Sunday August 31, 2008
Things I realised today and hope to remember for a long time:
- I can still do Life by myself. I really can. I’m independent and happy.
- This distance is meaningful. Its meaning is in the rush of love, now renewed, which I feel whenever you call me too late for my absent parents to approve of and we talk into the night. How could I ever wish to have you closer?
- Many of my social insecurities are in my head.
- I really need to start going to bed earlier.
Friday August 29, 2008
Thursday August 28, 2008
BW: What did you learn in the process of writing it?
DM: I learned that art is about people: Ideas are well and good, but without characters to hang them on, fiction falls limp. I learned that language is to the human experience what spectography [sic] is to light: Every word holds a tiny infinity of nuances, a genealogy, a social set of possible users, and that although a writer must sometimes pretend to use language lightly, he should never actually do so — the stuff is near sacred. I learned that maybe I should have a go at a linear narrative next time! I learned that the farther back in time you go, the denser the research required, and the more necessary it is to hide it.
I just finished reading Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. It’s a book with a very strange structure – 6 stories, written in different mediums, styles and periods, each subtly linking with the next one through direct references and a general theme of predacity. Each story breaks off half way through and the next begins, but the sixth is told uninterrupted and then the second halves of all the others are told, in mirrored sequence. Somehow it works.
But it could have gone very wrong. I finished it about ten minutes ago and have since been reading about it, trying to solidify some of my views on it. During the Washington Post’s article and interview, it occurred to me that the only reason the whole book had worked so well was because the author had thought so very carefully about it; no happy accidents here. The bit I quoted really delighted me because he expressed something very profound both about how to write, which I absolutely agree with (I’m such an expert, obv), and about how to approach language in general.
It’s true of any kind of creative writing, but also true of translation work, which I admit has been far more on my mind (and probably will be until November). Especially so because this week has been my week for Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, which (like all Aristophanes plays) regularly relies on nuance for all the dirty puns.
Sommerstein does a great job of getting such nuances across in English, but sometimes it just can’t be done smoothly. A bit I saw yesterday was an old man threatening to ‘beat you clean out of that old skin of yours’ (σου [ε]κκοκκιω το γερας), but the word εκκοκκιζειν is actually not ‘beat’ so much as ‘squeeze out’, originally used of squeezing the seeds out of a pomegranate. γερας is also unusual, normally being of a skin that can be shed (δερμα is the norm for human skin) but it’s much more effective for the idea of squeezing a person’s insides clean out of them. But you just can’t replicate that in a translation, not into English.*
Anyway. I really enjoyed this book, and if you want something more ‘literary’ than the average work of fiction (a very dubious commendation for any book), try it. Now I need to go find something for dinner.
*The other mildly horrifying fact I learnt the other day is that the Greek verb σπλεκουν (splekoun), ‘to have sex with’, is thought to be onomatopoeic in origin. If this isn’t an example of language giving an insight into culture I don’t know what is.
Tuesday August 26, 2008
I made tiramisu today! It is yummy. The fingers could probably have done with longer soaking in the coffee, though, I think their insides were a bit too chewy. I guess that’s down to taste, though. The cream was delicious, a heavenly combination of mascarpone and 1/2 cup of sugar and some heavy whipping cream. All together it tasted as good as/better than Nerd (caffe nero)’s one.
Now I’m sitting here with my bag on my arm waiting to see if Susannah will turn up and whisk me off to ceroc. It’s quite possible she won’t, but well, expectation is half of the fun. We might watch a film or something otherwise, she’s been away all (extended) weekend at Edinburgh so it’ll be jolly to see her.
Lysistrata progress still going well; I’m happy.
I got riled about a BBC news article earlier but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was about. I’ll link if it comes back to me. In other news: Gordon Brown is actually rather a sweetie; but Boris Johnson is much more adorable – but then I’m a classics undergrad and therefore get won over when he talks about the pankration.
Sunday August 24, 2008
Oh, nineteenth-century classicists, why so coy?
Today while translating Lysistrata I have learnt the Greek words both for ‘penis’ and for ‘six-inch dildo’ (πεος, το and ολισβος οκτωδακτυλος, ο, for the interested). My normally trusty L&S got very evasive on these subjects, though, preferring to put them into their obscene Latin equivalents rather than their more useful English ones. πεος’s short entry said membrum virile, Lat. penis; ολισβος wasn’t even in my normal-sized L&S but did make an appearance in my 2000-page one* with the minimalist entry: ολισβος, ο: penis coriaceus. I googled coriaceus (with some hesitancy) and discovered it meant ‘leather’. I worry that this is the kind of fact I will never be able either to do anything with (niche pub quiz?) or ever, ever forget.
On the contrary, my modern commentator for Lysistrata, Alan Sommerstein, plunges into a discussion about dildos and where else they turn up in Greek literature with amusing gusto. I think I wrote ‘lol’ in my margin. Professor Sommerstein is lovely, and his Aristophanes commentaries are so good, but his subject of expertise always… intrigued me. Aristophanes is the crudest (non-fanfiction) author I’ve ever read, and Sommerstein is clearly not the ultra conservative that he looks.
*This is definitely the most epic book I own.
Anyway. I’m feeling good at the end of today, soulwise at least. (Bodywise I have a sore throat and a stomach ache.) but Brian preached a really interesting sermon this morning. and I cooked some really delicious pasta this evening, and, best of all, I’ve finally found a (gentle) study regime that works for me.
And it’s not even midnight yet.
Saturday August 23, 2008
Watching the Olympics round-up with Sam this evening, I made the delightful discovery that the World TaeKwonDoe Federation is known as the WTF. aand its website is http://www.wtf.org.
This only came up because of a very interesting call made by Chinese refs during the women’s 67kg+ today. During the quarter-final match between GBR’s Sarah Stevenson and China’s Zhong Chen, a headkick by Stevenson in the last 10 seconds was ignored, making Chen the winner by 1 point (headkicks are worth 2). I’m normally very tolerant of judges misjudging things, because of course in the heat of the moment ‘everybody makes mistakes’ is truer than ever, but I was stunned by the collective madness that allowed such a wrong, vital decision to stand.
Eventually after some protesting from the British side the result was overturned and Stevenson named the new winner – a backtracking even more surprising than the initial midjudging, but which illustrates how indefensible the call was. (I like to think Chen spoke up too, because even if the refs had their eyes closed for three seconds, she got kicked in the face and that would be very hard to miss.) Anyway, after this rigmarole, Stevenson then had twenty minutes to prepare for her semifinal, which she duly lost. She still got the bronze, but if she hadn’t been made to suffer such unnecessary stress on top of the tension of an Olympic competition…
Anyway, another section of the TaeKwonDo was bringing some much-needed lols today, a moment best summed up by SportingNews.com’s awesome headline, TaeKwonDo Loser Disagrees, Kicks Judge’s Face. God, it was like something out of Kung Fu Hustle. Very unsporting and rightly condemned by the WTF, but ever so funny.
In Hetty news, today went well! I was so relieved it did, and of course delighted by the paying aspect – I’m £33.50 up and might get up to £10 for the wedding singing as well. I’d do the weddings for nothing, though; they make me so happy. But I need to become more cold-hearted before I could ever do it myself; if I get choked up when I see strangers looking into each other’s eyes and saying their vows in wobbly voices I can’t imagine what I’d be like at my own service. But I’ll never get tired of watching.
I’m leaving for church tomorrow at 9, oh ho ho, so I’d best get to bed.
I am lost, I am found
Friday August 22, 2008
Work really hasn’t happened today. I was going to do some this afternoon, then my time got lost somewhere between running errands in town and organising and photocopying music for tomorrow. I was going to atone this evening, then I drove over to Paul’s and agreed to teach my dad Pontoon (he did so badly) and watched an old Doctor Who with Sam, only to find it was a two-parter, and watched the other one too. It’s not been a bad day really, guilt aside.
However I did do a bit of investigative procrastination in looking around for some more set texts I need to buy, and was disturbed to find that one of them is £40 – and I’ve no idea why. All our other set texts of that length haven’t been much worse than £20. Everyone has it at that price, though, so I’ll have to succumb.
I had a bit of a moan here about the small distinction between being ignored and being forgotten, but it’s not relevant really and well, perhaps I’d do just the same without even realising. I have nothing but good wishes for all of this, but for my sake I’d be sad if new and shiny continued to take the place of old and worn instead of getting its own. I liked my place.
I get paid twice tomorrow! Once for singing at a wedding and once for playing background music at the reception. I’m feeling rather responsible for the latter, so fingers crossed everything goes fine. I love weddings.
Monday August 18, 2008
I’ve just been out to see Mamma Mia with Susannah. It was joyous.
The sad thing about being out at joyous film is that I wasn’t in to catch Matt when he called, and early morning tomorrow he’s going back to the house in France for a week. I’ll miss him. when they take it away.
I had a lovely time with Lou last night. We went to the Flagstaff restaurant and had a yummy dinner, interspersed with the kind of conversation you have to stop whenever a waiter walks past. And I have plans for the week though, so hopefully I’ll keep busy. Ceroc tomorrow! and thursday!
The best plan I’ve made in the last few days, though, is the one that resulted in me now having a ticket to see Sigur Rós performing in London, November 21st, 2008. I’ve been wanting to see them ever since March 29th, 2006, and now finally I will, perhaps with a hand to hold at the same time. It’s what I promised myself, back when I needed healing and closure. I think they will be stunning live.
I need to do a little more Lucan before bed. Wish me luck…
Sunday August 17, 2008
ELBOW’S DRUMMER HAS A BADLY-TUNED TOM THE ENTIRE WAY THROUGH STARLINGS. OH GOD WHY
I NEVER NOTICED THIS BEFORE BUT NOW IT’S THE ONLY THING I CAN HEAR