So, as most of my family and friends now know, and are probably tired of hearing, JM and I are apparently going to have a kid in early February. A hellish first trimester is to blame for the scanty activity on this site. Many women can't abide smells or food. My sickness was prompted by moving around, but especially by looking at a computer screen (scrolling was the worst). So blogging was a no-go except for those rare nights when there was a good breeze in my office and I felt okay and wasn't typing up things that I had written longhand.
In any event, I am sitting in our relatively clean house with no plans tonight. JM is off mountain biking, to shake off (or at least cover with mud) the week of greeting and eating and sitting and clapping that is the week before the semester for a new faculty member. I'm here with the sleeping whippets, having said goodbye to good friends S, M, and Z who stopped for the night on their way home from Ithaca, and having reached my brain's capacity for writing this morning. In other words, it's quiet here, and I'm a little bored. And yes, those of you with kids, I KNOW that times like these won't be had once the baby comes, and that I better enjoy it.
The mandate to savor and enjoy is something I'm not a stranger to. After all, just months ago we uprooted ourselves and all our things and moved three states away to start new jobs in a new department. We knew for a good six months that this move was happening, and those months held the very kinds of activity that very recent and coming months have held/will hold in getting ready for this baby: deferral of preparations, preparations combined with a stiff nostalgia for the present, a good dose of discussing uncertainties and making decisions as well as cautious optimism about the coming change, more preparations, frantic "lasts"--time on the porch at C & J's, a last meal with S & C, a last brunch at Luna--and then finally something of a goodbye to life as we knew it. In other words, it was a present that is largely unsettled.
Much as we were before and after the move, we will for the most part be the same people after the new arrival. But time itself, its rhythms, our days, will no doubt be different. We are adjusting, slowly, to the move and coming to terms with the fact that some things in our previous life--our friends, the Urbana farmer's market, those effing unbelievable beignets at Luna, the train to Chicago, the quiet yet close-to-campus street, just aren't replaceable. But there are new things--the extremely close and errand-friendly downtown, already beloved neighbors, the hiking paths all around us, the biking--that fill the gaps.
And so we are settling, adjusting, and making our lives, all with the knowledge that things will change yet again. We're not anywhere close to ready, but we'll find our way around the newness, because that's what people do.
We got word today that a former undergraduate student at Illinois, Tessa Oberg, died over the weekend of brain cancer. JM had her in a couple different classes. She was so beloved that I recognized her name, and I never even had her in class. Tessa was no doubt one of those students about whom my friends (her professors) spoke fondly, with dancing eyes. I'm sure my friends at Irvine, where she was working toward her PhD, speak about her in the same way. I figured out how to find her on Facebook, which led me to a blog that she kept while on a Fulbright in Brighton, England (now THAT award wasn't competitive!).
This woman, she could live. The last post on the blog (which she maintained until 2007) is her imagined death scene, recounting her life as it would have been remembered by her grandchildren. It details all the countries she wanted to have lived in and what a full life she will have lived. It's as eerie as it is lovely, as hopeful as it is matter of fact, and it ends with the words,
"What an amazing life she led," they will breathe, letting my dust go on the wind, into the sea, into rivers. "How she loved."
It's enormously frustrating and sad and awful to see all that life and love come to such an early end.
It's mid-August, and summer has finally come to the--wait, what is this region called, the mid-Atlantic? It came blazing in, apparently hitched to one of the hundreds of u-hauls ambling around town, blanketing apartment parking lots, slowly baking the belongings of their renters. This week, State College's average age will plummet in inverse proportion to its blood-alcohol content. And the local economy will no doubt boom. Ransacked Target shelves, anyone?
As new faculty, JM and I are going to be fed a lot this week at these things called "luncheons" (two of em), and there is also a picnic at the President's house. Via new faculty orientation, we will become better acquainted with Penn State and its students--or, as the new faculty orientation schedule has it, its "student." (agenda item: "the Penn State student").
I'm sure there will be no end of compare and contrast between here and Illinois, but we will try to keep it to ourselves. No one here wants to hear how downright orderly pledge week at U of I seems to me as evidenced from the sorority and fraternity houses on my walks to and from campus. The houses here--only frat houses because of some antiquarian brothel law--seem a bit more chaotic, unregulated, and numerous by comparison, but this is just by sight. Once everyone begins their preparations for the semester and the football games, we'll know more. At that point I'm sure we'll be grateful for the heat, because our windows can be closed.
That's right, folks, even though it's just now summer, it is also very much fall. Let the incongruity begin.
I just started watching the tv series Friday Night Lights on dvd, and I am totally hooked. For one, as I learned in my 7th-grade Tennessee history class, Texas and Tennessee have some shared history and therefore culture (the accents are more similar than one would expect, e.g.). The portrayal of a small town's obsession with high school sports is eerily familiar. The gender politics, the mixing-in of religion with every daily activity, the insane pressure from every corner to win state, a good-looking, hard-nosed coach, all of these are spot on. As those of you who watch it know, this show is very well done. I can't believe it nearly didn't make it on the air.
I'm only a couple of episodes in--so no spoilers, dammit!--but so far I've noticed a few missing elements that, if they had been included, would have further augmented the show's hyperrealism. (Of course maybe they show up later in the season, or subsequent seasons.)
1. a shitty concession stand at the games. it needs to reek of ketchup, corn oil, and garish yellow light and be staffed by booster ladies. more fans need to be drinking out of waxy pepsi cups that disintegrate in their mouths and scarfing down oversalted popcorn.
2. making out underneath the bleachers. there are, after all, more reasons for non-athletes to go to games than just to root for the team.
3. The smoking crowd. The vo-tech crowd. The drug crowd. (significant overlap here).
4. There definitely needs to be one or two disabled fans who yell obnoxious things at the coach and the players. Ours had one leg, crumpled skin, and wore a trucker's hat sideways. He called himself "Crip," and he would lean on the chain-link fence for all four quarters, hollering.
6. Pep rallies, on Friday afternoon, with hilarious, attention-loving hams who also play on the football team.
7. Other athletes, besides football players--you know, baseball, basketball--who strut into the football games with their letterman's jackets on. Of course my school was so small that all the teams had all the same people on them. But still.
8. Cars. Shitty cars with loud radios and louder engines.
Like most of you, I imagine, my facebook account is amassing more "friends" by the day. Not long ago, someone from my high school friended me, and I took that now-familiar pause over the "accept as friend" button. This was a person who was the closest thing I had to an enemy when I was in high school. She hated me so much that she vandalized my pink airbrushed front license plate that said "Debbie 52" and had a basketball going through a hoop. Okay, maybe that license plate was asking for it, but still. In the spirit of bygones, I clicked accept.
So the two of us were diametric opposites. My typical approach was to just ignore her. I have zero recollection about what prompted the enmity between us, but now that I have accepted her request for friendship on facebook, I'm starting to see that our opposite tracks have continued. It started the day this friend posted a status update opposing the current health care reform and then ended with a quote from Hitler about propaganda. I marveled about this all day, and tales of it prompted a couple good comments from JM, comments along the lines of "yeah, because insuring the uninsured is how the Holocaust began."
Now, my normal course of action in a case like this is to do what I did with this person in high school: ignore them. Facebook has that convenient "hide" feature. Or there's also the unfriending option. But something makes me want to keep her updates in the mix, for now anyway. I like to compose comments to her updates in my head. Like a couple days ago, when she posted a status update directly to her "democratic friends" wondering why when she opposes Obama's policies she gets "profiled" as a white supremicist, I wanted to gently say "maybe it's not the opposition per se, but the Hitler quotes?" Or when she wondered--maybe in the same update--why we democrats can't see that we're just buying into propaganda, I wanted to say "That's hard to believe since I already tend to think that health care reform, of the kind that helps out the poor, especially women and children, is LONG overdue." But instead I just clicked along to photos of babies and vacations, posting my own updates about cereal and syllabi.
Maybe it's a mistake not to engage. But there is no changing this person's mind, no quelling her vitriol, and it's hard to imagine an engaged exchange that wouldn't end in the online version of a destroyed airbrushed license plate. And that's the part, like the widespread town hall zaniness, that makes me a little sad.
During our last weeks in Urbana, C asked me to translate a phrase into Latin. A rare request, since usually it's the other way around. But it was a phrase that deserved to be rendered into Latin and then magic-markered onto a bright collar for their greyhound Rocket. The phrase was this: "who will retrieve the retrievers?"
You'll have to hunt down the collar to see the Latin.
I thought of this story when I hung up the phone today after nearly an hour and a half of talking with a former advisee. We don't usually talk on the phone really, mostly email. But the cool thing about today's conversation is that my advisee was the one giving me advice. At least someone will advise the advisors. As for the retrievers, I think you ought to check with Rocket, because I'm pretty sure he knows the answer.
1. the premise, a comedian with a terminal disease, is pretty clever. it seems like it's born directly from kenneth burke's "perspective by incongruity." but maybe that's just because i happen to be writing about that idea at the mo.
2. adam sandler does cruel as well as he does funny.
3. jonah hill is the big treat of the movie. god, that kid is hilarious. and his eyes are so blue!
4. judd apatow outdoes himself on the dick-and-ball jokes. as E! said in a phone convo today, "I like a good dick-and-ball joke." and these are quite funny.
5. why don't more movies incorporate stand-up comedy?
6. why does seth rogen always look like he has a tidy wad of skoal underneath his lower lip? srsly. it's even more pronounced now that he's lost weight.
7. kudos to judd apatow for finally having a relatively interesting woman character (i'm thinking here of daisy). next time he ought to consider giving the interesting woman more screen time.
8. wilco with the great product placement!
9. in addition to the dick-and-ball joke, judd apatow has also mastered the roommate fight. well done.