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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in teenybuffalo's LiveJournal:

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Friday, December 2nd, 2016
11:20 pm
The dominatrix whip kittens are my new favorite part
From my FB post at intermission:

I'm at The Slutcracker and having an awesome time. Am I comically missing the point if I say that was a beautiful sex scene? The title character has the face of Dionysus himself. Pink sparkly Dionysus.
Thursday, December 1st, 2016
12:49 pm
Let union be in all our hearts
I don't talk about my singing life on here much, but maybe it's time for that to change. The pub sing at the Somerville Armory is this evening, 7:00 - 10:30, and I strongly suggest that anyone who wants to hear or deliver some good songs check it out. They have a nice cafe, too, and a lot of people get dinner or drinks.

FB event here, but not necessary to RSVP. The Armory is at 191 Highland Ave., Somerville, and it looks like a goofy white plaster castle.
Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
1:49 pm
'ard tack
I just made my own crackers from this recipe, and they've turned out really well -- substantial, yet crunchy. I used one cup plain whole wheat, one cup white whole wheat, and one cup all-purpose white flour.
12:15 am
I saw more penises tonight than I usually see in a single day
I saw Derek Jarman's The Tempest, and Prospero's Books (dir. Peter Greenaway) tonight. I disliked them both. I know a lot of people whose opinions I respect who are into these films, so I wanted to like them as well. However, it was not to be. They bored me stiff. It's hard to make The Tempest boring, but boy, did these films manage it. Just for the sake of the contrast, I'll talk about my dislikes a little.

So much downtime. So slow. So many people standing around doing things that aren't a part of the original play, don't support the story or build character, and come out of nowhere and go nowhere. The casts of thousands even look bored or disinterested most of the time. Every time I got a little invested in a scene, I then had to watch a lot more empty posturing before the film would permit me to advance to the next level. Each film had tons of beautiful imagery in its own style, but I didn't check in for imagery. I feel like each film poured a bucket of symbolism onto my head while I was waiting for storytelling to happen.

"Parts of it were excellent." I did like the two different Calibans. Thing One was Jack Birkett as Caliban in The Tempest. No wonder I liked him: Vincent Canby of the New York Times, in a long-ago vitriolic review, says he's like something out of Hammer Horror, and I see where he's coming from. Birkett is an Igor or an Uncle Fester: corpsey pale and wearing gravedigger clothes, but childlike, cringing, manically cheery despite all reasons to the contrary. There was a brilliant moment about two-thirds of the way through the film when we get a visual on Prospero's description of Sycorax and her "whelp." The witch is breast-feeding her son, who is the same gaunt and stubbly fifty-year-old actor we've been seeing all film -- he's naked and sucking on a woman's nipple, but it's still Jack Birkett, who looks to be older than the actress playing Sycorax. That moment is uncomfortable in itself, but the great thing is that it then makes you question your assumptions about everybody's physical appearances. Caliban only looks like an ugly middle-aged guy -- by all available evidence he could still be as young as Miranda. (And Sycorax has Ariel on a neck chain and keeps yanking him onto his knees. I don't know whether I was more disturbed by her toying with him or by the fact that her little fifty-year-old boy was watching her do it.)

And then there was Prospero's Books. Oh boy, was there. "This is not the film to see if you want to witness a performance of The Tempest," says Roger Ebert, who seems to have liked it more than I did. However, it is the film to see if you want to look at page after page of pretty calligraphy presented in an intrusive frame style, or admire Cirque du Soleil-level acrobats running naked around a building the size of Edinburgh Castle, peeing into in-ground pools. (The title quote is what I heard someone behind me say as I was coming down from the theater balcony.) John Gielgud voices all the characters. I don't know what I did expect to see and hear, but what I did see and hear made me impatient. (And occasionally incensed.Collapse )

For the most part, I expected to like the dancers a lot more than I did. All the fairies and elves and spirits and whatnot aggressively strutting around the main characters didn't seem at all supernatural, just like a lot of unusually committed acro students. But the Ariels were great -- Ariel was played by several actors of various ages, from about six through adult. You could tell they were the same character because they wore the same costume: red loincloth and red beads, with curly blonde hair. The way they moved was one of the few things about the film that was permitted to actually get playful; you could see how they could fly, you could see how they weren't confined to a single form. At the end, Ariel bolting for freedom changed to younger and younger forms as he fled, until the last little Ariel flew up out of the top of the frame and was gone. Caliban here was an exceedingly beautiful ballet dancer (Michael Clark, I see by the internet), the most graceful person on display, despite being introduced by a series of frames showing books being defiled by piss, puke, and shit full of intestinal parasites; perhaps the point was that Caliban doesn't need language because he has his body. I have no idea what the point was, but he certainly didn't look human, so good for him.

(Oh! And I liked the friendly naked Esther Williams water nymphs rescuing the drowning sailors. They're an element that also is only referenced and not shown in the play, but showing them made sense and added to the mood. The water nymph performers were great at looking happy and acting their asses off while five feet deep in a tank.)

Mostly, though, Prospero's Books was so cluttered and mold-damaged that I wanted to shoo all the performers outdoors and burn the building down. There was one scene set in fake-outdoors sunny wheatfields that look like they're near the pyramids of Egypt, and I wanted the characters to take off running and never look back, I was so desperate for sunlight and visual liberty. Why the hell were both these Tempest adaptations so stuffy and shut-in and stale-smelling? The Tempest is the most outdoor play in the canon. And does no one remember that Ferdinand is a character and not a cardboard cutout, and that Miranda will be funny and assertive if you fucking LET HER instead of leaving her as a wet sock who sleeps most of the time and sleepwalks the rest, and that there are jokes in the play that are funny if you actually let them happen and don't bury them under an avalanche of Stylistic Choices? *huff*pant*gasp*hawk*spit*

I get that it wasn't supposed to be the play The Tempest by William Shakespeare, that it was the result of the director using Tempest as a jumping-off point for things he wanted to say and do. But then again, my only reason for checking in was Tempest, and I found most everything after the jumping-off point to be pointless or annoying or not my kink.

There is an expression among Gilbert & Sullivan fans: "pork pie." It means "joke that has zero to do with the source material." An example would be the way all productions of "The Pirates of Penzance" currently seem to rely on an extended gag about the Major-General forgetting rhyming lines, even though it makes no sense for the character, stops the action dead in its tracks, and takes attention away from the fact that the song is funny in its own right. The anecdote:

Actor: *works in a gag he made up*
W.S. Gilbert in directorial mode: Stop that.
Actor: But I'll get a big laugh by it.
W.S. Gilbert: So you would if you sat down on a pork pie.

I mean, I try to keep an open mind, and I shouldn't sit here and be judgmental and act like no adaptation can possibly be good enough for my beloved plays, but on the other hand I feel like I just sat through four hours of pork pie, so I apologize for acting rancid.

To counteract my negativity and offer a different outlook from someone who loves Prospero's Books: sovay, I hope it's OK if I reference this post from 2010. The comments are also good.
Monday, November 28th, 2016
11:49 am
Not Usually A Sign Guy But Jeez
UPDATE: protest is now listed as starting at 5:00, and Bannon isn't coming or has canceled. However, Kellyanne Conway will still be present as far as anyone knows, and the protest is still going to happen. FB event here, with further info: the protestors will meet at JFK Park. I'm not sure which park that is, but it's given as being at 95 JFK Street and I hope to find it by the mass of other angry people when I get there.

There's a protest on Wednesday 11/30, starting at 4:00 p.m., outside the Kennedy School at Harvard. From what I understand we'll be protesting against Stephen "The Anti-Semitic Trash Fire" Bannon (I'm against him overall, but this is a protest against his being invited to speak at the Harvard Kennedy School in particular).

I will be there, since my unpredictable employment schedule just now means that I can attend a protest which starts during most people's work hours. If anyone is thinking of going and wants company, please let me know.

The FB event is here. For those who don't do FB, the announcement is copy/pasted below. Please note that the details may change; Bannon may cancel, Harvard may change the place or time, we may have been misinformed, the horse may learn to talk. I'll update this post when I learn more about the protest.


Stephen Bannon and Trump Advisors will be speaking at the Harvard Kennedy School this Wednesday, November 30. Trump brought racist ideologues into the mainstream. Harvard is furthering the process of normalization for racist hate. We do not accept hate and bigotry as normal or legitimate. Come protest. Then help us organize.

Saturday, November 19th, 2016
12:41 pm
Copy/pasted from my Facebook:

Last night: got to see "Love's Labor's Lost IN SPACE" done by Theatre@First. Let me urge you all very strongly: GO SEE IT. There's one more performance left, today, at 4:00 p.m.

This production contains: humans in love, androids in love, a small cute child who is much smarter than the adults, live theremin music so you can tell it's science fiction, self-destructive idealists, strong independent young dorks who don't NEED no women even if they threw themselves at us, characters who are living Do Not Write Like This warnings, a pageant, a polearm fight, a green space babe, a man hugging a woman's knees while sensuously eating Twizzlers, women who demand the most out of love and won't settle for sappy generic poetry, a princess who's warm-hearted enough to fall in love but level-headed enough to put the needs of her country first, an orgy, a thing that I understand was not a tribble but a very small space deer, and the entire cast roaring the lyrics to "The Owl and the Cuckoo" to the tune of "Ground Control to Major Tom." I'm only sorry I didn't see it earlier in the run so I could urge more people to attend this show. I'd had no idea Love's Labour's Lost was so funny, and this was a great way to see it for the first time.

Friday, November 18th, 2016
10:02 am
predatory wolf
In the department of Things That Are Outside My Field Of Experience, Yet Of Fascination To Me:

A medieval Torah scholar appears to make the argument that Rachel was killed by her son Benjamin, because he was a werewolf.

(I say "appears to make" because I can't tell which parts of this discussion are the words of Rabbeinu Ephraim ben Shimshon as quoted by the blogger, and which are the blogger talking to themself. The comments may also be worth reading; everyone gets very invested in the werewolf debate.)

EDIT: I'd hoped this was more of the same. Argentina's president Christina Fernandez de Kirchner adopts a Jewish seventh son as her godson to stop him from turning into a werewolf. First, I hoped this was a family tradition of the child, whose name is Yair Tawil. Then I feared it was some sort of unusually elaborate blood libel. It doesn't appear to be either.

If the article is to be believed, there's an Argentinian superstition that a seventh son (or seventh child, it appears to apply to girls too) will become a werewolf, "el lobison," on "the first Friday after his thirteenth birthday." This kid is just the first Jewish recipient of the dubious honor. Apparently, being honored as the President's godson and being given a gold medal and future academic scholarship is enough to avert wolfish nature. It wouldn't avert mine, but it seems like a nice thing to do.
Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
5:57 pm
Exudes Opulent Individual Style
I can't think of a more appropriate use of this icon.

I have a new life goal: to make the kind of money and lead the kind of life that means I can stay at this hotel.

The Witchery, Edinburgh. Every single suite looks like it's been built for a Hammer Horror reboot. I can't decide between "The Old Rectory," where I think they include a free Christopher Lee on your pillow every evening, and "The Heriot," where you have a bath in a clawfoot tub in the middle of Hrothgar's hall. There's more red velvet than ten brothels could use in a lifetime, but all the dark oak and pointy arches keep the mood sinister.

You go to this place, you wear one of Morticia Addams's most drapey outfits and dark red lipstick that matches your nails, or you wear a white nightie over nudity, or a loose shirt tucked into tight trousers. Those are the only three options; there are no others. I was once in Edinburgh (2004, aka "the last time I was over"), but I don't think this existed at the time or I would have heard the organ music rumbling across the housetops.

Oh shiiiiit. It's The Witchery by the Castle. That is the full name. And they also have a restaurant.

In five years, I shall be forty. That gives me just enough time to launch a new career as a highly-paid [insert position when I think of something good], make a lot of money, stick some of it in savings and use the rest to convey myself and a select group of friends and significant others to Edinburgh. There we'll have a massive birthday dinner with me at the head of the table in this dress [it's Morticia's dress for fancy occasions with long sleeves ending in points over the hands; it has both black sequins and black spiderwebs], smiling enigmatically, and afterwards we will take up the entire building for singing and jamming around the pipe organ, set dancing, tango and waltz, games of Sardines, Hide and Go Seek, and Mafia, board gaming and crafts table, and optional orgy in the Tower suite.

Please comment here if you wish to be included in the party and whether you'll order the vegetarian option or have other dietary restrictions.
10:58 am
No, it's not a code, it's his name.
I just called the Governor of Massachusetts in order to urge him to take a public stand against the threats of the oncoming administration and declare Massachusetts a state of refuge for Americans threatened with deportation or otherwise placed at the risk of their lives, safety, and human rights.

You can contact the office of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker at 617-725-4005. An aide will answer the phone and offer to give Governor Baker your message. Please note that you can also write or send an e-mail via the Governor's Office public contact info here, but a phone call is more immediate and likely to be noticed.

From my comment to sovay immediately afterwards:

"What felt like hours of ringing, but what was actually a couple of minutes or less, gave way finally to a polite male aide. I requested to speak to the Governor, because why not, and was told as I had expected that he was not available but that the aide would transmit a message to him on my behalf. I told him that I urged the Governor very strongly to make a stand and offer refuge to Americans threatened by the policies of the oncoming administration. I diverged from my notes a bit, so I'm not sure of my choice of words, but I remember I said that Governor Baker not only had to take a stand against bigotry and intolerance, but that he had to be seen, publicly, to do so. I may have said that we the people of Massachusetts have to set an example for the rest of the country, and that example must be to stand against intolerance and deportation, and that I was sure the Governor had often thought of John Winthrop's statement* that the eyes of the world would be upon us, and that they're upon us NOW, and we have to visibly take a stance now that the world will see us, and that stance must be against intolerance. I was angry, I got emotional, my voice shook, and to my surprise I teared up, but I hope it lent force to my statement rather than making me inaudible.

"I didn't say half of what I'd meant to say. The aide seized the first chance he had to shut me down in a genteel fashion and end the conversation. I did manage to wrap up by saying that I was a lifelong citizen of Massachusetts, a taxpayer and a voter, and that I would be awaiting Governor Baker's official reaction with great eagerness.

"This concludes today's episode of Adrenaline Theater."

*John Winthrop came out with that beautiful Christian reference about our being a city on a hill and all eyes being upon us, and proceeded to set an example to the rest of the world by persecuting religious dissenters like Anne Hutchinson, gloating over the miscarriages suffered by Hutchinson and Mary Dyer, attempting to wipe out the Pequot Indians, playing one Native American people against another, and encouraging the slave trade. What I was trying to say was that we need to visibly do better than him and his peeps.

EDIT: Since I was all geared up to use the phone anyway, I phoned Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and left a message on his answering machine urging him to condemn the appointment of Stephen "White Supremacist Slob" Bannon. My Senators and Representative all condemned the appointment already, but I called their offices anyway and asked their aides to thank them for me and transmit my support and approval. Information for phoning Congress and other folks is here.

OTHER EDIT: Joseph Curtatone, Mayor of Somerville, has already declared it a sanctuary city and spoken in defiance of the new threats. You can also just call his office and voice your approval and support; their staff are really nice folks.
Saturday, November 12th, 2016
12:18 pm
to be set right
I went out with the protestors in Boston, on the night of Wednesday, November 9th, to shout my disgust with every policy put forth by President-elect Fuckface von Clownstick and Darth Conversion. There was indeed a huge crowd; at the time the police scanners were saying six thousand people were present. I've since seen the number given as 10,000. I can't speak to that, but I am happy that there were also massive rallies in Chicago, Seattle, LA, and the Castro in San Francisco, among other cities. It was cathartic to march down the street hand in hand with my friend K., roaring, "My body, my choice!" and hearing mostly-male voices responding, "Their bodies, their choice!" Whatever horrors are in store, I liked that show of support.

We confirmed our commitment to the protection of undocumented immigrants in America, Muslims, trans people, LGBT+ people, and Black people/PoC. Now, time to live up to our vast promises. And include disabled and chronically ill people in the groups to defend, since no one spoke for them at the rally as far as I heard.

I am not going to say "It will be okay," because it's already bad and I have no idea what will happen. My impulse is to reassure everyone, but I'd be a Pollyanna. A friend-of-friends, tamnonlinear, took her own life after the election. She was chronically ill and expected that the new regime would end her healthcare. If you're hearing the news for the first time from me, I'm sorry. I only got to know her by reading her posts and her excellent website on Tam Lin-related folklore during the hours after her death was announced.  (aedifica is holding a memorial service for her at 2:00 PM today, at the Elephant & Castle pub.) Vile yahoos drove onto Wellesley College's campus to gloat and spit at black women. I'm not here to tell anyone how to react.

What I am here to do is listen, plan, and put plans into action. I appreciate your posts with ideas for action against oppression; please keep them coming. And comment here, if you don't want to make a separate post.

I'm good at talking big, and not great at following through. My challenge is going to be this: stay angry, find ways to use my relative privilege as a white cis woman living in a blue state, keep working, keep actively learning from people more vulnerable to the new regime, keep acting in support of American humans and American decency. Stay active: weeks from now, in January 2017, a year from now, two years from now.

Spite motivates me. I am A Poor and I don't expect that I'll have the money to donate to anything else in the near future, but I just sent a donation of $20 to Planned Parenthood "in honor of" Darth Conversion.

If you give them the mailing address for your honoree, they will send that person an acknowledgement in the mail. I merely state the simple fact.

*Verification of the quote: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right, and if wrong, to be set right." Carl Schurz's reaction to the mere statement, "My country, right or wrong."
Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
5:06 pm
From "The Worm Ouroboros," E.R. Eddison (1922)

(From Chapter XIX, "Thremnir's Heugh", full text here)

[...] in a while Spitfire opened his eyes and said, "Draw back the curtains of the bed, for 'tis many a day since I woke up in Owlswick. Or is it night indeed? How went the fight, then?"

His eyes stared at the naked rocks and the naked sky beyond them. Then with a great groan he lifted himself on his right elbow. Volle put a strong arm about him, saying, "Drink the good wine, and have patience. There be great doings toward."

Spitfire stared round him awhile, then said violently, "Shall we be foxes and fugitive men to dwell in holes o' the hollow mountain side? So the bright day is done, ha? Then off with these trammels." And he fell a-tearing at the bandage on his wounds.

But Volle prevented him with strong hands, saying, "Bethink thee how on thee alone, O glorious Spitfire, and on thy wise heart and valiant soul that delighteth in furious war, resteth all our hope to ward off from our lady wives and dear children and all our good land and fee the fury of the men of Witchland, and to save alive the great name of Demonland. Let not thy proud heart be capable of despair."

But Spitfire groaned and said, "Certain it was that woe and evil hap must be to Demonland until my kinsmen be gotten home again. And that day I think shall never dawn." And he cried, "Boasted he not that he is king in Demonland? and yet I had not my sword in his umbles. And thou thinkest I'll live in shame?"

Therewithal he strove again to tear off the bandages, but Volle prevented him. And he raved and said, "Who was it forced me from the battle? 'Tis pity of his life, to have abused me so. Better dead than run from Corinius like a beaten puppy. Let me go, false traitors! I will amend this. I will die fighting. Let me go back."

Volle said, "Lift up thine eyes, great Spitfire, and behold the lady moon, how virgin free she walketh the wide fields of heaven, and the glory of the stars of heaven which in their multitudes attend her. And as little as earthly mists and storms do dim her, but though she be hid awhile yet when the tempest is abated and the sky swept bare of clouds there she appeareth again in her steadfast course, mistress of tides and seasons and swayer of the fates of mortal men: even such is the glory of sea-girt Demonland, and the glory of thine house, O Spitfire. And as little as commotions in the heavens should avail to remove these everlasting mountains, so little availeth disastrous war, though it be a great fight lost as was to-day, to shake down our greatness, that are mightiest with the spear from of old and able to make all earth bow to our glory."

So said Volle. And the Lord Spitfire looked out across the mist-choked sleeping valley to the great rock-faces dim in the moonlight and the lean peaks grand and silent beneath the moon. He spake not, whether for strengthlessness or as charmed to silence by the mighty influences of night and the mountain solitudes and by Volle's voice speaking deep and quiet in his ear, like the voice of night herself calming earth-born tumults and despairs.

After a time Volle spake once more: "Thy brethren shall come home again: doubt it not. But till then art thou our strength. Therefore have patience; heal thy wounds; and raise forces again. But shouldst thou in desperate madness destroy thy life, then were we shent indeed."

Friday, November 4th, 2016
1:45 pm
Letter to the White House
I had a rush of blood to the head and wrote a letter to President Obama about the Standing Rock Sioux protests. Text is under the cut.

For the record, what happens if you phone the White House and say, "Hi, may I please speak with President Obama?" is that a polite person tells you that you need to write a letter if you want to bring anything up with the President. (I was amazed I reached a live human being, since I'd been sure that I'd be referred to a voicemail which no one ever checks. I wonder how weird her job gets.)

Collapse )


--If it seems like comparison to Richard Nixon is damning with faint praise, well, fair enough. For the record, Nixon was decent about Native American affairs. It's not even like, "He wasn't as much of a jerk as he could have been." During his term he signed off on legislation supporting the rights of tribes to self-rule and self-definition, out of a period when the US government was breaking treaties, reclaiming reservation lands, breaking up Native families and destroying their ways of life in forced assimilation. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

--This letter exists partly because I have an egotistical wish to go out to the site of the protests and help out in person. However, there are already plently of underinformed-and-clueless white people out there, getting in the way of the people with skin in the game. They do not need one more. It's my experience that a protest starts falling apart when the hippies and drug users and well-meaning outside people who vaguely want to do nice things show up. I'm in the latter category.

--Someone did "The Folk Song Army" at Pub Sing last night, and I was painfully aware of my own tendency to sing heartfelt songs and then not act on them. Goddamn you, Mr. Lehrer. If you feel dissatisfaction, strum your frustrations away. Some people may prefer action, but give me a folk song any old day!

--Now I have to make my mind up about all the ballot issues and go vote. (EDIT: Tough shit, I don't get to vote early after all. Early hours in my city ended at 12:30. Let this be a lesson to you to double-check the hours of absolutely everything you care about. Well, this simplifies my day, and next Tuesday I'll go vote while wearing a giant hat in honor of the women's suffrage movement.)

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016
12:58 am
Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974): beware the Toad Perimeter
I just watched Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter for the first time. It's lumbering, poorly paced, and endearingly silly. I was annoyed by the hero, a handsome and vapid dingus whom we were constantly directed to love. The harder a movie tries to make me love a character, the more I dig in my heels and shout "NO!" Of course he had interesting scars, hero scars that indicated backstory without making him unattractive or disabled, and spent too much time with his shirt off, and had a tragic backstory that involved him coming home from the (presumably Napoleonic) wars to find that his mom and sister had been vampirized and it was up to him to stake them both. And he has bite marks on his neck that can never heal.

Also he has a katana.

What I am really saying is that Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden's Baltimore, Or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire is a novel from 2007 that does the same stuff only better.

Things that made Captain Kronos worth watching:

--Kronos has a support crew consisting of plucky girl Iforgethername Butshegetsnaked and Professor Hieronymous Grost. The latter is an unglamorous older man in worn-out black clothes, with a twinkle in his eye. He is a man of learning; you can tell that by his gold spectacles, huge vocabulary, kindly manner, physical frailty and mental fearlessness. And I fell in love instantly.

--He's severely hunchbacked, which is implied to have made him a lifelong target of cruelty and teasing, and he's never become callous enough to laugh it off. I immediately assumed he would be the Igor, and was pleased to find he was more complex than that. This brings my total score of heroic hunchbacks in media up to three, off the top of my head. (The others are Quasimodo in the Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame and Nina in House of Dracula. There must be more than that, surely?)

--Despite Kronos having hired him for his mind, Grost does most of the heavy lifting, because Kronos is too handsome to cook, light fires, dig, set traps, or drive teams of horses. Grost is also the Van Helsing, supplying silly vampire lore whenever necessary, his spectacles glittering with enthusiasm. Get this: Grost even has a forging scene, where he spends a night grinding a massive steel crucifix into a magic vampire-slaying sword for the benefit of Kronos. The latter, meanwhile, meditates with a pillowcase over his head. I entertained a brief hope for a twist where Grost was actually in charge, and he'd hired Kronos as a handsome public face for their vampire-hunting operation. However, that would have required the movie taking itself less seriously.

--There is this one poor guy who gets vamped and only notices days later, when he goes to shave and finds his face looks twenty years too young and he's getting a fang boner. Kronos and Grost respond to his cries of, "Kill me! Please kill me!" by tying him to a chair, staking him, failing, hanging him, failing to kill him even with the weight of the chair that's still tied to his ass, and then threatening him with a lighted match.

--There's a brutal swordfight at the end of the movie. I was not expecting this, but it was still fun.

--The silly toad folklore. Professor Grost repeats a superstition:

If a vampire should bestrode
Close to the grave of a dead toad,
Then the vampire life shall give
And suddenly the toad shall live.

...and weaponizes this superstition by burying toads around a suspicious area and then digging them up to check whether they've come back to life when various shady characters cross the Toad Perimeter.

See, even though that was made up for a half-assed movie, that's not the silliest vampire superstition I've seen. An actual folkloric belief I read about once somewhere is that when a vampire bathes, rain falls from the sky, and so if you're an Eastern European landowner and there's a drought, you get all your laborers to take baths, because I'm not pointing any fingers but if one of you guys is a vampire, we really need the rain. (I read this on Tumblr so it must be true.)

Ah, well. This movie suffers by comparison with most everything else Hammer's ever done; I kept thinking that Peter Cushing might have been middle-aged at the time he played a hunter, but he could still run around a castle slaughtering vampires and make me care about the outcome. Tonight I was just there for the put-upon sidekicks.
Sunday, October 30th, 2016
10:13 pm
Aren't you scared? Well, that's just fine!
Today was once known in parts of New England as Mischief Night, or by similar names. My mother grew up in Dedham, MA, in the forties and fifties, and she has an odd story about the tradition she saw in her childhood for October 30th. She grew up in a neighborhood which is now a genteel suburb but was then a commercial intersection full of urban blight. She and her mother and siblings lived in the top floor of a run-down building, over a fish and chip shop that caught fire multiple times over the course of Mom's childhood. One of her early memories is being carried out of the smoky building as a small child in the arms of a fireman.

Mom once told me a story about this date that went something like this: When I was a little girl, October 30th was the big night for pranks and vandalism. As it got dark, boys would go out into the farms and steal old carts and wagons that had been sitting around rotting since the farms switched over to using tractors, and they would come running down the road past our door pulling the wagons behind them, and they would pile all the old wrecked wagons up in the middle of the square and pour on gasoline and set them on fire, and the flames would go shooting thirty feet in the air, and they'd keep it burning till late.

Thinking about that, I recently re-watched The Crow. As Detroit Jesus stories go, I didn't enjoy the tale of sad clown bird Jesus as much as the tale of depressed cyborg policeman Jesus or mad scientist burn victim Jesus, but it still holds up for me. aunt_zelda pointed out in her own recent watch that Devil's Night is/was a real thing. Seemingly, it was horrifying enough in the 1990s for fiction to reference someone's apartment building being burned down by arsonists on Devil's Night, and expect that everyone would know what that was about, at least in the US.

That led me to discover the Nain Rouge, Detroit's own cryptid. The Nain Rouge is a creepy little red hominid imp, possibly related to the Old World's lutins. It causes all of Detroit's problems and is ritually hanged in effigy and banished from the city every year in a massive March parade called the Marche Du Nain Rouge (which is apparently a successful new tradition created in 2010). A short video on the Nain's background is here. I haven't checked how much of the stories about Cadillac, the early colony, etc. are verifiable, or how far back they go. I have the sense it's about as factual as Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown."
Saturday, October 29th, 2016
12:06 pm
We'll joke and push about the pitcher
For the benefit of my friends in the greater Boston area who don't use Facebook: you're all welcome to the traditional song swap at my house on the 6th. Please message me for any further details.

From FB invite:

Traditional song swap at my house, November 6th! Come to sing or to listen. The start time will be at 1:00.

Come and share your songs! Let's have a lot of good choruses and participatory songs, 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.

Around 6:00, we'll break for a potluck supper. Bring food! Particularly welcome: main dishes and salads. If you're not sure what food you want to bring, do ask me for suggestions. We can even sing more during and after dinner, if we're in the mood.

At this sing, I'm going to have a donation hat available for the benefit of the Youth Traditional Song Weekend scholarship fund, which I'll be happy to tell you about in hopes of recruiting future attendees. I won't be pressuring anyone to donate in person--it'll just be there. http://www.youthtradsong.org/ for more info.

Please share this event announcement with anyone you can think of who likes traditional singing. For address and directions, please comment here, message me or send me an e-mail at aprilcatherinegrant at gmail dot com. I live near Powderhouse Square; parking in my neighborhood is free on Sundays.
Friday, October 21st, 2016
3:49 pm
Oh, shut up, Louis!
I watched Interview with the Vampire on a big screen last night. I used to think of that movie as having no plot. Now, it strikes me that it's the tale of Louis fleeing one abusive relationship successfully, only to blunder right into another one. Truly, it takes a long time to learn how to avoid getting involved with terrible people.

Thoughts in no real order:

What a beautiful movie. Every frame, well, not exactly a painting, it's too crowded and cluttered for that, but an orgy of color. Tom Cruise as Lestat is as pretty and pastel and frilly as one of those big fancy flowered ice cream cakes from Toscanini's.

You know whose story I want now? Louis's enslaved housekeeper, who must be an exceptionally kind young woman not to have fled far away as soon as she started finding drained rats all over the floor and realized that Louis didn't care about plantation security anymore. She deserves better than to be an incidental death in the first act. RIP Kindly Slave-Housekeeper Lady.

There's a ton of room in the world for stories about slave uprisings against vampire overlords. I've never seen anyone talk about Louis being a slave-owner, but with his passive, self-loathing, self-pity, he's permitting Lestat the idle aristocrat to literally suck the blood of the workers. I think horror/spec fic tends to replace the victimized groups with monsters and supernatural beings (because so many of us are on the side of the monsters and magical beings) so we never have to examine the love of power and ease as being a monstrous thing that comes at the expense of vulnerable humans. (And has anyone written about the Romany families who serve Dracula and who get used in sub-Dracula fiction as "the Count's gypsies"?)

What with the pedophilia, how the hell did this book become a bestseller without more backlash? They soft-pedaled those elements for the film; I recall Claudia is like five in the book, as opposed to Kirsten Dunst's eleven or twelve. (And I think this is one of the best child actor performances I've ever seen. She convinces me that she's an adult in the body of a child, while still being unable to avoid the childish voice and mannerisms because she's been using them in a manipulative way as her hunting strategy for years.) Armand is a teenager in the book, but it still works to have a great big adult Antonio Banderas in the role. (Though they did keep it creepy there: Armand has a small human boy with bite marks all over his arms, and he offers little tastes of him to guests.)

In the book, I recall Louis and Lestat sharing a coffin (and how transgressive and liberating it seemed at the time), whereas in the film Louis is put in a single, separate coffin by the smirking Lestat as an initiation ritual of fear.

Thank goodness they didn't retain some of the worse elements of the transformation in the movie. When you're made a vampire you get the runs. I'm serious. Every time a character was vamped in the books, you'd get a loving description of their agony over the course of some hours, where they shook with chills and fever, poured with sweat, and then vomited and passed urine and feces until their body was empty of normal human stuff like food remnants and intestinal flora. It did give the transformation weight as a terrible, irreversible thing, where you have to suffer through the pain and physical disgust of death before you can become immortal.

That one older woman with the yappy dogs was so happy for a while. She thought she and her boy-toy were going to have group sex with the pretty young men. I do wish they could have shown her a good time before they killed her. RIP Yappy Dog Woman.

In his quiet way, Armand is the nastiest manipulator in the movie. Lestat is nothing to Armand, who uses his gang to murder his new crush's family so his new crush will have a lot of free time and need consoling, then uses his crush to kill his gang, because he's sick of them. *dust hands* Come to my arms, mon amour!

I've seen it observed by cleolinda among others that the Anne Rice vampires are like the X-Men, in that they tend to have varied secondary powers. The friends who I went to the movie with observed that Lestat's power is orgasming people to death, Louis' is brooding so hard he sinks into the ground, Claudia's is stamping her foot and getting her way, Santiago's is reading minds (mostly for the purpose of doing Harpo Marx routines), and Armand's is having long luscious hair.

Every time Louis and Armand whispered with their noses close together, I reached up and pretended to smush their heads against each other and mouthed, "NOW KISS." I guess it's true: the public will lap up sexual tension between men as long as they can pretend it's not real. Vampires are both an excuse to show same-sex eroticism and a convenient cover story in case the moral guardians show up. "No! They love blood! BLOOD!"

There is a victory of sorts for Louis, going to the filthy house in the Garden Quarter where Lestat is huddling under a shock blanket trying to ignore the modern world. I liked The Vampire Lestat as much as anyone (and I love Tom Cruise's gesture at the very end of the movie, foppishly tugging his filthy lace cuffs out of his jacket sleeves), but Lestat works better as an antagonist, by me. Most of the time Louis is such a bundle of misery that it feels great to let him have that one moment of "What the hell did I ever see in you?" No matter what Louis does with the rest of his immortality, at least he doesn't have to spend it with Lestat.

What a come-down that is from Lestat's introduction, where he literally sweeps Louis off his feet and flies above the Mississippi River as Louis swoons and cuddles him. I'd had no idea Brad Pitt could look so submissive or so aroused. Bless him and the other actors -- I get the feeling everyone who worked on this film is vaguely embarrassed by it now, but they did give it their all, and I appreciate it.
Thursday, October 13th, 2016
11:31 pm
I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls
A wiki walk this evening took me to buildings like Wat Rong Khun, which is technically a privately funded and owned art exhibit and sculpture garden. Even so, it's known as the White Temple. The work of sculptor Chalermchai Kositpipat, it's full of surprises like this puddle of clawing hands and screaming faces which symbolize unrestrained desire, and this buff dragon man erupting from the moat. (Is he a Naga? Not sure.)

A chance reference in that article took me to meet the Kinnara and Kinnari, benevolent mystical beings from southeast Asian Buddhist and Hindu tradition. Depending on who you ask, the kinnaras (or kinnaree, in Thailand, where they're mostly depicted as female) are either half-bird, half human, a human upper torso growing out of the bottom of an ostrich with a long plume of tail sticking out the back, or the kinnaras (male) are a human upper body plus a horse's ass and hind legs, while the kinnaris have bird butts and wings sexily jutting out of each hip. "In Hindu mythology, Kinnara is described as half man, half-horse, and half-bird," says Wikipedia. That clears that up.

For sure, they're beautiful and endearing. Not angels, not harpies, just cute, loving bird people. It's nice having non-scary bird people around. My knowledge of the Mahabhrata is nil, but there's a quote in that wiki page about how the Kinnara represent total romantic and sexual devotion, constantly wrapped up in each other, with no room for anybody else; just gazing into each other's eyes eternally and, I assume, going at it without pause. If kinnaras have a fault, it's probably just that they're the kind of couple who are so in love they neglect their friends sometimes.

And speaking of art, please behold Sala Keoku, a sculptural garden near Nong Khai, Thailand, full of huge concrete Buddhist sculptures and symbols. The seven-headed naga is awe-inspiring, but the real standout of this collection is the giant naga, or possibly a deity I haven't identified yet. It fills me with admiration and HOLY SHIT WHAT IS WRONG WITH ITS FINGERS LIKE DOES IT HAVE WHOLE SNAKES FOR FINGERS OR DID THE ARTIST HATE SCULPTING HANDS OR DID THE CONCRETE MELT OR WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH ITS FINGERS AAAAAAAHHHHHH~

Just so I don't confine my love of unsettling sculptures to Southeast Asia, check out the Park of the Monsters, a 16th-century sculpture garden near the castle of Orsini, in Lazio, Italy. I had never heard of the place before tonight, but now it's on my life list of destinations.
Thursday, October 6th, 2016
1:00 pm
Audio: "Luella Miller," by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
"Luella Miller," by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, read by April Grant. Happy October!

I've also started a Tumblr for my audio work: The Moon Dial. Updates will be irregular but heartfelt, and continue beyond October. As I said there--

Our first story of the season: all about good neighbors being kind and helpful.

The Moon Dial is taking requests now. Do you want me to read a creepy story aloud? Let’s hear about it.

Here are our constraints: it must be horror/weird/supernatural fiction, it must be by a female author, and it must be in the public domain. Within those guidelines, the sky’s the limit and I would be delighted to take requests. (I will consider all arguments as to the definition of “supernatural fiction.”) Ask away!
Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
10:49 am
And a very good time it was too
Cross-posting from Facebook; apologies to those seeing this twice:

I started watching "Once Upon A Time." Hoo boy... I like it. Sweet Mother of Mary Shelley, what's come over me?! Usually I'm too much of a folklore snob for this sort of thing.

Well, OK, I know what got me started. (a) I need a fluffy distraction show right now, and (b) I like Robert Carlyle and his strange little fox face. "Ravenous" was apparently my gateway drug to watching everything he's ever done. Actor crushes take you to some weird places.
Monday, September 19th, 2016
3:14 pm
It's lonely being a cannibal. Tough making friends.
I got to show Ravenous (1999) to kestrell and alexx_kay yesterday. It was delightful. Zelda, you were one hundred per cent correct about me and this movie. I keep coming back to it. It has all sorts of things I love, and the way it unites them is beautiful. For a movie about human flesh, this is damn good-looking. Blood pouring down window glass with the light behind it is a gorgeous color, of course, but I also like the contrast between attractive human bodies and devastated corpses, bleak snow or acres of mud versus gorgeous clothing, fine horses, stark mountains, bright blue skies, the sun through branches. (This movie has a fucked-up reason to show you the sun through evergreen branches. Of course it would.)

Alexx and Kestrell wondered how I took the cannibalism, since I'm a vegetarian. I was less bothered than you might think by the human flesh--by the time the camera lingers on the act of eating, the flesh has been made into a delicious-looking stew with chunks of carrots, potatoes, and onions. (I feel the urge to make something similar, using seitan.) The disturbing part for me was the coercion--either tricking a person into eating human flesh, or placing them in a position where they have no choice but to eat or die. There are circumstances where cannibalism isn't necessarily evil, e.g., if you're starving to death in extreme circumstances and you have access to a human body which you didn't personally murder. But one person coercing another to eat something vile... that makes me angry. Antonia Bird dug down to a deep nerve in my morality.

This time around, I noticed how fond I am of Colonel Hart. Of course I like him. He's a burned-out old guy who still tries to be a decent person and look after the poor jerks assigned to Fort Spencer; he retains a sense of humor even as he drinks and desponds. He's played by Jeffrey Jones, who looks like a big sad fox and does a good Dad Voice. The movie does well at giving you the sense that all the characters would turn out to be complex people if the story had a reason to find out about them, which it doesn't. Total, ruinous spoilers from here on in. I'm going to spoiler cut a post about a seventeen-year-old film because, if there's someone out there who hasn't watched it and wants to, trust me, it'll be more fun to go in without knowing the twists.Collapse )
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