Sunday, December 26, 2010

the stories we tell ourselves

we all tell ourselves stories about ourselves; we invent our reality even as we live it. some of us tell more outlandish tales, but it is predominantly the mundane ones, the simple narratives that are the entirety of a human life story: the simplicity of boy meets girl and a house and some kids and a dog might be the whole thing, and any likely stray need venture past to find the story realized. and some with more discerning eyes, seem to detect that variation in how much people want us for ourselves, or simply to fill space in their own stories. and then what happens to the reality in which we cast ourselves? we can only choose to accept the role we have been offered, or bow out and follow our own invention, and see where it will lead. choosing not to collaborate, and recognizing a story you are telling yourself has no happy denouement does not seem to diminish its sway -- one can only hope for a late variation on the theme you have chosen, or a surprise ending.

Friday, December 17, 2010

RIP Captain Beefheart

farewell. i loved thee though i hardly knew ye, and i thank ye for all that ye have left us.

(how else does one say goodbye to one with such a pseudonym? :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

delia derbyshire

is the woman who composed the famous dr. who theme. i saw a documentary about her last year, and i think about her a lot. she was a genius. and crazy, of course. :)

from the album she collaborated on in 1969. she and two others comprised the band called white noise.

Monday, December 6, 2010

i dare you not to groove -- stefano torossi

many moons ago i got my hands on a collection from easy tempo (an italian label) that was brought together a bunch of great tracks from italian film in the sixties and seventies. most people think of ennio morricone when they think italian composers but there were some other really great ones. the one that really stood out for me in the collection i have is a guy by the name of stefano torossi. i love his stuff. the first two tracks are on my collection and come from an album called "feelings" that is very rare, and that i covet very badly. the third track is also from that album, while the fourth is a video i found on youtube from a score he did for
a horror film called, "omicidio per vocazione". if you don't feel like like wigglin' it just a little bit, then it is true that confusion and anarchy reigns.

can't wait until december 17th to see tron: legacy?

happily, one of my friends, mr. martyn conterio is a film critic based in england, and he's already seen it! he's posted this review at the website. you should check it out -- he manages to give an in-depth review without giving anything major away, so it will whet the appetite, and also edify! hurray for martyn! hurray for tron: legacy!

tron-to by night (yes, i like to imagine the city in the mythos --
the streets are perfect for light-cycling :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

hobo with a shotgun...

has me intrigued. of course, had they called it "rutger with a shotgun" i would have been immediately captivated. i'm a sucker for rutger.

here's the trailer:

Friday, November 26, 2010

you might say i'm listening to wings too much

... but i'm not sure that i'd care. i am fascinated by what's happening in this video though -- is paul travelling through time? through magic tea? magic telephones? magic glow-in-the dark suitcase? is that one dude jack the ripper? :P

Thursday, November 25, 2010

two movies with tumbleweeds i wanna see

i'm not sure if this is a resurgence of interest in the western genre, or just fluke but the remake of true grit is coming this christmas, and i can't wait. i loved the portis book when i read it, and i think jeff bridges will make an excellent rooster. and matt damon as leboeuf! yes! i have high hopes for this one -- let's hope it's not one of the coen brothers' movie i hate, like intolerable cruelty. boy, was that a stinker. and this is a movie that could go either way. there is already a classic looming behind it, and nobody who has ever seen it can forget john wayne. and yet, this trailer feels a lot more like the book i read.

the other film called cowboys and aliens is coming in july of next year. let's see if favreau can keep up his winning streak.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

and then there's this: sweet shot

i used to demand they play this at the trasheteria when i was in university. it was perhaps the peak of my dancing frenzy: i generally went out to shake my moneymaker four nights a week back then, so you can imagine why they took my requests seriously. well, there was that, and the fact i was helping one of their bouncers (i called him thor), and one of my oldest friends, aaron, run an after-hours boozecan when the bars closed, where people could continue to drink. and dance.

i can still remember walking, in one of my little dancing dresses, with aaron down george street, through the eye of a hurricane and actually feeling i could shout it down. the adrenaline and the rum, and rage were coursing through my veins, and for a moment i thought i could challenge nature and win. and then sometime soon after, the same path that we took, that the hurricane took, was razed by the bouncer, spray-painting a path to my door, eventually banging at it, and nearly shaking the house down. it trembled when thor called. and then finally a small but brave man talked to him quietly, and made him go away. i think about that little man often though i have not seen him for years. he was a hurricane-whisperer.

right. sorry. was lost in a memory. time to dance now.

just le right mot - vicissitude

so i was sitting and thinking about "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" tonight, how a reprieve is a happy thing even if it isn't the best thing or even a thing we truly desire. and i wanted just one word that conveyed that sense, rather than the phrase from the bard. and then i remembered a great one, one that makes a lovely sound:


now, ultimately we can find the root of this word in latin, the word vicis, meaning change, and mostly it tends to be employed to communicate the moment fate casts a dark glance in our direction, or seemingly hurls imprecations and obstacles in our path.

most commonly, we speak of the vicissitudes of daily life as potentially negative things. but vicissitude does not need to connote a sense that all our vigour trembles at the end of a point, or lash, or stone. it can bluntly remind us that life is happenstance; that change is upon us even as we cry it off, and once in a while we hear rather than feel the dart, like an angry bee move past our cheek with a wind. that might not save us any misery, but at least it alerts us to change, and reminds us to check ourselves, and perhaps choose another way, perhaps even a more visceral way.

post script: i realize i have read hamlet far too many times. :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

the warriors: i will watch it a thousand times more

i know people who won't re-read a book, or watch a film, or t.v. show more than once because once they've seen it, they "know" it, and they get bored if they try to watch things again. i am not even remotely like this, and can revisit things i really like over and over, because even though i'm aware of what's going to happen, i so enjoy the anticipation of what will happen next, that it doesn't matter that it isn't new to me. it just matters that it kicks ass.

almost the epitome of that experience for me, the warriors is a ninety-minute movie. i'm sure i've mentioned elsewhere that sol yurick's novel, on which it was loosely based was itself loosely based on xenophon's anabasis, in that the characters are like the soldiers, journeying home. it's a quest movie: the boppers travel in an attempt to find somewhere that they can be safe. it's fast, with little (and stilted) dialogue, a lot of running, and some fighting, and a tiny, little bit of social commentary. but then they get home to coney island, and then there's this:

pins and needles, my friends. pins and needles.

i can't see myself ever getting tired of this movie. as long as i don't have to watch the director's cut, that is. :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

i love monsters. and post-it notes. combine the two? magic!

this artist was featured on comics alliance today, and i am crazy about his post-it note monster scenes. Check 'em all out (embiggened!) here: but here's a few favourites to give you a taste...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Morcheeba - Col - Who Can You Trust? (1996)

one of my all-time favourites. i'd watch a movie of this song. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

foggy, foggy night

the city was blanketed in fog the other night, and as i said to kerry, it smelled like what i think the yorkshire moors might smell like. it was beautiful and earthy, something rich in the decaying ripeness, that vestige of life. there was a remnant of that spark of life in autumn leaves, carried into our nostrils and our pores through the fog.

Friday, October 29, 2010

goodreads book review: the transmigration of timothy archer, philip k. dick

The Transmigration of Timothy ArcherThe Transmigration of Timothy Archer by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

wow. well, this is pretty fresh in my mind, and it's been a couple of weeks. that doesn't surprise me though because the ideas that dick toyed with in his last cycle of books are to me the most compelling, indeed the most disturbing and challenging to my mind. dick's narrator angel archer is one of his most resonant, matter-of-fact, and yes, human. she is a rare accomplishment in terms of his development of a female character, though this may well be because she has his own very human voice, or perhaps, as i speculated as i was reading it, the voice of the twin sister he had lost so young, whose voice he alone had heard before. angel is a comfortable narrator: she guides us through the big ideas and concepts about life, and after life, and death and ancient texts easily that are spun out by dick; she is our virgil, as he references and echoes dante's commedia throughout this work. you may find, as i have, that he whets one's appetite for embarking on that journey once again. i have inferno opened here before me romanced and bemused by dick in his very loving homage: the allusions only underscore his own exploration of theological ideas. dick embeds these ideas in a further layer: his relationship with the real-life bishop james pike, and some of the incidents of his real life are spun into the title character timothy archer, and it is through him the plot that drives the pedagogy adheres.

really, one of dick's best books in terms of pacing and execution: it is often acknowledged that dick's strength lies in his ideas but here, i find very little to quibble with, in fact he allows the tension to build into an almost unbearable peak -- i actually did stop three quarters of the way through because everything seemed to be spinning out of control but when i came back, still curious to see where he would go, he eased me downward, toward my own katabasis through his words, and finally dante's.

this is really a four and a half stars review.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

goodreads book review: manservant & maidservant, ivy compton-burnett

Manservant and MaidservantManservant and Maidservant by Ivy Compton-Burnett

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

i wish i could say i liked this more than i did. compton-burnett's novel is very like a play. it is evident that she has a very strong command of the english language, and of dialogue, but it was not enough to carry the book, which left me cold. the bottom line, as it often is, is that i didn't like the people in this book. i didn't like horace, the patriarch/bully at the centre of the piece, i didn't like mortimer, his milque-toast cousin and would-be cuckold, or horace's wife charlotte, or their children -- so much for the family at the core of the book -- there is also a barely significant aunt emilia too. now to lamb family satellites: i didn't like bullivant the butler, or george the footman, or the cook mrs. selden, or the maid, miriam.. that's almost everybody in this book (there are the tutor and his mother, the doubledays, and a shop lady with an irrelevant secret that changes nothing on revelation) and basically everybody in the book is at least partly an asshole, and their voices are rarely distinguishable -- the children speak as the adults do, and the lower class as the upper class do -- all in compton-burnett's arch voice. i couldn't tell you that the dialogue reveals any character. the introduction to my copy, by a woman named penelope lively, lauds the characterization but i don't see it -- unless it is an archetypal characterization, or stereotype: upper-class fathers are like this, and upper-class young men who do not marry well are like that, children of the upper-class are monsters and martyrs, and lower class servants out of the workhouse must inevitably think to relieve their suffering by trying to set up fatal accidents. it gets two stars for the virtuosity of dialogue; so much as it succeeds in propelling along a plot-less story spun around a masochistic and loveless family of jerks.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A literary mystery, or Borges keeps on giving...

at first blush, i was excited to find this anthology because nothing would suit me better than to sit at Jorge Luis Borges' knee, and have him tell what his favourite stories were, or even have him read them to me. of course, this book was not just edited by Borges, but also Silvina Ocampo, and Adolfo Bioy Casares, who is quoted thusly by Ursula K. Le Guin in the intro, saying the book came out of a conversation "about fantastic literature... discussing the stories which seemed best to us. One of us suggested that if we put together the fragments of the same type we had listed in our notebooks, we would have a good book."

and so i began. i read the first story, and liked it. then i read the second. it is quite short, so i include it for your enjoyment here:

A Woman Alone With Her Soul
Thomas Bailey Aldrich

A woman is sitting alone in a house. She knows she is alone in the whole world: every other living thing is dead. The door bell rings.

i stopped. i read it again. i thought, "who is this Thomas Bailey Aldrich? why haven't i heard of him?" i read the short biographical info provided by his name: Thomas Bailey Aldrich, North American poet and novelist, was born in New Hampshire in 1835 and died in Boston in 1907. He was the author of Cloth of Gold (1874), Wyndham Tower (1879), and An Old Town by the Sea (1893). i thought, "okay... maybe this story was never published in his lifetime. i didn't expect people were writing stories like this in the 19th century." and, "wow. doorbells have been around a long time. this story seems like it could have been written by Ben Loory when my back was turned except this anthology has been around since 1940, and the last revision was in 1976. okay. i'd better do a google search on Aldrich, a man writing stories that could have been written yesterday."

and so i researched. i found that Aldrich has been given a lot of credit: the first appearance of a detective in english literature (The Stillwater Tragedy - 1880), and that critics feel the semi-autobiographical novel he wrote in 1870 (The Story of a Bad Boy) anticipated Huck Finn. All this despite the fact he was primarily a poet (rhyming verse), editor, and writer of travel books. i began to suspect that Aldrich was eldritch.

i kept on, looking through materials at Project Gutenberg, hoping to find other stories by Aldrich like "A Woman Alone With Her Soul" but nothing read like it did. i kept looking for the collected volume cited in the sources and acknowledgements of my anthology, and found that all 322 pages of vol. 9 had been scanned by somebody at the University of Toronto library (for some reason i found this creepy) and posted online. there was a 'search text' function so i copied the title of the story in and there were no matches. i was confused. i flipped through pages of the book; again, nothing read like this story read, or was as short as it was... nothing matched up. i stopped, pondered, and did another web search, this time for the story's title, and found it in a listing of sci fi stories had the following note: "this is most likely by Jorge Luís Borges" with no further elaboration. i found this statement on a couple of other sites, and then i began to think that Borges was making me believe in books that didn't actually exist again (his own "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" appears in this anthology, with its tricksy encyclopedia). i wrote Ben, asked him if he had written the story, told him that Borges might have, apologized for bothering him, and searched on, and finally came upon a trail of emails by a Dennis Hien, from a mailing list called Project Wombat that gave me something. somebody had been searching for the shortest sci fi story ever written there, at Project Wombat, in 2004 and Hien did some research (though he couldn't find the initial conversation string... the text i read was from 2007. it turned out another one of my favourites, Dashiell Hammett, in an introduction to an anthology he had edited called "Creeps By Night" in 1931, said,

"One of my own favorites is that attributed, I believe, to Thomas Bailey Aldrich

A woman is sitting alone in a house. She knows she is alone in the whole world: every other living thing is dead. The doorbell rings.

That has, particularly, the restraint that is almost invariably
the mark of the effective weird tale.",

There is no reference to the title of the story as it appears in my anthology, and I will need to seek out the Hammett anthology to see if it can provide any further clues. My gut tells me that Borges/Ocampo/Casares must have stumbled upon this story in Hammett's anthology, at some point in the nine years that elapsed between the publication of the two, and decided to use it. and yet, this story was not in the vol. 9 text. but Hien cast further light (i imagine through his own researches because no references were included) by revealing that the kernel of the story idea was Aldrich's, that it was published in his essays "Leaves from a Notebook" collected in a book called the Ponkapag Papers, which was in its turn collected in that self-same volume 9, that i had discovered on line. The text that Aldrich wrote is as follows:

"Imagine all human beings swept off the face of the earth excepting one man. Imagine this man in some vast city, New York or London. Imagine him on the third or fourth day of his solitude sitting in a house and hearing a ring at the door-bell!"

and so, this is not the story attributed to Aldrich i had read. it is a seed yes, but the differences are striking, and it is not the idea, but that micro short that resounds in my mind (and in others' minds: i found a lengthy blog entry from 2007 dissecting the tiny gem in the course of my research). it seems to me that this was as close as Borges felt he could get to finding the genesis of the story that Hammett shared, that originated with Aldrich, and so he referenced the works vol 9, and it seems likely that Borges invented the title, and finally, led me on this merry chase seventy years later. i wonder if Hammett actually read the story the way he quoted it or if i respond to it because this version is his version of what he had read in Aldrich. i still have many questions and am doubtful that i will find answers. i realize this is not really a review of the Book of Fantasy. i am after all, only on page 16, and there are many stories to read but this chase has reminded me of my passion for Borges, and how razor-sharp the line between truth and fiction is, that life is mystery, and reverberating in my mind is PKD quoting Dante in The Transmigration of Timothy Archer: God is the book of the universe".

i am tempted to give the book five stars right now though. i mean, how can i not?


i just realized i never came back and finished the review for this. i did end up changing my rating to four stars: i was really blown away by some of these stories:

- "the man who collected the first of september", 1973 by tor age bringsvaerd i've already re-read several times since first finding it in this book, and can't quite get over it.

- b. traven, another favourite of mine has a story "macario" included which i'd never read before that has really reverberated in my mind, and i can't recommend enough.

then there was a sleeper: months later, walking down the street, i found myself preoccupied by the recollection of the story called "the horses of abdera" by leopoldo lugones (i've subsequently realized borges had written a biography about him). i was also thrilled to find included stories i already adored by may sinclair, rudyard kipling, saki, and wilde, and of course, borges himself.

there was also the inclusion of a waugh story called "the man who liked dickens" which i recognized as the ending of his novel a handful of dust, which had seemed out of keeping with the rest of the novel when i first read it (my review of that is here: finding the publication history made me realize waugh had published that story on its own before marrying it to his novel which really explains a lot. another literary mystery solved!

i did not love the story contributions of borges' fellow editors, bioy casares, and ocampo as much. i found some of the minor authors they added to the collection perhaps could not stand up against the finesse and craft of the greats i've already mentioned, and others by our old pals tolstoy, poe, and de maupassant. i'm pretty sure borges only loved the ones i do, anyway. :) that said, i think this is an impressive collection that is a requisite for anyone who loves the bent, and the strange, the fable and the twilight.

yet another update:

i just found out something exciting! as i said in the review, and my status updates as i read this collection, how thrilling it was to find that borges liked the same stories as i do, and i was convinced that he selected the ones i liked best. as i noted above, one selected was from a collection i had happened upon six months earlier, the haunting short story by may sinclair, "where their fire is not quenched" i was looking up obscure books today, and decided i needed to try to find may sinclair's novel, the dark night, and while i was searching, this came up on alibris:

Cuentos Memorables Segun Jorge Luis Borges
by Jorge Luis Borges

In a 1935 magazine article, celebrated author Jorge Luis Borges explained why he chose Mary Sinclair's short story "Donde su fuego nunca se apaga" as the most memorable story hed ever read, while he mentioned 11 other of his personal favorites. Inspired by Borges statements in the article, this anthology gathers an array of magnificent short stories by authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, and O. Henry, among others.*listing*more&full=1

how exciting! will we love the same o. henry story? I'LL FIND OUT!!! :)

Creative Commons License
This work by Maureen de Sousa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

like spinning plates

i really want to thank you for all you have given me. i was very confused for a long time but somehow, the one thing i seemed to always get right was finding wonderful people to know, and to love. some of you are nearby, others are hundreds, thousands of miles away, some even suggest that there are planets between us, but i treasure all of the words you have spoken, all the ideas you have shared, and all the wisdom you have imparted. i am really so honoured to have called you my friends: people who have understood me, and humoured me, and gentled me, and given me a rise, challenged me, and made me change my mind even as i made you think. you have hugged me, and smiled at me, and cuffed me, and enfolded me in punctuation. you have put things in perspective and i will always feel truly blessed for the time spent in your company.



we can't always talk to the people we want to, when we want to. there are a myriad of reasons for this, and if i think back on my life so far, there are a lot of people i have lost that i still miss, and wish i could talk to because sometimes that person is just the right person, the one who will make it all right. i'm not going to try to pretend that i'm good at losing people, or that it's easy to let go even when it's for the best, or that i'm never disappointed when the person i want can't be there. i am trying to accept that no matter hard i try, i will lose some things, some people: it's inevitable. it's difficult to keep people in your life, juggling needs, knowing how hard it all is to balance, but friendship is like spinning plates.

i can remember when my father died, riding the bus home from peterborough, stewing the whole while, needing to talk, standing on the subway platform, knowing i wouldn't make it if i didn't cry my pain right then. and calling my friend debbie, who was the person i wanted most to talk to, and the wash of sheer relief that she was there at the end of the line, and the words could tumble out, to somebody who would understand, and listen. i will never forget that joy in the midst of all that pain; she was simply there when i needed her, and i was safe, in that moment when i wasn't so sure i ever would be again.

yesterday i left a message in the ghost town called myspace, to somebody who almost seems an angel to me, a dream, an egret in flight. she swept in through a bunch of raucous voices, and brought serenity to us all. she was filled with pain herself, and no stranger to loss, yet somehow defied it, and beamed her heart down on us, and i feel so incredibly lucky and privileged to know her. she paved the way to accord because she made us feel loved, and we all loved her, and so learned to love each other. and so i wrote her: partly i just had to let her know it, how much she had given me in the heyday of our friendship, and partly i wanted more. i wanted to know that she was okay: that things had improved for her, that she was thriving and being, and doing. and i wanted to tell her i finally know after all this time that i'm going to be okay, and maybe even better than okay. and i don't know if she'll get the message. i really hope she does, and even if she can't talk to me, for whatever reason, that she knows i love her, and i'm so proud that she's my friend.

and after i left that message, i knew that there were so many people i wanted to tell the same thing, to say thank you to, and so i began writing this. i realized i wanted to let everybody know how grateful i am that i have known them, and have talked to them, laughed with them and learned from them. there's a list of people in my head (i'm not going to name them all out because i'm not accepting an award here), and even though the people who come by this blog because they love me are on it, there's plenty of people in my heart that may never see this. i like to imagine that they might think of me someday while they're sitting at a computer, and perhaps do a search for me, and find the message that i headed this post with, and that they smile because they know i mean them too.

i find myself, as ever, fascinated by people: reaching out to them, old and new, and wanting to hear their voices. an old friend came to visit at christmas, and we curled up on the couch, and had cookies and tea, and the time slipped away too quickly; i emailed another of our old classmates, and had one of the most satisfying conversations i've had in a long time, because his opinion has always mattered to me, has shaped me. time went by, and that was okay until, all of a sudden it wasn't, and i needed to tell him things, and he, me.

how really full in my heart i feel, and the world is a little brighter for me because i know now that some conversations that have lagged aren't necessarily over. there are other voices i really want to hear, and right now they're still, and i wonder if i'll ever hear them again. i hope i will. and if i don't hear them again, at least they know that they were cherished.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


there's a place in my chest where excitement starts: rightly enough, just under my heart. and my heart was heavy for so long, and it smothered that place. and my frissons only amounted to fear, in that throbbing thud centred in the spot where excitement starts. it spread its fingers out my back, the prone area that tingles in response. i can feel its borders even now, so sensitive are they in reception; they know that i am speaking of them.

but somehow everything is new, and training my horse, my body as i have, makes me even more aware of my insides, and now i see that my heart is not so heavy as it was then, or perhaps i have become adept at lifting the profundity of its weight. and now, under my heart, is a spark, that leaps at the prospect of new things, new places, new words, and a new way. i want very much to be, to do, to live. i've never wanted it so much before. i don't have the life i want yet: there is still so much to be decided, and to try, and to face. and people still confuse me, and daunt me, and i wish i understood everything, all that it takes to be a good person and then some; that's the person i want to be.

but the thing is, i've decided i'm here for the duration. that i've got to get myself together, and i can feel myself fighting for it; i can feel hope leaping in my chest. i can do no more than be who i always am, and try. i have seen what comes from not trying.

i'm going to be spirited.