Art Books

May. 27th, 2014 06:06 pm
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So I was skimming the Met's section of free art books because ooooh pretty pretty and there is an out of print something or other called "Abbot Suger and Saint-Denis." And now I'm messing around with ebook converters to get the pdf onto my phone's software because I'm pretty sure that even if I have to wade through estoric jargon until I end up having nostalgic memories of that undergrad wonderful medieval history prof who clearly wanted to sleep with Frederic William Maitland... Erm where was I? That is even if this goes completely over my head I'm pretty sure I'm into this.
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I've been trying to be in denial about stuff by putting off dealing with it, but the truth is I've gone through all my options for leaving MIT and I've decided... I loathe them all. Problem is, no matter how much I cling to this idea about me being passionate about teaching every possibility for actually leaving to do something like that sounds so awful that I want to give up all hope for any happiness in life entirely. And I thought that'd go away with time after orals and therapy but nope. I guess the problem is that this narrative about me being passionate about teaching kind of stakes everything on the notion that I must be passionate about something when in fact the best option I can think of is one where I'm abjectly miserable but at least not going into debt. I don't know, I just feel like the pressure to like or even expect to eventually like my job just seems like the most oppressive thing ever lately.
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Nothing ruins a nice day of singing like my mother inviting herself to it. Ok fine mom. You win. You can come. Just don't complain to me when the entire service turns out to be "modern" and not to your taste. Because remember when you and Dad were complaining that if my church wanted to "change the words" and stuff to be inclusive we should just "compose something ourself." Well we did.Forty years ago in fact. And what got composed was the gospel according to mark by way of third stream jazz. Because it wasn't enough just to scandalize you. No, getting you to disapprove is too easy. I barely have to breathe to do that. We also like to scandalize anyone who thinks lonesome valley isn't part of the mass liturgy. 

How exactly

Mar. 2nd, 2014 02:25 am
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Do I end up explaining why the person with the job description of a graduate student isnt a professor to a freshman past 2:00 in the morning how is this my life.
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I finally had enough spoons to start the getting a credit card process. And all I have to say is I hate that process. Yes I know it is easy. I'm not disputing that online applications and all make it really convenient. But I'm still annoyingly broken from being sick and my mother showing up last weekend so that might be it's fault.

In other news my office hours are getting ridiculously popular, and I don't just understand why it can't be my job to hold them all of the time, instead of the rest of this nonsense.


Feb. 22nd, 2014 10:30 am
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So apparently....

My mother...

Has decided to react to my trying to take more agency in making clear when I am able to have her in town for a visit...

By making a practice of just showing up

Whenever she feels like dropping by.

With no warning.

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So I finally got around to reading Eye of Night by Pauline Alama. I have been meaning to read this for a long long time. Even though I hadn't gotten past the first chapter until this month, my physical copy of the book has a kind of weird place in my personal reading history. When I was in early eighth grade, I bought two fantasy books blindly at the same time. One of Eye of the Night, but the other one, which I started reading first, was Wayfarer Redemption. About halfway through the prologue, thoroughly upset, I walked over to my mother, handed her back the copy of Wayfarer Redemption and told her "I don't think I'm supposed to have this." On, cue, she confiscated it and that was that. Except, it turns out that by giving her an "inappropriate" book back, I had convinced my mother that I could be trusted to self censor my book reading and she didn't have to check. The next book that I bought blindly was Game of Thrones. I did not give that one back. It took the book getting an HBO series nearly a decade later before my mother suspected a thing. I'm still not sure she's caught on completely.

Anyways, somehow Eye of Night got lost in the shuffle and so here I am in grad school reading a book I paid for in middle school. Generally I like it. It's self contained and it seems to realize that living in an end of the world fantasy scenario would actually have a psychological effect on heros, both of which I like. An even though it has a male first person protagonist it passes requisite female representation tests. My complaints with it are fairly minor, but the biggest one is that it feels like all of the characters are in therapy during all of the dialog. The style feels tonally similar to what I often do in post episode fic, where I try to bring out motivations and emotional processes behind what's happened on screen. And this is great it's what I like and all, but I kind of feel like the author is doing my job for me when it's this frequent. I think it's calling out for a few more instances where one of the main characters are shut down and just plain don't want to talk right now. The only other issue I had with it is that in the ending it feels like the author couldn't decide whether she wanted the ending to be the apocalypse she'd been setting up the whole time or a happy ending. And the way she solved it was a little god in a machine-y and also got temporarily emotionally dark in that first person point of view in a way that felt kind of sudden to me. I feel like I could have used a trigger warning, and an adjustment on the pacing. But these are mostly just me being nitpicky and I'm glad that I bought the book... eleven years ago. Good grief.
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So I just finished watching Die Farbe which is a German adaptation of Lovecraft's "The Colour out of Space." I thought it was really good, or at least very enjoyable for someone like me, who hasn't read the original story and isn't too into Lovecraft. The film was in black and white (titular color notwithstanding). It also was in German with English subtitles (except the lines of few American characters). Those two things together gave me the impression the film was much older than it actually was, which helped me take it seriously even though it was low budget.

I think my favorite part of the story was the drawn out set of scenes with assorted scientist-y men trying to figure out what the meteorite was made of. This is of course impossible since it's a fictional otherworldly sentient Lovecraft monstrosity. Not that that stopped me. I nodded along, did calculations in my head and had many opinions about the proper way to go about identifying the heat emitting metal stuff. In fact I kept at it for a while after the scientists had given up, trying to do something with the biological effects. In one scene in particular I think I was supposed to be horrified that a woman was no longer sane, but I was too busy thinking that the symptoms to this point had seemed more mutation based (in the plants) and/or depressive, but this particular section seemed to be pointing to neurological damage. Ahem... this is what I do on my day off folks. I do science on computer colored magenta special effects.

Anyway, just one little nitpick and then I'm done for the day. Why exactly does no one in the modern day part of the story comment that while writing off the whole area and not sending people back into a place where no one stays alive very long is likely a good idea, hoping to be rid of the memories by flooding the entire valley might not be the smartest strategy considering that the ancient evil was living in a well and propagating through the groundwater? I was really expecting that to go badly in a different way than it did.

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This week started out really well because I managed to read a book. Or reread one to be proper. I've been quiet about this, as I'm pretty ashamed of it, but for the last two years or so I've had a really hard time engaging with books enough to actually read them. I mean I guess it wasn't that unusual because I came out of the bad things not being able to make myself do a lot of things I enjoyed, but my personal identity is really tied up in being a person who likes big epic thick books and not being able to love them doesn't feel right. Anyway, this week I actually managed to read a thing :) When I came back from break I took/stole (if the book was "mine" when I was a dependent of my parents and everything I had belonged to them, is it mine now or theirs?) Chronicles of the Chestomanci Volume One. It's far from a perfect book, and it's young adult so I don't know if it "counts" but it gave me the good warm cozy feelings that I've been missing, so that's pretty great. I ordered myself the two next books in the series, one of which won't be a reread for me as I didn't finish the series when I was little. I am a bit worried that this being able to read thing may only work on rereads so I really hope that I end up liking the rest of the series, and it's not just nostalgia. Because maybe that means I can (will feel like I want to) read things again :)

It's really been a week of things that feel nostalgic whether or not they are. I've been playing a lot of "Castles in the Sky" lately, which is a short game that is very obviously a children's book, and this week I've noticed that I seem to be in a childlike mood generally with my media choices. For example I played through and really enjoyed "Broken Age," which is an gorgeous adventure game that is also going for a storybook feel. It also has Jennifer Hale in it because that's some sort of law. I also finally got around to actually buying (rather than just getting from youtube) the Holly Brook album that I was listening to on endless repeat while I was drafting the first half of "Fine." I tend to experience those songs as a sort of soothing innocent sadness, and I'm sort of disappointed that she rebranded herself after this album so there's no more of this kind to listen to.

So I guess that's what I'm into at the moment, cozy stuff. I'm going to take my inner child and wrap her in a blanket and give her a bunch of pretty picture books so that maybe she can remember how to read. Or maybe she'll just go to sleep because my respiratory illness is still pretty bad and I'm tired.


Jan. 11th, 2014 05:05 pm
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So about a year ago I picked up a bunch of old poetry books for a song while up in New York with my family, expecting to use them for fic references. I looked inside the front cover of one of the anthologies and...

Someone copied out a poem that I think (it's actually really hard to google and I can only find hints of it in a few places) is "There is a mystic borderland" by Helen Fisher. Only they wrote the title as "Friendship." Then on the next page in the same handwriting it says.

To Helen,
With a hope that
-well, what do you think?
November 1933

I'm kind of in awe of this.

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On the way home from lab tonight, I witnessed an accident. No major injuries, damage to the car of the driver at fault as well as to a bus, the driver fled the scene and a poor woman basically went into shock after having to bodily jump out of the way of a speeding car. Impressive jump too let me tell you. If I'd been a few feet farther forward and had to make it I'd be in the hospital or dead cause I woulda failed.

Anyhow, I have two observations.

1) If this is what it's like for two white women and a Chinese man reporting a really blatant traffic incident, I shudder to think what dealing with the police for a more difficult situation or without my level of privilege must be like.

2) The woman kept remarking on how calm/steadying/supportive I was, how I was holding the group together and keeping her from panicking. And now that the whole thing's done and I can notice that I indeed had it together the whole time, I can't help but think man this really sounds like someone who is capable of having a better standout victory moment of her christmas break than having the great will and fortitude to eat a piece of toast.

So now I guess I'm just a little frustrated at my anxiety problem. Because this great steady calm influence that shows up to help other people when they're having a sudden unexpected horrible night... yeah  I want to talk to her. But the rest of the time, when I'm dealing with all of the messy stuff in my head, she doesn't even seem to exist.

Oh well. I guess I'll make myself some out of box junk food and try to nurse my chest cold with some honey tea. Between that and running the machine by myself all week, that is definitely enough to justify a rest. :)

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I accidentally used the word misogyny in front of my mother tonight. Her response was "I think you mean masochism." My sister also piped up that there was no such word. Eventually they switched to claiming I had mispronounced it. I looked up the pronunciation online and I still think  I pronounced it right... y'all would tell me if I was using a made up word right? I mean more made up than usual.

There is a bottle in our bathroom labeled Hyacinth. I feel the need to make Kushiel related references to it. Or maybe splash the contents all over me in hopes that it will acts as some sort of cosmic safeword to let the winds of fortune know I've had enough.

Annoyance Level: Hurting a bit. Snark is probably enough to get me through tonight, but only because I'm going home tomorrow. That's real home btw, the one where my family isn't.
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What with it being Christmas and all, I recently rewatched my favorite parts of the stopmotion movie version of The Life and Adventures of Santa Clause. There is a particular character named Great Ak. I really enjoy this character, and I've been trying to figure out why. There are certainly some reasons I would be likely to enjoy the character
  • He's a Beloved character from childhood blah blah blah
  • The tone and characterization on him are very different from the usual Santa Clause movie stuff. I.e. a lot more solemn fantasy imagery and a lot less cheery Hallmark or standard Christian imagery.
  • He sings a song that involves Latin
  • His voice in  the reprise of said song kind of makes me swoon (yes over a second tier stopmotion movie don't judge).
  • I really like the battle scene where he vanquishes the bad guys. I mean it's a battle scene in a Christmas movie that's rare. It is dramatic and hilarious at the same time. Also magic ax that shoots lasers (cartoon definition of laser).
Then again, there are also some reasons not to be too thrilled with him.
  • He's a little (ok more than a little)bit of a patriarchal archetype in a movie that theoretically has a whole council of immortals to work with.
  • He is kind of a jerk about immortal adoption of mortals, whether or not it's his business.
  • His determination not to use his powers to help his friends unless absolutely necessary does get a bit obnoxious. Seriously dude, when were ya gonna tell us you had that incredibly overpowered magic ax that shoots lasers?
Nevertheless I really do enjoy the character and I think it comes down to feeling like the notion that he has authority (for the usage of such that is different than power) actually works for me. And while the movie spends a lot of time trying to establish this, the moment that I think clinches it is this

When the Lioness Shiegra, whom Ak instructed to guard the infant Claus shows up, distraught and upset that the baby has been taken without her knowledge (another being is in the middle of making a case that she should be allowed to adopt the child and Great Ak was hearing her out), Great Ak handles it really well, saying "Yes, I know what I told you. You are right to be angry." He doesn't tell her that she's overreacting or that he would have gotten around to telling her in a second. He just calmly arbitrates, takes her opinion into account, and seems to figure she can stop roaring whenever its convenient for her.
"You are right to be angry." I don't think I heard that said to anyone from any other source my entire childhood. So that settles it. Great Ak rocks. Also magic ax that shoots lasers.

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I really don't like them. I don't know if this is different in places that don't have to put up with my family but they seem to be a really shame based structure. My mother and grandmother like to demand I produce a resolution. If I don't have one they crowd around providing "helpful suggestions." It's not a lot of fun to have ones relatives gather round to tell one what they think is wrong with you.

I'm also not really a fan of deliberately not having a resolution. That reads a little contrarian for my taste and stresses me out. But honestly I don't know what I'm supposed to do. If I think a thing is a good idea I'm already trying to do it. I haven't got some cache of brilliant plans that I'm just holding out for a nice round date to start. I'm just doing the best I can. I'm demoralized enough by my personal failures as it is without tying it to dates.

So here I am I guess, short one resolution and with a general sense that the last three years have not been good ones.
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Tonight at dinner I ever so briefly forgot that "it seemed to be getting more racist" was not an acceptable explanation for me stopping watching a television series. I was sternly chastised for assuming that blatant stereotyping of .people from India might be in some way inappropriate (the usual stereotypes are pure truth argument was used). After that the conversation quickly lost what remained of the plot. Within about five minutes my sister was threatening to have the walls of my machine pecked through using a thousand woodpeckers... somehow.

I... just...

I want to cry but I have no privacy and I'm too confused about what I'm upset about.
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Trying to compose a line with some nuance while the entire house is shaking from my sister's music is like...

Drat I can't even finish the simile!

I bet with this volume of music playing Suhara wouldn't even speak. He would just sit there in steady dignified silence.
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I have traded what little patience my mother usually has with me for all of the soprano descants and trumpet fanfares in the world. I do not yet regret it.
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  • This is one of my fic that existed in concept for a long time before it was written. I originally started working on the fic in undergrad. There was also an iteration about two years ago now (drafted the same time as Golden Girl) that got most of the way written out. That version was a lot more focused on the canon implied violence of Sara's actions, and the references in it ran a lot more Rome-ish. The version I settled on is, I think more personal, but also a lot less physical. 
  • The use of the word strain in both this title and Stress Strain Curve wasn't intentional. I think it might be a consequence of the way I personally parse Sara's breakdown, but I didn't make the connection until the fic was most of the way written.
  • The first half of the story was originally drafted while listening to the first three or so minutes of Ola Djeilo's "Dark Night of the Soul." At first I played with the idea of syncing up the fic to that song structurally. However I found that while the notes and phrasing matched up pretty well to my intent (which was why that section of the song was good for providing momentum) the structural themes and transitions didn't. I thought of using that song as a backdrop for the argument, but then realized the song was composed too recently to fit in with the timeline.
  • Since I did want a song for the background I went looking for another one. I initially started from "Stravinsky is the music of the Russian revolution if you want to talk about a breakdown in discipline" which is a quote from Mr Holland's Opus and went looking for something with a anxious feel and some vamping. I ended up using Shostakovitch instead of Stravinsky after some clicking around. The particular piece I was thinking of was String Quartet No 8 in C minor (II).
  • Carmen's issues with Kipling are very much me projecting (and not very accurately, as she's stolen the Jungle Book in canon). Most of that stems from me feeling very connected to the central metaphor of the poem I referenced but still being immensely annoyed with some of it. For example the stanza beginning "we hold all earth to plunder" bothers me l because it forces me to read the poem much more imperially than I otherwise could. Also I really can't see the word burden in something by Kipling without being put off.
  • While I am aware that there is still some controversy on this matter, I'm very much on Sara's side about Franklin Vs. Crick and Watson. The backhanded lack of credit that is given to Franklin for data that was shared with others without her permission is atrocious. I also feel that the cruel way she was caricatured by Watson to justify her dismissal is something Sara would be able to relate to.

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That my mother's "I don't know if you're a good person. I can't watch you every second." statement would make a perfect slogan for the NSA.

So yeah... how's that psychologically preparing for Christmas thing coming...?

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This is probably not the best way to write fic. But I've been working on concepts for a particular fic since... about the end of undergraduate I think. And a few hours ago suddenly out of the blue I was ready to start writing it. So ready that I wrote the whole first draft in one sitting.

And then out of the blue I notice that it's evening and I haven't eaten in 24 hours and I'm getting very dizzy.

You know I get a lot of humanities envy but it's probably good that I'm not in a major with too much creativity in their writing. Because if this was the only way I could get first drafts done it might just kill me.


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