26 May 2016

#TBT Grandparents

My aunt came over for dinner recently, bringing with her a couple of photos of her with her three brothers (one of whom is my father), as well as a picture of her parents/my grandparents.


On the back, the photo is date-stamped 1970. She was born in 1903, he in 1900, so they are 67 and 70 in this photo. And to me, they look just like they always did, and they look old. She had long long white hair, white by the time I knew her, and always wore it piled on top of her head. When we cleaned out their house after she had died, I laid claim to a Victorian silver-plate hair receiver - a small vessel to sit on your dresser, next to your hair brush, to collect the hair you clean out of your brush. It still had a snarl of her white hair in it, which eventually disappeared, victim of a move or a cat.

1970 doesn't seem all that long ago...and yet, it was 46 years ago.


15 May 2016

Dipping One's Toe In The Internet

You know what? The internet is the best. The other day, my sister-in-law sent out a picture of a whale in San Francisco. I - for reasons one need not go into - figured that a poem was the appropriate response, so I googled "poems about whales" (or something like that). And I found this:

Whales Weep Not!

D. H. Lawrence, 1885 - 1930

They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.

All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they, as they urge
on and on, and dive beneath the icebergs.
The right whales, the sperm-whales, the hammer-heads, the killers
there they blow, there they blow, hot wild white breath out of
the sea!

And they rock, and they rock, through the sensual ageless ages
on the depths of the seven seas,
and through the salt they reel with drunk delight
and in the tropics tremble they with love
and roll with massive, strong desire, like gods.
Then the great bull lies up against his bride
in the blue deep bed of the sea,
as mountain pressing on mountain, in the zest of life:
and out of the inward roaring of the inner red ocean of whale-blood
the long tip reaches strong, intense, like the maelstrom-tip, and
comes to rest
in the clasp and the soft, wild clutch of a she-whale’s
fathomless body.

And over the bridge of the whale’s strong phallus, linking the
wonder of whales
the burning archangels under the sea keep passing, back and
forth,
keep passing, archangels of bliss
from him to her, from her to him, great Cherubim
that wait on whales in mid-ocean, suspended in the waves of the
sea
great heaven of whales in the waters, old hierarchies.

And enormous mother whales lie dreaming suckling their whale-
tender young
and dreaming with strange whale eyes wide open in the waters of
the beginning and the end.

And bull-whales gather their women and whale-calves in a ring
when danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood
and range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat
encircling their huddled monsters of love.
And all this happens in the sea, in the salt
where God is also love, but without words:
and Aphrodite is the wife of whales
most happy, happy she!

and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin
she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea
she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males
and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea.


Honestly, did you have any idea that DH Lawrence wrote an erotic poem about whales?

03 May 2016

Yet Another Edition of What Not To Put On Your Job Application

Once again, we are looking to hire someone at my place of employment. Once again, we roll our eyes at some of the letters and résumés. I am torn between offering these gems with snarky commentary, or letting them speak for themselves.  [I can't resist.]



I am seeking a job in a non-for-profit where I could participate in the development of projects that help people's development. [Nice use of development twice, but what does it mean? Also, it's either non-profit, or not-for-profit, not a hybrid.]

I am sedulous in arts advancement, theatre and dance educated, office experienced individual looking to obtain a position in a stable environment utilizing my education and past experience in a role where I can feel good about the work that I am doing and develop my skills and experience. [My head hurts trying to unpack that sedulous sentence.]

SKILLS
• I have travelled to Canada, France, Monaco, Italy, Germany, England, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Czech Republic. [Is travelling a skill? Maybe for a roadie.]
• I also have years of office work experience.  [But what skills do you have?]

I hope that you will give me this amazing opportunity that I have been hoping to achieve.  [I fear that we will be dashing your hopes of achievement.]

I have experience in speaking on the phone.  [Don't we all?]

Some like to think of themselves as out-of-the-box thinkers, I prefer to think of myself as able to make origami out of the box.  [Truth be told, I love this.]

SKILLS
• College Graduate  [This is a skill?]
• Fluent in English [Okay, this is a skill.]

Helped raise over $5,000 independently to dance and did not sit or sleep for 46 hours in connection with the world’s largest school-wide philanthropy efforts to raise over $6.6 million for pediatric cancer. ["Independently to dance"? Stayed up for two days?]

INTERESTS
• Electric bass and vintage mopeds [Okay, this is pretty adorable too.]

Seeking Program Development, Coordination, and Administration especially in a people-oriented organizations where there is a need to assure broad cooperative effort through the use of sound planning, strong administration, skills of persuasion to achieve goals. [Word soup.]

PERSONAL DATA
Age : 63 Height: 5’ 10” Weight: 240lbs Hair: A little Eyes: Brown [But what color is your thinning hair? No, scratch that, I don't care about any of that personal data and I wish you'd left it off of your résumé because we are not casting a TV commercial or Broadway show.]

I consider myself one of those lucky people who were born with a split personality- not in the clinical-crazy sense, but in that I am capable of adapting easily between being wacky and creative, and incredibly organized. [Wacky. Wacky!]

01 May 2016

"The Many Portals of The World"

Dear Patti,

On a whim, I picked up your book M Train at the library last week. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite a whim, because the book was on my Wunderlist of non-fiction books to read, but I hadn’t gone looking for it - it was out on one of the “Rapid Read” shelves up front and it just leapt into my arms. And it blew me away.

Somehow, I had no idea that you were such a gifted writer. Songwriter? Sure. Singer. Yes? But writer of books writer? This is something I didn’t know.

I’m hard pressed to pigeonhole the book. It isn’t really a memoir, it’s too non-linear for that. It might best be described by a line towards the very end: “An aria for a coat, a requiem for a café.” It meanders all over the place, back and forth in time. So many books! So many cups of coffee! Objects galore, intriguing articles of clothing in spades. How did you come to own a pair of Margot Fonteyn’s ballet slippers? [When I was a kid, my mother and I saw her in the audience of a ballet performance, and she refused to give me her autograph. If she were still alive, would she refuse a selfie with a pre-teen fan?]

A few pages before that phrase about the coat and the café, there's a paragraph about lost possessions. Are they still with us?



My house is full of objects, clothes, furniture that mean something to me - but perhaps not to anyone else. Sometimes I want to catalog them, but who has time for that!

Your simple domesticity slayed me – Patti Smith sews curtains, Patti Smith makes packing lists, Patti Smith cleans up her room. I feel stalkerish in that I jotted down books to read (Frankenstein, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) and a toothpaste to hunt down (Weleda salt). I’m thrilled to know that you have cats: one of mine is currently chasing a housefly all around my living room and I think she wishes she had wings. You like Luther, and your favorite Doctor is Tennant – could we hang out and watch Broadchurch one day?

I took the book out of the library, and it slipped into being overdue – I never do that! I’m itchy fingers away from buying my own copy, so that I can re-read it and dog-ear some pages and scribble in the margins.

Hey, thanks. I'm grateful to have been given a portal into your world.

Love,

A New Fan

28 April 2016

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears

A friend saw that I'd been reading Georgette Heyer, and thought that I might like a set of mysteries set in Victorian England. So she sent me a stack of five paperbacks, three of which I've finished and mailed off to my sister-in-law. The high-falutin' series name is The Robin Paige Victorian-Edwardian Mysteries - such a mouthful! They are fun, though, and very undemanding, which is what one wants once in a while.

I was distinctly amused to open the second book, Death at Gallows Green, and find a bright pink post-it with a "necessary spoiler":


Okay, thanks! When the girl finally turned up missing, I remembered that she was not going to be hurt or killed and that therefore, she had to be found. And she was!

More amusingly, to me anyway, was finding the word "pitcher" scratched out on page 55, and replaced with "jug".


On page 56, "pitcher" was unassaulted.


And on page 58, it was again struck out!


The great mystery is why a jug and not a pitcher. Why? British vs. American usage. The book - though set in England - was written by a pair of Americans.

My favorite part? Adding my own annotations to those the book came to me with.

Do you write in your books?

26 March 2016

FRANTICALLY, FRENETICALLY

It used to be that I never wrote in books. Then I decided that if it was my book, it was okay to write in. But library books? They shouldn't be written in, even if there are errors that ought to be edited. Right?

Imagine my amusement at finding that someone perceived there to be a typo in a library copy of Georgette Heyer's The Toll-Gate: fractionally.


Clearly, the reader thought fractionally was wrong, and so crossed it out and wrote in franctically.

In fact, fractionally is correct, because the whole sentence is "Fractionally, as they struggled together, shifting this way and that over the damp, uneven rock-floor, John was moving his grip nearer and nearer to Coate's wrist." That is, John was moving his grip fractionally, not that they were struggling frantically or frenetically.

But it's the misspelling in the correction that slayed me.

20 March 2016

Another Reason Why I Blog

Every couple of years, I sit down and dump my blog to one of the printing services, so that if (when) the internet blows up, I have a copy. Recently, I printed the last four years, from 2012 to 2015.



The books were sitting on the coffee table, because I hadn't put them away yet, and the girl picked one up. She proceeded to read all the entries about her, in all four of the books.



"I did this?" "I said that?"

And in that moment I realized that it really does act as a sort of baby book. No first words, but her height's in there at least once, and there's a haircut, and the first day of kindergarten, and the first day of middle school, and various and sundry other milestones.

And it makes me happy that I now have printed, bound volumes from 2006 to 2015.


UPDATE

Because a number of people have asked, the service I use is Blog 2 Print. It is not perfect, but it is fast and reasonably easy, and there's not a lot of futzing required. It supports Blogger, Wordpress, Typepad and Tumblr. You provide the URL for your blog and select some parameters (like date range, whether or not to include comments, whether each post is on its own page). You get to write a little dedication, you choose from a bunch of preformatted covers, and you're able to choose (or upload) a picture for the front and back covers. Because I'm cheap, I go for the most compact layout (because it's fewer pages), but it does mean that the photos aren't necessarily where they had been in the original post. Also, I found a handful of places where the wrong photo got sucked in - I think in every case it was an instance where the photo had been hosted elsewhere, like a book cover image from Amazon. And it doesn't play nicely with Instagram - a photo inserted using the Instagram embed code comes through as just the widget code. While I'd rather the final product had been perfect, I'm not concerned enough to spend a lot of time going back and making it perfect (and paying for a reprint). In short, it got the job done.

(PS Blog 2 Print didn't pay me to write anything, and didn't ask me to do this.)