- thinking about:
book reviews, buddhism, doom, fantasy, fiction, hinduism, mysteries, reading, religion, sci-fi, science, space, the south, writing
The other day I mentioned taking walks while listening to Headspace meditations, and the friend I was talking with was puzzled because those are intended for sitting meditation. There is certainly much to be said for sitting meditation, and Headspace has taught me how to appreciate and enjoy it, but walking meditation just feels perfectly designed for me. Sitting meditation feels like using weight machines instead of free weights; it builds capability and endurance, but only in very specific ways that aren't necessarily broadly applicable. Walking mindfully feels like much better practice for moving mindfully through the rest of my life. And I'm always happiest while walking, through a park or through my city.
How to adapt one to the other: Whenever the guiding narration says to rest my focus on the rhythm of the breath, I rest my focus on the rhythm of walking instead. That's it! The rest of the practice is entirely the same.
I've been doing Headspace Pro recently, which is unthemed and includes long periods of silence. Nearly every afternoon, ideally after eating lunch and before the sun gets too low, I go to the little park down the street and walk for 20 minutes or so, very lightly guided by the minimal narration, experiencing the park and the change of seasons and the people and animals that pass by. It's just lovely. I dropped the practice in the summer, because I don't need a reason to get out and walk--I do plenty of it without even trying--and my schedule is often so packed that it's hard to find even 15 or 20 minutes for myself. I expect I'll drop it again next summer for much the same reasons. But I'm so glad to have it for the fall and winter and spring, and I hope to bring FutureKid along with me on many future walks (without headphones in, obvs).
Today I started reading Thích Nhất Hạnh's The Miracle of Mindfulness
. I was looking for his book on walking meditation and couldn't find it, but this was sitting right there (we actually owned two copies). It feels like something I would have nodded along with in the past, but not really viscerally understood. Now that I have an actual meditation practice to link it to, I think I'll get more out of it. In the meantime, it's just enjoyable to read. And it feels so validating to read things like this that both echo my experience and provide gentle direction:
When you are walking along a path leading into a village, you can practice mindfulness. Walking along a dirt path, surrounded by patches of green grass, if you practice mindfulness you will experience that path, the path leading into the village. You practice by keeping this one thought alive: "I'm walking along the path leading into the village." Whether it's sunny or rainy, whether the path is dry or wet, you keep that one thought, but not just repeating it like a machine, over and over again. Machine thinking is the opposite of mindfulness. If we're really engaged in mindfulness while walking along the path to the village, then we will consider the act of each step we take as an infinite wonder, and a joy will open our hearts like a flower, enabling us to enter the world of reality.
I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.
Last night I dreamed of ordering takeout from a Roman thermopolium. I guess I know some dishes I'm making next Thanksgiving.
(This year's experiment is an oyster and cornbread stuffing, a traditional option I have never made myself. derspatchel
found the recipe. It would have been clever if I'd made it as an homage to Arlo Guthrie's "The Ballad of Reuben Clamzo and His Strange Daughter in the Key of A," which is starting to become a listening staple of the holiday in the same way as "Alice's Restaurant," but then it might have needed to contain actual clams.)
Otherwise my recent life has been marked by film noir: rushthatspeaks
and I caught a double feature of The Maltese Falcon
(1941) and The Big Sleep
(1946) at the Brattle yesterday; we watched the first, pre-Code adaptation of The Maltese Falcon
(1931) the night before. I am kind of amazed I didn't dream about Elisha Cook, Jr. I am beginning to feel as though I need some kind of cinematic catch-up post. Not today.
If it's a holiday for you or not, I hope it's a good one.
Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.
(Happy Thanksgiving, USians! Happy Thursday, everyone else! -ctan)
Turns out everyone but me thought we were going to Jordan’s after The Cat Club. I caught up with the plan quickly, though. I went to say goodbye to Artie and found him talking to Barrett, who I hadn’t even realized was there. “How long you in town for?” Barrett asked me, when it was clear I was leaving.
“That might be up to Ziggy,” I said jokingly but it was the truth.
( Read the rest of this entry » )
I’d seen a bit of buzz about Jupiter Ascending, both positive and negative. I didn’t get around to watching it until this week.
The science is absurd, the plot is completely over the top, and about 3/4 of the way through, I figured out why it was working for me.
Spoilers Beyond This Point
( Read the rest of this entry » )
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
- recent reading
Thomas Ligotti. Teatro Grottesco. This is a collection of Ligotti's short stories. I first encountered his work--the title story, in fact--in one of Datlow & Windling's The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies. I remember being intrigued by the pervasive sense of melancholy, decay, and existential despair, but frustrated by the general inconclusiveness of the narrative. I read a couple other Ligottis, which felt the same way. Then my sister took me to Borderlands in San Francisco, and I spotted this (I was actually looking, rather mournfully, for Kathe Koja's The Cipher, which I should have picked up years ago in Houston when it was available on the racks in the supermarket, back when horror was much more popular than it is presently) and decided I'd give the collection a go.
Sadly, my reaction to most of this collection is a resounding Na und? The stories are well-written in a literary manner; they have a distinctly Lovecraftian air, except concerned more with the folly of existence and some seriously abstract suicidal ideation. While repetition, especially of key phrases and images, is used artfully in these stories, my reaction was more one of boredom than a frisson of terror. Part of the problem is that Ligotti seems to think that the idea that existence is completely meaningless is really scary and depressing. I spend large chunks of time thinking that existence is completely meaningless but I don't...care? (In reality I suspect the issue is that I'm far more self-centered than Ligotti is.) Also, the recurrence of phrases or terms like "metaphysical-physical" is more prone to make me roll my eyes than anything else. An intellectual I am not.
Side note: I would recommend that one avoid these stories if one has any fear of clowns or puppets or carnival sideshows. I have no such sensitivity (I used to have a copy of the puppet adaptation of Fool's Fire and found it weird but not soul-destroying) so I found the recurring clowns/puppets/etc. more tiresome than fear-inducing.
These are probably good stories. But they are just not for me. My usual dilemma in reading horror is that I am too squeamish for the splatter/gore varieties, and too insensitive for the more subtle flavors to have much effect on me. So when I read horror, I really do want to be unnerved or outright scared, but I rarely read stories that have the effect I desire.
I did enjoy a few of the stories in the collection. "The Town Manager" is a creepy absurdist story with a circular structure I really should have seen coming. "The Clown Puppet" had some good moments. My favorite was the also-absurdist "Our Temporary Supervisor," with its vision of assembly-line work taken to a logical and manic extreme. Most of the others, as discussed above, didn't do much for me.
Part of my mistake was probably in reading this collection in a few days rather than rationing out the stories. I wonder if the experience would have felt less claustrophobically repetitious if I'd rationed. On the other hand, if you are of a temperament such that you enjoy Ligotti (and there's nothing wrong with that--again, I think he's a good author that is not my personal cuppa), this could lead to a fine horror-reading experience.
Does anyone else read Ligotti? Thoughts? While I didn't find most of the stories satisfactory in themselves, I find him both frustrating and intensely interesting. I wouldn't buy another collection, but if I came across him in an anthology, I'd read the story out of curiosity.
- thinking about:
Is basically the answer to "what would happen if Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters was administered by the same people who ran the Residential School system?" Although it occurs to me my write-up may be too specifically Canadian; not sure if the campaign city is in Canada.
Because why not.
Also because yesterday was even more spectacularly horrible than usual for completely unrelated
reasons, involving a really bad thing that happened at work which I can't discuss because confidentiality, followed by four hours in the ER with my cat culminating in the vet coming in and saying, "Well… it could be a little scratch that got infected… or IT COULD BE CANCER." (I don't think it's cancer.)
Beneath the cut, I am going to put a bunch of prompts for stories, fanfic or original, in case anyone wants to pick one up and cheer me up.
I like hurt-comfort, worldbuilding, adventure, action, heroism, self-sacrifice, hard choices, camaraderie, luscious descriptions of food and landscape, loyalty kink, trauma and recovery, military settings, bands of brothers (or sisters, or brothers and sisters) and a strong sense of place. I'm fine with original characters. I enjoy gen, het, femmeslash, and slash, and I enjoy relationships of any variety, from friendships to epic romance to hot sex. I prefer happy or bittersweet endings to doom and despair.
I could write epics on what I like about hurt-comfort, but I think the key is tenderness. So many individual elements that I like - characters helping each other to walk or eat or bathe, stroking hair, cuddling, etc - come down to that. I also like the opportunities for glorious melodrama, such as desperate stumbles through the woods in search of aid, bedside vigils, delirious confessions of long-held secrets, stoicism, soldiering on with a task until total collapse (possibly while concealing an injury), etc.
Things I find hot: fantasy prostitution where it's consensual and totally a fantasy of being able to simply point your finger and get the exact sexual experience or partner you want, like the Kushiel books or that hot short story Ellen Kushner wrote in "Sirens." Strong men and their muscles, especially if they're stocky/wiry but not tall. Strong, lean, boyish or butch women and their
muscles. Voluptuous Venus of Willendorf women. Slim petite women with wings. Collarbones. Breasts. Hands. Long, graceful feet. Jeremy Renner's arms. Eyes of any color, from ordinary to ridiculously exotic. Long flappy leather coats. Elaborate clothing with ribbons and complicated ties. Masquerade balls. Carnival masks. Venice and fantasy cities with canals. Passionate sex up against the wall. Corsets. Half-clothed sex. People really getting into each others' bodies. Writing on bodies.
Quiet men with still waters running deep, like Le Guin's Ged. Wizards, artists, craftspeople, medics, soldiers and warriors, chefs, musicians, DJs, dancers, acrobats, pilots, martial artists, physical and psychotherapists. Really determined people. Happy people, especially when they have not had easy lives. People with scars or disabilities, mental or physical. Found families. Friendship. Misfits finding a home. People who love their jobs, especially if they're not very glamorous. Telepathic animals. Rats. People with beautiful wings. Myth and folklore. Nicknames, formalized or not. Shapeshifters. PTSD. Hard-earned happy endings. Loyalty against all odds. Lovers on opposite sides of a war. Conflicts of honor.
Settings where everything is lush and beautiful. Settings where everything is trying to eat you. (Or both!) Deserts. Lush forests. Big bustling cities, Hostage or imprisonment scenarios. Desperate last stands. Clever escapes. Con artists. DRAGONS. Portals. Wish-fulfillment that's earned. Mist. Mountains. Journeys, into the known or the unknown. Ships or portals that will take you somewhere, who knows where, or make you vanish forever. Space explorers. Space Marines. Trapped in an evil lab. Psychic kids (or adults.) People with powers who aren't costumed superheroes. Boarding schools. Boot camp. Riding anything. Dragon hatching, cub bonding - anything where people bond with animals, that is my favorite thing ever. ( Read more... )
Well, this is awkward.
Technically, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write at least 50,000 words during the month of November. Well, I just typed THE END on the first draft of my book. A first draft which is 40,861 words in length. So, technically speaking, I have not won NaNoWriMo.
Go on. Ask me if I care.
Over the course of 25 days, I produced a complete first draft of a middle grade fantasy novel. Like most of my first drafts, this one is an utter mess. (My son is disappointed I won’t read this version to him, and he has to wait until at least draft two.) But it has a lot of fun ideas, and is just begging to be rewritten and cleaned up into what I hope will be a publishable novel.
I’m thrilled. This is exactly what I hoped I’d be able to accomplish. There were several days I wasn’t sure I’d make it. We had some family issues, and I had to scramble to get the page proofs done and turned back on Revisionary. There were also times I think I might have pushed myself a little too hard. I felt myself skirting depression once or twice as I struggled to get things done in the real world while also chiseling away at the word count.
- I’m not the 25-year-old kid with no life who can do 80,000 words in a month. But I can do 40,000 in just under a month, and that’s pretty damn sweet.
- First drafts are allowed to be broken. Stop beating yourself up for not being perfect the first time. (I have to relearn this one with every book, but I had to learn it harder this time.)
- Have fun.
- Goblins make everything better. So do chainsaws.
- Concrete wordcount goals and public accountability (like the word count meter) work really well for me, but also increase stress.
- Don’t neglect self-care.
- First drafts, for me, are about throwing in every idea you can. Revision is for pruning some of those ideas and developing the ones you keep.
- Next book: chainsaw-wielding goblins…
For my fellow NaNo writers, whatever your goals this month, whatever your triumphs and setbacks, whether you “won” or not, I hope you had fun. I hope you discovered something new. I hope you grew as a writer, and I hope you feel good about the work you’ve done.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go print out a manuscript.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
There is a very high chance that I will be getting a laptop as an early Christmas gift. I'm seriously considering a Macbook Air. I like the new ickle 2-lb. Macbook in theory but the complete lack of USB port that I can plug a backup USB stick into is a dealbreaker. I'm wondering if people have experiences with the Air that they'd like to share--I'm aware that it comes in an 11" and 13" size.
This would not be my primary machine; that remains a Windows desktop.  I would largely be using it when I need to code (text files--Choicescript, in my case) or do writing on the go (Scrivener? open to alternatives since my understanding is that Scrivener projects are not intercompatible between the Mac and Windows versions anyway), plus light internet (read: the ability to enjoy Yuletide while visiting in-laws for Christmas). Not really concerned about being able to watch videos or whatever.
 We still haven't figured out what's causing the intermittent BSOD, which worries me.
In concept I like the portability of the smaller size but I'm worried the keyboard will feel too small. On the other hand, it wouldn't be what I use all the time, and when coding at home  I'd be plugging in an external keyboard (my trusty Kinesis Advantage).
 Because of the desktop's crashes, I don't trust it with my code anymore. The current Windows laptop is slow and heavy and very annoying--it lags sometimes when I type too fast in a text editor, for God's sake--but it doesn't crash.
I think I should like to name such a laptop Kujen. In fact, maybe I could name all my devices Kujen. Many instantiations! 
 Ridiculous hexarchate joke that about six people will get.
I apologize to everyone I hurt with the posts I made recently. I really regret making them. You will not be seeing anything else like that from me in the future. I could go on, but I feel like this is the sort of thing where the more I apologize, the worse I make it. So I'll leave this one and the last one up (even though the last one probably counts as more of the same) and am private-locking the rest. I'm locking comments for the same reason. Of course, anyone is always welcome to email or PM me.
ETA: Sorry AGAIN, I now see that I cut off conversations in a post. I will unlock it but edit it to make it less alarming.
Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.
Okay. I fully admit that bullshit ideas about how to “be a man” are what turned my father into a toxic waste dump of a human being–probably what fucked up my grandfather, too, now that I think about it–and were very instrumental in all the ways I tore myself apart like a Cuisinart blade spinning inside my skin when I was growing up. I was aware of that on that night. That didn’t mean I could stop myself from flipping open the guitar case like it had a tommy gun inside or feeling like while I was tuning it I was priming a shotgun.
Thing is, when your bullets are notes and riffs, there’s really no compelling reason not to let them rip.
( Read the rest of this entry » )
Pleasant surprise of the evening: Dwight Frye in an otherwise undistinguished B-movie I was watching for the curiosity value. teenybuffalo
, take note.
Although I recognize that they sound from their titles as though they should feature turbo-charged cars, splendidly diverse casts, and slash potential that goes up to eleven, Fast Company
(1938), Fast and Loose
(1939), and Fast and Furious
(1939) are a weird little trio of light mysteries that exist for a reason so bizarrely specific, I waited a week of interlibrary loan just to see what they were like: they were made by MGM explicitly to provide a fix of married, witty amateur detectives during the three-year hiatus between the second and third Thin Man
pictures. Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice star as Joel and Garda Sloane, married rare book dealers who run a sideline in recovering stolen rare books for insurance agencies.1
They're no William Powell and Myrna Loy, which they must have known, but to be fair their material's not exactly Dashiell Hammett. Their bantering chemistry works about half the time—they seem to get a charge out of playing boss and secretary, including in front of a visibly uncomfortable insurance investigator—but the remainder gets closer to sniping than I enjoy, even when repeatedly assured by the script that the characters love one another to distraction. The plot revolves around the murder of Otto Brockler (George Zucco), a miserly but prominent dealer who almost certainly framed his daughter's suitor for theft two years earlier; newly released from jail, Ned Morgan (Shepperd Strudwick) is the obvious suspect, but the dead man's daughter believes in his innocence and so does Joel Sloane, who sets out to clear his friend's name by finding first the real murderer and secondly the supposedly stolen books. Glamorous secretary Julia Thorne (Claire Dodd) plainly knows more than she's saying, deflecting Joel's questions with cool shutdowns like "Pardon me, do you take dope?" Smooth-talking, well-tailored Eli Bannerman (Louis Calhern) has a broad, confident smile and no qualms about cheating one of his criminal associates, setting up the man up for murder, and then killing him anyway. The police are exasperated by the constantly teasing Sloanes, but seem to need them for leads; Ned's lawyer doesn't believe his story of drunkenly stumbling onto the murder scene and then bolting in a panic; a pair of thugs are hired to take Joel out of the picture and Garda envies the latest fashions. There are some nice one-liners and some surprisingly suggestive exchanges, but further developments are best described as "machinations." This film runs less than an hour and a half and I was wondering by the fifty-minute mark how it even lasted that long.
Fortunately for my attention span, Fast Company
supplies one real redeeming feature in the presence of Dwight Frye as one of the supporting criminals, a counterfeiter of rare books who is justifiably proud of his first-edition Leaves of Grass
. With his octagonal glasses and his sideways-falling hair, Sidney Wheeler has a clerkish, geeky look, but he cleans up nicely to threaten his contemptuous partner with a gun he wasn't supposed to be carrying ("Put down that bottle and get your hands up—quick! Sit down. Rest yourself. Why don't you hit me now?") and take a girl out on the town with a wallet of stolen money, knocking back his nth shot of the night while the wide-eyed blonde breathes admiringly, "Boy, can you take it!" Especially in light of Frye's horror-maniac typecasting, it's fun to see him in a role that only calls for ordinarily bad judgment, like getting into the rare book racket with sharks like Bannerman and Brockler. Sidney is high-strung but not hysterical, happiest when disheveled and underslept, showing off his handiwork at the end of a long night; he grips the unfamiliar gun so tightly that his hand jitters, but at point-blank range it won't matter. He takes a fall like pantomime, toppling out of shot for seconds before he drops. I'm not sure he looks good in a bowtie, but it's cute on him. He gets four scenes before the plot catches up with him and I am profoundly grateful he was in the picture at all; Frye wasn't credited on the back of the box or in the opening titles, so it wasn't until the dramatis personae that I realized I had him to look forward to. I might well have bailed otherwise. Not surprisingly, I lost interest somewhat after he exited the script. Douglas and Rice are trying their best, but the failure mode of sparkling wit is a vague feeling of embarrassment for all concerned. Claire Dodd fares better by virtue of being the bad girl; her cold-blooded calculation makes her one of the more intelligent figures in the plot, since she at least can plan for the future. I suppose it's unfair to Shepperd Strudwick that I expected
him to turn out crooked in some kind of twist. The selection of films in which I have previously seen Louis Calhern is peculiar.
So I had three quite good movies to write about, including the silent war epic I saw on Sunday, but I seem to have devoted this space instead to a 75-minute oddity created with only the most mercenary motives in mind. I may even subject myself to the sequels, although I do not expect them to contain surprise Dwight Frye.2
This distraction sponsored by my indulgent backers at Patreon
1. In future outings, the characters will be played first by Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell, then by Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern, which is one of the reasons these films have fascinated me since I ran across mention of them. The writer in all three cases is the same, Harry Kurnitz, who had also written the original novel Fast Company under the name of Marco Page. The directors vary again, however, with the last being Busby Berkeley. I freely admit I want to know how that went down.
2. They don't. I checked IMDb. Alas. I would be tremendously entertained by a series of movies in which Dwight Frye appeared in small roles and met a different bad end each time.
From now on, I will no longer be posting about my health on this blog. Please email me if you want an update or if you have something related to it that you want to tell me. I will, of course, put up a post if things improve or if there's any genuinely game-changing news, or if I have a specific question I need crowd-sourced.
But I will no longer be writing about my feelings regarding my health, or day to day issues regarding my health, except perhaps in passing in a post primarily about something else. I do still have people who I can talk to about it, such as my therapist. I will just not be talking about it here.
I very, very much appreciate the lovely things everyone has said to me over the last day or so. I took them very much to heart and they made me feel a lot better. (And if you ever want to add more, go ahead and email them or comment to those posts - I'm not shutting down comments.)
I also very much appreciate everyone who advised when I asked for advice. That was also very helpful.
Ultimately, however, I was clearly upsetting people in a way which ended up being upsetting for me. I don't like posting comment-disabled - for me, blogging is two-way communication - and when it comes to an issue like this, of desperate importance to me, speaking with anything less than raw honesty is far more upsetting to me than not speaking at all.
This is NOT intended to blame or guilt-trip anyone. I tried my absolute best to make this not sound passive-aggressive, but it probably does anyway. Sorry. It's a tightrope walk, and I decided to come down on the side of "passive-aggressive but honest" rather than "weaselly." The only alternative I could think of was to just never post again on the subject with no explanation, but I thought that would make people worry even more. As I said, I will still be speaking about my health and my feelings and so forth. Just not here.
Also, I am hoping it will cheer me up if I can have a space that's devoted to book reviews and hurt-comfort and psychology and "it could only happen to Rachel" and such. Part of why I've been hesitant to put up stuff like that is that for - of course - health-related reasons I've been really spacy and it's difficult to write. But I think a half-assed, semi-coherent book review is probably better than no book review. If I get a character's name wrong or criticize a character for not doing something they did in fact do, PLEASE correct me in comments. I will not be be angry or upset or offended.
Finally, I don't like to over-control other people's speech (a big part of what was upsetting me about posting about my health) but I have to make one final request in that line:
Please don't ask, "Was it me?"
lupus just one person. And it's not even like anyone was doing anything wrong per se. It was just an unhealthy, upsetting dynamic.
Revisionary [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound], the fourth and final Magic ex Libris book, comes out on February 2, 2016. I finished up the final page proofs at the end of last week, which means I can officially share a preview of the first chapter.
If you haven’t read the other books, there will be spoilers. You have been warned…
I’ll be sad to move on from Isaac, Lena, Smudge, Nidhi, and the rest, but having read the book again over the past week or two, I’m very happy with how everything wraps up. And I should have some news to share relatively soon about what I’ll be doing next.
In the meantime, thanks to everyone who’s bought and borrowed and read and reviewed and shared and generally just enjoyed and supported these books. I hope you enjoy this installment.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
My poem "The Lost Aphrodite" has been accepted by The Cascadia Subduction Zone
. In July, rose_lemberg
asked me for a poem about stones; I wrote this one the next day on the commuter train to Salem. It's not the perspective from which I usually write about the ancient world.
I did take a nap yesterday, right after posting. That did not stop me from failing to get more than another hour and a half of sleep last night. So far I have stayed awake through a morning meeting (online) with my fellow editors at Strange Horizons
, an afternoon showing of Rex Ingram's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
(1921) at the Somerville Theatre, cat-feeding errands with derspatchel
, housecleaning with rushthatspeaks
, and then some more Steven Universe
. I think it has actually been a reasonably productive day. I'd just like to feel less like I'm running some comparative experiment in sleep deprivation. I have movies to write about. Not to mention poems. Someday. It might be fun.
Have some gryphons from the Black Sea
These are all spoilery. It's probably a good idea to just assume trigger warnings for sexual violence, abuse, gas lighting, and trauma for Jessica Jones
, Jessica Jonesmusesfool
, don't let the system get you downselenak
, Jessica Jonesveejane
, #JessicaJones Hangover
65 "definitely recommend" fics out of last year's Yuletide is more than enough, right? (It's more than I've recommended in the last few years, anyway.) I don't have to reread the 93 stories tagged "maybe" in Evernote in case some of them have turned into gold since then? (Especially since I have a couple of this-year betas to deal with?)
(Edit: oh, damn it, I said to myself "wait, where is that thing that I remember very vividly," and it turned out to be in the "maybe" tag, and when I was scrolling I saw a bunch of things that made me say "wait, what?" so I think I will be doing a slash-and-burn pass through that tag after all. But after this-year beta'ing, as much as I can now. Ugh, my brain.)
So our internet stopped working shortly before I left the house last night, which was irrelevant for the next several hours because I was participating in the previously mentioned poetry reading
at the Sloane Merrill Gallery. I think it went very well. The gallery itself is a lovely small space with brick walls and three levels; we started out reading directly in the storefront, but after one round reoriented more into the gallery so that the half-dozen chairs and the stairs on which everyone else was sitting formed a semicircle. (Good call, April
!) We read by turns in alphabetical order, starting with Gillian
and ending with me, two or three poems at a time. I heard some really terrific pieces from everyone, especially new work. I read a mixed selection from Ghost Signs
and uncollected poems, opening with "Clear
" and closing with "After the Red Sea
." Afterward I received a real compliment from one of Gillian's friends: she said I made the ancient world immediate and vivid, not distant or dry. That is the sort of thing I take very seriously and am honored to hear. Also this way I don't have to feel bad about the impromptu lectures I can remember giving about the motif of mourning sirens and the loss of Carthaginian literature. Thank you to AJ
for proposing this event in the spring and Ali
for letting us have the space! It was a lot of fun.
The rest of the night involved driving nineweaving
home with gaudior
, acquiring a surprisingly successful Brussels sprout sandwich from the Clover
in Inman Square, meeting derspatchel
for about an hour in Davis while I ran an errand, and watching more seaQuest
, which I am genuinely enjoying even as the worldbuilding continues to throw itself at the wall and see what sticks, which is generally nothing from week to week. The Titanic
-ish ghost story was unexpected, but nicely done. I don't have much to say about most of the guest stars, but Udo Kier makes a great guilt-haunted geneticist. I really keep meaning to watch his turns as Frankenstein and Dracula.
And then this morning I got up a little before nine o'clock to wait for the RCN technicians on an hour and a half of sleep—trust me, I'm trying—and therefore they arrived inevitably a little before noon. The problem was either a loose connection of the cable in the basement or a splice in the tangle of cables in the box on the side of the house or some interacting quality of the two; no matter what, they fixed it. I got my hammer out of the closet and a bunch of nails from Gaudior's tookit and finally hung my calendar on the wall next to my desk, so that I can keep track of my life without fishing it out of the green basket chair every time. The wall over
the desk now holds the necklace ladymondegreen
sent me in October: it is made of braided leather and the shells of sea-snails and tiny ark clams and sea-amber; it looks like Neolithic jewelry. I cannot imagine wearing it safely, but I am happy to look at it every time I glance up from my screen.
Have some things I would have linked sooner:
1. Courtesy of strange_selkie
: butch Kate Winslet
. She should wear ties more often.
2. There are a lot of demons in Jewish folklore, but Carol K. Howell's "The Demon's Debut
" is a perspective I haven't seen before. It reminds me slightly of Steve Stern's "Yiddish Twilight," except how it's exactly the opposite. The family's name is a nice touch.
3. Various actors including Ruth Wilson, Gabriel Byrne, Michael Sheen, and Maxine Peake read the Guardian
's poems on climate change
. I linked a few of these in the spring, but here's the entire collection with voices. James Franco appears to be the non-Brit in the bunch and I am not sure how that happened.
4. Serpent-footed Scythian goddess
5. Still relevant: the United States Holocaust Museum makes a statement
about the Syrian refugees. I am sorry not to have known about it until now, but I am glad to read that last night in front of the Massachusetts state house there was a rally
I am seriously considering taking a nap.
I've been watching ALL the YouTube videos and I haven't liked a newfound geek this much since I discovered Hans Rosling. I recommend him to anyone interested in people, autism, autistic people, or experts. I like experts. Mmm, experts.
There are two ghosts on my mother's side of the family about whom I will never know more than the stories I am about to tell; the people who could have told me the rest died in other countries long ago.
One is the eldest child of my great-great-grandfather, who changed his name from Kaufman to Goldberg when he came to this country with his wife and four daughters in 1900. I am named for the youngest of them, my grandmother's mother Sofy. My cousin
's great-grandmother was Anna, the oldest of the four. No one can tell me anything about the fifth child, the half-sibling, who may not even have lived. That sounds like a riddle, but it isn't meant to: at the age of sixteen, my great-great-grandfather was married in a hurry to a girl whose mother was so legendarily terrifying, an entire shtetl called her "the Cossack." The reason? He had gotten a local—Christian—girl pregnant. His new mother-in-law would keep him in line. And she may well have done, since I never heard that he was unfaithful to my great-great-grandmother, but neither did I hear what happened to the other girl. If she kept the child, if she bore it as a bastard, if she was married off just as hastily as her erstwhile boyfriend, if no one ever knew, if everyone knew, if she aborted or miscarried, if there are still descendants today: I don't know. All this is supposed to have taken place in Bessarabia, whose history has not exactly been untroubled since then. I am left to imagine, but almost nothing I can imagine ends happily. I would like history to prove me wrong. I know it's not often so obliging.
The second ghost is an alternate history. My other great-grandmother, my grandfather's mother, came to America with a friend in 1912. Her name was Ida Friedman; depending on the story, he is her lover, her boyfriend, her fiancé. They came from Vishnevets, in what was then Poland and is now Ukraine. He was of military age. They walked all night through the mountains to cross the border, I was always told: at dawn their guide pointed down into Austria-Hungary, out of reach of the Tsar's army. Together they took the trains to Holland and a ship to America and at Ellis Island he was sent back, because of his health. She never saw him again. She met my grandfather's father in New York City, they ran a general store on the corner of Broadway and Hooper in Brooklyn near the elevated station and the trolley stop, their two children were born in the building and their son fell in love with the movies. For their descendants, her lover's story ends in a maze of railings and benches. He is faceless to me; he looks like a photograph, with chalkmarks on his coat and a suitcase in his hand and even that is imagination. When they say sent back
, I don't know where he went to. I have always wanted to know his name.
I am thinking about these stories, obviously, because I am thinking about people caught between definitions and borders and I feel some things should have changed in a hundred years.