Four Languages Sigrid Dips Into on Duolingo

Spanish

Sigrid picked up a fractured Spanish in high school, which she later mended slightly for casual conversations at her job. She associates the language with the smell of disinfectants and the careful application of powders, cologne, perfume, and lipstick. It makes her think of coffee mugs and bony hands with prominent veins held in hers at a table, sunlight warming the chairs. She dips into Duolingo’s Spanish because she wants to explore more of the language, see the words in front of her and think more about the spelling and grammar.

French

To Sigrid, French is a wonderful clotting in the mouth and nose. It’s a language that renders even practical phrases nonsensically romantic. She finds humor in it and loveliness and frustration. It isn’t entirely beautiful, though. For instance, she doesn’t like the word pastèque, which is French for watermelon. It sounds like a gunky watermelon paste. But much of French is lovely, and it’s a hopeful language to her, because she imagines herself in France one day. Not even in Paris, but in lavender fields in the south or on beaches in the north and fields with white graves, gardens with des petits chats, and stony paths that lead to cathedrals.

German

So far, German is the language of clean airport gates. Glass made brilliant in sunshine, sleek curving chairs, planes patiently absorbing luggage. The same planes later leaping into the air and seeming weightless as they rise. It’s the taste of coffee and formalities. Ticket agents with their hair in a bun and their lipstick tidy. Screens displaying a schedule of flights and the promise of timeliness.

Welsh

When Sigrid works on Welsh she feels as if a dryad has arrived to summon her on a quest in the forest. She hears the language of earth and trees, and streams engorged with unexpected floodwater. The words are enchantment. They set her circling a forest glade barefoot, with pillowy grass and spikes of pain from twigs and stones. Sometimes, she smiles in wonderment when she encounters a new word. Pilipala, which is one word for butterfly. She wants to discover other words.

Why sleeping during movies isn’t so bad

Mrs. Selby doesn’t mind falling asleep during movies or shows. The other day, she settled in for a viewing of the 2009 Emma mini-series, a BBC production. Here and there, she flickered into a light doze. Whenever she woke up, there were pretty British people waiting for her on the screen. Or beautiful landscapes presided over by large homes. She enjoyed herself tremendously.

The way she saw it, sleep didn’t make her miss out on much. Movies and shows were rarely good the whole way through. They usually had their dull patches. More often than not, the character development was written awkwardly, with missed opportunities. Memorable moments of dialogue weren’t the norm. As far as she was concerned, she could nap while sampling the bright spots of whatever she was watching.

So, there were Emma and Knightley, experiencing gentle but profound revelations on a dance floor. And there they were, touching their foreheads together while seated on a bench. Seemed they were having a lovely day, after many a quarrel and misunderstanding. They looked very well deserving of this moment, and Mrs. Selby was satisfied with that.

Movies and shows really were at their best in a handful of crystalline scenes that had the right words and gestures, a tender look on someone’s face or some dramatic music. Who cares what came in between. Screen productions, like people, were at their finest in doses of five to ten minutes with breaks for snoozing.

Howard rediscovers Erana’s Peace

When Howard thinks about the height of the pandemic, two things come to mind: a fog of anxiety and an escape into old computer games.

Instead of marathoning movies from the 1940s, which is his usual anxiety management strategy, he took a dive into classic Sierra games. He dipped into the King’s Quest series to revisit Daventry, Kolyma, and the land of Tamir. He muddled his way through the first Laura Bow game, spying on people through paintings.

And he returned to the first Quest for Glory game. The original with the EGA graphics that had once been called Hero’s Quest.

It surprised him how much of the game he remembered. Dancing with the fairies in the mushroom patch, getting squashed by a bouncy blue Antwerp, the wizard in the pink mansion with the gargoyle over the door. It was a game his older brother had introduced him to, an older brother he barely spoke to these days. Rediscovering it was a delight, but also left him feeling tender and bruised in his heart.

Erana's Peace from Quest for Glory I.
Erana’s Peace

One part of the game came as a shock to him. He remembered it, but the memory didn’t prepare him for the effect it would have on him now, as an adult.

For the first time in years, he set foot in Erana’s Peace.

Erana’s Peace is a meadow in the northern part of the snowed-in valley where the game is set. It’s a place of safety. The forest monsters can’t follow you there. You can sleep at the foot of a tree that bears bejeweled fruits, and no wraith or monster will murder you. The fruits from the tree are healing. The meadow embraces you, calling you to rest. It’s a place of restoration and a haven where no harm can come to you, even when you’re wounded or sleeping.

But what makes this place truly special is the music. Music that speaks of sweetness, peace, and melancholy. Much can be restored in Erana’s Peace, but certain things can never come back. And yet, there are consolations. 

The first time Howard re-encountered this melody, he felt a wave of emotion that closed his throat. When playing the game, he frequently brought his character back to the meadow, to linger without obvious purpose. Even in the middle of the day, even when he was strong enough to slay the most powerful of the forest monsters, he savored Erana’s Peace.

He remembered that as a child he had done the same thing. It wasn’t something you spoke about when you told people you were playing a computer game. You talked about tips for leveling up and getting a high score. You didn’t tell people that you had found a balm for your fear in a computer game from 1989. 

He must have carried that meadow in his soul for years. It had remained secreted away, and now he found the path back to it.

Howard wonders if there can be a place like that in real life. Can he recreate it? He doesn’t know how to draw well, and he doesn’t know how to play any instruments. (One year of trumpet lessons at age 13 doesn’t count.) Can his apartment become a home to a small tree with glistening fruits that wink in and out of sight?

For the time being, Erana’s Peace remains in the game. Howard keeps returning to this game now. You can play it as a fighter, a mage, or a thief, so his excuse, if anyone asks (no one has) is that he’s just running through it as different character types. But the main perk for him is to hurry through a dangerous forest to the meadow and its melody.

Plus, if you use magic in the game, you can discover something under the large rock in Erana’s Peace. An extra bit of calm.

13 Songs to Help you Power Through Hard Times

If you’re in a dark place or up against some challenges that are proving tougher than you expected, maybe some of these songs can help you power through. (Because of their lyrics or just the way they feel.)

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1) Everybody Hurts (R.E.M.)

When your day is night alone (Hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go (Hold on)

2) Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)

When darkness comes
And pain is all around,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

3) Love Reign Supreme (Alison Moyet)

We are more in the sum
Of the numbers we’ve been done
And it’s right to be kind
Even as your chest is bleeding

4) You Gotta Be (Des’ree)

Listen as your day unfolds
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky

5) Shake It Out (Florence + The Machine)

And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat

6) Level Up (Vienna Teng)

If you are afraid, come forth.
If you are alone, come forth now.

7) Afterlife (Ingrid Michaelson)

Living like you’re dying isn’t living at all
Give me your cold hands put them on my heart

8) 8 Good Reasons (Sinéad O’ Connor)

But I got 8 good reasons to stick around
8 good reasons, well maybe nine now

9) I See a Darkness (Johnny Cash)

But can you see this opposition comes rising up sometimes?
That it’s dreadful imposition, comes blacking in my mind.

10) By Myself (Judy Garland)

I’ll face the unknown, I’ll build a world of my own
No one knows better than I myself, I’m by myself alone

11) Innuendo (Queen)

Through the sorrow all through our splendor
Don’t take offence at my innuendo

12) Non, je ne regrette rien (Edith Piaf)

Avec mes souvenirs
J’ai allumé le feu

13) I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Nina Simone)

I wish I could do
All the things that I can do
Though I’m way overdue
I’d be starting anew.

Wimsey Vane TV adaptations: Notes on Viewing

Mrs. Selby hosted three viewing parties recently, one for each TV adaptation of the following Dorothy Sayers’ novels: Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, and Gaudy Night.

WimseyVaneplot

Set in the late 1920s through mid 30s, each stars Edward Petherbridge as Lord Peter Wimsey, the aristocratic sleuth, and Harriet Walter as Harriet Vane, the mystery writer.

Although, like other screen adaptations, they tend to leave out substance from the books and can’t fully capture the author’s energy, humor, and literary wit, there’s much to recommend them. Mainly the way the actors interpret their characters, the humanity they bring out, and the chemistry they enjoy between them. I really liked Petherbridge’s Wimsey and Walter’s Vane. And I was very fond of Richard Morant’s interpretation of Bunter (Peter Wimsey’s valet and assistant in criminal investigations).

Along with Mrs. Selby and me, there were three other regulars: Dora, Michiko, and Gilbert Frisch. However, Lewis came by for Strong Poison; Hank & Ivy watched Have His Carcase, because they’d heard about the code-cracking scene; and Howard popped in for Gaudy Night, mostly because of his interest in the Oxford scenes, his interest in Mrs. Selby’s red wine, and his need to procrastinate on an assignment due two days later.

So, that said – what were our impressions of each adaptation?

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Romance Writing Workshop at the Creative Outlet Mall

I’ve been poking around the Creative Outlet Mall lately, wondering if I should sign up for a class and if so, what class and for how much, when I saw this flyer for the 16th Annual One-Day Romance Writing Workshop. Too bad I missed it (it took place a month ago, but the organizer plans to run a romance writing class sometime in the coming year)

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