Sharp Objects

2 October 2001

Speculon is up! Go read it. It's got very many things you will like. And only one of them is written by me, a book review. Of course, you've heard some of the names here before -- Mary Anne and Heather both have poems this issue, and Karina wrote the other review. But there are many other poems and stories, so go! Read! Enjoy!

(And feel sorry for Timprov: @ Home messed up Karina's ability to send her review and then messed up his ability to get Speculon pages posted. Stupid @ Home.)

So I started my initial packing phase yesterday, which was: "remove sharp objects." I clipped my nails and removed my fingernail clipper from my purse. I took my Leatherman out of my backpack. That hurt. That thing has gone nearly everywhere with me since my dad gave it to me, and it's been useful on many, many occasions. I've used every tool on that thing, I think -- you never know when you're going to need a wire-stripper. (Heather from Minnesota, in Electronics lab: "Oh, come on, you'd strip if you loved me!") But now they're afraid I'll use my wire-stripper for evil, not for good, so out it comes. But that's not the worst of it.

At my birthday party, Jed gave me book darts. For those of you unfamiliar with book darts, they are little thin pieces of copper or brass or something around that color. They were originally strips with one pointy end and one blunt end, but the strips have been folded flat, so that there's one folded closed end and then the other end has a point and a flat bit. And you can put them on the page of your book, with the pointy bit pointing at the line you want. This works just fine as a regular bookmark, but where the book dart really shines is when I'm reading for research but don't want to put the book down and pick up my pen and journal to make notes every two minutes. I can then simply note the lines/passages I need with a book dart and proceed, transferring the information later. This is particularly useful, oh, I don't know, say, when you're flying coach, and juggling a book and a journal is a little trickier than it might otherwise have been.

But note the adjectives. They're sharp. They're metal. And they're probably pretty conductive. So while airport security might not take them away from me, I could do a lot more damage with them than with a fingernail clipper. So home they stay, just when I need them.

(I will say that I have friends -- at least two of the people I'll see in the next week, possibly more -- who can do a lot more damage with their bare hands than your average person could do with a book dart or a fingernail clipper. Or even a box cutter. But "are you a badass?" is not one of the security questions. Yet.)

So I'm reading Tales Arab Women Tell from the library. It was in the same section as other stuff I wanted to read, and I thought it would be interesting to see a collection of folktales entirely from "the underdog" perspective -- from women in a pretty patriarchal culture. One of the things that makes it interesting is that the author has taken as one of his main theses the idea that the brother-sister relationship is central to Arab cultures. The Oedipal relationship, he says, is overapplied by Westerners and really has no bearing on Arab family interactions. And he has a ton of folktales that seem to support that thesis. The thing is -- I think the Oedipal Complex is overstated in some analyses anyway, and it gets boring. Fine. So now this guy is overstating the Brother-Sister Syndrome, as he calls it, and it's getting a little boring, and I think he's overdoing it. I don't think there's ever just one relationship that can explain a culture in a nutshell.

It does interest me, though, to try to deal with this idea, that the brother-sister relationship is central, when I don't have any brothers or sisters. When it's a relationship I lack completely. Because I can't just substitute in one of Mark's brothers and have the same deal. I know them as adults. I like them as adults. But it changes the dynamic completely. So in one of these cultures, I would be handicapped, almost the equivalent of orphaned. Weird.

Yesterday, David said he had moved to California four years ago. Cool, I thought, what was I doing four years ago? With a tra and a la, I opened my journal. To find that one of the gentlest, sweetest souls I've ever met had taken her own life four years ago. I swallowed hard and kept reading. Also one of my physics compatriots had been involved in a nasty and unnecessary accident. Also it was two days before I broke my teeth in intermurals. (We will not say intermural what, or I will be mocked mercilessly forever by those of you who aren't doing it already.) The moral of this story has to be: when you look back in history, don't expect it to be all about fun and games. Not a pleasant surprise.

It was 88 yesterday. I tried to call it Indian summer, but Timprov said you could only have Indian summer if you had genuine fall. Which we aren't. So it's just a heat wave, I suppose. Yuck. It's supposed to be in the 50s in Mpls this weekend. Ahhhhh.

I'm nearly ready to go on Reprogramming; I'm still not sure I'll have a viable draft of "Letters to the Ancient Living" for the writing group people. And I'm using the roughest criteria for viability here. Story with beginning, middle, and end, with no patches that say "[scene with advisor here]" or anything like that. Whether the thing will be worth reading when it's done is entirely up for grabs at this point.

Ah well. Priorities: pack, send out Reprogramming. Anything else, good for me. Don't know if I'll have time to update in the morning; my bet is no. If not, I'll see you all on the 10th or the 11th.

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