Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday Mix 011617: Lingua franca

I've studied language for most of life, even before I declared at the age of 10 that I wanted to be a writer. But decades later I'm unable to list all the languages I've studied, both formally and informally.

My go-to number is 14: I've studied, I speak 14 languages. It might be more, depending on how you distinguish among related languages, among vernaculars.

I'm going to attempt to list the 14 languages I know. (Though, perhaps, it might be more accurate to say the language that at one time I knew.)
  1. English
  2. Spanish
  3. Russian
  4. Polish
  5. Czech
  6. Japanese
  7. Ukrainian
  8. Latin
  9. German
  10. French
  11. Classical Greek
  12. ...
Hmm. Maybe it's only 11 languages. God, what a loser! This is why that stupid test I took told me I live in a bubble.

I've studied quite a bit of Sanskrit, a little Hebrew and Yiddish, and I spent a couple of months teaching myself Serbian, but I don't really count any of them.

The 11 languages listed above I consider my research languages: I can communicate in them (at least in a basic way), I can read them (though I never really developed literacy in Japanese, having only about 300 kanji under my belt), and I can translate from (most of) them, especially Spanish, Russian, Polish, Latin, German, and French.

The language I wish I spoke much better is Spanish. I adore Spanish. I studied for two years in high school, at least a year at the college level, and for a handful of years on my own or with a tutor. I'm always proud when my high school Spanish saves the day, which happens much more frequently in Germany for some reason.

Speak my language.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Monday Mix 01092017: Bowie

A year ago David Bowie died. It broke my heart. Though I never met him or saw him perform live, he helped define the context of my life and thinking, especially concerning the musical, the artistic, from an early age. I don't remember a time I didn't know about David Bowie.

The last day I spent in Berlin I took the U-Bahn to visit the former apartment he shared with Iggy during the 1970s. That was in October 2014. I had been listening to Low and The Next Day almost daily for a year. For the past year I haven't been able to listen to either entirely through.

Despite not having ever met David Bowie, his death affected me. Not in a superficial or celebrity-worship kind of way. I'm not that vapid. His artistry touched something in me that only makes sense when it's described as a soul. I was transcendent when I visited the Bowie exhibit in Berlin in June 2014, while I was living there and doing research over the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of communism in Central Europe. Bowie, for me, shaped and defined my experience of Berlin as much as Hitler and Stalin, as much as Benjamin and Grosz.

Here are my top 10 songs by David Bowie according to number of plays on iTunes:
  1. "Subterraneans" - though perhaps this isn't fair because some days I just put this song on repeat for hours at a time
  2. "This Is Not America"
  3. "Always Crashing in the Same Car" - for several months I had this song programmed as my morning alarm: "Every chance, every chance that I take, I take it on the road...."
  4. "Be My Wife"
  5. "Rebel Rebel"
  6. "Love Is Lost"
  7. "Warszawa" - the same goes with this song as with "Subterraneans"
  8. "A New Career in a New Town"
  9. "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)"
  10. "Breaking Glass"
"'Heroes'" doesn't show up until #12, but I have four different versions/covers of it that all make the top 50. (And don't get me started on people who forget to put the internal quotation marks around the title! It's ironic, you idiots!) "Lazarus" made #15. I remember last year after its release listening to this captivating track and naively musing, I wonder what David Bowie's next album will sound like, since I loved The Last Day and Blackstar so much.

Three classics that I still (can) listen to almost daily include "Stay" at #33, "Wild Is the Wind" at #34, and "Word On a Wing" at #44.

Bonus track: "Within You" from the Labyrinth soundtrack would've easily made the top 10, but I don't have it on iTunes.

What are your favorite David Bowie songs?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Monday Mix 01022017

I stopped writing. I stopped posting things on my lovely blog. But now I've decided to get back at it. To this end, I'll be posting a mix of various things every Monday. Yes: just because of the alliteration. "Monday Mix" has a good ring to it! A "mixtape," a master list, a massive infodump. At times, an actual list of things I've done or of ideas I'm thinking. Every Monday this year. Or so I intend.

Here's my first Monday Mix--my current Top 25 songs from iTunes according to number of plays. It says something of my aesthetic, my interest, my aural love. It says something about me. I hope you enjoy.
  1. "Waves" - White Rainbow
  2. "Extreme Ways" - Moby
  3. "Jigsaw Falling into Place" - Radiohead
  4. "T.Time" - Smolik
  5. "The Dream Beyond" - DJ Tsero
  6. "In a Landscape" by John Cage - Stephen Drury
  7. "Ceremony" - Radiohead
  8. "She's Going Places" - Division Kent
  9. "32 Flavors" - Alana Davis
  10. "Days Go By" - Dirty Vegas
  11. "Bedtime Story" - Madonna
  12. "In the End" - Linkin Park
  13. "Reckoner" - Radiohead
  14. "Subterraneans" - David Bowie (Brian Eno)
  15. "Smalltown Boy" - Bronski Beat
  16. "Running Up that Hill" - Placebo
  17. "Running Up that Hill" - Kate Bush
  18. "The White Flash" - Modeselektor w/ Thom Yorke
  19. "Soon this Space Will Be Too Small" - Lhasa De Sela
  20. "Dream" by John Cage - Stephen Drury
  21. "Beatitudes" - Sweet Honey in the Rock
  22. "Black Grease" - The Black Angels
  23. "Hammering in My Head" - Garbage
  24. "Nobody Knows My Name" - Rickie Lee Jones
  25. "All the Big Trees" - Jónsi & Alex
 Extra points for those who can discern a) my age, b) where I grew up, c) my religious affinity. Happy new year.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Books Read in 2016


The very few books I was able to read in 2016. Maybe the first two don't really count: the first is the Polish text for my translation, which is the second. Only one book from local Deep Vellum Publishing. But two from Spurl Editions! And then two others (a novel and a memoir) by terribly famous gay boys who made it quite clear to me that I was not as important a writer or on the same level of fabulous gay writers as they. Ho hum.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Electioneering

Note: I was working on this list-cum-manifesto during the recent elections in the U.S. and found it now in my draft folder. Because of the results of that election, I think this post, albeit incomplete and unfinished, is still necessary.

My vote is mine alone. I don't owe my vote to anyone. Nobody deserves my vote.

Those of us who are disenfranchised and/or dissuaded to vote for one of the nominees of the major two parties are not to blame for the failings of the two-party system. My "wasted" or "throw-away" vote was always already wasted and thrown away by participating in an election with a two-party system.

Spoiler alert: the "spoiler effect" of third-party candidates isn't real. Or, to be more precise: the spoiler effect of voting for a third-party candidate in a two-party system is by its very design and intention meant to spoil the two-party system.

My vote is meaningless. With the two-party system, winner-take-all elections, and the structure of the Electoral College, no one vote has any meaning or value.

Elections in and of themselves are meaningless. Democracy is so much more than a few hours every four years.