To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Monday, October 31, 2005

In between handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, I'll post the poem I referenced below:


by Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;--
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

She was a child and I was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love--
I and my Annabel Lee--
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her high-born kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me:--
Yes! that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of a cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we--
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in Heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling-- my darling-- my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea--
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

-- THE END --

The story, of course, is "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Engineer joke:

A rabbi, a priest, and an engineer were sentenced to die by guillotine. The priest went first. The executioner asked if he had any final requests.

"Yes, I do," he said. "I want you to put me in there face up, so that the instant that blade falls I can see the face of God." No one could see anything wrong with that, so the priest was positioned face-up and the guillotine was activated. But the blade didn't fall.

"It's not your day to die," the executioner said. "Go your way."

The rabbi was next, and when asked if he had any final requests, he replied that what the priest had said sounded pretty good to him, so he wanted to go face-up also. Once again, the blade didn't fall.

"God has spared your life," the executioner said. "Go your way."

When the engineer was brought up, he was asked if he wanted to go face-up. "Sure, whatever," he said. But as the executioner prepared to try to drop the blade one more time, the engineer, who had been staring up into the apparatus, called out - "Wait! I see the problem!"

Saturday, October 29, 2005

We get an extra hour tonight. I wish they would leave it alone. I remember F's indignation the first time she noticed losing that hour in the Spring - "Are they going to do something about that?"

R and I visited F at school today. We took her and a friend to McDonald's and to WalMart, walked around campus a little, looked at old yearbooks in the library, ate dinner in the cafeteria. It's right for her to be away from home so she can separate from us and finish growing up, but we miss having a young'un around the house. I've read that "freedom is when the last child leaves home and the dog dies" and I think that's funny in a limited kind of way, but maybe the person who came up with that statement didn't have as nice a kid as we do. Besides, we have cats, ha ha. Molly is leaning on the keyboard right now. She's gotten too sophisticated to try to catch the cursor, like she used to do.
In honor of Hallowe'en, identify the poem:

Whenever there's moonlight, I dream about my beautiful dead wife. And the stars remind me of her eyes.

And the story:

He killed him because he thought his eye was gross.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Okay, time for more controversy. Went to lunch with some co-workers today, and we started talking about the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue, which is quite large and depicts him on a horse, and stands in the eponymous city park. Earlier this year there were some people trying to get that statue, and the bodies of him and his wife, moved back to historic Elmwood Cemetary where they originally were. There were demonstrations, and counter-demonstrations by the Sons of Confederate Veterans or some such, and in the end the park was unchanged.

We had quite a lively discussion about that statue. My contention is that it needs to be moved yesterday, and that park renamed. Why? Because Forrest was (a) an army general in a country (C.S.A.) that was at war with my country (U.S.A.) from its conception to its demise; (b) a founding member of the KKK; and (c) a slave trader. Not just owner, trader; he made his fortune from buying and selling black folks. And possibly (d) a war criminal too, depending on your take of the Fort Pillow massacre. One of my coworkers argued that slave trading wasn't different from slaveholding (I disagree) and that if we get rid of the Forrest statue we have to go after the Washington Monument next. My answer was, tell me something positive that Forrest contributed to the world, that means he needs to be honored by the City of Memphis. The statue's been there 100 years, isn't that enough? And further, white folks like to tell black folks to quit griping about the legacy of slavery, 400 years of oppression, Jim Crow, and so forth; let go of the past and get with the program. If I were black, all I would have to do in response is point to that statue and ask why black people have to let go of the bad old days when white people clearly refuse to.

I feel the same way about the Confederate flag. When Ole Miss banned the waving of that flag at football games many years ago, I thought that they were throwing away an old tradition. Turns out that flag only started being waved when Ole Miss was desegregated. That puts a totally different spin on the whole thing, and it's what started me down the path of disliking displays of those things.

If people want to have the Confederate flag displayed in their home or business, I wouldn't stop them. I think it has no place as part of a state flag, or flying on government property (except military parks like Shiloh).

And I consider myself a Southerner, yes, I do. Those years from 1861 to 1865 do not define the South. I've lived here all my life and I never want to live anywhere else. "American by birth, Southern by the Grace of God"; I feel that way, and I'd wear the shirt if I could get one without that cottonpickin' flag.

So why do so many white Southerners insist on holding on to that stuff? And why does racism persist so? C.S. Lewis wrote that people have trouble forgiving people they have wronged. If that sounds backwards, it's not. I think being a white person who is not a racist means not sharing the guilt of those who were responsible for slavery, Jim Crow, and so forth. That doesn't mean defensively saying "I didn't enslave anybody!" It means letting go of all that old crap and not identifying with it anymore. Slavery was and is an evil thing. Horrible and wretched. There's no excuse for it and there never has been. I refuse to defend it. I'd like to think that if I had lived in the antebellum South I would have had the moral clarity and the guts to be an abolitionist, like I am an abolitionist about abortion now. It would have taken a lot of courage, that's for sure.
While I am still in the mode of writing things I have had on my mind awhile, before I catch up on them and start writing about more timely issues, I am going to express my thoughts about guilt.

Guilt is bad behavior: doing something you shouldn't, or not doing something you should. It has nothing to do with the way you feel about it. Guilty feelings are feelings of remorse about bad behavior. Ideally, guilt and guilty feelings should match up; it's what causes us to straighten up. Like, you spread some juicy gossip that you heard, and then you were all nice and smiley to the person the gossip was about, and then you asked yourself how you could be such a two-faced jerk, and you swore you would never gossip again. And hopefully you didn't.

Guilt without guilty feelings is sociopathic. Like serial killers or wife beaters who truly believe they are justified in what they do. Guilty feelings without guilt are neurotic. There are times when a person feels guilt over something she had no control over that aren't neurotic, of course. I had a neighbor whose child was born deaf, and she felt guilty about that; she thought perhaps she had caused his deafness somehow. I think she felt guilty because that was less horrible than the realization that parents can't always keep bad things from happening to their kids. Feeling guilty about his deafness was less scary than facing the fact that she was powerless to prevent it. So that's not really neurotic, it's just a parent trying to cope. The neurotic part might come in in a scenario like this: I watched a roundtable discussion one time about what to do about the homeless. A scenario was set up in which a homeless person lived on the corner outside an upscale apartment house, and the residents pressured the manager to do something about it. One of the participants said nothing should be done; he denied the existence of mental illness (really) and said that people were free to make their own choices. If she wanted to live on that corner, panhandle passersby, defecate in the alley, whatever, people just needed to tolerate that. When it was suggested that the people living in the apartment felt guilty when they saw her living that way, the same person said that perhaps they should feel guilty, but nonetheless, they needed to leave her alone. OK, I thought, that man is an idiot. If there is nothing a person could or should do about a situation, then they have no guilt. What's to feel guilty about? Very sloppy thinking.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Okay, it's time for me to have a controversial post, so I'm going to write one about Ethan Frome and the REAL meaning of that red pickle dish.

I may be the only person in the country who sees Mattie as being the villain of the book. She is like her father - charming, stupid, and worthless, with a habit of taking other people's things and making them disappear. In Zeena's moment of truth, she tells Mattie this - that she was warned against taking her in, because Mattie was just like her father, but she did it anyway out of the kindness of her heart; and now she was paying for it.

What would have happened if Mattie had decided to marry Denis Eady? She would have expected, and gotten, parties - presents - a pretty wedding dress, paid for by Denis's family - a new home with nice things, ditto - all the things a woman could hope to get when she married and established her household. Mattie had only to put out her hand and all this was hers. The pickle dish, empty as it was, and designed to hold sourness, had to represent all those things to Zeena. It was a gift from a relative, upon her marriage, and it was beautiful to her. She loved her pickle dish, and she knew how fragile it was, so she kept it in a safe place. As soon as her back was turned, Mattie took that pickle dish and broke it. Then she took Zeena's husband and broke him. He was a spineless wretch who let all that happen. At the end of the book we find out what Mattie's sweet nature is worth: when she no longer gets attention for being pretty, and can't dance, she's the harsh and spiteful one.

Now that's the real story of that pickle dish.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Three years ago, R and F and I decided to watch science fiction movies every Friday night. We decided to watch an old one and a new one, back-to-back. We thought it was important for F's cultural enrichment that she become familiar with those classics, like "Forbidden Planet" and "Earth v. the Flying Saucers". I told her that in the old movies, and probably most of the new ones, there's always a babe. But also that there are important Themes to be learned from these stories. Here are a few, with examples:

Don't Wake It Up ("The Thing from Outer Space"; "Raiders of the Lost Ark"; "Space Seed", the Star Trek ep that set up "Wrath of Khan")
Run towards it! (sarcastically said) ("The Monolith Monsters")
Don't Fool with Mother Nature/There are Things Man was Not Meant to Know (very common theme; examples include "Them!" and "Mimic", which are virtually the same story; also "Jurassic Park", of course)
It's Right Behind You ("Alien", "Jurassic Park")
They're Not Your Friend ("V", Twilight Zone ep "To Serve Man")
Evil Capitalists ("Aliens", "Jaws" which is really classic SF as I hope to demonstrate later)(a sub-theme of this is Don't Trust the Government, "ET")
You're Gonna Need a Bigger [blank] (Boat - "Jaws"; gun - "Aliens", "Predator 2")
Why are Humans So Puerile ("The Day the Earth Stood Still"; any Star Trek ep with Vulcans in it)
If You Knew What I Know/I Tried to Tell You ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "They Live", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind")
It's Not Dead Yet ("Terminator", "Predator 2")

Think of some more?
I am Laura, southernxyl. Where does "southernxyl" come from? First of all, I am from Mississippi and I've lived in Memphis, TN since I graduated from college. When I was a kid my brother was a ham radio operator. I learned some of the shorthand expressions hams used to save tapping that key. One was "yl", for "young lady" (girl) and one was "xyl" for "ex-young lady" (woman). So I am a southern ex-young lady.

I live with R, my husband of 23 years, and our three cats. Our daughter, F, is 18 years old and has gone off to college this year. We miss her a lot.

I have commented on other folks' blogs for years and years but I've never started one of my own. Sometimes my comments get a little long-winded and I think that if I were the blog host I would complain about that: "Why doesn't she get a blog of her own if she's going to go on that way." However, until yesterday no blog host ever told me he wished I would start one. So, at Tarek's actually very polite suggestion, I am finally starting My Own Blog. I hope you are not too disappointed, Tarek.

I don't know what you're going to find here. I don't know what I am going to find here.