...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Maybe if I plaster myself with maple leaves?

Bad news for my study abroad, homes.

Yesterday I went to buy some toothpaste at the Rite Aid downtown and I noticed this new product: the Gillette Vibrating Razor for Women. Now, seriously, folks. Not to get too personal, but I can gaurantee you that Gillette is banking on women buying this product not so that they can shave their legs, but so that they can masturbate in the bathtub with the non-razor end. (Or at least, let's hope with the non-razor end. Because, not to make light of a horrible issue, but talk about Female Genital Mutilation.)

Any woman who thinks she needs a vibrating razor really needs a vibrator, full stop.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Oh, game theory. You are not as fun as your name would imply.

So, Game Theory midterm tomorrow. Which I think will go okay, because I feel as though I understand the material fairly well: strategic game theory. Salami slicing. Reducing incentives to defect. Collective action. Amusement-park building. Freeways vs. local roads s(n)=n^2 p(n+1)=(n+1)^2-100 what does n equal maximum benefit brinkmanship US USSR Cuba acceptability condition extensive form game tree p and q and upper limit of range of exploration of AHHHHHAA!!!!!!!!!!!

The thing is, I need to do very well on this test because I did extremely poorly on the first of our three midterms and Cliff Bekar graciously offered to drop our lowest midterm grade and just average our two higher grades. I'm very thankful for that, but it does raise the stakes somewhat. Or a lot.

So like a good girl I did all of the suggested review questions over the weekend and went in to see him this morning during his office hours to make sure I was doing them correctly, since our text book doesn't have the solutions in the back and I've been known to do stupid things like completely forget how to calculate Nash equilibrium or convince myself that in a Prisoner's Dilemma, (Defect, Cooperate) and (Cooperate, Defect) are the Nash. Um, no. That's what makes it a Prisoner's Dilemma, genius. But Bekar apparently has not one but two midterms tomorrow, so there was a long line of students sitting on the floor, staring at text books outside of his office. I waited for probably about forty minutes, working on one of the brinkmanship problems about a union threatening to strike. By the time I got to speak with him, it was clear there wasn't enough time to go over all the review questions with him, since there were still other people waiting and he had a meeting in twenty minutes.

I asked him what time he comes in tomorrow. "Can I ask you then?" Our test is at 1:50 in the afternoon.

"Well, I get here at 6:30," he says.

"Oh, so I'll come by sometime in the morning. How about nine?"

"I teach a class at eight."

The 8:00 class runs until 9:30. I have class from 9:40-11:10, and I know from previous experience of trying to see him the day of the test that he teaches at 11:30.

Fuck.

So, the long and short of it is that I'm getting up at 6:30 tomorrow, the butt crack of dawn, the earliest I'll have gotten up all semester, to talk about Game Theory with Cliff Bekar at 7:15 in the morning.

I'll tell you, I better fucking ace this test.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Guess what?

One thing you should know about me, if you haven't figured it out by now, is that I fucking hate guessing games. You can take that two ways: first, I hate the whole "Guess what my intentions are?" game that some people play, Paul, so please, just be straightforward with me. I'm too insecure to assume I know what you mean when you speak or act ambiguously, which means that my friends are subjected to weeks, or, sometimes, months of tortured Messenger conversations and phone calls. We could all do with a little (or a lot) less drama.

Second, I hate those "Guess who?" games people play when they come up behind you and cover your eyes. Hate! For one thing, I don't like people's grubby fingers smudging up my glasses. For another thing, I feel like a horrible person if I can't place their voice. For another thing, I hate being snuck up. So don't do it. I also hate being made to guess something someone else knows. Tell me what you know, and I promise I'll act impressed. But don't make me guess it.

Some necessary caveats:

I realize that I do use this speech construction a fair amount in my everyday conversations. "Oh, guess who I talked to today at lunch." "Guess what we learned in class today." "Guess what I'm doing Monday evening." But this isn't a case of It's Only Okay When I Do It, because I don't actually expect people to guess.

Secondly, I do enjoy and will continue to enjoy the game "Guess Who?" Ain't nobody going to take that away from me!

Friday, April 22, 2005

As the empty feeling turns from black to blue, I can't believe this never happens to you...

Fridays are always the worst days for me. Fridays are days of loneliness, self-doubt, insecurity.

At the beginning of the semester, I loved Fridays because I only had the one class in the morning, and by 10:10 I was free. Woo! Weekend! Except since everyone else was still in class until the afternoon, I was on my own all day. I think I need and enjoy solitude more than most of my friends, but for some reason the Friday kind of solitude--not really a solitude, but a profound aloneness--made me desperately unhappy. Most Fridays I would end up taking a nap in my room after lunch. Invariably I would be woken up around three, when everyone returned to the dorm from Inventing America or another 1:50-2:50 class, all excited for the weekend, laughing and making plans and shrieking.

So I started going off campus on Fridays, and would relax in peaceful contentedness until I returned to campus. To dinner by myself, and believe me, there is nothing more depressing than dinner alone on a Friday in the Bon. After dinner I would wander listlessly, feeling stupid and ridiculous for not having plans, for spending yet another weekend night alone.

That's kind of how I'm feeling right now. I've been walking around with a lump in my throat ever since getting back to campus this afternoon. I went to dinner alone and read Etty and couldn't stop from crying in the Bon.

I don't know. I'm not feeling great. It's a Friday, what can I say?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bernard the Head Elf will always have a special place in my heart

I've been thinking about it, and I'm pretty sure that David Krumholtz is one of my favorite actors. Becca might remember this conversation that we had over MSN Messenger on January 20 (remember, I archive all my Messenger conversations so I fact-check and cross-reference them later. Also, I'm kind of a stalker) ("beyond comprehension" is Becca and "perfectly cromulent" is me):

beyond comprehension says: (5:15:19 PM)
   do you know who david krumholtz is?

perfectly cromulent says: (5:15:37 PM)
   is he an actor?

beyond comprehension says: (5:15:47 PM)
   yup

perfectly cromulent says: (5:15:58 PM)
   yeah, I think so. Young guy, black hair, large nose?

beyond comprehension says: (5:16:10 PM)
   yeah

perfectly cromulent says: (5:16:17 PM)
   why do you ask?

beyond comprehension says: (5:16:42 PM)
   i've always liked him, and i just found out what his name was

perfectly cromulent says: (5:16:58 PM)
   ah

perfectly cromulent says: (5:17:09 PM)
   He was Bernard, the head elf in "The Santa Clause"

beyond comprehension says: (5:17:25 PM)
   i know!!

beyond comprehension says: (5:17:37 PM)
   that was where i orininally saw him

perfectly cromulent says: (5:17:45 PM)
   heehee, me too

perfectly cromulent says: (5:17:50 PM)
   I loved Bernard.

beyond comprehension says: (5:18:20 PM)
   i found out that his hair actually looked like that for a while

beyond comprehension says: (5:21:03 PM)
   have you seen teh santa clause 2?

perfectly cromulent says: (5:21:22 PM)
   yeah, but I thought it was pretty crappy

beyond comprehension says: (5:21:40 PM)
   the only redeaming factor was bernard

perfectly cromulent says: (5:21:59 PM)
   yeah, and they even made him more cartoony and less cool

beyond comprehension says: (5:22:22 PM)
   totally, he was almost vicious in the first one.

Since then, I've spent some time perusing David Krumholtz's IMDb profile, and sad to say...The Santa Clause has probably been the highlight of his cinematic career. But! What he's lost in association with Tim Allen, he's more than make up for by being associated with some of the best TV shows in recent years. Back when ER was still good, he played the crazy dude who stabbed Carter, driving him into a downward spiral of genteel painkiller addiction and general pissiness, although that was back when Carter was still kind of cool, so I didn't like David Krumholtz for stabbing him. He was also on Undeclared, which, although never reaching Freaks and Geeks levels of humor, pathos, and brilliance, was still quite good.

And speaking of Freaks and Geeks? He played Barry Schweiber, Neal's older brother who comes back to visit in the heart-breaking episode "Noshing and Moshing."

Conclusion: David Krumholtz is cool, and should stop making movies with Tim Allen.

Recent memorable quotes:

Me: "I could see F. Scott Fitzgerald being a limousine liberal."
Andy (my younger brother, age 17): "Limousine liberal? That's good! I like that."
Me: "Well, I didn't make it up."
Andy: "Well, I figured."

Peggy: "You should learn how to cook in Chile. Then you can come back and make us really good Mexican food!"

Andy: "Monterrey! That's where Steinbeck growed up!"

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Bookish

From DeAnn:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?: Exactly what you'd all probably expect me to be: An Interrupted Life, the diaries of Etty Hillesum. My second choice would probably be Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. But then again, Dad and Andy and I talked about this question a lot when Andy was reading Fahrenheit 451 over the summer, and they both thought that I'd be Baby-Sitter's Club #1: Kristy's Great Idea.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? Definitely. Holden Caulfield, of course, from Catcher in the Rye, and both Marius Pontmercy and Enjolras from Les Miserables, since I saw myself as a sort of Eponine character. I'm somewhat embarrased to admit that I had a major crush on Erik, the titular Phantom of the Opera, until I grew up a little and realized how manipulative, scary, and stalkerish he was towards Christine Daae. And I still have a crush on Ron Weasely from the Harry Potter books. Shut up.

The last book you bought is: God's Politics: How the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It by Jim Wallis. Matt and I went downtown to hear him speak at First Baptist on Thursday night. It was very inspiring.

The last book you read: For school, I think it was The Refiner's Fire: The Making of the Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844. That's the third time I've mentioned that book in three blog posts! For pleasure, I think it was Mrs. Kimble, for my book group with DeAnn.

What are you currently reading?: For school, I'm currently reading Walking in the Sacred Manner: Medicine Women of the Plains Indians (or something like that; I can't remember the exact title) and Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. For pleasure--nothing! I feel empty. I haven't started our next book club book yet.

Five books you would take to a deserted island: In no particular order, Etty Hillesum's An Interrupted Life, the Bible, the complete works of Rilke (I don't know if such an anthology exists, but I would take it if it did. If not, then just Letters to a Young Poet). Also Jurassic Park and the Onion's This Dumb Century.

Who are you going to pass this meme to and why?

Peggy, Amy, and Chris L., because I'm know they all like to read and they're the only people I could think of who read my blog and would do something like this.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Mormonism, magic, and Mircea Eliade (Or: Good things happen on the Pioneer Express.)

Last night as I was coming back up to campus from work downtown, I ran into Will from my Seminar in Early American Religion. You know Will: black hair, skateboard, smoker's voice, likes to talk about how Santa Claus is the popular religious/pop culture appropriation of Jesus? What I might have forgotten to mention earlier is that brother's, like, brilliant. His insights into the readings are always enlightening, he's an engaging speaker even despite his NorCal verbal tics (and I also say "like" and "you know" and "kinda" a lot, so I'm not one to talk), and he's super well-versed in the theory. Mircea Eliade came up in the reading the other day, and he was all, "Oh, Eliade? Wasn't he the central editor of the Encyclopedia of Religion?" like, who knows that stuff? But he's the kind of guy who uses "Durkheimian" as an adjective, which is to say, exactly the kind of guy I like.

(As a side note, one of the reasons I love the seminar so much is that we're all like that, to varying degrees. I'm the least familiar with the theory because I haven't taken Methods in the Study of Religion yet, but with the other four students--and Aimee in particular, who is equally as brilliant as Will--it's like, you say "liminality" and they all shout "Victor Turner!" "Purity and danger?" "Mary Douglas!" I'm learning a ton, needless to say, and realizing more and more that I've never met a Religious Studies major I didn't like.)

So Will and I were talking on the shuttle on the way back up to campus about our respective religious beliefs, the classes we've taken in the department, our plans for after graduation (Will: "I think anyone who seriously engages in the Religious Studies discipline can't help but want to dedicate their whole life to it.") and how people always think that Religious Studies majors want to pursue religious vocations (my favorite response when I tell people I'm a Religious Studies/Hispanic Studies double major: "Oh...oh. So...you're going to be a nun in Mexico?" Me: "Yes. Yes, I am.") In the course of discussion, he brings up the book we're currently reading for our seminar: Early Mormonism and the Magic World View by D. Michael Quinn. You might recall that this was one of the books I was drunkenly expounding upon to a sober and bemused Ryan on Saturday evening. It's seriously 646 pages long, but the last 320 pages are endnotes, no joke.

Will mentioned how surprised he was, when reading the book, to learn that Quinn is a believing Mormon, even after being excommunicated from the LDS church for his scholarship, which has focused on the role of magic, the occult, and supernatural beliefs in early Mormonism; the hierarchy of the LDS church and how far it's strayed from its original parameters; homosexuality and same-sex practices among the early church fathers (Quinn himself is gay, which probably didn't help things); and the gender dynamics within Mormon theology, such as the Mother in Heaven. Will was surprised that Quinn could produce such a nontraditional, objective account and analysis of the beliefs of and influences on Joseph Smith and the early Mormon community, while still believing, by Quinn's own admission in the Introduction, in the divine quality and truth of Smith's revelations. I think Will described it as something like, "Objective, objective, objective....FAITH! Whoa!"

We discussed this in class on Tuesday, and the professor Susanna talked a little about how she feels bad for Quinn, because as a religious scholar of religion writing for a scholarly audience, he has it about a hundred times harder than a secular or athiest scholar. It's pretty easy to write about how Joseph Smith was a liar and a counterfeiter and believed in all this kooky magic and seeing stones and made up all the revelations, and there's an audience for that sort of work. That was actually much closer to the approach taken in the last book we read, Brooke's The Refiner's Fire: The Making of the Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844, and what's more, few scholars are going to object to that sort of approach, even if it's totally decried by the Mormon Historical Association and FARMS, this institute out of BYU that tries to prove the archaelogical existance of the Golden Tablets. It's also pretty easy to take the totally opposite approach and deny that Joseph Smith ever engaged in magic and that the Golden Tablets were historical artifacts that have just been lost and that Smith really did translate the Tablets with the help of the angel Moroni, and even if, say, the American Historical Association totally discounts those scholars' work, it is internally stable, you know? Someone like Quinn, though, gets it from both sides: the secular scholars complain that he's not objective, the Mormon scholars claim that he's not faithful enough and go so far as to kick him out of their club.

I feel bad for him, too. It's an issue I've been thinking about for awhile now, ever since I went to this discussion over the summer hosted by the Religious Studies department at the University of Oregon about the place of faith in the Academy. As a Christian, how does my faith inform what I choose to study and how I approach it? Are there inherent contradictions in my being a practicing Christian and my acceptance of the historical/critical theories about the composition of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, for instance? Can I profess a faith in the risen Jesus Christ and the divine inspiration of Scripture while acknowledging the true fact that the Gospels, as they exist in any Bible you'd care to open, never existed in that exact form, as the texts from which the translations were made were pieced together from thousands of fragments?

The answers to the last two questions are no and yes, respectively, but the first question is one that I continue to grapple with and probably will be grappling with throughout my academic career--not to mention throughout my spiritual life. All I can say for sure, now, is that I have a tremendous amount of respect for scholars and people like Quinn who are able to reconcile the two. At this point in the conversation, I brought in Prof. Kugler, my Religious Studies advisor and a man before whom I stand in awe. Kugler is both a prominent Dead Sea Scrolls and Hebrew Bible scholar and an ordained (though no longer active) Lutheran minister. In my spiritual and intellectual journey, I'm glad to have role models like Kugler and Quinn to guide me, and I'm glad to have classes like Seminar in Early American Religion to make me care enough to engage the questions.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Am I the nerdiest drunk ever?

People always say that whatever your personality normally is, it's even more so when you're drunk. So I guess it makes since that sense I'm already a huge geek, when I drink, I get become the geekiest geek who ever geeked. Here's just a partial list of the subjects upon which I've felt qualified to expound while drunk, often quite loudly and with little or no provocation:

1. The interplay between happiness and obligation in the short stories and screenplays of contemporary Russian author Viktoria Tokareva;

2. Installation art as a movement, and particularly the wrapping of the Pont Neuf bridge and other works ("works") by Christo and Jeanne-Claude;

3. What the post-exilic Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible would have to say about the results of the 2004 presidential election;

4. The role of magic in the development of Mormon cosmology (I have to pat myself on the back for getting through the entire title of the book The Refiner's Fire: The Making of the Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 when I was talking about this. That's a long title, even for a sober person!)

5. The characteristics of the prophetic individual and the social conditions that give rise to prophesy, as described by religious studies theorist and scholar Max Weber, and whether Joseph Smith can be understood in those terms;

6. The prospect of Mars exploration, and whether it is or could ever be an ethical choice;

7. Premillenial and postmillenial apocalyptic Christian thought, and how those categories relate to Mars and current goings on in the US;

8. The traditional Canadian practice of clubbing baby seals to death (STOP THE SLAUGHTER!)

9. Excommunication from the LDS (Mormon) church, both for those on the far right (modern-day Mormon fundamentalists who practice polygamy) and on the moderate-to-far left (scholars like D. Michael Quinn who explore Drunken Dissertation #4, as well as feminist Mormon scholars who argue for the acceptance of women to the clergy, based on the Heavenly Mother/Heavenly Father dichotomy);

10. The Czech national character.

Each of those topics doesn't represent an individual drunken experience; all in all, I can count the number of times I've been drunk on two hands (and I barely need the second hand). Last night, for instance, I was all over the place: I covered numbers 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, although Mars and the baby seals have been recurring themes of conversation over the past year. The nerdiness is just so concentrated, y'all.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I think I could make a good tragic heroine

For the first six years after I started my period, the first day was always accompanied by horrible, debilitating cramps. No matter what I was doing that day--jogging (that was short-lived), taking an AP Biology test, studying, watching a movie in the theater, babysitting, working at Migrant Headstart--I'd have to stop; my body made it physically impossible for me to live my life. It wasn't a question of being uncomfortable, because I can deal with that, but for about three hours each month my life was absolutely interrupted. I'd break out in cold sweats. I'd get so dizzy when I stood up or made any sudden movements that I was afraid I was going to pass out. I couldn't keep any food or water down. I felt as though someone were twisting my uterus in their hands like a wet rag.

Really, looking back on it, I can't believe I let myself live that way for so long. For the past two and half years, I've been taking medication to even out my hormones, and my nightmare periods have largely vanished. Now, instead of waves of intense pain, I feel nothing more than a dull aching, a melancholy tugging and a vague listlessness. It is during these times, now, when I am most drawn to the melodramatic urge to see myself as a tragic heroine.

Sometimes when I feel this way, I want nothing more than to fall onto a fainting couch, like, "Woe is me!" and compose Romantic verses about the tragic beauty of life and transcendentalism, all Pre-Raphaelite curls and pale, ghostly bodycolor. I want to listen to the most emo of all emo music and weep for six days like Chopin did when he couldn't find the right chord for one of his piano pieces. I want people to come and adore me and feed me peeled grapes and bon-bons and maybe--just maybe--contract a wasting disease and die a beautiful, tragic death. I think I could handle that.

Don't get me wrong, I don't feel like this all the time. Just sometimes.

But I do always want a fainting couch.