Thursday, December 31, 2009

Black Dog, Black Turning Eyes

Do you remember the fairy tale "The Tinderbox"? I read the story as a child. I had no idea what a Tinderbox was, but I imagined a wooden box full of twigs. In reality it was a box with a flint and some sort of slow-burning material – what they used before they had matches. (I can see some sort of examination of the rise of industrialization that then resulted in "Little Matchstick Girl," also written by Hans Christian Anderson. That is one sad story. When I was 7 or so our ballet recital was "The Little Matchstick Girl." I was an angel who danced around the dying girl. My costume was blue with itchy feathers around the bodice.)

If you don’t know "The Tinderbox," you should go read it, because ol’ Hans was a rather humorous writer, even when talking about lopping off a witch’s head. To summarize, a young soldier meets a witch who asks him to chimmy down into a hollow tree and fetch her tinderbox. While he’s there he’s free to help himself to all the copper, silver and gold coins, which are guarded by three dogs with enormous eyes. When he gets out, he wants to know why the witch is so keen to get an old tinderbox. She’s snippy and he responds by slicing her head off. Those were the days before anger management.

He’s got tons of gold, so he heads off to live large in town, until he’s broke and has to live in a garret (but doesn’t write poetry) and all his friends abandon him. He’s hanging out in the dark and remembers there’s a candle in the tinderbox. He strikes the flint and who should appear but one of the dogs, ready to do his bidding. Of course he sends him out after more gold. Then the story goes on to an unapproachable princess, a narrow escape from death and the destruction of all the pesky people standing in his way. Basically, we have a parable about corporate America.

Or not. Fairytales are wonderfully adaptable. One of my favorite books of poetry is Anne Sexton’s Transformations, reinterpretations of classic fairytales. And then there’s Angela Carter’s sinister The Bloody Chamber. They are chock o' block with sex, despair, brutality, misogyny, injustice, revenge, depravity. Fairy tales are dark and mean. Just tonight Firecracker woke up from a bad dream about getting lost and a witch locking her in a cage. The world of fairy tales is sicker than Saw. Well, I haven’t seen Saw, but you know what I mean.

I had forgotten about "The Tinderbox" until I ran across a Patrick Wolf (yes, I’m on about him again) song of that title. It’s perfectly done – if ever a song sounded like a fairy tale, this is it. His lyrics eventually land on the desire for lasting love and, I think, for some inner spark of vitality. Which is probably why I'm thinking about it. The flint has to be struck over and over.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Merry

1. We went to a candlelight service at an Episcopal church last night, and it was wonderful.

2. Dear Husband has been reading a book by Ann Rice and he says that after reading her descriptions of growing up Catholic, he gets why I find God in art and why I like liturgical services.

3. I have at least three Starbucks gift cards and a box of Starbucks Via, as well as two gift cards for bookstores. Sigh.

4. The girls each got Nintendo DSi consoles from grandparents. They have the cutest game I have ever seen - Nintendogs - with realistic dogs that you feed and play with. I sounded like I had been hitting the eggnog too much: Awww, that's so cute! Oh, that's just the cutest thing! Oh, look, he's rolling over! Oh, look at them eating!

5. Dear Husband made the most delicious ham I have ever had.

6. The girls and I each got Snuggies.

7. I got little black licorice scottie dogs.

8. The kugel turned out great even though I bought ricotta instead of cottage cheese. I have since found many many recipes from actual Jewish sources using ricotta rather than cottage cheese, so I know I'm not crazy. So there. There are as many variations of kugel as there are of "pasta with sauce." The MIL used rice noodles for Dear Husband, and I couldn't tell the difference. I suppose if you have enough cheese, sour cream and sugar, the noodles just have to sit there and be a bit chewy.

9. DramaQueen is determined to continue believing in Santa Clause. She was glued to NORAD watching his progress, and she decorated cookies, and put out crackers, carrots and water for the reindeer, as well as a message asking for a response. So of course I had to write a letter from Santa. This is the part of Christmas I will mourn passing. Nothing really expresses enchantment so much as a child awaiting Christmas.

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. I'm always a little sad when it's over and all the ornaments have to be packed away for another year. As I get older I begin to consider the losses that could accumulate in the coming year, the possibility of mortal illness, the pangs at watching my girls get older and wanting to snuggle them before they decide that's childish and they've outgrown all the kisses and cuddles.

I also really dislike New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. I always have. There's something about the start of a new year that makes my spirit tired and forlorn. I don't like my birthday, either, not because of growing older but because acknowledging my birth also makes me feel tired and forlorn. I suppose I've never felt very celebratory about being born. Speaking of which, DramaQueen's birthday approaches in January and then Firecracker's in February. Birthday parties mean tracking down nonresponders and fretting that no one will show up and worrying that everyone will be bored. I usually try to opt for venues where someone else runs the show, but I guess I'll be doing it this year, at least for DramaQueen.

Thank the Dear Lord that we are not doing Girl Scouts this year.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Now, THIS is a Christmas Carol. Boy, it beats listening to Casting Crowns choke out O Come All Ye Faithful.

The sound is so beautiful and pure. It makes contemporary worship music sound like a drunken rattling of tin cans.

And perhaps I should next break out my collection of Gregorian Chants.

Sigh. They don't write 'em like that anymore.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Failure. Cummulative. Ontological. The details don’t matter. Only this matters. Failure traps my wrists in its cold hands and breathes ice into my mouth. My veins go numb, the blood sluggish. My eyes have fogged over. I am barely here. Then the slow glow of anger catches in my throat. The air vibrates. Imagine your lover brushing his lips across the skin of your inner arm, how it focuses your attention. I feel weak and urgent, the way you feel when you want to be kissed. I am in dissaray, my pulse struggling to find its voice. I have gripped rage hard and his response is swift. The flesh yields to the thin steel blade, and for a moment I’m giddy with relief and the sting of honest pain.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More violins, oh, and a bit of keyboard and orchestra some rain and stuff

Final Fantasy's new album Heartland is due out in early January. I'm fairly dancing with anticipation. I happened across this amazing video of Owen Pallett performing one of the songs from Heartland with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Damn, it's amazing.

And then I found a much better version of Many Lives 49MP. This song never ceases to thrill me. He makes a mistake at the end, quite charmingly.

Finally, I thought this was great. He's playing in the rain and won't stop until he's finished his song. I think this song is also from the forthcoming album. I heard him play it at the Atlanta concert. I love the refrain "I'm never going to give it to you" - he sang it directly at the audience.

What 5 people living or dead would you want to have dinner with?

Buster Keaton, Patrick Wolf, Owen Pallett, Franz Kafka, Frida Kahlo. I'll stick with the famous, as I would like to dine with most of my friends anyway. The list could change at any moment. In fact, it's probably changing this very moment...

Ask me anything

Ask me anything

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


I saw this over at MadPriest's blog:

"Grouping the sexuality of people under the terms gay and straight is a false dichotomy. For a start there are plenty of straight gay people around - if there weren't then there would hardly be a right wing in the Church to fight against.

A true dichotomy would be kinky and straight. Descriptively it is far more accurate and puts people into likeminded groupings (imaginative, creative sexual creatures in one camp - boring killjoys who might as well be dead already as they obviously hate the idea of actually being alive).

From roads to fjords to human beings, things are always far more interesting if they contain kinks, have crinkly edges and are downright bendy."

This made me laugh. He states a truth with such flair and humor. Isn’t this a much better division - the creative sexual creatures and the boring killjoys? I’ve often thought about this division into gay and straight. I've found that both camps want you to be very clear about where you stand. Bisexual is uneasily tolerated as a term for the people who just won’t get off the fence, because of course you should be one way or the other or you’re just kidding yourself.

Human sexuality is amazingly flexible. Whatever your preference, you can always surprise yourself. Unless of course you’ve given up on surprise entirely.

In any case, if Zachary Quinto shows up at my house, I’m not leaving him and Dear Husband alone in the same room. You never know.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


I’ve been reading posts about Advent and wondering how to think about Christmas. I so dislike that little phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season.” If I am completely honest, I would not like Christmas nearly so much if there were not presents and trees, lights and decorations. Although I don’t like the relentless consumerism and marketing of the holidays, I really like many of the secular aspects of Christmas.

I’m not quite sure how to extract Christ from the sentimentalized narrative of events that I’m not sure even happened. Where I work, the thinking is that if the Virgin birth is not true, then Christianity falls apart. I don't know why. The story of a virgin birth really seems like something patched on later to explain how this man could be completely human and divine at the same time. But it’s a beautiful image – the soul of the world waiting for the divine to enter as one of its own, God binding himself in human flesh out of love for his creation, giving himself to his creation. Despite my prevarication, I don’t really feel hypocritical reciting the creed about Jesus being born of a virgin and that he died and rose again. I think so many things are true that aren’t literally true. Good fiction is true. Good poetry is true. And yet there may not be a single actual event in either. They transcend the literal and ascend to a world of – what? – archetypes? Platonic forms? The Christmas story is beautiful. It’s poetry, it may be fiction, it is a vision of what the world could be if we truly followed the law of love, it speaks of our greatest hope that humanity is good, because Jesus was a man and was good, because he championed the outcasts and afflicted, and we ourselves can nurture that goodness.

Dear Husband is frustrated at my lack of passion for Christ, as he puts it. He considers my sense of not fitting in to be of my own making. I do find it very difficult to engage. He loves our new pastor. I find his messages simplistic. Dear Husband thinks I'm antisocial. It's not that I don't think there are other people like me - I just don't think they're at our church. And, yes, I have my guard up based on what I hear people express. My husband fits comfortably into orthodoxy. He doesn't take issue with anything. When I hear our pastor say that doubt must be met with faith, I feel frustrated. It's like saying that hunger must be met with food, and yet the tables are bare. Dear Husband says I didn't really listen. Oh, but I did. I listened, hoping I would hear something startling. I am always hoping I will hear something that will touch me, stir me, invigorate me.

And that is why I am about to turn once again to a more formal style of worship. This next weekend I plan to visit an Episcopal church. I don't necessarily think that I feel completely comfortable there. I have so little experience with this style of worship. I've been to Episcopal/Anglican churches that were sadly out of touch. But I want to experience a little quiet veneration, a different rhythm, the Eucharist as a rite, ritual prayer. Dear Husband is beginning to think I'm a nonbeliever. In many people's opinion, I would be. Not in my own. I just feel tired.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Brief Intermission

This blogging break brought to you by a raging sinus infection and a lack of inspiration. We hope to be back to our regular programming shortly.