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I went to see hear the Messiah yesterday a few weeks ago!
complaints about own sillypantsness )

I am still in love with the choir, because it was fantastic. It is the choir that makes my heart leap - like a sudden rush of sound, all together. They had fantastic control over volume, so it could sink low and - this being in a concert hall - in dead silence, then boom out. And of course Handel gives them the opportunity: Messiah is chock full of glorious outpourings of happiness and - grandeur. (All we like sheep unexpectedly joyous, and he shall purify resonant, and of course Hallelujah magnificent. "Wonderful counsellor" stuck through my head on the half-hour of wet evening, walking home). I liked the bass and the soprano - the tenor was okay - but I am a firm believer that Handel, though he was also awesome, should never burden anyone (virtuoso or no) with passages that Messiah contains. As in fifty-note strings of trills, basically - in the bass (pardon me, baritone), they sounded like nothing more than rocks being shaken about. (This might have been "For behold darkness" or "The people that walked" but I don't quite remember.) Having analyzed the bit in the second part for music history, beginning with "There were shepherds", it was fantastic to hear another rendition - and the soprano didn't overload too much; her voice simply rang.

All in all, amazing. But I'd still rather have gone to the sing-along - alas!
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Usually when I write in either French or Chinese--wait, scratch that, when I attempt--I open up another Word document, because compared to writing in those other two languages, English is a breeze. Analogy: because I'm far better in English than any other language (which, to be honest, I feel kind of bad about), it always feels like I'm trying to make really fine jewelery with thick gloves on. I know exactly what I want to say, exactly how it should come out--in English. In the other two languages, I'm stretching frantically for the words I know--and they all seem awkward, already-used, repetitive. In English, I have the luxury of fretting about the wording; sometimes in French, I'm utterly at a loss to find the word I'm looking for.

Oh, and also this. I have a book of poetry that I keep in my bathroom to read when I'm brushing my teeth. It's actually really nice, because it's a textbook of sorts, and has all sorts of wry commentary in the back of the book, but also this quote from Octavio Paz, who is, unsurprisingly, both a poet and a prose writer:

"Languages are vast realities that transcend those political and historical entities we call nations. The European languages we speak in the Americas illustrate this. The special position of our literatures, when compared to those of England, Spain, Portugal, and France, derives precisely from this fundamental fact: they are literatures written in transplanted tongues. Languages are born and grow in the native soil, nourished by a common history. The European languages were uprooted and taken to an unknown and unnamed world: in the soil of the societies of America, they grew and were transformed. The same plant, yet a different plant. Our literatures did not passively accept the changing fortunes of their transplanted languages: they participated in the process and even accelerated it. Soon they ceased to be mere transatlantic reflections. At times they have been the negation of the literatures of Europe; more often, they have been a reply.

"In spite of these oscillations, the link has never been broken. My classics are those of my language, and I consider myself to be a descendant of Lope and Quevedo, as any Spanish writer would...yet I am not a Spaniard. I think that most writers of Spanish America as well as those from the United States, Brazil, and Canada would say the same as regards the English, Portuguese, and French traditions. To understand more clearly the special position of writers in the Americas, we should compare it to the dialogue maintained by the Japanese, Chinese, or Arabic writers with the different literatures of Europe: a dialogue that cuts across multiple languages and civilizations. Our dialogue, on the other hand, takes place within the same language. We are Europeans, yet we are not Europeans. What are we, then? It is difficult to define what we are, but our works speak for us."

-Octavio Paz, 1990 Nobel Prize Lecture. Taken from An Introduction to Poetry, Eighth Edition (1994) Kennedy, XJ; Gioia, Dana
First: that is an elegant, beautiful metaphor for this. For me, personally, though, this is interesting. My parents learned English in school, sure, like Canadian children learn Spanish and French as secondary languages in school (Quebec, of course, excepted). But it wasn't until they moved to Canada, in their twenties, before they really used it. The language they had lived with all their lives was not English; the idioms and classics they studied were not English, American, or Canadian. I was born in Canada, raised in North America, and consequently speak English better than I do my parents' language, though I am fluent enough. Like Paz: "I consider myself to be a descendant of [well known writers of Spain]...and yet I am not a Spaniard". I am, I suppose, a strange conglomerate of languages, halfway in English, and halfway in another.

Sorry about the vagueness. I'd rather not put too much personal info on my LJ; I'm kind of paranoid.
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Cross-posted to [ profile] bookish .
I read this in French, but I'm afraid my French is too patchy to do the review. :) Not yet ready to risk the pitfalls of French grammar quite yet...

It's easy to dismiss this book as childish, really. The narrator starts off by describing his youth, when he tried to draw a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant, and being told by les grandes personnes--adults--that it was a hat. But it's inn that first chapter, the big theme of the book--the beautiful simplicity and naturalness of children--is shown.

Cut for length )
I'd recommend reading this in the original, French version; the translated English version, I've found, loses a lot of the charm and delight that the original has. 9/10
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About 'universal suffrage':

1. The association of 'suffrage' and 'suffering' has been made in my mind (and probably other peoples'), which is unfortunate for the promotion of democracy.

2. Stop telling me we have universal suffrage. (*note: is Canadian). If we had an all-ages-can-vote policy, we'd have universal suffrage. See? Universal. Not majority suffrage. Universal. Until everyone in this country (regardless of mental state, age, and all those other factors that come into play) is allowed to vote or in some way impact the way this government works, we don't have universal suffrage. Period. Find another word.
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Finished Tess of the D'Urbervilles today, in a marathon reading where I snatched a few minutes between classes (or during classes, depending on the teacher). I've read the book before (albeit only superficially--I didn't get it at all) and I knew what was coming, and I still wanted to jump up and down and scream at the end. Slightly spoilery, although I've hidden the worst of the spoilers.

(skip) Tess is raped by Alec D'Urberville in the first part of the book; the repercussions of this (less the emotional ones than the societal castigation--this is, after all, a work by a Victorian author who was quite aware of what his society was like) are all over the book. In the end, she murders Alec (I was quite glad about this one) and is executed for it. (skip)

Lots and lots of victim-blaming by various characters (including her supposedly devoted husband, to whom she is slavishly devoted also), as well as a sense of guilt and indecision on the part of Tess, who doesn't know if she should tell her secret or not. As far as emotional impact, I think this one packs a wallop (I was quite ready to punch Alec D'Urberville through the book, several times), but I still like Far From Madding Crowd's descriptions. I think Hardy became more and more...disillusioned, perhaps?...with humanity in general; his later books are decidedly more fatalistic, and the poor protagonists often suffer a great deal. (I mean, at least Bathsheba and Elizabeth-Jane get happy [ambiguously happy, okay] endings. Tess doesn't get anything of the sort.)

Still, a very engrossing read--as soon as you get used to the sometimes unusual syntax--and now I think I need to find some kind of fanfic AU where Tess is alright in the end. 10/10
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You know that feeling of whatever, who cares? It applies to books, too; right now, specifically to Key Lime Pie Murder.
Fluke is not a bad author. She writes a solid enough book. And that's about it. Her character is like a Mary Sue with an extra dose of stupidity (when you think there's a murderer on the midway with you, killing someone, the appropriate reaction is not to look for the victim). The book follows a predictable arc. The protagonist changes not one iota, even though I should think finding a murder victim would be traumatizing! Apparently not. I thought (because the cover looked interesting) that maybe her books had sold well enough to merit a good cover. I don't know. But it is definitely not a "good" book. Solid, yes. "Respectable", yes. I think maybe "whatever" is the right epithet.


Jan. 11th, 2010 05:55 pm
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I see the snow fall every year, crisp, white, and clean. On some days, it comes down lightly, sprinkling the lights from the streetlamps onto the ground, glittering when you turn your head. On others, the sky is grey and the snow falls heavily, obscuring your sight in a thick veil, and the landscape is suddenly a snow-desert complete with dunes and fantastic, heaping snowdrifts. The world is temporarily beautiful. And then, some car comes by, splashing black slush everywhere, and the smooth snow is marred. Soon enough, the snow will lose its magic, and the winter return to dreariness.

Cross posted to [ profile] 100_words .
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I posted a short review/summary on bookish already, but that was a functional summary, so I could corrupt get people to read the book. This is my own reflection. Sometimes, the idea of conservation becomes a bitter fight between what's-good-for-the-humans and what's-good-for-the-land. Or the mindset is "it's wolves or us" or so on. Often, this is polarizing: you're either on my side, or you're on the other side. Leopold, however, does not begin his novel by hitting the reader over the head with "Do this, do that". Instead, he outlines the world around him, a world he clearly loves. Every creature is described in a whimsical, touching way; the cranes and plovers and ruffled grouse might as well be bickering and flighty old family friends (no pun intended). What most people see as immobile oaks and spruce might as well be a library, an archive of information to Leopold; he interprets the growth of rings and whorls and imagines the fires and floods and droughts, the sudden influxes of rabbits that eat the bark, the easy years. He sees cranes and the writing reflects his love for the land around him, portraying the cranes as heralds of "time immemorial". It is an amazing account of what is often not seen in nature, and I will recommend it to anyone who even expresses a vague interest in ecology.


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