Just Thinking About Dogs

I should be working on an abstract I need to submit by June; I should be writing a new book chapter; I should be exercising; instead I’m not doing any of those things. Last night I slept at Katy’s house because she and her housemate are both gone and they needed someone to dog-sit for a night. They’ve got this incredible dog named Benny who is some kind of sheepdog collie guy. He was found just wandering around in the countryside–they think he is an escaped farm dog, because the pads of his paws were super soft and not all tough and gnarled like a city dog’s. He’s like six years old. He’s actually, legitimately, the best dog ever. He’s a much better dog than my snoopy, even though I love my snoopy much more, just like parents of shitty children, who can’t help themselves. Anyway, Benny loves carrots and “can have as many carrots as he wants.” While I was there I gave him four, and he would have eaten more.

It’s interesting taking care of an unfamiliar dog. Some things are the same, and seem to be the same across the dog world; surely just because they are the same across the human world, and dogs pick them up. I now have a sample size of two, and have come to some scientific conclusions: Pointing out of the room and saying anything in an irritated voice will send any halfway decent dog slinking away apologetically. “Lets go” seems to be a hot-button dog word. All dogs stamp their feet in joy when they can tell you’re about to go outside with them. All dogs will eat the cat’s food if you turn your back for even less than one second. All dogs will get down in a ditch and eat some old McDonald’s fries that someone threw in there.

Benny, unlike snoopy, sits politely while you put on his leash, instead of racing wildly in a circle around your legs, knocking over umbrellas and bicycles and literally crying out loud. Benny, unlike snoopy, greets you calmly with a wagging tail when you come in the door, instead of leaping up and down and grabbing his kong and bouncing it at your feet to show you what he’s been working on while you were gone. Benny responds to “GO CHILL OUT” while snoopy responds to “BUTT OUT.”

Both smell similar. Benny has a stupid underbite that makes him look like a total dweeb; snoopy is 4 years old but still trips over his own legs and does face plants a lot. Snoopy would not eat a carrot. Snoopy likes to bark and leap with you if you dance for him; I did not try this out on Benny.

Well I wonder if this blog entry is interesting to anyone on earth. “Just Thinking About Dogs,” I think that’s what I will title it.

Other Stuff:

I was nominated as a finalist for teacher of the year! I didn’t win, but just being nominated was such a huge honor, and the ceremony where they announced the winner was so awesome, many of us were crying. Such great students. So cool to see that students are able to clearly and specifically identify what their teachers do that works and is special. You always wonder how the work you do appears to them. And I’m sure a lot of them never think about it for one second, and take your work totally for granted, just like we all took our parents’ work raising us totally for granted until we were like 30 and suddenly realized, hey, I bet that totally sucked! But it was just extraordinarily validating and touching to hear students reading their letters about various professors they had nominated, explaining exactly how that professor had reached them, helped them, guided them. I was so sincerely moved. Wringing my hands and fighting back tears while my student read his letter about me.

So that was a really special thing that happened, and it came at a crucial time in the semester, when, like I said before, things are really falling apart and I am like “Uh….class dismissed” when I realize I have no idea how to explain inverted tone rows or whatever, and when I am spilling a whole cup of coffee on a whole stack of papers, and when I am having anxiety dreams about assignments I forgot about. The other day in class I suddenly wondered IN REAL LIFE if I had forgotten to put clothes on. I literally looked down surreptitiously to make sure. That is a thing that really happened. Dream is becoming indistinguishable from reality; summer comes not a moment too soon.

The desperate scramble to find a house to rent in Northampton continues apace! I asked a rental agent for help actually. Fuck it, I’ll pay extra money for some peace of mind. I’m very afraid that nothing will come through and we’ll end up in some weird corporate studio apartment right in Barfing Sorority Girl Alley, which is what happened with the old man’s first apartment in Iowa and which was an actual nightmare. You could sit at his living room window and watch so many assaults happen! Plus things like HUMAN SHIT in the hallway.

Remember how our last year there we finally got a drunk kid in our house in the middle of the night? And how he was throwing himself against our door and yelling “DONOVAN! LET ME IN”

I really think the age of 18-20 is some sort of pupal stage where like some gross slimy insect has to gnaw off its own skin in order to become a functioning butterfly.

Well, some 18-20 year olds anyway; not the ones who read their letters about their professors. Some 18-20 year olds really have their shit together. I definitely have students who are technically smarter than me–I know more stuff, and have more skills, but just comparing them to me at their age, there’s no contest. They have sharp, sharp minds. My road to critical thinking on the other hand has been long and twisty and hard fought (mixed metaphor, sorry). I read this kid’s thesis and it was legitimately as good as a lot of published articles I’ve read; I would rather die than let him read my own senior thesis.

My students are doing their presentations now and they’re SO GOOD. I am just giving everybody As all the time, I don’t know how to be more judgmental of them! Almost all of them are just doing such excellent work, and taking their work so seriously. You should see these PowerPoints.

A really sad tumblr idea: Dogs Crying Outside Coffee Shops

Just Doggin’ It

I just realized I think today is Easter, right?

God, remember Easter? Remember how rad Easter used to be. No other holiday gets so utterly swept under the rug of aging as Easter. Unless you actually believe in Jesus I guess. So many epic presents were given to me in my Easter “nest” my parents would put at the foot of my bed. “Thriller” on vinyl (still have it!). A pink sweatshirt with a unicorn and a rainbow on it. Actually those are the only two I can remember; still pretty epic.

I had a realization: do you think Christianity has tended to attract so many small-minded, childish, fearful, stupid people because it is based partially on worshipping an infant? Is there any other religion that worships an actual straight-up baby as its central deity? It’s actually pretty bizarre. Maybe this explains so much–the American fetishization of fetuses and desire to be themselves totally infantilized by the state.

This is a blog so I can say whatever wild theories I want to. It’s basically Salon, but less pandering. Isn’t it weird how shitty Salon got? It happened so slowly I feel like we only lately have noticed. And now all of a sudden they’re rolling with headlines like “DARWIN: DID HE CAUSE THE HOLOCAUST?” and “WHY ATHEISTS HAVE IT WRONG” and “WOMEN: ARE THEY BIOLOGICALLY LESS ABLE TO BE BUSINESSMEN? WHAT I SAY NEXT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND”

The most recent issue of the New Yorker is that rare issue that makes you remember why you continue subscribing. That crazy article on deep caving? The Rwandan Mourning Week column? STONEHENGE? And now I’m halfway through this excruciating story about all the people who are tortured for ransom on their trek through Africa, only to drown off the Italian coast because the army won’t let them swim ashore. This issue is like a jaunt through the coolest, and weirdest, and most fascinating, and most horrible elements of humanity and human history. It almost makes up for all the Anthony Lane garbage one must wade through for months and months; all the boring-ass tech articles; all the stupid restaurant reviews: “oh, the fetal pig braised in a sauce of its mother’s tears was too salty, but at the bargain price of six million dollars what do you expect? Signed, A Complete Dipshit”

Do you ever wonder if you’ll ever actually read Moby Dick? Sometimes I just sit around wondering this.

Posted in Opinion | 3 Comments


Answering questions from the comments! Feel free to ask me questions whenever you want. Also don’t forget about my Advice column, always available for confidential problem solving!

1. Why didn’t I like The Marriage Plot? I’M GLAD YOU ASKED! Well, I’ve been scared to write about it because I know I will devolve into Crazy Asshole Ranting Mode, so be warned. I preface this by saying that a lot of people I love and respect really enjoyed this book, and that is fine. My personal experience of it doesn’t need to inform anyone else’s. I also think that it’s hard for a true and devoted DFW acolyte to fully enjoy the writing of those of his contemporaries who are not his equals but who constantly refer to him derogatorily in interviews. SO, that being said: I thought it was really frustrating and disturbing to read a whole book ostensibly from a female character’s point of view, in which said female character really felt like such a cipher compared to the two male characters. She barely had any traits or subjectivity. Her main role in the plot was to be obsessed with a dude. She did sort of care about literature, but then she was also relentlessly depicted as not being a good critical thinker; not understanding critical theory or the direction her field had taken over the past 30 years; being unable to focus on her work because of the distraction of her obsession with the dude. I’m not sure if this was a point he was making? I get that the book was supposed to be ABOUT the novelistic tendency for female characters to only care about men and marriage….but, he just recapitulated that exact plot, which was weird, and then even worse than that was the fact that the whole triumphant ending, which was supposed to be about a feminist re-envisioning of the novel (and thus of life) via the main character BREAKING FREE of the marriage plot, was actually engineered by the male character?? He wisely and sorrowfully saw that Madeleine was unable to understand for herself that she didn’t need a boyfriend, so he made the decision for her, heroically, and she thanked him, and that was the end of the book. At the very very least, I thought that SHE would be the one to recognize that she was trapped in the Marriage Plot–you know, because that subject was HER LIFE’S WORK. Instead that realization was left to some dude. Both dudes, actually, because Leonard also saved her from himself by leaving her, knowing that his depression was an unfair burden on her, but that she would never find the strength to leave him. In both cases the dude heroically had the strength to set her free of him, knowing what was best for her. If this was supposed to be commentary on the history of the novel, for me it really didn’t work at all.

Added to this is the fact that Eugenides is altogether too proud of himself for my taste. I liked Middlesex but he acts like he’s James Freaking Joyce. I say this because of his rude dismissal of David Foster Wallace as “cold” and “alienating.” I have rarely felt more alienated by a novel than I did by The Marriage Plot, for starters, and for seconders, anyone who says DFW is cold and holds his reader in contempt, quite frankly doesn’t understand his writing, which manifests the most sincere, anguished attempt at real, warm, human communication I maybe have ever read. People like Eugenides and Franzen and others who are always snidely comparing themselves to DFW (especially weird in the case of Franzen, as the two were good friends) don’t realize how obvious they make their overwhelming anxiety about him in everything they say and write, and that is amazing and odd to me. It makes me feel sorry for them as men. I mean, as I read The Marriage Plot, it was just completely obvious–to the point that I assumed from the very beginning that it was meant to be obvious, as did basically everyone else on earth who read the book–that the Mitchell character was autobiographical (he sounds exactly like Eugenides in every way, including the religious journey, the ethnic background, and the way he looks) and that the Leonard character (hyperactive sweating; brilliance; manic depression; constant bandana-wearing) was DFW. So here’s this book recapitulating in fictional form Jeffrey Eugenides’ intense penis anxiety regarding the fact that deep down he knows DFW is a serious artist and he himself is sort of just a dabbler. And this anxiety is represented in the book simply by the fact that DFW gets all the pussy and Eugenides doesn’t. GROSS!

AND THEN, to discover after finishing the book that Eugenides DENIES these comparisons and actually GETS MAD WHEN INTERVIEWERS BRING THEM UP!!!!!!!!!!!!! People will say “so the Leonard character is obviously DFW, do you want to talk about what you were doing with that” and Eugenides goes “WHAT? That’s so insane that you would say that. That’s not true!” What on earth. Can he really be that out of touch with his own psyche? It’s astounding.

These guys! Did you know that NICHOLAS SPARKS has the audacity to say that Cormac McCarthy isn’t really a good writer? Unreal.

2. I did read the Twelve and I didn’t like it! I liked the Passage so much, but the Twelve made the classic dystopian future fiction blunder and just swerved way too hard into the supernatural/religious for my taste. I don’t like when multiple plot points are resolved with characters being guided by a divine hand or supernatural coincidence. I stopped caring about what was going on. I liked the bleak ambiguous post-apocalyptic vibe of The Passage way more!

I’m very sorry for being such a grouch. I hate when people on the internet disagree with me and I am sorry if I have played that role in your lives today.

In other news:

I got a new tarot deck. It’s vintage from the 80s and is really swirly and envisions sex in that kind of 70s way they used to, where it’s super hetero and both the man and woman are big and meaty and have huge heads of long hair and the dude has a beard.

I’ve been trying to give tarot readings over email for $10 a pop, to hone my craft and make a little pocket money. If you want a reading, email me!! I am getting better at it.

I am at that point in the semester where everything is falling apart. I’ve completely lost track of which students I gave extensions to and which students just have turned their papers in; my office is a mess, there’s trash and weird crumbs everywhere, my computer is super buggy but I haven’t had time to call IT; I’m really confused about serialism, which I’m supposed to be teaching our nation’s youth about right now but which I straight up don’t understand. I end up asking this one smart kid to explain stuff, like, what else are you gonna do? I know he’s taking 20th century theory so let him give it a shot. I just keep saying “it’s math!” and referring them to this weird graph in the textbook. I also sent them a youtube video of Vi Hart explaining it. I like to think that in 10 years I will be explaining serialism like a champ but it’s hard to see how I will get to that place.

I got home after my first disastrous serialism day and told my old man about it and he was really condescending and was like “serialism is easy to explain, they just took 12 notes and used them without repeating them” and I was like “uh huh, so if I showed you a Milton Babbit piece could you point out how the first hexachord of the prime row can be combined with the second hexachord of the row in retrograde inversion to create a new row with no duplicate pitches and how he’s using those two rows in the first 7 measures?” and he said “no” and I said “neither can I”

Today is TGIF and the weather is beautiful. There is nothing in the house for breakfast. I might go get a waffle taco.

I’m so glad some of you are getting into Federicci!! Let me know what you think!

Posted in Opinion | 1 Comment

Paper Comments

- tight intro!
- nice
- single-space block quotes
- Fun!
- Wow! 99?!
- dangling modifier
- did he deny this?
- good point
- nice title!
- Great names
- I love this
- match made in heaven
- yes, really what is the diff between the modernists and Frank Zappa? guitars?
- love this hair and lint image
- Wait, are you still talking about Trout Mask Replica?
- Probably Schoenberg wouldn’t have liked Captain Beefheart, actually
- that poor woman
- good interpretation
- where does this quote start?
- this font is too big
- didn’t know he was self-loathing in this way
- elaborate on this? How are trumpets about strength exactly
- single-space block quotes
- non-sequitur
- muddy
- ??
- Ha! Oh Maxie
- you keep introducing him over and over. After your first mention, just say “Marley”
- literally??
- what does this quote have to do with the Rastafarian colors
- quote isn’t about freedom; more about evil
- do you mean Jah?
- I’m sure that’s true
- how have you shown him distancing himself from Russia?
- single-space block quotes
- an upbringing really isn’t “an event”
- dangling modifier
- unnecessary! we know he becomes a songwriter
- ?? can’t start out of nowhere like this!!
- this kills me
- isn’t this the one they called “muddle instead of music”?
- weird story, have you read it? child spirit visits woman in erotic dreams; priest banishes it; it curses her husband’s fishing net
- what? youtube?
- how is this not proof of his ignorance?
- not sure this is considered an illness
- cite where this is coming from!
- really?!
- be consistent
- abrupt and shocking; don’t suddenly compare him to Beethoven
- lively!
- bold
- what a character!
- ornamented and ornate
- I love this but you haven’t established why Rococo was associated with selfishness
- weird way of putting this
- how are soul-eating cameras Mormon?
- rephrase
- drugs
- how did the music (i.e. not the lyrics) seem insane
- amazing quote
- if you want to weigh in like this, don’t be so pointed
- they didn’t ever get married
- they didn’t have children! She had two from a previous dude
- :(
- whoa!
- yes–didn’t he have a reach of an octave and a half? it’s unimaginable
- oh boy!
- F├ętis is also an old-school Frenchy–the French (save Berlioz) were not necessarily that into Beethoven
- classic Wagner! he hates people
- can’t use wikipedia as a source
- you need to find better sources to read!
- proofread!
- yes, but you were just talking about Pablo Honey, so this is confusing chronologically
- what exactly does the computer add?
- tight intro
- single-space block quotes
- wow
- I wonder what he defines as an asshole?

Posted in Opinion | 1 Comment