Monday, November 16, 2009

The Great Interview Experiment

Monday blahs got you down? Here's a tonic -- a M. Neil Kramer and his Great Interview Experiment. Each commenter on his well-wrought site interviews the previous commenter, via email, and then posts the resulting piece on their own blogs, thereby introducing their readers to a new voice while simultaneously getting introduced themselves on someone else's blog. All the interviews will eventually be posted at his site.

This kind of tripartite random joy is the Internet at its best, for me. It feels good that we can still surprise each other, in good ways. I found Neil when I needed a good pumpkin pie image for my last post. I borrowed one from the excellent  WouldaCouldaShoulda and found Neil on her blogroll.

When I joined the bandwagon on the GIE, seventy or eighty people had already commented. My subject is Lesley, whose blog is Perigrinations and whom we already hate (but in a good way): Many of us claim we'd *love* to live in France, but Lesley actually does.

So: Question 1: You maintain the interesting lifestyle choice of the ex-patriot. You are Scottish born but have lived in France for many years, and your continuing airport adventures during homeland visits often show up in your blog. What are a few nonflying issues that come with the ex-pat life? And specifically as a Scotswoman living in France?

I've never really liked that word expatriot - by concentrating only on the fact that one lives outside of one's country of birth, it just doesn't seem to cover the whole range of complicated loyalties that can be true of someone who has choses to live elsewhere. So, I'd say that yes, there are a lot of issues that come up for people like me - it's basically a question of compromise and trying to get the best of both worlds: finding the middle way between two cultures without neglecting either of them, encouraging the children to speak English as much as possible when clearly French is their first language, deciding which team to support when France plays Scotland, expermimenting with Franco-Celtic fusion cuisine. ......

Question 2 is about language. In your blog, you mention some translation jobs you have. Have you ever done this in a live instantaneous setting -- translating at a meeting or broadcast?

In the interpreting business there are two types of job : consecutive translation and simultaneous interpreting. In the first, you have a notebook and take copious notes while waiting for a natural break in the speech, then you translate usually while standing in front of the audience. In the second case, you're in an interpreting booth and as one set of words comes in your headphones you instantaneously spout the translation out into the microphone. I far prefer the second option because I can pull tortured faces without anyone seeing me and my memory doesn't have to be any better than a goldfish's. So, yes, I've translated a lot of meetings (but no live broadcasts yet)

Question 3 -- The Scots are lovely people (who, not for nothing, make some damn fine whisky!), and have, to my ear, a bewitching accent. I can't think of any other native English speakers whose speech can be simultaneously glorious, and yet COMPLETELY incomprehensible to me! (Take no offense, I just haven't spent more than a few hours at a time with the Scotspeople I've met, so my ear isn't finely tuned.) Forgive my ignorance, but is there great variation in the Scottish accent, and do you guys ever have difficulties understanding each other?

We really don't! Although there are many different Scottish accents (an Aberdonian sounds nothing like a Glaswegian and a Fifer's accent is very different to a Highlander's), I can't think of a single instance of mutual incomprehension.

Question 4 -- Anyone who spends more than a few minutes on Peregrinations will quickly notice your talent for photography. What camera (s) do you use, and what subjects catch your eye?

I'm not a great photographer, really. I have a Lumix bridge camera and I keep telling myself that I should be more adventurous and learn about things like depth of field and that sort of thing, but I find it all a little confusing. I tend to like photographing things rather than people, and especially old, rusty dilapidated things.

Question 5 -- You have no fewer than 805 books listed at an online library, linked to your blog. Wow. I'm assuming you have read them all, and I'm wondering if you can share your top 5 with my readers, and also give us five words apiece about those five authors. Hey -- it's Question 5.

This is difficult! I've chosen five that all have a Scottish connection:

Whereabouts by Alastair Reid (poet, Borges translator, Scot, father)
Findings by Kathleen Jamie (Scot, poet, observer of nature)
Night Falls on Ardnamurchan by Alasdair Maclean (Scot, chronicler of Highland twighlight)
Morvern Callar by Alan Warner (novelist, young, Scot, trippy, Oban)
No Great Mischief by Alistair Macleod (Canadian-Scot, gaelic-speaking ancestors)

Question 6 -- Peregrinations and BlaiserBlog, by apparent coincidence, use the very same template from Blogger. What would you guess are the chances of me interviewing someone with the same blog template as mine, and do you believe in luck?

I delight in coincidences, but I'm not sure that I believe in luck. What can I say other than that we both have impeccable taste!


And if anyone would like to read my interview, I advise you to "point" your browser toward DIA and the devilishly clever Giving Umbrage. Thanks again for reading, and always remember: Global Warming is just God's way of saying that Dick Cheney hates Polar Bears almost as much as he loves Freedom...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Longest Musical Piece Ever, or The Efficacies of Pumpkin Pie

Cubicle Zombie by Andrew Brandou

My Web surfing has been larthargic at best for the last two weeks, and so forgive an anemic entry here at BlaiserBlog. I meant to title this post with a third element--something about conspiracy theorists, but y'know, my better judgments conspired against me, and we're stuck with two. Perhaps it'll get better as we go.

Betcha didn't know that a 639-year piece of music is being performed RIGHT NOW, and now, and now, as we poured this morning's orange juice, topped off the dry-cleaning chemical wells and swallowed the Whopper du jour--having it our way at Burger King, hearing it our way at Fox News, and subesequently heaving it our way, after Burger King and Fox News have it their way with our upper gastrointestinal tract.

He's an ex--Navy Seal who is working through a proctology residency at a Hawaiian hospital--new this fall on CBS, he's Magnum, GI !!!

But seriously folks, there's an organ that was built during the 100 Year's War, just before Richard II was born (no, not the guy with the hump. That was the other guy)--nearly 100 years before Mozart was crawling up his mother's skirts on his way to the keyboard bench--in a cathedral in Halberstadt, then part of the Prussian province of Westphalia.  Time passed. Empires rose and fell. The area "enjoyed" Napoleonic management for a spell, and sometime later, weathered Allied bombing--still, the cathedral organ kept blowing. What better instrument, carryers of the avante-garde torch must have thought, for stretching a 20-something minute John Cage piece out to absurd lengths? The note changes in this piece seem to be happening about once per year--in 2008, one such change apparently drew a crowd of about 1,000, thus underscoring, if you'll pardon the pun, my lifelong hunch that most Europeans have too damn much time on their hands.

This "ambitious" undertaking is on track to swell to a rousing finish sometime around 2640, whenupon it'll be a global event for whatever's left of humanity; the baton will be no doubt be wielded by Buck Rogers IV; and the slow-music movement will have gained so much (slowly-built) momentum that Julliard scholarships will be routinely awarded to snails. Unless of couse, the ghost of Frank Zappa comes back and pulls off what the B-17s couldn't: blowing that mother to smithereens, just 'cause. We're all playing to an indifferent cosmic audience anyway, aren't we?

And now, in an attempt to cleanse the digital palate from the acrid bit of nihilism above, It's PUMPKIN PIE TIME, FOLKS!!

    Image Courtesy of Coulda Woulda Shoulda

Pumpkin pie is to Nic Cage* as conspiracy theorists are to _____________.

a) Harold Pinter

b) Harold of Hastings

c) The Old Grey Mare

d) The Old Gray Lady

Pumpkin Pie/Nic Cage/conspiracy related anecdotes gratefully received below. Thanks for reading, and always remember, if the Good Lord had meant for David Hasselhoff's pop music to chart as well here as it did in Germany, it would have been better music. Much, much better.

* There are things in life that people tend to love or hate, with no in-the-middle. Both pumpkin pie and Nicholas Cage, in my experience, fall into this category. Nic Cage, to my knowledge, is not related to John Cage. If anyone else shares this theory, by gum we've got ourselves a conspiracy!