Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Love Poem in Tensor Algebra

As promised, many posts ago, from Stanislaw Lem's Cyberiad.

A Love Poem in Tensor Algebra

Come let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!

Come, every frustum longs to be a cone,
And ever vector dreams of matrices,
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I’ll grant thee random access to my hear,
Thou’lt tell me all the constants of they love;
And s we two shall all love’s lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens, and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not—for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converge, O lips divine!
The product of our scalers is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
Cuts capers like a happy Haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in they sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a2 cos 2 f!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A new blog

I've added a new blog. I'm going to try to post there every day, but only on hats. I hope you enjoy it.

www.ahataday.blogspot.com

Saturday, May 27, 2006

There are no coincidences or once again about throughlines

Last night we saw "V for Vendetta" and I was going to come home and blog about it, but went to bed instead and then tonight, we watched "Everything is Illuminated" and once again as with "History of Violence" and "The Devil's Backbone" I realized that despite being extremely different films, they have similar through lines. They are both excellent films.

"V for Vendetta" is one of my husband's all time favorite graphic novels so he was afraid to see what Hollywood (and the Wachowski brothers) had done with it. Look at the travesty that is "Constantine" or the muddle that was made of Allan Moore's "From Hell" and the absolute disaster that was "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Allan Moore had his name removed from the film which is never a good sign.
Fortunately we were very pleasantly surprised. While certain elements were changed, like "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," and "Lord of the Rings," the essence was retained. It is heavyhanded as critics have pointed out, but no more so than the source, but I found the violence relatively restrained, esp. since there are so many more scenes in the graphic novel that could have been filmed to make an "Action" flick. The British actors--Stephen Fry, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, etc. are excellent and Portman, well she's better than she's been in awhile. The message of that last little inch of ourselves that can never be taken, only given away remains.

Interestingly this is a similar message to Liev Schreiber's "Everything is Illuminated." This is actor Schreiber's first effort as a director and it's a startlingly beautiful film with some camera cuts that are just breathtaking, from the yellow Jewish star to the eye of a Nazi looking down his gun for one example. The character who allowed that last inch to be taken finally finds redemption by letting go and two characters who didn't even know that such bravery is needed in the world become better people. Because it was on DVD, I watched the deleted scenes which were very funny (did I mention that this film about the Holocaust and personal discovery is very, very, very funny?) in a surreal black comedy kind of way. I believe that these scenes are true to the unusual quality of the novel, but I agree with their being cut for the tone of the film. It was like a Wim Wenders film by way of Fellini. One of Wenders older films, called "Im Lauf der Zeit" or In the Course of Time (strangely titled in English--Kings of the Road) is about a road trip across Germany by two near strangers. There is tremendous sense of that here except that ILdZ is 3 hours long and this is a spare 1 hour 46 min. and yet each is exactly the length they need to be.

As an added sideline, Elijah Wood (whose startingly large eyes are made even larger by thick glasses) is quite perfect as the scared of life collector. He saves things in plastic bags and says when asked that he does it because he is afraid he won't remember. He takes objects--his grandmother's false teeth when she dies for instance--where others might take photos. I too keep objects over photos. I didn't have a film camera at my wedding and people asked me why. I had read and agreed that with a film eventually all you remember is what is contained within the film. Photos are marginally better, but an object like a Proustian smell can bring back (for me at least) the whole feeling of a time and a moment. I have scrapbooks (not in the surburban hobbiest kind of way that is popular now), just as a container where I randomly place flat objects--ticket stubs, programs, cards, tags from gifts, even bits of wrapping paper--and shoeboxes where I put the non-flat objects that I don't need to leave out on a counter--old pins, jewelry I no longer wear but was a gift, etc. As I hold them I remember moment.

Others on Da Vinci

"Who was married at the feast of Cana? Repetitions are magic keys. Of course, I've compiled; but compiling the truth is the initiate's right. Here is my interpretation: Jesus was not crucified, and for that reason the Templars denied the Crucifix. The legend of Joseph of Arimathea covers a deeper truth: Jesus, not the Grail, landed in France, among the cabalists of Provence. Jesus is the metaphor of the King of the World, and true founder of the Rosicrucians. And who landed with Jesus? His wife. In the Gospels why aren't we told who was married at Cana? It was the wedding of Jesus, and it was a wedding that could not be discussed, because the bride was a public sinner, Mary Magdalene. That's why, ever since, all the Illuminati from Simon Magus to Postel seek the principle of the eternal feminine in a brothel. And Jesus, meanwhile, was the founder of the royal line of France.""Nobody would take that seriously," Diotallevi said."On the contrary, it would sell a few hundred thousand copies..."-from Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum," pages 376-377

I was roaming the blogosphere in an effort to add to my karma (equivalent exchange or I look at yours, someone will come look at mine) and found that many people agreed with my dislike of "The Da Vinci Code" esp. when compared with a masterpiece like "Foucault's Pendulum." Found this great quote above, which led me back to rereading it since I actually haven't read it for at least 10 years and I suspect more like 15. Loving it so far, but feeling stupid for how much I don't know. Perhaps as a teenager I thought that I would someday know more.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Madame Bovary

A few posts back for "Mara and Dann" I mentioned that Madame Bovary makes it to the end of the world and I was sad about that since I think it's a terrible novel, then I realized I shouldn't make that statement since I haven't actually read the book--I believe in as much as one is able, one shouldn't criticize things one has not investigated, within reason. I don't need to see child porn or commit murder to know it's wrong, but in the case of art one should give oneself at least one to five minutes of contemplation before turning it off or shutting the book. So I read Madame Bovary this week. It's a beautifully written novel (well, the translation is--I wasn't brave enough to read it in French, and it would take the next two years). I suspect the original is beautiful as well, full of delicate descriptions of clothing and furnishings (he seemed quite fascinated by hats for instance). I enjoyed the contrast between French novels and British novels of the same period. You wouldn't find women having men to their rooms in Austen or Dickens or Trollope. My fundamental problem with M. Bovary has nothing to do with Flaubert but with the interpretation that has been placed upon the novel today. Flaubert has written a tragedy--a deeply flawed character surrounded by other weak people makes an inevitable descent into tragic action ending in death--think Othello, Lear, Hamlet, Oedipus. Death is the only possible conclusion. She is a warning. What she seems to have become in lit. studies is a feminist heroine. Woman trapped by society in loveless marriage uses the only power she has, her sex, to make herself free. Which might be true if she was pushed into marriage, she isn't, she has every choice she just chooses a dull man. Then looking for romance she finds sex, and when the initial passion dies she blames the lover, never seeing that love takes work. Just as she is mislead by the stories that she reads of happy ever after into thinking that such love is possible in life, so are women of today misled by the mini-series of Bovary (I suspect very few people are actually reading the novel).
I realize within myself that I am misogynistic. I forgive men far more than I forgive women and so I do not forgive M. Bovary. I do feel sorry for her, but she is incapable of feeling anything for the people around her--her husband, her child, even really her lovers because they are just illusions--in fact she likes them less the more they are present and that I cannot forgive. Because of certain events in my own life I cannot and will not believe that "LOVE" excuses everything. We always have minds, clothing does not just melt away, there is always a moment to think of other people. Not that I believe that one should stay in a miserable marriage, but if you are leaving, have the courage to say that you are leaving.
Beyond that, along with my own misogyny I know that I sometimes am like her--never to her extent, but I have spent too much to console myself, I have resented others because they are unable to give me what I am missing, but I believe that these are traits I should be trying to overcome, not worshiping.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sweet Jesus, what a terrible film

I went to see "The DaVinci Code" last night. I almost never see movies in theaters and I NEVER see movies on their opening weekend (although I tried to see "Serenity" but missed it), but a friend of whom I am very fond called and asked if I wanted to go. She'd read the book and enjoyed it. I had meant to read the book before I went, but couldn't find a copy in libraries (not that I was that surprised) and I wasn't spending money on it. I did take another friend who also hadn't read it, and I knew would be ready to laugh at it if necessary.
Perhaps I went in with the wrong attitude. I knew it had already been panned. I certainly knew the central premise and I really didn't want to like it, because as I said afterwards, I've enjoyed movies with huge plot holes before--I like Bond films for instance and they seldom add up when you think about them afterwards. As a side note, I've always regretted that I knew what Rosebud was by the time I saw "Citizen Kane." By the time I saw "Apocalypse Now" I'd seen so many parodies of it I found it funny.

I was going to write a full review, but I looked at some 'professional' reviews earlier and everything I wanted to say has been said. The historical flash backs look like Cecil B. DeMille clips, the actors are stilted and boring, the editing is nearly nauseating and pointless and the music is almost vomit inducing. Some fans wrote and said that it would be confusing if you hadn't read the book--HOW? when Howard and the music signal every bad guy, every plot point, everything at every turn. If you didn't know everything virtually 2 scenes in, you haven't read enough or even watched enough movies. I feel deeply sorry for Paul Bettany who gives a staggering performance DESPITE the cheesy editing and lame lines with a monstrous character. If you want to see Bettany do this performance in a good movie see "Gangster Number One," a low budget British film with David Thewlis that still makes me shudder. This film is pure Ron Howard schmaltz. I leaned over to my friend who'd read it at one point and whispered, "Does the book presume we're all idiots as well?" Afterwards she agreed that that was something that had bugged her while reading. The best part of the film for me was seeing my new car on the streets of Paris--now that's a bad film.

On to the script itself. Now, I haven't read it, and books are generally better than films, and I'm told some significant things are changed near the end, but my God! Are we really supposed to believe that this dying museum curator managed to stagger around the Louvre writing things in invisible ink and blood. Does the Louvre have NO laser beams, triggers, GUARDS? I believe that The Mona Lisa herself is surrounded by a cage of lasers at ALL times. Ooo! Fibonacci numbers--great secret, wow! Not if you've ever studied art, math, or botany. The puzzles just kept going down hill from there. I can understand how some people who don't remember any of their education might be thrilled by this, but anyone who regularly plays puzzles on line where you have to find the next url to solve the puzzle could not find this exciting. Maybe it's where I live (near MIT), but I can't imagine why this book is such a best seller. There were apparently no guards or curators at any of the historical sites they visited, and having been to some of them I can tell you that just ain't true. And the puzzle on the box--in English? Please!

When I think of the underrated great historical novels where the details are perfect, nothing is dumbed down, AND the characters are still fascinating I just want to weep. "Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Ecco and "Declare" by Tim Powers to name but two. But they're a little hard to read and follow--you have to concentrate--so they've never made it to the top of the BEST SELLER list.

As to the central premise--I understand the controversy, but for myself, the question is not whether Jesus had siblings, or fathered children, but that he could transcend death--be the son of God. And leaving a blood line on earth is not proof that he didn't or proof that he did. He was not a God in the Greek or Roman sense--super strong, throwing thunderbolts, but a MAN born OF divinity who was resurrected BY his Heavenly Father. I believe he had blisters, snot and excrement, worried, stressed, wished the burden would be lifted from him. Even cursed and maybe even had sex with his wife--as God made man and woman and sex, but was perfect in his ability to forgive and accept forgiveness.

And if you can believe that, then nothing else matters at all.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mrs. Henderson Presents

Lovely, just lovely. Wonderfully British, stiff upper lip, eccentricity, what? Also sort of an hommage to the musical revue films like "Bandwagon" where one song with different costumes represents a change of time. Sweetly touching as well--the agony of those who lost in WWI--the war to end all wars, which didn't--facing WWII. A lovely message about finding joy in spite of it all, in spite of human frailities.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mara and Dann

Once there was a fantastic literary newsletter loosely affiliated with a book store here in Boston and one of it's features was the First Line Quiz. You didn't win anything but acclaim and a listing, but it was still fun. The internet of course made it easy to win if you wanted to win like that but I didn't. When I guessed as I did twice I was thrilled with myself. The lines I won on were from "1984" and "Canticle for Leibowitz." It made me realize I have a great fondness for (and collection of) Dystopian literature, specifically as in the case of Canticle post-apocalyptic. Where are we going, what will it be like, what will be similar to now, what will they think of us?

Mara and Dann is by the great Doris Lessing. Lessing has enough cache for the literary snobs to try and ignore the sci-fi elements of her stories by pointing out that they are social commentary disguised as sci-fi. Well, duh. All good literature is social commentary of some kind. They do the same to Atwood and to P.D. James. Mara and Dann are brother and sister in a far distant future where life above the Mediterranean is impossible because of ice and the bottom of "Ifrik" where they life is turning to unlivable desert. It borrows from ancient myths as well as being (of course) an indictment of our own policies and practices. Some of her details are hard to follow (a race that is identical--some remnants of genetics?) but others are so carefully studied, like the changing of language. Once there was a land called Yerrup. There is another great land mass called South Imirk.) I was a little alarmed to learn that they were telling each other stories of Mam Bova, Ankrena, and a boy called Jull who loved a boy called Rom. I think the first two two of the worst novels to be put on pedestals and R & J one of the lesser Shakespearean plays, but they probably will survive.

I was a little wary to be reading this so soon after reading an Atwood, since I find their styles and themes to be similar, but this is everything The Penelopiad was not. The characters are alien to me, but I felt for them and understood them, and knew why they behaved as they did. In many ways this was similar to "Riddley Walker" by Russell Hoban (who writes mind-bending sci-fi, weird young adult novels, and sweet children's books). Part of the fun of RW was to try and guess what the mutated words might be. One I loved was the belief that Hamlets must have been small pigs. Punch and Judy is seen as a religious ritual. RW is also on a journey to find a better place to live and he wanders through a decimated Britain, a flooded London, a south-east still radioactive after (by his reckoning) 2,000 years. In both books they gaze at our broken and dead machines and cannot fathom the people who made such wondrous things and then destroyed themselves with them. They believe it must be a kind of madness. And yet, the needs that drive them are not different from ours--to understand more, to learn, to find a place where you belong and you are safe.

Elizabeth George and Inspector Lynley

I read a new Inspector Lynley mystery. I enjoy watching mysteries, but I read very few because so many mystery novels are dreadful. If I can guess who did it early on I'm pretty annoyed, and I get tired of series where the "whodunit" is the whole point. Elizabeth George walks a fine line--I usually enjoy her and find the stories thought provoking. I think she's getting better as a writer. She has a fairly straightforward style and her novels seem very structured. This was confirmed when I read her book on writing (what is seriously becoming a sub-genre--I've read several). She plots everything out completely. Then she gets the details. Then she forms the structure so that the chapters end with cliffhangers. It shows. Sometimes it's a little too formulaic. Contrast that with Stephen King who talks about getting some "What if" idea in his head or some image and then he just starts writing and sees where it goes. If I was trapped on a deserted island I'd rather have a Stephen King. For some reason this book was particularly overwritten. It could have been shorter by at least a third and not have suffered at all. For one thing she got stuck on the detail level. She's an American writer living in and writing about Britain. This book was full of very careful descriptions of how to get from point A to point B in London during rush hour. One or two of these would have been fine, but every single time a character traveled the streets and traffic conditions were described. She also seemed to lean a bit heavily on pointless simile--fairly cliched metaphor, "Like Cinderella without a ball to go to." I mean really.
I realize it seems a bit silly for me to criticize her for the length of her book while praising Stephen King, but somehow (with a few exceptions) I find Stephen's metaphors to be fresh and his books are as long as they need to be. It the case of "The Dark Tower" series I would have liked them to have gone on longer.
One strange thing is that this book had a scene that was in the televised version of the Lynley's last year in a different story--I'm still puzzled as to why that should be. The one thing that she does do well is to find true motivations for her characters and the tragedy is deeply painful and perfectly rendered.

Isn't it funny how a thousand words can be too few and ten words to many depending on the story, the style and the message?

Of interest to my friends

I checked out a book from the library on people who have too many interstes. The author called them scanners which is unfortunate--she clearly must not have seen the film. I didn't find much to help me but it was an interesting premise. It was saying that those of us who are constantly starting something new and then moving on to something else, have too many interests, dread the idea of doing anything over and over for the rest of our lives are a certain type--like Ben Franklin or DaVinci, Renaissance people and that we should stop beating ourselves up over the projects we leave behind.

"The Aristocrats"

We watched "The Aristocrats" last weekend--the documentary by Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller, not the BBC costume drama. It was painfully funny and dreadfully obscene and put some images in my head that I'd rather were not there, but it was an interesting look at the world of comedians and a study of shock and humor and taboo. The parts I liked best were when the joke was twisted on it's ear. If you haven't heard it's about a joke that is as scatalogical and shocking as possible with a punch line, "The Aristocrats!" I man walks into a talent agent and says, 'I have an act for you' and proceeds to describe or perform (depending on the telling) the most vile, depraved, disgusting acts imaginable and when it's over, the agent says, "What do you call yourselves?" Ba da bam! The variation was to perform a very genteel act and then say, "We're called the C*ock-Suck*ing Mo*therfu*ck*ers." (Highlight to read). Part of the point was to look at what's shocking--it needed to be tasteless but tastes vary. VERY, VERY UN-PC. The writers of The Onion sat around trying to think of what could be thrown in to make it worse--scatalogical black face was mentioned. Part of it was to look at how context--who tells it and where--makes the joke. The squeaky clean Bob Saget was touted as giving (and gave) one of the most vile. Some of the women comedians tried to inject a slight level of feminism. Whoopie Goldberg's was the most delightful for the cringes it probably causes men (as does Puppetry of the Penis). Sarah Silverman and Rita Rudner gave versions which were very true to their acts. Hearing Emo Phillips and Stephen Wright do it with their particular voices was just weird.

So what is shocking? What is a word after all, but a metaphor for something else and if we disconnect it from it's meaning can it still be shocking? A few years ago I wrote an essay about reclaiming the "C" word (you know for female anatomy). I had to say it in a play, wanted to say it to someone in life and designed a show where a character was named that in short succession. It's just a word the character points out in the last play. What will it mean when/if words no longer have the power to shock?

On the intoxication of fame

It certainly was odd, the way people again and again exected him to step into some space in their imaginations, fit into their dreams.--Doris Lessing, The Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog

I was reading Mara and Dann (see post above), and its sequel and had L'Arc~en~Ciel's "Light My Fire" tour running in the backgroud, glancing up now and then to watch Hyde sing when I read that phrase. Watching Hyde on "Milky Way" as the Japanese crowd moves in unison, I thought about how intoxicating it must be to be rock stars--more even than actors, for the size of the crowd completely in your hands, worshipping you. No wonder it's so hard to give up, witness The Rolling Stones. Hyde so clearly loves to be loved by the thousands of fans--he controls them completely and yet he thinks he should be left alone in private. Sorry, Baby, Gods don't get to stop being Gods when they walk off stage. We have too much invested. You fill too many needs for us to just let you be some guy trying to grab his lunch. I keep returning to the quote from Infinite Jest about all of us dying to give ourselves away. Why? Why are human brains wired like this? The object of need may change, but the need remains the same throughout time. Is it really as C.S. Lewis believed a questing after God himself? Because the human will always let us down.

We keep putting our trust in things that rust, and then we feel the pain of loss--James (the band), "Stripmining"

Like the fans who are actually angry that the band's sound changed, or that Hyde got married. I remember reading John Taylor of Duran Duran saying that some of the fans didn't think that they (Duran) went to the bathroom. A moment I love in "Light My Fire" is backstage when Hyde is biking. He loves to bike and you can see how free he feels. I love the moments when he's most human, scars and pimples and all, since in the studio photos he's almost ethereal, but even those moments are not quite real. The camera is still running. The girlfriends (boyfriends), wives, etc. are not in frame. These are no more (or less) the real Hyde than reading Sakura x Hyde moments into "Fobidden Lover." The voice is the most real, but would I love it so much if it was coming out of an ugly face? Do I think too much?

Someone is perfect for you. Do you want to bet your life you're going to be perfect for them too?--Duran Duran "When Mars Meets Venus"




Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Friends

I've added a few links to the side. I'm still trying to pass it on--go out, read more blogs, help forge links. Musing and Red Queen I've written about before. DMZ is someone I've never met, but he's a Vietnamese adoptee like me and he's roaming Vietnam at the moment, trying to... well, I'm not sure what all he's trying to do, but find his roots is a major part of it. The pictures are fantastic and I wish I could make that journey.

Joe and Karen are equity actors in Boston. Joe is my director for Eugene. I costumed them both in "Blinders" (the bottom middle picture on Joe's site) and built the set. Jeff was the lighting designer on "Far Away," the show of 50 hats. He has some great pictures of my hats and I just really like the way he set up his site (don't know if he programmed it, or hired someone).

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me--Greenday

Some days my head is like a word association game, some days it's Trivial Pursuit.

This poor post has a history of it's own. First I posted it instead of saving it as a draft. Then I wrote it all and lost it when I tried to spell check. Hmmm.

A few weeks ago I walked into the family room where my husband was channel surfing and looking at one frame said, "Sabrina?" (original, of course, not the remake). And it wasn't Audrey Hepburn or Bogart or even William Holden. It wasn't one of the famous scenes--the cooking school, the tennis court, just an old character actor in the boardroom. My husband said, "How do you know that?" Me: "I knew it from the boardroom." I haven't seen Sabrina since I was a teenager. The designer in me, I guess.

I got a piece of spam with a chunk of text in the body and I knew from the first few lines it was from The Hobbit. A book I haven't read since my teens. Let me also mention it said nothing about elves or orcs or hobbits. It was about a sluice gate.

We were listening to a radio show from 1985 and the theme music sounded so familiar to both of us, but it never used the vocal. In the middle of the night it came to me after working through it in my head--it was from the time when all the British bands decided they needed a brass section, easy listening ska, somewhere after Madness but before Living Color. I also thought we owned it. I thought it might be "Love is the 7th Wave", but N (my husband) hates 'String' so we thought it must not be that. Finally, "Right By Your Side," The Eurythmics--from the only Eurythmics album I don't have on disc. (Had on cassette but never found a CD replacement). I had to get up and check downloads to make sure I was right.

Sometimes I have to work through the random associations--this can be frustrating to people talking to me. In the animated show "Pinky and the Brain" the Brain would say, "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" and Pinky would inevitably come out with some impossible non-sequitur like, "Yes, but lederhosen chaffes me so." One great episode took place in Pinky's brain and we saw how some random word of the Brains would run through random associations in Pinky's so that, "But what if the hippo doesn't want to wear the bikini?" made perfect sense. My head is like that. I was playing a game online where you find hidden objects in a picture (harder than it sounds) and I found myself humming "Everybody's doing the Michigan Rag." If you don't know it, it's the song that gave Michigan J. Frog his name. My husband and many of our friends would know the name of the cartoon, but I don't seem to be able to hold things like that in my head. Anyway, I couldn't think why until I realized that in the picture there was a little frog sculpture next to the sheet music for "Maple Leaf Rag." There you go.

Isn't it funny how the mind works? I would say I have good visual memory, and yet I have trouble with people's faces. Maybe I'm so self-centered I don't see other people, but I don't actually believe that. My father worked very hard on remembering people's names and faces--he felt it was a courtesy to the other person and he was right, a kindness that we would want for ourselves. Maybe it's because so few people manage to remember how to pronounce my name. My mother used to say that I shouldn't worry about people mispronouncing my name, but it always hurt.

I would say I have a good memory for words too, but sometimes I go aphasic--when I'm designing for instance. It's like I turn off one part of my mind for awhile. I was painting a set and some friends were helping me. I couldn't remember the words "Paint." I ended up making a gesture of painting. I was checking a reference at my HR job. I was supposed to say, "I'd like to ask you a few questions about X." What came out was "I'd like to question X a few," or something like it, and for a moment I had to really concentrate to put the words in the right order. When I get really tired I start to lose words and say something that starts with the same letter or rhymes, like church or hair for chair. It scares me.

I don't think I have a good memory for music, which is why I was so excited that I figured out the theme song. One of my bosses can sing or play any song he's ever heard that he likes. He knows it's a gift, but I don't know if he realizes how extraordinary it is.

I was thinking that I have very little physical memory--kinesthetic but I type and sometimes I can do things on the computer or in sewing without thinking about it, in fact start to screw up if I think about it too much--like parallel parking.

There's much study going on these days to try and identify the ways we learn and what kinds of memory we have in the belief that it will help to teach children better. But how do you teach math kinesthetically? If you teach them how to tap a calculator in a certain way, they may be stumped when they have to go beyond what they've entered before.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

On Atwood's the Penelopiad

Well, didn't love it. The narrator (Penelope) is annoying--whiny and weak. I think Atwood is aware of this, but I am unsure why we should care, or how this is new. She does speculate on the nature of Odysseus as trickster as in Lewis Hyde's "Trickster Makes the World." We love our tricksters in fiction--witness Sawyer on "Lost" but in reality I think con artists should get the death penalty. They destroy lives with complete malice aforethought, there is seldom going to be any confusion as to who they are, and they do it for money and power and nothing else. But we do love those who get money and power and so the con artist is venerated.

Having said that, it is nice to see her tread the same paths that I did in reading the Greek myths--see below. If we consider mythic heroes as real flesh & blood people who, sweat and have hang-nails, I find the interactions even more fascinating. In the same way as considering Jesus as I guy with way too much to live up to.

Monday, May 01, 2006

More on language

I had a stroll down memory lane this weekend and bought a used CD of Depeche Mode's "Music for the Masses." This was an album (cassette) I shared with my high school boyfriend--(TMI alert!) I suppose it was the closest thing to a "make-out" tape we had. Which is kind of creepy when you think about the songs--"Never Let Me Down Again," "Strangelove," "Behind the Wheel," "I Want you Now." We were actually pretty normal. I also bought the new (newish) Cure CD. I bought it specifically for one song, though I like others. The song is called, "The End of the World." It got a little air play around the beginning of last year. In it Robert Smith sings, "I couldn't ever love you more," and within the song the phrase means both there was a limit to his love (he couldn't bring himself to love someone more), and that there was no limit to his love (it wasn't possible to love someone more). It's just amazing how the words can mean both things--tragic within the song, of course--but fascinating in terms of English and how it works.

I don't know enough of any other language to know if these paradoxes exist there as well. I know English is touted as an especially tricky language in terms of nuance. Comedian/writer Stephen Fry did a very funny sketch a very long time ago with Hugh Laurie (he of the show "House", though true fans know him better as Prince George) about whether the inherent irony in English prevented it from being used effectively as propaganda i.e. Germany and the German language.

I know that English has more descriptive words than most languages, probably because it's made up of all the other languages, and yet, there are still things that seem untranslatable--gemuchlichite (sp.) for instance, genki. Close but not quite. My husband likes Japanese writers and said once that he would like to learn Japanese because the translations seem so dry. I said that from the little I learned, the language IS very spare. It has one word for blue and green! The depth is all in the understanding of the references. There's a great Star Trek:The Next Gen. story called Darmok about a race that speaks almost entirely in cultural reference. Darmok on Gilad, for instance is understood to be an important test. Shaka, when the walls fell--a failure. As the world becomes so large that cultural reference is lost, will we still be able to talk to one another?

What We Know

I scrawled epics
When first I began to write,
Gorged blank pages
With things I had never seen:
The sea, the city, and sex,

Hearsay I had culled
Of the sea, cities, and sex
From other people.
And so my words were shadows,
Translations of translations.


(The concept and phrase, "... translations of translations..." borrowed from James Baldwin

It's not my fault

Why is it so consoling after a near miss on the highway to see the other driver tailgate others or weave in and out? To think, "Oh, they're a jerk and a danger to everyone--it wasn't me.