Saturday, May 31, 2008


Guanajuato, it appears, has no strip clubs for men. Oddly enough, there is one for women. Which leads to the following rumination in (a kind of) verse:

Suppose you are a young man in search of a little nocturnal entertainment aquí en Guanajuato.
If you are foolish enough to ask for the location of the nearest strip joint, you may well elicit the response "You wanna what?! Oh,
no señor, we have no place for that kind of perversion en nuestra ciudad".
So you may just have to entertain yourself with some kind of improvised homemade sexual aid, knick-knack, or doo-dad.

If, on the other hand, you are una mujer of a certain edad,
Who wants to have a night out on the townm leaving los niños with their dad.
Then yes, if you want a night of bawdy entertainment, free of your ball & chain and los nippers,
Every Wednesday night you can come on down to the Rodeo lounge and be entertained by the finest of Mexican male estripers.

I make no apologies for the above. Remember, at times like this, I am merely an empty vessel, channeling the muse of awful doggerel.

Counting sheep

Suppose you are a shepherd in Swaledale. The annual sheep-shearing festival is coming up and you want to keep track of your flock. How do you keep count? Here's how:

  1. Yan
  2. tan
  3. tether
  4. mether
  5. pip
  6. azer
  7. sezar
  8. akker
  9. conter
  10. dick
  11. yanadick
  12. tanadick
  13. tetheradick
  14. metheradick
  15. bumfit
  16. yanabum
  17. tanabum
  18. tetherabum
  19. metherabum
  20. jigget

I find it hard to convey just how much joy the discovery of this little vigesimal counting system brought me.

If you would like to read more about this, and other similar schemes, here is a link:

I defy anyone to count out loud to twenty using this scheme and not have a big - sheepish - grin by the end.

Oh, OK, here's one more:

yan, tan, tethera, pethera, pimp. sethera, lethera, hovera, covera, dik, yan-a-dik, tan-a-dik, tethera-dik, pethera-dik, bumfit, yan-a-bumfit, tan-a-bumfit, tethera-bumfit, pethera-bumfit, figgot.

Apparently these schemes are also popular among knitters in the north of England and South of Scotland.

And here's a wee folksong:

Yan, tan, tethera, tethera, pethera, pimp.
Yon owd yowe's far-welted, and this yowe's got a limp
Sethera, methera, hovera, and covera up to dik,
Aye, we can deal wi' 'em all, and wheer's me crook and stick?
I count 'em up to figgits, and figgits have a notch,
There's more to being a shepherd than being on watch;
There's swedes to chop and lambing time and snow upon the rick,
Sethera, methera, hovera, and covera up to dik.

Yan, tan, tethera, tethera, pethera, pimp &c..
From Caistor down to Spilsby from Sleaford up to Brigg,
There's Lincoln sheep all on the chalk, all hung wi' wool and big.
And I, here in Langton wi' this same old flock.,
Just as me grandad did afore they meddled with the clock.
Yan, tan, tethera, tethera, pethera, pimp &c..

We've bred our tups and gimmers for the wool and length and girth,
And sheep have lambed, have gone away all o'er all the earth.
They're bred in foreign flocks to give the wool its length and crimp,
Yan, tan, tethera, pethera, pimp.
Yan, tan, tethera, tethera, pethera, pimp &c..

They're like a lot of bairns, they are, like children of me own,
They fondle round about owd Shep afore they're strong and grown;
But they gets independent-like, before you know, they've gone,
But yet again, next lambing time we'll 'a' more to carry on.
Yan, tan, tethera, tethera, pethera, pimp &c..

Yan, tan, tethera, tethera, pethera, pimp,
Fifteen notches up to now and one yowe with a limp.
You reckons I should go away, you know I'll never go,
For lambing time's on top of us and it'll surely snow.
Yan, tan, tethera, tethera, pethera, pimp &c..

Well, one day I'll leave me yowes, I'll leave me yowes for good,
And then you'll know what breeding is in flocks and human blood;
For our Tom's come out o' t' army, his face as red as brick,
Sethera, methera, hovera, and covera up to dik.
Yan, tan, tethera, tethera, pethera, pimp &c..

Now lambing time come reg'lar-like, just as it's always been,
And shepherds have to winter 'em and tent 'em till they're weaned
My fambly had it 'fore I came, they'll have it when I sleep,
So we can count our lambing times as I am countin sheep
Yan, tan, tethera, tethera, pethera, pimp &c..

At the concert

Last night was Nastasia's final night here in Guanajuato, so we went to the concert at the Teatro Principal and went out drinking afterwards. Like the previous Friday, the concert was by the symphony orchestra at the University, this time under the considerably shakier baton of a different guest conductor. After the 3rd symphony by the Mexican composer Carlos Chavez (1899-1978), the rest of the program was strictly middle European - Wagner's Prelude to Act 1 of Lohengrin, followed by two works by (Richard) Strauss, "Don Juan" and the (hootchy-cootchy) "Dance of the Seven Veils" from "Salome".

There were some distinctly rough moments with the strings in the Wagner, but things recovered just fine for the Strauss. My favorite part had little to do with the music, and everything to do with the visual image. The dance of the seven veils calls for reinforcement in the percussion section - I was transfixed by the guy second from the left at the back of the percussion section, who matched the wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin both in looks and weight, and whose only function appeared to be to play the triangle. Which he did very nicely - it just looked hilarious!

My first margarita aquí in Mexico later last night must be considered a mistake if the verdict of Monte is to be taken into account.

Enough already. I'm as tired of writing about my gastrointestinal progress or lack thereof as you must be reading about it.

Hasta pronto!


In the hotel

One of the advantages of staying at the hotel is the anonymity it provides. So that occasionally, one hears conversations like this one (reproduced here in its entiretly):

Speaker 1: So, I've figured out exactly what you should do with the rest of your life.
Speaker 2: Tell me.
Speaker 1: You should totally finish medical school. But then you should make it a point never to practice medicine.
Speaker 2: Why's that?
Speaker 1: That way, when you come south to work as a gunslinger here in Mexico, you will totally have earned the nickname "Doc".
Speaker 2: Awesome!

I need hardly add that both participants in this conversation were male.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Medias Naranjas

medias naranjas

Earlier tonight I went to see this play, "Medias Naranjas", at the Teatro Principal. It could best be described as a series of short sketches, each depicting a different aspect of love ("medias naranjas", literally, 'two halves of an orange', is a Spanish expression meaning - roughly - 'soul mates').

Schnitzler it wasn't, but it was fun, and funny in places. I was just happy that I understood most (90%?) of it.

Cultural life in Guanajuato

So, apart from the six or seven hours of daily classes, what does life have to offer aquì en Guanajuato? Well, recently I've been availing myself of the CineClub at the University of Guanajuato, where for only $3.00 one can choose to see stuff that's a little more highbrow than Iron Man and Indiana Jones. Not that there's anything wrong with either of those two movies, which I fully intend to see once the crowds have died down.

On Sunday at the CineClub I went to see "Atonement"; yesterday, I saw Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: the Golden Age". Both excellent films, neither of which I would probably have gone to see in San Francisco (note to self - you should get out more).

Tonight I'm going to see a play ("Media Naranja") at the Teatro principal, and then tomorrow evening the University orchestra is putting on another concert. So there's no shortage of cultural fare, most of it remarkably good.

Sadly, I have to note that Monte is bothering me again, vengeful undiscriminating bastard that he is.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Extra Krispy

DGmaio2008 068

The somewhat heavyset gentleman depicted above, who is perched, Prometheus-like, overlooking the city of Guanajuato, is called Pipila, and is something of a local hero.

What, you might wonder, did Pipila do to attain his status as hero? Something to do with fire, one might guess.

DGmaio2008 069

Your guess would be correct. Did he bring fire to the people of Guanajuato?

Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. In a heroic action that once again proves that heroism probably depends on one's point of view, during assorted hostilities surrounding the revolutionary fervor of 1810, Pipila's contribution to the conflict was to bring fire to the Spaniards who had holed up in the Alhondiga fortress/granary pictured above, essentially burning everyone inside to a state of crispy goodness.

I guess the criteria for being a revolutionary hero were a little different back then. Then again, maybe not all that different.

Latin for the modern world

Not necessarily in the same order as in the original post:

  1. Yo mama's so stupid when she found a coin with Caesar's name on it, she tried to give it back to him.
  2. Yo mama's so fat, when she's in town Rome has 8 hills!
  3. Yo mama wears combat boots.
  4. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
  5. Auntie Em. Hate you. Hate Kansas. Taking the dog. Dorothy.
  6. If walking is all that good for you, how come our mail carrier looks like Jabba the Hutt?
  7. Ask my opponent why he wants to tax American flags in order to fund gourmet meals for convicted murderers.
  8. Taste laser death, alien insect scum!
  9. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries.
  10. Man, that shit is potent --- I am like totally in the subjunctive.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Three classics

As promised, random sampling from my winter reading binge:

1. Eugene Onegin

Tatyana falls for Eugene, who rebuffs her (gently).
Time passes.
Tatyana marries a prince.
Eugene falls for Tatyana, who rebuffs him (gently).

And Pushkin whips the whole affair into this wonderfully frothy souffle, which any Russian will tell you is one of the summits of Russian poetry. It certainly disproves the notion that all of Russian literature is dark, brooding, and gloomy. The Penguin Classic translation is by Charles Johnston. Having just re-read the chapter about Onegin translations in Douglas Hofstadter's "Le Ton beau de marot", I'm inclined to seek out some of the other versions as well.

2. Madame Bovary

Flaubert is da bomb!

Seriously, who knew? I suppose if I had done French, rather than German, in high school I would have discovered Madame Bovary before now. Better late than never. Obviously, I knew what Madame Bovary was about before reading it. But I had no idea how brilliantly Flaubert would suck me in to the story. He pulls no punches, just lets the story unfold to its horrifying, inexorable conclusion.

What I hadn't expected were his unerring eye for the details of the life of the bourgeoisie, which he lays out for us in unsparing detail. Or how he manages to make us care about Emma, and to sympathise with her, even as she makes one misguided choice after the next. The flair with which he executes the set pieces. And the power of some of the images - Emma cramming her mouth with arsenic, the final stream of black liquid (like vomit) that flows from her mouth, just after the innkeeper's remark about how peaceful she looks.

It's not hard to understand why this book caused such a scandal upon publication.

Way to go, Gustave!

3. Dante's Inferno

When I finally decided, earlier this year, to try to plug some of the holes that my 'classical education' had somehow left unfilled, "The Inferno" was high on my list. Since I don't know any Italian, choosing a decent translation was one of the first questions to be addressed. I spent an hour in Cody's comparing various options (there are a gazillion translations out there) - this was one of two that I ended up buying. Surprisingly (to me at any rate), roughly half of the available translations chose the low road of not even bothering to preserve Dante's famous terza rima metric scheme, with the excuse that only a 'literal translation' can convey the meaning adequately. Fie on your lazy asses, say I - it obviously can be done, even if you are too lamebrained to try. So I rejected the 'literal translations' out of hand, for the same reason that I would not choose a translation of 'Eugene Onegin' that didn't at least try to preserve Pushkin's meter, when it is obviously such an intrinsic aspect of the work. I can't vouch for the fidelity of Carson's translation, but I liked it a lot. (I liked the other translation I read as well, but that's part of a different review). He does well by the terza rima, while managing to achieve an overall natural flow of the language. At times it is highly colloquial, which might disturb the purists:

"Ratbreath, when he heard this, rolled his eyes,

and hissed 'Don't listen, it's a dirty trick,

so he can jump. He must think we're not wise.'

And he, whose AKA was Señor Slick,

replied: 'It's dirt indeed, to get my comrades

in the shit; in fact, it's rather sick.'

Now Harley Quinn, unlike the other blades,

was eager for some sport. "

Canto XXII, lines 107-114.

As for the work itself, I think you all know the story. I haven't read "Purgatorio" or "Paradiso" yet - it seems highly likely to me that the "Inferno" is the most fun of the three, if only because it's entertaining to see how he uses it as a vehicle for getting even with his enemies. But, if you've been putting it off for years because you're intimidated by its status as a "classic", don't be put off any longer. It's actually a lot of fun, and easy to read. Comparing translations is an auxiliary source of entertainment, for those (like myself) who enjoy that kind of thing

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Salmagundi (Part 2)

Useful Latin phrases for the modern world:

  1. Mater tua tam stulta est ut cum invenerit nummum ferentem nomen caesaris, huic eum restituere conata sit.
  2. Mater tua tam obesa est ut cum romae est, urbs habet octo colles.
  3. Mater tua criceta fuit, et pater tuo redoluit bacarum sambucus.
  4. Mater tua caligas gerit!
  5. Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
  6. Mehercle, illa materia tam valida est ut funditus in modo subiunctivo sim.
  7. Quaerite a competitore cur vectigal vexillis americanis imponere velit ad epulas comparandas homicidis condemnatis.
  8. Si quidem pedibus ire tam salubre corpori est, cur similis est noster tabellarius forma illi iabbae hutico.
  9. Amita Aemilia: te Kansiamque odi, canem mecum abduco - Dorothea.
  10. Oppetite mortem lumine amplificato stimulata emissione radiorum, cimices extraterrestriales foedi!

Note that the majority of these phrases have been taken from the most excellent book: X-Treme Latin: All the Latin You Need to Know for Survival in the 21st Century, by Henry Beard.

The plain people of Ireland: But, but, but!

The management: What is it now, wretches?!

The plain people of Ireland: You haven't told us what these phrases mean.

The management: You have a point. Check back in a day or two. In the meantime, maybe you could amuse yourselves by guessing.

Sunday Salmagundi (Part 1)

Or, if you prefer, Guanajuato Gallimaufry:

God, Astor trots a dog.

Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?
Was it Eliot's toilet I saw?
May a moody baby doom a yam?
Sis, ask Costner to not rent socks "as is".
Murder for a jar of red rum.

O Geronimo, no minor ego.
Drab as a fool, aloof as a bard.
Never odd or even.
Bar Arafat, a far Arab.
Cain: a monomaniac
Drat Saddam, a mad dastard.
Draw, O Caesar. Erase a coward.

God saw I was dog.
Go deliver a dare, vile dog!
Doc Note: I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod.
Don't nod.
Dogma: I am God.

Don't nod.
Do geese see God?