Tuesday, December 16, 2014

End of the Year

Long time no blog, but I have been busy. I've been a transcriber for 13 terms now at the UO, and this past term I worked double the hours I ever have in any other term. So I've been mildly overwhelmed, but well paid, and happy to be busy. In that time, my little sister completed her first half marathon and I was very proud.  

This term was really great. Paul finished his internship after a year and a half and really began working on his thesis. I had morning classes and a night class to transcribe, but always had at least an hour or two in the middle of the day to come home and eat lunch with Paul. I also read a ton, which was amazing. In classes, I transcribe pretty much word for word what the professor is saying, but if there was a quiz, or free time to work on group projects, I just got to sit in the back and read my book until the professor started to lecture again. Classes were two hours long, and quizzes don't take up that much time, but with transcribing six classes a week, most of them meeting twice a week, that time added up, and since I'm a fast reader, I got to read about a novel a week. My job is amazing. I don't choose the classes, but get assigned to whatever classes the students in need are taking. I'm not a student in the class, so I don't get credit, do homework, or take tests, but I do get to go to every class and transcribe the lecture, so I get paid essentially to learn things, and sometimes, read books.   

I transcribed 8 am classes all term, but it was worth it to see sunrises like this one. I thought I might interrupt the regularly scheduled program here to do a little review of the books I read in the last few months. Rae, whose blog I love, does book reviews and I check out a lot of books from the library on her recommendation. I'm pretty sure I'm missing at least one or two books that I read, but here are the ones I remember. 

Valencia - If you've read any Michelle Tea, you will be prepared for Valencia. If you haven't read Michelle Tea, I don't know how to prepare you for this. Her work is always semi-autobiographical, slightly stream of consciousness, graphic, and in my opinion, awesome. I saw her perform live and I love her and if you want to read anything of hers, maybe start with her column on xojane called Getting Pregnant with Michelle Tea. Anyway, Valencia documents Michelle Tea's (she's both the author and the main character) journey as a broken hearted, permanently drunk lesbian after moving to San Francisco. 

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher - This is a non-fiction book documenting the life of Edward Curtis, who spent decades in the early 20th century photographing Native American culture. If you've ever seen a sepia-toned/black and white picture of a Native American, I bet you five dollars it's an Edward Curtis portrait. He was an uneducated, self taught man who wormed his way into the circle of people like Teddy Roosevelt and J. P. Morgan to create one of the greatest and most expansive anthropological studies of all time. More than learning about Edward Curtis's life, you learn about Native American culture (and its brutal decimation) and I can't even put into words how important that is. If you read any book I talk about here, read this one.

A Tale for the Time Being - This book was lovely. It goes back and forth between the diary of a suicidal Japanese teenager who's writing to document her Buddhist monk of a grandmother's life and the lady who finds the diary washed up on the coast in Canada, with some diary entries of a Kamikaze pilot scattered in there. So you're reading the diary entries as the narrator is reading them, and then the narrator sections (the lady who finds the diary on the shore) are all about the narrator's response to the diary so far. It's non-linear, beautifully written, has some elements of magical realism, and I wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it. I loved this book.

Through the Arc of the Rain Forest - I read this book years ago in an English class, loved it, forgot about it, and wanted to read it again. This book is pretty wacky, so I'll just write what the back of the book says here: "This freewheeling black comedy features a bizarre cast of characters, including a Japanese man with a ball floating six inches in front of his head, an American CEO with three arms, and a Brazilian peasant who discovers the art of healing by tickling one's earlobe with a feather. By the end of this hilarious tale, they have risen to the heights of wealth and fame, before arriving at disasters -both personal and ecological- that destroy the rain forest and all the birds of Brazil." This is a satirical, ecologically minded novel, heavy on the magical realism, and if you're up for it, it's awesome.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - This book kept showing up on "books you should read" lists so when I saw it at a garage sale for ten cents, I bought it. It's from the perspective of a boy with autism as he tries to figure out who killed his neighbor's dog and ends up figuring out a lot more about his family and the secrets they hide from him because of his autism along the way. This book is being turned into a play, which should be interesting, but honestly I thought it was a bit "meh." I didn't dislike it at all, but I also didn't really think it was great either.      

Mockingjay - I wanted to read this before the movie came out. I've read lots of horrible reviews of this book, about how it's a terrible conclusion to the trilogy, about how Suzanne Collins ran out of ideas, blah, blah, blah. I see that. But I also didn't mind it. I thought that it was a logical conclusion to the series. It's a little frustrating how passive Katniss is, but in the book, Katniss is frustrated about how passive she is too. I don't really have anything else to say.

Bonk - Mary Roach writes these really great non-fiction books about weird stuff. I read Stiff, which is her book all about the history of what science does with corpses, and this book is all about the history of research on human sexual response. As usual with Mary Roach, it's really really funny and interesting, but if you're at all squeamish, don't even bother. 

White Oleander - If you've ever taken a creative writing class, you know that one person who just thought they were so great, but in reality they were cliche and used lots of big words and adjectives to disguise from the fact that they were horrible at writing? That's this book. It's from the perspective of a teenage girl going through the foster care system (which should be interesting) but every other sentence is a simile or metaphor and you have to read through eight obnoxious adjectives just to get to the point. I love poetic prose. If you want a beautiful and well written novel that reads like poetry, read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and skip this "fiction 101" crap.  

And now back to the blog! Yesterday, feeling a little spontaneous, Paul and I drove our friend Sam out to the coast. Despite being in the middle of December, it wasn't too cold. We talked, ate car snacks, did cartwheels and handstands, and searched for tide pools.

The Oregon coast is beautiful. We had the whole beach to ourselves.


While exploring the tide pools, there was this hole in the rocks that the tide would periodically burst through and create this big geyser effect. I caught a picture of Paul and Sam getting absolutely soaked. They were so thrilled. It was very thrilling to watch. But I was glad to be dry. The water bursts before this one were significantly smaller, so I don't think either one of them anticipated getting that wet. This beach trip was awesome. Other awesome things: eggnog in my coffee, the scarf I'm knitting, my cats, Serial, Gilmore Girls. 

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