Archive for December, 2010

December 24th, 2010

Swagger, Brontë-style

I’m watching the 1983 BBC adaptation which is super good, because the actress (Zelah Clarke) totally gets across how Jane is kind of prissy and creepy and sneaky. More on that later, Eyresses, this is just a quick Hair Appreciation Post because CHECK THIS OUT:

a white woman's head from behind. She has brown hair that is pinned up

OK it’s a screen shot so not the best but basically she has the back of her hair up in a bun. And then the front: is STAR TREK. It’s parted in the middle and there is a sweep back like a swag curtain,  but then above that there is a braid swag all on its own. If you just saw it from the side and didn’t know it was hair, it would be some kind of abstract landscape. It is kind of like Jane Eyre saw Yeoman Rand and thought, “How could I incorporate that Star Fleet look into my 19th century nerd life?” and then actually did it. Here is a bigger shot.

Also I am in love with the introduction to the second edition. Charlotte Brontë goes hard at those who mistake the objects of satire:

Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last.

It’s so Wikileaks-appropriate, right? All this damn conflation. Bronte lauds William Thackeray and dedicates this edition to him:

There is a man in our own days whose words are not framed to tickle delicate ears ; who, to my thinking, comes before the great ones of society much as the son of Imlah came before the throned kings of Judah and Israel; and who speaks truth as deep, with a power as prophetlike and as vital—a mien as dauntless aud as daring. Is the satirist of ” Vanity Fair” admired in high places? I cannot tell : but I think if some of those amongst whom he hurls the Greek fire of his sarcasm, and over whom he flashes the levin-brand of his denunciation, were to take his warnings in time, they or their seed might yet escape a fatal Kamoth-Gilead.

Why have I alluded to this man? I have alluded to him, reader, because I think I see in him an intellect profounder and more unique than his contemporaries have yet recognized; because I regard him as the first social regenerator of the day—as the very master of that working corps who woald restore to rectitude the warped system of things; because I think no commentator on his writings has yet found the comparison that suits him, the terms which rightly characterize his talent. They say he is like Fielding ; they talk of his wit, humor, comic powers. He resembles Fielding as an eagle does a vulture. Fielding could stoop on carrion, but Thackeray never does. His wit is bright, his humor attractive; but both bear the same relationship to his serious genius that the mere lambent sheet-lightning playing under the edge of the summer cloud does to the electric death-spark hid in its womb. Finally, I have alluded to Mr. Thackeray because to him—if he will accept the tribute of a total stranger—I have dedicated this second edition of  “Jane Eyre.”

First, who knew that Charlotte Brontë knew so much about lightning? Lambent sheet-lightning and levin-brands. She was writing in 1847, while Vanity Fair was still being published in serial form. After the last installment was published, in 1848, she wrote in a letter to W.S. Williams:

Thackeray is never borne away by his own ardour—he has it under control. His genius obeys him—it is his servant, it works no fantastic changes of its own wild will, it must still achieve the task which reason and sense assign it, and none other.

This also feels very relevant. I had no idea there was this connection between Brontë and Thackeray (I don’t say this as if it is a surprising that there is a gap in my knowledge, because I know very little, just I was surprised to learn it.) It seems that later on they became friends of a sort–-she attended his lectures and visited his home. It’s nice to think about.

December 22nd, 2010

Schrödinger’s Cookies

Every time I get on a subway train, I do an assessment of my fellow travelers in case of an emergency. There are the ones who are obviously going to be hysterical and require some handling. There are others who appear competent and might be good at figuring out how to open the doors if we have to or to jerry rig some kind of comm setup. I know I have my flashlight to contribute to our self-rescue! It’s almost a disappointment when nothing happens.

On  the train this morning there was a guy with a huge box of homemade cookies. The box didn’t have a lid, just clingfilm across the top, so you could see all the cookies–there were at least 5 kinds. And was a huge box! I just made a pretend box with my hands to estimate and then measured my estimation and it was 27 inches across. So it was pretty unwieldy, especially because he was kind of trying to hold it up with just one hand like a waiter, which seemed reckless to me. The subway was crowded and jerky and there were several times I thought he was done for, but he kept it together. Eventually a seat opened up and he plopped into it with visible relief. But then! The train slowed down and came to a halt in the tunnel, because possibly some people were going to get where they were going on time and that is not supposed to happen.

Of course the first thing I thought when the train stopped was, “How long would we have to be stopped in order for this guy to start handing out cookies?” I mean, if you are on a crowded train full of cranky people and you have a huge box of cookies THAT WE CAN SEE (no lid!) and you know that you and your cookies have the power to cheer everyone up and break the tension, you have to do some tough moral calculations. You don’t want to start handing them out right away, because that’s weird, and people might think it was a terrorist plot—stall the cars and hand out poison cookies! Actually I just freaked myself out with what a good plot that would be. Remember during the blackout when people were just handing out water? Madness!

So anyway you want to wait a good chunk of time before handing then out but not so long that you seem like a dick. I mean, I’m sure I’m not the only person who was thinking about the cookies. Pretty soon word would have spread even to the back of the car that there was a huge box of them with us. You would also have to factor in the consequences of having handed them out once we did get off the train. If you were headed to the office, you could arrive with no cookies but with a great story, which is solid gold office currency. But what if you were taking them to a children’s ward at the hospital or to some nice old folks? “Sorry, no cookies, I gave them to my subway friends.” The worst would be if you started handing them out and the train started right then. You’d be stuck, like,  “So now do I  keep handing them out or just awkwardly stop and pretend not to notice the people who didn’t get cookies?” If I was that guy I would have died a thousand deaths, but the train started moving again and I never learned what he might have done.

Then on the way home, I smelled smoke and the car stopped, and then everything turned off. You know how they have one way where they stop but the train is still running, humming and stuff? This was not that. The train was all the way off, although the lights were on. We could hear people outside the train talking to each other and I was kind of excited at the thought that we would possibly be evacuated and get to walk down the train tunnel to safety. A DREAM COME TRUE. PLUS I HAD MY FLASHLIGHT. The announcer came on a few times and said we were being held because of a “smoke situation” on the tracks, which is obviously hilarious, and then finally it started again.

Commuting is fucking exhausting.

December 18th, 2010

When They See Me Wearing Your Pants, They Will Know I’m Cool

Portland, UK!