Deranged Birthday Post! Y.O. <3 A.T.

Do you know what day it is, WordPress? It’s my 22nd birthday. And do you know what I want for my birthday? I want to grow myself a penis and go back in time to visit this individual:

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me wantee

We would draw the curtains tight and put the crackly records of his time on low so that we might dance together, cheek to cheek. It’s worth noting that in a quantum multiverse, my actions would not upset our timeline…not that this is going to happen or anything.

I have been nursing a history crush on Mr. Alan Turing for a long time now. A handsome man is born every minute, but it was Turing’s brilliance and stunning accomplishments as a codebreaker, mathematical theorist, and computer scientist that inspired my temporally-dissonant attraction. I’d love to be able to listen to him for just an hour, to ask him questions. I may also long to keep him from that disastrous liaison that would lead to his prosecution under British sodomy laws and subsequent chemical castration and suicide. This is what it’s like to be a woman: you have the internal power to blend admiration, sadness, and infatuation into one great swoony plasma of emotion.

This has nothing to do with one Benedict Cumberbatch and the Alan Turing movie he is working on. With all respect to Mr. Cumberbatch’s ravenous fanbase of “Cumberbitches,” he is only an actor who happens to look nothing like Turing, while the man himself was a genius of untold influence, a war hero, and martyr to an unjust law. I know whom I would bang.

I have a crush on Bartleby

 

 

I want to sail the seven seas with you...

I want to sail the seven seas with you…

 

“I would prefer not to.”

These words, uttered again and again by the titular figure in Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener,  comprise a riddle that torments today’s literary critics just as surely as they torment the Manhattan lawyer who serves as the novella’s narrator. According to Professor Arnold Weinstein, whose Coursera offering I have been enjoying very much these past three weeks, the postmodern consensus is that Bartleby isn’t even a character – the copyist who would prefer not to is either a metaphysical challenge to a lawyer’s humanity or a symbol of the death of storytelling. These readings are certainly justified. One cannot behold Bartleby standing inert in the middle of the office “like the last column of some deserted temple” without imagining him as an object or a symbol; this is a person who cares so little for himself that he starves to death after deciding that he would prefer not to eat.

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Bummertime

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At least the plants like it.

Summer, everyone! Time for humidity, mosquitoes, severe thunderstorms, circadian rhythm breakdown, inability to concentrate due to lifelong summer vacation conditioning, suet melting out of the suet feeder, dehydration headaches, teenagers blasting music, Facebook friends’ bizarre status updates from church camp, and boob sweat. The only good thing is that fresh corn, squash, and tomatoes go on sale for three whole months. I miss having a garden of my own. It gave me something to look forward to every day.

Jeez, this planet and its axial tilt.

My book club is the best book club

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Welcome to yet another installment of my semi-weekly series “The Things I Do On Sunday Instead of Church.” Previous installments have concerned birding, but this week I get to share some thoughts on what has become the highlight of my month: book club.

I attend book club with my aunt, who was part of the original group that formed around a grand effort to read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time – members still call it the Proust Book Club, even though the original group finished In Search of Lost Time years ago. We meet in a Panera Bread, among earnest college students fiddling with laptops. Meeting in a dry establishment is perhaps our noblest and most fruitful innovation as a book club. We are trailblazers for temperance.

I joined less than two years ago, when the club decided to tackle the works of Thomas Mann. My membership didn’t make sense in light of the demographics of the club – it’s mostly older, highly educated women and older, exquisitely cultured gay men – so I had to do all the reading, speak up often, and take risks to prove myself. This was ultimately successful and more than worth the effort. I’ve become a bit of a class clown, though – I’m the sprightly, irreverent millennial who can be depended upon to say things like “He puts the bi back in Bible!” That’s fine, as these people are my friends.

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Welcome to the Internet.

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“To the relief of all the world’s nations, a truce has been declared in the (utterly fake and nonsensical) war between President Barack Obama and the Audubon Society.”

The story: The Onion, a satirical newspaper, posted screencaps depicting a fictional Twitter war between Barack Obama and the Audubon Society. It’s weird and hilarious and you should check it out. Anyway, someone at the White House picked up on it, and Obama (or, more likely, a White House PR staffer) tweeted a positive message about the Audubon Society.

The Audubon Society was excited to hear from the White House, as any large nonprofit would be. They retweeted Obama’s message and jokingly announced the end of the Obama-Audubon Twitter feud.

As a result, old ladies have been leaving angry messages on the Audubon Facebook page, alleging that the organization has made a political statement.

What a time to be alive.

Ring Nebula

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The Ring Nebula’s hot new profile picture

This 1998 pic of the Ring Nebula entranced me when I was a child. A spooky cloud of gas and dust, measuring a whole light-year across…and to think that I only had the privilege of seeing a 2,000-year-old version of it, because the light took that long to travel over 120,000,000,000,000,000 miles of space! Rather than inducing existential angst, these numbers made me happy: the universe was so much bigger than whatever idiocy was going on in my life.

Now there is a new high resolution image of the Ring Nebula, and it gives us all the cold, ancient beauty we’ve come to expect from Hubble, as well as some new insights into the structure and formation of the nebula. The space in the middle, once thought to be almost empty, is webbed with low-density material, suggesting that the nebula is barrel-shaped rather than ring-shaped.

Death By Freud: The Top 11 Lessons Books Taught Me About Sex

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If you grew up anywhere in the world besides an tiny, experimental Swedish boarding school run by sex researchers, it’s likely that the cerebral (that is, non-experiential) side of your erotic education was cobbled together from any number of unreliable sources – peers, media, strangers on the street, and, at rare intervals, your perpetually embarrassed and terrified elders. For most Americans my age, “media” meant music, the Internet, television, and movies, but a few of us were old-school nerds who learned – and would later have to unlearn – a great deal from books.

I hate to think I might be fanning the flames of censorship by writing this, but books can be just as bad a source for sex education as Jay-Z songs and RedTube. Sex scenes in novels tend to be idealized, disturbingconfusingly symbolic, or some combination of the three. Nonfiction is no panacea either: you just don’t know if a voracious, independent reader is going to end up in the attic with Ready, Set, Grow!or a biography of Caligula and a box of Freud’s old case studies. What’s more, the philistinism of American society encourages parents of bookish teenagers to adopt policies of either blanket censorship or a total lack of oversight and discussion. The “My Weird Early Experiences With Sexuality In Literature” post has now become a staple of book blogs, and get ready because I’m about to jump on that crazy train.

1. Suicide as Afterplay: Madame Bovary, Sophie’s Choice, The Virgin Suicides, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Anthony and Cleopatra, Anna Karenina, etc.

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