The Electric Can Opener List

I don't have a bit of use for New Year's resolutions--as a matter of fact, i really don't have much use for New Year's at all. Even when i was drinking i thought it was a pretty goofy holiday. It would be much better if we celebrated the new year on an occasion that wasn't totally artificial: Like we should do it on one of the solstices, for instance. That would give us something real we could sink our teeth in. That's probably why resolutions never actually stick: they're done on a non-occasion.

Anyway, today, following a short rant about my parents, is a list of New Years resolutions i'd like to see taken for the sake of the environment--resolutions that, while not even very hard to keep, wouldn't stand a glacier's chance of actually happening. It's a bitchy list and has been inspired by spending the last few days in Nashville with the folks: my parents are like your parents: you love 'em but you pretty quickly remember why you don't live with them anymore.

In the case of this list, my parents inspired me to write it because they are very wasteful people. For instance, they now live, just the two of them, in a giant house of 5,000 some odd square feet. They heat and cool every bit of it 24 hours a day. My dad uses 1,700 watts of electricity just to light his driveway all night long (it's okay, he tells me, they're fluorescent!) They throw their garbage and their recyclables interchangably into both the garbage and recycle cans. Don't worry, they tell me, it's separated downtown. My parents have seven televisions.

Not necessarily related to this is the idea that my folks are also obsessed with neatness. This morning i'm alone here at the house i grew up in and i was making myself breakfast. Nothing is out of place. Or dirty. Or even old. One time Alison and i came in and Mama and Daddy were all dressed up in work clothes and out of breath--they explained that they had just washed all the ceilings in the house with ammonia. And it really needed to be done, too: it hadn't been done since last year. Anyway, part of this neatness obsession extends to the kitchen counters. Everything is put up when you're finished with it: cutting boards, coffee makers, toasters, etc. Pick em back up and put em in the cabinets. This morning i couldn't find a cutting board because it was tucked away somewhere in a cabinet. And then i noticed something: Why would they put up a useful thing like a cutting board when i see there! right there on the counter top an electric can-opener?

We've had an electric can opener as long as i can remember. I gotta tell you folks, i think the electric can opener is one of the most ridiculous machines there are--right up there with the electric knife--but my folks have got one, and when this one breaks you can bet they'll go out and buy another one.

So, with that petty annoyance in mind, i've compiled, in the form of New Years resolutions, an Electric Can Opener List, or some things that needlessly use power that we could easily do without. Here goes:

* Any professional ballteam that uses an outdoor stadium needs to start holding its games during daylight hours just like they did back when America was the greatest country on earth.

* Call a moratorium on the "drive-thru window."

* Rid the world of door-less refrigerators and freezers in grocery and convenience stores. Additionally, if the working man needs a cold beer that bad when he gets off work, then let him carry a working man's cooler in his truck. We need to stop bragging about 9,000 linear feet of the coldest beer in town at all these quickie marts and grocery stores--hey, we're not supposed to drink and drive.

* End the automatic glass of ice water at restaurants.

* Compulsory use of minimally supplemented natural light in big box retail stores during daylight hours.

* The supernaturally green suburban lawn has to go.

* End light pollution created by the gillion types of outdoor advertising that now exist, namely billboards and illuminated signs along the suburban commercial wasteland strips.

*Retailers should be asked to give up their efforts on trying to cool/heat the entire outside environment by leaving their doors open. It's not working (well, at least not the way they want it to).

* Hockey should not be played south of the Mason Dixon Line. Making ice to skate around on in Florida makes as much sense as the Jamaican bobsled team (and is not near as charming).

* And finally, rediscover the zen glory and fresh smell of the clothes line. (Out of everything on this list, this is my favorite. Here are some of the possible benefits from this simple change: You may get to talk with/know your neighbors better. Fresh air and sunlight are exceptionally good for humans. You will be using the free and clean power of the sun, not the dirty and expensive power of the utility companies. Your clothes will smell spring time fresh without the use of some toxic dryer sheet. Your clothes will last 10 times longer.)

Happy New Year!


Christy and Joel's wedding

We hung out this afternoon with Christy Burks--still unGoogle-able except for this blog--and her very Google-able husband Joel Manaloto (also known in some circles in Tennessee--where his Philippino heritage is a bit of a puzzle--as Joel Mulatto). As you'll remember, these are our NYC friends who've appeared on Baxter Sez several times:

  • When Meghann and I did our research trip in NYC in 2006--here and here (although these posts say that they're by Biffle, I wrote them), and
  • When Christy and Joel got married in Sept. 2007--here, here, and here.
Christy has expressed some displeasure that her wedding didn't get enough coverage on the blog, and since she had us over to her parents' house this afternoon to let us taste boxes of $65 chocolates, I agreed to write a bit more about how great their wedding was.

All chocolate-based bribery aside, it really was an amazing wedding. It happened in the upper floors of a beautiful Manhattan hotel, and the wedding itself was on a balcony overlooking the city. I felt like I was in a movie or something--I've never been at a wedding in a more glamorous location.

Joel's very active in the NYC theater community, so the wedding and reception had theater themes. Their wedding program, for instance, was a dead-up Playbill, like the kind you get at a Broadway show, with the cast list and bios of all the key players. And they had an awards ceremony during the reception, with honors going to the folks who'd been most helpful in putting the wedding together. Very sweet.

In Broadway musical fashion, Christy changed her dress three times during the course of the wedding and reception, so I won't attempt to show you all the different ways she looked. But here's the outfit she actually went through the ceremony wearing:
The reception food was out of this world--little lamb lollipops, sushi, scallops, and everybody got a cupcake decorated with The Sound of Music or Amadeus album covers, in honor of Christy and Joel's honeymoon in Austria. Biffle and I sat at a table with four very wonderful NYC theater people.

I would like to publicly say that, if I've made less-than-kind statements about any of the people who were sitting at our table, I am sorry. I did not know that certain people at the table had master's degrees in Russian theater from Harvard. Had I known, I would have tried harder to engage certain people in intelligent conversation!

All in all, a fantastic weekend in New York and a great wedding. And Christy got me a Flight of the Concords mug and t-shirt for Christmas, which is not only thoughtful but also appropriate, because one of our last acts in NYC was to take a picture of the building in Chinatown that's featured during the opening of the show.

Still Muse of the Month

I'm Muse of the Month at Skirt! magazine for a few more days, so if you've been having to scroll down for the link to the site, here it is again: http://www.skirt.com/blog/1471.


Happy Christmas Dogs!

(l to r) Max, Baxter, Benya and E.V. wish everyone a Merry Christmas!


The teachers who have most influenced me

Debbie over at Girl With Pen tagged me for a meme which offers participants the opportunity to reframe all the grabby materialism of the holiday season by focusing on what we've received that we're grateful for. Since I am exceedingly un-spirited this holiday--feeling downright Grinchey, in fact--I was happy that Debbie invited me to answer the following question: "Who are the teachers who have most personally influenced you and how?"

Although I've had many, many wonderful teachers in many areas of my life, I'm going to focus on actual school teachers. Since I've ended up devoting my life to education, their influence has obviously meant a lot.

1. Cathy Moran at the hippie private school I attended for grade school. This was the most rag-tag kind of school you can imagine, locating in a housing project, with all the kids who were either too poorly behaved or too smart for the Putnam County, TN, school system. And I loved it. Cathy did creative things like designated every Friday as food day, and we'd go shopping, buy ingredients, and make funky lunches. One Friday it was all different kinds of seafood--I remember being amazed that I was eating squid and shark. Another Friday we fried eggrolls. It was the kind of school where I often didn't have the sense that I was actually attending school at all. And yet I learned enough that when I re-entered the public school system, I was a grade ahead.

2. Jack Sallee, who taught American history at Cookeville High School. We didn't have any AP classes, but he made his Modern History class an AP-style learning experience. We read books, not textbooks. This was the class in which I first read The Feminine Mystique and started thinking about feminism. I also read Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice and was equal parts fascinated and repelled. He introduced us to real ideas and expected us to grapple with them like actual thinkers, not little receptacles who would spit back vocabulary words and dates for a test. My friend Christy and I developed such massive intellectual crushes on him that we made him a book when we graduated, documenting all our good times together (including the all-day hike he took us on and the time he had us all over to his house in the woods for dinner). He got a little teary.

3. Connie Hood at Tennessee Tech. I ended up going to this engineering school for college because of financial considerations, but because of Connie, I got an outstanding education. She directed the Honors Program and a less official program called Mentor, in which she gathered around her all the students who were some combination of smart and socially ill-adjusted (sounds a bit like #1 on this list) and made us read and think and stay up all night talking about big ideas. For instance, a group of us camped out in her basement for a whole weekend reading and interpreting T.S. Eliot's "The Four Quartets." It would be impossible to list all the ways in which Connie influenced my life, but for a start, she's the reason I started therapy and the reason I went to grad school--both decisions that have proved incredibly beneficial.

4. Kurt Eisen, also at Tennessee Tech. Kurt is the reason that, when I went to grad school, I decided to study American literature. He taught me about the literary canon and invited me to start taking it down.

5. Cecelia Tichi and Teresa Goddu at Vanderbilt University. As co-directors of my dissertation, these women reshaped my entire brain. It wasn't always a pleasant process, but it worked. And Cecelia took me on as a personal project, hiring me as her research and teaching assistant, letting me help her run an NEH Summer Institute, taking me for countless coffees and lunches, mentoring me in how to be a scholar and a woman with a life. When I moved to Charleston, she sent me an afghan that her high school English teacher had made for her. She wanted to pass it on to me, and maybe someday I can give it to a special student of mine.

Okay, that was really fun. To share the love, I tag:

Conseula at Afrogeek Mom and Dad
Kelly at Microfamous
Margaret at under my skirt and in my head
Charlie at Where's My Parade
Astraea at Ancora Imparo
Quiche at Shameless Self Promotion


Man, Oh Man...

A few weeks ago i was reading a politically conservative blog. The writer was talking about how both Germany and France's recent elections of socially conservative leaders is proof that the entire world has had enough of liberal crap. I have a different theory, however.

Do you remember a few weeks back when Sarkozy--a frenchmen visiting the home of freedom fries--was goo-gooed and ooh-la-laed to death by our congress and the media? He was even sobriqued several times with the term Reaganesque, for god's sake.

Do you also remember how, recently, Andrea Merkel went for a nice visit at Bush's "ranch" down there in his adopted home state of Texas? She liked her visit very much.

Well, lo and behold a headline from today's International Herald Tribune:

France and Germany say Iran's Nuclear Program still a 'danger.'

Surprise, surprise.


Two heads of gorgeous curls

Claire and I took a road trip today to the Ouidad salon closest to Charleston. This one happens to be in Charlotte, NC, three hours away--but we were willing to spend a day getting gorgeous curls.

Here are our before pictures:
Claire, with her mid-morning snack of IHOP sausage links.

Me, standing against the wall at the hair salon (the stylist didn't seem to understand that I was hoping for her to take a "before" picture of both me and Claire together). Notice that we are inadvertently wearing matching outfits.

And here's an "after" picture that in no way does justice to our gorgeous curls. Members of both our immediate families allowed as how they didn't see much difference, but I'm sure you'll all agree that our hair now is curlier, shinier, and a bit shorter. Well worth the drive. (And we had a lot of fun, too.)


memorial for a shirt

Back when i used to smoke, a friend once told me i'd had a zippo lighter longer than he'd owned anything in his life. I'm proud of this, too. I like to hold on to stuff for a really long time--as an act of loyalty, as conservation, and as a statement of willingness to be a skinflint. This shirt represents all three of those things quite well.

I decided to finally retire it last night after Benya put a fatal rip in the sleeve while we were wrasslin'. It was time, though. I've had it for...well, somewhere around 17 years. I stole it from a guy named Dylan S., who, along with Wilhelm R. were my drinking buddies in college. Dylan had in turn stolen it from someone else whom i'm sure, given the old fifties-looking tag in it, stole it from a thrift shop.

One shirt made it half a century! It was a good shirt.



Muse of the Month

I'm happy to report that I've been invited to be December's Muse of the Month over at skirt.com. I'll be blogging every week day about whatever's on my mind--which probably means I'll be less visible here since how many good ideas can I have in a day? If you miss me over here, check out the skirt! site.


A feminist guide to succeeding at work

Kelly Love Johnson's book is out, and if you'd like to know what I think about it, just look here:

The book is really good--Women's and Gender Studies is going to buy a copy for each of our graduating senior minors this year, and Kelly and I are making plans for her to come talk with the students about entering the job market. I'm excited for her.

But since this is my blog, let me talk about myself for a moment. I'm finding that I'm entering the point in my life where I have contacts, a network. Just through doing what I do--reading, going to events, making friends, reaching out--I'm creating a feminist network, where I'm in a position to support the good work my friends do, and they're in positions to support me. And it's so cool! This is the second book I've been invited to promote, and not only do I get to feel famous, but I'm able to help get the word out about fabulous feminist publications like this one.