sovay: (Rotwang)
I'm not entirely sure where to start with Simon (1980). It's almost easier for me to describe it by the movies it's not. It resembles Network (1976) by way of Steven Wright; it recalls Being There (1979) with more cynical Jewish humor; it's sort of the whoopee cushion version of The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). Writer-director-producer Marshall Brickman co-wrote his first three movies with Woody Allen, but his solo debut, despite its chronic sarcasm, is notably lacking in the squirminess that made me want to tell everyone in Manhattan (1979) to get themselves an actually good therapist and stop bothering me. I had no idea it existed until it ran last week on TCM, after which I waited until the absolute last minute to watch it off the buffer because I was really afraid that if a sci-fi-tinged black comedy featuring Alan Arkin, Judy Graubart, Austin Pendleton, and Madeline Kahn failed to live up to its star power, it would just depress me. It did not depress me. If you can imagine what a satire looks like when it's simultaneously bleak and gentle and ambitiously indebted to the Algonquin Round Table, okay, that's where to start.

The trouble begins at the super-secret Institute for Advanced Concepts, a streamlined white block on a green hillside occupied by "five of the most brilliant—and twisted—geniuses in America." Originally assembled by the government to solve the standard think-tank problems of world hunger and renewable energy, then left to their own devices with infinite funding and zero oversight, the combined intellects of Dr. Carl Becker (Pendleton) and his colleagues Hundertwasser (Max Wright), Barundi (Jayant), Van Dongen (Wallace Shawn), and Fichandler (William Finley) have devolved into high-concept practical joking with the occasional outcropping of good old mad science, like single-handedly keeping the worst of American TV on the air by use of judicious Nielsen jamming or improving the fragile human genome by crossbreeding with the hardy cockroach. "The Nixon who entered China in 1972," we are nonchalantly informed, "was not the one we sent back." Their imaginations fired by an innocuous NYT item noting the rising belief in extraterrestrials, these Strangeloves of the Carter administration are fatefully inspired to give the public what it wants, if only to see what chaos will reign when they get it: a real live alien. "Find a little orphan, do a little job on him . . . A few changes here and there—blood, various fluids—I have a thought about a primal trauma!" Perfect for their purposes is Simon Mendelssohn (Arkin), a feverishly unsuccessful assistant professor of psychology at Columbia University; introduced bicycling across campus in a flapping camel-hair coat and a knit-browed expression of mental heavy weather, he's the kind of would-be iconoclast who invokes Heisenberg, Zen Buddhism, and Wittgenstein in the same barely attended lecture before declaring that the answer to global warming is to turn the Earth into a spaceship and "move to another solar system where there is food and water and air—it can happen!" The latest craze in his quest for self-actualization is sensory deprivation, which his semi-girlfriend Lisa (Graubart) views with unresigned skepticism: "Do you remember what happened last time with the peyote?" It takes exactly one ego-gratifying sentence from Becker to get him on a helicopter to the Institute, all too easily suckered into believing that his screwloose mediocrity has won him the grant of a lifetime when really he's just being studied for the best cracks into a psyche that already sees no issue with conversational icebreakers like "Do you know that if I hyperventilate for ten minutes, I really do some very interesting things, creatively?" One hundred and ninety-seven hours in a float tank and one Spielbergian false memory later, Simon is ready to make his first pronouncements to humanity—as an alien messiah from the Orion Nebula. Valentine Michael Smith, hang on to your hat.

The thing I really like about Simon is how relaxed it is in its weirdness. I can imagine a much faster-paced, wilder-eyed version of this plot, but until the final wind-up it just sort of ambles drolly along, tongue firmly in cheek unless it's poking it out at some aspect of American pop culture. The Institute for Advanced Concepts looks like a Brutalist greenhouse and is lettered everywhere in trendily lowercase Helvetica. Its on-call supercomputer is voiced by Louise Lasser and resembles, proto-Siri, a gigantic touch-tone telephone. The script's almost reflexive condemnation of disco is a cheap shot even for 1979, but in this our era of hipster beards I feel the allegation that "mutton chops and a mustache look moronic and they give the country a very, very bad image" hasn't dated at all. When Simon unfurls his list of demands for the betterment of humanity, they are exactly the kind of pet peeve writ as the decline of civilization that will never go out of comedy style:

"One—All Muzak in elevators, airports, restaurants, and other public rooms will cease immediately. Two—No more children or animals may be used to sell products. Three—Lawyers who lose cases will go to jail with their clients. Four—No doctor may write a diet book. Any doctor who does will immediately lose his license and become a dentist. Five—I think we don't really need a House of Representatives and a Senate. The Romans didn't have one, so let's just have a Senate, okay? Which reminds me, I think it would be a very good idea from now on all politicians who appeared in public wore a cone-shaped party hat. Not bad, huh? Six—Pollution. Anybody who owns a factory that makes radioactive waste has to take it home at night with him to his house. Seven—Anybody who says, 'I'm trying to get centered,' 'You're invading my space,' or 'Far out' will be fined $50. Make that $100."

Whether giving hermetically sealed press conferences in a three-piece white suit or tramping across dry winter fields dressed like a Russian monk gone feral in New Jersey, Arkin is seamless as the luftmentsh turned starman; he has a bluntly grounded quality that the film plays for extra derangement, as when the Institute's mental meddling leaves Simon regressed "about five hundred million years" and the awestruck scientists plus the audience get to watch him mime-evolve his way from plankton through the Industrial Revolution, complete with bone-smashing scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). When he weeps, "Oh, God! I'm a toaster!" it's horrifying, hilarious, and heartbreaking all at once. Even when he falls in with a TV cargo cult founded by a repentant ABC executive who patch him into the carrier wave and get him simultaneous coast-to-coast coverage for his fireside chats with America, the results are dryly close to his original half-baked class notes, now with more theology and kamashastra. You find yourself reacting to about half of them with right on and the other half with aaaagh. Personally, I approve his inclusion of Orange Julius among the great treasures of civilization unjustly withheld from the ordinary citizen ("The secret white powder that makes it a devilishly good drink—why is it a secret? I want that formula!"). This is a film that can afford almost to throw away Madeline Kahn on the part of a brilliant ringer who can do a thing with her tongue and then casually toss in Adolph Green as a cult leader who sermonizes from TV Guide and Fred Gwynne as a hawkish major-general who brightens on hearing that the Institute has invented a "stupid-making gas," albeit one that is now drifting in a cloud toward D.C. Best of all, it knows not to treat Graubart's Lisa as the scold or the straight woman, even though she's the only person in this picture with her head halfway screwed on. "Do you or do you not want me to win a Nobel Prize?" Simon demands early on, approaching his homebuilt sensory deprivation tank in a onesie the color of radioactive pea soup, trailing way too many wires from his shower cap. In the middle of an argument that comes down to him not killing himself in the name of scientific progress, she still doesn't miss a beat: "Yes, if you wear that to the ceremony!" She has a square brush of dark hair and a wonderful toothy grin under her rainbow knit cap and she's actually as clued in as the man she loves only sounds; it holds them together in a way I believe rather than merely accept. Her last look onscreen is like something by Andrew Wyeth.

The film unravels a little toward the end; it goes over a different top than I thought it was aiming for and it settles somewhere satisfyingly (and not too mean-spiritedly) ironic, but I blame the 1980's that NASA got involved. I don't expect all jokes in a movie to land equally, but there are a couple here where I'm not sure how they ever would. I happen to find it funny that the luminous flying saucer memory programmed into Simon by the Institute sounds like a Jewish mother routine by Fanny Brice, but I am not sure it was dramatically or artistically necessary for Becker to conceive a passion for Doris, the supercomputer, and then try to make it with a giant phone receiver. That said, I have loved Austin Pendleton ever since the original cast recording of Fiddler on the Roof and I was delighted to see him cast against type as a mad research director. Slight and boyishly greying in echt-'70's turtlenecks and leather blazers, "this Becker person" has a self-deprecatingly goofy grin, a natural bent toward smarm which he works very hard to channel into scientific authority, and generally looks like the worst he could do is corner you at a party and mansplain Philip Roth; then he says calmly of their latest experiment who is by now requesting a joint audience with the President, the Premier of China, Walter Cronkite, and the Pope, "I'd like to have him terminated." And, I mean, if you have always wanted to see Austin Pendleton make it with a giant phone receiver, this is your movie. I am just more charmed by the nefarious government conspiracy that escalates to a shuttle launch and is still mostly deadpan. I like the punctuation of scenes with classical music which is sometimes spoofing and sometimes not; I like the gags it has going on in the background, whether mad science or just immature scientists; I like that every now and then something real, wintry, and touching happens in it that a punch line can't break. The richly colored cinematography by Adam Holander keeps just as much of a poker face as the script. Even walk-ons like the gangly, Disney-sweatered grad student played by Keith Szarabajka get quotable lines: "Well, when he came out he was convinced he'd turned into a six-foot-tall penis named Bob. Other than that, he's perfectly normal." It lived up to its character actors, which was what I wanted it to do, and then some, in that now I have a few more to keep track of. I did not die of anti-intellectualism when it finished by thinking that philosophy is still important. I have no idea if I should watch anything else in Brickman's non-Allen filmography. Anyway, when I hear even a brainwashed pseudo-alien saying, "Save the world? I can't even get a regular checking account!" I sympathize. This visitation brought to you by my far out backers at Patreon.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
Today was almost ludicrously validating in several different arenas of my life, which is not at all what I expected when I got out of bed this morning. The short course is that my teaching skills have not deserted me, even after a decade rusting and in a field I had never actually taught before, and separately I am looking at a professional opportunity which I am not going to talk about until it has some substance because I don't want to sneeze on it and break it, but the prospect makes me extremely excited. Also people said really nice things about my singing and my writing and they were even different people. I am exhausted but elevated in mood. I am going to pitch over sideways on this couch and stare at a movie or read this book [personal profile] skygiants lent me and play Tacocat's "Grains of Salt" like ten more times.
sovay: (Sydney Carton)
Today was mostly not enjoyable because my brain imploded on me, figuratively but painfully, but it ended with [personal profile] spatch buying me a flower of pistachio-hazelnut-vanilla gelato in Harvard Square, so that was nice. I spent some time in the evening in a branch of the BPL and left with Benny Lindelauf and Ludwig Volbeda's Tortot, The Cold Fish Who Lost His World and Found His Heart (2017), an illustrated semi-fable about a cynical cook and a youthful half-soldier; it's funny, bittersweet—which is not YA code for crushingly depressing, although any story about the absurdity and horror of war is going to have some non-cheerful aspects even when the warring emperors are obsessed with gherkins and the climax in a besieged city literally takes the cake—and reminded me of Lloyd Alexander and Peter S. Beagle. Some important things happen in the pictures. I did not leave with Ruth Langland Holberg's Tomboy Row (1952), but I was interested that the protagonist's parents spend half the book trying to slim down and feminize their fat, baseball-loving, boy-punching daughter before realizing that they are doing nothing but making her miserable and spend the rest of the book letting her run around and eat whatever she likes and get into trouble all over mid-century Rockport, which she does happily. I loved the cover embossing. If Rowena Carey was a series character, I hope she made it through adolescence without ever having to take ballet lessons or Toni wave her thick dark hair.
sovay: (Rotwang)
Happy equinox! Happy Purim! Welcome the spring and the full moon and razz the names of our enemies for all time! You can also play Schmekel's "Homotaschen" if you feel like it, which I hope you do.

I had to get up for a CT scan early this morning, which entailed catching the crosstown bus from Sullivan. I did not have to get lunch afterward at Mamaleh's, but the bus was going that way anyway. I had a chocolate egg cream and my traditional off-menu 50/50 (half chopped liver, half cold tongue) with mustard on rye and I read several chapters of Craig Rice's Home Sweet Homicide (1944), on loan from my mother. After that I had about an hour and a half to kill before meeting friends and I spent it mostly at Raven Used Books, where thanks to the gift certificate from [personal profile] nineweaving I acquired NYRB reprints of Barbara Comyns' The Juniper Tree (1985) and William McPherson's Testing the Current (1984) and a nicely pulp-covered '80's reissue of Jim Thompson's Recoil (1953). I met said friends who are not on Dreamwidth at the Diesel and we hung out over coffee in their cases and very hot water with lemon in it in mine until they had to catch a train and [personal profile] rushthatspeaks gave me a ride home; I gave them hamantashn. [personal profile] spatch and I made omelets for dinner (cheddar and ham, goat's milk feta and olives) because the appliance repairman came today and through no fault of his own our oven is still broken. I watched another movie about which I am not writing because the headache is exceeding normal operating limits again. I really need to sleep.

That is the summarized version of the day; it was actually a very nice one. Especially while I was eating lunch, there was a bright slant of sunlight in my water glass and over the pages. The water was glass-edge-blue under the bridges of the Charles. I had a cat on my lap for the duration of the movie and a train whistle just went by in the night. If I had some ice cream and my skull weren't trying to strain itself out through my sinuses, I would be very happy.
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
A new record this year: of slightly more than a hundred hamantashn made this evening by my mother and myself, only three unfolded and bubbled out while baking. We ate the evidence anyway. And also some non-evidence. In addition to the traditional flavors of apricot, poppy seed, and prune, this year we tried a raspberry filling, which produces an effect not unpleasantly like a jam donut.

Having just heard Momus' "I Was a Maoist Intellectual" for the first time, I thought maybe I was over-reading the line about the hotel doorman as a shout-out to Murnau's Der letzte Mann (1924), but then I saw that his second most recent album is heavily inspired by Pasolini, so I stopped worrying.

My headache levels were within endurable limits today, which is why I suppose I found out that my credit card information has been hacked.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
My poem "Female Figure of the Early Spedos Type, 1884–" is now online at GlitterShip. It was inspired by the art of Amadeo Modigliani but honestly more by Cycladic figurines and I am delighted that it shares an episode with Rose Lemberg's "These Are the Attributes By Which You Shall Know God."

I had the migraine-caliber headache straight through to this evening, which made for a terrible night and majority of today, but at the moment I appear to have only an ordinary headache, which frankly I'll take. Now that I can look at screens again, I am going to lie on the couch and stare at a movie.
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
I lost most of Friday to a migraine. Saturday I did not have a migraine and attended rehearsal, which was lovely, but then came home in the evening and collapsed with shrimp curry soup courtesy of [personal profile] choco_frosh. Today I appear to have a migraine again, or at least an escalation of headache to the point of nausea and the desire not to move from my bed or even turn my head and open my eyes, which is not for any number of reasons a viable option. I am not happy. I have written again to the ENT. I quietly ate some corned beef for the day.

1. Philip Hoare on boilersuits. [personal profile] rushthatspeaks and I agree that Derek Jarman would approve of the banner images. The article quite properly refers to him as "St. Derek."

2. Adam Gopnik on Diderot. I had never previously given him much thought, but this profile-review succeeds unequivocally in making me want to have a conversation with the philosopher or at least read his novel with the talking genitalia.

3. I started reading this story because of the title and finished it because of the prose: Quintan Ana Wikswo's "The Fisherman Bombardier of Naval Station Norfolk: A Performance in Four Generations, Three Races, and Too Many Genders to Name."

4. Courtesy of [personal profile] moon_custafer: Art Deco and Streamline Moderne radios. I visit a couple of those at the MFA.

5. I keep forgetting that "The Good Ship Calabar" is the same tune as "The Handsome Cabin Boy." This is probably because I don't actually like "The Handsome Cabin Boy" very much.

I watched a couple of movies last night, but I am not writing about anything because my concentration is shot from pain, and I hate that perhaps even more than I hate being in pain. I spend a lot of my life in pain. I have to get something out of it anyway.
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
I suppose I should have edited this into the previous post, but I had just finished writing about the mosque shootings and then I saw that the man in the White House has vetoed the bipartisan block of his false and malicious national emergency. With his same rhetoric of invasions, of criminals, of human flood tides. That is smashing the world. Stop it.
sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
On Christchurch. It is not that I wish the U.S. to retain any kind of monopoly on homegrown right-wing white terrorist attacks, but I do not like that we appear to be exporting them around the globe. I do not like the folded-hands rhetoric of thoughts and prayers, as if wishful thinking is sufficient to stop bullets, as if mosques and synagogues and Black churches are natural killing fields and the best we can do is regret the deaths as they go by. [personal profile] spatch told me that one of the shooters livestreamed their murders, as if it were an advertisement or a video game. Postcards from Abu Ghraib. A joke from PewDiePie. Some very fine people on both sides, the man in the White House reassured us.

The New Zealand Islamic Information Center is collecting donations for the bereaved and wounded families. You can donate directly or via LaunchGood. There is even an option to pick up the processing fees, so that the community gets the full benefit of the original donation amount. I found that practical; the website links it to the practice of zakat. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has also set up a fund. The work of repairing the world which feels increasingly broken, barely bandageable: so you put back together the pieces you can. And you don't just stand by and watch people smash it.

I should have more to say. I don't know what else there is. The propaganda of the white nationalists is that their civilization is under siege, drowning in a non-white, unchristian tide. If their civilization exalts the murder of the Other, let the riptide take it. Purim is coming up; I'll bake hamantashn with my mother next week. It might be a folk etymology that the name refers to Haman, the villain of the story, the high-ranked plotter of genocide. All these people, the man in the White House and those who carried him to power and those like dragon's teeth he has sown and raised, I have begun to think of them all with the same kind of namelessness. I know them; I won't speak them. I won't give them the memory. Let them be outlasted, please, let's keep each other alive. Let them be remembered only so that we can blot them out again.
sovay: (Claude Rains)
[personal profile] skygiants has just finished reading Audrey Erskine Lindop's The Singer Not the Song (1953) and I recommend everyone read her review.

I had mostly heard of the book as the source material for the 1961 film, which I have not seen. It co-stars John Mills, but I've mostly heard about it in context of Dirk Bogarde, specifically in black leather pants. I went looking for photographic evidence.

Nothing I have ever read suggests the film is any good, but I see why people don't care.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
My poem "From Lima to Beijing" has been accepted by Not One of Us. It is the record of a voyage never taken; it is subtitled "a love song of the Outer Antipodes." That is one of the oldest stories between me and [personal profile] spatch. I am glad to have it in print.

Today was an adventure which we did not entirely intend; some of it was lovely and some of it was too cold. Because I had to visit our new friend the incredibly inconvenient FedEx on Summer Street, it was agreed that I would meet [personal profile] spatch after his appointment in Harvard Square and we would head out together. I maintain this plan would have worked just fine if the 89 to Davis had arrived on time, or at all, as opposed to the 101 to Sullivan which after forty minutes' wait with a large box in my arms is what I actually took. Rob met me at South Station. The bus to FedEx was without incident, unless you count the scathing things I texted to my husband about the Seaport ("Too much glass, not enough sea"). And then we were at liberty in South Boston with nothing planned but no special desire to spring right back into the jaws of the MBTA. Because we could see its cranes and the distantly block-stacked colors of its shipping containers much better even by late day, we looked for a way into the Conley Terminal, but the blue trash barrel at the foot of the American flag was adamant about "Restricted Area—Do Not Enter." We thought about walking back over the short curving bridge whose name I do not know (another Summer Street Bridge? Does it have its own ghosts under those cold channel currents?) into Fort Point.

We walked eastward on East First Street, behind the shuttered yards of the ex-Edison Power Plant and presently behind the terminal itself. There was a peach-grey sunset in the sky already, glimmering and overcast. We passed a dog park, a couple of baseball diamonds, and a street corner enigmatically named for a "Patrolman Seth A. Noyes, Died in the Line of Duty October 18 1870" before we found a kind of street-parallel greenway that turned out to be the Thomas J. Butler Memorial Park. To our left we had attractive if slightly winter-crunchy trees and a tall fence behind which stood blue Erector-struts of the terminal's cranes; at regular intervals were informative signs I thought of photographing, not least because they included an excellent map of the original dimensions of Boston Harbor and the succeeding generations of landfill including the additional little fringe of Dorchester Heights on which we were walking. When the park ran out, we were faced with the chain-linked back gates to the terminal and a dip of brown grass and temporary bogland under a grey slurry of after-snow across which we cheerfully sludged because we could see sea glinting on the other side. "This is serious Eddie Coyle territory," Rob observed: Boston in the desolate seasons in between seasons. The sea was Pleasure Bay, once open water and now scalloped out of landfill, looped in with a causeway we saw human silhouettes crossing, sometimes with dogs; the hummocks of land like winter-furrowed fields beyond were Thompson Island and Spectacle Island, looking much too close to need a boat to cross. Planes on approach to Logan were coming in like the Pleiades—roaring white constellations tipped, like ships, port red, starboard green. Delta, Alaska, Spirit, Japan Airlines. Walls of intermodal containers rising behind us bright and flat as Lego bricks. COSCO, Magellan, "K" Line, Maersk. We were out to Castle Island by then, the fivesquare granite walls of Fort Independence; we looked at the soft brushed-steel tints of the water and the skimmed parchment gleam lingering under the sky and the park-green paint peeling from the railing at the edge of the jetty. I liked its cast-iron serrations, like the scales of a dragon's back. I liked that the park benches were old and wooden and sounded like muffled xylophones when you struck their backs. (They were not defensive. You could sleep on them.) We walked around the fort, all the wet mottling of stone. The way old fortifications overgrow amazes me; there is a sort of turf roof on this one. We found the South Boston Korean War Memorial, the memorial for Robert M. Greene who looks like a creased bronze-green herm in a firefighter's helmet. We do not know who the dead red rose was left for on the steps of a walled-up door at the back of the fort. Rob thinks perhaps Lieutenant Robert F. Massie, whose death in a duel in 1817 did not really lead to the true-crime original of "The Cask of Amontillado." I wish I had gotten a picture of the low, somewhat ramshackle building whose yard is full of old pallets and tires and tarpaulins. It is the old U.S. Army Signal Corps Station; it is painted the same weather-scaled slate-blue all over and there is a barometer nailed up by the front door. All a ghost would have to do is step out onto the porch, glance at the weather, and the time in the yard would change. It must not quite have been the off-season because Sullivan's was open and the parking lot was full of people eating fried seafood in their cars. Not having a car and not wanting to eat out in the freezing raw wind off the now dusk-darkening water, we decided to look for dinner elsewhere and there our troubles began. Suffice to say that walking from Castle Island to South Station via East and West Broadway and eventually the Fort Point Channel was not a shortcut to anything. We ended up at the South Street Diner, where I had a corned beef sandwich in keeping with the general air of impending St. Patrick's and Rob was not intimidated by his quantity of buttermilk pancakes and ham.

At South Station the T comprehensively fell over—a train already ten minutes late did not quite pull into the station, then proceeded to sit on the tracks while the theoretically real-time sign flashed "BRD" and eventually the PA system told us to expect a fifteen-minute wait due to a disabled train—and we had to taxi home, which I feel proves my earlier point about counterproductivity and the environment. The cats were pleased to see us. Hestia especially was intrigued by the atmosphere of corned beef which still clung to my person. It was a good inadvertent adventure, even if my fingers stopped working from cold somewhere mid-Telegraph Hill. We saw a fishing trawler winching in its nets between Castle Island and Deer Island. We saw mallards in the clear weed-drifting water of Pleasure Bay, nibbling algae off the flat stones at the curve of the beach. The air smelled like brine and we watched the tide go out. Rob took a picture of me, very cold and very happy. Here is another part of the city I am getting to know.

sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
The other pertinent fact about today is that it was the fifth birthday of our wonderful catlets, whom we fed on salmon treats and made much of, for they have enriched our lives ever since they were tiny black soot sprites with tadpole spikes of tail. They purr and they prowl and they groom and they sleep; Autolycus watches movies with me; Hestia sings her songs of hunting the toilet paper. Every day in our house is better with cats in it. Many more, little cats!

(Birthday blep courtesy of Autolycus.)
sovay: (Sydney Carton)
I appreciate that the MBTA's newly voted fare hikes are not as comprehensively gouging as they could have been, but it's a kind of negative appreciation. The system needs real money and it needs to come out of the state, not the ridership. I am one of the people who doesn't have a car in Boston; I shouldn't feel penalized for not contributing to the congestion of the streets and the atmosphere. Or for not being able to bike everywhere, rain, snow, or shine. Five miles is walking radius for me, but sometimes I am sick or exhausted or carrying groceries and sometimes I have a lot farther to travel. I really wanted a governor who cared about public transit. Dammit, ethical artichoke.
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
Everything about the perspective in this picture worries me faintly, but here I am with my niece (and my niece's favorite wig) and my brother. My father entitled it "Bunny ears for three."

My plans for the evening involve falling over on the couch with this paperback of Aster Glenn Gray's Briarley (2018) that [personal profile] asakiyume has very kindly sent me. Have some links!

1. Given my general interests, I really feel I should have known that Anne Carson has written a stage work for Ben Whishaw and Renée Fleming about the myths of Marilyn Monroe and Helen of Troy: Norma Jeane Baker of Troy.

2. Roger Miller of Mission of Burma and the Alloy Orchestra is running a Kickstarter. I have donated almost entirely because I want to see his short film with music The Davis Square Symphony, which is intended in the same family as Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera (1929) and Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (1927) and Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand's Manhatta (1921) and I've never seen that done with a place I actually live.

3. I felt very useful for having been able to point a friend on Facebook toward Mesopotamian ghost bribery: "If (you are) in Ulūlu . . . The 24th (is appropriate for getting) a ghost to afflict (a person) «not» binding (a ghost) to a person, «not» entrusting a person's figurines to a dead person (and) giving a ghost water to drink so that he will take (punishment for) a wrong away (with him to the Nether World)." (The extraneous "not"s appear to be apotropaic cancellations, not actually part of the instructions.)

4. The Tumblr part of this post is not so important to me, but the rest of it seems useful: "First thing I want to say is that it is not necessary for fiction to be good for people's mental health."

5. Courtesy of [personal profile] yhlee: queenofbithynia on separating the art from the artist. "an artist, since she is a human being, can learn, grow, repent, change, atone, and so on during her lifetime. but her art, since it is in fact separate from her, cannot and will not grow and improve alongside the artist."

I forgot to mention because the Lambda news knocked me sideways: [personal profile] selkie discovered that I am going to be the reading club book for August of the Rainbow Readers of Massachusetts, a queer book group based out of Annie's Book Stop of Worcester. I had no idea this was happening and am honored. Do I even know anyone in Worcester?
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
I do not approve of springing forward so early. I suspect that after yesterday's exertions I would have felt like hell no matter what, but that lost hour I could have been sleeping is insult to injury. Also so far this afternoon has been dominated by a toilet that won't stop running (for reasons we can't fix ourselves; I checked; the property manager has been notified) and a cat throwing up in four different places in the apartment. I realize that I've fallen out of talking about anything news-related because I am so angry and so scared about so much of it. I had nightmares of having to delete a review post because comments turned into a flamewar. I don't even think that's ever happened to me. Then I went back to sleep and had nightmares about the end of the world, personal, global, my default dreams these days, which is why I don't write them down.

All of that said, I appreciate being married to the kind of person who reads me the following passage about scrimshaw because he knows I will approve:

Once the Bubble Wrap comes off, the prize fully exposed, initial shock is replaced by timidness. Pearl is quick with advice: Just pick it up any-old-where, for Christ's sake, Sailor. It's only a dildo. And last she heard, they don't bite.

But this is no ordinary dildo: it's a dream reified. Indeed, the dildo is a museum-quality piece of art; both the sculpture and the drawings on the sculpture achieve greatness. It's also quite intimidating, remarkably lifelike and large enough to challenge any thought of the well-hung. However, it might be difficult to find a museum willing to buy and exhibit an eleven-inch dildo bearing scenes of piscatorial warfare and sapphic love.

Usually, scrimshaw enters the market in rather pedestrian and predictable configurations. The shaved pieces are often turned into kitchen gadgets, like pie crimpers and serving forks, or made into ornaments, like buttons and handles for canes. Similarly, those adorned with drawings mostly depict static maritime scenes of a boat and/or a whale . . . The second panel on the inside curve is all about pleasure of a certain kind. The drawings offer up three pairs of mermaids in warm embrace. Each duo is kissing, their tails entwined, and everybody has one hand cupped around her partner's left bosom, while the other hand works a dildo at an erogenous zone. The mermaids' long hair, cascades of curls that billow like spinnakers in a stiff breeze, and the fish scales drawn below the waist are especially well done, each involving thousands of difficult curves and all precisely spaced. Under the loupe, no mistakes are evident, not one awl scratch out of place or fudged. Moreover, the loupe reveals tiny details, like the emblems of the Petticoat Society (two spouting sperm whales under crossed harpoons) on each dildo and intricately etched facial features on the crewmen at the rail of the mother ship.

—Rory Nugent, Down at the Docks (2009)
sovay: (Rotwang)
Today was my mother's birthday. My entire family assembled and made her brunch and gave her presents and then in the afternoon I went to rehearsal and I met up with my parents again in the evening to watch the documentary Apollo 11 (2019), which I hope to write about. I am flat tired and my throat is still trying to secede from the rest of my body, but I had enough voice to sing with and my family is important to me and also it was fun. My father made a yellow cake with layers of homemade strawberry and blueberry jam and chocolate meringue and whipped cream. My mother was very happy with the movie I gave her and the birthday card decorated with cats. My niece helped her unwrap her presents because tearing paper is the best. I am now going to collapse and maybe not move for a day. That is okay.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
Steve Berman called and asked how I was doing. I said I was a little discombobulated.

Then he told me I was a Lammy finalist.

All of a sudden I was doing a lot better.

Forget the Sleepless Shores is a finalist in LGBTQ SF/F/Horror for the 31st Annual Lambda Literary Awards. I am feeling astonished and honored and somewhat whiplashed by my life.

Also I guess I know where I'll be in June.
sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
I spent today mostly with errands and laundry and baking brownies, but it improved my afternoon that my copy of Noam Sienna's A Rainbow Thread: An Anthology of Queer Jewish Texts from the First Century to 1969 (2019) arrived in the mail, and it improved my evening that [personal profile] spatch informed me that Mr. Rogers was bi. We ate the brownies.
sovay: (Rotwang)
I am also reminding myself that depression accompanies long respiratory illness, so I should not take it personally that on a springlike afternoon right out of a watercolor I feel like I'm waiting for the heat death of the universe. It is my other anniversary with [personal profile] spatch, the date when we became a couple. We will celebrate tonight when he gets off work. Have some really disparate links.

1. Courtesy of [personal profile] larryhammer: Postmodern Jukebox covers "Pinky and the Brain," with special guests Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche. The Pippi Longstocking answer was the first one I ever heard and I still love it.

2. Courtesy of [personal profile] selkie: Wittgenstein Plays Scrabble.

3. I am fascinated by this 1980 pamphlet from the Janus Information Facility because it is doing its best to encourage both the healthy expression of masculinity by women and the healthy self-realization of trans men without sidelining one group into the other. It's not perfect, but it's unequivocally supportive, as when addressing the concerns of trans men about their sex lives: "You CAN satisfy your partner AND satisfy yourself . . . There are a lot of attractive desirable men who are A-1 lousy lovers. It is not unusual to discover that a man who seems to have everything to offer in actuality has nothing. Make a special point of observing other men. Especially look for stereotypical 'masculine' qualities in them and evaluate yourself in comparison. You may discover that, when it comes right down to it, YOU have more 'balls' than a lot of men!" Found via a comprehensive article about the much less charming misgendering of Dr. James Barry.

4. David Schraub on "How to Avoid the Trap of the House Antisemitism Resolution": "Or put differently, and with apologies to Max Rose, the House shouldn't write a chickenshit antisemitism resolution. The first step to changing the bad optics of the resolution is to change its bad reality, and that means holding the active forms of conservative antisemitism accountable too . . . The fact is, it is a trap to agree to the premise that the fight against antisemitism in America boils down to a fight against Ilhan Omar. It is a trap stemming from the right — which wishes to pretend as if their own antisemitism isn't real and doesn't matter; and it is equally a trap emanating from the left — which wishes to frame the fight against antisemitism as nothing more than the fight to silence politicians like Ilhan Omar." Well, that's an entire garbage fire I hadn't seen going up in a roar.

5. Courtesy of [personal profile] umadoshi: "The Concept Creep of 'Emotional Labor.'" I was especially struck by this point: "It seems like this is mostly becoming a popular term in feminist conversations. But if we talk about all the unpaid labor women do in the home as 'emotional labor,' we're insinuating that any kind of labor that falls most often to a woman is 'emotional.' It almost seems like we're saying that women do the work and women are emotional, so that must be emotional work. Like chores are just labor. Writing Christmas cards is just labor."

6. Whatever happened between Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, I am sorry it was not fully reciprocated, because imagine receiving love letters from Melville on the regular: "If the world was entirely made up of [magicians], I'll tell you what I should do. I should have a paper-mill established at one end of the house, and so have an endless riband of foolscap rolling in upon my desk; and upon that endless riband I should write a thousand—a million—billion thoughts, all under the form of a letter to you. The divine magnet is in you, and my magnet responds."

7. Steeling my stomach, I did go looking after all to see what the hell had happened with Mark Robson's Trial (1955). Lo and behold: Daniel J. Leab, "From Even-Handedness to Red-Baiting: The Transformation of the Novel 'Trial'." That's damning even without access to the full article. Now I have to decide if I want to track down the novel. I did similar research once with Girl of the Port (1930) and the results were illuminating, but I still really wanted to take a shower afterward. [edit] [personal profile] muccamukk says it's not worth it. Hurrah for bullets dodged.
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)
I am not having anything so organized or work-free as a vacation, but I have had a very nice couple of days. It is important for me to note them. Saturday after rehearsal I spent hanging out with some people who may become new friends; it was the most socializing I've done in months and it was great. Sunday I mostly curled up with cats and movies and wrote. I made the last of the kelp noodles for dinner with tomato sauce and sardines. Last night's gorgeous snowfull had mostly been shoveled aside into piles of overcast slush by the time I got up, but it drifted thickly onto the telephone wires and our neighbors' overeager motion-activated light did not go off once. I still feel not very present; I would like to be sleeping more and not having repetitive nightmares, but I like the color of the sky right now, dove-blue streaked under the clouds with grey and rose-gold. Last week was a lot of doctor's appointments. It is my intention that this week involve more variety.

March 2019

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