Okay, that's creepy...in a good way

Oct. 18th, 2017 08:33 am
kestrell: (Default)
[personal profile] kestrell
Okay Google gives Halloween costume ideas. I tried it twice and the first suggestion was pretty bland, but I did really like the second suggestion about being an entire ecosystem ("It's all in the hat: try making it a tree canopy or a cloud layer"), but really, it's the short intro and the survey you get tht make it fun.

Apologies like the birds in the sky

Oct. 18th, 2017 05:29 am
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)
[personal profile] sovay
I have been having an absolutely miserable night, but after venting at length to [personal profile] spatch about Brian Jacques' Outcast of Redwall (1995) I spent at least an hour reading about various mustelids online, including several species (tayra, hog badger, ferret-badger, grison) I hadn't known existed, and I think that was good for me.

(I liked ferrets. I found them clever, beautiful, charming creatures. I had had a stuffed animal black-footed ferret since late elementary school. By the time Outcast came out, I even knew several domestic ferrets in person; they were playful and I did not object to their smell. That was the novel where I realized that Jacques' species essentialism was immutable, and I felt painfully betrayed. I understood the long shadow of The Wind in the Willows, but I couldn't understand how Jacques could miss that his readers would at some point identify with Veil, the orphaned ferret kit adopted into a society of mice and voles and moles—the outsider, the one who feels there's something wrong with them for just being what they are—and then fail to see how it would hurt them to have Veil confirmed as irredeemable, genetically evil after all. He went so far as to give a morally ambiguous character a selfless death scene and then retract it a few chapters later. That ending accomplished what endless recipes for damson and chestnut and Mummerset dialect could not: I burnt out on the series on some deep level and have never even now gone back, despite positive memories of the first four books and their unique combination of cozy talking animals and total batshit weirdness. If you can't appreciate ferrets, I'm out of time for you.)
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
 This looks like another "young outcast discovers his powers" book.  Wow, is it not.   Trust me. In the very first scene, Kellen needs to fight a magecaster's duel.  

There are three requirements to earning a mage's name among the JanTep.  The first is the strength to defend your family.  The second is the ability to wield the high magics that protect our people.  The third is simply to reach the age of sixteen.  I was a few weeks shy of my birthday when I learned that I wouldn't be doing any of those things.

And we're off, into the duel.  Kellen's problem is that he doesn't have magic.   This is not a survivable problem.   But Kellep does have a very, very clever mind.  In a lesser book, Kellep would discover his magic and wipe the floor with his opponent, winning the acclaim of the crowd. 

This is not a lesser book.  Spellslinger is actually about a young outcast discovering and creating his own moral fiber.  Kellep's struggle, although he doesn't realize it early in the book, is to become a decent human being in an indecent society.  This is a far more interesting coming-of-age story than you usually get.   When the Mysterious Stranger shows up, she's not a kindly wizard mentor.  She's (possibly) not a wizard at all. She doesn't teach Kellep: she gives him opportunities to teach himself.  Kellep acquires some new resources, but they are challenges as much as gifts.

Oh, the Mysterious Stranger kicks ass.  I can't say more, because it would be a spoiler.  She is compelling and ambiguous and funny and tough.

The characters are engrossing.  The worldbuilding is unusual and clever. It's partly based around an original variant of a Tarot deck, but is in no way woo-woo; the cards do not predict your future, but (sometimes) illuminate your choices. The cards are playing cards, but are also a weapon.   The cards have nothing to do -- as far as we know -- with the magic of the JanTep.

The book itself is gorgeous, in a way that made me extremely nostalgic.  The red-and-black cover has two line drawings of the main characters, presented as a face card. (Don't look too closely at Kellep; it's a spoiler.)  Red is used as a spot color, very effectively.  There are interior illustrations of relevant Tarot cards at the beginning of each section.  And the page edges (forget the technical term) are red!  Taken as a whole, the book looks a bit like a deck of cards, which is, I'm sure intentional.

Here's the catch.  There (as of time of writing) no U.S. or Canadian distributor of Spellslinger or its sequel, Shadowblack.  If you're in North America and want to read them, you'll have to order from the, in my experience, reliable, fast, and cheap www.bookdepository.com or an equivalent.

Note: de Castell's Greatcoat books are also awesome.  If you like the Musketeers books, you should love them.  The nice thing is that they preserve the essential "three duelists against the world" spirit without either copying the plots or being pastiche-y.  The second nice thing is that the author is a stage fight choreographer and is able to communicate fights clearly to the non-fighter (me).
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
I am not really catching up on anything. The night we got home from New York, there was an exciting cat-related incident at five in the morning that kept everyone from sleeping until after the sun came up (everyone is fine, cats included), and this morning we were awoken shortly after eight by the sounds of construction thinly separated from our bedroom by some tarpaper and shingles. It is the roofers finally come to prevent further ice dams, but they were supposed to come this weekend while we were out of town and instead they are forecast for the rest of the week. I assume I will sleep sometime on Saturday.

1. There is a meme going around Facebook about the five films you would tell someone to watch in order to understand you. I've been saying Powell and Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale (1944), Ron Howard's Splash (1984), Derek Jarman's Wittgenstein (1993), John Ford's The Long Voyage Home (1940), and The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953). Which is hardly complete, but adding postscripts feels like cheating, so I haven't. The internet being what it is, of course, I first saw this meme in the mutated form of the five weird meats you would tell someone to eat in order to understand you, to which I had no difficulty replying: venison, blood sausage, snails, goat, and raw salmon.

2. In other memetic news, I tried the Midwest National Parks' automatic costume generator:

National Park Costume Ideas


and while I don't think "Paranoid Hellbender" is a good costume, it'd be a great hardcore band.

3. I haven't done an autumnal mix in a while, so here is a selection of things that have been seasonally rotating. This one definitely tips more toward Halloween.

The sound of a thousand souls slipping under )

I would really like to be writing about anything.

P.S. I just want to point out that if you have recently seen The Robots of Death (1977) and you open a copy of the official tie-in anthology Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View (2017) and see a pair of characters named Poul and Toos, it is extremely confusing that the former is female, the latter is male, they are respectively a senior and a junior officer aboard the Death Star, and neither of them has a problem with robots.

Movie review of "Gerald's Game"

Oct. 15th, 2017 11:30 am
kestrell: (Default)
[personal profile] kestrell
Alexx and I have been big fans of the director Mike Flanagan ever since we saw his first full-length movie, "Oculus," so when we saw that his newest film, "Gerald's Game," based on Stephen King's book, had just become available on Netflix, we jumped on it.

Flanagan quite literally outdid himself on this film, to which I give a jaw-dropping "Wow."

Most people know the set up for the plot: Gerald and his wife Jessie arrive at an isolated cabin for a romantic weekend in hopes of reviving their marriage, but after Gerald's sex game of handcuffing Jessie to a bedpost ends abruptly with Gerald dropping dead of a heart attack, Jessie is left helpless to deal with various dangers, not least of which are her own disturbing memories.

I've mentioned before that I don't watch movies which include the emotional and/or sexual abuse of women and children, but I am qualifying that in regard to this movie:

Jessie's experiences of emotional and sexual abuse are seamlessly wowven into her story, they are part of who she is. Her sense of powerlessness at the beginning of the story is a kind of psychological and emotional impotence which mirrors Gerald's sexual impotence. Throughout the movie we see Jessie develop into a different kind of final girl, one whose hardest battle is to learn to confront and conquer her inner demons. This film made me aware of how little credit Stephen King gets for creating such complex female characters as Jessie, and how little attention is given to his novels featuring female protagonists, such as _Doris Claiborne_ (which has narrative links to _Gerald's Game_), _Rose Madder_, and _Lisey's Story_ (another Mike Flanagan favorite). Btw, if Carla Gugino, who plays Jessie, doesn't get nominated for an award for her performance in this film I'll be very disappointed.

Perhaps you've heard the William Faulkner quote: "The past isn't dead; the past isn't even past." I mentioned that Jessie's past and present are seamlessly woven together, and Flanagan's technique for accomplishing this is one of the most stunning aspects of the film. He did it before in his film "Oculus," but in "Gerald's Game" he does it on a much larger, more intricate, scale. In a GQ article, Flanagan mentions how Stephen King's book _Gerald's Game_ was his favorite book, and he tried to pitch it as a movie for years, despite people repeatedly telling him that it was unfilmable.
I'm bemused by the thought that it might well have been his mental exercise in attempting to solve the problem of filming his favorite book that led to his ability to present multiple timelines not just happening simultaneously, but interacting with and influencing each other.

One of the things I love about horror movies is that the sound design often speaks for itself, and "gerald's Game" is going to become one of my favorite examples of this.

I've mentioned before how horror directors often use sound to make scenes more scary, and Flanagan has fully embraced this. I have a pretty simple test for how good a film's sound design is, which is that I can tell what's going on solely by the sound of the movie, without Alexx describing it. There is this one infamously horrifying scene in the story, and when we got to it, Alexx was too grossed out to describe it in detail, but trust me, it was just as horrifying to listen to.

I'm tempted to go on and gush about how great the script is, but this review is already too long, so I'll just settle for saying that Stephen king novels tend toward having lots of words, but Flanagan chose all the best ones for this film.

Now I'll just be impatiently anticipating Flanagan's next work, a Netflix series adaptation of Shirley Jackson's _The Haunting of Hill House_, which will also star Carla Gugino.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
We are returned from our whirlwind trip to New York. Notes, because I need to fall over—

It is probably just as well that the Great Northern Food Hall is two states away, because otherwise I can see myself eating there until I go broke or burn out on the taste of rye flour, neither of which I want to happen. Not only do they make a superlative cold-smoked salmon, which if you order it as smørrebrød comes on a dense, chewy rye with thin slices of pickled cucumber and radish and generous dots of stiff savory sour cream and if you order it off the regular menu changes up the radish for celery pickle (which it seems I like much better than any other format of celery) and offers you slices of a lighter, crusty sourdough to plate it on for yourself, they serve a pink peppercorn and raspberry shrub which reminded me strongly of Fire Cider, only in a different key of flavors. Their beef tartare had too much red onion for [personal profile] spatch to eat safely, but we both liked the cubes of smoked beet and the startling green dollops of chive mayonnaise. The roast beef mini smørrebrød had a kind of remoulade on top and then little reddish-purple shells of endive. The avocado mini smørrebrød may or may not have needed green tomato pickle, but the chili oil was a nice touch. The server advised about two small plates per person; in fact three small plates at the Great Northern Food Hall was about half a plate more than either of us could handle, but it was all so delicious that we left only bread. I even got to try the sorrel sorbet because they were giving sorbet away for free, saying quite honestly that they had too much left at the end of the week and didn't want it to go to waste. It was a juicy green, vegetal-sweet, and I licked at it as we ran for the trains to Lincoln Center.

I want some kind of credit for changing all of my clothes except for socks and shoes in a stall in the orchestra-level ladies' room of the Met, especially since I had a laptop-containing backpack and my corduroy coat to manage at the same time. I had brought nice clothes for the opera and I was going to wear them, dammit. I dropped nothing in the toilet and got complimented on my hair afterward.

The opera was wonderful. The thing about Les contes d'Hoffmann is that Offenbach died while working on it—he had a complete piano score but only partial orchestration and a lot of dramaturgical questions unresolved—and as a result there has been an ongoing argument about authenticity and convention and dramatic coherence and musical feasibility for the last hundred and thirty-six years. A non-exhaustive list of variations would include: the order in which the second two acts are staged; how one of them ends; whether there is recitative or spoken dialogue in the tradition of the opéra comique; whether the four soprano roles are performed by the same singer; the degree to which the mezzo role is present in the story; which arias are performed by the bass-baritone; how the opera itself ends. Counting Powell and Pressburger's The Tales of Hoffmann (1951), I have literally never seen or heard the same version twice. Not all of this one worked for me as either an interpretation or an edition, but as a production it was oustanding. I liked Vittorio Grigolo's Hoffmann, self-destructive and feverishly hopeful and not one minute sober; I loved Laurent Naouri's Lindorf and other villains, the same dry dark amusement in his voice each act like his changes of coat, different styles, all black; Tara Erraught made the most complex Muse I have seen, a conspirator in each of Hoffmann's romantic disillusions until she begins to wonder if the eventual art is going to pay off the cost or if she's just going to break her poet instead. The mise-en-scène was generally 1920's Mitteleuropa, with excursions to a Parisian fairground for the Olympia act, a remote and wintry forest for the Antonia act, and a smoky Venetian bordello for the Giulietta act, cheerfully and non-naturalistically peppered with waiters in the whiteface of the Kit Kat Klub, carnival callbacks to Tod Browning, and Venetian courtesans in green glitter star-shaped pasties. (Rob said afterward, "That was more skin than I expected from grand opera." Then he got Tom Waits' "Pasties and a G-string" stuck in my head for the rest of the night.) And here the notes started to run away into an actual review which I had to break off abruptly because it hurt too much to type; I'll try to say more tomorrow. At the beginning of the Giulietta act, the Muse in her guise of Nicklausse the student woke up in a pile of pasties-and-G-string ladies with her vest unbuttoned and her cravat untied and I hope each and every one of those ladies went home and wrote an epic poem, or painted, or sculpted, or composed a song. I don't see what else waking up in a pile with the Muse is supposed to do.

We stayed the night with friends who live in Morristown, who had not managed to catch dinner before the opera, so at one-thirty in the morning we were at a diner somewhere in New Jersey, variously ordering things like Greek salad, Tex-Mex rolls, disco fries, and hot chocolate. This is the most collegiate thing that has happened to me in years.

Unfortunately I woke on their semi-fold-out couch the next afternoon with my shoulder frozen and screaming at me, which meant that a lot of getting around Manhattan today was accomplished by Rob carrying my backpack and me making noises whenever I tried to pick anything up, but we made it to the Strand and now I have copies of Derek Jarman's Kicking the Pricks (The Last of England, 1987) and Smiling in Slow Motion (2000) and we had dinner at Veselka, as is now our tradition. They make a borscht better than anything I can get in Boston. I always remember the Baczynski is huge, but forget quite how huge that is, although at least it means I can eat the second half some hours later on the train when I'm hungry again. Much less elevatedly, I can't remember ever eating a Twix bar before, but Rob brought one back from the café car and a lot of candy bars confuse me, but I can say nothing against a biscuit layered in caramel and chocolate.

(It is a small reason among many, but I do resent the resurgence of actual Nazism for making it more difficult to describe the shoutily officious gateman who ordered the woman next to me to drop out of line so that the business class passengers could have their own line to board first from—he kept yelling at her to move over and I along with two or three other people yelled back, "There's nowhere to move!"—as a tin Hitler.)

My shoulder is now hurting in the way it has been all week where the pain runs down my arm and into my fingers, which I suspect means I should call a doctor about it on Monday and definitely stop typing now. But it was worth it. It was a good birthday present.

media consumed

Oct. 15th, 2017 11:32 am
ironed_orchid: buffy and willow star at computer, text "the tentacle goes where?" (tentacle)
[personal profile] ironed_orchid
I am so bad at this updating thing.

Between having a week off work and then getting sick (again), I've been spending a lot of time on the couch binge watching. Here is a list of tv stuffs I have been watching in the last month or so:

The Good Place: I find this fun, but now that I am caught up and have to wait for weekly episodes, each one feels short.

Glitch: season two - so good, so interesting, but now we are more into the SF of how people came back from the dead, and less into their personal histories.

Bojack Horseman: I watched the entire 4 seasons in just over a week. I'd assumed this was yet another mean and sarcastic cartoon for adults, but I ended up caring a lot about the characters, even the mean and sarcastic ones.

Star Trek: Discovery: I think I want to like this more than I actually do, but it doesn't matter as I am utterly smitten with Michael Burnham and want her to be happy, which means I'll probably keep watching forever.

Dance Academy: seasons one and two on Netflix, season three on iview - I find this silly show for teenagers about a Sydney ballet school surprisingly charming and easy to watch.

Grace and Frankie: Another show I didn't watch before and then devoured in a few sittings. I have loved Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda since I was about 12, and they are a delight to watch together. Some good stuff about ageing and being single older women. I find some of the story lines a bit clunky, but there is good natured humour to keep me watching.

American Vandal: Who drew the dicks? I wasn't sure about it but the mockumentary format really works, and the kids actually look and act like teenagers and their theories are so dumb that it's beautiful.

The Good Fight: A spin off from The Good Wife and does assume background knowledge for some plots and characters. I like Rose Leslie's character, strange to see her playing and American, but she does it well. It still does that annoying thing of ever so slightly fictionalising actual people and events and the episode with the character who was Not!Milo was one of the weakest.

I am frustrated with Netflix for making new shows I want to watch which only air weekly. I guess it's because they want to sell them to other networks, but it sucks.
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
Stanislas Petrov died this year. When I saw the news, I wrote, "I feel this is a bad year to lose a man who knew how not to blow up the world."

The nuclear football is the briefcase containing the launch codes for the nuclear weapons in the arsenal of the United States. Currently, in order to open the football and take advantage of its contents, a President of the United States need do nothing more than positively identify himself. The two-man rule requiring the assent of the Secretary of Defense before proceeding to the use of nuclear weapons is something of a fig leaf since, while the Secretary of Defense must verify that the order really came from the President, he cannot legally countermand it. Currently the President of the United States is a man who shows every sign of wanting quite seriously to use nuclear weapons and he can do it without warning and without authorization; he can do it on a whim and I feel that trusting in on-the-spot interference to prevent him—his generals actually tackling him, taking the football out of his hands—is an only marginally less wishful fantasy than the actual ghost of Stanislas Petrov appearing to arrest the turning of launch keys at the last minute, although I'm not saying he shouldn't do that if he feels like it. I would just prefer not to reach that stage if we can help it.

We can help it. There is right now a bill in the Senate and the House—S.200, H.R.669, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017—that would remove the power to launch a preemptive nuclear strike from the President and return it to Congress, which would need to declare war before the authorization of a nuclear strike could even be considered, and [personal profile] rachelmanija has started a campaign to get this bill passed. It is called Pull the Football – Save the World. Its principle is simple. Call your Congresspeople. Write them letters, e-mails, postcards, faxes. Tweet at them. Message them on Facebook. If they are already co-sponsors of the bill, thank them. If they are not, tell them to co-sponsor the bill and then keep telling them. Call again. Write again. Tweet to break the monotony and then call some more. Even if there's not a hope in the domain of much-maligned Hades that they'll act like reasonable human beings, keep reminding them that you expect them to. See Rachel's post for sample scripts, phone numbers, and other helpful information. And if you haven't got Congresspeople at all, please share this information on your social media so that it can reach even more people who do. The idea is the same kind of wave of public outcry as the protests against the repeal of the ACA, only this time in favor of taking action—and in defense of more than just American lives.

I belong to the only country in the world that has employed nuclear weapons in war. For many, many reasons, let's not do it again. And let's start with the football.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
Nothing ages faster than style guides; the language moves on while the guide continues to shake a fist at the previous generation's shibboleths. (Lookin' at you, Strunk and White. Fowler is at least funny.)

Today, I give you Ambrose Bierce's Write It Right, published 1909. There are gems on every page, but here are a few:

THE BLACKLIST
A for An. "A hotel." "A heroic man." Before an unaccented aspirate use an. The contrary usage in this country comes of too strongly stressing our aspirates.
Note that this means he thinks you should say "HOtel". Some people (*cough*fuddyduddies*cough* still agitate for "An heroic", but I've never seen anybody objecting to "A hotel".

Chivalrous. The word is popularly used in the Southern States only, and commonly has reference to men's manner toward women. Archaic, stilted and fantastic.
I kind of love this. Boy, would Bierce hate "kind of".

Every for Ever. "Every now and then." This is nonsense: there can be no such thing as a now and then, nor, of course, a number of now and thens. Now and then is itself bad enough, reversing as it does the sequence of things, but it is idiomatic and there is no quarreling with it. But "every" is here a corruption of ever, meaning repeatedly, continually.
Good old false etymology.

Some forgotten slang and dialect:
Avoirdupois for Weight. Mere slang.
Clever for Obliging. In this sense the word was once in general use in the United States, but is now seldom heard and life here is less insupportable.
Decidedly for Very, or Certainly. "It is decidedly cold."
Gent for Gentleman. Vulgar exceedingly.

So. Tell me your favorites!


sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
Normally I write about trains while I am on them, but today the wireless on the Amtrak Regional was broken until about fifteen minutes before we had to change for the Metro-North at New Haven and the Metro-North doesn't have wi-fi, period. It's a beautiful day to watch the world slide past: light striking dryly off everything, roofs, windshields, fenders, the not yet turning leaves, the daguerreotype glitter of the water beneath a dissolving, overexposed sky and then suddenly crisp metallic blue under the mathematical swells of bridges and between the billows of salt marsh, tawny with fall like the weeds at the side of the tracks. I got the window seat to New Haven, [personal profile] spatch gets it to New York, left-hand side so that we can properly see the sea. A black-bottomed boat bobbing by the docks in New London, a fountain pouring water from the lifted flukes of a bronze whale's tail. Old pilings standing raggedly in the water by a power station in Bridgeport. Small islands in an inlet outside Cos Cob, one or two trees to each, and rowers in a scull like a water strider stroking toward them. Gulls. Graffiti. I never remember to bring a camera, I just stare at the panorama and try to put it into memory. I really like this planet. I'd really like us not to cook it to death.

Around Darien, I looked across the aisle on the Metro-North and the woman with the copy of the New York Post was reading an article with the title "'Psycho' Analysis" with two photographs of Janet Leigh in the shower scene, reminding me that I still owe a review I want very much to write. This week disappeared into work and doctors, as too many of them do.

There is wi-fi in Grand Central Station, or I'd never get this posted. To dinner, and then to meet friends, and then to opera. [edit] The Great Northern Food Hall has superlative smoked salmon. I only wish I had room for the sorrel sorbet.

Witchy spice jars

Oct. 13th, 2017 02:18 pm
kestrell: (Default)
[personal profile] kestrell
This has been a fun week for checking out the Halloween aisles for spooky stuff. TeenyBuffalo and I went to Michael's on Sunday, where I picked up a couple of ceramic jars labeled "Organic Filtered Poison" and "Bat Wings." I put lemon drops in the poison jar, and just filled the "Bat Wings" jar with the small rubber bats that Alexx found for me. I already had a couple other plastic jars with witchy labels (the "Eye of Newt" jar is my button jar, though there is also a crocheted human eyeball in there), so now it's a collection.

Poem help!

Oct. 13th, 2017 10:01 am
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
Does anybody remember a prose-poem about a young man who is determined to see the truth of everything?  The important part is the ending, in which the man, grown old, looks into the eyes of young men and sees a kindly old gentleman who is fond of sunsets.   The last line is something close to

"That is what he saw in the eyes of those wicked young men".

I thought this was by Stephen Crane.  Does anybody recognize it? 

Giants in the Earth

Oct. 12th, 2017 07:46 pm
redheadedfemme: (wonder woman reading)
[personal profile] redheadedfemme
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

4 of 5 stars

Occasionally I have to take a break from my usual SFF (science fiction/fantasy) kick to touch base with the real world. This has become exponentially more difficult since 11/9/2016. But for a good view of American politics, even in the face of the horror that is 45, you could do far worse than this book.

Here, Al Franken charts his unlikely rise from Saturday Night Live to the United States Senate. I own other books by him, and the first thing you notice is that his instinct for a quip is somewhat reined in here (except in the footnotes). This is something he has learned since coming to the Senate, where he realized that his Minnesotan constituents would want a hard-working plowhorse, not an artsy-fartsy show pony. This learning curve has served him well, since when he does let loose, he is deadlier than ever. (This is most notably on display in chapter 37, "Sophistry," wherein we learn that Ted Cruz is every bit the patronizing, smarmy asshole in private as he comes across in public. That chapter is worth the price of admission all by itself.) He tries hard to humanize his political opponents, not demonize them (with the justifiable exceptions of Cruz and 45), and the book is an absorbing look at how American political sausage is made. From the unavoidable necessity of constant fundraising, to his admitted dependence on his staff to rein in his comedic instincts, to the awful grind that was his first Senatorial campaign in 2006 (and the dirty, lying tricks the Republicans used against him), Franken's story of how he followed in the footsteps of his friend Paul Wellstone is fascinating reading.

It's also an uplifting tale of a fundamentally decent person and how he has made a difference. The people of Minnesota have been very fortunate to have Al Franken as their Senator. I wish he were mine.  
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
Mayor Curtatone finally made a public decision I don't agree with, but he picked a doozy: "Somerville is preparing a regional proposal for Amazon's new headquarters." First of all, I have hated since the start of this process the very idea that Boston has to court Amazon, has to flatter the largest internet retailer on the globe into gracing our brick-and-mortar backwater with its $135 billion presence; Bezos' ego doesn't need the extra stroking. Second, I don't want Amazon in Boston: I don't want to become the Seattle of the East Coast or, God forbid, the San Francisco. I don't want to live in a company town. I especially don't want to live in a company town with Amazon's well-documented, exploitative employment practices. And I really, especially don't want to see Somerville, which is struggling enough with costs of living and gentrification and rents approaching asymptote, turn into an exploded shell of itself with the neutron star of Amazon at its core. When I feel less like a bomb went off in my head, I will try to write some less furious version of the above and send it to the city. I cannot see any way in which an Amazon "campus" in Somerville ends well, except for Amazon.
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
I am aware this post is late, but I was wrestling with the Amtrak website. Its shiny new interface crashed and lost our tickets. Fortunately, I have a phone like you make calls with and I got a human being and now I have tickets again. Opera, here we come.

The trouble with me and National Coming Out Day is that I don't have a coming-out story. I tend to explain my sexuality as follows:

I am interested in people. They come with the bodies they come with. Sometimes those bodies change. Sometimes they belong to people who are cis, sometimes to people who are trans, sometimes to people who are not on the gender binary. In all cases, my interest in a body follows on my experience of a person; all of my romantic relationships have developed out of friendships, with the land speed record taking three months and the other end of the range six years. I find a great many people beautiful. It doesn't mean I want to sleep with them. I want to sleep with relatively few people as these things are rated, but when I do, I really do. I never expected to marry, so it still amazes me that I have one husband and one lover. Label-wise, I identify as bisexual; I also answer to queer. I began identifying as poly when I started to have more than one partner. I dislike the term "demisexual" in the extreme because I think there is nothing halfway about my sexuality. I have never known how to fill out the -romantic part of the sticker set because I don't believe I make that distinction. The last time I was asked about my gender, I believe I answered "BLARGH."

In my ordinary life, however, the process of making people aware of these facts has been not so much a series of significant announcements as a general non-concealment of how I work. [edit] And then I deleted most of the rest of this post because it suffered from an access of Tiny Wittgenstein: I am not somehow less queer because it didn't give me tsuris growing up.

My non-coming-out story is that I'm not sure it was news to my parents that I was capable of being attracted to women,1 but it came up conversationally in my senior year of high school because it was really awkward to be distractingly attracted to a female friend while still in a relationship with the male friend who had introduced us and I didn't know whether I should try to talk to her about it. In the end I didn't, because I thought she wasn't interested, and some years later it turned out she had been and thought I wasn't, and the only conclusions I can draw here are (a) always talk to people, because without information you literally never know (b) gaydar is overrated.

I don't know if Ron Koertge's "Cat Women of the Moon" was timed by Rattle to be thematic or not, but I really like it.

1. It was not exactly news to me: I was no more surprised to find myself attracted to a female friend at seventeen than I was to find myself attracted to a male friend at nineteen except insofar as I never assumed I would be attracted to anyone. What would have surprised me was exclusive attraction to one gender. Long before I wanted to go to bed with anyone, I knew the idea of it being gender-determined made no sense to me.
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] sovay
We did not find the phantom ship.

[personal profile] spatch met me after my doctor's appointment so that we could visit the Petco near Lechmere and purchase one of the particular kinds of cat food that is best for Autolycus. We fortified ourselves with purchases of bagels and fudge at Boston Public Market (although I cannot recommend the cream cheese at Levend; I understand that it is farm-fresh and locally sourced, but a grainy texture and a taste so sour that I have to double-check with the seller to make sure it hasn't actually gone off are not what I look for in something that's supposed to go on top of a bagel and under some lox) and set out into the afternoon, which was finally starting to feel like October after yesterday's tropical fog. We had planned to walk straight over the locks of the Charles River Dam, but the sky was such a clear cloud-brushed blue and the water that silt-shot dragon-green that shifts under the sun that we took the North Washington Street Bridge instead for the pleasure of the view, its hundred-and-seventeen-year-old trusses and rivets making rusted parallelograms against the sky. There are still piers that run out from the dam under the swing span of the bridge, where the turntable has been frozen as long as either of us can remember. There were masts we didn't recognize rising out of the skyline on the other side of the river. We couldn't figure out what they belonged to: obviously not the rigging of the USS Constitution, the yachts at Constitution Marina were all too close and too small, and we thought the tall ships were all out of town. So we walked to the Charlestown Navy Yard in order to get a better look and got so distracted by the hollow granite amphitheater of Dry Dock 1 where the Constitution was recently relaunched after a two-year refit that we spent the next hour at the USS Constitution Museum. Rob made me a birthday present of the second edition of David Kruh's Always Something Doing: Boston's Infamous Scollay Square (1999). He also got some fine pictures of the WWII-era portal crane that stands on its iron tracks at the head of the USS Cassin Young: the battleship grey of its paint has flaked and rusted to lichen and tortoiseshell and some of the small glass panes in its cabin are missing, but its cables are all still taut; a plate on the front advertises it as the manufacture of American Hoist & Derrick. From the very end of Pier 1, looking northeast across the wharves, we could see the mysterious masts again with no better idea of what kind of ship lay under them. Nor did we ever figure out why a helicopter from the NYPD was circling the yard. Maybe it had something to do with the one-gun salute fired by the Constitution and the playing of "Taps," or perhaps that had to do with the flag we saw being folded as some people in military uniform and some people in civilian dress came down the gangway of the ship, or perhaps that was some unrelated ceremony: dusk, a memorial, I have no idea. We have all these civic rituals and I know so few of them. The sunset had left an ember-band on the horizon, the autumnal color of pumpkins and Bradbury leaves; later it faded apple-green and steel-violet. I love the bridges of this city, even the broken ones. The last of Millers River runs under I-93, reflecting like a canal between concrete pillars and the industrial dunes of Boston Sand and Gravel. The Zakim rumbles and sings with traffic, winking with green and red lights after dark. As we came back across the curving footbridge of North Point Park, the double drawbridge out of North Station blew its siren and tipped up, slowly and tectonically, to let a boat through.

Predictably, not only did the phantom ship elude us, but the Petco was out of the particular kind of cat food. The buses were terrible. We had to visit two different convenience stores for heavy cream. We arrived home hours later than planned, fed ravenous cats, made fettuccine alfredo and sausage for our ravenous selves, Rob passed out, I wrote this. I got salt and the sea and a new book. I have learned from Judith Mayne's Directed by Dorothy Arzner (1994) that Arzner and William Haines worked together on Craig's Wife (1936)—not as director and actor, but as director and production designer. On the poetry front, Katie Bickham's "The Ferryman" has been haunting me for a couple of days. Not everything is all right, but today was good.

Next time, the phantom ship.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
Guess who has two thumbs and parents who gave them a book on Dorothy Arzner for their birthday?



Strictly speaking, I also have a book on Norman Bel Geddes and several cards and an IOU from my brother and his family for the original cast recording of Gian Carlo Menotti's The Consul (1950). It was a quiet day, which was not a bad thing after the intensity of the weekend. We had dinner with my family, surf and/or turf as was variously preferred; I had lobster Madison-style, which means I tore it satisfyingly apart with my bare hands. My mother baked a hazelnut-flour cake and my brother layered it with whipped cream and raspberries. My father took the back off Bertie Owen and blew out his fan with a can of compressed air and a dramatic clog of cat fur shot out, which explains the overheating. I just have to survive the work week until Friday, when a college friend has bought me birthday tickets to Les contes d'Hoffmann at the Met. I don't know how the year is going to go, but I am doing my best to be here.

poetry sale!

Oct. 9th, 2017 11:49 am
gwynnega: (books poisoninjest)
[personal profile] gwynnega
My poem "scenes from a marriage" will appear in Strange Horizons, one of my favorite publications. [personal profile] cafenowhere suggested I write a poem about this photograph by Elliott Erwitt, and "scenes from a marriage" was the result.

Last night on TCM I watched The Return of Dracula (1958), which I'd never seen before. It's not great, though the "vampire posing as a family member idolized by a young girl" premise gives it a Shadow of a Doubt vibe. Also I watched House of Dracula (1945), which I've seen a few times and like very much, especially for the part where mad science cures Larry Talbot's lycanthropy, and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966), which I'd heard about for decades (and okay, I didn't watch the whole thing, but wow, John Carradine's Dracula is a lot campier in this film than in the Universal movies).

Let's have a party

Oct. 9th, 2017 03:30 am
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
It's half past three in the morning local time, so technically it's my birthday, but it never feels like one until I wake up. Erev birthday. Normally I measure my age by fictional characters, but the only thirty-six-year-old character currently occurring to me is Dean Priest in L. M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon (1923) and while it's true I imprinted on him in fifth grade, it's also true that he is kind of a massive creep. I did learn Latin and Greek, and I have been to Rome (though not Athens), and it is almost true that I care for nothing save books nor ever have; I can't estimate my own cynicism, but my physical health is pretty crap. I think I will fall back on some general idea of tzaddiks until I think of someone better. I don't ruin other people's art when they love it better than me.

henna day post / movies

Oct. 8th, 2017 02:21 pm
gwynnega: (Default)
[personal profile] gwynnega
I am hennaing my hair on a pleasant LA afternoon. We had some autumn weather, then we had a brief heat wave, and now we're somewhere in between.

I have been enjoying TCM's October horror movie programming. (They're mostly showing films I already know and love, comfy blankets of horror. This is fine with me.) Also, the other night I watched The Tin Star (1957). Westerns are a hard sell for me, but Anthony Perkins and Henry Fonda have such great interplay in this one.

This morning I saw an excellent noir, They Won't Believe Me (1947, starring Susan Hayward, Robert Young, and Jane Greer) that had one of the most WTF endings I have ever seen.

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