Friday Favorites 6

This town:

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There is a town in Maryland named Chevy Chase.

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Not after this man, although that’s what I thought at first.

This Chevy Chase’s real name is Cornelius.  According to Wikipedia (only the most reliable sources for you, dear reader),

“Chase was named for his adoptive grandfather Cornelius, while the nickname Chevy was bestowed by his grandmother, derived from the medieval English The Ballad of Chevy Chase. As a descendant of the Scottish Clan Douglas, the name “Chevy” seemed appropriate to her.”

And according to the town of Chevy Chase’s website,

“The name … can be traced to the larger tract of land called “Cheivy Chace” that was patented to Colonel Joseph Belt from Lord Baltimore on July 10, 1725. It has historic associations to a 1388 battle between Lord Percy of England and Earl Douglas of Scotland. At issue in this “chevauchee” (a Scottish word describing a border raid) were hunting grounds or a “chace” in the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland and Otterburn.”

Further research into The Ballad of Chevy Chase reveals that actually, it refers to the same battle (mentioned in the previous passage) between Lord Percy and Earl Douglas, a “chevauchee.”

So, both comedian and small Maryland town are named after the same 1388 border dispute in the Cheviot Hills of Scotland.

This is why I love history.

This TV ad:

Now, I’m not saying that I don’t think it’s a good idea to create a flu vaccine that can be sprayed instead of injected.  I’m just saying that I first saw this commercial while SNL was on, and until the very end, I was convinced that it was a skit.  I thought, something this odd can’t possibly be a real flu vaccine commercial.

Boy, was I wrong.  It’s real.

Second 22-25 is my favorite part, but the scene in which the whole family struts down the street wearing those nose superhero masks is pretty great as well.

These memes:

I’ve been a meme fiend this week.  I literally spent a good amount of time googling “Henry VII memes,” “Mad Men memes,” and “Teddy Roosevelt memes.”  Pathetic?  Yes.  Fruitful? Yes.

Here are some of the best I dug up:

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And now, a series entitled “Mean Mad Men:” Scenes from Mad Men captioned with Mean Girls quotes.  I can’t believe it, either.

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I should mention that I am currently working on a full post about Mad Men.  Because if any show deserves a full post (well, aside from Dawson’s Creek), it’s Mad Men.

This angry celebrity:

Given, he’s not very specific about the contents of his “revolution.”  But Russell Brand has some interesting things to say.  And he’s more eloquent than you might think.

This book:

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After a summer-long hiatus following my Honors Capstone Project, I am once again reading Virginia Woolf.  This is my first time through The Years, and I have to say, it’s strange to read Woolf knowing I won’t be back in Woolf Lit on Monday to discuss the latest.  I’ve been doing all right muddling through on my own, although I worry that I’m missing some richness that could only be uncovered in an academic setting. Reading with a pen helps.  Here are some of the beauties I’ve underlined so far:

“Is this death? Delia asked herself.  For a moment there seemed to be something there.  A wall of water seemed to gape apart; the two walls held themselves apart” (44, Harcourt edition pictured above).

“One after another the bells of Oxford began pushing their slow chimes through the air.  They tolled ponderously, unequally, as if they had to roll the air out of their way and the air was heavy” (47).

“Well, since it was impossible to read and impossible to sleep, she would let herself be thought.  It was easier to act things out than to think them … She stretched herself out.  Where did thought begin” (125)?

“For it was October, the birth of the year” (86).

Happy weekend, friends.

Writing “Rules”

Admittedly, upon waking this morning and reading the Weather Channel’s description of the cool temperature and slight breeze, I bolted outside in my pajamas to confirm for myself.  I appreciate every change of season as it comes, but there’s something about fall.  Perhaps it’s the (lifelong, I suspect) association with a new school year, but summer to fall feels like the greatest shift of all.  It feels like a shift that permeates not only the temperature and the leaf color, but people’s lives.  Big things are afoot, my friends, for you and for me.  Even if we don’t know what these big things are yet.

What I have for you today, far from the promised materialism of Friday Favorites, are my writing “rules.”  I typed these out last night instead of working on a short story.  That’s right: I wrote rules for writing instead of actually applying the rules and writing.  Though writing the rules was writing …  just not the kind of writing I was thinking of when I wrote them.

Right.  Or write, if you’d prefer.

Needless to say, I don’t actually believe that my writing rules should be your rules, or even that my rules apply to my writing all of the time (thus the obnoxious quotations around “rules”).  But it was a surprisingly good time to think about how I write and how I’d like to write and how I live so that I might write.

Holly’s Written “Rules” For Writing

1. Never show a first draft.  No matter how encouraging your reader is, the brilliancy of your fragile baby draft will shrink in your eyes once you let another’s eyes judge it.  Wait until a draft is as good as you can make it before you let people tell you how far it has yet to go.

"The first draft of anything is shit." -Ernest Hemingway

“The first draft of anything is shit.”  -Ernest Hemingway

2. When stumped, start over.  And by start over, I mean start a new word document, entirely separate from the stump-inducing one.  Retype the parts you liked on the old document, but do so without looking.  This is how you find a new angle: via blank slate.

3. Find your writing power song and don’t be too proud to use it.  Mine is “Briony” from the Atonement film score.  Because of the typewriter sounds.  Note: your power song does not need to be subtle.

4. Read your work out loud, even when you don’t want to, or are in public.  You will always catch typos and icky-sounding syntax that you couldn’t possibly have otherwise.

5. Write down an idea, name, image, conversation the minute it strikes you.  You will have forgotten it by the following morning otherwise.  See “Marble Memo” post for my portable solution.

6. The power of mulling is highly underestimated.  Not everything to do with writing has to do with the act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.  Sometimes the solution to a plot tangle is to write until you get it right.  Other times, you simply have to puzzle it out to yourself while circling the local roundabout intersection in your Subaru.

7. Even if you can’t take criticism well, learn to take it and then cry later.  Because you need criticism.

8.  Do things.  Meet people.  Be out in the world.  Be afraid and uncomfortable and awkward and curious.  Let it all filter into your writing.  Emily Dickinson has dibs on the secluded attic writer, and goodness knows we couldn’t do it as well as her anyway.

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9. Tell people you’re a writer.  The title “writer” has nothing to do with publishing status or age or degree.  If you love writing and do it often–whether for hobby or for career–then you’re a writer.  Revel in the raised eyebrows that will often follow your proclamation.  Don’t forget to adopt the Hemingway swagger as you walk away.

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10. Let yourself be intimidated by the greats.  Let yourself revel in their genius, regardless of who the greats are for you.  For me, they’re primarily Scott Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf.  And they scare me and sometimes make me feel like I will never amount to anything because I don’t write like Scott Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf.  But they also make me proud to be part of this rowdy clan of crazy genius writers.

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11.  Write your own writing rules.  Or know them, at least.  Make some standards for yourself and stick to them.  This is how we prove to those eyebrow raisers (and to ourselves) that what we do is as important and as “real” of a job as, say, accounting.

If you do write your own writing rules, share them with me.  Comment with the link.  I’d love to read them.

I Love Ya, Tomorrow

To Do Tomorrow:

1. Finish honors capstone project

2. Finish honors capstone project

3. Be a room monitor for the Undergraduate Research Symposium

4. Finish honors capstone project

5. Have [imagined] argument with Woolf about the contents of my honors capstone project

6. Reevaluate my caffeine intake

7. Finish honors capstone project

Awards

The reason why–in the midst of scrambling for meaning in To the Lighthouse, scrambling to find a job, and scrambling for enough sleep to get me (upright) through the next day–I keep plodding on, is because amazing things seem to keep happening, despite my frazzled mental state.

I am receiving three awards from the University of Minnesota, Morris:

Outstanding English Major

Curtis H. Larson (which means I’ll be my class’s student commencement speaker)

Allen W. Edson (for total contribution to campus life)

I’m humbled and excited and so, so happy that the school I adore seems to love me back.

Rite of Passage: Subaru Edition

Yesterday, I believe I utterly cemented myself as a liberal.  And perhaps more importantly, as an adult.

I bought my first car.  A dark red (I refuse to say ‘maroon’) Subaru Outback.

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What was adult wasn’t necessarily the writing of the check, the shaking of hands, etc.  It was the haggling.  Mom and Dad informed me on the way to the lot that haggling was normal when negotiating used car purchases.  My throat felt dry all of a sudden.  As much as I appreciate a good argument, mine have been restricted to classrooms as of late.  Don’t get me started on Virginia Woolf, but when it comes to the value of automobiles, I hardly know what to say.

Of course, the very first place we looked had a Subaru.  Of course, it was far out of my budget.  And of course, when I suggested a lower price, the manager came out of his office and tried to bully me about it.  Maybe he could tell that I’m young and inexperienced and decided I would be easy to intimidate, but the more he rattled on about how he has to make a profit (how dare I mess with that!) and how much mechanical work he’d put into the car and how–good Lord–could I think of turning down the three-month warranty, the angrier I became.

And when he handed the list of work done to the car to Dad and not to me–“I’m sure he knows more about this than you”–I had had enough.

I told him we would keep looking.

At the next lot, we spotted an Outback right away.  It was a little older than the last, but the price was right.  I test drove it twice, heard lengthy descriptions from the salesman, and read over its history.  And then I signed the papers and agreed to come back with a check.

I’ve got my Monroe Crossing “I’m a Bluegrass Fan” sticker all ready to apply to the bumper.

Who’s More Somber: An Incan Mummy or Sigmund Freud?

My truck is still stuck on the ice in front of my house, icicles dripping from the doors down to the ground.  Inside is a stray program from a Guthrie performance, a few receipts, and my beloved hula girl stationed on the dashboard.  It’s a somber sight, like one of those frozen mummies found in the Andes, hair still intact and blowing about its face as if it’s merely resting, crouched in the snow.

My goodness, that was creepy.  Sorry, guys.  I’ll talk about my mummy obsession some other time.  (read an interesting article here, though)

Anyway, the purpose of this post is not to give you nightmares.  The purpose is to explain why exactly I haven’t been posting very frequently, and to use said explanation to gush a little bit about Virginia Woolf.  Because I’ve never done that before.

You see, although my Woolf class ended last semester, I didn’t feel done with her.  She’s a difficulty lady to get to know.  Since I have to complete a capstone project this semester anyway (in order to graduate with honors), I decided to take the opportunity to expand my existing Woolf paper from last December.  And because honors capstones have to be interdisciplinary, I get to bring my minor to the party and beef up my paper with historical context.

I won’t give away the paper topic, because I’m overly confident and wish to pursue publication someday if I possibly can.  But it concerns Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and makes arguments about the nature of domesticity in the novel, and the nature of domesticity in the late Victorian era.  

I’ve been spending my days reading luscious books about fainting couches and powder puffs and beaded dresses.  There are grim parts too, of course:  there was a certain amount of oppression in the Victorian household, especially if you were a woman.  And there’s also Freud, who’s literally unavoidable if you wish to study the era, and who doesn’t make it a point to be particularly cheery.

Generally, though, it feels good to dive once again into a research project of this caliber.

How My Good Days Work

I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely say it several more times:

When I have good days, I never have good-all-the-way-through-from-sunup-to-sundown good days.  I have no-sleep-last-night-zit-on-my-nose-could-this-get-any-worse days that magically morph into good days.

This morning, for example, all signs pointed to a bad day.  Well, by my above logic, I suppose that when things were dismal I should have suspected that a good day was on its way, although just because I’ve identified a pattern doesn’t mean I can make predictions…  Come now.  Who do you think I am?  (insert name of famous scientist/mathematician here)?

Back to the signs, though: I got six hours of sleep last night due to (I’m ashamed to admit) some last-minute wee-hours studying that was altogether unbecoming of someone in her last semester of college.  The temperature read -17 degrees when I awoke, and didn’t rise any while I ate breakfast, showered, and swathed myself in as many layers as I could find.

Long underwear, wool socks, fleece socks, Underarmour mock neck, sweatshirt, neck cozy (made up name.  It’s like a fleece headband for your neck, only about 6 inches wide instead of three), hat, mittens, winter coat, boots.  And so forth.

Once I had trudged to campus, thawed out a bit, sat through Feminist Theory and Shakespeare, talked a panicked anthropology candidate back from the cliff after he learned his application hadn’t been received, and eaten a very underripe pear, I received two pieces of news that turned a Bad day into a Good one:

1.  An important publishing company has asked the head of the history department (and one of my favorite professors) to do a review of a to-be-released tome.  They also asked if she could select a few students to review it as well.  And the professor asked me to be one of those students!  It’s a grand opportunity that will not only be enjoyable (we all know I go nuts for history), but that will also look rawthur snappy on a future resume.

2.  I’ve realized that for my Honors Capstone Project, I am allowed to use an existing project as a jumping-off point.  This means that I can combine my beloved Virginia Woolf with some extra research and, as the nasty saying goes, kill two birds with one stone.

This also means another semester of Woolf talk.  I hope you can handle it.  I suspect you can.

P.S. Just ate some cereal for a snack.  Just spilled said cereal all over Mac’s keypad.  Milk and technology don’t mix very well, for the record.  I’m trying not to view this as punishment for bragging so much about my good fortune.