1. Steely Dan. I know, I know, Bard College. But the main singer's voice irritates the crap out of me. It's so...whiny. It feels like it is scraping every nerve. The twangy stuff in the background exacerbates the effect.
2. Elvis Costello. His voice is so-so to me, but also, an ex-boyfriend loved his stuff.
3. Florence and the Machine. I should like this band, but all their songs sound too similar to me, and there's not enough change within the songs, either with the style or within the singer's voice. Maybe if it was more Metal? Because I am okay with the repetitive nature of a lot of Metal, and Industrial. Regardless, the singer's voice always sounds a bit strained to me as well, so I guess there's subconscious discomfort with that.
4. Frank Sinatra. I have never liked his voice. I have no idea why. He gives me the creeps like knowing some man is following you down a dark street.
5. Kenny G. No, no, no. *cries*
What about ya'll?
No art right now, just meanings. The 78-card jeng-zai deck corresponds to the traditional Tarot but is specifically a hexarchate Tarot circa Kel Cheris' era. As such, upright sixes are all positive while upright sevens are negative, and the fours are lucky/unlucky.No spoilers if you haven't read anything in the series (Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem or any of the short stories), although you might be mildly confused and not get some of the jokes.
This site is for entertainment purposes only: neither guarantees nor apologies are given for the accuracy or inaccuracy of any reading you may receive, and no responsibility is taken for any calendrical rot that may ensue. Hopefully you do not live in the hexarchate.
Well, I'm delighted.
(I have to thank Cine Outsider for the tip-off; I had no idea until I was scrolling down as I do about every month or so and then what? I still have dreams of seeing an actual print someday. The film was shot in Technicolor. It may have been chopped to pieces by Columbia, but what's left should still look good. Besides, I have always had the sneaking suspicion that even the most faithful digital transfer cannot properly reproduce the full effect of Dr. Terwilliker's hat.)
I was watching Kit play on their own and glumly thinking that happy Kit is independent and only wants parents when they're sad. Then they toddled over and handed me a stuffed fox, just because. So I know that what I'm feeling is just a feeling and has very little to do with reality. But it's still a big feeling.
Relatedly, having a tantruming toddler scream directly into your ear for several minutes is really quite challenging.
"Kit is so chill," I thought, once upon a time. "Maybe they won't really get toddler tantrums." I was so wrong. Soooo wrong. Tantrums aren't about personality. They're about cognitive and emotional overload. A scream into the void.
(My right ear is the void, apparently.)
(But was I going to stop cuddling my screaming child? Of course not. My ear can cope.)
And now I feel like the worst parent in the world because I couldn't really help my kid, even when they were bottomlessly miserable. There is no cure for the tantrum because it's an existential crisis. You just hold on and say "I'm here" like it means anything. And eventually they stop crying long enough for you to get some calories into them, which almost always helps. It turns out that kids are always basically one minute away from a massive hunger crash, and that rather exacerbates the existential angst.
You could not pay me enough to be a child again. No way. It's genuinely a wonder that kids are ever happy at all. Their bodies do weird things, the world is baffling, everything is too big, they have no control, safety is elusive and fleeting. It's like a fucking horror movie, 24/7. And yet my child comes over and smiles at me and puts their head on my knee for sheer love.
I guess maybe they wanted to say "I'm here" like it means anything.
I guess maybe it does.
I can go back to the Globe! They've announced Michelle Terry (a brilliant Shakespearean actor) as the new artistic director of the Globe. It's back in the hands of the players, where it began, where it belongs.
I trust her taste. I've seen her (only on DVD, alas), as Rosalind, Beatrice, Titania/Hippolyta, Rosaline, and the Princess of France. All terrific. I wish I'd seen her as Henry V. What I remember most vividly is a moment from the Dream. The play had begun with masked figures of Titania and Oberon, seducing and inspiriting Hippolyta and Theseus; then a battle of Athenians and Amazons, bow-women all, with sigils on their brows. After Hermia's stormy declaration of love and the pronouncement of her patriarchal doom, the silent queen came up to her, looked long, and traced a sigil on her brow. Perhaps she meant, There are other sisterhoods.
Before it was invaded by meaningless noise, the old Globe did Shakespeare very well indeed, thank you.
I know a lot of writers. Really a lot. Really really. And we all have different process, and that’s great, that’s wonderful. In person I have been known to chirp “we are all a beautiful rainbow,” but it’s really hard to get my total lack of sarcasm on that point through on the internet. (We are, though! We are all a beautiful rainbow! Yay!) In this case, I have spotted what looks like a consistent red flag for burnout, and I’m having a hard time phrasing it so that it’s clear that I don’t mean to exclude some kinds of inspiration.
Here’s the red flag. Writers with a few novels or a ton of short stories under their belt who get into a place where they only want to talk about being sick of tropes and wanting to deconstruct them. I know that deconstruction is a major creative inspiration in some writers’ processes (all a beautiful rainbow!). But the larger percentage of conversation about other people’s work gets to be about deconstruction and frustration, the more I watch for other signs of burnout.
Because–squee is not just good publicity. Squee is important for your own work. If you’re not honestly feeling like squeeing about other work you’re encountering, that’s a bad sign. And it’s probably not a bad sign about what’s out there in the world, because there is a lot of stuff out there in the world. If none of it is pressing your buttons, really none? that’s a bad sign about your buttons and where you are in terms of energy levels, taking criticism, getting enough recharge, all those things.
This is not a red flag of you being (or a friend being!) a bad person, or a worthless artist, or someone who will never recover, or anything like that. I’ve seen many people come out of this kind of burnout. But just as it’s easier to talk about how to begin a story than how to deal with the middle and ending that grow out of it, it’s a lot easier to talk about early-career things than all the paths that can grow out of them. And yet it feels to me like there are a lot of mid-career/developing writer paths and pitfalls that it would be really useful to talk about more, so…I’m going to try to do some of that, and I appreciate the other people who are doing that too.
(One of my favorite roads out of this is to cast my net very, very wide and look at things that are way outside my usual so that badly handled tropes and obvious choices are less grating. But other solutions for jolting out of this kind of deconstruction/negativity trap welcome.)
This one is a good book.
Julie Rehmeyer, a mathematician and science writer, chronicles how chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalopathy (CFS/ME) crept up on her until her entire life had vanished and she was frequently completely paralyzed. While she desperately tried to find a treatment, she instead encountered an array of quacks, snake oil salesmen, nice but useless therapists, nice but useless doctors, a patients’ community full of apparent crackpots, and medical literature claiming that it was a mental illness caused by, essentially, being lazy and whiny.
In desperation, Rehmeyer finally starts listening to some of the apparent crackpots… and when she applies her scientific training to their ideas, she finds that stripped of the bizarre terminology and excessive exclamation points, they sound surprisingly plausible. With her entire life at a dead end and nothing left to lose, she reluctantly decides to try a treatment which is both radical and distinctly woo-woo sounding.
And it works.
But unlike every other “How I cured/treated my illness by some weird method” memoir, the story doesn’t end there. Instead, she not only researches and theorizes about how and why it might have worked, she interviews scientists and doctors, and even arranges to do a double-blind experiment on herself to see if it’s a real cause of her symptoms or the placebo effect. I cannot applaud this too much. (I was unsurprised to find that every article I read on her book had a comment section claiming that her results were due to the placebo effect.)
Lots of people have suggested that I write about my own horrendous illness, crowd-sourced treatment, and jaw-dropping parade of asshole doctors who told me I was lying, a hypochondriac, or crazy. While you’re waiting… read this book instead. Though it’s not the same disease and she was treated WAY better by doctors, a lot of her experience with being beaten over the head with bad science and diagnoses based purely on sexism was very similar. As is much of her righteous rage. I am way more ragey and less accepting than she is. But still. It’s similar.
Overall, this is a well-written and honest memoir that shines a welcome light on a poorly-understood illness. Rehmeyer's perspective as a science writer provides for clarity, justifiable anger, and humor as she takes apart the morass of bad science, victim-blaming, and snake oil that surrounds chronic fatigue syndrome. It's informative without being dry, easy to read and hard to put down.
Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn't Understand
I got cash and bought subway tokens and sweated a lot.
Then I met up with C. in late afternoon for the movie Dunkirk, which we saw in IMAX, bass and the sounds of explosions booming from under out seats. I ate popcorn for lunch while watching people get blown up and drown and burn but also get rescued. Sometimes all of the above, in different orders.
This movie was what I call a Spectacle. I liked it best when it was all stark visuals and no dialogue (the dialogue was minimal). The splendid British actors did a great deal with their faces and posture; Tom Hardy as a Spitfire pilot acted almost entirely with his eyes, as the rest of his face was covered in helmet. (Jack Lowden, playing another pilot, was out of his cockpit for more screntime.) The movie was documentary-style, where you don't know the characters' backstory or hopes or dreams (with one exception); you're in the moment throughout, and the moment keeps jumping around, and you can't always keep track of the sequence. I feel I had an experience worth having.
After, being much luckier than those poor people trapped at Dunkirk, we had dinner at a great new tapas place in South Philly called Barcelona. Cue Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe!
Me: "Yeah, I have a vague recollection of being in Catherine Grant's hotel room, and then the next thing I knew I was waking up at 11:30 AM. My underwear was lying on the floor, totally soaking wet; I had my pants on inside out and backwards, and my shoes were shoved so far down the bottom of the bed I couldn't find them for five solid minutes. So I packed really quickly, went outside and asked the first person I saw what I might have done during the portion of the night I couldn't remember. 'Nothing I heard about!' he replied, cheerfully."
Sovay: "That's hilarious. And sort of horrifying."
Well, it is what it is. The rest was wonderful, and I'm an adult; I made my choices. And now I'm home.
"One touch from me animates the inanimate," boasts the Apple-Stone, the "small, bright, golden ball, about the size of a marble" that assisted in the birth of the universe and gave rise to the myth of the Golden Apples of the Sun; the children find it on the highest bough in the orchard, like a Sappho fragment come to life, and they make enlightening, foolish, dangerous, and kind use of it over the next twelve chapters until it returns to the earth to sleep and restore its power and find another apple tree to bloom from, decades or centuries hence. Most of their adventures have a comic slant, as when they animate the decrepit hearthrug to settle a bet over what kind of animal it came from and never find out because they spend the day having confused their "Lambie" with an actual escaped leopard prowling the moors, or have to play detectives for a lost glove weeping bitterly over being separated from its beloved right hand ("I'm deeply attached to it. I love it"), or create an intelligent, talkative, opera-loving sheep about twice the size of a Great Dane for reasons that make sense at the time. Sometimes the comedy turns spooky, as when they accidentally animate a feather boa and get Quetzalcoatl, who not unreasonably expects a sacrifice for incarnating when called, or an episode with a formerly model rocket triggers an international incident and science fiction, or the narrator discovers an unexpected and unwanted affinity for night flight on a witch's broom. An interlude with an effigy of a Crusader constitutes the kind of history lesson that would fit right into Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill (1906), as some of the children have their romantic illusions punctured and some come away with an interest in astrology and medicinal plants. And the two weirdest, most numinous chapters are the reason I can't be one hundred percent sure that I didn't read this book a long, long time ago: the life and death of the Bonfire Night guy that is partly the sad, passionate ghost of Guy Fawkes and partly a pyromaniac patchwork of the five children whose castoffs and imagination gave it form (as it explains in one of its more lucid moments, "Everyone is a mixture, you know, and I'm more so than most") and the introduction of new magic when the weeping gargoyle off a nearby church turns out to be the stone-trapped form of a medieval demon named "Little Tom," a wild, ragged, not quite human child in tricksterish and forlorn search of a witch to be familiar to. Both of them gave me the same half-echo as Eleanor Farjeon's The Silver Curlew (1953), again without any of the language coming back to me. I might run it by my mother to see if she remembers bringing it home when I was small. On the other hand, it might just be that I know ashlyme and nineweaving.
The Apple-Stone is the second book I've read by Gray and The Seventh Swan (1962) almost doesn't count, since I know I read it in elementary school and all I can remember is that it upset me more than the original fairy tale, which I suspect means I should re-read it. I like this one a lot, non-magical parts included. We learn early on that the parents of the English family are the puppeteers behind the popular TV show Ben and Bet Bun and absolutely none of their children think once of bringing the Buns or the Foxies to life because they find the whole thing desperately embarrassing. (The Clans' parents are rocket scientists and the narrator envies them deeply. "We're fond of our Mum and Dad, and hope they may grow out of it in time.") The children as a group are a believable, likeable mix of traits and alliances, differentiated well beyond obvious tags like Jo's academic crazes or Nigel's artistic talent or Douglas' belligerence or Jemima's imperiousness or Jeremy's daydreaming. They fight almost constantly with one another—the Clans especially, being composed of one Campbell and one Macdonald, are engaged in the kind of dramatic ongoing feud that is half performance art and half really blowing off steam—but close ranks immediately against outsiders, even supernatural ones:
"But I must tell you straight, gentles, that I can't do much of the true Black Art," said the gargoyle. "I'm not one of the great ones. I was never aught but a very little 'un. Horrid tricks I can manage," it added, boastfully, "like makin' folks squint, or muddling their minds, or twisting their tongues so that they stammers and stutters—"
"I c-can do that without your help!" snapped Nigel, going red.
"And I'm muddleheaded enough for everyone," I said, quickly.
"No, you're not!" said Jo, fiercely. "And Nigel only stutters when he's away from his home." Then she turned on the gargoyle. "You'll do no horrid tricks, do you hear? We're not sorcerers. We brought you here to help you."
The creature was still changing during all of this . . . Its hair was long and black, and tangled. Its ears were still pointed, though not as huge and batlike as before. It gave us a scornful grin, and said, "Many sorcerers don't care to admit to it."
If you have not read this novel, you can probably tell by now if you're going to like it. The Nesbit it reminds me of most is The Enchanted Castle (1907), but it feels like itself and it feels like its own time, which is equally important. I am actively sad that the near-fine UK first edition I saw at Readercon cost sticker shock—the library copy I just finished reading is the American first edition and the illustrations really didn't work for me. (I'm sorry, Charles Keeping! Your work for Alan Garner, Mollie Hunter, and Rosemary Sutcliff was great!) Maybe sometime I'll get lucky at the Strand. In any case, the text is what matters most and that I recommend. It is good at the strangeness of things that are not human and it never risks making even the cute ones twee. It's good at children's priorities and the ways that not being an adult doesn't mean not seeing the world. I didn't quote much of a descriptive passage, but I like its language. Anyone with other favorite novels by Nicholas Stuart Gray, please let me know.
On Teaching, but Not Loving, Jane Austen
The 19th-Century Lithuanians Who Smuggled Books to Save Their Language
When Young Chinese Ask, ‘What’s Your Sign?’ They Don’t Mean Dragon or Rat
How Checkers Was Solved
'Super Producer' Donates Gallons of Her Breast Milk to Feed Other People's Kids
Balls Out: The Weird Story of the Great Truck Nuts War
The Lonely Lives of Dolphin Lice
Lemon juice has long come in containers shaped like lemons.
When Girls Studied Planets and the Skies Had No Limits
A Search for the Flavor of a Beloved Childhood Medicine
North Dakota’s Norway Prison Experiment
What's It Really Like To Work In A Prison Goat Milk Farm? We Asked Inmates (The issue isn't the work, it's the pay. Pay them actual minimum wage. If you don't want them to use that money, require them to save most of it for when they are released. Even if you don't want to pay them, it seems obvious that not doing so drives down everybody else's wages.)
Cooling the tube – Engineering heat out of the Underground
The Kitten Rental Program is Saving Lives (It's all in the marketing ♥)
When New York City Rioted Over Hamlet Being Too British
Sean Spicer stole a mini-fridge from White House staffers (One can only hope they are now able to reclaim it.)
In South Sudan, a child soldier long thought dead comes back
Schumer, Gillibrand Co-Sponsor Senate Bill That Would Make Boycotting Israel A Felony (Oh, ffs. You can have a perfectly rational reason for criticizing specific policies taken by the Israeli government without hating or even disliking: Jews, Israelis, and/or the modern nation-state of Israel. And I voted for these people! Oh, uh... don't read the comments. Sheesh.)
Israel's struggle to integrate ultra-Orthodox and Arabs raises economic fears
Disabled and disdained: In rural America, some towns are divided between those who work and those who don’t
For Ethiopia’s Underemployed Youth, Life Can Center on a Leaf
How smugglers use trucks with sometimes deadly results
Protecting our children from climate change might take more than just cutting emissions
If I think about it much, when I think about it, I generally would attribute this sort of thing to being autistic. I mean, I'm sure there are plenty of people who aren't autistic who do this too, but probably not many who go out of their way to do it for fun. I could be wrong here, of course.
Which is where this gets interesting. I went out to bring my mother her coffee, and before I went in I spent a few minutes with our crape myrtle. And my mother said I was just like her mother.
My mother has a very complicated relationship with me and autism. On the one hand, she swears she knew when I was a small infant. On the other hand, she is eager to downplay any signs of autism that I might ever bring up - especially if they're traits shared with anybody in the family other than her father, who really was undeniably autistic. Either she denies that the traits exist, or she denies that they're quite strong, or she denies that they have anything to do with autism whatsoever. (There are some things she can't do this to, like the topographical agnosia, but otherwise she gives it the good ol' college try!)
So for her to criticize what I'm pretty sure is an autistic trait, and attribute it to her mother instead of her father - well, I could've used this as a segue into my ongoing attempts to speak with her on the subject of the broader autistic phenotype, assortative mating, and our family. But given recent events, I decided instead to talk about exfoliating bark and how I'm sure the reduction of dead bark will decrease the risk of a forest fire in our backyard.
But before this, I spent a wonderful few days with asakiyume! We baked scones with fresh-picked currants and slathered them with blood-orange marmalade, at which we looked askance at first - it is very brown-looking - but it is delicious, A++ highly recommended.
We also had much ice cream and - and! - visited Emily Dickinson's house, which is delightful and I highly recommend that too. They have Emily's writing desk, which is much smaller than I expected - really only the size of a bedside table - but it sits right by the window, overlooking the garden, in a room all done up with rose-covered wallpaper, and just seems really like the perfect place for Emily Dickinson to reside.
We went over to the graveyard, too - did you know that they carried Emily's coffin over the fields when she died, so that even her corpse could avoid the public gaze that she shunned in life? I thought that extremely thoughtful of the pallbearers. In any case, the grave is now the center of much public attention, and the top is covered in pencils and seashells - and the shells spill over onto Emily's sister Lavinia's grave, too. I'm not sure why (are sea shells particularly associated with either of them?), but it's nice that Lavinia is not neglected.
And we went to the reservoir and took a VERY LONG walk and had a picnic, and read aloud a chapter of The Railway Children (the most sexist chapter, sadly, which is too bad, because most of it is full of refreshingly equal-opportunity adventures) - the modern world could do with more reading aloud in it. I shall have to try to talk my roommate into it when I return.
Which will be on Tuesday! The trip is almost over! Tomorrow is the last hurrah - I'm going to the National Gallery (I always go to the National Gallery when I'm in DC) and perhaps one of the other Smithsonian Museums, although I'm not sure which one. I did Air & Space last time, which was delightful, but I think I ought to branch out.
They went to a vet before going to their new foster home, and according to the update I got they are in comparatively great health - no FIV, no feline leukemia, and mostly recovered from earlier infection. Unfortunately, the one eye will not improve much from how it is now (there seems to have been some trauma, not just an infection), but the vet said it shouldn't affect her too much either. That's all we can hope for, and not that surprising.