Discover more from agarwhale
The Quagmires of Quarantine
To support curve-flattening efforts (especially because I returned from Boston less than two weeks ago), I’ve been staying at home for the last week. This means I’ve had far too much time on my hands, as evidenced by the half hour I spent fruitlessly attempting to come up with some clever pandemic-related wordplay for the title of this post, resorting alas to this alliterative but dull one.
When I read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne a few years ago, I thought it would be interesting to spend a ridiculous amount of time in a confined space and watch myself become more and more psychologically unhinged. I have since discovered that this literary daydream was in fact highly context driven (context being a romanticised submarine) and living in my house with little human interaction and an abundance of instant noodles is really not the same thing. It’s also possible that I only liked that book because I could relate to Captain Nemo’s vehement aversion to British imperialism and because there’s a Canadian harpooner named Ned, but I digress.
Below I’ve described some moderately productive activities I’ve been engaged in (which was supposed to be the actual subject of this article).
Adventures in the Latin language
After finding “learn Latin” on a bucket list I wrote when I was eight, I figured the social distancing era would be as good a time as any to fulfill this ambition. I’ve been using Duolingo, which is working well. The satisfying sound effects and green check marks every time you get a question right are a shockingly strong motivator—I’ve really bought into the not-so-subtle Pavlovian conditioning. On a serious note, it’s a little frustrating to be studying a dead language, but I think there’s a unique experience to be gained from learning something which will never be useful by a strictly utilitarian metric: learning for the sake of learning is rewarding in an inexplicable way. And at the risk of being overly pontifical, Latin is just a beautiful language and the connections I’ve been making with English and French have definitely given me a deeper perspective on the purpose of language and how it fits into Western cultural history.
It’s also just nice to feel like a sixth century Roman philosopher and I’ve always harboured a secret belief that if I learn enough Latin someone will make a marble bust of me and install it in the Colosseum.
The tedium of towels
I think I assumed folding towels into animals would be insurmountably difficult given my lack of fine motor skills, but in reality it’s fairly simple—the swan, for instance, only requires a five step process with one bath towel and one (optional) hand towel. I’ve been practicing my bird-folding skills and plan to wow my friends with my volucrine creations (when I’m allowed to leave the house in two years), although in my experience they never seem as impressed by my animal-related crafts as hoped.
Rediscovering breakfast food
If I’m honest, I’ve never really liked breakfast as a meal: it tends to be uncreative and, in my experience, strictly utilitarian. In the last few days, I've given this topic more than a bit of thought (maybe too much thought) and realised that the flavour palette of my breakfast recipes is significantly restricted by the minimal amount of time I spend on it—that is, maybe my breakfast would be tastier if I allotted more than two-and-a-half minutes to its production. As such, I've been experimenting with some different pancake recipes (I prefer waffles but do not have a waffle iron as of yet) and found one which actually turned out very well (linked at the bottom). As described by the authors of the recipe, it's "almost like a good sponge cake!" and while I've admittedly never eaten one of those, I quite agree. The only problem so far is that my chocolate chips are repeatedly getting burnt, but I’ve found this is greatly mitigated by mixing them into the batter beforehand rather than scattering them into the pan.
I always turned my nose down at romantic comedies in the typical elitist manner of a science fiction fan, but in my boredom I’ve capitulated to Netflix’s demands and watched some. Some of them—Clueless, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Made of Honour, When Harry Met Sally—were just as frivolous and heteronormative as expected (though admittedly still entertaining). That said, a lot of the other movies—Hitch, Notting Hill, The Notebook (which is not really a comedy at all)—were surprisingly meaningful and worthwhile. While I certainly still prefer my action films, historical dramas, and space documentaries, I guess the conclusion is that there’s a spectrum of brainlessness when it comes to the rom-com genre, and not all of the movies are in the same bucket of fanciful monotony.
Anyway, it’s time for me to go learn how to make a towel orangutan. Hope everyone is staying safe and compulsively washing their hands!