New blog-look, what do we think?

It’s not a new year yet, but I feel the need for a change. And since I can’t bring myself to change my actual life, changing something is a small consolation.

The truth is, I’m unsure of what to do with my life. Or rather, there are several possibilities of what that might be, but they remain only possibilities. About 3 years ago right before choosing a grad school I found myself in a period of uncertainty, and I’m going to just say it: it leaves much to be desired. Literally.

I know it’s completely clique in this day and age to ask for something as simple and leading as a sign, but…. sometimes it’s all I can think of.

 

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard

  Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;

Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,

  Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:

Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 

  Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;

    Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,

Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;

    She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss

 

It reminds me of this Keats poem; is it better to remain in a frozen state, stuck right before the moment of fulfillment, when everything is possible, nothing denied? I wonder.

image Courtesy of Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog

Hodie, descripta mediavale, quae mihi placent maxime:

(nonnullus senex, nunnullus nova)

And the contents of Wikipedia continue to disturb me; did you know about “Necropants?” Got Medieval

Trust me, you don’t want to sit next to Beowulf on a trans-atlantic flight…McSweeneys

“Hic sunt lacrimae rearended!” Best use of “ripper-offer” in Middle English, and I’d like to read the Aeneid + zombies, please  Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog

I can hath cheezburger? Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog

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!

 

Chaucer Blogger Revealed!

 

Now, go buy the book. Ye shall enjoy.

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Forgive me, for I sometimes lapse into moments of Romanticism.

On Saturday evening, after the rain had given way to a sun-filled green afternoon, I decided to take a walk in the Sonoma hills. I stood facing west to a setting sun, with a rising moon behind me, surrounded by softly swaying grass and muddy earth. As I was heading home the sky on my right was a bold orange and red sunset, on my left a soft purple fading into blue, with a giant pearl of a full moon. Each side was so lovely, I couldn’t decide which one to focus on as I drove home. Such colors are transient; would they be so stunning if ever-present? It makes me wonder if sunsets more beautiful in human eyes. Do they reflect our own impermanence, our preoccupation with that which cannot last? Would an animal pause to stare at the disappearing horizon?

Sometimes I wonder how some people are so focused on going to heaven when the world around us can be so beautiful.

Unless of course, God is playing one giant trick on everyone, and heaven is actually the world we already live in, where we are “rewarded” with a certain life. (This might help explain those people who can eat countless hamburgers without gaining a pound…Giselle) The reverse of course would still be true – can you not think of countless lives which could be considered hellish? And if you bring the Matrix into it (which I can’t help doing in many arenas, and the first movie, not the less-effective other two) would we really be happy in a world of eternal perfection? Or would we reject our existence and lose it altogether, like the unfortunate folks who were plugged into the first version of the Matrix, where there was no suffering or unhappiness. 1-2 (2)

The more I hang around this life, the more I realize that the best moments are that more beautiful in the wake of difficult ones. And the more literature I absorb, the more I find that the most profound and sublime thought arises from the relationship between hardship and happiness.

[Note that I am writing this on Sunday night, before the start of a new week. Monday will surely be a fitting example of said relationship…]

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It should come as no suprise- after all I’ve been devouring (with an intense literary appetite) Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings for years. But, on a whim, I picked up the latest craze and decided to read. Fast forward to 3 am that night, and I am fully involved in Twilight. And why? If you aren’t really into books and I can’t quite begin to explain. But – I did find this lovely quote

“Meyer and Rowling do share two important traits. Both writers embed their fantasy in the modern world–Meyer’s vampires are as deracinated and contemporary as Rowling’s wizards. And people do not want to just read Meyer’s books; they want to climb inside them and live there. James Patterson may sell more books, but not a lot of people dress up like Alex Cross. There’s no literary term for the quality Twilight and Harry Potter (and The Lord of the Rings) share, but you know it when you see it: their worlds have a freestanding internal integrity that makes you feel as if you should be able to buy real estate there.”

And, although Meyer’s books are quite “clean” in that kids won’t really get what all is going on, underneath “they are absolutely, deliciously filthy”(according to newsweek). Honestly there is some raw emotion being expressed there, even if there isn’t that much physical touching. But, in my opinion, those books that make you feverishly turn the page just hoping that something will happen between the couple can be much more erotic that when you get every detail. Besides – I’m sure there are many fanfic people out there writing enough sultry material to satisfy any over-curious reader.

I did find Meyer’s religious background a bit unsettling at first, after all I didn’t expect her to be Mormon when I was reading, especially compared to other works that have been written by very religious writers. Some Christian fiction can be so heavy in ellusions to what a ‘proper’ Chrisitan should be that the text loses it ease, and trades effortless narration for overwrought prose. However, aside from the no sex till marriage thing I haven’t found anything nagging. In fact, the sheer force of the book is enough for me to forget the author entirely. Honestly, the few Mormons I actually ever knew were a bit odd, and weren’t allowed to go to dances or even group dates, which seemed silly. (But then, these people may have been odd all on their own, faith excluding.) One family would stand in their driveway every October 31st, saying “We don’t celebrate Halloween” to trick-or-treaters. I’m glad to see that Meyer has not shyed away from anything supernatural, but rather embraces it, and even prefers it to humanity.

There is an odd effect produced when a book attempts to appeal to both teens and adults alike, like Harry Potter and Twilight. Somehow there is a fairytale-like sense of realism where things can happen which we yearn for but know can’t happen, for whatever reason. And it is odd that in this realm of magic and vampires that readers can find actual human passion and truth, in their most basic form. And I think that is what grasps the modern reader. So many more realistic adult novels are wonderfully expressive, dark or not, but some lose that universality that comes from more fantastic stories.

In any case, these books have a hold on me, as many already do. I have already “devoured” (sorry, couldn’t help it) the first two books, two to go. And I’m quite happy that I came upon this series late in the game, because there is NO WAITING! The final book comes out in ONE day, and I already reserved it. No more waiting for years….because waiting for Harry Potter was tortuous enough.

All this excitement about books has me extremely encouraged, because it means the public can finally get excited about something that doesn’t have to be plugged in. It means that literature still has a power over us…

…It means there is hope that someday, after all my years of pricey education, that there will be a job waiting. It means there is hope for humanity.

Last year, I read an article which declared that this was the year where “Harry Potter Saved Reading.” I sincerly hope this is true – that people are reaching past television and video games for something more substantial, something that can reach our minds, and persuade them to come alive.