Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mom's Disappointment

I had to stop at the campus bookstore today.  Mom was with me.  She had a little conversation with the poor student working the register, who presented her with this:

I did point out that it says, "pet" rather than "dog," but Mom noted that it does not say "collar," let alone "kitty."  And then she explained to the poor student that "normal kitties do not walk on leashes!"  When I tried to object that we had a cat that stole my earrings and dropped them into her water dish, which didn't seem all that normal to me, all she said was, "on your poor little head."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Real Conversation with Mom: More Shoe Issues

Mom:  "I thought you said you were going to clean up your room last night!"

Me:  "First, this is my house, and second, I am not thirteen.  They are all my rooms."

Mom:  "Do you want me to slap the shit out of you?  You said you were going to clean up your bedroom."

Me:  "Well, I got part of it done."

Mom:  "This room looks exactly the way it did yesterday.  You didn't clean anything."

Me:  "I started on the west side."

Mom:  "See, I'm going to have to hit you.  All the sides are a mess!"

Me:  "One of the closets is on the west side, and that's where I started.  I reorganized the shoe tree."

Mom:  "And that took you hours?"

Me:  "Well, yes.  First, I took all of the shoes out.  Then I had to search for the windex."

Mom:  "You did not put windex on your shoes!"

Me:  "Of course not.  I used it to clean the shoe tree.  But it took me a while to find it, and then I found the Modern Vampires dvd which I am sending to a friend, and then I had to find something to mail it in and look up her address again because I wanted to get it mailed, but then I got back to the shoe tree and cleaned out all of the little cubbies."

Mom:  "Why are there still three pairs of shoes on the floor?"

Me: "Well, I put the winter shoes on the bottom, and the summer shoes on the top, and then I organized each section by color.  I can't decide whether those are winter or summer, so I couldn't figure out where to put them, and I decided to sleep on it."

Mom:  "My poor baby.  I can't believe I had a baby like you.  I dropped you on your head in the diaper pail, and you have never been normal."

Me:  "Wait a minute..."

Mom:  "On your poor little head.  And now you put spices in alphabetical order and your shoes by color, but that suitcase from your trip to Michigan is still not put away!  It's very very sad."

Me:  "Mom..."

Mom:  "Don't talk to me."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Very Worst Movie Ever

Many years ago, when I was a young semi-naive new member of the faculty at my college, one of my colleagues came up to me at lunch and said, "I need you to take my husband on a date."

I was a wee bit discomfited by this open invitation to sin and perversion.  I'd seen movies about South Carolina, but I had it on good authority that you had to live here at least two decades before you would be invited to the really good parties, let alone the kind where people offered you their spouses.  I believe my response was an articulate "Um?"

It turned out that this colleague's husband, Dennis, who is a frighteningly well-educated and sophisticated person, had an incomprehensible fondness for science fiction movies, even bad ones.  His wife, having no desire to sit through another bad blockbuster, had heard the rumor that I, too, was willing to pay good money to see people blow up aliens.

Thus, a disappointingly sin-free relationship was born. 

Dennis and I--and sometimes other colleagues of our ilk--have seen some pretty bad movies over the last fifteen years.  But the worst one we've been to together is, by far, Dark Shadows.  The fact that we were, literally*, the only two people in the threatre should have been a clue, but we're Ph.D.s, you see, and accustomed to going where no one has wanted to go before.

Sometimes there's a good reason for a road to be less taken.

Later, tucked in with my gin and tonic, I reflected that it could have been worse.  Dark Shadows is very, very bad.  But it is not Modern Vampires.

Modern Vampires is the worst movie ever made.  This is not an opinion.  It is a cold, hard, worse-than-every-single-film-on-Mystery-Science-Theater-3000 fact.  Wikipedia claims that the film recieved "mostly positive reviews," which is why you are not allowed to cite Wikipedia for my courses since clearly they have confused "reviews" with "the opinions of raging morons."

(This is the point where I usually go back and erase what I've written to "moderate my views" so that I don't get threatening e-mails or large intimidating letters  accusing me of libel, so just let me be clear:  I do not know for certain that any specific person or group who enjoyed <shudder> Modern Vampires is actually a moron.  I'm simply using hyperbole which is a legitimate literary device, as is satire, which is what I will claim this is should anyone actually confront me claiming to like <shudder> this movie.  I will also back away slowly and speak in very, very small words while making placating gestures.)

Ways in which Modern Vampires is bad:  bad acting, bad gore-filled-slaughter scenes, bad gore-filled vampire rape scenes, bad dialogue, bad pacing, unknown genre, incomprehensible plot, offensive to all humans ever born or ever yet to be born, even nazis.

(I acknowledge that this summary--excluding the nazi part--might apply to the HBO series True Blood, so let me be even clearer:  True Blood is gory and violent and sometimes badly acted and yet very cool.  Modern Vampires is...not.)

Now, I fully realize that some of you reading this may accept my excoriation of this film as a challenge.  It's happened before.  My friend Amy once claimed that no matter how bad a film is, you can find something redeeming in it.**  Then I showed her Modern Vampires.  She no longer makes such claims.***

How bad could it be?  Oh, dear.  Have you seen WaterworldSuperman IVDark ShadowsHoward the DuckGigli?  Probably not, because most of the people who read this blog are smarter than me, but trust me, all of those films are better than Modern Vampires.

Those films, you see, are just plain bad.  Modern Vampires is irredeemably, stunningly bad.  Plus it's offensive.  Now, someone is thinking, "Oh, well, I loved Blazing Saddles and people are so politically correct now that that movie could never be made and Americans should just chill and laugh at things and maybe I should go see this so-called offensive movie."

No.  You shouldn't.  It's not funny.  In fact, you can't tell, when watching the movie, if it's even supposed to be funny.  I suspect this is the case, but well, if you took a satire of a vampire movie, the film industry and urban gangs and then very carefully removed all of the funny lines, any semblance of a coherent plot, and added lots of gratuitous sex and violence...not the kind that is stimulating or thoughtful or funny or likely to make you pump your fist in joy...then you would have the first half hour of Modern Vampires.

And then it gets worse.

This may be the most astonishing thing about the movie.  Just when you're thinking, "Wow.  This is pretty bad.  And also, incidentally, offensive," it gets worse.  And then, when you're thinking, "Wow, I didn't know that I could even be offended this much. I'm a South Park fan.  And, dude, what's with these accents?" it gets worse than that.

This is the kind of film, in other words, that will make you feel sorry for the dvd case.

Can you imagine the pain of being one of those dvd cases?  Having Modern Vampires emblazoned on you for everyone to see?  Longingly gazing at the Plan 9 from Outer Space dvd case, knowing that at least he'll get invited to the office Christmas party, even if he does lurk behind the rubber plant the whole night.  What a miserable existence.  It's a good thing that dvd cases aren't sentient because humans would have a lot to answer for.

Still, in spite of this rampant abuse of innocent plastic, someone is reading this blog and thinking, "Really, I'll bet she just has a weak stomach or no sense of humor," and to that someone I say:  Fine!  I give up.  I own a copy of Modern Vampires, and I will lend it to you and prove that it is the worst movie ever made.

But you are under no circumstances allowed to give the damn thing back.

*When I say "literally," I mean "There were two people in that theater and no one else."  It's my clue to you that I am not exaggerating.  Probably.
**Or that might have been Amy's ex.  If I got it wrong, I apologize.  I'm pretty sure that memory loss and confusion is one of the symptoms of having watched Modern Vampires.
***Or her ex doesn't.  Whichever.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kittens with Mildly Amusing Captions. Kittens!

There is a popular web site called LOL cats on which people post clever captions for photos of cats.  I like the photos, but do not approve of some of the captions because of the fact that they are spelled in such a way as to make it look as if cats speak in babytalk.  Cats do not speak in babytalk.  They would not replace s with z, either.  Cats have dignity, and the human who does not recognize that fact is soon a very sorry and deeply bleeding human.

Kittens, on the other hand, are another story altogether.   Below you will find a series of photos of my neighbors' new kittens, Lily (the calico) and Mick (the orange kitty).  They are so damned adorable that it makes me want to hurl.

"What are we going to do today, Lily?"
"The same thing we do every day, Mick.  Try to take over the world!"

"It's an awfully big world, Lily."
"Nothing good comes easy, Mick."

"Do you think this is my best side?"
"You're killin' me here, Mick."

"Sigh.  It's hard being this good-looking."

"If we scale this curtain, we can leap upon the human and force her to do our bidding!"
"Hey, this is an interesting part of me.  I'd better lick it."

"I don't know what you're pointing at me human, but I plan to kill it."

"My claws are sharp and my fur is sleek.  This pillow doesn't stand a chance."

"Kill!  Kill the lace! Ha-ha-ha-ha-hah!"

"I'm sure its tail is removable.  Eventually."

"I just can't deal with all of her drama.  I'm out of here."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Blu-ray Player is Messing with Me

Okay, so I'm going to post a Part III about Kalamazoo.  Eventually.  So if I took your photo there and haven't posted it, please don't come after me.  I just sort of got some of the photos stuck on the iCloud and can't get them off.  I think. 

Anyway, I've been struggling with my blu-ray player for the last two hours, and I'm pretty frustrated and also sneezing like crazy due to allergies (due to not dusting my blu-ray player, evidently), so I'm not in the right mental state to tackle the iCloud.  Also, I just watched The Big Sleep for the fifty-seventh time. 

My Blu-Ray Player Takes a Dive
 (intended to be read in a fake Bogart accent)

10:33pm:  It's a pleasant evening in this dark, suburban neighborhood, but not everyone is sleeping comfortably.  Having failed, once again, to brew a sleeping draught on Pottermore, I decide that I need some inspiration. 

10:35pm:  I belt my robe firmly and approach the Bookshelf of DVDs.  Yeah, it has a few blu-rays, but we're still pretty old school at this establishment.  On the right night, in the glow of the nightlight, you might even catch a glimpse of a VHS tape slouching in its worn case, dreaming about better days.

10:38pm:  There it is.  It wasn't a great television series.  Only lasted one season.  Still, it suits my mood.  After a workshop on diversity during the day, a night's pleasure with the first tv series to feature an African American superhero is right up my alley.  I pull M.A.N.T.I.S. off the shelf and pour us both a nice tall glass of raspberry iced tea.  No sugar. 

10:42pm:  The pillows are fluffed, the alarm is set, and it's time to get lost in the adventures of Ocean City's finest.  I grab the remote and press the power button.  Nothing happens.

10:43pm:  I press the button again.  No dice.

10:45pm:  Time to pull the plug.  Apparently, this cheap blu-ray player gets lost in its own mixed signals.  Happens to me too after a long committee meeting.  A lights-out move will reset it most of the time, so I bite the bullet and pull out the cord.

10:46pm:  Stick the plug back in firmly, no screwing around.  The blue lights on the front of the bum machine flicker to life, and I give a grunt of satisfaction.  I like talk; words are my business.  But sometimes a gal has to speak with her fists.  I grab the remote.

10:48pm:  Before I can hit the open button, it's lights out again.  The power button brings no joy.  Nada.  I'm pretty sure I've got a stiff on my hands, and while I own the shovel to bury the body out back, the deceased's got disc two of Witchblade stuck in its maw, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let it go to the hereafter holding on to what's mine.

10:52pm:  Internet.  Sure, it's a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but where else am I gonna get tech advice this time of night?  I open the google and start my search for an expert.  And I'm not bothering with background checks, if you take my meaning.

11:04pm:  Cyberspace is littered with dicks.  No, I don't mean penises, but private dicks like myself, searching for one solid lead to save their stuck dvds.  I'm not the worst off, either.  I can hear the voices of the truly desperate, those poor schmucks whose kids have jammed peanut butter sandwiches into top of line machines.  Yeah, I could have it worse, alright, me with my cheap blu ray player and bad sf programs.  I wish I could say it makes me feel grateful, but it just makes me long for that iced tea.

11:21pm:  About to give up, I finally hit gold:  on-line instructions for using a paperclip to get the player to open.  I try not to get too excited.

11:25pm: Set back.  There are no paperclips in this joint.  Not one.  I try an earring, a pen and a flattened straw before I realize I'm barking up the wrong tree.  Time to try something else.

11:30pm:  I send a message to the manufacturer.  Naturally, it's not the kind with a 24-hour help line.  I get a receipt telling me I should get a response within 48 hours.  Too late to help this headache.  I wonder for a minute what it must be like to be able to afford paid tech support, but my imagination's just not that good.  The gin and tonic takes the edge off, but I'm still superhero-less on a Wednesday night.  It starts to rain.

11:40pm:  I'm getting used to disappointment, and I e-mail Kim...you'll remember Kim, right?  She made me start this blog, but she's a good kid in spite of that...anyway, as I was sayin', I e-mail Kim because she has one hell of a media set up at her place.  Real classy.  Rosemary's Baby never looked so good.  I don't figure I'll get any help tonight, but maybe she can set me on the path of a better machine.  If I can come up with dough, of course.

11:52pm:  I figure I'll give it one more shot.  Sleep don't come easy on nights like this, so there's not much to lose.  I pull the plug again and get ready to be disappointed.

11:55pm:  Here goes nothin.  I reconnect the cord, watch for the lights, and aim the remote, hoping against hope things don't go sideways this time.  The lights flicker off, and I use language I learned from my dear sweet mother.  Nope, not please or thank you; mama's a gem, but not everything she taught me's appropriate for mixed company.

11:57pm:  The lights suddenly come on again, and I grab the remote like its the last set of bluebooks during finals week.  I punch it, and the drawer slides open.  I don't know what happened or why, but that's not important right now.  M.A.N.T.I.S. awaits, and my tea is getting warm. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lying Liars and Their Shoes

So Mom has been bugging me to do a post on my shoes because I have, shall we say, an excessive collection of footwear.  But one of my friends told me not to post about shoes because I'd either lose all of my male readers, or confirm their stereotypes about women, or both.

And that got me thinking about men and shoes, and that made me angry.  Miffed.  Put out.

Because, well, because if you mention shoes to some of the many men that I have dated, worked with or just sat next to on an airplane, 96.4% of them say the following:  "I don't get it.  I have a pair of black shoes and a pair of brown shoes.  Who needs more than that?"

And to that I say:  YOU LIE!  You are all lying liars who lie!

You don't believe me?  Okay, the next time someone of the masculine persuasion says that to you, immediately stand up...dramatically, okay?  With a sweeping gesture that is unconcerned about knocking over glasses or lamps...stand up, point your figure accusingly and announce, "You lie!  Take me to your house/apartment/condo/parents' basement right this minute!"

And 86.7% of the time, your male companion will hurriedly pay for the coffee/meal/shot and hold the door as you march him out toward the vehicles.  He's not used to this kind of behavior, even if he's the type of guy who actually plans to use deception to get you to his house/apartment/condo/parents' basement, and he'll be particularly disturbed by the looks he gets if you're in public when you make your dramatic announcement.

When you get to the domicile in question, head for the master bedroom (if there is one), fling open his closet door (if there is one), and announce "Aha!  What are these?  Black shoes, check!  Brown shoes, check!  And what do we have here?  A third pair of shoes, mayhap?  Explain!"

The guy, having overcome his disappointment that you headed for the closet instead of the bed (unless he's a relative, gay or really frightened), will say dismissively, "Those don't count.  They're not shoes; they're flipflops."

Not so!  Are flipflops worn on the feet?  Do you wear them in public?  (Unfortunately, if he's under sixty, the answer to that is "yes" no matter how stinky, ugly and inappropriate they are.)  If they don't count as shoes, then none of my dozen pair of sandals count either, Mr. Smug!

Then, you may gesture again, and say, "And what do I see here?  A fourth pair of shoes?!  Is this how you do your taxes?  Cutting your estimates in half?!  People go to prison for that, Mister!"

At which point, now somewhat abashed, he will say, "Well, those are just running shoes."

Running shoes.  He has them, even if he doesn't run.  In fact, 64% of the time, he has more than one pair, and 23% of the time, he has three or more pairs of athletic shoes, in different colors and styles, and yet he will still tell you that he only has two pairs of shoes.

And do you see a gym bag in that closet?  Does he have a garage?  Do you know what you're going to find?  That's right:  cleats.  Golf cleats.  And baseball or soccer cleats.  If he's a certain age, you might even find bowling shoes.  And weird rubbery things that go over shoes  that he will still insist are not actually shoes, but since they change the color and water resistant qualities of shoes, they at least count as half a pair of shoes.  And work boots.  77% of American men own a pair of work boots, 63% have more than one pair. 

Then there are the boat shoes and / or the horrible crocs.  Possibly snow boots or ski boots or hunting boots or rainboots.

Do you all see what I mean?  Now, don't get me wrong.  I have an excessive number of shoes.  It's a weakness, a problem.  But at least I own up to it.  I don't go around trying to make 50% of the population feel guilty by claiming to have only two pairs of shoes because no one could possibly need more than that, all the while knowing that I have double, triple or quadruple that number shoes in my house/apartment/condo/parents' basement right that very minute.

Liars.  Evil, smug liars.

Except, of course, the one in 354 men in the United States who really do have only two pairs of shoes.  By choice, I mean.  But before they get all condescending about it, ask them this:  just how many ball caps do you own, buddy?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In Honor of Bernie Dunlap...

Me:  "Mom, I have bad news."

Mom:  "Please don't tell me that that Glee show is on for another hour."

Me:  "Well, yes, as a matter of fact it is.  But that's not what I was going to tell you."

Mom:  "What did you break?"

Me:  "Nothing.  Well, I think I broke the soap dispenser at school today, but that's not what I was going to tell you."

Mom:  "Did you tell your aunt that movers charge by the hour?"

Me:  "What?  Which aunt?"

Mom:  "You know which aunt.  And you're in big trouble with your other aunt if you did."

Me:  "I have no idea what you're talking about, and I also deny it completely.  Listen.  This is important."

Mom:  "What?"

Me:  "Bernie has announced his retirement."

Mom:  "What?!  My Bernie?  He cannot retire!"

Me:  "Well, not until 2013, and he says he's going to come back..."

Mom:  "You will text him right now!"

Me:  "I don't have his cell phone number."

Mom:  "You will e-mail him right now!  And you will tell him that he cannot retire until I have those Wofford kitty collars, and that's final!  He's just doing this to try to escape his duty to get me those collars."

Me:  "You do realize that you're completely insane, right?  Millennium hand and shrimp insane."

Mom:  "You heard me.  Don't make me repeat myself."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Kalamazoo, Part 2: Food and Drink

It's drizzling listlessly on this chilly Sunday morning...oh, hell, I'm sitting in the Detroit airport.  It's not really necessary to give any of the details to conjure the appropriate mood.  It's the airport.  In Detroit.

My plane landed here very early this morning, so I had time to get breakfast, but, alas, I got raised eyebrows when I ordered a pizza bagel.  How dare you judge me, bagel shop worker!  I've been up since 4:30am; this is lunch for me.

In any case, I have time to post about another important part of the Kalamazoo experience:  food and drink.  Now before you start making assumptions, let me stop you:  medievalists do not eat medieval food.  No, no, no.  Everyone who ever ate that stuff is dead now, and we're not in any hurry to join them.  Nor do we go to fake banquets where people charge exorbitant prices to make you  eat chunks of meat with your fingers.  That Medieval Times place?  I hate to break it to you all, but it's not medieval.

No, what we like to do at Kalamazoo is buy cheap meals on campus for lunch (and for breakfast for those few lost souls who actually get up that early), pour massive amounts of coffee down our throats all day, then switch to the boxed chablis between 5 and 6pm, and then descend upon the restaurants of the city for dinner.

On Wednesday or Thursday night, the tradition is to go to a pizza place called Bilbo's.  Yes, like the hobbit.  They make amazing wheat crust and serve lovely local beer and ale, and the Tolkien theme is merely a coincidence, I swear.  I recommend the Radagast, by the way.

Other favorites include Hunan Garden and Ouzo's, but one night this week my dear friends, Michelle and Susannah, took me to a middle eastern restaurant that I will not name, not because the food wasn't spectacular, but because, well, I'm kind of embarrassed.

You see, I have this problem.  I've had it since I was a small child.  I'm a drink-stealer.  I know, I know.  You thought I was a better person than that, didn't you?  Well, you were wrong.  Many's the time that an unregarded cup of coffee has gone missing to the chagrin of my friends, family and colleagues (and mine too if they've done the unmentionable and adulterated their coffee with <shudder> sugar.  Bleh).  Beer has been known to, um, evaporate once in a while too.

I knew that, someday, this terrible habit would bite me in the posterior.  Friday night, it did.

Michelle ordered something called a Turkish mocha, which looks like this:

Now, seriously, how can you resist that?  I couldn't, and when she just left it there forever (okay, five or ten minutes), well, I drained the damn glass.  It was absolutely delicious.

Five minutes later I couldn't breathe.  My eyes started to swell closed, I rushed to the bathroom to spew my meal out while hives started to appear in unfortunate places.  We left quickly, getting in a cab and heading out on a quest for the miracle elixer alchemists call benedryl.  The culprit?  Cardamom, which I had never had before.  Go ahead and google cardamom allergies if you dare. 

Meanwhile, back in the cab where I was probably dying, this whole thing had struck me as hysterical, and I kept trying to explain to my friends that I was going to be fine after the elixer and a hot shower, and yes we were too still going to make it to the 9pm open bar, and do you know what my beloved sister medievalists did?  If you guessed, "Made fun of how you pronounced the word blanket while your throat was swelling closed and then recorded your ramblings on a smart phone in the cab for future amusement," well, you are strangely insightful, gentle reader, for that is exactly what they did. 

Plus, they giggled.

I suppose it was appropriate.  After all, if I had died in that cab, my last words, however mangled, would have been preserved for future generations of medievalists to hear, probably in horror, but possibly in amusement.  And Michelle and Susannah would have felt really bad about it, which makes me feel really warm and loved.

No, I'm not joking.  I love the fact that they would be haunted by me dying as the three of us giggled our asses off in a cab.   Serves them right for tempting me with that damn drink in the first place.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Kalamazoo, Part 1: Books

Imagine, if you will, that you have a love of, say, chocolate.  Let's say that it's your passion.  Not only do you enjoy eating it, but you enjoy discovering new varieties, creating new recipes and researching its chemistry and history.  Now, suppose that no one you know in your daily life gives a flying frak about chocolate; they nod dismissively when you begin to declaim about its smooth texture and silky sweetness, and sooner rather than later, they start checking the time and edging away.  Oh, you have an on-line community of chocolate connoisseurs with whom to exchange ideas, and every once in a while you can inspire a young person to discover the joys of chocolate, but most of the time, you're all alone in your passion, abandoned in a world blind and deaf to true beauty.

Except for one weekend of the year.  On that weekend, you are surrounded by others who share your passion, who revel in it, debate it, promote it, who really understand what it means to love chocolate.  For medievalists, that's Kalamazoo.

The 47th International Congress of Medieval Studies, which 4000 medievalists attend annually on the campus of Western Michigan University, is about to wrap up.  We have, as a group, listened to some truly insightful, occasionally brilliant, papers; participated in round-tables, made plans for further research and publication, and complained about the boxed wine.  Most of all, we've shared our passion for all things medieval.

And then there are the books.

At Kalamazoo, an entire cafeteria is transformed for one weekend into a giant exhibit of books about the middle ages (with a few random volumes about the ancient or renaissance eras).  Publishers from around the world bring their latest offerings, and...and this is the amazing part...some used bookstores show up as well.  With discounted books.  Steeply discounted books.  All of which are about medieval studies.  Thousands of books, as far as the eye can see, all about the middle ages!

There are more books than bookshelves, and some of us crawl on the floor, searching for that rare and desired volume of lore.  And do you think these are boring books?  Nay, for we are medievalists!

We read about everything in the middle ages, even cooking with animal testicles.  Moreover, we write about these matters, as well.

Here is my friend Kat Tracy from Longwood University, with her book on Torture and Brutality in the middle ages.  No, she is not a criminal with a creepy obsession!  She is a scholar!

(The difference, in case you're wondering, is that we are poorer and less likely to do prison time.)

Look how happy buying these books makes a medievalist!  My friend Bob Yeager is ready to burst his tweed jacket with joy:

But woe! woe, I tell you, unto those who try to part us from our books!

The booksellers are our dear friends, feeding our passions at a reasonable discount.  Here is Tom, of Scholar's Choice books, one of my very favorite stores:

And here are the jelly beans that Scholar's Choice brings every single year!

What more could a hungry medievalist ask for?  Books and free jelly beans!  It's frakkin' beautiful, people, beautiful.

Of course, there are a few non-book items available for purchase as well:

Books!  Music!  Weapons!  Add to that digitalized manuscripts and audio recordings and well, it's a wonder that we don't all die of an overdose of delight before we get our first glass of that boxed chablis.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Medievalists Are Not

A week from now, darling readers, I'll be at Kalamazoo.  Note that I didn't say in Kalamazoo, which would indicate a trip to that fair city, but at Kalamazoo which is shorthand for attending the International Medieval Congress at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  And, frankly, this time of year, a medievalist is more likely to simply write, "Are you ready for K'zoo?" or "Damn, I can't wait to get to the 'Zoo!"

Next week, perhaps, I will write of this excessively delightful congress, but it has occurred to me that you, my beloved readers, may need to know what a medievalist actually is before you will understand next week's shenanigans.

Briefly, a medievalist is a scholar who studies the period of history loosely defined as between the years 450 and 1485 CE ("CE" means "Common Era" and has completely failed to replace "AD" in common usage, but in this, as in so many other areas of my life, I have chosen to act uncommonly).

You would think, precious readers, that the above definition would be very simple to understand.  You would be wrong.  There are a great many misconceptions about what a medievalist is and does, so I, dearest readers, am going to set you straight.


What a Medievalist Is Not:
A Helpful Guide from Me to You
  1. A medievalist does not need a dungeon master.  A few medievalists may have had one, or even been one, long ago in some adolescent basement or dorm room, but most of us have left such childish games behind in exchange for committee meetings.  Besides, I always die on level 4.
  2. A medievalist does not study (exclusively) Shakespeare.  At least not as a primary subject.  We may teach the Bard upon occasion, and there are a few medievalist/renaissance scholars (which is rather like being a model/actress), but Shakespeare is from another period altogether and did not write in Old English.  No, he didn't write in Middle English either.
  3. A medievalist does not dress up in costume on weekends and pretend to be knight or a lady.  Those are the good folks from the Society of Creative Anachronism and similar groups.  Medievalists as a rule don't participate partly because we are far too cool to waste our weekends in this manner, but mostly because we can't stop saying things like, "Why is everyone here a cleric or a nobleman?  Where are all of the peasants?  An agrarian community would starve to death like this, and incidentally, there is no actual evidence of the use of the chastity belt."
  4. Medievalists don't go to Medieval Times either.  Please stop inviting us.  It's like inviting an anchorite to a mega-church revival. 
  5. A medievalist does not "wish you had lived back then" because we know damn well that most of us would have died in infancy and many of the rest would, given our personalities, have been executed for heresy. 
  6. Most medievalists are not fantasy writers. Yes, J.R.R. Tolkien was one of us. Yes, there are some of us who write novels, but we are as likely to write detective fiction or poetry as multi-volume quests to defeat the Great Evil Force infesting a fictional world.  We do approve of those maps, though.  Very nice.
  7. Finally, medievalists are not these guys:
That's a professor of religion and a professor of mathematics.  Just in case you forget who the real weirdos are.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Especially for Steve Robertson

Me:  "Mom, I've had several requests for autographed photos of you."

Mom:  "What?"

Me:  "You are very popular on my blog.  People want your photo."

Mom:  "Why?"

Me:  "Because of all of the cool things you say."

Mom:  "That does not seem right.  No."

Me:  "Please?  I can take a photo, and you can sign it, then we can scan it onto the blog."

Mom:  "No.  NO!  I do not want that."

Me:  "What if I take a photo of the kitties and you sign that?"

Mom:  "Will they be wearing their new Wofford cat collars?"

Me:  "No.  Please give it a rest with the cat collars."

Mom:  "Then you cannot take a picture of me." [pause]  "But you can put up an old picture of me when I was young and hot.  Hotter, anyway."

Me:  "Done!"

So, here you go, Steve Robertson et al. Free for downloading (as long as you don't use it to make money that you then fail to give to Mom), a photo of Mom!

The Effect of this Blog on My Life (So Far)

In about an hour, I'm going to be participating in a roundtable discussion on academic blogging.  Oh, stop laughing!  This blog is...well, no, this blog is in no way academic.  I'm an academic, though, and apparently that was good enough to get me a seat at the table with Mark Byrnes, Erin Templeton and George Williams, all of whom do write academic blogs and damn fine ones.

Anyway, I had to figure out something to say about a topic on which I know practically nothing (not a new situation for me, I assure you), and that prodded me into reflecting on what, if anything, this blog has accomplished over the four months of its cyberlife.

Here, for your edification, are my conclusions:

The Effect of this Blog on My Life (So Far)
  1. I have been able to claim to be working on the blog while reading Tom and Lorenzo's fabulous fashion reviews sixteen times.
  2. My cousin Bekah has found a new way to make snarky comments about our family.  Not that she needed one.
  3. Six people are following me, and I can't count them as stalkers.
  4. I have found something to post to facebook that is not about grading, killing evil invasive plants or shared from George Takei.
  5. I found out that too few people in my life have enough respect for George Takei.
  6. My mother's popularity on campus has now extended into cyberspace where I receive daily pleas for more conversations with her.  Today, someone asked if she'd sign a photo.
  7. Three students whom I don't know have come to my office to meet Xena, The Warrior Chicken.
  8. I have been able to claim to be working on the blog while reading Television Without Pity eight times.
  9. I have been able to claim to be grading papers while working on this blog twelve times (sorry, Mom).
  10. My neighbors across the street (who have not yet appeared in this blog, but I assure you, it's going to happen) have made me question their taste due to the completely over-the-top enthusiasm they have for this blog.  Really, guys, you should try The Bloggess.
  11. And, finally, I have managed to find an appropriate forum for saying many of the things that have gotten me into trouble in other venues.  My mother--and probably my employer--are greatly relieved.