Friday, December 30, 2005

A culinary note

If you are making steak and Guinness pie, and you get creative and decide to add potatoes (although the pie crust provides plenty of starch on its own), it really comes to resemble hash. And if you opened the fridge to realize your gentleman-caller drank the last of your Guinness and all you have left is Dead Guy Ale, the end result is hash and Dead Guy Ale pie. Which may not have been the dish you set out to make four hours ago.

Today's book: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a Christmas gift from my brother, who also gave me short-story collections by Lovecraft and Poe. I dislike short stories for the most part but may have to change my mind. Who could have predicted the outcome of the Adventure of the Beryl Coronet? (Hm.)

I have spent most of the day reading in the kitchen while the hash and Dead Guy Ale pie bakes. A short break was taken to repair a broken Miskatonic University mug. Its handle and an adjacent chunk are hopelessly gone, so I coated the rim in fake blood and green rubber skin; it should make an excellent container for a bromeliad.

I have a reservation. What do you mean, it's not in the computer?


1. Attend fewer yoga classes. I cannot find a good plain yoga class with a down-to-earth teacher who talks instead of reciting a script, and I am tired of Yoga Studios that have Offices and Receptionists. Find a good dance class instead.
2. See one movie every week. I tend to see large films on weekends with my gentleman-caller and have neglected foreign and arty films. This year I will spend a free afternoon or evening at the theater every week.
3. Move out of my apartment. It is scheduled to become a heap of rubble in October anyway, so this should be an easy one. (Yellow.)
4. Renew my Mercantile Library membership and join one of its societies - hmm, the Shakespeare one or the poetry one?
5. Get "Like a Prayer" on CD.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Piggy pudding?!

Another Christmas with John Denver and the Muppets. I love this time of year. The orange tree is merrily decorated (with one extra-large red globe ornament contributing to the overall Charlie Brown effect), the Christmas candy has been made and distributed, and houseguests have come through from far climes. As a sign of my age, I have begun to enjoy the sappier songs on the John Denver album, but fortunately still love the "No, figgy pudding. It's made with figs" exchange.
Merry Christmas, you guys.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


The wonderful Gina Fattore also has no patience with Jane Austen characters who nance across meadows at dawn. (You may have to look at an ad, if you're not a Salon subscriber.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

What happened last night?

There are probably good movies to watch while you're busy making magnets for your friends, a process that doesn't give you many opportunities to glance up at the TV. "The Doors" is not one of them. A well-intentioned coworker loaned it to me for no real reason the other week, and my plan was to just have it on so I could say "Thanks, it was interesting," even though I'm indifferent to the band and loathe Oliver Stone. As near as I can tell, they did a lot of drugs, Val Kilmer recited many lengthy bad poems, and many objects were smashed. I'm sure it was visually interesting, but I was focusing on not gluing myself to the couch.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth

I just love this.

Have been in the kitchen engaging in baking frenzy. An entire pan of shortbread was dropped on the floor. I am so discouraged and do not wish to do anything ever again. Except perhaps sample the eggnog.

No more ghost. No more notes!

Couple more things and then I'm through with this topic. During intermission, my gentleman-caller quoted someone (he couldn't remember who) as saying the Phantom of the Opera is by far the gayest of villains. I had to agree. Then after the show, we learned that we could buy in the lobby a CD called "Broadway's Fabulous Phantoms," featuring all the Phantom actors singing different songs. It just killed me. (And oh dear, I shouldn't make fun, as it features the late Steve Barton. He was the original Raoul. RIP.)

Also, the New York Times has a nice review summarizing the Broadway show's appeal: "For those sentimental souls looking for a popular entertainment to transport them to a baroque, romantic new world with a powerful smoke machine, 'Phantom,' I'm happy to report, still delivers the goods." It's posted over at, which seems to have a healthy sense of its own ridiculousness.

You'd never get away with all this in a play

Saw "The Phantom of the Opera" last night. Swoon! I almost didn't go, and then gentleman-caller said "Why don't we?" and so we did. I saw it in high school and was obsessed with it around seventh grade. The soundtrack album is permanently burnt into my brain, and at home I have "The Complete Phantom of the Opera" coffee-table book, along with another giant book on Lloyd Webber. I studied and studied and studied the libretto and pictures, mentally filling the spaces in the soundtrack. Generally I could work out the tune of the unrecorded bits of music by reading the lyrics - once you know the musical themes, it's easy to match the rhythms up. And, of course, I read the novel several times. I should've tackled it in the original French when I could, but by that point of high school I had sort of lost interest in The Phantom. Seeing it then was great, but it also felt like a bit of a letdown; emotionally, a live show couldn't match the heights I'd attained with the music and my imagination. So I went to see it last night as more of a curiosity (like the film).

It still holds up as a spectacle. Nothing can beat the opening chandelier ascent (even the big descent, which is a shame, but that's a fault of Harold Prince's original direction). The dressing-room/labyrinth run is campy fun - candles, electric guitar & all; "Masquerade" still has fab costumes; even the chintzy fireballs in the Peros scene are kind of cool. ("More deception? More violence?") My favorite surprise, from the first time I saw it, was the ballet rehearsal during "Angel of Music." It's a tedious little song so I love the distraction, particularly since it's the highly stylized ballet girls, with their stiff little skirts and massive wigs. More importantly, the juxtaposition shows you that something's always going on in the opera house - people are always rehearsing, or singing, or changing, or running around in the shadows. It's like a giant haunted house. ("Your face, Christine, it's white!")

Last night's singing was magnificent, too. The wonderfully named Marie Danvers was a sweet Christine, and that's a tough role - she's onstage 90 percent of the time. I always want Christine to get a little angrier at the Phantom toward the end, though. Raoul was fine with his big white scarf. I like my Phantom a little less gaspy and blustery than last night's guy (someone Mauer?), but when he chose to sing quietly, he was hypnotic. And his big emotional moments ("all that the Phantom asked of you") were properly gripping.

My problems were mostly with pacing and staging. This may be Prince's fault too, but both death scenes happen too quickly. There needs to be more light and more focus on the bodies of Buquet and Piangi, because you have GOT to react to them with horror. It's great on the soundtrack, because you hear the music and the screams. Onstage, by the time the screams start, the corpses have flashed out of sight. My gentleman-caller didn't even realize someone had been hanged at the end of Act I. Buquet looks like a sandbag. I mean, that's not good. You need to see why Christine's afraid.

I had major issues with The Point of No Return. I have never seen this staged the way I like, which makes me mad, because it's logical, obvious and not hard. The Phantom quietly murders the star tenor just offstage, and takes his place in a scene with Christine. At the first sound of his voice, Christine needs to freeze. The song's first half requires her to do nothing but sit and listen. She should be thinking about what to do and be horrified at the intensity of his words (yet, of course, hypnotized by his magnetic voice). By her half of the duet, she's decided the best strategy is to play along for now. When they sing together, you should be in an agony of suspense - what is she going to do? Are the police going to open fire or what? Last night, they had the Phantom come out with a hood over his face, and when he pulls it back after the duet, THEN everyone acts all surprised. When the characters all know him by his voice, Christine most of all, that just doesn't work. It's idiotic.

Oh well. It was still fine. I loved the staging of "All I Ask of You"; it's a welcome moment of repose, and the Phantom's sorrow and rage were both properly overwhelming. And the ending was nice. His disappearance is well done - I like him vanishing from under the cape as you watch. (The first one I saw had him just sit in the chair, and then the lights in that corner went out - you could almost see him jump offstage. It didn't work.) Carlotta and Piangi were good, and David (?) Cryer was a fab Firmin. He sang clearly and gave his good lines ("Written!") the perfect touch of dryness. I loved when he held his hand up to his mouth during the "chorus girl who's gone and slept with the patron" bit. Even though nobody can understand that line.

Longest post ever?

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Hallmark of winter: Personal-care products that are extremely cold, particularly after spending a day in the car and being deployed before a post-work assignation. Spermicidal jelly can get very, very, very cold. It's like an ice-cream headache for your cervix.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Lady Catherine proposed that I post this evening

... and so I shall. My gentleman-caller kindly took me to see "Pride and Prejudice" this evening, with some excellent sushi beforehand. I cannot say it compares to the BBC version. Keira Knightley plays Elizabeth as one of a giggly band of sisters - she's supposed to be the pensive one because she occasionally nances through fields with a book in her hand, but there's not enough intelligence behind her merriment. I missed the wry, understated work of Jennifer Ehle. And why is she constantly seen staring at the wall (or a mirror, I couldn't tell)? Elizabeth is an observer and likes to watch other people; she does not navel-gaze. There's a lot of nancing around with shawls and braids and candles while the music roars and people stare into the distance (indeed, it seems calculated to annoy gentlemen-callers), and there's not enough dialogue. Even Judi Dench & Donald Sutherland don't get enough lines. I did love Brenda Blethyn's performance, and whoever plays Mr. Collins is perfect. He elicits a wonderful look of pure hate from Sutherland with the line "I shall read to you all for an hour or two after dinner." But on the whole, not nearly enough talking. My gentleman-caller was the only man in the theater; as we left, he quietly called to the remaining audience: "Good night, ladies."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I summoned him! Agggh! Ia!

So I finish my last post, make some coffee and wander over to Walk In Brain. The very top post is the Lovecraft Family Circus! Did I foolishly chant the invocation that will awaken dreaming Cthulhu in his nameless depths? Are the Old Ones upon us at last? Well, a hearty Cthulhu fthagn to you all.

Of "faeries" and A.I.

Today's plant: My long-suffering orange tree, now producing both flower buds and tiny oranges. I plan to use it as my Christmas tree this year if it proves completely free of mealybugs. (Tho if you could genetically engineer silver mealybugs, think how festive that could be.)

I finished Tithe yesterday in an "I have to finish this before work" reading frenzy that got me to the office late. Possibly as a result of this, its resolution seemed unclear to me. The romance ended nicely, but the secondary characters' narrative threads seem to just trail off. Still, the point of reading Tithe is not so much the plot as the exquisitely constructed atmosphere. Holly Black's characters wander through set pieces that are beautiful, creepy and eerily familiar. I think anyone who played alone in the woods as a kid will recognize Black's realm of Faerie. Her creatures live in tiny suburban creeks and patches of trees - you don't have to go to England or way out in the country. (Normally it gives me fits when people insist on writing "faerie" rather than "fairy," but I'll make allowance here, partly because she's really done her research (her faeries' motives are never clear, and many of them are cruel) and partly because of her excellent subplot involving a lonely gay character.)

Idoru got finished last week and sent me directly to its sequel, All Tomorrow's Parties, which I read last year. All I remembered was what happened at the end to the idoru, an artificial-intelligence celebrity who takes on a life of her own in the datasphere. Both books concern her struggle for material existence, while questioning what sets her apart from a human society increasingly dependent on data for survival. They're the second two books in a trilogy. I was telling a work friend that one can't read a great deal of William Gibson all together, as he tends to put the reader in a sort of depressive trance. But it is winter now, so maybe it's time to take another shot at the Neuromancer trilogy in its entirety. Still, it was a relief to reach for the relatively light-n'-fluffy Tithe. Both books deal, in vastly different ways, with secret worlds that operate under our noses and affect us all. Can we give Lovecraft credit for this? I don't know. It's time to have some coffee.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A ban on Butter Buds

I have had it with fake butter flavoring and wish to issue an immediate moratorium on it. This weekend it has turned up in the bread part of a breakfast sandwich, which already featured the taste sensations of sausage & cheese; in some otherwise excellent biscuits; and in off-brand Rice Krispies treats. It's distinct from the delightful fake-butter product used in microwave popcorn. This flavor is dryer, but still coats your mouth and lingers for hours, defying Altoids. Please, giant food-making corporations, stop this at once.

P.S. I spent all of today reading "Tithe." So good! Squee! A copy of "Valiant" is likely to fall into my holiday-shopping basket next week.

Dramatization may not have happened

Finally saw "Walk the Line" this weekend. I wanted to lie down afterward.
I love Johnny & June. I love singing along to "Jackson" on the Folsom Prison album, I love their voices and I love their story. But this movie was just unpleasant. When the final credits came up I just crumpled with relief; one more close-up of a sweaty face or big hollow eyes would've done me in.
It's not that it was too gritty. I've no doubt Johnny and June went through a lot of bad times, with the divorces and the drug addiction and the moral qualms. The movie happily outlines it all: John's hardscrabble childhood with a distant dad; his rocky first marriage; his drug-fueled smashing up of rooms; his screaming children. Meanwhile, June gets yelled at in a five-and-dime for getting divorced. It left me wondering what parts they left out.
What's missing is them FALLING IN LOVE. What do they like about each other? The movie gives you almost no moments of peace. Johnny is just suddenly obsessed with her and starts chasing her around, yelling at her offstage and being a jerk to her onstage. By the time he proposes, in what's supposed to be a lavishly romantic scene, I just couldn't stand it. Why should she say yes? What does she see in him? Obviously some biographical facts were edited out; why couldn't their story have been arranged to indicate some kind of progression? Neither of them seems to have matured or changed at all. Reese and Joaquin get so into working up the proper mannerisms that they abandon characterizations. They play Johnny and June as two sets of costumes. And their outfits are great, but you need more than that to hang a movie on.
Verdict: Blech. And that's without even mentioning Joaquin's singing voice, which sounds like a buzzsaw.

Today's book: Tithe, by Holly Black. I've been looking forward to this so much, and the first three chapters don't disappoint. It's both a sweet coming-of-age story and a fairy tale.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

On the closet floor

When you live in an apartment for four years and never clean out the closet, what can accumulate on the floor? Here is a short catalogue of the things I have just found.
- Cough drop
- Cat toy
- Two Hershey's bars, miniature size
- Mashed Cadbury egg
- Cigar cutter
- Wrapping paper
- One pair lacy unmentionables (blue)
- One lipstick
- Sparkly purse
- Approx. 30 pairs assorted shoes, including platform high-heeled sandals worn by attendants at long-ago wedding of former colleague. At the reception, I complimented the matron of honor on them. She looked at me for a moment, then said, "Here," and handed them to me. "I never want to see these again," she said.

Still life with praying hands

Construction hat, praying hands and tiny snowman figurine, as seen in rear window of car parked on Covington street.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Good clean narcissistic fun

Over at's Face Recognition site, you can upload a photo and find out what celebrity you most closely resemble. I apparently look like Francois Mitterand, and my gentleman-caller resembles Maria Montessori. (There's a fun pair!) Be warned: This is somewhat addictive. Also, it doesn't seem to work on pictures where you're wearing glasses.

The Earl of Moray

I'm putting off the weekly call to my parents, because my sister is already home for Thanksgiving and I don't quite want to hear about how they're all lolling around stuffing their faces with homemade ricotta or whatever they had for brunch today. Yes, it's simple petty jealousy. It'll be gone in a few minutes. To procrastinate, am reading "Home Life." I've never heard this song but now want to learn it.

Friday, November 18, 2005


The Harry Potter movie was pretty good. My gentleman-caller and I agreed that while it was fun to sit through, it rather fell apart under discussion afterward, largely due to its exhausting pace. So many subplots could have been excised, particularly Rita Skeeter's. I wanted more Cho, and more Draco (I thought wistfully of the paper crane from "Azkaban"), and just some breathing room. The movie just barrels forward like it's got to cram everything in.

I did appreciate the space allotted to Neville, beginning with his anguish in the classroom as he watches the Cruciatus Curse torture a spider. And he's suddenly into plants! (Which permits the excision of Dobby, a wonderful gift in itself.) And he loves to dance! I loved him coming in from the Yule Ball with his shoes slung around his neck. Darling Neville. I'm happy they're setting him up for his important role later in the books. However, I do wish they'd paused just a moment in the Pensieve scene to emphasize what happened to his parents. Their names are mentioned so quickly, it just feels careless. Oh, and I'm also besotted with the Weasley twins. So cute and lanky.

The theater complex was an utter zoo. We met up with some friends, admired each other's homemade shirts, took pictures and temporarily disabled an usher. Boys dressed as Harry & Draco pretended to cast spells on each other under the screen while the gathering audience cheered. The kid next to me snorted and yelled "Expecto Patronum is for Dementors! It won't work on Draco! Read the books, idiots!" It was all very festive.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

the day is full of herbs

With the temperatures suddenly freezing, it's way past time to put the garden to bed. All the Sarracenia have been moved to a basement window. Do you know how cold a glazed clay pot can get? Very, very cold, it turns out. It was like carrying the inverse of a hot potato.
I also cut back the sage, orange mint, thyme, oregano and lemon balm. I'm going to take a bath and then decide what to do with it. Right now the kitchen is overflowing with fragrant leaves.
Meanwhile, am being sorely tempted by $10 sale over at Threadless. Does my pastor sister-in-law need the "Best Friends Forever" T-shirt for Christmas? Hmmm.

Today's book: To my embarrassment, am still reading Idoru. Put it down for a bit to read The Provincial Lady in Wartime by E.M. Delafield, which was hilarious.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


A touch of melancholia stains the Blackwood residence this week. I chalk it up to illness and the weather. I could also be drained from the euphoria of hearing Kate Bush's first album in twelve years. The day after it came out, I just lay on the floor listening to it and spiritually taking off. Hearing her voice again was wonderful beyond all expectations. And her music is magnificent. I can't believe she let us contemplate "The Red Shoes" for twelve years. At last we can all forget "Rubberband Girl."
I'm trying to hang on to her energy and generosity this week, but it's a little hard. The holidays are always a time of professional reckoning. I was hired around this time & have to survive my yearly review; I also have to weigh whether it's worth staying in a job that gets increasingly static and mediocre. Obviously this year I'm leaning toward "not." I can't remember my last really good night at work. On the other hand, what else could I do? I'm not very disciplined and have a limited skill set. I feel stuck. What would Kate Bush do? She would probably sit down at the piano, and I do have that option...
At least there's a midnight "Goblet of Fire" show to look forward to. As "research," I am going to make a martini and read some fanfic. Outside, you can actually hear winter blowing in. It's supposed to drop something like 30 degrees tonight.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Don't forget to vote today, chickens. You don't need an ID or a registration card or anything. If you're registered, they know where you live. And if you don't vote, you'll contribute to low voter turnout, which will in turn contribute to tiresome editorials in the news-paper about low voter turnout. Nobody wants that. So vote.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Kidnap Mister Sandy Claws?

Today's book: "Idoru" by William Gibson. One day I will sit down and read these books in order. Meanwhile, cherish fanciful notion of eventually tying together my diverse interests into series of genius novels, futuristic or otherwise. *pauses to moon over bespectacled author photo*

Today's film: "The Nightmare Before Christmas." My gentleman-caller thoughtfully Netflixed this for me, although it was not available until just after Halloween. I had not seen it since high school and was particularly keen to see Tim Burton's early short "Vincent," narrated by the late Mr. Price. He is something of a hero of mine (and a time-travel sex object besides). So last night I watched "Vincent" and the first half of the main film. The short looked and sounded marvelous, and it would be a rare treat to come across unexpectedly. Unfortunately, its tiny narrative simply trails off, as Mr. Burton's stories tend to do. Vincent's conflict - be Vincent Price or a normal boy? - is so nicely set up, I wanted him to do something besides fall on the floor at the end. Oh well. It still looked nice, and it was a shivery pleasure to hear Mr. Price whisper "Nevermore" without having to sit through Roger Corman's "The Raven." (Which has its campy merits. "Go to the graveyard at this time of night? Despoil the dead?") As for the main film, it's less impressive on the small screen, and the story feels pretty half-assed. But the idea of Santa Claus being kidnapped and tortured by the denizens of Halloween-town is pretty great. I will always love the "Kidnap the Sandy Claws! Chop him into bits!" song.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Ia! Ia!

Sorry, I never did write about "At the Mountains of Madness." I may have OD'd on Lovecraft by the time I got to it. The timing was also bad in that we experienced a great cold snap here the week I read it. Yes, it took me a week to read a hundred-page book; I kept picking up other things. It was sort of like watching "Dr. Zhivago" - it's just going to make you cold. And after reading a pile of Lovecraft, you know they're going to stumble upon unnameable secrets, and be chased by something they can't quite see, and it won't catch them for some vague reason & they'll end up gibbering wrecks. That's pretty much what happens in this book. I loved the six-foot albino penguins, however.

Gentleman-caller and I threw our Halloween party this weekend. It was a success, I think. Some of my friends (including the lovely Ardenstone) drove a long distance to attend, which I deeply appreciate.

Today a former colleague called, with whom I haven't spoken for about two years. She's in town for a Bengals game, and we're having lunch tomorrow. Woot! I really, really have missed her.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Are you lost, sweetheart?

This is for my gentleman-caller, whom I love very deeply.

Have you read Watership Down?

A coworker asked me that last night as we discussed this story. It was hard to answer - yes, I've read it, not recently, but it's one of the oldest building blocks in my mind. The first time I read it was in second grade after watching the cartoon. One of our teachers actually read it to the class, and I read it on my own either beforehand or concurrently. I remember the blank look on a classmate's face as the teacher defined the lapin term "hraka" as "droppings"; I already knew what it meant, and remember watching the blank face break up into second-grade merriment once he realized what "droppings" were. I've reread it once or twice but associate it the most with second grade. It was my favorite book for a long time, until I got to fifth grade or so and tackled "Gone with the Wind." (I always enjoyed giving withering looks to adults who said "That's a mighty big book you've got.")

I think I liked the survivalist aspect of the plot, and the rabbit mythology laid out in the book. I loved the idea that just a rabbit hopping across the lawn is part of its own epic struggle. It seems odd to label the book "fantasy" but it really is, in an agreeably down-to-earth way. You certainly also learn a lot about real-life rabbits. I didn't know females were called does, or that pregnant ones could reabsorb their litters from stress. Adams puts you in your place a couple times when the rabbits' world intersects with the human - I guess that's his call to respectful stewardship. It would be interesting to reread it as an adult, but it almost seems unnecessary. All the names and details are pretty deep down in my brain - as a deteriorating nonagenarian I fully expect to rant about Fiver and General Woundwort.

I'd never heard of this island before yesterday, though, and was interested to learn it's notable for its sea birds. That explains the oddly (I always thought) prominent role of Keehar.

Finally, while the cartoon appears to have spawned many annoying DVD spinoffs, I was hugely gratified to hear the "Bright Eyes" reference in the Wallace and Gromit movie.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I keep hoping for you, Pumpkin

Yesterday I baked pumpkin cookies, largely because I wanted the smell in the apartment. The smell of baking pumpkin is supposed to enhance erections in men, so I figured it might not do me any harm either. I don't actually like sweets, so I took the cookies to work. Well. By the end of the night I had messages from every guy in the office about how good they smelled and tasted. I could not stop laughing. The erection thing strikes me as bullshit - honestly, do erections need a whole lot of help, generally? - but the idea was amusing.

Here's the recipe, you darling nonexistent reader:

1 c. sugar
1 c. pumpkin
1/2 c. cooking oil
1 egg, beaten
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar, pumpkin, cooking oil and beaten egg. Sift flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder; add to pumpkin mixture. Dissolve baking soda in milk and vanilla and add to mixture. Then add chocolate chips and nuts. Drop on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake approximately 10-12 minutes. Do not over bake. Cookies will be soft and moist.

found on the risky but indispensible

Friday, October 21, 2005

Dispatches from the Tower

Today's book: Finally finished "Arbella: England's Lost Queen" by Sarah Gristwood. I ended up sympathizing more with the author than the subject, because Arbella's character and motives are pretty obscure. She was the niece of Mary, Queen of Scots, and stood a good chance of inheriting the throne from Elizabeth I. Instead, Mary's son James acceded, and Arbella was thrust to the side, eventually to marry without the king's consent and spend the rest of her life in the Tower as punishment. Gristwood obviously loves her and wants her to be a strong, self-motivated woman, but the author's historical discipline keeps having to rein in her imagination. Certainly Arbella wasn't given the opportunity to accomplish much. I would probably have enjoyed this book more if I'd been more knowledgeable about the Elizabethan era going in; I'd never even heard of Arbella. It's always satisfying to finish a big nonfiction book, though.

Next: "At the Mountains of Madness," which has finally been located at the library. Today it is quite dismal out, so I expect to spend the afternoon baking and reading.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Elizabeth, Beth, Betsy and Bess

This book was fabulous. I highly recommend it to any Shirley Jackson fan. Certainly it's a minor work, like The Sundial, and mostly interesting to me for the perspective it gives her better-known books. Both The Haunting and We Have Always Lived In The Castle are told from the perspective of variously tormented heroines. You only gradually realize how people are reacting to them and how genuinely terrifying they are, and by that point they've pulled you in & won your sympathy. The Bird's Nest switches between a third-person description of its main character, Elizabeth, and a first-person account from her psychiatrist. The story is pretty much "Sybil": Elizabeth battles her multiple personalities, and eventually resolves the conflicts she feels about her childhood. Like Eleanor and Merricat, she lives mostly in her own mind, rejecting the uncaring outside world. Jackson's detached narration means you don't worry or care for Elizabeth. But you can't escape a steadily growing dread, beginning in an early scene when Elizabeth raises her face to her psychiatrist and, instead of his patient, he sees what he calls a "grinning fiend." A subplot involves Elizabeth's aunt and something awful that may have happened long ago; it doesn't hold together, but it does stick with Jackson's favorite theme that horror begins at home. Not as good as The Sundial, but much better than Hangsaman.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Our poor Hepzibah

Today's book: "The House of the Seven Gables" by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

I had so been looking forward to this book. Hawthorne's story "Young Goodman Brown" is an October classic, and I also love "The Birth-Mark." I guess he's more palatable in short form. In theory, there's nothing wrong with this book: It's got ghosts, a haunted house, and a protagonist named Hepzibah. But I was driven mad by the infinite descriptive passages and the utterly immobile plot. Of course, the plot is all about immobility, so Hawthorne probably is a literary genius. The climactic chapter, in fact, traces the course of a day in which a dead man sits in a chair, listing all the things he's NOT doing, and all the things that are NOT happening in the house. I'm talking myself into admiring the book, but finishing it last night was a huge relief. I guess I'm just a sad product of my action-driven generation.

Next: Shirley Jackson's "The Bird's Nest," about a woman with multiple personalities! I think. Hard to find but obtained from the marvelous Mercantile Library.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Cthulhu fhtagn!

As the merry season of Halloween approaches, I cannot stop humming this catchy song. It is certainly Lovecraft's time of year. I am very pleased about this.

Gentleman-caller and I are planning a Halloween party. He has forbidden me to "go insane" and make cookies shaped like severed fingers. Fortunately, he is not the boss.

Harvest time approaches. I will be putting basil blended with olive oil in the freezer, and drying lots of mint & lemon balm. Sadly for the cats, the great harvester Death has already claimed their favorite catnip plant. I spoke somberly to them about how the time will come for us all, but they merely blinked and vigorously bathed themselves.

Today's book: At the Mountains of Madness, by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Have not actually read it, but intend to.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Wasn't that a mighty storm

Holy living fuck.
We've lost the city. Looks like the Times-Picayune is still down. I feel very helpless as the first 72 hours run out. I have no money, canned goods or medical expertise to donate. All I can do is watch the news with my hand over my mouth. (I don't normally do this.)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Long before the Superdome ...

I'm headed to bed now and don't know what state New Orleans will be in tomorrow. Sounds like the storm is just starting to hit. It's such a gorgeous and sensuous city- sure, there's the bawdiness around Bourbon Street, but the entire city is suffused with sensual beauty. The air smells good, the food is good, the ever-present music is good. My gentleman-caller, not a Dixieland jazz fan, makes fun of it at every opportunity. But I love the live oaks and the architecture that picks up their delicate lines, and God I love the beignets, and how everywhere you look something is growing. The city just wants to be graceful and beautiful and enjoy itself. Its filth and crime and river mud only set it off. I wish I could protect it tonight.

Tonight's movie: Sunset bloody Boulevard, an unsolicited loan from a well-intentioned but clueless new colleague trying to make friends. "You like movies? You've got to see this." What a tedious exercise in misogyny. We get it! You find her pitiful and threatening! Give me the Simpsons' "Streetcar!" any day.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

wet hot american summer

This week's adventure has involved the plumbing in my old house-cum-apartment building. I do not own it, which is good, because the plumbing is in trouble. Black water would come sludging up out of the bathroom sink; then the kitchen sink refused to drain; and now both drains are repaired but the bathroom floor is now constantly covered with water of unknown origin. I feel like Jennifer Connelly. If only David Bowie were here.
Speaking of gentleman-callers, mine took me to the "Pub at Rookwood Mews" last night. I thought it would be an agreeable evening of beer in a dark wooden setting. However, it was crammed to the rafters with people in tank tops. We drank our pints with imprudent haste and watched a deeply tanned, silver-haired man in an open white shirt glide through the room like a ghost. Nobody seemed to notice him but us, and then he vanished. So we hastened back here and watched "She-wolf of London," which was much better.

Today's book: "Julie and Romeo" by Jeanne Ray. Everyone else read this about five years ago when it came out. I picked it up yesterday with the idea of having it for an upcoming plane ride, then stupidly started flipping through it, and now it's finished.

Friday, August 19, 2005

You know I'm not a saint

Another dancing post. Sorry for the long delay (I say to my nonexistent readers). I got bad family news last week and pretty much withdrew into myself in response. The selfish phase of that reaction is now over and I'm ready to come back into the world. So I went dancing with two good friends tonight. It was great. Some old flames were flickering around. I ended up thinking a lot about a former gentleman-caller, whom I met at a similar club. Dancing always brings back sensory memories of him: metal through flesh, sweaty vinyl pants turned inside out, smeared eyeliner. I'll always miss him when I'm out there.

Today's book: Arbella: England's Lost Queen by Sarah Gristwood. I'm just starting it.

Today's plant: Sarracenia leucophylla. It has a gorgeous white pitcher and a flower bud.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Pray for daylight

Mmm. Just in from dancing at The Dock. My feet are killing me and the imprint of my fishnets is well pressed into my knees. God, I love dancing there. I didn't really talk to anyone tonight so I do not have any lively little anecdotes to tell... just went and danced and came home v. happy.

Today's book: "Hank Williams The Biography" by Colin Escott. My boss loaned me this so I sort of have to read it, but it's very good. I own no Hank records but will have to remedy that. Next month I turn 29, so this is nice and timely.

Today's plant: Drosera capensis, supposedly a sturdy plant, which hates me. I have two that are unhappy in the sun and the shade and the heat and the cool indoors. They must be self-destructive and doomed a la Hank.

The Master would not approve.

Well, I did not get to meet Mr. Campbell; there were too many people at the signing. I should've called ahead. My gentleman-caller and I waited for an hour and a half, but they were nowhere near getting to my group, and I had to get back to work. It was fun to see the crowd, though, and I was happy for Bruce that he drew so many fans. One guy had a great "Shaun of the Dead" shirt with a pattern that resembled one of Zombie Pumpkins'. "Bruce Campbell will sign all your books, but he will sign only one piece of memorabilia," announced a woman. "People in group F may now get in line - that's F, as in Fake Shemp." I just loved it. But I had to get back to work.

As consolation, we watched the "'Manos' The Hands of Fate" episode of MST3K after I got off work. I am now in love with Torgo!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Bruce Campbell is doing a book signing tonight at Joseph-Beth. Yeeee! I do not usually ask for autographs or any of this sort of thing... what is the point of an autograph? I tend to think. And if you're a fan of someone, buy their book or watch their movies, don't fuss around trying to meet them. But this is Bruce Campbell. I wonder if he's tired of being asked about the Evil Dead remake? Yeeeee! My gentleman-caller is jealous.

Today's book: If Chins Could Kill (oh, okay, and the new one too).

Today's plant: Turkish oregano. I bought it sort of as a joke this spring - I had Greek oregano last year and thought it would be funny to compare the two. (Ha! Ha!) But my God! This stuff has completely taken over a very large pot, and is threatening to spill over the sides. I use it more than I mean to, just to cut it back some. No wonder Cyprus is such a mess. Turkish = fierce!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Residents of Ohio's Second Congressional District should vote today. I plan to finish my book and then stagger through the quelling heat to my polling place. Usually I make it a point to bypass the campaign people out front, but I might shake hands with the Paul Hackett folks. He's awful cute.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Today's book: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I am catching up, gradually. I had no intention of starting this book today, but it was here, and next thing I know I'm over 200 pages into it. It's marvelous to see Harry display some flaws and meet with misfortune; it's very refreshing after three books of "Oh, don't worry Harry, you're very rich and here is some delicious candy." GoF was a little harder-edged but only at the end; that was more "Don't worry, Harry, you're incredibly brave and look, you've succeeded at everything!" It's nice to see him mad. I hope this means Draco gets a sympathetic moment or two.

Today I walked to Hyde Park Square and met a woman trailed by a little girl blowing a whistle. "That's getting old already," the mother sang our wearily to the empty air, then she saw me and smiled. "We're going to find a way to lose that, I think."

In front of the post office is an iron garden sculpture of a person holding his arms out; a basket of petunias had been hung from each arm, but they were blasted and brown. I suppose they fried in the heat. The effect was delightfully grim and got me hankering for fall. This year I want to harvest something; I want to play the role of Death, even if it's just putting up a bunch of dried herbs. On the walk back I passed the Baptist church and noticed with a start that one of its stained-glass windows has a sickle as its centerpiece. It felt like a secret cool breeze.

Today's plant: Assorted foliage from the Bigg's garden aisle. I bought it months ago to put in a new pot I had just made for my gentleman-caller out of an empty White Castle coffee bag. The thing is now three times taller than the bag. I repotted it yesterday and it resembles a tree.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

And the heat goes on

I am heading into my seventh day of work in a row. Aggh. Because of a staff shortage, I'm having to do other people's jobs instead of my own, so every night is unpredictable and stressful. Tomorrow I'm off, but my week starts right back up again on Saturday. Aggghh.

Today's book: "Murther and Walking Spirits" by Robertson Davies. I finished it this morning. In theory, I enjoyed the combination of history and metaphysics; still, I couldn't wait to put it down. Thank God I can now move on.

Today's plant: Drosera binata. It's coming up as a volunteer alongside a Sarracenia leucophylla plant from California Carnivores. Free plant! What's amazing is that I ordered a D. binata from them at the same time and managed to kill it after a month. (It was in a separate pot.) This feels like forgiveness from the carnivorous-plant gods, who have to be scary.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

You're a lizard, Harry!

Today's plant: Black plum tomato. Volunteer seedlings are coming up all over the yard. Two are even setting fruit.

Today's book: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

I've behind on Harry Potter. I read up through "Goblet of Fire" when everyone else did but then never bothered with "Phoenix." So, having fallen prey to the "Prince" media frenzy (and admittedly curious to see who dies), I'm reading them all starting with the second book. I had really forgotten how annoying the early books are. Draco & Lucius are tedious villains, and the whimsical fanciful magical crap gets old fast. If memory serves, book 3 is more complex. Gotta slog through. My favorite thing about Harry Potter is the fanfiction, in which the character archetypes become characters.

Vince, Vincent

We are back and Nashville was as scorching as could be hoped. One night we had dinner with my family, and the next we saw Del McCoury Band at the Ryman. After an hour they popped out Vince Gill as a surprise guest, prompting the man behind me to call his mom on his cell phone & hold the phone up for her to hear. After Vince left they played "1952 Vincent Black Lightning." It was a damn good show, and very Nashville.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

warm rain

Heavens! Let's pull ourselves together a bit, shall we? Warm rain is falling and the cats & I are quite snug. Tomorrow my gentleman-caller and I are off on a trip to Nashville, my humid scorching sweet hometown. We plan to have cocktails with my parents and possibly attend a concert at the Ryman. Mmm.

Today's plant: Nepenthes coccinea. God, this plant loves summer. The humidity is spurring it to form large hairy beautiful pitchers. I'll have to post pictures, but not tonight.

Tonight's book: "Murther and Walking Spirits," by Robertson Davies. This would be a perfect beach book, with its meandering pace and ranging narrative. I thought it would be a gripping page-turner, but reading it is very relaxing. It's a very mellow book.

Am unlikely to blog from Nashville, but I do promise to come back.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


I became a grownup at 23. I was living alone in a ground-floor apartment, a six-hour drive from my family and at least an hour drive from any of my friends. The apartment wasn't in a nice neighborhood. One fall night I turned on the microwave, and it went dark; a fuse had blown. When I opened the fridge door, the light was off. If I didn't fix the fuse, all my food would spoil, or at least be highly suspect by morning. To reach the fuse box, I had to go outside, walk around the unlit corner of the building with dead leaves blowing in my face, unlock the basement door and descend a horror-movie wood staircase. The light switch was at the bottom. You should've seen this basement, too: a series of rooms going all the way under the house, ceilings lowering progressively as they got further away from the stairs. Once the light was on, fixing the fuse was the work of a minute, and then I was back upstairs with the microwave going and all the blowing leaves firmly shut outside. That was the night I conquered fear.
Although zombie movies still scare the living shit out of me, so maybe it didn't work.