Sunday, April 28, 2013


I am a rainy creature. This morning the rain was coming down hard enough to sound like pebbles on the roof --- a soothing, relaxing sound that seduced me into staying in bed far longer than I should have. Inside the air was crisp and cool when I got out from under the blankets; outside everything was all a mist, the rain having subsided to almost nothing.

I love the way the tree trunks and branches turn shiny black with the rain, causing the new leaves to really pop against them in contrast --- not quite a spring green, but a soft yellow-green with a hint of the gray from the sky. The sky itself is rubbed out like an unfinished pastel drawing: a smudge, a word unspoken, emptied of time. When the mist is on the mountains it looks like they are on fire ---- smoky tendrils and tentacles wisping out from between trees almost fully clothed in green and yellow.

Out into the drizzle, I can't be bothered with hats or umbrellas or waterproof coats, a legacy of my long years in California, where, if it is raining, it won't be much longer, and if it is raining, it certainly wasn't when you left the house and had access to theoretical rain supplies. Fat, infrequent drops plaster my hair to my head, bead up on my sweater but do not soak it. I go into the grocery store.

The rain is cold, the air pleasantly chilly. I approve. For me, still, a dark gray sky means cold weather and hot rain is a strange, baffling impossibility. Today, all we are missing are sugar pines and redwoods for this to be California. The light is diffuse and strangely sourceless, as if we are surrounded by scrims and light reflectors instead of the flat harsh light that casts shadows and picks out foregrounds from backgrounds. Though there is no fog, nothing is distinct. Everything runs into each other except the stark wet black trunks of trees.

I want to sit in a tent and watch the fat drops swell and plummet from the tips of pine needles. I want to slip and scramble my way up a muddy trail to a smoky, gauzy view. I want to print my fingertips in the red and smell the iron tang of clayey wet earth. I want to eat mouthfuls of mist.

Instead, I should do this huge pile of grading.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When grading, wear something sparkly on your head. When thinking...

you'll need something like this.

(Has anybody found a fascinator or headband that has a lot of bobbly red pens or quill pens bouncing off the top? I think that is the most appropriate grading headgear. Unless you plan to bring the pain and discipline; then I would recommend a police officer cap. The more you can look like one of the Village People, the better.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dr. Seuss's hats of creativity

Ok, I meant to post this quite a while ago. Here, go look at this article about a traveling exhibition of Dr. Seuss's private hats. Not only were they private, he even had them behind a secret door! And he would bring them out at parties, which sounds pretty awesome.

(my kind of hat, over on the right)

I think the exhibit itself would be more compelling than the article, to tell the truth, as it's a bit thin and repetitive, but it did bring up the interesting point that Geisel and his collaborator/editor would pull out hats and put them on whenever they were stuck with writer's block.
"he and Frith would each pick a different hat, perhaps a fez, or a sombrero, or maybe an authentic Baroque Czech helmet or a plastic toy viking helmet with horns. They’d sit on the floor and stare at each other in these until the right words came to them."

I am hoping that the right words would come out in song and dance, or profound silliness. Still, I think that the idea of a writing hat, or perhaps even a closetful of them, is the perfect solution for academics who are struggling with their work. Ideally putting on the hat would give you the new perspective to break through an impasse in revising, or act as a literal "thinking cap" to help you discover what exactly is wrong with that wonky paragraph, or at the very least make you burst out into laughter and not take your problems so seriously --- and if you do not understand why that is so important, then you haven't been around enough academics!

Hmm, I wonder what the proper "job application writing hat" would be. Perhaps Viking horns? Or maybe the wide hat those South American gauchos wear, with the little dangly corks all around. I kinda like the idea of the bobbling as you bobble about for your interfolio login. Mm.

So now I turn it over to you: Writer's Block Hats/Hats of Creativity: yea or nay? Should they be allowed in the senior seminar or only at the graduate seminar level? Would there be penalties for having a fancier hat than your major professor? And most importantly, what would your ideal Writing Hat, the one that would be most helpful or perhaps the most emblematic of your writing process, be?

Or maybe that should be Writing Hats --- if Geisel could have a whole closet of creativity hats, I figure academics need at least a shelf of 'em.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Man, I am continually surprised by how extra tired I get when I teach four classes in high, uncomfortable shoes. I am so wiped out. I have plenty of things I could blog about ---- I feel like I am neglecting this writing space ---- but ...

... wait, what? Was I staring at the wall again? Ugh. If I had the energy to blog something funny ... I probably would use that energy to make this week's midterm questions. I'm gonna go look at pretty pictures on the Crate and Barrel website instead.

Soon, though. Posts! I promise!