Friday, August 31, 2007

Delaying gratification, and those dreams you sometimes have that are so fantastic and then you wake up and you're like, Oh. And now for real life.

That post title is only three characters (four characters?) shy of being too long for a post title.

I went to the library today to get, I swear, two books, just two, no more than two, a mere two. All I wanted was The Mysteries of Udolpho, which I've been meaning to read for untold ages, and The Monk, which sounds hilarious. The thing was (this was the thing) that as I was turning down the R aisle to fetch Udolpho, my eye was caught by The Persian Boy, which is an excellent book and one that I haven't read for absolutely untold ages – like, seriously, a year and a half – so I paused to eye it affectionately, and then I also spotted The Praise Singer, which is a book by Mary Renault that I have not read.

This is something I do quite frequently with authors I like. Basically if I read two books by an author that I like quite a lot, or one book that I adore and one book that I quite enjoy (not in that order though. It has to be I read one that I quite enjoy and then one that I adore, or otherwise I will think that the author didn't live up to his or her potential in the second book of theirs I read), the Rule of Delayed Author Gratification comes into play. This is the rule whereby I choose one book by a given author of whom I am fond, and I just don't read it. For instance, I am not reading The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie. I am not reading Persuasion by Jane Austen (I have read it before, but not for ages, even longer than I haven't read The Persian Boy). I am not reading The Praise Singer by Mary Renault. For the longest time I didn't read Archer's Goon by Diana Wynne Jones, or Beau Ideal by P.C. Wren, or Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card (that one was SO not worth it), or Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers (ditto. shut UP, Peter Wimsey, ya pussy. The guy was a MURDERER. Quit CRYING.)

I have other delaying gratification tactics too, with authors I actually can't bear not to read. When Diana Wynne Jones wrote Conrad's Fate, I read it to my little sister, and I didn't read ahead. As I read it aloud chapter by chapter, I was reading it for the very first time. When I first got all of the Sandman (I got ALL of them, because my lovely godmother gave me a big gift card to Bongs & Noodles for my birthday), after I decided they were pretty much the best thing ever, I only read one issue a day. And appreciate: I did that for Season of Mists and A Game of You and Brief Lives, not just like Fables and Reflections and World's End, where it wouldn't have made any difference. I began to fail at this when I got to The Kindly Ones, though. I gave in and read them all in one gobble. I had to! Lyta was a CRAZY PERSON!

I know that you are probably thinking this is an insane Rule, but you are totally wrong. Sometimes it's a let-down, but sometimes it's very very worth it. Archer's Goon? Beau Ideal? Can't even express how worth it. And just think if I'd had the luck to save The Ground Beneath Her Feet instead of The Moor's Last Sigh (I almost did this! The only only reason I didn't was that The Moor's Last Sigh was checked out!). And just think how brilliant it would be if I'd reserved Fire and Hemlock for last, or Neverwhere. It is just a question of guessing the right book to read.

Anyway, so I stopped to look at The Praise Singer, to decide if the Time Was Ripe for ending the delaying of my gratification, and what do you think? There were all these books by Mary Renault I'd never heard of before! Like four of them! And one about after Alexander died (poor Bagoas), which I'm assuming isn't very good or else my mum would have recommended it to me and owned it, but still! Hey!

This is like those dreams that everyone who likes books a lot seems to have, where you go to the library and there is a whole shelf of hitherto unknown books by an author you really like, or you go to a book sale and they have all the books you like, or you discover a new wondrous author who has written ten thousand books.

But this is real. Indeed Mary Renault does have a whole bunch of books I haven't read before. Eeee! I'm trying not to get my hopes up though, because I know that many times an author does not reach his or her writing peak right away, and there are consequently a vast number of books by them that are not very good at all, even though their later books are excellent, and other times an author is just all over the place and sometimes her books are very, very good and sometimes they are boring shite (I'm looking at you, Rumer Godden).

Addendum: I looked up Mary Renault on Wikipedia to make sure that these were indeed her books, and do you know what I discovered? I discovered that she and her partner that she was with her whole life moved to South Africa where there was apparently a lovely and accepting expatriate gay community, and they joined the anti-apartheid movement. In the 1950s. And hardly any white people were in the anti-apartheid movement in the 1950s. Yay for Mary Renault. It is pleasant to discover that one's favorite authors were also nice people. Usually I look people up on the internet and discover unpleasant things about them, like Sean Connery thinking women needed to be smacked and kept in their places, and Nabokov being all, you know, snobby and uppity, and, ugh, Rumer Godden refused to give medicine to a little dying girl who then died, and things like that. But Mary Renault was a righteous lady, and The Persian Boy particularly is an extremely well-written and touching book; and I think more people should know about her, because she was a good writer and it sounds to me like a good person.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A reflection on hair

Today in class, I discovered a very dark hair in amongst my regular fair hair. I mean properly dark, not just brown like bits of my hair are because I don't go in the sun because of skin cancer and roasting burning soul-destroying heat. It looked black. I looked at it for a while and then pulled it out of my head, partly to examine it further and partly to prevent it from breeding.

Ordinarily when it becomes necessary (for whatever reason) to pull a hair out of my head during class, or when it happens that a hair falls out during class, it is unproblematic to dispose of it, because it is virtually invisible. One hair. It blends in with everything, so it looks like your hand is empty anyway, and then you can't see it once it has fallen to the floor. Not so with black hair, which is perfectly visible to everyone and furthermore it shows up on the floor and actually looks weird and unsanitary all coiled there. So I couldn't drop it. I just had to hold it until the class was over and I could go outside and drop it there for a bird to use in its nest.

Another reason to insist that my hair remain its appropriate color which is the color it has ALWAYS BEEN and there is NO NEED for it to start changing its ways now that we have reached adulthood.

My new classes

A sum-up of my new semester:

One of my professors came to class wearing a canary-yellow shirt with a white jacket and a yellow bow-tie with red polka dots, and referred to his antique collection as his children. As in: "I often talk to my children--" (Jenny, in her mind: Children? Really? Well, I guess Oscar Wilde had children also) "--and pick them up, but I use the kind of care one should always use when handling antiques." (Jenny, in her mind: Ah yes. I was right.)

Another of my professors was exactly like Ben Fong-Torres ("Craaazy") in Almost Famous, and he patronized me for saying something actually perfectly intelligent and also correct and believed by many theologian people. He asked us why we thought there weren't a bunch of depictions of the crucifixion in very early Christian art (the first one (HE SAYS but we plainly can't trust him) being from A.D. 450), and I said that crucifixion was a shameful criminal death to die and it was an embarrassment to the religion, and he said, "Hm. Good guess. But no" and explained that in fact it was because nobody in the early years of the religion cared about the crucifixion, and it only became important later on. So I think he is full of shit, and I shall drop his class if possible, even though I would love to learn about illuminated manuscripts and so forth.

My parapsychology teacher can see auras. He can see auras. I love this class. We are going to study UFO abductions and angels, and my professor can see auras. In the evening he sees them best (he says). I wanted to go find him and be like, "Um, my father is friends with a dude you work with" and then, having established my credentials, "WHAT COLOR IS MY AURA?"

And my queer theory class is perfect. It's perfect. It's the way I imagined college would be, back when I was a wee high schooler. We are reading a bunch of cool articles about all different things, and the people in the class are interesting and they answer when the professor asks questions and like say intelligent things.

Incidentally, there was a girl there and she was from England (she went to Swansea uni, but she didn't sound the least bit Welsh, and I don't know where she was from originally), and she was a Ph.D. student and very smart and oh my God, so posh. She was like terrifyingly posh, even more posh than my poshest flatmate, plum in her mouth and everything; which is funny because back in the day I wouldn't have noticed a thing (that's how British people talk), but after living with people from East London and Southend and Shropshire, I really really really noticed. Ah to be in England now that summer's here.

P.S. I miss London. Lovely London.

My schedule is extremely busy this semester, which means that I'll be doing a lot of work in the evenings and a lot of work in the mornings kind of early, and I have already turned to coffee. I made it through years and years of getting up at five-thirty for school, and never once did I drink coffee to keep myself going, because I don't like the taste, even when you mix in sugar and milk. Apparently all it took was giving me school plus a job, plus the notion that you don't have to have cream in your coffee. I drank two cups this morning at work, and I usually don't even make it through one. No cream, three sugars. My poor teeth.

In recreational news, there is a very cute movie of Northanger Abbey that was made by, I believe, the BBC earlier this year. The girl who plays Catherine is adorable and very sweet and innocent-looking, and the guy who plays Henry Tilney (my favorite Jane Austen hero, incidentally, by a lot, and please don't shoot me, Laura, this only means more Mr. Darcy for you) looks like Lee Pace, whom I adore, and announces his smirks in advance. I love it. Marry me, Henry Tilney.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Things That Hurt

1. Injuring your toe by basically detaching your entire toenail.
2. Limping around because you can't put weight on your toe.
3. Getting blisters from the flip-flops you have to wear because you can't wear any other shoes because your toe.
4. (And this one may actually win the prize) Finding out that your blister popped only when you submerge your entire foot in salt water for the purpose of ensuring that your injured toe does not become unclean.

I was going to post about my museum studies teacher and other matters, but right now I'm too busy being in agony to discuss anything else. Sorry.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The reason I can never become rich

It's homeowners associations. They frighten me. If I became rich, I would have to build a house in the middle of nowhere, or commission a tall ship to be built for me to live in and sail up and down the coast, or buy a train that would belong exclusively to me and run up and down and up and down tracks that I would lay down, because I can never live in a place with a homeowners association.

You know what they do? Do you know? They force you to meet all of your neighbors. If you move into one of those neighborhoods, you have to belong to the homeowners association. You have to. Otherwise you are not allowed to move into their neighborhood. And oh, they are so frightening, these homeowners associations. They make you pay for their community swimming pools even if you never swim in the community swimming pool and never want to and don't feel that it is your job to fund their children's right to pee in a public pool. They have like boards of directors drawn from a pool of volunteers within the neighborhood, and you know what that means? It means that the most power-hungry people within your community (note that I didn't say the sanest. They can be any degree of sane. It's just the most power-hungry.) are the ones with the Power Over You And Your Family.

With their Power, they can send you nasty notes if you don't mow your lawn on time, and then they can start fining you. Money. They can make you pay them money for not cutting your grass in a timely fashion. Seriously. I didn't even make that up. And I know that if I were Rich, I could afford to a) hire someone to mow my lawn and b) pay whatever fine they might levy upon me for tardy cutting of my grass, but still. It's none of your damn business how long my grass is. I feel.

I'm not really sure why I felt the need to express this. But there it is.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


OW. OW. OW. OW. I hurt myself, ow ow ow ow ow. It hurts SO MUCH. It will be much easier and less yucky for someone to just amputate that toe. It hurts. And there's a bandage and it's yucky. I don't really need that toe anyway. Screw that toe.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A confession

When I was a little girl, I read this very wondrous book called The Witch Family, in which the Head Witch of all the witches was so extremely wicked that two little girls called Amy and Clarissa were forced to the unpleasant expedient of banquishing her to the top of a glass hill until she could learn to behave herself. More or less to this end, she acquired a little witch girl and a weeny witchie baby, and then they lived with her too. (There was also a little mermaid that lived inside the glass hill, and the little witch girl sometimes went and hung out with her, and the little mermaid also had a baby sister, so that was fortunate for them both.)

In this book, which was one of my most favorite books of all as a kid, the witches are able to get things they want by saying Abracadabras, and of course they have to say the right one to achieve the desired effect, and the Head Witch of all the witches is the best at this, because of course she is the boss witch and must be good at it. They say spells like "Abracadabra / A B C / Flying through the air to me / Hotch / Cotch / In a potch / A weeny witchie baby do I see?"

This, it turns out, is how I view online purchases. I always have done. Every time I buy something online -- I've just bought a hardback illustrated edition of Stardust, since I like the book quite well and I like it much better with Charles Vess's elegant illustrations -- I feel vaguely like I have done an abracadabra, and I always think of that line, "Flying through the air to me", and I am never sure it's going to work. Because the little witch girl's abracadabras don't always work -- the one to get her baby sister doesn't work at all, and she has to enlist the Head Witch to assist her. I get a picture in my head of the book or whatever being wrapped up in packaging, flying out of the storeroom, and making its leisurely way to me across country. If it doesn't make it in time, I get cross, and it's officially with Amazon or Ebay, but in my heart of hearts I'm cross at the book or movie for delaying its arrival and probably having all kinds of good adventures of which I will always remain ignorant.

I confessed this for the first time in my life to my little sister last night. Before that I've never told a soul. It occurs to me that this is a completely absurd viewpoint to have, and I must embrace technology and recognize that when I buy something from Amazon, a worker finds the item, prints a receipt, slips the item and the receipt into a mailing envelope or box, addresses it, and ships it to me. There is no flying. There are no excellent adventures. I must face the cold hard reality of the post.

As a side note, I am presently thinking of a story set in a post office, and one of the main people in it is called Hannah, which is not officially after the little witch girl in The Witch Family, but since I don't in my heart of hearts entirely believe in this post office myth, it is probably a subconscious reference to the fact that, I'm sorry, but that post you're getting? It's coming to you by Abracadabra, and if you didn't say it yourself, that proves nothing, because obviously someone said it, or else how do you think -- this is almost too obvious to bother explaining -- how do you think that those packages found their way to your doorstep? Sheesh.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I hate Wallace Stevens

This is well-documented and there's nothing more to say about it. I just remembered that I had a category about this, and it reminded me of exactly how much I hate Wallace Stevens. Particularly because the class that forced me to write a paper, a whole paper on Wallace Stevens, the class that played to my weaknesses (analyzing poetry intelligently and comprehending senseless literary theory), the class that I was like sweating blood for all year, that class, I have been given credit for it at my university as a 2000-level class. I had to write three 3000-word papers for that class, not to mention read masses and masses of Wallace Stevens' poems and masses and masses of his nonsense literary theory that doesn't make any sense and he explains it very poorly, and they're going to give me credit for a 2000-level class? No, my friends, no. I will chain myself to the door outside the admissions office until they sort this out because there will be no circumstances under which I will accept this nonsense transference of credit because it is NONSENSE. Don't they understand? I had to read WALLACE STEVENS.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

There is a phantom ghost alarm clock in my house that is actually seriously freaking me out.

About a week and a half ago, there arose a peculiar phenomenon in my bedroom, which was that an alarm started to go off every day at 7:59. Every day. Like clockwork. It would beep for about thirty seconds and then stop, which meant that it beeped much too much for the sleepers in that bedroom to go back to sleep. Which was okay on the weekdays because if we weren't up by then we really should be, but on the weekends when it is sleeping time and the gods of sleep have decreed that it is acceptable to sleep well into the AM hours, it was extremely aggravating. Plus we couldn't trace the beeping noise to its source. I would leap out of my bed at 7:59 and search frantically in the whole area where the beeping was coming from, but it was elusive and every time I looked in one place it seemed like it was coming from somewhere else. And the thing was, I only had thirty seconds or so in which to search for the beeping noise, which makes it tricky to conduct any extended searches.

So this morning I was up well before the beeping started, and when I heard it start I decided that it was a good time to hunt for it, since I was not feeling groggy and would therefore be at the top of my alarm-clock-hunting game.

And I found it.

This is the scary part. If you are of a nervous disposition, I advise you to stop reading now.

It was the alarm clock that my mother got for my sister for graduation, the clock radio that my sister will be using when she sallies forth into her new life. I am almost positive that it was the culprit, for when I removed the blankets that were covering it, the sound got louder; and when I held it to my ear, the sound got louder still and appeared indeed to be issuing from that very clock radio.

Not scary, right? Except for THIS. It wasn't plugged in at all.

It really wasn't. I was just going to unplug it and poof! problem solved! but when I went to do that, the plug was dangling loose and not connected to anything whatsoever.

Not scary, right? Because it has an auxiliary battery function perhaps, one that would allow the clock to continue to function even when it is not plugged in?

No! Wrong again! VERY SCARY because the clock wasn't doing anything. The display wasn't lit up with the time, the radio wouldn't go on when I tried to turn the radio on, and what is more, neither of the alarms were set. Neither one! How could the clock know what time it is if the clock isn't set? How could it infallibly go off at 7:59 every morning without even knowing what time it is? And how, how, HOW could it have any alarm at all when both of the two alarms were set at the OFF position? And why did it suddenly start doing the alarm thing in the middle of the summer, after not doing the alarm thing for several months since we introduced it into the environment of our room?

This is totally something out of one of those frightening stories which I've never read because I don't like horror stories but I'm sure this kind of story exists, where, ugh, the mother brings home an innocent something for her loving children and then the something proves to be possessed and begins to take over the souls of everyone in the family. Or, I guess in our case, to use sleep deprivation to drive them into insanity.

Anyway, if the clock goes off again tomorrow, I'm just going to have to bash it to pieces with a hammer and bury the pieces in several different holes all over town and hope that the demon within the clock radio isn't clever enough to put the pieces back together. Cause eek.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Cat-Tormenting 101

I will preface this by saying that all the cats I have done these things to have totally deserved it. Their owners were nice but had a disconcerting tendency to wander outside at all hours of the day or night and holler for their cats. I'd be trying to go to sleep and then these people would start going "Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaange!" or, which was worse, "Eeeeeeeeeeellllfffiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" which sounded exactly like, "Heeeeeeeelp meeeeeee!" and there have been a number of occasions on which people in my house thought that was what they were saying and ran out to investigate at three in the morning. The cats themselves were so vile I can't even tell you, and it takes a lot to get me to say that, because I am a cat person. They got plenty of food at their own house, but still they used to come over to our house and beat up our (aged) cat and steal all of her food instead.

So I have done the followings things to the cats in my life:

1) Sicced the dog on them. This was the joy of Nora's life while it went on. Every morning we'd feed the cat, and then wait for a few minutes for the cats across the street to saunter over and shove my Shadow-cat out of the way, and then we'd open the door and let Nora out, and she would take off like a bat out of hell after those cats. Ha, ha, ha. Victory was sweet. But of course we would not let her catch and eat them.

2) Sped up the car to try and hit them. There's really no excuse for me on this one. I still do it whenever I see the two cats from across the street, even though their owners have moved away and my cat has died. Too bad. They deserve it. And it reminds them to practice CONSTANT NEVER-CEASING VIGILANCE. (I was never that attached to Mad-Eye Moody, were you?)

3) Thrown snowballs at them. Actually just one snowball once. It doesn't snow much here. But it was really satisfying. I think it was that time that it snowed on Christmas Day, and my family all trooped outside and threw snowballs at each other, and I espied the orange cat lurking underneath the car, and I chucked a snowball on it, which totally hit it on the ass and it totally jumped into the air and banged its retarded head on the underside of the car. Ha, ha, ha.

4) Watched one of them taking a shit during a hurricane. Actually, Robyn and I both did this, and it was by far the best thing we have ever done to Torment a Cat. It was when the power was out during Hurricane Katrina, and I was in the back room typing a religion paper on my typewriter so that I wouldn't fall behind in my schoolwork (but really because I just enjoy to use my typewriter), and out of the window I espied one of the bad cats having a poo in the backyard. So Robyn and I just watched it as it had its poo. I can't even describe to you how much it freaks out a cat to have you watch it taking a shit. This cat kept looking at us and trying to pretend that it wasn't really taking a shit but was busily digging a hole in which, once we stopped looking, it might consider taking a shit. But all along there was poo falling out of its behind and Robyn and I were killing ourselves laughing and it made the cat really, really, really uncomfortable. And that was basically the best thing ever.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Kingsley Shacklebolt

I am just in the process of reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows out loud for my darling and beloved aunty, who I hope isn't reading this because I'm probably going to say something about who dies in the seventh book. I have been doing this for many a year, along with my darling mum, but this time it's very high-tech and new-millennium. We used to read onto tapes, and now, now I am reading it onto CDs. I have music-recording software for my computer, and I use my headphones with the microphone attachment. It's all a lot easier: I don't have to use one hand to hold a microphone, so I have two hands for holding the book, and furthermore I can create track splits in the software with just the click of a button and burn the CD straight from the software, and CDs are more space-efficient, and, gosh, it's just a lot easier.

Okay, so raptures about my new improved method aside, here's the pathetic thing about the reading I am doing right now. It's to do with Kingsley Shacklebolt, and I am now about to reveal who dies in the seventh book, so don't look, anyone who doesn't want to know.

I love Kingsley Shacklebolt. I wish we could have seen more of him, cause I think he's swell. He has a deep soothing voice; he's so swell that even the Dursleys like him; he's insanely competent and clever and thinks on his feet; he delivers what is definitely the most effective line in the seventh book and probably in the whole series (though I have a sentimental attachment to "Quite the double act, Sirius Black and James Potter!" because every time I read it my heart stops and I forget that I know perfectly well that this is not a bad thing because Sirius is a GOOD GUY); and he becomes the Minister of Magic and just sorts everything out, I bet. In fact, in the seventh book, I love him rather more than Lupin, who kind of acts like a bit of a dick in a lot of this book, and I appreciate your inner turmoil, guy, but proposing to abandon your wife and baby makes me VERY CROSS, though I am really, really sorry you had to die, and that fuckhead Dolohov, if I ever get my hands on him, I will, I will, I will STOMP ON HIS FACE, because you had just had a baby, a dear sweet little baby, and it was very uncool for you to have to perish so that the baby could grow up in a better world, which he does do, so well done you, I guess.

Anyway, I love Kingsley Shacklebolt, and I don't want to do his voice wrong. My mum and I decided as soon as we met darling Kingsley that he probably had a bit of a Caribbean accent, which actually now that I'm thinking about it must be because his name is Kingsley, and the capital of Jamaica (which is in the Caribbean) is Kingston, and that must be why we thought of it. But Kingsley has a number of lines in this book, and I turn out to be not wholly and horrifically unsuccessful at doing a Caribbean accent (though it isn't one for the books or anything). The only thing is, and believe me when I say that I recognize how absurd this is, that I can only do it with reference to Sebastian the crab.

So here's me, cruising along, reading, and I espy a line by Kingsley Shacklebolt somewhere up ahead. I read right up to the sentence before Kingsley speaks, and then I stop recording and sing quietly, "Under the sea, under the sea, dahling it's better down where it's wetter, take it from me!" and then, only then, am I good to go. I really need to take a class and learn how to do all kinds of accents, so that I wouldn't have to resort to silly tricks like this.

I love reading out loud. I'm going back to it now.