Ink & Penwipers

Scribbles, screeds, speculations, and the occasional reference to Schrodinger's cat.

31 December 2002

In an earlier post documenting my successful pranks, I forgot to mention a claim to fame that has surely used up my allotted fifteen minutes. So here it is:

The Day I Played a Joke on V.S. Naipaul

My old job at the University of Tulsa library involved a great deal of contact with the estates of authors whose manuscripts are in the collections there. This included contact with V.S. Naipaul, who had sold his manuscript archive to the university and added to it every so often. In addition to shipping manuscripts from the U.K., Naipaul also made periodic visits to Tulsa to organize and use his own manuscript collection. On these visits it would be my job to see to any needs he had in the Reading Room during the days he was there. My boss's job was to ferry him back and forth from the hotel downtown at the beginning and end of each work day.

One day late in this particular visit, my fellow library assistant and I were preparing to close up the office for the day, and I let Naipaul know that the day was almost at an end. So he closed up his notebooks and came out to the front area, leaving his hat on the front counter while he visited the "lavatory". Milissa and I stared at the hat. "Isn't that the coolest hat?" she said. I agreed. It was green, something like a fedora, with a green ribbon around the crown. "He doesn't watch out," she said playfully, "I'm going to steal that hat." On a sudden impulse, I picked the hat up and examined it, then dropped it onto the foot-high statue of Socrates that stood on the counter. "I'm not going to be the one to get into trouble!" Milissa laughed, and fled to her office. I left the hat there and went into the reading room to wait for him to come back. I peeked out the door just in time to see Naipaul come back into the front area. He laughed in his quiet way and said, "Oh, very nice, very nice." I came out and said, "Do you mind if Socrates wears your hat?" He didn't mind, especially since the hat swallowed practically all of Socrates down to the pedestal; Naipaul's hat was far too big for his head.

So that's the story.

29 December 2002

This morning, when I was contemplating getting up, I had a new idea for my novel. Jessica and I were discussing flashbacks, and she mentioned to me that the first half of my novel read like an extended flashback, since it is the only part of the book that would put it into the suspense genre. So I got the idea to interleave Part I with Part II. I have to write much of Part II first, but the idea's worth a shot, and it would solve some of the balance problems with the story. How exciting.

Ha! Thanks, Rebecca.

"God will not suffer man to have the knowledge of things to come; for if he had prescience
of his prosperity he would be careless; and understanding of his adversity he would be senseless."

You are Augustine!

You love to study tough issues and don't mind it if you lose sleep over them.
Everyone loves you and wants to talk to you and hear your views, you even get things like "nice debating
with you." Yep, you are super smart, even if you are still trying to figure it all out. You're also
very honest, something people admire, even when you do stupid things.

What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson

I'd say this is about right, too. Though I can't say I'd agree precisely with Augustine's views on women. More on this later, I'm headed to church.

UPDATE: D'oh! I forgot they're only having two services at Christ Church this morning, so when I got there, they were nearly through with the 10:00 service. Well, I feel sheepish. Ah well. At least I'm up and about.

27 December 2002

Okay, so I'll do the book guilt meme too.

Name three classics mouldering on your shelves:
1. The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. I'm just not hungry for allegory anymore.
2. The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler. A gift, which increases my feelings of guilt.
3. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I bought this thinking I would read it right away, since I love Austen. Why haven't I?

Name three works of modern literature you managed to avoid:
1. Ulysses by James Joyce. Have handled signed first editions of it, which is much more interesting than reading it. See my James Joyce Rant of 10 December.
2. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley. I've heard she's a good author, but if a book manages to get a reputation for increasing the pall of depression in King Lear, I'm staying away.
3. Entire syllabi's worth of Beckett, Pynchon, Vidal, and Naipaul. I don't have anything against these men, I just don't want to read Modern Litt-rat-ture.

Addendum: I managed to avoid The Red Badge of Courage in high school, but -- d'oh! -- had to teach it as a student teacher of a 10th-grade English class. So then I had to read it, and couldn't explain to my class why they had to. It was bad on so many levels. If I had it to do over again, I'd teach it differently, but I'm glad I don't have it to do over again, since it would involve rereading the book.

Name three novels you read but wish you hadn't:
1. The Man Without a Face by Isabelle Holland.
2. The Paperboy by Pete Dexter.
3. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. The common denominator to all three of these is that they end with the main characters absolutely spiritually dispossessed, and some of them are even happy about it in a sick sort of way. I've stayed away from Hardy ever since: especially when a coworker at one of my library floating jobs once gushed to me, "I just love Thomas Hardy. The way he writes, is just the way life is." My God, I hope not!

Name three books you skimmed your way through or never finished:
1. Paradise Lost by John Milton. I loved his "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso," but have never been able to get over the fact that a number of men have used our Great English Epic to Explain Womanhood, to women (which is arrogance personified) and to men (which is worse). I was also told to read it as a help to becoming more submissive. I mentioned this to my professor, Dr. Engle, who said I should read it with a somewhat more feminist person such as himself. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to take his Milton class.
2. Shardik by Richard Adams. I so loved Watership Down at the age of 13 that I attempted to tackle Adams's other huge novel. After slogging through a hundred pages, even I could recognize that this story of a bumbling man who ends up gettting worshiped was written partly as a glancing smack at Christianity. I wasn't able to deal with it then, and even though I could handle it intellectually now, I'd just rather not. As I recall, it was pretty heavy-handed as a story anyway.
3. I haven't finished The Silmarillion either, but it hasn't been for lack of trying. There are any number of texts I didn't finish from my syllabi in graduate school, but I'll mention one I never finished but actually liked in many places: Don Juan by Lord Byron. Minus the sex and money, I feel more kinship with Byron personality-wise than any other author. ("Hail Muse! etc.")

Name three famous fanfics you've always meant to read:
1. Cassandra Claire's Draco Malfoy series -- I've always been morbidly curious about the leather pants trope.
2. Natasha's fanfics. I haven't got round to them yet.
3. Umm...I'm such a lurker I can't think of any other famous fanfics right now.

26 December 2002

Well, Jews Go to the Movies night was a success. We had good Chinese food, including an appetizer on skewers that we got to cook ourselves over a small fire pot. Then we braved the snowy icy roads to the cinema and saw Catch Me if You Can. I was expecting this movie to be slightly good, because I like Tom Hanks's acting skills, and can appreciate Leo DiCaprio. To my great surprise, however, the movie was excellent -- funny, and touching without being smarmy. So go see it; it's worth sitting in front of immature girls of indeterminate age who are only there to look at Leo -- who I must admit is not too hard to look at, though I'm not so plebeian as to be an ardent fan. *snerk* Yeah. Go see it.

25 December 2002

Well, this year in my stocking bag I got a Mrs. Norris. So I'm happy, having got my little cat. I'm even happier that I got a whole bag of Ghirardelli chocolate squares that are all for me. Except for the orange ones, which I give to Jessica, who likes them. It works out so well that way.

Jessica braved the snow and ice last night to take me to the Christmas Eve service at Christ Church. It was entirely worth it, and even though my cold is still hanging on in my lungs a bit, I got into good voice by the time we sang "Joy to the World." There's really nothing to replace singing Christmas carols in church. With an organ, and a good choir, and all the candles lit, including the menorot that I thought were inoperable. And I'm pretty sure they're not called "menorot," but you know what I mean -- candelabra, you know, with the branchy things and...never mind. And the poinsettias were lovely, as were the gold hangings and vestments. I can't really talk about it more than that without ruining the worship part of it.

But the sun is out today and brightening the snow into brilliant whiteness, and I am wrapped up in the down throw that I got from my family. Tonight I am going to help Jessica celebrate Jews Go to the Movies Day, but I don't know yet what we are going to see.

I smell the ham. Merry Christmas, all.

23 December 2002

It's snowing again! We're supposed to get a foot or more. *starts singing "White Christmas"*

I was going to wait until it was actually Christmas to blog this, but I keep forgetting what that thing is I was going to blog about, so I'd better do it now.

The Saga of the White Cat in the Stocking

Mom is an excellent stocking stuffer. She thinks of things to put in there that would never have occurred to me in a million years -- cute things, useful things, tasty things, funny things, all centered on the personality of the person she loves. She'd whup Santa hollow, and since I never really did believe in Santa, my faith has always been in her.

This calls for a small digression. It may say something not very nice about my personality, but I never believed in Santa mainly because I felt he was irrelevant to the holiday. The point of the whole story of Santa bringing gifts was that I ended up with gifts. And if the tag said "to Lisa, from Santa" in my mother's handwriting, well -- I'm not just another pretty face, you know. But I was cool with it. Because hey, I got presents. I am an odd mix of skepticism and credulity. End of digression.

So anyway, I always knew it was Mom stuffing my stocking, and I was happy because she was good at it. And I knew she always put thought into it, so that everything I pulled out of the stocking on Christmas morning was endued with a special meaning. And some of the things I knew may have had some meaning to her, even if they didn't to me.

One year I found a small figurine of a white kitten with a Santa hat on. It was cute, and I smiled at it. But it wasn't until a few years later that I realized that I was getting something of the sort every year. A small stuffed animal; a keychain; a ceramic toiletries holder; a puzzle: all of them depicting a white cat.

It was yet another year or so before I got up the nerve to ask Mom about it. But one year, after the wrappings had been disposed of and the bows saved for another year, I said: "Mom, what the heck is up with the white cats in my stocking? Every year, a white cat. What does that mean?" (Though perhaps it didn't sound quite so much like Yiddish when I said it.)

Mom looked at me in shock. "I thought you knew. Don't you remember wanting a white cat in your stocking when you were little?"

I didn't.

"Yeah," Mom said. "There was this TV commercial, and a little girl found a white kitten in her stocking on Christmas morning, and you said you wanted that too."

I was starting to recall dimly that one year I had been inspired by a commercial to say that I liked the idea of seeing something living and cute in my stocking on Christmas morning; but I never really expected it to happen.

Mom was embarrassed; and I felt this confusing blend of exasperation and pity and affection. Exasperation, because I didn't know whether Mom's little yearly prank was too cryptic or I was too stupid. Pity, because Mom had put a lot of herself into this tradition of hers thinking I was with her on the other end. And affection, because Mom's occasionally-misguided thoughtfulness has always been one of the mainstays of my life.

Mom asked if I wanted her to stop the tradition. I said, "No, you might as well keep going." So she did. And a few years ago I finally said to her, "Mom, I'm really coming to have an affection for this little prank of yours." She laughed ruefully and said, "Good."

So now I am picking over the presents I was sent from home and wondering which one contains the white cat reference. I think I'll be sorely disappointed if I don't get it this year.

It's still snowing. Merry Christmas, Mom.

20 December 2002

Used up the brandy last night. Started on the Bushmill's Whiskey. But, I got 13 hours of sleep as compared to the 8 out of 48 for the past few days, so I'm happy. Having the vaporizer going helped too, so that between the alcohol and the menthol I didn't get on a bad coughing jag.

In other news, my presents arrived today from home. Three of them, without labels, so I don't know which is from whom. A big one, a medium-sized one, and a little one. Many many thanks. Mom, I have a gift for you but it's too fragile to mail. We'll have to get together soon.

The website is progressing -- stay tuned....

19 December 2002

From one of Walt's comments re penis envy:

And that is only half of the story. We haven't even mentioned the active female participation.

This subject has already reminded me of the Greek legend of Teiresias, who was asked to mediate between Zeus and Hera in their argument whether the man or the woman has the better deal. They made him into a woman for ten years, and at the end of them he told Zeus and Hera that the woman had the better deal. Hera felt like he'd ratted her out, so she blinded Teiresias and sent him to wander for the rest of his life. See, we think the Greeks are ignorant because they don't have our technology, but despite being rather barbaric (irony intended) they knew what they were talking about.

The main point I was trying to make is that women don't need to be envious of men. Everybody knows this, it's not a big secret, so the theory of penis envy is at best a paltry attempt to even the scale, requiring us to raise up a Luce Irigaray to answer it.

And we can use our brains and our reproductive organs at the same time, so there. No, they're not mood swings, they're biorhythmical undulations.

*slams book shut and runs away cackling*

18 December 2002

Quote of the day:

"One has not lived till one has carried a sixty-pound dog down a sweeping flight of stairs at half past V in the morning." --Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog...a very good companion for insomnia and a cold -- along with a small juice-glass of brandy.

17 December 2002

No, I don't ever have a chip on my shoulder. At all!

Which Depeche Mode song are you?

brought to you by Quizilla

Now can someone sing this song for me so I can recognize it?

16 December 2002

Also, I saw on TV where there's an actual movie about drum and bugle corps, called Drumline. It appears to have a racial element to it, which may or may not be a good thing depending on the writing. Now, I may or may not see it, because it doesn't look like a good movie necessarily, but I tell you I did stand up and cheer that they've finally given some sort of limelight to marching band! I did six years of marching in middle and high school, and four years at my alma mater, the University of Tulsa, and on occasion I really miss it. I also miss playing in an ensemble of whatever size. Band just rules. I'm relatively silent, but yes I am a member of Band Nerds And Proud Of It.

In other news, Jessica wrote Joshua Malina, of Sports Night and lately of West Wing fame, and received a very nice reply, which she says caused her to utter a Tossie Mering-like screamlet when she opened her email. :)

UPDATE: Jessica says there's a better Josh Malina site to be had, so here it is.

I’ve got one of those cold/flu-like things that start out with a sore throat and fever and progress to a drippy nose and generalized bleariness. So my dreams last night were especially vivid and unpleasant.

In one of them, I was Ron. I have Harry Potter dreams occasionally, and often I become one of the characters for moments at a time. This time, I was Ron and I’d been captured by Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy because I had knowledge of where some secret powerful thing was hidden. Except I didn’t know till they started torturing me, and then I realized that not only did I know where it was, I was holding onto it. The powerful thing, whatever it was, was enclosed in an ordinary Snitch. So I had it and was holding onto it despite their attempts to get me to give up my knowledge. So Voldemort authorized Lucius Malfoy to hit me with this stuff squirted from a hose – and I was writhing on the floor with this stuff hitting me in the back like a pale blue light searching my insides, cold and unbearable, like electrical shock. It got so bad that I gave in and went limp, but once it stopped I remembered myself and that I had the Snitch, so I steeled myself again. Except then Voldemort himself got down onto me, and then I stopped being Ron long enough to see Voldemort cutting off Ron’s hair with cruel scissors and Ron crying. When that was done, he hugged Voldemort, as Winston reached out to his torturer in 1984. So then Ron was one of Voldemort’s contemptuous zombies, with hair like a doll’s that’s been pulled out except for the roots, but he still unbeknownst to them had the Snitch and attempted to sign this to Hermione at breakfast later. She didn’t figure out his sign, but she seemed really glad that he was not completely consumed in Voldemort’s Hitler-like regime. I don’t know what happened after that.

Isn’t that awful? I wish there was some way to not sleep when one is sick. Or sleep without dreams. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of pleasant dreams I’ve had in my life.

Grumble, grumble, snark, snark.

14 December 2002

*maniacal laugh* For those easily offended, do not read this post. Of course, that means you're going to anyway. *evil grin*

With this site we put an end to penis envy now and forever. Nothing has been more frustrating in my experience than to hear the traditional Freudian position that as soon as women discover that men have penises and they don't, it instantly creates a desire in women to have one. It's frustrating because no matter how much women scoff at this position, they are not believed. Now, surely women sometimes want what the phallus stands for: power, untrammelled honor -- "holding your hand over your enemy's head in triumph," as the Greek dramatist has it -- but that is not the same thing as actually wanting a penis. Ultimately, the only reason one might want such a funny-looking, unwieldy, single-minded appendage is to write in the snow with it. Well, at this site, you too can learn how to pee standing up and even write in the snow! Probably within a short time you can even aim better than the men.

Penis envy, my...well, you know.

13 December 2002

I'm excited.

Lisa and I are planning to revamp my old website and make it into a real authors' forum. She has some poetry that is specifically designed for the internet; and I have some new ideas for essays.

I had an idea last night during my insomniac tossings and turnings: Speech-Act Theory and Liturgy. I've purchased a copy of the Book of Common Prayer, and studying it has started all sorts of chain reactions in the chemistry of my brain. So perhaps soon I will have a few essays to put on my new website.

We're hoping to launch in a couple of weeks, so the Christmas season will be a season of preparation for another reason. Did I say I'm excited?

I'm off to do Christmas cards. Ta-ta!

10 December 2002

Currently amused by Albus Dumbledore's Inbox -- thanks, Emily!

I realize occasionally that I am a big snob. I'm very proud of having an M.A. in English Lit, but it's not necessary to assume that nobody else shares my specialized knowledge. Of course, I was that way when I was still in middle school -- I think it's my Hermione-like traits coming out. I tend to over-explain stuff to people who really do know what they're doing, and the index of how much I do that is how much it annoys me when people do that to me. My bad! *slaps own wrist*

On the other hand, it is gratifying to have a little backup license when I make snide remarks about James Joyce. And I've never done my Joyce rant on here, have I? Well!

The James Joyce Rant -- tm

When the 100 Best Books of the Century came out a few years ago, our canon theory class had a field day with all the hoopla of choosing and touting these books. Conspicuous to my mind was the omission of To Kill a Mockingbird, simply one of the best *stories* ever written -- in my Humble But Vehement Opinion. But of course, these people were not looking for *story*, they were looking for that certain je-ne-sais-quoi that is High Canonical Style. (C.S. Lewis has written a very telling essay about this subject in Literary Essays.) Equally conspicuous was James Joyce's Ulysses, magisterially occupying the number one rank on the list.

Okay. I've read some Joyce, even though he's not my period. Snatches from Dubliners, and Portrait, and the first page of Finnegans Wake. Not to mention that my old job was in one of the more famous Joyce repositories in the country, with numerous signed copies of the number-one book of the century as well as a marked set of page proofs for Finnegans Wake. I have held James Joyce's gravy-stained blue-and-white-striped tie in my hands. Yes, you may touch me.

Mommy, why is the Emperor naked? Yes, I will say it -- yesyesyes. The whole James Joyce Thing is a case of the Emperor's new clothes. Sure, it's easy to see the man had genius. It's even easy to see the appeal of this cantankerous and sarcastic Irish ex-Catholic taking the early-20th-century literary community by storm. It helps that he earned a reputation for hard drinking, irresponsibility, and grandiose sexism, slightly exaggerated by his equally-messed-up brother's accounts of his life. But surely this is no excuse for the grand Joyce mystique that surrounds his later work. Ulysses is very clever, very cutting, very innovative...and nobody can finish it, except grad students and people who like to torture themselves, which class is not mutually exclusive. Mind you, that entire era in literature and music was marked by an attempt to throw all the rules of art out the window, to stick it to those nasty hidebound conservatives who control our daily lives and would, gods willing, be ultimately defeated in the Revolution. ("Boy, we sure showed them. We wrote a piece that nobody can interpret!") And Joyce became the poster boy for that movement.

God preserve me from being a hidebound conservative, but I think that that strategy shoots itself in the foot. Now not only is that time's literary gospel dead, it's been enshrined in canon, the very place their anarchism scorned. Now, you're not literate if you don't revere Joyce. Even Joyce would have laughed at the now-current notion that you're on the path to literary hell if you can't follow theriverrun. All he wanted to do was make fun of the professors. And now only professors read him -- as he predicted. The irony is killing.

Oh, and a bonus mini-rant. I have a soft spot for T.S. Eliot, but he had this terrible urge to make Ezra Pound his Jedi master, and it did not help him to Become Cool.

All of that is for free. Can you believe it?

09 December 2002

I got a picture Christmas card from Val and Nathan and Austin today, plus some jpegs in email. Hurray!

My friend Lisa has started a blog. Her poetry is excellent, and we hope to set up a place where people can review it, once she gets the time to work on the HTML. I'm looking forward to it!

08 December 2002

Well, now that Rebecca has finally come out of the closet, her friends can all breathe a sigh of relief, and congratulate her on undertaking this courageous step.

Wouldn't be the first time someone has fallen a victim to shoddy scholarship, but I must say that that was shockingly funny.

I took my friend Lisa to the Lessons and Carols service this morning. She had never been to an Episcopal church either, so I took care to warn her that the Communion wine is real wine. (*gasp* Real wine??, my sister said later when I told her about it.) She enjoyed it, and we both enjoyed the lunch at St. Louis Bread after that. Then she took me to her place where she showed me the delights of EverQuest. I can see why that game is addictive!

The snow is melting.

05 December 2002

Okay, I've CHANGED MY TEMPLATE, woohoo! Unfortunately I can't get my comments to appear. I'm still tinkering with the code.

UPDATE: The comments are appearing, but now I've got weird things going on in other places. You who read this and can access my code, will you let me know how it looks?

04 December 2002

From Lady Julian of Norwich:

As so our good Lord answered to all the questions and doubts which I could raise, saying most comfortingly in this fashion: I will make all things well, I shall make all things well, I may make all things well, and I can make all things well; and you will see that yourself, that all things will be well.

And this is not even the coolest thing she says. I wonder how it is in the Middle English.

It started snowing last night, and it may be snowing still. I love snow; it's horrible to drive in, but I love it anyway. Snow has its own silent charm, as thunderstorms have their own tempestuous charm. Even looking out the window, I can feel the brilliant white quiet out there.

*goes away humming "Christmas is coming"*

03 December 2002

Visited Christ Episcopal Church again this last Sunday. The gospel text for this Sunday was the one from Mark about keeping constant watch for Christ's coming, and the sermon that followed that theme was excellent. I think I have definitely gotten onto something good.