Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Socks, at last

I made these in November and... well... I'm very proud. *sniff.

Baby alpaca in charcoal, perfect for B's cold feet (har. har.) especially the day that I finished, since he'd just contracted the flu.

And now, the moderately close up shot...

Thus, in a word: Ta-da!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sir Jackson

"This! Is! Sparta! Ka-chow!"

In my family, the geeking-out starts early.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Can I go on your next trip?

Go here (but only if you're seeking pure delight!)

Trust me, it's way more pleasant than Gravity's Rainbow.

Be sure to watch in High Quality (link just below video window).

Monday, July 7, 2008

Pynching (GR, pt. 2)

Posting tomorrow: chs. 2-3.

Right now, posting (briefly) on Chapter One.

  • ChapTER One.
  • CHAP-ter-ONE.
  • Chap, ter one.
I think that moment signifies my favorite thus far in this excursion into TP's brain. Significantly, it felt like an excursion into mine, at least in that moment. "You never did the Kenosha Kid."* Apparently, this blogger experiences a similar phenomenon, at least in the linguistic vs. the musical sense. I know that an error in the brain's auditory co, along with an inherent desire to find patterns (especially with gaps in the patterns - like hearing only a song's title) leads to the "song stuck in my head" problem. Why, then, do we get words or phrases "stuck"? They seem to run around and around, repeating even after I've shouted them at myself, or used them in a blog. (currently, and fortuitously - - sort of - - "auditory" is stuck in my brain. Lucky, that. :-/ )

Here's a commercial example more relevant to the Kenosha Kid situation. The cable channel A&E formerly used the slogan "Time Well Spent." Regardless of the response of wikipedia posters, I think they retired the slogan due to the ridiculous variations on that phrase that viewers, like me, could make:
  • Time, well spent (we use time here at A&E, and we use it well.)
  • Time, well, spent. (gotta get used up somehow; might as well be here.)
  • Time Well, spent. (what the heck is a "time well"? or should I say "who"??)
Even now, typing this out, I can feel the "round-and-round" of Slothrop's brain. (auditory, aggregate, enculcate). Even worse, and even dorkier, the eJ, her husband, and I took a trip to VA two years ago for Halloween and, to stay awake on the road, we played a horrible, wonderful, nerdy game. For hours (and hours) we took turns coming up with words that had specific suffixes. So, for instance, one round was "-ate." With a Spanish lit grad student, a history grad student, and an English lit grad student, you can imagine the length of each of the rounds. The trouble wasn't coming up with words; the trouble was stopping before the point of utter mental exhaustion. Even when the rounds were over, words continued to appear in our poor tired brains. We literally couldn't STOP our brains from pursuing that pattern in our linguistic memories.

Thus, I swing 'round back to my original reactions to Slothrop's dilemma(?). First, hilarity as a result of recognition/empathy, as described in the previous ramblings. Second, academic interest in both the psychology of the pattern and also the physiology of it, as described below in my discussion about the sodium-amytal. Finally, pattern-recognition as a catalyst for a close reading. Scary, and overwhelming, and cool.

Okay, point 2, then. The (psychotropic, tropes, aggregate, enculcate**), barbituate, "10% sodium-amytal, one cc at a time, as needed" (62) obviously indicate a jibe against/about human test subjects during the WWII era. For instance, Slothrop sings (recites? chants?) "Re-enlist-- Snap--to, Slothrop! / ...They just look for someplace else to send...me..." (63) , as if the physicians' only concern is to prep depressed, neurotic, suicidal soldiers for a return to the battlefield (see link in next sentence).

Note that the administration of the so-called -perhaps, anyway- "Blue-88" appears after Slothrop has already begun his linguistic spiral, a word I choose intentionally, for the implication is that of a downward tendency. Okay, so. In my case it may be simple OCD of the neocortex, in Slothrop's we must assume that Pynchon wants to say something, or, better, wants to imply that he wants to say something. Regardless, I'm gonna go with the the desire to say something, at least the desire to show something on a linguistic and a musical level. Thus, I've now moved from my previous point of "linguistic vs. musical" to a new region of "linguistic AND musical." Quite an important distinction.

Here we go: Slothrop gets the sodium-amytal, and the already overstimulated Broca's area (frontal lobe, neocortex) invites the
auditory cortex (occipital lobe) along for the ride, and the complex, problem-solving/pattern recognition loop adds a soundtrack. Normally, I might argue that Pynchon was in now way references actual, physiological or psychological processes. The problem with my argument would be - and is - that the entire episode turns on psychological experimentation. Perhaps I go too far if I argue that TP intentionally alludes to the various regions of the brain - but do I? Note Slothrop's own words: "Tap my head and mike my brain, / Stick that needle in my vein" (63), and then "yowzah gwine smoke a little ob dis hyah sheeit gib de wrinkles in mah brain a process! straighten 'em all raht out, sho nuf!" (64, TP ital.) At least, based on the context, the essential physio-psychological processes play a role, even if TP doesn't specifically intend to discuss the regions of the brain.

But I do. So that's why I did a little research on the names here, both of the interviewer, PISCES, and the song, "Cherokee," playing during Slothrop's recital, which I hesitate to call a "flashback." Here's the dish: Pisces is the name a 1961 Art Blakey album, as well as a song on that album and this one, The Freedom Rider, from the following year. Considering the tempo of Slothrop's little ditties, as well as the setting, dialect, and storyline of his bathroom recital. I find it difficult to ignore the possible connections. The weird thing is this: I would destroy my students for making such a leap! It's a terrible fallacy to assume that somehow there's a connection between a 1960's jazz tune and one crazy-drug-induced memory. EXCEPT. We're talking Pynchon. The other snag in my neat little fabrication here? I can find no evidence that Art Blakey recorded the Ray Noble jazz tune "Cherokee," despite it's popularity among other greats.

Suddenly, I find myself playing a weird literary game of Six Stages of Separation, and I feel completely OCD.

I think I shall call it quits for one day, and continue these thoughts on the morrow. I'm caught in a lexical loop.

I'll leave you with Ray Noble's classic lyrics:

Cherokee (Indian Love Song)

Sweet Indian maiden, since first I met you,
I can't forget you, Cherokee sweetheart.

Child of the prairie, your love keeps calling,
my heart enthralling, Cherokee.

Dreams of summertime, of lovertime gone by,
throng my memory so tenderly, and sigh. My

Sweet Indian maiden, one day I'll hold you,
in my arms fold you, Cherokee.

* - Yes, I noticed they're an Athens-based band. More reviews here.
** - Blogger keeps telling me that I've spelled enculcate incorrectly. I checked, and I'm right. So HAH.
**.2 - Interestingly, arbitrarily repeating the "stuck" words seems to alleviate the cacophony/calliope in my head. Perhaps a new Pynchon theory?

Works Cited (referenced, or pointed to)

"3 Smart Things About Music." Wired. 16 June 2008. 7 July 2008.

"Battle of the Bulge." American Experience. Public Broadcasting Station. Transcript. Online. 7 July 2008.

ConstantSkeptic. "Words Stuck in My Head." [Weblog entry.] The Constant Skeptic: Tech-enabled Hipster Xenophiles Seeking to Question, Rant, and Inform Humanity. 17 December 2007. <http://www.constantskeptic.com/index.php/2007/12/17/quote-of-the-day-oscar-wilde/>7 July 2008.

Wikipedia. . 7 July 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

Verbals Furballs. (Pynchon, Pt. 1)

My god, the man obfuscates.

I have decided, after hours of contemplation, that I'll allow my first post to be little more than a knee-jerk RANT against the refrigerator-poetry of Pynchon's style. But let me start at the start.

I'm blogging, along with K.R., as I read Gravity's Rainbow in a united effort to hold ourselves accountable for actually completing the darn thing. It's my first go, but KR has tried several times and, not "failed," but decided to move on to less irritating reading material. Let me put it this way: many of you know my feelings about Don DeLillo's White Noise and James Joyce's Ulysses, so you'll understand my initial hesitancy when I searched
GR on Amazon.com and they BOTH appeared as results. Why? I'm not entirely sure, but I imagine that if you like one or the other of these (supposedly, and I have my doubts) venerable tomes, you're sure to LOVE GR. Not exactly an auspicious beginning to this summer reading adventure.*

So... I decided to take the literary academic approach; or, at least, I decided to make an attempt at such an approach. And I still insist that I will have a few posts along the way that will gesture at scholarship, perhaps even brilliance, although the probability of the latter is quite slim. I'll save my attempts at thematic analysis, linguistic parsing, and
etc, for later posts, however, for right now I have a terrible itch that I must satisfy, a tickle in my (virtual) throat: Pbbbttthhhttt! The Emperor is naked!

First, studious little scholar that I am, I practiced my "Fiction Preview" for this book. The steps of the preview are as follows:

  1. Read the covers, inside and out (flaps, etc)
  2. Read everything before Chapter 1 and after the last chapter.
  3. Read Chapter 1 (all 180 pages).
First, the covers: Front cover is apparently black paint/ink splattered on a white canvas/surface, with the shape of a missile - purportedly the V-2 rocket, but not named - marked out as negative space. The edges of said shape are not sharp, perhaps to further indicate the space as negative space, rather than 3-D object. The rocket, then, does not have actual presence on the page (here or in the text), except as, like subatomic particles in physics, the measurement of the reactions or it's imprint on the environment. Okay, got it. The MISSILE/ROCKET represents the centerpiece of the novel, but the novel pivots on it, rather than focuses on it. And that's just Frank Miller's cover. (I KNOW! Frank Miller!)

The back cover, delight of delights, shows war-torn London, the famous bridge aflame in the deep background, rowhouses tumbled into lumber, rubble, and ash, defamiliarized (thank you, for dropping the cake, Jenna) into their disparate elements, though a complete wall of empty windows rises. Notably, perhaps, that wall lines up with the burning bridge in the deep background. Two figures, male and female, seem to have just escaped the collapse of a wall, although the male, following the female, may sill be caught by the legs in the crushing fall of whatever it is. His hand covers one eye and his forehead, and a frightening bit of lumber seems headed straight for a lovely impalement beneath his upraised arm. The woman faces away from the disaster, while the man watches the collapse. The artists depicts most of the scenery in reds and browns, edged in white to emphasize the heat and brightness, but the figures have a greener underlying tint. This coloration may indicate living vs. unliving, although the intuitive tinting for that purpose might have been the opposite: color of living should be red - blood, life, etc, color of death/nonliving/inanimate - green, black, industrial. In this case, the city is bleeding, burning, dying, the humans(?) frozen, copper-statue-like, concrete, mechanical. Hmm..

As I wrote this, I took another look at the inside back cover and learned that the image is "from a German D-Day leaflet showing scenes of apparent disaster in England." Anyway, here's a link to Calvin College's online German Propaganda archive (3rd image down).

Then, I read the only text on this back cover. A quote from
The New Republic:
The most profound and accomplished American novel since the end of World War II."

Um, what exactly is that supposed to signify? That it's a difficult book? That Pynchon somehow "accomplished" some mysterious SOMETHING with it? Is the verbose, complex, style "accomplished"? The in-jokes and puns? The (possibly) throwaway allusions and oblique references that
may go somewhere but may have appear as a diversionary tactic? ("Hey, look at this bright, shiny thing I can do! Oh? What? I have no idea how this talking dog got here while you were looking the other way!").

Inside Front:


Red font on black background, with mirror-image and reverse countdown to 2 in white at the extreme bottom edge. I now recognize the latter as a reference, not entirely subtle (oh yeah - it's Pynchon) to the Pavlovian reverse-neurological processes, the "ultraparadoxical phase" (Pynchon 49, his ital.) of impending/receding doom. Yes, well. How wonderfully clever.

Clever, clever Pynchon. Does the emperor actually have on a delightful set of magical robes that only the wisest of us can see? Or have we all been hoodwinked (heh, pun) by a man with too much time and too many verbals... or, is that the cleverest joke of all? That he, being TP, knew of the academicians and our desire for meaning, and he weaves a horrifyingly apt post-modern joke to expose - an humiliate us all?!

I don't think that I'm necessarily grasping at straws - or bananas - here, in an embarrassing attempt to explain my ignorance. I'm actually having little difficulty comprehending his "story," if it may be termed such, or even his metaphors, allusions, puns, descriptions, what have you. I'm just a little irritated that he won't let me in past this veritable wall of language to the heart of... himself? His tale? His point? It just makes me wonder if, like the child with the Russian doll, there exists nothing at the heart. Perhaps the tangle of alleyways and darkened windows in/around/through this wall are the point of it. The journey, not the destination, blah-blah-blah. Frankly, I don't know how I feel about picking up all of these jigsaw clues he leaves about in the twisted corridors and on the ledges of his text, only to find that the picture is only another post-modern attempt at abstract expressionism without meaning. Call me a luddite, but I don't care about books that I don't care about, and I especially don't care about Thomas Pynchon's thesaurus-diving.**

Alright. I have read Ch. 1, but, obviously, haven't written on it. I have the notes! I swear, Dr. Roney, I've been keeping up! I'll write on this tomorrow, since I've talked too much today.
Mantra: I'm reading this for pleasure. I'm reading this for pleasure. I'm reading this... oh hell.
** Yep.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Deep down dark

Sometimes I think I took Mr. Tolkien's words a bit too much to heart: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." Granted, as a child I wanted to resemble the noble Lady Eowyn for her courage and audacity, and I had hoped to avoid connection with the silly, munchkin-like hobbits. Now, however, I've realized two significant concepts:

  1. Hobbits have a humble nobility and quiet greatness (redundant, yes - - but also hobbitlike)

  2. Eowyn was not simply "brave": she was in a suicidal despair. Not nearly as much fun.
I would rather not, at least on a romantic, aesthetic level, have exterior associations with hobbit-folk. Really, what woman wouldn't rather remind her friends of Eowyn, beautiful warrior maid (better: Galadriel or Arwen... Elf-Queens!!?!) than short, hairy-footed people that live in little round houses underground?

The point that I have, in all my geek glory, successfully evaded for two paragraphs, shall now make an appearance: I tend toward hobbit-ness more often than elf-queen or warrior-maid. Blech. My poor, feminine, romantic heart wilts just a little at the thought. Before all of the Tolkien fans start heaving mathoms at me, I will offer an advance disclaimer: this post will certainly not focus on the less-admirable attributes of our little friends (Or of me, to be honest) . And, please, D., refrain from all snorts until all names have been announced. :)

This week, I stayed inside my emotional hobbit-hole, dark and cozy and self-absorbed. I took care of my responsibilities, e.g., kid's karate summer camp, SOAR at GSC, some prep for classes, RGTR orientations, dinner for my boyfriend (Bertolli!). I even fed my cats at the designated times and with requisite kitty-cat-talk. But when I wasn't take care of my BIG responsibilities, I avoided phone calls, neglected email, and slept on my couch* --> always a bad sign for me. Generally, I navel-gazed myself into pseudo-depression. Awful. Now, I know you're waiting with bated breath, wondering what the heck was wrong with me this weekend.

As I reflect (now on day 2 of this attempted post), I am learning that I have a few great fears in my heart, and that they typically manifest as minor insecurities until a major event propels me inward toward selfish introspection:

  1. Fear of losing my drive for excellence and becoming lazy and "sufficient," rather than outstanding.

  2. Fear of incompletion; i.e., becoming a woman that starts many things and finishes none.

  3. Fear of mediocrity - coming in 2nd or 3rd instead of shining at the top.
Again, all of these major insecurities appear as minor complaints and worries in almost all aspects of my life - professionally and personally. I want to be the best teacher, best friend, best girlfriend, daughter, sister, karate student - obviously, however, if I'm human, it's virtually impossible to truly be the "best" at anything, much less the best at all of those roles. And thus, the fear of failure, of "mediocrity," raises its head and a cycle begins. I "fail" (per se), feel defeated, wonder if everyone has lost faith in me and my abilities, question my desires and dreams, and basically whine myself into a deep, dark hobbit-hole.

B. has said a number of times that I'm "ruled by my insecurities"; after a lengthy discussion last week about this very topic - and that specific comment - I recognize both the superficial truth and the underlying misdirection that his statement implies. The statement is true, insomuch that I believe most of us use our insecurities as both motivation to succeed and as excuses for failure, thus attesting to the bilateral nature of...well... our nature in general. On the other hand, B.'s comment misleads the object of the statement into an incorrect understanding of one's capacity for growth, either emotional or mental. Basically, when he says that I'm "ruled by my insecurities," I hear "You are incapable of growing as a person because you are controlled by fear rather than a sense of adventure, desire for success, or confidence in your strengths." Of course, he didn't mean it that way - he wants me to "see" myself as he does, which is, by all accounts, in a very, very good light. :)

The point? I have pondered and wandered and explored and explained, trying to find my way out of my own head and back into myself. That is, the self that tries (and fails, often) to become more selfless, even as I hold onto my own ambitions and dreams. I'll offer up my quote, though many of you have seen it. This quote, from Carl Sagan's Contact, feels... right... to me:

"She was determined to be as tough-minded as possible, without abandoning the sense of wonder that was driving her in the first place."

Perhaps I just needed to get this navel-lint out on paper, for all the world** to see, and now I can focus on OTHER THINGS. Whew. Blegh - it was icky in there. I think, for a start, I'll attempt to eliminate all of those self-deprecating comments that aren't really that funny, and really only represent a bid for attention and external ego-pumping (hehe - that's almost bad). After that, the world is my oyster! I will rule! I will become sheer...

*Obligatory YouTube link.
**Or, any vaguely interested parties.