Sunday, November 28, 2010

Poetry Radio Project

American Public Media and the Poetry Foundation have teamed up to bring poetry to the radio. Here's a brief overview of the project and the programs featured.
I feel bad saying it, but I just about never listen to the radio, in part because I use public transportation so much more than a car. It never occurs to me to listen online because these days I mostly work in silence.
But poetry on the radio makes sense because it is meant to be read outloud and listened to, not simply read. Poetry is not like a closet drama. Hearing the actual poet read their work often makes more sense then simply reading it on the page (though with all the interesting ways poetry appears on the page these days, seeing it as it's being read is also illuminating.) Hearing a poet read even one of their poems makes it easier to understand their poetry in general, because you can then hear in your mind's ear their voice reading every poem.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Riding Side Saddle

Edwardian Promenade has another interesting post, this time about riding side saddle.  One of the things the post mentions is that it took a long time before riding skirts were designed with safety in mind.  Before that, it was common for women to get dragged by their horses.  The history of clothing is littered with stories of clothes that privileged a certain aesthetic for women over their own health and safety, and the fact that horse draggings went on for centuries before a solution was found is really sad.  Women were literally dying just to wear socially acceptable clothes. 
It's hard not to wonder about some of our own choices today and think about how they are privileging an aesthetic over health and safety.  For example, women (more so then men) get surgery to change their appearance, and although many of these procedures happen without complications, problems can arise.  Is this really what we want for women and men?  To feel compelled to change their bodies or put their bodies at risk just for other people?  Do we really want them to feel like they're getting dragged by a  horse?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Girl Talk Tour

Girl Talk, one of my favorite one-man bands, is going on tour starting next week, since his new album came out this week.  I definitely want to go.
Girl Talk remixes and blends various pop songs together to create these really interesting songs.  The songs often bleed into one another.  I always enjoy listening for the various songs that are sewn together, and sometimes I can identify only some parts of what are in something.  (And sometimes not by name.)  Part of the fun of this music is trying to catch all the various bits being used, though your knowledge of pop music would have to be intense to catch all or even most of it.
The only thing that gives me pause about Girl Talk is some of the music being sampled.  Often the lyrics being sampled, like the one above, contain lyrics that are misogynistic.  It would be one thing if Girl Talk was cutting out the offensive lyrics; it might be read as a way to erase offensive material and replacing it with something positive or at least less awful.  But since he includes it (as with the song above, from his album Feed the Animals,) it is hard not to wonder what political message he's sending. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Back Home in Indiana

Sometimes, when we're feeling something in particular, we need a bit of art (a song, a movie, a book), to go along with that moment. Since it's Thanksgiving, I'm sure most of you have found yourself a little nostalgic, and a little sad. I have a piece for you to commiserate with: "Back Home in Indiana."
It's a nice essay from a woman who is clearly missing home, but struggling to define exactly what part of home she misses and how to go about fixing it. She mentions trying to get her kids to spend their summers in Indiana. My parents did this, though it was with Portland, Oregon. I still love Portland. I consider it a home, much like my actual hometown.
So, where ever you are this holiday, have a moment to remember your home(s). And realize there are new homes waiting to be made.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Short Thao Nguyen Concert

Here's a short concert of Thao Nguyen on NPR. She's working it solo here, but she's also part of the band the Get Down Stay Down. I love this first song, "Bag of Hammers," that Nguyen sings. The first line "I am all in a ball in your front yard" is a perfect opening. I also love the body movements musicians have, which are often unique to each. She has this sort of jerky semi-headbang going on that ia fun to watch. She has an amazing voice. I love the breathy vocal ornaments added through the songs.
On another note, I am totally jealous that these people at NPR get all this great music. I would love to work at this job.
Thanks to f bomb for the music suggestion.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Intellectual Laziness

Recently, there's been a series of professors who have been video taped and then have had their statements posted online.  Some of the other issues aside, it is really sad that we live in an age where people don't want to be challenged, as in one case, where it appears a professor was targeted because of his political views.  One of the important reasons people go to college is to expose themselves to different and new ideas.  Sometimes, as individuals, we reject the ideas we're around; other times we don't.  But getting exposed to them in the first place is not a bad thing. 
A friend once argued to me that she didn't want to read certain material because of the effect it might have on her.  But this is silly, because the only way we can understand why something is bad/false/an exaggeration is if we work through the idea first.  There's a famous quote from Aristotle about a strong mind being capable of considering other ideas but then being able to reject them, and that's exactly the kind of strong minds schools should want.  Misrepresenting someone's ideas is not critiquing them; it's attempting to hoodwink other thinkers, which is simply intellectual laziness. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Transy vs. Charleston

Here's another great video of Transy Quidditch, one of my favorite teams.  This was the very last game of the evening at the World Cup.  I was so impressed with Transy for working so hard. 
I have mixed feelings about the extra Snitches who came in and then started switching the snitch around.  On one hand, I wonder if that's against the rules, just because it really should be.  (I mean, it's one thing when another team's snitch comes in, but they actually waited, three of them, to come into the fray.)  And how would we even check, because there's 700 rules?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Covers of Kurt Vonnegut

Good Show Sir is the interesting blog which collects all the worst science fiction book covers out there. The first time I looked at this blog, I was amused to see the latest post featured a book I myself had.
Lately though they posted a Kurt Vonnegut cover. I love Vonnegut, but this cover is indeed bad. (Though I've seen worse on the like of Battlefield Earth.) Mostly, I feel like there should be a category called When Bad Covers Happen to Good Authors.
One of the things I don't think people realize is that writers do not necessarily get a lot of say over covers, especially if they're getting published with a big press. Sometimes writers will get to pick one cover out of a few acceptable choices, but that's it.
Don't despair for Vonnegut: his cover for Jailbird actually looks really nice.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

American Dominance

One of the things I'm currently working through is a book called Incognegro, which is really fascinating.  Basically, it's about an African American man discussing three periods of his life: his childhood, his time living on and off in South Africa, and his time after South Africa, trying to emotionally put himself together. 
One of the other things that strikes me in the book is the absence of the U.S. Because I am an American, I am used to and expect our cultural dominance, of everything being measured against us, even though such a thing is unfair. Even though the book takes place at various moments in the U.S., I am struck by how whatever was happening in the U.S. past 1970 is mostly irrelevant and goes unmentioned. The book emphasizes how different South Africa is from the U.S., because frankly no one there appears to care what is going on in the U.S. during his story.  I don't think that's a bad thing at all, but I do think it makes a startling point to American readers who, like me, are used to everything being about us. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Latina Poetry

Racialicious recently put up this great interview with poet Janet Romeo-Leiva. In it, she talks about the process of writing, independent publishing, and her favorite authors.
She suggests some great Latina writers, including Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Andulzua. Having read them myself, I can tell you that they're amazing. They write political poetry, which is some of the toughest poetry out there to write, because it is so hard not to become didactic and lose sight of the actual poetry. Also, if you like both of these poets, I'd also suggest Lorna Dee Cervantes, another fabulous Latina political poet.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

McLuhan's Religion and the Influence of Media

Carrying on from yesterday's post, Wired magazine has an article discussing McLuhan and a recent documentary on him. The article mentions that McLuhan converted to Catholicism but that why isn't made clear. But if you read the Wikipedia article, you know it's because of G.K. Chesterton, the English writer.
Most of us don't consider how media effects us, but obviously McLuhan was hyper-aware of it. Moreover, we are even less likely to think about how books affect us, especially if we're not the kind of people to see books as media because of how old they are. McLuhan, even at a young age, saw the effect that Chesterton had on him, because it changed him into a religious man. Given McLuhan's own account of what made him convert, it seems obvious he would one day turn around and see other forms of media as having large influence on people, even if they were converting to a very different form of religion.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Medium is the Message

Wikipedia has fascinating articles on ideas and people. One entry I was recently reading was on Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan is probably most famous for the statement that "the medium is the message," which basically states that the context of an idea is important. McLuhan wrote some of the most influential books on media and the way people consume it.
McLuhan passed away before the Internet, which is too bad, because he would have a lot to say about an age made of Skype, texting, and, well, Wikipedia. He probably would see our media as harmful to society and as a way for power structures to maintain the status quo.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Quidditch World Cup Day Two

MSU, sadly, lost against to one of the other Quidditch teams early on the second day. It was a hard match to watch, just because MSU was working so hard. Mike, the Seeker, was getting criticized by the commentators for not ending the game by simply catching the snitch. And they kept calling us the University of Michigan, which is really rude and disrespectful. They didn't do that to other schools, and Michigan would not appreciate it either.

I am proud of how MSU played. They play hard no matter what, and I find that admirable. At the end of the game, they even sang "MSU Shadows," and it was just like being at school.
I decided to stick around and catch some of the other games. The day before, I had hung out with the Transylvania University team, so I decided to go find them. They had cheered for us during our game, so I was going to cheer for them too.
For teams that did not make it into the finals bracket, they scheduled skirmishes. Basically, this is a great opportunity for teams to play a lot of different schools they might not otherwise play. They can practice their strategy and see other teams' strategies too. So, basically Quidditch boot camp.
Transylvania played against John Hopkins. It was a close game, but Transylvania (who are the Animagi) were up. At one point, one of the John Hopkins players ended up on the ground. Hopkins chose to forfeit the game, in part because they were already down one player from another game. I hope that young woman who fell down is okay. She seemed to have the wind knocked out of her.
Cutest Quidditch Player

After that, I chilled with the team, taking some pictures and talking to them about this relatively new sport. Here's some of the Transylvania players posing for me.

One of the things they talked about to me was the history of their school. According to Thane, who usually plays Seeker for the team, Transylvania is about the sixteenth oldest school in the nation. Because of its geographic location, it was named Transylvania because that word means "through the woods."

Then something really surprising happened: MTV approached the team and asked if they would like to be filmed playing Quidditch. Transylvania agreed, and they had an MTV personality take over the role of a Beater to play the game. They got lots of shots of them talking about the game, what they were doing strategy wise, and even warming up. Here are some pictures of the team and Kevin from MTV warming up. Kevin is wearing a black headband to signify his position of beater.
Here's the team right before they start shooting some of the program.

Tractor had a rip in his jeans and they basically ripped off earlier that morning, which is why he's wearing half jeans half shorts in this picture.

I have a couple of extra photos posted up on flikr too.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Quidditch World Cup

I was lucky enough to make it to the Quidditch World Cup this weekend, and let me tell you, it was sweet. I was so impressed with not only the turnout of people but also the great sportsmanship of certain teams. Here's some photos from the event.

I asked this player to give me his game face, and this is what he showed me. Okay, so maybe it doesn't strike fear into the hearts of many, but it does probably make the enemy pause and wonder what's going on. So maybe it's a surprise tactic.
I'd also like to say here that I loved a lot of the jerseys that players were wearing. I would totally love to buy an MSU Quidditch jersey. Schools like McGill, Emerson, Middlebury and Wringley also had great jerseys that I would love to wear. So, if anyone knows anyone and has a reasonable price, drop me a message.

There are some very impressive players on the MSU team. Bailey, for example, is a good keeper. She's just a wall of scary. This here is Mike, who is the seeker. (You can tell he's a seeker because of the yellow-colored headband.) Mike and I have been acquaintances for a while (hazard of living in nerd-infested places) and even though he's kind of a creeper, he's a great seeker. He runs like Hermes and he's a spry little fellow. Professional teams should be all over this guy. (If you're wondering, that is what he gave me when I asked for his team face. Maybe it's a charm tactic? You make the enemy think you're harmless and kind and then BAM! you're winning the game?)

And that's Wilkins giving me his game face. Okay, does anyone on this team have a fierce game face? Or even a slightly serious one?

You'll be unsurprised to hear that MSU won against Syracuse. Right after the game, we decided to take a team photo. But then we realized that the coach was missing. He's that blur at the bottom, throwing himself into the picture. Notice no one even tries to catch him, they just let him dive bomb to the ground.

That's better. And much more respectable than some of the game faces I got.

This is a very social team. Everyone is friendly and analyzes the matches afterward so they can be better players. Here's Bailey and Erin having a conversation with someone off camera. And in the background, one of the other players is practicing what is probably his game face.

One of the treats was that, at the end of the night (after a great game featuring the Transylvania University team) was that Harry and the Potters showed up to play their awesome wizard rock. Here's the band during one of the early songs.

Loving the hair motion here. This guy can totally headband with the best of them.

And here I'm just loving the scream.

Don't discount wizard rock as anything less than punk. It's totally punk.
As always, more pictures on flikr for the fascinated.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

TV Mapping

I love maps. I have a small collection of them that I one day hope to get framed and use to decorate the walls of my future apartment or home. One of the kinds of maps I love are the kind to map out something cultural. So here's one featuring the tv shows we associate with each U.S. state. Personally, I always watch shows that take place in some large city, so I find myself thinking about how I associate certain cities with certain shows. I would sort of love to see a map that charted out various places were other pop cultural or literary things happened, since this one is so much fun.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hardy, Woolf and Women's Agency

When you put people on a pedestal, there's always the opportunity that they'll fall off it. In the case of people already dead, there's always the chance you'll decide that maybe they're not as wonderful as you thought.

I read recently that Virginia Woolf apparently admired Thomas Hardy. Hardy is the author of, among other books, Tess of the d'Ubervilles. In the novel, Tess is raped and then spends the rest of the novel being punished by society and her family for losing her virginity. It's hard to see this story as anything other than misogynistic; after all, Tess suffers and suffers and the love of her life, Angel, who drops her like dead weight after he finds out she's been raped, never is given the same kind of harsh judgement. (Her rapist is eventually killed, but again, he goes on for years happily without suffering any kind of rejection from those around him, while poor Tess does.) Virginia Woolf, of course, is the feminist author of books like A Room of One's Own. This book in particular is all about giving women agency. It's hard to see how exactly a book that reveals in a lack of agency for women could be admired by a woman who writes for women's agency.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jane Eyre: The Movie

Jane Eyre is apparently been made into another movie, which was news to me. Watching this trailer, I have a lot of thoughts. The moment it started with the dramatic music, I immediately thought of overly dramatic trailers and I got worried. People have been commenting that it looks like a horror film, and it really does, but I almost like it this way. Mr. Rochester is, if you think about it, absolutely horrifying. After all, he is a brutish, cruel, manipulative man; I can think of few less horrifying things (especially for a young woman. I feel bad for Jane, ending up with him.)
I can't help compare it the miniseries that was done some years ago. The guy for Rochester and young Jane seem all wrong to me. Judi Dench, is, as ever, perfect, even when she's barely in the trailer. I find it interesting that they cast her in that particular role. I always imagined the nurse as being close in age to Rochester, which explains her infatuation with him.
Obviously, I'm not a fan of the characters. I do sort of like the story, but mostly because I think it's wonderfully ambiguous and you can interpret the storyline in multiple ways. An ambiguous text is ideal for analyzing because there's always more to say. Which is probably why I'll end up seeing this.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Between the Lines

I've got another cool publisher for everyone to check out: Between the Lines. When I first heard about this publisher, I wondered if they had some connection to the well-known newspaper. As far as I can tell, they don't have any connection to one another beyond the name.
They publish books on politics, and they have a great selection, including stuff by bell hooks and Noam Chomsky. They have books on poverty, a story about a Kurdish man, and even oil drilling in Latin America.
I don't know about anyone else, but with all these great smaller publishers I'm finding, Christmas can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Council on Women

There's been a lot of work going on at the U.N. recently on gender equality which would normally be a good thing.  But the BBC warns that Saudi Arabia and Iran might be trying to get elected on to the council
One of the things I hope readers remember is that there is a tendency among Western, privileged feminists to sometimes demonize an entire non-Western group of people without thought as to how patriarchal their own societies are.  This is not to apologize for the injustices of governments or other institutions, but simply to acknowledge that sometimes well-meaning can turn quickly into a neo-colonial response of "these people are uncivilized and we must give them our superior culture at any cost."  It's important to remember that the goal is to empower women, not debase the things they freely choose and do on their own to assert their own agency. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sky Larkin's "Soon to Be Molten"

Sky Larkin's "Soon to Be Molten" is a great song.  There are references to politics, though tantalizingly so, since there's so little specific.  The central image of becoming molten, of melting down to something hot and more elemental brings to mind the idea of being a radical, which comes from the Latin word for root. 
That said, I'm loving the camera angles where we as viewers are put in place of the guitarists.  What music junkie doesn't want to be a rock star, if they're not already?  (I love how you can see their pedals!)
Via f bomb.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Highline

The Highline is one of New York's most interesting parks, as it's up off of the streets and in between buildings. 

The only thing that makes it kind of sad is that it is not really the right time of year to be here, as many of the plants are either gone or already in freeze protection mode.

But in some ways that is a good thing, because it is easier to see the tracks the are still here.  The Highline is actually an old train line that has been repurposed as a park, and signs of the old line are everywhere. 

I went at dusk, and it seems like the perfect spot to catch the sunset over New Jersey.  That night's sunset was relatively ordinary, but I would imagine that on one of those nights where the sky turns various purples, pinks and oranges, it would be gorgeous. 

It looks like during the summer months this place is a good hangout spot, to the point where there are places to sit and a bar to sell drinks.  People were sitting here and there, but no one was selling anything. 


There are even lounge chairs to bask in, all point conveniently towards the water, and, this time of the day, the sunset. 

You can even curl up with a lover here.  Seeing this made me wish it was a few months earlier and that I had dragged a boyfriend along here. 

There are spots where people sell art.  Nearby is this beautifully designed map and clock. 

And, then of course, there are the plants themselves.  Although I don't know much about plants, I love seeing them.  Sadly, this park doesn't label any of them, so I can't even tell you what they are.  If anyone knows the names of any of these, let me know. 

I love this furry green looking plant.  Reminds me vaguely of a muppet. 

This was a wonderful spot to just sit and enjoy the day.  The park has a lot of benches, so there's lots of good places to just take in the surroundings.  The only thing that wasn't so good was that it was so cold outside and that it is not particularly close to any subway lines (which means if you want to escape back underground to the warmth of the subway, be prepared to walk at least four blocks to the nearest station.)  Otherwise, this park is really impressive, making it feel like designs that are more environmentally friendly are totally possible and fun. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tomb of Jesus

My friends know that I love to travel, that I'm always looking for an excuse to go somewhere new.  I've been know to read travel guides and watch Rick Steves for fun, even if I do not have plans to go to whatever featured place anytime soon. 
I frequently find myself making lists of places I want to go.  Two days ago, I came across a website called Tomb of Jesus.  Apparently some people believe Jesus survived his execution and went on to live in Kashmir. I am not sure what to believe, but I would like to go there to explore, since this looks like it might be fascinating.  I like hearing other interpretations and thoughts on the Bible and Life of Jesus, which is why I’ve always liked reading about the Gnostic Gospels, especially the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.  As a history nerd, I mostly studied religion.  Although I mostly studied medieval religious beliefs, I liked learning about ancient Greek religious practices and how cosmopolitan African religion sometimes manifested too, so why not explore the beliefs of the often-forgotten region of Kashmir?  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Zubaan Books

People who aren't book people often don't think of books in terms of publishers or imprints, but book people often do. Book people are often proud to say what publishers they read.
As a book person, I love it when I come across a good publisher or imprint, especially if they are doing something interesting or different.
Zubaan Books publishes for and about Indian women. They have a wide range, from academic topics to stuff for young women. And, lucky for me, most of them are in English. (I, unfortunately, cannot read Hindi or Arabic or any of the 200 other languages that the nation claims.) The publishers are proudly feminist too, which is the best news of all.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Turn Back Time

Although I'm meant to be an English snob, I really love the ultimate medium of lowbrow: television.  Even though I might argue I like "good" tv, the truth is that I never censor my viewing based on what might be high art or low art.  Even, yes, that epitome of low art, bad tv, whatever: reality shows.  That said, I really like this advertisement for Turn Back Time: The High Street.  It looks like a delightful little reality show that involves history, which makes me smile.  (Also, is that shot of the van coming into the street meant to reference Back to the Future?) 

It also makes me think of some older reality shows that were all about history, once upon a time.  When I was young I fell in love with 1900 House, which was about a reality series about a family living back in 1900.  There were other versions of this show, involving other houses, other times, other families, and they were all fun and interesting.

I wonder now what happened to those houses, because I imagine they would make fun hotels. 

Thanks to Evangeline over at Edwardian Promenade for the link to the first video.