Ilivetolearn's Blog

July 10, 2009

how to have a perfect day at the beach house

–wake up, drink coffee, read My Stroke of Insight, fascinating book by a neuroanatomist who had a stroke at age 37 and writes about her recovery and right brain/left brain stuff (thank you Lea Pearson for recommending it)
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–work on Kalahari tote #3
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–have Ella over for the morning; pick wildflowers and press them for future bookmark project, teach her new solitaire game
–play Set with Margo
IMG_1525 –do laundry, hang on line
–attempt to remember how to make sewing machine make letters in order to produce name tapes for girls’ camp clothes; finally succeed
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–see 4″ baby bunny in bayberry patch out front
–drive girls to camp, stop on way home for first of raspberries and last of snow peas
–pick rosa rugosa flowers and mint leaves for essential oils; bake at very low temperature for 3 hours to infuse aroma into oil; make house smell wonderful
–bike to Art and Bette’s with Margo (who is on fitness kick), visit one hour, discuss Palin’s resignation, bike home
–cook artichokes for dinner
–make 7 jars raspberry jam
IMG_1528 –at sunset, go to dock; bail 6″ rainwater out of creek boat. Escape gnats by wandering to beach, find jingle shell the exact color of my toenail polish
–mix up token martini in olive green teapot used as Mattituck martini pitcher by Phoebe and Art in years past
–eat dinner with Margo

–watch Religulous, setting phone alarm for 9:43 so we can take a break to watch moon rise over Robins Island. One day past full, orange, partly obscured by thin clouds. Point out big and little dippers to Margo

–finish Religulous, attempt to finish an evil Sudoku, fall asleep

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May 30, 2009

mediocre movie night

Filed under: Margo's life rules,movies — ilivetolearn @ 9:41 pm

During Bill’s latest trip (5 weeks’ odyssey across the country in our “new” 1979 diesel Mercedes) another tradition has emerged at our house. On Sunday nights we watch a movie from the library or Netflix. After a couple of these, Margo decided we should call it Mediocre Movie Night. The idea is to avoid anything too thought-provoking, too depressing, too hysterically funny…we just want to wind down after the weekend and slide back into Monday-to-Friday mode without high drama.

Often this becomes a game of Find the Fatal Flaw.  For Saving Sarah Cain it was: too earnest (I think this is a Michael Landon thing). For The Love Guru: too vulgar. For How to Deal: too contrived. I’m not sure Bill will agree to watch movies we know are not great just so we can find fault, but it’s actually instructive to discuss how the film-maker could have injected a little humor here, or taken a less predictable plot twist there, or given a certain character a shade more nuance. It’s a step up from the game we used  to play watching movies on the Disney channel, which involved listening to a few bars of the background music and saying the next line to be spoken before the actor got it out. Margo got incredibly good at it.

February 28, 2007

movie madness

Filed under: movies,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 1:51 pm

So the Oscars have come and gone. The International Herald Tribune, which covers fashion much more thoroughly than other papers in my admittedly limited experience, (OK, just more than the New York Times) devoted twice as many column inches to who wore what on the red carpet than to the films themselves. They didn’t indulge in catty best-and-worst lists or comparisons to previous years, but they certainly paid attention to designers and accessories.

Meanwhile, my annual quest to see the nominees stalled out after Pequeña Miss Sunshine (for some reason the Spaniards only translated one word of the title), La Reina (The Queen), and Babel. But because of the oddities of Madrid’s cineplexes, we still have the opportunity to see movies on the big screen that in the US have been relegated to airline limbo or DVD-land: all the above three are still showing, as well as Dreamgirls, Diamante de Sangre (Blood Diamond), En Busca de la Felicidad (Pursuit of Happyness), Banderas de Nuestros Padres (which is amusingly back-translated as Flags of Our Parents), Cartes desde Iwo Jima (Letters From Iwo Jima), and even Una Verdad Incomoda (An Inconvenient Truth). If we were so inclined we could spend fifteen straight hours at the Yelmo Ideal, which is currently running 20 films, starts its weekend programming at 12:15 pm, and closes after the last show ends about 3 am. That kind of marathon would go a long way in reducing our unseen backlog and shortening our future Netflix queue.

February 1, 2007

temporarily able-bodied

Filed under: movies,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 2:58 pm

Having seen Little Miss Sunshine in the company of los sordos (the deaf), and having learned from a pivotal plot point about los daltónicos (the color-blind), I was reminded of something Elliot told me after a translation class last year: Spanish is full of very specific terms for conditions of all different types. There are the usual ciego (blind), mudo (mute), cojo (lame), lisiado (crippled)—but then there is manco (one-handed or one-armed), zurdo (left-handed), tuerto (one-eyed), patizambo (knock-kneed), chueco (bow-legged), bizco (cross-eyed) and so on—concepts that in English require the word for the, shall we say, differently-abled body part. The catch-all term, found on reserved parking spaces and discounted tickets, is minusválido –which certainly doesn’t sound politically correct to me as its literal translation is “less-valued.” But here offense is not taken, and it simply means less able, and therefore entitled to preferential treatment in seating, parking, paying, etc.

Some phrases we use daily (at least in this household) are identical in Spanish—“duro de oído” means “hard of hearing.” But there’s one euphemism sure to offend some of the family: “hacerse el sueco” (to play the Swede) which is “to pretend not to hear” or “to turn a deaf ear to.” To turn a blind eye, on the other hand, is “hacer la vista gorda” (to have fat vision, by my internal dictionary). It’s often said of the police who are not ticketing cars parked in handicapped spaces. If one of the Carmeans falls victim to one of the disability-producing potholes that abound, I may have the opportunity to say “Ay cómo te quiero…cojo y todo,” which means “I love you, limp and all.” (Better than warts, I think.)

This focus on which senses and extremities work or don’t work brings back a time when I was about five and asked my mother, “What’s the opposite of pigeon-toed?” She thought for a moment and said, “Wall-eyed.”

January 25, 2007

appropriate for whom?

Filed under: movies,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 1:48 pm

The movie rating system here is, to say the least, inadequate. On posters and print ads, you need a magnifying glass to find the recommended age. Theaters are not required to inform patrons of the ratings, much less enforce them. Some post them, for maybe half of their showings. Some conveniently forget. The categories are: “apta” (apt) for all, for older than 7, for older than 13, and for older than 18. When I see these on listings at the video store (again, not required, but sometimes present), I zero in on APTA 13—Phoebe being 13 on the nose and Margo a very old 10.

But sometimes I am misled. Movies that get an R in the US for bad language, drugs, violence, and sexual content may be rated 13 or even 7 here. We saw Little Miss Sunshine (an R movie for sure) when the girls were at playdates. But the theater was full of families with young kids, since here it is rated 7. Joder!

Of course, the US ratings system is also inconsistently applied and not fully informative. I have taken to visiting the site commonsensemedia.org to make decisions about the girls’ movie-viewing. On the basis of its extremely detailed recommendation, Margo and I saw The Queen. We knew in advance exactly how many times each profanity would occur. Of course, “bugger” doesn’t register as an obscenity with American kids. Anyway, we liked it.

And I have promised Margo I’d rent Little Miss Sunshine when it appears on DVD, since her friends have all seen it.

January 24, 2007

expletive not deleted

Filed under: movies,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 12:27 pm

Now that the Oscar nominations are out, we’re on the usual 11th-month campaign to see some award contenders before the big night. We took in Little Miss Sunshine at our favorite VO (version original) theater, the Yelmo Ideal near Plaza Mayor. Though we’ve been there often, this was the first time I’ve noticed groups of deaf people in the audience. Of course…they patronize VO theaters because of the Spanish subtitles—everywhere else the movies are dubbed. This means the deaf get to see new releases made in every language but Spanish, whereas we are restricted to the English-language films. I have wanted to see Volver since it came out, but until I can find it on DVD with English subtitles, I am out of luck.

The IHT recently reported that Spain is not the only country with a powerful dubbing industry. Here it began with Franco, who insisted every film be shown in Castilian, partly to suppress regional dialects and assert the superiority of “true” Spanish, and partly to control content. There are some examples of the absurdity of his censorship: in Mogambo, the illicit love affair between Grace Kelly and Clark Gable was a no-no, so they made Grace Kelly and her husband… brother and sister. Incest–much better.

French dubbing didn’t begin as censorship, but has evolved in that direction. Apparently there is an unwritten code that requires changing vulgarities to less offensive words, eliminating references to drugs and alcohol, and removing brand names. (So much for the lucrative US product-placement practice.) In Spain, the obscenities are actually ramped up in the subtitles; many times, we have heard a character voice a wimpy “Damn!” or even “Shit!” while the subtitle reads “Joder!” You can imagine how many times that word appeared on the screen in Little Miss Sunshine.

November 27, 2006

dashing through the (non)snow

Filed under: lyrics,movies,on the road — ilivetolearn @ 2:57 pm

Evan and I put thousands of miles on the Prius going south to Washington, north to Boston, farther north to Lyme NH, and back to Pennsylvania. I even made the long trip out Long Island for one final (successful) appearance before the Board of Trustees for our re-build permit. We visited four colleges, saw some friends and relatives, did a little Christmas shopping, took in Babel (which is excellent and will get a few awards, I predict) and the Blue Man Group (extremely amusing; we were in row 5, which is the “poncho zone,” but were disappointed not to be splashed upon), and learned a little Christmas carol history.

We stayed a few nights in a hotel in Medford Mass, which had banners all over proclaiming that it was “home of the jingle bell.” No one we asked knew why, but Google informs us that James Pierpont wrote Jingle Bells in a local tavern/boarding house (which had the only piano in town) in 1850. He originally called it One Horse Open Sleigh, and didn’t publish it until 1857, when he was living in Savannah working as the organist at the Unitarian church of which his brother was minister. Savannah and Medford have a none-too-friendly exchange going on about which can lay claim to be the true Home of Jingle Bells. I vote for Medford, which used to have enough snow that sleigh races were held down Salem Street.

Pierpont’s other compositions, including “We Conquer or Die,” glorifying the Confederate cause, have fallen into a well-deserved oblivion.

May 11, 2006

everyday sights here and there

Filed under: bumper stickers,movies,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 11:36 am

As we contemplate our two-month stay in the States I am making mental lists of things only to be seen here or there.

Spain only: fields of wild poppies by every roadside; nuns wearing habits; women wearing fur coats (even in 55-60 degree weather!); people littering while standing literally within arm’s reach of a trash receptacle; billboards featuring celebrities hawking products they wouldn’t touch in the US (for example, Brad Pitt with a Taghauer watch, Ed Harris with scotch…shades of Lost in Translation); playgrounds every other block with official signs listing appropriate ages for the equipment and locations of hospital and pharmacy in case of injury; cranes, cranes, and more cranes (they have been called the official flower of Spain during the ten-year EU-subsidized building boom).

US only: bumper stickers; limousines; port-a-potties (where DO all the construction workers driving the cranes relieve themselves?); yellow school buses (here all school transport is privately funded and the buses look like Atlantic City charters); people eating/drinking on the street; styrofoam; everyone wearing sneakers, jeans, and t-shirts.

March 4, 2006

movie night in Lisbon

Filed under: movies,on the road,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 11:55 am

We finally got to see one of the movies up for Best Picture, the night before the awards. All movies in Portugal are shown in the original languages with subtitles, so if we had been paying close attention we would now know how to say, “I wish I knew how to quit you, Ennis,” in Portuguese. They made the title into El Segreto de Brokeback Mountain—a curious combination.

As in Spain, tickets to movie theaters are for assigned seats…there was even a uniformed usher showing us to them. What was different, and surprising, was that there was an intermission! It hardly seemed a long enough movie to merit that. But as no customer in Europe carries food anywhere (waiters do that), including to a seat in a movie theater, the adjacent café had to have 20 minutes to ply its trade. Plus people had to have a smoke. It did make the theater nice and clean and quiet, with no one slurping or crunching or scooching by you ten times to visit the snack bar.

February 5, 2006

Oscar night

Filed under: movies,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 1:02 pm

Well, the Oscar nominations have come out and once again I have only seen four of the nominees…not the blockbusters, but ones the whole family saw: the latest Wallace and Gromit, the latest Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, and March of the Penguins. In an effort to make the March 5th event more meaningful, I am on a campaign for the next month to see as many as possible of the films up for major awards.

This requires some skill in translation, since even in the V. O. (version original) theater listings the titles are not in English. Some are not changed (Brokeback Mountain, Crash, Munich) and some are obvious (Buenas Noches y Buena Suerte) but some require a dictionary. What on earth is En la Cuerda Floja? If you see the print ad, you know it’s the Johnny Cash movie, but instead of Walk the Line (which has an idiomatic meaning hard to convey) they have called it Walk the Tightrope. Not exactly the same, though an appealing mental picture…Johnny and June as circus performers, using guitars to maintain their balance.

All of Spain is disappointed that The Secret Life of Words (La Vida Secreta de las Palabras) by Isabel Coixet, a Catalonian director, didn’t get nominated as best foreign film. That’s on my list to see, too (fortunately, it was made in English).

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