Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Monday, 10 August 2009

Fifteen minutes of Warhol time

A post for Zu Schwer (neé Rouchswalwe) which has roots in one of her posts.

Each nationality in the press party contributed to the sayonara evening which ended the Citizen Watch visit to Japan. I said, “The guy from The Financial Times insisted I should speak for Britain. Not, as I had hoped, because I am the best British journalist here, but because (long pregnant pause) I am the oldest… and Japan venerates the aged.”

I was 53. I went on to sympathise with Japan about its diminishing population. “For what else could explain the plastic rather than organic policemen that dot the roads we have travelled on?” It took time for the audience to realise I was referring to an anti-speeding system then in vogue, where every tenth plastic policeman became a real one equipped with a radar gun. But when light broke through the laughter was encouraging.

I delivered my formal felicitations in phonetic Japanese, to the consternation of the amazingly expert woman translator who, up til then, had been freewheeling with English into Japanese.

It all sounds feeble now. But I faced people eager to hear what I would say next. I was able to pause creatively, to milk the laughter and the use of the translator. It was the high spot of my brief (and previously inauspicious) public speaking career. Since then it has been a steep and humiliating decline and I have retreated into the Nabokov Defence (the basis of a sonnet I posted): “I think like a genius, I write like a man with talent, but I speak like a child”.


marja-leena said...

You never cease to surprise me... you spoke in Japanese! And I just read your comment at Rouchswalwe's and you revealed knowledge of German as well. Such auto-didacticism (does that include include languages?)

Barrett Bonden said...

Several points need clearing up. Somebody else translated the felicitations into Japanese and rendered the translation phonetically. I merely parrotted the result. My German is fragmentary but I like trotting out what I know; everybody is far too keen (I include myself) to show off in French, far less so in German. My French is superb when it comes to describing my personal pathologies; however I have never read a single Racine-ean alexandrine.

Rouchswalwe said...

How wonderful, Mr. BB, that you spoke "in front of the screen" while you were in Japan. In my case, each time I did so (my job there often demanded it), my heart was filled with gratitude for that which you mention, "I faced people eager to hear what I would say next." I was able to do some of my best and most satisfying public speaking there simply because of the ardent nature of the audience support, which was anything but passive or coldly polite as some individuals with stereotypical tendencies were wont to say. I learned more from the folks sitting there listening to me than I was able to convey to them, I'm certain.

Your mention of the plastic traffic police was right on target! I can hear the room!