Monday, October 23, 2006

Halfway there...

I have been a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers least 1988, those being the earliest Topps cards I have. [well, at least the ones I got myself at the time. Yes, I still have a bunch of football cards. They're in a box in the closet somewhere.]

There was some long story here, involving years of fandom when they were terrible through to dressing up and going nuts when they won a Super Bowl, but I just saw the highlights of their 62-yard game-winning field goal, and there's not much else I can say.

I almost stopped picking them for the first time ever in my father's football pool last week, but thought better of it. Halfway back to .500, boys!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Initial squu-

I was reading through The Dain Curse on a car trip this weekend, and was struck by an unorthodox spelling Dashiell Hammett employs.

"My pants stuck disagreeably to my chilly legs. Water squunched in my torn shoes." (p.220 of "The Complete Five Novels," ch. 13 of the Curse)

I was immediately reminded of a line from the end of Thurber's The 13 Clocks, an all time favorite. "Hark stepped on something that squutched beneath his foot and flobbed against the wall." (p. 124)

Hitherto that word had stuck out and bothered me, occurring as it does on the last page, but as Thurber uses a lot of nonce words (flobbed, for instance, among many other joys) I had thought nothing more of it.

Now we've got ourselves a phenomenon. Upon doing a little research, I find "sqush" and "squush" to be variant forms of "squish" in my big Random House dictionary, and google gives a decent lot of results for "squunched." But this is something I had previously thought only a Thurber thing.

I can idly come up with a few attempts at explanation. Perhaps it's an attempt to render a lack of lip-rounding. I can get the same pronunciation of initial squu- in the second syllable of "sesquipedalian," indicating it may be an attempt to contrast the close-central-unrounded from the mid [i.e., the standard schwa]. Either that, or it's an attempt to avoid the orthographic assumptions of rounding that a double-O would imply .

It could also be a simple case of wanting to put a u after the obligatory qu- cluster. Or a simple visual expedient for dealing with onomatopoeia. How much "-quu-" do we get to deal with in English, after all? Is "squished," "squushed," and "squooshed" a minimal triplet for people?

As for the Hammett, I'm happy I kept Dain last. It wasn't bad, but I can see where he considered it his worst. I'm now re-re-reading Red Harvest for extra fun before I have to return the omnibus to the library. Then I may re-read my copy of The Glass Key.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sarcophageal Synchronicity

I've talked about it before, but the Elmwood cemetery, halfway between my house and downtown, is in terrible shape. The city replaced the chain-link fence I used to run my hand along as a child during a gentrification project a few years ago, but from the first row things are going awry. Sinkholes, fallen stones, illegibility, weeds, odd lumps in the's bizarre. Well, not really; it's an old cemetery, I suppose, and there've been maybe a dozen people interred there in the last fifty years. It's been niggling at me for most of my life in a very low-key way.

So I walk around there today on my walk from downtown, and decide to go back home and get my camera to come back and take a few pictures, wondering if there are such things as a cemetery manifest and if anyone else cares about this. Is reconstruction even possible? I see two women walking around with a binder, and it turns out less than twenty-four hours ago a story was printed about these two women and their decision to, well, clean up the cemetery.

I introduced myself and we chatted for a while about the sorry state of the cemetery, the city's $300,000 fence, and how the city doesn't want anyone to see the list of occupancy, as it were, because the paper is too fragile. So next spring and summer I may be trying to assist in the restoration of the Elmwood cemetery.

I'm glad it was a nice day.

Obsessive statistics

About 57,500 words transcribed in twenty days (21 calendar days). The short story collections "Death of a Guinea Pig" and "My Black-Haired Brothers" are 'complete,--or at least v.2.0 of each is, those being the first typed drafts.

There's a lot of work ahead, but there always is. I'm going to take a bike ride, enjoy a sunny fall day, eat an apple and walk around downtown for a while to unwind. It is my day off, after all.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Covered in Bees

So I was on my way into work today after noshing my way through our annual Harvest festival (insert gratuitous amounts cider, cheese, bread, &c.) and some guy I didn't recongize asked me three things.

1) If I had gone to Brown.

2) If I worked there.

3) Would I mind terribly much watching his bees?

This was an unexpected series of questions, except for the second, but it transpired he had seen me (and perhaps even engaged me in conversation about) the Brown intramural shirt I sometimes wear while I was working before, and was one of our honey vendors, displaying a hive. He had to go get his car while I watched thousands of bees behind glass three feet from my face, and the occasional outsider bees drawn to the sweet sweet scent pheromones within, or something.

He eventually returned to decamp with his bees, and in an interestingly heartfelt manner, gave me a copy of The New Starting Right With Bees, whose first chapter discusses how to capture a swarm of bees that wanders into one's vicinity. And I had thought it was ants or wasps.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

251 Club!

So I missed the October 1 member meeting of the 251 Club due to using all my vacation/sick time for the latter, much to my great dismay. As with gardening and New Year's resolutions, though, there's always next year. Well, today Nörm and I made up for road trips missed with quite the epic number today.

A nice little nine-hour jaunt. Plainfield, Marshfield, Lyndon, Wheelock, Stannard. And those are just the towns I did new things in. Used bookstores, scenic walks, new restaurants, odd marble stones at the side of the road...Ate well, traveled well, the leaves are nice too. And I got six or seven new books, including some Dashiell Hammett.

New photos up too.

No Čapek today, unless I get inspired before bed. Too many new books make that unlikely.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Educated Caterpillar

Ha! I'm going to become a butterfly? Old wives' tales, sir. Mere fantasies. Bedtime stories for children. It has been scientifically determined that there are only viscera in us caterpillars, and no wings. No colorful wings. One dies and that's that.

-Čapek, Fables II

I forgot I'd outstripped anything I had planned to put up, and I'm running out the door, but a promise is a promise.

Up to 39,000 words since noon two Tuesdays ago. I'll hit 40,000 in a two-week span.

A Mouthful of Burnt Foot

It may seem an odd thing to say, but the Čapek's been nothing but a sideshow for the last two weeks, a public display of the process I've been battling with on much greater terms elsewhere. I'd finished translating two collections of Fuks short stories between November and May, but had only made fiftul inroads into transcribing them. In the last two weeks (well, it's two weeks tomorrow at noon), as a convalescing project, I started transcribing. I've typed a little over 37,000 words since then, and probably have about half that to go. This is the largest typing project I've had in over a year, since I was transcribing Burner of Corpses, the novella I'm done [a third draft of].

The translation strategy I've cobbled together over the last two years involves a handwritten first draft that, while not hard-core literal, is strikingly literalistic in its sentence structure and word choice. Transcribing is essentially creating a second draft in which I give myself leeway to edit syntax and lexicon, before I print and start in on a hard copy with whatever friends I can round up to help.

I love my first drafts, since they're carefully dated, and, in some cases, the place I was working (a house I sat in April, the library, coffeeshops, my bedroom) is noted as well--making them little diaries of sorts. They're funny to go through. In some cases I've overwritten old stuff, I write on the dividing pages, my hadwriting shrinks as I try to fit collections into one book, writing on the back cover... The mistakes are fun too--sometimes I skip lines, or combine lines, or just plain write the wrong thing. Some I have to go back to the text to puzzle the title of this post. Burnt food. It was burnt food.

It almost makes me glad to have been hideously ill; I'd been assiduously avoiding my Fuks all summer. I wish I could remember why.

I'll take another break in a bit and toss up more Čapek. It's a lovely exercise in working straight to the second draft, and it's a good way to diversify my Czech reading. Back to work.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Grasshopper, Child in the Garden, Cactus, Weed


Brrr! Into the earth at once! Must dig into the good, most soil! Hey, a man picked me up! How disgustingly hot and dry he is! I can't take it, my stomach's coming up! Ughhh!

Child in the Garden

He's tearing off flower buds and sticking them in the gravel paths.

"Hey, what are you doing, you little garden-wrecker?"

"Plantin' flowers."


I stab you and for all that you still brag what marvelous thorns I have?


I know, comrade rye: there is a conspiracy against me. When they mow the meadow it is only to wipe me out. They send the hail down on me; they try to burn me with the sun; they hire the moles and locusts to come after me. But I stand my ground. I know why they're after me. Oh, I could tell you a thing or two!

Čapek, Aesop 6,7,8,9/9

I just wish there was a better onomatopoeia for vomiting. The Czech has "Fí!"

This will get buried by Čapek, but...

"As we flew over the fluffy landscape of Greenland I thought how peaceful it would be for the engines to cut out and the airplane to glide silently to a belly landing on the snow. Two hours of quiet shivering, perhaps one final defiant beverage service, and the whole thing would be over. I couldn't think of a more ideal way to go, a planeload of us frozen in place watching that slow sunset."

Just a plug for Idle Words in the sidebar. Man, I loves me some Idle Words.

A Statesmanlike Act, Flowerpot

A Statesmanlike Act

The begonia in the flowerpot wasn't long for this world; in spite of all efforts on its behalf it was rotting underneath and withered on top, so much so that it was terrible to see. The gardener even threw it into the darkest corner of the cellar in a fit of pique. Then he forgot about it altogether, having more important things on his mind than a ruined begonia.

When he was looking for an empty flowerpot in the cellat fourteen days later, he found the begonia resurrected, once so tall but now thirsty as hell, and terribly desperate to live.

"How our gardeners understands his affairs," the other flowers whispered. "What worldly wisdom!"


You're staring, right? Look how much I've grown since spring! Look at the foliage I've got! How redolently I bloom!

Čapek, Aesop 4,5/9

"Thirsty as hell" may be a bit strong, but it was the best I could think of. Eh. It's feisty.