Monday, 16 November 2009

Tailors



Paid a visit to the tailor's and ran up a bill...

Four and twenty tailors went to kill a snail,
The best man among them durst not touch her tail.
She put out her horns like a little Kyloe cow,
Run tailors, run, or she'll kill you all e'en now.

Upcoming Exhibition


While chatting with Enjah yesterday, I complained that for all my work representing artists in China, I had precious little opportunity to make use of my own talents. She reminded me that she had offered to give me a show at her gallery in Grignano, and so we decided to make it happen the weekend after next. Therefore friends, if you are able to attend you will be most welcome at Young Geoffrion's premier art exhibition in Second Life. Even now I am not certain what shall be exhibited, but I have at least fifteen paintings and may make a few extra goodies for the show.
I do hope it will be an opportunity to renew my acquaintance with many old friends, and celebrate our continued common existence in this hoariest of virtual worlds.

Meeting Brillig


I became reacquainted with Brillig Boomslang yesterday, and during a lovely conversation about the nature of reality and Buddhism, I discovered that he had lived in Beijing for four years, for a while within a few hundred yards of where I have been living over the past month. This intelligent automaton has studied literature, philosophy and psychology and now manages the creation of instructions for other automated machinery. He complained to me of some trouble being accepted into the Legacies 1891 Role Play society, apparently not on account of his mechanical construction but because of his sartorial sparseness, however his last message to me reported that he was attending their mandatory lecture, so one may assume he is now well on his way to becoming a full member of society. Well, they do enjoy playing Victorian bloodsucking bourgeois; one might expect a certain degree of prudery.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

To bed! To bed!

"A friend is, as it were, a second self",
Quoth Cicero, and I add, a third and fourth,
As many selves as friends, each one more glorious than the first,
(Diminished by travelling alone, longing for companionship)
As craves the night for dawn and the ship for shore does thirst.

I haul my old bones home, and leave the weary road ahead,
And shall call upon you all in time, but now
To bed! to bed!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Figurine

I kept the figurine that the stranger in the cemetery had given me and studied it with enormous interest for as I have said it was an exquisitely carved and detailed model of a male figure as bare of clothing as any greek sculpture in a prince's antiquities collec- tion, and there were parts on that tiny body that I had never yet seen except on a child. When I first looked at it, it was reclining in a pose like that of the dying Gaul, head bowed and sub- missive, but later I found that I must have been mistaken and discovered the figure was in fact standing in a proud attitude. I placed it on the sill of my bedroom window that first night and fell asleep watching his silhouette, a seven inch shadow against the dull glimmer of the street lamps. But the following morning, to my utter astonishment, it had taken a seated aspect, and indeed every time I looked at it after the passage of a period of time, the figure was differently posed, now marching, now prone, now seated, now bending over and plucking an invisible harvest, now reaching for the sky. Never once did it repeat a pose and I kept it for more than a decade. I never once saw it move, and I tried to twist and bend its brazen limbs in my childish fingers without any effect. It was a solid compact of metal, immoveable and lifeless, but I came to think of it as alive, with a soul or a spirit imprisoned in metal as long as I beheld him, but free to clamber and run and dance in his immodest fashion whenever my eyes were turned or my attention elsewhere. I dared not show this miracle to my uncle or Madame Boucher, or even to Marie-Thérèse or any other soul, convinced they would take it from me because of his nakedness, and the lustful leer that looked out of his miniature visage. He was a disturbing guest, but my guest nonetheless, and I wondered about the strange man who had given him to me, and the meaning of it.

It occured to me then that the world is a changeable and variable place, its houses and roads and churches and bridges are in constant, fluid motion, but that we are deceived by their form and fail to see they are different each moment, like the waters of the Seine flowing endlessly within its banks beneath the Pont Neuf. So I began to observe the people around me, and paid regard to their variable humours and mercurial dispositions, of Marie-Thérèse particularly, as I came to know her so well, who seemed a different person from month to month, with new interests and passions each season. And with the help of that mute, metallic and miniature teacher, I began to notice the changes to my own person and body, and fancied that the Yolande of yesterday was not the Yolande of today, and these transformations, profound as they were becoming, were nonetheless unnoticeable from day to day as long as my attention slept.

If this creature of metal were alive, it never gave any indication that he could see or hear me, though I often addressed him in private and confessed to him my most secret thoughts and reflections upon the day's events. He lived in my pocket, or at my windowsill, or upon a shelf behind a book when, as I attained maturity, he grew increasingly lewd and priapic, and I could not bear to look at him. He seemed less a guest and more an emblem of my own sinful desire and guilty soul or partner to wicked thoughts that sometimes found their way into my foolish head. Much later I learned what he was and the evil he did me, but that tale must wait until I have recounted more of the man from whom I had him.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Drowsy





Enjah and Osprey have already blogged about our visit today to Drowsy, which was on Koinup's most popular spots this week. It is a beautiful, carefully made island full of dark storybook mystery, bears and wolves and dwellings slowly reverting back to forest, carpeted in moss. Look for the giant stuffed animals and the crocodile beneath the bridge, Mai Runo's maison engloutie par la mer with a collection of art about boots, the ruined gypsy caravans, the Fish King and the lonely coast. The work of several talented illustrators and designers from Japan have gone into this highly integrated work of art that opened after two months of hard work in June: skin and fashion designer BettiePage Voyager; graphic designer sato Yifu (whom I had the pleasure of meeting) and Nico Rotaru, owners of Kurotsubaki Store; Mai Runo, shoe designer and boot collector. These photographs hardly do it justice, so I urge you to pay a visit and spend some time there.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Actresses


In the week after M. Panard and M. Fagan opened La Sylphide Supposee at the Théâtre de la Foire, my uncle Adraste took me back to the Théâtre Italien to begin my apprenticeship as an actress. M. Biancoleli's gamble with the farce at the Saint Laurent Fair paid back its principal with interest, for La Sylphide played thirty-four performances in the hôtel Bourgogne and became a staple in the repertoire of la Comedie Italienne. The old theatre was by now a familiar place to me, for Marie-Thérèse and I had become fast friends over the summer and together we explored its many mysterious corners and abandoned rooms, used to store the properties of productions long forgotten, though I never persuaded her ever to return to the stairway that led up to its terrifying tower.

We spent our days learning the four types of battemens, nine types of pas de bourrée, balloté, fouetté, caprioles and entrechats and the lazzi or comic routines of the repertoire. It was exhausting work but we were well fed and grew strong and supple. Our fair instructrice was the long-limbed and beautiful Mademoiselle Belmont who wafted over the stage floor in a cloud of lace and ribbon but could not sing in tune to save her life. She was tormented by jealous lovers and could never pick between them. She cried often. We were taught pantomime by our old Arlequin, M. Vicentini, who went by his stage name of Thomassin. His daughter Sidonie and son Joachim were about my age and studied at my side. Sidonie had an older sister Catine who had debuted earlier in the year. I learned to sing and declaim, and learned to speak Italian passably well, though all the players spoke French well. Our days were long and so I returned at night to my uncle's bookstore too tired to read, except on Sundays when I would take a little volume of poetry with me to browse in the cemetery after mass. Madame Riccoboni and her son returned from Italy the next year and returned to the stage with much celebration. I grew up among those happy, mad, passionate men and women, who wore down my reclusive and morbid solitary nature with their brilliant and implacable friendliness.

As I grew more graceful in movement and confident in conversation, I left my old hiding holes behind the bookshelves and under the tables of my uncle's shop for more companionable pleasures, walking with friends in the parks and joining my uncle in his coffeehouse meetings with other artists and performers. Before long I had a small circle of admirers of my own, solicitous young men whose names I no longer remember, whom I would meet secretly to exchange notes. They were every one a poet, dedicating their souls to Amor and their pens to Aphrodite and Isis in hope of inducting me into eleusinian mysteries. I would have been conquered if I were not already familiar with the sources of those 'original' lyrics, for they plagiarized the English mercilessly and I felt more pity than love for their small talents. But I could smile prettily and dance around them and confound them by replying in Tuscan. I don't believe I broke anyone's heart, because we were only actresses and they were knaves apprenticed to rakes and scoundrels. But we enjoyed our games of glances and chaste caresses and doubtful promises of fidelity, of being rêves poursuivis, pursued dreams, flowers of youth and beauty, the image of every brilliant quality and grace. We sublimated into sylphides ourselves, volatile spirits without substance or gravity, reflecting into the arms and vanities of the youths who loved us. We stole their affections and collected their laughter. We pirouetted mercilessly at the centres of their revolving loyalty, radiant suns that warmed their smiling lips across an abyss of nonchalance and the unapproachable stage. We banished tears and misery to the utter depths of the outside world, that place of streets and markets and flesh and grime, to inhabit the enchanted world beneath the chandeliers, its palaces and breathing gods, its banquets and musicians and everlasting applause. We were actresses of the Italian Comedy and for a magical age we ruled the world.

Storytelling

While minding my own business this morning, I was commanded to entertain a certain Monsieur Anchor Gascoigne, an acquaintance of Enjah's who wanted a story. Being prolix by nature (though some have described it as upwardly flatulent) I agreed. I think Enjah and Anchor contributed much to the tale with their interjections so though I may be breaking the terms of use, here is my story in its windy fullness.

[11:01] Young Geoffrion: Well, Anchor, how do you wish to be entertained?
[11:01] Enjah Mysterio: I have returned
[11:01] Young Geoffrion: Shall I tell a story?
[11:01] Young Geoffrion: sing a song?

[11:01] Anchor Gascoigne: witticisms will do it
[11:01] Enjah Mysterio: YES!
[11:01] Enjah Mysterio: tell a story!
[11:01] Young Geoffrion: Witticisms
[11:01] Young Geoffrion: A witty story?
[11:01] Enjah Mysterio: ODW
[11:01] Anchor Gascoigne: songs are aok too
[11:01] Enjah Mysterio: On Demand Wit
[11:02] Enjah Mysterio hums
[11:02] Young Geoffrion: Well,
[11:02] Young Geoffrion: Give me a moment to think

[11:02] Anchor Gascoigne: Tell us about your cousins.
[11:02] Young Geoffrion: My cousins? The ones we lost to the woods?
[11:02] Young Geoffrion: They went playing where they should not have gone

[11:03] Enjah Mysterio: what, no breadcrumbs?
[11:03] Young Geoffrion: Mira and Estrella
[11:03] Young Geoffrion: Breadcrumbless

[11:03] Enjah Mysterio listens, shuddering
[11:03] Anchor Gascoigne: let then crumble cake
[11:03] Young Geoffrion: It was a long time ago, when the woods were closer than they are today
[11:04] Young Geoffrion: every city worthy of its name had a wood nearby

[11:04] Young Geoffrion: and a road running through it.

[11:09] Young Geoffrion: Ah, well along the road, there are always travellers
[11:09] Young Geoffrion: and Mira and Estrella both fell in love with a courier
[11:09] Young Geoffrion: the same youth

[11:10] Anchor Gascoigne: How old were they?
[11:10] Young Geoffrion: who appeared one day at the edge of the wood with a message
[11:10] Young Geoffrion: but had forgotten to whom it was addressed.

[11:10] Anchor Gascoigne: I had imagined small but not so small it seems
[11:10] Young Geoffrion: No, they were fifteen and seventeen at the time
[11:10] Anchor Gascoigne: What a strange courier
[11:10] Enjah Mysterio: tender age
[11:10] Young Geoffrion: They got lost in the woods when they were very small,
[11:11] Young Geoffrion: and I had to find them,
[11:11] Young Geoffrion: but at the time of this story
[11:11] Young Geoffrion: they lost their hearts
[11:11] Young Geoffrion: to the same young man.

[11:11] Anchor Gascoigne: I bet he was in disguise
[11:11] Young Geoffrion: Perhaps he was,
[11:11] Young Geoffrion: he was dressed as a messenger,
[11:12] Young Geoffrion: with a green tunic and deerskin boots

[11:12] Enjah Mysterio: mmmmmmmmm deerskin
[11:12] Young Geoffrion: a slight blonde with long limbs
[11:12] Anchor Gascoigne: deerskin doesn't make very good boots, though - too soft
[11:12] Young Geoffrion: a swift walker and sweet talker
[11:12] Young Geoffrion: the uppers were deerskin,
[11:13] Young Geoffrion: the soles had been reshod.

[11:13] Enjah Mysterio: buttery uppers
[11:13] Young Geoffrion: well not as buttery as his words
[11:13] Enjah Mysterio: lol!
[11:13] Young Geoffrion: and he fairly melted the hearts of the two cousins
[11:13] Anchor Gascoigne: :-D
[11:14] Young Geoffrion: He claimed to have lost the address of the recipient of his message
[11:14] Young Geoffrion: It is hardly credible,
[11:14] Young Geoffrion: but the packet was worn and water stained

[11:14] Anchor Gascoigne: And their hearts were like tasy lobster, all buttered up.
[11:14] Anchor Gascoigne: *tasty
[11:14] Young Geoffrion: and I saw it myself.
[11:14] Enjah Mysterio chuckles softly
[11:14] Young Geoffrion: A blur of an address
[11:15] Young Geoffrion: but clearly two names were written there
[11:15] Young Geoffrion: that might have been Mira and Estrella

[11:15] Anchor Gascoigne: Yet he must've seen it before it blurred or spoken with the sender...
[11:15] Anchor Gascoigne: Ah
[11:15] Young Geoffrion: though it might have been Mona Destaigne
[11:15] Anchor Gascoigne: a magician
[11:15] Anchor Gascoigne: I trust him not
[11:15] Young Geoffrion: Or Manuel Estrangelo
[11:15] Young Geoffrion: We tried to think who it might be.
[11:16] Young Geoffrion: In the end we decided to open the packet
[11:16] Young Geoffrion: and read the content for clues.

[11:16] Anchor Gascoigne: Indeed the wisest course ;-D
[11:16] Young Geoffrion: Mira grabbed the packet from his hands
[11:16] Enjah Mysterio longs to hear the content
[11:16] Young Geoffrion: and laid it on the grass
[11:16] Anchor Gascoigne: precipitate girl
[11:17] Young Geoffrion: We four sat down together
[11:17] Young Geoffrion: not minding the dew that precipitated on the lawn

[11:17] Anchor Gascoigne: raining girls
[11:17] Enjah Mysterio: or fawns
[11:17] Anchor Gascoigne: and they reign as queens unless one reins them in
[11:18] Young Geoffrion: I was younger than my cousins
[11:18] Young Geoffrion: they ruled my affections
[11:18] Young Geoffrion: they opened the packet

[11:19] Anchor Gascoigne: what did the sealing wax look like?
[11:19] Young Geoffrion: breaking the seal
[11:19] Anchor Gascoigne wants foreplay.
[11:19] Young Geoffrion: that was a portculliis stamped in brown wax
[11:19] Anchor Gascoigne: ah
[11:19] Young Geoffrion: with the words,
[11:19] Young Geoffrion: tout-seul

[11:20] Anchor Gascoigne: ooh
[11:20] Enjah Mysterio: all alone?
[11:20] Young Geoffrion: stamped beneath
[11:20] Young Geoffrion: All alone
.
[11:20] Enjah Mysterio: wow
[11:20] Enjah Mysterio is fascinated now
[11:20] Anchor Gascoigne: sounds like it could be my seal
[11:20] Young Geoffrion: There were only three pages inside
[11:20] Young Geoffrion: and it was signed by someone named Gascoine

[11:20] Anchor Gascoigne: never!
[11:21] Young Geoffrion: we looked at the signature first.
[11:21] Enjah Mysterio: Gadzooks!
[11:21] Anchor Gascoigne: was it legible?
[11:21] Young Geoffrion: It was.
[11:22] Young Geoffrion: clearly Gascoine was a scribe or a scrivener

[11:22] Anchor Gascoigne: The courier seemed as though he'd carried it for a hundred years.
[11:22] Young Geoffrion: he wrote in a beautiful hand
[11:22] Young Geoffrion: long, loppy letters
[11:22] Young Geoffrion: loopy letter I mean
[11:23] Young Geoffrion: let me try that again:
[11:23] Young Geoffrion: long, loopy letters
[11:23] Young Geoffrion: a relaxed pen,
[11:23] Young Geoffrion: broadly spaced words
[11:23] Young Geoffrion: that began,

[11:23] Anchor Gascoigne: sad people now use ballpoints
[11:23] Enjah Mysterio: not all
[11:23] Anchor Gascoigne: ink is so much nicer
[11:23] Young Geoffrion: Ma plus chere...
[11:23] Anchor Gascoigne: generally
[11:24] Young Geoffrion: and no name
[11:24] Anchor Gascoigne: I wrote all my university notes in fountain pen
[11:24] Young Geoffrion: It was a love letter.
[11:24] Anchor Gascoigne: ah!
[11:24] Anchor Gascoigne: But to whom?
[11:24] Young Geoffrion: That much was obvious,
[11:24] Anchor Gascoigne: How could you find out?
[11:24] Young Geoffrion: it could only be written to Mira,
[11:25] Young Geoffrion: my cousin Mira exclaimed.
[11:25] Young Geoffrion: But my cousin Estrella differed

[11:25] Anchor Gascoigne: Oh she is too much
[11:25] Young Geoffrion: and was convinced that the description referred to her own features:
[11:25] Young Geoffrion: a round, pale face like the moon
[11:26] Young Geoffrion: skin as soft as a petal

[11:26] Enjah Mysterio: eyes?
[11:26] Young Geoffrion: a mouth as ripe as a berry
[11:26] Anchor Gascoigne: two
[11:26] Enjah Mysterio: lol
[11:26] Young Geoffrion: the eyes were not mentioned.
[11:26] Enjah Mysterio: the best number!
[11:26] Young Geoffrion: how strange!
[11:26] Anchor Gascoigne: three is better
[11:26] Anchor Gascoigne: hmmm
[11:27] Young Geoffrion: If the eyes had been mentioned, my cousins might never have lost their hearts
[11:27] Anchor Gascoigne: eyes are always mentioned
[11:27] Young Geoffrion: at the same time
[11:27] Young Geoffrion: for in all things they were identical,
[11:27] Anchor Gascoigne: in a love letter
[11:27] Young Geoffrion: except their eyes.

[11:27] Anchor Gascoigne: I fear the courier has a plot
[11:27] Young Geoffrion: Mira had dark eyes like pools of still water
[11:28] Young Geoffrion: while Estrella's eyes sparkled blue like a lake in a storm

[11:28] Enjah Mysterio waits to hear what the courier was up to
[11:28] Young Geoffrion: Mira gazed at the world modestly,
[11:28] Anchor Gascoigne: My own are blue-grey like a puddle reflecting the sky
[11:28] Auron Warrhol is Online
[11:29] Young Geoffrion: Estrella challenged the world with her gaze
[11:29] Auron Warrhol is Offline
[11:29] Anchor Gascoigne: Estrella is the younger?
[11:29] Young Geoffrion: But as they both had round faces, and lips like berries,
[11:29] Enjah Mysterio bites her lips to make them like berries
[11:29] Young Geoffrion: they were convinced the writer
[11:29] Young Geoffrion: had addressed both of them

[11:29] Enjah Mysterio: hmmmm!
[11:29] Anchor Gascoigne: It was obviously Mira, though.
[11:30] Anchor Gascoigne: If indeed it was either.
[11:30] Young Geoffrion: that mis, each claimed to be the rightful recipient of the letter from across the wood
[11:30] Young Geoffrion: *this tis
[11:30] Young Geoffrion: *that is
[11:30] Young Geoffrion: Mira offered additional evidence

[11:30] Enjah Mysterio: but perhaps it was Mona Destaigne after all!
[11:31] Young Geoffrion: she had explored deeper in the forest than Estrella
[11:31] Enjah Mysterio: who may have had eyes red like Mars!
[11:31] Anchor Gascoigne lays 5 guineas on Mira
[11:31] Young Geoffrion: and it was clear she had been seen by someone who lived on the other side
[11:31] Young Geoffrion: But Estrella said no,

[11:32] Enjah Mysterio wonders where their parents are
[11:32] Young Geoffrion: she sang so much more prettily than Mira
[11:32] Young Geoffrion: and her voice carried further
[11:32] Young Geoffrion: The two young ladies could not agree,
[11:33] Young Geoffrion: and turned to the messenger to decide for them.

[11:33] Anchor Gascoigne: Sisters will argue, tis said.
[11:33] Enjah Mysterio: and cousins will kiss
[11:34] Young Geoffrion: The young man in the deerskin boots stood up
[11:34] Young Geoffrion: Yes, just like those boots
[11:35] Young Geoffrion: Though not as marbled

[11:35] Enjah Mysterio: these are fawn
[11:35] Young Geoffrion: Kobe beef boots?
[11:35] Enjah Mysterio: lol
[11:35] Anchor Gascoigne: :-D
[11:35] Young Geoffrion: or fatty tuna?
[11:35] Enjah Mysterio blushes
[11:36] Young Geoffrion: The young man blushed too.
[11:36] Anchor Gascoigne: And did he solve the problem?
[11:36] Young Geoffrion: In a manner of speaking.
[11:37] Young Geoffrion: I think you may agree this was a problem without a ready solution

[11:37] Enjah Mysterio: only if he is unsure
[11:37] Young Geoffrion: The young man suggested that as the intended recipient was a mystery
[11:37] Anchor Gascoigne: Well he seems unsure but I don't trust him.
[11:38] Young Geoffrion: the only solution was for both young ladies to accompany him back through the
forest

[11:38] Enjah Mysterio: uhoh
[11:38] Anchor Gascoigne: oooh nooo
[11:38] Young Geoffrion: to the other side,
[11:38] Enjah Mysterio: no not a good idea, ladies
[11:38] Young Geoffrion: where he would introduce the underscribed Gascoine
[11:38] Anchor Gascoigne: the "Other Side" or the other side?
[11:38] Young Geoffrion: of the loopy letters,
[11:38] Enjah Mysterio: oooo nooooo
[11:38] Young Geoffrion: and he would tell them
[11:39] Young Geoffrion: to which of them he had addressed his love letter

[11:39] Enjah Mysterio shivers
[11:39] Young Geoffrion: Mira looked at Estrella
[11:39] Young Geoffrion: with the sort of look that says,

[11:40] Enjah Mysterio hopes the look says let's go home sweetie
[11:40] Young Geoffrion: "you think you are more beautiful than I, but I will show you
[11:40] Enjah Mysterio: uhoh
[11:40] Enjah Mysterio: Pride leads the way
[11:40] Young Geoffrion: that I have charmed a young man from a distance"
[11:40] Young Geoffrion: Estrella looked at Mira with a look that said,
[11:41] Young Geoffrion: "You undoubtedly think yourself fairer than me,
[11:42] Young Geoffrion: but when I greet my love with a song, you will realize who is fairer."

[11:42] Enjah Mysterio thinks this cannot end well
[11:42] Young Geoffrion: I looked at them both with a mix of horror and,
[11:42] Young Geoffrion: I must admit it,
[11:42] Young Geoffrion: fascination.
[11:43] Young Geoffrion: They stood up as well,
[11:43] Young Geoffrion: and swept the dew from their skirts
[11:43] Young Geoffrion: and turned to the young man,
[11:43] Young Geoffrion: and invited him to lead the way,
[11:43] Young Geoffrion: I bade them fare well,
[11:44] Young Geoffrion: and without a glance back,

[11:44] Anchor Gascoigne: =========:O
[11:44] Young Geoffrion: they went into the forest
[11:44] Enjah Mysterio dreads the next sentence
[11:44] Anchor Gascoigne: Have they been seen since?
[11:44] Young Geoffrion: There might not have been a next sentence
[11:44] Young Geoffrion: except that many years later,
[11:44] Young Geoffrion: when I was fifteen

[11:45] Enjah Mysterio had imagined "and they were never seen again"
[11:45] Young Geoffrion: and playing on the same lawn, next to the same wood
[11:45] Young Geoffrion: the young courier came down the road

[11:45] Anchor Gascoigne: ooh
[11:45] Young Geoffrion: He greeted me with a laugh and a wave
[11:45] Enjah Mysterio thinks, he never aged?
[11:46] Anchor Gascoigne: botox
[11:46] Enjah Mysterio: lol
[11:46] Young Geoffrion: he had aged, certainly
[11:46] Anchor Gascoigne: he WAS A FRAUD COURIER
[11:46] Anchor Gascoigne: I don't trust those pretty boys.
[11:46] Young Geoffrion: though he was not so old as to have lost his charm
[11:46] Young Geoffrion: I asked him what had become of Mira and Estrella
[11:47] Young Geoffrion: and to which of the two had the letter been addressed?
[11:47] Young Geoffrion: And who was Gascoine? and what had been the fate of my cousins?

[11:48] Enjah Mysterio: yes, we all want to know
[11:48] Enjah Mysterio: Enquiring Minds, you know
[11:48] Young Geoffrion: He smiled and shook his head.
[11:48] Enjah Mysterio: no!
[11:48] Young Geoffrion: "It is a funny thing,
[11:49] Young Geoffrion: that Gascoine was not a name of a person after all

[11:49] Enjah Mysterio: "come with me to the other side of the forest and I will show you your cousins

....==8o"
[11:49] Anchor Gascoigne: They might've been disappointed and run off with a travelling troupe of

performers.
[11:49] Young Geoffrion: but the name of a place
[11:49] Anchor Gascoigne: Ah
[11:49] Young Geoffrion: and that Mira and Estrella, having reached that place
[11:49] Enjah Mysterio: never never land
[11:49] Young Geoffrion: on the other side of the wood,
[11:50] Anchor Gascoigne: They might've been turned into trees
[11:50] Young Geoffrion: had been praised by all the young men for their round faces
[11:50] Young Geoffrion: and their berry lips
[11:50] Young Geoffrion: and their skin as soft as petals

[11:50] Enjah Mysterio: and their elfin ears no doubt
[11:50] Enjah Mysterio: so they became prostitutes?
[11:50] Anchor Gascoigne: Shocking what men do.
[11:50] Young Geoffrion: skin of does
[11:51] Enjah Mysterio: fur of fawns
[11:51] Anchor Gascoigne: no never
[11:51] Anchor Gascoigne: They became queens.
[11:51] Young Geoffrion: And they had each taken a young gascon for a husband
[11:51] Anchor Gascoigne: of twin kings
[11:52] Anchor Gascoigne: and they could never return because...
[11:52] Enjah Mysterio: they were nailed to the floor
[11:52] Young Geoffrion: Mira became a mother of twin boys,
[11:52] Anchor Gascoigne: well they just were too busy
[11:52] Young Geoffrion: and wrote down all the tales that were told in that part of the world
[11:53] Young Geoffrion: and her sons grew up to be couriers

[11:53] Enjah Mysterio: lol
[11:53] Young Geoffrion: and tale tellers
[11:53] Anchor Gascoigne has fallen under Mira's spell.
[11:53] Young Geoffrion: and honey-tongued lovers
[11:54] Young Geoffrion: But Estrella married a sailor

[11:54] Anchor Gascoigne: Her face is as radiant as... a radiator... and her eyes come in a pair, like clogs.
[11:54] Young Geoffrion: and disappeared over the horizon
[11:54] Young Geoffrion: and was never seen again

[11:54] Enjah Mysterio: her face peeks over the horizon each night
[11:54] Enjah Mysterio: the courier is CLEARLY LYING
[11:54] Young Geoffrion: except she wrote me a letter from Africa
[11:54] Anchor Gascoigne: I've got a hill in the way.
[11:54] Enjah Mysterio: he killed them both
[11:54] Anchor Gascoigne: nooo
[11:54] Enjah Mysterio: and he faked the letter!
[11:55] Anchor Gascoigne: He didn't, he didn't.
[11:55] Enjah Mysterio: HE ATE THEM
[11:55] Anchor Gascoigne: He was a deer.
[11:55] Enjah Mysterio: they tasted like berry pies
[11:55] Young Geoffrion: where all she wrote was,
[11:55] Young Geoffrion: "tout seul"
[11:55] Anchor Gascoigne: An enchanted deer and the girls became doe queens
[11:55] Enjah Mysterio: in a loopy hand
[11:55] Enjah Mysterio is aware her imagination is dark
[11:55] Anchor Gascoigne: deer write loopy
[11:56] Enjah Mysterio: yes tough with split hooves
[11:56] Anchor Gascoigne: well known
[11:56] Young Geoffrion: It is a true story,
[11:56] Young Geoffrion: except the part about the deerskin boots

[11:56] Enjah Mysterio: ... and if they have not died, they live there still!
[11:56] Anchor Gascoigne: and the raining girls
[11:56] Enjah Mysterio: and the eating
[11:56] Anchor Gascoigne: They are, I know!
[11:56] Anchor Gascoigne: And they are laughing.
[11:56] Young Geoffrion: It turned out the young courier's name was Gascoine
[11:56] Anchor Gascoigne: ah
[11:57] Young Geoffrion: And had been in love with them both
[11:57] Enjah Mysterio: awwww
[11:57] Enjah Mysterio: a young man's first love(s)
[11:57] Anchor Gascoigne: What tricksters love makes of mere mortals.
[11:57] Young Geoffrion: and was the author of that letter,
[11:58] Young Geoffrion: though he was a gentle boy who would never have hurt anyone

[11:58] Enjah Mysterio: he could not choose, and lost both!
[11:58] Anchor Gascoigne: He wasn't a Mormon, I hope.
[11:58] Young Geoffrion: and lost them both to his friends
[11:58] Enjah Mysterio is saddened
[11:58] Enjah Mysterio: a beautiful tale, ms g
[11:58] Anchor Gascoigne: Well, young Yo had better shy away from him.
[11:58] Young Geoffrion: on the other side of the woods.
[11:58] Enjah Mysterio: delights
[11:59] Anchor Gascoigne: She is wiser, anyway.
[11:59] Young Geoffrion: Gascoine used to visit me often
[11:59] Enjah Mysterio: the young have their wisdom
[11:59] Anchor Gascoigne: Some dew.
[12:00] Young Geoffrion: but he was too much in love with Mira and Estrella.
[12:00] Enjah Mysterio: it rains wisdom
[12:00] Anchor Gascoigne: Some are precipitate.
[12:00] Enjah Mysterio: uhoh
[12:00] Anchor Gascoigne: Still!
[12:00] Young Geoffrion: Still.
[12:00] Enjah Mysterio: the poor young man
[12:00] Young Geoffrion: I don't know,
[12:00] Anchor Gascoigne: He will not find happiness clinging to the past.
[12:00] Young Geoffrion: Imagine how it might have turned out if he had married one,
[12:00] Young Geoffrion: and still loved the other?

[12:01] Enjah Mysterio: or the other way round!
[12:01] Enjah Mysterio: lol
[12:01] Anchor Gascoigne: lol
[12:01] Young Geoffrion: Or both ways around and then through the middle?

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Home Again

Oh, the perils of travel, the joys of return. The grass is overgrown where the sheep could not graze and dust covers the mantel. I am weary, weary from restless change and disappointments, upsets and too-small triumphs, and thirst for intelligent conversation with sober and modest companions. I shall first take care of the letterbox and unpaid bills, then look for me at home in Bodega, where I will lay down my road-tired frame and wait for you.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

No Girls Allowed

In the continued absense of the owner of this blog, I'm posting a link she tweeted whose subject matter is very close to her heart. I'm sure Young can furnish you with a better description when she returns, but for now, may I present on her behalf, No Girls Allowed, a graphic novel of inspiring historical women who overcame societal limits by dressing as men.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

HBA's TED Talk: Greening the Ghetto

I may have disliked school, but I've always loved learning. I'm a learner for learning sake and in a recent post, Young opened my eyes and mind to a great resource for learning on the web - the TED Talks. In her (wonderfully eloquant) post Young not only discussed about the democrotisation of education, but also set myself, Enjah & Osprey a task - watch a selected TED Talk and discuss. I'm not much of a discusser, really - talker yes, discusser no - so my views will no doubt be largely positive & supportive. I can't help it - I was never cut out to be a critic :-)

Young asked me to look over this TED Talk: Majora Carter: Greening the ghetto. In RL I work in the regen field, specifically in sustainable community development, so Madam Geoffrion quite rightly suspected this would tickle my fancy. From the engaging speaker to the joyful message she brought, I LOVED it! Majora's personal, emotional style suited me down to the ground. And her message! How a country as rich and powerful as the US can allow such inequity in the basic quality of its people's lives is a source of shame that will astound future generations. But the energy, drive, determination and potential of humans the world over displayed by Marjora is simply amazing. We waste so much. So much and it's so wrong. But stories like these (and I can point to similar ones here too) are beacons in the dark. Thank you Young, Thank you for my beacon :)

You can watch all the TED Talk videos on YouTube here - I've downloaded a lot via RSS from the main TED.com site and I'm going to watch at least one a day.

Friday, 24 April 2009

TED Talks Challenge

There is nothing that gives me greater hope for the future than TEDTalksDirector on YouTube.

One of the most profound miracles of the internet age is, I think, the erosion of nearly all barriers to an education. If you were born with an inquiring mind and access to the internet (these are not low barriers, but they are lower than ever before in history) you can obtain for yourself the equivalent of a bachelor of art or science degree, and perhaps a masters. Beginning with Harvard & MIT's Opencourseware materials, English-speaking students and scholars anywhere in the world have access to lecture notes, assignments and readings. Wikipedia and Google Books complement the sudden, massive, participatory democratization of education. I believe these are revolutionary changes, paradigm-shifters from which the entire globe will benefit, on the same scale as the invention of the printing press or the symbolic computing device.

The TED Talks are one symptom of this educational openness. It is a sort of Britain's Best Talent for ideas, where almost every speaker is a Susan Boyd.

Great ideas and great hopes are created by the rich cross-fertilization of symbols, cultures and media that used to require universities (to concentrate global talent) or world travel (to disseminate local attitudes and expectations). TED Talks have bringing some of the best thinking in all fields together every year.

I have listened to some of these talks dozens of times. Neuroanatomist Jill Bolt Taylor's insight into the mind caused by her own stroke has helped me understand religion, the nature of the human mind and reality as we experience it. Bonnie Bassler's secret, social lives of bacteria not only illuminates the physical and chemical reality in which we live, but also the demographic reality that generates these ideas.

But in this post I want to celebrate a more profound mixing, that of science and art, of gender and politics, in a recent lecture by Margaret Wertheim, who crochets coral reefs. Her talk typifies the smart, aware, enlightened approach to knowledge that finds inspiration in every aspect of the world around us, and reveals reality as a blessedly intricate web of ideas and connections, from lowly craft and hobby to higher mathematics.

I believe the fundamental basis for intellectual growth and happiness is participation and creativity. Just to be quite clear that beneath my polite exterior I am an insufferably arrogant individual, I have assigned homework to my readers, at least those who have bothered to make themselves known to me:

Osprey: Emily Levine: A trickster's theory of everything
Enjah: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Creativity, fulfillment and flow
HBA: Majora Carter: Greening the ghetto

I want you to watch these assigned videos and return to me, or post where you will, your views or reviews, reflections, arguments or off-subject comments. I will accept no refusal, but you have no deadline either, and if you find a talk you enjoy better, I will accept that too. Curse me and my strange, jumping bean interests, but I cannot watch smart people talk and not think of you.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Drottningholm Palace



I paid a visit to this 18th Century roleplaying sim, very nicely conceived and carefully built, with considerable effort put into its construction and gameplay. They are welcoming though expect a high level of historical accuracy in behaviour, which I respect. I met a young lady in front of the palace who adopted me as her junior brother returned from study in Paris, who then demanded I change my appearance (taller, stronger, handsomer, manlier) and became impatient when I did not achieve an immediate transformation to her liking. When she was ultimately satisfied, she became just too interested in my personal life. Perhaps it is my advanced age, but if I am to roleplay, I prefer to do so at my leisure and in privacy. This is a beautiful build and the other players deserve as much thought given to my appearance and character as they have given to theirs. I might return but perhaps not as Young Geoffrion, and not as a pup. I wish the young lady all the best fortune and happiness, and sincerely hope we shall meet again, though she may not recognize me when we do.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Sepulchre

This novel by Kate Mosse was recommended to me by Enjah and HBA, and though I meant to borrow it from the library before my trip, in the end I did not have time (Anil's Ghost will be overdue when I return to Los Angeles on April 18) and packed Laurence Stern's Tristram Shandy and a recent biography of Charlotte Cibber (the actor's daughter who famously dressed as a man on stage and off) in its stead. But Sepulchre was on display at an airport kiosk within sight of my departure gate, in paperback, so I took it as sign. Figuratively speaking of course.
I finished it last night. Set in Paris and the Languedoc with characters and story arcs in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with two related female lead characters guided by a strong tarot motif and supernatural events, the story has obvious similarities to my own memoirs (or the other way around, but I naturally think of it this way). I was delighted to discover there is still a readership for this kind of material, for I suspect that the gothic thriller is an outmoded genre, leaving us with today's flat, action-filled mongrels like the Da Vinci Code. (This story was clearly written for the Dan Brown crowd, and that book's theme is even explained in precis by one character to another.) On the other hand I became alarmed at the number of similarities in the tales: especially when Leonie says to Auric Baillard, "You are not French!" for I said the very words to Madame Boucher! But in the end it is a quite different tale, and told in a different manner.
The author prefers to endlessly inform us what her characters are thinking when one would be happier if she just showed us in dialogue. The reader doesn't need to be bludgeoned with symbolism and portent. Indeed the dialogue moves the story along quite well on its own, but her exposition lacks art. One suspects there is no poetry in the author, no delight taken in setting a scene, dwelling on a detail, exploring a moment. The story gets from point A to point B in a very businesslike fashion. One looks in vain for moments that shimmer, that offer a sudden insight into the character or place. But for all her characters' churning thoughts, fears, doubts, hesitations, guessing and supposing, the book would have been half as long, and better by far. At last I found the story predictable and contrived, the language awkward, and I finished it to better study what I must learn to avoid myself in my writing. It was instructive.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Creative Life

Elle Coyote's recent posts on Deliberate Practice and Talent is Overrated have put me in a contemplative mood about what I am doing, or attempting to do, in this blog, and in the rest of my life. I left my comments there and hope they didn't sound condescending, because I want to continue them here. I have had the extreme good fortune to be granted the circumstances to earn my living from a creative life, and feel always the desire to share that enjoyment. That desire has led to years of practice and some teaching, plus a lifetime of deep appreciation for the creativity of others, which makes me perhaps unreasonably fearless in my opinions.

Talent is overrated. To me, that is a tremendously liberating and encouraging concept. Anyone can cook, as the chef said to the rat, indeed! But one must want to cook enough to overcome obstacles life sets up, and enjoy doing it enough to practice it at every opportunity for years. Practice, not talent, is the only indicator of success. And I think this applies in every field of human activity. The best barristers are those who breathe and dream and debate the law, the best athletes those who set themselves a challenge and do not rest until they have accomplished it.

I began drawing at the age of ten, and it made me different from the other children I knew, enough to feel I had carved out a space for myself, a domain under my own control, where I imagined I had talent. It was all the impetus I needed to apply myself to drawing every day, out of uncritical pleasure and no little measure of self-delusion. But with practice I became better. And others began to notice, too. The practice came long before anyone said I had talent. I might not have continued without that attention (such a needy child!) but I was proud of my skill and wanted to spend every waking minute improving it. I drifted through my lessons, paying scant attention to anyone trying to teach me anything, including my drawing tutors, because I was busy experimenting and trying new things on my own, and always working at drawing. The only thing I loved as much was reading.

In my case, the love of learning and doing overcame the pleasure of finishing, so my accomplishments were personal and inwardly directed. My art was no one else's business, and I never took my career seriously. As a result I drifted to other things and for a long time lost touch with my creative life. It is a habit that must be nurtured, even after it is mastered. Ultimately, I fell into representing artists and managing other's careers, out of love and a need to feel useful.

Now I am at a new stage in my career, confident that if I chose to, I could very easily resurrect those drawing and painting habits, and make up for the time I have lost. Indeed I know the business inside out, what galleries and collectors need and desire from their artists, how the bubbling ecosystem of museum and curator and critic and publisher and auction house thrives, the usefulness of advertising and public relations and cash flow. I know so much that the fun has quite gone along with the possibility of failure and the desire to take risks.

I think that is why I am now writing instead of drawing. I always wrote self-consciously, fearfully even, and fitfully. I know I am not very good. I certainly do not have talent. Every page fills me with self-loathing and doubt. The possibility of failure or worse, mediocrity, is real and yet, thrilling. It makes me fearless. I want to try everything: make all the mistakes and shortcuts that gets one lost in the woods. I am determined to be proud of those rough edges, shameless for the artless mistakes, and so I am not hiding my first drafts, but posting them for you who are foolish enough to read them. But I also look forward to the necessary improvement that will come from writing every day, that after even so short a time I am beginning to feel. The process is fascinating, cathartic, human and divine at the same time.

I try to apply the lessons I taught my own students who struggled to capture a likeness. Work on the big shapes first, ignore the details. Stay loose and gestural, never erase your mistakes. Don't worry about what the first or second or tenth drawing looks like, because no one will see it. But give every drawing all of your attention and think about what you are doing. Set yourself a goal: a drawing every day, or twenty sketchbooks a year. Copy the work of great artists, draw the shoes and crumpled paper and people around you, block your ears to the critics you live with (including the ones that live in your head) and never stop working for anything, including natural disasters and personal loss. Ben Shahn wrote in the Education of an Artist, "draw and draw and paint and read, there is no content of knowledge that is not pertinent to the work you will want to do."

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Theatre de la Foire


With one hand in his and the other around the little figurine in my pocket, I followed my uncle Adraste as he rushed from the cemetery directly to the Fair of Saint Laurent, the Theatre de la Foire, where the satire of La Sylphide had been mounted by our competitors with much success. A crowd had already gathered, and he hoisted me upon his shoulders to get a better view of the stage erected on the balcony against a false facade above us.

"They're already attracting bigger crowds than Monsieur Biancolleli," said a man in an extravagantly floppy straw hat who had edged over in our direction. He lifted one side of the brim and smiled up at me. "Buongiorno, Principessa Yolande Rat-Catcher."

I cried out with delight.

"Shh, you must not give me away, or I shall have to have to go on stage and apologize for my own rhymes."

"You can't possibly be worried," said my uncle, "they can't be as good as yours."

"Do I look worried?" he asked in a quaking voice, "But you know, Panard's songs are memorable, and Fagan writes remarkable French dialogue for an Irishman."

"Not Charles-François Panard, that merry drunkard..."

"Ah, I see you know him too! I say, Adraste, you keep the very best company!"

"He bought an edition of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera from me last month."

"Excellent! You will join us afterward, then, for dinner." Monsieur Biancolelli smacked his lips at me.

"But are you not incognito?"

"Good God, not from Panard! From the Riccoboni's!"

A horn fanfare announced the beginning of the performance, in the same manner as our own musicians in the Theatre Italien, but then died away on a flat note. The horn player stood up, raised his instrument over his head, reached in the bell and extracted an enormous piece of lady's underwear, then bowed to the delighted audience before tossing it to a young lady who appeared on the balcony. She caught it neatly, inspected it carefully, then declaimed,

We present our satire with honest intentions,
Aiming to delight with emulated inventions,
For it takes rare talent to be the original creator
Of verses so bad, even parody's a hurdle
When your model's on stage in that marginal theatre
run by the italienne who fits in this girdle.

"Monsieur Biancolelli, it's scandalous! She's insulting your verses!"

"Shh, I know, I know; I wrote her lines myself. And helped to fund the production."

My uncle and I burst out laughing.

"You know, I have probably made a terrible mistake. But it's hard not to write satire, and the more they laugh here, the more they'll want to come in and see what's been parodied. Besides, Panard needs the money."

The performance was an utter farce, with an obese sylph who made the entire balcony shudder, and the gnomide a dwarf made up as an old woman; Eraste a lecher and Arlequin a drunkard. The palace of the Sylphides was a tavern, and Clarice, the neglected fiancee of besotted Eraste, made an appearance as a laundress, boxed her sylph-sotted betrothed about the ears, then pulled him off stage to the applause of the audience. But the verses were very funny, and we laughed without stop, who would have cried if we didn't know M. Biancolelli had had his hand in it.

We dined that night al fresco at a guinguette, a wine shop just on the edge of the city, with stout Monsieur Panard and wiry Fagan, his collaborator, and with Monsieur Biancolelli, a few unmarried members of the company de la foire, and one or two other performers of the Theatre Italien.

"Before Riccoboni won the Hotel Borgogne, we performed with you in the fairs, but a permanent home has our levity undone, and our rhyme no longer compares. " said M. Biancolelli as a toast.

M. Panard stood up to reply, . "my friends, all things in this world shall pass; this is a law even heaven holds dear. If you doubt it now just watch my glass, for the wine it holds shall soon disappear." And he held up the most enormous wineglass of eau-du-vie, bowed to us and drained it with pleasure.

Fagan took his turn, raised his glass and addressed M. Biancolelli gravely. "Of rhyming levity you do us accuse, to some we seem to play the buffoons, but the lightest humour can do more than amuse, making ridiculous the very thing it lampoons."

The entire table gave a long, pleasurable groan at this opening volley, for it announced the continuation of la guerre des vers, which had been waged between the members of the two companies for decades. M. Biancolelli added, "If Fagan wears a sullen air, and Panard never learned to pout, 'twas only because Fagan was spare, or because Panard was stout."

They went on like this all night, back and forth, as the wine shop filled with customers attracted by the impromptu jousting, and the delighted inn-keeper bustling around refilling jugs and glasses, turning any horizontal surface he and his wife could find into a table. Merchants and students, tradesmen and apprentices were all seated together, and a gentle couple who would not identify themselves and whose livery we did not recognize, also took part, adding a couplet or two of their own. Everyone was in the highest, most excitable spirits, interrupting each other with laughter and impertinent remarks.

I wandered about the tables and chairs, content to quietly study everyone who had gathered under the stars, until I caught sight of an old man in a three-tailed wig I thought I recognized, seated at the very edge of the company where the warm lantern light and laughter faded into the cold night air, and who seemed to watch me with glittering eyes. I fled back into the crowd, that was now singing le chevalier du Guet, and clung to my uncle, then fell asleep in his arms.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Émilie, marquise du Châtelet

I won't try to repeat what you can easily read about Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet except in the briefest of manner. She published her own highly technical Institutions de physique exploring the work of Leibniz on space, time and force, and her translation of Newton's Principia Mathematica as well as numerous scientific papers. She corresponded with Leibniz, Bernoulli, Jonathan Swift, Bolingbroke and Frederick the Great of Prussia. She conducted experiments on the nature of light and radiation and the conservation of energy. She was the only woman that the decidedly unmathematical Voltaire ever found whose intelligence matched his own, and he became her devoted lover for fifteen years. They read each other's works and their comments can be found in the margins of their manuscripts. She used her mathematical skills at the card table in Versailles when they ran out of money. Together they collected a library of 21,000 books.

She was an example of a woman intelligent enough to recognize the hypocritical rules of social conduct were for other people, to refuse to accept convention, and to want to make an impact on the world. To this end, she had a plan and worked at it throughout her life, without giving up her passion for life and for love, and her conscious pursuit of happiness.

Emilie de Châtelet was a sharp-witted woman with raven hair and deep black eyes, easy and polite in conversation. I met her once at her Chateau de Cirey and she told me when she was young, her father trained her to fence and ride, and that she sang opera and enjoyed acting in Voltaire's productions on their own Little Theatre that still stands today.

While the other women of her day studied men, she studied books. I have always deplored not the injustice of societies that maintain inequal opportunity for men and women, but the profound human wealth these practices squander. How many women with minds as quick as Emilie's have been buried by their fathers and husbands and childbirth, or drowned in the tides of social censure? Emilie was born with the position, wealth and good fortune to rise to intellectual heights: these were gifts she recognized and did not waste.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Nova Albion Parade




This Can Happen to You


I don't know how, but it can.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Saint Lazare

The Paris of my childhood was a decaying, gloomy city, ill at ease and dangerous. The acrid smell of human waste, blackened vegetables, hides and sweat hung everywhere. Buildings rotted from within and collapsed. Not far from les Halles was a timbered house whose first storey had subsided halfway into the mud; it was still inhabited by fifty people. The poor lived and died in the road and the alleys, pressed into every corner and nook and refuse hole. The wealthy built walls and went everywhere with handkerchief and violets at their nose. It is no accident that perfume was a Parisian invention. Only main roads were paved, and those poorly, with open sewers and slick, uneven stones. We were nearly a million inhabitants, squeezed into a blighted space abandoned by the King, who did not bother to disguise his hatred of us, and forgotten by God, who sent disease and the devil to feed on our multitudes. Plague broke out frequently, and houses were burned down with their living inhabitants inside to limit the spread of pestilence. Bands of cutthroats and thieves preyed on the widowed and orphaned, and armies of beggars extended their own kingdom and governance over large parts of the city.

Beneath the ponderous weight of this restless humanity, the dead slept in their shrouds, jostled into mass graves and fossa, layered and compressed, so that they sometimes burst through basement walls or erupted into ill-placed wine caverns. They reeked and exuded their mustiness at night, and it was against that noisesome vapour that we shut our windows when we slept. We had only forty odd cemeteries to serve the recently dead, though some of these contained crypts that snaked in long, dark passages over vast areas underground. The remains of a poor soul in a common grave would be lucky to spend ten years in the ground, before being exhumed to make way for new arrivals. No one knew or cared what happened to their bones. The rich funded the decoration of the churches and the enrichment of the clergy; they were granted sanctified plots where they built their own cities of tombs and sepulchres. Though my mother was unlucky in life, in death she was granted a tomb of her own at Saint Lazare, purchased by my father for himself, for he had no ties left to his ancestral home. It was more space than she ever occupied while she lived.

Saint Lazare was as crowded as all the other cemeteries of Paris, where funerals or interments were popular public spectacles, where the grave-makers performed with skulls and bones for the amusement of the crowds, and hungry coffin-sellers plied their wares. Charlatans sold tonics and plasters made of the shrouds of supposed saints, and guides led bands of wide-eyed gagglers from monument to monument, telling lurid tales of the unhappy inhabitant. My mother was buried along a quiet, narrow laneway of dull, country nobility, and when my uncle and I slipped out of the hot living crowd into the shadowed stone passage, it was like moving from one world to another. Here the vanity of the inhabitants had raised monumental structures and bizarre forms, for we were not so far removed from the medieval Dance of Death, and skeletons in stone appeared everywhere in bas relief and high relief, and in the round, waiting upon stone ladies sleeping in veils and portraits of men in outmoded fashions.

My mother's mausoleum was a simple low house built of rusticated stone, a pair of doric pillars on either side of five steps leading to the bronze door and a low, undecorated frieze. My uncle produced a large key from his pocket, and unlocked the massive door. The sound of the lock turning rung out in that silent place: we were far from the church and the common yard, and there were no birds or trees in sight, only solemn piles of carved stone, obelisks, crosses and megaliths.

"Your father would have been buried beside her," he said to me as the door swung outward, "but his body was never found."

We passed into the dark interior. In the wall at the rear was a small, high window that gave the only light, and beneath it lay two tombs, one obviously vacant. On my mother's tomb were the wilted remains of flowers crumbling to dust. My uncle swept them away with his sleeve, and I laid in their place the lilies I had cut from his tiny garden behind the printing shop. The air was cold and still, and I thought of my mother's soft body pressed to those icy stones and shivered. She was separated from me by those stones forever, and I knew that no power could bring her back.

There was nothing more for us to do there, and my uncle was in a silent mood. Presently we turned and left, and he pushed the heavy bronze door back in place with a metallic thud and struggled to turn the key in the lock, that had opened so easily.

I felt a prickling on my nape and turned to find a strange man watching me while my uncle yanked and pressed on the latchkey. He was dressed at the height of fashion, in a rocquelaure and slate-coloured moire full-trimmed silk coat with large decent cuffs and buttons of hammered silver. He tucked his hands in the waistband of his breeches, ostentatiously displaying the gilded hilt of his sword and pendulant sword-knot that dangled on the ground. His cane hung negligently from his right arm, also trailing against the stone pavement. His waistcoat also was fringed in silver, his breeches were of dove satin and his stockings the same. On his head he wore a large, grave, decently powdered three-tailed wig, and a flamboyant travelling hat decorated with black lace.

I had not seen anyone when we went in, so that I had the impression this vision had simply appeared out of thin air. His face was smooth, and his lip curled in a disagreeable sneer, but his eyes sparkled with a lively amusement, that I did not feel alarmed. I made a small curtsy and he gave me a slight bow, bending at his waist stiffly and nodding his head with his hand to his hat. I tugged on my uncle's coat, but he was swearing at the intransigent lock and had not noticed our remarkable companion.

The strange man held out his ungloved, closed hand in my direction. He had long, slender fingers, fastidiously clean nails, and several large silver rings. At his invitation I touched a prominent knuckle and his fingers uncurled, revealing a tiny bronze figure reposing there. He indicated silently that I take it, and when I plucked it from his palm, the metal felt as hot as if it had come from an oven. It was a tiny man, in a pose like the famous Dying Gaul of Pergamon, no longer than my thumb, and as detailed and perfect in form as any sculptured saint I have yet seen in a cathedral. But I did not think it represented any saint, for it was as naked and immodest as a slave.

The strange man put his long finger to his sneering lips to command my silence, but I turned to tug on my uncle's coat, who exclaimed with an expelled breath as the bolt shot home. "Uncle Adraste, may I...?" But I never finished my question, for when I turned back the strange man had vanished.

"I can almost smell Madame Boucher's crêpes, can't you? Shall we hurry back before it gets too late? Did you say something, Yolande?"

But I slipped the little man in my pocket and put my warm hand in my uncle's, and said nothing.

The Old Frog and the Sea

If meditation were all it took to achieve Enlightenment, frogs would be Buddhas.

Ranida the frog lives in an old well that supplies sweet water to a mountain temple. He loves his home, shaded by cool ferns and moistened by the mountain mists. He spends his time teaching his companion, a carp who swims at the bottom of the well, about the world above water, about the bright sunlight sparkling like diamonds in the dew, the stars and the wind, meadows of grass and forests of bamboo. But his friend is incapable of understanding or appreciating the splendors of dry land, where food is hard to find and not nearly as tasty.

One day a turtle stumbles by, and Ranida invites him to stay and enjoy paradise with him. But the turtle looks around with a cynical eye and scoffs, “This hardly compares to the Sea. All the waters of the world pour endlessly into that place, where they neither decrease in drought nor rise in floods.”

Ranida has never heard of the Sea, nor have his neighbors, but they send him to the local temple to ask the frog monks about it. Of course, the Sea, they pretend to be wise, but they know it only from their books. Join us and we’ll take you there. Ranida becomes a junior monk, and studies meditation, qi gong, kung fu. As he labors his desire to visit the Sea grows, and he begins to ask who has actually been there, if any intend to travel in that direction and when they will be leaving. Soon his questions cause so much unrest in the monastery, he comes to the attention of the abbot who sends him away to a master toad living alone in a wilderness gulley; this master will teach him how to reach the Sea.

Full of hope, Ranida departs on his journey. He must cross raging rivers, rescue helpless tadpoles from the clutches of snakes and cranes, meet salamanders and newts, who introduce the psychedelic wonders of microscopic pond life.

Master Toad is a trickster and a magician, a master of escapes and spells. But he is also the keeper of real, powerful secrets of the world, such as the secret of immortality. When Ranida finally finds Master Toad, he is taught that in order to reach the Sea one must give up what one loves most.

A great storm brews and rain falls in torrents. The gulley is threatened with flooding. Ranida rushes back to save his master but finds the toad will not leave this place of danger. As the waters rise and the flood approaches, Ranida must decide to flee or stay. In the end he overcomes his terror of floods and returns to stay with the Master. Amid lightning and thunder they are together swept up in the torrent. The old Toad cries, “The Sea is inside you. You must eliminate yourself in order to let it flood into your being and carry you away!” And he expires, whispering, “The Sea, the Sea!”

Ranida is stunned. All is lost. He clambers onto a bit of flotsam and is carried out on the raging waters, in despair. He no longer wants to get to the Sea, he just longs to return to his beautiful well, and enjoy his happy days with his carp companion.

But when the day breaks, he discovers a sight before him that he never imagined. A wide open ocean, the sun shining on its glittering surface, and the bit of flotsam to which he clings is his old friend the turtle, returned to the sea.

I wrote this in 2005, and titled it Hidden Dragonfly, Crouching Frog, but abandoned it when I learned Dreamworks was creating Kung Fu Panda, and was reminded of it when Enjah asked for dancing amphibians.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The View from My Window


Looking east over the Bolinas Marina.


Looking west toward Cowell along the inland waterway.

When I first visited Bodega with Salazar Jack, my draw distance was at a minimum setting, and I fell in love with what seemed to be a quiet riverine valley. When I returned to build, I discovered to my surprise that my lovely mountain view is really dotted with boxy builds. Ah well, being near-sighted has its advantages, and changing draw distance is more effective than a topiary screen.

Major construction is now complete, with a little texture touch-up yet to do. At least I wanted to get this much done before leaving for China; I didn't want to be a bad neighbour and leave an unsightly mess in my adopted home. The interior is cold and bare but decorating may just have to wait. I may still do a bit of landscaping just to tidy up a bit outside. That will mean terraces, because I am working with intractable granite. At least I am building on firm, igneous ground.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Construction Underway


Construction of my new residence is now underway in Bodega; first storey walls and half the columns have gone up. The rest should move along quickly. The textures seem a little soft: there are only eight so far, plus one for shadows on the ground, all at 512x512. I daren't make 'em much larger, or one will spend half a day just waiting to see what I put so much effort into: custom renderings of the elevations. However, after the major construction is complete, I may find ways to reduce the number and size of textures and selectively increase the resolution for important parts and details.
You may notice the window don't open. That will be corrected in time.
Naturally the interior is stripped bare. Decorating will be a project all on its own. As the exterior is a neo-classical doric order, I'm thinking Empire or Sheridan, and I have a secret fondness for Biedermeier, but that's getting ahead of myself at this stage.
Still on track for completion by early summer, though it's always summer in Bodega!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

My Mother

This memory is somehow out of order. I think I was much younger than eight, but it is confused with a time when I had already spent some time at the Comedie Italienne. I haven't yet explained how my father met my mother in London, her own short-lived stage career, or passing, but all these I learned about later in life. I only understood she was not there when I was a child.

"But Yolande, your mother is dead."

"When will she come back?"

"One does not come back after one dies, child."

"Why not? Does Mama not want to come back?"

"Dear no, I am sure Mama would come back if she could."

"Why won't she come back? Doesn't she love Yolande?"

"Mama is in heaven, where she watches over you every day."

"She watches me?"

"But of course! She makes sure you are well and that nothing bad will ever happen to you. You see she loves you very much."

"If she can see me, why can't I see her? Why is she hiding?"

"But she doesn't hide from you. She has left her body down here, on earth and her soul has gone up to heaven."

"Where is her body then? Can I see it? Is she beautiful?"

"We buried her in the cemetery at St Lazare, where we go for walks on Sunday."

"Her body is in the cemetery? She didn't want to take it to heaven?"

"Yes, dear, but it was too heavy to take to heaven."

"All her hair and clothes and cheeks and fingers, too?"

"Everything is buried in her grave."

"She didn't take anything to heaven?"

At this my uncle became impatient, and blinked at me from behind his thick spectacles. "She took her sweetness and her love with her to heaven."

"How can she see me then?"

"Child?"

"If she left her eyes in the cemetery how can she see me anymore?"

I put my hands over my eyes, for I felt tears welling up and I did not want my Uncle to watch them fall. He was wrong. My mother would come back and take me with her to the cemetery. I did not want to listen to his stories any longer, about her soul and about heaven. "She's not in heaven. I do not believe you. I think she is hiding in the grave and doesn't want me to see her because she is old and ugly now."

My uncle said nothing, but gazed on me with sadness. I knew he wanted to put his arms around me and draw me to him, but cruelly I stood away and would not look at him. I would let no one love me. I was a sad, cold girl whose mother left her and went down into the ground. That's where she lived and that is where I would live too, one day. My uncle touched me on my arm, a loving, tentative touch that sought to enfold me in his embrace. I was so miserable, because I loved him, and longed for the smell of his leather waistcoat and perfumed hair, even the familiar, warm smell of tobacco that hung on his fingertips and moustache. I wanted to throw my arms around his neck and curl my fingers into his damp hair and comfort him. But I saw my mother living alone in that cold room beneath the cemetery, alone and strange, not missing me, not seeing me, not talking to me. The stone floor was damp and covered in earth, and there were roots and grubs, and she was barefoot, dirty, and always hungry. Dark circles around her eyes made them seem larger, more luminous in the dark. Her clothes hung limp and soiled, and I did not understand why she did not hear me when I prayed at night to her. She was mad, like little Betinna's grandmother, muttering and lisping, except she never smiled, and I could not hear my name on her pale lips. I did not want to believe in heaven when my mother was in such darkness, and I could not hope for the happiness and warmth that my Uncle wanted to wrap me in. I believe I wanted to hurt him. I cried and squirmed out of his reach, and flung myself on my bed. After a few minutes he got up quietly and left my room, softly closing the door behind him.

The moon came up and cast a ray of silver light into my room, throwing my Polchinello into a grinning silhouette. Perhaps that is what death was like, I thought, after you take your hand out of the puppet and it dangles like a rag, still grinning for no reason. I imagined my soul was the hand of my mother and she had withdrawn it from me, and hung me from a nail. Sometimes I would dance and curtsey and laugh, but that was when my mother's hand was in me, wiggling my puppet hands and masked face. At night, in bed, I lay silent and still, without feeling. Once I was alone, I did not feel sad, or sorry, or angry. I was a stone, an abandoned doll. I would wait until the play started again in the morning, and a commanding hand entered me when the sun came up and returned me to life.

I slipped off my bed and dragged a chair over to Mr. Punch, as my Uncle liked to call him. His round eye stared back at me, insolent like a dog who knows he has done something shocking on your floor and dares you to say something about it. It gleamed like the eye of a fish at the market, big as saucers. I unhooked him and the heavy wooden head flopped over. Lazy man! I put my hand inside and screwed my finger into the socket in his neck. Live! I make you live! Dance! Mr. Punch, bow to the left. Now bow to the right. Continenza left, continenza right, cambiomento left, meza volta and ripresa. Who is your lovely dancing partner? Yolande with the fair face and the fetching yellow stockings. Why you make a lovely pair, surely you will marry one day? What? You are already married? And so young! Ah, you are married to someone else, is that it, Mr. Punch? But where is your wife, and won't she be jealous of beautiful Yolande? Ah, your wife is dead! You beat her to death in the market. Bad man, have you no shame? But you gave her a beautiful funeral? Ripresa backward and volta tonda right. I think you are a scoundrel, Sir, and I send you to the gallows. I pulled my hand out of the grinning puppet and let his head fall backward. Still standing on the chair, I let him drop to the floor where his nose struck with a loud crack. Then I let myself fall in the same way, as if every muscle in my body were made of cloth.

My uncle rushed in, for my head had struck the floor boards so soundly above his study it awoke him from his nap. He threw open my door with a great cry and rushed to my side, immediately pulling me into his embrace and smothering me in kisses, while calling angrily for Madame Bouchard to fetch a doctor. He did not notice that his heel was crushing the puppet's face. I was bleeding great quantities of blood from my head, and they could not find the wound, even though they passed their fingers over the sore spot and made me cry out several times. Madame Bouchard made little high-pitched yells of alarm until they saw I was still breathing. I tried to feel nothing. I tried to stay dead, but instead a great hot wave rolled up from the bottom of my being and washed over me in salty waves, causing me to tremble and shake. I cried and cried, and crushed my uncle's face into mine, scratching my cheek on his whiskers. He cried too, and we clung together, lonely and thankful, who meant more to each other than any other thing in the world.

The next day we went to the cemetery together.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Monday, 9 March 2009

The Return of Doctor Fluxus

I had hoped to put off this bit of my past until later, for my relationship with Doctor Theophrastus Fluxus is a difficult one, but my friends have wanted to see the return of his Alchemickal Theatre, and I promised to see what I could do. To my utter mortification he has managed to insult nearly everyone I know. Enjah thinks him a charlatan, Osprey considers him dangerous, and HBA is ready to run him through on his enormous....
In fact I did not expect him to heed my call as we did not part on the best of terms. For many years I was his student and acolyte. He bamboozled half of Asia, but he protected me from harm and taught me much worth knowing, though more from his bad example than from his good.
His origins are a mystery, and if you listen to his voice, there's a blend of strange accents; not a one sounds genuine. I cannot say with certainty if he is man or ghost, or even male or female. No one has seen him without his mask or out of his cloak. His own proclivities are perhaps best left unexamined!
He claims arcane knowledge and alchemical powers, and like me he is several centuries old, yet he has the wisdom of a bug and is always getting into scrapes, usually of his own making, and I don't know why I always agree to rescue him. I suppose he is the only one left with whom I share much of a past, so for good or for bad, I count him a friend. He can annoy a saint, but he's a fascinating creature.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Proof of Concept

Orthographic rendered images applied to simple prims, scaled and positioned to match my Blender model. It works about as expected, but I can fix problems in the corners if I can render shadows without rendering the column that casts the shadow.** I may have to start digging into Blender nodes.
Of course the final model will have thin walls and real openings for doors and windows, avoiding evil overlapping z-buffered alpha images as textures. And columns. Preferably sculpties with multiple level-of-detail problems fixed.
See? Spend a year or two in Second Life and even a Baroque antique like myself will start speaking like a native.

**Update. There's a button in the material render pipeline panel for "Only Cast Shadows", Hooray! Blender nodes may lay undisturbed for the moment (better to let sleeping dogs lie).