Fourth Wall

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Can I Do This Week Over?

It's been a down week over here, north of the border. My kilted fellow has taken ill with a bad cold that I fear may turn to something rather more bronchial, and I myself seem to have a much milder form of the same cold manifesting itself as a persistent sore throat. Aside from that, there's been a whole load of unexpected academic stress from Monday evening on, and although I think it's worked itself out fine, it sparked some panic and depression that I still find myself working out through academics... from complete apathy in my literature class, to an almost manic level of participation in my history course (that may have been the sleep deprivation, actually, since the class is at 9 and I'd gone to bed at 3:30am two nights in a row).

I brought my poor, sick Kilt Boy home from the library and put him to bed while I made him chicken-and-dumpling soup. While out running errands to buy ingredients, kleenex, and throat lozenges, I trekked down to the Chinatown post office to pick up my not one, but TWO packages: my birthday present of Y Geriadur Mawr, the standard Welsh dictionary containing the Middle Welsh glosses, and my shipment of birthday sock yarn from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. The entire way home, I was reminding myself, "Will not wake up sick, sleeping boyfriend to make him look at yarn. Will not wake up sick, sleeping boyfriend to make him look at yarn."

So here's some conversation snippets to give this post some semblance of a conclusion before I go off to bed to read Simon-Evan's "Middle Welsh Grammar":

KB: I'm not worried if some small part of your heart belongs to Hugh Laurie. I don't think there's going to be a situation in which you two will meet and he will say, "Come, Alice, and I will make sweet passionate British love to you..."
YT: British, in particular?
KB: British, in particular.
YT: What are they going to do, quirk their pinkies?

YT: Just so you know, If I get this cold from you, there's going to be hell to pay in the form of bidding on me hand and foot.
KB: I know.
YT: I mean, waiting on me hand and foot at my bidding. There will be no auctioning off of my appendages to buy yourself a less crabby girlfriend.
KB: However tempting it may be.
(Enter Celticist Roommate)
CR: All I heard was, "there will be no auctioning off of my appendages..."?!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

In Which We Slay the Goat of Peace and a Bottle of Glenlivet

In Medieval Latin, collapsed dipthongs are important. Even more important is expanding those dipthongs out properly before attempting a translation. The difference between e --> ae and e--> oe also happens to be the difference between:

He sent to Italy all his daughters who were pleasing in body, who the king Silvinus then joined to the magnates of Troy, by which deed the goat of peace revived.

He sent to Italy all his daughters who were pleasing in body, who the king Silvinus then joined to the magnates of Troy, by which deed he revived the treaty of peace.

Celticist roommate and I were rather disappointed.

It was okay, though, because then we had a Burns night.


We learned a new, culinary use for a scgian dubh:

We revisited favorite poems and drank some scotch (I noted that, while the first time I had it I was quite intimidated by the drink, now that I've had cognac, whiskey is small potatoes), Em the Younger proved her awesomeness on the violin, and Celticist roommate told a cat-hunting-shadows story that is still making me laugh. I realized that I know almost nothing about English language poetry between Shakespeare and Ginsburg, and sometime in the day I even managed to dig up that sock I've been working on, rip back to the mistake, and start up again.

So now it's back to the Metrical History of the Kings of England, and I'm hoping to get to the part where the Queen Mother bares her breasts to her warring sons before taking another break.

*Kolya: What is this you're laughing about?
Yrs Truly: In Middle Welsh, one uses reduplicated pronouns for emphasis... and [Professor] tried to explain this to us by saying that the seagulls in "Finding Nemo" speak in reduplicated pronouns.
Kolya: "Finding Nemo?"
Celticist Roommate: You know, the movie, with the fish, and 'squishy,' and... you don't know.

Friday, January 25, 2008

You know where liars go, don't you?

Well, I have almost entirely survived the week. I have met a goal of being able to translate for every Latin class (this goal will be especially met if I learn the vocab in time to pass the quiz-by-shame that our TA will be giving us in two hours). Even more exciting: in the first two weeks of class I have completed my discussion-leading requirements for both my seminars.

What else? Our current Latin text, a metrical (dactylic hexameter, AABB) history of the Kings of Britain, is really hard. Every once in a while I have fond flashbacks to reading Seneca. Then it gets hard again.

On Monday I spilled coffee on everything in my bookbag: Rule of St. Benedict in Latin, Ancrene Wisse in Med English, my wallet, my Latin Dictionary, my planner... everything. Somehow the coffee cup slipped out of my hand at a perfect time to punctuate the statement, made by a classmate, that the myth of Brutus's trip to Britain represents the eastward migration of prehistoric peoples.

But, now that Steph has gone public, I feel like I can direct you Got Guilt?, straight from the fertile and twisted imagination of Cameron and Steph's artistic abilities.

Some warnings apply: this comic is really not suitable for those who find themselves offended by... well, anything, but let's call it "sibling-rivalry-like jokes about violence against Protestants." Martha Nussbaum fangirls should probably avoid it as well.

Harrison's cartoon self is particularly... on-the-mark.

(Note you can click on everything to make it bigger.)

Some of the favorites that keep me sane are my cameo with Carolyn, Steph tries to take Veronica to 300, an example of the sort of thing Fr. Pat needs to put up with from his charges, Steph's desire to be a martyr, and the one that particularly makes me laugh my head off with the "Dress like your Doll" effect in panel 3.

Not to mention, of course, Comic 11, which has become something of a cartoon motto for my friends at the Centre.

My character was cut from the main storyline, but Steph sent me the character sketch for your edification... as you can see, the description was written when I was still with the Haberdasher'd fellow.

(Click for bigger.)

PS: Tommy A's statue really does come to the party in his honor. See?

(Insert "gag" from His Haberdasherdness)

But it's not the worst indignity to which he's been subjected:

I just read an article on CA prop 93 (the Legislative Term Limits one) that used the phrase "mirabile dictu".

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The most exciting thing

that has happened in a long time is certainly the discovery that the clock over my desk is still on Daylight Savings Time (it's analog, I don't usually look at the hour hand). I feel like I have a whole new lease on life! Or, at least, greater chances of finishing my workload in a satisfactory manner this evening... er, morning.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sorry, sorry, I got lost somewhere in the twelfth century for a while, but here's a quick update.

Item One:
The publications office that is supposed to sell us our Latin books is always, always closed. This means that I was photocopying the necessary Latin from Kolya's edition for both my own use, and that of Italian Late Medieval History roommate, who has a bad cold. An Arthurian scholar from my Latin class asked me to photocopy the entire book for him (in exchange for a coffee). Some observations:

A) That is illegal.
B) I don't own the book myself, I'm merely borrowing Kolya's. If he wants to photocopy the entire thing, he should borrow one himself.
C) He himself owns the book.
C) a) He doesn't want to write in his book.
C) b) He doesn't want to photocopy his own book because he doesn't want to crack the spine.

This all ended with me informing him, rather too loudly, in the middle of the coffee shop, "I will not be a party to your fetishizing of the British Book of Kings!"

("What does he want to *do* with it?" asked ILMH Roommate. "Worship it like a Pagan God," suggested Kilt Boy.)

Item Two:
Plans are afoot for Burns Night. I have been informed that, if Kilt Boy wears his kilt, he may be hit on/have his tush grabbed by both Chaucer Scholar and her boyfriend. I am planning on taking a big stick to ward them off.

Item Three:
The Ancrene Wisse is really, really hard Middle English-- closer to Old English than Middle, really, and it's been even longer since I took Mid E. That is why I am currently not in Middle Welsh, but am translating Latin to give myself more time for the AW later today.

Item Four:
I have to lead discussion in Medieval Social History on Thursday morning.

Item Five:
AABB rhyming Medieval Latin prose makes me want to put my eyes out with my mechanical pencil. (Although I had the same problem reading the Libro de Buen Amor last term, so maybe it's a rhyme scheme problem). Give me alliterative verse or give me... uhm, not death. Sonnets?

Item Six:
Vanessa came to visit. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for the following conversation:
Customs Agent: Why are you going to Toronto?
Vanessa: Uh... to see the shoe museum?
Customs Agent: Any gifts for people in Toronto?
Vanessa: A large Chicago-style spinach pizza?

Item Seven:
It's snowing!

Other than this, there's not a great deal going on that doesn't involve that-boy-with-a-kilt-from-BC, and we're hoping to visiting Chicago in April.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


1) Lazy Morning Knitting + Pancakes + Sushi + CMS Pub Night = An Awesome Birthday.

(Yes, I wore my Birthday Shoes.)

2) The Rankins CD "Uprooted" (a gift from Kilt Boy) = Magical Application Writing Powers.

3) I'm taking a course in Middle English devotional literature. This is Grad School; we're reading them (even the Ancrene Wisse) in Middle English. I'm a little nervous. It's been over a year since Chaucer, and I don't think reading Geoffry Chaucer Hath A Blog counts as maintaining one's language abilities.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I've not always been the sarcastic-but-generally-happy medievalist you've come to know and, if not love, tolerate. There were some years back there, before I was an unhappy, stressed-about-college-applications adolescent, when I was a downright annoying preadolescent who was sarcastic about everything and responded to authority with a grumpy "hmph".

So when I saw this picture:

I naturally thought of myself.

So, I dedicate this birthday post to my parents, who never once in the most frustrating of my 23 years left me out to die of exposure (however much they may have pondered it).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It is 2:45. I have a 9:00 am class. I am going to bed.

Unfortunately, the undergraduates who live next door are not. They are standing outside, next to my bedroom window, smoking and talking.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Shaking My Fist at the Weather

The high today is 15 C.

The high in Vancouver: 1 C.

That's just stupid warm for January. I'm making up for lost years in California! I demand gorgeous, lovely, snow in my birth month!

So I present to you Bob the Snowman, which Veronica and I built outside Max East a few years ago.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Study of a Paper-Writing Session


Saturday, January 05, 2008

New Year Thoughts

I don't eat well.

I mean, I love to cook. I grew up with both my parents in the kitchen. Mom taught me how to knead her homemade bread pretty much as soon as my hands were strong enough to do so. She read me "Little House in the Big Woods," and we planted vegetables in the back yard. My favorite sort of garden is a kitchen garden. Reading about food is one of my favorite pastimes-- and sometimes I even try to put that fancy French cuisine into practice (citation: my father's large-round-number birthday dinner in 2003, for which I served Cornish Game Hens in a port sauce).

Somewhere in Junior High, I became incredibly self-conscious about the amount I ate. My closest friends were guys, and I was obsessed with the need to appear small and delicate around them by not eating anything. So I'd take a vanilla yogurt and water to school... then walk home and binge on soda and chips and cookies.

I stopped dancing second year of High School, to make room for theater rehearsals and homework. I didn't gain much weight, though, because having decided to go Vegetarian, I was far more conscious of balancing my diet. Despite this, I hated my body-- so much so that my mother paid for Weight Watcher's subscriptions for both of us, hoping we could do it together and get me in a shape I liked before going off to College. (Irony here in that I spent that summer volunteering at a Soup Kitchen in the Castro... insert comment on socio-economic structures here.)

As so often happens, College didn't particularly help with anything. Soda, my great weakness, was readily available-- if not in the dining hall, then in the dorm vending machines with chips and candy bars I'd eat all night, staying up to write papers and do problem sets. I switched from Coke to Pepsi because I could drink more of it without feeling sick to my stomach, to facilitate all-nighters. When I wasn't drinking soda, I drank juice as a "healthier substitute". I packed my tea with sugar.

My eating habits didn't much improve once I had an apartment of my own. I was always too busy to go grocery shopping or cook, and ate with my friends at the dining hall. I sustained myself primarily on grilled-cheese-sandwiches-with-tomato and fries... with a soda on the side. I lived right down the street from CVS, which provided easy access to Cherry Coke and Peanut Butter Cups for working late into the night. Veronica and I would stay up until one, go get donuts and coffee, and then stay up even later.

Wales was full of excellent beer--which we went out to drink every night except Mondays-- and far, far too many potatoes. On my return I was once again a Vegetarian, in the hope of both losing the beer & potato weight and capturing the heart of a young man who had never touched meat. Once the semester started up again, I was eating like I always had. As I told Professor F, you don't want to know how many Peanut Butter Cups had to die for the writing of my BA thesis.

Unfortunately, Toronto, despite the easy access of Kensington market, hasn't proved much better. I've been relying on cheap chow mein (with the crispy noodles) from a take-out on Bloor Street. Somewhere along the line I developed an addiction to Pringles potato chips for when I'm writing my papers. I'm drinking too much coffee, not enough water-- and the local beer here isn't even good, but for some reason I order it anyway.

I see in myself the tendency to be careless about time for myself, including food preparation. I eat according to my emotions-- so I'll binge on chocolate and chips if I'm stressed, or writing (writing is SO an emotional state, don't tell me it isn't), but if I'm really into something that I'm doing, I'll forget to eat until it is far too late-- then I binge, and feel sick. I'll forget that eating well really does affect my ability to think, so I'll have macaroni-and-cheese out of a box with nary a vegetable in sight, to save twenty minutes for more... procrastinating.

All of which is a rather long-winded and somewhat self-serving background meditation to what I want to do this year. I'm not going to say that I want to lose weight (which I do) or that I want to eat healthier (which I do), but that I want to break this cycle I have with food. I don't want to see it anymore as a purely functional caulking for filling the hole in my stomach or my spirit when they hurt, or an annoyance that will take time I don't have. I'm tired of abusing caffeine because I don't know how to manage my time. I'm tired of late-night breakdowns because I don't know how to take care of myself by prioritizing. I want to take time for real pleasures, not false ones (reading a chapter of a book, rather than spending thirty minutes browsing cute cat pictures online, or savoring a Green & Black's bar piece-by-piece over several days, rather than swallowing a Snicker's bar only to wish immediately for more.)

And if, in the end, I can fit back into this dress--

(vintage 1950's. From looking at the inside, I think it's handmade by the original wearer, or someone close to her.)

Well, then, all the better.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Missive from the T.C.

So, Carolynska and I went out the other night to a late show of "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," which comes highly recommended if you like the sort of escapism where the people who know dead languages are the best-looking people out there. As a medievalist, this tickles me to no end.

That said, one of the early scenes in the movie portrays Nicholas Cage giving a lecture. I'm always amused by lecture scenes, particularly the infamous example in The DaVinci Code where it seems all you need to do to give a lecture is show slides entirely unrelated to one another, ask the audience for their assumptions, and then zoom out on the slide to demonstrate how you have tricked them. How brilliant!

Anyway, going back to National Treasure, I'm not sure where there are lecture halls in which a video of those asking questions is projected on a screen behind the speaker.

This, however, brings me to my question. I'm sure you notice cinematic portrayals of, if not academics, your particular profession (I can't think of any movie paralegals, sorry, Aidan). What are some of the best? Or the worst?

I don't see many movies, so I can only think of the professor in Spider Man: 2 (I think) and, of course, Indiana Jones.

What can you guys come up with?

PS: Caelius is back! Yay!

PPS: We saw the preview for the next Narnia. I'm excited.

PPPS: Tomorrow night in Toronto!