Tiiiny Horatio Hornblower Reaction Post

(inb4midnight!)
I might do a more thorough one with prior planning, but a) it’s just about my bedtime and b) I only just finished the books, so this is gonna be a tiny post describing my reaction to the Horatio Hornblower series by C. S. Forester.

  1. I now want to go sailing more than I want most things in life
    The descriptions of nautical life are excellent, and by all accounts, thoroughly accurate. I now know a lot more about different sails and wind terminology than I did before—although this does mean that I had to read the entire series with my Google search app open so I could look up terminology as needed.
    I have since looked up what it would take to become a sailor (on a sailing vessel) and it’s easier than you’d think, so come September, I’ll be saying farewell to the shore (hopefully).
  2. Holy racism & sexism, Batman!
    It wasn’t so bad at first… in Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, you don’t see much other cultures, except the French, and hardly any women, so I didn’t expect the bigotry that comes in the later books when Hornblower is a captain and in the Americas (and elsewhere). The use of the N-word to motivate his crew, the hypersexual Black servant woman (I’m not even kidding), the fact that Hornblower initially prefers his women feeble and soft (really)… It was like getting a tour of cis straight white British male privilege in the 1800s—all the stuff that led to what we’ve got here and now.
  3. Incredible portrayal of depression & low self-esteem in the main character
    This is the main thing that I loved about the Hornblower series. Pretty much throughout the books, Hornblower feels that he is a fraud, is morally bankrupt, and generally unworthy of success, love, etc. At one point he thinks about how he doesn’t want to pass on his “accursed unhappy temperament” to any children, and that hit really close to home. Given the bleakness of the last half year or more in my own head, it was refreshing to see somebody so accomplished be so sure that his accomplishment was empty. Watching the Hornblower series depressed the hell out of me, because how could I compare to the main character described therein… reading the Hornblower series was a reassurance.
  4. It was weird being on the side of the British Empire
    Especially when they were fighting against revolutionary France. Like, I recognise that the French Republic was a bloody regime, but I’d rather be on their side than on the side of, well, Empire. When they were fighting Napoleon it was a bit better, but even then, every time they described him as a Corsican Tyrant (while casually pressganging people onto their ships) I was all like, you’re one to talk!
  5. Fun adventure with interesting characters & relationships
    There’s a reason I read through the whole thing even though ugh bigotry—it was a fun read, very well-written, and lots of interesting & mysterious adventure.

In all, I think I recommend it. But if there were a queer, POC, anti-oppressive version, I’d prefer to read that first. 😀

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Friday Poem: The First Living Autopsy

The First Living Autopsy

I covered the pages with scribble:
an attempt, maybe feeble, to dissect my life.
I make a poor taxonomist on the best days
and desperation eats my competence —
My shaking hands can’t manipulate this
scalpel, the pen,
Laying open only the skin of it;
the subcutaneous tissue hides more
than it reveals. I don’t want to feed
on the fat, only learn from it
the answer to the only question I have ever asked.

I’ll reveal myself to myself in the
whispers of ink, the first living autopsy:
soon, they will be all the rage.
Who doesn’t want to know what lies beneath?
I never lied on purpose, but you must know
I never knew the truth to tell it.

About This Poem
This poem actually predates my own personal NaPoWriMo by a few weeks — I wrote it on April 15 of this year. I don’t know how I feel about it — there’s some good images here that can probably be rescued into a better poem, but it doesn’t feel like the final version. Not yet. As always, critique is welcome.

NaPoWriMo Poem 10: My Hearth is No Sanctuary

NaPoWriMo Poem 10:

I have a suspicion that I will be your death–
You, who protect the wilds of your heart,
Cannot but see me as an adversary.
You fight with honor, but you have no art,
No vision that your mind can marry
To the clockwork certainty of every breath.

Your soul is mine now–I have thrown the dart;
You’ll have to trust me that it’s sanitary.
You’d better guard your flank and watch your back
The threat you…

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NaPoWriMo Poem 10: My Hearth is No Sanctuary

I have a suspicion that I will be your death–
You, who protect the wilds of your heart,
Cannot but see me as an adversary.
You fight with honor, but you have no art,
No vision that your mind can marry
To the clockwork certainty of every breath.

Your soul is mine now–I have thrown the dart;
You’ll have to trust me that it’s sanitary.
You’d better guard your flank and watch your back
The threat you face is not imaginary,
Before we’re done, there will be an attack
and you’ll be on my side if you are smart.

If nothing else, the Light brings victory,
Though it may burn you, as the Sazerac
Would burn your throat if you were not prepared.
Dear, if you fight, I’ll stretch you on the rack–
You’ve piqued my pride and now my teeth are bared.
You asked for it! You will be my canary!

About This Poem
My friend Matt, who writes the lovely and educational 4 Gravitons blog, suggested when I was running out of ideas that, since I’ve been playing so much Hearthstone, that I use the threats and opening lines of the various Heroes in a sort of found poem. So I took him up on it and this is the result. I decided to do a ridiculous rhyme scheme to go with the ridiculously dramatic words, though it was a struggle by the end to come up with things. So now I’m posting this up late, meaning it to be a poem for last Friday.

Letters to Strangers

2015-06-08 13.28.41

I’ve had really good luck with the buskers on the 2nd Avenue stop of the F train, the one on Houston street.

The most recent time I was there, a trio calling themselves Bandits on the Run were playing some lovely acoustic music with a guitar, a tambourine, and their voices. And twice before, I encountered the singer-songwriter Robert Leslie. The second time, I picked up the letter you see above from his guitar case (after dropping some cash, of course). I have been meaning to reply, but life has gotten in the way until now. Here’s what the letter says:

Dear stranger,

I am writing you this letter, or manifesto – whatever you want to call it – because I wanted this interaction to carry on, and there’s only so much you can sing in five minutes on a subway platform. I’d like to tell a longer story than that. It’s a shame to have these moments flare up only to have them drowned out by an incoming train. So this is my way of extending the moment. You can consider the dialogue opened – that is to say, let’s talk.

I’ve had to come a long way to get out here and I hope to go a long way further. I grew up in London and Amsterdam and found my way to New York after a long meandering road throughout Eastern and Western Europe, North Africa, the Canary Islands. It’s in this city that I’ve begun to cultivate something, to tend some sort of garden, to garner a circle of people who think the same way, breathe deep, want to be everywhere at the same time. You took a moment to break the cycle and pick this up, and so you can consider this an invitation. It’s not just about the music – the shows are there, the songs are there, they walk by themselves. This is about where they come from. Here I am. Here you are. Let’s not let it get lost in the subway wind.

As Walt Whitman said, “Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?”

Or shall we at least stay in touch?

Yours, Robert Leslie

And that lovely stamp is a swiss army knife with a mic and a guitar and a rose branch sticking out of it. Now, those of you who know me know that this is just the kind of romantic gesture that lights up my imagination. Of course I’m going to respond to such an overture! The lovely long-haired guitarist with the flower in his hair quoted Walt Whitman for goodness’ sake! So what’s stopped me so far?

Well, I actually also rather appreciate the romance of the evanescent. There’s something lovely about only seeing him when he’s busking and cultivating the romantic image of him. What if I meet him and talk to him some more and he turns out to be a pretentious money-borrowing Kerouac type? I’d be devastated! Better to keep the romantic illusions a while longer, don’t you think?

Ahhhhh so I’m torn. I don’t know what to do next. I’ll probably send him an e-mail eventually. Once I’ve knocked down my expectations so that I go into the exchange without any kind of investment. We may click, we may not. If nothing else, I’ll have made the effort.

But it’ll be WEIRD to see Robert Leslie busking once we’ve interacted. I don’t think I’ll know how to behave.

Sickness and Steven Wilson

CN: sickness, depressive thoughts, feverishness, Steven Wilson (who is himself one depressing dude)

So I’ve been ill this week. I’m still not completely well; achy and sore throat. But I’m going to write about the night that I became sick–this past Saturday.

I had my volunteer shift at Bluestockings from 2 to 5 and my original plan was to hang out for even longer because there was supposed to be a poetry event there at 7pm. Shortly after my shift ended, however, Mischa texted me to see if I wanted to go with her to the Steven Wilson concert at the Best Buy Theatre. She had originally been planning to go with our friend KB, but KB was ill, so she offered the extra ticket to me.

I said yes. When I got to her place, my throat was feeling a bit tickly, but I felt fine other than that. I planned to go with her to the concert and then head back to my parents’ house so I could water the plants in our backyard before bed.

That did not work out. Shortly after we arrived at the Best Buy Theatre, I started shivering uncontrollably. The heavy air conditioning did not help, but most of the cold was coming from the inside. I recognised from experience the feeling of a fever rising. The wise thing would probably have been to go back then and there, but I was excited for the concert by then, so I determined to muscle through.

Thus began the most simultaneously miserable and transcendent three hours of my life. I huddled in my seat in Mischa’s newly-purchased Hand. Cannot. Erase. hoodie, rubbing the sleeves over my exposed knees (I had worn shorts–It was a summer day after all), and watched and listened as Wilson and his band wove a story together for us out of sound and projected images.

It was a bleak show–unsurprising from a man who said in an introduction to a song that “happy makes me depressed,” but probably not ideal for my psyche, weakened as it was by fever.

The fourth song in the set, “Perfect Life”, made me weep. It begins with a monologue from a woman about a dear friend of hers and then goes on with Steven Wilson singing over and over “We have had the perfect life”. It’s about nostalgia, but I think it touched me so strongly because of how important sisterhood is in my own life.

The following song, “Routine”, which Wilson introduced with the above quote, re: happiness and depression, had a lovely claymation film of a woman stuck in, well, her routine–making food and cleaning for her dead children. It sent me into an agony of despair. I sobbed into my handkerchief (yeah, I carry a handkerchief. It’s a good way to reduce waste.) all the while pleading in my head for the woman to stop, to please go out into the world, that what she was doing was a slow death and surely not what her family would have wanted for her…

I don’t know why “Routine” affected me so strongly as it did. Certainly, it tapped into my own fear of falling into the rut, but the desperation of my internal pleas shocked me. I felt I had a personal stake in how the woman in the video moved forward (or not). I don’t know how much of the credit for that agony goes to my fever, how much to Wilson’s artistry, and how much to some trouble in my own mind that warrants farther exploration. I wanted to journal about it immediately on getting back to Mischa’s place, but by the time the show was over, all I could think of was to lie down in a warm place and wait the fever out.

Yes, somehow I did manage to get through the whole thing, including the encores. I think it was probably worth it, given how long it had been since I’d been at any concert. The most recent big concert was probably either Nightwish at the Nokia Theatre (before it became the Best Buy Theatre :P) or Porcupine Tree at Radio City Music Hall, and those were years ago. But now I’m trying to get back into some decent kind of shape, and any mental or physical exertion tires me out more than I can say.

For a more complete description of the concert, check out Mischa’s recap of it.

See you on Friday for the poem!

May Is The Hectic-est Month: Personal & NaPoWriMo Update

Hey, everyone.

So I haven’t been great at updating this blog lately. I was trying to avoid doing a State Of The Blog post so early in the game, but since I had promised to do a poem a day and was clearly not delivering, I figured I’d better explain why.

So, first off, I have been writing poetry. It hasn’t been a poem a day, but it’s been greater output than in previous months. A lot of it has been in my handwritten journals, so typing it up has been an obstacle (especially with WordPress formatting to contend with). So my plan currently is to return to my regular update schedule of Tuesday Personal Blog and Friday Poem starting next week, and thus I’ll catch people up on my NaPoWriMo poems in that way.

Things getting in the way of me blogging have been:

  1. Busy family weekends galore (60th birthday! Russian Music Festival! ETC!)
  2. Needing to help siblings with their kids gets in the way of getting stuff done on the computer
  3. A lot of self-hatred has come up out of nowhere. I’m dealing with it through therapy & journalling, but it has made it hard to get things done that I want to get done.
  4. Events in Manhattan or Brooklyn when I live in Staten Island = tons of extra travelling which leads to much less computer time

So these are all just excuses. I get that. But part of getting better is trying and falling down and trying again. I failed in a daily-update schedule, but I’m glad I made the commitment to do that, even though I fell down in the first week or two. Because the attempt itself was worthwhile.

I’m going to go back to my regular update schedule mentioned above and see how that works. I have a feeling that I’ll feel a whole lot better about that commitment.

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