Saturday, October 31st, 2009
This has been a really excellent weekend for playing music -- last night I jammed with John, who I met pretty recently and had not played with previously, and was startled to find that we're on just about the same page musically. We picked up each other's songs very quickly and got some nice harmonies going.
Then today I played with Bob and Janis and Gregory, and realized that we've really made a lot of progress over the past half a year or so, after a couple of years of being in a rut -- at this point one of us can call a tune and even if we haven't played it in a while, we jump right in and harmonize. A musical milestone of sorts for me this afternoon was playing violin and singing in unison with it -- I've never been able to figure that out before but today it was sounding all right. (Neither the playing nor the singing was as good, quite, as if I do one or the other -- but I could hear how they were going to get better.)
Only comes around once a year... Here's Sylvia dressed for the occasion, with her friends Kaydi, Jazmyn and Emma:
Sylvia and I are going to the toy store today to get a cribbage board. Here are my three favorite card games from childhood: cassino, cribbage, gin rummy. Sylvia is pretty good at cassino -- we played this morning and she beat me -- just learning cribbage -- we've been playing two and three hands, no board, just counting points, for a few weeks now -- and as yet not introduced to gin rummy.
I have forgotten a lot of the details of cribbage rules! The first time I played with Sylvia I did not even remember to stop play at 31. Certain details of the scoring still elude me, like "Nobs" and "Nibs" -- I am relearning this stuff as I teach it to Sylvia.
In general I played a lot of cards as a child, with my parents and uncle and grandfather, and solitaire. The deck of playing cards has an iconic position in my mind -- the cut, the shuffle, the fan, the visual aspect of each card and the tactile aspect of the cards, each of these feels important, like a piece of my home. I'm kind of attracted to Tarot for its connections with playing cards although the mysticism has kind of lost the charm it held for my 20 -year-old self.
Friday, October 30th, 2009
In this week's NY Times Magazine, Negar Azimi takes a look at the Museum of Innocence Orhan Pamuk is constructing in Istanbul. Pamuk says, "My novel honors the museums that no one goes to, the ones in which you can hear your own footsteps."
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
I happened today on Borges' essay on "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins" (thanks for the link, Dave!) -- Douglas Crockford has put a parallel translation of it online on his web site, it's not clear whose translation he's using. Great fun to read, and it includes a list of the types of animals which I'm pretty sure is included as a fragment in Book of Imaginary Beings:
These ambiguities, redundancies and deficiencies remind us of those which doctor Franz Kuhn attributes to a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge*. In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into:
- belonging to the Emperor
- stray dogs
- included in this classification
- trembling like crazy
- drawn with a very fine camelhair brush
- et cetera
- just broke the vase
- from a distance look like flies
Wilkins made an early attempt to create a universal language -- some of his work An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language is online in facsimile here; Borges also references some other early attempts, Johann Martin Schleyer's Volapük, Giuseppe Peano's Interlingua, and Bonifacio Sotos Ochando's Lengua universal. (Pedro Mata's Curso de lengua universal, referenced by Borges, is online in its entirety at Google Books.)
*Wikipædia notes that the truth of this attribution is open to question. Laszlo Cseresnyesi of Shikoku Gakuin University wrote a post on LINGUIST-l in 1996 discussing the Celestial Emporium. "The responses I have received leave no doubt
that I'd better give up on the search for the
Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Creatures
(and stop pestering my colleagues at the Chinese
Department). However, I believe that one cannot
prove the non-existence of a book conclusively,
and I have had no chance to follow all the
conceivable leads in a major library."
Monday, October 26th, 2009
I was exuberant at the thought of beginning anew, and greatly soothed by the consolations of life in a yalı, so much so that during the first few days I convinced myself that a rapid recovery was in prospect. No matter what amusements we'd partaken in on the previous evening, no matter how late we'd come back, and no matter how much I'd had to drink, in the morning, as soon as the light began to stream through the gaps in the shutters, casting its strange reflections of Bosphorus waves onto the ceiling, I would throw open the shutters, each time amazed at the beauty that rushed in, that almost exploded, through the window.
It suddenly struck me this evening that Pointe-Courte has a lot in common with this portion of Museum of Innocence. I'm wondering now how much a comparison of Noiret's character with Kemal would work, how much provincial France in the 50's "is like" Turkey, the provinces of Europe, in the 70's. I'll be watching Pointe-Courte again on Thursday (Mark and Woody are coming over!), will keep that thought in mind.
Sometimes I felt that my happiness issued not from the possibility that Füsun was near, but from something less tangible. I felt as if I could see the very essence of life in these poor neighborhoods, with their empty lots, their muddy cobblestone streets, their cars, rubbish bins, and sidewalks, and the children playing with a half-inflated football under the streetlamps. My father's expanding business, his factories, his growing fortune, and the attendant obligation to live the "elegant European" life that befit this wealth -- it all now seemed to have deprived me of simple essences. As I walked these streets, it was as if I was seeking out my own center.
I am growing more confident about this reading: dissolute Kemal is the cosmopolitan, westernized Turk; his longing for Füsun is a longing for his Ottoman roots, what he imagines to be his authentic self. This is very interesting coming from Pamuk, who self-identifies as European, who has said repeatedly that Europe is Turkey's future. The longing for Füsun is destroying Kemal, that's clear enough. But she is herself a character, with her own needs and desires; how does her identification as authentic Turkishness play into her character? And does that make Sibel (also a full character in her own right) a personification of Kemal's cosmopolitan identity? Is Kemal being presented as dissolute because he cannot fully embrace that identity?
(Like with Snow a couple of years ago, I want to draw an easy parallel to American cultural identities. But again it seems like that is too easy and risks missing the point.)
Sunday, October 25th, 2009
Sylvia's class is doing a unit on Greek mythology; she has as reading homework a pagelong summary of the story of Arachne -- she was telling me about it this morning and we agreed that it leaves out way too much detail... Before lunch, we looked up Ovid's telling of the story, which I have not read in many years; I was amazed all over again by it, and Sylvia was interested and receptive. What an extraordinary story-teller! I am thinking the summary-for-schoolkids probably has to leave out all the gods posing as animals to impregnate mortal women stuff,* which is kind of the heart of this story, and Arachne committing suicide by hanging herself is probably similarly verboten... The story's kind of weak when you take all that out.
Arachne left the ends of her warp as a delicate fringe, while her border showed ivy interwoven with flowers.
Hers was a work whose merit neither Athena nor Envy could deny. The masterwork goaded the goddess into blind fury: she shredded the fabric and its catalogue of the gods' sins. Then, snatching a branch from an olive growing on Mt. Cytorus, she lashed Arachne's face thrice and a fourth time.
The miserable girl couldn't bear the shame; she went and hanged herself. With a hint of pity Pallas said to the dangling corpse, "Live -- but for your sins, continue to hang. Your whole line will pay the same punishment."
Having spoken, Pallas sprinkled Arachne with magic herbs. At the touch of this dire elixir, Arachne's hair fell off and with it her nose and ears. Her head shrank, and then her whole body became small. Instead of legs, her wizened fingers projected from her sides, and the rest of her became all belly -- from which nevertheless she spins thread and as a spider continues the work of her loom to this day.
-- Metamorphoses, Ovid, Book VI
translated by David Drake
* (It just said something to the effect of, "Arachne's weaving showed the gods behaving poorly and made fun of them," and that the gods being angry at this is why she was transformed into a spider.)
Saturday, October 24th, 2009
During the break between songs, we came alongside Celâl Salik the columnist again. "I've worked out something love has in common with a good newspaper column, Kemal Bey," he said. "What is it?" I asked. "Love, like a newspaper column, has to make us happy now. We judge the beauty and the power of each by how deep an impression it makes on the soul." "Master, please write that up in your column one day," I said, but he was listening not to me but to his raven-haired dance partner.
I have started to notice a heavy focus on defining and referencing definitions of love and happiness in Museum of Innocence. On almost every page I see both words, see Kemal's insistence on declaring whether and how he was happy in each moment of his narrative; and part of his means of introducing each character is to have the character talk about what love is, and how it can be attained. I wonder how much this is Pamuk's project as well, I remember a lot of this type of discussion in Snow.
"Please bring it tomorrow. Don't forget," Füsun said, her eyes widening. "It is very dear to me." Chapter 17, "My Whole Life Depends on You Now," is the end of the first major cycle in Museum of Innocence -- it ends with the same words as Chapter 1, completing the flashback/exposition that began in Chapter 2.
The pace of the book has been very even through this first piece of the narrative, not dragging nor rushing. The sense of Kemal leading me through his exhibit is palpable... There is a lot of room left for the story to escape from his control, which I am hoping for -- being led this way could start to feel stifling if I am not given more freedom to roam the museum looking at what I want to look at. (It does not feel stifling at this point, alls I'm saying is I could see that developing at some point...)
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