Sunday, November 25, 2007

Screaming Banshee Aircrew and Rome Burns in Concert

We've seen Screaming Banshee Aircrew live twice before. They've been described as electro punk but there's a lot of goth rock in there too. I never sit down at home and listen to their music, but their gigs are amongst the best I've been to. Last night was no exception really, though the set was let down by dodgy sound equipment and perhaps a few too many drinks before taking to the stage? It all descended into chaos, but entertaining, good natured chaos and a good time was certainly had by all.

Rome Burns were the support band. Support band? You must be joking, they were way too good to be a support band, especially in a laid back venue known for shows starting late (they were on stage quite promptly and lots of people didn't get there before they'd finished their set). They sound great (goth rock), look great and gave a very professional performance.

Na asked in the comments on my recent post about how I didn't mis-spend my youth, what were my favourite bands to see live. So for Na, and anyone else who wants to know, here's the link that will tell you.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mis-spent Youth

Oh I so didn't 'mis-spend' my youth! I was the swot of the class, I always did my homework, hardly ever misbehaved and never fell in with a bad crowd. I was in the school choir, acted in school plays and did well in exams. I wasn't allowed to mis-spend my youth - my parents didn't let me go out very often, not even to the cinema (I've been overcompensating on that one ever since!) and in fact didn't even let me listen to much pop music or wear fashionable clothes. With all the fuss these days about parents being paranoid about their children's safety I now realise my own parents were ahead of their time. I do wish that I had had more freedom as a child, though I've always been serious by nature and always enjoyed school and even homework and so was never really a candidate for 'mis-spending' my youth.

Things changed at University though I didn't mis-spend my time there I certainly had a good time. I joined lots of University societies, ones that were socially useful but also had a good social life (Student Community Action Group for example had me volunteering with dementia patients but also going to some brilliant parties, while Friends of the Earth were as famous for their pub nights as for their conservation work). I also worked hard but not too hard and passed the exams that mattered. I think I had the best possible time at University.

I only discovered live rock music in my 20s and clubbing in my 30s (thankfully a lot of people in the goth and alternative scene are older than the stereotypical clubber) though apart from the late nights and the sometimes controversial music, its not time mis-spent really, goths (in Edinburgh at least) are the nicest, most polite clubbers you can find and I can't drink alcohol when I'm dancing.

I'm glad I didn't 'mis-spend' my youth, though I do wish I had seen more films and listened to more music when I was a teenager, I feel I miss out on too many cultural references.

La Strada di Levi (Primo Levi's Journey)

Dopo la sua liberazione di Auschwitz, Primo Levi avevo dovuto viaggiare con altre prigionieri liberati nella Europa - Ucraina, Biellarussia, Romania, Ungheria, Germania e finalmente ha ritornato alla sua città natia, Torino. Questo film ha fatto lo stesso viaggio. E interessante vedere la nuovo Europa, che ha cambiato, che no ha cambiato e come non imperiamo della storia. Scene di una comune in Biellarussia sono lo stesso come scene di un film vecchio di una comune sovietico; neo Nazi radunano in Germania..... Questo film e ispirato di 'La Tregua' di Levi.

After his liberation from Auschwitz, Primo Levi was forced to travel, with other liberated camp inmates, through Europe - Ukraine, Belorus, Romania, Hungary, Germany before finally returning to his hometown of Turin. This film makes the same journey. It's interesting to see the new Europe, what has changed, what hasn't changed and to see the extent to which we don't learn from history. Scenes from a collective farm in Belorus are intercut with scenes from an old Soviet film about collective agriculture; neo Nazis gather in Germany.... The narrative for the film is inspired by Levi's book The Truce.

I saw the original Italian version of this film at the Italian Film Festival. Apparently there is another version with a twangy southern USA English language narrative.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Concise Chinese English Dictionary for Lovers - Xiaolu Guo

This is an interesting book to read at around the same time as seeing the film The Missing Star (an Italian film set in China). The book is narrated by a young Chinese woman who has moved to the UK to study and it outlines her perceptions of British culture from the viewpoint of someone coming from a very different cultural background. She makes some very interesting observations about what the English language say about Western lifestyles and attitudes to time and relationships. Her evident confusion in the face of the peculiarities of the English language make the reader both laugh and think more deeply about language.

The book is entertaining too though sometimes seems a bit contrived and the deliberately bad English can sometimes become irritating.

Xiaolu Guo is also a film director, her film How is Your Fish Today was one of the highlights for me of the 2006 Edinburgh International Film Festival.

La Stelle che non c'e (The Missing Star)

Vicenzo e un ingegnere che lavora in una acciaieria vicina da Napoli. Un broker Cinese compra macchinario e ritornano a Cina. Ma Vicenzo trova difetti nel macchinario e va a Cina per explicare. Ma, non parla cinese, non sa dov'e l'acciaieria in Cine. E un po impreperato per il viaggio! Fortunamente, incontra una traduttore che possa aiudarli, ma e molte malintese culturale e problemi.

Normalemente quando ho visto film di Cina, ho visto film di Cina storico o rurale. Ma la Cina industriale in questo film è molto deprimente. Anche il film, benché e interessante e qualche volta divertente.

Vicenzo is an engineer working in a steel mill near Naples. A Chinese broker buys machinery from the factory and returns to China. Vicenzo discovers defects in the machinery and goes to China to sort things out. However he doesn't speak Chinese and doesn't know where the steel mill is that has bought the machinery. He is poorly prepared for his journey! Luckily he meets a translator who can help him, though there are lots of cultural misunderstandings and problems.

Most Chinese films I've seen have been set in rural or historical China. The industrial China in this film is very depressing. As is the film, though it is also interesting and sometimes entertaining!

The Italian Film Festival is on at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh (and selected other venues in the UK) until 2 December.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Languages I Speak (and some I Don't)

totally made my day recently by telling me I write Italian very well and asking if I had studied it at University! I was very flattered, but no, I only studied it for two years at evening classes at the Institute for Applied Language Studies, in Edinburgh. I have worked hard extra to that in learning grammar at home and reading a lot in Italian. It helps that I enjoy a lot of Italian writers, especially Italo Calvino and Alessandro Barrico. I also read the Italian magazine Focus, which is a wonderfully bizarre magazine, full of articles about weird things. I watch a fair number of Italian films too (the Italian Film Festival starts this weekend!!!). I've found Italian much easier to learn than either German or French, both of which I studied at school. I learnt French for five years at school and have done little with it since, though I did a year of evening classes and sometimes read in French as well as watching a fair number of French films. My real problem with French is that I can't hear it very well! German I studied for three years in school but have always used it since, I've visited Germany more often than any other country and have several German friends, some of whom I even speak German with! German is hard work though, all those long words and endless sentences with the verbs at the end.... I use both German and Italian for work sometimes. I can understand Spanish quite well because its very similar to Italian, but I can't speak it, mostly for exactly the same reason.... I can speak a few phrases of Polish, as I was on an archeology dig over there once. I keep meaning to learn a bit more as there are so many Polish people over here now, but its a very difficult language and I don't expect to get beyond the very basics. Gaelic is a language so strange and incomprehensible (to make the present tense you use the future tense - how weird is that!) that I don't think I'll ever get past Hello, a fact not helped that whenever we visit 'Gaelic speaking' areas of Scotland, we never find anyone who speaks the language! I learnt some Chichewa when I was in Malawi and still occasionally come out with the odd 'pepani' (sorry) or zikomo (excuse me, thankyou).

So what languages do you speak and how do you use them?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Sentences Are Not American

Read Write Poem this week challenged us all to write American sentences. These are single sentences of 17 syllables - a sort of Americanised haiku. I thought I would experiment:

The fundraiser's sentence:

We are grateful for your previous donation, now please give us more!

The Scots sentence:

You won't be wanting to do that again in a rush, ken, will you then?

The stereotypical cosy Scots sentence:

Hey, Jimmy, what you doin' ower there wi' that bonnie wee lassie?

There's a wee chappie playing the bagpipes ower there in the heather.

The stereotypical urban Scots sentence:

Ye wannae go down the chippy for Irn Bru and deep fried Mars Bars?
Aye and then we can go down the pub for the match and a wee bevvie


ken - you know

ower - over

bonnie - pretty, lovely

wee - small, short

chappie - man

ye - you

wannae - want to

chippy - chip shop

Irn Bru - soft drink, brewed in Scotland

deep fried Mars Bar - yes there is such a thing

the match - the football match on big screen tv

wee bevvie - a few drinks

on Crafty Green Poet, read American (Holiday) Sentences

American Sentences for Read Write Poem

Monday, November 12, 2007

haiku - belonging

at the gig -
everyone knows the words
to all the songs

I also belong here

Belonging for One Deep Breath

(If you like writing haiku, you may be interested in the Haiku Broken Telephone Game)

Sunday, November 11, 2007


after the match -
University Sports team
eat Burger King.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Haiku Broken Telephone Game

Inspired by a Lithuanian game called ‘broken telephone’, Ricardas at Haiku Poetry Blog is setting up a haiku game. In Broken Telephone, a sentence is passed through a chain of people by whispering it to the next person, then he/she whispers further on and so till the last person who announces loudly what he/she have heard. Normally, it is different from what initially was said and more people participate funnier it ends up. To see how the haiku version works and to participate, see this post.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

How Much Do You Read?

The question on Booking through Thursday today is:

Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger? More? Less?Why?

I read loads more than I used to when I was younger. I think the more I read the more I want to read. I also realise that if I want to be a good writer I need to read a lot so I can understand what works and what doesn't in the literature I enjoy. Also I like to read in foreign languages as a perfect way to improve my language skills, while reading about subjects I'm interested in (eg science, linguistics) is a great way to learn more about the world. I also know that the amount I read has increased greatly since I joined Bookcrossing - an international community of booklovers who like to share their books, either with other bookcrossers or by leaving them in public places for unsuspecting passers by to find. Like many other bookcrossers I had originally thought that this would be a good way of reducing the number of books on my shelves, but no it has had the opposite effect. Plus the fact that a few years ago charities in the UK introduced second hand shops that sell books and nothing but books. These shops have probably been my downfall! But I can't complain because the more good books I read the more I love reading and its been a really good year for books this year. (I may post more about that later in the year!).

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Pazze per le Borse! (Crazy for Handbags) by Paola Jacobbi

Perché alle donne non bastano le tasche!

Me piace molto questo libro! E facile a leggere, divertimento e interresante! Paola Jacobbi esplora la significata sociale delle borse, i tipi delle borse, anche le borse famose; quale borsa per quale evento? come donne differente usano le borse ecc. Anche e un libro bello con illustrazione amusante. Se questo libro sia in inglesa, non li avrei letto, perché avrei pensato sia troppo 'da ragazza' e frivolo. Ma è piu.

Because, for a woman, pockets are never enough!

I really enjoyed this book! It's easy to read, entertaining and interesting! Paola Jacobbi explores the social significance of handbags, types of handbags (including famous handbags), vital questions such as 'which handbag for which occasion?' and how different women use handbags. It's also a beautiful hardback book full of amusing illustrations. If this book had been in English, I wouldn't have read it, I would have thought that it would be too girly and frivolous. But its a lot more than that. (Unfortunately I don't know whether it has been translated into English).