Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Are You Aware?"

There has been a growing number of signs and chalked up sidewalks on campus with this phrase. I don't know what it means. I don't know quite what they want me to be aware of. But I like it. It reminds me of conversations from Environmental Science in the fall of 2008 and walking through the woods with my class and being told the names of trees. Of taking my floor out to the Hub lawn and watching the stars for a few hours in early fall.

Walking around campus has turned into a scavenger hunt for more of these phrases and words. They are everywhere. On bulletin boards. Written on the roads. And I like having to look for them.

I am sitting in Atherton lobby, supposed to be writing my thesis before ballroom class starts. I just overheard a conversation between two students, one who is "in the know" about the words. He said that there is a specific goal, even that they want to students to be aware of on an international level. But they want to make the point first: are you aware of the world you're in? They will reveal the subject in a few days.

I'm interested and waiting.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Curator Magazine: In Word and Dance

Just wanted to share this link, especially to those of you who have read this blog for a while:


 Parts of some posts I did here on ballroom dancing turned into a longer essay on dancing and writing. The Curator published it and I am excited to share it with you in a cleaned up form!

Friday, March 25, 2011


Soon, thesis will be done. Graduation will then be right around the corner.

Graduation means it is time to start my literary education. Yes, that's right. I am graduating with a degree in English and I'm about to start my literary education.

(Perhaps continue would be a better word.)

The only way to describe it is this: four years is just enough to teach me that there wasn't enough time to learn all the things I needed to learn about literature. And after graduation, I will have this amorphous thing called "time". And I want to prepare for it.

So I'm starting a list. A post graduation reading list. A gift to myself as it were. And I want your recommendations. While I may have spent four years reading and then writing about what I read, I didn't read nearly half of what I feel I need to say I "know" anything of what should be read pre-death.

For example, my to-read list currently includes:

Crime and Punishment
Ulysses (Or anything by Joyce for that matter)
The Sound and the Fury
More Annie Dillard
Yeats. As much as I can get my hands on.
Biography of Bonhoeffer

Suggest away!


I've lived without my cellphone for a week. I'm not sure how I did it. Three missed phone calls, one from my youngest sister who was offended I wasn't calling her back. 25 missed text messages. Lots of emailing back and forth to organize life. It was bizarre.

The loss itself was humbling. I had just panicked, believing that I had left my phone in another professor's office while waiting to meet with my honors adviser. I ascertained that I still had possession of the phone, relieved, when Janet Lyon told me we could talk. I must have put it down right at that moment and not in my bags like I should have. Instead, it sat for a week on a black book shelf that I had been perusing. Black phone. Black shelf. You couldn't see it unless you were looking for it. Janet wasn't in her office for the next week. I hoped it was there. I prayed it was there. I didn't want to have to make myself a facebook group asking for numbers.

I think I'm supposed to say now that I was better for the experience. Actually, I spent a week in heightened anxiety because I couldn't call my sister whenever I wanted to say random things. And believing as I did that the world would end without me being in contact with it via text messages, let me just tell you how frightening and dark a time it was.

I am, sadly, not joking. I may be ironic, but I am not kidding when I say I suffered deep anxiety because my phone was missing.

Embarrassing. Completely.

I'm not sure how I feel about it (other than the embarrassment). I'm thinking about trying to talk myself out of the feeling with some great points about how phones enable communication and ease. How they are part and parcel of how our worlds work, so it isn't a bad thing that I missed it. How it would have been much better in the end to not get all those texts I missed, the euchre game,

But I don't actually believe it.

One thing I do not regret: For a week, I never opened my phone and texted while I was standing with someone else.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Learned on Twitter: The Human Voice

Glossary (you'll need this before you read the post):
Twitter:  "social networking and microblogging service"
Tweet: A "facebook status" length comment. Most frequently a link to article or other online artifact.
Retweet: Someone who "forwards" someone's tweet through their own tweet.
Timeline: Where tweets appear in real time order of being "tweeted". Comparable to a newsfeed but very short tweets from only those you follow.
Following: Twitter allows you to choose who you follow and not necessarily who can follow you (facebook reversed). If you follow someone, their tweets will appear in your timeline.

I should tell you that I have a twitter account. However, I've been a long time friend and admirer both the committed luddites and those who seriously question the use of technology and social media. Wendell Berry is a personal hero of mine (mostly as a writer, but you can't get his writing without his thinking on such matters). Still, I've always had an affection for social media, even back in the poorly managed days of xanga. Perhaps I've even been sheepish about my quiet enthusiasm for it. I kept up facebook and blogged since 2005. My tech skills are low ( I can't use smart phones or play with computers) but I still enjoy the play involved in new tools.

But none of this is important. What is important, is that I have a twitter account. And things have changed.

What exactly? It didn't start right when I got it and was learning how to "follow" and come up with interesting "tweets" or how to connect twitter to facebook. It didn't start changing when Steve Lutz sat me down as a CCO staff seminar to explain a tweetdeck, hashtags, etc. [Though, as Steve pointed out to me, it could be said that he was responsible for influencing me to even get one in the first place]. And "the change" certainly had nothing to do with people's response to my own nonsense sayings.

It had a lot to do with poetry. And Egypt. And Libya.

Let me explain. On twitter, you can "follow" the tweets of not only individuals (who rarely say much of substance) but of organizations who link to articles, blogs, pictures, etc. As a writer, it was amazing to get reminders and access to online material I would never have found on my own but appeared in real time. I suddenly felt connected to Paris Review and Image Journal. I got poems everyday from Poetry Foundation. Makoto Fujimura links to other artist's work. I felt in the thick of things. I started recognizing contemporary writer's names from group tweets or, even better, retweets.

But Egypt really did it. Egypt changed everything.

I started following arcarvin. He was in Egypt when everything happened. I followed him because someone (NPR perhaps?) retweeted him and suggested I follow him. I did. Suddenly, my timeline of tweets was flooded with retweets that acarvin had found about Egypt. Or rather, it was filled with retweets from Egyptians and journalists in Egypt. It was better than watching the news. It was better than reading an article. Sure, the news is sketchy, a lot of it unconfirmed, un-contextualized. But it is in real voices. It is anything but filtered. The youth of Egypt were overthrowing the government and I was reading their words transfixed on twitter. Later, articles would come out through bbc and npr on events I had already heard were happening. I am still following Ghonim, one of the online organizers of the demonstrations that overthrew the government.

And now I read tweets from Libya. My heart breaks daily. I am pressed with constant reminders to pray for freedom and for peace to exist at the same time. I have not brought myself to see the uncut footage of the fighting. But I read the words of those within the country. They are immediate words. They are close voices. Their distance from me on twitter is the same as my distance to my friends on campus who tweet me about what we learned in dance class that day: a few blocks away. That connection does not come in an article. Do not hear me say that twitter will do away with the news. It does not. Rather, I've read more of npr, new york times, bbc, local news, etc since having twitter than ever before. The reports are necessary. So is the ability to connect to human voices and characters within the distance of articles, op ed pieces, updates.

The news moves on to Japan as well. Artists keep tweeting about their books. Paris Review keeps tweeting interviews and online content. I keep tweeting about what I learned in ballroom class. I wonder if I should stop following acarvin and Nicholas Kristof (from nyt) because they take up so much space on the tweet feed sometimes. But I can't. I can't stop hearing these small bursts of voice. I cannot ignore them.

The world is changing very quickly. And I want to watch the people who are changing it, in their own voices and words. Yes, the written word continues to change everything.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Adv 1: Clarification

Hey you Adv 1 ballroom students out there. And kines 17. Yes, you. I just want to clear up a major misconception that I lived with too long.

It is not true that an "older" dancer, who is better than you, hates it when you dance with them. In fact, its the opposite. It's fun to help. I'm not going to ridicule you. I'm not going to throw things at you. I'm not even going to refuse to dance with you ever again. If all you know if the two-step, great. Let's go for it.

Just stop doing what I always did: apologizing!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jacksonville: Navs Spring Break "Uno Uno"

Stomach virus currently wrecking my body aside, Spring Break was lovely. I slept in a gym with 140 college students who were miraculously quiet in their sleep. The roof was far away, sight of the nearest sleeping neighbor impossible, the only sound the fans that kept the air flowing. I couldn't decide whether it creeped me out or comforted me. Other than the second night (where I kept waking myself up to write down observations about sleeping in said 140 person gym), I fell asleep easily, heavily.

In the course of writing the paragraph above, I also finally extricated a plywood splinter from the palm of my hand. How it got lodged in my hand baffles me since I spent more time baking brownies than helping the guys assemble the new columns outside of Andrae's house. This week seems to be haunting my body in unpleasant ways. That, and I don't think I can eat fried chicken or Mexican again any time soon. Too close an association to various individuals throwing up in cars and my own painfully angry stomach.

But what did I do? Perhaps a better way to answer that is why PSU Navigators went in the first place. It's a tradition for our group to do service projects south on spring break. Yes, we are selfish and seek out need where sun is easily available. But this year the work was at least enough to keep us all busy for most of every day. Me? I volunteered for the shared job of babysitting Second Mile Ministry director's kids. Ages 2 and 14 months. Adorable.

Cici, Diana, Benjamin

Note the picture. Nap time for all four of us was about to happen. Well maybe not Benjamin. He only ran out of energy twice during the week. We ran out daily.

Two other highlights included seeing Uncle Paul and Aunt Stacy who were in Jacksonville living on their boat, the SeaSea, for a few weeks. Also, spending time with the senior girls and moaning every few hours about how we are graduating and its the worst experience of our lives and how none of us know what we're doing next year.

Oh, and being on spring break with Hannah. She's pretty cool, even if she doesn't sleep half as much as she needs to.

I recommend learning more about Second Mile in Jacksonville. I admire Andrae and his wife Luna so much for their whole life commitment to seeing justice happen! And to the other staff (Ruth, Mark, and interns), I was amazed at their joy and energy in being with 140 Penn State students all week, making sure we never ran out of Welches fruit snacks for long. http://www.2ndmile-jax.com/

Friday, March 11, 2011

Published? Comment Mag?

I'm excited. Giddy, even. Not only am I sipping a chocolate peanut butter banana milkshake that Andre made our work crew in Jacksonville, Florida, but I just got to see an article I wrote get published through Comment Magazine's online content!


I've loved Comment for a long while. Read more of their online content! I also have my own copies of past paper issues floating around for you PSU students who want to borrow them.