Fourth Wall

Friday, March 28, 2008

Conversations With The Assistant Director

(On the dangers of burnout and the importance of the summer.)

D: If you do go [to London], don't take anything Medieval with you.
A: Well, there's plenty Medieval *there*.
D: Alice... go to the Tate.


And in the "Blogging Facebook" category, I'm completely at a loss when it comes to writing a response to the following message:

Sorry to bother you. I found you in a search for "papist" as religion, only you came up. I also go to U of T. Just wanted to say I enjoyed your choice. - (Random Undergrad)

Clearly my sense of humor has been misinterpreted. I am now tempted to change it to "Chalice Chipper" JUST BECAUSE. (Yes, I'm just a tiny bit wicked.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Four Things: March 25, 2007

1) It's raining. My only hope is that it will help the snow melt, as opposed to freezing on the sidewalks.

2) I have a presentation to give tomorrow in my 4:00 class. It is titled "Sadistic Eroticism in The Katherine Group". I did not title my presentation and I fear my classmates will be somewhat disappointed, since it is really about meditation and memory practice in reading lives of virgin martyrs.

3) Yesterday, I officially accepted my offer of admission to my PhD program.

4) KB--I mean, Tristan-- is coming over to make me Shepherd's Pie for dinner. So life can't be all bad. (Although he is a little peeved that I told you Chicagoans that he's scared of you.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Orders of Business, II

(Apologies for the editing; I don't know what it does to the RSS feed I didn't know I had.)

1) Carolyn quite astutely points out that I meant May 3rd and 4th, but I take it you all knew what I meant. Thank you for the offers of hospitality (and Aidan: oh, poor Myfanwe!)-- I will, of course, keep you updated.

2) That's it; I'm cutting my hair when the weather gets warmer. Aidan & Heather have convinced me to donate it-- all you had to do is mention children, of course. I was so vain about my long hair as a child. (Goodness only knows why, since I hated to keep it brushed.)

3) KB is disturbed by the number of people who know him only as Kilt Boy and would like to be referred to by his given name of Tristan from now on. I think he was a little worried that people would call him "Kilt Boy" to his face in Chicago, aside from his concerns about false advertising when he is not, in fact, wearing the kilt.

He is scared of meeting people in Chicago, particularly the people at Calvert House. He is afraid Cameron will beat him up. He is also afraid that the Viking will taunt him for being a less manly medievalist.

All of these anxieties, of course, pale before his fear of the possibility of meeting Larry & Co in November.

4) Carolyn wonders if having a cute short haircut would ruin the "trying to fight vanity" aspect of cutting my hair. That's a risk I'm willing to take.

5) My weekend off was lovely, thank you for asking. I did spring cleaning (to The Hold Steady's Separation Sunday, which seemed an appropriate soundtrack), went to church a lot, read for fun, and then tCR and I had people over and we made a delicious Easter dinner accompanied by a Pinot Gris from Alsace:

6) My granddad is getting a pacemaker put in tomorrow. According to Grandma, one of his doctors is "New School" and the other is "Old School". I know it's not strictly slang, but I am a little disturbed by the idea of my grandma using the phrase "Old School".

7) It snowed last night. I am really homesick to be right here:

8) I remain unconvinced in re: my professor's unwillingness to eat me, fried in butter or no.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Some Orders of Business

1) The issue of the haircut continues to frustrate me. Every once in a while I get really frustrated (especially now that it is down to the small of my back and too heavy to hold in a clip) and want to cut it off, but then I see how long it is and think it's pretty, but then I wonder if I should cut it off to fight against vanity, and maybe I should think about donating it since I totally have enough to donate and have some left for myself, but maybe I have too many split ends blah de blah blah I have good problems.

2) After all, I do not have advanced ovarian cancer. KB and I watched Wit last Saturday, and I ask you all to remind me the next time he wants to watch a movie with someone dying of a horrible disease that I am a hypochondriac.

3) We're almost set up with places to stay for Chicago... does anyone have space, either for the two of us, or just for KB (I can probably always crash at Steph's if necessary) for the 3rd and 4th of March? I travel bearing Chocolate...

4) I will be away from my computer from around 1:30 tomorrow, for as long as I last over the Easter weekend. I'm hoping for sometime Monday. I'm taking a rest from anything Medieval related but I know I won't feel rested if I spend the entire time browsing Cute Overload. May your Easter Vigil be giggly and sleep-deprived with the best.

5) For my two or so Haberdasher'd readers: Happy Purim, eat a hamentash or three for me.

And now, I must run or my very French Professor for Social History will fry me in garlic butter and serve me to her toddler.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

In Which I Almost Have a Heart Attack Not Related to Biscuits & Gravy

So I was sitting in a carrel in the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies Library, as one does of a Friday morning, taking a practice MA-level Latin exam when Kilt Boy stopped by to say hello. I took a short break to talk to him, and was about to turn back to the exam when I looked up to see Margaret running towards us, water bottle in hand.

"Is the library on fire?" I thought to myself. "Wouldn't she have her books, if it were?"

She was out of breath when she arrived, and I wondered if someone had died. "I just thought you guys would want to know," she said, "admissions letters... and rejection letters... are in our boxes. Well, I don't know about everyone, but I saw letters in your boxes."

Kilt Boy grabbed my hand and looked at me with some anxiety-- admissions decisions being something of no small import for our relationship-- and Margaret apologized as she returned to her class. Getting decisions this early is unprecedented. They've always waited for the results of the April MA Latin exam. I'd had a week of rejections from other programs, and Toronto was my last hope-- and I was pretty certain I couldn't handle another rejection.

I sent KB up to the Centre to get both of our letters, and I sat down on the floor in front of the Breviaries hoping to find something to meditate on (it was clearly ridiculous to consider doing the practice exam at this point). It felt like it took him forever to come back, and we opened our letters in the stacks of the library. In all honesty, I didn't get much further than "I am happy to inform you" before I made a happy noise and couldn't read the letter anymore because of the hug I was getting from the boy.

"Okay," I said, once I had verified through his reticent Canadian exterior that he, too, had an acceptance, "let's forget Latin and go celebrate."
"Dear God, yes," he replied.

Unfortunately, once we left the library, giggling and giddy, we realized that we hadn't the foggiest idea where we were going-- so finally, I said, "Over Easy is open until four-- let's go get pancakes."

"I like the way you think," he responded, and we were off, KB laughing at random intervals the entire way. Adrenaline makes you kinda giddy like that. When I pointed this out to him, he said, "Well, why shouldn't I be? We're two young, handsome, brilliant medievalists just accepted to the top program in our field, and we're going to eat pancakes. I like it."

After lunch, we came out into the faintest beginnings of the weekend's snowstorm and found ourselves in the Indigo bookstore browsing Children's books.

So, yes, that was my weekend and work has been shot ever since. We eventually dragged Platonic Boyfriend off to check his letter, and then had a midday half-pint to celebrate his acceptance. Because apparently our little trio is "pieces not sold separately", as Celticist Roommate put it.

("You three do come as a matched set," said the ex-Marine PhD candidate. "You're so cute together, I want to take you home and put you on my mantelpiece.")

(The half-pint, following half a carafe of coffee at Over Easy, was a mistake. We were attending the annual Etienne Gilson lecture and I spent much of the fascinating talk about Albertus Magnus and St. Tommy A wanting to go to the bathroom and drawing cartoons of sheep.)

I'm sure you're probably wondering about some of the other characters mentioned on this here blog-- Celticist Roommate was also accepted, although she tried to drive us all mad by not opening her letter for hours (HOURS!!). So was Margaret, and it took 24 hours of trying not to step on one another's feelings to figure it out.

There are some disappointments, of course, although not many, and I'm going to miss my long-haired, ear-ringed, wet-puppy-dog-like Welsh buddy next year.

So I've been procrastinating all weekend making my PhD student wish list. Number one on the list is a good magnifying glass, so I can stop making myself blind with footnotes, dictionaries, and eventually, palaeography.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

ITEMS: One, Two, Three

Item One: When I can get my act together, I go to the parish run by the Oratorians for a Latin N.O. mass. Maybe forty percent of the women in attendance cover their heads for the service. There is an old woman somewhat notorious both among the Centrefolk who attend the Oratory masses and the seminarians who live there for wearing a mantilla that consists of a lacy representation of Our Lady of Fatima appearing to the three children. KB's little Anglican soul was immensely disappointed when she was nowhere to be found the first time he came with us. He accompanied me yet again this past Sunday, however, and there she was sitting in the pew right across the side aisle from us.

Being in close proximity, however, meant that I got a good view of her mantilla as she returned from the communion rail. It does not say "Fatima". It says, "Lourdes".

This opens two possibilities. Perhaps we were mistaken, and her mantilla has always said "Lourdes." Perhaps, however, (and this is a thought that chills to the bone,) there are TWO marian mantilla ladies, each with mantillas from a separate miracle sight.

KB has informed me that I may in no way purchase or knit a mantilla with an image of Our Lady of Walsingham. (He ruins all my fun. When we went to the ROM on Friday to see the dinosaurs, he would simply not accept that adopting a juvenile sauropod (like that on display-- it had a lot of growing up to do) would be a perfect way to keep weeds down in the back yard. The problem, he pointed out, is that they do grow up and he wasn't sure the neighbors for three doors down would much appreciate his tail in their gardens. I counter that Clifford the Big Red Dog's (tm, probably) neighbors got on just fine.)

Item Two: Last night I had a nightmare that the conference for which I am writing an abstract wanted only the title of the paper, and I had to make it compelling in under twenty words. I was simultaneously relieved and terrified both in the dream and upon waking.

Item Three: I think I may be writing about the Katherine Group Middle English texts just so I can cite Tolkien in an academic manner.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

How Vegetarians Give Themselves Heart Attacks

1) Go to the store and wander the aisles until you find the "fake meat" section. (Hint: it's often by the produce, but in the old HP Produce it was above the yogurt.) Buy a package of fake breakfast sausage patties.

2) Go home, make biscuits. This step I contracted out to Kilt Boy, who gamely agreed to help with this experiment in the vegetarian recreation of an American diner dish he'd never had.

He did it like this:

Phillips Matriarch's Baking-Powder Biscuits
1 c Flour
2 T shortening (we use butter)
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/3 c milk

Blend shortening with sifted dry ingredients. Stir milk quicly with flour. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Toss lightly on floured board and roll dough 1/2'' thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter or glass. Bake in a hot oven* for 12-15 minutes.

3) After your befuddled kitchen assistant has placed the biscuits in the oven, melt some butter in a skillet and heat four of the "sausage" patties. Cook until browned. You may hope that some little bits of the sausage will stick to the pan in shallow imitation of their models, but you will hope in vain. When cooked, place on a pan and try to keep them warm.

4) Now begin making a milk version of what I call "Dad's Emergency Gravy" because the basic recipe was explained to me as part of an "I have a kitchen emergency" phone call* as I stood in the aisle of the 53rd St Co-op.

Add 3 T butter, or thereabouts, to the same skillet. When it has melted, put in 2 T of flour. Enjoy the scent of toasty, beautiful, roux... I do every time. If it's too dry, add a bit more butter. When it's brown and lovely, add one cup milk while stirring briskly (I eventually ended up adding about 2 c milk, but that's because I started too early and had to keep it wet while the biscuits baked. Cut up one of the "sausages" into small bits and mix into the gravy. Add salt, pepper, and (because I am my father's daughter and the fake meat has less flavor), cayenne pepper to taste.

5) Split your freshly baked biscuits in half, and top with gravy. Serve remaining "sausages" on the side (hint: fake meat is always better with ketchup). Revel in having satisfied one of your few meat cravings. Wonder if it is appropriate to have done so on a Friday in Lent. Try not to think about the fact that the meal is, in fact, butter and flour topped with butter and flour. Serves 2-3, depending on size of biscuit, appetite, and whether or not you serve it with a side of fried eggs.

Especially good as a late dinner after a trip to see the dinosaur fossils at the Royal Ontario Museum.

(I'm recording this recipe not only for your entertainment, but because it keeps me from working on the conference abstract I have to do today. See how I love you?)
*We often interpret this as 350 because we have a very sensitive smoke detector, but it's probably meant to be more around 400.
** Actually, it was Vee's kitchen emergency, but I didn't know how to make gravy, either. So we called Dad.