Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Another cheap (but cool) post

Cheap for me, cool for content.
(I thought of all sorts of things to post about stuck in traffic, late for an apt.--in fact, a couple of days worth--and all are gone as I sit here.)

So here is a link to David's brilliant invention


Monday, July 30, 2007


I would love to say that I don't use cliches, but I'm sure that a quick perusal of old posts would reveal me a liar. The everyday cliches don't bother me--partially because there is a slight sense of irony about it. The ones that put my teeth on edge are business ones and now I am in the corporate world. My company has two that seem to be required--"in the weeds" and "drill down" as in, "I don't think we need to get in the weeds of that program. You'll only need it once in a while," and "I look up the client and then I can drill down to get account details." I've even heard the bizarre combination of "get down in the weeds and drill in." ??? Drill into the weeds?
[Side note: On the summer mini-series "The Starter Wife" which I caught sporadically, mainly for the divine Judy Davis, Debra Messing's character is speaking with her lover and she worries about the speed of their relationship by saying, "What if it seems like we're reading the same page but one of us reads faster and is ready to turn the page and the other isn't?" Her lover says, "What if I'm dyslexic?" She says, "Are you dyslexic." He says, "No, I just wanted to torture the metaphor some more."]
I've always hated "on the same page." Hate it, hate it, hate it. I can agree with you, follow you, understand you, etc., but we are NOT on the same page. I once made a list of alternatives--clicking the same link, on the same URL, vibrating at the same frequency, anything. I think it's the follow along mentality of it that bothers me--the boss says it, so everyone else follows. It's also the overuse of one or two phrases. I may use cliches but I don't use the same cliches all the time. I worked for a woman who used to drive me mad by never starting a project until she "had her ducks in a row." Both the use of the phrase and the procrastination it entailed.

One that I keep hearing and it's use is expanding (no puns intended) is "footprint," as in, "What kind of footprint is GM leaving on the rain forest." That is the way I first heard it. I've since heard it to describe both tangible objects, "Those new flat screen monitors have a really small footprint on the desk," and intangible objects, "I don't like how much of a footprint Adobe programs leave when they're running." ???
I understand the first usage--as in an imprint left behind, like a footprint. I don't quite get the same image from an object sitting there--existing there. In my days in retail merchandising that would have been what we called "real estate," as in "Those little objects take up a lot of real estate with not much return." In other words, to push the metaphor, they don't pay enough rent for the space.
So, why do we use cliche's--to have a common language? A verbal shorthand? Laziness? or precision?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Is this the correct usage of the word ironic?

I'm never sure.

Anyway--the big boss at my organization has decided that guerrilla (read free or cheap) tactics in marketing are the way to go. We, me, his assistant and he, are reading a book on blogs, podcasts, news releases, viral marketing and online media to grow the business. This is strange for me and while the cynic in me wants to resist, it's hard not to get caught up in JN's enthusiasm. I can find most things fascinating, so trolling through websites, even on marketing and PR is interesting.

Unfortunately, it can also eat up a lot of time (as we all know, you go to a site, and then follow a link, and another link and... down the rabbit hole). He's paying me, but he's also paying me to do a lot of other things.

Soooo, this blog may become tied in with those blogs at some future point.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Charisma and evil

I was thinking this as I read Harry Potter (and I'm not giving anything away here), as a follow up to seeing Last King of Scotland a while a ago:

Why do people follow madmen? It's seems to be an unanswerable questions, or rather there are a multitude of reasons but it doesn't explain why some people do not follow and some do.

Now Voldemort is fictional, and Idi Amin was all too terrifyingly and tragically real, but in the fictional account of him, it seems that anyone with half a brain could see that this person was out of their mind, paranoid, delusional, sociopathic, etc. AND therefore know that their own lives were precarious with such a person.

My husband and I have discussed this at length, and come up with a small list:
a) We make excuses for people's behavior until it's too much
b) The possibility of power is tempting enough to ignore the possible dangers
c) The basic human inability to ever really believe that it will happen to us. Yes, this person slaughtered his last four advisors because of tiny or imagined slights, but I'll be cleverer than they.

There is also the problem of charisma.

My aunt worked for TWA out of St. Louis from the early 60's through to the mid-70's and she recounts the story of John F. Kennedy's campaign. In what once would have been a whistle stop, JFK landed and my aunt, either from supporting him, or working for the airline (or both, I forget) was in the crowd that greeted him. She says that the power of his personality was palpable--the charm, or charisma, or whatever seemed to reach out to everyone of the people in the crowd individually. She says that film and television can never do justice to it. Now, I've never quite understood the cult of JFK except that mysterious and tragic death always sanctifies the victim so I am intrigued by this description. Hitler too, though short and unattractive was able to rally crowds to fever pitch. Stalin, Mao, Amin, perhaps even Hussein were able to make people follow them, at first, by the power of their personalities. And even later, it was only those close enough to really see (or those actually suffering under it) who understood what there was to fear. I understand that eventually you are so afraid that you cannot get away and perhaps it is too late from the first meeting, but I don't understand why you would put yourself in danger if it was within your choice not to. Voldemort offered his followers a way to overcome death. Perhaps these leaders do too--certainly Jim Jones and other cult leaders claim that there way was salvation.

I believe that we (humans) are all desperate to believe in something and that many will throw themselves at anyone who seems to know some great secret. I guess what I don't understand is how people could not see that Amin or Stalin or Hitler had no answers and were secretly more scared than anyone around them.

Totally cheap post

B is on her way to Tokyo for three weeks, as I type. She has $100 of my money to buy me stuff.

Timely Lyrics

The Beat(en) Gener...

Going through old music I came across this. I don't have anything else by the band, The The (this came off of a compilation), but I've always liked this song. Don't let the upbeat sound fool you--listen to the lyrics.

Timely, no?

Harry Potter (no Spoilers)

So I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows about an hour ago.
I read about half of it last night and half tonight. It "borrows" much from LOTR and Narnia--

which does not in any way diminish it.

That's about all I'm going to say for now as I accidently got a suspicion from someone else's blog despite all efforts to not read anything about it. It was something I suspected already, but I wish it had not been confirmed until I read it. I teared up a lot while reading the book despite trying very hard not to spoil it for my husband--which I think is to be expected.

I do not feel devastated as I did at the end of Narnia and I do thank Rowling for her gentleness.

EDIT: I think it a very, very good book. I wasn't sure if I made that clear.

More at some later date when cats are out of bags, as it were. I could do an all white post, but temptation might overwhelm someone.

End of the month, so a few easy (cheap) posts

First, very cool responses to my posts all over the place:

Mirror Up to Nature

The Writing Life x3

(and possibly Matt, but I'm not sure)

and the earlier post on what makes music appealling to one person and not another:


It made me very happy--this is why I started doing this--for the interesting conversation.

Two of these people live quite close to me and in theory we could go sit somewhere (not Starbuck's) and have these discussions, but two of these people live nowhere near me.

I would like a few more readers and more that I read regularly, but I feel that some sort of personal introduction is needed than just, "Hey, I like your blog."

On the other hand, I would not want to be so popular that I was getting the pointless arguers. I make some semi-controversial statements (I don't think U2 is the best band in the world--things like that) and I have no need to have people come and tell me they think me stupid for that thought.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
--(excerpt from) I'm nobody! Who are you?, Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And then it's everywhere...

So, I told my husband about my blog mentioning Jaques-Louis David and he had been looking for an image in old comics and found this:By Frank Cho, creator of Liberty Meadows. He even mentions the artist's name and I didn't notice it before.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

So I pull the McEwan back out again...

For Musing. I'm kidding! I was actually thinking of a quote I should have put down from Black Dogs:

"It is photography itself that creates the illusion of innocence. Its ironies of frozen narrative lend to its subjects an apparent unawareness hat they will change or die. It is the future they are innocent of. Fifty years on we look at them with the godly knowledge of how they turned out after all--who they married, the date of their death--with no thought for who will one day be holding photographs of us."

I think of that sometimes, when I write the wrong year, for instance, 2004--think of who I was just a few years ago. What I did not know then that I know now, let alone twenty years ago.

Absolutely read Saturday--all of the minute of life, love, violence, disappointment, success, etc. wrapped up in 24 hours of one man's life. Working backwards I would also suggest Enduring Love although it's disturbing in many ways. I would likewise recommend the movie with Daniel Craig (he of Bond and soon The Golden Compass). The title says it all, both enduring love, enduring as adjective--strong and long lasting, but also as gerund of endure. Love that must be borne like suffering or hardship.

Can't I just run a museum of stuff?

This is one of the things I need to get rid of. I moved it from the lateral filing cabinet in order to put the laptop there. It's an Olympia. It is not exotic or rare or even particularly beautiful. It has no special meaning to me as it came from my husband's side of the family. It works, although the ribbon is sad and tired. I didn't learn to type on a manual as it was felt my arthritis would be made worse by it, but I have to say, there is something satisfying about the "chunk, chunk, chunk" sound of the rods striking the page. There are programs out there for the computer apparently, which reproduce this sound, but they can never reproduce the sensation of the keys receding from one's fingers, the judder through the machine to your hands at the moment of impact.
There is the iconography as well, of the great writers lugging their typewriters into foreign countries and battlefields. One feels that one will be able to write great things on it as they did. When I established it there, before I bought the laptop, I thought, "I shall go and make myself write in there, poetry that can be copied back to computer easily." This one feels like it weighs as much as our computer, monitor, speakers and keyboard combined, probably with the surge bar thrown in for good measure. There was a "portable" which I already parted with in it's own suitcase, weighing as much as four laptops. I'm not sure what to do with it. For a while I played with the idea of it as art--but it needs to be alone on suspended glass shelves in a room with leather and chrome furniture.
And the problem with a conversation piece is that they need to be used judiciously. A room full of conversation pieces is just cluttered like wearing to many fantastic pieces of clothing at once.

And, unfortunately, I have seen Naked Lunch, the Cronenberg film, too many times to be entirely comfortable with a typewriter lurking in the dark waiting to spread it's beetle wings and gut my laptop.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Found poetry

In trying to toss things I found some old magnetic poetry. It's surprisingly interesting (to me). Words in parenthesis are filled in now as is any punctuation.

I recall a language
like winter death
I think we were sacred
I was weak in my worship of you.
together we (were an) essential symphony

After her liquid
she haunt(s) like eternity
(A) fresh petal did him
Ask his
(the) sea/ (the) sky
Do/did let rob (our) power?
No, or to-want
Put (it) out (there to) think
(and) say go
Ask, tell (and) manipulate
Though, beneath
less mean

Smell storm rain like...

but it, to me, (a) moment(ary) ache

Please, may (I) scream
and yet after
ask some(one) who...
Then why?
(Now) languid and lazy
(but) still mad
(seeing) sordid blue

(A) gorgeous breeze,
(a) moment
(by a) goddes
(and the) ghost of desire
(like) coffee

And that (the magnets, not the poetry) is something I can't quite bring myself to throw away, although I just keep moving it from one place to another.

Ian McEwan

Part of my tension, I think, is the fact that I have not been reading much. As I mentioned--I'm deep in the doldrums (to steal a metaphor) of Moby Dick and a stubbornness on my part keeps me from simply putting it down and picking up something else. Normally I'll read two novels a week.

Back in the late spring I did put down MD long enough to read On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan because it was very short. At the time it had not come out in America, but it has by now, and everyone and their brother has reviewed it.

I was trying to remember if I found McEwan on my own, or if i found him in college. I know that I read Black Dogs in a class which was called "European Literature after the war," but the Professor admitted was really just a list of April Bernard's favorite authors. We read Calvino, Kundera, Highsmith and Muriel Spark. And Ian McEwan. I've always liked McEwan, but I believe he's becoming a better author as he goes along and I was trying to figure out why I think that. I went back and looked at Black Dogs. All of McEwan's books are about the impact of violence, both personal and political, both emotional and physical. I could say that he has learned to make us care about his characters more--but one does not like Ripley in Highsmith's books, but one cares about him in a strange way. (Having read April's own novel, Pirate Jenny, I did not like her protagonist either, but I liked the book.)

This book is a minute snapshot of a marriage or rather a wedding night gone wrong, in a time, as he reminds us when a wedding night still had weight and some apprehension.

What I have not found in any review is a discussion of the violence which may or may not have happened to the bride at some earlier point, and I can't decide if I've imagined it. My husband, who read it at my insistence after I finished, felt it was there, but very, very subtly.

What one always goes to McEwan for is sentences like this:
I do not know if this was actually the case or not, but in memory each of my few visits to her in the nursing home in the spring and summer of 1987 took place on days of rain and high wind. Perhaps there was only once such day, and it has blown itself across the others. [italics are mine].

That's from Black Dogs and I found it again (to Mirror XP) because I had underlined it the first time round.

I cannot now find the phrases that I wanted from On Chesil Beach because it was a hardback and my husband paid for it and so I did not annotate.

Quotes from it have abounded in the reviews--the capturing of a time in Britain after WWII and before Profumo and boiling it all down into these two lovers is McEwan's genius. What I do dislike is the reviewers repeated comments that these were two people who "got married for all the wrong reasons." I think they wanted to get married for all the right reasons--they loved, they liked. They knew the other well enough, but they did not know themselves--and as in life, that is the tragedy.

(Now I can put away the McEwans which have been lingering in my to deal with pile.)

Expanding that thought slightly

I could go on all day about iconography.

Clearly, seeing George Clooney in a movie like Ocean's 11 (12 or 13) brings with it the whole knowledge of George Clooney as style maker and playboy.

What then do we make of Werner Herzog's casting of Christian Bale as Dieter Dengler in Rescue Dawn?

As a young boy in Germany, Dieter Dengler was almost killed by American fighter pilots. From that moment he resolved to be an American fighter pilot.

In the Vietnam war he was shot down on his first mission, taken captive in a Laotian POW camp from which he then escaped and amazingly made it back to safety.

As a young boy, Christian Bale starred as the fictional version of the real author J.G. Ballard who was taken to a POW camp by the Japanese where he developed a fascination/love for the Kamikaze pilots who took off from the airfield next to the camp.

Coincidence? I think not.

Now Bale is an amazing actor. I thought it when I saw him in Empire of the Sun and I've thought it ever since. Herzog is a brilliant, if disturbed, director. I cannot believe that the casting was not in some strange way more or at least equally dependent on the history of Christian Bale.

The film is harrowing and amazing--and as in most Herzog films is a film about man against nature and himself more than any political side.

Fame, Legacy and Iconography--from music to art

(NOTE: I started this sometime ago and didn't finish it until now)

So, as I mentioned in the dream post, I went to see the Edward Hopper exhibit with my now former boss DS. As we were walking in, I asked, "Do you like Hopper." And she said, "I don't know his work." I think I gaped at her--how do you grow up in America, esp. being her age (65) and not know the works of Edward Hopper? I said, "I think you'll recognize the paintings once you see them.
When we approached Nighthawks, arguably Hopper's most famous work, I said, "You have to have seen this--or at least a parody." "Nope," she said.

Now, Nighthawks has been reproduced so many times that I'm a little sick of it. There's the one with James Dean and Marilyn:

And doing a quick search, CSI, the Simpsons and Inuyasha and Edward Elric. Also, I'm told, one with characters from Cowboy BeBop, and many others I didn't copy.

In addition, many others of Hopper's works have an iconography in American culture that is rivaled only possibly by American Gothic by Grant Wood.

And so, I was thinking--what is more important, the artist's name, or the artist's work? That many/most people in America could not name the artist of American Gothic, or have seen one of the numerous, numerous parodies and never the original is both sad and interesting. Certainly, I would think that an artist would rather his work live on rather than his name. A name is for fame's sake, not for true, lasting impact. Likewise, how many people know whether it's Byron or Shelley who wrote, "She walks in beauty, like the night/Of cloudless climes and starry skies?" As I think about it, I suspect that many people think it was Shakespeare (it's Byron--Byron and Shelley--morphed into one by time and indifference.) always a pretty good shot in a game of trivia. Is imitation the truest form of flattery and is it good that at least something is remembered of an artists time on earth, even if it isn't quite what the artist intended?

Recently too, Simon Schama (proving that what you really need to be a historian in Britain is a big enough ego and speech impediment) left off discussing the British monarchy to basically run a show on his favorite paintings. This week's episode was centered around this:

The Death of Marat
I had seen this painting many times, but from the purely theatrical stand point of its relationship to the play:
The persecution and assassination of Marat as performed by the inmates of the asylum of Charenton under the direction of the Marquis de Sade (generally known as Marat/Sade) by Peter Weiss.
It is such a striking image that it too has been parodied and paid homage in many things, from other art to movie images.
I had no idea what the name of the artist was. It's Jacques-Louis David.
David is not considered a great painter by most art historians partially because politically he was such an embarrassment. He was essentially a propagandist of the first order. This is his only other famous painting:

He was part of the revolution, but managed to escape death at the end of the Reign of Terror, and then hoped on the Napoleon bandwagon. After the fall of Napoleon, he was exiled and when he died, his relatives were refused the appeal to bury him in France. (I realize I should note that Marat was a prime mover of the Revolution who's writings in his own newspaper stirred to crowd to greater heights of blood lust--in making him a hero and a martyr in this painting, David was serving the demand of the other Revolutionaries such as Robespierre).
So, is it a good painting? Shama thinks so. It is a painting which has outlived both its artist and its purpose.
As someone who creates things, what are we to make of that? What is the purpose of art--fodder for tomorrow's advertising (I remember my horror when I realized that Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies would be remembered as "Smurfberry Crunch is fun to eat."
Is it better that it be remembered at all? There are countless pieces of art in all fields which will disappear without even a poor imitation to their name. I am depressed just reading lit mags, thinking of all the people who will never see this poem or this story, or this drawing.
It stops me from creating. Clearly it doesn't stop others--I put this out to Writing Life x3 and Mirror as people who actually do create and produce things in there spheres.

Checking in

I've been in my new job for four weeks. I've had the bar in my ear for three weeks. How is it all going you may ask. The ear is still sore--still not sleeping on my left side, but seems to be healing cleanly with no strange scarring and growths. In case you are wondering, I do not actually have a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet, and I am working very hard to keep myself from contamination. We have always ordered our copies from Britain from the days when the edition were different (HP & the Sorcerer's Stone/HP & the Philosopher's Stone) and now do it to keep the editions covers the same. Our copy will arrive some time this week.

The job...is very, very stressful. Or perhaps it just seems so because I've been in such relaxed jobs for so long. The learning curve has been steep (and will continue to be so). I'm using programs of which I only had passing knowledge every day--like Dreamweaver and Adobe Design. What's funny in Dreamweaver and in the admin control of the website which I also have, I forget that there are such great shortcuts and buttons--I keep thinking I have to actually modify code. The week began badly, but ended well, so that's a good sign. I'm bringing work home every night which isn't--but I keep trying to tell myself that I've done that before when I started new jobs and once I beat them into a system and trained myself it all became much, much easier. I'm trying to re-write some new account letters right now which for some reason is giving me a devil of a time (thus, I am blogging instead). There is also a measure of office politics which I did not catch when I interviewed. I hate to have to worry about such things, esp. this early on.

Being terribly busy at work has also made me aware of how many things I wish I'd taken care of in my private life before I started this. On the plus side, I feel motivated to tackle things. On the negative actually getting down to work seems impossible with so many niggly little things in the way. I spent part of today trying to carve out a space in my sewing room to set up the laptop so that I can say, yes, I have a home office which is not shared with my husband. I realize all of this is a luxury (I'm sorry Musing--everyone should have a room of their own). No room in my house has a view--it's all industrial and seedy from my apartment--the highway in the back, the landlord's iron works on one side, the Mexican place at the end of the street on the other. Right now I'm typing in hardly ideal conditions. My laptop perched atop some fashion magazines atop a lateral cabinet where I keep all my files on fashion research. There is a big box taking up part of the space full of clippings from magazines that I have not sorted and the quilt that I need to reback and rebind is threatening to fall from the cutting table on the other side.

What one needs is a month off. One week to have some fun and unwind, one week to clean and organize. One week to actually get some work and one week to relax before returning to the grind again. Wouldn't that be nice?

Why didn't I back the quilt before this? Why haven't I sorted those files. Better yet, why do I keep them at all?

In addition to too much work at work and too much work at home, I would really, really, really like to move. I've wanted to move virtually since we moved into this place and it's really becoming dire now. Things are breaking down and our landlord's have a habit of asking their Cousin Vinny to do the repairs (really!) with mixed results. With my new raise we are finally in a position to find a nicer place. Of course, I don't want to live up to my means, either.

In preparation for a possible move I've been trying to weed. We have a lot of stuff and all of it has meaning. I've already tossed all of the things without meaning--including unwanted presents and vases bought on sale or aquired with long dead flowers. What's left are the things that seem important. Those lit mags with my annotations, old unfilled diaries, this filing cabinet of fashion clippings.

Clearly I am not going to be a fashion designer, and it looks like I may not be a costume designer either. Surely then I should simply toss the whole thing without looking at any of it. There will always be more magazines.

I've been collecting these since I was 13. 13! There's pictures of models like Famke Jannssen who went on to bigger and better things. Designers I knew were going places. Clothes I simply like and would like to make. And I HAVE used it. I DO refer to it. And life is long and unpredictable.

I have long wanted to be a minimilist. Living with only the needs of the moment, spare and elegant. Able to pack up and move in an instant to any abode.

But, I am not that person and as I slide towards my late 30's, it's time to admit that I never will be.

I was talking with a good friend yesterday about "being grown-up." Accepting the limitations and losses of one's life and making something different than what you had planned. I am thinking of the moment in Pleasantville when Toby McGuire's mother cries and says, "This isn't the way it was supposed to be," and the newly wise McGuire says, "There isn't any supposed to be." (Note, I may be paraphrasing that and I don't feel like going to IMDB to check.)

Do I toss those diaries with their half begun short-stories, trusting that if the story is important enough it will come back to me--it hasn't been finished in this long. I remember a woman I worked with at a fabric store who, when I asked her why she wasn't taking advantage of a sale said, "There will always be more fabric."

For so long in my life, I wasn't sure that there would be money for more fabric, more things, new things--so I still hoard. I don't save useless things. I'm not one of those people who will be found dead behind piles of newspapers from 30 years past (my Sunday paper goes out in the following week's recycling, thank you). But somehow I have too many potential things, bits of fabric and jewelry and writing and their sheer number stands in the way of my actually completing things.

This has gone in odd directions.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ask and ye shall receive

SO, there is a place to upload mp3's and other large files to share. Yes, it does have a pesky, don't upload copyrighted material notice, but that's doing as well as You Tube's did. Arigato gozaimasu, Musing!

This could be a bad thing, because I could just do a post on the catchphrases that my husband and I use, but clipped int their original format, so you could hear just HOW they should be said, not to mention every piece of music I own XP.

SOOO, THIS is my favorite Psychedelic Furs song, Get a Room:

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It meant a lot to me at a difficult time in my life. What's interesting is that it described what I think someone else felt about me, not as one would ordinarily think, what I felt about them.

This is probably my second favorite Psychedelic Furs song, Torch (I have both from Should God Forget: The Psychedelic Furs, A Retrospective):
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While I'm at it, this is what I felt at the time (this one's better known--Annie Lennox, Why):

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And this one goes there too for the lyrics, (and that's all I'm going to say, Robyn Hitchcock, She's Just Another Bubble from Fegmania):

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And for JT (though I think other people might like it) as Kate Bush's love song to her child, Bertie:
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And just to end on an up note, because I mentioned it earlier, the theme from Paprika:

Paprika- The girl ...

Oh, and Musing, I uploaded three David Sylvian songs that I think are closest to Roentgen, although you'll hear that the lyrics are darker--Novel Eye

Thursday, July 19, 2007


THANKS, MIRROR! This is particularly funny to me because my husband has those glasses, and when he got them, I said, "I think you look like James Joyce."

You're Ulysses!

by James Joyce

Most people are convinced that you don't make any sense, but compared
to what else you could say, what you're saying now makes tons of sense. What people do
understand about you is your vulgarity, which has convinced people that you are at once
brilliant and repugnant. Meanwhile you are content to wander around aimlessly, taking in
the sights and sounds of the city. What you see is vast, almost limitless, and brings you
additional fame. When no one is looking, you dream of being a Greek folk hero.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

On arbitrary designations

Matt pointed out that 8 little notes is a... I'm not sure what to call it. Misnomer? Misapprehension? That we have broken the wavelength of sound into these arbitrary divisions, and that some (like the pentatonic scale) break it in other ways that sound strange and alien to us.

Likewise I was thinking of the women who used to come into the fabric stores where I worked and be angry that we did not have the exact color of thread, or zipper to match their store-bought item. I remember saying to one woman that there is such an enormous range of colors, how could we possibly carry everything. And she said, "Well, how did the manufacturer?" I said, "I would imagine that they were dyed together." Of course, what I wanted to say was, "Lady, if you're sewing so that your thread shows that badly, then you don't know how to sew." I've been known to sew seams with whatever color is in the machine and only change when I needed to topstitch and then it was usually decorative. But I digress.

All classifications are arbitrary. I am thinking too of T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone (later a Disney movie and the other books in the series were adapted into Camelot, the musical). In White's version, Merlin teaches the young Arthur by turning him into animals, like a Hawk, and soaring above the world he sees that there are no borders, no lines drawn on the land. I would go further--no time zones.

Time passes, but how we measure it is simply man's attempt to find some order, some way of coping and communicating. There is the concrete thing--the frequency of the note, the color
, the moment in time--that we call F#; R-158, G-42, B-42, or hexadecimal number 9e2a2a, or 10:48pm (or 22:48). Likewise there is a coastline which encircles what we call England and Scotland, (but there is no real line between them).

Likewise, we cannot be sure that the sound you hear as F# or the color you see above, is the same as what I hear or see. The color you see can seem to be altered by the colors around it (although it isn't really). But you will come to understand that this is what you call burgundy and it corresponds to what I call burgundy and thus we communicate.

And Matt, do you mean "prosciutto?" And thank you. m(_ _)m

My husband's version of a blog

My husband sent me this this morning. The stuff in purple is his signature--also from Doctor Who.

So I'm waiting on the platform @ Sullivan Sq and glance over to see that a man is reading a collection of 8th Doctor comics.
I leaned over towards him and said that I thought that I was one of the only Dr Who fans around and he says semi-mysteriously "no there are quite a few of us around".
I told him that we had just finished watching the new 3d season & he asked how we liked it...then asked "finished watching? They've only started running it on SciFi". where I told him about torrenting...the corruption begins.
We asked each other if we had watched the old show, he said that he liked Eccleston's Doctor... and then the train came.

The fans are out there.

"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey...stuff."

Sunday, July 15, 2007


I was thinking about the question in the meme that Red Queen sent around regarding favorite sounds. I don't know that I have favorite sounds in the same way that I have favorite smells, favorite colors, even favorite things to touch. There are sounds I enjoy, like the sound of a cello well played. I like the sound and timbre of my husband's voice. I like Hyde's singing voice when he sings more in a baritone range than in a tenor's, but I do enjoy a good Irish tenor, so it's not just the pitch.
I have theory, which may or may not be supported in musical theory, that certain combinations of notes--both cords and progressions--are more soothing to the average human ear. That's why Andrew Lloyd Weber does so well ripping off Puccini, and why Puccini is a more popular classical composer than Wagner. Of course, critics like to say that Puccini is opera lite, but I ignore them.

This is my all time favorite song:

Gymnopédies suite by Erik Satie is a close second and interestingly I have a recording of Sakamoto performing it but YouTube doesn't seem to have it. So I found this guy:

(I don't know how to link my own mp3's to the blog. Where would I upload them to hold them? Anybody know? )

I have just discovered via YouTube that Gary Numan performed this as well (try to ignore the space age girls--it was a thing at the time; Klaus Nomi had a similar look.)

I can't wait to tell my husband when he wakes up tomorrow.

Anyway. This version reminds me of the closing credits of one of my favorite films, Delicatessan (an early film by the director of Amelie, City of Lost Children and A Very Long Engagement). Cello and saw.

Through the board at IMDB I was finally able to download the soundtrack to this recently. See, sometimes good things do come from public boards, just rarely.

ANYWAY. To return to my first thought: why do certain pieces of music resonate within us and others don't? Why do songs which move me deeply leave many other people cold?

The opening notes of this song, for instance, by the Psychedelic Furs, breaks my heart each time I hear it, although it's not remotely my favorite song, or even my favorite song by the Furs.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPv0qCg4so8 (the poster disallowed embedding). You Tube doesn't have my favorite songs by them, although I do discover that one of my new fav. bands, She Wants Revenge, covered the Psych Fur's song, Love My Way, live. Cool.

Does the song resonate because it was one of the first albums (yes, album) that I ever bought? Because of the time in my life when it came out? Or is there something more intrinsic in the arrangement of notes?

And while it is partially arrangement, contrast Hyde's Shallow Sleep with the arrangement for the Japanese album with the arrangement for the English album:

(and I do, unfortunately think he is lip-syncing here.)

it is more than just a better or worse arrangement--it is something in the very bones of the composition--the melody line plucked out on a piano.

It's not the language--because I prefer the English Angel's Tale, which is more jazzy than the Japanese.

And do I like Hyde at all simply because of his emulation of this man (with the lyric version of the piece I started with), David Sylvian:

Now, having put these up I feel that there's a leitmotif within each of these songs which I can hear, that connects them and makes me treasure them, and which explains to me why I like each of them. BUT, I know that I can play these for any group of people and not find anyone who hears or is moved in the way that I am, certainly not about all of them. And there is something emotional in music that is beyond the intellectual. As I've said before, music is probably my weakest subject (after sports) so I don't have the language to discuss whether these are "good" pieces, or even what would make a good piece. I know that Richard Butler's voice (lead singer of Psych. Furs) is not what my mother would consider good, but it has always moved me. I shudder to use it, but I feel like the infamous cliche--I don't know much about art, but I know what I like. But when the response is so emotional, the desire to share that (for me at least) is somewhat overwhelming. In the same way I would share a painting or a poem or a story.

Is there any new piece of music out there? After all, it's really just 8 little notes being moved about. Granted, chords (and I admit to not fully understanding this) can change the tone of a piece, with minor chords lending a more sinister sound, generally. Could a song I like be arranged or orchestrated in a way that would make me not like it? Is this something which is taught in music composition, in the same way that as a costumer I know that an empire waist line will make someone look taller and thinner? This is an ongoing question in my mind.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another cheap post

Addendum: I had forgotten that Tennant's Doctor actually references Harry Potter and J.K.Rowling in the episode The Shakespeare Code (which Sci-Fi ran last night). Amusing episode--explains what really happend to Love's Labours Won (for Shakespeare fans out there.)

This is David Tennant as the Doctor:

Last night I dreamt that the Doctor was in Harry Potter. Then I woke up and remembered that he is. Potter fans may know him better as Barty Crouch, Jr.

Happy opening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Neil Gaiman was disappointed in the Season Finale of Doctor Who as well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cheap post

Red Queen sent this round via email. I took out the ones I've posted already.

I Tag Matt but only if he's interested.

L-- was what I was called in the orphanage--don't know if it's after anyone
Last night--moving movie; about a month ago for other reasons
When I think about it, although I don't love my signature
4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Brown sugar or maple ham
Yes, d'uh.
Yes, and I don't actually know anyone but my mother who had them out. Nor do I know anyone who has had their appendix removed.
For dry snacking--Rice Chex or Kix, as cereal--Blueberry Morning, also oatmeal and Cream of Wheat
If they have laces, sometimes. Depends on the shoes
Lately Sweet Cream and Honey by Hagen Das (special flavor)
Demeanor, clothes
Emotionally--insecurity; physically--bad skin
My Dad (dead) or Galena (presumably still living--my best friend in jr. high/part of high school, she moved away, we kept in touch for awhile, but then lost touch AND I CAN'T FIND HER)
Plum pants with the pale blue shot silk band I added for length (my favorite pants); my hot pink tie-dyed suede pointy toed PRADA's--my only big name shoes that I got on a clearance sale and love
Spicy salmon sushi followed by fruit cup
21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Carbon Leaf, now Dresden Dolls
Gardenia's, Jasmine, Jasmine Tea, Guinness's fur when he's clean, Husband's clean skin, peaches
Husband, probably. I don't like to talk on the phone
I love her
Football (soccer), Rhythmic gymnastics, although I seldom watch sports at all
Natural--dark brown with red highlights, currently artificially red and blondish high lights
golden brown
When dressed up (hard to use with computers)
Most Asian, plain spaghetti w/ Parmesan cheese, sugar
Thought provoking which can go either way
Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog directs Christian Bale in true story set in VietNam/Laos--preview last night)
Handmade from rectangles of plum, lavender and rose patterned kimono silk, so multi
Hugs, kisses from dogs
Depends on the mood, molten chocolate cake/rice pudding/creme brulee/fruit
Moby Dick as I feel like it, some stuff for work; keep promising myself that I can read the things that are piling up the fantastic fiction shelf ONCE I finish Moby Dick (which I'm liking, but having trouble returning to it once I've put it down
Black (at work), Newbury Comic face at home
Nothing, got home late--watched Foyle's War on Sunday night
Are those the only choices? Beatles, I guess.
Pretty far from country of birth. At what point does it stop being away from and end up being new home?

Sunday, July 08, 2007


There is also the possibility re: Harry Potter and TDH: to not read it. To leave the ending forever in the state of Schrodinger's cat. Unknown (to us) and therefore neither good nor bad/satisfying nor frustrating. We (husband and I) actually discussed this re: Doctor Who. More along the lines of how long we would put off knowing (opening the box--thus entering the experiment--just to keep the metaphor going XP) since this would be our last new Doctor Who until Christmas. Interestingly, there is a race, in one of the Doctor Who novels that powers everything on the power of uncertainty. Like the fact that a book balanced on the edge of a table has potential energy. Can you channel that kinetic energy elsewhere than in the book falling? Of course, both of these things are enormously in the world and will therefore be enormously known to many people. Avoiding knowing ourselves would prove (I suspect) impossible.

I went to a wedding last night (for friend who's shower I attended a few weeks back). I went alone and found myself unable, or unwilling to engage in standard small talk and so ours was an awkward little table, divided between two sets of two who knew each other and ignored us, and four women on their own--three single and me, sans husband. Three of us knew each other and one of the three knew the fourth, so we had strange lopsided conversations all night. I did try to be like another single at another table (whom I'd met before at other events with the marrying friend). She markets for a living (rather as I do now) and knows how to work a room. The art is not (as many people think) in presenting oneself well, but in being or seeming to be, fascinated by whatever drops out of others mouths. That is what people say of the great courtesans and geisha--not the beauty, not the sex, but the ability to make the person they were talking to, the center of attention, no matter how dull or how secretly uninterested. Now that a part of my job will be the glad handing and comfort making I was a little worried at how I really didn't want to do it. I tried the basic, "And what do you do?" but it was only when I discovered a mutual interest in similar films that I really made any effort. Once there were rules of etiquette for how long one chatted with the person on one's right before turning (gracefully) to the person on one's left, but that is a lost art.

I am not proud of the fact that I could not muster energy. I also fear that I am bad at names and since I have a good memory I can only guess that it is because I really DON'T care when meeting people. I certainly remember actors names, and obscure trivia. In my defense, as I said, I don't remember sound as well as visual (but I don't always remember faces either...) and preferably I should get both together. I think we should adopt the Japanese custom of presenting cards (as we once did ) with the name written phonetically if need be. It would certainly save me a lot of trouble with the mispronunciation of my name. Then I could later add the memory devices (good and bad) that would help me remember that person again--smells of mothballs, owns a dachshund, has two kids, works for AT&T, etc.

EDIT: I changed kinetic to potential. Sorry about that.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream

I sailed away to China in a little row boat to find ya, and you said you had to get your laundry clean... --Break My Stride, Matthew Wilder (who apparently went on to produce No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom--strange)

In my dream I went to Wales (I think it was Wales--I've never been to Wales. It was definitely Great Britain and I could see the ocean) with the strangest group of people, my old boss DS, Keifer Sutherland (couldn't quite figure out if he was Keifer, Jack Bauer, or just someone who looked and sounded like Keifer), 3 other people who seemed familiar, but I can't place now AND my dog, Guinness. We were also only there for the afternoon and had to catch a flight back to America at midnight. I dream in great detail. There was this moment when we were on a street and Keifer pointed out this granite plateau perhaps 10 stories high in the center of town (which is why I think Wales) and all these little war houses had been built around it's base and beyond it you could see more signs and buildings from the 1950's and beyond them the sea, and there was a lovely late afternoon haze so that it almost looked like something from an Edward Hopper (and I recently saw the Hopper show WITH DS). I wanted to get a picture but I would have had to have crossed to the center of a roundabout and that seemed risky.

So then we all (including my dog) went into this lovely modern hospital and dispersed and I didn't seem to have anything to do so I was just hanging out near the cafeteria and it started to get later and later and I couldn't find anyone. And so I had "the group from America" paged. And I find DS grilling everyone she could find about the National Health Service and the war in Iraq. There was a little machine where you could get a cup of water for 15p only I hadn't exchanged any money and I needed to get some water for Guinness who was pooped (although very good, better than the real Guinness--but getting under people's feet as he is only an 18 lb. dog (or one and a half stone--ha ha!). And DS said, "I think I have some," and hands me this mound of change from every country she's ever visited so there's Canadian and Chinese and Moroccan and more and finally two 10p pieces. I get the water and go out to where everyone else is in the car and Keifer is fuming because I didn't drag DS with me. We have to go around the little roundabout in front of the hospital and Keifer goes the wrong way and all the cars are honking. We finally get DS and there isn't time to go do the other thing, only time to go to a fast food restaurant. One of the other people in the group starts ranting about the difference between British and American food and asks the opinion of the couple next to us who basically look at us like we're horrible, loud and rude Americans.

Oh, and I almost forgot. I apparently also looked like someone who'd had a dance single in Britain (even worse than here) so people kept stopping me to ask if I were the girl who sang... and then they would sing it (badly) to me. What's funny is I can't remember the tune. I don't remember sound as well as sight, even when I'm awake.

I don't know what any of this means. The only thing I can think of is the chaos I'm feeling in my new job and the fact I will have to travel (thought not out of the country), but I suspect there's more too it than that.

Friday, July 06, 2007

That kind of a day

There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

(excerpt from) The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock--T.S. Eliot

Trivia--C.S. Lewis thought Eliot marked the decline of poetry.
For JT (short). Eliot was born in St. Louis, and after attending a preparatory for Wash U., went to Milton Academy for a year, and from there to Harvard. (JT went to Wash U. and did not study poetry).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

God Bless the Chinese

And gunpowder. Just watched the Boston fireworks live and in person. Haven't done that in, probably 20 years. Fantastic. The effects were amazing

IMDB has the lawyer quote from John Adams from 1776 as it's quote of the day! Happy American Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I'm afraid of the Deathly Hallows

Not really what they (or it, as in All Hallows Eve) may be, but for the end.

When this new Harry Potter book comes out, and 24 hours later, when I've read it (pretty much), that's it. No more adventures with Harry, and Ron, and Hermione. Already no more with Dumbledore (unless he comes back all in white with...oh, wait sorry, that's Gandalf). In the Simpsons Homer was reading Lisa an adventure of a Harry Potter type and Homer reads ahead and finds out that the Professor character dies. He asks Lisa what would happen if something happened to the Professor and she says, "That would be the death of my childhood."

I remember when I finished Narnia. I was about 8. I just sat and stared into space. I was devastated. Not only was everyone (but Susan) dead and Narnia itself destroyed in Armageddon, it was the end. Never again would I read new adventures in Lewis's own hand. I then went back to the beginning and read them again. I remember a similar loss at the end of Watership Down (although Richard Adams is not dead--I doubt he's going to write a sequel), and Lord of the Rings. These were my friends, and even though they would live in my head and I could try and have adventures with them there, I knew it wouldn't be the same.

I am also afraid of the hype. I had no expectations about the end of Narnia (except that it was telling Bible stories so that there was a certain limit to where it was going to go). I was also 8. I think LOTR ends pretty much as it must. I really respect Rowling as a writer, but is she going to be able to pull this off?

The reason I am also worried is that the end of Stephen King's The Dark Tower set left me pretty flat--at the same time that I admired King's skill in doing what he did. The third new season of Doctor Who just ended last Saturday. After torrenting, my husband and I watched it on Monday. It did not end well. For us. Some people liked it, but pretty much all reviews have been, well, annoyed. Don't worry, this isn't going to be a post about Doctor Who. Much.

For those who don't know, Doctor Who began in 1963. I've been watching it since I was about 10 except for the 18 YEARS it was off the air when I read the books. My husband is also a long-time fan, and when you are a fan, you feel a partial ownership of characters. And you know what? You don't own them. The author owns them. And authors (being human) do not always do what we think they should do. And it's hard not to feel deeply disappointed. The problem too is that the season finale of Dr. Who was set up with one really good episode, and one ok episode (think Back to the Future II--set up for BTTF III) and then...the author couldn't pull it together. It's not even that there are things I didn't like about the last episode, it's the fact that it was bad writing. It did not stay true to the logic of the show. Hell, it didn't even stay true to the logic of a science fiction universe.

I am worried that Rowling has set up problems where there is no solution, and while that is true to life, it is not what we frequently go to fiction for.

On customization, "appropriateness" and considering what others think

So I got this bar though my ear... Musing wrote to say she thought it cool and her daughter is planning on getting a ring on her face at some point. JT said that it reminded him to make sure that his earring hole was still open because he hadn't done it for some months. I hadn't noticed he had one until he pointed it out.

Recently Dress A Day (who is also some sort of Lexicographer) posted how she was appalled and upset by what people wear on airplanes. She dresses for comfort, but never below business casual. I wrote that I too had been dismayed by the dress on airplanes not only for the sensibilities of fellow travellers, but for safety as I had always heard that you should wear comfortable (and now easy on/easy off) but safe shoes that stay on your feet, clothing which does not restrict your movement but is not too flowing, etc. for safety reasons--as in escaping the plane. A staggering number of people wrote to add their two cents varying from support to outright hostility at the thought of a "dress-code" for airplanes when most/many of us merely want to board a plane and fall asleep. There was also the comment by an anonymous that it was a)shallow of us to judge others based on appearance and b) stupid of us to care what anyone thought of our appearance. Dress A Day responded by saying that all of us judge by appearances and that it is courtesy towards others which causes us to worry about what they think of us.

I would definitely agree with both of those statements. There was also a recent column in some free Boston mag. which is written by a young lesbian woman and she spoke of how unhappy she is with her lover's recent weight gain and how it's being reflected in the bedroom. I said to my husband that it was refreshing to hear a lesbian talk about appearance, because when I was in college it was a popular myth that lesbians were beyond such shallow (read male) responses. I knew it was crap then and I know it's crap now. Unless you are truly able to practice complete Christlike or Buddha like principles, you will make assumptions about people based on their appearance, their clothes, their language skills, etc. You may revise those responses--in fact, I would say that most of us are continuously revising those responses as we move through the day and our relationships with people--but we make them nevertheless. The brain makes sense of the world and the continuous bombardment of information by finding patterns, and assumptions based on appearance are part of those patterns. Can you imagine if you started every encounter with anything completely fresh--as if you had never seen anything like it before?

I know that I am fairly judgemental. Probably more than my husband. Partially because I have a fashion background to analyze clothes. We have a joke when we see guys with scraggly facial hair, and white, pasty skin, and big black coats. "Smells like Gamers!" Of course, several of our close friends are gamers (and IT guys) so is it a prejudice or just a recognition?

On the courtesy side of--that is dressing for others comfort as well as our own... I've been semi-goth, but I've never been hugely goth and there are things I've put back on the shelf because I know that I will never have the nerve/arrogance to wear them. I'd like to think that this is because I know that I live in a real world where people will evaluate my clothing for jobs, promotions, friendship, etc. If I look scary then I'm pushing some people away that I might otherwise want to know or who might otherwise want to know me.

And yet, I've gotten a bar through my ear.

Like I said, I can cover it up. I can wear smaller earrings when it heals. I can take it out altogether, and because of where it is, I doubt anyone would ever see that I had extra holes in my ears. (If they were that close, I'd probably have more of a problem with them than they with me). But at the same time, it's not completely hidden. I generally tuck my hair behind my ears. Now I'm wearing it up. When I got the first one in the right ear I was sad that more people couldn't see it because my hair covered it. Clothing I only wear at home (other than nightwear) or tattoos that can only be seen by myself and my husband don't interest me. Why would I spend money on it? What we do to ourselves and what we wear is, to a greater or lesser extent a comment on how we wish to be perceived. I would like to be seen as a little edgier, more artsy. I like the contrast between my hair in a bun and this bar in my ear. JT is unwilling to give up his earring entirely, but he knows that it may not be the best attire to get clients as a financial planner. My husband stopped wearing make-up (to my sorrow) and took out his earrings around 30 with the attitude that a) he didn't want to look like an aging queen (his words) and b) he'd been there, done that.

Sometimes I think that I've gotten the earring now because I couldn't when I was a teenager. My mother was always deeply worried about how people perceived me and how they perceived her. She was the daughter of a minister and had been lectured repeatedly about how her behavior was seen by the whole community. I would have long fights with her when I was young about why she thought we were SOOOO important that everyone would be looking at us. She would stop me to press my clothes before I went out. We lived in an edgy compromise where I was not as goth as I wanted to be, but not nearly as conservative as she wanted me to be.
And yet... I do find myself judging people. I made assumptions about the preppy girls as they made them about me. Even now you couldn't pay me to shop in Abercrombie & Fitch. One of my big pet peeves is people who don't dress for their weight. Women who have 4 breasts because they're wearing a bra that's too small. People who are rolling over the tops of their low rise jeans. The current rage to show off non-flat and non-toned belly's makes me a little nauseous. I've always had bigger thigh and hips than I wanted--even when I was very thin. I've always dressed to pull the focus to my small waist and away from my hips. Now I think I looked like a super-model compared to many of the women who clearly think they are hot in their skimpy clothes. At the same time I know that people think I'm thinner than I am now because I dress for disguise. Are these women simply more comfortable with themselves? Happier in their bodies than I have ever been in mine at any weight? Or am I the more sensible one--acknowledging my bodies limitations.

I look at the pink haired, pierced and tattooed of Harvard Square and I find myself thinking--have some respect for people around you.

But I have a bar in my ear.

Yeah, but when I do it it's got elan!

I am reminded (as I often am) of the British comedy Red Dwarf. The crew ends up in a parallel world where they meet their "female" alter egos. They are disgusted. Discussing it later one says, "She tried to impress me by belching The Star Spangled Banner." Rimmer: "Isn't that your party piece?" Lister: "Yeah, but when I do it's got class."

Do we simply think of ourselves as pulling it off better than someone else because we cannot see what we really look like?

This has gotten away from me, but I wanted to tie it to the concept of customization. We can alter our phones, our computers, even to a certain extent, our cars. Each time--making a statement, or sorts, about who we are. What our values are. The problem being of course, that you cannot control what will be perceived by the people viewing.

I'm back at a company where I can change the desktop display on my computer, and I debated long and hard about it. Do I put up Hyde and have people ask (bizarrely) if it's me (yeah, and I'm that hot, and that vain only you didn't know it), or even more popular, who the hot chick is. Then I have to explain--even in the briefest form--it's a Japanese guy, lead singer of a band I like. Do I put up cartoons and have them ask about my children. No, I hate children, but I like cartoons. Etc. At them moment I've compromised with a picture from the Smile booklet. I think it's Tetsu in the Smile box scratching his imaginary ear with a pen.

I have my new funky purse and I've put some pins on it, Smile, chibi Hyde, Totoro, Gaz (Invader Zim), Cheese (Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends), Puccca kissing Garu, Heen (Howl's Moving Castle) and Guinness (my actual, living dog). So clearly, I do want to be asked about it. It's a dilemma. And one that will only get worse as the customization generation grows up--we expect now to be able to modify our surroundings to suit us exactly, and to modify ourselves in any way we see fit.

Nalini then and now--as promised

Nalini now

Nalini on the last day of our freshman year, loading her VW Rabbit. She actually doesn't seem to have changed that much.
For that matter, I don't think I have physically (and this is supported by others).

Sunday, July 01, 2007

More on anime, Japan and language

At the end of Paprika my husband whispered, "Well, that's Tokyo destroyed again." It is certainly a common occurrence in anime (and in Japanese film if one considers Godzilla and others). Do we consider these part of the "special" status that Japan holds as the only country to be attacked with a nuclear bomb? A few years ago there was an exhibit on whether that peculiar distinction has led to what is popular culture in Japan, from Godzilla to Gundam (giant robots) to Hello Kitty. There are actually Hello Kitty vibrators and feminine products for sale (don't ask me how I know)--not just cute and cuddly. The giant crater of Paprika, the blinding flash of Otomo's Akira, many others I can't recall at the moment--is this an attempt to deal with the aftermath? Too, is Satoshi Kon's obsession with what is repressed an effort to acknowledge what is publicly avoided by the Japanese--namely their own part in the atrocities of WWII?
I would recommend Ishiguru's "Artist of the Floating World" in the same vein.

I've mentioned Basilisk as something I was going to write about. It's a basic Ninja/Samurai anime, set in the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate. As an IMDB reviewer writes of Shinobi, the live-action version of the same story--it's like X-Men with Ninja (Shinobi, I learn is another word for Ninja because of the reading of the kanjii, rather like the recent upset regarding Iwo Jima/Iwo To). The story of the Koga Ninja Scrolls (the source) is of two warring factions of Ninja, the Koga and the Iga and how 10 from each side are set upon one another to determine the new Shogun (each clan backing a different contender). My husband lost interest because of the "super" powers. Ninja who could distort their bodies, draw the blood out of their enemies and become slugs did not interest him as much as ninja with possible (albeit improbable) skills of balance, accuracy and silence. He was even willing to go so far as mind control, but Basilisk (and I must assume the Koga Ninja Scrolls) goes much farther. This is not an analysis of Basilisk. While beautifully drawn, it is not an amazing anime. The ending is known at the beginning--the two thwarted lovers, the Romeo and Juliet, will ultimately face each other when no one else is left as their grandparents killed each other in the first episode. The tag line for the show is "My Beloved, please die." In some ways it is this inevitability which drives the show--you know it's coming, you just don't know how. The most exciting episodes were certainly the ones where the first five ninja of both sides destroy each other in spectacular ways--how would those super powers be used against other superpowers. Rather like the appeal of the X-Men. Then it starts to move into intrigue and court politics and slowed down a bit.
And that's what I want to look at. I started watching Bailisk in January. It finished two weeks ago. I'd have to check but that makes for at least 25 episodes to take 10 days of real time and by anime standards that's pretty fast. I've never finished watching Inuyasha despite it's humor because I would tire of the fact that roughly 5 minutes of real time would pass per episode--a battle could be stretched out over a month or more. The latest Simpson's comic mocks this by saying that the Simpon's comic in Japan is a weekly of 5,000 pages. What on earth are they filling these with? The old Speed Racer anime (soon to be a live-action major motion picture f(O_0) by the Wachowski brothers) used to have absurd amounts of dialogue in order to keep the mouths moving as long as the Japanese. " I must succeed because in succeeding I will bring honor to my family and that will mean success, ha ha!"

Which brings me to another point. Sub vs. Dub. It gets hashed at IMDB ALL the time. I'm definitely on the Sub side. Yes, it means you read and watch the movie at the same time, but hey, the people against it probably talk on their cell phones while they drive. I don't usually bother to see the Miyazaki's in theaters (and I wish I could) because of the band of hip, young Americans (and sometimes Brits) who are brought in to make it palatable to American audiences. For one thing acting styles are different in America and Japan. Let me hear the Japanese and decide how the translation fits. For another, as I've mentioned their are tropes of anime, from the crazy, old scientist to the strong jawed hero. Like Commedia d'el Arte, these archetypes are instantly recognizable to the Japanese and likewise their voices are of a certain type. Basilisk got several of these wrong and it was very jarring. There was the middle-aged, powerful harridan and in Japanese she would have a high voice, ingratiating and needling in contrast with her aged appearance. She was given a bass voice that made her seem like a prison matron. Watching Paprika we had the delight of hearing a character say "So-so-so-so-so." This was translated as "That's exactly right!" Yes, that's an excellent translation but for me it was fun to hear the original.

Which brings me to my final point. In response to Matt's comment on filler words in Japanese. You may or may not know that German is also full of these--aber, auch, denn, doch, mal, schon, ja--to name the ones I can remember. Aber translates as but, but it can also be inserted for emphasis. Ja is yes, but like the English (slang) "innit?" it often occupies a more vague position, or a pause to allow the listener to catch up. I sometimes wonder if this is why you get non-English speakers saying things like, "That's so, yes?" But others on the list have no real definition and can be added or left out at the speaker's discretion.

In writing (and sometimes speaking) I find myself using a lot of filler (and was sometimes corrected for it), however, in fact, anyway. I attribute this to reading too much Dickens as a child. They are not wrong, per se, but the writing and speaking could be simpler without them.