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desperance

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Self-disinterest: or, how you should buy other books besides my own [01 Jul 2015|06:18pm]
My favourite publisher Lethe Press is having a sale, all through their catalogue; many books are reduced, some are half price. And yes, I have a couple of titles among the crowd, and one of them might have won a Lambda, but I'm not linking to those; for once, this is not about me. Help a small publisher out, and cash in on some really good books...
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Mr Brenchley +/- his new glasses [30 Jun 2015|04:33pm]
Good news: my new glasses are in, sooner than expected!

Bad news: progressives are weird, people.*

Good news: not so weird as I was led to believe!

Bad news: still weird, though.

Bonus good news: no, there are no photographs. Just apply your mighty intellects and imagine. 3D-laser-sinter-printed frames, British Racing Green, tolerably roundish. There must be a word for this shape: possibly gibbous? It must apply to more than moons and pregnant women, but those are the only two iterations I recall.

Bonus bad news: I may have a headache by end of day, from all this tipping and tilting and squinting. My neck's not up to much at the best of times, which this isn't.


*Please to note judicious use of comma. "Progressives are weird people" would also function grammatically, but would not be a sentence I would type.
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Not usually what we mean by Ealing Studios [29 Jun 2015|05:52pm]
Julie Taymor's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Rendered in film. This I want to see. (Hat-tip to nineweaving)
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Lines to live by [28 Jun 2015|03:40pm]
The troubles of our proud and angry dust
Are from eternity, and shall not fail.
Bear them we can, and if we can we must.
Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale.



These may be my favourite four lines in all of Housman. The anthems for doomed youth are too susceptible of parody to take quite seriously (What, still alive at twenty-two, a fine upstanding lad like you?), and the anxious pastorals are just a little too conservative for me; but sometimes his poetry displays the same relentless determination as his scholarship, a ruthlessness with the human condition that is itself of the human condition, and then he can be magnificent. Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale: I'd wear that on a T-shirt.

(In parenthesis: I wonder who it was who wrote the inevitable doctoral thesis on the influence of ale on successive generations of academic literary England? You can track it forward from Housman through Tolkien and Lewis; and I am sure backward from Housman too, though there you are outside my province. But I am utterly determined that the thing shall have been done.)

(And while we're off the subject: I was musing on the quatrain per se, and wondered if an equivalent three-line stanza could be called a terrain. And indeed it cannot, because it's called a tercet instead, but that didn't stop me thinking about it, because the whole of the Lawrence-on-Mars story is about the influence of language on landscape, or possibly vice versa; and I did once have a splendidly stoned conversation with my best friend about the influence of change-ringing on the English landscape, as the sound of the bells rolled thunderously down the canal and we may even have been in Shropshire at the time; and really all of literature, as all of life, it's all about the terrain. Which brings us neatly and inevitably back to Housman, so. Not off the subject at all, actually.)
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More information [26 Jun 2015|11:27pm]
So after the First World War, A E Housman's brother Laurence acted as director of the Glastonbury Festival - though I suspect not this one.

In earlier news, before the war, "[George Bernard] Shaw took round the hat and the proceeds were given to [Laurence] Housman (as the youngest) with instructions to go to Paris and find Wilde, pay his rent and outstanding debt ... give no cash to Wilde, and report back to the Cafe Royal. Several times he made this journey before Wilde's death."

Fortunately, as we now know, Wilde didn't actually die. And some little time after, A E Housman followed him to Mars - but Laurence, I fear, remained below
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I am just sayin' [26 Jun 2015|07:45pm]
I do not, of course, believe in divine Providence: but some things still seem preordained.

But since, my soul, we cannot fly
To Saturn nor to Mercury


- why on Earth*, pray tell, would Housman have chosen those particular two examples of planets they could not fly to, unless they actually could fly to other planets, eg Mars and Venus? It's right there, I tell you, it's textual.

Also his brother Laurence wrote a series of one-act plays about Queen Victoria, collected as Victoria Regina - so he would totally have written a play about Victoria Cocoon'd. What, I wonder, is the Latin for Cocoon'd...?

And in other news, other news may have swamped the announcement today, but I am entirely delighted to point out that a centenarian killer whale is running for election as mayor of a village on Orcas Island. And I really really hope she wins. (Karen asked about her policies, but I was unable to assist.)


*Heh, d'you see what I did there?
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On Watchfulness [26 Jun 2015|09:00am]
Come back to bed, beloved;
Thy rest has been ruptured and brief.
Come back to bed, beloved,
For time is asleep like a thief.
Come back to bed, beloved,
For who keeps thy slumbers but me?
Come back to bed, beloved—
That I may get up and leave thee.
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Abused, neglected, starved... [25 Jun 2015|10:17am]
Our poor Baz. He has not been given his breakfast. Nay, worse: he was shut out of the mudroom so that he could hear Mac getting breakfast, and know that he was being deliberately denied.

If I could only show you the looks that I am getting.

(We're taking him to the dermatologist this afternoon to talk about this licking-all-his-fur-off thing, and they said he should fast today in case they want to take bloodwork. But you try explaining that to a hungry and indignant cat.)

In other questions of food, we expect to be at the vet's pretty much all afternoon, but this is Thursday which is New Non-Yogi Dinner Day, and dinner will occur regardless. Yay for the slow cooker, and Chaz'z Chinese Pork. This is something I mashed together from a number of recipes twenty years ago (where "twenty years" is merely a signifier for "a long time" - it might have been fifteen, or twenty-five, or other), but I've always done it in a stockpot simmering all day under my eye, so on account of slow-cooker novelty etc this time I'm actually measuring rather than sloshing in a little of this and a lot of that.

In the slow cooker I have put: four pounds of pork shoulder, six dried Chinese chillies, six slices of ginger and a quarter-cup each of sugar, light soy, dark soy, rice vinegar and shao hsing wine, and three pints of water. I'll give it two hours on high just to get it started, then six hours on low. Then I'll take most of the liquid off and boil it down to a syrup and see what it tastes like. By then the pork should be pull-apart-with-chopsticks tender, which is what I really love about this dish. The meat is not for slicing. I used to plonk a whole hand - that's seven or eight pounds - in the middle of the table and let everybody tear it apart at whim.
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"Terence, this is stupid stuff" [24 Jun 2015|06:13pm]
So one of the wonderful things about working to, for, by, with or from several separate Mars Imperial stories at the same time is the inevitable overlap, Edwardian figures of literature criss-crossing each other at my whim and at theirs.

Take, f'rexample, the subject line: it is, of course, Housman, and not actually referring to the playwright Publius Terentius Afer, tho' much of Housman's Latin scholarship did treat with that Terence (the Terence in fact referred to here being in fact Housman's alter ego, the nominal author of the book that became A Shropshire Lad but was originally simply titled The Poems of Terence Hearsay). I learned this from my readings: as I also learned that after his release from Reading Gaol, Oscar Wilde - who came to Mars, of course, in "The Astrakhan, the Homburg and the Red Red Coal" - was in correspondence with Housman's playwright brother Laurence, and specifically took the time to praise A Shropshire Lad. So there's that.

But at the moment I am only reading about Housman, and actually writing another La[u/w]rence altogether, T E of that [latter] ilk: and at the moment he is being harangued, and his haranguer is making clever play with the most famous surviving quote from that other Terence, and I need help.

If "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto" means "I am a man; I hold nothing human to be alien to me" (or words to that effect; that's the translation I grew up with), then what would be a thorough rendering-into-Latin of "I am a Briton; I hold nothing British to be alien to me"? (In context, this actually comes down to who or what counts as Martian, but let's not go there. All art is about questions of identity.)
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I Can't Get No (tho' I try) [23 Jun 2015|06:08pm]
Today, I:

went to coffee club;
came home;
ran two loads of laundry;
pumped up everybody's tyres, because honestly (*rolls eyes at self*);
swore remotely at my bank, because it's my money and they have no reason to be denying me access to it;
went to SETI colloquium;
failed utterly to understand except in such a loose way as not to count as "understanding" at all, but nevertheless it was clear to me that this guy is heading for a Nobel sooner or later if his theory about entropy and the quantum state of space-time is right, because it includes a whole new understanding of what energy actually is (which is a bit of an if at the moment, because he says himself that there's only two people on the planet who think it is right, and I suspect one of those is him and the other may be his partner);
came home via store, to buy wine and dishwasher powder and such;
failed to share lunchtime sardines with Mac, much to a certain furry person's disgust (but I did let him clean the plate, which he did scrupulously, for he is a good cat);
went to bank to be assertive in re money as above (but they're still sitting on it, so assertiveness not so much of a help, really - tho' I did point out to two different people that there is no bike rack in the parking lot, and who knows but what they might not do something about that - probably with my money);
went to the library;
came home;
went to the mailbox and the store for dinner supplies;
came home.

If you think there's something obvious missing from that list, well spotted. But m'wife is going to yoga tonight, and she says I can work while she's out, so.
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My inner lexicon has failed me [22 Jun 2015|05:12pm]
I need a word I can reasonably use in a story: a word like "outweigh" but meaning "outpower", in the way that a healthy tiger would outpower a healthy man, pound for pound and many times over. "Outpower" is legitimate, I find, but ugly. And I can't think of a synonym, and the internet is not being helpful (except in the way of making me giggle: whatever common source it is that online dictionaries look to, they are all being supplied with "overpover" instead of "overpower" - which is not what I want, before you offer it, but "overpover" will make me giggle every time).
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Did you march? [22 Jun 2015|11:36am]
This was a weekend of cultural immersion, yay. On Saturday I was inculcated into the delights of Drum Corps International - brass and marching and flags, oh my! - and may have added a new passion to my assemblage. Also I learned that it's totally fine to talk to total strangers at these events, if you only begin with "Did you march?" To which as like as not the answer will be yes. I don't know if this a uniquely American entertainment, but it really is very unBritish. And instantly addictive.

And on Sunday we swung the dial the other way, and went to a local production of Iolanthe. Before I came, I had no idea that G&S was so embedded in the amateur theatrical tradition hereabouts. It's a joy. And we had friends in the chorus, so double-joy. I did have to restrain myself from volunteering as an English coach (that really isn't how we pronounce Salisbury, and I'm tolerably certain that peers would rhyme masses with classes, rather than the other way around), but hey. Loved it.

And then in other news I had an awful night, with lots of lying awake in the dark being really depressed. Which I am now trying to treat by writing about sandcats. Because sandcats. (They've only been a rumour heretofore, in the whole Mars Imperial oeuvre; but T E Lawrence and camels and desert plains? Oh hell aye, there'd be sandcats.)
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Review! [22 Jun 2015|09:10am]
Lois Tilton was exceptionally kind about my Oscar-Wilde-on-Mars story, in her review for Locus. You have to scroll down a bit to find it, but it's worth the journey. Money shot: "Fine writing, excellent use of character in this imaginative story—the sort that can make an entire issue worthwhile on its own."

(And if you haven't read it yet, you can find the story here.)
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I are ded of the starve. Feed me chickens. [20 Jun 2015|01:39pm]
Poor Mac. There he was, expiring magnificently at my side -

IMG_20150620_132649

- and needing, positively needing me to dandle delicate shreds of chicken between his pale lips; and there I was eating pork, and it was too late even to offer to share, for I had ruinously tainted the lovely pig with a melange of cultural appropriation.

IMG_20150620_132658

That's Vietnamese noodles with barbecued pork and Chinese soy and a vinegar slaw of cabbage and carrots and apples, all stir-fried together and enlivened with a tomatillo/habanero salsa and some whole Thai chillies, topped with a duck egg and Mexican green onion. Spoiled the nice pork, I did. Poor Mac, he didn't want the nasty thing. So I ate it all myself, while he just carried on dying.
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It was the best of plans, it was the best of plans [19 Jun 2015|07:10pm]
It was, in fact, the very best of plans: let down only by its reliance on shoddy slipshod me. Sadly, I can no longer remember what it was, nor how I failed in its achievement. Five minutes ago, though, I did know and acknowledge my disgrace. So it goes.

In happier news, here are sweetpeas (or are they sweet peas?) from Becky's garden.

IMG_20150619_174552

Vases? Who needs vases, when you have a perfectly reliable toaster? (I really only put them there because it's faintly - faintly! - possible that Mac won't eat them.I wouldn't count on it, though. I'm certainly not.)

- And now I'm back to Mars.
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Adventures in Eyesighting [18 Jun 2015|04:41pm]
Yesterday I went to the opticians. Optometrists. Whatever. I rode my bike to Mountain View, and there I was.

Nice Dr Schwaderer talked encouragingly to me about progressive lenses, which translated itself almost automatically into varifocals; but actually I had quite decided already that I was sick of not quite being able to read either the text I'm working from or the text on the screen. Varifocals it was to be. Progressives. Whatever.

I had in fact already decided that I wanted rimless frames, because I do tend to alternate between bold emphatic frames and practically-no-frames-at-all. But the nice young Chinese boy downstairs said they couldn't do high-index lenses in rimless frames, for technical reasons; and I did not want to get into the whole I've-had-them-in-the-UK-why-can't-I-have-them-here thing, because assertiveness is so not my thing; so instead I leaped madly in the other direction, and bought frames that will do all my asserting for me.

Because I harbour delightful illusions that if I post a link to the things themselves, I will never have to post a pic of my actually wearing them, here: these are the frames in question. 3-D printed in Germany. British Racing Green. How could I conceivably resist?
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Enlisting [18 Jun 2015|02:27pm]
Clean grill
Shop for pork, ground lamb, herbs & veggies
Fire up grill
Strip rind off pork
Marinate pork in mustard, vinegar, ketchup, spices
Set pork on grill, start smoke
Make more smoke
Feed grill with coals of char
Make more smoke, and
repeat as needed
Make stupidly spicy tomatillo/habanero salsa
Shop for buttermilk, flour, charcoal, wood chips, apples, savoy cabbage
Make sesame seed buns
Cook beans
Make zhug
Make lamb kofta mix

Heat salt block on grill
Experiment with cooking lamb kofta on salt block
Make cabbage/carrot/apple slaw
Clean bathroom
Load and run dishwasher
*


What have I forgotten?


*Note to self: probably do this now. No, I mean now. I hate cleaning bathrooms. It's what procrastination was invented for.
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Further awards, and why not? [16 Jun 2015|03:39pm]
I had no notion of this until now, but apparently my Lambda Award-winning collection Bitter Waters is also nominated for the Kirkus Award. Which it won't win, but think how cool that would be. And fifty thousand dollars, that too... ('Sallright, I never win the money stuff, so we don't even need to get excited about it. Just cool, 'k>)
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Work, and/or Mr Brenchley [16 Jun 2015|01:35pm]
This morning, "work" was largely defined as "walk around downtown - the bookstore, the library, the Chinese supermarket - thinking deeply about maps, semiotics and the theory of mind".

Lunch, any moment now, will be eggs-and-rice enlivened by a handful of various chillies (serrano, habanero, Thai - the common trinity around hereabouts, unless it's a trifecta).

This afternoon, "work" may well mean "reading Housman, his biography and The Invention of Love*" - very possibly in the garden, in the sun, with a long cool glass of I-don't-suppose-that's-fizzy-water-is-it?

Tonight's dinner will be pork tenderloin cooked sous-vide in a marinade of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and honey, then caramelised in the oven on a bed of roasted golden beets. With steamed French beans and baby potatoes.

Someone remind me again, how did this get to be my life...?


*Which I have never seen. How is it possible that I have never seen The Invention of Love, given that both Stoppard and Housman have been aspects of my life since the mid-seventies?
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Status [14 Jun 2015|06:18pm]
Barry has a sunshine. Mac has a green bean. There is peace in the kitchen. (It was rather nice to have little furry-face tickling my calves, begging for a bean; he'd been hissy and uncomfortable at noon, which is the bottom of his medication cycle (one pill a day, ie, delivered at lunchtime). Then he vanished for a few hours. Now he's back. Yay.

There may be peace in the kitchen, but my own head by contrast is a seething turmoil of discontent. Today's words disallowed by the online Scrabble dictionary: uninvited and adulatory. I am so mad I could spit. I gave up playing Words With Friends because it wouldn't allow perfectly legitimate words; must I abandon Scrabble also? Bah humbug, say I.

Otherwise, the day has been quite charming. I have cycled, I have watered my own garden and Becky's too in her absence, I have read widely on the internet and in Seveneves, and now I am preparing my shrimpagundi. Well, alternating preparation with glasses of wine and more Stephenson. There's not really that much to prepare: peel the shrimp, tail the beans, snap the asparagus. (Is there any truth, I wonder, in the argument that asparagus always snaps just at the perfect point, where the stem starts to get woody? I go along with this because I rather enjoy snapping it stalk by stalk rather than chopping at an arbitrary point; but I am inveterately dubious, and can't help thinking that if I applied pressure in a slightly different way a given stem would surely snap at a different point, and thereby shatter the entire philosophy...)
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