This and that

As July comes to an end, here are some things I’ve been wanting to post but didn’t get around to.

July saw the release of two Hollywood movies we were eagerly awaiting this year. I thoroughly enjoyed Brave. From the trailers, I was a bit worried about it being a rehash of How to Train Your Dragon, but was pleasantly surprised at the refreshingly different plot. But the movie stands out for a reason that only the cricket fanatics among you will related to. Young MacGaffin kept reminding me of Shane Watson:

MacGaffin WatsonMacGaffin Watson

On the other hand, Dark Night Rises underwhelmed. It started off brilliantly, but then in trying to do too much at the same time, did everything poorly. One advantage of watching the movies in Amsterdam is that they carry mandatory Dutch subtitles. How is that an advantage? Well, when the movie becomes boring, you can divert your attention to sub-titles and start adding new words to your vocabulary. When it’s a movie involving Batman (and thus inevitably involving death and destruction at an industrial scale), the kind of Dutch words you pick include:

Pleegouders (foster parents), kracht (power), macht (might), oorlog (war).

It’s been close to 30 years since I first ran into English and I still discover new words every time I pick a book. At times the words are highly technical. Like oriel and corbel - latest additions to my vocabulary that are meant to describe peculiar kinds of windows and masonry, but remind me of Ariel and Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. But mostly the new words I acquire describe something commonplace. For example, occiput, the word for the back of one’s head. It’s these words that leave me a little ashamed at my ignorance. Each time I run into a new word, I now try to look up not just its meaning but also its Dutch translation. This doesn’t make the prospect of acquiring a reasonable Dutch vocabulary any less daunting - after all I’ve got 30 years of catching up to do!

For now I am happy inventing little coupletes in my limited vocabulary.

regen buiten? paraplu gebruiken.

[rain outside umbrella use]

The wife chimes in with:

regen regen ga naar Nijmegen

[rain rain go to Nijmegen]

Talking of books, I finally decided to tackle Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum. It’s been a morbidly fascinating and difficult read. It gets a bit disturbing in places, and sometimes you get an impression that the author is deliberately trying to shock. It’s the kind of book that you put down after an hour to catch your breath. Moth and Light Bulb, the 3rd Chapter in the book, is the one I won’t forget for a long time. I am also going to use it as an excuse to post a picture:

Light bulbs but no mothsLight bulbs but no moths

I had written about Summer being unable to make up its mind last year. This year has been no different. The max temperatures have kept swinging between 18ºC and 28ºC. One day you are looking out at blue skies and opportunistic mosquitos waiting to get in…

Blue skyBlue sky

Opportunistic mosquitoesOpportunistic mosquitoes

and on the next day you wake up wondering if it was a dream.

Grey skyGrey sky

It was time for the Hungarian Grand Prix this Sunday. If I see cricketers in cartoon characters, the wife sees cartoon characters in Grand Prix circuits. The Hungaroring circuit reminded her of Johnny Bravo - I agree:

Bravo HungaroringBravo Hungaroring

July 2012 has also been the month of Olympics. Very little outside cricket, formula 1 and tennis interests me (though I did get drawn to football during the last few days of the Euro Cup) and still I’ve found myself watching a few Olympic events keenly. While flipping through channels after the Hungarian Grand Prix, I came across the Women’s Road Race cycling event and just couldn’t stop watching. Having cycled for more than year now, I could appreciate what the cyclists must be going through. It was pelting down for the large part of the event and Marianne Vos, Elizabeth Armistead and Olga Zablinskaya were clearly leading the rest of cyclists by a long stretch. It was fascinating to watch the three of them compete. All sorts of mind games were being played, all sorts of careful calculations were being employed - do you charge ahead and build a lead or do you conserve your energy for a final assault in the end? The three were neck to neck till the last 300m after which they pedalled like they had been jolted from a deep sleep. Marianne Vos won, and her celebration was raw and emotional. Even I felt a tear well up in the corner of my eye.

Ironical that I should enjoy the cycling event more than the million dollar spectacle that is Formula 1.

That reminds me - I was in class VI or VII when I first made acquaintance with the word irony’. I think the word came up while discussing a poem by Odgen Nash but I could be wrong. What I do remember clearly, is that the teacher found herself utterly unable to convey the true sense of the word. Her final attempt at oversimplifying the mysterious word went on the lines of - when you say something but mean something else” - but its essence was utterly lost on her bunch of prepubescent, literal minded students. We probably couldn’t get over the fact that just by appending a y” to iron you could impregnate it with such delicious possibilities.

[The Dutch for iron is ijzer and the word for irony, ironie. I wonder if the word is any easier to grasp for a sixth grader here. At any rate, a confusion between the metal and the difficult to explain word is out of question]

I regret not remembering when the word finally clicked for me. Hardly a day goes by now when I don’t find a use for it. Just the other day when going across the river IJ in the ferry, we saw this Earth” made up of discarded (?) plastic bottles floating in the river. I think they were trying to raise environmental awareness”. From where I stood, a chimney, that looked like it was buried in the North Pole of this plastic earth, could be seen bellowing smoke. Ironically, the chimney in the background was the real thing.

Plastic earthPlastic earth

July 31, 2012