Moving In (September)

September 2, 2009

So I’ve spent the last four days moving into my new apartment, buying books for the next semester, etc. The week before that I spent procuring furniture for said apartment. Hence my recent lack of postage. (It seems like a lot of the bloggers I subscribe to have been moving in the last few weeks – makes reading my RSS feed much less fun. Guess I’m doing the same to however few people subscribe to me.)

Anyway, this new semester has another interesting feature, aside from what I’ve talked about several times before, with it being the third year I’ve been at the same school, something that hasn’t happened since 5th grade. Namely, for the last year the class of 2011 has been divided in three – the Fall Romers, the Spring Romers, and the people who didn’t go. Now basically everyone is back. It will be fascinating to see how the different social circles meld and break up. If I make any good observations about social behavior I’ll post about it.

And for those interested, my list of classes: Junior Poet (I’m doing Gerard Manley Hopkins), Medieval Literature, Linear Algebra, Analysis I, Intermediate German I. I’ll also probably sign up to audit The Russian Novel.

Musings about Modesty

December 18, 2008

[Be warned; this post is written from an implicitly Catholic viewpoint, and how it looks at sexuality will probably seem really weird to anyone who’s not Catholic – and perhaps to most people who are, as well. It’s really just me rambling about clothing and modesty and sexuality for seven hundred words.]

I remember a few months (years?) ago, we had a debate on the Wesnoth forums about standards of modesty. Some of the Europeans, talking about how nudity was more acceptable there, were trying to make the argument that nudity was not necessarily sexual, and it was just us American puritans who made it so – if we just required less clothes in the first place, lack of clothing wouldn’t be considered as intentionally provocative.

Well, coming back from Europe after three and a half months, I think I can say… nope, that’s completely wrong. Nudity really is always sexual – at least how it appears in Europe. I saw advertisements for pornographic movie theaters, “adult” websites, etc, all involving female nudity – advertisements you would never see in the US, they would be illegal – but certainly never saw nudity somehow used in a non-sexual way. Perhaps it is, sometimes, but it seems obvious that the primary effect of making nudity more socially acceptable is to make raw sexuality more socially acceptable and pervasive…

Anyway, the point is, it seems obvious that nudity and sexuality can’t really be separated from each other. But… what, with respect to clothing, is not always sexual? I mean, can we really separate clothing or the lack thereof from sexuality? I’m reminded of the part in Perelandra where the devil is teaching the Green Lady to wear clothing. He is teaching her modesty in order to teach her licentiousness…

Perhaps it’s not clear what my point is. Well, my point is a question – what does it mean for someone (well, a female, primarily) to “dress modestly”? The idea is that dressing immodestly is dressing in a sexually provocative manner. But women can dress without revealing much skin and still be provocative (obviously), and they can dress while revealing a lot of skin and not be very provocative (harder to find examples of, but just think of what the difference between “cute” and “hot” is – it’s not necessarily how much clothing is worn) – it seems to be the intent, not the actual manner of dress, that matters…

But this seems to contradict what I said at the beginning. If it’s the intent, not the amount of clothing, that determines modesty, why did I not see any non-sexual nudity in Europe? Why was all of it so highly sexualized?

Obviously there is some sort of correlation, even if it’s not exact, between how revealing clothing is and how modest it is. It’d be hard to be modest wearing a bikini; it’d be hard to be immodest wearing a burqa. But we don’t want to force women to wear burqas, and anything less than that will be sexual in one way or another; all clothing is, really. There must be some sort of middle ground, but I don’t know how one would find it.

And there’s also two factors here I’m conflating, I think – how modest the clothing is, and how chaste the woman is. Someone could wear a bikini but not be being intentionally immodest. I actually know some girls who would do, and have done, that…

I don’t have any grand theory of sexuality and modesty to lay out. My point, I guess, is that this is more complicated than most people realize. It’s not as simple as, “cover yourself up already!” – otherwise Catholics would require their women to wear burqas, which we don’t. But there have to be some standards or something – what I saw in Europe, which was basically the breaking down of standards of decency, was definitely not Christian in nature.

Perhaps the line is drawn where the clothing stops being intended to bring out the beauty of the wearer, and becomes about emphasizing the sexuality of the wearer… though, those two seem almost impossible to separate. So I’m not sure it’s actually possible to formulate a rule for how a girl ought to dress modestly.

Back Home

December 15, 2008

Finals are over, the partying has stopped, I’ve left Rome, and now I’m back in the US. I got back Saturday night, actually.

So it’s Christmas break now; I have a bit more than a month to read, write, listen to music, watch some TV and movies, and hang out with my family. I plan on doing all of these things.

Specifically, I plan to read Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, a bunch of poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins, anything by Gene Wolfe I can get my hands on, and probably Frankenstein (this is not a comprehensive list, obviously);

I plan to work some more on the Orbivm campaign I’m slowly writing, and to edit the short story I finished last week, and to figure out what of the stuff I’ve written in the last six months I’m actually willing to post online (probably very little);

I plan to listen to some more of Silly Wizard and The Chieftains, and perhaps find some other bands I’d be interested in hearing more of;

I plan to watch season 4 of the Wire and, hopefully, season 5, depending on whether my mom gets it for Christmas, and to see Wall-E (I finally saw The Dark Knight last night).

So, yeah, that’s my plan for the coming five weeks. Nothing else much to say for now; I’ll be back with real posts in the next few days, probably.

Unrecognized (December)

December 1, 2008

This is it – my final month in Rome. I only have about 12 days left, actually; I go back home early in the morning on Saturday the 13th.

I am really already ready (now there’s a series of three words, ea?) for the semester to be over. I’ve done all the traveling I plan on doing, except maybe this weekend (and it won’t be anything major). All I have left to look forward to is finals, and then I’m going back home.

Going back home… now, this is the first time I will ever have gone almost four whole months without seeing my family. I look somewhat different now that I did when I left – longer hair, different clothes (I lost some and had to buy more). I also feel like a different person – the Rome semester has changed me, I think, in ways good and bad, intentional and unintentional. I might post, later, about some of the stuff I think I learned from it… not here, though. Probably not until I’m back in Irving.

Anyway, this return home reminds me a lot of Malin Keshar, the antihero of Descent into Darkness (an excellent mainline Wesnoth campaign), who returns home several times, with varying degrees of welcome. He ends up, of course, (and this really shouldn’t spoil the ending for anyone, even if they haven’t played it,) becoming a lich, never able to return to his village again. Hopefully I will not have changed that drastically. Being fought off as a murdering blasphemer by my sister and uncle would be a slight problem.

Venice, Florence, Assisi

November 17, 2008

I just took a class trip to Venice, Florence, and Assisi.

Overall, I liked Florence the best – but, I think, that was at least somewhat because I went into it disposed to like Florence the best, knowing that Dante Alighieri (the greatest poet-philosopher to ever live) and Michelangelo (one of the greatest sculptors and painters to ever live) both came from there. I was also disposed not to really like Venice, because the very idea of Venice irritates me (don’t frickin’ build a city on a frackin’ sandbar unless you’re damn sure you can make sure it won’t sink on you! The city deserves what’s coming to it, I’d say) – and it didn’t help that I’d been to Stockholm, the “Venice of the North”, the previous week, and enjoyed that much more than Venice itself (I was constantly comparing the two). Assisi I knew little about going in, other than it was the home of Saint Francis.

But I’ll try to just look at the cities themselves, minus my preconceptions. First of all, Venice. Well, when we were there it was raining the entire time. I love the rain, but, in Venice when it rains all the streets flood (as in, 3-6 inches of water in some places and they have to put up elevated walkways – it’s called acqua alta)
and it’s really unpleasant to walk around, which is all there is to do in Venice except go into expensive museums that I’m not interested in (I hate most museums – perhaps a post on this later). Venice is basically a huge tourist trap, after all – a bunch of souvenir shops and expensive restaurants. It’s definitely not a city I would want to hang out in for a long period of time. It is beautiful though – the whole built-on-water aspect may be idiotic, but it does make for some picturesque views. So, Venice is pretty to look at, but not that much fun to actually be in, I’d say. At least when raining.

Florence is strange for a number of reasons. FIrst of all, it has museums I actually like. The Accademia, for example, which houses Michelangelo’s David, is actually not bad as museums go, although small. It also has some cool churches, though I didn’t get to go into as many as I wanted. The Baptistery, for example, has some cool mosaics on the ceiling. But Florence is also kind of a slum, the entire city through; except for the area right near the river, it’s really run-down, kind of poor-looking actually, and there’s graffiti everywhere (though that’s true of most of Italy, really). I enjoyed walking around in it nonetheless (it’s actually more flavorful than walking around in generic middle-class neighborhoods), but it could have been better. It’s also rather irritating that you have to pay to get into most of the churches (apparently Florence doesn’t get enough voluntary donations to its churches so it needs to charge for them).

Assisi was probably objectively the best place we went. It reminded me of Delphi in Greece, actually – both are mountain/hill small towns that are pilgrimage sites, Assisi for St. Francis and Delphi for the Oracle. So Assisi had the natural beauty going for it, and the architecture of the entire city was quite medieval (old bricks and stone-paved roads). And it was very peaceful – the city itself was quiet, and when we hiked up to a nearby hermitage it was completely silent. Very relaxing. Assisi is a tourist town, sort of, but not in the same way as Venice – people don’t usually come to Assisi unless they’re interested in the spiritual aspect, so it’s a more sincere kind of tourism, I think. And Assisi has some cool medieval churches. Overall, then, I think Assisi was the best.

So, objectively speaking, Assisi > Venice > Florence. But personally, I have to say, Florence > Assisi > Venice. At least in terms of how much I enjoyed the cities, that’s definitely the order they’re in.

The Land of the Ice and Snow

November 11, 2008

This last weekend, I went to Stockholm, in Sweden, leaving on Friday and returning early Sunday morning.

Now, I went to Stockholm just because it’s in Scandinavia, and I wanted to go somewhere in Scandinavia before the semester ended. I bought the tickets back in September, but didn’t do any research whatsoever before going, and so had no idea what to expect. I was prepared to be disappointed.

It turns out, though, that Stockholm is simply a stunning city visually. The mood of the city was set by its beautiful blondes in somber black clothing walking amidst multi-colored ancient apartment buildings as if the two went naturally together. This fit perfectly with the weather, which was chilly but not cold, and very slightly overcast). There was also natural beauty; walking along the harbor was amazing, and some of the islands (like Kastellholmen) were a mix of rocky and grassy parkland and quaint-looking 18th-/19th-century “castles” and churches.

So it was a lot of fun to just walk around the city, and I did that a decent amount. This is one of my favorite things to do in new cities, after all; when I was alone in Cologne for eight hours over ten-day I just wandered around aimlessly for at least two or three of them. I think Stockholm is one of the best cities I’ve been in for simply wandering around for aesthetic pleasure.

But my other favorite thing to do is to go into random churches, and at this, Stockholm failed. There were very few churches – well, fewer than in, say, Rome or Munich – and those that there were, were Lutheran. Going into Lutheran churches does not particularly interest me.

This was, of course, expected. I knew Scandinavia was mostly agnostic, and nominally Lutheran not Catholic. But it was still disappointing, in a sense; I could not help but imagine how awesome Stockholm would have been if it had had this going for it as well. If Stockholm had been Catholic, I think it might have been my favorite city in Europe so far.

But that is just wishful thinking. Obviously Stockholm is not going to turn Catholic any time soon. That leaves me seeing Stockholm, and thus all of Scandinavia, in a wishful light; it was amazing, but it could have been more, so much more.

Where from here? (November)

November 4, 2008

This month promises to be… interesting. I’m going to be traveling probably every weekend (though perhaps not – unfortunately, it looks like my plans to go to Stockholm this Friday could fall through), and actually more (we have two breaks that are 5 and 4 days long, respectively). During this time (which is basically the final stretch of my Rome semester – damn, it’s gone by fast), I have to work out what I’m doing next semester (picking classes, figuring out where I’m going to live, making sure I have funding, etc – most of these have deadlines before Dec. 1st). And answering these questions necessitates having some sort of long-term plan (basically, profession and personal vocation). Plus I am in an odd emotional situation that probably won’t get resolved for several more months but that I think about a lot anyway (and enough about that – I can’t know who’s reading this so I won’t be more specific :P ).

I’ll probably end up making it by without actually giving a definite answer to anything not immediately pressing – it’s usually possible to make a decision without actually thinking about the long-term consequences and not have it turn out too badly. But for the time being, I have time, and thus am going to think about them even if I can’t make a decision.

So the problem isn’t that I’m not going to have any free time; it’s more that I’m not going to have any huge breaks (just a few hours here and there, never a full day or two), and small gaps like that tend to get eaten up with worrying about stuff like this. I’ll have free time, I’ll just be distracted. The question of “what should I do here?” is swallowed up by the question “where should I go from here?”. Which is frustrating, because there are things I want to do here (I have a few story ideas I want to work on, I’m working on an Orbivm campaign, etc), but doing them takes more effort than worrying about the future.

Who does this remind me of? In a certain way, it reminds me of Lokka, the villain in the (unfinished) campaign Gali’s Contract (which I am currently working on – though slowly). He, too, is unable to accomplish anything in the present (and is jealous of those who are) because he is distracted (though he is distracted by the past, me by the future). He could have been great, but he was not, and was in fact a hindrance to greatness, because of his distraction. (Depressing, really.)

So this month, I shall be Lokka, the lord the northern Cavernei and great-great-grandson of the dwarf who forged the Thunderblades. I don’t really want to be – I’d rather be Gali, obviously – but these are my predictions, not my aspirations. Lokka it is, then.

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