Despite this fact, I have just watched it.
It's a dreadful inconsistency, but then, how appropriate.
My job as department secretary here involves one fabulous forbidden pleasure: opening official transcripts. You know, the ones that say UNOFFICIAL IF OPENED OMG DON'T OPEN THIS all over them? It's like cutting off the tag that says DO NOT REMOVE UNDER PENALTY OF LAW, which I always giggle gleefully while doing. For my first week here I had to be constantly reassured that I wasn't going to get in trouble for opening transcripts.
The transcripts show me everything that people have done before they come here to be grad students, and sometimes I read the class titles and degree concentrations and wonder what the hell I thought I was wasting my time with at Berkeley. Seriously. I was patiently memorizing the names of the fiddly bits around the door of a Greek temple while other people were taking Lab: Coastal Exploration, and I was falling asleep over the complete geologic history of Africa while they were in Environ. Perspectives and Whitewater Rafting. And I think this and sigh and tell myself that in the real world at a real school you can't spend your entire undergraduate career getting credits for ceramics and sailing trips.
And then I ask: why the hell not?
Yesterday I went to my local plant nursery, because there are only 16 plants currently living inside my house and it's just not quite enough for me. Also, chickens. It's a strange nursery: a tiny, crowded indoor shop selling little houseplants and elaborate fern dioramas and chicken feed and obscure soil amendments, surrounded by a sprawling backyard dotted with tables of arbitrarily-arranged seedlings and giant tubs of strawberry stubs (I really don't know what else to call them) and stacks of straw bales and dusty plastic pots and three nonchalant hens pecking around in the straw and wandering out the back gate to see what's going on in the alley. It's just... well, it's ragingly Portland.
The reason I mention this is that I make my living in a fluorescent-lit office surrounded by stacks of paper. My work does not involve chickens. It does not involve food. I do have seven plants in the department office, but I am discouraged from regarding them as a primary responsibility. My work does not involve dirt, paint, screws, or hand tools (no, I will not count my stapler). It does not involve coastal explorations of any kind. And I have a nice salary and health insurance and vacation days and a typical work day doesn't require me to break a sweat, so of course by all the standards I've been taught to accept I have a job that is good and legitimate. But I'd really, really like to trade it for a job involving things that interest me.
Problem: I have had a very nice respectable upbringing in an upper-middle-class professional family with high expectations of me. Things that interest me have a tendency to involve dirt, doing shit with my hands, things that grow (even if, as in archaeology, they are merely holes), and food (not necessarily in conjunction with dirt, though, you know, depending). These are not respectable high-expectation upper-middle-class professional family things. I can squeak archaeology in under the radar -- yes, there is that undignified phase of digging holes in the ground and touching dirty old things, but then you get to go take a shower and spend a year or two sitting around in an armchair writing about what you found. And at least in the abstract that sounds snooty enough for the standards and unsnooty enough for me to potentially like it. But what if I don't? What if I realize in a moment of cold realism that academic archaeology means publishing or perishing, and grantwriting and teaching and all kinds of uncompelling things, and CRM archaeology means constant stress and diplomatic difficulty and dealing with legitimately angry people whose great-grandparents just got accidentally dug up after you promised they wouldn't be? If there is one thing on this earth I cannot cope with, it is legitimately angry people.
What if, indeed, I would rather learn to do one solid, concrete thing, like fix bikes or make pies or build porch rockers or whatever, and just do that forever and be competently serene in the knowledge that I am the Person Who Does That One Thing? In my bucolic fantasies I am starting to sound like my dear off-the-grid sister and I am probably no more realistic than she. But what's really happening is I'm going totally batshit Portland. My ideas about work and status are getting all turned around, so that, for instance, working in the plant nursery and selling people obscure soil amendments and tomato seedlings isn't, ugh, retail, it's a job where you know that you are just always tending and selling little wonderful green things. Or working at the Rebuilding Center isn't, ew, manual labor, it's a job where you are always picking up big bits of recycled houses and taking them carefully apart into smaller bits and sorting them so crafty people can find them. How far does this go? If I let myself fantasize long enough would a job as a prep cook at Nutshell turn from, gah, food service to something where you are always cooking tasty food, that's all, really, just tasty food all the time? You'll never get to 4:45 pm and realize that there's some obscure and vitally important task that you forgot to do, unless of course you just didn't make tasty food.
This isn't the first time I've been tempted to drop out of people's expectations of me, so I should probably take my own fantasizing with the proverbial grain of salt. On the other hand, the last time I was tempted I actually did drop out, and went to bartending school and spent four months unemployed and obsessing over my tomato plants, so I should probably also consider myself a loose cannon who might do anything if not properly supervised. On the gripping hand, it's starting to be springtime and I'm feeling slightly superhuman and unreasonable right now. The sun, you know. And I don't know whether to move back to California because Oregon is clearly making me slightly unhinged, or stay in Oregon because unhinged is starting to seem pretty good.
Tune in next month, by which time for all I know I'll have quit my job and moved into a $200/month houseshare in Southeast and gotten hired as a farmhand at a CSA farm. Then tune in the month after, when I've had enough of getting what I wish for and gone back to living like a nice little yuppie-spawn suburban sheep. Sheesh.
Just as my sister is preparing to potentially get back on her vegan wagon, I am preparing to, in a limited, guarded, hesitant way, get off of mine or at least stick a toe over the edge.
I've been dreaming about omelets for months. My roommates are both big egg-eaters, and every time I walk through the kitchen and smell delicious delicious fried eggs I have to send myself to my room to Google "battery cages" until I remember why I can't have any. I'm worried that if I keep doing this I will start to get Pavlovian associations between tasty egg smell and horrifying chicken pictures.
But eggs! One of the grad students in my department has taken pity after months of listening to my cholesterol yearnings. She will be hosting a group of happy chickens in her backyard this year and she has promised to supply me with happy chicken eggs! It does not get better than this: not only do I know that fuzzy animals are receiving the benevolent attention of a trustworthy hippie person, I get to eat the delicious direct result! I-the-vegan-who-dearly-hopes-someday-to-stop-being-vegan welcome this development with a fervor I could not possibly put into words.
I have to find some appropriate way to pay her back, but my brain has been derailed by the magnitude of my eggy desire and I can't think of anything except what I'm going to put them in. Omelets. Fried egg sandwiches. French toast, which is one of the few things in the world that are really, legitimately, fucking difficult to make vegan. Meringue? Souffles? My family's admittedly strange recipe for puffy microwaved fried eggs that are soft and nice when you are sick? Eggs and I together make a world without limits!
Also, my egg supplier (egg dealer? egg connection? egg pusher?) has informed me of something I totally did not know, which is that my local plant nursery not only keeps and deals chickens but even holds workshops on urban chickenry. I'm planning to go to one, because a) my owning roommate has mentioned a vague hope to keep chickens in our own backyard at some point and b) a workshop should provide enough time for me to sneak up on a chicken and pet it.
OMG. I HEAR THEY'RE FLUFFY.
I thought about writing a substantive post about my lovely, glorious, beautiful weekend in sunny Santa Cruz with my beloved sister and her delightful friends. Then I realized that this is Katie I am talking about, and if what I write is to reflect the fact that I spent 72 hours exposed to her sense of humor it should really be entirely composed of cock jokes. So, look! I have a really big cock!
Um, yeah. Anyway, gosh, look how big that thing is.
You know, I don't even know the origin of the joke I'm referencing here; I just know everyone makes it. Ahem. My cock. In a box.
This is a picture of coconut cupcakes. There's nothing dirty about coconut cupcakes that I can think of, but, Katie, if I've forgotten something I hope you will point it out.
Seriously. It's my number one Native American cultural materials repatriation legislation crush. I'm crazy about it but I don't think it knows I exist.
I am, actually, starting to lose sleep and skip meals and walk around in a daze because of it. I just last night submitted a proposal to my anthro professor for a research paper about repatriation legislation and forms of ownership. I had put off starting the paper proposal until the day it (the proposal, I mean, not the paper, are you kidding me?) was due, thinking, oh, I'll just write something about archaeology, I can knock out a proposal in no time. But panic started to set in about 2 pm yesterday and I parked myself in the library to, I thought, squeeze in some quick catalog-searching and source-gathering before grabbing lunch and heading home to do my Sunday errands.
I failed, I can't fathom why, to reckon with the magnitude of my geekery and obsession where archaeology is concerned. (Fun fact: Firefox's spell-checker thinks that "archaeology" contains only one A. Firefox's spell-checker is wrong.) Instead of doing some brief catalog searches and walking out with a couple of books and articles, I spent three and a half hours gathering ever-more-enormous armloads of books, flipping through them in a frenzy of unsystematic info-lust, and scribbling page after page of excited notes full of fascinating cases, unanswerable questions, and totally insoluble problems of culture and patrimony. I did, actually, not kidding, draw a heart in my notes and write NAGPRA in it, and all of this was before lunch (I think it was 5:30 before I noticed I hadn't put any tea or food in myself since 10, and 6:30 before I managed to stop pacing around lecturing invisible audiences about the fascinating things I had learned and actually eat what was at that point dinner). Then I dragged myself home under 30 pounds of books and put off starting my proposal itself, telling myself I had come so close to writing it in my notes in the library that all I'd really have to do was type it out and email it to the professor.
Silly archaeologist. I spent two and a half hours writing long, excited paragraphs outlining the problems encountered in good-faith attempts to determine appropriate repatriation schemes when the legislation providing terms for repatriation is shot through with assumptions about the nature of ownership that, well-intentioned as they may be, may still fall short of adequately addressing the vast variety of ways of owning in our vast variety of Native American societies. At one point I got kind of hot under the collar about the ownership of information and the need to balance fact-gathering to identify objects' rightful owners against forms of indigenous intellectual property management, as when, for instance, the knowledge of what a particular sacred object is sacred for is itself considered sacred and rightfully held only by the people invested with the authority to use the object, and if the object has made its way into the collection of the Podunk Puppybreath Museum of Anthropology and the PPMA demands to know why it's so important and how you know it belongs to your community before it will agree to give it back... how then are you going to get your object back without violating the set of principles to which it pertains by spilling the great mysteries to those schmucks at the PPMA who never had or earned the right to be in on the great mysteries anyway?
At 1:00 am I finally forbade myself to make my already ridiculously long and enthusiastic proposal any longer or more enthusiastic, and I emailed it off so that I couldn't change anything even if I wanted. I went to bed and couldn't fall asleep because I was still internally monologuing at a mile a minute about the things I hadn't been able to squeeze into my proposal. If I'd had a printer at home I'm pretty sure I would have printed out the text of Public Law 101-601 and stuck it under my pillow.
I don't believe in callings. I get annoyed when people take the glorious chaotic randomness of our universe and try to slap logic and intention all over it; it's ass-backward to my way of thinking. A thing that turns out elegant and workable among all the unhelpful chance and arbitrariness of the universe is far more awesome than one that turns out elegant and workable because something decided to make it that way. So say I, anyway, and of course YMMV.
In any case: calling, hell. I refuse to give some ineffable demiurge the credit for setting me up with a field of study so overwhelmingly engrossing and rewarding. I play my own matchmaker and I insist on taking my proper credit. I say: damn, do I know how to pick 'em.
I may have been thinking too hard about this one; it took me four times as long as the carrot and I'm not quite as happy with it.
Actually, it's just the nubs at the top of that left-leaning spear that I'm not happy with -- I fussed over them too much and lost that loving asparagusy feeling. But I've forbidden myself to fix them any more, so there they stay.
I suppose it's possible that two asparagi in one tableau is just a bit ambitious for me. But a single asparagus is lonely and difficult to lay out nicely. I stand by my composition, if not necessarily by my nubs.
It's not like I don't know the internet pretty well. It's been a salient feature of my life for a decade now; it should be difficult at this point for it to trick me in any major way.
And yet, just now, distracted by botany because I'd been reading descriptions of British moorland and I couldn't picture the plants that were being mentioned... I was actually so phenomenally un-savvy as to do a Google image search for "heather".
In retrospect, it's totally obvious that the results were all going to be pr0n. But there was a long, shocked moment in which I really couldn't figure out what I'd done wrong. I didn't want sex, I just wanted flowers! Jeez! Why are you so insensitive?
I tried to watch the Chronic(what)cles of Narnia movie last night, but wound up turning it off before the end. I'm now arguing with myself about whether I can stand to finish watching it tonight. I can, as I explained last night to Katie, set aside my general annoyance about the imposition of heavy-handed Christian allegory on the juvenile general public -- how I can do that I don't know, but I probably shouldn't think too hard about it in case it stops working. I can set aside my annoyance at the addition of corny Hollywoody bullshit that wasn't in the original story, like pointless high-suspense escape scenes and characters whose dialogue is supposed to be funny but just winds up being anachronistic and interrupting even my embarrassingly eager suspension of disbelief.
The thing that made me shut off the movie last night, and is still making me hesitate to finish watching, is not those. It's the fact that Aslan is voiced by Liam Neeson. Don't get me wrong; I like Liam Neeson, and Aslan can totally be a melodious, gracefully-aging Irishman. I'm really okay with that. But I just fucking watched Batman Begins, and I can't handle the sudden shift from sinister to beneficent in the same incredibly distinctive voice. It's exacerbated by the fact that, and this is inherent in the story and really can't be helped by the best efforts of the poor special-effects people drafted to make talking animals as uncheesy as they could manage, the animation of Aslan's face is just kind of embarrassing. I feel bad for the animators, so I look away, and then I get the voice without the visuals and I'm thinking, ack, danger, get away get away avoid the guys in black at all costs!
And they made the excellent call not to cast Cate Blanchett as the White Witch, because even though she'd be totally great everyone would be thinking of Queen Elizabeth. Or Galadriel. Or both. It's kind of like how as soon as Hugo Weaving walked onscreen in the Lord of the Rings, everyone in every theater thought, "Missster Anderrson" at the same time. So they cast Tilda Swinton, who is more Cate Blanchetty than Cate Blanchett and totally awesome and scary, but there's the matter of my high school English teacher who made us watch the movie version of Orlando in which Tilda Swinton plays Lord Orlando and Lady Orlando, and so she perpetually reminds me of a) how much I didn't enjoy that book and b) how everyone in my class loved the movie but only because of the scene where Orlando as a guy is kissing some girl and we were all 14 and going "omg omg girls kissing each other and we get to watch this in class you have got to be kidding me".
While busily arguing with myself about all of these totally inadequate reasons for not watching the last 40 minutes of the movie, I discovered that the internet can, if I pay it, provide me with a squishy spherical rooster. Or a spherical shark, or a spherical duck, though not a spherical cat. I desperately want one and see no good reason I shouldn't get myself one, but I am totally unable to pick which one. The giraffe, pig, and sheep, which are my top choices in that order, are all presently unavailable. I think I lean toward the rooster out of the remaining options, and then I look again at the shark and it's just hopeless. That shark is pretty priceless. And the duck! How can I ever choose, when they're all so close to perfect spheres?
Man, my life is difficult. I've got it almost as bad as my sister, who apparently spends her days wandering along the beautiful inspiring California coast and quoting Robert Frost at people. Jesus.
Monet had his lilies. Degas had his ballerinas. I has a carrot.
I didn't do well in Intro to Drawing. I started the class as Not One Of The People Who Can Draw and ended it as One Of The People Who Cannot Draw. It could have been the most fun class of my undergraduate career: an excuse to buy lots of art supplies and benevolent instruction in how to use them. One fairly obvious reason I didn't do well is that the instruction was not so benevolent as all that; being a class for architecture majors, it was run on the time-honored "pin up and ridicule" system. It's a nice system for widening the skill and confidence gap between your best and worst students, because after enough ridicule the worst students will save themselves the heartache and stop trying. For actually teaching people to draw, you'd probably have more success by taking all their paper away and forbidding them to touch a pen.
But the other problem is this: the premise that someone can learn art by being told what to do. Where I fell off Intro to Drawing's wagon was where the instructors would tell me, here is an object. Draw it this way and in this medium. Look at your hand and draw it in contour with a 4B pencil but but what if I want to paint it in watercolors no. Draw it in contour with a 4B pencil. My sketchbooks from that class are full of loving, frustrated doodles in all the media I wasn't supposed to be using on any given assignment. Obviously if I'm trying to learn pencil drawing all the beautifully spontaneous impressionistic oil painting in the world isn't going to teach me, but if what I really want is to be delicately mixing and coaxing paint colors into dappled fields of hyperbolic light and color, why the hell would I be trying to learn pencil drawing in the first place? Because someone said this is how Learning Art works: you draw and then you shade and when you have mastered those you can paint careful portraits on nice canvas with long brushes and a serious expression.
It has already been established that what I really want to do, in any medium, is make vegetables. If you give me screen-printing I will give you two-color beets. If you give me highlighters I will lovingly shade you some eggplants and rutabagas. If you give me sharpies I will give you a bold, cartoony tomato. Someone gave me a whiteboard at work and I have been giving splashy impressionist chard and pumpkins to everyone brave enough to walk by.
Last night I decided to give myself some acrylic paints and a piece of cardboard to practice on. I just wanted to see what would happen, and anyway I was annoyed with the way whiteboard markers don't blend.
Imagine my shock. I spent a half an hour happily brushing and dabbing and getting excited and changing things, and made something I like. I'm trying not to wreck the discovery by going around expecting masterpieces or thinking I should learn to paint properly; that is precisely where I went wrong in Learning To Draw. But it's kind of nice to realize that my firm conviction that I'm hopelessly unartistic is just kind of an optional piece of bullshit. I, like probably all the other people who washed out of Learning To Draw, can make neat things to look at if I just feel like it. It opens the door to all kinds of alarming thoughts: maybe there are circumstances under which I can do other things I officially Cannot Do. Sing? Play piano? Dance?? Somewhere out there is the mood and time and place that will cause me to spontaneously bust out some amazing moves. I look forward to it.
This morning on the way to work I caught a single sunbeam, slipping between the downtown buildings to stab me straight in the eyes at 6th and Clay. It's been so unceasingly cloudy for so long that I'd forgotten why you don't look directly at the sun: it hurts. I also noticed yesterday that I've developed a frightening, bluish pallor normally associated more with slimy underground lifeforms than actual human beings. It's not like I wasn't pale in California; in tan-mandatory Los Angeles I got teased mercilessly and in the multihued Bay Area I was the palest person in the room more often than not. Here everyone is pale by climate and heredity, but I am approaching Palpatine color and put them all to shame. Still: the sun. I put out my best leaves and turned my tiny blind earthworm face to feel it, and I think it did me some good.
People have told me that spring in Portland is stunning, phenomenal, worth every gloomy grey minute of the preceding winter. I've been skeptical, not least because they told me this after leaving Stumptown to move to California. But I finally think I may survive long enough to see if they are right.
I went up into actually north North Portland today, to look around Cathedral Park with a classmate for our anthropology class project. When I left my house it was raining and slightly slushy, but before we even got to the park it was snowing, hard, falling in huge flakes and piling up on the ground.
I have discovered that I am over snow. It happened -- snap -- just like that.
When I got home after walking my bike around the snowy park, heaving it onto and off of wet freezing bus racks, and finally riding the last half-mile home through rain and slush, I was drenched and frozen and numb of finger and miserable and so fucking cold. And now I have to go find some towels and get the ice off my gears before my bike turns into the sad rusted junker shell of a once-beautiful machine, and I'm already warm and dry and over touching cold icy things and I don't want to bother.
Fuck this shit. I'm ready for spring.
is my hero. I don't know whether to be most impressed by the balls he is demonstrating by dancing in the middle of a street with cars on it, by the balls demonstrated by dancing alone, or by the fact that he has at least three minutes and twenty-three seconds of smooth dance moves in his repertoire. I mean, maybe it's not all the height of smooth. But it's all smoother than what I've got.
Also, that song is Totally Neat.