sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
I looked at the calendar, Ray.

The HFA's all-night half-marathon this year is vampires. Of that lineup, I have seen only the Hammer Dracula (1958), but some of the rest—Near Dark (1987), The Hunger (1983), Dracula's Daughter (1936)—I've had designs on for years. This should be great. People are going to be so nervous, stepping out into the ash-making sunlight at the end of that long, bloody night.

I see also from the October and November calendars that the archive appears to be embarking on a William Wellman retrospective. The trick here will not be living in the theater for most of the fall. I've seen a number of the titles announced so far, but hardly any of them on a big screen—they're pre-Code, they turn up on TCM. I know I want to see Night Nurse (1931), Heroes for Sale (1933), and Wild Boys of the Road (1933) because they are three of my favorite pre-Code movies, period. Maybe Other Men's Women (1931) just because I like Grant Withers and all five minutes of James Cagney in it so much. Safe in Hell (1931) is one of those titles you can't turn down. I've been seeing stills of cross-dressed Louise Brooks in Beggars of Life (1928) for years. For some reason I always forget he directed Nothing Sacred (1937) and think of it as an unusually cynical Frank Capra.

I'd ask why I have a real job except I worry it would trigger irony, so I'll just wish I had a real job with more time to write about movies.

Budget also couldn't hurt.

Eclipse first, the rest nowhere

Aug. 21st, 2017 02:18 pm
sovay: (Cho Hakkai: intelligence)
[personal profile] sovay
The cloud cover comes and goes and we may not be able to see any of the broken rings of leaf-light that I remember so fondly from the annular eclipse of 1994, but through the (carefully purchased from the NASA-recommended manufacturer) glasses I can see that a shadow has already bitten the sun. I am off to see how much more it devours before we drive it away into the swinging dance of planetary bodies again. I am wearing my Miskatonic University T-shirt. It seems appropriate to this brush with the cosmos.

[edit] No leaf-rings, but I saw the crescent sun: through eclipse glasses it looked like a hunter's moon. I didn't expect much effect on the afternoon so far out of the path of totality, but it was strange light to walk around in, slightly thickened, slightly smoked, the wrong angle and the wrong color for plain overcast or sunset. [personal profile] spatch said it was like someone had dropped a filter over the sun and of course someone had: the moon. We walked to the library and back and intermittently looked up at the sky until the crescent began to widen again and then the real overcast thoughtfully rolled in.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
On the one hand, I feel that the most appropriate response to David Rudkin's Penda's Fen (1974) would have been a day in the Malverns and some cloud-watching à la Thomas Colpeper, JP. On the other, I was in Providence when I saw it, and I wasn't sure of the ancestral relationship of Edward Elgar to College Hill. I spent a lot of NecronomiCon walking. That will have to suffice.

Penda's Fen is a 90-minute television play originally commissioned and broadcast as part of the BBC's Play for Today (1970–84); it was directed by Alan Clarke and I have wanted to see it ever since I discovered it somehow in the archives of the BFI in grad school. I finally got my chance Thursday afternoon in the auditorium of the Providence Public Library. It was screened on one of those small classroom projectors; there were about a dozen people in the audience besides me and some of them left or arrived partway through. What I could hear of the introduction seemed to be trying to champion it as a Lovecraftian film—I don't want to misrepresent someone who was mostly less audible than the air conditioning, but while I grant that it is a gloriously weird piece of cinema, if anything I think it's anti-Lovecraftian. Lovecraft's universe is fragile and deceptive, contaminable and contagious. The world that can be perceived is a shell over the world that is, one crack away from collapse into barbarism or madness or the abyss of time itself. Knowledge is a virus and you may well die of it. Your bloodline was compromised before you were born. The Other is always looking for a way in, and it finds one, and down into the dark we all go, unless we turn out to be the Other, in which case the dark is where we should have been all along. I don't have to alter the premise of Penda's Fen to make it resemble this template: a sheltered young man discovers that his ideas of both himself and his nation, from race and sexuality to family and religion, are soul-shakingly wrong. He is "mixed, mixed . . . nothing special, nothing pure." But where that revelation might have sent one of Lovecraft's protagonists careening into the void, Rudkin and Clarke offer an alternate path. Openly political, unashamedly Romantic, their vision affirms queerness, hybridity, and ambiguity as the true heart of England, the small, stubborn fire that the clear-cut forces of oppression—patriarchy, white supremacy, Christian supremacy—are always trying to snuff out. Salvation lies in the liminal spaces, the mixed and marginalized. This is a really cheering thesis to see so forcefully and hauntingly stated, especially since the film itself is less a pamphlet than a dark-and-bright dream of nuclear anxiety, sexual confusion, and folk almost-horror. Its language is Christian and pre-Christian, angels and demons and the echo of William Blake, but it is actually a lot like watching a version of the Bacchae where Pentheus, instead of breaking and being torn apart, shifts shape as suddenly as his cousin into the strange thing he was always meant to be. There is also psychogeography. And sympathetic magic. And Elgar. Anglophile Lovecraft may have longingly written "God Save the King!" but I don't know that he would have endorsed or even recognized the Englishness of Penda's Fen.

Stephen be secret, child be strange. )

I did not manage to catch any of the rest of the film programming at NecronomiCon, but Penda's Fen made the entire schedule worth it. I'm not even sorry I saw it in a library rather than a movie theater, since I am fairly confident its influence extends to the archival, hauntological music of Ghost Box. The real trouble with describing a narrative that treats its otherworld so matter-of-factly and this world with such an eye for the surreal is that even the attempt makes both of these modes sound much more normal than the experience: I have to stress that while Penda's Fen is not in any plot sense difficult to follow, its constant shifting and eventual merging of registers is a lot like having someone else's hallucinations for an hour and a half. I suspect this was part of the reason for the walkouts, although I kind of feel that if you show up for a film at a weird fiction convention, you should be prepared for something out of the ordinary to get into your head; I certainly expect what I saw in that noontime auditorium to stay in mine. It was messy, liberating, ambitious, and very beautiful. It left me hungry for sunsets on hills I've never climbed. It made me contemplate the sacred fires of my own country and who guards them now against the dark. Who is secret, strange, holy, and ungovernable. This dream brought to you by my mixed backers at Patreon.
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
I am home from NecronomiCon Providence. I hope to write out a real con report before I forget the details, but not right now.

All panels present and correct, including the one I thought I moderated badly; I was asked after that one if I taught for a living (not for years and not in the sense they were asking) and my impostor syndrome was confused. I probably short-circuited my own reading, but again, I sold a copy of Ghost Signs (2014) afterward, so it cannot have been a disaster. All program items in which I was involved were a lot of fun, including the podcast on which I had not originally been scheduled to appear. The Lovecraftian erotica was amazing.

People kept handing me things. A lime-green rubber tentacle, a bandanna for the Lovecraft Readathon, a CD of Bohren & der Club of Gore's Black Earth (2002), a first edition of C.L. Moore's Doomsday Morning (1957), DVDs of The Bat (1959) with Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead and The Lodger (1944) with Laird Cregar, a fictitious vintage program for the HPLHS' The Call of Cthulhu (2005 1927), Andrew M. Reichert's Weird Luck Tales: Monsters (2017). I got the souvenir book as part of being on programming, ditto the lapel pin with its emblem of the leaf-eyed pyramid like something out of Gravity Falls. I bought the Dwight Frye cards, the Lovecraftian postcards, the Miskatonic University T-shirt with an Art Nouveau design instead of the usual university seal, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles' She Walks in Shadows (2015). I bought a birch-veneer screen print of two witch's cats by Liv Rainey-Smith as a present for my brother and his wife. I think I just picked up the fake vintage newspaper because of its headline "Has Science Gone Mad?!", but its supposed date is my birthday, forty-five years before I was born.

There was not enough seeing of people, but what there was was good. Late last night, I wrote three-quarters of a post on Penda's Fen (1974) that I did not manage to finish before having to check out this morning, so either I will finish it later tonight or I will sleep. Or both.

I am exhausted. Various parts of my body think I was trying to kill them and are now attempting to return the favor. It was worth the early mornings.
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] sovay
This is not even an interim con report, because I slept approximately an hour before my panel on lycanthropy at nine this morning and I have spent most of the afternoon either at other people's readings or mooching around the dealer's rooms (I have three beautiful postcards by Darrell Tutchton and a half-pack of Dwight Frye character cards that I bought from the aptly monikered Mike Hunchback) and in slightly less than an hour I have to moderate a panel on the Lovecraftian erotic, but as we were passing through the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel I spied a flatscreen TV with the sound off and the text crawl at the bottom of the screen confirmed that Bannon is out of the White House, so I'm sure all sorts of unpleasantness will spin off that with his Breitbart base—roll on the globalist conspiracies—but at the moment it feels like genuinely good news out of our government and it's been a long time since that happened. Oh, and earlier today I was handed a translucent lime-green plastic tentacle, so I have been carrying it around in my coat like a reasonable person: in other words, there is a tentacle in my pocket, but I'm still happy to see you. So far, NecronomiCon, so good.

Rhodes and Lee

Aug. 18th, 2017 07:24 am
steepholm: (Default)
[personal profile] steepholm
Last year I spent some time on Facebook arguing with people who thought that the "Rhodes must fall" campaign was wrongheaded because it was erasing history.

I suggested that putting a statue up to someone was generally (and in this case undoubtedly) not intended as a dispassionate recording of the fact that such-and-such had occurred, but rather a celebration of that person's life and deeds. In this case, the statue of Rhodes marks the approbation of the Oxford college he had endowed with some of his very ill-gotten African spoils.

True, came the reply, but that approbation is itself a historical artefact, and to take down the statue is to erase it. Well then, why not put it in a museum, along with the other historical artefacts, and stick a label on it detailing exactly how Rhodes came by the money to endow colleges and scholarships? Why keep it in a place of honour, thus perpetuating the honour done to Rhodes?

Of course, taking down a statue can never be more than a symbolic act, any more than raising it, or indeed keeping it. Symbolism is the currency of statues. To try and pretend that they are naturally evolve into some kind of historical resource is profoundly disingenuous. (In the case of Rhodes, I don't think anyone tried to argue that the statue was a thing of beauty, but aesthetic arguments fall into much the same category.) Museums and art galleries are themselves far from politics-free zones, obviously, but at least they make some overt attempt to defuse and reframe such things as historical and/or aesthetic objects rather than direct political statements.

In the end, Rhodes stayed of course, because Rhodes's successors (the college's current donors) threatened to withdraw funding if it was removed. ("Now I see, I see, / In Fulvia's death, how mine received shall be," as they put it.) As ever, money shouts.

Anyway, I was just wondering to myself how the people I was arguing with on FB last year (nice liberal types, every one) feel about Trump making exactly the same arguments this week? Were they nodding along? If not, why not?

As a tangential postscript, I gave my friend Haruka a lift to Brighton yesterday (I was helping my daughter move some of her things back to Bristol), and we stopped in at my mother's for a cup of tea en route. Haruka took this picture of my mother. It was only after five minutes that I noticed that it also includes her care assistant, Haawa. Talk about hidden black history!

IMG_3680

Can you spot her, readers?
sovay: (Sydney Carton)
[personal profile] sovay
The news remains unspeakable (except that once people start saying things that should not be said, they have to be faced and spoken against), but it is sunny outside and [personal profile] selkie tagged me a bathtub full of Jeremy Brett and I don't know how I'm going to sleep during NecronomiCon, but I hope I'm going to have fun. Everybody take care of themselves.
sovay: (Default)
[personal profile] sovay
I meant to post my schedule for NecronomiCon Providence at the beginning of this month, but then the month got away from me; then I meant to post it before the weekend, but neo-Nazis happened. So! Tomorrow through Sunday, I will be in Providence. My schedule is as follows:

Friday August 18

9–10:15 am
Wereweird: Lycanthropy, Animism, and Animal-Transformation in Weird Fiction
Cody Goodfellow, KH Vaughan (moderator), Stephen Graham Jones, Sonya Taaffe

Throughout the history of Weird Fiction, the idea of transformation has held sway—with roots from the werewolf legends of the French countryside to the Wendigo myths of the Pacific Northwest, the idea of the human becoming something less (or more) than human has held our collective imaginations. Here, we will discuss the idea of transformation in folklore and our continued fascination with it.

6:00–7:15 pm
Erotic Lovecraftiana
Paul LaFarge, Livia Llewellyn, Peter Rawlik, Sonya Taaffe (moderator), Joe Zannella

At first, the concept seems to be a contradiction. Lovecraft was robustly asexual with barely any interest in the subject in his writing or real-life. And yet, erotic Lovecraftian stories, films, and anime have been extremely popular. Is it possible to combine the two and create an entirely new offspring? Our panelists think so and will not only defend their conclusions but offer their recommendations.

Saturday August 19

10:30–11:45 am
Dark Crimes: The Weird in Noir Fiction
Paul Di Filippo, Cody Goodfellow, Lois Gresh, Peter Rawlik, Rory Raven (moderator), Sonya Taaffe

Both Weird Fiction and Crime Fiction function around the idea that we cannot trust what we once thought infallible—our very sense of self and place in the world. What philosophies drive these seemingly different strains of literature together and what unites both in their bleak view of the cosmos mankind inhabits? This panel explores the bleak cosmic horror of man as written by Himes, Thompson, and Chandler.

4:30–5:45 pm
Voices in Weird Poetry
Frank Coffman, Darrell Schweitzer, Donald Sidney-Fryer, Sonya Taaffe (moderator), Starry Wizdom

Weird poetry has been gaining ground over the past few years and continues to gather interest among scholars, writers, and readers. Who are some of these emerging voices? How might the emergence of this new energy in the medium stir interest in past works, and create a platform to expand interest in poetic works in the future?

Sunday August 20

10:30–11:45 am
Author Readings
Ruthanna Emrys, Jon Padgett, Peter Straub, Sonya Taaffe

I will also be in attendance at the opening reception for the exhibits "Greetings and Salutations: Lovecraft on the Road" and "Caitlin R. Kiernan Papers" at the John Hay Library tomorrow night and with significant luck will manage to drag myself out of bed on Thursday in time for the noon showing of David Rudkin and Alan Clarke's Penda's Fen (1974) at the Black Box Theater. Then I will spend the following week sleeping. Anybody in this friendlist I'm likely to see at the world's premier festival of weird fiction, academia, and art?

[personal profile] spatch met me after my doctor's appointment this afternoon and we walked over to the Boston Public Market so that I could get my now-traditional bagel with smoked salmon from the Boston Smoked Fish Co. and he could get shakalatkes from Inna's Kitchen. I wanted to visit the Holocaust Memorial afterward, because last night—for the second time this summer, after twenty-two years without incident—it was vandalized. We walked out the back of the market and into a press conference. An Auschwitz survivor and co-founder of the memorial was speaking; he was followed by Jewish community leaders, an imam, a cantor who recited the Holocaust-specific version of the El Malei Rachamim. We walked through the memorial afterward, my first time in years. It is six towers of glass, their panels etched with numbers like concentration camp tattoos; steam rises continually through each tower and the words of survivors are written in the glass. It mentions things that other remembrances of the Holocaust often elide: the equally targeted genocide of the Romani, Jewish uprisings and partisan groups, that the U.S. knew about the camps as early as 1942. I had forgotten to bring a stone to leave as at a grave, but the memorial provides its own. There were a lot of people there.

Then we met my mother in Harvard Square (the woman behind the counter at Esmerelda—not Esmerelda herself, older middle-aged and deft with a pair of needle-nose pliers—replaced the broken clasp of my necklace for free) and she told us about 45's neo-Nazi-defending both-sides double-down.

So I will go to Providence this weekend and represent queer Jewish fish people and that's all there is to it.

P.S. Courtesy of Rob, for fans of Gravity Falls (2012–16): with the blessing of series creator and voice actor Alex Hirsch, Grunkle Stan punches Nazis.

(no subject)

Aug. 15th, 2017 06:47 pm
lauradi7dw: (Default)
[personal profile] lauradi7dw
After Trump's astounding (but not surprising) "press availability time," I tweeted: "If 131 year old G Washington had been around when Virginia seceded, which way would he have gone?" Nobody has unfollowed me yet, but I wonder whether it could be seen as endorsing what the president said. I hope not. It's more of an indication of how my mind flits about. I don't know the answer. Arthur said he thought Thomas Jefferson would have kept on sticking by the Union (that's me plagiarizing a phrase from another context). I said he was a big supporter of slavery. Arthur queried it, and I replied that he hadn't even freed the mother of his children. Arthur granted my correctness, but pointed out that GW and TJ had anticipated the trouble slavery would cause in the future. I said "they kicked the can down the road," and then of course I had to check to see whether they could have done so. Not in 1789, but TJ lived long enough to see the commercialization of canned goods.
http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/what-it-says-on-the-tin-a-brief-history-of-canned-food

May I remark how much I dislike the expression "presser?" I understand the desire to cut out keystrokes/characters, but it's really unpleasant.
sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
[personal profile] sovay
Today involved grocery shopping, housecleaning, pizza, keeping an eye on the news, and accruing links. I am way more tired than I feel the physical aspects of the day should account for.

1. Carly Pildis, "My Family Is Black and Jewish. Here's What Charlottesville Means to Me." I find this paragraph particularly acute: "It's how I know that America is both our sanctuary and where our neighbors were brought in chains. It is both our home and a place we can never fully trust. We have more freedom than ever before but the swastika still haunts the doorstep of our synagogue. We love America but wonder if our kids are really safe at our local JCC."

2. Jelani Cobb, "The Battle of Charlottesville." Crystallizes a lot of things I have seen people saying and thinking—including me, but more elegantly—and then goes one analytical step further. "It is a moment of indeterminate morality, one in which the centrifugal forces of contempt, resentment, and racial superiority are pitted against the ideal of common humanity and the possibility of a civic society. We have entered a new phase of the Trump era."

3. In terms of amplifying voices in Charlottesville, I have found both butchsaffron and eshusplayground to be valuable perspectives. I'm not even on Tumblr. News moves faster off Dreamwidth, whee.

4. I discovered Erynn Brook's "White Feelings: 0-60 for Charlottesville" via more than one white person who said it was useful to them. It strikes me as a good example of the snarkily worded but sincerely intended anti-racist primer; I have reservations mostly about its elision of Jews. On that front, see this post and its follow-up. This one is also related.

5. The murdered counter-protester has been named; so has the man who drove the car into her. The White House winks and nods and barely even dogwhistles at this point, but I am hoping the local law will bolt the terrorist to the wall. Let there be consequences. Not just private ones like a sock in the jaw, but formal, legal ones like convictions for terrorism. Free speech is one thing, but hate speech another, and violence is something else entirely.

6. I wanted to link this cycle days ago: twenty-one poets writing for the Statue of Liberty in the age of Trump.

7. As people keep talking about appropriate responses to neo-Nazi, neo-Confederate violence, I keep thinking of the speech delivered by Anton Walbrook to Roger Livesey in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). The German refugee is talking to the English gentleman, to the English audience, about the facts of fighting Nazis. Both the scriptwriter and the actor may be speaking through him. Jewish, stateless Pressburger had left Berlin in a life-saving hurry in 1933; Walbrook took his chance in 1936, Austrian, half-Jewish, and queer. They knew whereof Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff spoke. I couldn't find a very good clip of the scene, but here it is:

I read your broadcast up to the point where you describe the collapse of France. You commented on Nazi methods, foul fighting, bombing refugees, machine-gunning hospitals, lifeboats, lightships, bailed-out pilots and so on, by saying that you despised them, that you would be ashamed to fight on their side and that you would sooner accept defeat than victory if it could only be won by those methods . . . Clive! If you let yourself be defeated by them, just because you are too fair to hit back the same way they hit at you, there won't be any methods but Nazi methods! If you preach the Rules of the Game while they use every foul and filthy trick against you, they'll laugh at you! They think you're weak, decadent! I thought so myself in 1919 . . . I don't think you won [the last war]. We lost it. But you lost something, too. You forgot to learn the moral. Because victory was yours, you failed to learn your lesson twenty years ago, and you have to pay the school fees again! Some of you will learn quicker than the others. Some will never learn it. Because you have been educated to be a gentleman and a sportsman—in peace and in war. But, Clive, dear old Clive, this is not a gentleman's war. This time you are fighting for your very existence against the most devilish idea ever created by a human brain—Nazism. And if you lose there won't be a return match next year, perhaps not even for a hundred years! You mustn't mind me, an alien, saying all this. But who can describe hydrophobia better than one who has been bitten—and is now immune?
sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
[personal profile] sovay
We got out of the house in the evening. It was just around sunset and there were smoky peach and pink streaks in the sky, so we walked the same loop of the Mystic River that we had discovered in June and checked up on the Hasenpfeffer in their late-lit silflay field; this time we took the boardwalk under the Fellsway (water lilies, ducks, spiderwebs on the streetlights like set dressing for a haunted house) and came up in Assembly Square, where we acquired perfectly serviceable non-booze milkshakes from Burger Dive before negotiating the construction tangle of I-93 on our way to Stop & Shop. Dinner was grilled cheese made short-order-style in my grandmother's skillet. We locked Autolycus out of the kitchen after he made repeated attempts to climb onto the stove where all the delicious excitement was taking place, but his unassuming confederate Hestia slipped the latch on the door and let him back in. He hoovered the floor just in case we had dropped any cheese crumbs. Just now he stuck his head directly under the kitchen tap in order to lick the last of the goat's milk out of my mug before I washed it. Gentlepeople of all persuasions, the only mooch that matters.

1. Here is one list of ways to help in Charlottesville right now. There are two fundraising campaigns already for victim relief and medical expenses. See also this list of local anti-racism organizations and this post by a Charlottesville resident. I donated to University of Virginia's Hillel and Black Student Alliance and to Charlottesville Pride, which I figure should cover a reasonable (and not necessarily mutually exclusive) swathe of people neo-Nazis hate.

2. Several of the same neo-Nazi groups responsible for the violence in Charlottesville have a rally planned next Saturday in Boston. There is a counter-protest already being organized. I will be out of town due to prior commitments at NecronomiCon Providence. Anyone who will be in town and feels that they can counter-protest safely, strength to your arm.

3. People on Facebook have been posting this wartime footage of swastikas being destroyed. The exploding one at the beginning is surprisingly cathartic. Don't bother with the comments, which are predictably full of anti-Semitic trash fire.

I don't know what emotions I'm supposed to feel. A lot of people are talking about shame, shock, grief; I seem to be feeling a high degree of anger and what I think must be outrage in that it is anger specifically against a thing that should not happen—and it feels personal, but of course it is personal, neo-Nazis don't chant "Final stop, Auschwitz" as a historical curiosity—but not at the moment a lot of surprise. I was more surprised by the election results in November and even then I didn't think it couldn't happen here, I just thought this time it wouldn't. I guess my baseline of things that happen here has just been revising itself downward ever since. White terrorism in America has been going on for generations. This is an especially grotesque and obvious manifestation, but I think it is so obvious in part because it uses Nazi iconography as well as Confederate flags, because it indulged in a form of terrorism associated more with ISIS than with lone-wolf postal shooters. It looks now like the Other, like the half-mythical villains of our last righteous war, like the new demons of the war on terror. Insofar as it looked like the Ku Klux Klan, so long as it wasn't physically wearing a white sheet and those pointy hoods we can thank D.W. Griffith for, I suspect to many (white) people it was hardly visible at all. I'm glad the so-called alt-right has crossed the streams in public: I'm glad they have made the shape of their hatred visible from space. You start throwing around Sieg Heils and Orrin Hatch, for God's sake, denounces you. (The man in the White House doesn't, because white supremacists are the one demographic he can't afford to alienate.) I will continue calling these people neo-Nazis because they are wearing fucking swastikas and quoting Hitler and I have no interest in granting them the plausible deniability of their attempted rebranding, but maybe we should also call them neo-Confederates or neo-Klan, so not to enable the illusion of their racist, fascist ideology as a strain that infiltrated America from outside as opposed to a strain that has always been part of American white supremacy. My country didn't need Germany to invent lynchings or eugenics. These dreams of ethnic cleansing are homegrown. Terrorists, above all, whatever else we call them. Very definitely terrorists.

(I understand the above problem of definition is the reason terms like "white nationalist" or "white supremacist" exist, but even these have started to feel sanitized to me, as if they describe theoretical positions rather than active advocacy of racial violence: torches in the night, flags of lynching and genocide, deaths and injuries.)

On the other hand, there was a Charlottesville solidarity vigil held on Boston Common tonight and a kind stranger on the internet Photoshopped a panel of a peculiar vintage comic for me so that it now represents a black cat punching Hitler, so not all good in humanity is lost.

Shake me and make me remember

Aug. 12th, 2017 02:54 pm
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
I had a bunch of things I wanted to post about this afternoon, but they have been temporarily displaced by Nazis. I tend to assume everyone who might read this journal is ahead of me on the news curve, but if not, Charlottesville is in a state of emergency after this morning's white supremacist rally was suspended due to violence breaking out. An as yet unidentified car drove into a crowd of counter-protesters. (Funny how you can scream about Islamic terrorism till you're blue in the face, but there's nothing wrong with vehicle-ramming when it's white hands on the wheel.) As a person miles away from Virginia who has been trying to figure out what to do beyond making phone calls to politicians and yelling on the internet, I found the following links useful:

Sara Benincasa has compiled a list of local nonprofits who could use the support, including NAACP Albemarle-Charlottesville, Charlottesville Pride, Meals on Wheels Charlottesville, Congregation Beth Israel, and Virginia's Legal Aid Justice Center.

Charlottesville Solidarity Legal Fund is a community resource that posts bail and raises other funds for anti-racist activists.

Beloved Community Charlottesville raises money for local charities based directly and proportionately on the number of neo-Nazis who show for the rally.

I'll add other resources if I come across them. I've just been reminded one of my mother's cousins lives in Charlottesville. [edit] They are fine. One fatality confirmed from the car attack, one suspect in custody. One man in the White House doing nothing to condemn terrorism when it's the same color as his skin.
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
I was away from the news for a bit. I checked in with Facebook and found out there are torch-wielding neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. Counter-protesters are students at University of Virginia. I'm trying to find an article as opposed to Twitter which I am not on.

I am behind the news cycle, I know, I know. I have just asked [personal profile] spatch (who is on Twitter) in perfect seriousness, "How bad is this? Are we talking cross-burning? Are people getting killed? Are there police? Which side are they on?" These are not reasonable questions to have to ask.

Richard Spencer is on the scene, apparently. I can think of nothing more appropriate than for one of his Blut-und-Boden-chanting goons to wave a torch too close to that paramilitary hair of his, slicked back so attractively, as all sorts of mainstream news sites marveled last year. Go on, make your Auschwitz ashtray jokes when your great white hope is a smudge pot in a pseudo-dapper suit.

[edit] I can't even find it funny that the torches were tiki torches. I hope the police protected the counter-protesters. If they didn't, I hope they do tomorrow. I hope there are more counter-protesters than neo-Nazis. This is not a reasonable place for a country to be.

[edit edit] I'm sure I'm not helping the discourse, but when I read that one of the protesters' slogans was "Jew will not replace us," dude, I would replace you with lawn flamingos in a hot second. I would replace you with broccoli. I would, now that you press the point, replace you with just about any other available ethnicity, because while anti-Semitism is by no means unique to white people (as I was inopportunely reminded), right now I don't see a lot of, say, Latinx hate speech torch mobs parading around the cities of America, celebrating genocide. I would replace you with tiki torches. They drive off whining, bloodthirsty pests.

In the meantime, I'll get back to my global conspiracy of trying to fall asleep tonight.

Bone to bloom, fast to feast

Aug. 11th, 2017 11:15 pm
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
Writing news!

1. I can now announce that my jötunn short story "Skerry-Bride" has been accepted for reprint by Transcendent 2: The Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, edited by Bogi Takács (Lethe Press). It was written right after discovering Moss of Moonlight's Winterwheel (2013) and right before seeing Thor: The Dark World (2013) and published originally in Devilfish Review #16. I do what I can for more Norse queerness.

2. My short story "Like Milkweed" has been accepted for reprint by Broad Knowledge: 35 Women Up to No Good, edited by Joanne Merriam (Upper Rubber Boot Books). It was written in 2014, inspired by a comment [personal profile] asakiyume made about burdock and other edible plants, and published later that year in Not One of Us #52. I used to think it might be one of my rare pieces of science fiction, but now I think the chances are much better that it's just weird.

3. My poems "The Women Around Achilles" and "The House Always Wins" have been accepted by Not One of Us. The first is a gloss on Achilles on Skyros, a story whose gender essentialism has always sat badly with me; the second is the direct result of [personal profile] yhlee asking me to draw a Vidona spread.

I saw a young couple with a baby in a stroller on the bus this afternoon; they were cosplaying Deadpool and Harley Quinn. Nicely matching red and black. No idea if the baby was cosplaying anyone. I felt a little disappointed when it was pointed out to me that they were probably on their way to Boston Comic Con. They had been a terrifying prospect of parents.

Guess I chose the right tattoo

Aug. 11th, 2017 03:14 am
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] sovay
I just finished watching Moana (2016) with my mother and [personal profile] spatch. I can't believe that music lost out to La La Land. Also, Zootopia better have been some kind of artistic landmark, because I'm willing to bet it didn't have hand-drawn animated tattoos, a bedazzled neon monster crab, or a sea I wanted to swim in.

I had seen Auliʻi Cravalho perform "How Far I'll Go" at the Oscars in February; I knew surprisingly little about the film otherwise, although that had not prevented me from being impressed by Philip Odango's Maui cosplay. I'm sorry I missed it in theaters. I am normally a hard sell on computer-generated rather than traditional animation, but the super/natural world of Moana is beautifully done, the star-thick skies, the curl and shatter of the waves, a green and flowering goddess settling herself to an island's sleep again. I'm not in a position to comment on the accuracy of the film's mythological representation, although I recognized most of the stories Maui tells about himself (the eel into coconuts one was new to me), but I really enjoyed seeing a movie whose trickster figure is a real trickster, not just the malevolent side of chaos. I like Moana as a protagonist—her sea-longing, her sense of humor, her stubbornness and her occasional incredulity that her life now involves having to fight tiny spiky sentient pirate coconuts over the world's most clueless chicken; I like that her conflicts with her family and with Maui are not gendered. Her return to Motunui with her grandmother's necklace around her throat and an outrigger canoe gifted her by a goddess, a wayfinder, a hero, makes me think someone else read Armstrong Sperry's Call It Courage (1940) as a child and wanted a better ending. The bond between her and her grandmother is the sort of thing that causes me to cry through a movie. I have also heard much worse reincarnation ideas than a manta ray. My mother made the connection between Te Kā and Te Fiti even before the film revealed it: once you remove the ability of a Pacific island to flower into life, of course all that's left is the volcanic rock, the earth cracking into the sea. The writers of Moana handle it a little differently than Lloyd Alexander, but I realized after the fact that Maui's final willingness to sacrifice his fishhook—his magic, the only thing he thinks makes the difference between a shape-changing culture hero and an unwanted child—called out the same response in me as Fflewddur's sacrifice of his harp. I had somehow missed that Dwayne Johnson can sing.

Is the film an authentic depiction of pre-colonial Polynesia? I don't see how it could be; first of all, there's a whole lot of cultures bracketed in that description, and despite the credited participation of the Oceanic Story Trust, which I appreciated seeing, both directors Ron Clements and John Musker and screenwriter Jared Bush were white and not as far as I can tell from anywhere in the relevant regions themselves. It's a Disney movie. They're adapting to the concept of diverse creators slightly faster than the subduction of the Pacific Plate. But its attention to material culture is notable, it does seem to have taken care with some traditions, and I'm still amused that the only actor in the main voice cast who is not of Polynesian descent is Alan Tudyk, voicing the above-mentioned chicken. (I'm also weirdly pleased that I have apparently heard enough Flight of the Conchords to recognize Jermaine Clement by his Bowie impression.) I hadn't heard of Opetaia Foa’i or Te Vaka before tonight, which may mark the first time a Disney musical has actually introduced me to musicians I plan to pursue beyond the soundtrack; I don't speak Samoan, Tokelauan, or Tuvaluan, so I am not the intended audience for some of Foa’i's lyrics and that's all right. I am glad they are in the languages they are in and I can appreciate the ones written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, since I'm pretty sure he's the best English-language lyricist Disney's had since Howard Ashman. Also, I realize that snappy, poppy, intermittently immature dialogue is a necessary component of a modern Disney film, but in the persistent wake of Girl of the Port (1930) and the convention of confining indigenous characters to pseudo-pidgin or formal speech, I am cool with a cast composed entirely of Pasifika characters who get lines as lofty as "Nope!", "Fish pee in you! All day!" and "Really? Blowdart in my butt cheek?" I mean, there are also serious conversations about responsibility, apology, healing the world, growing up. There are powerful, wordless sequences between human characters, nonhuman characters, elements of the natural world. There's a shot of a conch shell that speaks volumes. But also an accidentally half-shark trickster glumly describing his chances of beating a lava spirit with a well-deserved grudge as "bupkes."

I have had a migraine for about three days now and correspondingly haven't slept except for a couple of hours this afternoon, so I know this post is more notes than extended consideration, but I liked Moana so much, I wanted at least to mention it. It's funny, it's numinous, it celebrates traditional Polynesian navigation, it has no villain in the usual sense and I love its idea of a heroic happy ending, horizon, spray, steering by the swell and the stars. My mother tells me that my niece has imprinted to the point of going around randomly quoting the dialogue, so between Gramma Tala and "Shark head!" I'm wondering if she might like to visit the aquarium to pet the sharks and rays. [personal profile] handful_ofdust, thanks for the DVD! I will acquire the soundtrack on my own time. This voyage brought to you by my sea-called backers at Patreon.
lauradi7dw: (Default)
[personal profile] lauradi7dw
The Qatar situation has dropped from mainstream US news, but Al Jazeera is keeping track. I was shocked to see this:
>>
Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti, Qatar's minister of transport and communications, met on Tuesday with Bishar Hussein, the director general of the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

The meeting comes in response to the complaint submitted by Qatar to the UPU, concerning the violations of the constitution and conventions of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) by the blockading countries, which is the first of its kind in the world and a dangerous precedent for the UPU charters.<<
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/qatar-diplomatic-crisis-latest-updates-170605105550769.html

I cannot express how furious this makes me. Of the things in the world that we as human manage to get right, international cooperation about delivering the mail is in some ways the most endearing. Anybody who has access to paper and postage (which I admit doesn't include everybody) can send a letter to anybody in the world. Except not between Qatar and the Gulf jerks.

edit Not meaning to imply that this is the worst thing people are doing to each other.

All we did is survive

Aug. 10th, 2017 06:30 am
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
And now for something completely different: a movie that's still playing in theaters as we speak. I didn't manage to get it written up in July, but the movie I dashed out to catch after writing up Way Out West (1930) was Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk (2017). The Somerville not only has a 70 mm print and the Philips Norelco DP70s to screen it on, it has David the projectionist who learned his trade on the format and handles it beautifully, so I figured I would not have a better chance to see it however Nolan intended. His films have a very mixed track record with me, so I was not sure what to expect.

The very short version: while I did not love the film as I had hoped I would, I don't think it fails its history and I liked it. It's visually striking, elegantly structured, and often curiously, intentionally anti-epic even while it's staging cast-of-thousands setpieces with a sweeping, elemental approach to historical fact. It's a war movie in which the first event on the fabled beach of Dunkirk is a combat-stunned young Tommy, thin, dark-haired, looking like a scarecrow in the heavy folds of his uniform greatcoat and whatever kit survived his scrambling, lucky escape from enemy fire in the falling city, wandering around the dunes looking for a place to take a shit because he damn near just had it scared out of him and instead finds another equally young, equally silent soldier burying a corpse, one cold, crusted foot just poking out of the sand. So he can't actually use that dune as a latrine because you don't crap on graves, especially not when you suspect they belong to other people's mates; he rebuckles his trousers and goes to help with the burial. That's a whole cross-section of a war in a few wordless minutes, black-humored, elegiac, still heart-hammering adrenaline from the soldier's race through deserted streets inhabited only by the eerie snowfall of propaganda fliers and machine-gun fire out of nowhere, splattering the men he was running alongside a moment ago. His name is Tommy, although neither my mother nor I picked that up until the credits; he's played by Fionn Whitehead in his screen debut and except for a few key scenes he is almost, like several other roles in this film, a silent part, anchoring the story with his wiry body and his dark-freckled, truculent face. Because he's one of our metonyms for the stranded soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force, it would have been easy to cast him pretty, innocent. He has the vulnerability of extreme youth, but he's also a little feral, something of a scrounger—a clever bit player, maybe, in a different kind of war film. This one shifts him and his fellow extras to center stage, displacing the more familiar heroism of steadfast warriors or brilliant strategists. The closest we get to the former are Tom Hardy's Farrier and Jack Lowden's Collins, Spitfire pilots aloft for one crucial hour to provide air cover for the most exposed phase of the evacuation; the closest we get to the latter is Kenneth Branagh's Commander Bolton, the tireless, anxious pier-master with a host of unenviable decisions to make. The much-mythologized decency of the ordinary Briton is represented by Mark Rylance's Dawson, the mildly spoken, cardigan-wearing civilian whose motor yacht the Moonstone is one of the shallow-draft "little ships" that can get safely to the beach where destroyers would founder, but even he has odd cracks and ripples that come late to light. The most important thing about the film, I think, whatever its faults, is that it recognizes the violence and the chaos and the terror and the failure without capsizing into grimdark or overcompensating into triumphalism. The ships did come. They never should have had to, but they did. And that was the end of the phony war and just the beginning of the real one.

That's enough. )

I don't know what most people of my nationality and generation know about Dunkirk. I don't know what they'll take away from this movie. It plays like it was meant to be the last cinematic word on the history, but so was Leslie Norman's Dunkirk (1958) and that had John Mills and Richard Attenborough going for it; I'm sure we can expect a new hot take in another sixty years. Personally I don't think it will displace The Prestige (2006) as my favorite Christopher Nolan, but there's a lot in it I'm still thinking about. My mother liked it and the history is important to her. The last image is as powerfully open-ended as it needed to be. I feel stupidly proud of myself for recognizing Michael Caine's uncredited cameo by voice. I guess I have opinions about cinematography. This homecoming brought to you by my fiery backers at Patreon.

A house on fire or the rising sea

Aug. 9th, 2017 06:40 pm
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
So, yes, I would rather we didn't nuke North Korea. I would rather we didn't get nuked by North Korea. I would rather nobody nuked anybody and especially not because the man in the White House has gotten bored with dick-swinging and wants to do it with missiles now. Michael Flanders and Donald Swann's "20 Tons of TNT" already plays on permanent loop somewhere at the back of my brain most days.

1. Barbara Cook has died. I was just talking about her on Friday after The Shop Around the Corner (1940) at the HFA, describing Harnick and Bock's She Loves Me to someone who loved the Lubitsch film but had never heard of the 1963 musical. I can't post one defining song to remember her by, because so many of hers were definitive versions—"Glitter and Be Gay," "Ice Cream," "Losing My Mind." She was one of the singers I aspired to, classical training and musical theater. I knew very little about her life until she talked about it. I will miss her voice being in the world.

2. Courtesy of [personal profile] isis: "Serpent Charmer," a vid for Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007). I haven't seen that movie in nine years and those two minutes and forty-three seconds capture much of what I loved about it. I should rewatch it; it is one of my benchmarks for historical film.

3. Courtesy of [personal profile] skygiants: "Clean Light," her vid for Rebecca Sugar's Steven Universe (2013–). I had to track down the song because it welded itself immediately into my head and I've spent most of the last two days playing it. It's one of the most upbeat apocalyptic songs I've ever heard, which makes it well suited to a goofy, touching, morally complex and intermittently body horror show about rocks and crying.

4. I can't be in New York for a Scarface double feature at the Film Forum on Friday because I have appointments too late in the afternoon, which saddens me because I've wanted to see Hawks' version for years. I might go see To Be or Not to Be (1942) for the second time in theaters this summer, because apparently that's the silver lining of fascism being so much in the air.

5. I found this a useful piece of thinking out loud on the internet: Film Crit Hulk, "On Criticism in the Intersectional Age." Parts of it link up with these posts for me.

6. Courtesy of [personal profile] selkie: Bi Pride in Boston, 1990. There is absolutely no reason I should know any of the people in that photograph—among other factors, in June of 1990 I was eight years old—and yet the Venn diagram makes me feel I should.

7. [personal profile] spatch took new pictures of Hestia: "Sometimes Hestia will deign to be photographed. And sometimes she will make faces as soon as she sees the phone pointed her way. Such is Cat."

I am off to get some sunlight.

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