14 March 2007

To the Blossoms

Almost done packing myself up for the next two weeks...I leave early tomorrow morning for DC for the funeral. My family has advised me to pack my liver. Check. And Johnny Cash's version of Danny Boy is coming with me. They go well together in mourning: the drinking and the dirge. After the wake, Philly, back to DC, NY, back to Philly, back to DC, back to Portland for an overnight turnaround to Minneapolis and then home in time for the first day of classes. I'm tired thinking about it, but at least I'm determined not to catch the plague and lose my voice on this trip. For those of you I'll see in the coming few weeks...well, I'll see you soon! Everyone else, I hope you have a relaxing break (if in school) and if you're a worker bee, I hope you get to enjoy some spring sunshine and cherry blossoms.

12 March 2007

Or Jumping Through Hoops. Or Cupcakes.

Major field syllabus successfully defended. Unnecessary stress at least leads to excessive relief after being proven unwarranted. Drinking to commence at 1700 hours. Erin and I spent the last hour working on her mediation-and-cupcakes-shop career plan. It involves an adorable apron and a menu of cake-and-crisis options. Need to intiate a breakup? Bavarian cream cupcakes might go nicely with that.

11 March 2007

Or a Cat in a Hat

"The cure for anything is saltwater: sweat, tears, or the sea."
-- Isak Dinesen

09 March 2007

Life and Death

My grandpa died Wednesday. He was a WWII vet, an Irish boy through and through, landed on D-Day and never spoke about Europe again to anyone in his life, loved a good family card game (or two, or twenty) and a whiskey or a beer, and was laid off by his factory after twenty years of service literally months before his retirement would've been vested, so he died penniless and in a nursing home. I mention that last because someone told me a long story yesterday about how the worst part for her was the fighting over the money and the "artwork" her grandfather had collected after he was gone. I really don't know what to say about that. I'm sure that's hard, and I also can't stop seeing class everywhere I look. I also can't pretend that everyone dies happy or at peace with their lives or with no regrets and having imparted all their wisdom and their stories as in Tuesdays with Morrie or something. Most older people in particular seem to die in poverty and loneliness as society's trash, hidden away in horrific circumstances. He had nine kids, all of whom spent a lot of time checking in on him, and despite that his nursing home (which was one of the better ones) let his circulatory/leg pain progress to the point that last Christmas they had to cut off his leg with two days warning. So, yes, his pain is at least over and all those other things you're supposed to say, but I guess I see politics in everything and death and old age is no exception. I'm heading back East for the funeral next Thursday. It is fittingly on St. Patrick's Day weekend and we do the full drinking and laughing and weeping (after enough drinking) multi-day Irish funeral routine in my family. Happily, the department was understanding and is sending my finals to me to grade there.

He was my last grandparent and I've also found that it brings back the loss of each of them all over again -- I talked to one other person yesterday who'd lost all four and she had the same experience. Anyway, I know this is not a very uplifting posting, but in truth it's been a roller coaster few days. There was some Guinness and Jameson's in his honor on Wednesday night courtesy of E., followed by a few hands of his (and my entire family's) favorite card game. It hadn't occurred to me until Elizabeth pointed it out, but it is somewhat fitting that my family's favorite thing to do is play solitaire together competitively. I'm moved by the outpouring of love and support from friends the last few days.

Finally, we went to see Ailey II last night as a long-planned BCC outing -- that was exactly what I needed. I just feel joyful to be alive after that. Even if you're not a modern dance fan -- and really, I have to believe that just means you've never seen good dance -- this troupe could wring tears from a stone. They were breathtaking, and deeply political, and emotional, and at some point during the third act, the Revelations series that was choreographed by Alvin Ailey himself in 1960, I had this realization that his movements, literally, the muscles and twists and embodied feelings that this man had created, lived on even after his body had succumbed to the ravages of AIDS. Another body giving life to his body's movement after it had ceased to move -- somehow I knew this intellectually about ballet and choreography, etc., but seeing it in the context of dances from 1960 set to slave spirituals in a celebration of African American culture made it real in another way entirely. Especially as yesterday (dork alert) was International Women's Day and two days before that was the 150th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott. Yes, I'm reading for comps and I find many useless facts. Celebrating the uncelebrated this week. If Ailey II or the Alvin Ailey group comes to your town, you are missing something profound if you don't see it.

OK, I promise my next post will be about cupcakes or crafts or cats. Or all three.

03 March 2007

Brits and Babies and Kennedys, Oh My!

Weekend, Wrap Up:

--E. and I attended a great set of speakers Thursday night at the keynote of the Environmental Law Conference. Vandana Shiva spoke, confirming the fact that she is even more awesome in person than anyone has a right to be. As I told E. later, I just want to follow her around and do her laundry and fetch her non-Coca-Cola water products. And I don't even necessarily agree with her on a broad local v. global scale (kind of the same concern I had with James Scott's Seeing Like a State), but I really respect what she says and how she says it. One of her more provocative arguments was a list of some of the "solutions" to global warming that have been put out there by corporations and governments recently (as she said, "we've now won the paradigm war, we have to win the political war"): in particular, she has a real problem with carbon offset schemes like the ones Al Gore touts. She refers to them as "an outsourcing of the ecological footprint of consumption by the rich" through the seizing of peasant lands in India, among other things, in order to set up more of these carbon trading setups, and so on. They sound like pyramid schemes to me.

--Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. also spoke, who could not look more like a Kennedy, and he was wholly different, but I definitely see why you would want him on your side. He speaks about environmentalism with the language of capitalism, efficiency, free market, and God. Not surprisingly, he gives the speech we heard at campuses all over the red states regularly. He also spoke with great passion about our irresponsible media and the 1988 abolition (yay Reagan!) of the 1928 Fairness in Broadcasting Act, which has pretty much allowed our radio and television news to abandon any sense of serving the public good. 80% of investigative reporters lost their jobs after 1988, most foreign news offices of U.S. stations closed down, and Rush Limbaugh opened up shop the same year (previously, the stations would have had to provide a balance of controversial views). He illustrated his argument that our society was now the best-entertained and least-informed in the world with a simple question about Britney's new haircut and Anna Nicole's death. The entire audience passed, or flunked, as the case may be.

--I finally got back to watching the 7-Up series (I finished 28-Up) after a long hiatus. It's so freaking good. I especially noted how most of the poor or working-class kids, by 28, have internalized this language about personal responsibility. Every single one of them described themselves as not getting more schooling because they are "lazy," and then talked about how they "chose" their crappy jobs, they chose it all! It was their choice! I think it has something to do with the fact that most of them now have kids at 28, and once you have kids do you really want to believe that they're going to be trapped by the same structure that funneled you into your low-income, rent-scraping life? The upper-class kids at 28 have gotten extremely good at covering the disdain they showed for the other classes at 7 and 14, and the only person who seemed to be engaging in a lot of self-reflection was the smart kid who ended up a homeless wanderer with mental illness issues. Seriously, that series is just so good. And I've already predicted who'll be divorced by the next one, the interviews were at Studs Terkel levels of letting people hang themselves.

--Finally, we had Erin's nephew staying with us all weekend, who is a leprechaun-sized little delight. He is one of those toddlers who loves snuggling, and smiles all the time, never cries, and says very astute things in his sweet little lisp. One such comment, moments after a visit with a depressed friend of ours. "John. Happy and sad." Kids are just smart.

01 March 2007

Last Days of Smithing

Last night was my last metalsmithing class (sigh!) -- but it was one of the most fun. I pulled out my silver and went to town. I did so much crafting that by the end of the night I was a little spaced-out and forgetful, which prompted a classic hippie line. Imagine this delivered with an utterly earnest and intent gaze by a goateed and behatted craft boy behind the front desk: "How would we ever know when we are found if we were not sometimes lost?" This was in response to my misplacing six inches of silver wire. I definitely think there was some smoked product wafting out of the pottery room. In fact, I had the munchies when I left...coincidence?

Finally, I thought Jeff deserved his own motto bracelet for all the nights he picked me up after class:

I wish I could take the metal casting class next quarter, and glass blowing, and lots of other things, but truthfully I'm going to need to be buried under the comps reading until May or June. It was fun while it lasted, maybe I'll go back next year.