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 ancestry.com 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.   

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Off-the-cuff remarks on hoarders, or "Stuff and nonsense"part 2

I'm obsessed with hoarders. Not exactly sure why but I guess I do have a strange fascination with how people "arrange themselves" in their everyday lives, their Alltag.
In German hoarders are called "messies" and are said to be suffering from the "messie-syndrome".

As far as I can tell there seem to be two subtypes of hoarders: the actual hoarders, junk collectors, (and obsessive shoppers) whose collections get out of hand, and then the true messies-people (more often women than men?) whose inner turmoil has led them to turn their living spaces into literal trash heaps. (E.g. the lady who feeds her pets from the can and throws the can on the ever-growing heap in her bedroom). The extent of their messiness is truly mind-boggling, not to say dangerous.

The German wiki describes the messie-syndrome as a “Wertbeimessstörung”—which is a fantastic way to describe it imo—a disorder connected to in inability to accurately or realistically assign value to objects/things. 

I can relate to this in the sense I sometimes tend to make mountains out of mole hills (not literally like some of the hoarders) which is probably one reason why they fascinate me. My own compulsions lean more towards an obsessive desire for symmetry and neatness,or to do things in a specific order. 


Perhaps I’m more obsessed with obsessive behavior than with hoarders specifically. More on that another time. In the mean time here is a link to my ”People and Things I’m obsessed with Pinterest board. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Stuff (and nonsense)

Stuff (and nonsense)

Would actually be a good name for a blog…anyway/how/who the 365 project is still going on just not here—but rather here. Check it out! Figured out a way to do it all on my phone, since I’m committed to not taking the laptop with me to Germany. It’s too heavy and too distracting and not taking it will give me a good excuse to buy pretty German notebooks to write in….
We’re buying a house! Bill will move “us” in while I’m in Germany. I’m talking myself into him being ok with that. (He says he is…)
The past semester has been fun but very busy. Teaching a work-intensive “big” course on German film. It’s a blast because well German film!!! but because it’s the first time I’m teaching this exact course with almost 65 students (some a perpetually absent) I haven’t finagled the logistics yet to the point where the workload is more manageable. It will happen, but right now I just need to get through this semester.  
I leave for Germany to teach a section of the Miami Summer German course on May 18. Before then a lot of things need to happen—packing, grading, resting-up (ha!), quality time with cats and Bill or should I say Bill and cats. I also need to get a clearer sense of what I want to look for during my week long sojourn to Guernsey in June, where my sister and I will trace our Le Mesurier ancestors, plus also hike the cliffs and eat lots of yummy fish and chips. It will be good. I’m wondering how strong the pull will be to see Alderney-which is where the Le Mesuriers were Governors till into the 19th century.

Maybe I’ll get into writing/updating on here a bit more frequently…stranger things have happened as my mother used to say…..

Thursday, April 16, 2015

DAY ONE of a new year in pictures! 04/15/15--04/15/16

So I've decided to kick off another year in pictures--one a day for 365 days. Start date is 04/15/15. This is a shot from the Weekly German coffee hour, which takes place on the King library cafe every Wednesday from 4-5:30 ish pm. Students from German classes or who just like to speak German come and chat about everything. I try and bring German goodies and have made my bobble-head Freud the mascot. Next semester I might try and bring a flag or something to identify us more clearly.

I just realized that updating the blog won't be as easy in Germany--I'll be there for some weeks in May/June. I think during that time I'll just upload and share the pics to flickr and instagram. But during the times when I'm at home and have easy internet access I'll post the pictures here too.  We'll see how it goes....

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Disney Princess movie watching (and blogging) update


I realize I kind of stopped blogging about my Disney-watching experience so here’s a quick update: first off – this is a great article that contextualizes exactly what Disney was up to during and after its “dark age” i.e. the thirty years between the release of Sleeping Beauty (59) and Little Mermaid. (89). I learned a lot of stuff about the company I did not know.
Since I include Disney’s version of “The Little Mermaid” in my class I am very familiar with that movie. (I especially like pointing out to my students that Ursula’s appearance was based on that of the actor/drag queen Divine). So I’m not going to blog my watching experience of it except to say that I really like certain aspects of the movie (Ursula! – the language play – the song “Part of Your World” ) and dislike others: the narrowing down of Ariel’s focus on getting Eric to fall in love with her and the extremely patriarchal ending where she gets handed off to him via her re-masculated dad. 
Probably the most detested secondary article I have my students read is a heavily psychoanalytical reading of the movie that focuses a lot on Freudian notions of sexuality—Ursula’s death is a symbolic act of penetration (instigated by Eric no less) and the father undergoes symbolic emasculation when Ursula lays her tentacles on the phallic trident. Despite the student’s dislike of the article it always seems to generate fruitful and enlightening discussions of both the movie and the fairy tale.
As the internet article I linked to earlier mentions the next big Disney flick after Little Mermaid was Beauty and the Beast, which I did see at some point when it first came out. I got really bored when I started to re-watch it and so just gave up on it. (My old dislike of feature length animation started to kick in big time…) One thing I disliked was how the movie differed from the most popular version of the tale (and the one we read in my class), by Jeanne Marie Le-Prince de Beaumont. There were no sisters, whose inner 'ugliness' highlighted her “beauty” as in Beaumont's version, and thus the fact that she is to blame for the father being taken to task by the beast, because she requested a rose as opposed to something material falls away. It also was a reminder that I really really need to watch the Jean Cocteau version from 1946. (I have always meant to but as yet have not).  I think I started watching (and enjoying) Lars von Trier’s Melancholia instead. Caus that’s how I roll…
Moving on to the Disney movie I think I watched slightly before Beauty and the Beast since it was available on streaming as opposed to only as a dvd (The bigger the hit the less likely a movie will be available for streaming) – Pocahontas (1995). I actually kind of liked it (or at least did not hate it as much as I thought I might...) despite its completely fantastical take on Early American history. Apparently when it first came out it was totally eclipsed by The Lion King that came out at almost the same time, and was the biggest animated hit Disney ever had. I liked the talking tree, and the song Colors of the Wind and was not too bothered by the idealized perhaps even exoticised depiction of Pochahnatas herself.  That being said it’s not a movie I'd want to see again. 
I do realize I have skipped over Aladdin (1992), which I'm not sure whether I’ve seen or not. I think I may have. I know it has funny bits because Robin Williams voices the genie. The reason I skipped it is that I have to get it on dvd, so it will take me a bit longer. After that the next official Disney princess is Mulan 1998 which I am waiting to see when I'm in the right (mellow?) mood I need to be in to at least halfways appreciate these flicks. I could also watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) since it's on/in the streaming menu-but I think I'll focus on the actual Disney Princess movies first. Oh and I'm not going to waste my time watching ANY of the sequels to the actual movies....enough is enough! 
This has been my go-to list for all the Disney movies and it reminded me of the fact that both Tim Burton and Hayao Miyazaki have made films that have the Disney name/brand attached to them in some fashion. While I have seen some of Tim Burton’s movies I'm not sure I've seen any of the ones with the Disney name. And as shocking as it may sound I don't think I've ever watched a Miyazaki movie-despite intentions to do so. I will do so as soon as the time and mood etc. is right-promise! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959)


I liked Sleeping Beauty much better than Cinderella. The comedy in this one seemed less irritating to me. And I have to confess I have a strong childhood memory of seeing pictures in a book taken from the Disney film (especially of the three good fairies) and being enthralled by them – trying to decide which color-fairy I liked the best. I kind of liked how Merryweather kept bickering with the bossy one. (Pink/blue/pink/blue)
The visual look of the film also appealed to me. Apparently it was the last Disney film to use hand-inked cels. I was drawn to the scenery which was done by Eyvind Earle.
I also liked the music better—what’s not to like about Tchaikovsky?


And of course Malificent was magnificent….Who knew about the dragon!?!? Supercool. I loved how her little crow side-kick (Diablo?) got turned into a crow-gargoyle. Even the proverbial goons were kind if entertaining. All in all not a bad movie. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Link to a review of Michael Kimmel's book "Angry White Men"


Because of my ocd-tendencies I have to read every Sunday New York Times book review cover-to-cover which means that right now I am reading one from November 2013. In it I found a review of Michael Kimmel’s book “Angry White Men” which sounds very interesting and of course made me think of the recent terrible killings that took place in Isla Vista, CA.  This is the sentence from the review I find myself dwelling upon the most: 
But Kimmel also strains a little too hard for a tidy sociological explanation, arguing mightily (and pointlessly) against the idea that these attackers were singularly deranged or psychotic. Like the suicide bombers he compares them to, one can be both uniquely psychologically vulnerable, a total outlier, and yet tuned in to a broader cultural trend.”
 On the one hand I agree with the statement. On the other hand (and this probably means I should read the book!) the second sentence seems to be an equally “tidy” explanation of what happened and a way of shutting down the conversation that perhaps need to be had regarding these outliers as well as the broader cultural trends. I'm also wondering what role the (social) media plays here in the promotion and/or creation of these trends.