Applejack

It’s apple time here in God’s country (New England). The heirlooms are popping off faster than I can slice them up! So many new kinds to try; for example, did you ever hear of a blue pearmain? Well it’s not very good! Or how about a spitzenburg? It’s great, and Thomas Jefferson grew them. There’s also this thing called a zaburgeon reinette that is a real crowd favorite. I’m in hog heaven, if hogs love apples, which I bet they probably do.

Did you ever feed a horse an apple? That ol’ horse will crunch that apple up in one big wet horsey bite. I love feeding horses things. We used to feed our horse bread with thousand island dressing on it; he thought it was great. I knew a horse who loved beer but I don’t approve of that sort of thing.

My parents just left. They were here for an extended visit. They were very impressed by the apple situation here, and ended up buying a large sack of apples to take home with them in hopes of impressing their friend who is always so proud of her apples. My sweet parents! They make such a good show of pretending to care about our dog, who they obviously find weird.

Not a lot going on, except in terms of my internal landscape which is a weird miasma of dread and anxiety as usual. Today I almost bought a book about managing your anxiety, that’s how bad it feels inside me right now. What do you do about formless anxiety?? There are definitely some things I can point to and say “this is causing me some anxiety” but they don’t come close to matching the level of physical dread I feel constantly. I’m obviously having some sort of psychic issue that I should probably work harder to resolve. Worrying is so stupid. Just live your life and deal with stuff as it comes. Also it’s really Protestant and self-hating to just continually worry about the goals you still have to meet, rather than being like “I am doing a fine job, I am meeting my goals.” I need to start meditating or some shit. If anybody has a good meditation or book or exercise or something for formless anxiety management let me know. It’s a pointless way to live. When I am on my deathbed I doubt I will wish I had worried more about random shit.

Speaking of what you’ll regret on your deathbed, my husband demanded we watch the second presidential debate even though I strongly and explicitly indicated that I had no intention of watching it. He kept saying that on our deathbed we’d wish we’d taken part in more “phenomena” where everyone is watching the same thing on TV at the same time. The idea of being on your deathbed and being like “My biggest regret is not watching the second Trump/Clinton debate of 2016″ is so absurd I laughed very rudely at him but he kept insisting that we watch it, using this as his only means of persuasion. So what could I do? I said yes. Then I held my phone in front of my face and read David Rees’s liveblog during the whole thing as a means of practicing self-care. I loved how it looked like Trump was fucking that chair the whole time. “Grandmother, what is your biggest regret” “Child, I missed seeing Donald Trump on downers fucking a chair on live television”

So many of my future scenarios entail a child calling me grandmother and asking me to tell them of the old days, but since I am not procreating this won’t happen, unless society crumbles and we are reduced to living in small collectives, in which case all old people will be called “grandmother,” and will also be 45 years old.

My parents just dropped me off at work and now I am sitting in the hallway waiting for a meeting. I don’t like going to my office, which is down in the basement and is really depressing because I haven’t decorated it or really personalized it in any way; it’s like something out of Dilbert. But whenever I sit up here in the hallway everyone makes jokes about how I’m in trouble, which is indeed exactly how it feels to sit in the hallway outside a bunch of professors’ offices. This is usually where the grad students hang out and I can tell they are avoiding it now because I’m here, but I’m not going to move. All around me are faculty offices with crazy amounts of music coming out of them. Someone is tooting wildly on what sounds like maybe a saxophone mouthpiece; someone is razzin’ around with some jazz chords on a piano; in this viola studio someone is frenetically playing arpeggios very imprecisely; further down the hall I can hear the shrieks and screams that indicate a vocalist is warming up their instrument, which is their human body.

Speaking of the instrument of the human body, we went to see the Met Live in HD broadcast of Tristan und Isolde. I loved it. I feel like I am the only person in my milieu who genuinely and pretty unproblematically loves Wagner. I love his music not only in spite of but because of all the things that make it so unbearable. After the opera (which was 5 hours long) my husband was like “god, it’s so boring, it’s so incessant, there’s never any change to the affect, it’s just melodramatic climax constantly for 5 hours, it’s so sadistic” and I was like “I know, isn’t it GREAT”

The preludes before each act are total killers. Anyone who can listen to them and not cry a little bit is a monster, or is from another culture where music isn’t organized tonally, or is my husband. Actually that’s not fair; he likes the preludes. It’s the rest of it he can’t handle. He also is weirdly not good at watching filmed broadcasts of live staged performances; it was so funny how hard it was for him to follow or recognize what was happening. Afterward for example I was like “I loved the scene when the bridge of the battleship was spinning wildly around during the love duet” and he was like “????” He had not registered that that was happening at all. He says he thinks of film products only formally, in terms of editing.

Just the usual stuff

Pause for a little inside baseball talk: The Met Live in HD thing is interesting to me because of the ways it is going to very obviously change the art of opera. I obviously know other people have written more intelligently about this than I have but whatever. I think it is very comparable to the coming of sound, in cinema. You had all these silent film stars who were amazing, but then with sound films maybe they had shitty voices, or couldn’t memorize lines, or maybe their stylized silent acting no longer translated well in a sound film, and their careers were over. I’m wondering about the way these close-up broadcasts of operas–which give audiences a view of opera that literally no one, not even old time Kings and Queens, have ever gotten before–are going to affect the careers of the singers who sing at the Met. The close-up shots for example reveal the way that even in moments of extreme passion, the singers are constantly cutting their eyes at the conductor, making sure they stay in time with the orchestra etc. It’s a really creepy effect. Maybe singers who don’t have to look at the conductor as much will start getting cast in Met productions more than singers who do, and that will change the ecology of high opera in some way. And then of course there’s the way more banal shit, like singers having to look better/younger or whatever, because audiences are seeing them so much more up-close than ever before. Also a major rhetorical move surrounding these broadcasts is for the money people (Peter Gelb, e.g.) to rave about how now, with these broadcasts, people can see what great ACTORS these singers are, not just what great singers they are. But I feel like, what if you’re a great singer who ISN’T a great actor?? Because that’s a whole different skill set?? What if you’re just a really fucking awesome singer and you’ve learned to project your voice into this enormous space and you’ve never prepared for having extreme close-ups of you broadcast across America, and you don’t perform well in that context? Oh man.

Nonetheless, the broadcasts are totally awesome and I highly recommend them. Don Giovanni is next, I think on Oct. 22. You should go!!!!! Don Giovanni is a total crowd-pleaser. Thrills n’ chills and a statue coming to life and punishing a guy for abusing women: timely! Plus great music. LOL “Plus Great Music” i.e. MOZART

3764

(He’s dead in this scene)

I have tomorrow off and then Wednesday I have a very stressful meeting that is followed immediately by getting two cavities filled, and then THAT is followed by a meeting about my pre-tenure review!!!!!! Did you ever hear of a shittier day? Wow. It’s going to be so cool when it’s over and I go eat twelve pizzas.

I want to see that new movie where Ben Affleck plays the genius aspergers accountant superhero. I wish, however, that it was just called THE CPA

I’m going to try to read some Kristeva for the first time; wish me luck! Can you imagine writing that way as a junior scholar in contemporary America? LOLOLOLOLOL so it is fun to live vicariously through these grand old French thinkers of yore, like, what is this, is this long-form poetry or what? And not a single footnote?!

I feel kind of drunk. I have a cold sore and have been sleeping on the floor of my office for three nights.

Now I am off to a meeting

Meetings
Meetings
Meetings
Meetings
This meetings

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Mowing Down Peds

We watched Total Recall the other night. We were discussing all the ways that eras of cinema manifest unique discursive practices. For example, in the silent era you will always see a chase sequence where one character runs through a bunch of different scenes and then another character runs through all the same scenes, shot exactly the same way. It’s maybe supposed to make it super clear what’s happening, in a cinematic era before many of the clichés and viewer abilities of the modern era were established; today, we don’t need to be so clearly shown the precise path along which one character is chasing another character in order to comprehend that a chase is indeed taking place.

Watching movies of the 1980s now that so much time has passed reveals some similar generational trademarks. Specifically, w/r/t Total Recall, we were really struck by two discursive practices that are no longer standard in Hollywood cinema: one is the era’s predilection for close-up shots of dudes getting kicked in the nuts, specifically by women (almost always a close-up of a foot landing squarely in a crotch, followed by a close-up of the man’s face with eyes bugging out as he yells “GAAH”); and the other is these movies’ tendency to linger on long, graphic sequences of violence in which random pedestrians are killed in crossfire. Such sequences now seem totally horrifying, especially because the incredible slaughter of countless random extras is never lingered on in any way; I mean, you’d think if you were just a regular guy who suddenly found himself chased by thugs, and you accidentally mowed down like 25 people on an escalator with a machine gun, you would have some feelings about that, at some point, like maybe you’d be like “I can’t believe I murdered all those innocent people” or something. But no. There’s this incredibly violent sequence in Total Recall where Schwarzenegger–the good guy!–not only mows down 25 pedestrians with a machine gun, but then grabs one of them and uses him as a human shield, first in one direction, and then in the other. It’s like a full 30 seconds of this random extra getting shot with thousands of bullets and jerking and flopping crazily around before Arnold tosses him casually away.

Brutally Mowing Down Peds

“Brutally mowing down peds is so 80s” said my husband, and then we started laughing so hard at the idea of making a new movie that focuses on one of those mowed-down peds as its protagonist in some way. Our movie might open with this guy getting brutally mowed down by crossfire, but then it would cut to that guy’s wife getting a phone call at home while cooking breakfast for the kids.
“Ma’am, I’m so sorry but your husband has been killed.”
“Oh my god, no!! HOW?”
“Well, he was on the escalator on his way to work, when a man who until recently had been suffering from intentionally-induced amnesia used him as a human shield in a fire fight with members of a corporate gang of thugs who were trying to capture him.”
“Oh my god”
“Yes, and–actually it was pretty funny–he was not only brutally mowed down in the crossfire of this epic battle, but one of the shooters–actually, it was the guy with the amnesia–used him as a human shield for quite some time, even at one point going so far as to flip him around to face the other direction so that his body became ever-more riddled with an insane number of bullets before being casually tossed aside like a piece of garbage.”
“……….”
“I’m sorry for your loss”

Then the movie would be about this woman recovering from this horrific trauma, putting her life back together, explaining to the kids what had happened to their father, and then ultimately finding new love and perhaps a new career as an attorney fighting for gun control.

Boobs are also very 80s. So many boobs!

In other news, it’s autumn now at last, and the air is chill and tinged with woodsmoke. It’s time to dig up the garden and I am avoiding doing it because I am lazy. Instead I would like to sit on the porch and listen to geese fly by overheard.

Today in the park with the dog I had a surreal aural experience: I heard a flock of geese goosin’ by in the sky, and I looked at where my ears told me they were, but I saw nothing. Their voices got closer and closer, but nary a goose could I see with mine eye. They flew right overheard! I know I was not mistaken, yet never a goose did I see. I believe they were obscured by a high fog or low cloud that I couldn’t distinguish from the higher more normal clouds in the gray morning sky. It was bizarre. It reminded me of that part in The Road where he describes the last bird he ever heard, some old dying raven croaking above him, made invisible by black smoke.

I love geese in the sky although I am frightened of them when near them on the ground. My favorite bird is goose in the sky; on the ground I’d have to say penguin.

I’m still on teaching leave! It is decadent. My brain expands like those novelty sponge animals you pour water on. Having so much unscheduled time to focus on just one project has been an unbelievable privilege and pleasure. The time is flying though, like an invisible goose flying south to the Bahamas. I’ve gotten a lot done and right now am kind of taking a self-appointed break. A few days off to bum around and not do yard work. I’m in between bouts of crippling anxiety so I want to enjoy it. I rejoined the YMCA and am headed there now, to pump some iron (a.k.a. do 20 minutes on the elliptical while listening to comedy podcasts). I pay extra for the fancy locker room because I am a bourgeois pig and it is great, there is a sauna and a place to stretch where you can dim the lights.

Quick Hot Takes

- I think the Elena Ferrante exposé is weird and boring and I don’t know why the editor of NYRB saw fit to run it; why can’t somebody publish novels anonymously if they want to? Jesus Christ it’s not like this person is running arms to Iran or something, give it a rest
- I am reading so much Ursula LeGuin and a lot of it is so good I can’t believe it
- I am trying to read Wodehouse to please my father but I find it exhausting. And I say this as a deep anglophile who has vast swaths of the Python repertoire (including a lot of non-canonical weirder bits) memorized. I will soldier on because I love my Daddy and am a good girl
- Hell or High Water is a very good film and is very sad and makes a very firm statement about class, capitalism, and even the historical plight of Native Americans. I can’t stop thinking about it. Also you must believe the crazy tale I am about to tell: literally the day before going to see this movie, we had watched one of the new Star Trek movies, and we were talking about how much I dislike Chris Pine. My old man said he thinks Chris Pine is not a bad actor but rather perennially miscast as a yelling heroic hunk when really he has sorrow and self-doubt inside of him and should be capitalizing on those qualities. Then he said and I quote: “I think Chris Pine should play a well-meaning deadbeat dad who loves his kids and has a good heart but just can’t get his shit together, and is full of shame and self-loathing.” Then we randomly pop in to see Hell or High Water and guess what kind of character Chris Pine plays in it?? And he is WONDERFUL. Now I am trying to get my old man to become a sought-after casting director. My old man is very good at vibes. He can tell so much about people from carefully observing them with his detail-oriented, self-effacing Virgo vision. He watches and listens and then he makes amazing announcements like “THEY DON’T LOVE EACH OTHER ANYMORE” or “THOSE TWO ARE SECRETLY FUCKING” or “THAT GUY PRETENDS AT DELIGHTFUL BONHOMIE BUT IS ACTUALLY A BAD PERSON” or “THAT GIRL IS A RUSSIAN SPY” and he is always right
- The Snoopy went to boarding school for a few days and when we picked him up they gave us a printout of information about his stay, and it said he enjoyed “sunbathing” and “watching the action” and that he preferred “cuddles with Counselor” to playing with other dogs, and also that he was shy and wouldn’t eat his food. My sensitive baby!!! Then he came home and slept for about 20 hours. The good news is his oozing elbow callus healed right up with some antibiotics and copious application of “elbow butter.”
- I have written yet another angry letter to the New Yorker about free market capitalism; I doubt they will print it but I am tired of their bullshit
- My favorite part of the debate was the phrase “the computer aspect of cyber”
- My favorite part of this election cycle is reminding myself that we will all be dead soon
- The only election-related news I will tolerate is my hero David Rees’s podcast (Election Profit Makers)
- I wonder if David Rees will ever know how much he has influenced me, specifically the way I express anger humorously in written form? Maybe I will leave him all my money when I die. He is a national treasure and like so many national treasures he is under-appreciated but I hope he will soldier on. I once paypalled him $15 when his laptop broke; look at him now, making a podcast with Starlee Kine and traipsing around Portugal accidentally spending 200 euro on a fucking lobster!
- I am growing my hair out and soon will have luxurious braids flappin’ in the wind
- I’m slowly changing my self-identification from a liberal arts professor to a proud unionized state employee at a public university. This is a major transition in my life. How can I use my liberal arts teaching profile to serve this very different student population that I am passionate about, and how can I keep myself sane working within the Kafkaesque nightmare that is the bureaucracy of the massive state institution? These are interesting challenges.
- The first book we’re reading in my reading group is Wendy Brown’s “Undoing the Demos.” I’ve already read it and it’s amazing, as is Brown’s other book “Edgework.” These are a great starting place for anyone interested in neoliberalism, along with David Harvey’s “A Brief History of Neoliberalism.” If this is your first jaunt into the topic, don’t be daunted, just prepare to do a lot of wikipediaing and googling until you get your bearings. Like any scholarly writing, these books take a lot of pre-existing knowledge for granted; they have to, else they could never get to their complex, devastating arguments. So like, they assume you know what the World Bank and IMF are and how they function; they assume you know some basic stuff about capitalism and Marx; they assume you know what phrases like “political economy” and “social democracy” mean; stuff like that. But some swift googlin’ as you make your way through these books will quickly set you to rights. Indeed, I read Harvey’s book before knowing ONE SINGLE THING about capitalism, and it took forever and entailed a lot of extra reading and I took a whole notebook full of notes, but then when I was done I knew so much new stuff, and was then able to read more and more books and have more and more nuanced responses to them, which is how learning works (this is an implicit critique of all the people who get mad at academics for not writing in a way that “anyone can read.” Certainly some academics are garbage writers but still y’all gotta take some responsibility over your own education!). Get ready to get mad as hell and feel totally helpless and overwhelmed by horror! Plus if you read these books then you will be all set to read my book if/when it comes out, nbd

I will keep you posted as we read more books. We are going to read one book a month and I don’t know what the next book will be.

Found this old picture of the snoop

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#OnLeave

We ran out of milks so I put vanilla ice cream in my coffee this morning. I pretended to be mad but in reality I think we can all agree that this is a pretty fun treat. A lady should always have reserve ice cream (vanilla, maple, or possibly chocolate) in the freezer for just such a scenario. Did I mention that we bought a chest freezer? A small one, but plenty big for two middle-aged childfree weirdos spanning time together. We went to this place we called Manny’s Dented Appliances and got one on sale. It fits right in the pantry. Here is what is currently in it:
- gallon of beans
- quart of beans
- two loaves of bread
- bag of cubes of pesto
- bag of cubes of basil and oregano
- quart of veggie stock
- many bags of corn and blueberries
- squash soup
- some bags of rhubarb
If we’d gotten it earlier in the season and if I’d had a more focused summer I would have put a LOT more rhubarb and bluebs in it. I also would have canned rhubarb sauce for winter.

CANNING TALK:
Dudes I have canned twelve jars of tomatoes now and every single time no matter what I do I get this weird separation in my jars, where all the tomato blobs are up at the top, and then the bottom is like four inches of water. The internet and my friend Freddy say that this is normal but it looks like shit and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Anyway I just wanted to express my feelings.

OTHER CANNING NEWS:
Our CSA, for a reason I don’t understand, allows members to go out into the fields and pick whatever they want, and as much of it as they want, for free. Like, in addition to your weekly share. I was so confused by this and checked and double checked but it’s just true. So now every Saturday I literally pick 20 pounds of free tomatoes out of a greenhouse and then I go home and can them.

I’m realizing I don’t want to travel in the summer because it is maximum food preservation time. I missed several weeks of blueberries this summer. Also my tomatoes all got blight and I am wondering how to problem solve for next year. I’m also realizing that I think you either have a CSA or a garden but not both, or else if you do have both you need to have a very focused specific garden. Like I grew all this lettuce but then our CSA share was of course full of lettuce, ditto kale.

So I think next year I will focus on growing novelty tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, shit-tons of basil and oregano, and chili peppers. Let my old man have the rest of the garden zone for his nuts and seeds.

Our chili peppers popped off this year. It’s so fun to have fresh chili peppers in the yard! Just pop out into the yard and snip off a hot fresh cayenne and throw it in your eggs or beans or tacos or peanut noodle bowl or whatever! They are lovely and delightful. We also need to build some sort of a greenhouse.

We went to the best tag sale I have ever been to. It was at a house we have been interested in for a year, because we walk the dog by it every day; it has a huge garden and a homemade greenhouse lean-to and just seems really legit. It turns out it is owned by a real, old hippie. A very tall man with long curly gray hair. He was selling, among other things:
- a filthy, un-tanned sheepskin
- a pair of moccasins his friend made
- a 50 year old cast-iron hibachi grill
- an outdoor woodstove for outdoor canning
- a whole table full of battered African percussion instruments
- a box full of “talking drums” tapes, also Graceland and CSNY
- several large water jugs
- a George Foreman grill
- many women’s herbal healing books from the 70s
- many small crystals, lined up on a piece of cloth
- a book from the late 60s instructing women how to take back the land from capitalism and start their own communes

We got the moccasins, the hibachi, a water jug, an herbal healing book, and a cassette tape titled: “Eye of the Womb: Improvised Ritual Music”

Last week we celebrated summer’s end by tubing down a river! Our young friends made it happen. Many of the adventures in our life now come at the hands of these 25 year olds who are our main friends here. It was truly incredible. It took 4.5 hours and we were all sore and waterlogged by the end. I somehow have gotten this far in life never having tubed down a river before, and I’m so glad I finally got to do it. It was amazing. The river was so wide and clean and quiet, we saw so many huge water birds and also a bald eagle. We had a floating cooler full of beer and people’s t-shirts. We went down some mild rapids and I bashed my knee so hard for about four seconds I thought I’d broken it but then I was fine and didn’t say anything, because last time I got hurt with these friends (t-boned while go-karting) it ended up being really embarrassing. Night was falling when we finally arrived back at the car. Everyone was starving, beyond starving. We all got in our cars and peeled out, then the old man and I got takeout veggie burgers and I ate mine in literally 45 seconds. Then I was sore for three days. It was great.

So, today (Tuesday is when I’m writing this; I don’t know when I will post it, as I don’t have internet in my home, as well you know. I am typing this in a Word document) is officially my first day of being on leave, as it is the first day of school. My poor old man got up this morning, put on his coat and tie, forgot to pack a lunch, asked me if I could remember my copy code (I told him somebody canceled it for reasons yet to be explained to me) because he no longer has copy privileges even though he is teaching college students 4-credit classes at an R1 university (the 26th floor of the library used to be reserved for adjuncts and they had free printing but now it’s all closed and locked, probably to make room for another 36 3-D printers no one needs or uses but that some Associate Vice Chancellor can promote as an example of how she “increased innovation” during her brief tenure before being named CEO of Kraft Foods) and popped off to work, god bless him. While he was gone I had a real Grizzly Adams day. I finished a draft of my book conclusion, but then it was only eleven a.m., so I built a fire in the yard and roasted an eggplant, some zucchini, and two red peppers. When my old man comes home I will serve him baba ganoush and a good local beer in a chilled pewter mug, and listen to him complain.

Now it’s the next day and I’m in the coffee shop, researching night sweats. If anyone reading this is a scientist can you please help me? I’ve been to specialists and they just tell me to sleep with a lighter blanket. It someone tells me to sleep with a lighter blanket again I might burst into tears. The deal with these night sweats is: I don’t think they’re hormonal/menopausal! Because THEY ONLY HAPPEN IN THE WINTER. It’s like the moment the angle of the sun changes and it starts bending toward fall, the sweats come back, and get worse and worse throughout the winter, until spring comes, and then they completely stop again. It is really such a bizarre mystery. Obviously my first thought has been “Vitamin D” but I’ve been taking massive amounts of it and it doesn’t make a difference. Does anyone have ANY thoughts on this? Please ask your scientist friends.

So yeah, I’m on leave!! And my baba ganoush turned out great, smoky as hell.

On Friday I’ll be finalizing the feminist/neoliberal/world-building reading list with my reading group, and I have not forgotten that months ago one of you asked me to post the list, and I will!

I’ve got a lot of stuff in the hopper and in the pipeline, in terms of writing. A lot of writing and revising on tap, which is the whole point of being on leave. I’m very excited.

I’m thinking of reading Huck Finn again

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