Variation on a Theme

“I’m back.”

“Oh, good.  …good Lord.”

“What?”

“Nothing, just – I’m sorry, how many bags of books do you have there?  I thought you said you were going off to read, not raid a bookstore.”

“It wasn’t a bookstore.  It was the library.”

And there wasn't a book sale. I didn't even get that many new requests. This was just me cleaning out my car.

And there wasn’t a book sale. I didn’t even get that many new requests. This was just me cleaning out my car.

“Oh.  I’d thought maybe a coffee shop…?”

“No, coffee shops are full of people buying coffee and chatting over their tea and – and then there’s the pressure to earn your seat by buying more coffee, which I don’t need.  Bookstores have no BYOB policy and in fact discourage bringing your own book….whereas the library has a fine parking lot, and a quiet table inside.”

“Sorry – what, exactly, does the parking lot have to do with anything?”

“Oh!  Well, on a fine evening like this, you can read in your car.  More airflow than indoors, and there was at least an hour of light.  And then inside for another hour and change.  I almost finished off that volume of Milosz, finally.”

“Seems a shame to read so fast instead of lingering over the words.  You can’t get as much out of it.”

Quirk of a bemused eyebrow.  “Is that how you always read?  Lingeringly?”

“Well, yeah.  More or less, depending on the book.”

“Tell me: do you always sip daintily at every glass of water?”  A blank look in response.  “Do you always, always let your beer or wine set for five whole seconds on your tongue before you swallow it?”  Sheepish shifting of feet, eyes drifting to the floor.  “Yeah, that’s what I thought.  Sure, maybe I don’t remember as much of it as you do, or as much as I’d like to recall – but good God, man, sometimes it’s sweltering out and you’re sweating too hard to do anything but gulp.  Sometimes you’re too caught up in conversation to attend so studiously to your beverage.  And that’s all for the best, honestly – drinks go with your food and conversation, not the other way ’round.”

“But contemplating words makes a good deal more sense than contemplating wine.”

“Not all words.  And, for that matter, not all wines, either.”

Uncut 2015 Christmas Letter

Hello, people-I-swear-to-write-but-never-do, relatives, and/or those who have filled me with a sense of obligation by mailing me something first!  Greetings of a seasonal variety to you!  May your Christmas season be full of love, hope, peace, and other fruits of the Spirit.

What follows is my attempt to sum up my year, despite the fact that you probably have learned most of this information via Facebook and, moreover, don’t expect changes of any great magnitude, because there weren’t any.  Unless you count starting on an antidepressant, in which case: there was one change of some magnitude in the past few months, and it is somewhat obvious if I forget it.   …pardon me a moment, I just realized I forgot something…

Right, so.  Life!  And the aspects thereof.  Well.  First off, there’s my…

Job: Yeaaah, I’m still at the law office.  I’ve now spent half a year as secretary for two attorneys, without more salary to show for it. Awesome.  Also awesome: doing anything with the court of appeals for the first time; we are all of us flailing about and consulting the court rules every 5 minutes.

Housing:  You may recall me living in a rental house with 3 other ladies.  As one of my erstwhile roommates got married and remained with her spouse in the house, Cecilia and I moved a whopping .8 miles north and east across Washtenaw.  This is close enough to walk between them, but far enough that anything you sent to my old address will miss me.  Except that I eventually put my mail on forward.  I meant to send you a tidy little handwritten note with my new address, but that just didn’t happen.  Sorry.

Romantic Relationships: Hahahaha, psych!  There’s been nothing of the sort for the last eight years at least.  This year, I went on 3 mediocre dates and 1 decent one, followed by some uninspired texts and no calls.  Friends have suggested I broaden my field of search to include more states, or at least the Fort Wayne seminary.  I may yet do so.

But! I am not without commitments: I have bought two new bookshelves this year and, by virtue of having a roommate who did the actual acquisition, acquired two kittens.  I’ve also become an official member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, having decided after 1.5 years in their choir that I wouldn’t just run off somewhere else.  Except for the weekends when I’m off attending weddings, when I will run most anywhere given sufficient notice.  There were three such weddings this year – those of my erstwhile housemate Hannah G. W., my other erstwhile housemate Liz C. N., and my concert-going, somewhat-indie music-supplying, lemon-jousting drinking buddy Hannah M. K., whose Astoria wedding was a delight to witness and stand up in.  I also attended my friend Zach’s ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood, which is basically like a wedding, except without a 300% markup on the celebratory cake.

There is now another wedding on the horizon, as my brother Paul is engaged to one of my dearest friends, Michelle; I am quite pleased for them (mostly because I am not the one currently dealing with obscene markups for nuptial celebration paraphernalia)(but also because I love them both dearly and, you know, hope they will carry on in delight together &c)(that said, Paul could be a bit less nauseating in his effusions of loving feeling)(someone get me a bucket).

I'm not even an engineer. Just label me "Exhausted" or "Envious" or something.

I’m not even an engineer. Just label me “Exhausted.”

Other celebrations: 12th Night (complete with Shakespeare, almond cake, and crowns); my first Feuerzangenbowle (complete with fiery sugar and carol-singing); Michaelmas (complete with more Milton than I’ve ever read in one sitting before); St. Crispin‘s Day (complete with yelling the Henry V speech to passersby on Mackinac Island); and birthday celebrations of several people, including me (complete with playing two games of Boggle at once!  Or eating Moroccan food/bowling/drinking Greek wine/reading Evelyn Waugh/however we celebrated birthdays).

I also basked in the reflected glory of my brother John competing on Jeopardy! in January, and his return for the Tournament of Champions in November.  My own knowledge of trivia has not been sufficient to get me past the online Jeopardy! test, but it HAS won me a few rounds on LearnedLeague.com.  Aw yiss.  So much less of a timesink than either TriviaCrack or JetPunk, addictions which I have overcome!   …Sadly I have not overcome my addiction to Sherlock fanfiction; please pray for my soul and/or recommend a support group.

No one can tell this deer is wearing jeans anyway.

No one can tell this deer is wearing jeans anyway.

On the bright side, I have profited greatly from reading both The Joy of Less and unfuckyourhabitat.tumblr.com, not that you can necessarily tell by looking at my work desk or my bedroom.  But I’ve managed to dispose of some papers that had lingered for the last year or six, and got rid of some brown pants just in time to miss them at Halloween.

Other consumables:  Continuing my tradition of checking things out of the library for as long as possible, I’ve had a couple books by Milosz out for 2 years now. It’s like grad school library privileges without needing to be in grad school.  Books I actually read include some volumes on orthography, a couple intriguing books by Neil Postman, and I, Robot; generally my reading material has been more poetic, word-loving, critical, depressed, and mildly feminist.

Viewing-wise, this has been the year of my finally watching Die Hard, The Room (via RiffTrax Live), Zoolander, and White Christmas for the very first time.  National Theatre Live brought Coriolanus and Hamlet within my purview, for which I both bless and curse them.  2015 also involved an Iron Man marathon (which, lest you be deceived, involves no physical activity) and more watching of The Decoy Bride / Not Another Happy Ending than is strictly advisable.  Not to mention The Mindy Project, Inspector Lewis, and odds and ends from Parks and Rec.

I remain a member of the UMS Choral Union, which performed Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Handel’s Messiah; as mentioned above, I’m part of my church choir as well.  Occasionally I pinch-hit as an alto because we are as poor in altos as we are rich in sopranos.  Shocking, I know.

This year’s culinary adventuring included the eating of Moroccan bistilla (would recommend) and the cooking of meringues, gluten-free pizza, and gluten-free fried chicken.  There were also a fair allotment of cocktails: lots of G&Ts and a fair sampling of Drinking with the Saints.

Also wik:  I read with some alacrity the epic saga of Brother Orange; I learned more of the geography of John and Elizabeth’s neighborhood whilst dogsitting, when I accidentally walked their dog Hektor 5 miles longer than necessary;  and I did the most Pinterest-y project of my life, namely, using twine and clothespins to hang a bunch of stuff, mostly calligraphy, on my bedroom wall.

963

There you have it: a far longer summary of a year than you might want or need.  Merry freaking Christmas, y’all.  See you all in 2016, unless I don’t actually.

Much love,
(really, I promise)
Joy

Onward, majestic Frog Steed!

Onward, majestic Frog Steed!  Onward to 2016!

Tough questions in Greek Class

You need a little background for some of the stories I’d like to tell. Last year, I audited a conversational modern Greek class at the hoity toity university where my husband works. It was a tiny class, so I wasn’t off the hook for anything; I did the homework, took the tests and participated freely. Which was great, of course. It was marvelous. But…

I am 8-10 years older than the other 5 students.
I have 2 completed degrees.
I was recently married.
I was pregnant and, while not puking (good), wasn’t sleeping much (bad)

So there may have been a gap between the other students and me. Maybe just a chasm with fire and snakes. We didn’t always understand each other in English, things got dicey in Greek.

One day, I dragged my insomniac bum to class, and found that several of the other students had decided to skip. This left me alone with the teacher, the teacher’s decaying patience, and the quietest of the male students. The student who claimed to enjoy reading, tennis and Kafka. Right. The order goes forth: Talk to each other. ‘Οχι. Στα ελλενικα.

The other student exhaled, flipping through his notes. He inhaled. He exhaled. He looked at me pointedly and asked, “Eiste pantremenos?”

I panicked. He wanted to know something about me. Something I know I knew. Something we talked about…recently…something I …was? wasn’t? was? AM I PANTREMENOS? I beat my brain with a stick and peered at the dust that shook out. My brain didn’t oblige. I flipped violently but fruitlessly through the week’s notes. Nothing.

The teacher sighed deeply. She repeated the student’s question. She looked at me pointedly. She sighed. I forgave her the double sigh. I deserved it.

I gave up entirely. I wasn’t going to get it. If it meant “tired”, I was that. I didn’t think I was anything else. Just tired. I didn’t know what it meant, so I said so. I don’t know. “Den Κsero” (Prettier in Greek: Δεν ξερω)

The teacher exploded, slapping the table and laughing hysterically. The other student laughed audibly and looked like I had just told the funniest joke he’d heard in a year. I goggled.

When she recovered herself, the teacher told me what had been asked. “Are you married?”

Oh.

 

 

 

 

Yogh and Ash and Thorn

Last week Back in May, I shared Peter Bellamy’s setting of Rudyard Kipling, noting that I’d stumbled over it thanks to the glory and munificence of the internet.

More specifically, I was contemplating Anglo-Saxon words that start with an ash or a thorn, and came across this parody by Catherine Faber:

Yogh and Ash and Thorn

Some time between the year fourteen-ought-five and -fifty-one
There was a strange and radical change in spoken English done.
These letters all but past recall should not be held in scorn;
The rose in May must go the way of yogh and ash and thorn.

Yogh and ash and thorn good sirs, mouldering vellum adorn;
Here do we see mortality in yogh and ash and thorn.

Yogh to me resembles a three a little bit flattened above
And sound denotes so low in the throat as only the Dutch could love
Yet now is found both letter and sound discarded and forlorn;
Remember you are mortal too, like yogh and ash and thorn.

A “b” with a tail, thorn didn’t prevail, but though it lost the race
It takes a pair of letters to wear the shoes to take its place,
And a and e an ash will be when back to back they are bourne;
Into dark the passing mark of yogh and ash and thorn.

“Vowel shift” said somebody miffed, “It’s more like a hey or a bransle
“Letter and sound keep swapping around and ‘hands about go all!'”
Some were stored and some ignored and some were mangled and torn,
Caught up in the rout as vowels fell out with yogh and ash and thorn.

Time must be an enemy that ever ending brings–
Even word-fame cannot be heard when words are mortal things.
Some clever cuss in studying us some distant future morn
Will find us surely strange to her as yogh and ash and thorn.

Rich and strangely words will change in warpage under use
But why in past it happened so fast Gude Godde only knoos.**
We work the sum of what we become from where and how we are born.
And hold these three in memory: yogh and ash and thorn!

All About Those As

 

Hi, my name is Melpomene, and I am a pop addict.

I love pop music. Happy, peppy, boppy, poppy pop music. But only the ones that have a hint of old fashioned swing rhythms. (Eliza Doolittle, anyone?)

And my most recent earworm is a chipper, confidant, swaggering number by the rising British pop singer Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”. It explores the omnipulchritude of all people, reaffirming the age old concern over the beauty of cures and confidence. It is absurd. And delightful.

And listening to it during one fateful grading session, I was struck with an inspiration: this song would make a great Teacher Anthem.

So I made the thing. I (and my sweet teacher friend Katey) parodied the lyrics, and now we give you, “All About Those As”. Turn on the video, and scroll down to read the lyrics with the music.

 

“All About Those As”

Because you know
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, it ain’t no easy A,
‘cause I can grade it, grade it
Like I’m supposed to do
But I got those good grades that all the kids chase
And all the red pens in all the right places

I see the homework fakin’, workin’ sparknotes
We know that it ain’t real
C’mon now, make it stop
If you got questions, answers, just raise ’em up
‘Cause every one of you’s engaged
From the back row to the front

Yeah, your mama she told you to be in bed at nine
She says, “you can’t play video games on a school night .”
You know I won’t be too easy, don’t even bother to cry.
But if that’s what you’re into then just go ahead and try.

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As
Hey!

We’re bringing brainy back
Go ahead and tell the common core that.
No we’re not playing. I know you can do it
So I’m here to make sure
Every one of you’s engaged from the back row to the front.

Yeah, your mama she told you to be in bed at nine
She says, “you will not play video games on a school night .”
You know I won’t be too easy, don’t even bother to cry.
But if that’s what you’re into please just go ahead and try.

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As
‘Bout those As, ’bout those As
Hey, hey, ooh
You know you like this A

 

My teacher friends and I want to make a video of this, but we are unsure of how. Does anyone have recommendations on how to make a video?

Lightsabers, and Other Sundry Issues

A friend recently remarked on the Book of Face that science does actually have the ability to make lightsabers. But most scientists prefer to spend their efforts on more worthwhile endeavors, such as discovering the “hemihelix”.

In the immortal words of this friend,

Look, I’m not saying the hemihelix won’t end up curing cancer or something — I’m just saying, WHERE’S MY LIGHTSABER?!”

I can only concur, and invite you all to sign a lightsaber petition and send it to the nearest scientists with a degree in  . . . . physics? what type of physics would produce a lightsaber, astrophysics?

But before you run off to do that, I have two things for you to watch.

The first is beautiful, excellent, and well done.

The second is a terrible idea, horribly made, and with very bad props. (Don’t worry, I found the edited version that contains only the BEST 15 minutes of an otherwise hour-long program.)

Guess which one was done professionally.

 

 

Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet: Sleep

Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet, Part 3: I Keep Falling Asleep

There are a number of wonderful books which, though highly recommended, I have not finished because I fall asleep every time I try to read them.  Even when I’m not reading in bed, I fall asleep: I curl up in my chair, I melt into the couch, I lie on the floor like a cat.  This probably indicates that I don’t get enough rest at night, but perhaps it also indicates something about my reading material.

kitty sleeps on book

Some might think falling asleep indicates the book is dull.  I think it mostly reflects the reader’s (lack of) wakefulness, blood circulation, and attention span; it’s not necessarily the book’s fault.  Thalia and I discussed the fact that though Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture is beautiful, lucid, and interesting, we conk out after a few pages.  My theory is that the ideas are heavy.  It’s like trying to balance a number of well-cut rocks.  You can follow where the reasoning goes, but you also have to carry where you’ve been with you, as though you were trying to pick up a road as you walk on it.  That’s the heavy bit, keeping all those premises in mind, and it exhausts my brain.

Leisure the Basis of CultureOrthodoxyStudies in WordsFrankenstein

Presumably this is also why I fall asleep reading Orthodoxy and, to my shame, Studies in Words.  Possibly I made my attempts at both books in a severely compromised state, since by all rights I ought to have read and loved them by now.  It’s why I never finished my Intercollegiate Studies Institute Reading (work by Kirk and Burke, oh my) or Frankenstein (which still waits on my bedside table for me to return to it).

What books have you fallen asleep reading?

Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet: Don’t Have It

Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet, Part 2: I Do Not Physically Have the Book

As excuses rational explanations go, this one’s pretty airtight, assuming one does not have an e-reader (I do not).  No words, no reading.  That means, of course, that it isn’t one of the myriad titles available on Project Gutenberg, Google Books, or similar online sources.  But then, a lot of books were published too recently for that sort of internet hosting/availability, because copyright.  In which case the actual, physical book must be obtained, and the following potential obstacles surmounted:

    – I’m saving up for it – Sad, maybe, but often the case, especially with textbooks, beautifully bound volumes in used bookshops (all the sets of Austen, Dickens, Doyle, et cetera), and Absolute Sandman Volumes 3-5.  You walk through a bookshop thinking “I’m sorry!  I wish I could take you ALL home, but I can’t!”  Which is responsible of you.  Fret not.

Until I see you again, my dears...

Maybe next paycheck, my dears…

    – I have the money but forgot which title I was looking for at the bookstore – This kept me from SO MANY BOOKS.  It prevented my beginning the Dresden Files for awhile.  I think this is also the reason I haven’t read A Prayer for Owen Meany, as well as other books which, astonishingly, escape me at the moment.  My friend Reneé once gave me a book journal so this wouldn’t happen, and I do use it, but it mostly means there’s one more place for the titles to be other than my head.

This place is HUGE. It must have EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED.

I remembered the title BUT they didn’t have it – Prevented me from getting some Chesterton, Sayers, and Walker Percy along the way.  I think I eventually gave up on big-box bookstores because their target market is just…someone else.  Someone who is really, really interested in board games, financial planning, and self-improvement.

What...no, this isn't what I wanted.This isn't what I wanted at ALL.  I'm gonna grab my coffee and go.What…no, this isn’t what I wanted.  This isn’t what I wanted at ALL.  I am gonna take my coffee and go.

    – I know it’s in my house somewhere… – Dang it, I swear I don’t need your copy of King Lear.  Or Murder on the Orient Express.  I really do have my own!  Why can I find two copies of Murder Must Advertise and none of Whose Body?

    – It Isn’t In My Library (not even via ILL or MelCAT!)  – Since I live in Ann Arbor, this has happened when I’ve looked for particular religious books or conservative thinkers.  Look for Martin Luther and you get Martin Luther King, Jr.  Seek out John Henry Cardinal Newman and you get a single book of essays (which, on one hand, is 35 essays I ought to read; still, a scant offering).  Gene Veith’s work is on MelCAT but not the A2 catalog.  On the other hand, let it be noted that Ann Arbor has a surprisingly wide range of Wendell Berry!  He must appeal to the home-grown locavores etc.

    – It Was Due Back At The Library – I got close to getting somewhere with Golden Apples of the Sun, a complete volume of MacNeice’s poetry, Parade’s End, etc., but then someone else requested it and I had to cry surrender.  I have not yet mustered the will to demand them back.

Have any of these fates befallen you?  What titles are you currently seeking at the store/library/hidey holes in your house?