Harold Ross of the New Yorker

Sunday Stone-Scrabbling

Today was approximately evenly split between napping, working, and walking, which is not such a bad way to go about things when you can.

I have been enjoying the landscapes I've seen in others' posts, have been feeling even a little envious of their moss-banked waterfalls and rugged declivities -- which envy is mad, given where I live, but the sphagnum is always greener, etc.

Therefore, here are a few photos from today's scramble along the rocks in Beacon Hill Park. The path is a bit dodgy at the best of times, and today it was muddy and the rocks were wet, but I find if I'm willing to lower my centre of gravity more than dignity strictly allows, I can achieve some fair progress.

The rocks are something remarkable -- huge rounded whalebacks banded, veined, and streaked with surprising colour.

In the spirit of shared beauty, then: Photos from today's walkCollapse )

As I cried out through the wind to S and LB, in my gamin enthusiasm, "This is a downtown park." That's a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one.


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Harold Ross of the New Yorker

Books Post – Norse Mythology

I seem to have endured a flurry of dopamine-click-led not-entirely-well-advised online book ordering. Things keep arriving, often things that are not quite what I imagined they'd be when I ordered them, if I remember ordering them at all.

An elderly yet still robust copy of Brigid Brophy's The Snow Ball arrived today (discussed brilliantly on Backlisted here). That can only be a good thing.

And this week I sat right down in the middle of the Salinas Valley (page 353) to read Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology.

I hadn't read any Gaiman in a good while. I thought it would be happy to check back in with him, and with the Norse myth-world of my childhood.

Norse Mythology's dust jacket is beautiful: a soft matte black infinity dusted with stars, with a lustrous Mjolnir in the centre.

Some of my favorite stories from the mythos are in Gaiman's book (the forging of Mjolnir, the birth of Sleipnir), and some I didn't know as well (the mead of poetry). Some of the gods I feel most affinity for are less prominent (Baldur, Bragi).

Gaiman and I are both totally hot for Loki, so that works out, because Loki kind of is the protagonist both of this retelling and, arguably, the mythos itself. I'm not a traditional storyteller or an anthropologist, but it seems to me that Gaiman picks up on the culture-hero role of tricksters like Loki as creators and bad/fortunate role models.

I’ve loved Gaiman's use of this mythos in other works: Sandman especially, and American Gods. Norse Mythology itself isn't a wholly successful adaptation for me.

Why?Collapse )

Ultimately, reading Norse Mythology made me want to re-read the book of Norse myths I had (or at least read) as a child. I did a search; the book must almost certainly be the d’Aulaires’, probably in the 1967 version.

I found it in a Popular Online Bookstore, and then, on even sexier second thought, at the local library.

Now I will say positive things about a book, to prove I can.

Just when East of Eden was fading me out, Steinbeck dropped deeper into the workings of Cal's character, and my faith flared up again. Steinbeck is very good at imagining the inner lives of people without ordinary empathy. I find it exhausting to be in those minds for such long stretches, but this is not the same as the work not being well done. The work is done very well.


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Harold Ross of the New Yorker

Sunday Night and Park-Hunting

I stayed too late watching Grand Budapest Hotel on LB's new TV (which is S's old TV), then left babbling messages of goodwill all over the Internet in a frenzied state of benevolent fatigue.


In addition to being structured around a series of thoroughfaric vortices, this city is also populated by innumerable small roving parks who drift on earth-currents from site to site. One can hunt them, like Pokemon.

Here are today's parks:

1. Postage Park
Difficulty: 0

The park at the bottom of the hill, which has another name, but is Postage Park to me because it is small and square. It used to be flat, too, but a few years ago they came in and remodelled it with a rustic fence and a manufactured hillock and a driftwood-framed sand pit and a new swing-set in a slightly different position than the old swing-set and two poles between which you are meant to imagine a badminton net (or whatever kind of net you wish, I suppose).

2. Pocket Park
Difficulty: 3 (Shifts up and down Bay St.)

This park (which also has some other name, but who cares) can only be reached via walk-through. It has no street access at all. It's surprisingly large for a secret hideout -- about three regular housing lots along each side. There's a Narnian lamp-post, an elaborate playground, and a green garbage can helpfully labelled #35.

3. Ridge Park
Difficulty: 8

Couldn't find it.

4. Baseball Park (N.I.R.N)
Difficulty: 0

Cut through on the way to

5. Summit Park (actual legal name)
Difficulty: 2

The ground was carpeted with purple croci and there were many dogs leading their people about. The reservoir was surprisingly low given the late amount of rain. The ducks were moody. At this time of year we could normally expect daffodils and all sorts of other flowers, but this is not a normal year. The moss was deep and vividly green and full of sodden secrecy.

6. Ridge Park
Difficulty: 7 (Reduced by familiarity)

Caught it on the way back. This is another park you almost can't see from the road. It cuts in behind some housing, and is just a strip of rock and wild grass with a path through it and a swing-set at one end. It's like a clipping taken from Summit Park. I hope it takes root and grows.

I saw a beautiful cat on the way home, a tortoiseshell mottled bronze and black like sunlight fragmented in an iron-dyed pool. She flashed away when I stepped in for a better look.


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Harold Ross of the New Yorker

Saturday of Sushi

On Sushi

Another day of heavy rain. I made it out to pick up meds and some probably unnecessary groceries. I did a little marking, for which future me will thank me, though he'll wish I did more. I did some doodling and watched art videos on YouTube. I worked on the cover of my next journal until I didn't like it and then I worked on it some more until I liked it a lot.

Tonight we the default triumvirate are meeting at S's house to celebrate his job interview. It's for the job he's already doing provisionally, but to do it like for real this time. He says he feels good about the interview, so we're celebrating, despite having no formal news of the outcome. Toby Ziegler would yell at us, but we live out on the wild edge of magical thinking, taunting the void.

LB has been sick with the spiralling virus that has been hacking such deep grooves through this winter. Now S. thinks he may be sick, though it doesn't seem to take the same way with him. I think I'm over my second round, but my energy is still low and it's left me in a classic old-fashioned depressive state, which is, you know, inconvenient. Also it's aggravated my asthma and dairy sensitivities.

Then, it is grotty old March, and we are in the wrong timeline, so how should one feel?

Yet -- shortly there will be spider roll!

On Steinbeck

I'm about 1/3 of the way through East of Eden. The prose is like a river of the purest water. The Salinas Valley is imprinted on my mind like a place I've known since birth.

However, a number of people I know and trust have told me that the book is one of the most humane books they've ever read -- and so far I have not seen that; I am still waiting for that to kick in.


Crossposted from Dreamwidth (http://radiantfracture.dreamwidth.org/6793.html), where there are comment count unavailable comments. Comments either place are great.
Harold Ross of the New Yorker

Bad Poem Project: Hockey Edition

Exercise: write ten bad poems

(That was the original parameter – I got to 8 before this particular thread exhausted itself. I could have written a couple of unrelated bad poems, but eh. It turned into more of a versioning thing; the urge to revise took over.)

This is to loosen up my hold on the idea of always making perfect things.

I picked hockey because I don’t watch it and am therefore unlikely to accidentally write something good about it.

Warning: profanity and terribly prosodyCollapse )


Actual poems written somewhere between the ages of eight and eleven and still (god help me) remembered by heart:Collapse )


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Harold Ross of the New Yorker

Great things afoot on the Sunshine Coast

If you happen to find yourself in that beautiful bit of the continent's edge, here are some events I've been asked to mention:

LGBTQ2 All-Ages Drop-In
Thursday, March 16, 6-8:30 pm
Rockwood Lodge in Sechelt
Wheelchair accessible
Contact editor@prideguide.ca

A monthly “drop-in community centre,” this is open to all LGBTQ2 and questioning people of all ages and backgrounds.

Trans Mentorship and Support Network Drop-In
Thursday, March 23, 6-8:30 pm
Rockwood Lodge in Sechelt
Wheelchair accessible
Contact editor@prideguide.ca

This drop-in offers folk of all ages a place to connect with peers for friendship and support, and occasionally presents guest speakers.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth (http://radiantfracture.dreamwidth.org/6005.html), where there are comment count unavailable comments. Comments either place are great.

Dungeons & Dragons Day

I've been running a D&D campaign for the last... well, I mean, we met four? five? times, but the whole process has lasted more than three months. Various members of the group1 kept getting sick, and then we're maybe also just the kind of people whose default response to life is often "keep very still and hope it won't notice you".

This was a tendency we struggled with early in the game: the players wanted to do a lot of watching and waiting and careful avoiding of danger. They declined to pick up the fallen jewels and become infected with a potentially deadly plague; they declined to enter the stricken city or even explore its walls. Instead, they sensibly wandered off to find a farmhouse to sleep in.

I had to fight the impulse to hiss please stop exploring the window dressing.

All this was very educational for me about trying to provide opportunities for character motivation within a given scenario. Each week thereafter, I sat down beforehand and thought: ok, what would each of these characters want? How can I put that into the encounters? I meant to do this from the start, but I got to sink deeper into it each time.

By this final session, it was fantastic how much the players had grown into working as a team. They were playful and inventive and came up with all kinds of things I hadn't expected -- but the scenario was flexible enough to accommodate that. So we've seen growth on both sides of the screen.

No one in the party was really a warrior, since we ignored party balance in creating the characters. I liked the idea of a party made up of noncombatants. Our enforcer was a ranger (kainhighwind_dr), and we had a druid, a bard, a healer and a rogue. This meant that any conflict demanded much creativity both on their parts and on mine. In the first session, they spent an incredibly long time trying to defeat a large cat. (The cat won.)

Flash forward to the present.

In today's final battle, the bard exorcised an evil spirit from the healer by casting a minor spell to make her laugh hysterically until she fainted. The druid enhanced the spell effect by making fart noises.

This kind of brilliant collaboration has the side effect of making it very difficult to break up XP. (How much XP do you get for effective fart sounds?) so I just divided most of it evenly amongst them, except for the person who was missing today.

(We decided that her dragonborn rogue started shedding her skin and went into a semi-hibernation state. Because the characters' alliance is still... imperfect... she will wake up alone in the middle of the forest next to a dead body. Good place to start a story, anyway.)

I didn't come up with a Friday story this week. This might be the closest thing I did:

Account sent to dragonborn rogue's player of the character's experience upon wakingCollapse )

I haven't DMed in decades. I started to get too much stage fright about gaming in general, and I gave it up entirely around the age of 20. I never got into online RPGs. I liked the tactility of the paper and the dice and looking things up in the tomes. Mostly I loved poring over all the lists and tables.

It's been a pretty loose, freewheeling game -- I made some dice do some rolling, but play was more intuitive than anything else. A purist would shudder. I made up a lot on the fly.

Really, It was good just to play again, to have people over, and to feel well enough to want to be social. And get my dishes done in advance.


1. (Me)

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Harold Ross of the New Yorker

Mid-to-Late-20th Century Material Culture: Beckett for Nothing & Thurber for Free

I almost never cull books, since I am shoring them up against the apocalypse. Once in a long while I let myself admit that there are books a) that I will not read and b) that won't be immediately useful after the revolution. I culled my novels on Saturday, and therefore on Sunday there were thirty boxes of free books at the library. They were left over from a rummage sale for the seniors’ centre.1 I took home five books. I call that remarkable self-control (and illness-induced fatigue).

  1. Samuel Beckett, Stories and Texts for Nothing Grove Press, N.Y. A collection of pieces first published in the Evergreen Review. In terms of material culture, this is the score. It has a great cover: fragments of Beckett's name arranged orthagonally in blue and green. The paper's water-damaged and mustier than I usually accept -- but the illustrations!

    The book is illustrated with terrific 60s-era line drawings, and these drawings are all about the line. Geometrical forms somehow give the effect both of rapid work and of obsessive precision, and the image arises out of their intersection -- almost despite the lines rather than because of them.

    I thought I had a mystery in the illustrator’s name (which I was misreading), until a friend pointed out his credit on the copyright page right where you’d expected it.

    The illustrations are actually by Avigdor Arikha. (Cut for biography intersecting with traumatic 20th C history.)Collapse )

    Further instances of obsessive precision behind the cutCollapse )

  2. James Thurber, Lanterns and Lances I mean, Thurber. This is an odd artefact, a "Time Reading Program Special Edition"3 printed in or about 1962. The cover is of thick immobile cardboard, matte purple inside. There's no jacket copy, just Thurber's drawings blown up. It is also illustrated, by Thurber, natch. You'll be excited to know it has a New Introduction, probably because it's a posthumous edition.

    A thing I like very much is a book with layered introductions which, as we read forwards, take us backwards into innocence and before death. Alternatively, I have, I think, that edition of James Tiptree, Jr's Warm Worlds and Otherwise with the two introductions, before and after.

  3. (Collected by) Sage Birchwater, Chiwid Now this is interesting. It's an oral history of a Tsilhqot'in woman named Chiwid, born in 1904. She lived in the Chilcotin (a region of British Columbia just south of the Cariboo, where I was born a long time later.) Birchwater seems to have been interested in her because she was famous for living independently on the land, and maybe more as a figure around whom stories crystallized than for herself (she'd died before the book was published).

  4. Christina Rosetti, Goblin Market A tiny Phoenix booklet containing the titular poem and a few others, marked 60p. A lot of UK expats fetch up here.

  5. Vera John-Steiner, Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking Printed in 1985, this is an obviously dated book about modes of thought, but as I leafed through I saw it had a section called “The Thinking of the Body”, which goes to my preoccupation with embodied mentation, so I snagged it on spec. As well as compiling published research, John-Steiner conducted many interviews for the book with subjects from novelists (Margaret Drabble) to psychologists, poets, and scientists (though fewer of these).


1. I say material culture, but it's just books and ephemera. "Rummage sale" makes me think of a fluted lamp of molded pink glass or a warped cardboard landscape in a heavy wooden frame, but no -- just books.

2. The 5 looks like a 1, but that would be an oddly specific price.

3. More on that imprint here. This edition follows the design specs they detail: "The editions were trade paperbacks, with covers constructed of very stiff plastic coated paper, for durability .... each book had a wraparound cover with a continuous piece of artwork across both covers and the spine".

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