Friday, October 16, 2009

Site In Desperate Need Of Reconstruction

I'm thinking about repurposing this blog to fit more of an academic bent. I haven't written a private blog in a couple of years, and I hate to let this blogspot address just go to waste. I've noticed that a lot of dedicated graduate students write academic blogs: scholarly responses, critical article abstracts, and so forth. I think that I'll try my hand at it, test the waters and see where it takes me.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

No News Is Good News...

So, it has been roughly five days since my last post and little has changed, yet much has changed. After receiving acceptance into UNT's PhD program in Literature, I was more excited than I had anticipated. Then, I got a notification of financial support from the Toulouse Graduate School of Arts and Sciences: it offered me a small academic scholarship and in-state tuition.

I was shocked by this. As I understood, PhD programs take care of their students fully. I let it stew for a few days, then wrote the school in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the situation and to solicit more funds. I made it clear that Louisiana was offering better funding, that it was only an MA program and how I did not understand why a PhD program is unable to fully funding its 15 accepted students. The woman with whom I corresponded said that the scholarship was just from the graduate school and that I would need to contact the department to find out about further and departmental support.

I felt (feel) pretty foolish, because I apparently have no idea what to expect from graduate schools and programs since they vary so greatly. I had no idea that they offered scholarships, I thought it was all or nothing. Anyway, I have vacillated back and forth several times between Louisiana and Texas in the last several days, and now am worn out. I still have to hear from Columbia and Vanderbilt. While the two former offer assurance, security and familiarity, I desperately want to attend either of the latter schools, but I am not holding my breath. Both of them are sooooooo amazing and prestigious and soo...so...beyond me.

Many of my amazing friends who applied to prestigious schools and were not been accepted have already heard, but that doesn't mean anything, really. I hope that it does, but there is no concrete evidence to support such idylls. I keep telling myself that since I haven't heard, maybe they are actually considering me. Maybe they will take a chance on me. But, I cannot allow myself to grasp at such ephemeral, evanescent delusions. To hope is to leave yourself open to the visceral pain of rejection. So, I dash hope and reject myself. I say, the rejection letters are probably on their way, having been delayed by some weird circumstance. I think this is some screw-ball coping mechanism, but it is all I've got.

I will continue to wearily watch the mail and hope for great news, but steel myself for the worst.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

God please show me!!!

There is so much in the world that I do not understand. I wish that this weren't the case. Why are the people who are the modern faces of my religion people that I don't identify with, at all?

Why is it that abortion is an opprobrious act, but the death penalty is a necessity? Both end a life, a life that someone, somewhere holds precious. How can we justify one form of execution, but condemn another?Are we not all given to the same "fallen nature," who decreed that you or I should judge the actions of another and justify certain iniquities, but decry others.

Why is the union of two homosexuals despicable, but divorce or spousal abuse among heterosexuals doesn't cheapen the sanctity of marriage? Why does the church afford heterosexuals who have been divorced or had extra-marital affairs or copious pre-marital sexual partners to be married in its chapels, but not the other? I do not understand why one love is ordained and the other grotesque, yet both are fallible.

When someone says immigration, why do people automatically think of mexicans or latinos? People all around the world are literally dying to immigrate to America. If people wanted to move here from a western European country, would that be another story? The culture that they would bring is certainly more valuable than whatever Cubans, Columbians or Mexicans can offer? Why shouldn't we open our borders to all people? Just because you were born here, do you think that you deserve the amazing lifestyle that you have ad someone else doesn't? At some point, all of our families came from some other place, why shouldn't others be afforded this same opportunity?

Why is welfare a waste, but prisons are imperative? I find it strange that because certain people commit heinous crimes, have stolen from, raped or murdered other people, they should be separated from society and are provided for, but there are innocent people, individuals and families who cannot provide for themselves, but don't deserve to have these basic provisions. It blows my mind. Are those able to provide not called to care for those who are unable? The widow and the orphan should be treated more poorly than the rapist or murderer? Cannot both of these groups be categorized as needing aid? Don't all people have inalienable rights? Hmmm...

I know that I struggle with it, but can't we all just love and accept one another, not just despite but in light of all of our unique and collective human frailties. I digress; I just do not understand the world in which i have been placed. If there is a consistent ethic, I wish I could see it. I wish I could comprehend it, but alas I cannot.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Horror stories and crazy people...

I had an emotional breakdown today. I was looking at all these horror stories about graduate applications, you know all the stuff that has caused people not to be accepted into graduate programs. Granted, many of these stories came from people applying to really selective schools, but it is a tremendous fear that lurks in the back of any applicants mind. There are stories of admission committees arbitrarily accepting or rejecting people because of the applicants research interests, not that they wouldn't fit with the university, but because the professor wanted someone with interests like theirs getting into the program instead. Or the one that scares me even more than that involves quibbling over three freaking pecentage points on one of the components of the GRE - say 87 compared to 90 and how it would be tragic to accept the person who outperformed 87 percent in lieu of accepting the other.

I just fell apart, curled into the fetal postion and left the world of the sane for a lttle while. After regaining my cognitive faculties, I decided that I would not focus on that stuff for a while, deciding rather to check up on my friends around America via xanga, or facebook, or yes, even blospot. After that rousing game I went to my grandmother and told her my dilemma:

Me: I had a breakdown.
Gma: Did you break something?
Me: No, I had a breakdwon!
Gma: What did you break?
Me: My brain.
Gma: That's the most important part.
Me: No, I mean I had a mental breakdown.
Gma: Did you throw a temper tantrum?
Me: No, but I'm about to. I'm really nervous about school
Gma: Oh

My grandmother - geeze. I think that maybe she's crazy. Not really, but sorta.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Graduate Applications are taking over my life!!!!

I am applying to five graduate schools for English, well literature, one has an comparative component - they range from very prestigous (or as my dear friend the Adjective Queen kindly avers - pretty much out of my reach) to run of the mill (more my style), but they all suit my academic purpose: to get an adavanced degree and just generally get a better understanding of literature and language. I am applying, ostensibly, to Vanderbilt for medieval literature, Purdue for literary studies, The University of North Texas for general English, The University of Louisiana @ Lafayette for folklore and The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville for comparative literature. Each one holds such appeal to me and I can see myself being happy at any of these schools, but the process to apply to each one is a bit much. Again, as my mentor AQ points out, it is all a game and they want to see how many hoops they can make you jump through before you stumble or quit. I refuse to quit - I have already invested far too much financially, not to mention temporally - ugh.

After I took the GRE in June, that was the last thing barring from begining the application process. Then I was off, I began to frantically gather information and application materials for all the schools that I was planning on applyng to, but then I went on vacation in August and am just now coming back from that, mentally. I know, how foolish to take a sabatical mid admission process, but now I am getting back on the horse and I have my head back in the game. I will fight tooth and nail to get in to each of these schools, for I am about as stubborn as they come. For now, I must muster and verbalize why I want so badly to go to each of these schools and why I would be an asset to them. I am not sure though, that I know how to do this without sounding pompous and self-absorbed, not that I am not these things - i just don't want that to come through in the essays. Any ideas- all those who have come before me on this path to academic advancement???

I have also been working on my writing sample and trying to get professors to finish my recommendations, but both have been pretty slow going. Two of my three recommenders have followed through, but one seems to have fallen off the face of the earth - so I am at a loss. Then, my writing sample - which my lovely mentor helped me with - that I turned in to my advisor for proofing and editing was given glib reviews replete with little praise. Sometimes in their attempts to keep a student grounded and realistic, advisors kind of squash hopes. That is good though, right? I really cannot wait to be in school again, don't get me wrong - I love not having homework, but I miss the freedom students are afforded and I miss devoting the majority of my time to learning. Anyway - next fall can't come soon enough.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

When I grow up?!

I wonder what makes people choose their profession. Is it that they want to be where they are, or do they just kind of end up there? I know there isn't a black and white answer to this. It is a mixture of these and many other reasons that people find themselves in the occupation that they are in . Though, still I wonder how many people see what they do as a vocation and how many see what they do as an evocation. How many of us are called to do something. Maybe all of us are called to do something, but for one reason or another we just never actually make it. I wish that there were a divinational equation that allowed us to know what we should do. I also understand that your initial interest is not necessarily your dream job and that where you "end up" could be. It is just a tricky terrain to negotiate.

When I was little the first thing I wawnted to be was a fashion designer - isn't that weird? When I was in first grade we had to stand at the front of the classroom, while the teacher taped us for posterity, and declare to the world what we wanted to do when we grew up. I said that I wanted to be a fashion designer. When I would finish with my class work, I would spend the remainder of my time drawing: superheroes, mermaids, witches and wizards and occasionally monsters. I would always draw them, and then design the costume they would wear for the ages. Later I wanted to be an artist, then a lawyer, then I wanted to be a college professor, maybe a librarian. Everyone I speak to says, "well X (whatever the job is) is very difficult, are you sure?" I usually just get angry at whoever says that to me and don't really give a direct answer. Mostly because I feel like they are saying - "you obviously have no idea what you are doing." Why do people even ask that question? It doesn't seem to ever prove to be auspecious. Anyway, my only response to that is - have you ever had something that you wanted to achieve that wasn't difficult. If so, was it really that rewarding when you surmounted your oh so attainable dream, hmm. I thought not. I know anything that I want to do will be difficult. Following the path of least resistance, while easy - is certainly not the best path to follow. I know that I probably will not be the next Harold Bloom, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or J. R.R. Tolkien, but I will be John Ellis-Etchison, the best X that I can be. What is the X of your dreams, all of my friends who read this?

I think if I could be anything - the X of my dreams would to be a wizard. I would sit and study tomes all day learning the secrets of the universe, maybe even learn to shape my own reality. hmm.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Censorship and the Q-Tip

The library commission has recently come to a compromise with that frighteningly high number of unclean, belligerent rednecks who intensely oppose the leaving of books like prince and prince in plain site where little Jim Bob or Missy Sue can see it without some sort of supervision. We now put a little family sticker on all children's books of "questionable" content. I suppose this is better than the original proposition of keeping "those sorts" of books behind the counter, but my god. Arrggghh.

When did it become the library's responsibility to make sure your kids don't see anything so scandalous as two illustrated men embracing. For one thing, the library is not your god damned babysitter, despite what that vapid speaker at FOCUS thinks. If there is something that you do not want your child exposed to - be a parent. Do your job and keep an eye on your kids and what they are doing. Don't just unleash them on an unsuspecting library like the 10 plagues of the old testament. Second, there are far worse things that your boorish little hellions can just as easily get their nasty, sticky little paws on - like KKK literature, that you probably already have on your own bookshelf - or maybe one of those graphic pregnancy or anatomy books - or one of those books with crime scene photos of postmortem, slashed-up celebrities speckled all over its pages - or any history book that details in picture all the brutal atrocities that people have enacted upon each other since the beginning of time. Oh wait - all that is fine - because none of these deal with a subject that infringe on your comfort zones. Third, the library is kind of an enlightened place. It is meant to be a storehouse of knowledge of all kinds - not just the kinds you like - you dumb fucks. If I had it my way I would relieve the library of all the conservative propaganda that James Dobson or Pat robertson publish, or that tripe that Little John and the East Side Boys passes off as music - but I can't and in all probability wouldn't because I know that there are people who are not like me, who do count on the library to provide them with their desired items. So deal with it.

Sorry, this post just seemed to degenerate into a long-winded, profane and somewhat preachy assault on rednecks and conservatives, but it had to be said.

I have the same inclinations that everyone else has about censorship. I want stuff I don't like censored and stuff I do like unadulterated, but I have this pesky little thing called Mr. Brain. Now, Mr. Brain is resource center for all my cognitive faculties and he tells me that in order for the stuff that I like to not be censored, the stuff I do not like must be left equally unhampered, but there are just some days when I feel like it would be easier to do similarly as opponents do and poke Mr. Brain into submission with a cotton swab until he thinks that one kind of censorship is ok, while another would be ghastly. Dejected, I sign off.

my hero

My great-aunt Lilian Vaye Jackson passed away on the 17th, at the age of 89. I am weirdly ambivalent to her passing. As close as I was to her, and we were close. I am more relieved than saddened. It is difficult to see someone whom you respect, who has such spirit and vitality wither before your eyes into something helpless and incoherent. I refuse, though, to dwell on the unpleasant events.

Lilian Vaye Jackson was my own personal Katherine Hepburn. She had a fierce intelligence, a very sharp tongue, and absolutely no filter. Words like "no" or "don't" meant nothing to her - we got along very well. When she was younger, she had already lived a fuller life than most can dream of. She owned and frequently traveled by motorbike, she took pilot lessons, and she worked as a librarian - how much more adventurous a life can one desire? She loved school and learning and constantly encouraged me to get as much of both as I can. She effected my life greatly in a markedly positive way.

Through the eyes of a six year old the world is full of wonder and adventure. It was during this magical age that I went to stay a few weeks with my Aunt Vaye in Oklahoma City. During my time in her ward, she introduced me to a myriad of new sights and experiences, chief among them were horses, goat head burrs, and found treasures. I could tell you stories for minutes about each of these learned life lessons, but I will only captivate you with one aesop's fable-like (minus the talking animals) story this day.

There was an old mare named lady who lived in Vaye's pasture; she was tremendously gentle and wouldn't hurt a flea, or so I thought. One evening, after Vaye had gotten me ready for bed, at around 7:30 - the first mistake - I decided to sneak down to the pond to play with the horse - the second mistake. As I walked up to the infernal beast fully decked out in my glow-in-the-dark Thunder Cat pajamas, at what I felt was a perfectly audible level, she however obviously felt otherwise. As I apparently skulked up behind her like an assassin, Lady took no notice of me until I was no more than a couple of feet away from her. Then she suddenly came to life quite ferociously. She jumped and bucked and kicked and I had no idea what was going on. In the commission, I somehow fell, or more precisely was knocked into the muddy embankment surrounding the pond. Aunt Vaye heard this and came outside to see what was going on. When she saw what had happened, she wasn't a bit angry, she simply laughed hysterically at my predicament. eventually, however, she did come collect me form the mud and begin the whole process of preparing for bed again. I learned from this that you should always make presence evident and that it is perfectly acceptable to laugh at the stupidity of children. Both tenets, that I feel, I will follow for the rest of my life.

To bring this entry to a close, I would like to share with you two of my most favorite exchanges with Vaye:

I was lying in her livingroom floor coloring when Vaye walked through saying words that I had never heard come out of her mouth. I looked up with innocent, questioning and apparently terror-filled eyes. Vaye looked at me and said so cavalierly, "I am saying pitch, pitch, pitch - not bitch, bitch, bitch." Aunt Vaye was deaf as a rock and when she was adjusting her hearing aid, designated pitch as the word to test her adjustments. That story has haunted me all my life. regardless of the occasion, I could always count on Vaye tell it and the above mentioned story to a room full of family members, or passers-bye. Any ear would do.

The other is a far more recent volley of sarcasm and smart-assyness in which I am the victor.

A few Christmases back, in a room filled to capacity with aunts, uncles and distantly related cousins - you know the all that ilk. My dear Aunt Vaye asked me if I had a girlfriend. Since she was so hard of hearing Aunt Vaye was incredibly loud, even her whispers were tremendous - this was no whisper. I felt as if the everyone stopped what they were doing and turned their attention to our conversation. I bashfully said, "no." But mere moments later I asked her if she had a boyfriend. She mustered a rather indignant look and sneered, "I think not." She didn't ask me that question ever again. I know, it's not like winning the Nobel prize, but Aunt Vaye was always the one to do the embarrassing and never the one to be embarrassed. That's how we rolled - making fun of each other as far back as I can remember. I wouldn't change a minute of it.