Monday, February 28, 2011

An Unconscionable Abuse of the Semicolon

I am a terrible, slow, inaccurate typist, and this passage, composed of only TWO sentences, made me want to die as I was taking notes for my dissertation yesterday.
“To start with some definitions, by ‘avant-garde’ I am referring to historical waves of artists in the twentieth century associated with innovative formal practices and their legacy. Manifestations of avant-garde practice generally are regarded as formal and sociopolitical, and typically involve groups of artists with shared principles who often work in more than one medium or genre; synthesize disparate influences and techniques including ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture, deliberately attempt to undermine or contradict formal markers of rigidified artistic structures and ruling ideologies; consider art to be apolitical and aesthetic instrument with direct agency; push art and society forward into new and unfamiliar terrain; employ technical features designed to unsettle and interrogate unitary voices of authority and totalizing narratives; explore formal modes such as open field, performative, and alternative poetics based on extra-semantic properties such as visualization and sound; question the nature and possibility of a nonproblematical speaking subject; animate multiple voices in preference to a centralized stable narrator or persona; transcend boundaries of nationalism, draw on international influences, and maintain dialogue with artist sin other nations and cultures; and frequently use collage, bricolage, fragmentation, and pastiche in order to create palimpsestic or dialogic texts revealing multiple frames of reference and mechanism of interpretation.”
from “Diaspora and the Avant-Garde in Contemporary Black British Poetry” by Lauri Ramey in Noland and Watten's Diasporic Avant-Gardes.

It's not a bad definition of the avant-garde, though. All-encompassing, to say the least.

Better ways to use semicolons:

  • Semicolon Brooch
    $8.50 USD

  • Semicolon Letter Press Necklace
    $29.00 USD

  • Sunday, February 27, 2011


    Pearl, the lovely, gentle, petite husky who rules over this house, had an altercation with a skunk very late last night that left our house absolutely reeking. Her owner, my roommate Ken, had to take an important flight first thing this morning and tried to rinse her off around 2 AM, to absolutely no effect, and then skedaddled with his be-skunked suitcase and all.  So, Ms. E and I combined hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap according to a recipe found online and wrestled the stinky beast into the bathtub for her libations. Half an hour later, she was much improved, but we've had all the windows open all day and all the doors open... except Ken's, because during the night and morning, Pearl had been confined in there to try to lessen her effect on the rest of the house. So his room is still a danger zone, but the rest of the house is becoming more livable.

    I even turned shaman and bound up some of Ms E's dried lavender into a smudge, lit it on fire and wafted the smoke convincingly around the house. It helped a lot, and was a bit more pleasant than Febreeze.  Pearl has been quite self-pitying all day, although after her bath she actually seemed very relieved!

    A sum up of my day in etsy finds:

    The Stinker!
    Husky looking so innocent

    That smells!
    Part of the solution

    The cleanser

    Open all the windows!


    Here's hoping it fades sooooon!

    Friday, February 25, 2011

    Best Friend-Book-Internet Coincidence Ever

    I am so excited!  To begin at the beginning (and thereby build d  r  a m  a) ... My friend Genevieve, who works for Google Books and who was an English major with me back east in college, has a super cool blog that I like to read as often as possible. This girl is one of the funniest people I have ever met (we were in an improv group together in college, and I spent most of our performances trying not to break out laughing at her utter hilarity), and a great writer, and she does cool stuff to link publishers and libraries with Google Books, AND she finds really great things on the internet, which she posts at her blog, piglets and fishes.

    This is where the amazing part comes in. Genevieve posted the best video today, which I am embedding below, too. I loved it. I watched the whole thing, all the way to the credits. And THEN I saw that the people who created the video are the super creative, totally talented, artistic-from-head-to-toe couple Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp and Sean Ohlenkamp.

    And then I may have made a little shriek of glee, because Lisa and I went to high school together, were in loads of classes together, mock trial together, etc etc, and I consider her one of my oldest, closest friends, and supremely gifted into the bargin. She and Sean moved to Toronto last year, where PDK and I visited them in September (insert long story here involving PDK's cousin's wedding and a Mustang convertible). Now Lisa and her husband, who is an artist and graphic designer himself, get to share a studio and be creative together. Lisa has a blog, Blonderland, where she shares her art and the secrets of yummy vegan cooking, and sells her drawings and crocheted creations on etsy under the name blonderland as well: I love the weird wiles of the internet that have allowed one of my favorite people find another of my favorite people, and then I get to bask in the sunshiny happiness of it all, and now so do you!

    OK, now for their awesome, bibliophile-pleasing video

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Union-Busting in the Midwest

    Call me what you will, but I hear "union" and it makes me think of the US's days of manufacturing strength, of the power in numbers, and of the little people banding together to support each other against those wishing to exploit them. This class struggle is something that is particularly pertinent  to remember, in my opinion, when we know that it's the billionaire Koch brothers who have been financing the governor of Wisconsin and encouraging him to take down the unions there.

    So when I hear on the radio about various Tea Party-led efforts to take unions down in Wisconsin and Ohio, with a focus on the public sector, it makes me wonder how our supposedly democratic values have led us to this. And simultaneously, in Michigan, the Detroit schools are getting their legs cut out from under them -- just as I marveled about California's cuts to the UC system: when has cutting back on education ever helped a people succeed?

    I may be especially sensitive to these events because I have been in a TA union for the last six years, and that union has made sure I was paid fairly, received health care, and has generally made me feel that in a big system, I have a voice.  I feel lucky, as what happened at New York University under President Bush, stripping grad students of the right to organize,  removes most of the few rights we have as employees, and any pull we might have.

    The Huffington Post has a cool feature: best signs from the protest in Wisconsin! I think the first one is my favorite. I just hope that the power of the protests in the Middle East and the American Midwest sends a message that a nation is not a group of individuals, but a collective, and that we are powerful when we stand together.

    Some inspiration from Norma Rae:

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Grading, Grading Everywhere and not a Space to Think.

    I am working three jobs right now: one of them is as a  "reader" working for the University of California at the wage a barista would make, grading the papers of the best and brightest in an upper division English class, which means I spend hours and hours pointing out all their missing commas, explaining terms they misuse, and occasionally getting excited about a new argument or a clever turn of phrase.

    Marking with the bloody red pen
    However, even with sixty papers, those moments of joy are few and far between. Lots more frustration tends to weigh down the scales.  Also, we had some friends who got their PhDs a couple years ago come back to visit Santa Barbara this weekend with their adorable blond little toddler, and I spent the weekend ricocheting between hanging out with them and grading. Talk about a lack of motivation to get that pile to shrink.  Finally finished yesterday -- it took me literally all day to grade 20 papers because I had completely reached the end of my rope. I haven't had to grade that many papers in like a year -- last quarter, something about the combination of the class and the time section was scheduled (6 pm on a Thursday!) meant I had only about 28 students total in my sections: less than half the number I am grading this quarter.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Megan Models my Wares

    Collage pin 
    My friend Megan, another PhD student in the English department and a fan of Irish lit, was a sweetheart and agreed to model for me for some Etsy photos.  Her hair is so gorgeous and she has such a cool and unique style that I knew she would enhance my brooches and bobby pins.  She did such a great job and made it so easy!  We played around in the afternoon light for an hour, and then we each grabbed dinner, and later went to a clothing exchange organized by a friend -- more on that soon.

    Modeling these pins
    Her hair is so thick!  I think she looks stunning here. I blurred out the background by using a mask in photoshop and then applying lens blur.

    A bunch more images after the jump.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    We Saunter in and out of Art Shows

    My household loves the Elizabeth Gordon Gallery (EGG!) in SB, primarily because we all adore the paintings of one of their mainstay artists, Sherri Bellassen. The more venal reason is because the owner of the gallery is very generous with goodies -- truffles, good cheese, lots of wine.... what else could a grad student ask for? Every time they have an opening, we trot down to it, but the one last weekend was special because it had Belassen presenting her newest work. I know little to nothing about fine art, but what I love about Belassen is how still her figures are, even though she is usually capturing them in motion (swimming, dancing), and how stylized they are. Also, being the daughter of a surfer, I love her paintings of surfers in the long hours of watching and waiting.

    At the opening, we got to really spend time up close with the paintings, and I noticed the texture, the way that Belassen layered paint and left these interesting little squares open in the layers that showed other colors beneath, or even the canvas. From a distance, they looked just like little splashes or sparks, but they were so carefully planned in these perfect squares when we looked closely. My favorites were the divers and the surfers, but the hammock loungers also caught my eye.

    Pssst... In the photo, I am wearing one of the pins I sell in my etsy shop.

    Treasury Tuesday!

    Nanaob made this beautiful treasury yesterday, and I commented on it that it was so lovely it made me wish for rain here in California. Little did I know that I have god-like powers, and kazoo-kazaam, it started raining last night and is likely to go on all week!

    It's been so dry and warm that despite the big storm we had in December that lasted for a week, people in the state are still nervously chattering about drought.

    Secondarily, big thank yous go out from me to the lovely, talented, and perceptive(!) Etsy sellers who featured items from my shop in their recent treasuries: Katrina in Bird is The Word, Kristine in Robin Hood, DHElegance in A Floral Arrangement, and most recently, Ovgillie, who made a treasury titled with just an ellipsis ...

    My own treasuries continue below....

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Literary Love -- Valentine's Day Cards from Old Books

    I made a set of Valentine's Day cards for my sister, complete with envelopes, as a gift for her birthday, which is at the end of January. It turns out that I like making cards, but envelopes are a major hassle. It all requires careful detail, with folding and cutting everything just right in order to make it even, and I am not a "measure twice, cut once" sort of person. I think that's why the crafts I am more drawn to are a bit more forgiving human error, such as yoyo-making or braided rag rugs. Braided rags don't have to be perfect, and yoyos are cute no matter how even their little folds are.

    It took me days, literally days, to make 10 cards.  But I was determined to make a bunch. The problem with her birthday is that every year it comes at the end of January, when I am totally broke. I am going to suggest she move it to July next year if she wants presents that actually cost money.

    I made these cards from some paper I bought at half-price from the art supple store in town, Art Essentials, and cut out the hearts from a copy of Jhumpa Lahiri's short story collection Unaccustomed Earth.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Thyme is on My Side

    Oh how punny.

    But it's true!  I've always had a ridiculously hard time keeping plants alive.  When I was my dad's gardener for two summers, my job was pulling weeds, because I'm really only good at killing plants -- I put my black thumb to good use, then.

    But the sun is rising on a new day!  My roommate, Miss E, bought me a tiny thyme plant from the farmer's market because I love to use thyme in my cooking (like mushrooms, there is something essentially earthy and dark about the flavor of thyme).  And the poor little plant slowly turned into brittle twigs despite (probably because of) my attentive ministrations and regular watering. I was at a loss, despairing of my inability to keep plants alive.  But, thank goodness Miss E and my landlord are good gardeners, and they suggested transplanting the thyme plant into a larger pot, since it seems that regular watering does very little for a plant unless there's enough soil for it to draw the water from in the days between watering.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    New Design Site to Love -- The Future Perfect

    Thanks to The Fug Girls, who led me to Flavorwire's 25 Presents for Your Valentine That Don’t Suck article (which featured some items from etsy!), I discovered this awesome site: The Future Perfect. Now etsy, don't get jealous, but my heart has been stolen by some of the fantastically inventive designs at The Future Perfect.  The hot girls teapot, featuring ladies soaking in your tea?  Amazing! Love it!  and the design of the site itself is so awesome. I love how spare it is, and also the little surprising notes that show up when you float your mouse over objects.

    The Monarchs are Back

    This morning began very slowly, with tea being made very groggily an hour after I should have gotten up. Then, going out to the compost bin to add some food waste to it and turn it over, my extremely annoying neighbor decides it is the perfect time to discuss the supposed problem of animals coming into our back yard and rooting through our garden patch (described by her as "the pile of dirt"). I survived and escaped the encounter, and biked to work at the tutoring center (got there on time!). The library was giving away old books - like, really old paperbacks from the '50s, which I might want to scavenge for paper (more on that in another post -- I keep promising crafting discussions, and I swear I'll get there), and then I settled in at the desk, only to discover that in fact I had forgotten that I had exchanged my shift with another tutor, and I wasn't due in til noon! That's always better news than the other way around, which has happened to me before, where you are still asleep when your shift begins.

    Long lead in, I know, but I am setting a mood here! Always having too much to do, I am thrilled to get home to get some work done and get some errands done,

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Icelandic Comedy 'King's Road'

    Finally made it to a Film Festival movie last night!

    PDK and I were going to see Benevides Born, but decided last minute to switch it up and see King's Road, or Kóngavegur in Icelandic.

    Very funny movie! I have never had bad luck with any of the films I've seen at SBIFF, and this continues my run of good luck. I love that I get to see movies through the Film Festival that I'd never get the chance to otherwise. It's very absurd (for example, a grandmother has a dog that's actually a seal, which is actually dead and has a zippered compartment that she keeps precious things in), but I love that kind of thing when it's well done. It's kind of an ensemble comedy, with each person totally distinct and weird in their own way. And I really got a sense of how desolate, cold, and isolated parts of Iceland are.

    The only other view I've had of Iceland was equally hilarious: Anthony Bourdain's trip there for No Reservations. Some nice person uploaded the episode to youtube, so if you don't ever get a chance to see King's Road, at least go and watch Bourdain have a miserable, freezing time in Iceland. You won't regret it.

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    What a week -- tutoring, volunteering, crafting...and a fellowship!

    And it's only Wednesday...

    The City College at which I tutor students in writing just began the semester, so I am back on a regular schedule: tutoring for 3 or 4 hours in the morning, 4 days a week. The first week is always slow, but next week is bound to be busy, and that means explaining grammar and punctuation rules, trying to help them understand the professor's assignment, and deciphering a variety of first-language influences on their papers (a lot of international students come to SBCC in hopes of transferring to UCLA or Berkeley). I have to say, being a night owl and having a nine a.m. obligation makes for a stressful combination. I am perpetually late or in fear of being late, despite the lack of remonstrances from the very lovely woman for whom I work, who is a poet, artist, and all around wonderful person both inside and outside of the confines of work. I just kind of resent hourly shift work because you are penalized for being five minutes late, nevermind fifteen, and you can't stay late to make up for it, even if you are willing to. But the work is directly related to my degree, I get to work with students one-on-one, and there's a fantastic view of SB harbor: who am I to complain?

    The view from near the tutoring center

    I have been extra busy because I took on about 15 hours of volunteering for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). Mostly it's super low key, but last night I was working for a red carpet event, and the crowds and the random decision making of the staff proved to be somewhat anxious-making. SBIFF -- that acronym always makes me think of some imaginary WASPy jerk named Biff (Is that from a comic or cartoon? I have some echo in my mind of a bully named Biff...) -- is already coming to an end, the last day is Sunday, and I haven't even used any of the 8 passes I've earned through volunteering! Time to get cracking. So anyways, last night I was all excited because I was volunteering for the red carpet, which I was hoping meant I'd be at least somewhere near famous people. It was the world premier of a surf movie (A Deeper Shade of Blue), so all the famous people were very tan, muscular men with sun-bleached hair, and I had no idea who was who. Apparently Kelly Slater and Stacey Peralta were there (those names I actually recognized), as were a whole bunch of other famous surfers, but I was at a total loss. My father is a surfer, and I am sure he would have been very excited (in fact, on a random side note, his high school friend who is also a surfer and who lives in SB was standing in line and trying to convince me to let him and his buddies go in first -- clearly this movie was very noteworthy for wave riders).

    So, got home from volunteering, had pizza with PDK, and, oddly, ended up watching a very very very non-surf movie: The Social Network. I was in college near Boston when launched, so my thoughts on that movie will be reserved for another post.

    Anyways, in conclusion, I've been busy, been up late, and been kind of stressed about money because I only have a part-part-time gig at my university right now, plus the tutoring (plus my 3 other part time jobs). And then, miracle of miracles, I got an email first thing this morning telling me that I have been granted a fellowship for the spring quarter! If I believed in god(s), I would thank him/her/it/them. As it is, I am thanking Grad Div and my department. And I am truly grateful, because I had nothing lined up for spring and I just had my fingers crossed that something, anything would come through. This will enable me to cut back on tutoring, not grade for three whole months, and drill down into my dissertation, which is currently languishing in a folder on my computer.

    Sorry for all the whining. More crafting news to come!
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