Wednesday, November 23, 2005

L'esprit de l'escalier

Waiting at City Centre yesterday, escalators and stairs criss-crossing each other like whitest contrails, and this woman walks up to me. She's about fifteen years older than sincerely yours, crinkled hair, dark skin, and says, "Do I know you? Did we meet at the bar a few days ago?"

A blonde in a diamond-patterned sweater steps off the nearest escalator, a man is talking loudly on his cellphone behind her. "No," I say, "I don't think so."

"Yeah, you're a welder. You're the welder-guy, aren't you?"

Welder? I'm wearing the usual brown velvet blazer, I've got a leather book-bag slung around my side, grey cords (those Malaysians who work for GAP do such fine stitching with their tiny nine-year old fingers), I'm rail-thin, have dead white skin and shall-we-politely-say-"effeminate" long black hair. I look like a student slash male geisha, okay? Listen, I'm not saying I dislike the way I look, I'm saying—welder? Seriously? Because you look at all those National Geographic specials on industry in the Arctic (there's got to be a couple) or, hell, a Corb Lund video, and, yeah, it's true, you see a lot of dudes with blazers and book-bags doing a bit of casual spot-welding on the rigs, right? Or that guy in the garage with a blowtorch in one hand and a tattered copy of E.M. Forster's Aspects Of The Novel in the other, he's a welder, right? And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with welders, btw, what I'm saying is—welder? I just don't get it. Do any of us match our mental images of ourselves? I, apparently, do not.

Listening: Sometimes, it's just that good. The song, I mean. The first time I ever heard it, "Rent A Wreck" was amazing. And the five-hundredth time I heard it, that song was still amazing. It's been burned on so many mix cds, half the people I know now know it off by heart, and we can all sing "Bur-ning in-fer-no of ba ba ba" with the same accent and emphasis as the singer. I love the soft cynicism in this song. The video for "Rent A Wreck" was charming, too, in that deliberate twee way of most indie efforts. Now there's a new mp3 (or new to me, anyway) up at PolloxNiner by these suburban kids, and while it's not quite as stand-out as the first single by these guys, it's still solid, still worth burning (ordering, I mean!), still worth passing around to all your friends. I love the the way the singer's voice almost trips up but then neatly slides away on the words "loop" and "duplicate". You might love it, too. "Loop Duplicate Your Heart" + Suburban Kids With Biblical Names More mp3s and vids on their label (alphebetized—scroll down), plus, the boys have got a dot blogspot blog, now!

Reading: There're some mild hiccups toward the beginning of Captain Hornblower. The first lieutenant, a man by the name of Bush, has come to know his captain quite well across two years at sea with him. The captain is Hornblower, of course, and has been five years at sea, if I remember the novel correctly (I do not have le livre in front of me, right now). What makes this information a little odd is that Bush and Hornblower came through some damn harrowing adventures together in the Queeg-like Lieutenant Hornblower, the novel which falls chronologically between Midshipman Hornblower and the book I'm reading now. There's the heart of the matter, though, isn't there? Forester, I was not aware, didn't write these novels chronologically. According to the dust-cover of Lieutenant, he wrote the second-in-the-series novel last. This means that the chronologically second and the chronologically third novel don't quite match up. You can see the seams in the planking, is what I'm saying. That's a lot of quibble over a very little, though, and in the end, these things don't matter. Forester is a good-enough story-teller to pull this series off, and if, like me, you're fairly anal over the details, you'll still enjoy this novel. I'm about a third of the way through the novel and the action is starting to really click, and I confidently expect disaster to befall Hornblower at any paragraph. So far in this series, he's survived a deadly duel, a ship sinking under him, capture by the French, Spanish imprisonment, an insane captain, land-warfare in the Caribbean and some murderous colonial politics. I'm sure whatever Forester throws at him, Hornblower will buckle down and plug away at success. That's why I like this guy. He's always discouraged, always doubting, and always using that doubt and discouragement to rise above the worst circumstances that anyone of any responsibility could find themselves in. Captain Horatio Hornblower is actually three novellas, according to the index—"Beat To Quarters", which I'm on right now, "Ship Of the Line", and "Flying Colours". These three novellas form the first-laid foundation for this entire series. Captain Horatio Hornblower + C. S. Forester

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