Re: Funtime

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I can' sleep if I suspect there's a comment thread I might miss out on or a post that might get redacted withdrawn.


Posted by: Econolicious aka Anonymous D | Link to this comment | 01- 1-08 10:48 PM
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I can only have fun if I know that Becks is missing out.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01- 1-08 10:55 PM
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if it turns out to be awesome and I missed it

This is basically the reason I have come to both UnfoggeDCons. Actually, I'm a lot like this in general, but much less so than when I was in college. But if my friends are hanging out, I can almost never decline; it's like I worry that something really fun will happen without me and then I will be hella pissed.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01- 1-08 10:56 PM
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What prompted me to write this post was that I was upstairs packing while people were downstairs playing poker.

Also, sometimes you know you've missed out, like when you hear a party or concert was great. But what if there was someone there you were supposed to meet who would hook you up with a job or who you were supposed to introduce to a friend they would later marry or something? You've changed the course of history by staying home, man!


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01- 1-08 11:04 PM
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From my own experience, this condition is dampened but not eliminated by living with a romantic partner. It becomes more of a "what if they're not inviting us places because they assume we just want to do stuff together?" Which is between half and nine-tenths true.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01- 1-08 11:08 PM
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But if something really fun had happened, I'd've IMed you—I was in the living room reading.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01- 1-08 11:08 PM
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4.2: I've gone to a party and got ridiculously drunk. Now, why haven't I leaped?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 01- 1-08 11:14 PM
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In college I often had the opposite response to these situations, which was that I presumed that my going to a party would render it less fun, so for the sake of others I should stay home instead of awkwarding things up. Generally this was because I was always being invited to parties where I expected to know zero people other than the person who invited me, so I didn't want to be wandering around trying not to monopolize the time of the person who invited me but finding it hard to talk to anyone else.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 1-08 11:38 PM
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Hey, it is worth it, right? I mean you'd just be sitting at home checking Unfogged otherwise, and we know what a waste of time that is.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 1:23 AM
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8. ...with the bonus, if you were lucky, that other friends of the party giver, who had never seen you before in their lives, would try to throw you out for gatecrashing.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 3:34 AM
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4- But if you do go out there's a chance you could end up dating your son from the future, and no one wants that.
I too play this game in my head, but usually I try not to give in (DC excepted.) Most of the times I have done something I didn't really want to do because I might miss something, it turns out I wouldn't have missed anything.
The marketing of some older musicians has a somewhat similar theme- pay $400 to see the Stones / McCartney / etc. now because if you wait they might be dead and you would have missed it! Unmentioned is that they're not always worth seeing in the first place.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 4:48 AM
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You know what's not fun and what you're not all missing out on right now? The fun of staying up all goddamn night because you can't get to sleep because your fucking throat is on fucking fire.

No matter how much water I drink, it's as dry as if I haven't drank for days.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 5:43 AM
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Sore throats suuuuck. I recommend the numbing pleasures of Chloraseptic spray.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 5:49 AM
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As Nino the Mind Boggler* says, you never know where it's going to come from.

That is, it's not just whether you'll miss out on something spectacular. So many of the important things -- meeting a mate, having an epiphany about a career, discovering the one true faith -- come about in the most unexceptional settings. (Obviously, you're not going to do the first while packing, but the other two are possible.)

* Everything You Know Is Wrong.


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 5:58 AM
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Gargling with salt water or water with bicarbonate of soda in it. Works better than the various over-the-counter sprays.

Also, gently sipping some soluble aspirin can work for the pain.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 6:14 AM
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(Obviously, you're not going to do the first while packing, but the other two are possible.)

Nápi obviously hasn't been checking out the hot dudes who work for Allied Van Lines.


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 6:19 AM
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Hey, anyone want to come to a dog fight at the strip club? C'mon, you'll never know what you're missing out on! There might be a few interesting people there ...


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 6:33 AM
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Shit, dsquared! I'm there! To my knowledge I've never talked to a career criminal before!

But seriously, peeps. Experiences are what make life. Might as well grab what you can. To echo others, some of my best nights out have had rather unpromising premises.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:14 AM
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I used to be very much like this, and can still be talked into anything with a hint that it "might be fun," but I knew I'd grown old when I started responding to quite a few party invitations with "meh." Needless to say, I'm less popular now than I used to be.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:16 AM
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can still be talked into anything with a hint that it "might be fun,"

Wish I'd known this before the DC party.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:17 AM
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Oh, you knew.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:24 AM
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i always have fun afterwards
i look at the photos and think - actually it was fun
whatever it was
a party, traveling or people i met


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:24 AM
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Want to send me $20? It might be fun.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:25 AM
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Semi-pwned, but I guarantee this skews by age. The up for anything/seen it all divide is very real.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:28 AM
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22. So true. I recall having diarrhea in Morocco was not awesome at the time, but overall in my memory it is one of my best holidays.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:28 AM
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As I was falling asleep last night, BR was looking at Unfogged and just laughing.

She went to Unfogged DCon under the "might be fun" theory.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:32 AM
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I don't necessarily think everything is fun in retrospect, but I do find that I have no idea how I felt about a social experience until I do some sort of discursive post mortem about it. My opinions are formed therein.

I was crippled in college by the fear of missing out on something fun, and did a lot of un-fun things as a result. The few things I did miss out on seem, in the anecdotes, way more fun than the things I didn't miss, which I hope is a perceptual error. The DC party, I am having trouble deciding if it is an unfortunate reminder of these moments in college, only because the narrative of the night is hard to piece together from the comments.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:36 AM
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Watched Terry Gilliam's Tideland last night. I'll make my own parties with finger-puppets.

"But, Bob, that way madness lies!!"
"No, Mystique, it's art, fiction, the crucible of imagination."
"Both of you are so boring. There is no art w/o an audience."
"Shut up" "No, you shut up."
"You guys aren't any fun today."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:41 AM
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I guarantee this skews by age. The up for anything/seen it all divide is very real.

discursive post mortem about it. My opinions are formed therein

These seem right to me. Being so drunk that you ask a friend to come to the bathroom with you because you're afraid of drowning in the bowl: not funny at the time, hilarious in retrospect, not something you'd do again with hindsight.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:42 AM
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29: I argue the tedium is in the repetition. New experiences still hold their thrall (modulo the risk/reward tradeoff).


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:48 AM
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When I was in college my roommates brought some pretty blonds back to our apartment and had an orgy in the living room. And I slept right through it, not 10 feet away. I'm still bitter about missing out on something fun....


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:55 AM
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IME, the most important part of fun is not putting too much weight on the failure of fun. I know people who go to pieces if Total Fun doesn't happen, and those people have a hard time trying new things, because there's a lot more risk. I think I might be a bit that way myself, but I really like risk.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:56 AM
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The DC party, I am having trouble deciding if it is an unfortunate reminder of these moments in college, only because the narrative of the night is hard to piece together from the comments.

Sybil:
It was fun. There were a ton of interesting people there.
You should come next time.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:56 AM
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The few things I did miss out on seem, in the anecdotes, way more fun than the things I didn't miss, which I hope is a perceptual error.

See this NYT article* for an interesting take on a similar phenomenon: "lost possible selves".

Over the past decade and a half, psychologists have studied how regrets -- large and small, recent and distant -- affect people's mental well-being. They have shown, convincingly though not surprisingly, that ruminating on paths not taken is an emotionally corrosive exercise. The common wisdom about regret -- that what hurts the most is not what you did but what you didn't do -- also appears to be true, at least in the long run.

*HT to Fleur for pointing this story out to me.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:58 AM
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I know someone who helps run PSGW who refers to this feeling as FOMS (Fear Of Missing Something) and says that you have to get past this fear at camp because there are so many things happening that you will always be missing something.

I have attempted to apply this advice to my own life, despite not having many things happening.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:58 AM
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IME, the most important part of fun is not putting too much weight on the failure of fun.

Agreed. We took the attitude that we could laugh at how horrible it was if it was really, really weird.

Expect total weirdness. Be happily surprised when it turns out to be interesting, relatively normal people.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:59 AM
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36: Most people here know this old story of mine, Will, but you may have missed it. My old roommate and I used to plan evenings that were as little fun as possible and just really wallow in how not-fun they were. Some of the best times of my life were sitting around with him giggling at how miserable and awkward we felt in the situations we put ourselves into.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:02 AM
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This is basically the reason I have come to both UnfoggeDCons.

Rightly so.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:03 AM
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I missed out on a ton of fun things because I wanted to stay at home and get fucked up. oh well, it's not like I didn't also do lots of fun things.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:03 AM
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One of the child-rearing books we read (I forget which one; probably Brazelton) helpfully points out that FOMS can be a major obstacle to toilet training. The toddler recognizes the impulse to urinate or defecate, but can't tear himself away from whatever playtime activity he is engaged in for fear of missing out. Being clued in to this was actually quite useful.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:05 AM
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...and that's how || was born, KR.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:08 AM
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Bah. Humans can do nothing but experience, and can never repeat an experience, because the internal & external world are always changing. Any & all experiences are as valuable, to yourself & others, as mediated by the imagination.

I cannot even comprehend a world where Brittany or Paris H are better than me simply because they have seen Paris. Or people who collect varied experiences like coins in a piggy bank.

I am not saying the newshack who went fishing and wrote "Riverrunsthruit" is better than the world traveler, but he isn't any worse either, measured by breadth or depth of knowledge.

Ain't no wisdom or truth or fun out there


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:08 AM
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...and that's how || was born, KR.

I submit that 40 was on-topic by the generous standards of this blog. (Or did unfogged adopt a more restrictive codicil after the unfortunate experience with that one toilet training thread?)


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:13 AM
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How many people ya gotta meet before you understand one person? 100? 1000? What was it, Babs Bush sent Xmas cards to all 32 thousand close personal friends?

Gluttony is a sin. Eating 3 chickens at once or eating 3000 chickens, each cooked in a unique way, or meeting 100,000 people in a life, or reading 10,000 books...all are gluttony and just make you fat.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:15 AM
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43: No, it's precisely on-topic! PK invented || for pausing a fun situation to go to the bathroom by holding up two parallel fingers in a pause sign, to stave off an attack of the FOMS.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:16 AM
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Gluttony is a delight. I'm on my 211th chicken this morning.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:17 AM
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Because what if the 212th is really really awesome?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:20 AM
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35: I'm a little weirded out that I correctly interpreted this abbreviation. I didn't even remember that NickS was in the PNW.

My basic life philosophy can be summed up as: Eh, it probably won't be that fun. Why not just stay home and do stuff I know I'll enjoy?

It works out well, generally. When I do go out, it feels genuinely pleasurable and interesting -- I've already decided to have a good time, and so I almost always do.

But I don't think my experience is very representative.



Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:21 AM
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Watched Terry Gilliam's Tideland last night.

I loved that movie.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:22 AM
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Totally OT: I have a political question for you all. I've been trying to assess Edwards' chances in Iowa, and I'm not getting helpful information from the news media. The only information I've gotten is that, because of his experience running before, he may have a better organization in rural areas. I think that winning a caucus site in a rural area with fewer voters counts as much as success in urban areas. He also got the endorsement of the governor's wife. I've also heard that, because of union endorsements, Edwards may be the second choice of a lot of people whose first choices aren't likely to be viable. Who thinks that that last factor, being the second choice of a fair number of people, could push Edwards over the edge?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:27 AM
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I got horrible FOMS about DCon last year. SEK spent all of MLA practically bribing me into going, and I didn't, precisely because I hadn't yet ended a not-fun relationship and I knew if I went, given the mood I was in, I'd end up sleeping with someone, which is not how I like to end things. So instead, I spent that evening getting taken to a movie and then sexually rejected. FOMS overwhelmed me, such that I'll never miss a DCon again.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:27 AM
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Will, how did BR feel about Unfogeddycon's ogling performance? Too much, not enough, or about right.?

Also, do you have any plans to offer her your convenient one-stop marriage-divorce package yet?

(Oh, hi BR! The weather's turned chilly in NYC today. And everyone's talking about global warming! Fortunately, Tierney covered that yesterday. Did you enjoy the party).

Back in the day we had the expression "That was a trip", meaning, "I suppose I'm glad to be able to say I've done it once, but once is probably enough". "She / he is a trip" meant "She / he is far from boring, but not necessarily in a good way."


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:29 AM
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I didn't realize until a minute ago that one of the political analysts on the NPR show I'm litening to is Bob Shrum. Why am subjecting myself to this?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:30 AM
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will's simple yet elequent narrative has convinced me that my FOMS re: DCon was well-founded. Now that it is just Knowledge OMS, I'll plan accordingly for next year. But request a more southeastern or Pittsburgh-y locations, thankee.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:31 AM
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50: It's really impossible to handicap the Iowa caucuses. No telling how many people show up, who they are, how the weather affects that, the whole second choice issue, etc. Edwards has as good of a shot of winning as Obama or Clinton, but I suspect nobody's coming out of Iowa with any sort of clear victory (though they'll claim it).


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:32 AM
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BG, I'm betting on Edwards to come in second in my family betting pool for the Iowa caucus. Does that help?

(Seriously: No, I don't have any actual data, except an AP news story from yesterday that claimed that 120-150,000 people usually participate in the Democratic caucus, and therefore a number as small as 3000-4000 can significantly affect the outcome.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:32 AM
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But request a more southeastern or Pittsburgh-y locations, thankee.

Or a more London-y location.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:33 AM
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Do you all know that at Unfoggedycn, Emerson pulled me aside and explained that I wasn't the "it" girl anymore? And that Read had supplanted my position? That I had lost my most favored nation status?

Read, I think you're a wonderful addition here. The point is to marvel at Emerson's lack of social finesse. That Emerson is a trip!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:33 AM
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57: Yes


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:38 AM
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Eh, it probably won't be that fun. Why not just stay home and do stuff I know I'll enjoy?

You could drink some scotch and read David Copperfield.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:38 AM
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I didn't go to a NYE party on the theory that it probably wouldn't be fun and I wouldn't know anyone anyway. But according to the hostess it was tons of fun and few people knew each other antecedently. Blast!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:39 AM
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what if the 212th is really really awesome?

The 212th was really great yesterday; today it's only so-so. You can still try it if you want but I don't know if it's worth your time.

A related phenomenon to FOMS, I believe, is what Rah and some friends and I were discussing about living in places like Chapel Hill: everyone who's moved to Chapel Hill at any point in the last, oh, thirty or forty years has gained the impression that they arrived thirty minutes after all the cool kids left. I suspect this is true of basically every self-styled cool college town. The key, as with FOMS, is in realizing that if all the cool kids are gone or all the great experiences are already being had that a vacuum remains which can be filled by one willing to craft their own cool/fun experiences.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:42 AM
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they arrived thirty minutes after all the cool kids left

I was there during the heyday of the Chapel Hill music scene, so I didn't feel that. But I also grew up right next door to it, which might have informed my perceptions somewhat.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:45 AM
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I was there during the heyday of the Chapel Hill music scene

Yeah, more or less ditto for me and Glasgow.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:46 AM
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thanks heebie-geebie,
some texts here are really hard to understand without referring to the urban dictionary
for example trip
when i was child i first read david copperfield in my language, it was a really good translation, so afterwards i had difficulties to read it in other languages (russian or english, it felt not authentic :)
and robinson crusoe also


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:49 AM
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58: Heebie was a good sport and forgave me as soon as the convulsive weeping had subsided. Her Lutheran values took over.

The old talent has to make way for the new talent.

I think that a central, neutral location like Fargo would be best and fairest. Sort of like making Brussels the capital of Europe.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:52 AM
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Most of the times I have done something I didn't really want to do because I might miss something, it turns out I wouldn't have missed anything.

This tends to be true for me as well. I've had the tendency to do things out of a sense of duty to have what passes for fun; turns out not to be particularly fun. It's the whole "It's Friday night, what do you mean you're not going out?" syndrome. And sure, the "meh" response is a function of age, in that I know myself increasingly well, and am less likely to submit to a notion of fun I don't particularly share (i.e. been there).


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:54 AM
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The 212th was really great yesterday; today it's only so-so.

Are you postulating some sort of Chicken Singularity? (If so, awesome.)


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:55 AM
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64: Like Orange Juice and all that? Really? I wish I had lived somewhere with a musical hey-day, even if I missed it. Or well, I suppose when Husker Du was recording...

I just got, by way of a much-more-attuned friend, a whole bunch of Postcard reissues. Neo-liberalism has definitely improved my record collection, if nothing else.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:55 AM
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when i was child i first read david copperfield in my language, it was a really good translation

"Please sir, may I have some more Airag?"


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:56 AM
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Let's see on NYE near midnight I was listening to Warren Zevon ("I heard Woodrow Wilson's guns, I heard Maria crying"); reading about Henry Thornton and his report to Parliament on fiat currency after the Napoleonic wars; and pondering the mystical importance of the detail from Antoniazzo Romano's Annunciation that was on my computer screen. And despising my pretensions.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 8:56 AM
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34: That NYTimes article nails it pretty well IMX. I've been wallowing in that "lost self" soup since April and it's quite corrosive. Go out and DO something, analyze it later.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:01 AM
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Damn. I ruined the joke in 70 with a faulty Dickens reference. I got work to do, anyway.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:03 AM
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Airaq: first sour milk, then ferment it with yeast. Two steps. Lactose-rich milk is best, or you can enrich it. The time I had it it had a fruity taste. The problem is that it needs to be constantly agitated or it clumps.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:08 AM
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70
have you ever tried airag?
i miss it too, haven't had a sip almost 3 yrs
when i'm abroad i miss home so much, when i'll go home sure i'll miss here too as i miss japan
once i gave airag to my japanese friends to try they couldn't drink it, said acquired taste something
so i drunk all myself, i got it in the parcel from home
i wish i have more time to chat
but it's like a busy morning


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:08 AM
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since we're talking about Dickens, sort of, I just re-read Great Expectations and I submit that it is unbearably boring in large chunks. Right?


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:09 AM
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a more southeastern location

unfoggedCon at apostropher's!

Everyone who's moved to Chapel Hill at any point in the last, oh, thirty or forty years has gained the impression that they arrived thirty minutes after all the cool kids left

God, I moved here two years ago and I've gotten the (surprised) impression this place has never been cool. But I'm an old, cynical man.


Posted by: spaz | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:10 AM
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Dickens, sort of, I just re-read Great Expectations and I submit that it is unbearably boring


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:12 AM
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Dickens sucks.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:12 AM
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My theory about Dickens is that only his extremely long works are worth reading. I hated all the Dickens I'd read before Bleak House, and then I loved Our Mutual Friend even more and thought, "Why do Hard Times and Great Expectations exist? They are terrible."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:12 AM
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have you ever tried airag?

I had a friend who was planning to drive to Mongolia a year and a half ago, and I asked her to bring me back some (although I was under the mistaken impression it was called kumiss). Fermented milk, anyway.

But she never made it past Kazakstan, so no airag.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:12 AM
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unfoggedCon at apostropher's!

I'd love a southern meet-up, but my house is entirely too small for it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:13 AM
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I met a woman a few weeks ago who hitch-hiked across Siberia with her dog.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:13 AM
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80 is pretty much how I feel about Dickens. Great Expectations was hopelessly grim and dull, but I enjoy most of his books. Not the Old Curiosity Shop, though -- even the spontaneous human combustion can't make up for Little Nell.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:14 AM
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Our Mutual Friend might be the greatest novel in English. So lovely. I'm not ready to call GE a total waste of times but it is boring in such weird ways: e.g. the parts where Pip is ruminating about something, the parts that woudl normally be really dull, are compelling in this book; but the passages that advance the plot and fill in backstories are unbearable. Which isn't how it should work, really.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:14 AM
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84: Spontaneous combustion is in Bleak House. Is it in OCS too?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:16 AM
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87

The Old Curiosity Shop is so strange. And only someone with a heart of stone could forebear laughing at the death of Little Nell. Or something like that.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:16 AM
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Isn't the thing about Dickens that he was paid by the word, and published in installments? I submit that that explains a lot.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:18 AM
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Oh, you're right. I was conflating the spontaneous combustion with whatever happens to the dwarf (runs off a wharf or something?) And come to think of it, I do like the Marchioness bits of OCS.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:19 AM
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88: This is true, and students often complain about it, but it doesn't explain why his shorter works are hideously wordy and bad and boring, while his long works are tightly plotted, intricately constructed, and precise in description and narration.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:21 AM
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88: They were most of them paid by length of installments, and they all published in installments, the 19th cent. novelists. And some were more brief so that doesn't really do it. Although the installment matter does have something to do with the occasional herky-jerkiness of plot.
But the thing everyone always says about GE is how nuanced and tight the plot is, which I guess just means more sensical that some of the more spiraling Dickens' plots. Because it sure as shit doesn't mean compellingly-rendered.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:23 AM
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I'd love a southern meet-up

Well, for a meetup, any bar in durham, carrboro or raleigh would do. I'd be into it. It's probably too close right now to the DC party for those of you who went.


Posted by: spaz | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:23 AM
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I think I liked A Tale Of Two Cities.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:23 AM
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If I were going to invent a global explanation, it's that shorter works don't allow him the scope for the multiply interweaving plots that characterize the longer stuff. He can't drone on endlessly about the Boffins, because he has to dart away to catch up with Lizzie and T'otherest Governor, and so forth.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:23 AM
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In fact, Dickens becomes so stingy with words by OMF that you often have to guess WTF is going on, because he drifts into metonymic insanity, wasting not a syllable more than the absolute minimum to get you to figure out whom or what he's talking about.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:24 AM
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I really love OMF and BH. But if we are playing the best novel in English game, I would have to swerve and go Middlemarch -- but that is subject to change ever 10 or 15 seconds.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:25 AM
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Tom Jones is the best novel in English, and Dickens knew it. But if we're talking 19th-c only, Middlemarch wins.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:26 AM
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"Every" -- the damn Cheetoh is still under my "y."


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:26 AM
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I should dig up a copy of Tom Jones again -- I don't think I've read it since the Peace Corps.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:28 AM
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88: I've heard that, too. I think it also afflicts the first Sherlock Holmes story, which detours to America and some Mormons in a way that feels like he just need a ninth or whatever installment.

I remember really hating Great Expectations and really liking A Tale of Two Cities.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:28 AM
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Ironically, none of Dicken's novels trigger my FOMS.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:28 AM
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I should reread TJ, actually. It's been a few years. It cured my lifelong misanthropy in 2001, and is needed to do the trick again.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:29 AM
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97: Yes! Tom Jones' turn comes up a couple of times a minute in my ever-changing favorite designation. Tristram Shandy too.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:29 AM
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The reason I always go for OMF over Middlemarch, the latter of which is always the crowd favorite, is that OMF seems to me so clearly about novels themselves and the experience of novel-reading. I find this a more appropriate thing for a novel to try to understand than the deafening roar or details behind the stillness of everyday life, or whatever the Elliott line to that effect is.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:29 AM
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80, 84, and 90 are right on. Though I have to admit that there is something offputting to me about all Dickens, even as I am enjoying it -- his characters are so frequently such damn automata that it bugs me. Compare Wilkie Collins, who of course does populate his work with boring saps like Laura Fairlie but more than offsets them with his Marians, Foscos, and Pescas.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:29 AM
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So really when you read a Dickens novel, you're renting the whole season from Netflix and undertaking a weekend marathon.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:31 AM
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Which Dickens is it that starts out describing the narrator's birth and then digresses into the fate of his caul? I liked the first two pages of that, but then I had to give it back :(


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:32 AM
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Sybbill Vane likes geminates.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:33 AM
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105: Have you read Armadale, yet? Lydia Gwilt is my favorite Wilkie Collins character, I think. Although I just read The Law and the Lady and found myself quite fond of total nutter Miserrimus Dexter.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:34 AM
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Contra everybody else, I love Great Expectations.

re: 69

Nah, a bit later. The second-wave of stuff in the 90s. Although I did vaguely know someone who'd been on Postcard records [a friend shared a flat with one of the guys who'd been in A/ztec C/amera].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:34 AM
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Pollster.com says Iowa is way too close to call for the top three Democrats.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:35 AM
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Marians, Foscos, and Pescas are on par with Quilps, Havishams, and Headstones, I think. And the latter are spread out among 3 books. Which is not to impugn Collins, of course. If OMF is the best novel in English, by my account, (either) the Woman in White (or Lady Audley's Secret) is (are) the most weirdly compelling.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:35 AM
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107: That's David Copperfield.

I should like Middlemarch more than I do. I could see arguing that it's the best 19th C English novel, but it doesn't leap off my shelves when I'm looking for something to occupy a long flight with -- for amusement, it loses to a couple of other Eliots, and almost any Trollope. This is probably a flaw in me rather than it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:38 AM
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I also have a weird love for Villette,


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:38 AM
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One thing the academy has done to my brain is rob me of the ability to enjoy novels unless I really concentrate (in a way unseemly for leisure time) and look for the word play and imagery and all the fun stuff, because otherwise years of skimming journal articles for the two relevant paragraphs takes over and I end up reading the novel just to see what happens next, like I'm summarizing it. "King killed by ear poison; son consumed with revenge. No good comes of it. Exeunt all."

"Lots of mistaken identity. Everyone gets lost in the woods. Ends with a triple wedding. This plot seems familiar, check references."

"Best of times, worst of times. Claim is not substantiated."

"Hobbits: short, chubby, and English. Everyone else: medieval. Ring: to be destroyed in fire. Gollum: clever device."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:38 AM
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114: Me too.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:40 AM
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I feel like I'm falling off the page whenever I read 114.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:41 AM
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And three.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:41 AM
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114: me three. much better that Jane Eyre, which suffers from that abominably boring section with St. John.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:42 AM
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re: 115

Yeah, the academy has left me with a taste mostly for black comedy and thrillers as I am mostly seeking light amusement as respite from study. I read very few literary novels these days (although I do still get a chance to read the occasional one).

re: 117

It's a poetic device. The hanging comma, it's designed to leave the reader with an immense feeling of,


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:44 AM
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Let me take this opportunity to pimp an article by Matt Cooper (yes, that Matt Cooper) from the Washington Monthly from 1988: "Why We Need a New Dickens".

While a new Dickens couldn't cure poverty, he could inspire personal commitment from the middle class. I don't mean the anesthesia of paying for yet another government program, but involvement. And that takes understanding. Public health care won't improve unless talented doctors and nurses want to choose Harlems over Humanas, at least for a few years. We won't really become a kinder, gentler nation unless our leaders know something that's true about those on the bottom. But working with or for the poor requires inspiration; it doesn't come naturally. Individuals disappoint. Projects collapse. Easier lives beckon. Great art, as opposed to Brookings reports, can be the spur we need.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:45 AM
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121: Isn't this where someone brings up The Wire? (Which I'm finally watching, and am annoyed to be enjoying.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:47 AM
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On fear of missing out: This is what led me to the French Quarter at 11:15 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Midnight passed as I was in the car with my gf and I spent 1-2 a.m. wandering around a casino to wait for traffic to die down, bored out of my mind and 2-3 a.m. getting my car out of a parking garage. But I got to see 6 drunken 20-year-old cowards harass a middle-aged man in the garage. He absolutely refused to back down, so at least I have that story to tell.

On Dickens: I have an English degree and was never assigned any Dickens. I'm sort of pleased with that.

If there's going to be a southern meet-up, may I submit, my fair city for consideration? New Orleans is a happening place.


Posted by: cajunpunk | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:48 AM
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the academy has left me witht he feeling that the only thing worth talking about when we talk about books is why we like them or why we don't. This is the primary insight to be gained from novel reading, I've decided. Since I am teaching GE in a few weeks, I am accordingly interested in why I find it so fucking dull in parts.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:49 AM
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The Wire is so much better than Dickens.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:50 AM
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I started Middlemarch over the holiday and got through the first book. I'm loving it in episodes -- the two sisters are just phenomenal characters -- but there does seem to be an awful lot of it. I think the over-under for my stamina is middle of book three.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:52 AM
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122: It did come to mind. I was given seasons 1-4 by Santa and have now watched 1-3. (Also, that show is beefcake-o-rama. Damn.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:52 AM
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re: 124

I think I was influenced by the fact that I have a really beautiful edition [late 19th century pocket hardback with onionskin pages and engraved illustrations]. Which made reading it a sensual pleasure.

[I joke, a bit, as I loved the book. But the lovely 'hardware' probably satisfied something shallow in my soul.]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:52 AM
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126: Merging threads here, is Rosamund of Middlemarch a sort of pre-cursor to the grasping yuppie wife stereotype à la Jennifer Garner in Juno, Téa Leoni in Spanglish, Annette Benning in American Beauty? Rosamund gets a raw deal.

(PS: Not prepared to defend this. Haven't read it in 7 years or so.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:55 AM
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126: It gets livelier (IMO) as it goes on. Dorothea's kind of dull (worthy, but she doesn't do a whole lot beyond languishing frustrated), but in the middle of the book you end up with the Vincys and Doctor Whosis and Rosamond-the-scary, who are all entertaining.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:56 AM
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In my senior seminar on medicine and 19th-c novels, I was voted "Most Like Dorothea Brooke," as in, most likely to marry an impotent old fool whose absurd intellectual pursuits I take seriously, and then spend the rest of my life pining after cute, shallow young artsy dudes.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:57 AM
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pre-cursor to the grasping yuppie wife stereotype

Something like that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 9:57 AM
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128: I find that totally valid. What I think is even more interesting is the way we are trained to think of any sensual pleasure from books as shallow, as opposed to the deep, world-of-the-mind-ness of these epic realist romps like Middlemarch.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:00 AM
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On Dickens: I have an English degree and was never assigned any Dickens. I'm sort of pleased with that.

Lucky sod. I'm sure much of Dickens is wonderful but I was forced to read Copperfield and Nickleby when I was 12 and never recovered. I knew people who took a solemn vow of illiteracy in consequence of this treatment.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:01 AM
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131: I'm writing a key to all mythologies . . . laydeeez.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:03 AM
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Hrmphf. Some people just don't know when they're enjoying themselves.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:03 AM
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136 --> 134.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:04 AM
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LB, I'll read them again when I'm cast away on a desert island and probably love them. But they're not kids' books.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:06 AM
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135 is funny. Mayeb we should have a thread where everyone posts in persona of a 19th cent. novel character and we see who, unexpectedly, is compatible with whom. Which reminds me that I am thinking about an assignment for my undergrads where they have to do a facebook network with novel characters. is this teh lame?


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:06 AM
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The first time I read Middlemarch, I was fifteen or something and the discussion of Casaubon's impotence was just too fucking subtle for me to recognize. I sure was surprised when I read it again in college!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:12 AM
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Oh, man, the first time I read Jane Eyre, I had no idea of the relationship between Rochester and Adele, or what Rochester was supposed to have been doing with his opera singer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:14 AM
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we should have a thread where everyone posts in persona of a 19th cent. novel character

I for one can't wait.

Yours faithfully,

Teh Nap0l30n of Crimxxorz


Posted by: ytrairoM rosseforP | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:14 AM
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140/141: I had the opposite problem. As a young reader who had serious FOMS about what adults do, I read everything as "probably sex." Lord of the Flies was a lot more interesting when I read it at 11 than when I read it at 15.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:16 AM
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"Quickly, Holmes," I cried. He has seized the White Bear!"

"Fool that I was to hold my hand!" my friend exclaimed.


Posted by: John Watson | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:19 AM
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Yeah, I was Miss Freudian Latency Period through my early teens. Any sexual reference that could be missed, I missed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:20 AM
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Yeah, it's not that I'd never heard of impotence by fifteen, by any means, just that I was so sure that a non-pornographic Victorian novel would never have anything to say about sex. I also had LB's experience of 141.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:22 AM
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Hah. Fuck you, and your skinny big-nosed friend, too.

[To the boat-train, driver!]


Posted by: ytrairoM rosseforP | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:23 AM
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Yeah, I was Miss Freudian Latency Period through my early teens.

I didn't realize "Papa don't preach" was about pregnancy. I thought she wanted to keep her boyfriend.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:24 AM
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Meanwhile, "you know things aren't good when you see a headline about Pakistani refugees fleeing to Afghanistan."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:25 AM
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141: Me too! I thought that he was just, you know, being a nice guy, helping out.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:27 AM
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148: Heebie FTW.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:27 AM
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Part of it seems to be what LB describes, but part of it is just that sex in movies & contemporary novels & magazines is so in-your-face that "took her because he had no real right to touch her hand" went over everyone's head or the Thomas Hardy short story where I swear everyone in the class missed the fact that the young preacher and his lover had had sex until she turned up pregnant. There's a euphemism mismatch. "But I knew my uncle Charlie, and was with him... so what?"


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:30 AM
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152: I once insisted to my high school class that the characters in a Thomas Hardy novel could not possibly have been having sex because surely no one in the 19th century would possibly do something so contrary to contemporary standards. Curiously, I knew from my first reading of Jane Eyre (age 11) that Adele was Rochester's illegitimate daughter; what is more, I did a tremendous amount of my choose-your-own-subject English projects about Oscar Wilde. In retrospect, I think that I believed that we could not actually have been assigned a novel in which the characters had sex outside of marriage. I still don't like Thomas Hardy.

Great Expectations I can take or leave--it was one of the many poorly-chosen set texts from high school. I was forbidden Bleak House until I turned fifteen and then constantly urged to read it (that's life as the daughter of a former english professor) . I didn't voluntarily read any Dickens until after college--Dickens was a Very Serious Matter around our house. But when I was in China I read as many of his novels as I could find, all in very nice yellow-spined editions. (Penguins possibly?) The nice thing about Dickens is that his novels get stranger and stranger the more you think about them.

Although I'll take a nicely-constructed paperback over a fancy hardback any day--anything remotely fragile and shiny is wasted on me, since it will just bounce around in my bag with my other books, a forgotten apple and a few capless pens until it's horribly defaced.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 10:59 AM
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153: no, early in high school I too had some weird belief that sex was invented in about 1963 or so (see Larkin). Some residual puritan brainwashing combined with a certain leftover pre-adolescent prudishness.

I recommend "My Secret Life" for a corrective picture of Victorian sexuality.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 11:09 AM
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I was shocked by the Miller's Tale and the Reeve's Tale in high school. Shocked. I honestly and truly believed up until that point that the world had started out really, really freaked out and repressive about sex and progressively got a little teeny bit more relaxed each year.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 11:12 AM
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See, the funny thing is that I'd read quite a lot of stuff about 19th century England, much of which was fairly frank about sex--Oscar Wilde and so on. And Canterbury Tales, and various novels set in the 19th century, not to mention the Burton Arabian Nights and a few books about Burton's life. I knew all that. But somehow I assumed that no one would ever write it down, maybe? And that therefore there could be no contemporary books which suggested that the Victorians had any kind of sex other than the minimal amount needed for reproduction.

Or maybe it was just the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in my head at once.

Also, I think, the idea that everything I read for myself outside of school was valuable and interesting and true and important but that everything I was forced to read in school was shallow, hypocritical and full of lies.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 11:32 AM
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When I first read Dracula (my personal pick for greatest English-language novel, which I'm sure marks me as somehow stupid) in 7th grade I could tell immediately that it was all about sex; Dracula's harem don't really leave a lot to the imagination there. Still, it's so easy to make Dracula be about any number of things - about romantic love in a context of Victorian propriety, about sexual impropriety, sexual rivalry, immigration, cultural hegemony, whatever - that I don't think spotting sex in it says anything about the book so much as it does about me. I was ready to read sex into pretty much any ol' text one could give me at that age.

It probably didn't help that later my 8th grade lit teacher assigned us Ragged Dick instead of some Dickens or another.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 11:57 AM
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157: Why, Robust, everyone knows that Dracula is about the rise of the bourgeoisie and of American financial capital. This sex stuff is just your fevered imagination.

IIRC, it wasn't so much books-with-sex-in-them that I looked for as books-with-non-heteronormative-sex. Dracula was just all right, really, because although there was some admirable perversity (lots of blood transfusions from different men!) it seemed to be more about lovely women and heroic men, and thus blah. Portrait of a Lady, now...much less with the eroticism, but so much more with the longing and perversity.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 12:46 PM
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Several thoughts:

Heebie was the It girl? Was there a vote?

I feel really bad that Sybil has to teach GE. I hated it. I cannot imagine re-reading, much less forcing some poor undergrads to read it and discuss it. I vote yes on the facebook idea. You have to do something to help them survive the drudgery.


Richmond meetup anytime. Or Charlottesvlle.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 1:30 PM
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people were talking about me at the party
it is amazing
what country are you from, Heebie-geebie?


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 2:25 PM
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what country are you from, Heebie-geebie?

Read: answer here


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 2:48 PM
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texans are considered foreigners
i must be a martian then


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 3:38 PM
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Heebie was the It girl? Was there a vote?

For a shining moment, back in aught six. Then it passed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 3:50 PM
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162 is a fantastic misinterpretation of 161.

(read: Texans are notoriously so self-important that they consider Texas its own country.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 3:54 PM
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Heebie is certainly deserving of being the It girl. We had a blast talking with her.

I'm still shocked that nobody has even commented on the butt picture.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 5:04 PM
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quite late, but don't feel bad for my undergrads, will. i do feel like GE is beautifully teachable, even if dull in stretches. The dullness plays nicely into discussion of why novels, how novels matter, etc. Once I hit upon the fact that GE is, at its most fundamental level, a novel about feeling bad, the teaching possibilities spread out in front of me, much like the mist of the marshes spreads out in front of Pip, suggesting an infinity of barely obscured secrets.
aaahhhhh.

and, also, i do have both Dracula and Tess later in the semester, closer to evals time.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 6:21 PM
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Will and BR are totally Its, too. Full of It.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:04 PM
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Heebie:

Since Texas Tech beat UVa, BR and I have to go to Texas to see her Texas kin. We will let you know when.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:11 PM
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Hey, fantastic! Can't wait to see you guys again. Don't worry, I won't tell the others.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 2-08 7:52 PM
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Back on topic, I was in the Royal Festival Hall on the night of the New York Dolls' last ever gig; just not in the gig.

Gah.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 4:56 AM
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Can't wait to see you guys again. Don't worry, I won't tell the others.

You can tell M/tch, just dont tell Kraabie.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01- 3-08 5:52 AM
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