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 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.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Thoughts on Swann in Love, I

I posted the following as a comment on a youtube video a while ago and am re-posting it here. 

Quick initial thoughts on Swann in Love: I’m still at the very beginning of it and it is taking me a while to get used to it – to get into it. In week one you spoke of the “phenomenological swim” when reading Proust and I feel like in these first pages I’m too much above water—and I don’t care for it. I do think this is a “just me” moment. I tend to like books if I like/love the narrator: this is why I like/love the Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre, The Red and the Black. I identify very strongly with the narrator. And that’s what I found myself doing in “Combray”. And now in this section, because it is not so much about him, I feel like we’ve lost him. And at this early stage I’m not as invested in any of the people he is describing.  Swann was more interesting to me when he was visiting the family, than he is right now as he is falling in love with Odette.   But I’m still enjoying it—just not as much as I enjoyed the earlier sections. (Even if some of the descriptions did go on a bit). I have to wonder to what extent the gender/age/outlook on life? play a role in how people respond to this passage. At this stage the “element of caddishness” in Swann – his predatory nature with regards to women—the fact that he –at this point-sees them as things to conquest rather than equals makes him less, not more interesting to me. I wonder how this will all develop.  Have you seen the Jeremy Irons/Ornella Mutimovie directed by Volker Schlöndorff ? (I’m not sure if it’s any good). 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Proust notes, II (Church in Combray) (King Charles, VI, playing cards etc.

It’s interesting that the church seems more habitable when it is empty. The narrator describes rooms by imaging them in great detail when they are empty.  He “sees” them when he is no longer physically in them. They have been internalized in his mind. I suppose when we remember rooms we don’t usually see ourselves in them—we’re behind the camera of our own mind’s eye.
The church passage: seemed to highlight the expansive nature of the narrator’s internal imagination. “their silvery antiquity sparkling with the dust of centuries”
 I liked the references to cards and the game of patience (“planned to beguile Charles VI) in connection with his description of the church windows . (cards=vice vs. being in Church). This caused me to spend too much time on the internets reading about poor mad King Charles VI, who had cards made for him. (but NOT tarot cards as some suggest, but regular playing cards, just as Proust implies). I guess I’m mildly interested in the history of playing cards. (it’s quite complicated).

The church section was also a meditation on history and the way time and people “weigh down” the architecture –how they leave their trace on the building.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

On Reading Proust's In Search of Lost Time, I

I'm re-posting some casual comments I've made as part of a "Proust-read-along" that Neil Griffiths (writer and youtuber) started a couple of weeks ago. Not going to edit them much--just posting as is.

I’m less far along as you Neil and I’m reading the Moncrieff. (the cheapest kindle version for now—will prob order a book copy soon). My kindle tells me I’ve read 1% of all 7 volumes—(woohoo! -only 99% to go!)
I DID kind of fall into it (more than I fell into “Infinite Jest” for example—God knows when or if I’ll ever finish that one).  I love the beginning with the description of him falling asleep – in general I love his descriptions of how his consciousness relates to external spaces (rooms) he is in and time—the fluid movement between past present and future.  And one already senses the senses are very important to him (and very sensual).
I’m fascinated by the point of view—we are inside his head “watching” his observations about the past present future, as well as his own reactions to everything—I’m not sure what the technical term for this form of narration would be—some sort of first person narrative.
Considering how “internal” it is we also get a lot of “external” observations about French social/class relationships and also gender relationships—the oedipal relationship he has to his mother, who for me at least has only come alive as an object of HIS desire-not yet in her own right. I love the back and forth between “society novel” and more-or-less stream of consciousness. Swann’s appearance is mysterious and intriguing. (like the timid peal of the doorbell that announces him).
Gender relationships: the patriarchal household is full of strong women--the elderly female relatives come alive more than for example his father does, e.g. the grandmother who likes to walk outside even when it rains—or the grandaunt(s)? and how they interact with Swann. The servant, with whom the narrator must negotiate carefully to get the note sent to his mother.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Just a little something I wrote about our trip to Guernsey and Alderney

that might get published in a local Alderney newspaper, thanks to the "impromptu tour guide" mentioned in the piece.

My sister Louisa (who lives in Wiesbaden, Germany) and I decided to visit Alderney during a one week trip to Guernsey we had planned earlier. I live in a small town in Ohio, USA but I knew I’d be working in Germany for a few weeks (teaching German to a group of students from my “home” University, Miami University in Oxford, Ohio) and so we decided to go ahead and book the trip. We flew from Stuttgart to Guernsey.

One of the main reasons we wanted to go was that we both have vivid memories of our mother, New Zealand-born Cherry Lockett Grimm (who wrote write fantasy and science fiction novels under the pseudonym CherryWilder) regaling us with tales about our fascinating and far-flung family, which included many references to the Channel Island Le Mesuriers, who had been granted the government of Alderney by Charles II.  (Until they resigned the patent to the Crown in 1825).
I took up genealogy more seriously as a hobby a couple of years ago and have been pouring over the family pedigrees handed down to us by our mother ever since. I have an active account on and have made quite a few contacts with newly found cousins since I’ve started studying the family history.
Our Le Mesurier connection is through our great great great grandmother, Elizabeth Le Mesurier. She was born on Alderney (this was confirmed for us by the wonderful librarians at the Priaulx Library in St Peter’s Port, Guernsey, to which I had already made a pilgrimage) in 1792. Her father was Peter Le Mesurier, who was governor of Alderney from 1793 till his death in 1803. A very nice portrait of him hangs in the Alderney Society Museum, which also has a plaque at its entrance which informed us (in French) that Peter’s father Jean/John had had the building built as a school, when he was Governor.
(The Priaulx Library, St. Peters Port, Guernsey)

Plaque at the entrance of the Alderney Society Museum, mentioning that our 6th great grandfather had it built in 1799.

We took the bumblebee boat over from Guernsey and thoroughly enjoyed the laid-back and very friendly atmosphere of the island and also meeting our impromptu tour guide as we tried to track down the grave of Sapper George Onions. The weather could not have been more perfect and it was fun to simply walk around and soak up the historical yet nevertheless still lively atmosphere of the streets and houses of Saint Anne. (“town”).

Bumblebee boat to Alderney
Sapper George Onions
Wandering the peaceful and quite ancient streets of Saint Anne.

We did also make a point of visiting St. Anne’s Church, the renovation of which was paid for by Elizabeth’s nephew (the son of the last governor), Rev. John Le Mesurier, and the walls of which were adorned with gold plaques of the Le Mesurier Governors.  
St. Anne's Church, Alderney
Reverend John Le Mesurier

All in all it was a wonderful albeit short trip and we’re very glad we made it! I hope sincerely to return one day to both  Guernsey and Alderney, where the landscape is beautiful and where life in general seems to move at a slower and more contemplative pace.
Beautiful Guernsey

I am also very interested in any further information anyone can provide about the Alderney Le Mesuriers—especially our grandmother Elizabeth and her husband, Major General Ambrose Lane, who at some moved to Castel, Guernsey, where they raised their family including our great great grandmother, Charlotte Lane Mackenzie Taylor.