Of the naming of things 

Everyone with even the slightest interest in typography must read these short-short stories featuring fonts as characters by novelist Aimee Bender. I want to read about the adventures of Garamond, Goudy, and Bembo next. Oh, and Verdana.

This appealed both to my obsession with fonts and to my obsession with names and naming. One of my Fantasy Careers is "person in charge of naming new perfumes." See, I had this idea for a whole line of perfumes named after famous poems, or after famous lines. For instance, "Green Thought" and "Green Shade," from the most famous line in Marvell's "The Garden"; Green Thought would be a light, fresh sort of fragrance, grassy yet herbal, and Green Shade would be similar, but spicier. They would be sold in curvy glass bottles that would fit together when placed side by side. Also "Stormy Hebrides" (from a line from Milton's Lycidas), which would smell like heather, ozone, and the sea. Or "Kubla Khan," which would somehow recall Coleridge's "many an incense-bearing tree" — though I was never quite sure what an incense-bearing tree was.

But recently, while rereading Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride for the first time in some years, I realized that I'd gotten the perfume idea from a scene in that novel in which one of the main characters thinks up a new lipstick line after one of her friends mentions Caesar crossing the Rubicon during a lunch conversation:
Then it comes to Roz in a flash of light — what a great lipstick name! A great series of names, names of rivers that have been crossed, fatefully; a mix of the forbidden, and of courage, of daring, a dash of karma. Rubicon, a bright holly-berry. Jordan, a rich grape-tinged red. Delaware, a cerise with a hint of blue — though perhaps the word itself is too prissy. Saint Lawrence — a fire-and-ice hot pink — no, no, out of the question, saints won't do. Ganges, a blazing orange. Zambesi, a succulent maroon.

— Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride, chapter 15
Though it's not as original as I initially thought it was, I still think the perfume idea is a good one. Maybe I could name lipsticks as well.


The difference a non-cloudy day makes 

All week I've been going around with a cloud of gloom over my head. My classes dragged and halted and never quite picked up momentum. The students looked almost as unenthused as I felt. Like several others, I found myself thinking about burnout. The weather was heavily overcast, drizzly and raw, and thanks to the changeover to Daylight Savings Time, twilight began to arrive an hour earlier, so my 5:30-ish walk home from campus suddenly took place in gathering darkness rather than late afternoon. Oh, and grading loomed (and still looms).

Then this morning I woke up to actual sunlight and to the radio announcer predicting temperatures in the 60s. I got up feeling well-rested, started singing Rossini choruses in the shower, strolled to campus reveling in the absence of my winter coat, and got my Thursday comp section all revved up and giggly. (We played the Exquisite Corpse game as a way of thinking about making transitions, and hilarity ensued.)

After class, I stopped by a departmental "book fair," an event where sales representatives from major textbook publishers show up to offer desk copies of their new books to instructors. Today's book exhibit featured only one publisher, and one of the sales reps recognized me from a previous book fair. So I asked her if she could tell me anything about how people get into the textbook-publishing business, and she referred me to her colleague; the colleague, in turn, gave me the name of someone from my very own Ph.D. program who's now an associate editor with Big Textbook Publisher, told me about how they always hire people with advanced degrees, suggested that I ask our department secretary for the names of contact people at Big Textbook, and told me a bit about the advantages and drawbacks of life in Boston. All that in a fifteen-minute conversation. I was gobsmacked by how easy it all was; I've been planning to do a bunch of informational interviews fairly soon, but I thought, since I'm sometimes shy, that it would take more nerve on my part. It didn't, and I was pleasantly surprised.

What did we learn today? 1) Networking is less intimidating than it sounds. 2) All work and no sunlight makes Homer something something. I think I'm going to invest in extra lamps for my living room, and some of those "natural spectrum" lightbulbs that are supposed to ward off the winter blahs. And, 3) Textbook fairs can be sources of information as well as examination copies and free bagels.