18 November 2003

Tuesday Night


Time: Tue, 18 Nov 2003 12:59:49 -0600
From: "Backes, Eileen"
To: "Molly Backes"
Subject: FW: Belief-O-Matic Belief-O-Matic Selector Results

Hi, Moll -

I took the quiz in your blog and thought you might be scared
to see just how closely my answers matched yours. By the way,
I read the Onion article - Mother Discovers Blog - last week
and only found it mildly amusing.

BUT, I was ALARMED and APPALLED to think of the time and
money and effort spent educating you as an English teacher
and writer when I saw the incorrect and grating usage of
language in your blog of 11-17-03. Namely, to paraphrase,
"the Chataqua, begun by Mike and Davey and Ian and
MYSELF????????????????????????????????????????????
????????????
????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

I could not believe it. I still can't. What the hell?
Nostalgia about OHS making you write in Oregonics???
Like an ignorant hick?? Jeeeez, Mol....

If there is an explanation for this I'd be interested in hearing it.

Love, from the mommy who USED to be an English major
and still knows you should have used "me"

***

Aack! I AM appalled!! Obviously what I meant to write was,
"...The Chautauqua, begun by Mike and Ian and Davey and YOURS TRULY."

My sincerest apologies for this grave error.

***

In other news, today my bully-proofing sixth graders were writing PA announcements to be read over the intercom, and at the end of class I had each group come up and read their announcement to the rest of the class.

This one kid got up and said sincerely, "We'd like to dedicate this one to all our friends in Pink Floyd," and then played the air guitar for a moment ("nuh nuh NUH NUH NUH!") before singing,

"We don't need no pushy bullies!
Nuh nuh nuh NUH NUH nuh nuh NUH NUH
HEY! BULLIES! Leave those kids alone!!"


Needless to say, I laughed so hard I cried.

17 November 2003

Monday morning

After an extremely busy week, I get the morning off. Even though my boss insisted that I not come in to the office this morning, I still feel naughty & indulgent, like I’m playing hooky. For a job that was supposed to be part time and give me lots of time to write, it’s taking up a huge amount of room in my brain. Last night before I went to sleep my last thought was of the office, and my first thought this morning was the same. Arrgh.

Saturday was our big Winter Wildlife Family Fun Fair in Moriarty, co-sponsored by the Crossroads Program (my high school students in Moriarty!), the Torrance Project Office, and Talking Talons. It was smaller than we had hoped, but went off beautifully overall. I was particularly stressed about it, because my role was twofold: not only did I have a huge part in planning (we’ve been working on this event as long as I’ve been with TT) and running the event itself, but also I was co-leading one of the breakout workshops. My co-presenter was a man with whom I’d never before presented, nor had I ever seen him speak publicly, so our plan of “structured winging it” made me anxious. However, he’s from Duluth, and lived in Madison for a while, so whenever he’d notice that I was getting overwrought, he’d say something about cheese curds or Lutheran potlucks, and I’d calm down. Our session must have gone well, because afterward a woman from the New Mexico Department of Health came up to me and asked if I was available to speak at conferences and if so, could she have my card? I was flattered and told her that of course I’d love to, but laughed at the idea that I’d have a card.

Last week was also our big Caring Community meeting, with a terribly small attendance due to the weather (more about that in a moment). However, the mayor of Tijeras, Gloria Chavez, did show up, so the meeting wasn’t a total bust. Last week was also our first day of teaching out at Moriarty Middle School with the Crossroads kids, which also went well – though it means that from now on I’ll need to leave my house at 6:45 am EVERY WEDNESDAY until school’s over. Awesome.

Enough about work. Last Thursday was the first big snowstorm of the year! Of course, it only snowed in the East Mountains; in Albuquerque it was just another rainy day. This is something I still haven’t gotten used to: that the weather in my backyard does not always prepare me for the weather where I work. For you Wisconsinites, it is as if you leave your house in Oregon where it’s in the 50s and raining, and drive to Madison where it’s in the low 30s and blizzarding. You spend all day in Madison, consumed with the blizzard – of course it’s the main thing everyone’s talking about, because they’re all so worried about the conditions of the roads on the way home – and then you drive back to Oregon at night, where it’s just been drizzling all day and most people don’t even realize that it’s been snowing in Madison. It’s so strange!

Another thing that I find strange is the way people talk about weather: “If there’s weather tomorrow we may not be able to go out to Moriarty.” “Expect a call from me if there’s weather, because I may not make it to the meeting.” What? In my mind, there’s always weather. It may be bad or good, hot or cold, sunny or cloudy, but it’s always there, right? Isn’t weather just a word that describes the atmospheric conditions?

I tried to explain this to Danielle, and she said, “Yes, but when people say ‘weathering’ they mean ‘getting through something bad,’ and therefore weather is bad.”

I said, “No, ‘weathering’ is a clipped form of the expression ‘weathering the storm,’ and ‘the storm’ is understood when you say ‘weathering.’

She said, “Okay, but whenever you talk about the chance of weather, you mean bad weather.”

I said, “If the weather’s good this weekend, we’ll have a picnic. If the weather’s warm tomorrow, we’ll go swimming.”

Things nerds argue about.

***

On another note entirely, in a recent issue of the Oregon Observer, there is an article about a girl who is a senior at OHS and is being allowed to stage a full-length original musical there. How cool is that? Apparently, this musical even has – gasp – adult issues like homosexuality and alcoholism! Amazing! The thing about the article that most struck me, though, was an aside about what this girl (I believe her name is Katrina Harms) does when she’s not directing and producing an original musical. Among other things, she’s the editor of The Chatauqua, Oregon’s very own literary magazine. The Chatauqua!! Its ongoing existence is startling and wonderful. Founded in the spring of 1995 by a small group of students (including but perhaps not limited to Mike O’Brien ‘96, Adam Waskowski ‘96, Davey Pascoe ‘96, Ian Honeyman ‘96, and myself), The Chatauqua was always something of an underground paper. We had an advisor (Leyla Sanyer) mostly as a formality, and the editor-in-chief was a position more like the papacy than the presidency in its appointment. Mike was the official editor-in-chief (I believe) that first year with Ian or Adam doing layout (I think), and when they graduated Katy Powers ‘98 and I took over all aspects of production, from soliciting submissions to selecting contents to layout and distribution. When we graduated, we placed our baby in the hands of Catie Honeyman ‘00, who passed it on to Caitlyn Kiley. I was so excited to see that The Chatauqua still lives, I felt compelled to write a note to the current editor, care of Oregon High School.

***

Delving into the world of politics, I have some interesting links I’ve been saving. First, of course, there’s this photo of George Bush signing the so-called partial-birth abortion ban into law. It’s on the White House’s own website, and I think it’s a very striking picture, considering the fact that the law mainly affects women. Where are they, George? In the kitchen where they belong?

Oh America, you sure are of (a small number of) the people, by the (primarily male, white) people, for the (rich and powerful) people. For those of you who were still thinking this is a democracy, this article should sort things out for you. Even (other-dimension president) Al Gore is speaking out these days – in this article he accuses the administration of Orwellian tactics. When we lived in Boston, Ali and I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Big Brother is my cousin!” Perhaps it should have said, “Big Brother is my president!” Not that I’m bitter, of course. Even more shocking than Gore’s criticisms of Bush is this, originally published in Time (in 1998), in which George Bush Sr writes about why we shouldn’t invade Iraq. Recently, it mysteriously disappeared from Time’s archives. Hmmmm.....

Now, if you’re uncertain about which non-Bush candidate you should support, this candidate selector quiz may help you. I’m sure Dad will be disappointed to see that my number 2 match (after my number 1 “ideal candidate”) is not Wesley Clark....

My results:
1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
2. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (83%)
3. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH - Democrat (75%)
4. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (74%)
5. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO - Democrat (69%)
6. Green Party Candidate (66%)
7. Clark, Retired General Wesley, AR - Democrat(65%)
8. Socialist Candidate (59%)
9. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (56%)
10. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (50%)
11. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT - Democrat (44%)
12. Libertarian Candidate (36%)
13. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (32%)
14. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL - Democrat (17%)
15. Bush, President George W. - Republican (14%)
16. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (8%)
17. Hagelin, Dr. John - Natural Law (4%)

***

Recently, I pulled out Ann Harleman’s Bitter Lake, one of the books I go back to again and again, and out fell a sheet of paper covered with sentences like these:
“Molly is a wonderful companion.”
“Molly is in isolation now so we have to wear gowns and gloves whenever we are in the room with her.”
“Molly is extremely smart.”
“Molly is a cute blond spayed golden.”
“Molly is bad enough to warrant a strong ‘please stay away’ warning.”
“Molly is quite the case.”
“Molly is a metaphor.”
“Molly is a fox.”
“Molly is short on her rent money.”
“Molly is singled out by her classmates.”
“Molly is great in bed.”
“Molly is at her breaking point.”
“Molly is my mantra.”
“Molly is in a whole different category.”

Upon finding this paper, I was puzzled for a moment until I remembered Googlisms!, which were quite popular when I was a senior in college.

I must confess that many of my links (often the most interesting ones) come from Eric Simpson, who is an English Professor at Grinnell. Normally I’m delighted to follow his links, but I must say that one of his most recent links rather dismayed me. What did other people do when they were your age? Yes, I really needed to know that Eliot wrote The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock at my age....

08 November 2003

She's Got Soul

I once (ca. spring 1999) posted on my plan about wanting to lease my soul to Satan for a shiny red truck. Four and a half years later, I have a shiny black truck and still own my soul. But, seeing as how it's worth $62,863.56, if I sell it now I can pay back all my student loans and pay off my shiny black truck.

Should I or shouldn't I? On the one hand, it's not going to get any more pure (currently more pure than 80% of the world's souls) as the days go by & will probably only decrease in value.
On the other hand, some might say that having a soul is important.

How much is your soul worth?

Either You're On The Bus, Or...

Apparently, Tim Kerber's soul is worth nearly twice as much as mine. He wants to know what kind of vehicle he should sell his soul for. I suggest a Jesus Bus, and have found two possibilities (each terrifying in its own way):
The Happy Jesus Bus
The Unhappy Jesus Bus

05 November 2003

Oh, most miraculous of mornings! After staying awake far too late last night, I awoke fully an hour before my alarm went off, convinced I'd overslept. I couldn't believe that I could possibly feel this rested on only five hours of sleep -- and yet I felt great! Moreover, once I'd triple-checked my clock, I burrowed deep into my fluffy bed, curled up next to the dog sleeping warm in the patch of sunlight, and slept for another 45 minutes. Oh heaven.

Yesterday, before class, I sat out by the voc/ag building intending to scribble some notes to later paste in my journal. Instead, I wrote a poem:

Moriarty

Moriarty you are flat like Iowa
browner and more dusty, like the moon
holding a footprint in your earth
for hours, days, while grasshoppers
flip across your pebbled face
Moriarty your horizons are voluptuous
and you gaze longingly west, north,
like a young girl, south, east
surrounded by women
You are grass-stained and dirty Moriarty
You have just fallen out of a tree
and stop to take a breath
before bounding away through the desert
bourne aloft on your longing


All the Frank O'Hara I've been reading lately comes through quite clearly. My latest indulgence is Joe LeSueur's Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara which is more of an auto/biography than a work of literary criticism. It's campy and bitchy and fun, and I'm happy to return to the old circle of familar names: Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, Larry Rivers, Grace Hartigan, Franz Kline, Elaine de Kooning, Bob Rauschenberg, Kenneth Koch, Mike Goldberg....

***

As you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month, and for the last five years, thousands of people across the world have taken the NaNoWriMo Challenge, in which they try to write a 50,000 word novel between midnight on Halloween and midnight on November 30.

50,000 words in a month! It's taken me 18 months to write my 29,000....

This year, Miss Heather James has thrown herself into the fray, and I am ever so proud of her. You do realize that in order to successfully complete this marathon, this amazing girl will need to write 1,666 words EVERY DAY for the entire month? As someone who has written a great many papers in the last ten years, I can tell you that 1,666 words is about 6 pages, double-spaced. Amazing! Heather and everyone else crazy enough to take part in this all deserve lots of praise and encouragement.

***

If you've lots of extra time on your hands, fill the hours with this link, which is pretty much a long (and strangely addictive) list of things a man and his girlfriend have argued about. Hence the title of the page, Things My Girlfriend And I Have Argued About.

***

Every night as I drive home, I plan in my head all the things I'll write about: long descriptions of the suddenly wintery moon rising above the cold dark of the mountains against the pale indigo sky, the crisp chill in the air (at last!!), the vibrant golds of a row of aspens down in a little valley along 1-40, the silver of jets taking off each night at dusk, glinting like stars, the warm camraderie of Messiah choir rehearsals (and the odd comfort of returning to the Lutherans -- so many midwesterners!)....

And then I get home, I get distracted, or I try to write and end up waxing poetic about Moriarty instead.

Nevertheless, it's gratifying to know so many of you read this regularly, even if some people believe it's "terribly pedestrian" and "beneath [me]" to keep an online journal. Not to name names, of course....