Icumen in

The barometric pressure is changing so rapidly right now that it's making me dizzy, and making my eyes feel a little bulgy. Weird. The important thing now is to just not picture my sinuses...shit.

(no subject)

So, um, I'm single.

She's, like, right here watching me write this. Its happening in a really weird way. I'm in the wilderness; I have no idea what's going on right now.

I swear to god, she is right this second criticizing my prose style, my thought process, and my HTML. I have no idea. On the other hand, she's being the amazing person I gave my heart to. The best friend I always wanted her to be. It's totally not what I expected.

Time Oddity

There should be a word for the melancholy induced by logging into your LJ profile for the first time in years, and seeing yourself say "I'm 22."

Basic Works of Aristotle, pp. 648-670

Y'all, I'm going to be at the Aristotle for another six weeks, and that's if I'm diligent. Or maybe when I get into the last 570 pages, composed of Ethics and Politics and Rhetoric and Poetry, will go faster because it's more concrete? After the Aristotle, in any case, is a gardening novel by Reginald Arkell. I'm not sure what a gardening novel is exactly, but it sounds restful. Then, let's see...a brief history of Islam from Karen Armstrong, a biography of Saul Bellow, some St. Augustine, Marcus Aurelius's Meditations. Then Austen, to which I'm looking forward.

I forgot, yesterday, to quote Aristotle's rundown of the qualities of all female animals, which find their epitomy in the human female: "Woman is more compassionate than man, more easily moved to tears, at the same time is more jealous, more querulous, more apt to scold and to strike. She is, furthermore, more prone to despondency and less hopeful than the man, more void of shame or self-respect, more false of speech, more deceptive, and of more retentive memory. She is also more wakeful, more shrinking, more difficult to rouse to action, and requires a smaller quantity of nutriment." And is probably less likely to be at war with the newt for getting into her nostril. The thing is, I think he's really trying here, with the better memory and the smaller quantity of nutriment. He's doing his best.

Anyway. Finished the selection from "On the Parts of Animals," which was brief and never really got down to business. Had some interesting things about how one might go about classifying anything, though.

Now I'm reading a selection from "On the Generation of Animals" (Which I keep inadvertently thinking of as "Generation of Swine"). The outline preceding it shows the main chunk of the selection like this:

17. Semen.

and doesn't elaborate further. But...well, A. has kind of a lot to say about semen. He spends a long time proving that semen is not generated all over the body, which I didn't know anybody had claimed. And this: "Further, if the parts of the future animal are seperated in the semen, how do they live? and if they are connected, they would form a small animal."

Which I don't want to think about too hard.

Basic Works of Aristotle, pp. 618-648

If I haven't made it clear by now, this stuff is hard, and my reading speed drops down to a third or less of what it is for contemporary fiction. Smooth sailing today, though, starting with "On Dreams."

Aristotle says dreams are analogous to when you look at the sun, or moving water, or a color, and then look at something else. The perceived object leaves a residual impression on your vision, and you keep seeing it after you look away. The interesting thing is that A. seems to imply that we're dreaming all the time, because this aftereffect of sensation is constant, but when we're awake, it's drowned out by new and present sensations.

He also makes reference to how, when you cross your fingers and touch something, it feels like two things. I remember being fascinated by this when I was maybe nine or ten. Particularly in reference to my nose.

Moving right along. "Prophesying by Dreams." Aristotle remains unconvinced, as well he might. But he does speculate, essentially, that we might be extrapolating from things sensed but unnoticed, and thus "predicting the future." Also, this gem of a sentence: "That which was about to happen is not in every case what now is happening; nor is that which shall hereafter be identical with that which is now going to be." Exactly.

A short excerpt from "A History of Animals" brings home the occasional problem with Aristotle. I mean, if you're talking about the meaning of place and movement and whatnot, it's going to once in a while cause a problem when you believe in four essential elements and an Earth-centered universe; but you can still develop powerful ideas. But if you're talking specifically about reproduction, and you believe in spontaneous generation? Game over.

However, A. does spend several pages detailing, hilariously, which animals are "at war with" which other animals. Did you know that the donkey is at war with the newt because the newt habitually "gets into his nostril"? It's true!

My point being, stick to theory, A., or risk unintentional comedy.

Now I'm six pages into "Parts of Animals," and he's still discussing how one might find the best way to write a treatise on the parts of animals. Hmmm.


(A non-Modern Library post. Maybe I should have tags or something?)

Three conversations with my girlfriend from yesterday and last night, held entirely while she was asleep.

GF: (Giggles)
Me: What?
GF: I had a little dream.
Me: You had a little dream?
GF: (giggling more) I had a little dream about a kitten. It was rolling around on the floor!

GF: What's going on, man?
Me: Nothing, sweetie.
GF: No, I mean...what are you doing?
Me: Nothing. Reading Metafilter.
(15 minutes pass.)
GF: What's going on, man?
Me: Nothing. I'm reading Metafilter!
GF: But you're also...building all those little guys, right?
Me: What? No. What little guys?
GF: In the game. (She's been playing Civilization lately.)
Me: We left the game at your house, sweetie.
GF: Oh. (Cracks up.)

GF: (Suddenly wails in terror and desperation)
Me: Hey, it's okay. Everything's fine.
GF: (abruptly sounding alert, and annoyed) I didn't say everything wasn't fine!

Basic Works of Aristotle, pp. 598-617

19 pages; that's more like it! Aristotle turns me into such a results merchant. But still, it's not like mountain climbers wonder if they're getting anything out of climbing Everest. It's enough just to do it.

Anyway, finished up "On the Soul." There's some nice stuff with a heirerarchy of abilities that defines the difference between plants (which possess the "nutritive faculty," cause they can take in nutrition), animals (which possess both nutritive and sensitive faculties) and man (who possesses both of these plus the deliberative faculty.) Then he ties in the sensitive faculty with movement, because, he explains, all movement is caused by desire, which is caused by perceiving an object of desire. So plants don't move cause they don't want things, becuase they lack sensation.

Also, this clarifies a bit from back in "Physics" that I was having trouble understanding. Back there, he kept talking about something that moves without itself being moved, but he made it sound like some big far away abstract thing. It turns out that, like, if I'm hungry, then an apple might "move" the medium between itself and my eyes (A. doesn't really get reflected light, but that's what he means), which would move my desire (remember, A. is assuming a physical substratum to desire; moving it isn't a metaphor), which would cause my body to move, all without the apple itself being moved. Which makes more sense than what he had me trying to picture before, which was like, a black hole or something.

"Memory and Reminiscence," the first of The Short Physical Treatises, was only 10 pages long, and interesting but unremearkable. I lost the thread for 2 short passages, but mostly it was pretty lucid. Except, in one of the gemlike bits of randomness that jump out of A. once in a while, he closes by explaining why dwarfs have really bad memories, which made me laugh.

Next up: "On Dreams."

What was that?

Here's the thing; I'm half-educated. Less. A quarter educated, an eighth. I've managed to read quite a bit without having read anything I should have. Never picked up an Austen, never read a Bronte, never read Moby Dick, or any of those big Russian things. Haven't read any important thinkers; I pretend that primary sources are superfluous, and that it's enough to know about what people said instead of what they said. Never finished a Dickens except for Christmas Carol.

But now that I feel like rectifying this situation, I'm not in school, and I have nobody to tell me where to start. If only there were some group who could tell me authoritatively what I should have read. A group with, like, Maya Angelou and A. S. Byatt and Joyce Carol Oates and Elaine Pagels and Oliver Sacks and Gore Vidal and Salman Rushdie and William Styron and a bunch of other luminaries. A group like...THE MODERN LIBRARY EDITORIAL BOARD.

Thus, the plan: to read everything published by Random House's prestige Modern Library imprint. And in what order will I tackle these 350+ books? Well, I work in a bookstore, so the answer seems obvious. Alphabetical by author.

Aristotle is actually the 9th book; it didn't occur to me that it would be fun and valuable to write about what I was reading until this point. Perhaps as I'm slogging interminably through its brick-like 1500 page bulk I'll go back and write about what I've already gotten through. I do have a few things to say about the delightfulness of Little Women and the odd spiritual kinship I feel with Henry Adams.

Isn't this, you ask, an utterly quixotic plan? To which I reply that I wouldn't know, because I don't expect to hit "Cervantes" until Spring 2006.