Print Story 2007.01.28: "Stop, Grammar Time!"
By BlueOregon (Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 11:09:38 AM EST) (all tags)

Romania's King Without a Throne Outlives Foes and Setbacks: “Michael, 85, is the last living head of state from World War II. He lunched with Hitler, shook Churchill's hand and lived briefly under Stalin's thumb. He is a quiet man, an undemanding man and, inevitably perhaps, a disappointed man. But as with many quiet, undemanding, disappointed men, he is a keen observer of the louder world around him.”

Inside: GPotD, related to recent movie watching. Childhood reflections.



Man kann darin weitergehen
und den Blick
auf die Dunkelheit einstellen.

Man kann die Wände abtasten,
um etwas zu tun.

Man kann rufen auch wenn
man nicht weiß wozu.

Man kann sich verlieren,
sich finden.

Man kann also
darin leben.

—Walter Helmut Fritz

I could or should have posted this earlier; it fits with Pan's Labyrinth and House of Leaves, but what both of those works show is that this is a sub-par meditation on labyrinths. It is more in the mold of Lisa Goldstein's Walking the Labyrinth, which begins with promise but becomes self-involved, overly metaphysical, and at the end not very rewarding.


For quite a while as a child all my male playmates were older than I. There was the neighbor, Mike, who was two years older and had the potential to be a bully. He once shot me in the back with his BB gun. All the neighbor kids watched Jaws 3-D at his place when it was shown on TV; I say it was Jaws 3-D, but that movie came out in 1983 and would have been on TV later; I don't recall Mike living there that long, but my memory, while considered uncanny by many, still has its faults and limits.

Until late in elementary school I was good friends with Louis down the street. He, too, was a year older, and he had a younger brother, Frank, who was one year younger than I—I never identified with Frank. Perhaps it was that Louis and I were both older brothers, perhaps it was that I have always socialized better with those older than I am. My closest friends now are one to three years older, one or two college friends being the exceptions proving the rule.

And then there was Stephen, wearing a hearing aid in one ear and the twin brother of Andrea. They had a younger sister, Erica, who was one year older than I, and thus in Louis' grade. Perhaps I was the little kid who tagged along with him, perhaps we were friends. It's hard to say. There was only one kid older than Stephen on the block, and that was his neighbor, Heidi Todd, the youngest of that family, which consisted mostly of older brothers nearing the end of their school years.

As this was an agricultural region we had canals, big ditches, drainage ditches, and ditches. Canals, you see, had names, and tended to be ten to twenty feed wide; a big ditch was a small canal, often six to ten feed wide and still with a fast enough current to sweep away and drown non-adults. Large dogs could swim in them. A drainage ditch had almost no current, and due to the slowly moving water was home to bugs, reeds, cattails, and hours of fun playing in the mud. And finally there were plain ol' ditches, a foot or two wide and provided with water from the big ditches, which were fed from the canals, which streamed out of the Boise River near a reservoir, for example. We had the whole politics of water rights to deal with, and any ditch that ran to other ditches or to drainage ditches had to remain available for others to access in some way. A number of us irrigated our lawns with ditch water at least some of the time; we used it to irrigate our field to grow grass for the cows.

While we only had a ditch (covered for most of its run on our property) that ran in front of our home, and another that ran down the eastern edge of our property, feeding water to our field and dumping into an east-west ditch at the back of the property that eventually dumped into a drainage ditch, Stephen's family's property butted up against the drainage ditch itself, which was V-shaped and a good eight to ten feet, top to bottom, depending on where you were along it. We would crawl down the side and sit for hours, playing, talking, etc. I remember one such occasion only vaguely, but that is part of the charm—because I'm missing most of it I'm always searching, yearning, and never satisfied. It's an unending well of imagination. I had this handheld mechanical toy, a type of pocket pin-ball machine or similar, the plastic frame yellow and the cover transparent. One such toy was lost in the mud and reeds and weeds of that ditch one of my first summers in Idaho.

Stephen's family moved away about the time he and Andrea entered junior high. When years later I entered high school and had Spanish with the choir director the year we deposed Noriega our class was held, most of the time, in the same classroom used by the school's only econ teacher, and I was the only freshman. We had a jock or two, several varsity cheerleaders, and Stephen's sister, Erica, whom I hadn't seen in probably half a decade. She was the ugly duckling of the family; no, that's not fair. The ugly duckling became a swan, and I'm not sure that ever happened to her. Her older sister Andrea had been the pretty one, but so it was with all the Andreas I knew. At the time these people seemed older, not as a comparative but as an existential category. That year, when students from several middle schools were pooled into one high school a number of people I'd lost track of over the years were seen again. What I never figured out was whether they recognized me as I recognized all of them—that was the curse of my memory: I didn't forget faces and only rarely names, even if years of growth spurts had twisted and deformed bodies into things no longer children but not yet adults. My pattern matching software extrapolated and made the connections.


Sometimes a good translation demonstrates the weakness(es) of the original poem. Fritz's other poem, “Liebesgedicht (II),” used a similar repetition (“Weil dein ...”) to good effect, constructing cohesion despite the lack of rhyme, etc., but this time around it's not repetition—it's repetitive. It's a non-poetic and merely rhetorical reflection on labyrinths and the self.

There is nothing wrong with Grimm's translation, though I do think I would have preferred “therein” to “in it”—“You can therefore / Live therein.” The excessive Man kann/You can statements would be improved by just having the actions/verbs, not the modal construction, but Grimm must have them because Fritz has them.


You can move on in it,
your eyes to its darkness.

You can finger its walls
so as to do something.

You can shout, even though
you don't know what for.

You can lose yourself,
find yourelf.

You can therefore
live in it.

—Translated by Reinhold Grimm
< A Sunday diary | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
2007.01.28: "Stop, Grammar Time!" | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
love the poll by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 12:22:03 PM EST
It's hard to choose just one case, but I had to go with dative due to the trick my friend T pointed out to me, that "aus außer bei mit, nach seit, von zu" could be sung to the Blue Danube Waltz.

Middle voice bends my mind. I haven't studied the right languages for it. And while I feel like I should pick adjective, I think if I'm honest I rely more on adverbs. Besides, adverbs can modify adjectives, which makes them superior.

On being younger: I'm the younger sibling, and I was always (well, ever since moving to the States, and from a UKian school system to the USian one) the youngest in my class at school, so for me being younger than my peers is ... a habit, for lack of a better word. I think I'm currently the youngest of the regular Boston Husi crew (though not by much), and I find that a very comfortable position to be in. And even though I know that people younger than me exist, occasionally it still surprises me when I realize someone falls into that category, like Rusty Foster, or Vienna Teng. It's not so much a feeling of "wow, I'm old" (since the age difference usually isn't that great), but more a sense of being out of the proper order.

"If a tree is impetuous in the woods, does it make a sound?" -- aethucyn

Various (and Sunday) by BlueOregon (2.00 / 0) #2 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 01:23:29 PM EST

middle voice: I've only dealt with it in ancient Greek. Thought it was cool. I should have added "number" as a category: singular, plural, dual. I've come to be an adverb person in recent years; I still overuse adjective, though.

aus, auß, bei ...: yep. One of the best ways to teach dative prepositions to students. They never forget them after singing and/or humming that.

age: I've been in the department long enough that most of my colleagues are younger than I am by a few years (generally mid- to late-20s). I can treat people who are a few years younger "as the same age" now, whereas before there were enough differences (cultural, life experience, etc.) to make it difficult to relate. This is, of course, natural. When it came to school "way back when" I had classmates who were older and classmates who were younger; things were relatively well divided. But in college I was a bit older than most my year not by virtue of being old, but because we had so many who had finished a bit early. And then came grad school, and I was the only one straight out of college in my incoming class/group/whatever. Didn't help that all but one of the rest didn't last too long.

[ Parent ]
I challenge you to a dual -- by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #3 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 01:42:04 PM EST
you and me ... c'mon.

On a different note, I agree with you that just the verbs themselves would work better in the poem than the modals. The "You can ..." gives it something of an advertising flavor to me -- an "it slices, dices, juliennes!" kind of list. On the other hand, without the modal, it might remind me of the mattress commercial that goes something like "Sleep on it ... Jump on it ... [Fuck on it] ..." Maybe the problem is that labyrinths don't really need a marketing campaign.

"If a tree is impetuous in the woods, does it make a sound?" -- aethucyn

[ Parent ]
Never knew the "Blue Danube" mnemonic by BadDoggie (2.00 / 0) #6 Mon Jan 29, 2007 at 03:54:43 AM EST
But it leaves out gegenüber.


OMG WE'RE FUCKED! -- duxup ?

[ Parent ]
except ... by BlueOregon (4.00 / 1) #7 Mon Jan 29, 2007 at 04:31:40 AM EST

... the blue danube thing, one could say, is for the dative preposition only, and with gegenüber it's not the dative bit, it's the fact that sometimes it's a postposition.

A similar problem arises with entlang, sometimes a preposition, sometimes a postposition, sometimes accusative, sometimes dative.

But, um, yeah -- gegenüber gets left out. Some language teachers add a little coda to the 'song' for it.

[ Parent ]
adverbs by 2 plus 3 equals 5 (2.00 / 0) #9 Mon Jan 29, 2007 at 06:34:47 AM EST
Adverb use is one of the ways to identify writing by women.  They tend to use more of them.

-- Do the math.
[ Parent ]
huh by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #10 Mon Jan 29, 2007 at 07:24:06 AM EST
Do you have a source for that? (I'm not challenging the statement, just interested.) Have I asked you this before?

I know I can fool The Gender Genie about half the time (though that's not hard to do, and sometimes I'm trying to write a male narrator, so does that mean the script is stupid or I'm good?) "Kellnerin" has been mistaken for male before, but I'm not sure if that's because of anything I've said/written or because male is the default gender of the Internet.

"If a tree is impetuous in the woods, does it make a sound?" -- aethucyn

[ Parent ]
WIPO by R343L (4.00 / 1) #4 Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 04:57:35 PM EST
The copula. I didn't know (until I read that wiki entry) that auxiliary use of 'to be' in English is considered a copula -- I first learned the term in Japanese class. But I find the idea quite pleasing.


"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

Large dogs could swim in them. by fleece (2.00 / 0) #5 Mon Jan 29, 2007 at 12:02:44 AM EST
I like that line. in fact i pretty much liked the whole diary....

however i think you would benefit from getting drunk and just rambling - in a personal-growth, cathartic kind of way - then hitting submit with no proofreading. You may not want to dirty your husi account with that kind of drivel, but that's what k5 is for!

well ... by BlueOregon (4.00 / 1) #8 Mon Jan 29, 2007 at 04:38:02 AM EST

... my K5 days are long past me, though I do remember my login information for a couple accounts there. But what would be the point of drunken diarizing to K5 when all of you are here? Of course, then there is the Hole.

As for the whole drunk thing ... well, lots of extra calories, I'm mostly out of booze except for half a bottle of really really crappy vodka, and I can't see it leading to either personal growth or catharsis.

I'm sure I've posted a more-typos-than-usual after-several-beers-or-wines diaries or comments in the past. Just don't recall when.

I'm probably quite scary when I ramble even more than usual.

[ Parent ]
2007.01.28: "Stop, Grammar Time!" | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback