Last Update About WorldFest Incident

Ladies and Gentlemen, at this point (Friday, April 26th), there have been several articles published online about the WorldFest incident. It has received a surprising amount of attention, and I’m glad of that.

However, it is time to put the matter to rest, at least for me.  As I’ve said, I was not at the film festival, nor was I witness to any of this; my role has merely been as blogger and word-spreader.  I’ve said all that I can say on the matter, and I believe that my brother has said all that he can say on the matter.  People either believe him or they don’t, and there’s nothing more that can be said about that.

At this point, it is up to the Muslim student to decide whether she wants to continue to fight this situation or not, and I am not privy to or a part of that decision.

My university has expressed some concern about the possibilities of this situation escalating.  I don’t know about anyone else involved, but I know that prospect makes me nervous, particularly as my only hopes for the initial blog post were that a few people might read it and be as upset as I was, and perhaps an apology would be issued.  Well, an apology WAS issued, but unfortunately, the situation did not end there, and still threatens to escalate.

And quite frankly, folks, I’m a PhD student and college English teacher in the middle of finals, and my attentions are required elsewhere.  I have enough on my plate just trying to grade my students’ papers and write my own.

So, if something else major happens I will let you all know.  But for the moment, my role in this is done, and I need to get back to the work I’m paid for.

Thank you for all your interest and support in this past week,

Amanda

Quick Update

Hello, folks!

So. I’ve had a busy couple weeks! Flew to Kansas City for a wedding. My oldest friend – we’ve been  friends since two weeks before freshman year of high school, when we met in band camp! – was getting married and I was a bridesmaid. The wedding was on Valentine’s day, everything went smoothly, and the ceremony was short and sweet (my favorite kind! especially after all the long Catholic weddings I’ve been to). Then, while my newly married friend left for a weekend with her husband, I got to hang out with another old high school friend, who went above and beyond the call of duty to keep me entertained, take me to a party, and give me more encouragement and pep-talks than I’ve had in quite awhile. It was so kind of her and I had an absolute BLAST.

Of course, then I had to come home and get back to work. And since I got back I’ve collected papers from students, and written THREE papers of my own. (And I have one presentation and one more paper to do in the next week and a half).

I’ve been crazy-busy and horribly stressed out.

BUT I also went to a concert this past friday (yes, another one). I went to see Jukebox the Ghost at House of Blues, and it was FANTASTIC. I plan to write more about it tomorrow, after I’ve had a chance to upload my photos off my mother’s phone (I borrowed it because mine can’t take pictures), and on to my computer.

So you can expect more about that later.

In the meantime, I better get back to work! Bye!

Writer vs Reader Mode

I think I’ve said this before, but I’m the kind of person who has trouble being both a writer and a reader at the same time.  Usually, I switch between the two roles in a cycle.  For a few months I’m a writer, and I can’t concentrate enough to read ANYTHING because my brain is so full of my stories and characters and all I want to do for 20 hours of every day is sit at my computer and write.  And then, suddenly, I get total brain-block, and I can’t write a thing, and I start reading non-stop.

For the last couple months I’ve been pretty securely in writer-mode.  I got a decent amount of work done on two different WIPs, which makes me very happy, but I was really hoping I could keep it up right to the beginning of the Fall semester.  But for the past week and a half I haven’t been able to write much of anything.  Sometimes if I push and push and push, I could stay in writer-mode a little longer.  But I think writer-mode is now officially over.  Unfortunately.

So, I guess we’re on to reader-mode.  I read A Work In Progress in like a day and a half.  And now I’ve started Open Heart by Emlyn Chand (which I’d PLANNED to read and review near the beginning of the summer, but like I said, I was in WRITER-mode).  I guess it’s good to be in reader-mode since I’ll be doing so much reading for my Fall courses, although it’ll be frustrating that I won’t be reading all my fun stuff, but school-related stuff instead.  And, of course, I know from too much experience that I won’t be getting ANY writing done once the semester starts either.  But oh well.

Does anyone else do this?  Cycle through writer and reader modes?  Or is it just me?  Because it’s a little frustrating, and I’m more than a little jealous of people who can do both at the same time: write in the morning and read in the evening, etc.  I wish I could do that.  *sigh*

In other news, I’m playing with the idea of starting a Tumblr blog.  I had started to watch a lot of Tumblr blogs without having an account, and just collecting them in my browser bookmarks.  And over the last couple months I’ve started following even more, making it hard to keep track of them in bookmarks.  So I figured I might as well start a Tumblr account so that I could keep track of them all.  But now that I have the account, I’m thinking why not start a Tumblr blog?  It would be fun to have something where I can just post images or short comments and things like that, without worrying about making sure a post is long enough and well-written.  I’m playing around with Tumblr right now, trying to get a feel for how it works (it’s taking a little getting used to), but I’ll let you know if/when I get a Tumblr blog up and running.

Any opinions on Tumblr blogs?  Anyone have one?  Now that I have the account, I’m looking to add a ton to my Follow list!  They’re just so much fun!  😀

Okay, folks, that’s all for now.  I hope everyone has a good weekend, and I’ll see you all later!

Busy Summer Is Busy

As you all may have been able to guess by now, I’ve been keeping myself pretty busy this summer.  But you guys don’t even know the half of it!  Between taking vacation at Yellowstone for five days, going to three concerts (Snow Patrol in May, Legend of Zelda Symphony, and then the Chicago/Doobie Brothers concert in July), and having dinner with famous people, and reading as much as I can manage, I’ve also been hard at work.

School never completely ends for those in graduate school.  There are always things you need to do (or at least SHOULD do) during the summer.  For me, this has included mainly getting more involved with extracurricular/service activities.  I’ve mentioned on this blog before that the English graduate students at UH have been in the process of developing and promoting both a yearly Graduate Student Conference and an academic literature journal called Plaza: Dialogues in Language and Literature.  While I did some work this past school year to help out with both, I decided that this upcoming year I wanted to be even more involved.  And I managed to get myself nominated as an Assistant Editor to the journal as well as Head of the Publicity Committee for the Conference.  And the work has already begun, especially for the latter.  I’ve spent the last few weeks creating contact lists for every Humanities/Liberal Arts College Dean, English Dept Chair, and Graduate Director/Advisor, for every university in Texas so that we can start sending out personalized invites to both present at and attend the conference.  I still need to make a list for all the community colleges in the Houston area.  And THEN I need to move on to the universities in Louisiana.  In the meantime, the Chief Editor of Plaza is working on the CFP for the journal, and I’m helping out with that.

At the same time, I had made plans last semester to make some serious changes to my syllabus for the coming semester, which I have now started work on.  After having done a lot of research on the benefits and practical applications for using blogging in a First-Year Writing course, I’ve decided to implement it in my classroom.  So I’m trying to work out a concrete plan for how and why I want my students to use blogging as a learning tool and as a way to open the classroom out into a more public space.  I’ve also submitted an abstract for a presentation based on all this research to the Conference on College Composition and Communication, along with two fellow grad students I’m doing a panel with.  It’ll be late August before we find out if our panel abstract was accepted to the conference (which isn’t until next March), at which point we’ll have to get hard to work actually writing the presentations.

AND THEN, throughout the whole summer, in between everything else, I’ve been writing.  A lot.  I started out writing the second draft of Midnight’s Knife, which I made some decent progress on until about three or four weeks ago, when I was hijacked by a new story idea that has completely consumed my brain lately.  It’s going to be a strange one, I can tell…  I actually have the basic premise for an entire series of stories, but this first one is a sort of science fiction detective story.  It’s a kind of mix of X-Files, X-Men, and Sherlock Holmes, with a large helping of human drama about a veteran with PTSD laced through it.  Yeah, if that sounds insane to you, you’re not alone.  It sounds insane to me too, and I’m so excited about it!  I’ve been living inside my main character’s head practically non-stop for two weeks now.

I have a month left until the Fall semester starts, so I’m trying very hard not to waste a minute of it.  We’ll see how much more writing I can get done before school-work takes over.

Also, I’m trying to finish reading Dominant Race by Elisa Nuckle – it’s a novella, and it really wouldn’t take me that long to read, except that I’ve been so busy the last week or so I just haven’t had the opportunity to sit down a finish it! – but hopefully you can expect a review on that on Friday.  And then I’ve agreed to review another novel, a literary fiction called A Work in Progress, which I’m planning (cross your fingers) to post on Aug 3rd.

Okay, folks, that’s all from me for now.  If all goes according to plan, I’ll catch you all on Friday.

I Had Dinner With Famous People

So, a hip-hop artist, a recording studio engineer, a former VP of ASCAP, and a graduate student walk into a bar… 

Okay, that’s not entirely how it goes, but this is pretty much what my Thursday night looked like.  I met some pretty famous people, folks.  Even had dinner with a few of them.  And it’s pretty much all thanks to my brother (don’t gloat, Mike).

So, here’s the whole story: 

We all know The Recording Academy, yes?  In charge of the Grammy Awards, that thing that most musicians, recording artists, song-writers, music publishers, etc. are members of, yes?  Well, there’s also this thing called Grammy U.  It’s a college student organization affiliated with The Recording Academy, which is open to any full-time college student interested in the music industry (and you don’t have to be majoring in music or anything to qualify).  Grammy U is about promoting education on issues dealing with the music industry, and about networking with various full members of The Recording Academy.

My brother is the Grammy U representative for the entire Greater-Houston area.  Early this year he convinced me to join Grammy U as well (its more for undergrads rather then graduate students, but I still technically qualify because I’m a full-time student, and I’ve always been interested in the music industry).  Mainly, my brother just wanted to someone he could trust to help him out with running events on the UH campus.

Now, my brother’s pretty much got this whole networking thing down pat.  He’s a film student, and he’s interning at a local Houston production company called Zen Films (which happens to be a pretty big deal); he’s done some work over at SugarHill Studios (the oldest still-running recording studio in the United States, folks!) and knows the chief engineer/co-owner Dan Workman; etc, etc, etc.

So, on Thursday night, The Recording Academy was hosting one of its GPS Summer Lecture Series at the House of Blues in Houston.  It consisted of a lecture from Tod Brabec, former Vice President of ASCAP (Association of Songwriters, Composers, Authors, and Publishers) on the topic of Performance Royalties, and then a short networking mixer afterwards.  My brother had to go because he was helping to set up the event.  I decided to go because a) it’s free for Grammy U members, b) it sounded interesting, and c) it’s a little-known fact that I have a secret desire to be a songwriter.  I was nervous about the whole mixer thing because the only person I knew was my brother and I don’t do well with the whole “just start introducing yourself to random strangers who might be famous people” thing.

The lecture itself was really interesting.  It was hard to follow because Tod Brabec threw a TON of information at the audience, quite a lot of it dealing with legal issues that I just can’t quite wrap my head around, but it was all very useful information.  But the best part was, of course, the mixer.  Here’s most of the people I met (I can’t quite remember everyone’s names, but these are the big ones):

Dan Workman (the co-owner and chief engineer of SugarHill Studios) who was one of the coolest guys I’ve met;

Tod Brabec, who is a very big deal but who talked to me for a minute and then asked me to take a picture of him and a friend of his;

Theresa Jenkins, the Executive Director of the Texas Chapter of The Recording Academy (who kindly treated my brother and I to dinner along with all the big-wigs);

Eric Jarvis, who is a BIG musician, a UH alumnus, and the President of the Texas Chapter of the Recording Academy (and also hilarious at dinner);

David Acosta, a CPA for musicians who’s starting his own music publishing company here in Houston, and who gave me his card when I mentioned my interested in writing lyrics;

and Karen Aptekar, an indie-film maker here in Houston who was very friendly, told my brother that he was interning with one of the best film-makers around at Zen Films, and offered to talk to both me and my brother sometime about doing some work with her.

All of this happened during the Mixer after the lecture, at which there were about 70-80 people, plenty of whom were little nobodies and interested parties like myself, mixed in with all the big-names.  The mixer broke up around 9:30 or so, at which point the original plan was for my brother and I to head home while the big names went off to dinner in the House of Blues restaurant downstairs.  But then we were invited to dinner – or rather, my brother was invited because he’s the Houston Rep, and I was allowed to tag along because my brother was my ride home.  But that’s okay, because I got to sit down and have dinner with Dan Workman, Tod Brabec, Theresa Jenkins, Eric Jarvis, and Paul Wall – a rather well-known hip-hop artist, who I did not actually get to speak with as he was clear at the other end of the table – and a few others whose names elude me now.  The five big names were all seated in a row across the table from me, and I was a little floored by it.  I sat directly across from Dan Workman and Eric Jarvis, and they were hilarious.  Though, so was Tod Brabec, who spent some time talking to my brother about having been the one who signed METALLICA (along with many MANY other very well known bands).

My brother has already promised to take me by SugarHill Studios next time he goes, which Dan Workman was very okay with.  When he found out I was a literature student, he got all excited and said that books were his next favorite thing to music, and that we’d have to sit down and have a nice talk about books sometimes.  Well, hell, that sounds good to me!  And music is my next favorite thing to books, so it evens out nicely.  (Also, he wore those cheap Target brand One Star Converse shoes, which I thought was absolutely HILARIOUS.)

The point of all this is that I had an absolute blast last Thursday night, and I hope I have a similar opportunity again in the future.  It was so much fun!

Point of fact, most of the last few days have been pretty awesome: the mixer on Thursday, seeing Dark Knight Rises on Saturday, and then I went to the Chicago & Doobie Brothers concert on Sunday night.  Which was ASTOUNDINGLY AWESOME.  Those guys may be getting on in years, but they still know how to rock.  The BEST PART was the encore/finale.  The Doobie Bros had been the opener for Chicago, but at the end, Chicago brought all of the Doobie Bros on stage to play with them.  All the members of both bands were on stage at the same time, including four drummers on FOUR SEPARATE DRUMSETS, more guitars than seems possible, practically the whole brass section out of a marching band, two keyboardists, and all the singers taking turns. There were EIGHTEEN PEOPLE on that stage at once.  They sang a few Doobie Bros hit and a few Chicago hits, including “Listen to the Music” and “25 or 6 o 4.”  It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen at a concert.  And it was seriously EPIC.  Definitely the best part of the night.

Okay, this post is getting pretty damn long, so I’ll call it quits for now.  See ya’ll later!

Highlights from Yellowstone National Park

Gallery

This gallery contains 23 photos.

From June 29th through July 3rd, I went to Yellowstone National Park with one my best friends and another friend of hers (whom I now consider my friend as well).  It was the first time in quite awhile I’d really … Continue reading

Going Offline

Aside

Hello all! This is just a quick note to let you know I’ll be offline for the next few days.  Or, five days to be exact.  I am going to Yellowstone National Park with a friend of mine, and I’m not bringing my laptop, which I’m going to be completely out of touch until I get back on Tues, July 3rd.  Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle it. It’ll kind of be like a detox.  I don’t think I’ve been offline for more than a few hours at time in like… a year… or something.

And my flight is at 6am. Which means I’m waking up at 3:30am to get to the airport on time. Oh God, WHY did I do that to myself???!!!

*sigh*

Okay, anyway, I’ll catch up with you all when I get back.  I hope you can keep yourselves entertained until then. 😀

Rest assured there will be plenty of photos to share when I return.  See ya then!  Bye!

Blog Update

Hey there, folks! As you can probably tell, I’ve made just a few changes to the blog.  Mostly cosmetic.  Just to give you a quick rundown:

I changed the theme to Twenty Eleven, because I was looking for something more streamlined and also more versatile.  I changed the header image.  I still love the other image, which was done by my friend Denny (whose website, Insanesoft, is over there in the Links list), but I decided I wanted something that better reflected me personally and the wide range of topics I tend to ramble about on this blog, so my great great friend, Nathan Wilson, kindly agreed to create this new header image for free (I tried to pay him, but of course he wouldn’t let me).

I’ve slightly updated the “About” page, and added a new page that contains a list (a short one) of the few articles and things I’ve had published so far.  Hopefully that list will continue to grow over the next couple years.  *fingers crossed*

I also streamlined the categories I used, and went through EVERY SINGLE POST to update both the categories and tags.  And I’ve added a category drop down list to the sidebar.

The next thing I need to do is update the blogroll.  I feel bad because there are a number of blogs I follow that have not made it onto the blogroll (I haven’t updated the thing in months and months!), but that’s next on the agenda and hopefully I’ll get to it this weekend.

I hope you like the new look to the blog.  I haven’t made too many changes in terms of content.  I’ll still be rambling about all the things I have been.  However, as you may have noticed over the last couple months, I’m not really holding myself to that 3 posts a week schedule I tried so hard to keep up with last year.  With my schedule, it was simply untenable.  So, if you all don’t mind too much, I’m just going to go with the flow for now.  I will post as often as I can (and I know it’s been a week now, sorry), but I’ll post when I actually have something interesting to share and some energy to share, as well.  I’m not going to force it right now.  Quite frankly, between school work and teaching, working on rewrites for Midnight’s Knife, the blog, and myriad other things I’m involved in, I’ve lost a lot of my energy.  So I’m trying to find a way to make this work for me, in a way that will allow to keep up both my energy and my interest, and hopefully, therefore, keep things interesting for you as well.

Hopefully, I’ll have something new posted in the next few days.  Thanks for sticking around as long as you have, and have a great rest of the week!

Old Town Charm in Brenham, Texas

About two hours north-west of Houston is the small town of Brenham, TX in Washington County.  According to the brochures and signs, Washington County is known as the “birthplace of Texas,” where the Texas government first formed.  There is an astonishing amount of history in the area, as well as an old plantation-turned-museum, and several vineyards, and two lavender farms.

But we (my mother, brother, and I) went to Washington County for one very good reason: ICE CREAM.  For Brenham, TX is the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream, a company that some people will not be familiar with (as it is regional and has not yet reached the coasts or the northern-most states), but if you live in the South or Midwest, you know the wonders of Blue Bell Ice Cream. And Brenham is where it began, and where it is still headquartered.

We’d heard that the Blue Bell creamery gave tours, and so during my mother’s short vacation we decided to make a day-trip of it.  The tour was a lot of fun.  Seeing the inside of a creamery, with the huge tanks of ice cream ingredients, the frozen-over pipes, the actual ice cream being cartooned and stored… It was all pretty cool.  But the best part was, of course, the free sample of ice cream at the end.  I got peaches n’ cream.  DELICIOUS.

Sadly, photography was not allowed inside the creamery (understandably), but here are a few photos from outside the creamery, where they have a beautiful little courtyard, and an ice cream delivery truck, circa 1920s that still runs and is occasionally taken out for a spin for carnivals and parades.

courtyard outside the Blue Bell Ice Cream Creamery

the founders of Blue Bell Ice Cream

the girl and cow that make up the logo on every carton of Blue Bell Ice Cream

my brother and I in front of the 1920s ice cream delivery truck

After we had finished the tour, however, we discovered that Brenham also has an historic main street district, with antique shops, cute cafes and restaurants, a couple bed and breakfasts, the Washington County Courthouse (which also meant lots and LOTS of lawyers offices), and the FIRST paved road in Texas.  So we had to go check out it.  My photography leaves much to be desired, but I still think the photos are better representative than any description would be, and so, and give you:

Brenham, TX!

Washington County Courthouse – I LOVE this building, seems somewhat Art Deco to me (though I’m definitely no expert)

We’ll DEFINITELY be going back. The antique shops alone made the trip well worth the gas.  And there are some more restaurants I want to try out.

‘Til next time, folks! Have a good day!

And Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Program

A Letter from Your Host:

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I saw you last!  I’ve been gone far too long, and for that apologize.  As my previous posts have made clear, this past semester nearly did me in.  I’m rather disappointed with myself, actually.  During the Fall semester I managed to keep mostly on top of my blogging despite my PhD study and teaching, but for some reason I just could not do it this semester.  In my defense, it has been universally agreed among my fellow English grad students at UH that this semester was especially heinous for some reason we can’t identify.  For some reason the workload, the time-crunch, the number of things going wrong, the stress, were all WAY worse than usual.  Bad juju. Gypsy curse.  Karma biting us in the ass.  I have no idea.

Anyway, the semester officially ended for me a week ago.  I wrapped up three papers (I got an A- on one which I am particularly bitter – an A- is grad work is about equivalent with a B-, maybe even a C, in undergrad work, and I know for a fact that the prof simply did not AGREE with my argument).  I graded an enormous stack of freshman papers, and turned in my grades to the department.

The same day I turned in my grades, my mother graduated, receiving an Master of Science degree in Technology Projects Management, with a focus in Future Studies (pictures of which I have been forbidden to put online because my mother is paranoid about the internet, despite – or because of – being a computer programmer/engineer).

That was two Fridays ago.

I have spent the last week wrapping up a last bit of work as part of the editing staff of University of Houston English Department’s literature journal Plaza: Dialogues in Language and Literature.  It’s our second year doing the journal, so we’re still getting the hang of things, but we’re pretty proud of it.  It is free and (as far as I know) you don’t need an account to view it, so please feel free to take a look.  It showcases the work of my fellow graduate students, and is affiliated with the graduate student conference I mentioned early in the semester.

I also spent the last week with my mother, who took a week off her day-job to celebrate graduating and get a little bit of a vacation.  We’ve been up to a lot this past week, and it’s too much to cover in one post so I’m spreading some of the fun out over the next few days to stretch my blogging-muscles and get back into the swing of things.

Besides spending a lot of money at the mall as a belated birthday present to myself (my birthday was May 6th, right in the middle of finals, so I didn’t have much chance to celebrate), there were several highlights: a trip to Brenham, TX where Blue Bell ice-cream is made, my mother’s birthday (which was May 18th), and seeing the Irish alternative rock band Snow Patrol in concert (but more on all of that tomorrow, and probably Wednesday).

I have a lot of plans for this summer that I’ll probably be sharing with you as well.  I intend to start revising Midnight’s Knife, the novel I wrote a first-draft of last summer.  I want to start practicing the piano again (I say this every summer, and I always do for a while before it falls away again).  my mother bought me a fantastic painter’s easel for my birthday and I’m going to start drawing (again) and painting (which will be a bit new, despite a little experience from high school).  I have an ENORMOUS stack of books I want to read (I started Hunger Games – FINALLY – on Friday afternoon, and finished it on Saturday night).  And I’ll be doing a bit of traveling as well.

On top of that, I am planning to sit down and build a new syllabus/curriculum for my freshman writing course, which will incorporate a lot of student-blogging.  I was not at all happy with my performance as a teacher this semester.  I mean, I was admittedly extremely busy with PhD stuff, and I still did okay by my students – I didn’t completely slack off or anything.  But I had much more trouble this semester staying on top of things, and keeping my students engaged.  I firmly believe that what I do is important, but that only remains true if I do a good job, put serious effort energy into it, and I did not do as good a job as I could have this semester.  That’s going to change in the Fall.

I also have some ideas for ways I want to change-up the blog.  And I’ll be frank, that’s not so much for the benefit of you, my readers, as it is for my benefit.  To keep myself moving, to keep myself interested, to find a focus or a rhythm or whatever that will work for me, and will hopefully make it possible for me to keep this up through the Fall semester when things have gone upside-down-wacko again.  I’m fiddling with some ideas/plans, and I’m waiting on one major component before these changes will begin to take shape.  But I’ll keep you in formed about that.

In the meantime, I hope I didn’t lose too many of you during my extended absence, and I hope I can keep you entertained over the summer at the very least.  I’ll see you tomorrow!

Sincerely,

Amanda