Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cow Town Coffee Houses

Even though it's 2011, I still sing Bob Wills' classic song "Big Balls in Cowtown" pretty much every time I drive into Dallas or Fort Worth from my suburban haunt. Yes, D/FW is a far cry from a cowtown these days, but I like to affectionately think back to that time I don't remember.... Now, you go to buy feed, and they sell it in five (not fifty) pound bags to hipsters interested in organic, free-range eggs. Not that I really mind. I'm rather pleased with the trend towards Austinization in various neighborhoods of the Big D. Despite my pastoral nostalgia, I enjoy a good indie coffee house or shop selling ironic kitsch. So, here I compile a list of coffee houses I've dug up and explain their qualities and their deficiencies.

This is a charming little coffee house located in Uptown Dallas. It's situated in an old bungalow and is very pretty and cute from outside. However, on the inside, it's a little cramped and it can be quite difficult to find somewhere to sit. I find the feng shui of the interior a little off-putting. It purports to have a "living room" feel, but the organization of the furniture is a bit awkward and uninviting. The coffee is good, the baristas bearded, but the chai is obviously made from powder, which is very disappointing. The neighborhood is all right; you can't really walk to anything very interesting from the house, just some restaurants, bars, and residences, although there is an aged cemetery not too far away, where you can read and admire graves from the Civil War (I mean, The Late Great Unpleasantness) up to the present.

First started in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas, Espumoso Caffe is now also expanding to Las Vegas (randomly enough). The hipster in me cries a little at this. Ah local business! How swiftly you pass! It's a pleasant little cafe (oh, I mean, caffe, excuse me), not very large, but comfortable, with good coffee and friendly baristas. It's pretty small, but not terribly crowded, with nice, chill music that doesn't obstruct studying or chitchat. The area is fairly nice but small--a few blocks of interesting shops, but stray too far from the gentrified path, and, if you're a girl, you might yourself leered and whistled at.

The Pearl Cup

Situated in Lower Greenville, the Pearl Cup is a lovely coffee house. It has a modern, almost industrial, feel, which, granted, is not my favorite style. But, the square metal tables that you share with folks all walks of life are conducive to studying and tuning out the hubbub of people ordering lattes or paninis. The coffee is good and they offer a fine selection of teas. What's more, the neighborhood is lovely. Nearby are interesting shops, old houses, bars, organic grocery stores--the works.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Horace 1.24

Last Fall, I foolhardily undertook to translate Horace's Ode 1.24 (Quis Desiderio) into perfectly crafted, metrical stanzas. It was impossible. Not only is English imperfect for imitating the sound of Latin verse, but Latin words frequently bear a wealth of independent but interrelated meanings that can be conveyed by no one English word.
But, the poem, written to Vergil upon the death of a friend, is simply so beautiful that English speakers, who don't have time to learn Latin, should enjoy some slender shade of its beauty. Below, I quote the Latin and various translations of it.

Quis desiderio sit pudor aut modus
tam cari capitis? Praecipe lububris
cantus, Melpomene, cui liquidam pater
uocem cum cithara dedit.

Ergo Quintilium perpetuus sopor
urget? Cui Pudor et Iustitiae soror,
incorrupta Fides, nudaque Veritas
quando ullum inueniet parem?

Multis ille bonis flebilis occidit,
nulli flebilior quam tibi, Vergili.
Tu frustra pius, heu, non ita creditum
poscis Quintilium deos.

Quid si Threicio blandius Orpheo
auditam moderere arboribus fidem?
Num uanae redeat sanguis imagini,
quam uirga semel horrida,

non lenis precibus fata recludere,
nigro compulerit Mercurius gregi?
durum: sed leuius fit patientia
quicquid corrigere est nefas.

The following is a translation by William Gladstone (pictured to the left), the 19th century British liberal statesman, who served as prime minister four times between 1868 and 1894 (Ah, I weep for our world leaders now! I doubt that any of them could even read Horace, much less translate him!).

What bounds can Shame, can Moderation, set,
For one so dear, to yearning and regret?
Lead thou the dirge, for Jove, Melpomene,
Gave lyre and song to thee.

[Fairly solid first lines, though the last two are a bit errant; translating "vocem [voice]" as "song" takes so much charm from the stanza.]

Shall then unending sleep Quintilius bind?
O bashful Shame, O Truth's transparent mind,
Pure Faith and Justice, twinborn sisters dear.
Where shall ye find his peer?

[It's not bad, but I'm wondering where he gets "transparent mind" and "twinborn sisters" and some other meter-completing adjectives that creep in.]

What cause he left the good for sorrowing pain !
What cause to thee, my Virgil! who, in vain
Devout, hast sought him from the gods of heaven,
But he was lent, not given.

[This stanza is awkward and inaccurate. Eheu!]

If sweetlier than Threician Orpheus thou
Could'st touch the chord that made the forests bow.
The blood returns not to the senseless clod,
, For Mercury's stern rod,

[This I find rather pretty and well-crafted, if not entirely accurate.]

Inexorable guard of Fate's command.
Hath fast conjoined him to the spectral band.
Alack! But what the iron laws impose
By patience lighter grows.

[Not accurate and anti-climactic. The final two lines pack none of the punch that they have in Latin.]

The following is a translation by John Conington, an English Classical scholar in the mid 1800s.

Why blush to let our tears unmeasured fall
For one so dear? Begin the mournful stave,
Melpomene, to whom the Sire of all
Sweet voice with music gave.

[Not accurate at all, but it's charming.]

And sleeps he then the heavy sleep of death,
Quintilius? Piety, twin sister dear
Of Justice! naked Truth! unsullied Faith!
When will ye find his peer?

[Piety is an awful translation of "pudor" and Horace merely writes "sister" not "twin sister."]

By many a good man wept. Quintilius dies;
By none than you, my Virgil, trulier wept:
Devout in vain, you chide the faithless skies,
Asking your loan ill-kept.

[Good, a little overly flowery... faithless skies, really?]

No, though more suasive than the bard of Thrace
You swept the lyre that trees were fain to hear,
Ne'er should the blood revisit his pale face
Whom once with wand severe

Mercury has folded with the sons of night,
Untaught to prayer Fate's prison to unseal.
Ah, heavy grief! but patience makes more light
What sorrow may not heal.

[Really quite good; the last two stanzas are devilishly hard to translate well. But Conington's last line reads a bit too much into Horace's delightfully simple line, "quidquid corrigere est nefas."]

Monday, October 10, 2011

i can't get no (Stevie Jackson)

Stevie Jackson, best known as the guitarist for the Scottish indie group Belle and Sebastian, has come out with his own Solo LP this month. The album is already available to buy online, but the hard copy won't be released until October 24. If you're curious, you can hear some of his songs here. Judging from these samples, I would warrant that Jackson's album is not the same quality as Belle and Sebastian, but that's not to say that Jackson's music won't be enjoyable. It's pleasant, rather reminiscent of the Beatles, sometimes a little too synthesized, in short, a chipper album with some pleasant songs but nothing terribly outstanding or inspiring. Some of the refrains become annoying and grating after a little while, but, all in all, it's not a bad album.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Need of Being Versed in Country Things

Being confined to a city, my room surrounded on three sides by highways, I find myself being stifled by the incessant whir of cars. At night, I wonder at God's promise that He would make Abraham's descendents as countless as the stars at night for, here, I can count about seven. Living in a city makes me especially conscious of the beauty of country life: I miss the grey October pastures, spotted with grazing cows and the yellow remnants of summer flowers. I miss the quiet of the days and the darkness of the nights. I miss tromping in muddy boots through rain soaked trees with a filthy little dog at my side. Living here makes me realize the need of being versed in country things, and the need of keeping Robert Frost ever at my side. So, I quote for you his delightful little poem, for which this post is named, and say no more about it. Let the poet speak for himself.

The Need of Being Versed in Country Things

The house had gone to bring again
To the midnight sky a sunset glow.
Now the chimney was all of the house that stood,
like a pistil after the petals go.

The barn opposed across the way,
That would have joined the house in flame
Had it been the will of the wind, was left
To bear forsaken the place's name.

No more it opened with all one end
For teams that came by the stony road
To drum on the floor with scurrying hoofs
And brush the mow with the summer load.

The birds that came to it through the air
At broken windows flew out and in,
Their murmur more like the sigh we sigh
From too much dwelling on what has been.

Yet for them the lilac renewed its leaf,
And the aged elm, though touched with fire;
And the dry pump flung up an awkward arm;
And the fence post carried a strand of wire.

For them there was really nothing sad.
But though they rejoiced in the nest they kept,
One had to be versed in country things
Not to believe that the phoebes wept.