Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Triumph of No-Cynicism November

Hello again, everyone. I hope you've all had as excellent of a holiday as I have. I ate more food than I should reasonably have been able to fit inside me, luxuriated in the company of good people, played the piano for hours and hours, and basically worried very little about most things. It was bliss, and exactly what I needed.

I say "most things" because of the nerve-wracking adventure Toshi had over the weekend. The First Mate and I left our abode on Thursday afternoon for our suburban hometown, where our parents live down the street from each other and have done for almost twenty years. My laptop bag came down in the first wave of packing the car, and I was sure it had been loaded when we left. Much to my chagrin, upon unpacking the car Toshi was nowhere to be found. We texted the landlord to let him know to look for it, but that was about all we could do from out of state. The First Mate insisted that he didn't remember me taking it down at all, and reassured me that Toshi was probably still in the apartment.

Upon our return home, we discovered that Toshi was not. A call to the landlord and the building manager confirmed that no one had turned anything in. The cynical thing would be to assume that the bag was stolen from the parking lot while we were bringing down the second load, and I have to admit that's the first thing I did assume. But I made "MISSING" posters anyway and went to post them in the hallways.

The three teenage boys who lived downstairs laughed at me when they read what I was putting up. "Ain't nobody going to return no laptop. It's not missing. C'mon. It's stolen. Somebody took it and you're not going to get it back." I told them that I knew that was probably true, but I had to try. It's a million to one chance, yes, but on that one chance I don't have to buy a new laptop, right?

Just then one of the apartment doors swung open. "Pardon me, did you say you lost a laptop?" The woman who lived there brought out my briefcase with Toshi still safely inside. "I found it in the parking lot and I didn't know whose it was." I was so happy I could have hugged her; in fact I think she was a little bit taken aback that I called her my hero and promised to bake her cookies. As I took Toshi back upstairs I said as I passed the openmouthed boys, "YOU SEE!? Sometimes people are good!"

Sometimes they are. Thank you, woman who lives downstairs, for restoring both my laptop and my faith in humanity.

Posted by Silent Five @ 9:30 PM :: (1) comments

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Today, WTF Means "What (I'm) Thankful For"

First, you should know that I'm going to my mother's for Thanksgiving, and my mother, as I've mentioned, doesn't have an internet connection. I'll try to track one down somewhere for Thursday and Friday, but dear reader, I make no promises. If I don't manage to post, rest assured I'll return on Saturday just as full of wit, nerd rage, and non sequiturs as I ever was.

It is, of course, the season, and since it fit my acronym I found it doubly appropriate to say a few words about the things for which I'm thankful. I'll get the obvious, schmoopy one out of the way first. I am incalculably grateful for the people in my life. I have a joyous collection of some of the best, truest, most caring, most clever friends I could imagine. I have a First Mate who challenges, supports, and inspires me (and whom I made laugh until he cried earlier this evening, and I am proud even though I suspect it was laughing-at and not laughing-with. OKAY I LIKED LOVE ACTUALLY SHURRUP.) I have a close-knit, warm, accepting family that actually delights in each other's company. I have three cats who are generous with the snuggles. Truly, life could not be more full of wonderful characters.

I am thankful for sprklfck, which is too cool for vowels. (This being, for those who don't know, the nascent glam-punk spectacle band for which I provide vocals.) It's exciting to learn a new genre and to collaborate creatively with talented people. Practice always makes me feel like I am ten ninjas. There's nothing better than getting to hang out and play music with people you love. (Except perhaps spontaneously meowing the entirety of "Bohemian Rhapsody" en masse.)

I am thankful for the encouragement I've received in the past month as I struggle to get over the academic hump once and for all. I've found strength in the most unlikely of places, and from people I was at first afraid to approach. I love having my aimless paranoia proven wrong.

I'm thankful for the large collection of music I have at my disposal. For the past few weeks I've always been able to find the perfect song for the moment, and it made each of those moments that much more poignant or epic or hilarious. I'm also thankful for all of the people who are willing to share their favorites and keep my library expanding.

I'm thankful for coffee, without the near-constant consumption of which I would probably not have the sterling performance record I currently maintain at work.

I'm thankful to be living in a place I enjoy. I'm thankful for the university and the culture it brings with it, for the eco-conscious and socially conscientious people who live here, for the view as I take John Nolen into downtown, for the free zoo and the arboretum and the botanic gardens and the capitol square. I'm thankful for the good beer and the good cheese and the fact that this state gave us Russ Feingold, the Dictionary of American Regional English, Summerfest, and my mother's partner.

I'm thankful for Anarch City. I'm thankful to have poured myself into a creative project and to have it actually pay off. I'm thankful for the fantastic education I receive by working with Chris and with the cast and with the crew. I'm thankful to have proof that the question "What would you do if you assumed you could?" has fewer limits than I ever imagined it might. 

I'm thankful for a host of other things, too; among them are Iron Chef, summer grills, having a real vacuum, the Inferno, Saint-Germain elderflower liqueur, Daft Punk doing the soundtrack to the new Tron, the dolmades at Husnus, CSO comp tickets, my car continuing to work, swing dancing in town, the library, The Flashbulb's new album "Arboreal," the fact that someone has uploaded QI to YouTube, friends who know computers, the wealth of ethnic restaurants in town. I am floored by how much I have to be grateful for. I hope you all find yourself in a similar position this Thanksgiving. Thank you for reading.

Posted by Silent Five @ 11:26 PM :: (1) comments

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Trip Report Tuesday: Lightning Round!

Please do not take this unnecessarily terse trip report as an indication that I'm dissatisfied with my progress this week. I'm about to succumb to a massive food coma and am not in the mood to write much. I'm actually still pretty proud of myself, though. Today I met with a professor and have two of my letters of recommendation sewn up. This looks more likely to work out with every step I take toward it.

Next week's goal: talking to people I've been putting off talking to. Acquaintances I haven't quite gotten the nerve to invite out. Friends I owe apologies or explanations. Thank-you notes I forgot to write. Administrators for test scores and transcripts and whatnot. Wish me luck.


Posted by Silent Five @ 9:03 PM :: (1) comments

Monday, November 22, 2010

Etymology Monday: True Colors

When I was just a wee nerdling, I had a lot of trouble sleeping, and I'd usually have to read myself down. (I still do, especially if I'm feeling sick or hungover.) One of my favorite things to do was to page through an ancient dictionary of the thousand most commonly used English words. At least, that's what I remember it being, although I can't remember the publisher or find it on Amazon. At any rate, I was fascinated by the way they defined colors.

What does it mean, to define a color? When you think about it, it's a pretty difficult task. There's the technical definition, of course-- red being light of a wavelength between 700 and 635 nm, etc. -- but that means very little in practical terms. The most common way is to describe it in reference to an object that is that color, as, for instance, the OED defines blue as "of the colour of the sky and the deep sea; cerulean," and then in the second definition, "Said of the colour of smoke, vapour, distant hills, steel, thin milk." First of all, I understand how "blue" refers to each of these things, but I wouldn't say that any of them are definitively blue. Second, of course, is the problem of all self-referential definitions; it depends on the ability to perceive and identify the color blue, and anyone who cannot will never understand it. No blind person will ever get an accurate sense of color by looking it up in the dictionary, and no one with chromatic vision would need to. Who, then, are these definitions written for? I got the sense, reading them, that they were written for the pleasure of the lexicographer. They are richly associative and often, as in the case of the OED's rhapsody on blue, surprisingly poetic.

Where do the color words themselves come from? In blue's case, it is glossed in the OED as "a common Romanic word," and also a Germanic one, so it seems that different forms of the stem were borrowed into English from different languages depending on the period. In some languages, the root meant "yellowish-grey," and the etymological entry in the OED suggests that color names were fairly fluid. The roots of blue all seem mainly to have meant "the color blue," but in the case of green, it comes from the same Old Teutonic root which gave us "grow," equating the color with its predominant appearance in nature. Both green and red are among the earliest Old English words, and red traces all the way back to Sanskrit (and, I imagine, Indo-European before it) and shares roots with "rust" and "ruddy." Black is described as "a word with a difficult history"; the entry goes on to say that, fascinatingly, the word "black" and a word meaning "shining, white" were in Middle English nearly identical-- "often distinguishable only by the context, and sometimes not even by that." Orange is a comparatively recent (1300s) loan from French, and pink came to us later still (1500s); before borrowing these words, "red" was used for these shades as well. Purple was also originally red, or rather, it was a particular shade of red dye obtained from the shellfish purpura and used to denote high-ranking officials. Yellow, also ancient, appears to derive from an Indo-European root which also gave us "gold" and "gall" (the yellow bile of humorism.)

I used to find a peculiar comfort in reading these definitions, and now, revisiting them, I still do. They are small sensual moments in the middle of the technical and self-important dictionary bluster, reminders of the intimate connection between word and world.


Posted by Silent Five @ 10:09 PM :: (0) comments

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No Obligations

My weekend has been wonderfully full of music. After the CSO concert I stayed at my mother's and spent the whole afternoon playing the piano. In the car on the way back home I sang along to all my Chicago Masters Singers repertoire. I need more classical music in my life.

I've been too busy living my life to blog about it today. That's a good thing, isn't it? My mother and I had a long talk over homemade bread this afternoon, part of which was a discussion of obligation. Do what you are passionate about, says my mother, and don't do a thing because you feel like you ought to if it doesn't speak to you in any other way. In that light, I've honestly got nothing else to say. I'll talk to all of you tomorrow.

Posted by Silent Five @ 8:22 PM :: (0) comments

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I have a most delightful weekend ahead of me, but it's going to leave me out of reach of wireless connection until mid-Sunday, so I thought I'd jot a quick note this morning just so I wouldn't have missed a day. My best friend's husband works for the CSO, and he has quite obligingly gotten the four of us (including the First Mate) comp tickets for Beethoven's 4th piano concerto tonight. I'll be traveling to Chicago right after work and staying with my mother, who lives nearby. My mother does not have an internet connection. Or TV or a landline, for that matter.

Now, I went a month without my own internet connection when we moved, and it was one of the most frustrating months in my recent memory. Sure, I missed my daily memefeed, and since most social gatherings are arranged very quickly over facebook I also missed a lot of those, but the worst part was I hadn't quite realized how used I had gotten to having instantaneous access to collective human knowledge. Okay, I've always got access to books, which are the more permanent dissemination thereof, but I-- and a lot of my generation, most likely-- have come to view Google search as an extension of our own memory. I don't know what, say, the chief export of Bolivia is, but I can ask the metamind, as my friends usually put it, and that's just as good, isn't it?

Well, no, frankly, it isn't. For the next two days that storehouse of experience to which I catch myself feeling entitled will be inaccessible. It doesn't bother me not to be immediately able to, say, produce a list of the major exports of Bolivia, but when I struggle with questions like "How do I get downtown?" or "How long do you boil an egg?" or "What was on the program of the concert I went to on my 21st birthday?" I know I'm in trouble. And, of course, without a blog audience I'm going to have to corner people and talk rapidly at them, and that never works out as well.

Have a good weekend, metamind. I wish I knew how to quit you.

Posted by Silent Five @ 7:26 AM :: (0) comments

Friday, November 19, 2010

Short Fiction Friday: "Eight Minutes," Part 2

For the previous part, go here.

Once I got past the strange-woman-in-my-apartment panic, I had to admit she didn’t look threatening. She actually looked vaguely like me, with a round face, unkempt kinky hair, and Buddy Holly glasses. She was probably a few years older, though, and had a weary, defeated air about her. She wore an oversized man’s shirt, a sloppy patchwork skirt, and sneakers. There was a pencil poked behind her ear, and she carried a small, worn notebook in one hand. I motioned for her to sit down and cautiously laid the shard of glass on the bedside table.

“There. Happy? I’m only going to ask you one more time: who are you and what are you doing here? I can have the cops here in five minutes, just so you know. You’d better talk faster than that.”

She rolled her eyes again. “I’d be gone before then, not that it would matter. I already told you why I’m here. I don’t owe you any more explanation than that. I don’t even really owe you an explanation at all. Nobody else is getting one. You should count yourself lucky, Cady-me-girl.”

“What do you mean you don’t owe me an explanation? Who’s trespassing on whose property here? And how do you know my name?”

She sighed. “I’m Abby. I’m the writer.”

“I don’t know any writers.” Actually, I was pretty sure that one of the twins had dated a writer once, but I thought she was the one in jail. Or had she killed herself? I could never keep the twins’ lovers straight.

“I mean, the writer. Your writer. I created you, and Zillah, and the twins, and all of this.”

Great, a crazy. Just what I needed at—I checked the alarm clock— four in the morning. What I couldn’t figure out was how she’d gotten in. I triple-bolted the door and locked it with a chain every night; you can’t be too careful in a city like this, and after my sister was assaulted last fall, I wasn't about to take my chances. My windows were well off the ground, and I couldn't see this woman climbing hand-over-hand up a fire escape. Oh well. I’d let the police handle it once I’d gotten her the hell out of here.

“So write yourself into a straightjacket. I'm calling 911.”

She rolled her eyes. “Ever the skeptic. I suppose you're going to want the dramatic make-me-a-Ferrari take-me-to-Prague type of proof, aren't you. You'll have to settle for this: Your name is Cady Huffington. You're twenty-five, left-handed, allergic to latex, and not a real redhead. You have a sister named Trina and parents from whom you are estranged. Your ex-girlfriend Zillah put every picture of the two of you in a shoebox in her closet when she moved out, and she is at this moment trying to decide whether to burn the box or to look through it and cry. You are currently wracked with guilt at the secret crush you've had on the short barista with the pierced lip at Starbucks and wondering if Zillah had somehow guessed. Don't worry, she didn't. Your best friends, Leo and Lucas, are identical twins who are currently hospitalized after a life-threatening car accident. They'll pull through just fine, but one of them is about to be diagnosed with leukemia. If there were time, the other one would agonize about overcoming his fear of surgery so he could donate his bone marrow, but I guess they dodged that bullet, at least. Your dearest dream as a child was to be on the Gong Show, you always put your left sock on first, and you have an endearing habit of mispronouncing the word ‘ricochet.’ Also, you are pregnant after all. Congratulations. There, you satisfied?”

I gaped, not sure what to say. She must have taken my silence for incredulity. “You sure are a hard sell,” she said, with the eye-roll again. “Here. I'll clean up the glass for you.” She thumbed through the notebook for a moment, then took the pencil from behind her ear and erased a few lines. The broken glass on the floor disappeared. “That do it, Miss Doubting Thomas?”

Posted by Silent Five @ 5:53 PM :: (0) comments

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Meaningful And (Possibly) Unknown

A cherished friend of mine who blogs at Olyphant poses this challenge: "in the further interest of self-finding and self-making known, i’m going to list five things you probably don’t know about me that are meaningful to me. i haven’t planned what i’m going to say; this is as much about me figuring out what i care about yet keep back as anything else." She goes on to exhort all of her readers to do so too. So I am.

It's rough for me to know where to begin here. In a lot of ways I fear that I already habitually disclose too much about myself. Frequently, however, people who spend a fair bit of time with me confess that I'm kind of baffling to them, which leads to:

1) I think I'm more rational than I am. There's a huge disparity in how well I feel I'm communicating my viewpoint and how clear it is to other people. I believe this is due to my unfounded trust that I'm, at the core, a fairly logical person when in reality I'm nothing of the sort. I tend to assume that my feelings are written all over my face and that my motives are pretty transparent, but when I'm far enough removed from the situation to gain some perspective, I realize that I jumped to all kinds of neurotic conclusions. Even those might not be so hard for someone else to follow, but the entire process never leaves my head because I figure that everyone else is tracking with it because, after all, it's logical, isn't it? From the outside, it must look like *reasonable stimulus -- BIZARRO RESPONSE.* I'm trying to realize when this is happening and nip it in the bud, with varying degrees of success.

Hand in hand with this one goes:

2) I get a lot more attached to people than I let on. Usually this is because I assume they already know how I feel (see #1.) Despite this, I'm pretty terrible at keeping up correspondence regularly (I'm pretty terrible at doing anything regularly.) It's not because I don't care. I care a lot. I love people quickly and unabashedly (and sometimes ill-advisedly, too) and I tend to be intensely interested in the people I care about even if it's a platonic sort of caring. Being aloof most of the time is generally my attempt to keep from being a nuisance to people-- I figure that if people want to spend time with me, they'll seek me out because they know I'm willing. (Again, see #1.)

3) I keep mementos, letters and cards for years. I have boxes of love letters dating back to high school. I have all the notes of condolence people sent me when my father died. Doodles and clippings and tokens and what-have-you are stashed away in secret places all over my apartment, even after the Great Pre-Moving Purge of this summer where I pared down most non-essential things. I also have every journal I've ever kept, and I've been keeping longhand journals since I was five. I occasionally go through binges of nostalgia wherein I read through all of these. The only thing missing from the catalogue is the online diary I wrote when I was 16 and 17-- the site went under and it was deleted before I could back it up. I felt like I lost a chunk of myself and I still mourn.

4) I hate talking on the phone. As Tuesday's anecdote about calling coworkers probably made clear. I especially hate calling people I don't know very well, whether or not I have good reason to. I will do just about anything to avoid it and am delighted that nowadays most business can be conducted by e-mail. There are very few people with whom I can hold a phone conversation for any length of time-- generally I will need to have been on close terms with you for upwards of 7 or 8 years before I'll be able to manage to keep it together. I am also absolute rubbish at answering machines. I just panic and say anything.

5) Despite my shyness and reluctance to communicate, I take great pleasure in knowing people well. This may make my friends feel flattered, or possibly stalked, but I remember things like what you like from Applebee's or what your license plate number is or your drink order or that inside joke that ran for way too long our freshman year of college. I like to get to know people, and I like it when people get to know me. This makes me good at selecting appropriate Christmas gifts and recommending books and music and remembering the funny things people said at parties. This makes me not so good at ever shutting up once I've actually brought myself to be comfortable talking to you.

Now that I've finished this list I'm actually rather nervous to post it. I guess that means I'm doing it right? Of course, you may all already know all of this. I'm kind of a poor judge of what I'm projecting. See number 1.

Posted by Silent Five @ 10:16 PM :: (1) comments

WTF This Week Will Mean "Wow, That's Fascinating!"

First of all, I didn't realize until I woke up this morning that I had forgotten to blog yesterday. I have really, really good reasons that I won't bore you with, but I figured I would write first thing this morning just to make up for it. Regular Thursday entry to follow tonight.

In keeping with my No-Cynicism November, I'm still not thinking too hard about the things that make me want to thwack my head against tables. One thing the First Mate frequently mentions is the importance of being selective about the messages you consume. (Do not, for instance, watch "Hostel" right before your trip to Europe. Learned that one the hard way, too.) This month I'm trying hard not to focus on things which will put me in an unhelpful headspace, and I'm doing all right at it too, I think.

Here, then, are some things that are way worth consuming-- cool ideas, fascinating accomplishments, things that encourage you to sit up and take notice.

Radiolab. Engaging, accessible, fascinating explorations into science, technology, and their implications to our daily lives. Why do we sleep? Is death a disease that can be cured? Where do you draw the boundary between language and music? How does your brain keep track of your body? Cleverly presented and with guests like Oliver Sacks, one of my heroes. Check it out. 

Above Everything Else and The Third and the Seventh. These are just glorious. I could scarcely believe that they are entirely CG, but they are. The Third and the Seventh, a short film, is especially a banquet of gorgeous visuals.

That's all I have time for, as I have to run to work, but what has fascinated you this week? Please share.

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Posted by Silent Five @ 5:54 AM :: (1) comments

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Trip Installment: In Which I Accomplish Things And Let Myself Be Happy About Them

First of all, let me take a moment to be proud of myself. I've buckled down to this graduate school application like never before. I still have a ways to go, but I've done an excellent job of networking, and that means a lot to me because it's always been terribly hard. When I needed to switch shifts with someone at work, I was so uncomfortable asking a coworker for a favor that my mother had to dial the phone and thrust it, ringing, into my hand while yelling "YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT NOW!" So when I say that I met with two students in the program and have a meeting with a professor next week, that's a big deal for me.

One of my foremost rules of motivation, I've decided, is never under any circumstances to listen to "Creep" before anything important. I went into my meeting with the grad students thinking "What the hell am I doing heeeeeeere... I don't beloooooooong heeeeere..." Luckily, I am way better now at realizing when I'm ringing the "crazy" bell. What the hell am I talking about, I thought. Literally every other person in view is a bookish kid in a winter coat carrying a notepad full of half-formed ideas for dissertations. So shut the hell up and rock this thing, alright? And lo and behold, it was as easy as that.

I can't even describe how good it felt to be on campus, pursuing an academic goal. I felt like I'd spent the past two years living in a foreign country and I had finally heard my native language again. I even, apparently, seemed organized and goal-oriented and all that other stuff I never feel like I am. So, success.

No-Cynicism November is a slightly trickier proposition. I hadn't really realized how cynical I tend to be, and that a lot of the time I'm afraid to admit to being anything else. Cynicism is what all the cool kids are wearing this year. I'd come to rely on it as a protective coating, which isn't all that logically sound, is it? Does failure hurt less when other people think you expected to fail anyway? I find I'm more upset to think that other people will consider me naive and gullible for getting my hopes up than I am not to get what I want. I have kind of a paranoid fear of being taken advantage of, but expecting that to happen leaves openings for it all over the place, doesn't it?

I've been making a conscious effort to leave that protective cover off, and it's not been easy. All the things I've been worried would end in my seeming naive and overoptimistic, though, have worked out wonderfully. I'm not calling it a lesson yet, but it's a good start.

For my next trick, I suppose I will tackle my fear of success. Any good ideas about how to handle that one?

Posted by Silent Five @ 8:51 PM :: (1) comments

Monday, November 15, 2010

Etymology Monday: Oft-Overlooked Words

The English language really is a magnificent beast, with a word-hoard full of treasures. Some are simply the perfect word for a feeling, conveying in a neat package concepts and circumstances other languages take paragraphs to describe: wistful and awkward come to mind. Others are beautiful: lucent, tranquility, mellifluous, susurrous, celadon, nevermore. Today, though, I want to look at the oddities-- quirky, fun-loving words that never get to shine anymore.

Let's start with one of my favorites: tatterdemalion. The OED has this as "a person in tattered clothing; a ragged, beggarly fellow." (Have I mentioned in the past fifteen minutes how much I love reading the OED?) Surely this word is more useful than ever, given the proliferation of hipsters in thrift-store clothing wearing hobo beards. They'd probably love this word. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before there's a neo-slowcore band called Tatterdemalion.

Another delight is addle-pated, which I learned from a poem by Jack Prelutsky called "The Addle-Pated Paddlepuss," a magnificent creature which could play ping-pong with its head. "Addle" came from Old English "adela," meaning "stinking urine," and an "addle-egg" was an egg which had gone rotten before fully hatching. "Pate," of uncertain origin, is a Middle English term for the head or crown; thus, an addle-pated fellow is someone whose brain died in the hatching. Our addle-pated fellow probably often finds his thoughts jargogled, an obsolete term meaning jumbled or confused. He should be careful whom he trusts, however, lest he find himself a victim of pettifoggery-- "legal chicanery or trickery, quibbling" or other tanglesome ways.

Many of the best words, of course, are now completely obsolete. Try bringing back words such as forswunk ("exhausted with labor"), darg ("a day's work, the task of a day; also, a defined quantity or amount of work, or of the product of work, done in a certain time or at a certain rate of payment"), or eftsoons (which means, astonishingly, any of the following: a second time, moreover, likewise, quasi-, soon afterwards, occasionally, as soon as, repeatedly.) Or you could call your grandparents eldmother and eldfather and refer to your tobacco as drunkwort. (This may, however, raise questions about exactly what sort of drunkwort you are smoking.)

Going even further back in Anglo-Saxon history, we have kennings, the lovely evocative compounds which make Old English poetry so beautiful.  A small translated sampling: slaughter-dew (blood), flame-farewelled (an honorable death), swansroad (sea), sun-table (sky). As you might expect, some of the prettiest ones are the most violent: the body as bonehouse, the sword as the wound-wolf, the shield as the Viking's-moon. Slip some of these into conversation, or make up your own. English is an amazingly combinatory and lexically wealthy language, full of gorgeous history-rich words that usually are relegated to the thick dictionaries with the onionskin paper. Let's take some of these out of the box and play with them, hmm?


Posted by Silent Five @ 10:12 PM :: (0) comments

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rambling on Domestic Matters

First of all, you've all got wonderful six-word autobiographies, and I like hearing from you. Keep it up!

Sundays are domestic day at Casa Five, and they have their own Sunday routine. Sundays are the only day that the First Mate and I have off, so this usually begins with sleeping in until the late morning and then making a huge and delicious breakfast. Afterward comes what my grandmother used to refer to as "One Great Hour of Swearing," wherein we do all the tedious but important regular chores like vacuuming the carpet, scrubbing out the tub, and cleaning all the burners on the stovetop.

Once the apartment is clean, Sunday afternoons are adventure time with the First Mate. We try to check out places we haven't been or discover things that are interesting. Today, for example, we went to the Arboretum and took a tour of the effigy mounds. I learned that they were built in the shape of birds and something called a water panther, which shapes are fairly dimly visible from the ground, but still. The more you know. Normally I'm terrible at domesticity and even worse at routine, but it's nice to have this as an anchor to my week. The First Mate and I are generally busy and have fairly disparate interests, so it's good to have committed time for finding common ground.

It's also good, I find, to have designated cleaning time. When you cook as much as we do, work as much as we do, and don't have a dishwasher, things can get fairly horrific fast. I have, however, reached the age where I just can't let a cluttered living space slide like I did in college. All the old tricks like eating ramen noodles with a staple remover or drinking out of quickly-rinsed margarine tubs no longer seem even marginally acceptable. I used to motivate myself to clean house by watching YouTube clips about compulsive hoarding and thinking "There but for the grace of god and a few loads of laundry go I," but that's probably pretty voyeuristic and damaging. Much nicer to fill up on pancakes, blast some Cake, and tackle dishes with a partner.

I go through phases of nesting, where I like to think about establishing routines and having days in to clean and planning for eventual upgrades to the living space. In between these, I swing like a pendulum into free-spirit mode, where I am always on the verge of selling all of my possessions, buying a van, changing my name to Coyote, and driving west to Find America. (I have a sneaking suspicion it will turn out to be throwing up malt liquor behind a 24-hour Super Wal-Mart.) This, coupled with my pattern of keeping jobs for a year or two and then moving a few hundred miles, occasionally raises doubts about how well I'll ever manage to stay in one place. Does this happen to everyone my age, I wonder? Clearly not, as most of the people with whom I went to high school are married already. All pendulums eventually settle to a comfortable center, don't they? Here's hoping I do too.


Posted by Silent Five @ 8:39 PM :: (3) comments

Saturday, November 13, 2010

One Minute Writing Prompt

I was feeling a little low on inspiration today, so I nipped over to the One Minute Writer to check their prompt. It was "In 60 seconds, describe your life in six words." Fair enough. I decided to see how many I could come up with.

  1. "So far, really no boring bits."
  2. "She seems to be catching on..."
  3.  "I could stand some more weird."
  4. "You can do better than that."
  5. "Well, I'm enjoying it. So there."
  6. "What do you mean, 'why?' Because!"
  7. "Vexing interruptions in between good books."
  8. "On the whole, pretty all right."
  9. "Riotous creativity interspersed with crippling neuroses."
Best of all, though, is 10) "It just keeps getting more beautiful."

Now you. No, I mean it. I'm turning on anonymous commenting and everything. Everyone who reads this entry, leave a comment describing your life in six words. C'mon, I dare you. Let me know you're out there.


Posted by Silent Five @ 8:58 PM :: (8) comments

Short Fiction Friday: "Eight Minutes," Part 1

Short Fiction Friday is becoming a theme of convenience, because more and more often I've actually been going out on Friday nights (a problem I did not have the first time I committed to this blog.) Tonight after work I played Guitar Hero with a handful of friends, and then I went out to a post-apocalyptic rave. Yeah, all 1994 and everything. I donned my glowsticks and proceeded to flail delightedly to the O Fortuna techno mix, just as though I hadn't been first too young and then too lame to enjoy the 90s the first time around. The point is I don't really have the energy to update, so I'm going to give you a chunk of a story I once turned in for a creative writing class. If you want to hear more of it, comment here and I'll see about serializing it in coming Fridays.

Eight Minutes

"I thought you might want to know that the world's going to end at approximately noon tomorrow."

"What?" I had been just on the edge of sleep, and I was not at all convinced that the voice I was hearing was real. I hadn't been sleeping well lately. Zillah had moved out last month, and I was still adjusting to sleeping without the comforting warmth of her hip cupped in my palm. Then came the twins' car accident and the test results and lately the best I could hope for was a few snatches of true REM sleep as I drifted in and out of nightmares. I rolled over and fumbled for my glasses, sure I had put them right beside me before drifting off. Apparently not. My hand hit the glass of water on the night table. It fell to the floor and shattered. "SHIT. Shit shit shit." I was as good as blind without the glasses and there was no way I was going to make it to the light switch without cutting my feet up.

"Here, let me get that for you." Someone spoke out of the darkness, and I heard footsteps cross the room. The light snapped on and I winced. I can barely see my hand in front of my face without my glasses on. Across the room, I could only make out a smeary blur of features and what I thought might be dark hair.

"Zillah? That you, baby?" It was farfetched— Zillah had thrown the mate of the water glass now in pieces on the floor at my head on her way out, and when Zillah got mad enough to throw things she generally stayed mad for a good long time—but it wasn't impossible. I finally located the glasses under my pillow and put them on. The mottled blob at the foot of my bed coalesced into a woman, not Zillah. I had never seen her before in my life.

"What the fuck are you doing here, lady?" Oh God. Oh dammit. There was a can of pepper spray in my purse, but both she and the broken glass stood between me and the coathook in my closet where it hung. I grabbed one of the larger shards of glass on the floor and waved it at her in a way I prayed was menacing enough. "Stay away from me or I swear I'll stab you right in the eye with this thing. I mean it. Right in the damn eye."

The woman rolled her eyes. "I forgot how annoyingly paranoid you are. Put that thing down. I'm not going to hurt you."

“Yeah, sure you’re not. Who are you and what are you doing here? And where do you know me from?”

“Hey, hey. Calm down, hotshot. I promise, I mean you no personal harm. Look at me. I’m about as intimidating as a bowl of soup. And no weapons, see? Not even pockets. Now will you please put down the glass and let me explain?”

Posted by Silent Five @ 1:20 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Praise Of Gastronomy

I kind of shudder to begin any public statement with "I was reading Good Housekeeping magazine today..." if only because I am a literary elitist and also kind of a terrible housekeeper. Does it help if I say that I was taking a break from a dense volume on the history of the English language and it was one of the only magazines available at work? No, it doesn't, because I could have chosen the New Yorker. Okay, I like reading women's magazines sometimes. Shut up.

Anyway, I was reading Good Housekeeping today and I got to their regular column encouraging women to get over emotional eating. (I was kind of surprised that they have this as a regular feature, but I suppose our culture does make it kind of a problem. Because heaven forbid we like eating.) This month, the columnist asked the question "What would you do if you knew you had a year to live?" Surveyed women often said they'd go right off their diet and eat all the delicious things they wanted to. When the question changed to "What if you only had a day to live?" nobody said they'd binge on chocolate. It was all "hug my family," "watch the sunrise" stuff. (Not a single "be shot out of a cannon," ladies? Do I have to do all the awesome around here?)

The columnist went on to point out that this proves that eating is really not as vital a part of our emotional well-being as we think. This I'll agree with, and I admit that my tendency to demand ice cream when I'm feeling low is probably neither healthy nor helpful. She went farther than that, though, to declare that the experience of eating should be secondary to the idea of putting fuel in our bodies to take us to all the other stuff we want to do. In principle, I suppose, but this rubs me the wrong way, and since in our weight-obsessed culture we don't often hear women talking positively about food, I'd like to speak up.

I love food. Like, for real. It's not just that I like not being hungry, or that I like tasting things that are good. Eating is a sensual, cultural, communal experience that connects people like nothing else can. Granted, the kind of comfort eating that happens at midnight and involves shoving fistfuls of Oreos down your gaping maw is, to use the parlance of our times, Doin' It Wrong. That's not the kind I do, though. Really satisfying eating is not about quantity. I can take ten minutes eating one bite and make it look like so much fun it should be illegal. (Just ask the guy behind the counter at DB Infusions chocolates. Or rather, don't. I'd be embarrassed if he still remembered my name.)

I particularly love making food, even if I'm not the one to eat it. I like combining ingredients creatively and seeing what I can come up with. I like cooking with people-- the way a pair works together in a kitchen can say a lot about who they are. And it's really, really satisfying being able to make a dish for someone that he or she will love.

So yes. This is written to a) attempt to explain why I have tahini in my hair right now and b) stand up against the idea that food should be stressful-- at best a guilty pleasure, at worst a constant battle. I don't count calories, unabashedly cook with butter, eat bites of other people's meals, and whenever I can, I choose to eat what I can most wholly enjoy-- physically, socially, spiritually. If I had one day to live, I would take the people I love out for sushi, then finish up with chocolate, wine, and cheese. And I would relish the living hell out of it.

Posted by Silent Five @ 9:11 PM :: (1) comments

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Kinder, Gentler Wednesday

Due to my No-Cynicism November efforts, I'm putting WTF Wednesday on hold. Rather than focusing on the ways in which humanity makes my brain hurt, I'm going to make Wednesdays a more generally appreciative day. And I'm going to kick it off by finishing my "Fifteen Authors" post.

8) Neil Gaiman. His inventive storytelling and utterly charming mix of quirky British humor and chilling fantasy elements sold me the minute I picked up the first volume of Sandman. I read them straight through as soon as the library got them in, and the minute I finished the last volume I picked up the first one again. When I moved on to his novels, I found them all just as addictive. It takes a prodigious talent to be equally scintillating with poetry, graphic novels, short stories, screenplays, and novels. American Gods is one of my favorite books. He is also notable because it was through him I discovered Dave McKean, who will surely be mentioned if I ever do a "15 Artists" list.

9) Daniel Pinkwater, or D. Manus Pinkwater, as he is sometimes credited. Daniel Pinkwater writes young adult books that are impossible to grow out of. They're really uncategorizable-- just delightfully, refreshingly weird from beginning to end. As I grew older and reread them, I kept noticing little references and asides that I had completely missed all the other times through. The best books improve with each rereading because they show up the way you have grown in the interim not by seeming shallower but by unfolding to greater depth.

10) Thomas Harris. I expected a good thriller with a captivating villain when I first picked up "Silence of the Lambs," and I got it. I did not expect Harris's gorgeous, lyrical prose. After a few times through the series I honestly am not bothered when Hannibal Lecter starts eating people, because even the grisliest scenes are written so beautifully. Lecter is my favorite literary monster precisely because I like him better than most heroes, which elevates him from shocking to truly terrifying.

11) Noam Chomsky. Love him or hate him (and I certainly do a bit of both), as a linguist one defines one's philosophies in reference to his theories. Despite the comparatively little of his actual work I have read, he's definitely influenced me strongly just due to his pull in my field. (My eventual field? I don't know if I can legitimately count myself a linguist.)

12) Pablo Neruda. He writes gorgeous, earthy, aching poetry. It makes me wish I knew Spanish, so I could make my own translations. As you continue in relationship with me, the probability of my eventually sending you Neruda approaches one.

13) Dorothy Parker. I worship her scathing wit. I want to grow up to be her, except without all the suicidal depression. With the gin, though. Definitely with the gin.

14) Jessica Neiweem. She's been published, so yes, she counts. I grew up reading her writing and having her read mine, and we helped each other figure out how to be writers. Reading her poems (particularly her older ones) is like discovering a new room in the house you grew up in, one that you don't remember ever being there before but which is familiar the moment you step in.We collaborate on occasional projects, all of which inspire me to be fired up about writing again no matter how many times I profess to have given it up.

15) Arthur Conan Doyle. I was a ravening Sherlock Holmes fanatic when I was in elementary school. I read the entire Holmes canon before I was twelve. Rereading them thirteen years later, I was struck by two things: the casual racism (which I did not absorb) and how frequently Holmes disregards the law in favor of his own morality, turning in the people he thinks deserve it and being merciful to the people he thinks were justified. That and the superior delight of the unsolved puzzle are what keep me coming back to the series.

Posted by Silent Five @ 11:55 PM :: (1) comments

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Trip Report Tuesday: No-Cynicism November

When last we saw each other, Trip Report Tuesday, I declared that I was going to do something every day that would get me closer to graduate school. Now I get to do one of my favorite things-- follow up on a successful weekly challenge. In the past week I've called and spoken to the graduate admissions representative; I researched, contacted, and have kept up correspondence with the professor whose work is most interesting to me; I enlisted several friends to help me proofread my portfolio of writing samples and got materials sent off to one of my three recommenders; I have also made sure I know all the deadlines, begun the application, and am in the middle of scheduling my visit to the department. Not bad work for a week.

One of my goals for the next week is simply to keep it up. By Friday I want to have contacted my other two references and finalized a meeting with the professor and admissions people. My other goal arose from the research I've done the past week. For every piece of helpful advice about how to introduce yourself to professors and exactly where you put the apostrophe in master's degree, I found one of these: width="480" height="390">

Witty, yes. Possibly even true. The time for considering these problems, though, is while I'm trying to decide whether to accept an offer of admittance, not while I'm desperately trying to motivate myself to follow through on my application. And even then, anything else I might choose to do will certainly have its downsides. Times are, as cliche as this sounds, tough. I could let dire predictions derail me from making a try at what I really want, or I could act as though I soundly believed that my efforts are worth something and see where that gets me. In fact, I think I will.

I'm calling it No-Cynicism November, and the idea is not just to stay positive or to be blindly optimistic and naive as a substitute for effort. I'm staying on top of my shit and working hard. My goal is to stop being glum and paranoid that all my effort is ultimately futile because the system is broken, there's a glut of Ph.Ds, something else will inevitably fail, or people are supposed to be mean and life is supposed to be difficult. It's trusting that the patient, friendly answers I'm getting from the professor mean she's happy to help me, and not that she thinks my questions are painfully obvious. It's recognizing that the job market will be tough when I eventually finish my Ph.D. and still trusting that it's worthwhile to act on my dream of being a professor anyway. It's not assuming that people will think less of me for being nervous, or eager, or not as knowledgeable as they are. Above all, it's having faith that I'm generally competent, reasonable, talented, intelligent, possessed of decent judgment and problem-solving skills and just as deserving of getting the things I want as anyone else. 

I was about to make a comment that if I manage all of that this week I'll try my hand at flying next, but that would be Doing It Wrong.

Posted by Silent Five @ 10:47 PM :: (0) comments

Monday, November 08, 2010

Etymology Monday: Who is Josh?

Fret not, dear readers, for part 2 of my 15 Authors post is still coming. I have a request to honor for Etymology Monday today, though, so today we find out something I hadn't even thought to consider before; when you are "just joshing someone," which Josh are you invoking?

My hypothesis before researching this was that once in the mists of etymology, there was a guy named Joshua and he was kind of a dick. As it turns out, that's not too far from the truth. The OED attributes the verb "to josh" as a reference to Josh Billings, the pen name of an American humorist named Henry Wheeler Shaw. Shaw lived from 1818-1885, and Wikipedia has given him the honor of being " second most famous humor writer and lecturer in the United States in the second half of the 19th century after Mark Twain."

Although they're neck-and-neck in moustache cultivation.

 Josh Billings went in for misspelled folksy wisdom (unlike Sarah Palin, who manages only two out of three) and was apparently the man who popularized the saying "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." Other immortal joshes include:
Scathing. When you tell someone you're just joshing them, it's this guy you are emulating. Which means, I think, that in order to josh anyone, one should first be required to grow that moustache.


Posted by Silent Five @ 9:53 PM :: (0) comments

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fifteen Authors, Part One

The latest thing to go viral among my facebook friends has been this "15 Authors" list. It encourages you to list fifteen authors "who have stuck with you." That seems a little vague to me. "Stuck with me" why? Should, say, the worst book I've ever read make this list? What about the first book I ever read? (Superstitious by R. L. Stine and You Make The Angels Cry by Denys Cazet, respectively.) I'm choosing to interpret it broadly and describe fifteen authors whose work has influenced me as a writer, as a reader, or as a thinker. Because I'm inclined to verbosity, I'm splitting them up. Here are the first seven:

1) Stephen King. I know I will not necessarily impress any hipsters with this one, but it's true. I picked up Four Past Midnight when I was nine years old, curious because my father had been reading it and itching to move on to adult literature. I grew to appreciate and occasionally emulate his conversational style, his feel for regionalisms, his facility with metaphors, and his human and poignant mixing of the wistful with the horrifying. The advice he gave in On Writing is still advice I try to follow.

2) T.S. Eliot. I remember vividly my first encounter with T.S. Eliot-- I was reading The Waste Land aloud to a woman with whom I was in the throes of forbidden love. Perhaps I can blame the hormonal cocktail somewhat, but I was intoxicated. Poetry (which I had thought kind of cliched and tedious up to that point) opened up for me.

3) J.R.R. Tolkein. Of course. He whetted my appetite for created languages, for fantasy epics, for political intrigue and battle descriptions, and for capital-H-heroes that are still likable and believable, and he wrote a series which was the pinnacle of all of them.

4) Edward Gorey. I discovered him long before I really ought to have been exposed to him. He gave me a taste for the morbidly bizarre.

5) Stephen Pinker. His research causes me to think more critically about the act of thinking, as well as about prescriptivist grammar and the structure of language. He is one of my main influences in going back for another linguistics degree.

6) Douglas Coupland. I'm just coming off of a period of being really disgusted with him. He coined the term "Generation X" and has written a dozen or so fiercely dry and ironic meta-novels which use the small, sad lives of suburban losers as a micro-history of our culture. (Doesn't that just sound like I came from a liberal arts institution.) Despite how jaded and sneering he sometimes comes off (jPod, Everything's Gone Green) he can also fill me with surprising hope (Microserfs) and either way, his turns of phrase are addictively quirky and clever.

7) Plato. I had to read The Republic (or parts of it) three times: once for World Lit in high school, once for Freshman Studies in college, and once in a political science course called "Founding the Just Regime." Each time I learned something new from it, about philosophy or the structure of argument or what makes a civilization fair. Even though I kind of think Socrates is a dick, (or Plato, vicariously, is a dick) I learned more trying to argue against him than I would have agreeing with him. Wrestling with Plato, together with the guidance of the professor who taught both those classes, taught me most of what I know about academic writing.

Posted by Silent Five @ 10:37 PM :: (0) comments

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Question Time: What If You Had A Ridiculous Amount of Money?

We're not big on rampant capitalist greed here at Figure Five, to say the least. Having money is one of those things I generally assume happens to other people, and for the most part that doesn't bother me. I am confident in my ability to make enough to support myself, if not extravagantly, at least not over-frugally. I've been fortunate never to have been proven wrong in this. Tonight's question, though, is this: Suppose you had a ridiculous amount of money. What would you do with it?

Let me define "ridiculous" here. I'm not talking about win-the-lottery money. If I won the lottery I'd pay off my student loans and go back to school and make some smart investments and start a fund for my friends who need medical care and generally do reasonable, ethical things. I'm considering "ridiculous" to be "money enough that after you've done all the reasonable, ethical things you can do, you still have money left over." Assume the hungry are fed, the homeless are housed, sustainable infrastructure is put in place, essential scientific research is comfortably set up, and you still have more money than you know what to do with. What is the most frivolous thing you can enjoy doing?

My list goes a little something like this:

...I'm running out of things. Most of the self-indulgent, fun stuff I would do boils down to traveling to interesting places, eating tasty food, and building or crafting cool things. I'm sure some of you are more imaginative. What would you do?

Posted by Silent Five @ 11:30 PM :: (0) comments

Short Fiction Friday: From "The Librarians"

Today has been a day of revelry, and since Fridays were supposed to be for short fiction anyway, I'm taking the opportunity to include a snippet of a science-fiction universe I was batting around a few years ago. I'm not quite sure where it's going, and I'm hoping that trotting it out in public will bring in fresh ideas. Here, make of it what you will.

Sukey was tired. Her eyes were scratchy and her head swam, and the knot in her shoulder throbbed every time she handed a book-case over the huge library desk. At the end of her shift there would be a cup of hot tea and music on the radio and Beau would work out the kinks in her muscles with his deft white hands, but the end of her shift was still three hours away. There were books to be pulled and signed out yet, books upon books, so many that the shelves groaned with the weight of them. Sukey heard and groaned too. 

The shelf-room stretched away behind the desk, vast and gloomy and high-ceilinged. It was always dim in the library, so dim that she could not see where the rows of shelves stopped. Sukey had never been to the back of it; it was someone else's job to cart the books back and forth, yet another someone's job to arrange them on the shelves. Sukey was a recorder, and what she did was this: when the carts of requested books came up to the desk, she recorded the date and the time and the title of each one before sending them away with the runners. When the carts of books whose use was no longer required came back to the desk, she signed each of them back in with the precise date and time, then sorted them all by number and date and location onto the carts for the shelvers to take. The work was tedious and the brown leather cases that held the books made heavy lifting and there were still carts and carts of them tonight.

The books were beautiful, Beau said so, and although Sukey was not allowed to open the cases she believed him. He could tell, he said, by the way they felt, the way they smelled. The pages were soft and fine and the frontispieces were buttery scraped vellum and the covers were supple and tooled in intricate patterns. Sometimes he liked to press his cheek against them and breathe in the musk of leather, the spice of old paper. The librarians, if they saw, did not chastise him. Perhaps they would do the same, if they could.

Sukey was in awe of Beau, of his fingertips and the skin over his eyes, milky and translucent as rice paper. Beau was a turner, and like all turners, he was blind. His optic nerve was cut and rerouted, wired to transmit by means of a cunning device; only the librarians could see through his eyes now. Every day he took the elevator to the reading-room at the very top of the library, took his seat at the desk and put on his wireless transmitter and waited. They were whisper-quiet as they took their seats behind him, and he didn’t always know they were there until the first book was laid on the desk top and the great hot reading-lamp above him clicked on.

“Turn the page,” they would say when they were ready to begin, and, with great care not to fold or tear the onionskin paper, Beau would. They would read through him the words he himself was unworthy to know, and when they had finished they would say “Again,” and he would turn the next one. It went on and on, book after book and page after page, until the edges of them had worn Beau’s fingerprints away like sandpaper. The librarians spoke among themselves, sometimes, low sighs that Beau could not understand. He would strain to catch the soft inflections in them, wonder or consternation or surprise, and tried to guess what they looked like. Their shapes must be very strange—they could not read the books themselves, or they would not need his weak eyes. And Beau would feel the prickle of the transmitter across his scalp and marvel at his fortune to be their conduit.


Beau turned the page.


Beau turned the page.


Posted by Silent Five @ 12:35 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Silent Five Swallows Her Pride And Starts Her Statement of Purpose

"The time has come. The time is now," as was famously told to Marvin K Mooney. The time to which I refer is the looming deadline for graduate school applications, and I'm going to take this opportunity to do something I would kind of rather be disemboweled than do: admit I'm frightened and ask for help.

Grad school is my white whale, my idol in a trap-filled cave, my gorgeous redheaded starlet who makes me feel like shit about myself. (Although if Scarlett Johansson wants to apply for that last position she is more than welcome.) And for the past few years, I've secretly been terrified it would be my Waterloo. The minute I graduated college I was consumed with the desire to go back to academia. I miss the sheer joy of immersing myself in research, of seeing disparate pieces of the puzzle suddenly link up. I miss the hungry feeling behind my eyes when I just can't read fast enough to satisfy my curiosity. I miss the way my worldview is constantly being transformed. I miss the energetic, passionate, luminous person I become when I'm consumed by a project. So every year I set out to apply for a graduate program... and every year I hit a wall.

I start thinking "What if my research interests are too diffuse? What if I haven't networked enough? What if I  don't know the proper etiquette for contacting professors? Where do I start the whole process? And while we're at it, what have I done that makes me worth noticing? I mean, I want it and I'd be good at it, but surely there are millions of people who can say the same. What makes me think I deserve..." You get the idea. I've built the application up in my mind into a symbolic act that combines my fierce desire to prove myself, my harsh self-criticism, my conflicting feelings toward authority, my fear of rejection, my tendency to be motivated only in short spurts, and my feeling that everyone expects this to be easier for me. It goes down like a cocktail of Valium and Drano. I panic, and I freeze, and I don't apply.

Well, not this year. I'm nervous as hell, but I'm going to do it, and I realize that the thing that will make all the difference is in reaching out to people who have done the same. I'd like to ask that all my readers who have advice about the graduate application process please let me know what it was like for you. What do you recommend, what made it easier for you, what do you wish you'd done differently? My other reason for posting this is for accountability. Don't let me retreat from this, internets. Believing in myself is sometimes a struggle for me, but I know this can be done, and I am proclaiming before all of you imaginary friends that I will do it.

(And then, of course, next year I'll be whining about how swamped with work I am and how little money I have and who the hell goes into English linguistics anyway. Bitch bitch bitch. )

Posted by Silent Five @ 10:17 PM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

WTF Wednesday: In Which WTF Stands For "Wisconsin Trashed Feingold!?"

I will spare you all the lengths at which I am capable of decrying the results of yesterday's election. It's been a draining day, and it would have been even if Republicans hadn't taken the House. I couldn't let WTF Wednesday go by, though, without mentioning what I consider the worst casualty of this election: Russ Feingold. Phrases like "one of the last true progressives," and "the most reasonable senator" are being wailed at the top of blue lungs all the way across the state. I would have a moment of silence, but my style is really more a moment of screaming like this: WISCONSIN, WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM!?

People on both sides of the aisle consider Feingold one of the good guys. He checked his own spending and demanded accountability from himself and from his colleagues, doing things like refusing raises, relying on individual donations, and sponsoring the McCain-Feingold act to reform campaign finances and limit lobbyists' financial influence over sentators (notice the other name on that bill, red-staters.) He was the sole senator to vote against the PATRIOT act-- take note, goverment-interference-shy tea partiers. He voted against the Wall Street Bailout. Even taking into account the fact that his social views are more in line with, say, mine than with, say, Sarah Palin's (and I think I can be just as much of a Mama Grizzly while still believing in universal health care, thankyouverymuch), he sounds like he's one folksy metaphor away from a tea party darling.

And yet. Wisconsin has replaced him with Ron Johnson, about whom, again, I could say a lot more than I will.  Two choice anecdotes from his Wikipedia entry to illustrate Ron Johnson to you: "opposed a Wisconsin bill that would have made it easier for child sex abuse victims to sue their abusers," and "Johnson has called scientists who attribute global warming to man-made causes "crazy" and has said the theory is "lunacy." He has said the source of the climate change is "sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time." "

When I moved here, Wisconsin, I thought you were better than this.

Posted by Silent Five @ 9:58 PM :: (1) comments

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

What A Long, Strange Trip Report It's Been

I almost don't know where to begin here. In my last Tuesday entry I challenged myself and my readers to do something we'd never done before. I always have to overachieve, don't I?

Since April, I've done all of the following:

There's been more than that, of course-- those are just the things that stand out. I've faced a number of turning points in the past six months where I had to choose what was painful over what was wrong. I've been getting better at that every time it comes up, and as the list above hints, I've covered a lot of ground in the "making-my-life-more-awesome" department. I'm proud of myself.

My challenge this Tuesday is not to rest on my laurels. I want to do one thing every day this week that moves me closer to grad school. Some things I need to do are e-mailing my references, researching professors, contacting the department office, and beginning my essays. I'm not committing to do all of these things this week, but if I can at least make some progress every day, I'll feel more confident in my ability to pull the whole thing off.


Posted by Silent Five @ 9:46 PM :: (0) comments

Monday, November 01, 2010

Figure Five Runs Screaming Back Onto The Scene

November appears to be the month for trial by ordeal. Both NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month, for those of you who live under rocks or not on the internet) and Movember (that's the November facial hair growing contest, for those of you who have never iced anybody) turn this month into a contest against oneself, one's inertia, one's fears of success, and one's face. Now, I've considered entering both of these events, but I am still squeamish about the tome of self-indulgent verbiage that a month-long novel might produce, and I can't seem to grow a moustache (which is too bad, because my place of work is offering baked goods to the one who's most in touch with their inner lumberjack come December 1st.) This October, however, ended much the same as last October did; that is to say, with my friend Jacob yelling at me for not being awesome enough and asking why the hell I didn't update my blog anymore. Clearly I had to do something.

That something is the return of NaBloUpMo, wherein I attempt to update this thing EVERY DAMN DAY. I did it last November and it seemed to be well received, so I'm pretty confident about my ability to keep it up. Huzzah, tomorrow old-school Figure Five updates begin once more, starting with one hell of a Trip Report Tuesday. Turns out I've been up to a hell of a lot since April.

What about you kids? I challenge all of you to start blogs and keep them updated, because I'd appreciate being able to stalk you back.

Posted by Silent Five @ 7:39 PM :: (0) comments

Word of the Week

gymnosophy [jim-NAH-so-fee]

n. Philosophical, amusing, or nonsensical insights realized when naked, as in the shower or in bed. (recent coinage: att. S. Galasso, 2010)

Victoria and Albert enjoyed a spot of postprandial concupiscence culminating in a night of gymnosophy and coffee and crumpets at dawn.

The Silent Top Five: Bacon-Flavored Desserts

1) Bacon cheesecake.
2) Bacon gumballs.
3) Bacon ice cream.
4) Bacon-orange bars.
5) Bacon apple pie.

Standard Disclaimer

This is all in no way meant to incur copyright-infringement-related wrath. I'm harmless. I promise. Oh, and if you're offended by anything I may post herein, I guarantee I didn't mean to do so (unless, of course, you are a humorless prig. In which case, go right on and be offended, with my blessings.)