Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sometimes presents are presence. You are there.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Later Mrs. Dalloway was the very central character in her own book.

But first she was a character in Virginia Woolf's first novel, "The Voyage Out."

Oh, what a different view.

In "Mrs. Dalloway," we the readers are with her in her own setting, the lovely house, the elegant party, buying flowers to save the maid the trouble and feeling righteous about that. The other main character is far below her in class, and not connected to her at all. She passes him in the park on the day he ends of committing suicide, the day of her party.

The maid who she spares by buying the flowers isn't a meaningful character.

In "The Voyage Out," Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa, and her husband Richard, are characters for a while. They are relating to people related to a man who came up from not too much and is making much money running cargo ships which take some passengers.

In "The Voyage Out," the cargo ship owner is taking connected bits of his family and a family friends on a voyage on one of the ships. There are no other passengers until the Dalloways, who are touring the world because he is out of Parliament for the present, need to make a connection they can't make one regular liners.

They hear about the cargo man's ship and his family voyage and use the British ambassador of a country the ship of touching port at to invite themselves aboard.

They push themselves aboard and look down on everyone on board. I mean, they don't look down on the sailors. They don't need to bother with that. They look down on the family and friends they have wished themselves on.

The astute but very sheltered young daughter and niece of the two families notices that having the Dalloways come aboard is an inconvenience and that her father, the ship owner, likes that the are coming aboard.

Mrs. Dalloway is the daughter of a peer.

In "Mrs. Dalloway," Clarissa is very concerned with imagining as she plans her party how each person at the party might be made happy. On the ship she and her husband have invited themselves on for their own convenience, she does not wonder about other's happiness, or about how the Dalloway's prescence might impact their happiness.

Julie Christie, the actress, said that there were some parts in movies about the British Empire that she didn't accept because the movies as a whole used the people who weren't British as moral props. How the British people treated them showed something about the British people's moral worth, but they were presented as having complex lives of their own.

The families of the ship owner are props for Clarissa Dalloway and her husband in the story of them touring the world and learning things about the world while he, a career politician is out of office. Considered as moral props to rate the quality of the Dalloways, they don't make the Dalloways look to good.

Though in the book, Woolf herself is not using them as moral props only. We know a lot about them. The book is much more about them than the Dalloways. But they show the Dalloways in the light they are not shown in in "Mrs. Dalloway" because they basically don't care about the people they have chosen to sail with. I assume the Dalloways are paying, but the book doesn't say, and I'm not absolutely sure. I'm not sure exactly how much of a privilege the ship owner considers the presence of a peer's daughter and an out-of-office politician to be.

Virginia Stephen and her sister Vanessa Stephen came out in the social sense. They were failures. However one may feel about a process, failing at something you are actually doing is no fun.

Virginia Stephen and Vanessa Stephen moved to their own place after both their parents died and started an alternative gathering place. The Bloomsbury group. Virginia married Leonard Woolf. Vanessa married Clive Bell. Before they became alternative, they tried to be regular.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The whys and the ways can happen in either order.

It can be perfectly clear in coherent words why going that way is the way to go before that way is taken.

Or the why of taking that way can become clear after being on the way for a while.

Good intuition is good. Good intuition is often not wordy, but just a nudge or push into a way. Gotta learn to recognize good intuition like a good friend.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The shape of the city is the shape of the city on the map.

The shape of the city is the shape all the buildings in the city make pushing up into the air.

Also the shape of people moving around in the air, and trees moving around, and cars. The grass sticking up is part of the shape of the city.

The shape of the city is the things underground that are part of the buildings, that make the city work, that were built as part of the city.

The shape of the city is the land going up and down and flat with the buildings and supports and pipes going up and down and flat with the land.

The water in and around the city rippling and running and changing and splashing as people walk on it is part of the shape of the city.

Maybe the lines made by things coming in from other places to support the city are part of the shape of the city.

And the shape of the rooms inside the buildings and the shapes that people make in those rooms are part of the shape of the city.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

There's a mountain in southern Vermont called The Equinox.

Vermont is from the French for green mountain. Vermont borders on a place where people speak French, Quebec. I knew enough to know that Vermont is from green mountain, knew enough French, have seen in person how green the mountains are in summer. But I didn't get it til I read it in an encyclopedia.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A, a, a. In Shakespeare's writing, the letter "a" all by itself can be one of three things.

It can an indefinite article, like it is in English now.

It can mean "he."

It can mean "if."

If you know those are the possibilities, it's easy to tell from context which is which.

However, you have got to know that there are those possibilities.

Much of learning to read Shakespeare is learning stuff like that. When you know it, you know it. It goes to the part of your brain that just knows things and doesn't bother you about it.

The number of thing like that to learn about Shakespeare's language is lots more than one. It is however, not infinite. Struggle, struggle through some plays holding on to the footnotes hard, and your brain begins to pick up the new to you stuff, the old stuff, and you get so you can just read it.

Is it worth it? I think it's worth it for someone who deals with English a lot, for anyone who produces English as part of their job. Once past the barriers, you're in there with someone who is really good with what is basically the same language you're dealing with all the time.

Learning to read Shakespeare is two or three learnings that have to be done at the same time.

Learning the language with is disorientingly different and the same for a current English speaker. Learning what is up with the play that you are actually reading--what is happening and what are the layers of meaning and ugly and beauty that come off what is happening.

My biggest problem when I decided to buckle down and read all of Shakespeare was my inner little kid.

Shakespeare sometimes does verbs a little different. Not really a big different, just a little.

But my inner 2 and 3 and 4 year old was saying, "What!? That is so wrong! I learned how we did that and it's not like that. That's not how we do it!"

This would manifest as intense discomfort with language differences that really aren't a big deal.

The answer, which wasn't always what I practiced, is to comfort the kid. It's great that you learned all that. I'm proud of you. Now we're learning this other way that's a little different and okay. It'll be okay to learn this, even kind of interesting. We learn this and this guy will tell us some interesting stories.

I finally decided to read all of Shakespeare because actors like him so much. He was an actor. John Gielgud, who in the 1930's made Shakespeare plays a money making proposition for the first time in centuries, says he can't believe that the plays were written by a non-actor. Things like the way the giant parts are paced, almost at the limit of what an actor can do physically but not quite. Just enough breaks for the main character to be offstage so it's possible for the actor playing that character to do it night after night. Gielgud just loved the plays and made the accessible to lots more people after a time when they were only don't in fringey theatres by starving, young idealists.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

There was an old drama rule for Greeks that said everything in a tragedy happened within a day. This meant there were many flashbacks--people talking about how we got to this point, the point right before everything resolves painfully.

Shakespeare didn't usually do that.

"A Midsummer's Night Dream," a comedy, not a tragedy comes close to feeling like it happens in a day. An afternoon, a night, and a morning.

We're in the run-up to the king getting married to his queen. She's already a queen--she's queen of the Amazons. (That's interesting and Shakespeare basically doesn't get into it.)

The king invites people in general to make festive happenings around the wedding time. Five guys who work with their hands do so. They are called the mechanics, which at that time meant skilled people who worked with their hands--cobblers, candlemakers and like that.

These guys are not sophisticated. Presumably they have some skill at their jobs, but their approach to putting on play, a tragic play about love, is funny.

We watch them rehearse and have adventures as the midsummer's night goes on. In the end, on the wedding day, they actually put the play on. There lack of sophistication shines. I mean, it's a play within a play in a comedy. Having a tragic love story put on competently would not be good.

As they start to bumble through the play earnestly, some of the more sophisticated watchers start to make fun of them.

The king stops them. He says the very best of this kind of thing is rather silly and the worst is never far from the best if people are really giving it their best shot, as the mechanics clearly are.

The same situation happens in another play of Shakespeare's he wrote earlier. In that one the king has decided to do without women and frivolity and go to the woods with his guy courtiers to study and talk about ideas.

However, a princess and her women attendants show up.

The king who has sworn off women and the father of the princess have a dispute about money. The princess father, another king, is ill, so the princess has showed up to resolve the money issue.

So the princess and female staff and king and male staff are in the woods together.

They float in a very wordy way. It would seem that Shakespeare is making deep felt fun of people who went to university, unlike him, and play narrow word games that only they know the rules of and that have nothing to do with anything but showing off.

Shakespeare shows off with words quite a bit, but he's always doing many other things.

Also in the wood are people who arwho live around there. Some are simple and know it, and some are simple and don't know, not sophisticates. They put on a play. They aren't good at it. There is no one to put in a word for kindness. The audience tears intothe ruralamateurs with verbal brilliance for not being at the urban professional level.

It's a nasty vibe that has little to do with the topic at hand. It is how people get with they are given the opportunity to verbally shoot fish in a barrel and they revel in it.

The play isn't finished. A messenger come from off stage to say the father of the Princess is dead.

Death makes verbal nastiness look as nasty as it is and small.

Everyone shuts up.

So in one case with the not so good players, Shakespeare says, nothing is that great and sincerity counts. In another case he lets the nastiness go on and says we are all in the presence of death. Is this really how we want to spend our time?

A man who was very good with words thinking about the ethics of using that ability against people who were less good. A man who was good a writing about human behavior saying the difference between the best and worst isn't a great as you would like to take comfort in thinking.

The moment in "Love's Labors Lost" where the messenger says, "Madam, your father is dead." is like a gunshot of reality across these shallow smart people games they've been playing the whole time and playing nastily when the play within the play is put in.

Shakespeare's comedy's often have the romance that is to be taken seriously and the silly romance of the unsophisticated. In "A Midsummer Night's Dream," there are two men and two women who all know each other and are having a tough time achieving mutual affection and matched couples. They wander in the woods, are affected by magic, and it's works out pleasantly in the end. They are upper middle class, at the lowest, and we are to take their pain seriously even as we laugh at it.

Then there's Bottom, the mechanic working on the play who thinks he's really smart and isn't. At least one other mechanic is clearly smarter, but they accept his aggressive determine to lead, so other people's smarts don't matter much.

He gets involved in a fight between the fairy king and fairy queen who live in the woods.

He is transformed into a human with an ass's head. The queen of the fairies falls in love with him, enchanted by her ticked off husband.

He looks silly, but he has a great time for a while. A fairy queen can really entertain.

Then morning comes and he's still an ass, but without the asses head, but it was not really a bad experience.

We are never asked to take Bottom's love affair seriously.

Shakespeare says there really isn't that much difference between a play but on well or badly. Same, he implies, with love. The difference between the best and the worst love between humans is not that great so don't look down on anybody.

Friday, March 09, 2007

In the book of Proverbs in the Bible, there are many proverbs.

There is also non-proverb words, which don't exactly cohere into one kind of book. The Book of Proverbs is several kinds of books thrown together. That often happens in the Bible, but usually the throwing together process exudes more care than the Book of Proverbs does.

There are three women, two unnamed and one who is an abstraction who feels like a person.

There is the woman who walks around looking desirable and who causes desire in men and who is sneaky.

There is right at the end of Proverbs the good wife. She has many skills that make the household run smoothly and make it so people in the household have enough to eat and good materials around them.

Archaologists note that the people who weren't Bible people who lived around the Bible people, the Canaanites and others, were more advancted technologically than the Bible people. Writers in the Hebrew Bible are all the time railing against foreign wives. If a woman from another tribe had the skills and experience to make things run more smoothly than one of your tribe members, foreign wives might have appeal.

The rather lovely poem to the skilled wife at the end of the book of Proverbs might be a poem to a foreign wife. It doesn't say so.

The other women, Wisdom, is the named woman and the abstration. She seems real, though I've never met any woman like her.

She runs around in the streets of the town telling people what they are doing right and wrong. Lots of people do that in the Hebrew Bible but they are men. Pretty down in mood also. Wisdom seems to be having an exuberant time, being outside, talking to lots of folks. Her vibes feels like that of a successful singer who enjoys the crowds and the attention.

Wisdom has a staff. A group of younger women who go around with her. The other public critics in the Hebrew Bible who are men are also loners. No way do they have cheery followers with them.

Wisdom could be training through example and maybe through actual training these young women to do what she does--go with big happiness around town telling people have they could improve their game.

But it's odd to think of her training because I never saw or heard of a woman doing that--merrily telling truth to folks, no problems.
I'm in a bad mood, and I'm buying it.

When I'm in a good mood, I know it's a mood.

When I'm in a bad mood, I tend to take every inner growl for truth. Even though I know that I have turned, for the moment, into a growl factory. Still I tend to believe my bad moods far more than my good.

And I get into consistency silliness. Like I was in a grumpy mood twenty minutes ago, and now I'm lots less grumpy. I get so I think I should be consistent with the crummiest mood of the day.

I'm working on it.

A friend smart about little kids notes that they have now consistency problens at all--they can cheer up in a second, or down, and not argue with it.
My name is Anne, and I'm addicted to reading about United States presidential election politics.

There is being a citizen and keeping up. There is having a hobby and entertaining oneself. The amount of time I spend or waste reading about Presidential elections in run-up to same is beyond that.

Long before any actual voter votes, many assumptions are made. The assumptions are used to build many houses of cards which iftencollapse when the voters enter the scene. I read about those houses of cards too much. Even when voting happens, I read about it much more than fits any need or any sane allocation of focus.

Can I cut back? Do I need to go cold turkey, as in twelve stepping?

With the vast time saved by either cutting back or cutting out, I could read "The Story of the Stone," a multi-volume novel I love the beginning of.

The sky needs repair, so a goddess is repairing the sky.

A goddess is repairing the sky and already I'm happy.

She has a big pile of thousands of shimmering, silvery, huge stones cut in rectangles solids to do the repairs with.

When she is done repairing the sky, there is one stone left.

Sad, left out feeling stone.

The stone becomes a human and the novel thousands of pages long is the story of that human.

The novel is also known in English as "The Dream of the Red Chamber." It includes sex, one of the compesations for not being part of the sky.


Since I started aiming to read much less about presidential politics, three crises in the campaigns have happened. People said things that others thought were bad--one candidate, one big donor and one commentator.

I did not read any complete articles about these crises. Huge progress. I got what was said, had my own reaction to it, and didn't read the reactions of pros, and the reactions to the reactions on into the gloom.

I read one long biographical article about a candidate I kind of like but who I didn't know much a bout. That's good. If he is still a candidate when the primary I vote in rolls around, I know some background to think about.

I read one complete article about how one candidate is not at this point having annoucned public evnets, but is only meetings with invitation only crowds of very friendly people.

I should not have read that article. The headline told the story, and it will work out how it works out. Probably can't run a whole campaing like that.

But wouldn't it be fun to try? Only very friendly crowds. People who know I used to be huge and shining, I used to be much harder to hurt than I mere human. People who can just sense I was supposed to be part of the sky.

The Story of the Stone is, I think, on the whole, a novel about usual novel stuff--human relations and their ramifications. Which is why I love that it starts in this whole other way.

"There is so much more to me than this. I really much bigger than these oh-so-human situations I'm moving through.

Now I've got more reading time, and the library still has the novel. I was going to say that the library still has the book, but the novel physically runs to several book. I recently saw an abridged addition, fat and thick and called the other name, "The Dream of the Red Chamber."

It did not start with the goddess repairing the sky, and that is so wrong. It went straight to the human muddle, but we know we were really intended for something above the human muddle. Down here in it, we can only do our best.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The guy is fairly happy painting paintings almost no one in his little town values much and teaching art to middle school students. People in his village who see inside his room see that he has many brushes and paints and paintings but they don't think much about it.

His work is displayed in the captial of his province, and an American sees it and likes it and wants to take the work to American and him to America for a year.

In the train on the way to meet the American in the provincial capital, he thinks about how until now he has lived "like a bush in a wide, open field with plenty of space around him." He lived in parallel to the other world. Now he was going to meet that other world. What would that be like?

You oculd say he gets out-manuveured by the art establishment of the small city. The American certainly gets out-manuveured as she ends up paying to bring three Chinese artists to the US, none of them him, the only one he was originally interested in.

But does he get out-manuevered? He wasn't sure he wanted to go to America, but what he thought had little to do with it once he got to the city.

At one point after he has met and talked to the American and met and talked the the artists and writers of the city, he is ready to go back to his tiny town. The art establishment people make sure the suthorities won't let him go back because his being there with the American interested in him they view as their ticket to visiting American.

In the end, several of them go, and he doesn't

The author clearly thinks he lucked out by going back to being in a large open field He seems to mostly agree. The artist seems to mostly agree. He doesn't get worked out about anything about the whole experience, which he finds interesting and odd.

When he wants to go back to his village because he has students to teach and paintings to work on, one of the artists trying to climb on his back to the US brings him paint and brushes. But he thinks, "How can I paint here?" In the shoddy fancy hotel, the best hotel in the provincial capital.

He knows the Western suit they've gotten him to wear is not a good example of a Western suit. He has an artist's eye. He knows that the hotel's decor is pretentious and odd. He doesn't care much. He doesn't care at all that when he and his would-be patron met in the lobby of the hotel without being introduced, she asked him to carry her bags to his room. He looked around and didn't see and attendant, so he took her bags to her room.

That happened to him more than once with foreigners at that hotel, but he didn't cre much. He didn't wildly believe what the art establishment people had to say either, or base his plans on it.

When they had managed to get their trips to America and managed to get him, unused to alcohol very drunk in front of the American so she didn't like him any more, he got sent back to the village. Which was fine with him, even good. He isn't all worked up about that either.

He'll go back to painting landscapes of land he has been watching all his life, painting pagodas he has watched slowly fall apart and be beautiful. The author thinks that is good, and he probably thinks it's pretty good.

But the last image is of him putting on his old jacket, not the shoddy Western suit anymore, and getting lice from the old jacket. As we leave him, he is on the train home, scratching.

In the open field, if you know how to be yourself, you won't get interrupted by people with fierce, sophisticated idea about what you should do, and you can keep growing as the plant you are. There may be issues about comfort.

--This is about the story "The Other World" from the book "As Long As Nothing Happens, Nothing Will," by Zhang Jie, translated by Gladys Yang, Deborah J. Leonard, and Zhang Andong.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Virginia Woolf wrote "A Room of One's Own," which said, among other things, that to produce art it helps a lot to have a room of one's own and money, which many women throughout history haven't had, which is part of the reason for the relative lack of great women art types.

It's long essay and short book and fairly widely known. It's reached the level where more people refer to it than have read it, but it's good enough, short enough, and surprising enough even if you know that main idea that it is well worth reading.

As is it's sequel. I like the sequel as much as the original, but it's not as well known. For one hting, though the essay may be as good, the title is not. The title of the sequel long essay/short book is "Three Guineas." That title doesn't travel well across time and space.

I wish she had kept her working title for the piece, "On Being Despised."

I can imagine some woman friend of mine in shock and pain and rage for the opening of some daily life abyss that showed how much some institution of person she dealt with all the time truly felt about her as a woman. I can imagaian listening and talking and at the right moment saying, "Did you know Virginia Woolf wrote a book called 'On Being Despised."

It is about how some realaly basic institutions she is involved with despise her as a woman and then cheerily and obliviously expect money from her. It is partly about thinking about elevated junk mail--appeals for funds not mass produced but for a kind of elite. She looks at various expectations of money she gets in the mail and thinks about how the expecters treat women.

I like it. She is more openly enraged than in "A Room of One's Own." Maybe partly because she herself did in fact have a room of her own and some money. The stuff she's ticked about in "Three Guineas" is bigg3er than she herself having a room and grates on her anyway.

Guineas were an elite kind of money that one might write a check for in response to an elite kind of appeal for funds. A pound at the time was 14 shillings and a guinea was one more shilling than that. It did not exist as printed money. It existed as a way to pay obligations if you were part of the elite or dealing with the elite. You wrote a check for guineas and that meant a pound plus a shillings for each guinea.

In "Three Guineas" Woolf thinks aboutu three groups that have written expecting money from her.
Freud provides a kind of escapism by using Oedipus as a word to describe his theory about male children wanting to connect sexually with their mothers and kill their fathers.

Oedipus the King, the play, is about a person with power who knows his is good. He knows he is smart. He assumes everyone else knows he is good and smart, although people with power often don't get full feedback on what people in general think of him

Oedipus's tiny kingdon is in trouble--sick people, sick crops, no children being born.

He starts the play by saying when he find out what is causing this he'll fix it. Which, he implies, will not be a big problem because he's good and smart.

He consults experts and find out what is wrong is him. He has already cursed the person causing all the problems to live out his life in misery. That works. He doesn't live out his life in misery, and not as king.

Oedipus the King can be read as being in large part about smart, self-confident people with power.

The world is so big and so complex, who can be smart? Who can be powerful?

It is easier to associate the name Oedipus with the unconscious motives of very young people rather than the conscious self-confidence of the well-meaning and powerful.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Decameron--the deca- is ten as in decade, as in decimal.

Ten good-looking young people, an equal number of men and women, get together in a mansion and gorgeous garden and beautiful grounds outside of town to tell each other stories. Each of the ten people tells ten stories.

They've left town because the plague is on. In or out of town, a big percentage of them will die.

So they leave town and tell each other stories in a luxurious environment. Many of the stories are about sex. The ones that aren't about sex are often about extreme acts of generosity.

Under thirty folk are often very interested in sex and in extreme acts of generosity. When army recruiters on the phone or religious groups on the street offer opportunities for extreme generosity, X number of late teen and early twenty young people are going to go for it. Sex doesn't need recruiters.

When material about sex was not generally available, The Decameron was a famous dirty book. One of the stories in The Decameron wasn't translated into English until the early twentieth century, four centuries after it was written. The other stories were translated much earlier.

For a long time, the idea of what would be good to assign teenagers in the way of old stories to read would be something short with a simple plot and no sex.


"Julius Caesar" by Shakespeare has only one plot, unusual in Shakespeare and no sex, also unusual. So a teenager would care about this tale of struggles among the ruling clique because of why.

"Silas Marner" by George Eliot used to be a popular assignment. It's short but seems much longer than it is. Silas Marner is a mean miser and opens his heart, sort of, to a orphan child partly because her hair reminds me of gold. A different George Eliot book that is much longer deals with a type of extreme generosity that teenagers are suseptible to--throwing their life away on someone who fits some idea they have a a good person to get who in fact is a drag on a moment to moment year to year basis. Dorothea goes for her idea of a good man, and it's a big mistake.