The Book Thief Stole My Time

I am not going to say the recent film adaptation of The Book Thief was a bad movie.  I’m just saying that in my expectations that it would be as good as the book, I walked out feeling like my time had been vampire’d because I could have waited to let it come out on video and been just as well off.

First off, I do recommend The Book Thief as a book.  I had originally shied away from it because coming of age stories in Nazi Germany with the obligatory hidden Jew element are, frankly, almost a cliché.  Been there, read that.  When I finally picked up the book and read it, I ate a bit of crow because while this may have some of the necessary ingredients for the same old same old, it is put together in a way that made it a fabulous read.

What I should have realized before I saw the film was that what I love about the book are the little details, and the awesome narrator.  If anything is sacrificed in a film, it is the details, and narrators are usually under-utilized.  So, clearly, I was doomed.

Of course, being doomed in this way won’t stop me from complaining.  For the narrator, I will only say that the narrator of the book was one of my favorite narrators in any book I’ve ever read.  Full of insight and dark humor.  I can more or less forgive the drastically reduced role the narrator plays as I know that it can be tricky handling narration on film without the whole thing sucking.  I’ll grudgingly give the film a pass on this.

I’m not giving on the details, though.  Not completely.  There are some that, okay, fine, so the house didn’t fit the description completely.  And the random German words were minimized.  I can live with that.

But I  maintain that other details do matter.  When an author specifically calls out the main character’s eye color, and does so in terms connected to the time and setting (the author specified that Liesel had “dangerous” brown eyes.  Kinda mattered in Germany at the time), maybe the filmmakers ought not to go dead opposite (we’re talking full on Elijah-Wood-hobbit-ass big baby blues).  Really, there’s a detail that’s not too much to ask, in my opinion.  Also, if you are going to insert a death scene in the film that was not shown in the book?  Do not give it to a person who, while all right enough on screen otherwise, cannot actually act a decent death scene (if you watch, you will know this one when you see it.  It screams out for a whole new award category for Most Terrible Death Scene That Should Not Even Be In The Film). But the real kicker was a seemingly tiny change that I am sure the film makers thought nothing of, but which changes a fundamental element.  In the book, Liesel has an innate gift with words.  She struggles with reading and writing, but actually forming sentences and choosing how to describe something she does without any help or assistance, and does remarkably well.  She does not necessarily realize it is a gift until it is pointed out to her by another character, but it already exists in her.  In the film, rather than having her produce the description on her own, they chose to have that other character coach her to better describe something.  Totally killed a fundamental for me.  There is a difference between doing something naturally and having someone coach you to do it.

I hated that moment.

All that said, the costumes were great, and I appreciated that they did retain a modest amount of the little German words and phrases thrown throughout the book (which I totally ate up).  And there were some fantastic performances from the cast (bad, unnecessary death scene notwithstanding).  It’s the first time that I’ve watched a movie with Geoffrey Rush where he didn’t creep  me out (not saying he’s been bad in other things, just that I’ve found him creepy–on that list of people I don’t want to meet in a dark alley, like Christopher Lee).

Since it was in such a limited theater release in my area before the holidays, I assume that by now, I probably don’t need to warn anyone not to pop for theater prices, but if you see it screening, go see something like The Hobbit instead and wait for this one to come out on Netflix.

Or, just read the book.

Index this Time Vampire

Okay, so I said I would tell you why I’ve sucked at posting so badly of late. Truth is there are a lot of factors; I have time vampire ideas to last me quite some time. And since I will inevitably run into a lack of inspiration soon, we’re going to drag them out as long as I can. This week’s vampire: Indexing.

You’ve all used a book index before; it’s how you get valuable information out of unnecessarily dense books without having to read the whole damn thing. We’re grateful for indices, we’re glad they exist. But someone has to put them together.

Despite all our wondrous technology, someone has to come up with a list of important terms throughout the text. Then you have to reconcile said terms. Then you have to search every page of the nearly 300 page text for that term. Big publishers contract someone to do that for them (this is actually a way several intentional communities raise money) but mine just relies on free grad student labor (read: me).

So yeah, that’s where I’ve been. I’ll never use an index without whispering a prayer of support for the poor bastard who put it together.

Time Vampires On Ice

Mother Nature decided to upset my plans to address the time suck that is Sims FreePlay in favor of her own particularly nasty sort of time destroyer.

February.  Winter.  Weather.

My location got slammed today.  I’ve been through plenty of Midwest winter weather before, but this was slightly more impressive than previous situations.

My work location rarely shuts down.  While my new boss would have been pretty understanding if I’d opted to work from home, I decided to go in prepared to bunk at my desk over-night.  I travel with a sleeping bag in the trunk in the winter anyway, so I grabbed some clothes, a toothbrush and a few DVDs and headed out.  There was nothing on the ground and barely any flakes at all wafting through the air even after I’d arrived at work

About an hour later, the ground was totally covered.  Despite my plans to just stay overnight if it didn’t let up, I was pressured to go ahead and leave for home around 9:15.  So, with what had come to about 6 inches or so of snow and white out conditions, I inched home.

My normal 15-20 minute trip took significantly longer.  Plows couldn’t keep up, more than once I wasn’t sure where the road even was and–this was the worst of all–there were a lot of morons in rear wheel drive pick-ups who seemed to think they would be able to drive regular speeds in what was by that point about 8-9 inches of snow.  At one point in the journey, I had to scoot between two trucks that were doing 360s on either side of the main thoroughfare.  Stopping wasn’t an option because we’d already reached a point where, while I could still drive, the snow was scraping the underside of my little car–to stop and wait could mean I would be stuck.

At 10:30, I was coming up my side street.  All was going well until I got right up to my house.  Some jack-ass had parked a car in front of the house just before my driveway.  Going around that car resulted in my loss of momentum and the right angle to make it up the drive.  I hail-Mary’d the car into the snowdrift at the foot of the drive and proceeded to get out in the still-falling snow and begin digging a path to the garage, and trying to extricate the car.  It was something of a losing battle because by the time I’d cleared one track down the drive to the bottom, there was about an inch covering the recently cleared path at the top.

It was after noon before the car was in and I was able to take off my frozen-still jeans and jump in a shower to thaw my icicle-laden hair.  By that time my place of work had sent out the final notices shutting down all but the most essential functions and ordering people home–a very rare situation, I assure you.  I’m not sure they would have let me bunk in the office as I’d planned.

The worst part was, I had almost this exact same experience years ago in February (from the treacherous drive home, all the way to the hurling of my car into the snow drift at the base of the drive–though in that case it wasn’t because I was dodging an ill-parked Camry.

Four hours, frozen away in a drift of snow.  And that’s just the beginning.  Tomorrow, I’ll be re-clearing the drive after the snow that continued to fall.  And we were also facing the icky possibility of freezing rain on top of it all.  That means tomorrow morning, I’ll be ditching more time to extricate myself and my car from the garage, and no doubt road conditions will be less than stellar, meaning a slower drive in.

My Texas ass really loathes this sub-zero sucker of time.

Stacking Time Vampires

I made the huge, life changing mistake of downloading a Tetris-like game on my phone.

Remind me again how Tetris didn’t come with a warning label?  How is it not classified as a highly addictive substance?

It’s been ages since I last played this one.  In fact, it was at a gathering with my cousins more than 5 years ago.  Four of us had been perusing the Target clearance end-caps and we found this Tetris game that plugged straight into the TV.  The rest of the weekend, a whole crowd of us was clustered around the TV either playing, or volunteering suggestions to players (there was trash talking too, of course).

Now, years later, I lost most of an evening trying to beat a high score, swearing copiously as I got a rash of those screwy offset squares that I can never deal with–you know the one, take the top two squares of a 4-square box and shift it over….instant crap.  The fact that I just digressed to describing the piece I hate ought to be a clue as too how far gone I’ve been playing this frakkin’ thing.

Another win for a useless (but entertaining) destroyer of time.

Time Vampires Blow!

I know it appears I have been neglecting my blog-y duties, but I would like to make it clear to everyone that it is not my fault I have missed two out of my last three posts. I really did try to write a post for Friday. In fact, I did write a post for Friday, it’s just I kept falling asleep while writing it. The third time I woke up in front of my computer and realized it was 3am, I decided no one was going to be up to read it anyway. I intended to get it posted early the next morning, but then there was cooking that needed done and…

Sunday, Downton Abbey kicked me in the shins. Hard. And I still posted. Sorta.

Tuesday, oh Tuesday. I know bad weather has been a time vampire before. I’m fairly sure tornado warnings have even made an appearance. What I don’t think we’ve talked about before is tornado warnings in fucking January! I was running late on writing my post, for various reasons, but I was just about to pour myself a glass of wine and sit down to write it when my phone starts making a godawful noise. My roommate came down to see what was going on and I checked it. It was a fucking tornado warning. I knew we were under a watch from the front coming through, but a warning is a different thing.

Now we know I have an underdeveloped self-preservation instinct. I’m not going to lie, my planned course of action was to bring my laptop downstairs, pour my wine, and write my post (way safer than doing it from my bed upstairs). But when I noticed roommate getting out the cat carriers I realized she had other plans. To my credit, I followed her lead seamlessly enough I think she didn’t notice I was not planning to run from the tornado.

We got the cats in the carriers, threw on some shoes, and went to the basement of the building next door. Said basement is composed of two rooms—the laundry room and the room full of storage lockers. Roommate decided that the latter was safer, so we trudged in there. There we discovered some neighbors we have never met and their kitty. Four humans, three cats, one narrow little passage. Nothing but a hard linoleum floor to sit on. And nothing to do but sit. And wait. Awkwardly. For the next hour. One hour of thinking, “Why didn’t I grab a sweater? Why was tonight the night I washed my hair? Uh oh… I think you can see my nips through my pajama top… Forget the sweater, why didn’t I grab the wine bottle?” And there we sat till 2am. Ugh.

So no, after all that I didn’t write a blog post. Truth be told I chugged my wine and went to bed.

Portrait of a Time Vampire Part II: The Camera Returns

While I know I’ve acknowledged this time vampire before, the pesky little thing has come back around again–with a vengeance.

Last time down I bonded with a koala I named Lloyd.  This is not Lloyd.

Last time down I bonded with a koala I named Lloyd. This is not Lloyd.

In the wake of my huge holiday trip, I have pictures.

Lots and lots of pictures.

I am ashamed to say we’re talking not dozens, not hundreds but…thousands.  Of which I’m anticipating maybe 12 will be any good (when you don’t have skills, you wind up hoping the quantity will yield at least a handful of shots of quality).

Of course, to find those 12, I have to sort through the whole lot.  It took me a month to take all these things, but this time vampire of sorting through them promises to take a lot longer.  This is only a problem because I still have people I work with who are asking when I’m going to bring pictures to share.  I’d kinda thought the requests would taper off–after all who really wants to see anyone else’s vacation photos?  They’re just being polite, right?  Apparently not.  And I’m a little worried about what people are going to think when I don’t hurry up and bring something for them to see…

If you only know how many photos of New Zealand I had like this, you'd understand why I have no clue where on the South Island this was...

If you only knew how many photos of New Zealand I had like this, you’d understand why I have no clue where on the South Island this was…

Since I wasted too much time tonight on battling this time vampire (at least two hours of deleting just the total crap images–out of focus, over or under exposed, and I just barely started sorting the “readily viewable” from the “need cropping/touch up”–oh and the “WTF was this?!?” set), you may have noticed that I have once again attempted to distract you from the short length of this post with (semi) pretty pictures.

(Did it work?  Are you distracted?  No?  Yeah, well, consider having looked at this post a time vampire all your own.)

Lots of local school kids were out learning to wind surf right before they got out for December break in the Aussie town where I spent most of the holidays.

Lots of local school kids were out learning to wind surf right before they got out for December break in the Aussie town where I spent most of the holidays.


Time Vampire: Finding Money

Some years ago I interned at a large cultural institution I’m not going to name. One of the most important, and horrifying, lessons I learned there was that whether I went into academia or the public sector, half my time was going to be spent trying to find money. The nature of my chosen profession is that there just isn’t a lot of money in it. Government institutions are underfunded and universities are too busy funneling every available dollar into their athletics programs. That means that if you want to do research, you’re going to have to find a grant or fellowship out there to cover it.

I’m supposed to be writing my dissertation right now. I’ve gotten next to nothing done. Part of that is procrastination, and part of that is letting myself get sucked into doing jobs which should go to other people. But a big part of it is that I’ve been tracking down and applying for fellowships and grants. Thus far, I have been turned down for every one. That was a good use of my time.

Keep in mind I’m out of funding through my department, so next year I’m unemployed. Not only is no one going to give me money to go to Oregon and do research in some archives, no one’s going to give me money to pay my rent either.

So I’m stuck now: Do I continue devoting my time to tracking down obscure grants, praying that no other underfunded grad students are doing the same? Or do I actually write my dissertation in the hopes of just getting out of here and getting a grown up job? Because, of course, the faster I write the less money I need. The more grants I spend time applying for, the more grants I need. Ugh.

It’s a self-sustaining time vampire.

Unpacking a Time Vampire

My time suck this week?  Unpacking.

Packing gets plenty of credit for the amount of time it Hoover’s out of your life, but unpacking is just as time consuming and it comes with the added negative hit of NOT having an exciting trip to follow it.

I’ve been back home for a week now, and I’m still not completely done with this chore.  Some of this is just my procrastination, but some is the pure time involved.  I had summer clothes packed, so now I have no real motivation to move quickly here.  Do I want to put the clean stuff up straight away?  It got kind of wrinkled, should I iron it before storing it?  Then there’s the dirty clothes, not enough to make a load yet, so I’m waiting on more to add to the pile–in the meantime, it’s lumped into one of the two suitcases.

Then there’s the placement of the other stuff.  Souvenirs linger in the suitcase until I figure out where I want to put them.  Toiletries are half un-packed with the items I need regularly already back on the counter while the travel-only things are in the half-emptied toiletry bag….

I’ll get it cleared out eventually.  In the meantime, it’s sucking little bits of time here and there as I whittle away at the explosion of crap in the middle of the room.

If I drag it out long enough, I’ll be partially packed for my next big journey.




Dizzy Time Vampire Part II

So… I haven’t been good about this “keeping the blog going while Cammy’s in another hemisphere” thing. While this is really because I’m a lazy procrastinator, I’m going to blame it on this week’s time vampire.

About a year and a half ago, I blogged about vertigo as a time vampire. I complained that it made it impossible to do anything and all I could do was lie in bed and watch costume dramas on Netflix. Well I’ve discovered something worse: having vertigo and not being able to lie around doing nothing.

Yeah, my vertigo came back a few weeks ago. The upside is, this time I have a diagnonsense—eustachian tube dysfunction aggravated by an upper respiratory virus. Yeah, I viral infection I totally didn’t notice until the doctor pointed it out. I’d like to pretend it’s surprising that I could have an illness like that and not notice, but… yeah, it’s not at all. So a diagnosis is nice and all, but it’s not a cure. I was given a decongestant and something to help the dizziness. Well the latter did nothing but knock me out. I’m not sure the former did a whole lot more besides make me even more dizzy (listed as possible side effect) and make me drink a shit ton of water.

And the worst part of all of this is, it happened during crunch time. The end of the semester. Right as I was receiving sixty-one 8-12pp final papers. (Almost literally, it started an hour or so before.) So I couldn’t lie around in bed and do nothing. Instead I spent the weekend parked on my couch grading papers. I got through a lot. I’m not sure I did the best job of grading ever, to be honest, but I don’t think my students noticed. If anything I erred on their side, and no one ever complains about getting a grade that’s too good.

But that was all I did. I didn’t decorate for Christmas. I didn’t get any of my own work done. I didn’t even cook meals. Needless to say there was no socializing.

It sucked!

I found I’m actually very efficient in these situations. But efficiency is not the same as quality. I got all my Christmas gifts purchased, but I’m not going to pretend any of them are great. I got to my parents’ for the holiday, but I left my own home a wreck.

So maybe vertigo is more of a quality vampire than a time vampire.

All I know is I’m ready for it to end.

Time Vampire: Everything that’s not my Dissertation

As you’re no doubt sick of hearing, I took my PhD qualifying exams this semester. One of the things about the quals process is it leaves you so sick of everything you had to do for them that you’re super eager to have it behind you so you can finally start your dissertation. Knowing I’m someone who thrives under deadlines, I have myself a fairly compressed schedule for my dissertation. I’m supposed to start serious writing in January. If you aren’t paying attention, that’s four weeks from now.

So how’s it going? Well… I haven’t started. I don’t mean I haven’t started writing, I mean I haven’t started anything. Haven’t so much as cracked a book. And while I know some of it’s me being a slacker, most of it is that my life just won’t seem to let me.

First I was behind at all three of my jobs because of taking quals.

Then I had grant proposals due (For grants I didn’t get. Joy.).

Then I had a course proposal due (Which was rejected. Joy.).

Then there were papers that needed grading.

Then I got in hot water with the faculty over other people not doing their jobs.

Then I got severe vertigo.

Then it was the end of semester crunch.

And here we are. The real kicker is that several of those things were done with the hope of paying my bills while I write this here dissertation, and they won’t be doing that.

And at this rate I won’t be writing my dissertation either.