Archive | September, 2006

Interactional Sociolinguistics

27 Sep

I’m taking a course in Interactional Sociolinguistics (IS). It looks at how culture and society is replicated and created in social interaction, a microanalysis that has larger implications. One big area of research that I’m particularly interested in is how IS can elucidate intercultural/interethnic misunderstandings. A lot of work has been done on “gatekeeping.” A study that’s been mentioned in a lot of the introductory readings relates the story of a South Asian man interviewing for a job in London who missed multiple (almost imperceptible) cues to promote himself; likewise, the interviewers did not take into account/did not know/did not realize that promoting oneself is not an acceptable practice in his culture. Another area of research that looks interesting is cross-gender (mis)communication, which works on the assumption that genders are almost separate cultures.

We got a taste of the microanalysis in class this week, looking over transcripts of conversations and trying to find and interpret the contexualization cues. Repetition turned out to be an important feature for creating solidarity in a conversation (though that doesn’t go across the board– every situation is different). What I liked about the exercise was how similar it felt to literary analysis, taking apart the smallest features and finding meaning in them.

Stories and Such

19 Sep

There are more stories up at 55 Words. The Readers Choice Awards is also on. This means you should go read the nominated stories and send in your votes. You have until October 1st but don’t procrastinate! Go now!

In other news, my family finally published my grandfather’s memoir, Bittersweet Memories. It’s been an interesting process that stretched a bit over three years. I’ve read various chunks of drafts but I’m looking forward to reading it in book form, cover-to-cover. From the back flap:

“Born into the quiet and remote steitl of Falticeni; embroiled in the fight against fascist dictatorship; entangled in the farce of the Communist regim; escape into the free world.

This is the life of one Jewish man, representative for so many of his generation.”

Brooklyn Book Fest

18 Sep

Saturday I went to the Brooklyn Book Festival. I had a lovely time wandering the stalls with M; we caught the last half of Jennifer Egan, Pete Hamill, and Colson Whitehead’s reading. All the readings in the Borough Hall Courtroom (a lovely place) were a madhouse, with lines to get in winding down the stairs and out the Borough Hall door. They also had audience members sit up in the judges’ seats, which made watching the reading extra interesting, to see people’s changing expressions of amusement, sleepiness, and sleepy amusement. During the Q&A someone asked all 3 writers if they ever get depressed reading writers they admire. Whitehead said he tends to read non-fiction when he works, and Egan said if she reads something that depresses her because it is so good she doesn’t sit down to write right away. I found Hamill’s response most reasonable and encouraging. That you’ll never be Gordimer (the questioner said Gordimer is her favorite) and Gordimer will never be you. You bring your own unique experiences to your writing (and this includes everything you read). He added that he tends to read work in translation in order to get the substance of the work without letting the music influence his writing (like reading Tom Wolfe and putting 20 exclamation marks in a paragraph).

We also saw the next reading: Ben Greenman, Jonathan Ames, and Gary Shteyngart. That was a very fun group. Shteyngart gave an especially spirited reading from the start of his book (beginning with masturbation and ending with circumcision and, of course, infection), so I finally picked up a copy of Absurdistan and hope to read it soon, though now that school has resumed it may be slated for July 2007. Oy.
.  

Conflux

12 Sep

Conflux, the annual NYC conference on psychogeography, will be in Brooklyn this weekend. My brother took me to my first (and only) Conflux in 2003, when it was on the Lower East Side. He participated in a chess game on the street (he was a chess piece, the player dictated where he go via cell phone, a man with a papier mache horse head plastic-axed him somewhere near West 4th St.). This year will include a Smelling Committee and The Former Resident Project (when you leave a place, what do you leave behind?) among many other things.

Code Switching

8 Sep

I’m excited. All right, I know I said that in the last post. But now, in addition to autumn, I’m excited about a symposium I’ve registered for, on African & Diasporic Languages. One of the recommended readings is on Code Switching, which is using different languages within a conversation. This immediately brought to mind a trip I took to Germany with my grandmother in 2003; we visited her cousin and uncle, and it was a quadri-lingual affair. My grandmother spoke Romanian with her cousin and uncle, her cousin spoke German with her family, her family spoke English with me, and everyone who knew Hungarian reserved that for curses and other colorful language. So I suppose the code switching there was between Romanian and Hungarian. I can sort of guess at the significance of it, in my very vague, impressionistic understanding of the two cultures and languages and their histories. I’ve been told Hungarian just has better swear words. I wish I knew more of the language than I do; all I can say is the arcane greeting, “I kiss your hand” and “igen” (yes).

In any case, I’m looking forward to the symposium.

Enter Autumn

6 Sep

I’m excited for fall. Aside from the end of wretched, bludgeoning-sun summer, aside from the fresh breezes, crisp air and crunchy leaves and all that good stuff, I’m going to two fun shows at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo.

First, for Halloween I’m seeing the Tiger Lillies, who I first saw in Shockheaded Peter last year (the song “Snip Snip” is still in my head).

Then I’m going on a double date with M and my parents to see the world premier of Lou Reed’s Berlin, in December. It’s going to be depressing. Hooray!

Even sooner than that, I’m going to the Brooklyn Book Festival (yow!) and my friend Andre’s play. Fun will be had.

Readers’ Choice

6 Sep

More stories are up on 55 Words. Stay tuned for a readers’ choice awards: read the best stories of the summer (nominees announced later this month) and choose your favorites. What fun!

Death of a Dancer

6 Sep

(A long-ish, journal-y post. A quasi-personal essay. And a plea to myself.)

On my super-basic website, in the about me section, I wrote that I’m a writer, dancer, and teacher. I should probably change that seeing as I haven’t danced in almost a year.

I’ve danced on and off most of my life, most intensively in the last ten years. In high school, I replaced theater with dance as an outlet for the unverbalizable (is that a word?), choreographing wordless stories and sublimating excess energy. I took a brief hiatus in college, first to “adjust” (read: be lazy), then because I was rejected from Mosaica, the school dance group (needed to mend the ego with nutella sandwiches), and finally because of major surgery (a potentially book-long story I won’t explain here). While still in physical therapy I took exactly one horrible ballet class, and later attempted to join some rogue “dance jam” group (compiled of Mosaica’s rejects), a bunch of university students that didn’t wash their hair and rolled around on the floor of some loft housing 12 or 20 people and their 50 cats. Didn’t jive with me; I didn’t last long.

Sometime in my third year of college I finally found a niche, though, a modern dance class that didn’t bore me, didn’t feel awkward, and was just the right amount of pain. A good pain. A healthy pain. When I fell into depression (a string of bad relationships + grandfather dying), I doubled up on classes (“I’m so glad,” said my teacher, taking my check, “winter’s a wonderful time to work, don’t you think?”) and threw myself into the thing, plunging to the wood floor and relishing in the buckets of sweat released, the bruises gained. My teacher told me I was making remarkable progress, which always feels nice.

Graduation, France, and back to NYC. I took Graham classes. In general I don’t like Graham, I feel as if my bones are exposed and I think the discomfort is inherent and intentional and disquieting, but not in a good way. It’s melodramatic and, with the wrong teacher, down-right irritating. Luckily there’s one teacher in NYC that teaches Graham while doing Marlon Brando and John Wayne impressions and I took his classes semi-regularly, and laughed at his assurances that “if it feels wrong and painful you’re probably doing it right.” It was almost as good as the class in Montreal. I felt good about myself, I went back to my old studio from highschool and choreographed another piece for their anniversary weekend, had a wonderful (albeit self-conscious) time performing that and being in a larger piece by the director of the company, with out-and-out professionals. But after that performance last October I haven’t been back to a dance class.

So what happened? School happened. No dance classes nearby, nothing apparently convenient on the way, so I learned how to swim instead at the TC pool (useful, sure, but not the same as a satisfying dance class). Am I being lazy? Yes, definitely. I’m worried about taking down the label “dancer”– it might be the last nail in the coffin, though it feels like such a lie to keep it up there. And though dance has been this peripheral thing, not nearly as constant as writing, which as been front-and-center for a while, but this thing at the sidelines, it is frantically waving and quietly shouting (kind of like those nighmares where you scream, but no sound comes out), asking me not to just drop this part of myself. Well, we’ll see. If there’s a self-help group for lapsed dancers, I want in.

Little Miss Sunshine

3 Sep

Yesterday, between bouts of wind and sprays of rain, I saw Little Miss Sunshine. I must say it was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while, and it really cancels out the funk The Ascent put me in last month(though also an excellent film). Some critic in Entertainment Weekly gave Little Miss Sunshine a C or some such mark because it was neither realistic nor completely off the wall, but some mix of the two. What a dualistic simpleton. It was just the right mix of realism with something askew. Perhaps the little girl Olive was just a wee bit too cute but I could live with that; she was hardly the star (indeed, no one was). A feel good movie with suicide, Nietzsche, Proust, creepy 5-year-old beauty queens, and a druggie grampa with a heart of gold. Highly recommended.

%d bloggers like this: