Sunday, March 22, 2009

Everyone is Beautiful. Really.

A few times a year, I react strongly to a book. Sometimes, I identify completely with the main character. Sometimes, I find the plot to be absolutely intoxicating. Sometimes, I find myself smitten with the secondary and peripheral characters, the setting, the humor, or the author's enticing way with words. In this particular situation, all of the above apply to Katherine Center's newest novel, Everyone is Beautiful.

When my latest Early Reviewer ARC arrived in the mail from Random House this past Friday, I was not particularly impressed. Another chick lit, I figured. Center's book was tossed onto the "To Be Read" stack, only to be picked up again a few hours later. While waiting for the coffee to percolate, I flipped to the first page and was immediately ensnared. I forewent all obligations and consumed the novel that evening.

Center's novel takes readers on a wild ride of emotions and ideas, ranging from laugh-out-loud humor and excitement, to varying shades of sobbing sadness and weeping happiness. Elena, the heroine and mother of three young boys, is far from average. Elena, as well as the novel's other characters, express a deepness of thought and opinion that elevates the story far above the stereotype-ridden chick-lit genre. Beneath the veneer of a rite-of-passage romantic comedy is Center's simmering discussion of what makes a person beautiful. In addition, the characters deal with issues including the struggles of parenting, loss of loved ones, and fears of the loss of identity.

Everyone is Beautiful has something for everyone, at every stage in life. While the heroine is a mother of three in a new city, Center's work also sheds light on multiple stages of life for both women and men. It is plump with possibility and humor, as well as a more serious look at how a person becomes who they are over the years, and how a few small changes can throw everything into or out of focus. At the risk of sounding cliche, this novel changed my life.

My advanced reader edition of the book (released 17 February 2009) already has a waiting list of three. I think it would make an excellent Mother's Day gift, but I can't bare to give it away!

((Portions of this have been x-posted on LibraryThing and submitted to Random House.))

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reinforcing the Glass Ceiling

Swirling about in my mind are numerous less-than-pleasing issues, problems, ideas, and worries.

  • Does going to an excellent and highly-ranked grad school mean that I must choose before academia and a large family?
  • Why is it that I am only enthused enough to exercise after I eat so much food, I fear that moving will be rather impossible?
  • Can I finish all of these darn papers? Does my thesis have a point, even? Does anyone care about an academic approach to the American Girl dolls? Do I?
  • Will my ex stumble upon this blog, and sift through it for some off-hand mentions of him, as I would if I were to find his? Does this make me completely contemptible?
  • Why am I so horribly fascinated by Russell Brand and his too-tight leather pants? How is it that this man can wear higher heels than me, or most women I know?
  • Was I too quick to judge my boss?
  • How many saltines would I eat tomorrow, if all I consume is coffee and crackers?
I think that I'm setting myself up for failure. I've partially applied to this wonderful east-coast college that I can't quite afford. I intend (sort of) to finish the application process tomorrow by sending them my writing sample, along with a revised statement of career objectives and a brief explanation of my rather unusual writing sample choice.

I'm not sure if I'm trying to sabotage myself or not, but to meet the requirement of an academic writing sample, I'm sending their history department a personal essay that I wrote a few months back. It's about preservation, and does have historical significance, but it's a mix of narrative and expository sections. I believe (sort of) that it's a creative approach to identifying myself as an interdisciplinary student of both history and English. I believe that it also expresses my interest in and passion for preservation, and public historicism. The essay is definitely not what the committee is expecting, and I'm not sure if it will be well received. Thus, I am sending that brief explanation. But if the sample needs an explanation, is it good enough? Shouldn't it be able to stand alone?

Too late now. I've decided.

But what of this whole grad school "thing," anyway? The plan is/was to pursue a Masters in Library and Information Science (or possibly a MA in History) combined with a certification/specialization in archives management. I've adored my experiences of working with archives, and know that I'd be happy continuing in this field.

Is up rooting and moving to Boston the best plan, though? We're getting married in October, here in Michigan. So if we can find jobs and whatnot, we'd have to jet back out here in a matter of months to pull off The Wedding in a single weekend. That's stressful. But that's not the big issue. Boston is expensive. I hardly think we could afford it. And why should we leave Michigan when we both have multiple job opportunities to follow. For gawd's sakes, his fallback is a full time position at his university. Salaried with benefits, if I'm not mistaken.

I can't back out of the application process now, or I'd never live it down. I'd be mortified to explain it to my parents, my friends, my family, and the six wonderful individuals who were kind enough to write letters of recommendation. But I just don't want to. I think.

I'm done rambling about this. Read what you'd like in the title of this ramble. I feel as if I'm degrading myself in more ways than one.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Still alive, and struggling to keep my head above water at the moment.
Fortunately, I haven't fallen victim to that awful cold that's circulating.
However, I am attempting to plan a wedding, apply to grad school(s), keep up with classes, and prepare a few pieces for submission to various journals.


In fact, I haven't read the blogs for well over two weeks, and so I've fallen behind.

I have, however, watched Pride and Prejudice twice in the last 48 hours (the newest rendition, not the BBC version).

Dead Poets Society party this weekend, at which the English honors society will make bookmarks, eat pizza, and swoon over the fictionalized life of a "good" teacher.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Why This Blog Matters

Within the depths of the business section of today's New York Times, I came across an article on the downsizing of Newsweek. Although they're not the first or last publication to forgo some stories, it begs the question – what is newsworthy these days?
(By the way, I'm either suffering severe deja-vu, or this has 'been done' before, perhaps even by me. Still, this is important.)
The same stories are provided in an overwhelming array of ways and mediums. For instance, the story of Flight 1549's landing on the Hudson River. This story has held a top spot on seemingly every station, in every paper, and on every news segment on every radio station I've come across. Frankly, I'm sick of it.
Please, don't misunderstand me. I think it's wonderful that the passengers of Flight 1549 survived, and that the pilot should be rewarded (by US Airways, not the government). But, I also think that there is an endless amount of stories that get zero coverage, while the nation watches repeat stories on Obama, the plane, crazy parents, etc. Enough is enough.
In Richard Pérez-Peña's article, Newsweek's editor explains that the need for repeated coverage is disappearing. “If we don't have something original to say,” explained Meacham, “we won't. The drill of chasing the week's details is not sustainable.”
I look forward to these changes at Newsweek. While it is, arguable, a necessary change due to the economy and the suffering of the publishing and news industries, I also think that it shows creativity and a willingness to change and redefine news journals. Hopefully, their readers will agree and the journal will benefit!
Which brings be back to the original question. What does newsworthy mean, and who gets to define it? The media's coverage of certain sensational events has gotten a bit unwieldy over the past decade or so. A landmark change is the OJ Simpson court coverage, but I know better than to label that as the reason. I could go back so far as Dickens and serialization of sensationalist stories for profit. Really, that's what we're still doing today, but more directly.
I buy into it. Everyone does. And here I am, clogging up the blogosphere with regurgitated stories and quotes. Am I just furthering the problem rather than bringing about a solution? Perhaps. Do I care? Not really.
There's also been an uptick in what I see as a lazy person's guide to talking b.s. Newsweek will call theirs “The Bluffer's Guide,” while embodies it completely. Won't these short-lists of big stories and events simply further the problem? Rather than open up space for other stories in the press, these lists will take over. If a story isn't on the Top 10, then it won't be seen at all by the majority of society. My God, soon we'll all be reading newspeak , just as in George Orwell's 1984.
We should be worried. Someone should do something. Unfortunately, that someone is not me. Call me a fatalist, but I've come to realize that I won't be making any major changes in society, or at least not for a long while. Still, I think that the blogosphere is one of our greatest hopes for the continued sharing of information that doesn't make it onto CNN's greatest hits countdown. Keep writing. Keep thinking. Keep blogging!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I'm Ensnared by the Net(working Sites)

Over the course of this past week, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering internet identity. A few days ago, I convinced a close friend to join Facebook. As college students active on campus, it’s a useful communication tool – that’s undeniable. However, it’s also a pain. Facebook doubles as Stalkerbook for many. It’s great for the passive-aggressive “frienemy” looking for embarrassing pictures or blackmail-worth gossip about their chosen target. IT’s also good for keeping up on general gossip about friends without them knowing.

The trouble with posting your private life’s events on the internet, whether it be through MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or the many other networking sites, is that it creates a permanent record available to all. The moment something is posted, it’s at the mercy of its audience. Sure, the poster can go back and edit things in or out. That just isn’t enough, though. Anyone can take this post, copy and paste it, save it, and bring it back up next time I spout appreciation for Facebook and Twitter. (I’m on both, by the way.)

Recently, I’ve been talking with a professor about the virtues and flaws of Facebook. The department has created a page, and begged faculty to make profiles and befriend the department. They created an internet persona, realized it was friendless, and then begged others to do the same to appease the chair (or, more likely, my school’s money-hungry administration). Does no one else see the silliness of this? Anyway. This professor and I have been pondering the ins and outs of posting your personal life online, accessible to everyone in your current circle of friends and family, as well as old classmates, old friends, former flames, former employers, future employers, future acquaintances, and countless strangers. Logically, it’s a bad idea.

“Just censor yourself,” they say. Easier said than done. As Facebook celebrates its fifth year, stories are popping up about professors who have gotten into trouble over snarky comments and silly pictures. Do I need to mention the tens of thousands of college students searching for jobs with pictures of beer bongs and stupid costumes plastered all over the internet? People forget that the internet is not simply a receptacle of your silly thoughts and doings. It’s a record. When those memories sift towards the back of your online photo albums or book reviews, they’re still stored away in this virtual filing cabinet, just waiting to be dragged back out into the light.

Now, I’m not saying that the networking sites are evil. Far from it, really. I began blogging on LiveJournal sometime around 2002, and haven’t looked back. Since then, I’v had at least a dozen blogs – most of which I can’t remember the name of. Over the summer, I joined Twitter. For a few years, now, I’ve been meaning to start vlogging on YouTube. While Google-ing myself earlier today, I came across book reviews written by a 13-year-old self, bemoaning the trials and tribulations of a young teenager. I’m not sure how to go about getting those taken down, or even if I should try to do so. I do wonder, though, what my future employer and coworkers will think when they come across my thoughts on The Ultimate Babysitter’s Handbook and Ella Enchanted (which I deemed to be “The PERFECT Book”). I just hope that they don’t find that old LiveJournal.

So if I’m so against leaving a virtual paper trail and creating a skewable internet identity, why am I blogging? I suppose I’m a hypocrite. What’s my point? I’m not sure, exactly. After all, I did convince my friend and my professor that it’s alright to join Facebook. I suppose I’m asking everyone (and reminding myself) to be careful. Be aware. Beware.

Libraries are COOL?! - Fox News

I logged into the Internet this afternoon at my parents' house, and came across a video newsbite* from Fox News. The reporter visited a public library in Chicago, and made many stereotypical comments, followed by touching on rather important issues.

Public libraries are "making a comeback," he said with a grin. This is thanks to their great free resources, like dvds and cds, as well as job-searching tools and Internet access. I was worried that books would not even be mentioned, but then they panned to a display of budget living books. The reported pushed the themes of free stuff, new technologies, and friendly people waiting ready to help patrons. Yes!

In this downtrodden economy, the report cited record levels of attendance and circulation over the last few days/weeks (that bit was unclear). This is the second time this week that I've heard a news reporter championing libraries for their free and new movies. I wonder how many non-library people are hearing this?

At the end, the reporter also mentioned how this Chicago library is quite well funded and up-to-date, while many of the nations libraries are "in jeopardy". Gov. Granholm's announcement of a funding cut to all Michigan museums and libraries hasn't really sunk in, I'm afraid. I've heard next to nothing about it on the news and radio. I'm hoping that the local papers have picked up on that story, but I haven't sat down to thumb through the stack, yet.

As I mentioned, I'm home for the weekend after a busy week on campus. I saw Kym Worth, the Wayne County Prosecutor, speak about life and the Kwame drama. Late this week I'll make a post about that. My brain is fried, and I was struck down by the cold that's going around (and around, and around).

*The link didn't work as I wanted it to, but while searching for a new one, I found this article about job resources and public libraries. I'll try searching again, later.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Secret things.

I've caved. Here's the '25 Things' Facebook meme..

1. I've lived on campus at my small commuter-based university for five years.

2. I began college as an Elementary Ed. major. Then I switched to Secondary Ed. Then I switched to Pre-K/Early Childhood Development. Then Journalism. Then English. Then, I added on a B.A. in History and a concentration in American Studies, and I'm nearly done.

3. I actually enjoy having a broken cell phone. I'm less attainable, that way.

4. I have a book-buying problem, and this year's resolution is to control my buying habits by only getting books that "fit into my collection," which is a rather broad classification. This works to my benefit, but doesn't help my bank account very much.

5. I subsist on about $70 or $80 a week in paychecks, and the kindness of my parents.

6. I've tried to make the switch from coffee to tea, but I just can't handle it.

7. I have too many "hobbies," like decoupage and card making, that I don't actually practice due to time restrictions.

8. I watch junky MTV/VH1 reality shows when no one else is around. They're fun!

9. I like corned beef hash. The kind that comes in the can.

10. I consider myself to be a Nerdfighter, and started watching John and Hank Green in May of 2007. I was an early NFer! (Google them. Please.)

11. I've tried to remove my Facebook account three times, but I keep getting pulled back in. The same goes for Myspace, but to a lesser degree.

12. I only talk to about 5 people who graduated from my high school. For the most part, I've tried to cut myself off from that crowd, which makes going home rather boring.

13. I studied abroad at Brasenose College, within the University of Oxford, for a summer. While I'd like to say that it weas an UofO program, it was really just an OU professor teaching in an Oxford classroom. Still, amazing and life-changing.

14. I pour a little milk into every bowl of ice cream. It makes it tastier!

15. I hate heat. I hate cold. I have internal temperature issues, which cause me to overheat at least once a day.

16. When I get sick, I get really sick. On a related note, I think I'm getting sick. Sore throat, stuffy nose... here we go.

17. I'm naturally a suck-up. I find my professors interesting, and like to go during office hours. Apparently, this is not normal.

18. I don't have a car. Seriously. It's all thanks to horrible nightmares and an intense fear of failure.

19. I have the most wonderful fiancè. And, I just spent about 3 minutes guessing at the alt+number combos to find that accented 'e'. Close enough.

20. I start my day with the Today Show, and end it with Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jay Leno, and Conan O'Brien. It's affecting my health.

21. I'm so passive aggressive, it's embarrassing.

22. I overuse commas and exclamation marks - a dirty habit.

23. I love M&Ms, and always have a bag nearby at home.

24. I used to be really into writing Harry Potter fan-fictions and online role-playing. Sure, it may be funny now, but it also made me the person that I am today.

25. Suzanne Somers's Thigh Master always fascinated me, and I played with it when I was bored, as a little girl.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

LiveJournal, circa 2003

While delving into my blogging history this evening, I've come across some true golden nuggets in my old high-school LiveJournal. Oh, LJ. My first blog. I was so faithful. So young. So... high school.

Anyway, here are some of the pieces I simply couldn't let fall back into obscurity.

Dec 3, 2003:
Ape Drape.
Beaver Paddle.
Bi - Level.
Camero Cut.
Buisness in the front, Party in the back.
Canadian passport.
Coupe Longveuil.
Hockey hair.
Kentucky waterfall.
Missouri comprimise.
Shlonc (short + long).
Soccer rocker.
Squirrel pelt.
Tennessee tophat.


August 5, 2003:
*clap* *clap* *clap* *clap*


what the...

Please enjoy making fun of me. haha

Gov. Jennifer Granholm's State of the State Address

Michiganders love to complain about the state's infamously horrible roads. Full of tire-popping, crater-sized pot holes, the ribbons of highways that bisect and connect our state are falling to pieces, quite literally. However, the faulty roads have taken a back-seat in the media spotlight, which now shines blindingly on the newest fault - Michigan's struggling economy. Much like our roads, our economy and infrastructure are full of holes. Huge, gaping ones. Rather than a simple patch job, the rejuvenation of Michigan requires a full reconstruction and reformation. Michiganders also love to complain about construction, but this sort of work is needed. Under the leadership of Gov. Granholm, I think that we'll come out of this year with a good foundation laid. Soon, the Motor City and the state as a whole will be rolling along again.

This brings me to Gov. Granholm's "State of the State" address, which just aired. I have the utmost respect of Gov. Granholm, but I'll resist sounding like a fangirl...

"I will not sugar-coat the severity of the crisis," began the governor. Her hour-long speech overflowed with war-like vocabulary. Battle plans, soldiers, fighting for and protecting the "army of determined citizens" that make up Michigan. Allusions abounded. At first, I feared that her address would in fact be a lecture on nationalism. Fortunately, I was wrong.

The Granholm Administration's plan for reviving Michigan is a combination of job creation and the renewable energy industry. Over the last few years, Michigan's government has saved about $60 million in taxpayers' money by converting to more efficiency and green technologies. Some of these changes were as simple as screwing in better lightbulbs. This 23% cut is only the beginning. In Granholm's "45 by 20" goal, she has challenged the state to reduce their reliance on fossil fuel by 45% by the year 2020. The $2 billion that Michigan annually spends on importing coal from other states can go toward wind and solar power technologies within the state. "Energy entrepreneurs," she called us, as she outlined her plans for individuals to harness the power of sun and wind in their own homes and businesses - and profit by selling extra power back to the the power companies.

The push for a greener Michigan goes farther, and plays into job creation. Granholm proposed the creation of a new sort of CCC, where thousands of Michiganders would weatherize government buildings, research new technologies, and install them across the state. Referring to the impressive decrease in the government's reliance on fossil fuels, Granholm joked, "If government can do this, you can too."

The film industry was another star player in Granholm's address and plans for the future. Wonderstruck Animation, she announced, will be building a new studio in Detroit. Stardock, a gaming company, will set up in Plymouth. Motown Motion Pictures is moving into an old GM factory in Pontiac, bringing 3,600 new jobs to the area. Granholm made a special mention of her hopes to employ more of the "young creative workers" of Michigan through this new entertainment industry. I think she's on to something.

Reform, reform, reform. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for reforming the government and Michigan a whole. It's just that, well, I'm sure that every credible journalist will write an article or four about Granholm's reforms in the next week. I'll save myself the time of writing what everyone else is likely to focus on.

Granholm finished up with five "urgent measures" that she proposed to the state, as a whole.
  • Freeze tuition hikes, for the next academic year. (Oh, Gawd, yes. Please!)
  • For the legislature to pass the Home Foreclosure Prevention Act, giving homeowners 90 days to secure financing rather than have their own front doors slammed in their faces.
  • For public utilities to end shut-offs for the remainder of the winter, in the cases of seniors, the disabled, and homes with low or no income.
  • Freeze hikes in auto insurance rates for one year, allowing the current insurance reform to be proposed and passed. And, if a company refuses, Granholm called on her administration to use any and every tool in their possession to combat those heartless money-grubbing executives.
  • For the continued support of health care for those who are most in need. Don't strip people of their health care in an attempt to reduce spending!

I was thrilled to hear about Granholm's renewable energy plans for individuals to get involved, and possibly profit, from new technologies. Also, I have high hopes for Wonderstruck Animation in Detroit. With so many friends at CCS, how could I not be geeked about the possibilities of my sister, the animation student, finding a job in Michigan? One last point Granholm focused on, which thrilled me, is the "Buy Michigan First" initiative. "Support Michigan. Select Michigan. Buy Michigan," she pleaded. The more attention this cause gets, the better off we'll all be.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hot Coffee Drinks and Chocolate

I'm a caffeine fiend, that much I know. Over the course of one "good" day, I'll down three or four coffee drinks of varying sizes. Sometimes, I'll go for a chai latte, instead, but always something caffeinated. Always.

While avoiding responsibility this morning (and drinking a coffee drink), I came across Cole Bertsos's blog in the State News. "A Week in the Life" is a journalistic blog chronicling Bertsos's attempts at new ways of living. Vegitarianism was the last round. This week: no caffeine!

Ugh. Reading her descriptions of caffeine withdraw was rather scary, for me. Shakes, headaches, exhaustion, aches and pains. I found myself muttering "better her than me" more than once. But really, her suffering has scared me a bit. Just how hooked am I? I mean, I go long stretches without coffee (in Archives, when I'm not actually allowed to have a drink with me). I try to cut myself off by 8pm on most nights. But my day never really starts until I feel the lovely caffeine coursing through my veins, keeping me poised in French History, or that horrid Excel class. I think I could go a week without caffeine if needed, since I'm not a pop drinker. But chocolate has it, too. Oh, my sweet chocolate (bad pun). Between the M&Ms and Caribou Coffee, I'm a slave to temptation.

Anyway, do check out Bertsos's progress this week. She's got a superb style, which makes her blogs fun to read and informative. "I'm Caffeine Free" is definitely one I'll come back to later this week, to check his progress!

On other fronts, John Updike has passed away this week, leaving behind quite an impressive oeuvre. He will be missed.

The new year has begun, and my resolution is/was to read more books in 2009 than I managed in 2008. For those keeping count, that'd be at least 43 books. And what is my total, to date? Three. It's going to be interesting...