Tuesday, December 30th, 2003
My brother had a gig working as a clown at a party. I believe the location was a university campus or library, not sure. I was in his dressing room and was not sure whether to wish him good luck or say "break a leg!" so I settled for the universally-recognized thumbs up. Went in to the party and the only other person in attendance was Ophelia Benson, whom I knew at a glance. We were asked to write down a favorite quote and pass it up to the front of the room with our name on the same paper. Ophelia started, and passed me a stack of paper to use and pass along. (The room was starting to fill up.) All I could think of was "'Tis prithee to be wise" and I was about to write that down when I started thinking, that doesn't mean anything -- did anyone actually say that? I thought maybe I was misquoting and started hunting around for what word I could be misremembering as "prithee" -- "pissy"? "Shitty"? Well I locked onto "'Tis shitty to be wise" and could think of nothing else -- meanwhile I was missing my brother's act, I wasn't passing along the stack of paper (it consisted of old newsprint and Ophelia's notes, which were in red ballpoint), people were getting impatient.
Sunday, December 28th, 2003
A weird montage of images in my head. I was talking to Jim, asking him which Hudson River crossing he thought would be best to use when I drive north tomorrow; he did not have much to say on the subject so I included Carl in the conversation. Carl thought GWB was the way to go before 8 in the morning. We decided to fly over the route in his plane. (This part of the dream memory is extremely vague -- there needs to be some transition to the next image.) Now we are sitting in Carl's plane looking at the freeway system, looks like a very big map. And now somehow, we are eating in a restaurant in NYC, a very expensive restaurant where everything is going wrong. Transition to a restaurant-kitchen setting of a sitcom, where the chef (very fat Andrew, who was in my class at Natural Gourmet) is not able to control the kitchen staff and relies instead on the maitre d'hote, a short, thin black man who is overly fond of liverwurst, to keep things going. The maitre d' is on vacation (in Vienna, looking for the perfect liverwurst) and things are falling apart.
Sylvia told me the nature of her dream when she woke up this morning -- "There was a dinosaur movie called, called 'Dinosaur Planet'. It had a scary part and parts that were not scary" -- but would give no more detail.
Thursday, December 25th, 2003
Well actually here I am at home this morning, might as well write a post I've been thinking of for a few days. It concerns translation so I will ask LanguageHat to link to it.
First topic: I found a book on my shelf the other day while looking for train reading, called The Following Story (Het Volgende Verhaal) by Cees Nooteboom (what a wonderful name! I wonder how it is pronounced.) I have a vague memory of coming into possession of this book, and it is dog-eared at p. 76, so I must have started reading it -- I took another go at it Tuesday. And a couple of subtle grammatical errors got me wondering -- is the translator (Ina Rilke) not fluent in English? Or is Nooteboom playing some kind of linguistic game that Rilke is rendering faithfully?
For example: the first sentence of the second paragraph of the story begins, "I had waked up with the ridiculous feeling that I might be dead..." "Waked" can be baby talk in the usage "I waked up" but it does not sound like baby talk here, just like nonsense. I do not know any Dutch so I will put my question forth and hope someone reads this who is familiar with Nooteboom in the original. If you have answers, mail me.
By the way, here is a very nice couple of sentences:
I'm ashamed to say that after all those years on earth I still do not know the exact makeup of the human eye. Cornea, retina, iris and pupil, which double as flowers and students in crossword puzzles, that much I knew, but the actual substance, that vitreous mass of coagulated jelly or gelatine, has always struck fear into me. Whenever I use the word "jelly," everyone invariably laughs, but all the same Cornwall in King Lear had cried: "Out, vile jelly!" as he put out Gloucester's eyes, and that is precisely what I had in mind when I squeezed those sightless spheres which either were or were not my eyes. A lovely passage -- but note "those" in the first sentence. Seems to me like it should be "these". Again -- is this from the original or from the translator? (Note -- very cool that the crossword puzzle joke works in both Dutch and English. I am assuming it worked without too much fiddling about on Rilke's part; if I am wrong and she did have to take liberties to get it to work, well, she did a very good job of it.)We visited Ellen's friend Alice the other day and gave her son Steven Demian as a Hanukkah present. Ellen had asked what I thought would be a good book for him -- he is studying German and is reading Camus -- so I thought Demian was a good idea. It is the first book I ever read in German, anyway the first one I was ever able to actually finish. We gave him my copy, plus a translation. I had a look at the beginning of it and found it fascinating as ever, and indeed highly legible. But here's what's interesting -- the German sounds great and a bit profound to my ears -- but when I try rendering it in English it seems a lot less profound, nearly banal. I don't think this is because I am a lousy translator, though I am; when I looked at the translation which we bought for Steven, its phrasing was pretty close to my own. So could the profundity which I am seeing in the original be something I am reading into it, inspired by the rush of being able to understand a foreign language? -- this is a pretty unusual experience for me. A number of people whom I respect have dismissed Hesse as not worthwhile for someone who is not a teenager. (Which either way, Steven is, so I'm covered there.) Any thoughts?
Update: LanguageHat advises me that I am mistaken here: "waked" is a standard past participle of "wake", used more commonly in Britain than in the U.S. And he thinks "those" is acceptable in the longer exerpt. I'd still be interested to know more about the original text that was translated as "after all those years".
Wednesday, December 24th, 2003
Hey here it is the 24th already. See you in a few days.
Tuesday, December 23rd, 2003
Glad to see Charles Murtaugh is back in the land of the posting.
Saturday, December 20th, 2003
My short time in the shop this evening included a number of "firsts". I used my new panel jig (completed after way too long a time, and a poor excuse for what I had originally planned to build) for the first time, gluing up the base for a sharpening station I am building -- it seems to do basically what I was hoping it would, which is to hold boards aligned while I get the clamps on and keep them flat. I cut into the wood I bought for Ellen's bookcase, which marks the first time I have ever worked with rough-sawn lumber. I like it! (Actually this "first" is a bit of an exaggeration but I am going to let it stand.) It is also the first time I have worked with maple since I built Sylvia's high chair (back in the early days of my woodworking career, before I had a proper bench); it is as nice to work with as I remembered it. My scrub plane eats it up. Now I just need to get some better bench dogs, so I can clamp wood that I am scrubbing properly in place -- this would be a major step up for me. I think I will order some new dogs in a few weeks, when I put in my order to Lee Valley for a couple of things I have been meaning to get.
Update: I managed significantly to improve the performance of my bench dogs. All I did was, I relieved the lower half of the dog's face; so that instead of coming up from the bench at a 90° angle, it comes up slightly acute. So the contact with the workpiece is all at the top of the dog and the force from the vise is pushing the workpiece down into the bench. It works a lot better now.
Friday, December 19th, 2003
Ordering home fries in New York City at a restaurant you do not know is always a gamble; and the odds are heavily weighted against you. Most likely you will get mushy, vaguely pink cubes of potato with no flavor at all; but on rare occasion you get lucky: randomly shaped pieces with skin on, browned with bits charred to black, lots of flavor and texture. Today I had such an experience; but that was not the big news.
The big news was the corned-beef hash: I have never ordered corned-beef hash at a coffee shop in NYC and been served anything other than the standard canned product. But today, at Sarge's (3rd Ave. and 36th St.), I was served homemade hash. What is particularly special about this (I mean besides the obvious, the flavor, which was excellent) is, the menu did not make a point of it at all: the menu just says "2 eggs with corned-beef hash" or words to that effect. It is almost par for the course now that if a restaurant serves some particularly good or unusual dish, it is a gimmick -- pointed up on the menu and on signs and advertisements, bold face, stars and bullets. It really did my heart good (perhaps good enough to counteract the effect of all that cholesterol and fat) to eat well without all the hoopla.
Update: Oog, just looked at the first paragraph of this post and noticed I need to vary my sentence construction a bit more...
Wednesday, December 17th, 2003
I played the open mike at the Dancing Goat tonight, the first time I have performed in a few years (not counting the time I played in West Orange, which I am trying to forget) -- and the first time in several years I have performed on stage, with mikes. It went all right; I felt a little like I could not get into my groove and my timing was a little rough; but people in the audience said it sounded fine, Janis said it sounded just like when I am playing at her house, which is about what I was aiming for. I played "Stagger Lee" and "C. C. Rider" in a medley, and "Prodigal Son".
The band 13 Scotland Road played before the open mike, and were terrific.
Been a while since I did one of these...
Last night Nathaniel and I had tickets to hear Dolly Parton at a small venue in the city. When we arrived, Nathaniel crawled in through the most immediately available entrance, a hole in the wall above the back door (which was locked). I was too bulky for this means of ingress so I walked around to the front door.
When we gave our tickets to the man at the front counter, we had to spend what seemed like an inordinately long time proving our identities by means of photo ID's; the first one I showed him was too blurry, the second was poorly posed; then I showed him a photo of myself and Sylvia but with no ID attached to it -- this he deemed sufficient. Nathaniel went right in to the concert but I lingered in the anteroom, where there was a bar, a florist and a restaurant of some kind, sushi IIRC. I bought a bouquet of roses -- I was not sure what for but eventually decided they were to give to Dolly. Some guys from my office were sitting at the bar, talking about the show, which you could see through an open doorway. (NB this does not jive with a detail from the second part of the dream; I take no responsibility for such dissonances.) I noticed that in addition to songs, they were performing anti-drug commercials which had recently been on TV starring Dolly's sister. The guys from my office were discussing these commercials, making lists of which ones they had seen already.
At the intermission Nathaniel came out to talk to me, quite disheveled and enthusiastic. We went inside together and I told him I had bought flowers for Ms. Parton, and asked whether it would be appropriate to give them to her. I noticed she was sitting talking to some people in the audience, which seemed unusual. Nathaniel thought it might be proper to give her the flowers after the show.
Then the second set started; I saw that what I had thought was a stage, was actually a bar -- Dolly and the band were sitting behind it as if they were customers and the audience were a collective bartender. There was a rilly cool visual effect when Dolly sneezed and all the lights went down instantaneously; in the pitch darkness, the point where your eye was drawn by the sneeze was illuminated with the logo of the company sponsoring the concert. (No, I don't remember what the company was.) The lights went back up and they started singing a song which sounded kind of like a number from "The Pajama Game"... Around this time I woke up.
Monday, December 15th, 2003
A song was running through my head all day; tonight I figured out (roughly) how to play it. The song is "Tell old Bill", which I know in a performance by the Chad Mitchell Trio. Here are the chords:
Tell old Bill, when he gets home, this morning,
Tell old Bill, when he gets home, this evening,
Tell old Bill, when he gets home,
C G D
To leave them downtown women alone
G D G
This morning, this evening, so soon.
The fingerpicking is kind of difficult to describe but basically you just play the melody. A lot of time is spent on open B, G string second fret, and open G; and in the alternate melody, a lot of time on E string third fret, open E, and B string third fret. A nice song. Update: I'm playing it in D now, which is a lot easier on my voice, but I have yet to come up with as nice a picking pattern with the different shaped chords.
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