1. I was having the ritual fend-off-haggardness winter haircut the other day (hmmm, not very successfully fended off, I fear I might have to soon take the plunge and actually get some of the kind of makeup that you, you know, like, wear on your skin as opposed to lipstick or eye stuff or whatever, this is mildly alarming, I am largely ignorant of the world of what my mother's sisters all scathingly call "lotions and potions"!), and the static electricity was making strands of hair stand up like crazy...
2. And Christopher Smart's lovely lines about the cat (which have provoked some delightful e-mails from readers especially struck by one or another phrase!) include that amazing series of words For by stroking of him I have found out electricity...
In the introduction to my new academic book, I talk about my childhood love for Franklin Court:
Growing up in Philadelphia, I loved visiting the underground museum below the Ghost Structure, a steel skeleton designed by Robert Venturi to mark the dimensions of Benjamin Franklin’s house, razed in 1812. The museum had a sort of phone bank that allowed one to telephone a huge number of different eighteenth-century figures whose names and numbers were posted across a banner like the menu at a fast-food restaurant. Once the call was put through, I would listen to the recording of what Washington or Mozart or whoever I had chosen to dial up that day had to say about Franklin: history as spiritualism-inflected gossip!
But we also passionately loved the Franklin Institute, a museum that I have not revisited as an adult but that I have designs upon (it's the swim fin project). It had all sorts of amazing things (the giant heart!), but one of them was the sort of device many of us got to play with as scientific-minded children, the magical Van de Graaff generator.
(Oh dear, this is a more roundabout story than I imagined, I am longwinded this evening!)
My brothers were very eager for me to be the demonstratee--this seemed unusual, but whatever, I was excited! I had my hair as always in two very tight long neat braids (or "plaits," as my English mother would call them--I don't think I ever wore my hair down a single day in my life, the elementary-school morning kitchen scene involved her undoing one plait and very stringently and painfully brushing it with a Mason Pearson hairbrush and tightly braiding it back up, and then doing the same for the other!), and I touched the apparatus and the hairs of my head did indeed dance up into the air.
But my brothers were very disappointed--and when our mother asked why, it became clear that they had imagined both braids sort of jumping up into the air like muscular pythons...
(And another good hair story--our mother had very bright red hair as a child and young adult, most distinctive, only many people in her family had it also and so it was annoying to her when strange ladies on the bus told her what unusual and lovely hair she had. And one day one brother finally said, "But mom, how could you have had red hair when you were little? When you were little, everything was in black and white!" Which indeed it was, if you went by the pictures...)