Showing posts with label things people say. Show all posts
Showing posts with label things people say. Show all posts

Monday, September 28, 2009

This still makes me laugh, two days later

On the way home, I read Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked, which I thoroughly enjoyed. A fantastic, funny and sad meditation on careers that falter, the idea of wasting a life, and on internet fan communities. Towards the end there is a tense family scene: the previous partner of one of the main characters has taken a child (not her own) to the zoo. People are trying to behave well.

"He was impeccably behaved," said Natalie. "A pleasure to be with. And he knows more or less everything there is to know about snakes."
"I don't know how long all of them are," said Jackson modestly.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Best. Gelati. Ever.

Still so much in love with NYC there is hardly time to blog. Of course, I am doing some work as well: have just finalised a book proposal for the medievalism book; and have also been reading PhD drafts and writing references. But Paul is away in Canada for a few days, so I'm doing things with Joel in the afternoons too.

The night we got back from DC, we had dinner with a friend down in the NYU-owned apartments in Washington Square. We spent Monday at home exhausted from travelling, then spent Tuesday afternoon at the Museum of Natural History, including the fabulous Planetarium show — Cosmic Collisions. Again and again in this city, I just get overwhelmed by the scale and the depth of its collections. We toured three out of four floors, marvelling at brilliant dioramas and ethnographic/anthropological displays. Room after room of displays that were perfectly presented. Sometimes one drifts through museums, but these taxonomies of evolution made perfect sense. I really felt I was learning things. Each new branch of species development — the second cavity behind the brain, the cavity in the hip that made it possible for legs to move forwards not sideways like lizards —had its own wing or gallery, with introductory film narrated by Meryl Streep.

On Wednesday we saw Ionesco's Exit the King with Geoffrey Rush, Susan Sarandon, and Lauren Ambrose (Clare from Six Feet Under). Sarandon's part is difficult — the voice of reason is never particularly amusing or engaging — and I'd heard she'd had bad reviews, but I thought she was ok; and in any case, I could listen to that beautiful rich voice for ever. But Rush was just extraordinary: melodramatic, poignant, mournful, joyful, acrobatic and absurd. We booked the cheapest seats online at 60% prices, and were right up the back of the balcony. But the top half of the balcony was empty, so before the play started, we were allowed to move down to the front and sides of that tier, so in effect, we probably had $80 seats for $40. Still and all, I'm glad we saved and saved for this trip so we can do all these things, and not worry too much about the cost. The recession helps, too, without a doubt. Interest rates on our mortgage are down, and competition for our business in New York is high. The second half the play probably does drag on a little, as the King slowly dies, and after it was over, Rush seemed to relish prancing about the stage taking the most elaborate, ballerina-style floppy bow, and bringing all the rest of the cast with grand gestures, as if both demonstrating his own athleticism and flexibility; as well as his relief that he could reverse, or deny the long process of decrepitude.

Today, we wandered down below Canal St, meandering around China Town down as far as the river, in between Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge, then up around City Hall and back into Little Italy. Joel is developing a knack for finding good places to eat. He found the "Excellent Dumpling House" in Lafayette St, listed in Zagat, and offering incredibly cheap and fresh food. Then later, a gelateria and pasticceria that reminded me of a smaller, less chi-chi Brunetti's (in Carlton), where we had excellent coffee and shared a trio of key lime sorbet, raspberry and tira-mi-su ice-cream. We are no strangers to good Italian ice-cream in Melbourne, but the lime was tangy and sweet; the tira-mi-su included pieces of cake in perfect balance with the gelati; and the raspberry tasted like truly fresh raspberries. Maybe it was because we'd been walking for hours, but every mouthful was like a new act of an opera in the mouth. We then bought Joel purple hi-top Converses for half the price we paid in Melbourne, and congratulated ourselves on the ease with which we found our way home.

I then took myself off to St Thomas for evensong. This time, the boys were there as well singing, and the music was Gibbons, Byrd and Tallis. Jackpot!!

But one of the downsides to this excess of riches is the excess of packaging. Everything is triple packaged. We aren't being as careful as we would be at home, but if we buy a pack of prosciutto, it comes sliced with a piece of waxed paper between every slice, a plastic envelope, and a re-sealable plastic box. A cup of coffee and a muffin comes with a cup, a lid, a cup holder, paper around the muffin, a plastic fork and a handful of napkins in a paper bag. A loaf of bread comes in two plastic bags. We sat next to a woman at the theatre who lives in Denver, but moved there recently from California. She had not been able to throw away her polystyrene coffee cup: "we gave up using these in California 100 years ago", she told us.

P.S. I knew I'd forget something! The other night we walked up a little onto the Upper West Side, and came across a museum of folk art. Inside, an exhibition of wildly inventive quilts on the theme of jazz and blues music made by African-American women, and to celebrate the opening, a free concert from Julliard jazz music students. Wild rich sounds filling the gallery space. More beauty, everywhere you turn.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Michelle Grattan draws a line

Reporting on Anna Bligh's historic victory in Queensland (first woman state premier to be elected, rather than coming to office upon a retirement), in an election many thought would see a massive swing (in the end the Labor party looks to lose only about 6 0f 89 seats), Michelle Grattan writes in The Age:
The comfortable victory of Premier Anna Bligh draws a line over a string of recent setbacks at the state level for the ALP, and the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday praised Ms Bligh's "gutsy performance".
Hmm. " ... draws a line over". Is this a (sub-editorial?) mistake for "draws a line under", or is it a new usage that acknowledges the way we now produce text, as in a blog, so that the most recent comes at the top of the "page"? Have people been doing this for ages (drawing lines "over") without my noticing? Or is it a usage common from commerce or business, where one tends to file with the most recent on top?

Anyone else seen this before?

Glorious blue skies and Sunday morning sunshine over the city in Philadelphia this morning. A little work on the second section of Chapter Two, then I'm off to the Art Museum. And that's another thing. Why are big civic art collections called museums in the US, and galleries in Australia?

But I'm increasingly thinking the language problem here is mine. I went to the wonderful Reading Terminal Market yesterday (undercover; huge variety of stalls, though not the aisles and aisles of fruit and veg I'm familiar with from the Vic Market in Melbourne; and apparently some Amish produce), and asked for a large tub of tabbouleh and a small of babaganoush, whereupon the attendant produced two small tubs of babaganoush and a large tub of hummus. Anyway, I'm now stocked up on home-made lentil soup and falafel, as well.

Proves I was right to contact the travel agent in Boulder by email, though, rather than by phone. Who knows where I would have ended up?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

How this face-blindness thing works

Ok, so this is what happens.

I'm in the changing room on campus, about to head out to my weekly tennis game with Alison, Denise and Clara. I hear two women come in, and identify them from their voices as Denise and Alison. Two women come around the corner and I greet Denise cheerily and smile politely at the unknown woman. 'Oh!' I think, 'Denise has brought someone new to play with'. And then of course I realise it is Alison.

There are some reasons for this misrecognition, however. Before her chemotherapy, Alison used to have gorgeous long, shiny, straight dark red hair. After her hair fell out, she wore a wig that looked exactly like her hair, but for tennis she wore a little cap over her slowly re-growing hair. So I knew it had grown out curly, though no longer shiny dark red in colour. But she had, as she explained, 'come out' as a cancer patient, and was now wearing her curls clipped and coloured a beautiful pearly blonde, and so I did not recognise her, even though (a) I was expecting to see her; (b) I had heard her voice; and (c) I knew she had short curly hair. To cover my embarassment, I found myself explaining the concept of face-blindness. It was only a second or two of misrecognition, but it was obvious that I was greeting one woman as a friend and the other as a stranger. Awkward, especially as the attention should have been on Alison's new look, not my mild cognitive impairment.

Alison also told me one of her students complimented her on her hair, and said, 'Did you have that done for cancer?' Alison hadn't been particularly public about her illness, but thinking she was going to have to face lots of these queries, said, 'yes'. But then it became clear that the student thought Alison had cut or coloured her hair in support of cancer research.

And so we all go on, half-understanding each other, half-recognising each other, and only half thinking about other people.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Ribbons of nutritiousness

Caught the ABC's doco about parrots last night (trying to fill the void left by the end of Robin Hood). Loved its cinematography: clouds of birds wheeling and turning en masse, and brilliant landscapes, whether desert, rainforest or snow slopes. Truly, spectacular camera work. But the commentary was pretty dire: uninformative and excessively anthropomorphic. I can't see why we need to hear about birds having dinner dates, etc. Worst of all was the over-writing, viz. "Ribbons of nutritiousness snaking across the continent" or some such.

But then, this is a nation that has just given TV Logie awards to the horrendously misogynistic AFL Footy Show and the appalling Bindi Irwin, so I can't claim to be with the mainstream here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Sometimes in academic life there are moments of great pride.

I had a minor triumph over the last twenty-four hours when I got the scanner to work to make images of different picture-book illustrations of Beauty and the Beast for my lecture on fairy-tales this morning. In 80 minutes I covered Apuleius' Cupid and Psyche, Aarne and Thompson's classifications of fairy tales, the C18 Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne-Marie de Beaumont, brief allusions to Marie de France (Bisclavret, Yonec), and Wife of Bath's Tale, a bunch of C19 and C20 images of the story (Beardsley, Walter Crane etc.), lightly or heavily pornographic images, Disney's movie, some holiday snaps of the Beast from our trip to Disneyland a couple of years ago, and YouTube comments on the opening song from the Disney movie, e.g.
  • "I am like Belle in so many ways";
  • "Belle reminds me so much of myself; Want more out of life, and I love books. Daydreaming of adventure";
  • "I wonder if people sing about me when I'm not looking";
  • "If Belle was real, I would marry her in a heartbeat";
  • "I really agree with all of you. how freakin' kick ass would it be if we lived in singing towns?!"
Also some stuff from Jack Zipes, a clip from Cocteau's extraordinary film from 1946, an extract from Carter's Sadeian Woman on the "moral pornographer"; and a discussion of her "Tiger's Bride". We are using Maria Tatar's terrific Norton Anthology of Fairy Tales for our 3-week segment.

And as I packed up my tapes and my powerpoint CD, and unplugged myself from the lectopia recording mike, I played this clip of Carrie Underwood's "Ever After" from Enchanted:

Utterly exhausting, these lectures! I sometimes feel as if I have actually sung my way through them. But a ninety minute lecture needs to be broken up somehow, and these tales (and medievalism generally) just cry out for this kind of discussion and range.

But the real excitement this week came from the work of my students. Anne has had an article accepted for Exemplaria, and Lisa's book is out! My copy arrived yesterday and it looks wonderful: it's a terrific study of performativity, heterosexuality and speech-act theory in historical fiction (Heyer, Fowles, Byatt and others). Here's the blurb from Ashgate. And to anticipate, another student, Helen, has her book coming out with Boydell and Brewer in a few months, Desire by Gender and Genre in Trouvère Song. No image, yet, but here's her blurb. How very satisfying and rewarding it is to see these clever women producing this wonderful work.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Update: Aftershock

After the trauma of the break-in, I admit to finding it a little hard to concentrate. I have had a big clean-out of my email in-tray, for example, instead of working on my lecture for next week or the several other tasks at hand. But I was going ok, holding it all together to give Joel a sense of normality, until this afternoon, when I was in the supermarket. I'd left my trolley by the bananas, with my green recyclable shopping bags sitting on top, while I'd gone round to pick up some nectarines, and when I came back, I saw an old woman calmly taking one of my bags to put her grapes in.

I said, "Isn't that my bag?" and I swear she said, "I'm a beggar; I'm taking it, ok?" Of course I just shrugged ironically. Who is going to dispute ownership of a $1 bag with an old woman in her slippers? Not I. What am I going to do? I'm going to start collecting my own grapes and mushrooms, sobbing quietly into my hands. I have to keep going, because Joel is at his music lesson and I have to pick him up at 5.30, but I can't stop crying. No one comes to my aid. Clearly, if you run down the street in your socks yelling "stop thief" it's exciting and dramatic, but a middle-aged woman sobbing over the fruit and vegetables on a Friday night? Oh well, what would you expect?

I got as far as the check-out, still sobbing and shaking, clearly experiencing a delayed reaction of vulnerability and shock, and just wishing it would be one of those Fridays when I run into my friend Hannah at the supermarket. I looked up, and there she was, just exactly the right person to meet. I had had dinner with her the previous night, so she knew the whole story, and just hung on tight till I had stopped sobbing.

I'm ok now. Joel is at a friend's house; Paul is on his way home from the US; and everything's right with the world.

Oh. I do turn 50 tomorrow. Anyone else signing up for Earth Hour to help me celebrate? Because, truly, not everything is all right with the world...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Overheard on the bike path

Riding north along the Upfield bike path this afternoon, as it follows the train line west of Sydney Road (yep, just keep heading north to the Emerald City), I saw a man riding a bike with a girl sitting comfortably behind him. He must have been standing up on the pedals the whole way. As we crossed, I heard him say distinctly, "So at that time you weren't going to be in the circus, but then you were?"

Isn't that great? I spent a while pondering the grammatical ambiguity here; was she now going to be in the circus? or was she now in the circus? or had she been going to be in the circus, but now she wasn't (a counter-factual imperfect?)? Is "were" the principal verb, or does it leave the "going to be" understood? I need a grammatical analysis of the different temporalities and tenses at work here.

Either way, she was having a lovely ride in the sun. And so did I, stopping to load up my panier on the left side, a shopping bag on the right handle bar, both filled with dried fruit that is now soaking in beer, brandy and port ready to make Christmas puddings. OK, a little late, but still a glad contrast to last year when my father had to come to my rescue and help me because I couldn't stir them. Twelve months later, I plan to have the mixture all assembled when my family comes to afternoon tea on Sunday, so we can all have a stir and make a wish.