Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead

Happy centenary Bloomsday to one and all!

Reading one page per day sounds rather enjoyable. Especially via RSS. (I just wish there were annotations a la Pepys’ Diary.)

Perhaps you’d like a postcard for the occasion? Or some music?

And, of course, no Bloomsday is complete without a visit to Ulysses for Dummies.

Oh, and by the way, the Blue Pyramid Book Quiz says I’m Ulysses. How apt:

You’re Ulysses!
by James Joyce
Most people are convinced that you don’t make any sense, but compared to what else you could say, what you’re saying now makes tons of sense. What people do understand about you is your vulgarity, which has convinced people that you are at once brilliant and repugnant. Meanwhile you are content to wander around aimlessly, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. What you see is vast, almost limitless, and brings you additional fame. When no one is looking, you dream of being a Greek folk hero.
Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

Summer movie reports, #1

So the free outdoor screening of Pirates of the Caribbean was last night, and I braved dodgy weather (off-and-on rain earlier in the evening) and a hay fever attack to go see it. Much fun. I would just like to report the following bits of overheard dialogue from my fellow audience members:


MAN SITTING AT END OF ROW [to the guy next to him, after a short "So what do you do?" exchange]: So you’re one of those adjunct professors, then?


SECOND GIRL [in the Mocking Voice of Heavy Adolescent Sarcasm]: Oooh, Johnny Depp is like, so hot.
THIRD GIRL [without sarcasm]: Johnny Depp is hot. Shut up.
OLDER GUY IN FRONT OF ME: Excuse me, would you mind letting some of us watch the movie?
[The first few scenes of the movie unfold. JACK SPARROW makes his entrance atop the mast of his rapidly-sinking boat.]
AUDIENCE: Whoo! [miscellaneous cheers and applause]


And, finally, my favorite moment:

JACK SPARROW: If you were waiting for the opportune moment….


It was almost as much fun as the time I went to a midnight screening of Moulin Rouge where half the audience was reciting along with Ewan McGregor, "You don’t believe in love? Love is like oxygen! Love lifts us us up where we belong! Love is a many-splendored thing! All you need is love!"

Also, there was at least one audience member dressed up like a pirate. That is, if pants with the legs partly rolled up and red knee socks count as a pirate costume.

Storm warnings and Vivaldi

Yesterday — one of the few hot days we’ve had so far this year — I was walking across campus when I noticed that it was getting darker, rather rapidly. I looked up and saw a bank of dark slate-blue clouds moving in. At the same time, the wind suddenly picked up, almost buffeting me off course as I crossed a street, flinging random bits of dirt and sand at great force. I hurried toward the library, where I’d been planning to put in an afternoon at my part-time job, trying to get there ahead of the rain that was already beginning to fall, because I knew my umbrella would immediately turn inside out in the wind.

We sometimes get tornadoes in these parts, although I’ve never actually seen one. So I was thinking “Could it be a tornado? But it didn’t seem like tornado weather today!” as I half-walked, half-ran ahead of the storm. But when I got to the front vestibule of the library, where a small crowd was gathering to avoid the rain, I was told “Ma’am, if you’re coming in, you need to go down to the basement.” In short, there was a tornado warning after all. But in ten or fifteen minutes the hypothetical tornado had passed, and in under an hour the sun was out again.

The most dramatic tornado-ish weather I remember, by the way, took place one sweltering afternoon in Chicago during my last year there. A bunch of us had gone to Promontory Point for a swim. Before we’d been in the water for very long, the waves started to get choppier, and we could see a bank of clouds heading toward us across Lake Michigan. Soon a coast guard boat (lake guard? whatever the equivalent of Coast Guard for the Great Lakes is) came around to warn us out of the water. Off in the distance, we could see lightning flashing between the clouds and the lake surface. We stood on the rocks of the Point watching it for a while. The sky was a very pale luminous yellow-green. “Tornado weather,” one of my housemates declared, pointing at it. Eventually we dashed back to the house we all shared, not quite soon enough to avoid getting soaked in the rain, nervously joking about imminent electrocution as we went. Ah, summer. The storms are my favorite thing about it.

Now I want to spend an evening or two listening to the Summer concerto of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Especially the third movement, with the thunderstorm.

On summer movies

Summer is here in spades: it’s supposed to get up to 90 this week. Which means that it’s officially summer movie season chez Household Opera. While I’m no great fan of the kind of summer movies that feature car crashes, meteorites, and/or giant tidal waves swamping New York, I nonetheless find my cinematic tastes changing when summer rolls around. I start craving lighter entertainment to go with the lighter clothes and lighter foods of the season. For instance: this weekend my friend Tonya and I saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and a good time was had by all.* I was especially happy to see Emma Thompson, on whom I had a big crush during her Shakespeare Movies with Kenneth Branagh era, playing Professor Trelawney as a cross between my hippie-ish 7th grade homeroom teacher and the Delphic Sibyl. (But there should have been more Alan Rickman!) Then I made a stab at Serious Film Appreciation by renting Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract, but I started falling asleep three-quarters of the way through. Now is not the ideal time to try to understand what Peter Greenaway is all about. I’d much rather watch movies with hippogriffs and werewolves.

As an added inducement to summer movie frivolity, there are free outdoor movie screenings here every July and August. The movies aren’t first-run, but it’s still fun to watch them outside after dark, surrounded by an affable crowd of people who will shriek at the scary parts in The Others or cheer on George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou? I won’t get to see all of this summer’s offerings, but I will get to re-watch Pirates of the Caribbean (yay, Johnny Depp in eyeliner!), Chicago (I wonder if people will sing along?), and a few others.

I suspect I’ll be doing quite a big of movie-renting as a means of breaking up the monotony of packing for the move. I’ve also been feeling the urge to post capsule reviews from time to time. In short, this may be the season of movie-blogging. Full speed ahead! Oh, wait, it’s summer. Lazy meander ahead!

* Though I wouldn’t exactly call this installment in the series "light." Those Dementors were creepy.

Personal anthology: Rainer Maria Rilke


The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;

and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion
of what becomes a star each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.

— Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Stephen Mitchell)

Someday I will learn enough German to be able to read Rilke in the original (which can be found here, for those readers who know more German than I do).

Latin blogging

Get your Martial epigrams (in English and Latin) here. How cool is that? Via Uncle Jazzbeau’s Gallimaufrey.

Giddy-relief-induced linkorama

I just finalized my moving arrangements, and found out that it’s not going to be quite as expensive as I’d feared. It’s not cheap, but it won’t put a killer strain on my finances either. Even with all the books. Hurrah! Now, all I need to do is find someone to take over my apartment (there’ll be several people coming over this week and next to check it out) and pack. And ditch half my furniture. Nonetheless: great relief.

Now that there’s officially One Less Thing To Worry About, I can relax a bit and point to a few blogs I’ve just started reading:

Bighappyfunhouse, a "found photography" blog. Some remarkable images, including a Hopperesque drugstore in the snow, light and shadow and bathers, a headstand in progress. Where does he find these troves of old photos, I wonder? (Via thingsmagazine.)

Prima la musica, poi le parole, by a fellow operaphile in New Zealand, who shares my tendency to fixate on sopranos and mezzos.

Tangognat, palindromic librarian (who knits!). I’m still exploring the staggeringly large librarian blogosphere. LIS Blogsource should keep me busy for quite some time.

Typographica: a journal of typography. Because I can never resist a good font.

Quiz of the week

With thanks to Wolfangel:

Bert & Ernie
Bert & Ernie’s Gay Love Affair

Look, everyone knows you two are lovebirds. Why not do the brave thing and admit it to the world? The times are kinder nowadays. There may be the odd ultraconservative bigwig or overprotective mom, but so what? Piss on ’em. Come on out of the closet. It’s ok.

Which Sesame Street Muppet’s Dark Secret Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

(The moment I saw this quiz, I thought to myself, "I bet it’s going to tell me that I’m Bert and Ernie’s gay love affair." So I may have cheated just a tiny bit.)

Department of library de-acquisitions

There’s a great passage in the first chapter of Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler in which the unnamed Reader (always addressed in the second person) enters a bookstore and is confronted by the intimidating legions of Books You Haven’t Read. Calvino arrays them into categories, including:

the Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For A Long Time,
the Books You’ve Been Seeking For Years Without Finding Them,
the Books About Something That Interests You At The Present Moment,
the Books You’d Like To Have On Hand Just In Case,
the Books You Could Put Away To Read Maybe This Summer,
the Books You Need To Go With Other Books In Your Bookshelf,
the Books That Inspire In You A Sudden, Frantic, And Not Exactly Justifiable Curiosity.*

I suspect that a lot of bibliophiles have this passage at least partially memorized. Having been ruthlessly culling my book collection in preparation for the move (query: how many boxes of books before the movers’ fees go high enough to clean out your bank account? answer: fewer than I’m moving, I suspect), I’ve noticed that I work with similar sets of categories. First there are the Books to be Discarded Without Much Regret, such as:

  • Novels read in high school that I have absolutely no desire to read again (Hemingway? D.H. Lawrence? No thanks);
  • Graduate course books, ditto;
  • Books given to me as presents by people who didn’t know what I really wanted to read;
  • Redundant books (even if I need one lexicon of Homeric Greek, I certainly don’t need two);
  • Books acquired on a whim for very little money at rummage sales and never really referred to afterwards (whatever did I want with a book about terrariums?);
  • Books I no longer need, e.g. Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day.

All of these are easy to add to the steadily growing Resell or Give Away pile. The books I’m keeping are also easy to identify: favorite authors, essential reference books (no way am I giving up my 2-volume compact OED), books I’m certain to reread, books I simply can’t imagine living without. The difficulty is with the in-between categories where an argument could be made either way:

  • Scholarly books to which I might return if I do anything else with my dissertation;
  • Books that stand as reminders of long-ago reading obsessions, and which I keep on hand as a way of staying in touch with the person I used to be when I was 18 and stagestruck, or 21 and a wannabe classicist;
  • Books I really might reread (honest!);
  • Books I never got around to reading in the first place, and now I feel guilty, because I did in fact want to read them;
  • Out-of-print books that would be hard to find again;
  • Art books that are oversized and heavy, but the illustrations are too beautiful to give up; and
  • Books whose discarding would mean that I’d have to consider getting rid of a whole lot of others on the same grounds and that would just be too traumatic.

Ah well. Tomorrow I’m going to be getting estimates from a couple of movers, so I’ll soon know whether I can hang onto my collections of Norton Anthologies, psychoanalytic theory, and Greek and Latin literature in the original. But what I really need is my own remote storage facility!

* This is my clumsy translation from an Italian paperback edition that I just dug out of a partially packed box. I’m keeping it, even though I’ve been picking my way through it with a dictionary for ages and I’m still only on the fourth chapter. (Of course, then I found that you can read big swatches of If on a winter’s night here.)

Matters of identity

It occurs to me — well, it occurred to me when I initially posted the news about my postdoc — that my already lightweight veil of semi-anonymity has become a whole lot sheerer.* Of course, a determined and clever person could probably have already worked out my current location and my full name. But now it’s going to be a lot easier to figure out my true identity. I find, also, that now that I’ve been doing this blogging thing for a while, and now that I’m exiting my teaching job, I’m less inclined to maintain the semi-anonymity.

Initially, I was leery of people in my department finding out about my ambivalence about academia. I was also leery about students coming across my blog; I always preferred to maintain a distinction between my teaching and my personal life. But I’m not going back to teaching, and I stopped worrying about disclosing my career-change plans months ago.

I no longer feel like it’s a big risk for me to be critical of the current state of academia in my own name (I’m hardly the only one saying these things, after all). And I don’t think there’s anything in this blog that I’d be embarrassed to have associated with myself. I may display my amateurishness in fields I haven’t studied, or get cranky from time to time, or turn the occasional clunky sentence, or go on about things I haven’t meticulously researched, or yammer narcissistically about the future of this blog, but none of this strikes me as a big deal for people in my real life to know.

There’s still the “mom finds out about blog” factor (anyone else remember that Onion article? and when did the Onion go all “Premium,” anyway? Bastards!). I’m still not sure if I want this weblog to pop up when someone does a Google search for my full name. But I’m aware that I’m not really anonymous here, and I’m okay with that.

Somewhat related is the question of what I want this space to become now that I’m heading away from the academic track. I may well continue to post about life after academia, or my new library career path, or what I’m thinking about if I decide to keep up my scholarly pursuits in my spare time. Or I could just continue with the miscellany of topics I’ve already been posting about. I admire people with the energy and thoroughness to maintain specialized-topic blogs, but I’m not one of them. This blog will, I suspect, continue to be eclectic in the extreme — much like its author, who has always been fond of juggling too many interests to keep up with all at once.

* I’m thinking of Karita Mattila‘s Dance of the Seven Veils in the Met’s production of Salome this past season. Which I didn’t see, but I heard it was fabulous.