What I’m trying to say

Sometimes I listen to people talk to each other and the way they miss each other and purposely say things that are impossible to pin down and never exactly what they mean forms a kind of rhythm. It’s really pretty and one of the reasons it’s so pretty is that it is always hovering on the brink of utter collapse of communication and descent into pointless argument. So so often this happens in conversations “but I thought you meant . . .” If we could just hold on to our individual interpretations and not seek after some real truth, how pretty our conversations would be. Like art. Urinals can be art, but usually art is less . . . utilitarian.

I watched this movie last night called Funny Ha Ha. From the beginning to the end it is full of these kinds of conversations, they just hover on the brink of actually being about something important. People are trying to figure out their relations to each other, but they can’t come out and say anything because then feelings will actually get involved and spoil everything. And really, this is how most of us talk, mumbling, stuttering, saying what we mean but then taking it back the next moment (“I’m just kidding, just kidding”). The movie wanders with no clear beginning and no clear ending. It’s about a girl who recently graduated from college and lives in a suburb of Boston. She’s trying to find a job, she’s confused about her friends, especially boys, but she doesn’t have the words to ask questions. She doesn’t seem to really need the answers either. In her post-college world, where everything seems insignificant if not pointless, even the small stuttering conversations are important. She meets her friend several times over coffee to “talk”, but apparently making jokes about cows is as significant as discussing why her friend has recently made various life-changing decisions.

Hope gave me a book, which is really a magazine, called A Public Space. There’s this essay in it about how the theme in rock music, especially punk, is a life-affirming NO. “These people say NO because they care very deeply about things, otherwise they wouldn’t bother. Let’s face the big uncomfortable truths, these bands implicitly say. And to do that you have to make a dark noise.” The author, Michael Azzerad, complains that music today doesn’t have this NO quality. He points out that, unlike during the Vietnam era, when the threat of war affected everyone, “Today there is no unifying fear or enemy. It’s long been a commonplace that our culture is growing progressively more fragmented, so much so that no significant bloc of people can agree on what we’re supposed to be rebelling against.” Then he suggests another explanation “Maybe they don’t get as frustrated with the world at large–because they don’t have to deal with the world at large.” Well sometimes dealing with these little lives, in which musicians apparently only sing about how their “alienated from their artsy girlfriend,” is just as hard as dealing with the world at large. One of the “big, uncomfortable truths” of our generation is that we don’t know how to connect with our friends and our neighbors, with the boy at the coffee shop and with the best friend’s boyfriend. We’ve graduated from college, where we didn’t know what to prepare for, we’re out in the world unemployed and alone. Is it wrong to see life struggles in terms of ourselves? Isn’t that where we have to start after all? And doesn’t alienation from other human beings need a bigger NO than almost anything else? Knowing others–knowing self–knowing God, these are all related. As E. M. Forster says in Howard’s End “Only Connect.”

And as a further example of what I’m talking about, the title of this entry is from a song by Stars.

Make it through this year

I was going to make lists of my top movies and albums and books from this year, but then I realized I haven’t heard/seen/read enough to really do them justice. I haven’t seen The Queen. I haven’t heard the new Belle and Sebastian. But here are some lists that roughly represent 2006 for me. Lists are really the best way to express a period of time, anyway.

First, movies:
1. The Science of Sleep by Michel Gondry
2. The Departed by Martin Scorsese
3. Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola
4. A Prairie Home Companion by Robert Altman
5. Little Miss Sunshine by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Top five books I read this year:
1. Possession by A. S. Byatt
2. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
3. Watership Down by Richard Adams
4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
5. Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner

My Five Top Albums of 2006:
1. The Crane Wife by The Decemberists
2. Ys by Joanna Newsom
3. Bottoms of Barrels by Tilly and the Wall
4. Rabbit Fur Coat by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
5. Cannibal Sea by Essex Green

The thing is, though, what really expresses my year is The Mountain Goats. I started listening to their song No Children in January, then I got We Shall All Be Healed in Febuary and The Sunset Tree in March. I heard Tallahassee in its entirety while driving to Little Rock in May. I started listening to Sweden a lot when I started grad school. Then I got Get Lonely in September and All Hail West Texas in October. I went to see them twice in November, bringing everything to a brilliant climax. The Mountain Goats weren’t even on my last.fm charts at the beginning of the year and they hit the top by the end. Hooray for judging the year by lists.

Technology and magic

Ah, my time in the great Midwest is drawing to a close. These past few days I’ve been working on some stuff for my research assistantship this coming semester, so the time’s gone by pretty fast. I’ve mainly been finding info to add to a bibliography my prof sent me–finding page numbers and first names of authors and stuff. It’s like a scavenger hunt with me and Google on a team. We are winning.

I’ve also been reading lots of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (and there’s lots of it to read) and watching Ralph Bakshi films. We watched the interview of him on the Wizards DVD, that man is crazy and hilarious. He was convinced that Wizards was a great family film. I’m not so sure. He really doesn’t like Disney, either. He explained that he released Wizards to kind of show Disney how it’s done, since they kept putting out such “sop.” And we also learned about rotoscoping, which is that super cool technique of animating over real film. Bakshi uses a lot of stock footage in his films. In Wizards it’s the Nazi footage, in Lord of the Rings it’s some Russian film footage. The first feature film to use rotoscoping all the way through isWaking Life, and the technique is also used in those Charles Schwab commercials that have been on lately, like that one of the woman riding the ski lift.

This week, also, Mom started a blog. I helped. Check it out, it’s all pretty on blogspot.

fallbreaking it down

So, I got to Chattanooga yesterday evening. I’m so happy to be on Fall Break (even though it isn’t a real break). I’ve hauled half the books in Thomas Cooper Library over here and I don’t want to look at them. I am so tired of studying.

Last night was a nice break, though. We walked down to Mojo for dinner. Then later on Michael, Eb, and Katzman came over here. Around midnight, Eb and I went over to Lamar’s where they were having the crazy Wolf Eyes show. I had no experience with the Noise genre, except I guess Gang Gang Dance, but really, that night we went to see them at the Drunken Unicorn is kind of vague in my memory (I think it was the noise). Wolf Eyes was very much noise, hard to fit the term “music” in there, let alone “rock.” I kind of liked it, really, it definitely conjured an emotional response. It reminded me of that kind of poetry that doesn’t really have structure, that’s just words and made up words used to trigger emotions. The thing about Wolf Eyes, though, was that it was all the same emotion the whole time–a kind of primordial panic.

After the show Eb and I and some other people we’d met up with ended up driving around in circles through town, first looking for a Kareoke bar that ended up being closed with a parking lot full of homeless people, then looking for parties at addresses that didn’t exist. Somewhere in the circles I got pulled over by the police, which I blame entirely on Eb. Apparently Eb magicked one of my headlights out. Darn him. (I only got a warning, though, no fine.) Then we ended up in a neighborhood near UTC, going up a narrow curvy staircase, following people who were carrying furniture. The night ended with tofu burgers and horseradish and videogame fights to the death.

Wish I was warmer

I just read Funke’s blog and she told me that blogging doesn’t need your brain and I thought, that sounds good right now, so I decided to blog. It’s cold in Columbia this week. I thought I moved to oh my sweet Carolina to get away from this. Oh well, no freezing to death at the bus stop this year anyway. Yesterday afternoon I drove over to Goodwill and bought me some sweaters. I realized I’m missing all of Keri and Tami’s sweaters so I probably need some. Now, I’m not a thrift store kind of girl. Why do I want something someone wore in ’93 and then rejected? But then I remember that for the last few years most of my clothes have come from those end-of-the-semester giveaway piles. Leaving college is a bad idea in so many ways.

Here is a useful phrase I learned the other day while studying about compliments in Polish:
Tadeusz, naprawde masz rewelacyjne spodnie!
‘Tadeusz, you have really terrific pants!’

Who would have thought

a perfume blog!

and I heard about it through the NPR review of the new Diddy album.  I noticed that the reviewer spent a lot of time sort of mocking the fact that Diddy keeps changing his name, and although I understand that, I started to wonder why it is we get so annoyed when artists change their names, the whole “artist formerly known as Prince” thing.  Is this a cultural faux pas?  Are we annoyed at them for not obeying naming rules?

Also, heard this fun interchange on the college radio station tonight:
DJ1: Sure, let’s put some John Darnielle in there.
DJ2: Now you’re name dropping.
DJ1: I can do that, I’m a hipster.

Oh chomsky what?

So I was reading some examples about Government and Binding Theory the other day, and let me just say that I found this far too entertaining.

(1) The magazines were sent to Mary1’s mother by her1 (the idiot1, the idiot1 herself) yesterday.

(2) Money was hidden from Bill1’s son by him1 (the bastard1, the bastard1 himself) yesterday.

(3) Tabs were kept on Bill1’s workers by him1 (the idiot1, the idiot1 himself) last year.

(the little numbers mean things are coreferential) I’m not really sure what it all means (I think it’s about substituting the nouns and the reflexives for the pronouns), but it makes me happy.

Wireless tendency

Okay, first, I now have my beloved wireless router and so I have internet in my room.  Which means I will probably neither leave my room nor get any work done for . . . some time.  But I will learn amazing things from Wikipedia and Language Log and not-so-amazing but pleasant and happy things from McSweeney’s and Pitchfork.  Okay, that was just an excuse to link to my favorite internet things.  And while I’m on the subject, check out Laura Veirs.  Oh oh, and RJD2’s newest.  Have things changed.  I mean, . . . not sure how I feel about this, but it kind of sounds like Badly Drawn Boy (not BDB’s new stuff, though, God save us all from a fate like that).

Second, has anyone else noticed that whenever signs tell you to vote “no” on something, it’s almost always on “No. 1”?  Do they just put controversial things first?

Performative utterances

okay, quick blog before getting back into the slew of work. I went to Chattnooga this weekend, for a wedding and for seeing friends and watching movies and for going to Waffle House very late at night. I stopped in Atlanta on the way to see The Mountain Goats play at The Earl. It was very different from the last time I saw them. Let me just say that if you are going to a Mountain Goats concert you’d better be a pretty big fan. Some bands you can just go and see and feel like you’re part of things, The Decemberists, but at The Mountain Goats concert you’d better at least know all the words to No Children. Plus Darnielle is crazy. I’d forgotten that. He plays his songs dancing and grinning like an idiot, even though all of them are horribly depressing which of course is why we love them. The crowd was great, shhh-ing anyone who made a noise during the songs that were quiet, and singing as loud as they could on the songs that weren’t.

The weekend was a good calm-before-the-storm time. Lots of sleeping in and watching stuff and then it was great to see Tami and Keri and everyone else at the wedding. And such good food, oh man, possibly the best wedding cake I have ever had. After the wedding Earl, Lynnette, and I went back to Natalie and Chantel and we all crawled in bed and watched The Last Seduction. Which is also crazy. Yesterday Natalie and I had a good time being out, going to McKay, etc, joining Bradon and Catie on their date at Rembrants.

And now I have a paper to write, finally got my topic for Old English. Thankfully, it just needs to be a draft since there will be plenty of time to work on it later if it’s good enough. I’m writing on compounds in which the first element means the same thing, or almost the same thing, as the second element. We have these in Modern English, words like “pathway” and “roadway”, except in Old English they’re more fun, things like death-death and horror-horror (and man-man, I like that one). It will involve lots of reading Beowulf. I am okay with the epics, though, so that’s fine. It will also involve lots of tea, but hopefully not heavy drugs.

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