Monthly Archives: December 2014

Capstone Adventures: The Fault in Our Stars Fanfiction

For some strange reason, people really like this book, so it was really hard to find good memes. Please go read  Shakespeare's Julius Caesar instead, which this novel's title stems from.

For some strange reason, people really like this book, so it was really hard to find good memes. Please go read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar instead, which this novel’s title stems from. It’s free, and you can find it here

Way back in March when I had decided on what my honors college capstone was going to be about, I knew that in talking about postmodern popular culture I had to talk about a contemporary popular book. This was right around the time when the The Fault in Our Stars movie was coming out, and I was really interested as to why so many people were interested in this young adult fiction novel. In my project proposal, I said I wanted to talk about how the mythology of death figures into the story, and left it to revisit in the fall after writing the first essay about Kanye West. As part of my research, I read the novel (and really really really disliked it, but that isn’t the point of this post) and some Roland Barthes and started to think about what I was going to write about.

In one of my many really interesting and enlightening conversations with my capstone advisor, I brought up the idea of how today’s readers engage with texts in unprecedented ways, one of which is writing fanfiction and posting it to an online forum. We both thought it was a really fascinating phenomenon, and after three different incarnations of a draft over the past two months, I turned in the final paper this past Sunday night. Ultimately, I talked about how The Fault in Our Stars fanfiction writers’ collective creativity is stifled by the digital structures of the forums they use, specifically, and how there are socially and digitally constructed limits on what these writers can and cannot do.

As you might imagine, this was quite the adventure.

Delving into the fanfiction community was a very interesting experience, to say the least.

I know a few people who write and read fanfiction, but this was brand new territory for me. I spent a lot of time combing through The Fault in Our Stars fanfiction to see what these people were writing about, and what their community is like. (Their community is imagined, but it is still sort of a community by digital constraints.) Culling information and data for this paper was really difficult, because so much of fanfiction operates under anonymity.

I also read a lot of scholarship about why people write and read fanfiction, and that was interesting too. I’m sure that they probably wouldn’t appreciate my paper or my ideas, but that’s part of the deal in doing research.

 I have an entirely new understanding of the postmodern reading experience. 

I’ve read quite a few books, and while there were a couple where I wished for more story, I’ve never felt the inclination to write more about them. A lot of fanfiction writers in the The Fault in Our Stars camp really wanted more story, especially about the main characters and their intertwining lives. I had to read stories about unplanned pregnancies, imagined conversations, and even one where Hazel met the Doctor from Doctor Who. It was really wild and interesting research, and I was definitely on the outside looking in. With the advent of the Internet, it is very easy for people who are dying for these extensions of the story to write/find them. All in all, I’ve come to understand that fanfiction is a valuable source of information for theorists and researchers who are interested in reader engagement and what makes something culturally significant. Even though the paper is done, I’m still thinking about what I found.

Writing about things where there is very little research done for you already is both fun and difficult.

Despite being a very popular fanfiction website, I found only one source that briefly mentioned it. A lot of what I found about fans and fandom weren’t expressly about fanfiction, so most of my paper is all me. This was cool but also very very hard. I had to make it work, and I think I did okay for having a limited amount of time.

The spirit of Tim Gunn was most definitely with me.

The spirits of Tim Gunn and making it work were most definitely with me. This is also how I felt after accidentally stumbling on really smutty fanfiction.

My next and final paper will be on NBC’s Community, which I am “researching” by rewatching the whole series over again and analyzing how the series incorporates meta. Will that paper actually be about meta, considering my track record with the previous two papers? Probably not, but we’ll see how it goes.

Want to discuss fanfiction? Let’s talk about it in the comments.



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Link Party: 12/22-12/26

A view of school most people don't see.

A view of school most people don’t see.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. New Yorkers asked the New York Public Library some crazy things pre-Google.

2. 550 musicians were asked Lennon or McCartney, and I’m actually surprised by the results.

3. This is what Christmas dinner at the White House looks like.

4. Jeb Bush’s emails were almost as fascinating as the Sony ones.

5. William Faulkner drew some pretty cool things. This is old, but I fell down a Faulkner rabbit hole after finishing The Sound and the Fury.

And a bonus: The Replacements recorded a 26-minute jazz piece, and it’s kind of incredible.

Happy holidays, and have a great weekend!

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A Wild World of Words: “Invictus”

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

-Invictus, William Ernest Henley

A friend told me about this poem awhile ago, and I revisited it last week. What I like most about this poem is the idea of independence, and a person being so inherently incredible that all he or she needs is the self. I think the last two lines are my favorite part. The power of ABAB rhyme scheme, guys.

Have a poem to share? Let me know in the comments.


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Link Party: 12/15-12/19

I had the BEST time at Disneyland on Tuesday. Here's a photo from World of Color at California Adventure.

I had the BEST time at Disneyland on Tuesday. Here’s a photo from World of Color at California Adventure.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. The Académie française says to knock it off with the LOLs.

2. One of my favorite tech writers keeps getting Amazon emails that aren’t for him.

3. The best essay I read about the ramifications of the Sony hack.

4. There’s a real life Newman running around in Manhattan stealing people’s mail.

5. The things people Googled the most in 2014.

And a bonus: There’s this website that arranges Wikipedia articles like a galaxy and it’s really rad.

Have a great weekend!

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Culture Connoisseur: Dick Blick Art Materials

I’ve recently discovered the most magical place on Earth, and it’s not Disneyland. It’s called Dick Blick Art Materials.



Dick Blick is a group of art stores that stocks supplies at discounted prices. It has a much better selection than Michaels, and is not pretentious in the slightest — I am not an artist, but the staff makes me feel very welcome. When I was younger, there was a really great store near my house called The Painted Moon, and it was very similar to Dick Blick in terms of product and the friendliness of the staff. I wish I had been more appreciative of it when it was still in business, but I digress.

I’m planning on making some stationery in the next few weeks, so I needed to pick up some supplies. On the way home from the Anaheim Packing District on Saturday, my best friend Paige and I stopped by the Fullerton store. It’s smaller than the Pasadena store, but I found everything I needed: transparent water colors, two paintbrushes, two markers and some cards made out of special paper.

Very excited to try this all!

Very excited to use everything!!! The markers are great, because I don’t have to bust out my entire calligraphy setup to try to get the same look. I’ll be trying the watercolors soon — I have pencils, but they don’t work incredibly well. 

One of the things I really like about this store is that product quality isn’t compromised for price. I spent about $40 and used a special discount going on for the weekend, but I got a lot of stuff and it’s all professional-grade. Plus, I have a discount card that takes 10 percent off of every purchase.

But what I really love about Dick Blick is that when I go into the store, I immediately feel calmer. There’s something about wandering through the aisles and browsing amongst the selection that is incredibly therapeutic. (Also, Paige, who has gone with me on both trips, is the best sport about letting me wander. Paige is the real MVP.) I think part of the magic is also knowing that whatever I come home with, I’m going to be able to make something really cool with it. That feeling of excitement and creativity fused together is the best, so I’m glad I live in proximity to several of the same store that can make me feel that way. If you ever have to buy art supplies, whether it’s for a class or just for fun, I highly recommend Dick Blick.

Have you ever been to Dick Blick, or have a store that just really blisses you out? Tell me about it in the comments.



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Undergrad Adventures: Fall 2014

A poster that sits in the window of the dean's office of the College of Environmental Design, with a message I need to remember more often.

A poster that sits in the window of the dean’s office of the College of Environmental Design, with a message I need to remember more often.

I’m finishing a final draft of my second capstone essay this week (more on that later) but my three academic classes for fall quarter are finally over! In all three years and a quarter of college, fall 2014 was the toughest, busiest and most stressful academic terms I’ve had. But despite all of the meltdowns and existential crises, the past two months were definitely a significant period of self-examination.

I can never, ever, ever, ever let myself get so busy and burnt out that I have to wait until the last minute to do very important things.

Never, ever, ever, ever again.

I need to always make time for me.

My own personal health really suffered these past two months, and I think if I had forced myself to slow down I would have enjoyed life more and physically felt better throughout the quarter. Taking an art journaling class replaced my regular yoga practice, and I realized that I would be even better off making time for both.

Family and friends are the best support system. 

My friends and family really helped me get through the quarter, and I am so grateful. My best friends are truly the real MVPs. And especially at home, I was not the most pleasant person to be around. I really appreciate my parents and siblings for putting up with me, and the encouragement and patience really helped me push to the end.

Being organized was my saving grace.

Google Calendar and Trello were the two best ways to help me schedule my life and keep everything I needed to do in one place, which made the feeling of running around like a chicken with my head cut off less pronounced.

However, wasting time on the Internet was not. 

Whenever I felt that I needed to take a break, I would head to the Internet for a quick browse through my RSS reader or social media feeds. In theory, this is fine. But I found myself hours later doing the same thing without returning to work, which made me even more stressed out and created a very vicious cycle. Now that I know I have that habit, I’m going to do my best to curtail it.

And most importantly, I need to try to not be so hard on myself. 

This is something I will be working on, not just for winter and spring quarters, but for the rest of my life. I need to learn to trust myself more, and if something doesn’t work out the way I want it to, I need to just go with it and understand that it is only making room for something better. Almost every time I was incredibly stressed out about something to the point of tears (which has never happened before), it ended up being okay. I need to continue to remember that.

For my fellow undergrad students, what did you learn about yourself this past quarter/semester? And for those of you out of school, what were some of the biggest self-reflecting lessons you gained in college? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


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Link Party: 12/8-12/12

It's supposed to be December in California, right? (Side note: I'm  writing this blog post while it's pouring buckets, so yes, it is definitely December in California. Way to answer my own question.)

It’s supposed to be December in California, right? (Side note: I’m writing this blog post while it’s pouring buckets, so yes, it is definitely December in California. Way to answer my own question.)

Remember last week when I said I’d be back to regularly scheduled programming? I unintentionally lied. Now that finals are over (and most of my academic commitments will be relieved by Sunday), things will be relatively back to normal on Monday. I mostly promise.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. The front page of New York’s first daily newspaper. Someone needs to reinvigorate the name American Minerva because that is a cool name waiting to be reinvigorated.

2. How Elettra Wiedemann and James Marshall met. I only knew who Elettra was when I read this, but the story is incredible and straight out of a movie.

3. Emily Dickinson was more scandalous than I realized. Also, I’m obsessed with her haircut.

4. Cloudy days help us think more clearly. My ideal working conditions include an overcast day, so I’m glad that I’m not crazy.

5. 24 things Matt Zoller Seitz learned about Wes Anderson while Seitz was writing a book about the director. This article is old, but I fell down a Wes Anderson rabbit hole.

And a bonus: DIY printable holiday cards that I’m going to recreate after a long-awaited trip to Dick Blick. The Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal one is fantastic.

Have a great weekend!

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