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 myheritage.com'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.