Like any girl who grew up in America, and like any girl who has an older sister she worships, my musical taste has changed, refined, and solidified as I’ve grown older. I had my middle school phase where I listened to anything that was on Top 40 radio, and there are still some things from the 1997-2003 time period that I will always love, defend, and unabashedly listen to, even if I know it’s absolutely terrible. And there are other things that are actually kind of underrated, like the fact that those manufactured pop groups like N Sync and Eden’s Crush were actually very well trained singers, just stuck in the bodies of fakely attractive people and forced to sing really terrible songs.

Anyway. My main genres when I was young were Motown, show tunes, jazz-pop standards, and pop-inflecting R&B. I could count on my sister getting me the latest Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child, or Alicia Keys CD for each birthday and Chrismukkah. I listened to them extensively, and to this day, even in the age of iPods and playlists and listening to single songs and not albums, if I hear a song off of one of these ladies’ albums I know exactly which song should come next in the track listing.

But then I transferred from the very urban middle school I went to to private school, and then I discovered lots of other music, both that satisfied my ear and that spoke to the major angst I had. Also, it helped that liking music that my classmates liked helped me to fit in, since so much of the way I acted seemed not to do that for me. Continue reading

happy with myself

When I joined CouchSurfing.org a million years ago, I filled in the “my mission” field on the profile as “My mission is to be happy with myself.” Since it was a few years after that before I started using the website regularly, it has remained my “mission.”

I like it, and it’s been a perpetual struggle. I’ve always tried to be too many people, and I’ve always been socially awkward, and I’ve always been better at doing/saying/appearing to be one thing in my head, and it always comes out different in real life.

Aaaaanyway, I think I’m on the road to that now. I’ve definitely gotten to the point where I am comfortable with myself–I don’t care if other people like to go to clubs and I prefer drinking parties with Scrabble; I don’t feel bad about not associating with people whose politics or personalities are offensive to me; and I’m happy to be a nerd. Continue reading

requisite end of 2011 post

This has definitely been the year of the most change, transition, growing up, getting my ass kicked, learning what’s important to me, freaking out for the first time about my future, etc etc. It’s been a year. Whatever. So are all other years. I don’t really do New Year’s Eve stuff if I can help it–last year I went to dinner with friends and then refused to go to a party, went home, and got a really good night’s sleep, starting at about 10:30pm. It was awesome. This year I’ve conceded to at least partially celebrating, but I never really cared for celebrating holidays much (by never, I mean for the last six or so years), which is why I try not to do stuff for my birthday, Halloween, etc. It’s never as fun or meaningful or what I want it to be anyway, and I don’t like forced sentimentality when random moments that are good or bad or whatever are so much more meaningful anyway.

That said, I do like to keep track of how many books I read in a calendar year; I do my taxes, so I keep track of how much money I make in a calendar year; and between semesters is as good a time as any to reflect on how my life has changed most recently.

So behold: my list of stuff that 2011 was made of. Tomorrow I’ll tell you how many books I managed to finish, and what I plan on doing with my 2012. And then I’ll get back to my normal, Scroogey, unholiday self. Continue reading

crit happens

I love graduate school. And I think it’s really good for me. For the first time in my life, not only am I working hard (I suppose I’ve done that occasionally), but I’m making my formal education not only a priority in the obligation sense, but also a priority in that I actually value it and feel like I’m getting something out of it. Individually, these things have happened before–I’ve worked hard, sometimes I’ve felt like what I was learning was relevant, and sometimes I’ve not procrastinated–but I’ve never done them ALL AT ONCE before. This is pretty amazing.

My crit class is intense and requires reading major works of major critical schools each week, then reading studies of novels with the critical school in action, and then reading two novels and writing a paper on one of them from the point of view of last week’s critical school. Crazy and schizophrenic, but also really challenging and fun. My management theory readings are actually interesting, and it reminds me that I like being bossy and am actually kind of good at it. And reference will be a good challenge for me, because it involves being patient with other people, explaining myself clearly, and going out of my comfort zone in order to help others find information that they need. So, win, win, win.

It blows my mind that I’ve been here for about three weeks already. Tucson what? I never thought it would be such an easy transition, but it has been. In fact, it’s so easy to just feel as if this is where I am that I almost feel guilty. But we’ll see how I feel a month from now. The longest I’ve ever gone without seeing my family is six weeks, so that may be a hurdle when I get to the seven week point. But now it reminds me of Prague, where I was so into what I was doing and experiencing that it felt natural.

I take lots of breaks from my work, but I think they’re responsible breaks. I watch a funny television show, or I read a book and write the review that’s due. Or I go to the gym. I’ve done at least 45 minutes of cardio every day for the last week, and I also try to walk most places. Today I’m walking to the farmers’ market, where I’ll buy a lot of fruit so that I stop eating crappy food, and I’ll buy a lot of veggies for cooking and for making vegetable stock, because I have discovered that a crock pot is awesome. Healthy body, healthy mind. Good things all around.

I joined a student group, the Progressive Librarians Guild, which I think will be enjoyable. I’m excited to learn, connect, and plan. Life is too good. I feel lucky. And I hope the boat doesn’t rock.

an interruption

I’m reading like mad. 81 books since January 1. So much for writing like mad; there’s just no time when you’re devouring so many books and magazines and journals and blogs. Reading just makes me want to read more, which then makes me want to live more and travel more, especially when I read books like The Gastronomical Me or when my parents gush about their recent trip to France and Spain. They keep making statements like, “Europe is amazing!” and “You would really fit in in Paris, Hannah” as if a) those aren’t statements that Captain Obvious would say and b) I can do anything about that currently. I have such an itch to travel, and I have no money or time to do it. So I’m already on the search for jobs that will take me abroad for short spurts, research projects that require travel, and New England and Canadian spots that are only a train away once I move to Boston. I’m thinking Quebec may be my next international destination, and I’m okay with that, as long as Ireland, France, or Cuba come soon after that. In that vein, I also created a travel page to the right.

I’m also updating this blog like mad. You’ll see a new page with all my published book reviews linked. This was an interesting project, because I realized how many of them I don’t have any recollection of at all. I’m glad I keep better track of my reading now, both in a statistical way with GoodReads, and in a more intellectual way with more annotating, journaling, and blogging. I actually don’t have a problem with reading and not remembering what you’ve read (not all the time, at least), but if that’s all you ever do, that’s a problem. So that page is new, I’ve added a gazillion blog and website links, and I actually found links to some of the work I’ve published in the past.

Speaking of publishing, you’ll also see on that page a link to the Swirl blog, where my biracial literature post was re-published. And I just got a poetry acceptance for an online literary journal. I’m going to take more frequent stabs at publication now, because I now remember what a high it is.

Finally, I’m reading the best book ever, and it’s weird, because it’s actually a textbook. But not like a biology one. The Pleasures of Children’s Literature, at least thus far, is an amazing resource on literature study of any kind, of literature teaching of any kind, and it’s really inspiring a lot of exploration and thinking. So I have a post in the works with my ideas coming out of the first few chapters of that.

Hooray for the dog days of summer, when things begin to have meaning again! Being mostly unemployed might be the best thing ever to happen to me.