Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Poison in my parents' freezer

Don't know why. The bottle in the freezer looks like water, but it has a big black-marker letter X on it, and it says POISON. I felt like Alice - if one drinks much from a bottle marked "poison" it is almost certain to disagree with one sooner or later. (This is what we call meiosis, a much more pleasant use of the word than that business with the cells.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Regarding the Oscars

Hm. Oscar Wilde was obviously up in heaven thinking, Now, Jenny really likes me, and she has for some time now. She is pleased by the mere mention of my name; she knows many facts about me and tells amusing anecdotes in which I feature prominently. What can I do to let her know that I appreciate her public relations efforts on my behalf? And what he settled upon was planting in my mind a weirdly high number of names of people who were going to win the Oscars. Oscars so that I would know he was involved. Thanks, Oscar Wilde! Message received! I love you too!

Yes, for the first time ever, I did not do amazingly poorly at guessing who was going to win Oscars. There are twenty-four categories, and I got nineteen of them correct. (That is more than the New York Times predictor got right, due to the New York Times person thinking that Mickey Rourke was going to win for Best Actor. So foolish. They love Sean Penn and they love those biopics.) I screwed up sound mixing - damn it, ruining my reputation for prescience in that area - and foreign language film, and both the documentaries. Though I think the Hurricane Katrina one should have won the documentary category. You know, I think that based on my absolute ignorance of all the nominees. And I didn't get the animated short. I wanted the one about funeral people.

It was nice not to lose miserably as I normally do, and nice to be back watching the Oscars with my lovely friend Nezabeth, as we have not watched the Oscars together in several years. (Though they still had the same heartwarming MasterCard commercial about a lost puppy that I remember thinking was charming during the Oscars back in high school.)

I like Hugh Jackman but a small part of me regretted that a comedian wasn't doing it, because a comedian would have mercilessly mocked Christian Bale, and that would have been fun. I was disappointed in almost the dresses - people, what is with the necklines this year? - though pleasantly surprised to see Jennifer Aniston looking really pretty and not wearing black. Generally I thought people were looking lovely in spite of their dresses, not because of. Amy Adams looks like she caught that necklace at a Mardi Gras parade - she's so cute, and then that necklace kept drawing my eye and horrifying me anew.

Though I have to say, Robin Wright looked so beautiful it blew my mind. Every time the camera went back to her I could not believe how gorgeous she looked. I have never thought she was all that pretty, and my mum has always said that sometimes Robin Wright looks unbelievably stunning, and behold, I witnessed this phenomenon last night. Pictures don't do her justice. She looked amazing.

And Oscar Wilde loves me! What a nice thing to hear!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Clever and smug, but a bit of a loser

So I was sitting at home today cross-stitching when I suddenly realized that all the Actives on Joss Whedon's show Dollhouse have names that go with letters from the radio alphabet thing. You know, Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta Echo Foxtrot - well, there you go, Alpha and Echo, we've already got Actives called Alpha and Echo, and the other Active whose name we know right now is called Sierra. And I went investigating on the internet, to see if we knew any other names of Actives, and there was supposed to be a character called November (check), and evidently there's another one called Victor. This isn't a big deal, but, just, AHA! That was a rather clever thing for me to think of between spoonfuls of Counter Culture yogurt.

You know what this means, right? The wider significance of this epiphany? This drastically shortens the odds of one of the characters being called Oscar!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Joan Wyndham (sorry, but you have to read this!)

Oh, mercy. So Joan's boyfriend goes off to war, and his house back in London gets bombed, and he writes to ask Joan if she will please rescue his bed from the ruins and take it to his friend's house, so Joan asks his friend Ralph, who is a stretcher-bearer, to help her out.

Saturday, November 16th

Ralph is lean, dark and wolf-like with filthy clothes, untidy hair and a gap in his teeth. He paints when he is not being a stretcher-bearer.

The soldiers got the huge bed down from the ruins, supervised by a very gallant officer with a cane. On it were the same sheets I was seduced in. We loaded it on to the cart and began the long trek towards the Embankment, both pushing from behind, pretending we were a poor young couple who'd been bombed out with nothing saved except our double bed. It only needed a howling infant perched on top of the mattress, waving a Union Jack, to complete the picture.

Ralph is full of grim anecdotes about his work with the stretcher party. He finds he is beginning to look at everyone from the point of view of whether they'll make a good corpse or not!

Our conversation went something like this:
Me: I think our best bet is to go down Beaufort Street.
R: My God, I could tell you some stories about that Beaufort Street shelter that would make your hair curl!
Me: Or cut down Bramerton Street?
R: If you'd only seen what I saw in Bramerton Street the night of the land-mine!
Me: Or maybe Lawrence Street?
"Christ!" howls Ralph, practically upsetting the bed. "The bodies I saw in the Holy Redeemer Crypt in Lawrence Street!"

We finally reached Rossetti Studios and deposited the bed with the caretaker, then went back to have lunch at the Fulham Road Communal Feeding Centre. Burnt rabbit stew which was mainly potatoes and swedes, but it only cost 9d. Ralph leaned back with half-closed eyes and asked me if I was a good girl - he then suggested that he should teach me to play chess but I declined politely. I am v. suspicious of men who want to teach me chess - or anything else for that matter.

I love her. Love, love, love.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I have been very efficient today

I had a dentist appointment (no cavities!), and I also bought my sister's birthday present (yes, a month and a half early; that's how I do), and I did my taxes, and I walked around campus which was nice because the azaleas are coming out and they are my favorite flower, and the weather was gorgeous.

And as a treat for myself for being so awfully, awfully virtuous and efficient, I have stopped putting off reading Joan Wyndham's diaries that she kept during World War II. Joan Wyndham is this chick who kept diaries during World War II, and the library has the first volume of them, Love Lessons. It's so funny - she's young and dumb, and her family's clearly insane, and she spends all her time trying to suss out her feelings about everyone she meets. And ordinarily I would feel a bit poor-baby about her, because she's only seventeen, poor thing, and her parents are crap, but oh, God, she's so funny. She says things like this:

The other day [Mummy] ran into Jo [the dude with whom Joan is fooling around all the time] and me walking down the King's Road together, and when we got home she said that she thought he looked 'very interesting' and she wouldn't mind an afternoon in the studio with him herself! Sometimes Mummy comes out with some really quite extraordinary things.

And as well it is so completely fascinating how she's being all with the sexual awakening, and the war's going on - I keep thinking, how clever of the author to juxtapose the two things in this way, before remembering she's not writing a story, it's her diaries.

After tea we had a long talk about masturbation....Just as it was getting interesting and I was going to ask him how it was done, another artist conchie rushed in waving a newspaper. "They've invaded Holland and Belgium!" he panted.

So there it is. We looked at one another. The war had really started.

Friday, February 13, 2009


This is an open letter to film and television producers everywhere.

I have no gripe with you giving your characters asthma. Lots of people have asthma. But seriously, if you're going to give them a condition that causes them to puff on their inhalers every five seconds, do some research. Or if you really cannot be bothered to find an asthmatic person and ask how to use an inhaler, then pause for a second and think about it. They're inhaling, right? Which means that they are taking in the medicine by inhalation? So what the hell sense does it make for them to breathe out again straightaway after inhaling it? MY GOD.

As a point of comparison, you will not recover swiftly from strep throat if you spit out your antibiotics before swallowing them.

And yes, the timing of this complaint has everything to do with Joss Whedon's new show Dollhouse; but YOU ARE ALL GUILTY OF IT. And, you know, most of you do not make shows as good as Dollhouse. So.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Flashbacks to childhood

Today at work we had to take pictures for our website, and when we got through I felt like going home and eating a gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. I had no idea I had such memories of humiliation from taking school pictures. I was joking to everyone about hating taking pictures, as I do, but then when it was really my turn to be photographed, I remembered exactly why. It was like someone had shoved me in a time machine and tossed me back to being nine years old. Totally against my will, I think I need hardly say.

When I was in elementary school and they would do our school pictures, the photographer would always click, click, click, get through all my classmates. But that never happened with me. The photographer (it was always a dude) would say “Smile for Barney!” which made me want to bite, and he would take the picture. He would scrutinize the camera critically, then say, “Okay, sweetie, one more. Cheese!” At this point I would still be capable of lying to myself that the picture was bad because he’d mentioned Barney and I was seven or eight and thus far too mature for Barney, and I had made a bad smile out of annoyance. Click. Examine. Dubious suggestion that we try it again. (Here my self-deception about Barney began to break down.) Click. Scrutinize. Repeat. I honestly don’t know if this happened to everybody – it seemed to only be me – but it has evidently left scars.

(I will say that my sister Bonnie always took ages to get her picture finished. However, I believe this was due to her refusal to cooperate, because I remember one particular instance where she irritated the short bald photographer so much that he turned red like a short bald tomato and screamed at her for five minutes before carrying on.)

I take terrible pictures. It is just a fact of life. But I feel very wretched when I have to take a picture, just me by myself, and the person taking the picture makes four or five or ten valiant tries to get a good one, then finally gives up in despair and assures me the one they have is pretty, which – I can tell by their faces and I know from experience – it never, ever is. I try and try to convey to them that there will never be a good picture, so they might as well settle for the first bad one and spare me the extended flashbacks to my childhood trauma. It’s pointless because nobody ever believes me. They always want to be all Oh I’m sure that’s not true (yes it certainly is true), and furthermore they think that they will be the one to change my mind for me by taking the most beautiful picture ever. It's sweet but they are always, always wrong.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jenny's Choice

Oh, God, this is cruel.

I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but it often happens to me that I will be mildly interested in something – like, I don’t know, code-breaking, or early 20th century science fiction. Then suddenly, upon the smallest provocation, instead of being mildly interested, I will be wildly interested (oo, it rhymes). It's like I leaned too close to the source of contagion, and bam, I caught obsession. After this happens I will be like a ravening fiend for a while, reading more and more and more books about that thing. Oscar Wilde was, of course, a particularly epic example of this.

So recently I have become wildly interested in World War II, specifically the Brits during World War II. I have all these books about them out of the library, and I’ve made a massive list of other books I will want to read when I have finished reading the books that I have already. Including a biography of Edward Murrow, which I really is only tangentially related to the Brits during WWII, but whatever. I cannot get enough of books about the British home front during WWII at the moment.

However. In my innocent attempts to find digital primary sources about Edward Murrow during the war (P.S. This is sweet.), I happened across the Harvard Library’s digital collections, which as you may imagine are not insubstantial. And I thought, Oh, hey, well, I will just glance through these quickly to see what they’ve got, and when I am done with the British home front I will some ideas about what interesting primary documents I feel like reading next.

I realize now that this was foolish. I realize the whole notion of finding primary sources that had been digitized for my viewing pleasure was never going to be quick and simple. I obviously completely forgot what sort of a person I am; viz., an obsessive completist who will not settle for glancing over any single collections of digital archives, and who will now probably spend ages and ages checking out the digital archives of other major universities and having this whole problem much exacerbated.

Be that as it may, you will just not believe what the Harvard Law Library has on their website. IT IS LIKE THEY ARE CALLING OUT TO ME. It is a great big digital collection called “Studies in Scarlet”, and it is a whole bunch of, I swear to God, trial narratives printed in the US or UK from 1815 to 1914, all relating to marriage and sexuality. There’s over 400 of them. Over four hundred Victorian trial narratives relating to marriage and sexuality. I want to French-kiss Harvard Law School. I believe it is possible that Harvard Law School has a crush on me, and has chosen to court me by making these things available and waiting for me to come to it. This is Harvard Law School’s attempt to do a John Cusack to win my heart.

NOW I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO. I cannot decide which obsession I want to go with. It is early days yet in my British home front obsession: I have only read a few books, and although I have made a list, I have not yet acquired all the books on it. I could still swerve away and do the sex trials instead. (There’s one about Lady Colin Campbell.) Britain was so inspirational – but sex trials are fascinating and hilarious.

Anyone have any thoughts? I will be quoting some set of people to you endlessly in the weeks to come, on the phone, in person, via email and IM, probably on Facebook – would you rather it was staunch Londoners who will never surrender, or prissy Victorian judges who think orgasm is a dirty word? (No, but really though – during the Salome libel trial when someone said orgasm, the prosecutor was all “What’s that? What’s that word? Some unnatural vice?”)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Killing insects

I'm not talking about cockroaches. You already know all about that. I'm talking about other things. See, when I was a kid, I read James and the Giant Peach, and James said about how you should never kill a spider because they are good and helpful creatures. This has affected me hugely throughout my life. Not so much when he said nice things about centipedes. Centipedes are awful and I wish they would become extinct because they horrify me. Looking at a centipede makes me feel like I will throw up.

But spiders, right? I feel so, so guilty killing spiders. If there is a spider in my house, I mostly try to ignore it, or else trap it under a glass and take it outside. It's because of Miss Spider. She was incredibly helpful and handy to have around, when they went a-traveling on the peach, and I have only killed a few spiders in my time, and I have never felt good about it.

When it is a mosquito-hawk, I feel guilty then too. But they freak me out. I can't not kill them because I am freaked out by just knowing that they are inside my apartment. That's really not an adequate reason for taking a life, which I also know, so when I am chasing them down shrieking battle cries and brandishing my broom like a maniac, I will alternate my shrieks between "DIE YOU VILE BEAST" and "I AM SORRY THAT I HAVE TO KILL YOU BUT YOU FREAK ME OUT!"

(I doubt that this makes the mosquito hawks feel better.)