Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bread Pudding


This bread pudding -- a specialty of the baguette shop I like to frequent here in Norman -- has the kind of gluey density reminiscient of rubber cement that makes me think that it's the perfect accompaniment to a multivitamin pill and a couple of calcium supplements -- the things that tend to make me nauseous unless I'm taking them on a full stomach. If they make me nauseous, can vitamin and calcium supplements really be so good for me? My body seems to tell me "no" but all the doctors say "yes."

My dad proudly shows me the begonias he's nurtured to a showy, bright fuschia and red in the front flowerbed.

"They were spindly and would not bud out with flowers until I started giving them shots of Miracle Gro."

Am I so different from a begonia? When I was in high school, I offered to do an experiment on "the effect of chemicals on begonias" -- inspired, perhaps, by "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds." That was the title of a play I read in 10th grade. Not surprisingly, it had less to do botanical experimentation and more to do with a couple of daughters dealing with their mom in an almost impossible home situation. I've always found the title to be a particularly poignant metonymy, and I tear up a bit every time I think of it.

"The Effects of Miracle Gro on Begonias" (I don't know what variety the begonias are -- I'm sure it's a colorful name, although not much can match "Man in the Moon Marigolds." Here are a few ideas -- "Dad's Home Pride," "Strength-in-Numbers." Both have a nice metonymic ring, too. And, speaking of metaphors and the desire to generate figurative language, I leafed through the PMLA today (Proceedings of the Modern Language Society), and for the first time in my life, I had a desire to go to the annual conference, which takes place in Los Angeles this year. I do not want to go there for the job interviews, although that's always the big draw -- it's the place where modern language professors and new grads go to interview for positions. I actually felt a desire to check out some of the presentations. I've made a stab at keeping up with my publications -- articles, chapters, etc. in peer-reviewed journals. But, they're in instructional design and not scholarship on a period, writer, movement, or theoretical stance.

In fact, I don't even know who the latest, biggest, hottest new theorists are... all I know is that I was getting quite tired of the theoretical scene in the late 1990s because it seemed so cut-and-dried, and so "cart before the horse," which is to say that a large, glaring theoretical synthetic a priori / set of prior assumptions assured that no matter what went into the critical blender, the same gelatinous pulp would glop out of the spigot. The only question was how much you'd get, and what temperature it might be. It ranged from tepid to room temp, in case you happened to wonder.

Bread pudding. I'm taking another bite. This bread pudding has the requisite base of stale croissants and day-old baguettes (and maybe even a bagel or two), but in the mix, they've swirled in shredded coconut, some sort of oil (canola?), raisins, and cinnamon / cardomom, etc. Over the top is what used to be rum syrup, but what I'm convinced is plain old corn syrup with a bit of Torino rum flavoring mixed in. It's bland. I'm glad it's bland. Otherwise, I might go a little crazy and eat the whole thing. As it is, I'm thinking I can eat a portion, then run out to the car where I have some Flintstones chewable multivitamins in an overnight bag in the trunk. I may opt out of the vitamins, though. Despite the fruity kid flavors, they have a yukky aftertaste.

It's time to pop over to my hair appointment which is conveniently located in a salon a few doors down from the baguette shop.

She's running behind. So, to kill time, I've decided to chat with the painter who is touching up the "La Belle Vie" sign -- my gambit is, "Que tipo de pintura?" (What kind of paint?) To which he replies, "Aceite" (oil-based).

So, I have my perfect opening to start chatting about paint, and how wet paint looks lighter than dry paint, and how one has to be careful when selecting colors. He's from Jalisco. I chat a bit, then thank him for letting me bother him as he works, as my stylist works through appointments. I should ask her for some "miracle gro" for my hair, but it's sort of the last thing I want, since my hair, like my imagination, grows much too quickly. I've always liked the convergence of philosophy and literary exegesis. I like new tactics for getting meaning(s) to pop out from a text. I also like the connections between science and literature.

Mathematics.The mathematical literary imagination. In the 80s and 90s, it was all randomness and fractals. Today, it's all neural networking, imaging, patterns -- extrapolations. Is this advisable for humanistic endeavors? Take literature, search for patterns in an extreme way (J. Hillis Miller & Co on steroids) and then claim the images are the reality? That there is a measurable reality behind the "best fit" model? Not good. Or, perhaps it is good.

Bread pudding. It's tasty, and, in a pinch, I'll bet you could use it as modelling clay.

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