Monthly Archives: February 2014

Life Happens

I don’t know about generalizing life, but one thing I can say is that life happens whether you’re ready for it or not. It’s been kind of a crazy week. Two major essays and two poems were due on the same day, following a midterm the previous day. All of this happened after a “show weekend,” aka a weekend in which I was performing every night.

That said, I absolutely loved the busyness of the show, and it turned out to be an incredibly unique, fun, and exciting experience. I wanted to document the experience, to remember it in pictures—my favorite method of remembering things—but I got so caught up in the day that all I ended up with was this.

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Inspiring, I know.

Sometimes it’s scary to me that such a complete experience can only be wrapped up in an unreliable and insubstantial memory. Nothing can quite capture the scope of it, the nuances. There’s a lot that happens at college. There’s a lot that I want to forget. But there’s even more that I want to remember. Sometimes there are things that I want to cherish long after they’ve passed.

These are the moments I don’t want to forget. Challenging myself emotionally and socially and being rewarded with floor-shaking music and dancing with new and old friends. Eating bottomless breadsticks with my cast at Olive Garden. Blasting Rent music on the drive back to the dorm.

There have also been some tough times this week. After a week of trying to contact study abroad advisors and collect information, I was finally informed that I am not eligible to study abroad at Oxford. To put this into context, I had been holding out the hopes that admissions officers would give me a bit of leeway in my GPA if I had good recommendations, seeing as the requirement was 3.7 and one class last semester dropped me to a 3.67 (I know, right?). Unfortunately, the advisor told me that the 3.7 is a hard-and-fast rule, so I would be automatically declined if I applied.

I’ve been dreaming about attending Oxford for a few years now. Ever since I visited the city with my parents a few summers back, it’s seemed like an amazing school to be at. Fall semester of my freshman year, after taking a seminar on Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the Inklings (who all lived and taught at Oxford for extended periods of time), I knew that Oxford was my end goal. I’ve tried to be practical about my dreams. I’ve exercised caution when talking about the school. I’ve been reserved in describing just how much I want to go. I refrained from putting up a picture of the school on my wall in fear that I would raise my hopes too high. I even partially convinced myself that I wouldn’t be upset if I couldn’t go.

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I mean, yeah.

It still hit hard when I got that phone call, though, and there’s no point in saving my pride now. I’ve spent a lot of time praying and talking with God, wondering how I could be so close to this opportunity and yet be denied it. The difference of 0.03 is maddening—it would be better, almost, to miss the mark by a more substantial margin.

In the end, I’ve made my peace with this. Some of that is through just not thinking about it, some through coming to an understanding with God. If it’s not meant to be, then it’s not meant to be; doors are only opened if we’re meant to walk through them.

The door was certainly opened for me when I was cast in the 10 Minute Play Festival, and I am incredibly fulfilled by my experience this past weekend and the opportunities that have arisen because of it. The door was opened when I was accepted to the University of Iowa: like with Oxford, I was denied admission to my first-choice school and instead found my way to where I am now. I can honestly say that I do not regret a thing, and I am positive that I am where I’m supposed to be. Maybe I wouldn’t have succeeded at Oxford, anyway, or maybe there’s just something greater waiting that I’ve never anticipated.

What I’m saying is this: life happens. Like I said, I don’t know how I feel about generalizing such an enormous concept, but, from my experience, things usually work out how they’re supposed to. As the saying goes, you’ve got to take the good with the bad. Have a good week, everyone!

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Very Old Books

Warning: this post is going to be English-majoring at its finest. It’s not going to be arguing anything, providing advice, or explaining my life. It’s a post about old books. In particular, one book that I discovered this week.

For my “Literature and the Book” class (with focus on Shakespeare’s work), we were assigned an essay dealing with examining and describing a book printed pre-1700. We’ve been looking at examples of these in class through digital images, learning about the printing processes of the time and looking at how 17th century readers read. For example, those weird pointing fingers you see on “Ye Olde Times” shop displays? Those were actually a common symbol in the practice of marginalia—readers would mark important quotes in the book with drawings and then copy those quotes down in a notebook, or “Commonplace Book.”

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This finger clearly has a genetic defect.

Anyway, for this essay, we were required to pick a 17th century book from our library’s Special Collections, sit down with it for a while, and describe/analyze the main features of it. I scoped out my options on the library catalogue first and ended up discovering a 1695 copy of a King Arthur book. I figured, why not bring in another class subject and get more out of the assignment?

Since I had to fit my visit in between classes, I only had an hour in Special Collections. I fumbled around for a bit, having never visited that part of the library, but eventually got my bearings. I sat down with my pencil and notebook (the only items allowed in the reading room) and a librarian brought me my book.

I easily could have spent more than an hour with that text. I really could’ve.

It took me half an hour to get through the title page and preface of the book alone. The assignment didn’t dictate reading the book, but I couldn’t help myself. The title page was lovely:

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Funnily enough, I went back through the online database later and found a 1967 version with a corrected(?) title of King Arthur: An Heroick Poem. I desperately want to do more research and figure out why the title was changed, but that’s for another time.

The most interesting part of the title page, I think, is the fact that “Poem” is the largest. Like how Shakespeare’s name was always the biggest in any work associated with his plays, the most important word is usually the largest. Going through the text of the preface, it becomes increasingly obvious that the publishers were doing their damndest to legitimize this work as a work of poetry. Looking at the list of other publications from Mr. Churchil, what stands out the most is the lack of “creative” work—this publisher printed essays, histories, and fiscal analyses, which is what makes this poem stand out so much.

The preface pushes for credibility, though. The writer asserts that “Poets then taught Men to reverence their Gods, and those who ferv’d them,” thereby pushing the fact that poetry is just as important to highbrow scholars as it is to casual readers. I wonder, too, if this poem in particular was considered quasi-historical. The King Arthur myth has lost potency over time, but in some early works Arthur is conceived as an actual person. Maybe this is why the publishers included an Epic Poem into their “intellectual” repertoire.

Aside from the textual greatness, what struck me about this book is just how pretty it is. You know, you see these old books in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but it’s hard to imagine that books actually look that gritty and old in real life. They do.

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Pro-tip: you probably shouldn’t smoke your pipe in libraries nowadays.

This Prince Arthur book is yellowing, worn, and crinkled. The text is complete with long S’s and random capitalization. Turning the pages produces a satisfying crackling sound. The binding along the spine is ridged, and the one word printed there (in gold, no less) is ARTHUR.

One of the coolest bits was seeing actual evidence of the printing. On many pages, especially noticeable with the title page, there is an imprint of the text on the opposing page. As in, the printers turned/stacked the pages before the ink had completely dried, therefore staining the opposite page. It’s a fault in the printing, perhaps, but beautiful and unique all the same!

I thoroughly intend to go back to Special Collections and do more research, or even just spend more time with these old books. Things were done a lot differently back then, but it’s also possible to see the seeds of our own practices within old manuscripts. I just love old books. I love how they smell and how they feel, and I love trying to grasp just how old they really are. People actually read those books when they were new. It’s hard to imagine the books we have now surviving 300 years into the future, but who knows? Maybe a copy of Twilight will end up in a future “Special Collections” library.

Though I sincerely hope that’s not what we’re remembered for.

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I. Love. Seattle.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but today’s the Super Bowl.

 

Now, I don’t usually go crazy over the Super Bowl, or football in general, unless it’s one of my teams playing. And guess what? One of my teams is playing today.

Get excited, people. The Seattle Seahawks are in the Super Bowl.

Not only has this caused my Facebook newsfeed to practically self-destruct, but it has also, strangely enough, made me love Seattle even more. I mean, look at the city right now.

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This is the second time we’ve gone to the Super Bowl, and, man, we’re going all out. We even temporarily renamed a mountain for this event. Even before I left for school, before we even knew we were going to be playing, the city was decked out in blue and green. The whole city is buzzing. The level of community pride is astounding, and, frankly, inspiring. Even from 2000 some miles away, I absolutely love being a part of this community and it’s been so awesome watching so many people come together in support of one thing.

Putting sports events aside, however, in these past few years in Iowa, I’ve really come to appreciate Seattle as a city and as my first home. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to…

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It has an open-air market with flying fish…

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The atmosphere—the smells and the sounds and the feelings—is so invigorating…

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The theatre scene is awesome…

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It can be both quirky and grand.

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I love Seattle. No matter where I am on the globe, it will always be my home. And no matter what the outcome of the game is today, I am proud to be here in Iowa representing such a passionate and loyal group!

Go Hawks!

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