Monday, April 30, 2012

Starting tomorrow...

For May, I have some very specific goals.
  1. Clear the paper clutter in my apartment
  2. Add thirty minutes of daily exercise
  3. Write 2K words on the novel every day
  4. Initiate a Pantry Challenge for pantry, freezer, cupboards
  5. Prepare my class for Oxford: lectures, readings, YouTube clips
Beyond that, I must take care of my car's bumper, initiate programs for the 2012-2013 year, dry cleaner & tailor items, finish up this year's programs and get Jack's med for flights. Odds and ends, here and there.

But getting ready for travel is uppermost, hence the exercise. Also, a ban on sugar and wheat. Apart from likker. But no more M&Ms, no more ice cream, no more frozen yogurt meals.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Such a pleasure to spend two days at home. Cleaning, cooking, washing clothes and bedding. Not doing any work, per se. No negotiating, no chat, no BS.

Temptations: Sherlock, The Closer seasons 6 & 7, The Vampire Diaries, Dexter season 2, and the Nook.

Good news: I feel more relaxed and I am bored. Tomorrow is the last day of the old time, and May 1 I start working on my new goals. I need to get ready for my trip, and to finish cleaning and de-cluttering my house. I have to go back to daily writing in order to get back on a regular routine and complete the present manuscript so I can send it off.

Bad news: two more days of class, plus grading and evaluations. Sigh. Not bad, and not terrible, I just feel like I'm over the school year of 2011-2012. Ready to enjoy a month just about me. Hurrah.

Friday, April 27, 2012

No wonder I'm tired!

At the end of April, I find that I have accomplished the following just this month:
  1. produced a festival of staged readings for six original plays by my students;
    • including guest artists that I recruited and hired for the project;
    • including original music compositions stemming from a collaborative class with student composers, that I initiated.
  2. intiated and mentored the successful submission process resulting in $7,000 in grants and $5,000 in awards to playwriting students for community/creative projects.
  3. directed the Ama Ata Aidoo reading at the international-scope African Literature conference on campus, in front of Aidoo just prior to her talk on human rights.
  4. mentored the staged readings of three ten-minute plays inspired by Joan of Arc for a Medieval Studies/English/Women's & Gender Studies/Creative Writing class, a project in play for a year.
  5. dramaturged an original play at one of the top local theatres.
  6. completed three upperclass courses successfully.
  7. found and rented an apartment in Paris for June, and made/confirmed all my travel plans to home, Paris and Oxford this summer.
  8. deferred my taxes, paid my traffic ticket, joined Women in Film and completed my Search Committee assignment.

My reward?

I mean...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Today is our department's awards meeting. A usually bland and speedy run-down of the various (yawn) awards won by students within our division. This year made even less exciting by putting the names of the winners in the program. We've gotten to the point where the same stories are told, the same blah script and 1/3 of the department comes.

Anti-climax, anyone?

For once, the internal, not-on-stage drama would be good... but we eliminated it.

And I go last. Why? No clue. Should I make it work? Oh yeah. Should I make it fun? Oh yeah. Should I actually bring a little C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-I-O-N to the moment? Oh yeah!

So, uh, what?

Thinking... dangerousssssssssss.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Frugality for last week

Such a good week!
  • deployed voucher for yoga classes, 77% off for a month
  • sent $$ for Paris apartment (making me cash poor but apartment rich... for June)
  • made first successful foray into Pantry Challenge month, using crockpot and freezer goods
  • spent only 56% of my total weekly budget for groceries
  • successful "No Spend Thursday" = no spending

Saturday, April 21, 2012

First Quarter Goals

Late but not forgotten.

My goals for the first quarter of 2012 were simple: get my finances in order, take care of the details for my summer travel, and get myself out of a rut and into a productive cycle at work.

All completed successfully!

Financial goals:
  • I met with the reps for each of the retirement funds where my money is located and had productive information meetings. I feel great about the status of my current funds.
  • I have slight adjustments to make with one fund: transforming a general fund into a Roth IRA to forward my plans to build a swanky retirement home: TBD.
  • I worked to get credit cards paid off, and have currently only two outstanding bills.
  • I donated two printers and a laptop to charity, getting them out of my house while earning a tax credit.
  • I transformed two discount coupons into cheap yoga classes for April-May, thereby forcing myself to exercise while saving about 80% of the possible cost.
  • I found and signed a lease on an apartment in Paris for June, using my savings to pay for the trip--as planned.
  • I scheduled my flights, including the ones with the cat, roundtrip to CDG/Heathrow and back as part of my summer course payment (no cost to me but the cat's flights and suitcases).
  • I maintained a strict weekly budget on my groceries, making it for all but two weeks of this quarter.
  • Taxes for 2011: I will meet with The Tax Man prior to summer travel to handle this.
  • Roth IRA: I will also handle this prior to summer 2012.

Summer Travel:
  • Apartment in Paris: check.
  • Flights: check (including the cat!).
  • Chunnel tickets: check (not yet received, but bought).
  • Class for July: a May 2012 project.

Work, Rut to Productive:
  • Aidoo reading completed for African Literature conference: check.
  • Playwriting students brought together with music composition students, resulting in original music for original play performances: check.
  • Short Joan plays performed in Medieval Studies course on Joan of Arc: check.
  • Original playwriting festival staging six plays with 28 actors, 6 directors (2 professional, 1 faculty, 3 students), 6 stage managers, 2 crew, and 6 happy playwrights: check.
  • Students earning grants for community-based arts project with award-winning playwright and documentary filmmaker for one month this summer, total of $7K: check.
  • Course filled with non-majors with positive response: check!
  • Internship developed for studentwith film shoot in Louisiana: check!
  • Book reviews for two journals: check!
  • Entries for encylopedia on performing arts: check!
  • Contract for summer course: check!
  • Proposal for new fall 2012 night course: check!
April through June: focus on health and creativity.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tomorrow's craziness

Here's my schedule for Saturday.

930-11      Rehearse for reading of Ama Ata Aidoo play excerpts

130-230    Performance of Aidoo excerpts

230-4        Arrive late at #1 staged reading, in progress; lead post-show talkback

730-10      Give curtain speech, lead talkback of #2 staged reading

In between, eat breakfast, lunch, dinner. Pick up package mistakenly delivered to my neighbor. Get gas for car. Don't lose my mind.

Notes: Reading went beautifully, after being delayed for 35 minutes due to traffic accident. #1 staged reading was glorious; talkback positive and full of laughter and praise. #2 staged reading was even better; talkback thick with insights. I did not lose my mind. All good.

If I were in Paris... Packing

This week I'm going to change this entry up a little. All too soon I'll be packing to spend June in Paris. When I did that previously, in 2010, it was hot. Really hot. Like melting sidewalks hot.

So hot that Monsieur Sans Culottes and Madame Topless apparently didn't care if their neighbors in the facing building (me) could see them in various stages of nudity and near-nudity through wide-open windows.

It was that hot.

Packing for this is a challenge, because I'll be spending some days in the Tolbiac archives which are air-conditioned and some days in the Arsenal archives which are not. And part of nearly every day on the Metro, on old or new lines... mostly not air-conditioned and crowded.
My goal is to appear chic and put together (even on the hottest of Metro cars) as best I can.

To that end, I pack cottons and silks that I can layer up and down. With a surprising amount of color. I find that a series of mix-and-match pieces that can become polished with the right acessories leaves me comfortable and feeling good about how I look. I also wield a mean washing machine and iron.

Black is my neutral. I mix in white and color much more than I do in my winter closet. The colors I'm going to focus on in this group will be blue and rust; I might also include some light spring green, cocoa, and red.

For tops:
  • 5 or 6 lightweight T-shirts in solid white and black
  • 3 or 4 button-front linen shirts in bright, light colors like mango, aqua, celery, white
  • 3 or 4 cardigans in cotton or silk blends--black, white, blue, rust
  • a lightweight cotton jacket in white 
For bottoms:
  • 3-4 skirts in cotton prints and solids in slightly darker shades like rust, teal, black
  • linen pants in black
  • blue jeans or similar weight pants in black
I mix and match the tops and bottoms, then dress up with the jacket or a cardigan, and add accessories. In planning and choosing the final pieces, I start with the bottoms as anchors.

Besides these, I'll bring or buy one dress in a solid color.

Oh, I do plan to shop once I get to Paris.

Go-to accessories:
  • a rayon pashmina in a solid color
  • 4 to 5 cotton scarves in patterns, working with the colors included 
  • necklaces, bracelets, earrings -- mostly in silver or semi-precious stones 
  • 3 to 4 pairs of shoes

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Playwriting Festival 2012

This week is our playwriting festival. This year I am producing three long plays and three short plays, while directing the staged reading of one of the longer pieces.

As usual, I feel stretched in five, twelve, eighteen directions... but still foolishly relaxed.

We have six playwrights, six directors (two professionals, myself, and three students), six stage managers, and twenty-eight actors, including an 11 year old boy. And two students operating  the sound and light boards. So, a lot of people involved... but no production values beyond the work of the writers, directors, and actors: no costumes, lighting effects, properties or sets.

But in a very exciting way each play has evolved beautifully. Starting tonight, I'll be in our theatre five to six hours each day, either prepping or watching plays--sometimes two per day. This is the wrap-up to the student writers' experience as developing playwright over four semesters. As their teacher and the producer/co-ordinator of the event, this is a Big Deal.

This weekend is our kick-off. By Monday I'll sort of, maybe, possibly be back to normal.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday transformation

Today I cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen, which was my monthly cleaning of same. Plus the cat's litter box and water fountain.

Then I changed the bathroom decor. Well, hung a different shower curtain and put out my guest towels. The shower curtain is a white on white leaf outline print and the towels are white spa towels. Now my bathroom looks like a spaaaaaaaaaaa--aaaaah. Yeah.

I put away the bright yellow/red flowered paisley curtain and yellow towels. Oh, and red toilet cover.

Serene, bright, light and springlike.

I also bought plants--again. A peace lily, three cacti, and three red geraniums. Always red geraniums! They'll die once August gets here, in the heat, but until then. Time to replant, repot, and make the house green again, I guess.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pretty picture

Today it's just about a pretty picture, something to brighten your day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Packing for Paris... and Oxford

I'll be on the road this summer for two months: one month in Paris, where I'll be in the archives most days, and one month in Oxford where I'll be teaching.

Paris... June

Oxford... July

What will I pack?
  • Based on my trip in 2010, June in Paris will be HOOOOOOOT.
  • Based on 6 trips to Oxford, July in Oxford and England will be hot/cool/rainy/sunny.
  • I'll be giving a paper at an international conference at University of Exeter.
  • I'll be staying on the fifth floor (walk-up) in Paris and the first floor in Oxford.
  • I'll be buying books, shoes, skin care products, accessories, and clothes in both places.
  • I'll take one mid-size suitcase, one backpack, and the cat to NY.
  • I'll take one mid-size suitcase, one backpack, and one pliage from NY to Paris.
  • I'll probably be taking two suitcases, one backpack, and the cat from NY to Big D.
Paris requires clothes for the daily trip to the archives, or to museums, sight-seeing, and cafe-sitting.
Oxford requires clothes for teaching, day trips, high table/guests, and the conference in Exeter.
My neutral is always black.
I never wear shorts.

I take one dress for High Table/conference meetings, and mix it up with accessories and shoes.

The gym I join in Oxford requires a bathing suit for the steam room and whirlpool (thank goodness!).
Besides clothes, what do I need?
  • laptop plus hub/thumb drives/mouse/cords
  • camera plus USB cords
  • Nook plus USB cords
  • iPod plus cords
  • cellphone plus cords (buy a UK one there)
  • books for class
  • ethernet cord, international plugs
  • Longchamps Pliage backpack, briefcase, and tote
  • presentation folder for conference paper I am presenting in July

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Monday was a long day

That's yesterday. Perhaps it only seemed long because there were so many parts of it, and there was unexpected stress in certain areas.

What went right?

My morning class: the first of my juniors brought in her play to read and it was a success. Yes, ripe for revision, but the first iteration was charming, well-structured, and complete. All good. The feedback session showed a little too many teeth, but we'll fix that.

My grant-writing students. All got their papers in, with my rec letters included, and we're moving on to the next stage of the project: getting them money.

My directing of the student staged reading. A meaty, thoughtful, lively session with my cast. Thank goodness this is flowing because I have had little to no time to make it happen. But the response of the students is fan-tab-u-lous. Although my playwright needs to cut and insert more action: the plot stops because she is so very wordy.

My grading: for once! My non-majors are writing articulate, thoughtful papers that impress the hell out of me and spell carefully. Wow! After semesters of struggling with majors who fight issues like grammar and spelling like it was Beelzebub, a roomful of students who do it, even if they don't get it, is a pleasure and a surprising delight.

What went, well, sideways?

Surprisingly, the formerly smooth work of the search committee I am on. In our last meeting, we ran into what I consider to be an extremely confusing and BIG elephant in the room. Not completely unexpected, but still: wow! Whu-huh-ow!

This generated further response, and might continue to do so. Anything that generates "more" drama or trips a series of responses just steals time and energy from the big ball of "everything else" that's ongoing.

I am consistently surprised by the fact that academics are just as emotional and non-verbal about territory. In fact more so, because there is such little cash or land involved. Salaries are relatively low, power or prestige ditto (especially in such an anti-intellectual culture as our own), and where we should be collegial or at least "do no harm," so many people can't resist being petty. It's not even about intellectual property or a difference of research/scholarly point of view, which might explain it.

Anothing thing that went right? I stood up for my ethical position in an articulate way. Or at least my questions about the ethics. I know it is quite likely that these questions will be brushed aside, like they were yesterday (don't worry your pretty little head!), but...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Joan Project

This year is the 600th anniversary of the birth of Jeanne d'Arc.

One of my colleagues on campus is a Joan scholar who also teaches a kick-ass course in Joan. In this class, she covers the primary evidence of Joan's life (including the transcripts of her trial), her military campaigns, and finally the interpretation of Joan as a character and cultural touchstone. The fact is that over the last six hundred years there have been one hundred plus performance pieces with Joan as a central character: plays, operas, song cycles, ballets, and films. Artists who have written about Joan include Bertolt Brecht, George Bernard Shaw, Shakespeare, George Melies and Roberto Rosselini.

That means there is approximately one text for every six years.
The first one was written even before Joan was executed--during her lifetime, in other words. Some ofthe texts are biographical, some are fantastical, and some simply use Joan's life and legend as an influence.

Last semester, I proposed an interdisciplinary event celebrating Joan's birthday. My ideas were bigger than we had time to realize, but the final project will be great for my students, my colleague's students, and the Creative Writing students who are taking the class and can do a creative project instead of a research project. These are student poets and fiction writers in the English department.

What's the outcome?
My colleague has offered two days of class for this project. Students from Medieval Studies, Creative Writing, and Theatre will present original student texts in class. My students' plays will be readings, using the students of the class as actors. The poets and novelists will read their original work or excerpts of their original work. Bonnie will lead in with a discussion of Shaw's play, but her brilliant website offers excerpts from films and plays, as well as a complete listing of said performance pieces.

What does this mean?

An interdisciplinary celebration of student writing and performance. An outlet for students' creative work--based on research and primary documents. Production credits for student playwrights. Good for students, good for Joan, good for faculty.

Go, Team Joan!