sartorias: (brain)
I am pretty much guaranteed to always be a day late and a dollar short, but even I stumble onto contemporary happenings, mostly through reading blogs, and I discovered that today is Star Wars Day.

It won't last, unless some big gun figures a way to make money off it, but meanwhile we can think back to our experiences. Like standing in lines in 1977, in an atmosphere of exhilaration. My co-writer Dave T. and I would walk over to Hollywood Blvd at around midnight and get into line for the two thirty or four o'clock a.m. showing, as that was when the eternal line got shortest. The air was usually redolent with Maui Wowee, and people passed back and forth cheap bottles of wine, etc. Nobody had thought of working the line as vendors, which I understand happens now: there was a humongoid line for Hamilton tx a few days ago, and I was told vendors were there. Same atmosphere of party and shared expectation and enjoyment.

So there was also a post about Star Wars figures, triggering memory. In 1993, my son's bio dad showed up unexpectedly one day, after two years of silence. (We stayed with him and bio-mom for the two weeks before son's birth, then we drove the 700 miles down here, and he and bio-mom split up. As this was an open adoption, we heard from her often, but not from him until this day.) He carried a shoe box under one arm. He looked around our shabby furniture (most of which, alas, we still have, those that haven't fallen apart) and our wall to wall bookcases, and dominating the living room the gigantic plastic castle we'd bought so Son could climb inside when he couldn't be outside. Eccentric as we and our space is, Bio-dad seemed content (his growing up had been pretty fraught). He stayed maybe half an hour, during which he handed us the shoe box, which turned out to be mostly full of Star Wars figures that he'd played with as a little kid in the late seventies and early eighties. He hadn't had many toys, but those he'd had he'd saved in this box.

We promptly handed them off to the son, who played with them happily for several years. A few of them got chewed up by various rescue dogs over the years, and some got lost, but those that survived years of imaginary battles I scooped up when the son moved on to video games, and now I have that box in the closet, in case some day he has kids of his own.
sartorias: (desk)
Had a conversation with someone about TV. X had been recommending brilliant shows to me. I'd pointed out to X that I hadn't cared for "The Office," though I know it's super popular; I made it through two episodes before I finally realized that most all the humor was based on humiliation. Not funny to me.

X had been selling me on "Veep," which again I watched two episodes of, and again, same reaction.

So we got to talking about this, and "Grand Budapest Hotel," which I enjoyed about ten minutes of, but mostly found cold and smug, and in the course of conversation I was trying to pinpoint where exactly my total lack of sophistication lay. Here I am, over sixty, fairly well-read, but I keep bumping up against certain flavors of hip and falling back.

I think it's because of that fourth wall problem, that I fall through, and further I like falling through. That's what I prefer in my entertainment. Narrative distance as elegant, intellectual puzzle or conundrum or study--where being aware of that fourth wall is necessary--fails to engage me except once in a while.

I can appreciate the appeal, but can't seem to make the leap to go there.
sartorias: (Default)
L'Shana Tova (and a month late for Ramadan)

via [livejournal.com profile] matociquala a link about compassion for the Other.
sartorias: (Default)
L'Shana Tova (and a month late for Ramadan)

via [livejournal.com profile] matociquala a link about compassion for the Other.
sartorias: (Beauty)
Twelve years ago my dad died. I thought I'd post this poem by Boris Pasternak that [livejournal.com profile] seraphimsigrist shared a few days ago for Transfiguration Day:


August

As promised and without deception,
The sun passed through in early morning
In a slanting saffron stripe
From the curtain to the sofa.

It covered with burning ochre
The neighboring woods, village houses,
My bed, the wet pillow
And the strip of wall behind the bookshelf.

I remembered for what reason
The pillow was slightly damp.
I dreamed that you were coming to my wake,
One after another through the woods.

You were coming in a crowd, in ones and twos,
Suddenly, someone remembered that it was
August sixth by the old calendar,
The Transfiguration of Christ.

Usually, a light without fire
Pours this day from Mt. Tabor
And autumn, clear as an omen,
Compels the gaze of all.

And you walked through the scant, beggarly
Naked trembling alder grove
Into the ginger-red cemetery woods,
Burning like glazed ginger bread.

A solemn sky verged
Upon its silent heights,
And distance called out
In drawling rooster voices.

In the woods, among the gravestones
Death stood like a government surveyor,
Looking at my dead face
To dig my grave to measure.

All sensed the presence
Of someone's calm voice nearby.
It was my old prophetic voice
That rang, untouched by decay:

"Farewell to the azure of Transfiguration
And the gold of the Second coming.
Soothe the woe of my fatal hour
With a woman's parting caress.

Farewell to the trackless years!
Let's say goodbye, o, woman who hurls
A challenge to the abyss of humiliation.
I am your battlefield.

Farewell to you unfurled wing-span,
Free, persistent flight,
The world's image, captured in a word,
Creative work, and miracle-working.

The icon is a photo of a winter's day that [livejournal.com profile] royal_cobalt took.
sartorias: (Beauty)
Twelve years ago my dad died. I thought I'd post this poem by Boris Pasternak that [livejournal.com profile] seraphimsigrist shared a few days ago for Transfiguration Day:


August

As promised and without deception,
The sun passed through in early morning
In a slanting saffron stripe
From the curtain to the sofa.

It covered with burning ochre
The neighboring woods, village houses,
My bed, the wet pillow
And the strip of wall behind the bookshelf.

I remembered for what reason
The pillow was slightly damp.
I dreamed that you were coming to my wake,
One after another through the woods.

You were coming in a crowd, in ones and twos,
Suddenly, someone remembered that it was
August sixth by the old calendar,
The Transfiguration of Christ.

Usually, a light without fire
Pours this day from Mt. Tabor
And autumn, clear as an omen,
Compels the gaze of all.

And you walked through the scant, beggarly
Naked trembling alder grove
Into the ginger-red cemetery woods,
Burning like glazed ginger bread.

A solemn sky verged
Upon its silent heights,
And distance called out
In drawling rooster voices.

In the woods, among the gravestones
Death stood like a government surveyor,
Looking at my dead face
To dig my grave to measure.

All sensed the presence
Of someone's calm voice nearby.
It was my old prophetic voice
That rang, untouched by decay:

"Farewell to the azure of Transfiguration
And the gold of the Second coming.
Soothe the woe of my fatal hour
With a woman's parting caress.

Farewell to the trackless years!
Let's say goodbye, o, woman who hurls
A challenge to the abyss of humiliation.
I am your battlefield.

Farewell to you unfurled wing-span,
Free, persistent flight,
The world's image, captured in a word,
Creative work, and miracle-working.

The icon is a photo of a winter's day that [livejournal.com profile] royal_cobalt took.

Hopscotch

Jul. 29th, 2010 05:40 am
sartorias: (Default)
Last night I watched Hopscotch, a spy movie with Walter Matthau and the sublime Glenda Jackson.

It's that rarity, a witty spy movie. More of a caper movie, actually. Matthau is a middle-aged spy screwed over by his boss, the "new spy age" Meyerson (played splendidly by Ned Beatty, who was always best as a villain), with a young and earnest Sam Watterson as a decent guy forced by orders into doing wrong, as they chase Matthau all over Europe, back to the States, thence to England.

The simple tech is now charming--Matthau's typewriter as he gets revenge on his amoral boss by writing his memoirs, and posting chapters to all the spy HQs in every capital, chapter by chapter. The need to find public telephones, the old-fashioned wire tapping.

Also interesting was the film's sense that the old days of spying were honorable, but now, there was a cold amorality that the old guard regretted. This was quaint to be seeing in the early eighties, before the Cold War was officially over.

After finishing it, I reflected on how very fast life changed in the 20th century. I recall when I was a kid, people asked the older folks what it was like, living in the horse and buggy days, before two world wars, before there was television. "Before there was electricity," my great-grandmother said once. "We didn't get electricity on the farm until the war was over." She meant WW II--the Depression had nearly lost her the farm. She'd had to marry a guy she didn't want to marry, just to hold onto it. (And his part of the prenup was to demand that she get rid of her daughters because he didn't want a pack of useless girls around. She did. The youngest two to childless relatives, and my grandmother was put to full time work, at age twelve. The older girl went to Minneapolis at fifteen, to seek work.)

I grew up thinking we were so very modern. Why, we even had a color TV, finally, in 1969, when I hit high school. (Wow, were we amazed to discover that part of MGM's Wizard of Oz was in color!) We had modern expectations, that college would lead to a lifetime career, especially for the guys (but we females were determined that we, too, could have careers) and yadda, yadda, you've heard it all before.

I've been rereading some of my old favorites among memoirs and letters and diaries, and I don't get the sense that people had to stop and reassess quite as much as now, but of course that assumption might be misleading. That might have been an internal process. Maybe everyone has always felt that the world was changing too rapidly, because I do pick up hints of similar thoughts during the Reformation, and of course as soon as the age of machines began.

Hopscotch

Jul. 29th, 2010 05:40 am
sartorias: (Default)
Last night I watched Hopscotch, a spy movie with Walter Matthau and the sublime Glenda Jackson.

It's that rarity, a witty spy movie. More of a caper movie, actually. Matthau is a middle-aged spy screwed over by his boss, the "new spy age" Meyerson (played splendidly by Ned Beatty, who was always best as a villain), with a young and earnest Sam Watterson as a decent guy forced by orders into doing wrong, as they chase Matthau all over Europe, back to the States, thence to England.

The simple tech is now charming--Matthau's typewriter as he gets revenge on his amoral boss by writing his memoirs, and posting chapters to all the spy HQs in every capital, chapter by chapter. The need to find public telephones, the old-fashioned wire tapping.

Also interesting was the film's sense that the old days of spying were honorable, but now, there was a cold amorality that the old guard regretted. This was quaint to be seeing in the early eighties, before the Cold War was officially over.

After finishing it, I reflected on how very fast life changed in the 20th century. I recall when I was a kid, people asked the older folks what it was like, living in the horse and buggy days, before two world wars, before there was television. "Before there was electricity," my great-grandmother said once. "We didn't get electricity on the farm until the war was over." She meant WW II--the Depression had nearly lost her the farm. She'd had to marry a guy she didn't want to marry, just to hold onto it. (And his part of the prenup was to demand that she get rid of her daughters because he didn't want a pack of useless girls around. She did. The youngest two to childless relatives, and my grandmother was put to full time work, at age twelve. The older girl went to Minneapolis at fifteen, to seek work.)

I grew up thinking we were so very modern. Why, we even had a color TV, finally, in 1969, when I hit high school. (Wow, were we amazed to discover that part of MGM's Wizard of Oz was in color!) We had modern expectations, that college would lead to a lifetime career, especially for the guys (but we females were determined that we, too, could have careers) and yadda, yadda, you've heard it all before.

I've been rereading some of my old favorites among memoirs and letters and diaries, and I don't get the sense that people had to stop and reassess quite as much as now, but of course that assumption might be misleading. That might have been an internal process. Maybe everyone has always felt that the world was changing too rapidly, because I do pick up hints of similar thoughts during the Reformation, and of course as soon as the age of machines began.

Punkpunk

Feb. 16th, 2010 07:30 am
sartorias: (Default)
"Punk" used to evoke a specific set of images for me. The spouse (then a sweetie) and I used to attend punk concerts in L.A. around 1980; our favorite band was X, and the song that seemed to exemplify them was "Johnny Hit and Run Pauline," a fast, tightly harmonized, curiously elegiac piece.

At the other end of that decade punk got added to cyber, some say at first as a joke, but it stuck. The term evoked--maybe inspired--stories featuring long, tense nights in ugly cityscapes, where all the high tech goes to distant druglords or rotten government officials, or to getting high on the Net in order to escape the grim reality. Blade Runner is sometimes cited as the look of cyberpunk, though it was about A.I.s and not wetware.

'Punk' as suffix was so effective it migrated. 'Punk' clothes were still in, and so was posing for author photos in urban blight areas; the work punk landed next on manners, as in mannerpunk. I've seen any number of fantasies called mannerpunk; sometimes I suspect it depends which cool circles you move in. The work most commonly cited across these various lists, I think, is Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint which features a tension-fraught, aging vaguely European city ruled by elitist, stylish aristocrats. Their lethal passions and hatreds cause sudden death, sometimes by duel, and the coolest of them are not free from emotional anxiety. In feel that novel owes a lot to Dorothy Dunnett's historical Lymond Cycle--beautifully researched sixteenth century adventure novels with wit to spare, imbued with the tiniest touch of fantasy, and boy howdy the emo anxiety of the eponymous hero. (That he then causes in everyone he encounters.)

Now steampunk (which has been around for a while) is "the" thing. It's curious to me that so much of it has a fin de siecle feel--as if the "end of an era" is ten years late. Though there are plenty of ugly cityscapes below the exquisitely designed, phlogiston-powered zeps, mostly what I sense is a looking back, in exactly the way that George Elliott and Thackeray and the mid-Victorian writers looked back, at an 'easier' time, while meshing it with modern attitudes and ideas.

This hit me just a few days ago when someone much older than me was exclaiming about the stupidity of "girls" of thirty swanking around in tight corsets. "I remember when my mother got rid of hers in the twenties. Then those girdles came back in the fifties." She went on about how horrible it was to sit in those things in hundred degree heat, in tight shoes, silk stockings, gloves, and a hat, just because you didn't dare not. "Your pancake makeup would sweat right off your face," she said.

I tried to explain that the nifty thing about the girls swanking around in corsets is that that they chose to do so--they can dress up in all those cool old clothes, picking and choosing those that best express their style--but the next day, if it's 100 degrees outside, they can wear a sensible cotton sun dress, and nobody cares.

The thing I'm feeling my way toward is this sense of 'punk' changing. Or maybe it isn't. The cyberpunk was set in a grim future, but the stories were about escape from it. Now steampunk is set in a past that never happened, again another type of escape. But so many of the ideas in the best stuff is not 'escapist' so much as trying new social and cultural ideas out, and having the characters go on as if the changes are accepted. That was one huge appeal of the Dunnett books--that in crucial ways, the main characters spoke to modern people, yet Dunnett was skilled enough to make them seem of their time for most readers. Same with Patrick O'Brian. Maybe they were the first to do historypunk.

Punkpunk

Feb. 16th, 2010 07:30 am
sartorias: (Default)
"Punk" used to evoke a specific set of images for me. The spouse (then a sweetie) and I used to attend punk concerts in L.A. around 1980; our favorite band was X, and the song that seemed to exemplify them was "Johnny Hit and Run Pauline," a fast, tightly harmonized, curiously elegiac piece.

At the other end of that decade punk got added to cyber, some say at first as a joke, but it stuck. The term evoked--maybe inspired--stories featuring long, tense nights in ugly cityscapes, where all the high tech goes to distant druglords or rotten government officials, or to getting high on the Net in order to escape the grim reality. Blade Runner is sometimes cited as the look of cyberpunk, though it was about A.I.s and not wetware.

'Punk' as suffix was so effective it migrated. 'Punk' clothes were still in, and so was posing for author photos in urban blight areas; the work punk landed next on manners, as in mannerpunk. I've seen any number of fantasies called mannerpunk; sometimes I suspect it depends which cool circles you move in. The work most commonly cited across these various lists, I think, is Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint which features a tension-fraught, aging vaguely European city ruled by elitist, stylish aristocrats. Their lethal passions and hatreds cause sudden death, sometimes by duel, and the coolest of them are not free from emotional anxiety. In feel that novel owes a lot to Dorothy Dunnett's historical Lymond Cycle--beautifully researched sixteenth century adventure novels with wit to spare, imbued with the tiniest touch of fantasy, and boy howdy the emo anxiety of the eponymous hero. (That he then causes in everyone he encounters.)

Now steampunk (which has been around for a while) is "the" thing. It's curious to me that so much of it has a fin de siecle feel--as if the "end of an era" is ten years late. Though there are plenty of ugly cityscapes below the exquisitely designed, phlogiston-powered zeps, mostly what I sense is a looking back, in exactly the way that George Elliott and Thackeray and the mid-Victorian writers looked back, at an 'easier' time, while meshing it with modern attitudes and ideas.

This hit me just a few days ago when someone much older than me was exclaiming about the stupidity of "girls" of thirty swanking around in tight corsets. "I remember when my mother got rid of hers in the twenties. Then those girdles came back in the fifties." She went on about how horrible it was to sit in those things in hundred degree heat, in tight shoes, silk stockings, gloves, and a hat, just because you didn't dare not. "Your pancake makeup would sweat right off your face," she said.

I tried to explain that the nifty thing about the girls swanking around in corsets is that that they chose to do so--they can dress up in all those cool old clothes, picking and choosing those that best express their style--but the next day, if it's 100 degrees outside, they can wear a sensible cotton sun dress, and nobody cares.

The thing I'm feeling my way toward is this sense of 'punk' changing. Or maybe it isn't. The cyberpunk was set in a grim future, but the stories were about escape from it. Now steampunk is set in a past that never happened, again another type of escape. But so many of the ideas in the best stuff is not 'escapist' so much as trying new social and cultural ideas out, and having the characters go on as if the changes are accepted. That was one huge appeal of the Dunnett books--that in crucial ways, the main characters spoke to modern people, yet Dunnett was skilled enough to make them seem of their time for most readers. Same with Patrick O'Brian. Maybe they were the first to do historypunk.
sartorias: (Default)
"The fashion for [historicals] is gone, and nobody wants to bring it back. It was better in its time, and will wear better, than the smart cackle, cynical humour at second-hand from America, cruelty at second-hand from France, and gabble about so-called problems, which are the fashions of today. At any rate the style forms only a subordinate part of a lively and kindly story, which does not preach, which was written to amuse, and not that the author might pose in any one of the cynical, cruel, daring, or other affected attitudes with which we are tiresomely familiar."

From the intro to a library reject copy of Marryat's Jacob Faithful written by one David Hannay for this printing, 1895.

I found his commentary on contemporary literature amusing--especially since so many people now seem to consider nineteenth century literature a monolith of Victorian dullness.

But here's the other thing. I really love those old libraries--this is a library reject, so imagine it on some big library's shelves for a hundred years. A century! That was one thing that just amazed me when I first wandered the stacks at USC, though they were shortly to be forbidden as too many girls were attacked in those narrow, airless corridors between quietly aging books.

I found the same when I studied in Vienna that one year. While doing research for classes, I checked out books that were a hundred years old, written in fraktur. I also checked out respected tomes that had JUDEN stamped across the front page, testament to the horrors of WW II, and the friction between keeping good scholarship on the shelves in spite of the corrosive effects of Hitler's will. I wonder if those books have been reprinted, or retired, or replaced by now.

I got to read even older books, having been permitted to visit an archive, where I held in my hands four and five century year old books, one with woodcut illustrations hand-colored, a suitable gift from one prince to another. All of those were once modern, fashionable, and probably debated.
sartorias: (Default)
"The fashion for [historicals] is gone, and nobody wants to bring it back. It was better in its time, and will wear better, than the smart cackle, cynical humour at second-hand from America, cruelty at second-hand from France, and gabble about so-called problems, which are the fashions of today. At any rate the style forms only a subordinate part of a lively and kindly story, which does not preach, which was written to amuse, and not that the author might pose in any one of the cynical, cruel, daring, or other affected attitudes with which we are tiresomely familiar."

From the intro to a library reject copy of Marryat's Jacob Faithful written by one David Hannay for this printing, 1895.

I found his commentary on contemporary literature amusing--especially since so many people now seem to consider nineteenth century literature a monolith of Victorian dullness.

But here's the other thing. I really love those old libraries--this is a library reject, so imagine it on some big library's shelves for a hundred years. A century! That was one thing that just amazed me when I first wandered the stacks at USC, though they were shortly to be forbidden as too many girls were attacked in those narrow, airless corridors between quietly aging books.

I found the same when I studied in Vienna that one year. While doing research for classes, I checked out books that were a hundred years old, written in fraktur. I also checked out respected tomes that had JUDEN stamped across the front page, testament to the horrors of WW II, and the friction between keeping good scholarship on the shelves in spite of the corrosive effects of Hitler's will. I wonder if those books have been reprinted, or retired, or replaced by now.

I got to read even older books, having been permitted to visit an archive, where I held in my hands four and five century year old books, one with woodcut illustrations hand-colored, a suitable gift from one prince to another. All of those were once modern, fashionable, and probably debated.
sartorias: (The White Rose)
Last year on this date, I asked anyone who had time to share a special memory, even if only a brief image. I not only ended up with a great day of birthday reading, but all this past year, especially during some weeks of fairly nasty glass shards, I found myself going back to those entries again and again, from which I derived a great deal of solace.

So I'm asking again: if you have the time, and the inclination, please share a moment of beauty, a line or two of a great poem, a photo you love, a memory you wouldn't mind my adding to my own treasured store of good memories.
sartorias: (The White Rose)
Last year on this date, I asked anyone who had time to share a special memory, even if only a brief image. I not only ended up with a great day of birthday reading, but all this past year, especially during some weeks of fairly nasty glass shards, I found myself going back to those entries again and again, from which I derived a great deal of solace.

So I'm asking again: if you have the time, and the inclination, please share a moment of beauty, a line or two of a great poem, a photo you love, a memory you wouldn't mind my adding to my own treasured store of good memories.

School

Mar. 6th, 2009 03:48 pm
sartorias: (Default)
While working on a project recently, I had to dig out my old report cards, which range from 1956-63. Looking it over, I marveled at what had been invisible to me as a kid: the categories they chose to grade kids on, and how it was expressed.
Read more... )

School

Mar. 6th, 2009 03:48 pm
sartorias: (Default)
While working on a project recently, I had to dig out my old report cards, which range from 1956-63. Looking it over, I marveled at what had been invisible to me as a kid: the categories they chose to grade kids on, and how it was expressed.
Read more... )
sartorias: (Default)
Below is a riff I scribbled last June, when I was sitting in the Hard Rock cafe. I was accompanying some kids, and I'd thought the adjacent village of shops would be covered. Nope! But I'd brought along my notebooks, and before tackling the current p, wrote these notes, which I just rediscovered while clearing my desk.

Tell me if any of this resonates, or did I miss the bus?
Read more... )
sartorias: (Default)
Below is a riff I scribbled last June, when I was sitting in the Hard Rock cafe. I was accompanying some kids, and I'd thought the adjacent village of shops would be covered. Nope! But I'd brought along my notebooks, and before tackling the current p, wrote these notes, which I just rediscovered while clearing my desk.

Tell me if any of this resonates, or did I miss the bus?
Read more... )
sartorias: (Default)
Way back, I read a science fiction story about digitalized memory. It might have been early on in the cyberpunk era. Anyway, the supposition was that memory could be downloaded, which meant, of course that it could be sold.

This particular story went straight for what I thought the obvious: porn and real death. All I remember is a scenario where condemned criminals could sell their death memory before execution.
Read more... )
sartorias: (Default)
Way back, I read a science fiction story about digitalized memory. It might have been early on in the cyberpunk era. Anyway, the supposition was that memory could be downloaded, which meant, of course that it could be sold.

This particular story went straight for what I thought the obvious: porn and real death. All I remember is a scenario where condemned criminals could sell their death memory before execution.
Read more... )

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