Thursday, March 29, 2012

A glimpse into my subconscious

The imaginative boundaries of my dreams surely inform the limits of my subconscious. Or perhaps my imagination.

I recently had a dream that I was frantically running to get to a final exam on time. This was understandably stressful. Dream obstacles -- crowds obstructing my path, me forgetting about the exam until it was about to begin, not studying in preparation -- delayed me. This dream was clearly an expression of a long-fostered Student Examination Anxiety.

Unlike many such dreams, I did eventually make it to the exam! And then in the dream I sat down at my seat, with my tiny fold-out desk, and started to take the exam. My subconscious, author of the dream, permitted me to read just a few words on the exam before falling asleep in my dream. (How tired do you have to be to sleep in a dream?!) Then I woke up in my dream, in the exam, to the announcement that there were only five minutes remaining. Dream panic! I had not even written my name on the test booklet yet!

Determined to answer something in the remaining time, I resolved to read just... one... paragraph... of the exam. But lo! -- and behold! -- once more, my subconscious refused to author the exam, and I found my dream-self staring out the window and daydreaming.

That's right. Not only did I sleep in this dream, I daydreamed in this dream.

I awoke just as they were collecting my completely empty exam booklet, at Maximum Student Panic Stress Level 1: Total Frenzy (Red Alert).

Dream lesson the first: there are some things so boring that even my subconscious refuses to supply them.

In another dream, I was setting up a skateboard ramp with some alligator-people. Aliens, of course. The entire situation was so absurd that I realized I must be dreaming. Still asleep, I tried to do typical lucid dream actions. My stubborn subconscious refused to let me fly, or teleport, or breathe underwater. I awoke resentful of my own brain.

Dream lesson the second: there are some things so awesome that my subconscious refuses to supply them.

This post's theme word is nutate, "to nod the head," or "to oscillate while rotating (as an astronomical body)," or "to move in a curving or circular fashion (as a plant stem, leaf, etc.)." I nutated my sheets while dreaming about the skateboard contest.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Converting shirts into a rug

I am extremely averse to hoards, and with every move I become more resentful of my own possessions. They take up so much volume! And weight! The 100-things-challenge holds a certain horrifying fascination for me, although of course a properly-appointed kitchen (1) is necessary for life, and (2) contains more than 100 things.

This post documents another attempt to disgorge myself of excess possessions. In this instance, t-shirts.

Everyone, everywhere, including probably hermits, has some free t-shirts obtained by participation in a group activity. I had some in rather vibrant colors.
Reckoning that even t-shirts are useful for something, I used by new cutting mat and rotary cutter to render these shirts into a rather coarse "yarn."
Around the sleeves and neck, my cutting became more uneven and improvised, but I managed to unwind the entire shirt into yarn about an inch wide.

Then I watched about 20 minutes of how-to-crochet videos on YouTube. (Huzzah for the internet, and those who are strangely compelled to explain their skills to webcams!) With only a few adjustments and the biggest crochet hook I could find at Lettuce Knit, I embarked...
I tried a slightly complicated thing, because I enjoy challenges. Note the several strands of mock-yarn coming off my t-shirt-vortex. (I also chose a very forgiving circulish shape.)The completed spiral ingratiates itself to passing feet with its quaint homemade lumpiness and curiously soft spring. The colors work fine together, and I am five t-shirts the poorer and one little rug happier.

This post's theme word is grawlix, "a spiral-shaped graphic or string of typographical symbols used to indicate swearing in comic strips." The grawlix of expired t-shirts on the floor murmurs an ominous warning to those hiding in the rear of the closet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Regarding the weather

Dear Toronto,

I know it's been awhile since we last spoke, and I blame myself: I've been too busy to set aside time for you. And trust me, I feel your resentment: I felt it all through this dreary, muddy, lukewarm, snow-free winter. And whether it is a personal vendetta against me or simply the effects of global climate change, I want you to know this: this weather is absurd.

I moved to Canada from cold, snowy parts of a country south of here. Part of the allure was the northerly climate (and the degree program and the health care). My first winter here did not disappoint, and I found myself crutching through blizzards. What delight! What rapture! What single-minded focus, what visceral experiences the weather induces, merely to move about in the extreme cold!

And yet this recent so-called "winter" had none of these characteristics. I have coped by reading and rereading wintry books (like Antarctica and The Left Hand of Darkness), and attempting to ski on what paltry manmade stuff is at hand. I never had to use my most serious winter clothing.

And now, at the very beginning of spring, we've had a series of consistently 60F+ days. The equinox was just yesterday. Were you so impatient for spring that you rushed into it immediately after autumn?

I've only ever seen equally capricious seasons in film. As a joke.

Please. My body is still expecting freezing temperatures and windburn and frostbite. This afternoon it was 70F and I felt like reverse-hibernating (a.k.a. "moving to New Zealand"). Please do not rush headlong into summer, and its punishing heat and humidity, without dwelling a bit longer on winter. Don't give up so soon, and so easily.

I'm holding out for April snow. You've had it in reserve all these months.

Your resident (who carried her skis home in a tank top and sandals today),

This post's theme words are fann, an Orkney word for "snowdrift," and skutch, "a slight snowfall." We are famished for fanns, and skiing season suffers serious skutch scarcity.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Gelatinous ball of goo baby

I dreamed last night that I came across A. and his (dream) wife and their (dream) newborn baby sitting on a park bench. (In a dream park. In my dream.) So of course I went over and said hello and introduced myself to the wife and met the baby. And as I was looking at the baby, I realized something was wrong... it was shaped funny... too round... no legs... no face... it was actually a gelatinous ball of goo in a onesie. Yikes!

I tried to tactfully bring this up in conversation with A. (After nearly dropping the baby in surprise and revulsion.) He replied, "My wife was pregnant, and went into labor, and this is what came out! ... so it's our baby, and we're raising it."

I told A. about this after I woke up, and he said (in a reasonable tone), "It's growing! We just keep feeding it."

This post's theme word is: emuction, "to blow your nose" or really "to empty any bodily passage." Yuck, what emuction!

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Handmaid's Tale

The short story ILU-486 by Amanda Ching is an upsetting look into the possible near-future, if the government legislates what women can do with their bodies. It made me feel angry and powerless and angry again. Many of the comments likened it to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, so I went and read that book.

I do not think the comparison is apt. While both stories consider dystopic futures where women are socially subjugated and deprived of agency, their tones are completely different. ILU-486 is angry and eager to fight, while the narrator of The Handmaid's Tale is quite passive and calm. She even seems dull and stupid -- and constantly entreats herself not to think, not to follow those very narratively interesting avenues -- until we see her play Scrabble, and thus evidence that she is actually quite bright. Sure, a military coup of biblically-minded, chauvinistic, hypocritical men has reorganized society, but she remains quite calm about it. She's even calm through her several considerations of how to commit suicide and how to escape. The story simply doesn't read as inflammatory, just faintly depressing and unrealistic. Its final note, an even further-future academic discussion of the historical setting of The Handmaid's Tale, is unnecessarily redeeming. Perhaps Margaret Atwood felt the need to explain that future society eventually tended away from this unpleasant arrangement?

The Handmaid's Tale falls into a category for which English has inadequate tenses. It is written in the past about the future, which is still our future. It has not aged well -- the premise seems entirely unlikely now. Modern writers must devise near-future scenarios which cope with the fact that the internet and cell phone networks and other digital, instant communication could easily undermine the initial stages of a developing dystopia. This is the point that ILU-486 gets correct: it feels possible. We see characters fighting against legislation, we see many different systems of subverting legal control of private wombs.

I'm not sure I'd recommend either piece. The Handmaid's Tale is a piece of science fiction canon, but dull and flat emotionally. ILU-486 is angering; it provides an argument for legal contraception, should you have any friends who need convincing, but is frustratingly negative for people already convinced.

This post's theme word is soubrette, "a maidservant or lady's maid in a play or an opera, especially one who displays coquetry and engages in intrigue," or "a young woman regarded as flirtatious," or "a soprano who sings supporting roles in comic opera." Does the opera adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale feature a soubrette, in any sense?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Alas! Edward Norton

Apparently, at some point in the past, Marvel figured out that they could get more mileage (money) from their fan base by recombining existing superheroes into a superhero gang. Thus did Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, and some other incidental characters included for franchise convenience, combine forces to become The Avengers in 1963. I am not a comic book aficionado, so now I willfully elide and ignore the vast, rich intervening history of Marvel fandom and the Avengers. And now, nearly fifty years later, this sad and wrung-out merchandising ploy is being resurrected as a live-action film by the unimaginative executives of today.

Thus do we arrive at The Avengers movie.

A universe in which the extremely scientific and engineering-centric Tony Stark coincides with the Norse god Thor who has magical hammer powers makes no meaningful, consistent sense. (Mjöllnir!) I continuously wondered throughout this trailer whether the super-science field would cancel the super-mythological field and render them both as pitifully over-muscled, emotionally immature men. Shouting at each other in a giant crater of their own inability to come to terms with life.

All this absurdity could be overlooked, but for one fact: Edward Norton is no longer the Hulk. I am appalled and disappointed; I enjoyed [mocking] Edward Norton-as-the-Hulk's origin movie, and Edward Norton is a favorite of mine. Now there's some other guy playing the Hulk, and he is frankly much less Edward-Norton-ish than I'd prefer.

This post's theme word is snite, "to blow your nose." I snite at you, you so-called Arthur King, you and all your silly reboots of franchise movies!