03 June 2012

Brain = Broken (in a good way) Completely

Completely unrelated photo I love from my recent trip to Gunsan

Just had a mind-breaking moment while visiting an acquaintance's blog...

Like many bloggers, she has a quote at the top of her page- though, perhaps somewhat uncommonly, her's is by Michel Foucault:


This blew my brain right open. Perhaps I'd read it before - I've read quite a bit of Foucault - perhaps less than some of my past Theory teachers were under the impression I'd read, but a lot none the less - but if so, the surrounding text swallowed my reaction to this little bit of brain-breakage.


This is why I've never written a book. This is why I struggle so much just to write a blog post. This is why the best writing I've done has always been the hardest, the writing where I really don't know even know what I want to try and find, just that there are all these interesting or hard things that I've noticed in the text, or in my life. And this is why, as I write - usually slowly and painfully - I come to know what I think, or at least get to what questions I want to think about...

Perhaps this is also why I've frequently felt my best writing was academic rather than creative (though I am not convinced that is a fair distinction, because I think that you need a fair to huge amount of creativity to write well academically). Academic writing, while frequently arguing for something, always seemed to me more about the exploration of these arguments - the figuring out of why they are, how they work, what the intersections and connections are - than a presentation of what the author knows... good academic writing anyway... though I am not saying that I think deliberate obsfucation is good here (or anywhere other than vampire role-playing games)... that is rather the opposite of what good writing does - so-called creative or academic writing...

And it also may be why I've always had such a hard time with the advice to "write what you know" ... I often wonder why this is interesting to anyone, and now realize that question arises because it is not what is interesting to me... I am interested in what I don't know, not what I do... because there is so much out there that I still need to figure out. Learning has always been the point of school for me, not grades or degrees (as my rather checkered and extended academic career might indicate)... so I don't really know what this means for me now, but perhaps I will just let it sit for a while with my broken brain... and then perhaps I will write to figure it out...


28 April 2012

Food Blog linkage...

Where I read, mostly...

So, I've noticed that I am reading a lot more food blogs recently... I don't know if this is because of my relatively rural location and its accompanying lack of accessible activities (at least for someone who speaks next to no Korean)... or perhaps it is me missing American food, because no matter how much I love Korean food (a lot!), I do miss many of the things I ate in America... maybe it is not so much missing the food, as missing a sense of community I had in the States - I lived with my sisters, I saw my friends in person, I was able to talk to the vendors at the farmers markets and my favorite shops and have them understand me... whatever the reason, my food blog consumption has been up recently... so I thought I would share a list of the new sites I am loving (there are many others that I love, and have read for a long time - these are just the new ones)...

These are all "new to me" with in the last month or two, though many have been around for a while... and some of them are a bit more than just food... they tend to reflect my love for writing about life, with recipes... some I love for the beautiful photography, some for the beautiful words, many for both, actually... and they all have wonderful food... anyway, the list...

Eat All About It ... right now she is writing for the Seattle times at the All You Can Eat blog

I would love to know what other people been reading more of recently... online or anywhere... please share...

22 March 2012

World Poetry Day 2012...

by John Donne

        BUSY old fool, unruly Sun,
        Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run ?
        Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
        Late school-boys and sour prentices,
    Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
    Call country ants to harvest offices ;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

        Thy beams so reverend, and strong
        Why shouldst thou think ?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long.
        If her eyes have not blinded thine,
        Look, and to-morrow late tell me,
    Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
    Be where thou left'st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, "All here in one bed lay."

        She's all states, and all princes I ;
        Nothing else is ;
Princes do but play us ; compared to this,
All honour's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
        Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
        In that the world's contracted thus ;
    Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
    To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere ;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.

16 March 2012

List: Top Ten Favorite Musical Pieces

So in the process of pursuing one of my more recent obsessions, which shall remain nameless to prevent potential embarrassment, I came across the top ten songs of various celebrities. I had already been thinking about some of my favorites, since a change like moving halfway around the world tends to get you to reflect on what is important to you... or at least it does me ... so I decided to try to put my own list together... which was actually very difficult, as I tend to be a moody listener- what I listen to shifts with my moods... but the more I thought about it the more I was able to isolate pieces that always appeal, so - in no particular order - my top ten...

Nota Bene: Links are to YouTube... videos vary in quality... you were warned...

1. The Bach Cello Suites
These are part of the reason I went with "musical pieces" instead of just "songs", I knew I wanted to include them and I can't isolate one from the other - not because they are not distinct, but because they flow into each other, and weave themselves into my head. No matter my mood, this music fits. The are perhaps my most favorite musical work of all time, but I really hate to make definitive statements like that.

2. Song of the Banshee by Áine Minogue
Haunting, shivery, a beautiful Celtic lament... I have always love Celtic music, but Áine Minogue's album, Celtic Lamentations, came into my life when I needed some way to grieve, and tears weren't cutting it. And this song, even more than the others on the album gave wordless voice to what I couldn't say... and still does...

3.  My Song by Brandi Carlile
This song captures a sense of independence that I have always had... sometimes to my detriment, but there you go... it is also representative of a the singer/songwriter, rockin' gals (mostly), that make up the core of my current listening habits - they span quite a range of sounds, not all like this song... but like this song, they get played over and over in my playlists.

4. Barbie Girl by Aqua
Yes, I know, but I tend to enjoy a little (a lot) of irony in my music - and in my life - and besides, I associate this song with a particularly lovely summer that cemented my relationship with two of my sisters - very different bonds and roles, but made very strong that summer. And we giggled along with this song a lot. And it is so cheerfully awful- really, how could I not love it. All life should have a little absurdity now and then.

5. After All by Dar Williams
Dar, more than any other artist, represents the music of my twenties. And this song... oh, this song... line after line of it... I really can't say what all this song means to me... it goes too deep for words... not autobiography, not my life, but truth- my truth... and the more I live, the more it is my truth... "Life chose me after all."

6. Hallelujah by k.d. lang
I have loved this song in all sorts of covers and iterations, but her version is the perfection of the beauty that is this beautiful song... comfort, poignancy, life...

7. O Fortuna by Carl Orff
I love all of Carmina Burana, but the manic energy and sheer drama of O Fortuna - it so accurately represents what it is like to be inside my brain ... not all the time, but more often than I could say... actually, I'm surprised I get as much done as I do...

8. Greensleeves
My mother loved chamber and classical music and that helped to shape the tastes that I use to create my mental soundtrack... and there is something about this piece that is so intimate and clever and still a bit dramatic - really, the exact kind of thing that I love in music.

9. She by Elvis Costello
While it's true that I primarily listen to girls, I really need some guys on this list... and, oh, Elvis... the many musical stylings and genre disruptions make him a favorite anyway, but this song is so lovely... and who doesn't want to be "a hundred different things within the measure of a day"... otherwise life is just boring, right?

10. Rhythm Divine by Enrique Iglesias
And Enrique... pop-y, latin, angst-y, sexy, and there's that irony again, intentional or not ... there is so much I love about Enrique. This song is one of my early favorites of his, but I still love it... and though perhaps it is uncool, I still love most of his music. And it's great to dance to... most of his music is great for dancing, actually.

This was hard - and there is so much music that I love beyond this, and even though the 10 is an arbitrary number, these pieces really do kind of define the core of my musical loves - eclectic, bizarre, and somewhat unpredictable, with a strong preference for folk music of various stripes. One thing that surprised me was that more country music (any?) didn't make this list - I listen to a lot, and have my whole life, but reflecting on it made me realize that it is not the music that is definitive for me... odd, the things you learn about yourself...

04 March 2012

Red hot birthdays...

So, many of my friends are next to impossible to shop for... either because they have esoteric tastes that they just satisfy for themselves, or expensive tastes that I can't afford, or the irritating habit of never "needing" or "wanting" anything...

My friend Linus is like that, but this year I have the perfect gift. I like cooking (you may have noticed)... or in this case canning... so at first I was going to make him pickles, my garlic refrigerator pickles... because pretty much all the pickles available in Korea are sweet pickles and he hates sweet pickles (so do I, for that matter). But I soon realized/remembered that I couldn't get dill at my local supermarket. So, no dill pickles. But then I had it... You see Linus likes spicy food, so I decided that I would pickle some peppers instead. Peppers are very available at my supermarket.

I checked out Punk Domestics, my favorite canning site and that led me to this recipe for pickled peppers. I, of course, had to change a few things... for one thing my kitchen is metric now, so some math was called for... and my jars were a different size - more math... and I ended up not having as many peppers - math... but perhaps most distressingly, there was no garlic in the recipe and that simply wouldn't do... so, my version!

Pickled Hot Pepper Rings
(adapted from Marisa McClellan)
yield: makes 4 - 250mL jars, active time 30-45 minutes (I'm not sure how long it took me to cut up the peppers), total time 48 hours


              335 g chopped hot peppers (about 3 cups)
              6-7 cloves of garlic, sliced
              150 mL red wine (grape) vinegar
              200  mL rice vinegar
         (a total of about 1 ½ cups vinegar)
              350 mL water (about 1 ½ cups)
              22 g pickling salt (1 ½  tablespoons)

What I did...
  • Sterilize the jars, whatever method you use - here I boil, because I have no oven.
  • Chop, slice, smell the yumminess!!!
  • Combine vinegar, water and salt in a pot and bring it to a boil.
  • When brine is boiling, add pepper rings and garlic, and stir to submerge.
  • As soon as the brine returns to a boil, remove the pot from the heat.
  • Spoon peppers into jars and top them off with brine, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top.
  • Tap jars gently to remove any trapped air bubbles. If necessary, add more brine to return the headspace to 1/2 inch.
  • Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (start your timer when the water returns to a boil, not when the jars first go in) - this is approximately three Enrique Iglesias songs and 7 text messages, in case you forget the timer... not that I would ever do that...
  • When time is up, remove jars from the water and let cool on a folded kitchen towel.
  • When jars are cool enough to handle, test the seals and tighten the lids.
  • Store jars in a cool, dark place. They are ready to eat with in 48 hours, but can be kept up to one year.

28 February 2012

Occupy Our Food Supply!

Our food supply, especially in America is so broken... I have not been involved in many of the other Occupy movements, partially because I am so far away from where many of them are happening, but food is perhaps the thing I am most passionate about, so I could not let this day pass completely without mentioning this Occupy movement here. Agribusinesses and industrial complexes (Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson, Dupont, ADM, et al.) have hijacked our food system and shifted the focus from nutritious, safe, tasty food for eaters, to how they can make the most money - It is, simply put, evil.

As always, I would encourage you to think about where you get your food - who made it, where it came from, what chemicals where used to make it and grow it (this includes your meat, not just veggies!) And most importantly, to vote with your wallet. Buy local, sustainable food whenever possible.

Here is a link to the letter of support for the Occupy Our Food Supply. Many of the signers and organizations supporting this movement have links to their own sites, where you can get more information about the movement, and about actions you can take to make a difference in support of good food - 'cause really, that is one of the most important things in your world!

This is so important - whether you eat to live, or live to eat, the current system is diminishing your food!

19 February 2012

Poetry Break

Due to the advent of a icky cold, the food post I was planning in my head (which is now full of cold medicine) has been postponed. Instead, enjoy this gut-wrenching poem that has been drifing in and out of my head frequently since I first heard it last fall...


by Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss--we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you. 

12 February 2012

A life of the mind...

So, as you may or may not know, February, at least for me, is something of a mortal enemy... For years, it has constantly and consistently sucked the joy from my outlook, stamped down my energy, and in various ways preyed upon my mind... It's cold grayness goes far beyond any sort of SAD sort of disarrangement (or perhaps, derangement)... February has been soul crushing in a way that makes other things I've been through - death of loved ones, divorce, distance from dear friends, postponement of dreams - pale by comparison... And perhaps the most baffling aspect of this soul-crushing is that I don't even know why; why I feel as though February is a living, devious, being, one that hates me... And this year was no different, February came and I wanted to curl up and hide until it had passed...

I give this explanation, so that it might be understood just how crucial the timing of this post and the events (some, largely mental) that led up to it are.

Leading up... In November, I had settled into Korea well enough to turn my mind to writing - thinking about projects I wanted to start, work on, or possibly complete. Then my computer died, necessitating a great reduction in the time spent on my computer, as I was running from my backup drive until I could comfortably afford the purchase of a new one... and as a devotee of Apple, that took a few months... This break threw me off track of any sort of creative process - my computer is largely the way I communicate with my family and friends, the scholarly and literary communities I follow - the connections that sustain me in a very real way, despite their virtual nature... Towards the end of January, I knew I would be getting a new computer soon, and those thoughts of writing began to return...

But then February happened... cold, gray, soul-crunching February... it made me want to sleep constantly, while preventing me from sleeping most nights... that is the daemon that is February...

So, Friday night I was up anyway, unable to keep my attention on my novel, having blown through my rss reader, and too enmeshed in the blahs to find other distraction on the internet, when my calendar reminded me that it was time for the live stream of the Exemplaria Symposium of Surface, Symptom, and the State of Critique... Not something I had read or prepared for in anyway other than reading Jeffrey Cohen's handout on In The Middle... In fact, until that late moment, I hadn't even looked at the schedule beyond glancing and noting it on my calendar. After all, Korea is a long way from Texas, and distance and time meant I would probably not see it anyway. So thanks, February... this is all your fault...

On opening the live stream, I was immediately swept under (pardon the pun). I had little context, beyond foundational literary theories, for the thoughts the presenters were raising and responding to, yet I was immediately fascinated - so much so that I, couldn't sleep through the next panel, or the next - when I tried to sleep between them my brain kept waking me up, wondering what I was missing. The symposium brought my brain to life - in a somewhat uncomfortable fashion, even. So, now I have pages of notes, and an extended reading list on a topic I had not really considered at all - at least not in a conscious matter (though anyone associated with the Popular Romance Studies field will confirm that how and why we read is never far beneath the scholarship, due to a frequent necessity to defend what we read and study).

Now my brain is so filled with new (to me) thinking about reading, scholarship, and creative generalization that it has pushed out of February's hold... The symposium has cost me quite a bit of sleep, but has re-affirmed my deep, integral need for a life of the mind... 

Now, I only hope that this thinking will lead to writing, and maintain the pressure keeping February at bay...