Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm delaying the inevitable

I am supposed to be rewriting my thesis proposal. I had a phone meeting with my thesis advisor yesterday and she advised that I narrow my focus. Instead of focusing on the whole time period from the end of the war until the present, I should pick an era and use that as a case study. By doing that, I will be able to focus on that period a little better (thereby writing a better quality piece) and I will also be able to place the idea of cultural landscapes within public history. By focusing on the one aspect, too, I will leave material for a possible future dissertation. And I am planning on writing a dissertation (even though my plans change all the time... so for the record, today, June 30, 2009, I plan on going on to pursue my Ph.D.).

Shifting the direction of my thesis is a good idea and will help me in the long run; but now I am trying to mentally shift my thinking process as I plan on how exactly I'll divide my chapters. And my brain hurts. I forgot how hard it is to work for eight hours and then just jump into research (or just thinking, for that matter).

For now, how my thesis advisor advised me to narrow my thesis will help me finish the work in a timely manner. But, I have to restart my engines and start moving a different direction. And that takes energy.

And all I want to do right now is float on a boat in the middle of the big, blue, wet thing.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tennessee VS. Peleliu (Mosquitoes)

Mosquitoes bite me. Even when people around me do not get bitten. In, fact, since I was a child mosquitoes have decided that it was not good enough just to bite me; rather, they eat me.

When I was in the Pacific, the mosquitoes came, they saw, and they most assuredly conquered. Alas, I feel like the mosquitoes here in Tennessee make those of the Pacific seem like wimpy bugs. I have several bites that have persisted for a few days (and I still have that very bad habit of scratching the tops off of my bug bites). And they hurt!

So I've got my complaining of the day out of the way. Now, back to work. I am writing my introduction of my thesis. Evidently, people find it hard to believe that some students actually write during the summer or while they are working or maybe just the time students work during the summer. I've got deadlines! And not much of a social life! I am a graduate student, this is what I do! I'm still enjoying this part, too. Minus the mosquitoes that make it impossible to enjoy doing any reading outside in the evenings.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Art Imitates Life

According to Michaelangelo, "A man paints with his brains, not with his hands." So does Maira Kalman. She has a few works that are inspired by trips around the United States. I especially appreciate this one. I may not necessarily agree with every single line, but I like how she provokes thought. I think the comments are interesting to read, as well.

Actually, I especially appreciate the comments. People are responding to essentially a pice of art. To be expected, the types of responses vary greatly. And I think that is why I appreciate Maira's work so much. She is supposed to be examining "democracy" via travels and design. Regardless of what people think about her, she has the freedom to write what she wants and everyone else has the freedom to respond.

Isn't her work in itself an expression of democracy, then?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Biking Adventures

I don't think people believe me when I tell them that I used to mountain bike. A lot. I am not sure if it is the fact that I wear make up or that I express negative feelings about sweating profusely, but I get incredulous looks a lot when I tell people that I used to be a semi-hard-core mountain biker. Clip on shoes, jerseys, the works. I used to bike for anywhere for one to four hours a day in the desert, sometimes in temperatures that reached into the triple digits. "It's a dry heat" makes it better... I've done my fair share of wiping out on bikes, too; I've done the head-over-the-handlebars-move more than once (and yes, it is as painful as it looks).

I went out on my bike today for my scheduled rove. I biked down to Fortress Rosecrans along the greenway and back mid-day. I knew I was giving the caravan tour at 2pm, so I worked my way back to the visitor center in time to prepare for that. I am not sure what possessed me to make my next decision, but while I was dripping with sweat, racing down a slight incline, I thought, "Why not give the tour on my bike?" Jim has given the tour before on his bike and the van was in use for the afternoon (so I wasn't going to have a place to put the water cooler, anyway). And if you know me, you know that I make a decision and run (or, in this case, bike) with it.

So I gave the 90 minute caravan tour on my bike. I raced between stops, engaged in more conversation at the start of each stop (to allow for me to catch my breath), and enjoyed doing it. Unfortunately, I was not able to carry all of my usual items- no water cooler or artillery pieces for demonstration.

The tour was a personal accomplishment. Jim accomplished it last fall to prove that it could be done. I wondered if I could be an effective interpreter if I was gasping for breath at each stop. I liked the idea of promoting energy conservation (even in small steps, like leading an auto-tour on a bike) and sustainability. And I like biking. I just had my doubts about my ability to do it.

I wasn't as tired as I thought I would be, either. I think I was most nervous about Dr. Frisby ("the D-Friz") accompanying the tour. I know he didn't want to make me nervous, but when a freakin' military history professor accompanies the tour, I can't tell about the helicopter campaigns or the importance of SONAR's use during the battle to fill that time. Ha ha. That was just a joke because I know he reads this. He didn't make me too nervous, after all. And I completed the auto-turned-bike-tour in one piece. I had a good day and will sleep well tonight.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tempus fugit

Why do we say "time flies"? Where is it going? And why did it pick flight as its preferred mode of travel?

I don't know what I would do if I had more hours in a day. Maybe I would attempt more sleep. Maybe I would accomplish more studying. Maybe I'd pick up my room more often (as that is usually the last thing that I take care of when I have a deadline approaching). I do know that I fill my waking hours with productivity and still have more to do when bedtime arrives.

A week from tomorrow will be the halfway point for 2009. Whoa! Where did half of the year go!?! I thought I would be further along in my thesis than I am, but I also did not expect so much research to pop up. And if I stop and think about everything I have done and seen in the last six months, I can seriously appreciate where I am in my life.

My most recent days have been spent running early in the morning, showering and readying myself for work (which usually entails ironing my uniform, making lunch, braiding my hair, and applying makeup- all to my morning soundtrack currently involving elvis, the rolling stones, flogging molly, and of course, the killers) putting in 8+ hours at the battlefield, coming home to eat dinner (that dually serves as a brief mental break), then diving into reading or writing for my thesis before I decide it is time for bed (knowing that my schedule will repeat upon waking). I am still in the "ooo, this is fun" mode. I like writing, I am loving the story that continues to develop with the emerging primary sources, and I enjoy the challenge of trying to rest that story within the bigger context of American history and cultural landscape studies. Maybe this will get old, but for now I will continue working while the irreplaceable time escapes.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Somebody had better make sure that these guys have the correct size of ziplock bags carrying any toiletries upon entering the country. Palau charges extra for the incorrect ziplock bags.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Library Confessions

I absolutely judge books by their covers.

Debates also rage in my head about the usefulness of a book depending on its size. If it is big and bulky, I ponder at its usefulness to my research in relation to its awkwardness of carrying it to my carrel.

I leave my books on a table when I am done. I used to work at a public library and know what those carts at the end of the aisles are for. I just think that the library is too orderly and want to mix it up a bit. Plus, I am always intrigued whenever I see a stack of books. What was the patron before me studying about?

I have consumed snacks AND beverages in the library. SHHH. But I've never written in/torn a page from/dogearred/damaged books in any way. Not yet, anyway. I have also fallen asleep with my head on my desk at the library before. More than once, in fact.

I am not sure if it is the librarian in me or the ranger in me (or the fact I don't care what people think about me) but I have asked people to "shush." Nicely, always nicely.

The library is one of my favorite places, ever. I love the smell of books and the ideas bound between their covers. I love the atmosphere of the library (it is quiet and I can hear myself think and I don't get distracted with home-chores). Even though I am not a fan of germs, I love the feel (to include the paper dust!) of a book.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thanks, lady.

Tomorrow begins the full summer schedule of programs at the battlefield. Five programs everyday, with six on Saturday. I will be giving my first bike tour of the battlefield 9 am tomorrow morning.

On weekdays, we have been giving talks at 2pm (weekends were caravan tours). Today's talk I had near 20 people. It went well, too. People listened, asked questions, even the kids were attentive. Afterwards some folks hung around to chat. I greeted the last visitor who came up to me with a smile; she clearly had something to share.

"I wanted to let you know that during your talk I saw a spider climb into your blouse. I just didn't want to interrupt your story. So, you probably have a spider in your shirt. It was a good talk though, thanks!"

Thanks, lady.

As it turns out, there was nothing in my blouse. And I'd like to say that I am an awesome ranger and spiders in my clothes do not bother me. But that would be a bold-faced lie. So I am only a semi-awesome ranger. I can live with that.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

This Ranger Does

Last summer I was tagged to be the token ranger in a series of photo shoots for the battlefield. They wanted professionally done pictures with the flat hat in each of them (and ethnically diverse kids... you can't forget the ethnically diverse kids). In preparation for the shoot my boss told me I needed to tone down my make up. He said rangers don't wear that much make up. I replied, "This ranger does."

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I thought of that and thought I would tone down my make up application. I had to swallow some pride (I don't leave the house without some combination of foundation and eyeliner on), but I am always trying to push myself to do better. I figured it would all melt off after a bike ride, anyway. So I chose several lighter colors and didn't use as much as I normally did. Within 5 minutes of me arriving to work that same boss called me into his office.

"You are going to be on TV," he stated.

"What?" I asked, thinking he must mean another news interview like I did a few weeks ago.

"Yeah, a camera crew will be here in 20 minutes and want to interview a ranger, so you're going to do it. It's some independent film thing."

Aw, man! No make up and subconjunctival hemorrhaging residue still remaining in my eye.

So I met the crew, got set up with the mic and lights, and tried to remain calm. There is a reason I stay on the viewing side of the camera. As the interview was about to start the host of the show said, "Don't worry, this will just be on national television." Now, I hang around with a series of people who exaggerate, tell fibs, and use sarcasm like its nobody's business. So I thought she was joking and we laughed it off. Then the camera guy said, "Yeah, it's just the Travel Channel." I laughed again. Oh, those kidders! They are funny and I was laughing; what a way to relieve tensions. Sigh.

Then I realized that they weren't kidding.

"What?" I asked for the second time this morning.

"Yeah, this is for a show for the Travel Channel. It is going to be the pilot episode and we are very excited."

At that moment, any ability to articulate comprehensible thoughts fell out of my head and all that remained was a series of letters, scrambling around my brain.

I didn't necessarily black out, but the twenty minutes after that exist in my memory as a fuzzy blur. The crew assured me that I did a good job (which I know is necessary on their part... I interview people, too, I know how that works...) and packed up their stuff and left. So maybe I'll be on tv. Au natural, red-eyed, and vomiting a jumble of words that may make sense with some severe editing work.

Thanks, Gib, for the heads up.

Living on Battlefield

I live on the very edge of the battlefield. I would bet money on the fact that Civil War soldiers walked where I grilled out last night. But I don't imagine this place as a battlefield. I read an article this morning about a German woman (well, her dog) finding a live hand grenade in Germany. I don't think the average American realizes what remains in Europe in terms of layers of War.

I mentioned to my dad and another SGM friend of his about the untouched battlefield of Peleliu (and some of the other Rock Islands). My dad encouragingly expressed his interest. Then our friend laughed a little and said, "uh, Kosovo. Bosnia." I hadn't even thought of that. Of course, I haven't been to those places and had to live with the idea that land mines surrounded those areas. It was a different conflict, but there are still (very deadly) layers of war on the landscape.

I continue to ponder the difference in battlefields and how people perceive them. Is it just the difference of time? Development? Type of weapons? Societies' exposure to conflict?

Monday, June 8, 2009


I was interviewed today about the trip to the Pacific. It will be in a news piece for MTSU in another month or so. My blood-red eye has not cleared, yet, so that's not cool. But I did get to converse with John Lynch from News and Public Affairs about film stuff and that was exciting. I do love working with film. And I like engaging in conversation about ideas. The meeting today was productive AND engaging. It turns out he is looking into the Ph.D. program at MTSU and will be in my research class next fall. That also excited me. He will bring a lot to the program and I am now looking forward to the class. I think I am going to try to write an article to be published in the class. That's my goal. But I have lots of those and sometimes they don't come to fruition. I like it when they do, though.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Army Brats Rock

I can say that because I am one. I mean, I do say that because I am one. I relish the fact that I an Army Brat, actually. An Army Brat friend of mine posted the footage of the D-Day commemoration ceremony from C-Span on her Facebook today because her dad led the invocation for it. The Macgregors were our awesome neighbors at Fort Gillem before they shipped off to Germany. I like to yell *I know him!* when I recognize people on TV and got to when I watched the ceremony on C-Span (about five and a half minutes into the ceremony). He did an awesome job, too.

Memorial Day (Everyday?)

Before I begin, I would like to state that I am currently on a computer of a friend and neither the arrow keys nor the quotations key work on this computer. So that may interfere with my usual writing style. No major worries, though- the parentheses keys do work.

Americans generally remember June 6th as D-Day (except for Google today, who decided to instead commemorate the 25th anniversary of Tetris). For military historians (and die-hard Marines like John Edwards of MHT), the day is also associated with the success at Belleau Wood during WWI.

I have several thoughts running through my head regarding this, so bear with me. I also have been reading through several works about the idea of memory and the Civil War and I am sure that has had an influence of some of my thoughts. Working at the battlefield also influences how I perceive the world. But as a nation (a baby nation in comparison to most, at that), we have a lot of dates associated with battles, yet as a nation we only remember a few. As far as dates go, June 6th and December 7th probably rank the highest (maybe November 11th, but that was not techincally a battle, it was only related to the Great War (no quotations, so italics will have to do). As for American memory of significant battle place-names, I would argue Gettysburg, Normandy, and possibly Iwo Jima (maybe Antietam? Saipan? Fallujah?--names are usually easier to remember than dates, and I would put money on the average American remembering battle names over any specific dates) rank the highest.

Why are these dates and places important to us as a nation? Why do we remember some, but not all? Why does WWII resonate, but not WWI? According to Wikipedia (a professor*s worst nightmare, I know), there were more American casualties on Iwo than Allied casualties on D-Day. Now, stats are tricky... the first day of the Normandy invasion counts as one day- Iwo lasted over a month. Regardless, why do we remember June 6th and not days in February or March? Why do we remember Normandy over Belleau Wood?

Bill Davenport, a Middle Tennessee veteran of Iwo Jima, came into the visitor center a few days ago. It was good to talk to him and he remembered me (which always impresses me when aging folks remember faces so well). It reminded me about my thoughts when people from that generation walk in. I always wonder what did they do during the war? Did that man fight? Did that woman work in a factory? What did they see, how did they feel? When veterans of any war walk in I wonder about what it was that they saw? Maybe the veteran did not invade Normandy nor storm the beaches of Iwo Jima. It is likely, though, that there is an important day (or several) to that veteran. Another day or series of days that struck a chord with an individual that the nation as a whole neglects to remember.

I should have posted this on Memorial Day, I am sure. Memorial Day allows for us nationally to remember sacrifices and commemorate veteran heroes who have fallen. But living veterans carry their memories of the past with them every day. Fallen veterans remain fallen veterans every day- nothing changes the fact that they served their country, many giving the ultimate sacrifice. I don*t imagine anything being in the media about past wars until December 8th (except maybe on Veterans Day in November), but it will not change the past and how some carry their invisible battle scars with them daily, regardless of the nation*s collective memory.

Because I love Cy O*Brien, I wanted to post an article he wrote about Iwo. I appreciate the essence of the work. (Cy was the veteran who mocked the idea of the Japanese soldiers who stood on the beaches when we were there this past March with the signs that read something to the effect of, Danger-Keep off beaches. He said he would have stayed off the beach 64 years ago if the Japanese were holding those signs then). While the boys in Europe fought a different war than those in the Pacific, I have yet to meet any WWII vets who honestly regard themselves or their roles in the war any better than their brothers in arms.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Research Gold

Today a package came into the battlefield from College Park, Maryland, containing copies of records from Stones River National Battlefield (then National Military Park) from the 1930s. The volunteer who mailed them (the one I referred to meeting by chance a few weeks again) only selected a few records to copy and mail. And by "a few," I mean over one hundred pages. These records are loaded with cool stuff! Lots of fun stuff for researching and incorporating into my thesis.

I was also given a list of potential interviewees for oral histories. That is cool, but it will take time. I may have to delay my graduation just so I have time to work through all this new material (and write a quality work). Let it be recorded that I am actually considering shifting from my plans to graduate in December. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, right? I am only considering this, but the thought is still there.

Mark Twain remains one of my favorite authors. He is loaded with good advice, like, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society. Or "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." But I am currently especially liking what he said when he said, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." Hmm.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tourist in my Own Backyard

While I love traveling overseas almost more than anything on this earth, I am a fan of playing tourist anywhere. And Tennessee has plenty to see. Last summer I was too busy working and goofing off to do much. This summer I have a list of places I have to see that are within a couple hundred miles of where I live. I have seen most of the sights to see in Murfreesboro, a few in Nashville, and that is about it.

On Sunday, my brother accompanied me to Fort Donelson National Battlefield. He was very cooperative, considering that he does NOT like historic sites. Then today, I went to Nashville and saw Fort Negley, Belle Meade Plantation, and Travellers Rest. All are Civil War sites.

It is interesting to visit historic sites. I love history and that love has both given me an appreciation for visiting these sites while at the same time taking away from the visit. I am always evaluating the sites. How well did they interpret the site? What do they talk about? What have they neglected? How can this be done better? I do this for myself mostly. I want to be able to work in a place where I share history with an average visitor and they walk away with a better understanding of the place and the history attached to that place. How do I do that? If a site does something well, I want to store that in my head for future use. If they didn't do well, I want to figure out why and how can I improve wherever I work (or end up working in my future)? So I don't just get to walk into a museum or visitor center and remain carefree. I am always evaluating. I think that is why I like theme parks so much. When all is fantasy, I don't have to evaluate. I need to take a trip to DisneyWorld. But I think I will settle for Chattanooga next.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I find...

that I either keep up well in my paper journal or on my blog. But never both simultaneously. I think I don't want to be redundant in the recordings of my life.

The wedding went well. I am exhausted from wedding-ness, entertaining, visiting, traveling, not sleeping, and having too much fun.

I am also coordinating an exhibit. It is mostly designed. It needs one last set of revisions and I will send it to the printers. But I am also in charge of coordinating the different funding sources. So even when I am not working, I am still working. And it isn't even homework. Aw, man!

I cheated a little and pulled out some footage the other day from the Pacific trip. I have too much to do immediately before I can play! But it did remind me how awesome that trip was and that I do want to go back.

My brother is in town and will leave tomorrow. My parents also leave the states tomorrow morning. I am having lot of fun visiting and I love my little bro to pieces, but I will be happy to have an evening to myself. I am going to miss all of my family terribly once they are all gone.

I know this is random, but it is how I think. And I'm tired. And I figured a spacey update was better than none.