My Usenet posts
My friend Inma, who you probably don’t know, but who is charming and good-looking and all-round fantastic, went to visit someone she knows in in southern Germany last weekend, doing tourist stuff in Bavaria and spending an afternoon lazing around at an Austrian lake. She sent me a postcard from there—and I was a little weirded out initially, because it was in an envelope, which kind of misses the point of postcards—and with it, a square of German toilet paper. Which see:
Yes, you are not hallucinating, that is a square of educational, pop-triva toilet paper that’s asking you who was with Edmund Hillary at the top of Everest. How cool is that? And how likely are you to forget that „der Gipfel“ means “the summit” now? I know I’m not.
“Operation Dumbo Drop” was on TV this evening. Setting a Disney feel-good movie with the American Army in Vietnam seems to me about a good a judgement call as would be setting one with the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front; that is, not at all.
Tesco sell el-Cheapo ground coffee for people with machines, the sort of gits like myself that Just Ain’t Satisfied with instant and are still miserly;
Now here’s the twist. Have a look at the side;
That’s right, they’re selling it in half-pound quantities. Which raises the question, who exactly do they think they’re aiming at with this product? People who drink ground coffee in Britain and Ireland—unless, perhaps, they’re American, in which case they will still confused by the lack of Imperial measurements—are, to generalise, not anti-Metric luddites.
And it can’t really make shipping any easier, because they also sell continental brands in 250g and 500g packs, which they’ll have to deal with anyway. Oh, and all the prices have the price per kilo beside them on the shelf, so that’s probably not it. Heh.
I’m reading a translation of a set of Umberto Eco lectures, Im Wald der Fiktionen: Sechs Streifzüge durch die Literatur, and I just came across this sentence, which bears sharing, I think.
(Context; he’s just taken a quotation from the end of Edgar Allen Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym , which is, basically, not an ending at all.)
„Hier, wo die Stimme des Ich-Erzählers abbricht, will der Autor, daß wir den Rest unseres Lebens damit verbringen, uns zu fragen, wie es weitergangen sein mag, und in der Sorge, daß wir noch nicht genügend verzehrt werden von der Begierde, zu wissen, was wir nie erfahren werden, fügt der Autor—nicht der Erzähler—eine Nachbemerkung an, in welcher er uns bedeutet, nach dem Verschwinden von Mr. Pym sei »zu befürchten, daß die wenigen verbleibenden Kapitel, die seinen Bericht hätten abschließen sollen [...] unwiederbringlich verlorengegangen sind«.“
Firstly; wow. What a sentence. Don’t you think so? Ninety words, if XEmacs’ count-words-region is to be believed. Secondly, my head hurts. Here’s my attempt at understanding it;
“At this point, where the voice of the first-person narrator breaks off, the author intends us to spend the rest of our lives asking ourselves how he will react to going further, and worrying that we still haven’t absorbed enough longing to know what we will never experience. The author—not the narrator—also adds a further commentary, in which he explains to us that after the disappearance of Mr. Pym ‘it is to be feared that the few remaining chapter which should have concluded the report [...] were irreparably lost.’”
(Criticism of the shakiness of this translation is, as always, welcome at the obvious email address.)
 Yes, Eco is Italian, and so reading him in German does probably lose something. However, the translator of this work is his habitual German translator, Burkhart Kroeber, and if the standard of Kroeber is up to that of his English translator—and I have every reason to believe it is, after reading—then the book is very good German. The principle of “don’t try to read anything in a second language that you wouldn’t like to read in your first” has worked well for me in the past, and I’m an unreserved Eco fan.
Wuhh, excuse the unfinished philosophical ramblings of the last post.
Anyway. Went to see Jo Tta Kun Sunday, which was mad, and pretty cool; they’re Basque trad with the traditional two-note Txalaparta percussion instrument extended so it can actually harmonise with a guitar, and with sundry other instruments thrown into the mix. And in the grand tradition of all trad, when it’s authentic it’s done by people who dress unselfconsciously like they’re from the back-arse of nowhere. Which is all good.
(Apparently they earned €500 Saturday busking on Grafton St. I know, Saturday, but wow.)