Sunday November 29th 2009, 9:43 am
Filed under: Film,Romania
I always complain that women in movies are boring. They never have any interest in their careers or they always complain about their jobs. Or they sit at home all day, magically well off. They never even seem to have hobbies. What dullards. I sure would get bored if I faced a lifetime of staring across the breakfast table at them as they droned on about the challenges of being boring.
I don’t really buy into movies like 500 Days of Summer because I have no idea why the guy was so into the title character, a girl called Summer. I had some vague idea that she was aesthetically pleasing to those of us who are into the female form, but she seemed pretty boring otherwise. She must’ve been somewhat interested in Italy because she talks about having done an exchange program in Siena. I think she read interesting books and maybe dabbled in the arts. But really, were those real hobbies or just more of her hipster posturing? After watching that movie, I understood that movie chicks have no hobbies yet the directors and script writers simply figured that pretty equals interesting. I understood that what was seriously lacking in movies was women with hobbies.
So last night we watched The Brothers Bloom. Boy, did I ever meet my movie chick match. The heroine had nothing but hobbies: playing the harp, the banjo, the guitar, the piano, the accordion, and the violin, rapping, DJing, breakdancing, juggling (including chainsaws), riding two-storey unicycles, doing karate, skateboarding, doing gymnastics, photographing and playing ping-pong. The last hobby she takes up in the movie is blowing things up.
Which is where the destruction of Romania comes into the story.
The character in The Brothers Bloom, let’s introduce our Penelope, lives in New Jersey in a very large house. Only the house exterior is actually Romania’s Peles* Castle. Peles Castle is in Sinaia, in the Romanian mountains:
The 160-plus room castle rests on a site chosen by King Carol I de Hohenzollern near the border of the then-Romanian country (Transylvania still belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire). Castle building began in 1873 and finished ten years later. Unfortunately, Penelope’s latest hobby has dire consequences for Romania’s foremost tourist spots. Peles Castle is, however, one of two famous sites in this film. The other, Constanta’s** Casino:
Though the 1909 Casino (moonlighting as a Saint Petersburg locale) escapes Penelope’s latest hobby, its interior is shabby, as if Penelope has passed through. No matter which way we look at it, Romania doesn’t make it through this one intact, not even with its name: Peles is a New Jersey mansion and the Casino is in Russia.
I was pretty jealous when Prague got away with being Prague and Penelope spoke Czech. It might be asking too much for her latest hobby to have been learning Romanian too.
*I still haven’t had a chance to figure out how to return the accent markings to this blog. Peles should have a comma under the S, so that you pronounce it as Peh-lesh. Read more about it on Wikipedia or this Romanian tourism site. Lots of images at the official site.
**Also missing an accent mark, this time a comma under the last T. The pronunciation is Kohn-sta-n-tsa.
Even better than Tintin is this seventeenth century castle’s dogs. It’s la soupe des chiens, or the feeding of the dogs that happens at 5 pm every day during tourist season (when the tourists visit, not when they are hunted, the former from April 1 to September 15, or at 3 pm the rest of the year).
The Huraults, who still live on the third floor of their castle, keep about 70 dogs, each part English foxhound and part French Poitou. The trainers dump a line of dog food and horse and chicken meat before the dogs and, showing off their manners in front of the tourists, the dogs impatiently wait for the signal that they can scramble for a scrap.
Tuesday November 17th 2009, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Food,Japan
I never knew why MSG was bad. Someone once told me that it caused cancer. I filed that away with the intriguing idea that deodorant gave women breast cancer, a tip from a shrewish high school fundamentalist christian acquaintance. One day, I figured, I would investigate the truth in the MSG scare and make up my mind. For now, I had too much Chinese and Japanese food to eat.
Back when I lived in Taiwan, my then-boyfriend prepared a Japanese cucumber dish that tasted incredibly good. “It’s easy to make,” he said. And he showed me how after we ate the first batch: put sliced cucumber in a plastic bag with some salty looking flakes, and let sit for a while. I asked him what the salty stuff was. He told me it was Ajinomoto. Weird Japanese stuff, I thought. He was a relatively new boyfriend. I didn’t question much.
A few years later, when I moved with said boyfriend to Japan, I noticed him flavouring with this Ajinomoto stuff again. This time when I asked if Ajinomoto had an English translation, he admitted, reluctantly and in a whispering voice, that it was MSG. I filed this way next to the crazy christian virgin’s deodorant advice and said goodbye to the yummy cucumber slices.
An article from long ago in the Guardian has finally convinced me that I have nothing to fear. I still eat margarine and butter, after all. Reckless daredevil that I am. Japanese cucumbers are back on the menu.
Ha! I got through three chapters of Ulysses. One day, I will neglect my well being and die reading it.
But he’s not some book snob. He’s also open to popular literature:
For a museum person like me (fresh out of a mid-career exhibition communication class, no less!), I love how the T-rex skull pretty well flips off the other fossils as he reaches the museum a-list:
Detail to admire: the scruffiness of the other animal specimens.
Finally, Mr. Gauld’s dystopian vacation offer is tantalizing:
To experience the excitement of Brazil for a few days! To study the class distinctions of the Handmaid’s Tale for a few weeks! To mingle with New Crobuzon’s khephri, vodyanoi and cactacae, and to lunch in remade dive bars, what a vacation!
Tuesday November 10th 2009, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Personal
Since I have still not submitted my article anywhere (since July), I needed drastic measures. I looked up motivational websites to see how I can spur myself into action.
There was one about betting against yourself. You lost if you didn’t achieve your goal. If you lost, your bet would go towards helping a charity.
No good for me. If I achieved my goal, I’d feel guilty for not donating to a charity.
Last night, I promised Matt $1000 if I did not finally submit that article by December 22. He can do whatever he wants with the money if he gets it. He threatened me with spending it on strippers or leaving it on some sidewalk. I didn’t believe him. Now he’s decided to use it to get my nipples pierced.