Countdown to 2011

Happy New Year!

51 minutes to the new year and I’m in bed with a tissue stuffed up my nose (by the way, I looked up the word ‘crampon’ and it is definitely not something one would want up one’s nose – or any other part of one’s anatomy for that matter).

Resolution #1 – eject tissue from nose (why not start easy).

49 minutes and counting. Having a cold on New Year’s is nothing to boast of – undoubtedly. And yet, it gives me a reason to be optimistic. My Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer costume (no accessories) and tissue combo suggest that things can only get better. The nose will assume its normal shade, the tissue will find its way to the garbage. The vitamin pills will resume their place amongst the rubbish heap of unused over-the-counter drugs. My eyes will not water (excluding commercials with babies or puppies or the occasional grain of dust or onion chopping experiments).

41 minutes. But still, there have to be some serious resolutions. A recently freshly pressed blog suggests we turn to habit formation instead of resolutions (you say tomato I say tomato…). Alright, fine. I have a whole list of new habits I want formed in 2011. And let’s not get into it here. There will be a lot of work at the computer. Perhaps a montage with some inspirational 80’s music. By the end of the year I will have finished a book and several papers and will have become the bestest new thing to grace the halls of the northmost university in the world.

37 – Yes. that too. Moving north. Big changes.

36 – Are you all still here? Go find somebody to kiss.

35 – My somebody is right here. Just have to remember to throw out this unsightly tissue before offering my lips to his.

32 – and have a good one!

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Nothing

This is my camera preferring not to

This is not a post about writer’s block. I’ve voiced my absolute abhorrence of like-minded posts many a time. If you have nothing to say, just say it. Which brings us to the point. Equipped with true foresight, and no doubt foreshadowing my own growing muteness (yes, that was irony), our greatest writers have poignantly dealt with reticence. I bring you two extremely telling excerpts. Note how the reticent party is associated with truth, purity of heart and perhaps (more the latter) with a certain Messianism. Allow me to bombard you with silence rather than attempt to justify my own. Enjoy!

From Shakespeare, King Lear, Act I Scene I

KING LEAR
Now, our joy,
Although the last, not least; to whose young love
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interess’d; what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.

CORDELIA
Nothing, my lord.

KING LEAR
Nothing!

CORDELIA
Nothing.

KING LEAR
Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.

CORDELIA
Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; nor more nor less.

KING LEAR
How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech a little,
Lest it may mar your fortunes.

CORDELIA
Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him, half my care and duty:
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all.

KING LEAR
But goes thy heart with this?

CORDELIA
Ay, good my lord.

KING LEAR
So young, and so untender?

CORDELIA
So young, my lord, and true.

From Herman Melville, Bartleby.

“Bartleby,” said I, gently calling to him behind his screen.

No reply.

“Bartleby,” said I, in a still gentler tone, “come here; I am not going to ask you to do any thing you would prefer not to do–I simply wish to speak to you.”

Upon this he noiselessly slid into view.

“Will you tell me, Bartleby, where you were born?”

“I would prefer not to.”

“Will you tell me any thing about yourself?”

“I would prefer not to.”

“But what reasonable objection can you have to speak to me? I feel friendly towards you.”

He did not look at me while I spoke, but kept his glance fixed upon my bust of Cicero, which as I then sat, was directly behind me, some six inches above my head.

“What is your answer, Bartleby?” said I, after waiting a considerable time for a reply, during which his countenance remained immovable, only there was the faintest conceivable tremor of the white attenuated mouth.

“At present I prefer to give no answer,” he said, and retired into his hermitage.

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The Woman in the Mirror

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Who is that woman in the mirror?
She scares me half to death.
Each day my bleary-eyed double,
Makes me long for Meth.

She haunts me on the lift,
Such a rude imposter!
The gym, the store, at work.
What a little monster.

She’s aging and she’s scary,
doesn’t look like me at all.
For one thing, she’s much fatter.
I’m young and lean and tall.

I try sometimes to dodge her,
I duck and run and hide.
But when I find some cover
I find her by my side.

She’s ugly and obnoxious.
But the very worst, you see –
My husband says we’re similar.
He thinks that she is me!

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My Tromso

I’ve been following several travelers’ accounts of Tromso for a while now, so that by now I’m a full-fledged Tromsoyeur, so to speak. And thank you all for sharing your experiences. My own visit to Tromso was too short for good-conscience philosophizing, but still. One or two points have to be made. Here’s the first.

Arctobatics – yes, yes, it’s time for yet another god-awful pun. This one, at any rate, is reserved for the tourists alone. I myself engaged in quite a number of astonishing feats on those slippery slopes (by which I mean pavements). Just when you think you’re starting to get the hang of it and are shimmying across the ice like a native, you suddenly find your feet careening in an unexpected direction (best case scenario) – or, the more likely eventuality – directions. So, there you are, one limb flying south, the other west, the third north and the fourth east. And all you can do is emit a delicately emphasized ‘whoopsie’, as you try to regain your equilibrium. Arms flailing, feet scrambling around for some terra firma, you project yourself in all your touristy glory, the attempt to pass off as a local forever shot.

By the way, I caught a couple of locals doing their own little bout of arctobatics. But for them the hands remain firmly planted in their pockets and the feet just eventually come to a halt. No whoopsies at all. Something to aspire to, I guess. At the moment, mine is an automatic response. I think it might take me a while to learn to shut my mouth and keep my hands buried away. And just to be on the safe side, I think I’ll continue to flail and holler for as long as I deem it necessary.

No limbs were broken in the preparation of this blog.

Yet.

Wikipedia notes:
In winter, the city centre is occasionally a giant ice rink. Or bobsleigh track. To save your neck, make sure your shoe soles have plenty of rubber (as opposed to plastic), and consider purchasing a pair of crampons.
(I’m not sure what crampons are – have Tampax come out with a new product? At any rate, one could probably locate a pair at the nearest gynecologist’s office).

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French Kissing

ooh la la!

In my mid twenties I found myself living in a dorm with 5 other postgrads. Each of us had our own room (together with time capsule/spaceship-like shower/bathroom combo where you could basically brush your teeth, pee and take a shower at the same time) and a shared kitchen. It was awesome. One of the best times of my life.

And then my birthday came around. I was standing at the sink washing some dishes when one of the guys walked in. He was a Greek God. Let’s call him Adonis. Allow me to slip into cliché – he was tall, dashing, dark. And quite the player. Nope, not talking about football. Anyway, into the kitchen he waltzes and roars ‘Happy Birthday,’ as he gives me a congratulatory kiss. Don’t worry folks, it was just your run-of-the mill two cheek affair. Strictly above-board. And yet, being quite the blushing wallflower, I didn’t actually make much contact and made sure to leave a safe distance between his rugged jaw and my own (hmm. That construction didn’t work out very well, did it? – Let’s subtract the rugged on that last one, ey?).

Feeling that unaccustomed nothing by way of contact, Adonis was dissatisfied.
“You call that a kiss?” He said, chiding me.

Rather embarrassed, and not knowing how to extract myself from the conversation, I just brushed it off as best I could. After all, it’s like the French do when they meet acquaintances – there’s no real touching. Just a kind of leaning in gesture where no one has to actually feel the other person. Air kissing. You know what I’m talking about. And so that’s exactly what I told him.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” I smiled at him. “I’m used to french kissing!”

There was a momentary silence. First he was dumbfounded. And then a little smile started to emerge on that handsome visage. And that’s when I realized the depth of my mistake. Oops!

My face was now a bright red. “Oh, no! Ha, ha!” I laughed like an imbecile. “I just meant – you know, how the french kiss when they meet. They don’t actually touch each other. And uhhh..”

He was still smiling. He wasn’t buying a word of it. But he let me off the hook. Though, I swear I could detect a slight puckering on his part whenever I’d run into him after that.

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Hugs and Puppies

This is not a toilet paper ad.

Alright. I admit, I have been leaning towards the sarcasm lately. Waves of unholy cynicism have swept over me. Too much time on my hands, I guess. But now, the academic year is about to start and I will be channeling my critical faculties towards my dear students. God bless them. And so, I’m turning a page here. There will be a lot more hugs and puppies. Much less whinging, perhaps I’ll even tone down the criticism. Um. Don’t hold me to that last one.

And the reason I’ve been feeling so guilty about all my bleak outpourings is that it’s dawned on me that WordPress (and perhaps other blog sites) is in fact the land of shiny happy people. We pat each other on the back, give praise and thanks, bring cheer and wax lyrical. Yes, yes – about each other! It’s like a huge fluffy buffer of kindness and warmth. A never-ending jingle of good tidings and joy. It’s like Christmas and Hanukkah (and those other holidays that seem to make it to the greeting card section that time of year) all wrapped in one.

Ah. I’m trying to be positive and optimistic and once again I sound like I’ve lapsed into bile. But no, I’m serious. It’s wonderful. It’s what I want the world to be like. Why can’t we all just get along – look beyond our differences and just lend support to one another? Be kind for kind’s sake. Be there for others because it’s nice. Can we agree to just hold our tongues if we have nothing nice to say?

Of course Candide didn’t really like Eldorado. It was damn boring. But I’m not talking about utopias. We all know they’re just misspelled dystopias anyway. Tending our gardens. That’s what we’re doing. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it either, because, our gardens have no slugs. No pesky worms and ravenous beetles. We all get along. And that’s just great.

Oh forget it. I try to be cheerful and it sounds like I’m composing some kind of reverse-psychology social critique. I give up. You can pick up the hugs and puppies on your way out. And make sure to take the lot. I’m allergic as hell.

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Blogging Revisited

Feed me, Seymour!

Having something to say.

Who came up with that crap? I’m not sure, but somewhere along the line it was decided that we all need to express our distinct voice, to toot our horn (can a euphemism be used as a double entendre?) and cast our bread on the waters. If we have something to say, we have a moral obligation to do so. Let’s preach, tell, advise, amuse. Oh, and err.. criticize.

Again, I blame cyberspace. We used to stuff it all into journals, diaries. Secret little notebooks hidden in secret little places. The odd exhibitionist would leave it lying around. And that was ok, cause the willing victim would be a family member or partner (post-reading, an ex on both accounts). Do people still have diaries? Can you imagine writing something just for yourself? Hold on while I split my sides laughing. Alright, I’m done.

Literature used to have the saving grace of canonization and marginalization. Thank God for that. If it had been any other way, would we have read Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Joyce? God no. Of course, that nifty exclusion wasn’t destined to survive. For one thing, literary scholars came up with the notion of the subaltern. And well, that led to postcolonial studies and cultural studies and, suddenly we all have something to say. And God forbid someone should say it for us.

You’re rolling your eyes. Blogging is not literature. It’s the natural outcome of technological progress. The discovery of an infinite no-place (utopia) that never gets crowded. The arrival of an information-hoarding monster in the form of cyberspace.

So, if not literature, what is it exactly? Is a blog really just a verbal tamagotchi? You know – those little electronic pests (I mean pets) who chirp and bark till you feed them (by pressing a button) and play with them (by pressing a button) and groom them (by pressing a button). Are we committed to our blogs like we would be to those little Japanese trinkets? We need to feed them from time to time, play with them, groom them (by pressing buttons). I know there are some blogs out there that have been neglected. Their owners have started new ones (or gotten a life). Poor little bloggies! Should there be a cyberpound? Should they be euthanized after a while?

Gosh.

Anyway, I’ve pressed the buttons, tooted the horns. Chirp away, little one!

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