Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Day in the Life

And it never fails.  You forget you are collecting papers on a weekend you made a bunch of plans.  You will keep your plans and ruin them by worrying about all the grading you need to do, finally get to it the night before you are going to hand them back, only to panic and get pissed off, giving all of your students far lower grades than you might have in a better mood.

But that isn’t the worst part.  The worst part happens when you collect them.  There are at least 10 students in every class who can’t seem to figure out how to use a stapler.  This shouldn’t be a big deal, but somehow it is.  It doesn’t matter how you warn them, discourage the practice, rant and rave—several students will want to hand you a stack of loose papers.  These just happen to be the same students that can’t seem to put their last name on every page, which means you can’t get away with not stapling them, as those loose pages will soon turn into nonsense without their fellows.

You will then spend the next 30 minutes looking for a stapler because, well, you don’t have one yourself, and anyway, why should you?!  These are their goddamn papers!

You will finally find a stapler.  It has no staples in it.  The hunt continues.

Having accomplished the arduous staple task, you will finally make it back to your desk and collapse in a huff.  The last thing you want to do right now is grade those goddamn papers that you’re so pissed off about.  So you check your email.
There will be at least one like this:
Never mind that you have a lot of students.  Never mind that you might be teaching more than one class. And never mind that this student’s email address pissed you off.  He or she doesn’t care.

You will also get at least one email like this:
You will also realize that you left this book at home, and that there is no way to get it back to them on time.  You will lose that dollar—a hard earned one at that.  It’s not really the money, but the principal of the thing.  You needed that book.  At least, it feels like it now that they want it back.

You decide that maybe grading is better than this after all, but the first paper quickly changes your mind.  You nearly choke with rage.

After a shouting match with your office, you storm around the building, bitching to anyone who will listen about the state of America’s education.

Calming down, you go back to those papers, knowing they will only haunt you more and more until you get through them.  You read the next line.


Holiday Baking: The Wins and the Fails

UK: And supposedly Sylvia Plath used to fill the house with pies and cakes whenever she got writers’ block. We have no need of such excuses to fill the house with cookies. Inspired by selfless motives, we spent last week baking hundreds of cookies and multiple pies in preparation for the holidays.

KK: UK might be thinking it was purely selfless, but I always think of baking for others as an opportunity to eat.  When you make different kinds of cookies, you get to eat different kinds (not like making a batch for yourself, when you’re stuck with 2 dozen of the same kind. Which is terrible.  Really.)

UK: Our Betty Crocker Cooky Book (yes…. “cookies” used to be spelled “cooky” back when Jell-O was king and food coloring was the cat’s pajamas…) has proven invaluable, as has our trusty Joy of Cooking. Unfortunately, neither of them is foolproof.

It all started innocently enough. One day a couple of weeks ago, while yearning to put aside my work for the day and plunge into the joys of domestic bliss, I suggested to KK that we bake a bunch of cookies (cookys?) for Xmas (must be pronounced Ex-mas). Let’s make a variety!

We began mining the cooky book for suggestions. Soon our list extended to six species of cooky. In addition, it seemed like a good idea to make some pies that we had been slavering to eat for the last couple of months but had no good excuse for.

Cooky list:
Candy cane
M&M (red & green, duh)
Kisses (what we thought would end up coconut macaroons)
Lemon Cheese Spritz
Coconut Cherry Drops

Pie list:
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Coconut Crème Pie
Cherry Pie

The Wins:
Our first “win” was a newcomer, a Betty Crocker recipe: Coconut Cherry Drops. With some trepidation, we had to approach the “fruitcake fixins” section of our grocery store to hunt for candied cherries and the ominous sounding “citron.” Citron just means lemon in French, and on top of that, our first thought was Citron Vodka. Neither of these is helpful in this case. The citron we were looking for was the skin of a tropical fruit of the same name, specially prepared for the Anglo institution of fruitcakes. Our recipe called for it, however, so gosh darn we were gonna get it!

The Coconut Cherry (with Citron) Drops turned out delicious: salty, chewy, just a tad coconutty, with a hint of cherry and citrus. YUM. 

Next were the M&M cookies, which are really just chocolate-chip cookies with red and green M&Ms to make them festive for the Christmas season. Kind of a no-brainer; turned out swell. Ditto for the gingerbread cookies. 

Originally we had planned for macaroons (not the French macaron, the  other one, the coconut one—we like coconut, ok!?), but the Betty recipe for “Kisses” turned out to be meringues with coconut. Never fear, however, they turned out brilliant, and we even learned some new baking techniques for steaming cookies off parchment paper. Wet towels are key!

The Fails:
 It should come as no surprise that the Lemon Cheese Spritz cookys didn’t exactly turn out the way we expected.  We did a crap job checking the ingredients which meant that baking soda was added instead of baking power.  We also don’t have a cookie (cooky?) press, so we add-libbed with our cake-decorating bags. We decided that they might look flower-like, and decided to call them Lemon-Poinsettias in recognition of the season.  Poinsettias are red, so we added red food dye. 

We managed to save the rest of the mix with baking powder, but then we noticed something kind of kooky about our cookys, haha.  Rather than looking like Poinsettias, they looked strangely skin-like.  This was in part because we didn’t add enough red dye (they came out pink), and in part because, squeezed through our cake-decorating tips, they looked, well, fleshy.  That’s right, we made Christmas vaginas (we're calling them roses.) Luckily, all of the vag—I mean ROSES came out tasting great.

The other massive fail were the candy-canes.  I’m going to completely blame Betty on this one, as we were super paranoid about checking and double-checking ingredients after the Christmas Rose fiasco.  The dough had the consistency of semi-dry cement, which should have suggested that it needed something added to it, but rather than doubt Betty, we continued anyway. Every time we rolled the dough, it broke, and there was no way to twist the two colored doughs together into swirls.

We almost scratched the whole batch, but instead we initiated an emergency backup plan to save the dough.  Our plan was to make pinwheels, but it was too crumbly for that too.  We ended up with Christmas Hams, as seen in the picture here (or Christmas Narutomaki, as KK calls them, from traditional Ramen Noodles or Anime films). They taste pretty good.  Thank goodness for almond extract.

The Pies:
What is it with Cardamom?  Why the hell does it cost so damn much?  Anyway, the pumpkin cheesecake was scrumptious.  The cherry was a semi-homemade perfection, with canned cherries improved by cinnamon, nutmeg and almond extract.

The biggest hit was the upstart Coconut Crème Pie Thank You, Joy of Cooking (Cooky-ing?)!

-KK & UK

Lesbian Smut of the 1930s

So in preparation for my next chapterI’ve been reading early lesbian smut, pulp fiction novels from the  1930s.  Yes.  For real.  This is what I do for a living.  Although the 1950s and 60s were the peak of lesbian pulp fiction, many were written before that and I’ve been having a ball uncovering them.  Super helpful to this project is Jeanette Foster’s Sex Variant Women in Literature (1956—I don’t really know if there is better title in the whole world) and Terry Castle’s The Literature of Lesbianism (2003).
Pulp fiction was some of the only literature available for decades that included lesbians.  While the occasional novel would hint at, poke fun of, or ridicule lesbians, until the rise of pulp fiction, the choices were slim.  In the great gay and lesbian documentary Before Stonewall, one of the interviewees remarks that buying one of these lesbian pulps from the local drugstore was tantamount to coming out.
This is not to say that this is great literature.  Indeed, most of it is laughably bad.  Here are some choice lines:
“What would you say, Josiah, if I were tell you that I am practically certain that Miriam is using some strange power she has over Elaine to build up a weird sex complex in her that will prevent her ever becoming a normal wife to Hyde?”  (Woodford, Male and Female 105).

“Deep within the body of every woman there is hidden the desire to be taken by force” (Scott, Carnival of Love 154).
“Audrey sat there, still and calm, looking at Kim with half-tranced eyes, dimily aware of all the cruelty that she was bringing her, as some small furry animal is aware of the hand that is going to rip open its heart while it gazes fascinated, with soft, unseeing eyes” (Donisthorpe, Loveliest of Friends 59).
Pulps—lesbian or not—were usually sold in drugstores and gas stations, or sometimes in grocery stores.  If anyone remembers from some 20 years ago, racks of romance and western novels were sold this way into the 1980s.  They were very inexpensive (if you look at the covers here, you’ll often see the price--25¢ to 40¢ usually; adjusted for inflation, it’s still far less than what you would pay for a paperback now.)  Meant to be picked up as an impulse-buy with your Certs, they were not printed for posterity.  Created with cheap paper (hence pulp) that deteriorates over time, reading them now becomes a bit of a scavenger hunt to find the last remaining copies rotting in used book stores or private collections.  Some isolated or brave readers of lesbian pulps had them mailed to their homes—you could get signed up for a kind of book-of-the-month in certain categories or from certain publishers.

Like all mass-produced books, there was in general a formula to these novels: good girl meets evil girl in (choose one) 1) prison 2) college 3) her apartment complex; evil girl seduces good girl; good girl nearly loses all only to finally go back to (choose one) 1) her male sweetheart 2) her husband; and usually evil girl dies horribly. Nevertheless, there were exceptions like Ann Bannon, who wrote in the 1950s and 60s, but for the majority of these novels, the formula was followed if for no other reason than to avoid censorship. Evil must be punished by goodness and heterosexuality must prevail.
Kissing and fondling is frequent, but sex is usually represented in these novels in fade out, heavy-breathing sequences, often with after-effects similar to intoxication.  Usually the good girl is inexperienced sexually or frigid and the evil, slutty lesbian “wakes her up.”  Interesting to note, however, is that once these good girls go back to their boyfriends/husbands, they’re usually still awake and can now appreciate sex.  They needed a lesbian after all. 

The pictures here are representatives of novels originally published in the 1930s and republished in the 1950s and 60s with the recognizable, lurid covers you see here.  Choice cover phrases include:

"The World Condemned Their Love" (Loveliest of Friends)
"It Happened in New Orleans" (Carnival of Love or Mardi Gras Madness)
"Two Women and a Man Make a Daring Bargain in Love" (Male and Female)
"By the author of The Hussy" (Hell Cat)

In most cases, you can judge these books by their cover.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Welcome to our Blog: The Great Conjunction!

AND after long deliberation (about a week), we, two writers and perpetual students, have decided to take on the blogosphere, with The Dark Crystal as our battle cry! We are dabblers, dilettantes, and dissertation-writers; hostesses, hotties, and hilarious; intellectuals, ingénues, and information-challenged; opinionated, optimistic and one-of-a-kind (hopefully!).

If 1980s children’s fantasy has taught us anything, it’s that good prevails over evil, (that’s the power of The Dark Crystal!) and that Muppets will always prevail over CGI.

As literature-lovers, we are also fans of the double-meaning of our blog, which cannot be lost on anyone familiar with FANBOYS.  For this reason, we will always start our blog posts with conjunctions. (Yet, aren’t promises made to be broken?)

We’ll be sharing our ideas about food and wine, as well as movies, TV shows, popular culture in general, our lives as underpaid academic minions, and anything else that comes into our heads.

We aim to be light-hearted, linguistically-limber, laugh-inducing and, at times, lurid.
Hope you enjoy it and check back often. In the meantime, live long and prosper.