Snow Blood and Coal
Monday, March 31, 2003
Well, it's back to school today. I really don't want to start going to my classes again, but both of the classes that I have more than once a week have an attendance requirement, so I really cannot not go. Oh well. At least I don't have to work today so I'll be out of class at one. That means that I can come home and listen to the Dodgers' opening game against the Diamondbacks and work on my presentation for Wednesday. Not a bad afternoon overall, I think. Then tonight, I really need to keep plugging away at my paper. I have about two more pages worth of stuff to say about the difference in form and execution between folklore and literature, so I'd really like to get there and do a little bit of editing tonight. That'd be nice. Then I can wait for my ideology books to come in to the library in peace.
Well, off to the library to return a recalled book, then to Deutsch.
Sunday, March 30, 2003
Today went much better than expected. The morning was slow and liesurely. I had some breakfast and played some video games, talked to some people on the phone. Then, Sarah was going to go to lunch and to the library to work for the day, so I told her I'd come along. We ate good noodle soup at Pho Hoa (a Vietnamese place in Berkeley) then off to the Graduate Theological Union library, the only library open in Berkeley today, to do work. I did some reading and some organizing of my paper and then sat and wrote four pages. I think that four pages in four hours isn't bad. It's certainly more than I've written in one sitting in a while. Plus these weren't four easy pages, they were four pages worth of laying out a theoretical framework in which we can situate folklore and literature--pretty complex stuff, and also pretty cool stuff. I'm pretty pleased with the way this paper is going, and I'm pretty pleased with the way that today went. I think perhaps that I'll even do some more writing tonight. I didn't stop because I ran out of things to say, but rather because I got hungry and had to go eat dinner.
By the way, what do people think of this as a title: Retheorizing Folklore and Literature. Is it too pretentious?
Saturday, March 29, 2003
Alright, for your viewing enjoyment, I have more food pics. I made tuna encrusted with pepper, served with blood oranges, kiwi, and heirloom tomatoes tonight. Check it out.
For the first time since the semester started, I think that my Folklore paper is actually going somewhere. I have the first four pages written, and I have a brief outline of the rest which I plan on expanding today in such a way that I'll be able to actually get some writing of the body of the paper done (although I'm not going to write if I'm still this incoherent). Last night, I stayed up until 1:30 talking with Sarah about her English paper and this paper, and I think that we both made some headway. Most importantly though, I decided that I should abandon the sections that I can't write without the books that are on recall from the libary but haven't yet arrived, write what I can, and come back to them when I had the resources to do them. So I suppose that I should appologize to the sections of my paper that address the ideological underpinnings of folklore and literature, as they will have to wait until last to be written.
In other news, I just spent about a half an hour reading through other blogs that get featured on the blogger web site. There are a lot of interesting people out there who do this. I had always assumed that it was three quarters teenage girls and one quarter people with special interests, but it turns out that those estimates were a little bit misguided. The teenagers are fun to read (it's like putting your hormone goggles back on for a moment) and some of the special interest sites too (see The Angry Clam, but there are also a lot of people who, like me don't have anything specific to say, or rather, who have many specific things to say and no single purpose for their blog. Anyway, I just think it's interesting.
Friday, March 28, 2003
Well, things didn't go quite as planned today. I didn't read for my Chaucer class, and for that matter, I didn't even stay at home. Instead, I went to the GTU (Graduate Theological Union) library and read for three hours for my presentation on Wednesday and for my paper. I read three articles in this book edited by Debra Tannen about the difference between oral and written expression. Some of it was very useful for talking about the formal/structural difference between folklore and literature, but much of it is not. A lot of it, in fact, is made up of reports of experiments that these people have done, cataloguing the numbers of fragments, gerunds, dependant clauses, etc. used in oral verses written expression. Mostly dry stuff. But there were some useful things, so it wasn't exactly 100 wasted pages of reading.
Now I'm going to take a rest for a while then go back and do a little bit more work before the Dodger game, which will effectively end my will to work for the day.
Ach! I don't want to write today. I really don't want to write today. So what I am going to do instead is read what I need to read for my Chaucer class on Monday, then work on the presentation that I have to give on Wednesday, then probably read some of what I have to read for my Chaucer class on Wednesday, then maybe I'll write (if it's earlier than 7, because the Dodger game comes on at 7 and I want to listen). For it being Spring Break, I must say that my life really isn't any less stressful or busy than when school is in. The only difference, I guess, is that I don't have class or work. That's nice, but class and work get me out of the apartment, which I think makes me more productive.
It's a truly amazing thing. The computer said that there were six copies of The Interpretation of Cultures by Clifford Geertz in the Anthropology library here in Berkeley, but when I got there, it turned out that not one, but all six were on reserve for some class or another. Who puts six copies of a book on reserve for their class? What, are there 400 people and no copies in the student store? I mean, didn't the professor think that someone else might want to read it? So I had to go and recall the version in the main library that had been checked out.
While I was at the library, however, I did find out some information on the library prize for undergraduate research. They're giving out three $1000 prizes to upper-division undergrads who have made exceptional use of the library. I went and asked them if my annotated bibliography would be an acceptable entry and they said yes, so I think that I'm going to enter. This means that I need to get a letter from Professor Dundes, which shouldn't be a problem. I think that at least one other person who did an annotated bibliography is going to enter, so it's not a sure thing, but I expect that I have a pretty good shot.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
The UC Berkeley library will be closed tomorrow (March 28th) for Ceasar Chavez Day. What the hell is that? This is like the time I went to try and pay a parking fine and the city office was closed because of Malcom X day. There are many reasons why I enjoy living in Berkeley, but wacky-ass holidays that nobody but city and UC library workers celebrate is not one of them. They may as well close for Canadian Thanksgiving or Japanese Girls' day. They didn't, in fact, close for the Chinese New Year, which is really perplexing. Why Ceasar Chavez day but not Chinese New Year? There's no rhyme or reason to any of this. I'm seriously annoyed.
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Since the Iraq war started, I've been trying to get a wide array of different perspectives on the war by reading five or six different online news sources. I have been reading CNN, the L.A. Times, the London Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Corriere della Sera (the newspaper in Milan) on a pretty regular basis, and what I have found, much to my disappointment, is that what is being reported is pretty much the same all over. Corriere has a couple of interesting pages that collect news stories from Western and Arab sources, but that's about as daring and different as any of these sources get.
Or so I thought until just now. I just finished browsing through Corriere and CNN and read about the sand storms and the paratroopers in Northern Iraq, then I went on to the London Times, and I was really surprised. They were running pretty much the same stories about the troops marching toward Baghdad, but unlike the other sources, they really played up the stiff resistance that US and British soldiers were encountering. CNN glosses over the attacks made on the groups of soldiers headed toward Baghdad, but the London Times was very explicit. The London Times also reported that the US is sending 30,000 more troops over to Iraq and that the Pentagon is being forced to adjust tactics because of Iraqi resistance. I hadn't heard of either of these things anywhere else. A week ago, I said that I was surprised that the London Times, a paper which usually follows public sentiment, was falling so closely in line with the US media, but maybe I spoke too soon.
Anyway, it's good in general to have a bunch of news sources, and it's even better if they're reporting from different perspectives.
I find reading Roland Barthes a fascinating experience, because just when I think that I have him figured out, something new pops out at me. I sat down yesterday and read through his essay, "The Death of the Author," which I've read once or twice before, and it seemed entirely different to me this time. Last time I looked at it, I was intently interested in the intertextual aspects of what he was proposing: the idea that all of our words are nothing more than a collection of quotations, resequenced and rehashed, etc. This time, however, what really struck me was the extent to which reception is important in Barthes' conception. He says that the meaning of a text is not dependent on the author, but rather, on the reader, and what the reader finds within. Also, that any context that the reader might have involving the life of the author does not shed light on the author's intent or his proposed meaning, but rather simply on the way that the text is received. How cool is that. It's certainly an argument that I've heard before. Wolfgang Isser says something like it, as does Kristeva, etc., but it is interesting to come back to an academic text after a while, and, with some perspective over time, get something new out of it.
I turned on the ABC news tonight and there happened to be a very interesting editorial piece about the semiotics of the news coverage of the war in Iraq. I was fascinated and a little bit unnerved, because how post-modern. They talked about Fox, NBS, and ABC's coverage of the war so far, going through the images and words presented on each channel in order to point out the biases of each statement, although in the end, they made the claim that ABC was, of course, the most objective. I thought it was funny because right after they talked about how middle of the road and non-cheerleading ABC was, they went to a commercial for the army, then came back with their intro to their special coverage which was the words "At war with Iraq" flashing over footage of American tanks racing through the desert. I mean, come on. Of course, I do realize that the piece was primarily intended as a "why you should watch ABC" spot, but still, really...
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
I forgot to mention it in my post earlier, but last night I cracked open a bottle of the Samuel Smith Imperial Stout that I bought over the weekend and served it with grilled fish. My God that's some good beer. I opened one bottle for both Sarah and I and poured it into wine glasses, splitting it evenly. I poured into the bottom of the glass, expecting it to form a thick head, but surprisingly, it did not. In fact, it barely formed any head at all. And so for the second test, I tasted it. My first impression was that it tasted just like Guinness, except perhaps a little bit less heavy. That was a tad upsetting. But as I went on drinking, it impressed me more and more. It did not taste artificially sweet like the Steelhead Stout I had last week, but it was still sweeter than the Guinness. The sweetness, however, came almost as an aftertaste, which was a fascinating experience. This beer is mild on first taste, bitter as you hold it in your mouth, and sweet as you're swallowing. It really is exquisite. Overall (not just among Stouts), of the beers that I've tried recently, I have to say that this is my favorite, beating out even Chimay Blue Label. Now that says a lot, I think.
Alright. Today is library day. The day when I go to the library. I figure that I need to pick up the stuff for my presentation in my folklore seminar next week, as well as a whole bunch of books for my paper. Fortunately, some of the stuff overlaps. Odd, isn't it, that my paper on folklore and literature and my presentation on Marxism overlap so... and I'm not even really taking a Marxist perspective toward my paper. In fact, not at all. The overlap comes because Louis Althusser is known for writing about two things: Marxism and the nature of ideology. So I'm going to go get some Althusser books today (hopefully if they're not checked out) which should cover both bases.
On a different note, I had a stress dream last night for the first time in a while. I dreamed that I was talking with somebody or another and I realized mid-conversation that I have a fourth class this semester that I had forgotten about entirely. I had forgotten to go, to take the midterm, etc., and now it is too late to drop. It really freaked me out. I'm glad it's almost summer, and for the first time in a very long time, no summer school for me.
Monday, March 24, 2003
So good things do sometimes come by email, I found out today. I went to check my email before I left to retrieve Sarah from the airport, and I found an email from Memorial University of Newfoundland. I got into Memorial. Note that I'm not putting it in bold or anything because it's not such an exciting shock as getting into Indiana when I hadn't heard from anywhere else, but it's still pretty damned cool. They said that sometime soon I'd get an official letter and a financial aide offer, so I'll update more as those things come, I guess. After seeing Great Big Sea the other night, I'm inclined to accept their offer, but I know that I shouldn't make a graduate school decision based on a music preference.
In other news, Sarah came home today. I picked her up at the airport, then we had to wait 45 minutes for her luggage to come, so that we could go to lunch. She had a very good time in Kansas and says that her mother's new town is very interesting, except that there's no good food over there. At one of the nicest places in town, they served her chicken breast on a bed of boiled spinach smothered in Velvita cheese. Ick. But oh well, I don't have to live there...
Sunday, March 23, 2003
First let me say congrats to Spirited Away, a movie that probably deserved best picture, not just best animated film.
Next, with the likes of Barbra Streisand and Susan Sarandan presenting Oscars tonight, who would have thought that the big political speach would have come from Adrien Brody? And did you see the looks on Nick Cage and Jack Nicholson's faces when he launched into it? They must have been collectively thinking, We got passed up for an award for this? But I guess that the politics is why I'm watching the Oscars in the first place. Similar reason why I watch auto racing from time to time... Update: I guess I spoke too soon about Adrien Brody's being the biggest political speech of the evening. The Academy presedent had his own little rant just now. Further Update: Apparently, I missed Michael Moore's political ranting. I turned the show off in the middle for a little while and it was probably then that it happened. I don't think that Bowling for Columbine is a very good piece of journalism, but I thought that it was interesting and enjoyed it. Overall, I think I'm glad it won documentary... and of all the political rants tonight, I'll bet that his was the most clever. A shame that I missed it.
I feel mixed about how today has turned out. On the one hand, I feel like I've wasted the day, sitting around, napping, playing video games, doing only a little bit of reading. On the other hand, though, I feel well rested and better physically than I have in a month. So maybe I just needed some time to stew on the couch...
And speaking of stewing, I went to the grocery (a little bit yesterday and a little bit today) and that has provided some points of interest. This afternoon, I made an attempt to make mango salsa, the success of which has yet to be determined. I think it may need more lime juice, but I think that I should wait for a while for the tastes to blend before I add anything.
While I was at the grocery, I also bought a four pack of Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout. I haven't tried it yet, but I am very excited about this beer. It had better be good, too, for what I paid for it. I've read some reviews and the consensus is that it's one of the best stouts in production today, so considering how much I like this type of beer, I'm confident that my expenditure has not been misplaced.
Great Big Sea was simply amazing. We got into Slim's around 8:30, and the kind of crappy opening band started playing at 9:15. They finished at 10:15, and then Great Big Sea came out at 10:30. They played almost everything that I wanted to hear. Lots of good stuff, and they had the crowd singing along and screaming the whole time. It was all very high energy and very friendly. Exactly the kind of concert that I like. Incidentally, they covered I wanna be sedated which was really a blast too. It was wierd, though. I was horribly thirsty the entire time I was there, despite the fact that I had a goodly amount of water. Oh well... I guess that my body requires different amounts of liquid at different times.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
I spent last night reading a couple of essays about Louis Althusser in preparation for my presentation on Marxism next week for my folklore seminar. One of the essays I read, however, was a piece by Paul Riccour (who I usually don't like) on Althusser's theories of ideology. This had the pleasant effect of helping me to begin to form some thoughts on the remainder of my folklore and literature paper. My original idea was that the two genres should be seen as related through the underlying social discourses (ala Foucault) of a society. I still think that's true, but I think that the concept of ideology is more fruitful than that of discourse in this discussion. Ideology explicitly implies a core set of beliefs, which is what I am trying to get at. It is also something that I think I can define, which (although deconstructionists might fault me for it) is something that is important to me.
This does not mean, however, that I have to give up all of my previous thinking on the subject. Ideology can still be understood in terms of a lot of the concepts that Foucault uses to talk about discourse. Most importantly for me, ideology is still the basis of cultural productions, and yet is recreated with every such manifestation. It is not a static thing, but rather, is always in a state of flux, either being mutated or being reinforced (I don't think that there's a difference, everything is a mutation) with every utterance by every individual.
My main worry here is that the concept of ideology, like the concept of discourse, seems so superorganic. I think that I can get around that, however, by the very fact that I can make a definition. Ideology is the set of signs through which an individual imagines reality. This sign set is shaped by the cultural products that bombard the individual every moment, and in turn, form the lens through which the individual views the world (including said cultural products). The only ideology-free zone of an individual could perhaps be considered to be the unconscious, but the geography of the unconscious is only knowable through approxamation, as the lens through which we view it is shaped by ideology too. Such a definition gets around the superorganic problem, I think, and yet explains how it is that many individuals can have ideologies that share the vast majority of their features.
Anyway, I would really like some feedback on this. Who thinks that I'm full of shit? I feel like my thinking is still a little bit muddled on this, so who can offer me some clarity (not in the religious sense, thank you)?
Friday, March 21, 2003
I had the disturbing experience tonight of realizing that I am turning into a combination of my two parents. I found myself sitting in front of the TV while eating dinner, drinking a beer, and flipping back and forth between the news and a re-run of a sitcom that I've seen a thousand times before.
I love my parents, but Lord knows, I don't want to be either of them.
Well, getting a late start on posting today, but I don't have much to post, really. Still no word from the great white north or from Philadelphia, but no surprise there. I wish that Indiana would just send me word on a financial package so that I could finish with this grad school application nonsense and get back to being able to do real work...
Sarah left yesterday to go to Kansas for her mother's official installation as the pastor of a church over there. I talked to her last night, and apparently she and her brother are causing a stir over there in nowheresville. It seems that they've never seen a girl wear a skirt and hiking boots before, and they've never seen a boy with chin-length poofie hair...
I think sometimes that I only pay attention in my Chaucer class to collect material for my blog, but the item of the day from that class is that my professor said: "A parable is not a real story." What is it then, a fake story? Is it a text posing as a story, but which is really an essay or a news article? I think that he meant that a parable isn't a true story, but come on. He's an English professor. He should really know the importance of using exact terminology...
And finally, I've been listening to Great Big Sea all day. I'm very excited. I get to see them live tomorrow at this really cool venue in San Francisco. The last time I saw them there, I was right next to the stage and the place was packed. It was lots of fun. They put on an incredible show (different from, but as good as, The String Cheese Incident). I'm just jumping up and down, and I'll continue to do so until I go tomorrow night...
It's kind of weird though. Of my friends who are going, I think that I'm the youngest by 18 years...
I've been feeling really frustrated all afternoon, because I feel like I cannot bring myself to be productive. I am intently interested in all of my classes for various reasons. I want to stay up on the reading for my Chaucer class so that I have ammunition with which to argue against misguided academics; I want to stay up with my German because I like the language a lot and want to learn it well; and I want to get my work done for my folklore seminar because... well... I love folklore and I find my paper topic interesting and compelling. But I can't sit down and do any of these things. All I want to do is watch TV or play video games. I think that it's because Spring Break is upon us and I need a couple of days to relax and regroup for the rest of the semester, but I don't think that it's only that. I think that politics is getting into my head and stressing me out, and that I've made too many time commitments this semester so that it's not that I don't have time to do my own work, but by the time I get done running from place to place, from one activity to another, I just don't have the energy. But oh well. I should really stop complaining and force myself to get stuff done. That's the only way that I'm going to break out of this general malaise and start to feel better. But that sounds icky. Maybe tonight and tomorrow and saturday I should just chill, then I can start to seriously work on Sunday... I don't know. We'll see...
Thursday, March 20, 2003
It seems a bit disrespectful to me to show an advertisement for Tears of the Sun on television while, one station over, there is coverage going on of the bombing of Iraq. But maybe it's just me...
It is very hard, especially in Berkeley, to consider yourself anything other than liberal, and yet be against this war. I cannot align myself with the "progressives" on campus for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the reasoning behind many of their positions seems to me to be tragically flawed. The liberals on campus seem to me to be blatantly anti-Semitic, even in the same breath that they advocate "equal rights for minorities." What is more, their tactics of protest seem to be, shall we say, misguided. The given wisdom here is that no matter what the cause, if a group protests in front of the school administration or disrupts class, there is the chance that something will be done to remedy it. Maybe I am obtuse, but I do not see how a protest on Sproul or a walkout will remedy anything. If they really wanted to affect national change, they would organize a boycot on consumer goods, or a protest in front of the Pacific Stock exchange, or something like that, but I think that really, they are just looking for catharsis.
On the issue of war, I cannot abide by the notion that the U.S. is a terrorist state for going into Iraq, which seems to be the slogan of the day, over here. There is a walkout on classes today, and a meeting on Sproul Plazza, presumably to discuss just how much this is true. I am against the war too, but I will not walk out, and I will certainly not be at Sproul. They don't appreciate people of diverse voices. People who think that perhaps they are misguided. If it were more tollerant of people with dissenting voices, I think that perhaps I would be a part of the "anti-war coalition" on campus, but my views on Israel and Affirmative Action are such, I think, that I would be out of place in such an organization, and moreover, the members of the coalition would go to great lengths to make me feel out of place.
It's a funny, sickening feeling, when by default, you find yourself in a position of sympathy for the Berkeley College Republicans.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
My Chaucer class today was really kind of pathetic, I think. At the beginning of class, he read through the description of Alisoun in the Miller's Tale and asked the class if they had anything to say about it. A bunch of people made inane comments, to which he responded positively, so I decided that I would raise my hand and perhaps add something to the conversation. I commented that the description reads a lot like certain parts of the first chapter of Song of Songs, especially the bits where hair is compared to antelopes running down the back, and the parts where the narrator talks about his lover's complection. The professor stared at me blankly for a moment and then said, "Good, but I'm going to push you a little bit farther hear. So what?" So I responded, "Well, how about the fact that the general interpretation of the Song of Songs, especially in religious circles, was as an allegory for the relationship between man and God, and here, Chaucer is standing that interpretation on it's head." To this, my professor gave me a disapproving stare and moved on.
I really don't know what I did to deserve to be disliked so by this man. I think that I made a valid point. Nothing original by any means, but certainly less inane than some of the other stuff that was being said in class. It doesn't make sense that I should be shot down like that. It seems to me that the only things this professor wants to talk about are the ways in which characters are constructed, what their motives are, etc. I don't know if it's because I have some theoretical training (unlike most of the english undergrads here), or if it's because I come from a Latin / Comp. Lit. background in talking about medieval literature, but discussing character motivations seems boring and unproductive. Text should be placed in a contextual / intertextual perspective, and to talk about them as though they were lone islands is just wrong. Talk about texts in terms of their historical moment, or in terms of their reception, or in terms of the ways that the narrative subverts itself... anything, as long as it's smart and gets at something interesting. Talking about the text alone (I guess a New Critical approach), seems to me neither smart nor interesting. But I guess that's why I couldn't be an English professor.
I promised that I would post pictures of my timpano, so here they are:
Isn't it pretty?
Today, I must say, was a very good day. At noon, I went to see Ibrahim Muhawi (one of the authors of Speak Bird, Speak Again) speak. It was one of the two best folklore roundtables I've ever been to. This guy is amazing. He was a professor of translation studies in Scotland, and he really knows his stuff. He talked a lot about the three types of translation that go into a Palestinian folktale; the first, of course, is the language, the second is from one culture to another, and the third is from oral to literary. He emphasized the importance of striking a balance between being true to the idiom of the original language and making it comprehensible to the target audience, and showed examples of where going too far in either direction was wrong. I really have to go to his office hourse and talk to him.
Then I came home and put together my Timpano, which turned out very well (I'll post pictures tomorrow night, probably), and Sarah's aunt and uncle came over and ate with us. It was very pleasant. The food was very good (I surprised myself with how good it was), and they are really fun people. We had a good talk about school and politics and literary theory, and then I drove them back to the house of the people with whom they are staying. They're really interesting people, I think, because they manage to be really upbeat party type people and be interesting and intellectual at the same time. Sarah says it's part of the Argentine culture among their class down there...
Monday, March 17, 2003
I came home from class today and found a small envelope from Indiana University sitting in my mailbox. Understandably, I was a little bit scared. Small envelopes always meant rejections to me when I was applying to college, and I assumed that the same would be true of grad school. But then I opened it, and it said that I GOT INTO THE IU FOLKLORE AND ETHNOMUSICOLOGY PROGRAM!!!! I'm so excited. So relieved. They didn't offer me any money, but I assume that I will be sent something about that in the next couple of weeks, one way or the other. Whatever, though. I got in, and that's what really matters right now.
I was going to make a long post about how much I don't like Andy Katz and his disrespectful, misinformed politics, but it would involve criticizing the regime in power in Washington, which I am a little bit affraid to do. So take a look at his lastest column, and see for yourself what a snide, condescending asshole he is. I'm not saying that I don't agree with some of his politics (only some, mind you), but the knee-jerk reactionary vigor with which he presents his opinions really just makes me want to hit him upside the head.
In other news, I got some good news yesterday afternoon. The professor for whom I type called me yesterday and told me that he found somebody else to work Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so I will no longer go from 9-5 on Mondays without any sort of break (namely, a lunch break). He told me a couple of weeks ago that he was looking for somebody to replace his Wednesday-Friday guy, and I asked him if he could find somebody for Mondays too. He said that he would, and now, my life is a heck of a lot easier. I'm making less money, but definitely easier.
Sunday, March 16, 2003
This is going to be another food post, so those of you unhappy with such things, too bad...
Last night I started cooking for Tuesday (when Sarah's aunt and uncle are coming to dinner here). I don't remember whether I mentioned it, but I'm making a Timpano, which is a big sheet of pasta stuffed with smaller pasti, meatballs, etc. So last night I made one of the two sauces for the pasta, and the sauce for the meatballs. The pasta sauce is so incredibly good, I surprised even myself. I made it with turkey sausage and fresh herbs and some tomatos (although not too many). I didn't think that it would be that good since the turkey sausage isn't that fatty and fat is what makes good sauce, but everything went just right. It turned just the right shade of brown, it tastes good and rich, it's perfect. I keep staring at it in the refrigerator wanting to eat it before the appointed time, but no, I must wait. The sauce for the meatballs is also good, but nothing spectacular. It's pretty straight forward tomato sauce.
Then this morning, I am most likely going to brunch at the Thai temple here in Berkeley. This excites me too. Best Thai food in the city, I think, and it rivals the likes of the amazing expensive restaurants here for the best food overall. They do everything from soup to nuts (literally). There stringbeans and tofu, I think, is my favorite, but this morning, I either want the spring rolls or the soup. I feel like I've been eating too much meat recently, so maybe I'll skip the soup. But the spring rolls are just as good. And then there's the mango sticky-rice. Oh, how I long for mango sticky-rice. But I won't drool too much here, since I'm going in 45 minutes (unless it's raining hard, of course).
Saturday, March 15, 2003
I learned a new joke yesterday: Why does Santa Claus not have any children? Because he only comes once a year, and then it's down a chimney.
Anyway, I had a pretty interesting day yesterday, overall. I went to class and got pissed at my Chaucer professor again for not talking about the most interesting few lines in the Knight's Tale. There's this passage where the narrator describes a temple of Venus, and one of the things that he says is that in her hand, Venus held a Cuckoo. Perhaps it's not fascinating in itself, but looking at medieval statues of the Virgin Mary, there are a couple that I can think of that are holding Cuckoos too. The cuckoo is a symbol of fertility in the same way that the stork or the swallow is, but the cuckoo is more complex, because it's also a symbol of infidelity (which explains why the Virgin would have one, as she cuckolded Joseph through an affair with God). The infidelity symbol is really important in the Knight's Tale because Palamon, the character who prays to Venus for the hand of Emily, ends up losing to his rival Acrite and must wait for him to die (knowing that he and Emily are having sex) in order to marry Emily. So you see how important and interesting this is? Why oh why doesn't my professor talk about these things?
But the rest of the day was interesting too. I hung out with Sarah and her friend from Houston most of the afternoon, and then I went to a party thrown by one of the folklore graduate students. The party was fun, but I didn't know anybody and I was tired, so I decided to go home early and sleep. I guess this part doesn't come out as interesting in print...
Friday, March 14, 2003
A friend of Sarah's family is coming today. He's in twelfth grade, and he's staying with us for the weekend to get a small taste of what college is like. I would actually rather that he come during the week, but oh well. I guess that I'm not going to spend a huge amount of time with them because I want to work on my paper. Also, one of the folklore grad students is having a party tonight that I'm going to go to. I'm hoping that Sarah and her friend will come with us, but Sarah has already told me probably not, because as she says, she doesn't know a whole lot of those people. I keep assuring her that there will probably be people there that she knows, but she doesn't want to go. I think that we should ask her friend what he wants to do and then see what happens. Either way, unless it's raining cats and dogs, I think that I'm going to go. It's been too long since I've celebrated St. Pattrick's day right.
I've been thinking a lot about the difference between speech and writing today. I know that it's something that must be addressed, at least indirectly, in my folklore paper, but I'm not sure how I want to approach it yet. It started this afternoon when I was reading the newest issue of the Journal of American Folklore. The issue this quarter is a special collection of essays about the process and consequences of creolization, both in language and in folklore. I was reading an artical about the creoles found on Madagascar and its neighboring islands, and the workings of heteroglossia and dialogism (and their folklore counterparts) in these societies was just amazing. It got me thinking about the multiple voices of language within a single culture that is not obviously a creole. How folklore and literature, for instance, speak with different voices from the perspective of style, language, and even the very media in which they come themselves.
So I went to the library when I got off of work and checked out a book of essays by Bakhtin and The Barthes Reader. I haven't gotten to the Bakhtin yet, but Barthes has addressed this question most unexpectedly in the essays that I read from that book tonight. He talks a great deal about the differences inherrent in speaking and writing. Speaking, he says, is an open system, allowing for interjections from others and modifications to the meaning of an utterance at any point. Basically, it is dialogic. He also talks a little bit about the laxity of grammatical rules in a speaking situation, but that is definitely related to the capacity for interjections and modifications. He goes on to talk about writing as a closed system. Writing is not diologic at all. It cannot be added to, nor modified (at least if the meaning is to be kept intact and the intent of the author is to be respected). The purpose of writing is simply to convey a message, and not to open a channel for reciprocal communication.
He goes on even farther though (and this I think is even more interesting because it's obvious, but I would never have thought about it). Speech, he says, is exclusively additive. Once a word is uttered, it cannot be retracted without the speaker saying "I retract the word," which is in fact still an addition to the chunk of speech. Writing on the other hand, may be edited by its author, and so to subtract from a piece of writing is as simple as taking an eraser to the sheet of paper. It seems to me, based on this, that to perform an item of folklore well, then, is dependant on an expertise with the language that writing does not require, because with something spoken, you only really get one shot, but with something written, there is always the option of editing or rewriting if you're not satasfied.
But the question is, where does all of this fit in with my folklore paper? That's what I've been trying to figure out. My paper thus far has focused on moving away from talking about the similarities and differences between folklore and literature themselves, and toward a discussion of the two categories as intertextually linked through cultural discursive structures. But on the other hand, thinking about what I read tonight, there are some interesting things to say about similarities and differences without having to resort to the folkloristic trope of counting items of folklore in a given written text. Maybe I shouldn't be so dogmatic about shunning similarities and differences then. Maybe my paper should be about alternate ways of reading the connection between folklore and literature, rather than a single alternate way. So really, I guess that I'm just having second thoughts about my approach to this paper. There is so much out there to say, and so little space I guess...
Thursday, March 13, 2003
I think that I need to take a mental health day sometime soon. I feel generally crummy (I learned a new German word today, mies, that sums it up), and what's more, I feel even more crummy when I think about the prospect of going to school every the morning. Spring break starts next weekend, though, so hopefully I can hold out until then. I'll take the first weekend off from school entirely, then spend the week studying. That'll be good and relaxing. I'll have time to play some video games, maybe read a novel. Overall, not bad things to be doing. But yeah. I definitely need to take some time to unwind before I can get down to doing work on important things like my folklore paper.
I'm really excited. I got a call from my friend Hana tonight. I hadn't talked to her since winter break (and before that, it had been about a year), so it was really good to hear from her. All we really had a chance to do was catch up, but I'm going to be more diligent about keeping up my end of the correspondence from now on, because I definitely don't want to lose touch for another year.
In other news, my folklore seminar was really interesting tonight. The topic of the day was metaphor, which was very interesting. The presenter was working from a book by the anthropologist Stanley Brandes, who did work among men in Andalusia. He discussed the metaphorical meaning of a whole bunch of customs and festivals there. Overall, it was a good presentation. My only gripe, however, was that the class is on folklore theories, and the presenter didn't talk about the theoretical basis of metaphor. There are a couple of good books that address the theory from a folkloristic perspective, notably Metamorphosis by Francisco vaz de Silva, and Nonsense by Susan Stewart. I think that either of those would have generated some great discussion, but unfortunately, we talked about neither.
I was also asigned a third presentation for that class today. After spring break, I'm going to have to be prepared to cover Marxism. I really don't like Marxist theory, but there are a couple of authors that I've been meaning to read for a while, and this seems like a good chance. Notably, I've been looking for an excuse to read something by Althusser, and something by Leszek Kolakowski. I don't know a whole lot about either of them, though, except that they were Marxist theorists. If anybody has any suggestions for readings by those two, I'd be happy to hear them. I'm also looking forward to reading a little bit more by Jack Zipes, who, once you get past the Marxism, is a really good folklorist. I figure that everybody in my seminar knows the basics of Marxist theory, so what I want to do is talk about how it has been expanded / adapted in the 20th century, and I want to talk about criticisms of the theory (the most obvious to me right now being that it is not a sociological system, but a metaphysical (quasi-religious) one).
But as usual, I ramble.
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Why am I so reticent about saying that I agree with Foucault's take on the nature of discourse? The professor for whom I work showed me a passage from a book that he was reading that discussed the manner in which the act of writing an autobiography is the act of creating an identity, which, in turn, defines the one creating. He asked me what I thought about this, and I told him that it sounded like it drew on The Archeology of Knowledge and Foucault's discussion of the way that discursive structures work. He asked me if it bothered me, and I hesitated, saying something to the effect that it seemed pretty natural to me at this point, having encountered it so much.
Well, despite the fact that it seems to be unfasionable in some groups (especially among older, more well established scholars) to knock Foucault, I think that on the subject of discourse, at least, he really is right on. What he lays out is a model of intertextuality in the broadest sense, showing just how ideology (discourse to use his term) underlies every product of an individual within a society from a simple utterance to a novel or a piece of art, and how, in turn, the products of individuals within the society serve to create this underlying discourse, either through their reenforcement, their rejection, or through ignoring of the underlying ideology. It would be very easy and probably very useful to set up a semiotic square to illustrate how this works, come to think of it...
Anyway, though, I think that the reason why some scholars are so against this is that Foucault never really actually defines discourse very clearly, leaving it as some nebulous social force. I take issue with that, and I take issue with it's justification, that being that "to ask what discourse is is asking the wrong question. Instead, we should ask how discourse functions." I do think that somewhere, there is a way to define discourse, and that to do so will probably make Foucault's theories on discourse more acceptable to older scholars like the professor for whom I work, and perhaps make is theories less acceptable to those in the undergraduate and graduate student levels of the university because I think that his fashionability there is connected to the mystery in what he is saying (I use mystery partially in the religious sense) and the very fact that his theories are so contraversial.
But I rant. I promised a post about my office hour, and so I shall deliver. My office hour was entirely uneventful. Nobody came to see me, so I may as well have not had one at all. That's about it. Pretty sad, huh? oh well.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
I think that I'm getting sick. And what's worse is that I have to go to work in a minute and I'm going to spend 4 hours typing and sick and miserable. I shouldn't complain though, I guess. I'm the one who wanted to work with this professor. But on the other hand, I didn't envision doing it getting sick.
Anyway, this morning was very interesting, and what really convinced me that I am starting to come down with something. First of all, we had a substitute in German who was kind of cute and bubbly and her bubbliness (which I usually appreciate) made me want to get up and leave. About three quarters of the way through class, I was totally out of it, feeling miserable with aches and a headache, and she asked me a question, to which I could only respond with a blank stare. She tried to rephrase it a couple of times before she realized that it wasn't that she was being unclear and gave up.
I need to go to work right now. I guess I'll post more tonight, especially on the incredible uneventfulness of my office hour.
I did a very bad thing last night. In a fit of impulsiveness, I went out and bought a used Playstation One, along with a baseball game and Final Fantasy VIII. This is not good for my workload. I find baseball games to be incredibly addictive (in fact, I'm thinking about it now), and that's just not good for me when I have Chaucer to read and a folklore paper to write (not to mention German, which has been neglected a lot lately). But I won't fret. I figure that I'll play a lot for about a week, then get tired of it and only play once in a while, so things will probably be okay. Right? Right? Well, I'm going to go and see if I can't get a game in before class.
Monday, March 10, 2003
I have had a very interesting day today. More action packed than most days. I had a sub for German who was really cool, and was all pleased that we knew how to conjugate adjectives. He had us get into groups and write about a bad roommate and then present what we wrote to the class. Our bad roommate liked to throw the cat out the window and eat all the cat food. It was overall a pretty funny class.
Then in American Folklore it came time to hand the midterms back. Overall, I was pleased that so few people got angry at me. One guy (who I think I failed) is going to come see me in my office hours tomorrow, which I think is fair, and one girl got really pissy that I wasn't handing them out fast enough. I guess that she was just very anxious to get her D and go home. hehe. I'm glad she didn't do very well, the obnoxious bitch.
After this, it was time to go to work. The professor for whom I work had me go out to buy him a Times Literary suplement, and on my way back, I was so hungry that I ended up stopping to get a bagel. I need to pack better lunch. After that, we typed for a while and I barely was able to keep awake. Looking at the computer clock I kept being surprised that it was only three o'clock until the bells tolled and I discovered that it was four, and the computer just didn't keep good times. Stupid Dells. Speaking of Dells, then he had me take a look at his laptop, which he said was acting funny. I ended up showing him how to save to a disk and fixing the settings on his trackpad, which were too sensitive for someone whose hand shakes. Then I helped him write a help-wanted email which will go out to the history undergraduate list, and went home.
Overall, a pretty good day. It had its high points, its drama, but yeah. Pretty good. My office hour for discussing the midterm is from 11:30-12:30 tomorrow at the folklore archive, so we'll see how that goes. I'm sure that I'll have much to say about it.
Mondays are really annoying. I have to get to school usually by nine, but today by 8:30, and then I go straight without a break until 5 p.m. Hopefully, this will be the last week that my schedule looks at this though. The other guy who works as a typist for my professor is quitting and he's hiring a new guy, who hopefully will be able to work Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. That would be so much easier for me. Plus I could maybe get some research done on Mondays, which would be great.
Must go to school...
I went today and saw Adaptation for a second time. Sarah hadn't seen it and didn't want to, but I dragged her and she liked it a lot. About half way through, she turned to me and said, "There's a lot of True West in here, isn't there." Well, yeah. This movie has True West all over it, especially when Donald is describing his car chase that turns into a horse chase. But anyway, I think that I actually appreciated it more this time. I saw more clearly where Charlie's character is responding to the screenwriting seminar person, and how that destroys the integrity of the characters. I liked the nuances of the Susan Orlean's character. I think that my favorite scene in the movie is when she is talking on the phone to Chris Cooper's character and wiggling her toes in the air. There's just something beautiful about that shot.
But I ramble. I'll stop. I must stop, in fact, because I have to go and read the "Knight's Tale" for my Chaucer class. Damn Chaucer class...
Sunday, March 09, 2003
Somebody out there may have noticed that we're experiencing a few technical difficulties. I've been tweeking the templace, but seemingly with limited success... Update: The site is going to look like this for a few hours, then I'm going to tweak it in the direction of something a little more pleasing. I really shouldn't mess with a good thing. Lesson learned. Another Update: Alright. I think that I have the blog looking the way that I want it now. You may notice some subltle changes in the next couple of weeks, but nothing too serious.
It is done! It took all day, but I finished. 46 finals, all done. And actually, when I went and recorded the grades, they weren't all bad. I gave out more As than any other grade. I gave out a lot of Bs and Cs, and fewer Ds and Fs than I had originally thought. Maybe I am a lenient grader after all. I should be blessed by these people because most probably didn't really deserve the grades they got... But that's just me trying to make myself feel benificent. I'll stop doing that.
On a different note, I had a bottle of the Steelhead Extra Stout tonight: excellent. It looks like india ink when it pours, smells sweet, tastes sweeter than does bitter, with a hint of coffee and a hint of chocolate flavors. It also has surprisingly good legs for a beer, but I suppose that's not terribly important. I had gone in expecting something more like Guiness Extra Stout, but this is a totally different animal. Good, but very different. We likes it!
Saturday, March 08, 2003
Today has been a little slow to start. I got up early, but bumbled around for a while and didn't get to grading until 9:00. I graded for an hour, and then listened to some of the Dodger game, and went to the grocery. I just returned home from the grocery and my day is suddenly starting to look up, because I bring home with me a sixpack of Steelhead Extra Stout, which I have never tried before, but looks to be an excellent beer. I just read a brief review at alcoholreviews.com and they had nothing but good things to say about it, eventually giving it 4 starts. Not bad, eh?
But there's more. I also bring back 5 bottles of Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon. I usually don't like Cab., but for 2 dollars per bottle and reasonably high quality, how can you go wrong. I've actually had the Charles Shaw Cabernet before, and as far as Cabernet goes, it's not bad, so like I said, I'm excited.
And finally, I'm going to learn how to make real Neopolitan-Style meatballs tonight. I have three different kinds of ground meat which I've found make a pretty good blend (2 parts beef, 1 part pork, and 1 part lamb), some fresh herbs, a couple of heads of garlic, and the fixings to make a tomato sauce to go with them. So this should be a fun experiment. It's also a good first round of practice for my timpano, since these same meatballs will be a part of that.
Well, I think that's all there is to say for now, or at least all there is for beer, wine and food (but then what else is there?). Maybe I should retitle this blog something a little bit more reflective of my more Epicurian proclivities. I mean, who wants to eat snow, blood, or coal? Especially since snow especially has some rather unpleasant side-effects...
Alright. 20 exams down, only 26 to go. Not bad at all, I think, and It didn't take quite so long as I thought it would. At this rate, I'll have time to go to the grocery tomorrow, finish these, and actually get some of my own work done. Wow... when I'm getting paid, I get so much more productive.
Anyway, in other news, I talked to my Parents today, and it turns out that a couple of weeks ago a pipe broke and sewage got all over their carpet. Today, the insurance people came out to assess the mess, and it turns out that they're paying to recarpet the house. This means, of course, that they're going to have to disassemble my room in that house and remove all the furniture. Sure hope I don't have anything hidden in my room that I don't want them to find out about. Because that would suck. On the other hand, anything hidden in there is from at least four years ago, so how bad could it be.
Friday, March 07, 2003
So I have begun the long and arduous task of grading. Really, it's not that arduous, it's just long... and depressing. It's long and depressing. So far, the exams that I have graded form a nearly perfect bell curve, slightly weighted toward the Ds. And I feel like I'm being lenient. That's depressing.
What's more depressing is that people don't know how to write. I don't mean choppy style or poor spelling either. In half of the tests that I've graded so far, people can't even make verb tense agree with their subject, they don't know the difference between a and an, they don't know how to make irregular nouns plural... it's pretty pathetic. I wonder how you get into a prestigious university without knowing how to construct a sentence. Maybe their math scores were abnormally high...
If my prose is a bit muddled, by the way, it's not my fault. It's the influence of the test.
Grading other people is weird. What's more, proctoring an exam is weird. I don't think that I would ever cheat on an exam, proctored or not, so I can't imagine why anybody else would.
You might be asking what the hell I'm talking about, so let me step back a little bit. I am a reader for an anthropology class, and today is the day of the midterm. I just got out of the reader meeting, where we were instructed to keep a diligent watch for cheaters in addition to being instructed on how to grade. It was a very strange experience. The readers all went into the professor's office, and we took turns going around the room and answering all the questions on the exam orally. I knew that this is what would happen, and I thought that it would be really stressful, but it turns out that it's not half bad. I didn't feel embarassed when I couldn't answer one of the questions or anything. After coming out of the meeting though, I get the feeling that the answers that people give on the midterm are going to be of really uneven quality. I think that that's all I'm going to say for now, because the exam hasn't happened yet. More updates on grading and such later.
By the way, anybody who has heard me rant about how the thing that I dred most about going to grad school is grading other people: that hasn't changed.
The Daily Cal has a followup story concerning the walkouts and anti-war protests. Apparently, David Robinson, the Business Administration professor whose class was disrupted, wants to initiate disciplinary action against the protestors.
Some more choice quotations from the protestors:
"We really wanted to disrupt the business-as-usual mentality on campus," said UC Berkeley junior Amanda Crater, a member of the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition and Berkeley Stop the War Coalition. "People who disrupted classes yesterday had an objective in mind that was actually promoting education."
"Essentially, our classes are being disrupted by this war," Crater said. "The message hopefully people got from the disruption of classes was that they should know about how this is affecting education, and they should take up the issue of war and how that affects people."
"I don't think we disrupted classes," [Hoang] Phan [a student who was also involved in disrupting classes during the Students for Justice in Palestine protest last year] said. "I think the professor who filed the complaint has his own views on the war and has a problem with protesters."
Maybe they aren't even as smart as they are well spoken. I really like the logic that by disrupting class, they are contributing to the education of berkeley students. Apparently, the message that Amanda Carter wants us to come away with is that the war is affecting education through the disruption of classes (I can only assume that she means the disruption of classes by the Anti-war coalition in Berkeley). I won't even comment on Phan's quote. It's just too easy.
Last year, one of the SJP protestors responded to allegations that they disrupted classes by saying something to the effect of "don't you think that classes are disrupted here all the time?" I laughed at him then, but maybe he's right. The thing is, that it is his ilk, not whatever institutional bias that he was implying, that does the disruption; over and over and over again, and always in Wheeler hall.
Done! It's done! My paper is over with, and now I can go on to concentrating on what I really need to do: my folklore paper. But wait, there is going to be at least one other paper in this class this semester. Curses! Foiled again!
Thursday, March 06, 2003
I forgot. I got a big envelope in the mail today and I was all excited that I had gotten an answer from a grad school. It turns out, however, that I was wrong. The big envelope was the new issue of Journal of American Folklore. I was disappointed at first, but then I flipped through it, and it looks really cool. It's a special issue on the process of creolization, and there are some interesting looking articles in there, not the least of which being one by Roger Abrahams. It's no accpetance letter, but it ain't bad.
So I got off work and Sarah was waiting for me, sitting on a bench in Dwinelle hall. We walked out and went straight to eat sushi for dinner. We went to a place that I usually like (Tako Sushi on Telegraph) and I ordered what I usually order (some sashimi and some tuna sushi), but it was not nearly as good this time as it was in the past. The tuna (both the sushi and the sashimi) was a little bit tough, and the salmon sashimi, on which I am only luke warm anyway, was partially frozen, making it really disgusting. I think that this is the last time I'm going to go there for a while, but I've heard that Party Sushi is really good, so maybe I'll try that.
In other news, I took some time out of work today to go and change my Chaucer class to pass not pass, so I'm glad that's straightened out. My boss also told me that the other student working for him is going to quit and asked me if I could work four days a week instead of three. I told him no, and asked him if I could cut back to two days a week when he hired somebody new. Monday is really bad for me, so I'd like to just work tuesdays and thursdays. In between typing, I also managed to go through all the grammar in the next chapter of German. It doesn't look all that hard, so I don't think I missed all to much. I have to do some studying of it tonight, but I figure that I didn't get very behind by skipping this morning.
And finally, a technical note. I tweaked some of the page code for Snow Blood and Coal. Readers probably won't see it, but it made posting a whole heck of a lot easier for me. I also revised the message at the bottom of the page (somebody on a forum complained that I sounded elitist). If anybody has any suggestions for a new description (the small gray writing on the sidebar), I would love to hear it. I'm not sure that I like what's there now.
I feel really bad that I skipped out on German today. We started a new chapter, and surely there's vocabulary and and homework and the like that I'm missing. It was for a good reason, however. I am about an hour's worth of editing away from being done with my Chaucer paper. I've finally written a conclusion which means that the paper finally has an explicit thesis, beign that Criseyde's is a multidimentional character that often contains quirks and contradictions. Thus, the passage that we were supposed to analyze both is and is not the key to her character. I think that it's a pretty good thesis, given what I have to work with. In fact, considering that it can only be four pages and I was instructed explicitly to forget about any ideas that I had for this paper, I think that it hasn't turned out half bad. I'm still sticking to my guns about not talking about the language of the poem and really my thesis cryptically suggests that I am right, and you really can't talk about a character's concrete "character" because it is all tied in with the way that a reader reads, but I think that I say it in such a way that it will be acceptable to those grading it (even if it is only moderately acceptable to me).
So I mentioned last night that anti-war protests really annoy me. Here are some quotes from todays Daily Cal (which is usually quite supportive of these things) that illustrate exactly what I mean:
"I liked the rally, the speak-out and the solidarity," said Lara Lebherz, a member of the Berkeley Stop the War Coalition.
They're as smart as they are well spoken.
Protesters crowded into Wheeler Hall, forcing lecturer David Robinson to dismiss his business administration class early.
Because crowding professors out of their classes is really the only way to say "stop the war".
Although no arrests were made, police temporarily detained one student, Jessica Schlesinger, who attempted to cover a police officer's video camera lens. The incident drew passionate chants from the crowd to "Free Jessica." No charges were filed against her.
I think that the sheer stupidity of this (not only on the part of the protestors, but on the part of the police) speaks for itself.
"We're talking about two Hiroshimas and Nagasakis," [John] Holmes said. "We're talking about Dresden, genocide and imperialism."
I don't even know where to begin talking about how false a set of analogies this is. Hiroshima? Nagasaki? Dresden? I think that it's a stretch to put Baghdad in that group. Although the fighting hasn't started yet, so I guess we'll see. The sad thing, though, is that John Holmes is a grad student in the History department here.
Like I said last night, I certainly don't want war in Iraq and I do think that the administration is wrong in both their motives and their actions, but disruption and misinformation are no way to combat it. Talk about what's really going on, I think, and protests will become much more effective.
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
I forgot to mention. A whole mess of students walked out of their classes today and had a march on campus to protest the impending war in Iraq. Not that I'm for war, because I'm not, but I don't understand how protesting on campus will lead to a solution to the problem. I think that somewhere down deep this walkout thing (which happened nation wide in high schools and universities, or so I've heard) is just another excuse to miss class. Bush has already said that he is ignoring protestors, and if these students really want to protest, the least they could do is march on the Federal Buildings or something. I don't know if I've been at Berkeley for too long or what, but this campus protest thing just doesn't do it for me.
My girlfriend has ashes on her head.
I think that I am just really tired, and I know that I am ready for spring break. On my way home from class tonight I was not only ready but eager to work on my paper. I had some good ideas, and I wanted to get it all done. Then I sat down and had some lentils for dinner, and proceeded to sleep for an hour. Now I'm up and I don't want to do anything. I just want to sit here and read the news and bitch about how aweful class was and then go right to sleep and awaken tomorrow. I am going to fight that urge, though, wake myself up, write the paper, and get on with my life, because for such a small stupid thing, I have put entirely too much time and effort into it. Then in the morning, I'm going to go change my English class to pass / not pass, and relax the rest of the semester, because no final semester should ever be this stressful.
Last night I had a little bit of a panic attack over my paper for my Chaucer class (I know, it's stupid, the paper only has to be four pages) because I am not used to writing papers as exercises for the professor to see whether I understand the text. I was talking to Sarah and in the midst of a complaint about the topic, I ended up going on for 45 minutes about the problems with dealing with the language of a composit text (Troilus and Criseyde as it is in my book is a composit of various manuscripts), and the advantages of taking an approach that moves beyond the standard English undergraduate tools like close reading. Then I went and wrote an email to my professor, the text of which is to follow:
In the past few days I have written about two thirds of a paper that I believe answers the question that you set forth in the essay assignment, but I was talking with an English major friend of mine, and I am beginning to have some concerns over the direction that I am taking. My friend pointed out that what I am dealing with in answering the question is the content of the passages that I am addressing rather than the language, and that in an English class, it would be more appropriate to discuss the later than the former. I responded that I could not talk about the language for two reasons: the first being that Chaucer translated a great deal of the poem from Boccaccio's Italian, and the second (more important reason) is that what we have in the Benson book is not Chaucer's text, but an editorial conglomeration based on a number of different manuscripts, each copied from hand to hand and none even dating back to Chaucer himself. I do believe this, but my friend's observation is beginning to concern me and I am wondering if I should be discussing more than simply the content. Any advice?
This morning, I got this reply:
Forget about your friend ... confine your evidence to the printed text. Also forget about deconstructionism, which is what you're doing in your second paragraph. The assignment is very clear. There is a time for qualifying your certainty with references to manuscript variants, change of signification over time, and so forth, but that time is not now.
He didn't sound happy about my suggestion that the question he asked was futile. But at least now I know where I stand and what the rules of the paper are. I guess I'll finish it tonight.
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
This picture was on CNN the other day, but I haven't gotten around to posting it yet. This is the big Al Quaeda guy who was captured in Pakistan last week, but doesn't it just scream "Mountain Dew or Crab Juice?" (Sorry Ben for stealing a line from you.)
So The Los Angeles Times (free registration required), the The San Jose Murcury News, and Slashdot are all running articles that claim that Apple is going into the music business. This comes as a huge surprise to me, and I'm not sure whether it is a good one. I had been under the impression that Apple was barred from selling music by the agreement with Apple Records that allows it to use the name. That may have changed (apparently it has), but that isn't really the center of my concern. The center of my concern is that it looks like Apple will be including DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology with this music to prevent it from being pirated. In theory, a good thing, but traditionally, this sort of technology has hindered fair use such as copying CDs to MP3 for personal use and viewing a movie downloaded from the internet more than once, or more than 30 days after it was downloaded. None of these DRM implementations were coming from Apple, and I do have a little bit of faith that Apple will know how to do DRM right, but still, this worries me a bit.
You would think that it wouldn't be all that hard to organize a meeting of five people, but if that's what you'd think, you'd be wrong. I am a reader for a folklore class, and for two days now, there have been emails circulating to try and organize a meeting between the four of us and the professor to discuss the upcoming midterm. Our schedules are such that it hasn't been successful yet, though. We've figured out how to get the professor and three readers together at one time, but still not all of us. We've tried thursday morning, then friday morning (mere hours before the midterm happens), and I even suggested wednesday afternoon. All of these have been bad for somebody. This is very frustrating. The meeting needs to happen and it needs to happen before the midterm, and I have this feeling that when it comes down to it, it will be I who will have to make a sacrifice and miss a class in order to allow everybody to get together. But I won't complain, I guess.
Moving on to something else, I've been thinking a lot about German, and languages in general. In my German class, I think that I am probably one of the quickest people to get grammatical concepts, and yet when it comes time for tests, I really don't perform very well. This has been the way it is in every language that I have taken, and it occured to me this morning that it's because I have a block when it comes to memorizing. I can't just sit down and learn two dozen words from a list, because unless I have regular occasion to use them in a meaningful way (in other words, not just in class exercizes), they just seem like a blur to me. The obvious answer, I guess, would be to befriend someone willing to speak with me in German, or alternately to go out and buy a book in German that I'd be interested in reading, but I don't really have enough of the language to be able to do that yet. So it's really a paradox. I can't use the language meaningfully until I learn some vocabulary, and I can't learn vocabulary until I start using the language meaningfully. Maybe my father is right, and I'm just untalented at language in general...
I got some graduate school news this morning, but not the kind of news I was looking for. A friend of a friend (how appropriate considering that it's a folklore program) at Indiana University says that they're really just starting to look at applications this week. She says that overall there are about 70, and that they'll take half, but that there's not a whole lot of funding for them. So I figure that of the three schools, wherever I go I'll end up having to pay some out of pocket my first year... Doesn't it seem like 35 students is a lot to accept for a graduate program? Maybe they figure that not everyone they accept will go there.
In other news, my evil Chaucer paper has stalled out for the moment. I managed to write about three quarters of a page last night, and then felt too filled with disgust at the paper to go on. I need to fix this writers' block problem.
Monday, March 03, 2003
Hmm... so it seems that my comments system is on the fritz. I guess it doesn't matter since there haven't been any comments yet anyway. Hopefully it will clear up, but if it doesn't I guess I'll go looking for a new provider for a comments area... That's really annoying. Update: So it looks like comments do in fact work for end users, just not for the administrator. So if anybody was perplexed by this post (not too likely), that would be why.
Well, so today has been an interesting day so far. No news as of yet on the graduate school front, and still none on the evil midterm, but I did get an email telling me that I just won the Steager prize in folklore. This is nothing big, let me assure you. I entered it a couple of months ago on a lark (because there is a $50 prize), and of the three entries overall, I was the one chosen. I don't know who else entered and I know all the folklore people, so it must have been random people who took Anthro 160 or something (this is a prize for UCB students, by the way. I neglected to say that. I don't know ALL the other folklore people all over, just at UCB). Anyway, if anybody else who entered is reading this, uh... good try.
In other news, I was sitting eating lunch today and the people sitting next to me were chatting away in German. I'm not confident enough in my German yet (read: I don't know enough German yet) to break in and talk with such people, but I was really proud of myself because I could understand some of what they were saying. Go me. Maybe despite the fact that we're not learning grammar in class, I am learning the language.
Anyway, off to work.
So one of my friends from high school is getting married. Wow. That's pretty crazy, pretty weird. I'm not against long term relationships/cohabitating type living arrangements. I'm sort of in both situations right now. But marriage is a whole nother ball of wax. It's, well... forever (sort of). I guess that it's just another in the long line of signs that we're getting older...
Anyway, congratulations and I wish you all the luck in the world.
Sunday, March 02, 2003
So I am in the midst of writing this terrible paper for this terrible class. I have always liked Chaucer, so when I decided to take a Chaucer class this semester (only my second english class in Berkeley), I thought that it would be light and fun. Boy was I wrong. This class is full of translation quizzes with very exacting standards, and the featured essay question on the midterm was the essay equivalent to "On line 453 of book II of Troilus and Criseyde, what is the third word." Needless to say I am going to switch this class to pass/not pass.
But I still need to write a paper for this class, and the paper, it turns out, is nothing more than a freshman-english-class-style close-reading exercize. This annoys me. I have been doing research papers exclusively for so long that I've almost forgotten how to do this sort of work. The question asks, "Does a speech in book II of Troilus and Criseyde present the key to understanding Criseyde's character?" My first response was "this is a yes or no question. how dull." But I have to write it, and now, the best answer that I can come up with is that yes the speech is key in understanding her character, but no, it is not THE key. I figure that the Professor is looking for a complex answer, and so that is what I must give.
I really hate to think in those terms though. I feel like I'm in high school and taking APs all over again. But I suppose that if the professor is going to treat us like high schoolers, it's only fitting that I act like one....
This is still kind of wierd. I'm still not quite used to posting publically about myself. I've never been a big blog advocate, and though I read a couple, I don't read very many. But that's okay I suppose. I shall continue to do this anyway. I think that it's good for me. (By the way, I realize that this is not much of a post, but it's partly a test, and there will be more to come soon.)
Since this is a new journal, I suppose that I should introduce myself.
My name is Adam and I am a fourth year student at UC Berkeley--a place about which I have very mixed feelings and about which I will speak very little outside of the realm of academics. I was a history major at UCB but as a sophmore I got involved with the folklore program, and that is what I have really pursued, and what I am planning on pursuing in graduate school, and for the forseeable future. I am in the process of applying to various graduate programs right now, and hopefully in the next couple of months I'll find out where I am going to be next year and what the next five years are going to look like. It is a liminal time for me I guess. I'm pretty sure that there will be a lot on this subject in this journal. Other than that, there will be a lot about my research and writing projects, as well as (although I said I didn't want to talk about it) UC Berkeley current events. Nothing personal toward the reader, but... well... nothing (or nearly nothing) personal will appear in the journal. I have other outlets for such things anyway. Now. A final note for this post.
The title of the journal. Looking at an array of fairy tales, the symbolic anthropologist Fancisco vaz de Silva postulates that white, red, and black are very special colors from a symbolic perspective. His main example of the symbolism is the fairy tale "Snow White", in which the queen pricks her finger and bleeds on the snow, then wishes that she had a daughter with skin as white as snow, cheeks as red as blood, and eyes as black as coal. I thought it a fitting title.
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