Sunday, December 17, 2017

When Marion Zimmer Bradley came to stay. (Nothing bad happened, but she seemed an odd person).

In the early eighties we sometimes had writers and sci-fi fans stay with us in Germany.  My mother always felt bit isolated as a writer and so cherished these opportunities to discuss all kinds of issues related to the world of sci-fiction and writing in general. She was also always an outgoing and sociable person who loved telling jokes and simply having a good time with people she liked and found interesting. For someone who was a writer, she always seemed quite extroverted, at least to my more introverted self.

One of the people who stayed with us on at least a couple of occasions was Marion Zimmer Bradley. Because of recent revelations I’ve been racking my brain a bit to remember the times she came to stay in greater detail.

I do remember a certain amount of eye-rolling taking place when my sister and I were told that people were coming to stay, and this was especially the case with MZB. To my teenage-self MZB seemed a profoundly odd person. Not creepy or sinister in any way- just- well- odd. (And not particularly nice or friendly).

When we first moved to Germany, after living with my dad’s brother and his family for some time, we moved into a modestly sized flat in our middle-sized German town to the south of Frankfurt.  MZB came to our town at least twice, and I’m fairly certain she did stay with us on at least one occasion but on the other occasion she stayed in a small hotel down the street. Even when she did not stay at our place she spent a great deal of time there with my mother in particular and witnessed a fair amount of our everyday comings and goings.

The things we found odd about her (and this included to a certain extent our mom, who was also flattered to be on quite friendly terms with this successful writer) were:

Her odd, frumpy-looking appearance and her complete lack of interest in her appearance or her clothes. I’m pretty sure mum lent her some of her own clothes to sort of “spruce her up” for the book fare appearance.

Her outspokenness to the point of rudeness (typical to our minds of the cliche of the “loud American”) and her self-centeredness. 

In connection with the lack of interest in appearance was a certain frugality/stinginess, which my mother felt somewhat odd, considering she must have been doing quite well, at the time, thanks to “The Mists of Avalon”.  (which back then I felt guilty for not having read, now not so much).

Another thing I remember mom talking about and being confounded by was her lack of understanding of, or interest in, more intellectual writers such as Virginia Woolf or Henry James. I remember mum talking about how she had tried but failed to get Marion interested in such authors.

It did appear that they got along well though and had good talks.

Not at any point did she come across as sinister or manipulative, although as already noted she did come across as odd. I do remember her sort watching our family life and sometimes commenting on it: it made me think her life must be quite different. Once I heard her mention to my mother the fact that I often hummed or sang songs to myself as I went about the house, and how that must have meant I was happy (which I suppose it did, it was just something we all did quite a bit) and I realized she was observing us/me in the context of our everyday family life.
Not exactly sure why I’m posting this now—probably as some sort of reckoning with the past.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Summer music

Summer of music: have discovered a lot of bands/musicians I like – Father John Misty, Whitney, Grizzly Bear,  Marco Benvento, The Maccabees, Julia Byrne, Avec pas d'casque, James Elkington/Nathan Salsburg  “chillhop” artists on soundcloud: Simon Eng, Julian G. Avila – I found out about these folks often because I’m addicted to this youtube channel:rainbowholic  Also oldies but greaties like Steely Dan, Talking Heads (Remain in Light, Fear of Music), Tangerine Dream

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Update on Bartle Teeling, husband of my first cousin three times removed.

Valerio was kind enough to send me this lovely picture of Bartle Teeling's tombstone. He is buried in the Campo Verano cemetary in Rome, a city that I really must visit at some point.

Thank you Valerio!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Quick update on the rest of the first season of "High Maintenance"

Well now we've watched the whole season and I either got used to the slightly different tone or the tone changed a bit from the first two episodes. I got used to the way the characters weaved in and out of each other's story lines. My favorite episodes were the one focused on a dog: Grandpa, and the one about the recluse with a penchant for "LaCroix"  sparkling water in cans.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Thoughts on the HBO show "High Maintenance"

So we watched the first two full length episodes of "High Maintenance" last night and while it's still good, the tone of the show has changed. People seem more duplicitous and out to get each other. The pot guy gets picked on more. And it has definitely been "HBO-ified", i.e. it's quite a bit more sexually explicit than it was as a web series, which I found jarring.

There was a laid-back sweetness (sometimes sadness) to the interactions in the web series that is missing in the first of these two full-length episodes. People bicker more and are just more annoying - and  - to be honest less interesting (to me at least). 

We'll see in what directions the new episodes go. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Late August update


Late August always tends to be a wistful time around here—the students moving back conjures up feelings of panic (because the pace of life is inevitably about to quicken) AND excitement—there’s definitely a buzz in the air.
I like to make the last few days before the semester starts as slow and contemplative as possible.
Long breakfasts with reading and pleasant music and lots of backyard bird watching. Also I’m trying to get some house-cleaning done and figuring out a schedule for it during the semester.
Actually figuring out when to do things takes up a lot of my time.
As does figuring out a way to rein in my internet time—I’m as susceptible to the time-suck as many people more than half my age….(yes I even “tumblr” on occasion…) I find dipping in to various of the internet subcultures quite interesting: the bullet journal subculture, the studytumblr subculture, “booktube”—people who post videos book reviews on youtube, etc
Over the summer I also had fun with duolingo--the language learning app.
Here’s a list of books I’ve been reading this summer:
Pema Chodron: When Things Fall Apart - have always loved dipping into her works.
The first volume of Karl-Ove Knausgaard My Struggle—sometimes I don’t have the patience for
Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before: The reliance on anecdotes often from her own life slightly irritates me, even though though she has some good life-hacks in there. 
Elizabeth Gilbert’s: Big Magic: another vexing mix of helpful/inspiring/uplifting and annoying.
Lynda Barry: What It Is: I find her work oddly moving—it swirls something up inside me—probably to do with fear/lack of self-confidence—but also oddly inspiring and uplifting—have been sketching (badly) because of her! Really want to get her “Syllabus” book.
A fantastic article about Annie Dillard by William Dersiewicz (after reading up on Dillard I found out she is married to Robert D. Richardson, whose wonderful book on Ralph Waldo Emerson: Mind on Fire I really want to go back to.)

And finally Marilynne Robinson. Have started Gilead and am enjoying it immensely. Was pleasantly surprised (but then not) that Obama is a fan. She reminds me a little of a more? religious American George Eliot. I can’t wait to read her other works esp. Housekeeping. 


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Random thoughts on Masterpiece's Endeavour


The weakest part of the show Endeavour are often the crime cases themselves—silly, contrived etc.
What keeps me coming back, beside the lovely images of Oxford or the many shots of a pensive and brooding Endeavour chewing on his pencil while listening to what are often my own fave pieces of classical music, are the little quotidian interactions between Endeavor and Thursday, or the glimpses we get into Thursday’s family-life: the sandwich toppings, or when he looks disappointingly into the chocolate box and proclaims who ate the Savoy truffle?  (A quick google brings to light a new-to-me Beatles song of the same name AND the fact that it’s one of the chocs inside of a specific assortment of Mackintosh chocolates.
The references to bloater paste in this last episode had both Bill and I running to our Kindles. I knew it was probably some sort of weird fishy thing.  
One last cultural reference—his name always reminds me of growing up in Australia, where we were told again and again about Captain Cook and how he commanded the HMS Endeavour on his first voyage of discovery to Terra Australis


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Norway: where dinner is lunch and lunch is LUNSJ.....

A confounding moment for me as a German speaker is the Norwegian word for "dinner" as in evening meal: it's middag. Now "Mittag" means midday in German and "Mittagessen" is lunch....so basically the Norwegian word for dinner is midday/lunch. And the Norwegian word for lunch? LUNSJ.....Don't the Norwegians find it confusing that their word for evening meal is basically midday? Do they all eat dinner early? Does it have something to do with the long days of Norwegian summer?  Is there another word for supper/dinner that duolingo is not telling me about?

Friday, July 1, 2016

Thoughts on Norwegian (Bokmål)

Thoughts on Norwegian (Bokmål)

So I casually decided to start learning Norwegian via duolingo--mainly because I'm reading the first volume of Knausgaard's Min Kamp

I still find it a bit mind-blowing that there are two different written versions of Norwegian, and then there are the many dialects,which people use for speech. Apparently Norwegians do not speak the way they write. Of course this is true of other languages, but it seems that Norwegians have taken this idea and made it official. To an outsider it seems confusing, but Norwegians probably navigate the issue fairly smoothly,except when they deliberately want to make it political. (From what I gather "Nynorsk" is a somewhat artificial attempt to lessen the influence of Danish on the language, since Bokmål is apparently close to Danish).  I have yet to find a definitive answer to the question "what language did Knausgaard write his books in?", although I think it was probably Bokmål

(Bokmål) Norwegian seems to be a very economical language – even minimalist, which conforms to my admittedly probably superficial notions of Scandinavian sparseness in terms of design or aesthetics. It of seems to get by with fewer words than English: Example:

Jentene leser avisene.  

The girls are reading the newspapers.


One reason for this is that it adds the definite article to the noun-sort of like an adjective ending in German,which is kind of cool. 

My favorite Norwegian words so far are: Gaffel (fork), and Edderkopp (spider). 

I’m learning it with duolingo—which seems to be a fun and game-like way to get started on a language. It in no way replaces classroom language learning but could be a nice supplement to what a student is learning in class.