05/11/13

Berenice’s Hair: A Serial Essay

In the spirit of experimentation with form and with the possibilities of translation, I’ve begun a serial essay on the hair of Queen Berenice II. I’m aiming to post a new episode weekly until it seems time to end my relationship with Berenice (at which point I’ll declare the project Done). You can find the first episode at the Stanford Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies here.

 

04/20/13

Cuisine for Peripatetic Academics, Episode 1

Cuisine for Peripatetic Academics, Episode 1: 20 April 2013, United Airlines flight from RDU to ORD
Today’s afternoon flight is just slightly over two hours, so no on-board purchasable snack box satisfaction for me. This afternoon’s meal is thus:
- 1 Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bar from the newsstand outside Gate D5
- 1 bottle of Fiji water, also from the newsstand outside Gate D5 (I always get this brand in airports because I like the petite size and feel of the bottle in the palm. It makes me feel like, Wow, I am powerful with impressively large woman-hands.)
- 1 plastic bottle of La Maridelle Sauvignon Blanc purchased onboard the flight. (The flight attendant also offered me a Chardonnay. I looked at her with my disaffected “Really? Chardonnay?” eyes. She quietly closed the wine drawer and moved on.)
Tasting notes:
- There’s no year indicated on the bottle of wine. Fabulous. Let’s do this.
- Notes of waxed-cardboard-juicebox apple juice. Hints of airplane upholstery. (Realized while sipping that I don’t know how to spell “upholstery.” Used manual spellcheck. Felt dirty. Took another sip.)
- Suggested pairings: any episode of Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites. (I choose the recent “Blindside Time” episode.) Let’s also give the Clif Bar a whirl to see what this does to the wine.
[munching]
[Side note: Good job, Self, moving up a row in this highly-non-full flight to have a double-tray-table-situation that enables *both* Clif Bar wine picnic and laptop to coexist. The couple originally sitting next to me abandoned a First Class seat and the warm nuts that inevitably accompanied it (the man actually used the phrase "warm nuts" to describe what was left behind) in order to sit together in economy. Fie on your forsaking of the warm nuts, people behind me! I love my husband but would not forsake the warm nuts, and he would understand. Work on your relationship and your cultivation of each other's opportunities for autonomy and independent growth, ye forsakers of the warm first class nuts.]
[munching]
- Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bar brings out notes of dough and chalk in the wine. I also get hints of mud.
[Side note: in the future, do not choose a Survivor episode that features a merging of the tribes, because there will be a feast, and that will make you bitter if there are no snack boxes available on the flight.]
[munching and then sipping]
- While watching scenes of islandy-landscapey-background, it’s possible to imagine that this peanut butter wine combination is a form of Thai food. Very, very undercooked leftover Thai food from right out of the fridge and eaten with a plastic spoon because it’s the only form of cutlery you have on hand, because you travel too much.
[Side note: Fantastic. I had to choose the one episode of Survivor that involves an immunity challenge devoted to eating disgusting foodstuffs. Stop smiling at me, Andrea-the-blond-smiling-Survivor-"Favorite."]
[Side note: why did I not take the Chardonnay when offered? Oh, the folly of youth!)
[munching and sipping and munching]
They are eating beetle larvae on laptop-tv.I am getting undercooked cold Thai food with notes of larvae. Now they’re eating balut. [How do I know how to spell "balut" without any problems, but not "upholstery"?] Nice job choosing televised entertainment, Me.
And it’s Cochran and Malcolm in the finals. Pig brains.
And we’ve come to the final descent.
The Final Evaluation: Slightly more palatable than the worst Thai food you’ve ever had. Get the red wine, take a flight that’s three hours or longer to avoid the no-snackbox-situation, and stay away from Survivor episodes while you eat.
The Scholarly Recap: The sensorium is shaped by one’s perceptive environment. Observation of images and narratives effects a transformation of other aspects of affective experience and in turn generates new bodily sense-objects by materializing new networks of relationships.
03/17/13

Thermocline

“A thermocline (sometimes metalimnion) is a thin but distinct layer in a large body of fluid (e.g. water, such as an ocean or lake, or air, such as an atmosphere) in which temperature changes more rapidly with depth than it does in the layers above or below. In the ocean, the thermocline may be thought of as an invisible blanket which separates the upper mixed layer from the calm deep water below.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermocline

I like to think of an octopus at night, reaching out when it gets chilly and arm by arm by arm by arm cuddling his invisible blanket around himself.

01/17/13

Song lyrics of the day: Upupa epops

Upupa epops (to the tune of Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop”)
Well, I see it in the tree with a feather crown,
Or by its lonesome foraging on the ground,
[Oop!] The male sings, looking for some good lovemakin’,
The female chills, wings spread, mad sunbathin’…
[Hoopoe!] Epops, epops
It’s king of the birds in Aristophanes,
Eatin’ bugs and reptiles and sometimes berries,
Hey, it’s the only extant member of its family,
And listed as not kosher in Deuteronomy…
[Hoopoe!] Epops, epops
Epops, he pops, a we pops
I pops, you pops, a they pops
Epops bebops a pu pops
(O-no-ma-to-po-eia!)
Epops, he pops, a we pops
I pops, you pops, a they pops
Epops epops, Upupa epops
Oh, Upupa epops
Hey, hey I hear it in branches going oop-oop-oop
Sounds a lot like a Himalayan cuckoo
[Oop!] Revered by Minoans, on tombs in Crete,
Digs out mole crickets with it’s freaky strong feet
[Hoopoe!] Epops, epops
Epops, he pops, a we pops
I pops, you pops, a they pops
Epops bebops a pu pops
(O-no-ma-to-po-eia!)
Epops, he pops, a we pops
I pops, you pops, a they pops
Epops epops, Upupa epops
Oh, Upupa epops

 

01/16/13

Read To Me 2: The One Who Claws At His Names

The wonderful Cabinet magazine hosted a performed bestiary one recent afternoon at the New Museum. For 4.5 hours, a small group of writers, artists, professors, curators, and others talked about a series of creatures in order from smallest (ant) to largest (whale). We each had 10 minutes. It was an absolute blast.

To represent my creature, the phoenix, I wrote and read a short story based on the birds featured in a 19th century text about Mongolian drugs. The key here is to try to shift the way you’re seeing the pages of the text: the words and names and images all become part of a common landscape. Try to see the words not as descriptions, but as a living part of this tiny cosmos. The images are crucial.

It’s a love story, and I’ve read it for you here:

 

01/9/13

Slurp!: An Interview

I had a great time talking with Barak Kushner about his recent book on the history of ramen in Japan and beyond. You can listen to our conversation here.

(For a list of previous interviews on NBEAS, click me.)

12/15/12

Bugs, Bodies, and the Emperor: This Week’s Interviews

For your listening pleasure, you can find two new interviews from my recent podcasty travels on the New Books Network this week. If you’re looking for some stimulating book-related material to listen to while you’re mixing up eggnog or counting down the hours to the end of grading papers and exams:

1. The Poetics of Sovereignty: I had the pleasure of speaking with the very thoughtful Jack Chen for NBEAS about his recent book on literature, rulership, and a fascinating emperor of the Tang Dynasty.

2. The Insect and the Image: Janice Neri and I spoke for NBSTS about her beautiful new book on the imaging of insects in early modernity and its surprisingly wide-ranging consequences for understanding the history of science, art, and global exchange.

Happy holidays!

12/12/12

“The Historian and the Etymologist” concluded: some thoughts

I recently concluded “The Historian and the Etymologist,” an experimental Twitter essay. You can find it on Twitter as #etym1, or consolidated and explained here.

Some things learned:
- Next time, the form should incorporate participation/feedback from others as the essay is being written/posted.
- Fundamental to this form is a creation of meaning by reading across the blanks in the narrative
- The extension of a Twitter essay in time is necessary (…or is it?…) to convey an argument or narrative, but this extension of the essay in the form of discrete, immediate, successive posts over time is *very*, very tricky: we are different selves with different understandings and concepts at different times, and these selves don’t necessarily follow coherently on one another.
- I definitely want to experiment with this format again, and change it up completely. Stay tuned…

12/4/12

Genentech: An Interview

I had the pleasure of speaking with Sally Smith Hughes recently about her book on the history of Genentech and the business of recombinant DNA technology. You can find our conversation here.

(For a list of previous interviews on NBSTS, click me.)

11/28/12

The Historian and the Etymologist: An Experimental Twitter Essay

In the spirit of experimenting with media, I’m going to write an academic essay on Twitter. Because why not? Let’s play a little with form.
I’m not going to write it ahead of time and just post it after-the-fact in 140ish-character chunks: that seems contrary to the spirit of the medium, which is about immediacy and simultaneity of writing/reading and nowness and against significant editing.
I’m not sure how long it will be, but I’ll indicate when it’s done. Ideally, this will be something that will be meaningful if read forwards (from the bottom of the Twitter screen up) and backwards (from the top down). We’ll see how it goes.
The hashtag for this is going to be #etym1
I’m on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/CarlaNappi
Starting…now.

11/8/12

The New Asian City: An Interview

I recently spoke with Jini Kim Watson about  her fascinating book on fictions of urban transformation in Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. You can listen to our conversation for New Books in East Asian Studies here.

11/4/12

Marvels and Travels: An Interview

Anthony Bale and I sat down at the National Humanities Center this week to talk about his wonderful new translation of Sir John Mandeville’s The Book of Marvels and Travels for New Books in History. He’s an exceptionally thoughtful translator, we talked about foreskin, and you can listen to our conversation here.

10/28/12

Chris Ware’s _Building Stories_

If you loved Jimmy Corrigan, if you are the kind of person who reads the Printculture blog, if you are a human being with a soul, turn off that commentary on the election and put down that other book you’re reading right now and pick up Chris Ware’s Building Stories. It looks like this, it makes a better bedmate than most people do, (though it’s not as warm and there’s the issue of papercuts to consider,) and it will give you hope for the future of print media.

10/10/12

Hey, I just met you, and this is kooky, but here’s my number! Tongue Labouti!

Top Ten Scandalous-Sounding Names For Fictional Intimate Acts Generated By Putting Chinese Transliterations Of Terms From A Fourteenth Century Collection of Mongolian Documents Through Google Translate This Afternoon:

10. Martha and The Black Mahama
9. The Fire of the Original Clean
8. Wipe Tuo
7. Scattered Jill Police
6. Tongue Assassination
5. The Black Dingban of Ghana
4. The Wood Answer
3. Satisfied Door
2. Satisfied Speed Children
1. Kazakhstan Tongue Labouti

10/9/12

Natural History According To US Weekly (in which we suppose that aliens wipe out the entire planet except for the web archive of US Weekly and recreate human natural history from that archive)

“I felt like my vagina died,” she shared of her sex life with [former husband]. “Turned off. Lights out . . . you can lie to your relatives at Christmas dinner and tell them everything on the home front is just peachy. But you cannot lie to your vagina.” … ”Sometimes your vagina dies,” she explained. “Then you know it’s time to go.” - from “Olivia Wilde: Jason Sudeikis and I Have ‘Sex Like Kenyan Marathon Runners’,”  Us Weekly 09.10.2012

 

Vagina: (n) Symbiotic organism connected to and communicatively linked with a human woman’s body. Has preternatural powers of lie-detection, especially during Christmas and in matters involving stone fruit. Illuminated when functional. Can proceed through repeated life-cycles with several successive births and deaths, each signaling a change in the locomotive pattern of host woman. Can be resurrected, especially by Kenyan marathon runners.