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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Personal: Diane; Old Flames; The Coming Election; Visions of Venice 
5th-Dec-2007 11:50 pm
Ah... Venice...
Random entry time. I've been locked in pretty much all week, other than teaching and the occasional visit to library or coffeeshop. After my attendance at the Over The Rhine concert last Wednesday, the only social thing I've done is having Diane grab me for dinner and drinks on Thursday, which was very good timing, as I knew I'd been rudely invisible the previous three weeks while working on the Theosis book chapter. So we went out to the Water Street Brewery where we both got giant variations on Chicken Alfredo (mine fed me for two more meals) and just caught up. We seem to like winding down at the Metro over dessert, and we headed over there but both ended up not wanting to order anything to eat. It was strangely quiet for a Thursday we though, and we just relaxed on a couch and nursed a few glasses of port over the next few hours while we talked. Maybe that's why I'm not recalling lots of what we talked about. Or maybe it was just not a wide variety of topics. I remember a long examination of female culture, as she related having fallen into an extended conversation with a group (in a friends-of-friends sort) dominated by the utter cattiness that we both find so ugly (where she tried to keep a discrete silence). I think that took us to just talking about love, marriage, dating, and sexuality in general. She wanted to know what I was up to since the date with the English professor, but with the writing and all, I hadn't given it the least thought. I did laugh to tell her that my memory had been clanging through the day with a mental note I'd filed from the spring that it happened to be Jen Wilson's birthday, but I was now released from my duty to try to equal or better her birthday presents to me. I hope her friends treated her to some fun.

Speaking of old flame flashbacks, I got a great Christmas card from Angie the other day, with a fabulous photo in it of her, Chad, and their three girls. What made the day really funny, though, was the fact that within a few hours of reading that, I had opened an old notebook as I was moving some things around and found an old love note from Jenny Patton. As these two were the other key players in my ill-advised undergraduate attempt to (openly) date two people at the same time – an utter failure of courage on my part that I now recall as a brief sojourn in madness – the opening of both of these notes in the space of a few hours felt rather like the universe still chiding me for having subverted the natural order. I do need to catch up with both of them, though: it's been some months since I've spoken to either of them.

I think I got so sick of paying attention to politics during the last presidential election cycle that I've kept that part of my mind pretty much shut down since, waiting for 2008 and the end of the Bush era. I've not been doing the CNN-junkie thing since John Paul II's death and the Papal Conclave that elected Benedict XVI. But I think I have to open that up again soon and start figuring out who to support. However, I still think that, as per my New York Times letter the other year, the primary system completely subverts my ability – since I live in the later-voting Wisconsin – to fully take part in the Presidential election process until after the conventions. I still just can't shake a conversation I had with Shirley Williams where she said that she just was amazed that people hadn't noticed that democracy had failed in the United States and had finally been replaced by plutocracy: more than anything else, the money involved in Democratic and Republican politics is the threat that even the ability to vote doesn't seem to be a strong-enough defense against.

In contrast to that pessimistic-sounding note, something the other day – maybe something about movies or such – made me think about how much people wish they were somewhere else, doing something else, being someone else. And I thought to myself, "What else do I wish I could be doing other than this work? What would I trade it all for?" And I realized: nothing. I'm doing what I like the most, and what I think it most important for me to be doing. Sure, there are details of life I'd change, but I was suddenly struck by what a blessing I'd been given.

A memory came back to me of being surprised in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence the other summer with Erik when I saw Canaletto's painting The Doges' Palace and Piazza San Marco, Venice, which was at nearly the same angle as my own vision of the same place the day before.

It was just one of those moments where you blink for a moment, trying to get your bearings about whether you had merely seen the painting before, or whether that was a vision from your own life....
6th-Dec-2007 03:52 pm (UTC)
I remember a long examination of female culture, as she related having fallen into an extended conversation with a group (in a friends-of-friends sort) dominated by the utter cattiness that we both find so ugly (where she tried to keep a discrete silence).

Oh for heaven's sake, must we gender cattiness?
6th-Dec-2007 04:12 pm (UTC)
Do you deny that there is a very specific female reality which we can call cattiness? I'm perfectly willing for historical reasons to hitherto gender "nuclear war" as male, but there is a particular thing here we're talking about that would make males very happy to have kept the bombs to themselves to this point.
6th-Dec-2007 04:18 pm (UTC)
I would deny it, both in light of particular experience to the contrary as well as on a more abstract level.
6th-Dec-2007 04:34 pm (UTC)
Well, poo. I think there's a difference between recognizing gendered cultural group dynamics and sexist stereotyping.
6th-Dec-2007 04:43 pm (UTC)
But there's a fine line between "recognizing" group dynamics as they exist (and I wouldn't deny that they exist) and "reinforcing" and perpetuating assumptions about group dynamics, which is pernicious and unhelpful for all concerned.

I say this from a context of often hearing "catty" used as a way of distinguishing an individual woman from some undefined herd of Those Other Bad Women (ie, "I am not one of those catty bitches, thus I hang out only with guys" was the refrain of a vocal minority of my classmates... at BMC!)
7th-Dec-2007 01:55 am (UTC)
And I, of course, used my description not from any desire to reinforce or perpetuate assumptions about group dynamics, but only to accurately and even generously describe the specific behaviour of a specific group, said specifics of which I am too modest to report here. Come on, Em: without a greater pattern and collection of evidence, I'm going to very much resist all reductions of my language here to gross bigotry, which is the implication I feel like I'm hearing here. I said and meant only what I said.

Win/Win? Or am I still clearly in the wrong here?
7th-Dec-2007 02:28 am (UTC)
Mike, I never meant to imply that you were in the wrong, that you were a bigot (grossly or otherwise), or anything of the kind.

Surely you, of all people, can appreciate that I can critique and discuss the potential implications of language without it translating into a personal attack on you.
7th-Dec-2007 05:07 am (UTC)
No, you certainly hadn't in any explicit way, but the implication nevertheless seemed be (potentially?) there, even if not saying that that was my intention, and I felt strongly otherwise, and so I just wanted to make that as explicit as I could.
7th-Dec-2007 05:08 am (UTC)
God in Heaven, we're processing, ain't we.
7th-Dec-2007 05:17 am (UTC)
It happens. :-)

And it's worth making sure I haven't overly irritated or offended you. Misunderstandings are easier via text.
7th-Dec-2007 05:19 am (UTC)
Misunderstandings are easier via text.

Indeed they are, but far from being overly irritated or offended, I was absolutely none of either.
7th-Dec-2007 04:38 am (UTC)
And actually, I'll cop to making a mental leap from "female culture" to "cattiness" (because of the construction of the sentence) that I will totally accept was my own connection and not necessarily your own.
6th-Dec-2007 06:06 pm (UTC)
As these two were the other key players in my ill-advised undergraduate attempt to (openly) date two people at the same time – an utter failure of courage on my part that I now recall as a brief sojourn in madness – i>

I think I would pay $5 to hear this story.
6th-Dec-2007 06:06 pm (UTC)
Excuse my lack of closed italics.
7th-Dec-2007 01:36 am (UTC)
Sold! Try to remember it for that day we actually meet face-to-face and can sit at leisure with tall mugs (I think $5 will cover the first round), telling tales....
6th-Dec-2007 08:08 pm (UTC) - san marco
Hi, I friended you the other day and you back at me. One difference between your photo and Canaletto's painting, maybe, the water is higher.
7th-Dec-2007 01:38 am (UTC) - Re: san marco
Interesting! I've squinted at length and cannot tell, given the slight differences in angle and distance, and I cannot recall specifics from what history of the lagoon I've read....
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