Monday, December 17, 2007

Last night on the news crawl on E!, in between news about--I forget--Tom Cruise and Britney, I think--was the fact that Dianne Middlebrook had died. So bizarre. It was like a grieving intern with an English background had gotten ahold of the keyboard for a minute.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Some really rockin panda photos in the news this week (new cubs, some fossil discoveries).

The last one of the adult panda group lolling and eating is a decent demonstration of why I love them so.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

lil lit'rary spasm

Well. I finally got a copy of Robert Lidell's book about Barbara Pym (A Mind at Ease), but it seems incredibly...tame. Pointless, kinda. YET another analysis of the bad boys and clergymen, no personal dish at all, at least at first glance. It's funny, the way people love to tear her books apart psychologically. Not sure they can stand it, and I am obsessed enough to have attended at least one conference, so I don't really know what I'm saying, except that that stuff couldn't bore me more. It's all right there. Nothing to take apart.

Lidell was friends with Pym at Oxford, a critic who lived the ex-pat life in Athens and was good friends with Ivy Compton-Burnett and Elizabeth Taylor the writer. He wrote a book about them too that I haven't read, now I'm kinda wondering about that one. (In that weird lil sparky convergence way, of course I got Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont from Netflix and the Lidell book in the mail the same day, partly the reason for the overflow into bloggitude here). I've never been able to get wholesale into Taylor, partly because the first book of hers I ever read was Wreath of Roses which is so disturbing as to have made me run hard in the other direction. Even the cover freaks me out now to look at it. (Apparently Elizabeth Jane Howard--K. Amis's 2nd wife--refused to write Taylor's biography because she said not enough had happened in her life. !! If indeed that's the whole deal, probably more complicated. But still....gah!. Everybody's life is complicated when you look at it.) And Compton-Burnett...I love, and have several books of, but my mind is so lazy and needing of path markers that I have to work hard to let my synapses be mauled by -- even 1/2-understand -- her brilliant, totally weird prose. Same thing with Ronald Firbank. I think my brain's a little too flat-footed.

I wonder if it's more or less so, two months out of the journalistic grind. My brain, I mean. If it's squishy and malleable, more willing to wander down funky paths (I also hate sci fi--this is related), or I'm just more low-functioning and E!-saturated. All I know is the Lidell book seems pretty boring, and reactionarily so, given that it came out after Pym's journals were published and it was clear that she was a real, living person with passions and love, and he had a front row seat for some of it. Almost like the farcical intro that Anne Tyler wrote to her books full of reductive assumptions (at least as I remember it) about Pym's life and character.

Which I guess is a theme to this entry, although I didn't start out with it in mind. First rule about life: you have NO IDEA what's going inside someone's else's life, someone else's head. As Dorothy Sayers said, with the mildest of folks, sometimes something will go off "like a depth charge," and you are left wondering and collecting floating debris. About the merit of dashing about collecting debris (i.e., writing biography), I can't say. But still.

Think that's enough UK writers for one overloaded entry. I feel better though.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A steamy cup of rich dark soy cocoa + berber carpet + your Macintosh + vagaries of physics = not good. This is 1/100 of the carnage, so if I'm offline for a few weeks, you'll know why. The cocoa against the white is kinda reminding me of a Gerhard Richter watercolor, which is the analogy I will use to try to find it all charming. FUCK!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

ships, books, starch conveyence devices

Two fat lolling winter cat hulls, rolled over out of the water for all to see. Cat versos, at it were. Or really, like dumplings in a pot of chicken stew, turned over to reveal their fluffy undersides. Fluffy fluffy!
Too Lazy for Photoshop (No. 1 of set)
Can You Guess Where the Two Zits Are?
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iSight photo c. 2007, property of the artist

Blemisha Obscura (No. 2 of set)
Now Can You Guess Where the Two Zits Are?
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iSight photo c. 2007, property of the artist

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

bougey musings about forks and wangs

Dee Snider & Anthony Bourdain...startin to look a lil alike, ifyouaskme.

I liked Shortbus. Was I not supposed to? Twarn't perfect, but it had that thing that I loved best about Hedwig--a really emotionally sophisticated sense of humor, snarky and delicious, faster than the viewer. I think its companion large-scale moments of swooning drama were less well-defended than H (oy, the crying hotties), but still. Funny! And such a relief to see wang on the American screen. And, of course, a shot of a naked fat body seemingly involved in the pursuit of pleasure, although it was hella brief and sorta...swept off the screen a little bit, it felt.

Speakin o Wang, how did I manage to not hear about the nawtynekkid AB photo for My Last Supper? Like Marcus Samuelsson and the blender.

The concept for the Bourdain book sent me back to look at the Roald Dahl cookbook (Memories With Food) me darling Hanne gave me, where RD did the same thing with a few writers (a lot of books have done this; AB's asks the last supper question specifically of chefs). Very interesting answers, especially PDJames, and why did I know hers would involve duck with sage and onion stuffing and peas. (I hadn't looked at this book, which has some interesting English and Norwegian recipes and was written by RD and his last wife, since I learned more about how he left Patricia Neal for her...feels odd. *gossipy literary spasm*) Speakin o Hanne, she sent me an adorable lil letterpress book with cook-ish quotations in it recently, one that's raising the tone around my keyboard considerably as I thumb through it. My favs so far are very conservative quotes from Julia Child about doing the classics right and a funny simplistic lil quote from Paul Prud'homme: "Food is best just when it's cooked, at that point there's nothing else you can do to it to make it better."

It kinda makes sense; I am in a weirdly Catholic--reactionary--conventional--those would be the negative terms--phase about food and its doings these days. I'm craving...the best from the past? The things you can't count on anymore? My excitement centers around the classical French repertoire (I don't care if I ever see/read/hear about a "new twist" on anything again--show me how to make pate a choux! again! and again!) and silverware with the right heft and tine spaceage and it's like I'm turning into the stuffy old gouty lawyer I will be in my dotage with the skimpy but respectable wine cellar and little stool covered in Oriental needlework for my foot. Some of it is what DL Sayers calls the "new delight in formality" as one gets older, but I am just craving...substance. Longer meals at the table. Beautiful little meals, thoughtfully served, china and glass as sensual too. I feel kinda silly talking about all this--more than a little silly, it's all so bourgeois and consumerist at its core, and the sad result of too many English novels, but still, I long for delicious pretty things with this weird fierce intensity. It's not like I didn't live off a pot of chili I all weekend that I microwaved in batches, and why not, it fuckin rocked--I'm not actually sitting down after dinner with a mother of pearl fruit knife and a perfectly ripe hothouse peach that I carefully peel on a Crown Derby plate--but the point sounds nice. And why not sometimes. And I can tell you more about fruit knives than I used to after this all surged anew with an idle thought about silver ice cream forks and ice tea straws a few months ago, help.

Now I feel kinda naked, naked as AB, sayin all that. Especially because I'm really not sure what I'm saying. I'm admitting to a fantasy of sorts, which is always embarrassing, only it isn't that simple.

Speaking of all this...look at this bizarro fork (from a set) I got recently. I haven't run a test on the handle to see if it's Bakelite yet, but I can't for the life of me figure out quite what it is or even if it's old or new, and I'm usually pretty good at that. It seems like an oyster fork with the three tines and the slight flare to them, but the tines are really long. They are also strangely sharp and thick. The whole fork is much smaller scale than a dinner fork or even a salad fork. The most likely bet seems a cocktail fork, but still, how odd, and what the metal is I really don't know yet.

Sunday, December 02, 2007