If you were previously unaware, I am a teacher of high school English. I work at an alternative high school that has the endearing, clumsy ambiance of “The Office,” complete with a boss who soulja boy’s with abandon in the hallways and two other bosses who take me completely serious when I recommend they develop a class about secret freemasonry in the hip-hop community and other conspiracy theories.
They lodged a very serious complaint during my last review: my classroom is sorely under-decorated. It’s true, aside from Lil’ Tesla, nothing garnishes my walls. Attempting to get in the spirit, I papered half a wall with the transcript of the Two Gentlemen of Lebowski and another corner now sports dueling cut-outs of Dr. Dre and Herman Melville, battling out the following:
“Come, Ahab’s compliments to ye; come and see if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? Ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves!” – Moby Dick
“You tryin to check my homey, you better check yo self Cause when you diss Dre you diss yourself.” – Dr. Dre
I’ve considered re-enacting this scene, but I suspect that no self-respecting teenager in the 21st century has any idea who Giotto is.
Having now run the gamut of my creativity, I implore you for advice. And please remember, in your current role, you are a sorely unimpressed teenager. What should I hang on my walls?
Where be his quiddities now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures—Hamlet
In scholastic philosophy, quiddity (latin quidditas) was another term for the essence of of an object, literally its “whatness.” Quiddity was often contrasted by the scholastic philosophers with the haecceity or “thisness” of an object, which was supposed to be a positive characteristic of an individual that caused them to be this individual, and no other.
Though, not to be outdone, I’d just like to announce that I once dressed up as a giant ampersand that stood between a costumed Hall (&) Oates for Halloween two years ago. It was a difficult endeavor with complicated choreography. Pictures to come.
"You! hypocrite lecteur! — mon semblance, — mon frere!" (translation: "hypocrite reader, — my alias, — my twin!")
-T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land; via Charles Baudelaire, Fleurs du Mal
"As I passed the entrance I thought, What the—? I thought I’d seen something in the dark. I broke out in a sweat. I shined my flashlight at the wall next to the shelf. And there I was. A mirror, in other words. It was just my reflection in a mirror. There wasn’t a mirror there the night before, so they must have put one in between then and now. Man, was I startled. Relieved that it was just me in a mirror, I felt a bit stupid for having been so surprised. So that’s all it is, I told myself. How dumb. I took a cigarette from my pocket and lit it. After a couple of puffs, I suddenly noticed something odd. My reflection in the mirror wasn’t me. It looked exactly like me on the outside, but it definitely wasn’t me. No, that’s not it. It was me, of course, but another me. Another me that should never have been. I don’t know how to put it. It’s hard to explain what it felt like. The one thing I did understand was that this other figure loathed me. Inside it was a hatred like an iceberg floating in a dark sea. The kind of hatred that no one could ever diminish. We stood there, staring at each other. Finally his hand moved, the fingertips of his right hand touching his chin, and then slowly, like a bug, crept up his face. I suddenly realized I was doing the same thing. Like I was the reflection of what was in the mirror and he was trying to take control of me.
One must not eat grief bacon whilst in a gradiated* shade of anguish
Toska: a Russian word, Nabokov described it thus: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”
Kummerspeck: German, literally translates as “grief-bacon”- it’s the word used to describe the excess weight gained from emotional overeating.
*note: I am not entirely sure this is an actual word.
In Which I Reveal I am a True Child of the Eighties
OK guys, I had a trying, real-life Sisyphean kind of week. Translation: my car got stolen. Again. And then found, again. I’m becoming exhausted with this emotional roller coaster attached to a hunk of metal. So naturally, I came home after this whole debacle in the middle of the night and watched The Big Lebowski. Because it comforts me.
But I’m not here to talk about all that, really. What I really want to know, Tumblrers, is what movies you watch when you need to be comforted. And why those particular movies do just that. Is it Pavlovian muscle memory? A predictable message? It makes you feel like you’re five again, snuggled on the couch with your mom, feeling like nothing bad can ever happen as long as you’re here, watching this movie?
I’ll be honest, I rarely re-watch movies. I get this weird anxiety with watching movies in general, like I should be doing something better with my time. Like watching six episodes of 30 Rock back to back. But there are certain movies I return to under certain auspices of comfort. Don’t judge.
When Harry Met Sally: When I need to be reassured that I will, in fact, meet someone in a surprising and messily tidy way who will “get me.”
Bridget Jones’ Diary: See above. Also, Colin Firth playing Mark Darcy twice really comforts me.
Back to the Future: When I am sick. Any kind of sick really. This covers everything from flu to general malaise. This movie should be served with ginger ale and anything in a frozen food box that can be baked in an oven.
Dirty Dancing: If I’m feeling tragic in particularly epic proportions (this usually correlates with certain times of the month). If I need to be reassured that girls who carry watermelons can still get the guy.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: I can only do this once a year, as it’s still too resonant. But still, it comforts me to know there are others bumbling around, making the same mistakes over and over, hoping for the best.
As you can see, these movies fall into a different categories than “favorite” movies, really (of which I assure you my choices are far more intellectual, which really means I just watch Herzog films over and over). So ‘fess up, Tumblrers, and be honest: what are your comfort movies?
“Whatever this is that I am, it is flesh and a little spirit and an intelligence…As if you were dying right now, despise your flesh. A mess of blood, pieces of bone, a woven tangle or nerves, veins, arteries. Consider what the spirit is: air, and never the same air, but vomited out and gulped in again every instant. Finally, the intelligence. Think of it this way: You are an old man. Stop allowing your mind to be a slave, to be jerked about by selfish impulses, to kick against fate and the present, and to mistrust the future.”—Meditations, Marcus Aurelius (via dialogues)
The Hum is often perceived more intensely during the night.
Spontaneous Otoacoustic Emissions: human ears generate their own noises, which about 30% of people hear.
Colliding Ocean Waves: Researchers from the USArray Earthscope have tracked down a series of infrasonic humming noises produced by waves crashing together and thence into the ocean floor, off the North-West coast of the USA. Potentially, sound from these collisions could travel to many parts of the globe.
I am but mad north-northwest. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.
-Shakespeare, from Hamlet
Much Madness is divinest Sense— To a discerning Eye— Much Sense the starkest Madness— 'Tis the Majority In this, as All, prevail— Assent—and you are sane— Demur—you’re straightaway dangerous— And handled with a Chain—
The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though. Rather carried down alive to the wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes; and the miserman, Wisdom, revealed his horded heaps; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man’s insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God.
What does it mean that in Old English there were 40 words for the Christian God in his capacity as ruler (e.g. wundorcyning), whereas today we have just six (e.g. the Almighty)? Why were there 44 ways to call someone wise in Old English, but we can add only that he is sage and judicious?
Whereas a dictionary makes it possible to follow the history of a word, a historical thesaurus makes it possible to follow the history of a meaning. With a little effort, a historical thesaurus can even serve as a vehicle for a kind of linguistic time travel. “For any given period in the past,” the editors write, “the user should be able to ascertain the exact state of the vocabulary which existed at that time.”
For example, Shakespeare had neither sexual intercourse, a phrase that made its debut in 1753, nor sex, which only became a synonym for it in the early 20th century, nor did he have the Enlightenment euphemisms intimacy and union. He could, however, have been guilty of the words wapping and poop-noddy (editorial aside from yours truly: WTF), and he was certainly capable of the lusty swiving and the parliamentary-sounding congress.
“Moreover, have you been to California? It’s goddamn stunning. Have you lived in San Francisco? It is like celery-flavored cotton candy. It is like rifling through your mother’s turtlenecks and discovering one that fits you perfectly. There is a park on every hilltop. All the houses are the color of laundry lint. I love it so and I’ve no real reason to leave.”—Sexpigeon, who I increasingly wish would provide a quiet running commentary on life vis-a-vis a shared headpiece he speaks into in my ear which only I can hear.
It was so unfortunate that this couldn’t fit with my iconography project,because I don’t think I can really describe how much I love this picture..the things I felt when I knew I had captured this picture, how on point this day of shooting in general had been. I had this real weird moment while constructing this project.
Wow. This captures so many uncapturable things, I think.
“The mind of man, by nature a monist, cannot accept TWO nothings; he knows there has been ONE nothing, his biological inexistence in the infinite past, for his memory is utterly blank, and that nothingness, being, as it were, past, is not too hard to endure. But a second nothingness—which perhaps might not be so hard to bear either—is logically unacceptable. When speaking of space we can imagine a live speck in the limitless oneness of space; but there is no analogy in such a concept with our brief life in time, because however brief, our awareness of being is not a dot in eternity, but a slit, a fissure, a chasm running along the entire breadth of metaphysical time, bisecting it.”—V. Nabokov, from Ada, or Ardor
given a pie pan, pie crust, and a farmer’s market, what would you make?
Hmmm, I feel a lot of subliminal pressure with this question. My boss and I discovered awhile ago that it is very “in” at the moment to ask job candidates these curveball questions like, “Here is a paper plate; you have 60 seconds to come up with 20 different uses for it!” or “If you were a salad dressing, what kind would you be?” (We decided we would definitely discriminate against cream-based varieties). So, you can see the sort of pressure I’m giving myself. That said, I would probably try to recreate my olallieberry lighthouse pie:
I’m perennially confusing marmots and marmosets. Any mnemonics you can suggest?
Oh! I’m so glad you asked. Well, when I hear “marmot,” I automatically think “Big Lebowski,” and “ferret.” Since marmots are part of the rodent family, as are ferrets, I would try to remember that “-ets”= “rodents.” Failing that, just do some positive visualization of a german nihilist dropping a leashed marmot in your bathtub, and say “nice marmot.” It works for me every time! For marmosets, I would remember that they are very cute monkeys, and thus, they should come in sets like all cute things. In fact, if you google ‘marmoset,’ uncannily, the first thing that come up are three image of sets of marmosets. Go figure!
If you’re anything like me, you have a daunting stack of new books acquired over the holidays. Which one are you most excited to read?
Oh! Great question. I seem to always have a daunting stack of books somewhere. I think the ones I am most excited to get into are the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, which also profiles all of their local beekeepers and fisherpeople and and milksirs and whatnot. Also, I got the second book in the first volume of Penguin’s Great Ideas series, Marcus Aurelianus’s Meditations. Lastly, Nabokov’s Speak, Memory. Exciting times, indeed!
Things I Have Accomplished Over the Last 14 Days Which I Was Clearly Too Busy to Talk About
Relived my 5th grade career aspiration wish to become a “parapsychologist” (no joke) by watching both “Paranormal State” and “Ghost Hunters” (not to be confused with the ghostbros on “Ghost Adventurers”). I compared them academically for: 1) effectiveness of sound effects 2) ratio of demonic possessions : poltergeist activity 3) The aloofness of the investigators 3) the melodrama of the psychic sidekicks. This is why I do not own a television.
Won the dog’s affections to the point where, when my parents returned home from a trip, the dog merely lifted her head, sniffed, and resumed her position in the crook of my arm.
Saw a picture of my best friend of 15 years, on a plane, with her head crooked at a certain angle staring out the window, and in that moment I missed her so viscerally that I started to cry.
Knitted a scarf, undid it. Will probably do that at least four more times.
I ate a lot of bread.
Ran the 5K with my mom at 6:00am on New Year’s Day through the forest and beach. We beat our time last year by five minutes! This has become my new favorite New Year’s tradition. I love my mom so much, you guys.
Read about the history of libraries, incestuous siblings as metaphor for space/time, grizzly bears, foxes, ghosts.