The Egotist’s Club Turns Three!

We are ancient. At least in blog years. But it has been a good three years. We have laughed, we have cried, we have rhapsodized, and we have slacked off. Unfortunately, the pressure of being an adult in an adult world seems to sap our cognitive and scribbling strength. But we have been doing better lately, haven’t we?

It was an eccentric, but delightful partnership between Thalia and myself that began this blog. (The story is related here.) It was in part as a challenge to practice writing (haha) and in part as an outlet for snark and craziness. We have matured and grown in wisdom since then, moving onto grander flights of fancy and deeper plunges into melancholy than ever before. Sometimes we chose to share these with you, and sometimes we did not. Consider that to be both a blessing and a curse.

And as we approach middle-age-blogdom, it is time to reflect on all the changes that have happened in our lifespan. So, it the last three years:

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Things of Awe

There is not enough giddy joy and absurdity in the world.

Well, there probably is, but it takes special eyes to see it. Thalia and I started this Club with the idea of training ourselves to look for that angle of wonder and adventure, but somewhere along the way it seems to have gotten slightly lost.

So, as a round-about way of getting back, I present . . . . AWESOMENESS!

Here are a few of the awesome things that I have seen or observed, online or in real life, in the past few weeks.

 

  • Last week I set my requirements for a personal library. I forgot to mention a slide.

Can you slide AND read a book?

 

  • Storm clouds are exhilarating. There is nothing like racing a thunders storm across the desert towards mountains.

 

StormyRoadCollage

 

  • Clouds are really strange and fascinating.

 

CloudsCollage

 

  • So are windmills.

WindmillCollage

 

  •  Armadillos.

IMG_20130706_115427

  • Grocery store cashiers can be pretty darling. They might be the new bar tenders psychologists, in a really short-and-sweet way. Have you ever found yourself moaning about something in brief to the cashier, and he or she moans with you and then encourages with a simple “You’ll be all right, sweetie!” as they hand you your bags and send you out the door? Oddly, I never see that same cashier again . . .

 

  • Carnivals. The kind that set up in grassy, abandoned lots, and that moms never let us go to when we are little. The kind that sways a bit in the breeze. They are amazing. I kicked my feet like a three-year old and was intensely glad that none of my students could see me.

CarnivalCollage

 

  • “Instagram”. I just discovered it, and the level of pretension inherent amuses me to no end.

 

 

  • Alcoholic juicy-juice! Well, alcohol in a little box with a straw like juicy-juice. This is apparently common in Korea, and it is called “boxed sujo”. Why have I never been to this magical country?

 

  • Star Wars, as it might have been written by Shakespeare. This is brought to us by the same people who did “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, so I reserve judgement. But the theory is the personification of awesomeness. As much as a theory can be a personification. Be quiet and go read the excerpt!

 

 

American Independance Day

 

On the night before the final voting on the American declaration of Independence, John Adam wrote to his wife,

[This] day of July, 1776, will be a memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

You may think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this declaration and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.

 

“Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should.”

President Ronald Reagan, 1981

 

“As the Virginia-born Lady Astor was later put it, the war was fought “by British Americans against a German King for British ideals.”
Don’t take her word for it: look at the primary sources. The resolutions of the Continental Congress are a protracted complaint about the violations of traditional British liberties. The same is true of the Declaration of Independence itself. As that great Anglo-American, Winston Churchill, put it:
‘The Declaration was in the main a restatement of the principles which had animated the Whig struggle against the later Stuarts and the English Revolution of 1688.’”

~ Daniel Hannan

 

 

 

Library Guidelines

There is a meme making its way around the interwebs that declares, “I would marry the beast for his library!!!” Or something like that.

It sounds like a great idea.

There is even a facebook group for these brilliant and enterprising people.

At first I was amused and pleased by this sentiment. A library is marvelous, magical, mysterious place, and I see nothing whatsoever wrong with marrying in order to get material possessions books.

And then I remembered what this library looks like.

The Library of the BEAST!!!!*

And I cringed.

Oh, in theory it looks amazing. Millions of books, gracious curves, elegant stairs, long ladders, shiny marble, towering ceilings, etc.

But where is the familiarity? the comfort? the ease of finding your book? I get the feeling that even the librarian (do we meet a librarian in the movie?) has a hard time finding a specific book. Do we need to establish architectural rules for what makes a good library? I think yes.

So in reality, that library only has two attributes from list my for Good Library. Not a brilliant library, mind you, just a good library.

A Good Library

  • Books (Yeah . . . )
  • Some system of organization, so that you have an idea of where to find the book you want.
  • All books are within arm reach. I am not saying don’t have several floors or balconies (what do you call an indoor balcony?) but the ladders make things a tad ridiculous. Just add more walk ways!
  • Many cozy corners, with seats and windows, or maybe a window seat!
  • A friendly ceiling that does not threaten to echo every footstep or loom over you from such a cold distance. (Seriously, how did they keep that room warm in the winter?) High ceilings and open space is good, but not if it is overwhelming.
  • Colors that put you at ease, so you actually want to spend time in the library.
  • The atmosphere should be peaceful and relaxing, so you actually do spend time in the library.

I realize that this rather vague. Also, it is hard to find all this in an existing library. Most public libraries pick one, maybe two, items from this list, and discard the rest. And the old renaissance libraries are worst! They must have been the inspiration for the Beast’s library, as they tend more towards the grand than the comfortable.

Stiftsbibliothek, Admont Monastery Library, Austria. Would really want this in your house? Where would you read?

 

That all as my caveat, here is my list for my future dream library.

 

A Brilliant Library

  • Everything from the Good Library List.
  • Everything has organization, but it is okay if books get slightly out of order, or will not fit, or somehow mutiplyand suddenly you have books than bookcases and must start stacking on top of the neat lines of books.
  • Wood. Lots of wood. Wooden floors, wooden shelves, wooden chairs. Everything from oak to mahogany to ebony to purpleheart.
  • Because wood can feel cold, carpets. Possibly oriental carpets. And cushions on the chairs.
  • More window seats. A few must have a little ledge that can also serve as a desk.
  • A spiral staircase. Like in Henry Higgin’s library.
  • A fireplace. Like in Henry Higgin’s library.
  • Huge, plush, comfy armchairs. The kind in which a person can curl up. (There is no way to not end that sentence with a preposition. Sorry.)
  • This color scheme: —>
  • More windows. So you get good reading light. And you can get some idea of what is going on in the outside world without needing to leave your seat.
  • More books. You will find the room. And if you can’t, build more shelves! This is not hard. Books seem to breed; every time you turn around there are more!

 

 

The Beast’s library is too huge, hard, and cold. I would not even know where to start looking through the books!

 

The only public library that comes close (but lacks comfy seats!) is the Bodleian Library. In fact, I cannot find a photo of anything I would deem perfectly brilliant. But all of these below come pretty close.

The Bodleian, Oxford. So pretty, AND friendly!

Wood paneling and fluffy chairs. Yay!

What is with those knick-knacks? Get rid of them, and get more books! Otherwise, perfect.

Oooh! So awesome!

Not quite comfortable, but the piano is brilliant idea!

It needs more soft things!

And last but not least, Henry Higgin’s Library. Ideal. (Actually, it was filmed in the Groussay Library, and the comfy cushions have since been removed. But you can imagine them there!)

My dream library is in the body of an old lighthouse, carefully refurbished. The bottom floor would be the children’s books, comfy chairs, large desk, and fireplace area, and each landing up the hand carved wooden spiral staircase would have its own set of shelves and designation (poetry, lit crit, philosophy, etc.). The top, where the light would shine out, would be a 360 window seat, with very comfortable seats and an amazing view. As soon as I can figure out how to take photos of dream land, I will let you see it!

What is your dream library? Do you have certain guidelines for what you need in a library?

*Because saying “The Noun of the Noun” is so much better (read ” more pretentious”,) than saying “The Noun’s Noun”.

Dare to See Beauty

I have often propounded – in writing and in conversation – the belief that art teaches us to see beauty. More, this is the main purpose of art.

I have talked, quoted, referenced, scribbled, and thought.

But I have not acted.

So this video felt like a punch in the stomach. This is a fashion photographer who saw photo of disabilities and physical differences in medical textbooks, and was horrified by the ugliness portrayed. He instinctively recognized that those photos, that strangeness, does not show respect for the human person. In fact, most photos of say, down syndrome, make the condition look terrifying.

And rather than just think about it, Rick Guidotti acted on it.

He frames his work in terms of “thinking outside the box” and “redefining beauty”, but his work is much, much more. His enthusiasm and love and recognition of beauty are infectious: he sees the beauty of human life so clearly that makes it visible to everyone in his photos. He is an artist.

I have always been under the impression that the fashion world makes the heart mind and soul small and closed. Silly prejudice. But Guidotti’s work made him better able to see the joy, life, and love that are the real components of beauty. He began with albinos, and since then has been photographing people with chromosome 18 syndrome, marfan syndrome, et al.

This video cannot be imbedded but please click here to go watch!

He closes with the challenge: “Dare to see beauty! Once you see it, it will overwhelm you!”

“People say I reveal the ‘inner-beauty’. Nonsense. There is no inner-beauty. There is just beauty. Dare to see it.”

Edible Origami, or the Mandolin’s Telos

Thalia and I recently hunted for origami patterns of flowers, or similar objects, which would be manageable for someone who is not a paper-folding ninja, ie, us.  In the process, I found some projects which were not paper-based on this site.  The administrator makes all manner of foods, including a bunch of different garnishes.

Annnnd somehow the process of looking at a bunch of roses made out of very thin slices of vegetables necessitated a trip to Meijer for to obtain an odd selection of produce.  Once I knew I could make food roses with something besides bacon, how could you expect me to do anything else?
MandolinRolling a rose Potato rosesIce bathUnpickedHalved roses

More or less any thinly-sliced food can be rolled into a rose shape.  More or less any food CAN be sliced thinly if you have a mandolin handy, because that is, after all, the mandolin’s telos (which, of course, would be a Good Name For A Rock Band).  I tried it with a knife at first, but my slices were too thick as I have not trained at Le Courdon Bleu.  Fortunately, I’d acquired a mandolin in December for ratatouille purposes, and so gleefully spent an evening slicing away and rolling garnishes for a dinner I hadn’t made.

Radish rosesRadish rose

Strawberry petalsStrawberry roses
PSA: Mandolins (of the bladed variety, not the stringed lute derivative) can and will destroy your fingertips given the chance.  They will give you delicately thin slices of food but will endeavor to take your blood in so doing.  Please exercise caution (and/or these gloves) lest the tip of your thumb come off; you’ll need that thumb if you ever want to start a rock band.

Nectarine rose

Swag

I try not to blog about the stupidity that passes for entertainment in our culture.

Not out of any desire to be virtuous or good, mind you. Just out of a darkly perverse refusal to grant the stupidity any more attention.

I do same thing with anything that is really, really, REALLY popular. Things that are so popular that they could not possibly need or want my attention anyway.

So I virtually ignore them.

(Or, more exactly, I ignore them virtually.)

However, this does not prevent me from verbally ranting to my friends about such things.

And one of my pet peeves is . . . . .  song lyrics!

Bad song lyrics.

Annoying lyrics.

Illogical lyrics.

Lyrics that are founded upon corrupt philosophical paradigms.

Lyrics that are so dumb no musical brilliance can save them.

Earlier this year I was certain that the lyrics to a Certain Overplayed Song were the Worst Lyric in the Universe.

They went something like this:

I’d catch a grenade for YAH.
Throw my hand on a blade for YAH.
I’d jump in front of a train for YAH.
You know I’d do anything for YAH
I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain
Yes, I would die for you, baby
But you won’t do the same.

Oooookay.

Leaving aside the fact that the music had a rang of about three notes, the lyrics are just fundamentally UNSOUND!

Butthen, someone introduced me to Justine Bieber’s latest hit, “Boyfriend”.

. . . I . . . I . . .  um . . .  no words.

No words can ever describe the idiocy of this . . . thing.

It is not a song.

It a collection of words and noted all jumbled together.

I would accuse the kid of da-da-isms in both lyrical and musical attempts.

But that that would be crediting him too much intelligence.

You should not ever torture yourself with the song.

 

So imagine my horror when I learned that my students, at the tender age of 10, adore Bieber.

On second though, don’t inflict that on yourself.

 

But then, Liam Neeson did  dramatic reading of the . . . thing.

I giggle.

Thankfully, the “music” is not included. And even Neeson’s Voice o’ Velvet cannot salvage the nonsense.

But it is funny.

Have a gander, and let me know what you think of the “lyrics” being fed our youth.

 

Teresa’s Ecstasy

Happy feast of Saint Teresa of Avila!

This is the little girl who at the wise age of 7 was convinced that she would be bad when she grew up, so she convinced her younger brother to run away with her to the crusades. So she could die a holy death before she grew up and became wicked. (Her uncle caught them right outside the city walls.)

She is seriously bad-ass.

She had an incredible ability to be practical and get things done, – a skill I sorely lack – and she was a mystic.

Both, at one time.

‘Cause that’s just the way God works.

This is the woman who could be frank with God.

She was traveling all over Spain reconverting monasteries to a more humble and holy way of life, and she was having a rough time. One day, she was traveling on the back of farm cart, when the cart went over a bump and she was thrown out into a very muddy puddle. Sitting there in the middle of the road, she lifted her hand to Heaven and groaned, “Lord, this is how you are treating me?”

At that point a vision of the Christ child appeared to her, smiled beatifically, and told her sweetly, “This is how I always treat my friends!”

Teresa took a moment to register this, and then dryly responded, “Then, forgive me for saying so, Lord, but that must be why you have so few friends!”

In one of her visions, she was pierced by a spear, which is reminiscent of both Our Lord’s experience on the cross, and a more intimate encounter with the Bridegroom. In her own words,

“I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it…”

This experience was captured in the famous sculpture of Theresa’s ecstasy, and then later in a sublime poem.

Teresa
by Richard Wilbur

After the sun’s eclipse
The brighter angel and the spear which drew
A bridal outcry from her open lips,

She could not prove it true,
Nor think at first of any means to test
By what she had been wedded or possessed.

Not all cries were the same;
There was an island in mythology
Called by the very vowels of her name
Where vagrants of the sea,
Changed by a word, were made to squeal and cry
As heavy captives in a witch’s sty.

The proof came soon and plain:
Visions were true which quickened her to run
God’s barefoot errands in the rocks of Spain
Beneath its beating sun,
And lock the O of ecstasy within
The tempered consonants of discipline.