Sunday, April 20, 2008

Happy Dance Two

Woohoo!!! One paper down, one to go and sadly, I'm no where near as prepared for this one as I was for the first one....ugh....

Still, movie night this evening so I have motivation...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Happy Dance One

I'm stealing the Disney Boards "happy dance" theme for something other than a vacation countdown...

Final Exam #1 is handed in....oh yeah....go me... ;-)

Two more to go...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

in keeping with a reading theme

In my class on the history of books and printing, we've discussed why we keep reading when we have a visual culture which is inundated with TV shows, music, film, live attractions. As my sister often implies about books, she'll wait for the movie before she'll pick up the book and read. Here's an interesting article at a newly found blog I am in love with, It's discussing the need for fiction reading to keep ideas flowing for problem solving, a tool everyone needs every day. I'm still up in the air about eBooks though...

How To Fuel Your Idea Machine

Friday, April 11, 2008

I shared my lunch with a squirrel today

I perhaps should start with an explanation of the squirrels on UM's campus. They are large and unafraid. Blame it on the Squirrel Club I suppose. It's a club that once a week and gives out peanuts to the squirrels on campus. It's become quite the tradition on our campus - it's also pretty funny to see people spreading out over the Diag trying to find squirrels who will take the peanut right from their hand. However, I think perhaps that hunt shouldn't be too hard these days.

It's is beautiful out today - sunny and in the 70s so I naturally decided to eat my lunch outside. I grabbed Wendy's from the League and sat myself down outside across from the Bell Tower and the League. I was eating away and then a girl who was walking by warned me that I had two squirrels coming up behind me. My first thought was I was about to get jumped by gangster squirrels. Gangsters they were not but they were certainly getting ready to jump into my Wendy's bag and make off with my fries. I put the bag between my legs and thought that would be the end of it. Oh no, they jumped down onto the sidewalk and crept closer and closer. So I shooed them and it seemed to work. Off they bounced into the shrubs where I heard squeaks and squeals a few minutes later. Once I finished my sandwich and focused on my fries, one of them crept back up along side of me. Maybe they were gangsters as this one seemed to have off'ed his buddy - I never saw him again.

So, this little guy (and he was pretty little by UM standards to be honest - meaning he could definitely beat the squirrels at home and back at GBurg to a pulp) came up and sat along side of me and just looked at me and of course, I am a sap and figured, he's already corrupted by other stupid people so how could one little fry hurt? To my credit, I did try a bit of onion left from my sandwich first thinking that would be a bit better for him but to no avail (in fact, he looked at me like I had tried to offer him rat poison) so I handed out a fry. He took it from me easily and settled right down next to me and started to eat. We proceeded in this fashion, each time he kept getting a little closer to me, coming up over my jacket and even reaching onto my leg for his next fry. I know this was bad - I know - the environmentalist in me was up in arms but he was so adorable and like I said, I don't think this is the first time he's shared a medium fry before. So, I ate lunch with a squirrel today. One more experience to cross off my list of life to do's.

Oh, and PS, you know how there is that joke that you give a man a dog or a baby, every female in a five block radius descends upon him? Apparently, if you give a girl a squirrel a similar phenomenon happens. However, note to self, the guys attracted by squirrels are not quite what I am looking for. What woodland creature should I try next?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It's that time of year again

I do this every spring when school is starting to get hectic. I have presentations, papers, research and a million other things going on that I need to be worried about. It is then that I, all of the sudden, decide to become eight years old again.

Those of you who have been lucky enough to be around me for any length of time know I would have preferred to remain eight years old. Don't ask why I ever decided on eight - as far as I know the year 1993 wasn't anything special - it wasn't even a Disney year, either in trip (we went in '92 and '94) or movie (we were between Beauty and the Beast and the arrival of The Lion King). But eight has always been my number and at this time of year, I have an adult temper tantrum and revert to childhood comforts.

Take my recent movie choices - I recently purchased Enchanted (i.e. the day it came out on DVD I happened to be at Borders and it was a good price...I couldn't just walk away...). No, it's not only that I purchased it and watched it. It's that I've watched it four times since then. That's about eight hours of my life - eight hours when I should have been researching the authority of the written word, discovering what exactly the Library of Congress's metadata scheme actually is as well as reading for my classes in general and overall, being more productive than laughing hysterically yet again when Prince Edward gets creamed by bikers in Central Park. Next, we'll add Nim's Island, a delightful adventure romp with an agoraphobic writer and Abagail Breslin as adorable as always. I may also have shared a bucket of popcorn with peanut M&M's at that movie...Lastly, what did I do last night? Instead of finishing my reading for my classes on Wednesday? Oh right, I rented Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. iTunes rentals will not help my future productivity. Not only did I watch a loopy Dustin Hoffman and his toy store (a store I would still frequent at my age if it actually existed), I watched it with a massive bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream while giggling like a school girl at the escaping bouncy balls.

Leaving aside the fact that this time of year is not good for my very slow metabolism, what makes me throw my temper tantrum against being an adult every year at the same time? Firstly, I think I need to admit to myself it's not a random temper tantrum. I am always game for a good "kids" movie (hence my love affair with Nanny McPhee but that's another story entirely...). And to be honest, I love acting like a kid. I think I need to send Walt Disney World a thank you card for that. Somewhere along the way, trips to a place where grown adults are encouraged to act eight years old again, coupled with a healthy dose of childhood delight and a death grip on childhood culture, I actually managed to preserve the kid in me this far. And she's not happy at this time of year because, let's face it, she has to act like a grown up constantly. Not that I'm complaining, I've always enjoyed school and it is the one thing I have always been really good at. But, this time of year, I have to let the kid in me have her temper tantrum, take one for the team, and eat copious amounts of junk food while watching movies that remind me of the joy and freedom I felt as a kid. Some days, I think I cherish those moments more than any of the adult ones I've ever had.

So, if you're like me, and heading in for the finals collision in the distance, take a moment and let that eight year old who made it this far, buried maybe beneath layers of responsibility, due dates and stress, out for a run. Giggle with friends and buy out a candy store, play hopscotch, swing, walk proudly into the G-rated movie loaded down with food you'll be sweating off at the gym for the next month. We give ourselves so little carefree time these days - why not let out the eight year old before the temper tantrum hits?

Friday, April 4, 2008

is reading going the way of the dinosaurs?

A few weeks ago, my History of Books and Printing class put forth the idea of reading as a topic. We read tons of articles from contemporary sources, ranging from the New Yorker to Roald Dahl's Matilda. It is also telling that we looked at covers from the New Yorker as well. The cover below is the Thanksgiving 2006 New Yorker cover and to the right, the Summer 2007 fiction cover. I thought I would share my response. Enjoy!

Having read Roald Dahl's Matilda long ago and finding a kindred spirit in an under appreciated bookworm, I decided to examine the excerpts from Matilda with the two New Yorker covers and Bob Thompson’s “A Troubling Case of Readers’ Block.” In all the examples, the idea of reading is interpreted as a gauge for intellectual powers and ultimately a kind of power in how you approach the world and those around you. Matilda is the story of a girl who reads insatiably but is considered “weird” by her family of couch potatoes. The New Yorker summer 2007 cover (image at presents the lone girl reading Salinger and disdaining to ask like a mindless tourist. The Thanksgiving cover (image at juxtaposes Matilda’s dream family with her reality and Thompson is lamenting the loss of a culture that can be competitive and economically successful, a direct contradiction to the world as the Wormwoods see it. While it is clear what side Dahl comes down on in this tension between the readers and the non-readers, the Wormwoods are distressingly becoming the norm according to the current literature and studies.

When Matilda asks her father for a book to read, his answer is telling: “What’s wrong with the telly, for heaven’s sake? We’ve got a lovely telly with a twelve-inch screen and now you come asking for a book!” (12). Clearly, Mr. Wormwood’s values do not mix well with his curious and brilliant daughter’s. However, it has become a cultural norm to sit your child in front of a television set from birth under the guise it will make them smarter. The Wormwoods’ had no best interests at heart but today’s parents supposedly do according to studies. Have we come to devalue the written word so much? Thompson makes that apparent – we have created a general cultural norm of visual overloads and information chaos that they are pulled away from “traditional” reading. This in turn leads to them reading less well and also doing less well once out in the real world, especially professionally. “In an increasingly competitive world, the consequences of doing it [reading] badly include ‘economic decline’” (qtd. in Thompson). One of the most striking moments in Matilda is when Miss Honey comes to discuss Matilda with her parents. Her parents clearly devalue their daughter’s brains and her chances at succeeding in life. Mrs. Wormwood smugly points out to Miss Honey, “You chose books. I chose looks” (98). It is this mentality Thompson and another article by Susan Jacoby ("The Dumbing of America" laments as prevalent in today’s society. Not only are we ignorant, we are arrogant and happy in ignorance.

The New Yorker covers to fit well into the discussion Matilda brings forth on the value of reading. The summer 2007 cover features a small teenage girl reading what is clearly a cheap Salinger paperback to herself on a tour bus as the rest of the onlookers crowd to take photos of Radio City Music Hall. One would see Matilda doing the same thing. As her crazy consumer-driven family shoots photo after photo of the Big Apple, she immerses herself into the New York of Holden Caulfield. The cover illustrates well the tension between the ideas of the visual versus the text. Why should she read about New York when she is there? What can she get out of one author’s interpretation of the city that she herself cannot find by paying attention on her tour? The implication is that there is something in the text that reality can never give her and that she is the wiser for it seems to be the message of picture. The Thanksgiving 2006 cover creates a juxtaposition of two families. Leaving aside the obvious class issues for now, you fit the Wormwoods into the bottom and the family Matilda would long for at the top. They are quietly conversing; seeming to enjoy each other’s company while the child has been excused to read (what looks like comic strips but still valid cultural items). The family below is silent; riveted to what you know is a blaring television they couldn’t hear each other over. The requisite teenage daughter sits off to the side, deep in a cell phone conversation. The cover clearly is asking ‘which Thanksgiving would you rather be at?’

, Thompson and the New Yorker covers all are lamenting the loss of reading as a cultural value, of discussion and time spent outside of technology’s grasp. Clearly, this is something to be marveled at rather than considered the norm. Thompson mentions at one point in his article reading as a minority activity. The idea sends a chill down my spine. Have we reached a social moment where that is true? I know it is not true for me but am I the exception and not the norm? However, my examination of Matilda and the New Yorker covers shows there is an awareness of the failing value of reading and I think, a realization that we need to admit it and deal with it.