Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Often, in the mornings, I like to read some blogs and news-sites to get a feel for what’s going on in the world. I don’t necessarily read tons of serious stuff, but some of it is. Today, I was disheartened to hear about this story involving a young girl committing suicide after being bullied. I have a lot of mixed feelings about it, but of course I can’t help reliving my own unhappy high school years and thinking about how cruel a few girls were.
Later on in the day, I was out for another one of my walks. In front of Hannah, I found four girls on the ground. They were all sitting on the ground, on the edge of the sidewalk, crouched down around each other. What were they looking at? I could only imagine the one time Virginia discovered a sick squirrel next to the psychology building and took it to the Vet Clinic to be looked at.
As I approached them, it became clear: one of them had fallen, or maybe had crashed her bike. The bike was discarded, and three girls were around the one girl with a bruised leg. They were asked her if she was alright, if she needed help, and then one kindly gave her bike back to the bruised girl.
I smiled. These little moments give me hope that we’re at least trying to be good.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Work Sited

In my morning class, my professor complained that the class was not doing particularly well, because, apparently, we haven't been citing sources in our papers.
I guess this really surprised me because it seemed like such an obvious thing to do to an academic paper you write for a class. If you don't cite, where the heck are you getting your info?
Kelly mentioned that she thought that it interrupted the flow of writing, which I understand. When I was writing one paper and editing another this past weekend, I need to be left alone, play good music (this time, parts of Massive Attack's new album) and just write. Usually, I write my citations before writing, as part of the outline process. That way, I can just insert the citation via copy and paste.
"Not everyone can be a superhero like you."
Maybe this is harder for people than I realize. When I was in AP Biology, a senior girl did a presentation on a type of animal. At the end of her powerpoint, she had a "work sited" page, and I about died. She had no idea that it wasn't spelled that way, which indicates that she didn't cite often, or had ever looked at a style guide (not even Purdue's OWL, which I love.) I guess I figure that everyone is forced to learn basic citing before college, but maybe I'm making an assumption there. I feel like it's usually not that hard to cite, since the information should be in the colophon anyway, and, if you're really lazy, there are apparently websites that will write the citation for you. I've even seen websites that write the citation out for people and put it at the bottom of the page. This isn't that difficult.
This particular professor is really easy about citations and sources. We aren't suppose to use anything other than our readings and lectures to write our papers, and all she demands is that we write "lecture" for anything we took from class, and then basic citation (author, title, yr. published) for readings. Her essays are basically take-home tests; tons of time isn't necessary to get a decent grade.

Monday, March 29, 2010


I went in to see one of my professors about a paper. I figure professors love it when you come into see them, since so few students make the effort. I noticed last week this professor's hours were right after a class and just down the street, so it seemed perfect.
There's something off about him. I'm not totally sure yet what it is, but it's been bugging me all semester. I get the feeling that he doesn't like me. Certainly, I've heard other students complain about how pompous he is, which, although he does seem knowledgeable about the subject at hand, doesn't really make me like him all that much. But I feel like I haven't done anything that should earn me his dislike. I've shown up to every class, and participate, and always do the reading and turn in all the homework. What more should a professor want? I mean, sure, I don't always answer questions correctly, but the entire point of a class is to learn, and there's nothing to learn if you already have the answers.
It's possible he thinks I'm pompous. I do think I know a lot about the background of what we're studying. This class is on the Catholic Church in the early Modern world. I've taken heaps of medieval history classes, and, for what I hope are obvious reasons, I've managed to learn a lot about medieval Catholicism. The Catholic Church is not a dynamic institution; as a general rule, if it was once that way, it's probably still that way. So I know a lot about religious orders and saints and Popes and the general "how things work" kind of knowledge, which has been helpful. But I would be the first to concede that I don't know much about mission work or the Inquisitions. I might be quick to guess the reasons why things happened, but I wouldn't know.
Maybe this is the first time a professor has disliked my enthusiasm. I've yet to come across someone who doesn't like that I care about school, but I do. I care not just because it's school with a capital 'S,' but because I'm studying things I'm interested in, and things that I like learning about. And, really, I'm very lucky. Lots of people go to college and either study something they don't like or eventually hate. I get to do things that make me happy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

Today, while in church, I heard a low thud. I turned around and saw that a young man had fallen into his father's arms, and, even though we were meant to be standing, they were sitting. I'm assuming he fainted.
I was with Sam, and she mentioned that she felt faint too. It was Palm Sunday, and it was incredibly crowded. I didn't feel any different than I normally do.
I don't know why, but it seems like I've witnessed a lot of people fainting and whatnot in church. One Christmas, when I was a kid, I watched a middle-aged man go down. He was in one of the back rows of the church, so I suspect not everyone noticed. Later on, I watched a priest go faint during his Eucharist ceremony, banging his head on the altar. I guess here would be where I venture a guess about the Holy Spirit or something, but I don't think that's what has ever happened here. It just seems like some scary thing that happens to people.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Your Pants Must Be Lonely"

Every once and a while, something happens and I think "Oh, well, isn't that advantageous." Tonight, my friend Paul pants-called me.
Paul and I go way back. We met when I was in kindergarten and he was in preschool. We didn't actually hit it off right away, but he's one of my oldest friends. He's really smart and fun to be around, and I'm glad that our little sisters and moms are close too.
Tonight, while texting my friend Mitch and working on a paper on Native American women, I got a random call. I recognized the area code, indicating it was someone from home. It became clear after the third "hello?" and the shuffling sounds that I had been called by either someone's pants or purse.
I kept listening and trying to figure out who it was. It seemed like it was a male voice and that there were women nearby. Anthony? I thought. Kevin? Both of them had my numbers. I hadn't spoken to Anthony since the Honors College ball and Kevin and I saw each other last night, when we watched the game together.
Finally, I heard "Your phone accidentally called Eliza!" and I knew. It was Nikki.
Nikki is Paul's little sister and one of my sister's friends. Unsurprisingly, my sister and her have been friends for ages. Nikki is over our house fairly frequently, sleeping over and watching movies and baking cookies and generally making trouble.
"Your pants must be lonely if they're calling me," I said. I don't know if I've ever made a sex joke to him, as I only recently got comfortable making them in quick succession and in front of men.
Paul laughed and apologized, and we asked how the other one was and whatnot. He and his sister went back home for the weekend, so they were in route to come back to school.
It's so weird, because I was thinking of asking Paul if he wanted to go see this band that's coming in a few weeks. It's a little pop-y of a band for him, but he's the kind that likes the occasional adventure. Plus, last summer, his Mom emailed me and begged me to hang out with him. I was surprised by the email since I didn't know that his Mom even had my email, and because Paul's always been well-adjusted (or at least as adjusted as anyone can be as a teenager) and because he's usually very upbeat. Unfortunately, Juicebox's birthday is the same night, and he's planning on having a dinner, so I can't go. I guess I could find another excuse to hang with Paul, but music is usually a good bet.
His Mom complains to me that he never hangs out with anyone except for the kids here at college who he knew in high school. Don't get me wrong, Paul's totally got friends, but he hasn't made any new ones. That's totally different from me, who purposely avoided most of the kids from high school (save maybe four of them) and made a ton of new friends. In fact, making new friends is one of my favorite things about college. When you meet someone and realize that they'd make a great friend, I always am excited for our future relationship.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Early Feminsim

Today, I got an email from my employer. She wanted to know if I could stay an extra hour at work. Could I ever!
I realize that this is not the usual response. Most people would drag their heels. I was happy, since I want more hours (and more moolah.) Also, I recently put my employer on my resume, so this is a great way to remind her that I'm reliable. Really.
I work in an art gallery, which is possibly one of the coolest gigs ever. Right now, there's an exhibit showing comics (to which you should all go.) Mostly, because it's so quiet on Fridays, I do homework. Today, I finished that book on William Marshal and started on an essay about the Nationalist movement in Tanzania and feminism. Last week, the curator of the show came by, which does on occasion happen, but usually, they just look around and make sure nothing's burning or turned to a crisp. This guy actually sat there, and I couldn't help but wonder if I was being judged.
This week he wasn't around, and it was a big relief. Because he wasn't around, I felt safe sitting at the table that was covered in comics for us to read so that I could read the first book of the English Sailor Moon.
Sailor Moon was my first anime as a kid. I was about seven when the show aired on television in the mornings before I went to school, and I loved it. Looking back on it, a lot of it is silly and overdone and campy, but it still makes me smile. I have always thought of myself as a feminist, and a show written about girls for girls wasn't something I appreciated in a larger cultural sense (since I hadn't yet noticed how the majority of media is created for white Christian men). Even as a young girl, I liked the idea of young women who were strong and powerful and capable of working together, despite differences.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Highlife

Today, in my African history class, we did something really cool: we learned about music. Specifically, we concentrated on Highlife music, which can still be found today in Ghana and other parts of West Africa.
Highlife music grew because of a growing population in West Africa's cities, where multiple rural music styles and Ghanaian dance music mixed with Western, European music. During the second World War, U.S. servicemen (mostly African American), brought jazz, which was also incorporated into this kind of music. Mostly, they're sung in the local lingua franca, the same language that is used for conducting business affairs. A lot of this music was popular in clubs, which were expensive to get into.
There are two types of early Highlife music. One is the "lower class" version, called Palm Wine music or Guitarband Highlife. It's main instrument in the guitar, and usually performed in smaller place. It's lyrics tend to be more political, which is why I would be interested in learning more about it. After Ghana gained independence in 1957, Highlife music went out of style, only to reemerge in the 1970s, and since then it's evolved and changed.
After hearing this in class, of course, I knew I needed to go look for this sort of thing. YouTube and Google and whatnot haven't yielded much, at least not based on the musicians and bands that I noted in class. I found some E.T.Mensah, who is suppose to be the ultimate Highlife musician, but the stuff I found online wasn't as good as to whatever it was that the teacher played in class.
Luckily, I found this, which is delightful, but it's unclear to me who created this or what the songs are.

Also, I found these songs online, and I'm liking these too.

In my search, I came across World Passport, a blog that posts podcasts of this and other non-Western music. I haven't listen to any of them yet, but I think I'm going to have to.
One of the connections my teacher mentioned was Latin Jazz. She said that a lot of African music went over with slaves to the Caribbean and influenced music there, then returned in its new form to Africa to influence Highlife. Somehow, that seems perfectly right. And, I have to say, the music did remind me a little of that sort of thing, and made me think of Watermelon Man, which I'm enamored of.
I'm in love with labels like Putumayo, if only because they make it easier for me to access music like this, which I think is really fascinating to learn about.My friend Owen told me that he once took a class on world music, and I have to say, that sounds like something I would like, even though I don't really know much about music in terms of theory. I just like music in a quantitative sense: when I hear something, I know if I like it or not.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Life and Tales of William Marshal

On Monday, my friend Kelly and I were discussing how we should make a movie about William Marshal. Today, while sitting in a class and learning about Henry II, who seems to have been really interesting, I think I still like the basic idea.
I think it would be better as a miniseries about William Marshal, focusing on his time as Young King Henry's knight. After Young King Henry dies, he goes to Jerusalem, and then we can end at Marshal's death. I'm thinking, in the beginning, we let Marshal tell three stories about himself to establish the kind of person he is, maybe the first three interesting stories about him from the poem that is about him.
I like this idea mostly because so many other movies have been done about other people who have spent time around Henry II, like Becket and The Lion in Winter. Henry II seems to have really captured writer's imaginations, since there's Murder in the Cathedral, and hell, even the Canterbury Tales is ultimately about Becket.
I tried, over Christmas Break, to watch The Tudors, and wasn't that into it. Maybe I've over done it with the Tudor history? It seems unlikely, but possible. I think, mostly, that it's no fun for me because I already know what's going to happen to all the main characters, unlike most Americans, who maybe know, at best, that Elizabeth will eventually become queen. I think also court intrigue is just depressing, because it reminds me how untrustworthy everyone is.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Allied Documents

We're only on the second week on missionaries in one of my history classes, and it's driving me crazy. When we're in class talking about it, it's not too bad.
Mostly, it's an issue of how boring the sources are. All of them are written by white priests who complain about how hard it is to get "natives"/"heathens"/"infidels" to understand them, given the language and cultural barrier. Then they say some racist things. Then they whine about how strange other religions are. And then they say some creepy things about how they trained local children in Christianity and how those children are now destroying idols, which, given recent events, I really don't want to hear about.
I think I'm stressed about this upcoming paper I have on mission work in North America. We have to use the Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, which is a huge source. I'm overwhelmed by this paper and the lack of structure. I'm afraid I'm going to fail.
I also am curious as to what the "allied" part of the documents is suppose to mean. All the bits of this source I've looked at have talked solely from Jesuit perspectives. Who are these allies? (Franciscans?)

Monday, March 22, 2010


Since the weather got better a few weeks back, I've been going out for regular walks. Today was not quite as nice as two weeks ago, but that's not why I'm writing.
I'm writing because going out on walks, what is usually a solitary event for me, has gotten rather social.
Saturday I went for a walk with my friend Matt. I ran into Matt the previous Thursday, again, while walking. Both times we had nice, long conversations, mostly about nothing of consequence. We talked about things like Doctor Who, mutual friends, pennies, the future and cigarettes. We also talked a little about Matt's ex-girlfriend, Virgina. They had been dating for a long time and only broke up last week. I hadn't seen her, but I offered to be a sounding board for Matt, who I would imagine would take it harder than her. Matt actually is handling it better than I expected. He's obviously unhappy, but dealing with it surprisingly well. He mostly didn't want to talk about it with me, and that's fine, as I realize most guys aren't verbose on anything involving emotions, so I've let it go. If Matt wants to say more to me, I trust he will.
Today, I first ran into Mike. We met in a poetry class last year, and we've both recently been selected to read at a program for the English department. I'm very nervous about it, though I know I'm being a bit silly. It'll probably be fine. Mike talked to me about poetry. He said he had one of the professors for a creative writing class, and we had a short discussion about erasures.
Less than five minutes after parting ways I run into Mitch, coming back from West Circle. I really like Mitch a lot. Mostly I like how we always manage to have a laugh about something. Today, it was certain characters that we think are ridiculous and worth our quiet scorn. I have to say, sometimes he surprises me, since I didn't realize how much he disliked a certain someone.
This time, I think I managed seven minutes before I saw Virginia, coming to me on her bike. She was super excited because she got a job for the summer, at a nearby nature reserve. I think that's excellent, as that means it'll be another great thing for her resume. I don't know if she knew I was hanging out with her ex recently.
But really, that walk took me an extra twenty minutes to complete.
Matt once told me that I would have to choose amongst my friends, because I have too many of them. I disagree. I think life manages to choose for me. Geography, bad behavior, incompatibility all seem to have done a marvelous job of cleaning out my friends every six months to two years. I guess it would be easy to get sad about those moments where I realize I can't be close to someone anymore (or, sometimes even more disappointing, won't ever be close to someone), but I think this makes me just treasure the friends I've had for so long all the more dear to me. Plus, even if I only hang around someone for a little while, it's still a great opportunity to learn new things and see the world from another perspective.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Miss Know-It-All

Today at lunch, some of my friends and I were talking about me starting an advice column. When I was in the eighth grade, my friend Paul and I were talking, and he asked me for some advice. I gave it (though I don't remember what it was on), and he said that I was really good at that sort of thing. Every once and a while, someone does say that, and I'm always startled by it. It's a compliment, but one that I feel unworthy of, just because you have to be careful when you give advice, and, unless someone's being a complete jerk, you have to be gentle.
Sometimes I wish people wouldn't give me these kinds of ideas, because of course I'm going to come up with something. For example, in the half-hour since that conversation, I've decided that if I did do this, it would have to be a blog, because I'm falling in love with blogging as I work on this project. (I also find myself wondering if I should start other blogs or projects that would include blogs.) I also think I would call it Miss Know-It-All, because every great advice columnist has had a cool, catchy name. I recently discovered Ask Mormon Girl, which I think is a great name, and I'm really loving it, since I'm learning so much on the subject.
But all of this planning and looking at other good examples wouldn't solve my bigger problem: that I would steer people in the wrong direction, and I'd never forgive myself for inadvertently screwing up someone's life.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bizarre Little Dramas

Again, I find myself dreaming so much more than I usually do. Last night, it was that there was some authoritarian government that decided to destroy a group of teachers, including Laura Prepon, who were trying to teach the truth. (What this was this truth? My dream didn't go into details, but I feel, based on most authoritarian governments, it was probably something that questioned their authority.) Laura and her beau are eventually imprisoned, and she finds out she's pregnant, and he eventually escapes (with the woman who betrayed him in the first place) and goes out into the woods to start again, totally ignorant of his girl and that all the other teachers are trying to save them.
When I woke up, I honestly considered going back to sleep to see if I could finish this story, because I often find if I fall back asleep I do pick these bizarre little dramas up again.
I'm also wondering what exactly spurred this particular dream. I feel like thoughts from the past week sort of congealed together into one thing. I just saw Prepon in a recent episode of House, and, last night, I watched a television program that discussed Budapest's House of Terror, this museum that explores Hungary under both Nazism and Communism, and I'm writing an essay on African education, so that accounts for the teachers.
Why can't I have dreams about boys I could actually have sex with? Or, more generally put, why can't I just dream about the same things everyone else does?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thesis Meeting

Last week, I spent three days outlining and writing a little over ten pages. It was pulling teeth, but I felt really good about the work I had once it was over. I felt like I had done a good job synthesizing everything, and that, compared to what I wrote earlier this semester, this was the best stuff yet.
I had my meeting today with my thesis adviser. She was not so enthusiastic. It's not like she hated it, but she did feel like I needed more quotes of the actual work. She's probably right, though I honestly don't want to use quotes. My friend Nate mentioned once that he thinks there's something sophomoric about quotes. I had never thought about it that way, but he was right. They make me think of middle schoolers who can't write. Not that I think you shouldn't use references, but I don't feel like quoting.
Possibly I'm being influenced by my one and only English class this semester, where we're reading a lot of theory, which I'm really loving. Even when an article is directly addressing a work, there aren't that many quotes. Maybe the problem is that I'm not defending my work well enough, and I'm trying to run before I can walk.
I'm also nervous because I am suppose to give a presentation/talk on this thesis in a few weeks. I'm so afraid people I know will come, and then I'll have to try to look like I know what I'm doing. I'm even more afraid a professor will show, and then they'll know when I'm screwing this up.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sango Malo: The Village Teacher

So, in class today we finished Sango Malo: The Village Teacher. The movie, created in 1990 in Cameroon, centers around two teachers, Sango and Malo, in a rural area. Sango, an older man, is the headmaster of the school, and represents the old, traditional ways of teaching that derive from colonial times. Malo, a recent graduate, is the new teacher the school hires, and he represents new ideas that change the village.
The film depicts, among other things, the power structures within the village. There is only one general store, so that shopkeeper controls much of the economic activity of the village. The priest and Sango influence the social and political debates of the village. At the top of it all is the chief, who decides how much people are taxed, what land they have access to, etc.
Sometimes I even manage to disappoint myself with my Western-centric viewing of films. At one point, the film cut to a man hanging from a tree. My first thought was "Oh my gosh, lynchings happen even here?" It turns out he wasn't lynched by certain powers in the village but had killed himself, which isn't any better, but I suspect I was not the only one in class who saw this and thought of the terrible American tradition of lynching "uppity" African Americans. On some level, it's a good thing I know that history, and don't deny it or apologize for it. On another hand, I may have internalized the idea that Africans are lynched and can't possibly commit suicide.
What bothered me most about the film was the representation of women. There were only a few women shown in the entire movie, and, as in most American films, they were simply characters who revolved around the men, when they showed up at all. One woman was shown as simply being the chief's property: she massaged his feet and, it was implied, slept with him. Sango's wife is shown briefly, always doing chores. One young woman dreams of leaving the village, and thankfully, refuses the gross come ons of the shopkeeper. Ngo is perhaps the most problematic of all the female characters. She marries Malo, but does not get a dowry for her marriage. Her father becomes so embarrassed by this that he commits suicide. What annoyed me was that Ngo had to get married at all, since she finished training as a teacher. What I wanted her to do was to observe the events in the village, and then go to another village to teach a hybrid form of education, one based on both Sango's and Malo's ideas.
I often feel like there are so many great examples of African art created by men that espouse such wonderful ideas, but almost always forget women. Women are never allowed to simply be, they must always be connected to a man.
The last thing that irks me is that we're suppose to write a paper on African education for this class. Last night I sat down and wrote an outline, after considering what I think is most important for an education system. I thought back to a young man I had known in high school who had a learning disability that had made reading difficult. He got angry when the school decided to cut certain vocational training. Back then, I couldn't help but think how necessary that was, since he was probably going to get a job as a construction worker and would need classes like woodshop, where they always built homes in the class. At the same time, I myself was obviously college-bound, and I wanted to be educated in a way that prepared me for that. I've always believed the best education system is the one that allows for the most versatility and provides opportunities for all, not just a few. This was what my outline is about. Today, the teacher talked about that. Now I'm wondering if I should maybe rework my outline.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got

Sometimes, when I'm checking through the blogs I like to read, I come across information that really shocks me. Today's little tidbit was that it's been twenty years since Sinead O'Connor's I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got came out.
I was two when the album first came out, so I don't have memories that go that far back. I remember as a kid hearing "Nothing Compares 2 U," the Prince-written song that O'Connor famously covers. My Mother became enamored of a late night DJ when I was a tweens. He had a deep voice, and played sappy love songs until midnight, always playing "The Witching Hour" at the end of his set. Driving back from my Grandmother's home late at night, my Mother would listen to this, and usually break into tears. I can't tell you how many times my memories of certain well-loved but much trashed music from the 80s and the 90s and downtown Detroit was part of that time in my life. "Don't Stop Believin'" is a much more powerful song when you're coming from "South Detroit," that magical place that exists only in that song.
Flashforward to me being fifteen. The one and only time I visited my friend Owen at his Dad's house for a Pirates of the Caribbean party. (When only the first one was out...that's how long ago this was.) Owen was an incredible musician, though this wasn't why I had originally become friends with him. While hanging in his room, I made the mistake of looking through his music collection. Whenever I see someone's stuff, I inevitably have to ask "Can I borrow this? I want to burn it." Same thing here. I got a lot of great stuff that evening: Tea Party's Transmission, The Original Broadway Recording of Rent, Fiona Apple's Tidal, Poe's Haunted, punk rock covers of Rocky Horror, and even the UK version of The Cranberries's Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. One of those albums was O'Connor's.
As a fifteen year old, I immediately recognized "Nothing Compares 2 U" and was impressed by the high notes O'Connor hits, especially since I was training as a soprano. I fell for "I Am Stretched on Your Grave" pretty quickly, and honestly think someone should mix Bristol Sound-like beats with traditional Irish music more often.
Fastforward five years later, when I'm in England for the first (and so far only) time. I was in a class on the Black British experience, and was listening to music that Black Brits were making. I was loving that too. While researching the song "Jah Nuh Dead" I discovered that O'Connor had done a cover of the traditional reggae song. The song made a lot of sense to me, since I was reading the speeches of Marcus Garvey and watching films like The Harder They Come (and the related song) and bumming around Brixton's infamous market. I pulled out what I happened to have on my computer, which, thankfully, included this album. And I listened again.
And discovered that this album was more political than I had ever really noticed. It had been at least two years since I had listened to it last, so I had forgotten a lot of things. Being a politically-minded person, who wants to fight racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., I was happy to find someone I already liked was fighting for justice too. I quickly fell in love with "Black Boys on Mopeds," finally understanding the political context it was written in.
I discovered that O'Connor had been part of a band called Ton Ton Macoute, one that directly used world music. I've never come across anything by them, but I wish I could, since I've always enjoyed world music too.
One of the last days in London, I turned to "The Last Day of Our Acquaintance." The day before I left, there was a suicide of the Tube, which was one of the many unfortunate things that happens there on a regular basis. I got stuck on the Tube, and, in my melancholy at the thought of leaving, I contemplated a lot of the darker thoughts that I always manage to entertain. I ended up writing a short story based on that song, involving ruined love and abortion.
Listening to the album now, I can't help think of all those things. I love and appreciate art, and I always appreciate the artists who give voice to things I haven't succeeded yet in voicing myself. Hearing today that this album was twenty years old, I couldn't help think about how, even though it directly references the politics of the late 80s and early 90s, the album seems just as timely now and, like all great examples of art, has managed to infiltrate my imagination and my life.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This Final Term

Lately, I find myself annoyed with a few of my professors because I feel like they're not pulling their weight. It start three weeks ago, when a professor I've had multiple times gave a midterm. Although the basic format was the same, the questions asked on the midterm were surprisingly focused on a particular week's lectures, and the questions were short and vague. Neither of those things are like him. Usually, he writes questions that cover the widest range of topics that we got through in lecture. And they usually are pretty easy to write on, as long as you took notes in class and reviewed before the test. I've always felt that his exams were fair; he always asked us not to prove we knew everything but that we knew something about the topics at hand, and that we were critical thinkers who could synthesize that information in a way that made sense.
Today, in another class, we got a paper topic. That's right, a paper topic. Again, oddly vague, with little information, and from a professor who I usually think offers more. Offering one paper topic is risky, since the papers tend to be of lower quality. I also imagine the temptation to cheat is stronger, since everyone is already writing on the same topic anyway. I also dislike this professors bizarre habit this semester of asking us not to write traditional thesis papers but more creative narratives. I dislike that because I think it's important to be able to write coherently and persuasively, and because it seems like this class already struggles with that. (This professor complained, last paper, about students not using evidence to support their claims.)
I'm wondering if all my professors are so busy that they can't be bothered to do more for their classes beyond lecturing. If this is true, this could go either way for me. On one hand, they've had me before and both like me and think highly of me. So maybe they'll just kind of grade my work, checking to see I don't make any gross errors, and send me on my way. I have mixed feelings about that scenario, since I want to get good grades, but I also want to improve as a student, and making me feel bad about my work is the best way to motivate me. Rage has always been, for better or worse, the best way to get me to care. Or maybe my professors won't be paying attention and grade me down even if I don't deserve it. The latter scares me a little. I've worked so hard over these last few years, and I'm putting in more and more time to these classes. What I was really hoping to take this semester "off." I wasn't planning on giving up all my academic work, just taking some extra time to hang out for the last time with friends and have the kinds of good memories of this place.
I was thinking last week about the end of high school and how there was so much hooplah over it. I didn't want to do any of the things that one usually does: the ceremonies, the dances, the get-togethers. Some of it my Mom pushed me into doing, and the stuff we fought over the most was the stuff that I look back on and think was a waste of time. The few things I choose on my own were wonderful, and those are some of the limited good memories I have.
I wish I could choose to do those types of things now. I wish we had a senior skip day around here. Even though so many of my friends aren't seniors, hanging out with those that are, driving to and celebrating in Detroit or Canada or Cedar Point would be wonderful. I want to go to dances with these people, last dances. I want to have big parties with them. I want pictures, and presents, and, hell, even some tears. I need that now, and I'm sad that college graduation doesn't get treated that way. Graduating high school was glorious because I hated it there. But I love MSU and the thought of leaving makes me so sad. I want an opportunities to enjoy myself, with the people I love most, if only so I can say that I made every last second here count.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Medieval Architecture

Today in class we had a slide show about medieval architecture. I really liked learning about this, even though I basically know nothing about architecture. (I'm a little more up on medieval history, thankfully.)
One of the many things I use history class for is travel tips. Hopefully, I will one day go back to Europe, and when I do, I want to see a lot of these things, like Saint Denis and the Monte Cassino.
The last time I was in Europe, I hung out mostly in southern England, which was awesome. I ended up going to a lot of centers for Christian worship. I went to famous places, like Glastonberry Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral, but I also found myself going to smaller churches, like St. Michael Paternoster, which is famous for holding the remains of a man the Lord Mayor of London four times. Or St. Anne and St. Agnes, where I got to listen to a Mozart concert. Or St. Edmund, King and Martyr, which is now actually a bookstore specializing in, you guessed it, religious books. I went to other churches and had other adventures, and I won't bore you with details, but I ended up being a church obsessive, though hardly on purpose.
If my professor keeps up the discussion on church architecture, it's only going to become worse. My next trip to Europe, whenever that comes, is just going to have more churches.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Last Day of Break

So, today is the last day of break, which means everyone is coming back here. I love days like this, since they are little mini-reunions. Even though I thought break went by way too fast, I still miss all my friends. Getting to see them again, giving them hugs, asking how they are, hearing about their adventures: those things are always fun.
Break was mostly good this time. I got a ton of stuff done, which hopefully means I'll be less grouchy and stressed in the coming weeks. (My friends will almost certainly appreciate this.) Plus, the quiet was wonderful. Gave me time to slow down and enjoy the little things.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I don't dream often, but today I was pleasantly surprised by one today. I was living and working at a bohemian home decor boutique. I lived in the attic, which was just a narrow room, with white washed walls and little room for a bed. It had one window, without curtains, and, because it was summer, it was always open, and the breeze meandered its way in all day.
In addition to selling fake flowers and fabrics and paint, we had a stall outside in front of the store where we sold vegetables. I worked with this handsome young man. He wasn't particularly tall but had dark brown hair that sat in tight curls on his head and dark brown eyes. I was almost as beautiful as him, with short dark hair, with thin blond highlights. We would stand near out hardwood stand, enjoying the sunshine. For some reason he loved me, though I couldn't fathom why.
My boss was this woman still in her thirties. She too, had short auburn hair and freckles. She was always eating. "Don't eat too much of my bread," she warned me. "I eat fifteen slices sometimes a day." It was perfect bread, the kind that is soft and has a slight flavor. In addition to running a store, she made candy treats, which I was trying to convince her to sell. "They would be a huge hit around here, and in Ann Arbor and-"
You know how dreams sometimes are.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"I Like Your Skirt"

Today in church, while I was getting the wine, the lady serving it to me whispered "I like your skirt." I was wearing the one that is black and white and has sort of a jungle-like print.
"Thank you," I whispered back.
Is that even okay, whispering about things that have nothing to do God, when you're receiving His blood? Probably not.
But I'm okay with that.
I really like going to church on Friday's, even though I usually can't go because of work. It's mostly old ladies, who are really friendly and nice and sometimes gossip a little. They're cute.
They make me think about what I want to be like when I'm old. I hope I'm riding a motorcycle and wearing leather (and am this badass) and going to church and traveling and writing angry diatribes on the Internet and collecting pins and sending old friends random stuff in the mail. I hope I live in a big, dark Victorian house up on a hill, and that all the neighborhood children and pets are afraid of me. Whenever someone's baseball falls into the yarn, the kids scatter. And then I sell those baseballs back to them at the neighborhood garage sale for a ridiculous price. And that there are awesome guys that are coming in and out of my house all the time that everyone knows what I'm doing with but doesn't want to think about. Basically, like I am now, but even stranger and more random.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A New Breed of Turistas

One of the best things about hanging around MSU for break is how quiet it is. As much as I love the people I'm around, I sometimes need time to be alone with my thoughts, and breaks are always a good moment for that.
Which is why the caf being invaded by turistas is particularly disappointing.
It's so rare that the caf is quiet during the normal school year, and these turistas are a bunch of high school kids, so on top of wandering around and getting in your way and not apparently understanding how lines work, they also feel they're entitled to be that way. Oh, and their parent chaperons feel the need to yell at the card swipers. Because, clearly, it's the card swipers fault the parent loss their meal ticket.
Watching these high schools students brings some of my worst thoughts about high school back to me. The organization that is here this week is predominately white, and I have only spotted three African American girls and one member whose exact ethnic heritage and gender were unclear to me, but he/she was definitively not white. One of the African Americans girls was sitting alone at a table. I watched a young man, on his way to food, put his hands up as if to be appalled by her, making sure, of course, that his little group of friends were watching and she wasn't.
I never understand how anyone can idolize high school, especially in comparison with college. There's so much more freedom, especially from people who you don't want to be around. The only thing I can understand is being proud of yourself as a high schooler. When I think back to how I behaved, I'm struck by how I mostly stayed true to myself and how important it was to me to stick up for those who I thought were treated unfairly. I know what I would have done if that boy and I were peers.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wave at the Window

My Dad came and visited me today. I got up early and tidied my room up a bit first. I cleaned it about a week ago, so it's mostly nice looking, but I did things like made the bed, cleaned up all my Vernors bottles, and Febreezed the place. Last semester, my father gave me a ten minute warning before showing up at my place at 10 o'clock on a Saturday morning, and I scrambled to make the place look respectable. He came in, and noticing the bed, said "What? You can't make your bed?" I was still in my jim-jams and my hair was still as messy as an explosion in an umbrella factory. Thankfully, that did not happen today, because my Dad called last night.
Because I recently had my birthday, he also bought me presents. I was thinking, since I didn't come home for the holiday, that I wouldn't be getting anything. I got Lost season five, Mary, Queen of Scots, Anne of a Thousand Days, and a crucifix. Obviously, I loved all of it. I'm still watching Lost, though I sometimes find myself wondering why. And I'm a huge history nerd, so the two movies depicting Tudor royalty is totally awesome. (I actually saw Anne of a Thousand Days, but it was years ago; I was at most fifteen.) I also collect crucifixes, so having a new one is nice. It's not the sort of design I would pick out for myself. I kind of looks like something a Spanish conquistador would wear over his breast-plate, and thinking about it like that makes me like it. Also, I love gauche jewelry in general, so it was a good choice. (In fact, I want to decorate my future home/apartment with as much ticky-tact stuff as possible.) Is it tasteless? Then I'm in love. I was actually surprised I didn't get a book, given that I am a literature dork and that my Mom told me she had bought The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I'm wondering, since she said she had enjoyed the first few chapters, if she decided to keep it for herself. If so, then I'm proud of myself, since the last time my Mom read a book it was while we were on a family vacation in 2002 and it was House of Sand and Fog. (Take a wild guess who gave her that suggestion.) If I accidentally got my Mom reading, then I can hold off on getting my book.
My Dad and I went out for lunch. We mostly talked about my Dad's new job. He's decided to go back to teaching. He's going to be teaching a science class for elementary education majors. He's already decided that the students are probably going to be idiots, even though he hasn't met them yet. (Sounds like most professors I love. They already have contempt for people.) He complained that he's not sure what kind of labs he can run, and asked for my lab books and notes. I almost certainly have something, since I'm a bit of a packrat, but they're probably at home, and I don't like to send people to dig through my stuff, since they might find something they're not suppose to.
He also complained that he doesn't like the way the lab classroom is set up (not enough safety stuff, only one exit). I told him about my evolution lab that I did when I was in basic biology. Basically, we had spread out four types of beans on a table and called then prey and used utensils as predators. We then had thirty second periods to "eat" (grab with utensil and deposit in a cup) the food, charting the kinds of beans that it was easiest for our utensils to eat, and watching predators and prey select on one another. My Dad thought this was a great idea, even though my labmates were not necessarily impressed by this "experiment." (I have to admit I wasn't either, if only because evolution already made sense to me.) But it's a good conceptual way to think about it, and it requires some activity.
We got some housekeeping stuff done (figured out graduation stuff, etc.) and then he decided to leave. My Dad is always trying to get out of here when he comes, since he hates driving at night.
When I was a little girl, every time one of my parents would leave, I would go run to one of the windows in the front of our house and wave to my parents as they drove away. When I came to college, I started doing a similar sort of thing, only this time waving from one of the door windows at the bottom of the stairwells. I did this again today, one of the last times. It' s a nice tradition. Sometimes I tear up a little, but I'm not even totally sure why.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Frances E.W. Harper

So, I'm slowly working through a thesis right now. I like what I'm writing about a lot (political female poets from the 19th century), but I feel very sluggish about it. I hate sitting in my room writing papers. It's been really bothering me. I would much rather grab some reading I have to do for a class and read in another part of the building. And I hate sitting anywhere for long periods of time, so I find I'm moving myself a lot. Basically, I'm having trouble getting much done.
One of the poets I'm writing about is Frances E.W. Harper, who is most famous for her poem "Bury Me in a Free Land." The first time I ran across her poem, I was shocked by how good it was, particularly the imagery. When I discovered she was a free African-American woman writing during and after the Civil War, well, I knew I had stumbled across something important.
I want to write a poem celebrating her, but every time I sit down to write that, it just comes out a mess. How did these old school poets write things like elegies?

Monday, March 8, 2010

In Bloom

A most marvelous thing today: I was out walking and I realized I was warm. This alone made me excitable. Then I had to take off my coat, and spent fifteen minutes walking like that, all the way home. Spring must really be coming. Last year, we had a long winter, but this year, I am happy to announce that it seems it'll be shorter. It felt so good to walk about in my normal clothing without having to wear a coat or a sweater or a hoodie. Before you know it, we'll be studying outside and having lunch and dinner on the patio. I can not honestly wait.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Let's Talk Luke 13

As it was Sunday, I went to church. I actually am enjoying church a lot these days, though I suspect that it is mostly because I have a little group of friends I go with, and each and every person in the group is wonderful, and I love spending time with them, church or not. Because it's break right now, I had to go earlier in the day and none of those particular friends were around, having gone home. At Christmas mass back home, I was struck by how much I missed those friends and wished I was enjoying Christmas with them instead of my family. I like singing with them, and how one of them has such long legs that he has to sort of scrunch into the seat, I even like how one of them checks his watch at least once every mass. So, today, I was sans that, and I missed them.
Also, I ended up not donating my money, because I couldn't find it. I was really annoyed, because I made a point of making sure I brought some. After mass, when I was searching my pockets for keys, I found it. Of course.
Annoyed priests are funny. Someone was sitting in the back of the church and repeating the prayers really loudly and on a five second delay. It was clearly an adult male's voice, and possibly someone with special needs. When it first started, people were turning around and trying to see who it was. I resisted until after Eucharist, and then I started looking too (because they were still doing it, and why hadn't anyone politely asked him to shush?) The priest was clearly annoyed, his eyes turned into slits after the third or fourth outburst and stayed that way.
The reading was Luke 13, the Parable of the Fig Tree. The priest mentioned something today that was really interesting: figs do best when they are neglected. The way the priest described them, it sounded like they were actually a crop that required a lot of work in the beginning but could be profitable and low maintenance later, like coffee or cocoa. (Which made me wonder briefly if figs get intercropped a lot.) But after a certain point, they flourish with nothing. The priest gave a different interpretation of the parable than this, but this struck me as an important detail. The fig tree is the ideal Christian: God plants us, and we always are at our best when things are tough, because that's when we flourish.
This seems better connected with the previous Lenten reading, where a different priest lectured about how God loves us best when things are awful and we choose to keep going.
I know that some of my friends consider this crazy, to love stories like this, but I really do. I derive strength from it. Last week, I was upset about some stuff because I knew what I had to do, and I knew things could get bad. (They turned out, given the situation, relatively well and much better than I imagined.) I like knowing that God smiles at me when crap happens and I still keep the faith.
Lent this year is turning out really well. I feel like, for the first time, I've been really doing it, not just in ceremony, with getting the ashes or even giving things up, but with putting trust in God and listening to my heart.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pilot Season

So, this is normally the time of year when producers, writers and actors are working on pilots for next year's tv lineups. I know this because I am a pop culture cultist, and because I found that this was the first thing that popped into my head when I realized I had to write a first post for this blog, Dispatches from the Real World, or, as I was originally going to call it, My-Way-Of-Making-Up-To-Certain-People-Who-Shall-Remain-Unnamed-Over-The-Whole-Not-Being-On-Facebook-Thing.
I feel like I should write this first post as a manifesto, but I'm feeling surprisingly tired and undramatic, the former of which is normal, the latter of which is not. So I'm sort of at a loss as to what to say.
My goal is simple: instead of having Facebook, like everyone else, I have decided to start this blog as a way to keep up with my friends once I leave Michigan State, which is (hopefully) going to happen at the end of this semester. That way, my Spartan friends can know all about my adventures and thoughts (and can, if they choose to, respond to them), and I can maintain some of the privacy that has always been important to me. I would actually rather use other forms of communication to keep in touch with people, as I am a huge fan of correspondences, which are time-consuming, but, long-term, have always made me feel closer to those people who I otherwise don't see often.
Obviously, I titled the blog "Dispatches From the Real World" because that is where I am probably about to go. (Unless I go to grad school, at which point, I am going to be running up that Ivory Tower, despite my fear of heights.) I'm embarrassed to say that I am actually afraid of what the near future will be like, so maybe writing about bits and pieces will help me. Maybe.
In terms of subject matter, I guess this will mostly be about boring details of my life and thoughts on the various texts I encounter. I'm an English major (hence the impending joblessness), and although I love my major, it's made me more peculiar than I previously was. For example, I analyze everything. I was sitting in a certain cafeteria not too long ago and mentally wrote a short close reading of its columns (if you've seen those columns, and if you're reading this blog, there's a fair chance you have, you know that this is probably insane.) It's hard for me not to look/read/listen to anything without feeling the need to analyze it, however briefly. I'm sure for the less critical of my friends, this can get pretty irritating. It also makes me sound like a negative Nancy, because no matter how most critics try, it's very hard to write a glowing review that is interesting (Unless you're this critic, and can not only write the truth beautifully, but have great taste.) So, mostly, I am forever having thoughts about these things and am not always in the mood for protests from those I share them with, which are so rarely the right sorts of protests, the ones that push back on my critical thought with more critical thought, but the tired "I don't want to consider that something might be sexist/racist/imperfect, etc." argument that always leaves me marveling at how people blind themselves and are never the better for it. So I would like to have space to discuss those thoughts on occasion, and inevitably I will probably end up writing more on this than my personal life because my life is never as interesting to me as the rest of the world, because I'm not interested in using this space to libel/criticize/annihilate someone, and because those things (books, movies, tv shows, music) are always ripe for critical thought. Even Shakespeare gets the occasional reinterpretation. Go ask postcolonial critics.
I suppose, since I am writing this to certain people, I will take "requests", by which I mean I will write on a subject, if you ask politely, as long as it doesn't violate my other goals with writing this blog.
But this is a transitional thing. I'm not even sure if this is going to last, after all, as I have already indicated, we're in pilot season. Think of this blog, for the moment, in pilot mode. I'm going to review at the end of the semester and the end of the summer if this is working (both for me as a writer and for my intended audience. If you qualify in the intended audience category, I would love any feedback, positive or negative, you have about this.)
I'm always amazed at my ability to defy the law of conservation of mass and make something out of nothing. I've managed a manifesto of sorts without even setting down to say anything other than the truth. This bodes well.