abigailnicole: (Default)
I saw this tatted lace mask several years ago and thought about it, a lot, ever since then. Eventually you come to realize that if you think about something more than ten times since you saw it, you should buy it (or in this case, make it). However, I do not tat, and none of my local yarn stores even knew what a tatting needle was. I do, however, crochet, and so....


Aunt Lydia's Crochet Thread (size 10)
size 2 crochet hook


The mask is constructed in several joined pieces.

The original mask had you make two separate eye loops and then join them at the end; I'm sure this would work, but I originally made the eye loops as one piece of wire with a bridge in the middle and then crocheted onto that framework.

A central medallion makes up the forehead pieces as well as the eye pieces. I used
this free crochet snowflake pattern for my central & side medallions; I encourage you to do a ravelry search for 'crochet snowflake pattern' and use your favorite.

Using the wire, make a glasses-shape (two ovals joined by a middle bridge). It's all right if the wire slips around a bit in the eye-corners; mine did, but the thread will hold it in place once you crochet around them.

Using size 2 hook and size 10 cotton crochet thread, single crochet around each eye loop separately. DO NOT single crochet through the eye bridge.

body: --crochet three medallions.

medallions: I used the first 4 rows of
this crochet snowflake pattern (which is NOT mine!), which uses alternating treble crochet and picot motifs, then reproduced those motifs along the rest of the mask.

Medallion pattern:
chain 6, join with sl st to form ring

Round 1: 14 sc inside ring, join to first sc with sl st

Round 2: ch 4 (counts as 1 dc, 1 ch) ; *dc in next st, ch 1; Repeat from * around, join to third ch made in beg of this round with sl st (14 dc, 14 ch 1 spaces)

Round 3: *ch 3, sc in next ch 1 space ; Repeat from * around until last sc made then ch 3, join with sl st to beg ch of this round.

Round 4: sl st to first ch 3 space, * (ch 4, 2 tr, ch 4, sl st into same ch 3 sp) all in first ch 3 space; ch 1, sl st into next ch 3 space, triple picot (ch 3, sl st into first ch made), sl st into same ch 3 space, ch 1, sl st into next ch 3 space; Repeat from * around, join to first sl st made with sl st

Join medallions to mask along petal edges, using sc to attach petal tips to mask (as pictured) and sl st to carry thread from one petal to the next.

So at this point you have a medallion between the eye loops and two medallions on either side. Look at this picture below: 

filling in the eyes:

Once medallions are joined to mask, you're going to join yarn from the edge of the center medallion. The center medallion will have a petal which points radially outward toward the edge of the mask at the level of the top of the eye loop: join yarn here. (You're filling in the spaces above the eyes.) 

(ch4, sc in 3rd space) across the top of eye and onto the first petal of side medallion for however long it takes to go across your eye. This depends on the size of your wire, thickness of crochet, and the number of single crochet you used to wrap the initial eye-wires. For me, this was six sc.

At end of row, turn, and picot back across this row: *sl st to first ch4 space, picot (ch3, sl st into first ch made), sl st into same ch4 space, sl st into next ch4 space* to the end of row. It should look like this: 

row 1: ch7, sc into top of every other picot.

row 2:  ch1, turn. Sl st into ch7 space and make a petal (ch4, 2 tr, sl st into ch7 space) into every ch7 space in this row. 

row 3: ch1, turn. (Ch4, sc into top of petal) across

row 4: ch1, turn. Picot row: (sl st into ch4 space, ch3, sl st into ch4 space) across. 

Tie off. 

Repeat for the other above-eye space. 

You're also going to do this same sequence along the bottom of the mask. In the mask pictured, I only did rows 1 & 2 along the bottom of the mask so it wouldn't go too far down the face. 

Starch your mask and shape it to your face (I did this by using a plastic bag over my face, pressing the mask over this, then pressing the mask in that shape on top of a pile of plastic grocery bags and letting it dry overnight). 

Add ribbon & go!

I'll try to answer any questions you have about the pattern, but it's basically "have a good knowledge of crochet, make a mask-shape out of wire, make three medallions and crochet some lace between them." 

Show me pictures of your finished product if you ever end up making it too! 

abigailnicole: (Default)
just exactly in the nick of time, here is the finalized 2012 playlist.

  1. When I Go - Slow Club
  2. Tickle Me Pink - Johnny Flynn
  3. Neutered Fruit - St. Vincent
  4. Honey Bunny - Girls
    concerts of 2012
  5. The Last Polka - Ben Folds Five
    concerts of 2012; stayed in my head extensively while bike touring
  6. The Kill - the Dresden Dolls
    graduation blues
  7. A Better Son/Daughter - Rilo Kiley
    graduation blues
  8. Come On Youth - Slow Club
    post-graduation blues
  9. The Party - Regina Spektor
    post-graduation blues
  10. Werewolf - Fiona Apple
    post-graduation blues
  11. Crow's Song - Hunger O'Dalaigh
    for absent friends
  12. Lakehouse - Of Monsters & Men
    for moving somewhere new
  13. For Those Below - Mumford & Sons
    for absent friends
  14. Hood - Perfume Genius
    new life blues
  15. Bushel Hyde - Jessica Pratt
    Joanna Newsom, Jessica Pratt, and Joni Mitchell are like the Jason Bourne/Jack Bauer/James Bond of lady folk music
  16. The Man Who Lives Forever - Lord Huron
    go west young man
  17. The News From Your Bed - Bishop Allen
    new life blues
  18. Paper Hearts - Why?
    the best song of the year hands down the end.


Dec. 2nd, 2012 05:38 pm
abigailnicole: (Default)

abigailnicole: (Default)

I couldn’t not see new Bond if all my friends were, right? (jumping off a bridge etc. Also spoilers.) The writing was good (dealing with role of antique spy program in a modern world, Bond’s psychological issues & substance abuse, M’s job making her a terrible person, Bond & M aging, etc), but the point of it was to bring back the Original Bond….at the expense of women. And while sleeping with a sex worker and allowing her to die was pretty awful, it seemed no more apathetic a sex scene than any of Bond’s other miscellaenous conquests. What I found worse was treatment of Judy Dench as M (there is actually a scene where Bond yells at her to get in the kitchen? for real? like, okay, there’s a bomb or something, but you know the writers just started laughing when they put that line in). By the end of the movie, we’re left with a male authority figure in M, and Bond’s former partner has given up field work (on his suggestion) to become a young black woman secretary (who is then introduced for the first time—after Bond slept with her, of course—as Eve Moneypenny). And Judy Dench unrealistically died from a gunshot wound to the side of her hip just to get rid of her. Also the antagonist is a gay man trying to kill his mother.

I know it’s ridiculous to complain about sexism in Bond, but I was actually pleased with what they had done via M-as-a-lady & things in the first Craig-as-Bond movie, and this was just a total reversal back to terrible old sexist Bond. So basically there is a lot going on that makes this James Bond: Return to Patriarchy the movie.

But the car chases were pretty great!

abigailnicole: (Default)
so it’s the Friday night after my FINAL EXAM IN GROSS ANATOMY (shew) and all week I’ve had this sewing fever and already made these pants:

which had their own lil set of conerns but whatever, I found wool pants for $3 and now they fit me. The madness did not stop here, however: at that same trip I found a Jcrew stripey sweater, a turtleneck, a sweatervest, and a Liz Claiborne skirt that fit my roommate perfectly. All these things, keep in mind, are 100% wool, because KY had 3 days of sub-40 temperatures and I suddenly realize that come winter I’M GONNA DIE. I’ve lived in a subtropical climate for the past four years yall. So ant-and-grasshopper style I’ve been furiously scouting goodwill for all the wool clothes. You think I’m joking? I bought men’s pants today when I went back.

anyway so the scoop.

B4: a gray Land’s End XL 100% merino wool sweater

(with the arms!)

B4: XXL Pronto-Uomo 100% Extra Fine Merino Wool Men’s Sweatervest

whatever they looked like that.

so the after pics which is really where it’s at:

the black sweatervest, when I sewed up the sides (but not so much redoing the arms) became a weird fitted t-shirt like thing? I planned to wear it over a white button-down for warmth & stuff so we’ll see how that works out

and the really interesting thing here was the gray one. so I spent like 4 hrs going “I wanna sew something” and clickin around blogs for cute clothing remods and then all of 50 minutes doing actual sewing on both of these shirts. So I had this wild idea to make this gray shirt into a Dolmann, which gross I know, they’re so trendy-early-2000s, but my response was gonna be “This shirt was THREE DOLLARS and is ALL WOOL” but this shirt did not want to be a dolmann and fought it with all its might. So here is its journey:

sewing up the bottom? nope sleeves still look awwwww-full

sewing up the sleeves? UN HELPFUL. what is up with that torso you ask and with good reason.

did not work out. obvs. so then I just sewed it up the regular way:

right? normal shirt! great. So all I did here was resize an XL to a S with some weird branches along the way. WHATEVER I HAVE A NEW MERINO WOOL SWEATER. and a blurry cat.

I also resized the turtleneck much like the gray one, which is embarrassing because it’s still a turtleneck, but it’s gonna get so cold I won’t care. It’s also gray with a black stripe right across the boobs. new wardrobe for winter! entirely in black and gray! it may look sad and depressing but it’ll be so warm!!! I just need to knit myself a bright red scarf or something.

anyway next time on FRIDAY NIGHT SEWING PROJECT! There are fiiiiiiiive more goodwills in town! and I might start a quilt! the end.
abigailnicole: (devil & god)
 I gotta keep my distance to withstand the silence of you missin when you're not there to listen to this nonsense 


43 degrees this morning; house with all internal temperature regulation turned off is still moccassins-chilly and cat asleep in my lap is radiating heat of 'stay here, stay here'. I do not reach for my notebook next to the bed or go into the kitchen to get some liquid fructose corn sugar caffinated beverage to make me feel awake & focused to read more again of this cranial nerve lecture. More Mumps, etc., again, on the machine. Twice today. At school until 2, lecture on autonomics in cranial nerves, long, sleepy, thick. Things I half-remember from yesterday. Drinking too-thick hot chocolate because I'm out of tea.  Out? of tea? 
Lab I was too tired to put on scrubs for, just a labcoat and someone else's snatched nitrile gloves, joking about the usual Human Centipede/Teeth/sex from the arrogant frat boy at my anatomy table over the woman of a body who gave her body to science, whose face we are dissecting. facial nerves. Lecture on Pediatrics for the free Chick-fil-A lunch, eating individual chips as a woman discusses her divorce, her campaign for parents to read to their children, her son. Crunching each chip invidivually between my teeth, no leftover soupy hot chocolate, nothing to drink, just salt against the flat of my tongue. Taste sensation, you know, I know, comes from the anterior 2/3 of the tongue via the lingular nerve, branch of mandibular V3 nerve, branch of cranial nerve V, the trigeminal nerve. Salt, thirst. As I type this Yoni Wolf is saying "mixed in with the light-floating paper rash and paper rest is only just some more smoke rising, no fleeting omen for your rise only waiting, no ancient mystic spirits rising, or translucent sage ghosts calmly speaking truths--you will always thirst like that." 

Yesterday my grandfather had retina surgery. Trying to find their hotel was an adventure, as they kept calling the C Plaza the C Court, the old C House, unable to remember the name change. In lab I fumbled around for the name of the otic ganglion, parotid gland, flashing back to whatever I could remember about the parotid gland from a lecture by an otolaryngologist I attended two weeks ago. I am overwhelmed by the volume of emails I receive, while at the same time I check my email every five minutes, desperate for a distraction. "I used to do many things," I told my grandmother. "We went camping, picked blueberries, went on a search for the best doughnuts in New Orleans, saw friends every day, lived with my friends, worked with people, saw people all the time. And now I'm mostly just alone." In a letter I wrote "People should choose religion because they find it personally fulfilling, not because of a sense of family or community obligation." My grandmother said she was praying for me, as always. My grandfather explained his eye surgery to me, telling me that eyes had corneas, lenses, a jelly inside, and a retina, which was curved across the back. "It's called the vitreous humour," I said, as he drew a diagram on the back of my notes. I don't think my family can really process that I am going to medical school. It's all right. Sometimes in this new house, sitting in my new car, thinking about all the new things I am learning, I feel like a fake. I do not really believe this is happening to me
Walking down the hallway to the med student lounge lined in pictures of past classes, smiling faces and similar haircuts on pale faces, I did not say though I thought "I did not feel overwhelmed before". In the morning it was 40 degrees and I put my earflap liner in my helmet, pulled my sweater down over my hands to grip the handlebars, shivered through three layers of cotton on the way to schoool. Cotton, of course I did. There are many things now that are just facts about my life, the conclusions which can be drawn from seem too obvious to state, even to myself. On the way home I wrote emails in my head I will never send, asking my Advisor if he appreciated Alopecia, how there are strings of words that fall in and fall in and fill you and break you and how they start with "I'm not a ladies man I'm a landmine, filming my own fake death" and extend to
 "The Heath grows green and magenta in all directions, earth and heather, coming of age—
No. It was spring.” 

it goes on, and goes on.
Someone at school asked me if I built my bike. "Just handlebars, seat, back rack, new tires," I said. I know framebuilders, I can't ever say I built my own bike. "That means you did," he said, and complimented me. I like bikes and I like that they are something solid, something that I can understand all the moving parts. I am going to school to understand all the moving parts of humans and it is filling me with despair. 

abigailnicole: (Default)
so by the sheer amount of time I spend googling "Zenker's Diverticulum" and "innervation of parietal pleura" and related terms, Google MUST know that I'm in med school. And from all the "Asian Market Nicholasville Rd" searching I do, they also know I'm in Lexington.

So what I'm curious about is how sophisticated is Google's advertising robot? What are they going to start advertising to me? I'm assuming local things, right, so if they know I get knitting emails and am in Lexington they should send me ads for ReBelle or whatever. They certainly know I have a cat because I get vet ads. But what about socioeconomially? Are they trying to market me cheap stuff, because I'm still a student, or more expensive things, because they know I'm going to be a doctor someday?

I love to make jokes about robots running our lives, calling our mothers for us, brushing our teeth, driving our cars. (Smartphones usually equal robots in these jokes, unless I'm talking about my electric toothbrush.)  Google advertising algorithim robots, right? "how well do I match a sophisticated algorithim that predicts things about me based on keywords gathered from my email" becomes "how well do the robots know me" becomes "how predictable am I? what if I'm exactly what you expect me to be?" 

right? What if med school is--more than it is set up to educate or enlighten (which it does, but how well is still up in the air)--a system to produce and maintain smart and kind people? To reward them, to be the kind of fair where if you work hard you really do get ahead, to say "this is what we want our people to be like"? How much of our society is a system set up in this way? Because honestly I'm okay being part of a system that's designed to create and maintain smart and kind people--but I'm not sure if that's what we're doing, and I don't think there's room for everyone in the system we have. 

This new fascination with "What My Demograhpic Data Says About My Life" and "Just Who Is The Man, Anyway, and What Does He Want" just keeps going. First with the Dhalgren then with Google ads. Because I'm afraid. What if they're right? What if advertising robots really do know me better than I know myself? who am I and where do I fit into the expectations that are set up for me?
abigailnicole: (Default)
I've never fainted or passed out before. I've never even blacked out. This was the first loss of memory experience I've ever had, and it was weirdly metaphysical. I remember sitting in the chair, feeling lightheaded, and then all of my vision except for the very top was filled with colored spots and I told the nurse "I'm seeing spots". I don't know how long it was, either. I remember having the sensation that I was in a very complex dream, that I was somewhere I belonged and knew who I was and what I was doing and had to stay, and then suddenly I woke up and was somewhere, surrounded by women I didn't know, who were all looking down at me. I couldn't remember how I got there, I didn't recognize it. I didn't remember that I had been in the clinic, or that I had gotten a shot, or any of the circumstances of the recent past. It felt like--like in my dream, I knew exactly who I was, and when I woke up I was just someone I didn't know somewhere that I didn't belong, and I had no idea how I'd gotten there or what had happened to me.

They put me on the floor and held my legs above my head, and when I had to sit up so they could move me to the hospital bed I threw up, twice. It was the student clinic so they only had one room with three hospital beds in it. There were three big windows that looked onto the desk where the nurses kept their personal things, and they kept the door open, though the lights were off. They put a cold washcloth on my forehead and gave me a warm blanket, and I was feeling shaky and nauseous still and just kept thinking I want this blanket. It had a hole in it right next to my ankles. My ankles were crossed but I felt too tired to uncross them. After a while I sat up, tried to stand up and walk around, called Dustin to give me a ride home after Kay and Amanda were both busy. While I waited for him to call me back I became more and more aware of the way my hands and feet were getting hotter and my neck was getting colder, and though the nurses kept telling me I looked fine I felt awful.

Dustin used to date this girl and one of the horror stories he tells me is that the only date they ever went on, she threw up in his car. I kept joking "I'm not going to throw up in your car" on the way home, so I got out of the car and made it to the porch, sat down on the porch swing and then threw up all of my cashew craisin ginger-cinnamon fried rice and carrots and shrimp all over the blue floorboards of the porch and my sandled feet. My roommate was super apologetic she hadn't been home to pick me up (she's the nicest person ever) and hosed off the porch (and my feet) and brought me a glass of water.

One of the nurses asked me if I was a med student? how did I do with the procedures? I'm fine, just not when they're done to me. I'm going into medicine to avoid ever being a patient. Seriously, it sounds like the worst ever. Especially if this happens every time. It makes me want to be the nicest doctor ever because being sick is the worst experience.


Aug. 5th, 2012 07:10 pm
abigailnicole: (Default)

so hi, I'm in med school now! Don't ask me what's wrong with you. I don't know yet.

My first day is tomorrow. I've been studying.

It is very hard to transition from a life in New Orleans, with friends, free time, and a significant other to Lexington, Kentucky (recently named the most sedentary city in America!), living alone, knowing four people. I've spent a lot of time staying home and crying. But that's to be expected, right? With a difficult move! That's all behind me now! (It's not. But I won't have much time to sit around crying in bed after tomorrow.)

One thing I've noticed about myself, as I've sat through this past week of Orientation, is that being told the Institutional Norms and Expectations tends to make me dig in and want to ask "Why?" Let's call it my subversive streak. They've spent a lot of time this week trying to get us to think of ourselves as Professionals now, capital-P and all, and I'm trying to figure out exactly what that means. To me, to us, to our culture. Success IS culturally determined and decided. So how do you be a Successful Young Professional? Do you follow all the right rules? Are you good at your job? Are you courteous to the people around you? Are you respectful of authority?

This isn't something only I have been thinking about, either. There's been an archetype around for a long time of the Idiot Savant,the Brilliant Weirdo, this notion that if you're Good Enough, you can be forgiven things. "Genius is always allowed some leeway, once the hammer has been pried from its hands and the blood has been cleaned up," as Terry Pratchett says. Enter Sherlock Holmes, who's allowed a cocaine habit and shooting holes in his walls (or his modern equivalent House, antisocial and angry with a Vicodin addiction). If you want real life look at Fritz Haber, father of the process we still use to create nitrogen for fertilizer, who came up with gases used in trench warfare in WWI and whose wife and son killed themselves. Genius! There's a subversive element in it. If you're good enough, you get away with a lot. Duh. You knew that in high school, when you realized that if you made straight A's your parents didn't really care what you did with the rest of your time.

But that's not enough, right? If you're good and you want to do good, that's why you go to medical school. I have always been top of my class, high school valedictorian, National Merit Scholar, graduated college even summa cum laude. Because when you're smart you want to be good, you want to do Your Best, and if you can get straight A's in college then you will. I could, and I did.

I don't know if I believe in this system any more.

Medical school is hard. And there are grades. I can, objectively, be smarter or better than my fellow classmates. But I don't think that's helping anymore. Maybe doing research looks good on a resume, but is my resume the most important thing I'm worried about anymore? I hate doing research. (I worked in a very poorly-run lab for a year+.) There comes a point where, in a life-long academic career of competition over, for me, 20 years of school, you have to ask yourself what the endpoint of all the competition is. Do I really want to be an orthopedic surgeon? God, no. I just want to see patients, and help them, and be able to have my own life in the process.

So I think this subversive streak has to do with a journey of self-discovery. If I've spent my whole life doing My Best and Living Up To Expectations of others, then what are my expectations? I've never dyed my hair crazy colors. I've never gotten a tattoo. I conform to the Mainstream American Professional Young Girl. In appearance (height/weight/hair color/eye color/skin color), in attitude (I'm friendly and accommodating), in achievement. So is that what I am?

You want your children to read. I have read. You want your children to exercise. I exercise. You want your children to make straight A's, to eat healthily, to bike instead of drive, to go to college, to be savvy to social media but not attention-hogs, to do summer internships, to do research, to be clean and tidy and nice and accommodating. You want your children to succeed. I have succeeded. My friends, my peers, my class, we have all succeeded. Just the way you wanted us to. And every day I check my Facebook page for the average 15.5 minutes* and watch my friends search for jobs when there aren't any, complain about an American system that sets up expectations for its young people that If You Do This, Then You'll Get A Good Job and Be Happy, or at least can buy all the newest stuff, which is just like being happy, right? But we can't. We've done all the right things and now we can't Get A Good Job or really any kind of job. And I, new first-year medical student, have done the financially smart thing and borrowed almost $50,000 from the federal government to pay for the first of my four years of continuing education.

Why is it so hard for people to meet their basic needs and to live? We've been doing it for millions of years. Is the answer just that life is hard and then you die? Is this how it's always been?

I do not know.

I do not know if I am making the smart/right decision. We do not live in a society where healthcare is working. I'm not sure our medical education system is working. We are doing (as we have always done), the Best that We Can Do and I don't know if it's enough. I have looked out the windows on the interstate as I drove through the South from New Orleans to Kentucky, I have looked at the angry statuses my friends post on the internet, I have looked at the newspapers and the streets and the people and I have thought There must be a better way to live.

how do iron filings orient when there is no magnetic field? how are we, how am I, when there are no expectations to fulfill?

At nights here I stay home. On my subbversive streak I've been rereading Dhalgren, a book I feel privileged to have read once, a book I could spend the next four years reading and still not understand. "I've got a theory now--freedom. You know, here--" Loufer says to the Kid, "you're free. No laws: to break, or to follow. Do anything you want. Which does funny things to you. Very quickly, surprisingly quickly, you become-- [...] --exactly who you are."

*"That’s a full 15.5 minutes the average American spends on Facebook every single day."
abigailnicole: (Default)
You could call this week "New pet owner incessantly photographs new pet."

Here she is:

kitten. 8 weeks old. black & fuzzy. she's very smart and loves attention and cuddles. her name is Brie.

My reasoning behind getting a kitten was not initially "awwwww kitten". These kittens (there are six of them; I know the mother and father cat, as well as the previous owners) were born two days before I graduated college. I was stressed and upset about everything and seeing a litter of six kittens just made me mad that a house full of stoners never bothered to take their cat to the vet to get her checked up, let alone spayed, and let her wander outside as she wanted.

Summer sublet. I had a cat at home that was an outside cat, and so I was always like "cats whatever." I didn't grow up with pets; I haven't ever bonded with a pet before, I'm not a pet person. My new, temporary roommate (she was moving out the end of May/beginning of June as I was moving in) had a cat, an orange tabby named Simba. Simba was an inside cat and he loved affection. He walked up against my feet. When I sat on the couch he came and rubbed his face against my hand, as if training me to pet him, then looked up at me expectantly. As someone who's always had animals be indifferent to me, this was amazing.

So roommate moved out. And took Simba with her.

When I came back from vacation, I noticed there were more cockroaches in the house than usual.

That's when I thought "oh, we need a kitten."

Domesticated animals. I am new to the animal game. When the back of the bag of kitten food said "Your kitten is as cute as she is curious," I was like HOW DID THEY KNOWWWW. Of course they know. In the same aisle they were selling $90 scratching posts, carrying cases, gourmet food made with sweet potatoes and cod. What?

I have this disclaimer: I didn't grow up with pets, and I work in a laboratory that does animal testing. I deal with rabbits every day. I've written about this at length, if you're interested; it's pretty awful. But you start to understand animals as animals. I've had to make the call about when we need to euthanize an animal. They don't think like humans. They have different needs. They are, actually, a different species. But pet stores, pet products, are marketed to pet owners, who are humans and think things like sweet potatoes and cod sound good. Pets, in short, seem to be marketed to people who don't think about the differences between themselves and animals.

Animals are other species. Right? Sure it's cute when she bats at a toy I'm holding above her head, but she's doing it because cats are trained to catch birds. She stretches and pounces because it's thousands of years of predator instincts teaching her to hunt for food. It doesn't matter if the food is in a bowl next to her toys. Her instincts are still there.

Domesticated animals, right? this is what I've been thinking about: mankind's changing relationship with animals. For millions of years humans and animals lived side by side. We had hunting dogs and riding horses, and we domesticated cats because the vermin were getting into our food. And now we live in cities, and we have cars, and we buy our meat at the supermarket, and we have pesticides and insulated houses with no mice. It is no longer necessary to live side by side with animals anymore. People can go their entire lives without having an animal and that is fine, accepted, and normal. Dog breeds that were trained for hundreds of years to herd sheep, or protect a family, or take down predators, now enter shows, or sleep at their owners' feet getting fat. Cats scratch at rope and cardboard posts we make for them and we put bells on their collars to scare away the birds.

What I've come to think is that we've done away with the need for domesticated animals. And yet those animals remain.

Animals are animals. They are not friends or people. They can be trained to protect what they view as theirs. They can be trained to hunt small rodents. But they are not people, no matter how smart they are.

And what I've been thinking about, too, is where that leaves the animals. And where it leaves the people who want to deal with animals. We've coevolved with domesticated animals for thousands of years (if not longer): the desire to have animals is built into us, too. That's why we have so many pet owners, why we think small fluffy things are cute. We've learned over many generations to view them as allies, not as threats. And if the roles that animals once fulfilled in our lives are being replaced by technology in modern society, then we can fight back. We can say that even if these animals don't have a role anymore, we still want them around. We can still love them. We can buy them expensive scratching posts and sweet potato and cod food and make places for them in our homes, take care of them when they get sick. Pet owners, of which I now count myself a member, are part of humanity that doesn't want animals to be replaced with technology.

Animals are animal. Cats do catch cockroaches, by the way. I have a very active cat who loves to pounce at bugs, at pieces of paper, at mardi gras beads that I wriggle in the air for her. If she wants to come cuddle she'll come lie next to me; if I come pick her up and she's feeling playful she'll scratch and bite at my fingers. I'm still training her that it's not okay to chew on laptop cords, and clipping her claws so I can pick her up without scratches. "Pet" has gone from an invaluable member of the household, with real benefit to human owners, to a $300 increase on your first month's rent.

Is that all that's left the long bond between humans and animals? Gone from mutual helpers, shepherds and guardians, to inside creatures who whine and move their legs in their sleep. I wonder if they're dreaming of something more.

So I'm not putting a bell on her collar. Once she's old enough to go outside, I'm letting her catch all the birds she wants, as long as she takes the mice and the cockroaches too. I own a tiny predator now, and I am proud.
abigailnicole: (Default)

In one interview, he said "When people ask me, 'Who is your public?' I say honestly, without skipping a beat, 'Ross.' The public was Ross. The rest of the people just come to the work."
--from his wikipedia page

from my class notes:

Felix believed that e go through life in couples--one individual life is fragmented. Untitled (Orpheus Twice) is two mirrors side by side--if you stand between them by yourself, you're bisected. Only a couple is complete. 

Untitled (Perfect Lovers), 1987-90. Two clocks in perfect sync--but they fall out of sync, they lose time, and one will stop first. His partner, Ross, was dying of AIDS.

Untitled (Ross), 1991. This exhibition is hard candy that's been poured against a corner. He called this a "portrait of Ross": the candy weighed exactly what Ross weighed. You, the viewer, were supposed to take an eat a piece of the candy. Every morning, the museum owner would replenish the candy to the correct weight.

For the celebration of the "Day Without Art", to look at the impact AIDS had on the art world, galleries were supposed to put black veils over all their paintings. Felix rented billboards and showed this photo of an empty, unmade bed. No text, no context, was given.

Untitled (Blood), 1992. Made of hand-strung red and white glass beads: turns people into ghostly figures on the other side, represents a liminal space between life and death, sickness and health, separated by the composition of blood. Felix strung the beads for this curtain, along with Untitled (Chemo) of 1991 and Untitled (Golden) of 1994, while sitting at the hospital with Ross.

Felix died January 9, 1996, of AIDS.
abigailnicole: (Default)
Lately I've been noticing, among college-educated, liberal-arts-degree males, more and more sexism. These are men I am friends with, men I respect, men I cook dinner for and invite to my parties. They are men I sit in class next to, volunteer with, participate in clubs with.

They are men who would be offended if I ever mentioned this idea to them, who think they are champions of women's rights, who--because they 'respect' the ideas of a few women--think they give women equal treatment.

They are not men who 'disregard' women. They are men who do not think of women. If they want someone to talk to, they will run through a list of all their male friends and acquaintances. If they find something they want to tell people, the ones that come into their heads will be exclusively men. If they see women they are courteous, nice, and can engage in an intellectual conversation with her, usually with no problem. But no matter how stimulating this conversation is, these men will never think 'yes, I should talk to this person again sometime!' They do not think of women as 'people'--they think of them as women, as girls, and that is their primary classification. They don't disregard women. They just don't regard women in the first place.

These are the men who, last night at the coffee shop, told me that because I had read 300 pages of Nabokov's Ada in three days, I was reading too fast, and couldn't possibly understand it all. These are the men who, after I've been showing up at the Bike Help Desk every week all semester, finally say something to me like "hey Nicole, you know stuff about bikes, right?" These are men who always call my boyfriend to hang out and talk about books and, even though I'm the one who tells him to invite them over for dinner to hang out with us, never bother to get my number. These are the men who will cook for your parties but never clean their own dishes. They just don't think about it.

I could name names. I could list, off the top of my head, ten men I personally know well who fit this description. Some of them have gotten better over time, some have gotten worse. Some of these men are the kind who sleep with women at parties and then get upset when their friends do the same. These are men like Wes Anderson's self-obsessed men, like John Cusack in High Fidelity, like the Brothers Bloom, like every Zach Braff character, like Robert Heinlein books, like James Bond, like comic book superheroes, like all the other examples we can think of. We all know men like this. We have dated men like this, or our friends have dated men like this; men who are sexist because it is an extension of not thinking of other people.

Is this what causes sexism? racism? People who assume that other people are like them, and when they're too far removed, they simply ignore all those too far outside their category of sameness.

I don't know. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about sexism or racism; I don't see that I can do a lot about it. I'm not an activist, I don't think about what social change I could be making or that needs to be made. I tend to accept the way things are and work on a small scale to make things work for me within my own life--isn't that what we all do? Isn't that why this problem exists? Maybe I am part of the problem.

I let men sit down next to me at coffee shops when I'm reading alone, I feel like I must listen to them when they want to idolize me as their dream girl because I'm reading their dream book. Is this sexism? This is just how gender dynamics work in my life. Those same men watching me read their favorite books will need to explain to me their interpretation, and want to read me their poetry, and they don't want me to critique the use of "us" versus "I" and the annoying didactic tone in their poetry--they want me to quietly admire and appreciate Poetic Genius. They want to give me their number. The power I have is not power to say: "Hey, please leave me alone, reading a book in a coffee shop does not mean I'm out fishing for men" because that's rude. The power I have is to tear up that phone number later. The ways in which politeness and personal space intertwine, the ways in which a woman is regarded and is expected to act in public.

Outside a bar my roommate told me that if a woman is alone, at night, and sees a man walking down the sidewalk towards her, she should cross the street to avoid him. She said that a man should not be offended by this, and that the woman is not trying to give offense and is not acting in a frightened way. She said that this act is empowering, that it is a necessary act of self-protection, and that the man and woman should both understand this, and be able to greet each other from across the street. She said that politeness takes a backseat to self protection, every time.

In that same conversation I told my roommate that, since I'm graduating, I was thinking of writing an email to my ex-boyfriend, the terrible one, the alcoholic, suicidal, depressed, controlling, manipulative one, to say something like "I hope you're well." Just to leave college with a clean slate, no grudges. Earlier that day I had had lunch with my ex-boyfriend's new ex-girlfriend. She's wonderful, a very nice lady, who I would like to be friends with if we ever get the chance. They had just broken up, and she was moving out of their shared apartment to get away from him. Listening to her describe their fights, complain about the way he came into her room, drunk, and yelled at her for an hour, told her they were over. She said, "fine." He begged her to take him back. Ad nauseum, ad nauseum.

That day I opened a fortune cookie that said

Let hate turn to friendship because of your existence.

They were wrong. Being polite, making amends, being friendly, being "the better person" does not mean subjecting yourself to re-opening communications with a person who hurt you, who is depressed and manipulative and taking his anger out on you, who is not seeking help, who will not get better. Protection, not politeness. "The better person" doesn't put themselves at danger to help another. You don't have to take abuse, and keep taking abuse, in order to help someone else, and you should never do so. I am not saying men should not abuse women. People should not abuse each other.

How do you recognize the self in the other? Is that the foundation of sexism or the end of sexism? Is selfishness the cause of all these problems? I don't know. I am mad at those people, at those boys who sit in all-male circles reading poetry to each other at parties I attend, at the offhand comments they make about "a man's job", at the girls I see at parties who complain about "the drunk sluts at the Boot," at those men I sat next to at a coffee shop last night who laughed at four girls on the corner in minidresses and heels taking a picture together, at one boy I am very good friends with who talks about how stupid and entitled his girlfriend is when she's not around. It's not okay. It's just how it is.
abigailnicole: (Default)
  1. Breathing or consciousness: the ultimate Catch-22 of nasal congestion medication
  2. Nicole Bakes for Boys: cherry Pie for B, smores pie for Engram's birthday
  3. Engram: "I didn't remember how Sudafed works so I took four before my Portugese class. My professor asked me to conjugate a verb and I just laughed at him"
  4. My art history professor's reaction, upon showing us this Robert Mapplethorpe photograph of anal fisting and having us all go "ugh!" was, "What? You all do it"
  5. I forgot the werewolf's name from Twilight (it's Jacob. I was calling him 'Joseph'.) This is only lolsy because I've read the books and seen the movies more than once
  6. Parting remarks between myself and Engram: " ANAL FISTING!"
  7. googling "is detergent a portmanteau of deter and agent" gives no relevant results
  8. describing Primer as "a get-rich-quick scheme gone terribly wrong"
  9. halfway through making sweet tea, I realize there is no granulated sugar, and only a 2lb bag of confectioners' sugar. This does not prevent me from making tea
  10. I picked up a book of poems from work and am reading them one at a time. I think someone has brain cancer or is in southeast Asia, or maybe both
  11. Being An Adult means Cleaning Things Sometimes

but not necessarily writing that 12 page paper you have due soon.
abigailnicole: (Default)

I know I've read three?! books now and not posted about any of them (Earthly Powers, Dhalgren, Fifty Shades of Grey) and now I'm talking about David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. Because I'm reading it now and it's ehhh well it's DFW. DFW is a big deal. It's just how it is. That being said I don't have to like him, and in many ways I don't. I appreciate his essays. His fiction also becomes much like reading an essay, in that he's made an art of the self-referential writer-confiding-in-the-reader-about-writing as he goes. Everything is excess, is information, is giving too much and describing more and giving you options and showing you what he's doing. A desparate, self-conscious, writing for approval. His fiction is quite good, actually, and sometimes (oftentimes) I wish it were left to work its magic effect on the reader without his over-analyzing it for us. The best example of this is Adult World (pg 161). Fiction can have these very simple, very descriptive moments like:

She sometimes had bad dreams in which they were driving someplace together and every single other vehicle on the road was an ambulance.

This is what fiction does well: gives you details that are not, in and of themselves, telling the reader what to think, but provide an insight to the character's experience. We have fear, we have the symbol of the car, we have a mode of transportation, the sensation of speed and distance passing by quickly that compresses time, and the distance from the master bedroom to Adult World all laid out as a journey fraught with injury and danger, like the marriage itself.

And then you have this piece of fiction in (I) augmented in (II) with:

1c. Flat narr description of J.'s sudden pallor & inability to hold decaf steady as J. undergoes sddn blndng realization that husband is a Secret Compulsive Masturbator & that insomnia/yen is cover for secret trips to Adult World to purchase/view/masturbate self raw to XXX films & images & that suspicions of hsbnd's ambivalence about 'sexlife together' have in fact been prescient intuitions & that hsbnd has been clearly suffering from inner defecits/psychic pain of which J.'s own self-conscious anxieties have kept her from having any real idea [point of view (1c) all objective, exterior desc only].

Okay, I get it. It's metafiction, and this is what metafiction does. It's no longer about doing good writing, because there is plenty of good writing out there. It's writing about the act of writing good writing. How do you write a scene well? How do you structure a story so the audience sees it the way you want? How does POV, epiphany, character desc, etc, fit into this? If you go by the definition of "good writing doesn't draw attention to itself" you're missing the point. DFW lives [or not? RIP] to draw attention to the act of writing. Maybe he really is [was, RIP] a crazily insecure guy who needs to put those insecurities about writing into writing, and since he was also very smart and did it in a new, novel way, hit that sweet spot in metafiction popular culture where people became interested in this expounding-on-writing-as-you-write phenomenon.

And he's a very god writer. He is. There's no arguing with it. He has the most distinctive voice of any writer popular in the last few years; if you're reading DFW you know it. You spend time looking up words you don't know. You consider the relationship between reader and writer, and between writer and subject, in ways other books don't make you think about. It's important to read DFW.

That being said, oh god, this book. I woke up really content that I had three hours to sit inside listening to rain drip from the eaves, drink Earl Grey, and read from the couch, only pausing to listen to thunder. And I put the book down disgusted, insecure, upset, and feeling claustrophobic. If you read books to escape, to get out of your life, don't, dear god don't read DFW. Unless you want to become insecure, self-obsessed, repressed, and feel worse about humanity. He writes about horrible people--and admittedly the title is Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, maybe other books are better, but from what I've read of them, I get a sinking feeling not--and he writes about them compassionately. He describes shame so it is understandable, so you see it encroaching, describes depression and how easily it slips up on you, describes the selfish, mean, petty emotions of hideous people. I have to admit when I got the interview about rape I became uncomfortable, and when I got to "To know that another human being, these guys, can look at you lying there and in the totally deepest way understand you as a thing...as just a hole to shove a Jack Daniel's bottle in so far it blows out your kidneys--"
I stopped reading.

There are things you can and can't read and this is personal for everyone. I want to read and enjoy DFW, I really do. I think he has important things to say, says them in an interesting way, and has started an entire trend of writing (footnotes, oh god, footnotes) in modern fiction that is worth studying and perhaps even emulating (thought not to the extent it's been emulated). But if I have to read these books at the expense of my own sanity and mental health, I'm not sure it's worth it.
abigailnicole: (OMG)
 because I can't bear to close them. But tonight! tonight I am!

thank you, that will be all.

abigailnicole: (Default)
How Nicole Hit Her Head, or, a Very Tumultous Weekend, or, The Saga of our Birthdays, or Looking Nice with Open Wounds, or How Hard it is to Write an Honors Thesis Sometimes on a Friday Morning

On Monday, typing travel reimbursement memos, my hip still throbbed, though the bruise didn't appear until Wednesday, ugly purple, bigger than my fist. With the dictation headphones in and my hair still matted with blood I felt silly and Fight Club, like typing haikus on company time and abusing my copier privileges.

on Sunday the weather was nice so I wore red, white, and blue.
At the Holi festival behind the cafeteria revellers splashed pink dye all over me, so I had to go hoe and change.
In the sun it was seventy five so I wore a sundresses with white flowers embroidered across the chest, and we biked to the Bayou St. John. Going down the hill on Jeff Davis in the sunshine I let the freewheel spin and raised my arms in the sun, watched the trees against the blue sky and felt that one moment of perfection you only get going downhill on a bike on a sunny day.
At the bayou, even in the sun, the breeze coming off the water made goosebumps raise on our arms, and we huddled around the pot where crawfish were boiled alive, warming ourselves on the steam. When we gave up and went home I stepped in the shower, getting my hair wet but not washing it, feeling the steam around my own skin. I've never left a party only to shower and return but we did return, in jeans and sweatshirts. It was dark on the bayou and we clustered around the table greedily fumbling with carapaces and tails that we couldn't see. The boys became giddy, setting off bottle rockets, agitating the dogs.
I got into a boat with my boyfriend when the water was still. Our oars made silk-fabric ripples in the water and we rowed under the footbridge, ducking low, hearing it creak over our heads. The bridge, strung in Christmas lights, mirrored perfectly in the water. "I'm going to remember this for a long time," he said. I want to. I watched the cars go by on Esplanade from a boat, dipped my fingers into the water. It was warm.

on Thursday I didn't go to see the Two Gentlemen of Verona like I said I would. I age meager pasta provided with the best intentions in a student lounge at the Tulane School of Medicine, talked to a friend about my job, his former job. They showed us the robot dummies where the medical students practiced delivering robot babies, putting in a central line, injecting intravenously. Everyone said they loved the school.
I told another student that I was writing a thesis on time travel and he looked at me, awed, and said "You're a keeper."
I drove home listening to Johnny Flynn along Claiborne, so close to the Superdome you could see the individual lights around the edge as they change color.

on Friday I went to Thesis Fridays alone, mixed jasmine and peppermint tea, made sure the protaganist knew she was her own mother. Time travel problems.
I left at eleven thirty to attend a lecture on the role of neonatal testosterone in prepubertal impulsivity. I wore a red halter dress, my shoulders feeling very exposed, my hair down. Through the lecture I was nervous, butterflies and goosebumps.
After the lecture I went to Cafe Freret to have lunch with my ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend. We talked about theatre, television, and time travel. Going home I tried not to think certain things. I kept thinking of how nice she was, how easy it is to be taken advantage of when hyou are nice. All week before I'd been dreading the meeting, what we would say. "When I knew him, he was a depressed, alcoholic, suicidal, manipulative, mean person," I'd practiced saying, in my head. "I hope he's changed." I didn't say any of those things. We sat at the table long after we ate, our conversation punctuated by silence.
Friday afternoon I went to bike help desk, put on a new bike saddle, rode around campus in the sunshine. While Grimes played I put my brass bell on my stem, watched from the back of the stage her hood fill out in the wind. That night at the levee there were four bonfires. In the woods was a large canvas washed up by the river, covering something the same size as a man, with his head leaned forward as if in sleep. My search for firewood turned up only trash, everything turned gray by the moon. I walked near it only slowly, at first thinking it was a hobo in a sleeping bag, then—when it did not move—a body. I didn’t touch the canvas to find out.
Around the campfire I went with the only people I knew, only to find them high on acid. Smoke blew into my face, making me cough.
A hobo, drinking Artem’s mezcal, approached us. “I wanna sit by the chicks,” he said. “I ain’t tryin to look cool,” he said. “I’m 36, and a hobo, hoppin freight trains and stuff.” His other friend, also a hobo, said goddamn in an accent that reminded me of home.
Those drunken boys who tried to climb the bridges fell into the Mississippi. ”You aren’t an alcoholic until you graduate,” the girl sitting next to me said.
At the liquor store I sepnt twenty seven dollars and seventy three cents on alcohol, and drank none. I only wanted the cork to plug the ends of the handlebars on my bicycle.
In the woods I found no firewood.
Sitting around the campfire I thought of Kelsey’s front porch, about being miserable in fancy clothes, about doing what other people want, about the very isolating feeling of drinking only water and watching those around you become intoxicated.
The clouds were orange from reflected sodium streetlights and the moon was half full, half empty.
We climbed atop an abandoned yellow platform that shook with our movements, by a ladder set at a 30 degree angle, tilted away from the body.
I went to the woods alone. I did not go home. I did not pull aside that canvas to reveal whether underneath was rotting flesh or just logs.

on Saturday night I went to an Everything is Terrible movie with Bailey, called Doggie Woggiez! Poochie Woochiez! I ordered and drank a Goya Ginger beer that burned my nose and throat. Three men dressed as dogs did exaggerated comedy. The movie was an hour and a half of found footage of dogs, each clip less than twenty seconds. I didn't understand the humor. I fell asleep to dog jobs and woke to ghost dogs, unaware of how much time had passed.
Leaving the threater two of the dog-men said "Goodbye!" to us for a good two minutes as we walked back to the car.
Saturday afternoon, at Plan B, we fixed a bent crankset, discoveerd a bent frame, bent it back using a vice. A man with a cigarette in his mouth said: "This is way hillbilly," holding the frame while we clamped down the vice. That night Braden put together his new bike before we left.
At midnight, the brand new Sunday, I went to Snake and Jake's with Bailey. "Are you happy? How is your relationship?" she asked me. I am.
We walked the three blocks home at 2am, after ditching the bar because a man with a coffeepot kept talking to use. Five blocks away, at Pine and Maple, two students were mugged at gunpoint, shoved to the ground and hit. We didn't know. We drove to the store for cigarettes, came home in ignorance. I took Nyquil to stop the coughing at three and fell asleep in my underwear.

on Sunday night Braden was excited about his new bike. "He was biking like an asshole," I told Bailey later, holding a gauze pad to my head in the front seat, shaking. His new bike is faster than mine and he, giddy with fireworks, crawfish, and beer, wanted to bike fast, take sharp corners, beat cars at stoplights, not wait for me. I caught up to him on Jeff Davis as he was fumbling with a light, not paying attention to me. While reaching around for the light he swerved in front of me, knocking my bike towards some cars. I backpedaled, used to a fixed gear, unable to find the brake, and landed with my left hip and the left side of my head on the road. "Are you okay? Are you okay?" he kept asking, over and over. "My head," I was screaming, clutching it. "My head, my head--"
Two med students in the car behind us stopped and ran over to help. I kept thinking how important it was to be lucid, to not cry, to be sane. "Where do you go to school?" I asked and upon learning it was LSU joked: "Oh, I work there. Let's just meet in the cafeteria next time," with blood still running into my hair. I sat down on the curb to avoid throwing up. Braden put his jacket against my head to try to stop the bleeding.
Jake and Sarah's house was only two blocks away so they drove to come get us. In their kitchen Sarah washed my head with the sprayer on the sink, running warm water over my scalp. "Do you want me to stop being nice to you?" she asked. "I know if I'm hurt an people are nice to me I just start crying." In the kitchen, after everyone had left, I just started crying, holding a brown towel to my face.
At home my rooommates fussed over me and washed my hair, Chelsea pouring hot water over the right side of my scalp, Bailey applying peroxide, neosporin, and bandages to the skinned patch on my left elbow and palm.
In bed, shaking, I piled blankets around myself, sobbing intermittently. My eyes remained undialated, my head pain local. I remain unconcussed.

on Monday I woke with blood matted on my hair, on the right side, and afraid to touch my scalp I washed the ends, the water running brown against the white porcelain sink, and then drove to work. My boss noticed my limp. "But you were wearing your helmet and gloves," he said. "Yes," I said, my left hand bandaged, blood still dry against my scalp. My helmet was in a gift-wrapped box on the bookshelf, waiting for my Wednesday birthday.
At home I put on a dress I'd never worn before, from my wife, in liquor-gray-brown satin that had a large bow over my chest and fell to my ankles. I biked to work that afternoon very slowly, unable to put a helmet on over the knot on my left side. 
At work we prepared for a reading by Jonathan Franzen. I walked around the quad in the sunshine in sandals and that long dress, holding yard signs to direct people to the event, walking slowly. At the reception I told the two people sitting next to me, Zach and Evian, about the accident, but didn't mention it to my boss. No one noticed the matted blood in my hair.
The reading was funny, and Franzen signed my book "To Nicole: Happy Birthday."

on Tuesday it was Braden's birthday. We ate biscuits cut out in the shape of men for breakfast, spread them with raspberry jam. That night I bought bread and made sandwiches on twelve-grain bread with raspberry jam and nutella. We tried to bar crawl but tuesday night defeated our compatriots. At Parasol's, eating the orange slice out of my old fashioned, sitting next to me, he repeated: "No one came to my birthday party." Outside the bar, sitting on the sidewalk, we fixed a flat tire and our friend met us. At the next bar they were doing Pub Trivia, the Princess category, and I knew all the answers. I ordered To Die For Fries, with bechemel sauce and green onions, and it felt like eating french fried pasta. At Cassidy's house, at midnight on the new Wednesday, March the 7th, he gave me a Tree of Life tarot reading for my birthday while Braden slept on the couch. My significator was the Page of Cups, and the first card he laid down, the top of my spiritual triangle, was the Star. My intellectual triangle was entirely inverted, everything holding me back. Inverted in my emotional triangle was the World. I thought over and over of Pynchon, of Blicero:
His future card, the card of what will come, is The World.

on Wednesday it was my birthday. I ate Life cereal with strawberries and half a grapefruit, went to work late, skipped work all afternoon to go to the zoo with Braden and Carrie. Wearing my purple dress, I smiled at the flamingoes, the elphants, the tigers, the lions, the orangutans. It was sunny, and I wore my favorite shoes.
In the sunshine, watching the animals, everything was wonderful.
abigailnicole: (Default)

 this weekend, in light of my forthcoming endocrinology test (quick! ask me about the anterior pituitary!), I read Solaris, the infamously trippy, psychological-but-yet-still-hard-scifi novel by Stanislaw Lem. And then I watched the movie (the 2003 George Clooney, as the person who loaned me the book said she liked it better). 

And. There were parts of this book that I really appreciated--and one of them was how CREEPY it was. It's paranoid, and it makes the reader paranoid. You are Kris Kelvin, you're following his every thought throughout this whole ordeal. When he arrives on a space station to find the person who invited him there dead, and one of his colleagues uncommunicative and paranoid, the other locked in his lab, you start to get creeped out. You are just as confused as he is when the planet scans his brain and recreates an immortal simulacra of his dead wife. The fact that Snow and Sartorius are both unavailable--both physically, conversationally, and emotionally--for the entire novel makes it a very isolating one. You, the reader, are Kelvin as he has to try to figure out how to deal with his 'visitor' on his own. There are brief moments that are frightening in their details: the conversation Kelvin has with Snow, only to realize at the end that Snow is holding the hand of someone or something that is hiding in a cabinet the entire time. Creepy also is the fact that their 'visitors' cannot leave them--watching Rheya, not knowing why she did it, rip apart a space station door because she can't see Kelvin is a moment of real power in the narrative. It encases and includes the claustrophobia, the sense of confinement. 

I think I mention these things because these were things I LOVED about the book that the movie completely ignored. 

Solaris is a few things. It is an exercise in claustrophobia, it's a commentary on the nature of space exploration, it's a lot of fake hard science, and it's also a love story. The love story, while integrally a part of it, and for that matter an interesting part--his wife's suicide, the subtle way in which she goes from something he wants to destroy to something he wants to protect--is NOT the entire story (which, if you watch the movie, you will not learn). Of course the movie was going to get it wrong, I know, hollywood loves a love story, and telling bits of the story from her point of view was interesting. But I'm not sure why they left out all the things I mentioned above--you know, the super cool, super creepy stuff that could have made this a really visually interesting and scary movie--in favor of love scenes between two actors with awkward, barely-there chemistry. When Solaris the movie tries to be creepy, it has blood on the floor. There was just so much more to work with in their source material. What you end up with is a love story, randomly set on a space station, with some unnamed and unquestioned force bringing back his suicidal wife. And sure, you get some pre-Inception Inceptioney questions about 'how close is a memory of a person to the person's actual life' (duh, not very), but that's really not what Solaris was about. 

The premise of Solaris the book is that space travel (science fiction space travel, anyway) is about finding a reflection of man. Man goes into the stars looking for something like himself. Whether it be language, bipedalism, warm-bloodedness, M-class planets, single star orbits, a nervous system, a system of communication--whatever life we encounter out there must be like us, right? All the life we know is like us. We have a lot of attributes. Of course something in space will be like us. The 'hard scifi' part of Solaris--and a good third to half the novel is spent explaining this phenomena--is the fact that Solaris is a planet with an unstable orbit around a dual star system. The thing holding the planet in check is a giant, probably-sentient 'ocean' that can do anything.  It's not made of cells. It may be made of atoms or maybe neutrinos (I'm not sure how good Lem is on physics, considering this was a 1961 novel, but he tries real hard). It may be intelligent--it doesn't react the same way to stimuli when stimuli are given, anyway. This laundry-list of the ocean's attributes takes up a vast number of pages in this very short novel, turning it into (if you subtract the characters and just give Kelvin's reading and inner monologue) a scientific review of the Phenomenon of Solaris. It does get tedious. But reading the book you are never to doubt that what this book is really about is the ocean. 

And what is the ocean? Kelvin, by the end, is ready to theorize that it's a very young god; a sly way by Lem of criticizing humans for deifying anything they can't understand. The fundamental, and most interesting part of Solaris, is the question of the other. Other than human. There are still a vast, unaccounted-for number of things that humanity does not (cannot?) understand. And our reaction to the unknown--the human tendency to become small, afraid, mean, and protective when faced with what cannot be understood--is what's being examined in Solaris, just as closely as Kelvin examines the ocean. 
abigailnicole: (Default)

 +dancing to the Talking Heads at midnight

 Grim Fandango all afternoon

-getting stomach cramps on a bike ride and rushing into the new Rouses in the CBD to be ill their bathroom

+it’s a really nice Rouses

+seeing ‘Tit Rex (pronounced T-rex, short for ‘Petite Rex’, a Mardi Gras joke), which is these tiny little floats the size of small wagons or large shoeboxes. the parade was one block long. instead of standing in one spot, waiting for floats to pass us by, we walked up the parade and admired each float individually

-losing circulation in my fingers and toes, standing in the cold (it’s 37 degrees yall)

-blowing a flat on my front tire on my way to the afterparty, walking my bike into the bywater

+at the afterparty (through a friend of a friend), the first thing I saw when I came into the house was a knitting book on the coffee table. further inspection revealed a bowl full of knititng needles, circulars, double-pointeds, metal, bamboo. There were two typewriters on either side of the fireplace, two guitars next to an old-fashioned desk, an antique toy keyboard on top of the mantleplace. The bookshelf contained Terry Pratchett, Ian M Banks, and lots of Palahinuk. It was arranged by color

-I never met the people who lived there

+sitting in the perfect front living room of people I had never met, alone, I took my tube out and replaced it with a new one. Everyone else was in the kitchen. Someone passing through to smoke gave me their floor pump, and sitting on an old green chair, with vintage copies of Playboy on the table next to me, warmth and circulation returned to my fingers and toes

+in the kitchen there were pieces of white cake with brown sugar frosting, thin pieces each individually wrapped in wax paper and sealed with a gold embossed sticker with a hummingbird on it

+after I fixed my tire and wandered back to the kitchen the party announced that they were dispersing to an afterpartyafterparty (as they had done the one-block ‘tit rex walk hours earlier). I sat on the couch in the kitchen and wrote a hurried thank-you note to the people who lived at that house, signed it “with gratitude, Nicole” and left it next to their nightstand. I am sorry they won’t know me. someday I’ll leave a pie at 3146 burgundy and they’ll never know who or why

+biking back from the Marigny we zigzagged through parade routes blocked off on Canal, and took St. Charles back, watched some unnamed parade (Oshun?) as it looped from Lee Circle all the way back to Napoleon. We waved at the parades and rode in the left lane. All the cars were going at our speed; no one honked, people waved.

+At Seventh street, where we had to cross St. Charles to get to my friend’s birthday party, we had to wait for a marching band to cross before we could sneak in front of a float. “You’re doing a great job! Keep it up!” I shouted at the marching band, the dancers.

+At the birthday party my friend had a bunny named Sadie, named for the Joanna Newsom song. We drank wine from mugs and ate sparkly, metallic king cake from Sucre and delicious vegetarian jambalaya 

+in the 37 degree temperature biking is the only way to keep warm. I wore my hat and goggles

+I abandoned the idea of the bonfire rumpus, my face aching from the cold. Biking home I saw a man walking down the sidewalk, carrying a partially deflated kiddy pool. “Good weather for swimming,” I said as I biked past, giving him the thumbs up. 

+the cake was good. when I got home the heat was on. 

+11:11, and all is well. 

abigailnicole: (Default)

I wish that I had known before I read this book that Murakami's Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is really creepy. I wish someone had told me: "Hey, this is an entire book written in dream-logic, and it works, but it's really creepy." So there's that.

some things about this book: it is slow. Very slow. Long stretches of time pass where the narrator (Toru Okada) simply sits on his couch, or goes for walks, or sits on a park bench, or sits at cafes. There is a lot of sitting. The most significant sitting happens when--spoiler!--Okada decides to sit, for three days, at the bottom of a well. I mean, there's action, too--the random scene where the main character assaults a random passerby for reminding him of the wife who left him--but overall there's just a lot of nothing happening.

And what you get from it more than anything is atmosphere. You meet other characters and hear their stories, and for the most part the stories of Creta Kano, Lietunant Mamiya, Malta Kano and even May Kasahara are far more interesting than our main character. If I had such a boring main character I'd go insane and throw up and follow someone else and Murakami sticks with him, persistently, stubbornly, clinging to his every move. And sometimes (usually) his monologues go something like

She seemed to have some kind of a clear image in her mind of how I should look. It took her no time to pick out what she bought me. I would have spent more time at a stationer's, picking out a new eraser. But I had to admit that her good taste in clothes was nothing short of astounding. The color and style of every shirt and tie she chose seemingly at random were perfectly coordinated, as if she had selected them after long, careful consideration. nor were the combinations she came up the least bit ordinary. (p380)

which sounds straight like, ugh, bad fanfiction. I do not care how long it takes you to pick out an eraser at the stationer's, why would you tell me this, do I need to know it? Magical woman magically buys you expensive clothes while you sit around doing nothing? Cool. Right. I believe it. NO. I say fanfic because this...this passive main character, who while doing nothing begins to have magical things happen to them, is very fanfic. It's very wishful thinking, and it clashes entirely with my experience of reality and it grates on me, rubs me the wrong way.

In fact, the entire book is best when the main character is not present. Then the simple writing turns from banal to beautiful, as in

This submarine has come up from the bottom of the ocean to kill us all, she thought, but there's nothing strange about that, it could happen anytime. It has nothing to do with the war; it could happen to anyone anywhere. Everybody thinks it's happening because of the war. But that's not true. The war is just one of the things that could happen. (p 398)

which is magical. When the narrator gets out of the way, the book becomes a dark wooden box full of small, delicate, ornate objects. Too bad the narrator is an ugly newspaper stuffed over these objects for most of the book. All the other characters actually tell the interesting parts of their story, while our narrator either can't seem to figure his out or won't tell us what's going on. Is he running a psychic detective agency/prostitution service/spiritual healer? Is he a dream-walker? I mean, we assume that much.

The end of the book--as a warning--is really creepy (especially when you're finishing it at midnight alone in bed). I wish all the people who told me this book was charming (how? what?) would have told me that. The dream sequences, because the book is written in dream-logic, make the most sense and have the most internal consistency, and provide the most poignant atmosphere:

"This place is dangerous. You are an intruder here, and I am the only one on your side. Don't forget that."

"Who are you?" I asked.

The faceless man handed me the flashlight as if passing a baton. "I am the hollow man," he said. Faceless face toward me, he waited in the darkness for me to speak, but I could not find the right words. Eventually, without a sound, he disappeared. He was right in front of me one second, swallowed up by darkness the next. I shone the light in his direction, but only the dull white wall came out of the darkness. (p 575)

It also reads a bit like a detective story--in the way that all these mysteries are presented, you--and the narrator--both feel like soon, there will be a fact handed to you, and that fact will act as a key, and you will be able to Figure This Out. There's even a little explanatory scene at the end, insofar as we get any explanations, but they're all rather vague. I've included excerpts, but if you're afraid of spoilers, don't be, because there is no big reveal to spoil:

I sensed the darkness around me increasing in density, much as the evening tide comes to fullness without a sound. I had to hurry. I didn't have much time left. They might come looking for me here once the lights came back on. I decided to risk putting into words the thoughts that had been slowly forming in my mind.

"This is strictly a product of my own imagination, but I would guess that there was some kind of inherited tendency in the Wataya family bloodline. What kind of tendency I can't be sure, but it was some kind of tendency--something you were afraid of...And your sister, I'm sure, didn't die from food poisoning. No, it was more unusual than that." (p 578)

I'd like to say the rest of the explanation gets more specific, or that this is the explanation for a big plot point of how Toru Okada's sister-in-law died--but it isn't. Those things don't really matter to the plot, as best as I can tell. (It's hard to interpret a book written in dream logic.)

And don't get me wrong: I like dream logic. The sequences when he is dreaming, dreaming of a hotel with endless rooms, labyrinthine hallways--I love those dreams, I have those dreams, and Murakami writes them well. They're creepy and suitably vague, and only in dream logic would sentences like "there is some kind of inherited tendency in the bloodline" be a solid conclusion to draw that explains your problem. The way that time moves slowly in a dream, the way events that happen in separate places, to separate people, or even maybe in separate timelines seem to be connected--all this is beautifully put into place in Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and written well. There's just too much stuff in the middle: too much picking up clothes from the cleaners, too much brooding on the couch, too much reading junk mail and opening the fridge. This is how time passes in real life. We really do spend a lot of time waiting in traffic and opening mail and licking envelopes and doing unthinking, meaningless work. But that's not what I want to do when I read a novel, and sitting through the domesticity to get to the eccentricity feels a lot like a bore.

abigailnicole: (Default)
 the end of the year and I've been reading everybody else's year-end best-of lists (in order to figure out what I wanna listen to next) so here are mine:


two thousand, zero hundred, eleven


-Gravity's Rainbow. like, best book of 2011 hands down. also 1974, but it's makin a comeback for real. I heard Swamplandia and The Pale King were good too and maybe someday I'll have time to read them. Also there's a new Discworld book and it's even a Watch book, guys, read this because I can't till after finals.


-I don't remember watching any new movies in 2011 but I'm sure I did and I'm sure they were great. 


-Nine Types of Light, by TV On the Radio. No idea why this CD is getting very little love YES I DO AND IT HAS TO DO WITH MUSIC CRITICS BEING HIPSTERS and it's not ethereal enough for them or something? it's just like a rockin album that made my entire summer better. have No Future Shock and give it a listen 

-Shangri-La by Yacht, also that CD that you rode around and made you wanna bike fast all summer even in 4pm heat. LISTEN TO SOME OF IT

-Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes. I was so excited for this that when the single came out I listened to it on repeat all night 100 times in a row not joking even though I was asleep for some of those

-zach ywz (also on tumblr) made me download the tUnE-YrDzZZ cd and even though she's so super hipster ugh facepaint and feathers and of course you fucking love indian motifs but you make good music and I can appreciate that hipsters gotta emulate something even if that something is good music and cringe-worthy. I feel a little like this about YACHT too like man it's so trendy to hate on Christians and like dancing. I'm so conflicted about the music I like now, guys. anyway listen to this song but immediately switch tabs and don't watch the video because it's super stupid

-not conflicted at all about Young Blood Blues by the New-Orleans-based Hurray for the Riff Raff. 100% all around, winter depression in the best best way 


-omg I finally tried that bacon praline sunday at the Green Goddess because magicsauce and my life wasn't the same before

-we also drank tamarind juice all summer, which is pretty much like ice tea only made from a weird fruit that looks like crap. pics for truth

-braden (my boyfriend, hey he's on tumblr) just made me buckwheat meatloaf for the first time with his cranberry barbecue sauce and that was pretty excellent even though it was not a patch on his hamburgers he made this one time with crazy peanut-butter and egg and jalapeno and bacon and creole mustard and they were nuuuuuts and so delicious 


-hey everybody Plan B, that place I spent my summer, moved. go to their new location at 1024 Elysian Fields.

-I also went to Hanks on St Claude and it was pretty life-changing but it's just a convenience store with catfish that will change your life so it's not like they have a website or anything 




-I said I'd make some mittens so I'l probably knit/post about those over break

-I also said in a moment of pynchon foolishness I'd write a radio play called "Upstate-Downstate Beast" about grocery stores and monsters so let's see how that goes

-I've been wanting to do a noise-based postmodern radio show called bathtub tunes for a while now. six episodes, early morning kinda slot, for drunk/creepy times. I have plans for this and will let you know about them 

-I am still writing an honors thesis about time travel and a house in New Orleans if you are interested in any of these things

-I am also, fingers crossed, all things going well, entering medical school in August, 2012. 


abigailnicole: (Default)

March 2013


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