Friday, June 29, 2007

Cordelia Learns A New Word And An Unrelated Annoying Fact

Googie. I have been following Steph Mineart's tales of being part of a (new) VW Bug inspired, tongue-firmly-in-cheek pilgrimage to Roswell, NM, at Commonplace Book. Firstly, I have learned that the new bugs are referred to by their loving owners as "pods." Better, she kept referring to things, buildings, sites, as "googie." After the third or fourth "googie," I realized that the old fallback of using context clues was not making me very clueful, so I looked it up. I quote from

"Googie" describes a futuristic, often outrageous, building style that evolved in the United States during the 1950s. Googie architecture was designed to attract customers. The name "Googie" comes from a famous coffee shop in Los Angeles. Like the shop, Googie buildings often have flashing lights, sharp angles, boomerang and flying saucer shapes, and lots of glass and steel. On the east coast, googie ideas were expressed in the zig zag rooflines of coffee shops.The Googie style is sometimes called called Coffee House Modern, Doo-Wop, Populuxe, and Space Age.
---The article is attributed to Jackie Craven.

Annoying Unrelated Fact: One cannot download Jackson Browne's "The Load Out" with its companion piece, "Stay," from the itunes site. For people who may know the song only from hearing it on the radio, this is the song about packing up from a performance and getting ready for the next road show that completely transforms the familiar lyrics "stay... just a little bit longer..." into something more bittersweet. As several reviewers on the itunes site noted, they had not realized that there were two separate tracks involved; it is always played as one.
But downloading Smashmouth's "I'm a Believer" (hey, it's catchy) suddenly made clear the joke in the Clinton Sopranos spoof: Journey, "Don't Stop Believin';" Clinton: "I'm a Believer," holy crow, I must have been really tired these past few weeks. Ha, ha, okay, now it makes sense why Bill's got his money on Smashmouth. Beautiful that the name of the band gives it a dark side, too: I'll bet there are a few mouths he'd love to smash. And I mean the old-fashioned kind of smashing, punching, not the urban dictionary definition. Hopefully, the writers of the spoof weren't implying the latter either.

Googie, good. Missing "Load Out," bad. Friday, excellent.

Friday, June 22, 2007

15.2 Hours

More or less, give or take, in the place where I currently find myself, 15.2 hours constituted my official longest day of the year yesterday (though today will hardly be noticeably different). We've had beautiful weather, and I am now officially on about six weeks vacation, so I had it in mind to do something special with the day, or at least to be awake for all of it. It started out quite well, with a jolt of cappucino:
This was shortly after dawn, and another dose cup followed soon after. I soon had breakfast on and laundry going, not the stuff of a legendary day, but I wasn't out for that, wasn't looking for the big trip, the special event, the dawn or evening plunge into the sea. A nice bike ride in the afternoon would have been nice. My one ambitious project was to force myself to actually go to the dealer of a certain type of automobile, as my current beloved vehicle is still beloved, but rapidly showing the signs of having exceeded its natural lifespan some time ago. I would see to it, do the test drive, play those preliminary car-buying games, and then have enough natural daylight left to recover. The dealer is some ways away, so I called before setting out, only to find that the agent I'd been talking with was out for the day. I suppose I could have gone anyway, but I'd dealt with him on the phone, etc. etc. So I didn't go. I ran some errands out in the bright day instead, breezes sweeping the trees and flowers around, sun everywhere. Perhaps it is the relief of vacation finally here, compounded by having survived a trying round of cutbacks at work, perhaps it was the idea of all that time, all that luxurious time. I bought some birthday presents for a soon to be eighty-one year old friend of my mother's, groceries, finally my own copy of The Kite Runner, which I have picked up and put down at least twenty times since last summer, thinking "wait until you have time" (am I the only person out there who admits to just getting to this book ? I admit it with genuine happiness that I now have time to really dig in). By the time I came home, my plans for late afternoon cookie baking and then a foray out to the local lake were being countervailed by heavy legs and a webby brain. Not coincidentally, I assume, had come along a mass of dark thunder clouds, thickening the sky, dropping the temperature, ratcheting up the breeze to something more menacing and imminent. Scarcely had the tea been made, the laptop and other assorted electronics been unplugged or surge protector assured than did the lightening crack right next to boom after boom, did the cats affix themselves to the carpet fibers under the bed, and I ----. Cup of tea in hand, blanket fetched from bed, body on couch (it was by now very dark), The Kite Runner clearly demanding more energy than I had, I kept hearing in my head, Dream of Thunder, Perfect Mind. That's the coptic, not the film or, I take it, the band. I don't know were the "dream of" part came from, it doesn't seem to be part of the title, though I think I remember it as the title in one of my textbooks in college or elsewhere. It was the title that kept repeating itself, though I looked up the whole text today (linked above), and, of course, how apropos it was, at least the first lines, for such a display of force going on outside of my window. I am often energized by thunderstorms, and have vacuumed, showered, written, and/or baked when conditions have suggested otherwise: the real electricity (or is it nitrogen ? or both ?) in the air, the cooling and clearing sky: I've gone out to meet it. Nothing so rash as dancing around in an empty field, but something so foolish as sitting out on my porch, rain drenching me, lightening flashing away. Only when I lived in a tropical climate did I find disappointment with thunderstorms. The huge rain and enormous crashes of light and sound seemed to bring only more humidity and steaminess, as if some giant had taken a shower and we were trapped in its bathroom. I would dearly like to experience thundersnow, a phenomenon known to occur in the midwest where I lived, but not one that visited during that time. Thunder, I thought, perfect mind.... A mantra or, more likely, a koan, reverberated, and my own consciousness fell away. From my 15.2 hours, subtract three, which, to judge from the gray pallor of the sky to which I opened my eyes, seems only to have been day in technical sense. The rest of the day/evening revived itself: the cats emerged, I put on another cup of tea, started dinner, and tugged my laptop out to the balcony to watch the sun go down, the neighbors' lights go on across the little woods, the birds coming home, the summer settling in.

Update, 6.23.07: I was intrigued, when I browsed for the text, by the mention of a "Thunder, Perfect Mind" short (6 minute) film, by Jordan Scott (daughter of Ridley). An even shorter version (4 minutes) was used for a Prada perfume commercial, though I found the original (?) version of that, fully credited to the director and with rolling credits at the end, on YouTube. It was filmed in Berlin. It juxtaposes a woman on a train reading the text of the Nag Hammadi poem (voiced over in English) with vignettes of a woman in situations related to the words, or meant to relate to the words. The perfume image at the end is jarring. It's a very poetic piece. Commercialism, the arts, the twenty-first century: whose product placement is whose here? The film.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Human Beauty

Tonight I came across a wonderful blog, quite by accident. Perhaps I really ought to take up surfing (the in the water with a board kind), since recording my way to this fantastic photoblog is, uh, revealing. Perhaps this stream of consciousness will be valuable to those of you out there for whom this is meaningful information: I was looking for confirmation that the gruesome bug I found crawling on my couch was (actually, is, since the cats have not had their way with it yet) an earwig. Confirmed. Apparently, there is also a band named "Earwig" and a slew of blogs which also incorporate "earwig" in some form into their titles. I didn't click on any of these, or the band. Instead, for some odd reason, the search also brought up an entry in Dave Barry's blog from 2006 on a Folger's commercial called "Happy Morning" that has quite the cult following. Thinking that there must be a more recent "Happy Morning" episode, I googled that title and among the blogs and other arenas mentioning the same piece over and over (apparently there is no sequel), I found, several entries down from the link to Happy Morning, a link to Parigo Studios.

They are based near the Kansas City area in Lexington, MO. They do wedding portraits, but these are perhaps some of the best photographed you will ever see. There is a real artistry here, a real feel and eye for the human condition: this is art in every sense. Do not be misled by any associations you have with the words "wedding photography." The photographs happen to be mainly from weddings; they are about all other sorts of things. I've copied this one, from the wedding of "Joe and Julie," who, the blog says, met on their grade school bus. I love the photo on the left--- (the bride looks so young !): it captures the lovely quirk to her smile, lights upon the je ne sais quoi of her attractiveness, all in a glance. her joy in this and several other photos almost brought tears to my eyes. One should be so lucky to be photographed like this in one's lifetime. I've added this site to my list of midwest blogs.

For contrast, here is "Happy Morning." Blogdom seemed agog at its genius and its truth about us humans. Again, justaposition works best here; I need say no more. I'd rather reuse my Illy grounds than drink Folgers, so I may be biased.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pie Weights and Spring Cleaning

On June 3rd, I wrote optimistically, I cannot believe it has been almost a month since I've posted, especially since I visit my blog often to use my own links to stay up to date on what everyone else has been writing. There will be a real post here by the end of this weekend. Off to garden before the rain hits first.

Right. It is a very, very busy time at work, and truth be told, I've been paying more attention to other people's blogs than my own. I've also been trying to bring my very rusty French up to speed via everything that is available on the web. Even compared to five years ago, the increase in the number and quality of resources available on the internet is wonderful and astounding. I wonder if this has to do with the Barcelona Accords (link to be posted), since a number of the best sites are from within the EU and are aimed at getting university level students ready to function as students or perhaps even in entry level business positions in other countries within or bordering the EU. I have been listening to French audio at RFI, and taking the little quizzes on aural comprehension is humbling. I'm at about 65%, maybe 75% when I am not tired. Alas, I have never had the opportunity to live in a French speaking country, but I am getting ready to travel again, and with middle age comes boldness.The desire to communicate and comprehend simply quashes the fear of messing up and the imagined horror of one's own incomprehensibility. I'd forgotten how happy the very sounds of other languages make me (as you can tell from at least one posting, I know Latin, but that is not the same sort of thing). I had also planned to learn another language, just for fun, something for me. For a long time, I thought maybe Irish Gaelic, since we have family on the west coast of Ireland and when I was very young, my cousins used to speak to me in Gaelic. Perhaps on that note, it is not new enough, or exotic enough, but it will have to wait. I actually window shopped for languages the new-fangled way: I went to sites on the internet such as omniglot, and listened to samples of languages I thought I'd like to know. I hit up Rosetta Stone's site, as that is actually a very good method for learning a language (they're not kidding in all of those ads). For a long time, I have been interested in northern Europe, and so I listened very carefully to Swedish (also a maybe), Danish (didn't like it as much as I thought I would). I did more than this, of course, but perhaps this aspect is the most interesting part, that one can sample grammars and lessons on line, one can see if there is a real aural appeal. Naturally, there are many reasons people learn a language. In my profession (sorry, yes, the vagueness will have to stay), the Northern countries also would offer some practical opportunities. Finnish. Yes, it has fifteen cases and vowel harmony, but I've encountered cases and spelling shifts in other languages. I have found an excellent course, Finnish for Foreigners online, and have been working through it at a leisurely pace. There, all in one breath, is what I have been up to in my spare time. yes, of course I plan to go to Finland...

Maybe there is a connection here to the picture I posted. In late May/ early June, I spent some time getting my apartment in better shape. Even after a few years, I find that a number of things are parked exactly where I (mis)placed them "temporarily" immediately after I moved in. So it was a surprise, and a pleasant one, when in the middle of making a pastry crust for a peach tart, I thought, "oh, I wish I had those beans I used to use for pie weights [to keep the dough from rising up when the crust cooks]," and I reached down to where I would have kept the can in the old place and put my hand directly on the right thing, which had been sitting there waiting for me all that time. So I had all of these thoughts about how spring cleaning, or even hunting about in a cabinet for a specific thing, can suddenly raise or lift a weight from the past. No puns on pies or gaining weight, which, uh, I don't really do.

So there it was, my old Illy Cafe can, marked so that I didn't try to cook the beans, sitting on the counter next to the latest Starbucks bag, espresso the constant, a small bit of my past self refound as it should be. It all worked literally and metaphorically (it had been years since I made the peach tart). My reconnection with modern languages feels the same: I used to do this , I think, quite surprised, that I was understanding as much French as I did, that is is all still in there, somehow, and the sheer pleasure of that has taken the edge off not a few of my days.

I've added some links on the sidebar: a great and current blog by a meteorological scientist working in Finland Dave In Suomi, and that of a Finnish journalist and geneologist there who writes of her life and work, Daydreaming in Helsinki.
Thanks to Willoboe, whose blog brought Dave's to my attention. And now, I really do have to get my constantly sleep-deprived self back to some real work !