Song of the Day: Phoenix, “Lisztomania”

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Top 5 of 2018

My yearly tradition, born at 2002 New Year’s Eve party in Austin, with Walter and Dan. Here’s my top five moments of 2018.

1. In July, Natalie, April and I had our first joint conference panel for the Periodical Poetry Index in awhile. It was theoretical talk, with each of us talking about steps in the process and then showcasing the update of the project going live this spring. The presentation went well but that’s not why it’s in my top 5. The process of working for the panel talks spurred us to do a lot of work and a lot of talking this summer. This is a collaboration that I’ve been apart of since 2010. As we were working this summer, checking data, making changes to the spreadsheets of previously indexed data to accommodate the nuances of periodical poetry we’d learned, we talked more frequently. It was such a nice reminder of how well we work together and how amazing my collaborators are. I appreciate Natalie and April so much and this project works because of our really great collaboration. It was something others commented on at the conference, and I will admit, I often take it for granted that everyone I work with knows how to work like this. It doesn’t help that my department is also this collaborative too. I’m just spoiled by people I like to work with.

2. In October, Jason and I did a weekend in Chicago. Some friends were up there for a conference that weekend, and Jason’s been going once or twice a month for work. It was such a lovely, romantic trip. I got to see part of his work life there; his co-workers thought we were cute. And then we played tourists, mostly eating our way through the city. A lot of our choices were Jason showing me the places he’s been going, but one of them was Girl and the Goat, which has been on my list since the chef Stephanie Izard won Iron Chef two years ago. We didn’t get reservations, so we went right when it opened. We’d worked up an appetite in the art museum beforehand. The line at 4:30 was down the block. Fortunately, we timed it perfectly, and we got to eat at the bar. It was one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had. Goat tartare, goat and lobster, pavlova. The whole meal was a savory joy.

3. I taught an Australian novel class full online this summer, and it was the first time teaching an online class that I’ve actually enjoyed it and felt connected. Now, I love teaching a summer class. The five week time span perfectly concentrates everyone. It’s fast enough that you can’t get fatigued. It was so much fun designing and teaching. The novels I picked were delicious—funny or eerie or moving. And the students made such good connections between the literature and American lit. They were smart and engaged. It was like I got a teaching present.

4. I’m up for promotion this academic year. It’s a lot of work putting the portfolio together. Work I wasn’t looking forward to. Last time I felt so anxious and frayed. This time around having Jason as a support has made it so much better. Still a pain to do. But he’s so good about making me feel loved and supported. It’s given me a respite from a process that’s just darn fatiguing and repetitive.

5. In July, Jason’s honorary nephews and of course their parents (the Bernies) came up to Fort Smith for a long weekend for the Fourth of July. I went up a day early to prep and do paperwork for a student. I saw England best Sweden in penalty kicks! Just glorious, well after the fact. During, I literally cleaned my fridge and ducked my head out of the kitchen to watch, but mostly, I freaked out in my kitchen, texting Jordan. And then my sweet nephews took over my place. We watched a lot of Nailed It. My cats hid out while C. stalked Dodger by innocently laying wait for him under my coffee table. Did an impossibly hard escape room. The kids were super quiet while I did conference calls with my students over their papers. And I taught C. how to make a cake, which had to be dairy free, from scratch. It did not turn out well, but C. is going to be the next Paul Hollywood. Jason and G. did better with their whole fried okra. After they left, Jason and I napped while watching the recording of England going to the semifinals. It was again glorious, and stress free since I knew the result. Then the a/c broke, and this weekend kind of embodies my world. Lots of family, loudness, cooking, football obsession with Jordan, cats, Jason, and then adulting.

Commonplace: Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled; when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind! The sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him!) struck up ‘Sir Roger de Coverely’. Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top couple, too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three- or four-and-twenty pairs of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and no notion of walking.

But if they had been twice as many–ah, four times–old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs. Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that’s not high praise, tell me higher, and I’ll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig’s calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn’t have predicted at any given time, what would become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig had gone all though the dance; advance and retire, both hands to your partner, bow and curtesy, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig ‘cut’–cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without a stagger.”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Smuggling Finches, No Really

Fascinating NYTimes report on the illegal trade in finches. Yep, we’re talking about the small bird. Apparently, there’s a whole gambling subculture around the tiny birds, a subculture that I could totally get behind if the birds weren’t being brought in via hair curlers turned into bird tubes. People bet on the birds’ singing prowess, chirps, and other birdie behaviors. Probably not on how much they dance for you or flirt with the ladies, which are most of Constance’s, our green cheek conure, behaviors.

Meditations on Being Sick After the Fact

I was sick last week. Sick enough that I missed a whole week of work–cold that became an infection behind my ears and then some blood pressure issue with the cold medicine and me not doubling my water intake making it all so much worse. I’m definitely better now, but it got me thinking how privileged I am and thankful. I’m rarely sick or sick enough to miss work. I’ve definitely worked through sinus infections and with a cough that wouldn’t budge. But I also have a healthy constitution and don’t often get sick. I have over a semester of sick leave, and being out last week barely made a dent in it. I’m so grateful we can bank sick leave.

My department head never once asked when I was coming back, even if it was the last week of classes. She only cared that I was feeling better. My students were so kind about rolling with me being out and everything being discombobulated. They apparently asked friends and my department head how I was doing. They were genuinely concerned about my well being. One student’s husband wanted to make me soup. My friends here and elsewhere kept checking on me. I didn’t allow anyone to bring things because I didn’t want anyone else to get my cold; Jason and I got it at the same time, so I was definitely contagious at one point. Of course, long distance colding as a couple sucks but Jason kept face timing me so he could see I was okay. He knows I have a tendency to downplay how bad I feel. Well, until I can’t.

I’m thankful for my PerPo collaborators who were gracious as I was definitely not fully present on a phone call as we worked on finishing the introduction to a cluster of essays we’re writing.

I’m also thankful to live in a world where my health insurance paid for most of a doctor’s visit and the antibiotics, both together for less than $50.

Commonplace: Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”

Glory be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise Him.

~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”