a still verdictless life
16 September 2007 @ 11:42 pm

So the long-running joke has come true: Robert Jordan didn't live long enough to see the Wheel of Time through to its conclusion. Of course, the joke was that old age would strike first, not amyloidosis...

I fell out of love with the series by book 7 or so, but the early ones swept me off my feet. The Great Hunt still stands on its own beautifully, with a tightness and pacing that Jordan never managed to repeat. And a certain twist in The Dragon Reborn quite literally knocked the wind out of me. I was so stunned that I cried—for a character that I didn't particularly like.

I only met him twice, at book signings. At one, the group was small enough that he hung around to chat and answer questions. Among other things, he rambled a while about the specs of his new computer. A geek after my own heart.

It's easy enough to deify the man now. Hundreds of people around the world have been doing just that since his "brother/cousin" Wilson broke the news earlier this evening. Is it a testament to his writing or to the silliness of fans who feel they know the man through his fiction?

Either way, I feel the loss too.

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feeling: blankblank
listening to: "We Used to Be Friends" ~*~ The Dandy Warhols, Welcome to the Monkey House
a still verdictless life
18 May 2007 @ 03:36 pm

Hoping this cheers up emma_mage and flinn. And anyone else who likes invisible Glasgow men who rock. :D

    Main Set:
  1. Eyes Wide Open
  2. U16 Girls
  3. Writing to Reach You
  4. Selfish Jean
  5. As You Are
  6. Love Will Come Through
  7. My Eyes
  8. Battleships
  9. Side
  10. Driftwood
  11. Good Feeling
  12. Closer
  13. Sing
  14. Colder
  15. All I Want to Do Is Rock
  16. Turn
  1. Flowers in the Window (solo acoustic without PA)
  2. Why Does It Always Rain On Me?
  3. Happy
  4. Back in Black (AC/DC cover)

highlights and eye candyCollapse )

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transmitting from: Schoenberg Hall
listening to: kettle drums booming from a rehearsal room down the hall
a still verdictless life
12 May 2007 @ 02:40 am

I always have trouble sleeping after a good show, whether it's music, theatre, or musical theatre. It's been a bad week for sleep.

Tonight garlickbytes and I saw The Taming of the Shrew at the Northwest Auditorium, directed by Meghan and featuring albertaeinstein and several others from last summer's adventures in Stratford. Leave it to magical Megs (and Kate!) to transform Gremio into a "power lesbian"—and an interesting character for once.

Yesterday I finally saw Letters from Iwo Jima, this week's $2 CEC film in Ackerman. It veered into the overly sentimental at times, but that's Hollywood for you. And sometimes it worked. I know I wasn't the only one sniffling in the dark.

Tuesday night I saw Vienna Teng live at the Hotel Cafe along with madeline, garlickbytes, and doctorskuld. M and I may have suffered a fangirl moment or two. Vienna was gracious as ever, though, patiently tolerating silly questions, silly fangirls, and blinding camera flashes. Her friend Jessi struck up a conversation with me when she noticed I'd snagged a set list, and so I inadvertently met the girl who posted a whole series of "my day with Vienna" photos last June. I remember jealously wondering how they'd met. Now I know.

Speaking of serendipity, I randomly met a poli sci grad student over coffee and geek talk in Kerckhoff last month. I ran into him again today before the play, and we had a long chat about grad school and travel and next steps. Why is it that I'm only having these wonderful conversations now, when my time here is running out?

...And once again Vienna seems to sing my thoughts before I know them myself.

it's the quiet night that breaks me
I cannot stand the sight of this familiar place
it's the quiet night that breaks me
like a dozen paper cuts that only I can trace
all my books are lying useless now
all my maps will only show me how to lose my way

call my name
you know my name
and in that sound everything will change
tell me it won't always be this hard
I am nothing without you
but I don't know who you are

feeling: awakeawake
listening to: "Nothing Without You" ~*~ Vienna Teng, Dreaming Through the Noise
a still verdictless life
01 May 2007 @ 07:17 pm
I've been exiled the past few weeks, battling the thesis and generally forgetting to enjoy life. Walking across campus today with Fran Healy crooning in my ears and a spring breeze swirling past reminded me just how good it is to be here, awake, alive. I'm now at work in Schoenberg Hall's music library, where the distant voices of a choir rehearsal fill the room every time the door opens. It's ethereal and beautiful and strange. Canterbury and York have nothing on us.

This weekend wasn't too shabby either:

Thursday I handed in 20 pages of my thesis and held my breath for the first really substantial verdict. Until I went home and passed out for a few hours.

Friday I went to work, then to BrewCo with co-workers for some Newcastle and an AMF, and finally to a beer tasting with some of the summer abroad kids. I didn't need those brain cells anyway.

Saturday morning I was up early to see Ray Bradbury, sip overpriced cherry lemonade, and browse books at the Festival of Books. Bradbury is 86 now and had to be wheeled onstage in a wheelchair, but he's still a sharp storyteller. Among other things, he told us how he wrote the first draft of Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of Powell Library here at UCLA, on pay typewriters at 10 cents per half hour—which makes it, as he put it, "a true dime novel."

Also saw S.E. Hinton (understated and hilarious), Mitch Albom (a sports writer turned "serious" writer with Tuesdays with Morrie), and Frank McCourt (of Angela's Ashes fame). Albom was supposed to interview McCourt (or so we thought) but ended up doing most of the talking, and he was surprisingly funny and light on his feet. Most interesting to me, though, were his more serious remarks on why it's okay to be happy or sentimental in this age of cynical angst. He said that he's seen a good deal of death, and you know what? No one's last words are ironic.

On Sunday, flinn and I saw Travis live at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood. They are a band, incidentally, who still understand the art of being happy. You can feel it in their music and in the sheer joy they emit onstage, even after being at it together for over a decade. More on them later!

Yesterday my advisor e-mailed a much shorter verdict than expected:

"I read the first section of your thesis that you gave me. It's superb work - beautifully written, thoroughly documented, lucidly argued. Just carry on!"

This is high praise indeed from the woman who required an "audition" last spring before she agreed to take me on. Now to just...carry on. Wish me luck.

On a related note, shortly after my long ramble on academia, someone explained far more succinctly why he's no longer an English major:

"It's kind of like saying, 'Hey, that puppy is cute!' And then dissecting the puppy to see what makes it so cute."

transmitting from: Schoenberg Hall
feeling: thankfulsunny
listening to: "Slung-lo" ~*~ Erin McKeown, Grand
a still verdictless life
25 April 2007 @ 05:03 pm

Ella Fitzgerald turns 90 today. A mix tape from Melisa first introduced her to me years ago, and another battered old tape from Aron later improved the acquaintance. Her early standards are still my favorite, but I love that she appreciated the likes of Cream and the Beatles, too.

UCLAradio.com is airing a 24-hour Ella marathon to celebrate, running until midnight PDT. Tune in. Seriously. You can't beat 24 free hours of the first lady of song.

(I <3 the internet.)

feeling: peacefulbetter
listening to: Ella! marathon @ uclaradio.com
a still verdictless life
12 April 2007 @ 01:02 am
After dodging them all winter, I somehow caught a cold this week, in glorious 24°C spring weather. Kinda like the time I enjoyed a perfectly healthy February in Japan, then promptly caught a cold upon my return to L.A.

Since mixing meds and alcohol is just stupid, tonight I did what any self-respecting student would do on a Wednesday night: I decided to forgo the Nyquil in favor of cheap pinot. Same end result, right? Well, not quite.

Evidently wine can stop up irritated sinuses instantly and completely, though thankfully not for long. I'm sure there's a simple explanation that someone like doctorskuld or jedifreac or wikipedia would know, but it was news to me.

Moral of the story: Don't drink while sick. It's a waste of perfectly good liquor.
feeling: sicksick
listening to: "Gravity" (lake version) ~*~ Vienna Teng
a still verdictless life
21 March 2007 @ 02:18 am

Girl Scouts have invaded campus, bearing cartloads of cookies. There are even competing troops stationed along Bruin Walk. Last week, two mothers infiltrated north campus with a red plastic wagon piled high with Thin Mints and Tagalongs and the rest of them, to set up shop in front of Powell Library.

This can mean only one thing, of course: finals week is here.

Don't be fooled by the crisp green uniforms, the shiny pigtails, the sunny smiles. They're evil geniuses, these girls. They show up every term, like clockwork, when exams roll around. And this time, like Tycho, I caved.

I said I'd take some Samoas. "Those are the best!" one girl assured me with her sweetest smile. "How many boxes?"

"Just one," I said. "I'm a poor college student." Her evil overlord den mother laughed.

The cookie invasion has sparked the typical perverted jokes at work:

Someone: "I want some Girl Scout cookies."
J: "I want some Girl Scouts."
Me: "Jailbait?"
J: "Jailbait with cookies!"

Speaking of work, you can tell finals are here by the number of shifts everyone's trying to sell and by the increasing difficulty of selling them. People are getting desperate, resorting to bribes ranging from home-cooked meals to tarot card readings. When my co-worker Shane wanted St. Patrick's Day off, he went even further. He whipped out the race card.

"I worked 25 hours over Chinese New Year weekend. Your turn."

Oof. Well played, Shane. Well played.

feeling: tiredtired
listening to: "Born of Frustration" ~*~ James, Seven
a still verdictless life
15 March 2007 @ 11:29 pm

Ooh, the ides of March.

There's something oddly comforting about sitting in Kerckhoff during tenth week, surrounded by overcaffeinated students who are probably just as screwed as you are. The free coffee is nice too, and evidently as dangerous to me as open bar. Nooo willpower whatsoever.

I keep staring at the title page of my thesis. As I explained to my advisor this afternoon, the sight of it helps motivate me, even if it's something of a lie at the moment. It looks so scholarly and...official. She understood.

She also said my intro was terrific, which was gratifying since I've been hacking at it for some days now. Her only suggestion was to cut the "signpost paragraphs" at the end since my abstract covers most of that information already. Oops. I'd actually filched that format from a couple of dissertations I'd skimmed. According to her, it's the sort of "dissertationese" that needs to be cut for publication. Whoa. Publication?

Actually, the past few months have more or less convinced me that I wouldn't be happy writing speculative theories about dead people for the rest of my career—not even the late, great Miss Austen. The year I've now spent with my old chums JSTOR, MLA Bibliography, et al has been illuminating in more ways than one. At least half the articles out there are indisputable proof of the crap generated by the "publish or perish" machine. I've run across some witty and insightful commentary as well, of course, some by a Princeton professor whose name pops up again and again in this field. When I asked my advisor once whether she'd ever met her, she said, "Claudia? She's a good friend." Ha. After seeing some of these names recur so often as the "faces" of modern scholarship, it's hard to imagine them as real people. With, you know, faces.

At times I think it would be pretty cool to join that ivory tower, but at others... As another prof remarked recently, academic publishing is way too insulated nowadays. He remembers a time when he could read reviews of his latest work in the New York Times Book Review. But these days? No way. So the divide between the layman and the ivory tower only widens, and it becomes even more impossible to explain to your parents why an English degree isn't useless, why discussing literature still matters.

Hell, I've been trying to explain it to myself lately.

A reporter for a local paper once ambushed me to talk about some youth leadership event I was part of. I was a bit wary of him, and when he grew visibly frustrated at this, I explained that past journalistic experience had sort of turned me off reporters. He replied, "Well, now you're making news instead of reporting it." Years later, working in game development and reading wildly inaccurate articles and reviews—often—reminded me of that incident. I realize that, in an industry that's tight-lipped about projects by necessity, it's not always the reporter's fault. But whenever people suggest I go into game journalism, I laugh. After working on the production side and seeing how utterly clueless these "journalists" tend to be, I'd rather make games than write about them.

Similar deal here. I may never make it as a published author, but do I really want to dedicate my life to writing about other authors? Granted, I could look into EALC or linguistics programs, too. Maybe even international affairs. We'll see. At any rate, I'm obviously not ready to apply anywhere yet.

Nonetheless, moments like this are seductive in a student coffee house, with a physical manifestation of your research in hand and fellow sufferers all around you absorbed in their books and laptops and chitchat. They remind me how I used to grin like an idiot my first year whenever I crossed Royce quad and heard Powell's bells chiming the hour. They remind me of the similar sort of awe I felt when I finally saw Oxford and Cambridge for myself last summer. And they even remind me why I wanted to spend a year of many sleepless nights researching a long dead lady I've adored since high school.

Props to anyone who's actually read this far. And a related link that may be of particular interest to aprendiz, both for the general topic and because the author apparently belonged to the Department of Spanish and Portugese:

Straight Talk about Graduate School, by recovering academic Dorothea Salo (found via a post in applyingtograd about reasons people quit grad school).

feeling: awakecaffeinated
listening to: the gentle hum of tenth-week panic
a still verdictless life
18 February 2007 @ 01:42 am

Happy Lunar New Year to the asian and the asian at heart. ;)

It seems my automotive stars are not aligning lately. Or maybe they are, depending on your point of view.

My car's been sitting at a body shop for the past four weeks, supposedly being repaired, then not being repaired due to some insurance confusion, and then finally really being repaired, no srsly this time sry lolz.

Today I set off in my rental for a family New Year dinner, looking forward to a rare evening of real food (as opposed to student food). I got as far as the freeway on-ramp when the driver behind me started gesturing wildly. Weirdo, I thought. Then I realized he was pointing at something. Flat tire. Of course.

The way my luck with cars has been running, I suppose I should just be glad I'm still in one piece. Things could be infinitely worse rather than just expensive and annoying. But they're still...expensive and annoying.

An old roommate of mine grew up a devout Christian but began questioning her faith after being in three car accidents within a short period of time. She said she was angry with God until a friend pointed out that she'd walked away from all three without a scratch. That changed her perspective entirely.

I am not a devout anything, but I try to keep her story in mind.

Remember how Ally McBeal would periodically bang her head against her office door and mutter, "I have my health... I have my health... I have my health..."? Yeah.

"In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day."
Happy New Year.

listening to: crickets
a still verdictless life
10 August 2006 @ 05:14 pm
...in the River Avon. Back in September.
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