Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Of Sofas and Students

            My apartment doesn’t have a sofa, and I’ve never appreciated how much sofas can gather people together. When we’re watching TV, Rachel sits at the kitchen table while I sit in a camp chair borrowed from a friend. We’re hardly watching together. Perhaps I will ask my baby sister, who is studying interior design, if the sofa was a revolutionary invention in social history. The telly definitely was. At least we’re watching the same screen.
            I’m teaching three honors classes right now, and in a few short weeks, I’ll be adding a composition course and a keyboarding course on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. I love teaching! Once I’m in front of the students, I’m in my prime, I’m in the zone,  I shine. I keep telling people that I don’t want to teach forever, but that’s a lie I’ve been telling myself. I’m too selfish to stop teaching. I don’t know if it’s because of the strict schedule I need to keep or the academic setting or the energy from my students, but I learn and I’m inspired to learn so much when I’m teaching. Because I have so many science majors, I’ve picked up an old compilation of essays on science. I’m trying to incorporate civic themes in class for my social science students. I’ve studied ways to use math terminology when talking about writing, I’m looking up word etymologies, and I ask questions aloud in class that I do not have an answer to.
And our class discussions have been fantastic! My students have open minds and know how to argue respectfully with others, and they’re not afraid to challenge something I say. One of my goals has been to use my imagination for moral good, to see beyond my own experience, to understand other perspectives. My students are helping me do just that! We’re helping one another reach our potentials, and that is an unbreakable bond.
So, I think I shouldn’t complain about our absent sofa. Rachel and I have already had deep, late-night discussions on subjects ranging from social media to Shakespeare, from character development to Church principles, from smoothie recipes to superheroes. We talk about literary theory, fate, and mental illness. We giggle at puns, gifs, and tweets. We don’t need a sofa right now because we learn together, which is far more important than watching TV together.
Although, what if we want to learn about TV?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In which I give gifts

Ah, there is nothing like true love!

And cool things! I have cool things to share with you all today.

To my poet-friends and anyone who has an eye for art, I present Book Spine Poetry. This would be a fun date: just take a trip to the library and stack books to make heartfelt poetry! I am going to make some of my own and post them here soon.

To my writer-friends and anyone who likes learning new things, I present the objective correlative. This is a technique to improve the show-don't-tell descriptions of emotions in your writing. It is a fairly simple concept but one that we forget all too often.

To my stargazing friends, I present the 2011 Perseid Meteor Shower. I will be attempting to watch for shooting stars around the full moon this weekend. Also, who else loves that there is a website called Space.com?

To my readers in general, I present this amazing SF nerdtastic music video. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Science Fiction For The Win!

I have done pretty much nothing but consume lots and lots of media since I finished my thesis for the summer. I've been reading blogs, books, short stories, and I've been watching old TV shows and movies, and I've been looking at magazines and fun websites, and naught else! (Although, I did attend a writing conference and a book conference in the interim.) But do you know what I have discovered this summer?

SCIENCE FICTION IS AMAZING! GBRTIFLBT! (that is the sound of my awe)

Not that I didn't already know this, but I have become a 100% SF nerd. Nay, geek. Nay, aficionado. Nay, back to geek. Geek-nerd. It makes my life so much more wonderful! More gbrtiflbt! (probably pronounced gibbertiflibbet)

This is how I react to science fiction. Squee!

That picture was taken after 4 hours of standing in line for the Grand Opening of Star Tours at Disneyland. Yeah: geek-nerd. I know.

It all started last summer, when the Gramps and I drove to Colorado to visit home. Every evening at 7pm in Colorado, the local PBS channel airs a Star Trek: The Original Series episode.

We reach.

The whole family gathers around the HDTV to watch and laugh and quote. We decide who is more like Spock (me), and who is more like McCoy (Mom), and who is more like Kirk (baby sister). Old-school Star Trek is at once ridiculous and awesome. There's no other way to explain it.

Also, Scotty is so handsome. And Scottish. Imagine that.

Don't. Insult. The Enterprise.

So I started watching Star Trek. Did you know that all Star Trek episodes, from all 5 TV incarnations, are available for free online? Yeah. And the wonderful Provo Library has all the Star Trek movies. There goes my life, down the drain. But it's all for a good cause!

Good Causes, Exhibit A: Wesley Crusher

*sigh* Like I said, it's all for a good cause (and yes, occasionally for a handsome one). As Ray Bradbury put it, all science fiction is metaphor. It explores what it means to be human, to live and die, to strive and fail. I would extend this to all speculative fiction, be it fantasy, dystopia, steampunk, etc. After all, did not the U.S. government just compare The Lord of the Rings to the debt crisis? That is because the story is built like an extended metaphor, just as most of our myths and legends are. SF for the win!

So, yes, I like Star Trek (I even found a hidden tribble in the 2009 movie). Yes, I like Star Wars (which is space fantasy, not science fiction, but that is a blog post unto itself). Yes, I like Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne. Yes, I know the Three Laws of Robotics. Yes, I enjoyed Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis's Dragonlance books and I have Jurassic Park and Ghostbusters memorized and I have watched Peter Jackson's documentaries on the making of The Hobbit.

I can't wait for the Unexpected Journey!

Because, you know what? I am concerned about things like time, existence, futility, and godhood. I want to be a better person and to make the world a better place. And I believe that science fiction is the perfect laboratory for experimenting with the questions of humanity. We can learn from the mistakes that we never made and stop ourselves when we have gone too far. We can exist within our time by exploring other times. I like speculative fiction for that.

And, yes, it never hurts when there are lovable (aka crush-able) characters, either. Science fiction just feels like home, and home is where I want to be.

Toni out.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The way of an eagle in the air

I am feeling hopelessly romantic this evening because I just came across this scripture in Proverbs:

There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.

So poetic! And speaking of an eagle in the air...

This is a golden eagle swooping down over my head at the Hogle Zoo bird show. The show is definitely my most favorite part of the zoo.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Deep and Interesting: Two for the Price of One!

Today's post has two important things: a deep thought, and a piece of information that will make you a bit smarter than you were when you woke up this morning.


I work as an editor, so I spend a lot of my time with words. I wrestle with commas and modifiers and typesetting and irate authors. But every once in a while, I come across a grammatical debate that reveals how we as a society view the universe. Last week, the debate was over "who" and "that." You probably never notice when you use "who" compared to when you use "that." The rule of thumb has typically been to use "who" when referring to people and "that" when referring to things. See here:

I wanted to go to the store with someone who would buy me a new red dress.

I went to the store to buy a new red dress that would look good on me.

Yes, people often mess this up. Usually, they use "that" to refer to people. The rules seem pretty straightforward. However, I work with manuscripts on animals and insects and plants. What should we use then? If we use "who," are we putting plants and animals on the same level as humans?
There's a scary thought.

If we use "that," are we categorizing them as things? Consensus among usage experts is that "who" is sometimes used for animals. Sometimes? What does that even mean?

And what would happen if we were writing about robots? What about Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation? He acts like a human, but he is not a flesh-and-blood human.

There are so many fuzzies! I did not know that my position as an editor involved dissecting worldviews and universe-ending paradoxes! Be careful what you write because you never know what message you are really sending.

If you are wondering, I chose to use "who" to refer to the stonefly detritivores in the paper I was editing. When I read the sentence to my boss, she said that she was picturing little sentient stoneflies with faces beaming up at her. (We were later horrified when the paper read, "For tests, individuals were sacrificed.")


No more universe problems. Instead, I'm going to introduce you to the palimpsest. The palimpsest is something that authors use. Knowing about palimpsest will probably make your reading experiences so much more valuable!

Historically, the palimpsest is a piece of vellum (animal skin [I swear I'm not going back to the DEEP THOUGHT here]) that monks would use to write on. But the palimpsest is no ordinary vellum. It had already been written on. To conserve writing materials, monks would scrape the ink off of obsolete documents and use them again. However, the ink had often sunk deep into the pores of the vellum and would reappear within a few years. Thus, we can now read two documents on the same page.

Now, that is interesting and all, but the best is yet to come. The term "palimpsest" nowadays refers to the use of an older text to illuminate a new text.

Huck Finn wants to illuminate, too!

Let me provide an example: in A Dance for Three, the main character is a pregnant teenager in a mental facility. In the story, she reads The Scarlet Letter. Both books focus on forgiveness as one of their central themes, and they also follow similar storylines. Louise Plummer, the author of Dance, used a classic novel to illuminate the meaning of her book, to point to the theme of forgiveness. Palimpsest.

Usually, the other text is not blatantly referred to in the book. This makes it more interesting to read through and try to recognize what story is being used for illumination. Can you think of any palimpsests? It's often when you go, "Hey, this reminds me of...."

Voila! Treasures beyond imagining!

And there you are: you are smarter than when you got up. Go forth and use thy new knowledge!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

In which my mind splodes

Long time, no see! In the span of time since my last post, I have traveled the world (or at least, southwestern United States), turned in a draft of my thesis, attended a writing conference, and discovered a mind-boggling literary connection! I will deal with these exciting things in that order.

1. In May, I went home for baby sister Ashley's high school graduation. She led the tassel turn; thus, it was made of awesome.

She is a lot smarter than she looks in this photograph.

But before that sensational ceremony, Grandpa (my travel buddy) and I got diverted to Phoenix, Arizona. Flight cancellation blah blah blah. Moving on.

After graduation, we drove to Ogden for my cousin's wedding open house, which was very lovely. I wore purple. Like an old woman.

Then, (and this is the most important part) we drove to Disneyland! More on that forthcoming, but here is a teaser.

2. Draft #1 went out and came back, so now revisions revisions revisions for draft #2!

3. I have been attending WIFYR (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference) this week. My forearms hurt from all the driving back-and-forth to Sandy, but my brain is sploding with awesome ideas! Which leads me to my next point...

4. Oh. My. Gosh. Charlotte's Web is the Lady of Shalott.

This requires some explaining. I came upon this idea while reading Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem, "The Lady of Shalott," in between sessions at the conference today. I have a secret project that I am working on which involves the Lady herself. Anyhoo, I couldn't help but notice that whenever Tennyson mentions the Lady's weaving, he calls it a web.

There she weaves by night and day,
A magic web with colors gay.

Essentially, the Lady sits in front of a mirror all day and weaves the reflections that she sees. She has been cursed to always weave, to always view the world through the mirror. What a terrible view! Eventually, she cries, "I am half-sick of shadows." She finally leaves the mirror to look out on the world with her own eyes. And then, she dies.

So, Charlotte. She weaves what she sees. "Some pig!" She must stay in the shadows. When she finally leaves the barn to go to the fair with Wilbur, she dies. And...Shalott....Charlotte.... Very mysterious. No? Food for thought.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dream Jobs

Ah, the lazy days of summer. My June deadline doth speedily approach, so what am I doing? That's right. I'm blogging.

But it's for a good reason, I assure you. One year from now, I will be (hopefully) done with graduate school. What then? I read a recent article that said 85% of college grads move back home. 85 freaking percent! I hatehatehate being "just like everybody else," so naturally, I don't want to be part of the 85%. Traditionally, one is expected to get a job after graduation, usually one related to your educational focus. Yeah. Right. Like those jobs are really going to open up to new grads at the exact-right moment next April. However, they are fun to think about.

Here are my dream jobs:

1. Full-time novelist. What! Okay, that one was super obvious.

2. Adaptation screenwriter. I would love to try my hand at adapting books to the screen! Especially this little gem...

3. Editorial staff at Walden Media. I just love these guys! I was especially impressed by the president and co-founder, Michael Flaherty, when he gave a BYU forum address.

4. Editorial staff at Disney-Hyperion. They have a Youtube channel. Just saying.

5. Writing instructor at Oxford. Gotta aim high, you know?

Basically, I want to be surrounded by these.

And to look a little like this guy. Minus the beard.

'Cause way down deep inside, I've got a dream!

Alright. Back to work. ;)