“Die schöne Nacht”
Nun verlaß ich diese Hütte,
Meiner Liebsten Aufenthalt,
Wandle mit verhülltem Schritte
Durch den öden, finstern Wald.
Luna bricht durch Busch und Eichen,
Zephir meldet ihren Lauf,
Und die Birken streun mit Neigen
Ihr den süßen Weihrauch auf.
Wie ergötz ich mich im Kühlen
Dieser schönen Sommernacht!
O wie still ist hier zu fühlen,
Was die Seele glücklich macht!
Läßt sich kaum die Wonne fassen!
Und doch wollt ich, Himmel, dir
Tausend solcher Nächte lassen,
Gäb mein Mädchen Eine mir.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Um, pie. In this case blackberry. Take four cups of blackberries (boysenberries are fine, too!), in a separate bowl mix together 1 1/3 cups sugar and 1/3 cup flour, then pour the sugar-flour over the berries and toss with a fork or spoon to mix. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Pour the mixture into a pastry lined 9" pie pan. Dot with butter (say, 2 to 3 tablespoons), then adjust the top crust, cut vents, seal and flute edges to make a high standing rim. Brush milk over the top to give a golden crust. Bake at 425F (about 220C) until the crust is golden, about 35 to 45 minutes.
Okay, no pictures for it today—I cooked a sirloin last night following the Alton Brown method, but haven't yet posted the pie pix—nor a description of the crust making, but I'll post those later today, I suspect.
My brother turns 29 on the weekend, but we're all meeting at Jolly Bob's (the menu consists of rum drinks) to celebrate this evening. I doubt that I'll be in any shape to write later tonight.
I baked the pie last night around 11p.m., put foil over it after it had cooled a bit, and took it into the department this morning. It disappeared quickly enough, though the last piece lingered. Nobody wants to take the last slice of cake, the last slice of pie, the last piece of bread, the final cookie. How ... considerate. I just wanted my pie tin back.
I was rather proud of the crust, I must say. It was better than that for the apple pie last Thursday/Friday, for I did a better job judging the water requirement (altered because of the very very ... very ... dry air). Light and flakey, the berries remained firm enough and didn't bleed all over the pan once the first slice was taken out.
As mentioned the other day I finished J. Fforde's Something Rotten earlier in the week and now I think I should bake a Battenberg cake. A recipe has been found ... so why not?
Speaking of Fforde, I returned Something Rotten this afternoon and checked out the previous book in the series, The Well of Lost Plots—working backward through the books is a bit like literary time-travel non-paradox plots. The novel begins with “Thursday Next: the story so far ...” but I see no reason not to jump back a page to a quote from the teachngs of St. Zvlkx™:
A wise man wants for only nourishing cabbage soup; seek not other things. Except perhaps a toaster.
Returning the one Fforde and finding the other sent me to 2M South, home to British fiction, and I found myself in the PR 6100 section, unable to tear my eyes away from several other books. I should have become a librarian.
Much as bookworms become librarians and bookstore employees, lushes own bars, and a colleague frequents one of the more entertaining local dive bars, which we'll call WA's, owned by W and A, though, to hear the colleague tell it, A has gone missing, though some suspect she is in rehab. The bar is to W and A what a child is in normal dysfunctional marriages; it's what keeps W and A together—“For the sake of the bar ...” W opens the place around 8p.m. and another bartender responsibly puts in orders for booze whenever they run out, but despite this diligence they are often lacking in basic bar supplies. If you want a White Russian you'll often have to settle for a stronger and boozier Blonde Russian (w/ Bailey's, w/out cream) because they're usually out of cream. Much of this is due to W, who, as mentioned, opens around 8p.m. and is promptly drunk.
I could live in a university library or used bookstore with high shelves and higher ceilings (except in the requisite basement, here low-hanging pipes and flickering lights are to be found, lest the atmosphere be ruined) to quench my addiction.
But back to the books.
I browsed the shelves and put back many volumes that were tempting but not—today—tempting enough. I did, however, pick up the following titles.
Let's start with Sabine (London: Bloomsbury) by A.P., which on the front cover states “Forbidden schoolgirl love in 50s France.” The cover is faux-pulp, and the book is from 2005. On the back cover we read, “It is the 1950s and it is Existentialist time in Paris. But Viola, a seventeen-year-old English girl, is languishing in a chaotic finishing school in the dull French countryside [...] Then a new teacher arrives—Sabine.”
It's Existentialist time, like tea time. Or Hammer time. To conclude: “Sensual, Gothic, with more than a hint of Colette, Sabine is a dark tale of schoolgirl love and compulsion.” More than a hint? Sounds like a wine to me. How could I not check this out?
Next up: While the Sun Shines (London: Black Swan, 2002) by John Harding, which provides the more traditional schoolgirl challenge: “Obsessed with sex, increasingly cocaine-fuelled and gripped by a crippling fear of death, Professor Michael Cole finds his life spinning out of control. [...] He knows he really shouldn't seduce his prettier female students, but it's hard to stop because they're only young once.”
Quite the fantasy, that. Don't we all wish to be middle-aged and in a career-rut but able to seduce those nubile coeds. Coeds—take me back to the 1950s and Sabine!
But Michael Cole is not the only sex-obsessed protagonist, anti-hero or not, to be found in the books I collected today.
Let's move on to Nice Girls Do (London: Headline, 2007) by Sarah Duncan, author of Adultery for Beginners. The library has the hardcover; Amazon informs me that the U.S. paperback will be released on May 6, 2007. Now let me quote from the beginning of Chapter 1:
Anna felt a moment of panic. What if she'd already had the last time ever, and couldn't remember it? It wasn't like smoking, where you ceremonially flushed the rest of the packet down the loo at ten past midnight on New Year's Eve. You wouldn't know that it had been the last time. Had it been any good? Probably not. If it had been good, Richard wouldn't have left. She could feel the skin contract across her cheekbones, tight with remembered pain.
She stared out of the sitting room window at the rain-blurred garden, then turned back to flicking though the Sunday supplement, where everything was about sex. Dossiers were sexed up, buildings were orgasmic, even dishwashers, which had once been plain old white goods, were now transformed into sexy desirables in gorgeous finger-lickin' hues. Then there all the things that were better than sex. Chocolate. Yoga. Football. Gardening was the new sex, and history was the new sex, even newer than gardening. Anna sighed. If that was true, as a garden historian she ought to be awash with sex, whereas here she was, sitting in her parents' house watching the rain dribble down the window, not even able to remember the last time she'd done it.
The consumerist aesthetic of sexiness mentioned here would fit in with a volume cited and critiqued in the first chapter of my dissertation, but I forget the title and author. It's that important.
And finally I conclude with two books I had to check out because of the titles. Example the first: Ballantyne, Tony, Recursion (London: Tor, 2004). Example the second: Hammond, Ray, Emergence (London: Macmillan, 2001). Tor is an imprint of Macmillan, but I'll still list them as Ballantyne's publisher. The latter volume is nearly 600 pages hardcover, and in that format it lacks a back cover describing the plot, characters ... setup. There is no dust jacket. How should I know whether I want to read or at least browse this book? I'll judge the book by its title. Recursion is the anti-Twin Peaks; instead of asking who killed Laura Palmer, it asks “Why can't Eva Rye die?”
Inquiring minds want to know.
I visited Apple's trailers page and quickly came upon a question to which I did not at the time have an answer. I thought that perhaps you fine folks could help.
In the fall of 1993 I attended an outdoors theater performance—more of a spectacle, really—in a gravel quarry down the road from the college. Somewhere I have the ticket; I might have scanned it and tossed the original. If so, the image is not on this laptop and instead archived on one of my external drives. The most important part of the play? Plot? No. Characters and characterization? No. Dialog? No. Answer: giant f**king puppets.
I thought that the title contained words like “death” and “Quine” or “Quinine” or something similar. I thought first name might have been “Buster.” Googling did find for me “The Death of Buster Quinine,” which sounds right. Do any of you know this play?
In any case, I must return to the topic at hand—trailers—and pose the question, what do these puppets have to do with movies? Upcoming movies.
Watch the trailer for Julie Taymor's upcoming movie, Across the Universe, which has the whole Beatles + (late) 60s + bizarre Taymor visuals thing going on. Extravagant version of The Dreamers meets Jacob's Ladder, let's say. With a character named Jude—and “Hey Jude” playing in the trailer—you can't go wrong can you? No, you can't. You either get it right, or you go so far beyond wrong that what happens to the movie is similar to what ebola does to the body. It also stars Salma Hayek, Evan Rachel Wood, Eddie Izzard, and Bono. I feel that I'll have to watch it. Why? you ask. Or not.
View the trailer. Toward the end they start doing the traditional flashing of text across the screen. Then comes Uncle Sam. And nude women in body suits performing synchronized falling-backwards-into-water. And a fight on campus. And dancing in the hospital. And ... here it comes ... stilt-man, and another giant f**king puppet in a grassy field. It's a scene from “The Death of Buster Quinine,” but the lack of good Buster Quinine references online leads me to wonder whether these elements from Buster Quinine were indeed, in fact, etc. borrowed, taken, appropriated from another work or two or three. View the trailer and you'll see the giant f**king puppets.
If you recognize this scene and know the source—be it Buster Quinine or something else—feel free to let me know.
There are other trailers to be seen, but few make me want to watch the movie. Take The Abandoned, for example. It's got the evil haunted semi-sentient house thing going on, but that isn't as terrifying at an existential level as Danielewski's. It's not unheimlich, and it looks as there is a simple supernatural explanation (!) ... the protagonists were supposed to die as children and the house is calling them back to kill them or something. Ooh ... mix one part The Grudge with one part generic American haunted house as broken home metaphor movie plus one part filmed on location in low-production-value-and-cost country.
The Reaping looks like a potential career low point for Hillary Swank, who, based on the trailer, must have a celebrity sex video she doesn't want to get out, and so making the movie was the blackmail paid. One part Exorcist, one part The Seventh Sign, plus one part bag of southern stereotypes.
They've gotten around to making Nancy Drew into a movie. I know, it's meant for kids. For girls in particular, but there are cute moments in the trailer, though nothing as surprisingly good as Mean Girls. Then again, we've already had Nancy Drew made for adults. It's called Veronica Mars.
In the realm of funny yet scary monster movies supposedly done right we're supposed to get The Host, which has a 7.2 imdb rating. I remain skeptical, but since the trailer is for the U.S. release, the imported DVD is possibly available already at 4-Star.
I don't watch many comedies and I almost never bother seeing them in the theater. Two potentially amusing romantic comedies caught my attention, one more promising than the other. Let me start with the less-promising of the two, Gray Matters, “starring” Bridget Moynahan, Tom Cavanagh (who? exactly), and the always unable-to-act Heather Graham. Setup: “They finish each other's sentences, dance like Fred and Ginger, and share the same downtown loft—the perfect couple? Not exactly. Gray and Sam (Heather Graham and Tom Cavanagh), are a sister and brother so compatible and inseparable that people actually assume they are dating. Mortified, they both agree they must branch out and start searching for love.” And when Sam marries the BM character, Gray discovers that she's gay and has a thing for her brother's wife ... comedy ensues. There's even a “like Gray but without the r” joke.
I didn't see The 40-Year-Old Virgin until sometime in the spring while in Berlin, but I found it hilarious ... funnier than it had any right to be, and I loved the final musical number. Judd Apatow returns with another high-concept, low-intelligence comedy, brings back Seth Rogen, and gives us Katherine “What am I doing on Grey's Anatomy?” Heigl.
It looks a bit like terrorism porn (Alias meets 24 meets Law & Order in Saudi Arabia), but The Kingdom also looks like well-produced terrorism porn. Chris Cooper received some positive reviews for Breach, I liked him in The Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Identity, as well as American Beauty. I haven't seen Syriana, but here he is in The Kingdom; what is it with him and freaky military/police/intelligence characters?
It's a shame to have so many math-phobic and math-illiterate students, even when I'm teaching a language course. Math-illiteracy is worn proudly like a Boy Scout merit badge—“I fail to grasp simple abstract, quantitative, and spatial reasoning”—and it closes off many avenues for discussion. The appreciation of poly-math “Renaissance Men” is stunted. The study of 18th-century philosophy is hindered (if you don't understand chirality—handedness—it's hard to grasp Kant's understanding of space and thus geometry, both critical and crucial to his Critical project, and so on). It's an excuse to retreat to the worst excesses and abuses of postmodern/poststructuralist/deconstructive “theory.” I know too many English grad students who fall into deconstruction and wordplay because they are scared of math and thus feel the need to attack it. They're the generally leftwing academic equivalent of homophobes who are insecure about their own sexuality or provincial xenophobes ... and so on.
And I have some of these math-phobics in my class, but I cannot devote time or effort to addressing this matter, and only rarely does it impact the material I teach.
Today we continued some low-stress brainstorming of top-5 lists, such as German composers, musicians, mathematicians or scientists, artists ... etc. Perhaps age can be used as an excuse, but how does one not know that diesel (fuel, engine) is named after a person, even if one does not know his complete name, Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel?
I admit that I did not always know that graham crackers were named after Sylvester Graham—On Food and Cooking led me to consider the matter—but I at least wondered why they were called that, it just took a while before I was motivated to find out. But why don't they have much (or, often, any) curiosity?
Enough bitching and moaning for Friday. I'll be at Jolly Bob's; I hope you all get your Friday fish.
I have made one minor change to Kline's translation (as I found it): I added a break between Shed incense [...] and How beautiful [...]. This seems obvious, for that is the break between (or rather: into) stanzas in the German text, but Kline had no division into stanzas.
“The Lovely Night”
Now I leave this little hut,
Where my beloved lives,
Walking now with veiled steps
Through the shadowy leaves.
Luna shines through bush and oak,
Zephyr proclaims her path,
And the birch trees bowing low
Shed incense on her track.
How beautiful the coolness
Of this lovely summer night!
How the soul fills with happiness
In this true place of quiet!
I can scarcely grasp the bliss!
Yet, Heaven, I would shun
A thousand nights like this,
If my darling granted one.
—Translated by A.S. Kline
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