This has all been very entertaining to the people around me

  • What Marie Antoinette really wore.

    According to Duolingo, the language learning site, I am now at 18% of French fluency and learning at Level 5. This means I have successfully tested through two sets of basic lessons, a set of phrases, (“D’accord, à plus tard!”), and some vocabulary words that name types of animals and food. I have also learned the word “elision” and the word “enchaînement”, both of which are ostensibly English, as a side effect of puzzling my way through French’s seemingly illogical rules.

    This is, very possibly, more French than I have consciously ever known in my life.

    Canadians are supposed to be taught French in school, but I emerged from the education system with almost none. Until my first year of high-school French, (which I promptly flunked, as I lacked the foundation of kindergarten through seven that Grade 8 French expected to build upon), my only experience with French was when I was briefly put into preschool in Quebec, with teachers who refused to believe I only knew English because “she seems to understand The Smurfs just fine.”

    Though it always chafed that I only learned one language as a child, I have never had cause to try to learn French before. (Spanish has been my second language of choice. See: Growing up next to the United States.) Why would I? French fights me every step. The genders seem arbitrary, the conjugations absurd, and the pronunciation and the elisions downright hostile. Learning to roll the “r” in the back of the throat was as easy as coughing up blood. That French seemed impossible had the strength of prophecy. Even when I lived in Montreal, I got by on what I have dubbed “restaurant French”: a musical pidgin of borrowed phrases, body language, and snatches of pop songs that can be used to successfully order food, maneuver from point A to point B, and request assistance when I inevitably smack against the language barrier.

    My upbringing has given me one slight advantage, however, as French is printed on absolutely everything in Canada. It didn’t occur to me before, but I have been learning by osmosis, unconsciously absorbing vocabulary from my surroundings for thirty years. The result of which is that — though my spelling is atrocious and half of the mangled words erupting painfully from my mouth are misgendered — even if I murder the language when I attempt to speak it, I can mostly read it.

    Not that it makes much sense, anyway. Shark, for example, is requin. Aside from being an absolute bitch to pronounce, it doesn’t even sound right. The word shark chops the air. It ends abruptly. It carries the speed and sleek movement of the animal. Requin rolls across the tongue, smooth, it is not sharp and fast as shark, ending as it does on that spiky K, reminiscent of a knife-like tail. I don’t understand it at all. Requin sounds like it should be part of a dish, something to eat. Cassolette de homard et poireaux avec requin maybe. Something with cheese. Sorry, avec fromage.

    And oiseau for bird? Was it behind a post when consonants were being handed out? Is this the French onomatopoetic for the liquid tone of a whistle? (Not that “tweet” particularly sounds accurate, either, but at least it has a good balance of vowels.) Either way, it’s also worth noting that this majestic cluster of vowel-a-riffic phonemes is apparently pronounced not entirely unlike wazoo. A language chosen for beauty, indeed!

    My flight from Heathrow to Montreal leaves Friday at noon, arrives in DC at 3:30 PM, leaves again around 5:00 PM, and then lands, finally, in Montreal at 7:00 PM, half an hour before Alexandre arrives.

  • as relaxing as a one night stand or an offer to kill a man.

    This place feels familiar, I think, in the same way I connect to the silent gestures of the person who lives here. Ikea furniture, matching sheets, off the shelf living. Not quite anonymous, it all feels lived in, but only just, in that way where some apartments function as places to work and sleep but not to eat. I have only rarely been here, and never alone, but I understand. How it was chosen and created, how it came together – the underpinnings of decision, of an entire person, laid out in a cluttered blast. Like most living spaces, it is the best sort of map. Tech casual, male, young adult, somewhere in their thirties. Clever, dependable, very little struggle, not a lot of travel, but enough to have some stories. There are some framed prints leaning against the wall, (probably line art or something Japanese), but half buried behind papers and other detritus, and very few actual decorations.

    And so, curious, I look around. I see. An instrument case under the kitchen table, thinly coated in a breathy envelope of neglect, and an electric piano, folded with a basic black stand, equally unused, translate into a desire to be musical, likely long passed. I pick up a book, one of the many casually piled next to the bed, (on the other side, an empty wine glass that I, for no particular reason, believe to have been left there by somebody else), and note that it has been read, but not dog-eared, which I like, because it’s the precise observation I expected and it’s sometimes nice to be right. The whole place is like that, down to the toiletries in the washroom, (the correct, responsible array, but with too much dust on the multivitamins, I’m sure the bottles are still full), and the programs on the laptop, (expensive, a macbook, no stickers).

    It makes me comfortable, but wary. I wonder at the wisdom of this visit. I like these places. I like the people who live in them. But. There is a proposal here, an offer yet unspoken, dreadful and heavy, laced with a false, Proustian nostalgia for a life I never had a chance to lead, “where feelings of tenderness would always be reciprocated”. Not quite a lie, it rests in the back of my skull like an entertaining artifact from an imaginary era, something to dismantle and examine and potentially loathe.

    We sit on the polished cement floor by the gas fireplace, turned on with a switch, click, and ignore the obvious question for more prosaic pursuits. I confirm my theories like dominoes, with only a few charming surprises, (which I also like), and gently offer too much history, the most toned down form of my best defense strategy: tragedy, violence, a childhood of poverty and occasional terror. Out of your league, it offers, a way to make a polite escape dipped in sad anecdotes of senseless destruction and death. An excuse for abdication, withdrawal without judgement. Usually this is the cue, exit stage left, pursued by bears, but instead it all diffused in the air, accepted.

    I had wondered at myself while walking to meet him, why was I there? It’s not like I had hope, even as I delighted in his company, but perhaps this was it, what I unconsciously expected: this gloriously uncomfortable acceptance. Superficial, possibly, and weak tea, but honest. Trust. Staying would hurt me, ruin me more, a proposition which under the circumstances I could not even pretend to accept, yet the visit was a feast. Within my boundaries, freedom. I woke up feeling absolutely amazing. All I needed was a break. There has been no one left alive to bear my weight.

    in these small things, we find meaning

    Word for the day: Concrescence
    Concrescence is a term used in biology and refers to the growing together of related parts or growth by the increase of the addition of particles. Similarly the term is also employed by the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead to designate the growing together of diverse elements into a newly evolving entity that never fully congeals.

    Lung and I took pictures today

    LANGUAGES divide the spectrum up in different ways. Welsh speakers use “gwyrdd” (pronounced “goo-irrrth”) as a general word for green. Yet “grass” literally translates as “blue straw”. That is because the Welsh word for blue (“glas”) can accommodate all shades of green. English-speaking anthropologists affectionately squish “green” and “blue” together to call Welsh an example of a “grue” language. A few of them think grue languages are spoken by societies that live up mountains or near the equator because ultraviolet radiation, which is stronger in such places, causes a progressive yellowing of the lens. This, the theory goes, makes the eye less sensitive to short wavelengths (those that correspond to the green and blue parts of the spectrum). Unfortunately, though the Welsh do live in a hilly country, it is hardly mountainous enough—let alone sunny enough—to qualify.

    The ultraviolet theory, however, is just one idea among many in the debate about the psychology of colour. Like many debates in psychology, this one pits congenital, fundamentally genetic, explanations against explanations that rely on environmental determinism. Psychologists in the former camp think people are born with ingrained ideas about how hues are grouped. They believe the brain is preconditioned to pick out the six colours on a Rubik’s cube whatever tongue it is taught to think in. The other camp, by contrast, thinks that the spectrum can be chopped into categories anywhere along its length. Moreover, they suspect that the language an individual learns from his parents is the main explanation for where that chopping takes place.

    … There is a fundamental—presumably congenital—distinction, as shown by the fact that the non-linguistic side of the brain distinguishes between blue and green. But there is also a language-mediated one, as shown by the linguistic side’s greater response.”

    article link from the clever lucaskrech, lighting engineer extraordinaire

    tomorrow I start work & dance for DJ Krush

    Another lonely night and I feel like a bad rip-off of a well crafted pop song. When does the hurting subside? It’s like I’m going to rhyme. Oh, too late. I’m repressing the urge to swear now in spite of the fact that this is text and I could always go back and edit all that out. Stress talking, stress guiding my fingers over the keys. They’re half worn away on this keyboard, letters and fingers both.

    It reminds me of the root of scrupulous, being the Latin for a tiny stone that was the smallest unit of weight. Thus, a scrupulous person was a person so sensitive they’re irritated by the smallest stone in their shoe. It reminds me of the unintentional pacing of our lives with poetry that happens all the time. Bless used to mean to redden with blood as in sacrifice, giving a nice mental picture to the common western response to a sneeze. These are the things that occur to me late at night, when my topic tracking gets shaky, when I can’t pick threads so easily from the loom of my mental perspicacity. Loom, what navigators at sea call the halo of lights.

    Which makes me think of celestial navigation, (celestial – residing in the heaven), which translates basically to pretending you know where you are until you’ve proved all your fictions wrong and you actually know where you’re bobbing on the ocean, which leads me to both treacherous waters, (Seattle, that bridge, meeting Eliza), and watching all those shooting-stars shining at Clinton, (just the faintest smudge of finger-painted Northern Lights on the edge of the sky). Two things that bring me back to my sudden ex-relationship.

    I think it’s going to prove to be a long night. Counting sheep means tooling about on the internet, digging up articles on the first zero-gravity surgery set to be performed and useless first-world restaurants. I think I want to walk out my door too much, arrive at a house up the road a bit and to the left, (always my joking directions to find the g-spot), knock at the door and see myself reflected in a pair of welcoming eyes. (Seeing that effect, the Roman’s created the word pupil, which comes from little doll). This is my brain pretending to know where it is. This is my heart pretending that I haven’t been breaking down crying every day, the classic sextant based three-star triangle giving me a space the size of a city block, his block. The one with the house that I dangerously dreamed was orange and liked me. Something about driving on the wrong side of the street. I picked out the right paint chip and scared us.

    Memories that I need to learn to dull. There is enough about poetry in my head to know that life’s seductive habits can be broken at will. I need to shepherd myself, write a palinode, relocate emotionally back into the damage, out of the alluring panoramic idea that I would get away with being allowed to do otherwise. That’s the worst, knowing I don’t need to love someone, that it’s just bloody nice to have something alive and pure and nice, (from the Latin nescīre, meaning to be ignorant). Needs are air, water. A place to sleep alone, (meaning unwanted, not desired, and dispensable).

    Subliminal Mind Software – Achieve Superhuman Mind Abilities

    I fell entirely in love with Lost In Translation, did you?

    It’s one of those strange little times, when you and I haven’t spoken and we’re left wondering. I’m reading the notes toward a paper of sexuality and it makes me laugh a little at how little I think about this sort of thing. I’m infatuated with history and mood and mythos, but the holiness of sex? It smacks of religion. Play as something apart from the self. I don’t wax full of jesus metaphor when I think of my desires. Yes, I miss you. I think of my repairing self in terms of myth and archetype. Visions of archimedes screws, that’s sexy. There’s the pun and the history and the lovely lilting action. I think in quivering multi-layer presentations sliding past innocence into carefully arranged chaos.

    In celebration of 50 years of spoken-word publishing, Caedmon has released “Dylan Thomas: The Caedmon Collection,” available as audio cassettes and a beautifully designed 11 CD set. They are all available for free download here, at Salon. Non-subscribers, like me, have to wait through an advertisement. For such a treasure, it’s a ridiculously cheap price. Dylan adds an unimaginable depth to his own work. It’s a rare gift to find an author who can read as beautifully as he does. Even if you’ve never heard of Dylan Thomas, (and for damned shame, if you haven’t, get out from under your weird rock), for the sake of decency, I demand you take this.

    When someone today used the word dragon, I brought to mind more than fantasy and scales. It’s no fun unless every meaning is evident at once. I supply large soaring creations of imagination, terrible art from the 80’s, wicked claws that tore poets apart in medieval Japan and young mythical virgins who were really fucking the millers son, millers sons being all the rage back in the day. They were rich, you see? Not like you and I. We are pulling on opposite ends of a very similar rope. It’s not the McEmployment but it’s as close as pretending can be. Stability and the risk board, all those coloured squares mocking the agonies of war. Roll the dice to find out where you get to kiss me. I need out of my job as much as you’re thinking about me when you shouldn’t be. We only sell those dice to women and that bothers my personality. The western world irritates in it’s persistent subservience to christendom.

    I suspect there’s a line between words that you’re not delineating, but that I might be seeing when you’re looking the other way.

    society explains? someone help me ponder please

    On-line, I rant less at people about how wonderful technology is, but I’ve been coming to an odd conclusion lately that I want to share; that language just might be devolving through the internet. I don’t mean so much words like WOOT coming into parlance, but that vocabulary is homogenizing. Meeting international friends has only added credence to this idea. No matter where in the world they are from, we are all speaking the same language.

    I’m talking about expression through memetics, hyperbolic emphasis.

    It’s like somehow we’re managing to slim down language to something that’s almost electronic gesture based, so non-specific that we’re reaching a plateau of zen communication that’s partially worrisome. The inflections that span oceans because we read the same news stories and know each other almost purely by interest have not been complex ideas. The common denominators are almost startlingly like a severe Californian infection once they’re noticed. Berkley as patient zero. Home culture barely impacts. We all say “like” and “yeah” smattered with the occasional “I win” acknowledgment of clever. We seem to be erasing language with porous words, as meaningless as the most commonly known word in the world, “okay”.