Monday, August 6, 2007

Mock Duck

I am now healed from my various afflictions, and by unserendipitous coincidence I finally have insurance. I am still not totally settled in; no new business cards and my apartment remains in mid renovation. And it's kinda fun that way. The apartment does have running water, a shower, and washing machine, which is much better than before.

The new apartment features a 35 minute commute each way each day. This is about as long as my commute in San Diego, but it is different being a streetcar commuter. If you're lucky, you get a decent seat and can zone out with an article, book, or crossword puzzle. The whole commute is just background buzz to me, since I can't understand anything except the occasional interruption of Spanish or English. I helped a few damsels in distress in both languages, but the problem with meeting foreigners on streetcars is they tend to be stressed and leaving.

My main professional development lately is the utter collapse of NextFest, which wasted about 2 weeks of my work and killed my trip to Cali this summer. I am sufficiently annoyed about this to move on to another topic. We are scheduled to go to T├╝bingen this week to visit Niels Birbaumer, but this is also uncertain due to a train strike. At the moment, my trip to SD in November remains definite, and there's some chance of San Fran in April 08.

Last Wednesday, I organized the first movie night here for our group at IAT. It went pretty well, about 10 of us showed up. People chipped in for beer and snacks, and we projected movies onto a screen using a projector (called a Beamer here in Germany, unlike any of their cars). I sent out an email and allowed people to vote on movie choices, and then Bernhard and I threw in our two votes to resolve an ugly tie between Airplane and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The former won, along with Life of Brian. The latter is scheduled for next month's movie night along with Spinal Tap, which I suspect will win the voting. I now reguarly interrupt labbies with 'Surely you can't be serious,' and haggle trivialities.

The weather has remained mercurial, but sunny for the last several days. There is a river near my new apartment and I went there and lay out in the sun. Not bad at all, generally green and pleasant. Ducks are quite prevalent, and loud. After half an hour, I promised one of them that if he did not shut up, I would mock him. Which bird sounds less noble than this braying quack? The bold eagle, cooing dove, or even creative cockatiel sound better. Even the martial rooster emits a cry that, while shrill and annoying, can serve as a useful wake-up call. But ducks always sound like they're mocking, posturing, or complaining. It is unsurprising that the grumpiest cartoon character in both Disney and Warner Brothers is a duck. And lets not forget which species' name is sometimes preceded by Crispy, Roast, or Peking. Bitch.

Though no skunks have quacked at me lately, I shall also mock Pepe LePew, the suave French Warner Brothers skunk that always chased the black cat who somehow got a white stripe on her back. The black cat inevitably fled, and the skunk hopped faggily after with a self satisfied smirk. As a kid, I didn't realize how comically racist Pepe was. What an excoriating assault on Frenchmen! The only French Warner Bros cartoon character skinks horribly, thinks he's incredibly suave but is in fact so repulsive that women flee, seems totally unaware that he stinks, is so stupid he can't distinguish a member of his own species from a cat, utterly disregards rejection, and believes in pursuing resistant women until they succumb from exhaustion.

I made good progress on my latest book, Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain. This book is enjoyable for many reasons, not the least of which is that Twain is happy for a change. He is normally so bitingly, brilliantly bitter that even the least empathetic cringe through his vicious whining. But this was his first major work, when he still manifested some trappings of youthful enthusiasm. He was a bold and curious man, explaining the adventurousness he projects onto characters in his later novels. Reading him humbles my efforts to relay observations from my adventures abroad. At least I can linguistically dominate ducks and skunks.

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