Apr. 10th, 2012 11:33 pm
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I have been living in my new house for about a year now. The changes it has wrought in my life are fairly astonishing.

Having a living room which doubles as a rehearsal venue means that I'm meeting all sorts of artists. Not that I have to be super-close friends with everyone who uses the space, but it's always cool when that happens spontaneously.

My friend [ profile] mothninja's show The White House was a particular boon; the director and the AD have both since used my place to rehearse other shows, which has been good. Some of the alumni from those are coming over on Friday for a Shakespeare reading-and-working session. That play also introduced me to a circus artist whose aerial hoop class I joined, which has been an enormously fun skill to acquire. And then she moved to LA and left a bunch of her stuff with me, which means I now have an aerials rig in my living room. Hell yeah.

All sorts of people have been using the space, but there's a core of artists now who come by regularly enough that it feels a bit like having a family. To a long-term bachelor like me, that's a fairly mindblowing concept. Obviously these things work best when one doesn't get emotionally overinvested, but I am grateful for and happy with the friends I've made. To say nothing of the dividends of the free-rehearsal-space-for-free-catsitting exchange.
CAT UPDATE within )
So... a family. At least for now. The new house sort of attracted the life that goes with it, and that life turns out to be pretty damn awesome. Obviously I could still wish for more work, but at least the downtime's not being wasted.
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Every fool's an April fool
For foolery's in flower.
There's sugar in the salt shaker
And corn oil in the shower.

That heavy breathing call was me
Made to your office phone;
I cling-wrap-trapped the toilet bowl
For you and you alone.

The whoopee cushion sighs my love
Wherever you are seated;
And when you come to share my bed
You'll find yourself shortsheeted.

Oh every fool's an April fool
So take my hand and sing:
For you may hope to spring the trap,
But never trap the Spring.
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From Hilaire Belloc's Sonnets of the Month

The winter moon has such a quiet car
That all the winter nights are dumb with rest.
She drives the gradual dark with drooping crest,
And dreams go wandering from her drowsy star.
Because the nights are silent, do not wake:
But there shall tremble through the general earth,
And over you, a quickening and a birth.
The sun is near the hill-tops for your sake.

The latest born of all the days shall creep
To kiss the tender eyelids of the year;
And you shall wake, grown young with perfect sleep,
And smile at the new world, and make it dear
With living murmurs more than dreams are deep.
Silence is dead, my Dawn; the morning's here.
pallas_athena: (Default)
A meteor was seen falling across the UK last night. It put me in mind of this sonnet by Hilaire Belloc. The religious utterances don't reflect my own views, but I think the last sestet is stunning.

What are the names for Beauty? Who shall praise
God's pledge he can fulfil His creatures' eyes?
Or what strong words of what creative phrase
Determine Beauty's title in the skies?
But I will call you Beauty Personate,
Ambassadorial Beauty, and again
Beauty triumphant, Beauty in the Gate,
Beauty salvation of the souls of men.

For Beauty was not Beauty till you came
And now shall Beauty mean the sign you are;
A Beacon burnt above the Dawn, a flame
Like holy Lucifer the Morning Star,
Who latest hangs in Heaven and is the gem
On all the widowed Night's expectant Diadem.
pallas_athena: (Default)
This thought is particularly aimed at those coming to DragonCon. Yes, you, my dear geek tribe: you know who you are.

Behold, my friends, the Costuming Muse hath spoken unto me, and these were the words She whispered:

Are you ready for this?


Anyone want to play?
pallas_athena: (Default)
It's probably a good thing that I'm busy tomorrow night, because otherwise I'd need to be at the Wigmore Hall listening to John Mark Ainsley, and I think his Dichterliebe would leave me crying my eyes out. Or turned to stone inside. Or something.

Ainsley was the generation before mine at Oxford, so I know something of his backstory. The first I saw of him, though, was his Idamante for Welsh National Opera back in the day. Since then he's been quietly demonstrating to the English tenors of this world what it sounds like to have testicles. If Britain holds an heir to the mantle of Langridge, it's probably him.

Meanwhile: Is there such a thing as a song cycle that ends happily?

The closest I can think of is the first of them all, Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte. Even there, the poet is not reunited with the distant beloved; he only derives some satisfaction from imagining her singing the songs he sends her.

The miller of Schubert's Schöne Mullerin drowns himself in the millstream; it's unclear what will happen to the singer of Winterreise, but I think we can all agree that it's nothing good.

To be fair, the singer of Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben is very happy throughout most of the cycle, which spans at least a few years of her life. But at the end, the husband dies; and of course she can never love again because she's only a woman and he was her whole world. So much for her.

The poet of Dichterliebe faces a similar fate. His beloved is not dead, but has rejected him after a brief but (to him) meaningful relationship. In the final song, Die alten, bösen Lieder, he bitterly abjures both the love he once felt and all the artistic inspiration that sprang from it. The cycle ends there because he is no longer a lover; but is he still a poet? And if not, who is he?

At least he gets over it (which the singer of Winterreise never does) and lives on; but to do so, he has to cut himself off from the source of what made him a poet. That is the most severe interpretation; the least severe is that he's just being a drama queen, and the restatement of the opening theme at the end of the song means that he will soon fall in love again in exactly the same way. He has, of course, learnt nothing; and so the cycle repeats endlessly.

All of which is to say: don't be the protagonist of a German song cycle if you can possibly help it.
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So by this point, we've all read about the spread of invasive Burmese pythons in southern Florida leading to the decline of native mammals, particularly those of appropriate size for pythonic convenience food. Fans of Pogo will be particularly dismayed that the scaled invaders have all but wiped out the opossum from the swamps there. Thankfully, it looked as though the creatures were too cold-sensitive to spread as far north as the Okefenokee, but then this happened:

Burmese pythons: Could the snakes move north?

During two cold snaps that hit Florida in winters that started in 2009 and 2010, many pythons survived by burrowing into the earth and by finding deeper, warmer water to ride out the low temperatures. Dozens of snakes perished and were disposed of by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but what didn’t kill those that survived might have made them stronger, Dorcas said.

“We just had a major selection event for cold-tolerant pythons,” Dorcas said. Fish and Wildlife predicted that a new generation of Burmese pythons on the edge of their non-native range can adapt and “expand to colder climates.”

Two excellent things about this story:

1. The reporter's surname is "Fears."

2. It talks about natural selection. And evolution. In Florida. Silly, everyone knows they don't have evolution there. (They don't have climate change either, which is a relief, given the potential consequences in a state whose highest point is 345 feet above sea level.)

So if natural selection isn't affecting the snakes, what is? The obvious answer lies with God, Whose intention moves all things. Having created the Burmese python milennia ago, He has recently provided them with an exodus from the land of Burma. It is written that this involved one of the pythons throwing down its staff which immediately turned into a bearded Jewish guy. The Lord then brought about its importation to the US as a pet, dividing the Atlantic ocean en route. When the pythons had completed their time in servitude, God divinely inspired the owners to abandon them in the wilderness. After some years of wandering and subsisting on manna in various furry forms, their Creator has hearkened unto their prayers and armoured them in righteous resistance to the elements.

The theological implications of this development are, frankly, staggering. Apart from anything else, it is now evident just who God's chosen species are. If this seems far-fetched, ask yourself this: who was the only person in Eden who didn't eat the forbidden fruit? Sure, the Serpent invited the gullible humans to chow down, but in no source does it say that the reptile itself ingested any. A fruit-eating snake would be kind of weird in any case, right? God's subsequent curse upon the Serpent is strangely harmless [King James version, here we go]:

--Upon thy belly shalt thou go: Snakes do this anyway

--and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: This happens when you're crawling around on your belly. Note that God does not prohibit the Serpent from eating any others of His creations it happens to find tasty in addition to dust.

--and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Well, given what just happened they were hardly going to be future BFF, were they?

Less of a curse, more of a pat on the scaly back for a job well done. In any case, it would seem that the Creator Of The Universe has now amended this last clause to "He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt crush him into an easily-ingestible lump within thy coils thus to swallow him, and then thou shalt have a bit of a nap the while his brethren do make an B-movie about thee."

And who does that B-movie feature? That's right. Ice Cube. Ice Cube... cold-resistant serpents... At least now we know what God was smiting us for.

So what can we, the faithful, learn from this dire peril into which our Maker has cast us? The lesson is clear, for it is written:

Upon that day when a film crew be gathered together in My name, and J.Lo be among them, yea and Jon Voight also, and he that was in The Royal Tenenbaums, you know, the blond guy, and the script doth verily suck worse than the special effects, such that the result be a two-hour abomination unto My sight: and I do send unto thee My warning, saying,
O Man, release not this piece of shit where it may afflict the eyes of filmgoers, for even My prophet Liam Neeson could not save this trainwreck, seriously, thou shalt DAMN WELL LISTEN. Else shall that state which most resembleth an detumescent wang be smitten with fearful plagues of superevolved cold-resistant Burmese pythons, yea, and also tempests, Jeb Bush and mosquitoes the size of chickens. Thus saith the LORD.

Well, I've done my part in spreading the word... HAVE YOU???
pallas_athena: (Default)
Tonight I saw British mezzo Alice Coote sing Schubert's Winterreise at the Wigmore Hall. Since I'm preparing my own Winterreise at the moment, I think this might be the moment to start writing about it.

Das Liederbloggen )
pallas_athena: (Default)
Ha ha, Samuel Pepys is lousy. In all senses of the word.

Meanwhile, by the powers vested in me, I hereby announce a CAPTION COMPETITION:
Cat photo needing a caption below )
pallas_athena: (Default)
Today I have discovered Olga of Kiev: princess, saint and historic badass. She was the grandmother of Saint Vladimir of Kiev, whose statue stands near Holland Park. Both she and Vladimir had extremely non-saintly careers before being canonised.
Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the pigeons )
pallas_athena: (Default)
After, in our last instalment, resolving to end his dickery and signing the NO-DICK TREATY OF 1668 with his wife, Pepys has quickly moved on to judging other people:

We sat in an upper box, and the jade Nell come and sat in the next box; a bold merry slut, who lay laughing there upon people; and with a comrade of hers of the Duke’s house, that come in to see the play.

Gwyn, if she'd read it, might have riposted with "I know you are, but what am I?" Seriously. Nell is an established royal mistress at this point, but the great thing about her is that she didn't leave the stage; she continued acting until she had her second child by the King in 1671. She was at the play not with royalty, but with one of her theatrical colleagues from the Duke's Playhouse.

And for this she gets "jade" and "slut" from Pepys, who has damaged far more people with his promiscuity than she has with hers. A far cry from his reaction when he first met her two years ago:

[...] and Knipp took us all in, and brought to us Nelly; a most pretty woman, who acted the great part of Coelia to-day very fine, and did it pretty well: I kissed her, and so did my wife; and a mighty pretty soul she is. [...] Knipp made us stay in a box and see the dancing preparatory to to-morrow for “The Goblins,” a play of Suckling’s, not acted these twenty-five years; which was pretty; and so away thence, pleased with this sight also, and specially kissing of Nell.

FANBOY. If further evidence were needed, Pepys had this engraving of Gwyn as Cupid hanging over his desk in his office at the Admiralty:


Nell Gwyn: prettier, wittier, more talented and more successful than Samuel Pepys, who will never get over it, because he is a dick.
pallas_athena: (Default)
Some time ago, the [ profile] pepysdiary feed reported the most dire consequences yet of Pepys's dickishness: his wife Elizabeth caught him with his hand up the skirt of Deborah Willett, their maid.

Fumbling below )
pallas_athena: (Default)
As I Walked Out One Evening
W. H. Auden

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under the arch of the railway
"Love has no ending.

"I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
Till China and Africa meet
And the river jumps over the mountain
And salmon sing in the street.

"I'll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

"The years shall run like rabbits
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages
And the first love of the World."

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.

In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or today.

Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver's brilliant bow.

The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white boy is a Roarer
And Jill goes down on her back.

O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you've missed.

O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress;
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming
And the deep river ran on.
pallas_athena: (Default)
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.

Hamlet, I.i
pallas_athena: (Default)
This cheesecake was well-received at my recent Thanksgiving dinner, and there have been so many requests for the recipe I thought I would put it up here.

The basic recipe came from The New Best Recipe cookbook, published by the magazine Cook's Illustrated. I highly recommend both. The book is available here [US] or here [UK].
Cheesecake below )
pallas_athena: (Default)
Apartment Cats
Thom Gunn (1929-2004)

The Girls wake, stretch, and pad up to the door.
They rub my leg and purr;
One sniffs around my shoe,
Rich with an outside smell,
The other rolls back on the floor -
White bib exposed, and stomach of soft fur.

Now, more awake, they re-enact Ben Hur
Along the corridor,
Wheel, gallop; as they do,
Their noses get wild, their bodies tense,
Their usual prudence seemingly withdraws.

And then they wrestle; parry, lock of paws,
Blind hug of close defense,
Tail-thump, and smothered mew.
If either, though, feels claws,
She abruptly rises, knowing well
How to stalk off in wise indifference.


Oct. 26th, 2011 11:47 am
pallas_athena: (Default)
I went to see The Passenger at ENO the other night and left feeling flayed. It's a good new opera, but horribly depressing. ENO seems to be on a Nazis Everywhere kick at the moment.

In other news, I was on a bus today with a posse of schoolgirls who were (predictably) playing music out loud on their tinny phone speakers. In these cases, I fight down my own swiftly-redlining annoyance by watching everyone else's blood pressure skyrocket. Oh, and it was rush hour. Joyful.
Cut for swearwords and improper use of adjectives )
pallas_athena: (Default)
I've had a sonnet published, with a small amount of actual money attached! I feel quite happy about this. It's in this autumn's issue of Goblin Fruit. I'd read a couple of their back numbers, liked them, decided that it was my sort of magazine and, in a fit of late-night insanity, sent them two sonnets, of which they took one.

Not only that, but it's been reviewed at The Black Gate. The reviewer is C. S. E. Cooney, whose poem, Ride of the Robber Bride, I liked very much in last spring's Goblin Fruit. Here's the review, for posterity:

Graham’s sonnet is… Well. It’s funny! I don’t know if it was meant to be funny. But there’s a rue in that lovelorn confession — “I’m every idiot who’s ever stood/ At dead of night beneath a balcony…” It’s old fashioned. It requires a velvet doublet and a rapier and a fine feathered hat. I liked it!

I don't know if she actually liked it or was just being polite, but she definitely gets it. Henceforward all my poems will come with a dress code.
pallas_athena: (Default)
An Appeal to Cats in the Business of Love
by Thomas Flatman

Ye Cats that at midnight spit love at each other,
Who best feel the pangs of a passionate Lover,
I appeal to your scratches, and your tattered fur,
If the business of Love be no more than to Purr.
Old Lady Grimalkin with her Gooseberry eyes,
Knew something when a Kitten, for why she was wise;
You find by experience the Love fit's soon o'er,
Puss! Puss! lasts not long, but turns to Cat-whore.
Men ride many Miles,
Cats tread many Tiles,
Both hazard their necks in the Fray;
Only Cats, when they fall
From a House, or a Wall,
Keep their feet, mount their Tails, and away!
pallas_athena: (Default)
All of a sudden, I have cats.

A few visits to the nearby Catcuddles Sanctuary have led to the arrival of Milo and Mystery. It was Mystery who first captured my heart, and Milo was an afterthought-cat, but it turns out that they love each other, and I love both of them, so that's all right then.
Backstory and pictures below )


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