Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Daily grumble

Somehow this struck me as hilarious:

"He found Lord Brentford living in a spacious house, with a huge garden round it, close upon the northern confines of the town. Dresden, taken together, is a cheerful city, and strikes the stranger on his first entrance as a place in which men are gregarious, busy, full of merriment, and pre-eminently social. Such is the happy appearance of but few towns either in the old or the new world, and is hardly more common in Germany than elsewhere. Leipsig is decidedly busy, but does not look to be social. Vienna is sufficiently gregarious, but its streets are melancholy. Munich is social, but lacks the hum of business. Frankfurt is both practical and picturesque, but it is dirty, and apparently averse to mirth. Dresden has much to recommend it, and had Lord Brentford with his daughter come abroad in quest of comfortable easy social life, his choice would have been well made. But, as it was, any of the towns above named would have suited him as well as Dresden, for he saw no society, and cared nothing for the outward things of the world around him. He found Dresden to be very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer, and he liked neither heat nor cold; but he had made up his mind that all places, and indeed all things, are nearly equally disagreeable, and therefore he remained at Dresden, grumbling almost daily as to the climate and manners of people."
—Anthony Trollope, Phineas Redux

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Hatful of Mahalo

Dizzyheads, I am back from a trip to Hawaii, where I lay on the beach, listening to the waves, thinking: "This is like the beginning of 'Champagne Supernova'!" Not realizing that I was rapidly turning the color of a tandoori chicken dinner!

Some piercing observations/heartwarming moments:

1. A table at the Polynesian Cafe in Hanalei that was covered with handwritten witticisms seemingly culled from an anthology of T-shirt and bumper sticker slogans. E.g., "He who expects nothing is always satisfied."

2. Fluorescently colored fish rubbing their sides against the bottom of the ocean, as if to scratch an itch.

3. Hula dancers wearing coconut-shell bikinis.

4. Guys wearing shirts that said "Bikini Patrol."

5. "Macadamia nut" is often abbreviated "McNut."

6. The treat "shave ice" (like a high-grade sno-cone, often on a bed of McNut ice cream) illustrates a fondness for dropping the participle. On the radio, there was a commercial urging people to recycle their "use oil." Rush-hour traffic was because of "quit time." Side note: The Hawaiian language only uses 12 letters!

7. I bought a ukulele!

8. The big Hawaiian musical star, judging by CDs on sale, is not Jasmine Trias but Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole, who does a medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" on his uke. It was featured in the film 50 First Dates.

9. I ate an "opah" covered in a McNut crust. Opah is also known as the moonfish.

10. Losing badly to spouse in Scrabble at the Kaua'i airport. I began with a bingo (86 points), let down my guard, started scoring under 10 points in six of my last seven moves. It was like the Flowers for Algernon version of Scrabble.

11. Book bought: Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen, by Liliuokalani.

12. Idea: Hawaiian Rules Scrabble—you can only use the 12 letters common to the Hawaiian language.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Novel ideas

This morning I finally finished Sean Wilsey's terrific memoir, Oh the Glory of It All. At one point he quotes a long passage from his (and also my) favorite Murakami novel, Norwegian Wood. When I checked to see if my copy was lying around the house, I found it on top of Aleksandar Hemon's Nowhere Man . . . (Dizzyheads know what's coming next.)

Can you think of other novels with Beatles songs for titles?

Game B: How many Elvis Costello songs provide titles for books? Here are two to start:
1. Waiting for the End of the World, Madison Smartt Bell
2. Less Than Zero, Bret Easton Ellis

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Czech it out

From Jonathan Bolton's "Reading Michal Ajvaz," in the latest Context:

Imagine an indecipherable script that gradually overruns all the books in your library. Imagine a text that disappears as you read it, “like old frescoes in a catacomb, when the fresh air penetrates to them.” Imagine an epic poem carved in the ice of a frozen pond (and imagine the thaw). Imagine discovering a new key on your typewriter. Imagine a death sentence written in shellfish.

Read the rest here.

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