Thursday, April 26, 2007

Life is full of yay!

So, I am recently returned from the dual v's of Vancouver and Vanderhoof and safely ensconced in my 3rd storey Prince George apartment, reunited with my poor computer who has, I feel, greatly missed my presence. Or maybe I'm just projecting. I've spent the majority of our reunion downloading various and sundry things. Oh high-speed internet! I could rhapsodize about you forever.

In Vanderhoof, my mom and I watched creepy Korean dramas that were remarkably Machiavellian. And disturbing. God, were they ever disturbing. I don't even know why we had the dvds, but wow. Once the first movie was over, Mom looked at me and said, "That was strange, ne? It's not just me that thinks so?" All I could do was nod. I was traumatized speechless. I'm not entirely sure why we moved on to the next movie; some misguided hope that, y'know, it would get better. We were so very, very wrong.

In Vancouver, we visited libraries. Oh bliss! I have library envy right now, after having seen Vancouver Public Library and UBC's Koerner library. VPL is beautiful, built like the Roman Coliseum, with entire floors devoted to one or two subjects. We drove down to Vancouver, my mom and dad and I. Dad makes a multi-monthly pilgrimage down to Vancouver, so he's an old hand at the road politics of big truck drivers and knows with a frightening accuracy the speed limit for each stretch of road. The scenery was amazingly beautiful; there were some patches where the trees were all beetle-kill, and it looked a little like a war zone without any bodies but plenty of scorched ground - but even those spaces of stark landscape had their own weird, disturbing and compelling allure. And driving through the canyon - the mountains! The horizon! The shadow/sun interplay! (I like the exclamation mark!)

We stayed at the Holiday Inn, which, let me tell you, was not really all that holiday-ish. My poor mother. She thought she was getting a different deal for her money - well, dad's money - and was dreadfully disappointed. Which I got to hear about. At length. Great length. Other than that, it was a great trip; I bought books! Hee. Books about ZOMBIES. And I signed books out of Koerner (we somehow have a card, I don't ask questions), also about ZOMBIES. Oh, zombies. We also walked both below the bridge to Granville, and over it (it was nice to get the two perspectives of the same site. What wasn't nice was the whole "I'm not talking to you, because you get us horribly lost and make us walk for three hours" tension I had going on with my mom. Neither of us has a sense of direction. This can be, at times, horrifically painful). My mom got to see her old friend, Eiko-san, who took us for dim sum along with her boyfriend (named Fred) and student-boarder (named something like Shinji, and who my mom proceeded to attempt to set me up with so obviously I could have died from embarrassment). I also bought rose tea, and poetry, and Japanese food in bulk. Mmm... ochazuke, furikake, wakame. Long have I missed you, my palatable (literally) friends. Not to mention we stocked up on seaweed. Mmmm. It was a good trip for my consumerist soul. Not that good of a trip for my dad's wallet. Oh well.

The only real down points, aside from the whole 'omygod we're lost in downtown Vancouver we're totally gonna diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie' incident, were that I discovered that I am allergic to Vancouver (I had this non-stop sneezing thing going on, apparently there's troublesome pollen in the air), and that takoyaki - while nummy on a plate - is not all that nummy on the way back to Vanderhoof. Major motion sickness, dudes. I should've known not to eat take-out octopus balls...

It was nice to be in Vancouver again. A little overwhelming, at first, but the more we walked around, the more familiar it got. It's funny, I haven't lived there since I was nine; but the topography of the city, of its streets and turns, houses and parks - has made its way into the landscape of my dreams, and the longer I was there, the more I felt like I was in the middle of my own subconscious. It was surreal, but also cool.

The last cool note of my two weeks of relief from academia was the return of last semester's grades. Whew! I have to say, I feel smart. And also proud. I may have had minor mental breakdowns, but I pulled it off; life is good. I'm feeling confident. The future, it is bright. Here's hoping it is for all of you as well.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

This, mes amis, is a day composed of awesome.

Well, I still have essays to write; one on Frankenstein, and one on Mary Barton and Tess of the d'Ubervilles (I have read absolutely none of these books... these next few days shall be INTENSE. Never until my university student life have I identified so fully with Dante, gradually making my way through ever-widening circles of Hell). However! Today (which is 4 April 2007, no matter what the date/stamp for this post says as I have begun writing just a few moments before midnight, and will probably not finish until after I have entered the NEW DAY which may or may not prove to be as awesome) contained many instances of joy.

Joyful occurrence #1: The Reassurance of it Being Okay to Hand Things In Late, as the Late Penalty applies to every CLASS and not every DAY, as I had Mistakenly and Panicked-ly thought, giving myself ANEURYSMS and ULCERS

Joyful occurrence #2: The Return of a Term Paper of DOOM, which Surprisingly contained a Grade of A+ and much Praise, which Soothed my FRAZZLED Brain

Joyful occurrence #3: The Knowledge that nearly EVERYONE, Apparently, in my Film class handed in term papers Late, and I was NotAlone in that department, and thus Less Likely to suffer DREADFUL REPRECUSSIONS

Joyful occurrence #4: I Bravely Ventured Forth from my WOEFUL and MESSY apartment, to the deli on the street, where I bought Victuals of cheese and meat and bread. (I like the word 'victuals'. I learned it from Brian Jacques Redwall books. Oh, to be a talking mouse! Or hare! Or [dare I aspire to such heights?] a badger!) And when I Returned from my Brave Venture, who Called but the FEARFUL FRIEND, Enquiring as to my Availability for Fire-type Adventures!

To explicate, without the copious use of capitals, the Fearful Friend (henceforth known as 'FF'), is fearful on multiple levels. Her wrath when provoked, for one; her loyalty, for another; her ability to make you fear for your LIFE (oops... backsliding into capitals again...) on seemingly normal expeditions, for a third. Examples: a simple car ride to Superstore became an all-night jaunt out of the province, to Edmonton, where we broke down first by the side of a rural road requiring us to push the car out of the path of oncoming vehicles and sleep in the middle of nowhere inside of a car that DOES NOT LOCK, and broke down second right outside of Edmonton proper where we enjoyed the MORTAL TERROR of almost being run over by semis, and returned to Prince George, ingloriously, via Greyhound; a simple walk around the neighbourhood became a hike through brush and snow and ice, in BELOW FREEZING temperatures without jackets or even socks, and GETTING HORRIFICALLY LOST in places where No One Can Hear You Scream; and, for POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS reasons, I will not detail the event of The MOUNTAIN in the Winter that we CLIMBED UP and then Proceeded to FALL DOWN. (Well, I obviously fail at self control when it comes to capital-key use.... double man-yacks.)

Suffice to say, I am well-versed in the tribulations associated with hanging out with FF. As I have told her on multiple occasions, "To be your friend is to be masochistic. To know you incurs pain. I have come to expect it, and, through my expectation, to face it unflinchingly. I know with rock-solid certainty that every time I go somewhere with you, I will return injured in some fascinating new way. I have accepted this." FF laughs at me. She says, "I'm not sure what the right response to that is: I hope I disappoint you? That doesn't seem quite right."

In light of all this, the damage done tonight has been negligible. What's a branch in the eye between friends? And, as always, hanging out with FF is well-worth the possible death that may occur during said hang-out time. Tonight, after excursions to buy tropical fruit and chocolate and Starbucks coffee and mint tea and arrowroot cookies, we headed off for the river, upon which banks we built a (possibly illegal) fire.

Of course, getting to the banks was problematic and included STEEP hills, SHARP drop-offs, and Walking Across Water on LOGS. Every minute with FF is fraught with peril, as I have stated. I've grown accustomed to this; and so, managed to: climb down the steep hills with nary an injury, avoid instead of fall over the sharp drop-offs, and balance on the log as I walked across the water. If nothing else, being FF's friend has made me well versed in survival skills. In the event of an apocalypse or sudden zombie attack, I will have much to thank her for.

Once we made it safely (shocking, I know) to the rocks bordering the river, whose edges were ice, and deposited blankets, jackets, and backpack in a pile, FF and I parted ways: I, to go up and down the shore seeking out driftwood and dried out logs, and FF up the embankment, to where trees leaned over and roots poked through hilly earth. We called out occasionally to one another, but alas! The wind took our words away. Greedy thing.

Typically, FF is the one who provides the most firewood. (Our possibly illegal fires are a regular occurrence, and we have a certain method to it now, despite early terrifying instances of wandering out to the middle of nowhere with nothing but a box of matches and FF's cheerful exclamations of, "Of course I know how to make a fire out of snow and twigs! We won't freeze to death, I swear!" Out of the mouths of most people, such an assertion would seem worrying; FF, however, has an inexplicable power of making you believe in her honesty. During the ride home, afterward, she said, "I really didn't think I was going to be able to make that fire. Wow, I surprise myself sometimes!" Oh, FF. If I didn't love you so, they'd never find all of your body because I would have dismembered you out of justified rage and scattered the pieces all across the continent.)

Tonight, however, I held my own. I can truthfully say that I hauled the equivalent of three trees back to our pile of stuff. I carried trunks on each of my shoulders; they moved as if on waves. I love driftwood - like the bleached bones of trees, it's so easy to burn, and it's relatively light as well. FF and I, between us, carried an actual and entire tree back to our fire site. (This is where the branch-in-the-eye incident occurred. Only it was more like, 'tree-to-the-eye'.) In one of our earlier excursions, when there was a group of us sitting around a cheerfully blazing campfire chatting away, no one noticed that FF had been gone for a suspicious amount of time. We became aware of her absence by the approaching and ominous sound of a heavy object being dragged over ragged terrain. Lo and behold! FF, beaming, proud, showing off her captured log. So, the idea of us carrying an actual tree (which died through no action of our own and was just lying there, a tree corpse, for the taking), is not so outlandish. Not if you know FF.

We started our small fire with the aid of the Starbucks paper cups. Horrible for the environment, I know. Ah well. I don't drive. Driving is worse. So there. If you drive, judge me not. If you don't drive, well, you're just as pathetic as I am and I don't have to respect your opinion of me. By this time, night was falling on top of us - not like a tonne of bricks, but rather one brick at a time, gradually and steadily. Our small fire lit up a circumference that included the embankment behind us and a stretch of rocks that reached almost to the water. The water itself was a rush of moving shadows. We made an impromptu couch out of one of the logs I had hauled, not on my shoulders, but against my hips and with the support of my wrist. FF folded a blanket and put it on top of the log, and we sat together in front of the fire.

Campfire conversations ramble. I like this about them. We went from childhood to adulthood. We talked about fishing and about refuge. FF brought out of her backpack the starfruit I'd bought, part of our tropical fruit collection, and cut it in thick and thin slices with her ever-present knife. FF has a fierce affection for knives. I believe as a child, rather than stuffed animals, she was given sharp pointy objects. It would explain much.

Starfruit doesn't taste quite like any other fruit. It's oddly sweet. I think it tastes a little bit like kiwi, but FF disagrees. I held up one of the thinner slices of starfruit in front of the fire and looked at how the light shone through it. FF broke off a piece of white chocolate and ate her thicker slice of starfruit with it. We decided that was how starfruit was made to be eaten, and proceeded to do so. After, FF broke out the arrowroot cookies, and I peeled a guava with her knife (this is how I know we're friends: she shares her toys), throwing shreds of skin into the fire. The wind caught half of my scraps and pulled them, however, making FF laugh at my aim. That wind! We decided the mango wasn't ripe enough to eat, but the strawberries were just right; and, after a simultaneous, shared moment of genius, we invented a new type of s'more.

Anyone who has gone camping has had s'mores. They're like, a staple. It's not camping unless there are s'mores. Traditional s'mores are composed of melted marshmallow, chocolate, and graham crackers. Using the materials at hand, FF and I constructed the Strawberry S'more, with two distinct variations.

FF's variation of the Strawberry S'more: slice a strawberry in half, skewer half of a strawberry with a willow stick (said willow sticks gathered by FF, as I was too lazy and cold to move away from the fire once it started), put a slab of chocolate on the flat side of the strawberry half, balance carefully as you put the chocolate/strawberry combo into the fire. Once the chocolate has melted/bubbled, pull out, and top with half of an arrowroot cookie. Instant heaven.

My variation of the Strawberry S'more: take a whole strawberry and, from the thick end, poke a hole into its centre. Take a slab of chocolate and put it in the hole. (Carefully) Skewer the strawberry with a willow stick, and roast in the fire. Remove when you smell burning chocolate, or there is an excess of smoke. Instant nirvana.

My method admittedly didn't contain an arrowroot cookie, but it did have the virtue of being chocolate filled roasted stawberries. And you could eat the cookies on the side. For the record: roasted strawberries taste like wildstrawberry jam, freshly made. I strongly recommend it.

After our strawberry consumption, it was time to go home. The fire was still going strong, so we did what we always do when it comes to still going strong fires: picking up each piece of burning wood, we carried the fire to the river, and flung. I like the hiss that fire makes when it goes out, and there were sparks left on the parts of the river that were still ice. We left a scattering of coals as we tramped back up-hill. Let me tell you, what seems STEEP going down, is definitely GAH, I'M GLAD I HAVE HANDS SO THAT I DON'T FALL OFF going up. It was full-on dark by then, but weirdly bright enough to see; and though I almost lost my balance on the log over the water, I did make it without falling. I didn't even trip in the dark. Obviously I am acclimated to being FF's friend. It took a while, but I believe I have acquired the skills to make it through an FF experience without bleeding out. Thank God.

Now! If you have made it through this horrendously long blog-post, I feel I must reward (punish?) you with links to things that are awesome! Because I like to spread around the joy. Today I believe I shall make it a themed set of things that are awesome. And the theme? Anthropomorfic. By this I mean fiction that deals with anthropomorphized objects. (Get the pun? Anthropomorphic + Fiction = Anthropomorfic! ...god, I'm a geek.)

Anyways, anyways. If you are Queen of the Dumb Blog, then I have already exposed you to the tetris porn; however, porn does not have to be limited to just tetris! It can be houses, too! I guarantee that after you read these, you will not be able to a) play tetris in the same way ever again, and b) feel as if you aren't committing some perversely sexual act just by walking barefoot across your kitchen floor. To allay the suspicion that I only enjoy anthropomorfic that sexualizes inanimate objects, which would be admittedly WEIRD to the EXTREME, I include for your perusal the romantical tragedy or the tragical romance of the table and the table (warning: includes same table relationship), and, to lighten the mood, the love story of a pair of curtains, plus assorted objects including, but not limited to, surly bookcases. If, at the end of all this, you feel as if you could manage to make it through a horrifically good story that defies all classification, but suffice to say manages to be both metatextual and anthropomorfic (in that the story itself speaks), then I direct you to This Is The Title Of This Story, Which Is Also Found Several Times In The Story Itself.

And, if for whatever reason you were interested, the strawberry picture at the top of this post boasts as being the largest strawberry ever constructed at fifteen feet high and twelve feet across.

Now, I must be off. Frankenstein beckons. Well. Not literally. Because that would be just a little bit too anthropomorphic for me. I guess I do have some boundaries left, after all.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

In a bid to actually intellectually discuss something I'm intellectually interested in...

...I decided to launch into one of my favourite topics of all time! might not want to continue reading.

So I'm currently burning my brain trying to think of intelligent things to write about for various and sundry classes. I think I've gone beyond the state of caring, really; I'm so tired from school (not 'of', because I still like going to class and learning things, but it's the going and the learning that is exhausting me, and then it all goes to the 'ack' territory, I tell you, the many acks/man-yacks, indeed, and I have lost the ability to be coherent).

Anyways! If you've talked to me for any prolonged length of time, I've probably brought up Rilke; and specifically, Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, because I fell in love with him, and them, around three years ago. I like to have mad, torrid love affairs with poetry; read the same poems over and over until they become a part of the way I think, fit themselves into how I frame my words and perceptions. This happens a lot of the time culturally speaking, anyways; like, how in a specific situation such as when a speech is made, references are drawn from poetry and/or literature that add special significance to the words being spoken. Say, for example, Tennyson's Ulysses, which has many oft-quoted lines: "To follow knowledge like a sinking star,/ Beyond the utmost bound of human thought." and "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." And then you have your ubiquitous limericks and rhymes, like "There was a man from Nantucket...", which also become embedded in culture and a part of culture, identifying those who are educated both academically - as Ulysses tends to indicate - as well as socially - as knowledge of commonly known anonymous works such as limericks tends to indicate.

The personal literary preferences of individuals is what makes conversation about literature so compelling, largely because diversity of preference shows the vitality of the works being discussed. I may madly love a poet that others despise, and vice versa; so too with prose works. The only detrimental emotion toward literature, I feel, is apathy. If people simply don't care, then what's the point? Poetry and prose exist to provoke, after all, to communicate, to produce emotional reverberations. There wouldn't be a point to poems or novels if they didn't make others feel, no matter what that feeling is.

Where this gets problematized, however, is in the area of translation. If what the reader-audience has access to is a specific translation and not the source text, then the integrity of the translation becomes debatable. Jane Hirschfield's Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry has an essay concerning the problem of translation, where she goes into the trouble inherent within translation, and delineates each of her own personal steps while translating Japanese poetry in conjunction with a Japanese woman. In this essay, Hirschfield states that historically speaking, the word for translator has also meant traitor, as to translate poetry or prose out of the language they are originally articulated in is to degrade their meaning. Obviously translation must occur on multiple levels; cultural as well as literal; and nuances are missed, or deemed untranslatable, or unimportant in relation to other aspects of the text to be translated. In effect, the translation of any given text is truly only a partial translation; it is impossible to retain fully what is originally meant.

Of course the counter-argument is that what arises from the translation is a hybrid of meaning, bridging the gap between cultures; and so it cannot just be the original poet or author who is acknowledged, but his or her translator as well; and subsequent translations must be treated as separate, though related entities. If you go with this argument, you're sort of moving into Bhabha's Third Space, I suppose, as new meanings are generated through the meeting of originator and translator - what is articulated is not wholly of either culture, but carves out its own space of signification.

There are other arguments, however, that are equally valid. One is that translation should not occur at all, that each individual should learn the language he or she wishes to read and not depend upon another's interpretation of a given work. I tend to hold with this view a bit more than with the former, simply because it doesn't seem as lazy, and because I like to get closer to the source of the idea rather than a particular interpretation of that idea - though of course the hybridized nature of translation is highly interesting, and a field I'm interested in investigating. The argument that translation should not be made at all is strong within some areas of Post-Colonial theory and literature, as translation is seen as detrimental to native culture, not to mention the reinterpretation of texts is also another form of appropriation and exploitation.

Moving past these arguments, to the actual object of this post, I want to touch on Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus. All the lead up, and talk about translation, was mostly due to the fact that the Sonnets have been translated multiple times with a very definite chronology, as translators interact with the source text as well as with one another. This interaction is key - and it is fascinating, besides, seeing how each successive round of translation builds upon one another in varied ways, and how certain of the Sonnets remains largely the same despite the translator while others differ significantly to the point of being entirely different poems.

The Sonnets are in total fifty-two poems, with two cycles that in many respects mirror one another. Translating the Sonnets in their entirety is a large task, especially when taking into consideration that the translation must not occur only on an individual sonnet-to-sonnet basis, but also with respect to each sonnet comprising a piece of a larger poem - each sonnet being a stanza, if you will, or maybe even a line, of a larger poem. The translation I first read, done by Edward Snow, is the one I come back to most often - likely, because it was the first one I read, and not due to its own overt superiority over other translations (though my personal preferences do think it superior - with emphasis on personal). I believe the Snow translation is also one of the more current ones out there, which means that it fits within my own cultural context in terms of the language it uses, its syntax, being similar to what I normally use, and so I'm inherently more comfortable reading it.

The interaction between various translations is what fascinates me, not to mention the interaction between the original text and the translated text - looking at what has changed, and how, the way words and sentence structure morph across languages, and how this affects meaning - it's striking, how much of a difference each individual translation makes. What we get when we read a translated work isn't the work itself, but rather an interpretation of that work; and by positioning various interpretations alongside one another, a complex picture develops composed of various individual and interacting readings. The Sonnets, aside from being full of beautiful language, are well-suited for comparisons in their varied translations because of their structure of multiple smaller poems forming the over-arching narrative of the larger poem-cycle. This structure allows for both small and large comparisons in terms of individual sonnets as well as overall sonnet cycles.

I am, however, working on my German so that I can manage to make it through the original Sonnets unaided by translators/traitors; and I'd better stop typing now, or else I'll never really stop. This is what comes from being an English major. Pointlessly long blog-posts concerning topics no one actually cares about. Ah well. It's interesting to me, at any rate.

And just a heads-up: I'll probably go on pontificating about the Sonnets at a later date, because I really am weirdly in love with them. Like, to a horrific degree. It's kind of scary.