The Hamburg Score.

Thursday, 27 July 2017 00:44
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Posted by languagehat

The mail brought an Amazon package containing an item I only recently added to my wishlist (because it’s only just been published), Shushan Avagyan’s translation of Viktor Shklovsky’s Гамбургский счет, The Hamburg Score (with a very touching note from the generous reader who ordered it for me — thanks from the bottom of my heart, Clay). I have been unreasonably fond of Shklovsky’s writing ever since I read A Sentimental Journey, his memoir of “the travels of a bewildered intellectual through Russia, Persia, the Ukraine, and the Caucasus during the period of the Russian Revolution,” to quote the Dalkey Archive description (Dalkey Archive Press has been issuing all of Shklovsky’s work as fast as they can get it translated, just one of the outstanding services they provide the world of literature — go buy books from them!). I don’t know what it is; those quirky sentences arranged into tiny paragraphs that constantly leap in unexpected directions are like catnip to me. I don’t even care if he’s right or wrong (and I’m quite sure he’s wrong about Velimir Khlebnikov being “the champion” of early-20th-century Russian literature — the Formalist critics had a passion for the Futurist poets in general and Khlebnikov in particular that mystifies me), I could listen to him deliver obiter dicta and crack obscure jokes for hours.

I haven’t had time to do more than glance at this beautiful, compact paperback yet (work! work!), but I’ve already learned something. I ran across the expression «гамбургский счёт» [Hamburg calculation/reckoning/score] years ago, learned that it meant ‘objective measurement of who’s better than who,’ and assumed it had been around since, say, the early 19th century (when Russians habitually went to Germany for education and culture). But it turns out Shklovsky was the one who publicized it, after hearing an anecdote at the Herzen House restaurant in Moscow (and got in trouble for it after World War II, when he was accused of unpatriotic leanings for favoring a German city); his preface to this book begins:

The Hamburg score is a very important concept.

All wrestlers cheat in matches and fall on their shoulder blades at the behest of the entrepreneurs.

But once a year wrestlers gather at a pub in Hamburg.

They wrestle behind closed doors and curtained windows.

It is a long, hard, and ugly fight. But this is the only way to determine their true worth — to prevent them from getting corrupted.

We need a Hamburg score in literature.

As I say, he calls Khlebnikov the champion, but I say Shklovsky is the champion of Formalist critics and Dalkey Archive Press is the champion of literary publishers.

[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain Awkward,

What do you do if your significant other thinks that you will go no where with your dream?

My boyfriend is a well known, local photographer. He does mainly fashion photo-shoots and is honestly, very talented at what he does.

I’m newly, discovering modeling. I had tried it before when I was younger; but, it didn’t workout since I had acne. I didn’t get my face cleared until I was almost 30 (ancient in modeling years). But I enjoy my hobby. I have discovered this new passion of mine. Walking on the runway feels great and I get a lot of compliments on my walk! People want to book me for shows, work with me in photos and I even try their new designs! Its very exciting.

I even came up with a concept for a photo-shoot. I made a head-piece, found a makeup artist, made sure to communicate how I want the lighting and am going to see my idea come into fruition. I would have never believed, I could bring that many people together to make an image. But, I can!

It all sounds great… but, my boyfriend doesn’t believe I’ll go anywhere. He’s made so many comments about the photos we’ve done together. He’s literally told me, “You’re not Naomi Campbell,” and he’s even tried to hide a photo-shoot he was doing with a couple of models from California… saying, “You would only be jealous of their careers.” And then invited me to hold the lights.

I have no idea what to do. I told him, I’m not jealous of anyone, but the fact that he got nervous about telling me was odd. I honestly, thought it was because he was going to flirt with them; not because “You’ll be jealous of their careers.”

I’m not sure where he would get a comment like that in the first place? And I’m tired of him trying to put me down with his harsh criticism. He told me, he would say things like that, because he works in a an industry where its normal for people to say those things… However, he’s had a TON of other photo-shoots and has never told anyone else these things? I guess, I don’t understand.

I know, he doesn’t believe I will walk in New York Fashion Week. He’s reminded me that I’m 5’7″, on a daily basis, saying he’s just giving me a “Realistic perspective.” But I never asked him. I also, didn’t even have that as a goal… I just, honestly like what I’m doing. Its inspired me to create things, to try new adventures and meet new people.

My heart is kind of broken because he’s the one person, I thought, would believe in me. Or at least, be proud of me…. instead, all I get is “You’re not Naomi Campbell.”

I told him he could no longer take my photos. We can no longer work together. And I have no time to doubt myself. I work a full-time day job. I have shows booked until November and I want to plan more things! There should be no time wasted on being self-conscious.

We have talked about this issue a lot over the last few days and we worked out some resolutions we are both happy with; along with boundaries of not working together anymore…

But there is still this pain, knowing that he doesn’t believe I can do this. I tell myself, I never needed anyone before, why would I still want his approval?

What should I do?

Half of me, thinks that we can still be together despite this. Because I am quite old, it’s too late to walk the New York runways. I wouldn’t even qualify for them at my height. He has a point…

But there is that other part of me, that still wants to continue. That never wants to place a ceiling on my passion… And that part, is extremely hurt, the love of my life wants to give me a “reality check.”

Thanks in Advance,

The Independent Model

Dear Independent Model,

If you want to talk “reality checks” I checked with Reality and it said “Hey, you’re already a model!”

You’re already a model. You are creating photo shoots. You are walking runways. You are being booked for work. You are already doing it. You have a gorgeous attitude about the work and the adventure of meeting new people and making beautiful images. You have me kind of dying to see your photos because you sound so positive and cool and I want to see the face of the person who makes me feel this excited reading about her work! Just from your letter I can tell that you are stunning and striking and that people want to be around you.

Your boyfriend is right about what people sometimes say about and to models in the fashion industry. In a student film I made long ago there is a scene where two women pick apart the appearance of a third (the scene starts around 5:40). The actresses who play the stylists both worked as models a lot and their dialogue was improvised 100% out of things people have said to them in real life. They were expected to stand there and not react because “professionalism.” It’s shitty and hurtful and objectifying, and just because it happens in real life doesn’t mean you have to internalize and live it like it’s the truest thing about you. And it doesn’t mean that your boyfriend has to contribute to it, to participate in it. Is this how he talks to all the models he knows? Or does he save it all for you, the woman he supposedly loves? Either way, misogyny and cruelty are not a good look, dude.

It’s okay to not collaborate with your romantic parter even if you are in the same field. It’s actually smart to put boundaries around that sometimes. I need my husband and I to to love each other even if we never make another movie or write another word, or even if we make stuff that’s terrible. If the relationship only goes well when the work goes well, then there’s a fear that if the work goes badly it will make the relationship go badly. So, it’s okay to decide not to cross the streams of work and also smart for you to seek out other photographers. That’s not even the problem here.

The problem is that I think his comments about you being jealous of other people’s careers are him projecting all over the place. He’s jealous of other photographers and their careers. He’s jealous of you, for launching into the space he thought was his alone, the space where he has authority and gets to pretend he’s a gatekeeper of some sort, the space where he thought his giant lens gave him power to decide what’s beautiful enough. He’s jealous of you for blowing the doors off the illusion that he’s some sort of tastemaker. He’s jealous of you for not accepting what he thought were the rules of your industry. He’s jealous of you because you’ve already surpassed his expectations and he can tell that you are about to surpass him. He’s jealous of you because you’re not jealous when he works with other models, and it would be cool if that made you sort of jealous, because it would make him feel powerful. He’s jealous of you for being braver than he is, and instead of sitting with that discomfort and deciding, whoa, my girlfriend is AWESOME, he’s chosen the path of “Well, don’t get your hopes up, babe.

Go ahead and get your hopes up, lovely Letter Writer. Get your hopes up about creating new work and expressing yourself and enjoying what you do for as long as you want to do it. And get your hopes all the way up about finding a partner who will celebrate you and believe in you. Your boyfriend is not that guy. He is a small man with a limited vision and a smaller heart. You, on the other hand, are a g.d. Valkyrie. It’s never going to work, I’m sorry. You’ll never be able to make yourself small enough to fit into the box he thinks is marked “girlfriend.” You’ve already outgrown it, and him.

Break up. Be sad for a while. Keep going with your dream. Keep doing your work. The world holds all the “reality checks” and rejection and doubt and failure any of us will ever need. We don’t actually need any of that from people who say they love us.

Edited to Add Because I Like Visual Aids:

This is the incomparable Stanley Tucci playing Paul Child, Julia Child’s husband in the movie Julie & Julia. He’s looking at his wife, who found her passion quite late in life. He’s wearing a giant heart on his jacket and toasting her at a Valentine’s Day celebration. Look at how he looks at her:

stanleytucci

Image description: Stanley Tucci as Paul Child in Julie & Julia. He’s wearing glasses and a groovy striped tie and a paper heart pinned to his jacket and holding a glass of champagne and his eyes are full of love and pride.

THAT’S how we look at the people we love when they shine at doing the thing they love. Like we might explode from how proud and excited we are. Imagine this guy saying “I don’t know, television’s a really hard field, and you’re no Grace Kelly.” Imagine the world where he said that and where Julia let that stop her. Who wants to live in that shitty world? Not me. Not you. Not ever.

 


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Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain Awkward,

Recently, my husband and I have been talking about taking a step to be more open in our relationship. We had made attempts to do this before, but we sort of jumped in without enough discussion and then had to pull back because if something hadn’t been explicitly outlined for him as being okay, his default was that it was and he would be willing to soldier forward regardless. It was a little more of a “better to seek forgiveness than ask permission” kind of a situation and I kiboshed that because I need boundaries to feel secure. Anyway, we have been talking and talking and talking and someone sparked his interest and so we talked about baby-stepping our way back into this situation with much clearer boundaries and I felt totally okay with it – until recently.

So this woman, I will call her Pandora, came over to our house for dinner and things were fine until she and my husband started to have some weird and ambiguous conversation about an appointment she had the next morning bright and early. This goes on for a while, so finally I was like “Hey! I’m in the room and I feel like you’re having a conversation around me and it is making me uncomfortable! What are you talking about?”, at which point, Pandora goes “Oh well I have a lot of drama going on in my life right now and it is just best that I keep some things vaulted.” Which like, okay, but then also don’t vaguely drama dump in front of me in my living room.
Anyway, she left and then my husband goes “You want to know what that was about?” and I said “yes!” because of course I do when baited with juicy morsels of gossip. Well it turns out that Pandora has been fooling around with this one particular couple when they do MDMA and now has started hooking up with the dude half of the couple without the woman’s knowledge. In fact, the appointment she kept referring to was a six am visit from this dude, who was going to hook up her secretly on his way to work.

For context, this info was dropped on me at close to 2 in the morning and I had work the next day, so I didn’t say anything in the moment, but I spent the whole next day thinking about it and it seriously made me annoyed and upset. Like do I think her morning secret hookup dude takes a large share of the blame for stepping outside his primary relationship as he is the committed person? Yes. But it genuinely bothers me that she was intimate with this woman, knew exactly what the woman’s boundaries were and what the boundaries within the primary relationship were, and then decided to go there anyway. To me, sex isn’t just something that happens, it’s something that you choose to make happen and they chose against the wishes of the other person involved which is sketchy as fuck. That to me shows a huge sign of disrespect and I told my husband that it really made me upset and uncomfortable to bring this person into our lives in an intimate way. My reasoning was that if she is so willing to do this to someone she has had sex with, I don’t see what would stop her from doing the same to me, a casual acquaintance.

At this point, he says that they have had multiple boundary talks and she has assured him this won’t be an issue to which I think my exact response was COME ON, MAN! Also, during this conversation, he insisted on trying to contextualize her decision in her other relationship by saying things like “We have no idea what that other primary relationship is like!” and then he also bomb-dropped that this couple is very close friends with some other very good friends of mine, so I can’t talk to them about this because they could probably figure out who I was talking about via context clues, and he said that I can’t tell Pandora I know because she made him promise not to tell anyone and it would implode his friendship with her if she found out she broke his promise as she would be really embarrassed. I again told him that if she is sneaking around with this dude, whatever the current status of the other primary relationship is, they know it is not kosher and that it actually really bothers me that this early in the game she told him to keep secrets from me which, I think, are important contextually. Also, I seriously can’t help but wonder about not only the emotional healthiness of this situation, but the physical health as well. Like I can’t really imagine a situation where she’s like “Yeah, the guy I am also seeing is sneaking around behind his partner’s back and is kind of a cheating scumbag, but he’s really fucking diligent with condoms!”?

Anyway, I told him I am not comfortable with him taking things any further with her in light of these things and he responded by saying that he feels like she has explained things to him to his satisfaction and that because he has self-control and he is a good judge of character that he thinks that should be satisfactory in in this situation. If I have concerns about this situation, instead of unfairly shutting it down and taking this away from him, I should trust him, or, I am still feeling uncertain, I can have a conversation with her directly about boundaries, however I would have to do so without mentioning I know about her cheating scenario.

This whole situation bums me the fuck out because I feel like Pandora soiled all of it with her bad relationship mojo. I mean I am not against him seeing someone else – that’s totally fine with someone who is honest and above board with all sexual partners! -I am against this particular boundary breaking person and he keeps harping on the fact that they have an emotional connection and I am taking this away from him even though things haven’t gotten fully physical between them yet.

So I guess my question is – what the fuck do I do here? At the end of our last conversation, I agreed that we would put a pin in things on that front right now, but like, with the way things are now, I cannot imagine what scenario would ever make me feel comfortable enough to pull the pin out. (Maybe if she broke things off with the downlow dude and stopped pulling sketchy shit?) I mean how can I possibly trust this person? I feel seriously backed into a corner here.

Yours sincerely,
Sick Of Dealing With Pandora’s Box

Dear Sick of Dealing,

You feel backed into a corner because you have been backed into a corner.

You confronted the weird behavior at that awful-sounding dinner party, you trusted your (excellent) instincts and gathered your thoughts and then told your husband “Hey, Pandora is telling you who she is, which is someone who does not honor agreements around sex. I am not cool with that!” You have not been vague or unclear or unreasonable. You have been a rock star of boundaries and keen observations about the likelihood of emotional fallout and poor condom diligence.

Is there a version of ethical fun cool open relationships that allows for you to say this?

Look, I deeply dislike Pandora and from what I’ve seen she is a shitty friend, lover, and dinner guest. I wouldn’t trust her to water my plants when I’m out of town or drop a letter in the mail on her way to the bus stop. My strong preference is that she is nowhere near our lives from this moment onward. But clearly you want to fuck this person real bad, so please go get it out of your system with a minimum of fuss, a maximum of safer sex precautions, and zero amount of making me sit through dinner with her ever again or pretending that this is okay with me.

(I imagine you wearing something kind of awesome and dark and voluminous and sweeping dramatically out of the room after delivering this speech. Your eye makeup – if you wear eye makeup – has never looked more perfect than at this moment.)

No?

I like your script better: “COME ON, MAN!”

“BE SERIOUS, BRO.”

Pandora’s “Oh, my private dramatic secret jokes are definitely not designed to make you feel like a weird date-crasher in your own house, teehee, why would you think that?” game at dinner at your place was a classic Mean Girl power move. She cast her and your husband as a sexy team with sexy secrets and you as the one prying into “the vault.” Fun!

Unfortunately for you, your husband the one who is like “Yeah, but her boundaries are good enough for my emotional connection with her my deep desire to have sex with someone I know is probably terrible (but also have you still be cool about this.)” He knew exactly what she was doing with this other couple before that awkward dinner and he still tried to make Pandora happen in your life. He also told you her secret (good, not great, but better than lying more) but now expects you (?) to keep that secret (?) so Pandora won’t be mad at him for telling it(?) and for you (?) to also somehow confront her (?) about her poor boundaries in a way that will make the situation all cool so he can sleep with her?

Am I parsing this correctly? And there was something something about him “being a good judge of character?” Except he brought the “Heyyyyyyyy, I make agreements with people about sex and then break them when it suits me!” lady to your house? And he thinks there is a way forward here?

If you veto Pandora I predict they will either be secretly fucking before the clock strikes August or he will heroically not fuck her while reminding you of his enormous, heroic (so heroic) sacrifice weekly for the rest of 2017. Fun!

I guess my questions are:

  • What’s appealing about trying an open relationship again, right now, with this guy, for you?

That was gonna be a list but actually that’s my whole question. What’s in this whole situation for you? Pandora is clearly looking out for Pandora, so who is looking out for your heart and your comfort level and your health and your right to have informed consent? Who is treating your feelings and (excellent, fully-functioning) instincts with importance and care? Right now it kinda sounds like “Mostly just you” and that sounds…well…the word “lonely” comes to mind.


The Creation of the Manchu Script.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017 22:16
[syndicated profile] languagehat_feed

Posted by languagehat

I’m almost finished with Part One of China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia, by Peter C. Perdue; I’m enjoying it greatly, and I thought I’d share this passage from pp. 126-7:

The greatest gift of the Mongols to the Manchus, of course, was the Mongolian script. In 1599 Nurhaci ordered Erdeni Baksi and G’ag’ai to create a script for the Manchu “national language” (guoyu). They objected that the Manchus had long used the Mongolian script and language, and they could not create a new one. Nurhaci then said, “When the Chinese read out their writing, people understand it, whether or not they can read Chinese; likewise for Mongols; but our words must first be translated into Mongolian; then [the Manchus] don’t understand it.” He then ordered them to create a new alphabetic script, using the Mongolian script as a model:

Taizu [Nurhaci] asked, “Why is it difficult to write down our language, but easy to learn the languages of other countries?” G’ag’ai and Erdeni replied: “It would be best to create a script for our country’s language, but we do not know how to transcribe the sounds.” Taizu said: “If you put a letter for ‘ma’ after a letter for ‘a,’ is this not ‘ama’ [father]? If you put a letter ‘me’ after a letter for ‘e,’ is this not ‘eme’ [mother]? My mind is made up; you just try it out.” Thereupon they took the Mongolian script and wrote the Manchu language. The creation of the Manchu script began with Taizu.

So Erdeni and G’ag’ai, following Nurhaci’s orders, created the new writing system, and soon began to translate Chinese texts into Manchu, as well as using Manchu in imperial proclamations. Dahai, in 1632, added the diacritical marks to distinguish different Manchu vowels, along with extra symbols for particular Chinese consonants; this “pointed” script became the standard Manchu writing system for the rest of the dynasty.

Nurhaci was, of course, wrong to assume that classical literary Chinese could be understood when read out loud. His advisers, well acquainted with Mongolian imperial language, resisted the introduction of Manchu writing probably in order to maintain ties to the Mongolian institutional tradition. To judge from his discussion, Nurhaci had in mind a syllabic script (like Japanese hiragana and katakana), not the actual Mongolian or Manchu scripts, which were alphabetic. Nurhaci’s motives were political, not linguistic. What he stressed was oral communication of written commands by the ruler to the entire Manchu population, literate and nonliterate. He needed a scriptural apparatus to bolster his new state because he, like all previous Central Eurasian rulers, needed to communicate his personal will beyond the boundaries of person-to-person contact. His edicts could now be read out in their own language to all his Manchu subjects, and texts could be translated into their native language for their own education. In effect, by creating a distinctive script, Nurhaci broadened the cultural horizons of his people, allowing them to adapt non-Manchu ideas but maintain their distinct identity. The new technology of writing made possible the expansion of the state to cover all the Manchu people. But it also allowed the introduction of large quantities of Chinese classical literature through translation into the Manchu literate world, which had formerly been much more closely tied to Mongolia and the Buddhist world of Central Eurasia.

(Suggestions for the etymology of the name Manchu in this 2009 post.)

This is question #1000.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017 13:54
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

I know people have been anticipating what I will answer for reader question 1,000. Thanks for the emailed suggestions and the hype, it’s awesome that people are excited! Milestones are cool!

It’s also way too much pressure and I’ve started answering people privately the past week or so because it’s like “Well, this is a great question, but is it QUESTION NUMBER ONE THOUSAND?” “Shouldn’t QUESTION ONE THOUSAND sort of sum up everything I think about conflict and awkwardness?” (Answer: No, that’s a book. A book that I am trying to figure out the shape of. A book that will happen.)

So, here is question #1000. It’s a placeholder. I choked. I’m sorry. What I’ve got is that writer’s block trick of “okay if you don’t know how to write the next thing, try writing a next thing and figure out where it all fits later.”

I’ve got some It Came From The Search Terms to knock out this week and then we’ll be back sometime with #1001, which will be a normal question with normal significance and normal amount of (pretty damn interesting!) interestingness.


Episode 1528: Mopey-Shtick; or, The Wail

Tuesday, 25 July 2017 10:11
[syndicated profile] darths_and_droids_feed

Episode 1528: Mopey-Shtick; or, The Wail

This scene was written this way, verbatim, in our planning notes years before we got up to starting detailed work on Return of the Jedi. The allusion to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was just too delicious pass up.

As it turned out, when we got to the sailbarge fight, we came up with a better idea, and ran with it in the actual comic. I, personally, was very sad to see this one fall by the wayside. But I'm pleased that it has new life and finally sees the light of day as the final non-canon bonus strip in this extended intermission after the original six films.

As previously announced, the next strip will be the opening strip of our treatment of Rogue One, appearing on Tuesday 1 August. See you then as we continue the Darths & Droids journey into an exciting new frontier!

Munich Meetup, July 27

Tuesday, 25 July 2017 04:54
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

From Fia, your host:

Hi Captain Awkward!

Just wanted to notify you about a meetup in Munich that we planned for Thursday the 27th of July at 6:30 pm.
We are going to meet at the same place like last time. The PotAsia Ost. It is in Berg an Laim, Baumkirchnerstr. 21. More details and map here: https://www.potasia.de.
To quote forum member Mercy for directions: “From Tram 19, Haltestelle Baumkirchnerstr. From the corner of Kreillerstr. and Baumkirchnerstr., walk past the Aumüller bakery and it’s about halfway down the block, across the street from the Maibaum.
From U2 Josephsburg, take the exit for Kreillerstr, turn left, and walk a long block to Baumkirchnerstr. From there the directions are the same.”
I will bring my Pusheenicorn so people will be able to identify the table.
If somebody needs to get in touch, there’s the “Munich?” thread on
the forums or you can contact me by email on fianakiara@web.de.
Thanks so much and have a nice day! 🙂
Have a nice day yourselves, Munich!

Hemingway’s Cuban English.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017 00:30
[syndicated profile] languagehat_feed

Posted by languagehat

I didn’t think I could be surprised by news about Hemingway, but Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera managed to do it with this piece at Lingua Franca:

In Cuba, Hemingway gave public speeches and interviews in Spanish, and spoke it around the house. It was also his routine language while vacationing off the island. In Africa in 1954, Spanish was regarded as his “tribal language” and he recalls a conversation with a lion: “All the time I was stroking him and talking to him in Spanish.” […]

Hemingway’s wife Mary Welsh said he talked in his sleep in Spanish – and the photographer Raúl Corrales noted, “He used to speak to himself out loud when he was alone. I heard him a few times and it drew my attention that he spoke to himself in Spanish and not in English.” […]

[Discussing The Old Man and the Sea:] As Santiago contemplates the sky, Hemingway unpacks a translingual pun: He “saw the white cumulus built like friendly piles of ice cream” and says “Light brisa.” Brisa translates as “breeze” but in Cuba it also means hunger.

The Old Man and the Sea is written in an English-ized Cuban Spanish. Gayle Rogers, an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, says the language interplay can appear “illogical,” making the crosslingual depths “apparent only to readers who know both English and Spanish … and can see the colliding linguistic planes.”

In this sense, the way we read Hemingway’s Cuban writings should be less English-centric, taking his Cuban linguistic environment more closely into account.

“Spanish [is] the only language I really know,” wrote Hemingway in 1954, playing with Spanish, French, Italian, English, and Kamba: ”As it is I must write in English, a bastard tongue but fairly manoeverable. Spanish is a language Tu.”

It stands to reason that he’d learn Spanish living in Cuba for twenty years, but apparently it went pretty deep (even making allowances for Hem’s inevitable quota of self-aggrandizing bullshit).

Scots Threip.

Monday, 24 July 2017 00:09
[syndicated profile] languagehat_feed

Posted by languagehat

In investigating various matters connected with this post, I ran into John M. Tait’s site Scots Threip:

Scots Threip consists of writings of my own on the Scots Language. It started as a place to put them so that I could refer to them in forum discussions. Many of the articles are in Scots as they were written either for Scots forums or Lallans magazine.

The Site Guide is on the left margin; it’s quite a rabbit hole. I particularly recommend Wanchancies if you want a glimpse into the arguments surrounding the proper rendition of “Scots as a functioning language with its own characteristics”; as an outsider, I wouldn’t dream of taking a position myself.

And for lagniappe, here’s the first couple of stanzas of Sydney Goodsir Smith’s “Epistle to John Guthrie”:

We’ve come intil a gey queer time
Whan scrievin Scots is near a crime,
“There’s no one speaks like that”, they fleer,
–But wha the deil spoke like King Lear?

And onyways doon Canongate
I’ll tak ye slorpin pints till late,
Ye’ll hear Scots there as raff an slee–
Its no the point, sae that’ll dae.

Don’t date Nazis!

Sunday, 23 July 2017 17:06
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

The wonderful Miss Conduct at the Boston Globe answered a letter about a pair of sisters, one of whom is dating a dude who has a Nazi flag in his room. She nailed it:

“…the thing about Nazis is, they are a great place to draw the line…”

Let me add a script:

“Sister, your fucking boyfriend has a fucking Nazi flag in his fucking bedroom. What the fuck are you doing? YOU ARE DATING A LITERAL NAZI. LOOK AT YOUR LIFE!!!! WHAT THE FUCK!!!! GET RIGHT WITH THE LORD AND YOURSELF AND ALL THAT IS GOOD AND TRUE AND DUMP THIS NAZI ASSHOLE!!!”

STOP DATING NAZIS, EVERYONE, OKAY, COOL, GOOD TALK, THANK YOU.

P.S. Stop dating people with Confederate paraphernalia, too. SAME DIFFERENCE, Y’ALL.


roadrunnertwice: Scott fends off Matthew Patel's attack. (ScottPilgrim.Scott - Reversal!)
[personal profile] roadrunnertwice

V.E. Schwab — A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, and A Conjuring of Light

March 6, March ??, and July 10

I plan to head directly into the weeds on this review, but I'll make a brief pit-stop at concision before I hit the road: I definitely recommend the first book of this series. It's fast, bold, and slick — just weird enough to grab your attention (a stacked-worlds cosmology where the only constant is London? What??), and more than competent enough to hold on to it. I'm more ambivalent about the other two books, but A Darker Shade of Magic actually stands alone pretty well anyhow.

Speaking of which, HEY, let's talk about trilogies! There are several different ways to put three book-sized objects in a row, and this series uses what I think might be the worst. I don't have a proper name for it (duologies behaving badly? party in the front, sweatshop in the back?), but it's that same thing Garth Nix did with Sabriel and Lirael/Abhorsen:

  • Start with one standalone, book-shaped book, with tight plotting and characterization and some deep-but-restrained worldbuilding.
  • Follow it with a much larger and more sprawling sequel, arbitrarily split into two volumes. (Book 2 usually ends on a cliffhanger of some kind.)

Recognize it? Contrast with the "three book-shaped books" trilogy or the "one continuous scroll" trilogy, both of which work better.

Part of the problem is just setting up an expectation of book-shaped books and then flubbing it. But I'm also starting to think that two books out of a trilogy is a uniquely awkward and unbalanced story unit, and should be avoided categorically. In all the examples I can think of, the sprawly second story has major plot and pacing issues that didn't afflict the first book and could only be addressed with major story surgery.

In this case, most of book 2 is dedicated to a shōnen manga tournament plot. This is a time-tested device that works really well in a long-running combat-focused comic, because it provides a lower-stakes pause in the main action (during which you can cut to machinations in the background as needed), it's guaranteed to take up a good long chunk of serialized time, and it's a good way to demonstrate how various characters have progressed or not progressed, especially because it lets you pit allies against each other without having to completely deform the story.

But tournaments usually work so well because they take up like an eighth or a tenth of a tremendously long comic. This one is like a quarter of the damn trilogy, and while yes, it's cool to see how badass Lila is now, it basically shoots the pacing all to hell.

Also affecting the pacing: The villain of the second story seems to spend an inordinate amount of time just twiddling his thumbs out in the distance. And he's just a lot less interesting than the confluence of villainies in the first book! He kind of sucks, tbh. (Note that I had this same beef with Lirael/Abhorsen. Is this a weird secondary effect of the structure?)

I had some other plot beefs. There's a death in book 3 that just kind of comes from someone acting out of character for no good reason, plus a few other things... not gonna go super deep into this, it just felt like things generally got a little sloppy.

Finally, there's a central character unironically named "Alucard," even though the only proper use of that name is to tell the reader with a big fat wink that this is Dracula's depressed son. (This story has nothing to do with Draculas, and IDEK how Schwab managed to not realize what she was doing there. Are there truly people who Don't Castlevania?? [yes])

IDK. I did enjoy the second book quite a bit, but it's not a complete unit, and I got bored partway through book three and just put it down for several months to read other things. There's a lot of good stuff in there, but it's flawed and uneven compared to book 1's mirror-bright polish.

Martha Wells — The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red

May 7

Yay, new Martha Wells! Spoiler, I liked it.

This had a more-than-passing resemblance to her short-lived Emilie series — it's more stripped-down than a lot of her other books, with more straightforward plotting and a more parsimonious approach to characterization for the supporting cast (not flat, but with most of the depth gestured rather than rendered, if that makes sense). It's an old-fashioned sort of feel, and one that suits both series' niches (Emilie was a deliberately retro pre-"YA" subgenre of youth lit, and Murderbot is a novella, which is sort of a coelacanth format just now coming out of a long hibernation).

Anyway, this is short and enjoyable and cheap (in its native ebook form, at least; the "tor.com" imprint has been publishing pretty nice tpbs of their novellas, but they're so overpriced that I get the impression we're not actually meant to buy them), and you should check it out.

Re: recent comments about how to structure a series: this is definitely the start of a larger story (note the beautiful last-minute left turn to avoid "happy ending"), but it's nicely contained, setting the stage for a next bit without any cliff-dangling. Which, again, I always greatly appreciate.

Jason Turner — Fir Valley (comics)

July 13

I liked this! It used this really aggressive POV shifting to get kind of a cubist every-angle-at-once view of the town of Fir Valley. And the town felt pretty legit; idk, I was reading this at the same time as Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being, and they both do interesting things with the, like, sensation of being in the Pacific Northwest.

Tonally, this was all over the place in a way I kind of loved. Gruesome murder, young people making music, ghostly conspirators with animal heads, drunken idiocy, all kinds of stuff in here, and all presented with this kind of goofy big-hearted cheer? Turner has cited Twin Peaks as an influence here, and I can definitely see it. He isn't following Lynch's aesthetic, but the method seems familiar.

Anna-Marie McLemore — When the Moon Was Ours

June 11

I liked this, but I don't really feel like talking about it. It was good.

Up to Snuff.

Sunday, 23 July 2017 00:36
[syndicated profile] languagehat_feed

Posted by languagehat

I wondered about the phrase “up to snuff,” so I looked it up. Turns out it didn’t always mean “meeting the required standard,” as it does now; Gary Martin tells us:

In 1811, the English playwright John Poole wrote Hamlet Travestie, a parody of Shakespeare, in the style of Doctor Johnson and George Steevens, which included the expression.

“He knows well enough The game we’re after: Zooks, he’s up to snuff.” &

“He is up to snuff, that is, he is the knowing one.”

A slightly later citation of the phrase, in Grose’s Dictionary, 1823, lists it as ‘up to snuff and a pinch above it’, and defines the term as ‘flash’. This clearly shows the derivation to be from ‘snuff’, the powdered tobacco that had become fashionable to inhale in the late 17th century. The phrase derives from the stimulating effect of taking snuff. The association of the phrase with sharpness of mind was enhanced by the fashionability and high cost of snuff and by the elaborate decorative boxes that it was kept in.

The later meaning of ‘up to standard’, in the same sense as ‘up to scratch’ (see also: ‘start from scratch’) began to be used around the turn of the 20th century.

Lots of idioms don’t make sense, but some do if you can trace them back far enough.

The Boarding-School Girl.

Friday, 21 July 2017 21:07
[syndicated profile] languagehat_feed

Posted by languagehat

I just finished reading Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaya‘s 1861 novella Пансионерка, which (amazingly for a largely forgotten nineteenth-century writer) has been translated (by Karen Rosneck) into English, as The Boarding-School Girl. It was kind of a pain to read, since to have it on my Kindle I had to download the entire issue of Otechesvennye zapiski as a pdf file and squint at the resultant smudges through the already somewhat smudgy screen. But I persevered, because it’s important to me to read as much literature by women as possible, and it was worth it.

It starts off unexcitingly, with a conversation between two youngish men who had become friends elsewhere and now meet again in a provincial town: Ibraev has been sent there as an important official as a stepping-stone in his career, Veretitsyn as a political exile who will have to cool his heels as an ill-paid, overworked scribe until the authorities allow him to depart. Ibraev is condescending and self-absorbed, Veretitsyn sarcastic and self-pitying; after they’ve talked for a while, they notice children playing next door, and a fifteen-year-old girl in a boarding-school uniform studying a book. She will turn out to be our heroine, Elena (“Lyolenka”) Gosteva. Ibraev leaves, discomfited at having unwittingly compromised himself by associating with a man under police surveillance; Veretitsyn chats for a bit with the girl, making fun of her book and her studies, and gets into the habit of talking with her over the fence from time to time, laughing sarcastically at everything she says.

These conversations mean nothing to Veretitsyn, who is obsessed with his situation and his love for the beautiful Sofya Khmelevskaya. But they overturn Lyolenka’s life; from a diligent student and obedient daughter, she becomes a rebellious girl who half-deliberately fails her exams and is increasingly frustrated by her home life. The thing is, though, that she is not a conscious rebel; she does not understand what is happening to her, does not even realize that she is falling in love with her ironic neighbor. The middle chapters of the book are an acute psychological investigation of the development of an adolescent girl that reminded me of both Avdotya Panaeva‘s Семейство Тальниковых [The Talnikov family] (see this post) and Pasternak’s Детство Люверс [The Childhood of Luvers, also translated Zhenia Luvers’ Childhood and The Adolescence of Zhenya Luvers]. Ironically, she was chastised at the time by people like Saltykov-Shchedrin for excessive attention to psychology (he complained about the same thing in George Eliot) — they wanted plot and politics, not girls trying to figure out who they are and why they do the things they do. But she got great reviews in general; in 1880 Pyotr Boborykin wrote that she had no equal in Europe except for George Eliot. After her death in 1889 she was forgotten, like all her female contemporaries (Elena Gan, Elena Kube/Veltman, Sophie Engelhardt — whose “Не сошлись” Erik at XIX век is now translating as “It Didn’t Come Off”: introduction here, first installment here).

The book takes a sudden turn towards the end which I won’t spoil for you; I’ll just say that it gets more and more satisfying as it goes along, is never dogmatic, and has penetrating and acerbic things to say about female education, family life, and art. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the life of women in nineteenth-century Russia, or indeed anywhere, and I hope more such works get translated.

Why So Many Languages?

Friday, 21 July 2017 00:13
[syndicated profile] languagehat_feed

Posted by languagehat

Michael Gavin of Colorado State University has a fascinating piece at The Conversation that asks: “Why is it that humans speak so many languages? And why are they so unevenly spread across the planet?”

The questions also seem like they should be fundamental to many academic disciplines – linguistics, anthropology, human geography. But, starting in 2010, when our diverse team of researchers from six different disciplines and eight different countries began to review what was known, we were shocked that only a dozen previous studies had been done, including one we ourselves completed on language diversity in the Pacific.

These prior efforts all examined the degree to which different environmental, social and geographic variables correlated with the number of languages found in a given location. The results varied a lot from one study to another, and no clear patterns emerged. The studies also ran up against many methodological challenges, the biggest of which centered on the old statistical adage – correlation does not equal causation. […]

A better way to identify the causes of particular patterns is to simulate the processes we think might be creating them. The closer the model’s products are to the reality we know exists, the greater the chances are that we understand the actual processes at work.

Two members of our group, ecologists Thiago Rangel and Robert Colwell, had developed this simulation modeling technique for their studies of species diversity patterns. But no one had ever used this approach to study the diversity of human populations.

We decided to explore its potential by first building a simple model to test the degree to which a few basic processes might explain language diversity patterns in just one part of the globe, the continent of Australia.

The success of the model for Australia is truly astonishing; as they say, different patterns will be at work elsewhere, and I certainly join them in their concluding wish: “We hope other scientists will become as fascinated by the geography of language diversity as our research group is and join us in the search for understanding why humans speak so many languages.” Thanks, Trevor!

roadrunnertwice: Yoshimori from Kekkaishi, with his beverage of choice. (Kekkaishi.Yoshimori - Coffee milk)
[personal profile] roadrunnertwice

Eleanor Davis — How to be Happy

April 10

This is a collection of Davis' short comics, which are all over the place in style, length, and media. Davis is a really good cartoonist, and her more out-there art styles (the spindle-legged huge-torso look) are legit unique — the sort of thing that shouldn't work nearly as well as it does.

I liked these shorts; they felt like they were holding me at arm's length a lot of the time, but they did unexpected stuff and followed through on their swing. And Davis' cartooning is real engaging even when you're not really feeling a given story.

Books I stopped reading: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter — The Long Earth

April 2X

I stopped reading this about a third of the way through, because it lacked all of the things I'm looking for when I pick up a Terry Pratchett book.

John Darnielle — Universal Harvester

June 24

To be honest, I'm still trying to figure out what I think of this one. I was very much not satisfied at the end, and I'm trying to decide how much of that was the whole point, and how much of it was JD's reach exceeding his grasp this time. I might end up not deciding.

This had certain rewards anyway, despite the way it trailed off in the back third or so. There's this kind of roaring hollowness behind every paragraph that I feel really fuckin' nails why I find rural and small-town America scary, and not jump-scare scary but existential dread scary. JD was onto something here, and it's pretty compelling for a while. But it seems like an unfinished thought, and I put the book down with the sensation that someone had walked out of the room in the middle of a sentence and was not going to come back.

Again, it's possible that was the point.

Italo Calvino — Invisible Cities

May 9

Whoa, this was great! Not quite a novel, not quite short stories, more just an expanding fabric of disorienting oddness. A glitchville sort of vibe that reminded me of the last section of Kalpa Imperial, or maybe (faintly?) of Vellum? I feel like I can't quite dig up the thing it reminds me most of, which is very on-brand for this, now that I think of it.

Lars Brown — North World, vol. 1 (comics)

July 18

This had its charms, but maybe not enough of them. I don't feel the need to read more of it.

It feels like it belongs to a very very particular era — that bit in the late '00s, where mixing elements of classic video game settings with more prosaic character drama was having a moment? Scott Pilgrim kind of kicked it off and did it best, but there were a lot of others; some were blatantly following the trend, but I feel like a whole bunch of them were legit convergent evolution. Stories their authors wanted to do anyway, and which happened to be ready to go when the commercial moment arrived. Like, old games are responsible for a lot of the foundational metaphors by which my generation understands life, and of course we're going to work through that in our art.

Anyway, what I really liked about this comic were the settings — the city streets and markets and shops and houses and apartments. Brown's approach went something like: assume this big dumbass JRPG world, then focus on what people actually do from hour to hour and try to make everything feel really lived-in. It was great, a cool mix of... how to describe this. How about "conflicting familiarities." Which is kind of the whole raison d'être of this subgenre, right? The dissonance between our too-many methods of making sense of the world, which went from an idle preoccupation to an emergency when we realized the social and economic structures we were supposed to be "growing up" into had been devastated pretty much beyond repair well before we arrived? Yeah.

Oh right, back to the comic. Setting good, plot totally forgettable. Character writing ok, but nothing I was really connecting with. I kind of need at least two out of three to keep investing in something, so I'm out.

[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Hello Captain Awkward,

I have an ongoing issue that I hope you can help me with, perhaps in the form of a script. I have been married for 24 years. Our marriage is far from perfect but we have worked out some of the major kinks. So here is the issue.

My husband is an introvert, I am an extreme extrovert. We are both ok with that. He doesn’t mind if I socialize and I do not care if he takes a pass on 99% of the invitations sent our way. He is fine with family events and hanging with a few close friends. All good. The problem is the rest of the world. We get invited to a lot of events that the majority of the guests are couples. Neighborhood parties, extended family stuff, work events etc. Again, my husband hates, I really enjoy. People are ok if I attend one or two events solo, but begin to get awkward and insulted beyond that. There are just so many “Husband is sick” “Husband is working on a project” excuses I can make before it becomes obvious that he is just not going to be showing up.

I have no idea what the right approach is to this is. Do I just say to everyone ” Hey husband hates parties and hanging out and makes it a misery for me til we finally just leave early”. I have started to just not attend things myself which makes me sad and resentful.

Any thoughts on how to make this less awkward?

Thanks!

Somebody at the party will probably always ask you that question because curiosity is human and they think enquiring after a person’s spouse is a routine & polite thing to do. You can’t change their behavior, but you can try to approach your replies with more “IDGAF” and see if they get better at taking cues from you.

The biggest recommendation I have is: DON’T LIE ANYMORE. You may think you need to tell white lies to spare the host’s feelings, but that’s part of why you feel resentful about the whole thing. You don’t actually owe the hosts any explanations, and being forced to lie is uncomfortable, so, let it go and tell the truth. He’s not sick, he’s not at work, he’s just not here.

Scripts, which nearly all come with “+ [a subject change]!” after them:

  • Oh, he’s at home.”
  • “He’s doing something else today.” 
  • “He’s not a party person, but I am!” 
  • “Oh, I like to come by myself, and he likes the quiet time at home. Everyone wins this way!” 
  • “We have a mixed Introvert-Extrovert marriage, so, you’re stuck with me for the rest of time.” 
  • “Oh, I can almost never never drag him out of the house for parties! He really loves his solo time, and I love being here with all of you.”

You say people are getting insulted, like, they might feel like your husband doesn’t really like them. That’s awkward, but at the end of the day, so what? It’s not your job to be his neighborhood friendliness ambassador. He’s not hurting anybody.

Your marriage is just fine, and their opinion of it doesn’t matter, so the worst thing I can come up with is that if they are obsessed with even numbers and couples, some people might stop inviting you to things. That would sting, but it’s not something you can actually control. Or, they might awkwardly ask, wait, doesn’t he like us? And you can say “I don’t know, he’s certainly never mentioned anything about that to me. After 24 years I do know that even when it’s his very best friends or family, big gatherings aren’t his cup of tea. It’s not personal, and it’s never gonna change! Good news, though, you’re never getting rid of me, ’cause I love it here.”

I’m gonna end with a compromise suggestion specifically for neighborhood gatherings, specifically for things that are walking distance and don’t require dressing up. Once a month or so, could your husband wander over and say a 10-minute hello to the hosts as a favor to you? Would it, like, crush his fragile spirit to drop in and say “Hey, bud, looks like a great gathering! My wife’s been looking forward to it all week! You know I’m not a party person but I wanted to stop by and say hello for a minute.” Then, he can leave whenever he wants to and you can stay all you want.

He certainly doesn’t have to do this (invitations are not commands, the neighbors are not owed 2 guests just because they invited 2 guests), but one thing I see is you doing a bunch of emotional labor around this and him doing zero. I used to think I hated “small talk” and only wanted to connect over deep truths but it turns out SMALL TALK IS AWESOME IT GREASES THE WHEELS OF THE SOCIAL CONTRACT AND ANYONE CAN DO IT FOR A FEW MINUTES, YOU WON’T DIE OF A BRIEF EXCHANGE ABOUT LAWN CARE OR THE WEATHER INSTEAD OF YOUR INNERMOST THOUGHTS.(See also: IT’S OKAY TO BE A LITTLE BIT BORED/BORING AS LONG AS YOU ARE KIND).

Your social life and relationships with the neighbors are important to you, so if him going for a few minutes would make you feel less awkward and smooth your way, I think that’s an okay thing to ask him to try out this summer.

 

Closing comments as of 7/23.

 


“Actually, it’s a tabard.”

Thursday, 20 July 2017 18:01
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Y’all.

Y’all.

I am howling at this story of Jenny Slate’s terrible blind date.

HOWLING.

Like, lmk when you get to the phrase “[metal clanking noises]” if you’re not ded of laughing by then.

It’s very funny and well told, because she is funny and a good storyteller (and because it doesn’t end with her being called ‘Milady’ in a murder basement for the rest of her short life), but it’s also a deeply cautionary tale about how women are socialized to be nice at all costs and how some dudes have not heard “LOL, Nope!!!!” coming from the woman-shaped hole in the nearest wall as their date flees the scene nearly enough in this life.

 

 


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