Saturday, January 28

Updating my reading list again. Generally rambling.

Have finished S.O. Andrew's translation of Sir Gawain & the Green Knight and am moving to J. Garth's Tolkien and the Great War. The next addition to my list is Adomnan of Iona's Life of St. Columba, the introduction of which I have nearly finished already . . . and I'd say that's pretty good because it's one of those books that has an introduction that's about a third of the bulk of the book. So, there.

I'm never that great at drawing boundaries between what bits and pieces I read and what complete works, but I only record the complete works in my reading journal-thingy--if I were to record the bits and pieces we'd all be in trouble and you'd get at least a billion entries of chapters and paragraphs from Tolkien as well as articles, lectures, and poems that don't quite fit.

So Andrew's was a translation of a nameless poet (oh, that sounds so cool; "nameless poet"), Garth's was written about two or three years ago, and Adomnan wrote in the year 900 A.D. or thereabouts. I'd say I'm doing pretty well on the score of alternating new and old books, except that most of my new books are about old books. As far as I can tell, Shippey's The Road to Middle-Earth is up next, and it is fairly new. Then something else that is old (Malory? Gottfried? Dante? Chaucer?) and probably a Wilkie Collins novel, or maybe Victor Hugo; they don't quite classify as "old".

I didn't used to like old literature, but I decided one day (I think I had just turned 11) that one day I would find out why.

Friday, January 27

Modern poetry makes me bite off all my fingernails.

Did you know I still have braces on my teeth? Just the top set, now--it was because I had to have some slow-healing surgery junk going on.

The point of that personal fun fact is that it leads to a generalizable fun fact: having braces and biting your nails requires a certain amount of genius.

Genius--or desperation.

Several times today I had an overwhelming urge to give an animal shriek and bash my head on the wall. And then there was the time I considered overdosing on caffeine merely so that I could speed-read my way into an early grave. But Death did not stop for me.

So many people love Whitman and Dickinson but for the life of me I can't understand why. The imagery is beautiful--until you look at what it means. The punctuation is novel and unconventional--until you get tired of it having to read so many other poets who thought they, too, were being unconventional. The emotions and urges take you by surprise until you read more than five lines and discover the sick truth of it all.

Certainly, a few isolated lines have, if isolated and blindfolded, a certain beauty. Is that a concession or am I just stupid . . . ? Never mind. Don't answer that.

Wednesday, January 25

Working with people named 'Hengist'.

She closed the door behind them and folded her arms at her waist. He thought she might be about to tell him off, to scold him. He cringed at the mental image of her nagging.

"Look," she said bluntly, "I can sense that we are having trouble working together. I don't know if it's something I've done or something you need to work through but we can't lead a group not acting in one accord."

For a moment he was speechless, and then he was relieved. Practical. Nice that she was practical. Made things a lot easier to deal with. He was afraid that he was supposed to have known what was going on. He decided to make it easy on both of them.

"Hengist is trying to play some sort of trick I don't understand, but he looked happy when you explained the treaty, so I got a bit suspicious. Sorry."

"Thanks. That helps. Any idea what he's trying to do?"

"Not a clue. He also saw you in the garden one day and asked if you'd been spoken for."

"How disgusting. Thanks for being protective of me, then."

"In part, perhaps."

She paused in an effort to be a little less disgusted with the entire situation. "It does mean a lot to me--and I know it does to my family--that you are kind to me, and treat me as if I have something to contribute." He blinked and shrugged silently.

He looked a little confused, or perhaps embarrassed, and so she tried to help. "I like to be useful."

"You are useful." He went to the door.

"What kind of a name is 'Hengist' anyway?"

"Yeah!"

Monday, January 23

Aubergine in a quiche in Ireland in the World in the Universe. The End.

The museum food was expensive, of course, but there was no time for anything else but the cafeteria line of quiches, soups, and sandwiches. It was cold, and so most people chose the quiche--the soup was dubious.

"What's that?" said a woman, holding up the line by a good two seconds.

"S'got vegetables in it. Spinach and . . . vegetables in a pastry." This from the lady behind the counter, who wore a maroon apron and had badly dyed red-orange hair. She pronounces every syllable of the word "vegetable".

"What kind of vegetables?" The American lady slurred the word into two syllables. For a moment the class collectively realized how James Joyce might have crafted the word into a sentence.

"Vegetables." The serving woman shrugged. Four syllables.

"It says obbergeen. What's an obbergeen?"

"It's a vegetable."

Somewhere from half-way down the line, a bored voice said "It's French for 'eggplant'."

"Ohhhhh!" Exclaimed the tourist, actually lifting her hands. Everyone expected her to say "Mercy!" but she didn't. This is because she took the time to shout at her husband (half-deaf, and no wonder) the whole story of what was going on. He wanted the soup.

The girl with the bored voice, who hadn't meant it to sound so bored, fumbled with picking up silverware from the stand by the window and then sat down at an empty table against the wall. She took her notebook from her tray and began to write as she ate. Of course it wasn't very graceful as very few people can pull that off without training.

One of her professors sat down next to her a table distant and chuckled. He had ordered the soup and a sandwich. The other professor was having a glass of white wine with her lunch. The first professor was almost completely bald, and the bright florescence of the cafeteria lights did nothing to keep the fact discreet.

"Why do you write so much?" He said through a mouthful of food. He swallowed and then chuckled a laugh that shook his back.

She shrugged, glancing up for a moment. "Why don't you?" He nodded sagely and went back to his soup and sandwich.

She thought about explaining that it was a way to find out what she was thinking without having to creep up on herself through arguments with other people . . . also that she did not particularly relish a friendship with the almost typical group of classmates. She generalized the group to The World in General in order to prove that she must be like somebody else in the world and that she was not being prudish merely because she didn't want to get drunk all the time. Rationalizing, she decided that somebody had to write all the time. She wrote all of this down.

Sunday, January 22

Maybe someday: a bit of introspection about introversion.

Sometimes I wonder, you know, that question about whether God still wants me where he lead me. I'm very much struggling with several issues right now (not, of course, to be described here; fortunately or unfortunately I care about my readers), and although I trusted and still trust him completely about the decisions I've made in regards to my lifestyle, I often find that I want confirmation that I'm going about this the right way.

Someone I know is always pressuring me to be more relational, to focus more on everyday relationships and build new relationships with the people I see everyday. A lot of devotional discussions and preached messages have a lot to do with sharing your faith with the people you know and hardly speak to. Now I know this is valuable, but I wonder whether it applies to me.

Somewhere inside my mind there is a voice telling me that writing is my gift and that I can lay off the draining, shallow relationships for a few deeper ones--being an example, a nice person, a good person--without having to relinquish my ability or willingness to share my faith. I do like sharing my faith, but it is rare indeed that I have a good conversation about it in anything other than writing. People say I'm hard to get to know, that I often look differently than I feel, and that I'm too quiet. I don't understand those thoroughly, but I do think that the little voice knows about this struggle too.

Somehow I don't think it would be such a bad thing to be a quiet person--to let that be my little idiosyncrasy.

Tuesday, January 17

Coffee-scented Gingerbread Cookies.

Gingerbear Cookies:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
3 tablespoons cold freshly brewed strong coffee

Royal Icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 large egg white
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
food coloring paste (optional)

Directions:

Prepare the cookies: In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and salt.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set at medium, cream together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, corn syrup, and coffee, and beat until well blended. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture until well blended. Divide the dough in half, wrap each half in plastic, and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Remove 1 piece of dough from the refrigerator and let stand for 5 minutes to soften slightly. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 1/4-inch thickness. Using bear-shaped cookie cutters, cut out the dough. Place the cookies on a prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Gather the scraps and roll them to make more cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake for 8 minutes, or until the cookies are crisp and no longer shiny. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for 1 minute. Using a large spatula, transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.

Prepare the icing: In a small bowl, using an electric mixer set at medium, beat the confectioners' sugar, egg white, and cream of tartar until very stiff peaks form. Tint with coloring paste, if desired. Spoon the icing into a pastry bag fitted with a very small round plain tip (no. 2) and decorate the bears by drawing eyes, nose, mouth, bow ties, buttons, etc.

Makes 3 to 4 dozen bears.

"The Best of Coffee: A Cookbook" by Sandra Gluck

Wednesday, January 4

This is so awesome.

I'm at an Apple Store in West Midlands, somewhere in England . . . ha haaaaaa . . . can blog from ANYWHERE and am taking over the world. This is absolutely hilarious. And I need coffee. Lots of coffee. Finished the Stein book, am now onto the packet of poetry sent via post . . . lol am still finding this awesome . . . that means I should go get coffee. It feels so strange to be in a mall. I don't think I've been in one for two and a half years. Or is it two years? Can't remember. A long time.