Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Reading

My summer reading list is a work-in-progress. It usually is. I start out with a rather lengthy list and then two books in, I find something else I want to read and the whole system gets disrupted. In many ways, I'm a list-oriented person (as my spiral planner and dry erase board can attest), but when it comes to reading, I sometimes have trouble following an already demarcated path. So we'll see how far I get in this one, which I've intentionally kept brief:



1. Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami
2. The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien
3. The Well and the Mine, by Gin Phillips
4. Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami
5. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

1. Articulating Life's Memory: U.S. Medical Rhetoric About Abortion, by Nathan Stormer
2. Cultural Amnesia: America's Future and the Crisis of Memory, by Stephen Bertman
3. Black Dogs and Blue Words: Depression and Gender in the Age of Self-Care, by Kimberly Emmons

There are several more books related to medical rhetoric that I plan to check out; I'm not sure how in-depth I'll read them (it may be more of a skimming/browsing process). I also plan to browse some composition/rhetoric journals. This is all toward helping me decide what I want to research for my PhD. Sometimes I really miss Beverly Cleary.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I am suspended between excitement and defeat when I think about all there is to learn. Everything interests me and fascinates me and tries to draw me into its web. I want to learn to cook, to knit, to crochet, to speak French fluently, to master more difficult yoga poses. I want to read War and Peace, explore the world of finance, consider new avenues for academic research, publish a book. Engage with art, architecture, music, Christianity. Become more environmentally aware, more health conscious. Develop my mind and body to the fullest potential.

Here I am, one speck on a sprawling celestial canvas. I could spend forever looking outward -- seeking, learning, endeavoring to understand. And I will. Because I don't think I can extract myself from the yearning.

But I could also spend forever looking inward -- reflecting, reevaluating, attempting to become a better friend, daughter, niece, neighbor, girlfriend/wife, citizen of earth. And I will. Because knowledge of oneself cannot be found in a paperback that claims to offer such. It cannot be bought or taught or memorized or rehearsed. There is no step-by-step grammar for self-awareness. It is felt, it is lived, it simply is.

I do not want to move mechanically through each day, checking mirrors for skin blemishes and applying apologies as relationship balms. I am deeper than my complexion, and I love more deeply than words can render. To beautify, I must first look inward. To love those around me, I must first look inward. To interrogate this globally shared existence, I must first, and always, be willing to interrogate my own.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

On the Origin of Status Updates

We each have our own style of Facebooking. Huge photo albums. Compulsive wall-posting. Obnoxiously frequent video-postings to others' walls. One log-in per month. Two log-ins per hour. Sparse profile pages. Textually flooded profile pages. Five hundred applications. Minimalist everything. Ceaseless poking (though that one's died out quite a bit).

Regardless, there is one feature that is both used and abused by most users of this depressingly addictive social networking site: the status update.

When it first was introduced, the status update limited users to using the present progressive verb tense.

Mary is studying.
Mary is going to class.
Mary is taking a shower.
Mary is not wanting to wake up early.
Mary is thinking the simple present would be nice.

Some people blissfully ignored the rules of verb formations.

Mary is yayyy Federer won!
Mary is ...hmmm...
Mary is overslept.

Finally, Facebook granted us our independence and removed that tiny little obstruction to our expressive free-for-alls. Now, we can insert "is" at our own will, or we can use any other verb and tense.... or noun or interjection or anything our little hearts desire.

With the advent of "like" and status comments, entire conversations can be built around a single status update. It's not enough to write on someone's wall, now. Instead, we can have focused mini-chats about the cookies someone baked this morning or the 10 inches of snow or the fact that someone feels blah.

I know as I update my status and read others' that I'm wasting far too much time on this site. Tonight I decided to waste even more time by discussing some of the most common styles of status updates that grace my home page on any given day.

This is by no means scientific, nor do I claim that my observations represent the Facebook population at large. I also intend no insult to anyone because I've used a variety of these styles myself. I'm simply interested in analyzing how spontaneously written textual updates cumulatively come to signify an individual.

Actually, no. That's a topic for a more serious investigation. I just want to ramble at the moment.

These come in no particular order other than how I think of them.

Style: good news!
Example: Cindy aced her finals, woooo!!!
This update announces something big and important, usually followed by exclamations or smilie faces. Some reserve the good news! update for really big things (such as engagements, pregnancies, new jobs, and the like). Others will announce an A on a school paper or the acquisition of tickets for a concert. The important thing is that good news! updates relate to the author and no one else; he or she wants personal congratulations, not communal celebration.

Style: communal celebration
Example: Michael Hell yeah, Cavs to the playoffs!!!!!!!!@@
This style is similar to the previous, in that good news is announced. However, it's something shared with others, such as a big sports victory. These updates usually gain lots of "likes" but perhaps not as many individual comments because there's not as much to say on the topic.

Style: bad news
No example needed.
The opposite of good news. Obviously. The updater needs sympathy and commiseration. Generally, bad news updates warrant genuine pity because they include important life events (death of a person, loss of a pet, loss of a job, etc.). They are heavy and truly sad. Others never quite know what to say on them except to express sorrow and extend thoughts and prayers.

Style: my life sucks
Example: Julia UGH I overslept by 30 minutes and missed my first class again. FML.
Whereas the last style invites genuine concern, this one tends to risk becoming a daily complaint bulletin. An occasional "life sucks" moment is fine. But sometimes, they start to become habitual, punctuated occasionally by a good news! but otherwise a steady stream of FMLs. That's when the "hide" feature comes to good use.

Style: (wo)man vs. food
Example: Marcia just consumed the most DELICIOUS steak ever, drizzled in a wine demi-glace and served with garlic mashed potatoes on the side. mmmmm so full.
Every new food item consumed is listed, sometimes in extraordinary detail. No objections here.

Style: overt drunkie-ness
Example: Stephanie is out partyyyin wit my girlieees so druk lollll gnitte all :)))
Typos galore; excessive emphasis on drunkenness; a clear need for attention. I'd much rather hear about steak in a wine demi-glace.

Style: cryptic mystique
Example: Steven... if only.....
They want to make you wonder. They want you to comment with inquiries. They want you to hypothesize as to the cause or the deeper meaning. They might ignore all inquires and simply post another cryptic mystique an hour later (...never again...sigh.). Oh, the suspense is eating me alive!

Style: honest report
Example: Curt has a busy day...class, meeting, dinner, studying, gym, bed.
This is a basic chronicle of one's day. No frills or mystery about it. Usually contains a steady stream of either nouns or action verbs. Simple, direct, to the point.

Style: love report
Example: Michelle loves her husband!
Really? Well, gosh, who'd have thought.
**Disclaimer: I love seeing expressions of love. But these ones always amuse me, especially when they're accompanied by no other remarks.

Style: suggestion grabber
Example: Bob needs an idea for his final paper on the civil war. Help.
Multiple comments and conversation threads ensue. Perhaps some commiseration as well.

Style: tweet imports
Example: Robert @blue_vibes yeah i'm with ya!
Just say no.

Style: grammar murder
Example: Lizzy hahaha you know your a phi mu when its 2am and your running acrost the street waring only a pink bath robe that isnt even your's ...
Like, way to kill the English language. Time and time again. These status updates make me feel like such a snob, but deep down I know I'm justified in physically shaking and clutching my desktop dictionary.

Style: the tangent
No example needed.
This situation is instigated not by the updater but rather with one select commenter. The status could be about the weather, but someone will say "hey sorry i missed ur party last nite!" and then the updater will respond "it's ok, we should hang out, maybe friday?" and then 10 comments later, the person who initially commented with "i know, 80 degree weather rocks!" will discreetly delete his or her remark so as to stop receiving notifications.

Further suggestions are welcome. But it's 3 a.m. now. And I stayed up waayyy too late writing this thing. FML.

Monday, February 15, 2010


You know the professor from Alabama who shot her colleagues dead? Well, according to a panelist on Jane Velez Mitchell, professors have a reputation for being a little wacky. Mitchell agreed with this comment, and if it weren't for a random caller who defended teachers in higher education, these ignorant remarks would've been left unquestioned.

Now, I know professors have been seen as "eccentric" and absent-minded maybe a little "out there," but most of us know that's a general stereotype. It's one thing to joke around about those in academia having eccentricities. I'll admit you have to be a little out-of-the-ordinary in order to devote your life to school. And those of us who spend endless hours at the library have inhaled dangerous amounts of dust from those peculiar-smelling (yet somehow comforting) old books, probably with deleterious effects after accumulated exposure.

And yeah, we'll probably have stress break-downs every now and then, but at least for me, those break-downs involve some tears, some unhealthy eating, some insomnia, and some whining to my boyfriend. None of those things harm others. Well, my boyfriend probably wishes I'd hush up sometimes. But he knows that if he gives me some chocolate and/or wine I'll be just fine within hours.

My friends are all similar. I know countless people pursuing higher education, many of whom wish to become tenured and teach for the rest of their lives. I admire their dedication and intelligence so much.

I hope to complete my doctorate and join the ranks of life-long scholars myself. And I do not appreciate stupid comments made casually on national television connecting "wacky professors" to one clearly mentally disturbed woman who happened to hold a PhD. During the same show, a comment was made regarding this woman's tenure, and how perhaps the acquisition of tenure should have an age limit (I don't know the specifics; I heard about this entire batch of comments second-hand). Hm, let's conveniently ignore the fact that the suspect killed her brother with a shotgun at age 19, yet was let go because police ruled it "an accident." I think that was long before securing tenure.

Get the facts right, people. It's not like you're talking with your neighbor over coffee; you're on CNN. Don't connect an entire profession with a single murderer. A little education about common tact might do you some good.