Sunday Salon: Lifequakes and Self-Importance (Mostly)

Ocean, Rain, Rocks
Tunnels Beach, Kauai does its Nova Scotia impression
December 2010
This morning my clock radio brought me a story about a woman who gave away all but a hundred of her books and has never felt happier.  I woke up, heart pounding, yelling "NO!!" at the top of my lungs.

Talk about your fight-or-flight mechanism.

I'm at the office all day today, prepping for classes and reading stellar job applications.  Sundays just aren't the reading extravaganzas they used to be.  In fact, I'm in a bit of a pleasure-reading slump.  Sigh.
But it's been a fascinating week.  First of all, I joined 750words in an effort to get myself writing every day.  It's a site that tracks your writing (keeping it private, not to worry) every day and encourages you to write about three pages a day on any topic you like. It sends you reminders, gives you wee bits of encouragement, and does some of the most bizarre analysis of your writing patterns I can imagine.

After a day of writing (I couldn't stop! I wrote nearly two thousand words that night.) it crunched the numbers and told me that I was "feeling mostly Self-Important" and was "concerned mostly about Family."  Who needs a therapist when you have a nagging website?  (It also gave me a PG for swearing and violence.  You know me.)

Then, on Thursday, an even greater lifequake hit: I saw the house I think I want to buy.  It's lakefront, half an hour from the city, eighty years old, and on almost six acres of gorgeous land.  There's a pond to skate on, a gazebo to read in, and a wired outbuilding to (I'm not kidding, this it what they claim) keep my ponies in.  Because that's what my life needs right now: ponies.   I'm so nervous about the whole process I can't sleep.  (This is our first house purchase, and it's throwing me for a loop.)

After day two of writing, 750words recalibrated its sense of me.  Now it thinks that I am "mostly Upset" and "concerned about Home."  Let me clarify that what I am writing on the site is a work of fiction, not memoir.   How does it know?

Back I go to my Playboy of the Western World, my Ghost Sonata, and my plans to convince 45 first-years that close reading is a quasi-scientific process of evidence-gathering.  Wish me luck.

Les mels et les courriels en deux milles onze

Last Monday I took my first French class in over a decade, at the Alliance Française a couple of blocks from my house.  I suddenly realized that, in the time since my last class, the internet happened.  In a big way.  And boy did it produce a lot of vocabulary.  I looked at the page of my workbook and thought, "What the hell is a mel?".

There were deeper problems, however.  I didn't know how to express any date in the twenty-first century because the last time I said a date in French it began with "mille neuf cents."  It had become so automatic that I was paralyzed with indecision when I had to begin a year any other way.

It was also the first time I had been a student in the classroom in seven or eight years, and it's really hard to go back to being a pupil when you are used to being the teacher.  I had to remind myself constantly that when you are the student, you shouldn't be doing more than 50% of the talking in any one class....

The Apocalyptic Consequences of Unequal Scrabble Luck

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I have various cultural Canadianization projects in the works (2011 resolution?  Learn to love hockey.), and I have my friend S to thank for introducing me to the wonder that is the rich Canadian animation tradition.  (Among the things I didn't know until she told me is the fact that films in Canada used to - in recent memory - be preceded with some consistency by a domestically-produced animated short in the theatres.  I thought this practice was a relic of a half-century ago, and had long been disgruntled by its passing.)

The first place S sent me was to "The Big Snit," in which a couple engage in a Cold War of eye-rattling and chair-sawing over a despair-inducing game of Scrabble.  (I'm reminded of the sublime breakfast-table wars from Heaven can Wait.)  And then it all ends, as it naturally would, the way Cold Wars threaten to end.

Here you have it:

You're welcome.

Just a touch of the sublime surreal

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Salon: The Cut Direct and the Puff Oblique

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Internal June, External January

It's snowing again in Nova Scotia.  Having done my dutiful and invigorating round of civically-minded shoveling, I'm burrowing in for a day of reading and course prep.  It's going to be a week of Ibsen and Chekhov and Shaw (leavened by an exploration of the Icarus myth across the ages that I'll link to  a lecture on intertextuality and plagiarism that somehow heavily features the Beyoncé video for "Single Ladies").   My neighbors just rang the doorbell to give me cinnamon rolls as a thank you for shoveling the walkway. Life could definitely be a lot worse.

[There was a moment earlier in the week when the specter of a less than Little Women-worthy society crossed my neighborhood. Leaving the house, I encountered my neighbor on the other side, hanging up her laundry in the freezing air.  I greeted her in jolly tones.  And she gave me the cut direct.   I felt ready to succumb to a fit of the vapors.  This was very un-Nova Scotian.

A friend quickly sent me to this definition of the verb "to cut" from The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811), a book I heartily wish to absorb in its entirety into my everyday usage:
To renounce acquaintance with any one is to cut him. There are several species of the cut. Such as the cut direct, the cut indirect, the cut sublime, the cut infernal, &c. The cut direct, is to start across the street, at the approach of the obnoxious person in order to avoid him. The cut indirect, is to look another way, and pass without appearing to observe him. The cut sublime, is to admire the top of King’s College Chapel, or the beauty of the passing clouds, till he is out of sight. The cut infernal, is to analyze the arrangement of your shoe-strings, for the same purpose.
Ok, I replied, to be honest it might have been the cut indirect.  She didn't cut across the alley to avoid me.  But she was hanging up laundry at the time, and that sort of tied her down.  I would have preferred either the cut infernal or the cut sublime.  (I'll have to start practicing those.)  If she was looking at her clothesline when I said "hello" from five feet away, does that make it a cut sublime?  I certainly hope so.

My mother (who birthday it is today - Happy Birthday!) joined the debate: "This reminds me," she said, "of the description of various forms of PR in Sheridan's The Critic, as expounded by the expert, Mr. Puff: 'puffing is of various sorts: the principal are the puff direct, the puff preliminary, the puff collateral, the puff collusive, and the puff oblique, or puff by implication.'  Maybe you could use one of these on your neighbor to improve relations."

My friend S, a scholar of the Renaissance, brought her expertise to bear with some sobering words: "Better than the lie direct -- that would have led irretrievably to a duel, unless you had thought of an 'if'."

Happily, it didn't come to that.  I don't have it in me to get up at dawn again this week.

In fact, I saw my neighbor hanging laundry again two days ago.  She smiled broadly at me: "Hallo."  "Hallo," I replied, much relieved.  It turns out that there is a very fine line between stone-cold and stone-deaf.)

There's been a lot more activity at Sycorax Pine lately, due in part to my new policy of attempting at least "Lightning Reviews" of a few lines for everything I watch and read.  I'm a few behind right now, but feeling good - come by and take a look around to see the changes.

So, if I have time to venture beyond work today, what will I be doing?  Finishing Betina Krahn's The Husband Test (my first of Krahn's, and a fun gambol). Starting Lady Audley's Secret, which promises to be no less scandalous, and possibly considerably more so. Watching the end of Secretary (I've been on a bit of a Maggie Gyllenhaal streak lately, and I'm not enjoying it at all).  Tuning in for the next installment of Downton Abbey, which I'm really lapping up.  As I said in the comments at Read React Review,
There have been some moments that twinged my anachronism radar, but I really appreciate the multi-level (and relatively unsentimental) treatment of how class functioned in complex and codependent ways in a country house setting. The key moment for me was when the new middle-class heir (who until then I had assumed the modern spectator was meant to identify with) sweeps into town and tells his valet that he has a “silly job for a grown man.” Brilliantly rendered by both actors and the director.
Trying to finish up Geraldine Brooks's March, which hasn't (at the halfway point) impressed me to the extent that it did my book club mates.  I am assured that at some point in the next twenty pages, however, it will become unputdownable.  I do want to forge ahead to the point where Marmee's voice enters the narrative.  Oh, and listening to Nina Simone.  I'll leave you with the lady herself on this fine Sunday:

Low Lights, National Gallery: Ghostly, Imprecise

Saturday, January 15, 2011

She has cobwebs dangling from her earlobes, suspended like guide-wires to her sloped, bared shoulders.

Ooku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 3 (A little more than Lightning Review: Comics)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

When we began Fumi Yoshinago's ten-part series-in-progress, the world of the shogun's court was one of rigid, elaborate decadence.  The male population of early modern Japan had been reduced to a fifth of the size of the female population by a terrible plague, and the female shogun broadcast her power in this context by gathering the most beautiful men in the nation into a harem (the Ooku, or Inner Chambers), thereby concentrating a tremendous amount of reproductive power on a single woman's body.  Not to mention creating a context of absurd uselessness for the men of the Ooku, who (denied a public life) focus instead on endless politicking and lavish attention to aesthetic questions of dress and ceremony.

The shogun of this era was a fascinating figure, all-powerful and yet chained to tradition, and she ends the first volume with a developing curiosity about the origins of the rules and structures that govern her court.  She delves into the archives of the Ooku, and would that she would delve out of them from time to time: two volumes later we are still immersed in the story-within-a-story, and I'd appreciate a respite from the considerably more petulant first female shogun at the centre of these installments.

But this petulant predecessor is developing, albeit for all the most painful reasons.  She is the illegitimate daughter of the politically savvy and legendarily gay last male shogun, Iemitsu.  When Iemitsu dies of the red face pox, his Machiavellian nurse arranges for his daughter to masquerade as the late shogun until such a time as she can bear a male heir, and uses Iemitsu's well-known appreciation for beautiful men as an excuse to set up the Ooku.  The Ooku develops as a dynastic tool and a means of protecting the shogun's gender secret: no one who sees the shogun will ever have contact with the outside world again.

In volume 2, through some gender shenanigans, the faux "Iemetsu" fell in love with a dignified abbot named Arikoto.  In volume 3, they must confront the fact that love and fertility (thousands of romance plots aside) don't always go hand in hand.  When the Machiavellian nurse (the Livia of the Ooku) tells Arikoto that he must remove himself by choice from the shogun's bedchamber to make room for someone more reproductively potent, he loses his composure for the first time I can remember: "I plead not only for myself," he cries, "More than anything, this is too cruel a way to treat her highness!  Indeed, 'tis as though she were livestock!! What is to be gained in carrying on this bloodline, if it is to be achieved at so great a cost?!  What doth the house of Tokugawa mean to you that you must go to such lengths to perpetuate it?!".  The old woman takes a long look at him, and then she says, "It means a country at peace, without war."

Again Arikoto has to reconcile his ethics (which as as strong as any character's I have encountered recently) with the imperatives of passion.  He goes to "Iemitsu" to explain his choice ("What canst thou know of me?!" she explodes while he looks at her with desperate eyes, "Thou art not compelled to do a thing. 'Tis only I who must be handled by another man!! 'Tis only my person that must always be sullied, and debased, and made to bleed...!!") and the scenes that follow, in which duty requires sacrifice after sacrifice from the pair, are some of the more excruciatingly effective love scenes I've ever read.  Arikoto has always had a substantial capacity for self-abnegation, but the more "Iemitsu" must give up, the stronger and more subtle she becomes, until finally at the end of this volume she is ready to move Japan into a brand new era.

The tumultuous sadness with which I left this volume is largely a product of its immensely thoughtful panel arrangement, which (especially in the novels' many love scenes) gives the reader an almost cubist impression of the characters' fragmented emotions.  Small panels detail each expression on the path of a character's developing feelings - each is lovely, and we get a half dozen at a time, composing an emotional arc that lasted only a few seconds.  Often I wasn't sure which order I should read these flurry of panels in, a confusion which only underscored the confusion of the character at that moment - my gaze darted rapidly back and forth as I tried to take in all the possible narrative paths at once.  Sometimes these moments of cubist fragmentation end with a large panel showing the lovers tangled in impossible, tormented knots of arms, legs, spines, gasping with the need not to be separated, not to be separable.  Lovely and terrible, all at once.

Ooku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 3
Fumi Yoshinaga
(Japan, 2007 - English translation 2010)
Finished Jan 14.

(Postscript - and a slightly spoilery one at that: 

Another favorite scene from this volume is the one in which "Iemitsu" is forced to take another lover, one who looks much like Arikoto.  The surrogate, a slightly bumbling ladies' man, tries to make it easier for the young shogun with soothing words and the promise that he will take care of everything.  She kicks him in the face.  "Get not above thyself," she says, pulling the sash from her kimono in a violent gesture, "Thou dost not bed me.  'Tis I that do bed thee."  The scene ends with her defiant profile rising above her naked shoulders.  Her mouth turns down at the edges, and there are new, terrified lines around her eyes.)

An Enthusiasm of Links

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mt. Courseprep looms large on my horizon today, especially since I've added another element to my Monday-Wednesday teaching-schedule-of-doom: now I not only have book group/salsa lessons on Tuesdays, wedged between the 2.5-hour marathon of my afternoon class and the two classes I teach midday on Wednesday, but I also have French class at the Alliance Française on Monday night.  (I approach this last with some trepidation - I studied French for over a decade, but my ability now can only be described as, um, atrophied.)

Just a handful of links, then, before I head off to the Farmers Market and back to my pile of course reading for the week ahead:

*     *     *

The good news?  My hometown is the most well-read city in America.  The bad news?  Everyone is reading less, across the board.  And Washington may only have gained the coveted first-place spot because the reading situation in Seattle is getting dire.  That really takes the wind out of my enthusiasm.

*     *     *

Steve at Philosopher's Playground asks what the funniest single utterance you've ever heard in your classroom is.  Here's his:
We were discussing the difference between ethical precepts and social mores. One of the students raised his hand and asked, "Steve, what are mores?" I looked straight at him and said, "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a more."
*     *     *

Just the other day I was contemplating the history of the sitcom with my friend S.  I rarely watch sitcoms, I reflected, but when I encounter a really well constructed one (see Coupling or Arrested Development, although both defy the form in various ways) I buy it and rewatch it endlessly.  What would the canon of the sitcom include, we wondered - not just the shows that were groundbreaking (and thus of historical interest) but also those whose quality has held up?  Those that remain endlessly rewatchable today?

My gurus at the AV Club sensed our curiosity and responded (not really) with a fascinatingly deep Primer of the 80s sitcom.  It's worth reading in its entirely, both for the genre analysis of how pop culture means and is shaped by social forces and for the reminder of how many really great, nuanced shows you've already forgotten.

*     *     *

I've just begun subscribing to The Comics Journal's blog The Panelists.  What drew me in? Well, I am newly entranced by their One-Panel Criticism relay, in which various panelists (including one brilliant comics scholar I went to grad school with) exchange readings of a single panel.  I'm combing through the archives now to find the perfect, detail-oriented analysis to give my Intro to Lit students as an example of close reading images (and particularly images that are meant to exist as moments in a series).

*     *     *

Would that I had a talent this awesome.  There's nothing like a crocheted tribute to great television ensemble drama.  And then there is always the sublime craftiness that only Doctor Who fandom can evoke.

*     *     *

An experiment conceived and executed by a group of schoolchildren has been published in the journal Biology Letters.  This is a story of teacherly innovation that actually made me weep for joy.  No cynical postmodern irony there at all.

Through the wardrobe doors

Friday, January 14, 2011

Goodbye, Dragon Inn (Lightning Review: Film)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Workers and watchers wander, ghostly, 'round a dilapidated cinema, crowding each other in tight hallways, pressing close in the empty theatre, always choosing the adjacent urinal in depressing bathrooms.  The first words are spoken more than halfway through the film, when one character tells another that the theatre is haunted.  But it turns out that the other man doesn't understand him - he's a Japanese tourist who has come to the theatre in search of {awkward cough} connection.  A film about nostalgia and haunting and the inability to let go.  Nothing wrong with it, but I found it all too easy to let go: I don't have sufficient meditative capacity for these long-developing shots that don't, in the end, develop into much beyond silence and endless waiting.  The fact that that's the point didn't, for me, make it an interesting point.

Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Dir. Ming-liang Tsai
(Taiwan, 2003)
Watched Jan 14.

The Secret Lives of Dentists (Lightning Review: Film)

Friday, January 14, 2011

World's most philosophical dentist, in practice with his wife, becomes convinced she's cheating.  Begins to have visions of violence, sex, Dennis Leary (is this last redundant?).  Ultimate question: will Leary ever play anything but id personified?

The Secret Lives of Dentists
dir. Alan Rudolph
(USA, 2003)
Watched Jan 6.

Stranger than Fiction (Lightning Review: Film)

Friday, January 14, 2011

A tax man (Will Ferrell) is the target for murderous author's pen.  Turns out that literature has consequences, ethics. Alternate title?  "Mise en a bus."

Stranger than Fiction
dir. Marc Forster 
(USA, 2006) 
Watched Jan 3.

Slave to Sensation (Lightning Review: Fiction)

Friday, January 14, 2011

A world ruled (they think) by the Psy, a group of interconnected minds that have stamped out all trace of emotion. Sascha's powerful mother sends her to craft a real estate deal with a Changeling leader (a were-leopard with his own agenda, and - naturally! - passions to spare).  Character-building cleverness across a large cast (addicting me to what promises to be a long series), but also the usual ick factor of paranormal romances - love is too fated (thus yawningly unrelated to the developing relationship of the real people involved) and gender too power-laden.  Nonetheless, the building of affection between the hero and a heroine who doesn't think she can feel properly, much less touch, is first-class.  A slow, halting read for me.

Slave to Sensation
Nalini Singh (New Zealand, 1996)
Finished Jan 9.

Here Comes the Groom (Lightning Review: Fiction)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Awful title, lovely book.  Childhood friends.  The hero struggles with wartime losses, the heroine with the painfully realized scars of illness.  But the plot's climax (although hilarious) seems both Dan Brownish and rampagingly irresponsible (given what is done to an already traumatized person), and it nearly turns me against a lovely, gritty heroine.  There was a longer, calmer, less plotty novel here somewhere, and it was sublime.  As it was, it's just very good.  No complaints.

Here Comes the Groom
Karina Bliss (New Zealand, 2011)
Finished Jan 8.

Smooth Talking Stranger (Lightning Review: Fiction)

Friday, January 14, 2011

The most poisonous mother in existence drops a (surprise!) niece in Ella's lap, leaving her to track down the father.  Naturally (naturally!) her search starts with millionaire playboy Jack Travis, who takes a strangely possessive stance towards her, despite her unconventional (and narratively unacceptable) reluctance to marry.  I raged and raged, and the pages turned and turned.  Dammit.

Smooth Talking Stranger
Lisa Kleypas (USA, 2009)
Finished Jan 8.

all day permanent red (Lightning Review: Poetry)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Uzis and Ilium, arrows that land "as microphones on politicians' stands."  This micro-Iliad flirts with incoherence. Just like war.

all day permanent red: The First Battle Scenes of Homer's Iliad, Rewritten
Christopher Logue (2003, UK)
Finished Jan 8.

An experiment in praxis

Friday, January 14, 2011

(To give this the most pompous possible title....)

I'm really enjoying my new policy of posting lightning reviews of everything I read and watch (for stage and screen), but I can see already that my... more verbose qualities are running amok and cluttering up the "This year in..." pages.

So I am going to try out a change: posting the lightning reviews as separate entries, with links from the "This year in..." pages.   If I want to (and have time to) return and flesh out a lightning review later, I will, and then I'll post a wee note linking back to the altered review.

We'll see whether this puts me off regular reviewing - a post (however brief) always seems more intimidating somehow than the same few lines jotted at the bottom of a list.  If this leads to the dread procrastination, I'll have to rethink.

The Cod, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dear D,

We miss you when it snows.  Can Hawai'i do this?

SP and Halifax

P.S. When it snows, I feel like I live in a Louisa May Alcott novel.  Or perhaps, as my mother suggests, the street-lamped forests of Narnia.

You don't deke Margaret

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Top of the list of things Margaret Atwood has taught me: you have to protect your five-hole.

I've had Atwood on the brain this week.  The last two first-year classes have featured a comparison of Atwood's "you fit into me" and "Miserable" by the band Lit, as well as close analyses of the intros to Dexter and True Blood as demonstrations of defamiliarization through framing and juxtaposition.  Now I'm gearing up for next time's use of the Avett Brothers to demonstrate metaphor and simile, followed by a hearty romp through Ovid.

Also making an appearance next class: Magritte, Tolkien, Plath, Anglo-Saxon riddles, George Elliott Clarke, the short film "Logorama," and the Beatles.  I seem to remember that when my late college advisor wrote me a rec letter for grad school, he praised the "Coleridgean quality" of my "connective spirit."  This one's for you, Dr. K.

Farewell, Professorial Dignity

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ugh.  It's been a bruising week.  (My workweek really runs from Saturday to Wednesday, rather unconventionally.)

In Monday, I began my day by striding confidently into work, stepping (in snow boots) into a wet, icy puddle in the front hall, sliding dramatically, flinging my weight to the side in an effort to regain balance, forgetting that I am carrying 30 lbs of books on that side, and taking a huge, banana-peel, silent-movie pratfall.

Hot tea in hand goes flying into the air and down on my face as I stare at the ceiling from the cold, wet floor.  Next thing I know I am surrounded by students from my first-year class: "Oh my god - are you alright?".

Farewell, professorial dignity.

I don't know which was more bruised, my hip or my pride.  (Wait: it's my hip.  Several days on, it and my knee sport fist-sized matching purple-and-gold welts.) The first thing I did after picking myself up, however, was to check to see that I was actually wearing pants.  It could have been, after all, a teacher's nightmare.  Alas, I was wearing pants, and was totally awake.

How many stories have you read today that end with that sentence?

Sunday Salon: On handcuff parties and the nature of the university

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I slept in this morning, and when I made my bleary way downstairs from my dark attic bedroom I was shocked to find a world of white.  There's a particular kind of light that fills my house only during a snowstorm: a sunny day casts a golden glow on all the surfaces, but the reflection off the fallen snow lights my ceilings.  And the light itself is so profoundly colorless: it feels like a film crew has brought a powerful flash and set it off outside my windows, and the whole house is suspended in the moment of the flash.

How was my week?  Well, it mostly revolved around those odd first classes of the semester in which there is little to discuss and much practical work to be done.  I asked one class of students to share (by way of introduction) "the most dramatic thing you've ever done."  Ten minutes later I found myself saying these words: "Dare I ask what - precisely - a handcuff party is?".  

Later that day, I asked my first year students to write and then talk about why we have universities (what purpose they serve for individuals or societies).  Long pause.  Then: "Well, a university degree serves as a filter that lets employers know who should make the first cut in hiring." (It took a long discussion to unpack the implications of that one.)

Then, a second answer: "Universities employ people.  Lots of people around here would be jobless if it weren't for the universities."

"Well, yes," I said, "this is an industry, and it often operates on industrial models."

It wasn't until six or seven answers in that anyone mentioned any intellectual, philosophical, or creative value that the university adds to its community or individual members.  And they might have just come up with those answers to make me feel better.  I probably looked a bit wilted. 

But this is what made the whole conversation so fascinating.  From the point of view of someone who believes in the power of learning to enrich your life in more than just the most literal way, it was pretty distressing, but what struck me was how incredibly clear an economic perspective my students have, even if that economic outlook is (for reasons of cultural context - their generation, their location, etc.) an incredibly bleak one.

Of course, I would prefer my students not see their education as a purely economic transaction - they give money, I give degrees (and thus better jobs).  What is the degree supposed to signify apart from their ability to give money?

We actually got down to this later in the discussion.  A student made a really elegant argument about the place of higher education in both developing and developed countries, and then argued that (as a filter) the university system also serves to filter out people on many other bases than merit or work ethic.  So we spent some time talking about what determines who gets the privilege of higher education. ("How much money you or your parents have." "What your grades are, and what your high school was like." "What kind of scholarship aid you have access to." We didn't even mention "Where you live"....)

Anyway, I just got in from a half hour of spirited shoveling and now I'm settling down to prepare the next three madcap days of classes.  I've got some Ibsen and some Irish Drama to prep, as well as a lecture on the nature of literature and reading as the solving of riddles.  Meanwhile, my book group is coming to me on Tuesday night (I am going to have to sprint to make it back in time from my Tuesday class), so I am torn between the pressures of work, a creeping anxiety about how clean my house may or may not be, and a need to make my way through our chosen book for this meeting - Geraldine Brooks's March, which I am only a few dozen pages into.  

On the blogging front, I have quite the backlog of reviews I want to get written.  (But not today.  No, not today.)  But I've also changed the format of my Reading and Watching Logs on Sycorax Pine: now each listings of a film, book, or play I've completed is accompanied by a micro-review, to ensure that I crystallize my impression of a text before I move on to the next one.  You can always find these logs at the bottom of my new blog design, or by clicking the links above.