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She Who Lurks By Day
 
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in teenybuffalo's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, July 26th, 2016
7:54 pm
Da da la da
Marlon Webb: Band of the Bold. Don't ask questions, just watch this video. It will refresh your spirits, clear your head, heal your ingrown toenails, and make you realize there is still some good in the world. Also it is the highest and best possible use of that song by The Proclaimers.
Sunday, July 17th, 2016
9:05 am
confined to fast in fires
Well, that was disturbing. I dreamed--just now, a few minutes ago I woke up and am still close enough to this dream to reach back and touch the feelings of dread that it gave me--that I was at a huge gathering of people in a country club or convention center or huge private home. I could not tell which. If it was a public function building it was unusually fancy and comfortable, with big windows and fireplaces, and lots of books and soft furnishings.

I was with people doing touchy-feely stuff like yoga, and they all seemed overwrought, with the sense of false intimacy that you get when doing something difficult together. There was a handsome woman of about forty and a lean gray man of about seventy who kept getting close to me. The man was creepy and kept staring at me, but when we were flung together by an exercise we were doing, he didn't try anything nasty, just leaned his arms on my shoulders in a circle with several other people while we did stretches together. They kept making extravagant promises that we'd never part and be friends all our lives.

Then I was summoned to another part of the building by an old man whom I knew and liked--possibly my uncle or an old employer, in the dream. I had to go outside on a well-lighted verandah, at night. It was a carriageway, with cars constantly arriving and people getting out, and well-dressed men running to and fro with baggage. There were other people with me who hated the place.

At that point, I heard people singing a song, or else I saw it written over the door of the building like "Abandon hope all ye who enter here." I'm not sure which. It was terrible. I remember thinking even at the time that it was something I'd heard in an inappropriately-gruesome "kids movie" that was only appropriate for adults. It sounded like something that should be sung by the cursed men from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, starving and parching endlessly yet unable to die or be healed. There was a lot more to it than this, and I had the whole thing in my head only a few minutes ago, but I only remember that it sneered at some past promise made to the speaker as being a big lie, and then went on,

I've labored here for a thousand years
And I'm still no nearer the throne of God.


...to a jaunty tune.

I went to help my uncle in the big theater attached to the building. He was a cheery old man in evening attire, making sure the caterers brought coffee and the corsages/buttonholes of flowers were handed out to the people pouring into the theater. I tore up a sugar packet in my fingers but didn't really provide much help to my uncle. The corsages were of poppies. Of course they damn well would be. And then I woke up.

I think I just dreamed myself into either Purgatory or the fairy realm. I'm not sure which, and either one has problems. The fear that came over me when I heard that song, or saw it on the wall, is difficult to convey. I want to run screaming, but I'm not sure from what.
Saturday, July 16th, 2016
7:50 pm
I'll set my foot on board of a ship and sail all over the sea
First seen on Tumblr earlier today: Utsuro-bune, the urban legend/folktale of a "hollow ship" that washed ashore in 1803 on the coast of Hitachi province in Japan. Illustrations here. There are several different versions reported by historians and ethnologists of the 1800s; the details that remain constant are these.

A hollow vessel washes ashore. It's not like a ship; it's variously compared to a rice pot or an incense burner. It seems to be watertight, made of strange materials, and banded with "fine iron" (possibly steel?). When people investigate, they find that inside is a young woman, under five feet tall, clothed in an unknown style of garments made of fine fabric, with long hair of a red or blonde color, possibly shading to white at the ends or extended with white fur or fibers. She has some water and provisions with her. She also has a box, which she will not open or set down. No one gets a chance to see what's inside. She speaks a language no one understands, and after some time and repeated failures at communication, she goes away in the hollow ship again.

I like everything about this. It's like a UFO story with a ship instead of a flying saucer. Everything is unanswered. What's in the box, to coin a phrase? The most elaborate story version has an elder speculate that it's the head of the man she loved, who was executed for her sake. Then again, there's a similar story about a Wake-hime ("Princess Wake") who brought the silkworm from China in a hollow ship all by herself, so maybe it's silkworm caterpillars. What do her clothes look like? Is she wearing powdered white hair like Marie Antoinette, or has she bleached her hair white, or braided it with animal fur? Where the hell is she from, and what language is she trying to speak, and who made that damn hollow ship and why was she inside it? And why would she ever get back into it?

In one version the people who find her put her back into the hollow ship and push her out to sea again, because they think it is her fate. In another, her fate is not revealed. The wiki article has a line about the Wake-hime version, where she stays, gets married, and becomes the founder of the Kawano dynasty. That one's the most upbeat, but it also has explanations and justifications and is much less eerie as a result.

I love finding stories like this that I've never heard before! It doesn't fit neatly into any category--you can't exactly call it a folktale, a historic incident or an urban legend. Mostly, I just want her to be okay and get where she is going safely.

Maybe all our ideas about her being a Danae-like victim of a terrible punishment are off base. Maybe she's a daredevil like Reza Baluchi, whose story I located by Googling "floating hamster wheel guy." Back in 1803 there wasn't really a Coast Guard to pull her over and yell at her, so she could have bobbed around in her absurd little floating incense burner boat to her heart's content.
Wednesday, July 13th, 2016
9:57 pm
I'm perfectly clam
17th-century-and-earlier revenge tragedy rewrites of famous narratives are becoming A Thing on Tumblr. Why should they have all the fun? Here is my current favorite, a summary of the deeply gruesome and nihilistic "The Madman's Tragedy" with discussion questions.
Thursday, June 30th, 2016
11:41 pm
Song: "The Concrete Frog Murder" (co-authored with arrogantemu)
Back about a month ago, arrogantemu and I wrote this song while on a camping trip, in a burst of mutual inspiration, and I've finally had a chance to type up the words. It was such a collaborative effort that I can't even remember who wrote which line, but we contributed equally. The tune is "Five Nights Drunk." It's based on a true story: Leigh Anne Sabine's murder of her husband John Sabine, which happened sometime in 1997 but which only recently hit the news after Ms. Sabine's own death.

The Concrete Frog Murder

Words: teenybuffalo and arrogantemu
Tune: traditional

While strolling out one evening
All to the church bazaar,
To see our friends and neighbors
And ask them how they are,
We met with Mrs. Johnson
A-sitting in the sun,
She said, "I've killed my husband,"
We said, "Pull the other one."

CHORUS
"Oh no, you must believe me,
My husband Frank is dead,
I hit him with a concrete frog
And put him in the shed."

When I went down the stylist's
For a shampoo and set,
My hairdresser said to me,
"Have you heard the gossip yet?
Mrs. Johnson's husband left her,
He must have gone away."
"Well, that explains the tasteless joke
She made the other day."

CHORUS

Mrs. Johnson lived all lonely
As the years went rolling on,
If you ask my opinion
She seemed glad that he was gone.
If Frank was ever mentioned
Down the pub on Friday night,
She'd always make the same sick joke--
We laughed to be polite.

CHORUS

Now amateur dramatics
Are a longtime love of mine,
I said, "I'm directing Hamlet,"
Mrs. Johnson said, "That's fine,
I've got a skull that you can use,
It's in the garden shed,
It belonged to my dead husband,"
"Not this again," I said.

CHORUS

Now Mrs. Johnson passed away
Quite peacefully in bed,
We called a cleaning service
To clear out her garden shed,
They found a body in a tarp
All rolled up like a log,
And in the forehead was a dent
Shaped like a concrete frog.

FINAL CHORUS:

Whoever would have thought it?
She never even said!
That sweet old lady frogged poor Frank
And put him in the shed.
Sunday, May 22nd, 2016
3:02 pm
"We regret that we cannot prepare poached eggs."
Well, I was looking up addresses for [part-time job], and in trying to confirm the address of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, I found:

--It's in the theater district, aka the Tenderloin, known to me as the Wretched Hive, the petty-crime-and-drug neighborhood of downtown San Francisco, right around the corner from the street where I stayed in the youth hostel on my trip this past winter. It was a fun but nervous-making time.

--It's next door to the Pinecrest Restaurant, a 24-hour diner which looked lovably big and seedy and old-fashioned to me. I wanted to eat there, but they were always packed with a line down the sidewalk on the days I had time to go there.

--The Pinecrest was the site of a freak crime in 1997 that is the stuff of legend in San Francisco. It's worth of a Tim Powers novel in its down-to-earth details and random nature suggesting deeper meanings.

Here's the full story. To sum up: on July 24, 1997, a woman, whose name is unknown to me but who is invariably described as an "attractive woman" by the later reports, sat down in the Pinecrest Diner at the counter and ordered poached eggs. The chef, Hashem Zayed, made them for her despite their not being on the menu. Helen Menicou, whose position is given as "waitress" in the news but who had been daytime manager of the Pinecrest for years, yelled at Zayed and told him not to make poached eggs. This much is known to multiple witnesses because the Pinecrest has an open-plan kitchen and food prep takes place in full view of the customers. It is unclear whether the Attractive Woman got her food.

Following this, Zayed went on an all-night gambling binge, during which he lost thousands of dollars, including money Menicou had lent him. At what point she lent it to him is unclear, but she lent him gambling money regularly and might have given him money during/after the shift where they fought about the eggs. The next morning, he came to work with a .380 semiautomatic handgun, announced he would shoot Helen Menicou, and shot her five times. She died in the hospital half an hour later. Zayed went to prison, where he died of a brain tumor three years later, without ever having offered an explanation about why he had gone so far as to murder his co-worker as a response to her yelling at him.

If I'd known all this, I would have made the Pinecrest a priority during my visit, because I am ghoulish and want to see where it happened. I also find this a very scary story because massive overreactions are fearsome. Like the fear of a co-worker going postal or one of your fellow students showing up to school with a gun: work together for twenty-plus years in relative ease, and then one day your co-worker responds to your yelling at him by taking a gun and shooting you to death.

I think people read about this and want to make a complex or supernatural explanation for the murder. You could make the Attractive Woman an active factor in the murder. Maybe she shows up and looks you in the eye and strips away all your inhibitions, and you lose the repression that makes you able to function in human society. She's like the Santa Ana in "Red Wind" by Raymond Chandler. Or maybe Hashem Zayed and Helen Menicou were secretly lovers (unglamorous middle-aged food-service-industry lovers, but still), and this was a Frankie and Johnny crime of passion. Or maybe this was Hashem Zayed's initiation into the bad-guy club, and the Attractive Woman was there with a message from Bad Horse saying that if he was so evil, he had to murder his co-worker within twenty-four hours.

But it's also true that people who spend a lot of time together are capable of nasty, deep, stewing rage and hate, and 90% of accidents happen in the home, so I'd write this off as a domestic-violence-level murder.
Sunday, May 8th, 2016
3:12 pm
New-England bore you
I found this among my papers from a few months ago, as I was tidying up just now. I recall I was trying to create the most generic weird horror protagonist/Call of Cthulhu PC ever.

Name: Lloyd Freeborn
Age: 35
Vital stats: 5' 5 1/2", br/bl, receding hairline
Residence: 12 Acorn Street #3, Boston, MA
Occupation: independently wealthy poet-manque
Club: St. Botolph's
Family: deceased
Personal life: repressed
Hobbies: biblophily, swooning, table tennis, nighttime city walks
Personal aesthetic: subpar J.C. Leydendecker
Health issues: migraines, depression, anxiety, insomnia
Pets: 1 cat ("Lydia Languish," tabby)
12:26 pm
When I first saw the City of the Labyrinth, it was standing in all its glory
Looking up road signs for an unrelated task, I came across this streetview of a road in Buenos Aires that looks like a setting from a Borges story. I've no idea what went on here, but something scary and under-described and full of knife fights and old grudges and reminders that humans are only mayflies on the cosmic scale.

On a side note, I wonder what logic Google uses to blot out signs and address numbers in streetview. It seems to happen erratically, and solely in English-speaking countries plus some parts of Europe.

[Subject line is not actual Borges. Subject line is my recollection of that line from Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart, at the point when I realized they were going on a quest to the lair of a Borges-themed supervillain.]
Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
6:23 pm
PANTS
I have NEW PANTS! I have never spent this much on one pair of jeans before. But they've turned out to be one hundred per cent worth it. They're the height, length, breadth, and color I wanted, and the surface even feels pleasantly smooth and downy.

I have some unusual sizing requirements of jeans. I'm tall, and have very long cylindrical hips, so high-waisted pants on me look like mid-rise pants would look on a medium-sized person. Also, I require the cuffs to hit the tops of my feet, because there were periods of my youth where none of my pants ever came all the way down my legs, and I never want to dress like Milhouse from "The Simpsons" ever again. Also, I require the material to feel nice. I require also that as long as I'm making the effort to wear jeans, they should be fitted and flattering, and not have any trendy fake wear patterns or attention-getting marks.

I hate low-rise jeans because they make any wearer's torso look shapeless. Seriously, better we all hike our pants up to nipple level like old men. Actually, I grew up hating jeans, overall (uh, as it were). Every pair of jeans I put on until like the early 2000s was a horrible hard stiff raspy unforgiving prison for the skin, which hurt the backs of my knees when I crouched, and which never got any softer no matter how much I tried to wash it and "break it in," and you all must have hated jeans as much as I did, but pretended to like them and tortured yourselves to be Fashionable. That's the only explanation I can think of. I am onto you all. (I feel about my first twenty-five years of jeans the way some other friends of mine on Tumblr feel about booze: "it tastes like bug spray why are u all pretending to like the taste of bug spray.")

So, I got along with corduroys, loose cotton pants, and formal wool or pressed linen pants. Then fairly recently I encountered the concept of jeans that were stretchy and smooth and didn't feel like a Brillo prison for my legs. But I've also been relentlessly short of money, and hard to fit, and reluctant to go in big department stores because they're an assault on the senses. So for the last year or so I've had one really presentable pair of jeans that I could wear to a business-casual work day, and one that is visibly slightly worn and baggy, and that's it. Until recently.

A salute to the anonymous Toast commenter who mentioned looking for tall long-waisted jeans, and the other anon who suggested Madewell jeans. My order just arrived, I tried them on, and, well, I'm not going to post photos anytime soon because that would require effort, but please picture a fantastically well-dressed woman marching back and forth in front of her mirror going :D

In conclusion PAAAAAAAAANNNNTS
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016
7:10 pm
Sing a roundelay: Traditional Song Swap, Sunday, April 3, 1:00 p.m.
You're all invited--RSVP and come sing!

From the Facebook announcement:


Come and share your songs! Let's have a lot of good choruses and participatory songs, plus solo songs and ballads. This swap is for unaccompanied singing. The focus is on traditional songs, but I won't say no to recent songs too.

For directions, please comment here, message me or send me an e-mail at aprilcatherinegrant at gmail dot com. I live right near Powderhouse Square; parking in my neighborhood is free on Sundays.

I'll provide tea and soft drinks. Bring snacks if you feel like it, but this isn't a potluck, so all you need to bring is yourself and some songs.
Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
6:24 pm
Saturday, March 12th, 2016
8:51 pm
So I watched "Taken"
Jesus O'Callahan Christ, that was a shitty movie.

OK, so I recently realized that I have a Thing about Liam Neeson. Partly it's because he looks the way I feel inside (ponderous, friendly, bewildered, well-meaning, wondering whether he left the oven on). But partly I also have a crush on him. Deep in my heart, I want him to hold me, pat me on the back and say, "Hey... hey, sweetheart, it's going to be all right." It's one of those life goals or wife goals? situations. It's confusing, but that's all right with me. What it means is that I'm watching every movie that looks like it might be interesting that contains Liam Neeson.

Yesterday I watched Taken (2009). I feel dirty now.

For those of you who were lucky enough not to see it: Taken is a thriller where Liam Neeson plays a guy called Bryan Mills who goes to Paris and murders brown people. Like, really a lot of them. Also he tortures guys with an electric cable hooked up to alligator clips, but it's totes OK for him to do that because the victim is an Albanian human trafficker, and torture produces 100% reliable intelligence every time. People whom Bryan Mills variously shoots, bashes on the head, and nonfatally maims include a whole lot of workers on a construction site (who may be exploiting women in a rape house, but who also may just be poor jerks hired by the day who have no idea anything bad is happening), and the servers at a big expensive party. (In order to get close to one of Team Evil, he bashes a series of waiters and replaces them. You know those poor servers were hired from Event Temps by the day and are just here to earn a few francs. That one really pissed me off.)

You can't dismiss any of this as "Our hero is shown doing objectively bad things in order to achieve his goals," because Bryan Mills is always right, never kills anyone who didn't have it coming, and has a near-total success rate. The audience is primed to go, admirable.

Shall I add that Team Evil are almost all Middle Eastern men who tend to have bad teeth and straggly beards? Or that they're covered in signifiers like crescent-and-star tattoos, or that the final boss is known only as "the Sheik"? The only anti-Muslim stereotype they didn't hit is "terrorist suicide bomber." It's surprising that Taken only came out in 2009. I'd thought it was much earlier, like 2003. Bryan Mills is basically the US marching on Baghdad.

This is all happening because Bryan Mills' teenaged daughter went to Europe with her idiot friend. Never go to Paris! You hear me, young 'uns?! (I've read that Liam Neeson has had a lot of people come up to him and say that they'll certainly never go to Europe after seeing THAT film, gracious no.) Daughter Girl, whose name I instantly forgot, is a living plot token with a personality consisting of being a virgin. Her idiot friend is not a virgin, so she won't survive. We are also directed not to care about the umpteen other young women who've been filled with drugs and presumably raped. Take note, insecure middle-aged men who watch this movie for a power trip: your daughters are your property, their virginity is what makes them valuable, and the world is full of generically ethnic evil men who want to rape them.

Daughter Girl is played by a grown woman whose idea of acting like a teenager is to shriek and jump up and down a lot. Mind you, everyone else is one-dimensional as well. I understand that no one checked into this movie for Shakespearean levels of complexity, they checked in to watch Liam Neeson punch people, but even so, my intelligence felt insulted by this movie. The character arc that went "Guy has poor relationship with daughter and is undervalued as a person -> daughter imperilled -> guy kills a lot of people -> daughter loves him and everyone else also validates him" just made me sad because it was worked out in strokes about as broad as I just stated. I feel badly for the men who need that as a wish-fulfillment story.

To top it all off, this movie didn't even give me Liam Neeson doing anything that another actor couldn't have done about as well. It was a very poor and bland use of him. Most of the time. There were a few moments of Bryan Mills being kind to distraught women, like the pop star for whom he does security or the drugged girl he rescues from the construction site, which looked particularly good coming from Liam Neeson. (And I got needs.) Most of the time, though, he just played Generic McPuncherson--and with a half-baked American accent, to boot.

Ah well, my time was not quite wasted--at least I found out that I wasn't missing much, and can avoid his other action movies. My friend K. and I are going to watch Michael Collins on Monday night, which I understand is a much better use of Liam Neeson, and also involves Alan Rickman as Eamon de Valera (we've been holding a long protracted wake for Alan Rickman and making some lovely discoveries in his body of work).

I need something cute to take the bad taste out of my mouth. Here is Liam Neeson talking about the time he hit a deer very lightly with his motorcycle, and here he is recording voices for Good Cop Bad Cop from The Lego Movie. I haven't seen that one yet, but Neeson going "Wakey wakeeeeey..." is making me think I've been missing out.
Wednesday, March 9th, 2016
11:58 pm
Song: "Sadie the Goat"
I just watched Gangs of New York (2002). It frustrated me that in this otherwise excellent movie we only got a few glimpses of the most interesting-looking person--she looks like a nineteenth-century Lady Deathstrike cosplayer with her teeth filed to points. This is Hellcat Maggie (ably played by Cara Seymour), sole representative of a bunch of mean, bad, nasty women criminals from mid-nineteenth-century Manhattan who are described, and maybe embellished upon, in the Herbert Asbury book that inspired the film.

Sadie the Goat and Gallus Mag are now my personal favorite female lowlives. The movie character is a mashup of all of them--she's a street fighter with metal finger claws like Hellcat Maggie, keeps a bar like Gallus Mag and decorates with severed ears like Sadie the Goat. I've had this song in the back of my head, trying to be written, for days. It's a filk of bad-man ballad "Duncan and Brady." (Link goes to Leadbelly's performance.)

NSFW: cusswords and violence.

[edit: SHIT oh shit oh shit, this is just one day too late for International Women's Day. Shit! Oh, well.]

Gallus Mag was opening the Hole in the Wall,
Sadie the Goat was the first to call.
"Start me a tab," is what Sadie said,
Mag bit the ear off of Sadie's head,
Cause she been on the town too long.

Sadie Sadie Sadie, you know better than that,
Ask for credit and you get mashed flat,
Troubling Mag when she's opening the bar,
Now she put your ear in a pickle jar,
Cause she been on the town too long.

The Charlton boys trying to steal a boat,
Down to the river comes Sadie the Goat.
Sadie shed a tear when she heard the noise,
"I'll help these poor little Charlton boys,"
Cause they been on the town too long.

Pirates on the Hudson, Sadie and her crew,
Holding kids for ransom, like heroes ought to do,
Robbing every washline and chicken shed,
And they flew the Jolly Roger from the old masthead,
Cause they been on the town too long.

They wore out their welcome and the old boats sank,
So they all went home to put cash in the bank.
Sadie the Goat comes to call for beer,
"Mag, you old cunt, give me back my ear,
Cause I been on the town too long."

Gallus Mag and Sadie are the best old friends,
Sadie rolls the drunks, Gallus Mag bartends.
Maggie sees the cops get a great big check,
Sadie keeps her ear in a locket round her neck,
Cause she been on the town too long.
Sunday, March 6th, 2016
10:13 am
The box. You opened it. We came.
I watched Hellraiser (1987) the other day and quite liked it. Pinhead and his BDSM crew are way oversold in this movie. From the way everyone I've ever heard hypes them up, you'd think the movie was wall-to-wall Pinhead shredding people. Instead they're mostly offstage, though they are reasonably threatening when they do show up. The real villain of the show is--surprise--a zombie that I DON'T sympathize with, for once. I had no idea the character existed, going by pop culture again. Well, why would anybody remember Frank? He's just a thoroughly unpleasant person.

By the way, welcome to my blog, everybody, it's about 50% folksongs and 50% Cenobites.

Collapse )

The setting and atmosphere are good. It's apparently set in London, but I read it as an undefined city that's in whatever country we say it is; there's a mix of accents, and the suburbs ramble like Detroit and verge into urban decay, trash fires burning in vacant lots, there are nuns and desperate beggars. The house is too huge for London and in the middle of a big yard, and all the trees and bushes look a little overgrown and all the cement is cracked, the stucco walls fissuring. In fact, it reminded me of two recent films. One was Only Lovers Left Alive, with the vampires' house in the suburbs where everything is overgrown with weeds, all the big buildings are ruined, and there are no close neighbors or social services and maybe no police or government. The other was It Follows--Detroit again--with the scenes of Kirsty walking down the street in terror and trying to hide it while normal people look at her funny.

Ashley Lawrence as Kirsty looked like Sarah from Labyrinth had wandered into the wrong movie. Her look was the same--massive curling hair, floofy white poet's shirt worn with jeans. I like to think Kirsty found Labyrinth a formative experience, like many of us. I think she's my favorite Final Girl I've seen in a while. She gets brave eventually; she gets guileful fast. I believed all of it, and believed it was coming from a basically nice and naive young woman rather than going, "Oh, well, she's the only person here who's not a villain, guess we have our Final Girl." I don't want to watch any of the sequels because as far as I'm concerned she gets to live a happy life now, and let the events of this movie dwindle into a vague sexy memory of Doug Bradley's voice.
Saturday, March 5th, 2016
2:10 pm
"What's the matter, Kate, what's the matter, woman?"
Margaret MacArthur, folklorist, singer, teacher, performer. We didn't know one another very well, but I enjoyed every conversation I had with her in the first years of the aughts. I once had ice cream in Manhattan with her and the Kossoy Sisters and two other friends after a folk festival. Seeing her there, with her lace and flowery old-fashioned dress and long white hair, was like seeing a great blue heron walking to the subway. But she was a woman of the world--grew up outside Chicago, lived in the Southwest, moved all over the US and only settled in Vermont in the 1950s when she and her husband were raising their kids. She just dressed like The Source Singer that we all have in our imaginations, who lives on a mountaintop somewhere miles from any town and bakes all her own bread.

She died in 2006. Something or other is always calling her back to my mind. If it's not the songs I've learned from her, then it's sure to be someone else knowing stuff they could only have learned from her, or a view through mountains that reminds me of "Reynardine" the way she sang it. If it's not that, then it's some funny little rhyme or short song that doesn't quite fit anywhere else. She has a lot of them on "Vermont Ballads and Broadsides."

There's a FB post going around with a link to Margaret MacArthur's performance at the Library of Congress. One hour and four minutes of solo concert. She sings, she chats, she talks about her own informants and she plays the "MacArthur harp" (a novelty harp-zither from the early 1900s which is generally called by her name these days) and mountain dulcimer. Skip over the ponderous introductions and go straight to Margaret talking to the audience.
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016
1:28 am
I want to feel you hold me
Speaking of Liam Neeson, I just watched Ethan Frome while it's free on Netflix in order to see Neeson in his early or wolfhound-puppy stage of existence. Ended up liking the movie as a whole much more than I'd thought I would, and I recommend the experience. It's a lovingly book-accurate film that hits every high point from the Wharton book and then some.

The entire movie was filmed in the picture-postcard town of Peacham in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, and it is beautiful. It's as accurate a depiction of New England as anything I've seen. White church steeples, rolling hills with mountains in the distance, dry-stone walls in ill repair, big rambling houses that are built back into the barn, interiors that are simultaneously cavernous and cramped and impossible to keep warm, giant fireplaces where you could roast an entire ewe, big black stoves, and it's always either muddy outside or snowing horizontally. All the characters are passive-aggressive sad sacks who would rather do literally anything, including die, rather than talk about their problems and try to work out good solutions. So, also 100% accurate. The only difference from reality is that most of the men in New England aren't as attractive as Liam Neeson.

Patricia Arquette as Maddy and Joan Allen as Zeena were the surprises for me. I wound up liking the film because they both got relatable fast. The part of the book that never really came across for me was Maddy and Ethan falling in love and having their dirty weekend while Zeena's out of the house. It works better in the movie, with Maddy bursting into tears, refusing to explain, trying to get Ethan to hold her hands by declaring that her fingers are frozen, bragging about her music skills and singing "Chicken crowing on Sourwood Mountain," and, in short, performing every act she can think of to show that she likes him, without daring to either say so or kiss him. As for Zeena, she may be a whiny hypochondriac, but she also knows that her husband and her cousin are banging hard enough to break the red glass pickle dish, and she can't either talk about it with Ethan, the aggressively silent pussywhipped jerk, or pack her bags and walk out on him. Just because a character is an unpleasant person doesn't mean they can't also be suffering.

They don't show the moment of impact, in the Sled Ride That Needs No Cocoa. I assume they didn't have the time, money and stuntpeople to stage it. What they do is show you another sledding party of little kids watching in shock as a broken sled goes sailing up into the air and arcs into the trees, and then you see what's right in front of those kids: Ethan and Maddy's unconscious bodies hitting the ground together covered in blood. That was just as messed up as it could possibly be.

There isn't any more resolution than there was in the book. All you get is a look at broken and embittered Ethan limping off around the corner of the house to lumber through some more chores, and then a long shot of the village covered in snow a yard deep, and that's it. Nothing left to be said. If there was a point, you gotta decide for yourself what it is. I'm torn between "And that's why love suicides are a bad idea, children," "Don't ever have sex with your employer," and "For Christ's sake engage in the awkward conversation while you still can."

[This is all happening in the Northeast Kingdom, aka Mi-Go country, aka near where Henry Akeley lives in "The Whisperer in Darkness." I kept wanting to give things a quarter-turn and cross over with Lovecraftian Vermont, but I never figured out just where I'd make the connection.]
Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
9:52 pm
Unicorn chaser: cute critters
It has been a long day for a lot of people, I realize, so here is a short scene from Sesame Street where Count Von Count teaches Liam Neeson to count like a vampire. I don't know whether my favorite part is the Count Von Count wearing a beret and discovering his inner diva director, or Liam Neeson trying to keep the monocle on his face.

It occurs to me that some of you fiends might also like to see an excerpt from the Muppet Show with Miss Piggy sexually harassing Rudolf Nureyev in a steam room while they're wearing nothing but towels and singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

Oh, and while I'm on the Muppets, someone out there might not have seen them do "Bohemian Rhapsody," so here you are.
Sunday, February 28th, 2016
10:53 am
What have I become?
The other night I went to a superhero party dressed as Darkman. Resulting photos are here. $20 for bandages (turns out gauze rolled bandages are freakin' expensive) and $20 for a used Outback coat, plus costume elements I had around the house already. What I said in the tumblr post:

I think I got stabbed a few times, people kept looking at me and bursting into tears or running away, I got to be half of a Double Dragon pose. Altogether I enjoyed it. I think next time I’ll wear nerd glasses over my bandages, or find a plush elephant toy to carry.

I had the satisfaction of hearing several people I know say “Who IS that in there?” in worried voices. On the other hand, no one went as grimdark as me, and I think most people found me disturbing company. I’m not doing this look again in a situation where I want to make friendly conversation. I also found myself talking with my hands more than I usually do, to reassure people that I meant them no harm.
Sunday, February 14th, 2016
2:07 am
We will worship Great God Ra/ We'll just stand there and go, "Ahhhh!"
I have just found out in casual conversation that there was a cartoon on TV for one season in 1997 called Mummies Alive! It featured Ancient Egyptian mummies who were like undead Power Rangers, or possibly Sailor Scouts, and they were all bodyguards to this one pharoah who had been reborn as a schoolboy in San Francisco. They had Egyptian-themed cars and shouted "With the strength of Ra!" in order to transform into battle mode. Their catch-phrase was apparently, "Let's kick Tut!"

I fell down laughing and told my informant that they were just messing with me, this show couldn't possibly exist, and it wasn't fair to play tricks on me by pulling in all the things that I'd enjoy and inventing a fake show. They responded by linking me to the theme song.

I'm forced to accept that this exists. It even looks like something I'd have been obsessed with, as a young teenager. Did anybody watch this the first time around? I kind of want to watch the whole thing, except that ep. 1x01 is titled "Ra Ra Ra," and I don't know if I can handle it yet.
Friday, February 12th, 2016
12:59 am
Story rec: "Breaking Water," by Indrapramit Das
Via handful_ofdust on Twitter. I found it to be an unusually sad and wistful zombie story.
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