Sunday, December 28, 2014

Finally watched To Kill a Mockingbird this weekend... some 10 years after reading the novel for the first time (my review here).  It was astonishingly beautiful!  But I most wanted to share this exquisite opening:

The music, the creative shots, the panning, the san-serif block titles... the whole thing strikes me as incredible for 1962!  I feel like Wes Anderson must have been very inspired by this opening--kinda makes me wish he'd do a black and white film.  Anyway, I thought I would just share that one with you.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Seattle Day

I'm on break, but my boyfriend has to hour and a half away.  So today, when I wanted to visit downtown Seattle, I decided to "take him along" by sending him pics of all the different steps of my adventure - including some of my favorite places.

Step one: Mercury's chai. Always

[Hello, my old frenemy]

Ok, so this is where I got off, but it is also pretty significant for our relationship.  The day I met my boyfriend, he offered to walk me to the bus. It was raining slightly, we got to this covered gate area and stood talking for quite a while about arts and faith.  I watched my bus come, I watched my bus go, I kept talking to this cute boy I had just met.  At one point in the conversation, he leaned against the gate, not realizing it isn't secured, and totally got off balance.  And I took it as a bit of a sign that, as I hoped, this fella may like me.  Turns out...he did :)

The room where we met!

Then I visited the Sheraton's famous Gingerbread Village.  Here was an incredible Seattle replica, complete with a motorized Great Wheel.

Here's another, I loved the Seahawk Crane with a 12th Man Flag, Mrs. Seahawk, and Hawk's nest.

Another had this ode to Up :')

"Typical Tourist" moment

The back side of the Market

And the wheel we took on our first date...

I can't visit the market without a stop to Le Panier

Cafe time calls for a journal moment

And then, after a secret little stop, it was time for a visit to the impressive Seattle Public Library.

Just a few different angles of the library.

I brought my current read...

One more angle from outside...

And then it was back home.
I've missed Seattle, and it was lovely to reconnect with some familiar spots.
Next time, I hope to get some more exploring in to discover new ones.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Grad School: Term 1 of 6

Orientation Week, before the term:

Last week of the term:

I survived my first term of grad work and you guys... I love school!
Teaching is a lot of work, but has been very rewarding thus far. 
I've produced two essays on adaptation that I am proud of,
and that my professors have encouraged me in pursuing further.
I've said this before, but... grad school is hard.
But if I'm going to do something hard, I want it to be what I love.
And I really love school.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Guys! Guys!  Today I got to present my paper on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and it went reeeally well!  My professor said the paper it was based on was "compelling" and I got to have discussion about the form of new media adaptations--"So...the characters can tweet at you?"--and it was amazing!  Also, I had been planning to expand this project into my MA Thesis (a 60 page, 3-chapter document due April 2016) and today my professor told me, "Yah, I think you really should."  I just had to note this small victory.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Dear Samara from one year ago,

Keep. going!  Your crazy idea is just crazy enough to be "compelling"!  I know it seems--especially in the coming weeks--that grad school is unattainable and that you'll never be allowed back in that world.  I know that you're going to go to bed exhausted, bleary-eyed and emotional far too many times.  I know that the future seems very dark--that you'll be waiting eternally and that what you've hoped for will never happen.  But have faith and take courage, because your hard work will open doors and your faith will be answered.

I know that even now you are considering giving up on OSU--it's the most expensive choice and has the earliest application date.  But thank you for not giving up on it, because God knew this interdisciplinary school was exactly where you needed to be.  I know that you are going to hear voices--both in your head and from other people--that this idea isn't "academic enough" and that you just don't have it together.  But by immense grace and running hard after a dream, somehow it does come together.  So don't give up.

As for me, I have to get back to this other crazy paper on Heart of Darkness, Impressionism, and the Lost World (I'm on page 13 of 20 - woohoo!).  But keep your chin up, "When the sun shines, it'll shine out the clearer." :)

Samara Surface
Graduate Teaching Associate
MA Candidate - Literature and Culture
School of Writing, Literature, and Film
Oregon State University

Sunday, December 7, 2014

First Lines: 2014

Here's my 2nd-annual "first lines" round up from the past year.

2014 - Page 1 of 365. 
It's been almost two weeks since my last post. 
It is late, dark, wet and I'm trying to get home as fast as possible. 
A week ago Sunday I got to go to Seattle's biggest Con and it was loads of fun!
[Oh!  Little did I know...]  
Anyone who chats to me long enough is bound to discover I love adaptations.  
And here we have Emma Stone displaying how adulthood feels quite succinctly. 
My favorite of all Shakespeare comedies is Much Ado about Nothing. 
I'm excited to share a little project I've been working on for the past week. 
This place doesn’t smell like home.  
Last October, I participated in an October blog challenge called "31 Days." 
You are one of my heroes
This day and every day
but especially today. 
If you're looking for me this week, I'll be paper writing next to this crackling fire...
It's so fun looking back at just snippets of the past year and yet still being able to piece that year's identity together.  And this year... this year has been a good year.
"I'm having an emotional response to art!  
Is that normal?"
- Tom Haverford 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ethical Gift-Giving - How to shop smart!

"Every day, the dollars we spend are a vote for the kind of world that we want."

Last year I did a sort of shopping guide for bibliophiles.  This year, I wanted to do one on ethical gift-giving, but did not get to it before Black Friday.  And then I came across Relevant's version and thought I would share it here.  

Shopping ethically can seem so complicated--like, does this mean I have to make soap from scratch and only wear hippie-styled, fair trade ponchos?  But I've decided to educate myself and incrementally adjust my shopping habits.  But the best thing anyone can do is simply start educating themselves.  Contrary to my initial assumption, it doesn't even necessarily cost more.  

So if you care about what your money is voting for, I'd encourage you to explore some of the resources Relevant suggests.  Get gifts for the people you love with the knowledge you're not hurting anyone else or this planet.

And Happy Advent!

* * * * * * * * * * 

Just an update that if a quality, new bag is on the list of someone you might know (or yourself), I just happened upon this pretty cool company called better life bags.  You can check out their awesome mission here.

* * * * * * * * * *

Second update that I just made a new pinterest board for this because I keep finding fun new companies that give back.  If you'd be interested in contributing to that board, let me know!  Cheers!

Monday, December 1, 2014

If you're looking for me this week, I'll be paper writing next to this crackling fire...

This is our common room.  They've decorated it up for the holidays and someone stokes the fire every hour or so.  It's marvelous!

As for the papers themselves, I'm working on a 10-page piece that is half-review of theories of adaptation and half-application to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  Then I have a 20-page piece for next week looking at the use of impressionism in Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now--also using adaptation theories.   Those are the biggies between now and break.  Wish me luck!

And, finally, Happy Advent!


Update: Just submitted the first paper of my grad school career!
Also, who ever decided the term for "approaching something as a whole" should be "holistic" rather than "wholistic"?  Lame.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Just work"

This is a follow up to last night's post.  I'm assigning my students some videos on Brandon Stanton (the man behind HONY).  In the process of research, I came across this interview:

"Just work! You know, don't wait! Everybody's waiting till they have the perfect idea to start working... Even if you have an inkling of what you want to do, start moving towards it and it's going to flesh itself out through the process of moving towards the goal and by the time you get to where you're gonna be, it's not gonna look anything like it did when you sat on the couch thinking about it. And if you wait until it's perfect in your head till you get off the couch and start working on it, that's never going to happen." 
- Brandon Stanton

I haven't quite succumbed to Christmas music... this album is helping me remain stalwart!  [And it's just beautifully precious!]

Catch their amazing backstory on Britain's Got Talent here and here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New Life

I remember first watching this episode... I was all ready for another cutesy episode, maybe an update on Bing or Darcy........what I was not expecting was for a cute little vlog series to ask "tough questions" about my life choices.  At the time I was 22, living at home, working a safe job.  And sweet as can be, Jane waltzes in asking "What's keeping you here?"  I think I gasped.  I remember feeling like I had walked into a wall.  For the next year, I was asking that question of so many areas of my life.
Living at home (which is not at all bad but sometimes, as Jane points out, a defense mechanism)?  I moved out and into a flat with a my best friend.  I spent time and money on crafting a space.  I learned a little bit of how to live with someone - it's an art!  There were Doctor Who marathons and parties and so many late night conversations ending in simultaneous laughter and tears.
Stuck in relationships running on separate tracks?  I made new friends and realized that being single did not mean I couldn't have fun.  There were road trips and "Galentines" and endless movie nights.  And my friends were amazing on days that weren't.  When I was visiting a friend and received some bad news, she ran the whole gamut in caring for me - tissues, talking, going out on the town, cozying up in sweats to watch Once Upon a Time.  On a particularly bad night I walked into my flatmate's room, showed her my phone screen and her response was, "I'll go get the wine and dark chocolate."  My sister took me out one day and just sat with me in a silence that acknowledged things were not "okay" - and that it was "okay" to feel that way.
And then the big one... What about going back to school?  From the time I was rejected from Oxford, it took me a year and a half to answer that question.  I wrestled with it.  I so badly wanted back into that world, but was so afraid at the same time.  Afraid of spending more emotional energy only to hear "no."  Afraid of moving away.  Afraid of how much work it would take.  But one day, I was sitting across from my boss and I just knew the answer.  I had to go back to school.  And it was grueling.  This time a year ago... whew.  Let's just say, I am still shocked I am in grad school.  Shocked, but so grateful.

The people I look up to have moved boldly to disentangle themselves from anything keeping them safely nestled in the status quo.  They embrace change without fear and keep working through the mundane and the high-pressure without losing sight of their goal.  I want to live like that.  I want to be with people who live like that, and for me that question begins with "What's keeping you here?"  Now, I feel like I am in the place and doing the work that is not "keeping" me back, but propelling me forward...and it's one wild ride!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mini-review: Eleanor & Park

This is a book I read several months ago, but due to a conversation with a colleague I realized I had never reviewed it and that I probably should.  

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Title:  Eleanor & Park

Author:  Rainbow Rowell

Published:  2012

Year I read it:  2014

One sentence summary:  This 1980's, YA, Romance isn't what you'd expect; it's about red-headed, socially awkward, physically and emotionally impoverished Eleanor and half-American, half-Korean, cool-kid Park - two different "outsiders" who discover that true love means becoming "insiders" of something beautiful.

Interesting fact:  Though it won critical acclaim and awards like Amazon's Teen Book of the Year, Amazon's Top Ten Book of the Year, and Goodreads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Book of the Year, the novel was censored in some American high schools. NPR addressed this in their pop-culture blog, saying, ""What's worrying about treating Eleanor & Park as a nasty book, or a dirty book, or an immoral book, is that it transforms talking about how to survive ugliness into something that's no different from ugliness itself. It makes the act of telling a story about rising above misery a miserable thing."

Three reasons to read it:
  • This book feels like John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska) and Stephen Chbosky (Perks of Being a Wallflower) had a sister and she wrote a high-school romance set in 1980's Nebraska.  I say this because she captures the interiority of adolescence beautifully, aware of the dark, but not overwhelmed by it.  Alternating between Eleanor & Park as narrators, she carefully and graciously uncovers the different ways we suffer pain - be it poverty, racism, abuse, or bullying.  It is a profound book. 
  • I read this book in one sitting.  It's that compelling.
  • I hadn't read a true Romance for a while - a book about falling in love.  Romance was usually incidental to the fantasy adventure or contemporary novel I was reading.  But Rowell does an incredibly job recounting what it's like to fall in love for the first time.  She takes a few pages just to convey the sensation of what it's like to first hold someone's hand.  It may sound sappy, but it is a breathtaking story of what love is like.

One reason you maybe shouldn't:
  • The story does get dark.  There is mature language in an abusive context, which could definitely be a trigger to some.
Great quotes:
Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.

Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.

“I want everyone to meet you. You're my favorite person of all time.” 
I don't like you, Park," she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. "I..." - her voice nearly disappeared - "think I live for you."  He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow.  "I don't think I even breathe when we're not together," she whispered. "Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it's been like sixty hours since I've taken a breath. That's probably why I'm so crabby, and why I snap at you. All I do when we're apart is think about you, and all I do when we're together is panic. Because every second feels so important. And because I'm so out of control, I can't help myself. I'm not even mine anymore, I'm yours, and what if you decide that you don't want me? How could you want me like I want you?" He was quiet. He wanted everything she'd just said to be the last thing he heard. He wanted to fall asleep with 'I want you' in his ears. 
“Nothing before you counts," he said. "And I can't even imagine an after." 

Saturday, November 15, 2014


I know I've been a bit neglectful on here.  I'm sorry - I really do miss it.  Due to the pace of the next few weeks, I probably won't be here as much as I'd like.  But I'm determined not to turn this space into a complaint over how much I have to do.  It is a lot.  But I had a good conversation with a colleague about how we may be stressed out, but over things we actually care about.  We chose school over a million other things we could have done.  And we aren't stressing over a bosses concerns.  For the most part, these are our own passions and instead of performing for someone else, our job is simply to make other people care.  So, as I go off and try to be productive, I'm trying to keep that mentality.  I may have a lot to do, but I chose this and I love this.  And for that, I count myself lucky.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Today was full of beautiful things!

It all started a few weeks ago when the boyfriend said, "I want to take you on a fancy date!"  Well, if you insist...  So after taking the time to get dolled up this morning, it was off to Portland.  He planned the whole day and it was lovely.  He took me to the Portland Art Museum.  We saw Cezane's and Degas's and Renoir's and Van Gogh's and Monet's and Picasso's--we saw Rodin statues!  Then we indulged in delightful food!  He knows I've been studying for a French exam next week and found a darling, delicious French restaurant, Little Bird Bistro (un petit oiseau).  If you get the chance, check it out.  I had chicken fried trout with pickled radish and carrots drizzled in the most exquisite aioli.  For dessert, we shared an apple cheddar crumble with apple cider ice cream - ah! Delectable!  Then we took in the beauty of Nolan's scientific imaginings... a wondrous thing to be sure.  "Love is the one thing that transcends time and space."  Sigh... The film made me so glad I live on planet Earth--and so, so grateful for community!

Like I said, full of beautiful things.  And now, off to dreamland.  Bonne nuit!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November 1st

You are one of my heroes
This day and every day
but especially today.

Today, may you feel even a measure
of the sun's warmth on your face.
May you taste the beautiful things of life--
tea, laughter, wine, color, chocolate,
dresses with pockets, stories,
and a host of other wonders.

May you catch a glimpse of Meaning
walking through the garden of your life,
softly touching the flowers, yes, but also
the soil, the roots with Her bare feet.

you are loved.
And yesterday,
you are loved.
And tomorrow,
and tomorrow's tomorrow,
you are infinitely loved.

Mystery brought you forth, and She
sends Meaning to see you through.
And in all, They revel
in the intrinsic goodness that is you.
And in every tomorrow
you are loved.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 31]

that while its so exciting to have her own place and live on her own... it is ten times better to have guests* come visit!!

Cami and Beks are here for the weekend and I'M. SO. HAPPY!!  Off to the weekend festivities!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 30]

that her curious tendencies can get her in trouble.  Like how stumbling across this article and then deciding to pull up a clip or two from The Shining - on the night before Halloween - was maybe not a good idea.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 29]

more about the Marvel Universe - and finds it fascinating!!  Between the new Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer(s) [here, in case you're not one of the 50 million viewers thus far], yesterday's Marvel event,  more rumors of Cumberbatch playing Dr. Strange [he was a rumored choice even before Joaquin was selected], and getting to know comic-obsessed MA students [one fellow student is even doing his Thesis project on the rhetoric of the comic format]... she has been learning a lot more!  Her most recent exciting discovery is learning a bit about the new pair of faces in the upcoming Avengers sequel: Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).  They're the twin children of Magneto (from X-men), though both casting and creative decisions have all but ruled out a MCU / X-men crossover.  In the comics, Scarlet Witch marries Vision, who will played by the brilliant Paul Bettany in Ultron even though he heretofore has voiced JARVIS for the IronMan suit.  Annnyway... she's really enjoying making these connections and getting super stoked for the next Avengers film.

Also, based on a conversation she had with a fellow student today, it is safe to say that after Lana Del Rey's "Once Upon A Dream" and Marvel's eerie adaptation of Pinocchio's "I've Got No Strings" - the film industry (which seems to now be half owned by Disney) is moving to re-examine the darker, ironic side of our childhood experiences.  Just wait till you hear a dark rendition of "The Circle of Life" on Disney's Star Wars: Episode VII.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 28]

how strangely fun it is to review some of her older work. To gather examples for her students, she decided to go through a few pieces to glean the nuggets that will help her students. In doing so, she recalled the lightbulb moments that led to some of her favorite pieces from undergrad. Despite noticing the errors, it was as much fun as catching up with old friends. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 27]

that Taylor Swift is even more impressive than she had thought previously. Seriously - wow! #1989

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 26]

(actually bonus fact from yesterday during the zoo visit), that a penguins mating process begins with side long glances.  The female responds by shuffling sideways over to the male, who then flaps his wings really fast.  Doesn't that sound way better than "facebook official"?  Yah, penguins are just the funnest.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 25]

that zoos don't lose their charm once you're an adult.  In fact, accompanied by a sweet boyfriend who gets excited over all types of animals, they're even more fun!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 24]

all about rhetoric & composition studies.  Her MA is another track (Literature & Culture), but she got to attend a conference celebrating the current movements in the field.  It was fascinating!  Shout out especially to Aspasia, one of the first, prominent, female rhetoricians.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 23]

that black eyeliner may actually work on her.  She's avoided black for 5+ years, preferring dark brown or bronze.  But today she decided to play with some makeup (full disclosure: it was to practice some techniques for Halloween ;) and came across a black eye-liner pencil that came with one of those gift bags full of samples.  So, she gave it a whirl and what do you know?  Not too shabby.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 22]

that Annie's white-cheddar mac-n-cheese is good... but with parmesan sprinkled on top it's extra good!  This is as foodie as she gets haha :)

Today Samara Learned... [Day 21]

all about paratexts!  She was aware of them before, but today afforded a field trip to Special Collections at the Library, where her class got to examine the paratexts of early 19th C books.  Incredibly nerdy and wonderful :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 19]

that if you miss the exit for Corvallis, it is 11 miles until the next exit off I-5! #mistakesyouonlymakeonce

Friday, October 17, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 17]

How to incorporate the Lizzie Bennet Diaries into class more. Today, she had to present on research methods & resources. What example did she use? The LBD - combining teaching goals with personal research. Two birds, meet her one stone.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 16]

that she wouldn't necessarily die if she rode her bicycle to class with the basket laden with heavy books.  Heretofore, she had ridden her bike when only bearing smaller burdens, but today she ventured to make the journey with her full satchel.  And she survived.

And she doesn't know why this post came out so archaic-sounding.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 15]

how to embrace the "I have a massive run in my tights, but it's totally cool and intentional" Oregonian thing.  At least, she took her first step.

Today Samara Learned... [Day 14]

that Heart of Darkness is even more intertextual than she had previously imagined.  Whether intentional or not, Conrad includes some references that heightens his own brilliant writing.  His famous novella - seriously, he packs the punch in just 77 pages - is a frame narrative, with the life of one central character relayed by a sailor named Marlowe to a group, including an unnamed narrator who is relaying it all to the audience.  This layered narrative creates a powerful sense of uncertainty and ambiguity that is as central to this book as its plot - perhaps even more so.
Anyway, that's not what she learned, what she discovered today is the book's possible connection to another famed, framed-narrative.  The first line, the first two words of the novella, indicate the ship on which the story is being relayed is called "[t]he Nellie."  Nelly just happens to be the name of one of the main narrators in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, and, infamously, one of the most unreliable narrators in pre-1900 English literature.  Coincidence? She likes to think in literature, there is no such thing.*

* See "Tradition and the Individual Talent" by TS Eliot.  [I think, to an extant, the literary tradition bleeds into each new generation of authors.]

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 13]

all about the "Paramount Decision" and Hollywood history at a lecture she attended at the Humanities Center.  To sum up, a US Supreme Court Decision in 1941 ruled to end Studio monopolies, which had multiple consequences.  Due to this decision, in conjunction with the rise of television in the post-war era, movie sales slumped dramatically, starting in 1941 and lasting all the way till 1972 when "The Godfather" single-handedly saved Hollywood.  But that time of transition just after the war was a dark and fascinating time for the film industry and the lecturer illuminated it's history in an enticing way.  She can't wait to learn more!

Today Samara Learned... [Day 12]

that the local Episcopalian "Contemporary Service" ... didn't have the demographic she was expecting.  But, that's ok, because there were led breathing exercises based of a meditation on Psalm 23.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 11]

that goodbyes with her boyfriend only get harder :(

Today Samara Learned... [Day 10]

that David Bowie was in The Prestige.  One of those things it takes a while to get your mind around.  Anyway, after watching this clip (with Bowie, Jackman, and Serkis), she's very tempted to watch it again.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 9]

that she saves cards and letters from people for a reason.  Because some days are just too frustrating or saddening to go alone.  Reading or re-reading letters remind her of the things that truly define her and of the courage she had forgot she had.  And even hundreds of miles away from people who love her, she can feel close to them through those words.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 8]

about Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).  She learned that this is the technical term for the tingling she occasionally gets on the back of her neck and head.  She learned that not everyone experiences this sensation, which she found surprising and fascinating.  Furthermore, she found that scientists do not know what causes ASMR or what percentage of people experience it.  They also can't quantify it with data, but believe that ASMR could have many positive benefits, such as relieving stress and anxiety or helping people sleep better.

A student mentioned his interest in this field just in passing.  In one of her many flights of academic fancy, Samara is now wondering if she could join a team of neurologists to help lead the way to discovering a phenomenal break through in the field...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 7]

that her couch has bewitching properties.  If she attempts homework on it, at some point she *will* be taking a nap on there - intended or otherwise.  Reading theory is especially conducive to zzzzz...

Today Samara Learned... [Day 6]

where to find a free copy of the New York Times.  She is very happy!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 5]

that Naturalism can still be beautiful.

By pre-disposition, Samara is a Romantic... deeply and truly.  In her experiences with Naturalism, she has found things to appreciate, but not enjoy--not marvel at.  That was until today.  She just finished the last of a trio of short stories / novellas by Stephen Crane, and this last one, "The Blue Hotel," was astonishing!  It felt very Greek myth meets film noir - but set in the American west with a very Crane-esque sensibility.  Only three characters had names, and both the setting and the writing was sparse.  But it was brilliant!  Brooding from the beginning, it escalated into a dark observation on what could happen when 5 men, with ego and a machismo to defend, are confined in a small space together.

Well done, Crane.  Apparently this was one of Hemingway's favorite short stories, which makes sense.  Anyway, Samara may not be won over by Naturalism... but is grateful to see such a strong candidate for it.

Today Samara Learned... [Day 4]

[This is Saturday's post, because I haven't gone to bed yet.]

that thought long distance relationships are hard, going old school and watching a movie while on the phone with the other person is a delight.  It's so fun to experience something together from across the miles. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 3]

That she has a bad habit of holding grudges against texts.  Specifically against "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."  Story time...
When Samara was 12, her middle school English teacher - who was really instrumental in igniting her enthusiasm for literature - assigned Washington Irving's The Sketchbook - which included the aforementioned "Legend of Sleepy Hollow."  Samara read "The Legend," and liked it.  But when Samara took the in class quiz on the story, she failed.  Why?  Because she had read the story...AS AN ACTUAL LEGEND.  You know, the kind with fantastical elements and where things do not have to have rational explanations.  Well, appeals to her most favoritest English teacher fell on deaf ears.  The story, apparently can be explained by a dude just dressing up and putting a pumpkin on his head as a mask.  BORING!  You promised a Legend, Mr. Irving.  And yes, at 12 years old, maybe Samara should have noticed the ironical bits.  But "Rip Van Winkle" is an actual legend with fantastical elements, so what was she supposed to do?  Sigh... stupid quiz.
Ok... so what does that have to do with today? Well, guess what one of Samara's teachers decided to assign for her first grad school reading assignment?  Yup.  #LiteraryPSTD #12YearsAGrudge

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 2]

that this modernism class could be very good for her. She got to talk to her professor both before & after class & he was complimentary, which probably means he will be stretching her. But that is why she is here. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Today Samara Learned... [Day 1]

Last October, I participated in an October blog challenge called "31 Days."  I chose to do a mini-book review every day for a whole month.  It was a really valuable experience for me and I knew I wanted to take on another challenge this year.  But I also knew I would be starting out my first term of grad courses and beginning to teach.  So with that in mind I decided to pick a "challenge" that would be more doable.  I will be posting every day this month with an answer to the question: "what have I learned today?"  Answers can be one sentence or 3 paragraphs, they could be something I've learned in classes or something I've learned about myself.  I just have to post (at least) one thing I've learned that day.  As an aside, I've thrown this into the third person because I believe it will allow me to make more direct observations.  So, with that prompt in mind, here October goes...

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

... that answering student's questions makes her feel successful.  Yes, there are occasionally questions from people not paying attention.  But, for the most part, most of the time it shows students are engaged with what they're discussing in class.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

March 30th

Dear Sir,

We met six months ago today.  I hadn’t the faintest idea that I’d meet someone special at Comic Con.  I wasn’t even looking.  And little did I know where that “Hey 11” would lead me.

Little did I know that you wouldn’t wait 2 days to ask me out.  Little did I know how brave and resolute you would be in getting to know me.  And little did I know what a compassionate, witty, narrative-loving friend I had gained in you.

But I know now, and I am infinitely grateful.

Grateful for text messages, for that one email, for "important life questions," for you getting to know my family and friends, for our - and my! - first real date, for movie nights, for the Renn Faire, for Portland date days, for bow-tie origami notes, for Pride and Prejudice read aloud's, and for all of the laughter!

We’ve been officially “together” for just over 2 months now.  We’re only at the beginning, but oh what a beginning it’s been.  So thank you!


Sunday, September 28, 2014

I have tried to pack a lot into my last week before grad school, but a theme emerged. In the last week, I have

...finished rereading Pride & Prejudice - with a certain Fella, I might add
...watched the 2005 adaptation with said Fella 
...finished reading The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet 
...and tonight, introduced a friend to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Yah. I think I made the right decision about what to study. 

Observations from a furtive visit to the English offices the day before Fall term... 

Hushed murmers betray frustration 
I mouth my presentation in practice 
I get to play hero by unjamming the sole printer
Glad to put those skills from a corporate office to use
I print materials & sort them for tomorrow's 9 am class
2 piles: 1 for the 23 of them, 1 for me
They're nearly the same height
I double check that everything is saved somewhere in the cloud
I scribble lists. Type lists. Cross out lists. 
The most important conundrum - what am I going to wear? - continues
And mostly I wonder, "Am I really doing this?"

After tomorrow it's all a torrent. An exciting torrent. But...Is anyone ever ready for these kind of adventures? 
I am as ready as I'll ever be. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Initial Thoughts: Breaking Bad

Tonight I finished Breaking Bad.  Yes, gruesome and graphic, I know--and though I cannot recommend it widely, I do have to post a few thoughts on the series' significance.  So nearly a year after it's finale, here's my take.

In Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan and his team have given us the tragedy of our time par excellence.  Being deemed the crown jewel of the 2nd golden age of TV, it has created such a high standard of literary television that I expect it will be a primary text to study for many years to come.  From its always meaningful production values to inventive cinematography usually reserved for film, this show leaves nothing to carelessness.

And oh the performances!  Bryan Cranston's Walter White is a tragic hero with the enormous fatal flaw of hubris.  When soliloquizes about when the perfect moment to die would have been, he embodies Lear; when expecting gratitude and respect for his "triumphs," Agamemnon; and when growing desperate to retain control, Macbeth.  The audience watches Walter weaving, ever so slowly, the tapestry of a self-fulfilled prophecy.  But the only performance to outshine Cranston is Aaron Paul's Jesse Pinkman.  All I can say is that throughout these 5 seasons, my #1 recurring thought was, "I love Jesse and just want to give him a hug."  Other performances support these two brilliantly, but I don't have space to do them justice.

Yet in the midst of meteoric performances and writing that made my hair stand on end, the show remained grounded in the midst of the every day.  In the first season, a character made me cry by setting the table.  This is where the Breaking Bad tragedy meets morality play.  Just before the English renaissance, the most popular form of play was the morality play, a story with a main character commonly referred to as "Everyman" who would face a variety of temptations.  Though Walt becomes "Heisenberg," he can't escape his mundane "Everyman" qualities.  Which is what makes the show so compelling because it's easy to see how you, I, anyone could succumb to darkness.  No, maybe not high-school-chemistry-teacher-turns-meth-kingpin darkness... but giving ourselves over to pride, fear, hatred, and manipulative control?  Yes, to those, "Everyman" is susceptible.

For me, the real take-away from the show's success lies in it's ability to ratchet up the incredibly high stakes while keeping the scope as limited as possible.  There's been a tendency in film & TV lately to set the stakes by making the scope wide, but I think that rarely works well.  For example, it seems like each summer blockbuster (think Marvel and DC) and now even other TV shows (one of Doctor Who's weaknesses) have to threaten at least a major city, if not a whole planet, in order to convey the gravity of the conflict our heroes must resolve.  I would argue a far superior story can be found in a film with a narrower scope that can still bring the stakes to boil.  Take the Bourne Identity, for instance, where there's no threat that the world itself is ending, just the life of one man - but which is so significant and compelling, that it might as well be the end of the world.  And that is what Breaking Bad is able to convey.  Yes, the body count rises with successive seasons, but the central conflict is always "how will this family survive?"

I'm not arguing that this is a "good show" - if you want one of those, check out Sherlock or Firefly.  But it is a great one.  In studies on narrative, the critics discuss character, plot, and style.  This one excels at all three.  So for all it's questionable content, I have to marvel at it's impeccable form.  It deserved every Emmy and accolade bestowed on it, but more than that, I hope it taught film and show makers alike that we expect more from our stories.  The bar has been set very high; good luck "breaking" that.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

No 105 - day 1

This place doesn’t smell like home.  Well, not yet at least.  I have candles going, a room diffuser, and am in search of the spray mix of water and the “purification” essential oil.  But the clothes smell strange from travelling.  I’m slowly but surely washing all the dishes from their “cardboard & newsprint” essence.  But this will take some getting used to.


Keys.  Routes.  Pre-set stations.  So many strange new things.


I won’t be pumping gas or paying sales tax for two years.  Oregon is our border state, and yet it’s so different.  Obviously it’s infamously hipster, but it’s more than that.  There’s just a different way, rhythm, pace of life. 

Apartment living is different.  My unit is only 450 sq. feet – which has caused me to become creative.  But more than the size is the uber close proximity to everyone and everything else.  My bedroom window is on level with a sidewalk, so that passerby’s conversations are just a few feet from me.  And just outside my front window, I get an uncomfortably intimate view of the neighbors’ comings and goings.  This will probably be slightly less awkward in the fall when the windows will be closed… but it’s still quite an adjustment from the privacy of the homes and condo I’ve lived in before.