Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No updates, you say?

Why no, no updates at all.  You can blame Veronica Mars and Netflix Watch Instantly.  Lemon out.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"I just don't understand what people want from me. I just don't really understand what I'm doing."

Whether by coincidence or by some underlying psychological pull to such books, the novels I've read recently have all dealt, in some way or other, with fundamental questions of growing up and growing into an identity.  This is an apt time in my life for the exploration of these questions.  Whether, in the end, it is or not, this time feels momentous, like I'm on the precipice of some great change, as if everything before has been merely prologue and this—this!—is life.  The plot is about to begin.  Though thinking too much about the connections between these novels and my own life might be more introspection than is strictly healthy. 

Right now I'll briefly discuss one of the novels, the most recent one.  And maybe the others later.

The characters of Keith Gessen's All the Sad Young Literary Men are familiar with the problem of slightly unhealthy levels of introspection.  The novel (really, three novellas with little plot overlap) tells the stories of Mark, a seemingly perpetual graduate student in history who is struggling both to complete his dissertation and sort out his love life; Sam, who is determined to write the great zionist novel but lacks focus or conviction; and Keith, a Harvard grad political commentator/critic whose story is the only one told in the first person.  While the latter shares a name with the author, it seems that these aspiring intellectuals all represent pieces of Gessen's persona, aspects of himself; he knows these characters because he is these characters.

They're constantly trying to make sense of their own lives in terms of historical forces.  Mark sees parallels to his life in the actions of Russian revolutionaries (the subject of his dissertation) and Sam is always comparing his trials and travails to Israel's history.  Who are they to become?  What impact will they have on the culture?  They are self-obsessed.  (At one point, Sam becomes Very Concerned about his “google,” the number of hits that come up when his name is entered into google.)  They're smart, but they lack focus.  

In the end, the book was most successful in evoking a feeling—a  place in time—in the lives of young people striving to matter, striving to think Big Thoughts and contribute in a meaningful way to our understanding of ourselves and our historical epoch.  It was less successful as a character study or as a work of story-telling.  The characters were less conceived as characters and more as aspects of the author's self.  The tone seemed slightly at odds with the intention of the book.  Everything a little too ironic, a little to satirical, for a book that is trying to say something earnestly.  And I believe that it was trying to say something earnestly.

Tomorrow (or sometime.. you know...): The Magicians by Lev Grossman

over my character limit.

I'm not at work today. Obviously. I am, however, determined to spend my day productively. (You know, cleaning, packing, all of those things one ought to do before an impending move.) What better way to start a day than breakfast? I had a fantastic smoothie, consisting of: a banana, some frozen blueberries, a handful of oatmeal, a handful of baby spinach, orange juice, and soy milk. The spinach lent it a lovely green color.

I started to blog again because I thought, well, maybe I'd blog about substantive things. But here I am, telling you what I had for breakfast. It's like twitter, without the 140-character limit. That sounds like a nightmare for everyone involved.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I have to come up with a title, too?

If I'm really going to start doing this again (am I going to start doing this again??), I suppose I have to begin somewhere. Bullet points seem by far the most reasonable way to ease into blogging again, without having to actually compose an actual post about an actual thing. As always, I do not presume that you care about any of this, &tc.

  • I'm vegan for the month of July. There was really no good reason for this, and I've regretted it ever since the second week. But there's so little time left at this point that I figure I ought to stick it out, on principle. Though, is there really any principle, seeing as I've strayed twice--once perfectly intentionally? (It was 6:30am and involved free coffee. Yes, I drank, despite the presence of skim cow's milk.) I have found that I cook more (and take more delight in my cooking) when my options for eating out and eating conveniently are so restricted. Permanent veganism is not an option, really, but would be attractive for precisely this reason.
  • In August, I will begin drinking soda again. I swore off of it last August (for boring, silly, coke-and-pepsi-are-perfectly-evil-companies sorts of reasons; you know...), so now it's been a year. I don't miss it much. Except for Coke Zero, which I crave daily. For all that I was once severely addicted to diet dr. pepper, the prospect of drinking it again hardly excites much enthusiasm. But coke zero, better than "real" coke and fifteen times better than diet coke--I am counting the days until I can crack open that first can. Reunited. I'll figure out something meaningful and important to do about the problem of evil, multinational soda companies later.
  • I'm working at the census office in Sherman--have been since January--and find the prospect of leaving both exciting and sad. Exciting, in that I'm leaving Denison (after two long years), and sad, in that I've liked both the job and my coworkers more than I expected (and perhaps more than I've let on when discussing said job with friends).
  • I went swimming at the lake yesterday. It was nice. Why can't I tan??
  • I find myself immersed in fiction, even if not necessarily the fiction I'd like to be immersed in. What I want to be reading I'm finding resistant to true immersion.
  • I am moving. And I have a (probably literal) ton of books. I would like to buy new, exciting bookshelves, but this is likely out of the budget and thus out of the question. I will also need furniture more generally. Craigslist seems promising for this sort of thing.
  • I'm sure I'll have an election night party in November. You should come.
  • I cannot find Ricky Raccoon. Anywhere. Ever since I saw Toy Story 3, I've felt like an irresponsible toy owner. He must think I've abandoned him. I suppose I have.
  • I don't feel nearly so bad for my Scarlett O'Hara Barbie dolls. I don't know where they are. I am a bit sad to say that I don't particularly care. Bitches. Poor Rhett Butler.
  • Lost is over and I cannot help but feel that this is a good development for me. I have a sneaking suspicion that, despite how caught up I got in the excitement, that show wasn't as good as I thought it was.
  • I realize this isn't an update and it isn't new, but did you know that I never use the shift key for a capital letter? I always press the caps lock key, strike the letter I require, and then press caps lock again. Is this odd? Just terribly inefficient? It goes so quickly and so naturally that I hardly ever notice it. I wonder when I picked it up?
  • Also, I think I have a new career goal.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I was searching for something completely unrelated to this blog. And one of the first results that google gave me linked me to my own, long abandoned blog.

This began a procrastinatory spiral of re-reading my latter college and grad school years as filtered through the pages of this often whiny blog. There's something exciting about reliving your own experiences, recorded in the immediacy of the moment, with the perspective that only time can give.

I think I might blog again. I mean, blogs are so 2005, right? But sometimes the 140 characters that you get on twitter just aren't enough. And, presumably, what with going back to school in the fall, moving away from Denison, I will have lots of fascinating things to relate to you, dear (hypothetical) reader. Presumably, also, you be very interesting in hearing these things.

I am presuming a lot.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hey, I still exist!

Just not really over here anymore. Try twitter?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

oh yeah--Teach for America, part 2

So, long time, no update. Kind of skipped the month of March (most of April, too). Oh yeah, that TFA final interview thing: turns out they didn't love me. Guess it makes the question posed in my last post even more pressing: where oh where will I be in a year? I am now actively taking suggestions.

Friday, February 27, 2009

oh yeah--Teach for America

So, I got an interview. And I got to skip the phone interview, which is cool. Where oh where will I be in a year?

Monday, January 26, 2009

just a hint

To the coworker who sits beside me:

Prefacing something with "this isn't racist, but..." does not actually make it non-racist. Hope that helps.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

i should write some thoughtful post about my feelings on the inauguration.

But I'm too frustrated that I am not, at this very moment, watching Lost.

Am I a bad person?

Friday, January 16, 2009

update, bullet-point-style.

As a quick glance down this page will show, I am an amazingly bad blogger. Except for a brief, election-fueled revival, this blog has lain dormant for a while. So, rather than go into too much detail about what I've been up to, and rather than make any promises about future quantity or quality of updates, I will put the past few months of my life into bullet points.
  • I left the desert and moved back to Texas. I am grateful for the trees and lakes, but at the very present I am missing the mild winters of Tucson.
  • I had a life plan, then I changed it; at the moment I am more-or-less clueless and taking any and all suggestions or advice.
  • I have a job. A fairly boring and awful job. But it took me a few months to find one. And there is something satisfying about going to work every day and then leaving, knowing that one has done something and earned something. I still can't wait to leave. But perhaps to a better real job.
  • I fell in love with my adorable nephew.
  • I became re-consumed by fiction. It's exciting. After years of reading non-fiction almost exclusively, I've dived back in. There are loads of things I want to read and haven't and many more I ought to have read and never got around to.
  • Oh my gosh, I read some Charles Dickens. Dickens, who I passionately dislike. Dickens, whose excessive wordiness makes me want to tear my hair out. Dickens, who is not in fact so very awful. I intend to read more, though I'm not sure what next.
  • Speaking of prejudices overcome, I now watch Lost. For a few weeks this summer I watched multiple episodes a day. I am no eagerly awaiting the season premiere. I hereby officially apologize to all friends whose Lost-obsession I mercilessly mocked. You were right.
  • I stopped watching Father Ted online and on late-night PBS. I bought the box set. (I have been telling you how hilarious this series is for years. You should finally watch it.)
  • I have been awful at keeping in touch with all sorts of friends. But I talked to Ema tonight and am happy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

an actual overheard conversation at lunch today*

So, I am at a Subway in a convenience store. FOX News is on the wall-mounted television. Besides myself, two other people are in the Subway area. They are not eating together and do not appear to know each other; they are sitting at separate tables.

Man: "Man, it's crazy out there." [presumably a reference to the state of the world?]
Woman: "I hear gas prices are going back up. And Obama's got this new plan." [derisive snort.]
Man: "Hmm. Yeah, I'm not exactly hopeful."
Woman: "And did you hear? He wants to shut down 90% of gun stores. The NRA is really against him."
Man: "'Course they are."
Woman: "My husband and I are big hunters. We're worried. He's thinking about going to buy up some more ammunition before Obama gets into office. You know he's gonna tax it up."
Man: "Bet the black folks won't have too much trouble getting their hands on some."
Woman: [laughs.]

There is silence for a few minutes. I google this "shutting down 90% of gun stores" thing down. It's not true.

Woman: "Still got my McCain Palin bumper sticker on the car. I hope she runs again."
Man: "Oh, she will. She'll come back a-swinging."
Woman: "I sure hope so. She's a classy lady."
Man: "Smart, too. I'm not sure about her for President, though! And this Hillary thing!" [gestures up to the television, where Hillary Clinton is on the screen]
Woman: "Aww, come on now! I love her! Voted for her in the primary!"
Man: "Really?"
Woman: "Yeah, but in the end, I had to vote for the American. I'm just not sure about Obama, with all his terrorist connections."

As much as I wanted to stay to hear this conversation out, to discover what connections, in fact, Barack Obama has to terrorism, my lunch break was over. I do love, though, that he's not really American. I was unsure if this was because of a) his race, b) his foreign father, c) because she may have thought he was Muslim, or d) his "terrorist connections."

Why I found it so fascinating was the paranoia surrounding Obama. I've been seeing all these news stories about folks stocking up on guns and ammo because they think that Obama wants to take them away. The racialized paranoia was interesting, too. In this view, Obama wants to take firepower away from whites and give it to blacks. This guy was kidding, but I think fears about upsetting racial hierarchy underlie alot of anxiety about Obama. (For the record, I don't think anything about racial inequality has substantially changed with this election. Unfortunately, it's going to be hard to convince some folks of that. I can see it now: "But we're all equal! After all, we just elected a black president!")

The Palin thing was interesting, too. The lady was a Clinton supporter! I bet she agrees with Obama more than McCain (otherwise, she was supporting Clinton for reasons other than issues--which is of course totally possible!), but was stuck up on this "American" thing. And by the way the man linked his wariness about a Palin presidency to Clinton's confirmation as Sec. of State, I suspect gender was a factor in his expressed feelings.

I found it mostly really interesting because you don't often hear this sort of talk in public, among strangers. I see it online alot. And I, er, may hear it in my house from time to time. But I, who have many, many conservative, McCain-supporting friends, have never heard this kind of talk in public. (But my conservative friends mostly oppose Obama for issue-based reasons, so, they are different cases than perhaps these folks.)

*because the best way to address my long absence from this blog is not to address it at all. Oh, happy 4th birthday, blog! Missed it this year. And, wow, only 25 posts during the whole of 2008.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

one would never know how much i don't want her to win

I've been defending Sarah Palin a lot lately. I've been defending her from objectification by her own supporters, from fiercely partisan criticism over Troopergate, and defending the money spent by the Alaskan government to allow her children to travel with her. I would like to say that this is a post criticizing something (and goodness knows there's plenty there), but this is more defense.

Folks are terribly concerned about the fact that the RNC has spent $150,000 on clothes and accessories for Gov. Palin. They say that this belies her "common person" persona. After all, the average person in this country makes less than $50,000 per year. This is three times this in two months.

I agree with that criticism, I guess, but only to the extent that it's kind of silly to buy that she has ever been during this campaign a "regular person." She can drop her g's and wink at us all she wants, but she is one of the political elite she loves to pretend to hate. She's a governor, for goodness sake! A governor can be the best, most in-touch governor in the world, but he or she is not one of the folks. They are not like you and I.

That said, of course the RNC ought to buy her clothes. It is a reality of American political life that women are more thoroughly scrutinized based on their appearance than men. Her clothes and accessories, because of the fact of American politics' gender hangups, are important parts of her campaign. I don't like this state of affairs, but it is the state of affairs.

It's not as if she's just going on a spending spree for stuff she wants. She's buying campaign tools. This is how we judge women candidates. It is sad but true. I think a lot of the media coverage of this, especially the lefty, mocking coverage, buys into the "women like shopping" narrative, situating Palin as a "typical woman" and thus using this, indirectly, as a disqualification for VP. Keith Olbermann tonight said something like "Caribou Barbie went shopping for accessories on the RNC's credit card." The logic behind this statement is Palin=Barbie=female=unqualified. There are plenty of arguments for Palin's lack of qualification for the office she is seeking, but this gender based one is the least compelling.

Media, please stop being sexist so I can stop defending this woman who I really, really don't want to be Vice President.

in her defense

Many people are ranting about the fact that Sarah Palin spent a lot of money during her months as Governor of Alaska schlepping her children around the state. Now, while there may be a legitimate legal issue with her having reported that they were on “official business,” it's more than a little absurd for folks who claim to support womens' presence in politics to complain when a woman (or a man, really) takes her children with her on the job.

Sarah Palin may not be the best example of this (having a generally stay-at-home spouse), but in many cases women may not have husbands at home to take care of the kids (and we know that women, no matter how high their career levels, tend to remain the primary care-givers), and to insist that the state should not pay for her to bring her children along is absurd. Such a policy would not be conducive to greater political involvement by women and mothers.

(I do realize that there are a lot of legitimate corruption scandals surrounding Palin's months as governor. She asked the state to pay her to live in her own home, she sold the state's jet to look good, but then insisted on using the department of public safety's jet for her own use, preventing its actual use, Troopergate, etc, etc, and on and on. But, in this case, I think the criticism is off.)

red scare update

Turns out McCain and Palin don't quite understand what socialism means, either.

just for you danelle

A good friend is someone who goes to the local Republican office to get John McCain buttons for you, even when said friend is more than a little afraid that some sort of liberal-detector will be triggered by her entrance in said office.

Friday, October 17, 2008

the obvious response to this post is "jennifer! you listen to more conservative talk radio than is strictly healthy!"

But, passing that primary point: I am not at all sure that Rush Limbaugh actually knows what socialism means. I'm also not convinced he knows much about tax policy. And I'm 100% certain he has never actually read Karl Marx, not with the abandon with which he throws around the label "Marxist."

Seriously. If a plan in which folks at the top pay more in taxes than those at the bottom is "socialist," then America's been engaging in socialism far longer than Barack Obama has been alive. It's called progressive taxation. (And, hint, it's not socialism.)

(Sorry, I always know I will get frustrated by listening to such folks, but I cannot resist. The situation is not helped by the fact that news/talk radio stations in Denison are few and far between. My conservative radio station is all there is besides the fading NPR that only seems to come in on a cloudy day, drifting up from Dallas. Air America used to be here, but not only is it gone, but the screaming Randi Rhodes was often just as annoying [if sometimes more informed] than the conservative ranters.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

out of the park

My last post expressed my excitement at the prospect of a "pal'n around with domestic terrorists" showdown at the debate tonight. While the topic came up, Obama didn't take the opportunity to lay the smack down in my preferred fashion. I suspect the hardcore McCainiacs were similarly unimpressed with McCain's lack of fervor.

But one of my favorite parts of the debate was the discussion of abortion. (Not the first bit, mind you, the stuff about the courts. I have complex feelings on this that were most reflected by Senator McCain's comments--though, likely not his actions if he were to become President.)

First off, my feelings on abortion*. I am, like most people in this country, opposed to abortion on principle but (some for libertarian, some for, some may say ironically, pro-life reasons) not supportive of overturning Roe. I was glad that Obama corrected McCain's "pro-abortion" line. No one is pro-abortion. I was so happy to hear Obama say that he felt abortion was a profoundly moral issue that we should take seriously, not use as an ideological talking point. I was glad to hear him acknowledge that good, well-meaning folks can be on all sides of this issue--that people can agree that abortion is a tragedy and that there are concrete steps we can take to prevent it from occurring.

If many of the anti-legal-abortion folks were truly interested in preventing abortions, they would support fetal health care programs, anti-poverty programs, adoption programs, sex education programs. But efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies and to help women and families to care for children are often met with disapproval. Ironically, such things are most forcefully opposed by those who would argue that they are the true pro-lifers.

I had been worried a few weeks ago when I got an email saying that Obama had voted against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act and that he had voted no against banning late term abortions. I am glad that Senator McCain brought these up tonight, giving me a chance to hear Obama's explanation and a reminder to look up what actually happened. Turns out, the there was already an Illinois law requiring doctors to treat born alive infants, and that Obama voted present** on the late term abortion bill because, while he supported the ban, he did not want to vote for it until it included protections for the health of mothers.

I think if all sides can agree on the fierce urgency of preventing abortions, of preventing unintended pregnancies, and, when they do occur, helping women to feel like carrying the child is something they are able to do, we can make a big dent in the number of abortions performed. Overturning Roe will do little to make such a dent, and will actually hurt more women and children, who will then turn to homemade and back-alley abortions. (Well, if they're rich, they will probably still get a safe, hospital abortion. But poor women will not.)

If folks on both sides are serious about this as an issue of life (rather than an ideological issue, or an issue of gender--i.e., women who are loose deserve to be "punished" by being forced to have the child--that kind of rhetoric that exposes how some*** anti-legal-abortion folks really think about this issue), real progress can be made. I think that Obama's talk on this issue was really helpful in setting a positive tone for such discussions. As a new aunt, this issue (as well as so many others that will affect our future, such as war, the economy, education) has a new urgency to it.

*I was going to go into a long treatise on beliefs about abortion. But I had a feeling I've been here before, so I searched through my blog, and here are other posts where I more fully explain my position on this issue (in a random order): Pro-life feminism?, Pro-life?, How we can be pretty sure it's not about "life", Scary & Illegal, Thank you Missouri, And O'Connor is Gone.

**On a side note, you hear a lot about how many times Obama voted "present" in the Illinois legislature. I think that a "present" vote is lovely. I think our U.S. congress should have it. Often, I imagine, it is the case that an individual supports a bill in principle, but something about the bill (funding, add-ons, etc.) makes it something that one cannot support in its current state. Think of how many times during this election season we hear things like "McCain/Obama voted against funding the troops!" followed by responses like, "I voted against that bill because it included X" or "did not include X." A "present" vote is effectively a "no," but it is a "no" that signals that one might in fact like the bill, but not something in it.
***I emphatically add, not all.

wishin' and hopin'

John McCain has as good as promised that he will bring up the whole William Ayres thing at the debate tonight. I am crossing my fingers that he does. Please oh please. Yesterday he said:
"Y’know, I was astonished to hear him say that he was surprised for me to have the guts to do that, because the fact is that the question didn’t come up in that fashion. So, y’know, and I think he’s probably ensured that it will come up this time. And, look Mark, it’s not that I give a damn about some old washed-up terrorist…"
When he mentions it, he will most likely say that he "doesn't give a damn about an old, washed up terrorist," but he is concerned about Obama's lack of transparency on this issue. I hope Obama has prepped a potential response to it. Such a response might go like this:
"Senator McCain wants to talk about a guy I once served on a board with who committed horrific acts 40 years ago. I am more interested in working on the issues that real Americans are facing today. But, I would be more than happy to take this opportunity to answer any questions that the Senator may have about this if it will help him move past this and join me in focusing on the important problems we need to deal with."
You know what would also be amazing (though, admittedly, less likely)? He should follow that up with something along the lines of, "I was put on that board, incidentally, by the Annenberg foundation, which, in addition to giving around $50 million to Ayres' foundation, also gave money to John McCain. If the Senator takes his own rhetoric about the harm of association with 'domestic terrorists' seriously, I now call on him to return this money and repudiate the endorsement of Mrs. Annenberg."

I am incredibly excited about tonight's debate. If McCain does not bring up William Ayres, I will join some of the most hardcore of McCain's supporters in their disappointment.