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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in safiri's LiveJournal:

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Saturday, May 8th, 2010
12:11 am
I'm leaving for Benin in... let's see... about 40 hours.

I was going to put my list of all the things I have to do before then here, but that would take too long.

Current Mood: harried
Sunday, February 21st, 2010
11:41 pm
So this isn't why I learned French, but
I have to admit there's a certain pleasure in sentences like this one:

Le néant est le caractère de ce qui n'existe pas, du non-être ou de ce qui est inexistant.

And that's just fr.wikipedia.org, not even Sartre or anyone like that.
Monday, December 28th, 2009
2:51 am
This has never happened before
My grades are in.

My copy edits are in.

I don't get the proofs until mid-January.

There is currently NOTHING* I am supposed to be doing.

*OK, OK, almost nothing. One letter of recommendation, the final tweaks to my syllabi, years of backlogged personal correspondence, and all the projects I'd like to start some day; two novels, a book of poetry, an edited collection, and the Big New Project. But there is nothing ongoing and pressing. I don't know when this has happened before. Certainly not since I started my dissertation, which would have been... let's see... 1998.

Two conclusions:
1) I have earned a break.
2) I am old.
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
4:41 pm
Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
12:12 am
So it's that time again -- I'm teaching Ulysses. To a brave little band of students: there are SIX of them in Modern British Novel this fall. Word must have gotten around.

And I timed it badly; I had a paper due on Friday and then we were to start Ulysses on Monday, which in principle would work, but in practice was derailed by the fact that the Friday in question was at the end of a week of school-sponsored mayhem (not marked on the academic calendar and thus hard to avoid while planning the syllabus) so they were all tired/flu-ridden/daunted and thus unable to finish the papers until Monday. So on Monday afternoon they were pretty damn miserable. They'd done their best, there was an honest effort, but it was not their highest-energy day.

So tomorrow is Day Two of Ulysses. I hope they're doing better -- for their sake; I'm going to have a ball no matter what. And out of general sympathy, I've made them gingersnaps. Do you think that will help?

Current Mood: cookified
Thursday, August 13th, 2009
2:06 am
Following my attendance at a recent town hall meeting, a PSA:
In case this has not come to your attention:

Nazis and socialists are not the same people.

In fact, they quite dislike each other.

I'm not saying you have to like either one of them, and indeed there are may political positions out there which are neither Nazi nor socialist. But Nazis and socialists are not the same. I am aware that the Nazis called themselves "national socialists," but their socialism and socialists' socialism don't look very much like each other.

In fact, if by "socialism" you mean "socialism as practiced in the USSR," that's also known as "communism," and communists were actually rounded up by the Nazis along with the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, some Catholics, and various dissidents. That seems to indicate that Nazis and socialists really don't team up much.

Thank you for your attention. You may now return to the monologue I interrupted in which you were explaining to me how little I understand history and politics.
Saturday, July 11th, 2009
1:57 pm
either someone is playing a cruel and elaborate practical joke on me, or my book was just accepted for publication at a reasonably good press.
Sunday, June 28th, 2009
1:46 am
Leaving New York
So we're spending tomorrow and Monday packing -- I hope; we haven't got any boxes yet, but presumably we'll be able to find some tomorrow -- and then leaving NY on Tuesday. We're stopping to stay briefly with N's family and expect to get to ATL on the 6th or 7th. There, barring vacations and jaunts, we will remain for about a year. If you have N's New York address written somewhere, now is your chance to cross it out. We'll be back in NY the following school year (assuming I get my sabbatical), but it will be at an apartment which, unlike our current one, will be large enough to contain two adult humans and a cat.

For some reason, in addition to my total joy at being reunited, I am also assailed by weird anxiety. Perhaps because I feel like now time counts again. What am I doing with my life?

...I guess I did just finish my book. Pleasant thought.
Wednesday, May 20th, 2009
5:32 pm
Zeno's manuscript
I'm almost done. Almost. Up until yesterday I was done except for the last five pages of the conclusion. Today I'm done except for the last five paragraphs of the conclusion. Tomorrow, presumably, I'll be done except for the last five sentences. This will doubtless continue until I'm debating about the arrangement of the last five molecules of ink.

Goal for the day: reach a point where I'm so sick of the damn thing that I can just send it.
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
12:49 am
Word of the day:
"Manticratic." From Greek, mantisi, prophet + -cratic. Of the rule by the family or clan of the prophet. Neologism coined by T. E. Lawrence to describe the Sharifs of Mecca. Found in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which I am now reading.

And why are you now reading The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Safiri, given that you're supposed to be finishing up your manuscript on transnational literature (which SPW emphatically is not; one of the most British texts I've ever read, no matter how many Arab countries it talks about) and then spending the rest of the summer wallowing in poetry?

It's hard to say, Conscience. It's a little complicated. I was cleaning the house for the housesitter last week, you see, and in the process I found it necessary to reorganize the books in my study. In the process I discovered about 300 books I'd bought or been given or picked up and then never opened. A lot of the books I buy and never open are nonfiction; to my shame, I'm very bad at reading about things which really happened. I found myself with a large pile of interesting things, in varying degrees of biographical and biological popular interest, like Dragon Hunter, a biography of an early paleontologist, and Lucy, about the Leakey expedition and their findings. The smallest book in the pile was SPW, in a used paperback copy of obscure origins, smelling of mold, and fully titled This and Only This is the Incredible Story of Lawrence of Arabia, exactly as told by T. E. Lawrence in his thrilling masterpiece The Seven Pillars of Wisdom -- and then adding on the back "The greatest military adventure story of modern times originally published at $150 a copy now complete, unexpurgated and unabridged." The last person to buy it evidently paid fifty cents for it, but I'm not sure that person was me; I may have found it lying on the free books table at school (which by the way I restocked with Agatha Christies as part of my reorganization).

Needless to say, once I discovered this pile of books I was overwhelmed with a desire to read all of them. But of course I was packing to come to NYC, and I was limiting my book-haulage to the very work-related or the very portable. So SPW it was. I'm reading it at a crawl, because 1) I'm spending a good part of every day working; 2) I keep looking up and shaking my head over Lawrence's pronouncements like "The Semite hovered between lust and self-denial" and 3) it's full of delightful words like "manticratic."

I haven't read very many classic orientalist texts, and it's weirdly fun. Such sentences! Such certainty! And as for unexpurgated -- well, evidently there's debate about Lawrence's sexuality, but I don't see how that's possible. He may not have done anything about it, but it's pretty clear by about page three where his interests lie.
Saturday, May 9th, 2009
3:33 pm
In about 2.5 hours I intend to be on a plane to NYC. We'll be based there through the end of June, though with interruptions. Drop me a line if you're going to be in the city.

Also, an addendum to my observation on cleaning below: turns out that cleaning for my own future self two months from now is an even more demanding task than cleaning for my mother.
Friday, May 8th, 2009
12:15 am
Thursday, April 30th, 2009
12:10 am
Yesterday was the last day of classes. Standing between me and the summer are approximately 450 pages of grading. If I can grade at a rate of 60 pages a day (yeah, I know) I can have it all done before graduation. Which would mean heading to NYC with nothing but one bag of poetry books and another of pretty summer dresses. Note the lack of transnational fiction books: I'm so close to done on the manuscript -- I think -- that I'm past the book-carrying stage. Note also the lack of shoes -- I lack a single fully-functional pair for summer. I believe that by the end of the ten days or so in New York I may manage to fix both the almost-done-with-the-manuscript and the lack-of-shoes states -- anyone want to place any bets?

I feel a little bit the way I did in Colorado, half a mile from the top of the pass. It's going to be exhausting carrying this pack the rest of the way up -- but I've made it this far, and it's going to be an awfully nice view.
Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
11:35 pm
Reference check
Maurice Natanson, in his Philosophy of Existence class (which I took in the fall of 1993, and loved, although the conjunction of that class with a poetry survey convinced me to major in English instead of philosophy; this by the way was two years before he retired, and also three years before his death at the age of 71, an age he seemed to have long since passed by the time I knew him) -- Maurice Natanson told a story in Philosophy of Existence, the source of which I am trying to track down:

A madman escapes from the lunatic asylum. "I must not say anything which will reveal that I am mad," he says to himself, "or they will lock me up again. I must only say things which are indisputably true." So he enters the town and stands in the marketplace and begins to say, "The world is round! The world is round!" And of course on hearing this, the townspeople instantly recognize him for a madman, capture him, and lock him back up.

It's a little parable about meaning and context, and as you can see, it stayed with me. And I'm grading a stack of papers which brought it to mind by parallel usages of indisputable truth. And all of a sudden it bothers me: does anyone know where this is from? Google is not of much help here. It is of course conceivable that he made it up, but it has the ring of paraphrase.

What he did make up, as far as I can tell, is the following explanation of the state of being which Heidegger denotes by verbing nouns: "What do you want from a cabbage? Not much. It cabbages."

Incidentally, in case you're annoyed by the interruptions above, allow me to reassure you that I will be done teaching my Virginia Woolf course in another week. Not so far from Philosophy of Existence, after all.
Friday, April 10th, 2009
11:56 pm
So I may have mentioned to some of you that some time ago the sophomore class invited me to give my "last lecture" -- what I'd tell them if I were dying. Oy, I thought, what a horrifying idea. But then I realized that it was something of an opportunity. What I ended up doing was more along the lines of performance art than what they were asking for, but I liked how it came out. If you're interested, here it is. I should say that it's almost an hour long. On the other hand, it's a bit tricky in a fun sort of way and includes some pretty pictures.
11:53 pm
In the previous entry I mentioned dolphins. This is one of them:
Tuesday, March 31st, 2009
9:23 pm
In the past two weeks, in addition to my usual full-time teaching load, I have:

--hefted an Oscar
--bored a knight
--accidentally gone on a date
--gotten lost in the woods
--been called "bizarre" by a very nice man wearing a fez and sixteen necklaces
--hung out with a number of major writers
--non-ironically been to Cracker Barrel
--seen a pod of dolphins
--held the compass used by the colonel who defended Tallahassee from the Yankees and then incidentally went on to found the college where I am now employed
--flown a plane

I think I'm ready for a day off.

Current Mood: bizarre
Saturday, March 28th, 2009
1:09 am
Problem solved.
I just realized: the next time a fusty older man I've met in a professional setting asks me, "So, are you here because you're a student?" the correct response is, "No, are you?"

Current Mood: a student of humanity
Saturday, March 14th, 2009
1:48 am
Further notes on housekeeping
My parents are here visiting, which is lovely.

During the 24 hours prior to their arrival, I realized that visitors, for me, fall into three basic categories:

1. "Maybe I'll sweep" visitors. Frequent enough guests that there's no point trying to pretend that I keep the house looking at all orderly.

2. "Maybe I'll mop" visitors. Less frequent guests, whose judgment I suspect to be based on high standards, for whose arrival I put in an hour or so of cleaning.

3. "Uh-oh, I haven't scrubbed the shower curtain rod or cleaned out the spice rack yet" visitors. Guests whom I consider to be incompatible with dirt. The 24 period prior to their arrival is dedicated to getting as much of the house spotless as possible. Since spotlessness is frankly impossible, this is tiring and leads to me being somewhat jumpy when they arrive.

I suppose it's unfair on my parents to put them in Category 3 here-- they don't want me wasting a day on cleaning. But where did I learn my standards from to begin with, after all?
Sunday, March 1st, 2009
3:37 pm
It is SNOWING here today. It has been for HOURS. In big fat flakes. And it's sticking. I just had a snowball fight with the neighbors. On March 1st! In Georgia!
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