June 11th, 2021
|04:52 pm - Anonymous commenting turned off|
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February 11th, 2016
Having the most frustrating experience arguing in Library Facebook Group about a job posting (part-time!) that requires you to submit a list of books you've read in the last year, to prove that you read widely.
1. The increasingly high burden of job applications. When I was first applying for librarian jobs, I basically just had to submit a cover letter and resume; now, I'm very often having to submit answers to essay questions. Preparing a list of all the books I've read in a year could take a significant amount of time. I think it's unreasonable to ask someone to put that much time into an application when there are a couple hundred other people applying for a job.
2. The EEOC says that you cannot discriminate in employment on the basis of age, disability, national origin, race, religion, or sex. Some states have laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That's why HR people say you shouldn't even make small talk about someone's religious jewelry in a job interview -- because it raises the possibility that it might turn into an issue. But based on a list of books a person reads, it seems all too easy to draw up a profile of what kind of person they are and what protected categories might apply to them, and discriminate (even subconsciously) on that basis.
There have to be better ways to get at "Do you read a lot, do you read widely, how would you do in reader's advisory situations" than asking for my Diary Of Books Read Which Contains Many Personal Feelings.
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February 4th, 2016
|02:48 pm - Chinese progress!|
I guess I have gone a good long time without studying any more Chinese than a page of reading here and there -- so I Made a Plan, as I am always doing, to read a thousand pages in Chinese this year (they don't have to be long pages!) and watch 52 episodes of hourlong TV.
The first couple weeks of this, I was mostly just trying to get back my forgotten vocabulary, and remember all the very common hanzi that look totally different when they're traditional characters instead of simplified, but I realized even just while watching cheesy Taiwanese dramas that something clicked inside my head -- it was the difference between not being able to understand what I was hearing, even with English subtitles, even when I knew all the words, and being able to understand at least some of it, at least a little bit.
Which is tremendously encouraging when you feel like you've been at a plateau for a long time, and felt that none of the formal studying was actually translating into a better understanding of the language.
I will have to make a post soon about the New Improved Vocabulary System that I've implemented -- it's a bit high-tech (well, it's done entirely using Excel and VLOOKUP, so not THAT high-tech) and solves some of the problems I had been having of just making flash cards for every new word I encountered regardless of rarity.
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January 28th, 2016
I have a story that's now bounced back from Clarkesworld, Liminal, Uncanny, and F&SF -- which ordinarily wouldn't discourage me much, even though I think it's a really good story, you just sometimes have to send them out a lot of times -- except that F&SF has given me constructive criticism. Which I partially agree with, but I've been trying to make the story less rushed since I wrote it, and I can't figure out how to do it. Maybe I'll put it aside for a bit; maybe I'll send it to one of those magazines that has longish response times so I don't have to think about it.
But it's also the stronger part (I thought) of the writing sample I sent in for my MFA applications, so there is a LOT of second-guessing myself here.
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December 30th, 2015
|03:32 pm - Once more on poverty and education|
It's been well-documented that when it comes to test scores, the main thing holding America's students back is poverty. The corporate reformers have been attempting for decades now to boost test scores through their tough love measures of "rigor," "accountability," and "privatization," but despite their best efforts, their precious scores haven't budged. Meanwhile, schools that serve middle and high income populations continue to produce "world class" test results, while those serving lower income populations produce low ones. It has become quite obvious, if it wasn't before, that the most effective way to fix so-called "failing" schools is to fix poverty: this is not a problem with schools, but with our wider society.
But no, the neoliberal idea, the one embraced by every politician, left, right, and center, including Clinton, is that poverty can be magically fixed by fixing our broken schools according to their ideologically driven notions of "reform." You see, in this world view, poverty is the fault of those who are poor, rather than economic policies that we've enacted over the past three decades that have caused 100 percent of income growth to go to those who are already in the top 10 percent. The poor are just too uneducated to figure it out, so we'll drill and kill their kids in the hope that test score results will somehow lead to economic prosperity for all . . . Or something like that.
Teacher Tom, "What Hillary Clinton Said"
I've been enjoying this blog, by a teacher at a progressive preschool, for a couple weeks now; I've been mulling over the ineffectiveness of directive statements and trying to give more informational statements to kids at the library -- "Your voices are a bit loud for the library" rather than "Please lower your voices." Libraries are different from schools -- you're not really in a loco parentis role even with very young children, you don't really have any more authority over children than you do over adults -- but it's interesting as a way to think about things.
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December 29th, 2015
|10:51 am - Twin powers|
(1) I told my sister which book I would like for Christmas. (It was "Gold, Fame, Citrus" by Claire Watkins). By the time she got to the bookstore the only thing she remembered about it was that it was by somebody named Cassandra. She found the book anyway.
(2) Independently and unbeknownst to each other, we bought the exact same pair of pajamas at Target. I don't think I can even blame that one on Twin Powers; I blame capitalism.
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December 23rd, 2015
|06:11 pm - Self-Propagating Fakelore|
One of the many things I retained from my grad school storytelling class was an interest in fakelore, which is to say "the representation of materials written by professional authors as reproductions of the oral traditions of historical and ethnic communities";
During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, newspapers and magazines were filled with so-called "American Indian legends" (in England they were from Africa, India, and other colonies), written as part of what Pearce (1965) terms "savagism," an image making process in which the "savages" of the American west were "tamed" while preserving a facade of the exotic. These stories were set in wigwams and tipis and featured characters with Indian-sounding names (Little Firefly, Laughing Water). Mostly, they told of how extreme love, faith, self-sacrifice, or devotion led to the creation of some natural phenomenon: a star, a flower, or a place of great beauty (a waterfall, an overlook, a clear spring), a narrative formula central to Ovid's Metamorphoses, which heavily prejudiced neo-classical and Romantic expectations for mythology. No such stories were ever told by traditional Native Americans, yet this kind of tale has come to epitomize Indian storytelling, and by now these invented legends have been reprinted in guidebooks, schoolbooks, and tourist propaganda for so long, almost everyone, including many Indians, assumes they are the real thing (Pound 1959).
So when I popped in at this question, my spidey senses tingled. It's a story I'd read myself, probably in the late 1990s, a story that goes something like:
“The earth trembled and a great rift appeared, separating the first man and woman from the rest of the animal kingdom. As the chasm grew deeper and wider, all the other creatures, afraid for their lives, returned to the forest – except for the dog, who after much consideration leapt the perilous rift to stay with the humans on the other side.
His love for humanity was greater than his bond to other creatures, he explained, and he willingly forfeited his place in paradise to prove it…”
What's interesting is that in the oldest sources I can find for the story, the story leans on the Biblical creation story:
A legend tells us that after the creation a gulf gradually opened between Adam and the beasts he had named.
But by the 1990s, the "legend" resurfaces as a "Native American folktale": The earth trembled and a great rift appeared, separating the first man and woman from the rest of the animal kingdom.
The "idealized time of harmony with the animal kingdom" motif fits so well with a certain 1990s stereotype that it doesn't even seem necessary to find a source for this "folktale," or identify a particular tribe it's associated with. (I've seen web sources refer to it as an Ojibwa story and an Anasazi story, but can't find evidence for either; far more often it's just a "Native American legend.")
When we were preparing a story, in my storytelling class, one of the parts of the assignment was to find multiple sources for the story (if it was a traditional story). For one of my assignments I ended up doing The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd, which exists in quite different versions in China and Japan -- and there was a limit to how much I could do because my Chinese was quite terrible. (Not so terrible that I didn't try to struggle through it. But I didn't succeed). I think it really impressed on me what it means to tell a story when you know the culture that it came out of and you know the context around it -- rather than treating it as some artifact that just exists by itself. So I can't help feeling kind of angry and cynical when people just make up a cute story, or hear it third-hand, and then decide that it's the kind of thing that probably sounds like a Native American folktale... based on nothing more than a lifetime of hearing fakelore rather than folklore.
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December 22nd, 2015
I solemnly resolve, in the new year, to give my files meaningful names and put them in meaningful folders, and NOT keep uploading things like "BLANK 12" and "BLANK 13" to my Dropbox.
There -- that's specific, meaningful, action-oriented, realistic, and timely.
Maybe not realistic.
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Guess who finished her application for Iowa State's creative writing and environment program thanks to NYPL's research libraries and a not inconsiderable amount of hustle?
The same person who will not be spending her Boxing Day attempting to write an essay on "Reproductive Horror and the Grotesque in Yoko Ogawa’s 'Pregnancy Diary'." I might actually have to spend TIME with my FAMILY.
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December 21st, 2015
|11:38 am - The most terrifying paragraph I've read today|
“Five years ago I would’ve told you that technology was hurting toys because kids were watching their iPads instead. Now I think it’s helping—even preschoolers are engaging with brands,” says NPD Group’s Juli Lennett.
-From an article on the competition between Mattel and Hasbro over the Disney Princess business.
I swear if I ever going to have children I'm going to raise them in a tree in the wilderness.
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December 16th, 2015
Have very belatedly realized that I want to apply for Iowa State's program on creative writing and environment. (There's a lot I write that's at least tangentially environmental: the science project in Ramblewood Underground, the bees in "The Delicate Work of Bees," the apocalypse in "The Wolf-Girls at Blue Creek.")
However, they want 5-10 pages of expository writing, and the deadline's Jan. 5th, so it seems like a tight squeeze if I want to do it...
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Almost done with Michigan, if I can just get my transcript from McGill soon. (broods, whines)
Almost done with Iowa, if I can just get my manuscript revised and in the mail. (Goal: to do this Friday. Maaaaybe I can get enough revision done tonight?)
I can do this If universities and Canada Post and USPS come through for me I can do this. And then I'll have, like, A WHOLE DAY to myself.
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December 14th, 2015
|10:10 pm - Grad school to-do|
(1) Revise Statement of Purpose for Iowa
(2) Revise academic statement of purpose for Michigan
(3) Write biographical personal statement for Michigan
(4) Revise writing sample to Iowa (because they want more pages than anybody else)
(5) Send green card photocopy to Iowa
(6) Upload transcripts to Michigan (which I can't do because I'm still waiting on my McGill transcript, and about to start getting worried about it)
(7) Mail writing sample to Iowa
That should take care of it for my January 1st deadlines. I have a January 15th deadline and one in February. Hopefully I can get everything finished by the end of this week?
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Mock Printz always makes me think I should go into marketing at a publishing company, particularly when Coworker said during the course of the discussion, "Emily could be telling you about a terrible book and she'd make you want to read it." (Aww!)
Okay, no, I know I'd be lousy at writing copy for the majority of books, because I'm only good at booktalking books when I actually get enthused about them. When I read books I dislike I can go on about them to an annoying extent. But then sometimes it's OMG M.T. Anderson talking about art and propaganda and truth and freedom and this story about the poet who's freezing to death on the street and she hears her own poetry on the Radio Leningrad loudspeaker and she manages to get to her feet, and I just want to clap my hands and say "Shostakovich" (and I brought my own theme music, of course!)
And I go on about them to an even more annoying extent.
Anyway, "Symphony for the City of the Dead." Hashtag gutted, as my coworker put it.
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December 13th, 2015
|11:33 pm - That time I accidentally trolled my sister for fourteen years|
My sense of humor is occasionally a little deadpan. Occasionally it's not immediately apparent when I am in fact joking about a thing.
My sister was telling me about pine needle tea. (It has a lot of vitamin C in it). "You can drink it if you go to Japan again, so you don't get scurvy," she said.
The thing is, I DID talk a lot about having scurvy when I was in Japan. This is because fruit is expensive there, and I was eating almost no fresh fruit. Maybe a little canned fruit. Not only that, but the international dorm had a communal kitchen, and I was very shy around the Chinese students, so my meals tended to be the following:
1) McDonald's, KFC, Mos Burger, other fast food
2) A bento from the convenience store heated up in the microwave
3) Spaghetti with sauce from a can
But I never had scurvy. It's entirely possible that I had a slight vitamin C deficiency, but I was never diagnosed with anything, nor did I have any real symptoms. When I talked about having scurvy, I was always under the impression that I was joking. I was always under the impression that my sister knew I was joking.
For fourteen years, she believed that I had had scurvy.
But in fact the joke's on me; I talked about scurvy like it was one of those diseases people only got in Olden Days, but it's actually making a comeback as increasing numbers of people in the UK and the US aren't getting enough fruit to eat.
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December 7th, 2015
If I don't hustle, my entire family's Christmas present is going to be
a chapbook of my writing samples some sort of IOU for January. Or February.
(Whose bright idea was it to put all the grad school deadlines between Dec. 15th and Jan. 1?)
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December 2nd, 2015
|08:46 am - The difference between your first language and your nth language|
Young Part-Timer: Have you read Jin Yong?
Me: Oh yeah, I tried to once! It was way too hard for me?
Young Part-Timer: Oh, he's easy, though! I only went to school in China up to second grade and I can read his books. They're like Harry Potter!
Me, on a third attempt: ...These are words that aren't even in the dictionary. These are hanzi that I don't even know, and I know more than 3000.
I CAN read books that are written for a 3rd or 4th grade level. With a lot of dictionary lookup, I can read pop fiction for adults. Jin Yong? Waaaaay over my head still. It is my only great regret of learning Chinese that I'd really like to be able to read wuxia novels someday, and they're all like "Oh, let's throw in all the obscure 4-character compounds" and "Hey, what's a really archaic word for the color blue?"
This is why, when you're reading in a second language, you have to be very careful about thinking you can just read books for children and they'll be easy; SO MUCH of what you know about your native language is stuff that you learn by the time you're six or seven. And most of that seems very natural and very easy when you look back as an adult. And it's hard to imagine how much harder it is if it's not your native language.
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November 30th, 2015
There is one program I'm applying to (fortunately it has a February deadline) that actually requires a 10-20 page critical essay.
If I had a paper from undergrad, I would use a paper from undergrad. Or even the werewolf paper I did in grad school, substantially revised! But I do not. And it's not going to be easy to write a paper from scratch; I no longer have access to any databases beyond what I can access through NYPL, I don't have access to scholarly journals. NYPL is good but not a patch on a good university library. I guess I should be able to put something together if I start putting Interlibrary loan requests in NOW, but I can't get journal articles through ILL.
(It occurs to me that if I really wanted to do a good job on this, I should take a week off and see how much research I can get through at Duke and UNC -- both of which are pretty generous in giving access to people outside the university, unlike Columbia and NYU. But this is my 'well, if I don't get into any of the super-selective programs I'm applying for, maybe I can at least spend two years sitting by myself in a northern forest' school, so I'm not inclined to put TOO much effort into it).
Universities like it when you have taken some years off for Life Experience after undergrad, but the application process is so much easier if you actually still have access to university resources.
Oh well! I think I at least know what I want to write about now! It is body horror and reproduction in Yoko Ogawa's "Pregnancy Diary." (Or other stories too! I should read Ogawa's Revenge, and see what's out there on the general topic...)
I always need to read more Carol Clover.
(Note to self:
Managing the monstrous feminine : regulating the reproductive body
Knowing Fear : Science, Knowledge and the Development of the Horror Genre.)
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November 23rd, 2015
Popular media where the twins are written like actual twins:
2) I have VARIOUS MISGIVINGS about I'll Give You The Sun but OK FINE THEY ARE TWINS WHO ACT LIKE ACTUAL TWINS
2 1/2) They had some twin-tropes I wasn't crazy about and my view is heavily colored by the sheer amount of twincest fanfiction, but OK, the Weasley twins in Harry Potter
Popular media where the twins are either unrealistically the same person, unrealistically total opposites, or seem to have some troubling psychosexual stuff going on:
Literally everything else.
(I am sure there are actual twins who have troubling psychosexual stuff going on but. Um. It still feels to me like a Weird Twin Trope).
This post has been brought to you by Jessica Jones, which I otherwise am enjoying very much.
Parents, don't name your twins Ruben and Robyn. Give your twins names that are ANYTHING ELSE BUT A MATCHED SET.
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November 21st, 2015
|03:24 pm - Who lives, who dies, who takes the GRE|
Saturday morning pre-GRE Hamiltunes: My Shot, Guns and Ships, Yorktown, Non-Stop. Because correlation is the same thing as causation, I have to give Lin-Manuel Miranda all the credit for my getting a significantly nicer score on the computer-scored portion of the GRE than I expected.
(And nobody cares! The only place I'm applying to that even wants GRE scores is Iowa, where they're optional! But if I don't get in this year, I'll be able to apply to Minnesota next year with these scores.)
Afterwards I had time for a teeny Hamilton walking tour, past Fraunces Tavern and the Hamilton gravestones at Trinity Church.
I need to be putting things in boxes, but I feel very tired and may have a cold or something coming on.
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