Sunday, March 6, 2011

Blog Recommendation: Eva Pirazzi

With the onset of 'college frenzy', this blog became so easy to ignore. The creative and motivational slump I've been in lately hasn't helped, though with my mind occupied almost entirely by college, I doubt I'd have anything else to write about.

Nevertheless, I know someone who does have something interesting to write about -- my best friend, on a Study Abroad program in Morocco, has started keeping a journal of her experiences. Beautifully composed and heady with imagery, it's definately worth a read:

 http://elleviolon.blogspot.com/

Alas! Would that I could be so interesting!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

a brief interlude

I'm currently working on a research paper for my sociology class about the cultural and historical origins of androgyny. It's a fascinating subject, but it necessitates delving into very bizarre territory. This first paper deals almost exclusively with ancient Greek interpretations of gender, so I'm addressing the tale of the god-child Hermaphroditus (the name's a dead giveaway), the genesis myth put forth by Aristophanes in Plato's Symposium, and, of course, the goddess Athena.

You can imagine the sort of sources I've had to reference. I've stumbled across a handful of absurd metaphorical gems, such as this one explaining Greek sexual orientation:

"Moreover, in Greek culture there was no religious interdiction whatever against eating broccoli."

'Eating broccoli'....is that what they're calling it these days? Ooooh, I do love ridiculous euphemisms....

Anyway, either the inherent strangeness of the subject matter is getting to me, or I'm channeling rejected lyrics from Hunky Dory; I very nearly included the phrase "the fervent march of the androgynes" as a description of the cultural influence of gender ambiguity. Bwaha. This will never do.



Hmm. Perhaps mullets have something to do with it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On Vocabular Character Judgements (and Star Wars)

A few years ago, my parents and I paid a visit to a cousin's family in Seattle, Washington. I can't say that it was a particularly pleasant affair -- dramatically different world views and temperaments led to something of a tense, uncomfortable atmosphere, and no one really seemed to get along. In the end, though, it hardly mattered; we got to kayak with a pod of wild orcas.
....of which, if this picture is to believed, we were completely oblivious. Left to right: Me (age 12), Dad, and A Goddamn Killer Whale. Mum apparently punched Subtlety in the face and added the arrows.


I shared a room in Seattle with my cousin "K", who was a couple years older than myself. On her bedroom wall she had hung a dry-erase board. On it was written in marker:


The Perfect Boyfriend is..... 
nice
smart
cute
funny
strong



Really? That's it? I have seldom been as annoyed with an inanimate object in my entire life as I was with that dry-erase board. Drab vocabulary is irritating at the best of times -- coupled with shallowness and insipid tastes, it's downright infuriating.

...And so it was with a sort of grammar OCD that I eventually erased her Perfect Boyfriend adjectives and replaced them with more descriptive words, like "good-natured", "resilient", "tender", and "poised". I'm still not entirely sure what my goal was...or what hers was, for that matter. Perhaps she had a history of unhealthy relationships (at fourteen?) and needed some sort of dry-erase moral guidance. Perhaps she would add and remove traits with experience. Or, hell, maybe she was writing the first drafts of a Dresden Dolls song:


All things considered, I never really had the right to judge her character like that, especially given that she was strung out on ADHD medication for most of the trip. I have mixed feelings about my decision even now -- a strange cocktail of smug satisfaction and shame. It wasn't really a big deal, but for whatever reason it's stuck with me for a solid five years. I'm not going to try to justify it. More likely than not, it's the false end of a string in a huge psychological knot that I'm not prepared to detangle yet.

However, I stand by my opinion that adjectives....are nice. Very, ve-ry nice.








Also, an extraordinarily nerdy thought:

If mitochondria are only passed down maternally, and are supposedly the source of the Force, then....how the hell could Darth Vader have passed on Force genes to Luke Skywalker (and Leia)? According to Wikipedia, "mitochondria can occasionally be inherited from the father in some species such as mussels". I don't remember if it was ever specified if the Star Wars characters were actually supposed to be human. Maybe they were some sort of galactic mussel species that resembled human beings by some extraordinary coincidence. In any case, it's completely irrelevant.




May the X-chromosome be with you.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

incapacitated

I am completely justified in not writing a blog tonight, given that I actually spent an evening with friends for once. This happens so rarely that it's left me temporarily incapacitated with surprise and delight.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Julie d'Aubigny: A Suggestion to Kate Beaton

A few hours ago I wrote an email to Kate Beaton, the author of my favorite web comics, suggesting that she write a strip about Julie d'Aubigny -- more often (which is unquestionably not a word) known as La Maupin.

Julie d'Aubigny, as I explained, was some sort of real-life cross between Inigo Montoya, Ziggy Stardust, Xena, and Lord Byron. Apparently she was some sort of swashbuckling pansexual diva -- she ran about seventeenth century France winning duels, cross-dressing, scoring with everyone, setting convents on fire, and being a musical prodigy (she was literally a diva; she starred in several operas and even had some written about her). She had the most amazingly adventurous life ever, and was brilliant at absolutely everything she did. I highly recommend reading a biography about her. Were I given the chance to live the life of any historical figure, I would choose her in a heartbeat.

In any case, I've tried writing comics about d'Aubigny before, but they have never been quite satisfactory. Given that Kate Beaton's comics are almost always hilarious takes on various historical characters, I think one about d'Aubigny is quite overdue. It would also probably renew some interest in her; I've never met anyone else who recognized her name, and that's a damn pity. Everyone I've described her to has always been fascinated and impressed.

So. We'll see how this goes. I hope Ms. Beaton takes an interest!

And now, a bonus round of Kate Beaton comics:
Theodore Roosevelt Mary ShelleyDr. Watson

Friday, September 3, 2010

"So. You like grapes?"

This evening, I encountered one of the most shockingly pathetic and uncreative pick-up lines I've ever heard. I was attempting to gorge myself on green grapes and blueberries as inconspiciously as possible -- a true feat of stealth, in the middle of a crowded art gallery -- when a young man in a hipster USSR t-shirt sidled over, smiled jauntily, and said, "Heeey. So...you like grapes, eh? My name is Jason." He shook my hand. "How are you?"
"Hullo, I...I guess I do," I said, unable to fathom the logic of attempting to pull birds by appealing to a fondess for grapes. "I love grapes." To prove it, I turned back to the fruit platter and began scrutinizing it with reknewed intensity, completely absorbed in contemplating their existance. He seemed to understand. There was simply no way that I could make room in my heart for a love of anything non-grape.

'Cept maybe raisins.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Hawthorn Prince

Given that I've been averaging around five hours of homework per night this year, the fact that I've managed a daily update almost without fail is an attribute to...something. I'm too exhausted just now to contemplate quite what that something is.

Because poetry is a lot more enjoyable when addle-brained from want of sleep, I present yet another venture into the realm of nonsense rhyme:


"Hail fellow well met,"

Said I to the Hawthorn Prince.

I have not heard an answer yet

Nor ventured discourse since --

We've stood so long in silence that

I fear to speak a word,

For all I know of trees is that

They're mighty cross when stirred.


Hmmm...'word' and 'stirred' are imperfect rhymes. I cannot forgive that.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Vivisection

As I have essays to write for tomorrow, thoughtful blogging must give way to academic responsibilities. Instead, I offer the only poem I've ever written that retains some sort of emotional significance to me, despite being the most uncompromisingly nonsensical. I wrote it about a year ago. It was loosely inspired by 'Time', my favorite David Bowie song (I've always thought that 'voyeur' is a curiously poetic word). I'm generally pleased with it, though the ending has never satisfied me.




Vanity's a virtue, if you know where to look

And can fashion yourself in the eyes of a crook

To be virginal, or beastly, or full of unease

About the good men who falter

And fall to their knees

To crawl with ecstatic resentment among the blind

And disillusioned voyeurs



"Hold on, son," cries a man

Whose ships must have sailed long ago

You stop and you turn with a dancer's revelation

and observe all the rituals of lovemaking--

But deep in your heart where you keep all your aces,

You know that nothing, nothing can break through

This industrial solitude.



If this were tomorrow, you'd scream in frustration

Wracked by the throes of temporal temptation.

Instead, as it is, you're a feast fit for cannibals

Visceral and virile in Vitruvian perfection

You look like a model but you'll fall like an empire

Assuming, of course,

That Death keeps its promises.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Genetic Disorder

As you can see, I did not post a new entry last night. I admit it; I have sinned, and will certainly be going to Blogger Hell for my failure. However, I was not about to stay up to 3:00 A.M. on a school night just to write a blog about Christmas elf ornaments. I have too much dignity still remaining for that.

Without further ado:

Women on my father's side of the family are prone to a mysterious and as-yet incurable mental disease. Like Huntington's Chorea, symptoms usually do not appear until late in middle-age, but rapidly go more severe after the initial onset, eventually resulting in complete incapacitation and a slow, awkward death.

The primary indication of this disorder is a fanatical obsession with the collection of small, vaguely humanoid figurines, followed by cognitive degeneration....and yet more figurines!

My first encounter with the family affliction occurred when I was very small. We had gone to visit my great-grandmother one holiday, some years after her condition had first been noticed. She was quite old and showing signs of senility -- in our ignorance, we assumed that she was developing Alzheimer's. Everything else matched -- loss of memory, paranoia, inability to recognize loved ones, ect. However, we managed to overlook one vital clue: her vast assortment of angel figurines.

There were stone angels. There were silk angels. There were plastic angels. There were porcelain angels, poised with pious perfection upon plaster pedestals, and paintings of pudgy, pouting Putti perched on puffy cumulus peaks. Some were as large as children -- others no bigger than Christmas tree ornaments. In every room, in every corner, on every surface, the eyes of artificial divinity gazed down with a sort of benevolent disapproval upon inhabitant and intruder alike.

I was the first to voice my dismay. "It's like I've died and gone to Heaven!" I exclaimed, all of five years old, possibly wondering if Heaven really smelled of medication and bad potpourri. It was years before I realized that jokes about the afterlife probably aren't the most tasteful when made in the presence of the ailing and decrepit.

Great Grandma is dead several years now. Her angelic army went with her. We dismissed her peculiarities as the effects of Alzheimer's and thought nothing more of them until....

....the Elves started showing up.

The obsession seemed to come out of nowhere. One day, my great aunt was busy living the fairly straightforward life of an Indiana horse owner; the next, she was amassing legions of diminutive Arctic natives. Perhaps they started as Christmas ornaments. Maybe it was a belated psychological response to 'Empty Nest Syndrome'. Whatever the case may be, the house's color scheme suddenly and jarringly changed from a forgettable monotone to a cacophony of Kelly green and scarlet, sprouting merry baubles and gay embroidery.

They can smell your fear....

There were elves in the kitchen and elves in the parlour. Elves were in the dining room, elves were in the hall; elves were on the fireplace, elves were on the windowsill... elves were even on the sodding bathroom sink.

A devoted Tolkienite, folklore purist, and confirmed faerie changeling, I have always rather resented the notion of 'Santa's little helpers'. While the tradition of household spirits spans millenia, brownies, hobgoblins, tomte, and other faerie creatures are INFINITELY cooler than anything portrayed on the front of a Hallmark card. Puck (Robin Goodfellow to some) in especial was something of a badass, as likely to drown you in a bog as to darn your socks while you slept.

As such, it was with a hesitant and horrified sort of amusement that we encouraged this elf-hoarding. I think we wanted to see just how far it would go. Every gift-giving occasion, my parents went out of their way to find for her the most nauseatingly charming collections of plastic elf figures available. Whatever our ultimate goal, our contributions only helped to solidify her fixation.

Legolas is just glad that she's not writing fanfiction about him.

 
I don't recall when we first realized the similarities between the angels and the elves. We're fairly perceptive people; surely it wasn't long. The only contention is whether it qualifies as quirk or condition (did you see that?! unintentional poetic devices simply make my day). It's almost certainly genetic -- the only similarly acute case of figurine collecting madness I've witnessed outside my family occurred in an elderly black man whose apartment I cleaned for community service. His room was filled top to bottom with pornographic statuettes from around the world -- but that's a story for another day.

So far as I'm aware, my grandmother has not displayed any worrisome collecting behavior. I sincerely hope the gene for that specific disorder has not been inherited by this branch of the family. My father collects a variety of antiques as part of his job, but otherwise does not show undue fascination with any particular item. My mother collects paintings as a sort of investment; her father's assortment of old maps and model aeroplanes is much too interesting to be considered a problem.

As for me? I collect stories. And funny hats.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How to Make Chocolate-Covered Cricket Cookies

On Saturday, I completed what might be the greatest homework assignment known to man; baking cricket cookies.

The actual assignment (for Speech/Debate) only specified that I demonstrate a sort of how-to for the class. Perhaps it is of some concern that my first idea was to make chocolate-covered cricket cookies.
In any case, here's how:

Step 1: Acquire crickets. They can be purchased at almost any pet store for a few dollars, normally in containers of 25-50. One or two of these containers should be enough to see you through most recipes. I don't recommend catching wild crickets, especially if you live in an urban area -- they're probably coated with pesticides or other toxins. Also, the little buggers are fast.

Step 2: Keep them contained for a few days, providing them with fresh fruit and vegetables. This is called 'gut loading' and will ensure that they are both nutricious and free from whatever food they were given at the pet store. It may also improve their taste -- I'm not sure.

Step 3: Carefully drop them one by one into a fully sealable plastic bag. Wash them by filling the bag with water and emptying it very quickly. You can repeat this several times, taking care not to let them escape.

Step 4: Place bag inside in the freezer for about 20 minutes, while preheating the oven to 220 Fahrenheit/105 Celsius. Freezing the crickets will slow their metabolisms, immobilize them, and (hopefully) numb their pain.

Step 5: Lay the frozen crickets upon a lightly-greased cookie sheet and bake them for an hour, or until crunchy.

Step 6: As the crickets cool, place an ounce or two of bittersweet (or dark!) chocolate chips into a bowl and heat them in the microwave until they melt to a creamy consistancy. Then, dip the baked crickets into the chocolate until they are thoroughly coated. Set them on a sheet of wax paper and put them in the refrigerator to harden.

Step 7: When the chocolate has resolidified, you may substitute the crickets for chocolate chips in almost any cookie recipe. Properly made, they have a light, nutty flavor that will probably surprise you with its tastiness (if you can bring yourself to eat it).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

This doesn't even qualify as filler.

...I made a sweet potato pie last night. I used Marmite instead of salt. It was delicious.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stumped by a Squeezebox

I was working on a lengthy, eloquent blog about chocolate personality tests and mullets. To my dismay, I SOMEHOW ran out of ideas halfway through and had to abandon it. Perhaps another time; the world deserves such an entry.

Today I received the accordion from my piano teacher (a misleading statement, in that the Piano I class doesn't start until January) and fiddled about with it. Although I've got a rather good ear, I've never had much in the way of musical talent -- the only instrument I have ever been halfway proficient at is the Irish whistle. Go ahead, you can laugh; I understand. I took up the flute in junior high and dropped it shortly after in an attempt to put as much distance between myself and marching band as physically possible.

Anyway, I'm not sure why accordion has such a bad reputation. When I told him this afternoon, my boyfriend's immediate reaction to my plans was to exclaim "What, are you trying to be weird now?"

I'm still not sure whether I'm more flummoxed by the fact that after nearly two years, he still hasn't figured out that my answer to that is almost always "yes" (....except when it is "affirmative"...) or that accordion is popularly received as being really weird.

Am I missing something? Or does the fact that my first love was for bagpipe music invalidate my opinion completely? I'm afraid that no amount of research or experience with your species can ever familiarize me with so many human subtleties.

Meanwhile, Sir James Galway shows what being manly is all about:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Monster Defense Strategies

In keeping with the poem I posted two days ago, my father has graciously offered his advice on surviving monster attacks. Honed from personal experience, I'm sure these tips will keep you all safe at night. At the very least, they'll provide some sort of insight into my inherited psychological state:

"The monster under my bed 40 to 45 years ago was the Wolfman. He was there because I was a bad boy and as we all know, universal Karma insists that bad boys be punished for their lies, sass and destructive behaviour. Somehow I managed to survive and I will share with you here some helpful tips for not being eviscerated in your pajamas;


1) The old standard it absolutely true, if he can't see you you're safe...a thin sheet over your head with NO MORE than a 1" air hole will be sufficient for keeping those razor sharp canines from severing your spine at the base of your neck.


2) If you need to pee, do not move about or make any noise before you leave the bed...make one quick dash to the door and see to it your first footfall is far enough from the bedstead that he cannot catch your ankle. Once you're to the door you're safe. A safe return is done in reverse order, jumping the 2 or 3 feet into the bed avoiding at all costs the immediate perimeter of the bed frame.


3) If you feel as though he may launch a direct assault, hum a hymn. I'm not sure if the hymn is a free monster pass from God or if the monsters just hates hymns regardless, pious behaviour will allow you to live to see morning.


4) Enlist comrades. Cecil the Sea Serpent with his googly eyes are always open and while you sleep he'll keep an eye open for you...monsters hate to be witnessed doing the terrible deed.


5) If your sure your going to die in your sleep, do not fold your arms over your chest in a mortuary pose...when your parents find your corpse they'll realize you knew you were going to die and this will only make them sadder....be sensitive to your parents emotional state after all, cleaning up the bits and pieces of ones shredded child is difficult enough.
Good luck...you'll all need it."
- Papa Oneironautilus
 
I'm the first assure you that he is quite mad. Obviously the most effective monster deterrent is to subtly shame and belittle them with sly insinuations as to the content of their characters until they slink off in dejection. At least, that's how I've always handled them. Neither can they harm me when in the company of another mammal, in contact with light, or when ecstatically happy; it was a mutually agreed-upon set of provisions. If I was alone, in the dark, and miserable, I was fair game -- so long as they were willing to take me on.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Really Hoopy Froods

I spent the last eleven years of my life with blessedly little homework. Now the blasted stuff seems to have caught up with a vengeance. Three hundred hairy bears! (<---follow the hyperlink for an interesting article on Slovak swearing and dormouse hunting)



Perhaps the most disconcerting social phenomenon happens when you know someone for many years, interact only occasionally and insignificantly, and much later find out that they have always liked/admired/thought highly of you. That's been happening to me a lot lately as I reconnect with some of my classmates from junior high and elementary school. I left that district after eighth grade for political reasons -- I won't go into detail. For a public school, it seemed awfully intent on providing me with unasked-for theological tutelage.

As a result, I didn't give my classmates much time. I pegged them all for bigots and trashy lemmings, and perhaps I was justified; for the most part they did not treat me kindly. To be fair, I did kind of bring it on myself -- after giving up any attempts at fitting in, I embraced an identity of 'weirdness' with gusto. Undoubtedly, this lost me a great deal of potential friends, but I hardly cared; if they did not approve of my eccentricities then they were not worth my time.

Given our tender ages, I realize now that this sort of mindset was unfair to absolutely everyone. Grade school children are practically programmed to be utter shitheads. Early adolescence turns everyone into smelly, emotionally imbalanced and judgemental perverts -- myself included. I just happened to realize the futility of trying to pass off as 'normal' and never even bothered.

On one hand, I think it worked out well for me -- I'm quite happy now and actually seem to have a pretty good social standing (though I'm still far from 'popular'). My incurable strangeness has probably benefited me in more ways than I realize; for every four people who think I'm totally bizarre, there's probably one person who thinks I'm interesting and unique. I just hope I don't disappoint!

Anyway. As stated above, I've been reviving some overlooked relationships from my past, and have been simultaneously delighted and disappointed to discover that many of the people I previously dismissed have evolved into unique and interesting people in their own rights. I'm delighted because this means I get to meet them all over again on better terms; disappointed because I clearly miscalculated their personalities and cast my judgements too harshly, thus missing out on several years worth of meaningful relationships. It's very humbling to realize that the 'faceless and antagonistic mass' of yesterday has shuddered and split into several dozen Really Hoopy Froods.


To answer your unspoken question? Yes, you should Google those last three words. They will enrich your existence and exasperate your Spell Checker.