Monday, June 14, 2021

Hearing Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up" and remembering a Saturday in 1977

Recently, Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up" must have played somewhere in a store or on a television soundtrack, or at least something that resembled it enough that the music in my head eventually turned into it, and I remembered that one Saturday afternoon when I was 12 and just beginning to listen to the radio in Ohio, I stumbled across "American Top 40" with Casey Kasem for the first time and heard him introduce Gaye's song, which was making its debut on the countdown that day. A bit of research revealed that this must have been 23 April 1977; two months later, the song reached #1 for one week. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 14 June 2021)

Sunday, June 13, 2021

My daughter ends her career in youth circus

Around twelve years ago, I went to see a youth circus with my then five-year-old daughter Luisa. She was captivated, but on the way out afterwards, I noticed she was sobbing. "I want to be seven!" she cried, as she knew that that circus didn't take anyone younger than that. So she started gymnastics instead and began circus at seven. Several eventful years later, she joined the Basel youth circus Rägeboge (Rainbow) in 2015 and had her first performances with them in 2016. Today, after six years with Rägeboge, she cried at the end of her last performance as a circus artiste, and I remembered how she sobbed back in 2009.  (Andrew Shields, #111words, 13 June 2021)

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The "sad nostalgic humming" of "Mack the Knife" in Doris Lessing's "The Golden Notebook"

In Doris Lessing's "The Golden Notebook", Anna Wulf recalls in the mid-1950s how during World War Two, the German refugee Willi Rodde, her wartime lover in Southern Rhodesia, "would tunelessly hum" Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife". When it became a hit in the mid-1950s, Anna felt a "sharp feeling of dislocation" on hearing it in London. For Willi in Africa, with his "sad nostalgic humming", it was a song from his childhood in Berlin; for Anna in London, it recalled her young adulthood during the war. I feel nostalgia now, too, re-reading "The Golden Notebook" three decades after I first read it in the early 1990s – in Berlin. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 12 June 2021)

Friday, June 11, 2021

Living in infamy with Dylan, Roosevelt, and Shakespeare

Bob Dylan's "Murder Most Foul" begins by connecting the Kennedy assassination to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's speech after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941: "Twas a dark day in Dallas – November ‘63 / The day that will live on in infamy." Although it's now permanently associated with Roosevelt's "a date which will live in infamy", I wondered if the phrase "live in infamy" predated his speech – and discovered that it goes back to the seventeenth century. The most prominent example I've found is in William Shakespeare's "Henry the Fourth, Part II", when the Lord Chief Justice addresses Falstaff: "Well, the truth is, Sir John, you live in great infamy." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 11 June 2021)
Robert Smirke, Falstaff Rebuked, 1795. Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Don't change any orbits, Representative Gohmert. Instead, reduce the use of fossil fuels

On Tuesday, 8 June, 2021, Republican Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas asked  whether the National Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management could "change the course of the moon's orbit or the Earth's orbit around the sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate." Perhaps he was being ironic, as Philip Bump of the Washington Post suggests. But whether he meant the remark seriously or not, such proposal responds to the climate catastrophe with a grand technological solution that would be far more complicated than the simple technological solution of reducing use of fossil fuels. The grand solution that we need is not technological, but political and economic. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 10 June 2021)


Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Translations of a line from Wallace Stevens into Spanish: "It was evening all afternoon."

The Spanish word "tarde" can be translated into English as either "afternoon" or "evening", depending on what time of day is being referred to. This just made wonder about a line from the last section of Wallace Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird": "It was evening all afternoon." With an internet search, I found two translations, one by Raúl Gustavo Aguirre: "Toda la tarde fue de noche." And one by Andrés Sánchez Robayna: "Toda la tarde era crepúsculo." The latter seems better to me because it avoids "noche", the Spanish word for "night". I also just like "crepúsculo" ("dusk"), though my preference for it is from French, not Spanish. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 9 June 2021)


Note: In my lipogram version, I render the line as "It was dusk for hours past noon."
A selection of Stevens translated by Andrés Sánchez Robayna.


Tuesday, June 08, 2021

On getting the same vaccine for the second dose of my coronavirus vaccination

I went to get the second dose for my coronavirus vaccination this afternoon, and I was surprised when the purple-haired young woman preparing to give me the shot mentioned that I'd be getting the same vaccine as before (BioNTech-Pfizer) – I'd unconsciously assumed that it went without saying that the vaccines couldn't be mixed. But when I asked her whether they could, she said that while there haven't been studies, the two mRNA vaccines available in Basel (BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna) are similar enough that it's reasonable to assume that they could be mixed, but the AstraZeneca vaccine, for example, is a viral-vector vaccine that may well not be compatible with the others. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 8 June 2021)