22 March 2009


by Cecily
So, here's a story for you:

When my brother Will was 2, he liked to pretend he was a puppy. He'd crawl around and bark, and my mom made him a headband with dog ears and fed him cereal out of a bowl on the kitchen floor. One day, my mom asked my brother (in dog character) what his name was:

Mom: what's your name, little dog?
Will: Today's Potato Soup Blaster

No one knows where this idea came from, but it stuck around. From that day forth, whenever Will was being a puppy, his name was Today's Potato Soup Blaster.

Then, three years later, we got a puppy.

We all talked about what to name the puppy. No one really cared, except Will, who was now five. Will insisted that "Today's Potato Soup Blaster" was the only name right-thinking people would name a puppy. The rest of us grumbled, but acquiesced.

Except, my other brother, Matt, who was four, had some trouble remembering this name. So when Will was off at kindergarden every day, Matt would spend his mornings playing with the puppy and asking my mother what the puppy's name was. Over and over again.

My mother grew weary of this game with predictable speed, and to amuse herself, turned to sarcasm.

Matt (for the 10th time in an hour): What's the puppy's name?
Mom: (fondly, exasperatedly, and totally expecting to be ignored): Oh, just call him WHAT!

To those who have met any of the people involved, what ensued is not surprising.

Matt, who at the time had the attention span of something-with-a-very-short-attention-span, somehow glommed on to the new name, and proceeded to go into the front yard to play with the puppy.

Informational Aside: My mom hated our next door neighbors at the time. They had lots of vicious Rottweilers and were rude and annoying. But they did like dogs, and we all maintained a veneer of polite acquaintanceship.

The neighbor lady was in her front yard. Matt and the puppy were in our front yard. My mom was in the kitchen, spying observing.

Neighbor: Hi sweetie! What's the puppy's name?
Matt: What!
Neighbor (louder): What's the puppy's name, honey?
Matt: His name is What!
Neighbor: No, what's his name?
Matt: Yeah! What's his name!
Mom: (silent hysterical laughter)

This conversation went on for a long, long time. Matt didn't get bored, and just got very slightly frustrated and annoyed. He was such a charming, well-meaning child. The neighbor lady was annoyed and frustrated, but since she was talking to a four-year-old, she didn't think anything of it. My mom laughed harder than she had any right to, and didn't ever intervene.

Neighbor: is that your new puppy?
Matt: yeah!
Neighbor: does he have a name?
Matt: yeah!
Neighbor: what is his name?
Matt: yeah! his name is What!

So. At the end of this momentous day, everyone came home from work and school and my mama told us the story (she cried a little bit, from laughing, while retelling it) (I cry a little bit from laughing when I retell it too).

And from that day forth, the dog was called What.

postscript: when people yelled to each other ("MOOOOOM!" "WHAT!?!?") the dog always came running. "No, not YOU."

And it was pretty fun to stand at the back door yelling What! WHAAAT! What! at night.

15 March 2009

when I cry, it's totally because of the wind.

by Cecily
Phoebe took me to see The Silent World at the Library of Congress last week. This movie is so, so great.

Summary of the plot: Mostly-naked French guys are on a boat. They have aqualungs. They smoke cigarettes and drink wine. They encounter wildlife. They have emotional responses to wildlife. They kill wildlife. They smoke more cigarettes and drink more wine. The end.

Throughout these events, Jacques Cousteau narrates and commentates and ruminates and explicates. He does things with scientific implements. He stages casual conversations with crew members during which everyone points at a chart and looks serious.

Then they find land! It is a desert island! The men ride giant tortoises while smoking cigarettes.

Then they discover footprints, and the footprints lead them to Black Native Islander Man, who is digging for turtle eggs. Luckily, he speaks English.

There are many bizarre aspects of this movie but I think Black Native Islander Man is the winner. No one ever explains why he is on the island, how he got there, or why he cares about the turtle eggs. He has a fake Jamaican-style accent (on top of the French) and he tells us about the giant turtles and their life cycle. When the mother turtles return to the ocean after laying their eggs, they are crying. Some say it is because of the wind, but Black Native Islander Man knows better: it is because of Sorrow.

09 March 2009

my neighbor sings the blues

by Cecily
Via text message. By accident.

My arms hurt so bad
I laid down
And can't get up
Bob said
What ails you?
I said Chronic Loneliness.
And everyone felt reaaal awkward

My neighbor is a text-message-by-accident Blues GENIUS.

05 March 2009

Q: If that same pirate were then to recite a 20th-century poem about the nature of poetry, what would it be?

by Cecily
Language Hat:
Archibald MacLeish famously ended his 1926 "Ars Poetica" with "A poem should not mean/ But be." I learn from Peter Howarth in the LRB that Robert Frost put a nasty spin on this in a notebook entry: "A poem shouldn't mean, it should be mean." So much for the grandfatherly figure maundering about roads not taken, so beloved of careless skimmers of anthologies.

Mean poems!

02 March 2009

alphabet. ballet dancing. sort of.

by Cecily

She's 2 now. Watch out.


01 March 2009


by Cecily
Weather is exciting around here these days. My life, not so much. I've spent 427 of the last 36 hours writing a paper. The end.