Field Notes: Song of Myself

I have poked fun at outside entities in previous field notes entries (here, here, here), but I’m going to make fun of myself this time.

It has been a shameful amount of time since I was last here:  I blame political angst (or “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore,” my new official name for this) combined with paper-writing overdrive.  My mind is dull, and I’m tired of looking at the word “qualitative”(and implications thereof!) on this screen.


I’ve mentioned in previous posts that you really can’t take me out in public, as I lack multiple crucial filters.  I can try a bit of explanation:  when you’re an introvert who spends a lot of time in their head already, the things that have been building up join up and then pop out as seemingly bizarre thoughts at apparently random times.  It made sense to me; the problem is, no one can read my mind.  Wait.  That’s good, not a problem.


I was at a medical office recently and had explained that the code for something was “1066.”  I thought I’d picked an easy one, but it wasn’t sticking and kept getting transcribed incorrectly.  As I left the individual’s office and was standing in the hall, I blurted, “Battle of Hastings!  Don’t forget!”

What’s really unfortunate here, apart from yelling about the Norman Conquest in a medical office, is that out-of-the-blue allusions to William the Conqueror probably don’t seem all that odd in the context of everything that has come out of my mouth there from 2014 to present.


My brother joined me for lunch this past Saturday; it could have been two adults having adult conversation in an adult way.  What really happened is (I’m not even going to explain how this topic came up) that I ended up describing the original/cut ending to Clerks:  Dante gets shot at the end of the day.  The problem here is that I talk with my hands, so I was miming shooting a convenience store clerk– when I remembered that there was a children’s birthday party at the next table over.

Red card for lack of filter on that one.


I also accompanied by (poor, long-suffering, you’re thinking at this point) brother into a big box baby store in search of a particular item.  At the time, I was completely dressed for a night out, featuring both glitter on my face and glitter tights.  I’ve never even been in one of these stores, so while he took off in search of his quarry in a businesslike fashion, I put on brakes at a display of car seats and proceeded to translate the price into secondhand clothes, used books, etc.  The looks suggested that bystanders think I have a baby that I strap to the roof of the car as I drive in search of these items to spend car seat money on. (Clarification: I did not realize how much they cost and was surprised.)

Alice has a very nice carrier.  Just want to put that out there.  Not that she’s ever expressed anything approaching appreciation for said carrier:  more like Geneva Convention violations.

IMG_0585

I possibly have an outlandish number of pictures of Alice.

As we continued to have difficulty locating the item, I finally asked for help in a request that involved the phrase “child thing.”  I was not referring to children, incidentally.  My brother says I might have passed for a new mother or, more likely, an eccentric aunt (the second is accurate).


 

With another unfortunate in tow, I went in Barnes & Noble.  Yet another long story, but I was in search of a collected or complete Ezra Pound.  I chose the store as the place to discuss whether buying Ezra Pound in a physical store would cause the employees to think I was a fascist and possibly mad (versus finding a copy online and cloaking the mad-fascist bit in anonymity).

The not-unfamiliar suggestion that I might possibly be overthinking things came up with this one.


 

Those are the ones that I can come up with immediately, but I really don’t like to skip a day of making a fool of myself.  However, I’m reaching my self-imposed word limit for a post, so that’s all for now.


UNNECESSARY APPENDIX (heh)

1066 and All That is a book I probably first read (choke) years ago.  I still recommend it.

More about Ezra Pound (plus a lot of poems) here.

Actually, some background:  Pound came up because of a theory I have about the political race and Godwin’s Law.  At the time, it was a joke.  Now:  That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.

 

 

 

 

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I Want You to Want Me

The song titles are getting away from me; however, to my credit, “My Bloody Valentine” was the first thing that came to mind, and I skipped that.  Last year’s Valentine’s post was a cards compendium.  This year, it’s shorter:  I’m ditching the efforts of every dating site and app in favor of the Prost Questionnaire.

I normally resist linking to Wikipedia, but here’s a brief history.  Here’s a more interesting link with David Bowie’s answers (given to Vanity Fair); from there, you can also view the answers of a number of other people that might pique your interest.

But you also get me.  Sorry.  My version of the questions is from here.


 

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?  If there is such a thing as perfect happiness, it exists only in moments, as a transient state.  Happiness, perfect or otherwise, is mutable and must be achieved over and over again.  It is a series of moments, not a resting place.
  2. What is your greatest fear?  I can think of a lot of abstract fears of things that have never happened to me:  terrible things.  The most concrete answer I can give is when I think back to my lowest moment and imagine being there again, replaying the emotions and physical sensations I felt then.  Realistically, that is the greatest fear I have.
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  I have difficulty knowing how to respond to things other people say in any appropriate manner.  I can attempt to filter a response and then agonize over it for days/hours afterward, but I can’t say something and then be comfortable with it.  I think it’s a fear of presenting an authentic self and feeling comfortable with that.  That sounds very egotistical.  I’m just typing this on the fly.  
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Lack of self-awareness, unquestionably.
  5. Which living person do you most admire?  I hope that I can look for something to admire in everyone, but I’m getting a bit cynical on that front lately.  I have not thought of a specific #1 person and suspect this position would be a rotating one.  Actually, I think I’d like to debate this one over coffee.
  6. What is your greatest extravagance?  Have you SEEN my book collection?  Though I question whether those are an extravagance or a necessity.  The qualifier might be that I own physical copies of many things that I could borrow or own in electronic format, but I am extremely partial to having my own marked-up hard copies.
  7. What is your current state of mind?  Picture an old-school card catalog; that’s where I have all the books, music, etc. I’ve read or am interested in filed away.  Next to that is a filing cabinet, where I have all the relevant/interesting information I’ve gleaned from the former.  Throw a tornado in there.  Now you’ve got it.
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  Anything that the current moment declares a virtue.
  9. On what occasion do you lie?  Lately, about what I’m doing with my life.  I’m ashamed that I do it, but I’m ashamed to be in such a suspended state.  I do this to people I won’t see again.
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?  NOT the right person for this question.  Pass.  There are only 24 hours in a day.
  11. Which living person do you most despise?  Oh, my.  There was a debate last night featuring America’s Most Wanted Sociopaths.  
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man?  How about one I don’t like but have had occasion to observe a lot lately?  Colonizing public spaces, physically and vocally.  So I like it when people don’t do that.
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?  Don’t put yourself down, jokingly or otherwise; it’s a protective mechanism against letting someone else do it first.
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?  actually, probably, apparently, possibly
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?  [this space reserved] 
  16. When and where were you happiest?  I hope I haven’t hit this yet.
  17. Which talent would you most like to have?  The ability to pre-plan without anxiety.
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?  I would turn down the volume on the anxiety that bleeds into so many other things:  how I react, how I speak/respond, things I do.
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?  Currently, maintaining the health I’ve worked for.
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?  One of Bob Ross’s happy clouds.
  21. Where would you most like to live?  The British Library.
  22. What is your most treasured possession?  My books, because my cat is not a possession.  You do not possess cats.
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  See #2.  I can speak most concretely to misery as I’ve experienced it.  In short, though, when my world has been most reduced, I’ve been most miserable.  When it opens up, I’m happier.
  24. What is your favorite occupation?  Reading, but I’m prone to doing multiple things at once.
  25. What is your most marked characteristic?  I think that’s best observed by other people; I doubt I’d catch it.
  26. What do you most value in your friends?  I hope they know.  If they don’t, I need to tell them personally.  
  27. Who are your favorite writers?  There are only 24 hours . . . I already said that.  Currently, Sarah Waters, Jeannette Winterson, Ali Smith, Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Wallace Stevens, Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, I can keep going.
  28. Who is your hero of fiction?  Dr. DeSoto
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?  Someone in the background of a crowd scene of a painting, on the edges.
  30. Who are your heroes in real life?  Numerous.
  31. What are your favorite names?  You know a name I really like that I could name neither child nor pet?  Tess.  Thomas Hardy ruined that one for everyone.
  32. What is it that you most dislike?  Coconut.  As well as mistaking opinion for fact, which tends to be joined with the lack of self-awareness previously referenced.
  33. What is your greatest regret?  Nope.
  34. How would you like to die?  There’s a great Reno 911 bit about this.  How about defenestration?  Can you imagine the newspaper having to print that in your obituary?  “in local news, . . . .”
  35. What is your motto? See God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater– ever since I first read that as a teenager.


 

Did Anyone Read the Syllabus?

Sometimes, social media makes me brood (this is shocking, I realize).  A great deal of pop culture tends to fly over my head (again, I’m betting absolutely no one caught onto that).  Generally, I try not to rain on people’s various parades (okay, I get snide about Taylor Swift a lot, so maybe I should apologize for that one).  But as a rule:  if someone posted an enthusiastic post about Topic X, I wouldn’t write a snide/rude reply just to air my own grievances or dislike of whatever it was.

That’s what Twitter is for.

Kidding.  Mostly.  Not really.  This is why you don’t befriend the people you know on Twitter, though.  And it might not be the best idea to read some of my LibraryThing reviews (*there is no LT widget here; it uses Javascript, which WP forbids, and this is annoying).


Moving on.  When I taught English in the days of yore (I believe it was called Ye Olde Englishe at the time or something), I said, on the first day, to please note that nowhere did the syllabus direct that you must like the assigned books, books in general, or even reading.  None of that was a course requirement.  What was a course requirement was, that if you felt compelled to voice dislike of a book (section of a book, character, etc.), you did so in an adult manner and supply a cogent reason/argument about why you disliked whatever it was.

The idea there was that there was no way I could force everybody to like everything (and does anyone say, “welcome to Biology 101, where you will develop a lifetime love of science!”  I doubt it).  However, what I was hoping was that people would learn to think, analyze, and reason in an appropriate manner for the subject material.

In other words, “I hated that” was not a sufficient response, and nor was “that was stupid.”  If nothing else, let’s raise the level of discourse here.


The first day of the first class I taught, a student answered the question “what do you expect to get out of this class?” with:  “It sounds like we’re going to read about books then talk about them.  That’s stupid, and I’m dropping this.”  It was a reading literature course.  And he did indeed drop.


All of this is to say:  the level of national discourse has officially reached the level that student articulated so magnificently, and there are quite a few people I wish would drop.  Like that student, they do not know how to engage in appropriate discourse, and, like him, they’re not even willing to try.  Unlike him, though he exited with bad attitude ablaze, at least he did everyone else a favor and removed himself from the situation– thus not exposing everyone else to his thoroughly poisonous attitude.


What is currently making headlines as if it were appropriate discourse is shameful.  As anyone who has taught or has been in a class where this has happened can attest, a vocal student with a sour attitude can effectively infect an entire class and turn the whole mood south.  If this continues, I fear that this phenomenon will infect more and more of the country, given the way that powerful personalities can control larger groups of people (who are not necessarily weak-minded; that is not the implication).


Before ascribing to any position or belief, think back to that high school or college English teacher who kept asking you to defend your position, to provide evidence in support of your thesis.  Remember that you had to have a solid basis for that evidence:  something you could reference directly and that the objective reader would be swayed by.

If all else fails, start with an outline.