Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Say What? The Perils of Dress

Colleague A: I love your tights.
Colleague B: Those are great tights. They're very baroque.
Colleague C: Those are very striking tights. Of course, you young people can wear that kind of thing.
Self: I will stand behind the lectern during the entire class in order not to distract students with my tights.

Stranger on the street: "Your outfit is absolutely beautiful!"
Self: Thanks nice stranger.
Stranger on the street continues: "You look just like Snow White!"
Self, internally: WTF?! will dress cause students to regress to childhood during review for midterm?

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend Entertainments

I did not manage to get myself out dancing more than twice over the weekend (one has to ease back into vigorous activity, evidently), but I did initiate two other grad students into the mysteries of West Coast Swing. They both enjoyed themselves and both had reason to agree, as one of them remarked several times, that people in Pittsburgh are "really friendly." I was definitely impressed with the way so many people went out of their way to welcome my friends and help them learn the steps. People have been nice to me, too, but as I'm less of a complete beginner, it wasn't quite as striking.
I spent the rest of the weekend working on my Czech Modernism syllabus and an article on gender and the body in First Republic Czechoslovakia (due in a couple of weeks), and finishing the first draft of a large and entirely unacademic project that has been entertaining me for the past few months.
And, I might add, I finished reading Aldous Huxley's impertinent 1920s classic, Antic Hay. I had no idea when I began it that it would be so full of art and architectural discussion, or so full of entertaining quotable lines. Surely I must be able to find a way to quote one of the lines about how one can no longer dream in 1922 (because it suggests Freud) into my dissertation. And then (My Sibling will appreciate this) there's the line where one character asserts that "Most women are like dachshunds." I am feeling reluctant to return the book on the grounds that I need to extract all the most amusing quotes for future use. I tried to find out when this tale appeared in Czech, but the NKP server seems to be down just now. The British were going into shock over it in 1923 and I assume it was widely translated. (Well, Worldcat reminds me that it's often hard to know just how a book's title is translated, although I can tell that Point Counterpoint, Brave New World, and Doors of Perception have appeared in Czech.)

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Pittsburgh Dances

Despite having failed to go dancing in nearly the whole time I've lived in Pittsburgh (several years even if interrupted by life in Prague), I've now managed to get myself out and dancing several times here, and I can report that the dancing is excellent.
Just check out www.pghdance.com and see what a fine schedule there is pretty much every week. And I hasten to say that there's much more going on than is just on their calendar, but I'm not sure I can manage to go dancing more than 3-4 times a week. So far I've managed twice a week; maybe this weekend will lead me into the 3-4 time range.
There's no need to bring a partner, or to have ever done this before. Just show up in time for class and all will be well.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Would Freud Say?

People have all sorts of different mild anxiety dreams. Some of them fall into standard categories--I've found that lots of people have dreams about being very late to work because there are lots of detours and roadblocks on the way, and lots of people dream about going back to an old school and having to retake some subject but forgetting to sign up for it or to attend class.
I wonder, however, whether I have recently added new categories. I have now dreamt:
a) that suddenly it is time to graduate and I didn't order my cap and gown sufficiently in advance, and that it's baffling because I was sure we hadn't gotten to the middle of the fall semester yet (which is, in fact, true);
b) that I have entirely run out of Archelaus cards and don't know how to deal with this situation. It's true my supply is a little low after giving two boxes as gifts recently, but I really don't see the need to have dreams in which this is a dire problem when all I need to do is order more.
We won't even try to make sense of my apparently having been visited by an incubus recently. All I can say about that is that if my friends wish to appear in my dreams, I would prefer that they not turn into bizarre hags all of a sudden. That really spoils everything, after all.


Monday, September 22, 2008

And Sometimes Everything Is Awful

I'm not sure what to say. I've just learned that the wife of a new colleague over in the History department was run over by a schoolbus on Saturday after dropping off her daughter at daycare.
I had only met Eva once, at the new faculty reception, but I had enjoyed talking with her and was looking forward to getting to know her better. Her husband Arpad works on recent Hungarian cultural history and they had both just moved here from Germany.
To make it all worse, the bus was full of kids. I'm not sure how the bus driver missed seeing Eva in the crosswalk, but I can't remember just what that intersection is like.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Test Your Color Skills!

You can test your ability to discern slight color gradations here. There's no time limit, you just drag and drop the blocks in each row until you think they're in the correct order.
I guess some people take a long time worrying over this. It probably does improve your score to obsess a little about it before clicking on "score test," but I confess I put my set together pretty quickly and soon got tired of wondering whether there were any slightly misplaced squares. My result:

Based on your information, below is how your score compares to those of others with similar demographic information.

* Your score: 11
* Gender: Female
* Age range: 40-49
* Best score for your gender and age range: 0
* Highest score for your gender and age range: 1421

So even rushing through it in poor lighting conditions, I didn't do too badly. Maybe you'll do better and get a 0.
My errors were all in the blue and green range, which either suggests I don't handle those colors as well or that I was lazier correcting those sections. I guess I should take it again and see if the results are similar...


Friday, September 19, 2008

Czech Resources Online

Some unexpected resources are beginning to turn up here and there online for Czech art and cultural history.
Google Books has copies of several volumes of the important art journal Volné směry, published by the Mánes Association, although they are erroneously catalogued as different editions of one book. It looks as though volumes 1 (1897), 2 (1898), 4 (1900), 9 (1905), 10 (1906), and 12 (1908) are actually viewable and downloadable PDF files. Several other years are listed as digitized but for some reason not actually available, perhaps due to confusion about these being editions of a book rather than unique volumes of a periodical.
The New York Public Library has digitized holdings of the related cultural and design magazines Žijeme and Magazin dp. These are done as individual JPGs, which makes them easy to put in PowerPoint but not as easy to read through.
I'm somewhat baffled as to just how one easily gets a sense of what digital resources the NYPL has without either having a specific target in mind or else leafing through hundreds and hundreds of images. Searching on "Czech" tells me that there are 2577 images, which is a fine thing, but I really don't want to go through 215 pages of thumbnails filled with things like views of Humpolec. There is, for example, a digitized copy of Nezval's Pantomima with cover by Štyrský, and Biebl's S lodí jež dováží čaj a kávu with cover by Teige. Then there's also the cover of the third issue of the Erotická revue, but apparently only one of the illustrations, a hermaphroditic drawing by Toyen (admittedly one of the better choices artistically speaking, but not exactly representative of the contents). Unlike some people, my patience for going through endless pages of images just to see what's there is rather limited. We'll just be glad for all those digitization projects out there and also for people who sift through them and point out more good stuff than I will ever do here.

Note: Prodded by an Esteemed Reader, I have put in lots of links and also discovered that the NYPL has digitized ReD (Revue Devětsil)--here's volume 2.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When You Match Your Living Room...

...psychosis is probably on the way.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Now What?

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): What you're about to leave behind is helpful but a bit dull; it's fortifying but old-fashioned; comforting but homely. What you're headed toward, on the other hand, is invigorating, through slightly disruptive; it's futuristic and amusingly confusing; interesting but also a real test of your flexibility. The transition may happen faster than you thought it would. Congratulations in advance on being a good-natured transformer.

And what am I leaving behind this time, pray tell? Inquiring minds want to know. Something predictable like grad school, or something more surprising? Is it happening right now or just in the general near future?

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Little Revamping

It has been awhile since I updated the links on the right-hand side of the blog, and during that time some of the blogs have gone away and others have ceased to be active, although they're still worth looking at.
And, since I happened to run across a blog by one of my local friends this afternoon, that seemed like a sign that it might be time to do a little revision. I met Lawrence and his family some months back when we were sitting at neighboring cafe tables and one of the girls said something particularly funny that brought us all into conversation. Almost everyone I know in Pittsburgh is someone I met through school, so getting to know a few other people lately has been a nice change of pace. Furthermore, I didn't know any other writers here until I met Lawrence. While I wouldn't say I suffer when deprived of the company of serious writers, exchanging a few words with a compatible writer (even if we've never read each other's work) gives me the sense of quenching a thirst I had forgotten I had. With all that in mind, then, I recommend his intermittent but poetic and often profound blog, Moon on the Fifteenth Day.
But be sure to check out the other blogs, too. There's a lot of beautiful, wonderful, strange, and thought-provoking material there. The section of blogs by friends provides links to blogs with very individual perspectives. Some of the blogs in other sections are also by people I consider friends, but are ... oh, I don't know, more thematic? less opinionated? I'm not sure how to categorize the intuitive split here. Never mind, they're all interesting.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

We Italicize in Chicago Style, DON'T WE?

The dissertation, in more or less finished form, is now in my advisor's hands. I am now returning my attention to its lesser accompaniments, namely the bibliography and the appendixes.
As I suppose is the case at most schools, we are supposed to do everything in a special university-sanctioned format. Whether dissertations are in that format is not of great concern to dissertation committees so long as the said dissertations are legible and have citations and chapters and all that sort of thing, but once the committee signs off (after the defense), then it all has to be shoehorned into the template if it was not already template-ized.
Overall, I think the idea of a template is quite helpful. But life could hardly be so simple as to offer smooth template-ization. The template is in Microsoft Word, meaning that at some level it is supposed one will write in Word. Of course, not all of us choose to write in Word. Generally speaking, pretty much any word-processing program's output can be converted to a Word document when necessary.
I was not too happy, therefore, when I copied my bibliography into the template and found that applying the "Bibliography entry" style to it had to be done in pieces (apparently it was too long a bibliography for Word to tolerate doing the style all in one piece), and then, much worse, that the "Bibliography entry" style turned all my italics into Roman. The thought of manually re-italicizing 50 pages worth of bibliographic entries really does not appeal to me, but I suppose it must be done.
The grad student's work is unending.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Here's Looking at You, Squid!

This year I have (drumroll) an office. Shared, but nonetheless mine. And so my advisor said she would meet me at my office at 6:00, as clearly some obeisance had to be made to my exciting new (even if temporary) status.
In the meantime I had to go locate a scissors with which to undo a highly thrilling package that had just arrived from Brno. To be specific, over the summer Jesse kindly bought and mailed me a copy of the Štyrský exhibition catalog and it had finally arrived. It is probably the most expensive book I have yet bought, so I'm relieved it got here in one piece.
Having opened the package off in the TA Office, I was returning to my new lair, to be greeted by a voice whining "Professor, I don't know what to do my paper on, can you tell me what to write my paper on?"
While today I did get the first student inquiries about papers, none of them were in that special whine that only the satirically minded can properly muster. It was, of course, my advisor.
I brought forth the Štyrský catalog and brandished it, saying "You will write your paper on Štyrský's painting Squid Man!
Having taken care of all that, we went out to dinner.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

6th Anniversary

No, Ms. Spots and Orion have not been an item for six years yet, but today it is six years since Her Spottedness was adopted from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. At that time she was a half-grown little critter, but her charms were already manifestly evident. She was friendly, lively, and immediately fell in love with the unforgettable George, never mind that he was starting to have considerable trouble hopping around.
While Calypso Spots has always been a mischievous character, she no longer gets into much trouble and is best described as a Glutton for Petting. She brings those who know her much happiness, other than when stealing Orion's evening treat, and it is very much to be wished that she will be with us for at least another six delightful years. That is her Floppy-Earedness over to the left, reaching out to her besotted mate, Orion the English Spot.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

"Mardi Gras in Hawaii"?

Now that the semester has begun, it's grad student party season--that is, before everyone gets too bogged down to think of such things. Our first large-scale event (there have already been new-student-welcomes, comps-completion-celebrations, and such) was a celebration of Travis's 29th birthday. Since Travis has a very fine grasp of the truly campy, he chose to go with the theme of "Mardi Gras in Hawaii" and never mind that Lent is not in September or anywhere near. Shalmit offered her apartment as a staging ground, and it was an ideal space for swarms of us, some of whom practiced hula dancing in a circle. Travis and Shalmit can be seen in full costume to the left.
Travis made sure that there were a great many fine accoutrements associated with New Orleans or Hawaii, including beads and leis. I chose a string of glittery purple beads (these were nothing compared to the amazing giant mirror-ball beads that Brianne brought from New Orleans), and Aaron, one of the new grads, chose to be decked out in a couple of leis. Since these photos were taken at the start of the evening, before anyone had consumed any of the punch (note bizarre blue liquid in my glass), perhaps it should be pointed out that Aaron and I have already been to enough events together to pose in a friendly fashion. I like to think that I am partly responsible for his choice of Pittsburgh, as I happened to talk to one of his undergrad professors during CAA (she is another surrealist specialist) and she asked whether I thought he should accept our offer. I said his prospective advisor would work him hard but ensure that he did well. Or something like that. I recommended our program, anyhow.
It might be noted that my lime-green shirt (one of the more tropical items I have in Pittsburgh considering that I left my pseudo-Hawaiian shirt in California after wearing it to another recent Hawaiian-themed party) does seem to make me look much larger than is in fact the case. Had the weather not turned just a tiny bit chilly, I would have stuck to my fine sleeveless bug-print gown. It's not every party that you can wear a dress with pictures of insects all over it to.
And I might also note that Travis received a set of Archelaus cards for his birthday and has already used three of them!

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