Thursday, December 22, 2005

I'm sure everybody--and by "everybody," I mean "Catherine"--will be glad to know I've unwound just a bit this week. I have been so uptight the past four weeks that I've been like...I don't know, rapidly cooling blown glass? You should be hiding behind a protective shield because you know I'm about to shatter into a thousand incredibly sharp pieces ANY SECOND NOW. But I've been more or less relaxing this week (I can't seem to completely stop working as long as I know a due date is approaching) and it's probably doing everyone some good. An example: last night, instead of spending even more hours in front of the computer searching for resources on the discourse of non-western science (yes, that's a hint, if you know of any good ones, e-mail me), I sat on the couch with a glass of sherry and read Stave 1 of Dickens' A Christmas Carol to Catherine. Every year I am amazed at how well the Muppets captured the language of the original. Good job, Gonzo.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Such a tough time of year for the non-believers, isn't it? I don't really mind the whole Christmas thing too much--a holiday that says "be nice and give things to people" is okay by me--but then again, I'm usually in control of my exposure to All Things Christmas. Don't want to hear Christmas music? Don't go to the mall. Simple. I wasn't expecting our monthly Civil War Roundtable meeting to turn into a church service, though. I guess I should have figured, since the presentation topic was "Christmas during the Civil War," but I'm so out of touch religiously that it never occurred to me I'd be hearing about the Baby Jesus.

Anyway, I learned a few things tonight:

1. How did I get to be this age without learning what "myrrh" is? I mean, I knew it was "an aromatic resin" of some sort, put into balm, but I didn't know it was used to *embalm* people. How creepy is it that the Three Kings brought a baby something to be used in embalming? What kind of message were they sending the kid? "Welcome, prepare to die." No wonder I'm not a Christian.

2. I learned a different version of "Away in a Manger" when I was a kid. The song we heard tonight I knew as "Luther's Cradle Hymn." Same lyrics, better tune.

3. The really interesting thing I learned today is that Longfellow wrote the poem/Christmas carol "Christmas Bells" on Christmas 1864 when he was particularly depressed about family tragedies and the Civil War. I'm sure I've heard or sung this song before, but I'm also sure the verses about the Civil War weren't part of the lyrics in the standard Baptist hymnal. Those stanzas make it an immensely interesting poem, much better than just a Christmas carol--not hard to see who he felt was at fault during the war:

"Christmas Bells"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Sunday, December 18, 2005

If one more person says, "At least you don't have to do any homework for awhile!" I WILL SCREAM. Shall I make a list of everything I have to write and submit in the next month? Book review, conference proposal, a research bibliography, fellowship application... It makes me wonder, am I doing this all wrong? Should I not have a stack of work to do over winter break? I think it's less that I'm doing it wrong and more that people outside academia don't realize that "vacation" is a synonym for "a time for working without the usual interruptions."

And do you realize that Christmas is only a week away, and I haven't done one single thing to prepare for it? Other than starting to drink rum in the evenings, I mean?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mm. I thought I would feel better after turning in my last paper, but it turns out...not. Catherine says she used to feel the same way, it's just a transition from "Oh my god, I'm not going to get it finished in time!" to "Oh my god, they're reading that garbage I wrote RIGHT NOW!" Maybe I'll calm down after I take my final on Friday.

All things considered, I think I produced a lot of work this semester, not that much of it will help me in the long run. This is the last time I take a class just because it seems like a politically smart thing to do. Proven: "politically smart" isn't the same thing as "interesting subject." And really, whoever it was who said EVERY subject is interesting if you approach it with the right attitude really hasn't spent enough time in graduate school.

So...what can we say I accomplished this semester? A total of 5 seminar presentations, with handouts and slides to support. Seven response essays. One short research paper (Title: "The Crystal Palace and Postmodern Architectural Theory"). Two informal Hindi class presentations (joke). Three research papers (Titles: "Frank Lloyd Wright, Francis C. Sullivan and the Banff Park Recreation Pavilion, 1911-1913"; "Always Already Lost: Postcolonial Theory and the Search for Identity in Indian Architecture"; and "Vastu Vidya: Vedic Architectural Theory in Postmodern India." Notice a trend?) supported with three research presentations. All three presentations were disastrous. As we all know, after the first one, I ended up in therapy. After the second, I ended up crying. After the third, I ended up not caring about much of anything at all.

Two days to my final, on which I must get 100%. I obviously don't have time to be typing this at all, do I?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I *thought* it was Mr. Foster who came to the schoolhouse, but then I wondered, "Why would anyone follow Mr. Foster out into a blizzard? I wouldn't follow a guy who can't keep his head and ends up losing Almanzo's horse to a herd of antelope, especially since no one knows yet that Mr. Foster can *spell*," then I remembered that the antelope were later so why not follow him into the blizzard? because you'd probably think Cap Garland's flashing white smile would save they day, anyway.

Friday, December 09, 2005

You remember how in The Long Winter Laura and Carrie are in school and a blizzard comes and they all look each other in a worried way because they know they have to get home but they also know they will get lost in the snow if they leave the school house so maybe they should stay inside and burn the furniture until the blizzard is over in three days but then someone from town comes and tells them to follow him and so they go out into the snow even though they know its a bad idea because people get lost in blizzards all the time but they try to head for town and almost get lost but then Laura runs into the corner of a building and yells really loud for everyone to come back because she has found town and then everyone is in town and Laura and Carrie are home and when they take off their mufflers they are frozen solid with ice and even when Laura is sitting by the fire she is too cold to think and when she wipes her eyes her hand has blood on it because the ice cut her eyes because they were out in the snow?

Illinois is a lot like that.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Last night I went to a hockey game--there's nothing like ritualized harrassment to make you feel better about life. Well, it's a little troubling watching 6-year-old boys learn how to chant "Hey, you suck! Hey, you suck! Hey, you suck, too!" but hockey crowds are so predictable in their reactions that it's almost a soothing experience. And really, it's the individual yelling that gets to me, that one, loud obscene fan who obviously needs anger management classes. In general, though, Illinois crowds are much better behaved than Indiana crowds, maybe because the University has much greater oversight at the games here than the games at the rink in Bloomington. Also, Illinois wins all the the time, so the crowd never really gets angry.

Tonight's my last big emotional challenge for the semester. I have two papers and one presentation left to go, but if I can get through tonight's function without having a meltdown, I should at least be able to finish the semester without too much trouble. Right now I'm just dealing with regular old end-of-the-semester inertia combined with a poorly insulated apartment. It got down into the single digits for the first time last night, and I woke up at 3 a.m. shivering under my FOUR BLANKETS AND A COMFORTER. Did the radiators even come on last night?