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5th-May-2015 08:36 pm - sparkling in everything that lives
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I have been humming "I Am That Great and Fiery Force" to myself since Sunday, when it was sung as one of the morning songs at church. Words by Hildegarde von Bingen, set to "Ave Vera Virginitas" by Josquin Desprez -- you can hear a bit of it sung by Missing Rachel, and longer versions of the tune on YouTube, inluding one by a Slovak choir, the Hilliard Ensemble, et al. The verses:


I am that great and fiery force
sparkling in everything that lives;
in shining of the river's course,
in greening grass that glory gives.

I shine in glitter on the seas,
in burning sun, in moon and stars.
In unseen wind, in verdant trees
I breathe within, both near and far.

And where I breathe there is no death,
and meadows glow with beauties rife.
I am in all, the spirit's breath,
the thundered word, for I am Life.


The chamber choir sang two pieces, including the Real Group's "Words," which was applauded at both services.

Present reading: Erica E. Hirshler's Sargent's Daughters: The Biography of a Painting

Recent cooking: Chicken with mushroom-wine sauce (and parsley from an early birthday present); Mexican-ish brownies for a Cinco de Mayo potluck (using salted caramel cocoa mix, throwing in a cupful of chocolate chips, cutting the sugar in half, and ancho chile powder -- they turned out fine. The intern who shares my office gushed about them without knowing I was the one who made them. \o/); fufu (to go with the leftover chicken)

Today's workout: a long swim. I had lane 2 to myself, which meant I could indulge in backstroke as well as freestyle.

Today's remaining goal: some ironing. Chores toward comfort: story of my life. ;)

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/105325.html.
22nd-Feb-2015 02:14 pm - my life in a snapshot
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my life in a snapshot

Worker bee + hedonist = cappuccino + Old Fashioned

and writing during and between courses

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/99893.html.
30th-Dec-2014 02:26 am - continuing education
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I tried some defrosted durian tonight. The $8 I paid for it falls into the experience tax column, I'm sorry to say -- I couldn't get past the smell. I have taken the fruit and its container outside to the bin. I have taken the trash bag holding the plastic wrapper that was around the container out to the bin, too. I am burning candles and I am about to brush my teeth, even though I've since nibbled on a lavender-kirschwasser cookie and sipped some wine.

The day started out with a different kind of mayhem: a battery-powered fish given to the BYM for Christmas suddenly went bonkers, even though it wasn't near water or the dog or any other motion-provoking substance or being. I reached for the eyeglass-repair-kit screwdriver. I tried dangling it in mid-air. I dunked it in water. It's still twitch-ticking its tail incessantly nineteen hours later, even though it's supposed to go to sleep after five minutes. I knew that the last Monday of the year would have its share of flailing, but sheesh...

fish robot in soup bowl

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/94986.html.
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I turn 44 in a few weeks. On the one hand, I am enjoying my mid-forties. On the other hand, one does become ever more conscious of how little time is left. Neither of my parents made it to 65. I visit cancer journals now and then, including that of a fellow writer in his forties.

Last night, I revisited my Penguin edition of Gerard Manley Hopkins's poetry and prose, and registered anew that he had died at the age of 44, and that his last words were reportedly "I am so happy. I am so happy." (According to Eleanor Ruggles, as quoted in Wikipedia, the words were "I am so happy, I am so happy. I loved my life." Now I am even more curious about these words, and why some accounts leave out "I loved my life.") So I hopped online to seek additional context, and stumbled on this passage in David E. Anderson's review of a Paul Mariani biography:


Hopkins died on June 8, 1889, just six weeks short of his 45th birthday. He was diagnosed with typhus, but Mariani suspects it was complicated by Crohn's disease, a sickness unnamed until 1932. Hopkins's last words, repeated over and over, were an affirmation--or a plea to himself: "I am so happy. I am so happy." He died unheralded and unpublished, and it was not until 1918 that Oxford University Press published an edition of 750 copies of the poems edited and introduced by his old friend, England's then poet laureate, Robert Bridges.

A decade before his death, however, Hopkins ruminated on the question of fame in an exchange of correspondence with his friend, fellow poet, and Anglican cleric Richard Watson Dixon. "Fame," Hopkins wrote, "is a thing which lies in the award of a random, reckless, incompetent, and unjust judge, the public, the multitude. The only just judge, the only just literary critic is Christ, who prizes, is proud of, and admires, more than any man, more than the receiver himself can, the gifts of his own making."

Nearly a century later, John Berryman, a poet as singular as Hopkins, would appropriate Hopkins in one [of] his last poems, a poem of his own religious conversion:


Father Hopkins said the only true literary critic is Christ.
Let me lie down exhausted, content with that.


I'm fascinated by this stance. As a non-Christian, it's not exactly of comfort to me, but as both a theist and a book industry professional -- having seen so many well-wrought works sell so very little and receive the barest flicker of attention -- I confess that my sanity has long been rooted in the conviction that one's job is to create the right poem/song/story/image for one's right audience regardless of its size, be that a single human being, a swarm of millions, or a silent yet merciful deity. So while the phrase "only true/just literary critic" makes my teeth itch, there's a part of me that nods in recognition at Hopkins's and Berryman's declarations.

Assessing articulations of faith (when are they authentic? when are they obnoxious? when are they engaging? when are they derailing?) is a recurring activity in my various circles. I'm told that accusations of anti-Christianity were flung at critics of this year's Hugo nominations. Sports fandom has long been divided over expressions of evangelical Christianity on the court and in interviews; for my vacation this past weekend, to get into the spirit of Fed Cup, I brought along a pile of tennis-related reading I'd been meaning to get to. This bit showed up in a July 26, 1993, New Yorker essay by Martin Amis:


To see Courier and Sampras on Centre Court was to see a dramatic opposition of will and talent: to see what Courier had given to get as good as he is, and to see, more simply, what Sampras had been given by God. (Refreshingly, neither player is especially religious, unlike Chang, Wheaton, Agassi, and, of all people, Nick Bolletieri.)


Because I don't have cable here at home, one of the things that makes a vacation vacation-y for me is catching an episode of Chelsea Handler or The Best Thing I Ever Made/Ate. The TBTIEM show on cakes included a segment with Alton Brown; his feature on Apple Spice Bundt Cake led me to look up grains of paradise, and keeping company with it in the surfing-after-a-show rabbit hole was this interview about (among other things) his family's sense of stewardship, about saying grace in public, and about the discomfort being a churchgoer raises in other people.

It hadn't been in the plan, but on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, part of my reading was Kathleen Jowitt's entries (so far) on her 2007 pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. A sample of why I kept reading (and why I think some of you might find it likewise inviting/compelling):


A Quaker challenged me, the summer before, about the idea of pilgrimage. God is everywhere: no place can be called holier than any other. What was the point? Actually, I agreed. Santiago de Compostela itself, the Holy City of the Iberian peninsula, held no greater attraction for me than any other place; I had my reservations as to whether it was genuinely the resting place of the mortal remains of Saint James the Apostle, and there were other European cities that would have taken precedence my 'must see' list. The traditional way of getting there, however, made it another matter entirely: one's own two feet; one's own pace -- quite literally; the chance to prove that five hundred years of civilisation hadn't turned one soft.


Circling back to birthdays, it is April 23. A few weeks ago, I was reading another old magazine (this one purchased from a church rummage sale years ago) -- an April 4, 1964, issue of Saturday Review with Ivor Brown's "How Shakespeare Spent the Day" as its cover story. Here is how it opens:


It is remarked by Hamlet that "everyman hath business and desire." That Shakespeare had desire we know from his sonnets. That he had his business in the workaday, money-earning world is sometimes forgotten in the appraisals of his genius. But that he chose to mind, and could successfully mind, the business side of his career is proved by what we know of his life.

People today are apt to think of poets and businessmen as living in far separated worlds. But it was certainly not so in the case of Shakespeare, who was born on the premises of a small-town business. His home was a shop and his neighbors were shopkeepers. There was nothing strange to him in the process of buying, selling, and striving to make a profit.


This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/81426.html.
20th-Mar-2014 10:36 am - happy things
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1. My poem Spelling "For Worse" is up at Goblin Fruit, in both text and audio formats.

1a. I am keeping right fine company on that TOC. :-)

2. Merrie Haskell wrote a novel called Castle behind Thorns. It's about to emerge, it has earned a starred review in Publisher's Weekly, and it will be a Junior Literary Guild selection. (Her second published novel has been collecting recommendations and awards, too, including "the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award winner for middle school for its depiction of a person with a disability.")

3. The Velveteen Rabbi will be reading her poetry in Jerusalem. I am so excited for her!

4. Making manuscripts reader-friendlier. Go me!

4a. Having the chops and experience to recognize typos (especially in Spanish) I wouldn't have caught five years ago.

5. Ripe cantaloupe and canned quail eggs. For when one works flat through dinner and then needs something that doesn't require cooking (i.e., stink up the kitchen) right before bedtime.

6. The sumo tangerine I picked up at a store last week. It was an indulgence, but it was also a great conversation piece, and I am about to candy the peel.

7. Having a dog that gleefully hoovers up vegetable scraps. (I am less enamored of her fondness for snacking on potting soil, but that's because it makes her wheeze.)

8. It is sunny and 55 F here right now. I'll be spending most of the day with spreadsheets, but I think I'll first sneak out for a walk.

9. Particle Fever! (And yes, I wore my CERN jacket to the showing.)

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/78122.html.
16th-Feb-2014 09:22 am - colors and learning curves
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The third time is confirmation, methinks: no matter what color is in the jar (Voodoo Blue, Atomic Turquoise) or how much bleach I've used, my hair will turn into a deep, vivid green. I'm not complaining: it happens to match my glasses and eyeliner. There are worse superpowers to have.

What I need, though, is to cultivate a gracious way of handling St. Patrick's Day jokes while steering the chitchat into other directions. (March 17 coincides with a sad anniversary in my personal history.) I wonder if there's an economist or Nobel laureate I could make the green in honor of...

Oho, here we go: Joseph Bienaimé Caventou. French. Pharmacist. Co-isolated chlorophyll and caffeine. Caventou, you're my man!

(When you can't berate them, make their eyes glaze over. Heh.)




From Flower Confidential's section on Multi Color, a flower-painting factory:

"We can glitter anything," he said, moving cheerfully past the roses.


The chapter in general ("...a rose the color of blueberries. Actually, it's hard to compare this blue to any color you'd find in nature. It was more of a Las Vegas blue, a sequin-and-glitter blue. A blue you'd find in nail polish or gumballs, but not in a garden. Peter had hundreds of these blue roses...") reminded me of the the daisies that are doctored with shoe polish to pass for black-eyed Susans during the Preakness Stakes.




The window for Rhysling nominations will remain open until Saturday, February 22. My eligible poems can be viewed via this Google Doc until then.



I was thinking of baking a gingerbread Washington pie (from my Complete American Jewish Cookbook) in honor of the holiday, but we ate a a lot of dessert last night, and there are some savories higher on the list (specifically turnip cake and artichoke quiche). Also on this week's agenda: finetune 600 endnotes; relearn how to play poker; reacquaint myself with riding a bike (temperatures are supposed to reach 64 F this week); work on a birthday gift. Onward!

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/76278.html.
15th-Feb-2014 12:02 pm - more on Brillat-Savarin
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This one's for the lawyers... ;-)


He often took his manuscript [of Physiologie du Goût] to court. In fact, it was in idle moments in the halls of justice that he wrote most of it. His other companion, besides his manuscript, was his dog, who went under the uncompromising name of Ida. She followed him everywhere and sat on the bench next to him both in the courtroom and in his favorite Café Lemblin. [His biographer] Monselet relates that during the hunting season the judge's presence was sometimes pungent. This was due to his habit of shooting small game birds and then carrying them around for days in the capacious pockets of his Prince Albert-like coat. As the birds became higher, his neighbors on the judicial bench became more uncomfortable, understandably enough.


-- Samuel Chamberlain, Bouquet de France


I also finally finished Amy Stewart's Flower Confidential last night (it seemed appropriate to do so on V-day), and then I turned to my Southern Living handbook to see if it had anything to say about building cold frames. (We have two window frames, one with the glass still intact. I shall probably turn them into cold frame lids eventually -- but right now it would be an elaborate variation of procrastination. Back to reading about bisphosphonates and selective estrogen receptor modulators...)

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/75819.html.
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(aka what I was reading during dinner tonight)


The poularde, of course, is a young hen who has been forced by the cruelty of man to submit to an ovariotomy, so that she can be fattened more easily. Thus relieved of a myriad worrisome details, these placid hens avoid domestic cares completely. Indifferent to the chatter of the young, the rivalry of other females, and the philandering inconstancy of the male, she may devote her entire time to the pleasant business of fattening herself on the best corn. More than one critic has reflected upon this bit of skilled alteration which results in such subtle refinements of taste. Capons have suffered similar indignities with resultant plumpness and freedom from vagrant thoughts. One meditative gastronome has come up with the disquieting query: Do cannibals breed eunuchs for their choicest feasts?


[dinner tonight was hot chicken from Pepperfire, accompanied by a glass of Los Dos grenache+syrah :-) ]

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/75556.html.
2nd-Dec-2013 09:17 pm - three happy things
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(1) Lunch (at Rice Paper) and ice cream (at Sebastian Joe's) with M'ris and Timprov. There were a number of "Yep, I'm in Scandosota" moments during this trip: among them was listening to the others discussing reindeer castration while I dug into my Nicollet Avenue Pothole sundae. :-)

(2) There's an interview of me at the Moving Poems Forum.

(3) A few weeks ago, LiAnn Yim posted praise for inkscrawl at her blog.

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/69892.html.
14th-Sep-2013 06:39 pm - bedtime conversation
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[The BYM peers at the book I'm reading, which happens to be Elizabeth David's A Book of Mediterranean Food)

Me, reading aloud: "Anyone who has lived for long in Greece will be familiar with the sound of air gruesomely whistling through sheep's lungs frying in oil."

Lui: I doubt they whistle.

Me: That's what the lady reports.

Lui: You need to go to [local Greek diner] and confirm it for yourself.

Me: I'm thinking they probably don't keep sheep lungs on hand.

Lui: They can't call themselves authentic if they don't have sheep lungs!

Me: And my clients think I'm a stickler?



Speaking of meat in Greece... (Athens Central Market, 2011):

Athens Central Market

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And then there's the meat that is here in Tennessee. When my friends James and Gail stopped in Nashville earlier this summer, they enjoyed the burgers and the phosphates at the Pharmacy. James can be credited for most of the good photos of me between age 10 and 17 (his camera was always with him, long before these iPhone-in-every-palm days), so it seems fitting that he snapped a nice shot of me and the BYM over dinner.

This entry was originally posted at http://zirconium.dreamwidth.org/64757.html.
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