pleasures

Jun. 26th, 2014 09:00 pm
zirconium: black pearl pepper plant at Cheekwood (black pearl pepper)
1. Putting together breakfast this morning for a friend from grade school and his wife, which mainly consisted of stopping by Sweet 16th for four to go.

2. The Straight to Ale beer tasting at Woodland Wine Merchant. My favorite was Unobtainium. Rich (their sales manager) was fun to chat with; Tyler talked me into picking up a bottle of Ransom gin (I'm not a fan of most gins, but I do like jenever, and I like whisky, and the Ransom reportedly has elements of both); and staying to the end of the tasting meant that Rich poured me an exceedingly generous portion of Monkeynaut, which I sipped while reading picture books such as Maira Kalman's Chicken Soup, Boots and Sasek's This Is Paris.

Also, a neighbor and I and Rich started chatting about space monkeys (Straight to Ale is based in Huntsville, hence beers named after Laika and the like), and the neighbor reminisced about taking her daughter to the US Space and Rocket Center while the monkeys were still there, and one of the monkeys playing pattycake with her daughter through the barrier for twenty minutes.

Also, another neighbor showed up with a super-sweet lovey-dovey doggie.

3. Speaking of picture books, I happened on Gloria Houston and Barbara Cooney's The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story at the library. It is a beautiful story, with a strong woman who is not its central character and yet is its true heroine.

4. On my walk to the library, I passed a young boy (eight years old or thereabouts) calling out "Have fun at banjo!" to a girl about to enter a house a few doors down. She cheerfully replied, "Thank you!" I just -- this is Nashville, and I have the heart of a mountain troll, and yet, God, it was just so unbelievably cute and real.

5. My micro-poem "Five Finger Frustration" was published by unFold today.

6. Coming home in time to see Roger Federer slam down three aces in a row.

7. Reviewing the proof for the 2014 Dwarf Stars anthology, which will include three of my poems.

8. World Cup mania = soccer on the TVs in waiting rooms and the like. A vast improvement over the usual daytime fare, imnsho.

9. I'm still alive in the Wimbledon men's suicide pool. (I consider making it past the first day an occasion worthy of champagne, and I may well treat myself to a jeroboam if I get to the second week.)
zirconium: photo of flask with feathers in and around it (flask with feathers)
In the most recent batch of picture books from the library, the one I like best is Hena Khan's Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story (Chronicle, 2008), beautifully iluustrated by Julie Paschkis with lots of blue, green, and gold. I especially like how Yasmeen's Eid present at the end ties in with the overall storyline of her gazing at the moon.

In other goings-on:

  • fourteen takes on Hopkins's "The Windhover", including mine


  • a reading of Traci Brimhall's The Labyrinth


  • a reading of Uma Gowrishankar's At the Moment of Death: Bardo 1
  • zirconium: Unitarian Universalist chalice with pink triangle as base (rainbow chalice)
    Virtual: Hena Khan's Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. While I prefer picture books on paper, I do like checking them out (so to speak) via my library's online lending program, especially when said program recommends books to me that might not otherwise show up on my radar, like this one. It's a beautiful book, and I now want to look up the other books the author and artist have produced.

    Physical: Elisabeth Kushner's The Purim Superhero, illustrated by Mike Byrne. This one was brought to my attention by someone on my Twitter feed, who pointed to an essay expressing disappointment with PJ Library's decision to make it an opt-in selection (rather than an automatic delivery, as all its other selections have been) because the dads in the story are gay. I didn't save the link to that column, but these comments are in a like vein, and Keshet reports that subscribers opted in in droves.

    This Tablet article covers a lot about what I like about the book, including the line that made me stop and sniffle: the hero of the story is feeling pressured to choose a superhero costume for Purim, even though, left to his own devices, he would rather be an alien.


    "Max said I need to pick a superhero."

    "Is Max your boss?" Abba said.

    "All the boys are going to be superheroes," said Nate.

    "You know," Abby said, "not all boys have to be the same thing."

    Max thought about how most kids had a mom and dad, not a Daddy and an Abba.

    "Abba?" Nate asked. "Do you ever just want to be like everybody else?"


    Do you ever just want to be like everybody else? Oh. Oh, my heart.

    Also? The cast includes a dad who sews and a woman rabbi. Yes!
    zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
    We have a bit of snow right now. Last week, there was a lot of wind. It flung penny-sized pinecones from a neighbor's tree into my driveway and front yard. They are adorable (but I have in turn been flinging them into the compost pile).

    penny-sized pine cone

    I wanted some short comfort reads last week, so I brought home a stack of picture books. I ended up discussing a couple of passages from Tomie dePaola's Christmas Remembered with an Italian American friend ("have you ever eaten scungilli?"). Of the rest of the books, the two I enjoyed most were Karen Hesse's Come On, Rain! (1999) and Kathryn Lasky's Georgia Rises: A Day in the Life of Georgia O'Keeffe (2009), respectively illustrated by Jon J. Muth and Ora Eitan.

    Come On, Rain! -- Muth's watercolors are terrific, and what's more, the book features a diverse cast without making a big deal of it: Tessie, the narrator, is African American; Jackie-Joyce is maybe black or Latina; Rosemary is white, and Liz is Asian. Also, city!

    Georgia Rises -- Eitan's style is interesting. Her choices of when to be precise (as in her spot illlustration of Georgia tugging on a stocking) and when to leave things rough-edged or blurry (as in many of the main paintings) could occupy me for days. (That's not an adequate description, actually -- it's clear that when Eitan decided to let the paper or lower layers of paint show through the upper layers, that was every bit as deliberate as the placement of a crescent moon or the half-circles delineating a dog bowl.) I liked that the illustrator was not attempting to ape O'Keeffe, and -- this is unusual for me -- that the paintings had a folky, somewhat primitive feel to them. Kind of 2.5-D - not quite flat, but not full-bore perspective.

    Speaking of artistic choices, Jessi Graustein (whose press, Folded Word, has published some of my micropieces from time to time, has been posting some photos of her calligraphy practice/work on her Flickr photostream now and then. The glimpses of her playing with an Icelandic greeting are nifty.
    zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
    I've recently sketched out a couple of poems related to "The Princess and the Pea," which got me curious about other versions out there -- so I borrowed some picture-book retellings from the library.

    My favorite, by far, is Lauren Child's take on the matter. Two things stand out for me:

    (1) the focus is not only on the prince's search for a "real" princess, but on the princess's curiosity and her appetite for beauty, which leads her out into the night in the first place ("The moonlight shone in such a magical way that she wondered to herself if it could possibly look as beautiful on the other side of the garden wall. . .") And, much later, picking up a teacup:

    The princess couldn't help thinking there was something romantic, something dramatic, something...strangely charming about his clumsiness, and she bent down to pick up the cup. A real princess will always pick up your teacup if you drop it -- kindness is practically their middle name -- but this was not the only reason she did so.

    There was a light in the prince's dark eyes that reminded her of all the stars in the night sky.


    (2) I really like that Child has the princess refrain from admitting she didn't sleep well until the king directly asks her what's wrong. Because this was indeed bothering me about the earlier versions I'd read:


    ...the queen was forgetting that any real princess has such impeccable manners that it would be impossible for her to tell her host, who had gone to all the effort of making her a bed stacked with twelve feather mattresses, that, in fact, it was the most uncomfortable night that she had ever had, in all her life.


    (Mind, I still have issues with the whole specialness-of-royal-bodies conceit, but that's something I'll tangle with some more in the sketchbook. [I've just been reminded that my MA thesis was pretty much on this topic; apparently this bee is doomed to permanent residence in my bonnet.])

    There's a review by Joanna Carey at The Guardian that describes more to like about the book, primarily from a visual point of view.

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