Monday, January 31, 2005

"Past Ruined Ilion"

It occurred to me that in order for my poem to make sense, the reader would perhaps do well to realize that it is a response to a poem, written by Walter Savage Landor. I append it below.

Past ruined Ilion Helen lives,
Alcestis rises from the shades;
Verse calls them forth; 'tis verse that gives
Immortal youth to mortal maids.

Soon shall oblivion's deepening veil
Hide all the peopled hills you see,
The gay, the proud, while lovers hail
These many summers you and me.

The tear for fading beauty check,
For passing glory cease to sigh;
One form shall rise above the wreck,
One name, Ianthe, shall not die.

"Ianthe to Landor": afternoon edition

This is the one I took to dinner tonight for half a dozen of my closest friends and acquaintances to rip to pieces. They were kind enough to oblige. :-)

Ianthe to Landor

Perhaps we’ve set a faithful love afire.
Perhaps your poems remember all my best,
My youth and beauty, summer manifest.
But even if such star-strewn songs inspire
All earthbound men to read your verse beyond
Your death, it isn’t good enough. What life
Can mortal words bestow? Their wealth and strife
Will both be lost when sun and stone pass on.

Annihilation does not wait for me.
When it’s chased you the way Atlantis went
(Poor time-drowned love!), I’ll live because I’ve asked
Eternity for immortality.
The day galactic north goes south, a mint
Of love and memory is mine—untaxed.

"Ianthe to Landor": morning edition

I've been writing poetry for British Literature class, and just for the fun of it, I thought I'd post the various stages of its being. This is the one I turned into class this morning and received everybody's comments on.

Ianthe to Landor

Perhaps we’ve set a faithful love aglow.
Perhaps your poems remember all my best,
My youth and beauty, that I’m summer-blessed.
Perhaps you even have great talent so
All nations read your stellar words beyond
Your grave. It isn’t good enough. What thrill
Does mortal verse bring me? It someday will
Be nothing, lost, when sun and stone pass on.

Annihilation does not wait for me.
When he’s chased you the way Atlantis went
(You time-drowned man), I’ll live because I’ve asked
Eternity for immortality.
The day galactic north goes south, a mint
Of love and memory is mine—untaxed.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Clothing manifesto

Today I wrote this draft of my clothing manifesto. I have been thinking about--well, call it a philosophy of clothes, for lack of a better name--for some years, but this is the first time I've tried to write it down in an orderly way.

The first purpose of clothes is Modesty, also known as Covering Up. In Genesis, as a result of sin, people noticed they were naked and God took steps to fix this. That is why we wear clothes even in the summer, when we don’t need them temperature-wise. This is one command we still keep: clothes-wise, even our immodest culture draws the line somewhere. Thus, clothes have a moral or theological aspect. It’s not all relative. I should also point out that modesty is practical, too. Objectively, most people look better covered up. Much better.

A good outfit is, or can be, art. If it is objectively excellent, it will in some sense reflect truth and can be worship.* Clothes can have the effects of other types of art: pleasure, amusement, usefulness, and edification. I think the thought and effort that goes into a good outfit is artistic labor just as writing or sculpting.

Clothes should be appropriate for one's culture and situation. They are a tool for your objectives: if you want to deal with other humans, you should probably dress in a way that will underline your purpose, not work against it. Fashion is a factor in this. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but you really should at least be aware of what the fashion is and if you ignore it, be doing so on purpose. It’s like writing: if you want to get away with being ungrammatical, you need to know what the proper grammar is and have a good reason for not following it. Third, part of dressing appropriately is to be helpful toward the other persuasion. Attention-getting is probably not a great idea.

Clothes should be appropriate to the wearer, physically and spiritually. First, it's really important that you get your inner life right. Beauty is in “the inner person of the heart, a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” Girls are more likely to get over-fixated on clothes than guys, in my experience, and Scriptural warnings back that up. Second, you should be aware of your coloring and body type. It doesn't bless anybody to make yourself look like you've got a horrible disease. Third, you should find out what your personality calls for. There’s no reason to ignore your tastes, and excellent reason to consult them, though they aren't everything and need to be trained in appropriate sentiment, like Lewis talked about in The Abolition of Man. But it's very depressing to see hordes of teenagers wearing ugly clothes, not because they like them, but because everyone else is wearing them!

Clothes are also useful for climate control. In the winter, one likes to avoid hypothermia. In summer, one would rather not perspire too heavily. Layers are useful techniques.

And then there are the psychological effects. A good outfit (particularly including high heels) can give the wearer confidence, make an otherwise bad day bearable, and generally spread light and happiness. This phenomenon really exists for some people. Colors and styles can also reflect one’s mood. Some days, I just don’t have the emotional energy to deal with all black and gray, for instance, or hot pink and zebra stripes. People should wear clothes they like. It just makes life nicer.

*This definition of art is adapted from Ben Adams; I think it's an excellent working definition, hence my using it. :-)

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Oh, that everyone had friends such as I do.

I spent the afternoon making invitations for a birthday party. Had I but world enough and time, they could have been better, but they turned out awfully well. Indeed, around here arts and crafts turn into adventure. These invitations were primarily cardstock, but nail polish and hairspray added glitter. :-) (I love being a girl. It extends your crafting ability so!)

A friend and I tromped out into the snow to deliver invitations: we gave half to our guy co-party-conspirator, to deliver to the guys, and then took the rest over to dorm 3 by way of the football game out front. It really was pretty funny--they'd stand around for a minute, all start running, someone would fall, they'd all jump on him, and the ball would get lost in the shuffle. Or not.

Visiting dorm 3 is usually a pleasure. Today was no exception. We dropped by three rooms and had conversations in each.

Then we came back to my room and she typed up quotes and disc-jockeyed for me while I cleaned the room and bathroom floor and generated quotes with my roommates. I have such good roommates. And they're quotable, too.

My old RA was back on campus, trimming hair in the dorm lobby. I was retrieving a broom: "Kerri! It's just like old times! You're cutting hair and I have a broom in my hand!" Indeed, nothing is more characteristic...

The friend and I went to dinner. "Where shall we sit?" "Over there, by Emily." So I sat over there by Emily--and she sat another table over, by my sister Emily!

I learned all sorts of interesting things with my Emily, such as the time freshman year her friends from high school descended upon her and gave her a makeover. They did such a bad job on her haircut that her roommate at the time (also sitting at the table) had to trim it up afterwards.

Then my Emily, her former roommate, and the former roommate's fiance all left the table, so only my physics study partner from last semester remained. It was one of the best conversations I've ever had with him, including physics ones. We compared notes on old movies we had both seen and sung the songs, too. We talked about music and roommates.

We spent a long time talking about First Knight. If you haven't seen it, it's a particularly good movie. It's not for children, though. It deals honestly with war and adultery. I was amazed at how much true content was in there--true in culturally unusual ways. A major theme is whether law is made by the strongest bandit or whether a law is applicable to all mankind. (The scene where King Arthur explains natural law to the Mordred-character is priceless!) Christian symbolism was rampant. The good guys espoused true philosophy, and vice versa. The good guys were genuinely virtuous. If King Arthur were real and were like that, I would follow him to death. The movie portrays him as the Christ figure I think he is. And in First Knight, sin had consequences. After movies like A Cinderella Story and books like Harry Potter, I appreciate that.

It is good to have friends of all sorts--air hockey friends, catapults-at-the-dinner-table friends, movie friends, theology friends, fashion friends, snow friends, talk-about-things friends, story friends, just-play-together friends, and everything friends. Someday, I will be with all my friends at once, and we will talk forever about all the best subjects.

The smell of recharged batteries

Did you ever notice that recharged batteries have their own unique smell? It's metallic, but warmer, like plastic that has been sitting near a light bulb for a while. But it's not at all a burned smell. It's--well, warm and full, like being bundled in a quilt.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

"I believe in the quest and the journey"

I do too, but may I point out that a quest is a quest for something?

This existential craze for traveling for its own sake seems myopic, to say the least. It makes tragic sense, though: if no destination is more worthy than any other, only the journey is left.

But while you may respect a knight who overcomes obstacles to gain the Grail, a wanderer is a Don Quixote, a mere player of video games. Who cares?

[I]n the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Upon the Phenomenon of Clothes Piling Up on Katie’s Chair

Whose chair this is, I think I know;
Her books are in the cube rooms, though.
She will not see me change down here
And cover deep her chair with clothes.

A bracelet there—a sock tossed here—
Away wing sweaters with good cheer;
The proper conduct—cleaning up—
Frowns grim at me, but deadlines near.

As well as clothes, I place my cup
Wherever handy, when I sup,
Or breakfast, or drink in between:
But rarely do I tidy up.

When reading Homer or Perrine
I change from khakis into jeans.
I know my mess is rather mean:
Perhaps this weekend I shall clean.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Consider yourself warned

Good morning! Don’t you love the way
When I say, “up,” in bed you stay?
I’ll attack with a squirt bottle
Unless you rev your sleepy throttle!
Your tea is cold, and lunch comes soon,
For class is past, and now it’s noon.

Meditation upon the Woman in Line 16 of Kubla Khan

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!

She’s wailing presumably because he isn’t there. Why isn’t he there? He must be enchanted. I can hear her wail now: “My demon-lover is stuck!”

He must have gotten caught under the cedarn cover. Good place for him.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Something ancient that isn't lost

Most of the works of the astronomer Hipparchus were lost (possibly the in the most woeful burning of the library of Alexandria), but Dr. Bradley Schaefer of Louisiana State University thinks he's found one of his star charts on a Roman statue of Atlas.

"[T]he case for Hipparchus' lost star catalog appearing on the Farnese Atlas is based on:
-The derived date of 125 B.C., which matches Hipparchus and rejects all other
-The fact that the accuracy of the sky globe requires a star catalog, and only Hipparchus had created one before A.D. 128;
-The fact that Hipparchus is known to have produced working sky globes from his catalog;
-The fact that only Hipparchus' description of the constellation figures
matches the Farnese Atlas. "

The article is worth reading.

The effects of Nietzsche

Upon lending my copy of Nietzsche to Amanda, we discovered some brown pressed leaves in it. I'm sure they were red when I put them in there.

Do you realize the significance of this? The consistent atheist philosopher took the color out of my leaves!

Sunday, January 09, 2005

It's all about spin

What I need to do, I have decided, is write so that good things become cool. We should start a trend.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Defense of Geoffrey of Monmouth

Geoffrey of Monmouth is a medieval historian. About the first half of his book is a history from Adam, mostly about the kings of England, and the second half is about King Arthur.

Geoffrey lived in a dangerous time for documents, so he claims to have "made a heap" of all he could find and put them into his own book. Modern scholars are--well, quite discourteous about this, actually. They say he invented most of his book outright.

I have yet to be convinced he was a liar of that magnitude. I have, incidentally, read him all the way through, parts of it more than once.

The first charge is that, since we don't have any of his sources, he must have made them up. I reply, he put them in his book because he was afraid they wouldn't survive. And he was apparently right.

The second charge is that his material is internally inconsistent. I reply, well, if he was copying diverse materials, they could quite easily be inconsistent with one another. It is in fact a testimony to him being a trustworthy scribe.

A third charge is that the information in the book is improbable--he speaks of giants and dragons and King Arthur. I reply that the Bible talks about giants and dragons, not to mention quite a lot of external evidence to their existence--and if he was copying other sources, it's not his fault they talked about King Arthur. Possibly Geoffrey found him interesting and did extra research.

Fourth, they complain about his genealogies. True, he traces them to Adam. If you believe in Adam's historical existence, this is quite sensible, as Adam did have children. He also traces certain lines to Brutus. Two responses: if Brutus existed (which he might well have: I dislike the modern "Troy-never-existed-at-all" mindset), he might have had children too. Second, Geoffrey could potentially have been copying someone else's mistake.

I think a lot of this scholastic animus is against the medieval mindset. They, unlike us, really didn't consider a text guilty until proven innocent. They liked texts and "auctores" and learning, and generally considered them reliable. They also had a different approach to translation and sources than we do with our footnotes and quotes. They saw nothing whatever wrong with half-translating and half-rewriting a good story from the French, for instance. They would say, "I got this from Chretien de Troyes" and everyone would be perfectly happy. The medievals might make a good story better, but they hardly ever invented things out of the blue. When they did, it was generally in a dream-format, like Pearl.

So. All that is to say that I think Geoffrey of Monmouth was not a liar, but was a quite dependable passer-downer of otherwise lost information. The information might or might not be dependable; that requires further historical investigation.

But poor Geoffrey should not be dismissed out of hand.

Unlocking the Mystery of KNME

"KNME-TV has pulled a documentary called "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" from tonight's television schedule because it was funded by evangelical Christian sources." (, Rick Nathanson, pg A1, 1-7-05)

Worse, it makes a scientific case for intelligent design.

I recommend writing them lots of emails. Chad Davis's is the contact for their programming, and they do claim to want feedback. :-)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


HA! I just sewed a skirt, and I am so having a she-saw-what-she-had-made-and-behold-it-was-very-good moment! :-)

I hereby apply Tolkien’s doctrine of subcreation to sewing. It belongs to God alone to create out of nothing,* but isn’t it a great blessing to be able to rearrange what's there? It’s even more fun when you can make do with materials at hand, rather than going out and buying them: this particular skirt is made of dust ruffle remnants and hook-and-eyes remaining from my mouse clothes era.

This skirt has many virtues (in my humble opinion), a few of which I shall mention:
1. It is red. It is very red. No, I really don’t need another red skirt, but—well, the fabric was just sitting there, begging to be sewn. I couldn’t refuse.
2. It fits me.
3. It is long.
4. It is modest.
5. I and it look good together. I love it when that happens.
6. I don't have anything like it, style-wise.
7. I had the fun of making it. :-)

*Remember the joke about the show-off scientist who told God he could create a human being just as well as He did? When he started, God interrupted him: "Get your own dirt!"

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Sola fide

The power of which we speak is spiritual. It rules in the midst of enemies and is powerful in the midst of oppression. This means nothing else than that "power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9) and that in all things I can find profit toward salvation (Rom. 8:28), so that the cross and death itself are compelled to serve me and to work together with me for my salvation. This is a splendid privilege and hard to attain, a truly omnipotent power, a spiritual dominion in which there is nothing so good and nothing so evil but that it shall work together for good to me, if only I believe. Yes, since faith alone suffices for salvation, I need nothing except faith exercising the power and dominion of its own liberty. Lo, this is the inestimable power and liberty of Christians.

Not only are we the freest of kings, we are also priests forever, which is far more excellent than being kings, for as priests we are worthy to appear before God to pray for others and to teach one another divine things. These are the functions of priests, and they cannot be granted to any unbeliever.

Thus Christ has made it possible for us, provided we believe in Him, to be not only His brethren, co-heirs, and fellow-kings, but also His fellow-priests. Therefore we may boldly come into the presence of God in the spirit of faith (Heb. 10:19, 22) and cry, "Abba, Father!" pray for one another, and do all things which we see done and foreshadowed in the outer and visible works of priests.

--Martin Luther, On Christian Liberty, 1520