end of an era (or not)

All over the internet, you can read posts about how the final Harry Potter movie spells the end of one generation’s childhood. My generation, I guess. But I don’t feel the same way, not by far. Sure, I grew up with Harry Potter, and I devoured the books. But then, I grew up with a lot of books, and although I’ve read the Harry Potter series multiple times, I never dressed up in a cape to go to the midnight screening of the newest movie. I didn’t even bother to see any Harry Potter movies until last year. And perhaps that is where the difference lies.

Last year, when the first part of the final movie came out, I did a movie marathon weekend with friends, watching them all before going to the theater. (We’re doing the same next week to usher in the final movie.) That was awesome, but I don’t mind not having watched them earlier. Books is where it’s at for me, I guess is my point.

I do, however, have very fond memories of reading the final installment. I was away at college by then, living in a dorm-type apartment complex, and me and my peers were internet-savvy enough to have pre-ordered our books weeks or months before. So the mail man came by with a great big stack of books, obviously wondering why  he was having to deliver so many identical packages to one apartment building. (For the record, when I gleefully exclaimed, “It’s the final Harry Potter!” he still looked confused. Obviously not of my generation.) I finished the book in a single afternoon, racing through the pages to get to the end. And then, the next morning, I walked to the grocery store, bought some cherries, and sat in the park rereading the book, now savoring every word, and eating my cherries, totally happy. It was one of the best days I had that summer and I remember it every time I open the book.

Of course, that could also have had something to do with the cherry stains now eternally embedded in my book..


costumes and candy

It’s Halloween again. I loved Halloween as a kid. One year, I dressed up as a book. Matilda, to be exact. No, not the character, the book itself. I still have that particular costume, even. My mom let me bring in to the Netherlands with us when we moved, and she’s now storing it for me. (I think that’s all the proof you need that a) my mom loves me, and b) I lived in my own little world as a kid, a world that didn’t have to make sense to anyone else.)

My sisters and I never really went in for regular costumes. Sure, one year I was some kind of fairy princess, and I was also Molly one year. (I had Molly, my sisters had Kirsten and Samantha. I think we all dressed up as our dolls one year.) But I also remember my little sister being a fly, and my big sister being a tree one year. (A tree in autumn, specifically.) My mom was always crazy enough to make us awesome costumes and we had a lot of fun trick-or-treating each year.

And then we moved to Europe, where they don’t do Halloween. Some parts of the Netherlands have this tradition called St. Maarten (in honor of St Martin of Tours), in which kids go door-to-door carrying paper lanterns and collect candy, but you don’t dress up, so it’s a little different and not nearly as involved.

a scene from Hanna’s parents’ party

I spent the fall semester at Berkeley. Which meant I also celebrated Halloween there. And I got caught up in the dilemma every college kid then faces: what to wear? I wasn’t about to give up my feminist principles and dress up as a sexy Indian princess or sexy nurse or sexy anything, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. I don’t even really remember what I went as, but I do remember spending the evening at my roommate’s parents’ Halloween party. It was filled with all kinds of artsy people and there were a lot of awesome costumes (it was right before the 2008 elections, so her mom went as Barack Obama, and her dad went as Sarah Palin. My roommate went as a pregnant Bristol Palin. It sounds weird but it was awesome). It was low-key and perfect. And then we drove back to Berkeley to go to the various co-op parties, and I remember slipping out fairly soon. Loud, crowded parties are just not for me..but still, it was fun to see what Halloween looks like for grown-ups.

If I have kids some day, I’m going to have to make sure they’re in the States for a couple of Halloweens, so they can experience the fun of dressing up and going trick-or-treating with their friends. And eating themselves sick afterward. It’s all part of the deal, and I have many fond memories of doing exactly that.


vox, vox, vox toch

Als je iets heel ergs wilt zien, moet je hierheen gaan. Dan doorbladeren tot bladzijde 19,  als hij daar niet laadt. Onderaan het artikel in de universiteitsblad Vox zie je de titel van een proefschrift:

judging a book by it’s cover

jongens en meisjes, ik hoop dat jullie allemaal zien wat hier mis is. Als je dat niet ziet (en je hoeft je daar niet voor te schamen, het is een veel voorkomend fout): er had moeten staan

judging a book by its cover

(“its” en “it’s” zijn dus niet hetzelfde.) Nou hoop ik dat de aanstaande promovendus het zelf goed heeft gebruikt, en Vox het gewoon verkeerd heeft overgetikt. Anders heb je een goed voorbeeld waarom iemand die niet in zijn moedertaal schrijft het altijd door een native speaker moet laten controleren. Tenminste, als hij serieus genomen wil worden. Ik doe het zelf ook – alles wat van belang is: papers, sollicitatiebrieven, columns..niets is zo onprofessioneel als een taalfout. En dat is waarom ik deze blog altijd onprofessioneel zal houden: zodat ik mijn hersenspinselen met jullie kan delen, fouten en al.

You’re welcome.

on semicolons and the worth of education

The rules of punctuation according to Kurt Vonnegut:

Don’t use semicolons. They stand for absolutely nothing. They are transvestite hermaphrodites. They are just a way of showing off. To show that you have been to college.

I love semicolons. I use them every chance I get. So it’s a good thing I’ve never actually read any of Kurt Vonnegut’s work, or I’d have to rethink my allegiance to this particular piece of punctuation.

Although I should probably be embarrassed that I don’t know his work, as Wikipedia has him as one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century. Which tells you that even after a masters in American Studies, there’s still something left to learn!

(via kottke.org)

this is how I roll

You’ve heard of Your Brain on Drugs? Well, this is My Brain on a Deadline.

I haven't moved from that pillow for two days now.

except to add more paper to the mess. I mean organized chaos.

Don’t worry, there’s order in the chaos, here. (Do you doubt me? If you came by, you would see painstaking color-coordination and neat handwriting and other signs of a need for outward structure. Some people are surprised I don’t take notes on a computer: well, who needs a computer to be organized when you’ve got a personality as neurotic as mine?)

and no, I wasn’t a conscious recipient of the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” message (the first PSA came out the year I was born). And although I know of Mrs. Reagan’s “Just Say No!” program in the 1980s and 1990s, I got my anti-drug training from D.A.R.E.

To this day, I can remember the role-playing and poster-making and earnest talks from police officers that the program constituted of. But I’m sure those tax dollars were spent wisely, as I haven’t succumbed to a substance-abuse problem yet.

i’ve been analyzing culture for too long

Just now, Comedy Central was showing Driving Miss Daisy (from 1989). It’s a lovely movie in its own way, even to modern standards, but I couldn’t lose myself in it. Not because the acting was bad, or the plot was superficial, or the dialogue sounded scripted. But because I couldn’t get my brain to stop focusing on all kinds of themes and motifs central to the film, the most important one being the reason why it focused on the relationship between a Jewish lady and her black driver (I can offer you several reasons at first glance, the most obvious one being that Jews and blacks are both known for their outsider position in American society). I found myself reaching for an imaginary pad of paper and a pen every three minutes to jot down notes on all the symbols and otherwise significant events I could see on the screen, as if I was going to write a paper on it any day now. (As a side note, it’s too bad I’m not. This would make a wonderful counterpart to a paper I once wrote on black-Jewish relations in The Human Stain by Philip Roth for my Jewish-American Fiction class. And yes, I can remember most of the topics I wrote papers on. I’m sorry. I just really liked doing them all.)

I guess this proves I really earned my MA degree. And I wonder what I’m going to do now that I can’t channel my creative energy into academic papers. Probably make all of you sit through my every thought on American culture..

because here at EAT.SLEEP.READ.LOVE., we aim to please.

(ourselves, if no one else.)

introducing a new poem of the month

Replica by Marvin Bell

The fake Parthenon in Nashville, Stonehenge reduced by a quarter
near Maryhill on the Columbia, the little Statue of Liberty
taken from the lawn of the high school and not recovered
for months,
Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers in the tile maker’s shape of a ship
to sail home in, the house in the shape of a ship near Milwaukee
where once before the river below rose up to swallow the bank,
World’s Fairs where one can enter the cell of a human body
or see Paris, London, Marrakech and the Taj Mahal in
one afternoon,
the headache that may be sinus or bad eyes or allergy or a tumor,
the bruise that was blue now yellow the effect of labor or abuse,
the cataclysmic event in a personal life not totally forgotten,
the memory of doing well that turned to unexpressed anger
just because love was everywhere preventing helpless mistakes—
achievement and perfection for the first time considered in error,
the end of life being life itself, life itself ignorance,
we never tire of making the world smaller, looking in doll houses,
and a mailman who has picked up every bright piece of glass and tile
in forty years of rounds retired to build a house of glass and tile
which is his life, no kick coming, while in a suburb of Chicago
a leaning tower of Pisa drawn to scale signals a shopping plaza
where goods come in from around the world, for the people who
live there.
And Vico says gods and goddesses are the self writ large—
selves to make earthquakes, tornadoes, eclipses, selves to lift the sun—
and Vico says all things having been named for the namers, us,
we give a chair arms, legs, a seat and a back, a cup has its lip
and a bottle its neck, and ever after rivers flow from their headwaters
and a well-oiled engine purrs at the center of good feeling.
So take your misery down a notch in aches and pains and
little diseases,
in years of photo albums, in journals of dreams interrupted
by mornings,
in furniture you built yourself, in copies and imitations,
in scale-model wars and families and the age of fancy automobiles.
And when once in your life you make the big trip to the original,
chances are you’ll mainly see your own face in the glass that protects
everything of which there’s one only in the form of its only maker.

Marvin Bell, “Replica” from Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000.

As an aside, this poem holds faint echoes of hyperreality to me, especially the first half. I played around with both Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco’s ideas of hyperreality for a paper once. It was the most academic fun I’d had in a while, and was certainly much more fun than the essay I’m supposed to be writing right now!