Salon’s Movie Experience Slideshow

My friend Walter Biggins just had a short essay published in Salon.  It’s part of a larger slideshow of fifteen short essays about a memorable experience of watching a film.  His describes his experience of seeing Jurassic Park with his mom.  The link is here.  The link to his blog the Quiet Bubble is here. I’m super excited for him.


On blogging, commonplacing, and fake pop culture boyfriends

I’m still trying to collect my thoughts about the trip, specifically the process of documenting it via a blog.  I’ve been fascinated with the process of blogging since I started reading them.  I’m drawn to a type of blogging that is informed by the personal, but is also about other things.  Indeed, I get more news from blogs these days than I do from the actual newspaper. I try to skim the New York Times headlines and maybe the BBC. I depend on NPR for straight news most days, and then get everything else from a variety of political, entertainment, and design blogs. It means more reading, more skimming, and more immediacy. It also means less time for reflection.  Blogging inherently rejects the long form, deeply reported essay. At least a certain kind of blogging does, the kind that Andrew Sullivan describes in his now textbook essay “Why I Blog” from the December 2008 issue of the Atlantic.  In this essay, Sullivan aptly describes the art of journalistic, political blogging.  He narrates his own journey into blogging, and why he finds its vibrant immediacy, cacophony, and communal aspects a rewarding counterpoint to his longer, traditional writing as a journalist.

It’s a lengthy, but beautiful written description of blogging as an act of personal public writing, but the blog Sullivan writes is different than I think the kind of blogging most people engage in.  And let’s be clear here, Sullivan does have others helping him with the writing, editing, fact checking, and information gathering.  These people have come on board the Daily Dish over time, but the kind of blog that is attached to a print publication I think is more akin to a Victorian family literary magazine than it is a personal, online diary or a commonplace book.  It’s almost more appropriate to say the Daily Dish is conducted by Andrew Sullivan as Household Words was conducted by Charles Dickens; the vast majority of the writing is Sullivan’s and the rest is fully informed by Sullivan’s world view.  For most people, however, I think blogging (outside the personal, online diary) might be more akin to the work of Conor Friedersdorf in his short, one month reports this summer hosted by the Atlantic. (Full disclosure: I’m enamored with almost everyone who works for the Atlantic, especially now that my favorite movie reviewer, Christopher Orr, works for them. But I have a real soft spot for Conor Friedersdorf; he is my fake blogger boyfriend. The fake “fill in your pop culture profession here” boyfriend concept is pretty simple. It’s a combination of good looks and talent coupled with the fact that the real possibility of you ever meeting this person is absolutely nil.)

In “The Future of the City” and “The Ideas Report”, Friedersdorf presented various views on the state of the city today and on different things that shape our world today. I particularly enjoyed the conversations about California, where Friedersdorf is from, and literature. It’s a way of bringing the deeply focused nature of long form journalism to the blogosphere, but it’s only sustainable in month long projects I think.  Perhaps most blogging is in reality of this nature; short term, projects meant to provoke thought. Now, I know part of this blog’s project was initially short term: to document a two week long road trip.  And I know as my semester ramps up, I will probably post less.  Those freshmen comp papers have to get graded after all. But, I don’t think this blog as a whole is a short term project.  Nor do I think it’s an online, personal diary, which is another way people use blogs. It’s more like a commonplace book for me. The commonplace book is a concept from the middle ages, although I first encountered it in Victorian fiction. Essentially, it’s a collection of sayings, ideas, facts, information, and other materials all along a common theme. Writers in particular use them as they develop ideas for larger projects. Now, I’m by no means the first person to make the connection between blogging and commonplacing. It’s in fact part of the definitions for the word blog. But, I think it’s easy to think of all blogging as the same kind of writing act: purely personal.  It’s not at all. Blogging is as versatile as the writers who use it. It’s merely a medium for the different kinds of writing practices we already engage in. We may have shifted those practices some, and most certainly blogging has increased periodicity in all sorts of unusual ways, but we had the 24 hr news cycle long before blogs. For me this blog isn’t informed by the same frenetic periodicity that Sullivan’s is. I don’t write and think in such quick bursts. Nor, as I said at the outset of this endeavor, is this blog about just me and my feelings. I want to write about things, objects, pie, good books, movies, and the things and ideas that make us excited about life. Perhaps this project is somewhere between Conor Friedersdorf’s “Ideas Report” and a commonplace book. Hmm. I kind of like that.

Doctor Who

It’s apparently You Tube day around here, but I couldn’t resist posting this video of all the Doctor Who themes spliced together.  Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for the link.  I find the goofiness of the show refreshing as well as its utter Britishness.  While I didn’t really watch the series before the reboot under Russell Davies, I’ve really enjoyed it’s current incarnation, especially the episodes written by the new show runner Steven Moffat.  I also like Matt Smith’s recent take on the Doctor, and the fact that the show began as children’s tea time television still informs it.  The show is really about what scares children in the night.  Moffat’s episodes in the first four seasons were always the scariest, and I think “Blink” might still be the perfect introduction to the show for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

Sullivan’s post with the video says it best: “It’s such an intelligent sci-fi show – not least because of its love of history and irony and a certain British decency which courses through the Doctor’s inhuman veins. He is the anti-Jack Bauer, in a way, proving that humaneness and humor is as effective as violence and evil, even when deployed by those who think they are doing good.”

Being home and to do lists

The problem with having just completed a lengthy trip is three-fold. One, I’m tired and don’t really want to do more than watch television, read Charles Finch Victorian murder mysteries, and see people I like. Two, I really need to put my nose back to the grindstone and get ready for the Fall semester, finish that essay so it’ll hopefully go into that special issue of VPR, and write that letter of inquiry to another journal about a potential book review essay, and finish that indexing I have to do.  (I can add from here. I can always add from here.) Three, I keep on planning more trips.  My best friend and I are already discussing Nantucket for next summer, my aunt wants to do another road trip through Kentucky and Tennessee looking at our family’s roots, and I keep on thinking “wouldn’t it be awesome to go to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014.” Of course it would! Plus, I need to sort through pictures and figure out which ones I want to make prints of.  I hate it when the pictures are only digital.  I like having the hard copy too.

The other thing is that being in Dallas is only temporary. I go back to FSM soon, which means a whole different to do list of back to school clothes and supplies.  (I adore back to school clothes and supplies.)  Really I live in two different places: Dallas and FSM.  I’ve started keeping two sets of toiletries, two sets of pillows, etc. I’ve actually gotten used to living out of a suitcase and that was well before this trip.  I asked my mom the last time she’d been away from home for two weeks, and her answer was 1976, the last time she went to Red River, NM with her family.  Dad and her did a ten day trip to Beligum when I was in the second grade, and it’s the last long trip she took.  All our other vacations were seven days or less.  Dad was a consummate homebody. He liked hanging out with people, but he preferred them to be here.  Mom does too, really.

Things I Missed

So, I’m a television nerd.  Completely and utterly.  I love stories told in parts; it’s probably why I do what I do for my research.  I’ve been catching up on the stuff I missed while I was gone, which was a lot.  The end of the new season of Doctor Who, BBC America’s fantastically awesome the Choir, the beginning of the new season of Being Human, White Collar, and Warehouse 13 are just a few things.  Plus, I missed all the news out of Comic-Con last week. The new season of Chuck looks fantastic.


I’m still recovering from the trip and the intensive lawn work from yesterday, so here’s the bullet point run down of the trip.

  • number of fake Statue of Liberties seen: 2, one in the middle of a stock pond in West Texas
  • slices of pie eaten: 3
  • moonlight lakes: 1
  • number of maps accidentally ripped by me: 1
  • number of times I wanted to hurt the Google Maps application on my phone: at least 3 times
  • number of times my aunt nearly hit a pedestrian in Pasadena: at least 5 before I stopped looking
  • number of times I got messages about my cat puking at home: 4
  • number of major political scandals missed: at least 1
  • ice cream cones eaten: 4
  • number of times I drove the Grand Marquis: 3
  • number of wigwams stayed in: 1
  • number of flipped cars passed: 2
  • number of times my landlady called me about plumbing issues: 1
  • number of times I wasn’t frozen by the time I woke up in the morning: 2
  • Groucho Marx glasses wearing people: 1
  • number of times I passed people advertising “girls brought to you in twenty minutes” in Las Vegas: 4
  • number of times we drove pass the continental divide: 2
  • number of slightly morbid tourist attractions visited: 1, Donner Memorial Park
  • sunburns: 1
  • number of brides spotted in Las Vegas: only 2
  • number of el Dia de Muerto cats purchased: 1
  • number of people texting me the World Cup final play by play: 2, with a lazy 3rd occasionally commenting
  • number of laughs had: can’t even begin to count