Friday Love List

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ChocStout.gifOnce again, because I'm a big ol Meg Fowler groupie, here's my list of things I'm loving on this Friday.

*apples being in season
*Rogue Chocolate Stout
*a new foster dog coming tomorrow
*Tillamook Sharp Cheddar at Costco
*fitting into my pants
*a queue of exciting books to read
*less back pain, more good drugs to deal with it
*indulging in afternoon coffee
*lists, lists, lists, baby

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NaBloPoMo and History Making Women

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Last year, I participated in NaBloPoMo, as envisioned by one of my favorite bloggers, the frighteningly amusing and inventive Eden. My contribution to the 2,000ish dedicated daily bloggers was my series on history making women. Though I was very into the project, I didn't get through the whole list, stopping abruptly at #78, Gloria Steinem sometime in February. This means that there are 27 women left on the poster to be profiled, which is a pretty good number to tackle during this year's NaBloPoMo, in November. So that's what I'm going to do. A lot of advance warning, I know, but I just wanted to let you know to watch this space for that, and invite all of you to participate in NaBloPoMo as well--it's great fun!

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Online lists? What could be better?

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Yesterday, as I was whining about not having any place online to store a running list of books I want to read, I decided to try and find something. Everything exists online, so why not a list tool? Well, I didn't have to look very hard before I found Ta-da Lists, which is exactly what I'd been looking for. It's free, simple to use, and allows me to make multiple lists, which can be either public or private. Perfect!

My Books to Read list is here (also down on the sidebar). Check it out and tell me what needs to be added?

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Thanks for your kids

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Last night, I started reading The Merry Recluse, a posthumously published book of essays by an writer I really admire, Caroline Knapp. Knapp was not married and never had children (she died very young, in her mid-40s I think, of cancer). A couple of the essays in the book are about her decision not to have children and the importance of other people's children in her life. Knapp is clear that just because she has no particular desire to have children of her own does not mean that she doesn't like kids, or that she doesn't want to spend time with them. Quite the opposite, actually. She dotes on a niece and nephew in one essay and another niece in another essay, and even credits the relationship she wants to have with her niece as being a primary reason for her decision to stop drinking. The children in her life are clearly very important to her.

And they are to me, too.

Even if I decide once and for all that I do not want my own kids (which seems like about a 50-50 bet at this point), I can't imagine not being very happy to have kids in my life. With me, it's less my actual nieces, who are both too old to want to hang out with me and very far away, and more the children of my friends. Here in Austin, pretty much all of my friends have kids now, and I'm really happy about that. I like hanging out with them and with their kids. They have enriched my life by bringing their kids into it, and allowing me time to spend with them. I appreciate that.

Two of my best friends and their daughter moved away a bit less than a year ago. I miss all three of them terribly, but honestly, I think I miss the little girl the most. This isn't because I love her any more than I love her parents, but rather because I know from experience that her parents, as adults, will likely be very similar the next time I see them to what they were the last time I saw them. She, however, won't. She's quickly moved from a toddler to a little girl, and she'll be a pretty big girl by the next time I see her. She's been potty trained, started school, and I can only imagine what else. And I haven't seen any of it. That causes some pretty big missing. It is also much harder to maintain a long-distance relationship with a child--she's not old enough to email, you know?

My point, such as it is, is just to express my gratitude to my friends and their children for allowing people like Caroline Knapp and me to enjoy and experience children in our lives without having them ourselves. I really appreciate it.

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Band meme

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I've done this meme before, I think, but I saw it over at Frog's and couldn't help but do it again.

Copy this list; leave in the bands you've seen perform live; delete the ones you haven't, and add new ones that you have seen until you reach 25. An asterisk means the previous person had it on their list. Two asterisks means the last two people who did this before you had that band on their list.

ani difranco**
Indigo Girls*
Dar Williams*
Sweet Honey in the Rock*
Faith No More
John Prine
Lyle Lovett
Lucinda Williams
Billy Bragg
Holly Near
Marilyn Manson
Hole
Lucy Kaplansky
Eliza Gilkyson
Dan Bern
Kris Kristofferson
Bitch & Animal
Utah Phillips
Lenny Kravitz
Maceo Parker
Andrew Bird
James Brown
Dale Watson
Allison Krauss
Emmylou Harris

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Still life with cat and dog

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This is a photo my friend Howell took while he was visiting a couple of weeks ago. I just love it. It's a good snapshot of what life looks like at my house.

Esme and Ata

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Jocular

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Abby WambachI know I've mentioned my giant crush on the entire U.S. Women's Soccer Team before, but just in case you missed it--they rule. They are currently kicking some international ass (3-0 versus England!), and they have a semifinal World Cup match against Brazil on Thursday. It's at 8 AM on ESPN2. If you don't have to be anywhere else just then you should watch it. I would.

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Bak

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I am home from my trip home. My flight out this morning was so early it required at 3:30 AM wake-up call, so I'm a little bit exhausted, but the trip was fantastic. The high school reunion was more comfortable and more fun than I had expected and the wedding was absolutely amazing.The week in between was good, too--fairly laid-back, got to spend a lot of time with my grandma and my mom, all good stuff.

And now its back to work...

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Vacayshun

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In a couple of hours, I leave for a ten day vacation in beautiful scenic Oregon. Attractions will include my ten-year high school reunion and a bicycle themed wedding. I plan to drink real beer and real coffee, see some old friends and family, and generally enjoy myself thoroughly. My internet access will be sporadic, though, so there will likely be radio silence here for at least part of the time.

Until I see you again, be well!

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At the zoo

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Austin has a really cool zoo. It's actually a rescue/preserve, which is why it's so cool. When our college buds were here last weekend, we went there. Our good friend Howell took this picture of me with a great big turtle tortoise, and I loved it so much I had to share.

Grace with giant turtle

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Shortbus

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Shortbus movie posterI love John Cameron Mitchell. I think Hedwig and the Angry Inch is quite possibly the most revolutionarily fantastic play/film of my generation. This is not news. It would seem, then, that I'd be very anxious to run out and see JCM's next project. But I wasn't.

Why? Because all I heard about Shortbus for a long time after it came out was that it was "pornographic." And I'm really not much into porn. However, recently a couple of friends saw it and told me they really liked it, so I decided to give it a go.

First, I don't think it's pornographic. It's explicit, definitely, but it's also realistic, with none of the whitewash or instant orgasms that makes pornography less about sex and more about sales. Shortbus isn't a fantasy. It is mostly about sex, both for its own sake and as a window into people's loneliness and confusion, and a lot of sex is shown, but it isn't erotic.

The truth, much as many would like to deny it, is that a lot of great art is about sex. And a lot of art in general is really about sex while we try to pretend it is about something else. Sex is one of our essential driving forces as human beings. It bleeds over into and colors most of the rest of our lives. And it shouldn't be taboo to talk about that, to write about it, or to make a film about it. Nor should it be expected that sex in a film (or book or whatever) should be limited to "good clean fun." Because sex is so important in our lives, people are bound to be fucked up about it in all kinds of ways, and if you are going to talk about it, you need to talk about that too.

Shortbus has several intertwining plot lines, all featuring people for whom sex is some type of problem or focus. Canadian video disc jockey Soon-Yin Lee plays Sofia, a couple's counselor/sex therapist who has never had an orgasm, though she's been faking them with her husband for quite some time. Paul Dawson plays James, a suicidal former hustler trying to find a way to make sure his lover (played by PJ DeBoy) understands and is taken care of before he kills himself, but unwilling to have sex with him. Lindsay Beamish plays Severin, a dominatrix and photographer who is unable to connect with people on any sort of personal level. All of these characters, as well as supporting characters including Justin Bond, J.D. Samson and Bitch, hang out at Shortbus, an underground sex/music/politics club. Through their interactions there and with each other outside the club, we learn about their lives, their problems, and how they are addressing them. And, of course, we watch them have sex.

Probably my favorite thing about the film is that Sofia, the woman who has never come, still hasn't come when it ends. She has definitely broadened her sexual horizons (the last scene shows her making out with a male-female couple while her husband sits not far away making out with another woman), let out some of her anger, and made some realizations, but everything is not solved. James and Severin are in the last scene too, and they are both happy, at least momentarily, but you don't get the feeling that all is magically resolved from them, either.

Shortbus shows life, and sex, to be messy, humiliating, tragic, damaging, and ultimately worthwhile. The characters are scarred, imperfect human beings who are afraid and alone and unsure of who they are much of the time. It ends not with a resolution, but with a feeling of hope. In these things, it greatly resembles Hedwig. Though it's a strange and startling movie, it left me ultimately glad I'd watched it and accepting of it as the sophomore venture for my favorite writer/director.

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Skin: Talking about Sex, Class, and Literature

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Skin book coverDorothy Allison published Skin: Talking about Sex, Class, and Literature in 1994, only a couple of years after her amazing first novel, Bastard Out of Carolina. I've read the novel probably three times, but for some reason it never occurred to me to look for further work by Allison. I guess I assumed that she, like Harper Lee, had probably given so much to write that amazing novel that she didn't have any writing left in her.

I was so wrong.

I got an inclination of this a couple of years ago when, on the recommendation of a friend, I picked up Allison's 1995 memoir, Two or Three Things I Know For Sure. Just as much as Allison's fiction, and in many of the same ways, her memoir was stunning, beautiful, mean, and hard to get through. I read it twice back-to-back. Then I didn't read anything else of Allison's.

Until this week, when, on a whim, I picked up Skin from the library. Collected and published a year before the memoir but spanning the decade or so before, the essays in Skin cover much of the same ground, but in a different way. In Skin, Allison reconciles her life and work as a feminist activist with both her radical sexuality (Allison is a lesbian who identifies herself as a "pervert" a "femme," and a masochist) and her Southern working class background. In the essays, she speaks passionately and honestly about two things most people can never be honest about: sex and money. She also talks a great deal about writing and what it means to her to be a writer as well as a working class Southern lesbian feminist.

Skin is one of the most seeringly honest and brave books I've ever read (and it is in the company of Allison's other work in that category). Allison is insistent that you absorb her truth when you read her books, face it head on and deal with it, and I admire that about her. When she speaks of her family and the poverty and pain in which she grew up, she paints her relatives neither as martyred deserving poor nor as indolent trash, but as people in often desperate situations doing what they could. It's rarely pretty and often heart wrenching, but it is real, and because it's so real, it is easy to recognize oneself in Allison's stories.

The more surprising thing about Skin, though, is not Allison's discussion of her childhood and class background, which is ground she covers in Bastard and in Two or Three Things, but her discussion of her sexuality. She not only speaks candidly of her own sexual preferences and needs, but is also honest about how alienated she was and is from many feminist and lesbian circles due to the way she expresses her sexuality. Allison is critical of "political lesbians" and of the way women repress their sexual desires in general. She writes not hesitantly but insistently about violent sex, sex toys, and pornography. She claims her sexuality, like her class, not as something at odds with her feminism, but integral to it. Reading it is a revelation.

Reading Skin took me from being a fan of Allison's work to being a convert to her brand o feminism. I plan to immediately read Trash, her first book of short stories (1988) and follow it with her most recent work, the novel Cavedweller (1998). Then I'll wait with baited breath for the release of her next novel. Reading Allison's work makes me not only want to live honestly, but to write honestly. I can't emphasize strongly enough what that's worth.

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10 Things Meg Fowler Wants to Know

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I seem to have a big ole blog crush on Meg Fowler, and she posted this list of questions today, so I'm a gonna answer 'em.

1. Why do you live where you live?
We moved here for graduate school. It was one of a few place where both Mark and I got in, not either of our first choice, but seemed like a livable city and was offering us both full funding, so we came here.

2. Why do you do the job you do?
Well, I got into it with the idea that working with grants would make me very employable wherever we next land, which I think is pretty sound reasoning. It's also a good, steady job in a nice environment that pays me well.

3. Why are you with the person you’re with?
Wow, who can answer that in anything resembling a complete way? Because I love him. Because we have a lot of the same goals in life. Because we are able to live together comfortably and take care of each other. Because my life is better with him in it.

4. If you could change one thing about your life today, what would it be?
I'd move back to Oregon.

5. What is the greatest source of happiness in your life?
Depends on the day. My dogs, a lot of the time. Fiction, either in movies or in books, sometimes. Accomplishment, sometimes. Being with the people I love.

6. What is the greatest source of discontent in your life?
My health, I think. There is nothing serious wrong with me, but the million little things, especially the allergies, can get grating.

7. If you were handed $10,000 today, what would you do with it?
I'd pay off my credit card debt and build myself a savings cushion. And probably buy a few treats.

8. What is your favourite quality in a friend?
Comfort. I am happiest when spending time with the friends with whom I am totally comfortable. Mostly, that comes from history and shared perspective, I think.

9. What is an unforgivable mistake in a friendship?
Hmmm...I can't think of anything off the top of my head that would be unforgivable in every circumstance. Being mean to my dogs, maybe.

10. What is a true relationship dealbreaker for you?
Disrespect, basically. Unwillingness to change.

How about you? Wanna consider this a meme and be tagged? I'd love to see other people's responses--these aren't easy questions.

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Miracle

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I just came from the hospital, where I visit my friend Skye and her perfect new son. He has long fingers and punk rock hair, and has been alive for less than 24 hours, and I got to meet him.

Some days, it is an honor to be a human being.

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The Farmer's Wife

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Buschkoetter familyWow. Just...wow.

Several months ago, one of the books I was reading on rural redevelopment (for my as yet uncompleted master's thesis) mentioned the PBS documentary The Farmer's Wife. Intrigued, I put it on my Netflix queue and moved it up towards the top (unlike some folks, I have no compunctions about obsessively re-ordering my queue). Last week, the first installment came, and Mark and sat down to watch it.

Would it be too melodramatic to say I'll never be the same?

It's probably the best documentary I've ever seen. The filmmakers follow Daryl and Juanita Buschkoetter and their three daughters (Audrey, Abby, and Whitney) through nearly three years of life on their Nebraska farm. During the documentary's six hours, the Buschkoetter's struggle and work as hard as any people I've ever seen to keep being able to farm their land and try to make ends meet. At the outset, in 1995, it looks as if they might lose everything due to four years of drought and mounting debt. At the end, in 1997, we get to see Juanita graduate with her Associate's Degree, the family take over Daryl's father's farmland, and the best bumper crop in decades. In between, life is hard and the Buschkoetter's keep on keeping on in a way that is both completely inspiring and nearly unbelievable.

The film is both about saving the small farm and saving a marriage, and both parts are equally compelling (and equally unlikely). For probably the first five and a half hours of watching them, I seriously doubted the Buschkoetters were going to make it with their farm or their marriage. I wanted them to, and I admired their resolve, but the situation seemed impossible. In the last half hour, it all seemed to work out. (In fact, the marriage didn't work out, as the film's website tells me that Daryl and Juanita divorced and are both remarried. However, Daryl is still farming his land and both of their older daughters are in college, so the news isn't all bad.)

Part of the reason I reacted so strongly to the film is clearly because so much of it was reminiscent of my own childhood. Though it was timber in Oregon, rather than farming in Nebraska, my family had a lot of the same experiences in the 80s that the Buschkoetters had in the 90s. There were a lot of scenes in the film, especially small ones like the one where Juanita is cutting her eldest daughter's hair in their kitchen, that took me right back to being nine years old again and both cognizant and not of how precarious our economic situation was. It is hard, and gets harder all the time, to live off the land, whether it's farming, timber, mining, fishing, whatever. The country has changed away from that model, and the people who are left, after generations of living that way, are so often forgotten or ignored. I love filmmaker David Sutherland for bringing their story, in some ways, my story too, to light.

I'd recommend this film unequivocally to just about anybody, especially those who dig right in to documentaries. In particular, though, you should watch it if you grew up, like I did and like the Buschkoetter girls did, with both a profound respect and a profound fear of the land on which your family's livelihood depended (are you out there, Frog?). While the Buschkoetter's story may not match yours exactly, I'm betting there are parts of it that will resonate with you like they did with me.

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Play list: Patriotic songs

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With today being "Patriot Day" and everything, I thought a list of songs that are, to me, patriotic, would be appropriate. So...

Songs for America

1. "Kathy's Song (America)" by Simon & Garfunkel. My favorite America song ever. Makes me weepy.

2. "'Tis of Thee" by Ani DiFranco. Sad, sad stuff. Ani probably has a wider selection of what I think of as patriotic songs than anybody else. So she's on the list twice.

3. "This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie. This one is a gimme.

4. "Bread and Roses" by Judy Collins (well, this version is). Nothing makes me feel patriotic like a labor song.

5. "Born in the U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen. Probably the most inappropriately used song ever.

6. "Across the Great Divide" by Kate Wolf (again, this version). To me, the US as an idea is intimately connected with the land itself. This song does a good job with that.

7. "Proud Mary" by Ike & Tina Turner. I dunno if it's normal to think of this song as patriotic, but I do.

8. "I Ain't Marching Anymore" by Phil Ochs. Truer now than ever. Gah. He's gotta be turning over in his grave to see the mess we're in these days.

9. "City of New Orleans" by Arlo Guthrie. American=trains. Clearly.

10. "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore" by John Prine. Some much needed clear headed levity.

11. "Grand Canyon" by Ani DiFranco. A look at history from a woman who loves her country. I approve.

12. "I'm Afraid of Americans" by David Bowie. It's a perfectly fair sentiment.

13. "Pretty Good Year" by Tori Amos. Again, sad, but rings true.

14. "Omaha" by The Counting Crows. Another band I could have used multiple songs by. This one really makes my heart sing, though.

15. "Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution" by Tracy Chapman. To end on a positive note.

As always, you can hear the list here.

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Good news/bad news

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The good: Superhero Jewelry is for sale again, and now there are t-shirts, too!

The bad: my birthday money is so already spent.

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And today on People Who Read My Mind...

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Over at Pandagon, Amanda has a great post up about college education and class. Amanda and I seem to have many of the same experiences and thoughts on the subject, but she's much more professional sounding in her analysis and doesn't curse. You should read it.

The discussion to which Amanda's post is responding (taking place here and here, mostly) is one I also have thought on. Many thoughts. See, I have one of those useless degrees (mine is in history, which isn't on the list, but trust me, it's similar to those listed), and it's from an expensive private liberal arts college. According to the camp that thinks college should be about obtaining some sort of certification that will guarantee you a big income, and that you should do that at the lowest possible cost to yourself, I did pretty much everything wrong. I went into fat debt to get a degree in something that has no job possibilities, basically.

Except. Except for everything Amanda said about cultural capital. Except that every job I've had since college has required a degree, though none of them have required my exact degree. Except that I am 28 years old and firmly planted in the middle class (with fairly significant upward mobility). Except that that undergraduate degree opened up a whole bunch of graduate possibilities, some of which (law school, an MBA, etc.) may well have led to big money. That I didn't chose any of those paths is on me--I could have, and the undergraduate education I received at my schmancy liberal arts college would have put me in a good place to get into good schools (as it did with the path I did choose for graduate school, public policy programs).

And except that at the end of the day, I'm one of those crazy liberals who really values my education for its own sake. Sure, I complain about my student loan debt, and about the upper-crust ivory tower and how little of the real world it sees, but if I'm forced to be honest, I know that I spent four years getting a first-rate education in a subject that I was and am passionate about, and whatever else I ever do, that was worth my time.

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Football and Ursula Le Guin

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First, about football. Both of my teams won on Saturday. Oregon's butt-stomping of much higher-ranked and more-respected Michigan was a particular cause for joy at my house. Today, the AP has Texas at No. 6 and Oregon at No. 19. From what I've seen so far, I think that is an over-ranking for Texas and an under-ranking for Oregon, but we'll see.

Left Hand of Darkness book coverIn other news, I read Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness this weekend. No fewer than a dozen people have recommended Le Guin to me over the past few years, and a couple of people whose tastes I generally trust recommended to me recently that I start with this particular book, so I picked it up at the library last week. And...I don't get it. I read the whole book, but I probably would have put it down less than halfway through if it hadn't been so highly recommended. To me, it seemed unnecessarily opaque and kind of poorly written. I had very little empathy for the characters, particularly the protagonist, Genly Ai, and spent most of the time I was reading it hoping it would be over soon. While I found the concepts very cool, the execution just didn't do a thing for me. So now I'm not sure if I should give up on Le Guin completely or try another of her novels. I had so hoped she would be a new author I could really get into.

Not all recommendations are futile, though! Another friend recently suggested that I give Grace Potter and the Nocturnals a listen, and I am rawkin' out. As soon as I can justify buying more new CDs, their new one is going to be headed my way.


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Financial Update: September

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Last month:
Total credit card debt: $6,078.91
Total student loan debt: $33,022.93
Total savings: $600.00
Checking account balance: $203.74

Today:
Total credit card debt: $6,389.75
Total student loan debt: $33,159.21
Total savings:$700.00
Checking account balance: $467.60

Looks bad, I know, but I'm contributing more to the joint now, plus I had to resume my student loan payments this month, plus I had to buy a plane ticket. And yes, those are pretty much excuses. My raise kicks in next month, so hopefully I'll be back on track then.

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Friday Love List

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Meg Fowler suggests smoothing the transition from week to weekend by posting a blog list on Friday of things you love. This seems like excellent sense to me, and I share some of the loves Meg posted today, so here's mine:

Things I Love

Scrabulous. Oh god, yes. I'll even play against the too-smart-for-its-own-good robot.
The Farmer's Wife. Watched the first segment last night and can't wait to watch the rest. It's SO good.
Healthy plants. All of my at-home plants are droopy, but the ones in my office are gorgeous. It makes being at work a lot easier.
College football season. Started last week, and I will be sitting down to a healthy dose of it this weekend.
My trip home in one week!
Nutella. A gift from a higher power, especially since the quality of apples is improving.

What do you love?

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Woohoo Austin!

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The Austin city council has passed an anti-chaining ordinance! Basically, it states that it will be illegal as of October 1 to chain or tether your dog and leave him/her. It further states that dogs who live in outdoor pens or kennels must have at least 150 square feet of space per adult dog. These are both big advances in humane pet ownership and I'm thrilled that the city council has taken this stand. Now I am crossing my fingers for actual enforcement.

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Book meme

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I am feeling both book-y and meme-y today, so I give you a book meme that I found...somewhere.

Total number of books owned:
I'm not sure, having never counted, but I'd say somewhere around 1,000, maybe? They rotate in and out.

Last book bought: I actually went to Book People with my friends on Monday and picked up three books, How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time, A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, and another one I can't remember the name of that is about the disappearance of rural communities.

Last book read: Well, I'm working on both Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness and Dorothy Allison's Skin: Talking About Sex, Class, and Literature. The last book I read before those was Everything I Needed to Know about Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume.

Five Books that Mean a Lot to You:
This is a tough question for me, as I tend to read things and then forget them, even if I really loved them. I'm changing it to

Best Five Books You Read in the Last Year:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott
The Stardust Lounge: Stories From a Boy's Adolescence by Deborah Digges
The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

I Tag:
Frog
Laurie
Jenny
Suebob

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Over the Hills

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Over the Hills album coverI've told you before how much I like New York-based folkie Lucy Kaplansky. I bought three copies of her 2004 album The Red Thread (one to keep and two to give away). So I was stoked to see she had released a new CD, Over the Hills, and grabbed it up as soon as I had some CD-buying cash to spare.

Over the Hills isn't as good as The Red Thread. This doesn't surprise me, as The Red Thread was a masterpiece, once-in-a-lifetime kind of record. The overall sound of the record is very classic, with mostly vocals and acoustic guitar by Lucy herself, accompanied by excellent slide and steel guitar by Larry Campbell, as well as occasional electric guitar, mandolin, and fiddle. It's musically very solid, but I don't hear anything particularly inspired or original on it.

The songs on Over the Hills are about half original compositions by Lucy and her husband/writing partner Richard Litvin and half covers. The original songs follow the trajectory begun on The Red Thread; they are very family-centered and concerned mostly with parenthood ("Manhattan Moon") and the loss of friends and family ("Today's the Day," "Over the Hills," and "The Gift"). These are the album's strong suit. Lucy's voice shines brighter and seems to convey more feeling when she sings her own songs. Though I very much like some of the covers she chooses (especially Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and Loudon Wainwright III's "Swimming Song"), she just doesn't seem to feel them as much as she does her original compositions, so I don't feel as much listening to them. The exception to this is Lucy's version of "Someday Soon," a country song written by Ian Tyson and made famous a number of years back by Suzy Bogguss. I've always liked the song, and is much improved by Lucy's pared-down vocal and slightly wry delivery.

The real don't-miss track on the album, though, is Lucy's inter-generational women's anthem "Amelia," a story told by an old woman who is unsatisfied with but resigned to the life she's led ("My name is Amelia/I used to be a pretty girl/Got married 'cause it was time/No reason to finish school") but hopeful for the next generation ("The world outside her room/Is a place she calls her own/My story's almost over/Hers has just begun"). Here you see both Lucy's writing talent and her vocal talent shine, in the most unpretentious of ways.

Overall, Over the Hills is a very good album, and one I'm happy to now have in my collection. I will continue to try and see Lucy perform whenever she is in town and to follow her career.

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Time warp

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So classes started here last week, which means the campus is once again overrun with undergraduates, including a big fat herd of new freshmen (somewhere around 10,000 of them, I think). Even though this campus is many times larger than the one I where I attended undergrad, and even though there are more incoming freshmen than there were in my entire school, seeing them still takes me back...

Ten years and a couple of weeks ago, I moved into the MacNaughton residence hall at Reed College. I think I learned more and changed more in those first few weeks at Reed than ever before or since. The transition to college has to be stressful for everyone, but it was brutal for me. Not all bad, but all dramatic. I didn't sleep for more than an hour or two at a time for months. I ate sporadically and badly. I made some expectedly stupid decisions about how much to drink and with whom to sleep. I learned new vocabulary words such as "dental dam" and "gravity bong."

Mostly, though, I realized things about myself that I'd hadn't ever had reason to know, growing up where I did. I learned that I was shy. I learned that I was poor. I learned that for many people my age, "work" didn't mean a waitressing shift, but a night with the books. And I looked all around me, at these kids who'd gone to private school and been to Europe and were the second or third or fourth generations in their familes to attend college, and I felt completely and totally inadequate.

I freaked completely out. I knew I wouldn't make it, I wasn't smart enough, I wasn't savvy enough, I didn't have the background I needed. I knew they'd see right through me and know I was a complete fraud as a college student.

And I see that same panic in these kids' faces, even if it isn't really there in most of them. There is an occasional kid, brow furrowed, studying a campus map, with the wrong backpack and dressed too nicely, who I want nothing more than to stop on the sidewalk and reassure. Because I remember those first few weeks at Reed so clearly, and being somewhere as big as this university has to be so much worse. It would have been so nice, back then, to have someone tell me it was going to end up OK. I also remember getting up, going to class, forcing myself to talk to a few people, and it all slowly getting easier. I had the extreme good fortune to fall in with a crowd who weren't judgmental about my background (people who are still among my best friends today), and although I've never forgotten that I come from different stock than many (even all) of those friends, it really just doesn't matter anymore. At least not most of the time.

I've read a number of books and essays about transitioning from working class roots to middle class adulthood (most notably Alfred Lubrano's Limbo), but I've never read anything that characterized at all realistically the abject fear I felt when first faced with the class difference between myself and my new college peers, or made any suggestion of how to deal with it. Has that book been written? Should I write it?

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Worth a read

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Get thee over to The Gimp Parade and read the last few posts by the extraordinarily brilliant Kay. In particular, I love Kay's blogging against the incredibly bigoted Jerry Lewis and his telethon. I read everything new Kay puts up, and I can't recommend her highly enough.

Plus, I strive to provide the type of image description she clearly works so hard on. Yay for accessibility in blogging!

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In which I brag on my Libby Dibby skirt

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My favorite birthday present, by far, was the Libby Dibby skirt two of my best friends got me. It is the "Fall Springs" pattern. So far, I have worn it twice, both times on the side with the geometric design. Next time I will wear it on the other side. It's such a fantastic skirt. So comfortable, looks fantastic, could go anywhere. And roomy--mine is a size large, and I'm a pretty good 14/16 typically. I'd think it could pretty easily fit up to an 18 or so. I am already plotting for another one (and considering spending some hard-earned birthday cash on another one). Right now I'm particularly lusting after the chic "Hollywood" and "Original" patterns.

So shout out to Libby Dibby, who makes some excellent skirts. And a question for readers--what type of shirts would you wear with the skirt I got? So far I'm wearing it with either a brown cotton tank or an army green v-neck tee, but since I plan to wear it weekly until it wears out, I'm going to need some other options.

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Play list: Friendship songs

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In honor of my fabulous weekend with my friends, the theme of today's play list is friendship. There are absolutely tons of great songs on this subject, several of which I sadly couldn't find on iMeem (including Ani's "If He Tries Anything" and Deirdre Flint's "King of the Rollerama"), but these are the 15 I chose. Apologies in advance for the cheesiness of some of them.

1. "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" by The Hollies. I love, love, love this song. It makes my inner hippy dance.

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

2. "Old Friends" by Everything But the Girl. Pre-electronic EBTG. Weird.

standing here with my arm around you, life's moved on
and all its borderlines are being redrawn
the winter has come the roads are white
everyone's home late tonight
may we stay or will it depend
as old friends
in the end , still old friends

3. "With A Little Help from My Friends" by Tori Amos. Yes, I know this is a Beatles song, but since I generally try to stay away from The Beatles, I included Tori's live cover. This song reminds me of nothing so much as "Life Goes On."

What would you think if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me.
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song,
And I'll try not to sing out of key.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm I get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends.

4. "You've Got a Friend" by James Taylor. Oh, come on. Like I was going to leave this one off. Besides, I kind of love James Taylor.

You just call out my name,
And you know where ever I am
I'll come running, oh yeah baby
To see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall,
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there, yeah, yeah, yeah.
You've got a friend.

5. "He Was a Friend of Mine" by Cat Power. Again, a cover version not an original. I like Willie Nelson's version (from "Brokeback Mountain") as well, but couldn't find it on iMeem.

He was a friend of mine
He was a friend of mine
Every time I think about him now
Lord I just can't keep from cryin'
'Cause he was a friend of mine

6. "So Far Away" by Carole King. I get this stuck in my head all the time. Then I feel sad. I'm using this instead of her more famous Gilmore Girls theme song, because this one speaks to me more directly.

One more song about moving along the highway
Can't say much of anything that's new
If I could only work this life out my way
I'd rather spend it being close to you
But you're so far away
Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore?
It would be so fine to see your face at my door
Doesn't help to know you're so far away
Yeah, you're so far away

7. "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd. Maybe not supposed to be about friendship, but like the previous entry, I get it in my head and then think about how far I am from my friends, so it's on the list.

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have you found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

8. "I See a Darkness" by Johnny Cash. Again, not the original, but a brilliant version of a truly sad song.

Well, you're my friend
And can you see
Many times we've been out drinking
Many times we've shared our thoughts
Did you ever, ever notice, the kind of thoughts I got
Well you know I have a love, for everyone I know
And you know I have a drive, for life I won't let go
But sometimes this opposition, comes rising up in me
This terrible imposition, comes blacking through my mind

9. "Alcoholic Friends" by The Dresden Dolls. On a less serious (at least for me) note...heh.

should I choose a noble occupation
if I did I’d only show up late and
sick and they would stare at me with hatred
plus my only natural talent’s wasted on my alcoholic friends
my alcoholic friends

10. "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" by Phil Ochs. Sad and bitter truth, and a bit about political compatriots as friends.

Smoking marijuana is more fun than drinking beer,
But a friend of ours was captured and they gave him thirty years
Maybe we should raise our voices, ask somebody why
But demonstrations are a drag, besides we're much too high
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

11. "My Drug Buddy" by The Lemonheads. Another amusing one.

We have to laugh to look at each other.
We have to laugh cause were not alone.

12. "My Only Friend" by The Magnetic Fields. Another sad, and, IMO, fabulous one.

Billie you're a miracle and God knows I need one
Sing me something terrible
that even dawn may come
You and me, we don't believe in happy endings

13. "As Cool As I Am" by Dar Williams. This song may not technically be about friendship, but it gives me a stronger pro-female friends feeling than any other song ever, so I'm including it.

Oh -- I'm not that petty, as cool as I am, I thought you'd know this already,
I will not be afraid of women, I will not be afraid of women.

14. "We're All in This Together" by Old Crowe Medicine Show. This is a new one for me, and I'll be listening to it on repeat now.

Well my friends, I see your face so clearly
Little bit tired, little worn through the years
You sound nervous, you seem alone
I hardly recognize your voice on the telephone

15. "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor. Yeah, I know, I know...but I see the scene dancing in the kitchen in "Running on Empty" every time I hear this, and therefore it gives me fuzzy River Phoenix feelings and I listen to it. So sue me.

I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again

To listen to my play list, go here. And tell me what I should have included in the comment.

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