Saturday, March 11

almost twelve years ago...

so I find myself writing/typing/thinking/articulating this phrase "almost twelve years ago" more frequently than normal lately. so many relevant things happened in the fall of 2005, I guess. I was finishing my last year as an undergraduate student. looking for internships and reveling in all the learning and work and writing and code. it's weird to remember.

twelve years ago exactly, the first Tournament of Books was going on. this year's tournament, the 13th of its kind, just started this week. I haven't even read the second match yet. no time.

as excited as I am about Tournament of Books season, I am also quite excited about spring conference season. I'll be flying next week to Portland, to present at the ATTW conference and to see old alumni friends at the reunion our program at Purdue always hosts the night before CCCCs. I'm looking forward to all of it (including rainy Portland weather).

it doesn't feel like springtime at all, but eventually I'll be able to open my windows again and start seeing my plants grow faster. I hope.

it doesn't feel like springtime at all yet, but I'm getting married in 47 days.

still need to figure out flowers.

two more days to finish writing an important paper.

three more days to finish preparing my conference presentation.

and in the meantime, I kind of want to see this movie. and this one. and maybe all these others friend Patti wrote about the other week?

Saturday, February 25

a day for not going on walks

I was going to get up just before sunrise today, and go for a walk, but it was snowing. and my waking self decided to think about dreams (they were, from what I remember, about deep blue love, yarn and instructions) instead.

the day has taken me other directions. podcasts. LibriVoxing. reading interesting snippets. writing out thoughts. watering plants.

it's still a bit too cold to go for a very enjoyable walk today. reading and writing are much more appropriate.



this was the xkcd on Wednesday. it resonated enormously, matching up with all my recent feelings of having too many screens in my face all the time. mostly it's work. but also twitter and email and youtube and endless vacillating between distractions and productivity and in-between.

I used to leave the house without my phone all the time. maybe I should do more of that. just every once in a while.

I also used to write in paper notebooks much more than I seem to do these days. I definitely should do more of that. just let me finish this blogpost first.

ps: this audio series is adorable and if you like music and adventure, you will probably like it.




Thursday, February 16

decades and half-decades

dearest Jeremiah and I finished the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer last month. it felt sort of odd to finish it after so long. seven long seasons of twenty or so 40-minute episodes, set in the familiar, bygone half-decade of 1997-2003. not that long ago. but also half my life ago.

speaking of bygone decades, and along more responsible/academic lines, I have been obsessively skimming old wikipedia versions from 2006, and blogposts from 2006 and 2007 (in the archives of http://hughmcguire.net/ and http://textosolvo.net/archives/) and listening to these eclectic old podcasts (I'm up to the ones from 2008 now-- it's slow going). did I know podcasts existed back in 2008? no, I did not. 2008 had a lot of stuff in it that I missed.

as I trace LibriVox here and there across the last decade of the internet, I'm finding myself absorbed in miscellaneous newsy pieces about how cool the project is. they still get talked about now, too, but there's less awe about it these days, it seems like. in 2007 there was more awe. in 2008 it was still new and exciting to see what all these volunteers were actually accomplishing. crowdsourced things like this don't seem that amazing anymore, do they? we can blink and a million people have donated $5 each to fund a new game or show or product. a few thousand audiobooks isn't necessarily so special.

the history of all this awe and excitement fading into yeah-okay-old-hat-ness is deeply fascinating to me at the moment. the insatiable, detail-oriented parts of my brain want to chronicle and storify every moment of the development of this project, and all the murmurings and discussions and controversy and publicity surrounding it, too. I find myself idly wondering if I should've studied history instead of writing. if I should wander off and study history instead...

but now that I think on it, studying history doesn't sound as fun as writing history. can you do the later without the former? hmm.

I may end up finding some compromise and incorporating historiography into my dissertation somehow. that might work just fine.

anyway. after we finished Buffy, it was my turn to choose the next show. Sherlock. because dearest Jeremiah had not seen any shred of it at all. but now he has, and we are on the verge of the most recent season. it's all going by much quicker, since there only four seasons of three episodes each--though they are longer mini-series-style episodes and not as easy to squeeze in while you're eating breakfast.

Tuesday, January 31

with eyes unclouded by hate

hello January's end. here we are. and a few weeks back I decided, determinedly, that even though my once weekly blogging habit has been set aside on and off for quite some time now, I cannot let this blog die. so the new blogging goal is two posts per month. one of them shall take a somewhat serious form, and the other shall be about anything at all that might come to mind.

I don't know which this one counts as, this time.

earlier this month Jeremiah and I went to see the 20-year-old classic anime Princess Mononoke, which I thought I might have seen before at some point in those two decades, but could not actually remember. in the theatre, the opening art did stir a few memories, but other than that I had no recollection of the film.

I just went to search friend Melanie's blog to see if she's reviewed Princess Mononoke. so far it is featured here for its beautifulness, and mentioned in a handful of other posts, but there is no full review for me to defer to (yet).

we saw the dubbed English version, with script by that one British author you may have heard of, Neil Gaiman. Princess Mononoke is definitely beautiful, and a complex, funny, and fairly moving film. not many films succeed at moving this amelia person, but this one did, in a subtle, lasting sort of way. I have found the story worth pondering even weeks later. our questing protagonist is full of honor and self-sacrifice and talent, but he is not perfect and does not ultimately save the day (not entirely, anyway, and certainly not by himself). our title heroine is stealthy-fierce, all mysterious and vengeful. there are no simple characterizations, no straight tropes. the film bends this way and that way and it surprises you.

I liked what Leah Schnelbach says in this piece (it is spoiler-y, fair warning) about the multi-facetedness of the characters and the realness and meaning of the story. it's good stuff:  people and their worlds are complex, actions have consequences, plurality and balance are ideals, and hate from any side--no matter how 'righteous'--will poison everything.

the soundtrack behind this film is also exceedingly lovely. the themes and story have depth that makes my brain smile. so yeah. Princess Mononoke is on a very short list of movies that I'd much enjoy watching again every so often.

Wednesday, January 25

background signal

what if it were illegal to yell?

part of me almost sort of likes that idea. criminalizing all the obnoxious, excess noise...

101 years ago, a fellow named Dan McKenzie published a book called The City of Din: A Tirade Against Noise. someday I will have time to read it and when that time comes I'll be so excitedly interested I can hardly imagine it. The City of Din is a public domain text (available via the Hathi Trust), so maybe someday I'll read it (calmly and softly and in a lovely, quiet room) for LibriVox.

McKenzie's tirade was made known to me by Russell Davies, who blogged about it in the context of a more recent book: The Age of Noise in Britain. that one also sounds like a fascinating-to-me book. there is always so much and more to read. not enough time.

what I am reading (still), is Benkler's The Wealth of Networks. I'm treading water in this fat, deep treatise, soaking up quarts and quarts of 10-year-old wisdom about humans, technology, ideology, policy, and the economy. this quote stood out to me yesterday, and I transcribed it first into a notebook and then into this blogpost:
“culture operates as a set of background assumptions and common knowledge that structure our understanding of the state of the world and the range of possible actions and outcomes open to us individually and collectively.” (p. 297)
a few pages on he points to a need for us to study how culture works on us, how it influences policies, how it does its structuring and how it draws its lines. he writes, “we must diagnose what makes culture more or less opaque to its inhabitants…” (p. 299). Benkler consistently uses a metaphor of containment and habitation in this discussion. culture is all around us. it's what we swim and breathe and see in.

of course that reminded me of David Foster Wallace's renowned speech (do you remember me blogging about it before, once?)--"This is Water," as it's sometimes called. this video rendition is rather neat. go watch it if you haven't. it isn't that long. not even 9 whole minutes. totally worth it, believe me.

in other related and semi-relevant things-I've-been-reading lately, there is an article (stumbled upon via the smacksy blog) about how powerful it can be to recognize the frames of your own perspective. I'm thinking that the phrase “the story I’m telling myself is…” can easily be adapted into “the culture I’m swimming in says…”. either mental trick can pull us out of our bubbles for a moment or two, help us remember our limits and our contexts, yes, but also our agency and our responsibilities. it's empowering to reflect on the background structure of your whole life. to actively participate and acknowledge your role in either accepting/reinforcing or resisting/revising the culture you swim in--that seems important. that's what it takes to make all of that power and structure more open-book, more readable, more transparent and less like a vice.

today, in my LibriVox researching (I'm almost one year into all ten+ years of these), I wound my way over to this set of slides from a 2007 podcasting conference. I'm curious what the spoken half of the talk must have been like, but the slides do stand alone pretty well. transparency is a theme there, too. openness and empowerment.

I do not think I would really want yelling to be illegal. a quieter culture might be nice, and if I can in some small part bend my world that direction, maybe I should. but then I think about how subjective it will always be. what's horrible noise to me would be awesome entertainment to someone else, and what's perfectly comfortable background music to me could be uselessly inaudible to the next person.

and then there's the whole issue of times when making some serious noise seems useful, meaningful, and lastingly important. it's probably very meaningful and important that yelling is not illegal.

Monday, December 19

among other small beauties

a Monday. the first Monday of winter break, post-finals-week.

everything seems quite disorganized. I should be writing, revising, Librivoxing. my to-do list is a frayed tangle, pulling me in a dozen unproductive directions.

I should be writing. drafting a proposal for this and thinking of ideas to submit to an edited collection, prepping course materials for next semester's class-- English 203: Introduction to Research for Professional Writing. I have articles to finish for submission to this journal and maybe that journal.

and I should be finding time to listen to sections of this audiobook and this backlog of podcast episodes. I want to be reading and recording sections of this collection about libraries, and then the narrator's liens for this play, and eventually all of this (except probably not the footnotes).

and then when am I going to stretch out in a warm, quiet room to read or finishing reading Les Miserables, which I got for Christmas at least two Christmases ago, and The Myth of Sisyphus, which I'm still in the middle of, and How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis?

when when when?

I'm feeling paralyzed by it all, and hence this frenzied blogpost. a selfish little piece of writing that I can get done in half an hour or so, and not stress very much about.

earlier today, browsing the pretty social media land of snapshots that is Instagram, I scrolled onto this simple, homey little image from knitting expert Bonnie Sennott. seeing it-- this beautifully neat, orderly, hand-made piece of art, part of a series she's been working on all year, stitch by stitch, day by day--made me so out-of-nowhere happy. I was so deeply sloshingly at-sea happy for a moment, to glimpse that careful, beautiful thing from inside my tangle of unorganized, unmotivated, unfinishedness.

my tangles of writing and reading and listening will take some time and some dancing with entropy. I'll get somewhere with it all, little by little, day by day.

Wednesday, November 30

soaps

I've been planning this all month long (but still managed to wait til almost midnight to write the actual review here)-- it is a simple ode to my lovely sister Marianne and her lovely soap business. 

today is the last day of my review-writing, and also sister's birthday! it also happens to be the day on which Oscar Wilde died, way back in 1900, but that is only relevant in a sideways jokey sort of not-really way. 

dear sister started her Etsy soap shop a year or so ago. I still remember eagerly ordering a few bars in the name of being supportive family-member. and I still remember getting my hands on an orange-scented bar that had my shower suddenly smelling so delicious and orangey I couldn't believe it.

I have loved this soap ever since. especially the orange-scented stuff. 




I have borrowed a few beautiful, beautiful photos from the Pebble Bay Soaps instagram feed. the soap Marianne makes is not only awesome soap, it is practically art.



the shop also has a facebook page. every so often she'll post discounts and giveaways and free samples and such there.



not every scent in her catalogue is my favourite, but most of the ones I've tried are really good.

and the bath bombs! I don't often take full baths, but when I have time to do so, these bath bombs are a great excuse for it. they smell magnificent, and they make your skin feel all smooth and wonderful.


I still want to try the salt scrubs sometime. that'll be my next "supportive family-member" purchase, probably.

so happy birthday to my sister, and happy end-of-November to everyone else.

Tuesday, November 29

from machine, toward what?

most people who know me know I get incredibly picky about movies. it is an awful snobbishness, an unshakeable sensitivity to predictable tropes and shallow sappy mush. in my silly opinion, most films are tolerable, a few are worth having seen but not much else, and a few are utter wastes of time. and a very, very few are masterful, provocative constructions that I'd definitely watch multiple times in order to get the most out of them that can possibly be gotten.

my list of movies I find significant fault with is pretty long. much of the time it's endings-- they're too neat, or too pathetic, or too conventional. I'm incredibly picky about endings of things.

my list of movies I hate is short, and my list of movies I love is somewhere in the middle. former favourites or near-favourites have included The Princess Bride, the BBC's Pride and Prejudice, A Beautiful MindFight Club, Seven Pounds. maybe Inception.

I went to see Ex Machina pretty much on a whim. because I'm so dreadfully picky about films, I don't often bother with seeing things in theatres. but friend Eric had mentioned he was going; I idly looked up the trailer and decided to tag along. I'd done the same with various other films friend Eric and/or friend Sam planned to see. Guardians of the Galaxy was alright. Mr. Holmes was alright.

Ex Machina was astonishingly good. magnificently astonishing.

ex-machina-movie
{ borrowed from this kind soul on Flickr }

it had all the thought-provoking subtlety that I demand of a good film, along with great art and believable/relatable characters, and nothing at all slow or boring or in-the-way of the story. the settings and sequences carry such spotlessness and shine

the ending spun to a stop with a thrilling momentum, yet at the same time with all the delicate, delicious unpredictability I could ever want.

writing about it now, I'm reminded a little of the way Seven Pounds winds back on itself with its puzzling pieces of morbid evidence. but Ex Machina only barely leaves room for us to recognize our own disbelief or suspense--by the time its beautiful twists were unfolding I just had to let them wash over me and my expectations like an avalanche of something wide-open different, ambiguous and unsettling.

I immediately wanted to see it again. in the dark of that theater, gaping, speechless, I just wanted to start all over and keep thinking about the story and the future and the brilliant composition of words-pictures-acting I'd just seen.

if you haven't seen it yet, I'll watch it with you. just name the weekend.


here are a few miscellaneous and relatively unimportant footnotes, for anyone interested in reading more about Amelia's new very favourite film:
summary and info from the production studio
other films from the same studio, some of which I should find and watch to see if I enjoy them as much as I did this one.
some words on the fancy, remote, Scandinavian locations

Monday, November 28

if you ever are in Houston...

occasionally I still get emails from a little caribbean fusion restaurant in Houston, Texas. I haven't unsubscribed from those yet, for some reason. possibly it's because the owners were so gloriously nice to me last year when I was planning the reunion for our Purdue Rhetoric & Composition program. Heidi, the woman I spoke to about organizing our event at Calabash Island Eats, was the epitome of loveliness and accommodation. her venue was likewise lovely, and all the attendees at our reunion last spring seemed to enjoy the evening very much. the restaurant was close to the convention center, the weather and the space were as comfortable as anyone could imagine, there was plenty of food and drink, and we didn't go too much over our little budget.

just today (around 6pm EST, 3pm PST) I started calling around to potential reunion venues in Portland, Oregon. thanks (endless thanks!) to friend Ellery and his sister Bethany--both charming Portlanders--I had a great list of recommendations to work with. I'm slowly winnowing out the places that are too far from next year's convention center, places that look too small, places that don't seem to do private bookings, places that want more money than we can spend, and so on. there are 5 venues left on my potential venue list so far...

so this process is reminding me of all the phonecalls I made last year. all the harried restaurant managers and hospitality professionals who promised to call me back and didn't, or who never answered my emails, or who scoffed that I had waited until November to book this Wednesday night thing for April. Heidi at Calabash did none of those things, and made my job a thousand times less stressful. if you are ever in Houston, it is a place worth checking out.

Sunday, November 27

verrückt Zusammengehörigkeit

most of these are old sketches.


imperfectly photographed for reproduction on this little blog.


in case your German is beyond rusty, verrückt means "crazy" and zusammen means "together."


die Wort Zusammengehörigkeit ist mein Lieblingswort auf Deutsch.


I drew this scribbly sky over snow just the other week though, while I listened to Ron Chernow talk.

maybe I will copy it and make a Christmas card or two. it won't be anything like the old days of bespoke Christmas-card-making, but it might be okay anyway.