12 May 2001
Douglas Adams died. That's not supposed to happen. He was 49. In his BBC obit they had a terrible picture of characters from the Hitchhiker's Guide TV series. On the train Tuesday, we were talking about all watching that series. After all, I've owned it for a few years and never seen it; seems like a pity. But it also seems like a good group experience, so not today.
I liked The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul best, but then, I've always been fond of Norse gods. They make more sense to me than the other kinds. I've heard people describe the Greek gods as a big dysfunctional family. Sure, but they're someone else's big dysfunctional family. Whereas I can look around at a family reunion and see where the Norse gods came from.
This is one reason the Not The Moose Book is working so well for me: the cultures involved are all more or less comprehensible. The cultural symbols mesh well with the ones that are just mine. It's a good framework for me. I think it's only partly the ScanAm ethnic culture, and partly it's living in Minnesota. What's scary? Not forests. Forests, up there, are pretty normal. Winter is what's scary. The high, far-off places where the cold winds whip around you. That's scary. And you see in Scandinavian myths that the sorcerer god, Ull, is associated with snowshoes, with winter sports and the uplands, with Skade the ski goddess (originally a frost giant's daughter). And then it's the Sami who are reputed to be magicians who can control the winds. Even in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Sami, the north people, still had some of that reputation. Why? Because that's where the danger is, that's where the need for survival is strongest, so that's where the magic is. Further south, the forests were the most dark and dangerous thing around, and so you see a lot of Wild Wood imagery. Not so much up north.
Contrary to the common American conception, most of the Scandinavian peninsula doesn't get that cold in the winter. It's up in the mountains and the stuff clear up in Lappland that's the problem. It gets "that cold" compared to California, sure, but compared to Siberia or Alaska or even northern Minnesota, it's practically balmy. It seems like a lot of Americans think that ScanAms moved to Minnesota because it reminded us so much of home. In my folks' Scandinavian Humor And Other Myths, there are two pictures, one of a Minnesota county road and one of a fjord. The caption reads, "Which one is Norway? Which is Minnesota? Was it hard telling the difference?"
Of course, "not that cold" is probably like "not that tall." After I went to Gustavus, someone who's 6'4" can be "not that tall," and 0 F can be "not that cold." Minnesotans are sort of locally famous (I love that phrase! Locally famous!) for being understated, stoics: "Not too bad" is a common evaluation among middle aged folks. But maybe it's just that there's more range of things like "cold" and "tall," so what sounds like it's being understated is just reserving the superlatives for things that deserve them.
On a totally non-Norse note (like that alliteration?), I finished reading Driftglass and 334 yesterday. (Also A Short History of Finland, but that was on the Norse note, above.) I will have to send enthusiastic e-mail to the person who recommended Driftglass. It was excellent. We need to find a copy somewhere and buy it. (The copy I read was from the library.) 334 did nothing to restore my benevolent attitude towards Thomas Disch. "The future sucks, and so do all the people in it." You know, if I wanted to read that, I could buy myself a Norman Spinrad novel. That way I'd at least have more amusing bad sex scenes to laugh at, and he might actually do something interesting with the idea of media. Also, there might be one redeeming character, who of course would get stomped, but still. It's something. So I guess the moral of the story is: thanks to Delany for restoring my faith in the New Wave, at least a little bit.
I'm feeling better, sort of. I'm still going to arrange to go see Dr. Bill, if he's not off in Sri Lanka somewhere. But I managed to sleep all the way through last night. Oooooh. If we're feeling better (Timprov's back problems have been giving him fits as well), we may head up to Berkeley tonight, but we may not be able to make it.
You know what I hate about Microsoft Word, wherein I'm typing this document? If I type "may," it immediately pops up "May 12, 2001" in a little box. That's annoying enough. But if I type "novel," it starts to pop up "November" for me. And if I type "decent," "December" shows up. I have a question. How hard is it to learn to spell the months? There are only twelve of them. We shouldn't need prompts. Not even for February. If handed a sheet of paper and pen, one should be able to correctly list all of the months in one's native language. This is not too much to ask. I know I'm an elitist snob and a tool of the man and all of that, but months. Does it also do this for "Sunday"? It does. It does not trust me to spell days of the week.
This is such a sad commentary I can't believe it.
I know, I know, I could use emacs or something else. But sometimes I like being able to see exactly what I've done to my document. I like LaTeX (note the internal capital, people -- it makes a difference), but it's just a pain sometimes, and now that I'm not writing things with a lot of internal equations, well, it's not worth it.
Was that too meta? Oh well.
Does it strike anybody else as coincidental that a lot of the door-lock noises on flashier car systems sound like giant, amplified squeak-toys? Say anything about the people who need those for their cars? Yeah, I thought so.
I'm going to take some more Advil. Have a good day.
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