Angela and I flew back from Los Angeles on the first flight in the morning because she needed to cram for the physics final exam. Tomorrow will be her last day as a Junior in high school. She is 16, but already prefers the atmosphere and white noise of an internet cafe to home when she wants to concentrate. Not just some Starbucks or Peet’s, she’d find some independent coffee house or teahouse to nest for the entire day. I imagine her, donning a pair of earbuds, nursing a cup of coffee at some quaint little corner table.
For a while, I was adamantly against the girls’ listening to music while doing homework. How do you focus or think properly with this continuous droning on? How do you not go mad? I read or I listen to music, but never simultaneously; for me either of them is quite full and complete on its own. I suppose the only multitasking I do well is adding snack eating to everything that I do.
Lately I have come to realize that almost everyone in the world can listen to music and focus on his work. My own inability is somewhat of an anomaly. Some study even shows that people seem to focus better — stay in a zone as they say — while listening to music. Both Angela and Audrey listen to music when they do their homework. and apparently they are doing just fine in all their classes As a matter of fact, Angela produced some of her greatest writing while wearing a pair of earbuds. The question is: If there is music all the time, does it still have the same impact it once did?
I will share with you Angela’s English final project at the end of today’s blog. When Peter read it, he said, “Huh?” And Angela smiled, “It is a story about you and me. Or mommy and me.” I don’t think many kids can write a story about her and her parents in this way. Angela said, “You’d kill the blog if you post random stuff like this.” Well, it’s not random for me. Forgive me if it wears down your patience.
Today’s food is all about fresh sweet corn. They are in season and they are delicious. We had them for lunch, and then we had them again for dinner.
Fresh Sweet Corn Salad with Meyer Lemon Honey Mustard Dressing
Ingredients for the Salad:
Kernels from 4 fresh corns
2 tablespoon finely minced red onion
1 avocado, diced
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup cucumber, seeded and diced
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
Ingredients for the Dressing:
Juice from 1 large Meyer lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon coarse ground Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Boil a large pot of water. Put the shucked corn in the water when it reaches boiling temperature. Boil for 2 minutes and rinse in cold water. Cut the kernels off the cob.
Mix all ingredients for the dressing in a bowl. Mix corn kernels with all the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and cilantro in a salad bowl. Pour dressing into salad and stir to coat. Add avocado and gently toss before serving.
Fresh Sweet Corn Fried Rice with Tofu
Ingredients for the Fried Rice:
Kernel from 2 fresh corns
1 cup chopped baby carrots
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
2 eggs + 1/4 cup egg white, beaten
2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon minced green onion or chive
1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
2 tablespoon low salt soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
1/2 teaspoon xylitol (optional)
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon cooking oil (I used canola oil)
Roast sesame seeds for garnishing
Ingredients for Tofu:
1 box of silken firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce or 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
Combine egg and egg whites in a small bowl and beat with a fork. Season with a pinch of salt.
Heat a large sauté pan or wok over medium high heat and spray with oil. Add the eggs and cook, turning a few times until set; set aside.
Add the cooking oil and sauté onions, scallion, peas and carrots and cilantro about 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft.
Add cooked brown rice to the pan and stir for about a minute or so. Add soy sauce, fish sauce and xylitol mixture. Stir and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg and toss to mix. Turn of the stove.
Spray a separate non-stick pan on medium high, brown the sliced tofu on both sides. Pour oyster sauce in the pan and turn off stove. Mix to coat.
Separate the fried rice into 4 bowls and top with tofu. Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds before serving.
As promised, here is Angela’s final project. Read at your own risk.
Experiments in Fiction Period 3, Michael Holt
Due May 19, 2015
Final Project: “Redemption”
Yesterday morning I awoke with my hair wet and limp as seaweed, with knots so beastly that I felt my cells screaming in each follicle as I forced my comb through every inch of matted mane. You told me this was punishment for my sins, which were accumulating like plaque in a glutton’s arteries, like vagabonds clogging a subway station. I stared back at you and said nothing, so you held my feather pillow to my face and kept the air out of my lungs until tears were coaxed from my swollen eyes.
When I noted how uncomfortably reassuring it was to feel the tears building up behind my eyelids, you remarked that the coldest days are the ones without snow, when the sky grows empty and our blood stagnates. I explained that the melting of snow is an exothermic reaction, which releases heat into the atmosphere, and I was reunited with my pillow until blackness slunk across my field of vision like a panther stalking its prey, like a conductor gradually silencing an orchestra.
Before I met you I did not know right from wrong, and like a mosquito buzzing from place to place and feeding on the blood of innocents, I let free my inner filth to pullulate godlessly through the city like a venereal disease through a college campus. I sold breath mints as ecstasy, went to bed with wet hair and later snorted the mold growing inside my pillowcase, drew pentagrams on my palms to keep Lucifer from prophesying my demise. Before you taught me to renounce the devil, he was my closest friend, and in the dark when my pupils dilated, his smoke-blurred silhouette could be seen branded into my retina.
In the nighttime I would gather in a circle with other youths and pass around a large silvery balloon, our conspiratory glances flitting about the room like bruised butterflies as we inhaled deeply from the buoyant phosphorescent orb. Our voices would become as dizzying and tart as hard lemonade bubbling in a demon’s cauldron. I liked to step back and listen to the strange noises my peers produced, but as the night drew on the sounds would always become increasingly jarring, like dissonant chords lunging, anguished and unrestrained, at my eardrums.
Without fail, I would sit silently at the kitchen counter the morning after, sipping canned soup and tea, wondering how much I had dreamt and how much I had forgotten. My roommate would stumble in as well, cheeks swollen, knuckles scraped, smelling of vomit and sadness; I would imagine her fantastic death, something that would provide a fire show to the stimulation-starved villagers, perhaps a kind of sudden incineration due to the sheer volume and flammability of alcohol in her veins. She would always hide the matches and the lighters, as if she knew how badly we all wanted to watch her burn, to admire the bright color of the flames, the air breathing back the energy that was once her soul.
I had come close before to killing her; I had once grabbed her turkey neck, wringing it and watching her eyes bulge and her fat limbs writhe, all because I did not want her to follow me around. Her every footstep was booming, her heels sending cracks straight into the earth’s core, each aftershock grabbing me by the sternum and shaking me savagely. The sky was empty on this day, and it was very cold; my hands would not stay steady and so she eventually escaped from my grip, sputtering obscenities and beating at the air with every breath as if punishing it for ignoring her cries.
The next day we both pretended that no attempt to slay her had been made: her downcast eyes refused to meet my gaze; I imagined the click of a lighter igniting her rippled flesh; I thought of roasting Brussels sprouts over her blazing carcass, selling her melted remains to high-end soap manufacturers, letting her turn to foam and dissolve into sudsy water and drain into oblivion.
After I met you I had to learn the error of my ways. It is impolite to kill, you taught me, and even the snapping of a twig warranted tearful repentance. You showed me the anguish experienced by every life form, even the trees surrounding the town park benches: I noticed the way they sprouted reluctantly, as if to avoid the mutilated corpses of their brethren, which had been stitched together to be exploited by humans and were now relegated to the realm of practicality rather than beauty, truly the most pathetic of Frankenstein’s monsters; I noticed the small patches of green growing rebelliously on the mangled trunks and branches, as though they were shaking their bleeding fists at humanity. Everywhere I went, I began to hear the mournful moans of nature, those astringently trilling tritones, fast quivering in the air that gasped godlessly and always forgot to die.
It is wrong to kill, always wrong to kill, you told me. For each log in the fireplace I began to see severed limbs and fingers trapped in their final contortions of terror, in each bowl of salad the uprooted hairs and fingernails of defenseless creatures, still lifes still life. You broke an old bottle of mine, slashed the jagged pieces across my forearms, reassuring me that the half-evaporated remnants of Belgian ale would prevent infection and facilitate scabbing. As my blood spurted into the soil and seeped into the tangled roots of the nearby mangroves, you explained that killing me twelve times over would not be enough, that I had caused too much suffering to ever achieve true penitence. When my eyes widened in shock, you spotted the image of Lucifer etched behind my irises and you freed them from their sockets, clutching them gently as though they were nacre-encrusted diamonds at long last released from the rusted jaws of dying oysters, and I felt pinkened globules of vitreous trickling slowly down my cheeks.
When my sight grew back, the devil was gone and I wondered whether he had ever existed outside of my vision. I could see again but my friends were missing; the beast had killed them when he dragged them down with him into the unreachable realm of the unreal.
Now you can repent, you said.
Today I realized how many years of my life I hoped to undo and when you told me I could not change anything, I caught a spider and snapped off its legs one by one, smiling softly at the sound of each spindly limb popping off cleanly like a stem from a cherry. I heard the spider wailing in pain, its legless torso thrashing electrically before I removed its head and blew it into the sky as though it were a dandelion seed.
I asked you why I should repent if the past is permanent and your eyes faded to a lower harmonic before you admitted that memories could be altered and no one would ever know. But every contact leaves a trace, I protested.
Then you kicked sand over the corpse of the spider and said no, not if you are careful, not if time forgives you.
This is great work. Diabolical, to be sure, but also clinically precise, well-organized in distinct chapters, and full of charged, wickedly enticing imagery. Though the voice of Schulz comes through most clearly, you are far along the path to creating a voice of your own. Your penchant for the grotesque has deepened, has entered an advanced, potentially irreversible stage. Things have reached the point where someone has to tell you it is wrong to kill. The “you” in this piece appears as a kind of savior, but a somewhat cruel, ironic one, intent on carving irremovable scars, on the one hand, and covering the past in sand on the other. That contradiction encodes your interlocutor with a gripping sense of mystery. Addressing the story to this person is one of the most inventive parts of your piece. It helps you generate the narrative movement from retribution to redemption. At the sentence level, too, this is consistently inventive work. Your images are terrifying vivid. My only suggestion would be that you pay a little more attention to the rhythm of your sentences. Your clauses are occasionally too long. Not your sentences—I like long sentences—but your clauses. Striving for a little more concision in your images would create even more intensity in your prose. It would deliver the content with greater impact. Try reading your sentences aloud to get a sense of what I mean. This is, however, a very small criticism. It is actually just a suggestion. Overall this is fantastic work that represents a lucid, inspired involvement with the things we’ve read in this class.