Thursday, February 03, 2005

Museum fantasy, P&P: the obsession grows, Spanish with Mr. D., History videos, passages from Murakami and Helprin

My favorite fantasy used to be that I would secretly live in a museum. It would have to be a big museum, like the Met or the Louvre, and I would hide in a bathroom stall while they locked up and then I could just roam around, sleeping at the foot of a big, eerie, darkly lit Rousseau:



Sleeping by "The Sleeping Gypsy," a bit of a gypsy myself. And in this fantasy, the whole place would--implausibly--smell like paints and paper, and I'd make money for food by selling my own paintings on the sidewalk outside the museum in the daytime. I was so taken with this fantasy that I wrote a story about it, in sixth grade I believe; I remember vaguely that it had a man who smelled like lemons who came from a town in Africa where a rare variety of iris grew. He stowed away on a boat for America, and he befriended the museum girl... It was four years ago; I can't remember any details. I'll see if I can dig it up.

Anyway, I thought of that because of the book I'm reading, Kafka on the Shore. Kafka Tamura dreams that "On my fifteenth birthday I'll run away from home, journey to a far-off town, and live in a corner of a small library." Small library, big museum--it's the same fantasy.

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Today in English class we watched part of the A&E production of Pride & Prejudice--the Colin Firth production. All the girls in my class are so taken with it that--even though most of us have already seen it, like it's a rite of passage or something--my teacher is going to play it one day after school, maybe tomorrow. We're all going to hang out for six hours, drink tea and eat cookies and swoon over the British accents. It should be excellent... Ha, I just realized that I've reached the epitome of geekiness, staying after school for more P&P.

At one point during class I was telling a story, and I began, "Well, my mom used to be an English teacher, right out of college, and she was one of those people who was obsessed with Brit Lit and with Jane Austen..." My teacher interrupted with a dry, "Ah, now that doesn't sound like anyone we know around here!" I sort of disregarded her and started to go on, but I realized that everyone in my class was looking at me and chuckling. Oh, she was referring to me! I gave a week "Ha ha, very funny," and finished up my story, blushing furiously.

I realized, though, that it's true. I liked P&P even better this time than the first, and I'm becoming inordinately obsessed. I was talking to Monica and Rumya and we decided that all we wanted to do was read more Austen. We decided to go on a Jane Austen binge (screw the Celestial Syllabus!--sorry, just kidding, I promise I'm working on The Tempest right now!) by reading them all at once, and we'll get together a group of people and talk about them, and drink English Breakfast tea. It's a ridiculous and fantastic plan.

(We should all place bets seeing for how many consecutive posts I continue to discuss P&P or Jane Austen even though I'm done with the book now.)

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Three revelations that came to me while I was half-paying-attention in Spanish class today:

1. The word "butaca" sounds like the name of an ancient African warrior. I can just imagine some 7-foot savage (that wasn't meant to be racist, stop being so sensitive!) yelling "I am Butaca-aah-aah!" while decked out in full war paint. But the best part would be that his name would mean "upholstered armchair."

2. Whenever Mr. D. (my Spanish teacher, obviously) asks someone a question and the person says, "Hold on," he grabs the back of the nearest chair. Ha. Mr. D. also told us a story that went something like this: "[In Spanish] The other day I was walking up the stairs and I hurt my back. [In English] No more figure skating."

3. There is no way English has as many different tenses as Spanish does. As of last year, we knew 16 grammatically distinguishable tenses (you can imagine what that final was like!), and Mr. D. just introduced a new one today. Subjunctive imperfect?!--what does that even mean?

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In History we watched two videos. The first was contrasting FDR and Hitler, and to demonstrate how drastically different the two were, the video would cut swiftly from footage of one to footage of the other. For instance:

Hitler (creepy minor-chord music in the background): You = Germany!!
FDR (with cheerful folky music): I used to be a Boy Scout.
Hitler: Germany = You!!
FDR: The NRA is a lot like the Boy Scouts.
Hitler: Blood and marrow and flesh of Deutschland! Heil!
FDR: I need to lose some weight! Look at my goofy Indian headdress!

The other video was a Charlie Chaplin comedy about Hitler, and it was actually quite hilarious. There was this one part where Hitler was yelling for a long time really angrily and then this gentle female voice came on to provide the English translation, and she said, "I hope to bring peace through all of Europe." It reminded me of that part in Lost in Translation when the translator will say one sentence after the director's been talking for five minutes and Bill Murray's like, "Are you sure that's all he said?" Heh.

Matt and I agreed that, among other atrocities, Hilter ruined both the mini-mustache and the first name Adolph for all of history. A crying shame.

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I'm going to leave you with two quotes. From Murakami's Kafka on the Shore:

"The term 'spirit projection' sprang to mind...Japanese folk tales are full of this sort of thing, where the soul temporarily leaves the body and goes off a great distance to take care of some vital task and then returns to reunite with the body."

And one that I just dug up from an old notebook because I was wondering today what I believe in. This is the passage--the sentence--that has stayed with me more than anything else, in any book I've ever read. More than Milton, more than Shakespeare, more than any poetry. It's an oft-repeated line in Mark Helprin's incredible A Winter's Tale:

"For what can be imagined more beautiful than the sight of a perfectly just city rejoicing in justice alone."

Whenever I revisit that thought, over the years, I realize more and more how perfectly it embodies all my philosophies, my beliefs, in a way that I can't explain. Just think about it.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now THAT is a syllabus I will sign on to! Except that I've already read the complete works of our dearest Miss Austen... But I could do it again! Count me in!

- Avital

4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting to get your first hand comments on how Germany is described and presented to American students, thanks for that.

Have you seen "The Royal Tenenbaums" ? Reading your post triggered an awful heavy dejé vue of that movie. Weird :)

--j;

6:59 PM  
Blogger T.C. said...

Oh my, are you German? I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I think I ought to point out that first of all, I was just joking around and wildly exaggerating things, and second, seeing the way Hitler is presented is quite different from seeing the way Germany is presented. That's not the same at all. Anyway, I'm sorry if I caused offense.

--T.C.

10:37 PM  
Blogger T.C. said...

Oh and yes, I have seen The Royal Tenenbaums. Though it IS weird that my blog post should be reminiscent of it. Thanks?

And Avital, absolutely jump on the bandwagon if you want to!

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're not offensive, don't worry.
Just wanted to point out that it seems that WWII is presented in a different way in the US than it is over here, well, no surprise I guess.
(and it is interesting for me to learn about these differences btw)

Just to give you an idea: for me, WWII was not just a few months or weeks in school, we had that topic for the whole two last years of high school.

Anyways, don't worry about being offensive. It is your blog after all and I totally enjoy reading it :)

--j;

2:18 PM  

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