A Tale of Two Titties

Now that I have your attention…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

When was the last time that sentence accurately described your life?

Um, let’s see. Every day since I turned 20? Before that it was only the worst of times. Actually, it’s still the worst of times, at least I assume that it is, I’ll know for sure in twenty years when I’ll have some basis for comparison. Actually, scratch that, I hate my life.

Actually, isn’t there a porn movie titled “A Tale of Two Titties”? And if there isn’t there should be. Don’t you love porn that makes references to literature or movies? Or parody porn, I love that.

Anyway, what were we talking about? Man, I really get distracted easily today, I mean we were talking and suddenly there was Dickens porn (though, I mean… the name does invite it).

Aaanyway, yeah, now, right now, best time, worst time, all together, say last three years. I moved into my own place but without Boyfriend I couldn’t pay rent. I finished my degree but I can’t get a real job with it. I finally have a small job after long unemployment, but they’re dicking (hah!) around with my payment. I’m going back for my master’s but I have so much to do I’m setting myself up for failure. It’s the 21st century, endless possibility on the one hand, abject poverty and cruelty on the other. You can find anything and everything on the internet, but anything and anyone can find you. So much technology but I don’t have access to most of it and no understanding of any of it, everything is too abstract. Everything is moving ever faster and I’m stumbling behind. So many things you could buy if only you had the money, but you blow it all on bills. Humans live longer and longer, but in just a few decades they tell me there won’t be any money in the public purse for pensions. The standard of living has never been so high and neither have been the cost of rent, electricity, heat, fuel, food.

And the worst of all is it has always been this way, in every generation, and mine is not special and neither was yours. You can’t even feel unique in your mid-twenties depression. Just look at the mighty Dick before the Lord, good old Charles. Do you know the rest of the opening from A Tale of Two Cities?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Every goddamned century. All the same. It’s really, really boring. Millions of people raised with the false sense of security that one day they’d hit that period of smooth equilibrium, for my generation usually once we graduate, get a job, maybe start a family. The best of times without the worst of it.

Of course that’s never going to happen. I’m still waiting for the slighty-less-worse of times. Maybe even for the a-bit-better times. If I’m really feeling optimistic, I might hope for some okay-ish times. But as it is, I’m stuck in a superlative scenario, which I, not only as a linguist, but that’s definitely a factor, disapprove of greatly.

Dammit, Dickenezer. How did you know so much about the 21st century anyway?

Alright, let’s cut the philosophy. Here, have a picture of two tits:

 

 

…what? Don’t you like tits?

Earworms, Tygers and Cheeses, oh my!

I hate prompts like this: You’re asked to recite a poem (or song lyrics) from memory — what’s the first one that comes to mind? Does it have a special meaning, or is there another reason it has stayed, intact, in your mind?

This would be the perfect time to recite all my gathered knowledge from my years of being a thrall to the study of English literature and poetry, and you’d think I’d start, with appropriately pretentious actor’s heroics, to belt out “TYGER, TYGER! BURNING BRIGHT!”, or “ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT DREARY”, or “SHALL I COMPARE THEE TO A SUMMER’S DAY BECAUSE THE 12TH OF JULY WASN’T BAD!” and shit, but what is the first thing that comes to mind?

It’s not a poem. I don’t even like poems, unless they’re funny.

It’s not a song. Okay, it is a song, but not exactly a good one. It’s not even one of my beloved 80s anthems. It’s not Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, which would be obvious. It’s not Everybody Wants to Rule the World, which I keep singing to myself at the most inappropriate moments. It’s not even Automatic Man, which I have legit listened to 127 times this week alone.

Nope. If you’d ask me right now, or any time really, to recite a poem or song… if I was at a party and someone were to say “Hey, this girl here knows a lot of things that rhyme, let’s hear one”… if I was an ambassador of Earth at an intergalactic conference and aliens would ask me to recite a piece of Earth poetry…

I would be like, “Wer hat bloß den Käse zum Bahnhof gerollt!”

You probably have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, which is probably for the better. Because this song… it’s a German Schlager from 1927. And it sticks in your head like crazy glue. And because I want you to suffer as much as anyone who ever has to hear me sing, here, have some audio:

Like most German onestep songs from the Twenties, this one is dumb as hell. It has about six lines of text and it’s really stupid, but it’s so funny.

The text itself goes like this:

Wer hat bloß den Käse zum Bahnhof gerollt?

Das ist ‘ne Frechheit! Wie kann man so was tun?

Denn er war noch nicht verzollt!

Die Polizei hat sich hinein gelegt,

Jetzt ist sie böse sehr und grollt,

Weil man hat einen Käse zum Bahnhof gerollt!

 

Here, I’ll do a rough translation for all you non-German speakers (but it’s much funnier in German!):

Whoever rolled the cheese to the station?

The nerve of it! How can you do something like that?

Because it was not yet cleared!

The police have investigated,

Now they’re really angry and resentful,

Because someone rolled a cheese to the station.

 

This is literally the dumbest shit ever, and yet… the music is insanely catchy, for one. And for another, the mental image I have of a bunch of men in 1920s suits and hats rolling a giant swiss through the city to the next train station in the dead of night just to fuck with the police is too good to let go. If you want to majorly troll someone, this is what you do.

(And it’s not too far from reality either, because apparently once a year hundreds of people gather in a small English village to roll cheeses down a hill. Of course they look much classier doing it than a bunch of Germans, because duh, it’s the English.)

For good or for worse, if you ask me for the first more or less rhyming thing that pops into my head, this is it. Also for good or for worse, this is by far not the most inane song text the Twenties had to offer. I mean, just try Tante Paula liegt im Bett und isst Tomaten or the classic Heinrich, wo greifst du denn hin?.

(No, you don’t want to know why I know so many stupid songs that are about as old as my granny.)

Deck the house in puffs of bug spray, falalalala lalala…aaaaahhh!!!, or Linguistic Woes and Other Stories

“So long and thanks for all the blisters”, I wistfully said to my sandals, as I took them from their spot on the floor and returned them to the shoe rack. The view through he window presented a gloomy, not to mention cold and windy, outlook, and it seemed I wouldn’t have need of my trusty Roman styles in a very, very long time.

Jup, it’s autumn alright. Every autumn I return my designated walking shoes to a place where they won’t be in the way and think “Dammit! It’s officially cold now!”

Also every autumn, as if I’d send out invitations, golden lettering and engraved envelopes and all, the bugs return.

I live in a house that was built in 1930. The windows have never been changed, just painted over and over with white paint. Those windows are… well, for lack of a better word, they’re leaky. (Stay in school, kids, this is what happens when you’re poor.) Everything gets through. I dread every storm because I have to rush to soak up all the water building on the wooden inside window sill before it seeps into the the cracks, making them bigger. And apparently, there’s gaps big enough for giant, nasty, annoying bugs to climb through.

I have no idea what kind of bugs they are. They are about two centimetres (a bit less than an inch for my non-metric peeps) long, they’re a dark brown, and they’re annoying. They seem to be some kind of tree bug things but I’m not going to check their catalogue number before screaming discretely and diving for the can of instant-death-to-bugs. Forget catching them and throwing them out. I tried; those things have wings and just come right back, as if they think I’m just playing a game with them. “Weeee! Throw me again, human!”

Bug killing is the only thing where my usual procrastinational (that’s a word now) tendencies do not hit me. Like, for obvious reasons. And speaking of procrastination (cower before my segue powers!), that brings us to today’s Blogging101 thing, because The Metamorphosis of a Wallflower hit the nail on the head with her post about this well-known topic. And then I ran around her blog for a bit longer and found a post about her fight with the IPA chart, which is relevant to my interests or lack thereof. (See here)

And my face flushed and my heart raced and like a nightmare from beyond time itself….

For once upon a time, I was an English undergrad struggling to understand the diabolic nature of Linguistics. I hated it and sucked at it, so my only choice was to become very, very good at it to pass the tests and then never hear about it again (or so I thought, until I checked the curriculum for the Master’s programme. Let me shake my fist at you, English department!).

[Random personal aside] I also flunked the pronunciation course three times. You see, the curriculum is just a teensy bit stupid: In the intro lecture for Linguistics they tell you over and over how most adult people cannot, even after years of living in another country, successfully change their natural accent. Then, two semesters later, they stick you in a course all like “Here! Do exactly what we told you is not possible in just three months!”

This was hell. This was also one of the reasons it took me so long to finish my degree. Because for some reason, speaking RP or speaking GA is SO IMPORTANT that they’d rather you drop out (and yes, I’ve seen it happen, and my thoughts go out to all my fallen brethren and sistren) than not be able to, y’know, change your natural accent to another one. I’m a German native speaker. Of course I’m not going to sound like some git from Oxford, godammit! You, person teaching the course, are a native speaker of German, and you sound it. Don’t tell me what to do. [/Random personal aside]

I have this theory that the field of Linguistics was started by engineers, because the whole idea of the thing sounds like something my dad would do. “Hm, how can we make it easier for people to learn a language? More importantly, how can we make it easier for academics to sound clever and academic-y? I know, dress everything in confusing symbols that do not at all represent what a sound might look like, slap some arbitrary not-always-the-case-but-sometimes rules on it and derive some formulas, I mean, it works for maths, right? Efficient communication is now rendered impossible but who needed that anyway? If you want to communicate, that’s what 1’s and 0’s were made for.”

Anyway, the poor Wallflower apparently has to learn the entire IPA chart. For anyone who has no idea what we language nerds are talking about here, it’s a chart of symbols that supposedly represent the sounds of human speech. No, I have no idea how that was done, seeing as there are some 5000 languages being spoken on this planet and some of them sound like they consist entirely of clicking sounds. Actually, learning symbols is not so much the problem as recognising them when they are spoken. Now, when they are spoken in isolation, that’s still sorta easy. In a sentence… not so much, especially in a language you don’t know.

Or even in a language you know, because in German? You’re lost. Sometimes I’m lost, and I’ve been speaking German for more than two decades now. Unlike British English and American English, German does not have an established spoken standard (RP for BE, and GA for AE, if you’re interested). I know people believe what we call “Hochdeutsch” (High German – misleading name if you as me) to be the standard, but it’s not official. Apart from that, speaking Hochdeutsch gets you beaten up in Austria anyway (trust me, I speak from painful experience). So spoken German is basically a hotchpotch (what we might call “Sammelsurium”) of dialects, and as we all know, dialects have different pronunciations as well as grammars.

But a problem all of them share is what we call “deutsche Auslautverhärtung” (German final devoicing. Man, you’re learning a lot today, aren’t you?), which is the reason most of us have so much trouble in English (besides “th” sounds and the vowel in words like bird) and which despite the big scary words only means: we mumble. Terribly. You know your consonant pairs like p-b, k-g, t-d? They are not readily discernible in German. In English, for example, tank and dank don’t sound much the same (okay, they sound the same except for one sound – what we Linguists call minimal pairs!). In German, you have to rely on context to find out what the flying fuck that German speaker just said, because the t and d somehow merged into one entity. (And yes, I know the same phenomenon exists in English dialects of every continent, but I’m talking about German here, so shut up and lemme finish.)

Interestingly, you have a better chance at distinction towards the north. Towards the south, once you cross the borders of Bavaria and head ever further down, forget it. “Bank” (bank) will be the same and “punk”. You think they’re trying to say English “dish”, but what they mean is “Tisch” (table). You come to the border and wonder if the custom officials are starting a band because they keep asking for your “Bass” (okay, it’s only funny if you know that passport is “Pass” in German.)

The distinction is supposed to be clearer in Hochdeutsch, because after all, it’s a northern variety. But even here, if you come from a language that has a very clear distinction, you might have trouble.

And that’s only a few tiny facts about pronunciation in German. Now multiply that by all other human languages. So to Wallflower I say, stay strong, hang in there, make your ear a warrior, because by damn, you’ll need it. And hope to a deity of your choice no one will make you pronounce stuff.

Another Post In Which I Do The Blogging101 Thing and Then Proceed to Talk About Something Completely Different but Kinda Related

I find it kind of ironic that today’s Blogging101 do-this is titled “Love Your Theme” – aaaand because you love it so much, change it. But I’m nothing if not a great sport, so I went along for the ride and did exactly what I did a week ago when I created my account: play around with pretty pictures. So for today, and for today only, because I really liked the one I already had, I finally choose… Eighties!

Yeah, it’s nice, just too big and not overview-y enough. That’s what I liked about the old design, it had like everything at first glance. I don’t like having to look and search and curse for stuff, I like to just look at something and find all the information I need. Isn’t like that with Eighties, here you have to click things, who wants to do that? I’ll change it back tomorrow. Hey, did you know I can predict the future? Tomorrow I’ll wake up, lurch around with my morning cup of tea firmly in hand, log on to this site… and spill tea all over my keyboard in my half heart attack and what-the-everloving-fuck-happened because I won’t remember I changed anything. Then I’ll read this and be like, “Called it!”

Like, oh my god!

Anyway… I really like this design because it’s really bold and big and colourful and totally not because you can bait me with anything eighties related ever, even if it’s just the number. (The 80s didn’t have yahoo!, picture is still nice, though.) I mean, I grew up with the 80s. Not really within the realm of that particular decade, but definitely with it. For one, Austria is always a good ten years behind everything. Like, people still expect you to fax them things, never mind that you don’t know a single copy place with a fax machine, and the only places that still have one have probably never heard of this new internet thing, so they don’t have a homepage, an ad listing, anything, and therefore you can’t find them, and therefore your whatever-it-is is never getting faxed.

So, fax machines are not the thing I like about the 80s. Mainly it’s just the music, because that’s what I grew up with and if I like something for once, I like it. The other reason I grew up with the remnants of the eighties was that Mom always had MTV running when I was a kid and MTV was still called Music Television for a reason. And sometimes they played videos from five or ten years ago.

[random personal aside] Actually, Alice Cooper is one of my earliest memories (I was four years old and thought he was a lady – a real ugly one – because I’d never seen a dude with long hair). And then of course there was The Cure, the reason for my oversized sweater obsession… and also the reason why I couldn’t do any good goddamned make up until my early twenties and ran around like some creature from an underground bar you’d never heard of, mainly because it closed fifteen years ago. [/Random personal aside]

Not that I want to live in the eighties or anything (I’ve seen my parents’ pictures and I’m not impressed. Also, fax machines.), mainly because, no internet?! What kind of hell is that?! How can you even survive without being able to look at other people’s food or kittens? But just imagine how much better that whole decade would have been with the internet! Tutorials upon tutorials on how to get big hair and Siouxsie Sioux’s eye make up! (Like… even more than now!)

[random personal aside] I just realised why I could never be scandalised by Lady Gaga doing anything: David Bowie, Cher, Alice Cooper, or Cyndi Lauper already did it. [/random personal aside]

Hey, self, could you please let me talk without interrupting my flow with your asides? No one cares, shut up.

Anyway, where was I… something something eighties, yes, it’s a bad drug. I just bought some earrings that look almost exactly like the ones my mother had in 1981. I own a jacket with shoulder pads and I let myself be seen wearing it in public. I’m singing along to Grauzone’s Eisbär as I type. (So there are some perks to German being my first language.) It’s addictive!

No, just kidding, I can quit any time I want to. No, I’m not hiding a Sisters of Mercy album behind my back. No, it’s not Talking Heads either. Nope, no siree, no drugs, I mean, eighties to be found here.

So, to take a break from all things 80s I’m going to take myself back to the seventies by watching Monty Python, nighty night!

Approximately nine hours until almost heart attack.

Wookie Tits, or The Joys of Fanfiction

So, the task for Blogging101 for today is to a) write to/about your dream reader, and b) include something new. For the something new I choose… a silly pic from Pinterest:

Which reminded me that it looked kinda metafictional fanfic-y, which brings me to today’s topic. Are you exited, kids? Me too. (I’m lying, I’m being all chill over here.)

Boyfriend and me, we quote Star Wars at each other until we drop. (The old trilogy, that is. Yes, the really old one that didn’t have a Dark Tortured Sexy Manboy Chosen One Who Does Things Because Plot Hole in it.) Actually, there’s Star Wars in all aspects of our lives. Only Boyfriend is a bit less imaginative than me. He likes the wonder and mystery of things, the reasons best left unexplained.

I don’t. I ask questions about everything. I’m told it’s really annoying.

But since you are my dream reader, of course you will be interested, hang onto my every word, revel in my self-absorption and feast on mine Unconventional(TM) thoughts.

Like, my number one question is and always will be… actually it’s the whole subject of sex and reproduction, or rather the prevention thereof. I mean, in a galaxy far, far away that has hyper-drives and light sabers, are there super absorbent tampons that beep when they’re full? Wookiees have six nipples, how does that work for breastfeeding? Does the pill exist? Does it work for every species? Do you just take a hormone shot once a year and it’s 100% no baby? Does that work for every species? Do you store your uterus in an organ vault until you’re ready to use it? Are there still condoms? Are there still STIs? Are there vaccines to protect yourself from STIs? How’s the STI risk during interspecies sex, because, let’s be real, that’s a thing. Humans and aliens are fucking up a storm all over the galaxy, I know it and I want details.

Then there’s the whole can of worms that is the average person’s life. Star Wars, World of Warcraft, Lord of The Rings, anything… you only really know about the life of your average hero, but your average peasant, blacksmith, mom, child, tavern maid, or town drunk? The person who started from the bottom and stayed at the bottom, working tirelessly day and night, paying the costs of war? Nah, not so much, unless they’re needed as some sort of antagonists and/or background decoration in the form of a peasant revolt.

But fear not, for there is a silver lining on the horizon of literature and it’s name shall be… fanfiction!

Aaaand I hear the sound of crickets. Listen to the soft, soothing chirping in absence of any kind of enthusiasm.

This is the point where I tell you why I love fanfiction, in theory at least. It’s one of my favourite genres of literature, and yes, it should definitely count as a genre. It’s not plagiarism, not really. Basically, a fanfiction writer just picks up where the original author stopped. To me, at least, that’s what fanfiction should be for: Telling the Untold (ohhh, that’s a good title for a thesis, professors love that kind of pretentiousness, better write that down somewhere…).

Now, fanfiction, you could say, is the easy way out for a writer. How hard can it be to insert something into an already existing universe? Well, if it’s so easy, why don’t YOU do it? Hm? Hmmmm? Cower before my logic!

Seriously though, yes, it is easy. It is so easy it hurts. A bantha with ADD that was recently hit by a battalion of Imperial storm troopers on speeder bikes could do it (and probably is; as the triplet moons illuminate the endless sands of Tatooine, a sole bantha sits upon a promontory and ships his favourite Tusken Raiders… I think I just grossed myself out). But making it a good story, something that’s interesting and not the same as others, that doesn’t fall into a pattern… that, like with any genre, is a whole different matter. Anyone can do the old “Mary Sue saves the Fandom” type of story. Anyone could create a young Jedi/Sith/Elf/Orc/Troll/Dalek/Mixing Bowl that is Young And Inexperienced In All Aspect Of Life and yet Succeeds Where Others Have Failed through the power of Believing In Themselves and last but not least, finds True Love In The Main Or At Least The Hottest (In The Mind Of The Author) Character. And that’s the type of story I absolutely hate, unless it is done as a parody, or it is at least whimsically self-aware, or there is a metafictional element in there somewhere, or all of the above.

You’d like to think that there’s a whole academic discipline analysing fanfiction, intersectional scientific writing about the makers, makings and miracles of this genre. Aaand no, not much, from what I can see it’s just beginning to get off the ground, really, but if anyone has articles, feel free to link me to them. Which is weird, I think, because it’s such an interesting concept. I’m so getting in there. I can see it now: “The representation of female characters in fanfictions of the Star Wars Expanded Universe”. “Representation of masculinities in slash fanfiction pertaining to Japanese manga”. “Narrative techniques in fanfiction”. Come on, it would be fun!

Let me tell you a secret, perfect dream reader: One day, when I grow up, I want to teach at university. I want to teach a course on fanfiction as a genre. And I want to publish articles on fanfiction. It’s a stupid dream, of course, and it’s never gonna happen, but we all need a little something to say “One day” over just to get us out of bed in the morning instead of just lying there and waiting for death (and that bugger’s always late, couldn’t be on time to save his life). But if you’re my dream reader, of course you’ll agree that this is the best plan ever and the most interesting topic ever. Because you, dear reader, share my enthusiasm, right? Well, you better, or I have an opening for a new dream reader.

Just kidding, love ya, bye.