If I could have any supernatural wish, it would be for animals to talk in human languages, preferably the same language as the people around them. No dead languages or cats in France speaking Japanese or dogs in Canada speaking Swedish. Unless of course the French cats were part of Japanese households or the Canadian dogs lived with Swedish exchange students. Or if a linguist studying Aramaic had a parrot that spoke Aramaic, that would be ok. I would wish for that.
Tonight I looked at my pets and really, really, really wished they could talk. Matt and I tried to imagine their voices and how their vocal personalities would match what we make of their gestural personalities. Adelina the semi-shy, hyper guinea pig would sound like the girl with the low self-esteem in the fashion club in the tv show Daria. Penelope the cool, calm guinea pig would be Daria. Ivan would sound dignified, said Matt, but would say undignified things. He would be like the dwarf guy in Game of Thrones. Ivan and the dwarf guy are both hedonists, Matt explained.
Then I realized that if all animals could talk, maybe people would feel bad about eating Henrietta the kind-hearted chicken or castrating Jimmy the wise-cracking but vulnerable bull calf. Wouldn’t everyone just turn vegetarian. Matt said that there would be some real asshole animals so people would still eat animals to make them shut up.
I am Converting to Dodekatheism
Wednesday March 14th 2012, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Books
In France last September, I vowed to read as many of these Culture Shock books as I could about the countries I love or want to love. The most recent of these books I read was the Culture Smart! Greece by a Constantine Buhayer.
I am not sure about Greece, but my friends the Rs have very good stories about their annual visit there. Yes, sitting on a beach reading four books at once kinda does sound good. So does going to beautiful church after beautiful church. And siestas? Where can I sign up?
The author agrees about all these nice Greek things. After realizing the futility of offering advice on banking, housing and drinking water, the author sums up a section on prices by writing:
What the country excels at is allowing you to spend hours sitting in a beautiful, shaded spot, sipping your drink, reading your book, or talking away.
Why is Greece so lacking in professional charms? Here is a quote Buhayer offers from Greece – The Modern Sequel by JS Koliopoulos and TM Veremis:
Modern Greeks entered the civil service as marauding invaders in enemy territory: to plunder, pillage and bring the spoils back to the haven of the family.
A Torturous Book on Torture
After much struggle, I finished reading Tim Krabbé’s The Rider, a 1978 book about one bike race. Not knowing what a col was, I blundered through the longest sports commentary essay ever. It was a well-written sports essay, but still not my thing.
I hate sports but I have to appreciate the literary approach here. Me, I was lauded by a high school teacher for my literary sports essays when, after sitting out a PE class, I turned in two sports essays instead of the required one. Mr. H. read my essays on downhill skiing (which I was actually good at, though I needed to use the poles for better form) and surfing (which I had never tried but achingly longed to do so), and then he grimly told me that I should consider becoming a writer. So, I appreciate a fellow good sports writer.
There are three passages I wanted to note and push across the table to the world. The first is:
Belgium’s cobblestone roads were, as some Amsterdam riders put it, ‘built by the Romans, who just dumped a bunch of rocks out of a helicopter.’
Ha, ha. Pretty good, huh? I love a good stereotype.
The second quote is this:
(For a surprisingly long time I kept thinking: the race at Zichem-Keiberg was a week ago today; the race at Zichem-Keiberg was three weeks ago; and, even as I am writing, it’s been no more than a month since the race at Zichem-Keiberg…)
I had no other people marked the distance in time from memorable events like I did. That is what I find so remarkable about that sentence.
Near here there is a bridge. In early 2010, maybe it was January 26, a car crashed into a truck, which crashed into a car that crashed into another car. In one of the cars was a 37-year-old man. He had a young son of about five. He probably had a wife too. His car caught on fire and he burned to death. I passed by a few hours after his death. The spot on which he died on the bridge was blackened. Every time I crossed that bridge and passed the scene of his death, I crossed myself and thought of this man. I think of his wife too and his son. Did she get married now? Does the son remember his dad? And then I calculate. How long it’s been since his death, since the wife stopped grieving, since I last thought of that man. It’s been two years and two months since he died.
Krabbé wrote his book in 1977 and the race at Zichem-Keiberg was in March 1975. Since I don’t go over that bridge anymore, I don’t think of that burned man every day anymore. That’s how one departs from sharp feelings, as they get whittled down.
The third passage is:
Because after the finish all the suffering turns to memories of pleasure, and the greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure.
I chose this quote because it rambles on as it illustrates the Portuguese proverb “What was hard to bear is sweet to remember.” That’s what I tell myself in times of suckiness. As time now spans into a third year away from a very bad year, I am not sure that that time is sweet yet. I’ll look back at this quote in a few years’ time and decide then.