Friday, May 02, 2003

Niki, please comment on this. What is going on here?!

What a Nice Man

Perhaps I'm a bit naive, but when Thomas Nephew from Newsrack wrote me an email complimenting the comment (scroll down, Its not archived yet) I posted on his page, I was very flattered.

I'm sure he says this to all the people who comment, but still.. ;)

Hooray Andrea! Uncle Peckham comes through again. For those who don't know this, I am vaguely related to said Peckham, but not very closely since he was a Franciscan friar. Thus is was surprising and pleasing to know that one of my dear sisters was studying his letters to various famous or not so famous ladies.

I am in the process of changing my wardrobe from winter to summer, hanging up the light stuff and packing up the heavy. Its amazing how many t-shirts one accumulates over time. I am sure that perhaps half of those t-shirts weren't even worn last summer, but I can't get rid of more.. its a nostalgia thing. Any one else having trouble with getting rid of old clothes?

Thursday, May 01, 2003


Ok, now that I've got that out of my system...

Five days before I need a decent thesis draft, I sit in the library collecting still more sources and realize that my paper is on the whole pretty bad. I haven't got every source and I haven't put them all in the paper. I haven't said anything really new or interesting about any text I use. In fact, my paper is pointless and they're going to fail me at the defense and.... yeah.

Then I collect what I expect to be my last source. I start reading it. Halfway through the paper, which happens to be on Thomas Aquinas' letter to the Duchess of Brabant (about the Jews) and how the addressee isn't really the duchess of Brabant, it's Margaret Countess of Flanders, the author of the article, one Leonard Boyle, writes that he is sure of Margaret's identity because...

::drumroll please::

John Pecham, Franciscan friar and future archbishop of Canterbury, wrote a letter to the same Margaret of Flanders answering the same questions about the Jews.

Yes, folks, we have it! The missing link! The unresearched source! The unpublished source! The UNPUBLISHED source... which exists in two known manuscripts. One is in an obscure library in Paris, but the other is in the Library of the Hispanic Society in New York City, about 155th and Broadway. That's 10 stops north on the 1 or 9, folks...

So, to make this paper a decent paper, I need to add a complete new chapter, on this letter that I still have not seen, but I know to be within reach... in an unpublished manuscript, in Latin, probably in some illegible thirteenth-century chancery hand that I will have to decipher. Oh yes, and do a significant amount of background research on Margaret of Flanders.

In other words... I severely doubt I'll have my defense by May 19.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Hell hath no furies like the bloggosphere.

Written On The Body

Oxblog's Patrick Belton carefully takes aim at the Dixie Chick's naked desire to win back their fan base through breast-holding pseudo-art. For a contrasting example of political fem-nudity, Belton uses Karen Finley, and argues that Finley's work was sincerely outrageous, while DC's super-photogenically constructed cover art was less motivated by true social activism than marketing. After Diane Sawyer's nasty interview with the trio, I'm sympathetic to their predicament, but I think they could have handled it better. Let your disapproval of the president get mixed in with anti-war rhetoric, and you're bound to dig a hole you can't get out of.

The minute I first saw the Entertainment Weekly issue, I wasn't thinking about the insults painted on air-brushed southern flesh. I instead thought back to an SNL rerun regarding the curious activity of placing ones hands over one's breasts. Jennifer Love Hewitt was the host, and amazingly, she wasn't half bad, because she didn't take herself seriously. It's really too bad that the Dixie Chicks can't follow her example. I'm not asking them to appear on SNL, but I think it might help, because if you are going to criticize the president, better take the heat for it in an easy laid-back manner that says, "So I don't like the president. Can you honestly say you love the man?"

Strangely enough, the Entertainment cover might be a step in the right direction for the Chicks. Madonna, the queen of converting controversy into profit margins, subverted bad press in the mid-90s by being unrepentant, flamboyant, and never taking her critics seriously. Being naked quite a lot helped too.

Bad Jokes for the Hopelessly Academic
I found this nugget on Oxblog..

Q: What do you call a paleontology thesis?

A: A thesaurus.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Iris gets political (again)
I can't help myself sometimes. Whining liberals are ruining our chances of becoming politically legitimate again. This is my response to a response to something on Asparagirl's website regarding the rebuilding of Iraq. The guy was doing nothing useful but pointing out what the LA times title articles were for the last month. As if anyone reads that paper.. ;-P

"It certainly matters that lives were lost [referring to the thirteen dead in the town west of Baghdad], but I'm not sure we are in a terribly good position to say that they were lost needlessly, or even thoughtlessly. When you point out what could easily be termed minor losses of life as a reason why the war was a bad idea, it looks and sounds terribly petty. Eight thousand deaths, compared to at least 100.000 deaths and countless tortures during the last decade or two? I was listening to NPR today, and a journalist in Jordan found even the Ba'athist higher ups in hiding are glad that their bosses are dead or being incarcerated.

I live in an area with many Iraqis who fled before and after the gulf war. These people and their families still in Iraq are very, very pleased with the outcome of the war. We may not understand the Iraqi people perfectly, but I believe they know a lot more than you.

Iraq is a diverse place.. we see snapshots in the news, and we won't really see the whole thing for a long time. Everytime I see the headline, "Iraqis are angry," I have to think, which Iraqis are we talking about? Iraq is a bit like the wild west at the moment, and every one wants to be sheriff, including some bandits.

As for Rummy's neocon ideas, quit whining and start doing something useful like supporting the Democratic party hopefuls. That might at least be constructive, and you might earn more respect from your peers. Its easy to complain, and very hard to sound like you have a vision for the Future. Bush has one, and you don't like it. Do you have a better one? Convince us. Most Americans like optimism much more than pessimism, and this is why Bush is winning the people at the moment.

Oh, and a vision for the future doesn't mean going back in time and making the war go away. I personally beleive that liberals have a better chance at restoring peace and prosperity to the middle east because frankly we aren't in bed with the oil industry and our hearts bleed money, unlike the stingy conservatives."

Feel free to dissent, this was some midnight ramblings from an angry bleeding heart.

Monday, April 28, 2003

So many things to contemplate so little time:

First of all, I wonder what will be worse for world economies in the long term future: Wars, or infectious diseases like SARS? I would say that disease will perhaps prove much more dangerous to marketshare. Diseases like SARS shut down not one city, or one country but every major city due to air travel, while a war only makes one or parts of the world impassable.

Secondly I wanted to respond to Niki's post about these dangerous women. Do you think that it was as widespread as it sounds, or do you think that it more of an urban legend gone wild, like the stories that were popular in the eighties an nineties following the AIDS epidemic. It seemed that everyone had known of some woman who would seduce men in one night stands and leave horrible messages scrawled on the mirror in red lipstick, "WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF AIDS," [insert evil laugh here]. These Russian women sound more like Succubi than Amazons, demonic and venomous.

I can't blame Bush's lack of interest in books on lack of libraries and bookstores: the man married a librarian. I do think that the people living around Williamsburg are sorely deprived of one of the best forms of mental exercise: sitting in a bookstore, sipping a caffenated beverage and reading a book they will probably not buy.

Sister Andrea, I blegg of you.. eh, just had to put that in someplace. :)))

Now for a little story about my vacation. As I said before, I traveled to Williamsburg, and spent more off the time visiting the surrounding plantations on the James river. Since it was Garden week, certain plantation homes were open that would not normally be. Homes such as as Shirley Plantation are open all year, while the entire properties of grand homes like Westover are available to the few who show up on the two days its open during Garden Week. Both of these beautiful houses are still used as residences, Shirley by relatives of the original owners. Both are politically active families. Westover's current owner was a distinguished diplomat, and the Carter family at one time dominated Richmond and Viginia with it. But neither can boast of Presidential connections (The Carter family is not that Carter family). Sherwood Forest can however. Just down the road from both plantations, this elegant little plantation was bought by the Tyler family. Tyler, famous for being a crummy president after William Henry Harrison departed this world. Cue harp music and fade out as I tell the story...

Harrison and Tyler ran in 1840 under the campaign slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler too," perhaps one of the dumbest campaign slogans of all time, right up there with McKinley's "Full-Dinner Pail." Well, Harrison's son Benjamin had a lame one too, " Trade, trade, no free trade!" Wow, ya got me there Ben. Tarriffs really turn me on. But I digress.. (If you want more digression, go here)

Tippecanoe was a famous battle against the Indians of Indiana. Not famous enough for us to remember it, it was perhaps like the US occupation of Kosovo; a blip of military history that has perhaps already been forgotten by most of the population. The slogan was meant to imply "flagwaving nationalism plus a dash of southern sectionalism," and apparently it succeeded in rallying the voters.. either that or they all really disliked Andrew Jackson.

Upon winning, Harrison, a hearty soul, gave a long winded presidential speech in extremely cold weather without a jacket and caught pneumonia. After thirty days in office he died, leaving Tyler in charge. Tyler is best known for alienating even his own party, the Whigs, and getting married while in office to a woman thirty years his junior who was cute and vivacious. She redecorated the Whitehouse with fifty dollars connived from congress, and her own spending money. Some of these historical peices still stand in the Tyler house, though one sideboard was quite damaged when a Union soldier stuffed burning straw into it.

Tyler's household wasn't as smart as the Carter family, whose matron at the time cared for union soldiers and let them use the house and grounds as a hospital, thus saving the house and grounds from destruction. Looting, Iraqi style was quite common on the plantations, where union soldiers were hoping for expensive momentos and treasure troves. Most of the places the family visited had some sort of damage done by the union troops proudly pointed out by the Garden tour ladies.

Fascinating stuff.

Thanks for the exceedingly peculiar story, Niki. :-) Good luck with the work and don't go too crazy. I have classes through the full month of June, so it'll be a bit hard to get away as far as the Midwest. We'll have to have long telephone calls while you're on this side of the Atlantic.

Little-known fact of the day:

Griffins blegg. You didn't know that? Well, neither did my palaeography class. We were struggling through a manuscript page of William of Malmesbury (a twelfth-century English historian, contemporary to my old friend Geoffrey of Monmouth) and came to the phrase Griffini bleggent. We were rather confused by this. Griffini means "griffins"; no problem there. The third-person plural Latin verb form bleggent, on the other hand, is, shall we say, fairly uncommon. It turns out that "blegg" is the sound that griffins make. You will now know, whenever you hear faint blegging in the distance, that spring has come and the griffins are flying north again.

My dear fellow Nuns...

The Williamsburg story has given me goose pimples. This is how a country gets saddled with the likes of Bush. Bet he never visited the few book stores scattered around Texas ( bearing in mind, that I have never been in Texas, hence Texas may be book store heaven, but somehow I do not imagine it so...)

The past three days I have been attending a conference called Everyday Socialism - Eastern Europe 1945-65. Terribly interesting - all sorts of people attending - social historians, anthropologists, architecture students, political scientists. Even though the sessions were conducted in English, people busrt into a spontaneous volley of Slavic languages, Hungarian etc during break.....native speakers and anglophiles who had done research and thus learned to speak Czech, Hungarian or whatever. Every time I ventured out of the building I found myself stunned I was actually in London, as I was mentally somewhere completely different.

Anyway, such an environment cannot but produce a little gem for our site : One of the talks was entitled Yhe Memory of Atrocities : Rape, the Red Army and Remembering in Communist and post-Communist Hungary. From this I extract a quote taken from the book The Struggle Behind the Iron Curtain ( Ferenc Nagy, 1949) : 'The barabarism of the Soviet occupying forces can best be judged by the fact that many thousands of Hungarian men were raped or forced to unnatural excesses by Russian woman soldiers. The Reds established a recreation camp near Kecskemet for more than thirty thousand sick and convalescent women members of the Red Army and police forces. From this camp, for instance, the Russian women banded together at night and swooped down on the surrounding hamlets, kidnapping the men and sometimes holding them captive for days. Often these abductions led to the peculiar situation of women and girls hiding, not themselves, but their men in the forests and in haystacks to keep them from the disease-ridden Soviet women troops'. Chuckle.....what amazons.

Otherwise I am working on a paper for my next cenference which has to be done today. So I am off to the library. Take care fellow not work too hard.Mother Superior....can you take som days off in June ? My brother is trying to convince me to fly over to Chicago to visit him and so then we could (finally) see each other again. Not sure I will be going through NY, St. Olga, I'll have to see what is going on. But of cousre, if you can spare the time, maybe a reunion of some sort can be arranged ?