Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

J. K. Rowling Interview

Check it out: The Guardian Interview

First days of vacation...I am getting used to this!

I am so relaxed right now, and it is a feeling that I haven't had much experience with since I moved back from Florida! In any case, I didn't do much yesterday...just did a little shopping with mom and watched some football games. Today, I met friends for lunch and spent some time at the bookstore. Not much to write about!

But I did go to the public library and ran into my friends Allen and Bob, who were in Oxford with me a few years ago. It is always wonderful to see them!

I am also reading Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisted. I read Decline and Fall years ago, but I watched the movie version of Brideshead Revisited the other night and decided that I wanted to read the book. I really love it and hope to finish it soon. After all, I must be ready for The Casual Vacancy to be released on Thursday!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Vacation and Post-Dissertation Exhaustion

I am taking a vacation next week, a sort of spur-of-the-moment decision for me. I finished the dissertation, looked at my calendar, and realized that if I don't take a vacation now that I won't get a chance to until we officially are off for our winter break here at the university. So, I am taking my week off starting today at lunch--and I am so ready for it.

I haven't had a vacation--a real one in which I did absolutely nothing school related--in about ten years. I mean, I have gone places and enjoyed myself, taken a day here or there, but always in the back of my mind were thoughts about reading lists, comps, papers, dissertation, and defenses. It is a strange sort of existence, because the anxiety of a never-ending to-do list colors your entire life for a really long time when you are in graduate school.

At this point, I am not sad about the dissertation being completed. Many of you would ask, "Why on earth would you be?" Well, some people are. There can be a huge let down after the entire process is complete. I think I am in a different situation than my other friends and colleagues going through this, because I have a full-time job and other writing/research projects in the background of all of this PhD mania. I am just relieved--and tired.

The first thing I noticed after turning everything over to my committee (as in the document they will  grill me on during my defense) was that I lost all energy for several days. It was as if my body realized that the need to keep going non-stop was no longer necessary. (Side note: as I type this, I realize how much passive voice I am using...I don't care.) I slept for over 20 hours last weekend. I couldn't do anything. I kind of feel the same right now, so I think that there will be a lot of vegging out in my future over the next week.

But I am also looking forward to reading--anything I want, for a change! Like I said, I do have some writing projects in the background (an essay due to a publisher in January...a speech to give in March....etc), but I am giving myself permission to not think about those things over the next week.

I also decided that I will attempt to update this blog each day. Not that I will have anything exciting to say, but I need to get back into the habit! So, until next time, enjoy some relaxation with my blessings.  :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Dissertation Update...

It is finished! I printed out everything for each of my five professors on the committee (250 pages per person...ugh), and set the date and time for the defense. I will be so happy when all of this is over!!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books that Make You Think

As usual, the prompt is brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Books That Make You Think
(About the World, Life, People, etc):
1. An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance
--I really loved this book, because it is surprising and really gives you a good picture of late-nineteenth-century women. 

2. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
--I think this appears on nearly every top ten list for me. It is the most meaningful book published during the nineteenth century that I have ever read. You can feel Dickens's anger and frustration with a society that is very much like our own today.

--This book is only meaningful if you have read the entire series, I guess. For me, it is the most meaningful because it allowed me to see just how easily Harry was manipulated throughout the series. In my opinion, that is the most important lesson to take from these books. 

4. Darwin's Plots by Gillian Beer
--This book is not a novel, but it is one of the most important works of literary criticism that I have come across. Beer's book helped me form my thesis for my dissertation. Her insight into nineteenth-century literature/genetics/evolution is amazing. Still a classic.

5. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
--I put this one on here for the same reasons as I put Fifty Shades of Grey on the list. I am constantly amazed by people's attitude towards this book. Don't get me wrong: I think that the book is very "readable," and I don't object to it for certain aspects of entertainment value. It is definitely a great novel for "people watching"--both in terms of watching characters and watching readers. In my opinion, Rhett Butler is the only sane person in the book, because he had enough sense to get the hell out of the plot.

6. The Night Trilogy by Elie Wiesel
--If you have never read this holocaust narrative, please do so now. Amazing.

7. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
--Another story about manipulation, much like Harry Potter. I guess that is the one theme in my list: each of these books deals with how the book's imaginary society manipulates its characters or how our own society has manipulated us into thinking that certain books/issues are amazing, acceptable, or important.

8. Portraits and Other Poems by Augusta Webster
--She is my favorite poet. Check her out.

9. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
--These books are amazing, too. I love Catching Fire, but all three are good. Again: manipulation. Watching Kat strive against the manipulation is amazing, and you can check out my other thoughts about her and the series by searching this blog.

10. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
--No, it isn't a mistake that I left off the link to her novel. I am horrified that this book has outsold so many other amazing books. The writing is terrible, and the message is even worse. Listen up people: 
1) It is NEVER okay to hit women or men if you are doing so to inflict humiliation or because you get off on seeing someone else in pain. It isn't sexy. (I clarify this because I do think it is okay to hit someone if you are in danger. God knows I would do anything to get away from someone attacking me.)  
2) A "good girl" can't change a man.Ask any survivor of domestic violence.
3) A 22-yr-old virgin would run away screaming if someone like Christian presented her with a contract. And if she didn't...well, there are severe issues there. Also: Do you think he is sexy just because he is supposed to be a twenty-something billionaire? You know, Tom Cruise romanced Katie Holmes the same way--helicopters, lavish presents, etc. Looks like that didn't work out so well either. Nothing about these books is real or healthy. 
In short: I don't understand how women today can condone this book and message. It says a lot about our culture and what we have allowed ourselves to become. Women have made it into the best seller that it is, and that is incredibly sad. It ranks up there with allowing male musicians to call us bitches and parading our daughters in the guise of a prostitute to win a cheap crown on Toddlers and Tiaras. Have any of you fans of Fifty Shades ever researched women's rights or what women went through (and still go through) when beating isn't a choice but a way of life? Have you ever watched Iron-Jawed Angels? You are taking us backwards--not forwards. 
Yes, I have heard the "feminist" views about this book. No, I don't agree with them. It is not empowering. You are not empowering yourself sexually by reading this book or by acting it out. Searching for the next new sensation is not meaningful. Your "inner goddess" does not cry out to be beaten, humiliated, or degraded. You might think that these sensations seem sexy at the time you are reading, but the reality is something different. Ask any woman or man who has been abused or manipulated or emotionally scarred by a partner. Ask any woman who doesn't have a choice. I doubt that women in countries without domestic protection laws for women would be saying that the lifestyle in Fifty Shades of Grey is just so awesome. Christian would not be their dream man. For many of them, Christian is their real walking nightmare. Do yourself a favor and instead read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell or Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I guarantee you that Gaskell's Margaret Hale or Austen's Elizabeth Bennet would not have put up with Christian for a second. 

I am quite sure that my opinions will outrage some dedicated E. L. James fans. That is okay.

My rant is over. Unfortunately for the world, the obsession with Fifty Shades is not.

My not-so-professional cupcakes

I made my good friend/boss cupcakes for her birthday. It is clear that I will never be a professional cake decorator, so I am just calling these shabby chic cupcakes. :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Alabama Humanities Foundation Lunch

We had a wonderful day at Birmingham's The Club! The Alabama Humanities Foundation Awards Lunch was wonderful, and it was so exciting to hear Dr. E. O. Wilson speak! As always, I enjoyed lunch with our staff, employees of the university press, and some of our board members!

Thank you for the pictures, Rebecca!

(Standing: Donna Baker, Cathy Randall, Sara Martin, Larry Davenport,
Curtis Clark, Rebecca  Minder. Seated: Beth Motherwell, and me.)

(Dr. E. O. Wilson giving his speech.)