Thursday, July 17, 2003

So why didn't they serve it at Canterbury Hall?

Apparently, lasagna is a medieval British dish dating from the reign of Richard II. Of course, it didn't have tomatoes, which were discovered several centuries later, but it involved flat noodle things layered with spices. The Italian government is furious at losing another bit of cultural patrimony..

The following was originally an email to my friend Erica, but since my email server is down and I think the various points are interesting, I shall post it here instead.

Anansi and Harold Bloom!

The Atlantic online has an interview with the famously egotistical Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom. Bloom says, among other things,

Just as frankly—and this is where that little book of mine breaks radically with the entire tradition—don't think for a moment, even when he stands above the praying Claudius, that Hamlet had the slightest intention of killing him. It's too paltry a deed for him! Claudius is such a small potato. It's unworthy of him.

No, the thing I think reviewers have liked least about that little book is my saying that there's a kind of war going on in it between Hamlet and Shakespeare. Hamlet is in effect demanding of Shakespeare, "Give me a play somewhat worthy of my magnificent intellectual consciousness and my presence! Give me a cosmological drama. Put me in King Lear, or at least Macbeth! Instead, here I am at this rotten court, surrounded by, apart from my old chum Horatio, these paltry fellows."

Do you think this is true, or do you think Harold Bloom is just madly in love with Hamlet and wishes he could see him in King Lear in order to demonstrate the imagined brilliance of the beloved Hamlet? Not that there's anything wrong with being madly in love with Hamlet, but I'm a bit skeptical about the Hamlet-as-too-cool-for-Hamlet theory.

Hey, I might even be right about Bloom's feelings for the prince of Denmark! Look at this:

Hamlet is so profound a character. He's really such bad news, though we find it so hard to accept that. We go on loving him. But in fact, he's not lovable. He doesn't love anyone, as far as I can tell.

Meanwhile, The Onion's men and women in the street have come up with new brilliances. This week's question is something like "What do you think of Bush's Africa trip?" Duane Carr, systems analyst, says, "I pray Bush steered clear of Anansi, the trickster spider-god. If not, the president may have learned a few lessons in a manner he didn't appreciate."

Erica, if you read this blog, do the world a vast favor and tell that story. I know of no one more suited to describe the meeting between George W. and the crafty Anansi than you.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Interfaith Nunnery Presents: Wedding Story, part 3

Meet The Other Family (and Friends)
Following the bridal shower, the bride's family held a cook out for close friends and family which meant I was once again surrounded by almost strangers. I hung close to my mother for the first half, helping her feet Ima, my brother and now sister-in-law’s pet parrot, who is exceptionally brightly color, though not terribly ‘bright’. While doing this, I made conversation with a nice young man who had come with the Green Bridesmaid. I supposed he was her boyfriend, but he wasn’t really acting like it. Later, while I was standing around outside watching my father grill food I wasn’t hungry for (shouldn’t have eaten at that shower!) the young man came and helped him out, leading to further conversation, bordering on flirtation (Bad, wicked Iris!). The minute Green Bridesmaid’s beau left the area, my father told me he wasn’t worth beans, even if he was in medical school. “That guy won’t cut it, honey,. He couldn’t hack surgery, (insert spitting noise here).”

I can’t say I was surprised by this reaction. Dad’s not one to be easily impressed. In the most recent medical school end of the year show, Dad was portrayed as a surgical version of Viper from Top Gun. Hence my hesitance at taking his dismissal too seriously… but I will get back to this at some other time.

At this point I think it is pertinent to describe what I was wearing at this function, because it becomes an issue as I was forced to sit down and stand up regularly. I had a white ribbed t-shirt-sweater on top, which was a bit cropped, and a pair of Chinese side-slit trousers in deep crimson. I looked great, of course but that's not the point; slit trousers look FABULOUS when standing up, but just try, TRY to get in and out of an Adirondack chair without showing your panties to the world. It was while sitting in one said Adirondack chair that I had dinner with my father, the father of the bride(we’ll call him G), his brother, and his brother’s boyfriend, who is also the guy who’s officiating the ceremony. Did you get all that? We had a good time, but everytime I thought about crossing my legs I had to remind myself of the consequences of such an action.

When I was not otherwise involved with the maintenance of my trousers, I found myself fascinated with the interplay between G and his brother. G was constantly the subject of ridicule by the elder brother, much like my father and his brother. When G showed me his garden, his brother proceeded to belittle every plant, from the cosmos to the tomatoes. It was kind of fascinating. The brothers of the bride were also present for this tongue lashing, totally unperturbed, but then they make fun of everyone, so it was no surprise to them.

I forgot to introduce the brothers. I had met them before, and lets just say they are entirely unique: In all my experiences in this world, I have never met two young men quite like these two. Whenever I am with them, I’m never sure if we’ll all making fun of someone else, or they’re secretly making fun of only me. They also have a history of hostility towards their sister. How do I know this? It’s the only topic of conversation I’ve ever heard them talk at length about. This is hopefully because I’ve not been around them often, but its not something I intended to investigate at this party. I was having much more fun playing anthropologist with the patriarchs of both clans. Young men who had not yet gotten over old sibling rivalries, however violent and dire, were not really important for my thesis: our families were mirroring one another.

Parallel no. 1: Sibling symmetry. G had three children, two boys and a girl. Dad has the same. Dad has a brother (lawyer type, cranky yet loving relationship) and a sister (religious type, distant relationship), and G has the same.

Parallel no. 2: Husband and wife grew up the same way. Each was the eldest child of three. Each chose music at an early age as their point of interest. They both went to the conservatory at Oberlin where they met (cue mushy music) and fell in love.

Okay, before I bore you to tears, I’ll finish this up. After dinner we set off to the hotel, where we would spent the next three nights, and where everyone in the wedding party would ultimately end up by the next night. Arriving late, we found that pilots staying at the hotel on layover had taken all the rooms, including our original placement (curse them, and their little flight attendants too!) so we had to deal with a smoking room. Oh, how my haired smelled in the morning..

Next on Wedding Story: Iris Saves the Day (well, sorta)

Deo gratias! Matthew Paris has reached the blogosphere! Granted, he hasn't posted in months, but nevertheless, I find the arrival on the Web of a thirteenth-century chronicler who writes in Latin and Anglo-Norman (the which Anglo-Norman writing was one of my major headaches last fall) absolutely grand. On the blogosphere, Matthew uses English... but it seems to be the same chronicle, not that I have a copy to compare with it sitting on the bookshelf at the moment, nor that I have the time.

In a bored/procrastinating moment, I decided to add more links to the template. Sisters, feel free to pass me any other links you think I should add. I've covered the medievalists, but to fully represent us, we need some anthropology. There must be anthropological bloggers out there somewhere.

Thesis still not done, of course, but at least I draft-translated John Pecham's letter to Marguerite of Constantinople, Countess of Flanders. Marguerite never saw Constantinople herself, but her father, one of the Baldwins of Flanders (there were somewhere around ten, and I forget which number he was) was elected emperor of Constantinople during a Crusade. This has nothing to do with Marguerite's questions regarding how to treat Jews in her dominion, nor the answers given her by Pecham or by Thomas Aquinas, but I find it peculiarly amusing.

Monday, July 14, 2003

In two nights and two days camping in a tent in the woods and riding an inner tube down the Delaware River, I acquired only two mosquito bites. In five hours sitting before my computer and trying to translate Latin in my apartment in Manhattan, I received what seems like a dozen more. This is obviously a Sign. The Sign says, I would be enjoying my summer so much more if it weren't for that pesky homework. It also says that I should not be awake at 2:30 AM, since that appears to be when the mosquitoes are also awake.

Now, of course, we were very careful about trying to keep the tent door zipped and the bugs from entering. I did slip once and allow an insect to crawl in after me. I would not have known, except that it was early evening, the tent was relatively dark and suddenly there was a small yellow blinking light on the corner of my sleeping bag. I removed the firefly from the tent while it was still blinking and I could still find it.

I need a full thesis draft, not necessarily complete but good enough that I would not embarrass myself by passing it on to my professors, on the Wednesday (or Thursday, in a pinch) a week and a half ahead. This means that the blog may not see much of me in the near future. I will certainly reappear to make quick comments, and on the day the thesis finally coheres I will post in sleep-deprived and adrenaline-rushed ecstasy, besides which I will rediscover the use of my cell phone to talk to people and return to the wonders of AIM. Farewell for now, since I still want to finish translating this cursed letter before I reach my bed. Iris, darling, why couldn't your distant relation John Pecham, thirteenth-century archbishop of Canterbury, write in Latin that was vaguely coherent? It's all your fault, I know it is.

(And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.)

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Immigrants Among Us
Work wasn't very hard this weekend: It was so lovely out no one wanted to be inside. I fielded a few questions about espionage and black american authors of youth literature , and chatted with my coworker from upstairs, otherwise known as the adult department. Every weekend I work with a different adult department person, many of whom are scared easily by children, dangerous little blighters that they are. The man I worked with, I'll call him Hans, had overcome his fear of kids, and was doing just fine, so we chatted amicably. He told me he arrived in this country from Germany at the age of ten. I had worked with him once before, but had been afraid to ask his origin until today, when his wife called to ask him how to say something properly in German ("I'll get this message to him," to be specific). We discussed the river Mosel, because I had visited it several times while I was in Luxembourg, and he had relatives living in a small town where the Mosel meets the Rhine.

"Ah," He said, "I would like to go back and visit, but my kids don't seem to be interested." They didn't want to learn German either, just like the children of my old German teacher from middle school. Two first generation immigrants with seemingly ungrateful children. I guess things don't change much from the olden days, when linguistically unique towns in northern states lost their integrity as the second generation decided they preferred learning only English. When my grandpa came to New York in the thirties from Ireland, he lost his accent as fast as possible, and so my father has no knowledge of Irish pronunciation. He did inheirit a manuscript filled with wild tales of the IRA and heroism in some war or other. I haven't read it yet, but I'll let you both know when I do.

Why I Love Living Out Of Town
This evening, while helping my mother set up dog agility equipment in the back yard, a little single engine propellar plane swung into view. The pilot saw the two of us standing out there and tilted slightly, dropping into a low lazy circle to get a better look. I, being the romantic that I am, waved wildly. The pilot didn't seem to acknowledge my greeting at first, gaining altitude before cutting the engine and gliding very low into a field nearby. He(or She, I'll be fair for once) soon returned though, and reving his engine, sent the little plane into a sharp ascent. Just as the plane tipped over the engine cut out again, and the plane finished its little loop almost silently before growling back around us, as if to ask if we liked the show.

I waved wildly again. I used to dream as a child that one day one of those trick planes or a balloonist would finally land in the yard and take me away from my gardening chores. I'm still waiting, but as long as there's a soybean field in my back yard, there's still a chance.