Thursday, February 27, 2014

I'm back. And now I'm reading.

To restart this thing, I’ll have some conversations with books. Too pretentious. Let’s say I’ll talk to myself about books. There you go.

Please keep in mind that I’m a bit of a jealous reader. I’m not proud of it, but it’s part of my reading experience. I have an underlying current of “if I’d written this, would it have gotten past what my internal editor thinks an external editor would pass on?” Which is a complicated way of saying, “I could have written this,” but not. So it’s a kind of honesty test for me and the text in question.
Don’t get me wrong. I very much enjoy it when what I’m reading is clearly beyond my present capacity or so outside my wheelhouse – “wheelhouse” is a cliché now, no? – that I couldn’t even approach it. If it’s the former then I read to steal (turns of phrase, ways of thinking – if those two are different). If it’s the latter, I’m just amazed.

Franzen’s Kraus Project

Interesting idea. Good for him that he can get this kind of thing published. Just wonder who, other than me, the audience might be. A translation of a fairly obscure writer with personal footnotes that explain concepts and context and offer an interpretation on them.
I have the feeling most people who pick it up do so because they’ve read Franzen before.  I have not, but I have read Kraus before. First a collection of aphorisms, then a “Lesebuch” published by Suhrkamp. Their version of an overview/best of.
(And I’ve read several Tucholsky collections, who is a contemporary who wrote similarly pieces, i.e., a satirical cultural critique published in an independent format, in Tucholsky’s case, Die Weltbühne.)
The pieces in here are new to me. Wait, no. I’ve read the Nestroy thing before.
I’ll just do a little here, today, because I haven’t gotten very far and because I think I won’t see it through if I don’t start.

From note 1: “Although Kraus would probably have hated blogs, Die Fackel was like a blog that pretty much everybody who mattered in the German-speaking world, from Freud to Kafka to Walter Benjamin, found it necessary to read and have an attitude toward.”

A) The Fackel, from what I can tell, was very much like a blog. So, I’m guessing, were other newspaper opinion pieces, from Dr. Johnson’s Rambler through modern online bits. I don’t think he’d have hated the existence of blogs, but he would have disdained the laxity in thinking and spelign. I partially take it back. Maybe he would have hated the sense of entitlement that goes with people publishing their words and expecting immediate affirmation. (Not me, of course, though a comment would be nice.)
B) And “everybody who mattered in the German-speaking world” might need some clarification. I think “who might be remembered by an early 21st-century American reader” is implied. I’m not sure the trinity of Freud, Kafka, and Benjamin were the great public-opinion shapers we think.

Enough for now. More soon.    

Friday, June 04, 2010

edge of your seat

In Coco's class, the feature of this month's Family Friday was "Edge of Your Seat" stories, stories written and illustrated by the first graders. Madge's (four years ago) was, I think, about the time Coco was briefly lost in Las Vegas. (More like misplaced at a buffet, but still.)
Many of the kids' stories feature adventures involving swimming and, with retroactive memory being what it is, near-drowning experiences.
Coco's was about the time he "Almost got hit by a car." I had the privilege of typing it up, so I already knew the contents. And I didn't agree with some of the facts as they are reported to have transpired, but oh well. I didn't bring it up.
Among the things I didn't agree with was that I apparently said to him, after he was in safety (the danger was never really that great because the car was fairly distant, but the point was there and I admit I harped on it for effect - I figured it was a learning experience), anyway, I was supposed to have said, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
I said no such thing, nor would I. Ninja, please.
When Julie asked him about it, Coco freely admitted making that part up to make the story better.
Tell that to all the parents who read his piece and now won't talk to me anymore.*

*I embellished that bit, too, for effect. So I can't really blame him now, can I?

new post, oh my

I know, I know. I'm so busy trying to get my little observations down to a 140 character size that I'm totally neglecting the bloggy blog.
Sorry about that.
New things that are piling up around here, well...
Kids get bigger and outgrow shoes and clothes and all of a sudden look like little adults. Or even not so little adults.
And yet, the end of the school year approaches, which for some reason means half-days are popping up all over the place, as well as end-of-year celebrations and the odd day off. No way really to wrap up the year.
Now I'm even behind on vacation planning. Can that be right?

Sunday, May 02, 2010

you from here?

I was out last night, in a neighborhood I don't usually frequent, waiting for a show to start.
Some tourists approached me and said, "Are you from around here?"
Guessing that they'd want local insight from me, I said, "No, not really."
Because, really, I live about 100,000 people away from where I was and I don't know that neighborhood. Or, more specifically, not those blocks of that neighborhood, and in New York (and other cities) that can make all the difference (these people, I think, were not from a city).
Their spokeswoman, a blonde with a southern-ish accent (maybe Missouri) said, "Oh, because you look like you live in New York."
Foolishly (given her intoxication level as indicated by her lack of personal-space-respect and slurred speech), I tried to clarify. "Well, I live in New York, but I don't know this neighborhood."
"Too bad," she said, and then added in a condescending tone "we were hoping you could tell us where we can hear some music without a fifteen dollar cover charge."
I'm New York-y enough to boldly answer something like that. So I did. "Try the subway; the music's pretty good and the cover charge is only $2.25 a person."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

culture clash

When the grandparents were here we went to Ellis Island.
Just before we were to board, the kids, as is their wont, got hungry, so I made a quick dash to a nearby hot dog stand. At the stand were some British tourists, discussing what to put on their weenie in a bun.

Wife [to husband]: Do you want mustard or sauce?
Husband: Sauce.
Wife [to vendor]: Two hot dogs, please. One with mustard and one with timahtoe.

See what happened there? Among(st) themselves, they speak of "sauce." Then, to translate the term to American English, they use "timahtoe," their variant of tomato.

Never in the whole exchange did "ketchup" or "catsup" enter the discussion. The vendor was obviously seasoned and took it in stride, giving them both "sauce."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mary Poppins

I didn't mean to get tipsy during the musical we saw on Broadway, it just kind of turned out that way.
I'm a lightweight drinker, that needs to be stated up front. Then, the details:
We went to see Mary Poppins on Saturday at the New Amsterdam, the matinee at 2 pm. We got inside and saw a snack stand and got some Twizzlers and whatnot.
Then we got upstairs to our balcony area and saw a snack and drink bar. And of course I marveled at the fact that they had real drinks. I say "they," but I should be saying "she," since that may have something to do with the tipsiness.
We found our seats and Madge realized she was thirsty, so I went out to get her some juice and me a Twix bar. And of course I marveled at the fact that they had real drinks.
Then I got back and Coco discovered what happened and got thirsty, too. So I went back again and once more marveled at the fact that they had real drinks. This time she pointed out that if I got a drink now I'd get three bucks off a refill.
I never needed the refill because, I think, all my marveling - which included smiling, cracking jokes, and being as charming as my limited capacity allows me to be - made her pour me a rather strong Scotch and Soda.
Julie said it tasted like lighter fluid. I say it was good. And I'm sure it made the show even more enjoyable.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I told the kids, "Give me a good word."
Coco came up with: "Thank you."
Madge came up with: "Perpendicular."
I wanted the word for rhyming purposes, so we'll see what happens.

If manipulative or polite,
there's one thing that boychild gets right.
He thinks, "Words, if I'd have to rank you,
then top of the list would be 'thank you.'"

In mishaps you should be particular.
Avoid crashes quite fast and vehicular.
Best of the batch
is a wee little scratch.
Worst is driver's side, hard, perpendicular.


movies, again

Oh, finally some sun.
Unfortunately, I already promised another trip to the movies.
But at least we won't have to take a car service today, but take a nice walk.
Well, "nice" is yet to be determined.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Time to learn

Often the kids leave plates and cups out with uneaten food and undrunk drinks. I know I shouldn't take a quick bite or sip before I toss them out, but I can't help myself. You know, I'm not really eating sweets or drinking milk if I'm just sampling a bit of theirs.
the other night Coco had just flossed his teeth and I was clearing a cup from the table and the milk in it seemed a little watery when the couch (peopled by Julie and Coco and Madge) erupted with giggles and I heard,
"Daddy just drank my spit!"
And then there was a half-hour of guffawing. If only I could translate something like that into a stage act, I'd have it made.