Thursday, April 28, 2005


ex`haust 1. To wear out completely, to use up. 4. An apparatus for drawing out noxious air or waste gases by means of a partial vacuum

Due to the fact that I have been mad at work for what seems like 48 hours (and not the fun, Eddie Murphy kind) on the fifty pages of dissertation-ese that I have to turn in to my advisor tomorrow, I feel quite unable to summon up the strength for even one more. single. (sensical) word. But I see that it is time to post something, anything, for my loyal blog readers. So I am making an unsatisfying compromise and stealing from my own work to reprint here--for purposes of your edification/insomnia--an excerpt of what I have been working on for the last few hours instead of this blog. Pretend you're in grad school for a minute and that you care about this stuff. Or that you're an eager undergrad who still likes to talk about poetry. Or at least grant me a free pass for not putting up a real post.

Before I cut and paste, take a total non-sequitur with me down memory lane as I commemorate the ten-year anniversary of that national classic, "Clueless." It is, after all, about all my fried brain can handle at present. As I microwaved a bowl of frozen peas this afternoon to eat at my laptop (yeah, that was another shameless plea for sympathy), I chuckled as I remembered hearing that Alicia Silverstone actually pronounced it "Hatee-ins" in rehearsal. They, naturally, kept it in; the producers found that her real-life cluelessness provided a perfect line-reading. What a dumb blonde. Anyway. Happy Boland-ing!

* * * * *
Personal history is bound up in “The Making of an Irish Goddess” as well, but this time it is Boland’s own. Like “The Achill Woman” and other poems in Outside History, this poem reveals Boland’s increasing political engagement and awareness of Irish history, tied as always to the intimate details of a woman’s personal, private life. The speaker of the poem resides in a suburban environment, as so many of Boland’s speakers do, and yet the poem’s words transport the reader through myth and Irish history, making a separation between public and private realms impossible.

“Ceres went to hell / with no sense of time” the poem begins, anchoring it in the ancient and public world of Greek myth. The poem describes the “seasonless, unscarred earth” that the goddess Ceres presided over before the loss of her daughter Persephone to the underworld instigated the change in seasons. Like Ceres, the speaker of the poem presides over her own personal world, not as a god per se, but as a mother. This mother must also retrieve her daughter, but unlike Ceres, the speaker already lives in a world of seasons upon which an entire population can be dependent. Boland moves from the world of myth to the world of Irish history by introducing the tragedy of the Irish famine, in which the country was decimated by the potato blight and repeated crop failures in the 1840's. An Irish goddess, unlike a Greek one, must carry an awareness of time and the seasons in which her people suffered:

In my body,…
in my gestures— …
must be

an accurate inscription of that agony:

the failed harvests,
the fields rotting to the horizon,

the children devoured by their mothers
whose souls, they would have said,
went straight to hell,
followed by their own (ll. 14, 18, 21-29).

After the poem telescopes out to encompass Greek myth and one of the darkest periods in Irish history, its focus zeroes in on a highly commonplace moment in suburban life to end the poem. As a result of the poem’s earlier inflections, this moment is infused with the drama of loss that seems inherent to the mother-daughter relationship as Boland sees it:

Myth is the wound we leave
in the time we have—

which in my case is this
March evening
at the foothills of the Dublin mountains,
across which the lights have changed all day,

holding up my hand
to my eyes to pick out
my own daughter from
all the other children in the distance;

her back turned to me (ll. 31-42).

By recasting the myth of Ceres in an Irish context and setting its final action in the suburbs, Boland makes the ancient world of myth and the past experience of Irish famine relevant to ordinary contemporary life, infusing the domestic environment with the whole weight of Irish history and suffering. The poem also shows how an engagement with Irish history, politics, and the wider world is not only possible in the suburb, but, because of the overlap between public events and private experiences, inevitable and necessary. The famine may have been the result of agricultural calamity and British policy conducted in the realm of the public, but Boland makes the Irish famine about the private tragedies that resulted—the unfathomable lengths to which the event drove Irish mothers.

bla-bla, blablabla blah. Etc.

Yours truly,
one exhausted kitten

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Counter for One

What do you do with yourself when you're sitting alone at an unspecified morning hour at a diner counter surrounded by locals in the middle of nowhere? (Or, specifically, in the middle of Chatham, Massachusetts.) Order hot chocolate, first of all. With whipped cream, naturally. That will kill some time. Engross yourself in the task of slurping up every last bit of its frothy goodness. There is, after all, nothing else to do.

Look longingly at the blue-jeaned, bearded man to your right who may possess no teeth but has a more precious commodity, the Chatham Picayune-Tribune. His hamburger looks pretty good too. Wonder why he hasn't offered you at least a piece. Of the newspaper, that is.

Envy the happy quartet seated behind you by the window; you can't see them, but you know they have each other for verbal stimulation. You have nothing, now that the hot chocolate is polished off and your breakfast has not arrived. Unless you count the desultory movements of the teenaged waitresses behind the counter as entertainment.

Listen more carefully to the happy foursome; perhaps they are having an interesting conversation from which you can steal ideas upon which to ponder while you are waiting and staring blankly at the (now you notice, too late) unappetizingly crusted-over hot chocolate machine. Until you hear the older man seated with them expounding on military exercises and procedure while his three female companions murmur politely and interject infrequently. Hmmm, thanks anyway.

Is blue jeans done with the paper??!? No, false alarm. The cook lumbers out of the kitchen and has somehow managed to get his beefy hands on a newspaper too, which he begins to read as soon as he plops himself down at one of the window tables. (Who's making my pancakes?)

Finally, blessedly, they arrive. Who knows who made them, who cares. They are soaked with butter and delicious. I relax into my diner stool and put all attention to the task at hand. After all, food is entertainment. Three silver dollars and a plate of scrambled eggs are all I need. If this ever happens again though, I am bringing a magazine.

Does anyone else out there eat alone? And if so, what do you do to entertain yourself? I need to know these things. Share your wisdom, readers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Just a little Movie Crack

So I'm addicted to Netflix. I'm so addicted I should get ad revenue for this blog posting. We just started the 'flix (allow me to truncate?) a scant two weeks ago, and I already cannot imagine my life without it. I justified the service--which delivers two movies via mail to your house as fast as you can watch them and send them back for a monthly fee of $15--as a sane alternative to the cable that of course I no longer have. (An absence that means even this very moment we are getting a new pope and I know nothing about it, nothing. Although I do hope the guy from Africa gets it.)

Netflix is intentional television watching writ large. I can't watch mindless tv endlessly like I used to, but now I have a weekly fix, an important element in the quest to keep me from getting all academic and stuffy. (I use the word "quest" in homage to my last Netflix selection: "Monty Python and the Holy Grail.") My tube time is as carefully controlled as a government approved steady-drip IV--no risk of overdosing--and all this at a cost lower than basic cable. Truly we live in a remarkable age.

My favorite thing about Netflix (aside from the obvious: no late fees, no trips to the video store, blah blah blah) is all the random and forgotten movies on the site that you can browse through, stumbling across your childhood favorites. They have 40,000 movies, which means they have "Flight of the Navigator" and the complete 8 hour set of "Anne of Green Gables." This is a gold mine, people. (Tell me you know about "Flight of the Navigator.")

You also get real customer testimonials about the films. Like this one on the aforesaid Anne of Green Gables mini-series:

"I didn't see it till last year while I was watching a PBS fund-raiser. I am a 40 year old man, Sci-Fi fan, computer geek, Love Heavy Metal, fast cars, and my gun collection. But this movie touched my soul more than any movie I have ever seen in my life! I rolled with laughter, I cried puddles of tears, I cheered, jumped up and down, RAN to the bathroom during the breaks, and LIED to get my best friend off the phone quick!"

(I did not make this up.)

Good stuff. Netflix has allowed that man to avoid creeped-out looks at the video store when he tries to rent a kids' movie about a twelve year old girl without having kids of his own. It has also allowed me to rent all the Sex and the City I can handle and check out that new show "The L Word" that everyone is talking about without trying to convince James of their merits at the video store (a futile undertaking). Up next in my queue: "Bridget Jones and the Edge of Reason" (yeah, he doesn't know about that one either), "The Italian Job," "The Manchurian Candidate," and "The Sound of Music." Liesel in the house.

Monday, April 18, 2005


Today is Marathon Monday in Boston, a state-wide holiday and one of my personal favorite events in New England. It's the day where you get to stand around the streets drinking beer out of dixie cups (open container law waved for Marathon and St. Patty's Day, it's Boston after all) and sun yourselves merrily while watching fleets of runners haul themselves tortuously over Heartbreak Hill to retch, pass out, or cramp up in paroxyms of pain in the process. Good fun.

I've never understood marathoners. Unless you're Kenyan, it seems the human body is not designed for this feat. And yet, thousands of people do it all the time and seem satisfied by the experience. Later on today I will wander around Copley Square near the finish line and encounter scores of runners who have completed their 26.2 mile questionable decision and are wearing Superman-esque mylar capes and getting drunk off of one Heineken. This year, instead of stumbling by them in silent concentration to reach the restroom (because by that time, let's face it, I will have had more than one Heineken), I will stop. And I will ask them, why the hell do you do this? If I get a good answer, I'll pass it on.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


So the Red Sox are the 2004 World Series Champions. I didn't really, really believe it was true until I saw the banner unfurled at Fenway yesterday and the big chunky (ruby-studded?) championship rings given out to the players. Yesterday was full of high spirits, good cheer, and grown men crying at the ballpark. Even the Yankees (who were on hand to witness the ceremony) applauded for the champs. Although did I miss that picture of A-Rod clapping? Yeah, must have missed that.

One of the funnier moments of the day was when Fenway cheered wildly for Mariano Rivera, the Yankees' once-infallible closer. Rivera (I called him Skeletor back then) would take the mound to close the game, and we would know we were over. Just iced. He had something like 33 1/3 hitless innings of relief in the 2000 playoffs. But last season (starting with James's 30th birthday game at Yankee Stadium), Skeletor started melting down and blowing saves against the Sox, eventually blowing not one but two games in the ALCS, allowing us to win the series against all odds. So yesterday Fenway fans took a moment to appreciate his part in bringing us the championship (i.e. uncharacteristically sucking), and he was good sport enough to laugh and tip his cap to the crowd. I didn't know Skeletor's jaw could move before that.

Amidst all the joy of Red Sox nation are, of course, the naysayers. People who are sick of the Sox and want the whole thing just to go away. Party-poopers include the disgruntled Mariners' fan who gives us 86 reasons to hate the Red Sox and another guy complaining about how the Red Sox have infiltrated every aspect of his life. (Sad life, maybe?) I will admit that Johnny Damon has officially become insufferable (my sister is ready to burn her #18 jersey), but as for the other stuff, people need to relax. After all, we've collectively had the Yankees shoved down our throat as "America's team" for years now. (If the Yankees are "America's team," I guess behemoth Hummers are "America's car" and Enron is "America's company.") So let us enjoy the moment already.

Speaking of enjoying the moment, I want to take a moment to thank the good fortune sent down to me personally from that Fenway in the sky. On Monday, I might have said something like:

"Although, who knows when I will actually get to go to a game, being neither celebrity, large corporation, nor scion of a famous New England family."

The answer is tonight, 7:05 pm, Red Sox vs. Yankees. Did I mention it's Curt Schilling's debut? Thank you, baseball gods, for friendly benefactors.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Fever Pitch

One of my loyal readers has requested that I review the movie "Fever Pitch." It makes sense that I should do so, because it's a very Boston, very Red Sox movie, and most of the people I know in town are extras in it. I am also always happy to oblige reader requests.

I saw the movie last night at the Loews Theater Boston Common. First of all, I'm not sure any movie is worth $10.25 per person, not to mention another $8.50 for a small popcorn and a Sprite. Okay, now I will stop bitching about prices like an old, crotchety person. (although I do have a little old, crotchety person inside me just foaming to get out)

I went into the Loews Theater Boston Common wanting to hate this movie. After all, Bill Simmons bitched about Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore dancing in celebration at the Sox' World Series win on the field in St. Louis for the entire off-season. (A low point of the movie, I must agree, though more on that later.)

But all in all, it was hard to complain about this movie. It had footage of lots of actual games from 2004 (a season no Red Sox fan will ever mind seeing replayed endlessly, whenever, wherever), plenty of local Boston flavor including cameos by Dennis Eckersley, ol' bug eyes Don Orsillo, and The Cask and Flagon, and a scene of the lead character taking out sheet after sheet of new, shiny, uncut Season Tickets from a box sent to him in the mail. Very moving.

One of the most important factors in deciding my ultimate feelings about this movie was the soundtrack. The Farrelly Brothers, who are from New England (plus), but the part of New England that is Rhode Island (minus), managed to include every song that is meaningful to the Fenway experience, including "Dirty Water," "Sweet Caroline," and "Tessie." It really felt like a baseball season. So much so that I am now dying to go to a game. Like in a primal need kind of way. It would have been actually cruel to release this movie in the dead of winter. Instead, the home opener is 3 hours from now, and my appetite is thoroughly and intensely whetted. (Although, who knows when I will actually get to go to a game, being neither celebrity, large corporation, nor scion of a famous New England family. The games have been sold out for ages. Does that happen at Safeco Field, Dodger Stadium, or Camden Yards within a few nanoseconds of the tickets going on sale? I think not.)

All of those things are plusses. Now for the minuses. I mean, this movie is a romantic comedy. Which I am not against (see "Sheldon" quote from two posts ago). But don't go to it thinking it's a sports movie, per se. The major plus side of that is that the non-baseball loving female (or male! let's not be sexist) type people in your life will probably be willing to go to this movie and will enjoy it. Being a romantic comedy, it has the requisite lovey-dovey ending and some believability-stretching moments for the purposes of bringing those two kids together in the end. But there's nothing super retch-worthy (speaking of retching..well, you'll see when you watch the movie). In other words, if you survived the last two minutes of "Four Weddings and a Funeral"--an otherwise outstanding film that ends with a drenched Andie MacDowell coyly reciting, "Is it still raining? I hadn't noticed," while gazing into the googly eyes of Hugh Grant-- then you'll be fine.

The most glaring error of the movie was the moment of infamy referred to incessantly by Simmons, when Drew and Jimmy go cavorting around the field at Busch Stadium after the Red Sox win. They actually did this at the actual Red Sox win, despite the fact that these two people are ACTORS and supposedly Jimmy Fallon might actually have been a YANKEES fan before shooting this movie when he had some kind of religious conversion to RedSoxdom (every true apostolate knows such a conversion is impossible). So that was pretty much bullshit. The only player D & J could get to cavort with them was Curtis Leskanic, which should tell you everything you need to know about that. Also, why on earth would two "normal" Sox fans be allowed to frolic on the field when just a series before at Fenway they were firmly relegated to their (granted, fabulous) seats? There was no need for that, and no need for Major League Baseball to kiss Hollywood's ass to give permission for it in the first place.

That gripe aside, the movie was actually pretty great. It might have been the songs, the hot days and cold beers at Fenway, remembering the baseball joys and sorrows of 2004 (since you know it all ended well, seeing the low moments in there too just makes it all sweeter), the look of Boston in summer, the beautiful green expanse in front of the Green Monster, or that cracking bat sound, but whatever the case, "Fever Pitch" did a fantastic job of getting me excited for the season ahead. Consider me fluffed.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Kelly, Matt, Andrew, Matt, James, Matt, Sullivan


Yesterday, in between wiping the sweat off my brow at my computer while madly trying to write enough pages so that my advisor doesn't laugh at me when I turn them in today (here's hoping), I got an email from a friend who had been scrolling through the Boston Globe online's "Nightlife" gallery ("Send us pictures of you and your friends enjoying the nightlife of Boston!") and ran into a photo that I had submitted about 100 years ago of me and James and our two friends from New York at a UFC fight last August. Another head or two appears in the photo, that of our friend, Matt Lambert, who was actually in one of the night's fights. That's why we were there. You don't get me to pay $30 to get into crap-ass Avalon otherwise.

Anyway, as you can see from the photo, we're all luxuriating in our summer tans, many drinks were poured, and a good time was had by all. The strangest development of the night, however, was how much I loved seeing grown men beat the shit out of each other. There was metally-type intro music, a real cage-like ring, a slutty woman in a bikini holding the fight cards--a bunch of stuff I would have thought I hated. Nope, loved it.

I especially loved the punching. And apparently most anything is allowed in UFC; it's not all pansy-fied like boxing where they have gloves and a bunch of rules. In UFC, people get their arms broken by being twisted too long in the wrong direction and things like that. The men around me (I'd say UFC spectator ratio is roughly 30:1) were looking away occasionally--wincing and cringing during some of the grosser moments. Not me. I had inexplicably turned into a crazed, bloodthirsty violence-lover by virtue of walking in the place. My biggest disappointment of the night was that the referee didn't let Matt whale on his opponent longer (he won easily, but wasn't given time to get enough of those loud, fisty, smack-type punches in before the ref called the fight and let the sad, quivering loser out of the ring).

I don't consider myself a violent person, either. And, when I think about it, it's quite possible that I should be disturbed by my glimpse of this brutal alter-ego. Unfortunately, I don't have time for that kind of soul-searching at present, as I have 50 pages to write, not to mention Liddell-Couture coming up on pay-per-view April 16.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Crying Joyce Game

Eleven pages down, 39 to go! I'm exhausted already. How do these writing people do it? I've decided that after I finish this dissertation, I'm never writing anything ever again. Except for fun, lackadaisical things like blogs and magazine columns if the magazine is paying me $400 to write the column. I read a column in what was probably the Boston Globe magazine this morning that was entitled "Etiquette." The woman answered two questions fairly simplistically and they probably paid her money to do so. I need to look into this.

So today I made a nasty little discovery. I have been trying to put together this super smart panel of Joyce scholars to act out my own fantasies and visions at a conference next June at Cornell University. Well, just one vision--a very high school speech-class vision. Remember? In which you were given a topic and 2.5 minutes to throw together a logical, three-point impromptu speech. Since I usually spent about that much time preparing for my non-impromptu speeches, I was very very good at this exercise, and consequently have a soft spot in my heart for off-the-cuff speaking.

I'm going to make the Joyce scholars do it. I'm going to give them excerpts from Ulysses and ten minutes to come up with a presentation for an audience of 60 or so other smart professor types. How on earth did I get four famous Joyce scholars to do this, you ask? I'm totally not sure. I think for one thing because all my recruiting was done via email so they have no idea how old I am or how unqualified to be ordering them around.

Anyway, back to my discovery. I was very determined to have a gender-balanced panel, two men + two women, despite the fact that Joyce scholarship is exceedingly male. All the women I asked were saying no however, screw them. I finally managed to get one woman to agree, along with three men, and I felt relieved that I had done my best and at least I had ONE GODDAMNED WOMAN on the panel. You wouldn't believe how hard it was to get a woman to agree to this (which is probably a worthy subject for a different posting of the type that my Republican friends weary of reading). In their defense, there aren't many female Joyce scholars. Maybe 30%.

The academic schedule was released today, with my panel posted as follows:

"Impromptu Joyce"
Sara Sullivan (moderator)
Sheldon Brivic
Richard Brown
Sean Latham
John Paul Riquelme

Oh no no no, I chided the conference organizers indulgently to myself, while beginning to draft a politely-worded email. You see, there are two Joyce scholars who have very similar names (isn't that funny? so ironic?)--Sheldon Brivic (a man) and Shelly Brivic (obviously female). I'd seen both their names many times in various Joyce-related contexts. And those silly conference people put up the wrong scholar! Shelly was going to be so put out when she saw that. I'd better let them know straightaway.

But yeah, you can see where this is going. Shelly's not a woman. In fact, there is no Shelly. My lone "woman" on the panel never existed at all, despite my fictive imaginings of her in a tweedy little outfit, endearingly lost in her reveries on the psycho-sexual implications of Stephen's ashplant in "Proteus." Or whatever. There is no Shelly. "Shelly"--as "she" signed all of "her" emails to me over the last month--is Sheldon Brivic's nickname. I would probably want to put Sheldon as far as possible behind me too, granted.

("A Sheldon can do your income taxes. If you need a root canal, Sheldon's your man. But humping and pumping are not Sheldon's strong suits. It's the name. Do it to me, Sheldon. You're an animal, Sheldon. Ride me, big Sheldon. It doesn't work.")

Sheldon Brivic is actually a big-time scholar who has written four books on Joyce, so I'm glad to get him on my panel--good times. And thank you sweet Jesus I realized my error before pressing "send" on that fateful email to the conference organizers--not good times. But, saying hello to Sheldon means saying goodbye to even a pathetic stab at gender balance on my panel, and this whole situation also means saying goodbye to any smidgen of smug, self-congratulatory, academically-satisfied type feelings I might have been harboring today. Most of all, it's hard to say goodbye to Shelly, and all the good times we had.

I've got to go now, as I need to madly scan through all my emails of the past month to make sure I made no reference whatsoever to Shelly's sex or any sisterly claims to female solidarity in any of our cyber-communications. I feel, nauseatingly, quite sure that I may have.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Posted by Hello

Yankees Suck

The first chapter of my dissertation, or at least a draft of it, is due this Friday. The chapter needs to be about 50 pages. I've done all the research and I have an outline, but I haven't actually started writing yet. That means 10 pages a day from today until Friday. It consistently takes me one hour to write one page. That's ten hours a day. It's noon on Monday. So you will understand why I am trying a different technique with my blog this week; that is, speedy scattershot blog. Don't feel slighted; everything else in my life will be getting short-shrift this week as well. And my postings might not be all that bad: don't underestimate the power of the eloquence that can result under carelessness and distraction. (After all, I am banking on that power to get me through Chapter 1.)

The Red Sox were defeated in the season opener last night against the hated, bloated, rich fat cat corporate Yankees. 9-2. I hate when that happens. Of course, we did still win the World Series, so screw them. But it was a bit anticlimactic blowing into Yankee Stadium after hours' worth of montage shots from the 2004 ALCS last time we were there spraying champagne around the clubhouse after beating those crappy, tie-wearing, beard-shaving pansy ass Yankees, only to lose.

Can you believe the Yankees bought (that's the correct term) Randy Johnson over the winter? Is anyone familiar with the Biblical parable of the man with the one sheep and the king with 100 sheep who steals the man's one sheep? The Red Sox are not the man with the one sheep; they have shitloads of sheep and the second highest payroll in baseball. But that's not the point. The Yankees are still the fat ass king with the 100 sheep who keeps rolling new superstar sheep into his pen until the sheep themselves are confused when they end up looking like a fantasy baseball roster.

Randy Johnson is a monster. He's ugly and his pock-marked face makes him look scary, and he's about 3 feet taller than any of the people who own him. He once hit a dove with a practice pitch and basically blew him up. Granted, it was an accident. He's also ancient in baseball terms (forty-one) and that just makes him tougher, like a grizzled redneck that is slowly and effectively pickling himself with Jim Beam. I see that he got rid of his trailer park mullet though, presumbly in accordance with Yankee straight-laced, tight ass, fancy pants policy. Anyway, I hate him now, since he's a Yankee, and a great pitcher, and he beat us last night. So screw him too and his scrawny evil power.