Monday, January 5, 2004

Oh, Please, No!

It's back to work today, and I'm not loving it. The first thing on my desk today, after deleting the mountains of spam (144 pieces over two weeks) and the answering-machine blanks (why don't people hang up as soon as they hear it's a recording, instead of waiting for the beep and then hanging up?) is all the dross and leavings of last year's mad dash out of the office. Bills, mostly. I had intended to come into the office on the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas to do those, but you'll remember I had that nasty cold as well as Christmas itself to deal with, so I let them slide.

It's such a simple task, too... just put the checks in the envelopes, attach the check-stubs to the invoices, mail the former and file the latter. But then there're the hours of resentment over how this isn't actually my job, it's actually someone else's job for which he is getting paid and I am not, and resentments always slow me down. And then while I was sorting the mail I found a letter explaining that there is a flawed formula in my per capita report spreadsheet and we owe the national affiliate for three months of underpaid dues (not a lot, but fractions of cents add up after a while).

And of course the office has been closed up for two weeks, so the carpet fumes have been building and the place is just a trifle smelly... and it's much too cold to open the windows. Though I must say it was a pleasant feeling to arrive in such a tidy office after the vagaries of home (I haven't cleaned diddly-squat in my house, those damned children kept getting in the way... and just when I get rid of the children I have to go back to the office, it's not fair!) Plus I get to start a new Daily Log notebook, starting off with a clean slate, tabula rasa as it were. If only I could close the old Daily Log and shove it in a drawer somewhere with all its unfinished tasks magically forgiven or obsolated.

But okay, do the bills and file them... done. Go get a bear-claw and coffee and ogle at the pretty boy at the counter (I finally found out his name's Ryan, I'd been calling him Pirate Boy for reasons that shall remain obscure because it's too long a story to put in parentheses), send some faxes, sort some mail, and voilĂ  here comes Mr. Boss Man! Whom I haven't seen in a month, he started winter break early to attend his daughter's wedding in Bermuda (but he still called us every day on his cell-phone, drat this modern technology). And who first thing asks me to write out a full description of what the bookkeeper is supposed to do (like paying the damned bills) so he can make him do it. Ask and you shall receive, whine and get your own way. It makes me feel all better, and vindicates my coming in at ten a.m. (completely unrelated, but still...)

So now my old log is closed and stashed on a shelf (it can't go too far away, I'll need to refer to it) and my fresh new log is opened here with a fresh new cup of coffee and a nice clean desk... and now I have nothing pressing to do. Starting back to work in the new year is always like this, I get so accustomed to working on immediate projects under great pressure at the end of one semester, and then it all suddenly melts away before the beginning of the next. This is the time to undertake those time-consuming projects that I never can manage to do when there are so many other things interrupting me, like getting my filing done and updating databases and what-have-you; but it's so hard to motivate yourself when you're not actually putting out fires.

Oh, well, no need to start pressuring myself to do a lot of work on the first day back. It'll be quiet like this for the rest of the week, most of our members will stay away until the 14th, when the students come back. There's plenty of time to file and update and tidy.

In the meantime, I was trying to think of something cultural or literary or otherwise of general interest to talk about (my work isn't that interesting to me, so it must be boring you to tears). I haven't been reading anything new lately (grazing lightly through Nancy Mitford and Quentin Crisp just to pass the time), haven't seen a new film in a while (or even a new-to-me old video), and television has been living up to its reputation as an electronic wasteland.

The Simpsons last night was funny, in a way, at least I was amused by the anti-children sentiments (so timely), but I didn't sit and watch the whole thing. I was just too thrilled to have the living room back, I guess, without Jessie and Alex planted on the Disney Channel and scattering their stuff all over the place and arguing with each other, so I spent the whole evening surfing blissfully between channels, stopping for The Simpsons but mostly dancing about from The Forsyte Saga on PBS (such handsome men) to platinum-clad diamonique jewelry on QVC (ridiculously high prices, and what is "diamonique" anyway?) to Jackass on MTV (I love watching half-naked straight-boys injuring themselves) to Samurai Jack on Cartoon Network (dashing animation and offbeat humor, not to mention Mako's voice) to The Frighteners on SciFi (I had no idea what it was about, but kept trying to figure it out anyway, because murderous ghosts and Michael J. Fox just didn't seem to go together), and everything in between.

One of these days, I am going to sit down and watch The Forsyte Saga from the beginning. I keep falling into the middle of it and can't figure out what the hell is going on and how these people are all related to each other. I suppose I could read the book, which I bought for Grandmother when she watched the series, but I think I taped it then, when it was first aired, I should see if I can find the cassettes. I love Damian Lewis, he has such a fascinating face, especially in the tight-mouthed, slick-haired characterization he brings to the role of Soames Forsyte; and then Ioan Gruffudd is no slouch, either, all that ever-so-sexy Welsh goodness, I loved him in Horatio Hornblower (again with the seafaring fantasies, and I'm not alone, either... ooh, look, fan fiction!) and in Wilde (nude scene!) and in the risible 102 Dalmations (where even his beauty was eclipsed by Cruella's amazing costumes); and then there was Gina McKee (sorry, no good weblinks) who played Irene, such a beautiful woman, so unusual-looking, delicate yet durable, I could just watch her walking around doing nothing — and then of course it's a period film, with all the fabulous costumes and opulent sets and other costly whatnots that I love so.

It occurs to me that there should be a whole section at the video stores for Period Films. I find those tend to be my favorites, whether they're comedies or dramas or thrillers. I just love anything with lavish costumes and sets and all that stuff from other eras. Especially the eighteenth century, with all the lace and satin and high-heeled shoes and wigs and paint on the menfolk, and twice as much on their women, and those vast overdecorated rooms, the horses and carriages, the decadence of it all. Or England in the thirties, that's always fun, with the Moderne fashions juxtaposed against the Augustan architecture. The baroque periods of the sixteenth as well as the nineteenth centuries, with all that extra fabric and wood all over the place. Films about ancient Greece and Rome always cheat the costumes, the skirts are usually too long and the men all wear anachronistic underpants, but I still watch them.

We were talking the other day, a group of us at dinner, about the feeling that one should have been born in another time. So many of my friends feel like anachronisms in their own time; I know I do. But as we sat talking about all the historical periods that would have been nice to live in, we had to agree on the caveat that we'd need to be rich in those periods. The lives of the middle and lower classes were just too dreary in those past times, never before have those classes enjoyed the luxury and hygiene and freedom that we require today.

But really, with sufficient money, this era would be quite as comfortable and elegant as any other. With enough wealth you could surround yourself with period rooms and wear period costumes and ride period transportation to your sick little heart's content. I think the whole point of the modern era is that all the best things of all the past eras are still with us, still valued... even more valued. In other times, the old was routinely thrown out for the new, antiques weren't of any value until the civilizations that made them were dead and gone at least five hundred years; but our age is one where nostalgia and art-history are practically religions. And without modern inventions like film and television, we wouldn't have those past eras to look at, even... we wouldn't know what we'd missed.

Besides, there is freedom in the modern age that we didn't have in the 'Thirties or the Renaissance or any other time since Christianity and Islam spread their grim claws over the Western world. At no other time since the Fall of Rome could homosexuals be legally open about themselves and their love-lives (and there were times in the Roman days when it wasn't allowed, either). And if you ask me, velvet doublets and powdered wigs would no fit compensation for the open availability of love from another man.

Freedom and education are definitely worth the gracelessness of our modern art and architecture. And let's not forget modern health care, dentistry, exercise, nutrition, and media... they may be uncontrollable monsters sometimes, as problematic as plagues and popes have been in the past(and we still have those), but I'd hate to have to live without them entirely.

Well, I suppose I've babbled on long enough and wasted enough company time. I'm going to go do some filing for a while, then eat lunch and read some Horatio Hornblower fan-fiction. There's something about sailing-ships full of men, privateers and explorers and kidnapped cabin-boys, buggery on the high seas, Herman Melville and The Pirates of the Caribbean, open shirts and knee-boots and long hair and tight pants, the interplay of civilization and barbarism encapsulated on a wooden vessel and surrounded by danger and the unknown... it really sparks my imagination.

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