Brainstrummings from a Bug-Eyed Bookworm

Tiff is a PhD student in English literature at UC-Berkeley. She takes no prisoners, bars no holds, holds no bars.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Sexiest Denomination

Yesterday evening, I attended a session offered by the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley on "hard issues" (such as Christianity in relation to wealth, patriotism, new life and death--which I assume encompasses abortion). Yesterday, the topic was Christianity and human sexuality. It's fairly interactive, with the attendees asking the pastor leading the session any questions they might have, or sharing any information that they think pertinent.

In response to the pastor's statement, "We just don't say, 'Presbyterians are sexy.' It's just not something you hear," one guy asked:

"So, in your opinion, which do you think is the sexiest denomination?"

The pastor's vote went to the Roman Catholics. His reason? According to him, the Roman Catholic church has done a better job of incoporating and recognising the body and bodily experiences (like child-bearing) in the role of faith and worship.

I'm not sure if I understood him entirely. But any thoughts? Or any other nominees for the SEXIEST DENOMINATION?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Works by Hung Liu

Three Graces



For more information about Hung Liu, click here

Friday, January 13, 2006

An Obscure Bit of Grammatical Knowledge: The Difference Between "That" and "Which"

We can all doff our metaphorical hats in gratitude to Kathleen in the wilds of Akita-ken, who prompted the unearthing of this arcane grammatical rule.

The difference between "that" and "which": "that" is used with restrictive clauses, and "which" is used with unrestrictive clauses.

What does that mean?

It means one uses "that" when one needs to specify something about the subject (i.e. "restrict" the subject to a smaller subset) to make clear what one is referring to.

For example: Please fetch me the human head that I collected yesterday morning.

In this sentence, the speaker is specifying the human head he would like to have fetched: not the ones he collected the day before yesterday, not the ones he collected yesterday afternoon. He would like the one he collected yesterday morning.

One uses "which" when one doesn't need to specify anything about the subject.

For example: I once had a lovely human head which I displayed on the mantelpiece next to the portrait of my aunt.

In this sentence, it isn't necessary for the speaker to give more details about the human head for us to know what human head he is talking about. We know already that he is referring to a "lovely" human head which he once owned. The description that follows ("which I displayed on the mantelpiece next to the portrait of my aunt") is interesting, but unnecessary.

Other examples:

1. Take back the human head that you gave me on the occasion of our first year wedding anniversary and get out, you ruffian-knave!!!

2. The human heads which filled the wheelbarrow made a pleasant thumpity-thump sound as Priscilla carted them off to the vegetable-patch.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Great Poem Revisited via Chick Flick

I'd completely forgotten about this really heartbreakingly beautiful poem (to be precise, a villanelle!) by Elizabeth Bishop until I was reminded of its existence via the recent chick flick, "In her Shoes" (based on the chick-lit novel of the same name.)

One Art (by Elizabeth Bishop)

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.