Friday, July 11, 2003

I just registered with the on the National Do Not Call list. Have you?

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Well Andrea, hambling a dog means to cut off the balls of its feet, so its not a practice that has been passed down to modern times. My best guess is that you needed to hamble your dog a bit to keep it from running off and causing chaos in your neighbor's chickens, forming packs with other stray dogs and spreading disease. If you could not control your dog, you would be fined for it, because it was probably easier and more profitable than to track the dog down and kill it.

I would guess that hambling was something the merchant people or peasants might be forced to do, because you certainly wouldn't hamble your hunters, you would have kept them in a kennel. If you are using your dog for meat or security, hambling it would make it less mobile, and a hell of a lot more ornery.

What about the Grand High Pooh-Bah of Everything Else?

The newest intriguing fact I have discovered in my research, from a fearfully abstruse site on the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers:

"John Zonaras...enjoyed the high office of Grand Drungarius Viglae (Drouggarioj thj Biglhj) and Chief of the Clerks."

I never knew there was such a position as Grand Drungarius Viglae. If I had, it would obviously have been my lifetime ambition to become a Grand Drungarius Viglae. I could vigle happily and respectably in my Grand Drungarius uniform, and sneer down at the Lesser Drungarii who just weren't cool enough to be Grand. Sadly, I suppose I am now too old to begin training in the exotic skills necessary to become a Grand Drungarius Viglae, and my gender is also an almost certain barrier. What a shame.

Iris, you're a dog person. Perhaps you could explain this:

My medieval Latin dictionary claims that expeditatio means "hambling of dogs, or fine for not hambling ('dog-silver')." How does one hamble a dog, and why would one be fined for not having hambled it?

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

I haven't gotten any thesis work done today yet at all. This is because psychotic Manhattanites keep wandering into my apartment looking for their new home. My roommate and I are giving the place up on July 31 (although it's a wrench!) and we decided the best thing was to have everyone come the same day (well, days; people came last week too) so we don't have to sit around here 24/7. We get phone calls every twenty minutes or thereabouts from brokers hoping to display the apartment, and I believe something like eight or nine sets of visitors coming in. One broker on the phone was quite crabby because we never called her back to tell her when we were showing the place, after she called three times, and she can't show it today. I feel no sympathy for her. We here at the Apartment do not have time to call back all gazillion brokers who have intercepted our phone lines lately. Each of us is writing a thesis that supposedly needs to be finished within the month, and frankly, we don't care whether the landlord rents the place or not, as we don't own it. The point remains that every time I think to myself that I should be doing thesis work, either the phone rings or the doorbell buzzes or I expect the phone to ring or the doorbell to buzz. Let's see how long it takes before the next one shows up...

I was flipping through Gary Hart's Favorite blogs (its a long story) when I came upon Alas, a Blog, which told me to go to google, type in "Weapons of Mass Destruction", and press the "I'm feeling lucky" button. What I was shown was This.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

It could always be worse...

For academics, there always has been the imperative to publish or perish. In Gorman's case, there's a new concern: publish and perish. Sean Gorman apparently wrote his dissertation on the full fiber optic cable network of the United States... and now people are concerned his work might provide al Qaeda with a neat little road map for destructive purposes. I am so glad my MA thesis is only about Jews and Christians in the thirteenth century... hopefully Leila's isn't any more dangerous to national security than mine... congrats Leila!

Important Announcement that Deserves Thunderous Applause

Big Congratulations go to my dear college pal and honerary Nun Leila, on the completion of her thesis for that fellowship thingy she was doing!

cue thunderous applause


Interfaith Nunnery: Wedding Story Continues..

*Cue bubble machine and pull up the lace fringed curtains*

The Shower
Having never been to a shower, I arrived with my gift in hand (Nambé Bud Vase, pack of mushy quote-cards) not knowing what to expect. The male-folk left soon after our arrival at the house of the Bride, and I was introduced for the first time to three of the five bridesmaids I was going to be 'working' with. I had met the maid of honor once or twice before, but it was obvious the other maids knew each other better than they knew me, which made sense, since I was coming from the other side of the aisle. This didn't mean we didn't get along, it was just a bit of a slow start. By the end of the wedding we were referring to each other by the color of our bridesmaid dresses: I was blue, the maid of honor was Pink, the others were green, yellow and violet. It was a bit like the Spice Girls, where our role in the service was more important than our individual identity. We made a rather pretty shimmering pastel rainbow, but we weren't ready to sing "When 2 become 1" for the bride and groom.

Okay, so lots of other guests arrived, mostly friends of the bride's family and a few relatives of both families. I met quite a few future in-laws, and once again wondered how odd it was that my brother was gettting married. After a few more awkward minutes, we settled into the screened-in back port and commenced to watching the unwrapping. My brother's wife is lovely and gracioius, and both of these qualities were displayed to the greatest effect during this strange birthday party-like show and tell. She complemented each gift, and when appropriate passed the gift around so everyone got a look.

When my turn came, I was in for a shock: my brother's fiance fingered the vase happily and told me how much my brother loved Nambé. What!! I had never thought of my brother as the decorative type. He liked posters of sports cars as a teenager, and he collected tour posters of Jazz musicians in college, but beyond that I don't think I had ever seen him make a decision on so much as a salt shaker that was based on the Style of it. For example: a few years back i bought an UGLY pair of leather shoes that squeaked to high heaven when they rubbed together during sociology (I nearly lost several good friends due to this incesent noise), and he thought they were cool looking. These shoes are now my favorite gardening clogs, and I wonder how I ever wore them in public. Thankfully, my brother's tastes seemed to have gotten better under his fiancé's tutelage, because the bud vase and the other Nambé accessories are very pretty.

Setting aside the vase, the Maid of Honor found the pack of love cards on the floor and asked what they heck they were, and in my shock about the vase I raised my hand and told her they were.. part of my shower gift. The box seemed large, but the cards inside were only a bit larger than a thumbnail, with sweet nothings attributed to the famous and literary printed on them. Despite my misgivings, she liked the cards, and passed them around for all to see. I think thats what the cards were for in the first place.. to be passed around to your friends at a bridal shower. I can't think of any other use for them, frankly, but then I've never been in love. Love has a set of merchandise all its own.

Fast forward through my mother's pizza stone, some flimsy gauzy nothings, an heirloom swan bowl and a representative setting of the couple's future china and everyday stoneware and you'll see the lot of us chatting happily and eating pieces of fabulous cake and bits of fruit, our tensions mostly lifted, and our family delineations slightly less clear. People left in little groups, just as little groups of men slowly dripped in from their little party out at the racetrack.

Next On Wedding Story: A Light Grilling, and Race for the Rehearsal Dinner

A.S. Byatt writes in the New York Times, with rueful regret,

It's become respectable to read and discuss what Roland Barthes called "consumable" books. There is nothing wrong with this, but it has little to do with the shiver of awe we feel looking through Keats's "magic casements, opening on the foam/Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn."

Of course, the " 'consumable' book" Byatt considers is none other than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. With Rowling's work, Byatt contrasts Susan Cooper's superb The Dark is Rising sequence as an example of what Byatt believes children's fantasy should be - with "a compensating seriousness... a real sense of mystery, powerful forces, dangerous creatures in dark forests." Certainly, in her clear, focused language that draws out a mysterious world in which magic is unexplained and often terrifying in itself, Cooper creates a series of books well worthy of literary analysis.

Nevertheless, I disagree with Byatt's entire point. We write literary analysis of Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur, do we not? (At least I do!) The Morte was a " 'consumable' book" in its day, published by Caxton as a business venture. Does the Morte have a "compensating seriousness"? Does it inspire "shiver[s] of awe"? While the bloody jealousy, confusion and grief that destroys Malory's Camelot has always touched me like the cold, painless edge of a well-sharpened sword, the mere bloody confusion running through most of the middle of the text becomes a monotonous description of horsing and unhorsing, smiting and striking, with swooning, sorrowing and sighing from the random and interchangeable local ladies. (1) Malory was a soldier, of course, and wrote what he knew.

Malory's supposedly sixth-century knights wear fifteenth-century armor - which is fifteenth-century technology. Granted, there are no cannons in Camelot, but those at least are a quite recent discovery in Malory's England. Why can't a twentieth century wizard (2) ride trains and read newspapers? Must all fantasies reach back to some age of Nordic greatness where a large proportion of the magic belongs to the descendents of the Welsh who deserve their powers because they preserve their isolated farmland?

To be perfectly honest, the last rant isn't quite fair. Byatt does mention Le Guin's Earthsea series, in which most of the characters are dark-skinned and inhabit an archipelago that owes some of its design to Greece and some to Indonesia. Nevertheless, I confess that I never did feel that "shiver of awe" for the Earthsea books. Also, Cooper does make a few nods towards British multiculturalism in the Dark is Rising series. One Jamaican "Old One" makes an important contribution to the Celtic Wild Hunt in the second book, and our hero and his WASPy brothers save a Sikh boy from bullies in the fifth book. Yet...

Modern England is not Tolkien's pure Shire, nor is it Cooper's country towns and Welsh farms, nor even Philip Pullman's alternate Oxford. J.K. Rowling evokes wizards who read analogies to both the Times and the Daily Mail, take trains out of King's Cross and buy candies or pranks at stores in the village. Tolkien would be shocked at all this vulgar, bourgeois capitalism invading the pure, unspoiled England he loved. I think it's great. Rowling's world seems real... which is why it needs to be an object of analysis. The "shiver of awe", while important, is not the only thing that can be found in literature. (3)

(1) Bad Zoot! Bad, naughty Zoot! (Sorry, couldn't resist...)

(2) Chamber of Secrets takes place in 1992, 500 years after Sir Nicholas' death day. Ergo, Order of the Phoenix takes place in 1995, and Harry Potter is still a twentieth-century wizard.

(3) Thanks to Erica for sending me the link to inspire the discussion.

I have been horribly delinquent in my prolonged absence from the blogosphere. My apologies to everyone (especially you, Niki!) for my lack of communication. I will post a full entry tomorrow, but I shall briefly mention that I once met a person whose major hobby in life was writing Lucius Malfoy slash. I found her quite disturbing.

Still alive, Andrea

Monday, July 07, 2003

Harry Potter Symposium!
I was wasting time at work today, in between myriad questions about where Deltora is located and how come there are no Barbie series books, searching for info on the HP3 movie when I arrived at the news section of a Daniel Radcliffe fan site. In it was a link for the Nimbus 2003 Symposium, being held this month down in Orlando Florida and the big Disney Swan Hotel/Resort/Thingy.

What could be better? A weekend surrounded by earnest readers of HP.. reminds me of the LOTR academic sessions we saw in Kalamazoo, Andrea. But there also appear to be some fun extras like a visit with people from Industrial Light and Magic, and a Harry Potter Library Events Workshop. Woohooo! An excuse to take time off work..

AAAAH, I'm glad I am not the only one that thought Lucius Malfoy was delicious
in The Chamber of Secrets. Everyone in London thought I was nuts, but I thought he was great......
I will return............

St. Scarlett