Friday, October 30, 2009


I set up a profile on OkCupid, then aborted it a day later. This is becoming a pattern.

We all know what OkCupid is, right? Good. I liked the slightly edgy, slightly risqué interface, even if all the breezy hipsterism sometimes comes off as belabored. The questions and quizzes seemed harmless and fun, as most things like that are, so I took the Dating Persona Test. And here's my result:

The Last Man on Earth
Shit, rejected again. You are The Last Man on Earth.

Sorry, but most men would rather see the human species wither to an end--
and therefore deny the most fundamental instinct that living creatures have--
than sleep with you.

Follow the link for the rest of the description. Once the test slaps you with this "persona," it's stuck to your profile. You can't remove it.

I suppose the hip thing to do would be to laugh it off. Or rather, the hip thing is to laugh at the people who get this result. I'm sure that's what the creator of the test (also one of the creators of the site), Chris Coyne, was thinking when he wrote it. He's a former Harvard undergraduate, so you know he's a bad person; I was a Harvard undergraduate at the same time, and I remember him. He had more hair back then, whereas now he seems to think he can hide the incipient baldness by subjecting the blond wisps he still possesses to a violent tousling:
Or is he just in a strong wind?

I deleted my account because I didn't want to let Chris Coyne brand me with the electronic equivalent of an L on my forehead. I might seem overly sensitive, but it's because I've already had a lot of experience being singled out for ridicule by cool kids like Chris. This reminds me of the great line from Heathers where Winona Ryder asks Christian Slater "You know what I want? Cool guys like you out of my life." And then she shoots him.

Some of Chris's dating profiles are clever, sure, but he didn't even do a decent job of adapting "The Last Man on Earth" description for gay men. Originally it was "most women would rather see the human species wither to an end--and therefore deny the most fundamental instinct that living creatures have--than sleep with you"; with "men" it doesn't work, because gay sex does not actually help to propagate the species. And is Chris suggesting that gays lack an instinct fundamental to living creatures? That homosexuality is therefore unnatural?

Maybe we should all boycott his site. Cheers, Chris!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weil ich so loser bin

I would like "loser" to be an adjective, in German. And then I would like for there to be a German poem (or perhaps a pop song--no need to be elitist) whose refrain was
Weil ich so loser bin.
Because I am so loser.
And then I would like for people to mumble this line when they feel frustrated with themselves. (Disclosure: I already do.)

But German is not going to cooperate with me, nor will any poet or pop singer. And the world is not beating a path to my blog's door to pick up its next trendy phrase. Why not? You know the answer.

Today my therapist suggested distinguishing between shame and guilt. You feel shame about yourself, the kind of person you are, what your actions say about you; you feel guilt over the way your actions affect others. You feel ashamed of your acne scars, but you probably wouldn't say you feel guilty about them. Shame is more capacious because you can feel shame about most anything you can feel guilty over (it all reflects on who you are).

My therapist tells me I need less shame, more guilt. Less mumbling about how loser I am, more focus on how I'm not doing what people are paying me for. How's that for a prescription?

* * *

"Do blogs have doors?" Oh, shut up.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Interpretation and Wrestlers

I've used my sister as foil several times. It's because she's smart and interesting. And when she goes to interpret a story or a song, she wants to know what the author intended it to mean, because that's the right meaning.

I've tried to disabuse her of this notion and convince her that the author is dead and all, not to much avail. My own view is that texts and music and what have you exhibit patterns that you respond to as you try to understand them. You don't need an author's intentions for this to happen, and at any rate those intentions would be just one element in the pattern, not some sort of "right answer."

I remember a high school English class where the beleaguered teacher was trying to demonstrate something about diction. The poem before us used words like "regal" and "royal" and "kingly," and the point was to notice that together they suggested "kingship" as a theme.

"But how do you know?" asked one of the students. A wrestler, thick-necked and -headed, not actually handsome but with the bulk and symmetrical sneer that passed for good looks in the fallen world of high-school aesthetics. He determined that the teacher didn't have, say, a signed affidavit from the author establishing the interpretation she'd suggested, and he sat back, satisfied with himself. Because she didn't really know what the text meant. The author had never told her.

What a fucking tool. Even now I get irritated, and my sister would have been too. I can imagine him now, his features coarsened, his bulk expanded, leading a comfortable, stultifying existence in the small town that it never occurred to him to leave.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Topper is an adverb in Latin. It doesn't look like a Latin word, which is probably why my nasty ex-boyfriend insisted upon looking it up when I mentioned it to him, rather than just admitting that I knew a Latin word he didn't.

It didn't look very much like Latin to the Romans, either. It's used in bits and pieces of really old (i.e., older than usual) Latin poetry that happen to survive only because an ancient lexicographer named Verrius Flaccus quoted them. Verrius Flaccus is an important guy, and there's even a street named after him in Palestrina:

Fig. 1: This way to fun-filled Latin lexicography!

Flaccus cited many different meanings for topper. Later writers abridged him, until eventually Paulus Diaconus in the 8th century CE winnowed the definition to a single word: "fast."

I have a friend (not the ex-boyfriend, ugh) whose last name is "Topper." And here is a limerick I wrote for that friend, whom I will call "John":
There's an entry in Paulus' epitome
Where of all topper's meanings, that litany,
One sense, that of "fast,"
Completely surpassed
All the rest. But John just says, "What's it to me?"
Come on, reader: you know the rhymes in lines 1, 2 and 5 are brilliant.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

To Catch a Cricket

There was a chirping cricket in my room a few nights ago. You may associate crickets with warm summer nights, bucolic surroundings, and Pinocchio, but one in your room is not a good thing. It's annoyingly loud. If the sound comes too close, you worry it will jump on you. Crickets are not cute; they are largeish and buggy:

Fig.1: Not cute if it's coming to get you

At first I couldn't even tell where the sound was coming from, but after some fruitless tapping on gratings and air ducts, I realized it was in my closet lurking behind a pipe. There was no good way of reaching it there, so I creatively used the means at my disposal and began squirting it with 409. I don't like the smell of that stuff and I figured Mr. Cricket would like it even less.

He was cowed for a bit, but soon the chirping started up even more loudly. I had roused him from his hiding place! It was then that we had our first face-to-face encounter, he bigger than I had expected, I more merciful than he (presumably) had expected. Because I decided to trap him under a glass and shoo him outside instead of smooshing him. Rather than go along with my magnanimous gesture, however, he scurried into the unfathomable recesses of my Murphy Bed while I was ducking into the kitchen.

Beyond my reach? Only if he'd stayed put. Once I turned the lights out he went on the move again and cleverly "hid" in the middle of my carpet. I was going to kill him, but then he chirped and the sight of his little quivering hindquarters as I shone the flashlight on him made me relent. Except that, when I tried to clomp the glass on top of him, he moved and I caught his back leg. Which ripped off and convulsed once, forlornly, before staying forever still.

I thought I might need to do a mercy-killing, but in fact he could still move damn quickly, and after the glass was on top of him the chink-chink of his exoskeleton insistently bonking against its surface kind of freaked me out. Once he was outside, we could both rest in peace.

Wikipedia tells me that crickets bite, carry "a large number of diseases," and can produce "painful sores." Good thing for Mr. Cricket that I didn't know this. I also learned, by the way, that only male crickets sing, and that they have several songs, including a loud one that attracts mates and repels rivals, and a "copulatory song."

I'm pretty sure I wasn't getting the copulatory song. But was I rival or mate? Was Mr. Cricket gay? We will never know. (By the way, crickets can regenerate their legs, so whatever his orientation, Mr. Cricket is not doomed to a life of bachelorhood just because he was my inadvertent amputee.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mondegreens, 3

Could it be that, for once in my life, I've happened upon something trendy before the entire rest of the world did? Because ApSci is a cool group, and this video is awesome, and the album it's from just came out, and the group doesn't have all that many followers on Twitter.

Before I figured out that the lyrics to "Crazy Crazy Insane" were in the info box to the right of the YouTube video, I had a misheard lyric that's not particularly funny or outrageous, but is distinguished by its seeming coherence. Because there's a man and woman in the video, and it sounded like he said:
It's something that I've raised her for
Creepy! The actual words are a lot of fun:
6 syllables, 2 words, fill 'em in,
Rhymes with Snakes on a Plane.
It's something that I reserve for
Those disturbed but won't own up to it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Sleep begets sleep, and exhaustion exhausts:
The more I sleep the more tired I get.
Snuggling with comfy blanket carries costs
Of excess dreams and hypersomnic fret.
I wrote the first two lines as prose and then realized that they more or less scanned, so I decided to round them off as a quatrain. I sleep too much and have endless, anxiety-laced dreams as I slip in and out of consciousness while hitting the snooze button at regular intervals. Finally I awake disoriented by the waking world. Is this healthy? No.
Why can't we sleep forever?
I just want to start this over.
("Sober," Tool)
These are mutually exclusive wishes, but it doesn't matter because the speaker is mainly interested in getting out of his current situation. I remember being very affected by that video (the one attached to the link) when I first saw it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Are you special?

Oh, go on, give yourself some credit! Have you checked for lions in the back of your wardrobe lately? Maybe your acceptance letter to Hogwarts just hasn't arrived yet.

Yes, that does seem a bit old for Hogwarts. But any day now the Fairy Prince may arrive to tell you that upon your XXth birthday it'll be time for you to inherit the Fairy Kingdom and his fairy hand in marriage. Or a tall, dark, pale stranger will sweep you off your feet into a world of undead adventure and intrigue.

Hmm...I didn't like to mention that myself. You might try altering your diet, or going to the gym. Could be that you don't have the build or the blood-type to be anyone's immortal beloved.

There there, all is not lost. Nuclear war could break out tomorrow, and it could be up to you to save humanity! Heck, you might even be humanity at that point. Or maybe there'll be a plague, and you'll be one of the few with natural immunity. Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Emending Sheryl Crow (Mondegreens, 2)

God I feel like hell tonight,
Tears of rage I cannot ----.
("Strong enough," Sheryl Crow)
What's that last word? My sister though it was "bite," but you don't bite tears. I told her it must be "fight," because that makes perfect sense. And it's what all the lyrics sites have.

Now I think they're wrong, and I want to emend them all. Ok, if the word were something as common and colorless as "fight," why would it cause anyone any trouble? My sister was on to something, and "bite" is clearly the lectio difficilior. Or should that be audio difficilior(*)?

I can get to the answer in one move. The lyric is "bide," as in "to tolerate, endure, put up with," a meaning noted by the OED and not marked there as archaic, though I don't find it in my computer's dictionary. I'm listening to the song right now, and I just don't hear the hiss of air that should accompany an f. It's an initial b, and then the word has to be "bide."

Well, "tears of rage I cannot bide" comes up twice on Google, as opposed to 119,000 hits for the version with "fight." The "fight" version even gets a citation in Google Scholar! But I am completely undeterred, because I am right, and I cannot bide this widely-repeated, scyptic violence to Sheryl Crow's poetic diction. (Actually, I'm not that confident any more: could all 119,000+ people be wrong? But my lyric is more fun.)

By the way, I am not strong enough to be Sheryl Crow's man. I might not even be strong enough to be Tom Lenk's man, though perhaps I could take him in a fight...

* - I know this isn't correct Latin, though I am capable of it. Don't be so captious.