Saturday, December 29, 2012

Week 15 Christmas and...wait...what day is it?

So you would think, considering that it is winter break and I don't have a lot going on, that I would be spot on with this whole blogging thing. Turns out, I'm never quite sure what day it is anymore. The only thing that keeps me mildly grounded in the real turnings of the world is Dominic's work schedule, but considering that he works weekends and nights and mornings etc. I still get confused...But hey, it's still week 15...

This past week was quite eventful, of course, because it was Christmas and we had visitors! Dad, Yvonne, Sissy, and John all arrived on Sunday and stayed until Wednesday. It was a good Christmas, without the running around characteristic of most of my previous Christmases, but it was definitely different and of course there were still some faces I missed seeing. This was my first ever Christmas Eve not spent with Granddad Naughty and the rest of the Cox Clan, and of course it was my first Christmas without my Mama! It was nice to have Joe, one of my new anthropology grad school friends spend the day with us this year. It is always good to spend the holidays with new friends! Thank you guys for coming out for Christmas in Columbia and helping Dominic and I have a real Christmas with wonderful food, family, and friends! Oh and I have really, really enjoyed Belgian waffles the past two mornings (we got a Belgian waffle maker for Christmas!).

Wednesday, after everyone left, the apartment felt so empty. It feels so big when it is just Dominic and I but with everyone else it felt so full and cozy and bustling. I spent Wednesday and Thursday cleaning and reading and mostly just doing a general cluster of things that all run together. Yesterday Dominic and I had a great time going to Barnes and Noble (one of our favorite past times!) and one of our favorite little stores downtown, Aardvark's.

So what have I been doing since my trip to Chicago and between Christmas and other things? Reading and screwing around, mostly. I have already finished one book- the fourth Sookie Sackhouse installment- but those are always quick reads. They aren't quality literature by any standard, but I can't help but enjoy them. I've started Mothers and Others, by Sarah Hrdy (that's not a typo- no "a"), to keep my mind turning in the anthropological sense, but I've read a lot more of Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren, which I only started yesterday. This book is weird but I like it a lot so far- though I really like weird when it comes to fiction. This one seems to be a kind of a cross between Murakami, a little bit of King's Gunslinger, and a whole host of other weird that I haven't quite picked up on is sci fi but the back of the book bills it as "magical realism" which is more accurate. It is not for the sexually squeamish though- the main character, who does not remember his name, has already had sex with two complete strangers, a man and a woman, in the first 50 pages.

Ah, reading fiction makes my brain feel so much better- refreshed.

Of course, it is imperative that I put a huge shout out to one of my greatest friends and send out a warm CONGRATULATIONS on your ENGAGEMENT Miss Morgan!!! Eugene is a great guy and you are a wonderful gal, you two are amazing together. This is such an exciting time for you- enjoy every minute of it!

So I am pretty freaking excited that Dominic and I are going to be having more visitors in the next few weeks! I just want to say, for the record, if I haven't said it before, that we have some pretty awesome friends. Mikal is driving here this weekend and arriving tomorrow to spend New Year's Eve with us! And Anna will be here from January 9-11. So we have plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks. Plus, Anna is flying into Kansas City so it will be fun seeing one of the cities I have been hearing so much about for the first time.

I know this is all going to go by quickly, just like every day of life speeds by faster than the last, so I am going to take my time and enjoy every minute of reading and visiting and relaxing before the bustle of the semester starts up again. I have some work to do (I like to have productive things to do so I don't feel completely like a bum) but I actually have plenty of time to do it that feels weird.

Okay, Christmas pictures (the first nine of which I snagged from Yvonne)!

Restringing the classical

Star Wars Monopoly!

Christmas Morning

Dominic working on his family's oyster recipe for Christmas appetizer...I'm working on Grandma Ginny's corn pudding. John made the ham (sooooo good) and the squash casserole, Sissy made chocolate pies, and Yvonne made potato salad and breakfast (oh and so many goodies and desserts!). Joe brought some really great Missouri wine and Dad made sure there was plenty of beer. It was quite the meal! 

This is going so well!


Enjoying the oysters

Mr. Kitty REALLY loved his Christmas present from Aunt Karma and Uncle John

Dominic liked his too :D 

And Ripley was reunited with one of her favorite laps!

Marti played until she needed a nap

Joe reading up on some Buddhism

I hope that everyone had a very merry Christmas, wherever you are and whoever you were with. And everyone have a great New Year's Eve! Party Hardy ;) 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Week 14 First Week of Break and Merry Christmas!

So I have no viable excuse for being late this week, except that yesterday I just...meh...didn't feel like posting. But no worries! I have watched enough Jenna Marbles videos today to get myself super motivated! She has quite the dirty mouth but I still love her. I also watched a few videos with the My Boyfriend Does My Makeup tag on Youtube. I think this would be a super fun thing to do but I would be somewhat afraid of getting my eyeball poked out...

This past week has been really, really awesome. Most of what I'm going to share is kind of trivial and probably boring to most people...but...hey it's my blog so...there. I can do what I want! Actually yeah that's not really a super true statement...but you know what I mean...

Friday Ripley and I drove to Chicago for the weekend. Going to Chicago is ALWAYS a fun trip and Sissy and John are the best hosts. It was a great recharge/celebration trip for the end of the semester. And it is exciting for me to be this close to Chicago and to have the opportunity to spur of the moment visit Sissy! It is a 6 1/2 hour trip, but compared to the 16 hour drive to Richmond it is a breeze. It is also quite scenic. I ate fantastic food all weekend (John made this Texas chocolate cake which was really, really bad news for me because I COULD NOT STOP EATING IT). Sissy and I even got to do a little Christmas shopping at Lincoln Square which I always enjoy, and I went with her see some of her students sing Christmas songs. I checked Facebook once Sunday night but other than that the weekend was a complete detox. It was perfect! For some reason I didn't take many pictures, but I do have one of Dude in Ripley's bed:

Monday night I drove home to Columbia and the drive was a lot of fun. Chicago was gray but southern Illinois had some light snow. Missouri was gorgeous. There were so few cars around that I managed to get some really cool (at least I think) pictures. Here are a few...

When I got home Monday night Dominic and I went out to eat at Outback with our neighbors Andrew and Steph. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met and they are quite an adorable couple.

Tuesday I spent about four hours cleaning/getting ready for family that is coming on Sunday. Yeah that's alllll gonna be dirty again by then. DOH. Then Tuesday night Dominic and I spent quite a bit of time finally working on our Christmas cards. Tis the season!

Wednesday Dominic and I had lunch with Jeremy downtown. Then Dom headed to work and I went Christmas shopping. This included spending some money on myself because I had a 30% off coupon at Kohl's and I needed some new clothes!...I got a shirt that looked kinda ugly on the rack but I put it on and though "Dang that's actually kinda cute!"(for $3 too!). Teehee. Yeah I'm sure you didn't need to know that...but here a purple shirt I snagged and of course I have wasted no time wearing it:

I went home wrapped presents and got so excited that there are a lot of Disney movies on Netflix now that I watched Pocahontas. Totally forgot that Mel Gibson was John Smith in that movie...

I also got a package yesterday that was so charming and pretty when I opened it that I had to share!

Oh and Mr Kitty wants some too:

Thank you Miss Morgan! It made my day :) And you should have heard me squeal when I saw COOKIES. I need to get better about sending my packages out at a reasonable time. You know, so people get stuff around the actual holiday/birthday. I'm not a huge fan of New Year's resolutions, but that's going to be mine (seems pretty doable too, right...?).

Today we woke up to snow! I was very excited about this until I took Ripley on her walk. Um, snow is less fun when that Missouri wind kicks in. I had my Popeye face going most of the walk.

However, Ripley LOVES the snow, so after it stopped today we went out in the field and she enjoyed running around. Here is an action shot! 

The rest of the day I have been reading and watching Youtube videos and just generally screwing around. This is my screw around day. I will get back to doing productive things tomorrow. Or at some point. Meh I have things to do's break and stuff.

Also I discovered this article this past week that I think is a really good read for just about anyone: 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person

OH and Dominic has trimmed his beard this week to a beard of absolute perfection. He was already getting weekly compliments on it before he shaped it up so beautifully! I tried to snag a picture but it was hard getting him to stand still...

Well, that about sums up the highlights of my first week of break. Next week will be even more exciting because we are going to have so many visitors! I am very excited :D

Since I won't post again until after Christmas, I hope everyone has a very merry one, with lots of love, family, friends, and good food. And safe travels to those hitting the road!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Week 13 Observations

I have always actually liked the number 13...I never really found it to be unlucky.

Except perhaps...I wrote the bulk of this blog four days ago, and was going to wait to publish until Wednesday. Yes, I realize it's Thursday night. Whoops (again).

Dominic and I went to a great party/get together tonight with an excellent group of anthropology students/professors, hosted by Gretchen and Martin Daly. It was an absolutely excellent end to the semester. We both really enjoyed ourselves.

In the spirit of reflection, I decided to focus this post on some of the things I have learned/observed this semester, or more generally, the past four months. A lot has happened in a short amount of time and I have learned A LOT, but I haven't really been able to sit down and process it all. So this is the beginning of trying to process all of what is in my head, and to share it in the hopes of helping further my own mental processing, and, perhaps, to help anyone else who might need help processing their recent thoughts/experiences too. It helps me, at least, to get a taste of other people's reflections.

13 Observations

1. This is number one (though the others do not come in any particular order) because it has, honestly, been a source of deep and interesting thought for me: I think this is a natural part of the progression of life. The number of people I can relate to and who, in turn, can relate to and understand my life, has decreased considerably. I'm quite certain that most of the people in my life who I know very well have no clue what  my daily life is like or, really, what anthropology really is. I find that most cannot really understand the trials and tribulations (and the benefits) of going for broke in graduate school in anthro. And I find that I can relate a great deal more to people I know a great deal less. Such is life I suppose. Welcome to academia! No one you know understands you anymore. Except for other academics...

2. Other academics, at least other anthropologists, can be, curiously, socially awkward. I include myself in this (at least in the occasionally socially awkward part of this observation). Yet anthropologists are also some of the most interesting people you will ever talk to. I love them. Dominic has pointed this out as well- anthropologists are used to being observers and when you put a bunch of them in a room together it can make for some awkward interactions because no one is "the" observer anymore and everyone knows they are being observed. It can be strange and awkward, but it can also be really fantastic when everyone really starts talking and sharing- especially when you end up hearing great fieldwork stories or learning unique things about everyone. Anthropologists/academics are often (I think) introspective because we do so much work independently, yet they all have so many fascinating stories to tell! 

3. I greatly prefer the graduate school schedule to any other. Sure there are late nights and some hefty chunks of hours reading or writing, but there isn't much better than attending class maybe 10 hours a week and the rest of your work hours are completely under your control. You can work from home or the library or the coffee shop. You can drink wine while you work. There is the feeling that you should always being doing something, but I will take it any day over the 9 to 5. 

4. It's unfortunate, but credit cards are a grad student's best friend. There is no "extra" money for when you need to get your car fixed, or take your pet to the emergency room, or, I don't know, move across country. And some months there is a need for a little extra help when it comes to groceries or gas, especially when trying to get started in a new town (though a supportive family is a HUGE help!). 

5. Of course, relying on credit cards is foolish (even when necessary). Soooo...silly simple ways to cut costs: refrain from buying separate face and body lotion, cut back on makeup purchases/wearing makeup, buy cheap shampoo and conditioner (or none at all...this sounds super cheap, but I've been using watered down shampoo and conditioner for two weeks...diluted conditioner works just as well and lasts a lot longer), don't bother getting haircuts, make more soups, stews, and chili, layer clothes with the shirts with holes and permanent stains on the bottom, if you absolutely feel the need to go on a shopping spree, take a five dollar bill to the Dollar Tree. Oh, and don't leave home. As soon as you walk out the door you are dooming yourself to spending money. Duh, I guess.

6. I really enjoy small accomplishments and they keep me going. Like finishing my stat homework and feeling confident that I got everything right (I attribute this to having an excellent stat professor). Or knowing where to go in our rather complicated library for the book I need without looking at the library cheat sheet. Or cleaning up the living room. Or entering all my sources into Endnote. I LOVE Endnote.

7. Designing your own research is FUN. It can be time consuming and there are often a lot of setbacks and redos, but the design process is fun.

8. One of the phrases I hate more than any other (which Dominic now knows, so I hear it ALL THE TIME), is "You aren't done with that yet?" or, another simple variation, "Are you done?" NO I'M NOT DONE. In fact, I WILL NEVER BE DONE. 

9. I love the smell of Swallow Hall.

10. Sometimes people will do things that you don't understand. Actually, this will happen a lot. As someone being trained to observe and explain people, this is sometimes extremely difficult to get over. But sometimes you just gotta let it go. 

11. Every once in a while, people can surprise you. I've been pleasantly surprised a lot the past four months.

12. Ripley is the best late night study/work buddy ever, and she always knows when it's time for a break.

13. Maybe Wednesday isn't the best day for a blog post...

It has been a whirlwind semester, but it has been great in a lot of ways too. I have met some really fantastic people, and I look forward to getting to know all of them better in the months (years...) to come.

Until next week!

These are FANTASTIC. I made these for the anthropology department potluck last week and I am so glad there were leftovers. Turtle bars. Can share the recipe if anyone is interested :D

A little eggnog is a good season opener...

Watching The Dark Knight Rises with our eggnog. The tree has actually been fully decorated now. I will post pictures later ;D

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Week 12 I will return...

...when this week is over!

Brain is numb. Lots to do. No freedom til Friday.

Can't come back until my coffee table no longer looks like this:

At least I have the Christmas tree up for a little holiday cheer! Haven't had a chance to decorate it yet. Just lights and the star. 

Sorry for the lame blog posts...I promise I will get better after this week...

Oh, and since it isn't a complete blog post without a critter pick, here's Ripley in a coat, just for good measure: 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Week 11 Oops!

OH no! I missed my weekly blog post! See, I started this really epic blog post a couple weeks ago that I was going to post for this week, but I never got around to finishing it. I was determined to finish it last night but I guess this week just isn't a good one for an epic blog post...I have a lot to get done in the next few weeks for the end of the semester, and the last few days I have spent many hours immersed in trying to get something tangible out of my Korean TV show data. And adding stuff. And adding more stuff. And I have a pretty insane database going that still needs quite a bit of data, so I will still have something productive to work on during Christmas/winter break.

Ahhhh winter break. It's going to be so nice...

So I guess this week's blog post is going to be both late and disappointing...I'm sorry! I will make up for it over winter break...ahhhh.

And if I manage to finish the epic blog post in the next few days I will post!

In the meantime please go here: Catalog of American Portraits, Smithsonian and like their page. A good friend of mine is an intern here and if they get a 1000 likes the interns get a free lunch! And we all know that interns deserve free lunches!

Also, I have proof that Faith truly is addicting- and not just to me! I got Quynh hooked! I can't tell you how happy this makes me. Someone to share my excitement with! And to lose sleep with- because she also can't stop and stays up way late watching. Teehee. A warning label should come with some of these Korean dramas...

Look at the DRAMA!

Okay done being silly. The photos this week aren't all that interesting either, but I'm posting them for Mom to see that Ripley really does fit on that peace pillow :D

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Week 10 Thanksgiving

For many of us, Thanksgiving is a time to remember all the things we have to be thankful for. Of course, this is something we should remember to do always, rather than just once a year. I try to remind myself everyday of how lucky I am: I have a healthy and full family, friends, a wonderful, supportive boyfriend, enjoyable pets, a chance at a career I can enjoy. I am lucky enough to be in school studying what I want to study and I have been lucky to have so many excellent professors, past and present, who are always willing to help and from whom I have learned so much. I have never truly lacked in anything and have always had food and shelter. That in itself is something we should all remember to be thankful for- there are many people in the world who do not even have the basics.

Of course I am not always as thankful as I should be. Sometimes I get frustrated or overly stressed about money, or frustrating people, or, more often, myself. Our frustrations come from things that we cannot control- and sometimes we cannot control the fact that we are frustrated. We just have to ride it out and remind ourselves that things do not always make sense or go the way we planned...but they always work out in the end. Human beings are extremely resilient creatures- the more I study them the more I come to realize this- and there is always someone who has overcome so many more hardships that any of us today, particularly those of us in American society, can even begin to imagine.

And so we should of course be thankful for all the things we have to be thankful for.

It is funny how at certain points in your life you are so close to some people and you tend to take those people for granted. You think that they will always be a part of your life. But this isn't true- life takes us all in different directions, our paths separate to cross paths with others. We should be thankful for the times we have had with the people we are no longer close to or who are no longer with us. We should be thankful for all the people who are in our lives now. And we should be thankful for the people who will be with us in the future- even if we might not know who they are. Just think about it: there are people out there in the world right now, living their lives, who will greatly impact yours, and you have not even met them yet, you don't even know who they are. Isn't that amazing to think about? Someone you may not even know exists may save your life one day, or you may save theirs. 

One final thing I would like to say, and certainly people will disagree with this: Please do not get caught up in the Black Friday craze. Black Friday is, honestly, an embodiment of many of the things that are wrong and broken in our society. We (theoretically) spend a holiday being thankful for what we have and enjoying time with family and friends. And yet the next day so many Americans rush the stores to fight for low prices, to consume-consume-consume before our Thanksgiving meal is even fully digested. The holiday is, in reality, torn from people unfortunate enough to have to work jobs like retail or food. Even if they have Thanksgiving off (which many of them do not, as many "Black Friday" sales begin on Thursday), I am certain that many of them spend it not in thankfulness but in dread. I certainly would dread a ten hour shift on Black Friday, fighting back the crowds, dealing with angry shoppers wielding pepper spray...Our culture is remarkably hypocritical, and the next two days are certainly an embodiment of it. 

If you want to run out on Friday and buy buy buy then that's fine, I understand it. But I'm not. And I send out a mild request to everyone to just think about it. Think about all that you have to be thankful for before considering all the things you need to buy.

Oh and of course, weekly pictures. I am aware that they are not overly creative and you keep seeing the same people and creatures, but hey, this is my life at the moment, so you get me, Dominic, Mr. Kitty, Ripley, and whatever buildings I happen to like photographing :D

Just hanging out.

Dominic couldn't resist trying this!

Columbia's Mall, getting ready for Christmas- and always showing Mizzou pride.

We do still have some Fall colors.

Ripley likes to wake me up early in the morning and after I'm up and about I usually find her back in here...

And Mr. Kitty likes to sit on the one place I really don't want him to- my computer. Cats are so good at that.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Sending lots of love out to all those who may need it, and all of those people who have been a part of my life- past, present, and future.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Week 9 Almost "Break" Time

Next week is Thanksgiving (I suppose most of you probably know that). We have a whole week off here (the first time I've had a whole week off for Thanksgiving), so there will be a break from classes but no shortage of things to do...

This week is a final pre-rally rally- let's all get through this week and whatever exams or assignments are due, in order to prepare for next week: a week of working on final projects and writing papers. I have three big things to do over the nine day break: take home portion of stat exam, working on theory paper, and working on my TV show project. Oh four- finishing up my CLS application...but that shouldn't be overly time consuming (knock on wood).

While I really do enjoy classes and Thanksgiving break isn't really much of a "break", it will be nice to have a short break from classes before finishing up- I am getting to that point in the semester where I just can't focus in class like I should be. This is a serious problem in stat where focus is required for understanding...

Plus it will be nice to have a week to sleep off some stress. I've been kind of doing that this week (sleeping more than I should) and it's not yet an appropriate use of my free time.

I will be super happy when Friday afternoon rolls around, and I can take a guilt-free break Friday afternoon before delving into the whole "actually-getting-stuff-done-thing." One thing I do miss from Richmond/home is certain stress-reducing activities which I don't have here. Oh well, just have to find new ways to reduce stress like...

Getting obsessed with a Korean drama (Faith)! Technically, it counts as being productive because it's for my project but I love it way too much! It's a great escape show and is pretty much one of my new favorite things. The only thing is...the website I watch it on (Dramafever) updates my Facebook every time I watch it, so everyone gets to see when I watch an episode at 2 am. Oh well, I'm still being productive!

This show has pretty much all of my favorites things in it. History, science fiction/fantasy, super powers, romance, manly men who kick butt:

Okay, maybe he doesn't look manly but he will destroy you! 

I tried to find a badass fight video but all the youtube fan videos are romantic spoilers! Oh well, you'll have to just trust me on this one. He shanks himself then keeps on fighting.

Well, this has been a major source of enjoyment/happiness for me lately, other than these guys:

Ripley watching birds.

Dominic on his day off.

Mr. Kitty watching birds.

Our parking lot tree.

Until next week- take care everyone!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Week 8 Missouri versus Virginia: Round One

Versus is probably not the best word for the title of this blog post. I don't really consider Missouri to be in competition with Virginia. They are, naturally, different. But Virginia will always be "home", where I grew up, where I envision family, childhood, comfort and familiarity. Missouri will always be that first place I lived after "home". A second home, in some ways all my own. And of course any place I live after this will be different than Virginia and Missouri...though I feel that these two might always on some level be the two most special (most special...?). But who knows where life will float us...I certainly would not have thought mine would have floated me to Missouri.

I refer to this post as round one since we have only been here for three months. Though that sounds and feels like a long time right now, I am sure than in another six, twelve, or forty-eight months some of my thoughts and feelings on this will have changed.

Additionally, in large part this is a Columbia versus Richmond post, as I really haven't gone out of Columbia enough to pass any real judgments on Missouri. We haven't even been to St. Louis (except driving through on the move) or Kansas City yet, so there is still a lot to discover outside of this tiny town.

I will try to avoid differences that involve fundamental personal changes on my part- of course things are different in terms of my sleep schedule or leisure time. I will save that for a Pre-Grad School versus Grad School post. Maybe that will come at the end of the semester, after we all get through surviving the next few weeks!

So lets start with the place for lovers...

What's Great/Different About Richmond, Virginia

1) Family and friends: I said I wasn't going to make it overly personal but this bears saying anyway. That is something Virginia will always have going for it in my book. I do miss being able to catch a meal or a movie with any one of my parents or friends. (I also miss the Masonic Lane house! What a great hangout house...and yard...etc...)

2) Great restaurants/shops/places to go with lots of character: I'm sure Missouri/Columbia has some of this...but I haven't really found any yet... Richmond is kind of a grungy city but in a good way, like your favorite pair of old socks or a cobble-stoned street. I miss The Village, all the miscellaneous sub shops and other good but grungy little Richmond flavored eateries, like Aladdin's. Dominic and I went to a hookah bar downtown here that only just opened up (we stumbled in on its grand opening) and the hookahs were great (huge!) but it wasn't a comfy little place to hang and chat with your friends. The music was loud, the lights bright and the floors bare. It was fine for what it was, but it doesn't compare to the shady corners of Aladdin's with the funky bathroom. I know the grunge factor doesn't sound appealing, but if you know and love Richmond, you understand what that means: it's quirky, homey and has character.

3) History: Okay, I know Missouri/Columbia has history. The University is pretty old with some great buildings. But it doesn't really compare to the "Capital of the Confederacy" with its hodgepodge cobble stone streets, museums, haunted spots and cemeteries. I will definitely have to get my fix when I get home.

4) Variety: Say what you will about Virginia, but you can't really beat the benefits of having DC two hours north, the beach two hours east, and the mountains two hours west. Plus a plethora of great rivers. Whichever direction you chose to drive in, you will always have something beautiful and interesting to look at and explore.

5) Sprawl: Maybe some people don't like this, in fact I didn't realize I had an appreciation for this until moving here, but in Richmond there is something everywhere you go. Sure, sometimes it gets to a point of overkill, but in Richmond going across town actually means something. There is a huge variety of restaurants and shopping and things to do...Richmonders do not appreciate this enough. Mark my words: you don't. In Columbia, you drive 15 minutes in any direction and you are out of civilization and into fields. This is not a bad thing, just something I'm not used to. I sometimes feel confined/trapped within a five mile radius and miss the spread, sprawl and variety that is Richmond and Virginia as a whole.

6) Diversity: There are plenty of different types of people in Virginia, and I've always been a person that prefers diversity (one of the reasons I decided to go to Mason for undergrad was because it was one of the most diverse universities in the nation). Columbia/Missouri is lacking hardcore in this arena.

What's Great/Different About Columbia, Missouri

1) No traffic, lots of parking: Okay, sometimes you hit traffic...At the intersection of Providence and Stadium, sometimes if you hit it just right, you might have to wait for an extra, I don't know, three or four minutes. But for the most part there is very little traffic in Columbia, at least compared to how debilitating it can sometimes get in Richmond on bad days (or in DC on good days, ugh). Also, the drivers here are typically ridiculously chill. There are usually a couple times a day when I need to remind myself to stop driving like an east-coaster. And parking downtown is a breeze- it's heaven sent really. You never have any trouble finding a spot, can usually avoid parallel parking if you hate it (like I do) and its free everyday after 6 and all day Sunday.

2) The sky: The sky is definitely different here. It's bigger and it does some pretty impressive things. The sky is beautiful anywhere- I mean, it's the sky- but here you frequently get different brighter colors, bizarre and beautiful cloud patterns, big haloed moons and lots of flashing stars. There have been a few sunsets that were absolutely breathtaking. One was all pink and purple. Another a brilliant orange.

3) The cost of living: I think this one pretty much speaks for itself. Going along with that, for those who like a boozy night out this is the place to do it: even buying drinks out is pretty cheap compared to a night out on the town in Richmond (and again, not even gonna mention DC prices: *shudder*). Plus their liquor laws are pretty lax- the liquor store is open until 1:30 am and the selection in Hy-vee is epic.

4) Less crowds: Even on a Friday or Saturday night, Dominic and I have not had to wait in line once to get a table at a restaurant. This is huge! When we lived at Masonic we only managed to go to the Red Lobster and the Longhorn once- every other time the line was out the door. I can't even remember how many times I've been out with people and we've tried to find a table at a decent restaurant on Friday or Saturday night in Richmond. Unless it's Mexico Restaurant, it can be pretty impossible. That hasn't even been close to an issue here.

5) School spirit/Tiger Town USA: I know there are probably schools with more school spirit than Mizzou (the University of Alabama, for example) but I have not experienced them, and so the school spirit here is pretty darn epic to me. I can hardly think of a single store or restaurant that does not have at least one reference to Mizzou in it (maybe the Vietnamese Restaurant...?). Grocery store fronts are painted Mizzou colors. You can buy Mizzou gear while getting your groceries or shopping at the Dollar General or stopping for gas. You want something Mizzou themed for your house? You got it. Candy bar? Check. Bed spread and matching curtains? Got it. Baby and dog clothes? Easy. Dishes? Yup. Lamp shades? I can't think of anything not Mizzou flavored. Even better- Mizzou gear can be pretty cheap! $10 sweatshirts and 25% off on Fridays before home football games. Everywhere you go people are wearing Mizzou themed clothing. It's contagious! And I'll admit that I enjoy it. I have way more school spirit than I ever have before.

6) The downtown and feeling safe: Would be even better if I had money to spend in its tidy restaurants and cute shops, but it is still nice for a walk around. It's clean and feels very safe- in fact this whole town feels pretty safe. I have yet to stumble into a neighborhood that makes me roll my windows up and not stop at stop signs, which can happen in Richmond quite a bit. I'm fairly confident that this type of neighborhood does not exist in Columbia because, well, I've already been 15 minutes in every direction...

There are plenty of other minor things, but I think these hit the major differences that I've observed in our first three months here. This is all me: I'm sure Dominic would have different/additional things to say about it. Though we both agree on the sky.

There is a lot to love about both places- there is a lot to love about anywhere if you are open to it. In sum, I guess I mostly miss the familiarity and diversity of Virginia and I love the crisp clean beauty and small town vibe of Columbia.

One final point: people always talk/ask about the weather. So far it has been a lot like Virginia weather, and I think it will be very similar overall. The summer was sizzling hot and the fall has been all over the place. I've heard a lot of people here say "Missouri weather- you never know what's it's going to do!" I've heard and uttered this exact statement concerning Virginia weather. So Missouri winter ism't scaring me...yet ;)

So that's my big three month update. We will see what will happen in another three. This past year has been an absolute whirlwind...I still can't believe I'm in Missouri, in graduate school, and almost done with my first semester. It's absolutely insane to think about...

Happy Hump Day everyone!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Week 7 Korean TV

I thought about writing this blog on my feelings about Lucasfilm being sold to Disney for a measly (ha) 4 billion dollars. But I've decided to hold that rant for another day- maybe a day in 2015, when the (first...) movie comes out, and I can offer a perhaps more solid opinion with yet more evidence of how George Lucas has truly gone to the dark side.

Instead, I will write a little about Korean television. For some reason I have been super tired today and haven't gotten much done. In a futile attempt to make up for it I'm currently working on watching some Korean TV for a research project. This project is probably one of the things I have been spending the most time on this semester, so if anyone wants to know what I do with a good chunk of my days (I often wonder where most of my days go myself) then this is probably a big factor.

Broadly, I am looking at television as a microcosm of culture at large. That is obviously too large to make into a semester long research project, so I've scaled it down to a comparative study (for my comparative methods class) comparing US and Korean shows. I'm working on creating a database and coding for certain characteristics. Luckily I do have two undergrads helping me, but it still take a long time, because it does "require" watching every episode of each show. I am hoping to be able to do a kind of survival analysis, looking at shows that are currently running and shows that are now extinct and see if that shows anything interesting.

Even if it doesn't, I still feel like (or am just really hopeful, considering how much work I have already done on this) I could get a little baby publishable paper out of it. This department really focuses on getting some publishable material out ASAP, which is great, but also really makes you want to not be wasting your time on something that might not be publishable. It might just be a general proposal paper noting the methodology and why I think television could be useful in comparative anthropological or cultural studies.

Of course, people have studied TV before. Everything has been studied to some degree. But I'm hoping this is new in that it is a collection of a variety of different TV programs from two different cultures. The more programs and cultures you add, the more interesting things that might come out of it. What themes are present in which cultures? How do the themes differ across cultures? What about types of main characters, story lines, gender and minority representation? Really, anything you might be interested in about a culture you can get a first glance at through television.

The world is highly globalized and that is particularly evident when watching television. I notice they often use random English words ("Fighting!"), play English music (The Killers, the Beatles, you name it) and wear a lot of clothes in English (like "My Girlfriend is Sick in Bed 24-7" or a just a sweatshirt with a US cartoon character). But you can still pick up on interesting and unique cultural traits just by watching enough TV. Aside from picking up choice Korean words (like jaebol- honey- a very important term for husbands and wives) I've also noticed other interesting aspects that I am sure are indicative of something. They drink a lot in their shows- particularly, or, rather, almost always when they are upset (every episode). There seems to be a predominance of female characters, in spite of the typical ideas we have of Korean women being "subservient" to Korean men. Though often women have to make sacrifices for or because of their relationships with men or other family members. Men are remarkably persistent, even when a woman tells him she wants absolutely nothing to do with him. Status certainly plays a big role, and for some reason hotel presidents are particularly popular.

Right now I am watching a show called Little Mom Scandal. It has four women as its main characters. Two of them are high school students. One of these students gets pregnant and against all advice decides to keep the baby. The scene where her father is actually hitting her in the head when he finds out was...interesting. In fact, family members in this show are often beating each other up- to the point of actually drawing blood or bruising their younger sibling or children. The other high school student is dealing with the death of her father and the remarriage of her mother, and ends up dating a much older man because he reminds her of her dad. This show sucks me in something terrible.

I am also watching/coding US shows for this project. Of course it is more difficult to notice odd bits and pieces about your own culture (which is why we have to code for all of the same characteristics in each show). But I do notice that in American shows, characters tend to show their emotion a great deal less than in Korean shows. US culture definitely seems to be more of a bottle-it-up-men-don't-cry kind of culture. Men cry plenty in Korean television. Also- too many cop dramas, not enough awesome personal life dramas like in Korean TV. Cop dramas all are pretty much the same after a while (except for the few really unique takes on it- like Life on Mars!).

Oh and a great thing about Korean TV- the series always finishes! Even if there is only one "season" (seasons are structured a little differently) that season typically completes a story. No cliffhangers (after watching The Nine Lives of Chloe King for this project, I wanted to punch someone, anyone, related to that show in the face) and a complete wrap up. I LOVE that.

One of the major issues in looking at television though, is if it is actually an accurate portrayal of a nation's culture. Certainly I Love Lucy might not have been directly translatable into most people's real lives during its run (much less the real life of the people in it). However, I think it is inarguable that TV is a representation of a culture- even if it hides or alters some things. The fact that something might be hidden in itself represents something, doesn't it? A culture whose television show strictly avoids sexual topics for example would likely find sex to be a taboo topic...

It is not exactly taboo in Korean culture...but this is interesting. In Little Mom Scandal two of the women work at a type of...brothel? It is not really a brothel, because the women do not have sex with their clients...yet it has been raided by the police and is considered a taboo job. They dress up in particular costumes and the men certainly do seem to get off in one way or another. But I can't quite figure out what's going on there. When one of the women transfers to a different "brothel" (definitely not the right word) to make more money (she is paying for her mother's hospital bills) and the man starts groping her, she completely freaks. The new places seems to require more from their girls than the other place, but I still haven't figured out exactly what. These places seem fairly common though, as similar locations have appeared in other shows, but I have yet to figure out exactly what they are.

If this has in any way made you itch to watch some Korean TV there are quite a few shows on Netflix, but you can also watch for free on this great site- DramaFever. After a few episodes I have been able to get into pretty much any Korean show I've watched so far, but I'm one of those people who can watch anything, so the same might not be true for you. I am not ashamed though- I freakin' love Little Mom Scandal. This show keeps me up at night- because once I start I can't stop watching it!

Well I still need to leave you with some photos, so here are a few. I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!

The dead. 

 Vietnamese food in my favorite restaurant in Columbia so far.

Here's the outside.

Since my hair is long enough now, I've been straightening it...

The Missouri sky and moon do strange things...