Thursday, October 31, 2013

Big Apple Circus

A last-minute trip to the circus - in a temporary structure at Lincoln Center!  It was fun.  Highlights included the two pairs of same-sex gymnasts who used each other as jungle gyms to form extraordinary living sculptures (men on the floor, women on a trapeze) and the "living fireworks" display where a team of several men and one or two women took turns catapulting each other into the air from a see-saw and catching each other (usually on a big soft landing pad lugged by the other performers, but occasionally on a chair at the end of a long pole high overhead).  Also really enjoyed the juggler and a literal dog-and-pony show.  The clown was particularly good at interactions with audience members that at first (somewhat queasily) looked like he might be setting them up to fail ... when instead he was setting them up to shine.


Serendipity sometimes rewards those with a voracious and broad-ranging appetite for books.  Or at least so I tell myself after the latest library binge, which started with a few etiquette books for a paper I'm working on.

Judith Martin writes: 
Nothing is in more exquisite taste, in a woman of modest circumstances who is marrying a rich man, than the protestation that she does not care much for jewels...  Do not be inhibited by the idea that expressing a preference for simple things will be held against you later.  The charming tastes of an impecunious fiancĂ©e are unrelated to the standards of a rich married lady.  
Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, at 645-46.

And elsewhere:
Dear Miss Manners:
What is the proper thing for a lady to do with jewelry that has been given to her by an admirer whom she no longer sees?  ... 
Gentle Reader:
Just one moment, please.  Miss Manners is straining herself to refrain from asking why a lady has accumulated jewelry from an admirer to whom she is not married. All right, she has that under control.  This is not the first time Miss Manners has had to skip the part about whether one should have the problem and proceed to solving it.
Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millenium, at 562.   

Jillian Lauren writes in her memoir:
The girls Ari brought to Brunei were almost never prostitutes to begin with, but I never saw one who refused the Prince's advances once they saw the rewards.  Everyone I met in Brunei had a price and Robin [i.e., Prince Jefri] met it without fail. I only once even heard an expression of remorse, and a hefty jewelry box squashed it later in the week.
Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, at 186-87. 

The favorite "girlfriend" during Ms. Lauren's initial residence in the harem was Fiona:

Fiona had been a popular television actress in the Philippines. She told me that Robin had fallen in love with her while watching her show and had sought her out and invited her for a visit.  Initially she was intrigued, then she was repulsed, then he won her over.  On her first night in Brunei, she had walked into the party and then walked straight back out.  Robin had answered her consternation with diamonds. 
* * *
The story of Fiona went like this: After nearly a year of residence there, Fiona owned countless closets full of designer clothing, houses for herself and all her family back in the Philippines, and jewels to rival the Queen of England's.  On Christmas, Prince Jefri gave her a present of a million dollars cash and an engagement ring.  ...  Fiona refused Robin's proposal and took the first plane home with her clothes, her money, and her freedom.
Id., at 174-75, 307.   The upshot?  Fiona disappeared successfully with her loot.

It occurs to me, after reading these works in juxtaposition, that etiquette can take the place of moral scruples to protect a woman from certain kinds of potentially demeaning or debasing situations.  It also seems that, if a woman wishes to set aside such qualms temporarily, she should be very clear and purposeful about what she hopes to accomplish and keep her eye on the prize.   Had Fiona married the prince, she would have been in his power forever.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Tale of Two Themes

The theme for Game of Thrones gets stuck in my head and plays for weeks after I've seen some episodes - and it seems to awaken a craving to watch more episodes.  Whereas I find the theme for BBC's Sherlock a little depressing, and it leaves me with an uneasy sense that perhaps I wasted my time watching the show - even though I really enjoyed the episode while I was watching it.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Coolest. Garland. Ever.  (Thanks, Sarah!!)
So, after a month of hunkering down with my books and computer, I've actually been out and about quite a bit recently, relatively speaking.  Many thanks to my amazing and wonderful friends.  Among many highlights - a wonderful dinner at Tamarind with Emi, Nanoosh and San Francisco Ballet with Carolyn, Magnolia Bakery treats courtesy of Pat, delicious chocolate mousse with U-chan, hiking with Bruce, Grace, and CLN, and of course mahjong with the gang at Emi's place.  Thank you!!!!

Lemongrass & Tulips

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Foliage Hike: Garrison

This was my first time hiking at Garrison, where there are no facilities or services available - which means that the town gains no economic or financial benefit from those who go walking here.  Their loss, I suppose. 

From the train station, we walked down a series of trails (blue to white to red) to go through and around Glenclyffe.  Across 9D, we followed Sugarloaf (red) all the way up to the top of Sugarloaf Hill, then back down again to take a little bit of the Osborn Loop (blue) before following a "woods road" all the way around the base of Sugarloaf Hill.  That got us back to the red trail again, and we crossed 9D and took the white and blue trails all the way back to the train station.  The route seems to have been about 7 miles, all told.

Trail marker nailed on top of the lid of a potato chip can.

This ruin looked like a Hollywood stage set.

Some impressive stands of bamboo en route.

The Castle!!

On the "woods road" (more like a long-disused carriage path)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jim Henson

This is why I still want to be like Jim Henson when I grow up: some of the coolest farewell letters ever:
(Yes, another gem from the Letters of Note site, devoted to "correspondence deserving of a wider audience.") 

Which reminds me -- I recently saw a short clip of a pilot episode from a proposed 1970's Orson Welles talk show.  He introduced his first guest, if memory serves, with these words: "Think of Rasputin ... as an Eagle Scout."  Meaning none other than Jim Henson!  He quizzed Oz and Henson on whether they had played with puppets before they became puppeteers, and seemed to find it deeply suspicious that they had not.

Medieval Meme: Knight vs Snail

It was a thing, apparently.  On the British Library's Medieval Manuscripts blog, Sarah Biggs writes:

We were examining ... an English roll from the last part of the 13th century..., when one of our post-medieval colleagues noticed a painting of a knight engaging in combat with a snail. ... This struck him as odd, which struck the medievalists in the group as odd; surely everyone has seen this sort of thing before, right?  
She notes, however, that "the ubiquity of these depictions doesn’t make them any less strange" -- especially since "the knight is often depicted on the losing end of this battle"!

For an assortment of images and theories, perhaps start with:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cold Spring: Evening Hike

The morning proved unexpectedly productive, so my anticipated early departure for a long Columbus Day hike was postponed until 1:20 p.m.  (I thought about skipping it entirely, but I figured with a 6:18 sunset, I'd be OK - and this way I had a good excuse not to tackle the mess at home.  Plus - the train ride is a great opportunity to review the draft and do some brainstorming.)  I had an LED headlamp and a cell phone with me, but I was pretty sure I'd make the 6-something train back to NYC, in any event - after all, I ended up running a fair bit of the trail yesterday, and it only took 2 hours.  So no problem.

I decided to head north to Nelsonville from the train station so I could go east to west, and maximize sunlight.  As it unfolded, my route was: Undercliff (yellow) to Washburn (white) over Mount Taurus, to Notch (blue) to Brook (red) to Cornish (blue).  [The only overlap with yesterday's hike was perhaps a mile of Brook/Cornish.]

It was already a little dark as I began in the shadow of the hills.  I saw one young man walking a dog - he was heading toward the exit.  It suddenly occurred to me, with a pang, that maybe it wasn't super-smart to start a hike so late in the afternoon, solo.  Who knows what individuals might be wandering around in the woods in the dusk.  That thought creeped me out a bit at first, so even though I was playing some of the Ratocination lectures on my iPod, I kept one ear free to listen for danger.  

But I also figured that this is a rather well-traveled set of paths -- and often people are starting their hikes when my friends and I are hastening to get off the trails before sundown.  Surely I'd run into the occasional hikers.  Safety in numbers, and all that.

As it turns out, I had the paths entirely to myself. 

After one of the early hills...

In person, this rock formation reminded me of a dog. But now it looks more like a croc.  Or a hand puppet.

Cairns, paint, and blazes: They really don't want you to miss the intersection of Undercliff and Washburn.

There was nice light on the ridge -- the yellow sunshine greatly improved the appearance of the foliage.  As I re-descended into the woods, it got darker and more eerie.  But I liked the light in this section, especially the green glow of the grass:

I saw the white flash of a deer sprinting away in the distance at one point - brown deer with white tail raised in alarm, as best I could discern.  

Otherwise, I saw no animals but ticks (or possibly very weird flat spiders) - I picked 4 or 5 off my shirt and neck.  None on my legs, pants, socks, or shoes.  And no bites.  Strangely, I haven't really run into ticks before in this area.  Is it possible they get more active at dusk???

I started running more as it got darker, watching the path carefully for rocks and other trip hazards.  Once I reached the paved section, I jogged the rest of the way down.  I reached the gate at the bottom - I always walk the Cornish trail down to the end, rather than going around the gate to 9D for a bunch of extra road walking.  But I checked the time, and it was already 6:46.  Sunset was long gone.  I'd missed my train, and I wasn't even back in town yet.  (Next one was at 7:22.)  Oh well!  The shoulder suddenly seemed a lot more appealing than clambering around and over rocks and logs.  

It was a good hike though, took me about 3 hours to and from the train station.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cold Spring: Day Hike

Today's route was an easy loop: Washburn (white) to Undercliff (yellow) to Brook (red) to Cornish (blue).  I found myself breaking into a run from time to time on the uphills and the downhills.  Whenever I spotted other hikers, I returned to a sedate walk.  

Even so, I did take a spectacular fall in front of a group of three college kids - simply stepped on some scree and my legs slid out from under me.  My dignity was a little sprained, but otherwise no injuries to report.  

Ye olde sun-filled leaf-carpeted trail.

A little shock of red on a single branch.

Entrance to the Cornish Trail

Not one of the better maintained sections at the moment...

None shall pass!

Ivy seems to turn earlier (and brighter!) than other foliage.


The hike went really quickly - it took only about two hours.  So I had time to buy new hiking shoes on sale at Hudson Outfitters on my way to the train.

In the city, I went to Rickshaw Dumplings for a quick bite, then headed toward one of those high-end gadget stores to see what they have on tap for aesthetically pleasing multi-device chargers.  Answer: Nothing.  So I went home and rigged something up temporarily (using the perfectly nice box my laptop came in many moons ago).  It occurs to me now, I should have made a charging stand out of Legos.

I'm not sure what gave me the idea.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Done, done, and done.

Well, I got an acknowledgment from the publisher - so I know they haven't  rejected my submission out of hand, totally unread.  That's a relief, since my waking non-work hours have been devoted nearly exclusively to this project for almost a month! Now I'm hoping to get some unfiltered opinions from two friends who were curious to see what I submitted.

As of the morning of the last day for voting, my entry into a fiction contest (submitted two months ago) was lagging behind the leading entries by 10-20 votes. Each.  So, yes, I'm fairly sure the two votes I managed to attract on the merits did not ensure victory. Still, it was interesting to see the comments - people complained that I wasn't explicit, in areas where I was deliberately ambiguous. (Areas where I felt clarity was unnecessary and potentially distracting - but others disagreed.  Oh well. Live and learn, I suppose.) And at least now there is no more need for secrecy, since the voting has closed.

And at work, a project that has been hanging over my head for some months is now submitted; I went over it with the person in charge, and beefed things up as needed, and now it is out of my hands.  This feels good.