Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why Architects Really End Up Talking Like That

It's November, and it's gotten hot. Yesterday I went down to our bodega (storeroom) to put away my winter sweaters and pirate hats and I came across a box of drawings from back in my first year of grad school.
            The one on the top was a sort of vector diagram done in footprints. Memories came rolling back. It was an "see you tomorrow!" all-nighter sort of project - a mapping exercise, in which we neophyte architects were asked to go someplace where a lot of people came through and map the traffic patterns - put that four-dimensional traffic down on two-dimensional paper in an exciting and neoteric fashion. (Neoteric: architecture-speak for 'an artistic vanguard that you thought up right now all by yourself."
            And then we had to write about it. The drawing would speak for itself, obviously, but a short museum-style blurb wouldn't go amiss.  A good professor is way ahead student neoterisms as a matter of course.
            The problem with being asked to describe a drawing project in a paragraph or two on short sleep and shorter notice is that you end up turning out some purely awful drivel.
            Because you weren’t thinking clearly. You were snoring between your words. And you were listening to people who'd gotten even less sleep that you had, and in your personal sleep-deprived state, your ideas seemed pretty darned great, but theirs approached towers of literary genius.
            There’s no color of jealously like sleepless green.

One fellow held a degree in ancient literature.  He had mapped the smokers on their nicotine breaks in Dundas Square.

            “Since the Dawn of Time” he said solemnly, “Ancestral Man has been Drawn to Flame.”
            “That’s probably true” I agreed, grinding my teeth, and went off to ask editorial opinions on “The pulse, the tide, the ebb and flow of harried, feverish commuters at the Bloor-Yonge Subway station” from two students lying on the floor behind me and looking, respectively, vacuous and pained.
            I read. One of them winced.
            "Isn't it a little…damp?"
            On cue, Mr. Ancient Literature walked past declaiming “And Now, a Tattered Subculture of Social Pariahs Clusters Around the Vestigial Memory of the Ancient Hearth Fire!”
            I, who belong to the extremely tattered Subculture that feels stoned rather than euphoric when we don’t sleep, turned back to my laptop, typed out ‘In my map I marked out a sour by fix goot frid” and ran spell-check twice.

Down in the bodega, I shut the box and sealed it up with tape, but I won't forget. It's still down there.

            I think I need a little ceremony.
            I'll unfurl the map.  I'll enter the pulsing commuter tide that hustle down my street at rush hour every evening. When the ebb and flow of shoulders and elbows have crumpled it beyond the reach of even the most accommodating professor, I will go home and make it an offering on the fires of my BBQ on my balcony.  Neoterically.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Summer Kitchen PSA

Advice for when you drop a cherry pitter:

Don't.  The splatter radius is indescribable.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Jacaranda trees are in blossom, and the wisteria is blooming on the fences.  In the park, a young man and woman climbed a tree to sit in the canopy and kiss up there. It's a nice day.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Doctor Strange


I've just seen Doctor Strange - the new Marvel movie starring the very British Screen God Benedict Cumberbatch. It was mildly jarring to watch a film about holy men studying the eternal verities so that they could learn how to kick someone's nose out through their earholes, but then things went boooom and i remembered that this was a Marvel movie - these fellows weren't holy men, they were doorkeepers!  And the fellows knocking on the door burned with manifest destiny and carried nuclear weapons. With the safety off.

            (I wonder if any of the 21st century Americans involved in the project picked up on the irony of that?)
            Mr Cumberbatch plays a bossy white guy who thought he knew everything, and then found out he didn't, and then he did, and then he saved the world.
            And there are three whole women in the cast! Really! And two of them even have speaking roles! One of them is a very nice white lady who was the Supreme Sorcerer, and she gets to say lots and lots of portentous wisdom things that clearly looked better on the cue cards than they sound being wrestled around a set of actual tonsils (portentous wisdoms are all right in their own time and place, but two or more characters standing gravely in a mostly-Tibetan-temple taking it in turns to drop fortune-cookie truth-bombs does not cinematographic conversation make) and the other is the love interest!
            She gets to say things too, whenever Doctor Strange needs an emotional reaction beat. She also gets to sigh, and be sad, and look worried, and look determined. She even gets to tear up!!
            The very best bit was learning just how the studio rationalized turning the Very Tibetan character of the Supreme Sorcerer into a white lady:
            "Well, the character is traditionally a Tibetan male, but Tibet won't play well in China, and we didn't want to make the Supreme Sorcerer a "26-year-old leather-clad fanboy dream girl" because we wanted diversity."
            True story.
            That somebody gave decision-makers of this caliber a whole movie's worth of budget to play with tells me a lot more about the pharmaceutical industry in Los Angeles than I ever wanted to know.

The wonderful Benedict Wong was stuck as the Ur-librarian with the original humorless biblio-funk, but Chiwetel Ejiofor did his very best Royal Shakespeare, and he and Cumberbatch between them have more charisma in their little toes than a whole summer's worth of blockbusters.

            It was boom-boom, popcorn, a little snark, with action sequences so deliriously kaleidoscopic that they must have needed heavy medication to even visualize - as for story-boarding them, possibly migraines and a rest-cure.
            It was pretty.  It was fun. And the climax of the whole fun-house upside-down mirror-ride was a privileged, 1-percent white guy flying into the heart of absolute evil, and standing nose to nose with the face of scorched-earth selfishness and telling it to GO AWAY.
            He died for it, of course. And then he got up to die again. He went down over and over and over, dying in a million terrible, painful ways, and every single time he got back up - doggedly, tirelessly, willingly-
            Until he wore down even the embodiment of ego and "I want," and then Doctor Strange took back the world. All of it.
            I'm almost certainly reading too much into this, but right now it's an image I need right now. I'll take it and I'll keep it. It was a good movie.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Everyone is Going to Have to Stand Up Now.


If you live in the Unites States and you're a woman, a person of color, trans-sexual, non-heterosexual, native American, a person who has suffered a sexual assault, a person with a disability or a chronic illness -
Maybe you're not a Christian.  Maybe you're not a citizen, or you are a citizen but your parents weren't citizens, or you've got a name that maybe doesn't sound like it started out in Western Europe way back when - 

Maybe you're related to or know someone like that -
This is starting to be an awfully large number of people, isn't it?

This sure is one extraordinary day.

I got nothing.  Except a song.  This is by Danette Beavers, a member of the Washoe tribe who writes and sings at The Good Elephant.



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic (Recipe Not Included.)

Say you find a recipe called Roast Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic. The instructions read"throw everything in a slow cooker and wait four hours," snd say that the garlic cloves turn out  really really good - particularly smeared across a fresh sliced French baguette.  And say that after you’ve dreamily chewed your way through half a loaf, your husband yelps and says "Hey! I've only had two cloves!" and you look down and discover that you've eaten the other 38.

Hypothetically speaking.

That night, you just might just find yourself sleeping by yourself on the living room sofa. For health and safety reasons. 


It's just like French onion soup. Only louder.