I'm trying like the proverbial dickens to stay awake and mentally functional while I finish my research paper for Anthropology of Food. I don't have far to go -- a few sentences of conclusion, sticking in a few references to course readings -- but the parts that I have to do are unfortunately the parts that require a certain amount of cognizance. I'm not sure such cognizance has been working for me for much of today due to my poor sleeping record over the last two days, but I can tell you with certainty that it isn't working now. I look down for a moment at my master chart of survey responses and find that my eyes have closed without my permission, and I'm using all sorts of methods to discourage this ocular mutiny. There's the tea method, the standing up and stretching method, the standing up and running around in circles method, the doing laps of the stairs method, the doing laps of the block method, the eating popcorn method, and many others.
None of them hold a candle, though, to the Listen To "Show Me How To Live" By Audioslave And Headbang Around The Room method. On the one hand, the music is loud and angry and should fill me with overly aggressive energy. On the other, my head is more susceptible to being swung around to the music on account of being heavy with sleep, and on the same account I can't find it in me to worry about how dumb it looks. So I'm stumbling around my ridiculously opulent room (heavily redecorated this weekend for a room-to-room party, now sporting hanging drapery on every wall and a suspiciously large number of cushions), visible through my red lace curtain to passersby in the hallway as I fling my brain from side to side and mouth words I could never summon the glottal fry to sing correctly.
Chris Cornell would never fall asleep writing a paper. He'd kick that paper's weak ass, is what he'd do. And drain this bottle of Jack Daniels that got left on my desk on Saturday, and wake up at 10 and go and turn that fucker in with greasy hair and whiskey breath. I can't see anything wrong with this plan from where I'm sitting, so I'm just going to go ahead with it.
...is the punchline to a story that my sister tells about an escalating challenge to sneak food out of the jealously-guarded dining commons that she and I both ate in as freshmen here. It is outside the scope of this blog to evaluate the truthfulness of her assertion, so I will merely state that a) my sister is a frequently truthful person and b) I don't even know if I ever saw the DC make that much honey available to take, but then, I ate there four years after Katie so perhaps they learned their lesson.
This is not about that. This is about the burning need for empirical knowledge which is so central to the character of Woolsey women and drives them to attempt such outrageous endeavors. Thus: if you were ever wondering whether it is possible to carry a paper to-go cup of hot tea (Twinings English Breakfast) into the library (Doe) by stuffing it into one's book bag (medium-sized Timbuk2 messenger style) and walking very carefully from the north entrance past the security desk, through the computer room and around the circulation desk, I can now tell you that it is. I have done it. And if I ever need a caffeine boost during class, all I have to do is suck on my slightly damp Anthropology of Food notebook.
Do you think that when Sufjan Stevens finished writing the song "Chicago", he ran through it in his head one final time, then leaned back in his chair, glanced over at his reflection in the mirror he kept handy for this purpose, gave himself the slow nod of acknowledgement of incredible coolness, and said to himself, "Self, you are the shit."?
Because he probably should have.
I'm working (or more precisely taking a small blogging break from working) on my massively intimidating research paper for Stone Age of Africa, for which I have a detailed outline due tomorrow. Thursday I have a panel presentation in Prehistoric Art. Friday is a school holiday and all I have due is another Discworld reading response, though, mind you, I was accidentally reading the wrong book last week and so I have slightly more than half of the correct book left to read. But I'm falling badly behind in the reading for all of my serious classes, which explains the note written in half-inch-high capitals in Sharpie on my left arm: BY FRIDAY MIDNIGHT I WILL BE CAUGHT UP ON MY READING. If I don't get caught up, I'll be royally screwed in another week or so, so I may as well grit my teeth and do it.
In short, I'm busy and a bit worried and I'm going to be counting my hours of sleep per night on the fingers of one hand for pretty much the entire week. My playlist looks something like this:
Sufjan Stevens - Chicago
Gary Jules - Mad World
Sufjan Stevens - Chicago
Bright Eyes - I Believe in Symmetry
Sufjan Stevens - Chicago
REM - Nightswimming
Sufjan Stevens - Chicago
Iron & Wine - Love and Some Verses
It's pretentiously hipstery and by all rights it should be putting me to sleep, but somehow it works. Oh woe, oh woe, and did you know that standardization of stone tool shapes appeared in northeastern Africa around 1.6 million years ago, but we don't know if they had verbal language with which to teach technique or not? Imagine trying to explain to someone how to make an oval handaxe just like this, see, no, a little flatter on the bottom, and hold the punch lower when you hit it no not like that I carried that piece of rock all the way up from the river and now look what you've done to it! If you'd waited until I was done explaining* I could have told you how to do it right. Jeez. Kids these days have no patience.
*Say, another million years to develop enough language to explain with.
I don't blog about politics much. 9 times out of 10 I'm content to keep my internet presence mum about the mutual ruthless manipulation that is American political maneuvering and talk about what I ate for dinner instead. Once in a while, though, I find something on my plate that's so alarming that I would rather write about it than swallow it.
I noticed today, for the first time this election season, that someone has plastered Dwinelle Hall with pro-Proposition 85 flyers. That's not what's so alarming to me, but it is a nice segue into what I want to talk about. I was actually reflecting on the standard rhetoric of the abortion debate when one piece of it suddenly became very interesting to me. You're all familiar with the usual phrase describing cases deemed exceptionally worthy of permissiveness: "rape or danger to the life of the mother".
Before I talk about it further, take a look at that for a moment and see if anything strikes you about it. Seriously. Stop reading and think about it.
So do you see it? What is the word being used here to refer to the hypothetical woman contemplating a hypothetical abortion? Not woman. Not pregnant woman. Not potential mother. Mother. What? If abortion is a consideration it means that the woman in question is not entirely decided upon motherhood as her next course of action, and may in fact be dead set against it. But to the complete strangers debating whether she should be allowed to make that decision at this juncture, even those arguing that she should, she's already semantically committed to the plan.
Creeps me the fuck out, guys. I think it's one of those arguments where if you stop in the middle and realize you're using the same language as your opponent, you start to feel like you're losing and going about it all wrong. You don't win legality for abortion by calling any woman or girl who's pregnant a mother. It's taking as a foregone conclusion precisely the thing you want to make not a foregone conclusion. It's also putting the idea in people's minds that you're trying to do something outrageously illogical -- after all, she's a mother, and mothers are people who have babies. What are you pulling here saying we can have a mother who doesn't have a baby? From now on I'm going to make a point, in any discussion of abortion, of referring to the real or hypothetical pregnant woman involved as just that -- a pregnant woman. Because if "danger to the life of the pregnant woman" doesn't paint as terrifying a picture as "danger to the life of the mother", there's a problem here that goes beyond the legality of abortion.
When I passed the pro-85 poster in Dwinelle, it caught my eye primarily because a girl had stopped in front of it and was reading it with an angry look on her face. A boy who was walking with her stopped also, read the poster, and told her flatly, "take it down". She did so and walked away crumpling it up. I took a few steps and passed another poster, then stopped and thought for a moment. If you take down one poster out of 500, no one passing by will notice that they're only seeing the message 499 times. You haven't stopped them seeing it, you've only decreased the repetitions by an insignificant amount. Besides, censorship makes me uneasy even when it's applied to arguments I dearly wish weren't being disseminated. So instead of taking down poster number two, I took out a pen and wrote a large clear NO to replace the YES. It wasn't the most persuasive and comprehensive comment I could have made -- I was rushed and distracted and didn't think too hard about it until later -- but it does give me a strategy to work with. Why try to shut your opponents up when you can talk back at them instead?
I woke up this morning covered in spots and with my ass hurting.
It's because my house played broomball last night. Really, I can explain. See, co-op broomball is one of those snowballing traditions that become ever more complicated and ever more entrenched with the passing of time. I'm not sure when, or how, it got started, but now it's a semesterly tournament of rowdy ridiculosity. Teams made up of either one large house or several smaller ones play elimination rounds until one emerges the winner and, I think, doesn't get anything for it except the pride of a job well done. Then we do it all over again.
My house's first game was last night. We're a small house at 50 people, so we were grouped with two other small houses to play against three other small houses. Reasonable, right? Except that Afro House, with a population of 25, brought almost 20 people, and HiP brought at least 10. We had 6 Kingmanites out of 50 (and one didn't even play) and 4 people from Ridge, and whoever the other two houses were they didn't show up at all. We had to borrow people from HiP even to have a team of 12 on the ice. It should have been bloody murder.
But broomball is kind of bloody murder anyway, right? You run around on slippery ice in your shoes chasing after a rubber ball with a wedge on a stick. It's like amateur hockey with equipment that's designed not to work, and the only things left to do about it are to a) cheat and b) go for the metaphorical neck. So you kick the ball, you stick-check people, and you just run into anyone who looks like they might be getting near your goal. And if you're brilliant like my teammates, you make kneepads out of cardboard and duct tape because you know you're going to fall all over the damn place and you need all the padding you can get.
Well, when you're running around on the ice falling down and you've got cardboard taped to your pants, you don't have a lot of dignity left. So you may as well go for being recognizable to your teammates. Preferred methods include silly hats and anything colorful grabbed from your house's free pile. Really preferred methods include both of the above. My housemate Jonathan was wearing fuzzy pink Hello Kitty pajama pants, a tight fuschia shirt with a heart on it, and a neon green fuzzy hat with multiple pompoms. I decided to wear the furry hood from my giraffe costume, then threw sanity to the wind and just put the entire costume on. Under other circumstances I could have simply been the team mascot, but in a hopelessly outmatched broomball game with too few players to switch off, there's nothing a giraffe can do but play. For an hour and a half. Exhausted and sweaty have taken on new meanings for me now.
This picture is not from last night -- I don't think there were any pictures taken last night, sadly -- but it is one of very few pictures extant of me as a large African herbivore. I quizzed a few of my housemates on what noise a giraffe could be reasonably expected to make, and the only answer with which we could come up was, essentially, "gnomp". Gnomp. Gnompgnompgnomp.
Yesterday it hit me: summer is over.
My actual summer finished months ago. I no longer spend my days fingering 500-year-old bones and watching the skies for the afternoon thunderstorm. In the time it's been since I talked to any of my summer classmates, the Berkeley beauracracy has requested three kinds of supporting documents and given me credit for the class so I can graduate. I've heard it said that only when you're forgotten are you dead, and east of the Mississippi I'm definitely starting to stiffen.
That hasn't stopped it feeling like summer, though. As long as the sun is reasonably shining it's always high noon and midsummer at Kingman. There are bikes and parks and frolics and lavish expressions of love. But I came home last night, late for dinner after working on a class project, and found home dark and cold and lonely. Dinner was gone, my late plate was sitting unfilled and unnoticed by the side of the food line, and nobody I wanted to see was around. I don't know who I was hoping for, but they weren't there. Outside was cold and damp, my room smelled like my roommate's pot stash, and I orbited for a while around the house's common rooms before ending up huddled on a futon under the roof deck with a cup of tea and an archaeology book. I woke up long enough to sulk at people who'd done little to deserve it and brush off everyone who offered me human contact, and then collapsed into bed.
It's the usual annual cocktail: it's cold, it's gloomy, it's dark when I come home from class, and it's going to be that way for months. I'm behind in my classes and buried under papers I haven't started. My double honeymoons of being back in school and back in the co-ops could only last so long, and these things have become routine just in time for routine to become exhausting.
A few weeks ago I posted a chart on my door listing stimulants I'm allowed to have and how much of them I can use. There are daily not-to-exceeds for tea and coffee, allowable circumstances for chocolate and sugar binges, and a dosage guide for love. My housemates look askance at it; I'm known to be one of very few stubbornly sober people in the house and seeing "Dianna" and "stimulant" together seems to throw them. But I know it's not for them to judge. I can only hope that when they inevitably find me sprawled on the floor and twitching, overdosed on the Magnetic Fields, they'll pick me up gently and tell the doctors that I'm not really a bad person. I just never learned how to say no to ukeleles.