Newness for a New Year

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Review of Babette's Feast

Amelia and I went to International Cinema last week. We saw such a lovely movie. I hadn't heard anything about the movie, but it looked good. I was very impressed by it.

You can read about the plot here on Wikipedia or here on IMDb but trust me, this is a film worth watching. It isn't driven by plot so much as by theme. It is in Dutch and French, with English subtitles. It centers in a remote and austere Denmark coastal town and follows the life of two very pious daughters of the town's minister. They have unexpected visitors who change their lives. It is a story of deep devotion and sacrifice, and really displays the interplay between bodily wants and the deeper persuasions of the soul. Babette is a French chef who seeks asylum with the women and through her creation of a feast, the town undergoes an illumination of love and deeper devotion. The movie closes with the joy of reconciliation between lost opportunity and lost love. The role of the artist and his/her art is also motivating factor in the movie.

It is simply a beautiful film.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Walt Whitman Day

Today in my literature class we read an excerpt from Leaves of Grass. I assigned the first part of "Song of Myself"--a personal favorite. I really enjoy Walt Whitman day, and for some reason his writing resonates with me. He is provocative, accessible, tender, and comforting. If you haven't read any Whitman in a while, please indulge yourself with some.

Here are some excerpts from the 1855 version of "Song of Myself,"

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked, :
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you,
And you must not be abased to the other.

Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Men of Jane Austen

If you haven't seen the new versions of Jane Austen's classic novels, then you should check out the Masterpiece Theatre website for the info. They have remade most of the novels. They play each Sunday on channel 7 at 8 p.m. This week is Mansfield Park. I have enjoyed both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.


This is perhaps my favorite Austen novel. My overall impression of this version is that it was rushed. It was only an hour and half, which made much of the plot compressed. I enjoyed the characterization all in all, and I believe it emphasized different aspects of the story. The 1995 version is much more thorough and I still enjoy it, but this new version has some good points. Ann and Captain Wentworth seem much younger, which adds a different dynamic to the text--you don't believe they have really waited as long as they have. You get more out of Captain Wentworth's character development, which is good since he is quite dashing in this version. I do like that we see a little more passion from Ann, but she runs around a lot at the end and then it seems as though she is going to bite Wentworth's lip in the kiss. The entire kiss scene is awkward. But, I do enjoy the final scene. You would need to understand the story to really follow and enjoy this version.

Northanger Abbey

I had never read or seen this, so I went in with no previous concept. I enjoyed this quite a bit. It was strange not to know who was who or what was what, but having read and seen many other Austen works it was easy to follow the pattern. I just had to figure out who the good guy was and who was the secretly evil guy. It doesn't take long to figure out, but it was delightful to try and superimpose other Austen patterns. I finally figured it out when the good guy said he enjoyed long walks in nature--that seems to be a good trait among good Austen men. I would have enjoyed more characterization and some more plot detail, again, this felt a bit rushed. It seems as though Austen has usually been done in a very elongated fashion (just think of the long Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility), so these new versions feel especially condensed.

This next week will be Mansfield Park. You can watch a clip on the website.

As I was looking through the website, I came across this page about the men of Austen. It is great and very humorous. I find it funny how they present the men as if on a dating site and they also calculate their wealth in modern currency. I think that is funny since most of the Austen women could care less about money. You can see who the all-time favorite Austen man is. My own vote came in second.

Friday, January 18, 2008

International Cinema

For any of you who are in Utah and relatively close to Provo, I would recommend you checking out the International Cinema here at BYU. This semester will have some wonderful showings. Check it out, and better yet, come see it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Just call me Maria

A fairly familiar introduction scene:

"Hello, my name is Breanne."
(some attempt at my name here)
"No, B-r-e-a-n-n-e" (said slowly)
"No, Bree."
"Oh! Bree, okay."

You might be as surprised as I am every time I get this. I still am not quite sure how people somehow get Maria from my name, but they do. The first time I noticed it was after my face broke. I figured that since I had a hard time saying b's and p's that my mouth must have looked like I said Maria. But the other day, I was on the phone and this same scenario happened. I am not quite sure how it works again and again, I am just thankful that the one syllable Bree is so much easier for people to understand.

But, if I am really lucky, then I also get this last phrase,
"Bree, like the cheese."
"Yeah, like the cheese."

It is one of those moments when some connection strikes you and you feel the need to share it, although you can bet the connection has been made hundreds of times by other people. Yet, you still share it anyway. I can't decide which is more humorous: Maria or the cheese.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Seeing is Believing

I had one of those moments the other day that I will not soon forget. It begins with a habit of mine: I google myself. I like to see what pops up from time to time, which is usually BYU stuff or links to comments I make on various blogs. But, I found something new and rather exciting the other day.
Last year I was asked to write a review of some poetry books for ISLE, the main eco-critical journal(the main journal in my area of specialty). When I was in Maine two summers ago, I met a PhD student from University of Nevada Reno (which is where the journal is published and also supports the leading eco-critical program in the nation). I asked him all kinds of questions about the program since I was planning on applying. Well, he contacted me later that year and asked if I wanted to do these reviews. I said yes. Then I thought, "I have no idea how to do poetry reviews." Well, I asked a colleague about it and tried my hand at the poetry review.

I reviewed two collections of poetry. I wasn't sure when they would be coming out in print, but then I discovered this
link, which pretty much surprised me. I know this isn't a huge deal and I don't think that a lot of people will be reading this collection or the review for that matter, but somehow I am on the website as being a credible reviewer. The review was meant to explain how the collection addresses issues of nature in literature, so the discussion deals with the poetry in that sense. I also wrote a review for another collection, which I liked better, but that is in the journal.

It was really exciting to have my name next to the name of the credible journal--and it reminded me again that I am actually a professional--something I seem to forget regularly.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

First Day of School, a Recurring Nightmare, and Moving Again

This has been a very eventful week.

School started Monday
I have been excited to get a new start with everything, and this week has provided that in ample supply, for which I am grateful. I am teaching four classes again: 2 sections of Advanced Technical Writing, 1 section of Intro to Literature, and 1 section of Freshman Composition. I have taught them all many times, but this semester I am teaching them all on the same day. I teach MWF, with three of those classes back to back. It has actually been a good dynamic so for. It has brought just a little bit of newness to my ordinary teaching schedule. I have to fight crowds to get to my next class and be very prepared to teach three hours in a row. Since I haven't taught in a few weeks, I noticed that my voice isn't holding up so good. I almost lost it yesterday. That would greatly reduce my ability to function as a teacher, but it would make lectures interesting. But I now have Tuesday and Thursday off, which is wonderful. I have office hours Thursday, but I can actually wear jeans to work since I don't teach.

Recurring Nightmare
The last month or so of my mission I used to have a recurring nightmare. I would dream that I was home for a couple of weeks, hanging out, going to movies, and then I would suddenly remember that I never got released and I forgot to go to the temple. I know that doesn't sound like a nightmare, but it made me feel so sick that I could forget my mission so soon, and I had it so frequently. Well, I didn't forget to get released or go to the temple, but it was the first recurring dream I had experienced--until last week. For some reason, I kept dreaming that I forgot to go teach class. I would be doing my thing during the day and then remember that I had to teach (although three classes had already passed) and then I would franticly try to get to class but could never quite get there. The good news is that I didn't forget to teach this week, the truth is that with my scatter-brained sense of reality as of late, I easily could have forgotten such a thing.

Moving Again
I believe the best news I have is that after enduring three months of waiting and delays, we finally moved back into our newly-remodeled house. After moving 6 times in 2007, I am ready to settle in for a few months into a space that is mine. I can't thank enough the many people who have helped and housed us and our stuff. I really feel so lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life. I know that there are many out there who wondered why we waited--and there were times I wondered myself--but we felt like we should stick it out. We didn't know why exactly, but we felt sure that it would somehow work out. Well, I believe we are starting to see some of the reasons. Here are a few of them.

1. Our house is beautiful. It is more than I ever could have hoped for. They didn't just repaint it, they remodeled it. It has all new appliances and is a completely new place. It feels so great to be there, and except for the black that still clings to many of possessions, I can almost forget the fire ever happened.

Parable of the Burned House
I like to think of this experience as microcosm for our lives. Sometimes we simply don't understand why certain things happen. We are suddenly left wanting and wondering why and how. There certainly is pain involved, but with God and the peace he offers, somehow hope survives. You might think the pain and uncomfortable circumstances are part of a necessary remodeling job. But, as C. S. Lewis states, God is not merely building a cottage but a mansion.

The physical rebuilding of our house has taught me that God truly can see the end from the beginning, and he will help us grow and stretch into a more beautiful happiness and peace than we ever could have dreamed of on our own. But, it must be done in his way and in his time. And when we wonder why we are sometimes asked to wait for things that seem to matter so much, we can be assured that in God's time we will be more blessed than we could ever hope to imagine.

2. We felt good about staying in our ward, and we grew closer to our Bishopric as they took care of us. Well, it is apparent that God had bigger plans for some of us than we could have known. Mary-Kathryn was made Relief Society President and Amelia is her second counselor. Enough said.

3. I have dramatically downsized my life. I just want to get rid of anything I don't really use or need. After moving your stuff around so much and living out of what you carry in and out of your house in plastic sacks, I am ready to purge my life. Do you have stuff that you just need to go through and clear out? One benefit of moving 6 times is being able to that again and again. And more stuff goes with each move. This last move will probably purge the most since I have learned to live with so little.

4. There is nothing quite like having a place to call your own. I forgot how nice it is to curl up on my bed, listen to my classical music, and have a bookcase next to me full of my favorite things. It is a wonderful feeling to know that I have access to the things I treasure.

Here are a few before and after shots and then some others.

The darkest night will always be followed by the brightness of day.

Here are some other shots of the remodel.

There used to be a room off the kitchen, but they closed it off and opened it up from the front room.

The bathroom had needed a new paint job before the fire, so it is really nice and new now.

And they even painted the front room green. They resealed the floors as well.

We are extremely pleased and we feel very blessed. We heard the owner wants to increase the rent by about $400 because of the remodel. Lucky for us he can't change it till the end of our contract. We will thoroughly enjoy the next few months in our new place. We will have public showings once we get all our stuff our of the POD. We need to clean everything again and try to wipe off more of the smoke smell.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Dark Chocolate and Mint Delight

So, I believe my favorite sweet combination is dark chocolate and mint. Hence, I love Junior Mints, York Peppermint Patties, and mint chocolate chip ice-cream. Well, yesterday I discovered a great little combo in Godiva Chocoiste: dark chocolate pearls with mint. Yes, they are worth the $3, and they come in a fun, but noisy, tin. I found them at Barnes and Noble, but I am sure you can find them wherever Godiva chocolates are sold. And one or two are enough to satisfy a craving.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

My Angle of Repose

I got back to Provo today, after spending the holidays with my family in Centerville. It is good to be back and getting ready for school to begin Monday. My plants survived the long break with only one watering, which I am grateful for. And now that they are on their way to recovery, I figure I should get back to recovering my blogging. It has been a while.

I am currently reading Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose (hence the title of this blog). I am really enjoying it. I will write a review when I am done. I have been thinking about making my New Year's Resolution for 2008 to foster a long sense of repose. I like the idea of finding peace with yourself and with your life. Yes, challenges come. Believe me, the tail end of 2007 taught me a lot about unexpected challenges applied simultaneously, but it also taught me about finding time for repose. There is so much to be grateful for in life to let your challenges interfere with living your life with purpose.

I look forward to many new adventures in 2008. I feel very lucky to have had an eventful and unforgettable 2007. To be as vague as possible: I saw much, learned much, and felt much. I am certain 2008 will bring more sight, knowledge, and feeling. I look forward to it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


I just posted all my grades. That is such a wonderful feeling. Now I just have to wait for the complaints from students. But, that is small change compared to the grading.