The carcass of the bird is on the stove (or was, last night, when I began this post), simmering down into a stock for a soup we’ll eat for a week, if we’re lucky. This soup, I think. The lemon sounds good to me, and the Middle Eastern spices will be a nice change of taste. The guests have gone. A fire crackles. I am tired but happy and, yes, grateful for all the things a person in my ridiculously comfortable position ought to be: love, leftovers, a house suited for both comings and goings, a little dog, a partner skilled in fire-building. These are not things I take for granted. Oh, and you, of course, despite my terrible neglect recently, I am, I swear, still grateful for you, my legions of loyal, lovely readers. Thank you for being here. I’d be truly Mad without you. Now, those random bullets I promised you.
- Movie Mavens: Go see All Is Lost, writer-director J. C. Chandor’s absorbing, nearly wordless tale of an aging white dude (Robert Redford) whose solo sailing adventure goes horribly awry. It is brilliant for all the narrative and cinematic cliches it manages to avoid. In that respect, it is a much better film than this season’s other Adrift in an Indifferent Universe epic, Gravity, which I also enjoyed despite the fact that it collapsed into ludicrousness and sentimentality at key points. (I’d stage a full-on smackdown between the two films, but, lucky for me, someone has already done that.) Chandor deserves a medal for believing that moviegoers in a moment as loud and chattering as ours would sit through a film with one character who stares mortality in the face for a hundred minutes and has next to nothing to say. Reward his faith. Go see All Is Lost and then come back here and debate the ending with us. And tell us if you think the wedding ring on Our Man’s right hand is as significant as the close readers in our group of moviegoers thought it was. I thought it meant Redford’s character was a widower, which might help to explain his longing for solitude in a world far from home. Also, though, read A. O. Scott’s wonderfully astute reading of the film as “a fable about the soul of man under global capitalism.” Yeah, I know it sounds like the abstract of a paper from last week’s American Studies Association convention, but it’s really smart.
- Grammar Geeks: Go read this delightful account of the evolution of “because,” which now operates as a preposition in statements such as, Grammar nazis will grouse, but the rest of us will celebrate because USAGE! Language changes, and that isn’t always or necessarily bad. The speed and terseness of Internet communication have helped to produce new usages that are concise, clever, dense with irony and wit, and highly adaptable. Yes, I hate it when student papers sound as sloppy and informal as a late-night text message, but I love a cool maneuver that tightly yokes syntax, semantics, and zeitgeist into one neat little package. I could spend all day explaining this to you in great detail, but neither you nor I have time for that and you already know anyway because Interwebs!
- Book Nerds, Obamaniacs, and Friends of Willa Cather: The president patronized an independent bookstore in Washington, DC in support of Small Business Saturday. Among the books he purchased was Willa Cather’s classic My Antonia. I would have pegged the prez as more of a Professor’s House guy myself, but it could be he’s feeling nostalgic for his childhood on the Kenyan prairie. Or something. I just hope it’s not a gift for one of his daughters. I’d hate to think all that tuition money he and Michelle are dropping on Sidwell would end up in a future of farm work, bad teeth, and prolific motherhood. And, you know, being the object of some middle-aged white dude’s nostalgic fantasy. Just sayin’. (No disrespect to farming or the conditions of rural American life in the late nineteenth century, of course. Antonia has just never been my favorite Cather novel. Call me for recommendations, Mr. President. I am ready to serve as your Secret Santa/Cather Scholar on Call. Or, you could just buy this book.)
- Higher Ed Reformers: Read this and then shut the f_ck up about trying to reform higher ed. The opening lines made my heart sing: “The more I read and think about higher education, our shortcomings, our crises, our threats, and our supposed saviors, the more I come to believe that the best thing we could do in the name of reform is absolutely nothing. Down with the pursuit of ‘excellence!’ Enough with innovation! Leave some of the children behind! Say it with me! Let’s do nothing! I say this because I wonder what chasing the next shiniest thing has really been getting us.” Amen! (H/T The Reader Formerly Known as Dudley’s Human.)
- Un-Smart Smart Phone Users: (By which I mean: me.) Help is out there. Here are “19 Mind-Blowing Tricks Every iPhone and iPad User Should Know.” Hey, it’s worth the click just to learn that pressing your space bar twice will magically produce a period, a space, and a capital letter on the next word you type. I saved 15 minutes of my holiday weekend by using this trick on pointless holiday texts to members of my beloved but far-flung family. Try it. Because tick-tock, tick-tock!
Oh, dear, speaking of time passing, I gotta go. It’s Sunday. It’s December. There’s soup to be made and feedback to be given and classes to plan and meetings to remember. So long, mellow. Hello, Madness! Hope you had a delightful holiday, darlings, and that the Madness is manageable in your neck of the woods. Just remember: Things could always be worse. You could be a guy in a boat in the middle of nowhere who manages to run into a shipping container full of tennis shoes. Because random! Because globalization! Because oops!