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Me and Sylvia at the Memorial (April 2009)

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Hay peores cárceles que las palabras.

Nuria Monfort


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Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Russian Fairy Tales


At A Journey Round My Skull (which looks in general to be a fantastic source for trippy imagery -- thanks for linking to it, badger!), Will posts several illustrations from Russian Fairy Tales (1945), drawn by Alexandre Alexeïeff; also, a link to the pinscreen animation work of Alexeïeff and his wife and partner Claire Parker.
The Nose, adapted from Gogol:

posted evening of September 30th, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about Pretty Pictures

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Toonerville

My grandfather had a big collection of books of comic strips -- Pogo, Katzenjammer Kids, Li'l Abner, Gasoline Alley -- that I would read whenever I went over to his house. One of them was a collection of Fox Fontaine's Toonerville Trolley -- Sylvia has gotten into the video game Toontown lately, so I suggested we take a look at Toonerville -- thinking its name had the same source*. I never knew it had been made into a cartoon! Here are the three episodes -- Nicely done!

(Another find from the same search: The Electric Prunes performing Toonerville Trolley on the Mike Douglas Show in 1967 -- not The Prunes' finest moment, which if you're interested in seeing their finest moment take a look at this footage.)

* Looks like I was wrong about this. Image searching for "Toonerville Trolley" brings up some pictures of an actual trolley in Louisville in the early 20th Century, when Fontaine was working as a reporter in Louisville...

posted evening of September 28th, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about Animation

How come you do me like you do, do, do?

I've gotten interested in this particular 16-bar melody line that I've been hearing in a lot of old blues and jazz tunes -- it is the melody that always makes me think "They're Red Hot!" when I hear it, because Robert Johnson's song is the first one I ever heard with this structure:

I was listening to Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra playing "How Come You Do Me Like You Do?" last week and realized it's essentially the same melody -- since then I've worked out that several other songs on the records that I'm listening to regularly are built from the same elements -- here is a brief playlist of a couple others, including Tommie Bradley's hilarious "Adam and Eve" and a version by "Bogus" Ben Covington.

(And, wow! A 2000th post ought not go unnoticed.)

posted morning of September 28th, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about Mix tapes

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Writing

A very nice line (assuming I am understanding it correctly) from the newly-published Bolaño story, The Contour of the Eye. Bolaño's character Chen Huo Deng is recounting a conversation with a doctor, telling him about writing diaries as a "crutch for literary creativity":

Dijo que comprendía que los poetas escribiéramos mil palabras para librar una. Le dije que en mi diario actual se libraba algo más y se rió sin comprender.

[First attempt at reading this is incorrect -- see comment from Rick -- He said his understanding was that we poets will write a thousand words to liberate a single one. I told him that in my current diary something else was being liberated and he laughed without understanding.]

He said his understanding was that we poets will write a thousand words to get at a single one. I told him that in my current diary something else was at stake, and he laughed without understanding.

This is working for me on a couple of levels, I can see an image of Chen's words as the fleet launched from Mycenae to liberate Helen...

Thoughts about the translation of "librar" in the first sentence and "librarse" in the second sentence (and thanks to Rick for pointing out that this is a different verb from "liberar")? It would be nice to preserve the pun but I'm not at all sure how that would be done. "in my current diary something else was getting out" maybe? That doesn't sound very natural to me, and I'm skeptical whether it communicates the meaning of the Spanish very well.

posted morning of September 27th, 2009: 4 responses
➳ More posts about Roberto Bolaño

Fuzzy shade of lilac

So there are these pretty little purple things blooming in the front garden -- I'm not sure what they are and am finding it difficult to get a good, in-focus photo of them -- but they are lovely! Especially nice against the red things which are blooming next to them, and of which I also do not know the name...

(Ellen tells me, the red flowers are sedum.)

Update: Ellen is convinced the purple flowers are a weed/wildflower, not anything she planted -- there are similar white flowers growing in parts of the yard where we haven't planted anything.

posted morning of September 27th, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about The garden

Double Standard?

-- Y para guardar un secreto que lo era a voces, para ocultar un enigma que no lo era para nadie, para cubrir unas apariencias falsas ¿hemos vivido así, Tristán? ¡Miseria y nada más! Abrid esos balcones, que entre la luz, toda la luz y el polvo de la calle y las moscas, mañana mismo se quitará el escudo.

-- And so to guard a secret which was no secret, to shroud a mystery which was clear to everyone, to conceal our false appearances we have lived like this, Tristán? -- Misery, nothing more! Open these balonies, let the light in, all the light and the dust of the street and the flies, and tomorrow we will take down the coat of arms.

I was so wrapped up in the story of The Marqués of Lumbría yesterday evening, I was actively cheering Carolina on as she said this -- then I took a step back from the story and asked myself, am I judging Unamuno differently because he is "foreign"? If a present-day Pierre Menard were writing these lines I might think the plot was corny and over-determined. A couple of things that ran through my head --
  • Unamuno is "foreign" -- he is of Spain, he is of the 19th Century, he is of Catholicism. I am exoticising the story by attributing these things to it, which are all outside my experience. This seems like a not-great way of reading, like something that would prevent me from really understanding the story. ...There may be some truth to this but I would be leery of giving it too much weight.
  • I am a less sophisticated reader in Spanish than in English. The barrier separating me from the text, the time it takes to figure out what is being said, is making my reaction to the story more immediate, and delaying my critical/analyical reaction... I'm not sure that this is a coherent idea -- it is sort of tantalizing, to think that I can get into a younger, more naïve head by reading foreign language.

But in the end I think what is making the plotting of this story work, where I might find the same plot elements cornball in another context, is Unamuno's imagery, his descriptive voice. The reading of the story has felt up until this point like looking at dark paintings, there was a sense of claustrophobia imagining the characters as figures on dimly-lit canvasses -- so much so that when Carolina speaks out and orders the windows and balconies uncovered, I get the sense of her figure tearing itself away from the canvas -- this is an interesting image regardless of how much verisimilitude I'm prepared to accord the plot elements.

posted morning of September 27th, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about Miguel de Unamuno

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Lanzarote

This is a funny bit of information: The island where José Saramago lives (and about which he has published a series of journals) is Lanzarote, in the Canaries. I had never realized what this name is until I was reading along in Don Quixote just now:

...puesto que no quisiera descubrirme fasta que las fazañas fechas en vuestro servicio y pro me descubrieran, la fuerza de acomodar al propósito presente este romance viejo de Lanzarote...

...given that I had not wanted to declare myself until the deeds I had performed in your service made me known, the necessity of adapting to the present circumstances that old romance of Lancelot...

I'm giggling now thinking about Saramago living on an island named after Sir Lancelot. Probably just me...

posted afternoon of September 26th, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about José Saramago

Climbing the walls

Another utterly spectacular production from Blu -- this one is in collaboration with David Ellis.

I linked to a previous video of theirs last year; I see from their website that they also did a short piece in Gdansk playing with ideologies...

posted morning of September 26th, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about Graffiti

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Y así, sin dar parte a persona alguna de su intención, y sin que nadie le viese, una mañana, antes del día, que era uno de los calurosos del mes de julio,... salío al campo con grandísima contento y alborozo de ver con cuanta facilidad había dado principio a su gran buen deseo.
I've understood vaguely all along that Cervantes is considered a major root of the tree which is Spanish-language literature but never quite gotten it from the translations I've read. But looking at the original as I've been doing over the last couple of days I am starting to understand what a master of language he is -- even though I am only half- or three-quarters-understanding it the force of his voice is pulling me in and along.

Update: Oh and cool, look at this article I just found with some history as regards Picasso's image of the man of La Mancha.

posted evening of September 25th, 2009: 3 responses
➳ More posts about Don Quixote

...and speaking of movies based on stories from Cuentos Españoles,

I hope a movie has been made of Unamuno's El marqués de Lumbría; this opening paragraph would be spectacular on the screen:

La casona solariega de los marqueses de Lumbría, el palacio, que es como se le llama en la adusta ciudad de Lorenza, parecía un arca de silenciosos recuerdos del misterio. A pesar de hallarse habitada, casi siempre permanecía con las ventanas y los balcones que daban al mundo cerrados. Su fachada, en la que destacaba el gran escudo de armas del linaje de Lumbría, daba al Mediodía, a la gran plaza de la Catedral, y frente a la ponderosa fábrica de ésta, pero como el sol bañaba casi todo el día, y en Lorenza apenas hay días nublados, todos sus huecos permanecían cerrados. Y ello porque el exelentísimo señor marqués de Lumbría, Don Rodrigo Suárez de Tejada, tenía horror a la luz del sol y al aire libre. "El polvo de la calle y la luz del sol-solía decir-no hacen más que deslustrar los muebles y hechar a perder las habitaciones, y luego, las moscas..." El marqués tenía verdadero horror a las moscas, que podían venir de un andrajoso mendigo, acaso de un tiñoso. El marqués temblaba ante posibles contagios de enfermedades plebeyas. Eran tan sucios los de Lorenza y su comarca...
The ancestral mansion of the Marquéses of Lumbría, the palace as it was called in the gloomy city of Lorenza, appeared as a chest of silent memories of the mysterious. In spite of its being in fact occupied, the windows and balconies which gave out onto the world were almost always closed. The façade, where the great coat of arms of the Lumbrían lineage stood forth, looked south*, onto the great square of the Cathedral, whose ponderous construction it faced, but as the sun was shining all day long, and in Lorenza there are hardly any cloudy days, all of its openings remained closed. And this was because the excellent Señor Marqués of Lumbría, don Rodrigo Suáres de Tejada, abhorred the light of the sun and fresh air. "The dust of the street and the light of the sun -- he used to say -- do no more than dull the furniture's shine and spoil the rooms; not to mention the flies..." The Marqués was deathly afraid of flies, which might have come from a ragged, miserable beggar. The Marqués trembled at the thought of catching plebian diseases. And they were so filthy, the Lorenzans and the countryfolk...

...But it looks like no; several of his stories and books have been filmed but not this.

*How great a dialect for "south" is "noon"? A lovely one.

posted evening of September 25th, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about Cuentos Españoles/Spanish Stories

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