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10.30.2006

flashback

Below are a very few photos from my sister's wedding a few weeks ago. They mostly have to do with me, since this is my blog, and many who read it do not know my sister. She was beautiful, though. And the wedding was lovely.


I think she's putting on glitter... check out that hair! Now, how do I do that again?
Reading Muir during the ceremony... the Bride... the Groom... happiness...

More Bride and Groom... more happiness...

Cowering in fear? Chill out, me. They're only flowers.


Is the danger past? Not quite...

Yes, Dad is actually removing the groomsmen's celebrations from his car windows. And rightly so! Some of them weren't quite the thing.

All these years without Facebook, so happy, and now what have I done?

Bags are packed yet again. Well, technically, I'm only bringing one bag, hoping I can manage to carry it on the whole way there and back again. This time for the wedding of Stuart and Nicole. It will be good to see everyone again, and good to get some reading done on the plane and train, especially as I've done absolutely no reading at all done today. The culprit? Check out the title to this present entry. You know it. The killer of reasonable time. The black hole of internet blog addiction.

What exactly are the rules of etiquette relating to weblog usage? What's all this "prove to me I am your friend" business? These exclusive circles, all the many things we create out of our well-founded fears...

What I will be doing tomorrow: taking a train to London.
What I will be reading tomorrow: Thomas Pynchon's V.
What I will be listening to tomorrow: Sufjan's Illinois. Berry (maybe). Leonard Cohen. Lovelovelove.

10.27.2006

Flat Five, and Romeward Bound

I have officially moved to a new flat. Everything is cleaner and quieter, though the noise was never an issue before. I like the situation of my room, and I have arranged the furniture in a very pleasing manner. When I have cleared the floor of all my drying laundry, I will be sure to take a photo.

It is a Friday night, and I am not out at a pub this time. It has been a long week, and I decided to curl up with some hot cocoa and a dvd. What shall I watch? Flatmate-Jess will have to choose, or at least select a few options, as we will watch together. That, and she is our own personal Blockbuster.

To add to the stock of news, I have more or less decided to go to Rome for Christmas. A crazy choice, as I will probably be going alone. But there is no room for fear, no room for confusion, and no room for loneliness. Rome must be seen.

Before that, and before papers, and before anything else, really, I will be going home again. In three days. I'll take a train to London on Tuesday, which will be good since I love trains and, as has been said before, I still haven't been outside of Edinburgh. Wednesday I will fly home, Thursday I will... something. Friday I will... another something. And Saturday I will be in the wedding. Sunday, back on a plane, and Monday, hit the books for class on Wednesday. All of this is assuming that no storms will bar my passage one way or another, as past experience has shown is quite possible.

This is all very matter-of-fact. I will be sure to fill in more interesting narrative concerning the process of preparing for Rome, as well as the past week, the week to come, and all other things of far more interest that this monotony.

10.24.2006

salmonella, salmonella! night and day it's salmonella...

I have officially put in a request to transfer accomodations. Though I have not requested to go far. Simply up a flight of stairs and on the other side of the hall. These are my reasons:

They seem like rather compelling reasons to me. I should have taken a picture of the inside of the microwave... that was interesting. (Note the presence of cleaning spray upon the counter. Also worth noting, that it doesn't get much use.)

10.23.2006

from Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Man,"

of which...

Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,

A being darkly wise and rudely great:

With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,

With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,

He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest;

In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;

In doubt his mind or body to prefer;

Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;

Alike in ignorance, his reason such,

Whether he thinks too little or too much;

Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;

Still by himself abused or disabused;

Created half to rise, and half to fall:

Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;

Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;

The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

10.20.2006

"No Jesus, no mother, and no chloroform, either."




What is with the ahistorical writing of the post-WWI generation? They synthesize all the violence of their experience into a narrative without ever actually naming the source of the tension. This is the case in Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and now Jean Rhys. (Not "now," really. but I did just read her.)

The Post-WWII generation was not so dismissive. Not to say that the previous generation was dismissive, but they were struck somewhat silent about the specifics. Shock. Is that the kind of shock that Walter Benjamin was talking about? I did not understand that bit. Post WWII, they were shocked, but there seemed to be two responding alternatives. One, the reversion to a narrative of fallen enemy vs. victorious righteous ones. Not necessarily a simplification of the experience, but a making-palatable. Two, the testimony of horror. In this case, they were not stricken silent, but rather compelled to give some kind of witness. Weisel and Levi are examples of this.

Not that I'm studying post-WWII literature. Back to Marx, girl. Back to Lukacs and Adorno.

Here are my thoughts on this one. Marx, or at least the Marxist theorists and critics that I have read so far, seem to be depicting a secular religion or faith narrative that ignores the absence or existence of God (which is why they don't call themselves a faith, and why they don't refer to their theories and philosophies as theology). However, it is a very clear faith narrative, and a Judeo-Christian one at that. We have fallen humanity, constantly and perpetually regressing into a reified state of objectification, consumerism, destructive-'progressive' capitalism, etc. As (apparently) Habermas implies, it is not so much a recent problem--the result of Lockian property notions gone Ameriworld--as it is an inherent human flaw (like... sinful nature?). After a certain time, we have our prophets, or singular prophet, who declares this problem to the world and calls for transformation. Something like Scripture, a Moses-Isaiah-one calling out in the desert, prepare the way for the... revolution. This, of course, would be Marx. One might compare all of his disciples to the Christian New Testament writers, noting, of course, the absence of Christ in the Marxian formula. This does not mean, however, that there is an absence of Messiah. Check out Walter Benjamin. He's full of messianic notions. And more than that, in Benjamin we have the iconographers. For the Marxist aesthetic is surrealism (according to the afformentioned Ben), representing all the complicated notions of object, image, meaning, and more. It is interesting to note that Benjamin himself had quite a thing for Paul Klee's Angelus Novus. A meditative fascination with the divine being in image. But back to the Messiah. It is not Walter alone who has this notion of a hoped-for future. The whole crew of Marxists everywhere speak of this hope for transformation through revolution. The revolution takes different forms; the transformation has different causes, but the hope is the same. (Granted, it is also, as far as I can tell, rather ill-defined. For a godless notion of the Coming Kingdom must be wary of hoping for anything in particular, lest that particular be only another broken product of the broken system.)

(I must add, the novelist of the Marxists are far more talented than the novelists of the Christians. Not that this has anything to do with anything. But there's just no comparison between Jean Rhys and Francine Rivers. Come on.)

10.18.2006

Boeing 747


I have returned from witnessing the blessed union of my sister, Emily Clare, with the great and huggable Chris Ritchey. Oh my goodness... she's not Emily Lewis anymore. Crazy pants. Emily Ritchey. That does have a good sound to it; it is a good name. Anyway, the wedding was lovely, and I will expound on it in due course. When I have half a brain to attend to it.

At present, I am full of travel woes, though they are over. I am full of them, because I am weary from them. The trip was rather monotonous in its delays. If you care to hear, I will account for the passage of the last two days. This is how it goes:

I woke at five a.m. on Monday in order to make a seven o'clock flight from Palm Springs to Edinburgh via Houston and Newark.
On the way to the airport, my brother gets a call saying that the flight has been delayed an hour. I let him drop me off anyway, and wait the extra hour in the airport.
The plane leaves, but the storms in Houston (which caused the original delay of the flight out of Palm Springs) do not allow us to land when we get there. We are diverted (heartily) to College Stop, a wee two-gate airport about twenty minutes from Houston. We wait there for a number of hours which I cannot recall, allowing ourselves to be deeply concerned by the sloggish pace of the snackbar worker who was quite overwhelmed with the sudden influx of impatient Californians. Morning moves well into afternoon, and we are finally liften back into the air and set down in Houston. Which is no blessing, because the airport is jam-packed with frustrated, impatient, tired, and confused passengers, most of whom have lost their flights, their gates, or their minds, because everything in Houston is a complete and utter wreck. (Not due to any fault in the Continental employees; all because of a storm.)
At one moment, while seated on an underground tram moving between terminals, I thought "I wouldn't be surprised if this thing just takes us round and round in circles." That is how non-functioning and confused everything was.
My first flight out of Houston is non-existent, but a helpful gentleman in Palm Springs alotted me a seat on the next one. I made it to the gate just in time to see the plane pull away from the jetway. I felt like crying. (Meanwhile, crowds run and stumble around me, yelling and panting, seething with mayhem.)
A great deal more boring confusion, and finally, a flight! That drops me in Newark around 2 a.m the following morning. The Continental people are really quite friendly and considerate. They gave me a suite at a nearby hotel (I was not, of course, surprised when a man with a nametag and radio said that the train to the shuttle to the hotel would be delayed because the police had stopped it to examine a stray piece of luggage. Of course it would be delayed. What wouldn't be delayed?), in which I indulged in five hours of sleep, a Continental breakfast, conversation with a fellow "distressed passenger," and a hot bath.
Having to be out of the hotel by noon, I returned to the airport to wait for my flight at 8 p.m. that evening, exactly 24 hours after I had originally been scheduled to leave the country. I ate lots of bad airport food, purchased with vouchers from the airline, hopped on the plane, landed in Edinburgh, and--would you believe it--made it to class at nine the next morning, suitcase in hand.

Class was good, and the shuttle to Kings Buildings was fabulous. I am, at last, safe and still within my flat. I will nap, go to the grocery store, read for class on Friday, and recover from the world,

so that I can do all this over again in three weeks for Stuart and Nicole's wedding.

10.11.2006

wanderlust

I am going home tomorrow morning. This is a strange idea. It will be a stranger reality. I am glad to go home, glad to step away from this world for just a moment, to better see it new and fresh but familiar when I return. More than this, I am glad for my sister's wedding. Glad for the vows, the strange appearance of extended family members, the green skirt. Glad for seeing my brother and my mother and everyone. Glad for the twos-on-twos.

On the airplane, I will do my best to blitz through Samuel Richardson's Pamela. I will ignore the assigned readings of Foucault's "The Deployment of Sexuality," in part because I couldn't get it at the library and because I don't want to buy it, but most of all because I simply don't want to read it. I will read the essay by Adorno instead, and the chapter of Adorno and Horkheimer that I couldn't finish last night. I will listed to Rob D on my iPod. I will buy an overpriced sandwich in the airport. One of the airports. I will drink lots of coffee to leapfrog the timezones. I will think of all my friends in far away places, of all their travelling, and all my sitting still.

Until then, I should think about packing. I am taking some small gifts, almost unmentionable they are so inadequate for the occasion. And I am bringing home one pair of shoes. And I am bringing some clothes for the few days of running about, and a dress for the rehearsal dinner. (Is this cataloguing the result of reading Robinson Crusoe? I am so easily manipulated in my style. Oh dear...)

On a different note, I need some suggestions about where I should go during Christmas Break, and what I should do when I get there. Anyone have any ideas? I'm thinking Rome or Paris... or both. Or should I stay cheap and not wander far? Oxford... Manchester... Please feel free to suggest. I'm sure I'll bring the question up again closer to the season.

Until the bells are rung, the doves releases, and the tule removed from the construction zone, I will be silent. Enjoy my absence....

10.10.2006

Cohen is wooing my ears, and I am wondering if perhaps Hume can wait.

10.09.2006

Sticks of Fire

This morning, I woke up to the most incredibly loud and horrible noise coming from outside my window. A tree obscured the view for a while; I could not see what was going on. When the noise abated, I saw a truck pull forward slowly with a man behind it, holding a hose (connected to the truck) with one end bright as with flame. He was walking very slowly, and this fire stick-hose was blowing like a leaf-blower onto the pavement. But it was not a leaf-blower, because he was going very slowly, and he wasn't trying to get rid of the leaves. I could not see what it was supposed to be doing. Does anyone know? Please tell.

Yesterday was fun. It was Liesl's birthday, so I taught Lucy Liu how to make a carrot cake. Oh divine! We also saw The Devil Wears Prada and ate at a very posh Mexican food place. Everything tasted amazingly good, but at the same time, nothing tasted quite right. In a good way. In the sense that we were eating Mexican food in Scotland. So of course it won't taste the way it does two hours from the Mexican border. It will taste a bit more... Scottish.

Having spent the entire of yesterday baking and soiree-ing, I will probably be doing nothing but read-read-read all of today. Still haven't finished Robinson Crusoe...

10.07.2006

Notes on a Shipwrecked Man of Varying Sorrows

I am sitting in a cafe (Beanscene--very hip), reading Crusoe, and stealing glances at the passing world. There is a great French door open to the street just to my right. No one is walking through it; it is my own great window onto Nicolson Street.

Across the street, The Militant workers hand out papers set up on their windy table--a sign hanging between them reads "Defend and Emulate the Cuban Revolution." Is it wrong for me to be thinking, 'how quaint...'? People are in jackets, vests, and knit hats already; it is not very cold. They are over-eager for winter. I hum the Jesus Prayer in my mind: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me...' The cars here are so small. The old men are so interesting in their plaid working shirts, their wispy white hair. The children are so beautiful. Why are American children always hidden away? People are so beautiful and sad (I like to stare at them, waiting for them to glance back. It is a strange triumph when they don't. There is one boy across the cafe from me who knows I am staring. He refuses to look back; I think he is posing, he is so suave and careful in his casual demeanor.)

Ahem. Back to Crusoe.

Academia


I have included, to the left of all this nonsense, several links to a variety of pages of present interest or necessity to me. There you will find a link to my sister's wedding blog, the premier website on Marx, and a variety of other things (more to come, of course). The Marx, Hume, Pitkin, and Locke sites all link to essays that I am presently reading or rereading for my academic pursuits. Here are some questions I have to consider for next Wednesday's course.

1. Try to extract the central ideas from Adorno and Horkheimer. What version or versions of the enlightenment project are described here?

2. Compare Defoe’s story to Locke’s second treatise. Within a few pages Defoe says both that he was “reduced to a mere state of nature” and that “I might call my self King, or Emperor over the whole Country”. What are the politics of Crusoe’s island? Think especially about his relation to Friday, of course.

3. To sum up one of the topics discussed in this weeks’ seminar: Locke demystifies or “disenchants” (to adapt Weber’s term) the idea of kingship or sovereignty by arguing that its authority does not come directly from God, but from the law of nature (whose rightness however we can be sure of because of its origin in God’s will). Crusoe’s story is, on the one hand, the story of his relationship with nature; but also, on the other hand, the story of his relationship with God. How are the two related in this novel?

4. “World domination over nature turns against the thinking subject himself; nothing is left of him but that eternally same I think that must accompany all my ideas” (Adorno and Horkheimer p.26). Unlike Oroonoko, Crusoe gets to tell his own story. What are the characteristics and function of the first-person narrative voice here?


Doesn't that just sound exciting?

10.04.2006

hail the conquering biscuit


There is nothing like a grocery store for entertainment. Here are some of the odd things one finds:

Tiger Prawn Gourmet Pringles (see chips exerpt below; the word is "posh")
An entire aisle devoted to yogurt
An entire aisle devoted to tea cookies (and another to tea)
Microwavable Yorkshire puddings
Tomato paste in a tube
Clotted cream (say that with me, if you will. "clotted cream")
Outdated food on the bargain racks
Two varieties of salsa
One variety of tortilla chips (feel free to correct me, Jess and Liesl)
Orange juice valued at five dollars a carton
Kashi cheaper than Cocoa Puffs
No shortening? and where are the chocolate chips?
Refrigerated pasta

and much more.

mouths fly open


It is the second week of real courses, and I have at last spoken up in the group. Granted, it was my assignment to speak. I volunteered to be the first to introduce the week's reading. This meant that I read very closely and carefully, and that I spent many hours last night working out precisely what I would say--and the very tones in which I would say it. I remembered all that I had planned (mostly because I had it written out very clearly in front of me), but I let slip the precisely practiced tones. I was monotonous. Even afterward, as five us went to get a sip of coffee, that conversational monotony held on. Will these people ever know me? Why have I constructed such a wall? I can be jovial, personal, nerdishly hip... but I am shy. Where did that come from? I have not been shy since high school. (Excepting the one lunch I had with Dr Lundin, in which I had nothing to say and knew not how to say even that.) Perhaps I am afraid of the World. I feel there is nothing in common? I am uncertain... It needs only time. I am too used to friendships forming suddenly and beautifully, acquaintances so quickly becoming family. I am used to beautiful people falling into my life like hail. So simple, so present.

Anyway, I thought I'd throw into the mix my core course essay question, not due till mid December. We were given several to choose from, but this seems the most interesting to me:

“There are two meanings of the word subject: subject to someone else by control and dependence, and tied to his own identity by a conscience or self-knowledge” (Foucault, “The Subject and Power”). In what ways do texts in this period construct the relation between subjectivity and subjection?

If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. Or helpful secondary texts... Or a helpful primary text on which to focus. I suppose this means I ought to read Foucault. Oh dear. I will not let them take my heart! I will not let them kill my soul! I will be like a leaf...

10.02.2006

"...for a little pure truth, a little unflinching application of simple truth to life, the heart cried out ceaselessly."
P. 82 (D.H.Lawrence, Women in Love)

names for Mary's kitten


Description: boy, grey, very cute kitten.

Wanted: a strong name.

To the rescue!:

Dartmouth
Rhombus (don't mind if I do, Jesse)
Farquad
Burlesque
Bruce
Rubicon
Marcus
Dwayne
Nelson
Eric the Red
Pinto
Thor
Rover
Steve
Jackaroo
Lyman
Tchaikovsky
Austere
Mouse

(Please contribute in the comment section as you have alternate ideas.)

10.01.2006

the church doors are red

This morning, over a bowl of Swiss muesli, I told Lucy Liu about Jesus.
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