1. My best cousins gaudior
along with the rest of Sassafrass
are running a Kickstarter
to cover the production costs of their latest album and its live performance at Balticon. You should donate. I've been watching Rush sew their fingers off for most of this week in order to have everyone properly costumed in time for the show and I'd kind of prefer their fingers not to have died in vain. I liked them. Also, if the project meets its stretch goals, papersky
will write a publicly available poem for Odin and a privately shared one for Loki, and I can't imagine who doesn't want to read those. Plus, Futhark posters.
trekked into darkness last night and didn't much like what he found there
. For this reason I believe we are rewatching a certain other film in the canon tonight.
3. Falling asleep last night, I found myself thinking about a Shakespearean theater company—not a theater company that performs Shakespeare, but a company made up of Shakespeare's characters. Hamlet is plainly a writer-director, though if he thinks it's going to be all fucked-up family psychodrama all the time, he hasn't talked much to Peter Quince. (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern want to do more experimental projects. They'll probably spin off their own black box.) Get Feste for the music and Prospero for lighting and sound design. Viola specializes in juvenile leads. Honest Iago is very good at heroes. I didn't get very far, because I was very tired and it kept bleeding off into other dreams, and then I spent too much time staring at the ceiling this morning when the sunlight woke me around seven o'clock and I couldn't get back to sleep until ten. Someone on Yuletide has probably already written this anyway. (It's like bandfic, only not with bands.) Or Jasper Fforde got there first and I should not try to think about it.
I hope to visit a library sale this afternoon.
My poem "Larva" has been accepted by inkscrawl
. This is the one I wrote on realizing I could no longer recognize some people I had once cared for very much. The title is in the Roman sense: a ghost, a death-mask. Guest appearance by Ashmedai, who is still important to me.
A fascinating effect: I am not actually comfortable looking at these portraits
. The photographer frames them as an act of resistance (if he couldn't avoid taking the photos, he could at least make sure they weren't the tidy, compliant headshots the authorities wanted—frankly, I don't think he was the one making that choice) and points out that fifty years later the women were grateful for these records of themselves, but there was nothing willing about them at the time. It comes through. I do not want to see these women unveiled, because I don't have the right to: it is so clearly not how they wish to be seen. But they aren't hiding. They are staring back. They are making it as difficult as possible for the camera, for the viewer to look at them and feel it is a consenting act. That's not something I've seen in a lot of pictures. So I am linking these, but I couldn't look at more than five myself. I don't know if they should ever have been taken. That is a strange thing to say about art.
(2011) is exactly the sort of movie handful_ofdust
would have written if she hadn't been the person who recommended it to me in the first place. It is a classic ghost story; it has a mystery and a revelation and any number of tense, ambiguous moments in between. It is also a poignant and very fine exploration of what it means to be haunted in the more figurative, Henry Jamesian sense. If there are no ghosts, Rebecca Hall's Florence Cathcart remains as haunted by the loss of her lover in World War I as Dominic West's Robert Malory by his survival of those same trenches: his slight stammer and shuddering fits, the grief that cores through her with every phenomenon debunked; the skin-hunger that flashes between them in a mix of trust and trauma, as if they can prove on one another's bodies that they still have a right to the living world. (It is not at all the romance expected of their initial pairing, the shell-shocked Latin master and the professional skeptic called to investigate at his school; there are ways in which it is barely a romance, meaning I approve. Florence's sexuality is not the repressed force behind the hauntings, not a symbol of her mental unraveling, not the consequence of her Cambridge-educated, sharply compartmentalized life as a woman who lives by cool, efficient intellect when the loss of a cigarette case is enough to open an abyss of suicidal grief beneath her. Her work at the school is raking up private terrors faster than she can lay them with tripwire cameras and dusting for prints. Gazing covertly at Malory in his bath, touching herself as she lies pensively in the same tub, kissing him for the first time as the impossibly screaming face of a child blurs up from a tray of developer, she is trying to use her body to drown out her brain. I have rarely seen movies with contemporary settings, let alone a softly speaking ghost story set in 1921, acknowledge that this is a thing women also do.) At times the story plays almost like a remix of The Turn of the Screw
, housekeeper, groundskeeper, and eerily self-possessed boy all present, Florence in danger of falling into the governess' role. There are eches of The Waste Land
: a famous clairvoyant, a line from the Morte d'Arthur
, Malory's unhealing wound like the Fisher King's in his thigh. Mostly there is Florence, sharp-edged and wounded, striding in her soldier's greatcoat and her restless intelligence, refusing to live in fear even if the exorcizing of it destroys her. Yes, it is probably unnecessary to have her threatened with rape at any point in the story (although I would note that Malory is explicitly not her rescuer: a painting the camera keeps returning to is Artemisia Gentileschi's Judith Beheading Holofernes
), but I spent so much of the film wondering when it would toss aside her agency in favor of the aesthetic potential of a frightened woman, it was a pleasure to find the denouement her decision, too. Online research suggests that some viewers find the ending ambiguous, but I don't see it. The confusion of living and dead is almost inescapable. Florence walks like a revenant through her own memories, wryly admitting that "a life haunted . . . isn't a life at all." When Malory says he can always see his ghosts, it doesn't matter whether he is speaking literally or metaphorically: their weight on his shoulders is the same.
That was a textbrick. I'm going to bed. I meant to three hours ago, but I was writing this.
So about eighty-five percent of today sucked like a shop vac, but I salvaged an hour or two with derspatchel
in the early afternoon and in the evening rushthatspeaks
and I made sesame seed balls with azuki bean paste for dinner. All from scratch. This was both much easier and stupidly more aggravating than it sounds. The deep-frying was fine, the paste mostly involved Rush setting the beans up to soak the previous night (and then blending and cooking them down this afternoon with oil and two kinds of sugar. An immersion blender is the most entertaining kitchen appliance I've encountered in years). Glutinous rice flour with palm sugar syrup, however, is the devil. It comes out a lovely blond color, but it dries faster than Play-Doh. It breaks. It crumbles. It sticks to everything but itself. If you wet your hands to work it more easily, you wind up dripping a kind of cornstarchy slurry everywhere. We gave up on finger-shaping the prescribed inch-deep cups for the bean filling and just hammered each section out flat with a wet rolling pin, then scraped the resultant (like a miracle of chemistry, suddenly dry and crumbly) splatter off the cutting board with a small sharp knife and extreme prejudice. Next time, we're thinking we should use more water on the rice flour than the recipe calls for and make the syrup with either brown sugar or the slab brown candy recommended by Andrea Nguyen if we can find it anywhere. That said: the dumplings came out looking like we'd ordered them at a dim sum restaurant. Also, tasting like it. Crackling and sesame-crisp on the outside, frying-puffed and chewy underneath with hot sweet bean paste melting in the center. Neatly round. Unsurprisingly filling, to the point where after four or five each we didn't so much make dinner after all. Homemade bean paste is better than anything I've ever had in a storebought moon cake: not so sticky (or so deeply red: ours darkened in the cooking to a kind of smooth taro purple) or so tongue-burningly sweet. I want to learn to make lotus paste now and beta-test the next batch on ratatosk
.Ray Harryhausen is gone
. The last movie of his I saw was It Came from Beneath the Sea
(1955) at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in December, with its magnificent six-armed octopus wrenching San Francisco apart, never moving like a natural thing, all the more uncanny for it: magic, the fingerprints you could see it left. I will watch something stop-motion this week. I hope he had Medusa waiting for him at the end.
And this is a signal boost, because the situation has spilled from whiskey tango to requiring legal aid: Davis Square LJ being sued, Massachusetts lawyers needed
. Read back on davis_square
for more details or just ask a surprising number of people in my life. Anyone who has advice for the defendants as to how to go about organizing themselves as such might as well speak up here, too. This is not a reasonable thing to endure happening.derspatchel
's written a song about it
, which is nice.
Of the two windows in my room, I like best the view from the one at the head of my bed: a pine tree as tall as the house with tiny new cones greening at the tips of its branches and a white-flowering tree beyond. If I peer down at an angle, I can see the lilac bush just on the other side of the neighbor's fence. Outside the other is the second-floor deck at the back of the house next door. It's directly on a level with my bedroom; so far I haven't seen anything out there except a cooler and some plastic chairs, but I imagine in summer I may have to start drawing the blinds. Last night I dreamed there was an airship there instead, tethered in a web of ropes and cables and thumping extremely loud bass music. I pushed the window open (as in waking life, the sash sticks badly) and shouted out whether they could turn it down. It was a little after dawn, the deepwater surfacing light that I hate trying to sleep in. The man at the rail of the airship was wearing a top hat and vest, of the style that means either steampunk or Somerville casual, but he also went back into the wheelhouse and the music dropped to a level I could sleep through with earplugs in. After I woke up in the afternoon, which was kindly overcast so that the sun streaming in through the blinds didn't pry me awake at nine o'clock anyway, he leaned on his rail and I sat in my window (it's not a casement or a window seat, it just doesn't have a screen, either) and we talked about movies. He was recommending something from the New Wave called Criteria, of which I have a few seconds' memory because it was a dream: a small collection of figures walking between hedgerows, brightly colored in silent, Polaroid-grainy frame-skips, a red-jacketed child with its hand in the hand of a much taller figure I didn't want to identify as adult, because that might imply it was human. I don't remember what I was telling him to watch, except I think it also didn't exist. He was roundish, fair-bearded, not anyone I knew from waking. He rolled up the sleeves of his striped shirt and he wasn't wearing any watches.
Arriving home late last night (day with derspatchel
, evening with rushthatspeaks
, have I mentioned lately I like this Somerville life), I found a package waiting for me on the coffee table: Yoon Ha Lee's Conservation of Shadows
(2013). This is the author's first collection of short stories. I've been waiting for it for years. Lee is one of the writers who feel like cult treasures even when their work appears in professional markets, because it seems impossible that no one has yet handed them All the Awards—these are finely written stories, furiously inventive, casually intricate, and above all intelligent
. Graceful hard science fiction exists in the same universe as rigorously extrapolated elemental magic. Mathematical proofs and theorems seed stories the same way other authors figure their work with myth. Genres blur as much as influences and even the shorter pieces pack the emotional density and worldbuilding of books. (Seriously, there are authors for whom "Swanwatch," with its questions of music, trust, and the physical properties of black holes, would have been a first novel.) Especially, Lee retells history through the future in a way I haven't seen from anyone since Cordwainer Smith: I started reading about the Imjin War because of "Between Two Dragons." Language is a recurring concern in this collection. So is war. So is art.
And the title story
is a Portal
-inflected far-future remix of Inanna's Descent
and I love it, not just because it was dedicated to me when it first came out, but because so many writers retell that story (including me) and so few of them show anything new about it. The underworld speaks in this one. I didn't see it coming.
I don't know what else I won't see coming from Yoon Ha Lee, but I am going to read the rest of this collection and find out.
Rabbit, rabbit. My writing life is giving me whiplash. I spent the last several hours wrestling a poem that was upsetting me into shape, at the end of which time another poem (about which I feel much more cheerful) had come into print. I suppose I could survive if that's the pattern for May.
My poem "Mercury Retrograde Theatre" is now online
at Through the Gate
. It was written mostly during a pair of rehearsals for the Spring Sci-Fi Spectacular
, thinking about Orphée
and Cocteau and radio
. (I still can't find out whether he heard
Welles' 1938 War of the Worlds
. Anybody in possession of this information should write that poem instead.) The rest of the issue is ridiculously good. Three of the poets I knew I liked already; the fourth is new to me and I hope for more.
Mat Joiner wrote "Navigations" for me. I love it dearly. I still want "A Wake for Tesla" to win something.
Today is the sixteenth birthday of Abbie the Cat
. I am told the occasion is usually celebrated with sushi. I don't know where you're supposed to direct well-wishes unless you spam Rob with them, but I don't know that that would be such a bad thing. Doppel-Abbie will send his regards.
This is a blurry photo, but I like it for Abbie's big kitten eyes, which he is known to employ shamelessly in the pursuit of anything he thinks (or hopes) edible. Taken in January, right before Rob went out to play Tom Stevens in The Day the Earth Stood Still
at Arisia. Abbie did not appear in the production.
And now I've posted a cat picture on the internet.
|This Land Is Mine
(1943) is out on DVD. This is one of the movies I had to watch on YouTube because I couldn't find it on home video for annoyance or money, excellent as I thought it was. It stars Charles Laughton, but mostly I talked about
George Sanders. In Laughton's honor, therefore, and in honor of movies where I talk about someone else, I am finally going to write about a movie I promised asakiyume
so long ago it's actually embarrassing. I've had notes on my desktop for years.
Tiny Wittgenstein aside, there are reasons it's taken me forever to write about The Canterville Ghost
(1944). It's not a classic film. Jules Dassin was handed the direction five weeks into production; the story takes its name from Oscar Wilde
and shares about as much material as an Anglo-American culture clash and a ghost named Sir Simon de Canterville who wants nothing more than to sleep, as he has not for three hundred years, in the garden beyond the pine woods. It's tonally confused even for a wartime fantasy-comedy with dramatic underpinnings, its production values range unevenly from A-list effects to some guys with motorcycles and German helmets, and while the finale is thematically a good idea, in practice it came out kind of silly. I am nonetheless strangely fond of it, possibly because it's the movie that introduced me to Robert Young. I caught it on TCM in 2007 and taped a re-run a couple of years later, which does me so much good now that I have neither a television nor a VCR.
The plot, or at least the set-up: Since 1643, Sir Simon de Canterville (Charles Laughton) has been the most fearsome ghost in the history of English hauntings, notwithstanding that in life he was a rather sweet, marshmallowy type who funked a duel and for his shame was walled up by his father behind an arras with the curse that he should walk the halls of his ancestral castle until a kinsman of his, wearing the self-same signet ring he dishonored, should perform a brave deed in his name. Unfortunately, whether through the effects of the curse or the power of suggestion, all the likeliest Cantervilles since Sir Simon's time have displayed the tough moral fiber of Sir Robin the Not Quite So Brave as Sir Lancelot: the ancestor who dropped down a well to get out of Waterloo, the ancestor who laid low in drag throughout the Thirty Years' War, the ancestor who charged the opposite way from the Light Brigade . . . In the present day, all that remains of the family are a couple of legal guardians and the six-year-old Lady Jessica (Margaret O'Brien), an imaginative, very serious child who has grown up so frightened of the ghost—she's never seen it herself, but it's been credited over the years with an impressive string of derangements and suicides—that a tinsmith hailing her from the roof sends her running inside with a scream. Nonetheless, when there are visitors to the castle she steels herself and makes a perfect, if pint-sized hostess to the company of U.S. Army Rangers being billeted on the grounds, among them one Cuffy Williams (Robert Young), a cheerfully smart-mouthed private who doesn't believe in ghosts. He changes his tune sharpish, as his new allies might say, when a Laughton-shaped spectre comes out of the wall that night, rattling chains, throttling itself, bleeding on things, and generally carrying on like Anne Boleyn by Weston and Lee
—but like the class clown that he is, Cuffy deals with this genuinely spooky intrusion by catcalling it, and in short order it's the Rangers who are terrifying the ghost as they don sheets and gas masks (looking creepily like some panels of Sandman
) and chase it back up the chimney. And as a punchy, triumphant Cuffy doubles over with laughter at the notion that the ghost might have come looking for a kinsman in a pack of American GIs, we see on the back of his neck the birthmark that attends all males of the Canterville line . . .
You really can figure out where it goes from here, although I will warn you that if you skip the movie entirely, you'll miss out on one of the great jitterbugging scenes of cinema
. (Seriously. It's right up there with Nils Poppe
.) A lot of the rhythms are awkward, as if they started shooting the movie without knowing quite how much of it there was supposed to be; I don't mean it has continuity problems, but the prologue is completely superfluous and the denouement doesn't need to take all the time it does and the other major action sequence suffers from too little budget and too many motorcycles. But Margaret O'Brien is an amazingly non-cloying child actor for the period, and I'll go on about Robert Young after the cut, and it is really their relationship that allows me to believe the final piece of the plot, which would otherwise be simply sentimental and unlikely. ( I don't care what the others did. This is Cuffy, see?Collapse )
If you want the definitive film about World War II, British-American relations, and the haunting ways the present is affected by the past, watch A Canterbury Tale
(1944). But if this one ever crosses your television screen, it's fun. It has an actor I turned out to like very much in it. It will not help you at all with Jules Dassin's later work. Charles Laughton gets to deliver lines like the title of this post with flawless Shakespearean diction. What more reason do you need?
I walked home tonight under flowering trees, including the kind that smell like fish. The sky around the moon in its mirrors of cloud was so blue, it looked like a night scene from a silent film, where the sun is plainly shining on the far side of the trees. I could never tell what time it was in Dreyer's Vampyr
(1932), but then again neither could the protagonist.
It was Ludwig Wittgenstein's birthday today. I will rewatch Jarman's film
for him as soon as I can retrieve it from its box. Last winter, I wrote a poem
about him for my godchild, who as of this afternoon has two legal parents. Mazel tov to them and all the ghosts that hang around their house, difficult and kindly.
I will come back with some more of my art tomorrow.
I don't know if today was productive in the traditional sense, but I hung two pictures on my walls this afternoon. Neither of them is quite where I wanted (one is about six inches too high, which is going to annoy me every time I look at it until either I yank the nail out and commit to gratuitous holes in the plaster or accept it as just one of those things), but they are both part of my room now. The poster for The Big Broadcast of October 30th, 1938
is taking up some of the dead air next to the stupid closet and my watercolor housemate Richard de Menocal
is on the wall beside my bed. I will get the rest of my art from Lexington this weekend and set about figuring out where it belongs.
Afterward I walked over to rushthatspeaks
' and we finally iced the parsnip cake
. There was a preface of frantic kitchen searching before I remembered the metal bowl for the stand mixer was almost certainly somewhere in ratatosk
's kitchen, having conveyed the electric blue whipped cream there for his party in February
, so we creamed the butter and beat in the crème fraîche and started to beat in the confectioner's sugar with me in Rush's kitchen lab coat to ward off flying dairy, holding a wooden bowl underneath the beater of the stand mixer and turning it periodically so as to combine all ingredients smoothly or at least not ludicrously unevenly; this worked until the confectioner's sugar, which made enough attempts at high-velocity escape (i.e., more than one) that we gave over and used a spatula on it. That worked fine. Rush's spatula is an omnicompetent instrument. Slightly to our surprise, it turned out that lemon extract in this recipe is not an efficient substitute for lemon juice: we needed to add sufficient extra that we had to beat in more confectioner's sugar than bargained for and the resultant texture of the icing, while admittedly preferable to the kind that runs off the sides of the cake, resembled Play-Doh by the time we were sticking it to
the sides of the cake. I would have zested a lemon in if we had one, but neither of us had thought of buying one in advance. It tasted great, though, and I hope faerieboots
And then derspatchel
and I went for dinner at Magoun's Saloon, which has the delightful property of being less than ten minutes' walk from where I live now, and split the jerk chicken and curry goat off their April Wednesday
menu. The conch fritters were superfluous, but tasty. The rum punch I ordered was doing its best to be a one-person scorpion bowl, only without the being on fire
bit. (I looked at it and said, "I just want to set this on fire." Maybe that's why they didn't give us a candle.) Dessert turned out to be coconut milk ice cream sandwiches from the Stop & Shop on Route 28, which I consider completely reasonable. We only walked twenty minutes to it and back.
The Sachal Studios Orchestra's version
of "Take Five" is actually as good as everyone says it is.
Most of today was exhaustion and laundry. (That sounds a lot like Boober. Remind me to rewatch Fraggle Rock
.) I wrote a little about politics and worked some of my job and did not think I had the wherewithal to go anywhere. Then in the late afternoon I called rushthatspeaks
just as they were preparing to e-mail me and they came over with a car and the day got a lot better. The Michaels in Porter Square has, improbably, an excellent aisle of stuff for professional cake decorating. I bought a box of picture hangers from Tags and we went home to make gadon tahu (coriander-and-cumin-spiced tofu with coconut cream steamed in banana leaves) out of Andrea Nguyen's amazing Asian Tofu
(2012). We had no kaffir lime leaves, but we chopped Quorn into the tofu mash for extra protein and results fed me, Rush, and gaudior
more than satisfactorily. I keep calling
Nguyen's recipes amazing, but I think that is really their proper epithet. We were dubious about the spice proportions as we were mixing them: too much coriander, too little cumin, too little pepper, too much salt. The garlic and the shallot seemed fine, but we'd have used more palm sugar. And then somehow it cooked out beautifully, not at all insipid and not overspiced. We used fresh ginger and a little cider vinegar to substitute for the brightness of the red chili we had to leave out and kept the sriracha on the table just in case. The banana leaves themselves are part of the flavor, tea-smelling without bitterness (or caffeine); I recognized it from sticky rice in dim sum restaurants. They turn a deep, translucent green when steamed. Honestly, thawing and cutting the leaves into the correct size for folding into little tamale-packets was the fiddliest part of the preparation. From start to finish, including the steaming, maybe forty-five minutes? I love Nguyen's book so much.
The rest of this post is a placeholder for me talking about Lexx
(1997–2002). Rush showed me the first two episodes of the third season tonight. It came up in conversation; somebody thought to check Netflix. Before playing the first one, they warned me that I would hate it
: that it takes a second viewing (sometimes of the same episode) for a person to develop any kind of taste for the show and their only explanation for this phenomenon is that in between the two experiences the brain must grow an extra lobe or something in order to process the indescribable weirdness that is any given episode of Lexx
I loved the first episode I saw, but I also love Barbarella
(1968) and M. John Harrison's Kefahuchi Tract and there is nothing wrong at all with Nigel Bennett in a long black coat with a lip ring, I am just saying.
I loved the second episode, too.
This is a political post, because I am slowly catching up on the news. My month of crashing health has culminated in a sinus infection and I spent a lot of yesterday either talking to doctors or playing phone tag with them. Today I am just wiped.
I was really, really not all right with Dzokhar Tsarnaev not being read his Miranda rights when he was arrested. That worried me deeply, especially when I heard the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts defend the decision on the grounds of terrorism. So I am glad to see that he was read them
in hospital. Anything else, I would have had to start figuring out who to write letters to, wondering if it would make any difference in a world where terror is apparently a country with citizens we can all recognize on sight.
For similar reasons, I am glad to see that he will be tried in a civilian court, not as an enemy combatant. I was not all right with the Tsarnaev brothers, presently and posthumously, being treated as some kind of junior-grade al-Qaeda because they used bombs rather than automatic rifles. I do not want to downplay the atrocity of targeting a sports event—a pride of bodies—with weapons intended to maim even more than murder. But it seemed to be one of the contributing factors in their othering, as though the bombing was not American
, as a gun massacre would have been. I kept thinking of anarchists as they turn up in late nineteenth and early twentieth century fiction, so often from Russia or other foreign countries where bomb-throwing is a thing. I really wish my book about Émile Henry (The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-Siècle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror
(2009), John Merriman) was not in a box somewhere. Its point is that explosions are quite easily homegrown. We have had them in this country before.
That said, I do not understand the charge
of using a weapon of mass destruction. I do not think it is possible to level a city with a pressure cooker unless you're xkcd
. Everyone on the internet before me has already agreed that school shootings and mall shootings and shootings in movie theaters add up to higher body counts than the toll on the Marathon, sickening and shocking and long-echoing as it will be. So maybe we are back to the foreignness of a bombing after all, the people on the other side of the war from us, whose weapons we would never use (even if we do); this is just the way of getting it in. And the death penalty. I am not surprised to see it in the conversation, but I don't know what it's going to do, other than give me another reason to loathe social media if that is the outcome of the trial. Massachusetts took it off the books in 1984. That's within my lifetime, all right, but I'd like to keep it that way.
I don't think I have anything profound to say. I am glad our judicial system is not as badly broken as I'd been assuming it was. The other thing in the news right now is the funerals of the marathon dead and the MIT police officer who turned out to live in Teele Square, which I hope are easy on their families and friends; it's not my grief and not my place to say anything for them.
Stay away, Adresteia.
Everybody should read this interview
, founder and co-editor of Stone Telling
, and general all-round awesome person. And look forward to Bridgers
when it sees well-deserved print at last.
Note from the offline world, made on my way to the doctor's this morning. The buses go by reading "WE ARE ONE BOSTON" and "BOSTON STRONG" in between their route numbers and destinations. That was weird enough when it was just on Facebook.
Discovery of the night: a personal calzone from Eat at Jumbo's
is exactly the right size for a person who walked fifteen minutes each way for it. I ordered the Frank Cyrano, which is what derspatchel
calls BBQ chicken, ham, and ricotta cheese (see note
), and the time it took me to walk to the restaurant was almost exactly the time it took the calzone to bake; I picked up a vegan chocolate fudge cookie for adrian_turtle
and what I thought was a chocolate peanut butter cookie for myself, placed the calzone flat in a brown paper grocery bag for insulation and by the time I got home it was still warm. It had a very short lifespan after that. The cookie was unfortunately chocolate chunk, which I don't actually like, so I ate the parts that were chocolate and ignored the rest.
Other discovery of the night: it is just ten minutes on foot from my door to rushthatspeaks
'. So after I'd eaten my calzone and finished picking the chocolate out of the cookie, I checked my e-mail and saw that due to the vagaries of life and root vegetables Rush had not actually baked the parsnip cake for faerieboots
' birthday that I was invited to help with last night, so I walked over and we baked a parsnip cake. We had to go to Shaw's for star anise (which they didn't have, so we wound up substituting a mix of aniseed, cinnamon, and amchur to go with the ground cardamom seeds and nutmeg and toasting half the results before whisking it all in with the flour) and four kinds of sugar (which they did, so we bought them all) and the recipe is once again slightly different from the last time we made this cake
(the blackstrap molasses turns out to be necessary for the flavor profile, but its function as liquid in a dense sticky batter can and should be taken over by the sweet liquid obtained from squeezing out the parsnips), but I am looking forward to seeing what happens tomorrow with the lemon icing, which we made last time with crème fraîche and lemon juice and are planning to try this time with lemon extract and ditto. Brown butter is one of the greatest things that can be made on a stovetop; at the point where we had stirred in the white and brown sugar and it had that delicious milk-fat, nuttily toasted smell, I just wanted to put the parsnips on hold and make some biscuits. Also, a spatula is a remarkably handy instrument. At one in the morning, I walked home in the same ten minutes. I have a doctor's appointment at noon tomorrow and we'll figure everything else out after that.
I like where I'm living.
A couple of years ago now, cucumberseed
asked me to name my least favorite god. I answered
:. . . Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I think I'm going to go with Ares, because if Athene is the stratagems and the weighed cost of war, Ares is its senseless bloodlust, the blind berserker violence, smashing his shield into your face over and over and over again until someone pulls him off the ruin. His sacred animals are dogs and vultures, scavenging the carrion off the field. It's no accident that his most famous children are stark terror (
Φόβος) and dread (
Δεῖμος), ingredients for a successful rout, qualities that make it impossible to think straight. One of his daughters with Aphrodite is the revenge-goddess Adresteia (
Ἀδρήστεια, the inescapable), who rides with him to war: on the one hand awesome, but on the other imagine endless reprisals, blood-feud, the eye-for-an-eye that never ends. Even the
Iliad feels ambivalently about him. He is beautiful and insatiable, the hyper-masculine lover of love herself; he is the mad bastard who will get us all killed.
So last night I finally slept for eight hours and I had dreams that were not that sick-stunned hit of a week's worth of REM in fifteen minutes and all stupid nightmares and in one of them I was sitting high up in the casement window of an apartment building somewhere with the skyscraper density of Manhattan and the brownstone aesthetic of Beacon Hill and a woman was speaking from behind me. I don't remember if it was my room or hers. I had thought she was younger than me, in the confusing way that college students now look incredibly young (the crowd of Tuftsies at J.P. Licks on Friday night), but seeing her in heavy ropes and crowns of coin-jewelry like Maria Callas in Pasolini's Medea
(1969) I thought maybe she was ten or fifteen years older: she had a curving face, neither angular nor classical, and I knew that her hair was supposed to be black, but I remember it with a kind of greenish bronze-rippling sheen, like certain kinds of underwater photography or curtained light in a blue-painted room. There were no explosions in the blocks below, no planes falling out of the sky. I couldn't hear gunfire and it wasn't even a clear day, just a sunny one with skyscraper windows glancing back gold and the edges of roof gardens starting to green with spring. But she said from the other side of the room, where I could have seen her leaning with her arms folded between the mirror and the cracks on the wall (not looking anything like an Alma-Tadema painting, which is how it sounds when I write it out: modern, hip-cocked, genuinely bored), "Why would you want to stop?" and I knew who she was then and I was suddenly afraid I wasn't dreaming.
Jesus, brain, don't you want to try a normal anxiety dream for a change? I mean, I've been having those and I hate them, but wouldn't it be a change if you came up with something subtle?
1. I think the strangest thing about yesterday was the timing: one moment we were hearing that the lockdown on Watertown and its adjoining cities and towns had been lifted and wondering how the uncertainty of a suspect still at large was going to affect the rest of the weekend, the next the suspect was no longer at large and we were listening to the last fifteen minutes of He Walked by Night
and I had already gone out in the afternoon; as the day wore on with very little in the way of actual news, I realized that if the shelter-in-place recommendation was going to continue through the weekend, I really needed groceries, and besides I was going stir-crazy. Quite a lot of Somerville must have felt the same way, because the number of pedestrians in Davis Square looked about usual to me. There were cars on the streets. Businesses were a coin-toss—it surprised me that Dave's Fresh Pasta was open, but since they had almost all of the foodstuffs that CVS turned out not to stock, I handed them my money and didn't complain. It was a warm day, the kind Rob and I had joked the previous night we were guaranteeing (on the model of the apotropaic umbrella) by walking back to my apartment to retrieve the sweater I hadn't packed when I left for the funeral on Thursday morning. What I did notice, as we were eating dinner at the Boston Burger Co., was that most of the conversations we could overhear were current events, bouncing around like a hall of mirrors. I like to think we managed to discuss some other things, just to make a change. I missed the press conference in the early evening because I was trying to write some Latin. Later, afterward, I bought ice cream from J.P. Licks. I have other thoughts; they mostly pertain to the alien-ness of a lot of human behavior to me. I am glad the Watertown dragnet did not, in fact, end like the Richard Basehart film noir.
2. Today was supposed to involve sleep and decompression. Instead it involved me walking into urgent care because of a crying-level headache that did not break or even ease slightly after two doses of extra-strength Tylenol equivalent, eventually reaching the point where I couldn't listen to street noises, children's voices were acutely painful, and a low-flying plane had me burrowing into Rob's shoulder until it was gone. I'd called around nine o'clock and gotten a noon appointment, but they saw me early because at ten-thirty I walked in and slumped in the waiting room, feeling like some kind of J-horror ghost. Covering doctor ruled out a bunch of scary neurological things and sent me home with painkillers, which are the only reason I slept the couple of hours in the afternoon that I did, exhaustedly, between Rob and an intermittent Abbie the Cat; I may still have to call more doctors on Monday. At least by evening I was functional enough to go out to dinner at the Cambridge Brewing Company with Rob, and then walk rather too far in search of dessert on a Saturday night, but I wouldn't say I feel well right now. Tomorrow had better not contain contractors, emergencies, people being politically stupid, or any more bobcat of any sort, unless we are talking actual bobcats, like, roaming the garden, in which case I'm all for it.
3. I got home and sitting on the living room table was my contributor's copy of Mythic Delirium #28
, containing my poem "The Ceremony of Innocence." The title comes from Yeats by way of Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw
(1954); it is not quite the dream
I had once of Britten setting Kipling's poems, but it started there, thinking of lost children and other echoes. The rest of the issue is a standout: Dominik Parisien, Rachel Manija Brown, Sofia Samatar, Alicia Cole, just to name a few. Get a copy, read the announcement
. They are not the first magazine that published me, but the first that published me as a poet.
The Post-Meridian Radio Players are not performing tomorrow at the MIT Museum after all, which saddens me. I just re-read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
(1967) and E.L. Konigsburg has died. I wish I were writing. I have to see if I can sleep now.
I am fine and derspatchel
is fine. Being exhausted after separately and mutually stressful days, we went to bed around one in the morning after being off the internet for about an hour previous; so I woke a little after ten o'clock and checked my e-mail on the way back from the bathroom and saw the message from my mother about the police lockdown of Boston, after which Rob read me a lot off Universal Hub
and we have concluded the level of unreality in the current situation is unreal. At the moment we are in bed with our laptops. We could have spent the day this way without any special reason, thank you.