– photographs and messages from inside the Sausurrean Bar –

Blog archives for December, 2011

Archive for December, 2011

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Castle Teck, glimpsed in passing

Castle Teck

Where is Castle Teck in that picture? If you look at the highest peak of the hill, the protrusion slightly off to the right is its main tower, and the rest of the castle surrounds it. This is the view you have from the highway going south … no magnification, as I was taking it with my 3GS, out of a moving car (from the back seat).

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011


Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Christmas has come

Let peace bless
The constant trees
And kind winds
Ring the bells at night
In churches
The country round.
Snow quietens the land and
Tread the ground.
Christmas has come –
In fact
If not in spirit.

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Things dearly loved and seldom mentioned

Teaching an introductory class to literature and writing ones PhD are both exercises that make you ponder how much knowledge one can take for granted a lot, I find. Teaching in general does that, and I always try my best to adjust things I expect people to know to what they actually know, so there’s nothing new there, but it’s more obviously a large part of your life when you are pondering it on two different levels at the same time, and so it’s been on my mind, albeit not consciously or dominantly enough to make me consider posting about it, more on a case-by-case basis.

Something a friend posted elsewhere on the internet made me ponder it some more, and the levels on which it works. On one level, we have this tradition of naming ‘classic’ movies everyone should have seen (but probably hasn’t – Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Dr. Zhivago), on another one you have all those movies that media studies academia considers famous and one should have seen (and probably hasn’t – M, Panzerkreuzer Potemkin, North by Northwest) […] and on an entirely different level are things people love and know really well and in fact love and know so well that they think surely everyone else must know them too, because they’re classics/were famous once/… . So you never mention them to other people, because you think they’re old hat/everyone knows them/they are simply not something you discuss randomly with people/you don’t want to sound like a broken record/appear preachy/ you think you must already once have talked about with that other person (but actually haven’t), etc.

When we link people to things, or give them things as presents, we look for the news, the unusual, the exotic, the unexpected – because we expect them to  already be familiar with things that are:
a) reasonably well known in general, and
b) extremely well known by ourselves.
So you seldom find people giving other people a copy of, for instance, “Hamlet” as a random and unasked for gift. Not because its obscure or they don’t like it, but because they think, “Oh well, it’s Hamlet, they’re bound to know it!” Consequently, that hypothetical giftee might go a long time without reading or watching “Hamlet,” because while its famous and one ought to check it out, d’oh, one doesn’t always read famous things without some impetus behind it … or watch famous movies (see Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, etc from above).

I want to change that, at least for a bit. I want you to mention your ‘obvious’ favourites to me, and I want to mention my ‘obvious’ ‘common knowledge’ favourites to you. Because chances are that common knowledge *isn’t*, and what you love and think everyone knows not everyone does (know, that is – liking or disliking it is an entirely different kettle of fish).

So, let’s talk about ‘the woods [that] are lovely, dark and deep,’ why it “abwechselnd Stein in dir wird und Gestirn” and the albatross around one’s neck.  About A Day at the Races and “Fawlty Towers” and “Dalli Dalli.” About whether one is a falcon, a storm, a great song? Or, going back to “Hamlet,” about why “to sleep, perchance to dream” should really *not* be taken out of context or applied to, you know, sleep. (“To die, to sleep-To sleep-perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub! For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause-“).

So: Tell me your well loved and well known authors, poets, playwrights, movies, books, poems and plays, and I shall do the same!

In keeping with the season and the spirit of this post, my first famous  & well loved thing is this:

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost, 1923

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

What well known and loved poem can you share in exchange? Is there one?

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

The man with the colorful bike

statue of a man with a bike

I’m heading home for the holidays in five days, and until then I have to finish editing and layouting ~250 pages of text, sort out presents, teach 4 classes, pack, rehearse, write, … . It’s a bit crazy right now, and if you were thinking about possibly wanting to hang out with me, come back after January 6th, ok? There’s not much space in my life right now for things that aren’t concerned with this book I have to finish.

Escape plans right now include going away somewhere in March, somewhere where its warm and sunny and one can drive around and wander along beaches, preferably where there aren’t too many poisonous animals around and I can communicate with people. But for now, another 60 pages of editing, and then dinner. I think my introduction turned out well, but chapter 2.3.4 *really* needs work. Etc. These are the thoughts to be thinking. Crunch crunch crunch. Deadline deadline deadline. La La La.

Words and phrases to delete in enormous quantities:

  • – thus
  • – of course
  • – obviously
  • – , and
  • – …

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Medusa Frequencies

Got an email with sad news today in the middle of yet another round of revisions for my “history of the post-apcalypse” chapter, via the SFRA mailing list. One of my favourite quirky authors, Russell Hoban, has died at age 86. Most people know him for his post-apocalyptic novel Riddley Walker, and while that is a fine novel indeed, my favourite of his oeuvre for a long time has been the strange and compelling Medusa Frequency, which has connected heads of cabbage to Orpheus ever since  I first read it. It has been out of print for a couple of years, and is one of those books I keep buying second hand copies of when I come across them, so I can lend them to or give them away to other people at random, or just leave a copy in a strange place, so some stranger can pick it up and be enchanted (and/or bewildered, depending on the stranger and her/his feelings about magic realism, Dutch painting, Greek mythology and/or the Kraken).

I met Mr Hoban once, he was kind to me on what was a very sad day, long before I decided to spend so much time of my life on researching and writing about the post-apocalyptic genre and its novels. If not for the fact that I specialized in American literature, Riddley Walker would have been one of the central novels of my work, and now that work is almost done, as I am handing it in on January 6th.

It’s strange, and sad, and feels like a door that was never open closing … … … and if you want to borrow a copy of the Medusa Frequency, I’m your woman.

Medusa Frequencies

Monday, December 12th, 2011

The Walking Star/Man

a blurry walk sign on a street light

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Flier, greet me the sun* :-)

a plane

There’s a German song that has the line “Flieger, grüß mir die Sonne”  in it and a word-by-word translation of it led to this frankly … appaling … title. A proper translation:  “Aviator, say hello to the sun for me”

I want suuunshiiine, and to stop needing to write all the time … and zero gravitation for everyone! :-)

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Hail, hail

a photo of hail

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011