Straight offa Boing Boing is the link to this incredible 360-degree panorama photo of the Strahov Library in Prague. Forty gigapixels means nothing to me, but you can zoom in and read the titles of the books on the far side of the room, or see the brush strokes in the ceiling’s mural. You can read the inlay on the door in the next room.
“Boys count; men drink”—This was a friend of mine in a Czech pub. I like this quote/philosophy a lot, at least the way I’ve always interpreted it. Narrowly, it’s just “drink because you enjoy it” is a more mature attitude than “WOOO LOOKIT ME I’M SOOO DRUNK I JUST CHUGGED TEN BEERS!” But it can be applied to other aspects of life, too, with the more general meaning “do something because you want to or have to, not to show off to others or to rack up ‘points’.”
Okay, I mentioned that learning old, subcultural slang would be useless, since most people would not know what you’re talking about were you to actually use it in conversation. I had an idea, though!
I should write a book in which the protagonist is someone who travels through time, or is otherwise immortal. Perhaps to keep a low profile, this character would have spent lots of time hanging out with subculture groups (Beatniks, carnies, etc.), and thus pick up a lot of their lexicon, which I would then use in the book (similar to the monk Salvatore’s use of a jumble of Latin, French, Italian, and other languages in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose).
It sounds a lot like the kind of thing Neil Gaiman would do.
The other day I listened to one of my cassette tapes of Round the Horne, a 1960’s British comedy radio show. It was filled with deadpan humor, puns and sexual innuendo and double entendres, and I just find it hilarious. One of my favorite bits is the Julian and Sandy sketches, two campy gay characters that used the demi-monde cant slang Polari, which I also find fascinating (a mixture of Romance languages, Mediterranean Lingua Franca, London slang, backslang, rhyming slang, sailor slang, and thieves’ cant). “How bona to vada your dolly old eek!” (How nice to see your face/Nice to see you!”) is a common example, but there are tons more. “Naff” (awful) is one that has made it into common British usage.
Like Pachuco/Chicano Calo, it’s a whole subcultural vocabulary that I find fascinating, but ultimately is useless (except for things like understanding 45-year-old British radio shows), since even if I learned and used any of these cool slang terms, no one else would understand them.
(Interesting crossover between Calo and Polari: last year Rocky and I went to see a musical about the Zoot Suit Riots. Plenty of Calo slang in use; one word used regularly by one character was bonaroo [“excellent”]. Looking up words later, I didn’t find bonaroo in a list of Calo slang, but it is there in a list of Polari slang. Since the character that was using this slang word was not a Chicano character, I wonder if this would possibly be a deliberate error by the writer. Or maybe it actually was a Calo word—both Calo and Polari incorporate words from Romani and Romance languages like Italian and Spanish.)
Anyway. Download Round the Horne somewhere and see if you like it. Like The Goon Show before it, it influenced Monty Python and had connections to classic British comedic actors like Marty Feldman, Peter Sellers, and Peter Cook.
"Raspberry" (for making a noise with your tongue and lips) is the only example I can think of of British-style rhyming slang in common use in America (“raspberry” is shortened form of “raspberry tart,” which rhymes with “fart”). You’ll hear others in British movies (just recently, we saw a film where someone talked about “having a butcher’s at you” [“butcher’s” < “butcher’s hook” < “look”]).
When I stepped into that mall, I realized just how different this particular outing was going to be from others I’ve had in the past. The first store I walked into was Best Buy, but I visited every store in the mall at least once. No sooner did I step into Best Buy, I noticed how different things were. First of all, the person at the door didn’t greet me like he did to other customers entering the store. I didn’t think nothing of it at first, and instead I went over to look at the CDs and DVDs in the store. Usually when a customer is browsing the store, one of the employees will approach them and ask if they need any help finding something. This didn’t happen once, not even when I made direct eye contact with an employee whom I went to school with. She didn’t recognize me. I can’t blame her for it, since my long hair was covered up, but I couldn’t help but feel that all she saw was my hijab and not me, let alone a customer.
The salespeople at the mall were pretty much the same. There were only a select few who actually said more than one word to me. The employees would not welcome me into their stores. They wouldn’t ask if I needed help. They wouldn’t ask if I wanted to try on an outfit, even when I was holding it in my hands. They never said “We hope to see you again!” or “Have a nice day,” when I left the store. Judging by this consistent reaction from salesperson to salesperson, I couldn’t help but feel that they were glad to be rid of me and most definitely didn’t hope to see me again. To make matters uncomfortably worse, in every store I went into, I noticed that the same security guard was there. From Spencer’s to Borders, this security guard wasn’t making it a secret that he was following me everywhere I went.
Tomorrow is Rocky and my sixth anniversary (that’s “from the first time we met in person,” not “wedding anniversary”). Not sure what to do… Rocky loves lobster, so we’re thinking of maybe going to Red Lobster (we got a gift card for Christmas, okay?) or possibly Cowbobas (steakhouse and boba tea place) nearby that we’ve wanted to try for ages. Any suggestions for other anniversary-type things?
So there’s this group of students outside my door, doing presentations on “their recommendations to improve Westwood” (a poorer neighborhood, next to the one we live in). I heard only snippets of various presentations, but there was a lot of idealistic “We could encourage people to plant home gardens! You can get 150 lbs. of veggies from a 100-square-foot plot! And we can have community gardens! With a farmers’ market to sell the veggies! And we can have beehives that people can buy into! And people can raise chickens!”
Okay, so after just one year of having our garden, and starting beekeeping this Spring, here’s what I have to say.
I don’t think you get into home veggie gardening or beekeeping to save money. Even if you don’t do the fancy raised garden beds and soaker-hose irrigation, there’s still a substantial buy-in: compost, fertilizer, plants, tools, etc.. Not to mention the time spent preparing the garden, planting, watering, weeding…that’s worth a lot, too. Tomatoes and zucchinis and peppers—some of the easiest veggies to grow—are all relatively cheap at the store, either fresh or canned or frozen. (What’s expensive? Avocados and most fruit, which you couldn’t grow here anyway.) Our beehive cost about $250, and the bees will be another $95, and then there’s the gear. That’s for one beehive. And we may not even get honey the first year. That buy-in would purchase waaay more honey than we could use, even over years and years. And then you have to wait until the harvest before you get any veggies or honey (sure, you can can/freeze your vegetables, but that, too, takes time, space, and more money).
Furthermore, home gardening doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll eat healthier. I doubt that kids who eat veggies from the store will grow up any less healthy than kids who eat home-grown organic veggies. And you can get veggies year-round from the store. The more important thing is that they eat vegetables, rather than fast or processed food.
Community gardens? Communal beehives? You’ll need someone—with the skills—to spend a bunch of time managing all that. And money to set it up. It’s not just a question of finding a vacant parcel of land and saying, “A community garden could go here!” You have to run water to it, build fencing, prepare the soil, and have someone organize and manage all that (and the market at which you sell the stuff).
I feel so cynical, but it just seems like there’s a lot of academic “I read that they did this in Berkeley/Phoenix/Boston and it worked really well!” without much of the practical “I actually do home gardening/beekeeping/chicken-raising myself, and know how much time and effort and money it takes.”
I got the soaker hose into three of the five existing garden beds, and Rocky and I hung the trellis up for the (eventual) beans. Just the marking to do and the rest of the potatoes can go into the ground. Have to see what else can be planted this early…it’s supposed to get below freezing this week at nights, but some things other than potatoes can be planted already. Next up is putting soaker hose into two more garden beds.
I like urinals, because if you’re in a place with poorly-marked bathrooms (or in a different country, where the bathrooms are labeled “Zgroga” and “Hladeny” and you’re not sure if you’re a zgroga or a hladeny), the presence of a urinal certifies where you should be.
All the health advice of the last ten or twenty years includes “rather than take the elevator, take the stairs!” in addition to “walk more” and such.
Yet almost invariably, the staircases of most commercial buildings—if you can even access them—are grim, utilitarian stairwells, bare or white-painted concrete walls, concrete stairs, steel handrails, industrial lights and doors, rarely cleaned and often graffiti-ed.
I realize that since the stairs are the required fire exits, they probably have to be made of non-flammable materials. And you wouldn’t want the critical emergency exits to be painted “Eggplant” and mood lit with shag carpeting. But still, you’d think that you could brighten them up at least. Keep them clean. Paint them as interestingly as code will allow. Maybe add some stuff in or along the walls to make it visually nicer, or even to encourage people to take the stairs.