THANKSGIVING BREAK AH

Okay, here it is. 2 AM Friday, the day Bates lets out for Thanksgiving break. Why am I awake you may ask? Well, my answer lies in a very clever man who died roughly 400 years ago: Shakespeare. I have a 10 page, evil, daunting Shakespeare paper due at 5pm– the Friday before break! It’s the last task I have to complete after what seems like a whirlwind couple of weeks. But of course, this paper isn’t the only thing I’ve had going on this week. So, I just now finished it. (don’t worry, mom, I will be editing it more tomorrow when my eyes are fresh!)

But can you blame me? There’s been so many great things going on this week! Like Harvest Dinner, where Commons is transformed into an autumnal banquet hall and students line up at 4 pm for gourmet thanksgiving-style meals. There’s a band, raffles, gelato, CHEESE PLATES!!! Everything you could want in life. And then just when your stomach literally is paralyzing you by how full it is, it’s time to walk next door to the grey cage, for dessert and the annual Trashion show, where students design and model fashions made from recycled material for awesome prizes. So there’s one excuse.

After Harvest Dinner, I caught the last Language Arts Live of the semester: Ander Monson. He writes all sorts of things: poetry, fiction, non-fiction. He read two poems and then an essay for us, and I really loved the way he read his work– at first I thought he had a slight southern drawl, until he told us he was from Michigan. He moved to the essay with the intention of “lightening things up.” The essay, called “Well That’s the One Thing We Got,” was written about a youtube video of a college a cappella group singing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something. If you’ve read a few of my posts before, you might remember that I love a cappella. Almost to an unhealthy degree. So as he projected the video in question on a screen, and played the clip intermittently as he read, I got the shivers like I often do when I listen to good cheesy music. (Let’s make this more embarrassing with full disclosure: I call them my “glee chills” as a tribute to how often they occur while watching GLEE) He said the video was a 2007 performance of a group from UMass. Being from the fair state of Massachusetts, probably one tenth of the kids I went to high school go there. Including some of my friends. Including some of my friends who sing a cappella. Including one of my friends who sings a cappella in the group that was, at this moment, being projected on a small screen in Chase Hall to a room of 30 or so people laughing at the spectacle. So the moral of this story was that later I asked my friend if he knew that this story had been written, published, about this video of his group– if anyone in the group knew. They didn’t. There’s something almost voyeuristic that this story existed without them realizing. Inspired by merely a video on youtube, not even an extraordinary video,  watched over 200 times by this wonderfully quirky professor at University of Arizona… Weird.

While I tried to buckle down, again Thursday I was bombarded with all sorts of fun and interesting things to do!

During lunch, we sold our new WRBC t-shirts and tank tops for the first time. While we were worried how they would be received, we SOLD OUT by the end of dinner tonight. I was selling at lunch with my friend Ali and we were in awe of how much money was rolling in (which made us very happy– we had to front the money for the tshirts ourselves). I called our treasurer after lunch ended and said “Hey, i have $340 what should I do with it?” “$340?? From what? Why?? Huh??” “From tabling. It went really well.” “GREAT SUCCESS!!!” Or something along those lines…

The final little highlight of thursday evening was the 9:45 Harry Potter themed a cappella concert that packed Chase Lounge with people– some dressed in HP attire, as they were headed straight to the midnight movie afterwards. The Merimanders and the Deansmen performed, and looked the part, the Deansman wearing “dress robes” (their traditional tuxedos with CAPES!) and the Meris dressed like hogwarts students, complete with wands. They sang the theme of HP together, than each sang a few tunes. The Meris went above and beyond by changing the words of their songs to be Harry-appropriate.

Sadly, after that, it was paper time. It still is sort of paper time…

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Dr Dog Concert

So… Dr Dog left me super euphoric but entirely worn out, both from the awesomeness of dancing my butt off as well as working the event from 10 AM-12 AM. So, I will present a photo!

Soudcheck, around 3 pm

A few hours later, after the sun went down, the grass filled with fans and a great time was had by all!

A choppy video:

Language arts live– alive!

How is it already the weekend? I love Fridays because I don’t have any classes so I get a chance to catch up on work, sleep and relaxation. (Which I definitely won’t have any time for this weekend, with concerts and clambakes and what not!) But I wanted to be sure to post about this awesome fiction reading that i went to on Wednesday, which was a part of the Language Arts Live series that I wrote about last year. The series is co-curated by my advisor, and she arranged for me to meet the author for lunch before the reading. It was so exciting!

The author, Courtney Eldridge, is this amazing woman who is so full of energy that I had the most upbeat, rich-in-conversation lunch so far this year. I’d done a little bit of reading before meeting her, and checked out the website for her most recent project, Saccades. The website describes and features her process for writing a Young adult novel which focuses on communication and relationships for teenagers in the age of high technology. Basically, this book is set right smack dab in the way I spent my teen years– online and exploring and discovering. When we got to lunch, I was ready to jump right in and talk about her project… I felt like a total stalker at times, but whatever… sue me, I read the website closely! It was interesting!! She spent so much time contacting teen artist online to help with her process by contributing images and playlists, and it seems to have really shaped how the story developed. I was in awe, truly, that a non-teenager would really “get” the connection that teens feel with one another using the internet as vessel for communication, creating art, and building relationships. I’ve been there– I’ve had my parents or other adults just totally misunderstand what internet can do for young people. And it’s not their fault, it’s just that the technology is growing so fast, and the access teens have make it their tool to explore the entire world. It was wonderful to hear Courtney say that she didn’t believe what people say– that kids these days are passive, dumbed down, uncreative, numb… She saw in them art, and creativity.. and reached out for collaboration. After the lunch ended, I was so thrilled because the project seemed so ambitious and new; it reminded me of what one of the Language Arts Live speakers last year, Brian Kim Stefans, said: that with digital fiction, authors/artists are constantly reinventing the genre. So yes, Courtney isn’t exactly the same as Stefans…(check out the post here!) but what she is doing is adapting, and making use of the changes technology is making on society. AH. So. Cool. She might be my new hero..

Anyways, that night at the reading, there was a great turnout, and I got to see a different side of the author– the celebrated, published, and HILARIOUS Courtney Eldridge. After being introduced, she explained that she looks at her stories in print and wants to make little changes after so many years, but it’s in a humble, pleased way. She read two stories for us– the first, “Fits and Starts,” was about writer’s block and detailed a list of unfinished or abandoned pieces using the most delightful wandering stream of consciousness. There were many things said in that story which hit very close to home, like “I don’t have to feel alone because I have a list” (i’m neurotic about making and checking off to-do lists). A hilarious story about a bad date’s wrongful assumption that a story beginning was a threat to castrate him, her insistence that you can’t talk about cheerleading without talking about cowboys, and her sure-fire cure to writer’s block, the threat of “dancing” her story, were also included in the piece.

The second story had my entire row of students, mostly upper class, female english majors, doubled over in our seats, cracking up the entire time. The story, “Sharks,” was a go-between of a speaker and her friend about an irrational fear of sharks in swimming pools. Even Courtney started to lose it at times. I really, highly recommend reading this story, because my writing about it cannot do it justice. It’s in her collection Unkempt, pick it up! But I will leave you with this– No pool is safe.

That’s the extent of my notes on the reading– it was really lovely and I’m definitely going to get the collection and then give it to my mom because I know she will love it. (Unless you already have it, Mom…? Do you? Hi! Hope your vacation is going well!)

Have a lovely weekend!

Talk talk talk

I caught the bug. I’ve finally come to my senses after being at Bates for almost three whole semesters now, barely noticing the programs that countless clubs, departments, and grants bring multiple nights each week. I’ve finally started attending lectures. And it’s a wonderful thing.

As I’m sure has been evident from my blogs so far this semester, I’ve been making more of an effort lately. At first, it was because my own professors or clubs had organized the talks– a digital poet, an alum who skied the North Pole, etc. However, as I became aware, as I began to read emails announcing things and keep my ears open for opportunities, I realized that even if I wasn’t bound by academic obligations, these talks were very interesting and very good opportunities to enrich my understanding of a variety of subjects, both familiar and unfamiliar.

Take, for example, “American Horror Cinema in the ‘Age of Terror’: Reading the Politics of Eli Roth’s ‘Hostel,'” a lecture sponsored by the college. This lecture was about torture porn. WAIT! I know what you’re thinking. It’s what I was thinking too- because I had NO idea what any of it was about. So I looked it up. Try checking out this article, from New York Magazine, which gives a bit of context to the trend, and seems to have been the birthplace of the term. It refers to a style of incredibly popular horror film with excessive torture, gore, pain, and violence. Okay, I’m first to admit, I’m not a brave soul when it comes to watching movies. You can ask my father, who will attest that when “The Ring” first came out on DVD however many years ago it was, I made him watch it with me at 7:00 am on a Saturday to make sure that a) he could protect me from anything scary and b) I would have enough daylight to try to get over the intense fear that the movie had  lodged in my head. But, in preparation for this talk, I watched ‘Hostel.’ I went home after class, got in my bed, and spent my afternoon watching Eli Roth’s story depicting American tourists captured and brutally tortured. First of all, I was concerned that my neighbors would all think I was crazy from all the my-eyeball-is-hanging-out-of-my-face and you’re-sawing-my-heel-in-half screams. I opted for headphones. But here’s the funny thing: I really got into it. I really liked the movie. So I was even more thrilled to go to hear University of Rochester’s Professor Jason Middleton’s lecture.

I had done my best to publicize the lecture, and the Keck classroom was very full- the crowd was a mix between students, faculty, staff and the like. Professor Middleton jumped right in.

He began with a simple answer to a question he anticipated. “Do I like Hostel?” he asked himself. “The answer is not simple.”

Now I have about 4 pages of notes from the lecture but half of them are half sentences that I thought made a lot of sense, but out of context of the whole talk say merely “torture porn is the intersection of most culturally desectioned film genres– slasher horror/porn” and “constructs scenes of torture as musical #s or set pieces– story is flimsy pretext drawing brutality together.” Maybe one-third of them are my silly musings that, while slightly embarrassing, are worth noting. My favorites being: “I could be listening to NPR right now, my mom will be so jealous” and “Avatar = Dances with Wolves… IN SPACE!” Whatever percentage is left were the political points.

Professor Middleton’s lecture suggests that the trend of torture porn films “tightly aligns” with the timeline of the Bush administration. The whole concept of how social otherness = monstrosity; these American tourists go out into the scary, “other” world and meddle with those missing teeth and speaking jumbled words and are captured and killed. They should have known. We also discussed the genre of horror film and its usual rules and restrictions — and how ‘Hostel’ ignores many of them. 

I was totally engaged, sitting on the edge of my (obviously front-row) seat until the very end. Now I’m hooked. Now I’m watching lots of movies. Now I’m looking at them from a political standpoint and seeing how closely they stick to the typical plot line of a horror film. But I’m going at it kind of blindly– it’s a real pity that Professor Middleton can’t come work at Bates so I could take his class on horror cinema and feed this sudden thirst for film knowledge!

Oh, this blog is called “talk-talk-talk” implying more than just one. Well the other two talks I’ve been to recently were equally as interesting: one, the most prolific Franco-American author, Normand Beaupre who spent an hour and a half slipping in and out of French in such a way that both challenged and delighted me; two, Jessica Anthony, a Bates grad and current professor who published a very successful novel “The Convalescent.”

I guess it’s incorrect for me to say “go see talks”- it just sounds incredibly incorrect. So, instead I say this; go listen!

Language Arts Live Reading

On March 4, I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful prose reading of James Hannaham’s novel “God Says No” in another installment of the Language Arts Live series. I found Hannaham incredibly entertaining and engaging. Although this was my first prose reading, I could certainly imagine why they would prove difficult. The length of novels obviously restricts a reading, and then there’s choosing which part you want to read– what part you really like, what part you think doesn’t require too much background info, what part exemplifies the novel to you… Anyways, I was fully enthralled the entire time, and I can’t wait until I find the time to read the whole book.

Hannaham, who teaches creative writing at Pratt, has had many stories and pieces of criticism published in all sorts of impressive journals and collections. He was incredibly funny and very personable, and he read for about a half hour, then moved to questions.

I was sitting there truly enjoying myself; I didn’t have any particular questions but I wish people just kept coming up with more– I wanted to hear him answering them forever! His answers were so great, a perfect mixture of wit, real advice, and honest remarks. He loves to create, loves to get inside of his characters’ heads. I found his most helpful piece of advice to be that writers need to be okay with cutting down their writing. He explained how proud he felt when he finally learned to get rid of tangents in his work, and see how much better it could become.

He also talked about how he used to separate all writers into two categories: those who helped, and those who hurt. With an unknowing laugh, an audience member asked him to explain this statement. To him, literature seemed to either distract him or influence him in a totally positive way.

In any case, the reading was a great Thursday night activity. Hannaham was the first of three prose readings in the Language Arts Live series, and I’m looking forward to the other two. The series is being co-curated by one of my current professors, Eden Osucha. She made it an assignment to attend at least one of the three– but I’m certainly planning to go to all of them!

Digital Poetry and A Very Busy Thursday

Thursdays are always my busiest day. They start at 8 am, continue at 930, go on at 110, at 230 and beyond! Today was no different, except I had a meeting at 11 about a pending essay I’m writing for my Ancient Comedy and Satire class. However, my usually tough morning was jolted awake by an introduction to a whole branch of literature I’d never even heard of before: digital fiction.

Today’s class featured poet AND digital artist AND critic AND Assistant Professor of English at UCLA AND bascially all around really cool guy, Brian Kim Stefans. Stefans was on campus giving a reading for Language Arts Live, which is Bates’ series of literary presentations, organized by my professor (and ADVISOR! oh yeah, I DECLARED!) Eden Osucha, as well as professor Jonathan Skinner.

Our class is an examination of fiction in the US, beginning all the way back with Poe and Hawthorne, and ranging up through such works as Toni Morrison’s Beloved. While we have been discussing narrative structure lately, jumping to digital fiction from Crane short stories was quite a shock for most of the class.

Before today’s class, we were all required to “play” a work of digital litearture: Stuart Malthroup’s Pax, and react in an online class forum. Most reactions were very confused, and many felt that they didn’t “get” the work; certainly we seemed unable to form a cohesive narrative in the sense of we were used to. The concept of characters, setting, vocabulary, and especially narrative were all questioned; mostly we were just worried if our reaction to ‘Pax’ would hinder our appreciation of Stefans when he visited class.

I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when Stefans came in and just wanted to explain the genre to us. Or, how in digital literature, often when creating a new work, you’re actually creating an entirely new genre each time. WOW. While I definitely don’t think that I’m up on  that super contemporary level, with conceptual artistry, flash animations, and giant fish movies, I loved hearing Stefans lecture. Something about how he asked questions like “do you guys know Morrissey?” or trying explain the arc of a narrative using Radiohead as a counterexample– are you KIDDING ME? He’s so cool. SO COOL. And then wait, a moment later he’s making insightful comparisons to James’ Washington Square, the last novel that our class read?! So one second I think he’s Mr. Popular Culture Digital Poet Cutting Edge, and then he shows how old-school intelligent he is in terms of the reading material.

Honestly, I keep meeting adults and I can’t get over how intelligent they are. This question has started to live in the back of my mind, persistantly asking me, “are you going to be that smart someday? well rounded, and really cool, too!?” God, I hope so. I have a feeling I might end up there…I’ve got a lot of learning left to do, first.

BUT– Stefans was awesome. We unfortunately ran out of time (I so wish we hadn’t), but as I said, he was the kick-off of second semester’s Language Arts Live speakers. I totally disregarded the paper that was looming over the rest of my night, and I went to the reading.

Well, due to the unique nature of Stefans work (a combination of poetry, critical pieces, and of course electronic works) the reading was very interesting. When I’m not writing 5-10 pages about humor in homeric epics (as I am tonight), I definitely plan on exploring Stefans’ website, arras.net, more… But for now, I recommend checking it out. It’s a whole new side of literature, narrative, everything. I guess most of all, I find it very exciting. I just want to learn more!

Art Commons Event!

Today, Art Commons had its second semester opening event. For a refresher of what art commons is, check out my blog Addition of Art Commons!

It was a great showing! We started at 4:15 and went strong until 6 pm, with tons of students, faculty and staff coming in and hanging out. Commons donated cookies and drinks, DJ Kid Consumption (a fellow student interested in the cause) played music in the back, and of course paints were put out and everyone added to the murals.

The goal was to get students and staff in the space, remind them that it exists, and encourage them to come in during our weekly hours. Each time we bring people in, the atmosphere is so positive and artistic and at the end the walls look even more inspired and intricate. So wonderful!

We even had someone from the Bates Student interviewing all of the monitors of the space. It’s really thrilling to see Art Commons finally catching on!

Another new thing for Art Commons this semester is workshops. Each monitor (there are 12 of us!) will be holding at least one workshop of their choice during their shift. Monitors are given freedom for what they want to do; hopefully things like figure drawing, abstract painting, etc will be offered. Of course, since I’m not at ALL artistic, I’ll be doing crafty things. My first idea is tie-dye… I LOVE TIE-DYE! We’ll be advertising the workshops as just a further initiative to get the word out about the space.

This is just a great example of student initiatives at Bates actually accomplishing things. If you have the idea, it’s really possible to wonderful things.