October 2005 Archives
Read Part One
"Omigod," I said when she told me this. "Omigod."
"Are you going to stay on campus and wait for them?" she asked.
"I don't have any choice," I said. "I don't have my car keys to drive home, or my house keys to get in my house even if I got a ride from someone else. I don't have my wallet or my coat or my umbrella--if it weren't raining so hard, I'd just go look for the cop. But everything is in my office."
"Do you have a cell phone number where I can call you in case I get through to someone?"
"I don't have ANYTHING," I said, "except the clothes I'm wearing, which includes a skirt with a couple of great big blood stains on it. The whole reason I left my office was so I could go to the restroom and deal with the fact that I had bled all over the back of my skirt. Which is why I wasn't thinking clearly enough to grab my keys, because I pretty much never do things like this."
I finished a long day of teaching Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. I was tired and hungry but I still had work to do: I had to prepare to meet a colleague at 6:30 to discuss a panel on work and sex in Buffy the Vampire Slayer we're putting together for a Halloween horror conference. I sighed hard, sat down, and rolled my chair forward to my computer, rolling over and catching the hem of my skirt in the process. I disentangled myself, stood up to smooth my skirt, and noticed that my fingers came away from the back of it damp and tinged with red.
"Shit," I said aloud, though what was on my fingers wasn't shit; it was something else. I dragged my skirt forward and craned my neck back to inspect the damage and sure enough, smack-dab center on the back of my skirt, was a great big soggy blood stain.
I sat down for a moment, my face red as the back of my skirt, while I thought about the fact that the class I'd just finished contained a dozen freshmen boys and one freshman girl; if there was a group to whom I didn't care to announce my fertility, it was that one. "Let it go, Holly," I said, reminding myself that I'd been seated for most of the class, reading them instructions for a writing exercise, and that they never seemed to pay that much attention to me anyway.
My mother has begun doing this really annoying thing: she has begun emptying filing cabinets and drawers that haven't been opened for 20 years, and if the contents bears any relation whatsoever to me, she sends it to me.
Monday I got a big package containing my report cards from first, second and sixth grade; a bunch of my elementary school photographs, a few of which I'm posting just for the hell of it; the program from my kindergarten graduation ceremony (apparently I won the coveted role of Mama Rabbit in the classic play "The Little White Rabbits Who Wanted Red Wings," and I also got to play the Queen of Hearts in "A School Day in Storybook Land"--I actually remember the costume for that: it was this fabulous confection of a white dress with red hearts all over it, and I wore a tiara and carried a heart-shaped scepter); and lots and lots of really BAD poetry written before I had mastered cursive handwriting.
I can see why she saved that stuff. And I guess I'm glad she's sorting through it now, so we don't have to do it all after she dies. (I know my father is going to leave us a huge mess of papers, bills, uncashed but no longer negotiable checks--sometimes he just can't be bothered to go to the bank--and stashes of decades old sugar-free candy to sort through and discard.) But I admit I'm sort of resentful that I'm supposed to become the custodian of my own childhood at this point. After all, that's what parents are FOR: to maintain a shrine to our childhoods so we can grow up and forget about them, right?
A few week agos, Jana took this quiz designed to gauge your world view and posted her results on her blog. A few days later her husband John took the same quiz and posted his results, and not so long ago Wayne followed the links in my webroll to one of those places and took the quiz himself, though he didn't post his results on either his first or second blog. Instead, he read me his results over the phone, and told me to take the quiz. So I did. Turns out I'm a Cultural Creative, and
Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.
I didn't just score highest in the Cultural Creative category; I scored perfectly in it. I don't particularly know what the term means or how long it's been around, but I guess I really truly am one, if I buy into it 100%. I'm rather glad that "new ager" is not a category; I appreciate quite a few new age ideas, but there's so much annoying posture that goes along with being new age. As for the other terms, many of them don't mean to me what they seem to mean to the creator of this quiz, so I'm not sure how revealing the results are. To me, a Romanticist is someone who studies early 19th century British poetry (not many of those around these days) and a Modernist is what I almost became, someone who specializes in British and American lit written between the two world wars, and a postmodernist is a silly person who writes badly whose work you have to read in graduate school. At least I'm absolutely NOT a fundamentalist (which I would have predicted but am glad to have confirmed nonetheless). Anyway, here are my results:
Cultural Creative 100%
If you take the quiz yourself, let me know how you score.
When I was finishing up my first master's degree, I saw a career counselor who told me I should figure out what I would want if I could have any kind of life at all. My desires were modest: I wanted to live alone in a pleasant house with lots of windows. I wanted to spend most of my day writing, alone. In the evening I wanted to get together with friends and eat pasta out of big pretty bowls, and then I wanted to go home alone. I didn't care whether or not I was rich or famous; I just wanted to be comfortable. I also wanted all of this to take place in Italy. And wouldn't you know I got it all, six years later, except that as far as the place goes, all the universe got right was the first letter: it happened in Iowa, not Italy.
What if I had wanted something grander, more elaborate? Why didn't I want something grander, more elaborate? One reason is, I think, that I was tired. Life had been pretty stressful up to that point and I wanted some peace. I wanted less to be expected of me.
At this point I'd like to want more. I want more to be expected of me and I expect more of me and I expect more of the universe. What, after all, am I allowed to want? That has been part of my thinking all along: If you have this, you can't want that. If you are a Mormon you can't want a life full of drugs and orgies. If you have even a certain level of enlightenment you can't want the ease of living a stupid, unenlightened life. Furthermore, if you want certain things, then you can't really want other things. If you want to eat whatever you want whenever you want no matter how many calories it has or what it does to your liver or your pancreas or whatever, then you can't really want to be thin and healthy. If you want to smoke then you can't really want to breathe well. If you want to be nasty to your neighbors then you can't really want to be enlightened. If you want to be a writer then you can't really want to be not a writer. If you don't really feel like writing then you must not really want to be a writer.
Some of those probably hold true and some probably don't. I want to want everything I can possibly want. I want to want so many things that I get at least some of them, even if they are contradictory.
Read Part One.
The biggest things Mormons plan for, of course, is the Second Coming and the Apocalypse that will precede it. Gotta be righteous, so you don't get burned with the heathen! Also must stock up on a two-years' supply of raw wheat (don't forget the hand-cranked grinder so you can still grind it when the power goes out), a two-years' supply of potable water, and a two-years' supply of toilet paper. Mormon pantries are a sight to behold, as are the spaces under Mormon beds: cans of dehydrated potatoes and cornmeal and god only knows what.
At some point, when the church grew large enough that its membership wasn't concentrated in the spacious intermountain West, where people could have huge basements in which to store foodstuffs well beyond the expiration date (ever walked into a basement where two dozen cans of potted beef have exploded? That stuff stinks even when it's not rancid), someone in charge said, "OK, we'll let you scale back to just a ONE-YEAR supply of all those necessities. And don't forget to rotate your canned goods!"
You may think I'm kidding, but in her attic, my mom really does have a one-year supply of toilet paper. Outside the house, my father has a ten-year supply of rotted firewood, as well as dozens of old car batteries that can be hooked up to a generator and recharged and power various special appliances he has bought because they will run off old car batteries. (He also has two old Cadillacs: a 62 with rocks in the gas tank courtesy of some nasty neighbor boy, and a 49 that still runs, which he periodically has repainted, drives for a day or two, then parks again for ten to fifteen years. In addition, he owns an ancient aluminum motor home, a piece of junk whose only virtue is that its exterior is recyclable; a small RV in which he and my mother have driven across the country a time or two; a 40-year-old green Chevy pickup, the vehicle in which I learned to drive and which we all agree Dad should keep because sometimes, you need to haul stuff; a hideous white suburban with a broken driver's seat that he refuses to sell because it might come in handy, but which never will because of the truck; and a Ford Yukon he drives every day and complains about every day because it's not a Lincoln, which is what he really wanted, but he bought that damn little SUV brand new because my brother could get him a deal on it through his job, and Dad was too cheap to fork out the cash on a Lincoln, even though he could afford it. The front of the house looks fine, but the side view.... I swear to god, it looks like the opening shot of a movie about people who leave their empty whiskey bottles under the bed and tether a goat to the lawn so they don't have to mow it. The only thing that redeems the scene is the fact that none of the cars are on blocks.)
I have always been someone who spends a lot of time "just checking" things. It's not like I think the world will stop whirling frantically on its wobbly little axis if I don't look up every so often and make sure the sun is progressing across the sky in a timely fashion. But I do harbor the suspicion that if you don't rattle the knob of your door at least three time to make sure it's locked, gremlins will come along and unlock it as soon as you are out of sight.
Preparing for contingencies and anticipating consequences, that's what I believe in, because you've got to stay ahead of the gremlins! In order to do this well, not only must you Check on Things, you also have to Remember Stuff and Keep Lists and Plan Ahead.
OK, so I didn't come up with that title myself: It's the title of an article in today's Independent UK, about China's environmental problems. (And for those of you who don't remember or don't care to remember, China Crisis is also the name of an 80s British pop band who achieved modest success with a single called "Arizona Sky," which, now that I read the lyrics, is kind of lame, but I always liked the lines praising the vast, brilliant blue sky of Arizona.)
Anyway, this article makes some truly dire predictions, which I have no problem believing are very, very likely. For instance:
deforestation is only one of the threats to the planet posed by an economy of 1.3 billion people that has now overtaken the United States as the world's leading consumer of four out of the five basic food, energy and industrial commodities - grain, meat, oil, coal and steel. China now lags behind the US only in consumption of oil - and it is rapidly catching up.
Because of their increasing reliance on coal-fired power stations to provide their energy, the Chinese are firmly on course to overtake the Americans as the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, and thus become the biggest contributors to global warming and the destabilisation of the climate. If they remain uncontrolled, the growth of China's carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years will dwarf any cuts in CO2 that the rest of the world can make.
The article then discusses population growth in China and other parts of Asia, and quotes an expert who offers this opinion:
The bottom line of this analysis is that we're going to have to develop a new economic model. Instead of a fossil-fuel based, automobile-centred, throw-away economy we will have to have a renewable-energy based, diversified transport system, and comprehensive reuse and recycle economies. If we want civilisation to survive, we will have to have that. Otherwise civilisation will collapse.
I lived in Shanghai for several months in 1991. It was the most polluted place I had ever been, though Kaohsiung, a filthy port city in southern Taiwan, ran a close second. I can only imagine how much worse it it is now, with more cars and more people and even more people who can actually afford to heat their homes in the winter. (It was also very poor.) And supposedly Shanghai isn't nearly as bad as Beijing, which becomes particularly polluted each winter.
Um, so, British scientists have discovered a new worm, which they have cleverly named Osedax mucofloris, Latin for "bone-eating snot flower." Remarkably enough, the bone-eating snot flower is not related to some zombie worms living off the coast of California, the name of which was not provided in the article I read. In any event, you can read all about the BESF here.