Showing posts with label Culture as War. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Culture as War. Show all posts

Sunday, July 07, 2024

the news... and nourishment

Heartbreaking news about Alice Munro... and tragically one reminiscent of the world she evoked in her fiction where children are betrayed and damaged by adults (plural!) who were supposed to care for and protect them. I hope Andrea Robin Skinner finds peace and experiences continued healing.


Unfathomably soul-crushing news from The Lancet (medical journal of record) warning that conservatively, "the true death toll in the Gaza genocide could be 186,000 or more." And that this "staggering figure amounts to 8 percent of the population of Gaza. A similar percentage of the US population would be 26 million people." I'm coping through a cocktail of hope (there has been an increase in public support for Gaza including from the French left--the surprise election winners), drugs (including OTC Ashwagandha), busy-ness (deadline after deadline), and the loving support of family and friends.

Pic: Some of my farmers' market haul from this weekend. I used the summer abundance for dinner today--ratatouille, which I served with focaccia (also from the market) and tzatziki. Our meal was already solidly Mediterranean, repping French, Italian, and Greek foods, so I cut up some Valencia oranges to add Spain to our dinner mix.

Saturday, July 06, 2024

in which my mom schools me on how to use my phone

Sometimes when Nu and I are comfort-watching a show from the '90s (Friends or Dawson's Creek or Felicity--ok, the last two are mostly me), I'm amazed at how all those characters are just walking around without cellphones hoping to bump into their pals randomly and with no way to check in on people if they're late to a rendezvous. I say "they," but I did that too back then, obviously. Sometimes it seems like another lifetime! I wonder if Nu can really even imagine how it used to be. 

And I'm not even a person who uses their phone that much. I was reminded of that today when my mom made a request. She wanted me to record myself singing a handful of Thyagaraja kritis because she said she wanted to hear them right now. (It was so sweet. "I can't wait until June to hear you sing them to me again," she said.) When I told her I didn't know how to record, she gave me such specific directions starting with: "look for the "mic" symbol..." Seriously, I was so impressed. She said that she'd previously taught her aunts to make recordings when they found it difficult to type. Nu, who is of the digital-native generation, is my usual go-to person when I need to figure out something on my phone... but now I can ask my mom too.

Pic: Huck and Max keeping me company; I was putting dinner together while I practiced "Marukela Ra," one of the songs my mom had requested. This version I found is by the superb Maharajapuram Santhanam (incidentally, the grandfather of one of my school friends who's recently become a wonderful advocate and carer for the many street dogs in Chennai).

Thursday, July 04, 2024


no doors will open 
only borders
and they are
the preludes
to resentment

but think if only you
could be very
quiet, become 
very small you 
could slip through

to sit liminal as a god 
at the crossroads
agonize, organize
infinite as the sun...
falls down 

Note: Not much of a July 4th celebration this year. On a logistical level, LB, my usual Independence Day date is off at a wedding. Plus it was rainy, so I felt less inclined to seek out parades and outdoor concerts, and Nu and Big A like a low-key evening anyway. On a critical level, the past week of Supreme Court rulings (esp. criminalizing homeless people while giving presidents almost monarchial immunity) has shaken me. "America doesn't deserve a birthday party this year" is a theme/mood on my socials. Also: a lot of anticipatory dread and anxiety about the upcoming elections (esp. as I foresee a lot of in-fighting on the left). I wonder--and worry--about where we'll be as a nation next year this time.

Pic: A red-white-and-blue pic of Lansing fireworks SJ shared.

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

"Together Again"

A dear friend gave me tickets to the Janet Jackson "Together Again" show, so Big A and I went. It was a trip. (Also a trip: how much Janet Jackson there has been in my week!)

Oh, how I adored "That's the Way Love Goes" as a young 'un. It used to be a whole mood. And being at the show felt like being in the 1990s again. I could kinda see the crowd as the teenagers they were years ago. And though we're all very different (I lived on a completely different continent back then), the music gave us all a shared context.

Anyway--it was a terrific show: four costume changes, lots of medleys, updated lyrics and riffs, cool dancers... and the opening act was Nelly (he of the "It's Getting Hot in Heeeere" track so beloved by my mom)! 😂🤣

Pic: A pre-show ussie of me and Big A.

Monday, July 01, 2024

what I heard

1) "When you do coke it's not supposed to make you black out, right?" Person I'd stopped to check on in the bus shelter. They were crying and I couldn't walk past them without asking if they were ok. I didn't know the answer to their question, but I tried to see if they wanted to go to the hospital. They didn't. Ultimately, I did just walk away.

2) "Those deer out there are like good friends. They just hang out in my yard all day." Person with a huge Trump flag in their yard when I marveled at the 25 or so deer just sitting in their yard. I'd pulled up warily to ask for directions and was a bit taken aback. I don't know if I thought a Trump supporter would just randomly be shooting deer in their backyard or what.

3) *zombie noises* This was Nu after dinner. Max seemed to think it was the fun-est thing in the world and followed them around with heart-emoji eyes.

4) "Mr. Melancholy and his 'lunages'." A line from I Saw the TV Glow, which Nu was watching while I worked. Nu and At had already seen it together when Big A and I were in Arizona and liked it a lot. Turns out the line was "Mr. Melancholy and his luna juice." Umm. Yeah. Either way, I didn't get it. I think it's one of those things where you have to pay attention.

Pic: We've been going to Pride parades for years at this point, but I think I started giving the kids Pride presents only during the pandemic. Here, Nu and At are trying to figure out the prisms they got this year; Max thinks At, who'd stopped by for dinner after a shift at Chipotle, smells delicious. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

up and down and all around

The writing group didn't meet today... but good news about two conference acceptances. I'll chair the panel on narrative medicine; and I'm really excited about the panel I organized, titled, "If You Build It, They Will Come: Critical Feminist Practices for Campuses, Communities, and Campus-Community Partnerships."

I think we've finally finished edging the pond... but there have been some work-related woes, so we may be putting the house up for sale if things don't turn around. I'm determined to enjoy it while we're here!

I loved Sandwich so much, that I downloaded We All Want Impossible Things right away... and it's just so sad, I don't know that I can go on.

A long walk with Big A with the weather app predicting no rain as we set off... and then after we got to the halfway point, it began to rain. Oh, well, I'm not actually made of sugar.

Pic: A family of geese out on an outing.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

a handful of summer things

It feels like I just got home from a fun family beach vacation on Cape Cod because I just finished Catherine Newman's Sandwich. I'd picked it up on Nicole's recommendation. Actually, the whole novel felt like it was being narrated by Nicole with that characteristic sense of warmth, humor, personal history, and integrity. I snorted and chuckled and laughed out loud so much while reading this on the cloud reader, that everyone knew I wasn't working on my laptop. Also: Was there a character called Maya? (Yes, there was.) Was she the same age, and at the same stage in her PhD, as when I used to go up to Truro for a week every summer as a guest of a dear friend's family? (Yes, she was.) 

And inspired by something Jenny did a couple of weeks back, I treated myself to a trip to the bookstore. I browsed and browsed but didn't buy anything although I still have my birthday bookstore money to spend.

Also: I got a massage after months off.  Wonderful R, who used to make house calls, has moved away. I had bought myself some massage gift certs around the holidays, but the person was flaky about scheduling and then sent a group text that they couldn't honor the certs because they had been diagnosed with cancer. (They're being sued by a bunch of people who say they have proof this is a ploy. But I keep thinking what if they really do have cancer--how shitty would that be to have to fight these BBB claims while also fighting cancer and being impoverished by having to pay for treatments under our horrible healthcare system?) Anyway, I'd already spent half a year's budget on massages, so I had to wait until now. I got an acupressure session today, and it feels hurts so good right now.

Pic: Eating my colors. This is the poké bowl I made for Big A's Boss Day: Miso rice, shaved sprouts, grated carrots, chopped cucumber, avocado, cherry tomatoes, mango, and tiny peppers + broiled salmon/tofu. I was going to add arugula before plating, but I forgot.

Monday, June 24, 2024

...the little children

our world wanes thin 
this hard-won hope 
afire and at once
               sky bright - tear dark
                flowering - hungry
                  prayers - profanity
its ruined road looks
back, asks us a riddle
shadowed answers 
                  seem to see a child
                 say just some child
                  it is the same child 

Note: I was going for "suffer the little children" for the title with its biblical sense of "allow" but also to evoke the idea of suffering.
I think some of the early images came from a dream in which someone I admired told me something was "not strong, but it is right." I was very impressed by this insight in the dream and on waking up. But I agree with Big A that it doesn't really seem to make sense or hold up.
Pic: The first ripened tomato from the veggie plot. May there be many more (if the deer, squirrels, birds, chipmunks, slugs, bugs, groundhogs, and bunnies grant).

Sunday, June 23, 2024

summer slide

I guess I have my own version of summer learning loss a.k.a. summer slide. I'm not losing knowledge over summer, I keep forgetting things that worked for me last summer. I'm having to relearn. I have to remember that I have a folder of no-cook dinner ideas. I have to remember that turning the shower to "cool" for a few beats at the end will keep me from sweating when I get out. I was doing these things by rote by the end of summer last year, but haven't yet fallen back into those habits this year.

Yesterday, when I was horrified by a movie plot twist At and Nu shared with me, I was informed that I had reacted the same way when they'd told me before. "Sorry to retraumatize you, I thought you already knew" At said. Every time I remembered that bit of the conversation today, it made me laugh.

Also: I was so relieved to get back into reading today. I was stalled on a book for over a week in a terrible self-perpetuating cycle--I wasn't enjoying it, so I wasn't making time to finish it, and I couldn't start another book while that one was unfinished (plus I had that deadline, so I didn't have much free time). I finally finished it yesterday and got to read a whole book today. (Rachel Hawkins's The Villa. I particularly enjoyed the allusion/shoutout to Mary Godwin Shelley writing Frankenstein at the Villa Diodati.) It was a relief to know it wasn't me or the genre--that other book was just bad.

Pic: Big A, Huck, and Max. They're all leaping in the air because of their proximity to the treat jar :).

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Summer Solstice: Full of Pride

Early morning date with a sweet delicious baby-- DVA's grandkid was visiting, and I got to play and feed the baby as DVA got showered and dressed for the bridal shower they were going to. It was truly lovely. I'd forgotten the way babies make noises of contentment as they're on their bottles--their bodies calm, their fingers curling and uncurling in delight. So precious. All sustenance should be so enjoyable.

I hung out with my own babies for the rest of the day at the Pride festival. We started by the river where the feminist coalition and DSA had set up a radical reading library with zines, books, and community events under the banner "The first Pride was a protest." They had a lot of materials and quotes by queer Palestinians on hand-lettered posters. After we'd helped with repositioning their tent and tying down some of the posters (At knew them from DSA), we went over to the "rainbow capitalism" side, seeing more people we knew, getting freebies and treats and then stopped for cold drinks and pizza at the pub before heading home. At headed off to work, Nu headed back of to Pride with friends. They joked that they were so full of Pride.

Pic: BOL holding a polaroid of us at Pride today. BOL, Nu, At, and me.

Friday, June 21, 2024


I can be a gate
even birds with broken wings have visions
they see our world without lifting in flight

I can be a flame
every time my heart returns, I feel again 
how simple and honest it is, how not shy

I can be the magic
stirring in the song that may fracture the sky 
the calm violence in my implicit transformation 

I could be a god
sunk deep in sleep and remembering my life
baked merciful in stone and skin and sunlight
Pic: LB and TB got us all together for a picnic and a performance of "The Complete Works of Shakespeare" at MSU's Summer Circlemseries. I enjoyed the cross-dressed, campy Juliet misinterpreting Romeo's "call me but Love..." and calling him "butt love" way more than I should have.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

an easy hang

A lovely day-spend with the lovely KPB. 

I joked to KPB about how I finally sent off my work because I had to get ready to hang out with her today and how she was helping me check things off my summer fun list too... Today: A walk though the Rose Garden, Baklava at Sultan's, and a meander through the Broad Art Museum's new exhibits.

Bestie KB set me and KPB up when she left to go live in Minneapolis.  So KPB reminds me a little of being with KB (they even have similar names and initials)! But KPB and I have lots in common and today was just an easygoing ramble of chatter and jokes and shared positions on things that matter. And new ideas--now I want to get a glass-cutting tool and work with old bottles.

Pic: "Angel Soldier" by Yongbaek Lee (2005). In this hanging video installation, there are soldiers wearing flower camouflage moving ominously through a vista of artificial flowers. It's their movement that gives them away, so they're difficult to detect in a photograph. (But if the photo were a clockface and you look in the region of 10, you can kind of see the muzzle of a gun.) Broad Art Museum today with KPB who came down from Alma for the day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

an adult marriage

Somehow, it has been 18 years since we were married! Our marriage is officially an adult now. On some days it feels like it has been 40 years and perhaps just 5-6 years at other times? 

IDK. Math is tough for me.

(I usually don't specify how long we've been married because we have a 25-year-old, and I don't want to get into the inevitable mathy-judgy questions about that. But essentially, IDC.)

The morning was deadline-fueled editing, the afternoon was interviews with candidates for a faculty position. But I took a couple of hours off for a drive and dinner with Big A, reminiscing about our top favorite things about the last 18 years. 

Pic: Wedding afternoon. My tiara is off, A's coat buttons are undone. We're in my MIL's house in Ohio. I have a photo like this on the nightstand, and it always makes me laugh because the kids once said it looks like I went and married a teenager. 

Monday, June 17, 2024

the time I need

My deadline was this past Sunday. I got an extension until Wednesday, because I wanted to spend a few more days fine-tuning things. When I asked for the extension, the editor good-naturedly said I should "take the time I need." I think about how they (could have but) did not say I should take "all the time I need." I'm using it as a kind of rubric--does the tweak I envision fit in the "time I need?" If it doesn't, I'm making a note and passing on it/passing it on. 

I lugged my laptop to the sports bar where Big A was watching the Dallas-Boston NBA game tonight. While there, he tried quite valiantly to tell me all the "subplots" and rivalries beyond the score. His description of someone looking like a cream cheese was very apt--I recognized them as soon as they showed up on screen. Anyway, the Celtics won, everyone was happy, and we're home.

(That's two sports-themed events in the space of a week... who am I these days?!)

Pic: Big A in this year's Father's Day tee. It's Star-Wars themed and has all the kids' names on it. Huck and Max just got a treat from the treat jar. 

Sunday, June 16, 2024

have loved him my whole darn life

I posted a short tribute on FB for Father's Day. I wrote, "My dad was the first feminist I knew. (He loved the poet Bharathiar deeply, and perhaps that's where *he* got it from...) I am so lucky to have had his fierce love and support in all things big and small all my life. I know he's loved me since I was born, but I've actually loved him my whole darn life."

But there's so much more to say... How he came from a family of six brothers, and mourned the baby sister who died as an infant for decades. How he'd tuck my sister and me into bed like it was a military operation--even lifting our feet to tuck the sheets under them. How he teared up when I got my first period, because he was so sad for my future lifetime of cramps and discomfort. How when I said he loved fiercely, I meant fierce in all its senses--sometimes he'd be so moved kissing us, his face would be like a grimace. How he made a rule that my mom could not compare us to other kids. How he'd find something good about even our failures or frame them in the most generous light. How he'd had secretaries to "take dictation" at work, but would painstakingly write notes to us in his (truly) terrible handwriting.

My mom is right--good dads get more kudos than good moms because good dads are rarer than good moms. But as the years go by and he gets older, I cherish every day and every conversation with my dad even more. I'm hoping to take all my A's--Big, Little, and Baby--to go visit him in India next year.

Pic: My dad and me on Elliot's Beach; I'm sure my favorite uncle took this one. I look so much like dad in this one.

Friday, June 14, 2024

reading between the flowers

I think teenager Cass makes a terrific point in The Bee Sting when she is irritated with the ubiquitous nature themes in poetry: “You go to class and discuss famous poems. The poems are full of swans, gorse, blackberries, leopards, elderflowers, mountains, orchards, moonlight, wolves, nightingales, cherry blossoms, bog oak, lily-pads, honeybees. Even the brand-new ones are jam-packed with nature. It’s like the poets are not living in the same world as you. You put up your hand and say isn’t it weird that poets just keep going around noticing nature and not ever noticing that nature is shrinking? To read these poems you would think the world was as full of nature as it ever was even though in the last forty years so many animals and habitats have been wiped out. How come they don’t notice that? How come they don’t notice everything that’s been annihilated? If they’re so into noticing things? I look around and all I see is the world being ruined. If poems were true they’d just be about walking through a giant graveyard or a garbage dump. The only place you find nature is in poems, it’s total bullshit." 

And I think of the message Mohamed Hussein in Gaza put out this morning: "This flower has bloomed next to my tent as if to tell me not to lose hope, that tomorrow the war will end, and everything will become beautiful. Life will surely blossom again."

And I think that's why. That's the answer to Cass. Hope enters our lives and stays as long there is a single bloom.

Pic: These flowers have bloomed next to our house as if to tell me...

Thursday, June 13, 2024

people to be joyous about:

* a colleague on a committee who took a gentle, but necessary, suggestion like a champ and acted on it. No pique, no passive-aggressive resentment, no defensiveness. Just beautiful.

* a kid who asked for something non-phone related on our "Buy Nothing" group... not just for themselves but for their two siblings as well.

* three students who want to do summer projects. I may bristle about committee work over the summer since we have no summer salary, but I love, love, love working with students. It all seems so pure: my students aren't doing it for the grades, I'm not doing it for pay.

* all the friends at the sleepovers Nu has been having. I'm glad to be that mom with the locked liquor cabinet and pallets of (Costco) snacks if it means I can hear Nu and their friends, two rooms over, laughing into the wee hours. 

*Pic: Nu. Who doesn't always look like this :) (and with whom I have the most amazing two-hour long discussions about Plath, Whitman, and life). Happy June 13th, I guess. I gave the teenagers something to laugh about when I walked in to say goodnight and visibly jumped at the sight of Nu's made up face.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

kindness-torture and polite-fights

I was walking back home to dinner (which I wasn't making BTW, it was Nu's Boss Day and we were getting Pokè) when I started getting inundated with texts asking where I was, if I was ok, did I need a ride back, etc. etc. So many texts! Ooof. I wasn't late to dinner or asking for help. Tamils would call this anbu thollai--kindness-torture. (Vaguely related to that other oxymoronic term the East Asian polite-fight.) I probably do this too... but sometimes you just... gotta let people be. (Or perhaps I'd miss it if it went away? IDK!)

Pic: Max and Huck (the fuzzy brown blur by the back door) exploring the yard after Big A completed the first mow of the year (there'll be another one around the start of fall). The plantings around the pond are beginning to come in nicely, but not fast enough for me. 

Saturday, June 08, 2024

contentment, panic, alarm, and a chuckle

Nu headed off to a friend's graduation open house, Big A took off for the Cow Pie Classic (what a weird concatenation of words), and my girlfriends' hang got postponed due to rain. So I contentedly puttered around the house, watered the zillion plants, and cleaned everything.

Then I wandered into a discussion about the rising cases of bird flu and how a bird flu pandemic could make Covid look like "a walk in the park." It made me panic a bit, so I took myself off for a long walk. I think I will order some masks and stockpile some beans and bleach though. Just in case. 

Alarmingly, Noam Chomsky's health is reportedly in sharp decline. Also, the U.S. disguised its participating troops as a humanitarian aid convoy (a war crime) instead of actually pursuing meaningful diplomacy for hostages. Why do we favor this kind of military charlatanism over rapprochement? 

Pic: Our flipsy-flopsy Maxie. This puppy makes me chuckle. He's snuggled into my side, his head and front legs are completely hanging off the sofa, his back legs and paws are torpedoed into our long-suffering Huck. And somehow he's fast asleep in this weird position. 

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

the lift we needed

So buoyed by the surprisingly good election results in India! There has been such severe repression of press and academic freedoms over the last ten years under the fundamentalist and egocentric leadership of Prime Minister Modi, and that has been fractured by the secular INDIA coalition winning 232/543 seats today. 

Modi's victory is pyrrhic--he will likely still become the P.M. for a third term. But for the first time in a decade, there is a solid opposition bloc in parliament, and he will not be able to have unconstitutional, non-secular, Islamophobic, crony-capitalism bills passed so easily (or at all).

People who celebrate my Boss Day--I mean, who else but my immediate family--started saying the results were a Boss Day present to me! It was funny and SO sweet to see texts from my sister and At both pop up with identical language simultaneously. The exit polls had been so doctored to benefit the ruling party over the month-long election process, so the results took everyone including pollsters, psephologists, and pundits by surprise. 

What a wonderful glimmer of hope that India will fulfill its destiny as the biggest democracy in terms of more than just numbers. I spent so much of the morning just beaming at my computer screen enjoying the memes and gifs and schadenfreude (they lost in Ayodhya where they destroyed the mosque!) and texting with friends and (the progressive) cousins. So proud of my home state of Tamil Nadu that gave the BJP exactly ZERO wins. So grateful to the students, professors, journalists, farmers, and impoverished millions who protested and resisted Modi's fascism in every way they could.

Pic: I love this quote from journalist Ravish Kumar: "Not all battles are fought for victory. Some are fought to tell the world that someone was there on the battlefield." I think it applies to every battle I'm engaged in. Our fights are, at least in part, so people being oppressed know that other people see their struggles and will fight for them. To know that we/they are not alone. 

strange new world

Weird how a day can begin like every other and then end up as something unknown. A is sick and in the hospital. It feels like being in a par...