October 2010


When pumpkins start appearing on porch steps….

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…it’s almost Halloween!

The lovely time when culture encourages us to over-consume sugary-sweets, carve the heck out of pumpkins, cover our houses in fake spider webs, and roam the streets dressed up like crazies. But it’s so much more than that…

tumblr_lal1e2O3Iv1qzahuvo1_500.png  Maybe it’s because my birthday is right before the 31st, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the day. I plan my costume all year – this week I even got an idea for next year’s costume while shopping for this year’s.

But really, Halloween is a celebration of the my favorite season, full of caramel apples and hot cider. It rings of old-America, with all our graveyards, Edgar Allen Poes, witch trials, haunted houses, Pagan rituals, and vaguely-Puritanical beliefs.

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And let’s not forget Harry Potter….

But you know what might be one of the best things about Halloween?

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It’s the last holiday before the “Holidays” begin. The last hurrah before the gift-buying, turkey-baking, tinsel-throwing madness. You don’t have to visit your long-lost relatives, or worry about what to get your annoying brother for Christmas, or shovel snow out of the driveway.

You may, however, dress up like a complete tramp by adding “sexy” to any normal costume (sexy Chewbacca, anyone?), mix candy corn with alcoholic beverages, wear some form of animal ears/antennae to work, or watch It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown for the 10th time.

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Revel in the season, folks, and soak up all the lovely Orange

(…before the explosion of Red and Green.)

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Wrapped up in my love of all things written is a passion for words, and, respectively, their origins. After all, who doesn’t get a kick out of knowing that “bookworm” comes from the name for “a group of insects which largely have in common their love of devouring parts of books and other documents?”1 

Well I do.

Therefore, when a question about the word “embarrass” came up in my Latin class last week (we were learning superlatives and I think it was the double “s” that clinched it) I decided to look it up (ok, so I decided to do this while typing up thesis notes, but don’t judge me, procrastination is an art – and have I told you the origin of “procrastination?” Oh yes, I think I have.)

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First we must visit our old friend the OED, who tells us that “Embarrass, v” first means:

1. trans. To encumber, hamper, impede (movements, actions, persons moving or acting)."

b. pass. Of persons: To be ‘in difficulties’ from want of money; to be encumbered with debts.

 

And then the 2nd definition, part B, is,

b. To make (a person) feel awkward or ashamed, esp. by one’s speech or actions; to cause (someone) embarrassment."

Then we come across this helpful passage:

“The English word embarrassed has taken an unusual path into English. The first written usage of embarrass in English was in 1664 by Samuel Pepys in his diary. The word was derived from the French word embarrasser, "to block," or "obstruct",1 whose first recorded usage was by Michel de Montaigne in 1580. The French word was derived from the Spanish embarazar, whose first recorded usage was in 1460 in Cancionero de Stúñiga (Songbook of Stúñiga) by Álvaro de Luna.2 The Spanish word comes from the Portuguese embaraçar, which is a combination of the prefix em- (from Latin im- for "in-") with baraço or baraça, "a noose", or "rope".3 Baraça originated before the Romans began their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 218 BC.4 Thus, baraça could be related to the Celtic word barr, "tuft." (Celtic people actually settled much of Spain and Portugal beginning in the 700s BC, the second group of people to do so.)5 However, it certainly is not directly derived from it, as the substitution of r for rr in Ibero-Romantic languages was not a known occurrence.

The Spanish word may come from the Italian imbarazzare, from imbarazzo, "obstacle" or "obstruction." That word came from imbarrare, "to block," or "bar," which is a combination of in-, "in" with barra, "bar" (from the Vulgar Latin barra, which is of unknown origin).6 The problem with this theory is that the first known usage of the word in Italian was by Bernardo Davanzati (1529–1606), long after the word had entered Spanish."2

 Ta-Da! We can now see how the English verb embarrass comes is connected to the Latin verb imbarrare.

And we can also see many of us, sadly, due to out lack of exuberance of funds, are unable to avoid embarrassment in daily life.

BUT – at least we can explain what it means, linguistically. Zing!

You’re waiting for a train…

Have I mentioned my passion for original scores?

Sometime you can only really listen when there are no words.

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If you needed a suggestion: I would start with “Time” from Inception – truly one of the most beautiful scores I have heard in recent time.

Listen To "Time"

I have some tolerance for Facebook friends who do not share my political views. (Though I must admit, I have de-friended a few people who I knew and then found out were raging conservatives, crazies, etc, because with the advent of the News Feed, I just don’t need that in my life.) And when people post comments that are begging to be debated, I have learned to not comment. My trick: typing a long rebuttal and then not posting it. It’s cleansing, sort of.

But logging on to Facebook this morning, this is what I found:

Question: Given that the inevitable cultural trajectory is in this direction, we are going to have more and more people visiting our churches in the years ahead who have been raised by homosexual parents. How do we as Evangelicals balance holding true to our view of Scripture, while at the same time not sending the message that the love these kids experienced from their parents (which in many cases will be genuine; it’s not as if gays are monsters) was somehow invalid, sinful, perverted etc?

Let me say that this was posted by someone I went to high school with and who is now an Evangelical priest.
But my instant reaction was: why would these children of gay parents ever go to such a church where they know that the “Scripture” thinks their family life is perverse? Maybe they would go if they suddently started to believe that gay marriage is wrong, and that their parents are sinners, but how often does this really happen? It usually takes a trauma or some serious persuasion to turn children so harshly against their parents.
This comment doesn’t bother me so much in what it’s asking, because it is in theory trying to be accepting (though notice nothing is said of the parents being in the church), but what it’s implying – society is going to hell in a hand basket, and so on. There are only a few lines in the Bible that condemn homosexuality, and there is so much else that tells Christians to love their neighbor, and not look down on their fellow man. Frankly I just can’t imagine Jesus preaching about God’s love to the masses and making a point to say “oh hey – when I said ‘don’t cast stones’ I really meant to say that you can judge anyone who doesn’t share your system of beliefs or forces you to confront them.” But maybe that’s why I’m an agnostic.
I think we need to follow the threads of our thinking more, because a simple question like this Facebook comment begins decently, but perpetuates an entire system of hierarchical judgment that leads to discrimination, hatred, violence, and, as recent news has sadly shown, suicide. Which, to me, sounds exactly the opposite of what Jesus is supposed to represent.

Not me, but she sure looks like a grad student!

No matter how hard you try, and how vigilant you are, there are certain things that seem inevitable in grad school. Such as,

  • sporadic moderate-t0-heavy drinking
  • brain lapses
  • finger blisters/laptop burns
  • late-night delirium
  • extreme productivity followed by days of nothingness
  • meeting a professor who calls out your bullshit (even if you didn’t know it was in fact bullshit)
  • lack of every-day hair-washing

Oh the irony: my school's library is named after Charles Shultz.

BUT, today’s kick in the ass is brought to you by the library, who so lovingly supplies you with books, and so hatefully charges you when you don’t bring them back, because, you are, you know, using them. (And definitely not letting them sit on your desk collecting dust while you write blog entries. Never.)

When you have 37 library books checked out, and 27 of them come to your from LINK+, from other libraries, one is bound to slip through the cracks. Add to this the fact that the lending period for LINK+ books is only a couple weeks, and you can only renew if for 2 more weeks. And if you happen to, eek, not return it on time, the fee is A DOLLAR A DAY. In the grad school world, that burns.

So many future drinks already gone.

And this weekend, I entered my office and checked my email only to see that I accidentally ignored an email stating a book was due 12 days ago. Which, math folks, is $12. Sigh.

Um, yes....?

So, in grad school, you will check out books. You will “forget” to renew them. You will accrue fines. And, screw it all, you will pay them. Because it’s the right thing to do.

…Ok, truthfully, you will pay them becasue the library will stop you from checking out new books until the fines are paid. Clever-tricky bastards. (Whom I love despite.)

Today I was thinking about a quote – you know the one, that says “Pain is your friend, it lets you know you’re still alive” – and I realized that I couldn’t place it. And it occurred to me that this is likely due to the fact that it’s such a universal idea, employed by nearly every war/drama/comedy film out there.

[Just as I was writing this I remembered where the exact line is from: G.I.Jane, as spoken by Viggo Mortensen. Aha! Writing solves everything.]


Universal ideas: they have a 50/50% chance of wreaking havoc on your life. They’re everywhere: everyone dies, love is all we need, love with kill you, money talks, good will out, etc. Check out some Beatles albums – you’ll find many. And for all their generality, they usually turn out to be true. My 18th Century British Lit professor will hate me for saying this, but the universal human condition often turns out to be just that – universal.

So I suppose as I relate the following anecdote, many of you will know where I’m from – and if you don’t, oh just wait, you will.

Let me say that as of late, my life has become a cluster fuck. And like any good English major, I love this phrase because it brings up so many appropriate images in varying intensities. While there are several aspects I could go into here, I will say that the heart of the cluster – the chewy center, if you will – is my personal life.

This weekend, determined to get away from it, I hiked up to the top of a hill in a local park, with one of the best views in Sonoma county, and just sat there for a bit. Totally alone, wind in my face, watching the falcons swoop up and down on the wind currents. Peaceful, right?

And that’s when the little God who controls the Ipod shuffle intervened. I kid you not, every song that came up was somehow echoing the exact thoughts in my head. And I thought to myself, either I am projecting my troubles heavily onto everything around me, or everything around me knows my troubles.

I chose the latter.

I am becoming ever aware of the fact that life is messy. And frustrating. And causes people around you to punch the sides of armoires. But in these moments there is a reassuring sense that you are somehow participating in the angst of the world – a universal pulse. Maybe no one’s pain is exactly the same, but maybe at the heart of it all, it is more alike than not.

I cannot help feeling that if all I gain from these trials is a deeper understanding of country music, so be it. Maybe it’s the eternal optimist in me, but I feel like whatever may happen, at least I’m still here, being frustrated, and upset, and thoughtful, and alive.

And for the record,

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“And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.”

“He must be a king.
Why?
He hasn’t got shit all over him.”

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That is all.

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