sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
[personal profile] sovay
So while I had known for some time about Dolly Wilde, Oscar's niece, I had somehow never heard of the fellow ambulance driver with whom she had an affair in WWI Paris, Joe Carstairs. I am going to be neutral about their pronouns because I don't want to get them wrong—all the sources I'm finding treat Carstairs as female, and it's pretty narrow to think that short hair, tattoos, tailored suits, and speedboats automatically make a man, or at least not a woman, but when a person renames themselves "Joe" from "Marion" and says of themselves, "I was never a little girl. I came out of the womb queer," I feel I should try to take them at their word. It's easy to see why they attract biographers and Tumblr posts. The part where they ran an all-female driving service in London—"X Garage"—is pretty great. The part where they were the only one of Marlene Dietrich's lovers to call her "babe" and live is amazing. The part where they bought an island in the Bahamas and effectively ruled it for forty years is like something out of Conrad, which is a little harder to enthuse about, but it definitely is different.

Everybody else thought so, so I thought so, too. I would have liked me. )

And twenty minutes ago I'd had no idea. I love the people that history contains.

If you can run, you can run

Oct. 22nd, 2017 08:38 pm
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[personal profile] lauradi7dw
There is an anti-homophobia in sports project with the motto "If you can play, you can play."
I thought of that (with the subject line twist above) in conjunction with the Runners World race time predictor.
The questions one has to answer are times for other races, and how many miles a week of training. The questions that are not asked are sex or age, even though both of them are usually collected for race data. On average, women's marathon times are proportionally closer to men's than say 5k times (at the speedy end), but I guess the point of the not asking is that if you're in good enough shape to run (whatever distance at whatever speed), you're good enough to run whatever other distance. After that, training volume seems to matter most (the more the better is too simplistic, because the more miles you run, the higher your likelihood of tripping on a pothole or something, plus repetitive stress possibilities). Kind of obvious, but also nice to know.

a grand day out

Oct. 22nd, 2017 08:24 pm
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[personal profile] lauradi7dw
Yesterday (October 21) was the birthday equivalent of the USS Constitution. For some reason, its commemorative jaunt to Castle Island and back (propelled by a tug boat, not by sails) was Friday the 20th. I hope there were lots of people at Castle Island, because where I was standing at the end of Battery Wharf (next to the Coast Guard station, and basically where the colonial era shipyard was) there were only a couple of dozen. I suspect it was the best viewing spot - one could see them (Old Ironsides, the tug boats, the police boats, the Massport and Boston fireboats, spouting all the way) approach, pause to fire 17 times (the significance is lost on me) and then head into the Charlestown Navy yard, back home. There were hardly any people by the water at the CG station, but maybe everybody else was off guarding the coast. Most of the cannon had red plugs, like a modern toy or otherwise out of commission firearm, but one on each side fired. A physics lesson. Even from a couple of hundred yards, the puff of powder was visible before the boom. I only once heard a human voice say (yell?) "Fire," but I'm sure it happened every time.
After that, being in the neighborhood, I went by Old North to drop off something for the ringers, since I had to miss yesterday's practice, and then went into the print shop to talk about the Boston Gazette and its slave ads. The printers (Gary wasn't there) were knowledgeable and helpful. One of them suggested that I buy a book of facsimiles of colonial newspapers, but I don't really need another weighty tome in the house. Apparently more and more information is becoming available about the publishers and their slavery connections. I will try to remember to check back in a few months. The on to errands and the journey home. Altogether pleasant.
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
Today was very pleasant but very tiring. It has been a sleepless week, most of yesterday was a migraine, and I feel exhausted to the point of stupidity. In lieu of a movie I really need my brain for, here's one I can talk about while wanting to pass out.

Last October I watched but never wrote about Norman Foster's Woman on the Run (1950), a famously near-lost noir painstakingly restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Film Noir Foundation and released last year onto home media as a double bill with Byron Haskin's Too Late for Tears (1949). Part of the delay is that I liked but did not love the former film as I did the latter with its stone cold antiheroine and uncompromising final shot; this one suffers more from the congealing sexism of the nascent Fifties and as a result its emotional resolution leaves a tacky taste on my teeth and an inchoate longing for the advent of no-fault divorce. If you can bear with its limitations, however, Woman on the Run is worth checking out as a thoughtfully layered mystery and a fantastic showcase for Ann Sheridan as an unapologetically bitchy, unsentimentally sympathetic protagonist, a rare combination in Hollywood even now.

The 1948 source short story by Sylvia Tate was titled "Man on the Run" and the film begins with one: late-night dog-walker Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott) who takes a powder on learning that the murder he conscientiously reported—and witnessed at close enough range to know the killer again—was connected to a high-profile mob trial. A failed artist with a bad heart and a marriage that's been on the rocks almost since it launched, he looks tailor-made for the dark city, a loser coming up on his final throw. The camera doesn't follow him into the night-maze of San Francisco, though, to face or keep running from his demons in the kind of psychomachia at which an expressionist genre like noir so excels; instead the point of view switches almost at once to his estranged wife Eleanor (Sheridan), wearily deflecting the inquiries of the hard-nosed Inspector Ferris (Robert Keith, who will always look like Lieutenant Brannigan to me) with flat sarcastic cracks and an indifference so apparently genuine and total, it can take the audience a beat to recognize the depths of anger and resignation that underlie lines like "No, sometimes he goes to sleep and I walk the dog." Ever since Max Ophüls' The Reckless Moment (1949), I have been wary of assuming the limits of women in noir, but Eleanor still stands out for me in her flippant, abrasive intelligence and her willingness to look bad—she knows it shocks the conservative inspector that she isn't all housewifely concern for her man and she needles him with it, referring to the dog as their "only mutual friend" and dismissing the bare kitchen with "He's not particular and I'm lazy, so we eat out." Faced with the possibility that Frank has taken his brush with the underworld as an excuse to run out on his marriage, she's more than half inclined to let him. But she's not inclined to let him get killed, especially not playing star witness for a police force whose last star witness got whacked while Frank was watching, and so in the best traditions of amateur detecting, complete with dubious Watson in the form of "Legget of the Graphic" (Dennis O'Keefe), the flirty tabloid reporter who offered his services plus a thousand-dollar sweetener in exchange for exclusive rights to Frank's story, Eleanor sets out to find her missing husband before either the killer or a duty-bound Ferris can. He's left her a clue to his whereabouts, a cryptic note promising to wait for her "in a place like the one where I first lost you." In a relationship full of quarrels and frustrations, that could be anywhere, from their favorite Chinese hangout to the wharves of his "social protest period" to the tower viewers at the top of Telegraph Hill. Let the investigations begin.

I like this setup, which gives us the city as memory palace after all: Eleanor's memories of her relationship with Frank, what it was like when it was good and where it failed and how it might be reclaimed again, if she can only find him alive. She is almost being asked to perform a spell. And while I suppose she could have done it on the sympathetic magic of a Hollywood backlot, it is much more satisfying to watch her revisit real statues and sidewalks, real crowds unaware of the private earthquake taking place in their midst. Hal Mohr's cinematography is a street-level document of San Francisco in 1950, with a cameo by our old friend Bunker Hill; he can organize shadows and angles as effectively as the next Oscar-winning DP when he needs to, but he keeps the majority of the action on the daylit side of noir, the lived-in, working-class city with Navy stores and department stores and parks and piers and diners and lots of California sun, which only looks like it shows you everything. The literal roller-coaster climax was filmed at Ocean Park Pier/Pacific Ocean Park, last seen on this blog in Curtis Harrington's Night Tide (1960). Back at the Johnsons' bleak, hotel-like apartment, Eleanor mocked Ferris for "snoop[ing] into the remains of our marriage," but increasingly it seems not to be as cold a case as she thought. Going back over old ground, she discovers new angles on her missing person; nondescript in his introductory scenes and ghostly in his own life, Frank Johnson becomes vivid in absence, hovering over the narrative like Harry Lime in Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949) or the title character of Otto Preminger's Laura (1944) until his wife begins to see a curiously attractive stranger in the place of a man whose familiarity had long since bred hopelessness. To fall in love with someone who might already be dead, to find someone in the process of losing them, these are the kinds of irony that noir thrives on and Woman on the Run derives as much tension from the audience's fear that irony will carry the day as it does from the actual unknowns of the plot, the killer's identity, Frank's status, Eleanor's own safety as her sleuthing calls for ever more active deception of the police and reliance on Legget, who keeps saying things like "I'm sorry I was so rude a moment ago, but it's always discouraging to hear a wife say that her husband loves her." He is another unexpected element, not without precedent but nicely handled. In most genres, his pushy charm and his genial stalking of Eleanor would mark him as the romantic hero, or at least an appealing alternative to a husband so avoidant he couldn't even tell his own wife when he was diagnosed with a serious heart condition. Here, with a triangle already established between Eleanor and the husband she knows and the husband she doesn't, the reporter is a fourth wheel at best and the audience hopes he accepts it. Without a reciprocating spark, it's not as cute as he thinks when he encourages Eleanor to call him "Danny Boy" ("People who like me call me Danny Boy") or leads her casually under the same wooden coaster where he used to bring dates, his contribution perhaps to the film's romantic psychogeography.

Honestly, I don't even dislike the resolution on the strict level of plot. By the time Eleanor realizes that the place where I first lost you isn't a bitter dig at a bad memory but a hopeful allusion to a good one, the audience is sufficiently invested in the reunion of these long-fractured lovers—despite the fact that we've never once seen them together, even in photographs or Frank's sketches and paintings—that to frustrate it would feel deliberately unfair, although of course in noir that never rules anything out. They're both taking chances, not just with their lives but their hearts. Frank who always runs away is standing his ground, risking being found by a gunman and a partner he's disappointed. Eleanor who has built such prickly defenses is lowering them, making herself reach out rather than preemptively rebuff. You want to see that kind of bravery rewarded, even when heart conditions and prowling killers aren't involved. What I dislike in the extreme is the film's attitude toward this conclusion. In its examination of the Johnsons' marriage, the facts of the script assign plenty of blame to Frank, an artist too scared of failure to try for success, a husband who retreated from his wife as soon as he felt that he'd let her down, a man who could talk about his feelings to everyone but the woman he was living with. The dialogue, however, insists repeatedly that the ultimate success or collapse of a marriage is the woman's responsibility—that it must be Eleanor's fault that her marriage went south, that she wasn't patient or understanding or supportive enough, that she has to be the one to change. It's implied in some of her encounters; in others it's stated outright. Inspector Ferris constantly judges her as a wife and a woman, even once asking "Didn't your husband ever beat you?" when she tells him to back off. He's the dry voice of authority, the hard-boiled but honest cop; I want to believe that Eleanor is decoying him when she apologizes for not believing his criticism sooner ("I guess I was the one who was mixed up—a lot of it's my fault anyway—I haven't been much of a wife"), but I fear we're meant to take her at face value. He's too active in the film's ending not to be right. Hence my wistful feelings toward California's Family Law Act of 1969. Sheridan's acting carries her change of heart from resolutely not caring to clear-eyed second chance, but I almost wish it didn't have to. At least she has a good rejoinder when Frank queries their future together, wry as any of her defensive cracks: "If this excitement hasn't killed you, I'm sure I can't."

The movies with which Woman on the Run links itself up in my head are Robert Siodmak's Phantom Lady (1944) and Roy William Neill's Black Angel (1946), both stories of investigating women with ambiguous allies and ghostly romantic patterns; Sheridan's Eleanor is a harder, less conventionally likeable protagonist than either Ella Raines' Kansas or June Vincent's Cathy, which may account for why the patriarchy comes down on her with such personified, decisive disapproval, or it may be the distance from wartime, or it may be some other idiosyncratic factor that still annoys me. The fact that I can read the ending as happy rather than rubber-stamped heteronormativity is due almost entirely to Sheridan, who never loses all of Eleanor's edges any more than she slips out of her angular plaid overcoat into something more comfortable, plus the final cutaway to the Laughing Sal on the lit-up midway, rocking back and forth as if a husband and wife embracing is some great joke. Maybe it is. What makes this couple, so fervently clinging to one another, so special? He writes a nice love-note. She climbs out a skylight like nobody's business. They named their dog Rembrandt. This reunion brought you by my particular backers at Patreon.

Woman on the Run

Apologies like the birds in the sky

Oct. 18th, 2017 05:29 am
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)
[personal profile] sovay
I have been having an absolutely miserable night, but after venting at length to [personal profile] spatch about Brian Jacques' Outcast of Redwall (1995) I spent at least an hour reading about various mustelids online, including several species (tayra, hog badger, ferret-badger, grison) I hadn't known existed, and I think that was good for me.

(I liked ferrets. I found them clever, beautiful, charming creatures. I had had a stuffed animal black-footed ferret since late elementary school. By the time Outcast came out, I even knew several domestic ferrets in person; they were playful and I did not object to their smell. That was the novel where I realized that Jacques' species essentialism was immutable, and I felt painfully betrayed. I understood the long shadow of The Wind in the Willows, but I couldn't understand how Jacques could miss that his readers would at some point identify with Veil, the orphaned ferret kit adopted into a society of mice and voles and moles—the outsider, the one who feels there's something wrong with them for just being what they are—and then fail to see how it would hurt them to have Veil confirmed as irredeemable, genetically evil after all. He went so far as to give a morally ambiguous character a selfless death scene and then retract it a few chapters later. That ending accomplished what endless recipes for damson and chestnut and Mummerset dialect could not: I burnt out on the series on some deep level and have never even now gone back, despite positive memories of the first four books and their unique combination of cozy talking animals and total batshit weirdness. If you can't appreciate ferrets, I'm out of time for you.)
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
I am not really catching up on anything. The night we got home from New York, there was an exciting cat-related incident at five in the morning that kept everyone from sleeping until after the sun came up (everyone is fine, cats included), and this morning we were awoken shortly after eight by the sounds of construction thinly separated from our bedroom by some tarpaper and shingles. It is the roofers finally come to prevent further ice dams, but they were supposed to come this weekend while we were out of town and instead they are forecast for the rest of the week. I assume I will sleep sometime on Saturday.

1. There is a meme going around Facebook about the five films you would tell someone to watch in order to understand you. I've been saying Powell and Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale (1944), Ron Howard's Splash (1984), Derek Jarman's Wittgenstein (1993), John Ford's The Long Voyage Home (1940), and The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953). Which is hardly complete, but adding postscripts feels like cheating, so I haven't. The internet being what it is, of course, I first saw this meme in the mutated form of the five weird meats you would tell someone to eat in order to understand you, to which I had no difficulty replying: venison, blood sausage, snails, goat, and raw salmon.

2. In other memetic news, I tried the Midwest National Parks' automatic costume generator:

National Park Costume Ideas

and while I don't think "Paranoid Hellbender" is a good costume, it'd be a great hardcore band.

3. I haven't done an autumnal mix in a while, so here is a selection of things that have been seasonally rotating. This one definitely tips more toward Halloween.

The sound of a thousand souls slipping under )

I would really like to be writing about anything.

P.S. I just want to point out that if you have recently seen The Robots of Death (1977) and you open a copy of the official tie-in anthology Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View (2017) and see a pair of characters named Poul and Toos, it is extremely confusing that the former is female, the latter is male, they are respectively a senior and a junior officer aboard the Death Star, and neither of them has a problem with robots.


Oct. 16th, 2017 03:57 pm
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[personal profile] lauradi7dw
One of the surprisingly large number of biopics opening this month is "Breathe," based on the lives of Robin and Diana Cavendish. After getting polio in his late 20s, in 1958, Robin was paralyzed from the neck down, using a mechanical ventilator to breathe. Among other things, the Cavendishes worked with Teddy Hall to invent a wheelchair with a respirator, the first of its kind. The movie hasn't gotten great reviews in general, but it is the latest movie prompting annoyance, at least, from disabled people who think that non-disabled actors (in this case Andrew Garfield) should not be given the role instead of a disabled actor. Another film currently in some theaters is "Stronger," in which Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman, in the story of Bauman's wounding and rehab during/after the Boston Marathon bombing. Bauman has supported JG's casting, and worked with the cast and crew of the film. My general casting opinion is that anybody should play any role in a live theatrical production (color, gender, age, whatever). For movies and TV, though, I think the characters should be portrayed by people who match their salient characteristics as much as possible. For better or for worse, people believe what they see on film (digits), and I think an effort should be made to get it right. I am glad that the kid who plays JJ on "Speechless" actually is someone with Cerebral Palsy (as the character is), even though he is not quite the same - as one might gather from the title, JJ can't talk, but actor Micah Fowler can. Things have improved since 1989, when "My Left Foot" (also about a person with CP) came out. Daniel Day Lewis won an Oscar for playing the adult Christy Brown (Hugh O'Conor, who played his as a child, didn't get any awards that I know of). I don't think anybody tried to find an actor with CP in that case, but nearly thirty years have passed. I have some sympathy with casting a non-disabled person in the case of before and after stories - the other option would be casting a disabled person for the after part and doing a lot of CGI stuff for before. But when it is someone who has always been in a wheelchair/used a ventilator/been blind/whatever, a genuine effort should be made to find an actor with the features of the character. Something that is interesting is that as far as I recall, characters with Down Syndrome always are played by actors with DS. There is the weird example of "Glee," in which case the characters with DS were played by actors with DS, but the character who was paraplegic, using a wheelchair, was played by a non-disabled actor. Inconsistent, and confusing.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
We are returned from our whirlwind trip to New York. Notes, because I need to fall over—

It is probably just as well that the Great Northern Food Hall is two states away, because otherwise I can see myself eating there until I go broke or burn out on the taste of rye flour, neither of which I want to happen. Not only do they make a superlative cold-smoked salmon, which if you order it as smørrebrød comes on a dense, chewy rye with thin slices of pickled cucumber and radish and generous dots of stiff savory sour cream and if you order it off the regular menu changes up the radish for celery pickle (which it seems I like much better than any other format of celery) and offers you slices of a lighter, crusty sourdough to plate it on for yourself, they serve a pink peppercorn and raspberry shrub which reminded me strongly of Fire Cider, only in a different key of flavors. Their beef tartare had too much red onion for [personal profile] spatch to eat safely, but we both liked the cubes of smoked beet and the startling green dollops of chive mayonnaise. The roast beef mini smørrebrød had a kind of remoulade on top and then little reddish-purple shells of endive. The avocado mini smørrebrød may or may not have needed green tomato pickle, but the chili oil was a nice touch. The server advised about two small plates per person; in fact three small plates at the Great Northern Food Hall was about half a plate more than either of us could handle, but it was all so delicious that we left only bread. I even got to try the sorrel sorbet because they were giving sorbet away for free, saying quite honestly that they had too much left at the end of the week and didn't want it to go to waste. It was a juicy green, vegetal-sweet, and I licked at it as we ran for the trains to Lincoln Center.

I want some kind of credit for changing all of my clothes except for socks and shoes in a stall in the orchestra-level ladies' room of the Met, especially since I had a laptop-containing backpack and my corduroy coat to manage at the same time. I had brought nice clothes for the opera and I was going to wear them, dammit. I dropped nothing in the toilet and got complimented on my hair afterward.

The opera was wonderful. The thing about Les contes d'Hoffmann is that Offenbach died while working on it—he had a complete piano score but only partial orchestration and a lot of dramaturgical questions unresolved—and as a result there has been an ongoing argument about authenticity and convention and dramatic coherence and musical feasibility for the last hundred and thirty-six years. A non-exhaustive list of variations would include: the order in which the second two acts are staged; how one of them ends; whether there is recitative or spoken dialogue in the tradition of the opéra comique; whether the four soprano roles are performed by the same singer; the degree to which the mezzo role is present in the story; which arias are performed by the bass-baritone; how the opera itself ends. Counting Powell and Pressburger's The Tales of Hoffmann (1951), I have literally never seen or heard the same version twice. Not all of this one worked for me as either an interpretation or an edition, but as a production it was oustanding. I liked Vittorio Grigolo's Hoffmann, self-destructive and feverishly hopeful and not one minute sober; I loved Laurent Naouri's Lindorf and other villains, the same dry dark amusement in his voice each act like his changes of coat, different styles, all black; Tara Erraught made the most complex Muse I have seen, a conspirator in each of Hoffmann's romantic disillusions until she begins to wonder if the eventual art is going to pay off the cost or if she's just going to break her poet instead. The mise-en-scène was generally 1920's Mitteleuropa, with excursions to a Parisian fairground for the Olympia act, a remote and wintry forest for the Antonia act, and a smoky Venetian bordello for the Giulietta act, cheerfully and non-naturalistically peppered with waiters in the whiteface of the Kit Kat Klub, carnival callbacks to Tod Browning, and Venetian courtesans in green glitter star-shaped pasties. (Rob said afterward, "That was more skin than I expected from grand opera." Then he got Tom Waits' "Pasties and a G-string" stuck in my head for the rest of the night.) And here the notes started to run away into an actual review which I had to break off abruptly because it hurt too much to type; I'll try to say more tomorrow. At the beginning of the Giulietta act, the Muse in her guise of Nicklausse the student woke up in a pile of pasties-and-G-string ladies with her vest unbuttoned and her cravat untied and I hope each and every one of those ladies went home and wrote an epic poem, or painted, or sculpted, or composed a song. I don't see what else waking up in a pile with the Muse is supposed to do.

We stayed the night with friends who live in Morristown, who had not managed to catch dinner before the opera, so at one-thirty in the morning we were at a diner somewhere in New Jersey, variously ordering things like Greek salad, Tex-Mex rolls, disco fries, and hot chocolate. This is the most collegiate thing that has happened to me in years.

Unfortunately I woke on their semi-fold-out couch the next afternoon with my shoulder frozen and screaming at me, which meant that a lot of getting around Manhattan today was accomplished by Rob carrying my backpack and me making noises whenever I tried to pick anything up, but we made it to the Strand and now I have copies of Derek Jarman's Kicking the Pricks (The Last of England, 1987) and Smiling in Slow Motion (2000) and we had dinner at Veselka, as is now our tradition. They make a borscht better than anything I can get in Boston. I always remember the Baczynski is huge, but forget quite how huge that is, although at least it means I can eat the second half some hours later on the train when I'm hungry again. Much less elevatedly, I can't remember ever eating a Twix bar before, but Rob brought one back from the café car and a lot of candy bars confuse me, but I can say nothing against a biscuit layered in caramel and chocolate.

(It is a small reason among many, but I do resent the resurgence of actual Nazism for making it more difficult to describe the shoutily officious gateman who ordered the woman next to me to drop out of line so that the business class passengers could have their own line to board first from—he kept yelling at her to move over and I along with two or three other people yelled back, "There's nowhere to move!"—as a tin Hitler.)

My shoulder is now hurting in the way it has been all week where the pain runs down my arm and into my fingers, which I suspect means I should call a doctor about it on Monday and definitely stop typing now. But it was worth it. It was a good birthday present.
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
Stanislas Petrov died this year. When I saw the news, I wrote, "I feel this is a bad year to lose a man who knew how not to blow up the world."

The nuclear football is the briefcase containing the launch codes for the nuclear weapons in the arsenal of the United States. Currently, in order to open the football and take advantage of its contents, a President of the United States need do nothing more than positively identify himself. The two-man rule requiring the assent of the Secretary of Defense before proceeding to the use of nuclear weapons is something of a fig leaf since, while the Secretary of Defense must verify that the order really came from the President, he cannot legally countermand it. Currently the President of the United States is a man who shows every sign of wanting quite seriously to use nuclear weapons and he can do it without warning and without authorization; he can do it on a whim and I feel that trusting in on-the-spot interference to prevent him—his generals actually tackling him, taking the football out of his hands—is an only marginally less wishful fantasy than the actual ghost of Stanislas Petrov appearing to arrest the turning of launch keys at the last minute, although I'm not saying he shouldn't do that if he feels like it. I would just prefer not to reach that stage if we can help it.

We can help it. There is right now a bill in the Senate and the House—S.200, H.R.669, the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017—that would remove the power to launch a preemptive nuclear strike from the President and return it to Congress, which would need to declare war before the authorization of a nuclear strike could even be considered, and [personal profile] rachelmanija has started a campaign to get this bill passed. It is called Pull the Football – Save the World. Its principle is simple. Call your Congresspeople. Write them letters, e-mails, postcards, faxes. Tweet at them. Message them on Facebook. If they are already co-sponsors of the bill, thank them. If they are not, tell them to co-sponsor the bill and then keep telling them. Call again. Write again. Tweet to break the monotony and then call some more. Even if there's not a hope in the domain of much-maligned Hades that they'll act like reasonable human beings, keep reminding them that you expect them to. See Rachel's post for sample scripts, phone numbers, and other helpful information. And if you haven't got Congresspeople at all, please share this information on your social media so that it can reach even more people who do. The idea is the same kind of wave of public outcry as the protests against the repeal of the ACA, only this time in favor of taking action—and in defense of more than just American lives.

I belong to the only country in the world that has employed nuclear weapons in war. For many, many reasons, let's not do it again. And let's start with the football.
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
Normally I write about trains while I am on them, but today the wireless on the Amtrak Regional was broken until about fifteen minutes before we had to change for the Metro-North at New Haven and the Metro-North doesn't have wi-fi, period. It's a beautiful day to watch the world slide past: light striking dryly off everything, roofs, windshields, fenders, the not yet turning leaves, the daguerreotype glitter of the water beneath a dissolving, overexposed sky and then suddenly crisp metallic blue under the mathematical swells of bridges and between the billows of salt marsh, tawny with fall like the weeds at the side of the tracks. I got the window seat to New Haven, [personal profile] spatch gets it to New York, left-hand side so that we can properly see the sea. A black-bottomed boat bobbing by the docks in New London, a fountain pouring water from the lifted flukes of a bronze whale's tail. Old pilings standing raggedly in the water by a power station in Bridgeport. Small islands in an inlet outside Cos Cob, one or two trees to each, and rowers in a scull like a water strider stroking toward them. Gulls. Graffiti. I never remember to bring a camera, I just stare at the panorama and try to put it into memory. I really like this planet. I'd really like us not to cook it to death.

Around Darien, I looked across the aisle on the Metro-North and the woman with the copy of the New York Post was reading an article with the title "'Psycho' Analysis" with two photographs of Janet Leigh in the shower scene, reminding me that I still owe a review I want very much to write. This week disappeared into work and doctors, as too many of them do.

There is wi-fi in Grand Central Station, or I'd never get this posted. To dinner, and then to meet friends, and then to opera. [edit] The Great Northern Food Hall has superlative smoked salmon. I only wish I had room for the sorrel sorbet.

Ironing is hard

Oct. 13th, 2017 01:03 pm
lauradi7dw: (Default)
[personal profile] lauradi7dw
One of the slavery adverts from October 1767 lists a "girl who can wash as well as any in the province, and iron tolerably well." This is not an uncommon adjective (or adverb, depending on the ad) - in "The Cooking Gene," Michael W. Twitty compiled a list of "tolerable cooks." But she's one of a number of good washers advertised this fall (-250) who were tolerable at ironing. Being a good ironer is hard now, and would have more so then. I think from time to time of getting rid of our iron and ironing board altogether, but occasionally use them in sewing projects. Arthur sometimes uses hotel irons when traveling, if his seminar shirt got crumpled on route. I am OK with wrinkles, mostly, but sometimes feel sloppy.

It continues to be worth the time to read these ads. The people who write the ads seem to be trying not to overstate the person's skills too much (hence tolerable), but no positive adjectives protected the person on the block from being minutely examined, often naked. The advertiser never says "I am a terrible person, and am complicit in human rights abuse." That would be truth in advertising.
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
Mayor Curtatone finally made a public decision I don't agree with, but he picked a doozy: "Somerville is preparing a regional proposal for Amazon's new headquarters." First of all, I have hated since the start of this process the very idea that Boston has to court Amazon, has to flatter the largest internet retailer on the globe into gracing our brick-and-mortar backwater with its $135 billion presence; Bezos' ego doesn't need the extra stroking. Second, I don't want Amazon in Boston: I don't want to become the Seattle of the East Coast or, God forbid, the San Francisco. I don't want to live in a company town. I especially don't want to live in a company town with Amazon's well-documented, exploitative employment practices. And I really, especially don't want to see Somerville, which is struggling enough with costs of living and gentrification and rents approaching asymptote, turn into an exploded shell of itself with the neutron star of Amazon at its core. When I feel less like a bomb went off in my head, I will try to write some less furious version of the above and send it to the city. I cannot see any way in which an Amazon "campus" in Somerville ends well, except for Amazon.
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
I am aware this post is late, but I was wrestling with the Amtrak website. Its shiny new interface crashed and lost our tickets. Fortunately, I have a phone like you make calls with and I got a human being and now I have tickets again. Opera, here we come.

The trouble with me and National Coming Out Day is that I don't have a coming-out story. I tend to explain my sexuality as follows:

I am interested in people. They come with the bodies they come with. Sometimes those bodies change. Sometimes they belong to people who are cis, sometimes to people who are trans, sometimes to people who are not on the gender binary. In all cases, my interest in a body follows on my experience of a person; all of my romantic relationships have developed out of friendships, with the land speed record taking three months and the other end of the range six years. I find a great many people beautiful. It doesn't mean I want to sleep with them. I want to sleep with relatively few people as these things are rated, but when I do, I really do. I never expected to marry, so it still amazes me that I have one husband and one lover. Label-wise, I identify as bisexual; I also answer to queer. I began identifying as poly when I started to have more than one partner. I dislike the term "demisexual" in the extreme because I think there is nothing halfway about my sexuality. I have never known how to fill out the -romantic part of the sticker set because I don't believe I make that distinction. The last time I was asked about my gender, I believe I answered "BLARGH."

In my ordinary life, however, the process of making people aware of these facts has been not so much a series of significant announcements as a general non-concealment of how I work. [edit] And then I deleted most of the rest of this post because it suffered from an access of Tiny Wittgenstein: I am not somehow less queer because it didn't give me tsuris growing up.

My non-coming-out story is that I'm not sure it was news to my parents that I was capable of being attracted to women,1 but it came up conversationally in my senior year of high school because it was really awkward to be distractingly attracted to a female friend while still in a relationship with the male friend who had introduced us and I didn't know whether I should try to talk to her about it. In the end I didn't, because I thought she wasn't interested, and some years later it turned out she had been and thought I wasn't, and the only conclusions I can draw here are (a) always talk to people, because without information you literally never know (b) gaydar is overrated.

I don't know if Ron Koertge's "Cat Women of the Moon" was timed by Rattle to be thematic or not, but I really like it.

1. It was not exactly news to me: I was no more surprised to find myself attracted to a female friend at seventeen than I was to find myself attracted to a male friend at nineteen except insofar as I never assumed I would be attracted to anyone. What would have surprised me was exclusive attraction to one gender. Long before I wanted to go to bed with anyone, I knew the idea of it being gender-determined made no sense to me.
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] sovay
We did not find the phantom ship.

[personal profile] spatch met me after my doctor's appointment so that we could visit the Petco near Lechmere and purchase one of the particular kinds of cat food that is best for Autolycus. We fortified ourselves with purchases of bagels and fudge at Boston Public Market (although I cannot recommend the cream cheese at Levend; I understand that it is farm-fresh and locally sourced, but a grainy texture and a taste so sour that I have to double-check with the seller to make sure it hasn't actually gone off are not what I look for in something that's supposed to go on top of a bagel and under some lox) and set out into the afternoon, which was finally starting to feel like October after yesterday's tropical fog. We had planned to walk straight over the locks of the Charles River Dam, but the sky was such a clear cloud-brushed blue and the water that silt-shot dragon-green that shifts under the sun that we took the North Washington Street Bridge instead for the pleasure of the view, its hundred-and-seventeen-year-old trusses and rivets making rusted parallelograms against the sky. There are still piers that run out from the dam under the swing span of the bridge, where the turntable has been frozen as long as either of us can remember. There were masts we didn't recognize rising out of the skyline on the other side of the river. We couldn't figure out what they belonged to: obviously not the rigging of the USS Constitution, the yachts at Constitution Marina were all too close and too small, and we thought the tall ships were all out of town. So we walked to the Charlestown Navy Yard in order to get a better look and got so distracted by the hollow granite amphitheater of Dry Dock 1 where the Constitution was recently relaunched after a two-year refit that we spent the next hour at the USS Constitution Museum. Rob made me a birthday present of the second edition of David Kruh's Always Something Doing: Boston's Infamous Scollay Square (1999). He also got some fine pictures of the WWII-era portal crane that stands on its iron tracks at the head of the USS Cassin Young: the battleship grey of its paint has flaked and rusted to lichen and tortoiseshell and some of the small glass panes in its cabin are missing, but its cables are all still taut; a plate on the front advertises it as the manufacture of American Hoist & Derrick. From the very end of Pier 1, looking northeast across the wharves, we could see the mysterious masts again with no better idea of what kind of ship lay under them. Nor did we ever figure out why a helicopter from the NYPD was circling the yard. Maybe it had something to do with the one-gun salute fired by the Constitution and the playing of "Taps," or perhaps that had to do with the flag we saw being folded as some people in military uniform and some people in civilian dress came down the gangway of the ship, or perhaps that was some unrelated ceremony: dusk, a memorial, I have no idea. We have all these civic rituals and I know so few of them. The sunset had left an ember-band on the horizon, the autumnal color of pumpkins and Bradbury leaves; later it faded apple-green and steel-violet. I love the bridges of this city, even the broken ones. The last of Millers River runs under I-93, reflecting like a canal between concrete pillars and the industrial dunes of Boston Sand and Gravel. The Zakim rumbles and sings with traffic, winking with green and red lights after dark. As we came back across the curving footbridge of North Point Park, the double drawbridge out of North Station blew its siren and tipped up, slowly and tectonically, to let a boat through.

Predictably, not only did the phantom ship elude us, but the Petco was out of the particular kind of cat food. The buses were terrible. We had to visit two different convenience stores for heavy cream. We arrived home hours later than planned, fed ravenous cats, made fettuccine alfredo and sausage for our ravenous selves, Rob passed out, I wrote this. I got salt and the sea and a new book. I have learned from Judith Mayne's Directed by Dorothy Arzner (1994) that Arzner and William Haines worked together on Craig's Wife (1936)—not as director and actor, but as director and production designer. On the poetry front, Katie Bickham's "The Ferryman" has been haunting me for a couple of days. Not everything is all right, but today was good.

Next time, the phantom ship.

online identity

Oct. 10th, 2017 12:14 pm
lauradi7dw: (Default)
[personal profile] lauradi7dw
I am considering doing a race for which I would have to agree to open a fundraising web page and let my photo be used with folks from the charity. This gives me pause, because I try to keep myself at least somewhat private online. Even so, I feel like I really am all over the web (DW, twitter, Instagram, member of various chat lists), but after a google search and a duckduckgo search, I am a bemused by the results. Since voter registration and property taxes are public documents, I'm not surprised to see my name and address linked, but others are more mysterious. I have rung dozens (more) of quarter peals. Maybe half a dozen show up. I spent a couple of years writing a column for the local weekly newspaper. Nothing, although my dean's list and graduation notes from UMass Lowell are there. I have run many races in various places, the times of which tend to be online on sites like coolrunning. Only a few show up. I got a hit from an obituary in 2009, because I had written a one-line condolence message. I got a few things from church or charity newsletters. I have a common name - one of the snoopy sites claimed to have 125 people with my name. I didn't know that there had been someone with my name working for the BPD, but I did previously know about the real estate agent in Lexington, KY. This commonality means that many genealogy sites have what looks like my name, but only a couple of them seem to actually be me. I am linked to Arthur in a few places, including his academic web page. In some ways, the weirdest thing is the listing for a person with my name plus an added middle initial H. I get donation requests for her, and always assumed this was a typo from some organization. I remember the story of someone who could track which charity had sold or exchanged her name, because it was the one that spelled Eve as Eeeeeve. L. H. is listed on Intellius and others at our address, with our landline number, and my age. I don't know what to think of the online presence of typo lady, or whether I should try to get rid of her.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
Guess who has two thumbs and parents who gave them a book on Dorothy Arzner for their birthday?

Strictly speaking, I also have a book on Norman Bel Geddes and several cards and an IOU from my brother and his family for the original cast recording of Gian Carlo Menotti's The Consul (1950). It was a quiet day, which was not a bad thing after the intensity of the weekend. We had dinner with my family, surf and/or turf as was variously preferred; I had lobster Madison-style, which means I tore it satisfyingly apart with my bare hands. My mother baked a hazelnut-flour cake and my brother layered it with whipped cream and raspberries. My father took the back off Bertie Owen and blew out his fan with a can of compressed air and a dramatic clog of cat fur shot out, which explains the overheating. I just have to survive the work week until Friday, when a college friend has bought me birthday tickets to Les contes d'Hoffmann at the Met. I don't know how the year is going to go, but I am doing my best to be here.
lauradi7dw: (Default)
[personal profile] lauradi7dw
Meb Keflezighi has said that the NYC marathon on November 5th will be the last of his career. I’d like to see him, and while there anyway, thousands of other racers. There is a Greyhound bus that will get to Port Authority at about 4:30 AM ( with the time change from EDT to EST happening on the way). That would be a couple of hours before dawn, and four before the first wheelchairs roll across the Verrazano bridge. What could I do before spectating? My thought was to watch from 4th Ave in Brooklyn. I could spend about three hours walking it, but a woman alone in the dark...

Edit: Arthur points out that the Tick Tock diner is open 24/7 (around the clock, as it were).
and I could spend part of the afternoon at the MoMA
Still, it might be more sensible to watch part of the race at home on TV and then go out an run in a local charity benefit 10K.


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