Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Xmas 2004 / Summer 2004

Christmas is over, almost time for New Year's. The fact that the new Strawberry Explosion single (that we haven't recorded the vocals for yet) is about how we're not together on Christmas makes it only appropriate that the disc won't come out until after Xmas. Our lonely mantra this Christmas was "We're not doing this again." I've already warned my mom that Carrie and I might have to choose sides of where to be on Christmas: here or Miami. Here has more fun children, but there has less clutter and mess. The clutter and mess of my folks' house is stressing me out.

We might have a post in the future of the fun things we got each other. Maybe with pictures. Carrie's all about giving me creative gifts, and I didn't do so bad this year either.

The big news is that people still use film cameras sometimes, and sometimes also people take pictures of me and Hoffy who aren't us. For example, my mom took this picture last summer of Carrie looking really good (oh, and of me too).

So anyway, one more day without each other. We won't do this again.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Merry Merry from Miami

I'm on my parents' computer and while the space bar isn't broken, this is one of those wave-shaped keyboards which is supposed to be "better" than a standard keyboard but really it just slows me down.

I had Crim-Cram with my family and somehow in two days, we managed to eat three huge dinners. Two involved ham and one involved a turkey.

Here's the shrimp tree from this year. My mom lost the styrofoam cone she usually uses so I had to go to Michael's to get one. Mom then designated me as the one in charge of making the shrimp tree. Normally I make the salad and the macaroni and cheese. This year I did all three and I did a good jobbie.

And here's me on Christmas Eve awkwardly holding my new (and last) cousin Matthew:

Give us comments while we're lonely for each other.

Thursday, December 23, 2004



Okay, I'm back after a little while of taking my keyboard apart with a really really crappy screwdriver I found on top of the refrigerator. There was some kind of grit or something in between the little "sensor sheet" or whatever it's called, the thing you press the buttons on that makes the letters go. I don't know what things are called, but I'm still a technological genius these days. Also, this morning I changed a headlight bulb in under 45 seconds.

In case you haven't figured out why there's been no writey-writey, it's because I came to town. But now Carrie's in Miami and I'm in Jackson for a week, so maybe we'll do some more back and forthing for you. You'll hate it when we're together all the time in the future.

Friday, December 17, 2004

All the News

1. I finished my school stuff on Wed., which means I had yesterday to finish my Christmas shopping for Rusty. I bought everyone else's stuff online. I bought Rusty his favorite things: clothes and gardening tools.

2. The current Christmas card tally is as follows:

Spell family - has sent me 3 Christmas cards

Hoffman family - has sent me 0 Christmas cards, though I got a Disneyworld postcard from my mom who was there a weekend ago.

Friends of Carrie - 0 Christmas cards

3. The laundry is done.

4. I have a new pink sweater.

5. Rusty leaves tomorrow and gets here on Sunday.

6. On Wed. I leave for Miami, where I will spend a week with my fambly, eating shrimp and watching my dad eat every Christmas goodie he can find.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Rusty's Christmases: Volume One, The 1970s

On Christmas of 1974, I was eight months in my mamma's tummy, so I didn't get to celebrate with anyone but her... but she did manage to slip me this gift (I mean, what do you get a fetus really?).

1975 was the year they began to leave me alone with the scary snowman. They called him "Reggie," but I knew better.

Things didn't change much in 1976, even in the warm Mississippi winters.

Confusion sets in in 1977 when, at age two, my parents decide I should be a man. "Here's a bat and ball, Rusty," they say, and I show my confusion.

Yeah, so it turns out that your brain is kinda mushy when you're young. By the time I was three in 1978, I realized -- through the help of my brother Tony -- that the scary snowman was just a regular snowman (though I still looked for him when I opened Christmas gifts). It wouldn't be until years later that I learned the real scary snowman... was myself.

1979, the end of the "me" generation, and I have finally become a well-adjusted person, fully capable of screaming "Me! Me! Me!" along with everyone else (my little sister showed me how, too--she begged Mom for this, our dog bullet).

Hope you're looking forward to Rusty's Christmases of the 1980s. I know I am!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Christmas in Florida

For anyone wondering how to make Mary Hoffman's traditional Hoffman-family decorative and edible "shrimp tree" this Christmas:

First, find a styrofoam cone like this one:

Next, cover the cone with dark green "curly lettuce" (pictured below) by attaching the lettuce pieces to the cone using toothpicks. Note that curly lettuce is the best because it is very leafy. (Alternatives would be Escarole lettuce or Green Leaf lettuce).

Now, your cone should look like a tree. You should now decorate your tree with some ornaments. Go get some cherry tomatoes (pictured below).

Make sure that the cherry tomatoes are bright red. Remove the green leafy stems so that red is all you see. Attach these randomly to the cone, again using toothpicks. These will be your ornaments, but you will need more ornaments for variety. This is where your cocktail shrimp (pictured below) come in.

Attach the shrimp to the tree, again using toothpicks, again randomly, so that you fill in empty spots, but still leave some green showing. Scatter some more shrimp on a platter below the cone--these are the "presents." Serve with cocktail sauce.

Pose by your fancy and festive shrimp tree:

Invite Uncle Ed over.

The shrimp will be gone in a half an hour. When's the ham gonna be ready? Merry Christmas! Where's my gift certificate?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

So You're Writing a Christmas Song

I'm pasting the We Like Media article I just wrote, for you to enjoy.

Another name for a Christmas song is, of course, "Statements of the Obvious." Keeping that fact in mind, here are a few suggestions for lyrics for your new song.

1. Christmastime is here.
2. It’s Christmas again.
3. Christmas comes but once a year.
4. Christmas happens on December 25th.
5. It’s Christmastime again.
6. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
7. Christmastime is wonderful.
8. I wish I could be home at Christmas.
9. Many people like snow at Christmas.
10. Jesus is the reason for the season.
11. Children sing Christmas carols.
12. The lights are on the tree.
13. Everyone looks happy.
14. Jesus Christ was born on Christmas day.
15. There’s food on the table.
16. O-U-T spells out.
17. We want to wish you a merry Christmas.
18. There are presents under the tree.
19. The neighborhood houses are covered with lights.
20. Santa Claus is coming.

On the musical side, just make sure you include bells. As long as you do that, it doesn’t matter what kind of music you do: classical, pop, country, jazz, rap, whatever. Just add bells. A woodblock that sounds like horses or reindeer will work in addition to the bells.

Christmas is coming!

Not coincidentally, I wrote music for a Strawberry Explosion Christmas song last night. No lyrics yet, but I probably won't follow my own advice above.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

More Paper Titles; or, Why I am Tired of School

Freshman Undergraduate

Alice Walker
Anne Sexton’s Mother Tongue
Mirror, Mirror On the Wall: Reflections of the Self in Bronte's Jane Eyre and Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea
Imagination as Rebellion in Dickinson's "They shut me up in Prose" and Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"
Women's Role in 18th Century England
Unspoken Refusal in Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior
Speaking the Unspoken: Paradox and Irony in Toni Morrison's Beloved
The Meaning of Hair in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God
Women and their Contribution to Annie John’s Development in Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John
Reversing the Doctor-Patient Role: Diagnosing Psychiatry as Patriarchy in Susanna Kayesn’s Girl Interrupted

Sophomore Undergraduate

Alice Walker's Backward and Forward (Re)Vision
A Butlerian Reading of Beth Nugent’s “City of Boys”
Value in Saussure
The Contrasted Self in Margaret Atwood’s “Death by Landscape”
From Victim to Visionary: Adrienne Rich’s Feminist Evolution in"Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" and "Planetarium"
Discourse of Power in Shakespeare's The Tempest
Human understanding of the General and Particular in Samuel Johnson's The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia
Painting Lady Wishfort
Enormous Changes in the Language
Not So Definitely Defined: Racial Categories and Ambiguities in Nella Larsen's Passing
Loud Silence: The Paradox of Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon

Junior Undergraduate

Voices from the Madhouse: Women, Writing, and Patriarchy in Mary Wollstonecraft’s Maria
Feminism Avant Le Lettre: Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre
Gender Performance in “Maggie’s Second Visit”: A Close Reading of George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss
Invading the Folk Group: Female Speech as Transgression in Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God
The Stories He Told
Godel's Incompleteness Theorem
Foucault’s Panopticon and Vertov’s The Man with the Movie Camera
Questions and Possibilities for Sara Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking
Education, Reason, Virtues: The Feminine Argument in Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Lynne McFall’s “Integrity”: A Feminist Analysis

Senior Undergraduate
Juan Rulfo—Escritor de México
La Mirada en “Axolotl” de Julio Cortázar y “Reflective” de A.R. Ammons
The Transformation of Beauty and Art in Gwendolyn Brooks’ Maud Martha
“Summoning Home All Those Who Strayed”: Helena María Viramontes’ Under the Feet of Jesus
Thomas Sutpen’s Narrative Design in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom
Forms of Enclosure in Jane Campion’s The Piano
The Intersection of Form and Content in Hawks’ His Girl Friday
Coding the Internet Commercial: Defining an Emerging Genre
Anxiety and Modernization: An Ideological Analysis of Television Commercials
“Out” and “Not Out”: Language, Morals and Social Values in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park
Match-making as Marriage Plotting in Jane Austen’s Novels
Neither Sense nor Sensibility: Reading the Second Chapter of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility
“Economy and Modesty”: Irony in Chapter Nineteen of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

1st Year Master’s
Pulling Teeth: Analyzing Dental Images in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth
The Legacy of Frank O’Hara’s “I Do This I Do That” Poems: The Case of David Lehman and The Daily Mirror
The Madwoman in the Attic: A Summary
On the Impossibility of Objective Truth and Realism: A Defense of Writers and a Critique of György Lukács’ “Realism in the Balance”
Kate Chopin’s The Awakening: A Marxist Reading

2nd Year Master’s
Bad Reader and Bad Writer: Edith Wharton’s Critique of Newland Archer in The Age of Innocence
Archer as Reader and Writer in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence
Masculinity, Anxiety, and the Father: The Cases of “Indian Camp” and “Big Two-Hearted River” in Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time

1st Year PhD
“I must write just what I have lived and witnessed myself”: Literacy, Authority, Authenticity, and the Problems of Authorship in Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
The New Roman á Clef and Peter Carey’s My Life as a Fake: Facts, Fiction and Postmodernism
Alain Robbe Grillet’s Repetition and the French New Novel
Jane Sharp’s The Midwives Book: A Bibliographical Analysis
The Conventions of Children’s Biography, The Myth of Walt Disney, and Elizabeth Rider Montgomery’s Walt Disney: Master of Make Believe:
An Archival Research Project
The Conversion Narrative and the Contemporary Depression Memoir:
The Case of Jeffery Smith’s Where the Roots Reach for Water
A Female Bildungsroman: Jane’s Development of a Feminist Consciousness and Autonomy in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre

2nd Year Phd
Tommo and the Construction of Typee Womanhood in Herman Melville’s Typee
The Horrors of Anglo Saxon Purity Discourse, the 19th Century Racial Grotesque,
and Herman Melville’s “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids”
Legitimizing a New Form: Autobiography, Individualism, and Realism in Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders

Friday, December 10, 2004

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Here is a Conversation I Had Yesterday

I was talking to Jeremy last night. I told him I'd gotten to know Carrie Hoffman a lot better this semester. He said, 'Carrie Hoffman--that girl is awesome.' I said, 'Of course you think that, she's the only person as cynical as you.'

Do you really think that, that I'm cynical? Because I don't think so.

I don't know. You're a conundrum. You're such a cynic but then yesterday in Ellen Weinauer's class, you were defending the sentimental novel and saying you liked Uncle Tom's Cabin. What's up with that, Carrie Hoffman?

I think I'm an idealist. The problem is that most people and situations and the way that the world is become disappointing to me. Because they don't live up to my expectations.

Who does live up to your standards, Carrie Hoffman?

My hunny-bunny.

Yeah, I noticed you lose your cynicism when Rusty is around. You become like a giggly schoolgirl.

Then I showed Micah me and Rusty's Christmas card we made this year to send out to our peoples. He admired it.

I think I articulated something about myself in this conversation. And about why Rusty is so good for me. Because he lets me be an idealist, and even makes me realize some of the ideals I have. Because he lives up to what I expect from people. He is good. He is Christmas cards and tennis rackets and late night phone calls and little boxes of Tropicana orange juice and Puffs tissues and long drives and tiny pumpkins and riding the WedWay and fingers drumming on the table and updated webpages and paper turkeys and Abba songs and hail hitting the hotel room window and Photoshop jokes and Sunday School shoes and handsome blue eyes and clever return addresses and "cute?" and music videos and Christmas ornaments and Pictionary and Yahtzee and tin and ten and Easter baskets and Boo Boo and Bunny and Baby and Bun-Bun and Honey Bunny and Bunny Bear and Baby for Gravy and digital photos and excessive emotion and I Can't Bear It.

I say all of this after being disappointed yet again last night by a dumb school situation that's not worth talking about here. I was really frustrated by it, and Rusty understood immediately. He's a good thing in my life. I wait all day to talk to him on the phone for two or three hours. It's like I'm wandering around in a maze all day just to get to the Rusty-cheese at the end.

Rusty and I are having Christmas together this year. And that makes me happy.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Hoop-Jumping: An Academic Hobby That Will Eventually Allow Hoffman and Spell To Securely Eat Cheerios and Watch VH-1 Classic in Their House Robes

The foreign language of the English academic essay seemed so weird to me after having not written one in only two and a half years. It made me go back and look at all the papers I have, from high school on. These are the titles of everything on my computer (certainly not all of them--I used to just delete them when I got my grade or whatever, since they weren't "real" pieces of writing, just school crap):

11th Grade

* O. Henry: The Original Trickster of the Short Story

12th Grade

* William Blake: Songs of the Prophetic Poet

Freshman Undergraduate

* To Kill, or Not To Kill: A Study of Hesitation in Shakespeare's Hamlet
* The Nada of Hemingway: A Study of His Lean Style

Sophomore Undergraduate

* Riding the Unconscious: A Psychological Approach to "The Rocking Horse Winner"
* The Mind of Fallen Man: An Examination of Milton's Paradise Lost Through the Four Main Elements of Drama

Senior Undergraduate

* From Embryonic Writing to the Roman Alphabet
* Esperanto

1st Year Masters

* The Modern Artist Within Mass Culture

2nd Year Masters

* Mankind Versus the Universe: Joseph Conrad's View of Morality

1st Year PhD

* The Creation of a Grotesque in Winesberg, Ohio
* The Burial of Alice Hindman
* Cat in the Rain: A Psychosexual Drama
* How Did It Get Here?: Art Imitates Life in Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
* The Death Instinct Versus Self-Reliance
* The Censor of Great Britain: Richard Steele and The Conscious Lovers
* Samuel Richardson's Subversive Art
* And He Tells Her Everything: The Relationship Between Varieties of Confessions and Power in Foucault's The History of Sexuality

2nd Year PhD

* Helplessness in Wieland, the Unsympathetic Novel
* Sketches of England, Diplomacy, and Depression: Washington Irving's Meditative Mess, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon
* Something To Worship: A New Look at the Object of Satire in Part IV of Gulliver's Travels
* Gender Reversal and Its Reformative Purpose in Ethan Frome
* Striking a Very Profound Chord: A Call To Free Ourselves from the Prisons of Previous Harold Pinter Interpretations

Many of these seem pretty cheesy to me now. I guess they were then too. Such is the nature of hoop-jumping.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

In case you want to make yourself sick and know what I'm up to in school

Rusty and I call this "jumping through academic hoops": Here are some of the images I'm inserting into my paper for my Herman Melville seminar.

And here is the abstract for my paper, which is 19 pages long right now:

The Horrors of Purity Discourse, the 19th Century Racial Grotesque,
and Herman Melville’s “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids”

Herman Melville’s 1855 short story “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids” is intensely interested in grotesque images of whiteness. The story is historically situated at a time when natural science endorsed ideas of biological essentialism: Social Darwinism and theories of “polygenesis,” which categorized the races as distinct species without common ancestors. In response, clergymen began to preach the Social Gospel, arguing that God created these hierarchical categories and that His ultimate plan was the disappearance of non-white races. Both the Social Gospel and Social Dawinism warned against miscegenation as a dangerous mixing of species, the creation of a new, sterile, mule-like race. We can thus understand the ways in which this culture feared the obliteration of distinct racial categories. Simultaneously, popular culture, particularly PT Barnum’s American Museum, began to represent bodies that transgressed racial binaries of black and white: albinos, children with vitiligo (“Leopard Children” and “Piebald Children”), and Circassian beauties. These exhibitions, as discussed in Charles Martin’s The White African American Body, help us to understand the 19th Century American cultural spectacle of race: the fear of and fascination with bodies that defied categorization, as well as an overriding anxiety about racial purity and racial transformation. Despite this historical context, critics of Melville’s “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids” have focused mainly on issues of gender and industrialization, neglecting the interesting ways that the story presents questions of race. This essay will offer a reading of “The Tartarus of Maids” section of Melville’s story because this is where Melville seems most intent on presenting racial conundrums. I will argue that the recurring references to whiteness in “Tartarus,” like Barnum’s racial grotesques, demonstrate the ways in which images of extreme whiteness become grotesque images and created extreme anxiety for 19th Century American culture. Ultimately, I argue that the story portrays the horror of a culture obsessed with the reproduction of white purity. This obsession can be seen in the continued references to “blood” in the story, particularly the Blood River with its Red waters . As Melville suggests, this culture transforms white women into miserable reproductive machines charged with the task of continuing the Anglo Saxon “species.” White men, like the narrator, simply act as reproductive “seedsmen,” spreading their genes in this industry of whiteness. Ultimately, the story gives us a sense of what was simultaneously most desired and most feared in 19th Century America: an entirely white world of haunting, inscrutable, and empty figures. Along with the paper they produce, representative of an intensely white, and therefore blank culture, these “maids” create a scene of absolute horror for the story’s narrator and for the culture as a whole

Monday, December 06, 2004


It's like Frasier and After M*A*S*H all rolled into one!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Friday, December 03, 2004


Everyone should know that I'm posting one Christmas song a day during December on my Online MiXmas Tape. Three songs have already disappeared from the bottom (I always keep ten up at a time), so you betta get crackin'.

More Christmas fun facts...

* The official stapler of Christmas is Swingline.

* 1,000 babies and toddlers a year die after being smothered in a living room sea of wrapping paper.

* In Nebraska, Christmas has been replaced by a holiday known as "Stinky Bottom Day."

* When the baby Jesus was born, the Virgin Mary's milk was egg nog.

* If you kiss an envelope for a Christmas card instead of licking it, your recipient will get mouth herpes. Not a myth, a fact.

* 9 out of 10 Americans, when asked what Santa Claus is called in any other country but our own, will give the answer "Sunter Clausen."

* The most popular Christmas toy in 2003 was Timmy the Timid Turnip.

* Christmas farts contain magical healing properties.

* Every year for Christmas, Carrie's mom Mary Hoffman insist that everyone call her "Mary Christmas."

* In Wyoming, there is a museum that has a collection of Polaroids capturing the transparent images of ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.

* My brother Tony Spell is actually Santa Claus. The real one.

* The movie A Christmas Story is meant to be a metaphor for Hitler's reign during World War II.

* There are actually 37 days in December.