Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Anecdote Thread

Funny/telling experience at Summer Job just last week:
One of my Supervisors has been refusing to talk to me since I started working, because here in Microburg there seems to be a very clear divide between college-educated and high school-educated folks. (The town-gown tensions are high, too. But honestly, the way some of the students treat the locals is appalling.) Since I'm doing work that doesn't require a college degree, he assumed I was of the untouchable caste. Anyway, somebody asked me why I moved to Microburg in Haughty Supervisor's hearing, and I told the questioner that I'm a grad student. Suddenly, Haughty Supervisor found me an acceptable, even engaging, interlocutor. During the rather animated discussion we had, I learned all about his associate's degree. The evil part of me wanted to say, "Oh, an ASSOCIATE's! I'm sorry, I can't continue this conversation." But I refrained.

Funny/weird dating experience from several years ago, but which I remembered during a conversation with a friend just last week:
I was in a car, making out with my date (I was young, I needed the practice), when I felt his fingers rest on that space between my collar bones. The guy was taking my pulse! I guess the fact that I wasn't in need of a defibrillator upset him, because that was our last date. Well, it was either the lack of dangerous arrhythmia or the howl of laughter that escaped me when I figured out what he was doing. Either way, last date.

Share a fun anecdote yourself, or feel free to comment on mine!

Cool New Find!

Again via Ansaxnet, there's been a very exciting find in a bog in um...Central Nowhere, Ireland. Seems a construction worker found a millenium-old psalter recently. The super-smart bog owner covered the thing with damp soil until he could get archeologists out to claim the thing the next day. Go, bog-owner! This is the first major (textual) find in Ireland in 200 years. FWIW, the book is about 20 pages long, made of very thick vellum, and open to Psalm 83.

I'm half-tempted to get a shovel and head off to boggy countries to start digging. But then, I think about this guy, and how completely freaked out I'd be if I found one of his peers.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

"Anglo-Saxon Apartheid"

Eileen Joy, who is filling in for Jeffrey Jerome Cohen over at In the Middle, has written a very interesting post regarding a recent dust-up on Ansaxnet in response to this scholarly article by Mark G. Thomas, Michael P.H. Stumpf, and Heinrich Haerke and this popular (British) press report about the article. I've stayed out of the discussion on ansaxnet (Grad student lesson #2: When professors are busy knocking the hell out of each other, don't offer yourself as an alternative target for aggression.), but have left a rather clunky response at In the Middle that really helped me vent my frustration with the whole discussion but probably didn't make me seem like a very serious scholar. I blame Marcuse for my emotional, some might say "one-dimentional," tendency to be irritated when I encounter ideas with which I really disagree. Another benefit of the pseudonymous blog: If I make a true ass of myself, in five or ten years I can say "Oh, yes, that HeoCwaeth woman. I remember her, poor thing. What a dolt!" And very few will know that I am the dolt in question. So there!


The problem for many Ansaxnetters is the anachronistic use of the term "apartheid" in describing Anglo-Saxon relations to the conquered peoples of Britain. Now, I don't get as excited about anachronism as the average Anglo-Saxonist, so perhaps I'm missing something vital. I dunno. It seems to me that the authors of the scholarly work used the term "apartheid-like" in their title because the term a) catches one's attention, especially when used to describe an unexpected group/culture and b) is an analogy that modern people can understand quickly. On a cognitive level ( man am I treading in unfamiliar waters here) people probably see apparent incongruity that involves an emotionally loaded term and think "I want to know what those guys are saying." This is what a title is meant to do, no? That kind of thing gets me to read stuff, anyway.

The premise of the article (very simplified) is that the prevalence of Germanic stock Y-chromosomes in modern Britain is out of all proportion to the evidence we have for the number of Anglo-Saxon invaders. Using computer simulations, genetic information, legal proscriptions of intermarriage in other European conquered areas, and A-S law codes, the authors posit an "apartheid-like" society in which being of Anglo-Saxon male stock meant a greater chance at reproductive success. In this case, the science seems to back up what we already knew or suspected about A-S culture and political wrangling in general.

For instance. If I were going to conquer and occupy an area with fewer folk than the natives have, I'd want to do a few things right away. I'd want to be sure my forces were up to the task of subduing the natives in the short term. I'd want to disarm the natives, so they couldn't regroup and kill my forces off quite so easily. Then I'd want to structure the society so that my minority group of crack military invaders were satisfied/busy enough that they wouldn't try to displace me as their ruler, and the majority native population would sort of fade away into irrelevance. "Apartheid-like" laws work for these purposes, right? Isn't that a bit like what ALMOST EVERY OCCUPYING FORCE, EVER has done?

So, if the term is anachronistic but the idea that word conveys is correct, is there really a problem? It's just an analogy, folks. (Cue Chris, who will most likely have something to say about analogy. And science. And humanities people talking about science.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging: Stevie Smith Edition (Plus Bonus Friday Morning Randomness)


This is the poem that first grabbed hold of my senses. Of course, the fact that I was 15 and prone to melancholy anyway helped. Still, it continues to resonate with most people who read it, I think. Especially the cranky literary types!

Not Waving But Drowning - Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much farther out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.


Plea for Help:
Speaking of drowning, my writing ability is not growing at the pace I hoped for when I headed here to Microburg. My professors, as I have stated earlier, are an average of 112 years old. They are old-school, to say the very least, and consider professing quite a different thing from teaching. And I suppose it is. However, I am just the sort of intellectual midget who still requires guidance. So, is anybody aware of a book/article/pamphlet entitled something like "Seminar Papers For Dummies" or "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Making an Idea an Article"?


!@#$%^&* Wheelock!


After patiently (but fruitlessly) waiting for someone to come up with a fun t-shirt for feminist medievalists, I created this one over at Zazzle. Chaucer says that Zazzle sells good stuff, and who am I to argue with Geoff? Anyway, as I did not create the concept of the t-shirt, the ironic use of the color pink, or the Anglo-Saxon phrase, please feel free to replicate this design with stuff you dig out of your basement or get at your local craft store, should you feel so inclined.

Way back in a time known as ago (In internet terms, anyway. It was January.), I wrote a post entitled "In Defense of Bitterness." Ancrene Wiseass' kind efforts brought this post to the attention of many others, and now it is getting new attention from a group of women in Australia. Sadly, these women have far more to embitter them than I do, as they are mothers, and their government has apparently been taken over by poop-throwing monkeys in suits. Standard MRA stuff: women shouldn't leave their husbands, and men shouldn't have to feed their children if the mothers do leave. It's infuriating to me, and I'm not even there.

A woman who signed herself "disgusted brokenbodied mum australia" left this in comments:

"We are currently being targeted by a federal government that decrees we must return to paid work and remain the primary carers of our children - necessitating child care workers take on a part-time role in raising OUR children.

The government maintains this charade is in the interest of promoting "family ideals" when in reality all it is doing is punishing women who have had the courage to remove themselves and their children from violent husbands.

These same men who have whinged long and loud to our politicians - only those with real legislative power are male - have now been granted the dubious honour of relinquishing much of their financial responsibility to their own children.

The men we have fled from have of course moved on and begun new families yet insisted on all the parental rights to their 'old' children and been given legislatively the right to minimise child support to their firstborn in favour of the new.

It appears that our federal government is finally achieving through Prime Minister Howard the legislated regression of every right we women fought so hard for in the 70's and placed us squarely back in the 'goods and chattel' chains of patriarchal slavery.

Would you or any women in the western world allow themselves to be forced back into work, raise a family, and be paid $1.67 an hour?

This federal govenment is not however hounding the male unemployed with the same vigour only solo mothers and the disabled with children

Full parental rights with limited parental responsibilities. Sounds like a certain group of men got precisely what they wanted there, and their children are ultimately the ones who pay for it.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging: Riddle 52 Edition

If you've taken a course in Anglo-Saxon language and poetry, there's a chance you've had to translate the Exeter Book Riddles. I got about three lines into the riddle below before I started blushing. By the time I finished translating it -- double and triple-checking the translations to be sure I wasn't letting my imagination run away with me -- I was sure this was the filthiest thing I'd ever read in my life. It didn't help that it was written by monks, and I was certain monks were above double-entendres. Ha! These days, when people express awe that I'm studying medieval literature, and I'm learning all manner of languages to do so, I smile quietly to myself in all my apparent stodginess. Yes, I think, it is indeed dignified work to read dirty books for college credit.

Riddle 52
(Where I got both the original and the interlinear translation for this post. What? You didn't think I was going to pull out that old file, did you?)

Hyse cwom gangan, þær he hie wisse
The young man came over to the corner

stondan in wincsele, stop feorran to,
Where he knew she stood. He stepped up,

hror hægstealdmon, hof his agen
Eager and agile, lifted his tunic

hrægl hondum up, hrand under gyrdels
With hard hands, thrust through her girdle

hyre stondendre stiþes nathwæt,
Something stiff, worked on the standing

worhte his willan; wagedan buta.
One his will. Both swayed and shook.

þegn onnette, wæs þragum nyt
The young man hurried, was sometimes useful,

tillic esne, teorode hwæþre
Served well, but always tired

æt stunda gehwam strong ær þon hio,
Sooner than she, weary of the work.

werig þæs weorces. Hyre weaxan ongon
Under her girdle began to grow

under gyrdelse þæt oft gode men
A hero's reward for laying on dough.

ferðþum freogað ond mid feo bicgað.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Drove My Chevy to the Levy, Then I Drove the Hell Back

So, I live somewhere along the east coast. As you may have heard, every trickling stream on the east coast became a raging river last week. I am very fortunate that the flooding didn't reach my house, though I was afraid it would. I mean, every other town in the east was under water. A woman I work with was plucked off the roof of her house, for heaven's sake. Being the panicky sort, I filled every big pot I own to the brim with water, just in case. I also tried to think of every possible way to get to the local hospitals, just in case.

The politicians travelled to some of the hardest-hit areas and talked about impending FEMA support. We laughed and laughed when we saw that on the news, lemme tell ya.

For some reason, though, my un-flooded apartment currently smells like wet dog. As I don't own a dog, wet or otherwise, this is a mystery.

How was your week?