Thursday, 30 April 2009

Everyone has a 'not me' - even dogs.

So the other night I came across this webcomic and fell in love with it immediately. Here's one of my favourites, which conveniently kind of continues my theme of 'not me' and how ridiculous 'not me' is. I hope you enjoy it.

[from Copper]

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

I would rather...

Today is a glorious day. I left my bike in town last night so I walked in along Iffley road with the sun on my back.

I am in the English Faculty Library now, reading Foucault's 'Preface to Transgression.'

I would rather be naked in the sea.

Yesterday I made a list of scientists and philosophers who are sexy. Richard Feynman tops that list. Derrida and Barthes run closely second. They are all fairly good looking chaps (Feynman especially, in my opinion) - but being super intelligent helps. It's not that I'm trying to be a snob - but I would find it very difficult to be attracted to someone who I didn't find intelligent.

It's a shame that all three of them are well past their use-by date, so to speak. Maybe I will run into them in another life.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Euphemisms Galore

Euphemisms and Verbal Play: Figures, Metaphors, Flippancies and Remodellings

Her scotches, long and slender
Reached to her kingdom come,
Her hobsons, low and husky
Made my newingtons go numb.

I took her for some Lillian Gish
Down at the chippy caff.
We squeezed into my jam-jar
And drove back to my gaff.

She then began removing
Her full-length almond rock,
Revealing size nine how-de-do's
Which gave me quite a shock.

And with a sexy butchers
She murmured 'I'm all yours.'
SHe then took of her fly-be's
ANd dropped her early doors.
(From 'Cockney's Lament' by Ronnie Barker)

scotch (peg) = leg
kingdom come = bum, fanny
hobson's (choice) = voice
newington (butts) = guts
Lillian Gish = fish
jam-jar = car
almond rock = sock/frock
how-de-do's = shoes
butchers (hook) = look
fly-be(-nights) = tights, pantyhose
early doors = drawers, underpants

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Go away, I don't like you.

I know myself well enough to know when I'm in a mood. I used to get seriously depressed, and at one point contemplated suicide. I say contemplated because I don't think that it was in me, really - but that's the crazy thing about depression. It makes me think what would otherwise be unthinkable to me, because depression is made up of all those things that really aren't me. Do you know what I mean? It feels like going to a party with the wrong dress on - something that really isn't my style. Well, depression really isn't my style either, but it's not like a dress I could just slip off. (God, the thought of having to wear the wrong dress to a party is itself pretty depressing).

Rather than a dress, my depression and negativity always manifests itself as a person in my head - the person I emphatically don't want to be - my non-self. This person has the ability to interpret everything in a negative light. If I text a friend and they don't get back to me, it's not because my friend is in a meeting or cycling down the street, but because my friend actually hates me. If I have just finished having coffee with someone, and am cycling away, this person in my head begins to analyse everything that was said (and more importantly, unsaid) - and tries to make me believe that the entire event was a disaster, that I have fucked everything up in a fundamental way (and that my friend hates me). The theme which begins to emerge is: everyone hates me.

I could go into speculations about why such is the case, i.e. why I sometimes get depressed, and why my depression chooses to manifest itself in this form - but to be honest I'm not actually very interested in that at this particular moment.

Thing is, tonight I had dinner with two of my very good friends. We cooked together, ate a hearty meal, drank wine, and laughed a lot. But when I left them this person came on stage and tried to ruin it all. I then met up with another friend and enjoyed myself just fine. But, by the time that I was half way home my non-self was once again carrying on and on in her own negative downward-spiral, and I was sick of it.

So I decided to acknowledge her existence. Hello, my non-self. Let's get something straight here: my friends don't hate me. You hate me. Go away. I don't like you. I am not the person you want me to be, and I will never be the person you want me to be. So you can fuck right off.

Taking a step back I realize that the situation is the same whether I choose to read it positively or negatively. Stray to far in either direction and there is a problem. However, if I were to err, I would rather be unfailingly positive rather than unfailingly negative - and really, the choice is mine.

This reminds me of my first year of undergraduate studies in Edinburgh, when I hit the lowest point that I have ever been in my life. I remember being unhappy, and getting drunk, and therefore becoming even more unhappy. I remember waking up in bed one night, in that uncomfortable stage between drunk and hung-over, and stumbling into my kitchen to find my flatmate speaking to an upstairs neighbour, in the middle of the night. I remember them asking me if I was ok. I remember breaking down in front of them, standing in front of the kitchen sink trying to fill my glass of water. I remember them taking me and putting me back into bed. I remember lying there crying uncontrollably as they tried to comfort me.

I remember listening to my non-self, and believing the nasty things she says. I remember being so frustrated at all the bad things in my head that I fantasized about taking a drill to my temple and finally having the satisfaction of spilling it all out. I remember deciding that I won't commit suicide because it can only have 3 possible outcomes (I die and there is an afterlife, in which case I'd probably be fucked because most religions don't condone suicide; I die and there is no afterlife, which I'd be ok with; and, I don't manage to kill myself and end up being a nuisance to everyone who has to find me, take me to the hospital, and look after me etc.), 2 of which are undesirable (options 1 and 3), thus making it a bad investment in time and energy. I remember staring out at the street lights in the night, in the rain, with my forehead against the cold glass of the window, and feeling despair well up inside me and tears pouring down my cheeks.

I don't want to go back there.

Do you know Walt Whitman's Song of Myself? In some of my lowest moments I used to read a passage of it over and over because it seemed to speak to me.

Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and
city I live in, or the nation,
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss
or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news,
the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself.

Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,
Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.

Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with
linguists and contenders,
I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.

It made me want to be that distanced, calm observer of my own life, amused, complacent, compassionate, idle, unitary, who could listen to the voice of my non-self and know that the theme 'everyone hates me' is merely the
real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love. I wanted to believe that these things - my depression, my past, the world around me, are not the Me myself. I wanted to believe that there is someone inside me who is inalienably Me - who has the integrity to stand unaffected by uncontrollable external factors, feelings of guilt, bouts of doubt, and even moments of elation. I know that you will have read Song of Myself differently - and I confess that I know next to nothing about Walt Whitman - but this is how it made sense to me at the time (and now).

So it seems that things will be ok.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

I have a scheme

I am here today my friends to tell you there is hope
As high as that mountain may seem
I must tell you
I have a dream
And my friends
There is a tunnel at the end of the light.
And beyond that tunnel I see a future
I see a time
When angry white men
Will sit down with angry black women
And talk about the weather,
Black employers will display notice-boards proclaiming,
‘Me nu care wea yu come from yu know
So long as yu can do a good day’s work, dat cool wid me.’

I see a time
When words like affirmative action
Will have sexual connotations
And black people all over this blessed country of ours
Will play golf,
Yes my friends that time is coming
And in that time
Afro-Caribbean and Asian youth
Will spend big money on English takeaways
And all police officers will be armed
With a dumplin,
I see a time
A time when the President of the United States of America will stand up and say,
‘I inhaled
And it did kinda nice
So rewind and cum again.’
Immigration officers will just check that you are all right
And all black people will speak Welsh.

I may not get there my friends
But I have seen that time
I see thousands of muscular black men on Hampstead Heath walking their poodles
And hundreds of black female Formula 1 drivers
Racing around Birmingham in pursuit of a truly British way of life.
I have a dream
That one day from all the churches of this land we will hear the sound of that great old
English spiritual,
Here we go, Here we go, Here we go.
One day all great songs will be made that way.

I am here today my friends to tell you
That the time is coming
When all people, regardless of colour or class,
will have at least one Barry Manilow record
And vending-machines throughout the continent of Europe
Will flow with sour sap and sugarcane juice,
For it is written in the great book of multiculturalism
That the curry will blend with the shepherd’s pie and the Afro hairstyle will return.

Le me hear you say
Let me hear you say
Roti, Roti
A women.

The time is coming
I may not get there with you
But I have seen that time,
And as an Equal Opportunities poet
It pleases me
To give you this opportunity
To share my vision of hope
And I just hope you can cope
With a future as black as this.

- Benjamin Zephaniah, Propa Propaganda

(hear this performed here)

Friday, 17 April 2009

Edge of my seat

It's not very often that I come across a sci-fi film that I really want to see. In fact, I've been known to react very badly to some sci-fi (hello, Serenity). But when I saw this trailer I was quite excited. So, who wants to go see this when it comes out?

Sunday, 12 April 2009

A definition of puritanism

Puritanism: 'the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.'
- H.L. Mencken

Hi Dan

Some thoughts on our regular Sunday evening MCR movie night. We need a throne of blood.

Definitely not back on track.

Give up the struggle, perhaps. A whole day's hanging around the MCR. Brunch at 11, lunch at 2, dinner at 8. Hmm...

Came home at 11, and made some bookmarks. (random or what?)

Man oh man... is there no discipline in me?

Friday, 10 April 2009

Back on track?

I've been struggling to get myself into the right head-space for a few days now. Ever since the deadlines passed things have been kind of adrift. Not bad, just floating. I've done a few things which are productive, which makes me feel good (I finished knitting the April Showers scarf!) - but left with time on my hands I just end up thinking to much.

Which does me no good at all.

There is a difference between thinking about a problem constructively and coming to terms with it or solving it - and dwelling needlessly on this that or the other. Also there are times when someone who is emphatically not who I am starts voicing negative opinions in my head. That's when I find myself talking to myself while walking dully along and I think it's a bad sign.

So today I am back in the Keble Library. A book which I ordered for my dissertation work arrived and I dipped into it a little just now (I love the idea of 'dipping' into a book, like slipping toes into the water's edge when sitting on a pier), and it's really well written and stimulating. The book in question is Seven Words You Can't Say on Television (read a review here), by Steven Pinker - published by Penguin 2008 (actually an extract from The Stuff of Thought).

Now I am going to go and take some notes while reading this - and think about our mini in-house conference in week 3 of Trinity term, where all of us MSt students are going to give a short paper on our research.

I look forward to swearing profusely, with impunity.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Monday, 6 April 2009

For mathematicians, and others as well

Binary Heart (via xkcd)

The Offer of the Clarendon Trustees

"Accommodated: That is, when a man is, as they say, accommodated: or when a man is--being--whereby--he may be thought to be accommodated; which is an excellent thing."

Dear Senior Censor:

In a desultory conversation on a point connected with the dinner at our high table, you incidentally remarked to me that lobster-sauce, "though a necessary adjunct to turbot, was not entirely wholesome."

It is entirely unwholesome. I never ask for it without reluctance: I never take a second spoonful without a feeling of apprehension on the subject of possible nightmare. This naturally brings me to the subject of Mathematics, and of the accommodation provided by the University for carrying on the calculations necessary in that important branch of Science.

As Members of Convocations are called upon (whether personally, or, as is less exasperating, by letter) to consider the offer of the Clarendon Trustees, as well as every other subject of human, or inhuman, interest, capable of consideration, it has occurred to me to suggest for your consideration how desirable roofed buildings are for carrying on mathematical calculations: in fact, the variable character of the weather in Oxford renders it highly inexpedient to attempt much occupation, of a sedentary nature, in the open air.

Again it is often impossible for students to carry on accurate mathematical calculations in close contiguity to one another, owing to their mutual interference, and a tendency to general conversation: consequently these processes require different rooms in which irrepressible conversationalists, who are found to occur in every branch of Society, might be carefully and permanently fixed.

It may be sufficient for the present to enumerate the following requisites: others might be added as funds permitted.

  1. A very large room for calculating Greatest Common Measure. To this a small one might be attached for Least Common Multiple: this however, might be dispensed with.
  2. A piece of open ground for keeping Roots and practising their extraction: it would be advisable to keep Square Roots by themselves, as their corners are apt to damage others.
  3. A room for reducing Fractions to their Lowest Terms. This should be provided with a cellar for keeping the Lowest Terms when found, which might also be available to the general body of undergraduates, for the purpose of "keeping Terms".
  4. A large room, which might be darkened, and fitted up with a magic lantern, for the purpose of exhibiting Circulating Decimals in the act of circulation. This might also contain cupboards, fitted with glass-doors, for keeping the various Scales of Notation.
  5. A narrow strip of ground, railed off and carefully leveled, for investigating the properties of Asymptotes, and testing practically whether Parallel Lives meet or not: for this purpose it should reach, to use the expressive language of Euclid, "ever so far".

This last process, of "continually producing the Lines", may require centuries or more: but such a period, though long in the life of an individual, is as nothing in the life of the University.

As Photography is now very much employed in recording human expressions, and might possibly be adapted to Algebraical Expressions, a small photographic room would be desirable, both for general use and for representing the various phenomena of Gravity, Disturbance of Equilibrium, Resolution, etc., which affect the features during severe mathematical operations.

May I trust that you will give your immediate attention to this most important subject?

Believe me.

Sincerely yours,

February 6, 1868.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Ticking off the list

When I was busy I had these plans of what I would do when I have time - but take away the deadline and all of a sudden I feel as though I've lost my momentum.

I find myself sitting at the kitchen table, with lots of things I could do, but nothing seems to urgently need doing. So I continue to sit there. Eventually I feel as though something is missing and it makes me unhappy.

At times like this I need to give myself a swift kick up the backside and pull myself together.

So one of the things I had wanted to do while I was busy (ever since the debate concerning 'dick jokes' on my blog) is to put up a new blog banner. I'm really no great shakes at graphic design, so I tend to stick to things that are quite basic. I changed my tag-line, for the first time ever. As much as I loved 'The Pseudopod - my foot', I thought the new tag-line may give unsuspecting medievalists (hello? is that you?) fair warning re: possibiliy of encountering dick jokes on my blog.

So, here it is. What do you think?