Friday, June 27, 2008

a confederacy of dunces indeed

Not that I've read that book, but at least it's not sitting on my shelf! Taken from Lauren the linguist.

Modified slightly from: and

Here is the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users. Books that sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded [or were Book Club choices that you never read that month]. Here's what to do: bold the ones you’ve read for fun, italicize the ones you read for school, and star the ones sitting on your shelf to be read!

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
*Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: A novel
The Name of the Rose
*Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
*War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
*The Kite Runner
*Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: The life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian: a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
*To the Lighthouse
*Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes: A memoir
The God of Small Things
*A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
*In Cold Blood: A true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

and down in the texas of my heart

I'm not sure if I'm up for a full detailing of my trip to Flagstaff tonight (although apparently I am), but I can provide a few highlights and post some pictures since I'm apparently not going to be sleeping all that soon. I flew back last Thursday and didn't get in until night. I went almost immediately to bed; for some reason (altitude? stress? jet-lag? being outside in actual sunlight?) I was completely pooped at about 9:30 almost every night I was there. Anyway, I spent the next morning acting out the well-worn but highly enjoyable ritual of shopping with my mom, kind of hung out all afternoon, and then had dinner with my parents and my best friend from middle school and only remaining Flagstaff friend Emily. The next morning Emily and I had breakfast at Macy's (the best veggie biscuits and gravy EVER) and then went on an awesome hike on Wild Bill Hill. It's an old extinct cinder cone, so when you climb up inside there are all these really neat eroded rock formations (hoodoos). It was definitely one of the more fun hikes I've been on in Flag recently, so I took some nice pictures.

The path up


Some nifty-ass hoodoos

Up close

Me looking dorky as usual

Emily again

The way home

So that was awesome, but I totally had to take a nap afterwards.
That night, we went out and saw The Man Who Would Be King at a kind of jury-rigged drive-through at the county fairgrounds. This delightful colonialist movie is one of Emily's favorites, so it was good to see it again. (The last time, I was 13 or so and I barely remembered anything.) It was fucked-up but fun. Then we went out to Zane Grey's, but everything was packed with drunk queers because it was Pride weekend. The next morning, my parents took me to get coffee at the much-touted new health food store, which was actually really nice. It looks a lot like a Whole Foods, and my parents are really proud of the fact that they buy organic meat and cage-free eggs there and that makes me really happy.
That night, Emily and I went to see the Ani concert at the new outdoor amphitheater, also at the fairgrounds. And you know what? It was awesome. I was afraid that it would be full of rabid lesbian Ani fans because of Pride; not that there's anything wrong with that, but I'm somewhat past the rabid stage and I was worried about weird obsessive energy or something. But actually, it was really relaxed and happy and fun. The vibe was much more on the hippie side of things than on the edgy urban queer side, and mostly people sat around with their children/partners/friends on the grass and just kind of listened. She had a band with her, but it consisted of drumset, another percussionist (he played a lot of marimba but also other sundry things) and standup bass, so it was kind of low-key but backed things up nicely. Here's the setlist:
god's country
78% H2O
*as is
millennium theater
here for now
grand canyon
new song about atoms being an awesome particle so messing around with it to produce energy is bad
new song about how her baby makes her re-evaluate her criticism of her face/self
*swan dive (solo)
*both hands
in the way
*little plastic castle
32 flavors

The asterisks are my favorites, and Swan Dive was particularly awesome. Although I wish she'd played more older stuff (I wasn't that fond of the last album and there was a lot of that on there) she hit some of my favorites and made me remember just how much I liked her and how much her music has meant to me. She seemed like she was having fun too; instead of being irritated when the audience yelled, she said we were "plumb crazy" and did this long crazy funny yell to demonstrate. So everybody seemed happy, and that was nice.
This morning it was breakfast at Macy's again and then the long trip home. But I'm happy with the trip; I got to see a lot of my parents and of Emily, I hiked and ate good food and enjoyed my Ani concert and that was all I really wanted.
It was hard coming back though, so I'll end this on a bit of a down note. It's depressing to come back to a home you'll be leaving behind within the week. We've both found places to live and somebody to take our old apartment, so this place has to be cleaned out by the 1st. So the end of my trip was bittersweet, but I'm still glad I got to go. Next up: Alaska.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


So Lauren the Poet tagged me to write a blog of my Top 5 Recipes Ever, so here it is! I'm actually trying to make sure that these are different than recipes that I may have already passed on, but there may be at least one repeat. I'm also trying to hit a few different types of dish (sides, dessert, etc) and do things that are a tiny bit more complicated than not. Maybe there should be a Top 5 hard and Top 5 easy recipes... And I'll be posting my first ever fish recipe, sorry for all you real vegetarians out there :) Anyway...

Mushroom-Leek Frittata

You need:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread cubes
3 tbs butter
3 tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped leeks
3 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tbs fresh or 1 tsp dried dill or marjoram
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz cream cheese, in 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/4 cups grated sharp cheddar
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk

When I made this, I actually made it mostly vegan, using substitutes for the milk, butter, cream cheese, and roughly half of the cheddar. (The eggs had to stay, unfortunately; I'm still not fond of them.) It was quite yummy, although rather rich.
What you do:
Toast the bread cubes on a tray in an oven at 375. Saute the garlic in 2 tbs each of the butter and olive oil until golden. When the cubes are crispy, toss them in the garlic butter and set aside.

Next, saute the leeks in the last tbs each of oil and butter for a minute or two, then add the mushrooms, herbs, salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally. Cover the pan to retain the juices, and keep cooking until the veggies are just tender.
Preheat the oven to 375. Butter a 9x9 pan, and layer the ingredients as follows: bread cubes, cream cheese cubes, veggies, and finally the cheddar. Beat the eggs and milk with some salt and pepper and pour that over everything else. Bake about 30 minutes until the frittata is puffy and golden.
Taken from New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant
Notes: You can make this with various other vegetables and cheeses, although I haven't tried any others yet. This goes nicely with a tomato soup for brunch or dinner. It's not too hard or even time-consuming to make (and I'm a crazy slow cook), and it's pretty yummy. I think I impressed the guest I made it for :)

Easy Lentil Tomato Soup

I made this the other night by cobbling together what I had in the fridge and consulting a few recipes online, and it was way better than I anticipated, so I have to include it. Plus, it's super easy.
You need:
Lentils (I used precooked black beluga lentils from Trader Joe's, the come in a plastic pouch that you just microwave for 75 seconds before adding them, very handy)
1 large can diced tomatoes (handy in these salmonella-ridden times, I guess)
half an onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz chopped mushrooms
vegetable stock
tiny pinch saffron
salt and pepper
What you do:
Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent, add the muchrooms and stir for a minute or two, then add the spices, tomatoes, lentils, and veggie stock and simmer for a few minutes.
I didn't include measurements because I didn't measure anything. My soup was fairly thick, and I used a fairly decent amount of cinnamon; it was definitely a more prominent taste than the cumin or thyme, but I think next time I might adjust the seasoning so that they come out a little more. But this was seriously good.

Side Dish
Baked Cucumbers

I got this from Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell, and she got it from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1. It sounds a little weird, but it's got a great texture and the vinegar gives it a nice bite.
You need:
6 medium cucumbers
2 tbs wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp sugar
2-3 tbs butter
1/2 tsp dried dill or basil (2 tsp fresh)
3-4 minced green onions or chives
pepper to taste
What you do:
Peel the cucumbers, cut them into long quarters (hot dog style), and scoop the seeds out. Then slice the cucumbers into strips 3/8" wide and 2" long, toss them with the vinegar, salt, and sugar, and let them stand loosely covered for a few hours.
Melt the butter and coat the bottom of a baking dish. Drain the cucumbers and add the herbs, green onions, and pepper and coat well. bake at 375 for an hour, tossing 2-3 times. They should be tender but still crispy. If using fresh herbs or chives, add them after baking.
Notes: I've never made this with the green onions/chives (I'm not a huge fan, so I usually don't just have them around) or dill, but I can't imagine it's any less delicious. Also, cucumbers bake down a lot, so although six sounds like a lot it won't end up being all that much end product.

Main Course
Fish with French Mushroom Sauce

I've made this twice now, and it's absolutely delicious. Try to chop all of your vegetables close to the same size so they cook evenly, because at least for me it's way better if the carrots and celery are just kind of melting in your mouth.
You need:
3-4 tbs butter or vegetable oil
2 cups diced onion
1 bay leaf
1 large carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 cups sliced mushrooms (12 oz)
1 tbs fresh chopped tarragon (1 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup dry red or white wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup veggie stock or water
1 tbs tomato paste
2 tbs butter
2 tbs unbleached white flour
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 pounds fish fillets (I use tilapia)

What you do:
Saute the onions and bay leaf in the butter or oil until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots and celery and continue to saute for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms, tarragon, and salt. Stir in the wine and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on low heat until the veggies are just barely tender.
While that's happening, combine the stock or water and tomato paste in a small pan and gently heat. In a separate pan, bring the butter to a bubble (don't let it burn!) and gradually stir in the flour while whisking or stirring vigorously. Stir on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, then slowly pour this into the warm tomato liquid and stir until it's thick and smooth. Add that into the vegetables, and stir in the parsley.
Put the fish fillets into an oiled pan. Spread the sauce on the fish. It will be thick, but the juices from the fish will thin it out as it cooks. Bake covered at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until the fish is tender. Serve on rice with a nice salad.
Notes: So good! And this was my first roux (is that the spelling?), very exciting. The first time I made it, I think either Tabitha or my guest came in just as that was happening and I was totally freaking out about burning it, but it worked out just fine. Oh, and this was from Moosewood again.

Creamy Rice Pudding

Good for using up leftover rice, and full of fruit, and delicious :) I made this twice in a row over the winter. I used soy milk instead of real milk for Tabitha's sake.
You need:
3 cups cooked brown rice
2 1/4 cups half-and-half, milk, or soy milk
5 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
2 tbs grated orange peel (peel of 1 orange)
2/3 cups raisins
2 medium apples, cored and finally chopped
freshly whipped cream

What you do:
Butter a deep casserole dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 325.
In a blender or mixing bowl combine the milk (or whatever), eggs, vanilla, spices, and honey. In a large bowl throughly mix the rice, egg mixture, grated orange peel, raisins, and chopped apples.
Pour the pudding into the casserole dish and bake uncovered for an hour, until the custard is set and it begins to brown slightly around the edges. Stir it at 20 minute intervals while it's baking, and you can add a little more milk if it gets too dry.
Can be served hot from the oven or chilled. You can add whipped cream if you like.

So there's my five recipes!

Monday, June 16, 2008

come again?

Here's a review I read on IMDb about Last Year at Marienbad, a crazy french film from the 60's that Tabitha and I watched about a month ago in a neat vintage theater here:

"So - Last Year At Marienbad, in a nutshell, assume French Accent:

Verse 1: Man: I know you. Woman: You do not know me. Man: We were here. Woman: I was never here. Chorus: Man: Long strange monologue about the place that they are at, Marienbad. And how he has been here before and how she has been here before. Camera: panning about the ornate Marienbad mansion. Verse 2: (repeat verse 1 - add very interesting game of pick-up sticks) Chorus repeat verses 1 & 2

I think everyone should see this film. I don't know why. I have seen it numerous times. No, I have never seen it. Yes, I saw it last year! No, last year I did not see it. Yes, I saw it here, with me. Wait, I'm alone. Who am I talking to?"

Yep, that's pretty much it. But as inane and weird as that sounds, I totally recommend it. Don't try to understand, because it doesn't make any sense really... But it's beautiful to watch, and it's fascinating because of what it says about memory. The whole movie is essentially this man trying to convince this woman that they had a passionate affair the year before in the same hotel. Except maybe they didn't. Or maybe he raped her. Or maybe they've never met. Or maybe they did. But what ends up happening is that almost identical scenes are shown over and over, but each time they're a little different and eventually it becomes clear that even the man is not able to exactly remember what happened. It's cool, and it made me think a lot about how flexible memory is. If you're interested (or even if you're not, really) you should read my much more articulate friend Raquel's meditation on this classic film here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

housing woes

So, for the first time ever in Chicago, I may be having a hard time finding an apartment. I'm pretty sure every previous time I've looked for a place to live-- which has been an unfortunately large number of times; this will be my sixth apartment in four years and my fourth in the last two alone-- I've ended up in the first place I've looked (or a girlfriend's house, but that's another story). But now I've decided the time has come to live by myself, which it turns out is a very expensive decision. I knew it would be, but here's something irritating: a place will be posted on craigslist, saying it's, say, $491, which would be fine. But when I call or, more frustratingly, show up, I'm informed that the apartment is somewhere between $550 and $640 or so. WTF??? So tomorrow I'm dropping off an application for a place that's $585 a month, which is possible but certainly not ideal. It is a nice studio, and closer to my job than anything else I've seen, but still more expensive than I was naively hoping for.
The other side of the coin is the process of subletting. I couldn't find our lease until tonight (tiny apartment+lots of crap and particularly a lot of papers=inability to find stuff), and lo and behold it says we have to give 45 days notice before subleasing. (We also have to pay $150, which is of course not wonderful but at least doable.) I'm hoping and praying that this is solely there so they can find a replacement and that they won't enforce it. Because I posted the apartment this morning, and lo and behold I've already had two people see it and probably at least three more in the next few days. Plus I'm betting at least one of the people tonight will bite anyway, so it's probably going to be the easiest part of the whole damn process. Unfortunately, it leaves me with a probably rented apartment (at least, if the landlords okay it) and no place to actually move into as of yet. Great. I keep hoping I can just fast-forward a few weeks (except for my upcoming trip home to Flagstaff, where I will hike and go shopping with my mom and see Ani diFranco in my hometown with my oldest friend) and have this all resolved.
Sorry for the rant. It's been kind of a hard few days.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


So lately I've kind of had this little Batman obsession. I don't know where it came from, because I was never really into that particular cultural myth before, but a few months ago I realized that I didn't really remember any of the movies (even Batman Begins, which I saw in the theaters) and Tabitha gave me a crash course. We watched all five movies, although she made me watch Batman and Robin by myself because it's so awful--thank you, whoever decided not to rehire Joel Schumacher to direct. Luckily, my co-worker's boyfriend has a Batman obsession of his own, and he's been loaning me graphic novels and things I wouldn't otherwise have thought to see, like The Phantom Menace (which I haven't actually watched yet, but maybe tonight...?).
I don't know what it is. I'm partially fascinated by the villains; Michelle Pfeiffer in latex is a perk, certainly, but I also love her genesis story. And Jack Nicholson, oh my god... In any superhero story, I've always most enjoyed watching how the bad guys came into being and why they do what they do, and I think Batman stories generally have some of the best ones. And they're so damn dark, too. Two-Face didn't really get his full due in Batman Forever, which is a pity because it's one of the best and most tragic transfigurations. I've been reading these graphic novels by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale that are really amazing (The Long Halloween particularly), and they cover the transformation of Harvey Dent, champion of good in Gotham, into Two-Face via a crime lord throwing acid into his face during a trial. I just feel like there's a depth that isn't so much there in Spiderman, you know? Or at any rate, most of the movies are better, and maybe my Spidey obsession will hit some other time.
It goes without saying that I am totally excited for the new movie to come out. I'm definitely going to be there opening night with all the rest of the nerds.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

coming clean: back to the personal

I was talking to Erica the other night, and she asked me why I had hesitated to write about what's happening in my personal life on this blog. And really, who reads this who doesn't already know me? A few people on occasion perhaps, but even so, why does it matter? Either you know me well or you don't know me at all. I think my hesitation is based in a feeling that once I write about it, it will really be true and I can't take it back because my god, it's in cyberspace! Which is silly. So without further ado, I can write here that Tabitha and I are breaking up (or have already broken up, I suppose, although it's a blurry line right now), that she's already living at a friend's house and we're both apartment hunting and cleaning our place so that we can take pictures and find a subletter soon.
Which is all, in most ways, okay. This wasn't an angry breakup, one based in bad feelings or dislike or any sort of incident. In some ways, that's harder. It's much more difficult to let go of somebody that you still love. But we both basically decided that we were just hurting each other and that was never going to lead us to anywhere happy, so we decided to cut our losses and let each other recover. Very adult of us, but it's hard to ignore the heart and give priority to the brain.
Actually, instead of writing anymore about the actual things that are happening (which are almost certainly fairly boring to anybody but us), I'd like to go back to my hesitation. Why do I feel such a constriction to write about something that is so large in my life right now? Just because it deals with my emotions, my personal life, instead of a book or movie or concert? What I'd really like to know is whether this is something that is specific to me or something that other people feel as well. Just to clarify, I'm not talking about writing about something that could be harmful or painful to another reader; that is something that seems clearly off limits to me, and rarely have I seen someone do that in a blog. I'm talking about purely personal things that are going to be widely acknowledged by the rest of the world, things that there is really no point in concealing or ignoring or skirting around. I know I personally have a very hard time talking about my personal life even to close friends; I usually make it through five minutes of talking about myself before I start deflecting the conversation into what's happening to the other person. When Anna and I broke up, I had a series of coffee meet-ups with various friends where almost invariably after five minutes we would be talking about their personal life or childhood or even something completely unrelated like what movies they'd seen lately. I think that's part of why I hadn't written here about something I've known and that has essentially consumed my life for the last month.
So what to do? Should I write more about my personal life (when it's applicable)? Should I force my friends to talk about me instead of deflecting? I don't know how I feel about that, honestly. I think it's more interesting to write here about other things, and probably more interesting to people reading as well. Conversation is another thing, and probably I should try to learn to let other people talk about me a little bit more. So note to self: stop deflecting! But isn't it nice how I even deflected this entry into a reflection on personal discussion instead of what is happening?

Monday, June 09, 2008

because I need to get out of a certain part of my head tonight

I'm at home trying to recover from two very enlightening potential-roommate interviews I had tonight that have made me consider living a studio seriously for the first time. All of them were nice, and in some cases I had much respect for many of the ideas embodied by their living spaces (I'm being vague because I have a fear of people reading something I've written about them and being angered or upset by it), but it's come to my attention that maybe right now I need more autonomy than a roommate situation affords.
Anyway, it's occurred to me that I haven't maybe written anything academic in a little while, so I'll dwell briefly--or not so briefly, as it turns out; this might be an incredibly boring entry for everybody but me--on a book I've been slowly working my way through and the questions it's raised for me. Jasmine and Stars: Reading More Than Lolita in Tehran by Fatemeh Keshavarz has been frustrating and kind of rebuffing my efforts to read it for a while now. (It's actually hideously overdue at the library, and tomorrow I''ll have to go pay a fine for it. Whoops.) The book goes back and forth between the author's life in Iran and Iranian culture using both general and specific examples and a pointed critique of Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran. The main premise is that Nafisi and many other writers/filmmakers/artists/etc. have presented Iran to the rest of the world within the framework of a "New Orientalist" narrative. This narrative (in a nutshell) discusses Iran and the Middle East in simplistic terms that diminish the artistic and intellectual accomplishments of Iranians while also ignoring the positive aspects of life and culture in these areas.
I think that this is really important, and also something that I honestly hadn't paid enough attention to. I never thought that life in Iran was totally awful or that the Iranian people were any less culturally adept than anyone else; I mean, god, there's so much beautiful artwork, poetry, architecture, and I've read plenty of other positive things about how people relate to each other and the warmth and joy that Keshavarz describes quite beautifully when she discusses her life there. And thinking back on other things I've read, I can see that narrative emerging. So okay, I'm fairly sold on the narrative, and it's really great to read about her childhood joys and fantastic-sounding Iranian female poets that I totally want to read now (Forough Farrokhzad, anybody?). Where I hit a little bump is in her critique of Reading Lolita in Tehran (RLT).
It's not even entirely the critique. (Although I do tend to get a little irritated by any critique that lasts for this long and is this unwavering.) Nor do I think the critique is unjustified, at the very least in part. But I just have kind of a moral dilemma with critiquing a memoir in terms of a fairly theoretical (real, but still theoretical I think, if that's even possible) narrative. If somebody is writing about what happened to them, is it okay to really attack that and pull it apart and say it's wrong? Keshavarz keeps coming back to conversations that Nafisi records with students where they discuss, for instance, oppression they experience from patriarchal family members or other students. She attacks these recorded conversations, saying that they only show the negative side of life in Iran.; she even critiques the word choice of students and things like that, saying that nobody in Iran would ever say something like that or in that manner. (I wonder about matters of translation and how Keshavarz could make a blanket statement about how people in Iran talk, and it makes everything else seem a little less convincing, frankly.) I'm not saying that Nafisi didn't neglect talking about the more positive aspects of things and perhaps (probably?) even presented things in a way that made them more appealing to readers who were expecting a New Orientalist take on Iran, but isn't it also possible that these conversations and these examples existed, that they happened and are still happening? People are oppressed by patriarchal family members all over the world; if somebody talked to me about how much they loved their grandmother and how much of a tyrant their father was, in the context of a book about oppression I would be more inclined to discuss the father.
I do recognize some large problems with RLT now that I didn't before. Nafasi tends to demonize extremist "characters" and present them as lacking any ability to appreciate anything but their religious tenets; she expresses much surprise when fundamentalist students exhibit any appreciation of art or literature, be it American or Iranian. They tend to be blank characters, and I still have a lot of trouble (even after having read the book several times) keeping them straight because they are all presented in such a similar manner. She also totally downplays and even speaks poorly of contemporary Iranian writing, which I truly do think is a terrible thing to do. I love the way she writes about American fiction and it's effect on Iranian college students (although her assumption that we should find this shocking is pretty much going along with the new orientalist narrative in and of itself), but she ignores her own culture in her detailing of the effect that ours had on the people she taught. My issue with Keshavarz is that she seems to take offense to every single line of RLT, and seems to want to tell me about each one of them in great detail. I understand that Nafisi really did present her experiences in a disturbingly lopsided way, but Keshavarz spends so much time talking about what was omitted that she almost seems to miss the parts that were touching or interesting or possibly enlightening to those of us who don't know a whole lot about the Islamic Republic. Part of the problem might be that it's hard to talk about everything all the time; Nafisi wanted to talk about the oppression she and her students experienced in the Islamic Republic, and the ways in which they used western literature to cope with that. She didn't set out to write about how contemporary Iranian authors influenced her students, or how some of the really extremist Islamic students were actually really awesome people, although I think it would have been a much better book if she'd been a lot more balanced in her presentation.
But shit, maybe even the things I liked in RLT were totally messed up presentations of reality. I have no way of knowing, really. I can believe Keshavarz and hate RLT and disregard it completely, or I can read it and other books about the Middle East in a critical manner and see what I think. I can even go out of my way to learn a lot more about the Islamic Revolution than I do now, which could hardly be a bad thing for me. It's a moral dilemma all around; who do I believe? Nobody? And if that's the case, why read or learn new things at all? Can I trust any authors? Who is telling the truth? Does the truth exist? Existential crisis on the horizon!
Basically, so far Jasmine and Stars has made me somewhat grumpy and angsty. Maybe by the end, I'll feel a little safer and less shaky on my beliefs, but I kind of doubt it.

nanny nanny boo boo

It's been a while since my Students Against Sweatshop days, but for those of you who remember all that this made my morning a little bit brighter.
Oh, and the Dominican Republic? It's a no go. I got an offer to be flown out to play in an orchestra; they would have paid for my tickets, my very nice hotel, my breakfasts, and given me a hundred dollars a day to rehearse and perform a bit for about five days. But alas, it was not to be this time. Happily, I'm not all that upset. I had actually already bought plane tickets for Flagstaff that same exact weekend, so now I get to hang out and hike, see an Ani concert (provided it's not sold out, I hope) and visit my parents and one remaining friend in the area. So while the Dominican Republic would have surely been an experience, I'm quite happy to be going home for the first time in almost a year.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

mass havoc

When I got to work this morning, six ceiling tiles had become soaked with water due to a sink overflowing upstairs and fallen, covering two different computers with water and bits of tile and significantly impacting the way we functioned all day.
I bring this up not because it's incredibly important, but because it seems like it goes along with my life right now. Things are happening every which way that I have no way of preparing adequately for and that impact the way I'm functioning. I've written about some of them (Tabitha's illness (she's much better now, and thank you to everyone who asked me how she's faring), the end of Civic) and others I haven't for personal reasons or because I simply don't have the words for them yet. (Or because I haven't gotten around to it. Expect some news regarding the Dominican Republic soon.) I feel like, in some ways, the future has become a mystery. Where will I be in two weeks, a month, a year? What will I be doing? Who will I be? It's so impossible to say. But I sincerely hope that all of this current turmoil is leading to better things for me, and maybe even a higher degree of ultimate clarity about my life. I'm sorry to be so vague, but it's hard for me to articulate this feeling and the reasons behind it. But if I were a fortune teller, here's what I might say to me: "There is travel and much upheaval in your future. Maybe also mysterious strangers." But really, isn't that true most of the time?