31 January 2008

Off to Florida!

Some of you know that I am departing for Florida today until Tuesday to enjoy some sunshine, manatees and beaches with E. and R., formerly known as the 58 Ibbetson ladies. It's a very timely trip, namely because the beautiful snow of last weekend has devolved into cold, rainy yuckiness. I'm happy to head toward sun. I actually am packing shorts, people. Crazy! E. is presenting at a fancy conference in Tampa, so R. and I are accompanying her for a little mini-reunion.

In totally unrelated news, I strongly encourage all of you to go to this site and donate $8 (or more, if you've got it) to the National Slavery Museum. The fact that this museum is still not up and running -- the fact that we have no museum of slavery in this country (a point most powerfully made in this book some of us recall from 612) is appalling. It's not open yet solely because of lack of funding. This would not be a problem for many other museums, and I urge you to do what I did, which was to think about all the free or reduced-cost (re: subsidized by the rich people who have not chosen to subsidize this) museum visits I have taken in the last year and add up what I would've spent on admission fees for those. Not to be preachy, but seriously. I used to rail about this to my students in African American History, then I read that this museum was in the process of being built and I let it fall off the radar. That was over two years ago, and I only recently realized that not only is it not built yet, it is still in the same phase it had been two years ago because of the need for more funding. As a sidenote, I find the Phillip Morris donation of 250,000 kind of disgusting. Because I can't help but take it as an admission that "Hey! Tobacco never could've taken off without slave labor, so thanks for our centuries of huge profits!" Of course I think Phillip Morris should be contributing to this, it's not that, it's that the contribution itself acknowledges the historical exploitation and therefore 250,000 seems like a meaningless slap in the face.

Anyway...off to Florida I go, increasing my carbon footprint for the year by an undoubtedly awful amount! Boy, I'm cheery today. It might be that this was "rape week" in the early US women's history class I'm grading for -- doesn't lend itself to a lot of hopeful thoughts about the world. The students had to stop doing the reading at nighttime entirely. Definitely not the American Revolution they teach about in high school, or even college, for that matter.

29 January 2008

Snow Days!

Some photos from the last week...

Driving around town, randomly spotted:

Fabulous dinner courtesy of Miss M, followed by a showing of The Commitments. Oh, the Irish accents.

My second crumpet attempt, on the first day of snow -- better than the last, but still too biscuity and not crumpety enough. I will persevere! And on the second day of snow, my class was cancelled and I got to chill in front of the fire with my books. Excellent! Earlier this weekend, we got to get all dressed up and go see the Garth Fagan Dance Company, which was spectacular.

20 January 2008

Experiments in Cooking and Fiction

In honor of Sunday morning, I decided to test out the crumpet ring I bought many months ago and try to make my first-ever batch of crumpets today. Let me just say -- biscuity English muffins are good. The first few burnt, there was some adjustment, but ultimately they were quite tasty. They were not, however, remotely crumpetlike. So now I feel like I've taken on a challenge, and I do enjoy a challenge. For the next several weeks I will be attempting other crumpet recipes in hopes of finding one that actually tastes like the real deal. I don't know -- crumpets are just a step (or even two) higher on the yummy chain for me than almost any other breakfast bread, muffin, what have you. Does anyone prefer English muffins to crumpets? I know English muffins are way more accessible here in the States, but it's really no contest as far as I'm concerned. Plus the word is even fun -- crumpet! I think my next experiment (after I find the one true crumpet recipe) will be attempting Ethiopian cooking -- I love me some injera, and there are no restaurants in this neck of the woods, so if I want it, I better learn to make it myself.

The hot springs was fantastic as always -- lots of reading (three novels), soaking, cold plunges (love the cold in the field of snow!), and vegetarian food not cooked by me. A few random recommendations from my weekend if anyone's looking for a good novel.

1) The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai -- this book is one of the best I've read recently. A Booker-prize winning meditation on colonialism and postcolonial existence, immigration, race, class and consumption. Just so, so good.

2) The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri -- it's been on my list for ages, and I am still in the middle of this one, but it draws you in immediately and is just beautifully written. Plus, for those law school ladies who read this, there are some nice mentions of neighborhoods in Cambridge that made me nostalgic. Next I will see the movie that everyone raves about.

3) Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen -- a fun, well-researched book that feels like (although how would we know?) it actually gives you a glimpse into train circuses during the Depression. The elephant is awesome. The old man who narrates the book is also fantastic, and it is powerfully poignant to put the reader inside all these characters who are for various reasons viewed as "disposable" to society.

11 January 2008

Don't You Watch the 10 O'Clock News?

Having returned from my month of travelling, I was putting off my first post because -- eesh, the pressure! So many fun adventures, so much archival dorkiness, so many folks to thank for a fantastic trip. R and A -- thank you so very much for your hospitality and fabulous fun! An afternoon of candy-making, an evening of ravioli-making, a night of a murder mystery game (with lawyers, which makes the "questioning" portion ten times better), and two fairly creepy movies about magicians, along with lots of other fun. In fact, this trip made me reevaluate DC, a place I had formerly written off as my least favorite place I've ever lived -- I think it was just where and who I was living with then that made it so, I really enjoyed it this time around and I'm happy to be wrong.

As for the first week back, not much to tell other than unpacking and doing lots of catch-up work on the to-do list. E & I watched an episode of Colonial House last night, a PBS reality series from a few years ago that I got on Netflix, and wow. A group of fifteen people settle on a 1,000 acre plot of wilderness in Maine and have to live like they're in 1628. It's a show about (surprise) class and gender and race, in history and in how people today live. We weren't even twenty minutes into the episode when the "governor's wife" (actually a Texas Baptist Republican preacher's wife) spewed some frightening racism to her little kid about native Americans (see title). I can already tell what a great teaching tool this show would be. It's reality TV, public television history nerd style! Bring it on.