...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

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Word to the wise (and sober)

When you make a conscientious decision to stay in on a Saturday night, so that you can study and make it to church well-rested and bright-eyed the next day, instead of going to Night 2 (ie, the drinking party night) of your ex-roommate birthday festivities, it is not wise to "pre-game it" with your roommates by drinking 3 shots of Montezuma, the classiest tequila to come in a plastic bottle.

Not wise, but oh so fun.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Bible is a foundational text of Western civilization. Stop whining and get over it.

Today in Feminist Theory we were discussing bell hooks' Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Great book, thought-provoking, challenging, blah blah. One of the last few chapters is about language as both oppressive and a site of subversion. bell takes a line from Adrienne Rich and expands on it: "This is the oppressor's language, but I need it to talk to you," or something like that. In our discussions, the guest lecturer brought up the example of the Bible, and how the first-year students were "required to read the Bible" in the new first-year core.

You would not believe the reaction. (Unless you are Amy, and have already blogged about it.) There was an audible gasp and a cry of outrage: "THEY HAVE TO READ THE BIBLE?!?!?!?! Oh, the inhumanity of having to spend six dollars on the Bible! The offense! The oppression! The tyranny of the white bourgeous males trying to beat down the free spirits with the Bible, that tool of patriarchal upper-middleclass privilege!

It was complete bullshit. Utterly. I could not believe the ignorance and close-mindedness of the reaction on the part of the majority of my classmates. It's just...I...I don't even know where to start. Here's on place to start, I guess (and what I ended up saying in class):

Whether or not you accept or consider the Bible as religious truth, you absolutely cannot deny that it is a foundation text of Western civilization, and you cannot fully understand...pretty much any element of Western culture, art, or literature if you do not have at LEAST a rudimentary grounding in the basic stories of the Bible.

I honestly think a lot of the people in that class thought that professors teaching the Bible in class is tantamount to inviting evangelical missionaries in to preach to the kids. Which is totally, totally false. If anything, I would be more concerned about professors denigrating the Bible and teaching it in a totally reductionist way, making fun of Christian students or Christianity, not realizing that there actually are people at this school with a religious commitment. I've already had this experience in several classes. As a practicing, commited Christian, I recognize how hard it is for religious students here, and how antagonistic the atmosphere often is. And as Amy pointed out, there's this assumption that all LC students are agnostics, athiests, or enchanted with this kind of hazy, don't-really-believe-in-anything-but-considers-one's-self-a-spiritual-person, vaguely Eastern-inspired "if it feels good, do it" build-your-own religion. And there are students like that here, but we're not all like that.

Plus, it's not like the first-years have to read the whole Bible. The exact books assigned are up to the professor, as I understand it, but one freshman I know had to read Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, Romans, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. That's not very much. (If it were up to me, I'd add Isaiah, swap Matthew for Luke, take out Thessalonians, and add in James. But then again, I'm from the United Church of Christ, and if you know anything about the denomination you probably understand why I would want to make those changes.)

It's just...God! That class made me mad.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Amen, sister

From Nadine Darling's review of Ben & Jerry's Black and Tan ice cream, for McSweeney's:

"Poking through pints in the ice-cream freezer of my local Shaw's, I spotted Ben & Jerry's Black and Tan Ice Cream. Ice creams based on alcoholic drinks are as prevalent now as movies that used Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine" as background music for their trailers were in the late '80s, and I for one say it's about fucking time. Like most Americans, I don't have a moment to spare. I need to cram all of my various addictions into one artery-clogging, liver-pummeling, mood-swing-elevating experience, and it must be portable enough to eat while weeping on the back porch in my underwear."

It's like she was watching me last August or something.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Times New Roman is for pussies

I prefer to type my papers in Baskerville, the classiest of the serifed fonts. Times New Roman served me throughout high school, but looking back on it, it truly is a high school font, sophomoric, bold, squat, plain. There's something about it that makes good ideas look a little worse, a little too functional, a little too obvious. Baskerville, on the other hand, lends ideas an elegance that translates into eloquence; it makes good ideas look brilliant and bad ideas look respectable.

Times New Roman is the workhorse of the fonts, for sure, and no professor will reject a paper written in TNR; maybe some even request it to dissuade over-eager students from printing their Chaucer paper in Olde English or Sand or, God forbid, Comic Sans. Baskerville looks enough like TNR that it's not distracting to the eye, but it has a taller, thinner, lighter outline, a more graceful finish; it's a font that would call you "Old Sport" while swirling a drink. Baskerville is Gatsby, and Times New Roman is Tom Buchanon. Baskerville is Virginia Woolf, and Time New Roman is Dan Brown. Baskerville is a book, Times New Roman is a blog.

But even Times New Roman is preferable to nearly any other font. Helvetica? Please. I only type in Courier for creative writing pieces when I'm trying to mimic a writer or personality from the type-writer era. And once you type something in Comic Sans, you might as well have just vomited on the paper and handed it directly to your professor.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Little brothers are funny, and cute

My brother titles his most recent LiveJournal entry "Don't read this if you don't like swear words." Hee! Also, I admit to being impressed by his use of the word "lambast" in a previous entry. Perhaps I have underestimated him.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Lewis & Clark School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Eric and I were talking at the Religious Studies reception about which academic departments would correspond to the different Hogwarts houses, if Hogwarts were a liberal arts college. (Hot Tom: "You guys are such dorks!") We're stuck on Gryffindor--I propose History, but Eric thought International Affairs; the IA students have to be brave to deal with the crazy-ass, Slytherin-esque professors in that department. Maybe Biochem? Ravenclaw would definitely be Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Classical Studies. Slytherin would be International Affairs and Political Science. And we immediately agreed that Communications is the Hufflepuff of the liberal arts. (Eric wanted to add Sociology/Anthropology to Hufflepuff, but I protest!) Post your ideas!

After that intellectual debate, I talked with Sylvia, the Jewish studies instructor, about--surprise!--Hasidic Judaism. Sylvia is, I believe, of the Conservative tradition, which means that she is more observant than Reform Jews, but less observant (and more skeptical about the necessity and importance of observance) than Modern Orthodox and Hasids. Regardless, she's friendly with the Lubavitcher Hasidic community in Portland and I enjoyed hearing about her experiences with them. At the end of the conversation I brought up "tikkun olam," the mending of the world. Ever since I first learned of it two years ago, I've been fascinated by the parallels between the humanitarian, liberal Jewish focus on social justice (for instance, check out the Jewish Renewal magazine "Tikkun") and the ultra-fundamentalist Lubavitcher emphasis on tikkun olam as a means of bringing about Mosiach, the Messiah. Lubavitchers believe--and here they're heavily influenced by mystical Jewish kabbalistic belief--that by encouraging secular Jews to pursue more observant lives, they're piecing together the brokenness of the world, perfecting the world, and bringing the Messiah that much closer to returning.

Sylvia added a really important distinction and nuance to my understanding: the Lubavitchers see the brokenness of the world as, fundamentally, the Jewish exile from the Holy Land. Social justice for them is about what's good for the Jews; piecing together the brokenness of the world is primarily about rekindling the sacred light in each Neshama, or Jewish soul. That's not to say that they don't care at all about us gentiles, but there is not anything approaching the worldwide social justice emphasis that you find in, for instance, Reform Judaism, or any real sense of the importance of environmental conservation. She mentioned how frustrating it is to attend Shabbos dinners with Lubavitcher families and find that everything is served on disposible plates, with plastic knives and forks that are just dumped into the trash. Conversely, Reform Jews typically don't believe in the physical person of the Messiah, just the "messianic times," whereas belief in Mosiach and his imminent return is a central tenant of, at least, Lubavitcher Hasidism.

As I was walking from Howard to the library, I had an idea: writing my thesis contrasting the notions of tikkun olam in the two traditions, Reform Judaism and Lubavitcher Hasidism. After all, I'll have years to study and write about American religion. I'm going to have to talk with Kugler about how far I can get not knowing Hebrew or Yiddish, and I might have to tweak it depending on what he tells me, but right now, I'm really excited!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I want to study religion so that I can hang out with people like Paul full time

Quote of the Day from Paul, my Methods in the Study of Religion professor:

"Jean Bodin...Jean Bodin. Like my accent? I had to learn to read French in graduate school. Reading French is not terribly difficult, but how does anyone speak it? It's like, there are 27 vowels at the end of the word, and you don't pronounce any of them. Speaking French is like performance art. It's impossible to do with a straight face. Speaking French sounds like you're making fun of France."

He went on to call Bodin both a pastry chef and a cheese chef. Any time he said the name Bodin, Eric and I were reduced to giggles.

I haven't had a class from Paul since Women in the Islamic World my freshman year, and I had forgotten how funny and quotable he is. Back when Ryan and I were close friends (ah, those halcyon days!), we would frequently describe things as "interesting, but profoundly boring." That's another Paulism, and it captures perfectly the sense of something that's interesting to know about, and you feel like a richer person for knowing about it and being able to discuss it, but the process of obtaining that knowledge is excruciating. Paul first used it to describe medieval Islamic women's participation in the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), which pretty well captures the sense of it.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Now that you know who you are, what do you want to be?

Yesterday I met with Kugler, my Religious Studies advisor, to talk about my post-graduation plans. I told him that I want to be a professor of American religion and described my area of interest: still liberation and feminist theologies, but more and more, immigrant religion and the ways immigrant and refugee communities use and interact with religion in carving spaces for themselves in the US. The scholar I've read that best captured what I'm interested in eventually doing is Robert Orsi, a scholar of American Catholicism.

Kugler gave me a list of graduate schools to look at that have good programs in my area of interest: UC Santa Barbara, University of North Carolina, Indiana University, Princeton, Yale, Chicago. I was hoping that he would mention the big H, Harvard Divinity, the home of so many famous names (Orsi himself, David Hall, Anne Braude, Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, Leila Ahmed) that reading through their course catalogue was like visiting the Hall of Fame of Religious Studies. He said that their program was kind of a mess, and that they don't offer great sponsorship to their doctoral candidates when it comes to helping them find teaching jobs. That part was pretty disappointing. Then I asked him if the schools he listed off for me were realistic options, commensurate to my abilities, and he told me that, in his opinion, I'll be able to go anywhere I want, and that statement of confidence is, so far, the highlight of my semester.

I'm so excited and nervous to be investigation graduate schools. I still have a quarter of my undergraduate education to complete, yet it's as though I've already got one foot in the door. Everything is about the future, at the same time that it has to be about the present. It will be a liminal year, indeed.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What kinds of sermons would Rohrbaugh preach? Hmm...

Backstory: Eric, Amy and I all had New Testament together last spring. Our professor was a retired Presbyterian minister. He was also prone to squawking things about chakras, keggers, teeny-bopper talk, what things were "da bomb," erotic dancing, and the evil eye. He also told a lot of stories that involved him flipping off--and then becoming involved in protracted feuds with--other Biblical scholars. In short, he was great.

(Have more fun at Church Sign Generator!)

Friday, September 01, 2006

The science experiment is over

[Warning: TMI]

When I was about thirteen or fourteen, I started getting horrible menstrual cramps and sickness. They would show up for about two or three hours, and just on the first day of my period, but for that short window of time, I was miserable. I would sweat and shake and couldn't hold anything down, including water. The only thing I could do was lie, curled into a fetal position, around a hot-water bottle and wait for it to pass. I missed several classes and tests because of it, but I always sort of figured it was just something I had to live with.

Then, when I was seventeen, my doctor put me on the Pill. The heavens opened and a choir of angels burst into the Hallelujah Chorus. Seriously, it was wonderful. I didn't suffer any of the side-effects (maybe I gained about ten pounds, but who cares). I had zero cramps and I got my period on the exact same day every month. It was like a revelation. So I still got a little gloomy every month. No one's perfect. But my doctor told me that there was a good chance I would outgrow my cramps, so I should consider going off the Pill for a few months when I got older, and see how things were doing. Since I was traveling earlier this summer and didn't have a set routine and schedule, I decided to see if my system had matured enough to take care of itself without the drugs.

It has not. Each month was a roller-coaster of mood swings and weird physical fluctuations. Since I hadn't had a natural period for four years, nearly half of my menstruating life, my body and I weren't accustomed to its natural processes, and it freaked. out. Each month was something different and bizarre. One month, a few days before my period, my feet were swollen and hurt so badly I could barely walk. It was like hobbling around on bloody stumps. Of course, this had to happen in Florence. Then, the next month, I would get so white that I looked like a nineteenth century consumptive. Then, I would get hot flashes. I just spent the night at Becca's, and this morning, in the space of two hours, I went from feeling normal to throwing up to shaking and sweating to normal. I feel fine now, but a couple hours ago I was literally thinking, "Maybe I should just hold my breath, pass out, and end it all now, because absolutely nothing could feel worse than this."

In an ideal world, I would not have to rely on a drug cocktail to regulate my hormones, but unfortunately, I do not live in that world. Maybe I'll give a Pill-free existance another try in another five years (Becca: "Unless you're married and pregnant by then!" Me: "Aaah!"), but until then, I will be a-poppin'.