It’s feeling the slightest bit winterish, at last! About bloody time, it’s January…

Did you know pulchritudinous means beautiful? Now you do. You can only use it to refer to people, though. So there’s no such thing as a pulchritudinous sunset.

I was at the country club and I was working on something with my back to the reception area when I heard a grumbly, older member of the club talking to a woman with him as he walked. This is the part I overheard: “I told him, but did he listen? He went out and got a staph infection and died. Nice hair.” I turned around at the last part (is that bad I assumed he had to be talking about me?), but he kept right on walking without pausing so I didn’t even see him. The woman who was with him poked her head around the corner and said, “Oh yes, very nice.” and then kept going as well. People there are so crazy.

The other day we went through our wall of bookshelves and were ruthless with the old homeschooling books. We threw out a lot, we’re giving away a lot, and…we’re keeping a lot. But, in the process, I came across my old Creative Writing book from when I was 11! Mostly it’s all incredibly pompous and pretentious. I read waaaay too much. May I present for your amusement “Pictures in the Clouds,” one of my assignments:

What do you see in the clouds today? I see a huge grizzly bear, towering over the seagulls.
I see a roaring lion, the king of all he sees.
To me they look like they are in a forest in the clouds, these two monarchs of the wilderness, where political campaigning is unheard of.
The bear rears up on his hind legs, as though saying goodbye to the setting sun until another day.
The lion, too, roars one last farewell before he fades out of view with the last of the light.
Until tomorrow, then, to these two great kings.

Well, at least my punctuation was good. Actually, there was some decent stuff here and there in the book. One of the assignments was to make creative comparisons, and here are a few of my better ones:
the wind – a highway that carries thoughts and dreams
thunder – cymbals in a huge orchestra
a rainbow – wildflowers in the sky
a spider’s web – the moon’s fishing net
an echo – the remains of a song

I’m rather proud of the spider’s web one. I may have to use that one day.

Some great links!
A really great German photography site. My German is rather rusty, but I found a lot of good things under Galerie. Just be careful in the Menschen category – some of the “people” photographs are rather awful. Also, stay very far away from anything under Akt, for obvious (well, obvious if you have a German-English dictionary!) reasons. But they have amazing photographs, especially under Natur.
Beirut, one of my new favorite music groups, has great music videos. Click on the first picture to see Nantes, it’s lovely.
Heart It Races, a really great song by Architecture in Helsinki. I found this and it led me to look for more videos directed by this Vincent Moon guy. Turns out they did a huge project with all kinds of indie artists called Take Away Shows. They’re ALL amazing, and you can find them here. Most of them are done in random places in Paris, and they’re utterly beautiful. I especially recommend Arcade Fire’s song played in an elevator and Beirut’s song in some little cafe.
It’s been a great week for music!

I did my yearly book roundup as well. I read 90 books this year, if you count individual plays. Without which it’s only 70ish…I read a LOT of plays this year, mainly due to Shakespeare and Theatre History classes, but also for fun. Overall, not too shabby, and I found a lot of new favorites this year. Right now I’m working on Tess of the D’Urbervilles, which is so far uninspiring, but we shall see.

Speaking of books, if you don’t care about spoilers, and you’ve been on pins and needles all this time to find out just what *are* the Mysteries of Udolpho, you may click They’re not actually that great. Emily’s dad was the brother of the mysterious Marchioness, who was killed by Lady Laurentini, who had been in love with the Marquis but couldn’t marry him or something. Laurentini was beloved of the villainous, mustache-twirling Montoni, but she despised him. In a fit of guilt after murdering her rival, she went into a convent. Everybody went into a convent in this book, it was the catch-all solution to every problem. The biggest mystery for me was what exactly was behind that black-veiled picture! Well, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it was just a wax figure made up to look like a decomposing corpse, and it was hung there because of some kind of penance deal. Very silly, and they made me wait 600 pages to finally get the answer.
So, in conclusion, I feel rather gipped. For an almost 700 page book, it was so incredibly boring and slow-moving that it wasn’t really worth it. The heroine faints and cries (sometimes at the same time!) so ridiculously often that you want to smack her. It’s all exceedingly emotional and mawkish. So…yeah, don’t bother reading it.

I finished up Kafka’s stories, and I think I’m a fan. He’s definitely creepy (Oh my, his story “In the Penal Colony”!), but he’s also extremely interesting. I think I might look into more of his works. I hadn’t realized it, but I’d read one of his stories, “The Hunger Artist,” before this, probably for school. Definitely remembered that one very vividly…I think Kafka stories are hauntingly unforgettable, if only because they’re so traumatic.

Then I read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley for the first time. I know, I know, everyone read that for school ages ago, but somehow I missed that one. After just having read Anthem by Ayn Rand, it was especially effective, and I’m glad I read so much Shakespeare this year because I was able to appreciate the references much more than I otherwise would have. Interesting that both books depict a sort of collectivism and death of the individual, but one is a primitive society and the other is high-tech. In one, you extinguish all selfishness, in the other it is encouraged, but the end result of both is still the same. Both very fascinating books.

It’s been a week for social commentary, I tell you. After that I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I read it all in one sitting because I was manning the phone at the country club on the 1st and it was quiet as a tomb. I don’t recommend anyone read The Jungle in one sitting…you just try reading about the fertilizing side of the Chicago meatpacking industry while eating your lunch. Horrible book (as in full of horror, not poorly done), but it needed to be written. The first half is better than the last in terms of effectiveness. It demonstrates the absolute decimation of the immigrant families working in the packing houses and the incredible corruption in the city. It’s a heartbreakingly true book, and every absurdly affluent member of American society needs to read it. During the last section, the author gets up on his soapbox to use this opportunity to promote socialism. At some point, all of these books always start to use their characters as mouthpieces for their own societal philosophies, but even that is rather interesting because you can see exactly how the pendulum effect gets started. We are so utterly incapable of a healthy middle road in anything. It’s one of those books, though, that makes you realize that you would do the exact same thing if you were in those circumstances – you would even have those political opinions or societal opinions, it would be inescapable. Maybe, in this world (and this is terrible), we have to have a certain amount of not understanding each other. If we perfectly understood and knew every person, we couldn’t help but agree with their thinking. But by doing that with every group of people, we would be holding multiple mutually-exclusive opinions in our mind at the same time. We would want to fight on both sides of every war. Does that make sense? See, even this idea, I can see how dangerous it is – it could then be a justification for cultural ignorance. Well. Now I’ve confused myself.

I had a sudden realization the other day. Somehow I get the reputation of not liking to be touched or of being reserved or uptight. Which, I dunno, maybe I am uptight, hehe. But I realized that it’s not that I’m against being emotionally open or hugging people or whatever, it’s just that I despise false familiarity. Example: acquanintances who call me Steph. Not cool, because nicknames imply a level of comfortability and friendship that we haven’t reached. I don’t mind a bit when friends call me Steph because it shows that we’re comfortable with each other. Also, hugging: people doing the whole bear-hug thing when you’ve just met. NOT COOL. Very good friends who hug you is fine, because you trust them and they’re doing it out of genuine affection. Someone had the audacity to give me a foot rub the other day, and it was a person I definitely did not think I knew well enough, and it was driving me crazy, but I aside from kicking her in the face (and, um, she’s my boss, so I can’t do that), I couldn’t do a thing about the situation. So I just gritted my teeth and smiled and said yes, it felt very relaxing and took my poor violated foot back as quickly as I possibly could. I know people don’t mean it in a bad way, but KINDLY REFRAIN FROM INVADING MY SPACE. And of course this doesn’t apply to anyone who would be reading this, since you *are* trusted friends, so have no worries about that.

*deep sigh* Well, that was cathartic. So is drawing…I’ve been doing a fair bit of that lately. I’m realizing, however, that I need practice with drawing cheekbones. They’re quite ornery. With that, I shall leave you!