The Obvious

cavafy

Posted in quote by theobvious on March 11, 2011

There was an entire blog post in my head when I opened this window. But instead of posting it, I’d like to post this poem by Cavafy:

Waiting for the Barbarians

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What’s the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.
He’s even got a scroll to give him,
loaded with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Things like that dazzle the barbarians. Why would anyone write anything else after this has been written?

things i don’t

Posted in i don't know by theobvious on February 21, 2011

..Know my way around: art, classical music (in every sense of the word), bureaucracy.

..Know how to do: quote, play an instrument (forgot the recorder), write long, concentrate.

..Know how to get rid of: wishful thinking, comfort food, over-dramatization, knick-knacks.

..Know how to stop doing: showing off, procrastinating, obsessing/worrying, hoarding books.

..See myself doing: having kids (for now at least), working 9 to 5 (properly), wearing high heels.

..See myself ever liking: egg whites, show-offs, my looks, free jazz (too fragmented), ladylike purses.

monday spirits

Posted in rant by theobvious on February 14, 2011

If I were a complaints choir, I’d sing thusly:

It’s so cold that I may die, and nobody will care;
I have got no time to read and nothing  good to wear;
Even if I had nice clothes, they wouldn’t fit me well;
I’ve no dog that would fetch help if I fell down a well.

Chorus: My life is very tragic
And I am full of spite
And the neighbours are too noisy
At all hours of the night.

My skin’s both dry and oily, and creams are yet to help;
And rhymes are such a problem, humpty-tumpty-kelp?
Good people are so far apart, but idiots abound;
And hardly anyone adopts those kitties from the pound;

Chorus: My life is very tragic
And I am full of spite
And the neighbours are too noisy
At all hours of the night.

My Neopets are dying because my care is poor;
Instead of putting things away, I put them on the floor;
The world has gloomy prospects, and revolutions fail;
Good bread that costs the most to buy’s the quickest to go stale.

Chorus: My life is very tragic
And I am full of spite
And the neighbours are too noisy
At all hours of the night.

I can’t afford the movies, but piracy’s a crime;
Though buses come on schedule, I rarely am on time;
Everyone hates Israel and blames things on the Jews;
I buy expensive products that I never even use.

Chorus: My life is very tragic
And I am full of spite
And the neighbours are too noisy
At all hours of the night.

I get too many emails, but few of them are good;
People very rarely do what they have said they would;
This July I will, oh dear, turn twenty-five years old;
And does it really have to be so very very cold?

Chorus: My life is very tragic
And I am full of spite
And there should be a law against
Loud noises late at night.

being incoherent is okay at four a.m.

Posted in capoeira, travel, valuable lesson by theobvious on February 6, 2011

Yeah I’m here, who said I wasn’t.

This has been a month of firsts for me. A. and I trekked to Cairo from Jerusalem. As we were shuddering through our five-hour ride in a speeding van in the dark desert, it suddenly struck us that it was not just a new city we were about to experience, and not merely a new country. In fact, it was an entire continent. The word “Africa” had always seemed so distant. Actually, it still does. And yet we were a train ride away from Chad or Niger, places hitherto synonymous with “unreachable”, and therefore “unreal”. As was the entire experience. We were sitting in the back of a van full of sleeping Egyptians, having a whispered argument about the Suez channel and whether we’d crossed it or not. Later, we found out we had.

We were there just before the current tumultuous events, by the way, and might have been among the last people to see Meseti’s beautiful wooden boat intact. The toy world found on Meseti’s sarcophagus, with the wooden models still wearing scraps of fabric for skirts as they went about their toy lives, was one of the things to leave the most profound impression on me. Funny how some things get at you. When they said there were people injured, even dead, I was, for want of a better word, concerned. But when this boat appeared in the news, broken, I cried. Suddenly, it became so very real to me that some kind of a world was crashing down.

Before that, for the first time in my life (that I can recall at least), I went to the Israel Museum. We didn’t spend too much time there, due to my embarrassingly short attention span and the sheer visual overload that the place inflicts on an unsuspecting citizen. However, we did see some awfully old and/or beautiful things. Including some sandal nails from some time B.C. Let me reiterate: funny how some things get at you. Small things. These are the nails that held someone’s shoes together, as he or she walked this land two millennia ago. These are the dried-up dates someone neglected to eat at dinner. 2,000 years ago. “Eat your dates,” said his or her mother then in a language I can speak now, “They’re healthy.”

Having returned from two weeks of intensive travel, I felt overcome by sluggishness. The snow, the early darkness, the thick clothing and clunky shoes, the freezing office were all extremely conducive to going home at 7 pm feeling like the day was over and spending five hours with the computer. So at some point I begged my brother for help and he graciously agreed to walk me by the hand to his capoeira class. The first time was last Monday. Last Wednesday I did a headstand. On my head. Using my hands for support. To support the bits of my body that weren’t supported by my head. This, obviously, was not something I’d anticipated doing. Not to worry, I’ve not been brilliant with the rest of it. Still. A month of firsts indeed.

For some reason, this post is begging for an ending that may seem a bit of a non-sequitur, but follows the rest perfectly in my head. Today I learned, or remembered, that Buddy Holly died at twenty-three. After which, I listened to “That’ll be the day” several times, thinking, I’m twenty-four. Twenty-four and a half this past January. It’s 2011. And there still are things in the world for me to do for the first time.

portrait of the author as a writer

Posted in writing by theobvious on January 12, 2011

You should write a book, my mother says. She likes my blog. That’s the same thing. I just have to expand what I’m writing already. I make our family seem more interesting than it really is, so that means I should make it into a book. Are you writing a book, my friend asks. She thinks I should be. Because writing a book is exactly what I should be doing, and everyone knows that but me.

Expanding on my blog, I’d write a caustic novel about the family, which would be larger and funnier than life. It would represent the life of the whole clan as a series of humorous mishaps, with typical amusing character traits, language quirks, and habits. Everyone would be portrayed grotesquely Jewish, but, it would be emphasized time and time again, not religious at all. The only religious character would be A., whose commitment to God and Judaism would be blown so far out of proportion you’d think he was the next incarnation of the Baal Shem Tov or the Lubavitcher Rebbe, only hilarious. My superior position would be self-evident from each page.

My wonderful work, under its clever title with a pun referencing three different cultural notions and understandable to seven people in the world, including me and the six others I’d have the patience to explain it to, would go straight from the New Arrivals shelf to the Half Off shelf, bypassing the Top Sellers and the Staff Picks. There would be no critical acclaim, nor negative reviews, nor any professional notice at all. There would, however, be talk all over town: in my parents’ house, my grandparents’ house, and that of my close friend who has a ridiculously high esteem of everything I do. I would be proclaimed a promising young author both by my grandfather and all three of the family cats.

I’d spend several months to a year writing the thing. At the end of the year, I’d have grown to hate the entire enterprise, and would be typing with a permanent scowl and maybe a cigarette in my teeth (not that I smoke, but it would only be fitting that I should start). There would be an immovable mug of stale cold coffee installed by my side, and to complete the cliché, I’d have unkempt hair which I’d stick my fingers into every time a sentence would refuse to form – and growl.

This would be the only book I’d ever write. Disillusioned after the huge flop that the thing would have been, I’d stick to reading other people’s work, mumbling derogatory comments and imagining that I look jaded. My friends and family would own copies of my slim oeuvre in uncracked covers, proudly telling the guests browsing through their bookcases that his one was by someone they knew. When I’d die, my tombstone would read “Author of [Title]”. Or maybe, “The Grumpus”.

i always wrap my things in separate paper parcels, officer, it’s neater

Posted in people, travel by theobvious on January 8, 2011

How come when you’re preparing to travel so many people surface immediately with urgent requests? Why is it those people have so many things they need taken to precisely the same country you’re going to at precisely the same moment you’re going there? And what, pray tell, is wrong with mail? Why do we have all these options, Fedex, UPS, DHL, and whatnot, only to have people calling me up two days before a trip to say, hi, you don’t know me, but I heard you were going somewhere, would you mind taking something for someone?

Now, there used to be a perfect loophole: luggage limits. Sorry, wish I could help, but I’ve only got 20 kilos, and my swimsuit alone weighs four. But now people have learned to say first thing, it’s not too heavy! Just a package! But it’s very important it gets to him. So I’m left with no socially acceptable way to decline. Sure, sure, I mumble, go ahead, what’s in it? Oh, just five books. About half a kilo each. So two and a half, maybe three. Six, of course it turns out, delivered to my door with sincere thanks and apologies for the inconvenience. When did it become okay to burden someone with a package a third of their entire luggage in size as long as you say thanks and sorry?

Then, of course, someone else needs to send something, and a third person, and before long we’re running our own little delivery service. If only we just had to stick it in our suitcase and get it there. But then we also need to make sure it’s picked up, right? So we get to this country were we are only going to stay a week, and before you can say “exploited” we’re on the phone with people, arranging meetings. Yeah, they say, tomorrow’s not good for me, how about you come round Monday? Lady, but you’re not the only one I’m carrying parcels for, I’ve got my rounds! I’ve got the books for Jack, and the money for Jill, and there’s also that package for the relatives! Do you mind, this is supposed to be a vacation!

By the time we’re done packing, our luggage has less contents that belong to us than those that don’t. How fun, then, to talk to security officers at the airport! Yeah, I packed this on my own. Yes, it’s all mine. No, nobody gave me anything for anyone, who do you take me for, of course not. Of course.

miscommunication

Posted in a., silly by theobvious on January 4, 2011

Here is a very fascinating story which I’d like to share with you because it just happened a moment ago and if I don’t write it down I’ll be extremely annoyed and grouchy for the rest of the day. Yes, I treat this blog as a free therapy session. No, I don’t think it’s a problem.

So anyway, A. is at the home improvement store, and he calls me and goes:

— I’m so sorry, but I need you to do something terribly unpleasant for me.

— What?

— Sorry, I know it’s bad, but it’s not urgent, you can take your time.

— Oh God, what is it?

— I need you to check the vacuum cleaner and tell me the number for the bag.

Backstory: our vacuum cleaner is old and weird and has some strange bags which are difficult to replace. A.’s been trying to figure them out for a while, and while trying to get the bag out, he broke the lid, so now the vacuum cleaner is wearing a sturdy duct tape belt and has an overflowing bag inside, long past its due replacement date.

So I groan and mutter like Muttley, but I do get to work: take the vacuum out of the closet, wrestle the hose off, unpeel the duct tape, force the broken lid off, haul the bag out, spraying everything with dust (the place having been cleaned top to bottom hours before), turn it around—there’s no number. No identification whatsoever.

— Listen, I say to A. over the phone in an irritated voice, listen, there’s no number, where inside am I supposed to look?

— You don’t have to look inside! I just need the model, it’s supposed to say on the vacuum somewhere.

— Then why the duck did you tell me to look in the vacuum?!?

— I never said in it, I just asked you to check it out.

Well, I think to myself, “Oh, son-of-a-b-b– son-of-a-b-b– son-of-a-b-b– uh, gun. Heh, heh, heh. You thought I was going to, uh, say son-of-a-bitch, didn’t ya?” (source) Then I get back to work: stuff the overflowing bag of dust into its slot, spit out all the dust that got into my mouth, put the broken lid on top, slide it into position, fasten it back to the vacuum with duct tape—

Wait, no, I’m not doing any of that. I did squeeze the dust bag in, but the rest will be for A. to sort out when he comes back. Maybe next time he’ll skip the doom and gloom and not make the task of walking to the closet and looking at some numbers sound so daunting that I’ll assume I need to dismantle half the apartment. Rassum-fassum-rassum Rick Rastardly.

in danish, “gift” means both “married” and “poison”

Posted in family, gifts, new year by theobvious on December 29, 2010

Gifts are a big deal in our family. We don’t do Christmas (nobody but A. is religious, but aside from that we’re as Jewish as they get, even our pets are neurotic and whiny and have a weird sense of humour), so we compensate on birthdays and New Year’s Eve. Naturally, with our splendid organizational skills (spot the sarcasm), we all end up in a mad hurry, scrambling to get presents for everyone at the last moment. The wrapping we do after the last moment, minutes before sticking the gifts under the ficus that represents a Christmas tree in my parents’ house. And if only we were a sensible family who just gave a gift each, that would still not be the end of the world. But no such luck. We believe in the “many smaller gifts” approach. Thence arrive conversations like this:

— What are we getting my brother?
— Let’s get him a parrot. (all gifts in this post are fictional)
— Okay, a parrot. And probably a parrot-owner’s manual.
— And obviously a cage and parrot food.
— Obviously. But WHAT ELSE? (cue anguish of body and mind over having NO GIFT TO SPEAK OF)

The gifting ceremony is held around the ficus with active involvement on the part of the Dog and the Cat. This year, there’s also Baby Cat who in all likelihood will contribute to the general merriment. Each gift is extracted in turn, the label read, and the gift delivered accordingly. The receiver is expected to unwrap it immediately and share the joy with everyone. Only after the present has been thoroughly inspected by all of the assembled may the next one be brought out. With regard to this ceremony, a careful balance must be preserved. What if someone gets five tiny gifts (e.g., socks, playing cards, a humorous calendar, and two balls of yarn) while someone else only gets one huge one (a cow, for instance)? The one may be disappointed with the scale, while the other will be forced to sit through the entire thing clutching their cow and following everyone’s gifts with envious looks. Yes, of course it’s the thought that matters, but nonetheless conferences are held of the following ilk:

— Did you get something for Grandma?
— Well, she needs a new lawnmower, we thought we’d all chip in.
— Yes, but then she’ll only have that. How about we add a hairnet and some sparkly tooth ornaments?
— But won’t that be too much? Remember, it’s her birthday in January, what shall we get then?
— Well, she can’t just have the one, can she. You give her the lawnmower, we’ll think of something.

There are family members more difficult to shop for than others. Our grandparents win that race hands down. What do you get an elderly man who is convinced he must pay for everything anyone over two generations down buys, or a woman who manages to work into every conversation an offer of something in her house?

— Look, Grandma, I got a new ring. Do you like it?
— Ring? That’s a nice ring. I have many rings too! They are beautiful rings, why don’t you take some?
— Thanks, but I already have the one.
— Yes, but they are silver! Gold, I’m not even offering, I know how you are, but these are delicate! I know you don’t wear large jewelry. Also, I have nice crystal vases, do you want them?
— Thanks, Grandma, you’ve sure got many beautiful things here.
— Much good it does me with grandchildren who take nothing!

Naturally, scheming, plotting, and conspiring are all part of the game. People enlist each other in helping to find, buy, hide, and wrap gifts. Deals are struck after some bartering. One is let on another’s brilliant find as a sponsor, after begging for hours that the other accept their money. The most popular phrase is “forget it, let it be a gift from both of us, and you don’t owe me anything”, because when it comes to finance management, we are about as brilliant as we are organized. (But we’re all very generous.) By the night of December 31st usually everyone knows everyone’s gifts but their own. Still, somehow, the element of surprise is preserved. After a very noisy and happy hour of exchanging gifts, everyone sighs contentedly and goes into their own corner to sit on a pile of wrapping paper and read the new books they (most likely) got. And that really is all anyone wanted in the first place.

bathroom posting

Posted in cat, home by theobvious on December 24, 2010

The bathroom is a memory vortex. More things are forgotten there than anywhere else in the house. More things are invented there than anywhere, too. The bathroom is a zone of improved brain function, its door the threshold of the mundane world where clear thinking is not my forte. The only place to hang my socks when I take them off in the bathroom so I don’t forget them on the way out is on the door handle. The only way to remember that ingenious idea that struck me as I was showering or hanging laundry—to keep repeating it aloud to myself until I walk out of the zone. That only works in about six cases out of ten though, and even if I do remember the essence, with the breach of the zone the thought loses all of its fantasy embellishments and becomes bleak, blah, yawn-inducing.

There are rules of behavior in the bathroom. Slippers must be placed before the shower cabin ready to step into before showering. Brush teeth, rinse and floss before washing face. Laundry must be folded before being carried into the closet. See, it must all be taken there at once, so there’s no dreaded second trip. The folding, therefore, proceeds at a strict hierarchy which is based on size and convenience of carrying: bed linens and towels first, then A.’s shirts, his underpants (why are boys’ underpants always such large and cumbersome things?) and socks (he doesn’t like them balled up, so they just go neatly next to each other), then my shirts and pajamas, underwear and balled-up socks on top. This way, when the tower of laundry and I get to the closet, things can just come off the top and nothing will scatter.

The cat (still just the one, we’re still hoping) is attracted to the bathroom as if it were a treasure trove. Its attractions are many: the shower cabin is a castle, the toilet its moat, the sink is a majestic throne, and the laundry is a take-all-you-can toy display. Obviously, there are rules here as well. For us: always close the door, the shower door, and the toilet lid. Stomp loudly before exiting, that might scare him off. Pick up by the belly to remove. For him: wait right by the door for the slightest crack. Scream bloody murder when someone goes in and locks the door. Run straight under the laundry rack to avoid being caught. Check everywhere: the treasure may have been moved. Try and try again.

Surely, there can’t be another five sq. m. of space as tightly packed with meanings, thoughts, and objects of feline desire as the bathroom of our house. One can only wish for such vibrant a life for the rest of the place.

not sure this classifies as a rant

Posted in random, rant by theobvious on December 17, 2010

The weather makes me apply lip balm so often that I’m starting to regret that I don’t post photos of myself with the infamous duck-face. It’s just a waste of nice balmed-up lips, I say. And to get the weather topic out of the way, how much more difficult is it to walk on a snow-ice mixture than on good dry land? I feel like I’m walking to work twice as long and arriving twice as tired.

Anyway, what this was really meant to be about was television. It’s probably very funny and/or exasperating for normal TV-watching people to hear snobby intellectuals discussing their favourite shows. Of course, now, with the ascent of well-written series combined with on-line streaming, the stigma has been lifted somewhat, and yet sometimes those people find themselves drawn to a reality- or  talk-show, or something lowbrow like that, and then strict conversation rules and rituals come in.

1. Dissociation from the disgraceful habit:

A: You know what I saw on TV the other day? Not that I ever watch it, of course!
B: I don’t even own one.

2. Justification, at times betraying normal human reactions:

A: Neither do I, I was visiting someone who had it on. So anyway, this cooking competition was on, and normally I wouldn’t even— but this was educational! They bring in highly professional judges, and the process is portrayed in detail. You would love it, it’s like a backstage pass to the inner workings of the culinary world.
B: Do you mean Current Top Cooking Show? I know, it is such an enriching experience! Enthralling. Although they had no call eliminating that girl, her dish was perfectly sophisticated.

3. Pretentious term-dropping, because posing as a connoisseur helps rehabilitate self:

A: I know, right? It is all so completely staged. You see, my view is that they need to keep up their initial type-casting, so once they started giving that other girl the bitch-edit, they had to keep her on, even though her presentation was, like, entirely unremarkable.
B: Totally. And yet I wonder, perhaps some of the emotions they display are authentic after all. The show would just lose its value if it was all directing and editing, you know what I mean.

A: You said it.

And so on. This is a conversation I have personally had several times. All the while, normal people go: “Seen Cooking Show? What did you think?” “I was at my mother’s, so I TiVo’ed it, but I hear they kept the stupid bitch again, what’s up with that?” “I know, and they sent the nice girl home, I liked her a lot, she was pretty and friendly!” “She was. This show is going downhill.” Is that better or worse that vegging out with streaming Seinfeld every night and saying haughtily that you only watch series made by top directors and have never laid your hands on that dreaded contraption, the TV-set? I don’t even know.

Incidentally, have you seen Project Runway? It’s a great show, and very educational. You really feel as though you’re learning something about the backstage of the fashion world. Top notch, although of course the biased editing does take its toll… Still, can’t wait for next season (not that I’ll be watching, or anything, we don’t even own a TV).

read all about it—or just a page or two

Posted in books, link by theobvious on December 14, 2010

A while ago, the New Yorker published Q&A’s with the writers who were featured in their “20 under 40” issue (basically the same names everyone else is bandying around, Shteyngart, Krauss, Foer, Russel, Li, etc.). They asked each young writer who their favourite authors over 40 were. To a reading person, this kind of thing is a goldmine: if you like the author, chances are you will like what they read as well. If you’ve never heard of the author before, chances are you’ll still love some of the books that inspired them to become, if not your favourite author, then at least America’s.

There were some really great recommendations on those lists. Some names that were entirely new to me. Of course, more enlightened people might find the lists stale, but to me, they were full of literary discoveries. Wonderful novelists whose Amazon pages would make anyone drool and start compiling wish-lists, and quite a number of lovely short story authors. In fact, it was like a short story feast, a paradise for the short story lover. If you were to purchase all of the collections penned by these authors, you’d be hooked up for life with high-quality, superbly written, engaging reading material. All the worse for me, because I don’t like short stories.

Being a voracious reader—incidentally, what’s up with the word voracious, it is disgusting, reminds me of the Lithuanian word for spider and the Russian word for thief at the same time, and yet it somehow evokes the exact image of that greedy way this kind of reader gobbles down a book—I can’t afford to read short fiction. Even getting out of a thousand-page novel, I feel as though something has been taken from me entirely too soon. What am I supposed to do with something that only lasts ten minutes? It’s just a tease.

Exceptions to this rule are quite rare and usually have to do with stories which are not focused on the plot, but curious or very well-written (like this one by J. S. Foer*), or when they are sort of continuing the same narrative, almost like chapters or entries on a blog, which is often the case with semi-autobiographical stories (like most of the stuff by David Sedaris), or when they are just so funny, clever, and/or touching that it outweighs their being regrettably length challenged: both Foer and Sedaris, or Etgar Keret or, say, Čapek or Jerome Jerome or all those Russians of Zoschenko’s kith—

Actually, I’m realizing now there are a number of authors whom I can appreciate in short form. Still, when choosing a new book to read, I’ll hardly ever pick a collection of short stories. They tend to make me feel cheated. But if you feel otherwise, you might benefit from looking at that list in the New Yorker. See why the short story is not for me? All these words, just to recommend a link.

*I remember the night I first read that, in someone else’s house, on their guest bed built on boxes of books, during some pre-party commotion, out of someone else’s little (yellow?) book. This is one good thing about a short story. You can associate it with a particular moment in your life. Novels I tend to associate more with periods: I read that when the summer was so hot, I was hiding in coffeeshops with A/C; I read that when I was limping from the fall; I started that on the plane to Z., and finished it on the way back; that spent the winter on my desk, it felt like a spring novel; and so on.

things that make me happy

Posted in good by theobvious on December 10, 2010

1. Lists: when I want to say something but can’t bring myself to put it into paragraphs.

2. These photos of Europe in snow: they’re beautiful and I actually like snow. In fact, I believe most people like snow. It’s the paraphernalia that’s sickening—the dirty slush when the temperature rises, the cold ears when you’re just trying to avoid hat hair, the itchy skin when you come in from the frost and start thawing…

2a. The fake snow on my blog: I switched it on last year, and apparently this year it restarted automatically, so I came on here and suddenly it’s fake-snowing!

3. This comic: it’s set in a world where mythical creatures are a reality, karma is a serious issue, and crazy preachers in the street yell about evolution. It’s well-written, and I love the pet manticore, too.

4. This cartoon: touching and funny, and check out the smile on that eel’s face! [Update: it’s been removed from YouTube, but if you look for “Partly Cloudy” you should find a copy.]

5. Yoga: I do not believe in chakras and am not going to start referring to air as prana, the essence of life, any time soon, but it does me good to spend three hours a week doing good strong stretches and having five-minute naps (I always fall asleep when the instructor starts waxing on about Sat Chit Ananda during final relaxation).

wherein i once again marvel at the future

Posted in food, random by theobvious on December 8, 2010

Now we’re living the life. It’s 8.45 p.m., there’s no running water in the house (we’ve gone down a level, for the past three days there was just hot water, and now that’s gone as well), and no food but raw potatoes which we can’t wash because [see above]. We might be vegetarians, but we’re not raw eaters yet. And A. hasn’t eaten for two days, because he had food poisoning yesterday.

So we’re ordering Chinese (great post-poisoning idea!). Who knew the system was so well-developed now? Gone are the days when you’d pore over tattered magnet menus with your phone in hand. Now you go to the website, choose the dishes you like, go to the check-out page, select “pay via internet banking”, wire the money over, and five minutes later—you are done. All that’s left is to wait over an hour with a grumbling stomach. You even get to select your preferences from a list:

“No onions? No sugar? Ice on the side? No nuts? No ___ (we entered “eggs”)?”

These little things in life. They’re awesome. And now I’ll click my mouse several times to have Nigel Planer read me a few paragraphs of Terry Pratchett’s Sourcery so I don’t feel bored while I do my exercises. Because not having information funnelled into me even for ten minutes is just painful. I’m a child of the twenty-first century, aren’t I.

a tiny disagreement

Posted in silly by theobvious on December 3, 2010

We were arguing about something on the way to work, and suddenly the thought struck me: how many opinions there may be in the world that disagree with us, yet we don’t hear them because they are voiced by those too small for us! This may sound as though I mean the third-world nations and the gay, but I’ve something else in mind.

Just think: there are billions, zillions of ants in the world. What if they are the sort of folk who practice habitual dissent, and we just can’t hear their tiny little voices saying it? WEE DISAGREEEE!, they chirrup, with a slight emphasis on the e’s, AND WEE RESENT WHAT YOU SAID! — and nobody pays any attention. They gather in tiny rallies, holding up banners saying STOP THE OUTRAGE!, ANTS SAY NO!, and WE’RE GETTING ANTSY! — invisible to all, unless the banners are made of crumbs, in which case we do notice and say “Honey, get the Raid®, we’ve got ants again”.

Well, A. opines, ants don’t even have free will, they just serve their queen. WEE DISAGREE! yell the ants. AND INCIDENTALLY, WEE ALSO DISAGREE THAT COGITO ERGO SUM! SHEE THINKS FOR US, YET HERE WEE ARE! They brandish their fists at A., who goes on to say that anyway, he isn’t sure ants have voices, however tiny. WELL THAT’S RICH, reply the ants, LIKE YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT US! HAVE YOU EVEN HEARD OF THE GREAT OPERA, ANT-IGONE? WHO DO YOU THINK CAME UP WITH THAT? They shake their antennae indignantly.

Then, finally convinced that the voices of the small and the swarm-minded will never be heard, they march off into the twilight in long rows, singing WEE WILL ALL GO TOGETHER WHEN WEE GO. They disagree strongly with everything that’s being said on the planet, but we will never know.

christmas time is here by golly

Posted in christmas by theobvious on December 2, 2010

So, it’s the holiday of Christmas Compensation and Puzzling Spelling again. Don’t get me wrong, out of all the Jewish holidays, this one is most likely to be my favorite: I’m famously anti-clerical, and this has nothing to do with religion. In fact, it is all about hot food and imaginary history. Now, I may not be big on foodstuffs that contain more oil than any other nutrients, but history I do have a respect for. So many people have done so many things over the course of the years that today we don’t really have to do anything at all—everything has already been done. Except maybe those funny YouTube mash-up videos, nobody has done that until these last few years.

Anyway, I saw the big menorah being lit in the square down town today. Please know that I wasn’t there to gloat, I was merely passing by on my way from work. Some people do work in these buildings around the great big ten-foot menorah. So, they were lighting the first candle. There was a construction lift behind the menorah and a stage in front of it. The local Jewish singer (yes, there’s basically just the one for hire) was singing a catchy kibbutznik tune wearing an anorak and a fur hat with earflaps. Members of the religious community, oblivious to the discrepancy, were carrying around trays with tumblers of a suspicious, definitely alcoholic, dark liquid. I gave them a large berth just in case it was the fermented blood of Christian babies*. There was a downright tiny throng of people, dancing a bit for joy (or in order to prevent frostbite).

Tomorrow the construction lift will be back to light the second candle, and so on. After all, the two-and-a-half Jews of this state capital should not be deprived of a celebration that rightfully belongs to them. The huge menorah is dragged out into the square each year. It may be surrounded with Christmas decorations and overshadowed by the creepy sculpture looming behind it, but it stands proud to show that the Holiday of Oil and Gambling is not forgotten. La la la, harvest time in the Galilean, resounds our national culture all over the snowy city. Happy Kwanzaa (because I can’t spell the other one)!

*Note: the views and opinions expressed on this blog do not represent the views and opinions of the author, or anyone else for that matter. For legal inquiries, please call your own lawyer.

finished — and so is this sofa

Posted in home, nablopomo by theobvious on November 30, 2010

I had an idea for tonight’s final post in Nablopomo 2010, but then forgot it— Oh! The sofa has just creaked. Maybe we’ll have to get a new one, which would be good, because this one is an abomination. We got it for its nice simple shape, gray colour, and small size, especially impressive considering that it is a fold-out, the only possible solution for our guest-room-less home. It was also significantly more affordable than the other options we were considering, which was a key factor as we had something like seven dollars eighty-three cents between us at the time, and a correspondingly cramped furniture budget.

However, we quickly discovered that the sofa fails at several key functions. One, it is unsuitable for sitting on, because the fold-out cushions are not fixed to the back, so as soon as one sits down, they immediately start sliding out and one finds oneself slumped in a starfish position, robbed entirely of self-respect. Two, it is unsuitable for sleeping on, because once you fold out the mattress bit, it turns out to be short, hard, and impossible to put a fitted sheet over, which, hello, does anyone have non-fitted sheets, even? Three, it is by no means complimentary to the room despite its very fitting colour, as it has proven extremely attractive to Lorca as a large and very stable claw sharpening device.

In short, this sofa is mostly good for holding decorative cushions, and we’ve got two chairs for that. Still, we couldn’t justify getting a new sofa less than a year since we bought this one. Until now. The creaking is an ominous sign. I keep using the armrest as a backrest so as to be able to sit on it without gradually migrating to the floor, and that is probably not provided for in the construction. Soon, the armrest will break off, sending me tumbling, maybe injuring me, which will give me the moral grounds to declare the sofa enemy of the state and send it to exile at the curb. We shall then need to go shopping for a better, sturdier, friendlier sofa. Even if all we have at the moment is seven dollars eighty-three cents.

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le sigh

Posted in cat, nablopomo, uncategorized by theobvious on November 29, 2010

If anyone’s still wondering, the cat hasn’t come back yet.

Why would he? There’s plenty of food outside, and it’s only, what, eleven degrees below zero.

Why would he want to come back home when he can spend quality time in a warm, musty basement somewhere, in the company of lovely female cats (with whom, incidentally, he is physiologically incapable of starting a family)?

Why would he miss us, if all we ever did to him was force-cuddle, shower him with toys, and stuff him with the best possible food and countless treats?

Why would he miss his brother? Who wants hours of playtime interspersed with naps curled together on the sofa?

Why, if he came back, we’d think less of him. His brother certainly would, what with all the spoiling and the treats he’s been getting as he has regained his Only Kitty position.

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because it’s required of a personal blog

Posted in me myself, nablopomo by theobvious on November 28, 2010

Here are some lesser known and quite uninteresting facts about me:

1. I am gullible like hell, you can tell me anything, and I’ll believe it and be happy about it, which causes friction with A., who is the type of guy to say “Yes, that is great, but in fact—”;

2. I never want to go to bed, nor to get up, and the knowledge that I will not get enough sleep (when it’s very late and there is no way to avoid getting up early) makes me cry;

3. I love receiving letters, but it is often difficult for me to write them. Snail mail thrills me: the delayed satisfaction of not knowing immediately who it is that wrote is exciting;

4. I am a perfectionist in the sense that I need all of anything. If I’m reading a seven-book series and the second book disappoints, I’ll most likely finish the series;

5. I have lately been scared of the dark, and of loud noises, and of bugs, and of thieves, and of heights, and many other things. I wish I weren’t such an anxious person;

6. I like things that are grey or blue, and pretty fonts, and spices, and nice packaging, and checking out new cafes, and shopping for gifts, and puppies, and layers.

There’s plenty more, but I’ve bored myself by now. I’m very easily bored. Also, the hatred of the word “I” repeated many times on a page — we have it, my precioussss.

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tis the season ladidah

Posted in christmas, nablopomo, winter by theobvious on November 27, 2010

All of a sudden, it’s winter. It had been seven degrees and wet for many weeks, and I had gotten used to wearing my coat unbuttoned and my scarf in my bag. Yesterday, however, the temperature fell below zero. It snowed all night and all day. When I woke up, the cat was staring transfixed through the window at the snow falling in sheets.

I was glad though, because I got to wear my fabulous new jacket. And finally, the time had come for the mittens A. bought me a while ago.  Even putting on winter shoes was sort of exciting. As I was slipping and sliding towards work, I couldn’t shake a feeling of black-and-white snowy routine, as if the previous warm weeks had never happened.

After work, I went over to my friend’s workplace, the home improvement store, to help decorate a Christmas tree. I’d sort of suggested we do one in shiny bolts and door hooks and suchlike, she added some screws and lightbulbs, and we spent two hours tying blue and orange raffia twine to various building supplies and talking about Christmas kitsch. Fun.

Now, I am obsessed with this video:

The animation is extremely season-appropriate, and I adore this style, it makes watercolours look like knitware. The song, it goes without saying, is unsettlingly good.

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great news

Posted in advertising, nablopomo by theobvious on November 26, 2010

Not only are naked Pamela and Justin bringing lots of traffic in, someone was actually referred to this blog yesterday from a website called Cheapest Viagra. I’m famous for all the wrong reasons!

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it’s thanksgiving

Posted in nablopomo by theobvious on November 25, 2010

I was going to list a number of things I was thankful for, but I wrote them down in my notebook and then left it at the seminar where I gave the lecture yesterday. So I guess I’m thankful I didn’t leave my wallet there. And I’m also immensely thankful that I’m going to bed now, although my bedroom reeks of paint, but that’s another story.

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what i saw today

Posted in nablopomo, people, vilnius by theobvious on November 24, 2010

An old man and woman walking and holding hands. When I asked them for directions, the lady stepped in front of her man in a practised motion of taking charge and explained kindly. She then fell right back into step and into her conversation with him.

A guy on the bus telling the driver that women have trouble letting go of their virginity, but not their money.

An old blue van with a huge yellow smiley face on the front and “E=mc2” in yellow letters on the side. The people inside were laughing, probably happy, safe in their knowledge that E will always equal that, whatever happens.

Twenty minutes’ worth of streets in V. I didn’t recognize (that’s a lot for a small city of 600,000 people). When the bus finally wove out of the dark industrial neighbourhood, a graffiti said: “Welcome to V., such as it is.”

La Bayadère.

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quick one before bed

Posted in nablopomo, people by theobvious on November 23, 2010

My greatest achievement today was meeting the main shareholder of a large company and teaching him, at his request, how to fold origami stars.

Tomorrow I’m giving a silly lecture in a resort town two hours’ ride from V., so I have to get up at seven. On Sunday it was 8 (after a 3 a.m. bedtime) to look for the cat, on Monday it was 7.45 to get to work, today it was 8 to meet the cleaning lady at 9. All in all, a rather night-owl-unfriendly week.

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he’s not back yet

Posted in cat, nablopomo by theobvious on November 22, 2010

Subj.

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kitty’s made a break for it

Posted in bad, cat, nablopomo, pets by theobvious on November 21, 2010

Our cat Oscar ran away last night. A.’s been out looking for him five times today, and we both went another three times. At this point we’re just hoping he’ll come back and giving many hugs to our remaining cat (who seems unfazed by the events, but we might just not get his signs).

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the world is getting old

Posted in nablopomo by theobvious on November 20, 2010

Something that really shook me just now is that Woody Allen is 75 years old. I mean, the guy was 51 when I was born. He always looks about 45-48 in the movies, I never thought about his real age, and now it just hit me. Really, imdb.com is the scariest website: you watch a great movie, you log on to imdb, you check out the actors—wham, they’ve all aged since the movie was made and are now grey-haired, wrinkly, and playing people’s parents.

Take the cast of Friends, for example, these guys have embodied what being young and starting out on your own was for ten years, and now Matt LeBlanc looks like Joey would if he stood still for a year and his hair got really dusty. And Matthew Perry has a permanently tired face with a gritty quality. Courteney Cox plays the lead in a show about cougars for chrissake! Or Sex and the City—if it started now, who would believe it? They’re all 45 or 50!

And the generation before them, the guys who star in all of my favourite movies? Robin Williams is 59 and has this permanent old man’s stubble. Dustin Hoffman is in the same league as Woody Allen, he’s just two years younger. The boy who killed himself in Dead Poets Society is now going through mid-life crises on House. Julie Andrews—Maria, the fresh-faced nun who falls for the Captain—was born in 1935. Even baby-faced Adam Sandler is forty-four!

I don’t even want to make any conclusions on the end of this post.

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our couch is good for surfing

Posted in food, good, people, vilnius by theobvious on November 19, 2010

The couchsurfers are here, and I expected it to be weird, because we’ve never been in a situation where we have to meet completely new people in our house with nobody to introduce us. Surprisingly, we quite hit it off, it seems, unless these are very polite people who’ll hang out with you because they don’t want to offend.

It’s a nice feeling to get to know someone with no shared background at all: not a new member in an existing group, or a new addition to an old team, or someone we got to meet because they’re Jewish. The only thing that unites us is that they were interested in seeing this town, and we happen to live here and have an open home.

For a while now, we’ve been a bit isolated in our own house. Many of our friends moved abroad this year, and in two couples the boys turned out to have severe allergies to cats, so hardly anyone comes to visit, and when we go out, it’s usually either the two of us, or us and my parents, or us and one other couple. We love them, but it does get monotonous.

Despite my social phobia and the anxiety I feel each time when there may be new people to meet, it feels quite nice to just sit there with someone I know nothing about and chat about Morocco and cats and thesis advisors and tourists. And pie, A. baked a pie!

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plan worked; i am immobile

Posted in exercise, nablopomo by theobvious on November 18, 2010

What do you know, yesterday’s trick really worked! The search queries that brought traffic to the blog today were: “Pamela Anderson naked” and “Justin Bieber naked”. I say, this is SEO at its best, I should probably market this as a “solution”.

Also, I just found myself crying because I really REALLY REALLY didn’t want to do my daily exercises. Sometimes my wussiness surprises even myself. Anyway, these two days have been couch-potato days: no morning walk, no evening exercises. Meh, I just want to sit in bed and not. move. ever.

This post wins the Pointlessness Prize of the year. Just saying.

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pamela anderson and justin bieber naked

Posted in nablopomo, the thrilling goings-on by theobvious on November 17, 2010

Whatever I do, this frankly unremarkable post remains the most visited on my blog, and that’s not because it’s too interesting, but thanks to my penchant for silly off-the-wall blog titles. People are just googling ‘hello in Albanian’ and getting here. Why are they doing it? Are they all going to Albania? Are they taking the dated Russian equivalent of LOL-speak, ‘Olbanian’, and the popular mocking recommendation to ‘learn Olbanian’ seriously? Should I replace the contents of that post with valuable clickable banners and monetize? I must come up with a creative way to use a space which is seen by above of seven people daily (gasp!). Or maybe I can give this post an even better title, so that it becomes the attraction. Hmm, let’s see…*

Anyway, most of today was horrid. I overslept by four hours, stumbled on maybe five great ideas when it was too late to act on them, felt like a giant ugly ass, was hungry and cranky most of the time, and so on and so forth. Not to put too fine a point on it, I HATED EVERY MINUTE. But then I got to read for two hours (I’m reading a series I adored as a child, which largely inspired my envy of boys, in the original Polish, and getting a great kick of it). Then I got told I looked great three times in a row (admittedly, by the same excitable person, but nonetheless). And then two separate very cool couples said they wanted to surf our couch this weekend and the next—everyone wants to come see the lovely city of V.! So now I feel better. The (happy) end.

*I feel I might have done this once before, but can’t find that post, so let’s say it never happened.

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current blog recommendations

Posted in blogroll, nablopomo by theobvious on November 16, 2010

Here are ten blogs which hardly ever get skipped when they come up on my Google Reader:

  1. A Cup of Jo — it’s usually sweet and full of pretty things.
  2. Abstract City — gorgeous and funny illustrated stories.
  3. Bliss — love her I Love Mondays where she lists shopping finds.
  4. Dooce — snarky, funny, and well-written.
  5. Gemma Correll — wonderful illustrator, loves coffee and pugs.
  6. Hark, a Vagrant — sarcastic, highly educated comics.
  7. Information is Beautiful — infographics are my friends.
  8. Letters of Note — unique documents of diverse times and events.
  9. Penelope Bagieu — funny, nicely drawn, helpful for my French.
  10. Stephen Fry — can’t be a true fan and not read the blog.

Not to mention, of course, the daily comic strips like Questionable Content, Girls With Slingshots, Inkdick, and Indexed, among others.

Check them all out!

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