Thursday, September 27, 2012


It's been almost a week, and it's just starting to sink in- I passed my PhD comprehensive exams, and I'm now ABD (all but dissertation).

So, what does this mean?

First off, it means that I completed all required coursework for the PhD- in my department this means courses for a major area and two minor areas, about two years worth. It also means that I have shown proficiency in two research languages relevant to my area of study, for me Japanese and French, and have been in residence at KU for at least a year.

Second, it means I passed my comprehensive exams. We have to pass exams in a major area, for me Japanese Visual Culture 1850-present, and two minor areas, mine were Japanese Buddhist Sculpture of the 9-14th centuries, and Transnational Contemporary Art. Each area was examined through written and oral tests. The writtens were the tough part. For the major, I received eight questions organized in two groups of four and had to select one from each group. I had exactly one calendar week (Sunday at noon to Sunday at noon) to write a twelve page research paper on the two questions, plus footnotes and illustrations. After 24 hours off, I then had 72 hours to select one question out of two to complete another twelve page research paper for one minor area, another 24 hours off, and then the final question for the second minor. In the end, I wrote on the state of the field of modern and contemporary Japanese art history as related to gender, nationalism and national identity in late nineteenth century Japanese art, honji-sukjaku theory (which links Shinto and Buddhism) in Japanese art, and globalism in contemporary transnational art. To study I spent a good deal of the spring and summer preparing annotated bibliographies on hundreds of books and journal articles, allowing me to be prepared for whatever questions might drop into my in-box on exam day.

So writtens by the numbers:
15 days
4 essays
53 pages of text
203 footnotes
27 illustrations
2 bottles of wine
15 cupcakes
untold gallons of coffee
too many books on the bibliographies to warrant counting

One week after I turned in my last essay, I received the e-mail that said I passed. Relief. But only temporary. A few weeks later, along came orals. This wasn't as stressful- it was a two hour exam with my five committee members. They asked about my essays, challenged some points that I had to defend, and questioned me on images that they brought in that were related to my areas. I took the oral exam last Friday and after a five minute break at the end, wherein the committee discussed my fate, I found out that I passed. True relief! I'm now ABD!

It took a few days to sink in, but I'm starting to recover from the lengthy exam process. Yesterday I returned about 200 books to the library, which is what the above photo is- a car trunk full of books which filled up the book return to the point that I clogged the box.

Now, on to the dissertation!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Last game of the season

Today was mostly overcast here, but as I was sitting at my desk this morning, cloudy skies out my window, I thought back to Sunday afternoon and the Royals game. We had free tickets thanks to little man completing the KC Library summer reading program, and enjoyed a perfect sunny afternoon game at the K. This was my first late season baseball game, and in many ways it was a more relaxed atmosphere, as the Royals are out of the playoffs. KC played the Indians (and lost... by a lot....), and we enjoyed all the usual trappings of baseball- (veggie) hot dogs, fries, beer, and we even saw the Royals hit a home run, complete with fireworks. Cheers to the end of summer!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Madama Butterfly

Last spring we went to the brand new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts here in KC to see the Barber of Seville. It was so fantastic that we decided to become season ticket holders to the Lyric Opera.

The first performance of the season was last weekend, Madama Butterfly. I didn't know what to expect, as this was an opera I didn't know much about, but I knew it was a tragedy of lost international love set in early twentieth century Japan. I was worried that it might be Orientalist in nature, or that the tragedy would center around the character as an innocent, but in fact it was not. The opera really focused on the tragedy of the main chracter, Cio-cio-san and her desire to escape her troubled past. The performance was stunningly beautiful, and the performers phenomenal. It was truly transporting, and held one's attention completely for the entirety of the three hours. Most amazing was Elizabeth Caballero as Cio-cio-san; her voice was stunning, and as the majority of the performance centered on her character, she was fantastic at keeping her energy and intensity up for the duration of the opera.

Of course, attending the opera is also about dressing up and drinking wine at intermission, which is when I took the above photo. The Kauffman Center is an amazing building- the acoustics are some of the best anywhere in the world, and the immense view of the city through the glass front of the building, which sits atop a hill, is breathtaking.

Now I just need to get a pair of opera glasses.....

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mid-September Veggies

Sunday's harvest.

The cantaloupe was pretty tasty, if not terribly sweet. We used the eggplant and Anaheim peppers to make a miso stir-fry for dinner tonight. Tomatoes and cucumber for salads. I really can't think of anything more rewarding than dinner from the yard.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


This semester I'm teaching Museum Studies at KCAI.

One of the more fun parts of teaching museum studies is, of course, going to museums. This past Friday our topic was exhibition design and principles, so I took the opportunity to utilize the Egyptian galleries at the Nelson-Atkins as a case study. The gallery has a calm, dark aesthetic, reminiscent of a tomb, but without feeling oppressive. The sarcophagus pictured above is a highlight- striking in the amount of gold and in the beautifully painted details. Not only did it create a good discussion to experience the galleries together as a class, but it also helped break up the long three-hour class period that can be trying for everyone's attention span.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Sand Mandala

This past week brought a group of Tibetan monks from Drepung Gomang Monastery to the Spencer Museum of Art at KU.Throughout the week, the monks worked to create a sand mandala, their specific mandala was for world peace, and thus included a variety of symbols of other religions. Using various colors of sand, the work is intricate, detailed, and meticulous, and to watch them carefully construct it is amazing. At the end of the week, when the mandala is complete, the monks perform a dedication ceremony and deconstruct it, putting the sand in to a body of water, usually a river, but in the case of the Spencer mandala, into Potter's Pond. This deconstruction represents the Buddhist concept of impermanence, and the goal of releasing desire or attachments. The mandala was created one floor above my office, and I took all of my classes to see it throughout the week, something which I think the students really enjoyed. Above is a photo from the end of the first day on Tuesday, and below is a photo from near the end of the day on Thursday, the day before completion.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Cucumber Apple Salad

Amazu zuke!

I harvested my first cucumber yesterday. While making up bento boxes of leftover rice bowl last night, I thought it would be fun to make fresh pickles (amazu zuke). I found an easy recipe on the website Just Bento, and quickly chopped the cucumber and an apple, tossed in some rice vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and sugar, as well as a dash of red pepper, and let the salad marinate overnight. The result was perfectly crisp- the pepper gave it a little bite, and the apple lent it a hint of sweetness. The recipe can be found here. いただきます!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Late Summer

Finally, the days are getting cooler (if in the 90s, not 110s), and with a little bit of rain from the remnants of Hurricane Issac, the garden is back in bloom. The veggies are producing fruits, the flowers have perked up, and the grass has a hint of green in it. Labor Day weekend, while mostly full of labor, was also full of fun. We attended the wedding of a dear long-time friend, had some (kiddie) pool time, a movie night at home, and a holiday barbecue in the garden. While fall is around the corner, and is my favorite season, the end of summer is always bittersweet. Here's to the last of the summer produce, the glow of the heirloom sunflowers in the sunset, and the final days of sandals and iced drinks.