This video, courtesy of Azis, the gay Bulgarian singer, and Desislava, the… err… blonde silicone Bulgarian singer, might just be the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I’m unsure which of them has bigger, faker lips. There’s writhing! And big bleached hair! And a gratuitous bondage scene! And a random needle! And an asthma inhaler! And suggestive caressing of champagne bottles! And… and… so much more!

So first off, because I check this blog “often”, I perpetually have it in mind that today’s date corresponds with whatever date is at the top of the latest entry. And so, ever since Wednesday, I have been dating everything – checks and notebooks mainly – April 11th. This obviously wouldn’t raise an eyebrow on Wednesday but when someone asks what the date is and I adamantly defend that today the 13th is in fact the 11th, well then, that’s a sign. That’s sign that posting daily is more than just sharing a thought. It keeps me/the-other-people-who-don’t-know-what-today-is in step with time and thus contributes to tidying up the disorder of the universe.

Other randomness:
I received a cryptic message from Last.fm in a language whose alphabet I was unfamiliar with. The mystery unravelled itself quite soon, revealing that a cute young Andre from Belarus contacted me (supposedly cute young resident of the United States) in French, asking to share music. Apparently one of my favorite metrosexual French singers, Raphael, has a Russian homologue, “the Russian Raphael”. So I would like to get in touch with this Andre, but have a terrible confession to make (actually two): (1) I buy a lot of music on i-tunes and my raphael album just might be one of those impulse buys and (2) I don’t know how to share music files. (cringe cringe cringe)

От: atrokhov
Тема:rapahel
Дата:Апр 13 2007, 11:21
Salut! Je m’appele Andre, j’habite en Bielorussie. Est-ce que tu paeut m’aider? je cherche l’album de Raphael “La realite” et Hotel…”, tu les as? J’adore les chansons de lui. Comme langue etranger j’apprends le francais. En ehange je suis pret t’envoyer les fichiers de russian Raphael, il s’appele Ilya Lagutenco. Merci, Andre. [his email goes here]

There was more in Belarusian or Russian (I can’t tell), but I think it technical. And you know how I dread anything technical that requires a manual. (Don’t tell R.T.F.M. Ranko;-)

And lastly, something really good happened to me the other day. I received a compliment from my TF for “revealing the core anxiety” of the novel Brideshead Revisited in my post. In general I am pretty good at revealing core anxieties, but given my inferiority complex with the English language, that was really encouraging. Have you read the book? I would assume “yes”, but if not, put it at the top of your extended reading list. Then we can watch the 9-part series together and teehee at a homoerotic Jeremy Irons.

So here tis:

Re: Charles and Artistry – with more on sensations

I agree with Tiffany that Sebastian seems to have influence over Charles’ artistry: “It was not until Sebastian, idly turning the page of Clive Bell’s Art, and read “Does anyone feel the same kind of emotion for a butterfly or a flower that he feels for a cathedral or a picture?” Yes I do’, that my eyes were opened.” (23) Apparently, Clive Bell is a proponent of art as aesthetics, not representation or imitation. Were Charles’ eyes opened then to seeing beauty for beauty’s sake and the emotion therein? Or to what Oxford (and life) “had to offer” ? (23) It seems that, ultimately, Sebastian has awakened Charles to the idea of “sensation”. But Charles retains a desire to know more about objects and things beyond their appearances. For example, Sebastian chastises Charles for caring about the dates when architectural features in his mansion were built and not simply being arrested by (and at) its “prettiness”. Charles seems to go beyond Sebastian’s teachings in wanting to know things more intimately. As such, this newfound appreciation of “sensations” seems to be intimately linked to a sense of reality. Upon reentering his room after his first encounter with Sebastian, Charles finds it altered: “Nothing except the golden daffodils seemed real. Was it the screen? I turned it to face the wall. That was better.” (28) The Omega screen – a representation – no longer suits Charles’ newfound aesthetics under Sebastian’s influence. It is later sold off. (53) The nature of the Omega screen illuminates our understanding of what Charles is rejecting. Of the painter, Roger Fry, an art gallery website writes: “In 1913, Roger Fry organized the Omega Workshops, a collective that encouraged the involvement of young artists in the design and decoration of everyday functional objects. It remained active until 1919. The radical innovations in artmaking were known to Fry but his own painting focused on ideas of unity – “the design” of image, composition and colour, rather than what he described as “sensation” or the notion of “visual invention” for its own sake. Fry’s paintings are true to nature and visions of the everyday, and favoured the landscape as subject…” Thus it appears that Sebastian’s encounter with Charles has enhanced the latter’s ability to grasp “sensations” or reject merely representational forms of art. Furthermore, seeing as literary references are already featured on the page (namely Tiresias, from Oedipus Rex, I assume), it is not a far stretch, I think to believe that Charles, here, is referring to Wordsworth’s poem, The Daffodils. The “host of golden daffodils” are “jocund company” that bring solace and happiness to the lonely, wandering poet. And remembering them fills his heart “with pleasure”. Which daffodils “seem real”: the ones in the room, the ones that are being written about, the feelings evoked in the poem? The latter would lead us to believe that Bridehead Revisited is going to be one happy sensational memory. Instead, the “jocund company” the poet had found himself in turns out to be drunk and miserable. Upon departing on bad terms with Lady Marchmain, Charles initially thinks he is leaving behind an “illusion”, and entering “a world of three-dimension”, accessed by his “five senses”. (154) Now, at the time of writing, he has realized that there is “no such world” (154). What is the nature of this illusion? And how does a three-dimensional world perceived by the five senses not exist? And what does that tell us about sensations, reality, and the ultimate goal of revisiting Brideshead (which is in and of itself an inescapable representation?)? Tangentially, what are we to make of Charles’ unfinished paintings in the garden-room?

Moral of the story: you inspire me to keep time, write better, think more, and read manuals (kind of).

Lost in Translation

April 9, 2007

(couldn’t resist the obvious title. I apologise deeply.)

Continuing the thought of words without adequate translation in English, I would like to put the Italian verb incuriosire on the table. There is a precise translation for it, supposedly: to be intrigued. Unfortunately, though intrigue is another one of my favourite words, both as a noun and a verb, it lacks certain connotations of interest and nosiness that are part of what renders incuriosire one of my favourite verbs. As an incurable snoop, eavesdropper, and person who becomes overly excited about absolutely every new possibility presented to me * I need these connotations, and I need the linguistic link to curious. I am not intrigued when I am incuriosita by something. I am rendered curious. It is a far more concrete emotion, and it constantly frustrates me that I have to explain it so haltingly.

One of the things that saddens me about the English language is the lack of reflexive emotion verbs. This hasn’t quite gotten in the way of my passionate love affair with this delightfully awkward tongue, but there is just something unfortunate in the fact that one finds themself at a loss when looking for a way to say “to be made happy by”. My boyfriend, whose English is pretty bloody amazing, but who is afflicted with some rather adorable linguistic gaps (ahhh… pesky articles! How cute you are when left out or added at random!) occasionally asks me how one says such and such a thing in English. In the case of these reflexive verbs of emotion, I find myself instantly coming up with a precise translation in Italian, and then having to manage an unwieldy phrase in English, while steeling myself for the ensuing diatribe on why English is a stupid language. It’s not a stupid language, just apparently our illustrious Anglophone forebears did not find the need to quickly communicate that they were being made happy by something (I suppose one could say gladdened, but I dislike the word glad, so I’m still casting about for a better alternative). Learning Russian is an utter delight in this regard. One word for “to derive pleasure through looking” (lyubovat’sa… one of my absolute favourite words, also because it includes the root for love in it, which I just find wonderfully amusing). One word for “to fall out of love”. Their words have crazy little prefixes, which are insanely frustrating to learn, but then expand the potential vocabulary no end.

Interesting, though: there is no Russian word for privacy, in the sense of “I want my privacy.” There is lichnost’, but that means more something akin to personhood, not “get out of my space”. Nor is there one in Italian– people have just adopted the English word, pronounced with a glorious rolled r and Italianate i. I love discovering gaps like these, and thinking about what that says about a culture.

* See: My post on samizdat. I actually emailed my professor about that, and was given a massive bibliography to peruse. Hurrah! Now I might email another professor and see if I can get her to drop earthshattering insights on the book-as-art-form of all this.

I spend the day devoting a lot of thought to samizdat. In a nutshell, samizdat is the word used to describe the grassroots publication process that occurred during Soviet times. The term itself literally means “self-published”. People would pass around manuscripts that did not conform to Soviet standards of writing (such as The Master and Margarita… gee.) As far as I know, printing presses were far and between, and these operations were highly illegal, so these manuscripts were all basically a few copied typed out on typewriters, or mimeographed, or even handwritten. People receiving these were asked to make more copies and continue the distribution.

This subject came to mind during my Central European Lit class today, where it was explained that the book we were reading (The Questionnaire, by Jiri Grusa– a really fabulous Czech book) had initially been published entirely as samizdat. While the term was being explained to the members of the class who do not study matters Slavic, I started thinking about the changes this must have made to the way the recipients of these manuscripts viewed books as physical objects. As far as I can gather, in the most extreme form, these would be printed on extremely flimsy paper, bound with a paperclip or in some other haphazard way. You would get the book for a couple of days and then have to pass it on to your buddy Ivan or Andrei… all keeping this very much on the down-low, of course. If you could make extra copies, that would be great, but vast risks would also be incurred.

It’s interesting to think, coming from an utterly different perspective, how this would have affected your relationship with the book itself. We’re so used to thinking of writing either in terms of bound books, which are solid and dependable, or in terms of things you find on the Internet, which aren’t nearly as tangible, but still instantly accessible. Here, the object itself is so ephemeral, but also it seems that being so rare, and having this whiff of danger about it, these manuscripts would have had a much higher symbolic meaning to the people who managed to get their hands on copies. There’s no real way to replicate this to the fullest today– what with the lack of living under a totalitarian regime, and all that, but I’d love to see an art project designed along these lines, just to see how people would interact with works printed on something this fleeting.

Hmmm…..

(The title is a famous quote from Master and Margarita. I found it circumstantially fitting.)