Bicultural Confusion.

February 4, 2009

French 60’s pop is notorious for appropriating and translating popular chart-topping American songs. Years of listening to oldies radio stations in both countries have procured me many instances of delight and befuddlement as I recognized melodies sung in different languages, never knowing which was the original. I always wondered, for example, which came first, the yellow polka dot bikini or Dalida’s bikini rouge et jaune a petits pois. This was the pre-wikipedia age mind you, so such questions could happily be left unanswered from one summer to the next. Tangentially, I continue to be amused by the Dutch one hit wonder David Alexander Winter, who sang with an American accent and made little French hearts swoon with his bold, brassy swagger a la Tom Jones. I digress.

Here is a song by eurovision SLC pop idol France Gall I adore at the moment. I found the clip tonight while playing musical mind association games beginning with Josephine Baker’s “J’ai Deux Amours, Mon Pays et Paris” (in honor of my impending citizenship interview and chronic nostalgia).

 

I leave you to compare with the April March version showcased in Quentin Tarantino’s untoppably cool grindhouse B-movie/ almost chick flick, Death Proof:

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Tiny Poems

December 29, 2008

I’m just back from a lovely Christmas break in Hong Kong at my Dad’s, where much bonding was had and much French was spoken (le sigh). As I am absolutely knackered, I thought printing here tiny poems that I love would be appropriate. I’ve been making R. learn about English-language literature, as these topics somehow tend not to come up in engineering classes, and I though these would be appropriate for the amount of time at his disposal.

First, my favourite. “Fog” by Carl Sandburg. I have early memories of this poem, and used to draw little pictures of a sea of kitties, all engaged in conveying the fog to its proper place.

THE fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches 5
and then moves on.

Then, evoking a similar but entirely disassociated mood, “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams. (I love the failed WASP-iness of his name.)

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

And that is that. It is late, I have successfully beaten my jet lag. I watched The Holiday while trying to say up. It was, as predicted, mediocre, and I was kind of annoyed that Kate Winslet and Jack Black are considered to be in similar leagues, looks-wise. Regardless, watching it frees up a Netflix spot.

I leave you with the song I’m listening to before bed.

glamourous-dry-cleaners

The hopes, the dreams.The soap-opera addiction? The stash of costume jewelry at the back of the wardrobe. The newspaper cuttings. The opera-length gloves tried on in front of the mirror.

[London Shop Fronts via Design Sponge]

December 9, 2008

Long, long, painfully long day at work today. It’s hard when I have to work so late (I got home just half an hour ago) because I then become so desperate for a life of my own that I end up staying up even later. It’s a horrible habit, but I’m not sure what to do about it. Clearly, late-night blogging isn’t the answer, but I felt the urge to stop by and check in.

A few things kept me sane today. Firstly, stuck in my head all day was this song:

Which then turned into this as the day wore on, the workload grew more ridiculously impossible, and my coworkers and I started having hysterical manic laughing fits all over the office:

(I love David Byrne’s grandpa shoes and chicken neck in this video. What a stud.)

(As a further side note… this is one of the songs I remember most clearly from my childhood. Obvi the “fa fa-fa fa fa fa” part is fun, but still my knowledge of it as a small child is equal parts vaguely creepy and a testament to my parents having awesome taste in music.)

I also managed, on my subway ride to work and during the FIFTEEN WHOLE MINUTES I grabbed to scarf down a sandwich from Pret a Manger, to finish the book I was reading, Better by Atul Gawande. Among his many, many many other distinctions, Dr. Gawande was almost the surgeon who removed my thyroid. In the end, I opted for his partner, the wonderful Dr. Chip Moore, who proved to be an artist with his scalpel, but Gawande’s name stuck with me, and so I felt compelled to pick up his book when I saw it in the bookstore. I’m also a sucker for books about medicine– my secret childhood dream for aaaaaaages was to be a neurosurgeon. Reaading about decision-making, medical ethics and the path towards medical advances is simply fascinating, particularly in the wake of reading Mountains Beyond Mountains. The two books touch on similar subjects, though one is a biography and the other is a reflection, but I quite enjoyed seeing the questions pulled into the greater dimension of their application to daily goings-on in first world life. The contrast was unexpected, but worked perfectly.

Anyway, those’re all the vague thoughts for the night. It is late, and I must get to sleep. I have big plans for curling up in my bed and starting in on Going After Cacciato. After my foray onto writings about the world of medicine, now I find myself gong into war fiction. I wonder if my reading choices speak of some deep underlying mental process I’m undergoing. The other option considered was Open Letters, political essays. A pretty far cry from my ordinary trashy scifi, hopeless Anglophilia, and love for mysteries. Interesting.

And a superficial note? my hands are so dry and full of papercuts that i feel like a manual laborer. Sigh.

Favourite word (or historical group) today: Merovingian. Swirls around the bottom of mouth delightfuly. Ok, yawning. Bed bed!

Atlas of True Names

December 2, 2008

There is always something impossibly romantic about place names. I love thinking of the evolution of a place, from its existence as a mere geographical feature into something fathomed, something known and possessed, bearing a name and a mythology of its very own. I love imagining how these place names came about. The city I grew up in grew from obscure Paleolithic origins into the Roman “Augusta Taurinorum”, until finally settling on Torino, translated literally as “Little Bull”. The bull prances all over the city in symbol, but the mystery remains as to how this place could be so strongly associated with the animal as to be named after it. Same thing with New York, the city in which I currently reside. New Amsterdam might have been a fitting title– Amsterdam was, after all, a world capital at the time the village was named. Comparing York to modern-day New York is a jarring experience, as one never really stops to think of the connection that exists between the cities. Better to switch place names with New London.

This is all a typically long-winded introduction to this article in the Spiegel about the Atlas of True Names, or rather an etymological atlas of the world. A team of cartographers traced the etymological roots of various place names and compiled the result in something that looks like perfectly normal maps, until you get close enough to read the place names. The end product is like a map out of Tolkien, or of some other imagined world, replete with stories that have been hidden for so long because of linguistic laziness. Do yourselves a favour and click on the slide-show.