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!


Late night

December 4, 2008

Just back from an evening with a friend. Bad bad bad BAD Korean food up near Columbia– I had to complain and have my dish taken away, because the smell of it was making me queasy. I never make a fuss in restaurants, but this was really disgusting. Replaced with dolsot bibimbap. Rice + vegetable yumminess + an egg = great happiness. The evening was further redeemed by red bean ice cream and good conversation in the lounge of her dorm, to the strains of someone apparently giving a private piano concerto. Three hours of background music. It gave our maunderings on about life, the Meaning Of It All, and the necessity of winning the lottery because we hate being so relatively poor the feeling of participating in some indie movie, probably French due to the length and earnestness of the conversation. The effect was odd, but lovely.

People-watching was good today. This morning, a woman on the subways with a strangely small face and hands, clutching a green backpack with “KATTY!” scrawled across it in flourescent pink above the doodle of a a cat face. She sat quietly while on the bench waiting for our train to come, but the instant the subway doors closed, she started rapping, narrating the stories of all the passengers as they sat on the train. I tragically couldn’t hear all of mine, but there was something about “sitting there all proper” as I read. She kept on rapping as she walked out the door three stops later

Next came a sweet old man with a stutter and a facial tic selling pictures at a craft fair I went to with a friend during a lunch break. I bought a print; he confessed I was his first sale all day. Such a dear man.

There were other great encounters too. I’m just too tired to recall them. Correct spelling can be an issue. Bedtime for Bonzo. Ooh! Just heard drunk people in the street. Fun times.

Ah. Yes. And the word I like best today is bombastic. In its honour, I leave you this video:

Hide and Seek

December 2, 2008

Victoria Beckham, object of one of my more intense girlcrushes, has proven herself to be amazing in her very own peculiar batshit-crazy way yet again. Lend an eye to the video that she’s made for her new dress collection.

Alas, I am not able to embed it, but the link ought to take you to the grand, surreal world of her artistic vision. A few notes:

-Firstly, I adore all the dresses. I’m rather scared to think what they might look like on one who is on the more traditionally curvy side (ie. not possessed of boy-hips, and having natural breasts instead of alien-looking silicone balloons), but if properly executed, they could possibly be pretty universally flattering. Of course, they’ll invariably only go up to a size 6. And cost hundreds of pounds. Sigh.

-Secondly, I found it hard to concentrate on the dresses because I was so charmed by the setting! I want to move in there right now. Nothing better than a big old house, complete with glorious jewel-toned wall colours. Subtract a couple of paintings from the walls and I’d be ready to move right in.

-Most of all, though, how much fun must it have been to shoot this video? Playful surrealist hide and seek in gorgeous clothes in a beautiful setting. Bliss!


Unrelated: language lesson of the day: Proper use of the word “comprise”.


March 28, 2008

Evenings in are the best, which I suppose is good because there are so many of them. Recipe for happiness on a night that’s uneventful, but where we are simultaneously so twitchy and unfocused that friendly sniping grows dangerously close to reality and computers have to be abandoned? 15 minutes for pasta with spinach and ricotta (mmm), 45 minutes spent researching horses, Clydesdales in particular for their enormous feet (the size of dinner plates!) and general hilarity, for the imaginary house we will buy or build once a winning lottery ticket is found. 30 minutes of manic work, then 2 hours watching Castle in the Sky, which is yet another environment-touting Miyazaki animation that I loved with a childlike abandon. He wasn’t so sold on it, as he’s a little less able to abandon basic rationality and not question things, such as: Why does the bad technological part of the castle have to be destroyed? My answer: because the baddie is there, of course. And because technology and weapons are EVIL. Duhhhh. He: not convinced. Anyway, we sat there, me knitting on the sock I bring out for our movie sessions, and him vaguely simultaneously reading a poker book. He was actually watching the movie, but his eyes instantly shot back to it whenever I caught him dedicating masses of attention to the screen.

So yes, a humdrum day, but a good one. Before the evening, my main joy for the day was wearing a pretty blue dress and finding my pearl earrings. The punctuations alternated good/bad, but the overall effect was good. Now there are drums playing somewhere along Mass Ave. It would be tremendously annoying, but it’s somehow adding to my general state of pleasure. Hurray for pocket-sized happiness.

And on a side note, my favourite word for the day is  humdrum. I enjoy the fact that it rhymes, and I just really like writing it. I think it would also be delightful to see a man with a large walrus moustache and a pince-nez repeating it to himself under his breath.

Word for the day

November 29, 2007

Incunabulum– a book that was printed, not handwritten, before 1501.  The word has a glorious weight to it, reminiscent of the painful process (though significantly less painful than that of copying these tomes out by hand.) of printing at the very beginning of the Gutenberg era. I love the thought that, though these bookmakers (mainly monks, I presume) considered themselves innovators of the time, the word is so wonderfully antiquated. Plural: incunabula. Hurray for words that are just blatantly unchanged from Latin!

And yes, I am a dork.

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 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
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).

April 11, 2007

Les Vampires (1915)

First of all, F E E L B E T T E R ! ! ! I can empathize. It would be so much easier to attribute one’s “odd appearance” to having a train run over you, as Irma Vep does here. Tangentially, it’s nice that she gets paid… I like how at the end of her day, this vampire diva dives into the moshpit of her “Howling Cat” haunt…
See minute 5:39 for some vampire wild, black rimmed eyes and flared nostrils…

Anyway, thought progression behind all this = your Amy Winehouse description made me think of this French movie with Jean-Pierre Léaud (the very grown up kid from 400 Blows) that I had seen in a class on French Cinema: Irma Vep (1996). The whole movie is about a director filming a remake of Louis Feuillade’s original Les Vampires episodes, of which this is an extract.

Hopefully not a jejune attempt to comment your post (and use the word jejune in a sentence).

1. without interest or significance; dull; insipid: a jejune novel.
2. juvenile; immature; childish: jejune behavior.
3. lacking knowledge or experience; uninformed: jejune attempts to design a house.
4. deficient or lacking in nutritive value: a jejune diet.

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.


April 8, 2007

…is one of my favorite words, and yet I can find no adequate translation for it into English:
1. unusual adj. 2. uncommon adj. 3. atypical adj., so sayeth the dictionaries.

I first came to love the word while reading the French magazine Courrier International. Claire Maupas founded a column for quirky, offbeat news, which has since become a full page spread, special edition publications and a concept: Insolites. This artist/pianist/cycler extraordinaire has made it her job for the past twenty years to scout out ‘incredible but true’ stories, that somehow illuminate an aspect of society and the world at large.
Eg: escaped US militarized dolphins on the loose in the Gulf of Mexico post-hurricane Katrina, McDonald’s being upset over the 2001 OED definition of the term “McJob”, coined by the Washington Post, the pink building exclusively reserved for women in Dubai, equipped with its own exclusively female, pink taxi service, or that at the Malpensa airport in Milan, the control tower lost communications with pilots for a while, hearing instead the local hit parade music radio station…

Insolite can also be applied to travel: seeking to avoid touristy areas in favor of something more unique, more authentic, a potentially life-altering experience… losing yourself in a new city, picking your next turn arbitrarily and exploring… I remember how happy I was to come across the Cafe-Bar Abades and the Casa de Pilatos in Seville. Or the Istituto Italo-LatinoAmericano in Venice, or that gem of a bookstore.

I like to think of “insolite” as more than just a word. I see it as an outlook, a sensibility and ultimately a pleasure-finding way of life.

April 7, 2007

Ladytron – Playgirl

The term for a song stuck in your head is an earworm. A slightly gross word, yes, but I do like the image of the little song-worm (this would be a worm of the cute cartoon variety, not of the 21-metre tapeworm style) dancing around in your head to the song that it’s gotten stuck in there so thoroughly. It would wear little blue headphones and gave big black eyes. I think it would also have a grey ribbed hat. Someday I will draw this little earworm and its true cuteness will be comprehended. I think his name might be Doramund. I’m a sucker for antiquated-sounding names.

Anyway, today Doramund delivered unto me this Ladytron song, which had the effect of making me dance jerkily in whatever I seat I was occupying for the majority of the day. Of course, I spent much of the day in bed, so it wasn’t a problem. It was only later, when I met relatives for dinner, that the desire for robotic dancing aroused in me by the song (and by my crush on Ladytron) caused me any discomfort. Ah well.

Conclusion to Tragic Sock Loss of yesterday: Boyfriend dearest laughed at me, but then offered to obtain a pile of striped kneesocks to help my pain. Pronounced stri-PED, not merely striped.