Friday, April 11, 2008

Feed the Brain

This has been a great week filled with all kinds of activities to stimulate the thinking-muscles. It will probably go down in my personal history as a week with the largest number of organized and widely-varied events. On Sunday I went to a baseball game and ate a hot dog while letting the springtime sun soak into my consciousness. On Sunday evening I worked (as a volunteer usher and as a result, non-paying attendee) at a local theater where the Second City Comedy troupe were performing (very funny!).

Monday evening I went to a standing-room only talk by Frank Warren, the founder of PostSecret. I've been reading that blog for a couple of years, always with mixed reactions. The point is for people to anonymously mail in their secrets on homemade postcards. Each week, of about 1,000 postcards received, Frank posts a selection of about 20. Invariably, there are some that make me laugh, some that make me sad, some that make me cringe, and, inevitably, some that I often find overly melodramatic. It's a totally mixed bag and some weeks I don't enjoy reading. I keep going back, though, and I think the reason I do was summed up in the point of Frank's great talk. Regardless of what the postcards say and how you react, the point of the site (and the books, and the traveling exhibits, and the project as a whole) is to demonstrate that EVERYONE has secrets that they keep to themselves. Whether they're big secrets that affect their daily lives, or small secrets that do so only rarely, as Frank said, if we could all just recognize that everyone else has things hidden inside, maybe we could be a little more tolerant and understanding of each other.

To flip back to the less-deep side of things, Tuesday was Trivia night, where my team had fun but bombed pretty badly. Whatever...those were some hard questions. Although I was able to contribute my knowledge that Dolly Parton wrote the original version of "I will always love you" as usual I was useless on the sports questions (e.g. since 2000, how many NFL players had running records of 2000 yards or more? Only one, don't remember who).

Yesterday was another feed-the-brain day. In the afternoon I had the opportunity to attend a talk and question-and-answer session with Chelsea Clinton. I'll be honest, I've always been a bit fascinated by her. When her father was elected I remember thinking how mortified I would feel if I were her. As if a 12-year-old girl doesn't have enough to deal with! But I was always impressed by the extent to which her parents were able to protect her from media attention and allow her to have a (relatively) normal life. In a way, I guess you could say I felt protective of her, since she was so close to my own age and I could only imagine how difficult it would be to be her sometimes. Since she reached adulthood, I've been conflicted by a desire to know more about her, and a continued relief that she maintained a private life. Her involvement in her mother's campaign has been a little surprising for that reason...however, I also identify 100% with her desire to campaign, as I can imagine just how proud I would feel if it were my mom running for president!

Chelsea's talk was fantastic. She was eloquent, poised, well-spoken, obviously very intelligent, warm and approachable and extremely knowledgeable. It was a great session for students, because she mostly answered questions about her mom's policies, but was able to express her own strong opinions about issues such as the need for universal health care, civil rights and the sexism that she has witnessed towards her mother during the campaign. She was a great representative of her mom, because afterwards I felt very positive towards the Clintons for raising such a capable daughter. And for me, because of my inexplicable (and I admit, kind of weird) protective instinct towards her, it was a pleasure to watch her speak.

In the evening yesterday author Mario Vargas Llosa was given an award by the Institute for Arts and Humanities, and he delivered a speech called "The Road to Fiction." He was an engaging speaker and talked about the long (even ancient) tradition of storytelling and how he was influenced by this tradition, and specifically by the indigenous storytellers of Peru. I especially enjoyed the speech as a reader of mostly fiction books. Vargas Llosa (or Dr. Mario, as one audience member called him) spoke to storytellers/fiction writers role in expressing the deep history, traditions, wishes, dreams, fantasies and fears hidden underneath our real-life existence.

Phew! this was obviously a good week to start waking up my mind after a relatively dormant winter. This weekend holds a few more activities, including an Indian benefit dinner on Saturday and the NCAA Women's Gymnastics tournament here, also on Saturday. I think I might need to take next week off to recover.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

April Showers

I just ate lunch outside for the first time this year. I love spring! Too bad I have to work for the rest of the day (aside from attending a Chelsea Clinton speech in the late afternoon) because the weekend doesn't look so promising:

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Overheard on Campus: Helpful Parent Edition

Today was a loooooooong day. I had to work at an open house for prospective students, where I and representatives of other student services offices and associations talked to students and their parents about the possibilities available (like study abroad) if they choose to come here. I really do enjoy talking to students and parents, but I slept poorly last night and the eight AM start was just not what I wanted to do on a Saturday. The event was five long, drawn-out hours long and for the last half it took every shred of willpower to keep myself from laying my head down on the table and taking a nap.

My table was right next to the table for the LGBTA center (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender alliance), staffed by a friendly undergrad named Roberto. I felt bad for him, because while my table got lots of traffic, most people tended to speed past his table once they realized what it was for. However, a few people stopped with a question or two. At one point, a father approached Roberto as if to talk in detail about something. Initially, I thought it was great that a dad was showing some genuine interest. Then I heard him ask his question:

My son is interested in musical theater. Can you tell me where on campus I would find that department?

Roberto and I had a good laugh over that. He wasn't quite sure whether to be amused, offended, or perhaps just a little sheepish: after all, in fact, he knew exactly where to find the department, and the name of the department head.