March 26, 2010

9 Notes from Pompidou

Back in December, instead of going home for Christmas, I took a trip to Europe, during which I spent a surprising amount of time looking at art. Here are some of the things I paid attention to at Pompidou, the big modern art museum in Paris.

1. This meat dress was made by Jana Sterbak. She went to Kits for high school and then UBC, which was strange to learn, because famous people aren't supposed to be from your home. Following the theme of women's work, I went from this sculpture to some photos.

2. Lisette Model: "As long as I have the feeling of 'that's me,' I will be able to photograph people." (Tant que j'aurai le sentiment que c'est moi, je pourrai photographier les gens.) *Peter, I wrote this down because I thought of you.

3. Diane Arbus: “What is ceremonial and curious and commonplace will be legendary.” 

4. Isabelle Waternaux had a series of these super obscured portraits. Awesome.

5. Maria Abramovic: video, “Freeing the Body." She covers her head and dances naked. 

More research yields incredible stuff. In one performance, she took a drug for catatonia, leaving her immobilized but lucid. Ten minutes after it wore off, she took a drug prescribed for aggressive and depressed people, which took her mentally out of the room. In another performance, she lay on a table with 72 objects that people in the museum could use on her, as explained by a sign. The objects included scissors, a knife, a whip, and a gun with a single bullet. What she said after:

“The experience I learned was that…if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed.” ... “I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.”

6. “Heartbeat," a slideshow by Nan Goldin. Forty-four photos of couples in bed, in the bath, getting ready for work, and Bjork singing in the background. I liked it, though it wasn't exactly happy.

7. I discover someone’s already filmed herself doing everything in an abaya. Shit, swimming and sunbathing included. "Ghazel."

8. Massive “Ecriture Rose” by Simon Hantaï. 

He spent every day of 1958 copying written texts -- poems, philosophical works, treatises on art -- onto a 11 X 14 foot canvas. Massed together in tiny script, the words took on shape. Nice. As for the artist himself, he was reclusive, in part because people started giving him commissions and asking him to paint public places. "Society seemed to be preparing to paint my work for me. I could have obeyed; many, perhaps most, painters do. The prospect did not coincide with my desire.” Apparently he traveled Italy on foot, too, which makes him doubly interesting.

9. C’est ce que je fais qui m’apprend ce que cherche. It’s what I do that teaches me what I’m looking for. –Pierre Soulauges. Didn't care for his black canvases, but I quite like the quotation.


"Alaina, here it is!"


"Remember I told you about that Spanish woman, the one that interrupted my Arabic class, spoke crappy Arabic, then asked Fatima if I was Muslim?"


"Ok, listen. It's funnier than I thought."

[Garageband playback:]

[1022] Mary: Keifantina? Ana Maryam. [How are you? I'm Mary.]

[1023] Fatima: [pointing at Spanish woman] Selma.

[1024] Mary: Selma? Minsharafin. [Selma? Nice to meet you.]

[1025] Selma: [to Fatima] Muslim?

[1026] Fatima: La.

March 21, 2010


Roughly, "shame."

1. Said when Alaina subtracted a point from a student's quiz for cheating; it was said not to the cheating student, but to Alaina for subtracting a point. Yes, different ideas about academic integrity.

2. Said to Andy by my fig man, when Andy reached for a proffered fig with his left hand.

3. Said by me, when, as we were hiking toward town, a young man deliberately slipped in front of me, in order to grope me on the way down.

March 19, 2010

Wiki Friday: Quebec French


Although Quebec French constitutes a coherent and standard system, it has no objective norm since the very organization mandated to establish it, the Office québécois de la langue française, believes that objectively standardizing Quebec French would lead to reduced interintelligibility with other French communities around the world, linguistically isolating Quebecers and possibly causing the extinction of the French language in the Americas.

Mutual intelligibility with other varieties of French:

Mutual intelligibility of Quebec French with Metropolitan French is a matter of heated debates among linguists. If a comparison can be made, the differences between both dialects are probably larger than those between standard American and standard British English, but far less than those differences between Brazilian Portuguese and that of Portugal or between standard German and Swiss German. Francophone Canadians abroad have to modify their accent somewhat in order to be easily understood, but very few Francophone Canadians are unable to communicate readily with European Francophones. European pronunciation is not really difficult for Canadians to understand; only differences in vocabulary present any problems. Nevertheless, Quebec French accent is mostly closer to that of Poitoi or of Normandy and also some parts of Wallonia.

In general, European French speakers have no problems understanding Quebec newscasts or other moderately formal Québécois speech. However, they may have some difficulty understanding informal speech, such as the dialogue in a sitcom. This is due more to idioms, slang, vocabulary and use of exclusive cultural references than to accent or pronunciation. However, when speaking to a European French speaker, a French speaker from Quebec is capable of shifting to a slightly more formal, "international" type of speech.

Quebec's culture has only recently gained exposure in Europe, especially since the Quiet Revolution (Révolution tranquille), and the difference in dialects and culture is large enough that Quebec French speakers overwhelmingly prefer their own "home grown" television dramas or sitcoms to shows from Europe. The number of such TV shows from France shown on Quebec television is about the same as the number of British TV shows on American television: they are seldom broadcast except on obscure cable channels.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

And thanks to my friend Steve Faguy, because I stole the photo from his cool blog, which happens to be based on and in Montreal, speaking of Quebec.

Wiki Friday: Phallic state mottos

New Mexico: It grows as it goes (Latin: Crescit eundo)

New York: Ever upward (Latin: Excelsior)

Not phallic, but still funny.

Maryland: Manly deeds, womanly words (Italian: Fatti maschii, parole femine)

Michigan: If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you (Latin: Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice)

And then there are state slogans, made for advertising purposes by people who would have us die by our own laughter.


Idaho: Great Potatoes. Tasty Destinations.

Illinois: Right Here. Right Now.

Louisiana: Come as you are. Leave Different.

Maryland: America in Miniature

Oklahoma: Oklahoma is OK

Oregon: Things Look Different Here (1987 - 2003)

Texas: It's Like a Whole Other Country

Utah: This Is Still The Right Place

Texts from the last month

King will be out walking at 2 we just heard. Where we do not know. I will head to moham V soon to see.

Avatar en español a las 6.30 en avenida? Bghiti?

Yees!ok. bon jeudi viens me chercher au beaux arts 1 heur que tu veus.avec ton usb pour te donner les fotos.bon8. coucou a american

Alyawm adars fi 3

Hi mary. Mr hisham said that we will meet tmrw at 4 bcz he will be busy of Friday..have gd dreams.


Maroc Telecom Vous Souhaite Aid Moubarak Said.

They sleep stil, come by here at 11.00

Slt!mais je peu pa anulé les fille ont programé pr ce samedi tu peu faire la féte laprem avk tn ami je compte sur toi a 19h30 ne me laisse pa tombé

Hey can u buy laundry detergent on the way home? Omo kabir.

Shuks bzef!

Ok-Super-On se retrouve a Inba.

Clothes are drying! As for floors, ghadda insha allah…

67cm by 120cm, 5mm thick—Edges rounded. Asap, we need the palette.

Salam.Nous allons au Hamam D hajar vers10Hdemain. Tu viens aussi?

March 18, 2010

Best thing about showing Avatar in class

The movie ends. My Beginner 5 students are packing up.


[I turn]

"Yes, Ismail?"

[Ismail, now gazing into my eyes:]

"I see you."

March 12, 2010

Turkish-Arabic cognates

shi haja...

shi haja...



I wanted to say "basic." "Something...basic." Oh, what is the word? Sahal means "easy," but that's not what I want. Screw it.

shi haja...basit.

Fatima and I said the word in unison. But I said "simple" in Turkish and she said "simple" in Arabic. It was like magic. These cognates really do make my world go round. 

Turkish  /  Arabic
nadiren (rarely)  /  nadiran (rarely) نادرا
şikayat etmek (to complain)  / shakwat (complaint) شكوة
vakit (time)  / waqt (time) وقت
maalesef (unfortunately)  /  maalesef (unfortunately) مع الأسف
mutfak (kitchen)  /  matbakh (kitchen) مطبخ
kahve (coffee)  /  qahwa (coffee) القهوة
ziyaret (visit)  /  ziyarat (visit) زيارة
fikir (idea)  /  fikra (idea) فكرة
meşgul (busy)  /  mashghul (busy) مشغول

March 9, 2010

a whole new world

The plan was to take a break from Fus-ha, or Standard Arabic, to learn just enough Darija, or Moroccan dialect, to handle travel logistics and shopping. But now, only five hours into this new language--and indeed it is a new language--I feel I am in a whole new world. The characters are the same, but now I know what they are saying, and they understand me, too.

At the hamam: bzef de ness lyoma! (a lot of people today!)

Buying clothes: wash kayn ktar sagheer min hada? (is there one smaller than this?)

Buying coffee: smehli, khamsa mia gram, la khamseen (sorry, 500 grams, not 50)

Passing a friend in the street: aandi dars deba--nashoufak min baad (I have class now--see you later)

With Fatima, my wonderful teacher: kayajibni bzef naqra adarija, ktar min alfus-ha. naqdar nahdar ma ness. kul yowm, kanataalam shi haja jadida. (I like studying Darija a lot, more than Fus-ha. I can talk to people. every day, I learn something new.)

It's like I'm Jasmine and she's Aladdin, showing me the world beyond the balcony.

March 7, 2010

The importance of models in the artist's life

" my own work I write not only what I want to read--understanding fully and indelibly that if I don't do it no one else is so vitally interested, or capable of doing it to my satisfaction--I write all the things I should have been able to read. Consulting, as belatedly discovered models, those writers--most of whom, not surprisingly, are women--who understood that their experience as ordinary human beings was also valuable, and in danger of being misrepresented, distorted, or lost:
Zora Hurston--novelist, essayist, anthropologist, autobiographer;
Jean Toomer--novelist, poet, philosopher, visionary, a man who cared what women felt;
Colette--whose crinkly hair enhances her French, part-black face; novelist, playwright, dancer, essayist, newspaperwoman, lover of women, men, small dogs; fortunate not to have been born in America;
Anais Nin--recorder of everything, no matter how minute;
Tillie Olson--a writer of such generosity and honesty, she literally saves lives;
Virginia Woolf--who has saved so many of us.
It is, in the end, the saving of lives that we writers are about. Whether we are "minority" writers or "majority" writers. It is simply in our power to do this.
We do it because we care. We care that Vincent Van Gogh mutilated his ear. We care that behind a pile of manure in the yard he destroyed his life. We care that Scott Joplin's music lives! We care because we know this: the life we save is our own."

--from Alice Walker's piece, Saving the Life That Is Your Own: The Importance of Models in the Artist's Life

I'm not just an ESL teacher. There was a time when I studied literature and thought more about genre and perspective than "get" phrasal verbs and past perfect continuous. Alice Walker reminded me. In a class of thirteen-year-olds this morning, I was happy to know that eventually the bell would ring, and I could go home to her book. 

March 2, 2010

Yes! The drinks ARE under the umbrella!

You have to understand that Turkish-Arabic cognates are the sexiest thing in my life.

Meşrubatlar şemsiyenin altında mı?

This question popped out from my Turkish review book because the first two words were unfamiliar. Something was under something else, based on the word altında. But what were these mysterious somethings? Hold on, now, I said to myself. Isn't "shrob" or "shorb" Arabic for drink? And isn't "shamss" Arabic for sun? I looked at the picture in the Turkish book, the one above the question. The Arabic roots and the Turkish suffixes, plus the handy context clues, all came together in an orgasm of comprehension.

Yes! The drinks ARE under the umbrella!