I started this particular ‘bits and pieces’ feature under the advice of some wise person or other that if you don’t make note of what you learn in a day then you’re likely just to forget it again. While this is good advice to be sure, the sad result is the grim realization that I just don’t learn nearly enough interesting things in a day. This is tribute either to my rather uninformative lifestyle or else my poor note-taking abilities. Either way, here’s what I have in my log of bits and pieces since last I wrote on the topic.
As anyone who knows me is well aware, I have a fairly incestuous relationship with the English language and I pick up new words and utterances like the average person picks up loose change on the street. That is to say that I ignore everything under $.25 but covet the rest as if it were a foundling kitten. This past week while tromping through the last remaining bits of “Lost in Translation” I was reminded of a couple of old favorites. The first is abecedarian, a very nearly self-explanatory word meaning arranged alphabetically (as you might note from the a-be-ce-d prefix). It also serves to describe something which is elementary in nature. Next we have a word from that long list of German words that describe the world more succinctly and accurately than any of their English counterparts. Weltanschauung (the entire worldview of an individual or group) joins leitmotiv (a dominant or central theme), Schadenfreude (enjoyment of the suffering of others) and Zeitgeist (spirit of a particular time in history) in my list of delightfully useful utterances inherited from a close linguistic cousin.
Moving onward, this weekend I found myself doing some lighter reading than I’m normally accustomed to in the form of the “Julie and Julia” book which somewhat recently found its way into movie form. The author does tend to be much easier to digest than my previous book choice, but still doesn’t leave one totally without items of note. Specifically, I was made acquainted with the potato ricer, a device that I can only describe as a very large garlic press for a potato. Those louvered glass windows you crank open and closed and that are generally reserved for locations on lakes and other bodies of water apparently bear the more formal moniker of “jalousie windows.” And lastly, I was read about, though still remain nauseated by, the delightfully meaty flavor of bone marrow. This last serves only all the more to fortify my growing vegetarian tendencies but one cannot help but notice when someone describes a dish as having the flavor of “life itself”. Her comparison of the experience to a cannibal eating the heart of his rival to gain his strength is convincing, but not exactly in the direction that was probably intended. Oh, and her brief discussion of Samuel Pepys did cause me to go and obtain his unabridged diaries on the Kindle for the ripe and reasonable sum of absolutely nothing. If nothing else, it is my sincere hope that the Kindle will make us all read more classics.
Leaving the literary world behind, I was reminded this weekend of a small fact that I tend to forget in the world of personal interactions. In general, when a person in my acquaintance leaves the realm of my daily interaction, I quickly get wrapped up in the day-to-day and they pass into history. From time to time I realize just how regrettable that is because it is those old relationships that are the most valuable, the most well formed. To use an unflattering analogy, an old friend is like an old cheese or a well-fermented wine. Not only do you know them best but they know you best and when they pass on into history and are forgotten, they take a piece of you with them. As much as we like to be independent and stand on our own, those around us really do help to define us. All of our best times are spent in the company of others and if we let them trickle away then a part of those good times goes with them. At any rate, that’s my observation on the matter.