Busy lately, doing all the things I promised myself I’d do when summer started. Fell down the note-taking rabbit hole. This had been on the horizon since the beginning of last year, when I found out about the online ‘Zettelkasten’ scene. Most of the people I’ve seen setting up digital notes systems are STEM types, but it should also be useful for the humanities/literary criticism stuff I do. (Umberto Eco, Nabokov, Georges Perec, and Roberto Calasso are interesting models for this way of using notes.) I use Obsidian, because everyone uses Obsidian.
That’s probably why I’ve been thinking a lot lately about index cards. (One or two relevant links below.) It’s difficult to articulate what I find so appealing about them except that they’re probably the best analogue tool for cataloguing, storing, and sorting little discrete pieces of information. Because they’re actual tangible objects, you can do things like shuffle them or fold down a corner or write in disappearing ink or singe the edges or nail them to the wall or wear it secretly between your chest and your shirt, pressing against your heart, or you could throw them down the stairs and collect the ones that land face-up or hide them in your cornflakes so you’ll see them one morning at random or spray perfume on certain cards so you can tell them apart by smell or smear the edges with a deadly poison or shave the deck so you can pull the right card out in the dark or write notes on sandpaper so they ruin the cards next to them or or or.
Also her article “Some girls want out” in the London Review of Books.
The saint first affected by the stigmata was Francis of Assisi, but it has afflicted many more women than men. It insists on the likeness of the believer’s body to that of Christ. It argues that the gender of the redemptive body does not matter. It undermines the notion of a masculine God. It shows that Christ can represent women and women can represent Christ — no wonder it makes the church nervous. There is a trap the church has created for itself — it wants Jesus to have a gender but not sexuality. Under the loincloth of the crucified Christ, what would you find? Only a smooth groin of wood or plaster. His ability to love has to centre on some other organ.
Also Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, which Mantel called ‘a perfect novel’.
The lyrics can be sung to the national anthem.
More on index cards:
I keep neither a journal nor a notebook. I have a memory annex which serves my purposes. It uses edge-notched cards. Edge-notched cards are cards which have holes around the borders as opposed to machine punch cards which are punched through the body. The cards are sorted with knitting needles. I have a nice sophisticated system which I call the “General Practitioner.”
Following this train of thought: look at the Apple HyperCard version of the Whole Earth Catalogue.
Elsewhere on the web: Jokes Alec Likes from the author of Mr Boop. I like this page very much; it’s a collection of his favourite clips where Alec explains what he finds so funny about them. Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog, so it’s worth watching the clip before reading his notes, but I like the insight into what makes a certain joke land for a certain person.
‘Update: Fonts and Vampires’ at Maya.Land. Maya’s piece on fonts relates to a lot of what I’ve been thinking about (and writing notes about) lately: the idea that we always respond, consciously or not, to the web of connotations a thing carries with it. That ‘thing’ might be a font or a piece of clothing or a piece of furniture. I haven’t quite worked out all my thoughts on this yet, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that the same thing — say, blue jeans — can carry a lot of different, even contradictory, connotations depending on context.
And then I thought, you know, if the whole thing is winding up to a line that requires you know that a “semi-obscure Catholic mystic heresy” is particularly appropriate to me, I don’t know how many people that’s really going to land for.
Well, it landed for me.