Thursday, October 18, 2007

That Girl's Dope

I know how badly y'all wanted a Bell Biv Devoe refresher.

I'm not confident in the propriety of calling a Hindu goddess "dope" but today we're going to talk a bit about Goddess Durga. 

Meta-cognition is a subject which causes me to frequently furrow my brows in determination, desperately attempting to unpack the closet in search of something that I simply know that I know.  Stores of information are compressed in the closet and, despite all of my pedagogy knowledge (also compressed into the closet, I might add), I hold no clues on what allows me to access something this time but not the next.  Last week, someone in one of my online classes made a comment about Marc Antony that seemed completely false to me.  I penned a sweet (in academic circles, one might prefer "awesome") research paper a couple of years ago on Ancient Roman Literature, basically picking up from where Roman literature ceased consisting of Greek works translated into Latin and began with authors writing histories of Rome and some original poetry, drama, etc.  I "learned" more about Ancient Rome in writing that paper than my textbook ever could have "taught" me.  I knew what my classmate was saying about Marc Antony wasn't right, but I couldn't remember what was right.  It irritated me, as such things always do.

That very day,
Taylor Made Fossils left me a blog comment directing me to this article about how J.K. Rowling was suing organizers of Durga Puja for constructing a large-scale papier mache replica of Hogwarts for the festival.  Hogwarts is copyrighted, you know.  Quite interesting as one of her characters, Parvati Patil, is named for Durga.  In fact, almost all of her characters are named after mythological figures.  Good thing they're not copyrighted.

"I've always wanted to go Durga Puja," says I to...myself. 

*cut to Melissa's WTF face*

I can't explain how I know about Durga Puja.  I'm certain it happened at some point that I was reading something (The Satanic Verses? My "Other World" textbook?) and wanted to know which goddess Durga was.  I was completely dumbfounded at that moment, reading the J.K. Rowling article, that I could remember something from a tiny side project I did (though I don't know when or why I did it) but not from knowledge that I gained after putting countless hours into research that I cared deeply about.  

Nonetheless, you are going to get a brief schooling on Goddess Durga and Durga Puja. 

I'm fascinated by religion.  I've not studied it as thoroughly as I'd like, though I still have plenty of time.  I really only have a surface understanding of various religions.  The thing that draws me to Hinduism are the countless gods and goddesses (there's literally a god for everything) and I find myself mesmerized by artwork depicting them.  Here's Durga:


At this point, all of the great gods I've studied as mythology are just that, myths.  They're impressive stories full of wisdom.  But they're stories.  Hindus still put stock in their gods (there may be other religions that do as well, thusfar my knowledge of religion is quite basic).  Despite my inability to find an ounce of religious faith within myself, I really admire those who believe in something.

Durga.  Durga (mother of the universe) protects mankind from evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, and hatred.  Her 10 arms hold various significant objects, most of which are weapons meant to destroy the forces of evil against which she has infinite power to protect.  I read somewhere that the weapons vary to indicate that not all evil can be destroyed in any one way.  For example, jealously can only be destroyed by ridding oneself of desire, prejudice by knowledge.  Durga is a very "popular" Hindu goddess and is therefore known and worshipped widely enough to have an annual festival in her honor, Durga Puja.

Durga Puja is essentially a celebration of the god Rama invoking Durga in his battle to defeat King Ravana, who had kidnapped Rama's wife.  The festival is held in September or October every year (the time of the battle, I believe) and, while there are specific traditions and offerings which are observed, it's basically one giant carnival and party where people of all faiths are welcome to join in the celebration.  During the festival, it is holiday time.  Daily life is paused and the people do nothing but partake in festivities.  Impressive Pandals (like the one of Hogwarts), which are sort of temporary temples for the festival, are set up specifically for the festival and get rather elaborate.  Each pandal has a stage where Durga is displayed for worship:

While the purpose of the festival is to honor Durga, it has everything one might expect of a good time: food, drink, art, film releases, music, and general extravagance.  Based on my bit of research on the subject, it seems safe to call it the biggest such festival in the world.         

What have you learned today?  Melissa gets really excited when she remembers something other than her name, J.K. Rowling is not rich enough, and you learned a little something about a great Hindu goddess and the debauchery you now want to participate in to celebrate her.

What do you say?  MySpace party in India this time next year?  Ladies, we will look quite lovely in our saris.

Too bad we missed Hogwarts.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hard Times, Teil Zwei

A couple of months ago, I blogged a bit about my "compartments" while reading Hard Times by Charles Dickens. You can read that blog (as if you haven't already) here.

I'm done talking about compartments. Today I'm tying up loose ends.

While I was reading Hard Times (arguably my favorite by Dickens, though that changes with my mood and I've still so far to go with him), a passage really struck me. When I read it, I wanted to share it with someone dear to me right then at that moment, but when I had the chance, the timing was off. I'm very self-conscious and when something is important to me and I want to share it with someone, I get stage fright and I worry that if it doesn't fall the way I envision it, it will, in a sense, knock me down.


Anyway, today especially, I'm hoping to have a captive audience in at least one of you and that sharing this passage will mean something, even though I don't get to read it aloud as I had intended to do a few months ago had I the right timing.

Why does this passage strike me so? I relate to little Miss Jupe here in her exposed innocence, so wise; yet lacking the circumspection to keep it to herself. She has yet to stumble upon how special she is nor has anyone yet to see her for how rare she is. I have always been too perceptive for my own good and, so many times, I wish I could be as oblivious as the next girl. Sometimes wisdom can be a curse and Dickens understands that.

Through Sissy Jupe, Dickens provides commentary on the conventional wisdom of his time that, sadly, still holds. This little portrait of "just the facts" life speaks to me in that it exposes the guilt and fear that can be experienced when introspection doesn't match up with what it's "supposed" to and can leave a person wishing that it were so simple as absorbing without thinking.

Of course, in order for me to adore it so, it must be laced with good ol' Victorian wit.

"Mr. and Mrs. M'Choakumchild never make any mistakes themselves, I suppose, Sissy?"
"O no!" she eagerly returned. "They know everything."
"Tell me some of your mistakes."
"I am almost ashamed," said Sissy, with reluctance. "But to-day, for instance, Mr. M'Choakumchild was explaining to us about Natural Prosperity."
"National, I think it must have been," observed Louisa.
"Yes, it was.--But, isn't it the same?" she timidly asked.
"You had better say, National, as he said so," returned Louisa, with her dry reserve.
"National Prosperity. And he said, Now this schoolroom is a Nation. And in this nation, there are fifty millions of money. Isn't this a prosperous nation? Girl number twenty, isn't this a prosperous nation, and a'n't you in a thriving state?"
"What did you say?" asked Louisa.
"Miss Louisa, I said I didn't know. I thought I couldn't know whether it was a prosperous nation or not, and whether I was in a thriving state or not, unless I knew who had got the money, and whether any of it was mine. But that had nothing to do with it. It was not in the figures at all," said Sissy, wiping her eyes.
"That was a great mistake of yours," observed Louisa.
"Yes, Miss Louisa, I know it was, now. Then Mr. M'Choakumchild said he would try me again. And he said, This schoolroom is an immense town, and in it there are a million of inhabitants, and only five-and-twenty are starved to death in the streets, in the course of a year. What is your remark on that proportion? And my remark was--for I couldn't think of a better one--that I thought it must be just as hard upon those who were starved, whether the others were a million, or a million million. And that was wrong, too."
"Of course it was."
"Then Mr. M'Choakumchild said he would try me once more. And he said, Here are the Stutterings--"
"Statistics," said Louisa.
"Yes, Miss Louisa--they always remind me of stutterings, and that's another of my mistakes--of accidents upon the sea. And I find (Mr. M'Choakumchild said) that in a given time a hundred thousand persons went to sea on long voyages, and only five hundred of them were drowned or burnt to death. What is the percentage? And I said, Miss;" here Sissy fairly sobbed as confessing with extreme contrition to her greatest error; "I said it was nothing."
"Nothing, Sissy?"
"Nothing, Miss--to the relations and friends of the people who were killed. I shall never learn," said Sissy. (60-61)

Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2004.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Ugliest Word in the English Language

One of my new blog subscriptions The Odradek (primarily because it would appear as though his blogs range typically from one word to one sentence which is precisely the type of subscription I have time for [it would be unfair of me not to note that despite the length, the blogs still manage to say something]) wrote a blog with the title of this one (I'm greedy so I'm not above stealing, I also see nothing wrong with a little pride and lust- those other things will really get you into trouble, though), the body of which consisted of nothing but the word "networking." I commented that I'd lean more toward the word "exercise." Now is the part of Sprockets where we elaborate.

I walk about five miles (sometimes more, but never less, MyFriends, never less) six days a week. I walk briskly enough to get my heart-rate up and estimate that I burn about 300 calories a day through walking. I also eat "right" so it's not a bad deal. Remember this, we shall revisit.

I love walking. But I hate exercise. Exercise of any other form is highly unappealing to me. I never want to exercise. I rarely even feel like taking an hour out of my day to go on my walk but, while I'm doing it, I might as well be Snow White. I'm all happy and chipper and I talk to squirrels. A scarcely known fact: Melissa from Michigan is a squirrel-whisperer. If it weren't for me, they'd never remember where they buried their nuts. I'm just sayin'.

Walking is meditative to me. Other forms of exercise, not so much. I suppose riding my bike wouldn't be so bad if the bike seat didn't violate me in ways I'm uncomfortable discussing here. This is where things become problematic.

While I'm quite happy with my weight and body fat %, I'm quite unhappy with the lack of muscle tone visible on my body. Walking will not help me with that. My body is used to walking and it only helps me to maintain. I'm as toned as I'm going to get from walking. Also, I can't walk all year due to weather conditions beyond my control.

All of this in mind, I recently came (that's what she said) to decide that I should escalate to a jog. Here's how that happened:

I realized that whenever it is necessary for me to cross a street during my walk, I jog across so as not to hold up traffic. It occurred to me on one such hustle that this jogging business wasn't so bad and I should see how long I could jog for. About 10 feet later, It occurred to me that this jogging business was a bummer. Still, I thought that I should try to keep it up and when I go on my walks, I should try to integrate jogging as much as I could handle until the walk becomes strictly a jog. I mean, hey, I've been waxing my legs for almost a year now. It doesn't even hurt anymore.

Sadly, it's not getting any better. The jogging is sapping all of the happy, shiny feelings out of my daily walk. It makes me sweat uncontrollably. It makes me breathe like a smoker. And it makes me laugh (oh, yes, out loud) even though it's not fucking funny. While laughing like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, my lungs get even more angry at me. It's absolutely ridiculous. Why would anyone want to do that to themselves?

Bottom line: I'm done with the jogging. It's really messing with my meditation and squirrel whispering. I think I read a study somewhere that it's impossible to meditate and squirrel whisper while engaging in any activity above a brisk walk. I can't cite it because I don't remember where I saw it.

For now, I'm going to keep walking. During that hour, I will feel like therapy is a waste of money and be completely reconciled with my jiggly ass. I've lived with it this long.

Seacrest, out.

P.S. Wanna know who has a thing for 31 year old sweaty moms with jiggly buns? Mosquitoes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I Love My Dead, Gay Son!

That title was wrong but it is one of my favorite movie quotes.

Simply put: there is no way that you will find this little anecdote anywhere near as amusing as I do.  You might as well click out right now.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

It occurred to me as I was putting my son's clothes away after folding laundry this evening that he is very selective about what he wears to bed.  Both kids have a pajama drawer and, in it, a stack of over sized T-shirts that they accumulate from various places.  I'm not bad at keeping up on laundry and they always have clean pajamas in their drawers but seem to prefer the over sized T-shirt.

For whatever reason, Alex's T-shirts are always in disarray when I go to put his pajamas away.  This leads me to believe that he has something against grabbing the T-shirt on top.  Yet, he doesn't wear the same T-shirts over and over, they are always different.

I have some theories about my son's future sexuality and I really don't want to get into that now.  I'm just saying that I am of the opinion that he is aware of whether he wore something recently and is trying to avoid a monotonous bedtime wardrobe.

Observe the pajama drawer after I put clothes away:

The T-shirts are all the way to the right.  I purposefully put the Weezer T-shirt on top.  It was freshly laundered (he just wore it two nights ago).  Alex is a big time mama's boy; he knows how much I love the Weezer T-shirt and always shows it off when he puts it on.  Beneath that, I put the blue skunk shirt my boyfriend's mom bought him in Wyoming.  That shirt was on the bottom of the stack so I knew he hadn't worn it in awhile.

Now observe my son dressed (he always puts on his Cars robe and slippers):

You may notice that he is, indeed, wearing the blue skunk shirt.  NOT mom's favorite Weezer T-shirt which was conveniently located on top of the stack.

Finally, observe the results of his search.  Notice said Weezer T-shirt tossed upside down to the left:

By the time I put clothes away again in 2-3 days, this will be amplified.  I'll have to organize the shirts all over again.  It's a good thing I'm one of those parents that likes to "mess with their minds."  I think I can make this whole pajama business fun for me.

Maybe on Friday, I'll only put shirts in the drawer that he's already worn this week.  Then he'll probably wear normal pajamas.

Monday, October 1, 2007


Today my divorce is official. This is good.

One of my readers was surprised a while back to discover that it was not final at the time. I've referred to myself as divorced and so people assume (as they rationally should) that I was, in fact, divorced.

Many of you know my story, a couple are too new to the preferred list.

We separated over a year ago but were quite separate before that (separate beds for a few years- good times). I tried to prolong the separation and not file for divorce so I could keep my health insurance.

Alas, we filed earlier this year. The six month waiting period was up last month and today was the court date.

Now you can help me celebrate (no, I'm not trying to say divorce is a good thing- but it has definitely improved my life in this case; let it be known that I still believe in marraige) by raising an imaginary wine glass and toasting me. If you're not good with words you can simply go with something like, "To my MyFriend Melissa, who is no longer an adulteress."

Enjoy your day!