Saturday, August 20th, 2005
When we go to Italy (on Tuesday) I will bring with me two books. One is a bilingual edition of Pinsky's translation of the Inferno (not that I can read Italian -- but it seemed like nice to have available for understanding how the poetry should sound); and the other is Dawkins' "The Ancestor's Tale". I got that on an impulse at Coliseum Books yesterday afternoon and have been reading it with enthusiasm ever since. Dawkins is such a great, engaging writer -- the one thing that puts me off about this book is how frequently he feels compelled to point out that evolution is a fact and creationism a bizarre fraud; but I recognize the necessity of his doing so.I've been thinking about re-reading the Inferno ever since my birthday -- 35 seems like a good age to look at it again. And our trip to Florence will provide a nice context.
Friday, August 19th, 2005
As of tomorrow, Ellen nd Sylvia and I have been a family for 4 years. We adopted Sylvia from the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute on August 20, 2001. We are celebrating with a day in the city, going to Central Park and to Lincoln Center. (Also it's Ellen's birthday soon, so it's a celebratory time of year for us.)
Wednesday, August 17th, 2005
Today is Wednesday, the 17th of August. Next week, and the week following, I will be on vacation; we three are going to stay in Italy where we have never been before. Then I will come back home and register for classes at Columbia, where I start my Master's Degree program this fall semester.
(Sniff also was the one to talk to the astronomer in Chapter VI, in an impressively grown-up way. I had not remembered him growing up at all. -- And in the next book, he will again be babyish.)
Tuesday, August 16th, 2005
For bedtime stories now, we are reading Comet in Moominland, by Tove Jansson. Sylvia is really loving it, which does my heart good as the Moomin books are some of my favorites. (Previously we have read together chapters here and there from a few of the books, but this is the first one we are taking on as a complete story.)
Tonight while we were reading Chapter IV, we came across one of my favorite moments involving the small animal Sniff, immediately after he escapes from the dragon whose garnets he was trying to steal:
Sniff was sobbing on the ground.
"It's all over now," said Snufkin. "Don't cry anymore, Sniff."
"The garnets," Sniff moaned. "I didn't get a single one."
Snufkin sat down beside him and said kindly, "I know. But that's how it is when you start wanting to have things. Now, I just look at them, and when I go away I carry them in my head. Then my hands are always free, because I don't have to carry a suitcase."
"The garnets would have gone in the rucksack," said Sniff miserably. "You don't need hands for that. It's not the same thing at all just looking at them. I want to touch them and know they're mine."
This exchange is kind of a set piece in children's stories, I can't give an example but you see it quite a bit. But I think nowhere else is it done as neatly and touchingly. It reads to my ear as if Jansson knows it is a set piece and is playing with it a bit, but she is also sincerely getting her point across.
What Jansson does particularly well (and what I think authors who present this exchange often fail in) is show how miserable Sniff is about not having gotten the garnets. His line, "the garnets would have gone in the rucksack -- you don't need hands for that", is just perfect. He's heard the line Snufkin is passing him before, and he's not buying it.
At 32nd St. this morning I walked past a woman wearing a black t-shirt with a large colorful cross and the legend, "I'm Hooked on Jesus" -- as I walked to work, I thought variously of a little kid wearing a t-shirt with appropriate graphic that says "I'm Hooked on Phonics" (presumably included with the instructional kit his parents bought); a clueless 20-year-old hipster wearing a t-shirt that says "I'm Hooked on Junk"... then William Burroughs wandering around Hell's Kitchen 50 years ago with an anachronistic t-shirt that just says "HORSE" in big black letters...
(The clueles hipster was not supposed to actually use heroin, he was trying to make some kind of ironic statement.) (Did I mention I'm not too fond of message t-shirts?)
Did Burroughs call heroin "Horse"? I mainly remember him just calling it "Junk" but he used other names too. I was also thinking of an image of 80-year-old Burroughs in his bedroom in Kansas, visited by a visionary pegasus.
Wednesday, August 10th, 2005
A story about a monarch who goes to work writing jingles on Madison Ave., called "The Emperor's New Ditty".
Tuesday, August 9th, 2005
The story "Benito Cereno" would make a really excellent movie, and I would cast Johnny Depp as Captain Cereno, and John Cleese as Captain Delano. (Note -- I have never seen "Pirates of the Caribbean" and don't really wish to; but I think Depp's alienated persona would be a perfect match here.)
Update, several days later: Come to think of it, why not check in IMDB and see if it's already been done? Benito Cereno was filmed in 1968, before Depp had embarked on his acting career and before Cleese had broken out of absurd comedy; so neither one of them stars in it. Oh well. Indeed no one I've ever heard of; and it is in a foreign language, too. Would like to see it sometime though.
Monday, August 8th, 2005
A date! A parents' night out without Sylvia! We are meeting Deedee tonight at the Cornelia Street Cafe to watch a play about her father, "The Man Who Lives Here is Loony" by R. B. Morris, who I come to find out is an accomplished country musician. Sylvia is going with her grandparents to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory again. We will have dinner beforehand, at Le Gigot.
Sunday, August 7th, 2005
martial arts and marshmallows
make up my dreamtime
(and the fabric of my days)
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