dimanche 31 janvier 2010

Tintin mania: coming soon to a theater near you?

Spielberg apparently spent 25 years trying to obtain the rights to Tintin's adventures before succeeding. I can imagine the mixture of pride and apprehension in the French-speaking world at the idea that Spielberg and Peter Jackson have teamed up to do a trilogy, beginning with Le secret de la licorne, due out in late 2011. I read somewhere that Spielberg sees Tintin as an "Indiana Jones for kids", and that Le secret actually combines 4 different Tintin stories into one. Will they get it right?

Meanwhile, Serge Tisseron, a psychoanalyst and professor of psychology from Paris, was in Seattle yesterday to talk about his study of Tintin as revealing a secret de famille of Tintin's creator Hergé, who was Belgian (he died in 1983). It was fascinating and convincing. The lecture was sponsored by Alliance française and held in Balmer Hall at the UW. I found this a perfect way to spend a drizzly Saturday afternoon. Tisseron noted at the end that he was unable to publish his book in English because of the way Anglo-saxon publishers work. Basically, they won't pay to have a work translated. French authors or their publishers have to pay. Naturally, it is not in the interest of the latter to pay for a translation of their author's work, since they won't see a dime. And authors generally don't have the money to pay for translations. After the lecture, I talked to Tisseron about the possibilility of finding some grant money or an outside sponsor. I once translated a book for publication under this kind of arrangement. I got paid for the translaiton and the English publisher got to share the profits with the author. I told Tisseron I would love to translate his book for less than my going rate, rien que pour le plaisir de travailler sur Tintin. With Spielberg's film set for release in 2011, now is the time to get the translation done and the book published in English. I wonder if Spielberg would be interested in financing the translation?

jeudi 28 janvier 2010

Finding Mr. Good Enough

I just got wind of this book. Back in the late 80's, I met a woman who was a friend of my sister's. She was in her late 30's. She had an MBA and a successful career with IBM. She owned a beautiful condo and drove a Porshe. She complained about not being able to find Mr. Right or even snag a date with him. She then proceeded to rattle off her list of features Mr. Right had to have if he wanted to roll with her. It was so long, so picky, so unforgiving. I decided that in fact she did not really want to find Mr. Right. She just wanted to bitch about the lack of good men out there and, in so doing, obliquely tout her own virtues. Leslie, where are you now? How many items have you added to Mr. Right's TO BE list? Why is it that I feel certain you have not found Mr. Right? Leslie, if you're out there and still looking (or pretending to look), read this book. It could be a game changer.

I'm free!

Wow! The month of January has come and gone in a flash. My friend Nawal was here from Paris from Christmas to January 14, which may explain why the month went so quickly. Winter quarter started on January 6, the same day I was supposed to see my surgeon and the hospital for the pre-op visit. I ended up postponing the appointments until Friday, January 8, because just as I was leaving for the hospital I discovered that my wallet was not in its usual place. I knew it hadn't been stolen or lost, but I had no idea where I had last stashed it. After frantically looking for 15 minutes (this episode included me screaming so loud that I scared Neko), I called the hospital to say I would have to change my appointment. They were nice about it. Fifteen minutes later, I found the wallet in the pocket of a coat I don't usually wear. I had put it on to take Nawal to the doctor the day before. I didn't want to take my purse, etc. etc. etc. I hate it when this happens. Nothing good ever comes of these shortcuts.

The weekend before the operation, we went to Camp Waskowitz for Dahli's 50th birthday party. The food was unspeakably bad; I think the flakes used for the mashed potatos were taken from a box that had been in storage since the 60's. We built a huge bonfire. We saw elk in the field and took the flag down.

After my surgery, I was supposed to take it easy for two weeks. Normally, I am the kind of person who sees doctor's orders as rough guidelines. But this time, I decided to act like a responsible adult and do what the doctor ordered. I must confess it was wonderful to take it easy. I have already noted that I decided to forego the percocet. For one thing, I had some translation work to do (though my clients were very nice to me). I also decided not to miss my once-a-week seminar and so needed to do a lot of reading. But that's all I did. My wonderful, loving, sweet husband did everything else. He cooked and cleaned and fluffed up my pillows and fed the animals and most of all took the week off to hang out with me and watch Law & Order. It was very nice to have him around the house during the day.

By Friday of the first week, I felt healed enough to walk. I wanted to get back on the elliptical and resume my stick/weight workouts, but decided to wait until after my post-op visit. Sometimes, taking it easy is the best medicine. I took Dahli to Le Pichet for her annual birthday dinner the second week of my recovery. We both needed a good meal after the Camp Waskowitz fare. On Friday of that week, we went to see Steve Earle at the Moore with our neighbors. Thanks for the invite, neighbors. It just so happens that they wanted to have dinner at Le Pichet before the concert, so I got to have dinner there twice in one week. I had quail on Friday night. So tiny and delicate, so delicious. Steve Earle did an acoustic show, a total change from his last visit to Seattle. He did a few Townes Van Sant songs in addition to his own. The audience was much the same as last time (read my Steve Earle post from last year; it's here somewhere).

The weekend featured more walking and some shopping. I'd been watching a pair of grey boots at Clementine, waiting for them to go on sale. Got 'em. Love 'em. Then I bought ten soup bowls for 4.95 a piece, because Wonder Hub invited his Magnolia Baseball people over for Sunday lunch and we decided I would make a big soup before realizing that we only have about 4 soup bowls. I made that delicious bean and farro soup (I wrote about it in December), plus a roasted winter vegetable salad with arugula and bread from Bakery Nouveau. Karen brought a huge selection of cheeses so I put mine away. We'll be eating them until spring. At least I will.

On Monday, I was given the go-ahead to resume normal activities. The surgeon was amazed that I didn't take any percocet. He showed me some graphic photos of my innards. Now that this operation is behind me, I feel like I accomplished one of my major goals for 2010. I can move on! Yay! We celebrated by going to see Patti Smith at Benaroya. On my list of personal heros/role models/idols, she is very near the top. She did not disappoint. She was in town to talk about her book, Just Kids, in which Robert Mappelthorpe looms large. After reading from the book, she was interviewed by local self-styled rock guy Charles Cross. He did his best, but mainly served as a foil for Patti. She is quite funny. When he mentioned that she had been featured in Oprah's O Magazine as a style icon and seemed to expect a reaction from her (was he going for embarrassment?), she waited a moment, glared at him, and then said, when he glared back: "Well, that's not my fault!" To end the evening, she picked up her guitar, confessed that she wasn't a good guitarist (she isn't, but she is good enough), and then sang three or four songs. Banaroya is the perfect venue for acoustic music when the performer has a strong and unique voice. Patti delivered. She ended with an a cappella version of Because the Night, with her audience doing the chorus. It was magnificent. On the home front, we are listening to Patti Smith and The Who these days.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, as I prepared for my seminar, the work started flooding in. Bad timing, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. I got through my presentation yesterday, felt well prepared, and enjoyed the discussion. We are currently doing Molière. I had never read Molière, but had seen one of his plays performed by the Comédie française troupe. At the time, I did not really understand enough French to appreciate what I was seeing. It is nice to know that Molière can be studied at leisure. The Comédie française stages at least one play be Molière each year. In 2010, they are doing L'avare. It would be fun to plan a trip to Paris around that!

jeudi 14 janvier 2010

Law & Order? Just What the Doctor Ordered

I'm home this week recovering from minor abdominal surgery. My surgeon prescribed percocet but I am finding watching back-to-back-to-back episodes of Law & Order to be just as effective. Yesterday, I felt the addict's panic when the television suddenly started administering some other program THAT WAS NOT LAW & ORDER! I almost took a percocet but then images of Rush Limbaugh began dancing in my head. Then his red, angry, fat face appeared on the screen for real. It seems he would like nothing better than to fuel a race war.

I'm also reading Corneille's Le Cid and, more interestingly, some of the primary and secondary texts about La Querelle du Cid. Ah, to have lived in seventeenth century France! I would have had a salon, for sure. The only downer would be no Law & Order episodes. While researching (ha!) this post, which in fact means looking for an image to download, I discovered there are something like eleven seasons in the oeuvre. This means I have not yet skimmed the surface.

At the end of each episode, there is a disclaimer. It reminds viewers that the story and characters are fictional and not to be confused with real events or people. If you ask me, this disclaimer is totally unnecessary and I bet anyone who has watched seven or eight episodes in a day would agree with me.

dimanche 3 janvier 2010

The Year of the Yo-Yo

Can the world be divided into those who make resolutions and those who don't? Can it be further subdivided into those who keep and those who don't keep their resolutions? I have never consciously made a New Year's Resolution. Last year, I wrote somewhat tongue-in-cheekily that one of my resolutions was to be be more zen in 2009, by which I meant less apt to react emotionally and selfishly to events over which I have no control. I think I also meant less desirous of wanting to have control over events. I remember reading the book Stop-Time by Frank Conroy when I was a senior in college. In this moving memoir, the narrator talks about his life between the ages of eight and eighteen. So it is about growing up. His book is widely acclaimed among the mountains of memoirs published before, at the same time and since his was in 1967, in part because it reads like a well-crafted novel. In one episode, he talks about learning to use a yo-yo.

“The yo-yo represented my first organized attempt to control the outside world. I could see my progress in clearly defined stages, and because the intimacy of it, the almost spooky closeness I began to feel with the instrument in my hand, seemed to ensure that nothing irrelevant would interfere. (I was) finally free, in one small area at least, of the paralyzing sloppiness of life in general.”

Frank wants to learn the hardest trick, which is called The Universe. He wants to master The Universe. But it isn't until he lets go of his desire to dominate the yo-yo and let "the ghost" take over that he does. When I feel myself getting upset and spending energy and time on matters that fall outside The Universe of what I can master, I say this to myself: give up your desire to dominate the yo-yo. It's a little reminder about what matters and what doesn't.

There's always a fine balance between the satisfaction of making an effort and succeeding, on the one hand, and just letting things happen on the other. Between wanting to engineer The Universe and being astonished by what It delivers. Sometimes, being decisive and making things happen feels good; but so does letting things go and letting things happen. To make things happen or to let things happen, that is the question. Maybe the answer is both.

When I reflect back on 2009, I realize that it was a pretty good balance of making and letting. I didn't get to France in 2009; but I started work on a second master's degree. Although I don't see the two as mutually exclusive in the least, one reason I decided to stay put was that I wanted to be mentally ready for the reality of being a student again. The return has been both easy and difficult. Walking into a university classroom for the first time in almost 25 years (not counting teaching in France and China) was more daunting than it might sound. I mean, what is so hard about walking into a classroom and just taking your seat among the other students?

The first day, I looked around and immediately realized I was 30 years older than most of the students and about the same age as the professor. That was spring quarter. This fall, I was still three decades older than the students and 13 years older than the professor. I'm not saying I expected anyone to ask me what in the world I thought I was doing there with all these young people -- who belong there -- but I did feel a bit out of my element at first. I thought about all the "older students" I encountered years and years ago, both as a TA and a student at the UW, and tried to recover my thoughts about them. I do remember being somewhat fascinated by them and feeling that they seemed way more experienced and way smarter than the people my age. That annoyed me. I also remember being grudgingly impressed by their ability to be outspoken without appearing to worry about what others might think. I know I was awestruck more than once by the ease with which they begged to differ with the revered professorial authority figures I found to be so scary and all-knowing. I don't remember ever scrutinizing their wrinkles or their wardrobe. I don't remember finding them out of touch or old school. I don't remember whether they fit in or not. I don't remember thinking "Wow! He/she is older than my dad/mom!"

Now I realize that these older students probably did not give a damn about any of these things. But I think what impressed me most about them -- although I would not have been able to articulate it at the time -- was their ability to just be in the moment. Their desire not to dominate The Universe but rather to ponder it and to keep pondering even though they were old and wise.

I feel incredibly lucky at this time in my life to be a student again. It is incredibly difficult, after all these years of reading for pay and sheer pleasure, to read once again for meaning and insight. Incredibly difficult. It is time-consuming: you have to read things more than once and take notes and think about what you are reading. You have to remember what you have read. You have to write about what you have read. My work as a translator involves focusing on and transforming a particular text from one language to another and then forgetting about it. This makes the whole business of being a student more challenging. But it is so interesting to be ignorant. Socrates said that awareness of one's own ignorance is the essence of wisdom. Maybe I am finally wise.

vendredi 1 janvier 2010

The Resolution Starts Now

I just read an article in Slate about the decade's ten best movies. Decade? Ten best movies? Should I even try and come up with my ten favorite movies since 2000? As I was reading the list, I was thinking yeah, I remember that movie. Yeah, that was good, or WTF? That movie sucked, or I never heard of that movie. What makes for a memorable movie?

The truth is, I'm not sure I can remember the last ten movies I have seen, let alone come up with a ten best list for the year or the decade. No kidding. Sometimes, I remember that I saw a movie two weeks ago but I can't remember what it was. I have to rack my brains. It's a little scary, but I try and not let these huge lapses bother me too much. When I start forgetting my name and leaving coffee pots on a burning stove to melt down and cause a fire, then I'll start to worry. I'm not saying these things have never happened. But if they have, I have forgotten.

Maybe I should try and come up with a list of the ten most memorable things I did in 2009, or the ten things I did that I remember the most vividly. I'm going to work on that and report back.

In the meantime, a few photos from last night's Moroccan dinner. It was fabulous. My flight got in at 1:40 (35 minutes early) and I hit the ground running, as they say. Nawal and I had a brief conference about what needed to be done between now and 8 pm(everything) and who would do what. Since there were now 15 of us, we thought a little more lamb was needed for the tagine. That's how we discovered at about 3:30 pm that the butcher at The Swinery had forgotten our order. After screaming and cursing for about ten seconds, I went up to Metropolitan Market and found a superb, supremely expensive gigot d'agneau . The rest was easy. I even bought flowers to go with the Salvadorean fair-trade hand-made tablecloth I found in San Francisco, and a bunch of bright red cotton "buffet napkins" that were on sale for a ridiculously low price. I had to look about five times to believe it. Metropolitan selling homewares for Costco prices?

Nawal got the tagine going while we set up two long tables in our entryway/library. I only had the one tablecloth, however. So I did what anyone would do. I asked myself what Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray would do. Since I know nothing about either one, except for their names, this was a tough challenge. But the answer came to me when I walked into my office and saw an unused roll of wrapping paper. I would like to be able to report that I took used wrapping paper and recycled it, but that would be a lie. Anyway, Walt wrapped one of the tables with it. The rest was easy. Candles and colorful dishes for all the goodies. Almonds, olives, dates, walnuts, cornichons... plus Moroccan lentils,green peppers and tomatos, rice and corn salad, and a festive salad for the season (arugula, shaved fennel, pomagranate seeds and avocado). As appetizers, we served an assortment of cheeses and a venison pâté. Dessert was the dates and walnuts, plus clementines, chocolates and some cardamom cookies that one of the guests had made.

I had about fifteen minutes to spare for my shower. After the shower, I discovered that my make-up bag must have fallen out of my carry-on luggage that I stowed under the seat in front of me as a courtesy to my fellow passengers. I had nothing but some old lip-liner, some even older mascara and some tinted moisturizer. The upside is that it took me no time to get ready for the party!
The champagne, wine and beer flowed freely. Happy New Year!
Top to bottom: Most of us around the tables
The wrapped table, with flowers
Walt pours the champagne in anticipation of midnight
Nawal in her Moroccan robe and me
Azy, crazy on chapmagne
No party is complete without Neko