Ink & Penwipers

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

06 September 2004

A Grab Bag

So, the last few weeks have been eventful in that I finished "Shadow" -- which, if you've been following this blog a while, has been long in the writing. It's also just long -- I stopped counting pages after Chapter 23, and it was at 225, and there are 30 total now. Not to mention its snake-like sequelage. I've also updated my fanfiction page to reflect everything that's new. I think.

Also, I got to shake John Edwards's hand when he came to Springfield, which was an unexpected boon! I have some very poorly-taken pics of the rally, some of which you can see, along with commentary, here. I do wish I'd had my brother along; he takes very good photographs. I do wish he'd submit his ground-level photo of the family chickens running (a photo I call "Poultry in Motion") to Scholastic or some other contest. He'd have been a dab hand at photographing the color and swirl of the rally, whereas my photos tend to come out dark and foregroundless.

Speaking of visual artistry, I want to do something new with this blog. It needs to be cleaned up anyway to work with Blogger's new features; right now it looks rather neglected, which is probably one reason its readership has gone down (the other, of course, being the increasingly sporadic posts). But I'm beginning to feel that the task is beyond me technologically. Help?

I spent most of a week in late August at the Rivendell Motherhouse, doing some work on the farm and recovering from the effort it took to finish "Shadow". I remembered to bring my flute and piccolo up, and found that the acoustics of the house were really phenomenal; I managed to play impressively as well, so I think my musical instruments are invited back. There's something rather mythopoetic about playing the Veni Creator Spiritus on a piccolo in the open-air pavilion at dawn on a Sunday morning. I also did a little writing on the subject of hope, which I may post soon, though I don't recall it makes any use of what I learned from Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse, which I read for the first time that weekend. Elizabeth Goudge, where have you been all my life?

My car is still dead. In fact, a mechanic friend has ascertained that both reverse and third gear (which are probably back-to-back with each other in the transmission, whatever that means) are gone -- which means in essence it would need a new or rebuilt transmission. Which would cost half of what my father paid for the car in the first place, and in any case I don't have it. So I got the title signed over to me so that I can dispose of it however I can and find a new car, though how I'll get a new car, strapped as I am, is still a murky proposition. Don't want to think about that frustration right now.

Meanwhile, am applying for another PT library position in addition to the one I have now; the two of them together should more or less equal FT work minus the benefits, which is what most people I know are working right now. I'm thinking about what Screwtape said about people not getting angry about misfortune unless they conceive it as injury, and that the devil's job is to make people think misfortunes are injuries and injuries are...also injuries, I guess, though if one considers an injury a misfortune I suppose it does prolong the suffering needlessly, as it forestalls an attempt at a redress of grievances. Which is in the First Amendment. Which increasingly does not exist anymore. Suffice it to say that I am beginning to conceive certain aspects of my misfortunes as injury, and I don't think Wormwood is responsible for the fact. I have an article on that, too, which I may nerve myself up to post soon, in tandem with the hope one.

Speaking of injuries, I had a linguistic breakthrough this morning in which I realized some history to the word bitch that I ought to have extrapolated before -- I think it must have been triggered by my roommate's fellow paid-staffer at the Kerry campaign, on being told facetiously in the other room that I must be the mooted Republican mole, cried, "That BITCH!" I hadn't had such a good laugh in a long time. Anyway, we've always had a theory that if you're getting called a bitch you must be doing something right, and should take it as a compliment; and no usage of the word in my personal lexicon has strayed far from the cluster of meanings including unpleasant, strident, uncooperative, criminally adversarial, rude. So a few years ago when I noticed in random reading at my job that Richard Ellmann and Ellsworth Mason agreed in translating Joyce's putanna madonna as "God's bitch of a mother," I thought they were rather off. I mean, putanna doesn't mean strident or uncooperative or adversarial, it means whore. (And really, anyone trying to call the Virgin Mary "uncooperative" probably doesn't have much of a grasp on the Gospel narrative.) Then I had my "Oh, DUH!" moment. "Whore" is what "bitch" used to mean, but the word's meaning has been diluted to include any woman whose behavior is unsatisfactory (much as "gentleman" has come to mean not a member of the landowning class but a man whose behavior has a certain dignity and praiseworthiness). You'd think this would be obvious, but I seem to have neglected to puzzle it out to the bitter end until now. So that now you can see people calling one another "bitch" playfully and even affectionately without in the least casting nasturtiums (the only Joyceism I love to employ) at their sexual morality. The word is now even being used to male persons in such contexts, and its former counterparts (such as whore and skank) are undergoing similar treatment (e.g., manho, a facetious term describing an unrepentantly promiscuous man), though certainly to a lesser degree. I believe slut remains precariously the only epithet that retains most of its pejorative power, though I could be forgetting one or two.

I suppose I hardly need to point out that this development arrived as a result of people's ascribing the worst possible shade in character (for a female) to a woman who is not uniformly acquiescent. In other words, if she opens her mouth, accuse her of opening her legs. The interesting thing is that such linguistic practices have been going on since the Iliad, but only within my generation (or perhaps beginning one or two before me) have I seen a widespread re-appropriation of the term itself, however much we can assume from such writers as Juvenal and Chaucer that the spirit of positive, vocal female nonacquiescence (apart from what it calls itself) has been alive and well. Who painted the lion, tell me who? Indeed.

I think that's all the news for today.


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