Dec. 5th, 2009 01:34 pm
raven: image of white Macbook computer with raven perching on it (misc - raven writes)
I really, really ought to be working right now. Oh, dear. But I got interview questions from [ profile] foreverdirt, and it was much more fun answering those:

judicial rulings; philosophers; guilty television pleasures; influences on my writing; a story in six words )

If you would like questions, please comment and say so. eta: and that's a wrap, folks. I don't think I can come up with any more questions!
raven: (girl!doctor - empires toppling)
Dear self: passion fruit daquiris are not a substitute for actual food. Also, you are lucky to have friends who find it endearning and not head-smashingly annoying when you get drunk and are VERY! EMPHATIC! ABOUT! EVERYTHING! (Why I do this, I don't know. Normally I do not have strong opinions about... well, anything.)

On Tuesday, [ profile] shimgray and I went to London - mostly, he followed me around Oxford Street looking put-upon, but we did have a lovely lunch in a Mediterranean place which fed us spiced quail with peaches and calamari for the princely sum of £6.95 - and yesterday I ran around like a madwoman trying to make some impact in the to-do list, but mostly I cooed over [ profile] sir_rosealot's cats and it all ended at the bottom of a Martini glass anyway. Today, I am wiped out, and not just because of yesterday evening's red-lipstick patent-heels tropical-cocktails extravaganza. Possibly I cannot quite manage nine-in-the-morning to ten-at-night days yet, thank you swine flu, but today I have mostly sat in bed, read a very little about civil procedure and listened to "Poseidon and the Bitter Bug", the Indigo Girls' latest. It is a Thursday dropped out of a weekend - wet, and grey, so the electric lights are too bright, but with something good in it, something peaceful.

A few incidents, all from the last week or so:

-On a very bright and sunny morning, Shim and I had an argument about the fungibility of toothbrushes. (The gentle reader is gently asked not to inquire into the provenance of said argument.) He said they weren't. I said they were. We reached an impasse. He said, they have an intangibile aspect to them, namely possession - that I cannot use your toothbrush, you cannot use mine, they are not fungible.

No, I said, that's not true. If I bought a toothbrush, and left it in a packet in a drawer, and you came to visit without one, I would give it to you without a murmur. It's not an intangibility - it's the verifiable attribute of whether or not the toothbrush has been in someone else's mouth.

So, we agreed, the set of unused toothbrushes are fungible between themselves, and pre-owned toothbrushes are not.

(I've since thought that you need to add another level of rigour to this - you have to define "toothbrush" as "plastic stick with bristles that may be used for cleaning teeth". For people who define tootbrush with other characteristics, e.g. "red", or "electric", or whatnot, fungibility mileage will vary.)

-This week I have been dipping into the collected journalism of Francis Wheen. For those who have not come across him, he is a genial and occasionally very caustic Guardian journalist who writes about all sorts of things, mostly political, and is otherwise remarkable for having accidentally admitted on national radio that he quite fancies Sarah Palin. (I love the News Quiz; for many episodes after they greeted everything he said with, "Yes, Francis, but you fancy Sarah Palin.)

Anyway, I was reading something he had written - caustically, naturally - in the late nineties about Rupert Murdoch. The column basically hoped that he would die on some suburban street somewhere, surrounded by the debris of satellite dishes, so he could be buried where he fell and have on his headstone "si monumentum requiris, circumspice".

It took me a minute to think about it, but I laughed eventually. I like Francis Wheen very much because of the easily difficult way he writes - he draws down allusions and draws out verbal trickery with a practiced disdain for his readers' comprehension level, which I find disingenuous on one level (because, as a self-confessed old-fashioned leftists writing his dispatches from the class war, etc., he nevertheless writes in a way accessible to people who have been elaborately, expensively educated) but satisfying like a crossword clue on another, the way he writes to a trick and then in retrospect you see how it was done.

-As part of the foundation course of the LPC, I had a couple of sessions of something impressively called "professional conduct", but which mostly consisted of doing the set reading and answering a few questions on it. Very schoolgirl, very formulaic. I did the reading and I answered the questions, and I went to class, where there was a quick group discussion on the prep.

One of the questions, paraphrased was as follows: you are acting for a client on a civil, non-contentious matter. In passing, he happens to tell you that some years before he arranged for the murder of a business rival. You know that the murder is still unsolved. What do you do?

I had done the reading. The reading in question is, precisely, rule 4.01 of the Solicitors' Code of Conduct - you and your firm must keep the affairs of clients and former clients confidential, unless certain exceptions apply, and I checked them, and they didn't.

So I wrote "Nothing (see rule 4.01)" and left it at that.

But in the discussion, I was something of a lonely voice; it seemed to flow around what was right, and what was honest, and what duties a lawyer owes to public authorities, and what common sense and intuition dictate.

I didn't quite figure it out until later - why I apparently went for the question differently from everyone else, why I looked in the book and went no further. The answer, I think, is this. Because the code of conduct is complete in itself, it is how lawyers ought to behave; within the closed system of solicitors' practice, it is all there is. And I used to be good at philosophical thought - that was what I loved about it, how you could strip a question down from common sense and other passing inanities and say, here are the rules, here is how logic works, here is the answer. And it may not be "right", but given the premisses, here is our conclusion validly reached.

So my answer, while not common sense at all, was right. And that was why I reached it - because I furtively and guiltily love logic, and that's how I think, damn it, and it took three years to teach me to think like that, and I am proud of it.

...and here is the conclusion, validly reached: I have been intellectually stagnating, and something in the deep water of my brain has changed. I am willing to spend time and effort on arguments over breakfast about toothbrushes; I am finding joy in authors I tried to read in 2008 and put down as too difficult for me just then; I am the odd little girl in my classes. Another part of the LPC, strangely, is accounting and revenue calculation, and while I missed most of the work because of swine flu, the tutors who helped me catch up were kind, reassuring and told me I was smart and quick with figures and I shouldn't worry, I'd get it. I got it. It wasn't easy, but just hard enough for the answers that came out right to please me unduly.

I am doing something about it, on which more anon, perhaps. But I thought it was worth writing down: I have been somewhere else, and I'm ready to go home now.

In other news entirely, a quick-hit for something that needs attention: for [ profile] yuletide, a challenge to make forays into Non-English, Non-Western, or Non-youknowwhadimean fandoms. For various reasons I'm not going to participate, but will selfishly bask in the warm glow of everyone else's participation. Quite apart from anything else, the linked posts are interesting reading: worth checking out.

Right. Now, perhaps to do some work.
raven: black and white; Tenth Doctor on a bed, looking up at Martha (doctor who - in bed together)
Having got me successfully through everything it had to get me through, my body has given up on walking around and now I just want to lie down and flop. Forever. With two bags of sweets within reach, and maybe also the complete works of Lois McMaster Bujold. Some assorted notes and queries:

1. Firstly, and most importantly, Professor Jerry Cohen is dead. My reaction to this has mostly been "but but but he was IMMORTAL but". While I wasn't lucky enough to be taught by him, I have read most of what he's written - and I recommend his writing to everyone, actually, not just students of political philosophy. The title of one of his best-known works is If You're An Egalitarian, How Come You're So Rich?, which says it all in just its title, doesn't it? He writes - well, he wrote - about difficult things, about orthodox Marxism, about his particular brand of egalitarianism, and makes a significant critique of Rawls' theory of justice (one which, it is worth noting, is easily used as the base for an explicitly feminist critique), but he does it incredibly well - clearly, engagingly, the sort of way I wish everyone who writes about difficult things would write.

And even though I was never taught by him, I did... er... encounter him on occasion. Wherever he is now, I'm sure he's raising orthodox Marxist hell.

2. In other news entirely, I wish to make a point about Rachel McAdams. [ profile] jacinthsong showed me the trailer for Sherlock Holmes - which, is, oh god, looks terrible, crash-bang-wallop homoeroticism I cannot wait - but, I could not help noticing, has Rachel McAdams in it playing Irene Adler. She - McAdams, I mean - is also in The Time Traveler's Wife, which, like the other, is a film that people will have heard of. (I have no idea what it will be like, probably bad, but I suspect I will have to see it anyway.)

Anyway. Yes. Rachel McAdams is in films that are released all over the world that people have heard of, and stuff. Isn't she supposed to be a minor character in that Canadian indie thing only my friends and I watch...? Yeah. I just wanted this down for the record.

3. Yes, these points aren't supposed to be related in any way. Flist, speak to me of Diana Gabaldon. I know some of you have read/are reading her - [ profile] nos4a2no9, [ profile] thistlerose? - and I'm interested to know what you think. After spending a week in London without a lot to do in the evenings, I have read two and a half of her Lord John books, which are, sort of, historical detective-thriller-adventure things set in the 1750s. Which do, yes, sound like the sort of thing I'd hate (they exist in the same universe as the author's "real" series, a series of historical romances with time-travel and Jacobite rebellions and whatnot, none of which I have been able to get into). But they are witty, engaging, and just likeable, and also the protagonist, Lord John Grey, is that rarest of beasts, a fictional character who is gay, perfectly happy about being gay, and who pursues adventures with gentlemen in and around solving the mystery of the moment. I'm not explaining these very well, but they're good. Very, very good, in this delightfully light and loopy way. The books are: Lord John and the Private Matter, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, and Lord John and the Hand of Devils (short story collection; don't start with this one). Consider this a rec.

(If they were fanfiction, though, I'd warn for: this )

4. Meme! Nabbed from [ profile] emerald_embers most recently, but from all of you.

Ask me my fannish Top Five [Whatevers]. Any top fives. Doesn't matter what, really! And I will answer them all in a new post. Possibly with pictures. Ask multiple questions. I'll do it.

That's it. [ profile] shimgray is plotting a Wikipedia article that he has been threatening to write for some time ("Elephants in Scotland"), and I am curled in a chair and attempting not to fall asleep. It's quiet, and it's nice, and it's very good to be together again.


Nov. 2nd, 2008 05:15 pm
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
I'm having a bad few days, mental-health wise. After a week or so on the up, I then decided that sleeping eighteen hours out of every twenty-four was quite, quite reasonable. In the words of my favourite author, if I did sleep any more, I might as well be dead and save on my board and lodging. When awake, I have been grumpy and entirely unable to get anything done. It's been... special. Still taking my pills, of course. I continue to be therapied at. I wish the sun would come back, that would help. Last night I tried to cheer myself up by trying something new with my eye glitter. This time, liquid metallic green with a layer of green glitter with a touch of silver on top of that. It worked, but I might not wear it anywhere but to a Hallowe'en party.

Anyway. Tuesday, November 4th. I'm looking forward to it. I really, really am. Because, well, I don't think that Barack Obama is the messiah. I don't think he's going to change the world forever. But I think he's a nice chap with a good sense of humour, with sensible policies, who inhaled in college (that was the point) and has kids who make fun of his pants. And when he speaks, he gives the impression of being intelligent, witty and charismatic. That's... that's great. I can go with that. I can endorse this whole-heartedly. I wish I could vote for him, but I can't, and I wish I could donate money to his campaign, but I can't. I can, however, sit up all night on Tuesday and drink. This is what I plan to do.

(In the meantime, John McCain is aware of the internet.)

In the meantime, it's cold and wet and cold again. It's November, I guess. Still here.

Despite the gloom, though, it has been a good and robust day for democracy as an abstract concept, which is actually what I meant to make this post about before my brain abruptly went south for the winter. This morning at half eleven [ profile] shimgray and I were woken by the local councillors, who wished to know our opinions on the local council and its many achievements, and to leave behind a leaflet about their surgery. ("Bob and Oscar's Rolling Surgery" - srsly. I am not making that up. The leaflet has a picture of them being cheery. It's all very English.

(The thing is, though, I couldn't actually think of something I wanted to complain to the council about. The bin men come regularly and recycle. The roads are well-lit. The speed limits are low enough to make life easy for cyclists. The leaves are swept by small men on comically enormous blowing machines. It's as though... stuff gets done. My council wants to know my opinion, and I can't think of anything because I think it's doing pretty well. I think this is definitely a sign of a healthy democracy.)

Also, yesterday I found out that Sefton Council want to know if I wish to vote in Sefton. I'm a little torn on this issue - I am quite fond of Sefton Council, as they are cheerfully hung between Labour and the Lib Dems and accordingly also get a lot done. I don't know. Local government is usually unexciting, but it's a nice thing to wake up on a Sunday morning and be reminded that I'm a citizen. I'm still amazed at the concept of democracy, don't mind me. Am reading The White Tiger at the moment, the Booker Prize winner, and thus feel bound to qualify that: legitimate democracy, it's really great.

The day has been spent, also, watching The West Wing and avoiding an essay on EU preliminary ruling procedure. I like uncodified constitutions and the common law, I like being part of a system from within; I was never quite sold on the concept of political science, despite studying it for three years, because structural and constructivist political analysis is rigorous and academic but... dry. It has no style and no ticker tape and wet mornings waving placards and rosettes, it deliberately avoids telling you that you are an ordinary person in an ordinary place and you matter. Which is well and good and exactly how it ought to be, but makes me glad I'm now within and not without. Woman is by nature a political animal, I guess.

I would be a bad feminist if I had uncritical faith in the liberal democratic system, and a muddy thinker, too - but I kind of think that there are times and places for considered debate, and other times for sitting back and thinking oh wow, we made this.[1]

[1] yes we could.
raven: quadrangle of Christ Church, Oxford, under snow (stock - oxford)
I finished my Finals. Yes, gentle reader, I did. It took a week, which is to say it took six months, which is to say it took three years, which is to say I read for the Final Honours School of Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and I did it and I am still here. I think I can also say, without reservation, that my week of exams - eight days, actually, with exams on every day except Sunday - was the hardest thing I have ever done, bar none. By the end of Wednesday, I was somewhere else in my head, I think; I was about the last person to be let out of the East School, and then I was wandering around the halls in Exam Schools and feeling very lost, until they shepherded me through to the back to the finishers' exit, and in this sort of sea of numbness and exhaustion, I was thinking, it's pouring with rain. What if nobody came?

Well, I went outside into the pouring rain - and everyone came. I won't name them all for fear of forgetting anyone, but oh, I was standing in a circle of about twelve people, in my bedraggled sub fusc with my jaunty red carnation, and they covered me with confetti and glitter and balloons and kisses and congratulations and took me home through the rain while I tried very hard not to cry. Even [ profile] jacinthsong and [ profile] apotropaios, who had exams at the same time as I did, came running round to see me. It's all a blur now, really; I was so tired, and so ready to just curl up and die, and it was probably one of the nicest moments of my life. I mean... yes. There's an achievement, right there, to go with the PPE. I made friends here. I was afraid I wouldn't. But those few seconds where it was all over, and people came - oh, god, it's amazing I didn't just burst into tears on the spot, rather than just sniffling through the drizzle.

My exams themselves probably deserve some sort of record, don't they? Politics in South Asia; Philosophy of Mind; Aesthetics; International Relations in the Era of the Cold War )

In sum, I'm not sure what I think of the whole thing. I've seen other people writing about how they wish they'd done themselves better justice in their exams, and I don't what it says about me, but I don't think that: I was never afraid of not doing myself justice, I was afraid of not writing anything, of just failing procedurally at sitting still for three hours and writing three essays, eight times. Because I did manage to do this, it counts as a win. (And, yes, a win: twenty-four essays in eight days at an average of five sides each - that's a win.) I would like a 2:1. I would like that very much. Because my essays were uninspiring all, I'm not entirely convinced this will happen. But I will not get a first, and I'm happy about this. Because, perhaps I am, or was, capable - perhaps if I'd worked harder over the three years. But if I had done that, no one would have met me outside of Exam Schools. I would have worked, and not met people and not learned to drink good coffee and not been in plays; I wouldn't have gone running in the Parks and drifted down the river on summer afternoons; I wouldn't have been on protests or dressed up and gone dancing or been Cerberus Triarch or, indeed, been happy. In short, a first would have come at too high a price.

And, yes, of course, that's something else that has come out of all this. I've realised how much I rely on my friends here, and how lucky I am to have them: over the last month or so, [ profile] jacinthsong has been the other half of my brain, keeping me amused and horrified and calm and happy, and between us, were kept sane by [ profile] shimgray, who, after a point, learnt to say, "You are absolutely right in every particular, and would you like another cup of tea?" as a response to just about everything either of us said. (Worryingly, this then changed to "You are right in every particular, please don't hurt me" and then, finally, "I can has freedom of will nao?", while all the while he was having clothes piled on him and having his feet insultingly drawn on in indelible green highlighter.) I don't think Hallmark have much demand for cards containing the words "I love you and I'm sorry for all the abuse and can we decree the last three weeks of your life to have administratively Not Happened", but it probably won't hurt to look. I am looking forward, very much, to being a real person again. Someone who does not emotionally overreact to everything, someone who does not need to be physically coaxed out of bed in the morning, someone who does not think everything in the world is hysterically funny or hysterically upsetting, someone who eats and sleeps and does not break at the touch. In fact, myself.

Where was I? Wednesday afternoon, I was taken home and fed strawberries in sparkling pink wine, and I was so dizzy and tired and happy that I demanded everyone else be my higher cognitive function and make my decisions for me; they decided for me that I should be taken to the pub and further fed chips, profiteroles and gin. And so it transpired. Sitting around a big table, we started to muse on what will happen when [ profile] absinthe_shadow is Queen of Everything, and I was just... happy. I still am. I fell asleep tragically early, and woke up yesterday to glorious sunshine. We were going to go punting (which I tearfully, euphorically, realised I could do), but the water was too high, so we ended up going for a picnic in the Parks instead, which featured fruit and vodka and the G2 crossword and [ profile] triptogenetica and I cheerfully singing the Canadian national anthem apropos of nothing at all. It was delightful.

And that, I guess, is that. A few things I ought to mention:

-I now know what I'm doing next year. I still want, very much, to be a lawyer. So, after some kerfuffling, I got a place on the GDL here in Oxford, and here I'll stay, for one year definitely, and quite likely two. It's not quite confirmed - it's an offer condtional on a 2:1 - but if all goes well, yes. I'm going to spend the summer applying for training contracts and house-hunting.

(In fact, if anyone knows of someone looking for a housemate in East Oxford, please tell me. I never lived out, so I have no idea how to start looking.)

Needless to say, I am very pleased about this. I don't want to leave this place just yet. I have loved, and love, it here too much - and now I have ties here. You're not getting rid of me that easily.

-This summer, however, is quite interesting. As it stands, the plan is for me to be here, meeting people out of Finals, applying for training contracts, doing OULES, for the next three weeks or so. If I get vac res, and I do hope I do, I will be living in this flat until June 21st or round about. Following which, I'm going home - I haven't seen my parents for a long time, and it will be nice to be back, if even for a while, and I need to ring the bookshop and ask them nicely to give me work.

On July 7th - hopefully! - the PPE results will be published. I want very much to be in Oxford for this. So, I am coming down, to see my results (ohgod, I will be a nervous wreck, I know it), to see [ profile] shimgray (and anyone else who is around), and sticking around a day or so. Because on July 10th, at three o'clock in the morning, I am going from Oxford to San Francisco to spend a week with [ profile] likethesun2 and I am ridiculously excited about this. I come back again, via Oxford, go home and this time stay there for quite some time - probably through August, with gaps while I go visiting and possibily more travelling, until I return in September.

...there. That's my life. I'm happy with it. In the long term, I'm going to be a lawyer; in the medium term, I'm going to California; in the short term, [ profile] jacinthsong finishes her Finals tomorrow and [ profile] the_acrobat is coming to visit, and I am very happy about both these things; right now, I'm going to do my laundry.

(And, also? Pretty soon, hopefully, if I haven't failed everything, I'm going to have a degree in PPE from Oxford. I'm happy, and lucky, and this is what I look like now.)
raven: red tulips in a vase on a balcony, against a background of a city (stock - tulips)
This is a happy Sunday morning. The light is grey, filtering through the glass and and the rain so it's washed out and translucent, and mixed up with all my low reading-lights. There are flowers at the edges of my room, and [ profile] shimgray is walking around barefoot singing quietly to Joni Mitchell and I can tell I've had some sleep and a rest, because I'm awake and all these things are lovely.

Further to my feeling quietly happy, I notice my entire flist is not, as is usual, variations on "omg, Doctor Who!" (which I actually don't mind; how nice of the BBC to miss the week in which I have Finals!), but instead, variations on "omg, LATVIA". So far I have deduced that a) Eurovision was good; b) the Latvian entry involved pirates; and c) OMG, EUROVISION LATVIAN PIRATES. I'm sorry for boring you all with the minutiae of my mental state, but I honestly can feel the difference - rather than thinking belligerent thoughts about people having better things to do, I am happy about Latvian Eurovision pirates. I feel like myself for the first time in ages.

(Note for Americans and other aliens: the the Eurovision Song Contest is an annual competitition in which the countries of Europe (and North Africa, and Israel, and whatever else the Eurovision definition of Europe encompasses) each offer up a musical act (with quotation marks inserted there as you see fit) and the other countries vote for them. Politics has nothing to do with this at all. Neither does musical ability. PIRATES. Yeah.)

I am halfway through, as is probably clear by this time, and it has not been, er, easy. Ethics; Political Theory; History of Philosophy From Descartes to Kant )

Afterwards, I had my first lazy afternoon in, oh, forever, and went up to Summertown in the sunshine to meet the medics. [ profile] triptogenetica and [ profile] luminometrice came out looking dazed and washed-out and glitter-bedecked and happy and beautiful. We gave them ice-cream and covered them with silly plastic leis, and they did seem so happy, and ah, the end is in sight.

I have four more exams to go and a lot of work to do today - I don't finish until Wednesday - but things are a lot better now I have got through the first four consecutive days of hell. (There are another four consecutive days to go, but I think I can face it better now.)

All is well in the world, it seems. It's the Glorious Twenty-Fifth of May, too, and I am not wearing the lilac because I was not there, but I wish you all truth and justice and reasonably-priced love. And a hard-boiled egg.
raven: crest of Balliol College, Oxford, from a scarf (balliol)
finals wangst )

edited to add: [ profile] slasheuse and I are moving to the Dominican Republic and running a cocktail bar. On the beach. With maraschino cherries and sangria. Yesyes.
raven: TOS McCoy and Kirk frowning, text: "Well that's just maddeningly unhelpful" (st - MADDENINGLY UNHELPFUL)
You know when someone comes into your room and you have to persuade them that you're not, really, really not trying to jump out of a third-floor window, really, you may have hit a low point in your life. (Actually, I was trying to catch a cushion I had just knocked out of it. Perfectly sensible thing to do, no I am not going crazy at all.)

Speaking of having hit a low point in my life, not only am I accumulating unhappy symptoms with a disturbing rapidity - why, hello there random tinnitus, swinging-from-hysteria-to-somnolence and jumping out of my skin at someone dropping a clove of garlic - I am reading cultural-imperialist articles on the philosophy of forgery and being encouraged by an insane classicist to use my newly-discovered heterosexuality FOR SCIENCE.

...not crazy at all.

Okay, let me backtrack. You - yes, you! - can help out not one but two nutty Oxonian finalists in their quest to retain their sanity and be awarded a degree! There are two ways in which you can do this!

First of all. I am, at the moment, revising for paper 109, Aesthetics and Philosophy of Criticism. I have many criticisms of this paper, it must be said. (Aha, see what I did there?) Most of them involve the way it's not a philosophy paper at all, it is a paper for failed literary critics. Real past questions have included: "The pointlessness of art is not the pointlessness of a game, it is the pointlessness of human life itself." Discuss and Given that horror movies frighten us, why do we go to see them? and so on.

Anyway. Yes. What is very handy for this paper is a ready stream of examples of "subversive" art. You know the sort of thing I mean. Tracy Emin's bed, Duchamp's Fountain, that kind of stuff. Of course, those are the two examples that everyone uses. I would quite like to use something the examiner hasn't heard eleventy million times before. Which is where you come in, dear flist. You all undoubtedly have better artistic taste than me. Tell me about art - things that are unusual, things that are on the boundary between art and non-art, things that a floundering philosopher might find interesting. I really would appreciate it; I'm swamped by awful aesthetics reading and nothing makes any sense.

Second of all. [ profile] apotropaios is a very dear friend of mine, he is also a finalist, he is also going somewhat crazy. In the interests of science, he has been asking everyone he knows whether they've ever had intercrural sex. (Apparently, this was a particularly well-represented sexual practice in Greek vase painting of the sixth century onwards.)

This has rapidly devolved into a horror story of soft fruit and armadae of battle penguins. However. Hilarity aside, it is a serious request. If you - or anyone you know - actually has done this, or knows anything about it, he would like to know. Comments - his, not mine - are screened, and he is actually a good human who will be respectful and discreet and indeed, very grateful for any information.

I leave you now for a return to the philosophy of mechanical reproduction. Oh my I am so very fascinating.


Apr. 26th, 2008 05:18 pm
raven: white text on green and yellow background: "ten points from Gryffindor for destroying my soul" (sbp - destroying my soul)
First of all: Humphrey Lyttelton is dead. He was eighty-six years old, but as people have already said, he was the sort of man who was supposed to live forever. Last night we were listening to old episodes of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, and laughing quietly and affectionately at dreadful puns -

(From what I'm listening to at the moment: "Knacker's yard" defined as "enormous underpants"; "palmistry" defined as "not knowing who your dad is" and "defunct" as "having one's sense of rhythm removed". I love ISIHAC so, so much.)

- and at the Rolling Stones' Satisfaction sung to the tune of Carmina Burana. Hurrah for Humph. May he wander through the afterlife blowing a cheerful trumpet.

Second of all: I have been in a gloomy, treacly mood for a couple of days, mostly characterised by a total disinclination to engage with the human race. Also by quasi-hysterical rage at the stupid people on the internet. I mention this to just account for my failure to be, you know, sane, or indeed, remotely nice to be around. Finals have this effect of taking up all your day's sanity-spoons so if anything else comes up, anything else about which you might reasonably be expected to show moderation and restraint, you just... can't. Instead you feel it all at hundred-decibel intensity and seethe and rage and shriek. For this reason, I am not linking to the things which are currently making me angry.

Okay, but I will have just one brief rant and then I will shut up. Er. Philosophy is an academic subject. I am oversensitive about it because I am about to sit Final Honour Schools in it, but this rant does hold all the time. It's an academic subject in itself. It has its own norms, mores and terms of art. It has a methodology. You cannot write emo ruminations on the nature of the word "soulmate" and call it philosophy. You cannot make assumptions about Plato's thwarted career-as-epic-tragedian and call it philosophy. Note that I am not saying you can't do these things. All I am saying is that you cannot do them as philosophy. The bad poets of the world should get their grubby fingers off my subject. Thank you kindly. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Third of all, and the actual point of this post. [ profile] remixredux08 is over, and the reveal happened, oh, all of twenty minutes ago but let me face facts, I have no life.

I wrote: thirteen photographs (the via crucis remix)), a remix of train de la grande vitesse, by [ profile] glass_icarus.

My brain is too fried to provide much in the way of substantial comment on the process, except that it was, as usual, marvellous fun. The original this time around was all of 521 words long, so it was more in the way of drabble expansion, using the themes of the original rather then the plot, if that makes sense and really at this stage I'm not entirely sure anything I say does, so. But. Yes. Marvellous fun. [ profile] likethesun2 and [ profile] absinthe_shadow guessed, exactly as they did last year, because I am distressingly predictable.

Ficlets and such to be distributed post-Finals. Hurrah for Finals, etc.
raven: rosettes on the wall, text: "Philosophy begins with wonder" (philosophy - begins with wonder)
I have spent most of the last two days in my windowseat, watching the clouds drift by overhead, watching the way the sunshine falls on the leaves in the tree below, really not doing enough reading about philosophical visions of the relationship between God and humanity. Instead I have been doing this:

it be categorical imperative tiem nao? )

You are all very much free to disown me now. In my defence, it wasn't my idea, and I'm a finalist, but personally I would disown me, so.
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
Urrgh. I have lurgy and am thoroughly incapable of doing anything beyond lurking and making "urrrgh" noises. I watched Bob the Builder dubbed into Hindi. It was not edifying. It is frightening, exactly how much I resemble this icon at the moment.

I posted a meme a couple of days ago in which you all told me things I should blog about, which I don't.

[ profile] apotropaios asked: Actually, I don't think I know much about your opinions on art. Who's your favourite artist? Do you have a favourite painting?

Hopper and subway signs )

[ profile] slasheuse asked: I want to know about your only-child-ness! Do you mind? Was it deliberate on your parents' parts? As an only child myself I like to know what others think.

tragically I was an only twin )

[ profile] clubhopper15 wrote: Something mundane and less your list of hottest celebrities :P

She says, as though I post interestingly and intellectually all the rest of the time. I will merely smile enigmatically and point you at the wonder that is Paul Gross and the very different wonder that is Katee Sackhoff.

And [ profile] gamesiplay asked: I'd actually like to hear MORE about your love of philosphy, because hearing people talk about the abstract intellectual things they love makes me happy. Like, who's your favorite philosopher? Who was the first one you ever read, and was it immediately clear to you that you wanted to Do Philosophy when you got the chance? Do you ever get those annoying questions from practical people about what you're going to "do with" philosophy, or what "use" it is? How do you respond? That kind of thing.

and she probably now wishes she hadn't asked )

Okay, enough! Another attempt at work now, I think.


Mar. 12th, 2008 03:27 pm
raven: rosettes on the wall, text: "Philosophy begins with wonder" (philosophy - begins with wonder)
I decided early this morning that if I didn't leave the house soon, I was going to go stark raving insane. So I walked the thirty-five minutes into the village to get a pasty from Sayers - actually, let me have a point of digression here while I talk about how great pasties are. I did not know, until I moved to Oxford, that despite the fact there has been one everywhere I've lived - and there used to be one on the way into school, and I'd pop out during the afternoon and get flaky pastry all over the library carpet - Sayers are Liverpool-based only. I was delighted to discover, therefore, that there are in fact places that sell pasties in Oxford. But. But, these are pasties that you have to pay £2.50 for, that have, I don't know, ingredients, whereas a real pasty is made of indefinable vegetables and something-that-might-be-meat, all covered in astonishingly-bad-for-you pastry and is much too hot to hold, let alone eat, before you have carried it around with you for half an hour and made a glorious amount of mess, and it should be 79p, because more than that would imply that it were made of food.

Enormous digression aside, I bought a baked-bean-and-sausage pasty and a luridly purple fairy cake, and dropped in on the bookshop on the way home. I do like it when people are pleased to see me. At any rate, I stepped in and was greeted with, "Oh, fantastic, Iona, can you answer the phone and tell Assistant Book Monkey to give up smoking?"

I did both, to limited avail, and ended up idly stickering signed copies on the counter while they told me what I've missed through being away for three months. One of the reps has taken up astral projection ("Well, he said he'd spent a month in Birmingham sort of flying around, and people didn't believe him when he said he'd been projecting himself. There were a lot of Jamaican guys in the street selling weed. Yes, that is a funny coincidence, isn't it?"), Assistant Book Monkey is still in love with Her Upstairs ("She's gay, I'm an optimist"), Setch has gone to Loughborough and isn't at all falling into the insanely-sporty stereotype ("He came in the other day and told us he'd named his biceps.").

A customer came in at that point, but I just couldn't resist. "What has he named them?"

They looked at each other, looked at me, looked at the little old lady customer, and chorused, "Pinky and the Brain!"

Also, Anne Fine came in to sign books and, despite her epic amounts of kids' books (including Flour Babies and Goggle-Eyes, both of which I loved), she apparently doesn't like children ("Such bloody shrill voices!") or, indeed, Jacqueline Wilson ("I've been saying that for years, but no one ever listens to me," I sighed at that point); Katy Flynn has written yet another squidgy book of squidge and dedicated it to us; there are so many books exploding through the back of the shop that they've had to fill one of the toilets with proof copies and OS maps.

Situation normal, I said, promised to help out over Easter weekend, and paused to ask, before I went home with my luridly purple fairy cake, "If you could fly anywhere you wanted, would you stick around in Birmingham?"

"He's moved now, anyway," they told me. "In fact, you should look out for him."

("Passing through on a nearby jetstream?" I said, but no, apparently the Bloomsbury Astral Projection Rep now lives a couple of doors down from where [ profile] jacinthsong and [ profile] potatofiend lived last year. I take all of this as proof that all it takes for my life to get surreal again is for me to step out of the house.)

Anyway! I actually made this entry as an excuse to use this icon - which is great and marvellous, and probably indicative of much talking-about-philosophy I'm going to be doing - and for a meme, seen everywhere but most recently with [ profile] glitzfrau:

Everyone has things they blog about. Everyone has things they don't blog about. Challenge me out of my comfort zone by telling me something I don't blog about, but you'd like to hear about, and I'll write a post or comment about it. Ask for anything: latest movie watched, last book read, political leanings, thoughts on yaoi, favorite type of underwear, graphic techniques, etc.

I'm pretty sure I write about everything that pops into my head, but we shall see. And now I go back to doing some actual work, rather than eating cake and babbling.
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (xf - you are here)
Storm's coming. There's been no rain yet, only a few ecstatic bursts of enormous hailstones, but there's an epic quality to the wind; the top branches of the pines are moving in full circles, and superiposed on a sky that isn't black but livid, vivid pinkish at the horizon and radiating up. I went to bed and got up again, and padded dowstairs barefoot to find someone had left the agarbathi still burning. The wind, the shadows, the feeling of enormity beyond the glass - all very melodramatic, and I don't think I'm going to sleep through this.

Which is faintly exasperating, as I went to bed early to sleep off whatever lurgy I have contracted this time - it's a sort of swaying-from-side-to-side, my-mother-is-chasing-me-with-an-auroscope kind of lurgy - and am failing quite conspicuously at that. I imagine I'll drop off when the rain starts.

So, in the meantime, I am going to do gloriously productive things like, er, memes, and reformatting my iPod for the Mac (which has a name! it was originally "Julian", which didn't stick, so I tried again with Nemi Montoya, after the Norwegian comic character, and this seems to be working), and er, maybe read more on Descartes. (I have spent two days reading pretty much nothing else, and am reaching the conclusion that I don't like him much. Well, I like bits of him. I like the Dreaming Argument far too much, because it's a cliche and it's a cliche for a reason. How do we know we're not dreaming? We don't, is the answer. Isn't that neat? It's a question with a straightforward answer. Round about the week I started thinking about it for the first time - well, explicitly; I'm told I asked this question at a fairly tender age, which probably says rather a lot about me - I was walking down the High Street past Exam Schools and saw, at eye-level, done in white chalk, the words: "are you awake?"

It's still there, I believe. I say I believe, because I could have dreamed it.

The problem here, of course, is that Descartes' project of discovering indubitable truth can't be done if he's mad - his word, although what he means is probably reducible into suspension of rationality - but it can be done in a dream. Maybe he dreamed his entire project, but still. That makes me, reading it four hundred years later, part of the self-same dream, and I, like him, have to assume my own continuing rationality.

(Now I come to think of it, this is why philosophers go crazy. They start the day by consciously assuming their own rationality.)

Anyway, yes. I like the Dreaming Argument. I even like the cogito, because it's got a lovely feel to it, phenomenologically speaking; you can complain at length about his unexamined metaphysics and his confusion of normative and factual indubitability (oh my, I love my subject), but that comes later: first of all, you go through sensory perceptions, the Dreaming Argument, through madness and malevolent forces and you find yourself exactly where he was, in the aha, I exist! place. I doubt, therefore I am. Isn't that great? I sit here and I can't know who I am or why I am or what the world is like or if it exists at all, but I am.

Then, of course, you end up getting enormously distracted by his "proofs" of God, which I dislike immensely, but the First Meditation is wonderful. Amazingly enough, I did not open this update window in order to talk at length about Cartesian doubt. Um. Go and look at the Philosophical Lexicon. It makes me laugh far too much, and does not involve (much about) Descartes.

Moving swiftly on, yes. The reason I had been putting off reformatting my iPod is because it would reset all my play counts to zero, which is a little disconcerting after three years. They're going slowly up again, although it may be a while before I've listened to Dar Williams' "The Ocean" 246 times, again. (It amuses me still that [ profile] likethesun2 happened to tell me in a rec-your-friends-specific-things meme that I must listen to the song, I'd love it - and I, because I am just that predictable, proceeded to listen to it about fifty times in one day. The day in question is the on which I wrote "What The Ocean Can Know of a Body", so there was a happy ending all round, except for Mulder and Scully.)

Speaking of Dar Williams, she is great and never stops being so. She's one of the few artists I primarily like for her lyrics; my current most-played song is "February", which is very simply arranged and sung, but the lyrics are just... haunting. (and I tried to remember, but I said, "what's a flower?" / you said, "I still love you")

Also, and infamously, "When I Was A Boy", which used to be the first song on a playlist I had called "the personal is political", because I'm subtle like that. It's one of her anecdotal songs, which starts off as a song about how gender roles inhibit and damage girls and women, and it's poignant and nice, until the last verse, which twists it all around and.... yes. Yes. Again, very simple musically, and the lyrics break me.

My other song of the moment is, courtesy of [ profile] chiasmata, "Ghosts" by Laura Marling - again, lyrically lovely.

Yes, yes, iTunes, do get on with transferring 1692 songs, I appreciate it. Oh, ye gods, I am dull. This is what happens when I sit at home vaguely lurgyfied and read a lot of continental rationalism. Thankfully, bright and early on Thursday morning, I am going far up north to see [ profile] hathy_col for the first time in a million gazillion years - three months - and help her perambulate a giant inflatable Dalek electoral candidate around the streets of St Andrews. There will be joy and non-computer-based social interaction and rampant geekery and jelly babies and joy again, and I love how some things, at least, don't ever change.

Rain. Sleeeeeeep.
raven: (tww - noel)
I was linked yesterday to this article: Jonathan Wolff on the philosopher's sense of direction, which very sensibly asks, if you don't understand the concept of "here", then how can you be expected to manage with a map?

I said that I was now going to blame every stupid thing I ever do on the lack of grasp of reality engendered by my two and a half years with philosophy as my primary academic concern. That's my story and I'm sticking to it, and that seems as good a place as any to start telling the story of Super Duper Shrove Tuesday and how exactly I ended up stumbling in at 5.40am. I want to write this, but I am also incredibly sleep-deprived, so bear with me through this. The whole thing didn't start in quite so debauched fashion; I went up to Wadham with [ profile] deepbluemermaid, a lot of paper plates and a box of chocolate brownies that looked like they hadn't been so much baked as excavated. Down in the cavernous kitchen below Wadham JCR, [ profile] jacinthsong was making pancakes with gay abandon, there was lemon juice and chocolate chips everywhere, and the air was warm and thick with sugar. All lovely, and I took off my coat and offered up paper plates and juice as my contribution, and was told I had to answer a very serious question. Very serious, they said. Okay, I said.

"Melanin," [ profile] jacinthsong asked, "or CUNT?"

A very good question, I said, seeing as how I find it very hard to see beyond my own biology in choosing political candidates, which leaves me in quite the quandary, doesn't it. The question remained unanswered. I ate pancakes.

It had been a successful day, too - [ profile] foulds and I went on a super-secret co-directorial field trip in the morning and found, much to our joint surprise, that we have a venue for the Aeneid. This had led to suitable jubilation, but not the now traditional victory twirl, which originates from the moment we were originally told we were putting on the show, and we were drunk and eyeliner-smudged and he picked me up and twirled me below the night sky. This will be an important point later, bear with me.

I also have a distinct memory of hitting [ profile] foulds with a rolled-up newspaper, and it being a singularly ineffective weapon; I reached out and [ profile] shimgray handed me a kitchen knife and a tin opener, and turned to find my erstwhile co-director cowering behind the fridge.

After pancakes, there was drinking. The rules of the game weren't strictly enforced, but, pretty much, we were drinking at the mention of "change", "divisive", "America", "Iraq", and indeed, whenever we bloody well felt like, and I have no idea where all the booze came from, but there does seem to have been a lot of it. And, well, this is GMT. The first polls to close were West Virginia, and that was one in the morning, my time, so we had to keep ourselves amused for five hours first.

So, er, we drank a lot. Yes. A lot. Quite a lot. [ profile] absinthe_shadow dropped in, I remember, and I got [ profile] sebastienne to sing to me, which was lovely, and as I have just been reminded, I really, really should go to the St Hilda's Queer Cabaret this term. I wanted to last year, and it passed me by. Anyway, I digress. I seem to remember that at this point, we gave up on Real Life and started watching The West Wing for a while, and some of the uninitiated were introduced for the first time to the episodes with Big Block of Cheese Day. I love The West Wing so much, and as noted last night, with a mostly uncritical love - yes it's sentimental, yes the score is schamltzy beyond belief, yes, yes, but it's so smart and so funny and it makes you want a better world. What more can you ask for, in a television show? And, also, it has lines like, "Andrew Jackson, in the foyer of the White House, had a big block of cheese..."

(About a year ago, I promised [ profile] foreverdirt I would write a fic where Remus Lupin comes to the Bartlett White House on Big Block of Cheese Day to demand better rights for werewolves. I still need to do this.)

Now, I think that at some point, some point between pancakes and politics, I think I was picked up and twirled. I may be wrong. [ profile] foulds says not. But: he may be saying this to torture me, and: I remember flying. I remember being suspended below the ceiling and I remember someone saying, "Oh god, he's breaking her", and these things fit together. Again, I am sleep deprived. I don't know.

All of the above took many many hours, but there was no actual politics. At half twelve, we had BBC News 24 on and they called the first state. West Virgina, for Huckabee. There was much, much drinking. The thing about the Republican race is that I'm still very unsure about McCain - the man has some decent policies, I thoroughly approve of McCain-Feingold, I think he wouldn't be an awful president. But he's a Republican, and I don't want a sane and sensible Republican going into the race in November - I want an easily-defeated crackpot. That's not a very sensible bias, but it's one I have nevertheless.

Still, the very fact that there are people in the world who want Mike Huckabee in political office was reason enough for significant amounts of drinking. (Also, I've shaken the man's hand. I went and washed it at this point. Symbolically. Mostly.)

The next few states to be called were mostly ones we could have predicted - Arkansas for Clinton, Utah for Romney - "Mormon" was one of our drinking-words - Georgia for Huckabee. I remember thinking to myself, I'll go home and get some sleep just when the next state is called, maybe I'll have a bit more wine while I wait. This proved to a good plan. Every time the television commentators said something about voters "choosing between race and gender", we drank; every time someone mentioned God we drank; every time there was change and hope for America, we drank. If we'd been watching CNN or Fox News, I'm sure I'd have got paralytic; as it was BBC News 24, merely very very drunk.

And so the night wore on. Eventually, I was perched on [ profile] shimgray and he handed me his glass of whiskey every time a political candidate said something cringe-making, and it seemed a shame not to see it into the dawn with California. I was sobering up a bit and talking about really, honestly, whom do I want to win on the Democrat side. Obviously, obviously, I won't care even a tiny bit come November. Any Democrat will do me fine, then. And right now I want to say intellectually that apart from the issue of mandated health care - that came up so often when [ profile] emily_shore and I were working for the campaign - I really don't mind between the two. But intellectual is one thing, and giggling joyously when Clinton won New York is another thing. I think I still want her to win, more than the others. That's not such a bad realisation. What a wonderful world, what a wonderful wonderful world where you can at once be part of a small thing, a room of friends drinking and laughing through the night, and an enormous thing, a whole world waiting for the same story to break, at one and the same time; what a wonderful thing, to be part of something bigger than yourself. Bring on November.

And, finally. 5.15am. The "Hillary Clinton Has Just Been Declared As Having Won California" interpretive dance, courtesy of [ profile] shimgray.

(I love how happy I look - tipsy and exhausted and so, so happy.)

We stumbled out into the night, stumbled home, I fell into bed, woke up briefly at ten, rolled over again and went back to sleep. It was a lovely clear winter's afternoon, and I didn't do very much except daydream and direct the Aeneid. And now, back to bed.
raven: Amelie against a green background; text: "purdue" (amelie - perdue)
The train to London from Liverpool Lime Street is probably the busiest service in England. It's usually on time. So I was surprised when it jerked out of the station on the appointed minute, went approximately six metres and rolled to a stop. After a second there was an announcement, somewhat apologetic: "Ladies and gentleman... er... the brakes have failed."

This is a Pendolino tilting train, for reference. It goes at 125 miles per hour round corners. Um.

After a bit, they decided to reset the train, whatever that means. "It will take five to six minutes," said the man, "and all electrical devices on the train will cease to function. We repeat, all electrical devices will cease to-"

The lights went out. There was a pause, and a burst of laughter. There is, I think, a particular type of Scouse humour, and this is it. (On the way back, what sounded like the same guy made an announcement to say: "To the young lady trying to buy wine with a credit card - I've just given the machine a bang with a hammer! Come and get your wine!")

The train actually made up the delay, and I wandered into Euston a few minutes early. I was in London to do some philosophy teaching for a friend - basically, I was helping introduce a bunch of fifteen-year-olds to the subject for the first time, which has its good points and its bad points. The main bad point is, of course, that no one is actually interested in philosophy. It's not something you do at school or see at television, it's not something that ever gets talked about from day to day, and it's very, very hard to get vaguely bored teenagers to care about the nature of mind or whatever.

The good point is that I get to talk about philosophy to a captive audience. I don't think I'm a very good teacher - certainly the yawning could be blamed on the humidity, but maybe not in so much excess - but still. I do love my subject, which has to count for something.

Yesterday night I did something kind of crazy. Sort of, anyway. I guess I should have asked earlier if anyone in London wanted to meet up, but I completely forgot I'd have a free night. I was kicking myself, because it was a beautiful summer and in the last month I've been dying slowly of loneliness, and I was wandering in solitary fashion down the Charing Cross Road and yes. I don't know if I ever mentioned it, but I tried to get rush tickets for Rent in New York - I know, I saw it already, but I loved it so much I wanted to see it again - and failed. I didn't know if the same idea existed over here, but I wandered into a theatre to find out and sort of bemusedly ended up with a ticket for Avenue Q. (Not rush, apparently - tickets for students and OAPs. I'm definitely not complaining.)

Is it kinda weird to see a musical on your own? I guess so. But I ended up sitting next to a girl who was also seeing it on her own, and we got to chatting, and that was nice. I loved the show. I didn't think it was laugh-out-loud funny, unlike, er, the entire rest of the theatre, but I enjoyed it. (And even a crap musical - which this certainly wasn't - would've beaten an evening sat on my own.) For some reason, Sesame Street only with porn really, really works. I stopped finding the puppeteers distracting and started finding them impressive, and I actually found bits of the story really poignant. The internet is for porn, it's true. (Which is not to be read as an either an enrdorsement or critcism of LJ's current policy, just to be clear.)

One thing about Avenue Q, though - someone, probably Ben, told me that the West End and Broadway versions are different. Why would this be? The only thing I noticed was that the sign indicating a 15-minute intermission had been scrawled over - "-mission" crossed out and "-val" written in, which amused me, as I just had this picked up in a beta last week.

So I'm glad I did that. Today I was helping teach just war theory, which is interesting enough, and talking about PPE and philosophy in general, and the humidity in the room was killing. Afterwards, I didn't know what to do so I went to Forbidden Planet, which probably sums up my entire life.

Er, what else? I spent the beginning of the week with [ profile] hathy_col and [ profile] tau_sigma, and had just a really lovely time. We watched Heroes, and ate so much pick 'n' mix it was getting silly, and then, because it was a lovely summer's day and we were in Britain, we went to Southport and had an authentic seaside experience. Seriously. We went down the pier! We played on ancient arcade machines that told all our fortunes - apparently I'm a romantic (huh!), Colleen's an expert on everything and Tali needs to make better friends(!) - and ate chips with ketchup and mayo, and ice-cream, and wandered through the crappy rides at New Pleasureland and Colleen extolled the joys of Southport. Apparently, allegedly, Paris was based on it.

To which I say: LIES. But it is on the tourism website, which of course has no reason to lie to attract people to this crappy town full of heroin addicts. So I stand corrected.

But, you know, it really was fun. We ended up eating fruit and cheese pizza (advertised as Vegetable Deluxe - but it had olives, cheese, pineapple, tomatoes and peppers on it, and these are ALL FRUITS OMG, and mushrooms are FUNGI) and looking up rubbish on YouTube and Wikipedia, and trying to find the best bits of the Star Trek movies, and watching Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner in varying states of utter ridiculousness.

(I have this lovely memory of staggering around [ profile] likethesun2's flat in Chicago, killing myself laughing at William Shatner doing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I like the themes that reoccur in my life.)

And after that, just talking and talking and laughing at rubbish and talking some more. It was lovely. And London was okay, too. I just feel rubbish now, partly because my very busy week is over and partly because I just am rubbish lately. Everything is getting tasteless and plastic again, and the sun highlights everything's edges and doesn't help.

I walked past one of those lovely, antiquated second-hand bookshops on the Charing Cross Road, and went in and bought a battered copy of The Truth, and as I was paying I noticed a sign advertising a job. I thought to myself, I'd have a pretty decent chance of getting that job - I have five A-levels and three years of very relevant experience - and almost asked for an application form. Because wouldn't that be lovely? To just... work in a bookshop. I know I already do. But sometimes I wonder if I haven't already found my calling, and all the rest is silence. Do I need a career? Can't I just work in a bookshop and hide from the world forever?

Clearly it's the part of me that always wants to hide from the world forever that's talking. And I shouldn't spend so much time on my own, because that's how I get like this. But the rest is not silence. I need to start coping.
raven: (misc - thine own self)
So, I woke up this morning with an unappealing and vaguely aromatic mixture of wine, woodsmoke, chapel dust and mud in my hair. I washed it out - and proceeded to get drenched in an unexpected rainstorm - but I feel lots better now. And I love OULES, both people and concept, and mostly, love everybody, and am also suddenly aware that my journal has most likely been incomprehensible to out-of-Oxford people for a while now.

OULES is the Oxford University Light Entertainment Society. Its defining characteristic is the fact it's lots of fun. Unlike most Oxford thesping, which tends to be serious, overwrought and for people with, um, talent (which isn't to say there aren't lots of talented people in OULES, but does explain why I'm involved). I've been to several cast parties - last term I was presented with one of the flamingoes from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, despite not having been in the play - and at the end of Hilary Maria came to visit me one evening to tell me about her research project for this term. After two years as an overworked medic, she said, she was going to have a quite a bit more free time, and it was time to do something fun and extracurricular.

"OULES," I said blithely, and accordingly she and I and [ profile] jacinthsong presented ourselves at the auditions at the start of this term.

I'm aware that there is an explanatory gap between this and, er, red wine and mud stuck to my head, but, well. The play, yes! The play, which was on three nights this week in various locations - sometimes various locations within the same performance - was a product of the pleasantly twisted comic stylings of [ profile] darwinian_woman (I quote directly from the programme here) and was called Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Inanimate Body, and it was, of course, marvellous. The plot features a murder at a manor house in the English countryside, Holmes, Watson and Oscar Wilde, a butler called Fetish, a Narrator (who has a secret identity), various domestic staff, silly jokes and and ridiculous goings-on.

I was the corpse. Well, initially, I wasn't; I was supposed to be one of the bebusbied guards of Buckingham Palace, but in a rehearsal taking place sans the original corpse, it was discovered that I was probably the lightest member of the assembled company. And one might wonder why this is a relevant fact, but, um, it was. Holmes does a reconstruction of the murder in the middle of the play - a play within a play - and, according to the script, "any residual good taste should be expelled from the scene at this point – from now on, this needs to be utterly sick."

Cue several increasingly-bizarre rehearsals where I was carried on stage, dropped, animated from behind (as it were), and hit, punched, slapped and kicked. Except, of course, not, and much as I have complained about [ profile] foulds' abuse of me, he did it all very well and only actually hit me once. (This was the second performance, which we were doing in the chapel because of rain and it wasn't until too late that I realised that I was going to have be knocked onto a stone floor. Ouch.)

I was, of course, having to screw my eyes shut and take a lot of deep breaths throughout to try and stop myself from laughing (cue heckling, "The corpse is corpsing!") and I just about managed it during the ordinary run of things, but it was the ad libs that got to me. On the first night, I initially got placed too far away from the audience, and there's a scene where Watson gave me a push and I, well-trained, rolled over; however, that night, they didn't stop rolling, happily ad libbing - "A well-rolled corpse yields more clues!" / "Gadzooks! We didn't see that the third time we rolled her over!" - and I just... argh. I was face down, but people tell me that they could see me shaking with giggles.

By the third performance, I thought we were getting quite good at it. So there I was, cloaked during the interval (I had to hide under it while the audience filed into the gardens; it was curiously relaxing, lying on the grass listening to people talk about me), when suddenly - trouble. Matt, whose job it was to animate me and indeed, carry me on and off, was AWOL. Cue panic. Some brief consultation led to the decision that [ profile] osymandias learn all the lines in ten minutes and step in. And he was utterly marvellous - people later professed to having no idea that he'd been substituted in, and the only bits he read from the script were in the play-within-the-play, which was thematically appropriate - but we had a hiccup at the point where I get carried off.

Oh, they tried. They tried. Alas, I got dropped on my head. Oh dear. I wish I'd seen it. I also wish I'd got a record of the moment where [ profile] foulds came up to me backstage (i.e., under a tree), in cape and deerstalker, and said, "I'm sorry. Just for... everything."

I still think it was a wonderful role to play, because, well, I can't act. I have no thespian, artistic or creative talent whatsoever; playing dead is clearly my forte. Argh, it was so much fun. And afterwards, fun was had at the cast party, which was something of a farce - after wandering around Oxford for about an hour looking for a venue for dozens of people to have a party at the last minute, we ended up on Port Meadow at midnight, with the Flosscar ceremony happening around a hastily constructed fire. Despite the fact it was wet and muddy and ridiculous o'clock, it was actually idyllic. It wasn't raining, it was lightly warm and the sky was not dark but a curious grey-purple colour, and you could see people as dim impressions of themselves, which led to glorious reunions every few minutes ("Oh, it's you!"), and the fire was deliciously warm if very smoky, and, watching the sparks fly off into the night sky, I got to use the line "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards" to groans from all present.

And also, I was drunk. Looking back, yesterday I ate two slices of bread with honey, some brie, some grapes, chocolate fingers and an apple. No wonder I got so thoroughly inebriated very quickly, and correspondingly maudlin. In an attempt to cheer me up, someone - I'm not sure who, but would like to be reminded - suggested that [ profile] jacinthsong and I, as new OULES, be cocktailed. Cocktailing is a ritual that I have only recently discovered the existence of, and did I mention I was really drunk? Cocktailing requires you to be adopted, and [ profile] darwinian_woman and [ profile] foulds stepped up the plate to be mine and Laura's new OULES parents. And so. I got on the ground in the mud, looking up into the still curiously livid sky, aware of the fact I was lying on Port Meadow at two in the morning, and [ profile] foulds said, "It'll all be over in a minute..."

It's quite interesting, having red wine tipped on your head in the dark. Some of it got in my mouth, but more of it into my hair and eyes. And it was at this point that someone pointed out the familiarity of a scenario in which I'm on the floor and [ profile] foulds gets to abuse me. (This would be the third such context this week - corpsing, cocktailing, and an unrelated performance mnenomic on Christ Church Meadow where he hit me with a baguette.)

There is now a ridiculous quantity of photographic evidence of him abusing me. The thing is, though, I'm going to miss it. I'm going to miss all of this. I leave Oxford tomorrow, before Doctor Who, and I won't be back until September at the earliest. But oh, it was so much fun and I'm going to miss everyone so much.

About two weeks ago, my Mind tutor was trying to get me to talk intelligently about externalist theories of mind. We'd got onto proper names, and how there's a difference between an externalist rendering of my name by someone who's met me, who knows the individual in the world which my name refers to, and the people at the passport office, who have my name as a convenient label.

"What about fictional characters?" I asked. "Are they all like the second case?"

He thought about that, and finally said that no, perhaps the author knows the character in the same way as we know real people, and that Conan Doyle perhaps knew Sherlock Holmes in that way when no one else did. "Although," he said, "there's a spectrum of canonical knowledge here - for example, I believe some people write Sherlock Holmes pastiches..."

I corpsed.

Yesterday morning, I had my Tutors' Handshaking, and my Mind tutor has sent me a lovely, lovely report, which finishes, "She maintained a splendid standard despite, perhaps, the calls of student drama..."

Trying to think about OULES and "student drama" in the same sentence is, perhaps, more than my cognitive function is quite capable of; Sky tried to convince me that what I really wanted to do now was get involved in, or get OULES involved in, "real" drama - but I maintain he's missing the point. I don't quite know what the point is, but I think it's something to do with lying on Port Meadow in the middle of the night, safe in the warmth and mud and wine.

It's time to go.

October 2017

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