Sunday, July 31, 2011

Word of the day: roger

The word of the day is roger:

coarse slang (chiefly Brit.).
 trans. Usually of a man: to have sexual intercourse with (a person, esp. a woman). Also intr. (OED)

"Over the years, the tabloids continued to give Bryant hell: 'VOTERS MUST GIVE CHRIS BRYANT A RHONDDA ROGERING,' read a typical headline in Murdoch’s Sun."

 - Lauren Collins, "Early birds", 25 July 2011 The New Yorker

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Word of the day: complected

The word of the day is complected:

apparently < complexion n. (complect-ion) + -ed suffix1.
U.S. dial. or colloq.
= complexioned adj. (OED)

"'I think David Cameron is in much bigger doo-doo than he's owning up to,' Chris Bryant, the strawberry-complected Labour M.P. for the district of Rhondda, was saying last week, as he sat on a bench under the soaring hammer-beam roof of Westminster Hall."

 - Lauren Collins, "Early birds", 25 July 2011 The New Yorker

Friday, July 29, 2011

Word of the day: sobriquet

The word of the day is sobriquet:

French, of uncertain origin.
An epithet, a nickname. (OED)

"You should know about Blinky Palermo.  By the time he died, suddenly, at the age of thirty-three, in 1977, the quicksilver German artist, who was born Peter Schwarze, brought up as Peter Heisterkamp, and took on a crook's sobriquet, had achieved a body of work furiously intelligent and beautiful."

 - Peter Schjeldahl, "The prodigy: Blinky Palermo at Bard and Dia", 11 & 18 July 2011 The New Yorker

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Word of the day: banns

The word of the day is banns:

The same word as ban n.1 ‘proclamation,’ in a specific use, in which it was from some cause regularly pronounced with long ā from 15th to 17th cents. The Prayer-book of 1549 has exceptionally bannes, that of 1552 bannes and banes, all edd. from 1559 to 1661 banes, from 1662 onward banns, after medieval Latin bannum, used, as well as French ban, in same sense. The singular occurs in 15th cent.; the plural only is found after.

Proclamation or public notice given in church of an intended marriage, in order that those who know of any impediment thereto may have opportunity of lodging objections. (OED)

"The Duke (Lorenzo Pisoni), disguised as a friar, goes underground to observe his community; in his absence, his austere deputy, Angelo (Michael Hayden), rules that fornication is punishable by death.  To set an example, he orders the execution of a young nobleman, Claudio (Andre Holland), who has failed to post his marriage banns but whose partner is with child.  The Draconian judgment sets in motion a battle between liberty and authority, immorality and mercy, through which the boisterous, soiled Elizabethan world is laid bare."

 - John Lahr, "Down and dirty: Shakespeare's dark larks", 11 & 18 July 2011 The New Yorker

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Word of the day: cardsharp

The word of the day is cardsharp:

card-sharp n. (orig. U.S.) a card-sharper.  
card-sharper n. one who makes a trade of cheating at cards. (OED)

"In previous books, the author—a poet with the mind of a cardsharp—has seemed giddy with his powers of invention, as his heroes (a mnemonist, a pamphleteer) scramble through labyrinths (a sanitarium for chronic liars, an inverted skyscraper plunging hundreds of feet underground)."

 - "Books Briefly Noted", of Jesse Ball's The Curfew, 11 & 18 July 2011 The New Yorker

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Word of the day: flâneur

The word of the day is flâneur:

< French flâneur, < flâner: see flânerie n.

A lounger or saunterer, an idle ‘man about town’. Also transf.  (OED)

"Banville's exploratory monologues owe much to the modernist idea of the disaffiliated flâneur, Poe's 'man of the crowd,' who creeps through the teeming city, or through the dreamscapes of his own mind, trying to 'understand and appreciate everything that happens,' as Baudelaire puts it.  The 'mainspring of his genius is his curiosity,' Baudelaire added, and this description could equally describe the average noir detective.  Indeed, the meandering flâneur and the solitary noir detective have so much in common that they could even be dark brothers.  Joyce's Leopold Bloom, Chandler's Philip Marlowe, Borges's detective Lönnrot, Black's Quirke, and Banville's various narrators all creep through their own lives, and the lives of other people, amassing fragments, shards of experience, trying to understand something—anything—of death, of disappearance, the past, or why we live and perish, or the bizarreness of what we call ordinary life.  They share a refusal of the world of 'other people', a sense that exclusion is the only option.  To be an insider—for flâneurs and detectives, for Banville and for Black—is to be an enemy or a fool."

 - Joanna Kavenna, "Pseudonymously Yours: The strange case of Benjamin Black", 11 & 18 July 2011 The New Yorker

Monday, July 25, 2011

Word of the day: truckle

The word of the day is truckle:

Anglo-Norman trocle, trokle, < Latin trochlea = Greek τροχιλία, τροχιλέα, etc., sheaf of a pulley

 A low bed running on truckles or castors, usually pushed beneath a high or ‘standing’ bed when not in use; a trundle-bed. (OED)

"The difference is in emphasis, but these are often sleight-of-hand gestures, magician's tricks, making us think that things are substantially different when really they are almost the same.  Here is Banville on the shifting self: 'Is the oldster in his dotage the same that he was when he was an infant swaddled in his truckle bed?'  Here is Black: 'Isn't it strange to think... that people who are old now were young once, like us?  I meet an old woman in the street and tell myself that seventy years ago she was a baby in her mother's arms.  How can they be the same person, her as she is now and the baby as it was then?'"

 - Joanna Kavenna, "Pseudonymously Yours: The strange case of Benjamin Black", 11 & 18 July 2011 The New Yorker

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Word of the day: swot

The word of the day is swot:

According to a contributor to N. & Q. 1st Ser. I. 369/2, the term originated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in the use on one occasion of the expression ‘It mades one swot’ (= sweat) by the Scottish professor of mathematics, William Wallace.
1. Work or study at school or college; in early use spec. mathematics. Hence gen. labour, toil. 
2. One who studies hard. (OED)

"Argeiphantes does not feature much in the works of Benjamin Black, and you can imagine Black knocking back his fourth whiskey of the day, having already churned out a couple of thousand words, leaning back in his chair and saying, 'Banville, you swot.'  Quirke does have a plaster bust of Socrates in his flat, but it was given to him as a joke."

 - Joanna Kavenna, "Pseudonymously Yours: The strange case of Benjamin Black", 11 & 18 July 2011 The New Yorker

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Word of the day: roué

The word of the day is roué:

French roué (first half of the 18th cent. with reference to the companions of Philippe II, Duke of Orleans (Regent of France 1715–23), who were said to deserve this punishment; 1780 in more general use; earlier in sense ‘person who has been broken on the wheel’ (1648)), use as noun of past participle of rouer to break on the wheel (early 14th cent. in Middle French) < roue wheel (see row n.3).

A debauched or dissolute man, typically one who is wealthy or aristocratic, and (now) esp. an elderly one; a rake, a libertine, a playboy. (OED)

"He wanders the corridors of a vast sterile mansion or two, feeling 'like a stonyhearted old roué embarrassingly shackled to a lovesick youth,' and signals to successive barmen 'to bring the same again.'"

 - Joanna Kavenna, "Pseudonymously Yours: The strange case of Benjamin Black", 11 & 18 July 2011 The New Yorker, quoting Benjamin Black, A Death in Summer

Friday, July 22, 2011

Word of the day: parp

The word of the day is parp:

Imitative. Compare slightly earlier parp v.
Representing a honking sound, esp. that of a horn. (OED)

"Where Banville writes, 'The café.  In the café.  In the café we,' or 'Oh, agog, agog!,' Black writes, 'He crossed the street, dodging a green double-decker bus that parped its horn at him.'"

 - Joanna Kavenna, "Pseudonymously Yours: The strange case of Benjamin Black", 11 & 18 July 2011 The New Yorker

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Word of the day: matutinal

The word of the day is matutinal:

Middle French, French matutinal (c1190 in Old French) and its etymon post-classical Latin matutinalis of the morning (5th cent. or earlier), of or relating to matins (c730 in a British source), (as noun) morning psalm or hymn (a543), book of lauds (mid 11th cent.), < classical Latin mātūtīnusmatutine adj. + -ālis-al suffix1. In sense 2 perhaps after French matinal matinal adj.
Now chiefly literary.
1. Of or relating to the morning, esp. the period just after waking; occurring or performed early or in the morning.
2. Rising early; active or alert in the morning. (OED)

"Many of them sleep on, of course, careless of our cousin Aurora's charming matutinal trick, but there are always the insomniacs, the restless ill, the lovelorn tossing on their solitary beds, or just the early risers, the busy ones, with their knee-bends and their cold showers and their fussy little cups of black ambrosia."

 - John Banville, The Infinities, as quoted by Joanna Kavenna, "Pseudonymously Yours: The strange case of Benjamin Black", 11 & 18 July 2011 The New Yorker

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Atlas Shrugged vs. Rent (with an appearance by The Feminine Mystique)

By sheer attrition, Atlas Shrugged is finally percolating in.

It was while we were watching Rent (the 2005 film based on the musical: you may have blinked and missed it) from Netflix that Mark and Roger struck me as being exactly like the villains from Atlas Shrugged: they feel that because their friend Benny has a job and they don't, he should pay their rent for them, and if he doesn't, he must be greedy, selfish, and mean.  When he does offer to pay their rent for them, instead of saying, "Hey, thanks, Benny!", they resentfully accuse him of doing it only for the ulterior motive of feeling magnanimous.

Now, I recognize that this is a gross oversimplification, but that's how it felt at the time.  I thought that Benny should just cut loose his mooching friends (especially if they're just going to be unpleasant to him), just as Dagny Taggart should cut loose her brother Jim, and Hank Rearden should cut loose his brother Philip.

[The complicating factor is that, from the dialogue, it seems that Benny told them in the past that he had waived their rent, in which case is indeed to jerky to then demand that they pay the previously waived rent: gifts are not to be taken back.  But this interpretation is by no means clear, since the opening song is very much about their concern about how they're going to be able to pay their rent (which is not consistent with Benny having told them that they were "golden", as they later claim in the dialogue).  (Now, perhaps Benny never did tell Mark and Roger that they were "golden", and Mark and Roger are just trying to trick Benny into thinking he did, which would reconcile the song and the dialogue, but would make Mark and Roger to be even less sympathetic characters, so I'm not sure that's right, either.)]

The last time I had seen Rent was live, on stage, in Milwaukee, with my dear friends Ellen and Laura, some time ago (I was perhaps fourteen or fifteen at the time? help me out here).  I hadn't prepared for it by listening to the music or any other sort of basic research (although I had seen a film of La Bohème, which only made the ending even more confusing), so spent most of the show trying to follow the plot, and being awed by my first exposure to the concept of a transvestite (which, just to show how much time has passed since then, is a word I have not heard in a long time: today we would say Angel is transgender (considering which, I was a bit surprised by the decision in the film to have Angel sing tenor, when I distinctly remember from the musical that she sang alto: but maybe that's just a memory I've manufactured?)).

This time around, race struck me as far more of an issue.  (The first time I saw it, I just thought, "oh, look, a diverse cast".)  The two most bourgeois characters (i.e., the only characters who have white collar jobs) are Benny and Joanne, who are both black.  

I'm not entirely sure why Joanne is singing about la vie bohème, since she's a lawyer.  (Unless she's bohemian simply because she's gay, which may have made more sense in 1989 (a lifestyle choice?) than it does today: today, I don't really one's sexual orientation as being any impediment to being a yuppie.)

But the fact that Benny is black is what struck me the most.  Benny probably had to work very hard to get his white collar job, and his parents probably worked even harder to send him to college so that he could get that job.  But instead of celebrating his success, his white friends resent him for it and view it as the result of bad decisions.  They have the luxury of choosing to be poor, which they consider to be a virtue, precisely because their ancestors were able to amass enough wealth to send them to college, and they always have the option of picking up the phone any time their loving parents call, and asking to be bailed out.  So what's so bad about Benny wanting to build enough wealth to give his own children that luxury?

In a similar vein, after having read The Feminine Mystique, I have even less sympathy for Mark's opinion that writing TV episodes is "selling out".  Shouldn't he be glad to have the opportunity to share his art with an audience?  The fact that they're willing to pay for it means that they find it valuable, which is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

zucchini carbonara

Last night I made zucchini carbonara for dinner, based on this recipe (from the erstwhile Bitten), but using the last of my leftover tarragon instead of mint and mezze penne instead of spaghetti.

Zucchini Carbonara
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 or 4 small zucchini, about a pound, washed, trimmed and cut into slices 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 pound spaghetti, linguine or other long pasta [or any other pasta]
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped mint, parsley or basil [tarragon in this case]
  • 1. Salt a large pot of water, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Put the olive oil into a 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. A minute later, add the zucchini, and cook, stirring only occasionally, until very tender and lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with a little salt and a lot of pepper.
  • 2. Beat the eggs and 1/2 cup of the cheese together. Add the pasta to the boiling water, and cook until it is tender but firm. When it is done, drain it, and combine it immediately with the egg-and-cheese mixture, tossing until the egg is cooked. Add the zucchini, and toss again. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
  • 3. Toss in the herb, and serve immediately, passing the remaining cheese at the table.

Monday, July 18, 2011

weekend update

Friday evening I went to the BSO to redeem my ticket vouchers (a thank-you gift for attending the Forte reception after attending "Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush", we think (which in itself is quite interesting, because anyone under forty would have been born no earlier than 1971, and therefore would not remember the Beatles at all (but maybe that's not necessary, since we don't remember Beethoven or Charlie Chaplin either, but can still appreciate them))), and, in the time between then and the concert, wandered around Artscape for a little bit. 

Across the street from the BSO was a sculpture garden called "Rabbit Hole", which featured a sculpture garden which was only partially Alice-in-Wonderland themed, but did include a mad tea party

An inverted top hat (such as what the Mad Hatter might wear), with teacups and goldfish.
and a solar-powered music installation.

Greener art.
I saw an Art Car happening

Art happening.

and got a cheddar and mac n cheese sandwich from Grr Che.

I met up with Morgan, and we went to the "Classical Mystery Tour - A Tribute to the Beatles", a concert for which I clearly did not study enough.  Maybe I was just tired, but it seemed to me that one string bass was way too close to its microphone, and that the Paul McCartney impersonator should have stepped aside for an understudy if he had lost his voice.  This was one of those rare cases where the other (almost entirely older) BSO patrons seemed to appreciate the concert more than I did.

Saturday I went to lab, after which we went to Samos for lupper.  We went to Ikea in White Marsh and picked more laundry bins, a new pillow, some hangers, and a new welcome mat, and then saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.  *SPOILER ALERT* I was a little surprised that they changed the most cinematic moment of the book: I guess they wanted the audience to think *gasp* if they changed that part, what else have they changed?!?!?!.

Sunday went to lab, and Morgan continued to provide positive reinforcement by taking me to Sticky Rice for dinner.