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The Death of Imagination [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Barely awake [Mai. 4., 2015|11:46 am]

Bleah. This is one of those days where just keeping my eyes open from one moment to the next counts as an achievement of sorts.

I did get all the plants in the ground I wanted to. Splitting the work up over two days helped. When I got back from the game yesterday, I learned both that the rain was coming earlier than expected and Nuphy later. So I seized my opportunity and moved the "shitty grass" (it grows well, but it's nothing exciting to look at) so I could plant the remaining hydrangea. Then I finally stuck the mature columbine in the ground, since the night before Fig warned me that it doesn't like to be moved after it's stuck down its taproot. He also promised me more seed so that my happy little patch could become a reality.

Seeing Nuphy is always a pleasure but it can be a bit of a trial as well. I was tired out after a late night and, since I'd been away gaming all afternoon, I had chores to catch up on. monshu was tired after assembling a splendid biryani and beginning to have his usual evening health issues. But Nuphs was fresh from a mediocre opera and full of chatter. We sighed with relief when the rain let up at last we were able to shove him out the door.

The game was good but frustratingly shortened. We were down one player because his boyfriend wanted them to see Avengers together (I'm glad I wasn't the only player whose reaction was, "Really?") and another had plans to escape a zombie puzzle room and left halfway through. That was long enough to make the great heroic sacrifice, but then the GM was forced to handwave the denouement, which--given some of the simultaneously goodhearted by also asinine/assholish choices from some of the characters--was really going to be good. Oh well; at least we're back on a regular schedule again.

Cocktails, on the other hand, were really an unalloyed success, however. I tried not to fret too much about attendance and ended up with a group of almost perfect size. We all fit comfortably around the dining room table for the distribution of Derby pie. I guess it wasn't quite warm enough for juleps on the porch, but I did at long last have a chance to show Fig around the grounds again. One of the guests was an Aussie just in town for the weekend and cuter than anything. At one point I asked him, "Is everyone in Oz outgoing or do the introverts just stay at home?" to which he replied, "I am an introvert!"

The other great success on Saturday was lunch on Devon with tyrannio, innerdoggie, and mollpeartree. Had princeofcairo been along as well, we would've dined at Sabri Nehari, but in his absence we defaulted to Mysore Woodlands. We followed this up with visits to both Fresh Farms and Patel, as well as the regular stops to Mughal Bakery and India Book House. I scolded monshu for picking up a Vikram Chandra novel we already owned, so he swapped it for a nonfiction narrative by Vikram Seth.
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Rooting [Mai. 2., 2015|06:06 pm]
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I hope I didn't overdo it with the gardening today. I really did very little, but I still have to roll out a pie crust and then make a load of cocktails, both of which are hard on my back and the cumulative effect could be beyond the power of bourbon to overcome. But I couldn't let this good weather go to waste. It's easily the most glorious weekend of the year so far, whereas Monday is predicted to be stormy, so I very much wanted to get some things in the ground, like the hydrangeas. Well, one is, and the geraniums are in the planters out front (though I may have inadvertently slain one by lopping off too much of the root ball).

And more is coming up than I suspected earlier in the spring. Winter didn't kill the knotweed; it was just screened by all the damn daylilies. And the mayapple I'd given up for dead is back, though struggling. One of the epidimediums may have pulled through as well; something is coming up near the spot where I planted it, and it doesn't look like a weed. But the biggest success are the tulips. monshu bought one pot last year which I divided promiscuously. Now we have two clumps in full bloom. From such small beginnings...
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Not another MLK quote [Apr. 28., 2015|08:38 pm]
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This is for febrile, who was lamenting on That Other Social Network that he misses the political discussion we used to have on LJ. If you see this, pal, post whatever you like and I'll do my best to respond in kind.

Naturally, the uproar over the disturbances in Baltimore is laying bare the limitations of Fakepuck for informed discourse in a particularly heinous. I'm expecting at least one deFriending (no big loss) despite doing my best not to get too deeply into it with anybody. But it's hard to hold my tongue when others are doing so much sanctimonious clucking about a few incidents of looting. (Almost solely from light-skinned people of privilege who have never had to live anywhere as shitty as West Baltimore, natch.) 'Cause that's really the main problem here, not--for instance--the fact that, just since 2011, eleven people have died in police custody in Baltimore and the force have been forced to pay out sums totaling over $5.7 million to settle cases of alleged undue use of force.

And then of course there's Gray's rap sheet, which has been circulating around the conservative blogosphere with such alacrity you'd think it'd just been leaked rather than being something which was widely reported in the dirty liberal media two weeks ago. But that's the most important thing to establish at this juncture: He Got What Was Coming. 33 counts in 8 years, only two violent, and every one of them a misdemeanour. Fully two-thirds are drug offences: possession, possession with intent to distribute, or distribution. Almost all the rest (e.g. violation of probation, lying to a cop, second-degree escape) are related to going through the wringer of the criminal justice system. His last arrest was for possession of a switchblade, which they had to run him down, tackle him (injuring him severely in the process), and search him to find. In other words, he's just the kind of low-level victim of the War On Drugs libertarians would leap to defend--if he were White. (But this isn't about race, oh no, it's about ethics in games journalism or something.)

You know how every time anyone--but especially a Muslim--goes on air to try to explain the reasons why it might be that young Muslims are so fed up with the world that some of them decide to blow themselves up or take hostages or whatever, they always have to preface their remarks with a ritualistic denial of support for terrorism? I think we all agree this is bullshit, but since the expectation doesn't seem to be going anywhere, I'd like to propose an equivalent for any time White people try to talk about the police. We should all be expected to say upfront that police brutality and extrajudicial murder are a Bad Things and that everyone in blue should really try the durnedest to stop doing them. Because I keep seeing people jump right into slamming the victim and condemning the outcry and it makes me honestly wonder if they don't see this as a problem the way the rest of us do.
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Bottomless bag [Apr. 27., 2015|04:08 pm]

I've been reading a lot of books lately. Just over the weekend, I polished off two more short story collections, one by Dubus and a contemporary European anthology. So I've given myself licence to buy more. Unfortunately, as is always the case, I've bought more than I've read. A sampling:
  1. Mağden, Perihan. Ali and Ramazan (Ali ile Ramazan). I've been disappointed in Mağden; I was so unimpressed with her Messenger boy murders that I don't even remember what I didn't like about it any more. But I never learn. Besides, gay Romance in a gritty Istanbul setting. I'll take the chance.
  2. Mantel, Hilary. Bring up the bodies. Not ready to plunge into this just yet but I'm keeping it on hand for when I feel I really need me some more Cromwell.
  3. Masud, Naiyer. Snake catcher (Stories selected and translated by M.U. Memon.) Urdu short-story writer? Hmm...maybe. Comparisons to Kafka? Okay, you sold me.
  4. Native North American literary companion (Janet Witalec, comp.) A pretty decent-looking introduction to a subject I feel I should know more about. Hopefully it will help me figure out which authors to give a try.
  5. Natsume Sōseki. The Tower of London (倫敦塔). Sōseki loose in Edwardian London? This should be interesting.
  6. Pokagon, Simon. O-gi-wam-kwe Mit-i-gwa-ki/Queen of the Woods. Pokagon is one of those colourful figures people love to call "complex" because it goes down easier than "kind of a jerk". This looks pretty oddball, but it was only $1 and it's stuffed full of Potawatomi words and customs, so it should fit a pretty particular mood I might eventually find myself in.
  7. Süsskind, Patrick. Das Parfüm. Great movie, and everyone tells me it's a great book as well. I couldn't resist reading the first chapter the day I bought it and I love Süsskind's style. Tempted to start reading it now but I feel I already have too many fat books on my plate as it is.
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Aces [Apr. 26., 2015|10:38 pm]
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My blockbuster weekend of gaming almost became a bust. First, yesterday's big bear game night was cancelled on account of the host's health issues. Nothing that could be done about that (which nevertheless didn't stop one of the invitees from whining about how his weekend plans got screwed; people, I tell you). Then today's biweekly RPG got cancelled at quite literally the last minute. The GM had tried to cancel it on Friday, on account of his ex moving out of the apartment (a move, btw, that had been planned SIX MONTHS in advance), but I put forth our place as an alternative venue. Then one guy bagged on account of insomnia, another due to a work call, and he posted that it was becoming a "clusterfuck" before pulling the plug.

monshu can testify to how put out I was about this. Fortunately, one of the invitees who was already on his way felt the same, and we were able to have a productive bitch session. It's not that I've been spoiled by my previous gaming groups (although I have); this one really does suffer from a critical lack of good scheduling. Even better, he agreed to be the bad guy and post the "can we get it together?" request to the rest of the group. No response from the GM so far, so we'll just have to see if that does anything.

But he stuck around. Add one other attendee, and we had quorum for tabletop games. Barely. We chose Betrayal in the House on the Hill, a haunted house game where one of your party turns traitor when the Big Bad shows up. After two very quick failures, we determined that it's broken with only three players. You just can't give the traitor one move for every two from the rest of the players and expect them to survive long enough to defeat it. Our solution was to give everyone two characters for the exploratory phase. When your man turned, we knocked one of his characters out of play.

This worked brilliantly. We had a little trouble keeping track of a our split personalities, but that got easier as the ghostly serial killer began picking them off. In the end, it was a nailbiting hand-to-hand between the BB and the tank (played by me) that determined the outcome. We all declared ourselves well-satisfied and the Old Man and I went out for a tasty supper at Antica Pizzeria. Yay! The weekend is saved!
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Those who won't do, stand [Apr. 24., 2015|11:37 am]
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One of the local organisations is hosting its annual Stand Against Racism and staff are being encouraged to attend, something I don't recall in previous years. But there's a special urgency this time since only last week racist graffiti was found written on the walls of my workplace and the big boss is anxious about the optics.

Does that sound cynical? It's hard not to be about these sorts of things. In principle, I find nothing wrong with concerned individuals rallying together for a cause. I know some networking always goes on at these things and boring meetings in church basements and dowdy storefronts simply don't have the same appeal. Plus it must cheer some POCs to see a bunch of White people holding supportive signs. I know if I'd seen a Stand Against Homophobia back in the day it would've done me good.

But that was when I was more idealistic and the sheer intractable vastness of the issues didn't intimidate me so much. When I look back over the progress of LGBTQ rights in my lifetime, I see a huge advance for assimilationists (like me) and small steps for the rest. It seems like a similar situation for POCs: somewhat better conditions for those already in the middle class, same old story for those shut out of it.

In order to encourage ongoing engagement, today's rally will feature "selfie signs" where we're all encouraged to write "how you stand against racism in your daily life". Is there anything I could write which isn't flat-out embarrassing? Yeah, I engage people in discussions of racial issues online. I'm sure that's done so much palpable good for victims of institutional racism in this country.

Maybe if I turn up and there are a significant number of POCs present, this will feel like something more than just a guilt-freeing exercise for Good White Liberals. But not much more.
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Bursting [Apr. 23., 2015|09:56 pm]
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Yesterday it actually snowed. Or at least so I'm told--I wasn't up early enough to see it. The whole day felt like winter, though, even if the sun did peek out for a bit; despite the forecast I'd be surprised if it cracked the 40s (>4°C). Today wasn't much better. Regretfully, I went back to wearing my down jacket.

The plants don't seem bothered, however. If you like spring flowers, this is what you should actually be hoping for: a brief warm-up, some rain, and then days on end of cool weather. The warmth and moisture get the bulbs blooming, and the coolness preserves them. We finally have trees in bloom now. Mostly magnolias, but some cherries, too, and I've even seen a few premature pears. I was worried out kerria was laid waste, but it's keeping pace with the healthy ones down the street, so I think it'll be fine.

The black-eyed susans are returning as well, but most everything else we planted failed to survive. I do have two columbines which we nursed indoors over the winter, but I'm loath to set them in the ground yet. I do have the larger one outside acclimating. (Otherwise I was concerned it would start blooming and I'd have to hold off replanting.) And all our tulips survived from last year, which is something.
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Watch out for the skin deep [Apr. 22., 2015|10:45 am]

One of the reasons I gravitate toward duller fiction, at least at home, is that I don't want something which will keep me up all night. But I knew that, with less than a hundred pages left, I had plenty of time to finish Under the skin before bedtime. Still, it left me so agitated that I felt the need to go for a walk about 9 p.m. When I came back, I went for something polar opposite and picked up Le Guin's Always coming home.

Faber manages a good balance between verisimilitude and allegory in his novel. At some point, I realised he was never going to give me some details of his invented world that I really wanted to know, but at this point I was invested enough in the characters and their story that I was able to let this go. I'm not sure I'd be so successful at this on a second reading.

What I really appreciated was his handling of the horror elements. He didn't get as grisly as I expected, but they were no less effective for this. In fact, I think that understating them actually made it easier for them to get under my skin. Also, a goodly amount of Scottish dialect, but no so much that the average reader would put it down in disgust. (At one point the protagonist says, "I have no idea what you're saying". I wonder how many American readers will have the same experience.)

For my commute, I'm back to Mahfouz' Morning and evening talk (حديث الصباح والمساء). It's an interesting experiment, telling a family saga by means of alphabetical entries, but so far I'm finding it focuses my attention on the form at the expense of content. I keep wondering about his process of structuring the novel in order to keep some of the traditional elements of tension and gradual revelation. Jumping from one character to the next in this fashion can make it hard to keep the thread, but if you forget who someone is, you can always flip to their entry. (Though I try not to read too much of the later entries because spoilers.)

The use of patronymics helps a lot as well. (Wait, who's Qasim Amr Aziz again? Or, right, the son of Amr Aziz Yazid al-Misri.) Since the same landmark events keep popping up again and again--e.g. the 1919 Revolution, June 7th 1967--I also think of it as a primer for my eventual reading of his Cairo Trilogy, which Blondie warned me takes some knowledge of Arab history to truly appreciate. Still, I think I would need a decent work of history to really unlock that.

Oh, and I dispensed with The story of Zahra. It did gain some forward thrust and came to a satisfying (and predictably tragic) conclusion. Blondie spoke appreciatively of her Women of sand and myrrh, so on the basis of that recommendation and the strength of her writing in Zahra, I picked it up for four bucks.
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Out and about [Apr. 19., 2015|07:16 pm]
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Today I was given a second second chance. The weather was predicted to be chilly and rainy (which I belatedly realised is what I had been wishing it would be Friday or Saturday in order to better suit my homebound lethargy), but the morning was gorgeous. I announced my intention to visit Andersonville and the Old Man proposed accompanying me to La Colombe. I had a gâteau basque and a mocha, which was enough to convince me that I like their pastries but don't care for their coffee, and took up a strategic location where I good views out both sets of windows. So much stroller meat! It reminded me of the punchline of that hoary Jewish joke, "What do you need so many goyim for?"

Afterwards, we hit Middle Eastern and I left him holding the bag as I trotted up Clark Street. First stop was the bookstore, where I found a remaindered copy of a reprint of a quirky American Indian book; second was the bank, where I loaded up on cash; and third was Gethsemane, where I bought a pot herb and some seeds. Between each station, I ran into some I knew--first someone who'd shadowed me at work back when he was studying for a library degree, then a couple from work. Then I returned home through Edgewater Glen, where I saw the first bridal wreath of the season as well as an immense cherry in full bloom.

The herb was lemon thyme, and rather than plant it outside while there's still danger of frost (however minor) I repotted it for the windowsill. I still prepared our plot and seeded it with salad greens while we decide what we want to try to grow this year. Little seems to have survived. The chives are going strong, but the sorrel, woodruff, and lemon balm are just emerging. I ripped out the garlic chives we never use and transferred some catnip from the adjoining plot (soon to be taken over by the nice couple upstairs) to a pot which I may or may not bury later.

Early spring is over and the grounds are waking up. The black-eyed susans did survive the winter after all, as did the shrubs in the front lawn (including the GWO's hated bayberry). Not only is the kerria coming back to life, it has some fat buds on it. The tulips are also in bud, and I'm chuffed to see that every one of the bulbs I buried survived. No sign of the bluestar, unless that's the mysterious plant coming up in the hellstrip.

By now it was early afternoon and quite cloudy, so I broke for lunch, called my brother, and read some. I've taken the plunge on Tanpınar, whose discursive style isn't exactly engrossing but is pretty enough without getting too florid. In addition, monshu, impatient for the publication of The book of strange new things in softcover, acquired a couple of Michel Faber novels and I read the first chapter of Under the skin. Looks like good shuttle reading.
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Retreat [Apr. 18., 2015|10:18 pm]

I meant for today to be a day of accomplishment that would balance out yesterday's day of sluggery, but it didn't happen. I did finish another book, another classic film, and another load of laundry, but I didn't leave the house or speak to anyone besides my spouse. Tomorrow for sure! It's difficult to say for sure what's making me so listless. Certainly I'm doing a lot of brooding on account of monshu. Last fall's symptoms have returned as if he'd never had the debulking or the Sandostatin. Every time I hear him moaning in the bathroom, I die a little inside.

On this date last year, I wrote:
I just want to get away for a while. monshu and I haven't been on a vacation together since Toronto three years ago, and my last adventure without him was Arkansas with Dad around this time last year. I was really hoping to get abroad again--it's going on a decade since that happened--but maybe next year. (Pretty please next year?)
Well, it won't be this year either, not unless the oncologist has some other solution up his sleeve. And I fear if not this year, then maybe not ever. I don't want to think that way, but what can I do about it?
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