Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Random Assortment

~ A fascinating, nostalgic look at a mental institution in Wichita Falls. Much of the push in recent decades is toward deinstitutionalization, but this piece explores its potential downsides and the problems with states cutting funding for mental institutions.

~ Have I told you that I'm obsessed with Moby? (I caught part of this old interview with Moby on World Cafe [our independent radio station in Philly, which, incidentally, I'm also obsessed with].) He mentioned inspirations like Flannery O'Connor, Nick Drack, and Joy Division. On twitter, he said he feels like he's Walker Percy's best friend.

~ An excellent call to pray for Christian unity.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

(Harmless) Rant

Some people (ahem...Francisco) don't like the fact that we get Sundays off from fasting during lent. PLUS, and even better, Sundays start on Saturday evening and go all the way till Monday morning.

I am a firm believer in the long Sunday and in using it to feast. We are not Puritans here, people--the day in which we most especially remember Christ dying and rising again is definitely a feast, even if it's in the middle of a long fast. And really, how can you get fasting right if you don't get feasting right?

Anyway, I'm not really one to talk since I'm under no lent-induced food restrictions. But I'd say that I'm in enough pregnancy-induced food restrictions that if I had the possibility of taking a day off and having a glass of wine and some sliced deli meet, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Guys! Dressing my pregnant body is hard. I feel like at 30, I'm just now making progress in learning how to dress my normal-old body, and now I've got one that's changing/growing everyday. At 19 weeks, some of my old clothes are a bit tight, but most of my maternity clothes are gigantic and reach nearly to my knees. What to wear? To reveal or conceal the bump? Revealing seems ostentatious and overblown and concealing makes me feel just slightly fatter than normal.

Also: non-high end pregnancy pants are sold in small, medium and large (by non-high end, I mean both medium- and low-end pants). What?! So before I'm pregnant, I'm a 6, or an 8, or a 10, and magically, when I'm pregnant, I'm just a medium. Needless to say, I haven't bought any medium pants because they look like a sack on me.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Random Assortment

~ How is this even a newspaper article?: "City man content, praises natural gas development in area." Also, why does the newspaper have to be pro-natural gas? Somehow they try to make an article with only these numbers in it into something that's anti-taxing gas drilling in PA:
The report looked at 11 states and found that a Pennsylvania well that began producing in 2014 will be taxed at an effective tax rate of at most 1.6 percent. A similar well in West Virginia will be taxed at 7.2 percent, a Texas well at 4.6 percent, a Colorado well at about 5.6 percent and Ohio at 1.8 percent. 
~ I love Laurie Colwin. And oh my goodness--she used a mint green typewriter?! Also this, from a memorial service for her (this is how I feel about her):

Laurie Colwin was not a stranger to me, even if I was a stranger
to her.

~ I haven't ever watched it faithfully, but I have seen a lot of episodes back in the day, so I watched the series finale of HIMYM, and I have to admit, I found it satisfying. You think the whole time you're waiting to discover who Ted marries, when actually you're just observing the romance in front of your eyes.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dear Elizabeth

Last night, Francisco and I went to see "Dear Elizabeth," the play cut from the correspondence of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. I'd been dying to see it since it premiered at Yale and Berkeley last year, but at the time I was living in St. Louis, which was close to neither. Francisco just happened to stumble on the fact that it is playing at People's Light Theater, a little theater only 30 minutes from our house. And of course, though I've been complaining that I'm busy and drowning in busyness, I booked tickets for the night after I found out the the play exists.

The play was delightful. There are no words in the play that are not in their letters--Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell meet, but their meetings are silent, unless they include lines from their letters. And the letters themselves are charming and witty and poetic; it is wonderful to hear them read out loud. And some of their poetry--especially the poems that they dedicate to each other--makes it into the play. The play is about intellectual friendship, about the sharing of their struggles with art and their struggles with their bodies (Lowell is in and out of mental hospitals; Bishop has asthma and drinking problems; both have happinesses and many difficulties in love). The play makes me want to run home and pick up letter writing again immediately (which I've been sadly neglecting). It's the celebration of a friendship that lasts over distance and over a lifetime.

Some bones to pick: The play is also about love. The playwright, Sarah Ruhl focuses on one letter in which Lowell writes to EB: "Asking you is the might have been for me, the one towering change, the other life that might have been had.” It's nice and delightful to add romance into a play, and some sort of moment seems to have been had between them, but I just don't see from Bishop's side if the attention was desired at all. Ruhl interprets this as her reserve and shyness (and the acting shows her pitching and moaning about him; I exaggerate, but still), but I think it's possible that she just wasn't that into him (plus, he didn't seem to be a great husband to any of his wives, from what you gather from the letters). Lowell is a bit macho--in real life, he's handsome and well respected and he moves through three wives, the last one quite a bit younger than he is. And then he acts as if there's some great and unexplored thing in between them and that clearly she wanted it and he just never made the move at the right time. I found it a bit condescending. (Maybe this is the right interpretation of the letters; maybe it comes out a bit more in the play, since the letters are cut down and this whole romance bit is played up--I see the romance as at most as one little piece of something that became very different and much greater over their lifetimes.) 

Also: In real life, Lowell was 6 years younger than Bishop. And a pretty cute guy, before he hairline starts to recede: 

In this performance, Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell seem to be the same age, and she's more attractive than he is. He is played as a paunchy and disheveled and slightly tipsy middle-aged man. Again, this sells the romance a bit more than a fit and well-groomed, rich, younger man does. But it's not quite as easy on the eyes, either. Plus, the Robert Lowell actor was always on the verge of forgetting his lines, which is anxiety-inducing in the audience. The woman who played Elizabeth Bishop, on the other hand, looked exactly like I imagine Elizabeth Bishop looked, and was quite good in the role.

(Elizabeth Bishop has been on this blog many times before: for her art, for her quotes, for her poems, for her friendship with Lowell.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Diary of Pregnancy.8

18 weeks:

~ I've started to feel the baby move over the last week or so. (The midwives still use the word, "quickening"--what a great word.)

~ I think I'm finally starting to feel really good. Finally!

~ At this doctor's appointment, they could barely find the heartbeat, the baby moved away from the doppler each time. The midwife said that they can hear the doppler and sometimes do this. This makes me wonder, of course, whether they're frightening the baby and really if this doppler business is safe. (We did hear the baby's heartbeat finally, so don't worry--also we heard tons of movement.)

~ Also they said that they don't make you do the regular glucose test with them--they let you drink orange juice instead if you want. Which is super exciting, because what I've heard about that orange glucose drink doesn't make me eager to try some.

~ A midwife oversaw my visit this time, which means we met someone who could conceivably be there for the birth. She was super nice and effusive. And encouraging. They really make you feel like you are the healthiest person ever there. Also, I found out that there is a midwife there whose name is Gazelle.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


What is the baby doing in the womb all day when he's awake? Is he bored? Is he scared?

Also, why does the internet say you have to talk to your baby? I talk all the time--the baby can't possibly tell the difference between me talking to my students or mom on the phone or Francisco and talking to him, right?

A Random Assortment

~ Francisco found the coloring book that our kids will be using when they're old enough: Color Your Own Italian Renaissance Paintings.

~ This is excellent (look at the pictures!)--"Who Wore It Best: Pope Francis or Olivia Pope?":

Olivia Pope sports her endless collection of luxe coats like impenetrable breastplates, usually in a color telegraphing her level of inner turmoil; here she is offering herself up as a peace-making angel, ergo pure snowy white, with the cape on coat even providing a vaguely winged look—and an extra layer of armor between her own noble intentions and the roving hands of her bratty bureaucratic lover, President Fitzgerald Grant III.
It’s hard to compete with a guy whose vestments were chosen for him both by the Lord above and a trippy plume of (matching) white smoke. But Pope Francis also bests Pope-Comma-Olivia with a less uptight feel, which is saying something given that he has the more rigid dress code. His capelet is swingy; his garments fitted but not snug. And not for nothing, he’s got some bravura accessories.
Yes, dear friends, I am watching Scandal. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I have noble intentions: My students don't watch any good tv--The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights, etc. So they don't get my references. For heavens sakes, they don't even watch bad tv that I watch--like Downton Abbey. So I'm trying to watch what they watch, so I can give examples in class (it's working! Today we talked about how Hobbes relates to Scandal and they perked right up). I am a sacrificial teacher, admire me. (Just kidding--I love tv and I'm easily amused even by the low quality stuff.)

~ Adorable picture of Kate and William and George.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Diary of Early Pregnancy.7

--The Neti Pot: After two or three weeks of persistent congestion and sinus headaches, I finally gave in and called the midwife. Her only recommendation was something that Francisco owns and so I've heard of, but I had hoped never to experience: the neti pot. Basically, you take this little watering can looking thing and pour it in one nostril and it drips and drains out of the other. What's in the watering can is a mix of water and salt. Anyway, it is not pretty, dripping stuff through your nose, but it's also pleasant to be able to breath. (Between our new humidifier and the neti pot, for the first time in weeks this morning I woke up breathing like a regular person and sans headache.) (For the record, there's an ever-so-slight chance that they can kill you, so be sure to use distilled or sterilized water.)

--Last night I dreamed that I was in labor, giving birth to twins (my worst nightmare), and it was a perfectly fine experience--intense, but totally do-able. I think that I've really internalized the hypnobirthing stuff about it not being pain, but rather pressure: even my labor dreams are positive!

--Today I told my students that we're expecting. Two of the classes clapped, which was very cute and made me blush. One class suggested that they throw a Tocqueville-themed baby shower. 

--I ordered a christening gown for the baby's baptism. Somehow this one thing seemed like an essential preparation to make right away--I've literally bought zero other baby things. But Francisco and I don't have old vintage baby baptismal gowns in our family (as far as I know), so I had to pick one out on etsy. Plus, it had to be little boy and little girl appropriate. I found one that was sufficiently British-looking for Francisco's taste and sufficiently long and lacy for mine.

--Just turned down presenting at APSA, since I'll likely be in labor with the baby at that time. This is definitely the biggest sacrifice I've had to make so far (and totally unavoidable, unless we want to give birth in DC). 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Veronica Mars

Veronica (previously TB, but let's just admit, that's not a good blog nickname) and I finally got to watch the new Veronica Mars movie (it has been out for a whole week already!). So good.

Well, okay, aside from a love scene in which an exhausted Veronica Mars forgets about the recent tragedies in her life in order to rip (literally, break the buttons off of) the shirt of the sexy new man in her life. That was a little over the top.

But in general, it was pretty good. Very localist--the overall message is that you shouldn't leave your hometown for your careerist ambitions in the big city, but rather you should help where you are.

Also, I think that the film is not the end: in my opinion it's the perfect set-up for a new season of Veronica Mars. I don't think this is just wishful thinking (maybe it is). Her time back in Neptune could have ended nicely as just the visit home it was supposed to be, the slight break in her East Coast adventure. But it isn't--she decides to stay. The villain is set up: the corrupt sheriff, manipulated by some even bigger villain, who we don't see, is there to be fought. Weevil takes his former place at the head of a biker gang. Wallace is a teacher at Neptune High, so she can still draw on him for student records. She could have left Neptune to take care of itself, but she doesn't, and we want to be there to watch her.

There are loads of famous people with cameos in this movie. What fun. The best, though, is Dax Shepard's dancing for Veronica at a club, at which she turns up her nose. Delightful.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Francisco and Cardigan and I went to see The Grand Budapest Hotel, since I love Central Europe and Francisco loves going to the movies.

The Grand Budapest Hotel shows Wes Anderson's playful imaginative vision. It's like a children's story, and yet not--chopped off fingers become even more grotesque in contrast to the film's dream-like charm.

I didn't buy the architectural transformation of the hotel's exterior from early 19th century Secession to communist brutalism (nor the interior, which changed from a grand staircase to a low-ceiling-ed European Mad Men look). But I did love the art--there's a Klimt in the background of one of the shots and the main painting of the film is taken down and replaced with an Egon Schiele (whose paintings are so shocking, you never forget it if you've seen one).

There is history--loyalty and tradition and secret clubs and generations. There is commitment to a place and a way of life and a person. But there are also new things, both good and bad--immigration and the effects of war and communism.

And, of course, there's loving a woman, which trumps all the rest.

Monday, March 24, 2014


"I have only to contemplate myself; man comes from nothing, passes through time, and disappears forever in the bosom of God. He is seen but for a moment wandering on the verge of two abysses, and then is lost.
If man were wholly ignorant of himself he would have no poetry in him, for one cannot describe what one does not conceive. If he saw himself clearly, his imagination would remain idle and would have nothing to add to the picture. But the nature of man is sufficiently revealed for him to know something of himself and sufficiently veiled to leave much in impenetrable darkness, a darkness in which he ever gropes, forever in vain, trying to understand himself."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Ch. 17 "On Some Sources of Poetic Inspiration in Democracies"