School Updates

I’ve been relatively quiet recently, and that’s mostly because my qualifying exams were a couple of weeks ago. My program is structured so that we take 30 credit hours our first year and then quals in mid May. I’m very happy to say that I passed quals with distinction!

This summer, I’ll be staying here at Columbia, mostly doing research. My project currently is about the relationship between the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the 11 year solar cycle. I’m going to hold off on saying too much about this for now, but I’ll probably write a good deal about it in a few months.

Remembering Beginnings

I’m working on writing up my math autobiography. It’s a significant task because the story spans so many years and different types of experiences, so it’s far from done. However, it meant that I noticed that this past week included the eight year and seven year anniversaries of two pretty big milestones in my academic development. I wanted to commemorate those here. Continue reading

April 19th: Bearing Witness

You ask me why I wear black today, why I mourn today, why I keep a time of silence today.

You ask me why, and you don’t know what I mean when I say, “I’m from Oklahoma City.”

What I mean is that I grew up in the shadow. In the shadow of a tree that still stands. In the shadow of 168 white chairs across a lawn. In the shadow of two gates that mark before and after: 9:01 am, 9:03 am.

I grew up in the shadow of the Memorial; I grew up in the shadow of the bombing.

I was a girl who held onto numbers tightly, and among the numbers that I learned from childhood were these: 168 lives, 19 children, 9:02 am. There are 168 chairs for 168 lives, 19 of them smaller for the 19 children. There are 168 seconds of silence, every year, 9:02 am Central time.

That is when the bomb went off; that is when Oklahoma City changed forever.

Two years ago, at his speech at the 20th Anniversary Memorial Service, FBI Director James Comey said, “But it is not the moment that defines us. It is not the act itself that shapes our destiny. It is what comes next.”

I grew up in the shadow, but I also grew up in the light. The light of what came next. The light of what still comes next.

This is the story of my city, light emerging from darkness. And by virtue of this being the story of my city, it is my story.

And so today I remember. I remember the scar, though it heals. I wear the scar on this day. I honor what was lost; I honor what has grown in my lifetime.

This is for you, OKC. Continue reading

2017 Reading Challenge Update 1

We’re a quarter of the way through a year, so I thought I’d give an update on where I am in various reading challenges.

Read Harder

I’ve read at least one book for twelve of the twenty-four categories, but for two of those I’ve only read picture books satisfying the prompt. I’d like to get non picture books for each category, so with that metric I’m at ten of the twenty-four categories.

2017 Diversity Bingo

I’ve read at least one book for nineteen of the thirty-six categories. All of these are satisfied by a non picture book. For a while I only had all the categories I’d read in if I double counted a book; now I have the nineteen without double counting. I actually don’t have a bingo on the card yet, though. (I have clearly not been strategic in my reading order. :P)

Queer 52

I’d read four books on this list previously, so I’ve added four to it to get back up to 52. Those four are Corinne Duyvis’s Otherbound, Riley Redgate’s Noteworthy, Lucas Hargis’s If Found Return to Astropop (if it comes out this year?), and Jaye Robin Brown’s Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruits. 

So far, I’ve read Otherbound and seven books from the main list. That means I’m at eight out of fifty-two, so I’m definitely behind on this challenge (by five books, in fact). I have read all the books I currently own from the list, though, so from here I’ll be either buying new books or checking out from the library.

Reading What’s Currently On My Kindle

So I didn’t start paying attention to this until this past week, so it’s not so much a status update as a statement of a new challenge. I have at least seventy-five books in English on my Kindle that I haven’t read. I acquire new such books at a mildly alarming rate. I’d like to get this number much, much lower and keep it low.

United Methodist Women Reading Program

This is another one that I’m behind on. The list has five categories, and I’d like to read at least two books from each category (and as many books on the list as possible generally). I’ve read one book on the list so far.

But the Curtain Falls

Below the fold is one of the oddest reviews I’ve ever written, but it’s what came out when I started writing about Joffrey Ballet’s performance of Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo and Juliet tonight. I’ll post a more conventional review in the next couple of days, which will say more about the dancers and what I think worked and didn’t. This is mostly about the story Pastor chose to tell. It is not an easy ballet to watch. Continue reading

Another Trip to Verona

The day before I went to see New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker, I wrote a post about how much the ballet meant to me. It’s the ballet I’ve been in and seen the most, the ballet that I’ve seen the most companies perform, the ballet of which I’ve seen the highest number of different choreographies.

But I love the ballet that comes in second in all of those categories just as much. Differently, because it doesn’t dominate my memories of a month the way that Nutcracker means December to me, but it’s still a deep, difficult-to-describe love that has led me to do dramatic and unreasonable things.

Romeo and Juliet.

Okay, look, before you say anything, I don’t like the play very much. I don’t think it’s one where Shakespeare is at his best in terms of language or telling a story, and I have patience for none of the characters. (In particular, Friar Lawrence and the Nurse should both act more responsibly than they do.)

But all of that fades away for me in the ballet. I believe the relationship between Romeo and Juliet more, no matter where on the lust to love spectrum it is portrayed (and I’ve seen it at both extremes). All the key relationships come through better to me in dance, to tell the truth. The omissions and simplifications to the story strengthen it, and the time spent on Verona and its people gives a stronger sense of place and shows how the feud touches everything. And then there’s Prokofiev’s score, of which I know and love every note.

As Meg Howrey wrote in The Cranes Dance, “I would argue that the ballet is better than the play. If you disagree, it’s only because you’ve never seen the balcony scene pas de deux or you are made of igneous rock.”

I have seen or performed in Romeo and Juliet nine times. I’ve seen six choreographies performed by five companies, without counting what I’ve seen on film. (And in this case the ones I’ve seen on film are important because I’ve never seen the Macmillan, Cranko, or Lavrovsky versions live, and those are the three.) I wrote a paper and gave a presentation in college that were mostly excuses to talk about how important in ballet history and how perfect R&J is.

While living in Budapest for a semester, I timed weekend trips to Bratislava and Prague so that I could see the ballet companies there perform R&J. I went to Oklahoma City from Boston for a weekend to see Oklahoma City Ballet’s new R&J production, and about a year later I went to Toronto for less than twenty-four hours solely to see National Ballet of Canada do Ratmansky’s choreography. When I say I’ve done dramatic and unreasonable things for the sake of this ballet? The international and/or hundreds of miles of travel is what I’m talking about.

In comparison to that, buying my tickets for the Joffrey’s performance of Romeo and Juliet at Lincoln Center on the day they went on sale four months ago? That’s normal. And now, finally, that performance is this week.

I cannot wait to hear the familiar opening notes of Prokofiev’s overture and see the curtain rise, once again, on Verona.

NYCB Rodgers, February 24

NYCB’s All Rodgers program included three pieces by Richard Rodgers. First was Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance), using music from the musical Carousel. The next piece was Peter Martins’s Thou Swell to a variety of Rodgers songs with lyrics mainly by Lorenz Hart. The final piece was George Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, from the Rodgers and Hart musical On Your Toes. Continue reading