Tag Archives: miscellany

bolinhas - FISL 2009

Bolinhas!

It pays to know your local market. Sun’s Brazil team had the bright idea to have 2000 small soccer balls printed with logos, to use as giveaways at FISL. Along with much other show stuff, these arrived in the bus that drove from Sao Paolo to Porto Alegre. Then they had to be stored in Read More…

It pays to know your local market.

Sun’s Brazil team had the bright idea to have 2000 small soccer balls printed with logos, to use as giveaways at FISL. Along with much other show stuff, these arrived in the bus that drove from Sao Paolo to Porto Alegre. Then they had to be stored in the hotel we were all staying at…

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When we finally got them to the show floor, they filled a tall column (which had holes near the bottom to extract them from):

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There were over 8000 attendees at FISL this year, so not everyone could have a ball just for the asking. And they did ask: we had a constant flow of people into the booth requesting a bolinha (little ball). They were cute, all right.

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The few little kids at the show got one automatically, but everyone else had to work for it, usually by doing soccer tricks:

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Even in Brazil, soccer ability is not a given in a geeky crowd like this, but three girls who were not only beautiful but knew how to play soccer had been hired to “coach”:

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They were very popular; all the young men and boys wanted to take photos with them (a few of them also asked for photos with Teresa and me, to our surprise), but they smilingly refused – that wasn’t part of their contract (and they would have spent all day doing nothing else, had they agreed).

The girls also kept the coffee machine running, a big plus for those of us working the booth, as well as the many who happily lined up for free coffee – this was a trick discovered by Sun Brazil years ago, now imitated (with less booth-filling success) by several other companies showing at FISL.

By the end of the fourth day the tower of balls was empty, but there was a reserve bag of souvenir balls for us hard-working Sun employees. I took four, and gave them all away before I got back to the US, the last two going to Bill and Sherry’s kids in Brisbane.

Finishing Touches

When we moved into our apartment in Milan in 1991, we were young and just getting started in life – which is code for "didn’t have much money". Our furniture all came from Ikea, with supplementary storage: the old trunks we had shipped our stuff in from the US. Our light fixtures for years were Read More…

When we moved into our apartment in Milan in 1991, we were young and just getting started in life – which is code for "didn’t have much money". Our furniture all came from Ikea, with supplementary storage: the old trunks we had shipped our stuff in from the US.

Rossella in the shelf

Our light fixtures for years were the same bare bulbs on wires that had been present when we bought the place. Once you’re accustomed to the fierce, unobstructed glare of a 150-watt bulb, it’s hard to get used to lower levels of light.

But, over time, we gradually upgraded some of our cheap furniture to get more storage space, Enrico got a new piano, and real light fixtures slowly began to appear. Each choice of a new one was agonizing. When we replaced the final bare bulb with a real ceiling lamp, sometime around 2001, we joked: "Now the house is all finished – we’ll have to move!"

And, not too long after that, we did move. The thirteen years we had spent in that apartment in Milan was the longest I’d ever lived in any dwelling in my life (which might be the case for Enrico as well – his family, unusually for Italians, moved quite a bit when he was young). We were no longer accustomed to change. Perhaps that’s why we were in a hurry to feel settled in our new apartment in Lecco, and had it completely furnished, including ceiling fixtures, in record time. Of course we then had to move again.

We’ve now been in our house for three years, and, once again, it was unpacked and looking very finished, very quickly. But it’s a big place; there’s always room for improvement.

Some time during the second year we finally replaced the last temporary light fixture, in the entryway. There had been no reason to rush: it had a big white-glass globe bulb, and almost looked intentional. Except that Enrico tended to point it out to any visitors complimenting us on our lovely home: "Yes, but we still have to find a light fixture for that…"

So finally one day he came home with this:

light fixture, Leuci, Lecco

It’s even local, made by a company in Lecco called Leuci. High coolness factor: you can position the tentacles any way you want.

The hanging is Indian; I won it at auction at the Woodstock reunion last summer. We still needed a coat rack for that corner – always useful by an entry – and Enrico found this adorable wrought-iron one in a small town in the mountains during one of his hiking excursions. (No, Italians don’t usually wear baseball caps – I use them to keep the sweat out of my eyes when gardening.)

More recently, we hung a beautiful tapestry (handcrafted by a women’s cooperative in Gujarat) that my classmate Sara brought us – stunning piece, see the detail at the top of this page. I moved next to it a watercolor of the Mussoorie hills done years ago by my Woodstock art teacher, Kathleen Forance, which had previously been overlooked and neglected in a hall corner.

…and I can think of lots more things to do to the house (not to mention the garden). My stay with Gianluca and Brian in San Francisco was inspiring: Brian’s trained as an interior designer, and it shows in their beautiful place. I’ll have to steal a few ideas from him. And I plan on some serious shopping during my upcoming India trip.

But we’ll never call this house "finished" – if we did, we would have to move again.

Toys of Empire – Teaching Young Bengalis to be Bureaucrats of the Raj

While I was in New Mexico last weekend, Sharon and I drove to Santa Fe. The town has many museums, but we visited only one: the Museum of International Folk Art. It’s not big, but offers plenty to keep the attention. One room has drawers full of decorative panels from Bangladeshi rickshaws, and molé cloth Read More…

While I was in New Mexico last weekend, Sharon and I drove to Santa Fe. The town has many museums, but we visited only one: the Museum of International Folk Art. It’s not big, but offers plenty to keep the attention. One room has drawers full of decorative panels from Bangladeshi rickshaws, and molé cloth work.

Most fascinating to me was the Girard Wing, created from the personal collection of a bi-cultural globetrotter whose taste in funky objects I completely concur with. It’s an enormous room crammed to bursting with toys, figurines, masks, and tapestries, arranged according to some interior logic of the donor, which doesn’t always make sense to the outside observer. Girard didn’t believe in labels, and I can see his point: I get distracted reading the text instead of observing the object it describes. So he put discreet little numbers on the cases, corresponding to a catalog with one terse paragraph of description per case. This was very frustrating at times – you’re left wondering: “Where is that thing from? What does it mean? Why does this mask show a person with pursed-out lips with a lizard climbing down his nose?”

And: “Why does this 18th-century Bengali story-teller’s scroll illustrating the life of Krishna feature (Indian) people and gods dressed for the French royal court in knee pants, hose, and big wigs?”

We weren’t sure if we were allowed to take photos (though there weren’t any signs saying otherwise), but I couldn’t resist snatching some shots of these.

The catalog inadequately explained that they are from Bengal, and represent scenes of the workings of the British empire – intended as educational toys, perhaps to show Bengali children the (limited) jobs that would be available to them in the British bureaucracy.

At the top of the page you can see a higher court in full session. Aren’t these guys wonderful? Look at the detail of their moustaches and beards, and the little white pith helmets on the table.

Below is a detail showing the British judge in his white jacket, with the plaintiff in the white dhoti and turban in the foreground, under the watchful gaze of a guard in blue.

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Below, I think, is a low-level magistrate’s office with a “native” judge. I’m guessing from their loincloths and hairstyle that the plaintiffs are tribal people.

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^ Here’s a surveyor’s office, everyone busily drawing maps – except their British supervisor (who appears to be a close relative of the judge). There’s even a guy with a rod, ready to go out and take more measurements.

My Potter Predictions

^ Hari Potter aur Paras Patthar – Harry Potter in Hindi Like most of the reading world, I await with bated breath the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final Harry Potter book. In a moment of pure self-indulgence during my last US trip, I bought Mugglenet.Com’s What Will Happen Read More…

^ Hari Potter aur Paras Patthar
Harry Potter in Hindi

Like most of the reading world, I await with bated breath the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final Harry Potter book. In a moment of pure self-indulgence during my last US trip, I bought Mugglenet.Com’s What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Falls in Love and How Will the Adventure Finally End.

This recounted some details that had escaped me in my repeat readings of the books (or that had been let slip in J.K. Rowling’s closely-parsed interviews, lovingly recorded on Mugglenet.com), and is clearly the result of hundreds of people putting far too much mental energy into someone else’s fantasy world. As a work of collective escapism, it’s breathtaking. (NB: I have nothing against escapism!)

Literary Theory

But I don’t agree with many of Mugglenet’s conclusions, which are based on carefully-sifted clues logically extracted from what we know of Harry’s mythical, magical world, with little or no consideration for literary qualities. I’m not particularly good at (or interested in) literary analysis, but I have been reading an awful lot of all sorts of literature for about 40 years now. Following my instincts as a reader (and writer), I feel that certain things have to happen for reasons of literary symmetry or completeness or balance or something – not sure what to call it, but, well, that’s where the story is going, and any other outcome just won’t work as well. Mugglenet’s predictions don’t seem to take this literary dimension into account at all.

A clue that Mugglenet seem to have missed is the books’ biased viewpoint. Although the narrative voice in the books is the omniscient third person, this is (probably deliberately) misleading: the story is told almost exclusively from Harry’s point of view. There are very few scenes in the books to which Harry is not a witness, either directly or via the Pensieve. (Only two such scenes come to my mind right now: the one between the Minister for Magic and the British Prime Minister, and the one where Snape takes the Unbreakable Vow in the beginning of "The Half-Blood Prince.")

This means that everything we see in the books is interpreted through Harry, including his assumptions about people and their feelings and motivations. And he’s a teenage boy with a difficult past and his own points of view and prejudices – not a particularly reliable narrator.

The Filmic POV

I also wonder whether Mugglenet have taken into account the additional clues offered in the films. We cannot treat these as completely separate, Hollywood-ized renderings of the story, because Rowling herself has been so closely involved in all of them. We must therefore assume that she has had a lot to say about the cuts in scenes and even characters that have been necessary to bring her books to the screen. Any scenes or creatures from the books which have not appeared in the movies, we can assume to be non-essential to the final outcome.

The movies have added as well as removed elements. While the scenes themselves still mostly involve Harry, the film audience is outside of Harry’s head, able to observe for ourselves how others interact with him, and draw our own conclusions about their real feelings and motivations.

We know from other sources that some of what we see onscreen is based on information we may have not yet read in the books: while the first movie was being filmed, J.K. Rowling had private conversations with Alan Rickman (Snape) and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) in which she gave them key information about their characters which had not yet been published, which she felt should inform their performances. The public doesn’t know what she told them – Rickman and Coltrane were of course sworn to secrecy – but we can make some inferences from what we see on the screen.

My Theories

I herewith present my own theories about some of what’s going to happen in Harry Potter 7, primarily to document them publicly in advance so that later I can say: "I told you so!"

Harry Will Kill Snape

This will probably occur near the end of the book, after Harry spends hundreds of pages trying to track Snape down to exact revenge for the deaths of Dumbledore and Harry’s parents. Only when it’s too late will Harry realize that he was wrong: Snape, while not a pleasant person, has been acting in Harry’s best interests since Harry was a baby. Why? Well, he loved Harry’s mother, Lily. He may even have made an Unbreakable Vow to protect Harry after he discovered that the information he passed to Voldemort about the prophecy had put her in danger.

In the books it seems clear that Snape hates Harry and takes every opportunity to torment him. But keep in mind the biased point of view (Harry’s) mentioned above: it’s easy for a teenager to over-interpret everything he sees, especially with a teacher he hates. What I see on the screen is far more ambiguous: there are even flashes of affection in Rickman’s performance, though this goes unrecognized by Harry.

Ginny Will Be Important

…and not just as Harry’s girlfriend and dream of a possible happily-ever-after. She’s the seventh child – and only girl – in a powerful wizarding family, she has had six older brothers to deal with, and she’s a redhead. I can’t help feeling that all of this is significant. And the books, for balance, need a female character who is as strong and active magically (as a metaphor for physical strength and action) as the boys are. Hermione’s intelligence is critical to the story in many points, but intellectual strength is a different matter altogether.

It has been repeatedly stated throughout the books that Harry’s parents were both strong at magic, and were full partners in the fight against Voldemort. I suspect that Ginny is not going to be content with sitting on the sidelines for her own protection, and will prove that she can take care of herself while fighting beside Harry against the Death Eaters.

Ron Will Be Betrayed by His Hunger for Money

I don’t know exactly what will happen or how bad it will be, but there have been too many hints since Book 1 about Ron’s bitterness at his family’s relative poverty. Something’s got to come of that much foreshadowing.

Rowling Will Surprise Us All

I’m not certain of any of the above, of course. No matter how much I or others may imagine we know or have guessed, I am confident that Jo Rowling will outsmart us all. And I can’t wait to see how she does it.

What do you think will happen?

Internet Memes: Deirdre Needs…

Caught up with this meme via Sognatrice, and found it a bit of good silly fun. You can play, too! Put your name followed by “needs” into Google and copy the first ten results you get. Add your own comments as to the applicability of each. Deirdre needs a parent who will take responsibility and Read More…

Caught up with this meme via Sognatrice, and found it a bit of good silly fun. You can play, too! Put your name followed by “needs” into Google and copy the first ten results you get. Add your own comments as to the applicability of each.

Deirdre needs a parent who will take responsibility and act as a parent should.

Well, that would have been nice 40 years ago or so.

Until she finds him, Deirdre needs a place to crash, and that’s where Ellen comes in.

Finds who? I generally have no trouble finding places to crash. Friends all over the world.

Deirdre needs our support! 15 January 2006 04:07:43 … Deirdre needs someone to help her that knows a lot about computers.

Moral support, maybe. Tech support, rarely.

Deirdre needs to meet her biological father though she risks tearing apart her family, which has taken years to come together.

Uh, no, I know my biological father quite well. And can tear my family apart all by myself quite nicely…

Deirdre needs a parent who will take responsibility and act as a parent should Deirdre needs to find a space in Sydney Harbour to park that liner

Again with the parents! A place to park a liner in Sydney Harbour is far more promising.

Deirdre needs a haircut badly

Hey! I just got one Friday!

Deirdre needs your votes on iRADIO LA.

???

Deirdre, she suggests Deirdre needs reassurance and says they should go round together.

I hope going round with this person will in fact be reassuring.

Deirdre needs to pull herself together and tell the truth for everyone’s sake.

I usually do tell the truth, probably more than I should.

However, all Deirdre needs to do is to put her emotions to one side and have a good long think about what has happened leading up to the murder.

Wow. My emotions must be causing amnesia – I don’t remember any murder.

I didn’t look at any of the actual results pages, but my impression is that there are a lot of soap opera characters named Deirdre. Or maybe it’s all the same character who, like most soap characters, has an improbably eventful life, what with murders and yachts and all.