Sunday, March 27, 2011


I have noted the passage of many public figures here, and of one non-public but very personal figure. Today's public figure is probably the one who had the most significant impact on my own life and development.

Diana Wynne Jones died yesterday of lung cancer. She recently became somewhat famous in this country when her young adult novel Howl's Moving Castle was made into an anime and then dubbed over into English and released here. I can't remember when I first read Howl's Moving Castle, but it was probably the book I checked out of the public library more than any other. It was on the grown-up floor of the library! Okay, in the young adult section, but still: downstairs! My fingers can still remember where the clear covering on the dust jacket was torn—and where I tore it even more. Perhaps this early obsession presaged my eventual Golden Girls fandom, as the protagonist is a cranky old lady.

The Wikipedia article linked above has a complete list of her books, but here is my own personal annotated catalog of Diana Wynne Jones masterpieces:

Castle in the Air, the sequel to Howl's, gave me a much better attitude toward British depictions of Arabs than C. S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy.

The Lives of Christopher Chant confirmed to me that the secret world I could always sense outside of our own, the one I visited in the best dreams, was really there.

Witch Week taught me that even the awful people at school, the ones you hate or who hate you, just might have the same secrets you have. And it taught me what rice pudding was.

The Magicians of Caprona made me love alternative history.

A Tale of Time City made me love it even more, and taught me that Vivian could be a boy's name.

Hexwood was the BEST. THING. EVER. King Arthur and Merlin both secretly aliens? As well as most other European mythological figures? Plus telepathy, computer games, and a main character who keeps dreaming she's trapped inside her own ear? Brilliant.

Charmed Life taught me how to play conkers, which I still have yet to play.

Cart and Cwidder, together with Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves," formed a loose basis for my current Dungeons and Dragons character.

Drowned Ammet actually got drowned when I left it near an open window in a rainstorm. That seemed very right to me.

The Spellcoats makes me love my Guatemalan patchwork coat even more.

Crown of Dalemark pointed out that fantasy doesn't have to be a long time ago.

The Ogre Downstairs made science fun!

Dogsbody put the magic back into the stars. And was about dogs!

Eight Days of Luke made the Norse Gods I loved to read about into regular people.

Archer's Goon is perfect for conspiracy theorists who believe magical folks are secretly controlling everything.

Aunt Maria taught me the same distrust of Aunts that I learned from James and the Giant Peach, but much more intense. Luckily my own aunts weren't evil.

Fire and Hemlock was an actual grown-up book, the first I read. It's a version of the Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer ballads that's about a doomed cellist and a young girl who writes bad fan fiction. SO. FUCKING. GOOD.

A Sudden Wild Magic was my second grown-up book, and it gave me a crush on a centaur. Another book with an old lady protagonist. Also REALLY FUCKING GOOD.

Deep Secret reminded me of The Story of the Amulet, but better, and also for grownups.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but these are the ones I read as a kid/teenager, and they basically made me love reading more than anything else except possibly some of the works of Bruce Coville. If you are the sort of person who can read children's books, I wholeheartedly recommend her children's books. If not, I doubleheartedly recommend her few adult books. She was an amazing voice in children's literature, fantasy literature, and just literature in general. I will miss her as much as I would miss someone I actually had the chance to know and love.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kiss the Great Old One

I think my favorite picture in this series is the one where Ellie, age 10, seems to have mistaken the phrase "cone-shaped" for the phrase "in the shape of a chicken that is melting and running all over the place."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gay ≠ Happy

In gay news today, Victoria Jackson (Teri from UHF) thinks gay boys kissing is sickening, and Elizabeth Taylor, who knew better, is dead at age 79.

I know these two events don't belong in the same post (or even the same universe), but more than two posts in one day is too many for me.

Time machine to 2003

Hi everybody. If this is completely incoherent, please blame it on my throbbing headache or inability to breathe. Let me also note that I bitterly resent getting a cold in late March. Unacceptable.

Anyway, last night I went to a preview performance of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, starring a comedian of whom you may have heard—Robin Williams—as the title character.

That would be the Bengal Tiger, not the Baghdad Zoo.

This was the first non-musical I'd seen on Broadway in many years, and I have to say it really didn't seem to fill a theater the size of the Richard Rodgers. Maybe it's my bias, but a cast of seven who never sing—and some of whom barely speak—seems just too small for a venue that seats 1,319.

Leaving that aside, the play had some awesomeness and some less-than. It was definitely still a preview performance, so there were some moments of insecurity about timing that, for me, really threw off a few scenes. It's not that people didn't know their lines; they just were so insecure in them that they occasionally babbled through them instead of acting them. BUT, Robin Williams, despite succumbing to this occasional speed-reading feel, was fantastic. His profanity-laced opening monologue set the perfect tone for a show that revolves around slightly disturbing humor and profoundly disturbing non-humor.

For those who don't know the play, it's set in Baghdad in 2003, and it revolves around a handful of characters: the Tiger, two American Marines, and Saddam Hussein's son's gardener now working as a translator for the American military. Everyone, in one way or another, is hopelessly compromised by the invasion, and each one of them ends up with blood metaphorically on his hands/paws or literally on his body. Or both. But it's actually a comedy, sort of.

The play is especially disturbing in light of our most recent military adventure in Libya, which has all the hallmarks of another Iraq invasion: coalition of nations, promise that it will be a very quick operation, lack of debate even in the semi-public sphere of Congress, and, of course, vast endangered reserves of oil.

I have to say, the two Marines reminded me strongly of some soldiers I have known, and that isn't a compliment. The unthinking racism and constant misogyny and homophobia, combined with a lack of understanding about the impact of killing and death (until it's too late), paint a bleak but familiar picture of what goes on in our military. The characters are well written, and one of them was excellently played by Glenn Davis, but they were hard to watch. The other one, played by Brad Fleischer (who seems to be the only cast member with Broadway experience at all!?), was a frequent sufferer from the speed-reading flaw I mentioned above, but otherwise was quite convincing. Especially in his brief shirtless scene.

Standout performances by Arian Moayed as Musa the gardener/translator and Hrach Titizian as the ghost of Uday Hussein. Uday was very reminiscent of Applegate in Damn Yankees, but much, much creepier, especially in the scene where he carries around his brother's severed head and the one where he describes his rape and murder of Musa's sister. Musa is the heart of the play, despite its title, and he does an excellent job with the way the character appears first as a minor supporting role and gradually moves to the center of the emotional action.

In conclusion, I don't normally have much good to say about rape-and-murder comedy, but Bengal Tiger really deploys it's twisted humor well, making each joke in the play progressively more uncomfortable than the last. Once they work out the timing issues (SLOW DOWN. REALLY), it'll be fantastic. Just be ready for a moving, disturbing, and unbearable comedy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


If my school email address sent any of you any spam, I apologize. It has been shut down for "suspicious network activity
that was indicative of a virus infection or account compromise." I have been informed by the help desk that they "will never ask you for your username and password to 'verify' your account. E-mails of that nature are not legitimate and should be ignored and deleted." I feel so informed!

Anybody else have this experience? Mine happened yesterday, some time between when I checked school email in the morning and when I checked it at 11 PM.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March 8th

Happy International Women's Day, everybody! Those of you who have elections today, celebrate by voting for women! I already sent in my absentee ballot, full of little filled-in ovals next to names of women candidates for city council, community college board, and something else that I've already forgotten. Or maybe just more community college board positions. If you live in West Hollywood, think about voting for the only two women in a crowded city council race otherwise full of gay men. If you live in NY, join me at the Women for Women International celebratory march across the Brooklyn Bridge to commemorate 100 years of International Women's Day! Maybe in another 100 years the US will actually acknowledge it, but I doubt it. The holiday has two very bad words in it: women, of course, and international. We don't like those things in this country.

In other women's political news, I got a survey in the mail from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It claimed to be from Nancy Pelosi, and to really want to know my priorities for the Democrats in Congress.

(Side note: Democrats in Congress sounds like a terrible DC-themed porno.)

On a long list of priorities, out of which I was to choose and rank three, guess how many mentioned the word "women?" If you guessed exactly as many as mentioned the word "abortion," you're right! If you also guessed that that number was exactly as many as the number of priorities that mentioned the word "Cthulhu," you are also right! Luckily, there was a fill-in-the-blank option. Also luckily, they left a space at the end of the survey for comments. You may be surprised to hear that I used that space to comment. I will leave you to imagine what those comments were.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fun fact of the day

Judy Evans, costume designer for the Golden Girls, became a llama farmer after retiring from costume design.

Things you learn when listening to audio commentary on the Golden Girls DVDs...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Exercise, my foot!

So when I was in DC visiting the boyfriend, I stupidly strained a ligament or something in my left foot while we were walking around. Not that I chose to do it; I just wore stupid shoes. My foot got very sore, but it went away (mostly) by the next day. Since then, every time I walk or run for a long distance, it has hurt again, though not badly.

So what did I decide to do yesterday? Walk upwards of six miles. Today, I am sitting with my foot up and an ice pack on it, popping Motrin and hoping I can make it down the stairs at some point.

This is why you should never wear flip-flops when traveling long distances. If you find yourself in a situation where you might be tempted to do so, much better to take them off and go barefoot.

This has been a public service announcement from your completely unlicensed podiatrist.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Things that taste great

My dad's black bean soup.

My dad's basically-it's-just-a-lot-of-mustard salad dressing (when on a salad).

Slightly green bananas.

Trader Joe's sesame pita chips.

I do not recommend combining these, but individually each one is supremely satisfying.

That is all.