"A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories:” and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation." - Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet"

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holiday Movies I: The Artist

One of the best things about the holiday season is that good movies actually come out (thank you, awards season!), so although I overdosed on movies this semester, I'm taking in a few films while I'm on break from school. Here's the first of my reviews/recommendations.

The music, the dresses and hats, the tap dancing, the glimpses of vintage movie-making, the shamelessly clever imagery, the relief of letting oneself get carried away by the dramatic score, and the most talented dog you'll ever see onscreen. It was all wonderful.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What I'm Reading Right Now: Oryx and Crake

In keeping with the thread of dystopic fiction, I'm now reading Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, which is much more to my liking than 1984 so far.

I especially appreciate how Atwood is using childhood as a way into her own imagined future world. It reminds me a lot of Ender's Game, a great book by Orson Scott Card - I think the use of children's games, which are central to Ender's Game, is equally brilliant here. In a book that depicts the transition between a world like ours and a world that seems completely foreign (but could one day come about), children are the perfect narrators, because they are the transitional generation, glimpsing the past through their parents but moving on themselves into the future.

This book also reminds me of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas in the way that it weaves together multiple times and in the depiction of the future as a kind of wasteland where people are ignorant - or innocent - of what came before. It's very different from the deliberate obliteration of the past in Orwell's book. Instead of the evil government blanking out and twisting people's memories, both Atwood and Mitchell create a sense of the natural erosion of the past, and I think that's a lot more relevant to the way history works (or the way I perceive it at least). Orwell's future is almost presumptuous in its suggestion that we might somehow stop history or reach the end of it. What I loved about Cloud Atlas was the incredible depiction of the cyclical nature of history. We may destroy the earth and ourselves, but time will keep happening, new life will spring up, new conflicts and new hopes. History cannot just come to a standstill. Atwood's narrator, Snowman, like Mitchell's sixth narrator, just keeps plowing on with his fight to live, and it doesn't feel like some imagined, isolated future. You know it will keep evolving (especially given Atwood's focus on genetics), and that makes it exciting and real.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I woke up a few weeks ago with holiday fever, characterized mainly by a strong desire to listen to Christmas music. But there are a million other little pleasures to the wintertime that I love.

The first clementines have appeared in the dining halls. The coffee shop has started selling peppermint crunch chocolate bars. Everything, from hot drinks to granola to cake, is suddenly flavored with pumpkin spice. Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, pears, cranberries, and pecans are all in abundance.

I suddenly seem not to own nearly enough sweaters or wool socks. Yesterday, I wore rain boots for the first time since I was a little kid. Wool hats - so comforting and comfortable - are an acceptable accessory. It's the perfect weather for nylon stockings and bulky sweaters, chilly legs and a warm belly. Every time I go outside, there's that enveloping cold, and when I come home, the glow of the heaters.

It's amazing how many things we've accumulated in order to combat the winter duldrums. Cheery songs, delicious goodies, indulgences, presents, not to mention the age-old traditions of bringing lights and greenery inside to keep the year alive. The other day, I stopped into the rose garden next to my dorm and picked some roses for my room - for the first time this year, I felt the need to have something alive and blooming in my room, even though roses seem slightly incongruous in the winter.

I find there's a kind of nostalgia that comes along with the holidays. There are memories going back however many years you've been alive, and traditions going back much farther. And I especially like classic holiday movies.

Aside from all that, the changing of the seasons itself makes me more aware of the weather and the foods available to me and generally reminds me of times when people actually had to change their life-styles according to the season. I really don't think it would be a bad thing if we slowed down as the weather got colder. Instead of rushing around taking exams and writing final papers and doing last-minute present-shopping, we could settle down, bake cookies, take long cold walks, knit sweaters, and read books aloud to each other, and then the holidays would be even nicer.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What I'm Reading Right Now: 1984

I've just started 1984 for the first time, and I only have one major quibble, which is: why didn't he write the book as the contents of Winston's diary? I assume there's some turn in the plot later in the book that makes this impossible, but I think it would have been a very good choice for the first bit of the story at least.

There's something very immediate and high-stakes about reading a story as it unfolds in a character's diary account, instead of with the hindsight of standard narration. There's a wonderful section of The Woman in White (which I still haven't finished, but will soon) told through a diary, and it's incredibly exciting and suspenseful.

A diary also obviously puts us in first-person territory, which I think would have been ideal for Winston's story, because, as he says, the only space he has to himself is the several cubic centimeters inside his head, and most of the book so far is just thoughts, thoughts, thoughts because that's all he has. So why not first-person, which would make us, like him, feel trapped inside that head, possibly the only freely-thinking head in the world.

Finally, were the book written as a diary or even just in first-person, Orwell would have been forced to do the exposition a little less expositorially, which I think is the one weakness of the opening. I really was crawling through the book until about page 50, when we had finally established everything we needed to know about Oceania. Then, suddenly, plot and character started happening, and when I got to the end of part one, where I'd planned to stop, I could not resist turning the next page to see what happened.

My other main reaction so far is surprise at how obviously Orwell references Communism and Soviet Russia and at the words and references that have entered common culture but that originated in this book - the most obvious example being Big Brother. It's like reading a piece of history, which is interesting in light of what Orwell is writing about, too. All in all, so far, it's not been a pleasant read (especially coming right after Waugh's hilarity), but I believe I'm now hooked.

As a side note, when I was looking for a cover image to include in this post, I came across a huge range of them (which just goes to show how important this book is, or how important people think it is). Here are some of my favorites:

Political satire or dime romance? I especially like the tag line at the top.

This, on the other hand, makes it look more like a noir or a contemporary sci-fi best-seller.

I like the grittiness of this one, and the face that it looks like there are fingers reaching out of the mouth instead of teeth. Creepy.
I especially like this last one because of its simplicity and those striking those black lines coming out of the four. It also suggests to me the layout of a map, and architecture and physical space are so important in the book, especially in the contrast between Winston's space of work and sleep and the world of the proles, with its winding streets and hidden corners. I also just like the idea of covers that continue front-and-back.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What I'm Reading Right Now: Decline and Fall

And here's a quote from the book - a description of, I guess, what it means to be a functioning individual in society - that I found striking and a bit sad.

"For an evening at least the shadow that has flitted about this narrative under the name of Paul Pennyfeather materialized into the solid figure of an intelligent, well-educated, well-conducted young man, a man who could be trusted to use his vote at a general election with discretion and proper detachment, whose opinion on a ballet or a critical essay was rather better than most people's, who could order a dinner without embarrassment and in a creditable French accent, who could be trusted to see to luggage at foreign railway stations, and might be expected to acquit himself with decision and decorum in all the emergencies of civilized life."

I found this striking because some of it seems very true, but sad because such things sometimes do seem very hard and also because other things are conspicuously absent - like friendship, love, good health, curiosity, or a sense of humor. Waugh doesn't specify that Paul should be able to enjoy his dinner or the ballet, or that his life might be anything other than a series of these various "emergencies of civilized life" - is life nothing but challenges to one's ability to uphold civilization with decorum? Waugh is probably expressing something quite particular to British culture in his era. It certainly isn't the exact portrait of life today, but it's not quite that foreign either.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thoughts on Unfinished Books

There will always be a few of them, floating somewhere near the back of the cloud in my mind that is the things I've done and seen and experienced. But unlike most of the books, films, landscapes, days, meals, trips, etc. that make up that nebula, the unfinished books are not whole and distinct. They aren't discrete little packages I can open up in my memory. Recalling them doesn't give me that thrill of accomplishment, the sense that my life is whole because it is made up of whole elements. Instead, it's like I'm still in the middle of the experience, like the book is still lying open on my bed, waiting for me to come back to it.

I forget about them, but eventually they resurface, always with a little pang of guilt. These are not the books that I put down for a purpose - because they weren't worth my time, usually. These are the books that just got lost in the shuffle, and I can't even remember why I stopped reading them and walked away. Most of the time, it's probably because I had to physically depart from where the book was. I only had a couple hundred pages left in Middlemarch when I had to get on a plane for Uganda, but in that case, I was dedicated enough (or crazy enough) to actually cut the (very large and cumbersome) book apart so that I could carry that last little sliver of it with me to finish. But other books I just left. And I will continue to do so over the course of my life, I'm sure, so that eventually I'll have a whole pile of open books and a whole pile of missed opportunities to add another story to my history.

I'm not a very fast reader, and I imagine there are people for whom this is inconceivable. They could just stay up a few extra hours and finish. This is never a problem for me with watching a film. But I read slowly, and I like to read when I have ample time and energy to really savor the words and the story. I don't dislike long books. In fact, I love the experience of living in a novel for several months, always having it there as a world I can slip back into for respite. But those kinds of books are always in danger of being left unfinished.

Right now, Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White is sitting neglected on my bookshelf. I started it this summer, read it pretty devotedly, but didn't quite finish before the start of the semester. I have about 200 pages left. I haven't touched it for almost three months. But it's still sitting on my shelf, right above my bed, just in case. I will be finishing this book. Just not right now.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Music - Laura Marling

I'm always looking for new music, especially stuff that I can play on loop while writing. I like songs that havn't got too much noise in them - clean melodies with some intricacies in the back-up that I can tune out if I need to. Sometimes classical music is just the ticket, but sometimes you need some kind of beat to push your hands over the keyboard.

Anyway, I think a lot of people share the quandary of what to listen to when writing, so I wanted to share my newest find, Laura Marling.

She's a British singer/songwriter with 3 albums out. I'm not very good at categorizations in this type of music, but I think she falls somewhere in the zone of folk music. She looks a little like Evanna Lynch, the wonderful Luna Lovegood actress, and she writes notes to her fans by hand and puts them up on her website.

I've been listening to her music for the last couple of days and am starting to love her songs - original and interesting lyrics, wonderful control of her voice, from pure crystal to rough earthy.

She also won me over with this bit of lyric from her song New Romantic, which is just so much more personal than most of the trite love songs one mostly hears:

"Maybe I should give up, give in,
give up trying to be thin,
give up and turn into my mother,
god knows I love her."

I love the sentiment of not disavowing one's family or one's body in the young person's quest to become a grown-up. You can listen to that song on YouTube here.

Another one of my favorites is All My Rage - click here for YouTube video of her playing it at the Glastonbury festival and looking somewhat celestial

And here's a video of her playing a song while riding a merry-go-round. How cool is that?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What I'm Reading Right Now: Bouvard et Pécuchet

(In French, not German. My copy is leather bound with no cover design, but I like this cover quite a lot.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Television in a sad state of affairs

Take a look at this picture.

Now look at this one.

See any similarities? Oh, I don't know, maybe the fact that both NBC and ABC think that by putting actors in modern dress in the middle of a dark, foreboding forest atmosphere and surrounding them with other actors dressed up as princesses and monsters....you get a fresh and exciting new take on fairy tales? Not quite, I'm afraid.

The press shot for Grimm, trying very hard to be creepy, suggests that we might have "thought they were just fairy tales." Actually, sir, I thought "they" were highly complex folk tales with a long oral, written, and cinematic tradition, a form of storytelling that is ripe for innovative rewrites and adaptations, but which gains nothing from simply being updated and spruced up with some fancy CGI.

Bitterness aside, I appreciate the impetus behind both new series, which I sampled this weekend in my ongoing effort to see and read everything fairy-tale related. Once Upon A Time imagines that the traditional fairy tale characters, through a very complicated series of events, have become stuck in a small town in Maine and need to be saved by the long-lost daughter of Snow White, who in turn has a long-lost child, a son, who was adopted by the Evil Queen, who doesn't know that she's the Evil Queen but is evil nonetheless. Really, don't ask for clarification. It would only make things worse.

This is standard fairy tale adaptation fare - what if we make all the fairy tale characters real and mix them up with normal people? - but just imagine for a minute the reverse. What if, instead of having the fairy tale characters think they're regular people, we had regular people thinking they were fairy tale characters? That might be a bit more psychologically interesting. And it would also address the problem our society has of making us believe that our lives will turn out happily ever after and that we'll all become princesses - a problem that lies at the root of stuff like Once Upon A Time.

Grimm is a little less guilty of this kind of wishful thinking, and I actually thought the premise was kind of cool - a cop learns he is the last of the Grimms and must fight the monsters his ancestors wrote about, who are all in disguise as humans. It might be my weakness for crime shows, but I had a little hope for this one. Unfortunately, instead of fantasy and crime drama combining into one glorious whole, I got a contrived script, complete lack of psychological depth, and very poor acting. Blargh.

So to cleanse my palatte, I watched this for the second or third time, and it was brilliant as ever:

Maybe I'll write an in-depth review of it in another post, but for now, I'm just basking in its wonderfullness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The clock seems to be ticking very fast these days, and I don't think it's just because I have a couple of chapters of my thesis due in six weeks. Do you ever get that feeling that you're working too hard and yet not working hard enough at the same time?

On the one hand, I'm struggling to get through the stacks of books I've checked out of the library, all the while researching more books and articles to flesh out my already-five-page-long bibliography. I'm enjoying the reading, so why not step it up and just read and reflect full-time?

On the other hand, what I really want right now is to spend a day going for a hike and having a picnic or wandering through a city and visiting a museum. I already feel like I just don't have enough time to do all the things I want or to do them with the attention and care I'd like. And yet there are always more - or other - things I'd like to be doing.

On a day during which I completed some time-consuming assignments, had a successful meeting with two of my favorite professors, sat in the sun with friends, and spent an hour reading a great work of western literature, my happiest moment was the five minutes of walking back to my dorm over the lawn with a hot cup of tea in my hands and real grass and dirt under the soles of my shoes.

I've been at this school, on this campus - a square mile? It's not big - for going on four years now, and I think my sense of dissatisfaction comes down to the feeling that nothing in my immediate environment can hold my attention because nothing is new to me. I was shocked today when one of my friends greeted a girl I'd never seen before - but is it really that bizarre for a friend to know someone I don't? Around here, actually, it is.

As lonely as I was last year in Paris, I miss the possibility and flux of cities, and as much as I admire the manicured lawns and the charming fountains on this beautiful campus, I'm longing for the rough edges and the constant change of real nature. Here, the seasons and the temperatures are all out of order. Yesterday it was practically raining it was so damp and cold. Today the sun shone all day. The air-conditioning can't seem to keep up - the other day, it was warmer to sit outside in the rain than to sit inside with cold air blasting out of every vent. I'd like to be in a place where I could really feel the season changing, where I could curl up in a warm tea shop and stride against chilly autumn winds, where I could watch the leaves falling off the trees or the scarves getting wrapped more snugly around people's necks.

Time's flying by, but nothing's changing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Surrounded by Books

I saw this picture this morning on Tumblr, thought, Wouldn't it be nice to spend my days surrounded by that many books? And lo, I proceeded to spend the day perched on my bed, surrounded by about that many library books. It's thesis bibliography day!

Although my back is now stiff from bending over so many books, it's been a lovely three-and-a-half hours of flipping through pages, skimming the fine print to find out exactly when each book was originally published and where.

I also noticed (really noticed, that is), how lovely it is that books are printed in all different shapes and sizes and with different weights of paper, cut in different ways. DVDs and CDs and especially computer screens are so horribly uniform and cold - they've got no smell, no texture, no weight. I think even more than reading books, I like handling them and learning to recognize them by their covers and their unique shape.

I just don't understand Kindle.

Now I need to go put all my books back on my bookshelf.

Photo: http://scarlettshaney.tumblr.com/post/11584628886

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Slightly Disappointed Expectations

I just watched The Corpse Bride last night - one of the many many films I want to see as background to my thesis - and once again my expectations about Tim Burton were set a bit too high.

I didn't grow up on Burton, haven't ever seen The Nightmare Before Christmas (which most people seem to be intimately familiar with since childhood), but I've always thought his films would resonate with my interest in animation, weird/dark/fantasy worlds, etc. Alice in Wonderland was the first of his films that I actually saw, and I was disappointed. The film was OK in and of itself, but it most certainly did not provide the crazy visuals, dark atmospherics, and general inventiveness I had been led to expect.

I wanted to give Burton a second chance, but I feel the same way about The Corpse Bride. First of all, the animation was pretty uninteresting. The characters were different shapes and sizes and had various cartoonish deformities, but they all moved with the same unreal, unweighted, ungrounded glide. I get that they weren't supposed to look human, of course, but I feel like the animators had their priorities all wrong when they sorted out the human qualities and the puppet- or doll-like qualities. You can make your characters very surreal and weird, but they should maintain some kind of relation to gravity and they should be blessed with some richness in their tics and movements. Hayao Miyazaki is a good example of this - I remember hearing that his animation team visited a dog shelter in order to study the way that Haku's snout should be drawn when he becomes a dragon in Spirited Away. They were creating a creature of fantasy, but it was grounded in the reality of a common dog, so that the viewers can recognize it and believe it.

In terms of animation/design, I also really didn't like the characters' eyes - eyes are SO important, windows to the soul, all that, but these were just white spheres with a black dot. There was no shading, no rough edges, no way that I could see these characters as anything but the products of a computer.

My second qualm with the film is the demystification of the underworld. The more I see, the more I read, and the more I myself write, the more I learn that, simply put, less is more. For example, in Doctor Who, my favorite aliens are the Weeping Angels, and I think a lot of people share that preference - why? Because it's when you can't see them that they can attack you. You can never see them in their true terrifying form. Cue imagination to run wild. In this movie, Burton created one single moment of mystery - when we saw the Bride's hand as both a dead tree branch and a hand at the same time. But even then it was pretty darn clear that it was a hand. And after that, she rose up out of her grave, we saw her head-to-toe, and all the enigma went out of the film. This isn't to say that artists shouldn't try their hand at depicting something like the underworld or the dead. But you can do it in such a way that every revelation creates more mystery. This is especially true of animation, because you can create such amazing atmosphere and such complexity in the imagery. Think about the kitchen in Ratatouille. So much detail! And yet you felt like you'd barely scratched the surface of the place. But Burton definitely did not succeed in capturing any of that richness in the story or the visuals.

Being a kind person, though, I'm going to give him a third chance and watch Edward Scissorhands.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Art of Foolproofing

I was looking through some old Cook's magazines and noticed the preponderance of the word 'Foolproof' in the names of their recipes. Foolproof Peach Shortbread, for example (which by the way sounds delicious). It got me to imagining a foolish person who could inadvertently do everything they can to ruin the peach shortbread but would always be foiled by the recipe's excellent foolproofing. But does a foolproof recipe lower itself to the mental level of the foolish cook in order to accommodate him or her? Or must it be super-intelligent, to make up for the lack of a cooking knack in the fool?

It's a bit depressing to think that recipes feel the need to protect themselves against human incompetence, especially recipes in a magazine like Cooks, which is the most elite cooking magazine I've ever encountered. It's equally sad to think that we don't use the word 'Fool' anymore. It's a nice word, because it conjures a kind of harmless, lumbering stupidity and, at the same time, the wise fooling of Feste and his Shakespearean compatriots, who masquerade as fools in order to show others, usually kings, that they are the real fools. I think we should bring both foolproofing and Shakespearean fooling back into style. Luckily, we don't need to worry about the fools themselves, because there are just as many of them as there ever were.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

some quotes

A couple of quotes I liked - cited in a book I'm reading about the Quay Brothers' films. The book is a little too theoretical for my liking, but the sources are interesting.

"...theorizing is what one does in the barren intervals between good films: once one's enthusiasm for the last work has died down, one finds oneself stranded in an imageless wilderness, and, left with nothing to think about, one begins to think abstractly."
- Paul Coates

"The writer is not tied to the physical concreteness of a given setting; therefore, he is free to connect one object with another even though in actuality the two may not be neighbours either in time or in space. And since he uses as his material not the actual percept but its conceptual name, he can compose his images of elements that are taken from disparate sensory sources. He does not have to worry whether the combinations he creates are possible or even imaginable in the physical world. . . . The writer operates on what I called the second or higher level, at which the visual and auditory arts also discover their kinship. We understand now why the writer can fuse the rustling of the wind, the sailing of the clouds, the odour of rotting leaves, and the touch of raindrops on the skin into one genuine unity."
- Rudolf Arnheim

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Books are cool....but why?

I've been reading books a lot this weekend, which in and of itself is unusual and blog-worthy. Most of my reading when I'm at school is confined to scholarly articles and a couple of newspaper pieces. However, I've spent the last few weeks checking quite a few books out of the library. In fact, I'm in the process of transferring every book about anything related to my thesis from the library to my room. I'm starting to run out of space on my book shelf.

Until now, I've been content to admire the books accumulating. This weekend, though, I started reading them. And they are so good. Thus far, I've been reading about some filmmakers whose work relates to my thesis topic - or at least, I hoped it would relate. So I've been elated to discover that it doesn't just relate. It's sparking ideas, pointing to connections, clarifying concepts, and offering leads. And it's so fun to see the idea of my thesis (the biggest idea I've had to come up with during my college education) being confirmed by professional writers and filmmakers. The main thought in my head when I'm reading the analysis of these films is a giant YES!

Aside from assuring me that my thesis actually might work out, these books are just plain interesting. The main topic is the influence of fairy tales in film, but the wider scatter of ideas I'm exploring includes the manifestations of archetype, the role of national culture in a filmmaker's approach to an internationally known story, and the variations on imagery that pervades a certain tradition and even appears across multiple traditions. Things like the use of mirrors to represent split identities, fractured social orders, distorted perceptions, or prescient, omniscient vision. This is just so interesting to me.

At a certain point, though, as I was reveling in all this wonderful literary/cinematic theory, I started to ask myself whether I was appreciating it as a fiction writer or as a critical reader. Do I love this kind of analysis because it inspires me to write a story that plays with mirror imagery, or do I just relish the intellectual thrill of gaining a different perspective on a text or a film or even an entire cultural tradition? And are those two things even separable for me? Because writing - critical writing but also fiction writing - is how I express and explore both the inspiration and the thrill. I think that for me they're intertwined. I could have the desire to write stories without concerning myself with cultural observation and criticism, and I could appreciate literary theory or the academic interpretation of a film without wanting to then create my own stories. But instead, in typical fashion, I want both.

Anyway, enough speculation. Back to my reading. Trust me to start questioning my intellectual standpoint and creative identity while I'm supposed to be working on my thesis.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Body Issmues

Body image issues, that is. As I'm a student at an women's college, you'd expect this to be a topic I would hear a lot about. In reality, it doesn't get talked about that much, not in the public sphere and not in the private sphere, either (at least, not the sphere I run in). But on one of the YouTube channels I subscribe to, the sarcaschicks, the five girls who run the channel have been addressing the topic in their videos this week. So it got me thinking about the subject of body image, about its role at my college and its role in my life.

The sarcaschicks' videos have been quite gutsy as far as YouTube videos go. The topics they're discussing are important to bring into the public sphere, because young women in western society are not only encouraged to obsess about personal appearance, but also to obsess about it privately. It's all very well to spend hours in front of your full-length mirror in the privacy of your own room, but glancing in mirrors or other reflective surfaces as you go about your life outside just makes you look vain. Which is not to say that people don't do it - you wouldn't believe how many reflective shop windows I found on my commute to work this summer. Or maybe you would because you do the same thing. But we certainly shouldn't talk about it aloud.

On the flip side of this is the kind of treacly, self-pitying over-sharing that some girls practice but that does nothing to advance the discussion or change attitudes. This is when girls admit to feeling ugly and everyone assures them that they have nice hair. As Sonya says in Uncle Vanya, everyone compliments plain girls on their hair. These kinds of conversations don't make anyone feel better, and besides, they usually take place in dorm rooms late at night - so much for public discussion.

So far, the sarcaschicks' have narrowly avoided this kind of nonsense. Instead, they're being realistic about their feelings, recognizing that a lot of girls sometimes feel shitty about their bodies and that it shouldn't be so common, but that girls also shouldn't feel worse just because every so often they succumb to the enormous pressure that society puts on young women to be beautiful all the time. So, good going for getting it out in a public space like YouTube, and here's hoping this won't devolve into a girls' therapy session.

What I'd really like to see, of course, is some of YouTube's sizable male vlogger population getting in on the chat. So far, there've been some video responses from girls, and a nod to the issue by WOTO, but they never broke their persona of funny guys. I'm glad that the women of the vlogosphere are taking charge and attacking body image issues head-on without waiting for the go-ahead from their male counterparts, but I also wish there was more of a conversation so that we could get away once and for all from the cycle of women wiping the mascara off each other's cheeks and sending each other back out into the world with a painted smile on their faces.

So much for my critical analysis of gender dynamics on YouTube. In my own life, I've noticed the same problems. For example, the gym at my college is a so-called "Fat-Talk-Free Zone." What I guess this means is that no one is supposed to be complaining about how fat they feel or reveling in how thin they are or making any related commentary about each other. So, this is a laudable effort, but it also compounds the problem I mentioned earlier, which is of the world encouraging women to keep quiet about the way they feel about their bodies. Which could have the positive effect of making people think about other, more important stuff or could just make those feelings fester.

When I say 'more important stuff,' I'm fully cognizant of the fact that personal appearance is actually extremely important. It's important in our social interactions, it's important in our inner psychology, and it's important in our basic instincts. The point of life, after all, is to find a suitable mate and keep life going, and there are a few key ways of judging who's best: their skill in fighting, their resistance to disease, their parenting instincts, their loyalty, their longevity. Of course, we don't usually go up to someone in a bar and start asking them how their immune system's been doing lately. No, instead, we look them up and down and decide then and there whether they're worth a shot or not. Facial symmetry, body shape, height, the straightness of someone's teeth....I think people aren't even necessarily aware of their mental check-list, but it's certainly a factor in both sexual relationships and just plain old friendships. Because being attractive is an asset in social circles as well.

I happen to be very conscious of how I judge people's appearance. Partly because I love and adore looking at people's clothes and partly because I think people in general - their body language, facial tics, gait, etc. - are just fascinating. I sometimes have trouble in class or in a conversation keeping my mind focused on the topic at hand because all I really want to do is stare at the way that scarf sits on someone's shoulder or the way their shirt fits. It's not creepy, it just looks creepy when you're caught staring at a part of a person's body that's not their face.

Thing is, I don't just notice people's appearance, I also judge them on it. But I think, or I hope, that what I judge them on is not something that they were born with, like the structure of their face, but rather the things they purposefully designed about their appearance. And it's not that I divide the world into the people I like and the people I hate based on what they chose to wear or whether or not their hair is dyed. What I do enjoy guessing is what each person was thinking that morning when they decided what to wear. I'm aware of the signals I'm sending with the way I dress and the way I carry myself, and I assume other people are also trying to send signals. I like decoding them.

So. I don't have a conclusion to this outrageously long post. Except that it's dinner time. Thanks for listening.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Proud Moment

As a general rule, I don't like nighttime. There's just something about the darkness that gives me a physical urge to go home, crawl into bed, and stay put until the sun comes up. Some things make it bearable, like watching movies or curling up with a fat novel or talking with friends late into the night, but as soon as you subtract any of those comforts and replace them with, say, homework, things get ugly (and sleepy) very fast.

When I started writing a paper late this afternoon, I was full of dread at a long evening of mangled sentences, redundant ideas, and marathon-staring-out-the-window sessions. Except that there wouldn't even be anything to stare at because it would be dark. Not only that, but I've just finished, or almost finished, over a month of writing and revising personal statements for grad school applications. I am not in the mood for sitting in front of a computer or writing or coming up with brilliant ideas. All my brilliant ideas have gone and left me.

As a side note, my reasons for being in such a predicament were pretty valid - I took a break mid-afternoon to go buy cheese - but that didn't make the task any less daunting or the approaching darkness any less ominous.

So I was more than a little surprised when I sat down to write and found it to be not that painful after all. Maybe it's the comparison with writing application essays. Trying to argue that Molière is a brilliant playwright is a hell of a lot easier than trying to argue that I'm a brilliant person. I guess from another perspective it's kind of the same thing - in one case, I'm trying to convince my professor to give me an A, in the other, I'm trying to convince a committee of strangers to give me thousands of dollars. Sort of the same thing. But personal statements make you literally state that you are awesome. Academic papers allow you to be more sneaky about proving your intelligence and worth.

Plus, I never really got into the habit of thinking in terms of a direct correlation between writing a paper and earning a grade, at least not enough to dislike writing papers. I quite like writing papers, as long as I'm interested in the subject, and this one happens to be about a subject I'm fascinated by at the moment - the meeting points of the comic and the serious. What I don't like is writing papers at night. But apparently, that's gotten a bit less dreadful now that I've whipped myself through three years of college paper-writing and a month of application essays. After a few hours, I'd written half a draft of the paper and was happy to put it aside until tomorrow.

I've learned to write papers at night! Happiness comes in the strangest of ways.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Adventures v. Habits

For someone who's always lived in one place, I seem to be moving around quite a lot recently. First there was starting college (which still feels recent...). In the years since, there's been moving to and from school twice a year. Then I moved to Paris for four or five months. Then I moved home. Then I moved to and from school again.

Every time I move, I go through this funny period of surreality. It feels like I'm not really where I am and not really where I was. I believe it's quite difficult, actually, for the human mind to understand that it's been transported 300 or 3,000 miles, especially if the mode of transport was an airplane, which just makes everything weird and futuristic - like apparating but with several hours of queasiness, cold, and forced seated position.

Thing is, it's during those days of wandering around, not really believing that I am where I am, that I probably am the most present, in the sense of noticing my surroundings. It's not very pleasant adjusting to a new place, but it makes me take notice of the temperature, the smells, the routes I take walking to class, the food I eat, the bed I sleep in. Once I've settled in, all that fades away. I stop having to think about all the little everyday decisions and experiences, and take a lot of things for granted.

But settling in opens up space for other ways of being present. Being present in my mind without constantly assessing where I am and where I'm going next. Noticing something new about a place I've been a million times before. Watching something evolve over time, like a garden or a bird's nest.

It might be different for other people - I'm sure there are some who love that weird space you're in when you've just gotten off the airplane. I, however, am a creature of habit. I love my habits, I love regularity and comfort and not having to improvise my days as I go. I also love traveling and changing things up, but then I want to settle down and let my mind do the wandering.

I've been considering this while picking grad schools to apply to for my master's degree. On the one hand, there are some cities I'd really like to experience in more depth. On the other hand, nothing sounds better than a quiet hamlet where I can spend hours reading and writing, where I can walk everywhere, where I don't have to choose among 50 cafés when I want a cup of tea. Cities are best for people who enjoy novelty, risk-taking, and exploration. Small towns are good for people who want coziness, easy access to nature, and familiarity. At least that's how it seems to me now. And for now I think I'm the latter kind of person. I hope I get in to grad school, so that I can find out if I'm right.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pining for the Good Old Days

I've been sitting and writing essays all day, listening to a bit of music, doing my laundry. But just now I've been distracted by my neighbors.

At first I just heard a voice drifting out their open window and in through mine. I thought they might be watching TV, until I noticed the speaker was a British guy. How nice, I thought - someone else likes British things as much as I do, and given how long this guy is holding forth without interruption, maybe it's a radio show. I've mentioned my fondness for BBC radio on this blog before, so you can imagine I was quite tickled by the idea that they might be fellow radio aficionados.

But after another minute of listening, the guy said the word "literally" a few times, groaned in frustration, and mentioned a stupid way of pointing out that it's snowing - so it turns that they're watching Alex Day reading Twilight on YouTube.

I'm slightly pleased with this result of my eavesdropping, because it's nice to have a familiar voice wafting around the courtyard while I edit my essay. On the other hand, I'm a little disappointed that the voices I recognize come from YouTube videos and not from the radio, which is the sacred home of recognizable voices. I think a great speaking voice is a wonderful and attractive feature in a person, but often it gets overwhelmed by physical appearance, since that's the primary thing we pay attention to and remember about a person. I like radio shows and books on tape because you can take a great voice and let your imagination run with it, creating the ideal person to match it.

Incidentally, I think it's a bit the same with reading - you can conjure up whatever author's persona you like to enhance the reading experience. The most common thing I tend to do when I'm reading is imagine the author as a shadow twin of the narrator. It gives the whole thing a very immediate and personal flavor and holds out the tantalizing possibility of getting more of the story from the author's biography. I've learned from writing workshop classes that this is usually an entirely false impression, but it's so strong that I've heard a student in a workshop critique call the protagonist of another student's story by the student author's name instead of the protagonist's.

I wonder, though, if this was an issue before modernism and stream-of-consciousness and semi-autobiographical first novels hit the scene. And I wonder if it will continue to even be possible to imagine someone differently from how they are, now that everything is televised and audio-visualized and authors rarely live in quiet obscurity and young people don't listen to the radio.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Back to school

In the time since I last posted (eons), I've finished both my summer internships, moved back to school, and begun seriously devoting myself to grad school applications. This involves various things - hours spent reading course descriptions at University X, watching videos about student life at University Y, and searching the web for the most accurate weather statistics for the region around University Z, among other things. Most importantly, most excitingly, and most terrifyingly, it involves squishing your life history, your dreams, and your very soul into 500 to 1,000 words.

As daunting as it sounds, I've had some good times with this. It's exciting to think that people will be seriously trying to extract my personal essence just from reading my words. On the other hand, there are moments when I feel like putting one typing one more word will make me vomit all over my keyboard and give up writing forever.

So the question is, If you can hate something so much, does that mean that you actually love it?

Meanwhile, there is homework to be done and the weather is disgustingly hot. Welcome back.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Writers make bad heros...

One of the scariest things about wanting to be a writer - even scarier than the death of the print industry, the improbable and minuscule financial remuneration, and the grueling ordeal of receiving hundreds of rejection letters - is the fact that all one's favorite writers, the people one aspires to become some day, are all depressed alcoholic loners, dead white men, or both. When I imagine being a writer, I remember walking through an exhibition of Richard Avedon's portraits and noticing that the writers he photographed were more grizzled, more haggard, and more wrinkled than all the movie stars, politicians, and farm workers combined.

Of course, there's an alternative route for my imagination to take. Wouldn't it be nice to be like Colin Firth in Love Actually, a nice, handsome person, living by a lake, falling in love with a cute Portuguese girl, and writing a novel on the side? Or you could be J.M. Barrie, as portrayed in Finding Neverland, cavorting in the park and playing dress-up with adorable kids all while jotting down notes about your next best-seller in a classy little black notebook. Or J.K. Rowling in her Scottish castle - need I say more?

But even the movies don't provide very many examples of idyllic writerly life - I'm hard pressed to come up with another example. And real-life successful writers are a quieter sort than actors or other stars. They don't make newspaper headlines or appear on the cover of Vogue or get stalked by tabloids. So where's a young writer to turn?

I've found two sources of fodder for my aspirations. One of my new favorite activities is attending readings at local bookstores. Technically, this is not only an activity - it's also part of my job to scout out writers as possible invitees to read for a podcast my bosses run. But it's probably the most fun thing I've ever had to do for any job.

First of all, it's an excuse to go to a bookstore and browse. More importantly, there are real, living-and-breathing writers who have written actual books (which are sitting right there on the podium, as proof) and who are willing to answer all one's breathless questions about how they managed to do it. But the best part is, they seem normal, even...dare I say happy? These are not the withered, miserable old men behind the classics of western literature. Out of five authors I've seen at readings this summer, three are youngish, sprightly women who have traveled to India, started families, and published multiple books. They always seem to have lots friends in the audience (no loners, these), and their ability to articulate the ideas behind their writing is impressive. The bottom line is: I would be happy to become any of these women.

My second source of inspiration is a bit less tangible, but no less exciting, for me at least. Enter BBC Radio 4, where, every week or so, the lovely Mariella Frostrop talks to several authors about their writing. And how wonderful it is to hear two intelligent people conversing about the thing one loves most (with British accents, no less). Sometimes she even invites two writers on the show to discuss a common theme in both their work - how often do you get to hear two writers talking to each-other about writing?

The conclusion, I guess, is that if one wants to obsess about books, one must turn to bookish pursuits, like attending readings and listening to the radio. It might not be as cool as seeing a movie or going to a concert, but the next time you're looking for an exciting evening out, I recommend a bookstore.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wake-up calls

Well, it's been a long time, but surprisingly little of note has happened since my last post. I spent hours editing an interview for a video podcast, only to be told that footage was getting scrapped in favor of a new interview. So I spent hours editing the new interview. But between marathon sessions in the editing room, I've also been commissioned by my boss to work on an independent project - a sort of crowning glory to my summer internship.

It should be noted that my internship is beyond half-way over. I've only got 2 1/2 weeks left. On the other hand, a big project is a nice change from the sundry duties with which every intern is all too familiar. I went home and came up with an idea for a series of features. My boss approved it. We decided the first step was an informational interview with one of the subjects. I made the appointment. All set.

It remains to be seen whether there'll actually be time to go further than that. But whether or not I get a chance to see this project through, the experience of submitting a proposal, developing an idea, and putting it into action will undoubtedly be an education one.

It's also made me realize just how easy it is to trudge along in a routine of small tasks without looking for anything bigger or more interesting to do. I step onto the subway train after work and forget about the computer screen I've been staring at, the cubicle I've been sitting in, and the lists of arts events or sequence of video clips I've been cramming into my brain. But I also forget to reflect on what I enjoyed during the day, what I might like to do tomorrow, and how I can make it happen. When my boss asked me to come up with a project, I found I'd sunk into a rather comfortable but unproductive rut of dutifully taking in all the learning opportunities presented to me but never actively seeking out more.

To my credit (or just to make myself feel better), I should point out that when I step off the subway train, I more often than not plunge directly into researching my thesis, applying to grad school, or cooking dinner. If only I had unlimited mental space and time to devote to making my summer the ultimate internship experience! Of course, nobody actually has that kind of time. Some people manage to cram an awful lot of creativity and productivity into whatever their working hours are, but it's just not easy to be those people, especially during summer vacation.

Luckily for me, my boss is there to remind me of what I've forgotten and push me to do bigger and better things with my time. By the time I finish these 9 weeks, I'll have written two or three articles, edited a couple of videos, gotten a look at the local arts scene, and kick-started this independent project, which hopefully will be taken up by someone else when I leave. And let's not forget all those routine little tasks, without which it just wouldn't be a proper internship.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Movies, movies, movies...

In between eating burgers, drinking Arnold Palmers, and doing other summery stuff, I'm spending my July 4th weekend writing about movies. And movies are perfect for summer, right? I should add that I'm writing two reviews, one about Yann le Masson (a French documentary filmmaker from the 60s and 70s) and one about Bernardo Bertolucci (an italien director of sprawling, colorful, artsy films like "The Last Emperor" and "Last Tango in Paris"). Ok, so I can't really make this sound appropriate to the 4th of July at all.

The Bertolucci piece is about an upcoming retrospective series that my boss wants to review. The other article is for a French website that reviews books and movies - I wrote another piece for them while I was in Paris last fall. It's a coincidence (or the result of poor time management) that the two due dates have fallen in the same week, but I'm looking at it as a good trial run for what it might be like to actually do this as a job.

First of all, I've been reminded that writing about film takes time. There's just no way to rush through movies. If, in the case of Bertolucci, your subject makes 2- and 3-hour films, you better plan in a lot of hours before even thinking about starting to write. Thanks to the training of taking a lot of film classes, I probably have enough stamina to get through two or three such movies in a day, but somehow that seems so much less wholesome than spending an entire day reading or visiting art exhibits. Especially when it's 80 degrees and stunningly beautiful outside.

Secondly, I've found there are unique challenges to reviewing a set of movies instead of just one. Partly, it's really fun, because it's more interesting to suss out the patterns and themes of a director's oeuvre than to decide whether any particular film is great or not. Seeing the span of a career also enhances my appreciation of each individual film, whether for the director's versatility or for his/her ability to plumb the depths of one subject from several angles. On the other hand, when it comes down to fitting an entire career into 500 words, the choices become very frustrating. I love getting down the nitty gritty of writing about one scene, a sequence of shots, or a even a single composition. Those parts are fun to write and fun to read - I tend to skip over other parts of reviews to get to the descriptions. But there is just no place for scene analysis in the reviews I'm writing right now, so it's a real challenge finding the right detail or image to give the reader a sense of the individual films.

Thirdly, there is the ever-present danger of distraction. I've often found myself during finals week, in the midst of writing a paper, falling prey to this most terrifying of foes. One minute I'm looking up a page reference in a book, and the next thing I know I'm 20 pages into re-reading my favorite passage. Thanks to the wonderful technology of YouTube, IMDB, and DVD drives, it's all too easy to fall into a similar trap with film clips. I just wanted to make sure about that one camera angle or that line of dialogue, but look! this scene goes straight into that other scene that was so good, and since I'm on YouTube anyway, that certainly looks like an interesting video.....

Luckily for me, I always manage to get a craving for a glass of fruit juice or a handful of fresh cherries or a few minutes out in the sun before the internet sucks me in too far, and I come back to my computer with renewed resolve. So really, if summer weren't so summery, how would I get anything done at all?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Opinions v. Deadlines

When I arrived at work on Wednesday, I had hardly sat down at my computer before my boss approached with a folder in hand. This was promising. I now expected something more from my day than trawling the internet in search of artsy rss feeds or twitter accounts and storing them for my boss's future reference. I didn't expect to be handed a preview copy of the first episode in a new travel TV mini-series. I certainly didn't expect to be asked to watch and review it for the arts blog. And I most definitely did not expect to be turning in that review by the end of the day.

Given that my work days are only 5 hours long (with an extra five hours every week of out-of-the-office assignments), time was short. Subtract a half-hour for watching the episode, another half-hour to research the blogger-turned-TV-host around whom the show revolved, and another for lunch (I very briefly considered skipping lunch, but immediately pushed the idea aside, to be used only as a last resort) - that left 3.5 hours to turn out a decent 500-word opinion.

I was a bit concerned, then, but I also felt pretty cool (probably disproportionately so). Here was the journalist, typing away furiously, racing to beat the deadline, covering the breaking news of the arts world....Well, not quite, but I think what really got me going was that instead of doing the odd jobs of a certain person (as we interns are so wont to do), I was working directly for the enterprise of the arts webpage. For the entire day, no one bothered me, interrupted me, or asked me to do something for them. I never had to tiptoe to my boss's desk and ask for something to do. A few times, he stopped by my cubicle and asked how it was coming and what angle I was taking. How professional! And how unbelievably flattering, to have somebody put that much confidence in one's writing! It felt pretty great.

But it also put into relief something I've noticed before when writing critical reviews and which bothers me a little. Writing reviews usually requires an opinion, and I'm not usually short of those, but somehow my initial judgments often get twisted up and changed in the writing process. There seems to be a tension between what I want to express and how I want to express it, and when I'm writing under deadline especially, the latter usually wins out. It takes time to translate the ether of thoughts into the material stuff of words on a page. I believe that translation can have good effects, turning vague postulations that seemed interesting in your head into tight arguments that will actually make sense in other people's heads. But when there's no time to really go through that process, the striving for a good, snappy piece of prose can wash out the existence of any opinion at all.

I didn't particularly like the show I was reviewing. I found the host irksome, and more than that, I wanted to make a commentary about the way his background as a blogger - his familiarity with the lightning attention span of web surfers - compounded television's tendency to move so fast from shot to shot and from subject to subject that by the end of the show, you can barely remember how it started. But ironically enough, I was writing for a blog, a few words somebody would read on the run, so there wasn't time for any of that. I included a bit about the influence of online media on the format of the show and tossed in a little softened criticism. In the end, though, it came out snappy but bland, heavy on the description and light on the critical opinion. And then the hours were up, my moment of journalistic glory was over, and it was time to turn in my article.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Into the arts scene

I've lived in the Bay Area my whole life, and I like to think I'm a fairly art-savvy citizen of a fairly artsy town. Every time I drive home from college, I seem to have systematically bought tickets to a show for that very night - just couldn't wait to get my Bay Area culture fix after a few months in the deserts of SoCal. By the end of this week, I'll have gone out to see four movies, including both a classic Arthur Penn picture at the Pacific Film Archive and 'Super 8.' I also like to take in an opera or a symphony every so often, and I've already been through three museum exhibitions and several galleries in the last month. So I get around.

But my first on-the-job foray into the local arts listings left me feeling just a bit overwhelmed. Part of my job is to scroll through anything and everything that's happening in the realm of art during a given week and filter out the best and most interesting things our writers could cover. Best and most interesting, of course, are extremely relative terms, and faced with a barrage of music festivals, theater events, dance extravaganzas, film series, and so, so many gallery shows...I quailed at the task of sorting it all out.

In the end, I stuck with what I know. Confronted with a choice between a small exhibit of ink-brush paintings and a show at the San Francisco MOMA, I chose the MOMA. Unable to differentiate one indie DJ from another, I opted for the Stanford Jazz Festival. I took a couple of risks. Ignoring my boss's one warning - 'Don't give me anything nerdy' - I included a production of 'Oliver!' at a local outdoor amphitheater as well as an exhibition of original artwork from the Green Lantern comic books. But for the most part, I clung to the big venues I trust.

What I found most difficult was allowing shows onto my list that I wouldn't go see myself. I have fairly clear personal taste. One look at the poster art of any movie usually tells me all I need to know about whether I'll see it in theaters, wait for the DVD, or skip it altogether. But what good is knowing what you like when you're trying to decide what will interest and amuse someone else? And not just someone you know - I was trying to gauge first what my boss would like to put on the website, secondly what the writers would like to write about, and thirdly what readers would like to read about and possibly go see.

I turned in my list, and sure enough, the immediate feedback was to get more variety, more quirky, small venues, and more things that no one else has heard about yet. Basically, I need to learn to burrow into the deeper veins of the internet arts network and suss out more than an average Bay Area arts patron like me would be likely to find on their own.

But my boss loved the idea of the Green Lantern exhibit. Some may try to deny it, but nerdier is always better.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Week one on the job

The first thing I worry about when starting a new job, before boarding the subway or preparing my best smile and firmest handshake, is designing an outfit that will work whether my new boss is wearing a skirt suit and heels or jeans and clogs. You never know when you're working in the arts world. In San Francisco, though, that outfit had better also work in fog, sun, wind, and possibly rain. Summer weather here is kind of abysmal.

So a few days ago, I set out for day one of my internship in slacks and a t-shirt, with a sweater just in case. I knew this much: that my primary duties will include some video editing, some copy editing, and some research of local artists and arts events. I'll also get to write a couple of reviews per month, to be published on the organization's arts page alongside those of professional hired writers. 'Required' was the word they used in the interview to describe this task, but 'given the great privilege' sounded more accurate to me.

When I arrived, there was no time to learn more about what exactly I'll be doing for the next two months. My boss told me I should just follow him around for a while before actually starting work, and that's exactly what I did. I trailed him on a whirlwind tour of the building, sat quietly by during several meetings, and dutifully lapped up my free lunch (first and last, I was warned). The building itself is bigger and more official-looking than any place I've worked before. I even had to get an ID card to swipe in, although the fact that the picture on the card shows a Sesame Street character instead of my face makes it a bit less officious. (So far, I've resisted the temptation to flash my badge and introduce myself as the Cookie Monster. So far.) There are miles and miles of beige-colored cubicles, redeemed only by a few cardboard cut-outs of Wishbone and Princess Leia. The IT people are painfully and delightfully like IT people, and I felt a familiar terror upon hearing the words, "And here are our printer and copy machine." (At my first job, the combination printer/copier was a malicious beast who liked to break down under nervous intern's hands, causing unspoken but terrible wrath from the office manager. It ruined my relationship with that particular form of technology forever.)

The best part of the day by far was sitting in on an interview with a new writer. Two weeks before, I'd been on the other side of the table, sweating through my own interview. The contrast between me explaining my slightly hodge-podge array of college courses and internships and this woman elaborating her writing "practice" was pretty stark. She wasn't afraid to announce that she only writes a certain kind of article and to set out exactly what kind of article that is. To my surprise, my boss seemed to be thinking of ways to make room on his website for her specialty - writing about art in public space - instead of laying out his own requirements for what she should write about.

At college in particular, writing is most often presented as a means toward communication and comprehension. Writing as a "practice," a kind of art form with direction and philosophy, has always been linked in my mind to creative writing - fiction and poetry and probably creative non-fiction as well. This woman, as far as I could tell, does not write in any of those genres, but she still has a very clear idea of what she wants to cover and how she will cover it. It's not just that she knows about a certain subject and therefore is qualified to write about it. Her writing isn't just a means of informing people about art in public space. To her, it's also a deliberate contribution to the artistic practices that interest her, a record of those events but also a part of them.

In my own interview, I stumbled through confusion about my goals and hesitancy to honestly present myself as an aspiring writer. Two weeks later, I got a glimpse into a carefully honed practice of writing that smacked slightly of artistic pretension but also gave me a new perspective on what it is exactly to be a writer.