Friday, December 30, 2011

Massage Envy, My New Love

Last night I cashed in on a gift certificate my mother gave me for Christmas, to Massage Envy, which must be one of the greatest places on earth. I got an hour and a half massage, including aromatherapy massage lotions in their "anxiety release" scent, which was a soothing melange of lavender, orange, and some other calming stuff. I almost went for the straight lavender scent, but decided I would do the other one and just burn some lavender incense at home instead, thus completing my 360 degrees of harmonious environmental energy.

Oh, it was amazing. For an hour and a half, I lay practically comatose, and possibly slightly salivating, while this saintly woman slowly returned me to the state of Human Being. I went in with tension in my neck and shoulders from sitting at a computer all day, and general stressiness from running around and living life all day and not having enough time for yoga, and walked out of there literally bouncing down the sidewalk, I felt so light.

I try to make empathetic noises when people tell me they do not like massage, but honestly I am at a loss as to why. Perhaps I was a cat in a previous life, who now responds instinctively to back rubs, but the experience of having aromatic lotion rubbed into your tired skin while you slowly unwind every muscle in your body, is just unbeatable. Massages should be covered by health care plans, and not just because you made up something to the insurance company about "your old football injury acting up again."

Haha, like anyone would ever believe I played football.

*photo courtesy of

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Take Ye the Tureen of Goose Fat

While the content of my blog posts certainly strays from the original title of this blog, I've always felt that the 18th-century ethos still influences how I interpret modern social norms, politics, fashion and food.

Whether it is my unshakable obsession with the admittedly unhealthy bread pudding family, or my annual tribute to my patron authoress, Jane Austen, in the form of her favorite drink, the whipped syllabub, 18th-century food somehow always strikes me as the best comfort food, full of hearty, salty, sweet, creamy, savory ingredients meant to be slowly enjoyed in the days before all of those things were put on Santa's Naughty List.

So I was delighted when this morning I discovered that Colonial Williamsburg's website has launched a digitized version of an 18th century cookbook: "History is Served: 18th-century recipes for a 21st-century kitchen."

For the ambitious, or for the 18th century grad student, you can read the original 18th-century description and interpret as best you can (half the fun!). For the more modern reader, a 21st-century description is provided below, with more straight-forward instructions.

Let the colonial cookery begin!

*photo courtesy of

Eclipses Bring Cookies and Change

Oh my, I can't believe it's December. And not just December, but like, halfway through December.

So sorry it has been a bit of awhile since I last blogged. My boss has gotten some funky new jewelry in at Falkora Jewelry, so I've been writing web copy for pieces like these fun atomic age earrings.

Falkora also had a show at the recent First Fridays in Pittsburgh, on Penn Ave in the Friendship/Garfield area, and was very successful!

I am not sure yet that I totally have the whole Christmas thing in hand this year, but at least I did get some decorations up and baked some sugar cookies today.

Today was also a lunar eclipse, and funnily enough I did hear of two major (or one major, and one semi-major for my family) events that took place today: my dad, stepmom and stepsister got two new kittens (monumental since the deaths of our other two cats), and my cousin got ENGAGED!!

That is the big one. I have been smiling all evening after hearing about it. I haven't met her fiancé yet, but thanks to Facebook I pretty much feel like I know him. I am so happy for both of them.

As winter approaches, we come up with so many reasons to celebrate and try to bring light back to the world. Peace and love and light to you all, dear friends, in the coming days.

*photo courtesy of

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Time to Break Out the Eating Pants

Thanksgiving is coming. Time to break out the Eating Pants.

I have two recipes which I am excited to use again this year when I make my pilgrimage to Flemington, NJ for the family get-together. The first was one I learned of from my cousin, Hilary, and it has been a delicious alternative for vegetarians, as well as just another yummy addition to the meal: Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding. Its cheesiness elicits many cheese fantasies.

The second is this ridiculously unhealthy pie, called Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake, where there are two sticks of cream cheese in it and only half a cup of pumpkin. So, you know. It's basically like eating a buttload of cream cheese from a hypoglycemic cow.

Last year my sister and I had a small contest to see who could make the best pie. I think the critical factor was that I insisted you had to use a whisk or mixer to get the batter smooth enough, and Emily insisted you could whisk it with a fork or something and be fine. I'm not trying to make judgements here, but I just have to say I think my pie was better. Em would say they both tasted the same.

To be fair, at 1:30am the night of Thanksgiving, after a significant quantity of wine, she was absolutely right. And really, that is the ultimate moment of truth.

*photo courtesy of

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Life in the Tower

My dreams, lately, have been scattered and surreal. You may suppose that all dreams are that way, but really, mine often have a very particular storyline, so the fact that they have lately felt disconnected and staccato-ed, is, I think, some testament to some kind of discomposure.

I also have been reading Tarot cards lately, and I keep pulling up The Tower. It's a jarring card, but not necessarily bad. It's more like a wild card that just yells "SURPRISE!" It speaks of some structure or situation that comes tumbling down. Something being thrown out of joint, or wiped out. It can speak of loss, but not always the bad kind. When we are stuck in a tower, sometimes we need something or someone to tear us out of it.

It can reference anything from being jarred out of a bad work situation, to falling in love–to be "struck by lighting" because of meeting someone. The bolt of lighting is often seen as the hand of God, as are the golden raindrops around it: representations of the Hebrew letter yod, symbolic of the same. The card is scary, but usually only when we are afraid to change, even if the change is good.

Some people, in fact, get this card when they're going to have a baby (hee hee, which makes the look on the faces of those people tumbling much funnier). But rest assured–that is definitely not my situation at the moment!

I do feel, though, for whatever reason, like I am falling, and where I will land, no one can say. Maybe I will get somewhere I would not have otherwise gone, however.

The Tower is part of the Major Araca, the big, fat suit of 22 cards that discuss the archetypal roles we are required to play in order to achieve spiritual growth. Usually that means you can't avoid these cards; they are part of your karmic destiny. Sorry! Transformation is a real bitch.

By the way, if you ever want to pick up a pack and start reading, anyone can. They operate on the principle of the collective unconscious–the same sort of thing that makes you dream of the future, etc. You may find it interesting, in fact, to google Carl Jung and the Tarot and see why he was so fascinated with it, but he's one of my history heroes so, you know, I'm a bit biased.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Judy Jetson: a Role Model

I am finding it hard to believe that it's november already. When did that happen? And what have I been doing with myself?

Well, I've been amusing myself with following up on the incredible success of my premier eHow article, "how to make a top out of men's briefs" with such illustrious titles as "how to hang oil paintings in stairways" and "how to coil the strings on Sperrys." I like to think that I am changing lives.

Also, check out more fun web copy I've written for the fabulously funky Falkora Jewelry, this time in the bracelets department. Any time in which I get to reference iconic American television classics like Judy Jetson and Morticia Addams is a good time, I must say.

P.S., do you actually remember Judy Jetson, and how boy-crazy she was, even though her boyfriends had names like Sky Rocker and Nicky Nebula? I had forgotten how inspiring she is.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

salamanders aplenty

i haven't recorded an interesting dream in a little while for you, so here's one i had thursday night, thought i had properly interpreted, and then decided i didn't. so, for your pleasure:

i was traveling for work to baltimore, and was going to try to meet up with friends, but i couldn't. instead, i found myself in an historic market district that seemed so familiar, and i decided i'd just wander around there instead with the time set aside where we'd originally planned to meet up. i wanted to get lunch and i thought i remembered there was a good seafood place that did takeout, so i found it. it was at one end of this market street, tucked in a corner with outdoor seating and black iron-wrought furnishings. the rest of the market, by the way, was full of white, or lightly colored building fronts, almost white in the sunlight. it was early morning, so the sunlight was extremely bright.

then the waiter told me that they didn't do takeout anymore, or their food was not what i expected to be in some way, and i was frustrated. i knew i had limited time, so i had needed to take advantage of that, and now that time was wasted.

then the dream shifted and it was night, and i was checking into a hotel, presumably in that same neighborhood. the hotel was awful, extremely cheap, with crumbling ceilings and dodgy light fixtures, and even more bizarre, piles of random bric-a-brac that seemed to have been collected from garage sales, and thrown in piles into all of the rooms, by way of decoration and furnishing. the furniture, therefore, was all mismatched and scratched and gross-looking, and all i could console myself with was the thought that i wouldn't be there for long.

the dream shifted again and i'm in that hotel room but it's daylight now, and the sun is streaming in and blinding everything in the room, and i can't decide if it's good or bad. then i notice something i hadn't noticed before because of the glare in the room: a little salamander. it's on the floor, which is white tile, and it's so white itself that it's almost translucent. i peer closer and see that it is translucent, save for its two deep black eyes. it's both beautiful and gross, somehow--beautiful in its pure form, so white and so smooth, but gross in that it looks sticky, and is on my floor.

in real life, i love salamanders, but my only thought is that i enjoy them out in nature, and not in my bedroom. and the salamander is indeed sticky when i try to pick it up, and then i begin to notice that there are more of them.

some of them are tiny, and others are huge, and they're all over the floor, and the walls, and the ceiling, and i'm trapped because if i move i know i'll step on one, which 1) grosses me out, and 2) i don't want to hurt them. i call for help, and someone suddenly appears close to me, but i don't know who it is. i tell her that there are these salamanders everywhere, and she acknowledges it, but we don't know what to do. this part of the dream ends with us still trying to figure it out.

there is a second part of the dream that happened after that, but it's too vague now for me to recall more than faint images.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

fabric fixation

ah, pittsburgh. how i love your weather forecasts calling for snow before Halloween has even happened.

on the bright side, that means i get to take out early some of my fun winter wardrobe pieces, like my beloved pairs of chocolate brown and purple leather gloves with the ruching at the wrists. i love when it's finally cold enough to take these pairs of gloves out from the closet. i even get to match the purple pair with my three-quarter-length-sleeve empire waist fall jacket with the peter pan collar from Old Navy. the sleeves are just short enough to show off the ruching. <3 <3 <3

i love ruching. there's something so casually elegant about it. i love it almost as much as i love draping fabric, and for those of you familiar with my years working in the costume shop at Gettysburg College, you may understand just how deeply i love draping fabric.

can people have a compulsion to drape fabric? i would believe it. i used to sit around the costume shop in college and take gorgeous pieces of cloth and pin them in dramatic ways all over our dress dummies, and wish it was some cocktail dress i'd been invited to wear at a party. oh for those days.

p.s., now i want to find a winter coat that's reasonably priced, warm, and makes me feel like a Swedish snow princess. i'm thinking something with a hood, princess seams, and fake fur trim. any suggestions?

Monday, October 17, 2011

a glitzy-glam new beginning

so if i have seemed to be MIA, it's because i've taken up a lot of my free time in making ground with my new part-time job, writing web copy for a local jewelry vendor!

Falkora Jewelry is the name of the game, and it has been so much fun so far to work with the lady behind it all. her business got off the ground this summer, i believe, (or maybe earlier?) but already she's had good success both selling cute costume jewelry at vendor fairs, and in creating her own unique line of dangly tunnel earrings for women with gauged ears. i didn't know much about gauged ears before this, but i am learning that it's an increasingly popular fashion trend. i think it's great that she's identified this niche in the market and has just gone for it.

she's a super creative person herself, and pretty much allows me free reign to write whatever i like, occasionally tweaking and editing my work when she feels something doesn't sit right. which is how i decided to pay tribute to The Oregon Trail, one of the best moments of the early 90's. i also greatly enjoyed telling the story of the Mod Assassin Necklace, and Don't Make Me Take Out My Hoop Earrings.

as part-time work, it's perfect in that it allows me to hone my copywriting skills while just giving me a creative outlet on the side of my day job, to let my imagination wander. which just about seems to suit the style of Falkora.

so far i've written copy for all of the necklaces, and many of the earrings, and am just starting on rings this week. mind, the website is still in development, so stay tuned and tell your friends!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

up, up and away

for all who are feeling the struggle against adversity right now, here's a little reminder that many things are possible beyond what we can conceive:

UP is one of my favorite films. i pretty much cry in the first five minutes of the movie, every time i watch it. and again at the end. and i love the premise that an old man turns to adventure by converting his house into a giant hot-air balloon.

i like films that remind us that only when things are truly bleak, is there room to see outrageous possibilities.

enjoy the rest of the weekend, dear friends.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

a bit of fashion, a bit of rain

after what began as a long, stressful week is now finally unwinding to a semi-relaxing weekend. if only it weren't forty degrees and raining. hmm. the wine might have to come out of the fridge.

today i went briefly to the vendor fair and student fashion show, as part of the tail end of Pittsburgh Fashion Week. i do wish i had gone to some of the other events during the week, but alas, they cost a bit of money and that's just what i should not be spending in excess right now.

the vendor fair had a nice collection of jewelry samplings, but it was a bit smaller than i expected. also, my $10 ticket for "general admission," which allowed me to pick one fashion show to attend, seemed a bit pricey considering each show was about 5 minutes long. i was able watch two before they moved us out of the conference room and brought in a new crowd, but even so, in total, my $10 got me about…12-15 minutes of actual fashion catwalk time.

perhaps this is how fashion shows work, however. God knows the New York fashion week is probably zillions of dollars to get into, to view one waif-like model clad in shiny six-inch heels and a couture burlap sack.

on the other hand, the excitement and pride of the student designers, in getting to display their work, was inspiring to see, and reconciled the price and time length issue for me. and their designs were fun–well cut, unique, inspired. and maybe that penn state freshman who's been designing clothes with his mom and grandma since he was 11, will be famous one day, and this was the opportunity that helped foster his confidence to keep designing.

meanwhile, i am starting other new and exciting projects (more to follow on this!). but my fat orange cat has just climbed onto my lap, so for the immediate future, i guess my project is rubbing tummies.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

novel: take-off!

finally, having had the first weekend in many where i have some me-time, i am pushing myself to begin to write my novel. i used to write short stories all the time, but as i grew older i somehow felt less creative, like it had all been done before.

now i feel like i have something to say–but to be fair, last year i didn't feel like i quite had anything to say yet. so. it takes time.

as i have never written a novel before, the idea is daunting, even while exciting. i'm starting by using the snowflake method, which is forcing me to think critically about the structure and message of my writing–something that's never easy for most writers, even though non-writers often seem to think that full novels and essays just leak out of our fingertips, onto the keyboard, without any editing required.

below is an excerpt from the couple of pages i have so far.
"Happily I go to and start clicking through to the Books section, and then into Astrology. I start scanning through cover images, occasionally clicking on interesting titles like The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, and The Secret Language of Relationships. I’ve actually read this one—or by read, I mean I’ve frequently gone into Barnes & Noble to thumb through it about various astrological relationship combinations. I can’t bring myself to actually buy it, because it only contains about a paragraph on each combination, so you only need it for about five minutes if you’re only reading about your one romantic relationship. Buying it would be an acknowledgement that I’d be requiring it frequently in the future."

Friday, September 23, 2011

great hair never goes out of style

so Prada has an interesting new spring line, says ELLE: retro-leotards…for everyday wear?

they are pretty damn adorable--don’t they make you think of Rita Hayworth?

inasmuch as i’d love to go around looking like a 50’s Hollywood pinup, i’m curious as to in which public setting will these become de rigeur? they’re not quite bathing suits, but something tells me mom wouldn’t like to see me in church like that.

also, from new york’s spring 2012 fashion week, i can’t help loving this model's elegant, but abstract hairstyle.

something about tinged hair thrown back into twists elicits fond images of the eighteenth century, and of this image in particular:

nothing like getting together with your girlfriends and your favorite beau to do some primping and have a gossip.

* Rita Hayworth image courtesy of
* Beauty at the Best Shot image courtesy of

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

fall + fashion: a marriage of equals

fall is here! or at least, it will be officially on friday. and that means…new wardrobe!!

okay, not exactly. if you're like me, aka recently graduated from a master's and not exactly single-handedly supporting the economy through consumerism, you've probably had to cut back on how much you spend on shoes. you and the CEO of D.S.W. are equally chagrined by this.

but does this mean you've given up on dressing fashionably? of course not! well, i guess "fashionably" is up for interpretation; i say wearing big bows in your hair is fun, and some people say it's "loud."

at any rate, nothing can take away the semi-frisson of excitement in unpacking a seasonal wardrobe like the transition to fall. and fall is, in my opinion, the best fashion season because:
  1. everyone looks good in chocolate brown, a fall color-staple
  2. it's not too hot to start to wear layers = more options for mixing and matching tops, leggings, belts, scarves, etc.
  3. it's not too cold to have only layers on, without stuffing everything underneath a 40 lb. L.L. Bean down comforter coat designed for the arctic tundra, because some of us don't produce body heat in the winter and didn't realize Pittsburgh was so cold, haha!
opening your closet to once again take out those cute suede chocolate Steve Madden riding boots with the ruched toe therefore is emotionally akin, for the recent graduate, to pulling the most expensive pair of Pradas off the shelf at Bloomingdale's.

and sweaters! oh, sweaters. i love sweaters. sweaters are as much the best invention of clothing for Woman, as jeans are so often her Enemy (see my jeans rant for more of what i mean on this). i have so many sweaters, one of whose button holes i need to repair. luckily i was able to find matching thread at the most amazing fabric shop in the Strip District, LOOM, whose photo i featured above.

arg! i love this place! i want to roll around like a cat in catnip in their gorgeous prints.

also: Pittsburgh Fashion Week is here! i didn't get to go to the premier last year, so i'm excited to check out the entrepreneurial vibe of the steel city. i hope we see, in addition to high fashion, at least one Heinz ketchup bottle-spinoff.

Monday, September 19, 2011

karmic high school never ends

today i read an insightful editorial on cnn's belief blog, offering a priest's philosophical take on the value we can pull away from economic recession.

i do not consider myself particularly religious, but mostly because i am touched by the religious stories and customs of many faiths, and it's been my understanding that you're not allowed to claim to love religion unless you follow only one (ironic, no?). yet all faiths contain the same critical stories, the ones that teach us how to grow. in this case, the priest focused on the lessons of religion in not only how to build, but how to rebuild when everything is broken. how to build better after breaking down–a kind of growth that only comes from experiencing total failure, helplessness, and despair.

in Christianity, this is realized through humility and repentance. in Hinduism, this might be the work of Kali, the goddess who destroys all that is useless and outdated, making room for new growth. in astrology, it's recognized as the planetary alignment we are in now–when Saturn, the great teacher, is turned direct, forcing us to slow down, recognize our flaws, and go back to square one and work twice as hard to get to where we thought we were.

obviously, no one enjoys this kind of spiritual life lesson. in fact, the universe seems to be pretty damn good at picking the one thing you'd like least to have to deal with, and (surprise!) pushes you head-first into it, until you surrender yourself and are forced to become more flexible, more enterprising, and more tolerant. finally you admit that the way you are doing things just doesn't work anymore, and new ways and thoughts will have to take their place.

likewise this Catholic priest, while naturally channeling his thoughts through his Catholic background, insisted that suffering and loss are as much a nourishment of the soul, as are just rewards. this is because suffering teaches us empathy, and how to be receptive to others.

if you've ever met someone who you've tried to share something troubling or traumatic with, and they brush it off or tell you it's no big deal, they've probably just never had a major traumatic experience themselves, and have no concept of what that means. or if they've had one, they haven't taken in the lesson. they are probably not the best listener, either. whenever a catastrophic moment such as you've experienced finally does happen to them, though, they will experience total loss for the first time. it will then be in their power to take one of two paths: blame the world for this "unsuccessful" moment, further alienating themselves. or they can break down and admit vulnerability, reach out to others and learn to have compassion for difficult moments in life.

when we suffer, we have the opportunity to find each other. we also have the opportunity to realize where we were overconfident in our predictions, where we misjudged a situation, and where we have to go back to build better. even if the mistakes made weren't directly ours, we may still have to learn where and how to place trust. this is true in our individual lives as much as it in the economy. it's so hard to see this retracing-our-steps as a positive thing; you just want to get it right the first time and be done. nothing is more frustrating than feeling like you're going back to learn the same lesson again.

hmm. but what about those expensive tickets you bought, or that thoughtless comment you made? here's where you probably begin to recognize that you haven't really learned the lesson–or not entirely. this may even be the moment where you begin to recognize that you might be experiencing this lesson repeatedly throughout your life, karmically, built up in different stages and manifesting in different contexts, but always reminding you that you pretty much never stop growing. we'll always be spiritual students, our whole lives. karmically speaking, high school never does end.

it's hard for us to see this as necessary, but the mind and the soul, like the body, need constant rejuvenation. you know when you go to the gym and lift some weights, and then your muscles kill? you've essentially torn the muscle tissue to train it to build back tougher and thicker. but if you only lift weights for a week, don't expect that to set you up for life, especially if you like to hit up the bar on a regular basis. those guns need attention.

* photo of Kali is courtesy of Sanjay Patel's Little Book of Hindu Deities.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

how to make a top out of men's briefs

part of my journey into journalism has lately included taking up writing for Demand Studios, a pretty cool site that pays you per article to cover such topics as "how to make cat furniture."

behold, my first article written for them, which ended up being posted on How To Make a Top Out of Men's Briefs.

not kidding. it's surprisingly easy!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

the pittsburgh-german secret society for…engineers?

you want a bizarre recounting of how incongruous subjects always end up together in my dreams? okay, sure, here you go:

last night i dreamed i went to Germany with CMU, as part of some class celebration or ceremony. we had our caps and gowns, and when we arrived there, we were taken to an ancient-looking pub, or beergarten, or whatever they're called in Germany, down to the basement, down, down, down a dark staircase with rich, dark wood paneling–walnut perhaps–to a smallish, windowless room where there were wooden tables and chairs, and a little bar in the left corner. and a stage, or a dais of some kind.

we stayed in a nearby lodge, and there the structure was more of a deep reddish brown panelling, like cherry. we seemed to be returning as part of a yearly meeting, and while we were there, we went to a festival or something, something with colorful tents and stalls.

this subterranean room seemed to be solely for our use, and i don't just mean me and my classmates; there was some historic connection between Carnegie Mellon and this German pub, where many years this occasion had taken place, as if we were part of an ancient secret society. there were crests and placards on the walls that seemed to confirm this, although i can't describe to you what the designs were.

i wish i could give more detail about the dream, but i waited a bit too long to write this post, and now the memory is fading.

anyone got a Carnegie Mellon-Germany connection they feel would shed light on this scenario?

*pic courtesy of

Saturday, July 30, 2011

chubby babies are the antidote

lately i've had to observe a lot of endings, and they will bring that sense of sadness with them. the end of my $16 a month netflix subscription. the end of my graduate school loan money. the end of many friendships forged at carnegie mellon, as people drift away. the end of harry potter. God, that one was hard.

normally i really embrace change. i normally feel like when things have gotten soggy and boring, change can't be anything but an improvement. but for some reason i feel an especial desire, as of late, to struggle against being pushed into the unknown.

i know this feeling will pass, because i can't bear moping or wasting time, and i prefer if possible to, like Lucy Honeychurch, "play on the side of Victory." that means looking for jobs that will let me write, continuing to write on my own, going to the gym, playing my ukulele, petting my cats, strengthening current friendships and embracing new friends, and generally having hope.

i think this is really important; in fact, if you read that last line, and secretly laughed to yourself, a little cynically, i think it's sad that you've already given up, because you have the opportunity at every moment of your life, to see something beautiful, or something beautiful that you could do. if you didn't laugh, well, then, good for you. you could be friends with Kenneth Parcell.

no one is so perfect as to be able to feel happy all the time, and indeed it probably isn't healthy, but still. i'm sure we can all try to be positive, and that makes a difference. David Foster Wallace reminded me that you can find joy even in a crowded consumer hell, and actually i do try to do that. usually i look for chubby babies in shopping carts to cheer me up while i wait in the checkout line.

so while many of my friends have left, and things are ending, i might as well keep looking for chubby babies and writing jobs. let me know if you find either of those–and share the joy, will you?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

one small step

tonight i realized i was the first person on twitter to tweet about 30 rock's werewolf bar mitzvah song. or at least, the first to script it as #werewolfbarmitzvah.

should i feel sad at such a lonely moment…or proud to be the first?

Monday, July 18, 2011

to be continued

it's funny but now that i am "getting into writing," aka as a formal career, i realize how much fun it is–and also how hard.

mostly because apparently formal writing is like this guild that you have to be born into, or know special secrets to infiltrate, like the freemasons. and even they have a website.

but i feel good about where i'm going. something tells me that this is right. i'm still temping at a job that's not paying me very much, but the people are nice and it's not too bad. meanwhile i've applied for a reporter position a pittsburgh company in the southside, so hopefully a) i do well on the interview and b) it is actually a legit cool job with decent pay and, please God, health care.

i also started writing for a new pittsburgh magazine called PGH, but that's upcoming, so, to be continued…

Saturday, June 11, 2011

solar return

as always, as i draw closer to my birthday, i start to think back on the year i've just been through, and think forward on what is coming. i'm reading a book now called how to get more love, money and success by traveling on your birthday. it's interesting in that it theorizes on how you can influence your life by physically moving yourself into a new environment during the time of your solar return.

whether or not you think astrology is a load of bollocks, it is a fact that, on the day of your birth, at the time you were born, the sun moves essentially into the same position of the sky as at the time of your actual birth. and yes, the sun does move, did you know that? well, maybe you did. i assumed it was still, which in retrospect, i guess wouldn't make sense. but who really thinks about these things?

anyway, isn't that interesting, even from a purely astronomical standpoint? it reminds me of how connected we are to the universe. we think we are these isolated little islands, moving independently about the earth, but we're more like fish in the sea, our movements always being impacted by the current and by the vibrations of external forces, and our own movements likewise pressing back against others. we forget how connected we are sometimes, i think.

the other planets, by the way, are in different positions, and supposedly you can take advantage of the time in which your sun comes back to you, to move in accordance to their respective influences. i am skeptical about how this is to happen, but as i'm only on the first page, i suspend my judgment until i've read further. i might be in another city on the 19th, after all.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

sure is tempting to be a temp

ah, the job search. so on thursday i went to the temp agency, in an effort to find employment of some variety while i figure how to become a writer. you know, one that gets paid.

i had a vague sense of what to expect, from having gone to one temp agency once in college with my sister. but it was awhile ago, obviously, and i was a college student then, so i felt i had to prepare myself totally differently this time.

on thursday morning i got up, showered and blow-dried my hair nicely, and put on my khaki pencil skirt, green flower-print blouse, and grey Steve Madden ballet flats with the ruffle accents. luckily the temperature had providentially cooled that morning from its previous 90+ records earlier in the week, so i was able to stay moderately groomed.

i walked outside and got on the 61C bus to go downtown to where the agency was. i had read good reviews of it, so i was expectant of finding at least moderately good employment. all the way down, i practiced in my head the things i would say about myself: "i am hard-working, very professional, a quick learner, and i'm great with customers." which are all true, i can say without boasting, but doesn't it always feel funny to promote yourself to strangers? anyway.

when i got to the building with the agency, i had to take a scary old elevator to the sixth floor. once i got there and checked in, the nice girl at the front desk set me down with a set of forms and told me to fill them out. feeling ridiculously nervous, i set about putting my life's information down on paper, remembering how bad my print handwriting is, because i usually write cursive.

then i handed back in my forms along with my resume, after which the receptionist set me up in the next room at a computer where i was to take a test on Microsoft Word & Excel, and a typing test. i was tempted to ask her if she got her job as a receptionist for a temp agency, from the temp agency itself, or from another temp agency, but i resisted.

instead i sat down to take the world's most impractical test. indeed, i felt like i was taking the GRE again. mind you, this is no slight meant on the agency itself; as i said, it had glowing reviews from previous clients. but the tests are designed to gauge your proficiency in typical daily computer-related functions, and in my mind, they were hardly reflective of what you would actually have to do at an actual job (much like the GRE).

the tests asked you questions in paragraph form, about how you would complete certain tasks. the questions were fairly drawn out, and identified features of Word and Excel with confusing names, that the average worker knows perfectly well how to use, but cannot name. i can't even recall the bizarre names given to certain features, but they were things like "navigation review home" and the "customize tablet." and they would ask you how to do simple things, but give you ridiculously complicated multiple-choice answers to choose from, when really you know you could do the same thing by right-clicking on the word, rather than by going through six panels of menu options.

for tests that are designed to show in the most practical way how effective a potential worker could be, this seems to be highly impractical. Microsoft Office applications are purposefully designed to be as visual and user-friendly as possible, but only a couple of the questions actually used a graphic as an aid for what the question was about. if they opened the actual Word program, however, and asked the test taker to click on the appropriate area to do a certain function, i feel a much larger percentage would have been able to answer correctly. and isn't that more productive in identifying good workers?

oh, and the typing test. that was great. my mom thought it was hysterical that they still give typing tests, but that's an aside. i don't care. i'm sure typing is still something necessary to test. at any rate, the subject of the paragraphs you were supposed to type was all about how the economy has been failing, and job security is no longer a given. isn't that a terrible subject to make people seeking employment, have to type about? everyone knows happy workers are more productive–wouldn't it be a better test of a worker's optimum abilities, by having them type about a vacation they're about to go on? just a thought.

really, i had thought i knew Word and Excel well enough, but after those tests, i was somewhat humbled. i went back up to the front desk to tell the receptionist that i'd finished. sheepishly i began to comment that i guess i didn't know Word and Excel as well as i thought, and she interrupted me to say "oh no, you did just fine. look–you scored 3.4 out of 3.5. you're in the 90th percentile." she paused and smiled at me, the corners of her mouth twitching. "you're pretty well qualified."

what? i'm not sure how to feel about this. oh well. at least that hopefully means i'll get a call soon for a job offer. i feel bad for other people having to take that test, however. i'm sure they're being poorly represented.

oh, and they didn't interview me at all. they said the companies themselves interview directly, which makes sense. but i guess i need not have prepared the mental speeches. oh well, those will come in handy soon.

anyway, so here i am, sitting and writing because i have nothing else to do and no idea how to get my name out there as this amazing writer (note to self: become an amazing writer). i'm eating from an industrial-strength bag of swedish fish™ as a consolation prize for not having work yet. wish me luck!

what are your epic employment/unemployment stories?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Boondock Saints

Yesterday evening I watched The Boondock Saints with some girlfriends. It was the first time I'd seen the movie. The violence was not usually what I'm eager to watch, but it had some beautiful moments and a properly suspenseful plot. The kind of film that I can understand why it becomes iconic.

I couldn't help being bored, however, by the lame roles of the few female characters in the film. Now, you can come right back and say there are plenty of "women's" films that have cardboard male characters, and you're absolutely right. You can make your blog post about those. Right now I'm blogging about these.

There were a small handful of women throughout the entire film, in scenes lasting around 1 minute 30 seconds. They pretty much had no lines, and when they did talk, the dialogue was always vaguely unnecessary, something extraneous to the plot of the film. Some of them, I presume, were forensic scientists, since they wore white lab coats and had their hair pulled back in important, no-nonsense ponytails. But they never seemed to contribute any actual scientific findings to the crime scenes which they were investigating.

At one point in the film, towards the end, the main detective, who is a riot, is going nuts at the scene of one of the final crimes, a suburban home where massive shootings have taken place both in and outside the home. He can't figure out who these guys are, even though the Boondock Saints are amateurs and doing stuff that he says you "can't do in movies" (cue comic drum and cymbals!).

Meanwhile, the female forensic scientist is taking blood samples from a splattering on one of the new jersey-blue-blood-suburban-home pillars, and making over-exaggerated gestures of exasperation, making me think that she was not classically trained in Method acting. She expresses her distress at not being able to get a good blood sample, and hyped-up detective man comes over to help her out of what should be her job.

He leans over and sniffs the blood, has a conniption about it, draws out the drama of telling everyone what he's discovered, and waves a smear of the blood in the scientist's face, causing her to flail her head away and make a face. Eww! He put something icky near her!

It's ammonia, he announces. The Saints have sprayed it on their blood so that you can't get a decent blood sample. Those Irish scamps! Everyone gasps at the detective's brilliance, and the female scientist makes a figure of wonder and chagrin (she doesn't talk anymore; her dialogue moment is over). Ah, ammonia. Well, now we know.

But why didn't she know? Ammonia is a pretty common smell; it's in your urine, in bad fish, etc. And she's a scientist. I know one of the comic subplots of this film was to present the detective as brilliant and everyone else he works with as a hopeless rube, but even so. Would it have killed the director to let the scientist be the one to say "oh, it's ammonia," and then let detective have his monologue rant? I mean, this is a bloody scientist, but she can't figure out why that blood sample won't take! What a waste of a lab coat.

I bring this up mostly because when I watch films like these, the women in them are so one-dimensional and dumb, and I feel forced to identify with them. Maybe that's just how I watch movies.

Still, let me reiterate that The Boondock Saints is an artistic and powerful film, with a complex look at social justice. I get why it is iconic. But I get annoyed that portrayals like these are generally disregarded because something is iconic. It's like how slavery is kind of okay in Gone with the Wind because awww, look at those pretty dresses! There was a moment in Saints where the Don wants Rocco to tell a joke with the word "n*****", but I feel pretty sure (or I hope?) that the audience is supposed to feel suitably appalled by it.

Well, I've probably offended a great many people with this. If it helps, just pretend I was wearing a white lab coat when I wrote it and disregard the whole thing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

introducing consumption and debt: a divine comedy

so here begins some postings from one of the academic questions i posed this year in my Cultural Studies program. we had an assignment in our "Class on Class" to go through the steps of researching a topic, but not to actually write the final paper. the idea was to gain mastery of the research process itself, which is indeed extensive and nothing to thumb your nose at.

so now i'm going to write that final paper! or at least, blog it for now. i have a start based on a mini-synopsis we had to write up for our final presentations, and i'm going to use that to launch into a larger quest to explore the potential answers to my question: why is consumption still gendered as feminine, and why do women tend to be blamed for consumption in popular narratives?

for my base narrative, i'm focusing on the film adaptation of Sophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic, but my project may delve into other texts and films as my research continues. i think she is a brilliant writer and it is interesting to see how she defines problems of consumption, and how they are rewritten by Hollywood in the 2009 film.

so, here goes!

Monday, May 23, 2011

the 18th century: does it even matter?

so some of my friends have been wondering why this blog ended up being called "the 18th century guide to modern living" when i don't often write about the eighteenth century. well, the answer is that sometimes i do write about it, but that the eighteenth century isn't literally the focus. it's more of the inspiration. it's not all about substituting "s"s with "f"s, or about wearing tight knee breeches.*

in college i truly indulged my lifelong love of jane austen, and around her i built my knowledge of the eighteenth century in literature and history courses. from them i developed concepts of social justice, community activism, education between the sexes and between social and economic classes, and the modern application of those values. i also credit my dear alma mater, gettysburg college, for giving me a profound sense of my ability and responsibility to critically engage with the world.

but the eighteenth century’s sense of interconnectedness has incredible relevance to the modern world. it emphasizes that we are all part of a larger whole; that our self worth is reflected in the worth of the community to which we belong. modern crises in economy, education, environment, and human rights, require actions that are guided by moral character; we have the power and the responsibility to positively apply the insight gained through understanding our connectivity.

exploring these concepts in a historic and modern context is imperative in order to prepare ourselves to think critically about how we will conduct ourselves in our professional and personal interactions. austen was one of those people who cared about such things, and taught me to care.

these are lofty words, but i think you'd better start off high, or your standards will be too low to get anywhere worthwhile. so now i like to write about a dozen different topics–gender, marketing and consumerism, education, really anything that looks interesting. i never forget, however, that in the back of my mind i'm always shaping how i interpret social justice from my mental 18th century guide to modern living.

*although i am a firm endorser of tight knee breeches.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

after a night out with friends, i come home, sleepy and tipsy, and all i can think of is one of my favorite lines from king lear–
"kind and dear princess!"

ah, kent.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

hmm i graduated. it feels weird. now, how do i find a job?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

we must sell more shoes!

hmm. here's what i've basically been concluding from my research for my consumer debt v. consumer fantasy project, of which confessions of a shopaholic forms a base text: capitalism doesn't make sense. or, republicans who say we are in debt only (and please note the qualifiers 'who say' and 'only') from overspending, don't make sense. because here's basically how the picture is looking:

1. consumption = bad
2. consumption = gendered (aka feminine, because everyone knows women love shopping!)
3. consumption and especially women's consumption = downfall of economy
4. women, stop buying shoes!
5. CEO of D.S.W. Shoe Warehouse = "we must sell more shoes!"
6. capitalism = whose bright idea was this anyway?

ok i actually don't have such a major problem with capitalism–only with people who pretend it's perfect but blame, in popular media, the undeserving poor wanting houses and frivolous women having credit card debt for every national evil. paul krugman has an interesting blog discussing the problems with this limited assessment of national debt, which my professor just turned me on to, which i'm hoping to incorporate in my presentation somehow...except i only have 15 minutes to talk, so we'll see.

p.s., i realize that if you are outside of my culture studies class, or of the texts i've been reading, this may be a bit nonsensical to you. but i have to vent, so thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

look, culture just always applies

oh how tumultuous everything is! not necessarily in a bad way...just in a tumultuous way. which is why i used that adjective. but i've got one presentation down, one to go tomorrow, and one next week. and three papers, but those are all linked to the presentations. and i feel like i have a cold coming.

but i must admit that part of me feels great joy at the thought of being done with this semester…especially being done with certain classes in which the professor says that "culture doesn't apply in this case."


how can culture NOT apply? ever?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

my ticket is blank

i'm pretty sure that i dreamed of sister act last night. why? i really can't say.

but other than that weirdness, life is…well, it's mix of everything right now. moments of panic about what i'll do after i graduate, then moments of sunny bliss in the time i've been spending lately with a wonderful person. in between all of that i get some work done, but it's a bit like being on a fast train to an uncertain destination, and not being quite sure of how to get there. i've got to finish projects, and find a career. or at least something that will pay me decently. my train ticket would say "destination unknown," if you want to be real poetic about it.

maybe a train is the wrong metaphor, since obviously you would just follow the tracks to get to wherever you're going. but it is the right metaphor in the sense that it's something moving, and moving quickly, and i can't stop it. graduation is coming. what would jane do?

mr. knightly tells emma that "there is one thing, emma, which a man can always do if he chooses, and that is his duty; not by maneuvering and finessing, but by vigour and resolution." well i can be vigorous! i can be resolute. although i may have to use some of that maneuvering and finessing, just in case.

i wonder what austen would do in a graduate program. i wonder what program she would choose? oh jane!

Friday, April 8, 2011's within all of us

ok, so i think i finally figured out what to focus my fashion/consumerism/gender identity project on. thank heavens. here it is:

the question: how does mainstream fashion and consumerism dictate, influence, or offer an alternative to a middle-class, white, heterosexual identity? the discussion i want to center in on is specifically, how white, middle-class, heterosexual identity is promoted through clothing retail and shopping-centered literature, and how the public responds to this. the popularity of narratives like Confessions of a Shopaholic suggests that the white, middle-class, heterosexual image being portrayed in the narrative, is positively received by a large population, despite the probable evidence that this narrative hardly reflects the reality of its readers. why? if fashion consumption and fashion-narratives that promote a certain dominant image, are widely received even if they are unrealistic, then either the public sees itself as part of that identity whether or not they are, or else the public sees something else within the discourse of mainstream fashion and consumerism that it identifies with.

i like when people say they're not influenced by fashion. guess what: unless you make your own homespun broadcloth out of plant fibers you've picked yourself from a nearby field, with a machine you've handcrafted out of parts of trees that you found in the woods, then you are influenced by fashion.

Friday, April 1, 2011

at bedtime, go to sleep

yesterday we had a lecture for the LCS students on the joys and difficulties of academic conference panels, after which we all headed over to our advisor, Kathy Newman's, for some dinner, drinks and prospective MA/PhD-welcoming. they are a great group and hopefully we'll have a good many of them decide to come here in the fall.

the above image depicts the household rules, as written by David Shumway's little boy, for all to see and abide by. my favorite is "feelings under controll."

and naturally, i obeyed all the rules, including the one about sleeping. at about 10:30, i decided it was bedtime and hightailed it out of there with Brittany, took the 61C back home, and fell blissfully asleep.

too bad i had a bad dream that night, though, that i was married to Hungarian composer Franz Liszt. i guess playing by the rules doesn't always pay off.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011's the end of March already??

our prospective MA/PhD open house is this week, and i sit contemplating how a whole year has passed. for one thing, i can't have been a whole year, because it would have to be warm and spring-y for that to be, and it's cold. for another thing…i don't feel ready for it to end. well, part of me does. but i like school. and the whole finding-a-job bit is slightly more elusive. family members have already been inquiring for months now what i'm going to do after i graduate, which has caused me to threaten them considerably.

ok i can't stress about it. i need to get back into a good rhythm of yoga, checklist-making, and bubble baths. tonight i took a break and read a Shopaholic book in the tub with my lavender milk bath bubble soap, so that's a good start. tomorrow morning at least looks like this:
  • 8:00 a.m.: wake up, my breakfast, cats' breakfast, Good Morning America
  • 9:00 a.m.: yoga DVD or running/weightlifting at the JCC
  • 10:30 a.m.: shower
  • 11:15 a.m.: organize/plan all academic projects and begin working on them.
of course, tomorrow might end up looking like this:
  • 10:45 a.m.: wake up, cats pounce on bed
  • 11:00 a.m.: cats force me to get out of bed and feed them
  • 11:04 a.m.: back in bed
we'll see which of these plans comes to fruition.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

what is consent?

we are having an interesting discussion in my global women's writing course about the nature of consent, specifically in relation to the now eradicated practice of Chinese footbinding. this has also made me think about consent in other contexts, however–how do we distinguish between what we do out of pure enjoyment versus out of obligation or coercion. what do you think consent is?

here's the blog post i wrote for class:
i like the distinction between the consent of daughters versus that of mothers. in light of Judith Butler's discussion of the agency of children, it has made me think more closely about the significance of China's move to end footbinding as a symbol of Chinese modernity. in a way, both the action of footbinding and the subsequent banning of footbinding are both movements that are made without consent, either way, from girls. part of me feels sure that the new photographic evidence of the bound foot and its medical dangers played a major part in changing public opinion, both in China and in the rest of the world, about the beauty and ethics of footbinding. and yet...was it primarily a humanitarian move of protection of children's rights–or primarily a political, nationalist power play to give China better PR with the western world?

it seems like Dorothy Ko (author of Cinderella's Sisters) is struggling to untangle these motivations as well, and perhaps it's impossible to separate them. in our own culture–in any culture, really–we can hardly ever claim that the thoughts, decisions and actions we make are ever discrete from the set of ideologies through which we tell the narrative of our lives. i once had a discussion with a friend about the nature of fate versus free will, and he recalled the metaphor of an eastern philosopher who said fate is like an apple rolling on a plate: you can move the apple in any direction, but never beyond the rim of the plate.

maybe consent is also like the apple on a plate. Chinese mothers and daughters are moving within the narrative of Chinese identity, feminine identity, homosocial relations, etc., but they can never make decisions outside of it, just as we can never, say, make decisions outside of a framework of capitalism, since it defines our lives in so many infinite ways. in this sense, consent is always constructed, yet always natural, in that it is the only natural movement we can ever make as human beings living within culture. we want desperately to find a concrete definition of consent that never changes, that fits a legal mold, and yet I suspect that search will always prove elusive. but just as Butler points out that human sexuality refuses to behave in the ways that we want it to, neither does the human mind itself consent to conform to a standard sense of reality, right and wrong. whatever those mean.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

my own national (regional) treasure!

a recent editorial on tells the story of how a 200-year old french love letter was found recently in the arm of an antique chair, in the process of restoration.

the writer ends his letter to his lady with this adieu:
"my dear, i cover you with kisses and caresses until… i need you in this moment of desire. i love you."

have you ever heard of anything sweeter? well, i suppose you have, naturally. but this is pretty good.

i had a similar story this past year when i had my old piano retuned, back when i was living in gettysburg. i had bought this piano in 2008 from the director of athletics at gettysburg college, dave, who i knew fairly well. dave's father was a piano teacher, and could never get him to play as a child, but in an attempt to pass on the musical tradition, the family had bought the piano for their daughters to learn upon. none of them ended up wanting to play either (sad!) so dave was happy to sell this slightly beat up, but decent, little upright console wurlizter from the 70's to me for $100.

so this lovely old man came to do the tuning, and since neither of us knew when it was tuned last, he decided to make a thorough job of it and pulled the baseboards out from underneath. as he pulled off the boards, an aged square of paper fell out onto the carpet. we both paused and looked at it, the curiosity and excitement growing in me like a narrative scene from a nancy drew novel come to life.

he picked up the paper and handed it to me and asked if it was mine. no, i said, looking at it carefully. it was an envelope, yellowed and dusty, but fairly well preserved from having been inside the piano all this time. the seal was already broken, so whoever was the recipient must have already perused the message inside. or had they?

with trembling fingers i pulled out the letter and flipped it open. it was written on a greeting card with a scenic picture from somewhere in upstate new york, and inside the tiny script filled each available side of the paper. the date on the letter read 1974! feeling somewhat guilty, but then too curious to feel all that guilty, i started to read the letter.

it was a message to no one in dave's family that i knew of, but the contents were fairly simple–greetings after a journey home from college, news on the family, etc. fairly uneventful. and yet, if i returned this letter to dave, what would be his reaction? was such a simple transaction to dredge up memories of a long forgotten–or perhaps repressed–family connection, a friendship that had once been so close, but which inopportune circumstances had rendered asunder?

i carefully put the letter and envelope in a ziplock bag and the next day, i emailed dave and told him about what i'd found. his reply gave little away: he was surprised, but interested, and agreed to take a look at it.

then came the big moment to give it to him. i wasn't able to find an opportunity so i gave it to my colleague ryan who said he would be seeing the family later that day. ryan was under strict instructions to give me every last detail of dave's reaction. he promised.

i waited for the news to come. the next day, i eagerly ran down to ryan's office and demanded a recounting of yesterday's events. i could just envision dave's eyes alighting on the letter…then widening with recognition…then filling with bitter, but tender tears. i looked expectantly at ryan.

ryan shrugged. "yeah, he had no idea what that was about. some cousin or something."

dammit. why isn't real life ever like in movies?

Monday, March 21, 2011

three and a half hours of mandolin foolin'

oh boy. so. how does one write about a mandolin orchestra festival?

well here's how. so saturday night i headed over to frank and debbie's, my dad's first cousins, and there we caught a quick drink and i got some pup-petting time with the two most famous border collies, lucky and traveler. then we piled in the car and headed down to the CAPA center in downtown pittsburgh, where frank succeeded in parking the car. no, that came out wrong. he parked the car in a garage next door, not at the center.

i had no idea what to expect, whether a "mandolin festival" comprised of a series of concerts, or a series of mandolin-playing workshops, perhaps with a special demonstration on how to make mandolins. frank didn't know if he was supposed to bring his mandolin or not, and i half-joked that i would bring my uke, disguised as a mandolin. in a beard, hat, and glasses, naturally.

it was a concert it turns out. a three and a half hour concert. don't get me wrong, i really enjoyed it, and our friend gregg was playing in the pittsburgh mandolin orchestra so it was a real treat to see him on the stage. but even operas aren't three and a half hours. and they have costumes.

so each group was great to hear, but perhaps they could have each played about half the number of pieces they chose, to keep things moving. one can only listen to one instrument for so long before needing a break. it's like listening to the bagpipes for three and a half hours straight.

there were three groups: the pittsburgh mandolin orchestra, the dayton, ohio mandolin orchestra, and an international mandolin orchestra, including two young italian guys who took the liberty of goofing off on stage since they could play brilliantly enough to not really pay close attention to what they were doing.

i also enjoyed seeing the range of instruments in the mandolin family; i had no idea that such things existed as mandocellos, and mandobasses, essentially the mandolin equivalents of the various violin family sizes we are used to seeing in a classical orchestra. the mandobass looks like a giant tick, and is totally worth giving you a visual for:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

erin go bragh!

i'm off to the south side in a bit for some guinness-ing fun, but happy saint patrick's day, everyone! today was sunny, warm, and i painted my nails green. tonight, i'll drink guinness with chocolate shots, dance, and be merry.

in honor of this favorite holiday of mine, if you have not seen the films the quiet man and the secret of kells, you are missing two treats! the quiet man stars john wayne as an ex-prize fighter from pittsburgh who comes home to ireland where he meets the fiesty maureen o'hara ("that red hair is no lie!"). the secret of kells is a beautifully animated film that tells the story of how the famous and breathtaking illuminated manuscript, the book of kells, was created. erin go bragh!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

be happy

i have been in a stressful state all week, for various reasons, but one of the biggest, of course, being a general anxiety and misery for the japanese. and yet, they have shown astonishing and admirable patience and humanity in the way they've worked together to help each other.

my dreams have consequently been likewise bizarre and uncomfortable, always too vague to leave me remembering much but a sense of uneasiness; and i keep waking up in the middle of the night, tense with the realization that the world isn't safe.

this afternoon, however, after a day of about 1% of sunlight, i was sitting on the floor of my bedroom with my back to the radiator. my cats were doing likewise, which, by the way, makes it quite crowded around the radiator. but sitting there i looked out my window and happened to see patches of blue sky, straining to break through the racing clouds. it was so small, but i confess my chest actually tightened a bit at the sight. blue sky!

generally i am a cheerful person, singing to myself while walking down the sidewalk, etc. but from habits developed from past experiences, i tend to believe that if i can control enough factors around me by analyzing (or stressing over) them to the tiniest minutiae, then nothing can ever go wrong. of course this isn't true. i remember talking to one of my dear friends about a year ago about a situation that was troubling me, and which i could not stop stressing over. she asked me why i felt the need to be so preoccupied with it, and i said (and i still admit i kind of believe this) that if i at least prepared myself for all possible outcomes of this situation, then it would save me some of the pain of rather having a shock if a negative outcome should occur.

she looked at me kindly and grinned and said "no it won't."

and she's right. it wouldn't save me. you can prepare and prepare for pain, but it's still pain. is that sad-sounding? i've realized that a kind of freedom comes from that thought, though, which is what my friend was getting at: if you can only prepare so much, then what will you do with the rest of your time?

and that answer is always easy: be happy.

so to help you be happy, here's a lovely picture of surely some of the happiest spring flowers, daffodils:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011


oh yes. oh yes. ok seriously one of the best things i've seen in awhile:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

today is a good day

this research on arranged marriage is really intriguing...did you know that over 60% of marriages world-wide are arranged? they seem to have high success rates as well–but of course, we don't know that that necessarily means they are "happy." divorce is much more stigmatized, i believe, in countries where arranged marriage is widely practiced. and there is obviously a whole cultural attitude that goes hand in hand with arranged marriage, namely an expectation of how much effort you are going to put in to make the union work (but maybe this is something we can learn from?).

i am waiting on a book from interlibrary loan (come on library system, i have a first draft due soon!) called first comes marriage, by reva seth, in which she interviews hundreds of women in arranged marriages and assesses the values that they encompass. the book should be really interesting, as it's supposed to not only discuss why many arranged marriages are happy, but how westerners can rethink how they approach marriage and partner compatibility in their own "love matches."

i am also waiting for WARM WEATHER to arrive, but today it should be a high of 52 (yayyyy) and tonight i am going to dinner with my cousins to celebrate cousin doug's girlfriend's birthday. i went to marshalls and old navy yesterday and bought new yoga pants and sweatshirts so after doing some more google searching on arranged marriage, i'm heading outside to take advantage of the first visible signs of spring. so today is going to be a good day.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

how to be married

well, i have no idea how to do so, really. but last semester i wrote a research paper about american marriage and divorce, and this semester i am writing a research paper about arranged marriage in india, and american perspectives on it. so i guess i'm thinking a lot about marriage these days.

no, wait a minute. let's see…the subject of my senior thesis in college was laughter, sexuality and marriage in jane austen. so okay. clearly there has been a theme for awhile here. but i promise, i'm not trying to get married this year or something. i just worry about marriage as this possible looming thing in my future, sometimes. so either i am a typical young woman thinking about what marriage means, or else i've just seen so many bad marriages that i'm always thinking about what makes good ones.

and i have seen good ones (thank God). but how do they do it? what are they made up of? and is academia really the best way to figure them out? thoreau would give me some bull about life experience being the ultimate teacher, but that man really pushes my buttons so i'm not about to take advice from him.

no, i believe in being in doing the research beforehand. being an informed citizen. asking friends, family, and i guess making research projects based around the question of how people are happy together all over the world.

also, did you know that women do not want men that smell bad, or who are not well-groomed? yup. it's all here, on an indian matchmaking website my professor gave me for my research project, read all about what men and women want.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

quality voice-acting

i've noticed that i have about three main stock-accents that i go to, whenever i imitate people. i have:

  • the high-pitched, throaty banshee voice that i use to imitate my mother and aunts
  • the low-vowels-in-the-back-of-the-throat drawl for imitating people who i think are acting stupid
  • the purposefully fake, british accent for people who i think are affected
sometimes it has been pointed out to me that the person whom i am, in fact, imitating, doesn't really sound anything like my voice, but the point is, it is their essence.

i am available for hire for cartoons and radio informercials.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

february and it is coooooold in pittsburgh. but the snow is falling, and my heart feels cheerful, if stressed and sleepy (how possible?). i have a job interview to prepare for, tons of homework to do, have had a stressful and dramatic past week or so, but i've also had good days recently, and i keep my eyes fixed on the days ahead, when surely spring will come.

i also started doing yoga again, and have tried to manufacture spring in my apartment by buying some nice house plants. it's not quite phipp's conservatory, but it's a start.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

if i sit long enough and meditate on it, can i call the spring back sooner with my thoughts?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

caroline washburn wells

this is the story of my great-grandmother, caroline washburn wells.

my great-aunt virginia told me this story two summers ago, so i don't have all of the details, but i hope it's true enough, because i love this story. the story is this: all my life, growing up on mt. riga, and at home in brewster, there were dozens of paintings hung on the walls of every cabin, and they were done by my great-grandmother. all my life i have been surrounded by them. beautiful paintings, some portraits of the family, but many more of the mountain itself, sweeping landscapes of the fields, glimpses of the still lake through a netting of curved tree branches, vivid flowers, and one of my favorites which hangs on my wall: her own cabin, with the famous "h. h. wells" sign displayed proudly in front. she liked to sign these with her name in block letters, or else, which i liked much better, with her initials layered on top of each other in boxy lettering: two big "C"s on top of an even bigger "W." it was an impressive statement.

these have been so much a part of the fabric of my childhood and of the mountain, that i always just assumed that they had been done over a half-century, part of a longtime legacy of mrs. caroline washburn wells. well, they were not.

my great-aunt virginia says this: great-grandmother never painted until the last part of her life. she never knew, in fact, that she could paint. when caroline was growing up, she had a sister who was the artist of the family, whom i believe went to an art school in fact (this sister is the one who married into the lippencott branch of the family, if i'm not mistaken–can anyone verify?). caroline did not go to art school, and did not think she could paint.

well, she was married to my great-grandfather, henry hubbard wells I and they had six children and they lived in brewster in the big casino house at the top of wells street. then at some point in her life, she went through a mental collapse, and went to whatever they called mental health clinics in those days. and it was there that she decided to take an art class. from that, the paintings just poured out of her. landscapes, still lifes, portraits, everything. she also did beautiful pottery, i believe, but i don't know when that began. but the point is, at that moment in her life when she probably felt like she had nothing left going for her, she discovered this amazing capacity for creation. so much so that the art she created was so prolific that someone of my generation felt it had been there all along.

i find it incredible that even through all of her anxiety and suffering, these images were inside her all the time, perhaps struggling to find a way out. we think we know ourselves fully, but her story reminds us that we only begin to understand the scope of our own potential.

so that is the story of my great-grandmother. if anyone knows any more about her, or about this story, please share with me so i can correct/add on to it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

life with marx

you know, we read a lot of marx in my cultural studies program, but the thing is, i still don't really like him. maybe this is unfair, but it seems to me that he was a bit hypocritical, in being so critical of the bourgeoisie while essentially living off the earnings of his business-owning friend, friedrich engels, since he was continually fired from all of his jobs (which, to be fair, was probably because he was so radical).

but i basically think of marx as this guy who's always over at your house because he can't find work or claims he is "hard at work" on the communist manifesto, and you come home from a long day of toil and care, and he's sitting on your couch, unshaven, in a ratty pair of sweatpants, watching TV and loudly complaining about how TV is the opiate of the masses. then he looks up and sees you, and asks you how your day was "conforming to the Man." then he pauses, and asks what's for dinner.

while i know this is a great generalization about marx's life, many people in my program agree that it's probably also a fair assessment about what life with him might have been like.

Monday, January 10, 2011

water = peace

more dreams, during the night, of the lake. they always bring me peace.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

obligatory new year's post

here’s my obligatory reflecting-upon-new year’s blog post. i have some friends who have made various comments on facebook about asking 2011 to be better than 2010, and i laugh…but then i think, why should it be better or worse? every year, like every day—really, every moment—is laden with both good and bad, sometimes in equal measures, sometimes not. i really had some hellish moments this year, but maybe they have served to make me who i am today. if i asked to have them undone, or to not experience them this next year, what would that mean? would they haunt me into the next next year, cropping up in some other form? or if they didn’t, would my mind and my heart become fixed and sluggish, unable to problem-solve with the same confidence? bad times in your life are crap, to be sure, but they teach you how strong you are… even when you feel weakest.

so it makes me nervous to ask for anything in my life to be “better” than what it is…as if asking to never be challenged again. i would ask rather for the courage to face whatever may happen to me, and the grace to appreciate what i have in my life, and to give myself the space i need to be happy in.

but if i have to have one realistic, tangible new years’ wish, it is: please, please let me find a good job for this fall so i don’t have to move in with either of my parents, or i can unhesitatingly say that i will go crazy.

it's not just for the classroom!