Sunday, 4 March 2012


Sorry for being a lazy blogger, AGAIN--February got crazy. March is crazy. Yesterday we hosted our 22nd annual graduate student run art history symposium, and it went really well. I slept for 10 hours last night--for the past few weeks I've been waking up at, say, 3 am, panicking about something I was forgetting, or something sympo-related that I neglected to do. I am the chair of the grants committee, which means that I'm STILL not DONE. (A lot of photocopying, receipt-gathering, signing stuff, filling out online paperwork, and running to a couple financial offices this week!) All the committee chairs were my year, which is great, because we get along really well, but working with friends can be a total pain. I felt like we all had to be super polite and placating the whole time, when it's less of a worry with colleagues if you ask them to do something without prefacing it with "I know you're really busy, but if you could please get the caterers invoice to me, because I actually needed it yesterday, but you're doing a great job, blah blah." And after being on campus for 12 hours yesterday, I need to do some grocery shopping and cleaning and gym-ing and such today. It was worth it, though! Our six student speakers were great, and we give them an honorarium, which is really rare. All of them told me that we were super organized (ha ha!) and nice, and some of them are now thinking of applying here. It makes me glad to be a part of this department.

ANYWAY. I've been having fun these past few weeks too (as well as grading 98 exams on Leonardo, some of which were trainwrecks and some of which were excellent). One of my friends here loves musicals as much as I do, so we went to two really great things: a sing-along Sound of Music, and Bernadette Peters in concert. Hence the title of this post: divas. I've seen the Sound of Music about 871937 times (rough estimate) but this was the first time on the big-screen, and it was totally fun! They included the words, and we had certain things we had to do during it--like boo the Nazis, hiss for the Baroness (although I think she has the best lines), and act out Do-Re-Mi. And what I realized was not only how much I want to go Salzburg (and walk around it wearing nothing but drapes), but how gorgeous Julie Andrews was (and still is, really). Her skin is flawless, especially on the big-screen. I honestly don't think she has pores. We watched the movie a week later during Thursday Girls Night (mani-pedis, facials, wine) with more friends and we all agreed that Julie Andrews is a fox. And Bernadette Peters! She is 64, and my legs will never look that good--she was wearing a glittery dress with a hiiiigh slit. She also sings better than I will ever do anything. And all of her movements were so dramatic, and diva-y, that it was pretty fabulous.

Divas don't just occur onstage--now that I think about it, I've been dealing with a lot of academic divas over the past month. Some of them mean well, but are just dramatic--and some don't mean well. We had a speaker a few weeks ago as part of our regular lecture series, and they always have lunch with the grad students on the day, and she had zero interest in talking to us, either small talk or about our research. She was a prime example of what I've started referring to as "East Coast pretension". It got so awkward that we just resorted to asking her questions about her work. I'm reasonably certain that I'm not a diva, as I have little patience for that. But it's not always bad. And I think assertive, confident women sometimes get unfairly cast as divas, which is, well, unfair.

Slightly related, in terms of musicals--I went to see In the Heights this week and it was FANTASTIC. I suppose there were divas in that too, but I am so impressed with Lin-Manuel Miranda in general that I just wanted to mention how good it was. It made me miss NYC something fierce. (NYC is probably the diva capital of the universe.)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Grandmother Ego Boost

I got back to Indiana yesterday around the same time that two of my friends did, so we took the shuttle from the airport together. We'd all been interviewing, so we had stories to swap--of heinous grad students, of awkward encounters with professors, and of the moments where we really clicked with an academic or got to meet one of our scholarly idols (I did! And so help me, it was cool.) It's a weird process, as all interviews are. So much preparation, so much mascara application, and so much hoping that you're not going to do something awkward or uneducated. The thing that I have to remember is that these are academics, and they are therefore a little socially awkward, so I should just embrace this and roll with it. I don't know how this topic came up, but one of us said something about our grandmothers and job interview advice, and it went something like this:

Friend: my grandmother always tells me that schools would be lucky to have me because of my smile, and my "perfect teeth". I don't think Dr. [name redacted] cares about my teeth though.
Me: I got the teeth thing too! Mine told me that interviews were easier for me than "homely people" because I could just smile and people would hire me.
Friend 2: well, mine told me that I should be a newscaster because she thinks with my face I should be on TV!

And then we all giggled about this, but it got me thinking about grandmothers, great-aunts, and the like--people who think you're infallible when you are really fallible, and how this is such a wonderful thing to have. And sometimes, when you are feeling particularly aimless, dumb, or unprepared, it's exactly what you need. Yes, parents do it too, but nothing beats a grandmother in your corner. I remember I made the mistake of calling my gram on Valentines Day a few years ago, and she asked whether I had a man to buy me candy. I said no, while mentally banging my head on the wall, and she said, "oh, you can buy your own candy! You don't need a MAN!" Grandmothers don't let you have a pity party for yourself. They know that we're smart, and brave, and awesome. Maybe we should just remember that we are awesome, too.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

the Best Laid Plans...

I just got on the Amtrak in Hudson, en route to New York City, and just BROKE into a train car. Another guy and I were looking for seats, so we just kept going down the train and then there was a locked door, and we both went, "oh, what the hell?" and unlocked it, and found ourselves in an empty car. So here I am, furtively typing, waiting to be forced back to another car to share a seat with an old biddy socialite or a surly businessman. Until then, though, my view of the river is perfect. Gosh, I miss this place (the Hudson River Valley, not NYC).

I actually wasn't supposed to be in the area at all. I was supposed to be flying into Newark tonight from Indianapolis--but, because I hate living a simple life (untrue), here's what happened. I was in Boston last week, and was supposed to return to Indi for 3 days of class, then fly to Newark this week. But I got some manner of horrible flu and was so tired and wobbly on Sunday that I just knew that flying wouldn't work. So my saintlike friend and hostess drove me from the 'burbs of Boston to outside Albany, where I got to spend three days with my saintlike aunt and uncle. It was actually awesome, especially since after 24 hours there I was able to eat again and felt less fuzzy. (I don't know if it was fever or what, but I was having difficulty concentrating and focusing over the weekend. Another reason why flying from Boston to Chicago to Indi on Superbowl Sunday would have been asking for trouble.)

Tomorrow I have four PhD interviews (at the same place) that I am slightly prepared for but am mostly panicked about, and then I get to spend all day Friday in NYC. If anything, this visit has reinforced why I miss this part of the state/country. I miss my family, I miss being close to my college friends, I miss Amtrak, I miss bodies of water, and I even miss the bustle of a bigger city.

So send me scholarly vibes for tomorrow! I'm going to listen to some Amanda Palmer now and type up my interview questions. Over the past few days I've read The Help, read an Agatha Christie, and almost finished a Brother Cadfael mystery. Didn't miss art history too much. Oh, and watched 3 episodes of The West Wing (Season 1) this morning with my uncle. Greatest TV show ever? I think so. This post is all over the place. Blame it on the fever, I guess.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

I'm Back! Sort of.

Hi, everyone! I know it's been awhile since I've posted and I do heartily apologize for the radio silence, but it was sort of necessary. I needed to not write for awhile. One thing that grad school crushed out of me last semester was the joy of writing, and when I was home over winter break I had other things I wanted to do--Christmas things, family things, friend things, none of which involved computers. It was a perfect break. It was a necessary break. I did have to spend some of it writing PhD applications (ask me sometime about how this system is a way to leech money from underpaid students...anyway) but most of break was just that--a break. My mom and sister and I went to Toronto, which was totally fun, and my favorite aunt and cousins came out for a visit. I'm in the third week of classes now and am slowly motivating myself. I'm only enrolled in one class this semester--on 19th century European art, totally cool--and grading for a class on Renaissance "Giants" (Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, and the other guys in the band), and working on my very vague thesis. I have to knock out an abstract for that this weekend.

But I am significantly less busy (so far) than last semester, so am planning on being a better blogger, hopefully with more fun things to say than "today I lesson planned and read theory and ate my dinner standing next to my kitchen sink." I'm not used to this leisure time, and need to be more productive with it (read: volunteering at an animal shelter) instead of knitting fingerless gloves and watching PBS series' (DOWNTON! NORTH AND SOUTH! SHERLOCK!).

And as far as updates go, today was pretty perfect. It's Burns Night, when Scots--and likeminded friends--toast the haggis and use it as an excuse to drink. I had my two classes today, then two meetings, then went to the Irish Lion, which is one of my most favorite places in town. It's a pub, and is built almost like a railroad apartment, in that it's kind of long and rectangular. It's just cozy--warm wood bannisters, comfortable benches, deer heads on the walls (kind of ehh, but still), and a copper ceiling, with a really well-stocked whiskey selection. I went with four friends and we reminisced about Anglo-travels and ate and drank and had a lovely time. I had a snakebite (Guinness + strongbow, I always ordered this in Norwich, because they added blackcurrent syrup to it, yum) and lamb stew in a bread bowl. Really, really good comfort food. We split a piece of Baileys cake and a slice of whiskey pie.

I like Robert Burns well enough, and it is his birthday today--hence, Burns Night. I remember reading "To a Mouse" in a high school English class, and always loved how "tim'rous beastie" sounded. My grandmother has said to me multiple times, "well, as Bobby Burns said, "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men, gang aft agley," when I was grumpy about things not going as I wanted them to. Or this exchange from PG Wodehouse's "Indian Summer of an Uncle"
[Jeeves has just quoted Burns]
Wooster: "Never mind about the poet Burns."
Jeeves: "No, sir."
Wooster: "Forget the poet Burns."
Jeeves: "Very good, sir."
Wooster: "Expunge the poet Burns from your mind."
Jeeves: "I will do so immediately, sir."

ANYWAY, this preamble of Burns related things is to preface how delighted I was, after leaving the pub full of warm bread and warming beverage, to climb into a friend's car and realize that we had come at the perfect time, because Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" was on. So we turned it up quite loud, and drove through the rainy streets and listened to Keillor's soothing voice tell about Burns and read a poem about winter. There is not much better than that.

Will try and update soon--I'm traveling a bit for interviews in the next few weeks, so that might spice it up a bit.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


So I'll be back to blogging in about a week, but until then I'm going to fall off the face of the world a little bit. The fact that I am writing this at 1:45 am when I have to get up for class in 5 1/2 hours should tell you the sort of week I'm having--48 papers graded in time to get 48 finals tomorrow, grades to figure out and submit, 20 pages of a HIDEOUS theory paper written, 20 pages left to write for that and other papers, books to read, facts to check, Christmas gifts to procur, two PhD personal statements crafted with four to go, a writing sample to edit, recommenders to remind, and a Sunday afternoon flight to catch. My last paper is due on the 13th, but I'm going home on the 11th because 1. I really, really want to go home, having not been there since August, and 2. one of my friends volunteered to print my final.

I'm in a much better frame of mind after ordering pizza for dinner, knocking out six pages of writing tonight, doing a solid months worth of laundry (hey, I'll have clean underwear tomorrow! Excellent!) listening to a ridiculous amount of Michael Buble's Christmas songs, and making lists.

This is my favorite time of year, and I'm sad I haven't been able to get into much of a Christmas-y mood, but hopefully that will happen soon. No tree here, no time to put up my lights, and it's been sleeting. One thing that is reassuring is that all of my friends are crazying out, since all of us are grading or teaching or working at the museum, and my friends who aren't at school are super busy with work, so I feel less bad about being a terrible communicator for a week. We started saying "you are on crazy pills" which then turned into "you are on cra pills" which then turned into "CRA PILLS." Art historian catchphrases?

Send me good, scholarly, multi-tasking vibes. I need them. And I'll send some to you! See you all in the middle of the month.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Wocka Wocka Wocka

I will never stop loving the Muppets.

In point of fact, how could someone NOT love the Muppets? The jokes are witty, the songs are catchy, the stories make you a better, kinder person. The Muppets taught me that it's okay to be different, that laughter always helps, and that if you work together and stick with your friends, things will turn out just fine. I'm approaching finals week, have forty papers to grade for Monday and about 30 pages to write this weekend, I'm going Christmas shopping and have a lunch date tomorrow and am all stress-stress-stress all the time, but for a few hours tonight The Muppets just made me happy, for the first time in a few days.

The new movie is great. It really is. I consider myself a little bit of a Muppets connoisseur (read: huge nerd) and it was very enjoyable. It's actually a bit sad, because it's about the Muppets being split up and missing one another, which is something I've been feeling a lot recently about my friends from college, but they get together for one last show to save their theater. I won't tell you what happens (though you can probably guess..)! The celebrity cameos were hilarious as always (I was hoping for Steve Martin, but no luck), the songs were actually pretty good, and the jokes were plentiful. The new Muppet, Walter, is ADORABLE. His talent is whistling! I actually think this movie was aimed at original Muppets fans, because it was a lot about how people have forgotten the Muppets because, as the Bad Guy says, people want "a hard, cynical act for a hard, cynical world." Except we don't, of course. I went with five of my friends and it was such fun--we all ended up crying, too. And smuggled in a bunch of candy. Most people in the theater were probably my age, or older. And then we sang Mahna Mahna in the parking lot.

One of the many things I love about the Muppets is that they have such a wonderful combination of silliness, wittiness, and a bit of nostalgia. While I'll always love "Good grief, the Comedian's a Bear!" some of the songs mean more to me now that I'm older, like "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along" from The Muppet Movie with lines like "It's not often you see a guy that green have the blues that bad," or "You can't live with 'em, you can't live without 'em. / There's something irresistible-ish about 'em. / We grin and bear it 'cause the nights are long. / I hope that something better comes along." The "Rainbow Connection" makes me tear up, and Statler and Waldorf always make me laugh.

The Muppets have been there for me throughout the years. When I get sad about missing home and have too much to write I listen to the songs and skits. The songs are awesome, in the movies and especially the shows, "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" or Beverly Sills and "Pigoletto" (I mean, Pigoletto! that's awesome) or something low-key and sweet like Rowlf singing "Cottleston Pie". The Great Muppet Caper is my favorite of their movies, but I like them all. When I moved to Brooklyn, one of my friends got me The Muppets Take Manhattan as a housewarming present. The Muppet Christmas Carol is my favorite Christmas movie. My ex-roommate sent me Muppets Yahtzee over the summer, and my old subaru was named Kermit.

Jim Henson died when he was 53, which is sad and too young for anyone to die, but as someone who spread such a message of hope and inclusion it somehow seems even more sad. But I'm so glad that his legacy is living on in the people who work on The Muppets now. At his funeral, Harry Belafonte sang "Turn the World Around," just as he did on the Muppet Show. I didn't really know this song before I listened to it awhile ago, but it really is perfect, and something that makes so much sense for Jim Henson.

I'm going to close now with a few of my favorite quotations from the Muppets, but before I do, let me just say: thank you, Muppets, for being such a happy part of my happy childhood, and still being around now that I'm a happy 24 year old.

Ah, a bear in his natural habitat. A Studebaker!

Fozzie: [going over check list] Wax lips?
Zoot: [checking his pockets] Man, I just had them!
Dr. Teeth: Did ya leave 'em in your other pants?
Zoot: I don't have no other pants!

Kermit (Bob Crachitt): Uh, if you please Mr. Scrooge, half an hour off hardly seems customary for Christmas Day.
Rats: No, no.
Scrooge: How much time off *is* customary?
Kermit: Why, uh... The whole day.
Rats: Yeah, yeah!
Scrooge: The *entire* day?
Rats: No, no. That's the frog's idea...

Kermit: Quiet! (everyone gets quiet except Janice)
Janice: Look, Mother. It's my life. OK. So if I want to live on a beach and walk around naked... Oh.

Rizzo the Rat: [falls down a chimney] Hey! I'm stuck! Get me out of here!
Gonzo: I knew you weren't suited for literature.

Life's like a movie, write your own ending, keep believing, keep pretending; we've done just what we've set out to do, thanks to the lovers, the dreamers, and you!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Giving Thanks

This week was the second time I wasn't with my family for Thanksgiving, the first time being when I was in England, so there WAS no Thanksgiving, and it's not like I could have gone home, anyway. I could have gone home this time, and I didn't. It would have been expensive, really expensive, and expensive is not in my budget, and I had so much work, and I'll be home in three weeks staying here was justified, but I still felt awful about it. I love Thanksgiving (apart from the, you know, "let's kill all the Native Americans and take their land" problem). It's probably tied with Christmas as my favorite holiday, because it's about family and friends and food, and giving thanks. And here's what I'm thankful for! Prepare yourself for some sappiness.

I'm thankful for my family. Even when I'm not close by, I know that they are always just a phone call or video screen away, and that is an immensely comforting thing. I was able to video-chat with my aunt and some of my cousins during the Thanksgiving parade, and then my mom, dad, sister, and grandmother after dinner, and that made the day infinitely better. This is our first Thanksgiving without my grandmother, and this is going to be a hard holiday season for me. But knowing that they will always make me laugh when I need it and let me cry when I need it is something that keeps me sane.

I'm thankful for my friends. I have awesome friends. I have been a mess this fall at replying to mail and calls (usually I'm pretty good, but not recently) and they have continued to send me cards, leave me funny voicemails, and put up with my whining. I'm really lucky in that I have close friends from high school and college and now grad school. I miss my college friends so much (I miss my high school friends too, of course, but I usually get to see them around the holidays) but it just makes our meetings that much better when they do happen. We're pretty good about staying in contact, and I hope that never changes.

I'm thankful that I get paid to go to school. I mean, really, how good is this gig? I teach something that I love, take classes that I like, and am able to live off of this without having to work more on the side. Not everyone gets to do this, and I'm very fortunate. Yes, sometimes it's pretty stressful, especially since I'm applying to Phd programs right now and not knowing what is coming up for my future is scary as hell, but--I'm glad I'm doing it.

I'm thankful for good food. This year, instead of super-traditional Thanksgiving fare, a friend and I just cooked parts of it that we liked. So we had garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, garlic bread, carrots and dip, black raspberries, guacamole and chips, mimosas, chardonay, and salted caramel cheesecake. I'm rather pleased about this cheesecake, as it was my first time making one. I decided to do it from scratch, from making the dulce de leche by boiling a can of condensed milk, to cooking caramel for the top. Which was really cool! I felt like a wizard, because when you add the cream to the hot sugar it freaks out, but you just whisk and whisk and it turns out ok. Rather cool.

I'm thankful for pets, especially the cats that I housesat for this week. I definitely would like to get a dog or a cat when I finally settle in a place for longer than a few years. One of the cats doesn't like people who she doesn't know, but by the end of the week she had crept out and let me pet her. And the other cat did not budge from my lap if I was sitting. Or typing, as evidenced by this photo, taken with my computer camera:
I'm thankful for Jane Austen. Self-explanatory, really.

I'm thankful to live in this country, much though I find it frustrating a lot of the time. As an American, I do have personal freedom (especially as a woman) that I would not have other places, and the means to protest if I so choose.

I'm thankful for feminist art historians. Without these people (especially one in particular) I would not have gone to grad school, and probably wouldn't have majored in art history in the first place. Thanks for changing my adopted corner of academia for the better.

I'm thankful for yarn, the way knitting needles click, and the satisfaction of making something out of, well, strings. I'm excited to spend my winter break knitting and watching Dr. Who.

I'm thankful that the Muppets are back, and REALLY jazzed about seeing the movie soon. We watched The Muppet Christmas Carol (aka the best Christmas Carol ever made, if not the best Christmas movie ever) on Thanksgiving, and it never ceases to make me happy.

And speaking of Christmas--I am thankful for Christmas things, especially Bloomington's Canopy of Lights! Some friends and I went to the big lighting kick-off the Friday after Thanksgiving and it was spectacular. So many people were gathered around the square, and the emcee and this fairly creepy clown led the singing of carols and then Santa arrived, and we counted down from 10, and then they turned on the lights! And then we all sang, "We Wish you a Merry Christmas" and dispersed. My friends and I went around the shops around the courthouse, got some soup (pumpkin with roasted pumpkin seeds on it, yum. There is a new soup restaurant on the square, perfect for lunchtime take out, and only $4 or so for a bowl--I think they have 8 different soups a day), and then went and got a drink, and went home!Post-lighting! The lights go from the courthouse to the buildings around the square, so it really *does* look like a canopy of lights!

A bit blurry, but a view of the courthouse and the Hospice Tree of Life.

Favorite bars, Irish Lion and Crazy Horse, all kitted out for Christmas! (fun fact, these two buildings used to be a brothel in the late 1800s)Friends. Lights. Happy belated Thanksgiving, everyone!