Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Calypso Spots is Five

It has occurred to me that, right around now (maybe a month or so ago, but in the spring, certainly), Calypso Spots has attained the age of five.
Now, I would unquestionably like to celebrate this birthday on any account, but especially as a pre-Easter announcement about rabbits.
Calypso Spots made it very clear early on that she is nobody's Easter Bunny. She did this by immediately getting sick on Easter when I made an untoward remark on the subject. I had to take her to the emergency vet, where she had her first set of X-rays, and she didn't recover her health and spirits for several days. When she did, I might note that she expressed her joy by being even more affectionate and cuddly than usual.
The estimable Ms. Spots did not come into my home as an Easter Bunny, but as a teenager. Penelope had recently succumbed to a thymoma, and George and I were feeling very glum and miserable, especially as we had moved into an apartment without air-conditioning. I didn't think I was ready to get another rabbit yet, but I suddenly had the feeling I should find the local humane society and take a look. I did so, and spent an afternoon acquainting myself with the four available rabbits. Two of them seemed like possibilities, so I brought George along the next day. George was in the kind of mood where only petting and carrots were of interest to him, so he sat in his carrier munching. The little spotted character came bouncing right in (fortunately, male rabbits aren't as territorial as females) and sniffed the carrier with great interest. After exploring the room a bit, she also sniffed George quite a bit.
The upshot was (I am shortening this tale considerably since a good many people have heard it in full detail and many others are doubtless not interested) Ms. Spots came home with us.

Within a day or so, she was taking naps with George, a gleam of triumph in her youthful eye. George still looked sad, but he was clearly pleased to have her around.

It had been awhile since I had had a young rabbit, and Ms. Spots quickly got into lots of mischief. One of her favorite tricks involved pulling open this closet door (which didn't shut properly) so that she could go inside and chew on various items therein. For example, it wasn't until I unpacked and put on the dress I was wearing to my uncle's funeral that I discovered it had been shredded around the hem. I believe we were able to safety-pin it together at the last minute.

Jumping on the chair was never forbidden, but Calypso Spots was always gleeful about sitting there. She didn't go up there very often, which I suppose allowed the exercise to remain really special. I hear she has only jumped onto the parental furniture once or twice.

Jumping onto the table, however, was much more exciting. Her excellent intuition told her that sitting on the table was not really permitted, but the thrill of jumping onto a chair and from thence onto the table (where flowers, candles, books, and papers could be nibbled) had to be experienced. Quite a few times. In fact, pretty much any time something provided a means of jumping onto the table. Whether she has lost interest in this sort of pursuit or simply realizes that my parents will have an undesirable reaction, I'm not sure. I'm afraid my reaction was always to snicker and go get the camera.

Her tastes are wide. She does not like one to make macaroni and cheese or Indian food without giving her the leftovers. Gingerbread from Whole Foods will be bitten into before it can be removed from the grocery sack. Chocolates, cookies, and Reese's Peanut Butter cups will rapidly be stolen and devoured. She adores yogurt and baby food. And she has trained my parents to feed her crackers in the evening.
I don't claim that all of these things are actually good for rabbits. On the other hand, she is particularly fond of timothy hay, which her vet recommends as a dietary staple. She gets fruits, vegetables, and the other things in limited doses, although she did try to get Kristen to give her an entire container of yogurt a few years ago. Yogurt is good for rabbit digestion (particularly important when a rabbit is on antibiotics), but we think there should be some limit to how much is eaten at one time. Ms. Spots disagrees.

The Spotted Character felt that my bedroom ought to be hers as well. Since my bedroom door didn't close fully, she had to be barricaded out. Most mornings she took up the role of spotted alarm clock and called for my attention at the door. Frequently she jumped over the barricade and either leaped onto the bed (where I naturally petted her) or began getting into mischief on the floor. Since I like having rabbits on my bed, perhaps we can work something out when I return, something that will involve keeping papers and such out of her way. Then again, now that she is five, she is not so chewy as when she was two or three.

Ms. Spots is exceptionally fond of her nap.

She prefers to nap (or invite petting) in her full Flopsy-Bunny mode.

Calypso Spots also believes in investigating new household items, such as quilts in progress.

Despite the fact that George was not very mobile when we got Ms. Spots, she found him quite enchanting. She remained intensely attached to him for the rest of his life, but I gather was better able to accept his death than the rest of us. She is now exceptionally happy with Orion.

The moral of this story is that rabbits are not disposable Easter Bunnies. They are intelligent and highly social creatures, can be splendid companions, tend to get into mischief during the first few years, and are adoptable year-round from the House Rabbit Society and most shelters. Calypso Spots and Orion are two of the luckier rabbits on the planet, and they know it. Perhaps some of my readers can give another lucky rabbit or two a good home. If so, spend some time with several rabbits, pick out the right one, and make sure he or she gets neutered or spayed. And have some of those chocolate rabbits for Easter.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Dealing with somewhat the same time period as the 1909 fashion plates, but in a much more colorful and varied manner, I anticipate that the blog Japonisme will provide much delight to the art-historically inclined and of course to anyone else who just enjoys looking at gorgeous work.

Labels: ,

Monday, March 26, 2007

Fashions of 1909

I had been meaning to post some images from Damske modni listy, but now that BibliOdyssey has put up Hungarian fashions of the 1870s, I think I should cease procrastinating. Not that my hover-over-the-desk photography of these exactly rivals the Hungarians' high-quality reproductions and that special BibliOdyssey knack for removing stains and gunk, but all the same the two posts do sort of go together.
My excuse for examining Damske modni listy in the first place was that I had a reference to it in one of my sources. After all, the obsessive dissertation writer does not wish to clutter the final product with too many "quoted in" and "cited in" footnotes.
To my surprise and dismay, the bound volume was missing precisely the issue I wanted, but I think we might say that it more than compensated with its wealth of representations of French fashion available to the interested Czech female.

The more I looked, the more it hit me that this was good research, not just eye-candy (although it is unquestionably that).

The surrealists (both French and Czech) often used imagery from their childhoods in collages and related works. While Max Ernst was perhaps the pioneer in this arena, Toyen also made use of imagery taken from and reflecting this time period. She was seven years old when these came out.

Aren't these skirts-without-bodies a bit surreal? They certainly seem more so than the photos of skirts-without-bodies I recall from the Sears and Montgomery Wards catalogs I used to cut up when I was seven.

The hats are quite remarkable in their own way, but what about those bodices?

After a certain amount of exposure to the girls in this publication, it becomes clear why Toyen put girls with jumpropes into her work. Girls with hoops show up equally often in the magazine, but I think Toyen must not have been much inclined to play with hoops. Not surprising. The jumprope has endured, the hoop rapidly became something of a curiosity.

I confess I do find it difficult to imagine Toyen wearing one of these hats even at the age of seven.

Unrelated to surrealist imagery, these last few are costumes, in case it is not obvious.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, March 25, 2007


The Ephemera blog recently came up with a "me--not me" bit regarding the brands that describe us. Since I rarely think in terms of brands, I was surprised how the idea grabbed me, but then maybe it was because it started off with less brand-related things like rye bread being Jewish and white bread being goyish.
Like Ephemera, I have to say I am Guinness, not Bud, but I don't think I could narrow down my brands of Czech beer.
I am Tom's of Maine, not Crest or Colgate (and that's fennel, mind you, with the propolis and myrrh).
I am Dr. Bronner's, not Irish Spring.
After that, it gets pretty tough. Am I Mattoni or Bonaqua? Olma, Hollandia Selský, or one of those other yogurts? It is pretty hard to think of much where I have a brand preference, although in some things there are brands I will countenance and others I will probably not. In other things, I can only think of one brand, although doubtless others must compete. Do Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, Br'er Rabbit Molasses, and C&H Brown Sugar have competitors? Presumably, but I've never heard of them.
Sounds to me like time for a dose of Becherovka.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Visitors Reach Prague

"There are hordes of Italians here!" (or something to that effect) was the first thing I heard from my friend Annie when she got to Prague.
And indeed, it is Italian season again. They were here last March in droves and now they're back. Massive bands of roving Italians. Most of the groups are young, but not all. On Thursday morning I thought I would never get to the archive because so many of them were coming down the steps from Strahov. On Thursday afternoon, likewise, I wasn't sure I'd be able to get through them to enter the Klementinum and use the library. There must have been at least a hundred in each of these flocks.
Mind you, I have nothing against Italians, but I really don't understand why they all come to Prague at the same time and in such big groups, somewhat like migrating birds. It being spring, we have an increase in tourists in general, but the Americans, British, Germans, and French are visible in smaller clumps. Even the Japanese are never seen in groups of more than about thirty at a time (not to mention that, as there are many Japanese students studying here, one mostly sees them in twos and threes).
Anyhow, my colleague Annie, her new husband Max, and some friends made the trip down from Berlin. I was glad to see Annie and glad to find that I also enjoyed everyone else. Since Annie and Max's friends have a teething baby, we didn't do anything very strenuous. They all started at the Castle while I worked at the library, then we met up for a late lunch. Following lunch, the baby contingent went back to the hotel for a nap and the rest of us went to the Expressionist show and then for coffee. I was impressed how many Czech artists Annie actually recognized from our seminar on art and nationalism (it was several years ago), but of course she does have a pretty good memory for that kind of thing, being an art historian.
Since lunch had been late and large, we didn't want much for dinner. And the brilliant thought occurred to me that in that case we could probably afford snacks at the Obecní dům kávarna. The Obecní dům is wonderful, but as a rule I only get coffee or a glass of wine.

Well, by the time we had ordered two cheese platters, a salmon platter, olives, and drinks, this was a bit on the more expensive side, but we agreed it was worth it. My guests were thoroughly enchanted by the gorgeous art nouveau interior of the café and by the live jazz, and the staff (seeing we had a baby along) treated us royally.
I might add (for those of my American friends who think the Czechs are cold and unfriendly) that my visitors enthused about how friendly and helpful the Czechs are, at least in comparison to the inhabitants of Berlin. (Well, the German inhabitants of Berlin. The Turkish inhabitants got a very positive review.) While it's my experience that the inhabitants of Prague are as or more friendly than city-dwellers anywhere else I've been, I do think that the sure way to win over the Czechs is to carry a baby. Knowing a little Polish, as Annie and Max do, doesn't hurt either, but the Czechs are very helpful to anyone with a small child.

Interior photo by Will Perrett, not sure whose the exterior is.

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rabbit Girl's New Blog

Rabbit Girl has a (new?) blog that is more about rabbits than about books. Calypso Spots and Orion recommend that all who wish to know more about rabbits, rabbit rescue, and house rabbits (and even books featuring rabbits) should take a look.
In other blog-type news, those who wish to join some of us in a discussion of "gifted education" can head right over to Brian's blog. It's been a hot topic and I imagine a new voice or two could be interesting.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Is It April Fool's Yet?

I know that I have never been numerically inclined, but I always thought I was capable of keeping track of the calendar, at least in a basic sort of way. Current evidence suggests that either I am not, or the universe is conspiring against me today.
Earlier in the month, I decided that I would attend a symposium in England that will occur on March 30. I looked around for an affordable airfare, and while what I found on EasyJet wasn't all that cheap once tax was added, it was not staggering. After much consideration of the different times and airports, I booked a weekend trip.
Also earlier in the month, when I received word of the fellowship offer for next year, I checked to see when I might hear from the others I had applied to. The one that mentioned anything online said, I AM CERTAIN, that it would notify in the second half of March. It may have said late March, but I am sure it said March. I need to know, since I need to accept or decline fellowship #1 by April 15, which in actuality means earlier since I have to mail the letter.
Well! This morning I wanted to know what time my flight would leave, whereupon I discovered that I was booked to leave March 30 rather than March 29! There is not much point in a flight that leaves Prague an hour after the symposium starts. I had to change my ticket. While this was not as dreadful as it might have been, it decidedly added to the cost of the ticket. Let's not forget that lodging is not cheap in Britain either. Nothing is cheap in Britain, if one is American. I expect the trip to be worthwhile, but it will cost me.
Later in the day I felt mysteriously possessed of the urge to look up fellowship #2, just in case perhaps there was something new and interesting listed about it. Well, you might say there was... the web page now says we will be informed in mid-April. There is no reference to a previous March notification. Either they have changed it or I have lost my mind; both are possible. While I don't suppose my chances for this fellowship are unusually high (it was very well advertised), enough people will get it that I imagine there is some chance I might be one of them. At any rate, I haven't received a rejection letter. That, no doubt, will arrive in tomorrow's mail.
Meanwhile, North America has sent some of its snow back this way, now that no one here has any further interest in having it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Scary Theoretician Quiz

Since Kristen has brought this to my attention...

What 20th Century Theorist are you?

You are Jacques Lacan! Arguably the most important psychoanalyst since Freud, you never wrote anything down, and the only works of yours are transcriptions of your lectures. You are notoriously difficult to understand, but at least you didn't talk about the penis as much as other psychoanalysts. You died in 1981.
Take this quiz!

I don't know what to say about this except it must be the result of my claiming to have psychoanalytic literature beside my bed. I don't, but it has been a long time since I read any Poe, and Colette and Borges were paired with people I haven't read. And I do read psychoanalytic literature for my dissertation. (But Lacan??? Well, at least he associated with surrealists...)
Oh, and I avoided marking words like "abject" and "subaltern" in preference for Caillois-like terms such as "mimicry."


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ještě Jedno Pivo

Members of my Czech class agree that our teacher has improved and that we've gotten used to her, although there is still a longing for our original instructor. I do think our teacher knows the material, but I'm always obliged to ponder what might be a better system, given that different people learn languages in different ways.
Our teacher is always talking about grammar, and I think this is one thing that does not reach our group very well. All of us have studied multiple languages, so we are not dealing with a group of monolingual beginners. However, just because the Indo-European languages have roughly similar habits doesn't mean they use the same grammatical terms for the same things. You might think that if you understand the function of dative or accusative, you're set, but then you find that something that's accusative in one language is nominative in another, or that something takes the genitive for no reason that can be ascertained logically. That's assuming you have a grasp of that sort of thing at all in the first case, and I am concluding that the highly intelligent people in my class are no better at it than I am. I have always thought it was pretty clever of me to be able to recall the difference between an adjective and an adverb, since the difference is rather subtle. And perhaps there isn't even a difference in some languages, as my Turkish classmate seemed mystified by the whole concept.
It has, in fact, become clear to me that I've never had any particular problem with Czech adjectives, but that I know hardly any adverbs, because so many of them are practically the same as their adjectival siblings and so one is not likely to notice a difference. It was something of a surprise to realize this, but being drilled on adverbs and adjectives is of no help. When, in normal conversation, one has no problem using the word "teplo," as soon as one is drilled and has to produce the correct form, the word "teplo" vanishes from the mind and one goes through a tortuous process of "Hmm, this must be an adverb, so I guess it must be teply or maybe teplě." The effort of trying to figure out what to say by running the sentence through a series of grammatical questionnaires (is it locative or accusative, singular or plural? and what would be the locative plural form? etc) completely drives out all one's normal ordinary ability to form sentences. I mean, if I want to say something--in any language including English--I do not laboriously construct my sentence by thinking about its grammar. Instead, I hastily throw together words and phrases into something approximating the usual structure of what I want to say in the language in question. I don't, in normal conversation, think about how the Czech "Je mi lito" is structured and whether that has any relationship to the German "Es tut mir leid" or the French "Je regrette." It is not that I have no interest in the way these things are structured, but it is purely an intellectual, not a communicative, interest. I really don't care if I end up using the Czech equivalent of "I cain't get no satisfaction" so long as my meaning comes across and I'm not saying the likes of "none satisfy can get me."
Well, after class we went out for our beer and our level of fluency improved the instant we left the room. Put it this way, we had no problem discussing the difference between fleas and ticks, all about tickborne illnesses and vaccination, and how ticks resemble little spiders. Nor did we have any problem discussing obstetric and well-baby care as it is practiced in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Spain, and the United States. I am now informed that Germany has better well-baby exams than the Czech Republic or Hungary, that Austria has routine vaccinations for tick-borne encephalitis, that the Czech Republic has very low infant mortality, and that Spanish women are fed up because their obstetric care is too medicalized, they aren't supposed to give birth at home, and episiotomies are routine.
I could not say that our grammar was perfect, and we used sign language to clarify which word referred to fleas versus which one referred to ticks, but we very seldom resorted to the use of English or German words.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Fun With Hygiene

Modern hygiene! a whole magazine devoted to this fascinating topic!

Well, once upon a time (and still today in Czech) the word "hygiene" had a meaning larger than its usual present-day English connotation of "cleanliness." It certainly included cleanliness, but also referred to healthiness and related matters. As far as I can tell, it could cover anything from cosmetics to eugenics, although I suspect that cosmetics were not what most people thought of as the primary focus of hygiene.

Frantisek Trefny (sorry, I can't get my Czech keyboard working), publisher of a remarkable number of sex-education texts of some sort (they all seem to have vanished from the library), also published the remarkable journal Moderni hygiena. Trefny, whose business was located just down the street from where Hubert used to live, also sold cosmetics, rubber stockings (I don't think they can have been entirely rubber, but who knows; they look like ordinary stockings in the ads), and various forms of birth control. To the right, we have an ad for a depilatory product.

And to our left, we wouldn't want to have fears of pregnancy or other matters causing anxiety, so there are products to assist in that direction. Trefny and his Hydiko store had a wide range of condoms, some of which seem to have come with a stand, I suppose for hygienic air-drying after washing (people did formerly re-use the things, which were not exactly cheap).

The male whose energy flagged might want to read that informative volume, Bujare muzstvi (lively manhood). Since I have not read it myself, I cannot say whether it is helpful or even entertaining.

If Bujare muzstvi didn't liven a person up, he could always buy some Energo. I'd hazard a guess that Energo would be a better alternative than the revolver in the despairing guy's hand, unless of course he has shot the woman first. (In that case, he might as well go ahead and shoot himself, I think.) In my readings of the tabloid news over people's shoulders on the tram, I find that news of men who planned to shoot their wives and then themselves is always headlined in print large enough for me to follow, although unlike this ad, there usually aren't pictures of the unhappy event. Pictures are reserved for naked women and for stories alleging that the actor who plays Harry Potter has a sexual interest in horses.

But, you may wonder, is kissing hygienic? Well, readers of this article (which continued into the next issue) had the opportunity to find out. Not wanting to learn the worst, I didn't read the article. Then again, even if it isn't hygienic, I imagine the helpful staff at Moderni hygiena made some suggestions as to making it more so.

And don't forget to take care of your health!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Swobodin's Blog of Brno and More

I had written up a mention of this eclectic English-language blog from Brno, written by a Tunisian computer specialist, which offers lots of interesting stuff, from music to humor. And then, before I got around to posting it, I got an email from its author (he and Jesse correspond), saying he was coming to Prague for a few days and would I like to meet?
Well, I was not about to say no. I had sort of meant to get out of Prague for a day or two over the weekend, but hadn't managed to formulate any plan regarding where, so this sounded like a nice break in my routine.
We met this morning at a cafe and had a nice chat. I was mildly tempted to join him in a trek to the castle, but I do tend to avoid going up there (the crowds) and as it happened, a friend of his from Tunisia had just gotten to town and presumably did want to see the castle.
Instead, I spent a few more hours contemplating the various items that constitute Edice 69 and then went out on a sort of exploratory mission regarding the Smichov area, of which more later when I go again with camera.
I should add, though, that I hope my new acquaintance will post some of his photos of the anti-missile demonstration that took place last night here. You can read what he's already written about the topic here. I'm afraid that yesterday I was in too much of a stay-at-home mood to go anywhere, much less find out that I could be participating in a big demonstration.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Skiing or Not?

Well, it's a month now since I went skiing, and clearly there will be no more of that until next winter.
Jesse forwards this link to the blog Proti Proudu to show what the... er... walking is like now where we went skiing last year. Global warming or just quirky weather? I hear that North America has stolen all the European snow.
These photos are what the area near where we skied this February looked like. As you might imagine, when Michael and I saw this kind of scene from the bus window in the village, our reaction was to inquire what we were going to ski on. This is not what one expects from the Tirol in February.
Luckily there was more snow up by the glacier. In fact, conditions were pretty good, but I never had the camera with me in the snow.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Joy of Comparison

This evening our Czech class largely reviewed comparatives and superlatives, an area of grammar that everyone seemed to know quite well.
To further get these into our heads, we did numerous exercises. Some were of the fill-in-the-blank variety, while others involved a little imagination. It was, for example, my task to come up with some sentences comparing Bush and Putin.
While I like exercises that involve coming up with actual sentences, this one did not please me much. I have a low opinion of both leaders and have made no effort to keep track of many details about them.
Consequently, my comparisons indicated that:
I don't know whether Bush is worse than Putin;
I don't know whether Putin is taller than Bush (I have now been informed that Bush is the taller of the two, but can't say why I might care);
I don't know whether Bush gets up earlier than Putin;
I don't know whether Putin is better dressed than Bush.
Had it been a homework assignment, I might have researched which one is richer, older, uglier, or has more children. With recourse to the dictionary, I daresay I might have said that Bush is more incoherent than Putin, since I have never heard anyone complain that Putin can't speak his own language.
I felt mildly aggrieved that I had not drawn something easier like the Mercedes-Škoda comparison, the car-airplane comparison, or even the man-woman comparison, although I was relieved not to have the Mt Everest-Snežka comparison.
I was, incidentally, stunned to discover that not only did our teacher imagine we might know how tall Mt Everest is, but that members of the class were able to recite the exact number of meters! Why anyone except a mountaineer or topographer would need or want to know this is beyond my comprehension. I realize that some people expect one to know the approximate population of various cities, which is also entirely outside my area of expertise, but there is at least some use in knowing that. Personally, I'm content to say that Pittsburgh is smaller than New York but larger than a village. If I ever have a genuine need to know, I daresay I could look in an atlas and learn whether it has 50 thousand or 50 million inhabitants.
My next exercise in creative comparison was to state whether I preferred film or theater, and why. Again, I stared at my slip of paper in dismay. As a former student of theater and film, I don't know that it behooves me to express a preference for one or the other. There are certainly things one could come up with to say if given sufficient leisure. I could, for example, have said that I prefer theater because if the play is bad I can disrupt it by yelling "Boo!" and throwing fruit, and for that matter by running onto the stage and assaulting the actors. I could also have said that I prefer film because it is more socially acceptable to spend an entire movie locked in passionate embrace with one's companion, and to munch popcorn when not exchanging saliva with said companion. However, these were not really things I felt prepared to say in class on two minutes' notice. I indicated that while in actuality I did not care to state a preference, for the purpose of the exercise film is preferable because one can go at more times of day. This is, of course, a revoltingly bland response. But what can a person do?


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

In Praise of the Nonlinear

A word from Rob Breszny:
Novelist Ursula K. Le Guin decries the linear perspective that dominates modern storytelling. She says it's "like an arrow, starting here and going straight there and THOK! hitting its mark." Furthermore, she complains, plots are usually advanced through conflict, as if interesting action can't possibly arise from any other catalyst.
I invite you to rebel against these oppressive conventions. Wean yourself from stories that have a reductive plot line fueled primarily by painful events. More importantly, celebrate the luminous mysteries that have shaped your life story: the meandering fascinations that didn't lead to tidy conclusions, the wobbly joys that fed your soul but didn't do a thing to serve your ego's ambitions, the adventures whose success revolved around brain-teasing breakthroughs instead of exhausting triumphs over suffering.
I agree wholeheartedly with Le Guin and Breszny. I don't mind reading a certain amount of linear, conflict-driven fiction, but I prefer to read and write other kinds.
In life, while we all experience some suffering, and while I admire the ability to triumph over suffering, often the pain and suffering is from the past. George, a rabbit who grew more and more disabled and certainly experienced ongoing pain and suffering, wasn't just stoic, he enormously enjoyed the good things in his life. It can be therapeutic to complain, but complaints should usually be made as amusing as possible, so that they become a new way of seeing the problem.
Linear thought and linear stories have their place and their uses, but shouldn't supplant other kinds.
If luminous mysteries and meandering fascinations didn't fill my life, would I even exist?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Occasional Knitter

I recall when Kristen, having seen several of us sitting around the TA office knitting, decided that she might give the whole thing a try. She has since become a devotee, and while I know my mother thinks I have a lot of yarn out in the shed waiting to be used, there is no question that Kristen has much more. Unlike Kristen, and unlike the countless knitting bloggers, I am an occasional rather than an obsessive knitter. I learned the basics when I was seven and finally, twenty years later, took some classes so that I could make actual useful objects. From that followed the cable-knit sweater, the intarsia sweater, the fair-isle sweater, the lace vest, and at least two sweaters for other people. Obviously this was during a time in my life when I had a certain amount of leisure, although it must be said that I did a considerable amount of knitting on public transit and at my writing group. I also made a couple of brightly colored cotton throws, one of which was actually finished not long after the baby shower for which it was intended.
In more recent years, I have mostly stayed away from sweater-making (how many sweaters can one person really wear? I'm still wearing all but one of the original lot). After all, it is so easy to get distracted and forget what it was all about. But before I left Pittsburgh, Kristen and I did visit a yarn store, so I was tempted into starting another sweater. Normally, if I don't finish a sweater in a couple of months or so, there is probably not much hope for it, but this one has seen scattered activity over nearly two years, so I feel confident that it will get finished on the plane back to the US, if not before. The front pieces (see left) and one sleeve are done, and the back and the other sleeve are each half done. Therefore, another longish train ride or the like will certainly result in much progress. Whether I'll be entirely happy with the decision to use three colors on a pattern intended for one is another question, but I think it will look good enough to wear. It has a very appealing cable pattern, after all. I like cables; they're easy to do and look so impressive. (Although there is the constant problem of dropping and often permanently losing one's cable needle, as happened to me on the bus to Budapest last fall.)
Most of what I make now are scarves. While they aren't very stimulating to make, they progress very quickly when one is sitting at a conference or hanging out with people over the holidays. If the needle size is large enough, I can make two or three scarves in a day of sufficiently intense conference-sitting. (The kind where most of the day is spent in one seat, not the kind where one is constantly moving from room to room and looking at tables of new art books.) My friends are probably hoping that I'll go to lots of conferences so that I can give them more scarves.
I do not make socks, and it astonishes me that Kristen or anyone else would find socks worth the time and trouble. The results can be very handsome, I admit, but how long does the average sock last and how often is much of it visible?
Below, one can see the fair-isle sweater I made long ago. Kristen will have to avert her eyes from the dreaded fair-isleness of it, just as I avert my eyes from the upholstery under it. The sweater's colors are more intense in real life. While it is a bit big for me, I expect to wear it for another twenty or thirty years.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I Live in Outer Space, Perhaps in a French Colony

It has begun to seem to me that the PhD is not a requirement for becoming a classic Absent-minded Professor. Not only do I invariably forget why I have gotten up (was I going to put on a sweater? look for a pen? open the window? take the laundry out of the washer?), but very often I have no idea what someone is saying to me, even when their diction is impeccable. For example, the student who asked me about cleaning. My mind was elsewhere, and I couldn't fathom why someone was standing next to me holding some plates and asking about cleaning. Did she want to clean my table or what? I went into a complete blank state, incapable of grasping why anyone would ask me about cleaning at the library cafeteria. It was somewhat after she said kindly, in English, "You don't speak Czech, do you?" that it occurred to me that she wanted to know where to put the dirty dishes she was holding. After all, I was thinking about something else, although I have no idea what.
I was recently heartened, though, by a reminder that I am not the only person who can't always understand plain, clearly uttered phrases that are well within my grasp. The other day I decided to order a French omelet, and clearly articulated "Já si dám francouzkou omeletu." I was a little surprised when the waiter asked if I wanted it sweet or salty, which is Káva Káva Káva's code for with fruit or with meat on it, but since the French omelet didn't seem like it should have fruit added, I said salty. I was a bit startled when a plate of French toast with meat and cheese arrived, but I ate it anyway. It made perfect sense to me that if everyone who comes in usually wants French toast and not a French omelet, the word omelet just disappears into the void once the French part has registered.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Writing in Pieces

Kristen's grandfather has requested that she devote at least 15% of her blog to her dissertation, which is not a bad plan.
I am not sure what percentage of this blog is dissertation-related, but I do know that I too have readers who look forward to news on the dissertation. I even have a surprising number of people finding the blog by searching for Toyen, and this is a constituency I suspect I am sorely disappointing given my infrequent remarks about Toyen herself (she was a reticent sort).
Kristen also notes that our advisor suggests that she is obsessing about the wrong things and should give up worrying about Chapter 1 for now in favor of starting somewhere in the middle. Since I personally would not care to spend more than a minimal amount of time thinking about nationalism (a topic which comes up, in a minimal sort of way, in my own dissertation--the topic has, after all, been written almost to death, although it does remain wretchedly relevant), I think this is very sensible.
It all leads me, along with conversations had with other people who are writing or have finished dissertations, to the topic of how one does go about writing such a thing.
On the one hand, I feel certain that there must be many equally good ways of writing dissertations. People have different temperaments and different topics, and the various disciplines and advisors have different preferences. I am not going to ponder the dissertation that is highly schematic and requires in-text citation of sources for every sentence along the lines of "The water molecule has two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (Smith, 1990; Jones,1991a; Brown, 2000), which renders it ideal for consumption by elderly patients suffering from dementia (Lum and Cho, 2001; Milksop, 2002m; Jack, Jill, Hill, et al., 2004). I will stick to the humanities and amenable social sciences.
Generally speaking, we want to write something that will not only satisfy our committees and allow us to graduate and get jobs, but that will read fairly well and bore neither the author nor subsequent readers. This causes much anxiety, as the dissertation-writer is also wrestling with Saying Something New, Making a Contribution to the Field, and of course is generally still chasing after unruly sources while writing up what scientists and social scientists like to call the Findings. After all, one comes up with some sort of general idea of a thing one would like to research, the advisor and committee hound one until some sort of plan comes into existence and one has written a satisfactory proposal that is, however, understood to be subject to change; and then one plunges into research and, at some point, writing.
People who wrote their dissertations in the pre-laptop era assure me that life is very different now. And indeed it is. People who wrote dissertations on computers before the advent of the laptop (I am not going to get into the agonies of the pre-computer dissertation) lacked most of the benefits of the computer, as they still had to take most of their notes by hand and a good many archives had no photocopiers. A person might write up several thousand notecards' worth of stuff in the course of the research, and was then stuck trying to figure out how to organize it and make sense of it. I would not have done very well with this method, as I have never taken to notecards and would probably have used them to build houses of cards while I sank into a deeper and deeper depression. It is just as well that I waited to begin graduate school until working conditions had improved.
I have written elsewhere about how I use bibliographic software and the digital camera to keep track of what I find. But what of the writing? No matter how well one keeps track of the notes and photos, the thing still has to be written up.
While I didn't enjoy writing my proposal, I admit that it has served me pretty well. I wrote it somewhat along the lines of the book proposal model promulgated by literary agents Larsen and Pomada, since a dissertation is much like a book, although the dissertation proposal can be less polished (the committee has already agreed that you can write on the topic in question, and it is their job to help you along). So, some chapters were more thoroughly conceptualized than others. Nonetheless, the general structure of the dissertation hasn't really needed alteration, which is a relief.
While some people like to "finish" the research before they begin to write, and this may suit them, I would not recommend it for the average person. For one thing, outside of fields that require experiment, the research is never really done. Something new always pops up to throw things out of whack. I think that for most of us, a certain amount of research and other immersion in the topic is needed, and then we need to start synthesizing some of that information. Why? Well, if we don't, most of us will forget a good deal of what we've learned. My memory is much too spotty to rely on to bring back very much of what I've read or seen, and I am sure that many people have the same problem.
Thus, at some point last year I felt that I had better start writing up some of what I was thinking about. I wrote a paragraph here, a page there. I did not worry about their ultimate order, I just wrote and footnoted.
After awhile, it was clear that I had enough stuff that I had better arrange the pieces by the chapters I imagined they might end up in. Before long, I began adding section and subsection titles to the thing so that I could further organize my chunks of text. By now, I have enough of this that I call it a draft.
My committee is strangely impressed that I have anything I could call a draft. I hope they do not imagine it is more coherent than it actually is. While it does have long sections of writing that sound pretty good, it is still full of chunks of stuff that are in something like the right general place but which need further research, further thought, or perhaps are just notes to myself about whatever is supposed to end up there. After all, the computer allows us to cut, paste, insert, transpose, and so forth. I see no reason that the work in progress should attempt to look like some sort of tidy finished product. Instead, it needs to be meticulously sourced so that pieces can be moving without losing their citations. Just because I thought, once upon a time, that I would need a section on surrealist texts published in Czech journals, does not mean that I was right; instead I probably need something on the consequences of the Second Manifesto.
I recently talked with a relative who wrote his dissertation pre-laptop, using the index-card method. In those days, when he did not have much experience writing, his procedure was to start at the beginning and go slowly along until he reached the end. If a paragraph did not please him, he probably did not write the next one until it had been perfected. He examined secondary literature only for the subject immediately at hand, not allowing himself to be distracted by things that might be needed for other chapters.
He now has much more experience writing, and is presently putting scans on his laptop of documents he expects to use for a book. While he admits that the notion of writing anything in a million little pieces and sticking them together fills him with some anxiety, he thinks that this approach may have some advantages lacked by his his old start-to-finish method.
I was surprised to hear him say that he might try to do something more like my jigsaw-puzzle approach, but I will be curious how it goes. I too always used to write things from start to finish. After all, the careful writer wants not only to have the ideas in the best sequence, but for the rhythm of the text to carry the reader easily from one idea to the next (something I am too lazy to accomplish consistently in this blog).
But even when writing from start to finish, one inevitably comes up with things that need to be shoehorned in, which disrupt the flow and cause distress to the meticulous writer. The first time I wrote a long nonfiction project, I was constantly dismayed by the pedestrian quality of the writing, because I was always having to add things into existing text and of course clarity was more important than the precise cadence of the language. But the thing is, one cannot write a long thing like a book or dissertation in the same fashion as one might a term paper (staying up until three to force out some sort of inspired burst of brilliance).
So, over time, I've departed from my old start-to-finish ways, and it looks as though the main danger in writing in bits and pieces is not that I will be unable to integrate them (although this takes more revision than one might expect), but that I have too efficiently accumulated vast quantities of detail and supporting evidence with excessive amounts of citation.
There are certainly worse fates than that.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

I Blame Jindřich Štyrský

This morning, for no good reason at all, I awoke at ten. Waking up at ten is acceptable if I have been up till at least three, but not otherwise. Of course, getting up at ten can be a very acceptable option if I have woken up earlier and chosen to stay in bed. It is the lack of choice in the matter that I find truly appalling.
The only explanation I can find for my having slept such a dreadfully long time is that I was, admittedly, having a very long dream about Jindřich Štyrský. Toyen had, as one might expect, a role in the dream as well, but the main character was Štyrský. Though the majority of it has gone out of my head, I can remember photographing various works, some of which he rearranged on the wall from one point in the dream to another, and working on some sort of semi-animated presentation that I kept testing on a large projection screen.
I think that what this means is that Štyrský, awakening from a drunken haze somewhere in the afterworld, has become aware that I'm working on Toyen and noticed that the parts relating to himself are in a state of dereliction while I amuse myself looking at fashion illustrations from 1909 and reading bits of Václav Černý's memoirs. As Toyen's artistic partner for twenty years, Štyrský naturally feels that her work cannot be understood without reference to his own; which I grant him is true. The fact that Toyen's career continued for nearly forty years without him does not cancel him out.
However, I might point out to both of them that I have no idea what Toyen did with Štyrský's papers after his death. I did enjoy reading his letters to Karel Michl and various other people, and appreciated the fact that his handwriting, while variable, is more legible than that of Karel Teige or Vítězslav Nezval, but I have really not found all that many letters or other papers floating about. Nor is there a catalogue raisonée for him; most of the reproduced work I've seen has been in black and white.
Therefore, I say to Štyrský that he had better direct me some new resources so that I have a little more to go on than what is currently in print (the person who did the typography for the volume of his writings apparently wanted to ensure that its readers would go blind).
I hope Štyrský realizes that I am a devoted admirer of his collages and have visited his grave. Which leads me to a somewhat unrelated question: given the early 20th-century fashion for cremation, why are so many cremated Czechs (Štyrský included) buried in graves big enough to fit a whole coffin? His grave is in a cemetery devoted to cremated remains, and only a small percentage of these are kept in urns in wall niches. Perhaps Toyen could answer this question, since she was the main person dealing with the funeral and the tombstone (the design of which is based on one of Štyrský's images).

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 09, 2007

The End of the Winter Sport Season Quiz

Clearly, we are not going to have any more snow around here this year. Thus, as a skier, I offer:
You Are Skiing

Graceful, athletic, and gusty - you're willing to put it all on the line.
You're willing to take big risks for big rewards.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Life in Class and Out

The spring iteration of evening Czech class has commenced and is decidedly underway, not without its difficulties. This time, fortunately, I was not obliged to take a placement test while jet-lagged, because in the fall we had an end-of-class test which I had no problem passing. On the other hand, this time I did have to get paperwork from the school in order for my university to pay, which took awhile to take care of.
The class is, of course, a repetition of material I've already had. It would be a very fine thing if I could get all the case endings to stick in my head at last, along with various other beginner-level things that seem determined to trouble me the rest of my days. One does get tired of reading things for class that tell, yet again, about the lives of foreigners who come to Prague, or the lives of stereotypical Czech families. I read through these simple paragraphs in a flash and don't even notice that I don't know all the words, since as with most things, not knowing a word here and there is no bar to overall comprehension. (Of course, I am often expected to define one of these unfamiliar words, which is another matter. It means what all by itself?)
Our class spent the first week or so with one instructor, as our intended instructor was on vacation. For some reason this always seems to be the case, that Czech teachers have their vacations during some portion of a course. Or that it is simply deemed better to switch instructors halfway through to give everyone a change of pace. I've had classes with this instructor before, and have always been content with her.
The new instructor began last Tuesday, when I happened to be having a small adventure in Pardubice. This Tuesday, the majority of the few students who had come to class announced to me that they intended to ask for our first instructor back because they were already dissatisfied with the new one.
I had no major problem with the new instructor, but she does speak much more quickly and although I understand most of what she says, she makes much reference to grammatical terms that I don't really know very well in any language, plus she tends to throw questions very suddenly that have little or nothing to do with whatever last went through my head. She speaks clearly, but I would have trouble following her even in English because it requires paying such constant attention. Fielding rapid and unexpected verbal material has never been my strength.
Consequently, while I was willing to continue with her on the grounds that more practice listening is always desirable, I could certainly understand that students with less experience in Czech would not care to put up with this. I signed onto the letter.
Well, naturally our first teacher is not available. We are to continue with the one we've got; she is supposed to work on speaking more slowly and providing more explanations, and we are supposed to let her know if we have further problems.
In theory this is reasonable, but I am not optimistic about how it will work in practice. I don't think our instructor is bad, but she strikes me as one of those intense characters who is no more likely to manage to speak slowly than I am to amble along at a speed comfortable for my friends who limp. She is probably just fine with a class of Slavs, who understand a lot of Czech without trying and have the perfective and imperfective in their own languages. The whole thing will probably just make her nervous about her teaching and have no positive effect.
On the other hand, when I went out after class with the other students, I was quite impressed with their ability to speak Czech. The non-Slavs have much less experience with the language than I do, but outside the classroom (where none of us sound very advanced) they are able to carry on a perfectly good conversation with very little recourse to English or German. Their pronunciation is good and they plunge right in. We think we will probably go out every Tuesday after class.

Language classes, I think, are quite problematic once students have gone past a certain point, unless of course all the students in the class have been learning the same material all along. I'm convinced that it is very difficult to be a really good language teacher, because there are so many different factors to take into account for the different students.
I've also come to have strong opinions about the teaching of "less commonly taught languages" in the US. Granted that there is little funding or demand for most languages at a given school, but improvement is needed. When I studied French, we had class five days a week, homework every day, a language lab (not that I went to that), and one was supposed to do five quarters of this at the college level before taking a literature class. (I won't go into how I could have a year and a half of a good high school French class and four years of a bad high school German class and still test into the university's beginner level because the high school texts didn't really get as far as the past tense.) In any case, I had a good grounding in basic French, which has served me well.
My first Czech class was run on the same five-day-a-week principle and I learned a great deal. Unfortunately, second-year Czech was focused on reading Czech literature and met once or twice a week. That bore no relation to my needs at the time, which were purely to become a fluent speaker. I decided that it was pointless to spend a huge amount to struggle through literary texts, and promptly forgot most of what I had learned because I had so few chances to use it.
Unfortunately, this is what people are usually stuck with in learning a language like Czech. If we're lucky, we get one good year of the basics. After that, we either have to take literature classes that, while doubtless interesting, often have nothing to do with our reasons for learning the language--or we have to come up with funding to spend a lot of time in a place where the language is spoken. Pretty much only upper-division and graduate students are in a position to get funding to spend summers abroad, not other people who might have a serious interest. Furthermore, I don't think it makes much sense to take an intensive summer course without first having a year or more of less intense coursework. There's just too much to learn at the beginning.
All of this means that very few American students become fluent in Czech or Polish, and people are impressed that we can function at all in such languages after years of study, while plenty of Americans become fluent in Russian with barely a second thought. It's very annoying.
Could I work harder on perfecting my spoken Czech? Certainly. If I were striving to become a Czech teacher, I'd really have to. But while I'm pretty good at languages, my energy tends to go where it's most needed. It goes into being able to skim what can be hundreds of pages of text per day and notice what might be significant for my dissertation or is just plain interesting to me. It goes into being able to figure out decent translations of things I actually want to quote. I fear that this has little to do with such useful things as remembering when to say "tomu" or "tohoto" or how to talk about vacuum cleaners and ironing.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

It's That Time of Year

Just when PhD students start to feel thoroughly sick of whatever they are in the midst of--feeling, perhaps, twinges of spring fever as a result of psychotic people who have taken to wearing sleeveless tops to the library--it occurs to us that it's about time to be hearing back on the various fellowship applications we slaved over earlier in the school year. This tends to make us uneasy as well as fretful.
After going through all of Orfeus, Život II (very fine and significant avant-garde periodicals) and nearly all of Fronta 8 (which was long and almost entirely useless regarding art), I had the feeling that if I were only sane, I could bear no more of this. Fiddling around with improvements to my bibliography (noting, for future readers, which items have been reprinted and might actually be found in North America) did not prompt any feelings of satisfaction, but merely a sense that anyone who could compile such an endless bibliography should probably be shot before it grows any larger.
Furthermore, for most of the afternoon I had been trying to send a rather long email (relating to the said bibliography) which kept refusing to go forth.
Suddenly, to my great surprise, an email appeared whose subject line indicated that my advisor had fine news for someone or other in our department about something I had applied for. (She is very good at keeping us informed of the collective good news.) It was something that I have always, year after year, had exceptional aggravation about; except for this year, when the application did seem to go together without the usual stupidities. I don't think I had any remarkable hope that I would finally be offered the thing.
Fortune has smiled upon me, however, and I am one of the designated grantees.
I am still waiting to hear on a couple of other applications, but I think we can take it for granted that I do not need to teach next year and can apply all my demented energies to finishing off the dissertation. That is... those energies that are not devoted to rabbit massage and other similar pursuits!


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Receipt of Rabbit Photos

I have received an exciting package of rabbit photos from home. Not having a scanner here, I can't really post them on the Web, but I will say that there is a very fine photo of Orion looking very elegant and alert in his role of King of the Living Room. (Or at least of the piece of red carpet upon which he sits.) In a more comic vein, there was one of him sitting with his front end in one litter box and his hind end in the other. We aren't sure why he likes to do this.
Ms. Spots did not bother to look alert for any of the photos, as she wished to show how exceptionally relaxed a house rabbit can be. Of course, the fact that she has floppy ears helps, but she does give the impression that she is so content that she melted. Someday we'll have to borrow a video camera and buy some chocolate mousse so as to show her more frenetic side. Or, I suppose, even simply film her enthusing about her evening crackers.


Monday, March 05, 2007

How (Not) to Invite Strangers for Coffee

The Expressionism exhibition at the Městská knihovna has been extended a month, which seems like a good thing. I had put off going until what I thought was the last day, and wouldn't mind going again if I can get myself to do it.
The only thing that I really didn't care for about it was the attentions paid to me by one of the guards. They were very polite, but it seems to me that...
If someone is anxious to get to know me, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with admiring my jewelry or suggesting we have coffee. However, it is not sufficient to admire the jewelry, go on to admire the wearer's general appearance, and suggest coffee. Since when does this provide any reason to develop a longer conversation? People who compliment my appearance before/without saying anything else are almost never people who might cause me to respond that they too are attractive. And what else is one to say after the thanks have been made?
Over the years, I have had my share of encounters with people who were mysteriously drawn in my direction like moths to a flame and, indeed, whose most intelligent offering was that perhaps we could have coffee. I do not wish to denigrate these baffling admirers, but, to paraphrase my friend Dean (who did refer to my looks but not in this context), I look good, but I don't look that good. Helen of Troy is in no danger of competition and the few who are enthralled by my appearance should realize that it is not enough to catch someone's attention, someone's interest must also be piqued. Some sort of at least moderately interesting conversation is necessary.
For example: this evening at the tram stop, I could see that the 18 was down the street, but I took a look at the schedule to see if the 17 might be right behind. A gentleman standing nearby, possibly also strangely attracted to me, or possibly just helpful, said that the 18 was approaching.
I said that I could see the 18, but that I preferred the 17.
My companion realized that I was not a native speaker, and enquired if I spoke English. I admitted that I did, and upon further questioning admitted to being American. While clearly he knew some English, he was pleased with my Czech and asked if I was taking classes, to which I stated that I was indeed.
The conversation proceeded in a perfectly normal, ordinary way, as tends to be the case when I get into conversations with people waiting for the tram. It turned out that my companion has an antique store with a couple hundred or so pictures in stock.
We continued to talk about this or that on the tram, during which time we were obliged to show our transit passes. It turned out we get off at the same stop, from which my companion takes a bus uphill.
I would certainly consider having coffee with someone who can carry on a pleasant, no-stress, two-way conversation with me in Czech all the way to Podolí. (Native speakers of English, it is true, have to be able to do a little more than that in order to get me to have coffee. But as I'm not really in search of new people to drink coffee with, this is of small importance.)

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Your Tarot Card?

There were several questions on this quiz that I could have answered in more than one correct fashion. But then, I think more than one Tarot card could fit me.
Being the Empress recalls to mind a spread my friend Betty did for me last summer, which I wish I could remember properly. It was a magnificent set of cards, and the Empress was one of them. It looked as though everything was going to go well for me (well, the important things in life). It was like looking at a great challenge and knowing that I would succeed. Sort of like being all warmed up skiing, not tired yet, and looking down an enticing slope.

You are The Empress

Beauty, happiness, pleasure, success, luxury, dissipation.

The Empress is associated with Venus, the feminine planet, so it represents beauty, charm, pleasure, luxury, and delight. You may be good at home decorating, art or anything to do with making things beautiful.

The Empress is a creator, be it creation of life, of romance, of art or business. While the Magician is the primal spark, the idea made real, and the High Priestess is the one who gives the idea a form, the Empress is the womb where it gestates and grows till it is ready to be born. This is why her symbol is Venus, goddess of beautiful things as well as love. Even so, the Empress is more Demeter, goddess of abundance, then sensual Venus. She is the giver of Earthly gifts, yet at the same time, she can, in anger withhold, as Demeter did when her daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped. In fury and grief, she kept the Earth barren till her child was returned to her.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Hazards of iPod Shuffle

As I sit testing out the iPod's Shuffle function, I can only conclude that it is designed for those who have music collections of a rather limited sort. For those of us with curiously varied tastes, putting the iPod on Shuffle brings up something like the following:

a Pretenders song from the 1980s
Herman's Hermits doing "Henery the Eighth I am"
a section of an Arvo Part mass
Mary Hopkin singing something by Donovan
a Czech Christmas carol
astrologist Rob Brezsny and his band noting the evils of television
a Renaissance lute song
a vigorous Cajun tune
a Czech Communist song about samovars
an operatic selection by Martinů
Pink Floyd doing "Money"
male Moravian folk singers belting out a traditional tune
an early blues singer commenting on the need to replace her unsatisfactory man
some Hungarian jew's harp
Joan Baez revealing that Daddy has been on her mind
a hectic Glenn Miller dance number
a Scottish lament about what happened to Geordie when he stole the king's deer
the Cars letting me know that I'm just what they needed
more Hungarian folk music, this time by Marta Sebestyen

I wouldn't say that all of these things really form an artistic unity except in a dadaist sort of way. Although I grant that getting the Doors and Marianne Faithfull performing Brecht-Weill songs in succession was rather fortuitous.

In an unrelated postscript, let it be noted that those with an interest in domestic fowl will want to take a look at this BibliOdyssey post.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hubert at Yaddo

Hubert reports that life at Yaddo, the famous artists' colony in Saratoga Springs, is not bad. There's lots of nice white snow (unlike here, where there is nothing like snow!) and he is finishing a harpsichord piece as well as preparing a new piece for large orchestra.
Not surprisingly, Hubert appears to like everything about Yaddo, except for the arrival of a mouse to share his studio. It is more the droppings than the mouse itself that he minds, although I would point out that mice, like rabbits, are inordinately drawn to chocolate so any chocolate had better be consumed immediately if his plans to scare the mouse off with sound waves from the computer are unsuccessful. (Would Nori, his Prague roommate's enterprising cat, have been of assistance? I'm sure Nori would do anything to keep Hubert entertained, not that Hubert would find gifts of mice entertaining.)
Yaddo is best known for hosting such writers as John Cheever and Carson McCullers. (I used to imagine that I might be allowed to go when I was fifty or sixty and had written at least ten books. Perhaps one or two would suffice!) Until Hubert went there, I had no idea other types of creators were allowed, but he says that composers Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, and Ned Rorem also spent time at Yaddo.
I wonder whether rabbits are allowed at Yaddo or if Ms. Spots and Orion would be considered the kind of home distractions one goes to an artists' colony to get away from...