desk lunch – 2015-09-24

Brought to you this week by THE POPE, who has been on Philadelphia’s civic backburner for like, at least a year now, the knob on the flame slowly turning every week and he’s gonna be here soon!!!! The city is shutting down on Friday and Monday! I can’t wait for this four-day weekend and all the places I won’t go because of traffic boxes and special pope passes for the suburban rail and NO TRAINS OR BUSES GOING ANYWHERE. Great times. I am rationing my chicken nuggets.


Threesome with Ambivalence by Jameson Fitzpatrick

To make room in the bed then,
slow evacuation of the self: who was I before I
was yours? what did I want

Poetry featuring sex and architecture! YES, AWL, MAKE ME SAD.


Facing into the writing of a piece of fiction, I always feel a lot like Cheever’s Neddy: at once hungover and amped up on a self-congratulatory buzz, at once sure of the strokes I need to make and slowed down by the residue of all the messes I have made before. There is a story, I know; there is a story I can write, a story I want and maybe even need to write, but it is so far away…. There is such a way to go, setting out on a new piece of writing.

There’s this and something Lin-Manuel Miranda tweet about his process for musicals:

And this is something I’ve learned and something I hate that I’ve learned: I can’t develop every idea, because some aren’t right right now, and some aren’t right ever, and I don’t have the time for every idea. So for something to make it out of a note in my drafts folder or grow from one line in scrivener, it has to be good and we have to be right for each other. That requires patience and I have very little patience for myself and the fact that good things need time. Process! It’s dearly miserable fun! No regrets!


Rita Moreno quietly tears Animal and his drumming apart on The Muppet Show. IN SPANISH. I gasped and rewatched like five times because SHE’S SPEAKING MY LANGUAGE. How many times did my grandmother pull this exact stunt on me growing up!!! Like a MILLION.

Related: The Muppets‘ reboot premiered this week and it had one great line:

Miss Piggy: I hate the smell of lilacs in my dressing room. Fix it.

Kermit: Yes, I’ll talk to god about lilacs.


Harold’s Chicken Shack #35
fried gizzards w/ fries
your dad orders it for you
& you are too young
to know what you’ll have
to swallow &
too old to refuse food.

For one of my posts at The Rumpus this week, I included a link to an interview with poet Nate Marshall because I fell into it and his poetry headfirst and it’s tremendous. Link has the interview, but here’s the poetry. There’s more at the excerpt from his new collection, Wild Hundreds.


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desk lunch – 2015-09-17

Brought to you this week by almost, almooooost, meeting my 50-book reading challenge for this year! When this posts, I’ll be at 49 books thanks to Vol. 1 of The Wicked and the Divine, and I’ll hit 50 with either Vol. 2 of same or Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me. Or Saga Vol. 5, which I have to like, actually pick up from my local comics shop and read. I was daunted by reading 50 books in a year, and then I realized (with Goodreads’s help) that the 150 pages of comics I mainlined every month absolutely count, so now it’s less daunting. Ok, it’s not daunting at all, really, since I spend almost every waking moment reading in one form or another. I’m exhausted just thinking about how terribly well-read and well-rounded I am.

My birthday is a month away and I need to start reassuring myself now that I’m worth it.


The realization that turtle shells are ribs bones led Owen and colleagues to the most bizarre aspect of turtle anatomy. Picture a turtle: where do its legs attach? (Under the shell.) Owen quickly realized the implications; a turtle’s shoulders and scapulas are located underneath its ribcage. Yes, turtles are effectively inside out.
Did you know turtles are inside out?
Did you know turtles are inside out?
Did you know turtles are inside out?
Did you know turtles are inside out?
Did you know turtles are inside out?
Did you know turtles are inside out?
DID YOU KNOW TURTLES ARE INSIDE OUT?
This was the first thing I read when I woke up last Saturday and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Did you know turtles are inside out?
A neighbor of mine, Mitch Tropin, teaches at six different colleges in the D.C. area. Through a combination of perseverance and good karma, he has been able to align his three Baltimore schools so he teaches there on the same days, allowing him to minimize commuting time. He always aims for employment at six schools because, he says, “You never know when a class will be cancelled or a full-time professor will bump you at the last minute. Sometimes classes just disappear.”
Published in The Atlantic this week, but this very long, well-researched piece doesn’t say anything new about the adjunct plight. I’m linking it because it’s a reminder that maybe a handful of schools mentioned in the piece have agreed to meet with adjunct unions, but nothing of substance has changed. In Philadelphia, my former grad program at Temple University periodically holds hearings (#tuhearing) to discredit the work adjuncts put into their classes every day, every semester, every year. So, consider this a timely reminder that higher ed continues to collapse itself from the top down.
Thus though, the gap in quality between Wharton’s best books and her worst is substantial, the gap in pleasure is mostly nonexistent. Wharton’s smaller novels are like better, meatier Gossip Girl books, and I tend to read them when I’m looking for something junky but also excellently, precisely written. They hover close to the realm of classic trash, but are slightly better; the perfect pleasure read.

desk lunch – 2015-09-10

My husband and I study history, specifically the late Victorian era of the 1880s and ’90s.  Our methods are quite different from those of academics. Everything in our daily life is connected to our period of study, from the technologies we use to the ways we interact with the world.

Earlier in the week, The Big Story that caught my eye was on The Awl about what freelance writers are paid, but then these pseudo-Victorians rolled into Vox and everything went out the window, mostly because 1) VICTORIANS! and 2) I write fiction and very short essays, not longreads based on hours of research and reporting, as almost every writer quoted in that piece. So it was like a quick glance into a place that didn’t hold much interest for me.

Anyway! The pseudo-Victorians are way more interesting because wow they fueled fascinating discussions on my timeline all day from all the historians and academics RISING FROM THE DEEP to provide their take on this complete nonsense.

I’m not a person to harp on about the importance of historical accuracy; we should think of historical accuracy as a thousand facets of the same stone. There’s no way to create one all-encompassing narrative of one life, let alone one narrative out of the lives of millions of people across decades, across a country and an empire. What I find more depressing are people who take their privileged arts-and-crafts 21st century “””organic””” approach to recreating life in the 19th century. The author of the piece takes the path of reconstructive nostalgia, where people of the past and their “simpler” technology are more virtuous than we parasitic Twitter addicts who don’t bake their own bread with homegrown sourdough cultures.

Like, I just washed and dried two loads of laundry in 80 minutes without leaving my apartment building!!! After a full day of work where I didn’t inhale poison chemicals or brutally die due to safety hazards!! I’ll keep glancing into the past through novels, primary sources, essays, whatever else I can get my hands on, but trading Wendy’s for debtors’ prison and the worst pies in London? Hard pass.

(I’d include colonialism, but I don’t think colonialism is the far-off fantasy we’d like it to be.)

Three excellent microfictions at The Offing, but the last piece is tremendous.

Yo, speaking of history and the rich tapestry of space-time that we wrap ourselves in every day of our lives.

And on other days, I didn’t write a single word. Yes, it’s true. Why? Sometimes, it’s because I was busy being alive. Other times, it’s because the story I was working on simply wasn’t ready to be written yet.

Just one more weapon in my arsenal of patience for myself and my self-loathing. I had a writing project I meant to draft over Labor Day weekend, but instead I outlined it, submitted work to a lot of places, and spent three days seeing friends and enjoying hot dogs and central air conditioning. That’s okay.


desk lunch – 2015-09-03

Brought to you this week by SEPTEMBER. 

Today’s high of 97/heat index magma suggests otherwise, but: AUTUMN. I AM READY. I await the day that leggings roam the earth again.

In the midst of friendship strife, I draw from a vocabulary underpinned by decades of loving women—decades washed in heady joy and devastation alike. I have learned to say, “She broke my heart” without pause because I no longer give credence to that diminishing phrase, “just a friend.”

Rachel Vorona Cote strikes again, too close to home in this essay that explores the lukewarm vocabulary surrounding female friendship. YMMV but this was one of those essays I saved to share here because quoting/posting on twitter was too immediate, too open to commentary from those very same friends this would describe. Here, I can pretend that’s not the case!

Anyway, I have never cared about a romantic partner with anything close to the intensity of my female friends, which is just me, which makes for an isolating kind of emotional experience in the world, and this essay captures that in a really uncanny and unsettling way. ENJOY.

Compared to crabs from a cleaner reference marsh in southern NJ, Hackensack crabs were measurably more aggressive. Poking the crabs with a stimulus and recording the outcome, Reichmuth and colleagues learned that Hackensack crabs were far more likely to attack while crabs from the reference site were more likely to retreat. These Meadowlands crabs were so aggressive that they skewed population studies; they would enter a trap and then ambush and kill other crabs who entered.
Most significantly, aggression does not imbue any survival benefit.

I tweet about this with way more delight than JSTOR has ever known. I’m from this area of north Jersey, the one with the aggressive crabs due to a history of heavy metal pollution in the ecosystem, and it delights me that everything in the Jersey marshes exists with this much pointless aggression. It’s not just everyone on the turnpike, it’s not all the commuters with hours of their lives spent going back and forth from the city, it’s the land itself, destroying you, like a land fueled by actively resentful Fisher Kings. Someone should add a blue crab with a knife to the NJ state flag.

Suddenly, the phone rings. It’s Eli!! He’s outraged!! He’s yelling on his cell phone while standing on a very busy Chicago street corner and he’s wearing a really well-tailored suit!!

Needs more Julianna Margulies and Matthew Goode, back from Downton England, flirting awkwardly through internet metaphors about cheating until they realize they don’t know anything about the internet and they should make out before it’s too late, SAYS THE GHOST OF JOSH CHARLES.


It’s fine, Ewan. IT’S FINE. Got any other devastating headcanons about your characters tucked up your sleeve??