Thursday, November 01, 2007

Na! Blo! Po! Mo!

Now, with even more backdating! :-)

How behind am I? Well, the lovely Bon sent me some questions--questions that I asked her to send, mind you--more than three weeks ago, and I haven't answered them yet.

Whoops. They're great questions, too. So I'm going to answer them now.

1. what is your favourite book/work/text (choose whatever word is appropriate) to teach these days, and why?

Hmmmm. I'm teaching a literature class this semester, a graduate course in 'literary dystopias'.' I'm really enjoying it, because my students are just so bright and engaged. But, you know, the books are depressing and scary: Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, Player Piano, Stepford Wives, The Handmaid's Tale. I don't really enjoy the books all that much.

You know my honestly favorite book to teach? Really? Cheaper by the Dozen. As you likely know, it was recently-ish made into a terrible movie starring Steve Martin that related to the original text only by sharing its title. Shudder. The original details the true story of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, and the home they shared with their eleven children (a twelfth died of typhoid fever before the action of the book begins). I teach the book in a graduate class on 'narratives of technology in the twentieth century,' because, in addition to being wonderful, funny people, with loads and loads of adventures in parenting to recount, Frank Gilbreth was a pioneer of motion studies, a science he and Lillian developed in order to increase the number 'happiness minutes' that people could fit into their lives. They figured that by making spaces and processes more ergonomic, people could do more work more easily and more quickly, as this work was measured in 'therbligs' ('Gilbreth', backwards-ish). Frank died tragically early, and with 11 kids to support, Lillian became a 'domestic engineer' and wrote books on how to design kitchens to reduce strain on homemakers, and made diagrams of the most efficient, least-difficult ways to make beds, for example. The three-station kitcher? Lillian Gilbreth.

I like the contrast between these kind, hilarious, loving, child-friendly people, and, say, Fred Taylor, the time-studies guy whose idea of efficiency was to take a stopwatch to the biggest strongest guy who shoveled coal, and then holding everyone else to that standard or threatened to fire them.

And the book is sweet, and funny, and humane. Did I mention funny? It's not a story my students think of as being about technology, but it kinda is.

2. you've posted pics from your hardcore days, though your aesthetics are more mainstream now...what will Munchkin find in you to rebel against when she hits teendom?

Oh geez. You've overheard us all the way from Atlantic Canada, talking about this? If she wants to hit me where it hurts, she will become boy-crazy and conformist. She will stop reading and pretend she is dumb. I honestly don't care what she looks like--I'd prefer more youthful piercings to tattoos*, because the nose rings come out when you change your mind. I would be heartbroken, though, if she plucked and dieted and mall-ed her way into super-conformity and looked like one of those interchangeable longhaired blond Ugg-wearing undergrads I can't tell apart from one another.

3. if you could apply a theme song, in hindsight, to your twenty-year old self and who she was and how she wanted to live, what would it have been?

Oh yeah baby! I had a lot of angst. It was a lot of Smiths, with a dash of Ministry. That is to say I was both lonely and looking for love, and defiant and aggressively defensive.

4. what makes you angry?

Incompetence and apathy. I nearly FREAKED OUT at Quizno's yesterday. Pynchon and I went for lunch, and it took us twenty minutes to get our sandwiches, and the order got fouled up. At one point, I actually stepped into the conversation between the hapless, whispering, probably new, definitely not a good English speaker girl at the cash, and the irate customer about to lose it. Finally having extracted from her the Caesar salad he had paid for, he had to come back again to get dressing. She was trying to explain to him that a Caesar has cheese on it. He asked for dressing. She talked about bacon bits. Pynchon sent me away to sit at our table. Two other employees lounged in the background, rolling their eyes.

Stuff like that: so simple, so really WRONG to get angry about, really, and yet? I lose it. Not a one of my better qualities.

5. if Munchkin had been a boy, did you have a name chosen? what would it have been, and why?

Ooooooh. We always joke about how it was lucky she turned out to be a girl, because the day she was born, we still hadn't settled on a name. And she was overdue, so really ....

We always wanted 'Jasper', but it rhymes with Pynchon's last name, and euphony is important to me. I liked Henry and Charles but Pynchon totally vetoed those as old-fashioned dork names. Our compromise name, actually, was Finnegan. So my heart leapt, Bon, when you asked: your first born was Finn, and every time I read about him my heart leaps because it's a name that was already in my heart, my if-it-was-a-boy, instead of my Miss Baby. Finnegan was our compromise name because it was stodgy enough for me but current enough for Pynchon.

So. That's that. There's 30 days in November, right?


Alpha DogMa said...

My children will rebel by joining team sports. And by loving techno music.

Karen said...

I also have that #4 and my kids having thus far chosen to rebel only against their father by not liking to draw. They will have to grow up and not like drinking tea to rebel against me, seems like with three boys in the house - one of whom has a old-fashioned dork name that Pynchon nixed, please assure him that Henry is charmingly old-fashioned...that's what I plan to tell Henry when he is eleven.

Kyla said...

Good to know more just a bit about you.

I think we're all hoping that we escape the plague of conformist girls. It starts so early you know. Ridiculously early.

Beck said...

Hey! HEY! Our reserve boy's name is JASPER! It's what The Girl would have been, had she not been The Girl. Of course, now it wouldn't go well with The Boy's name, but I still love it.

I think the scene where the Planned Parenthood women comes to visit Lillian Gilbreth is the funniest scene in literature. I actually own the 1950 movie version, with Myrna Loy and CLIFTON WEBB as Frank. Have you seen it?

Mimi said...

Karen. God, I LOOOOOVE the name Henry. Easy to say, simple, solid, but just a little bit different .... without being kooky. You can tell your Henry that's what *I* think. Pynchon, foo.

Beck! And then Frank whistles for assembly! Oh Jeeeeeesus I laughed so hard I had tears rolling down my eyes. And, Myrna Loy (obviously) is my favorite, but I've never seen the movie.

bubandpie said...

That does it. I'm putting Cheaper by the Dozen on my next children's lit course. I'm excited already ... it will fit in well with all the anti-technology books on the course.

Bon said...

your answers were so worth waiting for! the videos made me feel all...happy...actually, though that may be an unusual reaction to "Every Day is Hallowe'en" and anything off "Meat is Murder." but it was comforting to know that i still like them, still find them cool and daring and resonant.

and the funny, you were the only person i asked that question to. and not only is Charles Oscar's middle name (i would have gone with Charlie as a first name but Dave vetoed) but Henry's been on our top 5 for both boys. i like the funkily stodgy. now you'll have to email me with Miss Munchkin's name as i am dying of curiosity.

Jenifer said...

Thanks for the peek into Mimi's world. I love all the names comingup here, especially Henry and Charlie...they just don't go particularly well with our last name. In fact we ever have a boy I have no idea what we would do!

kittenpie said...

Let me tell you something - piercings can go wrong, too. Did I mention I had to have a piece cut out of my nose last year to finally get rid of the blue spot that stayed after the pin came out?

And It sounds like Cheaper By the Dozen would pair nicely with the movie Desk Set! (A librarian classic.)

Mimi said...

Oh, Kittenpie you gotta KNOW that I wrote extensively about Desk Set in my dissertation. You know that, right? Emily Emerac. Goodness.

Christine said...

i so want to go read cheaper by the dozen now!

nomotherearth said...

Well, now you will just have to have a boy, won't you? Finn is great.

Teacher said...

I enjoyed Cheaper By the Dozen and its sequel, as well. It is very funny and it has a lot of technology. Maybe I'll have to read it for the 80 billionth time since you pointed out that it's about people's relationship to technology (particularly Frank's relationship to the Pierce Arrow).

babelouise said...

Guess what?
I have a red haired little boy who is almost 8. His name is FINN!!!

Garg the Unzola said...

You don't like The Handmaid's Tale?
That's one of my favourite books I haven't read, despite having it as a prescribed work for second year English. Sparknotes.. what can I say?

I really enjoy dystopian novels. Sounds like I would enjoy your course.

Awesome blog!