sovay: (Default)
[personal profile] sovay
I meant to post my schedule for NecronomiCon Providence at the beginning of this month, but then the month got away from me; then I meant to post it before the weekend, but neo-Nazis happened. So! Tomorrow through Sunday, I will be in Providence. My schedule is as follows:

Friday August 18

9–10:15 am
Wereweird: Lycanthropy, Animism, and Animal-Transformation in Weird Fiction
Cody Goodfellow, KH Vaughan (moderator), Stephen Graham Jones, Sonya Taaffe

Throughout the history of Weird Fiction, the idea of transformation has held sway—with roots from the werewolf legends of the French countryside to the Wendigo myths of the Pacific Northwest, the idea of the human becoming something less (or more) than human has held our collective imaginations. Here, we will discuss the idea of transformation in folklore and our continued fascination with it.

6:00–7:15 pm
Erotic Lovecraftian
Paul LaFarge, Livia Llewellyn, Peter Rawlik, Sonya Taaffe (moderator), Joe Zannella

At first, the concept seems to be a contradiction. Lovecraft was robustly asexual with barely any interest in the subject in his writing or real-life. And yet, erotic Lovecraftian stories, films, and anime have been extremely popular. Is it possible to combine the two and create an entirely new offspring? Our panelists think so and will not only defend their conclusions but offer their recommendations.

Saturday August 19

10:30–11:45 am
Dark Crimes: The Weird in Noir Fiction
Paul Di Filippo, Cody Goodfellow, Lois Gresh, Peter Rawlik, Rory Raven (moderator), Sonya Taaffe

Both Weird Fiction and Crime Fiction function around the idea that we cannot trust what we once thought infallible—our very sense of self and place in the world. What philosophies drive these seemingly different strains of literature together and what unites both in their bleak view of the cosmos mankind inhabits? This panel explores the bleak cosmic horror of man as written by Himes, Thompson, and Chandler.

4:30–5:45 pm
Voices in Weird Poetry
Frank Coffman, Darrell Schweitzer, Donald Sidney-Fryer, Sonya Taaffe (moderator), Starry Wizdom

Weird poetry has been gaining ground over the past few years and continues to gather interest among scholars, writers, and readers. Who are some of these emerging voices? How might the emergence of this new energy in the medium stir interest in past works, and create a platform to expand interest in poetic works in the future?

Sunday August 20

10:30–11:45 am
Author Readings
Ruthanna Emrys, Jon Padgett, Peter Straub, Sonya Taaffe

I will also be in attendance at the opening reception for the exhibits "Greetings and Salutations: Lovecraft on the Road" and "Caitlin R. Kiernan Papers" at the John Hay Library tomorrow night and with significant luck will manage to drag myself out of bed on Thursday in time for the noon showing of David Rudkin and Alan Clarke's Penda's Fen (1974) at the Black Box Theater. Then I will spend the following week sleeping. Anybody in this friendlist I'm likely to see at the world's premier festival of weird fiction, academia, and art?

[personal profile] spatch met me after my doctor's appointment this afternoon and we walked over to the Boston Public Market so that I could get my now-traditional bagel with smoked salmon from the Boston Smoked Fish Co. and he could get shakalatkes from Inna's Kitchen. I wanted to visit the Holocaust Memorial afterward, because last night—for the second time this summer, after twenty-two years without incident—it was vandalized. We walked out the back of the market and into a press conference. An Auschwitz survivor and co-founder of the memorial was speaking; he was followed by Jewish community leaders, an imam, a cantor who recited the Holocaust-specific version of the El Malei Rachamim. We walked through the memorial afterward, my first time in years. It is six towers of glass, their panels etched with numbers like concentration camp tattoos; steam rises continually through each tower and the words of survivors are written in the glass. It mentions things that other remembrances of the Holocaust often elide: the equally targeted genocide of the Romani, Jewish uprisings and partisan groups, that the U.S. knew about the camps as early as 1942. I had forgotten to bring a stone to leave as at a grave, but the memorial provides its own. There were a lot of people there.

Then we met my mother in Harvard Square (the woman behind the counter at Esmerelda—not Esmerelda herself, older middle-aged and deft with a pair of needle-nose pliers—replaced the broken clasp of my necklace for free) and she told us about 45's neo-Nazi-defending both-sides double-down.

So I will go to Providence this weekend and represent queer Jewish fish people and that's all there is to it.

P.S. Courtesy of Rob, for fans of Gravity Falls (2012–16): with the blessing of series creator and voice actor Alex Hirsch, Grunkle Stan punches Nazis.

poem at Strange Horizons

Aug. 14th, 2017 11:56 am
gwynnega: (Ernest Thesiger)
[personal profile] gwynnega
My poem "ode to Dwight Frye," inspired by one of my favorite actors, is up at Strange Horizons.

On Friday I finished the final chapter of Out of Uniform. I'm going to take a break from the book for a month or so, then read it and make whatever changes it needs. Meanwhile, I have stories and poems to work on!

These are happy things, amid the Nazi horribleness of the past several days.
sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
[personal profile] sovay
Today involved grocery shopping, housecleaning, pizza, keeping an eye on the news, and accruing links. I am way more tired than I feel the physical aspects of the day should account for.

1. Carly Pildis, "My Family Is Black and Jewish. Here's What Charlottesville Means to Me." I find this paragraph particularly acute: "It's how I know that America is both our sanctuary and where our neighbors were brought in chains. It is both our home and a place we can never fully trust. We have more freedom than ever before but the swastika still haunts the doorstep of our synagogue. We love America but wonder if our kids are really safe at our local JCC."

2. Jelani Cobb, "The Battle of Charlottesville." Crystallizes a lot of things I have seen people saying and thinking—including me, but more elegantly—and then goes one analytical step further. "It is a moment of indeterminate morality, one in which the centrifugal forces of contempt, resentment, and racial superiority are pitted against the ideal of common humanity and the possibility of a civic society. We have entered a new phase of the Trump era."

3. In terms of amplifying voices in Charlottesville, I have found both butchsaffron and eshusplayground to be valuable perspectives. I'm not even on Tumblr. News moves faster off Dreamwidth, whee.

4. I discovered Erynn Brook's "White Feelings: 0-60 for Charlottesville" via more than one white person who said it was useful to them. It strikes me as a good example of the snarkily worded but sincerely intended anti-racist primer; I have reservations mostly about its elision of Jews. On that front, see this post and its follow-up. This one is also related.

5. The murdered counter-protester has been named; so has the man who drove the car into her. The White House winks and nods and barely even dogwhistles at this point, but I am hoping the local law will bolt the terrorist to the wall. Let there be consequences. Not just private ones like a sock in the jaw, but formal, legal ones like convictions for terrorism. Free speech is one thing, but hate speech another, and violence is something else entirely.

6. I wanted to link this cycle days ago: twenty-one poets writing for the Statue of Liberty in the age of Trump.

7. As people keep talking about appropriate responses to neo-Nazi, neo-Confederate violence, I keep thinking of the speech delivered by Anton Walbrook to Roger Livesey in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). The German refugee is talking to the English gentleman, to the English audience, about the facts of fighting Nazis. Both the scriptwriter and the actor may be speaking through him. Jewish, stateless Pressburger had left Berlin in a life-saving hurry in 1933; Walbrook took his chance in 1936, Austrian, half-Jewish, and queer. They knew whereof Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff spoke. I couldn't find a very good clip of the scene, but here it is:

I read your broadcast up to the point where you describe the collapse of France. You commented on Nazi methods, foul fighting, bombing refugees, machine-gunning hospitals, lifeboats, lightships, bailed-out pilots and so on, by saying that you despised them, that you would be ashamed to fight on their side and that you would sooner accept defeat than victory if it could only be won by those methods . . . Clive! If you let yourself be defeated by them, just because you are too fair to hit back the same way they hit at you, there won't be any methods but Nazi methods! If you preach the Rules of the Game while they use every foul and filthy trick against you, they'll laugh at you! They think you're weak, decadent! I thought so myself in 1919 . . . I don't think you won [the last war]. We lost it. But you lost something, too. You forgot to learn the moral. Because victory was yours, you failed to learn your lesson twenty years ago, and you have to pay the school fees again! Some of you will learn quicker than the others. Some will never learn it. Because you have been educated to be a gentleman and a sportsman—in peace and in war. But, Clive, dear old Clive, this is not a gentleman's war. This time you are fighting for your very existence against the most devilish idea ever created by a human brain—Nazism. And if you lose there won't be a return match next year, perhaps not even for a hundred years! You mustn't mind me, an alien, saying all this. But who can describe hydrophobia better than one who has been bitten—and is now immune?

Vigil

Aug. 13th, 2017 11:28 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
[personal profile] sabotabby
Went to a hastily organized vigil for Charlottesville. There were maybe about 50 people and almost as many TV cameras. A blessed minimum of speeches as we all knew why we were there. We sang "The Red Flag" and "Solidarity Forever" and marched with drippy candles to City Hall.

it helps, at times like these, to be with folks that get it. There's another demo tomorrow morning but I don't think I'll make it because 8 am is very early. So I'm glad this one happened.

ETA: as I type this, I'm reading of another attack, this time at a solidarity demo in Montreal. Fortunately the victim survived. We must fight these bastards; nothing less than our survival and the survival of the most vulnerable communities is at stake.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
 I was playing the admirable game "West of Loathing" when I had to solve a number puzzle where I had to add up pressing buttons with different values (411,295,161) to reach a specified total of 3200.  I button mashed, then said, to hell with this, this is a linear programming equation, plugged it into Wolfram Alpha, and solved for x,y,z.

God bless technology.

P.S.  If you enjoy puzzle games, silly humor, and combat that can be dialed back so that even the slowest-trigger-fingered in the West -- that would be me -- can play it, try West of Loathing.  I find it engaging, focusing,  and soothing, in times that need some soothing.

An injury to one is an injury to all

Aug. 13th, 2017 02:07 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
[personal profile] sabotabby
Like many (most) of you, I'm grieving the murder of Fellow Worker Heather Heyer, a member of the IWW (an organization I was proud to be a member of for many years), the injuries of dozens of others, and the brutal assault of Deandre Harris at the hands of fascists and white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA. Unlike a lot of (white) people, I'm not surprised. This is America with its gloves off. This is what we warned against. It was always going to come to this, and I fear it will get much worse before it gets better, if it does at all.

For a good long time, I've been actively confronting local fascists who organize and demonstrate under the thin veneer of free speech. Plenty of liberals and radicals alike have informed me that this is a waste of time, that the antifa who show up reliably every time the fash demonstrate are not radical enough, are too radical, aren't diverse enough, are too militant, are not militant enough, exclude less privileged people who can't physically show up, are secretly anti-Semites despite a significant number being Jewish, and are just plain doing it wrong. I'm not into calling out individuals and groups, but I have paid careful attention to who I see there, and who I don't see there.

I can only hope that Heyer, Harris, and those standing beside them and fighting back haven't sacrificed in vain. I hope that this is the end of inaction, of false equivalence, of turning our words on each other rather than on the enemy. I hope that this is a clarion call for action.

I'll repost what I said in the Other Place:

Hey GTA people posting your outrage over Charlottesville: did you know that a group of fascists regularly demonstrate at City Hall under the guise of "free speech"? We go to oppose them and try to prevent them from marching. Sometimes we're outnumbered. If you're really angry about what happened, coming out to shut this shit down here before it becomes tiki torches and vehicular manslaughter is a concrete thing you can do.

Also, if you have $ and are not sure which crowdfunding initiatives are legit, this is a good place to start.

sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
[personal profile] sovay
We got out of the house in the evening. It was just around sunset and there were smoky peach and pink streaks in the sky, so we walked the same loop of the Mystic River that we had discovered in June and checked up on the Hasenpfeffer in their late-lit silflay field; this time we took the boardwalk under the Fellsway (water lilies, ducks, spiderwebs on the streetlights like set dressing for a haunted house) and came up in Assembly Square, where we acquired perfectly serviceable non-booze milkshakes from Burger Dive before negotiating the construction tangle of I-93 on our way to Stop & Shop. Dinner was grilled cheese made short-order-style in my grandmother's skillet. We locked Autolycus out of the kitchen after he made repeated attempts to climb onto the stove where all the delicious excitement was taking place, but his unassuming confederate Hestia slipped the latch on the door and let him back in. He hoovered the floor just in case we had dropped any cheese crumbs. Just now he stuck his head directly under the kitchen tap in order to lick the last of the goat's milk out of my mug before I washed it. Gentlepeople of all persuasions, the only mooch that matters.

1. Here is one list of ways to help in Charlottesville right now. There are two fundraising campaigns already for victim relief and medical expenses. See also this list of local anti-racism organizations and this post by a Charlottesville resident. I donated to University of Virginia's Hillel and Black Student Alliance and to Charlottesville Pride, which I figure should cover a reasonable (and not necessarily mutually exclusive) swathe of people neo-Nazis hate.

2. Several of the same neo-Nazi groups responsible for the violence in Charlottesville have a rally planned next Saturday in Boston. There is a counter-protest already being organized. I will be out of town due to prior commitments at NecronomiCon Providence. Anyone who will be in town and feels that they can counter-protest safely, strength to your arm.

3. People on Facebook have been posting this wartime footage of swastikas being destroyed. The exploding one at the beginning is surprisingly cathartic. Don't bother with the comments, which are predictably full of anti-Semitic trash fire.

I don't know what emotions I'm supposed to feel. A lot of people are talking about shame, shock, grief; I seem to be feeling a high degree of anger and what I think must be outrage in that it is anger specifically against a thing that should not happen—and it feels personal, but of course it is personal, neo-Nazis don't chant "Final stop, Auschwitz" as a historical curiosity—but not at the moment a lot of surprise. I was more surprised by the election results in November and even then I didn't think it couldn't happen here, I just thought this time it wouldn't. I guess my baseline of things that happen here has just been revising itself downward ever since. White terrorism in America has been going on for generations. This is an especially grotesque and obvious manifestation, but I think it is so obvious in part because it uses Nazi iconography as well as Confederate flags, because it indulged in a form of terrorism associated more with ISIS than with lone-wolf postal shooters. It looks now like the Other, like the half-mythical villains of our last righteous war, like the new demons of the war on terror. Insofar as it looked like the Ku Klux Klan, so long as it wasn't physically wearing a white sheet and those pointy hoods we can thank D.W. Griffith for, I suspect to many (white) people it was hardly visible at all. I'm glad the so-called alt-right has crossed the streams in public: I'm glad they have made the shape of their hatred visible from space. You start throwing around Sieg Heils and Orrin Hatch, for God's sake, denounces you. (The man in the White House doesn't, because white supremacists are the one demographic he can't afford to alienate.) I will continue calling these people neo-Nazis because they are wearing fucking swastikas and quoting Hitler and I have no interest in granting them the plausible deniability of their attempted rebranding, but maybe we should also call them neo-Confederates or neo-Klan, so not to enable the illusion of their racist, fascist ideology as a strain that infiltrated America from outside as opposed to a strain that has always been part of American white supremacy. My country didn't need Germany to invent lynchings or eugenics. These dreams of ethnic cleansing are homegrown. Terrorists, above all, whatever else we call them. Very definitely terrorists.

(I understand the above problem of definition is the reason terms like "white nationalist" or "white supremacist" exist, but even these have started to feel sanitized to me, as if they describe theoretical positions rather than active advocacy of racial violence: torches in the night, flags of lynching and genocide, deaths and injuries.)

On the other hand, there was a Charlottesville solidarity vigil held on Boston Common tonight and a kind stranger on the internet Photoshopped a panel of a peculiar vintage comic for me so that it now represents a black cat punching Hitler, so not all good in humanity is lost.

Shake me and make me remember

Aug. 12th, 2017 02:54 pm
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
I had a bunch of things I wanted to post about this afternoon, but they have been temporarily displaced by Nazis. I tend to assume everyone who might read this journal is ahead of me on the news curve, but if not, Charlottesville is in a state of emergency after this morning's white supremacist rally was suspended due to violence breaking out. An as yet unidentified car drove into a crowd of counter-protesters. (Funny how you can scream about Islamic terrorism till you're blue in the face, but there's nothing wrong with vehicle-ramming when it's white hands on the wheel.) As a person miles away from Virginia who has been trying to figure out what to do beyond making phone calls to politicians and yelling on the internet, I found the following links useful:

Sara Benincasa has compiled a list of local nonprofits who could use the support, including NAACP Albemarle-Charlottesville, Charlottesville Pride, Meals on Wheels Charlottesville, Congregation Beth Israel, and Virginia's Legal Aid Justice Center.

Charlottesville Solidarity Legal Fund is a community resource that posts bail and raises other funds for anti-racist activists.

Beloved Community Charlottesville raises money for local charities based directly and proportionately on the number of neo-Nazis who show for the rally.

I'll add other resources if I come across them. I've just been reminded one of my mother's cousins lives in Charlottesville. [edit] They are fine. One fatality confirmed from the car attack, one suspect in custody. One man in the White House doing nothing to condemn terrorism when it's the same color as his skin.

Millennials are killing

Aug. 12th, 2017 09:34 am
sabotabby: (teacher lady)
[personal profile] sabotabby
 Almost right on schedule, my first back-to-school anxiety nightmare of August. It was not as bad as most, probably because I've been in school-anxiety-mode for a year now and my brain hasn't had a stretch of not being stressed out and anxious. Anyway, it was almost interesting so I'll share it.

First day of class. My classes, as per usual nightmares, were huge, and the kids kept drifting in and out and coming in late and wouldn't stay still or give me their names. One girl had recently lost her brother in a shooting, another had lost her mother three weeks earlier. Her mother's grave was located right beside the classroom, and she had brought several large bouquets of purple lilies that clashed with the red and white flowers on the grave. She kept getting up to shift the flowers around, or curling up in a fetal position to cry.

The principal had decided that class would begin with a personal address from her, and so I was supposed to wait until she arrived to start. But she was late, and the kids were already complaining that they were bored, so I did an icebreaker activity. It was called Millennials Are Killing X and you had to go around a circle and say a thing Millennials are killing and why. For example, "Millennials are killing the housing market because they spend on their money on smashed avocado toast and lattes. I thought it was hilarious but the kids didn't get it, and then I remembered that the Millennials had been years ago and the kids didn't know what they were.
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
I was away from the news for a bit. I checked in with Facebook and found out there are torch-wielding neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. Counter-protesters are students at University of Virginia. I'm trying to find an article as opposed to Twitter which I am not on.

I am behind the news cycle, I know, I know. I have just asked [personal profile] spatch (who is on Twitter) in perfect seriousness, "How bad is this? Are we talking cross-burning? Are people getting killed? Are there police? Which side are they on?" These are not reasonable questions to have to ask.

Richard Spencer is on the scene, apparently. I can think of nothing more appropriate than for one of his Blut-und-Boden-chanting goons to wave a torch too close to that paramilitary hair of his, slicked back so attractively, as all sorts of mainstream news sites marveled last year. Go on, make your Auschwitz ashtray jokes when your great white hope is a smudge pot in a pseudo-dapper suit.

[edit] I can't even find it funny that the torches were tiki torches. I hope the police protected the counter-protesters. If they didn't, I hope they do tomorrow. I hope there are more counter-protesters than neo-Nazis. This is not a reasonable place for a country to be.

[edit edit] I'm sure I'm not helping the discourse, but when I read that one of the protesters' slogans was "Jew will not replace us," dude, I would replace you with lawn flamingos in a hot second. I would replace you with broccoli. I would, now that you press the point, replace you with just about any other available ethnicity, because while anti-Semitism is by no means unique to white people (as I was inopportunely reminded), right now I don't see a lot of, say, Latinx hate speech torch mobs parading around the cities of America, celebrating genocide. I would replace you with tiki torches. They drive off whining, bloodthirsty pests.

In the meantime, I'll get back to my global conspiracy of trying to fall asleep tonight.

Bone to bloom, fast to feast

Aug. 11th, 2017 11:15 pm
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
Writing news!

1. I can now announce that my jötunn short story "Skerry-Bride" has been accepted for reprint by Transcendent 2: The Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, edited by Bogi Takács (Lethe Press). It was written right after discovering Moss of Moonlight's Winterwheel (2013) and right before seeing Thor: The Dark World (2013) and published originally in Devilfish Review #16. I do what I can for more Norse queerness.

2. My short story "Like Milkweed" has been accepted for reprint by Broad Knowledge: 35 Women Up to No Good, edited by Joanne Merriam (Upper Rubber Boot Books). It was written in 2014, inspired by a comment [personal profile] asakiyume made about burdock and other edible plants, and published later that year in Not One of Us #52. I used to think it might be one of my rare pieces of science fiction, but now I think the chances are much better that it's just weird.

3. My poems "The Women Around Achilles" and "The House Always Wins" have been accepted by Not One of Us. The first is a gloss on Achilles on Skyros, a story whose gender essentialism has always sat badly with me; the second is the direct result of [personal profile] yhlee asking me to draw a Vidona spread.

I saw a young couple with a baby in a stroller on the bus this afternoon; they were cosplaying Deadpool and Harley Quinn. Nicely matching red and black. No idea if the baby was cosplaying anyone. I felt a little disappointed when it was pointed out to me that they were probably on their way to Boston Comic Con. They had been a terrifying prospect of parents.

Guess I chose the right tattoo

Aug. 11th, 2017 03:14 am
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] sovay
I just finished watching Moana (2016) with my mother and [personal profile] spatch. I can't believe that music lost out to La La Land. Also, Zootopia better have been some kind of artistic landmark, because I'm willing to bet it didn't have hand-drawn animated tattoos, a bedazzled neon monster crab, or a sea I wanted to swim in.

I had seen Auliʻi Cravalho perform "How Far I'll Go" at the Oscars in February; I knew surprisingly little about the film otherwise, although that had not prevented me from being impressed by Philip Odango's Maui cosplay. I'm sorry I missed it in theaters. I am normally a hard sell on computer-generated rather than traditional animation, but the super/natural world of Moana is beautifully done, the star-thick skies, the curl and shatter of the waves, a green and flowering goddess settling herself to an island's sleep again. I'm not in a position to comment on the accuracy of the film's mythological representation, although I recognized most of the stories Maui tells about himself (the eel into coconuts one was new to me), but I really enjoyed seeing a movie whose trickster figure is a real trickster, not just the malevolent side of chaos. I like Moana as a protagonist—her sea-longing, her sense of humor, her stubbornness and her occasional incredulity that her life now involves having to fight tiny spiky sentient pirate coconuts over the world's most clueless chicken; I like that her conflicts with her family and with Maui are not gendered. Her return to Motunui with her grandmother's necklace around her throat and an outrigger canoe gifted her by a goddess, a wayfinder, a hero, makes me think someone else read Armstrong Sperry's Call It Courage (1940) as a child and wanted a better ending. The bond between her and her grandmother is the sort of thing that causes me to cry through a movie. I have also heard much worse reincarnation ideas than a manta ray. My mother made the connection between Te Kā and Te Fiti even before the film revealed it: once you remove the ability of a Pacific island to flower into life, of course all that's left is the volcanic rock, the earth cracking into the sea. The writers of Moana handle it a little differently than Lloyd Alexander, but I realized after the fact that Maui's final willingness to sacrifice his fishhook—his magic, the only thing he thinks makes the difference between a shape-changing culture hero and an unwanted child—called out the same response in me as Fflewddur's sacrifice of his harp. I had somehow missed that Dwayne Johnson can sing.

Is the film an authentic depiction of pre-colonial Polynesia? I don't see how it could be; first of all, there's a whole lot of cultures bracketed in that description, and despite the credited participation of the Oceanic Story Trust, which I appreciated seeing, both directors Ron Clements and John Musker and screenwriter Jared Bush were white and not as far as I can tell from anywhere in the relevant regions themselves. It's a Disney movie. They're adapting to the concept of diverse creators slightly faster than the subduction of the Pacific Plate. But its attention to material culture is notable, it does seem to have taken care with some traditions, and I'm still amused that the only actor in the main voice cast who is not of Polynesian descent is Alan Tudyk, voicing the above-mentioned chicken. (I'm also weirdly pleased that I have apparently heard enough Flight of the Conchords to recognize Jermaine Clement by his Bowie impression.) I hadn't heard of Opetaia Foa’i or Te Vaka before tonight, which may mark the first time a Disney musical has actually introduced me to musicians I plan to pursue beyond the soundtrack; I don't speak Samoan, Tokelauan, or Tuvaluan, so I am not the intended audience for some of Foa’i's lyrics and that's all right. I am glad they are in the languages they are in and I can appreciate the ones written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, since I'm pretty sure he's the best English-language lyricist Disney's had since Howard Ashman. Also, I realize that snappy, poppy, intermittently immature dialogue is a necessary component of a modern Disney film, but in the persistent wake of Girl of the Port (1930) and the convention of confining indigenous characters to pseudo-pidgin or formal speech, I am cool with a cast composed entirely of Pasifika characters who get lines as lofty as "Nope!", "Fish pee in you! All day!" and "Really? Blowdart in my butt cheek?" I mean, there are also serious conversations about responsibility, apology, healing the world, growing up. There are powerful, wordless sequences between human characters, nonhuman characters, elements of the natural world. There's a shot of a conch shell that speaks volumes. But also an accidentally half-shark trickster glumly describing his chances of beating a lava spirit with a well-deserved grudge as "bupkes."

I have had a migraine for about three days now and correspondingly haven't slept except for a couple of hours this afternoon, so I know this post is more notes than extended consideration, but I liked Moana so much, I wanted at least to mention it. It's funny, it's numinous, it celebrates traditional Polynesian navigation, it has no villain in the usual sense and I love its idea of a heroic happy ending, horizon, spray, steering by the swell and the stars. My mother tells me that my niece has imprinted to the point of going around randomly quoting the dialogue, so between Gramma Tala and "Shark head!" I'm wondering if she might like to visit the aquarium to pet the sharks and rays. [personal profile] handful_ofdust, thanks for the DVD! I will acquire the soundtrack on my own time. This voyage brought to you by my sea-called backers at Patreon.

All we did is survive

Aug. 10th, 2017 06:30 am
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
And now for something completely different: a movie that's still playing in theaters as we speak. I didn't manage to get it written up in July, but the movie I dashed out to catch after writing up Way Out West (1930) was Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk (2017). The Somerville not only has a 70 mm print and the Philips Norelco DP70s to screen it on, it has David the projectionist who learned his trade on the format and handles it beautifully, so I figured I would not have a better chance to see it however Nolan intended. His films have a very mixed track record with me, so I was not sure what to expect.

The very short version: while I did not love the film as I had hoped I would, I don't think it fails its history and I liked it. It's visually striking, elegantly structured, and often curiously, intentionally anti-epic even while it's staging cast-of-thousands setpieces with a sweeping, elemental approach to historical fact. It's a war movie in which the first event on the fabled beach of Dunkirk is a combat-stunned young Tommy, thin, dark-haired, looking like a scarecrow in the heavy folds of his uniform greatcoat and whatever kit survived his scrambling, lucky escape from enemy fire in the falling city, wandering around the dunes looking for a place to take a shit because he damn near just had it scared out of him and instead finds another equally young, equally silent soldier burying a corpse, one cold, crusted foot just poking out of the sand. So he can't actually use that dune as a latrine because you don't crap on graves, especially not when you suspect they belong to other people's mates; he rebuckles his trousers and goes to help with the burial. That's a whole cross-section of a war in a few wordless minutes, black-humored, elegiac, still heart-hammering adrenaline from the soldier's race through deserted streets inhabited only by the eerie snowfall of propaganda fliers and machine-gun fire out of nowhere, splattering the men he was running alongside a moment ago. His name is Tommy, although neither my mother nor I picked that up until the credits; he's played by Fionn Whitehead in his screen debut and except for a few key scenes he is almost, like several other roles in this film, a silent part, anchoring the story with his wiry body and his dark-freckled, truculent face. Because he's one of our metonyms for the stranded soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force, it would have been easy to cast him pretty, innocent. He has the vulnerability of extreme youth, but he's also a little feral, something of a scrounger—a clever bit player, maybe, in a different kind of war film. This one shifts him and his fellow extras to center stage, displacing the more familiar heroism of steadfast warriors or brilliant strategists. The closest we get to the former are Tom Hardy's Farrier and Jack Lowden's Collins, Spitfire pilots aloft for one crucial hour to provide air cover for the most exposed phase of the evacuation; the closest we get to the latter is Kenneth Branagh's Commander Bolton, the tireless, anxious pier-master with a host of unenviable decisions to make. The much-mythologized decency of the ordinary Briton is represented by Mark Rylance's Dawson, the mildly spoken, cardigan-wearing civilian whose motor yacht the Moonstone is one of the shallow-draft "little ships" that can get safely to the beach where destroyers would founder, but even he has odd cracks and ripples that come late to light. The most important thing about the film, I think, whatever its faults, is that it recognizes the violence and the chaos and the terror and the failure without capsizing into grimdark or overcompensating into triumphalism. The ships did come. They never should have had to, but they did. And that was the end of the phony war and just the beginning of the real one.

That's enough. )

I don't know what most people of my nationality and generation know about Dunkirk. I don't know what they'll take away from this movie. It plays like it was meant to be the last cinematic word on the history, but so was Leslie Norman's Dunkirk (1958) and that had John Mills and Richard Attenborough going for it; I'm sure we can expect a new hot take in another sixty years. Personally I don't think it will displace The Prestige (2006) as my favorite Christopher Nolan, but there's a lot in it I'm still thinking about. My mother liked it and the history is important to her. The last image is as powerfully open-ended as it needed to be. I feel stupidly proud of myself for recognizing Michael Caine's uncredited cameo by voice. I guess I have opinions about cinematography. This homecoming brought to you by my fiery backers at Patreon.

A house on fire or the rising sea

Aug. 9th, 2017 06:40 pm
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
So, yes, I would rather we didn't nuke North Korea. I would rather we didn't get nuked by North Korea. I would rather nobody nuked anybody and especially not because the man in the White House has gotten bored with dick-swinging and wants to do it with missiles now. Michael Flanders and Donald Swann's "20 Tons of TNT" already plays on permanent loop somewhere at the back of my brain most days.

1. Barbara Cook has died. I was just talking about her on Friday after The Shop Around the Corner (1940) at the HFA, describing Harnick and Bock's She Loves Me to someone who loved the Lubitsch film but had never heard of the 1963 musical. I can't post one defining song to remember her by, because so many of hers were definitive versions—"Glitter and Be Gay," "Ice Cream," "Losing My Mind." She was one of the singers I aspired to, classical training and musical theater. I knew very little about her life until she talked about it. I will miss her voice being in the world.

2. Courtesy of [personal profile] isis: "Serpent Charmer," a vid for Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007). I haven't seen that movie in nine years and those two minutes and forty-three seconds capture much of what I loved about it. I should rewatch it; it is one of my benchmarks for historical film.

3. Courtesy of [personal profile] skygiants: "Clean Light," her vid for Rebecca Sugar's Steven Universe (2013–). I had to track down the song because it welded itself immediately into my head and I've spent most of the last two days playing it. It's one of the most upbeat apocalyptic songs I've ever heard, which makes it well suited to a goofy, touching, morally complex and intermittently body horror show about rocks and crying.

4. I can't be in New York for a Scarface double feature at the Film Forum on Friday because I have appointments too late in the afternoon, which saddens me because I've wanted to see Hawks' version for years. I might go see To Be or Not to Be (1942) for the second time in theaters this summer, because apparently that's the silver lining of fascism being so much in the air.

5. I found this a useful piece of thinking out loud on the internet: Film Crit Hulk, "On Criticism in the Intersectional Age." Parts of it link up with these posts for me.

6. Courtesy of [personal profile] selkie: Bi Pride in Boston, 1990. There is absolutely no reason I should know any of the people in that photograph—among other factors, in June of 1990 I was eight years old—and yet the Venn diagram makes me feel I should.

7. [personal profile] spatch took new pictures of Hestia: "Sometimes Hestia will deign to be photographed. And sometimes she will make faces as soon as she sees the phone pointed her way. Such is Cat."

I am off to get some sunlight.

Summer cleaning 2017

Aug. 9th, 2017 09:32 am
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
 Found in junk drawer while searching for Ex-Acto knife:  one pair of rounded-tip plastic Safe-T-Cut child's scissors.

My offspring are 26 and 23.
kestrell: (Default)
[personal profile] kestrell
A couple of Friday nights back, I began having a bad earache and sore throat, and Alexx offered to take me to urgent care, and I said no (because I tend toward the attitude that unless there's bleeding from the eyes, it's not a real emergency), but then it got worse, so we went off to urgent care the next day, and, after much describing of symtoms and querying of which ear--to which I would occasionally say, "The one that used to be my good ear"--they peered inside and said I had a ruptured eardrum and it was infected. (What they really said that where there should be ruptured tissue there was no tissue at all, which was something of a mystery.) They gave me some ear antibiotics and recommended I follow up with my
otolaryngologist. So on Monday Alexx and I went to the ENT and I was sitting in the examination room with the ENT's assistant asking me about the problem, and then she asked me a question which sounded like "So you're having [insert garbled word here] hearing?" and I automatically said, "What?" so the doctor came a liiiiiittle bit closer and said just a liiiiittle bit louder "You're having duplicitous hearing?"

Well, that sounded about right, but not like the sort of questions doctors ask, so I asked again, "What?" and I still got "You're having duplicitous hearing?"

And this is when I decided that someone had slipped an evil Babel fish in my ear. It's not that I don't hear *most* of what people say, it's just there is usually one or two words in there that I'm pretty certain isn't what the speaker said.

(This is actually common with sensory impairments: the brain is like a Mad Lib machine, and if there is a blank space, the brain will pop something into that space, even if it is completely out of context. Visually impaired people will see strange and bizarre hallucinations, which is called Charles Bonnet Syndrome.)

But this meant by the time the ENT did come into the room and ask questions and asked how my hearing was I could say, "Did you ever read the Douglas Adams books?" and he emphatically replied, "Every one," so then I could explain about the evil Babel fish.

So, I wanted to post my evil Babel fish theory here in case it helps another hearing-impaired person explain things.

Also, my otolaryngologist said I didn't have a ruptured eardrum, it was a middle ear infection, so my hearing in that ear should return sooner or later. I'm not even going to wonder how my missing eardrum magically reappeared--perhaps I'm part salamander...
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
I had an unpleasant encounter a couple of weeks ago in Davis Square. I was angry about it for days, even though it takes longer to describe than it did to occur. I was walking to meet a friend at Porter Square Books, reading Nicholas Stuart Gray's The Apple-Stone (1965) while navigating around pedestrians, street signs, and parking meters; I was on the block of Elm Street between Amsterdam Falafelshop and Goodwill when I met a man coming the other way. We're not talking some kind of collision course. In keeping with the intermittent rules of American foot traffic, I was on the storefront side, while he was closer to the street, and it was a relatively clear stretch of sidewalk—specifically, he had no one on either side of him, which is how I know he did what he did deliberately. When we were just about a stride apart, he stepped directly into my path. It was like being body-checked. I had no time to dodge. I had to stop short or run into the chest of a total stranger who took up more space than I did and as I stood there on the bricks, he leaned forward and said into my ear, "Sorry about that, baby." And then he stepped around me and walked on. As creeper moves went, it was pretty brilliant. No touching, no profanity, deniable as all the best microaggressions, maximally gross. I wanted to yell after him, but it had been such a startling invasion of personal space that I had no idea how he would react: keep walking, turn around and curse me out, try to smash my face in. And I had a friend to meet. So I kept walking and was angry for several days.

Today, I was not having a good afternoon. I had left the house in plenty of time to get to my doctor's appointment in downtown Boston, but the bus had completely ghosted on me—it arrived both late and Not in Service, with no successor scheduled until well after the point at which I needed to have caught a train—and my efforts to pick up a taxi at the stand near the ex-Star Market came to nothing when the driver made eye contact with me and then drove away. I was going to be late if I walked to Sullivan Square, but I couldn't think of a better plan. So I was just passing the fire station on Broadway when I realized a male voice was shouting at me from the street. It took a moment to register: maybe it wasn't me he was shouting at, odds were against him shouting anything that would improve my mood. It was the driver of a municipal garbage truck. He was very definitely addressing me, because he smiled and repeated himself as soon as I saw him. What he was shouting was "I love your hair! It's awesome!"

So I shouted back, "Thank you!"

Dudes who whine that women's dwindling patience with street harassment means it is no longer possible to compliment a strange woman in public, please take note: it is completely possible, even during a five-second flyby at the wheel of a garbage truck. His comment was enthusiastic without being objectifying; it did not imply that I was put on this earth to be a sexual decoration or that I owed its author anything for his discernment in appreciating me as such; it was not anatomically involved. "Awesome" is not a carnal adjective. It was unexpected. It made me feel better.

And then a taxi went by me and I flagged it down and made the train and was not even late for my doctor's appointment.

After the appointment, I got a bagel with cream cheese and hot-smoked salmon belly from the Boston Smoked Fish Co. at the Boston Public Market and finished Jean Potts' Home Is the Prisoner (1960), of which I need to find a more permanent copy than this attractively pulp-covered but sadly disintegrating Berkeley pocket edition. After I got home, I spent the latter part of the afternoon lying on the couch with rotating shifts of cats and reading David Goodis' Dark Passage (1946), of which I need to find a print copy at all—I didn't expect to find a complete text freely available on the internet, but I'm not complaining. Now I want to rewatch the movie. (I am amused that the book stops exactly where I would have ended the adaptation, on a note of hope but no guarantees. Hollywood, of course, goes one happy ending further.)

[personal profile] spatch just got home, bringing me a pork-filled tamal from Tenoch, steamed in a banana leaf, with mole poblano on the side. I am going to ward off the cats—who got their own dinner an hour ago!—and enjoy how much less my evening appears to be sucking than the first half of my day.

P.S. [personal profile] selkie, that is indeed a fine and accurate translation. It's in the first person in the original Latin, so a working translation might look like "I'd rather my friends sucked me than my enemies face-fucked me," but it sounds more proverbial the other way.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
Today I saw a saint, discovered a sea-chapel, and accidentally celebrated a holiday. Religiously, I think I'm ahead of the curve.

The saint was Saint Agrippina of Mineo, whose effigy was being carried down Hanover Street as [personal profile] spatch and I came out of the Boston Public Market with cider slushies and donuts and plans to walk around the harbor in the late afternoon sun. Neither of us had realized it was a feast day—Rob thought it might have been the right time of year for Saint Anthony until we got closer and could read the ribbons on the shirts of her benefit society. There were brass bands on either side of her, playing her from door to door. The kid with the baton who must have been the majordomo of her procession looked like he was both taking his responsibilities seriously and having a lot of fun darting in and out of the crowd to carry donations to the saint and prayer cards back to her worshippers. I couldn't see much of the saint herself beyond a painted wooden face under a gilt crown; she was so festooned with garlands of dollar bills and streamers and rosettes of red ribbon that she looked like a beehive made of money, borne on the shoulders of the benefit society. (Twenty men, Rob tells me, and all Italian: the honor is sometimes passed down in families.) I believe this is the first time I have seen a saint's day procession in person. It didn't seem as formal as a parade in that the crowd was in motion around the saint whenever she was at rest, but I didn't know how close I could get as an observer rather than a devotee, what was considered respectful and what was considered rude; I watched from the sidewalk and she passed by and we walked on with our slushies. Saint Anthony is the end of the month.

The sea-chapel was Our Lady of Good Voyage, which neither Rob nor I had remembered on Seaport Boulevard: we crossed the Fort Point Channel on the Evelyn Moakley Bridge (which I did not know until tonight was the name of the rather flat concrete structure which runs beside the rusted iron sinewave of the much more historic and much more endangered Northern Avenue Bridge—more than a century old, it's one of the last surviving four-truss swing bridges in the country and its center span has been parked permanently perpendicular to discourage foot traffic since 2014; it was closed to vehicles fifteen years before that and the City of Boston seems unable to decide whether to demolish or restore it; I have obviously strong feelings on the subject) and there at the head of the glass-and-steel-shelled glitter of what really now seems to be called the Seaport District was a new brick church with a golden spire and a name like a sailor's rest. For one brief shining moment I thought their emblem was a mermaid, which would have fulfilled a piece of maritime juvenilia I wrote in college under the influence of Alan Watts and Tanith Lee, but it turned out to be a leaping fish and a gull, which is not bad, either. Their bell is a ship's bell and we heard it ring the half-hour. The iron hinges of the doors are the shape of anchors. The stained glass beside the door is Peter the fisherman, with the key to Heaven in his hand. The original chapel was built for a congregation of sailors and dockworkers in 1952, but its location on Northern Avenue became desirable to developers in the decades since; I am just glad that if a land deal had to be struck, it displaced but did not dispossess the population the chapel served. I hope they kept all that sea-themed stained glass, too. There was a mass being celebrated while we were there, so I did not feel comfortable sticking my head inside to find out, but we should have better luck on a day that's not Sunday. Their Mary holds the Christ child and also a ship in her arms.

The holiday was Tu B'Av, the full moon which marks the beginning of the grape harvest and has recently been elevated in modern Jewish, especially Israeli culture as a festival of romantic love. We may have missed out on dancing or wine, but we followed the harborwalk from the North End to the Fort Point Channel—Long Wharf, Central Wharf, India Wharf, Rowes Wharf, ducks nestling like heaps of dry seaweed at low tide and seagulls perched like weathercocks on the piers and the late-gilding light wrinkling the water smoky blue and olivine as Venetian glass—and kissed at every ghost sign we found in Fort Point, from the old warehouse advertisements on A Street to the fading stamp of the New England Confectionary Co. where GE just broke ground on their "Innovation Point," and doubled back to South Station via the Summer Street Bridge where we look for moon jellies in season, making sure to salute the cobblestone pyramid in the channel that marks (never mind what the artist says) the resting place of the gull kings of Boston. In order to get back to Mass. Ave. for dinner, we cut across the Boston Common just in time to catch Mercutio's dying curse and Romeo's fatal stabbing/pummeling of Tybalt on the last night of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's Romeo and Juliet. We saw swans, squirrels, families out late, some kind of romantic photo op which I did not realize was not just two attractive people making out on a bridge until the flashbulb went off. A brown young man in a blazer and a light-skinned young woman in a flowered headscarf and a T-shirt reading "This Is What a Zionist Looks Like" went past talking intensely about intersectional feminism and I said, "I think Tumblr just passed us." I feel I must not have walked down the greenway at the center of Comm. Ave. any time in the last fourteen years because I don't remember knowing that we have a women's memorial to Phyllis Wheatley, Abigail Adams, and Lucy Stone, but then again we were both surprised by the baseball-capped figure atop a chunk of granite that turned out to be Samuel Eliot Morison and the identity of Domingo Sarmiento was positively mystifying until we got home. Right as the greenway ran out to make room for the underpass of Route 2, I was strangely happy to see that teenagers of our species still neck on benches in public parks after dark. I appear to prefer curry pasties to lamb, but I have nothing to say against the tandoori wings at the Cornish Pasty Co., which came with the same addictive mint-lemon sort-of-raita as the tikka masala, or the banoffee pie, whose density of toffee practically required earth-moving equipment. Fortunately for our budget, by the time we got back into Central Square the bookstores were all closed.

There are no pictures of me this time, but Rob took a very good one of a seagull on Long Wharf. It was a good day with the sea.

good day

Aug. 6th, 2017 06:36 pm
sabotabby: (gaudeamus)
[personal profile] sabotabby
 Ernst Zündel is dead and Godspeed You Black Emperor has a new album coming out.

Today is a good day.

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