Tuesday, May 24, 2016

So *blargh* that happened

Last night I was not in much condition to blog. Or do much of anything else. After dinner a sluggish feeling descended on me. Then nausea and stomach trouble. And I got a headache that was still there when I woke up this morning, which it was certainly a relief to get rid of later in the day.

From now on I'll hesitate to buy pork unless I can trust it and can trust myself to cook it properly. I cooked this cut for dinner the day after I bought it and it looked and tasted like it was done, but good meat doesn't give you flu-like symptons.

On another note, this is a nice look at the great Minnesota poet and guitarist who is still with us. "Visions of Johanna" truly is an immortal song.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Queen Watch: "The Adventure of the Pharaoh's Curse"

The idea of the tombs of Pharaoh's being cursed is a fairly modern one. The tombs themselves bear no hieroglyphic markings to this effect. Desecrating a pharaoh's resting place would have been an incredible blasphemy, of course, but soldiers would have executed anyone who even tried. Supernatural curses really became part of the folklore during the Egyptology craze of the Victorian Era, and were widely publicized after the discovery of Tutankhamun's final resting place in 1922. While it's a relatively modern idea it's also a fairly short-lived one in terms of people taking it seriously, and by Ellery Queen's late 1940's setting it would be considered a joke.

And while detective fiction does have a certain basis in fantasy, detective fiction with supernatural events is a more specialized field. Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Chesterton's Father Brown, and John Dickson Carr's Gideon Fell (a Chesterton tribute) all came across crimes that seemed like they might be spectral but generally had a naturalistic explanation. William Hope Hodgson frequently found evidence of actual supernatural involvement. But Ellery Queen's mysteries in all media had little to do with the first kind of story, and never went near the second.

Friday, May 20, 2016

This way and that

The Big Wiggle from Erin Zona on Vimeo.

Okay, this is adorable and absolutely grotesque in about equal measure. I can't make any guarantees about what your reaction will be, especially watching it right before bedtime. Use your own best judgment.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

All quiet on the Eastern front

It's very quiet. I can hear the refrigerator running. Not much else. A car, here and there.

There are students living on this street. Given the time of year, I guess we're a few days, a week or so, from their post-school year flight. And then, some could be back, others not. Change, often, is cyclical.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Shadow Show Me

The anthology Shadow Show comes with the subtitle "All-new short stories in celebration of Ray Bradbury." Which they are. This is gathering of stories written in honor of science fiction's greatest crossover author. Asimov belonged to science fiction fans, but Bradbury belonged to everyone.

The book was published in 2012, the same year Bradbury died. He contributes a short and good natured foreword. Naturally the book stands in his shadow. In truth a lot of the stories presented here seem more influenced by Ray Bradbury's reputation than by his methods. What few capture, and what is very difficult to capture, is the way he emerged along the course of the 1940s as a skewed and sometimes disturbing storyteller.

A few do stand out as tapping into this strange side of Bradbury:

"Little America" by Dan Chaon: A man drives cross-country with a boy, a boy that he keeps tied up and whose nails he makes sure or trim. There's a reason for this, and it's not what you think, and the gradual revelation is pretty cunning.

"Phone Call" by John McNally: A man with a Ziggy-like record of never winning calls into the past and tries to intervene in the murder of his mother by her boyfriend, who seems to have also killed his father. Notable for the interesting place it ends up, plot-wise and emotionally.

"Hayleigh's Dad" by Julia Keller: Sharon and Hayleigh are friends. Sharon likes Hayleigh's dad more than her own, understandably. Hayleigh's dad has told them never to go in the basement. Even if you see much of this one coming, it's still hella creepy.

"Two Houses" by Kelly Link: A crew in deep space exploration awake from cryonic sleep and begin telling ghost stories in a VR recreation of an old mansion. Needless to say, it gets stranger from there. It's fascinating to watch Link mix styles and themes from her own stories with bit's of ol' Ray's, including "The Illustrated Man" and "The Veldt."

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Queen Watch: "The Adventure of Veronica's Veils"

Goodnight, Gracie.

The great institution of the American burlesque had given up the ghost by the time this episode was aired in 1975. Social change and new media had left it behind. Oh, there were tittie bars aplenty, no shortage of those. But attendees didn't have the patience to sit through baggy pants comics and magic acts, or to watch a lady do an elaborate number that still left her panties and pasties on. As a form of theatre, burlesque has made a comeback in the intervening decades, but the context is rather different. Much of the audience is now female and/or gay, although the milkshakes still bring plenty of boys to the yard.

As it happens, the burlesque of "The Adventure of Veronica's Veils" is already a recreation of something past. The story takes place ten years after Mayor Fiorello H La Guardia had driven the burly-q's out of town in a possibly misplaced but attention-getting fit of moral zeal. Thus officially the troop is putting on a musical about burlesque that just happens to look like the real thing. (Vice cops mill around under the suspicion that it's a distinction without a difference.) Coincidentally or not last week's episode and this one inspect respectively the high and low end of New York's theatre scene.


There's a Stop & Shop near here. I don't go to it that often, because the walk takes a long time so it's actually handier to go to the one in East Providence. But sometimes I need to pick something up there. If it's just a small something I buy then I might pick up bottles on the way back, so as to drop them in the neighbors' recycling when I get back home. I've found out this way that Hennessy cognac is a favorite drink for those who drink behind parking lots.

Last night I had to buy potatoes. When I was coming back it was too dark to pick out any particular kind of bottle. But I did pick one up anyway. The label was off. It looked like a beer bottle, but with a bulging neck. Stout?

On a related note, I bought a new CD player in front of the Y today. New to me, at least. Little thing, it looks to be in rough shape. But once I noticed the power strip was hanging out of the socket and plugged it back in, I learned that it works a lot better than the one I already had.