Month: July 2014


“Speech may be sublime but there’s something in the symbols.”

“Suppose someone said: every familiar word, in a book for example, actually carries an atmosphere with it in our minds, a ‘corona’ of faintly indicated uses. —Just as if each figure in a painting were surrounded by delicate shadowy drawings of scenes, as it were in another dimension, and in them we saw the figures in different contexts. —Let’s take this assumption very seriously!”
–Wittgenstein, PI Pt.II §35

They say you can find math in nature, that it’s already there. Similarly, you can find metaphor in understanding seamlessly.

Language is a shadow–and with it come shadows.
Shadows are created by three things; light, angle, perspective.


Timeline of the plague throughout history

The other day I was reading up on the plague, and I realized that there wasn’t a comprehensive timeline on any single website. So I compiled the information that I could find and well, here’s a timeline of the plague for anyone else who’s interested.

430 BCE – 2nd year of Peloponnesian War. Thucydides wrote of a disease that is believed to be the Plague. Some scholars debate that it was smallpox. Killed one-third of the population in Athens.

1st Century – Rufus of Ephesus, a Greek anatomist, refers to an outbreak of plague in Libya, Egypt, and Syria

160 – Plague contributes to the collapse of the Han empires

165-180 – “Antonine” plague kills five million people of the Roman empire. Emperors Lucius Verus (in 169) and Marcus Aurelius (in 180) also succumb to the plague.

262 – A plague in Rome kills about 5000 people a day

540 – An outbreak of the plague occurs at Pelusium, Egypt.

541 – “Justinian plague” kills a quarter of the population in the Mediterranean region. 25 million worldwide. Lasted till about 750


Translations of ‘The Master and Margarita’; The Many Lines to Read

“Afterward, when it was frankly too late, various persons collected their data and issued descriptions of this man. As to his teeth, he had platinum crowns on the left side and gold ones on the right. He wore an expensive gray suit and foreign shoes of the same color as his suit. His gray beret was stuck jauntily over one ear and under his arm he carried a walking stick with a knob in the shape of a poodle’s head. He looked slightly over forty. Crooked sort of mouth. Clean-shaven. Dark hair. Right eye black, left eye for some reason green. Eyebrows black, but one higher than the other. In short–a foreigner.”
-From Michael Glenny’s translation of The Master and Margarita

“Afterward, when–frankly speaking–it was already too late, various official institutions filed reports describing this man. A comparison of these reports can only cause astonishment. Thus, the first says that the man was short, had gold teeth, and limped on the right foot. The second, that the man was of enormous height, had platinum crowns, and limped on the left foot. The third states laconically that the man had no special distinguishing characteristics. We must discard all these reports as quite worthless.
To begin with, the man described did not limp on either foot, and was neither short nor enormous in height, but simply tall. As for his teeth, he had platinum crowns on the left side of his mouth, and gold ones on the right. He wore an expensive gray suit and foreign shoes of the same color. His gray beret was worn at a jaunty angle over his ear, and under his arm he carried a cane with a black handle in the form of a poodle’s head. He appeared to be in his forties. His mouth was somehow twisted. He was smooth shaven. A brunet. His right eye was black; the left, for some strange reason, green. Black eyebrows, but one higher than the other. In short, a foreigner.”
-From Mirra Ginsburg’s translation of The Master and Margarita

Alright. So if it isn’t apparent, these two quotations were taken from the same portion of The Master and Margarita. Obviously there are discrepancies to be expected from different translations, especially from a language such as Russian–sometimes there is more interpretation required. But what drew my interest to this section of text in particular are not the differences in text/translation, but what those differences, to me, draw attention to in the text. In my opinion, these differences lead to two completely different texts.

Let’s begin with the similarities. Wait, no, let’s begin with who this is describing, because that is terribly important as well. Professor Woland, whose name isn’t revealed until later, is a mysterious foreigner. Presumably German. Woland is a variation on Voland, a demon from Goethe’s Faust, and for a time Woland was used as a synonym for Satan in German. The homage to Goethe’s Faust is apparent from the quotation that opens Book One.

Hold on. I was going to touch upon how the Glenny and Ginsburg translated the Faust quote differently, but then after checking my Walter Kaufmann translation, I realized that Kaufmann’s translation is incredibly different!

Okay, so here’s Glenny’s version:

“Say at last–who art thou?

“That Power I serve
Which wills forever evil
Yet does forever good.”

Here’s Ginsburg’s:

“Who art thou, then?”
“Part of that Power which eternally wills
evil and eternally works good.”

And here’s Kaufmann’s

“Enough, who are you then?”

“Part of that force which would
Do evil evermore, and yet creates the good.”


I’ve never thought about myself as being a woman

As of late there have been a lot of articles coming out about “micromisogyny” and things like “#yesallwomen”, which focus on aspects of a woman’s life that is affected by patriarchy, by society, by language, etc.

Now, as a woman, there are certainly parts of these pieces that I identify with, although I’m not sure if identify is the correct word (which I will get to in a bit). In the summer for example, I often feel uncomfortable going outside in shorts without some variation of tights underneath, simply because of the amount of cars that will honk at me as I walk by and the amount of comments I’ll receive from men passing by. And yes, it does get rather hot and uncomfortable. And yes, often when it gets dark and I’m walking through New York City, I have to be vaguely concerned where I’m walking and how I’m dressed.

I’ve had cab drivers say to me when dropping me off, “Now, are you sure you’re going to be alright? You’re a pretty girl and this isn’t an incredibly sketchy neighborhood, but it’s not too safe either.”
Now to be fair, I honestly do appreciate their concern, but it does twist my spine the wrong way that they attribute this concern to the fact that I am a woman and that they consider me attractive.

Because I have never thought of myself as a “woman” and have never adjusted by actions as a result of that identity.

You may say that the fact that I wear tights in the summer is directly in opposition of that. But I have never thought to myself: “As a woman, I should cover up so men don’t holler at me.”

I think: “I don’t want people talking to me. They do when they can see my legs. I’ll cover up my legs.”

Maybe men do holler at me because I am a woman, and I’ve noticed that when I’m with any number of male friends I get significantly less attention, but that in no way changes how I act when I’m with my friends or how I act when I’m alone. I walk the same speed, I’m just as alert, because I’m acting like a person.

When I was in the second grade, I noticed in gym class one day that this boy had taken off his shirt and was just in his undershirt. Understandable, because it gets hot when you’re running around a gymnasium with fourteen other children. Thus I reasoned to myself that since I was also hot, and I was also wearing an undershirt, I could take my shirt off as well. And for some reason, all of the other children got huffy about the fact that I was only in my undershirt, despite the fact that no one had batted an eye when the boy took his shirt off. It wasn’t until maybe middle school that I thought back to that memory and realized; “Oh, I guess it was because I was a girl? But we were all seven and I didn’t even have hints of breasts so why would it matter? That’s just weird.”

And I still think it’s weird. And in a sense I have the same mentality. It’s not that I’m a woman and as a result I have to act in certain ways in certain situations. I think that I’m a person and being my specific persons, I act in accordance with those limitations.

This is what bothers me about these campaigns about being a woman. They all draw attention to the fact that women are women. It’s almost as though women want to be treated “equally” but they still want the divide. They advocate for “women writers” who write about “being a woman”. I’m a woman and I’m a writer; yet I have never written about being a woman because I’ve been too busy trying to write about being a person. Falling back on being a woman as an identity is too easy.

And you know what, even if we get to a world where women can wear whatever they want and there won’t be a stigma against them, there will still be those annoying men who leer and yell whatever they want. And there will still be the men who cheerfully say “Have a nice day beautiful”. And there will still be the men who don’t give a shit. And there will still be alleys where it’s dangerous to go at night, if you’re a woman, a white man, or anything. All that variety will still exist and the whole point of being a person is simply being aware of your situations and surroundings.

Obviously this is my own perspective on the matter, but I thought this was an opinion that hasn’t been voiced too much.

last night i finished reading ‘the master and margarita’ for the first time

and  i’ve immediately come up with a project for myself. which is good and bad because it involves Crime and Punishment and Faust but in the way that it seems you cannot write about one book without writing about seven.

The list of texts I’ll have to discuss so far are: Goethe’s FaustCrime and PunishmentThus Spoke ZarathustraDoctor Faustus, and The Master and Margarita.

Although due to the fact that I was initially planning on writing about Crime and Punishment and War and Peace together means that I may have to include War and Peace in this, but perhaps will have to separate the project of the two specific novels into a different project. But at the end of the day, each of these texts is aimed at accomplishing a similar task (I would prefer not to use the word goal) and that is what I hope to focus on.


I guess this is now the…third book I have decided to write?