Monday, March 30, 2009

Squirrel Literalists

We watch squirrels running around town and until today had no idea that these cutesy albeit voracious animals turn into mad destroyers once brought overseas. Or they're smarter than one would think and take names like Nutt on a very literal level. Dear American squirrels, Europe might just be too small for you...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Is This a Fashion Statement?"

A coffee shop in Manhattan (I beg you, don't ask if it wasn't "S" because it unfortunately was). I'm waiting for my latte.

Curious Woman: "I like your pin. Did you get it somewhere here, in Manhattan?"

Misiula: "No, actually, I bought it upstate. In a tiny vintage clothes and jewelery store."

Curious Woman: "Oh... And this ring? I noticed you're wearing it on a chain.Whose ring is it?"

(Whose ring? I'm trying to guess what she might mean. What do I say? St. Sebastian's? Vishnu's? Or maybe: I stole it from a woman in Central Park? Or maybe she meant the jeweler? Tiffany's?)
Needless to say, it's neither of the above and since it's all the thinking is happening within a second I just say--

"It's my engagement ring."

Curious Woman:"Oh. And why are you wearing it like that? It doesn't fit? Is it a fashion statement?


Misiula:"It fits. I just like to wear it like this sometimes."

When I should have said: "It's a fashion revolution from below. From the country into the heart of the metropolis. And you get to see it start."But I was too absorbed watching real fashionistas queueing for their coffee in sky-high heels.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The End of March

Away--off to New York for three frantic days that seem very distantly related to the construction of a crypto-dream-house, but, nevertheless, believe me, the path to it leads through Manhattan flower shops, and bureacrapcy, and requires nerves of steel.

Please send us positive thoughts through the land and over oceans.

Liepāja beach, originally uploaded by la-la-laine.

Elizabeth Bishop
"The End of March"

It was cold and windy, scarcely the day
to take a walk on that long beach
Everything was withdrawn as far as possible,
indrawn: the tide far out, the ocean shrunken,
seabirds in ones or twos.
The rackety, icy, offshore wind
numbed our faces on one side;
disrupted the formation
of a lone flight of Canada geese;
and blew back the low, inaudible rollers
in upright, steely mist.

The sky was darker than the water
--it was the color of mutton-fat jade.
Along the wet sand, in rubber boots, we followed
a track of big dog-prints (so big
they were more like lion-prints). Then we came on
lengths and lengths, endless, of wet white string,
looping up to the tide-line, down to the water,
over and over. Finally, they did end:
a thick white snarl, man-size, awash,
rising on every wave, a sodden ghost,
falling back, sodden, giving up the ghost...
A kite string?--But no kite.

I wanted to get as far as my proto-dream-house,
my crypto-dream-house, that crooked box
set up on pilings, shingled green,
a sort of artichoke of a house, but greener
(boiled with bicarbonate of soda?),
protected from spring tides by a palisade
of--are they railroad ties?
(Many things about this place are dubious.)
I'd like to retire there and do nothing,
or nothing much, forever, in two bare rooms:
look through binoculars, read boring books,
old, long, long books, and write down useless notes,
talk to myself, and, foggy days,
watch the droplets slipping, heavy with light.
At night, a grog a l'américaine.
I'd blaze it with a kitchen match
and lovely diaphanous blue flame
would waver, doubled in the window.
There must be a stove; there is a chimney,
askew, but braced with wires,
and electricity, possibly
--at least, at the back another wire
limply leashes the whole affair
to something off behind the dunes.
A light to read by--perfect! But--impossible.
And that day the wind was much too cold
even to get that far,
and of course the house was boarded up.

On the way back our faces froze on the other side.
The sun came out for just a minute.
For just a minute, set in their bezels of sand,
the drab, damp, scattered stones
were multi-colored,
and all those high enough threw out long shadows,
individual shadows, then pulled them in again.
They could have been teasing the lion sun,
except that now he was behind them
--a sun who'd walked the beach the last low tide,
making those big, majestic paw-prints,
who perhaps had batted a kite out of the sky to play with.

(This one time, as you see, I didn't stop myself and posted one of my favorite poems.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Could Read This All Day

if I had all day for sipping coffee and loafing around à la Whitman.

Godey's Lady's Book
: the major discovery of my class in the Rare Books Library. It has everything one wants from a magazine: from short stories and poems, through articles on more or less current events, to fashion and... cottage floor plans.

It seems more worthwhile to click over to the University of Rochester website and check on what Godey's was writing about in 1850 than waste money on a contemporary women's mag. I say this with bitter conviction, having recently thrown $4 out the window on a copy of Elle a bunch of ads.

One other thing I recommend doing is reading about women's press. Literally, there's more text in magazine reviews, not to mention more insight and humor.*

It seems you'd be more entertained by an imaginary conversation with an eggplant than by a women's magazine these days. I might be cynical,** but I'd really appreciate some content for a change.

* No, the order of links is not meant to be telling but purely accidental ;-)

** and repetitive

PS: Also, Paltrow's GOOP in collision with Lydia Maria Child's The Frugal Housewife. Reality bites!

Wielkie Wydarzenia, które mi przejdą koło nosa...

Lubisz oryginalne ciuchy, niepowtarzalną biżuterię, niebanalne dodatki? Przyjdź na kolejną akcję wymiany ciuchów z cyklu Babi Targ.

Jeśli twoja szafa pełna jest ciuchów, w których już nie chodzisz, nie możesz na nie patrzeć albo w które się już nie mieścisz Babiląd organizuje imprezę dla ciebie!

Cóż, Misiula zostanie w swoich niepołatanych sweterkach, bo Poznań jest za wielką kałużą. Co prawda jadę do Nowegoryjka, ale ciuchowe zakupy to ostatnie, co mi teraz w głowie. Potrzebne kwiaty i stalowe nerwy wobec biurokracji. A poza tym będzie pięknie.

Jeśli jednak macie bliżej do Poznania, biegnijcie, co sił. Więcej o Babim Targu tutaj, tutaj i tutaj.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


(Znalezione gdzieś w sieci)

Dla Ciebie, dla mnie, o krok od Twoich urodzin.

Pipe Dreams From My Mother

(From Another Day in Paradise: 30 Postcards)

Wouldn't sell if I wrote a book about it but it's painfully true...

However, if I were half as good at writing as at cleaning, I'd be a very successful academic/novelist/who knows what else.

Looking for the Devil?

I'm glad this is a blog and I won't be burned at the stake (or will I?), but could the pope be more stupid, hateful, destructive, mistaken, evil? It seems that he's not just continuing the 'great work' of his predecessor who set back Poland (and other) places by over a hundred years in terms of gender equality and sexual health--he's got grander things in mind. Why, no less than the extermination of Africa.

I thought that after this the Catholic church could not beat its record at misogyny and hate-spewing for this month, but the Vatican is like a Pandora's box of surprises.

Let's recapitulate: there were the Crusades, the Inquisition, ages of christianization by fire and sword, so catalyzing the agony of a people decimated by AIDS is... much desired? Why?

I'm really curious to know why the Catholic church wants AIDS to spread without inhibitions, nine-year-old rape victims to die in childbirth, and the world to become overpopulated asap. Is that really the apex of moral development?

The best method for finding the devil that I'm aware of comes not from Christian witch hunters but from Zitkala-Sa's short story "The Devil":

On the following morning I took my revenge upon the devil. Stealing into the room where a wall of shelves was filled with books, I drew forth The Stories of the Bible. With a broken slate pencil I carried in my apron pocket, I began by scratching out his wicked eyes. A few moments later, when I was ready to leave the room, there was a ragged hole in the page where the picture of the devil had once been.

More poignant than any expression of outrage I could add to the list.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tea in America

I wonder if it's because of the Boston tea party and a distant association with violence that tea is persecuted in America. Black tea--the kind that European adults and babies alike are accustomed to treating as their daily beverage, much like their daily bread--is, apparently, devil's spawn to puritan tastes.

Standing in a tea section of an American supermarket is like going through a wormhole to a parallel universe in which everything is wrong and you almost expect cows to fly.

There is green tea, maté, something that pretends to be like peppermint tea, chamomile with strange additives, something that screams iced tea all over the package, things that pretend they were produced by Twinings... and they're all DECAF.

Finding regular, unadulterated black tea is an epic process, because it is typically shoved under everything else, if you can get it at all.

I have no idea why a nation that drinks coffee basically religiously from dusk till dawn fears natural caffeine in tea as if it were death itself lurking inside the tea bag. The prejudice against black tea is quite incredible. Like the crazy overproduction of plastic coffee cups and coffee shops quitting using real cups it is one of those things that will bring apocalypse upon this land...

Our New Baby

We got him at the toystore downtown.

After much frantic typing (two essays I feel conflicted about) and much delirious spring cleaning, we felt grown-up enough to get a new plush person.

Somewhat distant future plans: potted plant and cat.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Reading Assignment

A few weeks ago I bought James Wright's The Branch Will Not Break on Amazon. I was very surprised by how student-friendly the price was and an anniversary edition to boot!

My surprise was even greater when the book arrived and I discovered that it makes a great prop for the tiny teddy bear and that there is no way I can read it without my reading glasses.

Now, I am an adult and should be better at handling such things. And yet I do feel slightly apprehensive about the reaction of the other critics and poets kids when I take out my little book tomorrow in class.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dzień Kobiet

(It's already March 8 in Europe)

My ideal Women's Day: flowers, fireworks, tractors.

I have it all (with tractors in the song).

"Kariera czy rodzina?" / "Career or family?"

Disclaimer: I've been meaning to do a double Polish-English post but, obviously, that didn't happen till now. I don't like repeating myself and so, the following post will repeat certain things and then the parts will go wherever they want to go.

This is Marta Żmuda-Trzebiatowska, a Polish actress in her early twenties who just won Viva! magazine's ranking of the famous and beautiful.

Here's what I find striking about the cover:

the enormous letters dominating over Trzebiatowska's face and silhouette in both versions say KARIERA CZY RODZINA?," that is, CAREER OR FAMILY?"

Because, you know, as a woman, you are not allowed to have both. You work, maybe become popular, and one day you win this major beauty thing for celebs only to have huge letters sprawled over your frame like a court verdict.

Feminism's place in Polish culture is, unfortunately, still very much in the pipe dream territory.

The titillation of absurdly final choices takes center stage. Either you're "Mother Pole" whose fertile womb breeds whole parishes of kids, or you're "that woman who chose career and is now paying a high price for it." Or so the papers say.

Images are supposed to be worth more than thousands of words:

I suppose the main idea of this photo shoot was to speed-age her by means of make up so that she looks like a 40-something-year-old worn out by fame. In case she might have been thinking she could have it both ways, the photos serve as a reminder that being a woman is all about sacrifice.

Try to picture a photo of a successful man with the same threat in block letters. Impossible? Why of course. In Viva! offices in Warsaw the crowd that came up with this lame story and photo shoot are thinking that sexual equality would just steal all the drama. Feminism just doesn't sell. Remember.

Is there any chance someone will finally give Polish women a break?


Marta Żmuda-Trzebiatowska wygrała plebiscyt "Najpiękniejsi" pisma Viva! i w nagrodę dostała szyderczą okładkę w tymże piśmie. Polski feminizm, jak wiadomo, przez szersze społeczeństwo i towarzystwo wydające czasopisma uważany jest za twór bajkowy.

Jeśli już miałaś pecha urodzić się jako kobieta w Polsce, tak jak pani Trzebiatowska, twoje życie będzie pasmem ostatecznych i bolesnych wyborów. Gigantyczne litery na obydwu wersjach okładki krzyczą KARIERA CZY RODZINA? Jeśli łudziłaś się, droga niewiasto, że w XXI w. dane Ci będzie bezczelnie cieszyć się obydwiema opcjami, Viva! rozwieje twoje rojenia.

Trudno sobie wyobrazić zdjęcie mężczyzny opatrzone podobną groźbą. Jak wiadomo, facet może mieć wszystko w świecie kolorowych magazynów i prawicowej polityki. Ale kobiety należy straszyć.

Najlepiej za pomocą zdjęć, które postarzają je na oko o jakieś 20 lat. Specjalnie dla zwyciężczyni, styliści pisma stworzyli moralne ostrzeżenie: jak nie nakręcisz zaraz biologicznego budzika, obudzisz się samotna, zgorzkniała, z natapirowaną grzywą i wielkimi literami na piersi, obwieszczającymi światu, że zawiodłaś w twej kobiecej misji.

Warto pamiętać, że te egzystencjalne dramaty rzekomej "odwiecznej natury kobiecej" nakręcają kolorową prasę, dla której feminizm jest nieatrakcyjnym tematem.

[Zdjęcia pochodzą stąd.]

Spatial Orientation

View Larger Map

Mr. G. and I set out on a mission to see if and how we could cross Route 13, a major obstacle between us and Aldi. Yes, Ithaca has an Aldi, an unexpected and uncanny German element floating about in mostly American surroundings, like the seemingly impassable stretch of highway, which exists in defiance of pedestrians, peripatetics, and--generally--people who have crazy ideas such as walking to the grocery store.

We were fortunate enough to find a well-hidden crosswalk with traffic lights and, after wandering about in a warehouse area, get to Aldi. And it really did look like any Aldi, Lidl, or Pennymarkt we remembered from Germany. For the first time since I moved here I saw a tea section that didn't have any decaf tea and was able to get European chocolate for a normal, fairly reasonable price (nasty Hershey's can go drown).

On our way back home we stopped at a wine store and got drawn into a wine tasting. The wines were generally bad (my instinct is that good red wines come from warm areas, so I'd be surprised if Finger Lakes reds suddenly evolved into somehing grand). We picked up a bottle of Spanish merlot and walked (yes!) back home.

The next major advance we're anticipating is New York state finally allowing for the sale of wines in regular grocery stores. As much as we enjoy these epic walks to Route 13...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tricycle and Meadows

Tricycle. How the hell do you pronounce that?

I bought Tricycle for Mr. G. today and the first thing we did was solve the "Which Buddhist Personality Are You?" quiz. Mr. G. is equally Greedy and Deluded, while I am Deluded with a tinge of Aversive. Considering that I am not a buddhist, I still feel like I learned a lot about myself.

In the solutions section, they mentioned something about meditative space that would allow me to believe in pretty things instead of constantly imagining disasters.

After reading Robert Duncan recently and rereading my favorite meadow poem by Elizabeth Bishop, here's what I think they meant:

Cape Breton meadow, originally uploaded by LandVike.

Incidentally, we're planning a trip to Nova Scotia later this year, so it all connects (if you're properly overinterpreting quizzes).

Back to grim reality:

earlier today I almost froze my fingers off. I really can't tell the weather here by just looking out the window. It was sunny and so I breezily left the house with my pretty and useless purple gloves. And, guess what, was not pulling my leg: it really did feel like -21 Celsius. When I got back home (i.e. was blown back downhill by icy gusts of wind), my fingers were red, swollen, and pulsating with heat. Fortunately/unfortunately, I can type (as you can see) and need to write my essays I cannot write due to my usual intellectual paralysis. I, indeed, am Aversive and Deluded.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


"I hate writing, I love having written."

Thank you, Dorothy Parker, for stealing my thoughts on the subject.

I've exhausted the more obvious means of procrastination--I even prepared the invitations and sent them out--now I really have to sit down to write my midterms.

It's not just the question of my blatant laziness, fear of writing, and reluctance to look at my thoughts on the screen/on paper. The thing I've been trying to grasp is why in order to even start writing, I need to feel deeply distraught?

It's only when I feel like in that bad movie about Sylvia Plath where everyone goes crazy because of the oil paint on the walls in all their houses--only then am I able to write.