Friday, May 29, 2009

in which I learn Spanish and watch films about sleeping women

So today I did something utterly humiliating and took a two hour language exam to try to pass out of Spanish, which I haven't studied in nine years. I've taken Latin courses much more recently (3 years ago), but for some reason the Latin wasn't coming back to me as quickly as it should have, so I went back to studying Spanish. And by studying, I mean taking only two days--that's pretty much all the time I had!--to flip through a textbook and memorize my old flashcards. I wasn't totally prepared, but I felt way better about this test than I did the Latin one. Since I didn't pass the Latin exam in February, I'm really hoping that Spanish pans out for me. It's a beautiful language and has latinate roots that are far less confusing than English derivatives. Plus, since I've finished all of my French requirements in January, I think these two are a good pair for my degree.

I told my husband after it was over, as we were meandering through the grocery store and I was trying to de-frag from the exam, "at least it wasn't excruciating. The Latin exam was excruciating. This was merely painful." I actually completed about 80% of the passage and felt good about 90% of that, so...I really hope I pass this test. I love languages, but I'm not a super-fast language learner.

In other news, tonight we're having friends over for my husband's famous burgers, my famous drinkies, and other good stuff. I am looking forward to unwinding con mis amigos a la fiesta. ;)

BUT BEFORE I can relax even just a bit, I have a meeting with a former professor who is willing to help me work out a filmography for my grant-funded research project for 2009-2010. Does anyone out there in the blogging world love classic films and film noir? I DO!! I've been analyzing the issue of females attacked in their sleep in crime movies and mysteries for a huge project. Let me know if you have any films in mind that I should add to my list. I love suggestions and recommendations! Ciao <3

Thursday, May 28, 2009

a bit of me

Have we met?

I love books. I love pink. I love coffee. I love to bake and cook. I love Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. I hate driving on the freeway.

Not too long ago, a new acquaintance asked me why I wanted my Ph.D. in English since I was already teaching at the college level at a good school. The obvious answer, probably the one I ventured forth to give her, was that I love my job, but eventually I hope to teach at an institution that is more research-focused along with the strong teaching emphasis that I have here. I want to earn a position among my colleagues that is worthy of my degree as well as a seat at the table --to discuss, debate, publish on issues that matter in the world of academia. I'm not pursuing the Ph.D. only to qualify for higher institution jobs. I am in this "mess" because I love literature with every fiber of my being, but I also love teaching, researching, diving into ideas and exploring new facets of imagination, and I love learning. Because I believe strongly that there is no better way to learn than trying to teach a subject, I have found the perfect career for myself. No matter how difficult, exhausting, and, at times, pull-out-my-hair frustrating this egotistical and hyper-political academic setting is..., simply, I love the challenge of working as hard as I can to accomplish the near-impossible, and it's a blessing that I get to work with books all year long.

But...that's not all I am. I'm a wife, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a granddaughter, a daughter-in-law. I rarely see my family (other than hubby, who is also a doctoral student at my school) more than twice a year--summer and Christmas. Luckily we're both from the same city, so we don't have to split our vacations between families. What a relief!

My husband Scott and I grew up in a medium-sized city in the Texas Panhandle. We have known each other since sixth grade, although we didn't start dating until college. For college, I moved out to southern California to attend a wonderful liberal arts Christian university, concentrating on honing my skills as a symphony violinist, and he attended Texas Tech as a trumpeter. I went to TTU for summer school (it was always more affordable than staying out in CA for the summer), so we got reacquainted at that point in our lives. After graduating with bachelors degrees in both music (violin performance) and English, and after a horrible and painful wrist and arm injury, I moved back to Texas Tech to work on my Master's degree in English. In 2007, Scott and I both completed our master's degrees (his in Music), got married (bliss!), and moved out to CA to start the next chapter of our lives together. I am so grateful that I'm not doing this all by myself. Grad school can be a very lonely process.

Now that we're at a private graduate university, pursuing our final degrees and pushing hard to survive this last huge academic hurdle (we have finished coursework and are now studying for qualifiying exams, then dissertation later), life is very interesting. I'm working as many as three jobs at a time to pay for rent, but I feel the exhilaration of reading and exploring literature. I still have anxiety about my performance, my knowledge, my understanding of a text...but at least I'm learning and trying to get better everyday at what I do.

I guess the moral of this story is...

My blog was not designed to be a strict book blog, so I don't want to force that label upon it, but it is--very often--about books! I don't have as much time as others to review and post everything I'm reading. I'm mostly reading obnoxiously (deliciously?) long 19th century Victorian novels for my degree. But, I will post reviews as often as I can, and talk about books or teaching or grad school or learning more broadly in almost every post. I am an avid book blog reader, and I subscribe to more each week. I am addicted to reading about books, even if I don't have time to read the books themselves. Thank you for your encouragement and comments during and since the read-a-thon. And thank you for letting me have a place, though perhaps a *quiet* place, in your reading as well. This blog is designed to be about love, faith, and learning, and my main goal here is to grow in all three.

Friday, May 22, 2009

turn-down service

This semester was beastly. It had all the qualities of being a beast. I was finishing my last semester of coursework for my Ph.D., which also included an intensive French course during my Christmas break. I was a teaching assistant for a brilliant/crazy woman at a graduate university. I tutored 9-12 hours a week at a college writing center. I also taught two classes at a different college, one writing course and one literature course. All in all, I nearly keeled over by the time finals week arrived, and I barely had any energy left to lift my arm much less write one inspired seminar paper and another inspired book editing project. BUT I FINISHED EVERYTHING!!!

(disclaimer: I still have an incomplete grade from a past semester, but it's getting done. I promise.)

So after all the graduation celebrations dwindled away, hubby took me to see Star Trek at our favorite local theater, and then we drove to a beach hotel. Free with our room came two guest passes to a nearby spa. Needless to say, even though we were only there for two days, those two days were much appreciated and we are already looking forward to our next vacation.

Unfortunately, one of the library books (The Circular Staircase (1908) by Mary Roberts Rinehart) that I took to the hotel with me was missing pages! I was so disappointed that I nearly cried. I told my husband, "THIS is exactly why one should never leave home without spare books! For emergencies just like THIS!" Have you ever been reading a book you were really getting into, only to discover that pages were missing? What do you do in this case? Do you usually keep reading, or do you give up? I wouldn't have given up had the pages been in the middle-ish, but they were in the second chapter right when the characters see their ghost for the first time. There was no way I could skip those descriptions and go on like nothing had happened. They were crucial! So I guess I'll try to check it out another time if I can find a complete text.

In the past week, I've read three non-fiction books (Yay, Non-Fiction Five challenge!) and only really liked one of them.

1. Perfecting Ourselves To Death: The Pursuit Of Excellence And The Perils Of Perfectionism by Richard Winter

This book was not what I was expecting it to be. I thought it would be a how-to book for how to dig oneself out of the black hole of perfectionism. It could have been that with some revisions, but instead it read more like a history of perfectionism. While this might have been interesting on some levels, I didn't really have the brain-patience after the semester I've had to learn about the historical, philosophical, and theological context of my disease. I don't recommend it if you're as tired as I am.

2. Be Happy Without Being Perfect by Alice Domar and Alice Lesch Kelly

This book was rather cheesy at the beginning, with some quizzes and trivia-type stuff designed to determine whether the reader actually is a perfectionist, and if so, what kind. I thought those beginning chapters could have been eliminated, because chances are a non-obsessive person is not going to pick the book up in the first place. Once I got past the annoying sections at the beginning (I was reading in bed with my husband and we were laughing at quite a bit of it), I thought the book was top notch. I enjoyed the authors' writing style. Primarily, I enjoyed the hundreds of examples and real life stories that were included by the authors. There were examples in every chapter about what women do, what we think about things, how easily we can climb out of our bad habits, etc. I LOVED the interviews and examples in the chapters and found myself enlightened about a few of my own neuroses. This book is not for everyone, but it was helpful to me.

3. The Big Moo: Stop Trying to be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable, edited by Seth Godin

This book would be awesome for an inspirational conference or a business retreat. I saw a lot of great (short) essays about how to be all that you can be and conquer all the challenges that life may throw at you. It was a peppy little book that had no place in my current life situation (grad school, relative poverty, etc., etc...), but I could understand why businessmen and women would love this one.

I've also read one novel, The Essence of the Thing by Madeleine St. John (is that not just the greatest author name, or what?!). I'll try to tell you about it soon. I'm still sorting out my thoughts about it. I've also been reading classics and rearranging my bookshelves to try to get ready for qualifying exams. It's going to be a big summer!!

Love to all. (P.S. Timothy learned how to say "Aunt KB and Uncle Scott" a few weeks ago. I am in heaven!!)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dead Zone, Grad School Style

Perhaps finals week wouldn't always be so gloomy around here for me if I would ever write about anything besides death, sleep, vampires, criminals, you name it! If it's mysterious or depressing, I've probably thought of a paper topic for it.

Anyway, sorry the Pink Bookmark has been quiet for the past few days. I've been working my rear off trying to get the Puritan paper done (it took me about five days longer than I was planning, whimper, whimper), and now that it's finally printed off and ready to hand in, I have to finish my Shakespeare text edit, which is due tomorrow.

SO...I have to get back to work. I just wanted to say hello to the bloggity blog world.

What I must do before the next time you hear from me:
  1. Finish all my grading and input grades into system
  2. Finish Puritan Funeral Sermon Essay
  3. Finish Shakespeare's Henry V text edit
  4. Turn everything in, yell a feeble hurrah, fist pump in the air
  5. Dinner with Hubby's Seminar on John Adams (he's a contemporary composer) in Pasadena, 5 p.m. Friday
  6. Attend John Adams' opera in Los Angeles at Disney Hall Friday night.
  7. Attend the graduation of my lovely partners in crime at CGU, Jan, Sharone, and Stefani, who will be receiving their MA's in English on Saturday. Go Team!
  8. Attend the Champagne Reception, even though it isn't my graduation. I already have my MA, and won't be receiving my Phud for about two more years, but I fully support the graduations of others.
  9. Pack for mini-vacation w/ Hubby, bikini, sun-block, six or seven books, not much else.
  10. Escape for three days
  11. Come back in time for Scott's interview at APU
  12. Catch up on all the blogging action I missed while I was gone!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Reading my own books

As this semester winds down, ***====errr...wait, yes I am still writing two major essays, but at least I can kinda see the light at the end of the tunnel since both of my due dates are next Friday====***

As this semester winds down, I am getting more and more excited about reading for quals. Especially, I am looking forward to reading all of my amazing 19th century novels that have been patiently, oh so quietly, sitting on the shelves waiting for me to pick them up with a voracious hunger for learning.

So, of course I joined another challenge.

I saw this one at Melissa's Shhh I'm Reading blog here and on S. Krishna's page here. :) This one is Perfect with a capital P for me. It's called the Read Your Own Books (RYOB) 2009 challenge hosted by MizB, and it encourages you to read the books you already have on your shelves rather than buying more! The challenge runs from Jan 1, 2009-December 31, 2009, so there are still about seven months left for it. Plus, you get to choose the number of books you feel is appropriate, and some of them can even be re-reads. YOU get to choose! (See, didn't I tell you it was Perfect with a capital P?) Here's what I'm starting out with, and they're all on my quals list:
  1. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (in progress)

  2. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

  3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (in progress)

  4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

  5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens

  6. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

  7. Adam Bede by George Eliot

  8. The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope

  9. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

  10. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I'm excited that this challenge will also overlap with my Classics Reading Challenge and the 100+ challenge.
Wish me luck on my final papers! For one of them, I'm creating my own scholarly edition of Shakespeare's Henry V Act I Scene I. For the other (the one I'm working on today), I'm writing an analysis of the metaphor of sleep in Early New England Puritan sermons, specifically looking at the metaphor's relation to the Calvinist teachings against idleness and belief in Purgatory.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Gemma Malley's The Declaration

I read a book recently that haunted me. The Declaration by Gemma Malley follows the story of a young British teenager, Anna Covey, in the year 2140. This futuristic novel takes place after medical researchers have cured all sorts of common ailments like cancer, diseases, and even AIDS. Going one step further after curing disease, scientists have formulated a pill that stops the body’s aging process, allowing humans to live forever.

Because this pill, called Longevity, keeps the elderly (and everyone else, for that matter) alive indefinitely, the world population has skyrocketed, and the government has made procreation illegal in order to curb overcrowding and violence. Every citizen since 2080 has been forced to sign a declaration, which states that they will not bear children. Any child born to parents who take Longevity pills will be ripped away from them at birth, labeled “surplus” children, and forced to work off their parents’ “sins” at a Surplus boarding school while the parents serve prison sentences.

Surplus Anna has grown up as an illegal citizen at a school called Grange Hall. She hates her parents because she has been indoctrinated by her superiors, particularly the head-mistress Mrs. Pincent, to believe that her parents did her an enormous injustice by conceiving her illegally and forcing her to live outside of the law. When Peter, an older surplus boy arrives at the school, one who has been kept hidden by an underground movement of rebels all his life, Anna is stuck watching after him and teaching him the Surplus doctrine of obedience and submission. However, Peter has other plans. He tells her that he knows her parents, that her name is not Surplus Anna—it’s Anna Covey, and that he has come to break her out of Grange Hall. The majority of the novel follows the adventures of Anna and Peter as they risk their lives to escape from slavery and fight for ordinary freedoms such as conversation, looking people in the eyes, owning simple possessions such as journals, and seeing the world outside the confines of gray cement walls.

This book, as a young adult fiction novel, was a fast and suspenseful read. I loved Anna’s journal entries to which the readers were privy, and I felt like these few-and-far-between entries were much better than the prose sections, which did not feel youthful enough. Malley wrote with a strong sense of urgency, and her political platform occasionally got in the way of the beautiful language she clearly was capable of. Even with Malley’s tendency to over-write the controversial sections (probably trying to hammer her point so as not to be misunderstood), the novel held my attention and gripped my heartstrings. My heart broke for Anna’s misinterpretations of the world and her place in it, and I became emotionally attached to her wellbeing.

My favorite line that described Anna was, "The girl had always looked like she willingly carred the weight of the world on her shoulders and still thought it wasn't enough of a burden" (210). Sound familiar, anyone? Now you know why I enjoyed it.

I recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys utopian/dystopian novels or futuristic adolescent fiction. Malley’s Anna is a far cry from a Judy Blume or Lois Lowry teenager, but she has a beautiful heart and longs for acceptance in a cruel world. I can't wait to read the sequel!

My rating: 4 stars