I Pay Rapt Attention

Thoughts on Music, Literature, and (dreaded) Self-Reflection

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on June 24, 2009
Music
Is it just me, or is the majority of popular music written in a range suited for most women? That is to say, I’ve noticed that over the years, the popularity of certain bands experiences an abrupt increase once they change the key of their songs to accomodate the typical female range (see also: Death Cab for Cutie, etc etc) There are obviously notable exceptions to this, but it’s an interesting phenomenon nonetheless.

Literature

I recently finished Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins. Now as I’ve mentioned before, I really like Marianne Wiggins. Her prose is gorgeous and she has the capacity to write some of the most beautiful and expansive sentences I’ve ever encountered. I’m a huge fan of The Shadow Catcher. In that context, Evidence of Things Unseen was surprisingly disappointing. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad book- it’s actually quite good. The characters are compelling and she makes some interesting moves throughout her narrative about this couple building a life together post-WWII. Yet even as she painstakingly produces the voice of the characters in their thoughts and their dialogues with each other, she completely ruins the practical-country-folk-with-quirky-scientific-interests by giving them her trademark beautiful language. This isn’t to say that I don’t think them/that type of person incapable of expansive thoughts or beautiful language- it’s just remarkably out of character and doesn’t fit with the other things they’ve thought and said. Wiggins’ prose gets away from her, and it’s disappointing, considering how well she managed it in the Shadow Catcher. Oh well. It’s always disappointing to realize that you may have discovered an author’s best work first- the others are unfortunately diminished by comparison.

UPDATE: At least Shadow Catcher was more recent, and thus represents an improvement over her earlier work. I am slightly less disappointed.

What I’m reading now:

Zelda by Nancy Milford; Underworld by Don Delillo; House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski

Self-Reflection

As part of the process of writing essays for business school, I’ve been forced to think a lot about two relatively nebulous and thus uncomfortable topics: my past accomplishments, and what I hope to achieve in the future. I’ve had no problem articulating what I’ve learned from mistakes, or the trajectory of my academic career, but trying to identify my three most significant achievement is particularly problematic. I’m not trying to imply that I think I’ve accomplished nothing- I consider a lot of things I’ve done to be significant, at least to me. The issue is more attempting to find the balance between the things I find important (which tend to be more intangible and related to the relationships I have with people) and concrete projects that might be impressive to an admissions committee. As for my future plans, well- I don’t have to answer the question about my career vision. In fact, I probably won’t. But its presence made me stop and think a lot about why I’m even applying for this program in the first place. I know it appealed to me in that it built in 2 years of work prior to going back to school, but still guaranteed that I’d have a place if I wanted it. But why business school at all? It’s still a little unclear, but here’s what I came up with:

1. Business is a profession that appeals to me. I navigate complicated structures with relative ease, I’m a social person, and the types of problems that appear in a business situation appeal to me. I believe that communication between a business and its clients (or employees, for that matter) is incredibly interesting, and has the potential to be important. Also, I like delegating.

2. At present, I don’t want to be an entrepreneur. I have ideas, of course, but I don’t feel I’m in a place to develop them yet. I’d rather take existing entities and make them better. In several of my recent jobs, I’ve essentially acted as an internal consultant, and I really enjoyed the experience. I like dropping into a situation or organization and identifying problems or solutions that had been overlooked because of the culture of a company. I like clarifying the vision of others, and helping provide next steps to achieve it. To put it bluntly: At this point in my life, creating a business of my own feels like having a child, and I’m not ready to be a mother.

 Thus: If I want to be involved in business, but do so in the capacity of engaging with existing organizations and improving them, I could stand to use an MBA. I’ll learn things there that could be helpful, and I’ll get to meet people who could be helpful later.  Also, I can always change my mind.
A final note about current events:

-There are rumors that BART might go on strike because of potential paycuts. I know that paycuts are unfortunate, but they’re happening everywhere. The UC system is taking 8% paycuts across the board. As someone dealing with the impending unemployment of a family member and all of its repercussions, I say: suck it up. At least you have jobs. And relatively high-paying ones at that. If you go on strike, hundreds of other people (ok, I) can’t go to work. In this economy, that just doesn’t seem fair.

-North Korea is making me nervous, but that might be because I’m on the West Coast right now.

-I can’t come up with anything interesting, original, or even particularly informed to say about Iran right now. I can’t even clarify my thoughts on the issue. But it certainly feels significant, and I’m interested to see what happens. I wish I thought the outcome (either way) would mean much for women’s rights or attitudes towards the West, but I honestly don’t.

 

 

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Bruises, BART, and my inappropriate writer crush

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on August 5, 2008

BRUISES

Well, it’s almost been a week since the accident, and I’m back to my usual surly, unappreciative self. No more musing about the miracle of life for me; it’s back to bitching. Seriously, though, I’ve been told that experiences like this are supposed to make a person feel as though everything is completely different- and to be honest, I feel basically the same. Except without a car, which blows. Being trapped in my mother’s house is no fun, let’s say. Luckily, I head back to Connecticut in less than two weeks (!).

My legs look like the canvas of a domestic abuser with a baseball bat, but the transformation from blue to purple to red is strangely fascinating, and they don’t hurt (unless I’m being clumsy [which is often]), so it’s OK. I can turn my head a normal amount again. I no longer really have an excuse to put off exercising. Yep, back to normal.

BART

On a completely unrelated note, for the last few hours I’ve been trying to figure how I’m going to pull off this evening’s crazy schedule- there’s a book reading at Booksmith at 7:30 (put on by Counterpoint Press, a really fantastic independent press based in Berkeley, where, incidentally, a friend of mine is working this summer) and then my cousin’s band, Maus Haus, is playing at the Bottom of the Hill. We’re hoping it doesn’t sell out before we get there- apparently some of the other bands (Nomo, in particular) have been getting a lot of press lately. Regardless, all of these little adventures are in San Francisco, which means I have to get from Oakland (the location of my job) to Berkeley (the location of my ride) and then from the Haight to SOMA and then back to Berkeley, all without dying or being mugged. And public transit is being a pain in the butt. Did I mention that I left my wallet at home today?

Yeah, it’s going to be an interesting night.

My Inappropriate Writer Crush

So i recently saw Daniel Alarcon, a fantastic young Peruvian novelist (though, to be fair, he grew up in Alabama [though he does write about Peru {whatever}]), at a reading at 826 Valencia in the city. I’d been meaning to read his book, Lost City Radio, for a very long time (in fact, it made #5 on my top 101 books I must must read list, which is a feat, let me tell you.) and having seen him (and heard his delicious Spanish… oh god, Spanish gives me weak knees…) I decided it was probably time that I check out his book. While I waited to get paid so that I could purchase said book, I took the time to read a few of his short stories in various journals, and though they’re fine, I wasn’t particularly impressed. Luckily, before I had much time to reconsider his book’s ranking on my list, my dear counterpoint friend surprised me with a copy of the book (after all, I had been jabbering on about this guy for several days at this point, and I’m sure she was tired of hearing about it.)

If you haven’t read Lost City Radio yet, drop everything and go buy it. I’m serious.

I’ve been suffering from a lot of book fatigue recently, struggling to get through even books that my more impatient friends found smooth sailing (Everything Is Illuminated, etc). There was none of that here. Now admittedly, my voracious reading might have been fueled by the previously mentioned crush, but I prefer to think it has something to do with sentences like this:

“The city was impregnated with the smell of ruin: it swirled in the sodden air and stuck to you, wherever you went.” (134)

 

Just read it. Really.