Friday, February 29, 2008

Midterm Threats

Two days ago, someone at my university discovered a piece of graffiti written in Sharpie inside a bathroom stall.

The message was determined to be a potential threat to university safety.

Campus officials responded by (among other things) increasing police presence on campus and sending a university-wide email announcing that students who do not wish to come to campus during this potentially dangerous time cannot be penalized for missing class.

As this email went out, the campus became awash in threatening graffiti. Students woke up to find "you're next" written on their dorm room doors. Emergency residence hall meetings were called, to try to establish some kind of safety guidelines for residents. The graffiti didn't stop.

I'm of a cynical mind, and my instant reaction is "midterms begin next Monday, and someone -- or a group of people -- is trying to get the university to shut down the campus."

The undergraduates, however, have told me that they are legitimately afraid. Never mind that this additional graffiti appeared alongside the university's "you can skip class" policy; never mind that none of the previous school shootings have been predated by a graffiti outbreak. The undergrads are afraid, and they have good reason to be.

One student even asked me where the safest place would be in a lecture hall, in case of a shooting. Near the door (for possible escape), in the center (surrounded by a mass of bodies, able to duck and hide behind a row of chairs), in a far corner (potentially inconspicuous)??? I didn't have an answer for her.

What does a university do in a case like this? Clearly, if something were to happen, they would be liable. They also want to ensure student safety, and so taking some kind of proactive action is both appropriate and necessary.

At the same time, announcing that students can skip class if they feel afraid (and, in fact, do not need to write their professors any note explaining or acknowledging such fear; they can simply not show up, which essentially meant carte blanche for anyone who missed class today) would seem to offer students a seductive opportunity: want to get out of midterms? grab a pen...

I guess we don't know where to sit in a lecture hall anymore, or what to do in response to threatening messages.

What would you do, if you were a university administrator? What would you do if you were a student?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Is An Online Mutiny Not Mutinous Enough?

Today I had the chance to meet Holly Hughes, making this the third of the infamous NEA Four I've met in person. (Memo to John Fleck: wanna do lunch?)

Hughes gave a talk about performance art as a political act, which evolved into a group discussion of the state of activism in the US.

One of the older faculty members made the following comment: "No one wants to be a public activist anymore. Everyone goes online and does these clicky-clicky things, but that's anonymous and impersonal. No one's willing to go out there and be an activist in their body, and take that public risk in front of everyone."

Immediately I responded that these online "clicky-clicky things" had perhaps spurred more political change in the past few years than any physical act; the internet brought down George Allen, Dan Rather, and Rick Santorum, just to name a few. The internet revealed the true horrors of the Saddam Hussein execution. As soon as the Clinton campaign "leaked" pictures of Obama in "his native clothing," the internet was there to call bullshit.

Another faculty member said "But it's not activism if you're online doing it anonymously. To be truly political, you have to put your name and your face and your body out there."

It soon became a split discussion. The "young people" argued that online activity has done plenty to further political and social change (where would Obama be without the internet?), and that the impersonality of a laptop was more than overcome by the connectivity of an online group. The anonymity of the internet also afforded those of us who might be unable to participate politically "in the body" (we're all worried about employers finding out, after all) to take part under an assumed identity -- an identity which, online, became as public as one's real name.

And the "older people" told us to stop dinking around on the internet and go out there and march, even if it meant losing our jobs or getting sprayed with tear gas.

The trouble, I think, is that the internet generation has seen marches. People have been marching on Washington since the beginning of the Iraq War (that'd be five years now), and nothing has changed. We saw Cindy Sheehan protest, physically, outside of GWB's ranch... for three years.

We've also seen people who try to politicalize the physical get fired, get tased, and -- in some cases -- get detained "indefinitely." As students, we could be expelled for protesting the building of a parking garage, or see our politically-themed play canceled (with the administration asking us to saw all of our prop guns "in half," lest someone go into the prop shop and use a whole prop gun to threaten someone).

But we can put an anonymous video online and watch it go viral, we can bring down a candidacy while posting entirely under avatars, and we can organize everything from flash mobs to bone marrow registry drives.

Okay, okay, I know those last two involve physical actions. ^__^ But the moral of the story is this: perhaps we don't feel the need to put our bodies on the line because we have the capability to put the truth online.

And the truth will set us free.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pretty Blue Update!

Here's a quick update, before I dash off to a rehearsal:

* I did not win the Oscar pool. This disappointed me greatly, because I am ridiculously competitive. I *almost* won; for the majority of the awards I was neck-and-neck with another party guest, and came out ahead at the last instant because I called No Country instead of Blood for best pic; and then this guy who had been sitting quietly in the corner all night said "Actually, I got the most right," and showed us his ballot. And I'm totally not bitter about it or anything. ^__^

* As of this morning, I no longer have a soft cast on my foot. I had "the opposite of surgery," where the surgeon removes all of the metal pins he put in during the surgery, and then I had my pinholes sutured with silver nitrate, which was pretty cool. Unfortunately, I've regressed back to creeping down the hallway. I was all excited about getting the cast off and the pins out, but it looks like having the opposite of surgery traumatizes the foot just as much as having surgery does. In short, it hurts to walk, and it'll hurt for a few days. On the plus side, I can wear a regular shoe again.

* I saved $10 by giving myself a manicure while watching the ABC premiere of Raisin in the Sun. The manicure turned out all right; bought a kit for $2 which gave me a little jar of white polish and a little jar of "nail color" polish so I could do it French-style, and surprisingly I was able to pull this off. Raisin in the Sun wasn't bad either, although I was disturbed by the choice to make Asagai Beneatha's teacher, instead of her friend. Made the inevitable romance just a little creepy. For the record, Sean Combs can act... and thank goodness.

That's all for now. Sorry there isn't any more... um... substance; it's been a light news week in Blue-land. ^__^

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Duct Tape Solves Everything

So... remember how I duct-taped the word "VOTE" to my sweatshirt for Super Tuesday?

Tonight I'm going to an Oscar party.

Racked my brains trying to think of a costume. (Everyone's going to go as Juno, right?)

Then I came up with a brilliant solution.

Grabbed duct tape, a jacket, and set out to spell "PUNK IS NOT DED."

Problem solved!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Job Search $$$: Shall We Start Keeping A Running Total?

Over on the hilarious A Philosophy Job Market Blog (tagline: "It'd be funny if it were happening to someone else"), the group bloggers keep a running total of how much money they are spending on the act of job searching.

From the most recent money post:

Holy shit, the APA was expensive. Three nights in the hotel, even at the reduced grad student rate and splitting a room with one of my office mates, came to a $180 plus taxes. Transportation was $288. Add in internet service in my room at $10 a night, a couple of burritos at Chipotle and a sandwich from Potbelly, and I'm looking at a Visa total of about $544.60 for the conference.

So I've spent $995.39 on the job market this year. That's more than 5% of my gross annual income.

To amuse you all, I thought I might start a similar tally. Today, I spent $84 on interview clothing, and $200 on a round-trip plane ticket to DC.

Which is... over a third of my monthly income. Woo-hoo!

Paging Daniel: Someone Translated My Blog Into German

To Daniel and all other German-speakers:

Someone's started copying my blog posts and translating them into German.

Here's their rendition of this post:

Sie dürften fragen, wenn Sie von einer zynischen Drehung des Gemüts sind, warum ich Bargeld auf Schönheitflüssigkeit und Haar goo fallen lasse, wenn ich deutlich für Geld und Gegenüberstehen von bevorstehenden medizinischen Rechnungen und eine potenzielle Verschiebung festgeschnallt bin.

Jene Frau sollte ihr Haar allein verlassen, dürften Sie denken. Sie sollte Mild benutzen. Oder Setzen Sie besser noch Gleich.

"Beauty fluid" becomes "schonheitflussigkeit," but "hair goo" is "haar goo." ^__^

Barack Obama And The Unstoppable Momentum

Tagging off of a comment I made on Ultrabrown:

Barack Obama has taken the place of Harry Potter in our collective consciousness.

Think about it. Last year, the entire world waited to find out what a seventeen-year-old wizard would do to save the world from evil. To pass the time, they made fanvideos, posted online, and generally whipped up enough momentum to cause grown people to dress up in ridiculous costumes and stand in gigantic lines to pay $30 for a book.

With Harry Potter done and gone, where will America (and abroad) transfer its collective fandom energy?

How about onto this other, slightly magical man whom we believe will save the world from evil?

I think it's fantastic that Obama is gaining so much momentum from what are, essentially, fangirl techniques. I also think it's fantastic that this momentum is cropping up within nearly every demographic;, Viva Obama!, and the infamous BollyObama video.

(A full collection of fanvideos can be found here.)

All that's left are fanfic and cosplay. I did a search for Obama fanfic and -- luckily -- didn't find any. But I wouldn't be surprised if it started turning up in the next few months. (The only slash we see had better be Barack/Michelle, 'kay?)

As for cosplay... well... the national election, the big one, is on November 4. My birthday.

I think I just decided on my party theme.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Image, Beauty Fluid, and Credit Cards: Blue Rehashes the "Dress For The Job You Want, Not The Job You Have" Argument

You might ask, if you're of a cynical turn of mind, why I am dropping cash on beauty fluid and hair goo when I'm clearly strapped for money and facing upcoming medical bills and a potential relocation.

That woman should leave her hair alone, you might think. She should use Suave. Or better yet, Equate.

Well. Here's why.

The short answer is that I'm test-driving low-cost image enhancements so that I can look my best when I go on my upcoming Informational Interview Tour.

The longer answer is that I'm tired of always looking like the poor temp (or poor graduate student) in the corner, and that it's important enough to my future career that I transform myself, even if it takes a disproportionate amount of my income.

Every career book I've read mentions this, including Suze Orman (whose Young, Fabulous, and Broke is technically a money book, but contains a section on starting careers).

I was always the temp who had three pairs of polyester "office pants" which she strictly alternated against a handful of blouses and sweaters. (At one temp job, my supervisor actually gave me some clothing, under the guise of having accidentally received some that didn't fit.)

Prior to this adventure, a job was something I showed up to do, and as long as I did my work well enough, it didn't really matter what my shoes looked like -- or my nails -- as long as they were clean.

This time I'm playing it differently.

I had a graduate student classmate who, unlike the rest of us, always showed up for class and rehearsal looking like she stepped out of a catalog. She had a standing manipedi appointment at the local salon. Every few weeks, she would appear with a new outfit or accessory.

The other young grad women asked her about this, one night when we were all hanging out together. We asked her how she managed to fit her great style into our tiny grad stipend.

"I took out an extra loan to pay for this," she explained. "It's an investment in myself. People get hired based on image, and I figured out what my image needed to be."

And then she said something very interesting. "I'm never going to buy a house. Statistically, because of my age and the cities I plan to live in, I'll never be able to break into the housing market. So my image has become my house loan and my mortgage. I'm wearing my house on my back."

Guess who moved the furthest in her career, after graduation? My savvy, well-coiffed friend.

I don't want to take it quite that far; I'm wary of "wearing my house on my back." But, at the same time, I want to shed the Scrappy-Doo graduate student persona.

So, over the next three weeks before I leave for the DC tour, I'm going to trim my cascade of hair, get a $10 manicure at the local cosmetology school, and comparison-shop to find two professional-and-attractive interview outfits. No polyester. And yes, I'll put them on the credit card if I have to. It makes me cringe, but even Suze Orman says to make the investment.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Blue's Product Placement: Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Weightless Anti-Frizz Serum

I shop store brand. For nearly everything. Oatmeal, cookies, coffee, soap. I even swapped out my favorite Dental Care for the much less appealing Ultrabrite (which is supposed to have some baking soda in it somewhere, but for the life of me I can't find it).

But there is one product for which I will not shop store brand. I tried, and switched back instantly.

That'd be my Garnier Fructis Length and Strength shampoo and conditioner.

I love this stuff. I discovered it in Hyderabad, when I was using my increased purchasing power to try every different shampoo I could get my hands on. (I was buying new shampoo all the time, given that the university kirana only sold 8-oz bottles.)

Long story short, I've got almost two feet of hair now and Garnier helps keep it soft and fluffy.

I did have a problem, though. During the course of a day, my hair would start to separate into straggly individual locks. I wanted a curtain of long, straight hair, not something that looked unkempt and unbrushed.

I also wanted my hair to stay glossy throughout the day, instead of turning dry and dull by evening.

So. I tried using more conditioner, and less conditioner, and then I tried using different conditioner. I tried using hairspray to get my hair to stay together (I don't recommend this one). Once I bought some "conditioning milk" that was on super sale (not a Garnier product -- this one was Sunsilk), but that only made my hair feel greasy.

I spent most days walking around with a rubber band on my wrist, so that I could scoop my disheveled hair into a messy bun around 4 p.m.

And then I went to the Garnier website.

They've got this fantastic little application called "Hair 411," where you get to name your specific hair problem through a flowchart-style interface. Then they list a few suggested products.

For me, that product was Sleek and Shine Weightless Anti-Frizz Serum.

Since I'm a competitive shopper, I know exactly which supermarket chain sells Garnier product at the lowest price. I got my magic serum for $3.

And ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you about how fabulous this little bottle of goo is. I haven't yet been able to replace my digital camera, so I can't take a picture. Whatever it does, it does well. My hair stayed glossy and fresh-looking all day long, and not once did it get clumpy or straggly.

Oh, Garnier. I know you've got someone on your team who follows site links, so to the rep reading this: I heart your product.

The Job Search Defined

I've been trying to define, for the past few months, what I am looking for in a job -- and in a job search. I had been floating around, trying things out, without a real plan of action.

Recently I had the chance to connect with a person who is going to talk with me about opportunities in DC and will undoubtedly give me some indispensable advice. But I couldn't meet with this person without a plan.

So I sat down, and thought it out, and then wrote it out -- and then revised it, until it made sense and felt like an achievable goal.

And here we go.

I'm not necessarily looking for a job in the fine arts, despite my degree. My goal is to find an admin or entry-level position in an organization which will allow me to use my analytical/writing skills. These seem to be the two biggest assets I have to offer an organization, and are also the parts of my current work which I find the most interesting.

With the entry-level job in hand, I'll begin to learn more about the internal structure of the organization, determine where my skill set could be most useful (and where I need to fill in the gaps in my education), and prepare myself for an eventual move up or a lateral move out.

Which means, at this point, that I'm not focusing on getting a job in a particular industry (e.g. "I want a career at a publishing house"). I'm looking at a variety of possibilities and am hoping to find an opportunity.

Part of the reason why I am looking at so many options (academic sector, government sector, private sector) is because, in truth, I don't really know what's out there -- in DC or anywhere else. My knowledge of the working world is framed by growing up in a tiny town.

That last part is especially true, and seems to be why I've found it so hard to name the type of job I might want. I just... don't know what kind of jobs there are, in a world larger than my hometown and larger than my university town.

But this goal seems workable, achievable, and promising. I like that.

It also -- perhaps most importantly -- gives me a logical next step.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Blue Dreams of Cherry Blossoms

Those of you following the blog know that I'm "on the market" this year; that I will need some kind of a job to follow my imminent graduation, and that I would prefer it to be a nice job, with things like sick days and health insurance, and possibilities for advancement.

Although my initial fear was that I was unqualified for anything except blogging, I have since created a pretty spiffy LinkedIn profile (wanna connect? email me at prettybluesalwar-at-gmail-dot-com), gotten my resume professionally analyzed at a Resume Rodeo, and crashed a rather famous national convention to talk to industry reps.

Long story short, I'm more qualified than I thought. Thank goodness.

What's the next step?

For me, it was deciding on where to live. I know that some people think the job should come first, but environment seemed to want to come first for me, for two reasons:

1. What I want is an opportunity rather than a specific position. My education thus far has been... um... liberal, and so I'm not lined up for any particular type of opening. Whatever job I get, I'm going to have to get through my communicative skills and my ability to sell myself. And, because I know so little about the professional work world (though I know a great deal about the service work world), I'm open to any opportunity that I can find.

2. I do not have the money, or the time, for a national job search. I have one spring break, which I know I'll have to spend in a single city, meeting and talking to as many people as possible. After graduation, I could temp in my sleepy university town, but my best bet would be to relocate to the city I visited over spring break, start temping there (at more prestigious companies, natch, with possible temp-to-perm options), and continue to meet people and apply for positions until I find something permanent.

So. Where, in the entire wide world, should I go? One friend suggested I go to Singapore; I've always wanted to live in Toronto; Chicago's just a train ride away.

I knew I didn't want to move to a city where I didn't have any connections or current friends. That's what I did after undergrad; moved to Minneapolis on the strength of an internship that fell through, and spent a year in the city with no social or professional connections. I'm smarter now. I know, for example, that the bigger your social network is, the more opportunities you have for both work and fun.

So I made a list of the places where I knew people. And then I thought about each of these places.

And then my heart did something kind of silly. It told me "Blue, the most exciting place in the world to be next year will be Washington, DC. Can you imagine, living at the heart of the place where a new president is going to be working to restore our country?"

I told my heart to be quiet for a moment, and reminded it about things like "no taxation without representation" and DC's expensivity and the fact that it might not be Obama, after all, doing the restoring (to which my heart responded "okay, but Hillary would be cool too!"), and that the idea of moving to a place because it was close to a bunch of exciting white buildings seemed... romantic, at best.

But my sister lives in DC, and I miss her.

So I called my sis to ask about life in DC, and what kind of opportunities would be available to me.

And she talked about what she was doing at work, and what her friends were doing, and then she said the sentence that clinched the deal: "... and with your skill set, we might be able to get you an entry-level job in a think tank."

Which she had to immediately follow up with "Hey! I said might!"

Long story short: after research, consideration, conversation, and a bit of idealistic romanticism (the heart wants what it wants, after all), I'm flying out to DC in two weeks to go on the "informational interview tour," to see what actually is available for a person with my resume, and whether or not I'll be moving there this summer.

Hold your thumbs for me.


Today I was in Borders, reading another "career guide" book (really, I should stop; they all say pretty much the same thing).

This one mentioned that to get ahead, a young go-getter should plan on spending most weekends in the office, secretly getting projects done ahead of schedule so that the boss can be pleasantly surprised "to find them in his mailbox on Monday morning."

Eew, I thought. That's vile. I want my weekends!

Then I thought about what I did this weekend. On Saturday, I spent about six hours working on an administrative project for the Shakespeare Festival, since it's part of my graduate assistantship which I really like ('cause it's administrative rather than "artsy-fartsy creative," although it also involves a lot of writing, which I love) and because I want to impress the pants off of the Artistic Director of the Festival (also my supervisor) so she will give me even better projects and, eventually, a good recommendation.

I got the project on Friday, and was advised to complete it within a week, but you betcha it's going to be on her desk Monday morning.

I guess I'm a "young go-getter" after all. And, I suppose, like the career book says: you work the hardest when you like the work, and when you have a good supervisor.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Balm for a Twenty-Six-And-A-Halfth Birthday

Today marked the end of an epoch.

I bought a skin moisturizer which also... sigh... reduces the appearance of fine lines.

When I was in Hyderabad, one of my students said "Madam, you really should put oil on your face, for your wrinkles." (I loved my students' honesty.) He told me that coconut oil was best, and so I diligently applied coconut oil to my face for about a week, until I made the connection between applying coconut oil in the morning and sunburning in the afternoon. Turns out coconut oil was what people used to slather on their bodies in order to achieve those really dark tans. Who knew?

After I returned from India, I was hanging out with a friend and he took a silly picture of me on his digital camera. It was before I broke my toe, and so I was showing off my hard-earned yoga flexibility (incidentally, today was the first day -- after a week of no practice, and then two weeks of one-footed practice -- when I was finally able to once again flatten my back in the seated forward bend).

I looked at the picture. "See, this is the problem," I said. "My face looks older than the rest of my body."

Which it did. Bending in my yoga pose, I looked like Gumby with a bunch of crinkles in his forehead.

Then I noticed this post, at HERstory. Anna's been using Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream SPF 15 since her late 20s, and she's gorgeous.

And I'm in my late 20s.

I put it off for a while, since no one really likes thinking about buying wrinkle cream at twenty-six, but I realized the other day that moisturizing my precious face with the same Bath and Body Works Sweet Pea Body Lotion that I use on my elbows is probably not a good idea.

So today I bought a facial moisturizer that -- oh, I couldn't bring myself to buy anything that said "wrinkle cream" on the box, but I did buy one that is designed "to reduce the appearance of fine lines."

It wasn't the Neutrogena, unfortunately, as I don't have that much cash in my pocket (the Bath and Body Works stuff was a gift), but it was a store-brand alternative.

I'll keep you posted as to the results.

Love Means Never Having To Specify Which "Katie" You Are

They've installed two large computerized billboards at our local downtown center, which I can only assume is some kind of effort to make the cross-streets of Main and Oak seem more like Times Square.

These billboards annoy me to no end, because I have to drive past them every day and they're like having two giant TV screens flashing at me from either side of my car. They aren't even placed near any traffic lights or stop signs; no, they're placed where the road curves.

Anyway. Driving home the other day I happened to glance at what was on one of the flashing screens.

A picture of a middle-aged man and woman, faces pressed cheek-to-cheek, with the text "Katie B., Will You Marry Me? Love, Carl."

I glanced again to make sure. Yep. Katie B. Even though her face was clearly on the billboard, Carl still felt like he had to define her by her last initial to distinguish her from all of the other Katies in his life. (It makes me wonder who Katie A. is, and why Carl was so concerned she not think the proposal was for her.)

If anyone ever proposes to me on a giant billboard and includes my last initial, I will not marry him. No friggin' way. Don't waste your billboard money.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ask Blue: Miss Ginny's Question

Using Pride and Prejudice as a reference- Why is it that women, as a whole, always seem to end up pining miserably over the Mr. Wickham-types while simultaneously cooing over how SWEET the Mr. Darcy-types are and how much they'd like to date someone exactly like that...

Happy V-Day, by the by. Give Miri-belle a pat from me :D

~Miss Ginny

Dear Miss Ginny,

Miri says hi. ^__^

My official Pride and Prejudice Theory of Romance is that all women think every Mr. Wickham is a Mr. Darcy until they find out that he is, in fact, a Mr. Wickham.

This is what Lizzie does, after all. She thinks Mr. Wickham is the be-all and end-all, until she finds out that he isn't.

I'd argue with you that the sweet types aren't actually Darcys at all, but Bingleys. And there's nothing wrong with a Bingley. But it's hard to be with a Bingley when you really want a Darcy, and the trouble with Darcys is that they so often get confused with Wickhams.

Darcy and Wickham grew up together, after all. Like, in the same house. No wonder they're similar.

BTW, the quickest way for a man to go from being a Bingley to being a Darcy is to find some way of challenging his Lizzie (take her rock climbing, or sit with her during the presidential debates and start playing devil's advocate about her favorite candidate). A Bingley-turned-Darcy can be quite an attractive man.

Unless, of course, the Bingley wants a Jane. Bingleys and Janes are generally quite happy with one another, and neither of them have to worry about the belay devices breaking.

Hope this helps!

Advicefully yours,


Ask Blue: Indianoguy's Question

What women want?
No, its not a plug for the movie ;)


Dear Indianoguy,

I can't speak for what women want. Women are a diverse and complex group of individuals, and to make any sweeping judgment about "what women want" would be as foolish as assuming that all desi boys like the yoga. (This is wrong, of course. They all like the Kama Sutra.)

I can, however, speak for what I want. Maybe this will be able to help you.

I want someone who will let me be me, without trying to change who I am. I don't mind if he thinks I should try cooking scrambled eggs a different way, or something like that, but I don't want him to try and stop me from being all of the quirky, fun things I already am.

I want someone who gets excited about the Wii.

I want someone who is completely cool with my cat.

I want someone who will let me sing Cole Porter while I do the dishes. Someone who will maybe sing with me. That's even more important than doing the dishes with me. (In five years, doing the dishes will probably be more important.)

I want someone who will let me organize his things and not mind; someone who will let me hang up the shirts by color and sort the bills by due date. Someone who will smile when I put scented candles in the bathroom and curtains on the windows.

I want someone who will send me a note when something exciting happens in his day and still find things to talk about at night.

I want someone who will let me talk to him as much as I want without my feeling like I'm being clingy or overwhelming. I have a lot to say, after all. A lot of questions, too. About life and philosophy and superdelegates and whether he had a good day at work and what's bothering him and can I help and does he maybe want a back rub?

I want someone who will laugh with me.

I also want someone who will spar with me. Challenge me. Debate me. Tease me, even. Let me fight back. (This may be the most important thing, and the rarest thing to find. But women fantasize about Mr. Darcy for a reason, and not just because he's played by Colin Firth.)

Is that a start? Keep in mind that every woman is different. Some women just want a hot body, and some women prefer a fat wallet. (You can fake this by stuffing your wallet full of old receipts and sandwich club cards.) Many women like being taken out to dinner. That's probably the best place for you to start, if you don't know what women want. Take a woman to dinner, and proceed from there. She should give you at least one good clue about what she wants next.

Advicefully yours,


Ask Blue: Andre's Question

How come whenever I try to go out with an white person, they always say something to me about how much they love yoga or bollywood or some other aspect of Indian culture? When I dated a French girl I didn't go on and on about how much I like Proust. It makes me feel like a token instead of a real human being. Which is why I mostly date Indian girls now.


Dear Andre,

Of course you wouldn't mention to a French girl that you liked Proust. You would mention that you liked fine wines and the film Amelie and possibly that trip you took to the Centre Pompidou in college. Playing the Proust card would be like white girls playing the Tagore card.

But they don't play the Tagore card. They play the yoga and Bollywood cards -- which, first of all, should be looked at as two separate cards.

Yoga, as we know, has been completely co-opted by white culture. I've taken years of yoga classes where everyone in the room was white, including the instructor. The young woman who mentions she does yoga is either A. stating something important to her without being aware of its Indian background (as in "Hi, my name's Mandy and I like candlelight dinners, walks on the beach, and yoga") or B. is aware of yoga's cultural heritage and is trying to open a dialogue with you about culture.

Which is probably what the young woman who mentions Bollywood is doing: poking around the outer edges of a more serious cultural dialogue. She's saying, in a somewhat awkward way, that she's aware that you're brown and she's a little bit aware of what being brown means, though she's not at all sure what it means to you. She wants you to know that she knows a little bit about Indian culture, and if she's like 99% of women on this planet who start making long-term projections on the first date, she's probably wondering how culture will play into this relationship. Will you be the kind of guy who wants to take her to tabla concerts and who cooks his own naan, or are you more Panjabi MC, or Goldspot, or Rihanna, or Hannah Montana? In short: She's trying to tip you off to the fact that she'll be down with the brown, if you're that kind of brown boy.

White people generally aren't good at opening cultural dialogues, and sometimes it sounds like we're "othering" the people we're trying to understand. (I wrote more about that here, about a year ago.) On the plus side, we adapt really quickly, and after a date or two should start to figure things out.

If, however, a girl bursts out with a giggly "You're Indian? I love yoga and Bollywood!" then feel free to DTMFA.

Advicefully yours,


Ask Blue: Ctrlalteredmind's Question

Why is Children's Day celebrated exactly 9 months after Valentine's Day, in India?


Dear Ctrlalteredmind,

Children's Day is celebrated nine months after Valentine's Day because it's the time when all of the babies conceived over Diwali and the other winter holidays are born.

What can I say? IST is a powerful force.

Advicefully yours,


Ask Blue: Miri's... um... question???

Give them to me! I love yarn!


Dear Miri,

These socks are made of synthetic materials, and they're not for you. You already have a Valentine's present: a parade of hotties lined up outside your door. Unfortunately, you're an indoor-only cat.

I still love you.

Advicefully yours,


Ask Blue: Mom's Question

What's a mom to do? Let's say a mom bought her daughters Valentine's socks. And then one of the daughters falls down the stairs, fractures her toe and is in a cast. What is a mom to do with the socks?

Dear Mom,

Your daughter will undoubtedly look at these socks as an unexpected double bounty. Since one foot is in a cast, she now only requires one sock at any given time. Thus, her supply of existing socks (and the necessary time between laundering said socks) has now doubled. Mathematically, consider it 2x, where x equals the number of original pairs of socks.

Upon receiving two Valentine's Day socks, your daughter will rightfully assume that you are aware of this mathematical equation and have chosen to give her two socks, instead of one, because you love her twice as much. She will wear one sock on Valentine's Day and one sock on the following day, the feast of Lupercalia. Then she will wash them both.

Advicefully yours,


P.S. She thinks the socks are really cute.

They've Got The Hots For Mew

After putting my kitty's picture online, she found this message waiting for her in her Catbook inbox.

Clearly she has many admirers.

(Original image source here.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

PostSecret Style!

The Modern Love parody, as well as the advice column answers, are still to come...

But first:

PostSecret just released its "Valentine's Day" edition.

We've all thought about sending a postcard to PostSecret, right?

In honor of V-Week, here's one of mine.

Blue's "First Kiss" Story: "I Don't Think It Should Become An Everyday Affair"

In honor of Valentine's Week, I dug out one of my old diaries (I've got boxes of these things, dating back fifteen years) and found the entry where I wrote about my first kiss.

I'll recreate it verbatim, though the names are changed where appropriate.

March 29, 1997

And today Brian kissed me.

I'll backtrack...

We all went to [nearby town slightly larger than my hometown, large enough to have a mall], and Brian and I held hands in the mall, and then we went to Wal-Mart & got our picture taken in one of those little booths, and etc. etc., until Brian and I were suddenly left alone in Brian's car, the rest of the group electing to ride in Heather & Megan's cars.

So Brian said, "So you've never held a guy's hand before?"

And I said, "Once, but it was for a show, so it didn't count."

And then he said, "Have you ever kissed a guy before?"

And I said, "No."

So then Brian said, "Have you ever wanted to?"

And of course I said, "Yeah."

So Brian asked me if I wanted him to kiss me now, and I (even though I knew it was coming) just about went nuts.

"But I don't know how to kiss anyone," I semi-wailed.

So Brian was like, "It's really easy... just... kind of... like this."

And then Brian kissed me. (And I was so dumb. I didn't even kiss back, or whatever that means.)

My first reaction was kind of weird. I mean, to be brutally honest, I thoroughly enjoyed the kiss, but is it considered bad form [and the words "to wipe the spit off of your mouth when it's done" have been scribbled over in heavy ink].

And then Brian said "You know, you can relax a little."

"No, I can't," I said. "I am physically incapable of relaxing right now."

So then we were like, "What do we do now?" and I suddenly decided to see if my new lipstick was kiss-proof. So we kissed again.

But it wasn't. So Brian ended up with peach frost on his lips, but he wiped it off.

That was all we did in Brian's car. I really liked being kissed. But I don't think it should become an everyday affair. That way, it will be all the more special.

[end diary excerpt]

Oh, poor Little Blue. Just wait a few years until you meet some people who are better at kissing.

Thanks For the Questions! Advice Will Come Soon...

Thanks to all who've dropped questions in my Advice Column post (and there is still room for more questions, so think 'em up!).

Answers will come on Valentine's Day itself.

In the meanwhile, you may drool with anticipation.

Monday, February 11, 2008


One day into Valentine's Week and I find myself unexpectedly having hurt, badly, two people whom I care very much about.

Neither of them I meant to hurt, and I don't know how to make either of the situations better.

This makes me sad. I can be mean sometimes, but then I'm deliberately mean and I lash out and get it over with. I hate hurting people accidentally, or foolishly.

I'm sorry.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Blue's Giving Free Advice. Get It While It's Hot.

Here's the deal, Team.

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'm playing Advice Columnist.

So: if there are any burning questions you want answered (including questions about things that shouldn't be burning), drop 'em in the comments.

Answers will appear on Valentine's Day.

While we can play PG:13 here (and I am not above answering the patently ridiculous), I reserve the right to delete any question that is left with malicious intent as well as any questions that are gratuitously obscene.

Feel free to comment anonymously.

If no one leaves me any questions, I will cry, and then be forced to answer a random sample of questions written to other advice columnists.

So... question away!

Pretty Blue Salwar: Valentine's Week Edition!

This week, in preparation for Valentine's Day, and for the even more important Post-Valentine's Day Discounted Chocolate Sale (I'm swooping up a couple boxes of those Queen Anne chocolate-covered cherries in the slightly disturbing white goo), the Army of One here at Pretty Blue Salwar is going to swing it Modern Love-style.

Mostly because I just learned that Modern Love is having a submission contest for college students... but they're only letting undergrads participate. And as a long-time reader/hater of Modern Love (it's like watching a car crash, except the car crash can afford much nicer shoes than you), I have long wanted to contribute to its oeuvre.

I'm also going to take a shot at playing Advice Columnist, 'cause I've always wanted to (and because it's an easy way to increase my page hits). Whether my advice column turns out more like Dear Abby or Dan Savage (or, lord help us, Dear Strong Bad) is up to you. More to come in a later post.

At any rate, keep reloading for lots of Valentine's-style fun!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Konkans

When Ultrabrown posted about Tony D'Souza's new book The Konkans, and mentioned it was the story of a family created when a white woman who believed India to be her spiritual home married (as D'Souza puts it) "the one living-and-breathing souvenir of that place who could also get a job in America," I knew I had to schedule a block of time to visit Borders and read this book.

It is a lot like The Namesake, in that D'Souza and Lahiri both focus on squeezing about forty years of events into 150 pages, and thus the stories of the families themselves seem a bit surface-level; timeline rather than narrative. This happened, then this, then this. Unlike Lahiri, D'Souza presumes omniscience and tells the history not through the viewpoint of himself as his parents' son (this isn't a second-gen coming of age story; in fact, D'Souza's role in his own family narrative is tangential), but as a sort of floating narrator who attempts to portray everyone's motives and flaws honestly and equally.

The result is a depiction of characters both sympathetic and slightly repelling. Without giving too much away, it becomes clear that this unhappy family is unhappy in its own way because at the very start, the union of husband and wife was built on a double bait-and-switch; Denise, the white woman who travels to India via the Peace Corps to escape a childhood of poverty and abuse, and who wants more than anything to stay in the country where she first achieves a sense of agency and purpose, marries Lawrence assuming he is her ticket to an Indian passport; while Lawrence, who knows full well that he is using Denise to get to America (he and his parents conspire to make her life in India so miserable that she will begin to yearn for the comforts of the US), moves them both to Chicago only to find that Denise comes from a family of white trash and that he has, without knowing it, "married below his caste."

And then there's Lawrence's brother Samuel, whose visa Denise sponsors and who becomes the only person in her life to appreciate her for who she is. This kind of story is guaranteed a happy ending.

The characters in The Konkans are all searching for identities, and it is telling that the character who is most comfortable with his identity is neither the American wife wanting to raise an Indian family nor the Indian husband wanting to raise an American family, but Sam, the brother, who attempts -- and achieves -- a hybrid of both worlds. (That is, until Sam's father sends a letter telling Sam that a bride is waiting for him back in India.) We don't know enough about D'Souza's character to know where he fit into this family story (he ends his family narrative while his character is still a child), or how he built his own identity between the warring impulses of his parents, but -- as Ultrabrown notes -- he has already written about this subject in other novels and articles.

So. Would I recommend? I suppose my initial response is "sure, why not," but at the same time... well... let's put it this way. There are much better books out there, and better memoirs, and better discussions of cultural identity; but no other book with this particular combination of characters. That's the reason to pick it up and give it a try.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Live-Blogging His Dark Materials, Part IV: Lyra's Oxford

Last night I read Lyra's Oxford, the short sequel to His Dark Materials and the prequel to The Book of Dust.

Pullman describes it as a story that, while it was being written, collected to it scraps of paper which "might be connected with the story, or they might not; they might be connected to stories that haven’t appeared yet." He states that these papers floated through doors from world to world, blown by winds, until they collected here, in his book.

I suppose these papers did their floatings before the doors between the worlds were closed.

The story itself is short and not particularly memorable; it's kind of like a MOTW where Lyra is chased by a witch who is trying to kill her (because the witch's son died fighting for Lord Asriel and we know that witches kinda get venegancy when people they love disappear), and meets an alchemist who isn't actually an alchemist -- he's using it as a cover so that people will think he's crazy and ignore the actual scientific work he's doing in his basement. We don't find out what that work is, although my money's on "meth lab." *__^

One of the most interesting things in the book, however, comes in one of Pullman's "scraps of paper" (these are actual pieces of paper kept separately within the book's pages, Jolly Postman-style). It's a list of books written by Jordan Scholars, one of which is titled With Gun and Rod in the Hindu Bush, by Captain R. T. G. Collins.

So. Let's theorize here. Was the Authority also the Hindu Authority? (And would that be Vishnu, Brahma, or Shiva?) If the Authority wasn't the Hindu Authority, then did their faith remain unchanged? Do the Angels hang around the Hindu Bush, or do they leave those crazy people alone? Do they try to convert them?

I guess I was assuming that Lyra's world was an entirely Christian world, as that was what Pullman had set up for us previously. Even Will, who comes from our world, doesn't mention anything about people from other religions. It would have been interesting if he had said something to Lyra along the lines of "in my world, not everyone believes in Adam and Eve and the Church's God." But... Pullman seemed to want to limit his book to a critique on the Christian church only.

So, to my readers: does knowing that Lyra's world contains people who don't belong to the Church or the Authority change Pullman's atheist message and philosophies? If so, how?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

"Diverse and International Populations"

When I got my resume critiqued at the Resume Rodeo, my HR representative told me I should make one addition to my "statement of qualifications."

"You've been to India," she said. "So you need to promote that you're good with diversity. Diversity is a big thing right now."

She told me that I should add the sentence "experience working with diverse and international populations" to my statement of qualifications.

Which I did, because any piece of advice is worth taking at this point, and it now shows up both on my resume and my LinkedIn profile.

And it makes me feel really, really weird. It's like code for "this white person won't wig out around people who aren't like her."

The HR rep who gave that piece of advice falls under the category of "diverse and international" herself, so she's seemingly okay with it; and yet I have to wonder if she puts it on her own resume. If she worked in an office full of white people, would she be able to include the statement?

After all, it might help her move her career forward. Diversity is a big thing right now.

Jury Doody

... because calling it "Jury Bulls**t" would be too vulgar.

This week I got called up for jury duty. No big deal; I had already missed half a week of class due to foot surgery, and so what was another few days more?

Luckily for my attendance-'n-grades, I didn't actually get picked for a trial. (And no, I didn't have to lie and say I was "prejudiced against everything." There was a plea-bargain, and so the trial was canceled before any of us got interviewed.)

Before we were sworn in as jurors, we had to sit through an educational film about our legal system. This film, which looked like it was made in the early 1980s, exhibited the same standards of narrative and quality common to most slide-reel educational presentations of that era.

At the end, the camera focused on a group of men (and one woman -- all white, of course) sitting in a jury box.

"You should be proud to be a juror," the narrator intoned, "and to participate in a country founded on the idea that everyone has the right to a fair and public trial. Unlike other countries, the United States does not have secret trials, and it does not keep accused people hidden away, preventing them from receiving justice. You, the juror, are part of what makes America great."

Right. What Makes America Grate. Add "blatantly lying about our secret trials" to the list.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Live-Blogging His Dark Materials, Part III

I finished The Amber Spyglass two days ago, but didn't blog it yesterday because I was busy watching the politics.

It was the sort of book where the impact of the ending took over and made me forget the details of the earlier parts; so I need to read it again. (I'll have plenty of opportunity, as this foot cast is going to stay on for another two months.)

Here are some thoughts, as they cross my mind.

* Metatron. I know Metatron is part of the Judeo-Christian mythology, but I couldn't look at the name without imagining Godzilla Vs. in front of it.

* You can see how the technological differences between 1995 (when The Golden Compass was published) and 2000 (when The Amber Spyglass was published) filtered through into Pullman's text. He gives us, in Amber Spyglass, an internet, courtesy of the Gallivespians and their lodestones. Even in a parallel universe, Pullman can't imagine a world without email.

* The serpent, in the form of Mary Malone, offering Lyra and Will the gift of knowledge. Which isn't "what is the nature of G-d," because they've already learned, Wizard of Oz-style, that God is just an old man hiding behind a curtain; nor is this knowledge the meaning of life and death, since Lyra and Will have already traveled through the land of the dead and discovered what we are meant to do after we die. What Mary Malone gives Lyra and Will is the knowledge of the flesh. In short, she teaches them about sex.

* Which they promptly have. Lyra is 12 and Will is 13. This was the only part of the book that disturbed me a little. Lyra, after all, hasn't even started menstruating yet. Yes, Pullman is pretty vague about what happens in that forest, and doesn't give us any paragraphs about "throbbing manhoods" or anything like that (thank goodness), but they lose some kind of virginity in that forest, and even my liberal heart says that's at least three years too young.

* Pan becomes a marten, eh? I hope I wasn't the only reader who had to look that one up.

* There's something very satisfying about Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter sacrificing themselves by pushing Megatron into the infinite abyss. The thought of them falling, down and down, for the rest of eternity is a little chilling, however. I hope Pullman realized that he wrote them a way out: when the angels go to close the doors between the worlds, they say they will close up the abyss as well. Surely, while they're there, one of them could dip inside and bring Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter back to the surface.

* There's something much less satisfying about the "we have to close all of the doors so you and Will can never see each other again" business. Sure, the idea that Lyra and Will would have to separate was kind of a given; but the reasoning behind it seems a little contrived. The doors create Specters? The most idiotic villains in the book? Oh, and Dust is leaking out of them?

This also doesn't bode well for philosophies on international or intercultural relationships. Lyra and Will come from "different worlds," so they can never be together because "neither of them can survive in the other's world." It makes me start humming West Side Story's "Stick to your own kind/stick to your own kind..."

On the other hand, Adam and Eve were banished from paradise. But they were banished together.

* Pullman did write a note at the end of this edition; a series of what he called "Lantern Slides" distilling images of what happened to certain characters after the trilogy's conclusion; he included a scene which implies that Lyra and Will do talk, across space and time, at the wood bench in Oxford. Assumedly this works because Mary planted those magic seeds there, which grew up into a lovely tree.

* Which brings me to: people who cross into other worlds die, but seeds grow? And don't tell me it has to do with humans having Dust, because those seeds Mary planted were the very essence of Dust itself.

* So. The central philosophy. The innocence of childhood can reveal things us adults can't understand; then the kids are supposed to grow up and have sex, whereupon they have to spend the rest of their lives re-learning what came to them naturally before their sexual awakening.

* I hated that the alethiometer just "clicked off" in Lyra's hands. That was unfair. And she suddenly couldn't remember what the symbols meant? That didn't make sense either. It would have been better if she could remember the symbols, but couldn't control the hands, or something like that.

* And yeah, cried at the end. Poor Lyra and Will.

There is a short "sequel" titled Lyra's Oxford, which Pullman evidently means as a short prequel to his next book, The Story of Dust (in progress). This I look forward to reading, if only to find out how much Pullman lets Lyra and Will communicate, or if he introduces a new love interest for either of them. ^__^

Super Tuesday Analysis: Obama and Middle America

So Clinton and Obama are neck-and-neck. At the NYT's latest count, Clinton had 892 delegates while Obama had 716.

I couldn't be happier. Yes, of course I wanted Obama to win every state and carry the day, but... I knew that wasn't going to happen.

What I am happy about has to do with the states Obama won. He won Middle America. Let Clinton have the state that elected the Governator; Obama won in states where people put gun racks on the back of their trucks. Obama won in whitebread country. Obama won in the vast central plains, where the majority of people live in small communities and often have little experience interacting with "hyphenated-Americans."

That's where the people want change. People who have seen jobs vanish and towns dry up; people tired of one-sided politics and politicians always preaching to the coastlines. Students at land-grant universities. Parents of children long at war. The continually belittled, mocked "Flyover Country." Of course we would rally behind "Yes, We Can."

And even when Obama doesn't "look like us," he looks like us. He's not part of a political dynasty; he doesn't separate himself from us; he doesn't condescend to us. He is like us but better; like we might hope to be. Straightforward, forthright, and eminently inspiring.

Middle America has spoken. We want Obama, to be sure; but more than anything else, we want change.

This is going to be a close race.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Handicapped Parking Revisited

Called the university's Disability Office and got permission, instantly, to park in the "visitor" handicapped spots.

That was astonishing.

I hadn't expected that at all, given some past experiences with university bureaucracy. But it worked right away, thankfully. ^__^

What Makes America Grate: Handicapped University Parking

Years and years ago, my sister was assigned to write an elementary school essay titled "What Makes America Great." She messed up the homophone, and the spellchecker didn't catch it, and so the entire essay came out as "What Makes America Grate." As in: Immigration makes America grate because...

I thought of that today, because of two things that recently happened... one that I will post now, and one that I will post later on this week.

Today's "grate" installment?

I had my foot checked out again, and the doctor asked me how close to the university I was able to park. I explained that I didn't use student parking, since the passes were expensive and the lots were nearly always full, and so I parked on a side street about four blocks away from my building.

"Four blocks is too far away," he told me. "I'm writing you a pass for a handicapped tag, and I want you to park in the handicapped section of the student lot. Those spaces shouldn't fill up as quickly, so you'll probably get one."

I grimaced at the thought of having to shell out $150 for the lot pass, but figured I was already in for the cost of the surgery, so what was a few more dollars here or there?

The handicapped tag certifies me to park in any handicapped spot, university or otherwise; but before I went to Student Parking to shell out for the lot pass I decided to do a short reconnaissance.

I drove my car through the lot, looking for the handicapped spaces.

There weren't any.

It was a large lot, and there were many parking spaces in relative proximity to the university buildings, but none of them were designated as handicapped parking.

Then I drove to my building to check out the possibilities there. It's got a theatre attached, after all; it should be required by law to have a few handicapped spots.

Yep, there were two handicapped parking spaces outside my building. Both with notices: "For Visitors Only. Must Display Visitor Pass."

It didn't seem to make any sense. Obviously I wasn't going to pay for a student lot pass, as there was no guarantee that I would get a space, let alone one near the university proper (and a space at the far end of the lot would mean a further walk than my current street space), and I wasn't entitled to use the ones closest to my place of work as they were reserved for visitors.

I should start talking to everyone I see on campus with a cast or crutch or wheelchair and ask them how they do it.

Super Tuesday Couture

Just to prove that I will never, ever, ever be cool, I'll let you know what I am wearing today.

A sweatshirt, turned inside out (so you can't see what was on it originally), upon which I have written "VOTE" in duct tape.

I am well aware that this will not convince anyone new to vote. If they haven't already figured out their polling place and blocked off time in their busy schedule to vote, they aren't going to do so just because I'm pretending to be a walking billboard.

At the same time, it felt weird not to do anything. And, as I couldn't wear one of those nifty "I Voted" stickers (since I voted in today's primary a few weeks ago, on the day when I drove a car full of unregistered grad students down to get registered), I thought I would let the verb take the imperative form.

(Writing about verb imperatives is another reason why I will never be cool.)

Yay Super Tuesday!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Blue's Resume

I'm putting up my resume for reference's sake, although I have changed any details that might give away my current location, as well as left off my "Objectives and Summary of Qualifications" section.

Just wanted to share my "career path" with the team. ^__^

(BTW -- the formatting seems to work in Firefox only. So if you've got IE, it'll look messy. Dunno about Opera or other browsers.)


Visiting Instructor, Sarojini Naidu School of Performing Arts, University of Hyderabad, India, 2007

· Directed and produced a Telugu adaptation of Shakespeare’s Tempest; led class sessions on movement, voice, acting, and design

Banking Associate, Insurance Company, 2007-2008

· Restored over $13,000 to the company through continual contact with Unclaimed Property divisions in all fifty states

Director, Super Shakespeare Festival Annual Fundraiser, 2006

· Wrote, designed, directed, and produced a promotional fundraiser for the annual SSF Donor Dinner; raised over $10,000 for SSF

Assistant Company Manager, Super Shakespeare Festival, 2006

· Facilitated and managed internal paperwork relevant to Shakespeare Festival personnel; provided hospitality services to the 100-member company

Producer, Hometown Festival Theatre Summer Drama Camp, 2006

· Managed the second season of the HFT Summer Drama Camp, including writing a $800 Foundation Grant

Producer/Director, Hometown Festival Theatre Summer Drama Camp, 2005

· Managed the inaugural season of the HFT Summer Drama Camp, including a $500 National Endowment for the Arts Rural Initiatives Grant; taught camp sessions and directed the final performance

Receptionist/Mailroom Assistant, Giant Insurance Company, 2004-2005

  • Managed and directed incoming calls; greeted and provided hospitality for clients; wrote and managed correspondence for upper-level executives; assisted with mailroom and postal services

Subscription Sales Associate, Famous Orchestra, 2004

  • Led outgoing sales calls to lapsed orchestra subscribers; earned “top seller” designation for the last three consecutive months of service

Critiques are welcome, though not required. I just wanted to provide a reference for this post.

Career Fun Fair: The Resume Rodeo and the Importance of Career Trajectory

Today was the first in a series of Career Fair Events hosted by my university. We'll call it the Resume Rodeo, because it's real name was equally silly.

The hook? Get a free resume critique by local HR representatives.

The catch? What you have to do while you wait.

I showed up, resume in hand, expecting to be able to sit quietly and read The Amber Spyglass until my name was called. Instead, they shepherded us all into rows of chairs where we had to listen to employer pitches from Giant Fast Food Franchise and Giant Big Box Store(s). Sure, the fast food reps were theoretically telling us "helpful interview tips," like "don't chew gum!" (Seriously? People don't know that?) But what they were really doing was promoting how much fun it would be to work as a shift manager, or, in the case of one Big Box, an "Executive Team Leader," who does all of the same things everyone else on the retail floor does but has the ability to decide who's turn it is to go on break.

I was really disappointed in my university. Yes, fast food places need shift managers; but (as I blogged earlier), as graduates of the flagship public institution in the state, shouldn't our Career Services program be promoting careers that are a little more... career-oriented? Or at least something that pays in salary instead of wage?

After an hour of this, it was my turn for the Resume Rodeo. I think I was the only graduate student getting her resume critiqued, and my HR rep wasn't prepared for what I set before her. She couldn't find anything wrong with the layout, or the wording (although she did suggest I reframe my directing credits as management credits; this prompted her to ask "as a director, how many people were you directly responsible for supervising?" and I responded "usually between 30 and 50," which made her jaw hit the floor).

Then we got down to the real question; the reason I was at the Resume Rodeo in the first place. I asked the HR rep how I could present my combination of directing credits, professional theatre management credits, professional writing credits, and all of my unrelated but transferable "doin' it for the money" office experience as a package that an employer would understand or appreciate.

Her answer surprised me. She said "When I look at your resume, I see a person who must be very talented at a number of things, and that's good. But as an employer, I see a person who doesn't know what she wants. You've done so many different things in the past four years that you seem unfocused. I'm looking for someone who's been climbing a path towards a specific goal."

Barbara Ehrenreich
wrote about this in Bait and Switch -- her discovery that employers found any deviation from a traditional path a justification not to hire someone. It didn't matter if the deviation was because of health issues, or parenthood, or an attempt at entrepreneurship or freelancing; once you stepped off the path, you were sunk.

The "I see a person who doesn't know what she wants" comment was stranger still, because all of the resume books in the world say not to make it about you want, but about what you have done for other employers and what you can do for this new potential employer. Ironically, at this point in my career I don't know, exactly, what I want; but everything on my resume is something that I very much wanted to do, and don't feel like I should regret doing.

When should I have started aiming towards the goal? And what should the goal have been?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

His Dark Materials: A Note On Names

A brief note before I launch into The Amber Spyglass:

Given what we know about Pullman's naming predilections, we can assume that the metaphors of the last book will have something to do with Lies and Free Will defeating the Angel of Death and the Sexy Spokeswoman for the Republican Party. ^__^

Oh, and Serafina turns out to be an Angel. Somehow.

To be nitpicky for a moment: since Lord Asriel is currently building an army to attack God, he's not actually the Angel of Death, and his name should be something like Lord Lucius. On the other hand, since Will and Lyra already figured out that certain things "switch names" in various worlds (e.g. electrons and amber), perhaps in Lyra's world Asriel was Lucifer, and vice versa.

(I posted on Ultrabrown that I wanted a professional job as a fact-checker someday. I get a kick at poking around details.)

Catch y'all later -- is there some game or something going on this afternoon?

Live-Blogging His Dark Materials, Part II

Read The Subtle Knife in two stretches over the course of the day, the first in a Starbucks, which I don't recommend (I had gotten a gift card from my temp agency, and had an absolutely disgusting, oversugared mocha coffee thing).

Anyway. Will probably start Amber Spyglass tonight, but I want to write down my thoughts before I peek ahead.

The most interesting part of the philosophy of Subtle Knife can be summed up in two quotes:

Both the Oblation Board and the Specters of Indifference are bewitched by this truth about human beings: that innocence is different from experience. The oblation Board fears and hates Dust, and the Specters feast on it, but it's Dust both of them are obsessed by.

Her last conscious thought was disgust at life; her senses had lied to her. The world was not made of energy and delight but of foulness, betrayal, and lassitude. Living was hateful, and death was no better, and from end to end of the universe this was the first and last and only truth.

So Dust, which equals consciousness and/or Angels, settles on a human body when he or she gains life experience. However, once this dust is taken away, life becomes meaningless and the person becomes seriously depressed/mentally ill/catatonic.

What's puzzling me is that if these novels are truly "atheistic" as the critics claim, then they should indicate that a human being can live a full and complete life without needing religious belief or faith. Yet Angels seem inexorably linked to the idea of faith. One can't believe in Angels without believing in God, or at least in a power stronger than what can be seen on Earth. Perhaps Pullman will explain that Angels are linked to science; special particles within atoms or something like that.

It's also interesting that Dust is also explained as "consciousness." We're back around to that free will argument again, and I'm interested to see how Pullman plays it.

Looking back on the "living is hateful, and death is no better" quote: it seems linked with my earlier reflection on the sadness of "the loss of possibility." People have asked me before how I stay in good spirits about things, and... well, first of all the truth is that I don't always stay in good spirits, but I think part of my general ebullience is that I see my life as a story and am very interested to find out what is going to happen next. Lost in Dworka Sector? That'll make a good story. Nothing in the kitchen but a bag of dal and a box of crackers, and no cash in the bank account? I'm really excited to see where I'm going to go with that one. Broke the ol' foot? Now I get to see what an operating room looks like!

I know it's cavalier, but it has to do with my belief in possibility. Something interesting is bound to happen, and I can't wait to find out what it is. Would Pullman consider this belief "childlike?" I suppose I'll have to read to the end to find out.

Other musings:

* Though it isn't stated, I'm assuming Serafina Pekkala escapes being killed by Specters because Lee Scoresby used his flower to summon her. Interesting that the flower, which was given to Lee so that he might be saved by Serafina, saves the witch instead.

* Specters, on Earth, manifest themselves as mental illnesses. That's fascinating. Since this novel is based in science, Pullman must be suggesting that chemical imbalances in the brain are caused by a lack of Dust.

* Specters are also, apparently, Dementors. Black-robed creatures who suck out your soul by putting their mouth to yours. As Prisoner of Azkaban was published two years after Subtle Knife, I'm giving the credit for the idea to Pullman. Unless, of course, you consider the Ringwraiths (again, fifteen-gazillionth person to note this).

* Specters could, of course, actually be Dementors (in a parallel universe)... because that parallel world Ruta Skadi talks about, where young men and women fly around on brooms doing magic, is totally Hogwarts.

* Even though Grumman thinks he has broken his oath to Lee Scoresby, I'm betting what he tells Will actually does more to protect Lyra than if he hadn't said anything at all.

* I hope in the next book we get to see Mary Malone fall in love with someone, and I hope it's implied that they have fantastic, passionate s3x.

* Oh, and the only Indian character we've seen in the books (so far) runs a convenience store.

Enough for now. We'll chat again when I've finished the trilogy.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Broken-Toed Yoga

I am delighted to report that there are a number of yoga exercises that can be performed with a foot encased in a soft cast and orthopedic shoe.

Triangle, for one. And plow.

Essentially, anything that doesn't force me to bend the foot (in other words, no down dog and no cobra and no child's pose).

This is great.

I can also technically do sit-ups with my foot like this, although that is less exciting. (Friggin' sit-ups.)

I am so much happier now that I can get back to my quasi-yoga practice again.

Live-Blogging His Dark Materials

When my poor foot went under the knife, a friend loaned me the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials trilogy, as a recuperation present. 900 pages guaranteed to keep me off my feet, as it were.

For whatever reason, I missed Dark Materials the first time the books were published (1995-2000), which puzzles me. I can only assume that it was because this "atheist fantasy trilogy" never made it to my Midwestern hometown school library. Certainly I read every fantasy book on the local shelves, including The Prydain Chronicles (loved), The Dark is Rising (hated), and the Enchanted Forest books (the first in the series is possibly the best fantasy parody ever).

Anyway. I just finished Golden Compass (in one long stretch) and am going to drop a few responses. Here be spoilers, obviously.

* I can't take Lord Asriel seriously because of his name. Poor guy. Yes, he was originally named after the Angel of Death (and the name also shows up in Madeline L'Engle's Many Waters as one of the seraphim), but whenever I hear the name I am prompted, however unfortunately, to think of Lord Asriel Abyss.

* What prompted Roger to accompany Lyra in the last chapters? Pullman never says. Chapter 20 ends with Lyra telling Iorek that she is going to find Lord Asriel, and Chapter 21 begins with Roger riding along beside her. Because of the plot twist at the ending, I feel like we missed a scene where Lyra invites Roger, or Lyra decides she needs Roger with her, or Roger begs to come and Lyra finally relents.

* The story contains a lot of familiar tropes (Lyra's an orphan who turns out to be of noble blood, etc.), but what makes it stand out are the philosophies woven through the book. I think I'm probably the fifteen-gazillionth reviewer to make that comment. I'm very interested to see where Pullman goes with this Dust idea, particularly as I already know (thank you, Salon) that the series ends with... well, I won't be like Salon's movie review and spoil it for you.

* I can't help reading the fixing of the daemon in adulthood as a metaphor for "the end of possibility." Thank you, quarterlife crisis.

* On that matter, although I know from another movie review (which I'm not going to take the time to look up) that Pullman, unlike C. S. Lewis, is pro-maturity and pro-sex, I find it a little troubling that all of the adults presented in Golden Compass are tragically flawed. Grow up, kids. Embrace the Dust. So you can turn into... an unctuous Scholar? a crabby Gyptian? Mrs. Coulter?

* Had to laugh that the biggest villain in the book (so far) is called Mrs. Coulter.

* Loved the chapters where the bears wanted daemons. I think by the time I finish this trilogy I'm going to want a daemon.

* After finishing the book and then going to YouTube to watch the movie trailer, I was surprised (and disappointed) to hear Lyra's name pronounced "Lyra" instead of "Lira." Since Lyra spends most of the book lying her way out of things, this suggests that Pullman's naming creativity is on par with J. K. Rowling's (who named a future werewolf "Remus Lupin," and then expected us to be surprised when he started baying at the moon). It also suggests that Lord Asriel will probably turn out to be the Angel of Death, after all.

* I was also surprised to see the daemons presented as solid creatures. I had imagined them to be slightly transparent, airy, ethereal. Having the soul of a cat running alongside you is not the same as having an actual cat, after all.

* And on that note, what a great book to read while snuggled next to a kitty. Every time Pantalaimon got some cuddling, Miri did too. ^__^

* Oh, and if this is one of those books where, at the end, Pantalaimon turns into his final form but the narrator coyly doesn't tell us what it is, I'm going to throw all 900 pages across the room.

On to The Subtle Knife!

Friday, February 1, 2008

American Girl Has Introduced A New Doll. This Time, She's A Pole Dancer.

Okay, not really.

But doesn't she look like one?

Julie, btw, seems based off of the same model as the retired Kailey doll. Also, I know too much American Girl trivia.

Julie's also got a "friend doll," Ivy Ling. Ivy, AG's first "second-gen" doll (assumed via context -- I can't confirm it until I sneak into Borders and read the book), deals with a rather predictable culture-clash scenario:

The only place Ivy feels at home is at gymnastics. But this year the big gymnastics tournament is scheduled for the same day as the annual Ling family reunion.
Someone on that creative team watched a little too much Bend It.

Ivy is also being promoted as AG's "first Asian doll," despite the release of Jess Akiko McConnell in 2005. Jess, however, was promoted as AG's "first biracial doll." Incidentally, she and Ivy share the same face model, which goes to prove that AG thinks all Asian dolls, whether Irish-Japanese-American or Chinese-American, look alike.

No, wait.

What it really proves is that I know way too much American Girl trivia.