zirconium: me @Niki de St Phalle's Firebird (firebird)
When Miss Dog nosed me off the couch this morning, my head was still aching and my throat still raw from the cold that hit me toward the end of last week, and I staggered back to the cushions thinking that I'd be flat on my back for another day and in no state even to watch videos (a library copy of The Crossing, is waiting for me; it may be of interest to some of you because, according to one YouTube commenter, "Alexander Hamilton [Steven McCarthy] never looked so sexy!" and I admittedly requested it because I'm still working through my Roger Rees fetish; he plays Hugh Mercer).

At any rate, three more hours of sleep + meds + coffee somehow worked wonders, at least to the extent of me feeling up to light gardening. I pruned the mess around the rogue rosebush and rooted three cuttings from it, dipping them first in honey:

Honey as a rooting compound

"Honey" is also prompt 43 in Upper Rubber Boot's 100 Untimed Books photo challenge, so this passage from an Emily Dickinson letter (28 December 1880) caught my eye:

The Honey reached us yesterday.

Honey not born of Bee -- but Constancy -- which is "far better." I can scarcely tell you the sweetness it woke, nor the sweetness it stilled.

100 untimed books - honey

In introducing the letter, the recipient's granddaughter notes that "death was again uppermost in [Emily's] mind" at this time, "two more persons were gone who had meant much to her in different ways" -- the novelist George Eliot and the physician David P. Smith. I am not grieving, exactly, but I did hear of two deaths last week that have me perhaps clinging a touch tighter to the connections that have persisted across time and distance. Both women died of cancer -- one last November, one this past March -- and I am not surprised that I was not in the loop about either passing, as it's been more than fifteen years since I saw either of them and I am no longer close to the people who would have known to let me know. But I am also immensely grateful to the connections deep enough to transmit both news and warmth every few years, which is how I found out about the former colleague, and to the internet's obituary archives for providing me closure on Marilyn, whose paintings hang in my living room and library. My copy of E. E. Cummings's collected poems was already pretty beat-up when I impulsively gave it to her during a workshop we were taking together; I wonder if it survived her own moves since 1995, or if a family member chucked it into a dumpster during the final cleaning-out, or if maybe she handed it on to another penny-pinched artist to enjoy.

I am not really fretting over what happened to the book, of course; it is merely somewhere for the sadness to go until I regain the drive to channel it into poems. In the meantime: honey and dirt. For perhaps the roses really want to grow...

rose propagation

best years

Oct. 20th, 2015 07:32 pm
zirconium: doll with bike @High Point Doll Museum (doll with bike)
Prompt 38 in Upper Rubber Boot's 100 Untimed Books photo challenge is best years.

38 - best years

I'm indulging in irony here, as Niki and Harry's marriage did not last, though Harry would later remember their years together as "fabulous" and Niki would write about becoming close friends with Harry's second wife and sharing many secrets with her. A woman who spent her life with a paintbrush in one hand and a 22-calibre rifle in the other, Niki de Saint Phalle survived abuse and multiple suicide attempts to create compelling works of art.

Harry and Me is a book that zigs and zags from memories of delight to memories of frustration to memories of contentment. There's Niki being so distraught at the death of a parakeet that she slashes "a very good painting"; she says that Harry then became "furious with me and he made me promise to never ever take my grief out on my work like that again." Then, a few pages later, there's a clash of styles in Madrid:

Harry was very careful and meticulous with his proper use of the Spanish language. I on the other hand, wanted only to communicate. I did not care about grammar (or mistakes in general) and my Spanish annoyed him no end. Because of Harry's perpetual correction, which grated my nerves, I stupidly gave up speaking it although I could understand it well enough.

But there was also happiness:

One of Harry's and my great pleasures during our several trips to Spain was to eat in tapas bars instead of regular restaurants. We ate at tapas bars in Cordoba when we went to visit the mosque there, and I think also in Madrid. These tapas bars served a huge variety of spicy, heavy and delicious nibbles to be eaten while sipping the strong red Spanish wine. There were tapa of all kinds: squid tapa, sausage tapa, chicken and olive tapa, and shellfish tapa, etc. Harry and I would sit at the bars for long hours and just point to the things that we wanted to eat.
zirconium: photo of Greek style coffee, Larnaca, October 2011 (coffee in Cyprus)
[photo challenge: Upper Rubber Boot's 100 Untimed Books] prompt 35: prescriptions for loneliness

Alfred A. Knopf's photo album came to mind when I was pondering this prompt, perhaps because it's where I store my copy of the program for the 1945 dinner in honor of Fred Melcher's fifty years in publishing (Melcher being a prominent Unitarian Universalist who, among many other roles, was a key player in establishing the Newbery and Caldecott medals).

35 - prescriptions for loneliness

35 - prescriptions for loneliness

In Victoria Glendinning's biography of Elizabeth Bowen, there's a photo of Elizabeth at the Knopf home in Purchase, New York. I find Glendinning's generalizations about sexuality and friendship irritating, but within the nonsense there are glimpses of a past generation's true moments of connection:

William Maxwell of The New Yorker/ observed that [Elizabeth] was at her best and most affectionate when she was with Blanche and Alfred Knopf -- "I always felt that they must have played together as children" -- and he remembered a dinner party with the Knopfs and Elizabeth as "a kind of blaze of happiness.

The clipping is from an October 4 edition of the New York Times, in which Penelope Green writes about interviewing Patti Smith:

"I just do my work, and I work every day, and my ambition is just to do something better than I last did," she said. "I'd like to write something as great as Pinocchio or Little Women. I won't say Moby-Dick because that's impossible. I'd like to write a book that everybody loves. I'd like to take a picture that someone wants to put above their desk so they can look at it while they're writing a letter or doing whatever they're doing while sitting at their desk. I'd like to do a painting that would astonish people."

But books are her deepest love, and writing them is clearly her keenest ambition. When she received her advance from Knopf, the publisher of M Train, she bought a bronze statue of a young boy who has caught a bird in his hands; she set it in her tangled front yard here.

"It was my dream to be with Knopf since I was 20," she said. "I wanted to have something solid to mark that. I bought him because he reminded me of Peter Pan."
zirconium: doll with bike @High Point Doll Museum (doll with bike)
In Dan Chiasson's recent NYT feature on Robert Rauschenberg's archives:

In a file cabinet, personal letters from the choreographer Trisha Brown and Al Gore shared folders with a clipped-out New York Times review of a sushi place and a cartoon of a guy taking his pet radish for a walk. The impression is of a life in which making art was, to a remarkable degree, an extension of friendship.
zirconium: snapshot of my healthiest hollyhock plant (French hollyhock)
Today's subject line comes from Sam Anderson's piece in the NYT Magazine on blind contour drawing:

It turns out that the world, on close examination, is gloriously strange. Things are lumpier and hairier than we have been led to believe. . . . Sleeve wrinkles can be as beautiful as the most exotic flower. Every object (book, pencil, glove, banana) is in fact a bewildering universe of lines.

Today has been a letting-my-brain-regrow day, what with logging over sixty hours of work this week between the day job and a side project. There have been some weird-even-for-me meals, what with the piling up of dishes and deferring of grocery shopping and miscalculating of minutes left in my lunch break: today's mint-chard-miso soup was a result of me shredding the greens and herbs for a salad on Thursday, realizing I had to returning to the office before I'd finished assembling the salad, and then coming home to a frozen slab of leaves because I'd neglected to wrap the plate in plastic wrap before shoving it into the fridge. Oops.

I was stone tired all this morning, so for breakfast and lunch I supplemented the leftovers with runny fufu:


For dessert, some jello I'd made with agar-agar I'd bought as a prop for my Heartbreak Happy Hour performance back in February:

Filipino agar-agar bar agar-agar dessert cups

For dinner, I might roast a chicken. But the BYM is frolicking with goats today, so maybe I'll just make another mint-chard salad and do the rest of the dishes and trim dead leaves from the tomato jungle:

tomato plant

Without the cooking and cleaning and contemplation, there would not be the stamina for helping with the constructing and chronicling of more glamorous events and exhibitions:

The Frist Center at night
zirconium: sculpture of owl at Cheekwood, Nashville (Cheekwood owl)
Michael Kimmelman, in a November 30, 1997 NYT review of Jenny Uglow's Hogarth:

This extravagantly detailed biography by Jenny Uglow is less a book of art history than a history of Hogarth's milieu. Much of his character, and the book's, is encapsulated in the colorful story Uglow recounts of a woman named Mary Tofts, who claimed to have become so obsessed with rabbits after failing to catch several of them in a field she was weeding that she suffered a miscarriage and began to deliver animals and animal parts. Fashionable medical men verified her story, among them a certain Nathanael St. Andre, a Swiss who was Anatomist to the Royal Household and a teacher of fencing and dancing before he took up surgery, who announced that he had personally delivered her of several rabbits.

This put Londoners off rabbit stew for a while. Then Mary conceded the hoax and St. Andre was forced to make a public apology. It was the sort of ripe event that Hogarth, like any tabloid cartoonist today, couldn't resist: absurd, bawdy, a perfect opportunity to skewer self-proclaimed experts like St. Andre and his fellow quacks, and also to strike a blow against mystification, which Hogarth despised in all forms, whether from doctors or politicians or art critics. His print "Cunicularii," or "The Rabbit Warren," sold briskly.
zirconium: Unitarian Universalist chalice with pink triangle as base (rainbow chalice)
Marlon James, in the NYT Magazine (March 10, 2015), on his first days in Minnesota, as a new instructor at Macalester College:

Seven days in, I put on jogging shoes and didn't stop running until I saw something I liked, the downtown Minneapolis skyline. For a man always fearing what people thought, I was suspicious of "Minnesota nice," everybody smiling and saying hello while they kept walking. But by the end of the first week, somebody I'd just met gave me a bicycle to get around; someone else bought me coffee mugs. Another professor, Casey, who moved here to teach as well, was into the band My Bloody Valentine and "Project Runway."

zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
I attended a memorial service for the extraordinary Elizabeth Papousek this morning. At the end of the service, Rev. Seavey said that opening the hymnal at random (a habit of Elizabeth's at worship committee meetings) had led her to these words of Maria Mitchell (a Unitarian as well as an astronomer):

Small as is our whole system compared with the infinitude of

Brief as is our life compared with the cycles of time,

We are so tethered to all by the beautiful dependencies of law,

That not only the sparrow’s fall is felt to the uttermost bound but the vibrations set in motion by the words that we utter reach through all space and the tremor is felt through all time.

After the reception, I stopped at the Green Hills library, where some Advent calendars from the collection of the Steele Family were on display, including one featuring planets and stars:

Advent calendar

Advent calendar

(I also saw three other church members at the library while I was there. My tribe indeed.)
zirconium: snapshot of me at class in Israel (me with M14)
From Dorothy Wickenden's Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West (Scribner, 2011):

Sam [Perry] doted on Marjorie, his firstborn, treating her like a son. Every year she accompanied him on a weeks-long hunting expedition. As one newspaper account described her, "Wearing a heavy flannel shirt and chaps, like a cowboy of the plains, she has ridden through the wildest regions of the state, shooting deer and bear and even an occasional mountain lion." One year she returned with a bear cub she named Perrywinkle and kept in her parents' backyard in Denver. (As an older woman, when her two favorite dogs died, she skinned them and used their pelts as rugs.)

(On a side note, there is nothing like reading about pioneer wives to snap me out of a pity party right fast. Good God, what those women endured.)

17 Tamuz

Jul. 15th, 2014 06:32 pm
zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
"People must be taken one by one in the world, that is the way they are loved, believed, or understood, and when we are told to think in masses, we are lost for the one thing that is the essence and holy is gone. . . ."

- Eudora Welty to Diarmuid Russell, 23 December 1941 (quoted in One Writer's Garden)
zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (tulip)

Hearst's morning newspaper in Chicago had recently folded, and in a period when newspapermen were generally scarce, Chicago boasted a temporary surplus. So for an adamantly liberal newspaper, the Sun began life with a sensational collection--about half the staff--of Hearst hacks and reactionaries, spiced by a few rummies. (For months the Sun was referred to as "the Field Museum of Hearst Antiques.")

- Stephen Becker, MARSHALL FIELD III (1964)
zirconium: photo of ranunculus bloom on my laptop (ranunculus on keyboard)

Subtitlers face a number of questions beyond how much to translate. Slang and jargon are perennial tests, but so is humor.

Pascale Joseph, who specializes in translating from English to French, used to go to gun shops to find out certain arcane vocabulary; now it’s message boards on the web.

-- Nicolas Rapold, A Freelance Career, Found in Translation
zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
Abby 001

You can never learn this world too well, nor will you ever be bored by it. I don't fault my dog for not being able to count to three. It took me a whole life, including a million bars of waltz time, not to get lost.

- W. A. Mathieu, "Triple Nature," in THE MUSICAL LIFE (1994)
zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (tulip)
Here in Nashville, we've been under frost advisories this week, which in my case has meant re-covering the hydrangea, bringing in the plants I over-optimistically set outside last week, and snapping photos of the rest:

tulips, season 3

There was a sandwich board outside one of the bars down the street advertising a drink called the "Angry Gardener." I was tempted. But there was a magazine release party already on my calendar, and I was glad about prudence prevailing over temptation when, at the gathering, Emmely Duncan handed me a glass of strawberry vodka punch laced with black pepper syrup.

front of the house

Earlier in the day, I had been thinking it was time to bin the University of Michigan sweatshirt I was wearing. It was probably ready for the ragbag a couple of years ago, but today was the day I registered all the stains it had accumulated -- as in, I should've changed outfits before leaving the house. (Considering how laid back and grunge-tolerant my neighborhood is, this is saying something.)

Of course, when I realized this, I was already too far along just to turn around, so I went into the drugstore anyway. As I looked at a display of brooms (so many things in my house getting ratty...), an older African American man walked by me. Then he turned back, exclaiming, "Michigan?" He was wearing a Detroit Tigers cap. Oh, I wish you could have seen how his face lit up.

Speaking of clothing and identity, the New York Times published a piece this past Sunday sparked Harvey Fierstein's new play. The article is titled Clothes Make the Man, and -- potential trigger warning -- it raises all sorts of unsorted-out-ness about authenticity and beauty and comfort and gender, and, and, and ...

This paragraph had me nodding in recognition -- I may not share the specific need to wear boy vs. girl clothes, but do I relate to how certain clothes are me and others are not, and how what I wear can affect how me I am at a given moment? Oh yes.

"One person I spoke to said: 'When I have my boy clothes on, I feel like I'm at a party full of strangers, and there's great effort that goes into putting my best self forward. And when I put on my women's clothing, it's like walking into another room, and my best friend is sitting there, and I can breathe,'" Mr. Mantello said. "There's a certain poignancy in a transformation that feels cellular."

And immediately following that is the passage that spooked me the most:

If the guests at Casa Valentina love looking in the mirror at their femme selves, some of the actors have struggled with it. Mr. Birney recalled having a hard time making peace with how he looked as a woman.

"I was heartbroken," he said. "I asked the makeup artist, 'Can you make me prettier?'"

Mr. McGowan and the seventh man in the play, Larry Pine, said they had to reckon with their sagging middle-aged bodies, and the girdles and corsets used in the play.

"I look in the mirror, and I see a hideous woman, absolutely hideous," Mr. Pine said. Asked if that hurt, he replied, "Yeah."
zirconium: photo of ranunculus bloom on my laptop (ranunculus on keyboard)
Par la bouche de ce canon il neige. C'était l'enfer dans notre tête. Au même moment c'est le printemps au bout de nos doigts. C'est la foulée de nouveau permise, la terre en amour, les herbes exubérantes.

Snow is falling from the mouth of this cannon. There was hell in our heads. At the same time, spring's at our fingertips. Permission's granted to step forth again, the earth's in love, the grasses exuberant.

-- René Char; translated by Ralph Freedman, Donald Justice, and Paulène Aspel
zirconium: photo of flask with feathers in and around it (flask with feathers)
The third time is confirmation, methinks: no matter what color is in the jar (Voodoo Blue, Atomic Turquoise) or how much bleach I've used, my hair will turn into a deep, vivid green. I'm not complaining: it happens to match my glasses and eyeliner. There are worse superpowers to have.

What I need, though, is to cultivate a gracious way of handling St. Patrick's Day jokes while steering the chitchat into other directions. (March 17 coincides with a sad anniversary in my personal history.) I wonder if there's an economist or Nobel laureate I could make the green in honor of...

Oho, here we go: Joseph Bienaimé Caventou. French. Pharmacist. Co-isolated chlorophyll and caffeine. Caventou, you're my man!

(When you can't berate them, make their eyes glaze over. Heh.)

From Flower Confidential's section on Multi Color, a flower-painting factory:

"We can glitter anything," he said, moving cheerfully past the roses.

The chapter in general ("...a rose the color of blueberries. Actually, it's hard to compare this blue to any color you'd find in nature. It was more of a Las Vegas blue, a sequin-and-glitter blue. A blue you'd find in nail polish or gumballs, but not in a garden. Peter had hundreds of these blue roses...") reminded me of the the daisies that are doctored with shoe polish to pass for black-eyed Susans during the Preakness Stakes.

The window for Rhysling nominations will remain open until Saturday, February 22. My eligible poems can be viewed via this Google Doc until then.

I was thinking of baking a gingerbread Washington pie (from my Complete American Jewish Cookbook) in honor of the holiday, but we ate a a lot of dessert last night, and there are some savories higher on the list (specifically turnip cake and artichoke quiche). Also on this week's agenda: finetune 600 endnotes; relearn how to play poker; reacquaint myself with riding a bike (temperatures are supposed to reach 64 F this week); work on a birthday gift. Onward!
zirconium: snapshot of oysters enjoyed in Charleston (oysters)
This one's for the lawyers... ;-)

He often took his manuscript [of Physiologie du Goût] to court. In fact, it was in idle moments in the halls of justice that he wrote most of it. His other companion, besides his manuscript, was his dog, who went under the uncompromising name of Ida. She followed him everywhere and sat on the bench next to him both in the courtroom and in his favorite Café Lemblin. [His biographer] Monselet relates that during the hunting season the judge's presence was sometimes pungent. This was due to his habit of shooting small game birds and then carrying them around for days in the capacious pockets of his Prince Albert-like coat. As the birds became higher, his neighbors on the judicial bench became more uncomfortable, understandably enough.

-- Samuel Chamberlain, Bouquet de France

I also finally finished Amy Stewart's Flower Confidential last night (it seemed appropriate to do so on V-day), and then I turned to my Southern Living handbook to see if it had anything to say about building cold frames. (We have two window frames, one with the glass still intact. I shall probably turn them into cold frame lids eventually -- but right now it would be an elaborate variation of procrastination. Back to reading about bisphosphonates and selective estrogen receptor modulators...)
zirconium: photo of cupcake from Sweet 16th, Nashville (crackacino cupcake)
(aka what I was reading during dinner tonight)

The poularde, of course, is a young hen who has been forced by the cruelty of man to submit to an ovariotomy, so that she can be fattened more easily. Thus relieved of a myriad worrisome details, these placid hens avoid domestic cares completely. Indifferent to the chatter of the young, the rivalry of other females, and the philandering inconstancy of the male, she may devote her entire time to the pleasant business of fattening herself on the best corn. More than one critic has reflected upon this bit of skilled alteration which results in such subtle refinements of taste. Capons have suffered similar indignities with resultant plumpness and freedom from vagrant thoughts. One meditative gastronome has come up with the disquieting query: Do cannibals breed eunuchs for their choicest feasts?

[dinner tonight was hot chicken from Pepperfire, accompanied by a glass of Los Dos grenache+syrah :-) ]
zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
eggs baked in avocado halves

A cookbook I bought last year suggested baking eggs in avocado halves as an easy breakfast. The results were meh, but now I know what doesn't work for us (at least with this oven, which runs cooler and slower than those of typical test kitchens, based on other adjustments I've had to make to other recipes).

On the upside, the carrot wontons I made two nights ago turned out fine. I ground up a handful of carrots and seasoned them with sesame oil and black pepper...

Carrot filling

I spooned the filling into the wonton wrappers left over from the last time I made a batch of potstickers, and then steamed the lot:

Carrot wontons

I also made a decent goulash out of leftover turkey, rice, and corn (adding tomatoes, onion, cayenne, and the leftover carrot mixture). This morning I fried pancakes because we were out of bread.

This week's bathtub reading has been issue 139 of the Paris Review (1996). From the intro to an interview of A.R. Ammons:

For most of the next decade [1950s] he worked as a sales executive in his father-in-law's biological glass company on the southern New Jersey shore. Ammons published Ommateum, his first book of poems, with Dorrance, a vanity press, in 1955; a mere sixteen copies were sold in the next five years. (A copy today would fetch two thousand dollars.)

Bedtime reading has included bits of Anthony Glyn's The Seine. I am enchanted by this sentence: "Saint Seigne tried hard; it wasn't his fault that he was turned into a river-god."
zirconium: sculpture of owl at Cheekwood, Nashville (Cheekwood owl)
Henry Parland's My Hat: "My hat / was run over..."

Jones Very's The Hand and the Foot, a sonnet. I don't agree with the thesis but it's been in my clippings pile all this time because of the final couplet.

This item in Dylan Thomas's list of Useless Presents: "once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet."


zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)

November 2015



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