Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy Happy Happy

After a long wait due to my mixed-up files (more mixed up than those of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler's), I got the committee decision that yes, I am permitted to stay at Liberal College Law to pursue my "Doctor of Juridical Science."

Yay!

I'm really happy with my new faculty advisor (a leading scholar in the field of organizational studies and employment discrimination law), and that my work on federalism will be tangential to my work on employment discrimination law. I'm passionate about both, but it's funny how first loves can give way to new ones. And how much a young scholar's mind and work will change over time. I look at the changes over the past two years in bemusement, and I am sure there will be many more in the years to come.

Just wanted to let you know. Thanks for going through the changes with me.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday Poet: Louise Gluck

Feeling slightly deflated after the most beautiful wedding ever, in which The Best Friend married the best man. French Dandy Dude was my fake date (bringing your best male friend to a wedding is akin to bringing your cousin to the prom, but...), and it was a memorable weekend. Weddings are a lot of work, and very busy occasions with lots of flowers to arrange and parties to attend, and it was almost busy enough to distract me away from the knowledge that I am entering a new era of my life.

An era in which my friends are going more than they are coming, in which there will be marriages and births, and in which I am not always sure where I fit in the maelstorm of change. I think we all were thinking that this weekend, and French Dandy Dude in particular. Seeing him off was almost anticlimatic, after the huge occasion that was the wedding. A ceremonious beginning and end, as it were.

I think it was possibly the most emotionaly resonant ceremony I have ever experienced--my siblings marriages seemed inevitable, you expect someone 10 years older than you to get married and have children. I grew up knowing that my siblings would start their own households, but that they wouldn't be too far from the central homestead. So to look at my best girl, someone I've grown up with since the age of 14, someone I love as much as either of my two biological sisters--it was much too much for me. She was so beautiful in her dress and veil, and to juxtapose the memory of her I had at 14, to now, from the girls we were to the women we are--so much change, in a single glance! To talk to her parents, who are de facto second parents to me and approach them not as a child, but as an adult--how I wonder at the passing of years. To talk to her and her husband, to realize that she has a new family and that I will be a part of it--how much of American life is about the creation of new homes and families and smaller worlds. I am happy for her, of course, and my emotions aren't sad ones. My girl is happy and loved, and my tears for her are of happiness, and my heart is overwhelmed with love, not grief. I think what I felt was surprise at my heart's capacity to expand even further, to grow with love, to encompass her many stages and the person she has chosen to spend her life with. I thought I could not love her better--but I do. So when I think of her, I am happy.

I feel a little less happy with the parting of Frech Dandy Dude. We've had so many ups and downs this year, with all the hysterical law school drama, with our own friendship, that the past month--in which we were de facto roomates, spending almost all of our spare time together, without drama or conflict--well, it was something I got used to. And now it's gone, and I don't think we will ever be able to spend that much time together again, what with him going to school on the other side of the country and living the rest of his life in France. It is a strange feeling of emptiness--my tiny studio is suddenly too big without him, I have too many baguettes and too much artisanal cheese now. He's my first close friend in a long while, and while there has never been any romantic or sexual tension between us, he was the closest I've come to in recent memory in terms of emotionally connecting with a man, and virtually living with one. I know I can love a man better--more deeply, passionately, spiritually, mind, body and soul--but the way I love my friends in general is as unconditional and true as I can love. So it's a loss, and I feel it, almost as much as when my first love went away.

And so this weekend was a ceremony to end all ceremonies, more significant than any wedding I've been to, more resonant than any pomp and circumstance graduation I (will not) attend. The older I get, the more I realize the empty significance of ceremonies. When you are young, the ceremonies are occasions for presents and parties. When you get older, they take on a declaratory role, to announce, recognize, and share the vicissitudes of life--the unions, the births, the deaths. They make the annual fete almost unimportant. It was quite emotional for me. I cried the entire ceremony, but I believed her, in the 10th post-ceremony hug, when she said "I love you" and "nothing will change." I didn't cry at the airport, but I did murmur something barely audible, which I think was heard anyway.

Poems for today, for a particular mood.


Love Poem

There is always something to be made of pain.
Your mother knits.
She turns out scarves in every shade of red.
They were for Christmas, and they kept you warm
while she married over and over, taking you
along. How could it work,
when all those years she stored her widowed heart
as though the dead come back.
No wonder you are the way you are,
afraid of blood, your women
like one brick wall after another.


Happiness

A man and a woman lie on a white bed.
It is morning. I think
Soon they will waken.
On the bedside table is a vaseof lilies; sunlight
pools in their throats.I watch him turn to her
as though to speak her name
but silently, deep in her mouth--
At the window ledge,
once, twice,
a bird calls.
And then she stirs; her body
fills with his breath.

I open my eyes; you are watching me.
Almost over this room
the sun is gliding.
Look at your face, you say,
holding your own close to me
to make a mirror.
How calm you are. And the burning wheel
passes gently over us.


Poem

In the early evening, a now, as man is bending
over his writing table.
Slowly he lifts his head; a woman
appears, carrying roses.
Her face floats to the surface of the mirror,
marked with the green spokes of rose stems.

It is a form
of suffering: then always the transparent page
raised to the window until its veins emerge
as words finally filled with ink.

And I am meant to understand
what binds them together
or to the gray house held firmly in place by dusk

because I must enter their lives:
it is spring, the pear tree
filming with weak, white blossoms.


Penelope's Song

Little soul, little perpetually undressed one
,Do now as I bid you, climb
The shelf-like branches of the spruce tree;
Wait at the top, attentive, like
A sentry or look-out. He will be home soon;
It behooves you to be
Generous. You have not been completely
Perfect either; with your troublesome body
You have done things you shouldn't
Discuss in poems. Therefore
Call out to him over the open water, over the bright
Water
With your dark song, with your grasping,
Unnatural song--passionate,
Like Maria Callas. Who
Wouldn't want you? Whose most demonic appetite
Could you possibly fail to answer? Soon
He will return from wherever he goes in the
Meantime,
Suntanned from his time away, wanting
His grilled chicken. Ah, you must greet him,
You must shake the boughs of the tree
To get his attention,
But carefully, carefully, lest
His beautiful face be marred
By too many falling needles.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Thoughts About The Obligation to Blog On Certain Subjects

In spite of my three years of deconstructivist, post-colonial, race-conscious legal education, I hardly write about the stuff anymore. I have one paper coming out on Asian American employment stereotypes, but as far as I can see I'm going to be doing work on conflicts of law, employment discrimination, organizational theory, sociology of law, and gender discrimination for the foreseable future. If there is another shift, I'd go into administrative and regulatory law with a focus on welfare and benefits. I've blogged extensively on this shift, which I'm not entirely comfortable with. People I respect say that I have the right to change my mind, but I'm not sure that I am changing my mind per se. I'm changing my subjects. It's true that my thoughts on certain issues are becoming nuanced and thus unstable, but in general I'm keeping with most of my beliefs. It feels a bit like changing hats without changing the underlying mind. But most of the world will see only your shifting hats if you don't reveal to them your mind.

So it's pretty clear that despite my liberal bent, I've backed away considerably from race-conscious writing both academically and even casually. This blog is a major indication of this shift. In theory, I should use this space to write on whatever I want, almost especially if I don't write on it for work. But I dont' tend to anyway. I feel like this blog is an extension of personal and professional self, and I'm having a harder time telling those two apart lately. I can't blog about what I work on because I'm pseudonymous--unless it's under my own name somewhere, the ideas here will not attributable to myself, and I have some intellectually property issues with that. But I dont' want to give up my pseudonymity for the times when I want to write personally. So there is hardly any blogging about the regulation of child pornography or social network and organizational theory as applied to employment discrimination here, alas.

So what's left to write about? I sometimes write about the legal academy from an insider's perspective. I enjoy these posts, but they take a lot of time--particularly since I try to bring in references from pedagogical theory or sociological perspectives on the law. I sometimes write about my personal life, but I am growing more and more reticent in this area the more I'm read by future colleagues.

There is political blogging. But I have been avoiding that as of late. Why?

I can't say. I know it links back to the first point--I hardly write anymore from a race-conscious perspective, and the trolls out there make me somewhat cautious about gender-conscious writing. And while I could write about the French elections or other political news of the day, there are people far smarter than me and far more qualified who are better reads. They say, "write what you know." But should I? The part of me that now resists identity politics, as if I'm obligated to write on every racial issue--particularly if it's Asian-American--or every feminist issue (though here, I feel more keen to express my opinion and fee less tokenism), when I know there is no such obligation.

Or is there? Is there some responsibility I have as an Asian American woman to write about certain issues and offer my perspective in a predominantly white and male legal academy? Should I discuss, as if I was authoritative, the ethnic identity of Seung-Hui Cho and what that means, if anything? Should I discuss the XOXOth controversy and the general misogyny of the blogosphere? There were several articles in the NYT a couple of months ago on the Asian Americanization of campuses, with an almost "yellow peril" tone--and I passed up the subject. I don't know if that was irresponsible or just simply my prerogative.

It is strange, to have a voice and platform and wonder what to do with it. It's like holding some hammers and axes in your hand and wondering what they're for--to destroy or build? There is never such a stark dichtomy, but as it is I stare at my hands, typing away on the keyboard, and sometimes I don't know where they're going or where they should go.

I have several different hats on right now, a mind that is changing, and hands that seem almost wholly independent. But linking all of these is an undercurrent of feeling--responsibility, of tension, of resistance to I don't know what or whom, except myself past, present, and future.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday Poet: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Little to no blogging until Tuesday night, when I'm back from The Best Friend's wedding, and done with being The Best Bridesmaid Ever.

Until then, something for lovers real or imagined, far or near, present or departed.

Enjoy.


X
Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful indeed
And worth of acceptation. Fire is bright,
Let temple burn, or flax; an equal light
Leaps in the flame from cedar-plank or weed:
And love is fire. And when I say at need
I love thee . . . mark! . . . I love thee--in thy sight
I stand transfigured, glorified aright,
With conscience of the new rays that proceed
Out of my face toward thine. There's nothing low
In love, when love the lowest: meanest creatures
Who love God, God accepts while loving so.
And what I feel, across the inferior features
Of what I am, doth flash itself, and show
How that great work of Love enhances Nature's.


XXI
Say over again, and yet once over again,
That thou dost love me,Though the word repeated
Should seem a "cuckoo-song," as dost treat it,
Remember, never to the hill or plain,
Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain
Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.
Beloved, I, amid the darkness greeted
By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt's pain
Cry, "Speak once more--thou lovest!" Who can fear
Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,
Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?
Say thou dost love me, love me, love me--toll
The silver iterance!--only minding, Dear,
To love me also in silence with thy soul.


XLIII
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thoughts on Talking About Tough Issues

In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, I've been struck by how much my friends, American and international, want and need to talk about it. Some want to talk about the human element--who was this killer? Why did he do it? Was it because of his "background," and how he was brought up? Should the Asian American community, particular at Virginia Tech, fear backlash? Is this going to jumpstart xenophobia regarding Asians, and bring back stereotypes about the "perpetual other"? Some want to jump straight to the policy discussion. Why doesn't America have more stringent gun control laws? Should universities act in loco parentis, and if Virginia Tech had, would this have been prevented? Is this an aberration, or is this something that is a product of our national policies and social culture?

I dont' know the answers. I don't even have fully formulated thoughts or opinions--right now all I have are impressions, and reactions. Often conflicting. And all very sad.

I can't express them very coherently, but I will express my sadness and condolences to those affected. And I think everyone is affected. I can't detach myself intellectually and analyze only the policy issues, as if everyone who died was a mere statistic and the person at fault some nameless, faceless, "raceless" killer. But I can't say that I care only about the human tragedy--my thoughts on this reach beyond the individual people and to my country and its direction, and humanity and its collective soul.

I don't know what to think or say. I don't feel that I should. So much of the media coverage and blog discussion out there is normative, prescriptive--as it should be, we should not shy away from having opinions and recommendations. But I feel utterly inequipped to offer any of my own. In all the discussions I've been having about this, I've been hesitant, almost equivocating. I don't know why I don't want to declare strong opinions, when usually I am very opinionated about almost everything. I think I am waiting--for more information, for a sense of certitude (if ever it comes) about my opinions on big, tough public policy issues, for more insight into the mind of a troubled youth with whom I can never identify but know that some people will expect me to intuit, as he is ostensibly a member of "my" Asian American community.

So I write today not to offer you my commentary in the form of opinions or recommendations, but just to say that I find it all very confusing. And very sad.

But I shall keep on talking about this. Even if the discussions go "nowhere" in terms of finding a reason or solution--somehow, even if there is nothing I can say at the end of the conversation that defines me or the problem at hand, I feel like talking is constructive. In all of these tough conversations with different people and about different aspects, I find that I grow closer to finding where I stand, and where I believe my country should be. It's tough to talk about this, but I think I should. I don't always feel a sense of responsibility to talk about or write about certain issues, for example just because they touch on issues of race or gender--but this is more than about race or the 2nd Amendment. It is about someone of my generation, it is about my country, it is about my humanity.

So let's talk.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Denial Ain't Just A River

Things happening in the next two weeks:

1. The Best Friend getting married.

2. Frenchie Best Friend leaving for France for the summer, then to opposite side of country (near The Best Friend, sort of).

3. Decision about SJD program.

Mood: anxious, contemplative, tinged with nostalgia, drenched in denial.

Thesis: not done.

Finals: don't care.

Blogging: bad and self-centered.

Sorry, all. I'd like to do a MoneyLaw post, but those take some time. This summer will be more interesting, and summer is nigh. Scarily enough.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Saturday Poet: Dorothy Parker

Some days call for Neruda and his sublime sensuality. This is not one of those days.

Some days call for T.S. Eliot, and his apocalyptic reflections on the modern state or latter-day redemption. This could be one of those days, but it is not yet.

Some days call for Dorothy Parker, and her caustic, "fuck all and especially you" wit. This is one of those days.

Enjoy.

Ballade of a Great Weariness

There's little to have but the things I had,
There's little to bear but the things I bore.
There's nothing to carry and naught to add,
And glory to Heaven, I paid the score.

There's little to do but I did before,
There's little to learn but the things I know;
And this is the sum of a lasting lore:
Scratch a lover, and find a foe.

And couldn't it be I was young and mad
If ever my heart on my sleeve I wore?
There's many to claw at a heart unclad,
And little the wonder it ripped and tore.

There's one that'll join in their push and roar,
With stories to jabber, and stones to throw;
He'll fetch you a lesson that costs you sore:
Scratch a lover, and find a foe.

So little I'll offer to you, my lad;
It's little in loving I set my store.
There's many a maid would be flushed and glad,
And better you'll knock at a kindlier door.

I'll dig at my lettuce, and sweep my floor,
Forever, forever I'm done with woe.
And happen I'll whistle about my chore,
"Scratch a lover, and find a foe."


A Certain Lady

Oh, I can smile for you, and tilt my head,
And drink your rushing words with eager lips,
And paint my mouth for you a fragrant red,
And trace your brows with tutored finger-tips.
When you rehearse your list of loves to me,
Oh, I can laugh and marvel, rapturous-eyed.
And you laugh back, nor can you ever see
The thousand little deaths my heart has died.
And you believe, so well I know my part,
That I am gay as morning, light as snow,
And all the straining things within my heart
You'll never know.

Oh, I can laugh and listen, when we meet,
And you bring tales of fresh adventurings, --
Of ladies delicately indiscreet,
Of lingering hands, and gently whispered things.
And you are pleased with me, and strive anew
To sing me sagas of your late delights.
Thus do you want me -- marveling, gay, and true,
Nor do you see my staring eyes of nights.
And when, in search of novelty, you stray,
Oh, I can kiss you blithely as you go ....
And what goes on, my love, while you're away,
You'll never know.


Dilemma

If I were mild, and I were sweet,
And laid my heart before your feet,
And took my dearest thoughts to you,
And hailed your easy lies as true;
Were I to murmur "Yes," and then
"How true, my dear," and "Yes," again,
And wear my eyes discreetly down,
And tremble whitely at your frown,
And keep my words unquestioning
My love, you'd run like anything!

Should I be frail, and I be mad,
And share my heart with every lad,
But beat my head against the floor
What times you wandered past my door;
Were I to doubt, and I to sneer,
And shriek "Farewell!" and still be here,
And break your joy, and quench your trust-
I should not see you for the dust!


For A Lady Who Must Write Verse:

Unto seventy years and seven,
Hide your double birthright well-
You, that are the brat of Heaven
And the pampered heir to Hell.

Let your rhymes be tinsel treasures,
Strung and seen and thrown aside.
Drill your apt and docile measures
Sternly as you drill your pride.

Show your quick, alarming skill in
Tidy mockeries of art;
Never, never dip your quill in
Ink that rushes from your heart.

When your pain must come to paper,
See it dust, before the day;
Let your night-light curl and caper,
Let it lick the words away.

Never print, poor child, a lay on
Love and tears and anguishing,
Lest a cooled, benignant Phaon
Murmur, "Silly little thing!"

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Friday, April 13, 2007

In Which Belle Debates Going to Her Own LL.M. Graduation

(I'm still formulating my thoughts on classes you should take or avoid in law school and why)

Brief, because I want to be perfunctory:

The LL.M. program is a one-year terminal masters. To an American with a J.D., it feels like a fourth year of law school. If I went it would be my big hoopla third graduation ceremony, and not as significant to me as a SJD graduation, even though it's a terminal master's program.

My parents aren't going. They don't fly, and live too far away to comfortably make the journey, and my siblings work six days a week. So no one from my immediate family is going. Most of my friends are too far away as well, and have made trips to visit me for far more fun randomness. So the only people who would go to "watch" me "walk" are probably my friends' parents and my future roomate.

I have only a few friends in the program, and only a few more friends at the larger law school and university. It's going to be one of those ceremonies I show up to immediately before, snap quickly a few pictures with about 3-4 people, and then leave as quickly to toast/drink away the memories.

But I'm thinking of going anyway.

Why?!


Because, as Hipster Law Prof Dude says, "drama makes for good memories." So my feelings about not going to a ceremony that is the finale to law school drama would be like not seeing the climax and denouement of a strange and dramatic story.

Because I feel like I owe it to my parents to at least walk and send them one picture. My brother called yesterday, asking me if I wanted him to buy regalia gear and diploma frames. Now I feel like I can't not go.

Because, as Brilliant Bon Vivant Law Student says, unless I have "something better to do," (I don't) it's fun to "strut across the stage."

Okay, then.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Note About Comments, and Future Advisory Blog Posts

Just to let you know, I've enabled comment moderation. I've been getting more spam commenting and trackback lately, and so I think it's the best thing to do since Haloscan doesn't have the code ready for typekey authentication. Also, I'm increasingly wary about the troll comments and anything that might compromise my pseudonymity. It'll take a bit longer for comments to appear, but comment threads are always open. As always, feel free to write Belle a letter.

It's approaching the end of the year. I don't have much I've learned of use from this 4th year of law school, other than some personal lessons I'd rather keep to myself. I will have some comments about the utility of LLM programs for academic-track lawyers. And I will have some things to say about classes I think every student should take, classes I could have done without, and classes I still plan to take. Heck, I might share some of the personal lessons after all. We'll see.

Until then, old but still useful from around the blogosphere:

Dan Solove's Exam Taking Tips

Orin Kerr on Good, Bad, and Terrific Exam Answers

Spencer Overton's Advice for Law Students of Color (but I think generally applicable too)

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Random French Symbolism

(I will go back to writing more substantive law and legal academy related posts shortly, but for now am too exhausted by both gender discrimination and the federal regulation of child pornography, which are exceedingly depressing subjects to write about and read all day. )

Just because at certain times and on certain days, when you can't say everything you wish you could say, there is a story that is better left untold, writing sucks, school is dreary, and life in general is not as awesome as Awesome Part of the Country:


The Foe

My youth was naught else but a dark, raging storm,
Traversed here and there by a ray of bright sun;
The thunder and rain wrought such havoc and harm
That but few crimson fruits in my garden remain.
Now it seems I have reached the autumn of ideas,
And must use in that garden the spade and the rake
To make whole once again the inundated ground,
Where the water has hollowed out holes big as graves.
And who konws if the new blooms I'm now dreaming of
Will find in this soil, washed and leached like a strnad,
The mystical food which would cause them to thrive?
O sorrow! O grief! Life is eaten by Time,
And the dark, deadly Foe who still gnaws at our hearts,
From the blood that we lose, grows gigantic and strong!

--Baudelaire


Ville

I am an ephemeral and a not too discontented citizen of a metropolis considered modern because all known taste has been evaded in the furnishings and the exterior of the houses as well as in the layout of the city . Here you would fail to detect the least trace of any monument of superstition. Morals and language are reduced to their simplest expression, at last! The way these millions of people, who do not even need to know each other, manage their education, business, and old age is so identitcal that the course of their lives must be several times less long than that which a mad statistics calculates for the people of the continent. And from my window I see new specters rolling through the thick eternal smoke--our woodland shasde, our summer night!--new Eumenides in front of my cottage which is my country and all my heart since everything here resembles it,--death without tears, our diligent daughter and servant, a desperate Love, and a pretty Crime howling in the mud of the street.

--- "Ville," Arthur Rimbaud

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Superstitious, but not Super

'Round finals/writing hell time, I like to surround myself with comforting things. I buy tons of gourmet food, "premium" teas, and imported anything. High thread count sheets. Pictures of family and friends from better days. It's a little coping mechanism that takes over my life. It's a little princessy, I know.

I also become exceedingly superstitious. I try not to say things that jinx my prospects--I have but one deadline, but I try not to make others. I try not to say out loud the bad things that can happen. If such things are uttered, you must knock on wood, or if you live in an Ikea den like I do (where everything is poly), knock on your head. I back up my files like crazy. I avoid walking underneath ladders. Seriously.

I also combine both comfort and superstition by wearing my most meaningful objects--a jade Buddha pendant, given by my dear sister, on a necklace, given by my darling mother, I've had since ten. A silver ring I bought my freshman year of college that only fits on my left ring finger, which makes me look married, achieving the double duty of being sentimental and keeping random guys from hitting on me. And a gold link bracelet (Vietnamese style, hard to describe) my mom gave me that I've had since I was twelve.

In my mind, wearing these beloved, meaningful, years-old objects brings me luck and power. Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy in the Buddhist faith, is a symbol of my faith and offers me protection. The ring reminds me of the little silver band my first love proposed to me with. The necklace represents my mother's embrace. Wonder Woman has special bracelets of power, that deflected danger. So do I. Or I did.

I've just discovered that I lost the bracelet.

I don't want to think about what this means for my future. I don't know if this means I'm more vulnerable.

I just want to be comforted.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Saturday Poet: Stephen Dunn

One of my favorvite books is Different Hours.


The Party

After I buried the century's putrid corpse
and resolved to rid the world
of utopias and the fat
which had collected around my waist,

I kissed the lovely one I was with
and a few others I might as easily have slugged.
How festive it was at the mausoleum!
Even I wanted to dance the tarantella

until dawn, make love shamelessly in the open.
A few enemies extended their hands
and when the famous sentimentalist spoke
about his inner weather my heart sank so low

I poured myself a large, neat glass of Glenfiddich.
"Houston," I said, "Tranquility Base here,
the Eagle ahs landed." And my best friend laughed.
Meanwhile, the century had begun to stir

in its coffin; several of us sensed it.
Maybe it was the best parts of it
twitching to be remembered? Maybe Churchill
and Kafka and a handful of edgy others

were appalled by teh stench so near them?
But by this time all of us were used
to injustice. We partied on
into the tabula rasa of the new century

as if somehow we could erase our pasts
by just moving forward,
as if, come morning, we wouldn't wake
with the bitterest nostalgias.

Optimism

My friend the pessimist thinks I'm optimistic
because I seem to believe in the next good thing.
But I see rueful shadows almost everywhere.
When the sun rises I think of collisions and AK-47s.
It's my mother's fault, who praised and loved me,
sent me into the dreadful world as if
it would tell me a story I'd understand. The fact is
optimism is the enemy of happiness.
I've learned to live for the next good thing
because lifelong friends write good-bye lettres,
because regret follows every timidity.
I'm glad I konw that all great romances are fleshed
with failure. I'll take a day of bitterness and rain
to placate the gods, to get it over with.
My mother told me I could be a great pianist
because I had long fingers. My fingers are small.
It's my mother's fault, every undeserved sweetness.


The Reverse Side

It's why when we speak a truth
some of us instantly feel foolish
as if a deck inside us has been shuffled
and there it is--the opposite
of what we said.

And perhaps why as we fall in love
we're already falling out of it.

It's why the terrified and the simple
latch onto one story,
just one version of the great mystery.

Image & afterimage, oh even
the open-minded yearn for a fiction
to rein things in--
the snapshot, the lie of a frame

How do we not go crazy,
we who have found ourselves compelled
to live within the circle, the elipsis, the word
not yet written.

Art

"Vissi d'arte" sang Callas on my boombox
and, alone in early evening, swept up and stilled,
I saw myself as husband, poet, slackard,
undriven drifter through house and world.
I knew I could be distracted by weather,
lured by box scores and decolletage.
Puccini, though, must have lived for art,
as Callas certainly did, which is no doubt why
a small tear formed in teh corner
of my left eye, a kind of appaluse.
At which the mood insensitive clock gestured
my wife's plane would soon touch down.
I didn't want to move. Was Puccini
ever taken from such a fine moment?
Was Callas? They must have been, of course.
And couldn't bear it. Or ranted anyway
because they were brilliantly selfish,
or what involved them just then
was magical, in a sense their lives,
a virtuosity that shouldn't be disturbed.
Outside, the wind chime began to chime.
I was sure the promised storm would flirt,
then veer north. I had to stop
for gas. I had to make the bed I hadn't made.
since she left. Was the indoor cat in?
Were the windows down? All the way
to the airport I tried to amber,
beat read. I parked in short term. I ran.
Man of urgency. Man of what later,
with feeling, might be sung.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Damn I Miss the '90s

Up till a few years ago, I had appalling taste in music. And despite my since-2002 love of indie rock and jazz, many people still think I have appalling taste in music. What's wrong with Marvin Gaye?!

The girl who grew up in the sunny suburb in me misses the bad, BAD pop rock (without the fizz) of the '90s. I mean, I really do miss grunge rock and excruciatingly dramatic, fist-pumping rock ballads of the '90s. Only the '80s hair bands did it better. Damn, I miss the '90s, and those days when I thought no one understood me but Alanis Morrissette (yes, you can go "WTF?!" now).

So, part of me really wants this BUZZ BALLADS CD set for the AWESOMELY BAD power rock ballads. I saw the informercial last night when I was watching "Best Week Ever" on VH1. No, I'm not ashamed to admit that. Only thing is, where is No Doubt? Where is Alanis? Veruca Salt? Where are the girl power bands?! What's with all this "2000's" music? Otherwise, this is almost perfect for a Gen X/Y Dinner Party.

Oh wait, that's the Reality Bites soundtrack. Wait, I hate Ethan Hawk. Or maybe Grosse Pointe Blank. Or High Fidelity. I wish that John Cusack, and not Zach Braff, was the voice of my generation. If only.

This, however, is the "Buzz Ballads" track list. Don't you miss the '90s?! No? Well, okay then.


Disc 1

Lightning Crashes Live
Champagne Supernova Oasis
If You Could Only See Tonic
Glycerine Bush
Doll Parts Hole
Santeria Sublime
Hemorrhage (In My Hands) Fuel
A Long December Counting Crows
Counting Blue Cars Dishwalla
Linger Cranberries
Hanging By A Moment Lifehouse
Runaway Train Soul Asylum
Til I Hear It From You Gin Blossoms
Here's To The Night Eve 6
What Do I Have To Do? Stabbing Westward
Out of My Head Fastball

Disc 2


It's Been Awhile Staind
Jumper Third Eye Blind
Wasting My Time Default
Everything You Want Vertical Horizon
Sex And Candy Marcy Playground
Far Behind Candlebox
The Freshmen The Verve Pipe
Take A Picture Filter
What It's Like Everlast
Something's Always Wrong Toad The Wet Sprocket
World I Know Collective Soul
Desperately Wanting Better Than Ezra
Angry Johnny Poe
Save Me Remy Zero
Easy Faith No More
Smells Like Teen Spirit Tori Amos

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Orgtheory.net's Grad Skool Rulz

Fabio from Orgtheory gives the following advice for grad students: Make Some Friends.

Here's a truncated version, but you should read the entire post:

Your ultimate success in grad school depends on the creativity and effort
you invest in your work, but having a good set of friends is important. Here’s
what your friends can do for you, and what you can do for them:

  1. Offer emotional support.
  2. Offer information.
  3. Offer academic help.
  4. Start a project.
  5. Have fun.

You shouldn’t be a complete social butterfly and spend all your time
socializing, or pretend to be everyone’s friend. But do realize that having just
a few good, dependable friends can make a big difference in the quality of
your graduate education.



I agree completely with Fabio. I do, however, offer these caveats.

Graduate school (and law school in particular) is a very intense environment. Your cohort is likely to be small, many people go straight after college at the tender age of 21 or 22. If you go to a "national" school, most of the people in the program will be from other states or cities, and thus without an existing social network--and so the school becomes their social network and family replacement. You see a lot of each other and for the first year are likely to take the same mandatory intro courses and attend the same organized social events. Don't mistake daily interaction for emotional intimacy. Don't tell people everything about yourself, unless you want your future colleagues to know your most intimate details. Try to keep a separate life and a separate set of interests. Try to keep your private life private, and be wary of the impression you're making through your conduct and words. I'm not saying self-censor in the extreme, or that you shouldn't be yourself--but no matter how you conduct yourself, people will have their own interpretations and stories. There will be gossip, inexorably. You can only minimize the gossip, but you can't get away from it.

Make acqaintences first, and friends later. This relates to the "don't mistake daily interaction for intimacy" thing. It's just that you never know, till the end of the first year, and definitively until after you leave the school, who your real friends are. There are people with whom it will be pleasant to hang out, have lunch, chit chat amicably and superfically. But however you define "true friendship," wait and see if people can fit your definition. Indeed, it's often the case that the people you count as friends at the beginning may not be the same as the ones you have at the end. Sometime this is a sad, but necessary and good thing.

There are a ton of other rules rules about making and keeping friends in grad school. All sorts of things people say in favor and against dating in your program. All sorts of stuff about how to do damage control given the excessive drinking culture (hard to believe that I have seen future partners and judges piss-drunk). But that is a topic for another day.

I can say that I wish I had taken my own advice. I can say that.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

In Which Belle Ponders The Hours of Her Young, Wasted Life.

(Or, an apology to all my friends for what I am about to do in the next two months)

I don't have enough hours in a day, and I find myself living life not by days, weeks, or months, or even the poetic and vague "moment," but rather by hours. How much I need to get done in one hour. How many hours total I need to work in a day, even if non-consecutive. How many hours I have to spend in class as opposed to writing. How many hours cooking, eating, showering, and walking to and fro take (approximately 3-4 in a day, believe it or not, even if you multi-task).

Everything is in hours. The Hours....the hours.


For having lived in Westminster—how many years now? Over twenty,--one feels
seven in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a
particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that
might be her heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben
strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then
the hour, irrevocable.

Michael Cunningham, The Hours


Irrevocable indeed. There are so many hours I wish I could have taken back. The two hours spent watching that execrable remake of L'Ultimo Bacio, i.e. The Last Kiss starring Zach Braff, bane of my generation. I wish I could take back so many hours spent enmired in and crying over Law School Drama (both at Bourgie Metro and here at Liberal College Law). I wish I could take back the hour I spent this morning on the phone trying to figure out what on earth is wrong with the people at Cingular. I wish.

A flock of sparrows outside her window once sang, unmistakably, in
Greek. This state makes her hellishly miserable; in this state she is
capable of shrieking at Leonard or anyone else who comes near (fizzling, like
devels, with light); and yet this state when protracted also begins to enshroud
her, hour by hour, like a chrysalis. Eventually, when enough hours has
passed, she emerges, bloodied, trembling, but full of vision and ready, once
she’s rested, to work again. She dreads her lapses into pain and light and
she suspects they are necessary.

The Hours.

I have my good hours and my bad hours. Good hours are productive, they are hours in which I write with great energy, insight, and verve. Good hours are comforting, they are hours I spend cooking homey, one-pot meals (chicken soup, masoor dal, peruvian beans, casseroles) or in bed, reading a novel or The New Yorker. These hours don't come by often. More recently, I've been having bad hours. Hours spent unproductively trying to write even two pages that I don't want to throw out. Hours spent with painful, "is this what it's like to grow old" headaches. Hours spent anxious and bitchy, until I am glad that I live alone and am sorry, later, for the friends who still spend time with me, in silence, as I work--just to share the same space. I take that back--even bad hours have their good moments.

Speaking of friends...I have them, don't I. Notwithstanding various debacles this year in Law School Drama (like the Disney show "High School Musical"...but less entertaining), I have a roster of people with whom I talk/email weekly or biweekly, and they are all long-distance friends (pretty much the only kind of friends I have, apart from school acquaintences and currently French Dandy Dude). Two friends from high school (including The Best Friend), three from college, and one from law school. Most of them know that around finals I go MIA, often for months. I stop writing. I stop calling. I don't return every email or phone call. I become The Bad Friend.

If I have time, I am The Best Friend Ever--hand-made cards, thoughtfully selected gifts, mix-CDs, care packages, baked goods--you name it, I'll do it for you if you're on The List. For those not on The List...well then I'm just Most Mediocre Friend Ever. And during crunch time, I'm just generally the Mediocre Friend (and Sporadic Blogger, and Barely Adequate Student) all around. It sucks. But I fear I will have to pull back, pull away, and become Mediocre Friend. I apologize, to friends old and new, nearby and long-distance.

It struck me, last night. I knew it was time to make a phone call, as it had almost been two weeks, to one of my best friends from high school. I called her walking home from school, those twenty minutes I can spare after class, before dinner, and a long night's work. It came to me again, talking later that night to Friendly Young Law Prof, a conversational window we had to schedule a week in advance, an all-too-short half hour before we both went back to work. It struck me, how lately I measure my life in hours, and in increments of hours, rather than moments and memories. How these non-work hours are spent thinking of work or talking about work, until every social interaction I have is quasi-professional, until all my hours resemble office hours. It is too sad. I want my friends to be friends, and not merely colleagues. I want the days when Suburban Girl Friend and I talked about art history and what to wear on our next date. I want to go back to the days just two months ago, pre-crunch time, when Friendly Young Law Prof and I talked about movies and families and fun things, when I actually entertained fantasies of having enough time to do that trip through Foreign Part of the Country and visit some friends there, and FYLP in particular. But for some reason, despite my best efforts, all I talk about is work, all I think about is work, and the hours I spend not working are hours I consider "wasted"--which is an insult to the good company with whom I spend those hours.


Does this bother me? More than a little. Much as I love talking about my work and getting feedback and support on it, there are times when I would not like to define myself with my work. I vaguely remember once being an interesting person. I generally believe in conversation as an art form, and my dilettante self can talk about anything: art, music, film, urban planning, sports, architecture, history, you name it. I am known for the excitable, hand-gesture laden way of telling the saddest or most traumatic stories of my weird and strict upbringing in ways that end up being both funny and poignant. I am known for trying to reenact funny or strange things I hear on public radio, trying to render verbal into visceral, to strange effect and varying degrees of success. (I have a girlish voice, and so for me to affect a stentorian voice while physically acting out radio bits is....interesting). I am known for trying to have entire conversations in very bad fake accents, in which I try to do an Scottish "aye" and end up saying "arrghh" and thus try to pass myself off as a Scottish pirate impersonator. Well, I guess I should say that I used to be known for these things. Where did I go? When did I become boring? When did this blog become all about the Law, the Legal Academy, or my food and sleep deprived life, and not funny things like my brother, the Asian Cowboy?

The Hours

Worst was to live by somebody else's time,
the hours scheduled for him, smudged
with clarity and motives not his own.

He preferred the enigmas of early morning
and the neither-here-nor-thereness of dusk,
which gave the half-life he lived an atmosphere.
He liked watching it collect itself,
impossible to tell if it descended or rose.

He didn't care for noon's bustle and blare.
And evenings couldn't be trusted, he felt,
so dependent were they on other people.

Even evenings alone were measured
by who wasn't there. Desire & Need,
how they sat down with him,
helped like untrained helpers
arrange the hours that followed.
Evening was their time.

He remembered, of course, the lovely hours--
the body's sudden holidays, prolonged fiestas
of the mind. He rewound and rewound.

-- Stephen Dunn (from "Different Hours")



The Hours...the hours. I wish I could rewind. To redo this year in different ways, to have more time on my thesis, to go back to last fall and make a few different choices--and take some chances. Life is full of regret, of hours misspent, life wasted, hours that slip away like memories from a too porous mind--or a mind occupied with too much else to make memories worth keeping.

But this is how I'd rather live:

Such fools are we, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For heaven only
knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round
one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, most
dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same;
can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very
reason: they love life. In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and
trudge; in the bellow and the uproar, the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses,
vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the
triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead
was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.

The Hours


Perhaps June will be better. For now, I disappear, like that irrevocable hour.

But I will be blogging. I have to have something to do at 3 am at night when there is no one else up to talk to and I am done with work.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Being Personal In the Name of Public Service

Though the farthest I'll go in talking about my personal life is little tasty tidbits about friends and daily doings (but not boyfriends or dates), I'll make a public service exceptions. Without conveying anything about my romantic life and definitely nothing about my sex life, I will relate today's trip to get the new HPV vaccine.

I'm incredibly lazy sometimes at taking care of myself, and this means I can go for days without sleep, hours without eating, and only hours without coffee. But I get a "Women's Exam" every year, which is a pelvic exam, pap smear, and breast exam. I do this whether or not I've had sexual intercourse at any point in that year, and there were definitely some years between relationships where the exam seemed like an unnecessary chore. I know I seem startingly candid about this, but I really can't stress the importance of taking care of your body now and later. I used to write a sexual health column for my college feminist newspaper, and give sexual health presentations at the "Women's Center." Sexual morality has nothing to do with it--every woman above the age of 18 should be having a yearly exam to make sure her ovaries are where they should be, her uterus isn't tilted, her cycle regular, that there are no medically threatening cysts or fibroids, and that there are no STIs or yeast infections that if left untreated could lead to more serious conditions and/or infertility. So I've been pretty good about that, each year getting an exam, making sure I'm cancer-free and that when I am ready to have kids, that I will be able to have them. Reproductive and general physical health can have everything or almost nothing to do with your present sex life.

I have been lazy, however, about getting the new HPV vaccine. It came out last summer, and despite having graduate health insurance, I never got around to getting the shot--until today. Thanks, to The Best Friend, for reminding me. It's a three-dose vaccine, the second and third shots given two months and six months later, respectively. So it's a drawn out process that you should start, unlike me, as soon as possible. The vaccine is approved for women ages 13-26, and I turn 27 next fall. It's something to consider getting NOW if you're going to be turning 27 soon (the efficacy for women above 26 is still being tested, and insurance might not cover if you are over I presume) or if your graduate health insurance is about to expire. I spent a year sans insurance in between law schools, and while that seems stupid and unimaginable (think: unemployed), I know this can happen to many a young graduate. So if you have insurance that will soon expire and you don't think you'll be able to afford to self-insure or pay for the immunization, and if your 27th birthday approaches: get the shots now, or at least start the immunization. About 50% of people are or have been infected with HPV and don't even know it, and men can be silent carriers. And it's not so easily protected against using conventional prophylactics. It sucks. So try to prevfent yourself from being infected with HPV.

The HPV vaccine is a muscle shot, which means my upper arm is a bit sore and typing, six hours later, is kind of tiresome. But it's worth it, for some peace of mind. So, whatever your views on sexual morality, get the shot, get your yearly exam. It's that whole "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" thing.

End of Public Service Announcement.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

In Which Belle Ponders The Necessity of Certain Things

Such as:

1. Eating
2. Sleeping
3. Exercise
4. Cleaning
5. Working

Thesis hell supresses my appetite, and has an off-on thing with bouts of insomnia and then huge headaches that make me lie down and sleep for 5 hours during the day in addition to 6 at night. So I can't really get around those two. I force myself to eat three times a day as much as I can choke down, and try not to eat only bread (I am not low-carb, I am "pro-carb"). Eating involves cooking, which I do about twice a week, in substantial family-sized quantities (keep in mind I'm a small girl) until I get sick of 8 quarts of chicken soup or 6 quarts of masoor dal. But I can't seem to cheat those two necessities of life.

Exercise: something I didn't do at all the first time around in law school, that I'm surprisingly keeping up here. I walk at least a couple of miles a day to and from school or for health, brisk walks at that. I used to hike more regularly. It clears my head, but I'm trying to figure out how to integrate exercising with other things for maximum utility: walking to errands, carrying groceries while walking is like lifting weights for a mile. If only law books came on tape, then I'd be set. I figure the long meandering walks I used to take are out, as are intensive two hour hikes.

Cleaning: damn, I hate that. I like having a clean, well organized workspace. I work from home. I cook, eat, and work here. Consequently, the problem arises when the dishes and articles and books stack up, and the clothing piles up in the laundry bin. I feel oppressed by the weight of so many piles. I am normally a neat freak, except when I am freaking out about other things. Is there a way to get around this? I have a 300 square feet studio--so there's no escaping the clutter, and it's not even that big that I can justify going for more than two weeks without disinfecting and cleaning it from top to bottom. Yet, the fact remains, you can't cook without clean surfaces, can't eat without clean dishes, can't sleep unless your bed has enough space for you (pushing aside the books and clothes). Curses.

Work: well, you all know the necessity of that.

Note, nowhere on the list right now, is something called "fun."

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Monday, April 02, 2007

It Finally Happened

It finally happened: It's gotten to the point where I go to school so rarely that I forgot my locker combination.

Through the genius of library proxy servers, Westlaw, Lexis-Nexus, JSTOR, HeinOnline, and SSRN, I hardly have to leave home to do work. I don't like our law library, and it's a far enough walk from home (and I have stacks of files and books to lug around) to make it of limited utility. We don't have offices or even study carrels here, and so why should I try to bring the mountains of stuff I need to write my articles to and from school? I only have two classes, two days a week, one day finishing by 10 am and the other with such a huge gap between classes that I can go home or off to a cafe to work for four hours before my next class. None of my classes require me to enter the central part of the law school (indeed, one is in a separate adjacent building), and I have so few books that I don't really even use my locker much. I have a laser printer, a (mostly) working ethernet connection, and loads of tea and Vietnamese coffee. I never have to, or really want to, leave my cozy home office (the entire studio is a home office).

So it finally happened. I put book in my small, almost useless locker before spring break. Nine days later, I tried to retrieve it. And I forgot the combination.

More than my program-mates registering suprise at seeing me at school, or not really knowing where certain rooms are, this is the final nail in the coffin of my active participation in campus life. I'm pretty much just writing as much as I can, so I don't go to all that many public lectures and colloquia like I did back in Bourgie Metro Law School. I'm not in any organizations. I'm not really a part of the school, and that's my fault. It's the nature of the beast: the academic writing track at my school is pretty isolated and detached, and without enthusiasm for integrating yourself into school life, you can almost entirely avoid it. And I have enthusiasm for the latter. I just want to do my own work now, and have my separate personal life, and I'm happier now even though there's a twinge of sadness at realizing how I isolate myself on purpose because I feel no inducement to join the campus culture. Maybe if it were a different culture and if I felt more comfortable and eager about it--but I'm not.

I can't pretend I didn't expect this to happen, but there was a certain amount of optimism in my memory and my early hope that I would be a happy and active participant in law school life that I never wrote down the locker combo.

I'm writing it down now.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Saturday Poet for Sunday: Philip Larkin

Belatedly, because I don't have an internet connection at home for some godforsaken reason:


Essential Beauty

In frames as large as rooms that face all ways
And block the ends of streets with giant loaves,
Screen graves with custard, cover slums with praise
Of motor-oil and cuts of salmon, shine
Perpetually these sharply-pictured groves
Of how life should be. High above the gutter
A silver knife sinks into golden butter,
A glass of milk stands in a meadow, and
Well-balanced families, in fine
Midsummer weather, owe their smiles, their cars,
Even their youth, to that small cube each hand
Stretches towards. These, and the deep armchairs
Aligned to cups at bedtime, radiant bars
(Gas or electric), quarter-profile cats
By slippers on warm mats,
Reflect none of the rained-on streets and squares

They dominate outdoors.
Rather, they rise
Serenely to proclaim pure crust, pure foam,
Pure coldness to our live imperfect eyes
That stare beyond this world, where nothing's made
As new or washed quite clean, seeking the home
All such inhabit.
There, dark raftered pubs
Are filled with white-clothed ones from tennis-clubs,
And the boy puking his heart out in the Gents
Just missed them, as the pensioner paid
A halfpenny more for Granny Graveclothes' Tea
To taste old age, and dying smokers sense
Walking towards them through some dappled park
As if on water that unfocused she
No match lit up, nor drag ever brought near,
Who now stands newly clear,
Smiling, and recognising, and going dark.

He Hears that His Beloved Has Become Engaged

For C.G.B.

When she came on, you couldn't keep your seat;
Fighting your way up through the orchestra,
Tup-heavy bumpkin, you confused your feet,
Fell in the drum - how we went ha ha ha!
But once you gained her side and started waltzing
We all began to cheer; the way she
cheek on yours and laughed was so exalting
We thought you were stooging for the management.
But no.

What you did, any of us might.
And saying so I see our difference:
Not your aplomb (I used mine to sit tight),
But fancying you improve her. Where's the sense
In saying love, but meaning indifference ?
You'll only change her.
Still, I'm sure you're right.

Love, We Must Part Now

Love, we must part now: do not let it be
Calamitious and bitter. In the past
There has been too much moonlight and self-pity:
Let us have done with it: for now at last
Never has sun more boldly paced the sky,
Never were hearts more eager to be free,
To kick down worlds, lash forests; you and I
No longer hold them; we are husks, that see
The grain going forward to a different use.

There is regret. Always, there is regret.
But it is better that our lives unloose,
As two tall ships, wind-mastered, wet with light,
Break from an estuary with their courses set,
And waving part, and waving drop from sight.


A Study of Reading Habits

When getting my nose in a book
Cured most things short of school,
It was worth ruining my eyes
To know I could still keep cool,
And deal out the old right hook
To dirty dogs twice my size.
Later, with inch-thick specs,
Evil was just my lark:
Me and my coat and fangs
Had ripping times in the dark.
The women I clubbed with sex!
I broke them up like meringues.

Don't read much now: the dude
Who lets the girl down before
The hero arrives, the chap
Who's yellow and keeps the store
Seem far too familiar.
Get stewed:
Books are a load of crap.

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The Return of the Native

(Alternate Title: Apologia To One Who Deserves It)

I'm back from my "working vacation": yes it's good to be back in my own home and in my kitchen and with my shelves of books, but I also wish I was still there with The Best Friend and some of the best Vietnamese food I've had since leaving American Vietnamese Village. It was a very good working vacation: I got a good amount of work done, and at night there was much fun had going out to eat, or just sitting around the kitchen table talking. The Best Friend and I don't go for more than a week without talking, and we are pretty good about emailing on top of that. Though for the past five years we've been living far away from each other, I make a point of visiting her, and she me, as much as we can wherever we are. So there was no need to have a high-pressured "let's see everything because I'm not coming back!" touring holiday, or "let's talk for 6 hours and tell me everything I've missed out on!" since there's very little to update her on from the previous week's conversation. I like that. When you are true friends, the work of the friendship is diligent and dedicated maintenance, but that's much easier than relationship building from scratch. We do work on keeping our friendship strong and current, but it's not really "work." And having grown up with her, I feel like I know her well and don't need so many words to discover her. There is an intimacy there that exists in the space between words, in the silent, smiling looks of undertanding. It was a wonderful holiday, each night, just reveling in the exotic pleasure of having her company.

Since coming back, I've been hanging out with French Dandy Dude a lot, in addition to Russian Macho Dude and my Super Sociologist Friend from college, who visited for a night. French Dandy Dude and I are getting along very well, not really like siblings--that's a weird analogy that does not fit my first truly platonic male friend--but rather like distant cousins who turn out to enjoy each other's company. You know that feeling? That you have very little in common with your immediate family but love them anyway; and loads in common with your friends but would only designate the women as being "like sisters" in that "sisterhood" feminist power. So it's like meeting one of those distant second or third cousins who grew up in a very different way from you at a large family gathering, and discovering that they actually have a fair amount in common with you against expectations. Because you don't expect to actually like, as friends, anyone in your family.

French Dandy Dude and I could not be more biologically distant, but it's that same weird feeling. We constantly mention how if we had met only three years ago, we would not be friends: he is too bourgie and upper-class; and I have too many class issues (currently upper-middle but formerly lower working) to forbear such elitist entrapments as "Gentlemen's Clubs" or "lacrosse" or "opera boxes"--and I was pretty much a bratty bitch about it all. Morally superior. And so is he, in the opposite direction. It's one of those things were I don't think I expected to like him as a person or be such good friends with him, yet here we are. Against all reason and so improbably, a bourgie uppercrust English educated French man is friends with a populist/struggling elitist totally American girl from the (literally) wrong side of the tracks. If this were a movie, it'd be a romantic comedy, except (blessedly) there is no romance to complicate this. See, he really is like my second cousin: one of those things were you know you just can't go there. There's a huge ick factor with the former, and, come to think of it, the latter.

He makes me appreciate my hypocritical elitism, the ephemeral beauty (ignoring the utility or cost) of life: an amazing pastry and cup of espresso, a beautiful dress that turns heads, the rough paintstrokes of my favorite paintings up close (as opposed to in a textbook), and the fleeting look of beauty that is that look of pure pleasure in oneself. He is walking decadance. I make him realize all of the class/gender/racial dimensions of everything (I am a sanctimonious bitch), the pleasure of fine stationary and pens for writing people you admire or care about, and an aggressive sense of democracy to anything and everything as I struggle with my class issues. It's a good friendship. He's not yet (and can't really be) "The" Best Friend (note definite article), but he can be "A" best friend. He's been awful good to me cooking for me in my thesis hell and accompanying me on my errands just for the company, and we support each other in our academic efforts and personal relationships (or lack thereof, I choose to be ambiguous and not write about my persona life). Moreover, I think we're getting used to being silent together as much as we talk, and that's a skill.

We're hanging out now, at a cafe, silently focusing on our own screens. There was much talking today. And now there is space between us. But it is a good kind of space--the kind that you can reach across, tappingly lightly on the shoulder, to say "I see your face, and I know what you're thinking."

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