billy budd

Ripeness Is All

My friend's apocalypse, in which her son has been rendered paraplegic two weeks before his college graduation, has real resonance for those of us who decided years ago, not to breed.

One lesson of that is work, with more courage, vision and innovation. The second is, as Virginia Woolf, the queen of modernity and loss, wrote: Never pretend that what you don't have is not worth having.

I have often compared my life to my friend's and noted she's richer. I would like to be richer. But I truly do not believe her life has been better than mine. I don't like the little sense of told-you-so that comes with this disaster. I need to do some amputation on that.

For the mental hygiene, I am laying in lace weight yarn to crochet a lacey pink scarf for her. And I will work that all through stitch by stitch.

Knit Picks shadow tonal lace weight yarn, in Queen Anne's Lace.

I have gotten out my Riverside Shakespeare and unearthed my old friend King Lear, accompanied in this edition by state-of-the-art (ca..1979) footnotes and a radiant essay by the radiant Frank Kermode:

Bradley began his lectures on King Lear by asking why this work, repeatedly described as Shakespeare's greatest, was "the least popular of the famous four"; why for a century and a half it was never played in its original form; and why so many readers have shared with Dr. Johnson a kind of distaste for a work whose greatness seems undeniable. In his answer he concurs with what he takes to be the opinion of the common reader, pronouncing Lear "Shakespeare's greatest achievement, but....not his best play."  As a play he finds it inferior to the other three but as "the fullest revelation of Shakespeare's power," it takes its place in his mind with "the Prometheus Vinctus and the Divine Comedy, and even with the greatest symphonies of Beethoven and the statues in the Medici Chapel." The trouble is that it is too huge for the stage.

That Lear was unactable was the intellectual conundrum I inherited at 19 when he became my lifelong companion. Nearly 50 years later, I am here to tell you it is actable. The age of genocide has rendered it small enough. (Reading on, I see Kermode notes this point was made in 1962.)

The English professor could not bear another honors seminar on all of Shakespeare that semester and so he chose to teach one. What I learned was that Lear was Rashomon. The smartest smarty of every age since its first performance in 1606 has taken a matador's veronica pass at the big man and never killed him. The literary criticism of Lear, from Johnson through Shelley, Tolstoy and Eliot, is a history of intellectual fashion and of what Quinet calls "the beautiful procession" of the minds which have gone before us, inviting us, without asking for any credentials, to join them in thinking about what matters. One of the thinkers I plan to meet is the 19-year-old me, who adopted Lear and Virginia Woolf as people to think about all my life. sandor_baci and I have been talking, apropos childlessness, and the loss of one's son, and the loss of someone else's son years after one has decided not to reproduce, about how clear-thinking 14-year-olds are about the wreckage of their future around sex and its losses.

I am also thinking about Hupka's photographs of Michelangelo's Pieta, Heine/Schumann's Dichterliebe Op 48/11 as SB recommends, and what people do when their beloved child dies. Virginia Woolf wrote Three Guineas, in feminism's finest hour, as an argument with her nephew, who had died, angrily repudiating his parents' pacifism, in the Spanish Civil War. But this is what my friend did when her first baby died, almost a quarter century ago. I don't know if she could, or would, do it again.
My other method is to get a real pedicure, for the first time in at least five years. I'm going for a medical one, in which she wields real blades and cuts to the chase, and also paints your toenails. And I'm going for raspberry, more Katy Perry neon than Cruella De Ville.

Purple toenails have kept me putting one foot in front of another every time. It's a way of writing. Sometimes,, if you're lucky, it is the stairway to heaven:

I just now quoted Billy Bray; I cannot do better than give his own brief account of his post-conversion feelings: --

"I can't help praising the Lord. As I go along the street, I lift up one foot, and it seems to say 'Glory'; and I lift up the other, and it seems to say 'Amen'; and so they keep up like that all the time I am walking."

Hay foot, straw foot, hay foot, straw foot. Things matter.
Pamplona Purple.
Pamplona Purple.
_King Lear

Act V. Scene II.

A Field between the two Camps.
Alarum within. Enter, with drum and colours, LEAR, CORDELIA, and their Forces; and exeunt. Enter EDGAR and GLOUCESTER.
Edg. Here, father, take the shadow of this tree
For your good host; pray that the right may thrive. 4
If ever I return to you again,
I’ll bring you comfort.
Glo. Grace go with you, sir! [Exit EDGAR.
Alarum; afterwards a retreat. Re-enter EDGAR.
Edg. Away, old man! give me thy hand: away!
King Lear hath lost, he and his daughter ta’en.
Give me thy hand; come on.
Glo. No further, sir; a man may rot even here. 12
Edg. What. in ill thoughts again? Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither:
Ripeness is all. Come on.
Glo. And that’s true too. [Exeunt.
nakey naga

In My End Is My Beginning

Every day and night I pray to release obstacles to my heart's desire.*

I have said goodbye to two people this week, people I was apparently counting on. And which I apparently was wrong to do so. I have been thinking about the formative book by Anthony Storr, Solitude, which contains at least two of the principles of the much less interesting voc rehab books the counsellor has me reading. First, pre-Freud, the het dyad was not viewed as the only mentally healthy, well-adjusted mode of existence. Second, something Eddie Said and the boomer job developers came to uh, late. There is a late style for creative solitude, in which masterpieces -- some of them the founding insights of modernity -- get made. Goya, Goethe, and Beethoven are mentioned. I forget about Newton and Copernicus -- if they had a Late Style.

It makes me feel weird, often, to think I internalized lessons 25 years ago others are still stunned to discover or who are writing boomer job development best sellers around. The biggest one is solitude. Nothing you want gets done without it, in celibacy or out. I have called it elsewhere the ruthlessness of purity, something William James discusses in The Varieties of Religious Experience.** Twisted versons of it -- isolated Guitar Hero assburger mass killers, for example -- get a malign agency these days, and the moral disgust with which it is enmeshed has an unscrupulous political dimension, as suggested in the research of Haidt. (The impetus for genocide is almost always couched in terms of hygiene.) For the reason that solitude must have a system of ethics and consolation, whether it's God or ethical sluttery or the numinous void. And only you can discern which one clicks the solace button. As one of the people I am letting go says, she drinks for solace. Without getting up into it, the solution is the problem. Right impluse, wrong avatar.

This long sojourn on the couch, stemming from last fall's message of You're working out of the wrong energy, is bearing fruit. I ran into a friend at the greasy spoon the other day, and she let it drop her daughter was a retired voc rehab counsellor. I'm going to follow up on that, if I need more.

Still cogitating on the role of family, congenital and exogamous. Beatrice Webb, long and happily and productively married to Sidney, both doughty old Fabians, thought of marriage as a wastepipe for emotion. Kind of like LJ. It's a nice atheist thought. Right now it's boiling down to the guardian and caretaker ad litem when I am too old to do it for myself.

There are any number of people and institutions in this world I'd trust my gaga old self to sooner than I would my family. They're killers. And that becomes clearer and clearer and clearer.

*Emmet Fox:
The most secret, sacred wish that lies deep down at the bottom of your heart, the wonderful thing that you hardly dare to look at, or to think about – the thing that you would rather die than have anyone else know of, because it seems to be so far beyond anything that you are, or have at the present time, that you fear that you would be cruelly ridiculed if the mere thought of it were known – that is just the very thing that God is wishing you to do or to be for Him.

The next religious symptom which I will note is what have called Purity of Life. The saintly person becomes exceedingly sensitive to inner inconsistency or discord, and mixture and confusion grow intolerable. All the mind's objects and occupations must be ordered with reference to the special spiritual excitement which is now its keynote. Whatever is unspiritual taints the pure water of the soul and is repugnant. Mixed with this exaltation of the moral sensibilities there is also an ardor of sacrifice, for the beloved deity's sake, of everything unworthy of him. Sometimes the spiritual ardor is so sovereign that purity is achieved at a stroke -- we have seen examples. Usually it is a more gradual conquest. Billy Bray's account of his abandonment of tobacco is a good example of the latter form of achievement.
loaf-haired pats

Fashion Police: The Bride Unveiled

I have been married twice, once at 23 in church, to somebody my own age, and once at 30 in the courthouse, to someone 13 years older. Both outfits were carefully chosen. I was amused to see another bride of my vintage, the Parker Bowles, reiterate the unspoken rules I followed on both occasions when she married Prince Charles -- once at the courthouse where they were actually hitched, and later, in a different outfit, for a blessing in the church which would not marry them.

What the mature bride -- not a virgin, married previously, wears is an essay best addressed by the late, wonderful Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Fortensky.* Except, and this is a huge caveat, that one is not a movie star, whether one is being married in church or at city hall because doing it in church would be over the top. One is a woman taking a serious vow in front of the community to which she is also pledging allegiance. Modesty -- humility would be the appropriate response to reality, I think, but is perhaps also over the top -- is the semiotic sartorial respect one pays to this vow. One is conferring honorable personhood upon one's self by standing up for one's life as a parent, a member of a social and economic unit, and captain of one's own happiness. You take a stand.

The number one thing wrong with Kate Middleton's wedding dress, and this is essays too, is that it referred to a movie star, Grace Kelly, and a Catholic one at that. The number two thing wrong with Kate Middleton's wedding dress was that, as a mature bride, the veil over her face was as impudent as her sister's butt in another inappropriate dress. What white lace means to a Catholic bride like Grace Kelly, who was more famous for her unvirginal behavior in Hollywood than she was as a Catholic, is essays too, many of them referring to the exquisite handworked lace on priestly vestments and altar cloths. It is a Catholic trope, a most unwise reference for an aspiring Hanoverian, as thoughtless as the veil.

Now me, I hadn't been shacked up with my boyfriend for eight years before we were married in a church. I'd only been living with him for three years. I knew I couldn't pull off either an Indian bedspread wedding -- the 60s were over -- and nor could I wear a veil over my face. Clothing has a meaning; I was taking a vow. To do so pretending to be a virgin, even one so well-known as Grace Kelly, would have been a dishonor to the vow, to the people I was doing it in front of, and to the honorable person I was declaring myself to be by volunteering to undertake such a vow. I am not a movie star.

I choose Tricia Nixon's two-tiered wedding veil, in the same spirit I had registered to vote as an independent two years earlier. For ethical reasons. She'd been married three months earlier one block away. The actual Priscilla of Boston hat part was more cloche-like than Tricia's. It was retro, it was foxy, it was a hat in church, and there was no veil over the face. I read you, Tricia.


Mine. It was a power hat.
Unlike Tricia, I did not choose more lace to go with this very elaborate head dress. I wore a simple, long-sleeved, floor-length linen dress with a modest v-neck, belted just above the natural waist. My many bridesmaids used the same pattern to confect flowered cotton dresses. They wore big straw hats. My bouquet matched their dresses. Theirs matched mine.

I married for a second time seven years later, older if no wiser. This was in the courthouse. It was long-sleeved. It was short, just below the knee. It was white, because it was the groom's first wedding, if not my own. It was Halston, heavy white silk, with a bias cut skirt which, quite frankly, hugged the boots, and a kimono-esque wrap top, loose,  tied with an obi-esque white silk belt, with a gaping V neck, carefully and invisibly pinned together, which required there be not only no veil, but no bra. Over each temple I wore a tiny bunch of orange blossoms. It was foxy, it was not retro but it did allude to another culture rather than another era, it was white, it was armored, it was formal. My shoulders and arms and knees, if not precisely the heart chakra, if that's what you'd like to call it, were covered. I wasn't a big cleavage person in those days; there wasn't any. There was no hat because of the orange blossoms. It was not a cocktail dress, it was a power suit.

Twenty-eight years later, I was interested to see that the Parker Bowles followed the same formula. Short for civil. Long for church. White for the civil. Blue for the blessing. No veil, bien sur, could hide her diffidence, and the big question for the semioticians was, was the luxurious and remarkably discreet embellishment of the white ensemble impudent, festive, or appropriate to the station to which the Parker Bowles had so long aspired? The hat, as she has proved before and since, was to the Parker Bowles what the lapel pins were to the Queen. The billboard of her status. The Parker Bowles' hats are always bigger and more assertively embellished than any one else's in the country, except the Page Three girls vying for photo opps at Ascot in showgirl hats, and Kate Middleton's. Middleton's hats are smaller but more agressive, the Queen's own hats are venturing into the Philip Treacy realm of assymetrical beefeaters with trimmed coq feathers and spirals.

But the Parker Bowles stated her intention to spend the prince's money and to take up space with the I'm-here-get-over-it-Philip-Treacy-launch hat she wore to a 2004 garden party at Holyrood House on her first official appearance as the elderly live-in companion of the elderly Prince. Her civil marriage hat was almost as big, and her civil marriage outfit was almost as white as that first apparition. With this power hat did she stake her claim, to the man, to the plan, to the canal.

The Parker Bowles' first engagement as the Prince's live-in, June, 2004, Edinburgh.

Her hat will always be bigger than the Queen's, and Duchess Kate's.

Still, she observed the rule for brides. No knees, no arms, and no shoulders. Short is civil. Long is religious.

Short of it.

Long of it. Check Singer's A Crown of Feathers for further semiotics if this picture isn't quite enough.

Now, as we all know, Princess Lilian, duchess of Haland, is the captain of the Old Babes team. In 1976, the king of Sweden finally gave the faithful Briton, who had been living with Bertil, the king's uncle, since he was the naval attache in London in World War Two, permission to marry him. For her faithfulness and discretion, the king made her a princess of Sweden over and above the title she acceded to upon her marriage. As you would suspect, this mature bride has the very best wedding dress ever. Were I a betting man, I'd wager the Parker Bowles modeled her church dress on Lilian's. Blue, armored, long, long-sleeved, with a big whacking diamond brooch and veiled pillbox hat. A power dress, not a sexy dress. She is asserting her personhood, her royalty, her standing to take a vow. She is not asserting, having hung on to her prince well into her 60s, her seductiveness. She is not asserting a right to be the cynosure of all eyes. She humbly covers her arms, chest, and head. The killer? Her sweet and humble bouquet of lilies of the valley.

Bonne chance, Lilian. You are the one.


*Hilton, 1950, big poufy white dress and veil.

Wilding, 1952, organza-collared suit, flowered hat.

Todd, 1957, short-sleeved chiffon to the civil, hooded sleeved chiffon to the religious.

Fisher, 1959, long-sleeved, hooded brown chiffon for the religious.

Burton, 1964, 1975, long-sleeved short yellow chiffon with hyacinth hairpiece; caftan

Warner, 1976, matching suit, coat, and turban with fox trim, possibly Halston.

Fortensky, 1991 long-sleeved, floor length yellow lace

There is one constant here. Sleeves. Even at the eighth wedding, where Michael Jackson was the maid of honor.


Miles to Go Before I Sleep

I just wanted to say I am shocked at how little people lay in stores for forty years of old age. It is a serious problem, and not just for us as individuals.

Self-soothing is one key, as is the kind of attention British nationalized medicine and others, not in English, have (pace Cameron) been able to give to clinical research in palliative care and well-being. One of my Frenchie bloggers has described, en Anglais, French allergy treatments, which are basically homeopathic, cheap, and like everything else in France, come with a lecture from the doctor about losing weight.

I can't see this society, the capitalist one I live in, promoting any such thing as self-soothing or even ethical pharmaceutical research (there's some hideous tale of Celebutex or something on the front page of the NYT). Michael Wolff's tale of being bamboozled into getting heart surgery for his demented 85-year-old mother is horrific and a completely quotidian tale, as are reports of the socialized medicine angels in Britain undertreating and disrespecting old people as a matter of course. Don't point out to me that it's the Torygraph who's doing the dancing here. Capitalized medicine does no better. Read the Wolff tale and all my posts tagged guano.
Mentally disabled people under socialized medicine in Britain fare no better.

Can you see Big Pharma and the health insurance industry permitting or funding ethical well-being or palliative care? I've just been reading again about how all the hott boys of Act Up chained themselves to the stock market railings to get the price of AZT reduced. And, oh, by the way, radicalizing all the horny A-gays. It is time, friends, for the revolution in health care to spread.

I am reading Felicity Ford on the Slow Wardrobe. Getting out of time, if not into the politics of locavore clothing, is a part of it. Of course folkloric peasant costume is, mmmmm, possibly, if not entirely, fascist.

Now. How do I go about impeaching the God damn Supreme Court?
pure juice flip flops

Stop the Arizona birth control bill

Originally posted by roadnotes at Stop the Arizona birth control bill
Originally posted by rozk at Stop the Arizona birth control Bill
Originally posted by cluegirl at Stop the Arizona birth control Bill
Originally posted by aubergineautumn at Stop the Arizona birth control Bill
Originally posted by enchanted_jae at Stop the Arizona birth control Bill
Originally posted by mandatorily at Stop the Arizona birth control Bill

I just signed the following petition addressed to: Arizona Senate, Arizona State Legislature, Debbie Lesko.

Stop the Arizona birth control Bill

If this bill passes the senate then women of Arizona would be forced to provide documentation that birth control is for medical purposes only. The "company" would not be required to cover birth control if it was for prevention of conception. Additionally this bill would give companies the right to fire women if they discovered that she was using a contraceptive to prevent pregnancy

water shrew

Healthy Lunch Meat Chronicles

This is my quest, for budget, health and happiness, in 2012. I don't want to fall back on purchased lunch meat or leftovers, but rather to have something special for lunch, with an emphasis on omega threes and greens. The previous fallback has been home-roasted org turkey breast, which is very easy and which I'm very fond of, but which can be pricey and less greeny and fishy than variety suggests.

So far we have had

  • home-made Spam (Fannie Farmer's ham loaf with Costco ham ground at home and frozen in 1 lb. packages),
  • ditto salmon loaf (not cheap. but better and cheaper with frozen wild-caught filets: I need to investigate Costco's farm-raised filets),
  • home-brined tongue
  • ricotta spinach pie (>:-P)
  • very garlicky hummus made in 10-minutes with beans soaked overnight and cooked in the pressure cooker, served with demi-peeled cucumber dice
  • Cafe Lula's awesome peanut butter, sambal, sprouts, cukes, and when in season, tomato Tineka sandwich,
  • chick pea and lentil dal, with Basmati rice, brocolli, and tamarind-date chutney, which may be the perfect vegan meal...except for the quantities of CLARIFIED BUTTER in the dal
  • Fergus Henderson's lima bean/cauli/leek salad
  • and etc.

Goals have been to steer away from cholesterol and nitrates. (Successful: I had a slice of bacon about two months ago and I nearly passed out. WOW.) And to up fish and greens. (Remind me to add sardines, smoked, in oil, to my grocery list. Licious.)

The least successful of the purpose-built for lunch dishes was the ghastly ricotta-spinach pie, which was also too ugly to want. Given two dozen farm-laid eggs, I splurged on a frittata with a ton of Parm and brocolli rabe, which is possibly among the best leftovers on the planet and full of greens.

Some of my favorite greens ingestion methods are

  • a bag of defrosted frozen spinach mixed into a nutmeggy, garlicky turkey/pork/beef loaf
  • beans and greens, like chard in pureed white bean soup, or escarole sauteed with garlic and white canellinis and, finally,
  • a huge veg soup, tons of celery, carrot, onion, beans, thyme with a bunch of kale in chiffonade.

A big veg soup, with beefy stock and tomato and a few beans with lots of veg makes a very satisfying light hot cheap lunch. As the Asians know. Salad I find disheartening for lunch.

I have re-invested in this cookbook, deacquisitioned two moves ago, because as I recall she has great menus, good recipes for cold green soups and summery picnic dishes for keeping in the fridge, and obvs everything is cooked ahead. I like to cook every two days and freeze my own Lean Cuisines. I think this book will work for me. Maybe I'll cook my way through this and Elizabeth David's Summer Cooking this summer. Mmmmm.

Today, it's Texas caviar, with frozen home-cooked black-eyed peas, and the Homesick Texan's bumpin' recipe. You have got to try it. Do the Rotel. You know you want to. And read the chile's blog.