Monthly Archives: December 2012

Stayed on freedom

It is becoming our theme song, partly because I am fascinated with grammar. To stay, it is an action verb or a linking verb, but is also a transitive verb, as here.


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I woke up this morning realizing that it was a brilliantly clear sunny day and that I was excited to see it. Everything is possible when it is cold and sunny and dry like that. I woke up this morning interested in my field.

Tomorrow is Monday and I will take the car to be looked at early; from there I will go to the office, from whence I will call my roofer. I will look at the files I downloaded from Columbia University and e-mail some people there.

When business hours start in places further from Greenwich than I am, I will return calls to two people. Then I will investigate costs of this which is apparently the best such service in area codes 415, 650 and 707.

I am hoping the car will be finished by then, so I can take it to go work out. Then I will have lunch and pick up groceries.

In the afternoon I will clean house — everyone left this evening, finally, and there are remnants to straighten — and light candles for the new year.

In Brazil on New Year’s eve one wears white and goes down to the beach, to receive the influence of benevolent orixás. I may find some way to do this and it is something to plan to be able to do more literally next year which will always take place, metaphorically speaking, in Jerusalem.

Locally I should go out but I might rather go to the movies, and what I would really like to do is take the day off Tuesday, as a vacation day, and go into town. I could set sail to white flowers in the water, as one would in Rio de Janeiro, and it will be January.

This is going to be a grown up day, possibly my most grown up day ever. It was true about the calendar, I am no longer who I was and I will soon be very different; this weblog is purified now.



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Have you used this book?

I just discovered Hispanidades, which breaks down El espejo enterrado, which Tulane faculty already felt they were slightly … cheating … by using in the 80s, since it was already so masticado. Should I in fact be teaching at a lower-than-that evel for a culture course that is taken in the sixth semester? Or has this textbook been created for use in the case of having many graduate students, M.A. instructors and adjuncts teaching this course, and not for people like me who do not need it?

I have not used El espejo enterrado before but I had decided to relent and use it; I also ordered a series of essays on cultural studies and intend to annotate and illustrate all of this somehow. Now that seems dry and dull and too hard for the students and time consuming for me, and I am impatient with the tone of El espejo enterrado (and Fuentes is not my favorite author).

My problem is that I must cover all of Latin America and Spain, and some students may only know enough Spanish to read, say, 15 pages a week. I used to not attempt “coverage” of that kind, but simply choose five interesting topics and discuss them. I have all sorts of lists of these but what might it be interesting to discuss this time? It would serve me well to emphasize Mexico and Spain as much as possible, but what else would I like to have people have heard of before they hit Take 1 of senior year? A very rough list —

0. What is Hispanic, Maps of the Hispanic World, Spain and the Mediterranean (here we should see slides).
1. The Spanish civil war. I need them to know about this. We could talk about the present events in Spain then.
2. His- and Her- Panics. Gender, gender politics.
3. Galeano, Las venas abiertas de América Latina, and updated discussions around this. The economy and colonialism.
4. The Mexican Revolution, what came before and after it. We could talk about the present events in Mexico as we did this.
5. Afro-, Indo- and other non Hispanic Latin Americas. Is there a way to talk about this without going on about mestizaje?

Ay, but that, at this university, would be a senior level course, so round and round we go. I am highly tempted to switch to this Hispanidades book right now and supplement it, but I so dislike textbooks and it would be such a last minute change.



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Bijou Créole

We went out to see Cedric (Watson) and looking for the right clip I found this historic one, from 1986, of people and dancehalls that are no longer. Geno (Delafose) is on it even younger than when I first saw him and besides those two there are other musicians and bands who were children or close to it and now are not: Trombone Shorty, Les Feux Follets, Corey Harris whom we met randomly because he took our leaflet, before he decided to go seriously into music.

This is what we have here, that you likely do not have where you are, and it is quite singular.


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Woke up this morning with my mind…

I woke up this morning thinking that perhaps if I slept again and woke up again I would wake up somewhere else. I woke up knowing it was a sunny day. I woke up thinking, if you work in isolation is it enough to kill a project? I woke up wondering, how many people who have never worked in isolation, know in fact whether or not they are interested in their project? How do they know it is not just what they are doing because they have an atmosphere for it and they are paid for it? That was how I was one day, and I called it interest.

I have been told I have great discipline and willpower and that was how I was doing it. I have been told I have great enthusiasm and that was how I was doing it. I woke up this morning looking at the new Ph.D program in Austin, that takes five years. There are no exams and you write one paper and one dissertation. You prepare reading lists as one did before, but you are not then examined on them. I thought, that is how people manage to get degrees without having to learn discipline and “time management,” and how they publish a lot in graduate school but then still have writing issues when they finish. I thought, that is a program designed for students coming from elite colleges only.

I woke up wondering what it feels like to wake up excited to start work, as opposed to wake up merely alert and amenable to it on good days. I woke up with my mind stayed on freedom songs. I woke up thinking about the work I would like to do. I visualized the energy and called it to me, and if I work in a burst, on that dream, I have energy for this. Is the reason I need so much atmosphere that I lack interest, or is the reason I lack interest that I lack atmosphere … and can I create atmosphere on my own, simply by carving out more time? This is the only method I have so I must try it.

I woke knowing it was a sunny day and I got up singing freedom songs, and with freedom songs everything is easy. And freedom songs come from work songs, and work songs have a rhythm. I woke up this morning concerned since the past two weeks have been, unexpectedly, more draining than renewing and not enough of any of the things I had planned have been done. I woke up wishing for the ring I lost the other day. I got up singing songs of freedom and thought that it is two whole weeks, but then again it is only two weeks.

I was taught later in life that when you had other things happen you could not work, but earlier I had taught people that you could do both. You can do if you allow yourself to be in the center of your life. This was not, of course, what we learned in graduate school because decentering was in fashion, or in Reeducation since Reeducation means renunciation of one’s own goals and views. It is also not what is taught girls. Yet we sang freedom songs at school and I still associate school with freedom songs.


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Les Misérables

We saw Les Misérables and although I do not like musicals it is interesting to pore over July Monarchy, the 1832 rebellion and 1848 as well as the emphasis on ambivalence in Hugo’s heroes (which Javert cannot handle). French history is instructive and I wish I knew it better as it might explain my institution, as well — some say we are like Mexico in the 1820s, but really we could be France in the 1850s or any modern nation-state in a moment of authoritarian peace after a set of civil wars following the revolution that has given it violent birth.

I read that the novel when new was criticized in Le Monde for containing such detailed instructions on organizing riots. Hugo was in exile on Jersey and when he heard rumors of the novel’s success he telegraphed the editor: ? and received the answer: !.

Most interesting to me about this film was that I saw it in the same theatre where I had seen Lincoln a few weeks earlier and where the latter film is still playing. That made two historical dramas about major 19th century conflicts over freedom and I thought: that 19th century is more heroic than later centuries.

What is as heroic in the 20th century? I am not talking about degrees of suffering. “Concentration camps” is not an acceptable answer nor is having defended Stalingrad. Nor having seen starvation, nor having undergone rationing. I am talking about heroic enterprises and ideals, not endurance.



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Have you seen a hobbit lately?

It is raining endlessly and the films one could see include this and some others. This seems almost required — have you seen it and if so, do you recommend it?



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Z Materialist

Due to being paid tomorrow, and Christmas, and renting the room out for three days I can now acquire:

♦One of those milestone service jobs for the car.
Something like this but with transitional lenses, so I can drive. Cancelled for now in favor of fairly major repair to car, but I think I need them.
Something like this for the renters (real linen lasts a very long time and saves money, gente).
LASA membership renewal.
…which with AAUP and MLA is my third, and there is at least one more to go. I will reunite with the other organizations and journals when I rent the room out for Mardi Gras.
♦A manicure.
♦Rénergie Éclat, which is apparently now the best tinted moisturizer.

I ought to acquire 5 DVDs for class. I still want another pair of Mercer Street Skinny Jeans and the Dansko Nadine. I will resist all of these things, resist.



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Very Inspiring Award


It had been some time since this blog had received an award, but it has now, from Chandra Lynn. I am appreciative and also inspired. This weblog was created to inspire me and I am so glad it does others — especially Chandra Lynn who is from New Orleans and loves words and beauty like this blog. I am to say seven things about myself and nominate fifteen people for the award, and and this post is a draft.

I had a conversation yesterday with a friend who asked why I had enjoyed learning as a child. “To please?” “No, to grow,” I said. In this conversation I caught a glimpse of why I am not interested in having a religion, having to do perhaps with reading Erich Fromm as a small child and taking from him some ways of thinking about things I liked. Those are two things about me.

That makes Chandra Lynn and Erich Fromm the first two of my inspiring bloggers, and I am doubling my own award so that makes three. Numbers four, five, and six are posts: on Momo’s aunt Alma, 92 and growing younger, her list of 100 things which inspires me, and an interesting project idea from Stupid Motivational Tricks, tantalizing to the brain.

Some nine blogs and five things are missing, but right now I would like to follow on the “100 things” concept with fourteen items, things I want to do in life. I like this idea better than the more traditional New Year goals people have, despite fully intending to fulfill some of the New Year’s goals I have set for 2013 just because they will make life so nice.


Here is a brief list of important to-dos large and small, for right now and for far beyond.

1. Not bargain with the irrationality of others — insist upon rationality and what I used to call “regional autonomy” for me, whether people like it or not.
2. Fund home maintenance and get it done. This is very important.
3. Move to a city or find stable, regular ways to spend large amounts of regular time in these.
4. Get an academic job in a research institution with a library, and/or get that J.D. from a good program — either way, finally start working on a life’s work that resembles me.
5. See whether, if I follow my New Year goals, I can actually work on my life’s work here in Maringouin. Keep sight of the feeling of liberation I had when, discussing this here with someone else, they said, “It would be much appreciated.”
6. In other words, be who I am — and I am research, writing, analysis — without apologies.
7. Fnish my novel and publish it, ideally well.
8. Take the boat out regularly.
9. Really learn to run.
10. Regularly go to Pilates/similar, regularly sleep, and find ways to regularly get all the facials and eyelash tints I want. These are the things I stopped doing to weaken myself, because Reeducation wanted me to be weaker.
11. Regularly take time for recreational reading and film. Be relaxed enough to do these things.
12. As long as I cannot move away from Maringouin, be gone a lot. Also, all time in Maringouin must be spent in structured activity — ideally there will be no contemplative time, nothing that will allow me to see where I am, and every weekend or vacation day will ideally take place somewhere else.
13. Language immersion: Arabic in Cairo, German in Berlin, Icelandic in Reykjavik, Russian in Petrograd.
14. Last, but also first, regardless of field or employment status, for life: research and writing are every day, because I am now to be myself again, every day, and to be in charge of all my days.

From this you can tell things about me: I am in the role of a rural educator and sometime prison activist with an art habit, recovering from this failed psychoanalysis that has been concisely described as the opposite of Bildung.

Before this cataclysm I was an urban research professional, politically oriented, with outdoorsy interests and athletic habits. I am so much more comfortable with that self-description than the first, it is amazing.

The ultimate goal for 2013, for today, forever: forgive myself for having undergone this cataclysm. Every day that I do not find a way to set the horror aside, prolongs it.


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2. juledag: Højt fra træets grønne top

Now it is the second day of Christmas, so the season is getting going. You who believe Christmas is over, remember those Three Wise Men have only just begun their journey. There is frost here in Maringouin.

It is easy to celebrate a Danish Christmas in person, but it is much more difficult virtually. In Spanish or English we have many good versions of all the songs we might need, but Denmark is a small country now and does not put up many videos. Today’s song is a funny, secular classic we cannot neglect singing, but for which I cannot find a recording I like.

I reproduce the text here to show off Danish and also so that, if you know the melody, you can sing. It is about managing the children who are dancing around the Christmas tree. Not only does the tree have real candles: you dance around it when it is lit, and it is hung with presents and also gingerbread men and other savory items you can really pick off it and eat. You can imagine what it is to dance around such a tree in the company of several small, excited children.

The song is, of course, nineteenth century. The author, Peter Faber (1810-1877) was director of the telegraph office in Copenhagen, but was better known as a writer of popular songs. It is a good, comedic song about presents and food and tumult; key lines in it include “First the tree shall be shown off; then it shall be eaten” and “Christmas lasts a long time, and costs a lot of money.”

Højt fra træets grønne top
stråler juleglansen,
spillemand, spil lystigt op,
nu begynder dansen.
Læg nu smukt din hånd i min,
ikke rør’ ved den rosin!
Først skal træet vises,
siden skal det spises.

Se, børnlil, nu går det godt,
I forstår at trave,
lad den lille Sine blot
få sin julegave.
Løs kun selv det røde bånd!
Hvor du ryster på din hånd!
Når du strammer garnet,
kvæler du jo barnet.

Peter har den gren så kær,
hvorpå trommen hænger,
hver gang han den kommer nær,
vil han ikke længer.
Hvad du ønsker, skal du få,
når jeg blot kan stole på,
at du ej vil tromme,
før min sang er omme.

Anna hun har ingen ro,
før hun får sin pakke:
fire alen merino
til en vinterfrakke.
Barn, du bli’r mig alt for dyr,
men da du så propert syr,
sparer vi det atter
ikke sandt, min datter?

Denne fane, ny og god,
giver jeg til Henrik,
du er stærk, og du har mod,
du skal være fænrik.
Hvor han svinger fanen kækt!
Børn, I skylder ham respekt!
Vid, det er en ære
dannebrog at bære.

Træets allerbedste zir
skal min William have,
på det blanke guldpapir
må du gerne gnave.
Vær forsigtig og giv agt,
indenfor er noget lagt,
som du ej må kramme,
det er til din amme.

O, hvor den er blød og rar,
sikken dejlig hue,
den skal sikre bedstefa’r
imod frost og snue.
Lotte hun kan være stolt,
tænk jer, hun har garnet holdt;
det kan Hanne ikke,
hun kan bare strikke!

Børn, nu er jeg blevet træt,
og I får ej mere,
moder er i køkkenet,
nu skal hun traktere.
Derfor får hun denne pung,
løft engang, hvor den er tung!
Julen varer længe,
koster mange penge.


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