Archive for the ‘American studies’ Category


I’m Sorta Vampiric: I Want To Suck Your Blood, But Only To The Surface Of Your Skin Where It Will Leave A Bruise And Let The World Know You Are Mine

October 27, 2010

When other little girls wanted to be ballerina dancers, I kind of wanted to be a vampire.
• Angelina Jolie

I wanted to be a trapeze artist. I loved the shiny, sparkly costumes I wore for ballet and tap recitals and I remember thinking that joining the circus would be a perfect way to continue wearing such loveliness as a grownup. Even when I was small, I knew I wasn’t interested in being a ballerina—it just didn’t seem like fun—its seriousness and the patterned perfection of its movement sucked the joy out of my dancing.

I designed circuswear for myself, crayoning colorfully fanciful outfits of gossamer fabrics bedazzled with jewels. I practiced in a friend’s basement where her father had hung a trapeze from the ceiling. As I swung, head dangling, my fingers almost touched the floor and I can still remember the horror I felt one afternoon when I realized that real trapeze artists’ fingers were far from the solid safety of the circus ring. I did not like heights. I still do not. And I still wonder what I was thinking when I imagined that this was a possible career for me. I must have been blinded by the glittery gleam of sequins and rhinestones.

Some memories of childhood are vivid and easily recalled. Others are lost, but not necessarily forever. Italian poet and novelist Cesare Pavese said that the richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten. I call the things that evoke these forgotten memories evocateurs. It’s difficult to predict what will trigger recollection. Recently, it was an episode of Freaks and Geeks (currently airing on on IFC, the Independent Film Channel, and created by Paul Feig, executive produced by Judd Apatow, first airing on NBC during the 1999-2000 season) that brought back a flood of memories.

In the episode, Sam (John Francis Daley) breaks up with Cindy Sanders (Natasha Melnick), the girl he’s pined over for many episodes. He’s finally become her boyfriend, but their love is not meant to be. She disdains the family heirloom necklace he’s given her (“How much did it cost?” she asks) and doesn’t find the movie he’s taken her to—The Jerk—funny at all. When she leans over in the theatre and gives him a hickey, he doesn’t know what’s happening, but he doesn’t like it. And that’s what let loose the flood of memory.

A hickey. When I was in grade school, I got a Mickey Mouse Club shirt. It was a white cotton turtleneck shirt with short sleeves, just like the one that Annette and the other Mouseketeers wore on the television show. My name was on the front and on the back was the circular MMC logo. I loved that shirt and wore it often, but I retired it when I started high school. Until the first time I got a hickey.

It was summer in southern California, much too hot to wear a high-necked sweater, and I was desperate not to go down to breakfast with my neck providing evidence of the previous night’s passion (tame passion, folks, I was the quintessentially “good girl” back then and my parents were ever vigilant for evidence otherwise). Desperately, I searched through the drawers for something to put on, rejecting scarves tied around my neck as too dressy for a day of babysitting and chores, and finally coming across my old friend. Thank goodness my mother and Aunt Mildred insisted on buying their children just about any kind of apparel in the largest size available so that we’d get plenty of wear from our you’ll-grow-into-it clothes. The extra large still fit. I pulled it on with my shorts and was saved from unpleasant inquiries. I hadn’t thought about that shirt in decades even though I’ve been immersed in memories related to my art exhibit entitled Flaming Youth and think often about adolescence for the courses I teach.

I’m currently doing a bit of vampire research for a paper and presentation I’m working on about the possibility of engaging in serious research about just about anything. This work is entitled, “Tootsie Pops and Toilet Paper, Vampires and Zombies: Reimagining Research through the Engaging and Creative Processes, Projects, and Products of The Collectory,” and another thought evoked by this F&G episode was how the process of the vampire’s bite and the hickey are similar, both marking the receiver as the property of the one who sucks the blood*. The paths of memory are twisted indeed.

Have you recalled a memory recently? If so, what triggered it? Write it down so you won’t forget. If not, spend a bit of time in the fields of remembrance and see what you find.

The existence of forgetting has never been proved. We only know that some things don’t come to mind when we want them.
• Friedrich Nietzsche

* How do you give a hickey? Put your mouth against the side of the the person’s neck as though you are going to kiss it, leaving your mouth slightly open. Then suck the skin into your mouth, causing the blood vessels to break and leaving a red somewhat circular bruise. This is a fairly speedy process. I have no explanation for how to actually suck someone’s blood from their body. You’re on your own for that one.


Unless You Have Self-Governing Innards, Avoid Any Opportunity Allowing You The Possibility Of Consuming More Than Your Stomach Was Meant To Hold

July 23, 2010

For July 21, 2010

You can only eat so much, you know? • Elvis Presley

It is difficult to find a good meal when you’re on the road. I like home cooking for reasons too numerous to go into here, in part because most of what I encounter in restaurants sounds better than it tastes. Menu descriptions are enticing, but the plate seldom delivers what the words and pictures promise. Even finding a green salad—the meal I really crave—can be challenging.

Sometimes I consider visiting an all-you-can-eat buffet so I can load up on spinach and broccoli and tomatoes and carrots and a garden of other goodies, but these fiestas of food are not a bargain for someone like me who prefers multiple small meals to gorging myself by taking in a week’s worth in an hour.

I know that’s what these purveyors of excess are counting on, that for every overeater, there’ll be several of us who want to stop before we’re stuffed beyond capacity. They make their money off the likes of me and not on those folks who keep heapin’ the goodies on plate after gravy-dripping plate. I watch in amazement as people who can eat all they want by returning to the steam-table trough pile their platters high, mounding the stuff as though they have to get all they can consume at once.

Miss Piggy said you should never eat more than you can lift. I say you should never lift more than you can comfortably eat and you certainly shouldn’t put it onto a plate or two or three or more and plow through it as though you’d never get to eat again. I also say that you should travel with some dried fruit and granola bars just in case you need them.

When you’re on the road, what foods do you long for?

It is really wonderful how men of refined tastes and pampered habits, who at home are as fastidious as luxury and a delicate appetite can make them, find it in their hearts – or stomachs either – to gorge such disgusting masses of stringy meat and tepid vegetables, and to go about their business again under the fond delusion that they have dined. • George G. Foster (1814-1856), columnist writing about “eating houses” in New York City’s financial district

My time is up at this connecting point. More later. Perhaps much later!


Foodish Thoughts From The Road: Do Not Be Tempted By The Deep-Fried Twinkies®!

July 23, 2010

For July 17, 2010

Health food may be good for the conscience, but Oreos taste a heck of a lot better. • Robert Redford

I have sacrificed myself on the altar of bad taste and sampled a deep-fried Twinkie® so that you do not have to. This makes me both saint and sinner.

My desires are generally modest. I hunt for rubber alligators, globes, robots, masks, and other affordable art and artifacts. Sometimes my goals are even more modest. During my latest visit to Sin City, I set my heart not on ogling the dancers in topless reviews or plugging my pennies into slot machines or admiring the latest Soleil incarnation, but on sampling the ultimate in junk food: a deep-fried Twinkie®. I am a cheap date. Ninety-nine cents and I was delighted.

Until I took a bite.

The crème-filled spongecake on a stick is dipped in funnel cake batter and fried in hot oil. Then it’s topped with powdered sugar and chocolate jimmies. It is execrable. Seriously. This doesn’t even sound good, does it? I’ve seen people on the Travel Channel and the TV Food Network rhapsodize about this so-called treat. I fail to understand why.

The best part of the crusty concoction—the crème—is gone, melted and absorbed into the surrounding cake. This does not help the flavor of the cake. The whole mess becomes tooth-achingly sweet. I took one bite from the inside (I already know what funnel cake crusty stuff tastes like) and threw the rest into the trash where it belonged.

Don’t do it. Pass up the deep-fried Twinkies®. I suspect you’d be wise to forgo the similarly-prepared Oreos® as well. My self-sacrifice did not extend that far.

What have you eaten that proved to be a disappointment?

For my college students, I do have your breakfast available: Snickers and Mt. Dew. And for the Breakfast of Champions, I have cold beer.• Amtrak lounge car breakfast announcement, 8 :03 a.m. Monday, June 14, 2010


Playing Games With Band Names: “Rendered Useless” As I Explore The “Staggering Depths” Of “Unfallen Heroes” And “The Deep Sea Vents” “Beyond the Red Horizon” With “The Control Freaks.” Stop Me Now.

June 12, 2010

For Friday, June 11, 2010, still on the road and still having problems connecting, although fortunately, not with my brain.

I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells. • Dr. Seuss

More band names from Portland, Oregon, entertainment mags to entertain you, along with suggested braindancing activities:

School-related band names: Math the Band (What math-themed songs might they play? Invent the names; write the lyrics.) Doubleplusgood (What other literary allusions would make good band names?) Guidance Counselor (Cliques or other school groups and employees?)

Early morning foodish names: Create your own, inspired by Pancake Breakfast, Brkfst Sndwch, and Breakfast Mountain. Mine are: French Toast, Western Omelet, Overeasy, Huevos Rancheros, TV Dinner, The Spamtones, and The Velveta Underground (definitely a tribute band with recipe-themed tunes). My husband suggests Pigs in a Blanket.

Directives: Create a band name that orders people around like Stick to Your Guns, Bring Me Solace, Explode Into Colors, Raise the Bridges, Cage the Elephant, and Close Your Eyes.

Wordplay: Thuggage and Bearracuda. Create a band name that’s a play on words.

Story creation: Insominac Folklore—choose a band name and write a story to go with it:

A Place to Bury Strangers

The Grave Babies

The Tallest Man on Earth

Old Death Whisper

Indelible Terror

Alien Parachute Man

Crypt of the Grave

Bloody Panda

Kill the Kids

Whispering Tongues

The Closet Monsters

Facing Extinction

Vampire Weekend

I Am the Monster

The Ghost Inside

Game creation: Jar of Lies. What would the rules for this game be?

And one of my all-time favorites: Dragging an Ox through Water. Plus still more mundane names to inspire you: Window Pane, My Morning Jacket, The Sale, and Stimulus Package. Just look around the room you’re sitting in. I see The Mirrors, Ice Bucket, File Folders, Scotch Tape, and Sofa Cushions.

Invent a game to go with the name of a musical group you like. Rolling Stones would probably be an outside game; write its rules.

Still more possibilities from The Simpsons: Steamed Hams, My Cat’s Name Is Mittens, Nerdy Likes His Booky Wook, Fatty Fat Fat Fat, and It Didn’t Die.


You Knew It Was Coming And Here It Is, A Traveling Band Names’ Posting. This Does Not Mean That The Bands Are Traveling, Although They Might Be. But I Am And The Collecting Continues.

June 10, 2010

Some possible band names suggested by quotations from The Simpsons, from the site You’ll Have to Speak Up, I’m Wearing a Towel; I Beat the Smart Kids; Tastes Like Burning; You Don’t Make Friends with Salad; and My Cat’s Breath Smells Like Cat Food.

I am disappointed and frustrated by my fruitless search for band names from the Midwest and the East coast. There was nothing useful in Minneapolis-St. Paul or Chicago and I’ve found nothing in Washington, D.C., although I’m still hopeful and still hunting. Of course, I could go online and find out the names of bands who are active in these areas, but that’s not the way this works. I want to hunt through pages looking for good ones. Otherwise it’s a chore and not a game. I don’t need more work in my life.

Fortunately for me—unfortunately for you—I found a bonanza in Portland, Oregon, before we left the train station there, and I’ve finally had a chance to go through the entertainment magazines and record some favorites. Today, I’m just going to share a few, but more band name games are coming at you soon. I know you can’t wait. These are from the Portland [Oregon] Mercury for May 27, 2010, and Portland’s Willamette Week for May 26, 2010.


Ghost Town Waltz

Million Brazillions

Throwback Suburbia

Yogoman Burning Band

Betrayed by Weakness

Tiny Knives

The Hand that Bleeds

Dead Winter Carpenters

Deformity and Gorbachev

Hairspray Blues


Puke ‘n’ Rally

The Beaker Heads

Drive-By Truckers

Several of my favorites also fall into the category of mundane names, making the common ironically amusing: The Student Loan, Hurt Bird, Shopping Cart, First Aid Kit, Cheap Eats, and Night Gown (although I believe that nightgown is the correct spelling for sleeping apparel so this may refer to some sparkly and spangled fancy dress worn by a lady singer).

What mundane name would you give your band?

And more from The Simpsons: Commander Cuckoo-Bananas, To The Beemobile, Flaming Moes, Purple Is A Fruit, and Just My Bones…And Organs.


There’s A Land That I Dreamed Of. . . . .Creating A Room Called Home

June 5, 2010

The books one reads in childhood, and perhaps most of all the bad and the good bad books, create in one’s mind a sort of false map of the world, a series of fabulous countries into which one can retreat at odd moments throughout the rest of life . . . . . • George Orwell

I’ve been re-reading L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz on my iPhone. It’s comforting to know that this childhood world is waiting any time I long for its familiar words. Although I never believed in the existence of Baum’s fabulous countries, his oft-explored territory reminds me how important such worlds can be.

Many years ago, there was an in-the-theatre revival of the 1939 movie version of The Wizard of Oz. In those days before VCRs and their spawn, this was the only way that youngsters like my cousin Sugar and I could see movies made before we were born. I remember skipping down the street in Los Angeles after the show, arms linked, singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” The sidewalks were sparkly, mica, perhaps, and the world was magical.

I don’t remember what we were wearing, although I’m sure we were dressed alike in those days when we pretended twinship. I do remember our shoes: black suede flats with clear acrylic heels and clear square acrylic bows on the front, a pair that ranks among my top five favorites, right behind our purple leather flats with braided aqua, hot pink, and purple straps. I wore both pair long after I outgrew them.

I also remember this, the words Dorothy said before she begins to sing “Over the Rainbow.” I didn’t remember them exactly then, but I knew what they meant. Auntie Em had just told Dorothy to find herself “a place where you won’t get into any trouble.” Such a place can seem nonexistent when you’re a child, even a good child. Despite the rosy glow that surrounds the idealization of childhood, those days aren’t always happy and carefree.

Dorothy was articulating my longing for home and acceptance when she said to Auntie Em: “A place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or a train. It’s far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain…”

In writing about his imaginary worlds, Baum said, “Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams – daydreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing-are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to invent, and therefore to foster, civilization.”

I know that the imaginary worlds of my childhood are part of what inspires me to ask my students who will soon be teachers to begin creating “A Room Called Home” as they think about what it will be like to be a student in their classrooms. I hope those classrooms will be places that focus on what is right with students, what is good about and for them. I hope those classrooms will nurture creative spirits and build imaginations and encourage civility, kindness, and caring.

I also hope that my students’ students will learn to love learning not simply because they have tests to pass or assignments to complete, but because curiosity and the enthusiastic quest for knowledge will add immeasurably to their lives.

If you were creating a classroom home, what would you include?

It is not on any map; true places never are. • Herman Melville


Please Don’t Hate Me When I Confess That I Hate A Parade. Honestly, I Am A Nice, Kind, And Easily Amused Person, But While I Can Understand Marching Charm As An Intellectual Construct, I Do Not Revel In It.

June 4, 2010

Last time I went to a parade, the most exciting thing I saw was the horse pooping right in front of me. • Pauline Wayne

July Fourth is fast approaching and I’ll be figuring out how to politely decline those considerate invitations from friends who are willing to stake out a place for me along some parade route or another so that I can arrive and sit in the sun for hours awaiting something I don’t care if I see.

There. I’ve said it. I don’t care if I see a parade. I don’t care if it’s Mickey and Minnie dancing their way down Main Street at Disneyland or the Anytown Garden Club marching proudly with their carefully-arranged displays of homegrown roses on Main Street, U.S.A, I don’t love it. (Okay, okay. I do make an exception for small children riding tricycles they’ve decorated themselves with crepe paper and balloons. Even I—an official parade pooh-pooher—think they’re cute and amusing, although I probably won’t walk downtown to see them.)

Parades involve far too much time spent waiting in the sun for the anticlimax of questionably significant displays. For every stunning and talented or clever and quirky marching band I’ve seen, I’ve seen at least a hundred slow-moving cars filled with local politicians and beauty queens. I’m sure they’re loving those moments of glory, but I usually don’t know who these luminaries are and even when I do, I don’t care, no matter how beautifully they wave at me.

It could be that my antipathy stems from this: There are people who are the equivalent of lizards basking in the sun. Give them a hot rock to lie on and they’re content to be pancakes on life’s griddle. They like sitting in the sun waiting and they don’t much care what for. Not me. Roll the rock over and there I’ll be, scurrying away from the brightness. I haven’t basked since I was young and stupid and longing for tanned loveliness.

As you might imagine, I was drawn to a headline in the Portland [Oregon] Tribune for Thursday, May 27 (the year was obscured by the head of a dragon float extending into the banner). Let’s assume it’s 2010. Here’s what it said: “How to get your child on a float in the ROSE PARADE (and why maybe it’s not such a good idea).” I read on (pages A1-A2) because I especially wanted to know about the not-such-a-good part.

Turns out that children don’t make good float riders, tending to get bored and tired and in need of facilities. One parade float-filler who uses actors notes that actors “never complain and don’t have to go potty,” also noting that in other parades like New Orleans, “they have bathrooms on board the floats because the riders drink so much they can’t go a whole parade without a bathroom.”

Delightful to think of what’s happening beneath those festive flowers as that parade passes by. Also delightful to sit or stand waiting for hours for drunken revelers to toss shiny tackiness your way. Fortunately, I won’t have to do any of this because I hate a parade!

What would your parade celebrate? Who would be in it? What kinds of floats and/or marchers would you have to entertain the crowds?

I was once a horse’s heiney in a parade. This is not an experience I’d recommend to anyone. Walking bent over holding on to someone else’s butt for several miles in July heat while dressed in fake fur is a torture guaranteed to make the most hardened criminal confess to just about anything. • Story told by a person I sat next to at a parade in the latter part of the twentieth century (gosh, doesn’t that sound portentous somehow—much better than twelve years ago)