Thesis: Submitted.

Cue: blog about how utterly anticlimactic it was to shove three $30 binders fat with 119 pages into professor’s mailboxes. Subsequent happy dance, alone, in dimly lit department lounge. Mild asthma attack.

Slow walk back to dorm, took brief nap.

Response: photoshoot with self, thesis, and about 2/3 of the books consulted and employed in the writing process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

i call it: thesis face phases.

i call it: thesis face phases.

T-minus six days until the defense.

Advertisements

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: a Review.

It’s no secret i am a voracious consumer of Young Adult fiction. I have yet to start what surely will be the brilliant The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, but this is only because i have been utterly enthralled and consumed by another YA novel for the past three days. When not running around Manhattan, i have been glued to my recently acquired copy of Libba Bray’s most recent masterful work: Beauty Queens.

I’ve been a fan of Bray’s writing ever since i checked out A Great and Terrible Beauty from the local library some five years ago; she is fresh, manipulates a story with ease, and has one of the most wry and clever senses of humor i’ve yet encountered. Having read a smidget of the review for this book on Spark, i knew it promised to be a book of equal calibar to her other works, if not completely different in its setting and style (A Great and Terrible Beauty takes place in Victorian England, as i recall).

Beauty Queens is unlike anything i’ve ever read; in its concept, it is nothing unique, and yet it somehow manages to achieve exception both through the quirky narration style and Bray’s masterfully interwoven social commentary. The book begins with an enormous, devastating plane crash: the contestants for the Miss Teen Dream Beauty Pageant have fallen on an unknown island somewhere south of Florida. Hell breaks loose, as the collection of the surviving teen girls try to survive the unruly and unimaginable jungle they have found themselves in. Peppered with hilarious footnotes written by ‘The Corporation,’ the apparent official sponsor of the book (by which Bray is making a pretty snarky commentary on product placement and the cult of the celebrity) and rich character development, the book stands incomparable to most other YA i’ve read.

Unmistakably, the premise reeks of Lord of the Flies; and while the fact that the characters are stranded on an island with no adults to supervise certainly lends credibility to the parallel, the commentary Bray is making on humanity is far different from that of William Golding’s (in my humble opinion). To begin with, the characters are women – and women who embody a spectrum of sexual orientations, gender identities, races, and religions. These women may at first appear to be nothing but vapid products of a consumerist beauty aesthetic impossible to achieve, but as the tale weaves on we learn that not all is as it seems with the pageant wannabees.

In this, Bray has created a beautiful (pun intended) portrait of the expectations forced on men and women in today’s media.  Through hysterical allusions to contemporary pop culture icons like Larry King and Sarah Palin, Bray has created a not-so-alternate universe from our own. She handles such ideas with charm and humor, but simultaneously manages to give space to the gravity of what she is speaking about. Hair removal creams can become explosives, gender lines and expectations are blurred, and no sex ed program will ever be thought of as a scapegoat for “loose women” in her saga. Oh, and pirates. As if feminist theory told in a stranded-island form was not enticing enough!

I adored this work; i recommend it to anyone and everyone to read, be you a teenage girl seeking for some supremely well executed feminist theory or an intellectualist wishing for a more creative vessel by which to consider the implications of the reality TV-like quality governmental elections seem to have taken on.

current jam: ‘heard them stirring’ fleet foxes.

best thing in my life right now: books books books.

Lamb: A Book Review

Ladies and gentlemen and variations thereupon, we pause in our thirty days of photographic challenge now for a book review!

First, an update: I have, since my disastrous realization, stopped reading the abridged copy of War and Peace. Never fear, for I’m now on my seventh book of the summer so far and Gann has managed not only to find me an unabridged, Maude translation to bring, but it is on its way! Journey mercies for Gann and the book.

Meanwhile, the gap in reading gave space for me to eagerly consume one of Thera’s literary recommendations….

A review of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

It’s a rare but delightful occurrence when, at the conclusion of a book, one is filled with a desire to simply sit, letting the story soak deep into your bones. Lamb is absolutely one of those books- much like Holden Caulfield declares in another one of my favorite books, The Catcher in the Rye, you know you’ve read a marvelous book when all you want to do is pick up the phone and call the author. The riotous, fictional account of Jesus of Nazareth’s childhood narrated by none other than his Gospel-forgotten best friend, Levi who is called Biff, was nonstop action, hilarity, and surprisingly sound theology.

In the four Gospels of the Christian New Testament, only two account for the birth of Christ, and only one gives readers a story of Jesus’ life between his birth and beginning of his ministry at the age of thirty. In lieu of this gap, Christopher Moore creates a hilarious tale filling the hole- a tale that involves Jesus learning Kung-Fu from Buddhists in China, teaching yoga to elephants in India, and learning from an Ethiopian wizard about Confucius and the Tao. Every adventure is layered with hilarious witticisms, the invention of sarcasm, and sneaky references to Biblical teachings and stories. Biff is everything Christ is not, a horny teenage boy with a penchant for getting himself into divine mischief- but even Moore’s depiction of the young Christ is believably human and deliriously funny. I literally chuckled, giggled, and otherwise roared with laughter the entire book through.

It is also clear that Moore did his research for every faith portrayed in the book; most of the teachings are accurate to their various sacred texts, and, perhaps most importantly, Moore treats every faith with equal respect and honor. This is no bashing of Religion, but rather ah homage slathered in wit to all divine prophets. As a Religion student I certainly feel that I was getting the most of all the wry references and droll liturgical word plays layered in every chapter (and we’re not just talking Christianity, as Christ was Jewish and, in this tale, encounters prophets and teachers of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Chinese philosophies).  But even if you have no academic (or otherwise faith-based background) in the teachings of these faiths this book is still a riot and I highly recommend to anyone. Yes, it’s abundant in foul language, liberal treatment of the works of Jesus of Nazareth, and perhaps offensive material if you’re of a more orthodox mind. But Moore himself says, if your faith is shattered or moved by a work of clever fiction, perhaps you have some more praying to do. If, however, you’re looking for a compelling, sharp-witted, intelligent, and delightful read this book comes highly recommended from this here liturginerd.

it’s time to recommence (thirty day photo challenge, ugandan style)

Ladies, Gentlemen, and variations thereupon, it is at long last time to recommence the 30 Day Photo Challenge!

For those of you new around these parts, a couple months ago I did a daily blog posting series for 30 (mostly) consecutive days surrounding the photographic idea of documenting the “little things” of my American collegiate life. It was in part inspired by the facebook group of the same name and idea, except the prompts were (almost) entirely of my own design and meant to be a pattern of photographs that could be replicated once in Uganda. My intent, to be blunt (as I am fond of being), is to compare dually the vast DIFFERENT-ness of my two worlds, but more importantly to express similarities. So often I think in American culture we’re spoon-fed false images of foreign places- after all, the news only really reports international crisis and wars rather than incredible progress or lessons to be learned from other places. In my own small way, I hope to dually internally and externally explore this dialectic of old and new, ancient and modern, learned and unlearned, and wealth expressed complexly materially and in spirit.

All the photos taken in America are on this page should you ever like a point of reference!

Now, I must make a disclaimer: in the states while at Mount Holyoke I reaped the benefits of incredibly fast wireless internet. Here in Kotido, that is sadly not the case. On good days, it takes a minute to load the WordPress homepage, but more often than not it’s a bad day and it takes up to five or six minutes. So I must beg your indulgence, for I will be compressing most of my pictures to a smaller and less HD-fancy quality to preserve my own sanity and as to not kill my battery uploading photographs daily.

Upon my return to the states I fully intend to post a public flickr album (or kodak, or some other photo sharing host) with all the 30 day pictures as well as other photos taken from Uganda!

Whew, that was long-winded. ANYWAYS, it is now time for me to present to you all (with much flourish and the opening of large red curtains)…

Day One: A Picture of Yourself with 10 Facts

1. I cut off all my hair since the original 30 DPC; it was rather spur-of-the-moment as there was a Locks for Love drive at MHC. It was free if you chopped ten inches or more, so I told the guy to buzz it off. No need for abundant, luscious locks in this heat, lemme tell you!

2. If one were to compare a picture of me from every month of the year for the past, hmm, three or four years, no hairdo would be the same. I’m always perming, chopping, growing out, or giving myself bangs. This perverbial need to alter my appearance perhaps has to do with a quest for self-identity, or with a prevalent boredom and need to push away the complacency that is all too tempting to fall into.

3. In this photo, taken by the lovely Thera (supervisor, mentor, housemate, and blogger extraordinaire), I am reading The Secret Life of Bees (review here).

4. If you look a little closely, you can see the lovely burn on my leg (story here). Assuredly, it has healed much more since then!

5. This picture was taken in Owino, a chaotic, haphazard, maze-like market in the heart of Kampala. The book section, where I plopped down after an exhausting afternoon while Thera and Elizabeth perused the titles, is nigh on impossible to find.

6. The pants I’m wearing once belonged to my brother, Thomas, who procured them from our mutual favorite thrift store, Time After Time.

7. I’m running out of egocentric things to say… Hmm… Ah! As much as I love writing, performing, singing in front of people I absolutely detest talking about myself in front of people. Today at church I had to introduce myself to the congregation and my pulse was racing. Kind of pathetic, considering I’ve (fake) died on stages multiple times, run around in a prosthetic nose and chin for the Wizard of Oz, and sung about the Outcasts of Paris for a senior spotlight. Yeesh.

8. I’m rather fond of the blue-yellow-and-red (/primary colors, for fellow artists) combinations in all things, as clearly evidenced here by my Karamajong beads and my Katange shirt.

9. My absolute favorite film would have to be V for Vendetta (remember, remember, the fifth of november…).

10. I really, really want a tattoo. I’ve already got three in mind, despite having a crippling aforementioned phobia of needles. Let’s just say it will be years before I work up the courage to actually get them/one done!

Alright kiddos, I’m out for now. If you have any requests for themes, pictures, or tales to be regaled, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

current jam: “mil besos” patty griffin (thinking of you, mary day!)

best thing in my life right now: last night i began the introduction of a very potter musical to thera and our housemate; twas an excellent evening, to say the minimal. it shall continue until july 15th, whence a large ug potter extravaganza shall occur (with organic pumpkin juice! seriously people, you have to come to uganda some time).

pages read: um…still 17…

fantas consumed: still five.