No–no real spoilers here. I’m not going to talk about which of your favorite (or not favorite) characters are going to die on the hit HBO show.
I’m gonna talk about orgasms.
Ever since GOT premiered, the internet has been debated the sexual politics of the show, with some people thinking it’s sexist and others finding some of the strongest women on tv there. Saturday Night Live even did a fantastic sketch about why the show features so much nudity (http://www.brobible.com/entertainment/article/snl-game-of-thrones).
And there is a lot. Exposition tends to happen in whorehouses, as women of the night work on their technique. What’s interesting about most of those scenes, though, is the attention to artifice. These scenes do not feature women with their clients. Instead, the women train each other to fake pleasure, turning on and off the moaning at will.
However, what pleases me more and more about the show is the focus on actual female pleasure.
One of the most frustrating things about our pornographic society is the focus on moaning and other signs of pleasure, but the lack of female orgasms in our sex scenes. The women moan enough to let you know you’re doing a good job, but not enough to signal that they’re actually getting off.
Thus, not only is Game of Thrones breaking ground with its strong female characters, it’s actively discussing female pleasure. We don’t see the orgasms, but an amazing amount of time is given to discussing them, especially considering how many plotlines have to be crammed into each episode.
The Queen of Dragons has a happy marriage once she learns to have good sex with her husband. Margaery tries to tell Sansa that her fiance may be able to satisfy her sexually, even though he isn’t what she wants in a husband in other ways. When young Podrick spends some time in the whorehouse (his first time knowing women), he isn’t charged because the women enjoy it. Every man in King’s Landing speculates about what he’s done to make women happy–not with jealousy–but with a desire to copy his actions. Jon Snow is protected by his wildling lover because of whatever it is he can do with tongue, proving that he doesn’t need the advice a wildling general tries to give him about how to please a woman.
Game of Thrones is a guilty pleasure, but at least it’s training its viewers about what pleasure should be.
I was expecting that my next blog would cover some of the cultural events I’ve experienced lately–the amazing sold out show at Mondavi of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Common House’s amazing production of The Foreigner, my recent trip to Wine Country, in which I got to see a little grey whale swimming along the coast, etc.
But the news of the week is my loss of a gallbladder.
Saturday, I woke up early and got a lot of work done. Shortly after I had lunch, I started feeling really ill–nausea and vomiting had me thinking it was food poisoning. Hours later, still vomiting and shaking, I headed to the ER. Tenderness in my upper right abdomen made the doctors think it might be my gallbladder. An ultrasound confirmed that the organ was “packed” with stones.
When gallbladder stones block the duct, the useful stuff the gallbladder makes can’t get out to help digest food, causing the symptoms I was experiencing. Once the doctors were finally able to get me to stop throwing up, I was allowed to go home, with instructions to the see the doctor to talk about scheduling a surgery.
Except the next day all the symptoms came back, so it was back to the ER for me, where it was decided that I would be transferred to Sacramento for Emergency Surgery. It was an exhausting night. No sleep. Many rooms. One hallway. Not enough pain medication.
At 6 a.m., the nurse finally turned out the light and told me to get an hour of sleep before my surgery, but that was when the elderly Chinese woman in the bed next to mine woke up and started yelling at all her relatives on the phone.
I gave the nurse Vanessa’s number and was herded down for them to get me ready. There was a moment when they realized that I still had my underwear on, and they seemed surprised. They needed the underwear off, apparently, so they could catheter me after putting me to sleep. Since I hadn’t know that, I thought they should have expected I would leave my panties on–who puts on a backless gown AND thinks it would be a great idea to go commando?
My panties are now in a little “bioharzard” bag. Eventually, I will stop seeing this bag as a funny souvenir.
The surgery was quick, but the nausea and pain were hard to control, so I was in recovery for about four hours, where my nurse was really great, before I was released back to my room. Vanessa was there almost instantly, and we sat for hours, her grading, me trying to block out the Chinese-restaurant ambient music coming from behind the curtain to my right.
As soon as I got the nausea under control, I announced my decision to go home. Melissa and Vanessa were able to keep me company for the several hours it took to make that happen. We left during a freak downpour. I slept for 12 hours.
It’s day two of my recovery. It basically hurts to move. To stretch to bend down, to sit up, to stand up. My arms are sore from the incredible bruising all the needles caused. My four incision sites burn.
I’ve been grinding my teeth like crazy at night, apparently–I have the headache that comes from doing that.
But I’m going to be okay.
And I’m very thankful.
Thankful for all my co-workers who have covered classes for me.
Thankful for my son, who, the second I first started vomiting, got me a throw up bowl and gingerale and offered me a cool washcloth for my head. Who, although he’s sort of shy of strangers, kept marching out to the doctors’ desk at the ER to ask about the timeline for transport, etc.
Thankful for my Ian, who relieved the boy that first night, rubbed my back, and watched Dexter with me last night so I could focus on fictional blood and wounds.
Thankful for my Vanessa, who took me to the ER with the boy the second night, rescued me from the hospital, and is doing a Target run for me today.
Thankful for Melissa, Ken, April, Marina, Mandy Dawn, Tiffany, Tessa, Poonam, and everyone else who’s called, emailed, texted, offered and/or has given support and best wishes.
I don’t know exactly when I’ll be completely myself again, but I know it’ll be faster because of all of you.
As WonderCon 2013 is the only big Con I’m likely to attend this year, this is likely the only Con blog you’re all going to get for a while–enjoy!
For the first time in 13 years, the boy and I had the same Spring Break, which happened to fall during WonderCon, so the boy accompanied me down to Anaheim.
I have to say, after a couple of years of doing these things, the most exciting reason to go is to see my friends and super-geek acquaintances.
Thus, shorty after we arrived, we went to see Barry, one of my favorite bartenders in all the world. After a ridiculously expensive dinner (just assume that every meal I mention is ridiculously expensive–bottles of water at the Convention Center are $3), we headed to bed so we could get a good night’s sleep. I think we slept for 11 hours–we both needed it.
And then it’s mostly a blur.
One day I was Zuul, the next I was Gaiman’s Death, and I ended up in my TARDIS dress for the last little morning. We saw some amazing costumes–including one little girl dressed as Death (her very lanky father was Dream), lots of Doctors, tons of Star Wars characters, a great spider, etc. etc. etc.
And I’m going to apologize now for not having many pictures. Neither the boy nor I are particularly bright about having the camera out and ready to go. (Selfishly, I would have wanted more pics of my costume, but getting the boy to take a picture of me is difficult for some reason.) However, the other reason for few pictures is how annoyed I get by the way traffic stops about every 10 seconds on the floor because of people taking pictures. No exaggeration. People ask someone in costume for a pic (a pic with the woman if the costume leaves little to the imagination–just a pic if it’s not a particularly revealing costume), the person always agrees, and then there’s the camera fiddling, the backing up to take up the entire aisle so you can get every inch of the person in the pic, etc.
Casual gathering of Star Wars costumes
I got to see my old friends–cartoonist/writer Lonnie Millsap, cartoonist/writer/co-founder of ComicCon Scott Shaw, Anthony Del Col, one of the authors of Kill Shakespeare, all the guys who work at Bongo Comics, etc.
And I got to sit in on some amazing panels, including both of Scott’s (one is his “Oddball Comics” routine; the other is the improv cartooning panel). There was also a writing panel with Jane Espenson (writer of Buffy etc), Amber Benson (Tara on Buffy), Patrick Rothfuss, Frank Feddor, and Ashley Edward Miller. Best piece of advice for writing science-fiction or fantasy? Set up your whole world–know it at an atlas/encyclopedia level–but show the audience about 10% of that. They don’t want to read an atlas or an encyclopedia.
Amber Benson also confided that she was so glad she’d gotten into writing/producing, so she didn’t have to spend her days down on the exhibit floor signing autographs.
I got to meet Jane Espenson on the last day, which was amazing. I basically fawned all over her. There was a little less fawning, but no less excitement when I got to meet Terry Moore and a very nice Canadian who’s going to be making an educational video-game to go with Kill Shakespeare. He’s moving to America (SoCal) soon, so he may come up when I teach Kill Shakespeare in my graphic novel class.
The coolest I played it was when I found myself sitting at the same communal table at the bar on the last night with several people from Dark Horse Comics. One of the guys had just hosted the Buffy comics panel. When it was finally revealed through conversation that I was a fan and had been to the panel, I had to admit that the only reason I hadn’t squealed already was that I was trying not to be a big ole fangirl.
My own panel went well. When “regular” geeks (as opposed to academic geeks/professional geeks) wander into the academic panels, they have a tendency to wander out again. However, none of the 40 or so people in the room while I was talking left, which means a lot there. (People will even leave a room when Joss Whedon is in it, which I can never quite understand–maybe they’re so excited that they’re shitting themselves?)
Speaking of Joss Whedon, I got to be in the giant arena room when they had the panel with Joss and several of the actors, and the cinematographer for Much Ado About Nothing. The movie looks fantastic–the props are modern (there are cell phones), but the dress/style of the piece is an old-fashioned screwball comedy, including the film being in black and white. Can’t wait.
I got a shout out from the Bongo Comics panel–during the Q&A, they introduced me to the rest of the audience and mentioned my book. And that was awesome!
But one of our very favorite things was a quiet dinner with Lonnie and Scott. Scott is a survivor of a different time, when there weren’t really girl geeks, when ComicCon was in a basement and mothers escorted their sons there to make sure they weren’t getting diddled by the counter-culture artists. And he’s one of the sweetest, funniest, most remarkable men I know. He spends an awful lot of time at conventions looking at the work of child cartoonists–he remembers them from year to year and encourages them to keep drawing, before drawing them something original to take home. Lonnie is a friend I know through Denise. (She can totally pick ‘em!) Watching him get better and more famous every year is a great honor.
I left a little early so I could prep for my brand new Spring quarter–only to get home to a dark house. The power was out; my prepping plans were thwarted, but there was wine and Vanessa and Kevin and candles, and so we made it through.
In January, I heard a story about Florida Governor Rick Scott’s efforts to oppose the expansion of Medicaid in his state: http://m.npr.org/news/U.S./169060335.
The story was frustrating for several reasons. I have many relatives in Florida without health insurance. They don’t have very much money and thus would likely be eligible to benefit from this expansion. When I lived in Florida as an adult, I was also unable to get health insurance, as I was turned down due to pre-existing conditions. I worked full time for years without coverage. I got two undergraduate degrees and a masters without insurance. I worked for Florida State University both full-time before grad school and as a graduate student, with no health insurance.
It sucked. The inability to have a regular doctor guaranteed trips to the emergency room, the inability to effectively manage my conditions (including my asthma, which left me vulnerable and close to death quite a few times), and a reliance on samples of medication given to me by sympathetic poor-people-clinic doctors who applied the free drugs like bandaids to a gunshot wound.
In fact, one of the reasons I moved to California was because my university offered me healthcare, and I needed it. I couldn’t breathe, due to allergies and severe asthma. I missed too much work when my lungs closed. I had migraines. I was also starting to have trouble walking and immense back pain–at age 24. It was only when I was in California that I was able to be put on medications that control my asthma–I haven’t had to sleep with my rescue inhaler in my hand like I used to in The Sunshine State. It was only when I came here that I was able to get the tests to show that I had a severely herniated disc and that I needed surgery immediately. Obviously, finding out I needed surgery would have been pointless in Florida–I wouldn’t have been able to afford it (not that it was completely affordable here–I spent 1/3rd of my gross income that year on medical expenses and am still paying down debt from back then). My back pain would have increased–I would have likely ended up on disability, after going bankrupt trying to figure out what was wrong first.
Governor Scott was arguing that even though the federal government covers 100% of the costs of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years and 90% after that, that it was too expensive for Florida to help the poorest Floridians in this way. Independent agencies argued with his numbers, noting that he was ignoring important factors, like how expensive it is for taxpayers when people like me end up in the ER. His Congress told him his numbers were wrong.
After fighting and fighting and fighting, he revised his numbers to about 10th his original net cost estimate.
Yesterday, he did a full reversal and has committed to allowing the federal government help those in need in his state for at least three years: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/02/20/172523730/in-reversal-florida-gov-rick-scott-agrees-to-medicaid-expansion :
“‘Quality health care services must be accessible and affordable for all — not just those in certain ZIP codes or tax brackets,’ he said at the briefing. ‘No mother, or father, should despair over whether or not they can afford — or access — the health care their child needs. While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care.’”
He also said that the death of his mother helped put things into perspective.
Governor Scott was not governor when I was in Florida. I’m glad he’s been able to use tragedy positively–to allow himself to gain empathy and clarity.
I just wish politicians like Scott were touched by the rest of us, instead of just by what seems to affect their own families.
When I was struggling in Florida, I was someone’s mother. Although it may have given my son a lesson in basic universal rights and strengthened his ability to empathize, it would have been terrible for him to lose me to a preventable asthma attack or the pneumonia that almost took me away from him. He already had to deal with a mommy who said, “I’m sorry; I can’t pick you up, baby.” You see, even though he was still light as a young elementary student, there was no way the mystery pain in my back would allow me to play with him with the way I wanted to.
Governor Scott, the citizens this Medicaid program will help are my mother, my aunts and uncles, my cousins. They were always special to me. I was always special to them. We have always deserved to have access to the healthcare that could keep us alive, working, and supporting each other.
I’m glad you might finally see that.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing a performance by The National Theatre of Scotland–The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart. It was staged at our Mondavi Center. The play, when performed in Scotland, is often done in pubs and other common houses. They thus transformed the studio theatre into a pub, complete with a bar and tables. We were greeted with a free shot of Benromach Single Malt Scotch Wiskey and told that all seats were good seats, as the actors would be moving between the tables throughout the performance.
The play incorporated music (each actor could sing, dance, and play at least one instrument) and verse–although it’s uncommon for large portions of contemporary plays to be in verse, it worked somehow here.
The story was simple–Prudencia is a scholar off at a conference. Her methods are traditional–she looks for the stories in old ballads, rather than writing up scholarship on tweets or being a post-post-structuralist like her contemporaries. Her desire to flee from a disastrous roundtable discussion is thwarted by a snow storm. Hours later, her desire to flee from a bacchanalian pub (with strip karaoke) is also thwarted–she is lost in the snow at midnight. She has already been warned that it happens to be the night when the devil may prowl for souls, so she is happy to retreat to a bed and breakfast with its innkeeper, who promises her warmth and use of his large library. The unassuming man also compliments her scholarship . . .
And that’s all it takes for the Devil himself to capture a female scholar.
Prudencia’s current project is actually on hell (including its erotics), so she is disappointed to be trapped for millennia in a bed and breakfast library overlooking a costco parking lot, despite having every book ever written at her disposal. Over the centuries, she comes to know the devil, changing bodily form and all. She is finally able to seduce him, as he does in fact love her. As she escapes, she finds the rip in time that will take her back to the night she was stolen. One of her fellow scholars is out looking for her–although he mocks her work, it is only to cover his own being smitten. She knows enough from the ballads to be able to talk him through the rescue & they return to the bar, where she is able to finally sing her song.
The play was funny, energetic, often satiric, moving, and inventive in its use of traditional myth and current popular culture.
The end, which featured a slow, almost a cappella version of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” sung to the devil in the back of a crowded pub, was one of the most hauntingly beautiful theatrical moments I’ve ever witnessed.
After going so long without a post, I probably shouldn’t start the new year with political analysis, but that’s what’s on my mind this morning.*
All week long, I’ve been hearing conservatives complain that Obama’s inaugural speech didn’t reach out to them.
Three points about that.
1. I didn’t see W’s second speech (I was in a quivering ball or something that day), but I would never had expected him to reach out to me. I did hear him say that the second election gave him political capital and that he was going to spend it. I had heard, for several years, that since I didn’t like W, I was anti-American, that I was pro-terrorist, etc. This is besides me being a pro-killing babies, pro-giving your tax dollars to welfare queens, pro-killing old people by giving them healthcare, etc. Can anyone cite a moment when the leaders reached out to me in W’s years?
2. Obama had been reaching out to you guys the whole first term. And you called him a liar while he was on the House floor. And you put your finger in his face. And you said, publicly, that you would block every single thing he wanted to do. And you blocked almost every single thing he wanted to do. And he paid for it–some of us lost faith in him because he wasn’t telling you to go fuck yourselves, which is what we wanted him to do. Yes, when you refused to ever be civil or adult, we wanted him to treat you in kind, because we can be childish too, and we didn’t believe that you would ever, ever, ever work with him, even if he reached out to you and gave you 90% of what you wanted. But then we elected him again–after we told him to stop coddling you and get shit done.
3. I’m not quite sure what about the speech should have been altered for you. To protect your bigotry, should he have pretended that gay citizens don’t deserve equal rights? To protect your scientific ignorance, should he have pretended that there isn’t consensus on climate change and refused to acknowledge that protecting this country and your children means doing something about it? To protect your sense of how this country works, should he have pretended that not every entitlement (social security, medicaid, unemployment benefits, etc) goes to a lazy person?
The other incredible thing this week was reported on Colbert: http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/423113/january-22-2013/obama-s-inauguration—class-warfare. Some people out there think that our affection for Downton is indicative of our great love for rich people (not our desire to be them, but our appreciation of them.) This clip shows Stuart Varney arguing that Lord Grantham is the savior of the whole town–cause he’s rich–and we love him for it. Colbert points out one problem with this–the town’s dependence on Grantham means they all almost go down when he does.
The fact that most of us don’t care for Grantham, that we’re watching more for the love stories and the lives of the servants, that Grantham starts to pull a Schwarzenegger, that we’ve just discovered that he’s mismanaging the estate and won’t even discuss the problems is obviously beside the point. Now when I watch, and Grantham or his mother say something classist, instead of enjoying it as bit of satire of the attitudes of the wealthy at the time, I become sad–because now I realize that the rich people of today don’t see it as a satire–they’re smiling and nodding and thinking, “and this is why you love us–for the classism!”
*For those who want to know what’s gone on since the last post:
–It has been proven that despite all my requirements, it’s possible to meet me online and get me out on dates.
–Some horrible creature bit my face in the night, and the bite got infected, and now I still have a “beauty mark” high on my cheek.
–Got something on my toes fixed–this also led to an infection and lots of limping. Not happy with the foot doc.
–Had a good Christmas week with my Davis/Sacramento family. Made an awesome lamb dinner and had people over for Doctor Who on Christmas night.
–I finished up my six classes from Fall, planned and began my five for Winter.
–Saw a couple of plays, a little bit of stand-up (John Oliver and Dylan Moran), and a couple of movies.
–Left the tree up. If I don’t find a few free hours to take it down soon, it’s going to be a v-day bush. It’s not dropping many needles, though.
–Had a lot of great seafood at Blackbird in Sac. (Don’t drink the punch there, especially after you’ve had tequila.)
Finding myself single again right before the quarter started, I turned to OKCupid to find a potential partner or partners. I know that online dating can be daunting, but the prospect of finding a partner in a small town where half the population are undergrads isn’t promising, either.
OKCupid allows you post profile information, a picture, and to answer a LOT of questions. When you answer a question (would you rather sleep in or get up and do something on a Saturday? Do you prefer virgins? What does ‘wherefore’ mean in ‘wherefore art thou, Romeo?’), you can select your answer, acceptable answers for a partner, and rate the question’s/subject’s importance. OKCupid then tells you how compatible you are with any given person as a lover, as a friend, as an enemy. You can also see the answers of a potential mate if the person has answered publicly.
It’s a decent system, but it’s amazing how many men are managing to screw it up. Guys, if you want to date me (me–not just someone), here’s some advice.
1. Have a picture and some profile information up. When I get a message from a blank profile, I am hesitant to answer. If a stranger came up behind me in a store and asked, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”, I would want to turn around and get a sense of who was asking before I answered. Why do you think you get to be even more mysterious online?
2. Don’t say anything on your profile about ‘space camp.’ Unfortunately, OKCupid allows you to say things about your current job/education like “Dropped out of space camp.” It’s mildly funny on the first guy’s profile. It is not at all funny ever after. And many, many of you are doing it. (It’s sort of like thinking if you meet me, you can make a really original joke about “good Karma.”)
3. Don’t describe yourself as “just an average guy.” Why the hell would I want that? I want you to be above average at something. Average=boring. Average=normal. Karma=not boring, not normal.
4. When you make first contact, say something specific. If you want to up the odds that I’ll answer, ask a question. Many guys simply say “nice profile!” Ok. Thanks. It’s literally the least you can say besides “hi.” It’s also something you can say to all the girls. I have pictures of myself with a giant Bart Simpson, for heaven’s sake–I have given you something to comment on or ask about that shows you actually looked at my profile specifically.
5. If you’re very much older than I am, try not to say things that remind me of that fact. Several older men have said things that I know they mean as compliments, but that totally put me off. The two main ones: “you seem sweet” “you seem like a fun girl.”
A. I hope “sweet” isn’t the take-away from my profile. I do sweet things for the people I love, but I don’t walk around embodying “sweet.” In fact, “sweet” as a descriptor of a person (as opposed to an action) signals that you’re either discussing a very young child or a non-intellectual. I have never described an actual female friend as “sweet”–but I’ve called women I think are kind of dumb or naive that.
B. I can be fun, and I do call myself a girl sometimes, but I think if you’re trying to be my partner and you’re old enough to be my dad, you should refer to me as a woman.
6. You mustn’t be an asshole. By asshole, I mean racist, sexist, homophobic, severely Christian, etc. When I was first on the site, I kept getting emails from men who were rated an 80-something percent enemy because of their inability to see others as deserving of equal rights. At first, I tried to be nice. I would politely reply that since I am extremely liberal, I didn’t see a future between us, but that I wished them well. None of them took the hint. Each argued with me, usually, like one Lurch-look-alike did, by saying something like “but your pretti.”
Yes. And homophobes and racists and sexists don’t get to touch the pretty thing. (Even though I’m sure you would like to love me, and pet me, and squeeze me, and call me George.)
If you don’t believe my friends (whom I love–I don’t even know you), your fellow Americans, deserve equal rights, then I’m not going out with you. If you don’t believe women are equal to men, then you can’t be my partner. If you believe birth control is immoral, why would I let you anywhere near my baby-maker?
I eventually had to add a snotty paragraph on my page that explained that I didn’t want to hear from the phobes. A few guys persist, though. One man tried to argue that I needed to be around homophobes so I could understand their position. I assured him that I have homophobic students, community members, and family members to contend with. He stopped bothering me when I said I didn’t need to waste time dating someone I couldn’t respect, since I don’t take people I don’t respect to bed.
7. Note that I’m not applying to be anyone’s mistress. If you’re out to cheat, don’t contact me. Partners don’t sneak around. While I am open to being poly, I am not going to be part of your dishonesty, especially when you would probably not want your wife to have the same freedom.
I am a stradivarius, not anybody’s second fiddle.
Alexander and I left our house for the San Francisco airport at 9:30 Tuesday morning. We touched down in Helsinki at 5:30 Wednesday afternoon. Yup; long trip. (The Amsterdam airport has a children’s forest, a museum, a library, and an unhelpful clerk at the electronics store.)
Getting around the city is easy. Finnish has two official languages–Finnish and Swedish (cause the Swedes used to own us). In practice, though, everything is labeled at least thrice, with English underneath the other two languages. Some shops have completely English names, and we have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t speak it. Still, it feels the same level of foreign as Madrid did.
Once we put the stuff down in our rooms, we headed out to a traditional Russian restaurant in search of bear, which the boy wanted to try. They were sold out, so we had reindeer instead. I think we both would have enjoyed it more if we weren’t so exhausted. We got home at nine, and it was time for bed.
Today began with a breakfast buffet filled with interesting choices. Then I headed off to my conference while Alexander went to the zoo. The other participants, at least the ones I saw, were all reading their papers while seated. I stood and spoke with a few lines of notes and a colorful powerpoint. My topic? The Simpsons. People seemed to enjoy my presentation; they were awed at my being allowed to teach The Simpsons. Many said their nations (European ones) were too puritanical to allow the teaching of pop culture.
It was strange. I teach and write about pop culture so often; I’m even an editor of The Journal of Popular Culture. I’m just not used to having to explain or defend its use in the classroom, so it was invigorating to be challenged to do so. While some of my European colleagues were slightly incredulous about what I get to do, others were just clearly envious.
After my talk, I took myself and my growing headache down to the pier to meet the boy. On the way, I saw a diplomatic ceremony with a military band honoring visiting dignitaries. The boy caught up with me in the market, where we had a great lunch from a stall. I had what tied the previous best salmon of my life; it was so perfectly seasoned and fresh that I didn’t reach for the salt (and those who know me know I always reach for the salt). The boy had reindeer sausage. The American couple behind us in line had a loud conversation about how the wife would not be having reindeer, as she was convinced it would taste “weird.”
We then toured the Russian Orthodox cathedral and headed west to a converted church that’s now a disco. It’s supposed to be named after the boy’s namesake (Dante), but the sign wasn’t out front, so we couldn’t get a picture. We stopped in at a British pub and continued our ridiculous quest for souvenirs. Mom wants a long-sleeved t-shirt, which doesn’t seem to exist here. And I’m not buying a sweatshirt (50$!; everything is extremely expensive here). Wish I didn’t have to spend any time shopping.
At last, we ended up at a guidebook-recommended traditional Finnish restaurant. It was beautiful, with traditional dress & carved wood everywhere (even the menu was mounted in thick wood). I had a champagne cocktail with Finnish berry liquor. Then I had a Karelian stew (mashed potatoes, excessively tender meat, and pickled pumpkin/berries). The boy had bear meatballs with root vegetables in an amazing sauce that we couldn’t quite identify. Dessert was a Finnish brandy and “sisu” ice cream over summer berry compote.
Sisu is a word with no translation–it is supposed to be the aspect of Finnish character–it’s our stubbornness, our steadfastness, our loyalty, our perseverance.
In terms of ice cream, it’s a slight anise flavor (apparently).
But the brandy made my eyes water when I smelled it. I got the same shiver from just inhaling that I thought would come from drinking it. Alex said it smelled like apples. It did, if you marinated apples in gasoline–it was very strong.
The boy was so jet lagged and so tired from walking all day that he literally nodded off at the table. So here we are back at the hotel, with him asleep and with me writing this.
Where conditioner should be in the bathroom, there’s lingonberry bubble bath. Am tempted to try it.
(Still can’t upload pics; will make a facebook album at some point, though.)
I’ve been a very naughty blogger. The summer has gotten away from me, and what with all the work and the play, I’ve fallen behind.
Here’s a short catch up:
I haven’t managed to stop teaching at all. I’ve had three classes this summer (including a new one: 20th Century British Literature: Sex and Science), which means hours and hours of lecture, lots of grading, and a total of 26 book length works that I’ve had to read along with the students. This week will give me a bit of a break, but on the condition of trying to be brilliant at a conference.
I’ve managed to catch up with some old friends and to make some new ones. Most of the best stuff this summer was simply being with other people.
I cooked a lot. Had cocktails with Vanessa and Kevin a lot (while watching the HBO summer shows). Went wine tasting with Pat a couple of times. Hit Bodega Bay finally and filled my senses with the glories there. Spent quite a few weekends in San Francisco.
I’ve edited my first edition of Prized Writing–it will be at the bookstore at UC Davis soon.
I got to see Weird Al Yankovic perform twice in the same weekend (and got a picture with him!) His performance was stunning as always!
Got to see Steve Martin perform with the Steep Canyon Rangers at Mondavi–the banter was funny and the music was amazing.
Few movies and few plays, but I did get to see War Horse for my birthday (as part of my outstanding birthday weekend) — it’s difficult to describe the beauty of the horse puppets that make this show come alive. It was three puppeteers for each lead horse, with movements so real that I flinched whenever they were hurt. You could even tell when the horses were upset by the way they were breathing.
Noel Coward’s famous Blythe Spirit was on at Cal Shakes. Coward’s writing is still crisp, clever, and relevant.
The biggest news, however, is that the boy is now driving himself to school. His aunt Melissa basically gave him her old car. I put some money in to fix it up, taught him how to drive without either of us getting hurt, and put him on my insurance. His classes have started, so he’s out on the causeway twice a day. Wish him luck and patience.
He’s off to the conference with me; I’ll let you know how we do in the land of our ancestors.
(Would have included pictures, but the picture uploader is broken again . . .)