Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Slow Read: Mrs. Dalloway: halfway through

Mrs. Dalloway Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

I left the last reading wondering how Clarissa Dalloway might have been affected by Peter's visit. This reading gives a glimpse into Peter's response. He surprised himself with tears. He thought he'd been over this years ago. It seems to me both are experiencing the rebirth of old selves. I wonder what they will find their relationship to those old selves will be?

Stalk women much, Peter? It seems Peter has a fantasy life without being very reflective about it:

There was a dignity about her. She was not worldly, like Clarissa; not rich, like Clarissa. Was she, he wondered as she moved, respectable? Witty, with a lizard's flickering tongue, he thought (for one must invent, must allow oneself a little diversion), a cool waiting wit, a darting wit; not noisy. She moved; she crossed; he followed her. To embarrass her was the last thing he wished. Still if she stopped he would say "Come and have an ice," he would say, and she would answer, perfectly simply, "Oh yes."
So Peter falls asleep in the park,
Suddenly he closed his eyes, raised his hand with an effort, and threw away the heavy end of his cigar. A great brush swept smooth across his mind, sweeping across it moving branches, children's voices, the shuffle of feet, and people passing, and humming traffic, rising and falling traffic. Down, down he sank into the plumes and feathers of sleep, sank, and was muffled over.
and also in the park is Mr. Septimus Smith. Why is he and his wife in this story, I wonder? They were in the vicinity of Mrs. Dalloway, and in the vicinity of Peter, but is there going to be something more significant? It seems to be a pretty convincing glimpse inside Septimus's head, and how far gone he is, seems like schizophrenia to me, but it seems also to be brought about by the war. Hallucinations:
It was horrible, terrible to see a dog become a man! At once the dog trotted away. Heaven was divinely merciful, infinitely benignant. It spared him, pardoned his weakness. But what was the scientific explanation (for one must be scientific above all things)? Why could he see through bodies, see into the future, when dogs will become men?
Peter reminisces:
Somebody who had written him a long, gushing letter quite lately about "blue hydrangeas." It was seeing blue hydrangeas that made her think of him and the old days--Sally Seton, of course! It was Sally Seton--the last person in the world one would have expected to marry a rich man and live in a large house near Manchester, the wild, the daring, the romantic Sally!
Sally Seton...wasn't she Clarissa's love interest back when? She was!
Over and over again he had seen her take some raw youth, twist him, turn him, wake him up; set him going. Infinite numbers of dull people conglomerated round her of course. But odd unexpected people turned up; an artist sometimes; sometimes a writer; queer fish in that atmosphere. ...As we are a doomed race, chained to a sinking ship (her favourite reading as a girl was Huxley and Tyndall, and they were fond of these nautical metaphors), as the whole thing is a bad joke, let us, at any rate, do our part; mitigate the sufferings of our fellow-prisoners
Clarissa seems to be something of a salon hostess, or a patroness. Huxley and Tyndall must be significant. Oh, they were scientists seeking to separate science from religion. Atheists again. Clarissa doesn't believe in God.

Considering his stalkerishness, I was wondering if Peter was really getting married. The lady does exist...he just doesn't appear to like her attentions all that much. Hmmm.
It was impossible that he should ever suffer again as Clarissa had made him suffer. For hours at a time (pray God that one might say these things without being overheard!), for hours and days he never thought of Daisy. Could it be that he was in love with her then, remembering the misery, the torture, the extraordinary passion of those days? It was a different thing altogether--a much pleasanter thing--the truth being, of course, that now she was in love with him. And that perhaps was the reason why, when the ship actually sailed, he felt an extraordinary relief, wanted nothing so much as to be alone; was annoyed to find all her little attentions--cigars, notes, a rug for the voyage--in his cabin.
Back to Septimus. This is also why I think of schizophrenia:
Here he opened Shakespeare once more. That boy's business of the intoxication of language--Antony and Cleopatra--had shrivelled utterly. How Shakespeare loathed humanity--the putting on of clothes, the getting of children, the sordidity of the mouth and the belly! This was now revealed to Septimus; the message hidden in the beauty of words. The secret signal which one generation passes, under disguise, to the next is loathing, hatred, despair.
Dr. Holmes, inept general practitioner. Sir William at least can diagnose mental illness when he sees it. Could Sir William be the connection between Dalloway and Smith?

The beginning

Facebook Wayback

Last week the meme spread to change our Facebook profile photo to one from wayback. I chose one I used here from my 2 year birthday. However, when it comes to status and links, it seems "wayback" is more like a month or two ago. Here are some things I want to remember from wayback...this summer.

I often went to this farm stand, which was in the parking lot of the restaurant right behind the library, right after I got off work on Thursdays.

We trust no kittehs were harmed in the making of this video.

Via Choten: One year walk/beard video

Found when looking for ways people told the story of Buddha's Enlightenment: a Mary Oliver poem.

My allergies have been worse for longer periods of time, and I've heard from others. Just as I suspected, climate change is doing this.

Further proof that "evolutionary psychology" is a poorly disguised pseudo-scientific vehicle for the dissemination of bigotry

Inspired by Felicia's hurricane, I wondered if there was a Hurricane Heidi. Indeedy, 1967, I was 5 months old. There was also a Tropical Storm Heidi in September 1971. I just remembered, my family moved to the house I grew up in when I was 5 months old.

This work and video done by co-worker's daughter.

Fun stop-motion video made from innards of old cameras.

Sherman Alexie short story: War Dances.

Not Always Right: the rain in Portland.

The health care reform debate was raging this summer. Now it is sadly another corporate entitlement. Then, I said:

The money that could be spent on health care to cover everybody is hardly anything compared to the money that has been spent on war for the past 8 years. If we can spend that kind of money on destruction, we can spend that kind of money on health, and what we get back will not be rubble and blood, but able human beings who can participate positively in our communities and our economy.
I still haven't seen the movie. Sure, I will eventually. But meanwhile I hope to get around to reading the blog that inspired Julie/Julia.

Snow leopard!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Slow Read: Mrs. Dalloway: The Beginning

Mrs. Dalloway Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

First, let me say I really enjoyed The Voyage Out. There was an intimate feel to the gatherings of the English expatriates somewhere in South America. Before arriving, however, Mr. and Mrs. Dalloway were passengers on the ship which housed the heroine Rachel Vinrace. I was so intrigued by that little glimpse, I quite looked forward to Mrs. Dalloway. Rachel is an innocent. She hasn't been awakened to the ecstasies and epiphanies of love. The other characters on the ship provide examples of couples, such as her relatives, the Ambroses, as well as the Dalloways. The Dalloways are a key to her awakening. He is a politician, she his adoring wife. Their marriage appears to be the perfect example: they enjoy intimacies in private; they know each others' quirks; they enjoy each other. Yet when there's an unexpected intimate moment with Rachel, Mr. Dalloway kisses her. He seems to feel Rachel brought it on them both; she, however, is ignited. This is the spark that ignites her pilot light to love. (She has a very yonic/phallic dream.) She does not completely understand this feeling, but likes it, and is ripe, ready to fall in love. Reading, I hoped the right person would happen along. The Dalloways depart, and I find myself wondering, does this happen before or after the next book I read? Are the Dalloways really so understanding of each other, even of themselves, as they at first appear to be? That kiss seems to belie the notion, but it also was a kiss that needed to happen, so as to awaken Rachel, the sleeping beauty.

The story of Mrs. Dalloway begins with her running errands for her dinner party. While she walks, she muses. She'd chosen Richard Dalloway over Peter.

But Peter--however beautiful the day might be, and the trees and the grass, and the little girl in pink--Peter never saw a thing of all that. He would put on his spectacles, if she told him to; he would look. It was the state of the world that interested him.... So she would still find herself arguing in St. James's Park, still making out that she had been right--and she had too--not to marry him. For in marriage a little licence, a little independence there must be between people living together day in day out in the same house; which Richard gave her, and she him.
I've been wondering how old is she as compared to The Voyage Out? This doesn't help me much:
She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.
In The Voyage Out many if not most characters were not religious. Mrs. Dalloway informed Rachel she didn't know yet. Clearly Mrs. D. was part of a set who thought about such things, and Rachel hadn't needed to, yet. I wonder if this was the norm at the time, or was the author's ideal world. This thoughtful non-belief seemed also to carry an enlightened rationality.
not for a moment did she believe in God; but all the more, she thought, taking up the pad, must one repay in daily life to servants, yes, to dogs and canaries, above all to Richard her husband, who was the foundation of it...
What a heady time it must have been for the Woolfs, to be part of the Bloomsbury Group, in which they rebelled against the Victorian age. And hmmm, what great fodder for books.
She resented it, had a scruple picked up Heaven knows where, or, as she felt, sent by Nature (who is invariably wise); yet she could not resist sometimes yielding to the charm of a woman, not a girl, of a woman confessing, as to her they often did, some scrape, some folly. And whether it was pity, or their beauty, or that she was older, or some accident--like a faint scent, or a violin next door (so strange is the power of sounds at certain moments), she did undoubtedly then feel what men felt. Only for a moment; but it was enough. ...But this question of love (she thought, putting her coat away), this falling in love with women. Take Sally Seton; her relation in the old days with Sally Seton. Had not that, after all, been love?
Speak of the devil. Hadn't she just been thinking about this guy? Peter's quite sure Clarissa will see him.
"But he never liked any one who--our friends," said Clarissa; and could have bitten her tongue for thus reminding Peter that he had wanted to marry her. Of course I did, thought Peter; it almost broke my heart too, he thought; and was overcome with his own grief, which rose like a moon looked at from a terrace, ghastly beautiful with light from the sunken day.
He announces his new love. Does this upset her world view? We'll see, I suppose. Certainly she began his visit by telling him she was having a party and he wasn't invited (or was she being coquettish?), but when he leaves abruptly
saying "Good-bye, Clarissa" without looking at her, leaving the room quickly, and running downstairs and opening the hall door. "Peter! Peter!" cried Clarissa, following him out on to the landing. "My party to-night! Remember my party to-night!" she cried, having to raise her voice against the roar of the open air
What a day for ghosts in Mrs. Dalloway's life. She ponders her past as she prepares for the night's dinner, and one shows up, opening old doors she'd thought she'd closed.

I liked the way the point of view shifted from one character to the next as Mrs. Dalloway went about her walk and her errands, like it was the wind listening in on the thoughts of the people on the street.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Fat Karma: Voodoo Hex of Fat Fear

I've been busy reading those books quite relevant to this subject, and designed a Buddhist class series focusing mostly on Mindful Eating, but also including information from Health at Every Size, and Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.

I've got a list around here somewhere of threads I'd still like to cover. Add this website, First Do No Harm, to things to check out regarding Health Care Bigotry. While procrastinating over my class series preparation I read through all of these. It is heartbreaking. The most recent is on anesthetic. I just love :/ how health care providers will act as if it is the fat person's fault that they cannot figure out the correct dosage. How hard can it be to improve dosage knowledge?

On to this thread. There are quite a few soggy science articles on obesity. I just read one today that was an eye-roller. Whenever you come across an article on how bad obesity is, take some time trying to find the science in it. Well, first you'll notice the required fat-person pornography. You know, the lazy fat person body parts that show just how gluttonous and unsexy we fat Americans are. This lazy article claims obesity has surpassed smoking as the "bigger drag on health." The science they quote? Debunked, long ago. There was no such thing as a quarter of a million deaths from obesity. CDC even admitted that was a mistake. A mistake!

A CDC-sponsored study, published last April in PLoS Medicine, found that as of 2005 smoking was the most frequent killer (causing about one in five deaths), with high blood pressure following up close behind (causing one in six deaths). Obesity came in third at that point, being responsible for almost a quarter of a million deaths—or one in 10.
What else do they have to say? That some survey said obesity affects quality of life? Well, maybe if we weren't of a group still acceptable to marginalize, maybe we'd have a better quality of life. If I have one quibble with the documentary series, Unnatural Causes, it's that they didn't cover the detrimental effect that sizism has on people. Perhaps that is because a cascade effect demonizing "excess" weight has been in effect for so many years that there are no studies looking for anything but fat as the cause for poor health. It is entrenched in the public consciousness that fat is bad. Yet Unnatural Causes showed that inequalities because of wealth, societal standing, and race all have an effect on health, even down to a person's propensity to catch a cold. See number six: chronic stress can be toxic.

That is part of the voodoo hex equation. Everyone tells us we have poor health because of our weight. Many feel justified in treating us differently because of our weight. Doctors treat us differently because many of them view us as ugly, lazy, lying, and/or non-compliant. This chronic stress has an effect on all those indicators that are linked with obesity, and for which obesity is blamed.

Because we have these messages coming at us, many of us from the time we were children, many of us believe them. We believe we are unhealthy. We believe as long as we are fat, we are incapable of being healthy. Not only does this add to the chronic stress, and diminish our motivation, it has to spark a nocebo response. Heck, the placebo/nocebo response works on some even if they don't believe it.

I think of this karma like many little pins poking us. Every time a person has a thought about the badness of their fat, it is a pin poking them. Every time a doctor tells a person it's going to make them unhealthy, it's a pin poking them. If we believe it, and continually think these negative thoughts toward our bodies and our supposed inability to take care of them, we continually poke these needles in our psyche. I visualize myself repelling those pins. I refuse to let them sink in, to draw blood. You should do it too. Whether you think you could lose a few pounds, or the doctors keep telling you that you must lose weight, don't let those nasty pins prick you. Don't feed those thoughts that say, if only I lost some weight, this walk would be easier. If you think that, the walk will be hard, and it's though it doesn't count. Allow it to count. Allow yourself to feel how healthy your body really is.

I have had doctors scold me, telling me I need to exercise more. (Remember, they don't ask. I don't remember anyone ever asking.) When I say I do, and that I also have a fairly active job, they say it's not enough, and the job doesn't count. Funny thing, this study shows that if I believe that, indeed it will not be enough. I don't believe that thought. I believe there are aspects of my job that give me a workout, and it is indeed exercise that counts, like the housekeepers in the study. Jeez, I have proof. When I cut back from full to half time, I gained weight. Are these docs going to tell me I need to work out 20 hours a week to make up for the dropped work hours? Remember, those times Oprah lost her weight, she was working out many hours a day.

I fantasize about what a different world it would be if those who make it their job to care about my health would not try to hex my health. How much more pleasant it would be if a doctor expressed concern about my health by saying something like this: "I'm concerned about your weight, and your blood pressure going up in recent years. I've noticed otherwise your health indicators are quite good. Won't you tell me what your habits are that support your good health?" We could then proceed to have a conversation about those things I do that are good, and that I enjoy doing, and collaborate on how I could improve my habits. We could also acknowledge that my family's history of high blood pressure could be the thing that caused my slightly elevated number, and that perhaps perimenopause is effecting changes on my body. At no point in this fantasy does the doctor wish early death upon me, because at this point, none of my health indicators are that alarming.

Earlier posts in this series:
It Starts Young
Health Care Bigotry
Morbidity and Weight

Slow Read: Mrs. Dalloway

I'm going to begin another slow read starting this Sunday. I hope some will be inspired to join me. I find these slow reads nice for several reasons:

  • The amounts per week, even per day, are so small that I hardly need to take time out for this extra reading.
  • The time spent reflecting about the week helps the book sink in better, and I remember more of it much later.
  • I'm reading the books for a reason... in this case a Classics book group led by a professor...and this keeps me on track so I'm not cramming in the last few days.
  • If I know others are reading along, I am more inspired to write my reflections. I hope if you're reading along, you will make comments freely, or even post your own blog entries.
I must give a nod to the blogger at Bookshelves of Doom. She has been doing "Big Reads" for a couple of years. She's just started one on The Woman in White. I'd love to join her, but I've got more to read.

Mrs. Dalloway Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

You can find it here at Project Gutenberg Australia. Hmmm I wonder why it's not at the main Gutenberg site. Since I'm reading on the Kindle, and you may be reading some edition or another, I'm marking each reading by the beginning sentence. Or, just divide the book in 4 parts and consider that the approximate reading for the week.

  • January 10-16: The beginning to...
  • January 17-23: Remember my party, remember my party, said Peter Walsh as he stepped down the street... to...
  • January 24- 30: How long had Dr. Holmes been attending him? to..
  • Jan. 31-Feb. 6: But Rezia laid her hands on them. to The End

I've begun reading this one:

The Voyage Out The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf

It has Mrs. Dalloway as a character, and is Woolf's first book. I'm not reading slow, but I may not get finished before I need to start this other. I'm liking it so far.

I also need to read Dreams from my Father before the 19th for my library's book group. There I go, stacking up the books again.

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