explained the "...is your new bicycle" phenomenon like this:
A rash of vaguely political web sites spouting semi-nonsense phrases have sprung up. They’re all variations on the same theme: (Name of candidate) ([complimentary] phrase). As in, “Hillary Clinton asked you out on Facebook”, written in large, purple Helvetica. Click and a new sentence is generated.
In case you still don't get it, let me give a few examples from the "must-have compendium of sweet things he has done for you", the Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle book
- Barack Obama shoveled the snow from your walkway
- Barack Obama checked under your bed for monsters
- Barack Obama danced with your mom at your sister's wedding
- When one of your vocalists came down with a nasty bronchitis bug, Barack Obama sang backup in your band
- Barack Obama left a comment on your blog
- Barack Obama warmed up your car for you
- Barack Obama followed your directions even though he was pretty sure his way was faster
I'll be honest and say I don't really understand the whole "is your new bicycle" meme, but I appreciate it nonetheless. And I think Hendrix College Social Committee (SOCO) is my new bicycle. SOCO put on the BEST PARTY OF ALL TIME this past Saturday. The '70s themed party is called SOCO54 (like Studio54, get it?) and it's held every November. But I've never gone before! I was out of the country during November the past two years, and freshman year I decided to go visit my twin sister that weekend. If only I had known what I was missing!
SOCO spends something like $20 or $30,000 on the event. According to my friends on Student Senate, the light-up dance stage alone cost $10,000 to rent. And there was a confetti canon and an awesome sound system and cages with dancers, and crazy lights, and probably more awesome things that I was too overwhelmed to notice. And disco music!!
The only problem with historical theme parties is that I don't really have a sense of historical fashion trends. My American Studies major still hasn't prepared me for dressing for the annual '80s night party, and I was alive for part of that decade! I have even less insight into what people wore to the disco. (A Google Images search of "Studio 54" taught me that mostly, people wore very little.) But I got by with a little help from my friends.
One of my trendiest friends (Afton) lent me a beautiful, silky, blue paisley dress with a handkerchief hem. My friend Ashley lent me some tape to make sure the dress stayed up. My friend Clare lent me some blue eyeshadow. My friend Allie encouraged me to buy fake eyelashes and helped me apply them. The 4.5-inch heels I wore were my own, but I must thank Fatima for teaching me how to walk in such ridiculous shoes. Lesson: I want to dress like a 70s goddess every weekend!
- SOCO invited all your best friends to party with you.
- SOCO picked gold glittery wristbands just so they'd match your dress.
- SOCO just knew you'd want to dance to the YMCA.
- SOCO recognized you at the entrance and waved you right in.
- SOCO thought you'd like the confetti canon.
- SOCO loves to love you, baby.
I've noticed that more than 100 of you stop by every day to read this blog. So I wondered, who are you all? Do you come here often? Do you have my blog bookmarked, or are you subscribed to my feed? Or did you just wander across it on the Hendrix site? I'd really appreciate it if you -- yes, you -- could take a minute to tell me a little about yourself. For a long time the comments feature on this blog was broken, but it's all fixed. So take advantage of it! Feel free to ask me any questions you have about Hendrix or Conway or college life or being a twin or whatever else crosses your mind.
I went to the Grad Fair in the bookstore today, where I was swarmed by vendors hawking their class rings and graduation announcements. I am utterly overwhelmed. In high school I was way too broke to worry about these formalities, but now I have to consciously tell myself, "Katie, that engraved ring is not worth 585 of your hard-earned dollars."
One thing I do know I have taken care of is my yearbook. I got my senior portrait taken two weeks ago by a supremely talented freshman named Mollie Long. I also picked my senior quotation, which is from a Kurt Vonnegut novel I admittedly have never read (although I do love his books). The following explanation of the quote is drawn from an A.V. Club article about the 15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will:
4. "There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."
This line from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater comes as part of a baptismal speech the protagonist says he's planning for his neighbors' twins: "Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind." It's an odd speech to make over a couple of infants, but it's playful, sweet, yet keenly precise in its summation of everything a new addition to the planet should need to know. By narrowing down all his advice for the future down to a few simple words, Vonnegut emphasizes what's most important in life. At the same time, he lets his frustration with all the people who obviously don't get it leak through just a little.
I love the quote so much that I almost want it tattooed on my body. In fact, the more I think about it, the more appealing that idea is...
But perhaps I'm not quite attached enough to that sentence, because I almost picked a different one -- equally simple, equally moralistic -- that I read in a Frank Rich column titled, "In Defense of the 'Balloon Boy' Dad". I got chills as I read his column, which was an indictment of the 'infotainment' that the media sells as news.
“They put on a very good show for us, and we bought it,” the local sheriff, Jim Alderden, said last weekend, when he alleged that “balloon boy” was a hoax. His words could stand as the epitaph for an era.
The senior portrait I chose is below. I have to say, I'm not sure my hair has ever been better behaved than that. I also think it looks very polished and professional. When I write cover letters and prepare for interviews, I think of myself looking like that.
Just when I was about to decide that Fall is too many puddles and not enough sunshine, last week happened. Eight straight days of cloudless skies and mid-70s temperatures. Naps outside on blankets. Canoe trips. Skirts and dresses and shorts and more skirts. And according to weather.com
, it should continue for almost another entire week. Oh the glory!
Besides the usual share of readings for class, my workload has been light for the past week. That's left me lots of time for lolling about in the sunshine, and extra time for shutting myself up with my computer and revising my résumé. Right now I'm working on a cover letter that's not due until December 31 (for the NPR Kroc Fellowship). Earlier this afternoon I got a 1.5-hour lesson on HTML (to make me more competitive for a New York Times new media internship).
But this weekend (starting Thursday night) I declared a moratorium on homework and career thoughts. Thursday, in order to "remember remember the fifth of November," I watched V for Vendetta with a big group of friends. It was a weird reminder of how much I've changed since freshman year, which was the last time I saw it. Somehow, in my bubble of teenage oblivion, I was absolutely unaware of the political themes of the movie. But now, after sacrificing my soul on the alter of Berryman's Iraq War class, the analogies could not escape me.
Friday, I spent all afternoon ... and evening ... and night making three different kinds of empanadas at the Spanish House with a pair of freshmen (one from Juarez, Mexico, and the other from Dallas, Texas). The cooking process required $26, three packets of Maizena mix, two trips to Wal-Mart, and one phone call from Sharon to her parents at home in Mexico to check the recipe. It took seven hours, and the leftovers lasted only sixteen hours. We demolished them!
We stuffed them with ground beef, shredded chicken, and pineapple-apricot marmalade -- but not all at once.
The empanadas provided fuel for a Spanish House canoe trip at Lake Beaver Fork on Saturday afternoon. My canoe-mates (and housemates) Allie and Ashley paddled our boat out to the middle of the lake, and then we just sat there, bobbing along until the current pushed us toward the shore. We must have stayed there for an hour at least, hundreds of yards away from the nearest other person, staring at the waves and enjoying the absolute silence.
It was private in a way that the Hendrix campus never is -- especially not the Spanish House with its ultra-thin walls. Even on the open, empty campus at night, I never feel really alone. I always call my dad when I walk across campus from the library to my room, and he always asks me if I have any dating news. And I always decline to comment, because anyone could be walking behind me, or walking on a parallel sidewalk within hearing range, or sitting on a bench further ahead, obscured by darkness. I don't want my synopses ("He's sweet, but I think he has a long-distance girlfriend," or "He's really smart but condescending") to turn into grist for the everyone-knows-everyone Hendrix rumor mill. All that to say: it was so reassuring to feel like I could say anything, and know that no one could overhear me. The only place I have like that at Hendrix is my car, which is where I go if I need to have an important phone conversation.
Important note: the canoes were rented from the Hendrix Wellness and Athletics Center, which also rents mountain bikes and tents and sleeping bags and kayaks and a bunch of other wilderness gear. How awesome is that?
Another important note: on the ride to the lake, Allie declared that she wanted to be captain of the canoe. So Ashley tore off a piece of a Coke box and gave it to her as a crown. And she wore it. This is why I love my Spanish House friends.
Allie is an art major, so she's supposed to do odd things.
I spent Saturday evening at a Culinary Club meeting, where I cooked part of an extravagant Thanksgiving feast. Fried turkey legs, sweet potato gnocchi, pumpkin cinnamon cupcakes with maple cream cheese icing, herbed squash, and (my contributions) cranberry sauce and spicy Parmesan green beans. It was all incredible, especially the turkey and the cupcakes.
Here's to Kevin Watford for the best club idea ever.
Saturday night: low-key birthday party and, later on, a rather raucous swim team party. I've been going to the swim team parties for years with my former roommate Emily, and I am now accepted as an honorary member of the team.
Unfortunately, the fun wrapped up after a delicious Sunday brunch in the caf. I got back to my weekday responsibilities by heading to Bailey Library, which is my second home. Which is where I'm sitting right now. But as I walked through the Burrow toward to library, I passed a group of freshmen reading a newspaper article -- written by me, summarizing the best Halloween costumes at Hendrix, published in the Hendrix newspaper The Profile -- outloud to one another and laughing at my jokes. Score!!
And the job search continues. I've had informational interviews with a BusinessWeek reporter, a New York Times clerk, and a freelance writer. I'm hoping to talk to Doug Blackmon (Hendrix alumnus, Pulitzer Prize winner) soon. For a school with a relatively small alumni base, Hendrix has given me a surprising -- sometimes overwhelming -- number of networking opportunities.
I also met yesterday with Christy Coker, the Director of Career Services, who is a repository of utter genius. I left her office with seven Post-It notes full of ideas to follow up on. She gave me tips for staying in touch with my new network, information on web hosting for a personal website, and resources for additional internship opportunities. She also expressed total dedication to working with me as intensively as I wanted, since she knows I'm aiming high. Right now she's combing through my Facebook, telling me whether there's anything inappropriate I'll need to take down. She's also going to tear apart all of the cover letters I write. It's great to have such a great companions on this great odyssey toward employment.
There is one recommendation I'm a little ambivalent about: changing my professional name. I always imagined that, as Trista Greider recommended, I'd go by "Kathleen N. Rice" when I graduated. It's the name I'd print on the covers of my books, and the byline that would run above my articles. But I never realized that I'd have to actually go by Kathleen if it were my professional name. I've never been called Kathleen in my life! Major hyperventilation and an identity crisis ensued.
The other minor crisis took place between my twin sister and me. Mandi is the best sister in the entire world, and we are pretty close even though we live 12 hours apart. We traveled Europe together during our sophomore year, and we recently decided that upon graduation we should move to the same city and share an apartment. (And cook awesome vegetarian food for each other.) The drawback that didn't occur to me was that we would be competing for the same jobs. As ambitious young women looking to enter the (sharply contracting) field of journalism, we will probably end up applying for many of the same positions.
Our first overlap became clear to me this week. We're both applying for an incredible NPR fellowship aimed at recent college graduates with "exceptional potential and drive" and a desire to work in public radio. I want it so bad I can taste it! And Mandi does too. It's awkwardly reminiscent of our senior year of high school, when we both applied for the ultra-competitive Hays Memorial Scholarship at Hendrix, and I got it. And she didn't. I would hate to do that to Mandi again, but I would also hate to stifle myself for fear of hurting her self-esteem.
We talked last night and decided that we won't tell each other what fellowships, internships and jobs we're applying for, so that neither of us feels pressure not to apply for an opportunity we find out about. Ignorance is bliss.
The paper about the fall of the Inca civilization turned out to be fascinating. It was due this past Friday, and I probably could have waited until Thursday night to write it, but I didn't. For the first time in my Hendrix career, I stayed in the library on Friday evening -- a full week before the paper was due -- and started scouring through tomes like A Socialist Empire: The Incas of Peru. I came in again on Saturday, and finished up the paper in the course of two all-nighters on Wednesday and Thursday nights. It turned out to be 11 pages -- well within Dr. Pollini's rather odd guidelines of 5-15 pages. I don't think I've ever been prouder of a finished product.
The essay is for my Agriculture, Natural Resources and Sustainability class, which I took solely to fulfill a requirement of my International Relations and Global Studies major. But the class has turned out to be quite relevant to my interests. I'm a huge fan of Michael Pollan, who (along with Eric Schlosser, Mark Bittman, and Morgan Spurlock) has defined the food philosophy I try to live by. As Pollan summarizes in his book The Omnivore's DIlemma: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." Books like Fast Food Nation and The Botany of Desire convinced me of the lurking dangers of massive factory farms, which, by relying on massive cultivation of one species of potato/banana/corn/whatever, subject our nation's food supply to the threat of blight.
In class, we've read Marcel Mazoyer's A History of Agriculture from the Neolithic Age to the Current Crisis. I've learned about agri-politics issues I didn't know existed, such as the demonization of slash-and-burn farmers in Madagascar, and gotten more insight into issues of farm subsidies, which I haven't discussed in school since my AP Gov class in high school.
The Agriculture class also dovetails with two of my other classes -- The American West and Concepts of Chemistry. Concepts of Chem is mostly an overview of basic chemistry: acids and bases, redox reactions, hydrocarbons, etc. But our book, Chemistry for Changing Times, puts an environmental spin on every issue we discuss. Similarly, the American West class addresses not just the history and culture of cowboys, but also the environmental and political implications of ranching (and mining, and logging, and...). I never would have thought I'd find that interesting, but I do.
I've also been active in the Environmental Concerns Committee this year. Yesterday about 12 of us took a tour of Conway's recycling facility, which is the largest in Arkansas. Early next year they will be installing a totally mechanized system, but right now non-violent criminals have the option of paying off their fines by working at the plant, sorting recyclables. The tour was incredibly informative -- an inspiration for the campus walks I give at Hendrix -- and sought to correct some of the myths about recycling. I learned that things I've been throwing away for years, such as paperboard, styrofoam, and glass, can now be recycled in Conway. (Although the glass must be brought to the plant; it can't be put in with the curbside pickup recycling.) I also learned that there's no need to remove the lids or the labels from plastic bottles. Sweet!
After the fieldtrip we went to Toad Suck Park, on the banks of the Arkansas River, and cooked the most delicious, homemade veggie burgers of all time. With whole-wheat buns and lettuce and tomato. Delicious! But I digress.
The class that doesn't fit into the environmental scheme is Gender, Sexuality and American Politics, which is also my favorite class this semester. After Dr. Berryman's Iraq War seminar last spring, which was a constant source of anxiety for me, I thought I just didn't learn well in a seminar format. But Dr. Barth does a great job of ensuring that everyone in the class has a chance to speak. I actually have to tell myself to shut up sometimes, because the readings are so interesting and I am engaged so fully in the material. It's like, "Calm down, Katie. Let the other kids have a chance to discuss abortion rights and the cultural implications of birth control."
I've been thinking about that class a lot this weekend, because half of our final grade comes from a journal that we are supposed to keep throughout the semeser, analyzing the readings we do. (The other half is class participation.) The only problem is ... I haven't been keeping up with them very well. I read everything, I discuss it like crazy, I talk about it after class with my friends, and I ponder it when I'm alone. But I never write about it. Which is a problem because Dr. Barth is collecting our journals tomorrow to check our progress. And here I am, writing about needing to write them. That, my friends, is artful procrastination.