Tidings of comfort and joy.

For the past several years, Neil of Citizen of the Month has put together a remarkable online concert to celebrate the many and varied holidays of the winter season, and he has graciously hosted once more. Please go check out the amazing musical and photographic stylings on exhibit at The Seventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert. As always, the entries are varied and wondrous.

I didn’t manage to get my act together this round, for a variety of reasons, but I hope to again next year. You can find me and my voice in several of the past concerts, but I’m too lazy to see which. Last year was one.

I have been in a dark place since Friday, but I’m not yet ready to share those thoughts. Too many thoughts. I wrote something on Monday, but it is still too raw to post. In the meantime, I have taken comfort in many things, including music. Most of all, I take comfort in having my little ones with me and holding them close.

May they remember only joy this holiday season.

12 reasons why I won’t be giving Mark Rayner’s new novel to my mother-in-law for Christmas

The cover of a book I will not be giving to my mother-in-law.
Mark Rayner’s new novel, Marvellous Hairy, has gotten some great reviews, and some marvellously entertaining press. It’s been published just in time for the major gift-giving holidays. The paperback comes in an attractive compact format, and it also comes in an economical ebook version. You would think this would make it an excellent gift.

In spite of this, I will most definitely NOT be giving a copy of this book to my mother-in-law. Here are the main reasons why:

The 12 Main Reasons I won’t be giving Marvellous Hairy to my mother-in-law:

  1. The novel contains “adult” language.
  2. The book uses colorful descriptive language, and I mean beyond describing a room as having been painted “belligerently pink.”
  3. I’m talking about sentences like the following:

    He had long greasy black hair that clung to his head like an octopus humping his skull, and then fell onto his his shoulders in oily post-coital exhaustion.

  4. The book has sex in it.
  5. The book has sex and monkeys in it.
  6. My mother-in-law would be fairly scandalized by something that induced me to compose a sentence including both the words “sex” and “monkeys.”
  7. My mother-in-law has probably never spent any significant amount of time contemplating what it would be like to grow a tail.
  8. It is extremely unlikely that the phrase “Release the monkeys!” would make her giggle.
  9. She wouldn’t know what to make of a playful romp of a novel that is described as “part literary fun-ride, part fabulist satire, and part slapstick comedy.”
  10. Especially one that has been called “deeply, unsettlingly weird.”
  11. She certainly would not take well to the suggestion that she get in touch with her “inner monkey.”
  12. She would probably much prefer some lavender-scented hand soap.

Disclosure: Since I’m a big fan of The Skwib, Mark Rayner’s humor blog, I was all set to buy a copy of this book. (Though not for my mother-in-law.) It was already in my Amazon shopping cart and everything. But then Mark offered to send me a copy. (For FREE! Sucker!) How could I resist? (The monkeys made me do it.)

(Monkey images from wpclipart.)

The Great Interview Experiment: Voix de Michèle

For the Great Interview Experiment, I’m very pleased to be share my interview with Michèle of Voix de Michèle. I am really glad that I got to meet Michèle, as she is a fantastic blogger: smart, interesting, and funny as hell! I really enjoyed poking around in her archives, and devising some devious questions to torment her.

I also had get over the urge to do an interview Chris Farley style. (Hey, remember when you started a blog? That was so cool.))

Anyhow, here are my questions and her answers:

1. You are involved in Improv. That is so cool! (Oh, right. That’s not a question.) So, how did you get involved in Improv? Has it affected aspects of your work as a teacher? Your writing? Your life? (Great, now that’s 4 questions.)

Oh, Alejna, you totally get me already. I love questions with layers. They’re like cake except they don’t make you fat. I got involved with Improv this past August after going to the Minnesota Fringe Festival. After watching a bunch of really amazing one-person performances, laughing a lot, and reading some great reviews, all I could think was: Why am I not doing that? So I signed up for a class. And I loved it so much, I haven’t stopped. Improv has pushed me to consider creative writing projects never previously imagined and has shaken up my brain in lots of other as-yet-to be determined ways. I write about these ripples a lot, but to summarize: Everything is changing. And I love clapping. (But that isn’t new information.)

2. You have been blogging a really long time–it looks like it will be 5 whole years in just about a week. What prompted you to start a blog? How has your blog evolved over the years?

I started blogging over Thanksgiving weekend five years ago because I was really lonely. It was the first year I didn’t have anyone to cook for in a long time and I didn’t want to drive to Chicago for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was new in my MFA – Creative Writing program and one of my profs had a blog, so I set one up and started talking about myself. I kept it up because I really liked the attention. Over the past five years, I’ve become less of a confessional/emotional catharsis writer and more a creative process/big picture vs. Michele writer. I think my blog is a little less interesting than it used to be and I don’t post as often, but I’m also not a needy insecure girl anymore, either. But I still really love talking about myself. I think I’m fascinating.

3. Are there topics that are taboo for your blog? Are there topics you consider too boring for your blog?

Since I have my full name on my blog and I’ve been blogging for so long, the Google Bots have made me very easy to find. Type Michele Campbell – I show up first. So my resourceful and curious high school students check out the blog sometimes, which means I can’t write about sex. My dad reads my blog, so I don’t swear much. Many of my friends on Facebook (and I’m friends with just about everyone I know) read my blog, so I don’t write about current relationships – especially if someone is annoying me or I feel bad about an interaction. In addition, I try to avoid complaining about stuff that I know my friends will call me on. Example: say I can’t figure out how to change the stupid f-ing light bulbs in my office. Say they scare me, because they’re flush mounted and you need to have knowing man hands to take them apart and figure out what kind of bulbs go into the fixture and not leave scary burn the house down wires hanging from the ceiling for too long. Say that I forgot to get married and don’t have a man around to do things like change scary light bulbs without burning the house down. If I write a blog post about how much I hate these stupid light fixtures and don’t know how to change the bulbs and I’m suffering in darkness, woe is me, I get 5 guy friends emailing me saying – MICHELE, you’re supposed to ASK FOR HELP, not COMPLAIN ON THE INTERNET. (Actually, they’re nice guys, and they probably wouldn’t even yell. But then they’d make me give them beer for reminding me that they’re awesome and I can ask for help even when I’m embarrassed for not knowing how to do house things. So I don’t write about that kind of stuff until it’s a really good example of how I have learned how to get over myself and not put all my problems on the Internet.

4. You wrote a couple of great posts on blogging (how to blog and blog etiquette) back in 2005. Now that several years have passed, would you change any of this advice? Would you add stuff?

I think those lists are pretty good, actually. Blogging has changed and I don’t write every day anymore. Otherwise, to that advice, I would add this: Only write and post what you wouldn’t mind seeing on every single computer in your school library (or other work place.) A great example: I had a super cute photo of myself at a birthday celebration – wearing a tiara, a pink boa, and doing a very large chocolate cake shot. Loved it. Posted it on my blog. Went to school. A student saw over my shoulder when I was checking my blog at my desk and said, “Madame is that you???” I said, “No, of course not.” Then I went in and deleted the photo as fast as I could before he could copy it and send it to all of his friends, show my boss that there are pictures of me drinking on the Internet, and get me homeless.

5. If you were a dessert topping, what sort of blog would you write? And wouldn’t you have trouble typing? I’m sorry, I probably shouldn’t be writing these questions late at night. I get a little goofy. How about this question instead: if you were a fairy godmother, what gift would you bestow on your godchild? (Or do you prefer the dessert topping question?)

I like them both. If I were a dessert topping, I would be Nutella. I would write about how much I love to spread myself over the spongy and crunchy goodness of baguettes, how I make a fantastic sandwich with peanut butter and bananas, how I can be devoured on crêpes, and how I am awesome melted over ice cream.

If I were a fairy godmother, I would give all of my godchildren flexible spending cards so they could get all the psychotherapy they needed to become self-sufficient, productive, and motivated members of the community. Which is not to say that my godchildren need therapy. But you never know, you know? I’m just sayin.

6. If you were going to put together a movie about you, what would some of the songs on the soundtrack be? (Aside from Punk Rock Girl, of course. That is a most excellent song, by the way.)

Here’s what I’ve been singing in the car:

World Spins Madly On – The Weepies
As Is – Ani DiFranco
Only Makes Me Laugh – Danny Elfman/Oingo Boingo
Bizarre Love Triangle – New Order
Girlfriend in a Coma – The Smiths
Dairy Queen – Indigo Girls
Angry Anymore – Ani DiFranco
Sénégal Fast Food – Amadou et Miriam
Je t’aimais, je t’aime, et je t’aimerai – Francis Cabrel
( I could keep going, but you get the general idea)

7. I see that you are a fan of the Bulwer-Lytton contest for really really bad opening lines. Have you written any such bad lines yourself? Could you write one for us here?

Oh dear heavens, no. I’m not any good at those. That is why I post them!

Thanks for your very entertaining answers, Michele!

Be sure to check out some of the other interviews from the Great Interview Experiment, as well. Michele herself has one up. And Neil (of Citizen of the Month) will be posting links to participants each week. (I see he has a new list up already.)

and furthermore

As luck would have it, this is a busy month for me work-wise. My research group is submitting things to two different conferences this month, plus we’ve been ramping up on some other aspects of our projects with impending deadlines. So this is perhaps not the ideal time for me to have committed to blogging every day for a month. And yet somehow, the compulsions compels.

Further, I have further committed myself even further to furthering my blogging obsession: I have signed on to the Great Interview Experiment, the brainchild of Neil of Citizen of the Month. (Well, he claims it as his brainchild, but we have yet to see the results of the paternity test.)

In this project, bloggers sign up to interview one another by leaving a comment on the announcement post. Who interviews whom is determined by the order of the comments. It’s a fantabulous way to get to know some bloggers you might otherwise not meet. I get to interview Michèle of Voix de Michèle, and I am being interviewed by Becky/Ms. Batman of Welcome to My Life. I’m very excited about both interviews, so I need to get my act together and answer the questions.

And look! Here’s a cute baby!

This Week in Pants

The web is abuzz with pants. With so many people writing about pants these days, I’d be letting them down if I didn’t put up a post about it.

I bring to you: This Week¹ in Pants.

First, I’m pleased to report that the “in my pants” music meme is alive and well (and not just in my pants). Dee of On the Curb is the latest to report in:

You, too, can have music in your pants.

And wearing pants elsewhere…

And would you believe that the realm of pants extends even beyond the blogosphere? I scoured the headlines for news of pants around the world. Here are some of the top pants headlines:


¹ Okay, fine, so many of these posts are older than a week. But “This Fortnight or So in Pants” isn’t nearly as catchy as “This Week in Pants.” I mean, just check out the acronym: TWIP.


Phoebe peers through a gate at Alcazar in Sevilla.
Phoebe peers through a gate at Alcazar in Sevilla.

Hello? Is this thing on?

I’m back from Spain! We flew in late Monday afternoon, got back home by 6:30 p.m. Which doesn’t sound too late, except that we felt like it was after midnight due to the 6 hour time difference. Not to mention (well, yes, I guess I do mention) that it was 17 hours door to door. With a baby. And a three-year-old. Following a late night of packing. Then yesterday I drove my mother back to the airport and returned the rental car (I’ll explain later), then took the train back with Theo. In all, another 6 or so hours of travel. With a baby. So it still felt like a travel day.

And here I am today, totally wiped out, but still trying to get back into things. Trying to catch up with work stuff that I’ve missed, sort out house stuff that was left undone, get my thoughts organized, and make a stab at getting my photos together. I have literally (and I do mean literally) about 2000 photos from the trip on my computer. I have so much I want to (and plan to) share about the trip. For now, the micro summary: the trip was wonderful!

If you are hungry for more details, I hope to serve them up soon. Meanwhile, I’m happy to be able to tantalize you with some appetizers from azahar, who put up a couple of posts featuring our visit to Sevilla: girls night out and mmmm…. (However, I must warn you that if you are actually hungry, you might want to get a bite to eat before paying a visit to casa az; the food photos are likely to torment you otherwise.)

As for reading blogs, I’m a little afraid to look at my feed reader. I’m sure it is full to overflowing. I know that many advocate the “mark all as read option,” but I always worry that I will miss something major. (Have I missed something major?) I hope to have a bit of time to get back online tonight, but for now I think I need to take a nap. I intend to start Theo’s sleep training in earnest tonight, and all intentions will be overridden if I fall asleep again while putting him to bed.

vacation daze

I’m not on vacation, mind you. But I’m in a hazy daze of planning for one. Do you remember how I managed to submit an abstract back in March, after a frenzied push to get one finished during our trip to Texas and California? Well, I confess that I have been sitting on some news for a few months. My abstract was accepted for a poster presentation. The other abstract my research group submitted was also accepted. So, I’ll be going to a conference next month. Which is in Barcelona.


I’m terribly excited about the trip. I’ve never been to Spain before. The whole family is going, and my mother will be joining us as well. We’ll be staying in Barcelona for a week, and then heading down to Sevilla. I’m thrilled that I will get to meet the fantabulous azahar in person, and finally get a taste of some of Sevilla’s famous tapas.

There is a huge amount of stuff yet to do. It’s amazing how much stuff you have to consider, especially when travelling with small children. I’ve been mired in looking rental apartment options and ground transportaiton options and air options. I’ve been doing quite a bit of research.


Oh, right. Research. There’s also that conference business. Which means I have a lot of work to do with my own research. Because I probably wouldn’t make the best impression if I presented a comparison of Sevilla apartments with roof terraces vs. those with wifi vs. those with a free crib available.

pulling some strings

Emily of Wheels on the Bus sent out an unusual plea, having recently gone to see Puppetolio, an LA-area puppet theater that is closing its doors this weekend unless they manage to…um…pull a few strings:

If you know anyone who lives in L.A., anyone in the media, anyone who loves puppets, anyone who reads blogs, anyone who cares about the arts, then you know someone who will find this of interest and might be able to help.

I’m not around L.A., but I do care about the arts, and children’s entertainment, and I hate to see such a time-honored tradition dying out. So, if you can, go see what Emily has to say. And if you can, pull a few strings to help out the puppeteer in his plight.

But first, I’m putting on ashow of my own with this ThThTh¹ list o’ puppets.

  • Punch and Judy: traditional English puppet theatre, typically performed in a booth-type stage.
  • Pinocchio: a famous wooden puppet of fiction and film who comes to life.
  • punch-bw-puppet

  • Muppets: a range of mostly cloth and plush puppets, originally created by Jim Henson.
  • puppet: an expression for a person or entity whose actions are covertly dictated by some other person or entity. Political figures are sometimes disparagingly called puppets.
  • the_godfather

  • The Godfather: The poster for the 1972 movie shows a hand holding the string controls for a marionette, alluding to the “puppet master” status of a mafia boss
  • “The Lonely Goatherd”: A scene from The Sound of Music (1965) in which an elaborate puppet show is performed
  • “Puppet Man”: A song performed (separately http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=12771 ) in the early 1970s by The 5th Dimension Tom Jones. Here’s the Tom Jones version:

    Baby, Baby, I’m your sweet pet
    I’m just your personal marionette
    Wind me up and let me go
    Don’t you know I’m a one man show?
    Raise your finger and I’ll perform
    I’ll crack a jack till’ the crack a dawn
    If you wanna see me do my thing, baby pull my string

  • “Puppets”: a song by Depeche Mode from their first album, Speak and Spell. (YouTube vid)

    And I don’t think you understand
    What I’m trying to say
    I’ll be your operator baby
    I’m in control

  • The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre: What can I say? They are sock puppets. Who sing in falsetto voices. With Scottish accents. Watch their latest video, “Back in E.D.I.N. BRAW“:
  • Lamb Chop: a sheep sock puppet operated by comedian Shari Lewis.
  • Bob from the TV show Soap.
    A ventriloquist’s dummy operated by Chuck, but a character in his own right. (Watch a scene with Bob here)
  • Mr. Hat: Mr. Garrison’s puppet from the show South Park
  • The Puppet Show: an episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer involving a ventriloquist’s dummy.
  • Puppetmaster (1989) A horror movie with puppets that come to life.
  • Being John Malkovich (1999) John Cusack plays a puppeteer, and puppeteering features prominently in the plot. The movie also boasts a gigantic Emily Dickinson marionette.


¹ It’s been a while since I put up my last Themed Things Thursday² post. (Has it really not been since April? Craziness. I’ve drafted probably a good dozen or so lists, but haven’t quite gotten any together and ready to post.)

² Yes, I know it’s Friday. Don’t quibble with me. I’m tired.

Image sources: Godfather poster, Punch puppet, Pinnochio from Ginn and Company The Common School Catalogue (Boston: Ginn & Company Publishers, 1906) 40 via etc and puppet show from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (New York: Harper and Brothers Publshers, 1871) XLII:831 via etc.

Channel V

Dee of On The Curb has posted a playlist of some of her favorite “vagina music,” with her post entitled exceeding my bandwith on the word vagina.¹ (You should go check out Dee’s blog, by the way. In case you haven’t guessed it, she’s freakin’ hilarious.)

Dee doesn’t quite give a definition of “vagina music,” but she gives quite a few examples. If I had to summarize, I’d say that the songs are ones that move her down to her…um…core, and tap into her emotions. And perhaps also those that remind her that she is biologically female.

Further, Dee has requested comparable lists from others. In her words, “I show you mine, you show me yours.”

Okay, Dee. I’ll show you mine. While I’ve never thought of this music in quite those terms², this is my response playlist:

  1. Save Me – Aimee Mann (listen)
  2. Thief – Belly (listen)
  3. Lucky – Bif Naked (listen)
  4. Bulimic Beats – Catatonia (listen)
  5. No Need To Argue – The Cranberries (listen)
  6. Virgin State Of Mind – K’s Choice (listen)
  7. Autumngirlsoup – Kirsty MacColl (listen)
  8. Your Ghost – Kristin Hersh (listen)
  9. Famous Blue Raincoat – Leonard Cohen (listen)
  10. De Cara A La Pared – Lhasa (listen)
  11. Wild Is The Wind – Nina Simone (listen)
  12. Down By The Water – P J Harvey (listen)
  13. Dancing Barefoot – Patti Smith Group (listen)
  14. Haunted – Poe (listen)
  15. Glory Box – Portishead (listen)
  16. Possession– Sarah McLachlan (listen)
  17. i am stretched on your grave – Sinéad O’Connor (listen)
  18. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me – The Smiths (listen)
  19. Anchor – Trespassers William (listen)

How about you. Wanna show me yours?


¹ Dee is not shy about using the word vagina. In fact, in her post, she uses the word vagina no fewer than 38 times. (Yes, I counted. One vagina, two vagina, three vagina, four. Five vagina, six vagina, seven vagina, more…) And that, my friends, is a most impressive feat.

² The thing is, though, I’m not a big fan of the word vagina. In fact, this post here marks the first time I’m using the word on my blog. (Yes, I did a search.) Also the 2nd through 15th times. (Yes, I counted.) Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against vaginas. Or vaginae, if you prefer. I’m glad I have one of my own, and all. I just find the word vagina awkward.

Now spleen, on the other hand, there’s a word I like. Spleen. It’s a word that amuses me. I also appreciate its range of meanings. Some of you may know the spleen as an organ in the lymphatic system. But it was once esteemed as “the seat of spirit and courage or of such emotions as mirth, ill humor, melancholy, etc.” Me, I’m all about the mirth, the ill humor and the melancholy. Then there’s the whole archaic meaning of splenetic to mean “melancholy.” And my playlist is pretty darned melancholy.

So maybe you can consider this my spleen music.