[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 99, Issue 10

xtine burrough xtineburrough at gmail.com
Tue Feb 12 12:53:13 EST 2013

Thank you, Antoinette for that email troll. (By the way, I think you've
finally encouraged me to overcome my fear of publishing to a list such as
this). I just wanted to chime in on the "piggy bag" as a surreal moment in
language usage, especially for someone usually so deliberate and
determined. Antoinette and I had lunch last week with another of our Cali
friend-of-Shani's and I remember speaking then about how much I loved it
when Shani would ask about an English idiom.

For me, it was always so pleasurable to be able to know something, even if
it was little (like an idiom) that she didn't know! She always seemed to
know: who she was, what she wanted, when she wanted what she wanted...and I
always, by comparison, feel in a state of not-knowing. (Robert, I'm with
you on the notion that remembering someone just forces this comparison with
and projection back onto the self...it's horrendously difficult not to
become solipsistic). I have a most delightful memory of asking her if she
had time or wanted to have a "little pick-me-up" after dinner one night.
She hesitated (the time in which I thought she was doing a mental check on
her calendar--I always assumed she had a calendar in her head, down to
hours and minutes remaining in the day and accounting for the precise
amount of sleep and wakeful time) before asking, "What is this, 'pick me
up?'" Wow! She wasn't checking the mental calendar at all. I must admit, my
brain did do a really fast scan for all the possible misnomers I might
direct her toward to see if I could "program" her to use "pick me up" in a
weird way, but of course couldn't bring myself to be so irreverent with my
friend. I thought about it. Truthfully, if I thought I would be there when
she would play out my game, I probably would have done it...

It's a tiny memory. In the grand amount of time we spent together, it was
nothing. Just a moment that passed so quickly. We walked to the beach after
a to-go purchase (hot chocolate, I think, for both of us that night). I
don't remember what we talked about on our walk. I don't even remember
where we ate dinner (probably sushi, it seems we always went for sushi).
But I remember explaining "pick me up" and feeling lighter, maybe more
relaxed, on the way to the coffee shop.

And that makes me think of something entirely different about Shani. This
probably relates to her art (too), but I felt more a friend of the person
than the artist, so I will speak to her character. Shani had a tension
about her. It was always there. It usually had to do with needing more time
or running out of time or having too much to do before some specified time.
We all grapple with this to some extent, but it seemed to me that Shani,
since I began knowing her in 2002 or so (?? whenever she moved to Long
Beach) was always so serious and so tense and so always out of time.
Perhaps this feeling of running out of time became a part of her early on.
Did it arise after her very first diagnosis? That must change a person's
relationship to time, right? I wouldn't know. I think I probably abuse
time--always figuring it will still be there later, after the next episode
of Breaking Bad (or insert other Netflx addiction). I really wonder, now
that it's too late to ask, what the young 8 year old Shani was like. Did
she jump off the swing set early because there wasn't enough time for all
of the other toys and homework and urgent phone calls to crushes? Did she
ever make an urgent phone call to a crush only to hang up the phone when he
answered (yes, those were the days before caller ID)? Or is that another
form of an idiom that I don't get the pleasure, now, of explaining to my
seriously tense friend?

Thank you, all, for posting. I've really enjoyed reading the threads here.
As always, I feel intimidated by all of your wordsmithing (yes, I know,
"wordsmithing" itself gets a red underline) but I do appreciate being able
to contribute to this as a friend of Shani's. And I especially enjoy
hearing other people voice these tiny moments that somehow encapsulate a
part of her being that I miss. It's difficult to really feel the loss of
someone who has lived her final year/s "away." I assume that for others,
like myself, who have been outside of NY and who were used to seeing her
regularly, her death is only still becoming real. It is so helpful to
connect with, and support, one another.


On Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 5:00 PM, <empyre-request at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>wrote:

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> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Today's Topics:
>    1. looking further back (Antoinette LaFarge)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2013 15:06:03 -0800
> From: Antoinette LaFarge <alafarge at uci.edu>
> To: <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Subject: [-empyre-] looking further back
> Message-ID: <A9E4EBEA-0647-44F0-B2E9-793134374FCB at uci.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252
> > Shani was working on a robotic cello piece. The project had a steep
> > technical learning curve that she embraced with a joy and intensity that
> > was pure Shani. It was only on the tail end of three years at CMU that
> > Shani and I talked about doing a project together. We began to conceive
> the
> > project SWIPE and Shani brought in Jamie, whom I had not met before.
> Brooke, I remember that terrific robotic cello piece from back when we
> were interviewing Shani for the UCI faculty. Your description of that
> period inspired me to troll back through my email to see when and how Shani
> first turned up. There are a bunch of fairly dull-but-important-at-the-time
> emails having to do with the early days of our Arts Computation Engineering
> (ACE) program which she worked like mad to help build-- a huge
> responsibility for a junior professor. There is a reminder about
> contributing data for the SWIPE project when it was at the Beall Center.
> And there begin to be emails here and there about having dinner or
> commuting or going to a lecture together; small traces, nothing dramatic.
> In one of these, in a list of people she thought might be good to bring out
> as visiting artists, she wrote: ?may be we can piggy bag onto an existing
> trip of hers.? It was always easy to forget that English was Shani?s second
> language since she spoke it with such fluency, until
>  she stopped you to demand the meaning of some obscure bit of slang, or
> poetically mangled an idiom she hadn?t gotten quite right. I suppose the
> above example could be a mere typo, but even so it immediately brought to
> mind how much I loved those moments when her speaking would run off the
> rails, into some temporarily surreal territory. I wonder if the mingling of
> languages in which she thought contributed to that vividness of her project
> titles which someone mentioned earlier?
> Brooke?s reminiscences about those days of intensive work at CMU speaks
> also to the relentless forward-lookingness of life in a research
> university, where the next production often seems to be all that matters.
> It suited Shani very well, I think, but it also means that almost the only
> time we are prepared to stop and explicitly reflect is in the context of a
> promotion review, when what we make with our life?s blood becomes subtly
> converted into evidence in a case for or against us. Or, as now, under the
> spur of loss. It is as though we stand on a bridge that we are constantly
> chopping off behind us just so that it can continue to extend in front.
> When else would any of us have ever gone back and re-conjured our shared
> history with Shani in such detail? Anyway, I came away from my email
> troll-through with a strange sense of relief: yes, there was a time when
> our friendship was ordinary, even light-hearted, before it fell under the
> sign of the crab.
> Later,
> --Antoinette
> ------------------------------
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> End of empyre Digest, Vol 99, Issue 10
> **************************************

xtine burrough

mailing address:
xtine burrough
associate professor
college of communications
california state university, fullerton
800 n. state college blvd.
fullerton, ca 92834
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