Autodidact: self-taught



by V. L. Craven

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
001. I went to a noontime lecture today that addressed this issue. (“Turkey Vultures: Fact or Fiction?”) The lecturer had brought along his pet turkey vulture, Friendly, who smelled even worse than one might imagine a turkey vulture to smell. This was, he said, because Friendly had become sick in the car on the ride over and vomited. Earlier he told us that turkey vultures will vomit at you if you harass them. I was in the second row, and have no trouble believing that turkey vulture vomit makes a powerful deterrent. Unless you are a coyote. Fact: The coyote considers turkey vulture vomitus a delicacy, and will harass the birds simply to get a snack.
002. …the best way to survive in a falling elevator is to lie down on your back.
003. Astronauts are as much as 2.5 inches taller after about a week in space. (The typical gain is 3 percent of one’s height.)
004. “For high-quality beef, pork, chicken, or fish, digestibility is about ninety percent,”

The Platform of Time by Virginia Woolf
001. [S.P. Rosenbaum paraphrasing Woolf about my favourite element of her writing–brackets are my notes]
“From this she goes on to express her conviction that behind what she thinks of as the cotton wool [cotton balls to the USers] of everyday appearance is a reality of moments of ecstatic being.” My absolute fav parts of Woolf’s writing are when she perfectly captures moments of … honesty. It’s difficult to describe but if you’ve read her you get it–no matter what sort of life one leads, if there is any sort of comprehension of a wider picture or a moment of purity within the static of day-to-day life then something within her writing will resonate. Reading over that, wow, does it sound naff. I promise her writing is much more moving than my awkward attempts to describe it. She also refers to this as “moments of being” which I quite like because it’s so precise. You go about your day on autopilot, thinking of what to say next, eat next, focus on next, but then occasionally you’re struck by something eternal in the everyday.
002. From a play vignette of Julien Bell Woolf did–this bit cracked me up. Bell is trying to write a poem about a siskin and it’s as if he’s completely forgotten how to write a poem. It’s been suggested to him to use a metaphor–an image.
…You say something’s like something else. What the point of it is I can’t conceive.A male siskin is a male siskin. Of course I can use my microscope and make a list of colours. But there isn’t time. And that’s not an image. Like like like–how can a thing be like anything else except the thing it is? And I might ring up Richard Braithwaite and ask what a thing is when it is a thing and not another thing and put that into poetry. I could do that. There’d be some sense in that.
He then writes a poem and rings his mother, Virginia Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell.
Hello, Nessa. I wish you’d read this poem and tell me if you think it’s exactly like every other poem that’s ever been written?
Vanessa: Well, Julian, it’s no good asking me to read poetry… I always ask Virginia about poetry. If she says it’s good, I know it’s bad, and if she says it’s bad I know it’s good. What does Virginia say about your poetry?
Julian: Oh it makes her faint.
Vanessa: Well then Julian you must be the very greatest poet in the English language.

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