A Miscellany of Updates

Last night D took me out to Osteria Mozza in LA for a delightful dinner in celebration of finishing my dissertation (fingers crossed that it actually gets accepted). Could I have been any happier than when I saw that this restaurant offered no fewer than FIVE varieties of burrata (mozzarella that has been mixed with heavy cream midway through the cheesemaking process)? I could not. I briefly considered ordering all five variations on my new gastronomical beloved before I finally agreed to have merely one (it is a sign of the depth of my love for D that I even gave him half, without growling possessively at him), as well as a pasta course (the most roll-your-eyes-back-in-your-head delicate and delicious goat cheese ravioli) and a steak in a balsamic sauce. As we were finishing our main courses, I remarked that I was getting moderately full. D replied: "I don't know: if you saw a bucket of burrata I don't think you would pass it by." I closed my eyes: "Are there any words in the English language more beautiful," I asked him, "than 'bucket of burrata'?". (This was not the first time this week that I had eaten burrata, I blush to admit. I had a really excellent dish of my dairy darling at a dissertation-celebrating meal at Obelisk in DC with my parents. God, it was good.)

But then I woke up this morning to more rejections from jobs I had applied for, which, truth be told, made me too depressed to get out of bed. (There is an important lesson here: don't check email in bed.) I can't even describe how brutal the academic job search has been emotionally. Best not to dwell on it, I guess. So I finally wrenched myself out of bed, cleaned the kitchen, and headed out for the farmer's market, where I bought strawberries, some very tasty looking asparagus, and the world's most expensive tomato.

Now it is time for a concerted dwelling on the positive. The goodness of having my dissertation finished (PLEASE let it pass, ye gods of higher education) goes without saying, but a more immediate, if no less anxiety-inducing, source of happiness is the fact that UNC is the number one seed in the nation in the NCAA tournament. Go Heels! Oh, college basketball, what a balm you are for my life's woes. I give you, just as a taste of the delights of this season, the game winning shot that Tyler Hansbrough tossed off against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship, and (even more delightful) the goofy, loose-limbed dance of joy he (normally utterly taciturn in his concentration) did after watching it go in:

What's more, it emerges that UNC has the best academic record (measured by graduation rates) among its tourney-bound athletes of any of the #1 and #2 seeds, a considerably better showing than its posh nemesis, Duke. The story of the conflict between the two parts of the term "student-athlete" that this study tells is a grim one, but I feel proud of UNC for defying the national statistics. It is good to be able to feel positive about the pedagogical soundness of college sports (and about public education in general) even as I am donning elaborate UNC-themed outfits, enacting vast superstitious rituals to guarantee our continued sportive success, and yelling obscenities at the television and its representations of our foes.

Egging me on through this cathartic madness is Will Blythe's delightful account of his lifelong experience of the Duke-Carolina rivalry (he is a Tar Heel, not to worry), which was loaned to me by my kind and surprisingly open-minded Dookie friend. Here is one of many tales Blythe tells in To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever, of the time when he had to interview Uma Thurman just after the season opener against Santa Clara, a game which seemed certain to be a Tar Heel blowout:

I was scanning the box score to the Santa Clara game when Thurman arrived. She was lovely, a long pink scarf draped around her swan's neck.

"This is unbelievable," I said.

Out on the West Coast, North Carolina had lost to Santa Clara, 77 to 66. I explained the shocking nature of the upset to Thurman, the way it had ripped a hole in my sense of normalcy, toyed with my expectations, screwed my sense that the world would deliver justice and satisfaction. [...]

Thurman was very kind and tried to keep my spirits up. She was going through some hard times herself, like the tag end of her marriage to Ethan Hawke, which I had to admit was painful, having myself gone through the dissolution of a long matrimony. On the other hand, that was just life. Theoretically, you could always get another spouse. This was basketball. You couldn't get another season with Sean May, Marvin Williams, and Rashad McCants on the same team. No way.

"I'm so sorry," Thurman said.
"Let's not talk about it," I said.
"It might make you feel better," she said.
"You don't believe that," I said.
"Not really."
"How's your love life?"
"Let's not talk about it." (20-21)
I have just reached the part in which Blythe, who has written for the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review as well as Rolling Stone, uses the work of 19th century English essayist William Hazlitt on hatred to illuminate his feelings for Duke. Yes, indeed. It was a good, if, mmm, multifaceted education we got at Carolina.

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