Autodidact: self-taught



by V. L. Craven

Second Sex The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
-001- [From the introduction to the Vintage edition] In response to the first printing: People offered to cure me of my frigidity or to temper my labial appetites; I was promised revelations, in the coarsest terms but in the name of the true, the good and the beautiful, in the name of health and even of poetry.
-002- All that has been written about women by men should be suspect, for the man are at once judge and party to the lawsuit. – Poulain de la Banc
-003- One of the most sustained criticisms has been that Beauvoir is guilty of unconscious misogyny, that having written about women, she has taken great care to separate herself from them.
-004- About the first American translation: …young ladies in places like Smith who can afford the price, which will be high, will be nursing it just as students of my generation managed somehow to get hold of Havelock Ellis-Knopf.
-005- Throughout the composition of the book, when people asked Beauvoir what she was writing she usually said ‘just something about the other sex.’ She had no title until she was almost ready to publish. Then, during a night of friendly drinking and conversation, her friend and Sartre’s, Jacques-Laurent Bost, made a scatalogical joke calling homosexuals ‘the third sex, and that must mean women come in second.’
-006- [From Beauvoir’s Introduction] Enough ink has been spilled in the quarrelling over feminism, now practically over, and perhaps we should say no more about it. [1947]
-007- We are told that femininity is in danger; we are exhorted to be women, remain women, became women. It would appear, then, that every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity.
-008- The fact is that every concrete human being is always a singular, separate individual.
-009- The fact that I ask it is in itself significant. A man would never get the notion of writing a book on the peculiar situation of the human male.
-010- …it is vexing to hear a man say: ‘You think thus and so because you are a woman.’ …It would be out of the question to reply: ‘And you think the contrary because you are a man,’ for it is understood that the fact of being a man is no peculiarity. A man is in the right in being a man.
-011- Woman has ovaries, a uterus; these peculiarities imprison her in her subjectivity, circumscribe her within the limits of her own nature. It is often said that she thinks with her glands. Man superbly ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands, such as testicles, and that they secrete hormones. He thinks of his body as a direct and normal connection with the world, which he believes he apprehends objectively, whereas he regards the body of a woman as a hindrance, a prison, weighed down by everything peculiar to it.
-012- And Benda is most positive in his Rapport d’Vriel: ‘The body of man makes sense in itself quite apart from that of a woman, whereas the latter seems wanting insignificance by itself… Man can think of himself without women. She cannot think of herself without man.’ And she is simply what man decrees; thus she is called ‘the sex,’ by which is meant that she appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex—absolute sex, no less.
-013- …we find in consciousness, itself a fundamental hostility toward every other consciousness; the subject can be posed only in being opposed—he sets himself up as the essential, as opposed to the other; the inessential, the object.
But the other consciousness, the other ego, sets up a reciprocal claim. The native travelling abroad is shocked to find himself in turn regarded as a ‘stranger’ by the natives of neighbouring countries. As a matter of fact, wars, festivals, trading, treaties, and contests among tribes, nations and classes tend to [deprive?] the concept of Other of its absolute sense and to make manifest it, relativity; willy-nilly, individuals and groups are forced to realise the reciprocity of their relations. How is it, then, that this reciprocity has not been recognised between the sexes, that one of the contrasting terms is set up as the sole essential, denying any relativity in regard to its correlative and defining the latter as pure otherness? Why is it that women do not dispute male sovereignty?

The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde  by Neill McKenna
01. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the thing it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.’
02. [After Wilde is released from prison he winds up at Stewart Headley’s house in Bloomsbury and it sounds quite like someplace I should like to live.] Burne-James and Rosetti pictures, Morris wallpaper and curtains, in fact an example of the decoration of the early eighties, very beautiful in its way, and very like the Aesthetic rooms Oscar had once loved.’

Sex with the Queen Sex with the Queen by Eleanor Herman
-01- Popular punishments of Medievals: hanged until nearly unconscious, cut down, privates cut off and thrown into the fire as he watched; then slit open and disemboweled and finally beheaded.
-02- [Letter from Grand Duchess Marguerite to her husband, Grand Duke Cosimo III, 1675] ‘No hour of the day passes when I do not desire your death and wish that you were hanged…’ she informed Cosimo in what must be one of the nastiest letters ever written. ‘What aggravates me most of all is that we shall both go to the devil and then I shall have the torment of seeing you even there… I swear by what I loathe above all else, that is yourself, that I shall make a pact with the devil to enrage you and to escape your madness. Enough is enough, I shall engage in any extravagance I so wish in order to bring you unhappiness… If you think you can get me to come back to you, this will never happen and if I came back to you, beware! Because you would never die but by my hand.’
When a strict new prioress at the convent prevented her from coming and going at will, Marguerite set fire to the building as an excuse to move out. Servants reported one day seeing the grand duchess of Tuscany chose the prioress around the convent with an axe in one hand and a pistol in the other, swearing that she would kill her.
-03- An English wit quipped, ‘George I could not have been such a bad man, for he never hated but three people: his mother, his wife and his son.’
-04- Peter the Great liked to boast that he spent less on whores than any king in Europe.
-05- But the political meddling of Rasputin, who possessed the tact of a cannonball and the diplomacy of a sledgehammer, was disastrous.
-06- According to the conspirators, after consuming enough poison to kill and elephant on the spot, Rasputin merely cleared his throat and complained of a tickling sensation…
Rasputin began to breathe with difficulty and complained of a burning in his stomach…Yusupov [Prince, cousin of the Imperial family] shot him in the heart… He was examined and declared dead. Then the eyes opened…The bloody body stood up and rushed at Yusupov… Purishkevish took out his gun and fired, hitting Rasputin in the shoulder and then in the head. Rasputin fell to his knees, but still he was not dead and tried to rise again. Yusupov started beating him with a blackjack until he fell over.
They wrapped the body in a rug or drape, threw it in a car and drove it to a bend in the river, and dropped it in… The autopsy revealed water in the lungs. Rasputin had still been alive when he had plunged into the river.

She's Such a Geek She’s Such a Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology & Other Nerdy Stuff edited by Annalee Newitz & Charlie Anders
-01- vi: The National Science Foundation reported in 2001 that 56 percent of U.S. bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering went to women. But women only hold only 25 percent of jobs in science and engineering.
-02- 77: Corie Ralston “The Making of a Synchrotron Geek” Physics and I met in college, and it was love at first site. Being a fickle but curious girlfriend, I had dated and discarded many other majors before encountering Physics. I was with Engineering at the time, but cast it callously aside after my first physics class.
-03- 131: Kristin Abkemeier “Job Security” When the first one didn’t work immediately, that was fine—I tweaked it and tested it until I definitively established that it didn’t work.
-04- 144: Elisabeth Severson “{Women} n {Mathematics} = {Me, At Least}” That’s when I realised: It doesn’t matter what I’m doing for my paycheck, or what my title is, or any of the other easy labels that come from the kind of questions people ask at cocktail parties or in other awkward social situations. I’m still a geek because I can put that look of panic on someone’s face. I’m a geek because I can make a person think, “My God, she’s never going to stop talking, is she?” I’m a geek because I don’t care.
-05- 149: Jenn Shreve “Geek, Interrupted” What a wonderful place this godless universe was! I was no longer oppressed by demons; I was just suffering panic attacks, for which I finally got medical treatment. Evil temptations no longer lurked behind every corner, window, and screen; there were simply choices, and we as people made them to different effect. The lust I felt was not a dire moral weakness but healthy and normal responses to visual and tactile stimuli. Life itself was a chemical process that emerged over time; your particles, not your soul, would live on after you died.
-06- 152: Aomawa Shields “Universe: the Sequel: The constellation Ursa Major seems to fill the whole sky, straight up and down. Its asterism, the Big Dipper, holds the pointing stars at the end of the cup. Follow the to of them and they lead you directly to Polaris, the North Star, which kicks off the Little Dipper, the brightest part of Ursa Minor. In midwinter, the Little Dipper spills out its contents onto the constellation Draco, which snakes its way between the dippers like a python in the grass. Cepheus, the house in the sky, aims its pointy rooftop at Cassiopeia winds her W through the Milky Way trail.
-07- 169: Morgan Romine “Fantasy to Frag Doll” Within the first couple months of interacting with communities from my new professional perspective, I devised a peacekeeping strategy. The first element of it was to be clear about my sincere wish to help the gamers. All CMs intend to represent the best wishes of their gamers, but all too often a community of jaded gamers believes it’s being thwarted at every turn. By favoring a select few dedicated gamers with personal attention and demonstrating my desire to help them. I cultivated a small group of outspoken and loyal followers who would support me in any firefight. Bitching in the forums could then be met with as much levelheaded reason as I could muster, and I wouldn’t even need to acknowledge any negative response before my small army would neatly nullify and ostracize the complainers. This arrangement let me be a bossy, helpful, and admired princess type, all without the messiness of flirtation.
-08- p204 Devin Kalile Grayson “Sidekicks” …who among us cannot imagine the blissful coincidence of meeting up with someone we believe in so much that we dedicate our bodies and being to his or her cause?

Note that I said, ‘imagine.’ Many people simple aren’t predisposed to be followers. I know because I’m one of them. Perhaps not surprisingly, my obsessive adoration of sidekicks and allies thrives in the tension between my inherently loyal nature and my learned inability to trust or delegate. I would give anything to give myself over wholly to another person, but I don’t know how. So far, I haven’t even figured out how to pick people who are actually available, let alone assess their true worthiness of my devotion.
-09- p205 Even when entirely devoid of romantic subtext, all sidekick decisions are made within a context of electively narrowed options, so that being a good sidekick is, in the thick of things, a lot like being in love.
-10- p208 I don’t relate to the male stereotypes any better than to the female ones. I have never met any of the people that stand-up comic love to joke about; the stereotypical laconic, farting, butt-scratching, beer-swilling, football-obsessed guys are just as foreign to me as these supposedly ubiquitous chocoholic, shoe-fetishizing, histrionic, red-rose-and-diamond-tennis-bracelet-obsessed ladies. Those aren’t gender archetypes; those are idiots. And because they are idiots invented by the same industry (advertising) to be consistently represented in mutually dependent pairs, we should all feel equally irritated with stupid generalizations about both males and females.

Fortunately, I am not at all alone with this discomfort. Almost everyone resists being stereotyped, and geeks in particular have become very good at finding ways to become who they truly are without worrying overly much about social conformity. So I join their ranks in a female body with a male heart, a sidekick bereft of a mentor, and a compulsively efficient and desperately loyal enthusiast in an age of incompetence and passivity. Unlike gender, geekdom is knowledge based and therefore not so easily stripped away. Because it suggests passionate erudition on any one of so many impenetrable subjects, geekdom can function as a societal warning sign: DANGER, DO NOT ASSUME YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON IN MY MIND. It is also, unlike gender, possible to hide.

Southern Ladies and Gentlemen by Florence King
001. It has been said that when two Greeks meet they will start a restaurant, two Germans with start and army and two Englishmen with start a silence.
002. Yankees always make the mistake of going home the moment they realize they are going mad, which is why they have never understood the South. They do not grasp the simple fact that losing one’s mind is the most important prerequisite for fitting in with Southerners. Sanity has never held any charms for us in fact, we’re against it. We long ago realized that madness was the only weapon we had: if you’re crazy enough, people will leave you alone.
003. Once you have been through fire, you can never burn again.
004. A lot of Southerners have traditionally been so obsessed by their lineage that they have preferred to marry people to whom they were already related by blood…I have known several Southerners who were kin to themselves.
005. By the time I was twelve, I knew all about ‘that time of life.’ My education began during a performance of MacBeth.
‘Out, damned spot! Out, I say! Hell is murky!’
Granny stirred beside me and sighed, “She’s havin’ the change.’
006. Like the French concierge and the cockney costermonger, the Good Ole Boy is such a recognizable phenomenon that he almost defies definition, but to say that he is simply a bigoted, uneducated Southern white male is comparable to summing up Genghis Kan with the statement: ‘He rode horseback well.’
007. Southerners use ‘just’ very often out of an unconscious free-floating guilt, [???] this [???] also appears in their general conversation, and in mind-boggling ways such as: ‘Raiford just chased Sally Ann with a hatchet, ain’t like he [???] any real harm,’ or ‘Darcy just shot that nigger in the ass, he didn’t kill him.
008. For a long time I did not realise that he was staring at my in lust because on Good Old Boy faces there is no discernible difference between expressions of desire and expressions of hatred.
009. Sexually threatened men must find or create as many differences between the sexes as possible…
010. A Good Ole Boy is not simple a man who makes a to do out of his masculinity—most men do a little of that. He makes such an incessant fetish out if it that he becomes [???] , or pitiful, or both.
011. Like many mannish women, The Child is very easy to get along with. She puts everyone at ease and poses no threats…Men like her because she’s such a relief from [all the other psychos] . They do not have to flirt with her, compliment her, wait on her hand and foot…
Women like her because she is no competition in the popularity stakes…Possessing her own kind of dignity, she is perhaps the most invulnerable Southerner of all. She deflect Southern cattiness and disarms all but the most determined female misogynists simply be being herself.
012. The Irish old maid has much old-maid-power thanks to the status that Catholicism bestows on virginity, it does not matter what she looks like; the uglier she is, the more she is respected—and feared—because if she is truly hideous, she will be credited with hex power in addition to old-maid-power. She thus becomes ‘Nora the Witch’ and her fellow villagers walk a wide path around her, crossing themselves as she goes by. This is status indeed.
013. This is Town Fairy…and is universally considered to be nobody’s fault: the Lord did it. Town Fairy’s problems are blamed on the fact that he was—are you ready for this?
A change-of-life baby.
This is perhaps the South’s neatest sleight of mind, one that cheers both men and women. It strikes a blow of revenge against the all-powerful womb and at the same time credits that infernal organ with even more power—Town Fairy is such that only a magic uterus could produce him.
014. … she reeks of expensive perfume, always one of those morbidly voluptuous scents that, like Salome, will not give up until something awful happens.
015. Gauzy descriptions abound, and everyone has so much insight that they’re all half mad. A dying butterfly on the lawn or a fly feasting on manure can hurl all the characters into a Southern version of the Proustian agony…
016. On the title page you will find something that has absolutely nothing to do with anything in or out of the book: Forsooth, good Lord Phickly, the question’s naught but sworn ere birds do send the stickie nectar of mead to trickle down the gullet of [???] postillion by the morrow. –James Hamilton—Crickie, Fourth Viscount of the Fenwick Manor, From My Gleanings.
017.If something intolerable simply cannot be changed, driven away, or shot, they will not only tolerate it but take pride in it as well.
018. Someone at the [hen] party is certain to complain about being either horny or sore and by the time the evening is over there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Wife of Bath is alive and well and living in Raleigh, North Carolina.
019. [About a Yankee’s experience in the South—at a dinner party thrown by a belle.] The picture she made as she sat at the head of the table deepened his reverence. His hostess, he decided, was the last of the great ladies, an untouchable yet infinitely alluring ice maiden.
Three hours later, watching her sip daintily at her tenth bourbon, Latham was certain he felt a stroke coming on. She still looked beautifully aristocratic, she had yet to slu a single word; yet a startling change had come over her personality. Latham;s pristine goddess had turned into Tugboat Annie.
‘He’s a Friday turd at a Saturday market,’ she was saying. ‘As for that fartless wonder he married–‘
Blessedly, she was interrupted by a male guest who had just arrived—and who, of course, hastened to do the proper Southern thing: pay his respects to his hostess.
Latham watched as the man put his arm around her waist.
‘Honey, I sure would like a little pussy,’
‘So would I,’ she said, laughing. ‘Mine’s as big as a bucket.’
Seeing Latham’s horrified expression, she was kind enough to explain: ‘We went to school together.’
What in God’s name did that have to do with anything?
020. The Dear Old Thing is a little old lady, the Rock is a big old lady and the Dowager is a huge old lady.
021. If you can’t be pretty, you might as well cause trouble.

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