DailyAfirmation (dailyafirmation) wrote,

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Bathroom reading on the bus, the origin of "faggot," the ant wars, and a thought-provoking play...

~Thursday~  I was out of bread this morning, so I skipped my morning ritual of fixing a breakfast sandwich, which usually consists of a bagel thin, a turkey sausage patty, and hard-boiled egg whites. Nor did I brew my usual four cups of coffee to take to work in my thermos. Since, once I got to work I'd walk across the street to the Hill of Beans coffee shop in the university library and get a bagel, I'd just get coffee there, too.

I waited for the city bus on the opposite, shady, side of the street and I was in the middle of downloading a free BlackBerry app for World Cup news, when the bus pulled up to the intersection, and I darted across the street.

The lady sitting across from me was reading a book and I strained (Yenta!) to see the name of the book. I wanted to see at least enough of it to be able to Google it. It was opened to a chapter called, "The Golden Age of Radio, Part I," and I saw that the title of the book started with , "Uncle John's Curiously..." A quick Google search right now just made me laugh out loud: Uncle John's Curiously Compelling Bathroom Reader.

We had our monthly staff meeting of the 20 or so folks who report to our boss's boss. However, there were only about 13 people there, as several people were working from home today or out of the office on vacation.

Earlier in the week, I had sent out an e-mail request to our "OIT-Social" e-mail list asking if anyone had a "Fabulous, Outrageous, Intricate, or Elaborate Hat" that I could borrow, and at the beginning of the meeting, one of my colleagues, Don, said, "John, I know you're wanting to borrow a goofy hat, so I brought you this," and he handed me one of these:

At lunch time, I asked my boss, Jude, if she wanted to walk down to Laziz Biryani Corner to grab a bite, and we did. As almost always, because we enjoy the topic, our conversation turned to diversity at one point, and because the word came up in our conversation, she asked me if I knew the origin of the word "faggot."

I said I didn't, and she told me about something she'd learned while reading a book that contained an account of the Crusades, which included the period of burning "witches." Since faggot is an archaic word for a bundle of sticks, the account had it that they gathered homosexuals to place under the witches as a firestarter to burn them, and that's how the word faggot got to be associated with them.

I found this at once horrifying and incredulous, and a quick look in Wikipedia at the Etymology section of the Faggot entry includes this: "It is sometimes claimed that the modern slang meaning developed from the standard meaning of "faggot" as "bundle of sticks for burning," presumably with reference to burning at the stake.[8] This is, however, unlikely to be the case,[8] and there is no tradition of burning at the stake being used as a punishment for homosexuality in Britain,[11][12] although supposed witches and heretics were burnt to death in other parts of Europe, and were often accused of deviant sexual behaviour.[13]"

I'm not sure Wikipedia has it completely right, but to their credit, they do say "unlikely" not "untrue." I mean they claim that faggots weren't burned at the stake, which is not what my boss said this book said. She said they were used to start the fire for the burning of the witches at the stake. I'm just going to leave it at, "The thought is horrifying."

I met Robert at Manbites Dog Theater to attend preview night of their current play, Blackbird. Two interesting things happened on the ride to Durham:

  1. In a 30-second flash of coincidence, while I was listening to NPR on the way, a commercial came on for Manbites Dog's current play, which I was on my way to see, and

  2. Fresh Air was on with the most incredible story about... none other than... ants!

That ant story was so interesting in light of my recent ant musings, and it's totally worth a 38-minute investment in it. At one point the guy talked about one of the—I think he said there are about seven currently—major ant colonies in the world that starts in San Francisco and goes all the way south in California to close to the Mexican border.

He was talking about how these huge colonies are at war with one another, and that if you pick up an ant from that huge colony in San Francisco and carry it down near the border where it's up against the other colony and drop it just this side of the border, it would be assimilated within seconds with no problem. However, if you drop just on the other side, in the other colony, it will be torn-to-shred-dead in a second. And, in that border fight, millions of ants are dying every day.

He also shares an unbelievable anecdote about a time he came home from one of his travels to discover a huge bump forming on his head, and how that turned out. Incredible.

In addition to being a scientist and an author, he is quite a photographer and there are some fascinating pictures associated with the story on NPR's website [click on the image to see others]:

You can read read "Tracking a 'Sisterhood' of Traveling Ants", or listen to the 38-minute audio recording of it.

Back to the current play at Manbites Dog Theater, Blackbird, which doesn't deviate from the theater's commitment to bringing new and edgy plays to life and to the Triangle. It's described this way:

Fifteen years ago, Una and Ray had a relationship. Since then, Ray has changed his name, and his life. Tonight, Una has found him, bringing back shared secrets of guilt, memory, and desire. Regional Premiere.

It's a compelling and thought-provoking inquiry into a few things, at least these are ones that stood out to me:

  1. Pedophilia

  2. The "yuckiness" factor in the difference in ages between two people in a relationship as a function of the age of the youngest person in the relationship

  3. The notion of there being two (often very compelling, reasonable, and believable) sides to every story

  4. The changing pathos of a character contextually

  5. Human rationalization

  6. The confluence of—and often very fine line between—healing versus pathological actions and reactions

If you like plays that make you think like that, I highly recommend this show. You can find out more about the show and purchase tickets at the Manbites Dog Theater website. It's only being staged for two weeks, June 17-26, 2010.

On the way back to Raleigh, I stopped at the Food Lion on Western Boulevard, and when I got to the checkout line, the young man who was cashiering had the hiccups. He didn't bother to close his mouth when they happened, so it was a little louder than it needed to be, and I thought, "He's probably a rising drama major at nearby NC State University."

The girl in front of me in line asked the cashier, "Did you drink some milk?" and since I've never heard of that as an antidote to hiccups, I wondered if she was trying to find out if that's what might have started them or if he had drank some in an effort to stop them.

"No. I just got them about ten minutes ago," the guy replied with a huge, loud, hiccup mid-sentence.

I moved up to the checkout, and I imagined myself all of a sudden screaming, "BOO!" at him. Discounting that, and immediately following it I thought, "What else might scare this kid?" I thought of yelling, "This is a stick-up!" but then my super-ego wrestled my id to the ground and I left silently.
Tags: affirmations (implicit), bus, manbites, plays, work

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