Sunday, April 18, 2004

Weekend Miscellanea

I've been pretty pitiful with blogging, haven't I? Two measly posts -- one of which I've been meaning to delete since Thursday. Ach. Life, sometimes it passes you by. One of these days, what with all this writing and editing I've been doing, you'd think I'd find some time to finish this bloody PhD thesis! So it goes, so it goes.

A couple of odd encounters this week: (1) While browsing the philosophy section of a a lovely used book shop in Glasgow, I was recently confronted by an unctuous undergraduate asking a series of questions about the nature of my research that ranged from the painfully specific ('What's going on in the second paragraph of Herman Melville's short story, "The Chimney"') to the just plain painful ('So, Moby Dick represents Herman Melville's repressed homosexual desire, right?' Yes, quite.) I'd met him a few weeks ago at a lecture I sat in on -- where he barraged the guest lecturer with an odd series of questions whose upshot seemed to be: 'How can I have rampant casual sex without feeling any Christian guilt?' The lecturer, who didn't give a toss about this guy's sex life, was far more competent in handling the interrogation. In the end, I stammered ('Ummm . . . well . . . I think the fact that he probably beat his wife is a bit more interesting than who he wanted to bed'), lied ("Yeah, I've spent a lot of time pouring over Melville's understanding of the Sphinx), and finally had to knock over a stack of unshelved books to break the guy's attention long enough for me to make my escape.

The second odd encounter was truly frightening. In fact, I think it fully embodies the inherent truth of psychoanalysis -- namely, the return of that which is repressed . . . the return of the Real. I was in the library talking to an old friend of mine, when a professor approached me while calling out my name. I only vaguely knew the professor, and assumed that the sentiment was mutual, so I was rather surprised. I was, however, all the more shocked when he added: 'Do you happen to have a paper on the internet about world religions?' 'Oh, dear,' I thought -- though, to be honest, it wasn't nearly that clean a thought. Because, yes, long ago I did publish such a paper, a ridiculously conservative, very poorly nuanced paper about, so the phrase goes these days, theological humanism. Thankfully, the professor was pretty cool about the obvious dissonance between what he'd heard about me in the department and what he was reading online. Things and people change, obviously. Nevertheless, the encounter was unnerving, to say the least.

Also of note this week, a friend of mine's grandmother-in-law pooped on his bathroom mat. There is, of course, a short explanation that could, and probably should, accompany this anecdote; but I think it's funnier to leave it as it is.

What else? Oh. . . . if you get a chance, make a point of it to see the documentary Capturing the Friedmans. Disturbing, yes; frustrating, all the more; but a stunning collage of conflicting perspectives of a family's past gone grotesquely wrong. You'll walk away, quite likely, thinking your family surprisingly functional.

Lastly in this hodgepodge of miscellanea, two links. (1) I've not really given this the thought it deserves, but it looks to be something well worth the time. And on a completely different note, (2) nobody knows 'decaffeinated belief' quite like Slavoj Zizek. You may not have a clue what he's talking about during and after the first reading, but it may very well be fun trying.