me, "Susanna, what's a pusada?" I said, "do you mean pupusa?" and she goes "there's a sign back there for pusadas." But no, Mom had seen the sign for the Salvadorian fried cheese cakes you see on your right and thought "pusada." "Pusada" is not the Spanish dictionary and my brother is unavailable right now, but I just have a gut feeling that it might be the Spanish word for "santorum."

* We did a crossword puzzle on our second day together. The theme was double "k"s and one of the clues was a "well-known soy sauce." The answer was "Kikkoman." The next day I dropped Mom off at SFMOMA while I went to school. We met back up that night and she told me all about taking pictures and getting lost and her amazing lunch. She goes, "Susanna, what's Kikkoman?" I have no idea why (other than that I'm her daughter and speak her crazy language), but I said "do you mean jicama?" And she goes "it's a white vegetable and I had it on my sandwich at lunch and it was so good!" (She meant jicama.)

* Like my Dad, my Mom can talk to anyone about anything at any time. As a kid I hated going to the grocery store with her because she'd either run into someone she knew or just get into a conversation with some total stranger in an aisle and talk to them for 45 minutes. I'm certain this is why I started reading adult women's magazines when I was 10. I'm always shocked when she does this when I'm with her. I'll assume that someone behind a counter is busy or grumpy but my Mom will just start talking all about herself and her vacation in Argentina 13 years ago and how different it is here in SF than in Atlanta and how Wal-Mart hurts the local economy and has bad produce and the person will just listen and then thank her and tell her it was nice to meet her. And I'm fairly certain that they actually mean it.
One night she was looking through her pictures and she just offhandedly says, "these guys today let me take a picture of their feet" like totally normal, like she was just saying "these guys today got on the bus and sat down."
Later on she said, "I figured out how to take pictures of birds. You just put the camera in front of your face and walk toward them and they don't fly away. They don't know you're a person back there if you hide your face."

* Mom has favorite subjects that she revisits every twenty minutes or so. One is the conditions of her digestive system (my Dad nicknamed this the "BBU" or "Buckner Bowel Update"), her knee, and the absence or presence of feeling in her right hand. Another favorite is her old professor, Professor Robbins, who taught one of her art history courses and took her class on a field trip to New York. Mom's favorite trivia question is: "where's my wallet?" and every time she gets out of the car, even if the windows are all rolled down and we're at a remote beach with no other cars around, she says "do you have your keys?" before she locks the door. And she absolutely relishes any opportunity to say "I'm a visual learner."
For example, she told me "Today I asked this lady where something was and she said 'Do you know where the water is?' and I said 'Ma'am, I'm a visual learner and I'm so confused out here. I think I'm in Florida. The ocean is just on the wrong side.'"

* I made Mom promise not to say anything about love, marriage, or babies or any of my ex-boyfriends when she met the nice young man I've been seeing. It's one thing if she starts going on to me about how great of a mother I'll be and how I just need to find the right man who wants the same things I want, etc. (she ignores me when I say things like "I might not have kids" or "I'm in no hurry to get married" or "I just started seeing him"), but if I'm with someone and she starts asking what we're going to name our kids I kind of freak out.
We went down to Big Sur and we went out to dinner with Eric and a few of his friends. There were eight of us, and Mom was sitting at the far end of the table, at the head. The conversation went like this:
"So are they a couple down at the end?" she says
"Yes" I said
"What about them?" she said, pointing to the guy and girl sitting in the middle
"I don't know" I said
"Yes" Eric said
"So..are, like, y'all a couple?" she says
(Gee, Thanks Mom!!!) Luckily, Eric goes, "Well, I was thinking about asking her to prom."

So then Mom explained how pretty I looked at my prom and how my dress was dark blue and the sequins came up like this in the front and it came down like this in the back and how much happier I would have been if I had gone with him instead of the other guys.


Her flight takes off in ten minutes, and I may see her again very soon (my grandpa isn't doing too well), but I miss her so much already. My Mom's heart is huge. She smart and humble. She's oblivious but so deeply intuitive that she's almost keen. What a winner. I'm so fucking lucky to be her daughter. And so fucking lucky to be able to say "fuck" again now that she's gone.

(Read the title and sing the song!)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day--Love Is Here To Stay!!! (Rainbows!) (Puppies!)

Valentine's Day is my absolute favorite holiday, with my birthday a close second. I love birthdays in general; we rarely have personal holidays and how wonderful is it to be able to celebrate the fact that someone was born, that they exist?

Valentine's Day is a creation of the flower-candy-Hallmark industry, but fuck them! I say let's subvert it! If it's all around us anyway, then let's make it a day not to feel guilted into buying stupid shit for our friends, family, and loved ones (like, say, oh Christmas) but a day to celebrate Romantic Love.

I love love! I love you!

My favorite part of Valentine's Day is seeing macho, tough guys on the BART train carrying around big ole' teddy bears that say "You're cuddly" or something else retarded.

Love and sex are great equalizers. (Almost) everybody wants it and when we get it, we get all mushy and soft. We listen to Celine Dion and we think, "Wow, she's really on to something."

But then there's the nasty side of Valentine's Day, when the heart-broken and the lonely-hearted get pissy and jealous and decry the whole stupid holiday. Bless their hearts. I've been broken hearted on V-day before--last year, as a matter of fact, but I managed to keep up my good spirits until about 10 o'clock, and then I just went to sleep. And maybe, maybe, I held a private pity party in my honor, but that's really none of your business.

One way I've celebrated Valentine's Day in the past is putting a little red table out on the street and giving Love Advice for 25 cents. I bring all my favorite poetry books, ask folks about their problems or situations, and then read them a poem that relates to their situation. The first year I did it, 2003, I made $28. I gave advice to a police officer, a former heroin junkie with a tattoo of his forever love, Lola, who had died of an overdose, a bell man who had finally, after a year of peeking in the window of the shop window next to his hotel, asked out the woman whom he had a crush on (for that night!), a couple who had bought a new car and sold the wife's old car that she missed (I suggested the have sex in the new car so she'd have fond memories of it), and a young woman whose boyfriend had just begun to be mildly psychotic (as in, bat-shit-crazy). There were many more. And two people brought me chocolates in addition to their shiny quarters.

I did Love Advice several more times, but, like crack, it was never as good at the first time. What was so wonderful about it initially was that it was completely spontaneous and none of my friends were "supporting" me; it had nothing to do with my identity. Now when I do it, I feel like "this is something I do" and it just rings false. That's why I'm not doing it this year. Instead, I would like to just share with you here three of the poems I read most often.

Poetry is infinitely more therapeutic than the best psychiatrist. That is, if your heart is open enough to hear it. (And I suppose a good psychiatrist could help you get there).

The first is the one I read most often:

I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.

There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them, and in the contact and odour of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.

--Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass "Children of Adam: 4"

The next one is keen:


Because we were friends and sometimes loved each other,
perhaps to add one more tie
to the many that already bound us,
we decided to play games of the mind.

We set up a board between us;
equally divided into pieces, values,
and possible moves.
We learned the rules, we swore to respect them,
and the match began.

We've been sitting here for centuries, meditating
how to deal the one last blow that will finally
annihilate the other one forever.

by Rosario Castellanos

The following is copied verbatim from my zine Here Are Some Poems I Like. I annotated this one, because it seems so simple on the surface:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.


The love poems that hit you hard are the ones that are often not about love. This poem is like that to me. I think it may be the most romantic poem ever.

I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox

Back in 1934, people had iceboxes instead of refrigerators. The poem begins with a confession; he just comes right out and says “it was me!” He is confessing his sin. The plums tempted him and he succumbed.

and which you were probably saving for breakfast

Who is he talking to? I think it’s his wife. This being 1934, she is most likely the person who puts plums in the icebox for breakfast. Breakfast isn’t usually a meal where you invite company. She put the plums in there for both of them, for their breakfast. She saved them for both of them to eat them together. They weren’t saved for her breakfast, just “breakfast.”

However, he doesn’t know for sure that she was saving them for breakfast. He says “probably.” Read the line without “probably.” It kind of makes him sound like an asshole. It makes his sin greater. However, the small space that may exist, where he may not have committed a sin (she may not have been saving them for breakfast) permits him to have done it.

Forgive me they were delicious

He asks her to forgive him by telling her how much he enjoyed them. He assumes that she will forgive him because he enjoyed them so much. Darling, I couldn’t help myself.

This line is the only capitalized line in the poem.

so sweet and so cold

A perfect plum. A passionate, dark fruit. Sweet by nature, cold because she put them in the icebox.

The way I’m explaining this, you might think that this poem were some sort of code poem for a man committing adultery. “Forgive me, she was delicious.” After all, this poem is literally about forbidden fruit. However, it’s not that. The plums are irresistible because they are “so sweet” but also “so cold.” They are “so cold” only because she put them in the icebox. She put them there for both of them, as an act of love, to please herself and to please him. It pleased him so much he couldn’t help himself. She might take pleasure in knowing how to please him, in pleasing him so much he acts irrationally. He knows that she will forgive him, that’s why he comes out in the first line and just says how it is. Instead of justifying it in the most logical way, the way that most people would, the way that she would have to forgive him, by saying “I was very hungry” or “I didn’t know that you were saving them,” he admits the truth and justifies his indulgence by describing the temptation that she created just by doing what she liked to do. It’s a sort of reversal of Adam and Eve. She creates a temptation for him; he indulges and the consequences are benign and ultimately inconsequential. However the fruit and this situation serve to illuminate the nuances of their relationship.

There is so much understanding between the two of them that he writes a poem celebrating his temptation and her forgiveness. It is all so safe and benign but simultaneously passionate and intense. It’s their illusion that they play together.

How sexy is that?

Have a Lovely Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

As the youngest of two children, I fully identify with this video

One more New Year's Resolution

Oh yeah, I have one more New Year's Resolution to add to the four I've already created:

Eat Surf N'Turf.


Finally, finally, the weather has relented and there have been several beautiful days in succession. Yesterday I read Saussaure, Propp, and Roman Jacobson on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Then I went on a walk that blew my mind. I will take pictures next time I go and post them. I'm so SO happy I moved here. For a high-strung girl, nature is the perfect counterbalance.

After my brief 2-day Bjork obsession, I decided that I should wear my hair in twin buns a la Princess Leia, but on top of my head, a la Bjork. I think this hairstyle unconsciously causes me to be kind toward other people. Maybe it's all the bouncing. It probably also has something to do with the nice weather and the exercise, but I still hold with the bouncing.

This is my favorite song to listen to right now:

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Human Behaviour

Today was gorgeous in Moss Beach. I have Tuesdays and Thursdays totally off so I drove down to Pescadero and thought a lot about what I wrote yesterday.

As I was driving, I listened to a very old tape I made of Bjork's Post. This is the only album of hers that I know. When we got cable, and therefore MTV, when I was a kid, I was absolutely mesmerized by her music video for the song "Human Behaviour."

I realized after I looked this up that the video was made in 1993, so I wasn't a kid; I was 13. But anyways, the thing that blew my mind above all were those little sequins under her eyes. I was like, "Wow! You can do that?"

So driving today and listening to Post made me remember that that just because you are very very good at something, or even the best at something, does not mean that what you produce is the best. Think about classically trained musicians who make solo albums. I would much rather listen to Iggy Pop, you know?

Just because I don't understand Kant on my first reading does not mean that I am a terrible person who has no redeeming social value.

I think I have been taking myself way too seriously.

The point of going to school is because I enjoy it, not because I want to be sculpted into some perfect academic who can hold her own in a theory class. I bet Bjork didn't or wouldn't understand Kant on her first reading either, and I think she's absolutely, imperfectly brilliant.

My First Blogging Rant

My brain is absolutely fried. I don't know why I am writing a blog post, except that I like to make it seem as though I try to keep up with this thing. I spent pretty much all day yesterday trying to make sense of Kant. I know this is practically impossible to do on the first try, so I tried several times. I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of him, but tonight in my class we never really got to talk about it.

The reason why is that my teacher also assigned Aristotle and Plato. This is a theory class, and she wanted to give us a working background to begin our quasi-history of literary criticism. Rather than just regurgitate the information that she gives us, she wants us to engage with the criticism and debate it in class.

This guy in our class, let me tell you about him. Normally, I like to talk to the people in class who say things I agree with. Call me elitist, but really it's just a case of wanting to talk more about ideas that are interesting. More generally, however, I like to talk to people who are outgoing and have strong opinions. Unless they're idiots. I, of course, am an idiot, so I really shouldn't be judging others, but I do. At least I'm honest. So there is this guy in our class who seemed to be very composed and articulate and have strong opinions. I figured we would like each other (not like that).

But then I noticed that he held the door open for me when I came in. When he referred to what other people were saying he said, "this young lady." This guy may have a few fine lines around his eyes, but he's really not old enough, or rather of the generation, to refer to women as "this young lady." I also noticed that he was very impatient with our professor, who also has a few fine lines around her eyes but talks like a smart, over-enthusiastic, slightly spastic valley girl. I got the gut feeling that he was dismissing her.

There is another man in our class who was in my T.S. Eliot seminar last semester. He's old, like gray hair, WRINKLEY, either bordering on senility or of a different time when one expressed one's thoughts differently. I think I'm being too nice. He essentially dismissed all biographical reading of T.S. Eliot without good cause. Last semester, the cool, smart guys all agreed with him. This conversation deeply bothered me, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

Tonight the first guy disagreed with my teacher's proposition. She was arguing that one could relate Plato's metaphor of the cave to our current situation in Iraq. I raised my hand and argued that, like Plato, we are recreating a situation that positions us as the heroes of a contrived situation. Blah blah blah, right? The rest of the class did not respond to what I said. Then the old guy said he didn't like what she had said. The first guy agreed with her, calling it "anachronistic." Unlike my teacher last semester, this women argued outrightly and challenged him to prove his argument. I sat quiet. He fumbled on a minute point and she essentially shamed him. It was really tense. He responded to her very sarcastically at one point.

After the break, he didn't come back. I bet he'll like write a letter to the dean or something about how she's unprofessional. I was just happy to see him put in his place. And why? You know? It's not like she was right. She really did handle the situation poorly. If I were him, I would have probably gone outside and cried a little bit.

But I guess why I'm writing this (besides the fact that my brain really is fried and I must not be using my best judgment) is that I'm disturbed by this really subtle, almost unnoticeable sexism that exists.

But that is problematic, and I may be wrong. Because after he left, another woman sort of took his place. I said something about plot versus character and how I am one of those people who believe that whether or not something is fiction or non-fiction matters, and she looked at disapprovingly.

What disturbs me most is that I care. This really fucking disturbs me. I want so badly to succeed at what I am doing. I want to "get it" and I want to be able to articulate what I feel and think, and be able to support it. I understand that I am in grad school in order to be able to do this, and I can't expect myself to be perfect, but it fucking bums me out to not be heard and to not be understood. When I say things, I feel like people think I am a dumb girl. I know I am not a dumb girl. But why do I come off that way?

I think I am just venting. I remember feeling this way at the beginning of my T.S. Eliot class last semester. I think the best paper I wrote last semester was that paper, too. I think this is all just a part of the process. It's gnarly, though, to see sexism and elitism in person. I am not above these people, however. I'm certain--absolutely certain--that I am sexist and elitist myself. It just sucks, and I don't know how to get around it. I am sure, however, that I will.

If you've read this far, god bless you. Amen

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

We're Bringin' Sexy Back

My professor in my Oscar Wilde and Henry James class was talking about how in the Victorian era, England was disgusted with the "excesses" of the French revolution, symbolized by the bare-breasted Statue of Liberty.

Then he asked, just rhetorically, what the modern day equivalent of this would be. One of the women in my class said, "Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl."

Oh yes, it is SO good to be among my like kind.