So let’s start with this, I guess: I think The Magnificent Seven is possibly one of the most macho films I’ve ever seen.
This is not really a controversial statement.
We watched it again tonight, for…reasons; my husband needs it for research, as he prepares to try and run a tabletop campaign loosely based on it. It’ll be the second go at it – the first having fallen prey to the great demon Scheduling; here’s hoping the second try is more successful.
I still remember helping put together the backstory for it, and building the…McGuffin, working through finishing touches together over a pint and a plate of fish and chips at our local pub.
I’ve thought at some length here about Westerns before, and my assessment of them hasn’t really changed much with time; I still find the genre difficult to connect with, though moments of it can be enjoyable. There are some great action scenes, and some lovely earnest moments, and some gorgeous scenery…but it’s just. so. macho.
Perhaps I’m just more in the mood for something swashbuckly. Something with…flouncier clothes, witty repartee, perhaps someone sliding down a banister or swinging on a chandelier. That’d be about the right speed, just now.
How long has it been since something was last fun?
Buying a set of canisters intended to reorganize my pantry. On purpose. This was the first tangible object I bought for myself that was not food in…longer than I really care to think about.
Thinking about my favorite roleplaying campaign I’ve ever been involved in, and realizing it began 13 years ago.
Having a hard time finding someone to watch Rear Window with me, because it is old.
Having a hard time finding a text-based guide for a game I was playing, and realizing that this is because everyone and their dog is doing things on YouTube now.
Listening to a podcast episode about this year’s “summer jams” and having the disconcerting sensation that a lot of the music wasn’t for me (though there was certainly a good bit that I liked!)
Largely not being on social media, and being okay with that.
Sitting down to write here, being fully aware that a substantial portion of the world does not read anything larger than a tweet.
Feeling like fonts with serifs are okay, actually.
A sense of passionate objection to microtransactions in games, especially games one has already purchased.
Simultaneous appreciation for streaming services and discomfort with the idea of never actually owning anything.
Listening to my husband talk about some potential new hires.
Eating some just-barely-cooked vegetables and finding them weirdly delicious.
Gathering for dinner with friends and reflecting that actually everyone was talking about management problems now instead of the sort of work problems I remember from some decades ago.
Being reminded that I should consider doing some estate planning activities.
The funny thing here here is that, as I have said before, no matter how long my body has been active upon this earth, all of the selves I have been are present in it.
The little girl who made of a rocking-horse Christmas ornament a little adventure all round the tree, only to cringe in shame and clam up when she realized her father was videotaping her is still here.
So is the teenager who just didn’t get why her friends were going on about romantic movies all the time and kept a kind of exchange diary with her then-bestie that probably contained some deeply cringey adventure fiction (but was great for maintaining her sanity.)
So is the college student who stayed at the computer labs until they closed, went for chicken strips once a week at a dive-y student bar, and somehow gained a reputation for being the Person Who Knew Things About Books Or Mythology.
I am simultaneously all of those people.
In a way, age is really just a sign that one has accumulated a large number of selves; that one has become many. Some day (hopefully) there will be many of me here indeed.
There is a lot going on today (well, “a lot” in pandemic terms – homework to do, errands to run, the week’s groceries to buy, etc.), and as a result I’m not feeling much of a strong throughline, unfortunately.
Still. Doesn’t mean I can’t share a few Delightful Things:
The webcomic Cat’s Cafe, in which a cuddly kitty…well, runs a cafe, where a host of adorable animal patrons come to have a little something delicious and relax, taking a break from the everyday troubles of living. The cuteness does a pretty good job of at least softening the blow when things inevitably become a bit too emotionally Real – and they will do that. Characters struggle with anxiety and low self-esteem and depression; recently the artist has lost his father, and that comes through in some ways that are…uh…yeah. I know that feel. (But don’t let that scare you away, either!)
The “Return of the Mac” pizza available at one of Toronto’s local pizza joints. This absolutely positively does not seem like it should work – it’s a pizza crust, yes, but topped with cheese, onions, “secret sauce,” meat (or Impossible Meat, recently), pickles, and lettuce – a Big Mac in pizza form. It can be a pain to get, too – that lettuce doesn’t travel well, and so you can only order this one via take-out. But. You guys. It’s delicious. No, I don’t understand it either, but give it a chance if you have the opportunity.
The blog McMansion Hell, which I hadn’t thought of in forever and that suddenly returned to mind yesterday. It may or may not be defunct (the last post was a while ago) – but even so those archives are full of delightful snark about a flavor of architecture I remember all too well from the suburbia of my childhood. (There’s also a subreddit taking up the torch, it seems – and every Thursday they take a break to do some appreciation of beautiful architecture, so we can all enjoy looking at some lovely homes none of us could ever realistically afford.)
Last night I watched “Beetlejuice” again for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long.
Which I guess makes this a good time to let anyone looking at this know: This post may contain spoilers for a movie released 33 years ago. I believe this puts it beyond the spoiler statute of limitations, but if you’re concerned, stop reading now.
When that movie was released in 1988 I was under the age of ten; in the age of videotape I watched it over and over, drawn to the raw, weird imagination on display as well as the somewhat-macabre humor. It’s startling how well I remembered it. I was able to quote along with many of the lines, the imagery still quite fresh in my mind in many places.
…And yet, re-watching as an adult it’s also kind of interesting to see what things I did not remember. What things I didn’t even really register properly at the time, because there are things kids don’t so much think about.
Here are a few of the things that whooshed over my head as a Little Person:
The casual hurtfulness of the realtor’s eager, benign insistence to Barbara Maitland that “this house is too big for you! It should belong to -” To a family with children, obviously, and the look on Geena Davis’s face says it all. Oof.
The equally casual hatefulness of yuppies, at least the ones in this film. The status-seeking and the social-climbing and the hankering to turn absolutely everything – everything! – into money haven’t really gone away of course; now these people run tech startups, and instead of weird, cold edgy designs without warmth like those favored by Delia Deetz they favor bland, benign, equally cold designs that are meant to suggest warmth without containing any. (If I were a ghost and one of them moved into my house, I would also be rather peeved.)
How sleazy Betelgeuse actually is. Little-kid me hadn’t yet been catcalled and had no context in which to be grossed out by his rapacious pursuit of anything remotely female in the vicinity, including Lydia (who has got to be underage, you guys. Ick on a number of levels).
Why exactly Otho flees screaming into the night after finding himself in a different outfit. Hey, I didn’t know what a leisure suit was back then.
Adult me also appreciates in a way that the younger me did not that the thing about the afterlife that seems to cause the most trouble is that it is a badly-managed bureaucracy, one that doesn’t give the people it supposedly serves good direction and which seems to be strangely low on resources considering that one would presumably not need to pay anyone who works there anything. I wonder if there’s something there that is reflective of the general mistrust of government/the centralization of power that was, I’m pretty sure, building even in 1988. (Admittedly going with a private contractor in this case was a fairly awful plan, too, so maybe the real philosophical underpinning there is something along the lines of “Hey! Fund public services damn it!”)
…then again, who or what exactly would be “funding” the management of the afterlife? Hmm. Clearly I am overthinking this.
It’s an Extremely 80s Movie in a number of ways, though you can definitely feel the beginnings of some of that 90s irony creeping in there. I’m not sure whether you’d be able to get away with making it these days, but I’m going to have this particular infectious little ditty in my head for a good long while, so let’s share:
Though man, it really felt like the vaccine side effects were trying to change that last night; woke up at about 4 am with a parched throat, a nasty stomachache, and a complete inability to get comfortable for…what seemed like forever.
Outside, a thunderstorm hit; bright flashes outside, and then a distant rumbling.
Perhaps that’s why I dreamed, close to the morning, that there was a mighty BANG from the room next door and when I went to investigate the entire interior of our closet had collapsed, making a spectacular mess of most of our bedroom floor.
Today’s episode of Aria Code is about Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann. There was a book, The Best Tales of Hoffmann, that I used to check out from the library. It had a bright-yellow library binding, indestructible and innocuous, that belied the sheer stark fucking darkness of some of the material inside it, and I checked it out over and over again, my tweenage self eagerly devouring the nightmare universe of The Sand-Man alongside a half-plate of indifferent, greasy pizza rolls that even now feel a little shameful to think about.
But The Sand-Man is the story behind the aria they chose for today. I wonder very much if the rest of the show has as much in it about eyes. In this case, the singer of the aria is the doll Olympe – Olimpia in the story – whose mindless, rhapsodic agreement with anything and everything presented to her rouse positively tormented depths of love in our hero Nathanael – or Hoffmann himself, in the opera.
In any event, the presentation in the episode is charming, and does rather make me want to go and watch the show – and the accompanying meditation on the nature of chatbots and what, exactly, is most societally desirable in women is…well, chilling, even if it also happens to be fascinating into the bargain. Even if you’re not into opera, I think it’s worth the listen.
Also, related to nothing, but: The Toronto Public Library has passes you can get to read the New York Times (for those of you who like to check out a little news every now and then). Go use them (and support your local libraries, everyone. They are the actual best.)
Sometime on the evening of July 19, if we’re being very precise about the whole two weeks for full effectiveness thing, I should be safe to hug my friends again, or go to the grocery store with less unease about what I might pick up from some random person in line.
Perhaps when I feel less terrible I will be happy about that.
It’s not so bad that I feel I can’t manage, which is okay I guess, but I can’t pretend the urge to just go lie on the floor for a few hours isn’t…significant. (I did not sleep well; the pain in the arm where I got the shot is mighty enough that it kept waking me up.)
…though if it gets much worse than this I might have to give up for today on doing much of constructive use. I am TIRED, you guys. Oof.
I think being so tired is making me feel rather bleak about everything else, too. Way too much brooding about contemplation of the status of my Social Links.
I miss everybody.
(Yet again, the weather outside is beautiful on a day when I feel terrible. What’s up with that?)
There is a genre of game that isn’t so much meant for playing as it is for “tinkering around with for a little while, regularly.” Commute games. Games for waiting in the lobbies of doctors’ offices or for fidgeting with on long car trips.
Last year’s Animal Crossing was one of these, and one I know was a bit of a pandemic savior for many, as it gave us all a little something to do in the mornings besides read the invariably-terrifying headlines and ponder, you know, the seemingly inevitable degeneration of the world into a blazing mess as we bear witness to the unholy convergence of the accelerationism of the desperate and the indifference of the powerful into…well. This. Screaming a little inside every day. Y’know.
So perhaps it’s appropriate that 2021 has brought us something of the love child of Animal Crossing and Edward Gorey, the creepy-cute Cozy Grove.
Here’s the elevator pitch: You are a Spirit Scout, a member of a community-service group for kids that will look suspiciously like the Scouts we all know with the serial numbers filed off. Your avatar is a bright-eyed young thing with a sash just itching to be filled with merit badges by providing assistance and comfort to the spirits of this world.
Unfortunately for you, you’re stranded on the island of Cozy Grove, which has something of the vibe of a state park and its accompanying small rural town if both had been broken up into jigsaw pieces and scattered about in Limbo. (Not the video game, Limbo as in “a kind of ever-shifting purgatory.”) The only points of true stability here are your campsite (where Flamey, your trusty…familiar? Demon pal? hangs out) and the homes of the spirit folk (mainly bears) you’re assisting in working through their afterlife issues; everything else is constantly shifting.
Each bear (like Patrice the mail-bear above) has their own set of quests for you to do, and their own story to tell, revealed in chunks as you complete said quests. In and around that, you will fish and tend gardens and catch bugs and dig up treasures and do all the other classic things one does in games like this. (At least there is not an exorbitant mortgage to pay off, so there’s that.)
The game is structured so as to reward frequent play in small increments: Complete enough quests and you will be advised in no uncertain terms that you’re done with anything major for the day.
You’re still free to putter about making money or catching fish or decorating or whatnot, but otherwise you’re good to head out and go make of the rest of your day what you will. Tomorrow there will be a few more story bits to complete, and thus the cycle shall continue.
Aesthetically, the game’s certainly appealing – the creepy-cute visuals are accompanied by an extremely chill soundtrack heavy on summer-camp-flavored instrumentation, mainly guitar/banjo-adjacent. The same creepy-cute quality extends through the narrative as well; nearly all of the game’s little plotlines so far have wavered between bleakness and adorability, and the regular emails from your scoutmaster acknowledge what ought to be a rather dire situation (a single child stranded on a remote island) with a remarkably blase cheeriness. There has not, thus far, been any indication that I am likely to be rescued. (It’s certainly possible that your Scout is in fact Dead All Along as well, but I suppose we’ll find out.)
…So how do I feel about it?
I wouldn’t class it as one of my favorite games of all time, or even of 2021 so far: this is a type of game I’ve seen a lot, and other than its black humor it’s not bringing much to the table in the way of novelty. However, as a commute game, it’s solid enough; the little stories are entertaining, the art and writing are amusing, and I appreciate that the experience is deliberately self-limiting to just an hour or so before one is encouraged to come back later.
It definitely beats watching the news while I have that second cup of coffee before work.
Gave myself the “day off” yesterday, what with it being our anniversary and all. This is technically day 8 of the challenge, but I think I may stop formally counting. It’s clutter in my titles, and anyway it isn’t as though I am saving up for some Cause or other.
And it was a pretty good day all things considered. Had a nice mellow sort of morning, got our grocery shopping done, then ran through a bunch of cleaning operations so that we could have a little company out in the backyard in the evening.
And the chocolate folks sent me a replacement, with a sweet little bonus in the form of the heart you see at right:
I wrote back to the “contact” address explicitly to say that we were really happy with them and that I looked forward to ordering from them again…and also, if any management-type folks happened to be reading this message, the person I worked with was really lovely and I felt they should hear the compliment. (I hope that helped improve someone’s day.)
Later on, of course, there was dinner to do; as it turned out we had something of a celebration of summer produce, with our guests bringing a tomato salad and a strawberry-rhubarb cake and our own offerings being a pile of bright-yellow Ontario corn and these somewhat-fussy-to-build but very tasty Grilled Chicken and Peach Saltimbocca Skewers. (I haven’t got photos just now, but was promised them by one of the aforementioned guests; I’ll get back to you with them later if anyone in the world is reading this and might care.)
We followed that up with a little screening of some episodes of Masterchef before seeing our guests off home. I did propose a screening of the classic Rear Window, possibly my favorite Hitchcock and one that seems quite seasonally-appropriate in summer heat as sticky and clinging as this, but to date I have not been able to get anyone to watch it with me. I’m not sure if this means I am just old, or the tolerance for the more sedate pacing of vintage films is lowered, or what.
Its trailer is rather fun, though:
Afterward, a cozy, quiet time, staying up far too late watching old music videos, walking through the sounds and songs that were most important to him, talking over with him what they might say about him.
He asked me later why I hadn’t done the same, walked him through music that was important to me. “Well, you didn’t ask,” I said. And besides, I was pretty sure the kinds of things I actually listened to Back Then weren’t likely to be found on YouTube.
Today, though, I wonder a little. I mean, sure, there can’t be that big of a market for ballads even there, but there might be something. But mightn’t it be sort of rude to make someone sit through something as long as the songs I used to play while I was driving back and forth between home and university, back in the day?
Like many folks in the last year and a half (or so), I’ve spent some time working on my bread game:
This loaf is just for sandwiches – unlike its fancier artisanal brethren there’s not much in the way of oven spring, and the crust is not particularly crackly, and it’s definitely not going to win any beauty contests.
But, on the other hand, I can mix this together just after breakfast, do a quick knead, and then let it rise – and at lunch I can have fresh bread to make sandwiches with, or serve alongside a soup.
And, what can I say, it’s fun, in that tactile, satisfying sort of way; a sticky, unappetizing mess of raw ingredients gradually becomes something that resembles dough, and then something with a structure and a shape that can be folded into a loaf, and grow into something that actually resembles bread. Then you bake it, and suddenly it’s got a lovely browned top and an actual crumb from all the little traceries of gluten inside.
(If you have salted butter on hand, I highly recommend brushing the top with it.)