Thursday, June 30

The phrase, as I remember it, is "the primitive duality of human nature". (?!)

Here I was, minding my own business (or rather not minding it, as I have a lot of emails that need to be written), and then these thoughts keep dropping on me. Impertinent imagination! Sometimes I wish that it would know when to quit.

In the anyway, I was thinking about Scottish literature and human potential for good and evil and connecting that all with the Evanescence song "Where Will You Go" and a few memories of long ago in a dim auditorium with turquoise seats. People seem to think that human nature is split into two parts--the potential for good and the potential for evil. Please don't argue the point; I haven't clearly thought it out, you know.

The popular image of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde grew up out of this even though Robert Louis Stevenson clearly explained in the actual novella that this was not the case. Even Harry Potter seems to have caught on--has anybody seen the new trailer? "Difficult times lie ahead, Harry. Soon you will face the choice between what is right, and what is easy." Or somesuch line. It is important, because it shows that what is right is often the hard road (unfortunately, I tend to be the one to think that if it is hard then it must be good for me; even though I don't like brussel sprouts or cooked bell peppers).

Then the Evanescence song talks about a person who lives a role they want to be, but the speaker of the song knows the secret, that they're "the one who cries when [they're] alone". Interesting, of course, and there is always that feeling of intimacy with a person who shares the knowledge of vulnerability. Fascinating, no? It is the choice of what you do with the knowledge of somebody else's vulnerability that "shows your quality" as Samwise the Brave might have said. Dorothy Sayers mentions this idea briefly in passing though with some interesting thoughts as Peter Wimsey falls asleep in the middle of a picnic/investigation, leaving Harriet to search through his pockets for a match to light her cigarette. A companion's sleep produces one of two reactions in the wakeful, she says; one is an instinct of protection and the other is that of bullying or mocking.

I read a story once, that talked about a fairy tale--a fairy tale in which there was a man who wore a mask. The man's face was ugly as your most shameful moment and he wore a mask of such craftsmanship that no one could tell it was a mask. In the dim light of his tower room, he took off the mask--the first time in so long!--and found he must light a candle. Click, swwwsht, flish. A little flame danced twice, once in the mirror and once in the air. The man's ugly face had changed to mold and fit the mask he had to carefully worn for so long. That's practically the same moral as our catchphrase, "fake it till ya make it". And there is a time and a place for that false confidence, but where exactly is the line between false confidence and hypocrisy? That's what most people think of when they think of duality in human nature, isn't it? I don't know, you see, I'm not most people.

So it all comes down to choices and the inexorable reminder of free will while still being aware of the nagging feeling that one might have done well on the Other Side. It is like the time I realised goths had a point in dwelling on death and despair. The only thing that they are missing is the other half of the story, the bit about rebirth and resurrection. So lame, to miss that bit.

Anyway, all of these silly thoughts have gone through my head and sooner or later I will come back to them and giggle my way through a second reading. They will sound a bit silly, but perhaps I will want to reference all of these delightful sources in another time or place. How odd.

Wednesday, June 29

Saturday, June 18

what I should have done today but didn't

8 a.m. wake up, leisurely puttering about morning routines

        •        brush teeth
        •        brush hair (different brush)
        •        put ear drops in (5 min. on each side)
        •        take amoxicillin capsules (sp?)
        •        wash face (daily wash stuff)

9 a.m. make self latte and surf internet for inordinate amount of time

12 noon drink large glass of water because day is getting v. hot and we have no AC

        •        ear drops again
        •        decide to take shower and feel nice
        •        take shower; use hair mask stuff and go by the directions this time
        •        antibiotic capsule thingummy

1 p.m. am now out and dressed, thinking about a cup of tea

        •        put face masky thing on (5 min.)
        •        wriggle toes a bit
        •        hum
        •        take face masky thing off
        •        eat large brownie for lunch, stealing cappuccino icing off of other brownies

1.30 p.m. (does not take a long time to wriggle toes but does take long time to hum)

        •        take a long nap.

5 p.m. room is slowly cooling off and cat is stretched out on tile floor

        •        wake up
        •        ear drop thingies
        •        think about how nice it is to have face masky things
        •        read something amusing until it is time to get something to eat

. . .

10 p.m. retire to bedroom with cup of cafe latte and surf internet for an hour and a half before falling asleep with glasses on

        •        ear drops
        •        antibiotics
        •        take glasses off

Thursday, June 16

Behold: the glorious me.

Originally uploaded by ifothelawon.

From thence I wield my powah and from thence do I ruhl thah wahld.

Tuesday, June 14

and the reply:


I'm fine. Wounded in my left shoulder, now it only itches and bleeds. Good to hear things are well back there. We miss the cooking. The Queen is very capable; can stand on her own two feet.

The King is the best lord I've ever been in service to. He knows his men, all of us respect him. He's the eyes of a hawk and the cunning of a fox, with the honor of a true man. Be thankful he's your father.

Keep your chin up; things are going well for us here. I miss you too. Send more books?


Monday, June 13

A letter written while there was a war.

Dear ----

I shan't bother you with countless enquiries of how you are, but if you have a moment to post, I've included some paper. I don't know if you can get any there, so it will be useful for a map or a sketch anyway.

Things are going well here; we are all quite the team and work surprisingly well together. The harvest has come in a bit clumsily but altogether well. I'm really very happy about that because it's gotten rid of the few remaining beggars about the cities, and it means we'll be able to send some food your way in a few weeks.

Mother is doing quite well governing the kingdom, though I can't say I'm surprised. A few tales are reviving about how she held the throne in the old days (old days--before I was born) and she must have mellowed a lot since then because she has refrained, so far, from wearing her sword at mealtimes. She does practice a little more everyday, though. I think it is hard for her to be home when Father is gone.

We all wear plainer clothes about the palace now--not much lace, if any, and no jewels; you'd think it was funny. Yes, that includes shoes! I wear boots, now. Fiona says they make me look like a cow.

Thank you for continuing to support Father; he speaks very well of you in his letters to us. Somebody put the story about the broadsword to song and it is being played everywhere with a rousing chorus, as follows:

And he fought with a strength not his own,
When all hope for the battle was gone,
An' he strove through the night
With no succor in sight
By the light of his sword, all alone.

Not the best ballad we've heard, but no doubt there will be better ones when you all come back.

I must be off--I've taken up and left off this letter over the space of a fortnight and if I leave it any longer it won't be sent. Wish I could send greetings, but at least toast my Father at dinner, from me. That at least will be acceptable. I have already written him.

Take care of yourself. We are all proud of you. And I miss your company.


Thursday, June 2

Past the tower to the stars in a stern, wise sky.

When she was a child, memories of her evening toilette were mostly of a maid tugging at her hair with a comb that always had not quite enough or rather too many teeth, the uncomfortable process of the toweling off of hands (they always stayed a bit damp despite the maid's best efforts), the scrubbing off of smudges gained from sources unremembered, and the rough scraping of teeth with spicy paste on a coarsely woven rag.

Afterwards, she always felt as if she'd been tugged and pulled and pushed about till she was dizzy; and she was glad to finally crawl under soft sheets to peek out the window, past the tower, to the stars in a stern, wise sky.

Wednesday, June 1

I have made improvements and named two of them.

Carrie had her speech all planned out. It would be a marvelous speech, calling on the fraternity of studenthood and the hour of the night, maybe even touching on expatriate sacrifices and the universal yearning for a good philanthropist. She heard the door open and began her spiel.

"Can I please borrow some peanut butter . . . ?" She stopped short at the sight of a very frazzled Maggie, who was talking frantically into her hand. No, wait--she was on the phone.

"We talked about this before and you said--hold on, there's somebody at the door--I know--" She was wearing an apron over her normal clothes and held a wooden spoon that was dripping on the threshold. "Oh, hey, Carrie. Come on in; I'll be off the phone in a second."

Carrie stepped inside the flat and tried to say that she only wanted some peanut butter, but Maggie had already resumed her telephone conversation, nodding violently and frowning as she walked back to the small kitchenette area of tiny living space, leaving the door open to the watery light of the hallway.

Her visitor closed the door quietly and stood uneasily by it. Maybe she should have just apologized for the bother and left. Maggie was now wielding a knife at what looked like some potatoes and carrots, maybe an onion or two. The rest of the room was silent and dim with the night, and somehow a citified cricket found an audience for its arias below the single window of the room. Carrie walked over to the window, not wanting to sit down and make herself comfortable, and hoping Maggie wouldn't be on the phone long.

She had that awkward feeling of asking a favor of somebody she didn't know very well. That is, she knew Maggie, but not really to speak to. They'd had a class or two together and shared a nationality, though that didn't amount to much as the classes had been rather large and so was America. Come to think of it, Carrie didn't even know where Maggie had lived in the States before .

Maggie pulled out a metal pan from a cupboard and said something in a sad tone of voice, explaining something unintelligible (it must have referred to several previous conversations because Carrie could make no sense of it) while scattering the vegetables on top of two chicken breasts she'd put in the pan. She listened for a little while, hands still moving, and poured a little olive oil, a little wine, and a squirt or two of honey from half-bottles next to the stove. The spoon she'd held as Carrie entered was in a bowl of broth that Maggie poured over the mixture. Maggie slid the pan into the oven and twisted the timer in a familiar fashion before tugging absently at the knot at the back of her apron.

Carrie had found a book of poetry by the window; a translation of Carmina Burana. How very odd. It was open to something called "Burning Inside"; she read it and then reread it breathlessly. What was she doing in sociology? Somehow Carrie found a chair and sat down with the book.

Maggie, having forgotten her visitor entirely, ended her telephone conversation on an exhausted note and began the process of washing up. The smell of the roast in the oven began to fill the room and the cricket outside the window bowed offstage with a dignified but slightly off-key finale.

"Peanut butter." Carrie started. Maggie had turned around in sudden remembrance of opening the door for something that had to do with peanut butter. "I don't have any."

"Oh," said Carrie. "Did you need peanut butter?"

"I thought you did." Maggie frowned.

"Did I?" Carrie looked blankly at Maggie for a moment. "Oh! I found your book and I forgot why I came. Yes. I wanted peanut butter. It's too late to go out for dinner but I have toast and jelly in my flat."

"But you needed peanut butter;" Maggie nodded sagely: "I see." They looked at each other appraisingly for a moment.

"Which book?" Maggie peered into the dimness of the room as if the title would appear in fiery letters.

"'Carmine Bureau' or something. It's really good." Carrie held up the book but was unwilling to let it go. Maggie grinned.

"The Carmina Burana? Yeah, that's great stuff if you read it in the right context."

"I've never read one poem for half an hour straight, before."

"Want to stay for dinner? I made extra. You can tell me what you think about the poetry."

"Sure! Thanks!" Carrie half-rose from her chair. "I say, was your phone call alright? You sounded upset."

"Oh, no, it's fine. Thanks for asking, though." She turned back to the kitchen and checked the timer. "A friend and I seem to have periodic arguments on the nature of the universe. In fact, we don't really get along very well. It is an absurd friendship."

"Huh. Well, can I do anything for dinner?"

"Nope. You could read the poem aloud while I get out dishes, if you want."


"Would you read the poem for me?"

"Out loud?"

"If you don't mind."

"No. Uhh . . . no, that's ok." Carrie cleared her throat and began to read.