Fourth Wall

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In Which the Latin *Clicks*

(This is probably going to bore everyone except Steph, Caelus, and the Celticist Roommate to tears. Fair warning.)

My MA class is full of strong Latinists. Some have over twelve years of the language under their belts. I am not one of these students. I have 1.6667 academic years* (I dropped the third quarter) of Latin at Chicago, and was a pretty mediocre student because I was lazy about memorizing, almost never prepared (until Dmitri and I started studying together, but then we were lazy and relying on online dictionaries), and trusted in my instincts from three years of the chant choir and eleven years of Spanish. I know I'm good at languages-- my Welsh abilities prove that I'm talented with at least one difficult language-- but Latin is a struggle, and an ever more frustrating struggle because it is a language that I want to love.

Em the younger (the Catholic one, for those of you keeping score at home) assured me, all through August and September, that one day my Latin would "click" and I would realize that I actually do know this language. But it wasn't happening, and it wasn't happening, and it wasn't happening, and I wanted to hit my head against the wall because the simplest Latin-- say, that inscribed above the altar at the oratory-- remained a puzzle I couldn't solve. This was true, at least until this past Shrove Tuesday, when I was checking the mass times on their website and it read as if it were English, "my house will be called a house of prayer".

So, yay me, I can read Vulgate Latin when all the words are words I know. This is actually progress, which makes me quite happy until I begin beating my head against Hugh of St. Victor and he makes me want to die-- at least until today, when an unfamiliar verb proved to me that I am, actually, getting better at it. "I think that's a second person present verb," I thought to myself, "'vilipendo, vilipendare?' But wait! It's in an 'ut' clause, so it's probably subjunctive! vilipendo, vilipendere!**"

It's not in my Classical dictionary, but it is in Whitaker's Words: vilipendo, vilipendere: despise, slight. A small victory, but one which proves that I am getting better at looking carefully at the syntax and at the morphology, rather than flying by the intuitive seat of my pants. The next step, of course, is turning these little victories into motivation to spend more time studying the boring memorization stuff.

IN OTHER NEWS: a whole bunch of Chicago girls were in town visiting Em the Elder. We had a lovely dinner on Saturday night for which I made dessert: poached pears, chocolate sauce, and ice cream. Em enjoyed reliving her math major days with Amanda, who is doing math at MIT, and there were many references to Amanda's obsession with prime numbers, and Em's childhood prejudice against the same. The best part, however, came later.

Amanda: I do, in fact, know someone who got married on March 14th, at 1:59 pm.*** And this man has reproduced!

There was much approving of Kilt Boy, and there is other exciting news from the New York faction which involves knitting itty-bitty hats, and sweaters, and booties...

*Taken out to the fourth decimal place, like a U Chicago GPA.
** No comments on how I should have realized that it's a compound on pendo, pendere allowed.
*** 3.14159, for those who have to think about it for a minute, as I did.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Latest Scholarly Discovery: Century-Old Question Answered

From my Religious History Reading Group: What would Augustine have as a tattoo?


In other news, KB and I will be in Chicago from the 28th of April to the 5th of May (that is, arriving right after Orthodox Easter and Passover). So if anyone has a couch to be crashed upon for a few days...

(KB says he's not bringing the kilt. "It's immensely heavy," he says. Wimp.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


So, yesterday was this fake holiday, "Family Day," made up by the Government of Ontario, and a whole bunch of museums and so forth tried to benefit by adding special family-friendly activities. KB and I were much amused, in our Saturday morning reading of the Globe and Mail over breakfast (he came over and made me scones!) to discover that the Royal Ontario Museum had decided to mark the day by unveiling "Gertie," a 90-ft "balloonosaurus" as a "girlfriend" to their resident large dino fossil.

The subsequent, non-family-appropriate jokes are left as an exercise to the reader.

So I was on the phone with Tricky this afternoon, procrastinating on Chapter 9 of Hugh of St. Victor, and I recounted this event. He lost no time in getting the joke, and was quite distressed by it.

"You know," I sad, "neither of us really went so far as *imagining* a possible scenario."
"Well," he replied, "I just really *like* dinosaurs. Oh, shoot, wait, no..."


Cwino, Cwino, Cwino

I'm feeling much better today, thank you for asking. As of Friday, I can remove my own boots! Another example: As of Friday, I don't need to be picked up out of bed "like a little rag doll" (Kilt Boy's words, not mine). (Technically, I've been able to get myself out of bed every day except the day I fell, but it was, and still is, much less painful to have help.) Today, however, is the first day that I haven't had the pain in the back of my mind all the time. Trying to get comfortable in bed remains one of the most difficult things (really, it's a lost cause), as does opening heavy doors and picking things off the ground, but today is the first day since Friday that I've seen real improvement.

The cold of winter, however, is always hard on my back as my muscles tense up in a sad attempt to stay warm, so being outside is quite difficult, as my poor bruised* muscles will start having little spasms. Today's low is supposed to be -13C, and with yesterday's rain having frozen on the sidewalks, I was told that even if I had wanted to go into campus from where I'm catsitting, I would have been strictly forbidden from doing so. This means that today's attempt at productivity involves going through bibliographies from the few sources I have for my Social History paper, looking them up on the library catalog, and then noting their call numbers for reference when I return to campus.

This may be the most mind-numbing task I have yet performed under the guise of Humanities research. It's mindless data entry, as (this is really good news and I shouldn't be complaining) so far every compilation of British charters I have wanted to look at has, indeed, been in the library system... so I haven't even had the excitement of the Inter Library Loan! (It will come, however, with the secondary sources, which are far more specifically Welsh in scope.)

I am, of course, doing all this because I am assiduously procrastinating on the next task for my other paper, which is to read The Book of Margery Kempe. I do not think that Margery Kempe is a transgressive,** proto-feminist laywoman. I think that, were she living today, she would be one of those little church ladies with sixteen pamphlets on Our Lady of Fatima and a rosary in a ziploc bag*** who write twenty-paged single-spaced letters to the archbishop about liturgical discrepancies. She'd probably pass out monthly handouts about the latest from Medjugorje.****

Other bad news: KB got a phone call from his credit card company yesterday, saying that they'd flagged some unusual activity. We rolled our eyes and assumed it was our tickets to Chicago, although it had been some time since that purchase. No such luck, however; it was indeed credit card fraud, which is unnerving even if the company is removing those purchases from his balance.

In entirely different news, for Nemo and Caelius: On Sunday, when fraternizing with the Anglicans (including the one I date) at Smokey Tom's, I heard a sermon from, and shook the hand of, Victoria Matthews, former Bishop of Edmonton and the first female bishop in Canada.

Finally, you know you're over-educated when:
Our resident ex-Marine ABD student: "I love you. Platonically! Oh, shoot, no, I've read too much Plato to say that."

* On the "adding insult to injury" front, even though there's bruising somewhere down there, it is so far below the skin it is entirely invisible.
** KB would like a twenty-year moratorium on the use of Margery Kempe as a source for studies on lay piety. Personally, I just want a moratorium on the use of the word "transgressive".
*** There is a little old woman at the Oratory, where I attend mass, who has a mantilla depicting OLOF appearing to the children IN THE LACE. Every time I think of it, I think of John Zmirak, author of The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living: "if it were classy, we'd suspect something Anglican was going on."
**** *shudder*

Friday, February 15, 2008

Quick Update

I've had x-rays, and I'm still in a great deal of pain, but the doctors think my ribs are merely bruised, not broken. Kilt Boy loves his Penguin Atlas of World History Volume 1

I'm heading northwards to cat-sit for a professor for Reading Week, so you probably won't hear much from me for a time. I promise, I'm getting better as fast as I can!

I leave you with the following classic from friend Larry:


Your mom gave a splendid reading LAST EVENING. She sampled pieces from various decades (including one or two depicting a very young and very precocious, incorrigible you) and read with confidence and elan. It was just fantastic, her work and her performance. Truly.

Afterwards, when we were out at SQUAT AND GOBBLE (one of your favs, I hear), your mom and I held court, breathlessly, about how cute and courtly the Kilted One is ... your dad chimed in with remarks about how NICE he was. But, I do believe we have everyone at S & G rushing to your blog to check out the pics!

I hope your rib is healing. Perhaps on next St. Blaise Day you'll have Father aim that beribboned candle set a trifle lower.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In "signs grad school may be driving me insane," I had a dream the other night that I was trying to describe the Lake Tahoe vacation cabin ethos to a group of Canadians, and came up with, "so, you know how Herculaneum was for the Romans? It's like that."

Furthermore, I had the Little Mermaid song stuck in my head the other day in the shower, with the words changed to, "how many bath poufs can one shower hold?". We have four girls in the apartment, and five little mesh bath poufs. It's ridiculous.

In other news, I slipped on the ice Sunday morning and may well have cracked a rib-- (I landed on my book bag. Such a Medieval Studies grad student-- I was taken out by my Latin dictionary!) I'm shocked and rather annoyed by how much pain can come from such a small thing, and how much my normal movements can be affected.

It also, of course, begs the question of what you do (with Valentine's and his birthday both rapidly approaching) for a young man who not only bakes fresh baguettes as he first promised to do over the weekend, but also helps you brush your hair, makes up ice packs, waits three hours with you at the health center, helps you in and out of bed, and does your laundry for you--all after nursing you through the stomach flu the week before, and with nothing but promises of weeks and weeks of helping you pick things off the floor and put things on high shelves, if there is a break? I feel like all of a sudden he's dating a needy old woman.

I'm also, it should be noted, trying to make it not be a break with my sheer force of will-- but if it hurts this badly tomorrow, I'm going to go in and make them take x-rays.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Add To: "Ways I Know He's the Only One for Me"

Number 10:

(Staring at a sock that needs to be ripped out, again, past the gussets and heel flap.)

Yrs Truly: Maybe I won't fix it. Maybe I'll just bury it under a tree.
Kilt Boy: But could you live with the guilt? Every time you walked by, you'd hear its little heart beat... ka-thump...ka-thump...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ah, yes...

...because what I really needed in life right now was a low (three degrees above my average) fever.

No wonder the Latin was so difficult this morning. Tomorrow may be the second Ash Wednesday in a row that I will be too sick to fast.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Some Observations.

1) Dominicans should not use the word "sucks". This holds true even when trying to "connect to the youth," but is especially true at 8:30 am masses full of old ladies.

2) When I go to 8:30 am mass, I forget it is Sunday. (I attribute it to a phenomenon something like this one, but less conducive to productivity. I realized it was Sunday when I found myself wondering, "why are all these people talking about the Super Bowl? Since when is the Super Bowl on a Saturday?"

3) I offer a short, very very rough translation from my Middle Welsh assignment for the week. Our ironic hero has just tied the bad guy up in a magic bag and given it over to his men for their entertainment.

"And as each one of his host went inside, each one struck at the bag with a blow, and asked, "what is in here?"
"A badger," they answered.
This is the kind of game they played: each one would strike a blow at the bag either with his foot or with his staff; and so they played with the bag. When each entered he asked, "what game are you playing in this way?"
"The game, 'badger in the bag,'" said the others. And so first was played 'badger in the bag'.

There is not enough punctuation in the world to express my confusion at the point of this little story. The note suggests that it either represents two, separate, imperfectly synthesized accounts, or that the redactor thought it was so funny he decided to make it funner with extra description.

Candlemas, 2008

(Yes, I'm a day late, I had laundry to do.)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Sometimes, a woman reaches a point in her life where she has difficult choices to make. Faced with these choices, she knows there are only two options for the evening.

--She may continue to make split-pea soup and biscuits in blissful silence, with the mopey, sick, eyes of her dearest boring holes in her back as he watches her, miserable in his sickness, or
--She may try to entertain him by introducing him to the new game she learned about from The Yarn Harlot, knowing that she will need to listen to the music for the next hour.

Of course, listening to him prove his dorkiness as he delighted in beating his previous records almost made it worth it.

Friday, February 01, 2008

From Today's Inbox

Dear all,

The U of T Provost has announced that due to severe weather conditions today the St. George Campus will close at 11:00 am. The Mississauga campus is closed and the Scarborough campus will close at 10:00 am. All classes and on-campus activities have been cancelled on all three campuses.

Hope you get home safely, if you are already on campus.

I keep expecting a Chicago-style "except for you Grad Students who never get time off" or a CMS-style "we will still hold Latin class, come hell or high water... er, snow." But, no. I'm going to make a big pot of coffee and curl up with Wade-Evans's Grammar and F.G. Cowley's "The Monastic Order in South Wales, 1066-1349". Listen to some knitting podcasts, make some Latin vocab cards. Make soup. My only regrets are that the library is closed, so I can't go check out a movie for the evening, and that when I was running errands last night I did not get the one onion I need for the lentil soup. One onion is going to prevent this from being a "stay in your pajamas all day" sort of day.

(I note from facebook that one of the dissertating PhDs is complaining about being kicked out of the library in an hour.)