Thursday, March 26, 2009

Evil, Wanton, Sex Goddesses

I went to a lecture yesterday at the Kimbell (which is just a fantastic space) with my boss, who invited me along. The lecture was for the new exhibit at the Kimbell: Art and Love in Renaissance Italy. The lecturer was one of our faculty in the art department and a good friend of my boss's. In college, I somehow managed to never take an art history class and now, that saddens me. I'm not much of a modern art person, but the older works are so very fascinating.

The subject of the talk was Women's Vices portrayed in Renaissance Art - or something to that effect. The speaker talked about how women, since the time of Eve, have been thought of as temptresses and purely sexual beings. Man is where the reason lies; women tempt him from his godly pursuits. Several quotes were read from Augustine, Tertullian, and other Church fathers which were absolutely ridiculous.

I know you've heard all these things before... Women are made from Adam's rib, not in the image of God, like man, therefore we are not holy beings. Women seek only to lure men away from God. Women cannot think on their own, but need a husband's guilding hand in this so very difficult world...

This just goes to show that it is very hard to be both a woman and Catholic. I know that the Church is not the only guilty party of this kind of thinking, but still... I try to forget these things but they keep coming back, much like those annoying Medici. Being a historian, I'm pretty traditional but even this riles my potentially feminist feathers.

Here's one of the pieces of art on display in the exhibition currently at the Kimbell....

Venus, goddess of luv (as my prof used to say), with rays of light coming out of her (ahem!) nether regions, woos heroes from popular culture: Samson, Lancelot, and others. This is how women were perceived - as nothing more than godless, sexual beings.

Geez! I'm obviously not living up to my wanton-goddess potential!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Finished SOCKS!!!

Pattern: Generic No-Frills Sock Recipe by Judy Passman and edited by Linda Lucente
Yarn: J. Knits Super Wash Me Sock
Color: Mesa
Needles: US 2 dbl pts
CO: 60 stitches

Honestly, I cannot believe that they're finally done! Just as I took the picture of them, I realized that one (on the right) is redder than the other. Both came from the same skein but were started at opposite ends. Oh, well, I'm not complaining. They fit and that's a miracle, in my book!

I did the German Toe to finish them and, though this is much easier than the dreaded Kitchener Stitch, I absolutely hate p3tog - ering on small, double-pointed needles. The last four rows or so were torturous but (sigh), now they're done and I cannot wait - believe it or not - to start my next pair. I've already measured my mom's feet so I can get started whenever the mood strikes!

In the end, it only took me nine months to complete these. I was fearing it was closer to a year!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Still an ISTJ

Over the weekend, I retook the Myers-Briggs test as it had been a good ten years, at least, since the first time I took it. Apparently I haven't changed much. I was hoping that maybe I had grown out of the ISTJ phase.....but no such luck.

I read up on my ISTJ self and it is truly scary how exactly this defines me. According to one book, ISTJs are, with their strong sense of duty and responsibility, the rocks of society. We are dependable, trustworthy; we believe in honor and our word is our bond. We are detail-oriented and responsible to a fault. In fact, we grow impatient with and cannot understand irresponsibilty or procrastination. We do our tasks efficiently and without flare, making them sometimes go unseen and unappreciated. We are often promoted because of these well-done tasks, but we generally do not seek leadership positions. Oh, yes, and we're often pessimistic and fatalistic.

In relationships, ISTJs (also referred to as Inspectors - ugh) are most compatible with Artisans (I forgot their letters). However, though we're often attracted to such unruly, passionate, unorganized people, the relationship can easily turn into a parent-child relationship instead of an adult-adult relationship. ISTJs, because of our sense of duty, will never quit a relationship and will even seek to rehabilitate our partners should they suffer from addictions or destructive habits.

Sounds absolutely lovely, huh? It is funny discussing this with my parents. My dad is an ESTJ (or a Supervisor) and we're continually butting heads. Both of us are always coming up with our own more efficient ways of doing things. My mom is an INFJ (or a Counselor) and she is always looking to the future, thinking of grand plans, seeking harmony both at home and work.

In some ways, this test is comforting as it explains some things I consider flaws. I can easily say that "yes, I'm impatient but what else do you expect from an ISTJ?" I can easily see how my personality attracted a boyfriend - or two - and why the relationships developed - and ended - as they did.

At the end of the day, the ISTJ is not the life of the party. In fact, the ISTJ probably went home early to do laundry. The thing that makes us attractive to our mates is that responsibility - we'll take the reigns of a household and pay the bills on time and get the kids to school on time. We cannot resist being responsible. Yes, basically, I'm just plain boring. Why would anyone want to be around someone who is, by nature, fatalistic and pessimistic? Honestly, I have no idea. My mom deals with two such people, so maybe there's a bit of hope....

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Burnt-Out Case

Random Pic of the Day.... This may seem random and it is, but this is where I'm going this summer, which is when I'll need my brand new, spiffy passport. AL took this pic and she can't say whereabouts it is. I'll tell you all about it sooner rather than later, I promise. But it's a cute pic, with the dog and all.

Last night, I finished reading A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene. This one was even better than Greene's The End of the Affair, which was truly moving.

One again, you cannot be misled by the summary that appears on the back of my very old, used copy. Going by that, this is a love story. Well, there is no romance here, at least not your typical romance involving two people.

I was a bit skeptical when I was first given this book. It's about a famous architect, Querry, who loses all inspiration for living - for his work and his women. He leaves it all and catches a random plane to Africa. Once there, he boards a boat and goes as deep into the Congo as he can. When the boat ends its journey, he gets off and finds himself at a mission, filled with nuns and priests...and lepers. A cure for leprosy has been discovered and the mission has founded a hospital to treat all those afflicted with this terrible disease.

Querry is given a room by the priests and he lives there, doing nothing more than changing the bandages and dressings for the lepers. Eventually, he helps them build a new hospital. At first, he comes seeking only solitude, quiet, and anonymity. He gets most of what he wants and gradually finds a kind of happiness there, among the "uncivilized" Africans. Slowly, however, the world intrudes and his anonymity is shattered.

This novel is, like a lot of Greene novels, about faith - losing it, regaining it, taking it to extremes. It's about ego, motive, and love. It's inspiring - Deo Gratias the leper, I loved - and interesting - leprosy is something you don't read about everyday. You don't have to be Catholic to read this and enjoy it - and I highly recommend it to you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


BRIDESHEAD REVISITED arrived in my mailbox the other day, a la Netflix. I got around to watching it last night and was surprised; I guess I'd not read the description that well as I had no idea this movie was about religion. Sure, it's set in Britain (post World War I) and has sumptuous sets and deals, once again, with those annoying aristocratic types, but this movie tackles a huge topic: God's grace. (I have not read the book, by Evelyn Waugh, but I may have to as I seem to be on the verge of going through the major Catholic novelists, as Dr. M suggests....)

If you read a summary of the movie it will undoubtedly sound like this: "A middle-class university student befriends an aristocrat and is soon propelled into a world of money, leisure, and frivolous travel." But that only scratches the surface.

Charles Ryder makes the acquaintance of Sebastian Flyte but, just as their friendship blooms, Sebastian's family makes an appearance, bringing an awkwardness into the relationship. His mother is a devout Catholic (Ryder, the outsider, is an atheist) and has apparently used her faith to stifle her children with guilt - at least two of the children, Sebastian and Julia. Catholic guilt, sometimes viewed as preposterous by outsiders and rarely understood by Protestants, is on display time and again in this movie. Sebastian and Julia are constantly weighed down by guilt that they've been instructed to have since birth. They are exhausted and uneasy with their faith. But it is God's grace that will eventually take center stage.

Despite the ridiculous British aristocracy, I found myself oddly moved at the end when upon his deathbed, a lapsed Catholic accepts his last rites, coming back into the Church and proving, very movingly, that no one is beyond God's grace.

A good movie, but one I shall not likely watch again. Let's just say that this doesn't leave you with a warm feeling inside. And, I'm Catholic, and do not need a movie to witness Catholic guilt. BRIDESHEAD does, however, have a soundtrack that, though a bit inconsistent, is interesting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Annette Vallon

Over the weekend, I finally finished James Tipton's Annette Vallon. This book, though it centers around a romance, is actually a good history of the French Revolution. It is wonderfully descriptive and, though the characters live outside of Paris, you get a sense of what the terror must have been like for ordinary people.

The British poet William Wordsworth fell in love with Annette Vallon shortly before the Terror began, but the Revolution soon separates them. For a novel centered around two people in love, those two share precious few pages together. William returns to Britain and Annette begins to help those who are unjustly hunted by the revolutionaries (including at various times, herself).

In this novel it is made clear just how blurry the lines between royalist and revolutionary truly were, changing with the various tides of fanaticism. And there were so many tides! One forgets just how prolonged and agonizing this Revolution truly was!

This is a great historical novel, with just a hint of romance and tons of adventure. It is refreshing to see a courageous heroine, one who is intelligent and unafraid of anyone's negative opinion. I can't say this made me a fan of Wordsworth, but then, I've never been much into poetry. If you want a good read, I recommend it.