Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Fairy dust

I have a book of English fairy tales. Aptly enough it's called English Fairy Tales. How I got it I'm not 100% sure, but it's never been new while I've owned it so it seems like book swap or library sale is the most likely route. The most notable thing about it is probably the illustrations by Arthur Rackham. These are very simple line drawings, not the detailed paintings he's best known for, but Rackham delivered regardless of the format.

I reread a few today, including this one. That final "and they lived happily ever after," traditional as it is, seems especially rich in this context. I'm pretty sure the girl would have some ongoing trust issues, at the very least.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Take it to the limit one more time

Been watching the sixties Outer Limits lately. The old episodes are on Dailymotion, which is handy despite the randomly placed ads.

An inevitable point of comparison is The Twilight Zone. Their runs overlap, if only just. The Twilight Zone ran its last season the same year as The Outer Limits ran its first. Episodes of Rod Serling's show play like allegories that can take place any time, any place, and don't depend on each other. Outer Limits seems more to take place in a single universe, even though the episodes don't connect. (They sometimes did in the so-so nineties remake.) One's not a better approach than the other, they're just noticeably different. The intros are different too, less personal for the later show.

"The Man with the Power" is quite good. Donald Pleasence plays a man with a frightening degree of telekinetic power, who still manages to get bullied by nearly everyone. Strangely enough it's the first time I'd really noticed his piercing blue eyes, even though it's of course shot in black and white.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Beste hizkuntza bat (A different language)

I sometimes run Google Translate to see what various words and phrases are in Basque. It may be the closest I ever come to learning the language, unless I devote a lot of time. Really I'm just taking time to appreciate the difference. Different grammar, different sounds, mostly different words. Although there are cognates, especially with Romance languages. For instance "green" translates to "berdea", which sounds similar to Spanish "verde", which is itself related to French "vert."

It's sometimes theorized as the language―or at least a language―of the Cro-Magnons. This would be basically impossible to prove or disprove, since that period would have left no writing. But it does seem to be very old, predating the spread of Indo-European languages into Western Europe. Possibly even going back to the last ice age.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


Well, it's not a secret that the government―and to be fair, many governments―dropped the ball on COVID-19. Nor that responsibility for it has been thrown back at us, the masses.

What's not so much acknowledged is that in tone the measures we're being told to take are more punitive than prophylactic. I mean, yes, it's good practice to wash your hands frequently, cough into your elbow rather than your hand, maybe keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy. But if you do all that you find out makes no difference. You still can't go anywhere, do anything, talk to anybody. Proximity within six feet is considered a borderline violent offense, and we're being conditioned to see ourselves and our neighbors as filthy disease vectors more than people.

So yes, I do worry about the effects that it's having.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Ready Freddie

Queen - Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Saturday Night Live, 1982) from Queen Poland on Vimeo.

I'll probably do a post addressing the elephant in the room in a couple of days. Said elephant has a  lot to unpack, though.

In the meantime there's this fine performance. Something I've never realized before is just how tall and skinny Brian May is. Like, I bet his body weight is 80% limb.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Expressing the inexpressible

There's never really a bad time to read A. E. Housman, but tonight felt like an especially good one.
White in the moon the long road lies,
     The moon stands blank above;
White in the moon the long road lies
     That leads me from my love.

Still hangs the hedge without a gust,
    Still, still the shadows stay:
My feet upon the moonlit dust
     Pursue the ceaseless way.

The world is round, so travelers tell,
     And straight through the track,
Trudge on, trudge on, 'twill all be well,
     The way will guide one back.

But ere the circle homeward hies
    Far, far must it remove:
White in the mood the long road lies
   That leads me from my love.
That's XXXVI (No. 36) from A Shropshire Lad. The circumstances under which he wrote it I don't know so well. It was kind of a long time ago, although that's a relative statement. But the lonesome, errant feeling stands like a marble monument.

By the way, some poems—man, to be honest—can be found on the internet and simply copy/pasted. But I prefer to type them fresh if they're going to be the center of a blog post. I get more of a feel that way. So it does kind of help that this particular poem is relatively short.

Friday, March 20, 2020

One side of the mutual admiration society

The work of Henri Matisse—seen above—doesn't seem to have all that much in common with Picasso. It's more concerned with the overall composition of the canvas, for one thing. But Matisse was one of the first artists to see what Picasso was doing. Picasso for his part remained loyal to Matisse after they became professional rivals. They were not only long-standing friends, but the perfect audience.