Monday, October 29, 2007

The Heat is On

I have succumbed to the cooler weather. I shouldn't really complain since the last weeks have been warm, and Saturday was downright balmy. But now I have turned on the heat and so comes the stuffy air and the high electric bill.

This past weekend, I had a great time at Joey and Cheryl's fabulous Halloween party! I even won two prizes!!! The chocolate skull is just too cool looking to eat. My pals, Kate and Gene, stayed with me and it was fun to catch up with them. I miss them even if they are much, much closer than where they were before. I also greatly appreciate their help with my costume -- as the surviving member of the Donner Party (Donner Party of One). Gene won first place for his costume -- Raggedy Andy Warhol. I told a colleague of mine about his costume and she laughed her ass off. She said she could immediately visualize it.

Well, the semester is heating up (to keep with the theme of this post). I am taking over another class for the rest of the semester, and I have a lot of stuff to do between now and the end.
(Image courtesy of
yeah it's cute until you need to clean the juicy pumpkin innards from kitten fur
Happy Halloween you ghoulies and ghosties.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What I'm Reading and Watching

Besides all the research and writing stuff, I thought I would post my thoughts on what I've recently been perusing.

Since the local library has been stocking up on manga titles and that I now have a speedy wireless connection, I find that I've been dipping into Japanese comic books more than I have before. First off, Death Note, which I've read up to Volume 8 (12 is the last volume). This is one of those titles that the summary of it makes me think "that sounds awful" and yet, becomes very interesting. The premise is that everybody's death is determined by a group of "death gods" called Shinigami. They have a notebook which kills the victim once his or her name is entered. Now, the notebook is sometimes dropped or left for people to find who can use it for their own purposes. Indeed, it finds its way into one person's hands who decides to make the world a better place by killing all the nasty people in it (don't we all wish, right?). The manga then turns into a Sherlock Holmes/Moriarity thing with characters trying to discover each other's identity, twisting and turning under the rules of the Death Note. It's quite a dark series and extremely unpredictable. The anime just debuted on Cartoon Network, although I missed it. The DVD will be out in November. Must Netflix it.

Also reading, sad to admit, the current versions of Bleach and Naruto. Though pretty mainstream shonen fare, it's fun fluff. The amazing thing is that the twenty or so pages a week pop up in Shonen Jump, Tuesday in Japan. By Friday, the thing has been scanned, translated into English, and then cleaned up to make it look pretty. I find it fairly effective in guilting me to purchase the anime (when they are out uncut and subtitled) and related products to support the creators. I spend too much money nowadays ^_^;

Been Netflixing The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya which has been rather amusing with its take on otaku culture although it looks like it's turning into a romantic comedy (I don't think I mind this but check back with me in a couple volumes). Speaking of otaku culture, I've also watched Genshiken 2 (which is currently airing in Japan).

On a completely, utterly different note, I watched the first couple episodes of Bleak House while I was grading papers tonight. I really should spend more time in the nineteenth century. I just enjoy it too much. And if one thinks that today's novels have too many coincidences to be believable, just take a look at Dickens. One would think that there are only ten people in all of England. However, he's still such a funny, funny writer, and his characters can be so tragic and so hilarious and so broadly drawn.

Addendum: OMG I just found out that the lead actor of Bleak House, Denis Lawson, is none other than Wedge Antilles from the original Star Wars trilogy. I just knew that my attempt at high art would spin back around to geekiness. Is there nothing that Star Wars doesn't touch? (shut up, Gene).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Catching Up

So, my friend's father passed away peacefully last Thursday night. He was just a few days short of his 92nd birthday. We should all be so fortunate to live not only as long but to be as independent as he was until the end. The memorial service is next Thursday, and I will arrange for someone to cover my afternoon class so I can attend. There's more family drama but I'd rather not write about that. I'm trying to be helpful but distant.

I'm watching the Red Sox/Indians game tonight (looks like the Sox will have won by the time you read this post). I really like having baseball on while I'm multi-tasking (made some phone calls, wrote some bills, now blogging) because I grew up listening to it on the radio. It's rather soothing, especially when it's not your team clinging to life in Game 7. Though I am a die-hard Braves fan, the Sox are my adopted team. Living in Connecticut is weird since there is no national team but rather is split down the middle between Yankees and Sox fans (and the occasional weird Mets fan). I've been to Fenway a few times (when the Braves were in town) and enjoyed it. It's the only park I've been to besides the ones in Atlanta (Altanta-Fulton County Stadium and then Turner Field).

My mother has turned into an obsessive baseball watcher. She's been glued to the TV watching all the playoffs and got really, really irritated with me when we discovered that I had a thirty second lead on what was going on. (Me: "Oh, he just struck out" HER: "WHAT?") For some reason, her broadcast was being delayed. My sister also watches it. It's a safe subject that all of us can talk about.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We now pause for some cuteness

A Totoro bento lunch. Too cute to eat, eh? Find out more interesting bento lunches at the Asahi Newspaper website.

Thanks again, everybody for your kind words on my last dramatic post. No news yet. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hell of a Weekend

As my faithful readers (hello? anybody out there? Mrs. Pommelhorse...) already know about the incident with Rocky, the flying squirrel, a couple weekends ago, I have more life and death issues to write about. Most of you don't know about this side job I have but I have been working for about four years for this woman and her father, and I have gotten to know them fairly well.

Three months ago, the father passed out in his basement and lay there for a day until he was found. He was rushed to the hospital and thankfully recovered. The doctor ix-nayed the driving so sometimes I would do errands for him and take him to his office, etc (he's a retired UConn prof -- in his nineties but he still works everyday). Well, Saturday, as my friend was working with the pest control people to get the damn squirrels out of the house (some met a rather disturbing end in a toilet), she finds her father unconscious in a chair. They call 911 and the speedy paramedics revive him and rush him to the hospital. She calls me and I take her there. He's not doing well and the outlook is grim. I meet the rest of the family, who, though I never met them, all know who I am. I spend three hours there and I offer to take her the next day to get the living will which is at her house across the state.

On Sunday as I prepare to pick her up, my cell phone rings -- which is weird, because I never leave it on but apparently I had from the previous night. It's the granddaughter (my friend's niece) and she impresses upon me that they really need to get a hold of her aunt because there are "decisions that need to be made" and then she says "Grandad always told us that we could count on you" to help her and to help the family. Okay, dying man's wishes...gotcha. I don't remember much of the drive over.

Finally get a hold of my friend, and I call the granddaughter. My friend is too upset to articulate her decision although she makes it clear what she wants to say. So, I tell her brother what she wants and then hand the phone over to her for a confirmation "yes." We then go to the hospital and wait for the doctor. The father was "clinically dead" for too long, and he has extensive brain damage. It's only a matter of time.

I go in to ICU. I call his name and tell him "It's Wendy" and then I say that "I'm taking care" of his daughter. I know he is in a coma and can't respond and that any reaction would be just the body doing what the body does, but I swear to God a tear fell from his eye and fell down his cheek.

I wish him nothing but comfort at this point. He had such a fascinating and sharp mind. He would always note if something about my school would come up in the paper, and we would talk about it. He told me stories about driving to San Francisco in the thirties (the Golden Gate bridge was newly built then, in 1937). He went to the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. He was always sweet man to me and lived a long, healthy life. I am so glad that I could have helped out in the small way that I did.

Today is also the fifth anniversary of my father's death, and I'm remembering good things.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why did I have the bowl?

Surfing the internet looking for an easy laugh, I came across a Simpsons' quote and immediately giggled to myself out loud, while alone:

Milhouse: Remember the time he ate my goldfish? And you lied and said I never had goldfish. Then why did I have the bowl Bart? Why did I have the bowl?

Okay, laughing aside, I should be bloggy and think deeply about the issue at hand. Do you ever come across a possession in your life and wonder where it came from? You know it because it holds a place in your house or apartment and yet, you aren't totally sure who gave it to you or where you bought it or what need it fulfilled when it was purchased. The opposite of this, of course, are those items that elicit a very clear memory. For instance, I keep ticket stubs for movie theaters (I get really put out when I get a misprint or one of those paper thingies they tear in half). I like to remember the movie, who I went with, what time of day it was, what else was going on in my life at that time, and so on.

On the other, other hand, you would think that items that we have to keep track of all the time would be important to our memory. Take the keys on my key chain. I have two for my apartment, two for my office (and one for the bowling alley there -- yes, where I work has a bowling alley), one to my mother's house, two car keys, and then two mystery keys.

I have no idea what they go to nor when they appeared. I used to think that there are two types of people in the world -- the ones who know what all their keys open and the ones who don't. Like, "that's a person who has it together -- he must know what all his keys do." But maybe it's just me.

So glad that all of you reading this know the obsessive minutia of my brain. Gotta stop otherwise I will be verging on deep thought territory (and must have one link on my blog).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Poetic Dreams

So, I know that the most boring thing to hear or read about are people's dreams but this was just such a vivid morning dream and so weird that I had to share it.

I was sitting with two "famous" poets, one of whom looked like Yusef Kumonyakaa -- but was named something else, and Lindsay Lohan (you know, I had a better idea of how to spell Kumonyakaa's name rather than Lohan's). The poets were teaching her how to write poetry by explaining the art of cutting material. She was drawing a big symbol of "2/3" on lined notebook paper. I guess that meant to cut two-thirds of everything one writes. Maybe it's because I'm revising a lot recently and I've had to kill some parts. Who knows?

Why I dreamt about Lohan I have no idea. But if a book of her poetry comes out in the next year, does that make me a celebrity prophet? A gossip columnist Cassandra?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sunday afternoon challenge (wild animal edition)

I help out a woman on the weekends, cleaning out her parent's house, but on this Sunday we had some excitement. Her father had put out mouse traps because something was keeping him up all weekend by scrambling through the walls. This did not make my friend happy because she doesn't want the wee beasties to get hurt (although she didn't mind if we had brought a cat in because that's somehow more natural). Anyway, I hear a racket coming from the basement. I open the door to the stairs and at the bottom I see a larger animal (bigger than a chipmunk but smaller than a squirrel) pulling around a tiny mousetrap.

I think we need a bigger trap....

So, now we are stuck with a live, caught creature on a Sunday afternoon of a holiday weekend. I think about all the friends I could call who would be tough enough to take care of the critter, but then I decided that none of them would be up to the job (think Annie Hall and the lobster incident). After a quick "sit-down," we started calling pest control agencies. Nothing. Then I suggested that we call the non-emergency number for the police. The helpful person on that end gave us the number for animal control (I keep wanting to write "anime" -- God help me). No one at the animal control line but they gave us the number for the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection, I think). There, we got a live person who, at first, was reluctant to come out because they don't deal with creatures in traps. But thankfully, because we were clearly panicked, he came out. He easily found it and released it out the garage door (where it bolted for the woods). Apparently, it was a flying squirrel (see also here). I didn't get a close look at it nor did I watch what the DEP guy did, because I really didn't want to see the poor creature killed if it came to that.

I suggested to the father of my friend that he should have trapped and tamed it. Then he could spend afternoons launching it into the air like a paper airplane until it circled back.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Writing in the Dark

I don't know what it is about working at night, but I always feel much more focused. Maybe it's how quiet it is or the fact that I can't look outside the window to look at the trees or the little old lady hanging her laundry. All I can see is the computer and the text and the darkness. However, trying to adjust to a morning schedule, or, at least put myself on one, is tough (my first class is 1050 so I don't have to die getting to school, but I would like to work some in the morning) .

The worst part is that I try to stop myself at a decent time and my mind is still busy. (And since it's garbage night, I am physically wound up from taking down two weeks of garbage plus too many wine bottles -- nope, didn't drink them all myself!!). I feed the cats at night so I aim for that to be my stop time when they are running around my feet, exclaiming "hurry up, please! It's time!" and tonight I made to Boo sitting on some papers, staring at me, and Pumpkin running back and forth, meowing so loud I could hear her over my headphones (I was listening to, of all things, New Order).

On another note, teaching today was great. I gave them a very controversial essay about September 11th and they responded well. Oddly, though, over the years I have taught this text, the responses have become less outraged and venomous (although that is still there). Still, it felt good when one student left the class vowing to write a response paper on this essay because he "didn't feel like he got to say all he wanted to." What more could a teacher ask for -- a student, writing with a purpose and with passion. All of our tasks should be so.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Phone calls

You know when you need to make a phone call to someone and you feel guilty that you haven't done it yet, because you know it will be a tough one? Well, by using second person I'm trying to wiggle my way out of this difficult phone call. Ah, family. What can you do? I won't go into too many details in this public forum, but when you have three people who are absolutely sure that three different versions of right thing to do should have been done a few months ago and now, not much can be, it's incredibly frustrating. But I am glad that I did call even though the first twenty minutes were of me biting my tongue unsuccessfully.

Still, as screwed up as everything is, at least we know we would pull each other out of a burning building. Although we may fight about why the fire started in the first place...