Translation

I am a story waiting to be translated and read.

Words don’t come easy – I stole these ones from a song, I think.

They stumble on the way out and hang limply on a line, secured by the old-fashioned pins, begging to be used.

I check the dictionary and find the correct meaning, but by the time I do that, the moment is lost, the pin has not moved, the word is still hanging.

Languages converge in my brain, confused, mixed up, lost.

I swim through ideas, run through subjects, trudge through images.

I am a poem, waiting to be recited.

I am cipher, waiting to be decoded.

I am a writer, I think.

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Ambivalent

Ambivalent is the right word for the moment.  This is how I feel most of the time lately, it seems.

I’ve been thinking about this whole Golden Globes Meryl Streep controversy a lot.  I am not sure how I feel about her speech.  On one hand, throughout history of theater actors always used their position in order to champion their views on everything and everyone, but on the other hand, something about that particular speech at that particular occasion didn’t sound right to me.  Then, of course, thousands of people, starting with our president-elect joined the fray and happily used every medium available in this advanced century to express their opinions and post their memes.

Theater and politics always went hand in hand.  It started during Greek and Roman times, I suppose, because theaters were among the places where politicians, philosophers and orators delivered their speeches.  This tradition persists in modern times as well.   As The Bard famously proclaimed, All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players, so being on the stage within the stage amplifies the effect of any action.  Film is just an extension of theater, it seems to me.

I’ve been a huge fan of Meryl Streep since I first saw her in The French Leutenant’s Woman speaking in the voice of a hesitant Russian dubber, back in Lvov when I was 17 years old.  For some reason I only managed to see Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice much later and in English, which definitely improved the experience.  She is one of the most versatile actresses, who perfectly embodies different characters in dramas, comedies and even musicals.  She is definitely not overrated, in my humble opinion.

It’s difficult to find something to say against her as a person, but the one who looks, will always find something.  One of the frequently posted memes questioned her integrity because she gave standing ovation to Roman Polanski’s Oscar win for The Pianist.  The meme goes like this: she must be a hypocrite, because she opposed Trump for mocking a disabled reporter, but cheered a convicted child rapist.

Here is my take on this.  Roman Polanski is undeniably a very gifted director, whose movies are a real work of art.  This, of course, doesn’t cancel the fact that he molested a 13 year old girl, was convicted for this crime and run away.  It doesn’t prevent him, however, from making wonderful movies with amazing actors, and getting all imaginable awards for his craft.  He cannot come to the US or to the countries that have extradition agreement with the US, but it doesn’t look like this situation hinders him in any way.

The Pianist is a gem of a film, so poignant and so tender, that I cried while watching it.  Polanski deserved his Oscar, but was unable to collect it in person, because of the aforementioned conviction.  Lots of pundits stood up when the win was announced, and, in my opinion, they applauded the immense talent and the courage it took the Holocaust survivor to make a movie about Holocaust.  So, it looks like Meryl Streep separated the craft from the person on that occasion, and was happy to see the film and director receive their deserved awards.

However, by the same token, I think that she should’ve separated the Golden Globes, where she received the Lifetime Achievement award for her craft from her political position.  If she was able to do it for Roman Polanski, she should’ve done the same for Donald Trump.  If she was there to celebrate the talent, the miracle of becoming someone else entirely, the mastery behind every movement, every glance and every word, she should’ve left behind not only the criminal action of one person, but also the indiscreet and hurtful actions of the other.

Having said that, I have to admit that I agree with most of her speech, with the exception of dislike of foreigners.  Two of Trump’s three wives are foreigners.  If he is accepting them in his family, I don’t see why he would object to them in Hollywood.

I strongly dislike Donald Trump and adore Meryl Streep, but the feeling of ambivalence is what is left in me in the wake of that debacle.

 

Panoply of Words

First of all, I love the sound of this word.  Somehow it reminds me of a patchwork quilt: it’s irregular and orderly at the same time.  Since I started learning English, I was always amazed by how different this language is from my native tongue – Russian.

Russian is a very flexible language.  Every word can be changed and, with the help of prefixes and suffixes, become almost unrecognizable.  The sentences don’t have a rigid date-linguistword order.  Theoretically speaking, it helps if a subject goes before the verb, but it’s not required.  You can change a declarative sentence into interrogative by simply putting a question mark at the end – no need for doing anything more than that.  The amount of word variations is almost indefinite: we have an extraordinary amount of derivative suffixes at our disposal, and our kids’ names go through the stages, much like the kids themselves.

For example, take my son’s name: Michael.  Ordinary, simple and internationally recognizable.  Nobody has any trouble pronouncing it in any language.  Over the course of his short life his name went through the following transformations: Mishanya, Masyusya, Mishanechka, Mishan’ka, Mus’ka, Mas’ka, Myshonok, Mishushonok, Mishechka, Mishulya, Mishka, Mikey and Mike (this, of course, being an american influence).  Believe it or not, I probably missed a few…  Some of the excessively sibilant ones drew firm reprimands from my husband, who was complaining that I was diminishing my son’s male essence by using these names, but, being in the grip of irreverent motherly love, I paid no attention to that.  My son is 14 now and is as much a man as someone who never heard funny variations of his manly name.  Now do you see what I mean?  All of these derivatives of one of the most common name in the world are possible in Russian.  Every relative can pick and use whatever version they want – it’s still the same name.  Only your imagination can limit you in creation of new variations of your beloved child’s moniker.

When I just started studying English, I was a little put out by its syntactic restrictions and its inadequate supply of derivatives (or so I thought at the time).  But with time I understood that whatever English might be missing in terms of word creation, it more than compensates by word abundance.  There are so many strange and beautiful sounding words in English, that my nerdy heart skips a bit every time I encounter one of them.  The way words are formed in English is also different from Russian, but now I find it exciting and imaginative.  21 years later I finally made my peace with English and now am using it as my primary writing language, although I know that it’s still far from being perfect.

linguistic-relativity-thesisOn my precious iPhone I keep a running list of my favorite words.  In order to make it to my list the word has to be uncommon and beautifully formed.  I don’t know how to explain how I can tell that the word is beautiful, though.  I guess it’s all about the balance of the parts of the word, the letters used to represent it and the meaning it conveys.  I have a perfunctory knowledge of Latin, courtesy of Lviv State University, where I studied a lifetime ago, so sometimes I can guess the meaning of the word by recognizing its Latin root. However, even if the word is coming from a different language, occasionally I can discern what it means just by the way it sounds.

In a way, my obsession with the words reminds me of the beginning chapter in Umberto Eco’s book ‘Baudolino’, of which I am not the biggest fan, but this is as close as I can get to explaining what the connection of the word, sound and meaning means to me.  In the first chapter of that book the main character, Baudolino, is trying to invent written language.  And he is boldly trying to capture on paper what he sees in this mind’s eye, reconcile it with what he feels in his heart, and make it permanent by writing it down.

Every time I see a word like ‘Excrescence’ or ‘Absquatulate’, I can envision the long Blogger's Block: 'I'm all nouned out.'journey it had to make in people’s minds in order for me to be able to read and enjoy it.  To me, the words have personalities, just as humans do.  For instance, ‘wheedle’ is playful and light, but ‘virago’ is heavy and unyielding; ‘puissant’ definitely has a chip on its shoulder, and ‘invidious’ is sneaky and secretive; it’s obvious to me that ‘salubrious’ and ‘lugubrious’ are at odds with each other, and ‘prolixity’ is a sin I personally suffer from.

What more can I say?  I am a nerd and proud of it!

Panoply

My Mythical Adventure

When my daughter was little, she never liked fairy tales.  Actually, my son didn’t like them either, now that I think about it.  Is this normal?  To me, fairy tales were the windows into the world of unknown danger, suicidal trials and magical surprises.  I mean, isn’t it cool to wake up one morning, getting ready for another miserable day in the chain of never godmommyending miserable days, and suddenly find a mysterious godmother sitting next to you, who wants nothing more than to fix your life for you, effectively putting a stop to the general unhappiness?  How can you not like it, I ask you?  I wouldn’t mind this godmother dropping in on me.  Apparently you don’t like it if you have a combination of my and my husband’s genes, with his proteins trampling mine on every turn.

Myths, however, is something my kids and I can actually bond over.  In my wenge Ikea book case I’ve got Mythological Encyclopedia, multiple versions of Greek and Roman myths, and the Holy Bible of every faithful anthropological student – The Golden Bough by James Frazer.  They are quietly gathering dust, until my loving hand plucks one of them from the shelf and takes it for a wild ride. Since my daughter was about 6 years old, she would fall asleep to the inspirational stories of Gods,Titans and Heroes fighting, falling in love, killing each other and doing much worse things to humans and the whole world in general.  My son definitely preferred the fighting myths to the sappy romantic adventures, but to my daughter the classification of the story always meant much less than the story itself.  And so, happy to share at least some of my inner world with my offspring, I animatedly recounted for them Heracles’s twelve labors, Eo’s frantic and futile flight from the tormenting wasp, Prometheus’s noble sacrifice, and anything else I thought was appropriate for whatever ages my kids were at thematrix time when they were still willing to listen to the stories.  They really liked Odysseus, didn’t care much for the brooding Achilles (I was actually able to trick my daughter into listening to a part of The Song of the Niebelungs, which dovetailed neatly into Ilead), were impressed by Athena’s wisdom and Hermes’s tricks, and repulsed by Agamemnon’s horrible sacrifice.  Eventually, the history of the world, Greek style, was imparted on them this way.

Of course, myths and fairy tales are very closely related, but I won’t go into anthropological nuances right now.  The three people who are actually reading my blog might just stop doing it, if I bore them to death with comparative analysis :).  I was always curious though, why my kids preferred one over the other.  Since both of them are not into reading, writing, or anything remotely related to liberal arts, it took me a long time to extract answers from them.  Apparently, to my kids the mythical creatures are more real and more relatable than fairy tale characters.  I took this confusing statement at the face value and forgot about it for awhile.

Some time ago though, I found that my kids are not the only ones, who are thinking along these lines.  Rick Riordan’s mythopoeic novels, Hunger Games and The Maze Runner trilogies, and even Harry Potter and Game of Thrones series are steeped in myths.  The characters, ideas and situations described in Greek and Roman mythology are constantly finding their way into our lives.  And we are losing ourselves in modern versions of Theseus’s journey through the Labyrinth, Zeus’s fight with his father Chronos, Prometheus’s plight to improve human race (and don’t start me on Oedipus and his weird family); thereby confirming what my kids knew all along – there is a very fine line between myths and reality, and we constantly cross it at will.

Mythical

Second Thoughts

Second thoughts… I’ve had them since I remember myself.  I can never adhere to one idea, or accept one point of view.  I always see two sides to every argument,  I have second thoughts about every action I take, every decision I make.

I always envy people, who are one hundred percent sure of their convictions.  It doesn’t matter whether I agree or disagree with them, I just envy their ability to shut down arguments of the opposite side.  It’s not like I don’t have a definite opinion about things or have an amorphous belief system, I do have strong views about some things…in my own freaky way.  I simply can hear contradicting opinions as well.  And some of them make sense to me.

Take the recent presidential election, for example.  I was one of those despised undecided voters who didn’t know who they will vote for until they came into the voting booth.  I envied the Trump and Clinton supporters, who picked the side and firmly stayed with it.  I couldn’t do it.  Some arguments that came from the camps of both candidates made sense to me, and some didn’t.  But I just couldn’t place myself in the specific camp.

Yes, Trump won, but didn’t he run as an against-the-system candidate?  How does it make sense than, that it’s the system of electoral college that made him a president, not the majority of voters?  And becoming a president, hasn’t he become a part of the system he eviscerated during the campaign?  Now, when he is a part of the very system he wanted to ‘clean’, didn’t he fill his transition team with the people that were very much part of that system for many years?

On the other side, Hillary, who theoretically was the system (Democratic party) candidate, seemingly went against her core constituency by suggesting things like getting rid of coal industry, which cost her Pennsylvania, and calling Trump supporters ‘a basket of deplorables’, which probably cost her a few hundred thousands of potential voters as well.  Regardless what you think about her, those weren’t the smartest things to say on the campaign trail, and the system punished her for it.

Another example is faith.  I think I believe in God.  Not in the specific God, mind.  Every belief system has a right to exist and every interpretation is evocative to some group of people.  I would love to belong to any of these groups.  For the first time in my life I bitterly regretted not to be among the faithful after September 11.  Religious people went to their temples and found solace communicating with their respective Gods. But there was no solace for me.  I always thought that the doubting Thomas was the most real character in the Bible, because he had to see something in order to believe in it, and only after receiving verifiable proof was he able to truly surrender himself to the wonder of devotion.  I guess I am still waiting for some kind of proof to come my way.

I really do think there is a difference between not knowing what one wants and understanding consequences of each choice.  It’s true that sometimes the result of both ways of thinking is sitting on one’s butt and not doing anything, but the reasoning is totally different.  In one case it’s passive, in another case, it’s active.  Active thinking and weighing of the consequences will ultimately result in some kind of action, so it’s ok if it takes more time to figure out what that action should be.

There are very few things in my life that I don’t have second thoughts about.  Everything is up for a discussion, everything is a subject to change.  Does it make me a weak person?  I don’t think so.  I think this quality makes me more aware of other people around me, their thoughts and needs.  Nevertheless, I do have strong one sided opinions about certain things.  For example, I think that a man, who assaults a woman, or abuses a child has no right to walk this earth.  A woman, who hurts a child should not be allowed near another human being, because nothing is worth the tears of that one tortured child. Other than that, I will hear everything, weigh my options, wrestle with the second thoughts and most likely will make a decision at the end, or change the one I already made (if I can).  It doesn’t mean that it will be the right decision, just the one that I was most comfortable with at the specific time…

Second Thoughts 

 

 

Waiting

I am always waiting for something.  When I was a child I was waiting for specific birthdays.  For some reason I thought that something very important is going to happen to me when I will be 19, 30 and 45 years old.  I was right so far: I got married when I was 19, my son was born when I turned 30, and I can’t wait for my next birthday to learn what life has in store for me at 45.

I was waiting for my kids to stop getting sick all the time, for my lucky stars to tell me what to do in terms of my career, for my parents to move closer to me, and most of all, for peace in my soul.  I am longing to be content with my life, but some unconscious black spot is always present in the back of my mind.  I feel that I lost my way somehow and not sure where to go from where I am.

I keep thinking that I am on the cusp of some defining event right now.  Everything that is happening around me is telling me that I am waiting for something.  I don’t know what it is.  I just hope it’s worth the wait.

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Waiting

Promises, promises…

How many times I promised myself something and then found a way not to do it?  Probably hundreds of times just in the month of October.  There is always an excuse not to do something that’s difficult or time consuming or unpleasant…  Let’s see, for the past months I promised myself the following things (and, trust me, all of them warrant exclamation points):

  1.  Go back to gym! (on hold lately due to my wrist surgery on top of my back surgery).  Theoretically, nothing prevents me from running on a treadmill, for example, or doing crunches in my living room, but I am one of those people, who needs a group of fellow sufferers and a merciless instructor to look forward to, not the solitary funny-gym-ecardreflection times on my carpet, and the classes in my gym all require two working hands…  And I still can’t go to Zumba, damn it!  Feeble excuse, I know, I know…
  2. Get on a diet already!  For someone who was able to adhere to Dukan diet for 2 years with great results just to watch it fail spectacularly one day for no good reason, any new diet is a painful commitment.   Yes, I need to cut on carbs, but what about those Goji berries, I am addicted to now?  I have at least three one pound bags stashed somewhere in the depths of my kitchen, and they have tons of vitamins ;).  How can I live without them?  And what about my monthly outings with the best foodie girls in the world?  You know who you are, I love you, guys!  Another sorry excuse…
  3. classy-wastedStop it with the wine!  Pain introduced me to alcohol last year and I’ve become a huge fan of red wine as a result.  Then the trip to Ireland in the summer affirmed my drinker status courtesy of a trip to Teeling whiskey distillery, and my life will never be the same after learning the proper whiskey tasting techniques.  Oh, the wine!  The heavy bodied Cabernet, light and flirty Beaujolais, and special occasions Amarone!  How will I live without you?  Insert a teary Emoji here, I can’t find a shortcut…
  4. Quit bitching about my job!  I have it, shouldn’t it be enough?  Tearful complains to everyone within the earshot are not doing me any good, and probably bored my friends to death by now.  It’s time to bite the bullet and get on with it.
  5. Stop this obsession with Outlander! This got to be the weirdest one.  I never obsessed with a movie, or a book, or with an actor or actress before.  Am I going crazy, people?  The show came to me after reading a review page in The New Yorker this June, the books came in the middle of binge watching Season 1 and whatever was c136a5cce30688f23112fafd3ed5c033out there already from Season 2.  At some point I understood that I just can’t wait the whole week to learn what happened next, and downloaded all 8 books to my Kindle.  By the time Season 2 finale aired I already knew what will be there, but cried my eyes out anyway.  It helps (or doesn’t, depending on the point of view) that the main actors are ridiculously attractive.  What the hell makes me rewatch and reread favorite moments specifically in this series, I will never understand.  I was never a pop culture fan.  Game of Thrones was a binge as well, but nothing will make me watch again the finale of Season 6.  I like the music from it, though.  It’s eerie and beautiful and a little creepy.  I listen to it from time to time on my iPhone and think about various deaths that happened while it played.  Yes, creepy, I know.  Hey, maybe I should subscribe to the workout sessions that Sam Heughan developed, this way I can exercise while feeding my obsession?  OK, the fact I am even considering it has to be the most out of the character thing in my entire life.  Is it the age, people?  It’s got to be the age…
  6. Get out more!  This should be easy, right?  I love museums, theater, hiking and traveling.  So what exactly is stopping me from doing something exciting every weekend?  Thanks to tdf.org Broadway tickets are reasonably priced, my son loves theater, my husband tags along willy-nilly, and I have a bunch of friends that would love to spend a day in a museum with me (at least I like to think so).  My excuse for this one is: our basement reconstruction is not finished, so we need to pick stuff, buy stuff, transport stuff, and so on.  Of course, we’ve been doing it for quite some time, and most of the things we need have already been taken care of.  All right, I am lazy, I guess…  That’s no excuse, but at least I am honest with myself.

It seems I can go on for quite some time with the list of last month’s promises, but enough is enough.  Let’s hope I’ll act on at least couple of them this month.

Promises