Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gather 'Round Children

Yes, Virgina, there is a Santa Claus.

However, you're not good enough to get presents. No one is. That's why your parents give you gifts under Santa's name--they're trying to make you feel "nice." And maybe while doing so, Santa will see how good they're being and give them gifts someday.

Now, go get Aunty some more eggnog.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oh, Thackerey!

As my Croatian murder mystery from Netflix was evidently crushed by a high heel en route, I've been streaming Vanity Fair over the past few days (yes, my internet is that slow). I can't imagine people living like that, so concerned with society, not really.

But in between viewings, I went off to the pool and watched the freshmen boys. They were so simple and happy, jumping off the high dive in unison, hurling water polo balls across the pool. I'm not quite like that. Maybe it's just when I'm alone I'm not like that, but what's the point of spinning off the high dive if no one's watching from the pool below?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

baby steps

11:11 pm

The last few hours are always the hardest. The library is certainly slowing down; I'm the only one left here in the sampler section. I just finished a delightfully frustrating Poirot novel, and I've gotten quite a bit of work done for the next semester--setting up my experiment and assignments for my class. Still, I have four hours left until closing and the media center is likely closed. Do I doze or read dumb things or try to get something more done? (Although really, I'm quite satisfied with myself.)

And looking to the future, where do I go from here? I certainly won't get a parking spot at my apartment this time of night, not one that won't demand I get up by 8:00 am, which is less and less likely. But if I drive home to my parents' house--that's a long icy drive late at night. Eh. One hour at a time, one hour at a time.


A nice brisk 20 minute powerwalk through the library has yielded this:

Most of the library's clocks are wrong.

The 2nd floor is the most empty.

I've never been in the "F" section of the library.

The 6th floor offices are already closed.

The girl who was sitting outside my study room at 2:00 is still there--has she been there all this time? This means that even if there aren't many people who have been in the library longer than me, there are still plenty who are working much harder. But then, if it was about hard work, I would have grabbed my textbooks for next semester from the bookstore hours ago.

Trashy Non-Fiction

6:28 pm

I have cheerfully moved into that phase of Librarathon known as Trashy Non-Fiction from the Sampler Section. Teachers of troubled students, psychologists of messed up kids, anorexic alcoholics, all those people whose lives sound like daytime television.

It's a lovely phase to be in. I should do something intellectual, like studying Russian (I did bring my textbook all this way, didn't I?) or working on my papers, or at least physical, like walking up and down some stairs--I feel like my legs are beginning to atrophy.

Still, reading these books is educational, right? Read, that's what the poster at the public library says. Besides, how is spending two or three hours reading less-than-high-literature any worse than watching TV for two or three hours (which, come to think of it, I rather did earlier today, didn't I?)

I always have these high expectations of Librarathon: papers I'll write, topics I'll study, insights I'll have. But really, just because I'm at the library doesn't mean I can't space off a little.

Or a lot.

Back to Work-ish

Okay, so after my watching a movie (which turned out, after two hours, to be a mini-series, which turned out, after two hours, that I didn't actually watch the whole thing), I went to go meet with a student of mine who, quite rationally, assumed that we were meeting in my office, even after I emailed him to meet me here. No worries. For the past hour and a half I've been cheerfully plugging away at the poetics/rhetoric paper that has easily had more than 14 pages of meandering and drafting and figuring out what, exactly, I'm going to say. But then I got all...sticky with it. Ugh. What, exactly, do I want to say? It's something about war poetry and rhetoric and Burke and the lack of rhetorical involvement in literature while literary theory was in vogue and...I don't know.

I'm thinking I'll send this next (as always, inchoate) draft to my mom. She's super-nice and I think that I've bothered Dr. Jackson enough today.

And while she's looking over it, maybe I can take a break. Yeah. Maybe I'll finish that miniseries.


This joint is. Hoppin' that is.

I got to hang out with Chris, who came to visit and almost inspired me to do more work. However, then I went to a viewing room, rented a movie (Snow Queen) and have hunkered in, by myself, to enjoy my orange and powerbar in dimness, peace and isolation.

I wonder if the crowds will diminish over the next few hours.

My but Robert Widsen is a good looking man.

What I Have Brought

It's 8:30 am and I just finished some work, so time to de-work.

Here's what I've got with me on this fine library day:

1. My English 150 folder with all the papers, brochures and revisions that I needed to grade (Check one). I wish I hadn't also brought the papers that are in there for next semester. Dead weight. Well prepared, but dead weight.

2. My laptop (obviously). This is probably the most useful thing I've got with me and my easiest way to "interact with the outside world" so to speak. I'm looking forward to writing things, checking email, entering grades, etc, etc.

3. Six Powerbars. This is probably excessive, but one does want provisionary rations, in case someone comes to visit or something. I haven't had one yet--I had a couple of apricots for breakfast and Powerbars, actually, are kind of gross. Discrete, but gross.

4. A plastic bag of books. This seems a little silly in retrospect--I mean what's at the library if not books? Luckily some of these are library books and once I scrape what I need from these tomes, back they go, catch and release. Still, my favorite Russian textbook and my BSC book are probably excessive to what I need.

5. My wallet. I'll need my ID card to check things out and if I really want to avoid Powerbars, I hear there's a vending machine hidden on the top floor.

6. Some notebooks. Although, I wish I had brought some loose-leaf paper or tear-out notebooks so I can write and throw away things that don't matter. Also, a little plain white paper would be nice if I decide to get all art-y.

7. My headphones. Very useful thus far for listening to podcasts and music without annoying peace-loving library patrons.

8. Some makeup and toothpaste. It is, afterall, the library, not the desert on a horse with no name. There are civilized people here.

That's it. I hope it's not tedious to carry around whenever I move base camps. I wonder if they have temporary lockers you can rent for one day...I think I've seen them by the geneology section..

Librar-thon starts....

NOW! Actually, according to my watch, it's 6:58 am. The security guards must have had mercy on us standing out there in the cold. I showed up about ten minutes to opening, when there were five people besides me already waiting. One guy was wrapped in a fleece blanket. Some of them made small talk about the papers they have due, the finals schedule they have today. A girl on her cell phone was having a conversation about putting in (or taking out--hard to tell) a window of thick glass. I wondered who wanted to hear about her remodeling at seven in the morning. By the time the portly man with the key came by (Santa Claus? Better be careful with my pre-Christmas delusions), we numbered ten on my side of the library. There were a couple of people on the other side, but our door was opened slightly earlier. I was the fifth person into the library. I didn't have a preference on my first base camp, but I wound over to the Honors reading lounge, where, strangely, I'm not alone. Another kid is two tables over from me, typing on another white MacBook, listening to his iPod. Right now, this seems crowded.

Expect updates periodically through the day as I my cheerful vigil keep. If you want to come visit me in the library, you can send me a text--I'll leave my phone on vibrate--or you can just stop by: you know where I'll be.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


So I mail off my first fan letter today. Well, at least my first real fan letter; I've sent notes of appreciation to the authors of my International Finance textbook (best textbook ever!) and the particularly fine translator of the Phaedrus and some other unfamous-but-excellent folk, but this time I wrote Mr. Spielberg, who actually has a separate address just for fan mail.

I feel so dumb. I'm not an important person to be sending off this note and it's not like I'm some AIDS orphan whose life was changed when she watched every Spielberg film ever and became a major cultural force. I just really enjoyed the last few movies of his that I've been watching. He's a really fine, incredibly respectful filmmaker--never makes the character in his films look stupid and he doesn't patronize them either. He's make huge hits and big flops and he keeps making movies. I'm very impressed with him.

So I figure, even if it's (what 42 cents? I don't know--I have those "forever" stamps) down the tube, there are worse things to waste 42 cents on than sending a thank you note that will never be received.

Then I thought: if I'm this shy and agitated about sending a letter to Steven Spielberg, why am I so cavalier about praying to the King of All Creation (who, incidentally, also is very respectful of his characters)? Do I expect a response all the time? Do I think he pays attention to it? Prayer is very big league, very, very big league, even if it's cheaper than a stamp.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Become a Society Lady/Man!

In this world of cooperation and synergy, we often forget how good it makes us feel to put other people down.

In light of that special feeling, I am officially starting up the Society for the Preservation of Childish Insults, inspired by overhearing a charming boy scout call his brother "dink wad" on the BYU campus. If you would like to receive the SPCI newsletter (or join our board of directors), please email me at

This is a wonderful time to be involved with Childish Insults, especially during this holiday season when children will be home from school, gathered together under the Christmas tree, calling each other "Fatty McFats-a-lot" and "Stink-butt."

Please support the SPCI with either financial contributions (stock or in-kind payments are available) or by contributing to Childish Insult development and reporting.

Be a part of it, driphead.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Re: Third-party identification

As discussed earlier in here it occurs to me that Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song(s--there are three of them now) also fit into the List that minorities make to prove themselves. Deep, man, deep.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Why do I Like Ales Debeljak Soooooo Much.

Maybe it's his 5th Ave-quality intellect, maybe it's his constant relevance, maybe it's his Enlightenment poetics, maybe it's his anti- postmodernism, but I love Ales Debeljak. I want to be him when I grow up.

And yes, I wrote his Wikipage.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Things I Ought to Be Doing, Reminders of Which I Can See From Where I Sit

Strangely enough, I always thinks of these things on a day of rest. Thankfully.

1. Send half a dozen knitted quilt squares to Warm Up America.

2. Write a publishable and thrilling seminar paper about service-learning and written instruction and pragmatic approach to both.

3. Write a publishable and thrilling seminar paper about Ales Debeljak's use of Burkian identification to write for both an American and Slovenian audience and merge the priorities of both through his book The City and the Child.

4. Study Latin.

5. Buy some sort of Latin-studying aid--maybe Rossetta.

6. Read more of the epistles if I want to finish them by Christmas.

7. Study BSC--heck, maybe, again, Rossetta.

8. Buy the last of my sister's Christmas presents--which is an entirely genius with a capital G package, but I can't mention what it is specifically because, while it's unlikely, she might read my blog.

9. Write a publishable and thrilling personal essay for the David O. McKay contest that manages to bring me: a) fame, b) riches and c) no one mad at me for how I write about them. I'm wondering if I'd settle for two out of three.

10. Email the IBR people to find out what the heck happened to my application to use human subjects in an experiment.

11. Finish grading my students' ten-page papers. Yeah, it takes its sweet time, but this is the only truly heavy-weight assignment of the semester and it drives at me that I can tell what grade they're getting on it by the end of the introduction.

12. Get asked out on dates more often--do they sell a Rosetta for that?

13. Go to International Cinema more often. I've had the poster on my wall all year and I think I've only gone once, maybe twice this semester.

14. Lose 10 pounds.

15. Paint the last picture in the series I started this summer. The first one ,Two Trees After the Fall, is quite good. The second, Death and Hell, less so. It's the redemption painting that'll be a doosy, and if my trend continues...well...

16. Write more sketches for DC. I have a dozen ideas, but I talk about them more than just sit down and write them. Also, I need to put up posters, hand out fliers, etc, etc.

17. Call nursing homes to see if we can carol for them next Sunday.

18. Vaccuum my room

Hmm. I guess I should be pleased that I can only find 18 things in my room that remind me of things I need to do. I tell you what, though, I'm not going in the kitchen.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Surprisingly Good Holiday Movie of the Week

The Holiday.

A real scriptwriter's script, witty and risky (don't worry--it does work out in the end as all good romantic comedies do) and very demanding on the two leading ladies, who spend a lot of time on screen alone. Far better than its previews led me to believe.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Twilight at Midnight

Okay, so I am not ashamed of the fact that I went to the opening night showing of Twilight. Mostly because I went to Divine Comedy, we took up a row and giggled during the entire movie. (It is not a comedy.)

Classic moments from the movie:

A constant flow of references to Google (product placement, ho!)

Most awkward term of endearment: "Hold tight, spider monkey."

It's one thing to read about Edward watching her sleep; it's a whole nother level of creepy to watch him do it.

Bella sputters in coherently for 20 seconds straight, easy: "Wha--? won't--...but..." etc, etc.

"Here's your veggie plate, Stephanie." Yes, Stephanie Myers is in the restaurant in the movie! Is she seeking to emulate the runaway success of M. Night Shyamalan?

The random "apple catching" pose that reproduces the cover of the book. What are they going to do with the other books? "Look, I found some flowers..." "Would you like to play a game of chess?"

Yes, yes, indeed this is setting itself up for a DC headliner parody. A little too well, a little too well.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Woody Allen on Creativity

"The problem is, I feel there's so little you can teach, really, and I didn't want to be discouraging to [the students]. Because the truth of the matter is, ou either have it or you don't. If you don't have it, you can study all your life and it won't mean anything. You won't become a better filmmaker for it. And if you do have it, then you will quickly learn to use the few tools you need. Most of what you need, as a director, is psychological help, anyhow. Balance, discipline, things like that. [...] Many talents artists are destroyed by their neuroses, their doubts, and their angst, or they let too many exterior things distract them. That's where the danger lies, and these are the elements that a writer or filmmaker should try to master first.

"[The students asked him how he came up with the ideas in Annie Hall] and all I could asnwer to them was "Well, it was my instinct to do it this way." And that, I think, is the most important lesson I've learned about filmmaking: that for those who can do it, there's no big mystery to it. One should not be intimidated by it or get caught up in thinking it's some kind of mysterious, complex thing to do. Just follow your instinct. And if you have talent, it won't be hard. And if you don't, then it will be impossible."

So what do you all think? Is it this in-born or does creativity come from that 10,000 hour "tipping point" of experience that Gladwell proposes? Nature, in other words, or nurture?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Turns Out David O. McKay Was Right

... at least irritation in the apartment is a big frustration in life. (I don't know how that compares, exactly, to failure in the home.) This has not been the best week of my life in a lot of aspects (by which I mean I haven't riden any rollercoasters lately, eaten fresh margarita pizza, or wandered around a large European city's downtown.) but nothing really got to me until my roommates started being irritated.

Everyone's been irritated lately, actually. Me, I blame a combination of midterms, regular roommateness, the lousy weather and the whole false community/real community thing that my freshman RA explained to me. Let me expound on the last one (because the others are easy to find): she said that it's easy to be nice to people for a little bit, for the honeymoon period, if you will--you can just be civil to each other for a short amount of time. Eventually, though, it wears off and you get more and more frustrated with the little things that bug us. Then it comes to a point of crisis/imputous and depending on how you handle that point you either break it up or become real community. I think this cycle explains a lot, but the point of crisis has never been so pulpable.

Here's my theory of roommate relations. Everyone has things that irritate them, especially as per cleanliness and noise levels. For example, at home my room is a holy terror, especially my desk, which seldom anything like a usable writing surface. But at college I sleep better if my desk and floor are clear. I don't know why--it's probably becuase I have so little space, so my side of the room is like my world. Things like room cleaning, though, are neutral in roommate relations, unless you share a room and your roommate really takes issue with your side, but that's a little crazy.

But what if the difference isn't over room cleaning? What if it's about dish-doing or countertop-wiping or coat-up-hanging? That's where it gets ugly. In our apartment, I suspect (but I'll find out for sure on Sunday when we've planned to discuss all this) that the one who hates dishes in the sink is the one who puts the crumbs on the counter that the one who doesn't wipe out the sink hates which the one who leaves her books on the table hates. It's like the circle of irritation. That's why I have a two-point system that I've always employed with roommates.

1) First day you meet find out what's their pet peeves. One frustrating thing about this situation is that I did this, but then, it's hard for people to think off the bat that they hate when people put their food on top of the fridge. But if you know, then you can avoid it because you know how much it bugs them. Jamie Z. hated dishes in the sink and we all knew that, so we tried to always keep it in the dishwasher.

2) Fix what you care about. I learned this lesson while living with roommates who seldom did the dishes; worse, they would let them "soak" in the sink for three, four, five days at a time. I was sick of being the person who yelled at others. Then I read that quote about marriage, about how both sides can't give 50%, they have to give more like 80% because we all overestimate what we're doing. So I started doing the dishes. It was such a relatively easy process. It was soothing to get my hands all warm and soapy, I felt like I was providing service to my roommates and I didn't have to worry about mountains of dishes in lakes of dishwater. This is a rather liberating philosophy. Unfortunately, my current roommates don't seem to share it. I'll have to bring it up on Sunday.

Which leads me to what may be point three that this apartment may teach me--communication. (This may just be an expansion of point one.) For example, I kept putting the cups that I found by the side of the sink in the dishwasher, until this morning, when I discovered two tersely-worded labels on them reading "In Use by _____." Oh. Those are water glasses. I didn't know that's why they were there; I just assumed someone was by-passing the no-dishes-in-the-sink rule by leaving things on the counter. I honestly didn't know.

So I'm really looking forward to Sunday and getting this all done with. If we could all be together earlier, I'd eagerly push it up a few days. With an extremely high-stress and last-minute Divine Comedy show, conference paper deadlines and my student's biggest and most frightening assignment, not to mention my own poor health this week, I'd feel a lot better if I felt better at home.

Friday, November 7, 2008

In Praise of Low Voter-Turnout

Okay, so this was an exciting election. In some counties in Florida and California, voter turnout was as high as 80-85% of registered voters. When you consider how many people may be double-registered, this is a dizzying amount. Overall voter turn-out for this election may or may not be higher than any since the sixties, but even then, highest voter turn-out in fifty years is nothing to sneeze at.


When the voter-turnout was higher, the 1960 and 1964 elections, the U.S. was experiencing extreme turmoil--a generational gap was redefining conservative and liberal politics, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were entering a new phase of the Cold War, the Vietnam War was starting, the Civil Rights and Women's Rights movements were forming. Voting mattered.

In fact, if you look at the instances of high voter turnout, it's not always a positive sign. Countries like Kosovo and Argentina have high voter turnout; countries were everything could go wrong. In fact, there's an economic equation for voter turn-out:

PB +D > C

C is, of course, cost. D is any warm, fuzzy democratic civic feeling you get from voting (and, presumably, those "I Voted" stickers) while P is the probablity that your vote will have an impact and B represents the benefit you'll derive from your vote. So looking at these factors, how do we describe the high voter turnout in this last election?

Probablity of vote having an impact in the national election was low, both for chronic and current reasons; the electoral college system always keeps individual votes low and as more people vote, the impact of an individual vote goes down. Civic warm fuzzies may be higher, especially with the "cool factor" of Obama's campaign, but so is the cost as voters have had to wait as long at seven hours to cast a vote. What's left? Perceived benefit.

People saw this last election as vital, which is good for the individual candidates, but bad for American democracy in general. This is ironic, I know, but there is a compelling argument that says that low voter turnout reflects a faith in our leaders. When Bush was running against Gore, I remember telling my arguing family that it doesn't matter who wins--the country's run by experts and committees and the president doesn't have that much power, really. Now, I feel a little different about that statement.

It's possible, I suppose, that before voter turnout was low (especially among some demographics) because they felt that their P or B was so low from perceived inequality that it wasn't worth voting before, but I think that there's sufficient rhetorical evidence that people think this election was more vital than perhaps earlier elections. And that means we're scared of the consequences of the election of the other guy.

If we weren't, we would have just stayed home.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

actual burning questions

What's going to be on the front cover of the magazines now?

What will become of SNL post-Palin?

Can we, actually?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Blog for blog's sake

Don't even bother reading this post.

I have nothing particularly interesting to write. Maybe this:

School is coming dizzying to a close. Since I'm in the grad program, this means that my semester papers, on which everything in my classes is based are shortly to be due and I not writen a lick of either of them. I have an idea of what I want to do with one, but the other is a murky beast. This is especially a problem because I have this goal to write TWO fantastic papers for each class. Ugh. I'm far more overwhelmed by what I should be doing than what I have to do. The key, I think, to feeling better about this is just to plug in and get stuff done. I've had a very antsy Sabbath, which is usually a sign that I haven't been working hard enough on the "six days thou shalt labor"--I had three nights of staying up past 2:00am, so that could be part of it and the sugar-orgy that is Halloween. So if I give up Monday-afternoon movie (hard to do, hard to do) and instead run errands during my sleepy time, I might be able to feel like I'm actually getting something done.

What would that feel like?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lamer than a cool construction paper invite

Halloween Party

My parents' place
7:00 pm- ?

Costumes welcome.

Sorry that it's lame, but I haven't really been able to make the cool invites that I'd like because the date didn't get scheduled for far too long. Hope you can come. If you can't, call and be there in spirit!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mary Needs to Get Out and About More

So in direct contradiction of beginning-of-school daily goal number 1, I find that I am least effective as an academic producer between the hours of two and four or five (the infamous after-school) hours). So I've been fudging a little (c'mon, I have two night classes--two!) and watching Monday afternoon movies.

A'right, yeah. I've been blown away by every movie Netflix has sent me of late. I'm trying to catch up on the movies I missed on my mission. First I saw The Prestige and let me illustrate:

This is my mind: _ _ _ _ _ _

This is my mind after watching The Prestige: *!&^*#!!

Not that I'm full of expletives, but that sucka blew my mind! I spent the next couple of days just thinking (A) I will never find myself in a distructive competitive trap that will destroy both my competition and myself and (B) how did they do that? Very high "whoa" factor.

Then I thought watching The Queen would be nice and sedate. Nope. Whoa again, my friends, whoa again. I'm totally blown away at the complexities of public and private, especially since I've been reading a bit about a theorist named Habermas (check out his photo--he must have bought in to the Flock of Seagulls hair style fad), not to mention how haunting it is to see Tony Blair protrayed as this totally bright, resourceful and decent guy (will someone PLEASE teleport me back to the nineties?) who thinks he knows how to make the press love him.

Coming up next: Persuit of Happyness. This is probably the best way to watch movies; think of all the time I've saved by not watching the new Indiana Jones and other unfortunate movies. I just get the good stuff. Or maybe all movies are this good, but since my school year's kicked in, I've forgotten how good movies are. Maybe I should be doing more studying. Like now.

Just kidding.

What other movies came out about a year or two ago that I should see? What did I miss? I'll stick them on the list for Monday afternoon distraction-o-rama.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Everything You Ever Hoped and More

I'm sure Sarah Palin is qualified in ways that I am not aware of, but as a rhetor, she makes George Bush seem eloquent.

Old school.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Festive Conference Season

Ah... another Conference weekend come and gone.

This is our only truly unique religious holiday (hmm, the 24th of July may come close) and it actually requires some sort of effort instead of a day off. Even Sunday we net an hour of "church" (but if you discount meetings for callings, one probably comes off better than expected). Mostly this holiday comes in terms of reunion. My old visiting teachee from last year, who had her life plans change suddenly, stopped in during Girls' Night (and what a weird construct that is; we live in all-girls housing, so how are the two hours of Priesthood session any different than any other night? What, in other words, makes this night different from all other nights?); us roommates went to our respective homes, except the one from California, who spent the weekend with her old roommates; I invited my current visiting teachee to my parents' house because "she didn't have anywhere to go for Conference."

It's a good holiday, especially by my mother's criterion that it involves family, but no presents. Dave and Margaret once requested Conference Saturday off from their work. "It's a Mormon religious holiday," they said. Their boss was confused. "I had a Mormon friend--I didn't know you guys had any special religious holidays." Yeah, we have this one.

In other news, during Sunday session I painted Christmas ornaments for our Christmas program to the old folks' home. It just got me in the spirit, is all.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Third-party identification

D'y'know what I was only just thinking about? Charity and identification. Is it possible that through identification we have that Machiavellian justification for "loving [one's] neighbor as [one's] self?" This especially is the case in terms of that "outside perspective" that we talking about in Brian's class the other day; by identifying with some group, their success becomes your success in the eyes of the outside perspective. For example, if I'm thinking of myself primarily as Mormon (or, say, Catholic) I can justify voting for Mitt Romney (or JFK) exclusively because he's Mormon (Catholic). As the outsiders see Mitt as a successful and/or powerful and/or intelligent individual, the introductions to me as the Mormon become less derogatory. This is probably why all Mormons have "The List" of successful Mormons (Did you know that the Used are Mormon? Did you know Aaron Eckhart went to BYU?) to whip out to convince themselves, and their friends, that they aren't crazy polygamists.

[This is why I, personally, can wish all of you the best in your careers, suddenly, instead of feeling intense competition for those few PhD spots--if I can help you to be successful, especially in my own field, my academic credence with rise.]

But returning to my original quote. You'll notice that when Jesus gave the injunction to love one's neighbor, he was immediately asked to qualify that statement. The "in-group" was supposed to be Jews. In telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus was either intending on doing one of two things:

(1) including Samaritans into the "in-group" of people who should identify themselves with Jews and, implicitly, Jews into identifying themselves as Samaritans in order to suggest a more unified front against Roman occupation. (I think this is dubious--just because two groups were included in the story doesn't mean that the story couldn't have been repeated as the Good Roman. For narrative consistency, it could only include one jilted group into the circle of "love[d] as [one's own] self." Also, the relationship with the Romans was vastly unequal between Jews and Samaritans and a gain for Samaritans in this political identification would have been a loss for the Jews.--which is always why we are loath to acknowledge crazy and/or deviant Mormons in our List.) I think it's more likely that Jesus was

(2) creating a circle of identification among the "good." Because of the self-serving bias principle, the lawyer who had only just thought up a sneaky way to trick the Son of God had no problem identifying himself with the decent person in the story. In fact, very few people hearing this story identifying with one of the punks who left a dying man in the road; we'd like to think we're not that type. The grounds for identification then shift from race (just identifying with the Jews) to merit (identifying with the goodies). This new definition would help the Early Church Fathers in being able to spread the gospel to other, gentile nations because the unifying qualification has become moral principles of charity and compassion.

Which brings me far away from my initial assertion that in politics, people can wish for the best for those people whom a third party identifies as co-equivalents (my word, probably redundant) because any benefit for one benefits the other. What Jesus has suggested is that the merits of the group become the only distinction of identification. All the " black and white, bond and free, male and female, and [...] heathen" lose their bias towards their own type and unite together as the good (or, possibly, separate out as the morally reprehensible). This is the ideal of American identification politics: decent people voting for other decent people in the hope that we can all be more decent in the eyes of some third party (baddies in America or decent people in other countries, for example).

Unfortunately, this ideal is shaken not only because of the dirty-mean ad campaigns of most of the candidates (ain-McCay) but also because many Americans are comfortable with the mudslinging campaigns because they identify primarily not as goodies, but as members of a political party, for whom any amount of unpleasantness is acceptable as long as it is directed at the other guys. As long as voters see themselves in terms of political alignment (through some of the political expectations--eg all unionists are Democrats, or your example of all Mormons are Republican), they will only want the best for that party, as it justifies them to some third party. But then the question arises: what third party? Even independent parties align themselves in categories of Liberal or Conservative and most people aren't unaffiliated. As our society moves more towards homogeneity in political interactions (Studies show that liberals move into neighborhoods with other liberals and conservatives move into neighborhoods with other conservatives. There are entirely one-party neighborhoods in Maryland (D) and Virginia (R) surrounding D.C.) we are only congratulating ourselves on all being inside of our chosen identification circle instead of appealing to the third party. This means instead of the altruism within our circle (wishing Neil LaButte and Stephanie Myers and Harry Reid all the best), our "insider identification" casts suspicion on those on the fringes of our identification circles (is McCain conservative enough, or do we need Palin as a running mate to be a conservatives conservative? Does Obama have enough Democratic street cred or does he need a running mate who has the Irish-American and working class background and a 80% "liberal" record?). This "inside looking out" viewpoint, in other words, creates competition (who's the most TRULY liberal? Or, to be bipartisan, the candidate who REALLY loves his country more?) instead of the cooperation that the "concern for the third party" identification circle invokes (and this can come from both expanding the circle to include the successful who are marginally identified with your group--"Aaron Eckhart is still, technically, a Mormon"--as well as preaching the questionable success of those definitely in your group--"Yes, Orson Scott Card's most successful book was written years and years ago, but he still revolutionized the science fiction world.").

But, you may argue, where does one constantly find a third party? That, of course, returns me to the theological example. The best chance we have for "citizen of the earth" big circle identification of charity is to someone outside the spectrum. In, as they used to say, the eyes of God.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Semenza, of course, freaks me out.

If you have no idea who this man is, let me explain: Semenza has written a book about graduate studies that demands that you:

-take no more days off than either Christmas /or/ Yom Kippor. That's it.

-read 100 articles a week for each seminar

-publish 30-page articles every semester

-never see your family if possible. If this is impossible, make them visit you in the library. Between page-turning.

-create several folios and vitaes

if you don't want to end up homeless, addicted and, eventually, murdered in cold blood.

Hurrah for academia!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Things God Doesn't Care About

With all that talk about with how intimately involved God is in our lives, it is increasingly striking to me all of the things that God doesn't care about. They are myriad. We even had a family home evening about it and ran out of space for everything on our cardstock.

As Cecil O. said "some things such as meekness, humility duty, solid scholarship [this is a talk to BYU], and responsiveness to duly constituted priesthood authority are vitally important not only to self but to the kingdom. Other things like golf, bicycles, how specifically one earns a living, what one's major is, or what color blouse or tie to wear are of significant personal interest but of no permanent or transcendent value in the greater scheme of life" ("The Importance of Meekness in the Disciple-Scholar"). Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

Some of my favorite inspirational moments have been when God says, "M. it doesn't matter. At all. Sheesh." (Some people have the still, small voice. I have the still, small, sometimes-sarcastic voice.) I got a sweet one of those this weekend decided who would be in Divine Comedy. It's our most important decision, we have precious little to go on for it and it can have effects for years. But once you find a gaggle of nice, smart, friendly, funny, hard-working people, you can kind of just throw a dart.

I'm not saying that sometimes God does care, and strongly, who we choose for the troupe or what we major in or what graduate school we attend or maybe even, on some rare occasions, what color shirt we wear. But these times are few and far between and if you're living in a pattern of prayerfulness and attention to the workings of the Spirit, you'll be told if there's anything particularly pressing about the details. We should be asked to be guided day-by-day, but we don't always need to agonize if it seems like we're not getting a clear answer for a smaller question. Or even a big question. God can't guide your feet if you don't start walking.

And why doesn't God care about all these things? In part, because we're in training for God-hood and, as Brigham Young once said, he wants to see if we'll be faithful in the dark, see if we can do it without being led by the hand and never make any decisions for ourselves. For some people, this is the Christian ideal, but bear in mind that our theology insists that being told precisely what to do all the time was the Deceiver's plan from the beginning. Part of it is so that we can learn to strip away our pride in these little things, football games and prom dates, baked alaska and straight A's and realize that the things God cares about are the things we ought to care about too. And those things are simple and sweet.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Freakin' Meekness

So. I'm reading these church talks about discipleship and it turns out that I need to be meek. Paul Woodruff has generally the same idea, but he expands it a bit and calls it reverence. (And he is totally not an apostle, even if he is a Thursday forum speaker.) But here's what Neal A. says:

Meekness does not mean tentativeness. But thoughfulness. Meekness makes room for others: (Philip. 2:3).


Among the meek there is usually more listening and less talking. [...] The meek think of more clever things to say than are said.

"Meekness--A Dimension of True Discipleship" 1983

So that's why I deleated a perfectly lovely and snarky post about Sarah Palin's children's names. Must...restrain...snarkiness. It's sometimes harder to let go of those lovely cruelties than it is to pay a hearty fast offering. Why am I generous with money and even compliments, but so willing to say all the clever things that I think? Learning to be self-censorous is a never-ended quest that started my freshman year of high school when my brothers first advised me to "keep [my] fool mouth shut."

That's not to say that I'm for keeping silent all the time, or not having opinions, even strong ones, but just sometimes you need to track the number of comments you make in a class, or the percentage of dinner conversation your voice makes, the degree to which you "make room for others."

Learning to speak was hard. Learning to shut up may be harder.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Called to Service

So I just got called to the service committee. Sweet. This is one of my coveted callings, along with FHE mom (opening prayer, lesson, activity, closing prayer, firebreathing). I know I'm just on the committee and not a chair, but this gives me all kinds of ideas of service goodness.

(1) Canned good scavenger hunt, which extra points for peanutbutter and tuna and random things.

(2) Halloween Party Blood Drive

(3) Working with Music Committee for a concert at the old folks' home

(4) Giving people a list of every-day service they can do. (I think we even have one of these around)

(5) Your idea here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008


These are the money days.

I've just moved into a new apartment--need to make a good first impression on my roommates (she writes after spending an hour and a half writing email in her room alone). I enter the graduate program--that's a whole list of people to impress. I teach my class in two days--that mostly involves striking appropriate fear. I'm thinking about just failing someone straight out ("You! E! Get out of my class!") just to prove to them that I can. Yeah. That'll show 'em.

Though this is a bit nervy, pins and needles, I appreciate it. How many times in your life to you get to more-or-less remake yourself every year? This is probably why I liked moving apartment complexes all the time. It's very redemptive to make a first impression over and over again. Still, I can see how this could get old and why people "settle" into people who already know them.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Althusserian Hailing and the Freshman Mind

They could teach us how to set up Blackboard. How to put together a tightly worded syllabus. The relative virtues of guest lecturers. But what the freshmen should call us, no one knows.

Dr. Hedengren: Of course not. I don't have a PhD. This title is a lie.

Professor Hedengren: This is not a lie, but it's an untruth. There's no real hard qualification to being called "Professor." Most "Professors" are actually assistant professors or associate professors, but no one calls themselves "Assistant Professor Smith." That's silly.

Instructor Hedengren: So per above, I'm technically an "instructor." However, this is a mouthful, and somehow has a futuristic-battle-academy favor to it. Maybe that's not altogether a bad thing, but still awkward.

Master Hedengren: MA students joke about this, but it's just as much of a lie as "Dr." because I haven't earned that MA yet. PhD candidates can maybe use this distinction, but they don't, strangely.

Bachelor Hedengren: No. No, that's just... no.

Sister Hedengren: Strangely enough, almost every young person I know objects to this title. Is it because we sound like our mothers? Is it because we think we're too cool or too academic for a religious form of address? Probably. And shockingly I've heard people say (twice) that they think that this name would make students tune out. One cringes to think what kind of Sunday School they attended that they were always tuning out. Also they think it might introduce a religious expectation for the class (like that they're going to open with a prayer or offer grading mercy to their students...psshhw.) While I liked who I was on my mission a lot, I might slip into that as a teacher. Still, unlike others, I have no pressing objection to this title.

Mary: This is the one that most of my contemporaries go for. I'm hesitant on it, and not just because everyone goes for it. This is more casual than Sister Hedengren, although no one seems to admit it. I belong to that old, pre-1960s school that values authority figureship and professionalism over cool and casual. I'm the teacher here. I know more than them. Can't I assert it some how? (Ironically, this is also the year I start calling my professors by their first names, although they are surely further above me than I am to my freshmen, but they're probably secure enough to not mind.)

Sister Mary: This is the one I keep telling people I'll use, but honestly, probably not. I dig the nunness of it in theory, but it's not a great idea for an entire MA teaching career. But I think that if my name was something like Jane, or if I were a man, it would be fun to go the old-time-Mormon route of Brother Joseph and Sister Emma.

Miss Hedengren: Although I feel like this is very not-even-high-schooly, this is probably the route I'll end up going. This is no more an affirmation of my (limited) qualifications than Sister Hedengren or Mary, but my freshmen will understand it as authority figure language and it does set me apart from the real professors. I feel like a preschool teacher, but I can get used to it.

Comrade/Citizen Hedengren: is really what I'm looking for. Gender-neutral, respectful, formal, but oh so red. Dang.

Maybe I'll just not say anything, let them figure it out. My freshman teacher did that, Kylie Turley, so I spent the entire semester calling her Kylie Turley. "Kylie Turley, I have a question."

I also encounter the weird "I want to call you by your last name, but my parents/friends use your first name, so I don't know which is right" situation. I had that with Kim Johnson, whom I also call by her full name, but often I call her "Kimmy-poo," which I'm pretty sure is definately not okay. Can I give my students a silly nickname to call me and bypass this whole thing? No, not when I'm a short young woman.

When I took my dad's class I didn't know whether to call him "Dad" or "Dr. Hedengren" so I gave up calling him anything at all. In study group I think I said "our professor" and in class I just raised my hand. So I guess there are even more confusing situations. Maybe I could ask my students to call me "Ma."

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Lists

So one of the magazines I was reading behind the sound machine today taught us about making life lists. So in case anyone's interested, here's my lists. We all need lists.

4 Things I'd Like to Do Before I Die:

1. Raise children of some sort (what sort? vampires?)
2. Temple-married
3. World's Leading Expert on X (where X is something, not that I'm a leading expert on the letter X, although it would put in the forefront of the Arts and Letters world)
4. Do me a little more travel: Thailand, get back to Russia, the Caribbean

4 Things I'd Like to Do Within the Next 6 Years:

1. Be PhD-ing
2. Significant Other-ed
3. Published
4. Go to Croatia

4 Things I'd Like to Do Within the Next 3-5 Months:

1. Make a short film/music video with my friends
2. Play intramural sports
3. Throw a dinner party
4. Rock the apple harvest. Old school.

4 Things I'd like to Do Every Week:

1. Have an adventure (go/do something new)
2. Watch a movie
3. Studerday! (Study a bit on Saturdays)
4. Write a sketch for Divine Comedy

4 Things I'd Like (to start doing, you know, when school starts) Every Day:

1. Study 9-5 daily
2.Clear room daily: Clean off desk, make bed, nothing on the floor
3. Write something literary
4. Have a musical moment of Zen (you know, singing along to the radio, car dancing, eyes closed in the dark dozing, that sort of thing)

So there you have it. The Lists. Daunting, no?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

7 Surprises in the Ladies' Home Journal and Good Housekeeping

1. You can prevent varicose veins through a baby aspirin (with your doctor's approval).

2. It turns out, yes, this marriage can be saved.

3. Dogs can make your fashionable clothes more stylish.

4. Princess Di truly was the people's princess.

5. "Super" and "Fabulous" used to be youthful slang misunderstood by Boomers' parents.

6. You can actually make money by stacking coupon savings on sales promotions on refunds on in-store credit cards.

7. It's really hard to be a mom; not just "take out the garbage, help with homework, go to soccer game" hard but "son commits suicide out of nowhere, sexual harassment of daughters at after school job, pool toys make drown children" hard.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Far, Far Better Thing

You may notice that my "What I'm Currently Reading" list has altered: yes, I've finished A Tale of Two Cities and really, that last book of (huh), reminds me why I started reading the book in the first place.

Sydney Carton.

Some girls have Mr. Darcy for a literary crush, me, maybe there's something hopeslessly fatalistic about my Romantic (or Victorian) fantasies, but I dig the Carton-man. Is it because I like the concept of the tragic sacrifice? Or is it that I romanticize the idea of wasted potential? Or is it just because Dickens writes a dickens of a snarky character?

This is not a good romantic ideal. My more persistent literary crush, Melville's Ishmael, is a much better match for me, seeing as he is not an unambitious and cynical drunk. But it's not like Ishmael is without significant emotional baggage himself. But neither of this is as dismal a beau as Heathcliff, but, really, girls who like Heathcliff kind of weird me out. No offence to anyone out there, he's just a jerk, that's all.

Then again, what which the fictional element of all this, it's all rather a moot point, isn't it?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Off the Deep End

I didn't want to look chicken in front of the twelve-year-old boys coming up the platform in front of me, so I jumped. That's the short of it. The long of it starts with my decision to focus on courage for a weekly goal last year which did two things for me (a) inspired me to take risks, live fully and move forward bravely and (b) convinced me that I am right-out yellow.

So fast forward several months and I'm swimming laps at the BYU pool thinking, "before this summer is over, I'm going off that huge platform, yeah, the big one." For those who don't know, this diving platform is roughly 400-miles from the water and only open twice a day, maybe to avoid conflicts with the other diving boards, but probably to decrease liability for wrongful death suits. But then I think, "hey, summer's almost over, why not now?"

Climbing up the platform, I didn't look down, but I kept thinking, "this is taking a long time to get up. This is taking way too long to climb up." I got up and looked over the edge, just, you know, so that I can make sure that the kid who just triple-backflipped off was making it out of the way safely. I got up to the wet spot where, I'm assuming, swimsuits dripped for a few moments before their wearers took the leap.

I'm not saying I took the leap. I took more of the "Well, it's not going to get any less scary standing here" jump and flying squirm.

When I was in fifth grade I was in the swimming lessons where they taught you how to dive. Maybe it was there or maybe it was cliff jumping with my youth conference that I heard that after a big jump, you should open your arms wide once you're in the water--slows your plunge and bouys you up. I may have done that too early, or not at all correctly, because I seem to remember being curled up, almost fetal, my feet grazing the bottom of the pool. Then I swam up with all my bursting lungs.

Once I was up, I confidently swam to the edge of the pool and got out, hoping the red marks where I hit wrong weren't too obvious to the pack of twelve-year-olds or the lifegaurd as I non-chalantly made my way to the lockerroom. Yeah, I could go off again, I hope my saunter told them, but I was headed out anyway.

In the lockerroom, showering, I held my hands up and yes, they were shaking. I'm glad I did it, but you know what? I'm still a coward.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The People of Gotham Deserve a Better Breed of Post

Because I've been one-lining it, here I go with everything in my slackerful and charming life. (And yes, you wouldn't be amiss in assuming that there's a lot of Law and Order in this life.)

Exhibit A: One quarter-finished novel. This is the future manuscript of my first and likely very dumb novel Boy Crazy Gets Her Man, which both gives you a feel of the futuristic hello-kitty styled murder mystery and explains my gmail tagline, which isn't about my finally pursuing men flirt-astically and settling down. Shucks. But if I can actually have a 200-odd page manuscript with a beginning, middle and an end (singing the Sesame Street song in my head), then I will be, as they say, a happy camper.

Exhibit B: A pile of tent on my laundry room floor. A pile because I put it out in the sun to de-mildew it, but then got too lazy to fold it up and put it one of the bags that is still in the back of my car (maybe I'll clean my car out tomorrow) from my camping sleepover with my good friend, Mrs. Zv, who will be shortly moving to Italy for eight months while her husband attends Johns Hopkins, which, yes, one can do in Bologna. Our briquettes kept going out so, yes, we did take my dad up on his offer to drive up and bring us pizza. So much for growing up and moving on. Still, waking up to trucks on one side of Nunn's park and a river on the other is a lovely thing to do with an old Freshman roommate.

Exhibit C: One teal tee-shirt with a slightly peeling iron-on of a bear playing a balalaika with a Soviet man half-consumed by his enormous red beard. This is my favorite souvenir from Russian camp, although my previously alluded to bottle of penicillin is a close second. My First Strep. I should write a children's book. Still, what a summer for strange adventures.

Exhibit D: Paul M (The husband of Mrs. B.--she kept her name.)'s Rock Band set. Which is strangely addictive. Which made me hoarse. And not aware for some time that it was past two o'clock in the morning. And very impressed with Nick M's vocals. And very awkwarded when Dr. M., my friend and yes, twice professor, came in while I was shouting (not singing) some Faith No More. Ah...

While this post leaves man questions unanswered (If, in an alternative universe, Jack McCoy was a defense attorney instead of assistant district attorney and faced off in the courtroom against Harvey Dent, who would win? Would McCoy have the chutzpah to punch a guy who pulled a gun on him? What is the preferred spelling of "chutzpah?") I hope that it better reflects the vast amount of time on my hands that is this summer.

Yes, invitations to play are being accepted. No questions asked.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Madonna lied. Amoxacillin is a girl's best friend.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Land of Many Lakes

I'm in my mother's land. The mother land. They have bunnies. and squirrels.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

It's a Lovely Day in the Neighborhood

A few words about friends:

(1) I am extremely loyal. Absurdly so, even when friends don't return my calls, alienate my other friends, treat me like a therapist, kick me in the ribs, etc.

(2) As I get older, it occurs to me that I should be spending less of my effort in Oaksian "hanging out" and more time focusing on one "special friend" than desiring a circle of people around me. (Do I find this the ideal because I have a large family of siblings that I enjoy?)

(3) I need to learn how to make friends, not just acquaintances. I give precedent to those "old friends" without ever keeping up with the people I met in last year's ward, for example.

(4) Breaking-up with friends is hard. You can't just break up--one side just peters away from the other side. Would a "state of the relationship" or DTR-type speech make it easier to just peel away a friend who is damaging and/or time-draining? How do you break up with someone that you don't enjoy spending time with besides just ignore them?

Not being a Jedi master of relationship relationships, this friend relationship thing seems pretty hard. Wish I had learned this in 3rd grade.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why We Write.

My would suspect... taken in part from my inscape interview, but probably forward for my book.

There have always been poets. There is something about the human language that lends itself to bursts of short, tight, aesthetically-evocative works of literature. Sometimes these expressions take the form of songs, sometimes prayers, but in whatever form they take, since there has been language there have been poets. A wonderful thing happened and poetry became popular. Then a terrible thing happened and poetry became unpopular. And yet, I think that there are no fewer poets than before.

It’s a funny thing, using that word poet. Most of the people I know who write poetry, even those who have been long-published and professional, shy away from calling themselves a poet. There’s something of a sigma to it, like suddenly you’re this self-absorbed pseudo-intellectual lurching about like Meyerburg from Cold Comfort Farm. It’s easier to admit that you go to Star Trek conventions than let average people know you write poetry—because there’s a lot of bad poetry out there. It’s so “easy” to write poetry that everyone does it and so “difficult” to read that no one does that.

There is no incentive, in the modern world, to write poetry. You don’t get boys doing it (although I have heard boys claim they can pick up girls through poetry); you don’t make money with it; it doesn’t make you popular—even if you’re on top of your game there will probably be only a handful of people who care about what you’re writing and many of them will be interested only because, frankly, they wish they were at the top instead of you. I don’t know this because I’m at the top—I know this because I’ve felt this way about those up there.

So why do I do it? I like words and I like images and I like poetry. I like the neat little bundles that I can tie things all up in and those little bundles are so port able. I can carry a poem around in my head a lot easier than a personal essay or a novel. Sometimes those ideas end up back in essays or short stories, but usually they fit best in the highly concentrated form of a poem. In the end, that’s why I write poetry: it’s a surprisingly efficient way to figure out the world.

And that’s why I figure that despite the cultural currents against writing poetry, I think there are still a good clump of poets, yet. Poetry, like any art, is something that those who make it just instinctively do. It bugs me when I hear people ask famous poets how they write, where they write, what kind of pens they use when the write. It’s never struck me particularly that it’s about the writing instrument, but more of a way of thinking about things in those little packages. You have to read a lot. You have to think a lot. You have to write a lot. It’s just the way in which you encounter the world and you can’t change the way you think, not easily. There are always people who think about the world in tight, wordish ways and there always will be. There will always be

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Maddening Beauty

Rilke remarked about Rome, there is beauty here because there is beauty everywhere.

I wish I were still in Europe. How can that be? Why do I wish I was there? Provo is beautiful, the remarkable green on the mountains from the wet spring, sunny every day, windful and full of sweet scents on the air for those of us blessed with no allergies and a fondness for sandbar willow and globe fallow. Do I think that if I were in Europe, my grandma wouldn't have died? She was 96 years old, and after nearly a century, death is not unexpected. In fact, since my birthday 3 years ago, when she fell and broke her hip, we knew this was coming. She had told us who was and who certainly was not to play the organ at her funeral, divided up all the major peices of furature and the silver, commented on how she was just waiting to die. And still, when she died it was not beautiful. She was alternatively unconscious--they make these little doses of morphine now--or hysterical, throwing tandrums, raving that she wasn't ready to die. What more is there to wait for?

My mom has a theory. There's really nothing to be done, in the long run, for someone in labor. You give her medicine, you hold her hand, you try to make her comfortable, but in the end, it's an indeligatible chore. It's one of those few things that you just go through alone. Death is still scary, even for my grandma, having been on acquaintance with death for so long. That shakes me, because I've always thought that between my worldly admiration of Marcus Aurelius and the Stoics on one hand and my abiding faith in the literal Christian resurrection on the other I would be immune to fear of death. Now it seems, TV series finales notwithstanding. everyone's afraid.

My family's coming out. All of us haven't been together at one time since the informal family reunion of my return from the mission. I'm already thinking about games with my nephew, talking with my sisters. My brother and I rode our bikes to the movie theater, like we were 10 years old again. We had a big Costco cake and Sees chocolates--it's been my dad's birthday, too-- with my mom's siblings. I told them all about my trip to Europe and I've promised them a slide show when they've come back with their children's families for the funeral. The funeral will be Monday at 11:00, but we ought to plan on it taking all day.

We've been keeping the house clean for my mom. Small comfort, considering she's been orphaned and lost the person with whom she was spending, easily, three hours a day. But I remember once whining about chores after Grandpa died and she cracking, "My dad just died," when I asked why she was being so strict. We keep the house clean, even spot-cleaned the carpet, my brother mowed the front lawn, she arrainges everything with her siblings, and us Hedengren siblings watch multiple episodes of Law and Order, go shopping for appliances, eat leftover cake. My grandma's little sister, of course, has been notified.

And in this is there any beauty? It's no dramatic tragedy, nothing quintessential. I half wish it were, but it's the way life is, all planning and preparing and advice and unexpected expenses, just as for every vista and art-induced stupor I had to register at hostels, find the bus to the inconvinent Ryanair airport, buy coughdrops from a drugstore. I spent a lot more time looking at my feet on the sidewalk than gothic spires against a sky. That's just the way it is and just the way everything is.

I'm here and I'm glad to be here, long-bath lazy and moms-credit-card comforable. It's not beautiful, this day-to-day business of death and waiting for death, but it's no less beautiful than any other vista on life. That's another way of saying, it's just as beautiful. It's beautiful. I don't need these Roman skis and trees.

It doesn't hurt to see them, but I don't need it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Grandfatherland

I´m in Stockholm. It´s corny, but yeah, this feels like home, kind of. The trees, the water, the buildings... We went to Hedengrens book shop and when I told the lady working there that my name was Hedengren, she made sure I had plenty of free bookmarks and bags. Nice people. But why have this attachment to Sweden when:

รค) my kinsfolk are actually Swedes from Vaasa Finland, not Stockholm at all and

b) I´m not entirely Swedish, but I have no deep drive to go to Denmark or Wales.

Huh. And yet this is very much like how, I suspect, Jews feel coming to Jerusalem. Everyone here looks like me. The historical recreationist apocraphary in the old town had my same blue-grey eyes, hair like my sister. Everyone goes around so nice and easy. It´s beautiful.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


So I'm doing the backpacking thing and it's totally true what they say about total strangers abroad being close. I'm hanging out with a Canadian and my friend Chris and I'm equally comfortable with each of them. We're talking about our grandmothers' mortality and past relationships and it's so open. It's so intimate and scary to be alone, so we cling to each other, in this strange place. That's all we can do.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ah, the Muse


I'm working on writing my novel, or rather I'm sitting here blogging instead of writing my novel because it's really easy to get distracted. I think I have to become one of those "first-thing-in-the morning" writers because the 3-4 pm time is really my most useless time of day (and yes, you may point out that it's only a quarter to 2 and I'm still rather useless, aren't I?). I was so good last week and wrote a lot, even 12-15 pages at one sitting, but I know I need to just sit down and pound it out. It's feeling a lot like my thesis. The word /thesis/ sits pretty heavily down on me as a new topic that caused (a) a lot of procrastination in starting it (b) a lot of procrastination in doing it (c) the feeling that when I did it, I ought to be more monumental that what I actually had to say and (d) a certain degree of stiffness in the writing because, after all, it was my THESIS. I think the same thing goes with writing a novel. Somehow I'm more embarrassed to tell people that I'm writing a novel than that I'm working on some short stories or something. I think it's because a short story is something someone can just do for a lark while writing a novel evokes a certain degree of authorial solemnity.

The point being... I just have to get it done. It doesn't have to be that good because it probably won't be that good because of the hugeness of the word novel, but once I get it down then I can finally get comfortable with the idea that I can just write up novels sometimes. This is just a practice run of writing something long and finished. I've started other projects of writing a novel, but finished seems to be the hardest part. So even though I just want to sit here and blog instead of working on the novel itself, I just ought to pound out some pages, even if they're dumb and get closer to the end of this monstrosity, or (as I called my thesis), the big slouching beast.

In other news, however, the poetry manuscript is going swimmingly. It should be ready by the end of this week.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Study for the GRE and Save the World

In one easy website.

(Perhaps it's everyone besides me who knew this already.)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Because It's Summer and I Want To

Although I wrote 15 pages on my novel today, need to mow the lawn, learn Latin, buy stuff for Europe and go running, here I am...

Four Movies I could Watch over and over:

1. The Italian Job
2. The Incredibles
3. P&P, the mormon one
4. Children of Heaven

these sucked and ergo I add my own:

Four Books I could read over and over again:

1. Moby Dick
2. The Moon is Down (although I might need a little break after the thesis)
3. Flannery O'Connor's collected works
4. A series of unfortunate events (they can't all be deep)

Four Jobs I've Had:

1. BYU Bookstore Giftwrap Girl
2. American Economic History TA
3. Student Literary Magazine Editor
4. Substitute Cafeteria worker

Four Places I've Lived:

1. Provo
2. St. Petersburg
3. Provo again
4. St. Petersburg again

Four of My Favorite dishes/foods:

1. Thai food--Padd Thai is always good, and coconut curry
2. Carrot cake w/ cream cheese frosting carrots
3. Microwave salmon.
4. Margarita pizza from Costco

Four T.V. Shows I Love:

1. Monk
2. Law&Order (w/sam waterson, none of this spin-off nonesense
3. House (someday ask my about my House phase)
4. Star Trek

Four sites I visit daily:
(I visit no site daily. I'm not good at daily, but here's my most frequent:)

1. Gmail
2. BYU Library
3. Wikipedia
4. Blogspot.

Four Places I'd rather be right now:

1. Nowhere, really, I love my parents' place
2. Just West of Valaam island, swimming
3. Dave's apartment in Washington DC
4. Anywhere less overcast

Sunday, April 27, 2008

If you're havin' school problems, I feel bad for you son; I got 99 problems, but a BA ain't one.

Now I'm all graduated. It really doesn't feel like that big of a step because, of course, this fall I'll be headed back with the same teachers, studying the same thing at the same school. Still.

The Humanities Department convocation was an exerise in sitting politely and trying not to not off (although I did count six people on the stand who did so) while a long-winded philosophy professor talked about a BYU history exhibit (that has been in development 7 years and isn't even open yet) for nearly an hour. What ever happened to "go forth and change the world, the future belongs to you, this is only a beginning, etc?"

University commencement was better (and shorter) with David A. telling us all that we only come to college to learn skills of how to love learning. Also, he acknowledged that no one at graduation is there for the speaker. Pshw.

I did get my Costco carrot cake with apricot filling and a very pretty BYU-blue and white dress. And, having moved into my parents' place, I also have a room full of too much stuff to sort through, three weeks to play and work and learn whatever I want, and a subscription to netflicks to be keep my weekends busy. Life is very very good.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Summer Dreamin'

The bad news is that school's not over yet--I have 3 finals next week. But the good news is that at this nearing-180-credit point in my life, I doubt even a string of Bs can do much harm to my GPA.

The good news, also, is that I'm going to have a kickin' summer. In yearbook terms.

I'm going to spend 3 weeks living the American dream, which is to say the Americans by James Joyce dream. I'm pretty much coming of age.

So here's what I want:

What should I bring on my backpacking in Europe?

What should I see?

Go, team, go

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I got to co-host the BYU Unforum. I will probably never again speak in front of so many people in my life.

Then again, that's what I said after I spoke at my H.S. graduation.

But I got to wear my old prom dress (I'm always looking for an excuse to wear it) and wear hoochy-mama lipstick (I don't know all the reasons why a man would become a transvestite, but I'm pretty sure the hoochy-mama lipstick has something to do with it) and I got to walk down a red carpet and wave and shine to the audience and hang out back stage with Cosmo and Cecil. And that's a pretty good Tuesday.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I like to read. All those who are paying strict attention to the "Books I'm Reading" corner of this blog may realize that Tale of Two Cities has been there, stubbornly, for now months. Yes, I'm still bookmarked near the beginning of the pulsing, wild violence and mushy heroics haven't even been foreshadowed. Sometimes I watch movies instead of reading books, but I really like to read.

Maybe you misunderstand me. I can't not read. I'm in the shower and I read the backs of all my shampoo bottles, which is becoming sort of a matins. I read the backs of cereal boxes, the titles of books people I walk by are reading, the headlines of Soap Opera Weekly at the check stand. I pity those who are functionally illiterate as much as those who can't read in the car. Or those who can't read while walking. I can't brush my teeth or take a bath until I've selected something to skim. I read through a cookbook today, reading all of the comments from the women who sent in the recipes: "This was a favorite at our church's fellowshipping potlucks," "My mother-in-law used to make this every Christmas," "Our children love breaking up the cookies for the crust." On my mission, I would read half an article in the Ensign before I went to bed so that when my alarm clock went off I'd jump out of bed and pray so that I could finish it. I've read every Ensign published since Russia was opened for the preaching of the gospel.

Maybe I get it from my dad, who sometimes reads, aloud, every sign and billboard we speed past on the freeway. Anyway, it's probably more from him than from my mom, who reads properly. She would have been done with Tale of Two Cities and on to Bleak House by now. It's probably less of an intellectual pursuit and more of a nervous disorder. Still I have the advantage of often being able to mentioned that I had read something some where. Then the question is, "and where exactly was I?"

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Great Justification of My Attendance at BYU

Okay, I've not turned in my acceptance of a benefit and can start registering, so let's talk about defending the choice that I've made. As my gmail tagline has stated the past few days, "I'm BYU bound and BYU-bound."

Here are my reasons:

1) I don't want to get into debt for an MA in a program that I'm not particularly interested in for a non-terminal degree at a school that is okay, but not great when...

2) after getting my MA here at BYU I can apply to really good schools that weren't options this round because
a) I haven't taken te subject GRE and
b) I don't have a strong grasp on Latin, my preferred 3rd/ancient language

3) and after all, BYU is not that bad of a school--I'll get to work with some great faculty whereas MAs at schools that have PhDs tend to stiff their MA students and I'll get to teach here from semester 1 (probably) and as a single woman, I have to consider the search costs of dating outside of Happy V. and I can live at home if I further need to tighten expenses and I have a job lined up for a professor this summer.

But really, why do I have to defend myself on this? Renaissance Girl called me into her office to discuss how to fanangle my way into Chicago and warned me about the consequences this choice could have on my academic future. This is a big decision.

But here's the thing:

I'm not certain there are that many big decision, just lots and lots of little decision. There's the decision, say, to marry a certain person, but that decision may be just as equally important and inspired as the decision to praise or berate one's spouse, the decision to be selfish or selfless, etc. and if the marriage doesn't work out, was it a bad decision? If it goes swimmingly, was it a good decision? Not necessarily any more or less than any of the decisions that either party made along the way.

Same thing with my education. There were some decisions that I should have looked at earlier (the aforementioned 3rd langauge and subject test as well as choices of specific programs at a wider variety of schools) but there are a lot of decisions I get to make now and in the MA program. I can use this time to learn to write well and figure out what an academic does and how to teach students and work with administration and write my novel and get published all over and be smart. Or I can goof around. I could do these things here, or at any other school. In fact, from my brother's experience at a good school, and my sister-in-law's, it seems like both of these choices present themselves at brand-name schools too. People are generally about as educated as they want to be.

So what about Spence's Signaling model? Isn't it worth it to have a brand-name education just to be able to show off what a smarty-pants you are? Probably. I'll have to play this game with my PhD for certain, but most people just look at a terminal degree. Maybe going to BYU will mean I'll have to work extra hard to impress those looking at me for their PhD program, but I'd rather learn the skills of academia here with my MA than debt myself pre-recession at a name brand school that will benefit me primarily by fact of my getting in. I have enough confidence in my intellectual ability that I think I'll be able to pull it in the real world by going here.

So speaking of these hundred-thousand choices, I've made the choice this afternoon to eat ice cream and watch old Strong Bad email instead of correcting tests and writing papers, so I better start this journey of intellectual choices here, don't you think?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Book Throwing

I'm going to throw away my copy of Crime and Punishment. It's not rage or indignation--some of the the pages from the first half are coming out. I'll probably buy a new copy. But I had to read through this one. Why?

I got this book from the box of books outside the door of a professor I'll call, for anonymity's sake, Great Britain. The need to preserve his anonymity stems from the fact that, according to the inside of the cover, Great Britain received this book for Christmas 1981. Also, it's never been read through.

That's not to say G.B. hasn't ever read Crime and Punishment or to blame him for that (heaven knows, I've been in that culturally illiterate camp until this last month), but just that this particular book has gone its whole existence with only the pages of the first half being bended and separated.

It's like the time I checked out from the library a book that had been published in 1882 and still never had its pages cut. More than a hundred years old and never read straight through. How long had it been in the library before I lost half a sentence in a page fold? I had to turn it in to get it cut properly.

I'm not saying G.B. did wrong by his book that he abandoned in a cardboard box in the JFSB--I'm just saying every book deserves to be read through. At least once.

And now it's into the recycle bin.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Products of A Slightly Fevered Mind After A Long Girls' Night Out.

1. 28 Dresses Later a high-adrenaline zombie-bridesmaid thriller. When one dress too many turns the minds of the perpetual bridesmaid, they roam post-apocalyptic London, tearing to shreds everyone with well-manicured nails and biting them with their recently-whitened teeth.

2. I wake up, groggy, bed-headed, pajamaed. Lying next to me, fully dressed on top of the bed is Gregory Mankiw, the economist. "You're Greg Mankiw," I intelligently remark.

He springs out of bed and stands up. "Would you like to discuss consumer surplus and tariffs?"

"Why are you here?" I ask.

"Don't you remember the Make-a-Wish Foundation?"

3. I was going to throw my tiara, but it turns out to be made of popcorn. "What a cheap groom I have," I think. He's already changed into jeans by the time his extensive family starts playing a traditional game of "here kitty, kitty," around the equally extensive reception grounds. I have no idea why we're doing this, but it's traditional.

Friday, March 28, 2008

It Could Turn a Blue Man Purple

The official story of our Vegas trip:

We did not stay in a smoky casino, featuring a topless vampire review and "American Storm" male strippers. We did not perform clean comedy in the back of a fetish shop. We didn't get excited at seeing a duck on the Strip.

It was a great trip.

New On My Bookmarks

You may remember him from your Econ 110 textbook.

Monday, March 17, 2008

If I can't have you...I don't want nobody, baby!

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HYPER! I've been sliding around my kitchen singing along with "Saturday Night Fever" while putting away dishes as a study break while working on aformentioned stress number 1, which got an extension. And I was just talking with Xister about how I should blog more happy so random blog searchers won't contact my health care professional. Wow. Where does this sort of thing come from?

Not to answer that question, but in correlation, I got accepted for University of Chicago's masters program. I'll probably still go to BYU, but I'll look into it. Still. It's nice to know that some people you will probably never meet really liked you as represented by a slim packet of letters and writing samples.

And a manfriend of mine chose to come up and talk with me and sit right next to me (as opposed to a seat's distance away, as is customary in larger classes) and talk and walk with me after class, which makes me think maybe pigtails are a hot new look.

And it's sunny-ish.

And John Steinbeck effectively combined literary aspects to his war propaganda in order to create works that had a lasting impact as literature as well as immediate political results.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Happy Presentation Day!

So I presented in aforementioned intimidating class about Edward Taylor (my paper topic, as well) and suddenly--boom! I feel like I'm an expert or something. I'm answering people's questions and talking authoritatively, although its a bit of a pantamine because, of course, I'm not an expert. My teacher, the one sitting eight feet away, is the expert. Duh.

The good news is that this takes stresses 4 and 3 off, leaving only 1 and 2 and 1 gets printed in triplicate on cotton paper tomorrow, leaving only gluttony and glowsticks for stress 2 goodness this weekend!

P.S. Apologies to everyone I've been blowing off this past week, including my 519 class (for two weeks!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Devotional Lyric

This class intimidates me: senior capstone class, smart classmates, academic superstar professor. And it freezes me into inaction on any assignment. I vacillate between several different topics, unable to choose and when I get to writing it I wonder if it's any good at all, put it off too late and generally panic.

M'Kayla has suggested that part of it is this toxic culture of academic competition. We all want to be top of the class. So why does this class scare me while the honors class where I am as like to hear "What's the difference between a novel and an essay?" as "Didn't some of the Greek comedians like Philemon have a similar telological approach?" drives me to check my email and blog during class?

Probably because I have to care about my Senior Capstone Of MY MAJOR BEFORE GRADUATE SCHOOL WHERE I WILL BE TESTED TO THE LIMIT TO SEE IF I HAVE THE ACADEMIC METTLE TO MAKE IT IN THE WORLD OF THE UNIVERSITY AND THE MLA CONFERENCE and not just a civilization course I need to graduate.

Good grief.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The World Wide Inter-web

My mom had to teach me how to turn on our new TV. My mom. She's also asking me why I never update my Facebook page. She updates her Facebook page. Six months back from my mission and I feel like I've fallen behind helplessly in figuring out the new technology. That's for the younger hipper kids. Twitter? Texting? What is this madness? I feel like I'm already my grandma. I tried to play the cool new first-person shooter game, but got so nauseated from the graphics that I had to take a break after 15 minutes. Will it ever come back to me? Will I ever be able to reclaim my youthful tech-suavy? Is the TV line-in one, two or three?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

11 hours

Last night I went to bed at 8:30. I was really trying for 9:00, but I couldn't make it. But really, I wanted to go to bed at 8:00, so my discipline is staggering. Whew. It's been a week.

Tomorrow is Spring Haven weekend, which is maybe my favorite place and favorite time of the world. There will be murder in the dark. And there will be dodgeball. Scary stories. Gluttony. Pants-wetting. Good times all around.

And I will go to bed at 8:30. a.m.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Boo, Berkeley, boo.

So it looks like I won't be going to Berkeley at least. I knew it was a long-shot, but as Nada Surf once sang in relation to dating "there's always a feeling of hurt and rejection" when a university "says [it] prefers the company of others to your exclusive company." There were something like 900 applicants for 6 positions, so really, what do I expect?

Oh well. It's probably for the best. One less choice to make.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lying in Bed

So I haven't been going off to sleep like I'd like to the past couple of weeks, so last night I'm under the sheets and I'm thinking about all the stuff I want to do and then I remember the answer to all of my problems:

Macy's is open 24 hours.

I go out there and I do all of the stuff I want to do (including buy tons of Valentine's care package candy and everything for dinner group and $20 of cute office supplies and a wicked binder for my thesis) and I get back and I put everything away and then I think:

I really want to grade those economics tests.

So I go through and I grade everyone's questions one and two, but question three I'm not so sure about what the answer key says, so I email the professor and move to question four, which one person had a LOT of data for a closed-book test, but maybe he has a good memory, and if he does, I can't call him a cheat, but wow! really! So by now it's early morning hours and I do get myself off to bed I know I'm not going to wake up early and go do yoga, but that's okay because while sitting in a class where I hadn't done the reading and wasn't looking forward to group discussion I thought to myself:

I need to go work out.

So I subtly left class and went to the gym and had a great time and listened to a neat podcast about Joseph Smith and got all dressed and not-stinky in order to make it to my class, where I totally wasn't late and we talked about immigration and population change and that stuff totally gets me all excited and I'm trying not to shout out answers, because I'm the T.A., but I'm all bright-eyed and bushy tailed and the opposite of how I felt yesterday and I wonder if it's chemical or just the weather, because the weather really does affect me. For example now it's really getting overcast and cold and so now

I'm really tired.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

What Everyone Knows (But rarely does)

Health Edition! (Feel free to add on the most useful things to get neglected far too often)

1. Exercise Everyday

Benefits health, immune system, as useful for depression as Prozac, relieves stress, improves stamina and energy.

2. Sleep Well at Night

Improves mood, energy, resistance to infection, weight loss.

3. Wash...Daily!

Less likely to get sick, improves skin tone, mood, sociality.

4. Drink Water

Improves physical and mental performance, cleans kidneys, digestive tract, clears skin tone

5. Brush and Floss

Dental health, good breath

6. Eat Fruits and Vegetables

Digestion, vitamins, fiber, prevents certain types of cancer/heart disease

There it is. Start with the basics, fools. So hop to it, you crazy fad-dieters!