It’s been a funny week around here. Fortunately, because it’s only warmed up a little from our New Year’s Day low of -19°F. When you’re stuck inside because it’s freezing cold and windy out, you want something to lift your spirits and the long, dark nights are not helping with that.
I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix, primarily Jerry Seinfeld’s show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which is a lot of fun. Not always laugh-out-loud hilarious (though it often is), but it’s lighthearted and goofy, and because the episodes are short, you don’t get tired of a particular comedian/actor you might not like. Each episode has a run time of 15-20 minutes, so it’s easy to cue one or two up and let them run while you’re doing something not-fun, like dusting or sweeping up cat litter.
I’ve finally found a fiction podcast that I enjoy. I don’t know what it is about serial fiction podcasts, but while I can easily fall in love at first soundbite with nonfiction podcasts, it’s nearly impossible for me to find a fiction one that I like. Fortunately, a friend recommended Wolf 359 last weekend. It’s about the tiny crew of a space station orbiting the red dwarf star Wolf 359, far, far away from Earth. They’re meant to be listening for signs of life in deep space, but mostly succeed in driving each other nuts. It starts out as a comedy, but I’m only two episodes in and my friend told me it would slowly get more dramatic. I’m looking forward to it.
For each day in my bullet journal, I like to write down a quote that sums up the primary element of the day. Because we had a failed blizzard on Thursday, my quote was meant to be about snow. So I cruised through Goodreads’ quotes about snow and found this:
You can’t plan that.
I think I mentioned last week that I’ve been studying Dutch via the Duolingo app. So far my practice is going well. I’m picking up all sorts of words and while I’m not that great at pronunciations or actually forming anything more complex than ‘Ik heb een kat’, that’s okay. I’ve been at it for a whole two weeks. It’s an ongoing process.
In the meantime, Duolingo has been asking me to translate such gems as:
De eenden lezen een boek
(The ducks are reading a book)
De muis draagt een broek
(The mouse is wearing pants)
Haar olifant eet kaas en drinkt wijn
(Her elephant eats cheese and drinks wine)
and last, but not least:
Ja, de neushoorn is mijn huisdier.
(Yes, the rhinoceros is my pet)
My teacher friends tell me that these silly sentences are meant to be memorable, but I’m starting to wonder if the Dutch are living secret double lives that involve anthropomorphic animals who are cultured, literate, and have amazing fashion sense.
It’s been a productive week, bookwise. I finished Tahir Shah’s Travels with Myself, which provides an amazing overview of Morocco and several points of Islamic history, art, and culture, but can get a bit long-winded when it comes to home renovations in Casablanca, where Shah moved his family on a whim.
I also finished Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate as a Buddy Read with Danielle at Books, Vertigo & Tea. We both enjoyed Like Water for Chocolate, we definitely had some issues with the story, most of which stem from the fact that neither of us is a big fan of romance stories. Stay tuned for a more in-depth look later on!
Mahmuda Saydumarova has translated a small selection of short stories from her homeland of Uzbekistan in A Collection of Uzbek Short Stories. It is Saydumarova’s first attempt at a project of this kind, and I have to applaud her efforts. The flow of the text isn’t great; paragraphs end up being choppy, which detracts from the meaning of the story. But it’s not like English is a cooperative language, even for native speakers. Add to that the fact that translation is an art form unto itself, and one starts to realize that getting this slim volume of stories to print was an amazing accomplishment for Saydumarova. Because I am not familiar with Uzbekistan or its people, much of the meaning of these stories went right over my head. But there were things that stood out to me, such as the importance of women- grandmothers and mothers- as leaders in the family, and the necessity of each generation learning to let go of certain assumptions in order to achieve harmony in the household.
Current read number one is Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuściński, a travel memoir by a Polish journalist who grew up in Cold War era Poland and was sent by various Polish news agencies to cover events in India, China, and other parts of southeast Asia. I’m about 75 pages in, and so far it’s a mesmerizing story.
My other current read is Bringing up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman. And before you look at me like that, No, I do not have kids nor am I going to have kids. But I like memoirs about people who move to different parts of the world and have to adjust their views on life, and Bringing up Bébé is part memoir/part study into the contrasting parenting styles of France and the US. So far, it’s an eye-opening read and a mark against the helicopter-style over-parenting that too many American parents engage in. It helps that Druckerman is honest about her many foibles and missteps when dealing with the French.
And because I can’t help myself when it comes to pretty books, I ordered a copy of The Tales of Genji, illustrated by the brilliant Japanese illustrator Yoshitaka Amano. My bad luck with mail continues, though, as my precious package was shipped from Pittsburgh, PA on Tuesday and didn’t arrive in Des Moines, IA, until yesterday afternoon. When my packages are shipping from east of the Mississippi it seems like they take an extended tour of the area, whereas shipments from the West arrive in just a few days. Any thoughts on why that is?
Anyway. As soon as the book makes it out of Iowa and into my mailbox, I’ll take a bunch of pictures and share them with you all, because it is a gorgeous book and I can’t wait until it arrives!