Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Feminist Project
I'm pretty much obsessed with this new feminist project-- GIRLdrive. Emma and Nona are road tripping across the United States photographing and interviewing people to understand the current state of US feminism. They just got started this month and are chronicling their adventures on their blog. They write:

This book is about our generation. It’s about gutsy young women across the American cityscape. It’s about the past and the present, and it glimmers on the future. It’s about the promise of the open road. It’s about us—girls with drive who can’t even take a road trip without turning it into a book.

This is interesting on so many levels...

1. I can't wait to see what they capture about US feminism. They are visiting a variety of towns--all sizes, geographic locations and political leanings. I suspect they will get a range of answers. But I'm hoping that there are a few things that stay constant no matter where they're at-women demanding more options, more choice and celebrating all the work that's already been done.

2. I write/research a lot about the power of the Internet for minority communities. Blogs, in particular, are fruitful in allowing a feminist consciousness to surface. So often feminist discourse is shut out of "mainstream" discussion. Really, blogs have become rooms of one's own for feminists. A space to think, advocate and interact. Blogs have been an incredible tool for this new "third wave" of feminism (think Feministing and others). When one browse some of the feminist blogs it is easy to become energized by the blend of "traditional" feminist theory and new, generational activism that takes place. This site is a great example of 2007 consciousness raising.

3. I love how interactive the site is. Nona and Emma post discussion questions, their travel schedule and respond to commenters. They've even added more stops on their tour when asked by curious commenters. Selfishly, I'm going to use their site as a teaching tool in my Women's Studies class. Moreover, it will become an example I turn to when I start a blogging project in my classes next semester. I suspect their project is very empowering to young women.

I encourage you to log in and keep track of their journey.


I-Tues v. 3

In a moment of full disclosure, I admitted that I have a little crush on Sienna Miller. While she is most definitely beautiful, my crush is more due to her performance in the movie Interview. The film was very intimate and as I watched her on the big screen, I felt strangely attracted to her. I think the attraction was facilitated by the very sexy song that played throughout the film. The song, Boy Like a Timebomb, is a down tempo, soulful account of a romantic relationship gone awry. And, good god, it is magical.

Listen to the song here (you gotta click on it) and watch the trailer here to get the full effect.

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Monday, October 22, 2007
You know you've had a good weekend when...
...you have tan lines where you smile...

This weekend my beloved Central Michigan played Clemson University. Since I now reside in the southern half of the US, I could easily make it to this game...and I did. Along with about 400 other alum (including my college roomies Maeve and Aaron), Drew and I watched the Chips get pounded by the Clemson Tigers. Even though the score was 70 to 14 (I wish I was exaggerating), we had a blast and I smiled the whole day. I smiled so much that when I got home after the (very) long day in the sun, the only white skin on my face was within the folds of my smile.

That, folks, is a good weekend.

And we're already planning the next one. In a weekend that will surely be titled "when schools collide," CMU plays UGA on September 6, 2008. WATCH OUT WORLD.

One of the few times CMU got to the end zone

Maeve and I were all smiles pretty much all day


Friday, October 19, 2007
Friday Flicks
IMDB describes the plot of Away From Her in very simple terms--

A man coping with the institutionalization of his wife because of Alzheimer's disease faces an epiphany when she transfers her affections to another man, Aubrey, a wheel chair-bound mute who also is a patient at the nursing home.

That summary fails to capture everything that the movie really is, however. The movie features a wife with Alzheimer's but it is about marriage, memory, loss and sacrifice.

The breathtaking Julie Christie plays the suffering Fiona and she plays her beautifully. Not only is Christie physically stunning but the grace and complexity she brings to the character will continue to surprise you throughout the two hour movie. Her articulation of her disease and her resulting sadness will pierce you. You will sit on the edge of your seat and want to look away. But instead, you will stay fixed to the screen and feel your face flush with emotion you don't know how to process. Even more, her memories of the painful aspects of marriage will cut you even deeper. You'll start to hope that she'll lose those memories.--that no memory at all might be better than being plagued by the pain that she has clearly suffered throughout the 40 years with her husband. But in the end you may feel, as I did, that it is her pain that helps you understand the beauty and worth of a lengthy partnership.

This film is tragic and it is not to be handled lightly. It is dramatic and emotion laden--but it is fantastic and cathartic as well.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Some words about writing
Before bed, I'm working my way through Gay Talese's A Writer's Life. It is a lovely, uplifting work. I love reading writer's observations about writing. They are always so descriptive and moving. I'm constantly nodding my head and thinking "yes, yes. exactly!" Especially on this passage:

Often I involve myself with two or three unrelated subjects at the same time, and I shift from one to another when I become bogged down and believe it wiser to put aside what I am doing and reappraise it at some point in the future...My curiosity drives me in different directions, but I until I have invested lots of my time--months, years--I have no idea whether a chosen subject will sustain my interest. Sometimes I toss into the trash various drafts of what I have written, while at other times I put them aside, file them away, reread them a year or two later, rewrite and refile them perhaps, or decide that they are not worth saving after all, and so I tear them up and rid myself of them forever. Writing is often like driving a truck at night without headlights, losing your way along the road, and spending a decade in the ditch.

I am still working on a piece that I started my first semester of my PhD work. It is now two years later and I still don't have it. I'm working on a new section of the literature review and I find myself really deflated and the excitement has most definitely waned. But the sad part is that it has taken me two years of aimless "driving" to arrive at this argument (the correct one) and now that I'm finally here, I want to stop. But I won't. Because that would be dumb.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I-Tues v. 2
About two years ago, I came to be obsessed with Patrick Park's album, Loneliness Knows my Name. At that point, the album was already a year old so I was a bit delayed. I was determined not to be as late to the next party. So when his new album, Everyone's in Everyone, came out this summer, we jumped on it. And it is almost as fantastic as Loneliness. Almost.

What I love about him is that he seems like he is constantly searching. I'm not for what. But he's on a mission. We're bonded together in restlessness. He sings:

You say life is a dream where we can't say what we mean. Maybe just some roadside scene that we're driving past. There's no telling where we'll be in a day or in a week. And there's no promises of peace or of happiness. Well is this why you cling to every little thing. And pulverize and derange all your senses. Maybe life is a song but you're scared to sing along. Until the very ending. Oh, it's time to let go of everything we used to know. Ideas that strengthen who we've been. It's time to cut ties that won't ever free our minds From the chains and shackles that they're in


I suspect that Park has gone through some serious breakups in his day. Loneliness is peppered with sad memories of love and loss and this album is no different. But this album is also marked with a certain level of hopefulness. He's moving on and starting over. He sings:

I don't remember where all this got started now. This fear inside of losing all control. It comes on like a silent night and builds till a little grow and slowly makes my poor heart feel so old. And I'm always holding on to things that are here and then gone. Ohhh but now that I can see how things are changing, I guess it is high time that I was moving on.

Good stuff. Such good stuff. Oh--and his voice is like butter. Butter!

Check him out here and then download

Life is a Song

Time for Moving On

Here We Are

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Sunday, October 14, 2007
A Little Sunday Reading
Another weekly feature...about books. YEY BOOKS. I LOVE BOOKS.

First, are you trying to figure out something to read? The National Book Award 2007 nominees have been announced. I already have one of the nominees on my list--Then We Came To An End by Jonathan Ferris. Even though I don't work in an office, the description of Ferris' workplace escapades sounds enjoyable. So I'll pick it up and pretend I work a miserable 9-5 job and then be thankful that I don't.

I recently finished a book that was recommended to be based on how much I love Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I do love me some ELIC. The narrator, Oscar, still warms my heart two years after I first met him. So I picked up The Good Life by Jay McInerney with very high expectations. I finished it almost a week ago and still can't decide how I feel about it.

Let me break it down....

The bad--the book takes place in a post 9/11 world. While the book doesn't focus on 9/11, it is featured a little too prominently for me. I cannot stand all the cheesy pop culture representations of the event. And though it sounds a little crass, I'm a bit sick of the tragedy that is 9/11. This book is dangerously close to cliché (I mean, the two lead characters fall in love while volunteering?!).

More problematic, the two main characters are a little too cluttered. They both have many, many issues. But it is the magnitude of those issues that make them almost simplistic. It is easy to dislike them--and dislike most of the people in the book. Too much happens. Too many bad things. Too many needless distractions. The distractions take us away from the heart of the book--the raw human response to tragedy.

The good--As I came to the end of the book, I was convinced I would not recommend this book to anyone. Then I read the last three pages. They were absolutely phenomenal. Incredible. Such beautiful prose. The account of love, longing and regret so real that I was lonely for myself. I finished the book late at night. It was quiet and dark. I turned off my light and as I drifted off to sleep, I felt moved by the writing. Those three pages almost made me want to forget the first 350.

So I can't decide...it is worth suffering through 350 pages to enjoy 3 pages of beauty and honesty? I still can't decide. If you decide to read the book (or have read it already), let me know your opinion. Perhaps my discomfort with 9/11 is the driving force behind my negativity. At the very least, you should know that it is nowhere close to ELIC.

If you want to know what else I'm reading, become my goodread friend. DO IT!


Friday, October 12, 2007
Very Nobel Winners
Can I just say how psyched I am about some of this year's Nobel Prize winners?

Doris Lessing is the 11th woman ever to win the literature prize. Importantly, Lessing is a feminist icon (well known for her work The Golden Notebook) and, in my opinion, the perfect example of what a Nobel Prize winner should represent. Her work challenges the system and works to accomplish social change. Even more, women's experiences are at the heart of her writing which is a "nobel" idea in and of itself. Lessing writes about the inner lives and women and advocates a world where women are free to choose not to be wives and mothers.

And hello Mr. Al Gore. He is sharing the prize with UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As you all know and probably all believe, global climate change is the biggest challenge facing our global world and the biggest threat toward personhood. So thank god the voting committee realizes true scientific work. So does Jimmy Carter who said this morning, "I can't think of anyone who deserves it more...My own personal hope is that this might lead him to consider another political run...There is no doubt he is my favorite and is the best qualified candidate..."

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007
I-Tues v. 1
This blog needs some help. I've been doing A LOT of academic writing lately. As such, I've had very little energy or brain power to write substantial blog posts. And the blog has been a bit...wandering. To regain some focus and purpose, I've decided to do weekly entries about books, movies and music I've been enjoying. I consume a lot of each of these things and want to tell you about them.

So here, ladies/gentlepeople/everything in between and beyond, is my first I-Tues

I cannot stop listening to Josh Ritter's new album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. We enjoyed his previous album (Animal Years) his latest collection is pure genius. Lots of people will be drawn to the piano and guitar genius on the album but I cannot get enough of his witty, vivid, and sophisticated lyrics. They are so detailed and important. A little taste:

He's stolen hearts like they're horses
And horses when hearts can't be found
He keeps riding from one horse to one horse to one horse towns (It gets him down)
He know's he's a fool to get caught up with you
But he's the next to the last true romantic
He can't let go of love once he's had it
And he can't rest
Til he's next to you
There's always whiskey and women and women and whiskey around
He can't tell which is worse to be dying of thirst or to drown (It gets him down)

Gah. In love. And his voice is a blend of country twang and sad soul so the lyrics punch you in the gut.

Give him a listen here and then buy the album.

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Friday, October 05, 2007
Bad life decisions
There is a really funny Simpsons' episode that most graduate students know and love. Bart Simpson comically retorts that graduate students aren't bad people, they just make bad life choices.

The NYT pretty much sums up why the PhD is such a bad life decision.

The average PhD takes 8 years, 50% of people quit mid-way, and upon graduation (at a ripe old age of 32) are 50,000 in debt. Nothing like starting a career at 32.


The article, though, made me thankful for my program. Almost all people here finish in 4 years. And we're financially supported throughout our time. We also have the opportunity to work with amazing faculty and forge great friendships. The article doesn't speak to the benefits of continuing your education. And often I don't focus on those benefits either.

The top five reasons I'm happy to be a PhD student:

1. I'm getting (minimally) paid to think and develop ideas about really important issues of our time.

2. Every T/TH I have two classes filled with 43 students. The classroom space is such a rich place for great conversation, learning and activism. I've really grown to love teaching. And I think this is, in part, because I consider the classroom a political space. Not a space to brainwash or manipulate (a la Horowitz) but a space to encourage critical thinking and inspire the students to go out and get involved.

3. I have great colleagues and classmates. Since we have such a small program, I know everyone and their work, ideas and strengths. My classmates are my greatest academic resources.

4. My fabulous faculty. I get upset when I hear people criticize PhD programs as "cut throat" and "isolated." If that is the case, you are in the wrong program. Our faculty give up money so we have travel funding. They serve as mentors and cheerleaders. They encourage us to take risks with our work and thinking and they don't laugh at us when we fail.

5. College towns. I love where I live. Love this town and look forward to being able to relocate in another college town when I get a job.

Take that, NYT! I will not succumb to your negativity.


Thursday, October 04, 2007
Trenday Thursday

So I was going to tell you about all these trendy things that I love. But then I remembered I'm not really all that trendy.

But I do love stuff.

Some stuff I'm loving right now? Well thanks for asking....

These freaking Pretzel Crisp things. They are all natural, non fattening, flattened pretzels. Healthy and delish. Right now we have the garlic flavor and I cannot get enough of them.

Cheap-ass glasses. I haven't gotten glasses since my senior year of college. Yes, that was a long time ago. I recently got a new prescription so I've been in search for a good site. And um.....I FOUND IT. Zenni Optical is so cheap I might actually get two pairs! And the glasses are awesome and cute. I have a hard time buying glasses because I have all these hold over self-esteem issues from when I was in second grade and had these enormous plastic frames and people made fun of me hated them. It was not a good look for me. (It should also be noted that I resisted capri's for a long time because they made me flash back to junior high when my pants were always just a little too short for my gangly, weird legs.)

Have you been watching that Dirty, Sexy, Money show? We caught this show last night and LOVED it. So we may be regular watchers. I recommend it. The best part is that they have a transsexual as a regular/main character who isn't a joke! That's right. A serious storyline about someone who defies the gender binary. In general, the characters on this show are super interesting.

Gap has these wide leg pants that are absolutely amazing if you have gangly, weird legs like me. I wish I could wear them everyday. But I don't. But I do wear them a lot. I look snazzy.

Last...and I'm hesitant to mention this one for fear of judgment from my dear internets readers. I. Love. *ahem* Sienna Miller. *cough* I have recently watched Factory Girl and Interview. Miller is in both. And she is fantastic. Especially in Factory Girl. Yes, yes I know she needs to gain about 20+ pounds. And I know that she called Pittsburgh Shitsburgh. But she is very talented. At times she is a bit over the top in Interview but I think that is the result of the movie being a 2 hour dialogue between two people. A very demanding script. WOW. But I cut her some slack because Factory Girl is a little slice of brilliant and I wanted to give her lots of hugs after I watched it.

Ok. You're caught up now.

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Monday, October 01, 2007
A Real Feminist Icon

I'm sure you all remember my rant against the NYT article that claimed that the Pussycat Dolls are feminists. A common problem with this third wave feminism/Sex in the City/sex positive generation is that pundits often confuse sex with empowerment. I just finished up a "Third Wave Feminism" unit with my Women's Studies students. It is always such an eye opening experience to talk about popular culture feminism with young students. They really are split into three camps--the people who argue that sex-positive feminism is really just raunchy, the people who argue that sexual empowerment is feminism, and the people who fall in between and argue that sexual empowerment is one important facet of today's feminism. Inevitably, students bring up Sex in the City, Desperate Housewives, the L Word as examples of feminism. I encourage them to think of examples that are perhaps less sexual and more complex. I try to stress that third wave feminism isn't just about the sex. It is still about equality and empowerment. As I immersed myself in a day-long marathon, I realized that I look to a rather less obvious example--LA Ink.

I've been obsessed with Kat Von D for quite sometime now. I can't get enough of her pin-up edgy look. But besides being absolutely gorgeous, she is a complex, independent woman who struggles with business ownership, body image issues, and familial struggles.

I've never heard her call herself a feminist. But, on national television, she's wrestled with boob size, asking someone out on a date and balancing her familial responsibilities and the stress of owning a new tattoo shop. She is overtly sexual but does not sell sex. As such, she won't be held up as the poster-child for the new generation of feminism. The NYT and others would rather look to/at women who only talk about sex. Makes you wonder how much progress we've really made!