31 August 2008

so basically my answer is "no."

Michaele asked in the comments section what I thought about the selection of Sarah Palin for McCain's veep. My little fingers are exhausted from typing about caribou and I am a little-- no, make that very--cranky as all the bureaucratic mess of last week appears to finally be reconciling itself but I am tired from working so hard this weekend and I was tired when I got the news about Sarah Palin-- where am I going with this... oh yah, I was really caught off guard, and the news of the selection had to make it through all that mess in my head AND then I wanted to come up with an actual cogent answer for Michaele. So it took me a while.

Ok, so she's a woman. I'm glad that the Republicans finally decided to be so progressive, you know, pushing 40 years after the womens movement and ~30 years since they last had a female chair of the RNC and 20 years after the Democrats had a female veep nominee. So yah, first glance it's kinda cool, girl power and women having it all and what not. I was even a teensy bit excited that Catherine Rymph might have to reevaluate her stand on the death of Republican feminism.

But then I look again and it's like, wait a minute. McCain and the conservative media machine has been waaaaay aggressive in trying to court the jilted Clinton-ites and it was like, oh, duh, isn't that strategically obvious! Thanks for not picking Dan Quayle all over again, but for goodness sakes John, do you really think that I will vote for you just because your VP would be a woman? Do you really think I'm that stupid?

Because frankly, despite the lack of womanity on the Democratic ticket, they actually represent my interests. Palin is anti-choice, has more experience on the city council than as governor, and is in bed (literally?) with Big Oil. She was selected clearly to appeal to women and evangelicals, and with her lack of experience (which totally kills McCain's ability to tout his own) I really don't see her as being selected for any reason other than that she's a woman. And being as she's a woman who differs from my stand on something like abortion (which is I wish was a non-issue but hey, it effects things like sex education and birth control that I do really, really care about) I really don't feel like she would be all that helpful for my agenda. I'm a little peeved that she's calling herself a feminist. While I think there can be a lot of kinds of feminists, I think Joe Biden is more my type. And anyways she should be careful calling herself one because Schlafly and her Eagles will come after her ass for that shit. Whew, this is getting ranty!

So basically I think McCain shouldn't have taken the risk with someone who is only superficially useful. The reality is, I would've never voted for him anyways, but to me this just confirms that McCain is not concerned about solving America's problems at all because if he was, he would've picked someone who actually had the ability to help him. Particularly when McCain's health is so precarious, I am really, really concerned that he was so cavalier in his choice. Who knows, maybe she could surprise me, but really being attached to McCain negates any possible appeal.

So that was kind of a wreckless analysis that definitely merits a rewrite, and wasn't really all that cogent after all.

29 August 2008

i also enjoyed watching the dnc tonight.


"Today, we face essentially the same choice we faced in 2000, though it may be even more obvious now, because John McCain, a man who has earned our respect on many levels, is now openly endorsing the policies of the Bush-Cheney White House and promising to actually continue them, the same policies all over again. Hey, I believe in recycling, but that's ridiculous." -Al Gore

"America can't afford more of the same. We need a president who puts the
Barney Smiths before the Smith Barneys."
-Barney Smith (and really, I thought all of the citizen speakers were totally awesome)

"America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require
tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast
off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has
been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages
or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of
common purpose – our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have
to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America’s promise – the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected.

Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. "

- The Barack Has Spoken!

copywriting for the weary.

Do you like running inconclusive errands?

Do you hate sleeping at night?

Do you enjoy the feeling of not being able to register for classes and knowing that your financial aid has yet to be disbursed?

Have you longed for the ethereal feeling of reading a ten page syllabus typed in ten point font?

Do you crave the rush of spending hundreds of dollars on paperback books when all you have in your fridge is stale birthday cake, carrots and condiments?

Are you an eager ideologue looking to have your dreams crushed?

Then grad school might be right for you!

(okay, so it hasn't been that bad... well it has but the craziness has been tempered by a couple of dinner dates with friends, free bagels at work and some very gracious, wonderful coworkers and peers, all of whom deserve gold stars)

22 August 2008

my bicycle runneth over.

Grandparents who send birthday flowers are the best!

21 August 2008

while you wait for your obama text.

Have some of the best pudding ever.

And then look at all of this mess:
There is a certain style of design that I really love. Yah, kind of like that shelf that Pa carved up for Ma in the first Little House book. Or the back of the Norwegian Krone. I am smitten.
I want I want I want.

This is off the hook-- 1 man responsible for 2,800 bicycle thefts in Toronto.

Gail Collins on
all this VP biz.

And here's another one of me from a classic night out of tomfoolery on Ruston Way:

20 August 2008

i would sell my soul for school to start tomorrow.

A question for the ages: Is Michael Phelps a douche?

Suck it, McCain.

That's all I've got. So here's another birthday month self-tribute picture:


19 August 2008

a granulated self-promoting treat from the pre-digital era.

In Aachen, 2005.

mmm chicago.

Holy Diety. I can. not. sleep. Interesting this song was in my head... do you know how hard it is to find a song when you don't know any of the words? Anyways, I didn't realize it was such a sentimental song. Awwwww.

Now that I've listened to it like eight times, it's occurring to me that it's really not my favorite Chicago song, at least as far as their cool horns, pre-80's power ballads go. I think I'd have to go with this one:

Can you dig it? Yes I can!

That magical lyric says it all. Although I realized I've left out 25 or 6 to 4, but you'll have to look it up yourself because I am too tired to complete my trifecta of Chicago goodness.

16 August 2008


Dear Humanity,

One week from today this blog will go family/friends only. Email me or facebook me your email addy if you'd like to have access. If you don't know my email, too bad. I want to be able to post pictures and such without having to consider strangers... and I've been writing this blog with a select group of viewers in mind anyways. It's time for it to reflect my intended audience.

Peace, love and happiness,
Melanie and her ODT

another birthday month self-tribute picture.

classy ladies.

I'm a big fan of sportsmanship. Maybe it's seeing how catty girls can be from the perspective of the ref or all those feel good hours in sports psychology class but you know, sports should really be about being the best we can be and despite competition I think all athletes can at the very least be nice to each other with that shared goal in mind.*

SO I was extra happy to see this post on Jez today featuring the gymnasts Nastia Lukin and Shawn Johnson. This video made Johnson my hero-- what an amazing thing to see such a young woman having her shit together like that. The way she talked about giving it her all and cheering for her teammate-- who beat her-- was really inspiring. I want to be like her when I grow up-- have you seen that girl walk around? Pure confidence, that one. Without pretense. You just don't see such down to earth people that often.

The other lady that got me today was the swimmer Dara Torres. Her story is amazing-- she is the fastest lady swimmer in the world coming into the Olympics at age 41-- but I thought it was really awesome that she broke her preswim focus to advocate on behalf of a fellow swimmer having some garment issues so that the race would start with all swimmers present. She went on to win the race. You can be nice and be the best at what you do.

*Which is why I have on occasion lost.my.mind. with parents and players when people have been nasty to each other. You just don't fuck with sports.

14 August 2008

when' affection for roommates' stoped being facetious.

Dear Humanity,
Tonight the Chinese redeemed me from the low intellectual wallowing state that I have been in for the past 36 hours. Apparently, all of the people with families have gone on a tour, while the childless and unmarried were left here to make me dinner. It was divine! I tried so many new things! The fish-- when I got it without bones-- was incredible and I had like eight different dishes served with bacon (bacon and cooked cucumbers! who knew!). They had a "hot pot" of very spicy dark red broth with vegetables-- it's good but the kelp in it almost made me throw up-- definite texture thing. They may have served me liver-- they said liver and then decided what they were serving-- sliced up with cooked celery stalks-- was better identified as "sausage" but their manner was "call it sausage because Americans don't eat liver so she will try it." Not my fav but I did try it. I like how they cut everything into strips-- potatoes with green onions and my absolute favorite of the evening, eggplant and green bell peppers in some yummy sauce. I provided Fat Tires for the eleven people and they bought Bud Dry-- a drinkable, sweet tasteless beer that worked after dinner and for the innumerable "cheers" clinking of cans and glasses with my hosts-- really I felt like a guest in my own apartment, they were that sweet. Watermelon was the most complementary dessert. The Chinese go apeshit over that stuff.

There is really nothing more magical than watching the Olympics with the Chinese-- they are genuinely excited for the winners of any event, be it their own or Michael Phelps or anybody else except the Japanese. Even though I couldn't understand what they were saying, their happiness was apparent, as is their success-- some work in foreign affairs, one is the editor of a newspaper, and all are very well traveled. With our kitchen table in our living room, our apartment felt the coziest it has ever been. It was palpable that these people have become family while they've been here; they really made me feel like family too, in that "we are all God's children" kind of way. It was exactly what I needed.

13 August 2008

the oral historian confronts her own naivete.

Oral history is fickle. I should know this-- I spend enough time transcribing them to know that as far as creating a useful historical record, it's pretty hit or miss. But I hadn't really realized this applied to me until yesterday. Typically I roll into an interview, introduce myself and my project, lay out what we'll be doing, and then I ask whatever questions I want for as long as I can keep coming up with them. And then I leave. I generally expect that the hardest part will be setting up the interview, and as a payout for my troubles, I get whatever information I can tease out of the narrator in the space of an hour. It's really straight forward. I love coming up with a list of questions specifically for the person I'm interviewing. I love collaborating with people to create something that's completely about them. I love getting to meander through people's life stories. There are really few things I love more than sitting down for an interview.

So yesterday I went out to Ogden to interview Mrs. Jackpot. Due to some new medication, I was really nauseated, but I determined to soldier through. I had prepared a list of questions that was phenomenally complete, a list of questions that might just yield my most informative interview ever. I wasn't excited because I felt like shit, but I was expectant as I made my way up I-15. I met Mrs. Jackpot on her porch, where we would be conducting the interview. Before I could really explain why I was even there-- an exercise that I think really helps give the interview the direction I want it to take-- she, clad in a black housecoat and sunglasses, reclined in her lawn chair and began telling stories. And she did so for two hours. She told stories of being a young woman in New Jersey during World War II, of living abroad during her husband's Air Force Service, her shock at finding America morally depraved upon her return. She talked and talked and talked.

And I couldn't get what I wanted. I am terrified to listen to the recording, of having to hear myself, as I sat in that ancient pink metal lawn chair, asking seemingly random questions to try to pull the interview towards my topic. She couldn't remember dates. She couldn't remember names. She stopped answering my questions and started soapboxing. I was crushed, and did my best to seem engaged and to appear like I was paying attention. I have never been as relieved as I was when she suggested we have a soda, and I turned off the recorder. We went in her house and while I drank a Sprite, she told me about Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict and Mother Teresa. I'm sure I glazed over; I wanted so badly to leave and there just didn't seem to be an opportunity for an exit. After an hour it was like she snapped out of her line of thought, reentered the conversation with a previously absent tone of clarity-- as if she had just noticed I was still there-- and said, "Well I suppose you'd like to go now." I thanked her and left, trying to be gracious but probably appearing as tired as I felt.

I'm still recovering from the interview. I am not upset with her-- it is clear to me that the window of opportunity for a more typical interview with her is closed, just as I remembered it closing with my great-grandmother after tea several years ago. But the disappointment really caught me off guard. I like to argue that oral history is an optimal mode for getting information, that it offers people the opportunity to interpret their own life experiences and in that way, to have some say in what is written about them as historical figures. I get really idealistic about it because I really believe in it.

So it shook me, when I questioned the usefulness of oral history. If all she could provide were a bevy of stories that would be impossible to fact check, had I really helped her create something of benefit to other people, let alone myself? Instead of history, had I really just been doing community service, sitting with an old lady for an afternoon while she spun yarns that I struggled to make sense of? Certainly that is valuable-- I don't mean to denigrate community service or the aged-- but when it's too late, or when the process stops being collaborative, or when the narrative gives way to rambling, I just don't know. I don't know that it was worth the effort yesterday. I don't know if it is ethical to use an interview with a woman who is at the beginning of the great scrambling of memories that comes with getting older. I don't know that my project is any clearer-- I am completely clueless as to what the next step is. I don't know that I can really rely on people for the information that I can't seem to find anywhere-- is it possible that a history for this organization doesn't exist, can't exist? I just don't know.

11 August 2008

business is good.

I did get the gig with PBS. Looks like ~16-20 hours of work between now and the beginning of September. Fortunately the interviews are very interesting, done with native English speakers who also speak at a perfect not-to-fast pace. Not what I am used to at all! I actually had to turn down another gig that I got offered today transcribing for an environmental advocacy group because it would've been an additional 60 hours of work in the same time frame and um, hello, I have my own transcribing to do and my research and my job and classes starting and I think my head would have exploded! Especially because the interviews were on cassette! I am so glad I have learned to say no... even if it was incredibly lucrative.

Anyways, it is nice to know that the work is out there if I want it. In the meantime I am learning how to do lots of business-y things, like setting up invoicing. Because I am my own unofficial small business. Because I am really that awesome. Yes, that's me, awesome.

10 August 2008

my utahversary.

One year ago today, my little green Honda rolled out of my dad's driveway towards the Salt Lake valley. My little car was packed full of everything I thought I would need for my new life in Utah. After one last breakfast at The Pine Cone, I drove out of Washington, through the barrenness of eastern Oregon into the lush farmland of Idaho and the mountainous desert of Utah. It was a blissful, determined drive-- cranking songs like "Wide Open Spaces," laying in the grass at rest stops, taking in every second of the changing landscape as I made my way southeast.

I didn't know
what to expect-- and I hadn't really thought to expect anything. For months-- almost my entire tenure at Callison-- I had been bent on getting out, filled with the vague uncompromisable hope of somewhere else. Going to graduate school, that was it. I couldn't have predicted the acute loneliness of those first days in Utah, aching for my family as I watched my first sunsets over the Oquirrhs, longing for friends as I tried to negotiate a new ward and my ever increasing spiritual isolation. I didn't think that that time would give way to the unexpected: A quiet evening on the couch when I determined vaguely to "take a break" from church that I knew would be permanent. The intense relief of making friends and getting a better job and finally feeling like I could keep my head above water in my classes would never come. A new sense of agency that forced me to rethink everything-- the control I have over my body, my relationships and my future. Those possibilities weren't clear as I unpacked my life into this little room. I just knew that everything, somehow, would get better. And it did.

It pains me a little to look at pictures from before. I get frustrated when I find myself explaining my lack of experience in the world to someone who didn't know me then-- I feel like some naive ingenue in a Henry James novel. I struggle with resentment, that I never would have allowed myself to imagine things being the way they are now, that this life I love so much was not even a possibility for me then. It is work for me to look at that girl from last year and to see her as someone who was taking a risk. I am slowly beginning to appreciate the courage it took to get in my car and begin the journey towards being someone I wanted to be.

politics and the olympics.

In the midst of all the nasty, nonsensical McCain commericials running during the Olympics (wtf?! McCain seems to be running at least five times as many as The Barack here in Utah. I have made more cohesive arguments after six beers), I found this video very uplifting:

Also, one component of NBC's Olympic coverage that really cracks me up is all the footage of George Bush in Beijing and their whole "first president to do x, y or z at the Olympics" schtick. Duh! If I was the most unpopular president ever and on my way out, you can bet your sweet pippy I would be milking that free travel and all access pass for everything it's worth. I mean look at this guy:Clearly not as stupid as we think he is. (photo from Gawker)

I suppose I should comment on the Edwards thing, as a former Edwards supporter: damn I am glad the Olympics are on so I can block this shit out. What a douche. Major disappointment.

I have been kind of pissed that Russia is airstriking Georgia as it is stealing the Olympic's thunder in the news-- I am really serious, don't fuck with my Olympics-- but upon further review it is a really complex story that is pretty interesting to learn about. Still, I wish Dubya would've leaned over to Putin during the opening ceremonies (they were seated together) and invited him to do something more productive than start wars, such as checking out the hotties. Is it possible that there are really lessons to be learned from 43? I can't believe I am writing that.

08 August 2008

opening ceremonies.

I forgot how much I lose my shit over the Olympics. I think it's almost more potent this time, living with women from the host country. This evening we all got up from our late afternoon naps (they do it everyday, I do it because I am sick) and gathered round the TV. It was probably a good thing that they were watching the theatrical bits with me because I otherwise would have cried all over the Olympics. First off, it was beautiful. Spectacular. Amazing. Magnificent. Stunning. Huge. Extraordinary. It was a big night for vocabulary building around here. Second, the humanity of it all-- all of the hope and unity in the forefront and politics set asides (though I think the NBC commentary was too political-- damned if we don't get the Canadian channel in Utah!). I loved the part with the pictures of all the global children! The boats part was my absolute favorite though. I cannot seem to find any good pictures this on the web! Argh.

I found the fashions during the parade of nations to be pretty entertaining. I think Ukraine and Hungary should get mad props for even getting dressed.
The Polish women and the French men looked extra classy-- and hate me, but I really loved the waspy look for the US team and thought that Kobe looked smokin' hot. I thought Russia had the best hats, and loved that a Utah Jazz player was their flagbearer. But what I loved, loved, loved the most was the piping on the Netherlands suits. I really did almost loose my mind over it.

Pictures: here and here and here

07 August 2008

a friendly reminder.

Art by Adam Turman.

check me out, up before ten o'clock.

This is so awesome.

Vital health information about coffee!

I love this. Yet another thing I would like to collect someday when I have the cash, along with stamps and coins. And cats. Because having so many collections is definitely the fast track to becoming a cat lady.

So officially 3/4 of this post so far is campaign related. Good thing the Olympics start tomorrow so I can fixate on something else! In the mean time, this link is only useful if you saw the stupid McCain commercial comparing The Barack to Paris and Britney. I saw it when I was St. Louis and almost lost my mind over it. Paris strikes back.

06 August 2008

who knows what the hell this carrot is doing.

i feel so legit now.

I am back from my conference AND I have a new phone that is fully operational (and according to my Dad-- much better sound quality)! Things went well... I am feeling better about the paper I submitted and fortunately have until the end of the year to get the rest of my interviews and to clean up my draft. Fortunately the ideas were on as far as what they wanted, so once I start filling in the gaps in my research I should be good to go. Clearly everyone who told me not to sell myself short was right. Go team!

It was good to meet so many historians, archivists and folklorists who share my interest in oral history! I learned a lot and feel like I am definitely on the right track career-wise. As I had been having some doubts and considered chickening out on the PhD front, that was really affirming and I actually feel excited to apply for programs. It was nice to see the kinds of possibilities outside of the typical teaching track and to hear about so many interesting projects. It was kind of daunting to be the young buck in the room but people seemed impressed that I was so interested in the field at such an early point in my graduate work and were really supportive. Despite some quirks (no coffee! killer!), our hosts at BYU were gracious and took good care of us. I mean seriously, all those tasty free meals and a really deluxe, gigantic hotel room with an exceptionally soft comfy mattress? Thank you LDS tithepayers!

It was really cool to get to exchange ideas with so many experts and to get to brag about all the projects going on where I work. After hearing about problems at other universities, I feel happier with my own department and to have so many opportunities where I work (including getting a little private contracting job to transcribe for the University TV station!). So things are good, very good, on the oral history front... now it's back to research and trying to pony up some interviews and some cash so I can go to the Oral History Association conference in October!

Also... this magazine was in my hotel room. If you ever wanted proof that Provo is another planet, this is it:
I love how they are still calling Romney a would-be first lady in their August issue... proof that Utah county is still not on board with McCain! :P

03 August 2008

to put on your summer reading list.

Ian McEwan's Atonement. I plowed through it over the course of my weekend in typical Melanie fashion and I could not have spent the days in any better way. The writing is so beautiful and the story so poignant.

birthday month kickoff.

So I was thinking that I would do kind of a retrospective in honor of birthday month. Look forward to me posting lots of random goofball pictures of myself in honor of my own existence. My selection is limited to what I've got on my computer, though of course submissions are welcome.

And to start it off, through this crafty website I found a website that makes your pictures look old. I find this very entertaining. It does require pictures with a fair amount of contrast... about 80% of the pictures I tried of myself are all whited out because well... I am all whited out. Anywho, cheers to birthday month!

It's nice to know that this kind of stuff will withstand the test of time.

01 August 2008

one man conquers three mountain passes.