Sunday, March 30, 2008

Amy Reads the Week (of March 30th, 2008)

It has been a week of horror, Gentle Reader, both in the literal and metaphorical sense. Academically, I'm drowning, drowning, drowning, and pop culturally, I'm seeing The End Of The World. That is to say, I finished through volume 7 of The Walking Dead, and Mr. Reads and I watched Stephen King's The Mist.

As I have confessed to you before, Most Constant of Readers, I have a weakness for the Zombie-geddon, the Apocalypse (we've all been there, no?), the low-budget and high-budget horror movie and book. A decade ago, when This Humble Author wore a lot of flowy dark garments and wrote a plethora of bad poetry, I was inclined toward the Vampire Story. Now, some ten-odd years later, I find myself fascinated by the Zombie.

Not, of course, the Zombie itself, because as far as monsters go, it is a rather shambling shuffling travesty at that. No, it is the Zombie Tale, because it always, always has to do with the Death of the Living rather than the Living Dead. So, too, do Apocalypse Tales, like the cinematic version of Mr. King's novella, have to do more with the scariness, the awfulness, of Us. We are always the scarier monster, are we not? And when things get bad, we get So Much Worse.

Ultimately, I found The Mist to be an Utter Failure. The last five minutes betrayed the ninety before, and there were Serious Problems throughout. I have not read Mr. King's novella, but Mr. Reads has, and he assures me that, as in most things, the book vastly outweighs the movie.

But so many items in my pop culture lately deal with The End Of The World, and perhaps I am drawn to these things because I am reaching The End Of My Student Life. Yes, that is right, Friends. This Humble Author plans to defend her dissertation in the next few months and graduate, Ph.D. in hand, come August. Is it no wonder, then, that over the past few months, I have found myself drawn (or re-drawn) to things like Stephen King's The Mist, Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, Steve Niles's 30 Days of Night, Max Brooks's World War Z, Brian K. Vaughan's Y the Last Man, and even more symbolic EndDays Tales, like Joss Whedon's Angel and Buffy continuations, Gail Simone's Welcome to Tranquility, Grant Morrison's All Star Superman? Astonishing X-Men, too, recalls The End Of The World, as does the recently ended television show Jericho.

Any suggestions, Friends, on Tales of the EndDays?

To counter all of this death, to make the world more rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! (gratitude, Ms. Bishop), I have just replanted all of our plants, including the peppers, rosemary, mint, and tomatoes we bought last weekend. Let us hope I can bring our Cuban Oregano back to life, Gentle Reader, because I truly feel guilty over its demise!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A (Very!) Brief Thought on the "Worthiness" of Men

Regarding the Amazon Princess, of course, Gentle Reader. There has been Much Said this week and last regarding the latest issue of Gail Simone's run on Wonder Woman. This Humble Author herself has experienced many thoughts about it, including:
1) General Joy over Ms. Simone's writing
2) Definite Joy over the development of Amazonian rituals
3) Interest in the idea of the Amazon Princess courting a lover
4) Dissatisfaction with Nemesis as a love interest of the Amazon Princess

I have expressed my utter lack of understanding *why* I dislike Nemesis. I really do not know, Friends, and wish I had A Better Answer for you. But I recently commented to Kalinara of Pretty Fizzy Paradise fame on her recent Variations on a Theme column that I am very much a Bat/Amazon 'shipper.

Well, ultimately in my Heart of Hearts, I am a Bat/Cat 'shipper. I adore the pairing of Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Bruce Wayne/Batman because they work well together in both personas. Catwoman is good for Batman, and vice versa, and Selina is good for Bruce, and certainly vice versa.

But the majority of my Bat/Amazon 'shipper-ness results from the fantastic writing on the Justice League (Unlimited) cartoon. I'll admit, Gentle Reader, that the Batman and Wonder Woman sparking on that television show was, in a word This Humble Author blushes to say, sexy (!!!). They sparked, truly, and the writing was, so say we all, fantastic. I think it would be an interesting pairing in the comics, too.

That is, Batman and Wonder Woman/Princess Diana. Not Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman/Princess Diana.

From all that I have read over the Past Several Years, the most clever writing on Batman has been the establishment that Bruce Wayne is the mask, and The Batman is the reality. Friends, I *adore* this distinction. I *adore* this differentiation between the person (Batman) and the mask (Bruce Wayne). And while Batman has many, many problems, for better or for worse, I adore him. Or, as I said, accompanied by the literary stylings of my Poet-Husband, I adore his batarang, his gobbledygoo.

I think, with all of his problems, Batman and *not* Bruce Wayne would be an interesting romantic companion for the Amazon Princess. Although one cannot come without the other, certainly, it would be an interesting journey, no?

Now of course, Gentle Reader, Gail Simone can make me like Just About Anything; I suspect that even my Most Despised, Most Reviled Reed Richards, in her Very Capable Hands, would become an interesting and enjoyable character for me. (Greg Rucka, too, has my complete trust, as do Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, and Brian K. Vaughan. For those Gentle Readers perhaps not the Most Constant of Arrogant Self-Reliance, a brief commentary: these names round out my top five Most Favorite *and* Most Trusted Comic Writers.) So while I do not doubt for a moment that I will come to if not enjoy then at least appreciate the character Nemesis, and while I know For A Fact that I will enjoy the *journey* undertaken by these two lovers, I think, too, that despite Previous JLA Failures at relationships, Wonder Woman and Batman *might* be an interesting idea with the right writers.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Amy Reads the Week Early! (of March 23rd, 2008)

Happy Easter, Gentle Reader, from the Reads Household! Or just Happy Sunday, Happy Near Spring Solstice, or however else you choose to (or choose not to) celebrate. The Parents Reads are in town for the festivities, which, for New Orleans Catholics such as The Reads, this Easter weekend involves eating, eating, and yes, more eating. That is to say, Dad Reads and Mom Reads have been enjoying the fine cooking of This Humble Author. Tomorrow, however, We Reads enjoy the fine cooking of a Very Fine Establishment here in Readsville, as we celebrate spending time as a family, despite living states apart.

Mr. Reads and Dad Reads, however, have the Not-A-'Flu that Struck Down This Humble Author a few weeks back, so I confess that I have tried to take care of them so that they can enjoy a bit of together-time with us all. I am not the most Patient of Nurses, so please, Gentle Reader, wish me luck!

Unfortunately because of recent health issues, this is the First Easter during which I am unable to consume sweets with former abandon, and I am dying, Friends, for Elmer's strawberry heavenly hash eggs and my beloved Cadbury mini-eggs (not to mention the ever-fabulous Cadbury double decker bar!!!). So please, Gentle Readers, consume, for Queen, for Country, and for your Friendly Neighborhood Feminist Comic Blogger.

In celebration of the official arrival of spring, We Reads did purchase some new plants, and this year, we will attempt to grow chocolate beauty and poblano peppers, grape tomatoes, hanging rosemary, and mint. Our garden salsa pepper plant from last year just Will Not Die, but our Cuban oregano, unfortunately, seems to have gone to the Large Backyard Garden in the Sky. Any gardening tips, Friends?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Amy Reads the Week (of March 16th, 2008)

Are you perhaps familiar, Gentle Reader, with the literary life and writings of Mr. William Wordsworth? While This Humble Author is herself by trade and by degree a Victorianist—I find the Romantics to be Too Free, Too Open, and Too Emotional for My Repressed Standards!—I was once, yes, even myself, fascinated with the Romantic Poets. While Wordsworth was never my cup of tea—I prefer Darjeeling, or Scottish Breakfast, or a bit of Byron, Keats, and Coleridge—I find his eventual recantation of all of his youthful beliefs and writings fascinating.

Why? Because often we In Youth do and say things that we In Age regret. Having grown up with the Internet, I am sure many of us, even you, Most Constant of Readers!, have said things or posted things while not instantly regrettable, regrettable over time. How awful to be confronted again and again with the scribblings of the nineteen-year-old self, that grandiose, self-important, self-loved self that is sure, absolutely sure that she is Above All Things Correct. Not that I speak from Personal Experience, Friends! Heavens no. Everyone here understands perfectly that This Humble Author makes no mistakes, even before she was This Humble and This Wise.

But Mr. Wordsworth, lit with the fire of youth and integrity, certain he would Change the World and bring it forward into a new egalitarian age, was, upon recollection some thirty years later, a bit chagrined at the passion and fervor with which he wrote. Or perhaps he truly no longer believed the words he had written, once. Or perhaps, just perhaps, he was on the brink of Victorianism, a Romantic who, like Mary Shelley, lived too long, saw too many loved ones die young, and felt that he no longer appreciated the naiveté of youth.

I call attention to Mr. Wordsworth today because as a literary critic, I do not feel that authors should justify, defend, or qualify their works, the same as I believe that critics never can assume authorial intention. The anecdote about Mr. Wordsworth above has no bearing on Mr. Wordsworth’s writing. A biographical or historical reading of his works would bring this into play, certainly, but a straight examination of, say, The Preludes? We should look at the quality of work itself. We cannot assume, ever, that Mr. Wordsworth meant This or That with his writing, or that This or That has direct correlation with His Personal Life. Recent scandals in the literary memoir and autobiography world have brought these very ideas into play. There is no “real life,” is there not? There is author; there is work; there is reader; there is critic. And God willing, never the all of them shall meet.

That is to say, I-as-writer separate the I-as-critic and the I-as-blogger and the I-as-wife, -student, -daughter, -puppy-mother from each other because they are the all of them not the same. The Witty and Intelligent Amy Reads that blogs before you today is not, dare I say it?, the Amy Reads that heads home to New Orleans to visit family, or the Amy Reads that sings in the car, just to annoy Mr. Reads, or the Amy Reads who is, despite the Wit and Intelligence referenced just Moments Ago, irrationally afraid of Clowns (those evil, evil things). In fact, “Amy Reads” is not anything at all but a voice in This Body that comes through fingers and onto blog.

A very long and rambling preamble, Friends, to say that over Spring Break, which sadly ends today, This Humble Author spent many hours engaged in a vigorous Spring Cleaning. And during this Spring Cleaning, I came across several, several journals written by a Young and Naïve Amy Reads.

Oh, Gentle Reader, how to express the agony of those revelations about Love, Life, Work, The Environment, Politics, even Self-Presentation circa 1996? How best to explain the naiveté, the painful, painful exercise of sorting through pretentious attempts at interesting and expressive handwriting, the bad, utterly awful poetry with grandiose comparisons to “painted eyes,” “silvered tears,” “silent statues,” and, Most Awful Of All, the Revelation of the Poet, Herself, in Verse? How many broken hearts can one twenty-year-old possess? Seven, if I counted correctly. How many angry diatribes against the world can one twenty-year-old offer? Sixteen, yes, sixteen “manifestos” claiming to Change The World/Women’s Body Images/The State of Alternative Music/etc. etc. ad nauseam.

My first thought? Of the destructive and thus effective qualities of fire.

My second thought? Of Wordsworth.

Perhaps, for the first time in my life, I understood Elder Wordsworth more than Youthful Wordsworth. I understood the burning desire to destroy and remove All Traces of the Self’s Youth from the world.

My third thought? Of today’s impersonal encounter with the Internet.

With the Wide Array of blogs, message boards, forums, MySpace and Facebook and other such phenomena in the world, and the strange permanence of the Internet, there is little opportunity to destroy youthful pretensions. What is said on the Internet, Gentle Reader, stays on the Internet, for good or bad. That disconnect between the persons on either end of the blog, or message board, or forum, is a true disconnect: there is little understanding of the body on the other end. That body could be a neighbor, a best friend, a complete stranger, or, Woe To Them, a boss, a principal, a parent, a spouse. But sitting here in the Room of My Own, looked down upon by Wonder Woman Action Figures and Angel Puppets and Buffy Posters, I do not know you. Yes, you, Most Constant of Readers. I know little for certain of who receives my work or how it is received.

But is that not the point? Do we not put work out there, for good or for bad, and stand back to let the waves of reception swallow the work whole? An author cannot go Door to Door and say, “no, on page 252, what I *really* meant was…” the same as Wordsworth, despite Recantation, cannot take back what he said as a younger man. It was said. It was read. And that is all. He can rewrite, certainly, but he can never take back. The work is written; it is done. Nothing, not even rejection, can change that.

This is something I Firmly Believe In: an author cannot in truth recant, and should not justify or qualify or defend. And while I wish I could Go Back to 1996 and retrieve those Poems poorly distributed to Broken Heart #3, or those words submitted for publication (most likely in response to Broken Heart #5), I cannot. And as the Great Philosopher Buffy Summers tell us, Here endeth the lesson.

In the end, while the desire was Very, Very Strong, I did not burn the notebooks. I did, however, pack them away under many, many boxes filled with old drafts of novels and letters from former loves and current husband(s) who were not yet husband(s) at the time of writing. In other words, in the dark recesses of my closet, to be discovered only in the event of emergency, of nostalgia, or the next attempt at Spring Cleaning, which I predict will be a Long Time Coming. But while I cringe at the naiveté and silliness and general idiocy of Young Amy Reads, so earnest, so driven, so in need of rigorous line-editing, I adore her, too, because she *was* earnest. She *did* love passionately and expressed such in poor rhyme. She was, Above All Things, Young. Quite, quite, quite young.

As were you, Mr. Wordsworth, living your Poet’s Retreat in Somerset, the world spread before you, possibility shining as brightly as the sunlit Lakes in the soon-to-be-seen District.

Mr. Reads, Pup Reads, and I all bid adieu to Spring Break and return to Work tomorrow, (and tomorrow, and tomorrow). There is Much to be Done today in Preparation, so I must bid you adieu for now, as well.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Love and Hate (From Outer SPACE!!!!): Reviews in Brief, or, Amy Reads Takes a Spring Break

It’s true, Gentle Reader: this past week has been, how shall I say?, wonderfully relaxing. Understand that I say this with Full Knowledge that I have gotten Little Writing done on The Dissertation. I have researched, and read, but mostly, I’ve recovered from a ten-day illness and a year-long anxiety. Now that plans are Somewhat Settled for next year, I feel the desire to take some time to myself. Winter Break afforded none of that, and I have worked, steadily, consistently, and ruthlessly, since August. Even farther and even faster, six years now, since deciding to take the Ph.D. Taking a few days off has been lovely, truly, and with that loveliness comes the chance to, yes, even for This Humble Author, get Caught Up On Comics.

Constant Readers of This Humble Blog know, and know well, that I often find myself getting “Caught Up On Comics.” That is to say, between work and work and work (oh my!), over this past year in particular, I find myself with little time for non-television enjoyment. As it is My Job to Read Books for a living, sometimes, just sometimes, Gentle Reader!, I find myself unable to do so “for fun.”

But Spring Break offered a magical mystical time to get caught up on Very Old Series, like Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men, to stay current on Old Series With Shiny New Writers, like Gail Simone’s run on Wonder Woman, and to read several months’ backlog of Grant Morrison’s tremendous run on Batman.

For this, I offer Reviews In Brief, with the understanding that there are still several titles that as of yet remain unread. Yes, give me your New Avengers, your Daredevils, your Teen Titans yearning to Breathe Free (gratitude, Ms. Lazarus). Or, at least, to escape the Tyranny of Bag-and-Board, courtesy of Mr. Reads's longboxes.

Wonder Woman #17 and #18 by Gail Simone
I’ve already reviewed Ms. Simone’s most recent issues of Wonder Woman elsewhere on this blog, and we are all Well Aware that I adore her run on the Princess Diana, madly and completely. But what stands out most is the whimsy brought forward for this heretofore decidedly not-so-whimsical character. Diana’s questioning of her appearance after seeing a Khund statue that had to be prettied up, Tom Tresser’s dawning revelation that the Amazons of Themyscira are not asexual beings, and This Humble Author’s Humble Favorite, Lt. Etta Candy’s “Woo #@#! Woo,” all offer a Fantastic Glimpse into the considerable talents Ms. Simone takes to the Amazonian Princess.

Serenity #1 by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews
This is a mini I was Very Much looking forward to, but must admit that I wasn’t overwhelmed. Certainly, I enjoyed it, as I always enjoy stories of the Firefly Crew, but it was not the best comic I read the past few weeks. Most telling is Inara’s fantasy, and I am most looking forward to the continuation of this tale, but I do not finding the writing as strong as it is on other Whedon scripts, like Buffy or Astonishing X-Men or Runaways.

Angel #4 by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch
This issue of Angel is proving to be a continuation of some Very Strong Issues, and an overall Very Strong Storyline. I am adoring this comic, with its dark, muddy art, its references, and its constant twists, turns, confusions, and dragons. Bonus: Spike.

Wonder Girl #6 by J. Torres
I added this title to the Reads Pull List mainly out of solidarity for All Things Wonder, All The Time. Granted, if it had been my most-deplored Donna Troy, I would not have bothered. While Wonder Girl was charming and fun, I did not find it, ultimately, astonishing or earth-shattering or, dare I say? Wonderful.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #12 by Drew Goddard
Next to Simone’s Wonder Woman, this is my favorite title in constant print at the moment. I've already reviewed it In (Extreme!) Brief, Not only because I am an Extraordinary Buffy Fan, but also because it is very well written. The “shock” of this issue, while generating a Great Deal of buzz, was not so “shocking” for Constant Readers of the Whedonverse. Sexuality is a fluid thing, and Buffy is ever an open-minded venue. Bonus: Xander’s Master returns.

All Star Superman #9 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
As I admitted earlier, in Hushed Tones, I am Woefully Behind in my comics reading. I finally (!) read this issue of All-Star Superman, and truly, it is a fantastically written book. I am ever-amazed at the abilities of Mr. Morrison, particularly as I also am enjoying his New X-Men run and his current Batman run. It takes a very engaged and talented writer to make the Aliens (from Outer SPACE!!!) feel more human than the humans, and Mr. Morrison accomplishes that with aplomb, grace, and beauty. Apologies for the Enthusiasm, Friends, but Mr. Reads has watched many, many episodes of MST3K this week while cleaning, and some things stick more than others!

And finally,
Booster Gold #7 by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz
I must confess, Gentle Reader, that Mr. Reads loves Booster more than I do. That is not to say that This Humble Author doesn’t adore this title; rather, I do not have the Deep Adoration that Mr. Reads has. However, this is pretty much one of the best titles being written at the moment, and even for a Reader like Myself who has, how shall I say?, a spotty fluency in All Comics Continuity, I don’t think there is a more enjoyable combination than Booster Gold and Blue Beetle.

The Best Comics I Am Not Reading
According to Mr. Reads, I am sorely lacking in Green Lantern. I know many of my Sister and Brother Bloggers would agree with this sentiment, but where should I begin? And how should I presume? (gratitude, Mr. Eliot, Mr. Prufrock). Any others, Gentle Reader?

The Best Comics I Can't Wait to Read
Manhunter returns in June, Gentle Reader. To quote Lt. Candy, "Woo Woo!!!"

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Woman Beneath the Wonder: A Brief Review of Wonder Woman #18

It is not often, Gentle Reader, that I both Love and Hate something at the same time. I am, if I may be so bold as to say, a Woman of Strong Emotions. I am in a job that I love, and how could I not? This Humble Author reads books for a living, and writes about them, and discusses them. In my spare time, those ten to fifteen seconds a day I can Call My Own, I aspire to Write Books, albeit Rather Poorly, if the Large Stack of Rejection Letters is Any Proof of my Ability to write a Marketable Novel. But when I love, I love deeply, and when I decidedly do not love, I do that deeply as well.

I expect that Constant Readers of This Humble Blog are shocked, absolutely shocked to see the word Hate in the same Blog Post as Gail Simone’s name. Wait, Friends. Let me explain. We are all Well Aware that This Humble Author thinks Ms. Simone can Do No Wrong. Even in her titles that I am not reading—All New Atom, for example—I never doubt her talent. But Ms. Simone has presented This Humble Author with a conundrum in issue #18 of Wonder Woman: she has given me a scene I love with a character and storyline that I hate.

I do not like Tom Tresser.

At all.

It is solely courtesy of Ms. Simone’s talents that I deign to tolerate him, in that she offers sneaks and peeks into his character that make him consumable by me, even just for a moment. A few issues back, she even made him somewhat charming, a near-impossible feat for This Humble Author. I do not like him, and frankly, I cannot determine why. Part of it is, I think, due to my Absolute Adoration of the Amazon Princess. She is my idol, the Super Hero Young Amy Reads aspired to be. I cannot imagine the Future Queen of Themyscira dating someone so very twenty-first century as Special Agent Tresser.


But, Ms. Simone offers perhaps one of the most beautiful glimpses into Themysciran culture in the first pages of issue #18: a courting ritual, explained to and accepted by Tom Tresser before he even begins to comprehend what the Amazon Princess is offering him. He is offered both Beauty and Pain, Fear and Hope, boiled down into so many nectarine pits and thorns and colorful ribbons. It is the ritual that is important; he is to be courted, Diana tells him, “In the manner of [her] people.”

Tom comprehends the import of Diana’s language a few pages later, and notes, “But all your people are of the female persuasion...!” To which Diana responds, “Aren’t you the observant one?”

The Hate, Gentle Reader, is the, in This Humble Author’s opinion, Unworthy Object of the Amazon Princess’s affections.

The Love, Gentle Reader, is in the quiet dignity of the ritual in this scene.

This quiet dignity is not necessarily a dominant trait of Ms. Simone’s run on Wonder Woman as of yet. Not that Ms. Simone is incapable of writing Wonder Woman, the character, with quiet dignity. Nor is This Humble Author stating that Ms. Simone is incapable of writing quiet dignity. Rather, we see glimpses of this throughout her work. The first issues of both Welcome to Tranquility and Gen-13 offer this rare tone for the author, as do the more intimate moments in Birds of Prey. In This Humble Author's opinion, there is nothing, absolutely nothing Ms. Simone does better than the team-up. She is a master of the team-up, in that she offers a wide range of characters and tones and ideas without ever losing the depth of each individual character. There is the quiet dignity, the snarky irony, the comic relief, the gentle persuasion. But these softer moments come through more in her characters than in her writing. She is a weaver of many personalities and storylines and ideas; to see her, then, weave together all of the same in Wonder Woman, and to Weave Well, is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Further, to see this moment, to experience such a soft scene from a character who will just a few pages later defeat scores of warriors, to see the Woman beneath the Wonder, is to see the fulfillment of those glimpses here and there: the introduction of the characters in Gen-13 #1, the slow destruction of Maximum Man as evidenced in Welcome to Tranquility #1, Wonder Woman’s love of cake in Wonder Woman #14, all of these small moments have led to this one: the hushed revelation not only of Wonder Woman’s heart, her future, but also of Wonder Woman’s broken heart, her past.

I despise Tom Tresser. Gentle Reader, I find him Completely and Utterly Unworthy of Diana. But the depiction of Diana’s nervousness, her presentation not of other’s ideas of courtship but rather of her own people’s, gives us a Diana we haven’t seen in Some Time. I welcome more of her, and I find myself surprised to say that I do, even if it means the courtship and dating (!!!) of Nemesis.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Amy Reads the Week (of March 9th, 2008)

I have been Struck Down, Gentle Reader, by the Nastiest of All Plagues. What began as Not-A-'Flu has malingered and turned into a vicious sinus infection. I have missed opportunities to hang with friends and enjoy, really, the first part of our Spring Break.

I have, however, had Some Opportunity to Read Comics and Watch Television. On the Comic Book Front, I am ever-amazed at Buffy Season 8 which proved to be Quite Interesting this month! The buzz around this issue speaks for itself, I believe.

In non-comics news, The Reads Family adores, absolutely adores New Amsterdam. It is smart, dark, interesting, and decidedly *not* an Angel ripoff. Unfortunately, these things also could mean it will have a short-lived career and a healthy cult following. Instead, let us triumph and Watch The Show! I want to see this show succeed!

Also, a sad good-bye to The Batman cartoon which began to get Very Good Indeed, as evidenced by the series finale, Lost Heroes.

Back to my post on the Reads Couch, where I will continue consuming such wonderful things like South Park, Invader Zim, and Torchwood in my effort to defeat illness through laughter. Or rest.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

An Apology

Mea Culpa, Gentle Reader, for the long delay in posting, but I'm afraid I must delay a Bit Longer. I came down with a 'flu that the Medical Profession declared Not-A-'Flu, but so close to the 'flu that it might as well be. I will resume my regularly scheduled posting this weekend, which marks--finally!--the beginning of spring break. For those of us dissertationally inclined, that means lots, and lots and lots, of writing with no distractions like school or friends to hinder progress.