The New Man In My Life

Meet Max!  Max comes to us from the Lawrence Humane Society as of six days ago, and he’s already stolen both of our hearts. He’s 16 months old and an itty bitty 8 pounds.

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Max is sweet, muscular, affectionate, and chatty with huge wideset yellow eyes, leaving no doubt in our minds that he’s a li’l Burmese kitty. Also, did you know that apparently it is super hard for shelters to get people to adopt black cats and dogs? WHAT IS WRONG WITH EVERYONE?

Anyway, I’m looking forward to lots more exciting stuff coming up in the next few weeks — we’re moving into our new house, going to the 2013 US Air Guitar Championships Qualifier at the Record Bar, and I’m finally joining the ranks of Lawrence Nerd Nite Alumni with a June talk about — wait for it — KU Boobs. Will post more soon as the deets become available!

Marie Antoinette: Royally Frocked

(This post originally appeared in the Lawrence Public Library Spotlight.)

From the masculine equestrian outfits that made her Louis XV’s favorite, to the regal counterrevolutionary gowns in green and violet that exposed her as an enemy of the state, Marie Antoinette’s fashion statements were always unfailingly both fabulous and controversial. In Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, Caroline Weber paints a comprehensive portrait of the fashion icon, from Dauphine until death. Weber is not only a brainy Barnard scholar, but also a fashion connoisseur herself, and her fastidiously researched political fashion memoir satisfied both my inner Vogue subscriber and my inner history nerd.

Anyone who’s watched Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette as many times as I have can easily rattle off the basics of her biography: born an Austrian, Marie Antoinette disavowed her native country in a political alliance with France to become its eventual Queen. A newcomer to the highly ritualized and chic court at Versailles, she navigated her tepid political reception as a suspect foreigner in the best way she knew how — in impeccable style. And although it all started out as fun and games, eventually it cost the Autrichienne her head on the guillotine.  From her powdered, sky-high hairdos to her divine selection of costly satin footwear, Marie Antoinette won over her adoring public at first, but quickly became a lightning rod for criticism of the French monarchy’s decadence during a national economic recession (… sound familiar?). Continue reading

Tolstoy’s Like a Bad Date Who Doesn’t Know When to Stop Talking About Himself

Bad Date

Almost exactly two years ago, I gave my mom and four siblings each a copy of War and Peace for Christmas. I’ve kind of been talking about it a lot lately.

The premise was to do a long-distance book group, at a nice and easy clip of 1200 pages in one year. That’s only 100 pages a month!  But I’ve since concluded that book group etiquette asks a commitment of at most 300 pages from each person at a time, preferably less. Although most of my family said they really wanted to read it, the execution itself was a little more… challenging. A year is a long time. 1200 pages is a lot of pages.

2009 came and went, but still I’d read only half. Then, in November of last year, with 800 pages under my belt, I decided enough was enough. And I finally finished, on Dec. 27, squeaking in just under the two-year mark.

And? It’s brilliant! Obsessed with the microcosm, Tolstoy deconstructs major historic events through the eyes of half a dozen characters whom we watch grow-up from childhood. He’s a starry-eyed romantic, yet he’s also one of the most weirdly hilarious guys I’ve ever read. Drunken frat boys wrestling bears, crabby old men with sneezing problems, Tsars throwing biscuits from balconies, anagrams of Satan’s name… When Tolstoy wants it to, the story really soars, and he’s the best drama queen that ever was a drama queen. Continue reading

Hip-Hop, Foucault, and Learning Between Borders

Foucault's Hand

I really like hip-hop.  A few months ago, as I was finishing my two years of Library School, I was taking a seminar called “Analysis of Scholarly Domains.”  We were contemplating the structure of knowledge in University settings, and I was spending a lot of time thinking about which voices get included in the Academy, which become excluded, and why that happens.  We’re talking nights spent awake until 2 and 3 a.m., reading Michel Foucault and banging my head against the desk until finally having the “a-ha” moment — so it’s that sort of “a lot of time thinking”!  The result of all that thinking was a twenty page term paper called “Learning Between Borders,” a personal narrative of my own journey through the Academy, including my love of both MLA and hip-hop, and why I think they go smashingly together.

Continue reading