Goals

This past Saturday I took the comprehensive exams for my MA, again. There are three areas in which we need to answer a question. Now I – and my fellow exam-takers – await the results. At least two graders will read each response and give a pass or fail. If they don’t agree, a third person weighs in. If I don’t pass all three this time, I don’t graduate in December. I don’t graduate in December, I don’t continue in the American Culture Studies Ph. D. program. I don’t continue, I’m going to have a small breakdown and see what needs to be done to start again in the fall.

I am not going to let this stop me. Ten years elapsed between graduating with my BA and starting graduate school. In those ten years I worked jobs I really didn’t like because I needed a job. I am going to become a college professor. I am going to teach Disability Studies and Popular Culture. Together. Separate. Either. Both. I’m happy.

Last month I had a meeting with the director of the program. He does this with all the incoming students every year. He mentioned concern about me getting two interdisciplinary degrees in a row – Popular Culture and American Culture Studies – having a negative effect on getting a teaching job. I’ve asked other professors their opinions and they disagreed. I’m not letting this discourage me. I’m going to work hard, present papers at conferences, get papers published, and make a positive name for myself in the world.

I will become a college professor. I will continue to educate minds – young and old – so they have the ability to make fully informed opinions. I will continue to empower people and continue to be an activist. I will not stop.

teachingisactivism

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Who is Jesus?

This week’s Gospel reading was the one where Jesus asks “Who do people say I am?” and then “Who do you say I am?” and gives Peter his name. Much of Fr. Joe’s homily centered on those questions. Who do we say Jesus is?

It made me remember one class this past spring. When teaching about heroes and celebrities, we teach the 20-point mythical journey of a hero. I usually end up talking about the story of Jesus that we have in the Bible because it’s the one I’m most familiar with. This year, as I kept referring back to him, I had one student say she was uncomfortable with it since she is Christian. I tried to explain that I am Catholic and I am looking simply at the story that has been told, I’m not trying to disrespect anyone. She didn’t look like she believed me.

But that’s something that we, as Christians, tend to forget. Yes, the Bible is important and has much wisdom contained, it is a collection of stories. When we call something myth or mythology, it doesn’t change people’s beliefs or spirituality or religion surrounding it. We think of myth as fictional, but it’s not. Hercules was viewed as a demi-god in Ancient Greece. Myth does not equal fiction. Myth is another way of talking about a story, which is often rooted in reality. When you tell someone about your day or something that happened to you, you are telling a story. It’s not fiction, it’s what happened to you. The same thing goes for the story of Jesus. He was a man who lived 2000 years ago who did wondrous things. The things he did are a part of not only Christian mythology, but Jewish and Muslim as well. But calling this mythology doesn’t change how each religion views him – son of God/Messiah/Christ, prophet, prophet respectively.

If I were teaching this semester, I’d be explaining all of this in class. Hopefully I’ll get to teach it again and add this. But for now, I’m sharing it with all of you. Look around, there’s mythology everywhere!

The Defenders

On Friday, the culmination of DaredevilJessica JonesLuke Cage, and Iron Fist – so far – came out: The Defenders. I have been looking forward to this since they announced it. But even more so since Iron Fist. I felt like IF wasn’t bad, but he would be better in this group setting, especially with Luke. If they did it right. But I’ll go into that later.

I’ll keep the spoilers for later and clearly marked. I know not everyone has had the chance to sit down and watch it yet. But between my love of these shows and friends who were planning to marathon it on Friday, I’ve watched it all and I love it! There are so many things to love and some of them aren’t going to spoil anything about the show.

First is the opening credits. Thanks to being a Cultural Studies scholar – specifically Popular Culture – I have many friends who look at the shows differently. One friend wrote and presented a paper on how the city of New York is a character in all of the shows. He explains it much better than I ever could, so I won’t even try. But because of him, I almost squealed with joy over the opening credits. The use of the maps and overhead views of the city in the characters’ silhouettes, which are in the color scheme of the character are brilliant.

Also, when we see each hero on their own, the scene maintains their color scheme. Matt/DD’s scenes are more reds. Luke’s are warm and yellow. Jessica’s are cool and purple. Danny/IF’s are greens; a color scheme I wasn’t quite able to identify in the series, but is clear to me now. They also maintain their own feel, including music. Granted, that’s the most obvious with Luke, but it’s there with all of them. It’s great that they let each character maintain their individuality when they’re not involved with the others. It makes it feel like we’re jumping between shows, instead of just between characters in a show.

Which leads me to the last non-spoilery well-done thing. It’s the combination of the two. When they do the transition scenes between characters, they keep the color scheme. It definitely tones down when it’s more than one character. But if you pay attention, you’ll know who they’re going to next. It’s so well done!

After this point, there are spoilers for throughout the series. Keep reading at your own discretion.

Continue reading “The Defenders”

Teaching is Activism

teachingisactivism

I know I wrote about this recently, but it’s a very important topic for me. I am friends with a lot of people who go out and do things. They go to protests. They organize rallies. They make speeches. And sometimes it makes me feel like I’m not doing enough. I make sure information is shared on my social media accounts. I lend my emotional support to them and anyone who is out there doing things. But I just can’t. I’m sure if I actually went to something, I would get swept up in the emotion and the energy. But the problem is getting over the anxiety of thinking about going.

Even when it comes to teaching, I sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough. Like I should be directly including what is happening in my class. But I haven’t found a good way to do that. There are certain things that need to be covered in this class and I am determined to cover it all. But because there is so much to cover, I can’t spend too much time on any one thing or else something else may not get covered. The joys of teaching an intro class.

Also, there are theories and history that need to be covered at the start of the semester. It’s not easy to include what is going on right now in those lectures for me. Soon, we’ll be moving on to the other topics which will be much easier to include current events in. Last spring my day on ethnicity (I know, I know, a day is not enough!), we watched “Formation” and discussed it. It worked really well. I’m honestly worried about focusing on just one thing and excluding others; there’s just so much happening!

But, it will all come back the fact that there are undeniable facts that I can teach. Focusing on those facts will always be my go-to. There are opinions and there are facts. Knowing the facts makes it easier to discuss opinions. If everyone knows the same facts, they have a shared knowledge base which allows them to discuss.

And when it all becomes too much, just sit back and listen to the amazing playlist Lin-Manuel made for the world. It really does help one to get re-energized.

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16 Years, 1 Year

It’s been almost 16 years since I’ve been in NYC. Almost 16 years since I’ve seen a show on Broadway. That ends now.

I’m at BroadwayCon!

Tonight, I’m going to be in the room!

But before I get my geek on. A little history. Growing up, I didn’t really listen to cast albums. I knew of Broadway. But I knew about it because it was in the culture. Because my Mom loved old musical movies, many of which were adapataions of Broadway shows. it wasn’t until the 8th grade that Broadway became something real. My high school included the 8th grade in all levels of band. Including the trip they took every other year. For the previous few years, they had gone up to Toronto to see The Phantom of the Opera. My parents felt that 8th grade was too young to go on a trip like that, and I can’t blame them. Also, it was expensive and they wanted to be able to afford to help me go my sophomore and senior years, and then do the same for my sister. I appreciate that still.

My freshman year is when things really changed for me. That year in concert band, our director, of our little Catholic School music program, got a medly of songs from this amazing new musical Rent. She even got the cast album out from the library to play the songs for us so we knew how things should sound.

I was in love. I was probably the reason that disc set stayed at the library for so long. I would get it out and renew it and listen to it over and over and over again. It was the first time I wanted to see a Broadway show, badly. But I knew there was no way it was going to happen any time soon. There was no way we were going to see it on our trip. There was no way I could convince my parents to take me. But I was willing to wait.

The next fall, it was announced that our band trip that spring would be to somewhere they hadn’t gone before: NYC. We would be seeing the sights as well as two, not one but two, Broadway shows! We would be seeing Smokey Joe’s Cafe and Les Miserables. I knew just enough to understand how amazing it was going to be to see Les Mis. I started getting that cast album out regularly as well. Every time I listened to it, it made me look forward to seeing it even more.

Both shows were amazing. They made me even more excited for my senior year when we would be coming back. Our director decided it was silly not to just keep going to NYC. There was plenty to see and plenty of musicals to see. Why change that? My senior year was even better. We got to see Stomp and Annie Get Your Gun! We were doing Annie Get Your Gun as our HS musical, and most of the cast and crew was in band as well, so we were extremely excited. Being those freshman who were first exposed to Rent, we tried over and over again to convince her to let us go see it. Those of us who were under 18 already had our parents chaperoning. But, as much as she really wanted to let us, she knew there would be backlash over letting us go, so she didn’t. Luckily, we did drive past the street the theater is on, so we took a bunch of pictures as we went by. Which was costly at the time, because these were the days before digital cameras and smart phones.

So, thanks to my HS band director and my parents for covering the cost that I couldn’t after fundraising, I was introduced to the amazing world of Broadway. But around exactly a year ago, my love of Broadway was reignited. My friend introduced me to Hamilton.

You can look up on here about how much I have fallen for this show. So much that I’m planning on writing my dissertation about it and the fans that have sprung up around it, including myself. It’s part of why I’m here at BroadwayCon. I’m here to get a feel for the convention so I can come back next year and do real reseach.

Yesterday, on the drive over…yes I drove 11 hours; it’s much cheaper than flying. On the drive over, I decided that if I can find a ticket for around $500, I should go ahead and buy it and go. I’m already in the city. I’d be throwing away my shot if I didn’t at least look. Well, there was a ticket for tonight’s 8p show. I bought it. I still can’t believe I’m typing that. I’m going to see Hamilton! Sadly, unless there’s a miracle, I’m not going to be seeing Javi. He’s still out at least until tomorrow. I don’t want him to make any injury worse, but it would have been cool to see him. But I still get to see this amazing show! Finally!

So, for everyone who will be seeing me for the near future, I’m sorry. I’m going to be talking about this for months! Eeeeee!

Solid start

As you all know by now, I am trying to get my thesis off to a good start. It has been an exercise in trying to figure out how to write it. I have been reading books and graphic novels and taking notes and figuring out exactly what I’m looking at.

And I was making no on the page progress.

I wanted to have a rough draft of my first chapter done before Monday. Until today I didn’t think that would be possible. I felt like my break was wasted in that sense. But it really wasn’t. I needed to take a break from it and let my brain relax. I needed to remember that I am trying to get a rough draft done, not the final draft. Giving myself the permission to simply sit down and include everything I can think of has opened the floodgates.

Both yesterday and today I spent about 2 hours at Starbucks with coffee and Hamilton to add to the lack of distractions and help me focus. I have finally laid a solid foundation for me to build the rest of the draft off of. I think if I take the time to work on it tomorrow, and hopefully on Sunday, I will get close to if not have a flat out done draft by Monday. That is going to be a great way to start off the semester!

Still processing

So, The Hamilton Mixtape was finally released on Friday. I’ve listened to it a few times. But I’m still processing it as a whole. It is a mixtape. The songs have been put in a specific order for a good reason. I’m trying to figure out for myself why they are in that order. There’s an article out there that’s about the songs and the album and I’m avoiding it like the plague. I want to try to and figure out the structure on my own before I go reading why Lin put it together the way he did.

Part of why it’s taking me a while is…well there are a few reasons. One of which is the fact that I’m taking a class, have a thesis to work on, and am teaching a class. Or to put it simply, I’m a graduate TA who has no life. The other is because it took me a few times to remember something important: it’s a mixtape! I was listening to each song individually instead of as a whole. It’s probably partly due to the fact that we only had a few tracks to listen to for a while, so I wasn’t thinking of them as one long story. But that is what they are. They are an amazing, beautiful, moving, and awesome story. Now if I can just figure out what that story is…

Music of my life

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Hamilton music. Like many others, I have The Hamilton Mixtape pre-ordered. It comes out on Friday, but Lin-Manuel Miranda has been releasing a track or two here and there over the past couple of weeks. We’re currently at 6 tracks released. And if you pre-ordered it, you get those tracks and pay that much less when the rest comes out.

It is amazing. Some of my favorite tracks are some of the more recently released ones. “Wrote My Way Out” is amazing. It’s got four different artists talking about their own experience and how they “wrote [their] way out” of their circumstances. It’s inspiring to listen to. Usher’s “Wait For It” is my other favorite, right now. I love the song to begin with, and his take is just beautiful. Seriously, just go listen to it now. It’s out there on Spotify. Go. Listen.

The whole thing is just amazing. “Satisfied” has multiple levels of awesomeness, including Queen Latifah. “Helpless” has Ashanti and Ja Rule, which is so beautiful. I feel like I cannot do it justice because I do not know these artists very much if it all. If you go on Twitter, people are fawning over this amazing music.

But…anyway…

Today I tried something new. When I listen to Hamilton in the car, I find myself having moments of inspiration about my thesis. The two are nowhere near related. But I think it’s somehow either inspiring the scholarly side or I’ve listened to it often enough that it’s allowing me to zen out and freeing my mind to think about my thesis. So I decided to see if that’s the case of if somehow driving is a part of it. When you’re on a decent drive, it can be a very zen, freeing experience, mentally. I sat down with the laptop and decided to focus on one section of my thesis and write. I didn’t worry about citing or finding the information in books. Basically I was aiming to lay a solid foundation I can go back through and flesh out with the books and graphic novels and such later.

It worked.

I wrote over two-thousand words this afternoon. And they’re really good words. I recently transferred that section over into Word and formatted it accordingly. I wrote almost eight full pages today. That’s without any citations or headings or anything. Just eight pages of words. It’s giving me hope that I can get at least a solid first draft done by the end of the semester to give to my committee to get feedback on. I think I could get a solid draft of the entire thing done over Winter Break when I have no teaching materials to prepare, reading to do for class, papers to write for class, or grading to do.

So, evidently Hamilton needs to be in my rotation for writing music. Who knew?

I found it!

Earlier I wrote about how I’m approaching writing for my thesis (One-thousand words). I mentioned that Seanan McGuire, one of my favorite authors, posted about how she uses a d10 to track her writing. But I couldn’t find where.

I FOUND IT!

Still excited that I have an awesome use for my ASL d10 my wonderful sis found for me a few years ago! Thank you, Seanan, for that!

NaNoWriMo

As a way to get me inspired to write more of my thesis this month, I have signed up to be a part of NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a novel in a month, but I have seen others posting about using it to inspire them to work on their academic project. I am following in their footsteps.

The ultimate goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a minimum of 50,000 words in the month of November. Considering the inspriation I’m getting from my research, which has been inspired by just thinking and re-rereading the source material, I should be able to hit that point. Also, I’d love to have a solid first draft of the main chapters, not including the introduction and conclusion, before the end of the semester. 50,000 words would get me closer to that being a reality. I realize that would probably be enough words to create the rough draft, but I’m also thinking of editing.

So, I’m hoping to update here about once a week with how I’m doing. If you’re also participating, connect with me! I’d love to add buddies. Or just check out my profile and see how my word count is doing outside of my updates. I figure that the more people that know I am doing this, the more there are for me to hold myself accountable to.

Here’s to 50,000 more words by the end of the month!

NaNoWriMo word count: 0