On the Agenda

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Back in the Saddle

To accompany the wholly cliche title of this post, I should begin with the also cliche apology for a long gap in posts. But all I really want to say is that I don't know what to say or where to begin. Here's a new school year with new classes and a new roommate (same room). There are new jobs and new friends (keeping all the old ones). There are new projects and new aspirations that will doubtless be trod down beneath all of my schoolwork and my general lack of self-discipline and motivation.
However, sitting here with a steaming bowl of ramen noodles (oh, the cliches keep rolling in), amid newly purchased posters and kitchen supplies (which I obviously didn't break out for the ramen), surfing newly discovered Web sites and surrounded by newly loved publications, I feel like a new college student all over again. I'm sure all of these things that are new and beloved to me have been new beloved and then old and discarded for many people for a long time now, but now it's my turn. I really feel that I dropped the ball (cliche!) on my freshman year pretty much entirely, and although last year was much improved, I think I could have done better. So viva junior year! And here I go into nothing I know well enough to be comfortable with. Maybe this time I can succeed at something new instead of retreating into the safety of my dorm room.
Anyway, here are some of my new beloveds:

Threadless T-shirts: The Web site lets anyone submit their own t-shirt designs and then all the users score them. Every few weeks the head honchos pick the top "pre-sellers" and print them into amazing American Apparel shirts. With my psychic powers I foresee the death of my paychecks to such a site. (P.S.: If you use the above link to purchase something, I get referral points for it which = free stuff. Thanks!)

Utne Reader: The magazine's slogan is "Understanding the next revolution," and from the issue-and-a-smidge that I've read so far I think they're doing a pretty good job. Utne keeps its readers abreast of all those important social/economic/environmental responsibility issues out there and brings up a lot of the cool new stuff, too. The first one of these I got my hands on I seriously read cover-to-cover... something I can't say I've ever done with a magazine before. The Sept/Oct issue features articles about the porn industry and what it's doing to America, addressing issues in relationships, censorship, etc. But I think my favorite regular feature of the Utne is the Street Librarian, which reviews multiple other publications. This issue reviews all publications that begin with the letter 'Z.'

The Revolution: A Field Manual for Changing Your World: So I have this friend who is a year younger than I am and has decided to drop out of college and go work at an orphanage in Haiti for the coming year. While that's not something that I hear often (or ever) from people I know well, this news was not at all a surprise for me. Of all the people I know she is the one I would most expect to do such a thing. At the same time I was learning this, I noticed my friend was reading this book. The Revolution addresses 12 of what the publisher calls the "most pressing social justice issues on local and international levels." The 12 essay authors come from varied Christian backgrounds, and the books appendices include multiple ways to get involved and many organizations to check out. It's refreshing because it doesn't feel in-your-face or unrealistically idealistic, if that makes sense.

EuroCuisine Yogurt Maker: For my birthday I got a gift card to my favorite kitchen store (which you will discover if you choose to click the link), and I decided to use it all for one rather unconventional appliance. Yes, I bought a yogurt maker. And yes, I am well aware the yogurt is sold at a rather reasonable price at pretty much any market establishment in the free world. But it's a lot of fun to make your own. It takes a little work because you have to boil and strain the milk and mix it with already-made yogurt in order to transfer the proper bacteria, but it tastes really good and gives a very accomplished feeling. The maker also comes with other recipes, and since my purchase I have come across numerous Web resources as well.

BookSense.com: This Web site joins the ease of Internet shopping with the local appeal of shopping at independent booksellers. Before shopping, just enter your zip code and BookSense will hook you up with the most local indie store if can find. Then when you shop online, BookSense will order the book from your indie store and mail it right to you. In fact, this is how I ordered The Revolution.

Pleasant: (I apologize if the link doesn't work; the site seems to be having some issues.) When I finally get away from home, the first thing I like to do to assert my independence is to spend money on something. So about a week ago I went into the record store near campus and I did something I had never done before. I bought an album I had never heard of. No one recommended it to me; no on told me about it. And it's great. Half of the great probably comes from the purchase itself, but I love the music, too.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Getting Back to It

I'd like to begin by apologizing for the long space in posts here. I can guarantee it won't be the last one, but we'll just see how it goes. It's been a busy spring so far, and I can't believe it's already April 1. By the way, did anyone catch the April Fools' episode of the Martha show yesterday? So weird.

In the past few months I've been able to do some traveling -- some short-distance and some much farther. I've come to appreciate airports and the fact that someone really needs to go in there and install many more seats per gate. I cannot remember now how many times I've had to stand around or sit on the floor waiting for a plane. Of course the people who install those seats assums that waiting passengers will sit side-by-side, but that is sadly not the case. Hardly anyone will sit directly next to a stranger, especially during flu season, and especially if that stranger has a lot of carry-on luggage or is a member of the opposite sex. But anyway, I've seen new parts of the state, and I've been to Madison, WI and to Florida, and overall had a great time.
I'm still keeping a list of possible blog posts, and I'm also keeping a small notebook that works well for writing things down right when they pop into my head. There's little stuff like things I need to do and groceries I need to buy, and also bigger stuff. And there's a list of my knitting projects -- present and future. And the list keeps growing. I've become addicted to www.knitty.com and at this point have looked at every single pattern on the site. I learned how to knit a sock, but haven't actually done so for lack of sock yarn or really tiny double pointed needles. I'm working on my first sweater right now and also this huge shrug/wrap thing that's red and soft and a whole lot of fun. And I have so many more ideas, and I'm slowly starting to come up with ideas on my own instead of just constantly borrowing other people's genious all the time.
I think the past few weeks in particular have been a little about renourishing my creative side. It gets lonely when the schoolwork piles up and the cumulative sleep hours plummet. But I've tried to take time to read things I want to read, like Haven Kimmel's Something Rising (Light and Swift). If you've never read Haven, I strongly suggest it. Something Rising is the second book in a trilogy of novels about life in small-town Indiana. She writes in a way that is intellectual yet very real, a way that notices everything and everyone, a way very similar to the way I often think about things, which I think is why I like her work so much. She's also written a couple of memoirs about her own small-town life in Indiana, and I've only read the first. But I hear the newer one is pretty good too. I can't wait till next year when the third book of the trilogy comes out, and I'm kinda thinking I want to read the first two all over again before then.
I've been trying to integrate creativity into my life a little piece at a time, although it hasn't been as intentional as it probably sounds. I spent one afternoon painting pottery and one at an author reading, and I've been trying to read parts of the New Yorker or literary magazines or whatever. I've extended my creativity to cultural awareness and went to the farmer's market last weekend and bought organic shampoo this week. And like I said, this isn't all as intentional as it sounds -- mostly reflections on what the past few weeks have been like for me.
And it's all enjoyable, taking control of parts of my life one little piece at a time -- taking it back from school and work and everything else. It's good stress relief. And sometimes I figure I need focus like this to keep me from getting lost in my own stress and to keep some of my self-discipline in order.
So with that update I must go prepare to dance. Perhaps I will have something more focused later this week.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Were you raised in a barn?!

First of all I want to say that the headline of this artcle is particularly interesting in that it implies that living in a barn would not be a unique experience for other people.

BlackMountainNews.com - Living in a barn is unique experience for local couple

Anyway, this column, which is part of this week's Black Mountain News from Black Mountain, N.C., details the lifestyle of a Swannanoa valley couple who -- you guessed it -- live in a barn. It is a charming little place, and it is quite unique. Part of me would love to do something that unusual and fun, especially because it involves raising horses (and buffalo). The detail I like the most is how the stall doors for the horses are topped with wrought iron fencing from Lake Susan in Montreat, N.C., my home away from home. But this is not really the focus of my post, and if I say any more you won't read the article.

During the past week and a half I have been compiling a list of possible blog posts. I keep it in a simple text file on my desktop where I keep quite a number of lists, both important and igsignificant. And there's so much to say about all of the topics I've jotted (read: typed frantically) into this text file. I suppose the fact that there is so much to say and that I cannot decide which to write about is just an indication of the fact that I should post more often. Unfortunately, the second week of classes proved to be more difficult than I expected.

For example (talking about the list, not the difficulty), I came home one particularly restless night after a concert I went to. The concert featured Raplh Stanley and a local bluegrass band, and when I came home I composed four lines of that list. They read : "bluegrass; cultured; america (capitalized as such in my list forms) and; people watching." These mean that I wanted to talk about bluegrass music and why so many people are so adverse toward it. People view it as uncivilized, old-timey twang. Well, maybe that's what it is to a point, but for me, and for many people, I see it as a welcome respite in the face of increasing urbanization and globalization. I'm not saying I am against these two ideals, because I am in no way in opposition to them. Of course I take issue with a few of their facets, but that's another issue for another night. What I'm saying is that amid all this up-and-out stuff there's nothing wrong with remembering a past. A past that probably describes more of America than we care to think. The "cultured" part comes from the fact that I often feel more cultured by attending such events. Perhaps this sounds elitist, and perhaps it is. But that's what I wrote down and I can't remember my exact thought process at the time.

The people watching comes from me going to these events often alone -- and enjoy it that way. I love watching these older couples meeting all their friends at these functions. Some of the friends they haven't seen in months. Others they played bridge with last night and met at the Biscuitville this morning. They're just all so happy to simply be in one place with people they love. It's almost magical, and these events are the only place I can find it consistently.

The other things on the list involve certain recent discussions and events and will not be discussed further tonight. Suffice it to say that God puts people in your life for a reason, all of them. They make you see things you wouldn't have seen otherwise, and they let you be you all over again. And for that tonight, I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Trends et la Mode dans la Media

First day of class -- always exciting. I'm taking Business French this semester, which I think will be fairly interesting. It's going to be a lot of vocabulary, but I think it will be helpful in the longrun -- especially if the whole point of me having the French major is to make the language useful to me once I get out into the real world. I also had enough time to eat an omelet this morning.
So I don't think I had really noticed how big this blog trend has gotten. I know we often discuss it at the newspaper I work for, and I know I've seen it on some new Web sites and everything, but it seems to be even more than that. I remember reading an article recently, I think it was for my international history class in high school, about how the different interfaces appearing in the media have shaped the way events are discussed and information is spread. I think it was from Foreign Affairs magazine, and it specifically mentioned the war in Iraq and a few other conflicts abroad. It talked about how the Web log has entirely transformed the idea of foreign reporting and had an example of this guy in Russia who was taken hostage in a movie theatre and set up a blog to let people know what was going on. No reporter could have gotten in there; no news company of any sort could have had that story.
I was messing around in the Washington Post website today (by the way, how about that British kid that made himself a millionaire by selling adds $1 per pixel on www.milliondollarhomepage.com???) and I noticed that next to each article they have this little billboard box that says "Who's Blogging." It has links to all these random people all over the world who have linked their blog to this article. For example, the article about the British ad entrepreneur has 14 blogs linked to it. I think it's impressive that publications like the Post want to connect their readers that much that they make and effort to say "Want to read more? Come over there and see what Joe Schmo has to say about it." It's like in "Miracle on 34th Street" when Macy's makes the books to tell their customers where to go to find what they want.
I think the Post, like any self-respecting publication, is really doing it for self-preservation. As much as I don't like to think about it, the print media is becoming somewhat of an endangered species. Those of us who depend on it for work also tend to depend on it for other things like entertainment and the perfect mate to a hot cup of coffee. However, I have to make the point that a bunch of tired journalists aren't going to be able to hold up the entirety of the print media industry on the paycheck that they give us. It's a bit of a vicious cycle -- but we do what we can.
Nevertheless, publications seem to think now that the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" strategy is what is going to work best here, and I happen to agree. While the blog phenomenon does provide a bit of a threat to traditional news, it also provides a bit of a supplement. Ignoring technological advances in this industry is professional suicide, especially because when it all goes down and the paper copy of the Times is only good enough for an elite few, the newsroom will not be big enough for all of us. Of course blogging does open the world of journalism to nonprofessionals. And while those of us on the inside might have mixed feelings about this, there is little question that having more reporters in the world is going to make us more informed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Just a Living Legacy

Since there's not a whole lot happening on campus before the start of classes, and since I spent much of today at work and the remainder fighting with my computer, I must confess that I do not have a topic in mind for this evening. So in place of something someone might actually want to read, I think I will introduce myself a little. My favorite color is green and my favorite shape is the five-pointed star (though not the pentagram). My favorite Bible verse is Isaiah 40:26, and I can quote pretty much any part of Groundhog Day. I like vanilla ice cream and coffee and tea in really wide mugs. I buy more books than I can read and enjoy smelling them as much as reading the words on the page. I like birch trees and Yeats and IBC root beer in brown bottles. I'm addicted to Vickie's jalapeno potato chips and red Swedish fish. I want to own a store, write for a foreign publication, raise good kids, design my own house, and fall in love for all of eternity. I have faith in God and Jesus Christ and in real beauty, the kind that kills part of your heart every time it's broken. I'm a geek in every sense of the word -- less the horn-rimmed glasses. Although if I had glasses I think I would pick those. I like libraries and informational films and grammar. I once wrote a poem about having lunch with T.S. Eliot in Paris, and it's mostly poetry references and half in French. I'm taking Biblical Hebrew because I think it's fun. I am disgustingly/delightingly domestic. I knit and crochet and have recently learned how to make pottery -- though it's not one of my hidden talents by any means. My most recent obsession is cooking -- everything food and food preparation. I drool in kitchen stores and cute boutique stores with a vintage twist. I love New York and London and would die to wake up every morning and eat a croissant in the subway on my way to work. I'm studying journalism but have no plans for the immediate future. I dance and know how to twirl and toss a flag. I will spend money faster on books and concert tickets than anything else. I love tea and pride myself on knowing a little too much about it. I love a little more than I should, and my favorite kind of weather is when it rains. I like classic rock and new folk. I take other people's opinions too seriously too often, and every cool lifestyle I see I want to try. I have choices to make, but I have supportive people to make them with. And that has made all the difference.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Welcome 2006

I've had a LiveJournal since high school, and I haven't had a whole lot of luck keeping it up since I got to college. It's a new year and there are a lot of new things going on, and so I decided it was time for a change. I would like this space to be dedicated to creativity and to some level of academia. Politics, religion, love, life, food -- they all have a place here because they have a place in me. I'd like to try out some of my writing, some of the theories, and (of course) some of my rants. Part of my life is ending today, and that leaves the rest open for new beginnings or developments. So have at it. Amen.