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 The other day I decided to spring for a couples' Royal Ontario Museum membership, so yesterday Andrew and I were able to take in the Tattoo show at the ROM. The ROM's regular exhibits are free on Fridays after 4:30pm, but not the special exhibits. I also admit I fancied the idea of being able to go to the concert in the members' lounge, but as it turns out, it's still a cash bar, and the music was... warblier than I'd been led to expect (they were supposed to be a blues band), so downstairs we went to see the tattoos, which was just as well, since we had just enough time to look at everything before closing time. 

Perhaps the most interesting exhibit was a case of letters from Sailor Jerry to Ed Hardy, discussing their art, Japanese tattooing traditions, also how busy Sailor Jerry was (he also hosted a radio show) and guys he'd worked with in the past. Couldn't help but notice that Sailor Jerry was much more formal in his hand-written letters than his typed ones. Perhaps the typed one was to someone else. It was in all caps and there was a lot of swearing.

"Tattoos" included a lot of new and old photos of people with tattoos, sketches and designs for tattoos, and several displays of body parts cast in silicon from live models, which were then tattooed with original designs commissioned for the show from the best-known tattoo artists working today. There was a touchable sample of the silicon "skin," which felt less realistic than it looked, and looked less realistic as a flat panel than as a body mould. I liked the Russian-Constructivist-influenced arm. The arm with the glow-in-the-dark tattoos in a maze-like design based on a swastika was... eerie. The text noted that the art was inspired by its pre-Nazi use as a positive symbol, but I can see why one would not want it in ink visible under normal circumstances.

An hour or so later I saw a post about the Razzouk family's tattoo shop, whose sign reads "since 1300," though I believe the hard documentation only goes back to 1600, and said "I think they were in that exhibit I just saw."

Next time, we check out the exhibit on bishonen in Japanese art.

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 Years ago, I had one of those dreams where you remember your house has one or more extra rooms you never use. In this case, I was in another neighbourhood, at night and in the rain, and suddenly remembered I had another apartment nearby where I could stay the night.

I can't picture the place in any detail, but the architecture and decor were sort of 1930s-40s Modernist, with a melancholy yet comforting vibe. Recently it occurred to me it was like the Thorne Rooms' California Hallway, and also like some of Paul R. William's work. I think at the time I also identified it with the Hotel Central, Belem, described in the intro to Daisann McLane's Cheap Hotels.

I've never managed to conjure it up again, but when I can't sleep, I remind myself I own an Art Deco flat in my dreams.
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 My co-worker's musical tastes are pretty eclectic, and despite being twenty-two she occasionally puts on Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again." I assume the 'again' part refers to his hit the year before with "The Twist," but it always strikes me as slightly weird that the song evokes nostalgia for... the previous summer.

I suppose a year *is* a long time in the music business, or when you're a teenager, or if something terrible has happened in the meantime (see: most of 2016). But the cheery tone of  "Let's Twist Again" doesn't really fit any of those scenarios. It's not "Let's twist again, like we did last summer, before you broke my heart," or " "Let's twist again, like we did last summer, before that bus crash killed the whole pep squad."

Come to think of it, both of those could have been hits in the early 'sixties, but they're not really in the same musical genre.
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More vintage-mystery news: a few days ago I finally located some of H.C. Bailey's Reggie Fortune stories online -- the first collection, as it happens. Apparently the character appeared in around eighty stories, but all I've ever been able to find in hard copy is one short story in an anthology many years ago, and a reprinted novel (Black Land, White Land) some time in the past decade. I've finally been able to read a sizeable chunk of the stuff, and I'm not sure just how to describe it.

Mr. Fortune (a doctor who keeps getting consulted by the police, often to his annoyance) is usually described, when the stories are remembered at all these days, as a Lord Peter Wimsey knock-off, usually by people who hate Wimsey. I don't see the resemblance myself, except that he speaks in the odd slang of a certain type of 1920s upper-class character. YMMV, but for me this dialect is sufficiently removed in time that I can view it as period detail rather than an annoying affectation (casual racism is pretty much a given for this period, though the character who keeps being described as "the little Jew" becomes a trusted ally, and almost everyone lower-class or flamboyantly foreign turns out to have been wrongly suspected, which makes me wonder if Bailey was deliberately subverting cliche, or if I just got lucky in this collection).

Fortune's age in the first story is given as thirty-five. He is interested in wide variety of subjects; two that frequently come up are the theatre, and archeology. He is frequently described as neat and placid, almost too much so; he claims to have no imagination. Under his bland surface, he's got a rather fierce passion for justice. He doesn't put it into words until the novella that concludes the collection, but by that point we've seen him kill the murderer himself in one story, and possibly in a second one. Without being supernatural, there's something faintly numinous about the stories which escalates as they go on; by the last one in the book, Fortune is up against a killer he suspects is both methodical and profoundly unhinged, yet somehow the creepiest section is that in which he examines the victim's flat, a set of rooms curiously devoid of personality. There is a motive, but someone else must bring it forward to conclude the tale.
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More often than not, when I try to recall and write down my dreams, it's a process of piecing together and imposing some kind of narrative on what was, at the time, a collection of drifting, looping images.

Last night, I was visiting an animation/game studio, founded many years before by two British doctors; presumably they already had had a good grasp of character anatomy. One of them was my friend Fiona's father (who is a doctor in real life, though afaik he has no interest in video games.) The other doctor was named Dudley Manlove. The name seemed familiar when I woke, and I googled it to find out that my subconscious had seen fit to name someone after a bit player from Plan 9 from Outer Space.
At the studio, I watched as various RC craft were flown and filmed for reference. Also they gave me a game which consisted of a bunch of tubes of scent -- the aim was to identify the studio staff by smell. Both of the founders apparently smelled like cough drops, but not the same brand.
Also (and this didn't really fit into the setting), a snake kept darting out of a tree and biting my hand. Luckily it was non-venomous.

Later, I had an appointment to visit a super villain HQ. The atmosphere was very similar to the games company. The doorman told me it was a great place to work, and cheerily assured me that the woman I'd come to see probably wouldn't kill me. For some reason I was putting on an elaborate early-1950s New Look getup. Another visitor barged ahead of me in line, a young man who I think was trying to join up. He kept gong on about how everyone was jealous and afraid of him. I woke up before I could see if the doorman was rolling his eyes at this like I was.
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Forgot to write this one up this morning:

I was watching/reading a series about a school. The plots tended towards the fantastic but in varying degrees -- frex, one episode might involve some students becoming haunted after having remixed a hospital recording of a heartbeat into the music for a school dance; another episode might just be about a bake sale.

"I can't tell what decade this is set in," I said at one point. The technology and social mores seemed contemporary, but there were occasional touches that suggested the 1970s or earlier.

Just before I woke, the story involved one of the teachers, a chubby blond man who basically looked like a human version of Desk Sergeant Clawhauser from Zootopia, going through some historical-research notes. He was in a bar, after work, and another guy kept trying to flirt with him but he just kept going on about the importance of comparing primary sources. I think he even used the word epistemology.
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 Andrew recently acquired a copy of <i>Just Imagine</i> (1930), a movie he last saw in 1980, the years it is set. I can see why he's always going on about it - This movie feels like the perfect early-'Thirties movie: Singing! Dancing! Rockets! Art Deco sets! Comedy Swedish accents! Women in extremely pre-Code costumes! Props and FX scenes that would be re-used in every SF movie or serial for at least a decade afterwards! Cocktails in pill form! 
 
As the first sound SF film, it's..... kind of a cross between <i>Metropolis</i> and a Marx Brothers comedy, with maybe a bit of <i><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bedbug">The Bedbug</a></i>. Single-O/Ole Petersen (El Brendel) is a man revived from a state of suspended animation that was somehow induced by a lightning strike in 1930. El Brendel's Swedish-immigrant schtick ought to be annoying, but somehow, maybe through sheer goofy good humour, it works. Unfazed by his situation, he is befriended  by J-21(John Garrick) and RT-42 (Frank Albertson), who want to appeal the Marriage Tribunal's refusal to let J-21 marry LN-18 (Maureen O'Sullivan). Somehow this leads to the three of them going to Mars, where the natives are friendly but all have evil twins. No, I don't get it either. There is a drinking song on a dirigible. This movie may have been filmed especially for <lj user="sovay" />.
 
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 Woke up very achy this morning, emailed work that I was taking a sick day, and at present am feeling better enough that as usually happens, I'm feeling a bit guilty about not having gone in.

Meanwhile, I've been searching Project Gutenburg for things to read: Monday evening and Tuesday during breaks I read one of Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver mysteries, <I>The Key</I>; it's definitely a cosy, but Miss Silver is saved from being a mere knockoff of Miss Marple by the detail of being a full-time professional private detective. She makes her living at it. Previously she was a governess, and it's implied she can win over middle- and upper-class witnesses by reminding them of their childhood nannies, and working-class ones by coming off as the sort of not-quite-gentry, not-quite-commoner who has the inside track on gossip while "not being the sort you have to mind your Ps and Qs with." I suspect she also plays a bit older than she actually is.

This afternoon, by contrast I read Charles Williams' <I>The Place of the Lion.</I> Felt rather stupid for not guessing Williams was one of the Inklings until I looked him up afterwards. True, he wrote it before he met Lewis or joined his circle, but when a book's genre is described as "theological thriller" and the premise involves a breach in reality unleashing Platonic forms on a small prewar English village, where they run around absorbing/possessing people and things, it's a bit of a giveaway. Need to think about this one for a bit, but there's a half-dozen or so by the same author waiting to be read.
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 Last night's dreams included a plot thread where I was trying to track down a... smuggler? Somebody involved in the shipping trade, anyway. In the dream, I could search the records of different voyages online, which included any ebooks downloaded by the crew during the trip: so I ended up tracing one captain by her taste in literature.
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 Successful thrifting expedition Saturday morning netted me a knee-length broomstick skirt with sequinned waistband, and a pair of J. Crew wedges which like the ballet flats I found last year, are cute, comfortable and don't fall off my feet when I walk. I can see why J. Crew have such a preppie cult following, and it's not as though I've any street cred to lose by wearing them. We then went to the 25th Annual Reading of Single Pages, aka Jason's birthday party. The dice rolled up a page number of 26, and I read about four of the half-dozen books I brought -- Lives of the Monster Dogs and The Joy of Cooking had the best pages 26.

Today we had lunch with my parents and then went to TCAF. I picked up a graphic novel called Louise Brooks, Detective. It's set during the part of her life immediately after the end of Brooks' Hollywood career, when she'd returned to her home town in Kansas; so far so true; I'm guessing the solving-a-murder part is fiction, though I'm not sure. They've certainly got her voice down, at least as I remember it from the memoir I read years ago. After that we hung out for a while in Balzac's, the coffee shop on the ground floor of Metro Ref, where Andrew chatted happily to an older woman named Peggy who reminded him of his late friend Bev.

I think Balzac's must be part of a chain(1), though I can't recall seeing another one. Faux-vintage restaurant decor is nothing new -- it's at least twenty-five years since my father, returned from a trip, mentioned a place that had been "a sort of English Pub mapped onto the interior of an office building." Balzac's struck me as especially theatrical, though -- it has a pressed-tin ceiling, beadboard along the front of the counter, and a wood-framed glass display case for the baked goods, and yet there is no attempt to hide the edges: you can see you're on a set that's been constructed inside a 1970s Brutalist concrete building.

About twenty minutes before we left, someone began yelling and I glanced up to see a shirtless man in a Santa hat. Oh wow, I said, Zanta's back. Apparently the local man, famous in the first decade of this century, is off his meds and back to his manic career.

(1) I just checked their website -- apparently there are six locations around Toronto, and several elsewhere in Ontario.
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 Our graphics designer at work asked me to translate the pattern on a sewing kit we're going to order; the sample label is is in multiple languages, but not English in particular. I read through the French one several times, looked up the names of stitches and in one case several demo videos of a stitch I'd never encountered before (the most common name for it in English seems to be Knit One Below), confirmed that the stitch pattern is neither Fisherman's Rib nor Brioche Stitch although it looks a bit like both, and I think I've translated it, if they can accept that I broke down the instructions a bit differently. Most of that was done after work.

Also I need to work out what needle size is actually called for, because the pattern says "8," even though European knitting needles are supposedly sized in mm. I did a swatch that I'll bring in, but I ought to try it with the actual yarn from the kit.
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 At the Fantastic Pulps Show on the weekend I bought a paperback of The Planet Buyer which I guessed to be Cordwainer Smith's Norstrilia under a different release title. Unfortunately I was only half right -- it's the first of a two-book edition of Norstrilia, and ends just as Rod, C'mell et al arrive on Old Old Earth. Now I need to track down the rest so I can find out what happens next. Smith's world-building is extravagant, deeply weird, beautiful, funny, horrific and seemingly effortless -- he doesn't want you to ask how much work went into his distant-future universe so he keeps you off-balance with invisible replicas of the Temple of Diana of the Ephesians, monkeys who are also trained surgeons, and a computer who dabbles in economic warfare. The last detail was when it occurred to me that even though his stories are nothing like what one usually associates with the genre, Cordwainer Smith might just qualify as military SF. For asymmetrical conflicts and passive resistance.
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On New Year's Day 1753, Elizabeth Canning, an eighteen-year-old maidservant, vanished. A month later she turned up, claiming to have been assaulted and held prisoner; when her description of the house she'd been held in seemed to point to one Susannah Wells, Canning identified her and another woman named Mary Squires as her captors.

The trial was an 18th-century media circus (more on that later); at first Wells and Squires were convicted and sentenced, but the case was immediately reopened by the Lord Mayor of London; this time Canning was convicted of perjury and deported to the American colonies. Until her death, she stuck to her version of the story, and Wells and Squires stuck to theirs. The Rashomon-like case apparently retained enough notoriety that 20th-century writer Josephine Tey based a novel upon it, updating the circumstances to a modern setting.

 

Back in the winter of 1753, though, the story Canning told when she returned (emaciated and with marks of an injury on her head) was that she had been assaulted by two men, robbed and struck unconscious; that when she came to, her attackers had let her to a house where an old woman had tried to recruit her for the sex trade; and that when she refused, the woman had beaten he, stolen her corset stays and put her in a hayloft with "a black pitcher not quite full of water, and about twenty-four pieces of bread ... about a quartern loaf." After subsisting on this for several weeks, she had given up hope of release, and managing to work one of the boards loose on a window, climbed out and found her way home after five hours of walking.Trying to piece together where she'd been held, friends and family noted that Canning thought she'd heard the name "Wills or Wells" used, and that she'd recognized a coachman through the window who drove on the Hertford Road. As it happened the widowed Mrs. Susannah Wells lived on the Hertford Road, and a local paper immediately reported the whole story including the suspicion cast on Wells .

 

This is pretty much where *any* hope of a professional, unbiased investigation would have gone off the rails, if there'd been such a hope on the first place: England in 1753 -- had not only no forensics, but no police as such -- Robert Peel wouldn't be along for seventy years. So Canning and her family had to have the local alderman swear out a warrant and then go oversee Wells' arrest themselves. (They did have a warrant officer and several peace officers.) There, Canning seems to have identified everybody in the house as having been present when her abductors had brought her in a month before. Meanwhile, she was still recovering from her captivity, and her family still needed to prosecute the case against Wells themselves. They needed a backer, and they got one in the form of novelist magistrate Henry Fielding, who proceeded to issue a warrant against everybody in Wells' house, imprisoned two of them (both young women) and cross-examined them until they corroborated Canning's story. The actual charge was theft of Canning's corset stays, worth ten shillings: a more serious charge at the time than assault, and a hanging offense. Eventually Wells was sentenced to branding and imprisonment and Squires to death.

 

Meanwhile Grub Street was having a field day -- Squires was described as a "gypsy," adding racism to the rousing narrative of "innocent maid defends her virtue against a gang of crooks." (George Rousseau in his 2012 biography of John Hill, a popular writer and supporter of Squires, links the ferocity of the Canningites' racism to a bill in under discussion in Parliament at the time that would have granted Jews the vote.) Outside the trial, mobs attacked anybody they recognized as being related to Wells or Squires.

 

So who took upWells and Squires' side, and why? The Lord Mayor seems to have been genuinely horrified by the behaviour of the opposing "Canningites," but also seems to have suspected them of supporting Canning as a political attack on himself. John Hill mostly just hated Fielding -- London newspapers had just got through the "Paper War of 1752–1753," which Hill later claimed was a joke or publicity stunt he and fielding had cooked up and which had got *way* out of hand. Hill began collecting witnesses who could testify Squires and her family had been travelling in another part of the country during the month of January. Meanwhile the Canningites, for their part, hunted up witnesses willing to say the opposite.

 

Canning went on trial for perjury in the spring of 1754. Family and neighbours testified that she'd been genuinely injured and emaciated when she returned home. Canning's mother attempted to claim the young woman was too stupid to invent falsehoods, but was forced to admit she could read and write. Adding to the grotesque comedy, all the witnesses who'd attested Squires presence in the neighbourhood at the time of her supposed crime fell apart on the subject of the exact dates, because England had changed over from the Julian calendar to the current one in 1752, a few months before the incident. The jury's initial verdict was that Canning was "Guilty of perjury, but not wilful and corrupt." They were told they had to find her wilful and corrupt as well, or she couldn't be guilty of perjury.

 

She appears to have started a new life after she was sent to the American colonies. It wasn’t a long one by modern standards, but she lived with a Methodist family who believed in her innocence; eventually she married somebody. She died at thirty-eight. I don’t know how old Wells or Squires were at the time of their deaths — Wells had served her prison sentence by the time of Canning’s conviction, and Squires had been pardoned and wasn’t executed.

 

I need to address my own bias here: I heard of the Canning case via an online discussion among people who *hated* Tey's version. In Tey's version, the accused women are now a middle-class mother and daughter in straightened circumstances, while their accuser is still working class; and it's taken for granted almost from the opening that she's a lying liar who tells lies. Her age has been lowered to fifteen years old from eighteen, but only to further condemn her — she’s a cunning piece of jailbait who’s accused two total strangers of a serious crime in order to account for the month she spent with a married man (to whom she’d — of course — lied about her age) until his wife caught up with them and beat her. Tey’s “elopement gone wrong” version at least fits a one-month timeline better than “covering up a pregnancy” or “covering up an abortion,” which seem to be the usual suspicions among Canning’s modern disbelievers. The viciously classist take on the case was what had irked the readers on the discussion thread, but at least one person also argued that when a mystery is set up in binary terms, the resolution needs to be a third possibility, unsuspected by the characters. Otherwise you might as well watch a coin toss. I freely admit, therefore, that when I heard about the Canning case and its *lack* of resolution, it struck me as more interesting than the novel; and when I looked up the details I was hoping to find room for a third explanation. I'm not a historian, and this was a quick overview, based on only the most easily accessible sources, but I think I succeeded in finding enough doubts to satisfy myself. I did eventually come across a few other theories that Canning’s story was basically true but she misidentified her attackers, though a few of them still veered into “crazy girl hallucinated it,” which I’m not sure is any less depressing than “evil bitch made it up to cover some sexual misconduct.”

 

I’m not so sure she needed to be crazy, either, or even full-on amnesiac from the head injury.

 

Back when she, her family, and the peace officers they’d brought along had entered Susannah Well's house, Canning had stated that the hayloft looked like the one she'd been held in, but with more hay. Somebody had noted that boards across the windows appeared to have been put up, or put back up, recently. This, I think, is where it's possible for Canning to have gone off-course without deliberately lying.

 

It goes without saying that an eighteenth century house and barn wouldn't have had electric light; it's not unlikely that Elizabeth Canning never got a good look at any of her captors. Furthermore it doesn’t sound, from her account, as though she saw any of them during her month-long captivity after that first night when they put her in the hayloft. Even leaving aside confusion from her head injury or pressure from the peace officers to agree that they'd found her assailants, the situation could have primed her for false memories, and as the trials wore on, With both mobs and local political leaders piling on fuel, and Canning herself reduced to a token to be blamed or protected, the sunk cost of her efforts could have made her even more convinced that she was facing down her true tormentors.

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A couple of weeks back I read a piece about the 1920s "Day Hotel" under Milan. It's described as a hotel with everything but beds, but it strikes me as more like an underground shopping mall with bathhouses. Anyway, probably because of this, and maybe because of the other news stories on trans-panic washroom bans, I had a dream in which I went into the women's washroom in a mall and it had a pool and change rooms and a salon inside. "Nice to know this is here," I thought, but I didn't have time to stay. I sort of wish washrooms really were like that, but I'll settle for everybody being allowed to pee in peace and safety.

Meanwhile, Andrew and I have acquired a bit of antique practical comfort in the form of a vintage banker's chair that Don sold to us for $20 plus the $40 taxi fare to get it to our place. I'm afraid the poor guy had to sit outside our building for a while because I'd expected him slightly later, and also didn't notice for a while that Andrew had unplugged our phone (he doesn't want anyone disturbing him during the day.) The chair was made in Guelph, Ontario sometime in the early 20th century, has leather armrests and an adjustable leather back, and is generally very nice to sit in. Pictures to come.
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  When I was a kid, stores at this time of year would all suddenly be stocked with skipping ropes (pink or orange, smelling like vinyl, slightly powdery to the touch), rubber balls (red and blue with a white stripe around the equator, and a finish that very quickly began to crack and peel), bags of marbles and bags of jacks. 

I don't believe any of us ever shot marbles, or even knew what to do with the jacks, but stores still sold them, adults still gave them to us, they featured in the math problems in our elementary-school textbooks. They were like abstract signifiers of "Play." Which I suppose is appropriate -- from the little I know now about jacks, they were apparently very abstract representations of the knucklebones of sheep. The ones I remember were little metal caltrops (even worse to step on than lego bricks) with a slightly iridescent finish. I liked possessing them, even if I wasn't sure what for. Probably wouldn't have had the hand-eye coordination for it anyway.

Funnily, one kind of toy I only ever saw in pictures and old movies -- those little push-scooters -- made a comeback about sixteen years ago, and even though the fad died down again, I still sometimes see them.

How did pre-1950s children play with their hoops? The illustrations always made it look as though they made them roll by pushing or striking them with a short stick, but it's just occurred to me it would make far more sense for them to have put the stick within the hoop's perimeter and pulledthem along.
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I got heard from my parents that an old friend, the boy I went to high school prom with, has died.

I haven't seen an official announcement yet but those of you who know me in Toronto will probably know who I mean. We hadn't spoken in a few months, but one always assumes there’s going to be another chance to catch up, even though his health had never been good for as long as I'd known him. He'd had a liver transplant at twenty.

None of this has quite sunk in yet, except the feeling that a door has closed on an earlier part of my life, and that I should have tried harder to keep it open.

Have sent a short message of condolence to his family, but am waiting for the signal from them before I post anything on Facebook -- they're very private people, in their way, and his father's Facebook posts had given no hint of any worry, though Mom said he'd gone home for Christmas and stayed on there,between visits to the local hospital.
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         Book 10 -- Now with Even More War

Ch. I-XI: It’s 1812. Napoleon is scary. Prince Andrei wanders around the war, looking for Anatole so he can challenge him to a duel for having tried to seduce/abduct Natasha, but doesn’t find him. He does invent chaos theory.

Ch. XII-XV: Elsewhere in the War, Nicholai has his own young sidekick now (where’s Denisov?!) Also he captures an enemy officer with such ease that he feels really guilty and embarrassed when he’s awarded a medal for it.

Book 11:

     Tolstoy: CHAOS THEORY, YOU LOT OF MONDAY-MORNING QUARTERBACKS!!!!!!!!

(More seriously: the first half of this novel was a slog, but somewhere around Book Eight, all the plots that the author had spent hundreds of pages setting up began to finally pay off, and it’s been really good for the last while. Now to go find out who’s not dead.)

The End:

GUYS GUYS I THINK I KNOW WHAT THE THEME OF “WAR AND PEACE” IS. IT’S:

More seriously -- Even though Epilogue I could pretty much be read as "and most of the surviving characters got a reasonably happy ending," it depressed me for some reason, maybe because it ended abruptly and sort of anticlimactically and was followed by a second epilogue in which Tolstoy recaps all the abstract historical-theory parts of the novel; maybe because Natasha and Sonya's endings were "being happy being an ordinary matron" and "being happy being a doormat."
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 (Middle of the night)
In a warehouse, Salma Hayek was organizing some kind of jumble sale for charity. I was a volunteer assistant. David Bowie showed up with some clothes to donate, though I can't recall whether they were stage costumes or just normal stuff.

(Later, before and after various awakenings)
I was back at university, and living in a residence where everyone shared one big room full of bunkbeds. I had a single bed, though, with a small living room area (square, with little globe-shaped lights at two of the corners) in behind it.

I kept coming across footage of a Spanish Surrealist poet, who had later gone to Hollywood become an actress at Universal -- handful_ofdust recognized her from something called <i>Daughter of the Wolfman</i> (?) Her name was Yva or Ysa something. I think my brain was actually basing her name off Yves Tanguay.

Some kind of cartoon about pigs wearing overalls?

I was suddenly married to a guy named Han (big bearish guy, curly hair, possibly Polynesian) who had a small stepdaughter. They were nice, but I was vaguely worried that I couldn't recall how we'd met or that we only seemed to have known each other a week. Trying to brush my teeth before bed, I kept picking up what I thought were tubes of toothpaste but invariably turned out to be hair gel or some other non-toothpaste substance.
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Book 8, Ch. III
I think the Count Rostopchin who shows up here is a real person and the father of Sophie Rostophchine, la Comtesse de Segur, AKA the author of half the books I read in French Immersion.

Ch. V
Smarmy Boris marries Julie, who is basically a Goth, but very rich:


To Boris, Julie was particularly gracious: she regretted his early disillusionment with life, offered him such consolation of friendship as she who had herself suffered so much could render, and showed him her album. Boris sketched two trees in the album and wrote: "Rustic trees, your dark branches shed gloom and melancholy upon me."

On another page he drew a tomb, and wrote:

    La mort est secourable et la mort est tranquille.      Ah! contre les douleurs il n'y a pas d'autre asile.

Ch. VII
Natasha meets her future sister-in-law and has a strained awkward conversation.

Ch. IX

The floor of the stage consisted of smooth boards, at the sides was some painted cardboard representing trees, and at the back was a cloth stretched over boards. In the center of the stage sat some girls in red bodices and white skirts. One very fat girl in a white silk dress sat apart on a low bench, to the back of which a piece of green cardboard was glued. They all sang something. When they had finished their song the girl in white went up to the prompter's box and a man with tight silk trousers over his stout legs, and holding a plume and a dagger, went up to her and began singing, waving his arms about.

First the man in the tight trousers sang alone, then she sang, then they both paused while the orchestra played and the man fingered the hand of the girl in white, obviously awaiting the beat to start singing with her. They sang together and everyone in the theater began clapping and shouting, while the man and woman on the stage—who represented lovers—began smiling, spreading out their arms, and bowing.

OH TOLSTOY TELL US HOW YOU REALLY FEEL ABOUT OPERA

More Ch. IX - NO DAMMIT NATASHA DON'T FALL UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE INCESTUOUS WONDER TWINS

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