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RESOLUTION ON RENAMING THE BLOG FORMERLY KNOWN AS

“YOU, MADAM, ARE NO SEI SHONAGON”

TO “YOU, MADAM, ARE NO AMBROSE BIERCE”

WHEREAS, Ambrose Bierce (1842–1914?) was an American journalist and writer, whose works include satirical exposés of public figures, Civil War stories, stories involving the supernatural, and a book intended to “teach precision in writing,” Write It Right: A Handbook of Literary Faults (1909); his most famous works being the short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890) and the Devil’s Dictionary (1906/1911), both of which are enduring classics of American literature; and

WHEREAS, Ambrose Bierce lived in Washington, D.C. from 1899 to 1913, therefore providing a tenuous yet exploitable link between Ambrose Bierce and this blog, the headquarters of which will be relocated to Washington, D.C. in August 2008; and

WHEREAS, Ambrose Bierce displayed in his writings an unsentimental view of humanity; his satirical and insightful writings on the evils of war and the hypocrisies of the powerful are as fresh today as they were at the turn of the twentieth century, to wit:

War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.

and

WHEREAS, contemporary satirist Stephen Colbert would not have found his neologism “truthiness” in Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary, yet Bierce’s definition of “truth” anticipates Colbert’s, including the concept of truth as what one desires to be true (note how Bierce’s definition does not mention objectivity or facts); one suspects that Colbert’s writing staff has a copy of the Devil’s Dictionary in the office:

TRUTH, n.
An ingenious compound of desirability and appearance. Discovery of truth is the sole purpose of philosophy, which is the most ancient occupation of the human mind and has a fair prospect of existing with increasing activity to the end of time.

and

WHEREAS, Kurt Vonnegut, one of the blog writer’s favorite authors, had this to say about Ambrose Bierce:

And I consider anybody a Twerp who hasn’t read the greatest American short story, which is “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” by Ambrose Bierce. It isn’t remotely political. It is a flawless example of American genius, like “Sophisticated Lady” by Duke Ellington or the Franklin stove.

and

WHEREAS, there is a link between Ambrose Bierce’s disappearance and death in Mexico and the disappearance of the blog writer’s mother and stepfather in Mexico, although it is true that said family members are currently living in a custom-built house with a koi pond, and the blog writer’s mother is president of the Audubon Society of San Miguel de Allende; the salient point being that innocent family members went down to Mexico for an adventure and they never returned to the United States; and

WHEREAS, the blog, “You, madam, are no Sei Shonagon,” is privately run with no public funding; as such the blog writer may call it whatever she damn well pleases; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that from today the blog “You, madam, are no Sei Shonagon” shall be called “You, madam, are no Ambrose Bierce,” the name change not really affecting anyone but the blog writer and any blog lists that care to include the blog; the URL remaining unchanged as http://youmadam.com; and, be it further

RESOLVED, that the blog shall officially thank and recognize Janet from “The Chronicles of Tewkesbury” for sending a link to Kim Roberts and Dan Vera’s Web page, “DC Authors’ Houses,” in which the blog writer discovered that Ambrose Bierce once lived in Washington, D.C., thus ending the search for a new blog name; and, be it further

RESOLVED, that, as when the blog’s title referenced Sei Shonagon, the blog writer will not attempt to compose in the style of the chosen author, but does reserve the right to include random quotes and inside jokes relating to his works; instead the blog writer will simply bask in the reflected glory of the famous/dead author’s name while actually writing dilettantish posts about her encounters with bourbon, sake, and other food products; and be it further

RESOLVED, that this resolution be forwarded to The Internet @ The Universe, to the Internet-free members of society, if possible, and to others as appropriate.

Adopted by the Editorial Committee of the Blog
Yokosuka, Japan
July 13, 2008

(signed)

Madam Chairperson

ETA: In December 2009, I changed the title back to “You, madam, are no Sei Shonagon.”

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See soundportraits.org for background on Robert Shields.

Thursday, July 10, 2008
Yokosuka, Japan

7:00 Wake up, pull on t-shirt and loose pants. Take out burnable kitchen garbage and dump the two bags of weed clippings that I pulled from the backyard. I am about to replace the plastic anti-crow net over the pile of garbage bags when I solve a three-part Stephen Colbert puzzle that’s been bugging me. Colbert is my binky for this summer’s deployment, but that’s not the new thought. I already told Carlos that since he left on the ship I had taken up Web surfing Colbertiana, feeling a little unhinged. Carlos wrote, “So, I lose you every few years to an image on a screen, or a voice on the airwaves, but then I steal you back when I return from deployment. At least the past two times it has been to good Southern boys, and Colbert is a practicing Catholic to boot.” He is always so indulgent.

7:05 I run upstairs to watch an old clip from Exit 57 on YouTube, the sketch where Stephen and Amy Sedaris play a couple giving “church-sponsored” relationship advice to an engaged couple. Stephen and Amy are both in their underwear, pawing at each other, giving a talk about the spiritual nature of sex to the horrified couple. Stephen stands with his belly distended over his briefs and ritually presents himself: “This is my body. This is my body. This is my body. This is my body.”

8:00 I drink green tea and make a to-do list. I’m moving in 16 days and I’ve got a lot to do…I’ll start after I read the latest issue of The Believer. There’s an article about John Cheever’s drinking and his attempts to pick up male colleagues.

9:00 Take shower, dry hair, get dressed.

9:45 Get in car, drive. I stop when I realize I’ve left Carlos’s military orders in the house. I’ll need them to check out my medical record from the hospital. I back up, get out, get the orders, get back in the car, and drive to the base.

10:00 I check mail at the post office. A new issue of The New Yorker is in my mail box. I immediately open to the table of contents to see if there’s a David Sedaris piece. There is not.

10:10 I have the pack-and-wrap guy pack my care package for Carlos. I photocopy the financial papers to send to the mortgage guy in Virginia. Hopefully this will be all he needs. I hope we find a house quickly.

10:20 I wait in line at post office to mail the package to Carlos and papers to the mortgage guy. I hear the line in my mind: “This is my body.” I had realized in front of the garbage bags this morning that this line is from the Catholic Mass:

The day before he suffered he took bread in his sacred hands and looking up to heaven, to you, his almighty Father, he gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.

I think of all the Catholic Masses I have sat through with Carlos. I’m not Catholic, but I could have been a contender. It turns out my father was once Catholic, but he didn’t tell me until I was 37. I’m a Buddhist agnostic humanist Unitarian…whatever, but I really miss our priest in London who had a posh accent and who gave liberal homilies. I have gotten used to recognizing what the priest leaves unsaid that lets us know how he swings philosophically. Mass: I like the “Peace be with you” part, turning to our neighbors, smiling, and shaking hands. One time we went to a Mass conducted in Japanese, the deacon had to tell the crowd not to take a communion wafer if they were not Catholic. And when we were supposed to say, “Peace be with you,” everyone just bowed to each other. It was a little too sanitary; I like to press flesh. My turn: I mail the packages.

10:30 I drive to the hospital to check out my medical records. The entire parking lot is roped off for a change of command. I decide to return later.

10:45 Arrive at Auto Hobby Shop to leave car for junking. I fill out some papers, take license plates and base stickers off car. The gentleman in overalls tells me to call Monday to see when I can pick up the junking certificate.

11:00 I realize I have no car. This ruins my plan to go to the commissary to buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream. Without a car, it will melt before I get it home. Instead, I walk to the base hospital.

11:40 I sweet talk the prescription lady into giving me refills on all my prescriptions even though they haven’t run out. I go to the records department and get my medical and dental records. This is my body.

12:00 Walk off base to patch shop to buy more “USS Kitty Hawk Final Tour” patches, the design with a tori gate and a 10-yen coin to represent the Kitty Hawk’s ten years in Japan. Carlos gave his away to a chief and wants more. The shop is closed.

12:05 Try to decide if I should take a taxi or the train home. Stand on sidewalk staring at Route 16. It’s hot. I’m carrying my prescriptions, my medical records, my license plates, a few magazines, a binder of important papers. I go for the taxi.

12:20 Home: eat a PB&J sandwich and drink a glass of milk. Very childhood regressive. I get this way before every move.

1:00 Call Howard, my Australian hair dresser, to make a final appointment.

1:15 Finish filing all the loose papers in the office, weed though the old files.

2:00 Find the audio file of Bloomsday on Broadway 2005, in which Stephen Colbert reads from James Joyce’s Ulysses: the “Lotus Eaters” section. I listen for a while up to the scene where Bloom is in church:

The priest went along by them, murmuring, holding the thing in his hands. He stopped at each, took out a communion, shook a drop or two (are they in water?) off it and put it neatly into her mouth. Her hat and head sank. Then the next one: a small old woman. The priest bent down to put it into her mouth, murmuring all the time. Latin. The next one. Shut your eyes and open your mouth. What? Corpus. Body. Corpse. Good idea the Latin. Stupefies them first. Hospice for the dying. They don’t seem to chew it; only swallow it down. Rum idea: eating bits of a corpse why the cannibals cotton to it.

Colbert gets a big laugh from the audience at “Stupefies them first.”

2:30 I stop the audio. Break over, I get back to work. Finish cleaning the office. Wipe the desk, put suitcases in the guest room. Think about what to pack for the move.

3:15 Fold laundry. Do some dishes.

4:00 Another break time. I know what’s coming, but I listen to the end of the Lotus Eaters reading. Bloom takes a bath:

Enjoy a bath now: clean trough of water, cool enamel, the gentle tepid stream. This is my body.

He foresaw his pale body reclined in it at full, naked, in a womb of warmth, oiled by scented melting soap, softly laved. He saw his trunk and limbs riprippled over and sustained, buoyed lightly upward, lemonyellow: his navel, bud of flesh: and saw the dark tangled curls of his bush floating, floating hair of the stream around the limp father of thousands, a languid floating flower.

My morning puzzle: the metaphorical progression of “This is my body” from the Eucharist to Joyce to Exit 57. Or binky sucking. Whatever gets you through the night ‘salright, ‘salright.

5:00 I try to write a blog post in the style of Robert Shields, but quickly tire of tedious details.

6:30 Feel hungry. Think I’ll have something healthy for dinner. Maybe some broccoli. I don’t know. I think about watching TV with Carlos when he’s home. He’ll be flipping through the channels and one of my past deployment binkys will appear. Carlos will point his chin towards the screen, “Hey, there’s your guy.” We’ll watch for a moment in silence until I say, “Yeah, whatever,” and he changes the channel. I miss my husband. I miss my husband. I miss my husband. I miss my husband.

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