Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Transparent Eyeball

Standing on the bare ground,- my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space,- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.
- Emerson, "Nature"

Monday, 30 March 2009

Free at last

Blossoms outside St. Mary's, Oxford.

These days I wake up in the morning and feel slightly at a loss. I hung around the MCR all day on Saturday because I didn't know what to do with myself. Do you suffer from post-stress fall out? I tend to happier when I am run off my feet, provided that I'm run off my feet doing something interesting, challenging, and meaningful (all three of which describe my studies perfectly). Now that Hilary Term has wrapped itself up (in the pages of my poorly written essays and slightly disastrous exam), I am footloose and falling over myself.

What to do when I have all the time in the world?

Thursday afternoon I met friends for lunch, drank at the pub, and shopped. Friday I went to London and met my friend for lunch, then we shopped and drank tea and gorged on beautiful Italian savoury breads. We skipped out on opera though we had tickets, because there's just no Culture in us. Saturday I bummed around and saw a gig (the talented Orkestra del Sol) in the evening. Sunday I spent bumming around some more.

Now it's Monday. I've cleaned my room (somewhat). I went to the library and picked up some reading for my thesis (though I haven't read them yet). I posted a parcel that was an urgent request. I knitted quite a lot (that April Showers scarf will soon be complete!). Now I am waiting to meet up with a friend for coffee.

I tend to divide my life into two kinds of times: on stage and off stage. On stage is when I am geared up and doing things, run off my feet, being myself - so busy I don't have time to think. Off stage is when the curtains are down, when I take the time to cook, go for a hair cut (which I still need to do), read books, make things etc. I tend to imagine it as myself, sitting backstage alone when the audience have gone, mending costumes and repainting the set-pieces that are my life. Preparing for the next show, the following act, the ensuing challenge(s).

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Ubi sunt

So I'm listening to the Winter Solstice Mix (2007), and wondering where the good times went.

Be well, my friend. You are in my thoughts.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


Last term my feedback was quite detailed. It's freaked me out a bit. Every thing I write now I wonder what my reader/examiner will think/say on my feedback.

It felt like my paper was being autopsied.


Well, luckily this c-paper is definitely dead.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009


So 12 hours was simply too optimistic of an estimate. On Sunday night I was writing till 5 am, in bed at 6 am, and up again at 8 am. I handed in at 11, and spent the rest of the day enjoying myself (albeit in a kind of stupor). I did try to sleep but my body-clock wouldn't let me ('What? It's DAY time. DAY. Shouldn't you be working or something?'). I went and did the rounds at charity shops in town instead. Good haul too.

Now it's back to the grind. I've got the Chaucer paper due on Thursday. But this one is much more under control and I like what I've done. It won't be so well rounded and widely researched as my paper from Michaelmas Term, because there just isn't time, but at least I have an ARGUMENT!


Sunday, 22 March 2009


Today is devoted to salvaging my b-essay, the one on digitisation. I have to tell you, this one died in labour. I've never ever written something which I've hated so much. I resent it as a piece of writing because I feel falsely represented: honestly, I'm not that stupid. I can write. I've produced decent bits here and there that I've been proud of.

So, channelling Liz Lochhead: 'you've got the cut and cut and cut / Rewrite.'

Let's see if we can breath some life into this baby. I'll be back in 12 hours.

It's official...

I've just started going out with someone.
His name is St. Augustine. We hang out in the library every day. He's rad. I love him.
If you want to meet him, pick up a copy of his book, Confessions. He'll totally blow your mind.

Oh, and I know he doesn't look very happy here.
But he is, really.

Saturday, 21 March 2009


In the library, Geoff and I like to sit next to James Thurber.

Thursday, 19 March 2009


I have a draft for my b-essay. Finally. I got the bloody thing the wrong way around, spent so much time and words on working out the things that aren't central to my argument. I'm sorry now that I enjoyed playing around with those ideas so much. For the first time in a long while I have produced a piece of work that I am emphatically not proud of. I may have to give it in without being able to improve it much, as the c deadline now looks much, much closer than it should.

On the plus side I've never had so much practice at working under pressure. I've not really panicked since that memorable day about 2 weeks ago. I think I hit the panic button so hard that day it broke.

Another lesson learned is that you've got to be ruthless with writing - or it'll take over like some kind of choke-weed and strangle the life out of your words, honestly.

So today's mantra is this...which brings me back right to first year at Edinburgh Uni, and the lessons I should have learned.

A Giveaway
I cancelled out the lines that most let on
I loved you. One week after I thought that it was done
and perfect, practically in print – here goes again
more of this that amateurs think of as tampering.
The tripe that's talked at times, honestly –
about truth and not altering a word,
being faithful to what you felt, whatever
that is, the 'First Thought's Felicity'.
I have to laugh… the truth!
You and me and no reason
for me to imagine I know the half of it.
I've said it time and time again,
listen, you've got to be ruthless,
if the rhythm's not right, it's not right
it’s simple
you've got to cut and cut and cut.

Today's fair copy skips the scored out bit.
And all the better for it. That verse
set in the bedroom spoilt the form
And was never the issue anyway. Irrelevant
At any rate I’ve gone to town on it all right
with black biro, blocked it out – hay
fever sneeze spill and kiss are all
the words even I can make out of it now.
Never could cancel with a single stroke!
Oh maybe it is a giveaway but don’t
please be naïve enough to think I’d mind
your knowing what I might invent of what I feel.
Poets don’t bare their souls, they bare their skill.
God, all this
long apprenticeship and still
I can't handle it, can't
make anything much of it, that’s my shame.
It's not an easy theme.
But finally I've scrubbed it, faced it, I know
the whole bloody stanza was wonky from the word go.
- Liz Lochhead

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

It's a good day for...

This is what I would rather be doing:

Won't someone take me dancing?

Monday, 16 March 2009

You can't do/be everything

'After St Jerome translated the Old Testament in the fourth century, the need to know Hebrew as a sacred language grew weaker. This happened to Greek as well. A typical example of this cultural lack is given by St Augustine, a man of vast culture, and the most important exponent of Christian thought at the end of the empire. The Christian revelation is founded on an Old Testament written in Hewbrew and a New Testament written, for the most part, in Greek. St Augustine, however, knew no Hebrew; and his knowledge of Greek was, to say the least, patchy (c.f. Marrou 1958). This amounts to a somewhat paradoxical situation: the man who set himself the task of interpreting scripture in order to discover the true meaning of the divine word can read it only in a Latin translation. THe notion that he ought to consult the Hebrew original never really seems to have entered Augustine's mind. He did not entirely trust the Jews, nurturing a suspicion that, in their versions, they might have erased all references to the coming of Christ. The only critical procedure he would allow was that of comparing translations in order to find the most likely version. In this way, St Augustine, though the father of hermeneutics, was certainly not destined to become the father of philology' (14).

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language. London: Fontana Press, 1997.

I give...

Want to see what I look at half an hour to midnight on a Sunday, in the Keble Library?

The other day I came to the realization that what I actually want to write is a book, not a 7,000 word paper. lol. I carried on as though I hadn't noticed that all my ideas won't possibly fit. Now I've given up. I've cut the section about why I think de-centred texts and de-linearity is misleading. I've cut out loads of technical stuff which are so much fun, and so fascinating.

Oh well, it was great fun thinking about it enough to have produced at least twice the amount that I've been asked to do.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Good morning, Sunday. You are beautiful.

(I don't have a camera, so I can't show you a picture of today.
Here's one of me from the black tie dinner.
I know it's not really the same...)

I'm sitting at my usual seat on the ground floor of the Keble Library. The window is open and fresh air sweeps through these musty stacks. Today is a beautiful day. I wish I were outside, walking a dog. I don't have a dog, and I don't have any time - but if I had both, I would walk my dog in the university parks, stop on a bench and drink a cup of tea, knit, and then visit charity shops before going home to cook all afternoon.

I would make lots of pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes, with a healthy dose of garlic & chillies, and put them into jars. I would bake a week's worth of cumin bread, and an apple crumble. Then I would do laundry, and hang them up to dry. I would invite friends over for dinner. We would light candles, eat bread, and pasta with fresh basil & parmesan. We'd listen to music, like 'When I go' by Bret Dennen, or 'New Romantic' by Laura Marling. We would drink wine, and devour the crumble too. When we're all a bit tipsy, we'd go out for a walk, and the moon would be bright. I would send them on their way with a jar of pasta sauce each. Then I would go home, and sing songs while doing dishes.

But instead, I am going to spend all day and all evening working on my digitisation paper. Do you think the examiners will be able to read my state of mind in the words I write? Will they smell bread baking, or see my dog run?

I hope you are doing what you would like to be doing on this beautiful day.

Continual challenges

For now I will only say that Margaret's surname was not Dyngham but Byngham. Bloody hell. At least I knew that her son's name was Raff and not Jaff.

Notice that while others wore a red carnation to their exam, I wore a fake rose with a blue eyeball in the middle.

Keep plowing!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Rock on!

Creative Commons is such an amazing concept that it blows my mind. But just now when I was looking at their website I found something that's even MORE cool.

Taiwan and Mainland China are listed separately in their Completed Licenses jurisdictions!

Fuck yeah. Totally made my day. I LOVE my work because it puts me onto so many cool things. (Thank you, medieval literature, thank you, Oxford.)

I've included a video about Creative Commons, which is really, really, really interesting. You should watch it.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Things for which I will always make time

... include friends, food, and maybe even poetry. I used to copy out poems in little bits of paper and post them up nearest to where I work at home. When I get discouraged by the tepidness of my own writing I stop and read a few lines, then a few more - until I remember again why it is that I do the things I do and am the person I am.

In Toronto, the public transport system had a series of 'Poetry on the Way.' I copied this one down in my notebook whilst on a train. Unfortunately I can't attest to the line division, but I would like to share it with you anyway.

image via Crafty Pod

I hope you have mornings like this.


You are still young. Someone curled an arm around
you as you slept, and upon waking gently
touched your face. The first sound you heard
today was a bird, a note of origin, before traffic.
It's been years since you thought the morning
kind. Someone curled an arm around you
as you slept, and in the afternoon readied a
hand toward you that you held, simply.
A note of origin, before traffic. Words you'd left behind rose
like birds to all they keep unto themselves.
This is mine. Upon waking to that first sound,
someone gently touched my face. This afternoon
I took his hand, simply, and reached across
the words I'd left behind. I'm still young.
It's been years since I thought the morning kind.

-Karen Solie

Now I must return to grappling with my essay.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Think of flying

Via Utata

Just now, it's 9:15 p.m. and I am in the Keble library. I think I will be here till 11 at least. These days I wake up in the morning and immediately think of how much I really must get done today. Bob says I whinge whinge whinge all day. I would like to contradict him, though I'm afraid it's true. But I'm not the type of person to say 'I'm fine thanks,' just out of politeness/habit, when folk ask me how I am. The result is that they tend to get an earful of stressed outpourings.

So here's to a little bit of slacking which makes life worth living again - and to beautiful photographs which takes me some place else. Not that I don't like working on my paper or being at Keble - I love both (I just wish I had more time!).

The endurance of low tech

When I need to remember something, I write it down on my hand (or my trusty little notebook, from which I frequently tear out pages to scribble on).

Thursday, 5 March 2009


As you may already know the standard signature to all my email reads:

Read my blog. I am very interesting.

(illustration supplied by J.H.G, and acknowledged with gratitude)

Today I sent two requests to medievalist listservs, soliciting participants for my survey, and also requesting suggestions for further reading on the subject of digitisation and medieval studies. A professor I don't know emailed to say that if I wanted academics to respond to my request, I should remove this signature.

I know that it is slightly unusual to sign my academic related emails thus. I know that it is also slightly unusual for someone to have the same email address for their personal and their academic correspondences. So far I have not encountered any problems in this respect. I have had academics (two of them) approach me and say that they enjoyed my blog. I am sure there are some who don't think it's appropriate but have never said anything. For this reason I am appreciative of the fact that a stranger took the time to remind me of the possible implications of my signature.

So I guess my question is - is it an acceptable thing to do? Why yes, and why no?

For myself, I like to think that it is not necessary to divide up my personality into my personal side and my academic side. My academic studies is not so much my work but an on-going love affair not only with the subject but with the people involved (occasionally a tumultuous relationship) - perhaps for these reasons (unarticulated until now), it has never occurred to me that I should maintain a 'professional' personae.

Though I am willing to concede that for others the standards and expectations are different - and that my penchant for mixing the two may occasionally misrepresent me to other academics. If you are reading this and you have an opinion either way, please feel free to leave me a comment. I'd be most interested in knowing your thoughts on the issue.

Yours sincerely,



I have received a reply from the professor in question and it transpires that she was offended by the presence of the term 'dick jokes' in my previous blog post, 'The significance of the thing...'.

I feel that I must justify my use of the term. My main interest is in late medieval Scottish 'low' comedy, especially the writings of William Dunbar, and in particular, The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy. As you may already know, Dunbar, as well as being a poet who could compose 'high' style verse dedicated to the Virgin, was also fluent (and I would argue, obviously took delight in) 'dick jokes.' One of my favourites occurs in The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo, 'Bot soft and soupill as the silk is his sary lume' (96).

I hope that taken in context, one would find the term 'dick joke' slightly less abrasive. My actual blog post reads (how strange it feels to quote myself!): 'The good thing is that I'm dealing (once again) with sign theory. At least it's a subject which interests me (though not as much as laughter and dick jokes, bless)' - by which I meant that I am currently putting my dissertation on the flyting on the back burner, and working on a paper on semiosis in the Middle Ages, and on my paper on digitisation. Hence 'dick jokes' comes with 'laughter,' i.e. Dunbar's 'low' comedy.

Of course instead of 'dick jokes' I could have chosen a slightly more delicate term, such as 'low humour.' However, I must firstly admit that I am, in circumstances of personal interaction, known mainly for my forwardness in discussing sexual matters and/or bodily functions, and for the coarseness of my language. I am sure many of my academic peers have found it fitting that I should be drawn to Scottish flytings. If my coarseness offends you, I can only offer my apologies because it was certainly not my intent. If further justification is required, then I would cite the fact that I feel on intimate enough terms with my academic interest that it seems natural to refer to it with the same degree of flippancy as that which is exhibited by the text itself.

One last thing: I don't actually think I am 'very' interesting. I think I'm probably pretty average in most respects, perhaps except my penchant for coarse language. The reason why I have 'Read my blog. I am very interesting' in my signature is because I thought it would be funny (obviously some may disagree). After all, putting my blog address there at all is a bit of shameless self-promotion, so why not go all the way? In reality it's probably meant to be read as an example of my sense of humour which is far from universal.