This Week I...

30 July 2011

  • finished (as much as one can say "finished") fitting my bodice sloper; it's only taken me three years
  • transcribed a letter written by a UNC chemistry professor in 1861; although it contains all-too-familiar references to lost friends and loneliness, Kimberly writes with a fair bit of humor as well, especially when discussing his limited fare and the garrulous Mrs. M--
  • drafted my first sleeve sloper using Donald McCunn's How to Make Sewing Patterns (1977); I broke into smiles when I beheld my finished pattern, and the amount of ease I added made for a perfect seam when sewn. It seriously brought joy to my heart! Unfortunately, it's not very comfortable when I move my arms, so it's back to the drafting board...
  • composed a PSA for UNC's WXYC radio advertising the Civil War Day by Day
  • finished my first draft of CWDxD's classroom resources page (update: see the page here)
  • ate lots of peaches and strawberries
  • boosted my HTML vocabulary with new linking codes
And here are some noteworthy posts from this week:

Disembodied Information

29 July 2011

It was not until the advent of the telegraph that messages could travel faster than a messenger. Before this, roads and the written word were closely interrelated. It is only since the telegraph that information has detached itself from such solid commodities as stone and papyrus.

-Marshall McLuhan
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), p. 89

How does the disembodiment of information affect our perception of it?

Wwoofing Adventures #5

27 July 2011

By that morning, our third day in England, I could feel myself adjusting to the time change and even to life as a tourist. We had much to do in this our last full day in London--tour the British Museum and the British Library, search out our midday meal of fish and chips, breeze through Regent's Park, and arrive at the Globe Theatre in time for our much anticipated production of King Lear*. LeeAnn was also itching to return to the theatre set exhibit at the V&A, having stumbled upon it only five minutes before it closed the previous day. She lives and breathes theatre. With all that, we also rather hoped to take a jaunt through an open-air market before the show.

Such are the unrelenting plans of the optimist.

Although the Museum proved surprisingly difficult to find, we selected the exhibits we wished to see with relative ease by confining ourselves to the 100 Objects tour on the first and second floors. As an English major, however, I made sure to visit the Brownings' wedding rings again, and we all paused before the Elgin Marbles with Keats's famous poem, "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles for the First Time."

As I wrote during my last visit, it was amazing to set eyes upon things--statues, tools, jewelry, pottery, &c--that have existed before the momentous events that we have defined as history, touched by the hands of those completely different from our own. So many of these things were created before the incarnation of Christ himself, the Lord and Savior of the world. Shadow of a magnitude indeed.

taking a breather at the British Museum
But time waits for no one, particularly the traveler, and we found a small restaurant serving the next item on our agenda. The three of us disappointed the waitress by ordering only one (albeit large) plate of fish and chips and mushy peas to split among us, relying on its full fat content to hold us through to a light supper before the play. After our grocery-store meals of bread and cheese and fruit, it felt good to sit down in an classy establishment and eat a hearty meal. We even ordered a dish of hazelnut ice cream (to split of course) in a moment of delighted spontaneity.

Thus refreshed, we wandered further through London in search of the Library which we found only after a good deal more twists and turns past boiled-peanut vendors and souvenir tea shops. We ended up forgoing Regent's Park, in spite of my stubborn remonstrations, wisely concluding that it would be foolish to hurry across London in order to rest at the Park. Part of traveling is figuring out what you have time both to do and savor; capability is only half the equation. Nevertheless we did speed through the unimaginable riches of the British Library--Queen Elisabeth I's signature, Shakespeare's handwriting, Jane Austen's desk--in order to return to our favorite haunt at the V & A. In our rush I neglected, once again, to take my picture on the incredible book bench. We breezed through the theatre exhibit buoyed by LeeAnn's pure delight before snatching bread and cheese from a convenience store by the station (not knowing what kind of gory interpretation of King Lear was in store for us, we wanted to keep our fare light). Then, situated just across the Thames from the Globe, we found a bench and pulled out my tiny Complete Works of Shakespeare to review the play.

My only concern as a groundling was my [lack of] height, and I feared being squashed behind some tall broad man for the two or three hours of the play only catching the occasional "Wherefore..." or "Bethink..." As it was I needn't have worried, for we wedged ourselves in right next to the stage--within spitting distance of the actors, as they say--sufficiently drawing us into the play so that we even forgot our tired feet. At one point, characters from the play processed up to the stage and passed right by us.

Unfortunately, the Birds' Nest is a ways away from London proper, and by the time we left the Globe that evening the few Underground lines linking us and Deptford were closed, some right as we entered the station. One staff member took pity on us, however, and directed us to a bus stop serving the last bus to Deptford. I write "directed" kindly, for minutes of circuitous wandering failed to reveal what he had glibly waved us toward. Spurred on by terrible visions of taxi fares (which I admittedly supplemented with the idea of walking to Deptford in spite of the rather rough area in which our hostel was situated), we at last found the bus stop where I discovered I had lost my Oyster card**. Now, I am the sort who obsessively checks for my keys before shutting my car door and checks for my library or credit card before getting in line; all through London I kept my Oyster card easily accessible, only reassured with the occasional pat to verify that it was still in its proper place; this, therefore, was especially frustrating. Frenzied rifling, desperate coin-counting, tears, the odd "damn it," &c, however, and I finally found it just as the bus pulled up. We arrived at the Nest an hour later.

*Never actually been a fan of King Lear--in fact, for the longest time this play represented everything that repulsed me by Shakespeare; but such was the 2008 summer schedule at the Globe
**Underground and bus fare

a conversation

25 July 2011

I originally wrote this as one of last week's bullet points, but it got too cumbersome for the format. Here's more about that little reminder...

In all honesty, I have been angry for a long time (for reasons I may share eventually so that others may relate and learn), and it came to a head on Sunday when my simmering resentment erupted in a flurry of questions, accusations, declarations. I told God everything on my heart with unedited and alarming frankness. As others have said, the important thing is to keep talking with God, especially during those times you absolutely don't want to talk. So I talked. And I yelled. And I cried.

And I did it all again on Monday. Why, why would you do that? I asked him. Why?

Does God have to explain himself to man?

Pause. What?

Does God have to explain himself to man?

A mess of concepts and hints of passages I'd read long ago impressed themselves upon me, reminding me of God's awesome, exalted nature.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Who then is he that can stand before Me?

Who has given to Me that I should repay him?*

I don't deserve an answer, and I don't even deserve to be satisfied. God is working out his will as he sees fit, for whatever reason. But it is also his prerogative to love me, for whatever reason. I heard from God in the sense that he pointed me to his unchanging truth in Scripture; he brought to mind whispers of passages I've read years ago, all the more humbling because I was in no mood to reflect or to receive. God does not have to give an account of himself to man, nor is he required to explain his actions. He is God, and what he does or allows I have to accept without necessarily understanding it now (and this, I believe, is what one calls "faith"). I am also his beloved, which for reasons unknown, is his prerogative (and this, I believe, is what one calls a "relationship").
Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
What if God, although willing to demonstrate his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And he did so to make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom he also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As he says also in Hosea,
"I will call those who were not my people, 'My people,'
And her who was not beloved, "Beloved.'" **

*see Job chapters 38-41 in full (one of my favorite passages in the entire Bible). This part is ridiculously hard to convey, and impossible to convey accurately and without sounding like a mystical epiphany. Out of a nebulous impression I have attempted to pluck discrete bits, define them with words, and string them into the sequence required of narrative. To put it in McLuhanesque terms, I have struggled to convey an oral, all-at-once impression in the sequential medium of print. Anyone who's had that flash of intuition and then have attempted to jot it down but utterly failed to capture it may relate.
**Romans 9:20-25

This Week I...

22 July 2011

  • decided on Sunday afternoon that I wanted to sew a fitted summer dress and set about drafting a bodice; of course, I got hung up on fitting. For some reason, my fitting nemesis is the upper bust area, and the same wrinkle shows up in every bodice pattern I try, one that radiates from the outer shoulder in toward the bust. No amount of fiddling seems to mitigate it--believe me, I've tried pinching out length through the chest, adjusting the shoulder slope, pinching out width through the center, pinching out width through the shoulder, pinching out the dart and rotating it to the bust dart...The closest wrinkle pattern in the books appears under the heading, "Full Bust Adjustment," which I know is not my particular problem! Is this wrinkle inevitable? Should I quit fussing and just sew the damn dress?
  • finished a new page on the Civil War Day by Day blog about the First Battle of Bull Run (fought exactly 150 years ago) and started drafting a page directed toward teachers (which I am really excited about doing as this meshes closely with my hoped-for career)
  • confirmed my research adviser for the Fall (and my last semester at UNC
  • listened to my Pandora station based on one of my favorite bands, Hem
  • started running regularly; I was never a great runner, but I used to enjoy running 3-4 miles a few times a week. Now I'm s l o w l y building up stamina by running for bits of my usual 2 mile walks
  • got a timely reminder--more about this on Monday... 

Wwoofing Adventures...resumed

20 July 2011

My mom and sister's return from England has reminded me of my own most recent trip in the summer of 2008. I originally started this blog to document the adventures of my two college roommates and me as we Wwoofed our way through the UK. Internet access was too sparse during our trip, and since then other events and nonevents have crowded out my original intention. I did, however, make a start at blogging it, and that is the narrative I would like to resume over the next few months. In deference to the blogger's predilection for alliterative posts, I have scheduled my Wwoofing accounts for Wednesdays, tentatively.

Catch up on my Wwoofing adventures with my introduction, narrative #1, #2, #3, and #4, and look for the next installment in a week!

This Week I...

16 July 2011

  • focused upon staying hydrated--I pour my 64 oz of water into a big pitcher and drink it down through the day
  • baked baguettes and my new favorite Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal loaves
  • noted Gertie's new online sewing class with great interest; while the bustier bodice is not something I see myself wearing (I prefer loose-fitting tops), the light couture techniques she teaches look immensely valuable and that these techniques are taught in one place, convenient.
  • nourished my ever-growing hair with a gross but effective avocado mask (note: link opens a video) and finally trimmed my ends. Also, I noticed another grey hair!
  • perused the minutes of the Philanthropic Society available through University Archives; topics under debate in the 1860s include "Who influences society more, man or woman?" "Will the North and South ever be reconciled over the issue of slavery?" "What has the greater influence over man, wine or women?" and "Is it ever moral for the Confederate army to fight on the offensive?"
  • am listening to Alison Krauss and Union Station's Paper Airplane--my favorite song is "My Love Follows You Where You Go"
  • nabbed a 20% off coupon for filling out the Colette Patterns survey (now closed), and I have my eye set on the Macaron
  • continued weeding in preparation for my move
  • continued my interminable thesis research; I finally set a schedule for finishing it, which is helping me to keep moving and not get bogged down on certain parts
And I have enjoyed these posts from around the Web:
  • Have you seen this project, Her Five Year Diary: a day-by-day transcription of one woman's life from 1961 through 1965? It's new to me, but I am going to start from the beginning and catch up. You can find out more about it here.
  • Gertie continues the discussion of sewing muslins (started on BurdaStyle here) and, as usual, inspires a variety of opinions. I, for one, almost always sew muslins (mock-ups) since I tend to draft my own patterns, and they do allow me to practice new techniques with little fear. I don't, however, usually use actual muslin but instead get cheap cuts of fabric from thrift stores (ugly prints or those with polyester in them, out of which I wouldn't make actual clothes)
  • I found a wonderful sewing blog, Frabjous Couture (who posted the original muslins post on BurdaStyle)
  • I loved Kathryn's simile, "like when a comedian's last joke falls to crickets." And look at this bovine invasion!

Philanthropic Society

15 July 2011

At the SHC on Monday I spent a couple of hours looking through the minutes of UNC's Philanthropic Society for 1861-62, in attempt to find some material from University Archives to post on the blog. I did find some candidates--for instance, one entry recorded a report the society submitted to its governing board detailing the poor condition of its hall. In particular, the society members were incensed over the lack of lighting which caused them to stumble about, was "injurious to those who keep their eyes open," and prohibited them from seeing if members were attentive or asleep during the meetings, even those who "sat very near." Their complaint was related in such a dry but ruffled-feathers way I found it humorous. The report, however, was grounded as they recounted their dwindling number of members due to the war (this was written in August, I think, of 1861). In memoriam entries appeared with greater frequency the further I read as more of the society's members were killed in battle. As with the letters and other documents I've been reading, these entries show the human cost* of the war, the loss of individuals with great intellects, characters, and futures.

It was quite interesting to read some of the society's debate topics, too, which covered a range of issues such as man and woman, the war, and certain leaders (Napoleon came up a couple of times). Each meeting the secretary would dutifully record the query and the members chosen to represent each side in three weeks' time. One query, which apparently resulted in "lively discussion," was "Which exerts the greater influence over man, wine or women?" Another asked whether it was ever moral for the Confederate army to fight on the offensive (the answer was no). Another asked whether the North and South would ever be reconciled over the issue of slavery (which, again, was "no," I believe). I really wish the secretary had recorded bits of the arguments.

Of particular interest to me were the many entries devoted to the upkeep of the library and archives. The society often bemoaned the poor state of the library, as patrons left books scattered over the tables and there was no budget allotted to get more books or to repair the bindings of the ones they had. There were also a good many "delinquent" patrons to deal with and fines to levy. Even as the library's resources change, some things, apparently, have remained timeless.

The blog's first entry about the Philanthropic Society introduces it in greater detail.

*don't really like the financial overtones of the metaphor when talking about human lives, but you get the idea

13 July 2011

I've mentioned the Civil War Day by Day blog before, but as it's such a notable resource, I thought I'd introduce it in earnest. Here is an introduction from the creators at the Southern Historical Collection of Wilson Library (UNC):
One hundred and fifty years ago today, America was at war. For four years, southerners and northerners fought, died, survived, mourned, and rejoiced when loved ones returned. And they wrote.
The Civil War Day by Day, a new project from the Louis Round Wilson Special Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will present samples of the Civil War’s documentary remains. Every day for the next four years, the library will publish online a document that is 150 years old to the day.
The chronicle begins at the war’s outbreak, the first military engagement at Fort Sumter, S.C., on April 12, 1861. It will continue through April 26, 2015, 150th anniversary of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender to Gen. William T. Sherman at Bennett Place.
The four years of war will be recounted through pamphlets, books, photographs, sheet music, letters, diaries, telegrams, order books, and much more, as these items are found in the Library’s stacks and reading rooms. Readers will be invited to walk with those who lived the war, and are encouraged to share their own reflections about these documents and their significance a century and a half after the war.
As I've recently come on board to help out a bit, I can attest to the great letters and other documents that will be featured over the next four years, documents that reveal the human story behind the battles.

...hyas tyee wake clatawah copa Wash...

10 July 2011

As I continue my practicum at the Southern Historical Collection, I've been working on the Civil War Day by Day blog, scanning and editing featured documents, transcribing them, and adding descriptive and citation information. Handling the actual letters exchanged between soldiers and their families lends reality, tangibility, and even personality to history as they write about their fears, triumphs, and day-to-day activities.

Some of the letters are quite intimate, in particular those written by Edward Porter Alexander to his wife, Bettie (see a series of his letters here). In between the sweet nothings ("my dear darling little wifey") and greetings to family and neighbors, however, he sometimes tucks in bits of coded messages describing the number, movements, and strategies of the Confederate forces. Here's a passage he wrote on 10 July 1861 in an "unknown tongue" (which my supervisor has identified as Chinook jargon):

"N kah hyas tyee wake clatawah copa Wash. Wake sibkum skukum to clatawah. Yaka midlait yagwa, pe mimeloose conoway spose mesatehy bostons chaco. Wake uk quarter okukum to clatawah coper Washington."

I've translated* the Chinook into the following: [?] that chief no go to Wash[ington]. No part strong to go. He/They remain here and kill all if [?] Yankees come. No one quarter this to go to Washington.

Regardless of the particulars, Alexander is writing about a hyas tyee (chief, usually translated into English as "king") and his or his troops' movements toward Washington. Intriguing, no? Keep checking the blog for more interesting Civil War era documents!

--edit--keep an eye on the comments--someone with much more knowledge of Chinook jargon has submitted his own translation!

*"translated" is a kind but extremely inaccurate description of the process I used to decode the passage; without knowing Chinook syntax, grammar, or tense, I simply attempted to match Chinook and English words through various reliable and unreliable resources.

A War Bride's Guide to the U.S.A.

06 July 2011

A War Bride's Guide to the U.S.A. is an enlightening collaboration between Britain's Good Housekeeping magazine and the U.S. Office of War Information that sketches out differences between the British and Americans. With the era's characteristically bright but unbudging assertion, it advises British war brides in sundry practical matters including manners, humor, homemaking, traveling, making friends, and citizenry. It is particularly interesting to read the guide as an American, for it offers an opportunity for Americans to eavesdrop on a conversation between Brits and observe American culture flattened and generalized as an exhibit.

For instance, did you know that kidding is a particularly American form of humor? "There are some kinds of spoken humour that you must learn to take calmly," Good Housekeeping warns British war brides; "Exaggeration, of course, you know about, and learning the American language includes recognizing what is true and what is too absurd to believe. Kidding is perhaps harder to get used to, but you have to learn" (p. 13). The good folks proceed to delineate two varieties of kidding, including mimicking, a "subtle form of flattery," and insults, which can be used to express both affection and anger (p. 13).

Another enlightening section provides book recommendations that illustrate the gamut of American scenes including the Midwest (Lewis's Main Street, Cather's My Antonia, Ferber's Cimarron), the Northeast (Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Carroll's As the Earth Turns, Smith's A Tree in the Yard), the South (Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, Rawling's The Yearling, Miller's Lamb in His Bosom), and the West coast (Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men).

The guide is supplemented with a handy glossary of British and American terms and extracts from Good Housekeeping featuring poems, stories, and editorials about war brides published throughout the war years. Copies of the guide are readily available online, but you can see the glossary at American War Bride Experience, which, from the looks of it, is a rich site featuring reminisces, newspaper articles, photographs, and additional resources.