Archive for June, 2010

“To be well-remembered is a gift.”

June 29, 2010 - 11:12 am 11 Comments

              A woman, who has been a gift, told me that this morning.

              I am remembering, and remembering well.

              When I was a child, I had a piano, and not just any piano: I had an upright Steinway grand.  It had to be a hundred and twenty-five years old, and it was stellar.  I spent time with it every day.  I was small, maybe five or six, hardly more, but I loved that piano, and even then, I knew it was worth more than the emotions I alone imparted upon it; I knew it was worth more than the ridiculous sum of money I thought it was worth (despite it having been free in the Pennysaver from someone who probably just needed it to be gone).  I knew it was important.  It was music, and it was history, and it was love.

              But it was also old, and each time it was played, it sounded worse and worse.  My mother had it looked at to see what, if anything, could be done, but after so much time, it was fragile; the once straight, silver strings within the piano were warped and would have to be replaced, the worn-out hammers refitted.  We were living on food stamps then; we couldn’t afford cable TV or a Nintendo, let alone refitting an antique piano.  So, instead, I watched PBS and I read, and my mother and I would play our hearts out on the old, warped piano, and we didn’t care that our favorite tunes from Jesus Christ Superstar didn’t sound much like the album anymore.  She played and I sang and after a while I played, too, despite the tone-deaf Steinway.

              Then came the time when we, too, had to move, and once more, the piano had a family that needed the instrument to be gone.  So my father (a fine musician himself, but with a more easily-restrung instrument, the guitar), perhaps not wanting to see music be forgotten or left to strangers who, upon moving in, would not know its worth, would not care about its past, or perhaps just wanting to give it to someone who he knew would and could use it, gave the piano to a good friend of his called Jay, who had a son who could learn to play too, in time; a friend who maybe could restore it, or maybe not, but at least it would not be gone or forgotten.

              I went and visited my piano a few times with my father, but I then grew up and got too busy, forgot to visit, and after a while, the memory of my beloved piano faded away until I was old enough to really care to remember it and take care in remembering it: to research it, to find out the monetary cost of such an experienced instrument, and the historical value.  As it turned out, it had earned a lot of both.  I remembered my warped piano then, and I was angry: angry that I had had to give my treasure away; angry that I no longer even possessed a real piano; angry, too, at the less-than-stellar keyboard to which I’d since been demoted, which was born of plastics and would age far worse than my sturdy, cherished Steinway.

              But my anger would burn out; I knew the piano was in good hands, even if those hands had painted on the keys an acrylic rainbow to make the notes, the warped sounds the piano produced, easier to remember. Of those hands, I have a memory.

              Jay’s son and I would play the piano, when I did visit its new home.  Later in the evening, I would sit on the wooden piano bench and my father’s friend would tell me about the universe, about space and time.  He had a pocket watch on a chain.  Jay would take the silver chain and fold it over on itself, and he would explain to me that the universe: its buoyant, bright stars and super-massive black holes; its huge, nebulous gasses where stellar bodies were born and tiny, rocky planets where human bodies were too, folded on itself as well; that time warped space and space warped time, and that space and time were one, together; that time, like space, could be shaped, and he would say all of this with the watch on the end of the chain, the clock hanging limply at the edge of space in a small, silver universe, and it would tick away the time quietly in the background of my impromptu astro-quantum-physics class, never interrupting, but persistent.  Even at six, at seven years old, I came to understand that this was the important part of the lesson.  At the forefront of my brain, I wanted to be a physicist.  At the back, I was aware that time stretched on, fused with space as it was, and even if I missed something that Jay had said on those nights, I am forever glad I did not entirely skip the lecture.

              Last night, I mentioned my piano to a good friend while we talked, and the evening passed.

              This morning, I was told that Jay had passed last night.

              Though I have grown up, and had only visited a few times, I do miss him.

              “To be well-remembered is a gift,” a cherished woman told me this morning.  I believe her, and I believe, in time, I will remember her well.

              I also still believe in physics, and maybe now I believe in a little of the metaphysical.  I believe that time warps space and space warps time and that the two will never be parted.  I believe all of us affect and are affected by space and time, since, in the words of another man from my childhood who is also now gone and missed, “We are star-stuff.

              I know that being well-remembered does not allow us to interrupt the persistently short time we are given, as the ticking watch at the end of a small, silver, chain-link universe always knew, but I believe that it can be warped into the best shape that our stellar masses and minds can form, if we remember, and remember well, for as another man who affected my youth but was gone long before I could miss him had said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

              I have decided to remember the time, and time, remember well, because that same, stellar woman also told me this morning, “Those that are remembered, are never really gone.”

              ~*~

              Below the cut are (perhaps selfish) dedications and thank yous for the creation and exponential, infinite expansion of my mind and self: things I have wanted to say, things I should have said already, and things I say too much.

(more…)

I have successfully renewed my library card; Neil Gaimen, graphic novels, and book restoration.

June 24, 2010 - 4:47 am 5 Comments

And, after paying off $16 in fines that I didn’t actually have but didn’t feel bad about because a) it was my fault that I didn’t know when my card expired and b) the library really needs that money right now anyway, I went and checked out some new books. I got most of the things which were recommended to me, but some where out (Ubik by Phillip K Dick for one) and some didn’t seem to exist (Carmichael’s Dog by R.M. Koster, which could be find neither in the Carnegie Library nor the inter-library loan system, so I did suggest they purchase it), but in the end I ended up with far too more books than I will have time to read and that is never a bad thing. This may have been due to the newly-proffered baskets a la very small shopping carts the library now supplies so that you don’t have to balance your books under your chin, which truly was the only think that kept me from taking out twenty books in the past, as I have a very small chin-to-crook-of-my-arm ratio, which only allows for about 6 hardbacks or 10 paperbacks.

Anansi Boys
Already I’ve delved into Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, one of the very few novels by him which I have not read (due to the fact that I previously thought it was permanently checked out, then found out that no, it just lived in the teen fiction section), and I am finding it very silly. I completely empathise with Fat Charlie, though perhaps not in such a severe way: my dad is that dad who is and will always be cooler than you and when you you throw a party all of your friends from high school show up begrudgingly so when they find out, no, he has a real job now and can’t come drinking on Thursday nights. So there’s that.

History of Violence
I also have started the graphic novel A History of Violence, written by John Wagner and illustrated by Vince Locke and though I’m only about 70 pages in, I expected to me much more grabbed by it than I am being (no I have not seen the movie but I do want to, mostly because I would let Viggo Mortenson do horrible things to me). Nothing really against it so far, I’m just the type who has to get into things early on or else I shove them in a corner and let them starve (this is why I can’t have children). For something that’s reputedly a psychological thriller and also, um, a graphic novel, I thought I would be a lot more into it by now. But we’ll see.

People of the Book

And finally, I’m still reading People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks who won the Pulitzer for her work, March.  It is truly amazing.  It’s a fictional story about the Sarajevo Haggadah, an early Jewish seder book, rare and priceless in that it was very finely made and included illustrations (haggadahs are usually boring and utilitarian, my Gentile friends, and nearly no Jewish books were illustrated because for a very long time that was taboo, much as most Muslims consider images of  the prophet Mohammad, PBUH, to be false idolatry).  It tells how the book was created, where various stains and markings on the book come from, and how the book came to be bound in it’s current form, not to mention how it survived the Bosnian War, rescued many times over by people of all faiths, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not so much (one story line involves a very alcoholic Vatican priest and a Rabbi with a severe gambling problem).  The main plot, if you will, is about the woman restoring the book in the present day, who reminds me very much of Temperance Brennan, played by Emily Deschanel of Bones fame.  But, for as into this book as I may be, it does get very heavy and dark at times, and I had to put it away for a while because I was absolutely overcome by one of the stories of persecution of the Jews during the Inquisition.  There’s a particularly graphic depiction of a form of torture which involves making a person swallow a very long piece of linen inch by inch and then pulling it back out of them, and I had to take a breather.  That surprised me.  I’m usually very okay with violence and horror and just god-awful gore and nonsense, but that was a bit much.  When I am through, however, this book will probably have a whole blog dedicated to it (as it’s shaping up to already) because it is just so wonderfully crafted.

That’s it for me for now; I’ve gotten about six hours of sleep in the past two days so I’m going to try to catch some shut-eye.  See you all on the morrow.

Reblogged for truth.

June 21, 2010 - 7:57 pm 1 Comment

Censorship causes blindness.

That wonderfully clever image right there was taken (stolen, whatever) from The Book Project, an amazing book-themed blog by my dear friend @ReinaDeLaIsla (yes, all of my friends live on Twitter). Her whole blog features censored or challenged books, including a lot of dystopian fiction which is one of my favorites. If you enjoy what you see here, I really suggest you go check out her blog. I’m currently scouring it right now for more current reading material.

Didn’t get to make it to the library today, but tomorrow, oooooh, tomorrow. Books.

Sug-freaking-gestions!

June 21, 2010 - 1:45 am 4 Comments

Say the subject cheerfully, not angrily.

But yes. Tomorrow I am renewing my library card and planning to take out very few books of my own choosing, since I want to get some suggestions from you! While I’m really not too picky when it comes to genre on the whole, I do like sci-fi, historical fiction, things which will induce nightmares, and things about science (which is different than sci-fi in that I mean non-fiction). But really, the only things I am opposed to (and not even strongly if the rest of the reading is good) are things written in the first person (I’m a freak), modern romance, and fluff.

@mylifeasateacup has suggested the works of Mieville to me, so those will probably be what I snag once I do get my reading privileges invoked.

Please note that my library also has a wide array of graphic novels and magazines (as well as music and movies and a freaking cafe, god I love Carnegie Main) so don’t hesitate if that’s what’s on your mind.

And finally, if you’re from the Pittsburgh area (or even if you’re not), please be aware that our libraries are about to suffer some major blows in funding due to bureaucratic bullshit, so if you have the time, please go to http://www.carnegielibrary.org and do what you can. You don’t even need money. Write a letter. Anything. Please.

Thanks, dudes and dudettes!

Vegetarian Japanese Polka-Dot Rice

June 15, 2010 - 8:41 pm No Comments

Welcome to a segment I’m going to call Adventures in Being a Dirt-Poor Foodie.  Today I bring you a recipe I just concocted.  The inspiration for this was how much I love veggie dogs and how lazy I truly am.  What it is is pretty much the title: white rice with Japanese clear soup mix and polka-dots (maybe this is a Pittsburgh thing, but ‘polka-dot macaroni’ is when you cut up a hot dog and put it in a bowl of mac n’ cheese.  For this, I used a veggie dog, being the meatless sort I am, and put it in rice instead. Because, that’s why).

Ingredients:


1/2 cup white rice (though I’d imagine any grain or variety of rice would work just fine)

2/3 cup water

1 veggie dog (if you’re a veggie person, go ahead and use whatever hot dog you please)

1 packet Japanese clear soup mix (though, once again, I’d imagine you could use miso mix or even a packet of ramen powder, butthat would seriously up the sodium content.  Additionally, it may make a difference that this mix is one packet to eight ounces of water.  It’s Sushi Chef brand, if we’re getting super technical)

Baby spinach leaves (as many as you like; I used four big’uns)

White mushroom caps (again, as many as you like, and probably whatever mushrooms you prefer. I used three)

1 medium garlic clove, chopped

2 tablespoons shallots, chopped (or onions, though you may want to use more, especially if you’re using white or sweet onions)

A pinch of habanero (if you’re into spicy food like me)

Margarine or butter (or vegetable oil or non-stick spray, it’s not really the flavor that matters here, it’s the fact that garlic is sticky)

Sounds yummy, now what do I do?

In a small to medium sauce pan, melt about a tablespoon of margarine (or butter).  Over a medium-low heat, saute the shallots, garlic, and habanero lightly.  Add as much margarine as it takes to keep the herbs scootin’ across the pan.  As they begin to brown, chop up the mushrooms and put them in.  You may need more non-stick.  Saute them, but only very lightly, since they’re going to continue to be cooked.

Splash in your 2/3 cup of water.  Now, I know most rice only requires as much water as rice, but there’s a lot going on in this pan already, so it might get soaked up.  Let the veggies mix in a bit with the water, then add the rice.  Mix it up, and add the packet of soup mix .  While that cooks, prepare your veggie dog.

Cook the hot dog however you prefer; boil it, fry it, grill it (though that would be a lot of work for one stupid hot dog).  For the record, I put mine in the microwave wrapped in a wet paper towel and nuked it for 45 seconds, because i am truly lazy.  Then, just let it hang out and cool.

Now, de-stem the spinach and chop or tear it up, and put it in with the rice.  Don’t forget to stir occasionally.   Let the spinach cook down just a smidge, and turn the heat down to low.  While that last bit of water is cooking away, get a bowl.  Chop up your cooked veggie into bits (I like mine dime-sized) and put it in the bottom of the bowl.  Then just pour the rice on top and voila! Dinner!  With plenty of food groups!  Enjoy with a spoon or chopstick and milk or Coke or whatever.  I’d imagine this would also be good as a side for something, though perhaps sans hot dog.  It might even be good with fish.

Now, as you figured, pretty much everything in this recipe is optional except for the rice and the soup and the hot dog, hence it being Japanese Polka-Dot Rice (don’t even hafta be vegetarian).  It’s really whatever you like; add carrots, celery, potatoes, whatever, just be mindful of individual cook times.  Pretty much everything in this recipe cooks up fast, but say, potatoes, not so much.

Since I am a giant foodie (read: a huge pig), I’m hoping to include more recipes in here, of my own styling, and maybe even of yours!  If you want to send me a recipe to try and/or post, just email it to me or even leave it in the comments (though if it’s got meat in it I can’t promise I’ll try it, though I may use Chris as a guinea pig).  And, if you’d like to be on my much neglected blogroll, hey, just drop me a line and let me know.  I’d love to get some affiliates, which I’m under the impression are internet friends.  I love friends!

That’s all for now.  I’m off to continue playing Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure on my pink DS, because secretly I’m nine years old.

“I Am Legend” (Well, no, not me personally.)

June 12, 2010 - 11:15 pm 6 Comments

Have you ever wondered why vampires can’t get a tan?

Why don’t they like Italian cooking?

And what would a Muslim vampire do when faced with a cross?

These are just a few poignant questions asked (and, shock and awe, answered) in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, which is, at least in my experience, the first modern vampire novel, focusing more on the science of the creature than the supernatural nature of it.

The book, written in 1954, is still amazingly undated to this day.  There is very little within the story that would suggest lead character Robert Neville lives in any era other than this one, disregarding the fact that the setting (the late 1970s) is declared at the header of every part of the novel.  Coming to the story from a perspective which has been drenched in just about ever vampire novel from 1850 forward, with a huge emphasis on the late 1980s, I found the narrative to be smooth and easy to understand.  The only point which I faltered over at first was the difference between the ‘living’ vampires and the ‘dead’ vampires (which ends up being a huge difference, but for the purposes of avoiding a spoiler, I will not mention why).  Then it dawned on me.  I had read Anne Rice’s Campire Chronicles, and the designation between a ‘living’ and ‘dead’ vampire was very much the same in Interview with the Vampire as it was in I Am Legend: ‘dead’ vampires are dead.  They died.  They have thus been buried, and then rose from their graves.  ‘Living’ vampires are simply transitioning from life into undeath without all of that messy potting soil, and as a result, are much more sound of mind and purpose.  I thought it was a cool distinction in Rice’s works and feel no differently now.

The narrative is darkly funny, with a lot of good points you’ve probably wondered about vampires yourself, but simply allowed yourself to dismiss for the sake of suspension of disbelief.  Matheson goes out of his way to explain those little quirks, not limited to but including those first three questions up there.  The answer, wholeheartedly, is SCIENCE (take that, sparkly vampires).  And yet, despite that, the story is emotional, sometimes painful, and rings of truth.  It also sites other popular vampire texts and myths (namely Dracula) which really made it feel possible.

I had not seen (and do not plan to see, despite my inexplicable love for Will Smith) the movie adaptation, as I had heard around the time of the release that they changed the ending.  Now that I know that the ending properly is, I feel like junk-punching whoever made that decision.  I can’t say too much, but I will note how frantic and absolutely apathetic the ending was, and given the events taking place, I mean that in a good way.

In summary, if you like sci-fi, disillusionment, or vampires, and you’ve been living under a rock since 1954 (like I clearly had), read this book.  It only took me about two hours and I would gladly give up another two to read it again.

Speaking of rushed but necessary endings, I saw Splice the other day.  Very weird, kind of cute, and very sad.  Regarding some of the character exploitation in the film, particularly that of the women-type-folk, I’m not sure whether or not I can really say I liked it, but I didn’t dislike it, and it’s certainly a film which will make you think weird thoughts even days after you’ve seen it.  I would probably watch it again.

Uh, that, and Adrien Brody is smokin’. (Technical term.)

Speaking of tings I did the other day, I went to an Ingrid Michaelson show.  This has nothing to do with anything, I just wanted to gloat.

That’s all for now; sorry this one took so long to post.  My library books are just about due, so I’m going to skip doing a list of the ones I took out this last trip (I never got around to many of them anyway; life’s been kinda raaaaaahhhhh lately) and start clean next time.  I also may do a review of Theresia, a very bizarre little Nintendo DS which has more gore, dark corners, and puzzles than a Saw movie (also, it doesn’t suck.  Sorry Saw fans, but I can only get behind a formulaic plot, and a very thin one at that, for so long).