I live in a lovely, pungent and adventurous district of Ho Chi Minh City. My favorite café ) strews birdseed outside the café on the “sidewalk.” I say “sidewalk” in quotes because the sidewalk is so small, so crowded with motorbikes and food stands, that it’s really more of a slightly-raised shoulder than a sidewalk.

But the sidewalk in front of my café is covered with birdseed, and so it shines a wholesome yellow in the sun, and when the rains roll back the birds fly in, little brown ones happily pecking away. When I walk through them, they rush up right in front of my face. This is probably the favorite part of my day.

Not My Favorite Coffee Shop

Oh, silly me! This isn't my favorite coffee shop, its a sign of the apocalypse.

When I sit here, drinking strong, strong coffee and lotus tea, I think of the only thing that could make this scene more perfect: storytelling. But I have no idea where to go to hear a good story.

Where do you go to hear stories nowadays? Read the rest of this entry »

The other day I was talking with one of my best friends about academia. And how it kills absolutely everything it touches. You like Dickens? Take a class on him, that’ll fix that problem. You’re a fan of writing about and analyzing interesting cultural phenomena? Go to grad school, so you can learn to write so well you’ll be unintelligible. Want to share ideas with like-minded people? Learn how to speak jargon so well that you’ll never be understood by humanoid life forms again.

Image Credit: http://cyrano.blog.lemonde.fr/2008/01/20/jorge-luis-borges-foresaw-the-internet/

You too can speak like a library with lungs, just like Borges!

Ah, sweet academia. Being outside it – at last? finally? unfortunately? – feels odd to me. For the first time in a long while, I find myself outside a scholarly community, living in “the real world,” even if only for two years, after which time I shall go to grad school and become a Slave to Academia once more. But this little respite prompts me to ask: is academia useful? For studying fairy tales? Folklore? Does studying something actually partially destroy it, as I’ve suggested elsewhere?

First of all, before you even say it: yes, I agree. Academics need to make themselves – and their work – more accessible. It’s part of the reason why I write this blog, and why I write it the way that I do. I write about what I’m working on, and I write to be read. Understood. Much though I love certain academic thinkers, they specialize in being obscure. Like Lacan! Reading Lacan is like doing mind-gymnatics: how well can you perform on the balance beam? Can you do a triple flippy thingy? Those who cannot do a triple-flippy-thingy are abject failures whose minds are worthless. Or so the prevailing attitude goes.

Some people seem to think of academia the way that Miranda Priestly thinks about fashion. Click here to listen to Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada explain it all, as she rants at her assistant for not caring about fashion. But fashion actually controls us all!

For those international viewers who can’t watch the clip, I’ve copy/pasted the relevant text here: Read the rest of this entry »

There are just so many fairy tale film adaptations happening nowadays that adding another one seems like crazy talk. But adding another one we are.

Dorothy of Oz, an animated sequel to The Wizard of Oz, is coming soon to a theater near you. True, an Oz-sequel has already been done, 1985’s Return to Oz. It was quirky, it had spunk…and it fell just a *little bit short* of being good. But! Dorothy of Oz looks promising.

Dorothy of Oz Concept Art 1

She also looks like Lea Michele

So what’s the story about, and why does it have potential? Read the rest of this entry »

Yes I am. Ask my mom. Ever since I was five years old I’ve had the same, threefold dream: get a job, become financially independent and get an apartment. Now, at the ripe old age of 22, I have fulfilled my lifelong dream. Ha! And it feels awesome.

Sure, I’ve had other dreams. Ever since I was 12 – which was when I spoke my first words of German – I knew that I wanted to be German professor. But this was a dream which could only be realized after the primary objective was attained: Independence. That was my dream. And now that I’ve got it, my dream has expanded: enjoy it. Protect it.

More than one of my friends has called me a nutcase for being so obsessed with being able to take care of myself by myself. But you see, it’s not my fault. I blame the fairy tales. Specifically Young Adult novels based on fairy tales. Especially those written by Donna Jo Napoli.

Napoli was one of the defining authors of my early years. It was her, Leon Uris, and Charles Dickens (weird, weird mix). And the book which I remember most from that time is Napoli’s excellent Rapunzel-retelling, Zel.

Cover for the Paperback Edition of 'Zel'

This + Exodus + A Tale of Two Cities = 10 Year Old Me

I have a very clear memory of reading this book. I was in my elementary school’s library, which was purple, and had hulking green Apple computers. Read the rest of this entry »

My mother is pretty much the most awesome human being ever. The worst thing about living in Việt Nam is being away from her. I keep coming back to one especially fond – and recent – memory of the two of us together.

It was during the last winter vacation I had, in December 2009. I was busy being super lazy; I was supposed to be researching for my thesis, but I’d had enough of obscure Finnish poems. So I hunkered down with a quilt and watched *the entirety* of the SyFy channel’s Merlin Series 1 marathon. That’s about ten straight hours of Merlin. My mom watched it with me, and we laughed a lot about how Merlin looks like a scared deer.

Merlin: Scardest Deer in the History of Ever

Like Bambi, but British.

Ah, Merlin. He is forever being too clumsy to live. He goes about banging into brooms, dropping vials of Important Potions, and stuttering every time he’s caught doing something Sneakily Magical. Happens every episode. I should know, I watched them all in a giant chunk. And when do you do something like that, patterns stick out to you. This sort of clumsiness doesn’t just happen in Merlin, it happens in *so many fantasy adaptations.* Why? Read the rest of this entry »

Oh, Việt Nam, how I love you. You are a lovely place to live, and I’ve even gotten used to the heat. I’m typing this in my favorite café on An Dương Vương, which has no AC. Though there are fans. The café also strews birdseed on the sidewalk in front of it, and when the sun comes out everything glows in wholesome gold. When I walk into the café, birds fly up in front of my face, and feathers drift to the ground, all lazy in the heat.

I’ve found the right café, that’s certain. The coffee is good, and it’s about a two minute walk from my apartment. However, despite living in an area teeming with bookstores, I have yet to find the right one.

I have very specific requirements for a bookstore. The first is that it have books in English. The second is that these books must be a mix between popular fiction and classics. The third – and trickiest – is that the selection must include Vietnamese books translated into English.

It’s the third one that kills me. There are plenty of stores with books in English; one of them, a mere fifteen minute walk from my place, features nothing but English-language materials. But no one bothers to translate Vietnamese books into English. This is perhaps undertandable. The average American/British traveler may not be interested in poetry during the reign of Gia Long. But gosh darnit, I am.

So the other day I broke down and ordered some books from Amazon and Magers and Quinn, my favorite stateside bookstore. I opted for a dual-language edition of the poetry of Hồ Xuân Hương, and another bilingual edition of Vietnamese feminist poets.

My interests: they are obscure. But I really can’t wait for the last one…apparently it contains some oral poetry! Though how one can know the gender of the authors – if there even *are* authors – of oral poetry is a mystery to me. But I hope the anthology is interesting reading! It’d better be; shipping books to Việt Nam is a really quick way to break the bank. Oy vey.

So, this was actually announced back in April, but it was announced so quietly that I missed it. That, and I was eyeballs-deep in a giant pile of thesis papers at the time. But you heard it here first (sort of): There will be another Wicked Years book, and it will be the last in the series.

The book apparently opens with Glinda under house arrest. Well that, at least, is good! I was wondering where Glinda was in “A Lion Among Men.” I hated that book. Maguire can do so much better. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, and I will definitely read the book whenever it comes out.

Son of a Witch Book Cover

Something Wicked This Way Comes. Let's hope it's wicked good.

Find out what I hope happens in the book, after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

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