Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: End of the Semester Reflections

OK, 1.5 weeks of detox isn't too bad, especially considering how exhausted and shit-mooded I was on December 13, my last contract day of the fall semester. But now, with a lot of naps and a bit of distance between me and the end of the semester, I can sit back a bit and reflect, with the help of Ennio Morricone. It's a perfect classification system, and without fail, it can be applied to almost any situation; this past semester is a perfect illustration.

The Good
Setting: The classroom, gatherings of students, gatherings of colleagues
  • Classes, classes, always classes are the high point of any semester. Once again, all my classes energized me in various ways. Below is a brief capsule of final impressions.
    • ENG121/Composition I--I get better and better with using visual rhetorical seamlessly in the class. Students, at the end of the semester, totally get how to apply rhetorical strategies/analysis across all notions of text (written, visual, audio). As part of a unit on sustainability, students have to create a photo essay as a group. This semester, the class really got the photo essay concept, and even hit on notions of sustainability much more precisely than the previous semester. It's not quite the perfect assignment yet, but it's reaching a better state of being.
    • LIT115/Introduction to Literature--From the first day of class, this class possessed a crazy good enthusiastic energy, eager to dissect literature, to dig deep and tease out meaning. Fortunately, this energy only built, eventually creating a really cool community of literary fans, culminating in a group of wonderful dramatic projects (remixed plays written and performed), some incorporating technologically produced backdrops to serve as scene setting.
    • ENG131/Technical Writing--When I start this class each fall semester, it seems like I have walked into a club where I don't quite understand the rules and patterns of communication; it's a guy's club--the class usually averages about 75-85% male. Yet, that awkwardness eventually fades and where I read some of the silence before as aloof, the silence has given way to a comfortable voice of engagement. 
    • ENG122/Composition II with research--I teach this class online, so I always wonder if my random samples and instructional material posted on the web will help guide students through a multigenre/multimodal approach to research writing. Sometimes it takes the whole semester for me to see that students did really grasp the benefits and skills in genre composition, aided by their research. This semester also had a number of topics I had never seen tackled in my classes, so that made for better reading on my end: the role of gratitude, the state of the wolf re-introduction in Wyoming, and the world of hoarders.
  • Starting off the semester in my new role of Faculty Senate President, I got faculty two work days knocked off their contract (so we get off one day earlier each semester) and a leniency application of the 4 day/25 hour rule of being on campus.
  • Every time I went to a Queers & Allies meeting, I came away energized, amazed at the sense of community and the numbers that kept showing up each meeting.
  • Staffing the GLBT Resource Center with three fabulous queer students, helped create a truly student-centered safe space on campus.
  • Bonding with several colleagues to help get through a rough situation. Knowing that a group of us always had each other's backs, despite what the word on the hall was, simply provided saving breaths when needed.
The Bad
  • Having to feel like I had to fight and fight and fight and fight to simply get something fully heard and done by the administration. I tried going solo, talking one on one with an administrator, and often left wondering what would happen to all the notes taken. It took continually fighting, not letting my voice be silent, bringing both administrators to the table, to finally get some needed action at the end of the semester. This in itself simply exhausted me.
  • The situation. What began as a simple act of a couple of colleagues fighting a particular injustice in the working conditions, blew into a huge debacle that took up too much time, too much energy, and led to oodles of misinformed gossip on campus. 

The Ugly
  • Realizing that someone I had considered a friend for awhile was indeed spending lots of energy trying to poison others against me by making ridiculous statements about supposed actions I had orchestrated. I always want to think the best of people (my close friends refer to me as Pollyanna for always wanting to see the positive in someone), so each time something would happen with said person, I thought oh can't be serious, really. But as things continued, with the final one just happening a week ago, I declare enough. It's very ugly to gossip ugliness about others, especially when it's untrue and unfounded.
And so, fortunately The Good triumphs.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Action

Action. When it comes to aspirations, its not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen. What's your next step?

To listen to my body and let things heal. I've been running with little rest, pushing the edges of my stress, not listening to what my body needs. The action I need to take is to listen and allow time. Since the diagnosis of bicipital tendonitis, I seriously need to heed this warning and be still, since that's all I truly can do with my right arm. And so, in my best zen grasshopper state, I will do what I am told to heal, even if it moves at a pace that works against what I want. Om.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Body Integration

Body integration. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn't mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

During the summer was when I felt most integrated with my body. Coming off of the spring semester, I had done yoga once a week and my body had strengthened through that practice. When summer hit, I felt energized and ready to be on my bicycle regularly, walking the golf course regulary, and roaming the neighborhood with Sasha. It's during some of those moments of exercise that I am totally integrated, into a type of zen with my body.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

11 Things

What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

  • political bullshit at work
  • wasting time with stupid television shows
  • excuses for not writing
  • excuses for not exercising
  • work stress
  • people who talk shit about me behind my back
And for now, this is all I can come up, which frankly is fine. For the most part, my life is a wonderful happy place where I don't want to eliminate much. When I start to look at the list above, the things I want to eliminate all are somewhat related to my job. Yeah, exercise I simply need to keep the routine. I do great over the summer when I have plenty of time and when the weather calls me out of doors; however, once the semester gets going, I let excuses interfere and end up putting exercise aside for other types of busyness. Paying more attention to this and prioritizing the exercise, regardless, is important. I used to have it better figured out with a weekly yoga class at school that I love. This semester, though, things got scheduled over that and I gave those things priority. If I make that time sacred, then that remains a priority.

In terms of the political bullshit at work and the work stress, I simply need to back up a bit and not swallow all the shit I feel I end up swallowing when working with administrative issues that I cannot move forward with. I contemplated giving up my role as Faculty Senate President since that has brought on high levels of stress this semester; however, I need to also focus on the good I've done and the way faculty see me as a champion/voice for their concern. That matters.

And so, with the year coming to an end, I will use the break between semesters to rejuvenate, reclaim myself and energy, and begin anew.

Friday, December 10, 2010

WIsdom

Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? 

Unlike some of the other writing prompts, two jump to mind immediately. The first is a decision that Nan and I came up with together, mostly to temper my impetuous self that jumps in without thinking--usually this brings a fine time but on occasion, it can bring a slice of regret. We decided to invoke a 24 hour rule when receiving an invitation to something. Usually, when we get an invitation or have an idea that involves inviting a group of people over, I immediately think way cool. Sometimes, when the time arrives, way cool is replaced by holy shit, why oh why did we think this was a good move. So now, when we have an idea that is out of our norm or we receive an invitation, we wait 24 hours to respond, making sure that how we felt when we received the invitation matches how we feel with a renewed day.

Another wise decision revolves around our Thanksgiving visit to Eureka Springs. Since we normally have Thanksgiving with my family, this year presented opportunity since due to schedules and locale, we were not going to have Thanksgiving with them. Thus, in a moment of what I now feel is sheer inspiration, I suggested Eureka Springs to Nan, which she thought was a fabulous idea, and off we went into the unknown.

Party

Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

Parties are an irregularity in my life these days; so when I think of that term with those words, my mind again stops, stalls, and wonders. So it is not the one that perhaps "rocked [my] socks off" but the one that brought lots of laughter and joy. In the winter, Nan and I were invited to go up to the mountains with two other couples and one child to spend a couple of days hanging out, snowshoeing, eating, sharing stories, and laughing laughing laughing. It's a small group of friends that we've continued to get to know better over time, a small community that gathers maybe a couple of times a year due to schedules and one couple having a toddler, a group that genuinely enjoys being silly with a slice of smartness.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Difference

Prompt Day 8: Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. 

Even though I can be somewhat self-absorbed at times (the curse of my mother, the curse of the first-born), when faced with this prompt, I am a bit silenced, but as always, will try to write my way through this to some type of truth.

One of the things that makes me different is my openness to lots of people and experiences. At times I can have preconceived notions, like all Ar-kansans strum banjos in their overalls; however, in truth, I welcome any new adventure. When I found myself online dating, one of the things I put in my profile was that I am at home in both a pool hall and an opera house. This ability to be comfortable in a variety of environments, whether it be peanuts on the floor of a cheap pub or a glass of $200 wine courtesy of lame guys flirting, makes me able to find home wherever I land in the moment.

This same openness to environments also helps me bring light to people. I have a strong intuition and rarely am wrong about what I'm sensing, even when I don't fully know the person or the situation. This ability to connect helps bring comfort, for I'm willing to put myself and my emotions out there, listening when needed, playing when silliness is the antidote.

Does this make me all that different? Not necessarily, but these are things that distinguish me from the ordinary street sign.

Community

A day late again on the prompt, but still, here goes:
Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? 

Over the last year, I have discovered new pockets of community at work. No surprise, in a way, since the vast majority of my time seems to be spent at work. Over the summer, I took a golf class with a few colleagues, and even though I have known some of them via hallway conversations, it was only this summer that we bonded in a new way. Perhaps it was the shared struggles when Tim, our teacher, would tell us to hold it this way and we found the golf ball only going slightly forward, but still forward. When we would go out on the course together, we would be one big cheerleading squad for each other, always congratulating each other's shots, even if they were mere dribbles ("look it went straight"). The comraderie helped make a leisurely stroll along the golf course an afternoon of smiles and friendship.

Another pocket of community also gave rise at work, though this time it was born out of necessity due to a rotten work situation. Yes, it's that situation again that cannot be named but that took all the life out of an otherwise wonderful semester with students. When a couple of colleagues ran into an issue with a supervisor and filed a grievance in Human Resources, a support group arose. Through all the disappointments, mixed messages, and sheer amazement at the levels of bullshit that exist, four of us stood together, constantly supporting each other, listening when others didn't really listen, hugging when only a hug could soften the frustration and emotional toil the day had wrought. I have my newfound sistahs.

As for the coming year, I'm hoping to find a community to surround my writing. Since I am registered for a writing class right after the new year, I'm anticipating finding other like-minded writers looking for inspiration to write, looking for encouragement to write, and looking for others to support a journey into writing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Let Go/Make--two Reverb10 prompts

Seeing that yesterday elapsed without writing a response to the #reverb10 prompt, I figured that despite the stuffy head and droopy eyes, I would plunge into both prompts tonight, even if briefly.

Prompt Day 5: Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?
In all honesty, when I look at this prompt, I can only consider a messy work situation that basically emotionally commandoed my entire fall semester. As the fall semester draws to a close, I am slowly letting go of the anger I carry regarding the situation. Following my basic tenet of examining difficult situations by answering the question of "can I walk in my own shoes" if I do X, I can proudly say hellz yeah, I did the right thing over and over with this situation. Even when I know others perceive me as somehow having instigated something, hearing my words wrong, I can still stand firm in my belief, and still slowly let go of anger. It is not a perfect letting go, but I am slightly loosening the wrap, knowing that with more time, I can indeed let it go.


Prompt Day 6: Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?
Latkes. Latkes. And more latkes. They are never perfect latkes, since something always differs in the process. There is no careful measuring, just a watchful eye noting the proportions of potato, onion, salt, matzoh meal, and egg. Sometimes the pan differs, depending on my mood, but the oil is always hot and the house always smells of fry. This year the latkes had more crumbles (blamed on a not thorough enough process of squeezing liquid out, something that has been noted in the notes for next year's latke making or perhaps a distraction due to the backed up garbage disposal), but the same delicious flavor, a perfect mix of holiday.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wonder

I am not a sports fanatic, nor am I an athletic wonder. Yet, when I make space to be active, I find myself happiest outdoors with the sun warming my skin, the huge vistas from atop mountains stilling my restlessness, and the steady pace of the bicycle keeping my spaciness in check. When I first read today's prompt (How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?), I thought holy crap, here comes another Hallmark moment. But when I got over my snarky self, I realized that it is being outdoors in nature (yes, as trite and Hallmarky John Denver as that sounds) that cultivates a sense of wonder.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Finding the moment

Today's task: Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

Once again, a bit of a stump with the prompt. I'm not sure if the problem is trying to single out one moment, since when I ponder this, nothing in particular jumps to mind or if the difficulty is with the language of "felt most alive this year." I cannot quite quantify the sense of feeling most alive.

And so as I try to write my way through to some meaning, I remember spending three days deeply immersed in my creative process of composing a digital story. And it's here where I land, smack still in the sensations of the experience. It's the anticipation of the creation that brings on an initial state of fear, wondering if my piece will be good enough, wondering how others will react, essentially fearful of putting my creativity out for others to see. But after getting started, all the internal cacophony of my doubt faded into quiet, and I worked hard at getting my voice right, finding the right words to convey my experience, excited to get feedback from those around me.

After working all day on the story, I would go home energized, spending the night looking for visuals and audio that I wanted to incorporate. I'd unbury boxes of the past, and breathe in the old papers and photos, looking for the perfect moment. And three days after the initial start, I sat around a room with my fellow group of storytellers, and watched my piece have its moment of celebration, big on a screen, a triumphant reclaiming of my story.

Placing my creativity back in a public realm, perhaps is that moment.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Writing

What do you do each day that doesn't contribute to your writing -- and can you eliminate it? When faced with today's prompt, I got all bristly. What do you mean having me identify something that doesn't contribute to my writing; clearly everything contributes, right? When I wander spacily through the house in search of my misplaced coffee cup, doesn't that somehow contribute since it helps some unintentional idea wander into my head simply because I'm not thinking. When I spend hours surfing around facebook, reading friends' walls and links to articles, I sometimes end up writing, whether it be a status update or some type of blog inspired note based on the article. Does watching a weekly dose of The Simpsons contribute to my writing? Perhaps not, but I'm not sure I can eliminate it since that daily dose is a descent into pop cultured giggles that my being yearns for when exhausted.

Yeah, I know where the question is going. What is it that keeps me from writing, and it's not a particular activity that takes up my time, because truth be told, if there's something I want to do, I find time to do it. What keeps me from writing is a lack of habit and so many interests that constantly challenge for center stage.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One Word

Camp carries the energy of 2010.  This was the first summer that I can recall where I simply had little responsibility and no work. Due to a conflict, I didn't grade the AP exams and work for 9 grueling days; I finished my term as department chair, so didn't have any administrative responsibilities; and the work on the textbook wasn't very intense; there was plenty of time to have what became known as the summer of Camp Amy. Days would begin slowly, with me creating the daily schedule, ranging from physical activities such as golf, dog walking, biking, hiking; oftentimes a movie and nap were a part of the day's schedule. I was simply free and giddy each day because of the ultimate sense of freedom that camp brings.

Finished. When this time draws near one year from now, I hope that Sourceplay is well into production and about to be published for use. I also hope to have several pieces of writing finished and perhaps even entertaining sending some things out for publication (of course after they're finished). I'd like to see some of the ideas that populate a folder on my computer find their way into forms that fit the mood. I've set the constellation in motion to help spur these ideas (and new inspirations) toward a finished form: I signed up for an 8 week personal essay writing class that starts in early January, I intend to write several poems along with my class this spring, and several trips are planned with time and inspiration to write (Costa Rica and Ireland). Oh yeah, and of course finishing a simple month of daily blogging as part of #reverb10.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving week began with a journey led by Sarah Vowell when she appeared as part of The Denver Post's Pen and Podium series. During her reading, she discussed some of her perspective on Thanksgiving by way of its early origins. Oftentimes, huge Thanksgiving feasts commemorated a major battle and lots of bloodshed. In 1777, a national celebration of the holiday occurred to mark the American victory over the British in Saratoga. War again inspired a celebration following Gettysburg when Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving. And so, with notions of Thanksgiving following major war and bloodshed, I headed off to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, not knowing what to expect.
I admit I went with my stereotypes about Ar-kansas, imagining haunting banjos, empty spaces where teeth once hit the gums, religious fundamentalism, homophobia, overalls, and a sense of feeling far far away from home. But, when we hit the cousin Jean's place and settled in for three days, it was clear that not only was there no war to celebrate, but most of the preconceived notions were just a northerner's sense of hysteria, influenced clearly by an overdose of film filters.

Every time Nan and I entered the house that held forty for a fabulous Thanksgiving Day feast, we were formally announced: "The Cousins are here." No overalls filled the room, no country twang, but rather lots of people giving hugs, welcoming us as long lost family. People bustled together in the kitchen creating the feast, chopping, chatting, and stealing bites of freshly fried turkey skin. At tables people gathered, barely talking between bites of plates filled with an abundance of the season, reconnecting with family they haven't seen since the last celebration. Nan and I were simply the cousins, part of the family gathered to feast and give thanks for the warmth of family.

The following day, when we wandered through the historic tour of Eureka Springs, we got to visit Thorncrown Chapel, built by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Seeing the blend of the landscape and the use of natural light, brought a natural symmetry to Thanksgiving weekend since a year ago Nan and I found ourselves at Taliesen, learning the traits that defined Wright's architecture. And after three days in Arkansas, I got to know a new family, a family that welcomes everyone, a family that laughs, a family that teases, and a family that gives great hugs.

I give thanks to my new cousins.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Transgender Day of Remembrance

For the past five years, Red Rocks Community College has celebrated the Transgender Day of Remembrance with some type of panel and sometimes an accompanying film. Each year, the panel simply amazes me, making me stand in awe of the courage and sense of self that transgender people display. And each year I am reminded that I get to learn from the panel. This year was no different, and again, all the credit goes to the students who organized the panel.

The panel was preceded by a short 20 minute film produced by PFLAG of Boulder called Faces and Facets. Watching the film brought back memories of past panels, since many in the film had also been on a previous year's panel (e.g. Matt Kailey, Eden Lane, and Nicole Garcia). Following the film, two RRCC students, one student from a local community college, and a co-director of trans programming at The Center shared stories about living authentically as a transgendered person. Rather than concentrating on all the violence and hatred transgendered people face regularly, the panel chose to focus on more of a celebration of who they are, emphasizing how their journey is an ongoing pursuit of being as authentically themselves as they can possibly be.

And what struck me throughout was how proud they stood, just telling their stories, trusting that everyone before them (some fellow students in their class that had never heard their story, an administrator that never fully knew the challenges they face, and a supervisor who constantly mixes up pronouns when referring to a particular student listened to the student explain how that felt) would hear and really get their message about what it means to be transgendered, what it means to get to embrace their authentic self.

I am totally in awe of their trust to come out in front of so many people all at once--people they will see again in their classrooms perhaps looking at them differently, people they will pass in the hallway, and people they will see again as allies, fighting when their voices don't have access.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When I Rise

"Walk tall girl...don't lean over" Barbara Smith Conrad advises a young black woman after an opera masterclass. These words characterize her attitude, clearly reflected throughout the documentary When I Rise. Growing up in a small rural east Texas town, Barbara developed her vocal abilities and eventually found herself at the University of Texas, Austin in the 1950s amongst a group of approximately 100 African American students enrolled there for the first time. The film shows the racial prejudice of the time, highlighting her experience at the university.

Due to her gorgeous voice and talent, Barbara Smith Conrad was cast in the school's production as of Dido and Aeneas, as the leading lady. Cast in a sea of white males, the Texas legislature, characterized by Klan hatred, put pressure on the university to remove her from the cast. A newspaper headline announced the decision "Negro Girl Withdrawn From UT Opera Cast." Despite the huge racial intolerance, Barbara Smith Conrad decided to stay at UT Austin, even after being offered money by Harry Belafonte to transfer to a more supportive university. 

After finishing her studies, Barbara Smith Conrad went on to a successful international career as an opera diva. The film traces her rise to stardom, but essentially concentrates on her journey to heal the wounds she experienced while at UT Austin. Despite returning to UT Austin as an honorary alumnus years earlier, her final healing does not occur until she returns in 2009 for a series of events, including teaching a masterclass. While there for the visit, the Texas state legislature officially passed a resolution apologizing to Barbara Smith Conrad for its actions more than half a century ago.

As she sings the lyrics "When I Rise" from the spiritual Give Me Jesus, her words illustrate the triumphant spirit that withstood the pervasiveness of racism.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Euclid Hall--seriously yum

I figured I'd take a break from my film blogging, if only for a moment, to wax on about one of my other passions--FOOD. One of the difficulties during the film festival, at least for me, is figuring out how to eat decent food since I end up not being home for dinner most of the evenings. When I have moments between films at the Auraria campus, I am stuck with the option of popcorn (good but often not quite what I want for dinner), the food court (only if desperate), the coffeeshop (good coffee but food options not quite so appealing for a quick dash of 15 minutes), and the pizza place (terrible pizza but usually dinner since it's right there and quick).

Last night though there was a nice chunk of time between films, so Nan and I ventured downtown to check out the new digs at Euclid Hall. Since it was another endeavor by the team that runs Rioja and Bistro Vendome, I expected great; I got spectacular. The space is open, inviting, with two floors of tables, two bars, and plenty of room. We got there during Study Hall (their rendition of happy hour from 3-6pm), with all draught beers available for $3. Normally I like a hoppy hoppy beer, but on the recommendation of the waitress, I opted for Boulevard Brewing Company's Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale. Each sip brought a flavor of hops mixed with an air of citrus--perfect.

Even though I had spent the morning at home cooking up a bunch of cabbage and sausage, it seemed almost sacrilege to not sample the hand-cranked sausages made fresh. After a delicious run-down on all their attributes, we chose the hand mixed boudin blanc, accompanied by four homemade mustards (a yellow, spicy brown, horseradish, and bordeaux--hard to pick a favorite). The perfect accompaniment was the pickle sampler (hops pickles, spicy pickles, bread and butter pickles, and some pickled tomatoes).

The menu features various poutines, something we'd only sampled on a trip through Quebec, in a fast-food establishment, likening it to mushy fries with a bunch of gravy on top. However, with the waitress extolling its virtues, we chose the mushroom poutine, delivered with all its luscious flavors of fresh mushrooms mixed in with a buttery perfect gravy and cheese curds, resting atop perfectly cut fries.

And if all that wasn't enough to satisfy, the oyster po'boy smelled of the sea as the juicy bits of oysters melted together with the bacon aioli.

Euclid Hall will only continue to get busier as word gets out. Grab a beer from its numerous selections, order a poutine, and take the chill off the darkening autumn nights.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Denver International Film Festival: Morning and 127 Hours

Both films caused me to shed tears. Both films had phenomenal acting that got my core, kept me fixed to the screen from start to finish.

Leland Orser's film Morning literally takes you into the collapsed world of Alice and Mark Munroe (Jeanne Tripplehorn and Leland Orser), two grieving parents who have just lost their young son. Unlike Rabbit Hole, Orser's film does not offer a break from the agony of the parents; there are no comedic moments, just sheer angst. As both parents try to find their own way through their grief, separate in their despair, they are tenderly watched over by the housekeeper in her daily ritual of bringing the newspaper to the door and tending to a shrine she's made for the young boy, lighting candles and adding objects to the memory outside their home. Alice's descent into darkness takes her away from her home, seeking temporary shelter in a hotel of anonymity, while Mark remains in the house, using the bouquets of flowers brought by mourners as golf balls, descending into his own darkness while inhabiting the world of his dead child (eating cans of spaghettiOs and fruit loops with his fingers while watching children's cartoons). Their screams are heard by nobody; their pain is felt by everyone.

Danny Boyle's 127 Hours is a nonstop ride with Aron Ralston (James Franco) as he triumphs in the canyons of Utah. Prior to the film, I seriously wondered how Boyle would create a film solely around Ralston's struggle with the boulder, trying to free his arm over the course of 5 days. Where would the story focus? Would the 90+ minutes of film simply focus its lens on Ralston stuck with the boulder, and if so, how would that succeed? True to Boyle's phenomenal directing talents, 127 Hours rests its lens on Ralston, taking the viewer through all his emotions and survival sense from start to finish. There's a bit of preamble as Ralston prepares for his trip to Canyonlands, showing his arrogance and adventure prowess to some girls, and eventually finding himself alone journeying to his destination. The minute the boulder unleashes and immobilizes him, you are stuck there with him, wondering how he will survive and set himself free. You gasp each time he fumbles for water from the Nalgene bottle, wondering when he would lose his grip and drop the bottle; you see into the future with him as he pictures reasons for living; you grimace as he swallows his urine, desperate to quench his thirst; and you scream a bit inside as he tears through his tendons in his arm. Simply riveting from start to finish, 127 Hours is not only a triumph of spirit, but brilliance in acting and directing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Denver International Film Festival Day One

My high holy days have arrived with the opening of the 33rd Starz Denver International Film Festival. 10 days/16 films/plenty of variety. Last night's film, Rabbit Hole, marked the opening of the festival. The film, directed by John Cameron Mitchell, starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, and Dianne Weist, is an adaption of the Pulitzer Prize winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire (who also worked on the screenplay for the film). Both John Cameron Mitchell and Aaron Eckhart were there for the screening, participating in a Q&A with The Denver Post's Lisa Kennedy following the film.

The film examines the struggling marriage of Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie Corbett (Aaron Eckhart) as they grapple with their grief and relationship eight months after the tragic death of their young son (killed in an automobile accident). A mix of uncomfortable silence marked with a lot of tension, anger, laughter, and pain, the film places you in their world as they attempt to sort out how to begin living again. Becca escapes her reality by stalking and then establishing an odd relationship with Jason, a teenage comic book creator who was the driver of the car that killed her son; Howie finds solace smoking pot and hanging out with Gabby (Sandra Oh), a founder of a support group for grieving parents.

"Does it ever go away" asks Becca to her mom, who also has experienced the loss of a child, Becca's brother.

Her mom responds "No, at some point it becomes bearable." It's this transition from the heavy weight of unbearable grief, to a life that will always be marked by loss yet is still livable, that marks the film's journey.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat

I'm a Halloween curmudgeon, a grouchy candy eater; I would choose the basement and a darkened porch if left alone. But Nan, on the other hand, welcomes the trick or treaters, the cute kids in their costumes only desiring a bit of candy for their treat. It's not the act of giving out candy or the chit chat with the neighbors that disturbs me yearly on this night; it's the unpredictable interruption into my evening. Seriously, if Trick or Treat could simply be scheduled, this is what I'd like to see:
  • 5:45-6:00 Infants with their parents
  • 6:15-6:45 Children accompanied by adults
  • 7:00-7:15 Random children alone or in groups, adults not necessarily present
  • 7:15 Porch lights out throughout the neighborhood. 
And then, I could celebrate in the neighborhood chit chat, rather than sitting in a room shut off from the festivities (with the dog of course), missing that I wasn't at the door when Nan met some new neighbors a block down, out for the evening, introducing themselves to anyone with a porch light on. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hello Fall--Butternut Squash Risotto

A hot steamy bowl of butternut squash risotto is one oozing mouthful of fall goodness. Topped with a bit of fresh pepper, the dish seriously melts away any chill of the evening. Hints of the pinot gris wine, vegetable stock, and freshly grated parmesan all combine into a delicious accompaniment to the fresh butternut squash (that always screams fall) and arborio rice.

I used Martha's recipe, omitting the fresh sage (sadly none to be found in my fridge or wilting garden) and substituting freshly ground pepper for  garnish. I also probably used 1.5 times the amount of the butternut squash.

Seriously yum.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Call Me Ally

GLSEN (http://www.allyweek.org/)
301 pledges signed. This was more than double what we expected last week. After years and years of having to lead the charge for GLBT related issues on campus, I find myself lucky this semester to have a group of energized students who took charge and organized an ally pledge signing to support GLSEN's Ally Week activities.

Usually on campus, the Queers & Allies group set up tables outside the cafeteria and watch people avoid us as they walk with their eyes entranced by the nothingness of the opposite wall simply so they don't make eye contact with the happy queers. This week, though, people came in numbers to the table, signing pledges to be voices against gay bullying.

More support became apparent on Spirit Day, October 20th, when people sported purple shirts, purple ribbons, purple anything to call attention to the recent suicides of LGBT youth. Colleagues stopped me in the hallway, pointing out the purple they donned; some others emailed me to describe their outfit, telling me they had looked for me so I could see their purple. These displays bring some hope after weeks of reading one news story after another about another queer youth committing suicide, after reading more constipation from the Obama camp regarding DADT, and after years of feeling like if I don't fight for some change on campus, nobody will.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

On my 51st year

When I turned 50 last year, I thought I might have all these milestones to achieve. Prior to the big 5-0, I came up with a ridiculous list that included 50 in all the entries:
  • Post a blog entry daily for 50 consecutive days
  • Write 50 thangs (poems, essays, stories) within the year
  • Practice banjo for 50 days in the year
  • Exercise 50 minutes a day several times a week
  • Eat out at 50 different restaurants
And probably many more along the same vein of ridiculousness. The year passed, as most other years, fulfilling nothing on the imaginary list (although perhaps the restaurants, but I wasn't keeping track).

Now in my 51st year, I look back and see that I did accomplish some things that I wished to get back on track. It seems that with each year that passes, I moan about my lack of writing, my inability to set a priority to make my creativity happen; I obsess about not getting into a regular exercise regime so I can feel better about my body; and I ponder undertaking some major cleaning/sorting projects in the house (e.g. the garage, the kitchen cabinets, my bookshelf).
  • I kickstarted my writing. Over the summer I took a digital story workshop and created a digital story, and I wrote and revised some poetry, sharing it with a colleague for some informal feedback.
  • This fall, I have carried over the writing from the summer, taking a travel writing class with Nan from Shari Caudron: finishing brief 250-500 word pieces, sharing writing in class as a student, and analyzing travel essays that veered away from some traditional travel essays. Enjoyed the class so much, that I am strongly considering taking an essay writing class this spring.
  • I started this blog, inspired to continue my writing with a bit of regularity (no prunes necessary)
  • Over the summer, with plenty of time, I got back into an exercise regime that helped me feel healthy and fit. Whether I was biking 20 miles, taking Sasha for long walks, or hiking, I didn't obsess so much about an ideal weight and look.
  • This fall, I still struggle to regain that regular exercise habit since that is the first thing that falls when my schedule gets busy. I have managed to take a yoga class most weeks, and I am feeling more and more drawn back to the gym to get back into an exercise schedule.
It seems that if I don't consciously set goals, they are somehow implicitly there, nestled in the back of my psyche. Banjo--it's your turn next.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

National Coming Out Day

National Coming Out Day is all about telling stories, recognizing the different moments of being out, celebrating our individuality loud and proud. Each year, I'm reminded how crucial it is to be out, to say to the world that being queer is not a less than, not an other, not a choice. Yesterday, at our Queers and Allies (our campus equivalent of a GSA) meeting, we went around the room telling coming out stories, sharing struggles and celebrations. What struck me most was how raw some of the stories were for people telling them, the struggle and pain still very much a part of their present. And this rawness reminded me how crucial it was to be out, since our stories helped empower each other, helped remind each other that even though our stories are different, the awkwardness, the search, the recognition, and the deep sigh of relief are something that resonates through all our experiences.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Feeding Technorati

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This blog is simply for the purpose of having Technorati recognize the blog post.
On other random notes, today I learned:
  • sustainability is too easily interchanged with the concept of environmentalism, rather than embracing aspects of economics, social justice, and enviromentalism
  • it's easier to explain aspects and practices of agricultural sustainability rather than defining the broad concept
  • attending a conference downtown that is not directly related to my discipline felt like a school field trip to a really cool intellectual site
  • that I only have to be on campus two days this week (due to the conference)
  • Jax has a fantabulous happy hour with delicious calamari and poke, perfectly accompanied by a margarita

Sunday, October 10, 2010

CSA Adventures: Quinoa Salad

It's the season when the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) pickups become a dizzying melange of vegetables, when kale is aplenty, and when I am reminded that freshness is ticking against the length of the days. Yesterday, my refrigerator left little peeking room around piles of vegetables, and so, an intervention was needed to clear out space. The huge alien shaped kohlrabi threatened to permanently move into the fruit drawer (the veggie drawer was already overcrowded) and the daikon radishes appeared to be sporting odd growths in need of a trim. On a whim, I decided to toss the kohlrabi (peeled and diced of course), along with the daikon radish (also peeled but sliced) with some oil and salt into the oven (425 degrees) for about 45 minutes. Once that was finished, I set about assembling a salad like casserole of vegetables. And thus, this quinoa salad was born.


Ingredients
1/2 cup quinoa (mix of cream-colored and red)
1 bunch of greens (I used a mixture of curly kale and Lacinto kale)
1 carrot sliced
1 kohlrabi, peeled, diced and roasted
1 daikon radish, sliced and roasted
1 cooked beet (I prefer mine roasted)
3-4 cloves of garlic
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/s cup chopped cilantro
2-4 oz. goat cheese
1/2 lime
salt
olive oil

Cook the quinoa. Let cool to room temperature.

Add the greens, garlic, and onion to 1-2 tbs olive oil and saute until softened but still slightly crisp (should not be a pile of mush). Add the slices of carrots and saute for 1-2 minutes (the carrots should still have a crunch to them).

Toss the quinoa with the cooked greens and the rest of the vegetables and herbs. Mix together, add the goat cheese (as much as your taste buds prefer), salt to taste, 1 tsp of olive oil, and the juice of 1/2 lime.

You now have a salad with hints of summer and a definite dose of fall.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

There's a new blog in town

Adios midgebop.blog-city.com. You've been a kind friend since October 2004, always there, always ready, always accepting. I know that I, on the other hand, have not been as faithful, sometimes not communicating for months at a time. Circumstances spoke and with the closing of blog-city, I had to look for a new home, and here it is. I have decided to abandon the midgebop label for the blog, feeling like I should clearly own my name and attach it to my writing (no more stealth).

And this is not an obituary for a blog, nor even a farewell party. It is more of a celebration for a revitalized new blog that reflects my new engagement with writing. While the past years seem to have been exclusively devoted to writing and revising Sourceplay, my text with Liz Kleinfeld, I have been recapturing my creative spirit and need to write (hopefully future entries to come detailing some of those recent writing inspirations).

 When first setting up this blog, I pondered reshaping the blog, giving it a specific angle rather its former self made up of academic musings, food obsessions, film reviews, travel bits, and random thoughts. But that is me, and so with a renewed partnership with my writing, more to come.