Friday, April 24, 2009

Why isn't NP"Я" US?

Last night I went to "This American Life" broadcast event at the movie theater. It was neat at the beginning: "So this is what NPR looks like," you think. All those buttons and sound effects and clipped interviews and smooth jazz tracks. But then the novelty wears off and you realize, "why on earth did I pay $20 to watch someone read a personal essay aloud?" The highlight of the night was a clip from Dr. Horrible and that just made me think: Man, I wish I was just watching Dr. Horrible on an enormous screen.

The line-up was stereotypical NPR, too: guy who doubts marriage, girl in therapy who hates her mom, gay guy who considers returning to Catholicism. Or in other words: promoting tour, promoting book, promoting book. In fact, Ira Glass took a five minute clip to promote tv show "This American Life." It was like a commercial fest for the Obama-t-shirt crowd. The audience couldn't help giggling when Kashi cereals was announced as a sponsor. A somberer giggle: why do they need 7 grains to produce a show where people are shelling out $20 each to watch what is essentially what they do every show?

I do think this non-event could have been reconsiled by merchandizing. After all, we're all there just to gloat in how liberal and cultured and New-York-y we are...can't you at least sell us a t-shirt to prove it to our friends? Or I think if it were in 3D with little 3D Ira-glasses.

Still, as a national audience, it's odd to see how regional national (nay, international) public radio is. It's still awfully smug in its New York background. How come "This American Life" never portrays anything remotely similar to my American life?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Five Lessons for the Readers of New York Magazine

1. Dogs aren't people.

2. Rock stars aren't philosophers.

3. Wine is still booze.

4. Fashion isn't credential.

5. A world exists outside Manhattan.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Last Thoughts

Part of me is sad the last thing I do in the library is misuse the high speed internet connection to watch the Final Fantasy 7 movie.

Most of me, though, is awesomed. Totally awesomed

Friday, April 17, 2009

Eleventh Hour Doubts

Do you ever have that sinking feeling that you're out of your league?

Well, after having cheerfully read an Agatha Christie novel with many cheerful, hearty and adventurous heroines, I thought I'd do a little work and read one of my professor's teaching philosophy statements to model my own on. Nuts.

He refers to several theories and buzzwords that I HAVE NO IDEA what they mean (sorry for the caps, but at this hour, it makes more sense than italics). That only serves to remind me that I haven't started the paper for my June workshop that I'm supposed to submit by May 1st, which, I might remind you, is in less than 2 weeks. And what in Santa's present-range am I supposed to write about women's religious rhetoric in america in the 19th century? And that reminds me how I ought to be preparing something for CCCC's next year... YARGH!

The Agatha-Christie-heroine thing to do, of course, would be to be calm, collected, finding simple, yet clever, solutions to all my problems. Probably while on a bus to Anatoly. I, however, will spend the next two and a half hours watching streamed movies on Netflix and reading books from the sampler section.

Seven o'Clock News--literary aspirations


I certainly haven't written the paper for my workshop in June. And I haven't rewritten all of my lesson plans from the year. There's also very little chance of my having completed my 15 minute presentation on my Victorian rhetoric paper.

But I did watch three episodes of My Name is Earl, which is really a darn sweet show. Also, I wrote a three-page story about a dream I had a few weeks back. As I can't figure out how to embed vast amounts of text in a post, here's a teaser couple of paragraphs:

Gretta Kronquist lay on her new orange-and-pink spotted bedspread, her head covered by a pillow. She might have been trying to smother herself to escape this dark, heartless world, but she might have just been trying to dampen the sound of fists pounding on her bedroom door. She removed the pillow momentarily just to shout, “I’m not going!” Then she stuffed the pillow down again and turned towards the wall.
“Honey, we won’t make you.” There was a pause. “I’m coming in, okay, dear?”
Gretta said nothing.
The door tentatively opened and a beautiful auburn-haired woman walked in. She was maybe in her mid-thirties, stately, like what people used to think of royalty, but with those arched eyebrows that betrayed a tart intelligence and lips that spent more time pursed in thought than pouting in flirt. The whole effect of her being was enhanced by the floor-length gold evening gown that draped from her slender shoulders. She made her way over to the bed, negotiating the piles of books and notebooks, heaps of shoes, sidestepping an open can of Diet Coke. “Gretta, hon, we won’t make you go to this party if you don’t want,” she sat lightly on the edge of the bed and placed a pink-nailed hand on Gretta’s shoulder. “Just tell me why you don’t want to go, okay?”
This woman was not Gretta’s mother. For starters, Gretta’s hair and skin were pale, like the inside of a tart lemon and the redhead was warm and honey. Further, she spoke with a soft Southern accent and had that grace that a fifteen-year-old girl would kill for...but Gretta had no hope of inheriting. Gretta was a nine-foot-tall, 140-pound supermonster freak. Also, she was Swedish.

Book the Second

This librarithon is rapidly becoming a read-a-thon. I just finished my second book of the day, a little piece called Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. I've always neglected this book because of its mind-bogglingly bad cover design.

Ugh. /shudder/

Anyway, it was really great. In fact, it's the sort of book that should have been written by Linsey Duncan, that kind of funny and random and smart. Here's my review of it from my List of Everything I've Read this Year:

You have to feel good about a book that never spells pterodactyl the same way twice. And a book where the narrator admits to lying to you. Often. And one that makes a fake ending for those who skip to the end. A fine youth offering in the tradition of Terry Pratchet meets Lemon Snicket. A lot of qualifications in it. The sort of book, really, that ought to have been written by Linsey Duncan.

Mmm, what now? I might actually get some work done, although, honestly, there's time enough for that in days to come. It's library time.

By Lunch--the List of Shame

And by "lunch," I mean of course, half a vanilla powerbar. Ugh.

Anyway, I have graded all the papers I needed for 311--which means I'm set for grading 311. Also, I read Freakonomics. Two things from this, one proud and one shameful. The first is, of course, how cool am I for being able to read a book in one sitting (well, two, because I got kicked out of the study room in which I was reading and then sat in the bookshelves to finish it)? The second is, how on earth have I gone this long without reading what is arguably the most popular book on economic thought ever? I know, it was on my shame list, much as Crime and Punishment was before last year.

I don't know who it was who told me about the list of books of shame. I think it was an English teacher, someone kind of quirky--Rutter? or Hickman?--but he said that everyone has a list of books that he or she is ashamed of not having read. I think the example was "To Kill a Mockingbird." Newsweek even had this section where they interviewed up and coming folk about their five favorite books and movies and then asked for a book that "upon rereading was disappointing" and a classic that they've never read. Recently, though, I've noticed that this last catagory has been often slipped out in favor of something like "a book that parents should read to their children." Maybe it's become shameful to admit we haven't read something classic.

Orson Scott Card was asked, upon his most recent visit to BYU, what classic he had never read and he responded, in classic Card intellectual-bellicose manner, that he was rich and if he wanted a book, by golly, he could buy it and if he wanted to read a book, he could make time to read it. So I became ashamed of even having a list of shame.

Still, I've been a busy girl. With my grading schedule and a 500-page book a week for Victorian Rhetoric, I've had plenty to keep me busy. I've read a little for fun: White Man's Burden, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, plenty of magazines. But sometimes it's hard to sit down and read through those books you've seen and seen again, but never had the guts to approach because you weren't sure you could spare the time, or would see it through to the end (this is sounding more like asking for a first date than picking up a book). Now, though, now I can search for committment. I have 19 hours to hang out in the library and, by golly, they have books here and I have time.

So Thus...

The morning of a librarithon/studyfest is a series of lasts. Last time you look at your sleeping roommate. Last non-Powerbar meal. Last breath of fresh air.

When I did this in winter, it was cold and I was grateful for the anonymity of headphones standing in the wind and snow in front of the library doors. This time, I paced from entrance to entrance, and the waiting crowd was chatty, groups of twos and threes. There were birds were twitting their early mornings out and the daffodils, though snow-beaten, were fragrant.

It reminds me of how much I used to like waking up early for high school or early morning janitorial. The way my mind works in the early morning: quiet (hell is other people at breakfast, as the saying goes), plodding, thoughtful. What first period classes did I have? AP European history. Food Fads. What else? Strangely, I can only remember my second period classes--physiology, sign language, art history. Maybe my mind doesn't work so wonderfully in the morning as I think. But it is a lovely feeling, nonetheless.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An Open Confession

Dear Billy Joel,

I did it. I started the fire.


Mary Hedengren

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Private Librarian

I'm organizing the bookshelves, which is a terrible thing. Not terrible, but philosophical, more like awesome or awful. I suspect this effect is more pronounced with a smaller private library than under the efficient tyranny of the Dewey decimal system, which at least makes the trains run on time. Because I have too many books to clump them on one shelf and too few to make divisions absolute, I'm in a half thought-out literary limbo.

One is haunted by such questions as: do I make a humor section? If I do, does that mean that humorous short stories are filed there, or with Poe and Mansfield and Salinger? Tolstoy's War and Peace and Anna Karenina belong in Fiction, but doesn't Resurrection really belong in Religion? I walk back and forth among three bookcases.

Relatively straightforward sections are no less troubling. Yes, they're both non-fiction, but does The Rules really deserve a place next to The Prince? (Although in retrospect, they're more similar than you'd, no, that book is going next to the other Non-Fiction Drivel such as What you Wear Will Change Your Life and a book on baby names I've have since junior high writing club.) All the Steinbeck will go together and all the Russian books, but can I put Naylor and Morrison together or is that oversimplifying the African-American female experience?

Then there are the logistics of shelves of a certain size. Reinventing Comics won't fit with the rest of Criticism and Genre, so it goes down with Anthologies. Can I put Shakespeares collected works in Plays, if it will free up some of the space down in Anthologies? And what on earth do I do with that tiny upper shelf? You know, the one that currently has seven of the thirteen volumnes in The Series of Unfortunate Events and a Mexican Spanish phrase book? What other books are short enough to fit there?

But despite (because of?) these challenges, the time has really flown by while I've been working on this project. It's nice to remember how I first read House of the Dead in a comfortable bed with the heater on in December, or how I came to own that copy of A Perfect Storm through a geo-cache game with my brother-in-law, or how much I liked that Revolutions class I took just for fun--the only class in which I announced my mission call.

It's a rediscovery of not just the books I own, but who I am, parts intregal (two copies of The Moon is Down--the book I did my honors thesis on while discovering the field of rhetoric; issues of inscape in which I've been published; the Communist-era tourist book of Petrozavodsk that a senile widow gave me) and superficial (why on earth do I still need the instructions for a camera I've DI-ed already? why did Kim Johnson have us buy that expensive recent translation of the Psalms if we were going to use the King James Version for our class anyway?) And somehow, by arranging these books around me, I'm ordering my life, setting myself in order.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

In Which Mary Uses Fire to Fight Fire

And here is my rant about how important it is never, never to use guilt as a motivating force to get people to come to a Church meeting or activity. Don't joke about their going to hell, don't drag them out of the apartments, don't create false pretenses for activities. We must be leaders, not herders. There are 3 main reasons for not guilting people: it's not Christian, it doesn't work, and it hurts our own spirituality.

First, remembering that talk "O Be Wise" that we read in preparation to Elder Ballard's arrival, it's not the most Christian method. As Elder B put it:

"I hope it goes without saying that guilt is not a proper motivational technique for leaders and teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must always motivate through love and sincere appreciation, not by creating guilt.'"

Secondly, it doesn't work. Many people who feel guilted into participating in an occasional Church activity may find that their hearts are increasingly hardened, their feelings towards the group leaders are embittered, and, most dangerously, their spirits feel a disconnect between their testimonies of the gospel and the experience they have with the earthly church.

Finally, the use of guilt (and any other type of physical or emotional manipulation) damages our own spirituality. In the familiar D&C 121:37 we read that when we use "compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness [...] the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is greived" and we cannot act as agents of God. That is just not worth putting warm bodies in the seats.

There are a lot of reasons why people don't go to every meeting and activity: some may have work shifts, some may have classes, some may feel they don't have friends in the ward, some may not have strong testimonies. But they should never be deterred from coming because they think that they are just a notch in our leadership belt. As Elder Soares more elegantly put it:

"The gospel of Jesus Christ is about people, not programs. Sometimes, in the haste of fulfilling our Church responsibilities, we spend too much time concentrating on programs, instead of focusing on people, and end up taking their real needs for granted. When things like that happen, we lose the perspective of our callings, neglect people, and prevent them from reaching their divine potential to gain eternal life."

Obviously, I feel strongly about it and how much I suspect the Lord cares about it. If you're looking for a rhetorical exigent, don't worry about it; it's mostly something that I think about a lot--that's how I knew all the quotes!--and not directed at any one(s) in particular. Nice thought, though, as we wrap up our semester-long callings.