Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday's word: lackadaisical

Main Entry: lack·a·dai·si·cal Listen to the pronunciation of lackadaisical
Pronunciation: \ˌla-kə-ˈdā-zi-kəl\
Function: adjective
Etymology: irregular from lackaday + -ical
Date: 1768

lacking life, spirit, or zest : languid

I might have chosen lazy. Maybe procrastination. But, this word was so much more fun to say. To lack...a daisy? I lack daisies right's foggy out and cold. I'm tired. But, I wouldn't say I lack life or spirit or zest, as a general rule.

Today, in a parent meeting, a student told me she doesn't like to come to school (tell me something I haven't already heard from dozens of pre-teens). Now, rather than get into an argument about how on earth she could hate to come to school (I mean what teacher doesn't have a thousand geeky reasons why school is fun, and cool, and just plain all-around-good-for-the-soul awesome), I decided to probe into what she'd rather be doing, say, at home. Her response? Nothing. I laughed a bit, disbelieving.

"Really? You can't be telling me just sit there and do nothing at all?"
"No computer, or phone, or book, or television?"
"You stare at the wall?" This said, slack-jawed, in utter disbelief.
"Yep. Sometimes I just sleep cause I get too tired doing nothing."

I was pretty much speechless...for half a second...and then I asked the parent what on earth made this okay in their house. The parent explained how, in all her parenting wisdom, she'd just had it with her daughter's behavior and had decided to just let her sit it out and do nothing. She let her sit there and just be truant, to teach her a lesson of course. After 2 weeks of sitting there and doing nothing (boy, that parent was sure showing her), she ended up in court and was forced to go back to school.

So, lackadaisical? Yes. I, personally, would simply consider her a blob of flesh and bones and organs with a whole bunch of hairspray to top it off and keep it held together (or maybe that's what all the piercings are for).

When we asked about the fact that the child always shows up perfectly coiffed, made-up, and trendily dressed in the latest Hot Topic couture, and whether this had ever been controlled for motivational purposes (i.e. take away the curling iron until she does her damned essay...say no to another dye job until she finishes her math...and give a definite thumbs down to any more face piercings until she suits up for P.E.) her mother looked at us aghast, "I am against keeping those kinds of things from her because that encourages her self-esteem."

How about academic success to boost self-esteem? Maybe a bigger brain is more important that big hair and trendy clothes (haven't we learned anything from the tragedies of Paris and Britney?). I'm just saying... keeping with today's theme...the deadline (since it's only for me, anyway) for this month's show-and-tell is this weekend, when I have time to post (and, of course, come up with something to share).

Night, all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History in the making

"Rhetoric is a poor substitute for action, and we have trusted only to rhetoric. If we are really to be a great nation, we must not merely talk; we must act big." Theodore Roosevelt

I have to admit, I am not completely won over by the brilliance of his smile or the smoothness of his words. While I will bow to his articulate tongue and will remain open to the hope for change that he encourages, I will not put a ring in my nose and accept him as the new messiah as have some; I will hold tight to my cup full of skepticism (unless he gives me a reason to dump it down the drain). It is with great reservation that I accept a new government controlled by one party. And it is with great reverence that I welcome a new commander in chief at a time when that particular presidential role is being watched with great global interest.

I do see the historical relevance. And I am not numb to the emotion that comes with such a day as this. Regardless of my personal trepidation, I will say that this president seems to have taken his long awaited position with grace and humility. I can only hope that he remains true to his word and that he is successful.

And I tip my hat to the choices of Aretha Franklin and the poet Elizabeth Alexander.

Praise Song for the Day
By Elizabeth Alexander
updated 12:20 p.m. PT, Tues., Jan. 20, 2009

Following is the complete text of "Praise Song for the Day, A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration" as provided by the publisher.

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
Story continues below ↓advertisement | your ad here

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.
Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. A chapbook edition of Praise Song for the Day will be published on February 6, 2009.

(watch it at:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wednesday's word: feh

Main Entry: feh
Part of Speech: interj
Definition: an expression of disgust, disapproval, displeasure
Example: You ate peanut butter? Feh!
Etymology: Yiddish

It seemed like a good choice since I've pushed my procrastination into lateness that has now become...feh.

Yeah...I forgot. Feh.

Yeah...I'm a slacker in every area of my life. Feh.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Monday's Music: Florence Khoriaty

(Yes...I'm late need to point it out. I also didn't work out today and I forgot to feed the fish. I'm far from perfect.)

Visit CBC Radio at:

Here, you can listen to songs from Florence Khoriaty (Florence K), one of my new surprise findings. Of course, those who know me well know that I am enamored of "most" things French. No surprise, then, that French music, especially now that I am living so close to Canada, would occasionally find its way into my listening menu.

Take a gander...

And then visit her official website:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Weekend's Writer: Dorothy Parker

The fabulously depressed Dorothy. Three suicide attempts and a short life filled with liquor, lust, and literature. A prime example of the manic-depressive artist, Dorothy Parker was one of the greats of her time...and continues to remain popular for her sardonic wit and dark humor. Unhappiness, for some, is the greatest inspiration...and the deadliest.

From "American Maters: The Algonquin Round Table"

Robert Sherwood, reviewing cowboy hero Tom Mix: "They say he rides as if he’s part of the horse, but they don’t say which part."

Dorothy Parker: "That woman speaks eighteen languages and can’t say ‘no’ in any of them."

George S. Kaufman: Once when asked by a press agent, "How do I get my leading lady’s name into your newspaper?" Kaufman replied, "Shoot her."

The period that followed the end of World War I was one of gaiety and optimism, and it sparked a new era of creativity in American culture. Surely one of the most profound -- and outrageous -- influences on the times was the group of a dozen or so tastemakers who lunched together at New York City’s Algonquin Hotel. For more than a decade they met daily and came to be known as the Algonquin Round Table. With members such as writers Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross (founder of THE NEW YORKER) and Robert Benchley; columnists Franklin Pierce Adams and Heywood Broun, and Broun’s wife Ruth Hale; critic Alexander Woollcott; comedian Harpo Marx; and playwrights George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly, Edna Ferber, and Robert Sherwood, the Round Table embodied an era and changed forever the face of American humor.

It all began with an afternoon roast of the NEW YORK TIMES drama critic, Alexander Wollcott. A number of writers met up at the Algonquin Hotel on 44th street and had such a good time that the event was repeated the next day, and the day after that, until the lunch table at the Algonquin was established as a ritual. The core group of friends was sometimes joined by others who attended for short periods or drifted about the periphery of the group, including such notables as actress Tallulah Bankhead and playwright Noel Coward. The Round Table was made up of people with a shared admiration for each other's work. Outspoken and outrageous, they would often quote each other freely in their daily columns.

Round Tabler Edna Ferber, who called them "The Poison Squad," wrote, "They were actually merciless if they disapproved. I have never encountered a more hard-bitten crew. But if they liked what you had done, they did say so publicly and whole-heartedly." Their standards were high, their vocabulary fluent, fresh, astringent, and very, very tough. Both casual and incisive, they had a certain terrible integrity about their work and boundless ambition. Some of the most notable members of the Round Table came together to work on significant collaborative projects. George Kaufman teamed up with Edna Ferber and Marc Connelly on some of his best stage comedies, including DULCY and THE ROYAL FAMILY. Harold Ross of THE NEW YORKER hired both Dorothy Parker as a book reviewer and Robert Benchley as a drama critic.

By 1925, the Round Table was famous. What had started as a private clique became a public amusement. The country-at-large was now attentive to their every word—people often coming to stare at them during lunch. Some began to tire of the constant publicity. The time they spent entertaining and being entertained took its toll on several of the Algonquin members. Robert Sherwood and Robert Benchley moved out of the hotel in order to concentrate on and accomplish their work. In 1927, the controversial execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, whose case had divided the country and the Round Table for six years, seemed to cast a pall over the group’s unchecked antics. Dorothy Parker believed strongly in the pair’s innocence, and upon their deaths she remarked "I had heard someone say and so I said too, that ridicule is the most effective weapon. Well, now I know that there are things that never have been funny and never will be. And I know that ridicule may be a shield but it is not a weapon."

As America entered the Depression and the more somber decade of the 1930s, the bonds that had held the group together loosened; many members moved to Hollywood or on to other interests. "It didn’t end, it just sort of faded," recalled Marc Connelly. A decade after it began, the Algonquin Round Table was over. Not forgotten, the Round Table remains one of the great examples of an American artists’ community and the effects it can have on its time.

And for your viewing pleasure:

I do, indeed, recommend this film...there were things about Jennifer Jason Leigh that irritated me, but, overall, I think it was an excellent and intimate interpretation of who Parker was.

Visit the following website to read a poem of your choice:

Or, attend Parkerfest with the Dorothy Parker Society: Parkerfest began in 1999. It is held in the Spring of odd-numbered years; the next one is in the spring of 2009. Each Parkerfest has been unique and different. We celebrate the life of Dorothy Parker with a speakeasy night, walking tour, Round Table lunch, music, readings, and more. The mood of the weekend is more like a party than a serious "literary" event. More information at:

Friday, January 9, 2009

The witching hour

So, it's late...quiet...and I'm too tired to be up writing. Yet, here I am, knowing I will regret it tomorrow when my son doesn't let me sleep in.

It's just a quick note, really, at the end of a long day.

So many strange things pop in and out of my head...especially when I'm on a writing bender: too much in a short amount of time makes you heady, and it wears you out.

But, I'm sort of loving the fact that writing a blog like this one forces me to take a look at the world around me a bit more closely. Everything is up for scrutiny. Because everything is a potential sentence.

Today's observations and flits of the imagination:

1) Listening to the "modern rock inbox", I found a new band to add to my list of current intrigues:

2) Buying a cart load of junk food at 8 a.m. elicits concerned and appalled stares from other shoppers (in particular, those who are standing behind you in the "15 items or less" line with irritated looks that say, "Whaddya have in there, like 50 items?"; but they neglect to realize that this is the only line open at 8 a.m. when the store is virtually empty).

3) I have too many books in my "current reading" pile. If it falls over, it may well bury one of the cats. I just added "Tales of a Slacker Wife" and "Boys: Women Writers on Raising Sons". Not enough damned time in a day!

4) That new gel-coating varnish flouride the dentist paints on your teeth is disgusting. Not that it's saying much, but I like the gross, squishy foam stuff better. At least I don't have to spend 2 days trying to scrape it off my teeth.

5) Listening to young children read their own poetry out loud makes me wish I had their eyes: check out NWP's Rural Voices Radio.

6) I'm adding the word "opulent" to the word wall.

7) Writers are the world's top procrastinators: none of my writers workshop students were ready to submit to Tidepools today. We had to scramble to get parent signatures on entry forms, print final copies, and come up with bite-sized biographies to attach to them. Funny enough, when I got to the post office to send them, the line was too long and I was more interested in getting to Wine on the Waterfront for a tasty I opted to put it off for yet one more day. The post office is open til 2 pm tomorrow; so I guess I'll be a true procrastinator and put it off until the absolute 11th hour. I'm sure I'll see a few of my discombobulated brethren of the pen tomorrow in line (as I do every year - in sweats with fly-away hair, coffee-stained shirts, and fingernails bitten to the nubs for easier and faster typing), desperately hoping to get those damned envelopes post-marked in time. Deadlines = The only reason anything ever gets published. Believe me, almost everything we read is simply a rough draft ripped out of the death-grip of some writer mumbling, "Just one more look-see...just one more proof-reading glance..." or "I think it still needs some work" or "It's invisible ink; I really HAVE been writing...I'm not putting it off...those blank pages are the greatest novel ever written, you just need lemon juice to read it...and, damn, I'm out."

Sweet dreams are made of these.

Good night y'all...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wednesday's Word: Sesquipedalian

Yes, it's a word....and yes, I know I'm a day late (umm...and a dollar or two short, as usual).

Main Entry: ses·qui·pe·da·lian
Pronunciation: \ˌses-kwə-pə-ˈdāl-yən\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin sesquipedalis, literally, a foot and a half long, from sesqui- + ped-, pes foot — more at foot
Date: 1656

1 : having many syllables : long 2 : given to or characterized by the use of long words

Ha Ha! Such and apt definition for such a long, multi-syllabic word. I'd never heard this word until I was recently perusing my current Newsweek magazine. I rarely read a magazine article from beginning to end, and this is no exception, but in this week's edition, toward the back is an article titled "Remember Them Well"...a tribute to many of the well-known actors, politicians, scientists, writers, athletes, journalists, etc. who died this last year. A few notable names that made me say..."Aw, what a shame...": Bernie Mac, Yves Saint Laurent, Sydney Pollack, Arthur C. Clark, Charlton Heston, Heath Ledger, Michael Crichton, Robert Mondavi, Estelle Getty, Bo Diddley, Edmund Hillary, George Carlin, Isaac Hayes, Paul Newman.

And three of particular note.

1. Randy Pausch. (Beware...this is a long one, but worth it.) Wondering about the worth of a life? Are you bored? Considering a bucket list? Give this a listen. This guy was given a very short, finite amount of time to do with as he would. So...he inspired thousands. Not bad for 12 months' work.

2. Bettie Page. Hot, hawt, and haute... She was a whole lotta woman...a conundrum, a fiasco, a juxtaposition, naughty and nice, sugar and spice...the muse of the erotic world who turned away from her fame, found religion, and went a little nutty in the end. But her influence on fashion, erotic film and photography, and women's sexuality cannot be denied.

3. William F. Buckley Jr. Okay, not someone I would normally pay homage to, BUT...Newsweek's entry on him is what inspired today's word, so I feel I must spotlight him to some degree. Here's the entry that grabbed my attention (page 85, 12/29/08-1/5/09): "Sure he was the father of American conservatism, the founder of National Review and the champion of Goldwater and Reagan. But he also had one of the century's most perspicacious, peripatetic minds (and he loved sesquipedalian words). He was an expert on sailing, spy novels--and the harpsichord. He died, working, at his desk. Which is just what you'd expect from someone whose collected papers weighed seven tons."


Oh...and R.I.P.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Monday's Music: Pink Martini (Yummy!)

Most nights, at 6 o'clock, I turn the radio dial to 92.9 CBC radio 2. For two blissfully schizophrenic hours, our family listens to, cooks to, dances to, dines to, and lets go of the day to "Tonic"...a program lovingly sculpted and craftily narrated by Katie Malloch. It was during one of these listening adventures that I was turned on to Pink Martini...Latin Jazz that brings back the class and pizazz of the late 50s and early 60s. Fantastic stuff.

Visit the following URL to read a review by NPR and listen to an entire concert!

There are any number of terribly filmed videos of live performances available for your viewing displeasure on you tube. But, if you close your might just be able to conjure images of being in a smoky club, surrounded by dancers so close and filled with such passion that the proprietors of the club may as well begin charging a fee to those sitting and watching like voyeurs in a pay booth.

Here's an example of what I mean:

Their Latin-charged music is sultry and hot at times, light and fluffy at others, and can even be downright depressing. Good stuff. I love music, but it takes an act of the musical deities to get me off the couch to fish a pen that works out of the basket and write them down on the list we keep stuck to the fridge. This band not only woke the made them stand up in their thrones, shake their butts, and scream something sexy I don't understand in Spanish.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Weekend's Writer: Taylor Mali

"No, but I do know that as a teacher snowballs are a huge problem to deal with because they always end in tears or blood or worse. If I hit you with a snowball in the chest then you have the right to retaliate. That's easy. But what if you miss? Do you have the right to hit me as bad as I hit you? What if you accidentally hit me in the face? Then I have the right to stab you in the eye with an icicle, right? It's a slippery slope." (taken from Mali's FAQ page)

I can't remember exactly how I stumbled across Taylor Mali. I'm pretty sure a friend suggested his website several years ago when I was still in college. However it happened, it has been an enduring love affair...not because all of his poetry is exactly astounding (in fact, much of it isn't) but because he is fun, passionate, honest, confessional, real, raw, and uncut (well, I guess I don't really know that for sure). He is witty, comical, and snide, as well...which I like. I also appreciate that he made his way up the ranks through slams and really hard work. And he's a people's poet, not an academic, intellectual aristocrat who smatters a few unintelligable words across the parchment and calls it art...and damn anyone who doesn't get it. As a bonus, he was a teacher, so a lot of his poems are about things very near and dear to my heart. He's even made me shed a tear or two and he's definitely made my students laugh. We're grateful for that.

Just a few days ago, I stumbled across a goldmine on you tube. One led to another, which led to yet another live recording of Mali reading his own work. (There are 50 videos linked on his web page, which can be found in the right-hand column of this blog.)

I've selected two to share, but I entreat you to move on and enjoy the rest. What fun to play in blooming fields of daisies without the fear of being stung.

Happy perusing!