Noir PSA! If anything in my January review of Too Late for Tears
(1949) piqued your interest, please know that the film is now available on DVD
from the Film Noir Foundation
. It's their first foray into home media along with the even more miraculously restored Woman on the Run
(1950), which I have not yet seen, and I should very much like to encourage them to do more of this sort of thing. In general, I approve of throwing money at film preservation and restoration, especially when it ends in nice new 35 mm prints. More selfishly, maybe these people can get me a DVD of The Reckless Moment
(1949) sometime. Either way, check it out!
and I are continuing to watch our way through the first season of Person of Interest
(and now the second season of Leverage
) at the rate of one to two episodes every night or so. I'm enjoying it tremendously. I have become intensely fond of all four main characters, I like the way the show is now generating suspense from the second-order implications of its overlapping ethical dilemmas, and I really appreciate its ability to combine the cold equations of John le Carré with a surprisingly high percentage of character-based and structural humor that doesn't feel at all out of key. I mean, the FBI is now involved. That's just funny. When we get a representative from the NSA, I will applaud.
Also, this thing we've been noticing. Last night's episode opened cold on Finch with a tape measure around his shoulders kneeling before Reese, meticulously fitting his partner for a suit: "The cuff should shiver on the shoe, not break." The scene lasted maybe sixty seconds; it was like watching somebody's very specific Yuletide request. Rush thought maybe they had read it. It would have been by Naomi Novik.
In the two episodes we watched tonight, Reese and Finch temporarily adopted a baby (and had an argument about the fact that Reese had not yet moved his stash of assorted artillery out of the library like he'd promised, meaning that now the baby is teething on a tear-gas grenade) and an MDMA-drugged Finch offered to tell Reese anything he wanted and then called him by his dead partner's name. That was actually quite poignant. Right, and the latter episode also included Reese getting Finch out of a person of interest's apartment by turning the automatic sprinkler system on him and then tossing him a towel when he came dripping and grimly straight-faced home. Michael Emerson's hair makes him look like a very spiky and annoyed cat when that happens.
I am aware that this show enjoys a thriving fandom, but if this is where the canon starts
its viewers, what do they write
? After Reese asked Finch if he thought they'd ever have kids at the end of "Baby Blue," we joked about the inevitable sex pollen episode. Then we kind of got it. ("You might regret it in the morning. You're a very private person, remember?") I can't wait to see what very specific axis of fanservice we get next.
I can't remember anything about last night's dreams except that they were nested: I dreamed of standing in the kitchen explaining to my cousins that the television show I had been dreaming about did not actually have Nazis in it, but allegorically they were very clearly there. Maybe I had been thinking about John Steinbeck's The Moon Is Down
(1942). I know it also exists as both a play and a movie, but I've never read or seen either, although I believe the latter is even more explicit about the Norwegian setting than the novel, which carefully mentions no nationalities while leaving no doubts in the reader's mind. I was introduced to it by a friend whose father grew up during the German occupation of Fredrikstad.
Assorted items off the internet—
1. I knew that Katharine Hepburn had originated her starring role in The Philadelphia Story
onstage before reprising it for the 1940 film, but I hadn't realized that the Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart roles were originally played by Joseph Cotten and Van Heflin. Holy blap, MGM. I'd have paid good money to see that. And I'm not even that crazy about the film!
2. Woody Guthrie vs. Fred Trump
, news at about four months ago but I just saw it now. I wonder how Arlo feels about the next generation.
3. I've been catching up on Rattle
's series of Poets Respond
. Recent poems that have stuck with me include Jay Sizemore's "Gun of a Bitch
," Brody Parrish Craig's "Profane Androgen
," and Luisa Muradyan Tannahill's "Purple Rain
Today is otherwise a lot of work so far: my schedule has changed, so I have to be very efficient over the next few days. The Guardian
just profiled a bookstore
I walked past in April. (It was closed at the time.) That's neat.
Can anyone advise me on the process of going through past entries on DW/LJ and tagging them? I've avoided the use of tags for years because I didn't see any use for it, but now that I've built up a backlog of reviews to which I wish to be able to refer, I'm beginning to think it might be useful to the reader. I didn't start crossposting from Dreamwidth until November 2013, so I'm guessing I won't be able to link a lot of my older writing about film, but at least the Patreon stuff should be covered. In other social media news, LJ Support has not gotten back to me at all about the HTML issues with my current journal style; I am going to have to make myself change it for something newer and I am sad about that. It's been more than two weeks. I miss my icons.
I meant to post this last week and lost it in the insomnia: astronomy applied to Sappho fr. Adesp. 976
. I have translated that fragment myself
; it's famous. I like the idea of knowing what time of year it was written.
My poems "Sudden Death
," "The Anniversary
," and "'Лондонский маленький призрак'
" are now online at Through the Gate
. The first of these takes its inspiration (and title) from the character played by Elliott Nugent in The Last Flight
(1931), the second is a poem I dreamed of translating during a nightmare in January, and the third is a ghost poem for Aleksei Kruchonykh
. Velimir Khlebnikov wrote the definitive ghost poem about him in 1921, a year before the poet died and nearly fifty years before his subject did, so I've quoted
it in the title: "Little London ghost." The rest of the issue is imagistic and stellar. I was especially struck by the pieces by Iori Kusano, Ryu Ando, and Fade Manley. Poets should take note that the magazine's format is changing
after this issue. If it's the last of its kind, it's a good one.
I just finished re-reading Jack Schaefer's Shane
(1949) for the first time in more than twenty years. I found a critical edition
—the restored "words that might offend" are about a dozen incidences of "hell" and "damn," edited out when the novel was reprinted in 1954 and kept bowdlerized in school editions since. Which is almost certainly how I first encountered it, since it was assigned reading in my seventh-grade English class. I can't remember what we were intended to learn from it.1
Mostly I remember that my mother showed me the 1953 film afterward and the only actor whose memory stayed with me was Alan Ladd even though he didn't look at all like the dark, wiry, dangerously black-clad Shane of the book. But I'd liked the story and I wasn't at all sure how it was going to have held up, being an archetypal Western written in the first half of the twentieth century. I am pleased to report that not only has Shane
not been visited by the suck fairy, it's a lot more interesting than I was able to appreciate in seventh grade or really have the attention to analyze at the end of this very sleepless week. Stylistically, I didn't expect the language to remind me of Le Guin. I think it's the deliberate simplicity that handles details and abstractions with the same degree of significance; the first-person narrative looks back on a life-changing summer of the narrator's childhood with all the experience of the decades since, but reports only what he understood at the time and lets the adult reader infer the more complex connections that were only starting to become visible to eight- or nine-year-old Bob Starrett in 1889. I have the same kind of double vision, coming back to the story all these years later. At the age of eleven or twelve, I responded most strongly to the supernatural overtones of Shane. He's human, he bleeds, he loves, he's good with children, he has to learn about farming to stay with the Starretts, he has a sense of humor and a lot of believably written damage, but he's also the stranger who comes out nowhere to perform a heroic deed at his own cost and vanish when his work is done—the man in black, the man with no name, an apparition of a mythically violent world already passing away. He appears out of the clarity of sunlight on the road and disappears when a cloud crosses the moon. It was easy for me to imagine him as some aspect of the land, a mythago of the American West if I'd known the word then. The original serial published in Argosy
in 1946 went by the title Rider from Nowhere
. As an adult, I'm left struck by the intimacy between the three adults in the narrator's life, a state of affairs which the boy who loves and idolizes the mysterious, competent, self-contained stranger finds so natural, it doesn't even rate remarking on: how easily his parents accommodate Shane as an integral part of the household, a tacit third parent to Bob and a kind of shadow partner to each of them; he is easier in their company than he's been with himself in a long time, healing into someone who isn't always combat-scanning his environment for danger even if he will never take a seat with his back to the door, and in return they are inspired to be the best versions of their already brave and affectionate selves around him, recognizing his trust for the rarity it is and not wanting to let it down. The attraction between Shane and Marian Starrett is a binding between all three of them, not a source of rivalry or tension. "Did ever a woman have two such men?" she exults and laments after Shane and Joe have taken down a barful of bullies in tandem; her husband's response is the notably non-territorial, "Don't fret yourself, Marian. I'm man enough to know a better when his trail meets mine. Whatever happens will be all right." He carried Shane out of the bar after the fight, gathering the smaller, more badly battered man gently into his arms like, the narrator thinks, "he did me when I stayed up too late and got all drowsy and had to be carried to bed." Later in the novel, after a close brush with a hired killer whose provocatively crude remarks about Marian almost led to violence on the part of both men, Bob watches all three of his parents worry about one another:It was only then that I realized mother was gripping my shoulders so that they hurt. She dropped on a chair and held me to her. We could hear father and Shane on the porch.
"He'd have drilled you, Joe, before you could have brought the gun up and pumped in a shell."
"But you, you crazy fool!" Father was covering his feelings with a show of exasperation. "You'd have made him plug you just so I'd have a chance to get him."
Mother jumped up. She pushed me aside. She flared at them from the doorway. "And both of you would have acted like fools just because he said that about me. I'll have you two know that if it's got to be done, I can take being insulted just as much as you can."
Peering around her, I saw them gaping at her in astonishment. "But, Marian," father objected mildly, coming to her. "What better reason could a man have?"
"Yes," said Shane gently. "What better reason?" He was not looking just at mother. He was looking at the two of them.
Shane leaves behind a lot more than the chance of a life without violence when he rides away the novel's end. It's a much more muted ending than the film's, too, underscoring the Starretts' decision to stay on the farm that Shane sacrificed his best self for as a form of keeping faith with him—"So you'd run out on Shane just when he's really here to stay!"—and finally shifting the narrative into the tangle of stories that grew up around the stranger after his departure, each more outlandish than the last, none of which bother Bob because he knows none of them get anywhere near the truth. "He belonged to me, to father and mother and me, and nothing could ever spoil that." That interests me now because I can think of at least two other novels I read early which close with this same kind of dissolve into myth that the reader knows to recognize as a normal human tendency, but also not trust as the final word. I just can't remember if I identified it as such at the time. It should not surprise me that Shane
the novel is in part a story about stories, though, because so many of the narratives I love are. I'm not sure the film is. I should probably rewatch it to be sure. I should get some sleep first.
1. It was my first year in a public school rather than the alternative private school I'd spent my first six grades in; I was nonplussed by a lot of the curriculum. We read at least one awesomely depressing short Steinbeck novel—either The Red Pony (1933) or The Pearl (1947), which in combination with Of Mice and Men (1937) the next year convinced me that I hated Steinbeck until I discovered Cannery Row (1945) and Sweet Thursday (1954) in college—and some short fiction it's difficult for me to recall because I always read the rest of the anthologies around the assigned stories, so Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" and Ray Bradbury's "Fever Dream" might have been required reading or they might just have been adjacent to O. Henry's "A Retrieved Reformation." I think we must have read Theodore Taylor's The Cay (1969) because I have vague memories of making a map of the island. Without going through boxes in my parents' house, I have no idea what else. In the middle school library on my own time I read Jean M. Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980), which almost certainly influenced me more than anything I read for school that year, God help me.
I am not sleeping enough to write thoughtfully about any of the things I would like to, good or bad. I just backed a Kickstarter
from the Paleontological Research Institution
because I think a stuffed plush Dunkleosteus
is one of the nicest birthday presents I could give myself. The stack of library books beside my bed now contains a copy of Elizabeth Goudge's Green Dolphin Street
(1944) and a matching DVD of the 1947 film is waiting on my desk because I have decided to do this thing
to myself. It's true they aren't good, but I'm not actually sure these examples of AI-written
poetry are Vogon-level bad; I've seen worse from teenagers who just discovered e.e. cummings.
I really need to be able to bilocate in June. From the titles on the HFA's as yet unlinked calendar
, they are running what looks like at least a partial retrospective of the films of Robert Aldrich, including films on which Aldrich worked as assistant or uncredited director. That means I get to see Dan Duryea in World for Ransom
(1954) and Van Heflin in The Prowler
(1951), both of which recently made my radar; I have never seen Kiss Me Deadly
(1955) and I've lost track of the number of times I've seen The Flight of the Phoenix
(1965), but the former has the reputation of an apocalyptically brutal noir and the latter is one of my favorite movies, so expect to see me there for both. If it is a complete retrospective, eventually we'll get around to Too Late the Hero
(1970), which was one of the first non-Indiana Jones
movies in which I noticed Denholm Elliott, and presumably …All the Marbles
(1981), which is the one with Peter Falk and a women's wrestling team, and if this programming means that I get to see The Frisco Kid
(1979) on a big screen, I will be so happy. This bulletin brought to you by the realization that Robert Aldrich has been involved in a lot more movies I like and/or am interested in than I'd thought.
I seem to be having a very social weekend. Yesterday was spent entirely with rushthatspeaks
, and B. who is visiting from out of town, while this afternoon I saw Paths to Paradise
(1925)—a delightful crime romance starring Betty Compson and Boston-born silent comedian Raymond Griffith and frustratingly, after a police car chase worthy of the Blues Brothers, missing its final reel—with my parents and derspatchel
at the Somerville Theatre and then met sairaali
in order to cook a recipe which had eluded us twice previously, the tamarind-braised beef short ribs with vanilla-glazed carrots from Ana Sortun's Spice
(2006). The problem with making this dish on the fly is that the cooking actions themselves are simple, but the ribs need to braise for at least three hours and then the liquid needs rather longer than the stated twenty minutes to reduce to a glaze after that. This time we budgeted properly and started chopping the carrots and rehydrating the tamarind in the afternoon and Saira showed me the first three episodes of Lost Girl
(2010–15) while the short ribs did their thing. I cannot believe I had never heard of this show. It has a lot of the worldbuilding faults of the urban fantasy of the '80's and '90's that it very much resembles, with its fundamentally Celtic
Fae in contemporary Toronto into which the writers throw a kitchen sink of other traditions whenever they feel like it, but the combination of "explicitly bisexual female protagonist" and "spot the mythology" had my attention from the start. Like, I really approve of a siren who whistles to cast his glamour because it attracts less attention than singing on the street. This show had a dullahan! The last time I saw one of those was in Darby O'Gill and the Little People
(1959)! It probably doesn't hurt that the starting premise reminds me slightly of Tanith Lee's Sabella or the Blood Stone
(1980). I am kind of actively confused that the bartender is not the Dagda.
Courtesy of rosefox
: Universal Pictures: Restorations and Rediscoveries, 1928–1937
. It would be impractical for many reasons for me to move into the Museum of Modern Art for a month, but I won't say I didn't think of it. I might still see if I can make some of these rarities later in the month or in June. I really want to see most of them. This would be reason number infinity I want a teleporter.
Courtesy of ladymondegreen
: Alfred Cheney Johnston and the hula-hoop nudes of the Ziegfeld Follies
. I've seen some of these images before, but never an article about their provenance. You want Paulette Goddard and Louise Brooks nude with hula hoops, click on.  Apparently not, but the wider set of photographs is still fascinating.
Courtesy of both asakiyume
and Saira, because my particular interests are apparently visible from space: nudibranchs that look like David Bowie
. It's actually quite wonderful. "Swamp thing style."
I found this photoset
of Lizabeth Scott
on my own, but handful_ofdust
reblogged it in the first place and I appreciate it.
I wish all of my DVDs were not in storage. Because of thinking about Hedda Gabler
recently, I really want to rewatch Patrick Garland's A Doll's House
(1973). There were actually two film adaptations of the play released that year, which must say something about the zeitgeist; the other was directed by Joseph Losey and stars Jane Fonda, but I can't imagine imprinting on it as intensely as I did on Garland's version in 2008. It opens the play out a little from the Helmers' drawing room, but not so much that it loses the domestic claustrophobia from which Nora's famous finally slamming door is the only liberation. Anna Massey plays Kristine Linde to Denholm Elliott's Nils Krogstad and the two of them almost steal the show from Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins. That's no small feat. But I care about their B-plot perhaps even more than I care about the A-plot, partly because the one is so beautifully patterned across the other. Ibsen sets the characters up as clouded mirrors of Nora and Torvald, old lovers separated once by economics and reunited by bad timing. Kristine's offer of employment at Torvald's bank comes at Krogstad's expense, the first honest job he's been able to hold since his "mistake" that he was never legally charged with and no one will let him forget—it pleases Nora's husband to award one of his wife's old friends this small financial security even as he withdraws it from an obviously less deserving soul, who on top of his social disgrace keeps committing the embarrassing presumption of forgetting their respective positions and calling Torvald by his first name like the schoolfellows they once were. Mrs. Linde seems a model employee, reserved, hardworking, self-possessed, no loose ends in her background and certainly no sideswipes with the law, so Torvald can feel just and munificent, rewarding the right kind of people and seeing that the wrong are properly punished. The fact that she's a widow only furthers her respectability as far as he's concerned. To Kristine, though, her marriage was indistinguishable from prostitution—seven years with a man she didn't love just to support her family before her husband died and left her with "nothing . . . not even grief." The man she did
love was Krogstad. And when he questions, with all the corrosive, deliberate cynicism of someone trying to beat disappointment at its own game, whether she's reentered his life only to get Nora out of debt with him, she meets him with an unflinching answer: "A woman who's sold herself once for the sake of others doesn't make the same mistake again." That's the one line on which Massey flares up, and it convinces. Kristine could very easily be a plot device: she's the spark in the threads, Torvald's excuse for firing Krogstad, the immediate effect of which is the calling-in of Nora's IOU and presently the disintegration of the Helmers' marriage, though she is also Krogstad's eventual reason not to go through with the blackmail. As Massey plays her, she's a woman who's spent years keeping her eyes down and her mouth closed: not to be read easily, but not a dissembler, either. Her conversations with Krogstad are frank and direct, devoid of tit-for-tat seduction or moral appeal or any of the stratagems of melodrama. She calls herself a drowning woman, but she's more like driftwood to the hand, scarred and buoyant. I knew I cared about Elliott going in (and I cared about him even more
going out), but after that I'd have watched Massey in anything. I like them so much I keep forgetting Ralph Richardson is also in the cast.
So I finally found a movie where Elisha Cook, Jr. gets to play the hero. It's a 36-minute U.S. Army training film from 1943. That's a hell of a way to go for a leading role.
To be fair to Fighting Men: Baptism of Fire
, it was a striking enough training film to receive a nomination for Best Documentary Feature at the 16th Academy Awards. I find this a fascinating classification for a short film whose opening credits clearly read "Official Training Film—War Department—Produced by the Signal Corps for the Commanding General Ground Army Forces 1943" and whose cast includes, albeit uncredited, one of the more notable character faces of the time. It's not by any stretch of the imagination nonfiction, even if Cook really did serve in the Army and the information being communicated is intended to be realistic; it only makes sense in context and even then it's the outlier. Its competitors in 1944 were Frank Capra and Anatole Litvak's The Battle of Russia
, John Huston's Report from the Aleutians
, Oliver Lundquist's War Department Report
, and—the winner—Roy Boulting's Desert Victory
, all of which are combinations of documentary and propaganda; the category had only been added to the Oscar roster in 1942 and I suspect it was still sorting its definitions out. It's snarkily tempting nonetheless to wonder if the Academy just assumed audiences wouldn't recognize Cook because he's not playing a creep or a fall guy, just an ordinary, levelheaded G.I. steadying a friend's nerves the night before their first experience of battle. Both of them are scared, but Cook's Bill is the one with the advice the troops are supposed to listen to. Some of it is even pretty good advice, like Bill's position on anxiety vs. information:Well, when you know something pretty bad's going to happen to you, you can do one of two things. You can worry about it till you're ready to blow your top. Or you can find out as much as you can about what it's really going to be like. You take the second choice—I mean, find out as much as you can—you've given yourself a break. 'Cause nothing's ever as bad as you think it's going to be . . . I started to talking to whoever I could find that'd been through it before. A couple of our non-coms have. They don't open up easy and they don't talk much, but they don't kid you—it's tough. But then there are a lot of other guys that've been through it before us. Keep that in your mind—well, you can sort of get set for it . . . Every guy I talked to said the same thing. Your first battle, your worst fight, isn't with the enemy. It's with yourself.
His buddy Jim appears to be played by Russell Arms, although I got that information no thanks to IMDb; he's the sensitive boyish one who can't stop thinking about the college friend he saw come back from the front lines blinded or the girl he left behind without marrying and now might never see again, two trains of thought which Bill cautions him lead straight to cracking up. "Here's the way it works. You're going into battle. Right away, you start thinking about home. Then you start thinking about all the things that can keep you from getting back there again. Result—you're too scared to think about your job. And if you want to come back, this is one job you got to think about." Peter Whitney rounds out the range of types as the big boastful lug who jeers at Bill after a German flyby causes the platoon to scatter for cover: "You hit the dirt like you was running for home with the score tied in the ninth." Of course, under fire, "You don't catch me
diving into a shell-hole for no German squarehead" Pete is the one who breaks and has to be pushed back into action while Bill who looks as easily apprehensive as any other Elisha Cook, Jr. character is tough, quick, and steadfast—"Cold as ice. Little guy, too." Most of the narration belongs to Jim, the audience surrogate who makes himself reload his rifle and push on through his fear, sickened and second-guessing himself, finally doing his job: "Now I can fight . . . You're damn right I can fight!"
It's not unreasonable that he's afraid, though. The violence in Baptism of Fire
is astonishingly gorier than anything out of Hollywood at the time. A head-shot man doesn't just have blood dripping down the side of his face, it's choking up out of his mouth. Staged explosions are mixed with footage of the real thing. The crew of a half-destroyed tank try to climb to safety, but one of them is burning alive and the other is shot down as he tries to pull his fellow out: "Oh, God—I'm burning up!" Dead men stare with their eyes open, their throats opened by shrapnel. Hitting a German officer across the face with a rifle breaks his cheekbone. Bayoneting an enemy soldier is effective but gross. So is the aftermath of the battle, when even characters who are obviously going to survive are bruised and bleeding under their bandages. What really interests me about this aspect of the film is not that it was permissible to depict the violence, because any media made for the troops had to be able to bend the Production Code or risk being laughed off the screen—a similar realism extends to the language, so that a sergeant yells, "Get the lead out of your ass!" to a bunch of G.I.'s restarting a bogged-down truck and Jim in combat regularly thinks of the enemy as "bastards"—but that it was possible
. I genuinely hadn't realized that the necessary makeup effects existed in 1943 because no one was being allowed to demonstrate them in civilian productions. They stand up to similar effects work today. I'm sure it was chocolate syrup or something else that photographed convincingly, but that mouthful of blood and broken teeth was nasty.
And for a near-first in my experience of his acting, Elisha Cook, Jr. doesn't even die. He gets winged by a sniper and marches on after the victory with his arm in a sling, gesturing to a tank with his elbow and shouting, "Jim, when this is over, I'm going to take one of those tin cans home with me!" (Jim volunteers in reply, "I'll be your chauffeur!") The whole thing finishes with Pete, Bill, and Jim in a bar somewhere vague but beer-serving in de-occupied Europe, listening to an unending rowdy chorus of "You Are My Sunshine" and thinking over their behavior in battle. Mostly Bill seems to be annoyed that he got shot: "Thought I had the odds all figured out, didn't I? Well, don't cut yourself down too much. At least you had the right angle: keep your mind off yourself. I was right. That's what you got to do." And then they realize that they are all being way too introspective and nowhere near drunk enough and raise their steins: "Hey, what the hell are we waiting for?"–"I don't know, what the hell are
we waiting for?" Cue the booze until it's time to move on to the next front.
If you would like to view this peculiar form of ephemera for yourself, unlike most of the movies I recommend it is currently available on YouTube
, slightly faster than its stated runtime. You can even chase it with Private Snafu
if you want to see what Chuck Jones, Ted Geisel, Mel Blanc, and other luminaries of the animated world were doing during the war. I want to sleep so that I can write about the other movie I saw last night, the one that really amazed me. This educational material brought to you by my veteran backers at Patreon
I feel like I am losing track of my life again, between the nightly three hours of sleep and appointments of different kinds. I actually slept eight
hours on Monday night, but for logistical reasons the achievement was not immediately repeatable. I am reading my way through Laurie R. King's Mary Russell mysteries and a highly randomized assortment of nonfiction and mostly pulp. Mental note goes here to talk about Anya Seton's Foxfire
(1950) and Valerie Taylor's Stranger on Lesbos
(1960), which I may or may not manage any time soon. rushthatspeaks
and I continue our double-feature viewing of Person of Interest
. Did I mention that we saw James Bidgood's Pink Narcissus
(1971) at the HFA on Saturday and it was exactly as amazing as Guy Maddin had promised? It could and should be screened in the same classes that include Cocteau's Orphée
(1950) or Jules Dassin's Phaedra
(1962) as an example of classical myth transformed in contemporary cinema, assuming it's all right to show undergraduates porn. Have some links off the internet.
1. R.I.P. William Schallert
. I think I saw him most recently as the uncredited equivalent of Lieutenant Levy in The Reckless Moment
(1949), but like the rest of the Star Trek
-watching universe I saw him first and forever as Nilz Baris, obstructive bureaucrat par excellence of "The Trouble with Tribbles." Otherwise I mostly remember him from sci-fi features like The Man from Planet X
(1951) and The Incredible Shrinking Man
(1957), making his starring role in the B-movie-within-a-movie Mant!
in Joe Dante's Matinee
(1993)—"Half man! Half ant! All terror!"—one of the better in-jokes in that film. I am glad I have living character actors to follow; the older ones keep doing this dying thing.
2. The Feminist Press
is reprinting Ethel Johnston Phelps' Tatterhood and Other Tales
(1978)! This is one of the books I would take out again and again from the children's section of the Cambridge Public Library, then didn't see again for decades until I finally ran into a used copy of my own. I tried to draw my own illustrations. The language that was so intensely evocative to me at the time turned out, years later, to have been a relatively plain folk style for children. But when the story said that one of the two flowers growing beneath the childless queen's bed "was green and oddly shaped; the other was pink and fragrant," I knew exactly what they looked like. I would always choose a green flower over a pink one myself, which is why I liked the title story best.
3. My first published story made a Tumblr list of retellings of Orpheus and Eurydike
. For all I know they got my name off Wikipedia, but I'm still pleased.
4. I like the photograph fine, but I may like the way the photographer talks about it even better: "I decided to use a pomegranate, instead of a quince, because a pomegranate would explode like a grenade.
5. Ghost signs from around the world
P.S. I am delighted that the U.S. Army has an official stance on the question of Captain America's back pay
Fifty-four years after the publication of Mary Stewart's The Moon-Spinners
and at least twenty years after I read the novel for the first time, Tony Gamble has finally sent Nicola Ferris a picture postcard from the Kara Bugaz
. Many thanks to asakiyume
for fielding it in the mail. Now I feel the story is complete.
Today involved no sleep, a very early orthodontist's appointment with bonus braces-tightening, and a complete failure to nap in the afternoon thanks to derspatchel
's current next-door neighbors waging the age-old battle of Power Mower vs. Hedge Trimmer (spoiler: nobody within earshot wins), but I also got several hours with my cats and a windfall from a library sale: Moods of the Sea: Masterworks of Sea Poetry
(1981), edited by George C. Solley and Eric Steinbaugh of the U.S. Naval Academy. I had no idea this book existed. It's full of poets I would have included, like Rudyard Kipling, John Masefield, H.D., Matthew Arnold, Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Herman Melville, and Algernon Charles Swinburne, not to mention material from the folk tradition like the Odyssey
, sea chanteys, and "The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry," but it's also full of poets I wouldn't necessarily have expected or hadn't even heard of—Carl Sandburg and e.e. cummings among the former, Stephen Spender and R.P. Blackmur among the latter. The anthology was put together in the year I was born and I know it's arrogant to think it was waiting for me, but it was there on the shelf and for two dollars I regret nothing, but I wouldn't have regretted it for even more.
Appropriately, my poem "Ghost Ships of the Middlesex Canal" has been accepted by Not One of Us
. All dripping in tangles green,
Cast up by a lone sea,
If purer for that, O Weed,
Bitterer, too, are ye?
—Herman Melville, "The Tuft of Kelp"
Notes from a frustrating day of computer troubles and about three hours of sleep in forty-five-minute increments. It got much better in the evening when rushthatspeaks
and I made dinner, set up cookies, and watched some television, but I still feel like faceplanting in my keyboard and I have an X-ray in the morning. I can't even see, on LJ, the icon I've chosen for this post. Anyway—
I can't remember why I wanted to see Hedda Gabler
at the Huntington Theatre in 2000. I have little affinity for Ibsen outside of A Doll's House
(and I wouldn't even realize that until 2008), so I think I must have been interested in Kate Burton. The production had some real problems. She was fine in the title role. The performance I walked away remembering, however, was Michael Emerson's Tesman. Instead of a stuffy pedant who couldn't spare the time to notice his wife's identity crisis, he played the character as a boyish geek absolutely bowled over by this force of nature that had for God knew what reasons consented to marry him, only to find by the end of their honeymoon that they had not a single interest in common. The audience can see her reasons: he's dazzled with her, it's flattering and it makes her feel fondly toward him, even if fondness is not love. But the audience can see with equal clarity why the marriage doesn't stand a chance. Brilliant he may not be, but Tesman lives in his head, an imperviously unworldly combination of easily distractable and easily obsessed—the kind of husband who takes his research on honeymoon with his new wife. By the play's end, he's bonding with Thea Elvsted over the notes left by his academic rival, genuinely dedicated to reconstructing a book that will eclipse his own uninspired contributions to the field. They exit talking excitedly about manuscript order. There was never anything in their lives together that Hedda could talk so enthusiastically to him about.
And so, as happens sometimes, the actor went on my radar immediately; I waited to see what he did next and what he did next was Lost
(2004–2010). Not even for Michael Emerson could I bring myself to watch that show. I'm glad he was employed and I don't even slightly regret my decision. But then he was cast in Person of Interest
(2011–) and I kept hearing mixed but intriguing things about it and tonight Rush-That-Speaks and I watched the first episode. (We chased it with the first episode of Leverage
(2008–2012) and plan to continue this double-feature approach so long as the synchronicity of episodes and seasons supports it.)
I understand that one of the engines of this show is going to be the synergy between Reese and Finch. They have great chemistry of trust and withholding already. Jim Caviezel has a really interesting face and I look forward to finding out what he's like beyond his tragic backstory and his ridiculous deadpan competence ("No, Lionel. He's in the trunk"). Finch has wire-rimmed glasses and three-piece suits and the stiffly canted posture of someone who's had their spine fused (including some of their cervical vertebrae) and vertical Oppenheimer hair and a voice that sounds like it takes some effort in its breathing and an even more enigmatic backstory that is clearly one of the series mysteries, complete with moral ambiguity and second thoughts about the ethics of the world-changing instrument he invented for the government and this is like Van Heflin levels of stupidly interesting to me, all right? Dude lives in an abandoned branch library. I can't promise I wouldn't if I had the resources of an eccentric billionaire. At a time in my life when I've had the same migraine for about three days, I really appreciate the universe throwing this sort of thing my way. I may have types, but at least I know about them. Every now and then they get to be protagonists.
So all evidence from the previous post
indicates that the problem is twofold: HTML compliance
on LJ's part and the increasing likelihood that my journal style has been deprecated
. On Firefox, I have no icons and neither does anybody else commenting on my posts. Safari is not an option for a number of reasons including the way LJ displays. On my father's computer, on Iceweasel, everything looks fine, but it's an older version of the browser and will likely produce the same issue if given a chance to update. It does not seem that waiting for the next Firefox update will fix the problem since the compliance gap will only widen. I dislike the idea of experimenting with new journal styles if I can't switch back. I have contacted LJ Support to see if they have a handy fix, but I am concerned that I'm not going to have a choice. If this journal looks weird for the next few days while I try to find a style I don't loathe, please be patient. Refried Paper, we hardly knew ye. Feh.
And now for something completely different. As of this evening, LJ appears to have ceased to display icons on either my entries or my friendlist. Not mine, not anybody else's, not in comments unless they're in the user's own style. I did a complete refresh on Firefox in case that was the problem and it wasn't. Has anyone (who is still using LJ) experienced this problem? If so, do you have any suggestions? In an ideal world, by morning this issue will have fixed itself and I can delete this post. We do not live in an ideal world. I'd love advice. Icons are important. This one should have a very cranky-looking Psholtii at the top of it.
 Since it's started to come up in comments, I run Firefox 46.0.1 on Mac OS 10.6.8. The latter of these has not changed in years. (Please do not encourage me to solve any problems by updating my operating system; I have several technical reasons for holding on to this version.) Looking at Firefox's release history, I can't see that it's done anything in the last twenty-four hours. I am therefore assuming that the sudden non-display of my icons is a problem with LJ, but would appreciate correction if I have the wrong end of the hydra here. In the meantime, my journal continues to look very naked to me.
I hope I don't have to change the style. I have had Refried Paper since I started this journal in 2004 and I'm used to it.
[edit edit] Experimentally reverting to Firefox 45.0.2 on another computer with the same operating system, my icons become visible. Updating to Firefox 46.0.1, my icons disappear. I don't understand why this issue did not make itself obvious on April 26, 2016 according to the online release history, but there it is. I can see in the HTML for the page that the icons are present, just not displaying. So: toxic Firefox/LJ interaction?
[edit edit edit] It looks like an HTML compliance issue
with LiveJournal. It's just showing up now in Firefox. This is almost certainly out of my control.
Last night I dreamed of a three-person crime repeating through time in a Chinese restaurant. The actions differed each time, but the body count was the same. The night before that was a nightmare unpleasantly resembling both a poem I wrote in college and my present relationship with my orthodontics: I had agreed to some kind of experimental procedure which would have given me moss and leaves in my skin and hair for reasons that resembled alien first contact but might have had supernatural overtones, but it had proliferated unexpectedly through my body and my mouth was full of tiny green-and-white seedlings growing from my tongue and the insides of my cheeks; I had to keep tearing them out and it hurt constantly and I was always choking for air and my mouth was always full of blood. I suppose it's good that I'm dreaming on the amount of sleep I get these days, but the subject material could use some work. When I woke this morning, the very first thing I had to do was clean up a glass smashed by a cat in the kitchen. Fortunately, I have this vacuum cleaner. Still.
1. Talking in two different places about the life expectancy of queer characters in fiction reminded me that for about two years I have been wanting to repost a comment I made in conversation with skygiants
: The Moon-Spinners
(1962) is not Mary Stewart's best novel, but I bear it a disproportionate debt of gratitude for the character of Tony Gamble, because he is coded gay about as strongly as Stewart could get away with and nothing bad happens to him, even though he's a jewel thief and one of the novel's antagonists. He's graceful and humorous, he has faintly camp manners and the heroine thinks he moves like a dancer, but he's the jack-of-all-trades at a new hotel in Crete; it's not clear that he has any more scruples than the rest of his gang, especially when it comes to double-crossing them, but he's the one the author allows to get away, facetiously promising to send the heroine "a picture postcard from the Kara Bugaz." Her cousin thinks he never will, but I like to think that someday a postcard from somewhere
arrived. I took him for granted as a child and then, as an adult re-reader, was really impressed that he's just a person.
(As an adult re-reader I really want to have seen him played by Roddy McDowall, but only in a universe where Disney did not adapt the novel into a vehicle for Hayley Mills.)
2. I don't know if I'll get to see any of it, but I really hope Moving Day at MIT
will be as strange and interesting as the Boston Globe
hopes. Oliver Smoot
as grand marshal of the parade feels metaphysically right.
3. Speaking of universities and interesting people, Justus Rosenberg
was not one of my mother's professors at Bard, but she knew who he was. I always like seeing people get this kind of writeup while they're alive.
4. The Daughter of Dawn
(1920) will be available on DVD come this summer. I read about the discovery and restoration of this formerly lost film in 2012
, but if it played anywhere in the Boston area, I missed it. I'd still like to see it on a big screen, but I think it's more important that it be available to people regardless of their proximity to arthouse theaters or university archives. A cast of all-Native characters played by all-Native actors, with nary a white lead in sight? "I would say this film proves that Indians have been acting since day one.
5. As a child I thought often about Elizabeth Goudge's Green Dolphin Street
(1944) because it had one of the most evocative titles on its bookshelf. I tried it sometime in adolescence, during my foray into Goudge novels that were not The Valley of Song
(1951), and bounced with such ferocity that I can remember absolutely nothing about the plot except a disappointing lack of dolphins. Yesterday I discovered there's a film version from 1947. It co-stars Van Heflin. With Lana Turner. And a title theme that became a jazz standard. It's probably terrible. I can't imagine how Goudge's Christianity would translate to the screen or what any novel of hers would look like without it. I am obviously going to have to undertake some kind of read-watch. Why is this my life?
I am off to meet Dean at the Fogg Museum
. I want to write about The Uninvited
(1944), which was as weird and complex and full of undercurrents as I would expect a seminal ghost story to be, but I might need to get some real rest first.
I don't know what I was expecting from a movie called Seven Sweethearts
(1942). It was directed by Frank Borzage
and co-starred Van Heflin
, so I decided to give it a whirl. I'd had a really bad night. It opened with a waltz sung by an offstage chorus and a credited list of "The Seven Sweethearts . . . The Seven Sweethearts' Boy Friend . . . The Seven Sweethearts' Other Boy Friends . . . The Seven Sweethearts' Father" and then we got a scrolling poem in Burma-Shave couplets about Dutch immigration to the United States. "To this great land / Of jive and juleps / The Dutch once came / To plant their tulips . . ." I respect Heflin's acerbic photojournalist immensely for arriving on the scene in "Little Delft, Michigan" and finding the communal rehearsal of Edvard Grieg's Morgenstemning
too twee for words, but unfortunately that's the father of his future beloved leading the soundtrack on oboe—resist the old-world charms of S.Z. Sakall's cuckoo-clock hotel as he might, Heflin's fallen into a register of whimsy I didn't think would exist until the advent of indie filmmaking. The hotelier has seven beautiful daughters, all with boys' names, who are supposed to get married off in birth order; the Viennese musician on the top floor goes around muttering artistically to himself and hasn't paid his rent in a year; the honeymooning couple down the hall communicate with one another in romantically bad poetry. The rooms have no keys and the newspaper is never printed when it rains. One of the daughters serenades a stunned Heflin with operetta trills of impromptu Mozart and two white fantail pigeons flutter down to her balcony like extras from a Disney cartoon. I don't blame him for scratching his head like he's trying to find his phrenological area of reality check: "What goes on here? Everybody on the staff looks like Miss America and the proprietor plays oboe." Zero prizes for guessing if he'll soften by the finale, but at least the daughter he ends up with is the snarky one with a temper as short as his own. She's played by Kathryn Grayson, so the singing is a staple feature, though the fantail pigeons appear to be an aberration. The plot between these two points is pure shenanigans, involving the machinations of the theater-mad eldest sister, the youngest sister's torn family loyalties, the five frustrated boyfriends of the sisters in between, misunderstandings, New York City, and a lot of Dutch national pride. Oh, and the movie's a musical, in case the opening waltz and Grayson's presence didn't sufficiently warn you. It's all diegetic music, but there's a lot of it, including a professional-caliber church choir and a production number about tulips. Did I mention that Heflin's reporter is in town originally to cover the tulip festival? It's really not a bad movie, but clog-dancing Jesus, is it silly. Van Heflin has a staggering case of side-eye the whole way through and I couldn't blame him.
He's a credible romantic lead, incidentally, but I can't help wondering how he got the part—it's the kind of cynic-to-sap material that any pretty face on the MGM lot could have handled without strain. The fun in Heflin's case is getting to see what a character actor does with a conventional part. He's not a pretty face, for starters. He finds his own strengths in the role. His dry voice reinforces the character's cynical edge, which a surfeit of love and tulips never quite succeeds in sanding off; his attention to vulnerability means that while it's in the script that his native New Yorker is utterly confounded by the rural sweetness of Little Delft, it's from Heflin's off-rhythm delivery and tight reflexive smile that we suspect that even in his natural habitat the reporter isn't totally the smooth operator he'd like us to believe. His story about advising a famous theatrical producer—whose name changes halfway through from Oscar to Max—is such obvious impress-the-girls flummery, it's just his bad luck that the oldest sister believes it. He can't really dance, but I never thought I'd even see him try. I wish I could recommend the movie for him, but I'd rather point out that TCM is runnng Act of Violence
(1948) at a wincingly early hour on Saturday morning. If he ever got a romantic part with substance, I'd like to see that. As for Frank Borzage, if he put in the studio time in order to make stranger pictures like Moonrise
(1948), I'm happy for the pay-off, but I can't see much of his weird lyricism here.
That was more than I thought I had to say about any movie which features a song by the title of "Little Tingle-Tangle Toes." This excursion brought to you by my bemused backers at Patreon
The Library of America
doesn't know me from a hole in the wall, but nonetheless it loves me and wants me to be happy. I began to suspect as much with its recent publications of classic science fiction
and female-authored noir
, but I have just discovered that it will be publishing The Complete Orsinia
by Ursula K. Le Guin. This is a big deal. Early imprinting on Coyote and Therem Harth rem ir Estraven notwithstanding, the original Orsinian Tales
(1976) is very possibly my favorite book
by Le Guin. I discovered it in my sophomore year of college, a slim little Bantam paperback with an inaccurately fantastic cover of a castle on a hill and a medieval walled city; it might suit the country's early history as depicted in "The Barrow" or "The Lady of Moge," but not the twentieth century in which the rest of the stories take place, from the pre-WWI "Brothers and Sisters" to the Cold War-era "A Week in the Country" and all the complicated terrain of memory, nationality, and love in between. I want to say something insightful about the way she looked at real and imaginary history and the way the two can exist in simultaneous superposition or within the cracks of each other, but mostly I know that lines and characters from some of those stories will be in my head forever. A few fountains clattered in deserted squares. Knocked the keystone out of your arch, didn't it? She came from the plains of a foreign land, windswept plains ringed by far peaks fading into night as nearby, in the wild grass, the smoke of a campfire veered and doubled on the wind over the flames and a woman sang in a strange tongue, a music lost in the huge, blue, frozen dusk. Damn, I left my cabbage in the bar.
I love the linked stories of the Fabbre family best; I think they must have been important to Le Guin, too, since they provide the strongest continuity throughout the cycle. The latest generation features in the title story of Unlocking the Air
(1996), the collection I bought just for that one last glimpse of Orsinia in 1989. The novel Malafrena
(1979) I can take or leave, but I've been looking for the early Orsinian poems since college. Now I just have to wait until September. That's a good reason to be around then.