August 25th, 2004

hermione by oatmilk

(no subject)

When i saw Ruthie today, she told me about how her grandson had gone on a mission trip to Mexico with 200 other teenagers. They helped to build a church, among other things. (The frame had been out up by a previous group, and they finished the walls and stuff.) They came back at midnight on a Saturday and were at church the next morning at 10am to give an articulate presentation on the experience. Ruthie, of course, sobbed. He still won’t sleep on his bed. Knowing there are people who are sleeping on the ground, he can’t bring himself to sleep on his bed. Not that he’s not talking about the car he’s gonna get, but still, i’m really impressed that he was so powerfully affected.

It seems like everyone recently has had someone close to them diagnosed with something potentially very bad. I feel like i should be reading this as a sign to recenter myself and focus on what’s “really” important or whatever. But i’m still chugging along re: grad school and stuff. Because this is what i love -- what i’m doing right now. And isn’t that what all those lifechanging epiphanies are all about, anyway? -- spending your life doing what you love.

In other news, i’m at the library 10-6 tomorrow (which is now today -- ouch). Grad school replies have been piling up in my inbox (i’ve at least read them all finally), so hopefully i can get up early and tackle those. Some have been only moderately helpful, but others have been very helpful both in terms of being and/or directing me to compatible professors (the latter of which, sigh, means more e-mails to write) and often additionally being very helpful in further explaining how that particular program operates and how i could fit my research interests in (sometimes recommending i check out CompLit and/or Film/Media Studies as a potentially better way to do what i want at that particular university). I feel like i should send chocolates to some of these people after it’s all over. While the first batch of responses i got was almost overwhelmingly positive, this latter batch has been tempered with advice/warnings about how competitive the programs are and suchlike [mt will appreciate this from one student: "Putting aside the usual warnings about going into a PhD program in English (since I'm sure you've already heard all the arguments against such a decision, many times over), I'll do the best I can to tell you about ours."] which i also appreciate. I mean, i am at least something of a realist.

I was thinking a while back about how problematic it is for people to constantly tell children how wonderful/brilliant/whatever they are, because it’s easy to buy into that, and when you find yourself competing against other people who might be more qualified than you, it can be traumatizing. Everyone tells me i’m brilliant, capable, etc., and most of them have never seen any of my schoolwork. Certainly my own perceptions of how good my work is (as well as how qualified i am for whatever) are skewed, but i at least have some grounding in reality. Since high school i’ve often had to insist to people that i’m not really the most brilliant person ever and certain to succeed at whatever i want, and i know it would be so easy to just believe them (though of course it would be harmful in the long run, since they’re not the ones on graduate admissions committees or anything).

A Duke professor who wrote a very cool looking textbook (Media Journal: Reading and Writing About Popular Culture) wrote: "Nice to hear from you! I wish I was as savvy and organized as you when I was applying to grad school!" Hi, i am easily won.

For anyone keeping track: Duke, UPenn, and Rochester (NY) are currently the front-runners.
broccoli quote from SIKOS 2002

I(t) never stop(s), huh?

Wow, it's been 2 years, though.

Tuesday night my mom showed me last week's Norwood Bulletin (August 19, 2004) for Len's column -- "A spiritual shift toward gay marriage acceptance" (page 21). It opens with a story of a lesbian wedding he went to and he talks about how theirs is a loving and committed relationship and how the fact that they can now be legally married in this state gives us hope for the future and on it goes with intelligent positive things. He discusses the Massachusetts SJC ruling and during his discussion of that, writes:
Clearly there are many within our State who do not agree with the court's decision. Ten years ago, I also might have disagreed. But my thinking has changed. Years ago, many believed homosexuality was a choice and therefore could be labeled as a sin. But over the years, we have come to understand there is not much choice involved. People are who they are because of DNA more than because of choice. I know this statement cannot be proven yet, but just look at the pain many homosexuals have endured over the years because they knew society abhorred them. Is this something you would choose?
I'm very much an essentialist when it comes to sexual attraction insomuch as i think you can't help who you are attracted to (an enjoyment of particular sexual practices is something far more subject to change). However, from reading things that engage the issue, i have come to be troubled by the idea of validating something only because it is a choice. I can choose not to masturbate, but that doesn't mean that i should be legally prohibited from doing so. I'm quite fond of Len, and obviously i'm very happy that a retired minister has consistently been writing intelligent columns in my town newspaper supporting gay rights, but because this particular slant on the essentialist argument has come to be troubling to me, i feel the need to problematize it for other people. So here's the letter i wrote and mailed out on Wednesday:Collapse )

I flipped through the rest of the paper, and page 4 Letters to the Editor gives us this gem:
Gay marriage coverage inappropriate
To the Editor:
I am quite surprised that the Bulletin would put the marriage of two lesbian women from Florida not only on the front page of the last issue but also superimposed by a large heart. Do you really find this newsworthy and of interest to families in Norwood?

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broccoli quote from SIKOS 2002

(no subject)

phineasjones asked "was that my mostly-asleep-ness talking or did i really hear on the clock radio that cheney said some almost gay-positive things?"

My dad had actually sent me 2 things about that today. (I'm rather surprised phin was the only LJer to mention it.) This references an AP account that just mentions that he thinks states should have the right to decide what constitutes marriage. This uses an ABC report which further quotes him as saying "With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone."

Reading that last statement i thought wow, that is an incredibly radical statement if taken to its logical conclusions, though i'm sure he doesn't mean it as broadly as some of us might like to interpret it.

One of the commenters on phin's entry linked to this Yahoo article which gives an extended version of the quote: "With the respect to the question of relationships, my general view is freedom means freedom for everyone ... People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to. The question that comes up with the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction or approval is going to be granted by government? Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that fundamental decision of what constitutes a marriage."

I wonder if he's truly thought about the implications of that. I mean, he's basically saying, you can have an incestuous relationship, or a consensual BDSM relationship, or a poly relationship, or whatever, and that the government might not give official sanction/approval like shared health benefits but that it wouldn't be criminalized. I, of course, think as long as you're not hurting anyone, you should be free to do whatever you want.

The first of the pieces i linked to mentions the Cherokee Nation ixnaying same-sex marriage and i was reminded of how so many people glorify indigenous peoples and their societies and insist that the evil West not force its ways onto other cultures, conveniently forgetting anything they do that we don't like.
anime night

(no subject)

So i was probably the only person on the planet planning to see Catwoman, ‘cause i thought it looked neat (plus hotness) and i don't know Batman enough to be committed to any particular canon. However, then my dad sent me this.

James Surowiecki talks about The Crow and its tagline: "Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to make the wrong things right." He then writes:
I was, then, a little disconcerted earlier this summer to see the trailer for Catwoman -- a movie about a woman who, after having been murdered, is brought back to life to hunt down her killers -- and hear this: "It's been said that when a person dies, a cat can bring back their soul to make the wrong things right.''
Okay, not only does that sound like a movie plot i'm not particularly interested in watching (clearly i didn't pay too much attention to the trailers i saw) but ripping off The Crow makes me so sad.
angry - books

Today's Headlines from

When Truth Dies in Battle
Amid the debate over John Kerry's Vietnam record, one thing is clear: War corrodes memory.

The author uses firsthand anecdotes to point out that people remember things differently even when they were all at the same place. Does this surprise anyone? Is this necessarily only a wartime phenomenon? Is it impossible to consider that perhaps Kerry has an agenda in mind and is remembering things (either consciously or unconsciously) so that they fit that agenda?

Putting Caps on Teenage Drinking
A nationwide plan to reduce underage drinking is long overdue.

What about all those European countries where alcohol is treated as just another beverage? Is it possible that perhaps in the U.S. there is a culture of underage drinking that encourages reckless behavior and that perhaps that is what we should be focusing on?

This is interesting.
August 24, 2004
The Vietnam Passion

I'm launching a major investigation into whether the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth organization is being secretly financed by the Kerry campaign. For today that organization begins airing ads drawing attention to John Kerry's 1971 testimony against the Vietnam War.

If voters see that testimony, they will see a young man arguing passionately for a cause. They will see a young man willing to take risks and boldly state his beliefs. Whether they agree or not, they will see in John Kerry a man of conviction.

Many young people, who don't have an emotional investment in endlessly refighting the conflicts of the late 1960's, might take a look at that man and decide they like him. They might not realize that man no longer exists.

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hermione by oatmilk

And now to finally tackle all those grad school e-mails.

I seriously overslept today, but i still managed to wash my hair, eat breakfast, make lunch, and even drop something off at the post office and still get to work on time. Go Team Me. There may be no I in team, but there is definitely a me.

No terribly exciting stories today.

I helped a nice elderly couple access their son's online wedding photo album and bantered with the father of a gothy kid (e-mail=blacktowerdiablo) who was getting a replacement card.

Speaking of replacement cards... a woman's card was wearing out and she asked if she could get a new one. I said sure, but it would be a dollar for the replacement card. "I've had this card for 12 years and you're telling me I have to pay a dollar because it's a piece of crap?" We might actually replace people's cards for free, i don't actually know/remember since it happens so rarely that cards merely wear out (usually they break or get lost or people move away or whatever) but i am not inclined to be helpful if you are gonna get pissy. I responded with something noncommittal and she left in a huff.

Early in the day a guy was looking for a novel, said the catalog told him it was available but it wasn't on the shelf. I asked if it was a new book and he said yes, still fairly new, came out a month or two ago. I directed him to the New Fiction section. He came back still unsuccessful. I asked for the title and he gave me title and author, said it had a pale blue cover (i assume he had seen it in a books tore). I turned to the cart of returned-but-as-yet-unshelved fiction and after a bit plucked the book he had been seeking. He called me a genius. Have i mentioned that i'm easily won? He checked the book out and i told him he had a 10-cent fine. (I felt bad charging the guy money after he'd just had to search for the book he wanted.) Have i mentioned that he had a soft Irish accent? He said he would pay in "coppers" if that was okay. I happily took his ten pennies.