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Catching up with Russia

5 Feb

I’m reading this book about a socialist, extremely “left” family in New York. A lot of the references in the characters’ dialogue and thought are about Marxist politics. It occurred to me, while reading about these characters, that I know next to nothing about Marx, and other socialist and communist philosophers and leaders. Lenin, Stalin, Castro … I know them as evil-doers only, I have no idea about what theories brought them into being and helped them overthrow entire governmental systems.  In school, when we thought about communist “regimes,” we were almost always referring to China. I know a small bit about China, just from taking Government classes, but some how, I missed Russian history and German philosophy.

So, without having late-night access to the library, I decided to start watching public documentaries on these leaders… I started with Lenin, and watched this. And then I moved to Stalin, and watched this:

Tomorrow, I am picking up a two-part documentary on Russia that I ordered from the local video store. And I need a book — something like “Russian History for Dummies” or something. I really want to understand all of this; I don’t want to be bombarded with thoughts and ideas (and words) that I have no chance of grasping. I need to read a book on Marx too, along the same lines. I’m worried anything about Marx will be too dense and hard.

Suggestions?

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Mills

23 Jan

trek-up-to-ethel

Today, I found myself back at my alma-mater, Mills College. It was a surreal experience. I had lunch in the tea shop — which was strange and emotional. I couldn’t help but to look around and see so many memories in the pockets of that campus. Past friendships and present ones. Anxiety, joy, contentness. Hilarity, sadness. Words and paint. Eucalyptus and egg-salad-sandwiches. It just made me think that maybe I am where I am supposed to be right now. Maybe I am doing what I was meant to be doing — even though sometimes it feels like my life (at this moment) is all wrong. I will say this about right now: I feel as if I am getting some stuff worked out, even though it is hard and often lonely. A lot of the time I end up feeling bored, overwhelmed and socially twitchy.

Alright, that’s enough adjectives for one post — I also saw Milk — the film that made me famous. It was fantastic… Sean Penn was such a wonderful act. The story is just so tragic and meaningful. It’s so applicable to struggles that are currently happening in society — and especially in California (Prop 8). It made me feel motivated about the future of social justice and equality. I was recruited (well, I’m sorta already in the club — but this just firmed up my membership)!

why are we (I) so afraid to be alone?

23 Jul

The only time in my life (that I can recall) where I have ever physically been alone was in Alexandra, Victoria, Australia. A part of the “experiential learning” program I did as a semester abroad involved a weekend stay in a remote town at least 2 hours away from the city (Melbourne) and the comforts of known faces (home-stay families) and Americans (other students in the program). I received the name of a town and a bus ticket from the program director… the rest was up to me. I booked a room for two nights at the Shamrock Hotel and Pub, and loaded myself onto an empty bus headed North East.  I listened to the Pixies on the way there and arrived in Alexandra (population 2,000) with big hair, a rolling suitcase and a poka-dot cardigan.

There was little to do there. Apparently, it’s kind of a stop off between the mountains and the city, though at that time of year, I seemed to be in the company of only locals. I walked through the swinging wooden doors of the tavern I was staying in and was greeted by the eyes of about a dozen confused, on-the-way-to-waisted, individuals who all appeared to know one another. Crickets were chirping in the background – for two solid minutes that’s all I could hear. Trev, the owner/bartender/ hotelier passed a “G’day” my way and Bev showed me my room. I put my suitcase on the twin bed and went downstairs to sit in a corner table and drink a beer. No one approached me, and I sure as hell didn’t approach any of them. After a few glasses of some ale, I returned to my room, where I waited for the weekend to be over.

I was alone. I wasn’t miserable. But I was bored. I attempted to make a time line for my semester studies, I played a lot of spider solitaire and I walked aimlessly around the one block of town. I returned to life with not much to report and was told to try to look at the lack of activity as something in of itself (Australians don’t make friends easily, are weary of strangers, cultural differences…). This was hard to do, given that 4 of the other American girls in the group had stories of gallivanting through the woods with burly Aussie men, drinking with a pack of surfers and hooking up with a sailor from New South Wales. Of course, they were all skinny, trendy and conventionally “American” – so their cultural experience was totally different (on many levels, this jut being a prime example of exactly the kind of Americans I was dealing with over there. This is not to say that a few of the Americans in the group ended up being some of my closest friends – they were not however the ones having drugged out orgies with Aussies).

I’m thinking of all of this because I am embarking on journey in about a week and half, and I am preparing to be alone. Of course, I won’t be physically alone very much. I will be living with people I don’t know too well, in an apartment with no common space, surrounded by a city I know only sort of. I’m nervous I will be lonely. I keep reminding myself that I have done so many things completey alone and always loved them. The things that I’ve done independently have always turned out to be amazing and have bettered me and my life. I only hope that this step follows the upward trend. We shall see.

Reading makes me feel less stupid.

26 Mar

SO, it’s been almost a year after graduation… (yes, I realize that is a major topic of mine as of late, but whatever, it’s what I’m going through at the moment). As I seek to find a vision, I have decided to return to my roots… basically, I’ve been getting back to what gets me going, gets me feeling passionate, makes me want to “move and groove,” if you will.

I’ve been buying (and reading) magazines.

Right after graduation, at the beginning of my job (career?), I would only buy such reading material as People, Us Weekly, and Star Magazine. Maybe I had air of “Fuck you, academia, this is where you got me, so this is what I’m going to read.” For about 4 months, I followed, closely, the goings on of Britney Spears and other falling, failing Hollywood bimbos. Basically, I’ve been feeling as dumb as them.

And then, I had an epiphany at the Borders Mag Rack. While purusing the array of trashy magazine covers, I caught a glimpse of a camel crossing a Chinese desert. First, I thought, “I didn’t know they had camels in China,” and then I thought, “What else don’t I know about China?” So I bought and subsequently read, The Economist. Politics and Economics — two of my faves. Then came Ms. magazine and feminism. And Adbusters, full of media commentary and anti-establishmentness. Perfect.

I’m feeling a little bit smarter these days. And I’m getting to the point of dealing with the big question… “WHAT DO I WANT TO DO?”

the (sort of) worst

18 Mar

I’ll just be blunt – life after college is not spectacular. I don’t have the job I was planning on. I have no money. I’m more uncertain than I ever was as to what I want to do (with my life).  I have no status (like I was expecting? Yeah, I guess I was expecting status.) I suppose I was thinking I would be set… to retire, like, next year.

It takes a lot for me to get excited about things, now. Which really sucks. I think I was pretty excited about things, like, a year ago. The future was unknown, but exciting. Now, the future just makes me nervous as hell. It feels pointless to make large decisions about life right now, because I have no idea where I am, or where I am going.

I haven’t been creative in months, which I really miss. I do like my job, most days. But, then, on days like yesterday, I’m forced to confront the plans I had a year ago (ran into an old college class mate, at work, in my retail uniform … last time I saw her, I was in regalia, speaking at my graduation), and it gets me all depressed about where I am.

At least, I don’t have homework.

oi.

10 Mar

I know this video is making the rounds in the blogosphere… and I’m a little late to jump on the wagon, but I have to post it… if not for you, then for me. I will need to watch it frequently, I think.

Dr. Randy Pausch, a professor from Carnegie Mellon, gave a [now famous] last lecture series. He then redid the lecture on “Oprah.” But honestly, if you can’t watch the whole lecture series, then watch this one:

I know that I need to remember these points, for sure:

  1. Your critics are trying to make you better.
  2. Work very, very hard.
  3. Value people, not things.
  4. Always have fun.
  5. Have humility.
  6. Allow yourself (and others) to be creative.
  7. Always tell the truth.
  8. Apologize: “Im sorry. It was my fault. How do I make it right?”
  9. No one is all bad… be patient, and wait for the good to come out in people.
  10. Show gratitude… it’s not hard.
  11. Don’t complain or whine. Choose to take your finite time to “play the game hard.”
  12. Luck is where preparation meets oppurtunity.
  13. If you lead your life the right way, your dreams will come to you.

another check minus for college journalism

20 Feb

Last February, I blogged about an article published in Central Connecticut State University’s newspaper, The Recorder,called, “Rape Only Hurts If You Fight It.” The “satirical” tirade was disgraceful to women and to college journalism. The article explained that rape is a magical experience and a help to society. It went on to say that ugly women would never know the joy of sex if it weren’t for rape… it was disgusting (here is my post about this, with a copy of the article).

And then, today, I saw this. Max Karson, of the University of Colorado, wrote a column for his college newspaper, The Campus Press, entitled, “If it’s war the Asians want… It’s war they’ll get.” It was published on Feb. 18 and starts by pointing out the “tension between the white students and the Asian students” at the UC campus. Karson then relays a story about an experience he had with an Asian student that made him realize that Asian people hate white people. He says, “They hate us all. And I say it’s time we start hating them back.” His article goes on to detail a plan he has to torture and humiliate the Asian population at UC … it is physically revolting – so if you read it – do so with caution.

I don’t know who these guys think they are. They act like Stephen Colbert – who I don’t really get in the first place. Colbert is apparently “satirical” or something… and yeah, his speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was pretty in line… but beyond that – I think he’s a dope. These college writers are just too dense to realize Stephen Colbert is not a journalist. They’re satire is not funny – it’s ripe with gross, harmful, and hurtful stereotypes, racism, and sexism. And it totally makes college journalism look like religious pamphlets passed out on street corners!!!

What’s with this trend?