Thursday, May 26, 2011

If It Ain't Got that Swing

May 26 is the birthday of Frankie Manning, a legendary Lindy hop dancer known as the Ambassador of Swing. Among other accomplishments, he pioneered aerial moves in the 1930s. Manning died in 2009, a month before his 95th birthday.

Check out this tribute video to one of his greatest routines, from the 1941 film Hellzapoppin. Features original footage spliced in with a 2009 re-creation of the choreography. Brilliant.

Also see this tribute video of Manning's signature dance, the Shim-Sham, as performed across the decades by my local swing dance community.

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Decal Art

This week, I officially became an alumna of the graduate school. That meant getting my alumni library card and an alumni parking pass. What I didn't realize was that it also meant being inducted into the secret society of new art at the university.

The following scenario ensued when I entered Parking Management:

::standing in line while a recent graduate tries to argue his way out of multiple parking tickets past appeal deadline::
::more standing in line::
::he's still arguing::
::pulling out the "I could just have left without ever paying these" card::
::response: the "not if you ever want your transcripts" card::
::bam. I smell defeat::
::okay, he's gone::
::note to self: I would not want their job::

"Hi, I just graduated and would like an alumni parking permit - what do I do?"
"Bring in your front and rear parking decals."

::removal of front decal: check.::
::removal of rear decal: umm...::
::after ten minutes, decal detaches in 1/4 cm increments::

::carrying front decal and small sticky clump of detritus from rear decal back into the office::
::sheepish grin::
"Hi, I'm back - the front decal came off without a problem, but the back one..."
::holding out scraps with an attempt at humor::

::parking management lady takes scraps::
::wait, what?::

"That's fine."
::tapes front decal and wad of scraps to the back of alumni application::
"Fill this out."

::kind of hard to write on top of such an uneven surface::
::but done.::

"Here you go."
::and check.::

Universities. Creating new sensations in mosaic art one decimated parking decal at a time.

Guess I'm really an alumna now.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hooding Pictures

I look like I'm in a lot of pain. So does the professor placing the hood on my neck. It's rather amusing, actually. But no, thank you; I will not be spending $125 on these photos.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Open Letter to My ThinkPad

Dear Linus,

It's been a good two years. You stepped in at a time in my life when I really needed support. You helped me see Marvin for what he truly was, and you stood up for my decision to let him go.

We've shared a real connection, Linus. I'll be the first to admit it. Even though you pulled an Eternal Sunshine on me twice, I took you back -- you know why? Because I knew I needed you. You went more days without sleeping than I can count, and the number of times you got a full day off would probably fit on a tetrahedron die.

But we have had our problems. Your reliance on power outlets is neither environmentally conscious nor convenient. Heated arguments are one thing, but you never really chill out. You're always hot under the battery pack. And I need someone I can count on. I can be scatterbrained, but you can't seem to break the habit of losing important documents at the last minute.

When you lost Orlando, it was the beginning of the end. I know you didn't like him (we had our disagreements too), but you can't treat a thesis like that just because you're jealous. I need a computer that can keep up with me, and I don't think you want to anymore.

What's more, now that you've lost touch with your network of friends, I just can't afford to support you. You don't have insurance, and you go to the doctor way more than someone your age ought to. All the features I liked about you seem to have expired. You even get really blue when I ask you to play music.

But I would like for us to remain friends, Linus. I think the phrase "trade him in for a newer model" is kind of crude. Just think of it as you're being let go, your life's going in a different direction, you're part of a permanent outplacement...

I know, I know. It sounds bad. But we can still hang out from time to time. You'll always be my first and only ThinkPad. I hope you can forgive me.



Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Big Day

Today is the hooding ceremony for my MA in English Literature. Everything suddenly feels so intense and final.

And exciting. :-)

We did it, Class of 2011!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I just finished reading Atonement for the first time. The last few

But also this:
"The title lettering, the illustrated cover, the pages bound--in that word alone she felt the attraction of the neat, limited and controllable form she had left behind when she decided to write a play. A story was direct and simple, allowing nothing to come between herself and her reader--no intermediaries with their private ambitions or incompetence, no pressures of time, no limits on resources. In a story you only had to wish, you only had to write it down and you could have the world; in a play you had to make do with what was available..."
I swear, Orlando keeps coming back to haunt me.


Do no go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Though wise men at their end know dark is right
Because their words had forked no lightning, they
Do not go gentle into that good night

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Wild men, who caught and sang the sun in flight
And learn too late they grieved it on its way
Do not go gentle into that good night

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

And you, my father, there on the sad height
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears I pray
Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Monday, May 9, 2011

No more 9-5s

Apparently, the result of graduate school is that my new best working hours are 8-12 (omne die).

This could be a long summer.

Friday, May 6, 2011

More cool stuff from he(ART) for Life

My friend Carrie is at it again. This summer, she's raising awareness about Alzheimer's by selling art across the country.
By sharing my art and my words I hope to express what I have learned from my experience with Alzheimer's Disease and give insight to what a person with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers face on a daily basis.

Check out Carrie's website at to see the art, learn about the artist and the project, and plan to rendezvous with her on her tour.

(And no, I'm not a publicist -- I just like the projects :-) and the woman creating them.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Small Towns, Quiet Thursdays

I spent the morning doing final proofreading of my thesis in preparation for submitting it to the library. Given my current level of over-saturation with the contents of said thesis, I wasn't looking forward to it.

However, just a fifteen minute drive away, the entire process was salvaged by the beauty of a certain small town, where...

  • You can mark time by the older man jogging laps around the town square while rapping along with his iPod.
  • There are park benches shaded by crape myrtle trees in the perfect blend of sun and shade.
  • There's a handy brick wall for foot propping.
  • Coffee shops have porches and rocking chairs.
  • It's quiet enough to hear the birds.
  • On the crosswalk, you're in as much danger from passing bicycles as from cars.
  • Said coffee shop is a short walk from said square/park.
  • There are noon bells!
  • Even proofing my thesis was somehow peaceful (or soporific, take your pick...)
C'est si bon.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Least Favorite Word

You know how some people have these little habits that just get you down? Like Bernie...

Well, sort of like Bernie.

You know how some people have those little words that just get them down? I'm one of those people.

There are a few words that really make me cringe every time I hear them. I want to play two-year-old and cover my ears. I want to (and sometimes do) say "shhh" very loudly to whoever has just rocked the Ferris Wheel car holding my sense of equanimity.

The culprit?


In all of human history, graduates have struggled with the word "last." Graduation is a time of many lasts. Therefore, this blog shows how the main character, Jen, struggles with the word "last."

(end mockery of freshman English essays.)

If I started counting all the "lasts" coming up in the next few weeks, my ability to function would deteriorate pretty rapidly.

Last writing center tutoring session would become last pump of blue hand sanitizer after a sick undergrad sneezes on my hand, last use of the green pens, last sheet of paper dropped into the paper recycling bin...

Last class would have become last thing I say in a graduate seminar (make it good!), last note I take as part of my Masters education, last time I walk out of this building with my classmates, last time I trip over the step leading out of Tribble while wearing a backpack...

Last time I visit my study carrel before turning in the key would become a form of warped nostalgia about a place I hated and avoided at all costs...

Last thesis forms turned in would become the last time I talk to professors, last time I write something as a masters candidate, last time I am a student, last day of not being in the real world, last day of student discounts and lazy afternoons pretending to do homework, last time I get ink on my fingers while signing a student form as a masters student...

Last, last, last, last, last.


It starts to get a little ridiculous after that point. Any time you feel nostalgia for the act of stubbing your toe on a particular hunk of sidewalk is an appropriate time to stop and reevaluate.

So what to do with all of these (b)last(ed) things?

Maybe I need to take a lesson from Lucy.

(I know, from Chicago to Peanuts in one blog post? Who does that? Me, that's who.)

Some people go through life with the deck chairs facing forward, gazing out where they are going...Others go through life with their deck chair facing backwards, looking at where they've been. Which way is your deck chair facing?

I'm pretty sure my deck chair, assuming I've gotten it unfolded -- I'm so used to a desk chair, you know -- would be facing meta-backward, if that's even possible.

Reverse! reverse!

(Cha-cha slide too? This is getting out of hand...)

It would be cliche to say that accomplishing something necessarily means finishing something. And that's a good thing. Maybe the point is to add the next cliche and say that finishing one thing means starting something else.

Could be good. Could be bad. The possibilities aren't endless, but there are a few.

And every time I think about graduation in this morbid and somebody-please-smack-me way, I'm reminded of a funny quote from three years ago. At my first contra dance when I moved here, the person behind the desk asked me, "Are you a student or a real person?"

Well guess what, friends. In the midst of all the "lasts," next week will be the first time I'm a real person again!

How about that.