Our team is made of heroes bold / Who aren’t afraid to try

Senior week has been a BLAST. Tonight was Campus Dance–Lincoln Field and the Main Green are strung up with thousands of glowing lanterns, alumni from way way back return for festivities and memories, etc. It’s been good.

But for unknown reasons I was off-and-on grumpy tonight (sorry), which leads to the following observation:

Campus Dance is 10000+ people, and I’d estimate that there were at least 5000 people who are still there at 1 am, when the dance was over. This is the population of a small town spewing onto a very small street with very few places still open.

Brown, did you think about crowd control? How about town-gown relations? Maybe give the businesses a heads up? Devise a clever way to make people trickle instead of gush out? Provide snacks and water instead of an arcane system of drinks tokens and some hidden place where pizza could be had (for one drink token that could take a long time to buy)? You hired all those skilled bartenders but most people just got beer. Had you provided some snacks and water (after all, you did charge $20/guest), 5000 hungry thirsty people wouldn’t have come gushing out of every orifice.

Because, you know, the better experience these returning alums have this weekend, the more money they give. Mobbed Antonio’s/Nice  Slice/pizza cone place (about the problems of which I opine below)? Probably leads to a sub-par experience.

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These are jokes

I know I titled my last post “I like jokes” or something. That’s definitely a nod “These are jokes,” by Demetri Martin, whom I love. I don’t know Mitch Hedberg’s comedy, and people keep telling me that I’d like Mitch Hedberg, but I imagine that Mitch Hedberg is somewhat like Demetri.

I think Demetri’s beautiful, and so is his mom! And Grandma! Just look at them! So cute!

He does art too!

I like jokes

Note: the following joke is very funny in German, but doesn’t translate well into English.
Was sind die drei Lagen auf der Bratsche?
Erste Lage, Notlage, und Niederlage.

(What are the three positions of the viola?
First position, emergency, and defeat.)

What are the three rings in a (wo)man’s life?
The engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffering.

(I couldn’t figure out whether “man” or “woman” was more correct, from either a political or humor standpoint. First, I think it’s important to establish that the joke means that suffering is caused by the wedding ring, or else, it’s just saying that suffering, wedding rings, and engagement rings are three critical and universal elements of the human condition, which I don’t think it is.

I think the old concept was that men felt trapped after marriage, but I mean, wouldn’t the woman feel just as trapped? Or what if the marriage was open? I did think about putting “person,” but that seemed weird. I think this sort of joke relies too heavily on gender stereotypes to de-specify.)

Homophonery gone too far

We’ve been studying Zhang Yimou a lot this year in Chinese class. He’s apparently one of those 5th generation directors who’s garnered unparalleled international attention, etc.

One of his films is Ju Dou, which, if I’m not mistaken, means like, “chrysanthemum bud.” It’s a wrenching-sounding story about dye vats, horrid amounts of unhappiness, and the main character burning up amidst rolls of silk, that conjures up Dido.

[[ And you know where Dido’s from? Carthage! And what was Carthage’s parent city? Tyre. And what came from Tyre? Tyrian purple, one of those insanely important commodities of the Mediterranean. This is definitely what the director had in mind. In fact, Zhang Yimou was reading teh Horace and Ovid as a child also.* ]]

But “Ju Dou” kind of sounds like Jeau d’eaux, Ravel’s piece for piano based on something by Liszt. I think it’s about fountains.

They’re both about water, right? Yeah?

* I’m kidding; I don’t think /any/ bit of English literacy in China stems from classics of this type. In fact Zhang Yimou says that he doesn’t speak any foreign languages, so this is even more unlikely.

Golly I really want to be good enough at Chinese so I can start translating INTO it.

andar + por

Evan Osnos is a London-born American journalist who lives in China but took a Chinese bus tour through Europe with Chinese people from China. He writes an article, then chats live with readers. I, on the other hand, now take a bus tour through my own linguistic prejudices.

COMMENT FROM YEQIAN: Hi, you just became my favorite writer in The New York, as a Chinese girl who are now learning communication in American college, i found that people in America including my classmates sometimes don’t quite know about China, i like your articles which are very objective and i also watched your Q&A interview, very fascinating and i already shared it on my Facebook. I’m glad your work has made people know about a real China, i really appreciate that.


From: here

I could probably learn a thing or two about language and myself if I could figure out why this writing style strikes me as so damn foreign. Would it have helped if “COMMENT FROM YEQIAN” and “…as a Chinese girl…” weren’t there? There’s something looser, more amenable to run-on, non-subordinated sentences in conversational Chinese, I guess, though there seems to be no shortage of subordination and tight writing in the written form..?

What if this was a comment from Yulia the Uzbek girl? Why do I get the distinct idea that this girl is from Southern China and would be kind of annoying if I were to try to get to know her?

COMMENT FROM SOPHIE: Hi Evan, as a Chinese who grew up abroad, I would be quite curious to join one of these groups just to see what kind of background history the guides provide to initiate the Chinese (having done my own rambling interrailing just out of high school). You mentioned that most were people who hadn’t been abroad before—do you think the guide would have provided a different set of explanations for people who had, or who had lived abroad and returned, as is the case increasingly? And if so, in what ways? Thanks.

EVAN OSNOS: Yes, I think the guide would have a different set of lectures and tips for more seasoned travelers. It was rather by accident that I ended up on the group that I did; if the dates had been a bit different, I might have ended up with a contingent of visiting dentists or cadres or whatever. After eighteen years, Guide Li had seen just about every kind of group pass through.

Ok. This excerpt brings up two issues: first, I think I write/speak basically in the way that this writer does. There’s our friend, “quite,” who stays past his welcome, having arrived in language books from the 1920s or something (in my mind). There’s the slight overconstruction, the parenthetical, the em dash.

The second issue is use of “a Chinese.” I’ve always been really uncomfortable with this usage, and this is the place where my writing would depart from “Sophie’s.” “English,” “French” and “Chinese,” to me, are in the at category of national adjectives that can’t be used substantively in a specific way: you can’t say “He is a French”–you have to say “He is a Frenchman” or “He is French.”

I forget why there are some adjective like this. Is it because these nationalities are mysteriously ascribed to odd things? French kiss, Chinese staircase, … Someone remind me.