4

So Much Better

Sometimes, a little victory can go a long way.

So, about a month ago, the grad student organization that I’m in had a meeting. One of the topics was how to increase sources of revenue. Someone brought forward the idea of selling concessions at a university theatre show, but noted that “it hadn’t done well in the past.”

After some conversation, I was among the few who suggested, “Why don’t we try it again now? What do we have to lose?” in the face of a sea of nay-sayers.

So, fast forward, we bought snacks and sold concessions. I helped.

Fast forward even more, to today. We had another meeting and I found out that we actually turned a profit with our concession sales! Granted, it wasn’t a huge profit, but there was money where there wasn’t before, and now we’re actually planning on doing it again.

As the treasurer for our organization, this was a victory for me. Someone put forward an idea, I pushed it, we did it together, and now we are all better for it. I can’t take full responsibility, but as the group’s treasurer and someone who was committed to believing that this was worth a shot, it was refreshing to hear that finally I’m doing something right.

This calls for a Legally Blonde-esque celebratory YouTube clip.

Oh, and thank you to viewers from Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Brazil who have recently visited and helped me have a six-continent day earlier this week!

4

Wisdom from Pleasant Diversions

This past week in Chinese and Japanese drama class, we read portions of an ancient dramaturgical text entitled Xianqing Ouji, or Pleasant Diversions, by Li Yu. Li Yu was an author and theatre theorist who lived in China in the 17th century, and Pleasant Diversions centers on his thoughts and theories on drama. He also seemingly had a way with words; maybe the translation helps bring out the humor, but nobody else in class spoke up against the translation and almost all of them speak Chinese. So, I thought I’d share some of the wisdom I learned from Li Yu,

Section 1: On Dramatic Structure

Though one’s ability may be limited, if skill is honed and put to good use,  one can still achieve distinction. Otherwise one might boast of huge talent  and claim vast learning, but if one’s essays are full of allusions to the dead  and gone and one’s books are only useful for covering sauce jars, all is in vain (33).

Not everyone can write a play.

Section 2: On Forgoing Satire

The sword of the warrior and the pen of the literary man are both instruments for killing people. Everybody knows that swords can kill. It is not widely known that pens can kill, but still some do know (37).

Yeah writers!

For a long time I feared I would have no sons to carry on my line, now I have five sons and two daughters, wives who are pregnant, wives who have given birth but will be pregnant again. Although none of my progeny show promise, yet  they give me comfort in my declining years, and relieve me of the worry of having no kin to turn to (40).

My kids suck.

Section 4: On Getting Out of the Rut

There is an old saying, ‘the most expensive fur coat is made from the fuzz from more than one fox’s armpit’, which is most apt to commend the new plays of our contemporaries (43).

You had me at “fox’s armpit.”

Section 9: On Plot and Personality

If his speech is not dull and predictable, one or two sentences out of ten will break the mould; if his writing is not prosaic, one or two passages in a composition will be creative. This will be someone capable of writing plays. Otherwise he should look for some other occupation, not expend useful energies on a profitless pursuit (54).

If you can’t write a play, get a job.

Section 13: On Wordliness versus Conciseness

I would in fact prefer to save my energy by giving latitude to the actors; the problem is, there are intelligent actors and stupid ones: can I be sure that their amplifications all accord with the author’s intentions, and they will not introduce irrelevant and superfluous stuff (59).

Don’t allow actors to fuck your shit up.

Section 16: On ke hun (light relief)

If your diction is good, your plot good, but your light relief bad, then not merely will your vulgar playgoers be turned away, even your gentlemen of high culture will nod off. The dramatist must be adept at driving away the demon of sleep. Once the demon of sleep has come, though what ensues may be celestial music or the divine ‘Dance of the Rainbow Skirt’, they will still fall on stopped ears and closed eyes. It will be like bowing to statues, discussing the sutras with a clay Buddha (65).

Don’t be boring, but if you are, make sure you have a topless scene; chances are the audience won’t notice.

1

Honey Cake on a Whim for Rosh Hashanah

I woke up this morning, and I was like, holy crap, it’s Rosh Hashanah.

Well, not now, but later tonight.

And I haven’t done anything for it.

Then I went to class, and when I got home, it hit me: I should totally bake something. Last year, I baked a honigkuchen (honey cake) so I thought I’d bake it on a whim, and thereby establish it as a traditional honigkuchen (ooh aah). I found my old recipe, and with about two hours to go until class, I decided to give it a try.

That’s So Jacob’s Kitchen Presents

That’s So Nom

Episode 2: Between-Class On-A-Whim Honey Cake for Rosh Hashanah

Step 1: Gather ingredients.

Step 2: Realize you don’t have all the correct ingredients midway through preparation, so run out to the corner store to buy the remainder for rip-off prices. Be pleasantly surprised when the store actually has normal prices for things – $5 for applesauce, cinnamon, baking soda, and brown sugar? SWEET.

Step 3: Return home and complete the cooking to the sounds of the Ronnie Spector station on Pandora.

Step 4: Put in oven, for twenty-five minutes.

Step 5: Start your reading for class, occasionally checking on the cake.

Step 6: When the timer beeps, check the cake. If it’s still a watery mess in a tin, close oven door and set timer for another 10 minutes.

Step 7: Repeat step six about 5 times because it doesn’t seem to be baking.

Step 8: If on or about the sixth time you check on it it’s still warmed-up ingredient soup in a tin, call mother and freak out at her. Then put on bottom rack in oven for about 10 more minutes, for the last. fucking. time.

Step 9: Remove hot cake from oven, finally cooked, but realize that the batter has overflowed the pan and it looks like somebody pooped in your oven.

Step 10: Laugh uncontrollably at the fake poop in the oven, then take picture of it and send it to your sister in Washington. Consider leaving the poop outside your neighbor’s door as a prank, but eat it instead because it’s actually not poop but delicious honey cake.

Step 11: Put cake in bag and wrestle with the Cling Wrap (the official baking tool of SATAN) to attempt to cover the hot cake in it to stay hot, but ultimately only pull off a few tiny pieces.

Step 12: Realize that you’re going to be late for class unless you leave RIGHT NOW so wrap that burning hot cake in a bag, tuck it under your arm, and run down State Street like it’s the Superbowl.

Step 13: Arrive in class at exactly 4:00 (phew). Plop cake down in bag, on the table but not yet visible. Proceed to torture yourself and your classmates with the delicious smell of honey, and realize that you are now sweaty, have brown stains on your khakis, and smell like a combination of delicious cake and the garlic sauce you made to go on your salmon last night. Hope no one else notices the garlic emanating from you. Practice saying “honigkuchen” in your head several times.

Step 14: At class’s conclusion, reveal the lovingly-baked honigkuchen to a chorus of delight and confusion. Pretend that you just dashed it off casually while reading Chinese and Japanese performance theory texts as if you are Little Suzy Grad Student. Cut off in hunks and serve on napkins. Serves six hungry and curious East Asian studies graduate students and two confused but relieved East Asian studies professors.

Your results, as always, may vary.

Shana tova, y’all.

1

Year Two, Week One: Living on the Edge

How have the past few days been for me?

Tiring.

I don’t really know where my time is going, but for some reason I’ve managed to consistently run out of it.

Tuesday, the first day of school, I actually had my act together. I got up 15 minutes before my alarm, made a healthy breakfast, left my apartment for my 1:00 PM class and arrived a half hour early.

Wednesday morning was my first 9:55 of the semester. I managed to beat my alarm clock up, only to blink and realize it was 9:00. So, I bolted out of bed, and something or other distracted me. I intended to take the bus, but by the time I got out the door, it was 9:44, and the Bus app on my phone advised me that the quickest way? Walk. I manage to walk in at precisely 9:56 after a pretty concerted speed-walk/not-quite-run. So at least now I know that should I want to make it to class on time, I need to be out the door no later than 9:43. Probably longer on cold winter days. This is going to be a long semester, isn’t it?

Anyway, I actually got to the gym that day as well, and then to the department’s “welcome back” event, and managed to get a healthy dinner in as well.

Today was my 1:00 day once more, so I proceeded to be lazy until about 12:39 and then see how long it would take me to get to Ed Sci. You could call it lazy, but I prefer to think of it as “living on the edge.” Nevertheless, I made it to the classroom at least five minutes before class started, with a trotting pace. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack a snack, and with 10 minutes to get from Ed Sci to Vilas, I decided to stop at Walgreens to grab something, but by the time I decided what I wanted to buy, it was already 2:26.

Shit.

I drop my stuff, I bolt across East Campus Mall and up to the classroom only to the beat the professor there by about two minutes. Thank goodness. It was a three-hour class, but at least during the break I ran down to CoffeeBytes for a much-needed chocolate croissant and coffee, which kept me sane until 5:30. Of course, I went straight to the library and then relaxed at home for a while, which is why it’s almost midnight now and I’m getting basically my first meal of the day – two slices of pizza – surrounded by extremely loud and incredibly annoying undergrads, mostly girls shrieking about goodness-knows-what.

So now I’ve got about an hour of work ahead of me before sleep, at least, barring any major distractions (which we all know is not going to happen).

Yo ho ho, a grad student’s life for me.

2

Get To A Better State…

There have been way too many State Farm commercials on lately. Just putting it out there.

I’m not feeling too inspired today. I got some feedback and a grade on my political science paper. Just about what I expected in terms of comments, and the professor pointed out two pretty obvious errors – I wrote “fate” instead of “fight” (Bawlmerese slipup, I guess), and I had a sentence in there that was about something that I ultimately cut from the paper. The grade was a little lower than I expected, but for what it’s worth, it could have been much, much worse. Most of the comments were along the lines of “I don’t get it,” or his favorite question, “how?” Not to say that I’m not disappointed, because I put a lot of work and research into it, but as I said, it could have been worse.

This English paper is not working out. Besides the fact that I can’t focus on it, I keep confusing myself, which isn’t good. I wrote about 800 words today, but should probably delete a lot more from what I already had. I planned to go out for lunch/dinner/food and then finish some books so I could get my book count under 40; I didn’t accomplish that while out, but since I’ve been home I decided that for 2-3 of them, I’ve probably gotten what I can get out of them.

Self-care has kinda taken a nosedive. Depression and stress have really set in for me, including odd-hour sleep, being easily distracted, lacking appetite when I know I should be eating, being on the verge of tears most of the time, worrying about the future, and no exercise since…two or three weeks ago.

At least I got a blog entry before ten minutes to midnight.

0

People and Things I’ve Discovered This Semester (And How They Connect)

Now that, as of 11:58 PM CST last night, my political science paper is finished, I feel like I can breathe again. So while I complete my other three final papers (I just sent in my theatre paper as well), I can get back to blogging and Reading Like Crazy, like I set out to do.

But first, I would like to pay homage to all the work I pulled together this semester.

Let’s start with political science. I researched puppets and national identity. I came up with the idea by looking at a book which I ended up not using, but it did introduce me to Ubu and the Truth Commission, The Punch and Judy Show, Handspring Puppet Company, and Gary Friedman. On the topic of puppetry in nineteenth-century England, one of those who was also intrigued by Punch and Judy shows was W. B. Yeats, upon whom I wrote in my theatre paper. In that one, I focused on The Words upon the Window-pane, which involved mediums, spiritualism, Madame H. P. Blavatsky, and Japanese Noh theatre. Japan is where my history paper is traveling to, exploring Macbeth on the Chinese and Japanese stages. Heading further into the Pacific is my English paper, about the postcolonial stages of Papua New Guinea through Nora-Vagi Brash’s Which Way, Big Man?

And then, there’s the additions to the reading this: Power and Performance, The Spiritualists, Writing and Rewriting…to name a few.

And, now, onto Ubu, finally.

0

It’s 10:15 PM, do you know where my brain is?

Yeah, that’s basically my entire thought process right now, and over the past three days.

I have spent a good portion of my waking hours on this mind-numbingly impossible political science paper. 8000-10000 words, my…whatever, man. I went to bed at 4:00 this morning with about 5200 words (not an all-nighter), and belying my fears of not getting the word count, I sit here with an hour and a half left until midnight with 9000 words down and several sources to go. What is my paper about again? Puppets? South Africa? Something like that? Why am I subjecting myself to this torture? Why?

And there were sporadic thunderstorms following me around all day as I went from Espresso Royale to Noodles to the Steepery over the past ten hours.

Oh, and welcome to my newest flag, Bulgaria. As they say in Bulgaria, finish your paper and no one gets hurt.

And then, I WILL finish my review of Ubu.

After all, I already have a several thousand word headstart.