larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)
2025-12-31 10:00 am

Stickie introductory post

Characters frequently appearing in this drama:

  • I - your humble narrator, sometime writer and poet (preferred pronoun: he/him/his)

  • Janni - spouse and writer (preferred pronoun: she/her/her)

  • TBD - nom de internet of our child, not yet a writer (preferred pronoun: they/them/their)
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (seasons)
2017-08-14 10:19 am

"Fold your flocks up, for the air/ 'Gins to thicken, and the sun/ Already his great course hath run"

For Poetry Monday, looking back a little further into the year:


March, Edward Thomas

Now I know that Spring will come again,
Perhaps to-morrow: however late I've patience
After this night following on such a day.

While still my temples ached from the cold burning
Of hail and wind, and still the primroses
Torn by the hail were covered up in it,
The sun filled earth and heaven with a great light
And a tenderness, almost warmth, where the hail dripped,
As if the mighty sun wept tears of joy.
But 'twas too late for warmth. The sunset piled
Mountains on mountains of snow and ice in the west:
Somewhere among their folds the wind was lost,
And yet 'twas cold, and though I knew that Spring
Would come again, I knew it had not come,
That it was lost too in those mountains chill.

What did the thrushes know? Rain, snow, sleet, hail,
Had kept them quiet as the primroses.
They had but an hour to sing. On boughs they sang,
On gates, on ground; they sang while they changed perches
And while they fought, if they remembered to fight:
So earnest were they to pack into that hour
Their unwilling hoard of song before the moon
Grew brighter than the clouds. Then 'twas no time
For singing merely. So they could keep off silence
And night, they cared not what they sang or screamed;
Whether 'twas hoarse or sweet or fierce or soft;
And to me all was sweet: they could do no wrong.
Something they knew—I also, while they sang
And after. Not till night had half its stars
And never a cloud, was I aware of silence
Stained with all that hour's songs, a silence
Saying that Spring returns, perhaps to-morrow.


---L.

Subject quote from "The Faithful Shepherdess," act II, scene 1, John Fletcher.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (vanished)
2017-08-09 03:51 pm

"I know…/ That life is but a dark and stormy night/ Of senseless dreams, terrors, and broken sleeps"

Slightly late, but still in time for Reading Wednesday:

Finished:

The Four Seasons ed. by J.D. McClatchy. This has immediately become one of my favorite anthologies ever. Heartily recommended.

In Good King Charles's Golden Days by Bernard Shaw. Shaw's influence is all over 20th century drama, isn't it. Parts of this could have been written by a young Stoppard.

A Popular Schoolgirl by Angela Brazil. This one is set just after the Great War, and its shadow looms over civilian life. Read it while recovering from a kidney stone attack, and it did the job admirably of distracting me without any need for serious thought. Not her best or even most interesting, but a solid instance of her sort of schoolgirl stories.

In progress:

The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism by Bernard Shaw, which is lucid and entertaining, if marred by occasional bits of condescending. Would that more books on economics were written this well. Maybe a quarter of the way in? -- it's hefty, but quick reading.

Love Poems ed. by C.N. Edwards, which is the sort of anthology where the illustrations are much of the point: there's an old painting opposite every poem. (The cover has Klimt.) Not many poems that are both good and new to me, so far, though many lovely paintings I hadn't met before. Overall, acceptable as a member of its class. The text is oddly marred by proofreading errors, including several instances of two stanzas being run together. Am ~½ through.

---L.

Subject quote from "The Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron," George Chapman.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (seasons)
2017-08-07 08:31 am

"like a phoenix you rise from the ashes / you pick up the pieces / and the ghosts in the attic"

Another look-back poem for Poetry Monday, though in this case looking back to a less-sultry season:


April in Town, Lizette Woodworth Reese

Straight from the east the wind blows sharp with rain,
That just now drove its wild ranks down the street,
And westward rushed into the sunset sweet.
Spouts brawl, boughs drip and cease and drip again,
Bricks gleam; keen saffron glows each window-pane,
And every pool beneath the passing feet.
Innumerable odors fine and fleet
Are blown this way from blossoming lawn and lane.
Wet roofs show black against a tender sky;
The almond bushes in the lean-fenced square,
Beaten to the walks, show all their draggled white.
A troop of laborers comes slowly by;
One bears a daffodil, and seems to bear
A new-lit candle through the fading light.


Reese (1856-1935) was born in what's now a suburb of Baltimore and taught English in Baltimore schools for almost 50 years. She published over a dozen collections of poetry and was named poet laureate of Maryland in 1931.

---L.

Subject quote from "Eric's Song," Vienna Teng.
larryhammer: drawing of a wildhaired figure dancing, label: "La!" (la!)
2017-08-04 10:43 am

"O wind, rend open the heat, / cut apart the heat, / rend it to tatters."

Links? Links. Some almost fresh:

A widget for performing your daily gender check. The 1d8 + 1d10 + 1d12 are not included, so find your dice bag or an online roller. (via)

Realistic Indiana Jones movies. (via)

Another timelapse of stunning thunderstorms: Pursuit. Watch it in as high a resolution as your intertubes allows. (via)

---L.

Subject quote from "Heat," H.D.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (kigo)
2017-07-31 09:35 am

Let us make. And set the weather fair.

For Poetry Monday, breaking another of my rules of thumb and posting an extract:


A Fanfare for the Makers, Louis MacNeice

A cloud of witnesses. To whom? To what?
To the small fire that never leaves the sky.
To the great fire that boils the daily pot.

To all the things we are not remembered by,
Which we remember and bless. To all the things
That will not notice when we die,

Yet lend the passing moment words and wings.

*


So fanfare for the Makers: who compose
A book of words or deeds who runs may write
As many who do run, as a family grows

At times like sunflowers turning towards the light,
As sometimes in the blackout and the raids
One joke composed an island in the night,

As sometimes one man’s kindness pervades
A room or house or village, as sometimes
Merely to tighten screws or sharpen blades

Can catch a meaning, as to hear the chimes
At midnight means to share them, as one man
In old age plants an avenue of limes

And before they bloom can smell them, before they span
The road can walk beneath the perfected arch,
The merest greenprint when the lives began

Of those who walk there with him, as in default
Of coffee men grind acorns, as in despite
Of all assaults conscripts counter assault,

As mothers sit up late night after night
Moulding a life, as miners day by day
Descend blind shafts, as a boy may flaunt his kite

In an empty nonchalant sky, as anglers play
Their fish, as workers work and can take pride
In spending sweat before they draw their pay,

As horsemen fashion horses while they ride,
As climbers climb a peak because it is there,
As life can be confirmed even in suicide:

To make is such. Let us make. And set the weather fair.


This is from Autumn Sequel canto vii. The * marks almost 100 lines not included by Helen Gardner in The New Oxford Book of English Verse -- what's elided is important for the larger poem but weakens a detached extract.

---L.
larryhammer: Yotsuba Koiwai running, label: "enjoy everything" (enjoy everything)
2017-07-29 08:41 am

"hold the light given unto you / find the love to unfold / in this broken world we choose"

TBD is four years + three months old (though month is increasingly not a particularly significant digit).

Achievements unlocked this last month: rinsing hair by leaning head back in the bath, telling a complete invented story with beginning + middle + end, drawing a circle then coloring it in, drawing recognizable squares and triangles, monkey bars, fidget spinners, matching sounds to letters and vice versa.

Pretend play has grown ever more important, to the point that it has significantly displaced reading as TBD's preferred way of spending time with me. Typically the actors are toy cars and trucks, but for a week there it was small dinosaurs. Sometimes the fourth wall gets broken and the toys interact with the "giants" around them. Diegetic pretenders!

I've learned most of what I know about what goes on at school through pretend play.

Favorite color is now strong part of self-identity: If someone else likes dark blue, it's almost an affront. We're not sure what to make of this.

Thinking, thinking continues apace. The startling recent example was putting together a couple different explanations of where babies come from to form a surprisingly accurate summary of human reproduction, at a level of detail appropriate for a 4-year-old. There's been other examples of clever problem solving as well, none of which I wrote down and so cannot remember at the moment.

While there's been some work at learning lowercase letters, there's been more effort on letter sounds. TBD can generally name the letter that goes with a sound, and so spell out a word as someone sounds it out (assuming regular orthography). Sounding out a written word is a bit trickier, and so far TBD only sometimes manages that. Numbers up to a hundred can be read out, somewhat shakily. Writing letters remains even shakier, although the work on drawing/writing motor skills at preschool is showing.

And then there's talking, talking:

(of the Joker's mecha suit)
"Did he get that at the bad-guy store?"

(of a pretend fart)
"It smells like cranberries and milk and eyebrows and feet."

(shortly after learning about kryptonite)
"No, wait, I get to be Spider-man and you have to be Superman. Sorry, Daddy."

"On a march! And set! Go!"
(current standard phrase)

"I am the car with the bloody finger and I am 10 blocks away!"

"I have to choose all by myself, and you're not me."

"Have no fear, Halloween is here!"


Yes, we are already anticipating trick-or-treating. We still have a few pieces of candy from last year, mind. But they could run out any day!

---L.

Subject quote from "Shine," Vienna Teng.
larryhammer: Enceladus (the moon, not the mythological being), label: "Enceladus is sexy" (astronomy)
2017-07-27 10:56 am

"sing all your questions to sleep / the answers are out there in the drowning deep"

Three useful links:

The myth of force-quitting apps on iOS will save battery life. (via)

Subway-style maps of Roman roads of Britain (via) and
US rivers. (via)

A Chart of Cosmic Exploration. OMG WHERE WAS THIS A COUPLE MONTHS AGO WHEN I WAS TRYING TO MEMORIZE ALL THE ROBOTS WHO'VE EXPLORED OTHER PLANETS FOR US? WHY CAN'T I ORDER IT NOW NOW NOW?

---L.

Subject quote from "Harbor," Vienna Teng.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (seasons)
2017-07-26 09:13 am

"I'm not shocked to hear this begins with a genealogy -- it is an Icelandic story, after all."

Reading Wednesday is nigh. In fact, it's here. And I done been readin'!

Finished:

I Shall Seal the Heavens. Finally. I have to say, this is epic: The author knows how to plot on an enormous scale, and how to build up the stakes in order to tear down everything you think you know is safe, before pulling back more of the curtain to show a wider stage. (The first timeskip is startling enough, and successive ones have stronger impacts until the climactic one that's as baffling as it is shocking.) There's a couple narrative patterns that get a little tiresome and in the final arc, the author resorts to using an unreliable POV, apparently to up the tension but the effect is to make some reveals feel like ass-pulls, but those are quibbles. I won't say that the treatment of women is unproblematic, but it's better than typical for Chinese popular lit and some female characters are given complete respect by the narration. I do recommend this to anyone in search of a timesink* and interested in current trends in Chinese fantasy.

An Interpretation of Friends Worship by N. Jean Toomer, a Friends General Conference chapbook found randomly on Project Gutenberg. I've no idea how much sense it make to anyone unfamiliar with Quaker practice, but I found it spoke to my condition, to use the Friendly phrase.

The complete flower fairies of Cicely Mary Barker. I've one book of hers and read at least one or two more over the years, but having them all together as on that official website is nice. Archive binge! This is a good example of a mixed-medium art form: each {poem + picture} is a unit -- they require each other, and are significantly weaker when separated. (The sentiments are not very Chinese, but the genre certainly is.)

In progress:

The Four Seasons ed. by J.D. McClatchy, another Everyman's Library pocket hardcover poetry anthology. Needless to say, I'm All Over this one. Lots of good stuff, too. Am halfway through Summer (following Western tradition, it starts with Spring).

In Good King Charles's Golden Days by Bernard Shaw, which is a quite Shavian if somewhat rambly imagining of a 1680 meeting between Isaac Newton, George Fox, and Charles Stuart, with interruptions by three royal mistresses. And others.


* At 1600+ chapters, it's freakin' HUGE. The translation is somewhat over 3 million words long, or roughly the size as all the Jordan-only volumes of The Wheel of Time.


---L.

Subject quote from a recent episode of Saga Thing.
larryhammer: Enceladus (the moon, not the mythological being), label: "Enceladus is sexy" (astronomy)
2017-07-25 08:30 am

"you're a one-man shift in the weather / you're the woman who just won't sell"

When Girls Studied Planets and the Skies Had No Limits. (via)

Redefining the kilogram, using precise measurements of Planck's constant. Note that despite the article's focus on America's NIST measurement, two groups in other countries have made similarly accurate measurements.

Study shows that having more than one illustration per page-spread makes it harder for early readers to learn new words. Key jargon: Cognitive Load Theory. (via)

---L.

Subject quote from "Hope on Fire," Vienna Teng.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
2017-07-24 08:24 am

"the lord's our shepherd says the psalm / but just in case we'd better get the bomb"

For Poetry Monday, jumping ahead to a post-Elizabethan sonneteer:


Sonnet VI from Sappho & Phaon, Mary Robinson

Is it to love, to fix the tender gaze,
    To hide the timid blush, and steal away;
    To shun the busy world, and waste the day
In some rude mountain’s solitary maze?
Is it to chant one name in ceaseless lays,
    To hear no words that other tongues can say,
    To watch the pale moon’s melancholy ray,
To chide in fondness, and in folly praise?
    Is it to pour th’ involuntary sigh,
To dream of bliss, and wake new pangs to prove;
    To talk, in fancy, with the speaking eye,
Then start with jealousy, and wildly rove;
    Is it to loath the light, and wish to die?
For these I feel,—and feel that they are love.


Mary Robinson was an English actress, royal mistress (her role as Perdita from A Winter's Tale gave the future George IV his early nickname of Florizel), and (after those two careers washed up) popular early Romantic poet. While there had been a few sonnets written in the decade before this was published, after being totally out of fashion for over a century, her Sappho and Phaon was the first sonnet cycle of the Romantic era, and a significant part of rehabilitating the form. If you like any of Wordsworth's sonnets, thank Robinson. If you like this sonnet, go read the rest: it's good.

---L.

Subject quote from "Who's Next?" Tom Lehrer.
larryhammer: pen-and-ink drawing of an annoyed woman dressed as a Heian-era male courtier saying "......" (dot dot dot)
2017-07-18 07:52 am

Short shameful confession

Every time I read The Lorax, I want to take a blue pencil to the opening pages.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (classics)
2017-07-17 02:23 pm

"all around / Is silence; and shadows closer creep / And whisper softly: All must fall asleep"

For Poetry Monday, an acknowledgement that Elizabethan sonnet sequences weren't all about the mens:

Sonnet 19 from Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, Mary Wroth

Come darkest Night, becoming sorrow best,
    Light leave thy light, fit for a lightsome soul:
    Darkness doth truly suit with me oppressed,
    Whom absence power doth from mirth control.

The very trees with hanging heads condole
    Sweet Summer's parting, and of leaves distressed,
    In dying colours make a grief-full role;
    So much (alas) to sorrow are they pressed.

Thus of dead leaves, her farewell carpets made,
    Their fall, their branches, all their mournings prove,
    With leafless naked bodies, whose hues fade
    From hopeful green to wither in their love.

If trees, and leaves for absence mourners be,
No marvel that I grieve, who like want see.

Lady Mary Wroth was Philip Sidney's niece, and author of a prose romance and scandalous roman à clef, The Countess of Montgomery's Urania -- to which this sequence was appended, in the persona of the heroine writing to and about the feckless hero (some of the sonnets from it also appeared diegetically in the text).

---L.

Subject quote from "Westminster Abbey: October 12, 1892," Thomas Henry Huxley.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (disappeared)
2017-07-10 08:22 am

"maybe someone somewhere else / could show you something new to help / with the ups and downs"

For Poetry Monday, another sample from an Elizabethan sonnet cycle:

Sonnet 61 from Idea, Michael Drayton

Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part.
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me;
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love’s latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies;
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes—
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might’st him yet recover!

(See also this performance.)

Drayton was possibly the best of the second-tier Elizabethan/Jacobean poets, a thoroughly professional writer who turned his hand at every poetic genre of the day, handling all of them with solid craft and a deft ear. He spent most of his life working as secretary to various patrons, never especially high ranking ones.

What I especially like about Idea, especially in its final form (Drayton revised it extensively over 25 years, and this sonnet first appeared in the last edition), is that he rarely loses sight of the ostensible purpose of the sequence -- namely, to seduce, and most of its sonnets are acts of rhetoric trying to convince someone of something: his beloved, himself, his audience. This gives the poems a dramatic tension that's lacking in far too many of his contemporaries. I wouldn't want him as my lover, not acting like this, but it makes for damn fine poetry.

---L.

Subject quote from "Break It Down Again," Tears for Fears.
larryhammer: drawing of a wildhaired figure dancing, label: "La!" (la!)
2017-07-07 09:18 am

"though I reverence your ancestries, / I don’t see why you should nibble my peas"

A random heap of fluffy links:

BuzzFeed brings us 99 Very Important Animal Tweets Of 2017. (via)

A new wikitimesink: Wikipedia: The Text Adventure. I'm amused that one of the potted starting points is Hallgrímskirkja. I'm also amused that you can examine and take objects, such as large Icelandic churches. (via)

A cat-purring simulator for stress reduction. You can set parameters for mood, purring style, and how much meowing. Excellent. (via)

---L.

Subject quote from "Remonstrance with the Snails," Anonymous.
larryhammer: yellow origami butterfly (origami)
2017-07-06 08:19 am

"electric word, life / it means forever and that's a mighty long time"

Realization while talking with [personal profile] branna: I've been folding origami for 40 years. My usual personal marker for no longer being a youngster is my time online (35 years, starting with dial-up BBSs) but this is an even longer measure. And in its way more impressive.

Since, however significant this may be to me, that's not enough to make a post, here's a couple recent results of all that practice:

Three-headed dragon

Folded from a 10" (25cm) square, no cuts: three long necks with dragon heads, four legs, wings, and a tail. This was something like the 5th or 6th time I've made this model, and despite it being several years since the last one, it was not the technical challenge I remembered -- just long and complicated. Huh.

The apatosaurus was a very small dinosaur

A tiny apatosaurus* folded from 3" (7.5cm) paper from memory, by way of stretching myself. I can hold about a dozen models in my head at any given time, and this is the most complicated one I've ever memorized. With TBD old enough I don't have to pocket a tissue pack everywhere I go, I now carry small folding papers. I managed this model without resorting to a toothpick or the like, for working the smaller folds. And then repeated the feat in light green (not shown).

---L.

* AKA the Artist Formerly Known As Brontosaurus.

Subject quote from "Let's Go Crazy," Prince.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
2017-07-05 08:24 am

"stubb'd ground once a wood,/Next a marsh it would seem, and now mere earth/Desperate and done with"

Reading Wednesday meme-thingy:

Finished:

Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner, which I quite enjoyed. It was nice to read such a linear narrative in this world -- all the complications are below the surface, instead of in your face. Also nice to see another first-person narrative, this one from someone trying (if not always succeeding) at being honest about what was happening. And yes, there are gods interfering in this one.

Lhind the Thief by Sherwood Smith -- finally getting to this. Good fantasy adventure fun, with some twists I didn't expect. I think there's a sequel? -- If so, I want.

Sasharia en Garde! by Sherwood Smith, being previously published in two volumes as Once a Princess and Twice a Prince but, like Crown Duel, now put back together into the single novel they were written as. Even better fantasy adventure fun, with initial primary POVs being daughter and mother (the latter with previous adult experience in this fantasy world) but expanding outward with the story.

Ongoing:

Various poetry bits, most of which I haven't noted down. Chinese in translation and Housman was involved, I remember that.

Up next:

A return to I Shall Seal the Heavens now that the translation is finally complete at 1614 chapters -- leaving me with 250-odd to go. Long xanxia novel is long. As I recall, I left off in the long, very drawn out battle between two confederations of worlds, one formerly overlords of the other, now larger one -- so a lot of bad colonial blood between them.

---L.

Subject quote from "'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came'," Robert Browning.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
2017-07-03 07:55 am

"though she's lost her wedding ring / somewhere near her misplaced jar of bougainvillea seeds"

For Poetry Monday, continuing the (non)argument of Wyatt and Gascoigne, a pome from Astrophil and Stella:


Sonnet 31, Philip Sidney

With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies!
How silently, and with how wan a face!
What, may it be that even in heav'nly place
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries!

Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case,
I read it in thy looks; thy languish'd grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.

Then, ev'n of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant love deem'd there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?

Do they above love to be lov'd, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call virtue there ungratefulness?


See also sonnet 39. Sir Philip was the Elizabethan courtier par excellence, in the opinion of his contemporaries, and a damn fine writer. Astrophil and Stella is not actually the first sonnet sequence in English, but it was the first Petrarchan one -- and it sparked a fad for them, including Shakespeare's famous, incomplete one. It's also, IMNSHO, the best of the Elizabethan sonnet cycles, as it tells a complete, dramatic story, and including drama is something that only Drayton also managed. Note that Sidney is not actually a practicing Petrarchan lover -- he spends a lot of time arguing against several of the conventions, even while embracing the genre.

---L.

Subject quote from "Passing Afternoon," Iron & Wine.