Sep 03 2007
my favorite featured article in a while. Watch out, raptors!
Though I vowed to get up early on this holiday day and do lots of work — just like normal except, you know, in my pajamas — it is 10:30 and I just got up. Despite laziness, though, it’s been a pretty good weekend:
* I saw Stardust last night. It’s a very fun and sweet little fairy tale, full of wit and good fun, and the comparisons that everyone is making to the Princess Bride are apt. The script and the dialog had Gaiman touches all over it; parts of it made me laugh in recognition. Go see it.
* I also read, in entirety, The Thin Man, which I have had sitting on my shelf for ages in a collection of other Hammett stories but have never read. (It is my mother’s copy, and I found a bookmark in the pages detailing the specifications for a greenhouse that I remember her planning but that never got built. I read The Maltese Falcon last year in another edition, on a quick trip to Germany, and got teased for being too typical — a librarian reading noir — for my own good). I adore the Thin Man movies, but was amused to note that they were rather heavily censored — emotionally, at least — compared to the book. In the real story, Nick and Nora Charles share a bed, and it’s a world that is not afraid of sex and pain. There is continuity enough, though; Nick knows he’s an alcoholic, and Nora burns with the hot longing that Myrna Loy took to the screen and ran with. (Loy, now somewhat forgotten, starred in a huge number of movies, and someday I’d like to go back and watch some more of them.)
* On Friday night, I went to the State Fair with a few friends. We did fair stuff — ate fried food (incld fried avocados?!?), petted the animals, etc. ‘Twas fun. I have a soft spot in my heart for state fairs; I’ve been to a number of them in different places over the years, and they all manage to be both unique and completely the same. This is something American — I told my friend in London I was going and I could practically hear his raised eyebrows over IM. To him, it’s just a reference in a movie, used to make fun of hick characters; to me, the scent of straw and horses and funnel cakes is something deep in my blood, nearly reverential.
* Though my vows of cleaning the house (really! clean!) seem to be going completely unfulfilled, I did get a nice chunk of yardwork done yesterday. I hate watering my lawn, etc. in the summer; it just seems futile, not to mention environmentally wasteful, and anyway my flowers died while I was in Taipei so what’s the point? Nonetheless I cleaned things up. It is extremely hot here; we’re having a late summer heat wave. It’s cresting 100 every day, and the state is rationing power. We’ll all hoping it cools off this week, and I am holding out for rain in a month or two.
* I am learning the bo po mo fo — best name ever — system for phonetically transcribing Chinese. It’s a little crazy; you memorize 37 characters, which represent sounds, then you use those to memorize real characters, then you don’t use them again once you can recognize the real characters by sight. This is what little kids use to learn Chinese — “Unlike pinyin, the sole purpose for Zhuyin in elementary education is to teach Standard Mandarin pronunciation to children”. It’s a Taiwanese system, and I am learning it instead of Pinyin or any other method for learning Mandarin used elsewhere simply because my tutor is Taiwanese. This is how he learned as a child, so this is how he knows to teach it… I am willing to go along because I am completely fascinated by such a complex and strange language, layers upon layers to get through the written representation and pronunciation, but then when you get down to speaking grammar etc don’t particularly matter.
I was thinking of taking a real class in Chinese this fall — there was one conveniently after work on my campus, cheap and accessible — but I cannot justify the distraction, not while I’m trying to finish other long projects up. I take it as a good sign though that I finally feel like taking classes again. The idea of really trying to learn something, wrap my head around a new problem, appeals in a way that it hasn’t for a couple of years … it seems my university burnout has finally gone away, and been replaced with my natural tendencies. So I’m compromising. I’m tutoring someone in ESL a couple of times a week — we have conversation practice, I grade his essays, explain what words mean — and in return, he is teaching me a child’s alphabet, showing patience with my thick tongue and shaky hand, as I scrawl characters like a two-year old. I have never been much good with memorizing things or with learning languages, so we shall see how this goes.
* And finally, I have been intensively writing — and sleeping — the last couple of days, alternating naps with two or three pages at a time. Sometimes things just seem to flow together; this has been one of those weekends, as I draft sections long put-off and wrestle with where paragraphs should go. I don’t like to talk about writing much; colleagues will ask me what I’m up to on the weekend and I’ll say oh, nothing much, just staying home; and they must think I’m either the most boring person ever or I’m slacking off with movies all day. They might be right on both counts; but in truth I am just trying to figure out how to say things properly, and it’s slower and harder than it looks. I desperately wish that I didn’t have to work full time; just a bit more time at home, a bit more time without distraction on this manuscript, and things would be better.
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