hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
I do believe you have a wound too. I do believe it is both specific to you and common to everyone. I do believe it is the thing about you that must be hidden and protected, it is the thing that must be tap danced over five shows a day, it is the thing that won’t be interesting to other people if revealed. It is the thing that makes you weak and pathetic. It is the thing that truly, truly, truly makes loving you impossible. It is your secret, even from yourself. But it is the thing that wants to live.


-- Charlie Kaufman, 30 September 2011, speech for The BAFTA and BFI Screenwriters’ Lecture Series.

hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
Found via a forgotten course, Roger Boylan links to an article about writers who fail as human beings and has the same reaction I do to a key quote:

[Dickens] gave an interview in 1862 to a young Russian journalist named Fyodor Dostoevsky which Slater [Dickens's biographer] guesses Dickens thought would never see the light of day:

"'He told me that all the good simple people in his novels [like Little Nell] are what he wanted to have been, and his villains were what he was (or rather, what he found in himself), his cruelty, his attacks of causeless enmity towards those who were helpless and looked to him for comfort, his shrinking from those whom he ought to live for, being used up in what he wrote. There were two people in him, he told me: one who feels as he ought to feel and one who feels the opposite. From the one who feels the opposite I make my evil characters, from the one who feels as a man ought to feel I try to live my life.'"


This is remarkable to me because the article refers to DAVID COPPERFIELD and to its readers' ignorance of Dickens's own terrible early life in poverty, and it made me realize that Dickens saw himself in both his protagonist and in the villain, Uriah Heep. Dickens is one of those love-or-loathe writers for me -- A TALE OF TWO CITIES is immortal, DAVID COPPERFIELD is freaking great, and OLIVER TWIST should be hurled aside with great force -- and COPPERFIELD is one of his best works, for me, in part because the villain is so magnificently human and no less evil for being understood as such. Often, especially in fanfic, dark characters are revealed to be nursing a sympathetic heart beneath a cruel exterior, but Dickens's genius is that Uriah Heep's personal tragedy have formed a person who is a through-and-through bastard.

Heep has a bit of dialogue that concludes with what I think is one of the finest villainous monologues, ever:

Read more... )
hradzka: (jason)
On a side note to today's installment of "A Poem Every Day:" I've gotten around to reading THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE ELEPHANT MAN, by Michael Howell and Peter Ford. It's really quite remarkable, and presents a magnificently detailed picture of what Joseph Merrick's life and times were like.

Did you know he wasn't an only child? He had two siblings, one brother and one sister. Frederick Treves apparently never knew this, because Merrick didn't talk about his family at all, with the exception of his mother, whose beauty and grace he stressed to emphasize that his deformity was no reflection on her. Treves believed Merrick's mother was a fantasy construct to replace a cruel woman who abandoned Merrick, but she wasn't; she was a loving mother who died when Merrick was ten.

In particular, Treves seems never to have known of Merrick's sister Marian Eliza, who was still living at the time Treves became Merrick's benefactor. This may have been because Merrick's sister didn't measure up to Merrick's ideal of his mother or of his wishes for himself: Merrick's sister was crippled, as Merrick's mother had been. I say "crippled," because that's literally the exact word used by the primary source to describe their disability. The primary does not go into details, and because they never came to Treves's attention nothing is known about their disabilities: not their nature, or manifestations, or what limitations they faced, or if their disabilities bore some slight resemblance to Merrick's own.

Merrick was deeply proud of his left arm, which had been untouched by his disorder(s); perhaps his mother similarly took comfort in her other son William, who, unlike his siblings, was normal -- validation for her, as Merrick's mother was for him, that if not something she felt was beautiful she was at least kin to it.

Of course, William died young. The following paragraph just floored me.

In the days of preparation leading up to Christmas 1870, the Merrick's second son, little William Arthur, nearly five years old, fell dangerously ill with scarlet fever. Within twenty-four hours his condition was desperate, and on 21 December he died. The following day Mary attended the Register Office to notify his death, and the death certificate bears mute witness to the devastation she felt at the loss of her one perfect child. When she came to sign the document, Mary, the Sunday school teacher who had signed her name so confidently on her marriage license and on the birth certificates of her children, could manage no more than a cross, identified by the registrar as 'the mark of Mary Jane Merrick, present at the death."


Across almost a hundred and forty years, you can feel the woman's pain.
hradzka: (solace)
"I was walking across a courtyard to breakfast at a conference," recalled Herb Wilf, a combinatorialist at the University of Pennsylvania, "and Erdos, who had just had breakfast, was walking in the opposite direction. When our paths crossed, I offered my customary greeting, 'Good morning, Paul. How are you today?' He stopped dead in his tracks. Out of respect and deference, I stopped too. We just stood there silently. He was taking my question very seriously, giving it the same consideration he would if I had asked him about the asymptotics of partition theory. His whole life was spent thinking hard about serious mathematical questions, and he treated this one no differently. Finally, after much reflection, he said, 'Herbert, today I am very sad.' And I said, 'I am sorry to hear that. Why are you sad, Paul?' He said, 'I am sad because I miss my mother. She is dead, you know.' I said, 'I know that, Paul. I know her death was very sad for you and for many of us, too. But wasn't that about five years ago?' He said, 'Yes, it was. But I miss her very much.' We stood there silently for a few awkward moments and then went our separate ways."


-- Paul Hoffman, THE MAN WHO LOVED ONLY NUMBERS
(biography of mathematician Paul Erdos)



...aw, *man.*

I have had some rough-ass days in my life, and if somebody asked me that on one of them and I were inclined to be honest about my feelings, I wish I could explain with the economy, grace, emotion, and composure Erdos exhibits in that exchange.

"Herbert, today I am very sad." Man, I *wish* I could just say it like that and be done. (Instead, it's either a long and tragic story or nothing at all.)
hradzka: (wonder woman 2)
I can't say that we enjoyed our first four or five days of surfing -- it was far too painful -- but there were, every now and then, moments of utter joy. We soon learned, too, to do it the easy way. At least I did -- Archie usually took himself out to the reef by his own efforts. Most people, however, had a Hawaiian boy who towed you out as you lay on your board, holding the board with the grip of his big toe, and swimming vigorously. You then stayed, waiting to push off on your board, until your boy gave you the word of instruction. "No, not this, not this, missus. No, no, wait -- now!" At the word "now" off you went, and oh, it was heaven! Nothing like it. Nothing like that rushing through the water at what seems to you a speed of about two hundred miles an hour; all the way in from the far distant raft, until you arrived, gently slowing down, on the beach, and foundered among the soft flowing waves. It is one of the most perfect physical pleasures that I have known.

After ten days I began to be daring. After starting my run I would hoist myself carefully to my knees on the board, and then endeavour to stand up. The first six times I came to grief but this was not painful -- you merely lost your balance and fell off the board. Of course, you had lost your board, which meant a tiring swim, but with luck your Hawaiian boy had followed and retrieved it for you. Then he would tow you out again and you would once more try. Oh, the moment of complete triumph on the day that I kept my balance and came right into shore standing upright on my board!


-- Agatha Christie, from her autobiography. Yes, the Agatha Christie. She hung ten. The mind boggles, doesn't it?

hradzka: (bruce and diana)
From everyone: When you see this, post in your own journal with your favourite quote from The Princess Bride. Preferably not "As you wish" or the Inigo Montoya speech.

My favorite quote from THE PRINCESS BRIDE isn't in the movie at all. It's from William Goldman's book. It's early in the story; after seeing the passing-through Countess Rugen drooling over Westley, the farm boy who lives in a little hovel on her parents' property, Buttercup, who is not quite the most beautiful woman in the world but getting there, has tossed and turned all night under the influence of history's fourth-worst case of jealousy, and has come to the realization that she regards Westley with the opposite of contempt. She loves him. The morning comes, and she goes to him with her discovery.

She was outside his hovel before dawn. Inside, she could hear him already awake. She knocked. He appeared, stood in the doorway. Behind him she could see a tiny candle, open books. He waited. She looked at him. Then she looked away.

He was too beautiful.

"I love you," Buttercup said. "I know this must come as something of a surprise, since all I’ve ever done is scorn you and degrade you and taunt you, but I have loved you for several hours now, and every second, more. I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then. But ten minutes after that, I understood that my previous love was a puddle compared to the high seas before a storm. Your eyes are like that, did you know? Well they are. How many minutes ago was I? Twenty? Had I brought my feelings up to then? It doesn’t matter." Buttercup still could not look at him. The sun was rising behind her now; she could feel the heat on her back, and it gave her courage. "I love you so much more now than twenty minutes ago that there cannot be comparison. I love you so much more now than when you opened your hovel door, there cannot be comparison. There is no room in my body for anything but you. My arms love you, my ears adore you, my knees shake with blind affection. My mind begs you to ask it something so it can obey. Do you want me to follow you for the rest of your days? I will do that. Do you want me to crawl? I will crawl. I will be quiet for you or sing for you, or if you are hungry, let me bring you food, or if you have thirst and nothing will quench it but Arabian wine, I will go to Araby, even though it is across the world, and bring a bottle back for your lunch. Anything there is that I can do for you, I will do for you; anything there is that I cannot do, I will learn to do. I know I cannot compete with the Countess in skills or wisdom or appeal, and I saw the way she looked at you. And I saw the way you looked at her. But remember, please, that she is old and has other interests, while I am seventeen and for me there is only you. Dearest Westley -- I’ve never called you that before, have I? -- Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley -- darling Westley, adored Westley, sweet perfect Westley, whisper that I have a chance to win your love." And with that she dared the bravest thing she’d ever done: she looked right into his eyes.

He closed the door in her face.


My arms love you, my ears adore you, my knees shake with blind affection. How great is that?
hradzka: (plane)
The NEW YORK TIMES magazine story on whether or not Obama represents the end of black politics contains one of the most heartfelt, heartbreaking quotes I've ever run across.

Elijah Cummings, the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and an early Obama supporter, told me a story about watching his father, a South Carolina sharecropper with a fourth-grade education, weep uncontrollably when Cummings was sworn in as a representative in 1996. Afterward, Cummings asked his dad if he had been crying tears of joy. "Oh, you know, I’m happy," his father replied. "But now I realize, had I been given the opportunity, what I could have been. And I’m about to die."


The disadvantaged suffer something that the dead don't: if you live long and get lucky, you get to see people do things that you never dreamed were possible, and now only know you'll never do. And -- this is the killer -- *they think it's normal.*

Maybe it's part of being young: I only thought that people would take joy in that. Until I'd read the story about Elijah Cummings's father, I didn't think about how much it'd hurt.

(This reaction to an undreamed future seems like something science fiction should have explored, but I'm racking my brain a bit on this one. From Edward Bellamy's LOOKING BACKWARD on, folks from the benighted past have been portrayed as reacting to future utopias with delight and eager acceptance. Vernor Vinge's RAINBOW'S END takes the other view, where the rejuvenated, formerly incomprehending protagonist is deeply uncomfortable and alienated by the technological and social developments that the people of his new present take for granted or think are really nifty, but that's not the same thing at all.)
hradzka: (commies)
The news that a cop shot an escaped chimpanzee struck a number of people as interesting. For my money, the most interesting part was that before the cop shot the chimp, he shouted multiple warnings, under the impression that the chimp understood what was about to happen. But some folks on my favored gun board expressed doubts that a chimpanzee could pose much of a risk to a grown man. This led one of the moderators, "1911Tuner," to chime in with a great story of days gone by:

An angry Chimp isn't a joke.

Several years ago, there was a guy who toured with small carnivals with a 90-pound male Chimp named "Joe."

He was a regular at the King fair in NC. King was my old hometown before moving here.

The rules were simple. If anyone could best Joe in a no-holds barred slugfest, there was a 200-dollar prize. It cost 5 bucks to try him on for size. He was equipped with boxing gloves for the safety of his opponents.

In the 20-odd years that Joe "performed" at the King fair...the guy never paid anyone the 200 clams. Ever. He even whipped a pair big football players from Wake Forest at the same time...given a special "Two-fer" by Joe's buddy and handler.

The only thing was that Joe hated the smell of alcohol on your breath, and it enraged him. If you entered the ring while drinking, you did so at your own risk. One of the young lions that night had been drinking. Joe broke both of his arms and one of his legs.

The Humane Society investigated once...watching from the crowd of spectators...fully expecting to get evidence of cruelty to animals that would let them take Joe. They left in shock...considered a Society to Prevent anyone from challenging Joe.

Joe was always a true sportsman. He always gave those whom he had beaten down a gentle hug as they were being led dazed out of the ring...if they were actually still able to walk.

Well...Except those who had been drinking. He sat in his corner and glared at the imbibers of John Barleycorn as they were carried out.

So...no. An aggressive, enraged Chimp is no laughing matter. They're faster than you can believe and they're stupid strong.
hradzka: (wonder woman 2)
Duels between women were rare and highly irregular, but when they occurred they aroused a great deal of male interest. There is evidently a timeless appeal in the spectacle of women, usually in some degree of undress, violating intimate parts of each other's anatomy, too hot-blooded to concern themselves with modesty or propriety.


-- Paul Kirchner, DUELS WITH THE SWORD AND PISTOL: 400 YEARS OF ONE-ON-ONE COMBAT.



...um, I'll be in my bunk.

(The quote above features in the chapter on the duel between Senorita Marta Duran vs. Senorita Juana Luna, reported in the Daily Telegraph of April 4, 1900. The incident occurred in Mexico, apparently in Juarez, though the Telegraph article, which Kirchner reprints, is a little unclear on the subject. The two women quarreled over a gentleman named Rafael Riquelme, who was dating both of them; Luna challenged Duran when she saw Duran and Riquelme at a ball together. The two women fought with swords. Topless. They fought three rounds, Duran was wounded twice and became unable to continue, and then they embraced, kissed each other, and were reconciled, no doubt aided by Duran's pledge to drop Riquelme.)
hradzka: (archie skull)
Much progress made on basement and yard. I think some stuff will have to wait for my next visit, but it's still a good start. Still have plenty to do, but we'll see what I can get done while I'm here.

The latest John Moore book, A FATE WORSE THAN DRAGONS, is out. And it's terrific. No surprise there. My favorite book of his is still THE UNHANDSOME PRINCE, but lemme tell you: if you are not reading his books, then you are missing out. Moore writes about wonderfully fractured fairy-tale kingdoms, mainly comic adventure romps with a little adult humor to give them spice. Think the "good parts" version of THE PRINCESS BRIDE, only with a couple of things you'd skip over when reading them to the kids because, well, they're too young.

Below the cut, an excerpt from A FATE WORSE THAN DRAGONS.

Read more... )
hradzka: (jim with pipe)
A while back I was on Amazon looking for a book by Paul Kirchner, who illustrated many of the books by the late Col. Jeff Cooper and who has written some fine works on his own. More on Kirchner's own work anon, but while poking around Amazon I found that Kirchner had written an Amazon review or two. Naturally, I checked his stuff out. One of his reviews was for Larry McMurtry's LONESOME DOVE. It included his meditation on what he felt McMurtry's themes were ("near as I could analyze it"), and I was so struck by the things he listed that I emailed them to myself.

Here is Paul Kirchner's interpretation of the themes of McMurtry:

1. Some people are competent, some can at least follow orders, some aren't much use at all and some positively need to be shot.

2. When you think you're on a mission you're usually just wandering around aimlessly.

3. Life may be by turns tedious, absurd, or cruel, but try to look at it as a learning experience.

4. Two ways to waste your life are looking for love where there is none and failing to recognize it when it is right in front of you.

5. Skill and determination count for something, but Fate wins every time.


I don't know about their applicability to McMurtry, but they seem pretty applicable to life to me.
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
I am feeling a little happy today. I probably shouldn't be quite so cheerful as I am right now, because I have so many things to tangle out, but you know what? I am. Because I've got a new bookcase.

It's seven feet high and three feet wide, and it holds ever so many books, which is good because I *have* ever so many books. And I haven't had enough shelf space for them, so some of them have been in boxes for the last two years. And now I get to see them again, and it's a little like seeing old friends you didn't realize you missed quite so much.

To celebrate, a much-loved passage from Peter Atkins's MORNINGSTAR, a horror novel with some bits of amazingly delightful writing:

The lobby of the Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero was designed to impress. It made no bones about it. Not for it the understated elegance of some European hotels that hide their pride behind an old-world facade as if to say, "Impressive, moi?" and then blushingly acknowledge it in shy displays of oak paneling and crystal chandeliers. No, fuck that. The Hyatt swaggered. Its pride was the unselfconscious pride of the scholarship athlete whose chest measurement equals his number of working brain cells. If the Hyatt had stomach muscles, it would almost certainly invite you to feel them.
hradzka: (plane)
Richard Harding Davis, on giving his Spanish minders the slip while covering the war in Cuba:

. . . as I had seen Mr. Gillette in "Secret Service" only seventeen times before leaving New York, I knew just what to do, which was to smoke all the time and keep cool. The latter requirement was somewhat difficult, as Ciego de Avila is a hotter place than Richmond. Indeed, I can only imagine one place hotter than Ciego, and I have not been there.
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
I was surprised when I first read this essay in The Howard Collector. Howard had sent it in a letter to a few friends, including cat-lover H.P. Lovecraft. I would not have expected that the creator of Conan would write an essay on cats -- but it is precisely the kind of essay on cats that the creator of Conan would write.

The life of a cat is not numbered by nine. )

For more about Howard, see The Robert E. Howard United Press Association. His death, alas, was not as easy as the little black cat's.

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hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
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YOU NEED A BOOK

A POEM EVERY DAY

The collected poems from my descent into madness year spent writing daily poems are now available from Lulu as the cheapest 330-page book they would let me make ($16.20). If that's too pricey, you can also get it from Lulu as a free download, or just click on the "a poem every day" tag to read them here. But if you did buy one, that'd be awesome.

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