29 September 2015


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 127

When we last left the little prince, he was weeping piteously in the grass and I could hardly stand it. If I hadn't already known what was coming next, I would have read on and this readalong would be structured very differently.

"Bitte . . . zaehme mich"

I'd ask if there are three more beautiful words in the German language, but Der Kleine Prinz was originally written in French. And it's possible I'm reacting to the words in ways that native German speakers never would.

27 September 2015


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Twenty-Six

This post is probably the most blatant abuse of the ability to backdate that I have ever done. May those who know what date it really is today join me in begging George Orwell's forgiveness. My crime is compounded by the fact that what follows isn't even the Sightseeing in September post that was genuinely stumping me for weeks, but something that I dashed off today, inspired by a book I finished last night.

I do hope to finish that other draft and to publish the rest that I've been working on while this blog was so "silent"--but I'd better hurry before too many more of 2015's posts have to be backdated to be considered CLEARED!

25 September 2015


Zwulf Sachen mit Fack ju Goehte

12. Do you like "Teacher Movies"? I'm surprised that I still do! But now that I'm on the other end of my aborted teaching career, I find that I like different ones from before, for different reasons.

In the past, I was a sucker for movies like The Dead Poets Society (Der Club der toten Dichter!) and Mr. Holland's Opus, whose idealised teacher characters epitomised what I aspired to bring to the classroom. These days, I'm more into stuff like School of Rock, which suggests that any random Jack (or Jill!) might actually do a better job than the trained and dedicated professionals. Can you guess which group Fack ju Goehte belongs to?

11. What the second sort of "Teacher Movie" needs the most is a good reason for the random Jack to be posing as a teacher. I'd say that Kindergarten Cop wins this one (Remember when it was our Friday Night Movie?), but also that what the Fack ju Goehte comedy of errors lacks in plausibility, it makes up for in sheer charm. There's something about ex-con Zeki Mueller that makes us want him to turn the Goethe-Gesamtschule upside-down. Or maybe just something about our own high school experiences. =P

10. Actually, I took two seconds to think about it, and I conclude that it's mostly Zeki. We don't just want him to turn the school around; we also want him to turn his life around. Elyas M'Barek is so sympathetic in this role--even at the beginning when Zeki is still a really big jerk--that we just automatically root for him.

9. Or maybe we don't . . . I can think of people of a certain political stripe who might be very upset by the casting. And before you get defensive, I don't just mean Germans!

21 September 2015


Talking to You about Duran Duran . . . at Last!

One of the things I'm definitely, finally CLEARING this year is my series on Rob Sheffield's memoir Talking to Girls about Duran Duran. After the first Reading Diary entry, we've joined him in listening to The Go-gos, Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark, Haysi Fantayzee, Chaka Khan, Madonna, Psychedelic Furs, New Kids on the Block, and Big Daddy Kane--and maybe even singing along! His book references many more 80s recording artists than those; but because, unlike him, I don't have a special song for every milestone in my life, I didn't blog accordingly.

It took me over a year to get to the band that started it all, but given what I didn't get into until after the one-year anniversary of my first post in the series, everything has worked out perfectly. And I can say that the ending of Talking to Girls about Duran Duran got to be "the right chapter at the right time."

Let's not mince words: Duran Duran are famous because girls like them. If a few boys want to come along too, that's fine with Duran Duran, they like the colour of our money. But we are the fans they do not care about. They don't need us. They have the girls. They know who keeps them in business.

They've always known this, even in their earliest days. In my collection of DD memorabilia, I treasure their 1981 interview with
Melody Maker. Nick Rhodes announces, "I've just worked out why so many more blokes are coming to our gigs this time round." Why? "Because they've heard that so many girls come."

19 September 2015


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred Twenty-Five

We started Sightseeing in September with a totally fictional tourist attraction and followed that up immediately with a very real place. Today's setting is halfway between its predecessors, being both totally fictional and very obviously based on a real place.

17 September 2015


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 126

Virtually the only editions of Der Kleine Prinz that use a cover image that wasn't drawn by Antoine de Saint Exupery are the graphic novel "adaptations." And if they are all like Joann Sfar's, they don't get very adventurous anyway. I wonder whether even more is lost (and found!) in these sorts of "translations" than in the usual ones involving only words.

Der siebente Planet war also die Erde.

Die Erde ist nicht irgendein Planet! Man zaehlt da hundertelf Koenige, wenn man, wohlgemerkt, die Negerkoenige nicht vergisst, siebentausend Geographen, neunhundertausent Geschaeftsleute, siebenneinhalb Millionen Sauefer, dreihundertelf Millionen Eitle, kurz--ungefaer zwei Milliarden erwaschene Leute.

Um euch einen Begriff von den Ausmassen der Erde zu geben, muss ich euch sagen, dass man vor der Enfindung der Elektrizitaet dorf auf allen sechs Kontinenten zusammen eine ganze Armee von vierhundertzweiundsechzigtausendfunfhundertelf Lanternenanzuendern in Dienst hatte.

Look at all those Zaehlen to make the grosse Leute happy! How could such a quantifiable planet fail to be real? =P (How did you handle all the numbers in another language, by the way? It was so tempting just to skim over those endless German ones, but I'm glad I didn't.)

I'm also getting a better sense of the German text as something different from the English. There's simply a whole other quality to the former, though I still struggle to articulate it.

15 September 2015


Reading Diary: The Moon by Night by Madeleine L'Engle

"You're just like that little dope Anne Frank," Zachary said. "All innocent and trusting. Life is going to be hell for you when you when you stop being protected. Absolute hell . . . You still believe in God, don't you? . . . Look what he did to your precious Anne Frank. Maybe he'll do something like that to you someday. Look what he's done to me . . ."

"No!" I shouted. I didn't even try to to stop from crying, now. The tears streamed down my cheeks and I hardly noticed.

Zachary shouted back. "What's the point of believing in God when nothing makes any sense? Nothing makes
sense Vicky! Anne Frank doesn't make sense, but it makes about the best kind of sense there is. You're so darned good, Vicky, you dope. Don't you know it doesn't make any sense to be good?"

Every hard-nosed Catholic with a heart has one heretic whom he really loves, and mine seems to be semi-syncretist Episcopalian Madeleine L'Engle. I recently reread her "Austin Family Chronicles" novel The Moon by Night, and was reminded of two things: a) it is really well written; and b) it draws a lovely parallel between a family's cross-country road trip through 1950s America and a journey of faith and hope that the teenage narrator, Vicky Austin, must make on her own.

Of course, all the adults in her life are believers--not just believers in God, but also believers in the goodness of God, despite all appearances. And they give the usual answers when Vicky, scandalised by all the suffering in the world and filled with her new friend Zachary Grey's sense of despair, asks the usual questions. It made me wonder when the usual answers became so bland.