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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

She knew how to allure by denying, and to make the gift rich by delaying it.

Hit Me With Some Lightning

Oliver Sacks' new book, Musicophilia, examines the neurological happenings the brain experiences when listening, making, composing music. One case study, a man named Tony, from upstate NY (where else) became a musical savant of sorts after being hit in the face with lightning in a freak accident involving a big storm and his phone. My mother always made me get off the phone during a lightning storm; she also made me take piano lessons, which maybe, if I hadn't heeded her first request, would not have been necessary.

On obeying your parents: apparently, children who are taught to control and regulate their behavior at an early age (playing Simon Says, or being held accountable for not following rules) are more likely to have higher math scores. Self-control does not seem to play a part in the scores children recieve in reading or vocabulary. My mother could have had a brilliant pianist or a math whiz for a daughter. Instead, I obeyed her over-protective warnings and was never accountable for anything. As to how I fared at Simon Says, I do not know, but my SAT scores suggest not well.

Verbally, however, I seem to fare much better than some, say. . .Berlusconi:

"Italy is now a great country to invest in... today we have fewer communists and those who are still there deny having been one. Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries... superb girls."

''I've never paid a woman. I never understood where the satisfaction is when you're missing the pleasure of conquest.''

"The left has no taste, even when it comes to women."


Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

How many a miserable father reviles with bitterness of spirit the low tastes of his son, who has done nothing to provide his child with higher pleasures!

Cats vs. Iran

Maybe next time I'm teased for taking copious pictures of cats--my own and others--I can refer to Noam Cohen's article in today's paper on the "Cute Cat Theory of Internet Censorship" as my defense. The proponent of this theory, a researcher named Ethan Zuckerman, explains: "Cute cats are collateral damage when governments block sites. . .people who could not care less about presidential shenanigans are made aware that their government fears online speech so much that they're willing to censor the millions of banal videos and thereby block a few political ones." (Whoever thought videos of cute cats banal?) "Let's encourage anyone that has a human rights site to mirror it everywhere, including sites like with lots of noncontroversial sites." (I thought the rumpus in response to my Jewish American Girl Doll post was positively contentious) "It is kind of hard for Iran to block . .They would have to close down a lot of blogs, including blogs with cute cats." Hey, just doing my part.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

"Clergymen are like women. As long as they're pure, they're a long sight purer than other men; but when they fall, they sink deeper."

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Random Acts of Sadness

A few weeks ago a bottle of Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar salad dressing fell out of my cart at Gristedes and broke, spilling its contents all over the floor. Last week, I dropped a container of yogurt, which also opened and spouted forth its contents. Yesterday my victim was a package of cut fruit in syrup, something I was toying with purchasing as it reminded me of the "mouse salads" my mom used to make me for my birthday (green jello topped with half of a canned pear, licorice tail, and gummi fruit nose). Besides the fact that I'd never dropped and broken anything in a grocery story (at least in my adult life) before the first incident, my initial reaction to this event--the first and subsequent times--was that of immeasurable sadness. Not so much from my own shame, which was quite small, but more from something about the salad dressing, the yogurt, and the diced fruit themselves, their original purpose to please, now dashed.

A friend loaned me a copy of David Foster Wallace's collection of essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never do Again, correctly intuiting my sense of humor, and as I was delightedly reading the title essay with the comfort of a shared sensibility, I was suddenly forced to back away from this communion when his talk turned to suicide. The humor was no longer a comfort but a thing of sorrow; a sad and eerie legacy. Morbid humor attached to the actual, and fatal morbidity of the author made me sad for him and for me, who thought he was funny.

I found that The Woman in White is not a book that I can read on the subway and so I read it at night, and Prep on the train. It was a NYT bestseller a couple of years ago, and seemed to have enough backbone to meet my (low) standards. The narrator, a teenage girl, is consistently sad or saddened, and the chapters are littered with admissions of mournfulness. This passage, as she watches her father having coffee and a cookie struck me as being among some of the more sad things in the book, and maybe in the world: "It seemed heartbreaking that he liked the taste of a sugar cookie dipped in coffee, that it was a treat to him. The small rewards we give ourselves--I think maybe there is nothing sadder." Which brings me back, of course, to diced fruit and salad dressing, and the other sad things in the supermarket and in the world.

Monday, 8 June 2009

When you copy this, and you will. . .

One wonders if David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman, or Dan Brown, authors of Angels and Demons, thought that anyone would hear their mildly paraphrased version of Laura Reynolds' famous line from Tea and Sympathy and know the source. I did, and oddly, had just been speaking about the play in the movie theatre with my friend M.O. Some others recognized it too, and wrote about it as I found from a Google search. I suppose the line could have been a gesture to the late Robert Anderson, who died this year. I'm not sure how nice a gesture it was considering the marked difference in quality between Anderson's play and this film. I persisted in watching more programs of low character when I tuned in to The Bachelorette ( yes, it was the most shocking rose ceremony EVER). But I was pleased at the symmetry of events when the preview of next week's episode referenced Whistler, B.C., a place I first heard of as Anna's hometown on Slings and Arrows; when she begins a relationship with a visiting playwright, she is horrified to discover that he is using the stories of her Whistler youth almost verbatim in his new play. "That's my life!" she says when she confronts him. The playwright's response is to say that once she spoke those words, they became his. T.S. Eliot's famous saying "Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal" seems very apt. Also, today revealed what probably should have just been assumed, that Sarah Palin plagiarised (shall we say borrowed?) from Newt Gingrich. Well, now I'm watching Ovation's West Side Memories, about the making of the film of West Side Story, and we've all read Romeo and Juliet, right?

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

"Britons who take a delight in politics ... should not be desirous of peeping behind the scenes. No beholder at any theatre should do so."

Strictly Borough?

No, not me. Last night brought me through three boroughs--an exhausting, and mildly disorienting venture. I started, of course, in Brooklyn, left for Manhattan to have the people at Devachan yell at me for having my hair blown out too much, returned to Brooklyn to go to Queens for a birthday party, then back to Manhattan for yet another birthday party. My friend B.L. scoffed the other day when I suggested he meet me in Brooklyn even though he himself used to live here, and I'm afraid I was much the same before I moved here. But I proved myself truly reformed last night. H.H. brought us to Studio Square in LIC, deemed "the new Beer Garden." It certainly was new, almost like the Disney Land version of the original Bohemian Beer Garden. Sushi bar, Hamburgers, and Sangria too. Maybe that makes it more like Epcot. And H.H. is relatively new, too, turning an ignominious 22 years old. I begrudged her less when it became clear that I was not the oldest one there, though I was on my way to a 30th birthday celebration, that of my childhood friend, M.C. He and I grew up together, living about seven houses down from one another. There weren't many kids on our block in those days, and he and I were avid He-Man and She-Ra playmates. A brief search on E-Bay showed many He-Man action figure options--a missed opportunity. I will have to think faster (unlikely) when he turns 40. M.C.'s father was there last night, a man I hadn't seen in years and years, and all of a sudden, my mind was flooded with strange little snippets of memories, like him serving M and me flounder in their kitchen, and me picking the little bones out of the fish. Or when he dared me a penny to jump into the deep end of a neighbor's pool. He remembered my father's passion for Pagnol, and that my Grandpa lived in the same neighborhood we now found ourselves together in. I suppose, as an only child, it surprises me to find people in my life--who are not my parents--who know my family and me from the time of my childhood. People who have a reference base for my life unlike the overwhelming majority of my friends. I returned to Brooklyn for the night with a certain amount of borough travelin' pride--but secretly pleased that the next day would not lead me out King's County.

Monday, 1 June 2009

"Love in the Time of Swine Flu"

Such was the title of C.P.'s address to the wedding party in Mexico this weekend. I spent one full day in the country, said "No, gracias" more times than I care to remember, saw the Mayan ruins, didn't drink the water, liked the iguanas (seen here above my head at chichen itza), and tried to imagine what it would be like to have gone to Mexico with these college friends when we were actually in college, like so many people do. I returned to NY to see on the obit page the death of Millvina Dean, last survivor of the Titanic, next to Philip C. Bolger, "Prolific Boat Designer." Coincidence? Also, the Jewish American Girl doll caught some more media attention when it was discovered that her name, Rebecca Rubin, is also the name of a woman wanted by the F.B.I. The real-life Ms. Rubin also goes by Little Missy, a name I know I've been called more than a few times. The F.B.I. hopes that the new doll will help attract attention to their wanted woman.

Before I left for Mexico, I made a stop at Book Court on Court Street in Cobble Hill and picked out my first Wilkie Collins novel, choosing The Woman in White over The Moonstone--at least to start with. When I saw my coach today, he was carrying around a copy of the latter, and we agreed to a switch when we're through. I've intended to try Collins for several years now but just never got around to it. Already, he's amused me with various lines such as: "The lady is ugly!" and "This is a matter of curiosity; and you have got a woman for your ally." His current narrator also spends a fair amount of time discussing how humans fail to be innately influenced by nature in real life--only in books--then talks rhapsodically about his natural environment. What would Thoreau do?