Sunday, May 22, 2022

Syllabus #152

Pardon my absence last weekend, and my tardiness today.  I hope you invoked the 15-minute rule and bounced when you realized I was a no-show.  

I only ever had one opportunity to ditch class because the instructor was more than 15 minutes late.  Freshman year at UArts, our spring semester 3-D design teacher was kind of a mess.  He was a disorganized schlub but he meant well.  One day we all got to the studio and he was nowhere to be found, so we waited out the clock and at the stroke of 9:15 we all walked out, and as we filed down the hall to the elevator, the doors parted and out stepped the instructor, his arms laden with hot fresh boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts for all of us.  Nobody went back to class.  I still feel like an asshole for that.

We went to Chattanooga last weekend.  I'm a fan.  It's like Nashville's much more chill younger sibling.  Lots of outposts of Nashville-based restaurants, breweries, and coffee shops without the aggressive Woo culture and in-your-face bro-country jingoism.  

What else? It's been a busy time.  School's almost out for the summer (school).  I'm a glutton for punishment and will have two summer jobs again, but with less responsibility and fewer hours than the regular school year, andplusalso I like money, so it's cool, I guess?


Did you hear the one about Dolly Parton starring in a Taco Bell musical about Mexican Pizza?  I have questions.  

If a fart falls in an office, and nobody smells it, was it ever really a fart?

This cultural deep dive into the mullet posits that, these days, you'd be hard pressed to fashion a haircut that would cause someone to cross the street to get away from you.  I disagree.  If I shaved a stripe down the middle of my head and then braided my remaining hair into Pippi Longstocking braids on either side so I looked like a demented human Cynthia doll, I feel like the nice white moms pushing toddlers in their expensive jogging strollers would probably elect to give me wide berth.  

Analog Reading:

Finished Lost in the Valley of Death by Harley Rustad.  It was kind of underwhelming.  It wasn't as compelling as, say, Krakauer's Into the Wild, and the missing person at the center of it seemed like kind of a chode, honestly.

Read The End of October by Lawrence Wright.  Hoo boy.  I guess this book was considered remarkable and prescient when it was published in April 2020, because of how meticulously detailed and eerily similar the pandemic plot mirrored covid, given that it was obviously written many months, if not years, before our current pandemic began.  It finally felt safe enough to read it now, and honestly I'm glad I didn't read it, (or Station Eleven or The Stand) any earlier than I did.  It was quite a thrill ride and the pacing was brisk.  If I had read a book like this prior to 2020, it would have seemed completely implausible and I would have considered the plot to have gone off the rails at about 30 pages in, but as things stand, I kept reading and nodding and thinking, "Yea, that checks out."  How times change.  

Up next, I'm going to crack open The Matchmaker:  A Spy in Berlin by Paul Vidich.  Lately, I've been trying out some genres I don't normally dig on, like thrillers and spy novels, and it's been fun to change it up. We'll see how this one goes.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Syllabus #151

Wow, so, slow news week, amirite?

If only.  

It's Mother's Day, which makes this week's Supreme Court draft opinion leak all the more poignant.  Motherhood should be a choice.  Period.  Women deserve no less than full bodily autonomy to make choices about what goes into our bodies, what comes out of them, and what we put on them.  Case in point:  The woman in the picture below chose to be a mom, and an awesome one at that.  The baby you see here did not.  But she should be able to choose to wear those overalls without a shirt if that's what she's into.  Her body, her choice.

Summer, 1986


Double ugh.

On Ben Franklin's abortion recipe"In this week’s leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions.” Yet abortion was so “deeply rooted” in colonial America that one of our nation’s most influential architects went out of his way to insert it into the most widely and enduringly read and reprinted math textbook of the colonial Americas—and he received so little pushback or outcry for the inclusion that historians have barely noticed it is there. Abortion was simply a part of life, as much as reading, writing, and arithmetic."  I guess Florida won't be including that math book in their curriculum either?

Who gets abortions?  Short answer, just about any type of person with a functioning uterus you can think of.  For every reason you can think of, and some you probably would prefer not to imagine, like a child getting raped by a family member, or a woman finding out late in a pregnancy that terminating is the only way to save her own life.  What do all the reasons have in common, though?  They are none. of. anyone. else's. damn. business.

In lighter news:

You can exhale now.  I know you were waiting with bated breath to find out if our boy Malcolm would ever have his new penis moved from his arm to his crotch.  Surely I can't be the only person whose recent YouTube for Roku search history includes the phrase 'british man arm penis,' can I? 

I can't even tell you how amped I am for this Weird Al mockumentary starring Daniel Radcliffe.  Will I actually watch it when it comes out in September?  Probably not!  Will I think about it from time to time and delight in the fact of its existence?  Absolutely.  

I made this tomato butter pasta because someone sent Andy the recipe and he was weirdly excited about it?  And it was just okay.  It was not worth the amount of time or butter required for its execution, but it was actually better as leftovers (probably because I didn't have to do any of the work). 

Analog Reading:

Read Other People's Clothes by Calla Henkel.  The description I read that prompted me to place a hold for the ebook sounded both fascinating and potentially vapid.  Thankfully it was much more the former, and, I suspect, only deliberately and self-consciously the latter, in strategic places.  It was excellent.

Now reading Lost in the Valley of Death: A tale of obsession and danger in the Himalayas by Harley Rustad.  It's a non-fiction investigation into the disappearance of a 36-year old American adventure dude who disappeared while on a spiritual quest in the Himalayas.  Interesting so far, but I gotta say that I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for the missing guy (yet).

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Syllabus #150

This past week was Book Fair Week.  If over two years of a global pandemic produced anything positive, it was to spare me from holding 4 consecutive book fairs.  Fortunately for the world, but not so much for me, life has army crawled its way back to the edge of normalcy.  

A perennial problem

This spring, I had no choice but to pretend to be excited about having a real book fair again.  I had to touch money.  I had to explain that 1 quarter + 1 nickel + 1 penny does not equal "3 monies," but rather, $.31 cents, which can buy exactly nothing.  I had explain the what and why of sales tax over and over and over again.  I had to make kids cry.

It's over.  In a few more days, I'll stop having night terrors about hypothetically handling a financial document improperly and inadvertently owing the school hundreds of dollars.  In a few weeks, I'll stop clenching my jaw at the sound of assorted coins being dumped from a plastic baggie onto a hard surface.  I'll never erase from my brain the image of a child's eyes welling up with tears when I tell them all the rhinestone diaries and all the unicorn diaries are sold out and can't be restocked.

Learning what a hellacious shit parade the book fair is for the adults running it has been one of the most crushing realizations of adulthood.  Book fair blows.  I said what I said.  


You know what, I didn't have time to read anything compelling on the internet this week.  I was too busy breathing into a paper bag when I got home every night.  And I was reading a really good book when I wasn't hyperventilating.  Y'all can deal.  Better luck next week!

Analog Reading:

Just finished The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley.  Boy howdy was that a journey.  It felt a little schlocky in the beginning, and it never exactly blossomed into literature, but it was entertaining as hell.  I could not put it down towards the end, and I was probably gripping my Kindle hard enough to leave finger indentations in the cover.  

Up next:  Other People's Clothes by Calla Henkel

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Syllabus #149

This week was a blur.  There were preposterously large strawberries.  There was social interaction.  There was the inevitable First Head Cold I've Had In A Very Long Time that started out with a runny nose and quickly capitulated with the feeling that my head was going to detach from my body and float away, which unfortunately hit as we were finishing dinner and made for a very awkward exit from a restaurant.  It's not the rona, I have taken two rapid tests.  Just a regular old 'kids are disgusting and they breathe in my face daily' good old fashioned cold.

Speaking of kids being disgusting, this week is Book Fair week.  I can't wait to explain what sales tax is 837 times, and break hearts when I have to deliver the news that 3 nickels and 4 pennies is, in fact, 19 cents and not '7 monies.'

open heart surgery

Only a rich person with an externally vented range hood, who has also never worked at a job with a break room containing a shared microwave situation, would have any grounds to think this is acceptable. I'm almost as offended by Stephen King's microwaved salmon recipe as I am by his gratuitous use of the n-word in his fiction. 

This deromanticization of #vanlife came at the right time.  We regularly cycle through hypothetical ways to Damn the Man and drop out of society.  Scratch this one off the list.

Analog Reading:

Can you believe it?  I finished two books this week!  Back up on my book+ per week bullshit now that The Stand is in the rearview.  

Devil House by John Darnielle was great.  There was one sort of experimental blip in the middle that was printed in a font I found nearly impossible to read, and I didn't care fo that part.  Otherwise I thought it was a very intelligent meditation on how our cultural obsession with true crime actually impacts both the people connected to the events and the ones who write about them.

For a book club, I read Election by Tom Perrotta.  I hadn't read any of his work before, but apparently he has a knack for writing screen-adaptable fiction - he also wrote The Leftovers.  It was a quick romp, with some salacious bits, and some sadsack humor.  Set in a New Jersey high school in the 90's, I could vividly picture the characters.  We all knew a Tracy Flick, a Paul Warren.  Even a Jack Dexter.  I could smell the vice principal's coffee breath.  It was too real.  Then we watched the movie version, which, despite the excellent casting of Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick, lost a little bit of the luster for me.  Tracy was a little neutered and less of a secret sexpot in the movie version, and situating the action in Omaha instead of New Jersey made the whole thing seem a little too wholesome and All American.  The Book Was Better.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Syllabus #148

Late again!  Which reminds me of a joke that my mom reminded me of this past weekend (which is why I'm late, I was in South Carolina petting a very adorable puppy and also spending time with my parents, who are adorable in their own way, but I spent less time petting them, because that would be an insane thing to do).  It was a terrible joke that one of my guy friends told in the car when my mom was driving us somewhere in high school.  It was hilarious at the time for shock value, but in retrospect it honestly doesn't even make that much sense:

What's a thing that, when it's late, makes a teenage girl's mother scream, her father faint, and her mailman shoot himself?

Answer:  Her period.  

Like, who is out there banging their mailman?  I mean, yea, if they're a walking mail carrier, they have foine looking calves but this joke just doesn't resonate.  Is there some kind of Mr. McFeely fetish subculture out there?  If you, as a teenage girl, thirsted after the experience of getting Mr. MeFelt-up by the person (regardless of gender) who delivered your mail, please elaborate in the comments.

Anyway, please enjoy this baby dog, and also a sunset because it was pretty:


My first email address was, and I'm still chasing the "You've Got Mail!" dragon.  There's no other high quite like it.  I'm Team Email, for sure, but also Team Inbox Zero.  If you have triple digits of unread messages in your inbox, you're either way more Zen than I'll ever be, or the kind of careless person who accidentally leaves your baby in a hot car.  I said what I said.  

I don't even like mac and cheese, but Dolly makes it sound downright delightful.  

It seems to me that lying about your age on social platforms is more of a problem for creepers who want to lie about being younger to prey on minors, not people (like me) who still want some modicum of privacy and don't like giving out my birthdate on the internet because I don't want hollow birthday greetings from randos who would not have known my birthday if an algorithm hadn't reminded them.  If I want to identify as a 137 year old, let me be, you rapscallions.

Hold on, I gotta get on the horn and call up High School Me, who never once bothered to toast the frozen-ass regular Eggo waffle I ate on the way to the bus stop almost every morning for years.  This would have been a revelation.

Analog Reading:

Almost finished with John Darnielle's Devil House.  I took it with me on a visit to the eye surgeon the other day, where I was seeing about my cataract (see what I did there?  and also there?).  The only review I had been able to find online for this guy was from an elderly man who was pleased that the doctor was willing to pray with him before undergoing cataract surgery.  I didn't have high hopes, and maybe also that was not the book I should have had sitting in my lap when the doctor walked in.  Oops.  Turns out the doctor is super nice and had a much better explanation for what is going on in my busted ass eyeball and how it can be fixed than the first doctor I saw, so, you know, #blessed.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Syllabus #147

Hello a day late, not from the curiously windowless hotel room in Memphis where I tried to compose and post this missive on my customary Sunday morning.  While our last-minute accommodations lacked views and functioning wifi, it had much to offer in other departments.  For instance, our room boasted convenient proximity to the ice machine, and came with a surprise bonus of lipstick smeared on the toilet lid.  Not to mention the older couple I overheard while I was waiting to check in, giving the front desk an inventory of items stolen from their room.

Never mind that we were supposed to be in New York City this weekend until Delta was like, 'Hey guys, wouldn't it be funny if we canceled your flight but just didn't tell you until like 3 hours before the flight?  April Fool's!  Good joke, right?'  And we were like, 'Nah, dawg, that was last Friday, nice try though.'  

We already had pet-sitting paid for, and I'll take any excuse to let someone else deal with Charlie for a day or two.  Memphis seemed like a good idea, and it wasn't not fun to visit, but I feel like 24 hours was plenty.  I now have but one question for Memphis:  Does anyone live there?  Seriously.  Outside of Beale Street and the Civil Rights Museum, there were like 5 people in the whole city, and one of them was a kid who approached us in two different places, Saturday night and Sunday morning, asking us to "sponsor his football team."  I felt like somehow reading the last page of The Stand in the car on the way to Memphis pulled me into an alternate timeline where the super flu really happened and Andy and I were the only two people alive in all of Shelby County.  

Always timely advice as we move into Abuse of Air Conditioning season.  Let me just say, once and for all, that the point of air conditioning is to prevent you from actively sweating your tits off while you are passively doing nothing.  It is to prevent high levels of humidity from allowing black mold to proliferate inside your home.  It is NOT to artificially create the conditions of another season in which it is appropriate to wear long sleeves and pants.  It is NOT to trigger a flare-up of your wife's Reynaud's Syndrome in the middle of June so you can wear a hoodie while you're watching TV.  It is NOT to force your wife to have to sleep under multiple blankets and a bathrobe while wearing fleece pajamas in July.  And look, it goes both ways!  The purpose of heat is not to allow me to wear shorts and t-shirts in December.  I'll Jimmy Carter the shit out of the cold months before I crank the heat above 68 degrees.    

I love literary food porn.  This is a great roundup of meals in literature, and I'll add a few of my own.  Say what you will about Hemingway but anytime he mentions food or drink I can't help but salivate because he was a man of appetites who could appreciate the hell out of a cold drink on a hot day, or a simple meal of bread and cheese.  Also, if you want to read one long extended gustatory rhapsody peppered with the drama of a complicated gay relationship, Brian Washington's Memorial  is your guy.  

A new David Sedaris essay in The New Yorker.  Imagine a world where David walks around immersed in his iPhone like 99% of us, and courts exactly none of the delightfully weird encounters he shares with us.  Be like David.

Ben Franklin, what a guy.

Analog Reading:

I can finally lay down The Stand.  Thank the sweet merciful lort, or, as my favorite character, Tom Cullen would say, "Ooh lawsy me, M-O-O-N that spells this book was too goddamn long."  I'll say it again, Stephen King needed to get down off his high horse and let somebody edit that sumbitch.  I started the book on February 27th, took breaks and read two other books, and finished it on April 9th!  This book spanned three months of my life.  Forty-two days.  Over 1,300 pages.  I can't say I didn't enjoy it, and I can't say I won't read another Stephen King book, but I'm gonna need a prolonged separation before I'm ready to enter into another long term relaysh with one of his books.

Now I'm finally getting around to John Darnielle's Devil House and so far, so good!  It's a little unfair that someone can be so multi-talented, fronting one of my favorite bands of all time and wielding the pen so deftly, but I'll allow it.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Syllabus #146

Somehow this past week rivaled January in its interminability.  It wasn't just me.  Everyone at work felt it, too.  We all kept blindly groping around for Friday, lamenting a Tuesday we all swore was Wednesday, a Wednesday that almost certainly should have been a Thursday.  Most of the time, I can fake it and look like I have my crap togetherish, despite feeling like I Literally Cannot Even, but when everyone else freely and openly admits they are Unable to Even, it's kind of hard to Give an Adequate Number of Fucks.  It was a week.


On Saturday morning, I got the Spanish Wordle on the first guess.  The word was doler, the infinitive verb meaning 'to hurt,' so I guess it was that kinda semana for all of us.

Wordle (ES)  #86 1/6


What do you do when your kid is reading a book that makes you uncomfortable?  1.  Maybe read the whole book before you pass judgment.  2.  Get over it, not every book is for every person.  

I'd have an easier time digesting these allegations of coke-fueled Republican orgies if Mitch McConnell's neck didn't look like a fleshlight with a head protruding from it.  

I had an extra puff pastry kicking around in the freezer, so I saw this recipe for a skillet vegetable pie as a beacon of weeknight hope.  Indeed, Andy actually LIKED it and asked to have it again someday soon.  That's like finding a 4-leaf clover and as you bend over to pick it you see a $100 bill laying next to it.  I don't know what alignment of stars was responsible for it, but I ain't mad.  

Analog Reading:

Maybe I wouldn't feel like time is marching in place if I could finish The friggin Stand and move on with my life.  It's not that it's not a compelling narrative, but I've spent too much time with it and I'm ready for something else.