Friday, December 30, 2005
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.
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
Merry Christmas, you guys.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Monday, December 19, 2005
Friday, December 16, 2005
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 thephantomoftheopera.com, which seems to have a healthy sense of its own ridiculousness.
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
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
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
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.
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
- 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.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Friday, November 18, 2005
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
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
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
Monday, November 07, 2005
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
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
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
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 cooks.com.
Friday, October 21, 2005
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
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Friday, July 29, 2005
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
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
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.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
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
Although zombie movies still scare the living shit out of me, so maybe it didn't work.