- The LOC book festival was reedonkulously crowded, which is how it should be. I skidded in just in time to hear Michael Dirda's intro to Terry Pratchett (summary: You know who he is, I think he's as good as Chaucer, without further ado etc.), who was his usual engaging self. The news that Christopher Lee will be voicing Death in the next movie sent me scrambling for my phone to call Weebat as soon as the speech was done. Also the story about how the ALA's Carnegie medal is just the same size and shape as a chocolate coin, and fun to be had with that information, was a classic.
- Magical Montgomery, conveniently close to home, was full of dancers, volunteer coordinators, and local artists, some quite good. I picked up a triptych of photos from one booth, each showing a different path through woods or boulders. The Joy of Motion tribal-fusion belly dancers were very impressive, smiling faintly while they demonstrated first-rate (from my uneducated perspective) torso work and hand precision, and it was hard not to be charmed by the tiny and distinctly non-Celtic moppets performing soft-shoe Irish dance with a ceilidh band.
- Watching a dress rehearsal of La Mère's tai chi group at the Lisner, I boggled again at the coaches' daughters, who are hyperflexible and strong and look far too sweet to be the kind of martial artists they clearly are.
- Crafty Bastards was worth the trip, but a leetle too insanely packed with the city's entire hipster population (I ran into Rockninja and the Object, who agreed that it looked like some of Brooklyn's population might've been bused in). I give some negative marks for overuse of felt and Bob Ross as self-consciously ironic jokes, but there were still things worth checking out.
- Fiesta DC 2007, up in Mount Pleasant, featured a lot of great demos by local dance groups, including a Bolivian troupe who soldiered along despite wearing clothing not at all suited to the 80-degree weather. It takes guts to pay tribute to Pachamama when you're in a swampy Indian summer day and wearing three layers of nylon and corduroy. I especially liked Batala, a DC-based all-female samba drum band, and the various groups wearing huge frame-and-feather sequined costumes.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
Part the nth of playing games with your fellow beings: Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day. Rose Tyler had this one nailed: "To get that many people dressed up and being silly, they gotta be students." If the respeckable adults among us did it, though, how much stranger and more fun would that be?
Favorite suggestion: "The classic version of this is to get some kind of smoke bomb or smoke machine, as well as an anachronistic costume. Wait for someone to walk past an alley, then set off the smoke and stagger out, looking dumbfounded. If they don't run away, grab their shoulder and ask what year it is. If they respond, shout 'The experiment was a success after all!' and run away. It works even better if you can get some friends wearing suits and dark glasses to go to the person immediately afterwards and ask if they've seen someone matching your description."
Thursday, September 27, 2007
One thing I think that the stories about his blog have overlooked is his role in sales of other people's books. Bloomsbury, for one, owes Gaiman a debt for the early success of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Not long after the book came out, Susannah Clarke came to the DC area as part of her book tour. First-time author, dauntingly odd and very large book that defies easy description, few to no reviews out in the press...and the place was full. A quick survey in the autograph line after her reading established that at least 70% of the people were there for the same reason: "Oh, Neil mentioned the book was good, so I figured I would see what it was like." The book stood on its own merits (and HOW), but by giving it some favorable mention, Neil reached a large group willing to take a flyer on it; the early adapters, basically. Hey, he's using his powers for good.
- How to handle a fast sitting trot.
- How to use my legs more effectively to control turns and straightness.
- That I'm rubbish at getting a leg-yield to the right at the walk.
- That Cappi will do almost anything I ask, including the infamous right-side leg-yield, at the trot. "Almost"—he is very reluctant to stop once he gets the chance to be speedy.
- That bareback Western work is helping my dressage seat. Cappi's back is so wiggly that I feel like a hula dancer half the time, but thanks to Doc I can keep my hips in contact with the saddle without getting seasick.
- How to identify Rock Creek fauna from fleeting glimpses during Cappi's apparently mandatory panic-induced skitters. (Last night it was a fox and a 20-meter leaping bolt.)
- That it is high time to go back to the massage place for a lil hurts-so-good tuneup. The bastard leg yield uses exactly the set of muscles involved in all the SI aggro, then we did some balance work involving resting mostly on one leg, and what with one thing and another my left hip is filing some serious whinge with the central office. I am going to hit the anti-inflammatories but good before tonight's bareback Western class.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
This one, about gay life in Saudi Arabia, is timely in light of Ahmedinejad's comments yesterday, since it discusses how regulating social contact between the sexes can encourage homosexual activity even in countries that legislate heavily against same-sex behavior. In Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence described a certain acceptance of gay sex between the Arabs with whom he traveled, so this isn't a new phenomenon, but the "look the other way" attitude taken by all parties seems to have kept it from drawing much media attention. Read for yourself; fascinating stuff.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Or in Iran either. Hm, so the Axis of Evil (or at least their near neighbors) has achieved the stated goal of the GOP's xenophobic bottom-feeding base? For anyone in the reality-based community, that's 100% unsurprising. But hearing that news on the same day that a straight-faced "senior administration official" (gotta be Cheney, yeah? what with the rest scuttling for the hawsers) accuses Obama of insufficient intellectual rigor to be Prez, and I start to wonder who the hell is taking the piss here. (To all of you who reflexively said, "Larry Craig," shame on you; clearly "David Vitter" is the correct answer.)
But I didn't have to overload the weary indignation circuits, because Doc time is an automatic mood recharger, excellent for the mental health. At this time of year, every drive over to the barn is a race with sunset, and after this week I think the dark will win. We got out for a little trail time under a glowing gibbous moon, then came back in the hazy deer-infested twilight for ring work. According to barn scuttlebutt, a masseuse came in to work with some of the ponies this weekend, and Doc enjoyed some extra attention in his hamstrings. That might account for the fact that he was way, WAY up once we started working on trot and canter stuff in the ring. No bucking or other egregious misbehavior, but he was emphatic enough about fast go fast that I wished I had put a saddle on him after all. To quote the cartoon character, "C'mon, horsie, whoaaaa!" The webbing loop on the front of a bareback pad is pathetically insufficient for fine work. I forgive him for oh me achin' hip, but next time will definitely involve stirrups, because there are only so many times a body wants to go sliding sideways at speed. I think I will go lie down.
I did, as promised, cleanse my brain with Making Money and a 1960 SF collection of short stories that I bought from a street vendor in New York on the strength of the cover art and the inclusion of Cordwainer Smith's brilliant "The Game of Rat and Dragon." I wasn't overly impressed by the Isaac Asimov "Ideas Die Hard," but I liked "Dead Ringer" for its pacing and "Volpla" just because. Someday I will find the poem that begins, "The owl and the pussycat went into space/ In a modified Jupiter C..."; it must be collected somewhere.
In other news, oh, what to wear to Oktoberfest? Die Ausgebürgerte offers a tip to da laydies. When I see "Die Dirndl-Trends 2007," I expect to see some Nordic futurewearz, but it turns out that the savvy Dirndl-trundler will not be plumping for PVC and chrome and quilted space fabrics this year. This year it's all about slumping around the walls of the pub and looking hopeful (or drunk). Next year? Who knows! Die clubben might be in.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Oh, but if someone manages to develop a good way to vent on choir-invisible authors, please give me a shot at Tolstoy as well, because I carry a grudge about Anna Karenina. Yes, yes, you-as-Levin think that the serfs haven't thought through their economic system correctly despite their simple gay natural outdoorsy lives, that's 150 pages of my life I will never get back, and by the way, where do you get off, killing Vronsky's mare?
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Oh, this isn't going to end well for Mr. Obscure, is it.
I've made several tries at Hardy novels in the past and have never been able to get past the stifling English-classroom wordiness of them (this from a woman who adores Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, mind). Plus there's the whole dumb-dark-belly-tension thing about gender relations, and the leitmotif about tender hopes being crushed under the hobnailed boots of tradition, and the general impression that the lusty peasantry are thisclose to ritual cannibalism, and to sum up I am a literary masochist for even considering trying this again. Six chapters in, it is clear that a cleansing reread of Cold Comfort Farm will be in order if I ever finish reading this book rather than hurling it across the room and shrieking, "Life is too frakkin' SHORT!"
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
For 'twould be a wee scrattlin' misbegot wench of a doxie what didn't offer up a song upon this, th'International Day o' Pirately Speakin', ye ken. Wi' a wannion, arrh.
"Hoist the Jolly Roget's," by Rob Balder. And lest any milk-livered gutless gormless git be swearin' that it be anachronistic or otherwise disordered in the timezones, I'd be after inviting that surly bugger to join Snow Crash's Bruce Lee for a wee party and some scalpin'. Arrh.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Tomorrow is also the anniversary of my father's MI. He's a traditionalist, so he went with the standard "older guy cleaning up after a storm" model of cardiac distress that the ERs expect. In the wake of Hurricane Isabel, Il Padre was clearing the back yard of the fallen trees, with the help of a neighbor and the neighbor's eighty-year-old father. Here's a fun fact: Old guys from farming communities in the highlands of Guatemala are often much more physically fit than suburban Americans, and if a member of the latter party is trying to keep up with one from the former, badness can ensue. Badness did ensue. La Mère took one look at Il Padre and packed him into the car for the five-minute drive to our local hospital, which for all its tremendous failings takes you seriously if you show up and mumble "chest pain" to the triage nurse.
I didn't hear about this at first, because the power in my neck of the woods was still out and so I had no phone. But the news made it eventually, mostly via increasingly panicked calls from pay phones, and I made it down to Virginia to join the tag-team cycle of visitors to Il Padre's cherry spot in the curtained wards, where he was surrounded by bleeping machines and looking faintly embarrassed. After getting all the assurances on offer, I went back to the waiting room ("Tag, who's next?") and called my boyfriend, who said all the right things and helped keep the relative level of calm high without being soppy, for which I am still grateful.
And then around 10 PM La Mère and Seesterperson and K-Rock and I went home and made tea, because that's what you do when shit goes down, and we realized that it was International Talk Like a Pirate Day and we had missed it. So each year I call Il Padre on September 19 and remind him, "Arrh, me surly sea squid, belay them MIs for another twelvemonth." So far so good, and that's reason 1,273,448 that pirates are better than ninjas.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
- The Shanghai Joe's [ETA: D'oh, it's Joe's Shanghai] waitress who greeted every customer with the same question: "You need some dumpling for start off?" Oh, hon...always.
- The weather. September in New York is the city at some sort of platonic ideal.
- Street markets. Everywhere. With puppies! And a jewelry vendor who accused me of taking advantage of her mental exhaustion following Rosh Hashanah! And free samples of organic lavender shea butter from Brooklyn! And food that would have looked delicious had I not been full of dumplings and pastries from...
- Rocco's Bakery. I've gone there since I was a wee lil moppet, seeing three or four different redecorations, throughout which the counter crew of streetwise Sicilian kids and their realm of confectionery goodness have remained unchanged.
- Negotiating the East Village, with my usual quota of wrong turns (I swear, the place spins my mental compass like a ship's in the Triangle), to finally meet up with SerialKarma and her coterie of fangirls, for beers and a slice and very disturbing references to childhood books.
- Finally, after a lapse of 20 years, having yuk hwe again. Kunjip serves it with jicama (or maybe it's pears) and shreds of a deceptively innocent-looking green pepper that tried to remove my lips. Good thing there were panchan dishes and rice and pancakes and bulgogi and ginger tea.
- Pinkberry! Please export this chain to DC as soon as possible; I would sacrifice the city's half-assed creperies for access to Pinkberry's delicious sour-sweet frozen yogurt.
- Herr Professor's cooking. What that man does with tofu scramble and bean sprouts to make them taste so much like chorizo hashbrowns and french toast and perfect bacon must be black magic known only to the initiates.
- Finally, and not least by any stretch of the imagination, getting reacquainted with Herr Professor and Weebat. As glad as I am that the internets have allowed us to maintain a friendship through a set of unregulated tubes, it's a great pleasure to have real face time with them. Vote for Santa, you two; vote for Santa.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Seesterperson's bout last night drew a huge crowd, most of them noisy Bridge and Pummel supporters. The score was against them, so I hope that they were consoled somewhat by the WOWHOT New York Shock Exchange demo bout. Tall athletic lanky guys smacking into one another at high speeds, oh for teh win. We had a great time even before we spent 45 minutes in the Newark-Penn Station's tiny dark bar.
Off to hunt the wily dim sum brunch. Did I mention loving New York?
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Dressage did its usual thing for me and relaxed a bunch of the sore muscles, and although Cappi did display a few of his problems, we did not go flying sideways across the ring on a buzz of deer-induced adrenaline. The low point was cantering a 20-meter circle, where the Cappo di Tutti Cappi tucked his shoulder, ducked his head away, tried to speed up and completely lost track of his feet. You hate to see that sort of thing at this level of play. Of the two other horses in the class, the relatively young retired racehorse had a similar problem, while the old dressage App decided (as is his wont, the cranky SOB) that he didn't want to exert the effort. So at least I wasn't alone in feeling like a screw-up, and that's something of a comfort.
It sounds like there will be quite a crew cheering for Seesterperson tomorrow night, and the first flurry of scary planning is past. Now the pressing question is what to wear, darlingks, what to wear?
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Doc and I spent quality time on Monday, and now my entire lower back is a solid piece of pain. The erector spinae muscles are also not amused. Bareback work is fantastic for balance and communication, but it can be a workout and a half. A cantering horse, especially one like Doc, with his patented rocking lope, is moving around a lot, so you need to coordinate a bunch of body parts to stay in place; having no stirrups to help the endeavor makes it that much tricker. Perversely, riding's benefit as a workout declines as a rider improves, but clearly I have not reached that point. At dressage this evening, it will be a challenge not to grumble, "To hell with getting the horse supple; I need someone to supple me first."
Weebat, Seesterperson, and I are engaged in the delicate maneuvers involved in ensuring that multiple different groups can get to and from the bout this Friday. The rink is only a few blocks from a New Jersey subway stop, but packed into those blocks is a tremendous level of urban scary, plus there aren't many great dining options in the neighborhood (although I fell a little bit in love with the bar that hung a Mother's Day brunch sign next to its PBR neon), so we're working out the dance of the automobiles and other mass transit options. I am dreadful at this sort of thing and tend to get very dictatorial—"Everybody! Show up at X point at 0Whatever hours! Dissssss-MISS!"—which works only when there are sufficient transit options available to all parties. I am thrilled that so many people are planning to come out, though, and at hearing that the weather is supposed to be stupid gorgeous over the weekend. Strolling around Manhattan in glorious sunshine, absorbing UV rays and delicious high-calorie treats at roughly equal rates, is one of my favorite things to do ever. When I read the Idle Words line about Hong Kong—"I could easily imagine myself living there for good, puffing my way up and down the hills, slowly turning into a sphere of radius R, uniformly filled with dim sum"—I had to laugh, because that's exactly how I feel about New York.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
In hopes of dissipating the morning snarls, I present a classic: The Discworld Cake. When La Mère first saw these photos, she warned that she would not ever make anything remotely resembling this cake. That comes as something of a relief, because while the cake is impressive as hell—continents, Rimfall, Cori Celesti, oh my!—it also gives me to wonder just a tiny bit about the maker's sanity. Behold the Great A'tuin!
Saturday, September 8, 2007
I haven't read anything of L'Engle's in years. Her Wrinkle in Time series introduced me, at quite a young age, to the sort of micro- and macro-worlds many of us have to be stoned to imagine, and none of my teachers even thought to test my bookbag for banned substances. (Later that kind of oversight would mean my losing large chunks of physics class to helpless giggling over Bored of the Rings jokes with my lab partner. Dear Mr. X, sorry about the hairy toes jokes when you were explaining spectrometry.) I might not have like Gene Wolfe so much if I hadn't learned from L'Engle that religion and fantasy could be blended effectively; so many authors do it badly, but I was comfortable with the cherubim and other angels in L'Engle's work and with the idea that joy is not irreligious.
Eala Earendel engla beorthast
Ofer middangeard monnum sended.
Hail, Earendel, brightest angel,
Over middle earth sent to men.
Friday, September 7, 2007
But I still love you.
Then these guys from the ABC comedy show, The Chasers War on Everything, are able to put together a fake Canadian diplomatic motorcade of a limo with 2 escort SUVs with little Canadian flags flapping, and that was good enough to get past $A165 million dollars worth of security planning and three security checkpoints and pull up to the front of the Intercontinental Hotel where President Bush was staying on the 29th floor.
The comedian actor Chas Licciardello, who was dressed and disguised as Osama Bin Laden, popped out of the limo at the hotel and reportedly shouted "Where is my friend Bush? It has all been a misunderstanding!!!"
Thursday, September 6, 2007
"Vanish, o night! Descend, o stars! At dawn, I shall conquer."
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Which, inevitably, they do. Doc's distaste for and mistrust of his cousins is well documented here, but tonight, it being a dressage lesson, I was with little Cappi instead. Cappi has the virtues of being speedy and smart, with the vices of being a little spooky and given to running away. I rarely get through a session on him without clearing the cobwebs out of my adrenal system in some sort of exciting outbreak. This time, though, we were doing pretty well right up until some deer crunched through the greenery outside the ring just as we were passing, and Cappi went for the rafters. I count it a point of personal growth as a rider that I did not recite my traditional mantra of Anglo-Saxon expressions at full volume (a first for this type of experience) and that I had him back in hand within 10 yards. I takes my victories where I finds 'em. He too may have benefited from the zap of cleansing fear, since just after that he managed a leg yield at the trot that drew a full-throated whoop from the teacher: "Would you look at that! Crossing like a dream!"
I'm glad that the wake-up call got Cappi working well, but now can we get rid of some of the deer? We could use the results to teach tanning and preserving and making random crafty things out of horn! And that, I guarantee, would scare my ponies less.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
For each person, take one peach, cut it in half, and remove the pit. Fill the hollow with a small pat of butter and some cinnamon and sugar. Put the halves back together and wrap the whole in a piece of foil. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until yt be done (times will vary by the size of the fruit). Remove the peaches from the oven, unwrap each into a bowl, and fill the pit hollow with a spoonful of FireFly Farms' meadow chevre with ginger, almonds, and honey, resisting (or not) the urge to make Serenity jokes. Serve immediately.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
In other not-so-fresh feelings, Seesterperson's roommate, with whom she shares the upper two floors of a house in a gawgeous town, has given her 30 days' notice to get moving on out so that said roomie's estranged daughter can move in. I can kiiind of see wanting the whole mother and child reunion thing to work out, but come on! Ditching a rent-paying roommate for a grumpy teenager who will eat all your food and not give you a dime? Man, the parental instincts can mess with your priorities. I have my fingers crossed for Seesterperson to find another great place to live toot sweet, but no matter what it's going to be a stressful few weeks. Moving is always, but always, a complete pain in the behinder parts, and having to find and move into a new place on such short notice will be that much more of a hassle.
But all is not lost, and there are still forces for good abroad in the universe. Evidence: "The Girl in the Fireplace" won a Hugo. I am a coot, so I'm still surprised that episodes of TV can win the coveted bronzey rockets, but if you're gonna reward the newfangled media, you could do worse than to pick the part that has a Conversed David Tennant and clockwork monsters in. Of course, it helps that two of the other four nominees were also "Doctor Who" eps, indicating maybe a slight bit of bias, or possibly the general consensus on the show. In either case, clearly "Fireplace" won because the voters wanted to watch someone snog the wits out of David Tennant, which...good job, Sophie Myles. Kudos to the BBC for resurrecting the show in a new and improved form, to the writing staff for keeping up the level of cool scary stuff in it (no network in the US would ever run stuff that frightening and say it was for kids, would they?), and to the casting people for getting it exactly right. Well done, all, well done.