Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gigantor

Well folks, my dear and strangely undeterred friends, you may want to skip this. You see, I am feeling the earth's gravity and my skirt's waistband too much today. For some reason I have been expanding my surface area and circumference lately, and as such my posture and stomach muscles are getting more than I bargained for, since I am only comfortable (sort of) when sitting perfectly upright with my stomach sucked in. I feel like a whale. More specifically, I feel like a beluga - small for its species, white, cute, and enveloped in a mattress of fat. Oh yes, I know, I am exaggerating. I can only wish that I were as cute as a beluga, though I am probably not as fat-encased.

Somebody take the peanut butter away.

When something like this happens, I am always totally stumped. You see, I have no way of dealing with it, at least, no effective way. Exercise and diet, insofar as I can bring myself to do them, never help me much. Correction: they don't help at all. I have never in my life lost a single pound by trying to. I eat mostly healthily anyway. And I certainly can't afford a new set of outfits. Something has to give.

Any tips anyone?

Journal

I spent my lunchbreak reading The Invisible Man and writing up lists of my personal saints and monsters in my brand-new journal. In the park, and in the shade, bit of a breeze. I did this because I wanted to be outside, because I wanted to do something to take my mind off things, and because a book had told me so.

It did take my mind off things, and my mind is much happier.

For a moment, for just a moment, I stopped caring whether what I was doing was any good.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A quick note before work - I only just managed to do the morning pages for my Artist's Way planning. I do not, so far, see the point, it just feels painful and annoying. The rest of life...I miss the Spouse. I am still not comfortable with my job, and I still have not found a nice pair of pantyhose. What do they do to them? Perhaps more tonight...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Escapism

Folks, you know that I am pretty impetuous. I am feeling especially so today. On average, I consider quitting my job about once every two days. Most of the time I do not consider it very seriously, but today is one of those days. The incident prompting the thought is not, in itself, significant; nor is the person. Somebody pointed out to me that I was breaking the -unwritten- dresscode. After two and a half years of working for the most corporate of corporate giants, things like that never cease to amaze me. Needless to say, it was not something that ever came up in that, or any other job.

The dress code is, essentially, a detail. The bigger picture is this: I work for an organisation which enforces professional dress, but not professional behaviour. Even the professional dress is dubious - my outfit today is more formal than what many other people are wearing. No - it is purely about the detail. Not the actual look, not the overall impression.

What do I mean when I say that they don't enforce professional behaviour? There is the fact that people generally direct any issues with colleagues to that person's supervisor, rather than talking to the person themselves - this is not something I have suffered from, but it happens all the time, and strikes me as both childish and slightly cowardly. Then there is the official first name policy, which effectively results in a very select and deliberate use of first names vs. last names. The head of the organisation is of course not addressed by his first name (though that is the policy, and the policy is his).

Apart from that there is my European-in-America/I miss my corporate employer gripe - they don't have sick days (you have to use holidays), overtime can't be compensated with flextime, they don't do parttime arrangements, any unpaid leave you take (even for sickness) blocks your holiday buildup for up to two months after your return, remote working is never considered an option, entirely reasonable business expenses are often only partially reimbursed, personal involvement is taken for granted, unpaid volunteer work is constantly pushed, salary staff routinely have to work weekends without extra pay, etc, etc, etc,

I just don't know if I can keep working for an organisation that is this backward.

The consequences of waking up at 5.30 am

Update: More awake and less headachy. Jolly good. Writing highly ironic email and annoying other people's accounting departments helps.

I am reading H.G. Wells' Invisible Man, and I feel his pain. Those days when people just get in your way and you just want to...hit them. While I have no intention of acting on this feeling, being mostly Nice, I am exceedingly grouchy this morning.


Memorial day, then, ended with me starting on Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way as I had promised myself. Perhaps I am extra-sensitive to these things, but it was a more demanding and emotional experience than I was counting on. Hence, perchance, the headache, which in turn does not help with the grouchiness. Still, I suppose I should bear with it and get up at an ungodly hour to Help My Creativity.

On the plus side, I got to catch up with my family and most of my friends over the weekend. I miss them. I miss them more as time passes; but it can't be helped. These are my choices.

I haven't talked to my parents-in-law for some time. This feels odd, since I called them pretty often before the wedding. I should call them sometime, they're nice.

Expect more updates on this Artist's Way thing. I am not sure, you see, that it is anything for me; but the book reminds me that that is part of the point.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The suckiest of things

I was supposed to have people over tonight. I cleaned, I cooked, they didn't show. Turns out they got the date wrong. This sucks, as I now have more food than I know what to do with, and the acute awareness that I have no one I could call to ask to share it.

Four-step short-term action place:
- Eat some of the mentioned food, and realise that it actually quite good
- Watch the usa Monkmorial Marathon
- Eat corn chips, but resist impulse to have wine left over from yesterday
- Vent on blog

Friday, May 25, 2007

Good things

Alec Guinness is dead, Patrick Stewart is in the UK, and generally I am starting to wonder what makes life worth living. There is any easy answer to this question: Gary Numan. I downloaded some Eurythmics too, sure, I haven't listened to that stuff in years, but my collection now once again holds that live version of Are Friends Electric that I blogged about before. Thanks for that, Gary. I also dug up my cd of Suede's self-titled first album, and while I was admittedly a little intoxicated when I listened to it yesterday (a nice Oregon red it was too), it confirmed all of my memories with enthusiasm. Brilliant stuff. The Drowners. That song. Can you believe that I forgot all about its existence*?

Oh, and Spirit in the Sky. In need to get that sometime too. it will be one of the rare occasions on which I can be heard enthusiastically singing that I got a friend in Jesus. For some reason it always reminds me of that Tom Robbins book, Another Roadside Attraction, which has the same hippy feel, but which takes its preoccupation with Jesus to a whole new level. The best hippy book of all times, though, has to be Little, Big by John Crowley. At first it seems like it may smother you in its hippiness, but once you get past that it is really a marvellous book, with lots of subtle twists and compelling plotlines.

If any of you want to tell me what makes their life worth living on this particular day, now is a good time.

*You probably can. But I can't, and you probably didn't know me when I was obsessed with Suede, which explains why you don't understand just how impossible it should be to forget about The Drowners.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Goals


StupidTester.com says I'm 41% Stupid! How stupid are you? Click Here!


As you all know, I love setting goals for myself. I am terrible at actually achieving them this year (see previously set goals). My goal for the holiday weekend, then, is this: I will start The Artist's Way. I will then try to actually follow the outlined plan. My brain is going numb and I need to do something in spite of a complete and utter lack of artistic motivation or self-confidence. Check back with me sometime.

Up, up and away

Can I just say that I am really bummed about this Memorial Day thing? I shouldn't be, because I have people coming over and stuff to do, and so I won't die of loneliness as I initially thought I might. Still - the Spouse is off on his exotic work trip, my boss is off to a beautiful rural spot in the mountains, my colleagues are off to camping trips and lovers. I am envious. I am seriously, wildly envious. I want to go on trips see things too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Accomplishment

And the winner is...the set of drawers! It took well over three hours, probably closer to four, without breaks. In reality, and with interruptions, it took me about six hours. The comfy chair took about 40 minutes, and the tv stand and sofa both took about two hours. It is all done. Our flat looks like an Ikea catalog, where all is joy and happiness.

I finished reading The Fly in the Cathedral, and my last two bedtime conversations with the Spouse have been concerned with radioactive decay and nuclear physics in general. I am the coolest girl in the universe, and am currently sleeping in a glow-in-the-dark periodic table t-shirt.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

All out

Yes, so I am still working on that last flatpack. But getting the in style, and with much profanity.

Yes, I am very busy with work just now as well. Yes, the Spouse is leaving on his work trip Friday and I feel like I should at least make proper meals until then*.

*after Friday I will have no motivation to cook. Cooking for one is boring, don't I know it. Though I have guests some evenings, and I will cook for them. Nicely, I hope.
**Not me, by the way, I am more of a perky-but-trying-to-seem-sad person

Monday, May 21, 2007

Love to hate Ikea

After a weekend of lugging and assembling flat-pack furniture I have bruises and scratches everywhere, but also a new sofa, chair and chest of drawers. The tv stand is still flatpacked. I am now polling as to which took/will take the longest to assemble, and I welcome guesses as to how long the longest assembly will (have) take(n). Take into account that I am an experienced, but not expert, assembler of Ikea furniture, and that I work mostly on my own (the Spouse is not very flat-pack inclined. He does other stuff).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I thought I'd share what I was thinking of

"America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I'd better get right down to the job.
It's true I don't want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts
factories, I'm nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel."

(Allen Ginsberg, America)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Errant blogging

I have been a little slow with getting around to this today, partly because it is a pretty crazy day, and partly because I am wondering whether it is wise to write what I am thinking. I am not thinking anything particularly volatile, but I am wondering whether one of these days one or other of my colleagues will stumble upon this blog. They certainly could*. It wouldn't be a huge problem (er...) but I do like complaining about my job every once in a while. It would be sad if I couldn't post anymore about the ongoing saga of my struggle with the conservative behemoth which employs me. So I am wondering if I should pull the link from the Spouse and I's site. Obviously, I'll always be clearly identifiable to those who know me well enough, but it seems better than just being a good girl. Where's the fun in that? That said, I will, I think, abstain from commenting in depth on the original impulse for this post - the strange and wonderful things I get paid to do, and how I may well soon earn part of my living with a favourite leisure activity.

*If they wanted to, and could be bothered with blogs. Which frankly I doubt.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Breakfast


The relevant question here is: is there such a thing as a free breakfast?

It all depends on how you look at it - I had to take a taxi there, but I guess that since I can expense that, it's doesn't count. I had to get up early, and that certainly counts, though not in strictly financial terms (I am, after all, paid for my time).

So how about that breakfast? It was a nicish breakfast - granola, muffins, croissants, smoked salmon, fruit; and coffee. I needed the coffee badly, as I slept especially badly last night. On account of having had coffee yesterday. The breakfast was was good. You have guessed right; the breakfast as such was not the point. There was a talk to go with it, and this is where the above question really comes into focus. Is the free breakfast really worth having to sit through the talk? It looked like it might be one of those deals where you have to sit through a timeshare presentation to get discount Disney tickets. In this case, however, the talk (part of a series on visionaries in IT) was better than the breakfast.

The talker on duty was Ted Leonsis, AOL vice chairman; and at that, he could still very well have been boring. The man has great insight into the development of the media, though, and that alone would make it worth getting up early to see him. The thing that really captured my attention on the subject of the Ted was that he seems to have a genuine awareness of, well, the rest of the world. Not just in a potential/new/expanding market sense either. Here is this AOL mogul (and yes, I have absorbed the techie's hatred of AOL) who is aware of all those people who can't get to clean water, never mind internet cafes. Somebody who actually tries to do something about the things that matter to him. I respect that. Do I wish he were a tad less smug about his lifestyle? I do. Do I wonder how hands-on his charity experiences are? Certainly. Do I think he has his heart in the right place? Probably. Do I think his insights in our society hold true? Yes. One of the things he talked about were the things that make us happy - relationships, community, self-expression, giving back and pursuing a higher calling; and he certainly appears to work very hard to make all those elements present in his life.

Do I wish that he would do something to make the Caps less rubbish? I don't know, I find them rather endearingly bad.

Finally, is that blog of his any good? Depends on what you think of the Caps, I guess.

Either way, I believe this counts as a free breakfast
.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Drive


Hmmm. Drove through the Shenandoah Valley yesterday. Very nice. Driving also coming along nicely, and I have injured a total of no people so far.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fridays

This day started off rather miserably, but by now things are looking a lot more reasonable, I've been paid, and the weekend is in sight. Moreover, yesterday I finally, uhm, scored some Memorial Day activities. I invited a couple who are new in town over - I figured they might like the company. I also realised that I hadn't asked one of the people on my friend shortlist, and did, and he is coming over for dinner on another evening, in addition to us potentially doing a museum or movie or something.

So I'm working on the friend thing. Also trying to figure out what is the best way to get a bit more fit, my eternal missed goal. And trying to decide whether or not to join colleagues for happy hour after work. Right now, going home and sitting on some terrace with a drink and the Spouse just sounds that much more appealing.

Have a great weekend folks, and hope that I don't kill anyone (inlcuding myself) while driving on the interstate.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

From memory*

There are things I can recite - I have a bad memory for exact quotes - but some things you remember, they stick with you over the years and pop up at opportune and less opportune moments. Strips, shards, swathes of words.
Quosque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra?

Things you remember, because you memorised them
ships tempest-tossed may find a harbour in some bay/and so we may

Or just because they spoke to you
I sat upon the shore, fishing
With the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?

Besides, some things are just easy to remember
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty years is little room
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry, hung with snow

Or hard to forget
Man hands on misery to man
It deepens like a coastal shelf
So get out as quickly as you can
And don't have any kids yourself

There are always things which are simply true, or calm, or just to your mind, your heart. And anytime I enter an old church I think - I take off my cycle clips in awkward reverence
These things I remember, not what I choose - I couldn't quote you any Byron, or JD Salinger, or Malcolm Lowry, or even Robert McLiam Wilson, though I remember that he says that all stories are love stories. He's right. I can quote you things you won't know (unless you know them)
I love the way they ask you if where you're staying
Meaning where you live
As if you had a choice
Though right now I seem to have misplaced my enthusiasm for literature, I am looking for it, because the only way I feel sometimes is with other people's words, and because once a thing is know, it can never be unknown, it can only be forgotten...

Memory is like a body - it shows your age, and where you come from, it shows your scars, and the place where you cut yourself when you were ten. It shows you what you can hide, and what you can't, and all of the stuff you'd like to forget. Literature is such a big part of this life of mine that if I never read another book, it would still remain embedded. Not just the words or quotes, but the cadences, the images conjured up; like a literary accents, it lingers in my speech.

*literally - I purposely did not check. Quoted are, in order, Cicero (from the Catilinian speeches), Oscar Wilde (A poem called, I think, "Her voice"), TS Eliot (The Waste Land), AE Houseman (A Shropshire Lad), Philip Larkin (forget what the first one is; the second one is "Church going"), Paula Cunningham (Something from A Dog Called Chance), Anita Brookner (I do, actually forget)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"Combining the truth of the Bible with biological facts"

A promising description. Biology and American Christians are not always friends, and the prospect of seeing some of of both in one place and playing nice is encouraging. Let's proceed - it gets better. The name of the site described, is, after all, "The Marriage Bed". Yes, that's right, it's a Christian site about sex. For married couples, of course, one man, one woman.

The site, in my book, gets a few things wrong (apart from where we part company on some moral issues). For example, they hardly talk about STDs, when even in the storybook scenario of marriage it is still wise to have both undergo tests, and the reality is quite far from the storybook in many cases. There is more, but that is not my point at all. The point is that there are two things about this site that really impress me:

- They withhold judgement: As promised, they refer to the Bible alone, and give the full range of opinion, while not expressing any opinions as to which point of view is preferable
- They are exact and unabashed: The site gives a wealth of really useful information, and doesn't use euphemisms

There are, of course, many things this site and I disagree on; but I respect what they are trying to do, and I respect that when they come up with arguments, they try to come up with good ones*. So there, I'll disregard the silliness and focus on the fact that this is really a pretty commendable effort. If only for the Christian, heterosexual, married, abstinence-only-before-marriage folks out there. You'll certainly get your money's worth of both Bible and biology.

*Disregard the intro here and skip straight to the arguments

Rejoice.

I passed my driver's ed test. I passed it with a score of 94, 80 being the minimum required for a pass. I made three mistakes on fifty questions, one of which was really stupid. I passed.

The relief at not having to pass three perfectly good hours in class every night is great. It was, nonetheless, sort of fun and sort of interesting* as theoretical driving lessons go. Instead, however, I shall now have time to cook actual meals, as I fully plan to do. I shall also have to convince myself to drive everywhere, rather than walk or take the bus, thereby further reducing my fitness level, but increasing my practice hours from whatever paltry total they have reached so far.

Hell, I'll be able to spend actual time with the Spouse.

*lots of death and mutilation. Considering my tolerance for such things, it is amazing that I am not deeply traumatised.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Things that aren't

Well folks, I'm not doing so well with this Memorial Day stuff; by which I mean that I am not, so far, successful at planning fun stuff. This is very boring. Time to make more friends, preferably ones who aren't moving to other parts of the country soon.

Free


When I was young and innocent, and could get up at 8 am, then I was happy. Now I have to get up at 6 am sharp, and wake up a grouchy monster, destroying everything in my path. Someday I will get my license and be able to get up at 6.35 am. Meanwhile it is just tempting to quit my job and find something with more flexible hours.

Quitting my job is not, however, a good idea, and for the first time in my life I am not at liberty to do so. There is rent and debt to be paid. I hate it, and if anyone ever wonders why I am so motivated to pay off our debt, well, there you go. I want to be free to quit my job. Not that my job is so bad - I mean on principle. I am not ready to part with the ability, however theoretical, of taking off to drive across the country. Do I know that this is not how things work in the real world? Oh nonsense, the real world is what you make it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Young

Today I was sitting in the lunch room at work with my boss and some other colleagues. At one of the other tables there was a small group of the "young people", meaning some of the under thirties around. I wondered for a moment whether I had made some terrible social mistake. Should I be joining these, er, hip people? Particularly now that I actually live (sort of) next door to one of them? Am I weird for hanging out with non-young people (by definition of grouping)?

Following this little internal monologue, I realised a number of things.
a) I have a long and honourable history of getting along well with people who are older than me. I have lots of friends my age, but much like my parents use to have a way of winning over my friends from highschool, I always got along well with theirs, and generally with people who are at a different stage of their lives.
b) The person I have just moved next door to is a really social, sweet, bright, happy person. I haven't a thing to say to her, and am totally uninterested in cultivating her as a friend.
c) Of the remainder of the people there is only one I actively get along with, and even there I think he's charming and nice, but other than that...don't have much to say to him.
d) I asked one of my colleagues over for dinner today. She is, yes, much older than me and I invited her because I am thrilled to have finally found a colleague that I can talk to*. Someone I have stuff in common with, and who has a cool personality. Huzzah.

Obviously, these are not the only "young"** people around. There's me, but I don't count since I'm a techie and hang around with old people. Then there is one of my team members, who is only a little older than I am, but who looks older by virtue of a diet consisting mainly of fried things, and who is somehow unconvincing as a young person. There are a few people in maintenance, but they're in maintenance, so they're kind of a universe to themselves anyway. And then there is, oh, one more youngish person I do actually get along with, but who doesn't socially count as young because he's been here long enough to be disregarded. The most stubborn person in the building, so flagrantly tetchy*** and opinionated that he is clandestinely quite nice. Anyway, he doesn't count either.

The advantage of being close to thirty rather than just over twenty: unlike when I was twenty-one, I have this passing thought, rather than spending weeks and months trying to socialise with people I don't actually care for, so I can get straight to the people I do like, however un-young or un-cool. I love being a grown-up. I am so much better at it.

*Without having to be careful about mentioning politics, evolution, divorce, mental health care, healthy eating habits, abortion, benefits, social security, euthenasia or linguistics, depending on who I'm talking to.
**Young = under thirty. Not my definition; it just seems to be the organisational cutoff point.
***See def. - am I crazy or is Liz Taylor still quite alive?

Moved!


Huzzah. It is done. We are moved out and moved in, and have an apartment full of boxes. The box-to-apartment ratio is better than it was for our last move, considering that this place is far larger than the previous one. These last two weeks have been hard; it is what you get for trying to combine packing up a flat with freelance deadlines (Spouse) and driver's ed classes (self). Anyway, the worst is over now. We're getting on decently with the unpacking, I have only two more classes to go. On Saturday after we moved, we both fell asleep at 6 pm, woke up at ten for about an hour and a half, then went back to sleep, got up the next day, cleaned the old flat, unpacked some of the new one, bought some food, ate and went back to bed at 9 pm. I feel better now - about time; the Spouse and I were getting to have rather too many arguments

Being the slightly obsessive multitasker that I am, I am already on to the next thing - finding something fun to do on Memorial Day weekend, since I will be on my own.

I am getting closer to getting off this mad diet of pizza and Indian food and getting back to my normal, sane self. When I look out the kitchen window, there is a blossoming pink dogwood tree, and it is surprising how much better that makes things.

What am I doing here, at this job, by the way? Is it really the best I can do with my skills? Oh, I am being unfair, it is often really great. One does get tired of being treated like a sectretary though. Anyway, I promised myself that I'd give it until November...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Miscellaneous for Friday

One does learn a thing or two in driver's education classes, particularly when said classes are taught by someone who knows what they are talking about. After two weeks of hearing about the multifarious ways in which on can be killed by driving, sitting in, or being anywhere near a car, I can only say that I hope that they do throw Paris Hilton in prison for repeated reckless/drunk driving. People like her kill other people all the time; and not many of those caught driving drunk have the luxury of not having to care about their police record. If I were caught driving drunk and convicted in the state of Maryland, I would be deported. I am more worried about the odds of someone I love being a victim of one of these idiots.

Just in case Paris Hilton wasn't obnoxious enough.

On another topic, I can now finally go back to listening to MuggleCast. Their April Fools' made me miffed for a long time with their plot spoiler hoax, particularly since I listened to the episode long after the first*, but they've finally 'fessed up. Speaking of which, I need to pre-order the book. Next paycheck. I have less than no money just now, having invested all available funds in silly things like deposits for new flats and driver's ed.

So we're moving tomorrow. I have no earthly clue of how we are going to accomplish this, but assume that somehow or other it will work out. Wish us luck.

*Did I believe them? No, of course not. Did I not believe them? Er...mostly.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tired

I am having a no self esteem day, one of those charming days where you, well, I, feel like I don't accomplish anything at work (too tired, to the point of falling asleep). Meanwhile I am grumpy with the Spouse (because I'm tired), and not sleeping enough because I'm taking driver's ed 6-9.15 pm and then going home and packing, and getting up at 6 am the next day. I am living on fastfood and late-night pizza since that is all I have access to; it makes me feel miserable. I haven't so much as walked more than 10 minutes a day in two weeks and feel increasingly unhealthy and fat.

Probably best to leave me alone today.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Just a link

I am putting this up as much for the discussion as for the post - the discussion is a good example of how things might be if people thought a little longer before starting to shout.

If you're frank, I'll be glad*

This is an old, old post I came accross, which expresses, perfectly and eloquently, a point I have been wanting to make about blogging. Please read it, it's not very long. Seriously. Go on. It's right there.

In addition, there are two things that make uninteresting blogging superior to printed sludge:
- Blogging does not require paper. Trees no longer have to die for bad writing.
- On the whole, blogs are much less pretentious than printed material

We're making progress here, and speaking for myself, I do enjoy not being pretentious whilst being mildly uninteresting.

All that said, I wonder why there are so few blogs about literature out there. Plenty of "literary" blogs, but hardly anything decent about writing. Anyway, the most readable thing I found recently was, ye gods, about Victorians. I remember Victorians, their complex and endless sentences and their great cufflinks. Tips, anyone?

*such a great title, and obviously not actually my idea

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Wykehamists


For the longest time I thought, based on vague interpretations of 19th century prose and memoires, that Wykehamists were some sort of obscure homosexual subculture, that it was some bizarre code word. I mean, these were the people who used green carnations to communicate their intentions, so everything was possible.

Then I moved to Hampshire, and took a tour of Winchester cathedral*. Winchester is home to a very famous public (meaning private, and all boys) school, and their founder is buried in the cathedral. His name? William of Wykeham. Hence. Their motto? Manners makyth man**. I wasn't too far off with my interpretation then.

*Where Jane Austen is buried, by the way
**Which means I understand one more reference in a song I like. This makes me happy.

Keys


By the way, ladies and gentlemen, we finally signed the lease, and the Spouse now has the keys to the new apartment! It was nice to sign a sane lease.

Terror and Virtue


Somehow, in between moving, driver's ed and work, I am reading a book from the Revolution! series. It is about Robespierre, and prefaced (in quite a bit of length) by Slavoj Zizek. I picked it up at Red Emma's, a Baltimore cafe/bookstore with great sandwiches and revolutionary aspirations. It is the kind of place where I feel out of place for being too moderate.

Back to Zizek. In fact, let me quote the Amazon book description

"Robespierre's defense of the French Revolution remains one of the most powerful and unnerving justifications for political violence ever written, and has extraordinary resonance in a world obsessed with terrorism and appalled by the language of its proponents. Yet today, the French Revolution is celebrated as the event which gave birth to a nation built on the principles of enlightenment… So how should a contemporary audience approach Robespierre's vindication of revolutionary terror? Zizek takes a helter-skelter route through these contradictions, marshalling all the breadth of analogy for which he is famous.

"If the spring of popular government in time of peace is virtue, the springs of popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is powerless."—Robespierre"

Sounds pretty interesting, doesn't it? At least it does to me. I have long been fascinated with the figure of Robespierre, this uncorruptable, earnest, conscientious purist, who so efficiently became the victim of his success.

Thinking about the post over on Total Drek about good/bad representation of good/bad causes, I am puzzled by Zizek's preface - I can't decide whether it is a good representation (intelligent, well-formulated, thought-through) of a bad cause (political violence), or whether it is, instead, a bad representation of a good cause. A bad representation by its own standards, which are to inspire a revolution. No kidding. Without going into whether revolutions are necessarily a good cause - they seem a pretty mixed bag - I can say with a fair amount of certainty that Virtue and Terror is not at all likely to inspire a revolt, never mind a revolution. Let me tell you why; even if you don't factor in the number of people who would disagree thoroughly with the ideas proposed, I doubt that there are enough people who actually understand Zizek and care to read this book, to make a revolution happen. For a popular book with a nice brightly coloured cover, it is surprisingly hard to read. I am not a great lover of philosophy, but I do have a basic knowledge of it, and have more than average education. I struggled. More than that, I got pretty annoyed at the number of complex phrasings of simple ideas.

The conclusion? Zizek succeeds, at least in part, in making political violence philosophically defensible. Not bad. On the other hand, nobody likely to participate in such violence* is going to read/care about/understand his preface. This makes me happy, because while there is perhaps abstract merit in virtuous violence, I remain unconvinced that it is possible to tell apart good violence from bad violence. I'll stick to being a democrat** and a lover of diplomacy.

Left-wing revolutionaries aside, I do wonder why there are so many more successful conservative demagogues than progressive speakers.

*Philosophers have historically been shown to be belligerent only in their published works and personal quarrels.
**By which I mean "adherent of democracy" rather than "adherent of the Democrats", though I am that too, up to a point