Entries Tagged 'writing' ↓
September 23rd, 2006 — academic, language, politics, writing
If ye dinnae ken what Scots is, it’s the leid o the Scots fowk. Fae Scotland, ken?
Scots has been a written language since medieval times, but it lost much of its social prestige as a written language after the Act of Union (1707), when it became fashionable for young, upper middle class, trend-setting Scottish people to speak English as if they were from the newly reinforced center of political and economic power, London (and I don’t mean they spoke Cockney, either). The language of London trickled down to the middle class, until there was a quite the social bias against speaking Scots.
And so Scots became, for a long time, the language of home and hearth, street and field. But not the language of books, school, academics, politics, or finance. There was an institutional bias against Scots, and it was not used formally in politics or education. Children were scolded– beaten even– for using Scots words and grammar in school. It never died out, but with some notable exceptions, it wasn’t much of a publishing medium for a few hundred years. Many Scots speakers do not think of Scots as a language; it’s quite common for them to describe it as “bad English.” It doesn’t help that some linguists still do too.
Now, however, as you may know, especially if I’ve bent your ear on the subject, Scots is flourishing, and so its prestige is rising again. It’s been building for decades. And to ring in the 21st Century, there is a spate of fiction, poetry and drama writing, a slew of new childrens’ books (indeed, childrens’ presses), language learning materials, and so on.
There’s still room for growth, though; the Scottish Parliament has a Cross Pairty Group on the Scots Leid which has written a document called “Scots: a Statement o Principles” that you can download here; and there’s a link to the SCPB Leid Policy here, which outlines which languages are used in the Scottish Parliament, and when. The language of the Scottish Parliament is mainly English, though debate is allowed in Scots as well as English, and in other languages (for example, Gaelic or British Sign Language, in which case translators are provided).
All this is progress. The day the Scottish Parliament re-convened on 12 May 1999 (the previous meeting adjourned on 25 March 1707), Dr. Winnie Ewing greeted the Parliament in English and Gaelic. Scots, spoken by more people in Scotland than Gaelic, was not officially used in this address. According to the documents above, Scots has some limited role in the new Parliament, and given the way things are going for Scots, it is bound to grow, as it should. On the other hand, the European Parliament, which has many official languages, does not give official status to many minority or regional languages, especially those that aren’t official languages of the various nations; Scots is one of those.
But now, there is a Scots-language Wikipedia at http://sco.wikipedia.org. There are other wikipedias besides the one English speakers are most familiar with. The Scots one differs from some of the wikipedias in other languages, because its the first Encyclopedia in the Scots language in the world. It also differs from these other wikipedias because Scots is not yet a codified language. Scots speakers aren’t in 100% agreement about how to represent their language in writing. (This may sound strange to you, but look at books written just a few hundred years ago in English, and you’ll see more than a little variety in how words are spelled, for example.)
Despite any minor disagreements, though, communication is flourishing. And it’s braw.
braw: a. Fine, elegant, beautiful, excellent
ken: v. know
leid: n. language
April 17th, 2006 — arts, writing
She had been in ill health in Italy for some time. Nevertheless, the loss of Muriel Spark caught me off guard. She wrote twenty-one novels, and the best known and most celebrated The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is not even her best. Mind you, the movie of the novel gave Maggie Smith (another Dame) the chance to act the part of a crazy middle-aged woman, which is what she has always done best.
I have long been fascinated by Spark–as much as an example of what it means to be a woman and an artist in the mid-20th century, as anything else. She married young, divorced young, and raised a son as a single mother, while churning out those twenty-one novels. She was divorced, working and raising a son alone, when those were not things women did. Graham Greene was an admirer of her early work–no surprise, since they share a certain sensibility–and he helped her out when she was poor as a church mouse. She was a convert to Catholicism, and like most converts of any stripe, slightly obsessed (I speak from experience). Like Greene, her characters were as liable to think about moral questions (good vs. evil) as they were to drink a cup of coffee or read a newspaper.
If I only read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, I probably would have stopped there. It’s a good enough novel, but not my cup of tea. But in my 20′s, I went on a Spark bender, reading a number of her works in close succession. I started with The Girls of Slender Means, which is set in London just at the end of WWII. The Girls live in a women’s residence, which I think attracted me because at the time, I lived in one too (a women’s hotel: remember Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari in drag in “Bosom Buddies”?) In the 90′s, when I lived in one, of course, it was a hangover from another time, when young ladies who worked too far from their parents to live at home, did not have their own apartments. These places still exist, and can be a great place to crash for a few months when you move to a new city, like New York. They’re also quite archaic and funny, and always home to a few odd older women (not unlike those in the May of Teck Club in the novel).
So there I was in a women’s residence reading about the Girls in their 1945 version of the same. A kind of palimpsest, no? The novel was layered with narrative upon narrative, voice upon voice, another palimpsest. David Lodge once said something to the effect that Muriel Spark has employed all of the techniques associated with postmodernism–she just did so forty years ago (and he said this 10 or 15 years ago). I think this experimentation was often overlooked by critics.
Then I moved on to Loitering With Intent and my personal favorite A Far Cry from Kensington, in which the main character lives in a rooming house, works for an editor, and loses an enormous amount of weight by “eating half” of anything she would have eaten before. That in itself is a clever enough idea but takes an enormous amount of focus and will-power, and obsessiveness. And Spark’s characters are so often obsessed. Muriel Spark knew something about people. The idiosyncratic craziness inside each and every one of us, just waiting to surface.
Spark returned from South Africa to London, and then lived in New York and the Rome and Tuscany, but she always wrote in long-hand on a particular brand of bound, lined notebooks, shipped to her from a stationer’s in her native Edinburgh. She was as obsessive as some of her characters, but I mean it in a good way. The English language has lost one of its best living writers. RIP, Dame Muriel Spark.
April 6th, 2005 — general, writing
Hey–we’re a guest cup today on The Year of Coffee. What fun.
Seven months ago, I did not blog and had no espresso maker.
My old hand-me-down one had died, its hand-me-down replacement was a non-starter, and the sad, pathetic $30 replacement I bought in desperation (a cheapo Melitta on sale at Target) seeped steam out of every crack in a very high-pressure, scalding hot, frightening kind of way, and seemed like it just might explode into a million glass pieces. I knew that you could not make real espresso with a cheapo machine, even if you lived long enough to try repeatedly.
I knew you could make it in a stove-top Moka pot, and I have many friends who swear by them, but I loves me some crema on the espresso, and from what I’ve seen, the Mokas don’t do crema. I was also used to using a machine, and I liked the ritual of it.
So after some research, it was discovered that there are decent espresso machines for not-obscene amounts of money. But not for cheap. And we broke down and bought us one. And lo, it was good.
Understand, people, I do not own a stereo. I put up with a boom box and an ipod with some fancy speakers. But no stereo. The espresso machine had to come first.
Now every day is a good coffee day. I don’t know what kind of warm brown liquids all of y’all are into, and yes, I do appreciate black and herbal teas. But for me, when it comes to coffee, drip doesn’t hold a filter to a nice espresso or espresso-based drink. For the American in all of us, there’s the Americano (double espresso in a large mug, filled with boiling water)–a much purer and more nuanced taste than tired old drip, but no stronger. And as you can see from the top photo above, I do loves me a latte or cappucino. (Usually my home-made ones are, as in the photo, somewhere between the two.)
My good friends from Bosnia make hot sugary espresso in a Moka pot. They call it “coffee.”
The Sicilian’s mom makes espresso in a Moka pot. She calls it “black coffee”. Drip coffee, no matter what’s added to it (or not), is called “brown coffee.” After dinner, she asks everyone around the table, and everyone says, “brown coffee,” “black coffee,” “brown coffee,” etc.
Last September, I did not blog and had no espresso machine. By November, I was blogging when I could, and teaching a workshop for teachers on how to blog with their students, and drinking only the finest arabica, pressurized into beautiful, creamy espresso and espresso-based drinks.
If I had to give up one of these habits, I don’t want to say which one I’d choose. Either way, I’d be very grumpy.
March 30th, 2005 — general, writing
today, one question:
Is there some kind of feed for blogspot? I don’t seem to be able to syndicate Radiohumper, or applecidercheesefudge, Matt at the Butcher Shop, or any of you other great blogspotters on my reader. Am I missing something? In case I seem like the slowest girl at the bowling alley, yes, I have been blogging for 6 months and only now just decided to start using a news reader. It suddenly seems like it will make things more efficient.
Thanks for your advice!
UPDATE: Thanks to all for the advice. And I want to apologize if you commented and your comment was inadvertently–recently or ever–deleted by my WP Blacklist or spam filter. Unfortunately, a few days ago, the filter started flagging and automatically deleting a few IP addresses. Dr. Praetorius’s was one. And when I tried to repost what Dr. P wrote, it then rejected my IP.
It took me a long time to get WordPress to filter anything at all. And now, I am in the position of trying to get it to chill a bit. I think I have it sussed out, but please, please don’t stop commenting. Bear with me. I do have the filter set to email me rejected postings, so at least I should know when it rejects a normal person who is not advertising a c-a-s-i-n-o.
December 10th, 2004 — general, random rants, writing
Well, I finished the book, and it was a worthwhile read. Well-written. Galloway really understands how to convey the mundane world of depression without boring a reader. And I have never been really, really depressed like the ironically named main character Joy is. But I have had my moments, and seen worse ones in friends. Because even in the depths of depression, some stuff is just funny. What struck me as most odd was that these institutionalized depressed characters are in the bin for months it seems, and they meet a shrink almost never. It’s all drugs, sleeping, occupational therapy (making Christmas decorations, making cookies), and unmitigated angst. It sounds so boring, so utterly depressing. I wonder if this is a typical experience these days (the book is set in the 80′s, I think, around when it was written). Can you imagine going into a hospital for depression and not getting talk therapy? Wow.
One of “the tricks” the narrator discovers that non-depressed people have, or so she figures, is they “don’t mind” what bothers them. This reminded me of Lily Tomlin’s tour-de-force one-woman show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life… (written by Jane Wagner), which I saw on video ten years ago and then in its revival on Broadway dahlink a few years ago. I think videos of one-person shows seem long, by nature, but I enjoyed the video well enough. The play, though–tour de force, of course, of course. Tomlin is way cool. She should do more movies with Tom Waits. Hell, everyone should do more films with Tom Waits. but I digress.
Anyhoo, one of the refrains from “Search for Signs,” the catchphrase of the teenaged girl character, was “The trick is not to mind it…” And Galloway took me right back there. Is the trick to suffer whatever, put up with all kinds of shit, and not care, shrug it off?
And this reminds me of another book (since I’m at it): Michael Frayn’s novel The Trick of It. This one is also enjoyable and well-written, though very different. But what I love, as an academic-type gal, is the premise: an English prof studies and, is the world’s authority on a living writer, and Reader, he marries her. Who has not fallen in love with a writer? Who has not wondered what would happen if you actually met the object of your obsession? I was once a Joycean (and being a lapsed Joycean is like being a lapsed Catholic–it never really leaves you). Were he alive, could I stand the man? Did his feet smell?
That’s a bad example, though. For Joyce’s true love Nora is said never to have read his books. So obviously, he would not fall for one of those who pored over The Wake, extracting the names of rivers and lines from old songs out of passages of gobbledygook. (Believe me, I say gobbledygook with admiration.)
And what of the author I most adore, (and this is where I confess to you, my two blog readers, my deepest secret): I love Arthur Nersesian. I love Arthur Nersesian. I do not know him. but he’s amazing. Check him out.
And while you’re at it, do as The State I’m In says, and go over to this siteand wish Bicyclemark a happy birthday. He deserves it. He’s making the world safe for bloggerism.
Oops. It’s 2am again. And I mind it.
October 26th, 2004 — general, humor, writing
sent off prospectus
will advisor approve it?
morning brings new day.