Monthly Archives: May 2013

Random Friday Thoughts

I taught my final class of the school year on Wednesday, and for the past two days have just been relaxing and letting my mind wander. It hasn’t hit me on a visceral level yet that I don’t have to teach another class until late August, but my brain is already going on all sorts of tangents. Here are a few that are rattling around this afternoon:

Sometimes I have dreams that people have statistics for their lives just like athletes have sports statistics. Usually these dreams center around me having a low “life average” (akin to a baseball batting average), somewhere below .250. I’m always very worried about this in the dream until I realize that there’s no such thing as life averages. But it would be kind of interesting if there were. It would be fascinating to compare oneself to other people numerically like it is possible to compare one athlete to another. For instance, basketball-reference.com has something called “Similarity Scores” on each player’s page (scroll down to the bottom to see Patrick Ewing’s) that compares the player to other players (past and present) with similar statistics. If it were possible to do this in real life, it would be helpful because then one could see if one’s life was headed in a good direction or not based on those with similar life arcs.

I bought a regular-sized candy bar at the college bookstore this afternoon that cost $1.25. I realize that the bookstore is not the cheapest place to buy such an item, but even so, it points to how candy bar prices have exploded over the past decade or so. For all of my teens and into my twenties it was common to be able to find candy bars on sale for $0.50, and sometimes even less. Nowadays it is hard to find one for less than $0.75 even at stores that claim to have “low prices” (at least in Salt Lake City, and this was the case when I lived in Illinois, too).

Conversely, I also bought a pack of two Bic red pens for $0.99. What a deal! A pleasing quality product for under a dollar. Good office supplies are always exciting. The way things are going, though, they are an endangered species.

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Reflections on One Year of Blogging and My Book Addiction

This week was the one-year anniversary of this blog, and it feels appropriate to mark the occasion with a post about it.

First, here is a post from one of my favorite blogs, A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff, about lessons learned from blogging. I particularly agree with numbers 3-5.

Second, this is my third and most successful attempt over the past decade at blogging (here is a link to the previous one). I am happy that I have finally had the willpower to keep posting regularly: at least once a week with only a handful of exceptions, and many weeks two or three times, especially during the summer when I’m not teaching.

Third, around half of my posts have been in the Books Acquired Recently category. I began this category because I thought it would be interesting to document how many books I actually acquire rather than making random estimates. I just went through all of these posts for the past year, and I must say that I was a little surprised at the results. I knew that I was both a book and a book-buying addict, but I did not realize just how addicted I am. Over the past twelve months I have acquired (mostly bought, but some were also gifts or exam/desk copies) 155 books! That is an average of nearly three per week! Perhaps just as impressively, I have read all but twenty-six of them (I’ll catch up this summer!).

Here is the breakdown of my 155 new friends:

76 books of fiction, including two Norton anthologies that encompass multiple genres. Fiction is both my favorite genre to read and to write about, so I am not surprised that nearly half of the books fit here. I am actually a bit surprised that it wasn’t more than half.

30 books of literary criticism/theory. I am such a nerd.

26 books of miscellaneous nonfiction–mostly memoirs, some art history, some cultural studies, some sports.

20 books of poetry. My guess would have been that this would have been the category following fiction. I am kind of sad that I acquired fifty percent more criticism/theory than poetry.

2 collections of comic books/comic strips.

1 play (Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman).

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The Office Series Finale

The Office series finale last night did a good job of ending the show. I’ve always felt that Steve Carell’s final episode should have also been the show’s final episode, but since it was not, last night’s episode did about as good of a job of ending the show as was possible. Yes, it was schmaltzy, and yes, all of the main characters’ stories (especially Pam and Jim’s) got tied up much too neatly to be plausible, but The Office was good enough and important enough for long enough (i.e., barring the past two seasons) that it could get away with an ending that was much more uplifting than the show’s overall subject matter. Unlike many previous last episode disasters (e.g., Seinfeld‘s, which was laughably horrible, and Will and Grace‘s, which was traumatic and had me screaming at the television), The Office‘s finale didn’t insist on being over-the-top, which allowed it to end things smoothly and successfully.

There were also some fantastic one-liners and inside references for long-time viewers, such as the stripper at Dwight’s bachelor party who had also worked Bob Vance’s bachelor party and had accepted the rabies research check from Michael dressed as a “nurse” in one of the series’ best episodes. I thought Carell’s cameo was handled quite well: he got in one last “that’s what she said,” and his final line about having his kids (i.e., his former workers) grow up and marry each other being “what every parent wants” was classic Michael. I was a huge fan of The Office until two seasons ago, and I feel like last night’s episode allowed me to end my relationship to the show with a sense of peace.

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David Beckham’s Retirement

David Beckham has announced that he will retire from soccer at the end of the season. He has had an excellent career, which most people forget because now he is more well-known for his off-the-pitch celebrity activities than for his footballing. In his honor, here is a link to the highlights of the 1999 Champions League final, one of the most thrilling matches ever. Both Manchester United goals come in the aftermath of Beckham corner kicks, and the first corner is set up by a lovely pass from Beckham to Gary Neville.

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Books Acquired Recently

Binnie, Imogen. Nevada. New York: Topside, 2013.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I ordered this book from the publisher (Topside Press is a fantastic new venture dedicated to publishing transgender literature) after reading a glowing review of it by Casey Plett. I am excited to read it soon, perhaps this weekend.

Gregg, Melissa, and Gregory J. Seigworth, eds. The Affect Theory Reader. Durham: Duke UP, 2010.

I bought this book because I only have a vague idea of what affect theory is about. It sounds fascinating.

This and Grafton’s book were bought on amazon.com.

Grafton, Anthony. The Footnote: A Curious History. 1997. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1999.

I am totally addicted to footnotes, and have been since I was an undergraduate. I decided to break down and buy Grafton’s history of the form after recently reading some criticism on David Foster Wallace’s use of them. I prefer footnotes to endnotes, but MLA style calls for endnotes, so that’s what I normally use. But footnotes are much more user friendly.

Lehman, Joanne. Driving in the Fog. Georgetown: Finishing Line, 2013.

I heard about this chapbook of poems from a friend who knows Lehman and pre-ordered it from the publisher several months ago (Lehman is a Mennonite, which is why the book sounded interesting to me). Then I promptly forgot about it. It was thus a nice surprise to receive it in my mailbox yesterday!

Schott, Penelope Scambly. Lillie was a goddess, Lillie was a whore. Woodstock: Mayapple, 2013.

I received a review copy of this collection of poetry from Your Impossible Voice, a new online literary journal that I’ll be writing some reviews for. It is exciting to be a part of the early days of a new publishing venture! Schott’s book is about Lilith, Adam’s first wife, and one of my favorite mythological figures (her story didn’t make it into the Bible because she insisted that she be on top during sex). I am looking forward to reading it.

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Thoughts on Bill Hader Leaving Saturday Night Live and Endings in General

Bill Hader announced this week that he is leaving Saturday Night Live at the end of this season. While I got into SNL at the tail end of the Will Ferrell/Chris Parnell/Tracy Morgan-into-the-Tina Fey/Amy Poehler/Maya Rudolph days, Hader’s generation (Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, Kenan Thompson, with Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen having been there a bit longer) was the one that I connected with the most as a fan, and now that most of it is gone, I feel a keen sense of loss that isn’t just tied to the show, but is also tied to the forthcoming transition in my own life into a tenure-track (and thus explicitly long-term) position. It is like the fun times are over and it’s time to go into a settled, middle-aged life of bourgeois despair. I haven’t watched the show regularly this season after the first few weeks because the new cast members just didn’t have enough verve to fill the gap left by Wiig’s and Samberg’s departures at the end of last season, and now that Hader is leaving my guess is that I’ll watch it even less. There’s still a lot of talent on the show, and the new cast members have certainly been getting better, but somehow it no longer feels like it’s mine. Endings are always also beginnings (and it feels like there have been a lot of these that I care about lately, most notably the retirements of Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Scholes), and I feel like I should be excited for mine as one would think Hader is excited for his (he’ll have more time to work on his thus far promising film career), but it just makes me feel old.

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Show and Tell

There’s a new post on Paul Lukas’s Show and Tell blog that is rather fascinating. Some of the objects are rare and weird and others are commonplace, but the stories surrounding the objects are just as interesting as the objects themselves. I love the idea of show and tell for adults in part because I enjoy the history of material culture, but also because I associate show and tell with a kind of awe and joy that I think many of us lose as we get older. I am a cynical person, but I like activities that are able to get me out of that headspace sometimes.

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