Sunday, May 28, 2006

Plop, Glug, Whirrrrrr.

I had planned a number of postings for this weekend. I was going to create a couple more alternative identities, post a few more reviews of films, and review a book or two.

But something wonderful has happened. Le soleil est apparu. I can't stay indoors at the computer. It's impossible!

Yesterday I inaugurated the gazpacho season with a cold soup made of pureed yellow pear tomatoes, vine tomatoes and peppers (among other things, including fresh basil). It turned out golden, sweet, and tangy. Served chilled with crusty whole wheat baguette smeared with goat cheese, it tastes like summer. Now it's time to frolic in the sun. Here's the gazpacho recipe:

Gazpacho Soleil

2 pints very ripe yellow grape or pear tomatoes
6 ripe near to bursting bright yellow vine tomatoes
1 cucumber
1 vidalia onion
2 yellow or orange dutch peppers (if you're extremely lazy, use roasted red or yellow peppers from a jar. But I guarantee it won't taste as good as if you used fresh).
1 handful fresh basil leaves (green or opal-- I prefer the opal, or pistou, as it's got more of a bite)
2-3 cloves lightly roasted garlic (you can do this in the microwave for 40 sec. You can also leave out the garlic, it will taste just fine without)
glugs and glugs of olive oil
sea salt and vinegar to taste.

Peel, seed and chop the cucumber. I usuallly seed it by cutting it lengthwise in half, and scraping the seeds out with a teaspoon. Roughly chop the onion. Combine cucumber, onion, and roasted garlic cloves in a high speed blender (I use an old 1970s Osterizer, still great after all these years), with a generous amount of olive oil (2/3 to 1 cup, or 3-4 glugs from the bottle) and sea salt. Press "blend."

Core the peppers. Roast them lightly in the microwave for a couple of minutes (6-10), then rinse in cold water and peel. If you're in a hurry, you can skip both roasting and peeling. I just like to do it because it makes a smoother gazpacho, and the peels then don't end up stuck between your teeth. Plop the peppers into the cucumber, onion, and olive oil mixture in the blender. Press "blend." Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

If the blender is full which by now it should be, pour out about half of the mixture into a large bowl. Now dump in a pint of pear or grape tomatoes. Press "blend." Whirrrrrrrrrrrr. Dump out more of the liquid into the bowl. Dump the second pint of tomatoes into the blender. Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Add a glug or two of olive oil, and vinegar to taste. Whirrrrrrrrrr.

If your vine tomatoes are incredibly ripe, so ripe that they'd fall apart if you were to cut into them, just plop them in the blender. If they are a little hard in the center, core them simply by slicing in half straight down the cleft and scraping out the core - the hard part near the top - with your fingers (discard the cores). Plop them in the blender, with a handful of basil leaves. Whirrrrrrrrrr.

Dump the contents of the blender out into the bowl. Mix with a spatula, add freshly ground pepper and whatever else you think it needs after you've tasted it.

If you plan to eat it right away, and you should, plop a few ice cubes into your bowl. Refrigerate the rest. It will be even better the second day.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Russian Dolls

So tonight I saw Cedric Klapisch's film Les Poupées Russes, the latest saga in the life and loves of Xavier, a young confused writer who first appears in L'Auberge Espagnol. The first film is cute and frothy and not much more. It's about a diverse group of Europeans sharing a tiny apartment in Barcelona, universal shared experiences abroad, blah blah blah, and even though I had a similar experience myself a couple of years ago in Oxford (Number 8 St. John Street Forever!), I thought the movie was trite. (By the way, my favourite Klapisch film remains Chacun Cherche Son Chat, filmed entirely on and around the rue du Charonne and the Bastille neighborhood in Paris just as it was really changing. It combines one woman's quest to escape her soliltude with a subtle commentary on urban gentrification).

The second film, however, really surprised me. Where the first is silly but predictable in its jouissance, the second is much more sophisticated. It also takes more cinematic risks, and somehow seems funnier as well, but the humor here is more melancholy, more uncertain. Perhaps it is because the characters have truly aged, or perhaps it is because the actors (Roman Duris and Kelly Reilly) have also matured. (And I now have an enormous crush on Duris. I cannot wait to see De Battre Mon Coeur S'est Arrêté).

There is a moment near the beginning of the film when Duris is sitting on the couch with Audrey Tautou, who plays his ex-girlfriend. They are looking desolate and eating chocolate cake. It is her birthday. They discuss their present situation: "Are you seeing someone?" "No. Are you?" "No." They briefly consider hooking up, but are too wise and worn out romantically to go further than half a kiss. Tautou gazes morosely at the floor. "Bienvenue à les années trentes." (Welcome to our thirties).

What follows is a succession of stories of relationships (supposedly like Russian dolls, but not really as they aren't all contained one within the other), narrated by Xavier, about his attempts to find love, none of which work. This is due in part to Xavier's misplaced and unrealistic specifications. His flawed relationships are alternately beautiful, witty, embarassing, and somewhat painful, especially because Xavier struggles so hard to make himself feel something truthful. Xavier is not really a loveable character, in part because he's got a gorgeous, intelligent, successful character in love with him, yet he doesn't appreciate her. She doesn't fit his idea of who he should be with. But his confusion is endearing (or at least it was to me. I mean, it's Roman Duris!!!). The story is told with such wit and good humor, I was sorry to see it end. Sound familiar? Bienvenue à les années trentes.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Alternate Identity Candidates, Round One

Here are some candidates for my alternate identity.

Candidate No. 1

  • Name: Emma Curtain
  • Occupation: Undercover Agent
  • Alias: Murasaki
  • Special Skills: Fluent in 12 languages including 4 dead ones; Hapkido; seduction; contortion; sharpshooter; Beating the Fuck out of People when they least expect it
  • History: a foundling discovered on the doorstep of a convent in Fiesole, Emma was raised by Latin-speaking nuns until a group of maroon-clad British gentlemen reclaimed her on her 12th birthday. From then on, she was trained in the secret art of espionage, whilst attending Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne, and UT Austin simultaneously.
  • Age: If I told you that, I'd have to kill you.
  • Nemesis: Emma's arch rival is an escaped hillbilly convict currently posing as a distinguished professor.
Candidate No. 2

  • Name: Saffron
  • Aliases: Minou, Little Face, Daemon, Antic, Shnook
  • Occupation: Cat
  • Special Skills: Purring loudly, grasping objects with paws, getting exactly what she wants all the time, hunting, sleeping 20 hours per day, luxuriating, stretching, sleeping some more, being cute.
  • History: adopted at 9 weeks, spoiled for 4 years. And counting. Has a love/hate relationship with the outdoors.
  • Age: 4
  • Nemeses: Le Chat Baiyge, violinists, mobile phones

The Ants go marching one by one

Hurrah, hurrah.

Actually, not hurrah. Far from hurrah. Ants have invaded my apartment. They are all over the windowsills and the kitchen.

I have purchased "ant bait" and a citrus-based countertop cleaner. They aren't working.

The ants keep coming in. In their orderly lines, trailing their little fragile bodies across the windowsill, they march determinedly.

It's gotten to the point where my cat doesn't even notice them anymore. They have ceased to be Of Interest.

I can only hope that this is temporary.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Alternate Identities

I recently discovered that a friend of mine has an "alternate personality." It's really just a joke, an identity he created for himself that is completely different from his everyday personality, but it got me thinking.

Is "The Freudian Petticoat" my own alternate personality? I tend to think of blogs as ways for people to explore putting themselves on display, and of course a fair amount of that involves self-fashioning (see my earlier post on Ren Prof Self-fashioning). Is "muse" different from me?

I like the idea of creating an alternate identity, one with a history, iconography, and, in the case of my friend, song and dance.

When I have more time, I'll post some character descriptions and pictures of candidates for muse's alternate identity.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Font Names

I love the website Da Font , where you can download typefaces for free. I've found a number of historical (medieval, early modern, 18th century) fonts there.

But mostly I love it because of the descriptive font names.

Names like "Fucked Olympia," "Dolenzo," "Boomerang Monkey," "Apostate Cancer," "Gastro Intestinal Confluent," "Rutaban," and "Chancelaresca."

At some point, I will have to use these names in a novel.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Freudian Slip of the Day

Introducing a new category! FSOTD or, "Freudian Slip of the Day."

In which I post a rather amusing "Freudian slip" uttered by me, one of my friends, or a complete stranger. But not every day.

  • FSOTD: Apartment Humping
  • Utterer: Myself
  • Occasion of Utterance: Discussing with a friend my impending "apartment hunting" trip South.
  • Psychoanalysis: cf. Marjorie Garber, Sex and Real Estate: Why We Love Houses

Everybody Loves a Winner

I'm rarely a winner. Well, except if you count getting a job, but I didn't think of that as winning, really. It was more like being rescued from a life of abject poverty. Anyway, the few things I've won -- a piano concerto competition, an essay contest here and there -- I can count on one hand (and I'm not counting fellowships because like jobs, those are about livelihood. Not that I've won a ton of those, either). Most importantly, I have never won anything frivolous or fun before.

But now I finally have. I've won the silly caption contest on Blogging the Renaissance!

I'm so excited. Here's the early modern woodcut, with my caption: Caption Contest No. 2

Now, if only I could "win" a book contract . . .

Black Toilet Paper

An article in today's Times (photograph by Lars Klove at left) proclaimed the trendy status of black toilet paper. It's so funny that I had to post a link to the Portuguese company that sells it. They also sell it in red and orange, though I can't imagine why. Why not emerald green, lavender, and electric blue? Why not polka dot?

The whimsical website's all in French, though you can switch to English, Spanish or Portuguese at the bottom. But French seems fitting (more avant garde, perhaps?). The product literature is tellement amusant:

"Un papier hygiénique totalement noir! Renova a osé … pour vous."

("A completely black toilet paper! Renova has dared [to make it] . . . for you.")

A set of 6 of rolls will set you back about 5 Euros. Black mouchoirs (Kleenex) are also available.

Renova Online

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Onion Skin

I love the way The Onion (begun in my hometown: Go Badgers!) satirizes the academic world. Due to long standing Onion Tradition, the original writers and editors have gone to great lengths to protect their true identities. But the "truthiness" (to paraphrase St. Colbert) of these stories tells me that many of the writers are well acquainted with the scholarly world. Especially since it was begun in my hometown, a university town (Go Badgers!). These articles in particular never fail to crack me up:

Heroic Computer Dies to Save World from Masters Thesis

TA Spotted at Bar

You are No Longer Welcome in the Homer Reading Group

Beaver Overthinking Dam

Pantagruelle has, like, way more over on her blogue.

The last person on earth not to have read "The Da Vinci Code"

Am I possibly the last person on earth not to have read The Da Vinci Code? Perhaps there is a small coterie of us who will continue to resist until The Da Vinci Code has been eroded by the sands of time.

I have no problem reading bestsellers. I read The Rule of Four. I read Everything is Illuminated. I read The Piano Tuner, and I read The Corrections. I eagerly devoured His Dark Materials and all the Harry Potter books.

But I have a major objection to The Da Vinci Code. One that prohibits me from even picking it up. And this probably is me being pretentious, but why on earth is it called the Da Vinci code? Only ignoramuses call Leonardo da Vinci "Da Vinci." That would be like calling Michelangelo "Buonarotti," or Raphael "Santi" or "da Urbino." It's Leonardo, dammit.

A.O. Scott has a very funny review of the Ron Howard movie in the New York Times, here:
Da Vinci Code Movie Review

Ah well. I can't stay angry for long at Dan Brown or popular culture. Not when the Adagietto from Mahler 5 is on the radio.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit

Today I listened to the third movement of Op. 132.

How can something called a prayer of thanksgiving make me feel so sad?

It is still raining.

Friday, May 12, 2006

And I think it's gonna rain today

Today of all days, when the sky is grey, humidity hovers, and an updraft lifts the backs of leaves, today when it is supposed to rain, they turn on the fountain in the park.

The fountain is a strange victorian thing. It looks like an enormous tiered cake stand, with water spilling off each tier.

Yesterday was a beautiful day. So was the day before. But did they turn on the fountain? Noooooooo. Today, when any minute it will start to rain, and continue to rain all through the weekend, they turn it on.

Nothing much to say today-- it's laundry day, which means four loads schlepped around the corner to the buanderie where Madame periodically corrects my french. She only cracked a smile after I'd been going there for 6 months. She's great. When I first got there and asked for a billet for the laveuse, she told me the correct word was ticket, and made me say it over again twice, before giving it to me.

Today while waiting for my tickets, I audaciously flirted (silently) with a guy who was waiting to drop off some dry cleaning. Secret smiles, a little eyelash batting and such. I felt very francophone. Perhaps because I wasn't speaking at all.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ben Jonson, the Graphic Novel, Ch. 1

Here is a Ben Jonson cartoon by Tom Gauld:

Ben Jonson Cartoon

(Thanks to Adam Smyth on Renaissance Lit for pointing it out).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Happy Birthday, Papa Freud

That's right. He turned 150 on May 6th. I think he's aged well.

Could he be the first thinker to sport "theory glasses"?

Monday, May 08, 2006

This is Just to Say . . .

This is just to say that Beethoven Quartets totally rock.

I've been listening to the Borodin play the Razumovskys, old favourites of mine. I fail to see how listening to this sublime music could not cause a day-long burst of euphoria. I can't say that about every quartet though. I can't listen to the A minor (Op. 132) at all right now.

I've been alternating the Beethoven with the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Show Your Bones, a near perfect album if you ask me.

Rocking the house on a gloriously sunny day.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Ren Prof Self Fashioning

I have decided to update my image.

In four months, I will start teaching early modern literature ("Ren Lit") at a small university in Olde-Towne, Southern State, USA.

I need a new look. I need a bit more edge, more angle. Something that says "young and funky prof," but also says "serious scholar." I've reassessed my wardrobe and realized that I only have two suits, both of which have skirts. I do possess an unhealthy number of sleek and sophisticated silk camisoles but these are better suited for evening wear, cocktail parties, and art gallery openings (vernissages here in Montreal). I also possess an even less healthy (bordering on debauched) number of pairs of boots.

Yet despite all this my average, every-day work clothes still mark me as studentish even though I have been out of grad school for a while. My personal aesthetic has been vintage-bohemian-neo-victorian. The anthropologie catalogue has fit me to a tee. But I'm beginning to long for something less "girly."

No more petticoats.

I want to bring out my dark and intense side. I want to vamp it up. I'm hankering for sharper lines, sleek tailoring and polish. I want to sport a long, angled bob, to gloss my hair a darker black, wear a fitted jacket and cropped trousers with tall, tight black boots (I have three pairs from which to choose. Yes I know it's an obsession and no, I'm not getting help). A friend joked that she might start a spin-off blog called "The Freudian Pantsuit." Perhaps I'll get there first.

What is happening to me? Where has Anthropologie-girl gone? What has Louise Brooks done with (or to) her?

Saturday, May 06, 2006


When I was 18 I decided not to go to a conservatory because I worried I wouldn't be able to read books and learn languages and argue about politics and write novels. Of course this is crazy, but that's what I thought at the time.

I often wonder how things might have turned out if I had gone that alternate route. I wonder if I'd be happier because I'd be making music all of the time. I know this is also crazy, because as in any art or profession, the joy only comes about half the time. I don't think I would have had an illustrious performance career, only because I know how difficult it is for women pianists to succeed. So much depends upon winning competitions and the world of classical music is still sexist and makes judgments based on appearance and marketability.

Not that I wouldn't succeed based on my appearance, but I wouldn't want to.

I still play, though this year has been very difficult for me without my own piano. My grand piano currently resides 1000 miles away in my parents' living room. I won't let them send it to me until I'm settled enough to buy a house, which may be as early as next year or as late as 5 years from now. I prefer chamber music -- especially the Beethoven piano trios. For solo performance, nothing compares to Bach, late Beethoven, and Schubert. It's funny that my musical sensibility is so 18th and 19th century, when my work is much earlier.

Something happens to me when I am playing. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, it's transcendent. I lose myself in the music. Something comes over me and it's like I am the instrument and the music is speaking through me. It only seems to happen with an audience. And when it does, it is sublime. And a little scary. My mother told me once that she'd never seen me transform so much as when I played. I think it was a little frightening for her at first, because I was so little when it started happening. It was like I disappeared into the music, became sort of possessed, filled with it until it spilled out.

I miss that. I don't think there is any other activity that produces such a sensation (not even sex). Writing, whether academic or artistic, doesn't do it for me. Writing for me is agony, interspersed now and then with moments of excitement and discovery that somehow dull the pain and frustration enough to keep on going. It's closer to practicing. Teaching can have uplifting moments, but it would be impossible (and reprehensible) to surrender myself to it enough to erase my sense of self. And of course I don't think I'd be able to. Or want to.

The Not-so-Notorious Bettie Page

The other night a friend and I saw The Notorious Bettie Page. I liked the black and white parody of 1940s and 50s movies, but we still found it a little lacking in depth. I think this was Mary Harron's intent-- to argue that the tame S&M pictures and films Bettie made were harmless and innocent, or at least Bettie's participation was.

The only really good moment in the film for me was when Bettie's Meisner-trained actor boyfriend discovers the bondage photos and is appalled at how "deviant" they are. Bettie responds that the people who like those pictures are just people like everybody else, who just happen to like funny costumes. In one way, this comes off as completely naive, but in another, it's profoundly sophisticated.

Bettie's religious conversion at the end (she's "born again") seemed forced and ambivalent. At first it seems she's so personally hurt by her notoriety, that she'll do anything to wash away the stigma, including take it upon herself. But then it appears that religion is just another thing for which she has a natural talent. I wasn't convinced. I know the film was trying to accomplish something by glossing over the dark details of Page's life story, but I'm still not entirely sure what that was.

Speaking of S&M, there's a hilarious song by the Magnetic Fields on 69 Love Songs that both parodies and celebrates it as a country-gospel hymn. For some reason I kept thinking of it while watching the Bettie Page movie. It would have been great for the sountrack. The first three lines are "He is my Lord, he is my Savior / And he rewards / My good behavior. . ."

Friday, May 05, 2006


Liminality is the state of existing on a threshold. I used to love liminality. I was all about liminality. Oh, how liminal it all is, I said. I had a liminal relationship. I wrote about textual liminality. I limned, and studied the Arte of Limning.

But I've had it with liminality. Liminality and I are through. Thresholds are a great way of evading things, of escaping confrontation and definition.

Recently, I was placed, through no choice of my own, in a liminal position at work, caught between high and low, sort of affiliated with a department, and sort of not. It was hell. No matter how hard I tried, I could not fit in.

I thought myself lucky at the time, I felt so protean. I fancied I could move seamlessly between both worlds, and get the best of each. Of course this was a lie. I was really trying to cross up. I thought for a second I was let in, but in fact people were only indulging me.

Slips and Petticoats

Welcome to The Freudian Petticoat.

It's not exactly about Freud, or petticoats. I just liked the idea of punning on the concept of a Freudian slip because apparently I make them all the time. I also like drawing out all the unintentional puns and polysemia embedded in the printed word.
And I do like petticoats. But that is the subject of another post.