starlady: Mako's face in the jaeger, in profile (mako mori is awesome)
I ran the Scott Coffee 8K in Moorestown this morning. My finishing time was 52:50.7, which is quite an improvement on my 2010 time of 58:32. It helped that the weather today was universally agreed to be the best weather of any Moorestown Day ever. The race is flat and fast and the residents along the route set up water stations, blast "Born to Run," and give free high fives, so it's pretty nice. Also Moorestown Day now has a cheese curds truck. Hipsters, man.

[personal profile] spaiku and I went down to see our friends in Toms River, which was fun and low-key, and then we went to Seaside for ice cream--Seaside Heights, that is, and Kohr's custard. I hadn't been back since my abortive trip in December 2012, when between the cops and the sand dunes in the street I couldn't even get into the town. The island now has the world's smallest Home Depot, in an old house, and many newer houses in the process of being raised nine feet into the air. It's so weird to have the northern six blocks of the boardwalk just…gone, to say nothing of the Casino Pier that is now half as short again as it used to be. There's a stand on the boardwalk selling "Restore the Shore" paraphernalia, including a lot of wooden things made from the old original boardwalk wood. I suspect by the time I'm back in September I'll want one. Funnily enough, despite all the destruction, the island still is home to what has to be the world's only remaining A&P, which non-coincidentally is completely unchanged since the 1980s.

I'm not sure you'd notice it if you didn't know where to look, in most cases, but the Sandy recovery is all over New York, too--in the "know your zone" ads on the subway, in the endless construction on the MTA. I suppose I should just get used to seeing O's written with the hurricane eye symbol, given that the waters can and will rise again.
starlady: Twitter quote: @magneto "come home" (my offer still stands)
Gay marriage became legal at midnight this morning in my beloved home state of New Jersey. I'm well aware that marriage equality isn't a panacea for the many, many inequalities queer people face in society, but I'm so happy nonetheless that New Jerseyans will no longer be denied equality before the law and in the eyes of society in this respect. Fourteen going on fifty, I hope.
starlady: ((say it isn't so))
A fire in Seaside Heights has destroyed six blocks of the boardwalk, including the 102-year old historic carousel. I loved that thing. So did my mother.
starlady: (shiny)
It was my birthday yesterday. I dragged my dad and sister to Tria Cafe in Philly on Monday night, and then my sister and I had Capogiro, and then we went home and had the Earl Grey cake she and I made on Sunday, with Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. I like regular buttercream better.

Yesterday my sister and I drove down to Cape May because my sister wanted rainbow popcorn and there's no better way to celebrate a birthday in our family than with a quest. When we got to Cape May we had lunch at the Heritage Tea Room on the Emlen Physick Estate (yes, that seriously was his real name) because of their special for Cape May Restaurant Week. As a tea room it was mediocre but it didn't matter because they were staging a reenacted temperance debate and it was HILARIOUS. When we sat down we were handed a temperance picket ("Every Drunkard Was Once A One-Drink Man") and at the end we signed the non-temperance petition. It was remarkable how the sexist political discourse and corrupt electioneering were essentially unchanged from 1904. Or not. Then when we got to the popcorn shop the stoners working there were enthralled by my sister's bright pink hair ("How often do you dye it?") and Rainbow Dash sunglasses ("Fist bump! I'm a brony!" "I could not afford enough drugs to make that show interesting!"). We died. And then we rented a pedal surrey (yes, with a fringe on top; no, we didn't sing the song because we couldn't breathe between laughing and pedaling) and tried to go down the road to the lighthouse. In the best Woolfian fashion we did not actually get there, but we saw it from the bird reserve and valiantly ignored the people in cars calling us crazy. The surreys in Ocean City are vastly superior because they let you go on the boardwalk and have more tension on the chain (it was a fixy) so you can pedal faster, also better benches. It was, all in all, a hilarious trip, not least because at this point we have an inexhaustible storehouse of bizarre stories to trot out at virtually every other mile marker on the road.

Relatedly, our brain twins/shared associations mind meld is reaching new levels. Eventually we'll be the only people who understand each other and we'll speak entirely in shorthand. Example: tonight she RT'd me a picture of a swan with cygnets on its back, no explanatory text. My reply: "ERIK." We knew what we were talking about.
starlady: (orihime)
I don't know why it took me this long to put it together, but it's by no means impossible that the Toms River cancer cluster played a role in my mother's cancer. (It's equally possible that the one had no part in the other.) (I need to remember to ask my dad whether Mom had the genetic test for the defective gene. I doubt it, but it's worth asking.) Regardless, I lived in Toms River from birth until the age of approximately two, and my parents lived there for seven years before I was born.

I have friends who still live there; they have a double-osmotic filtration system installed in their house, and don't drink the tap water. Their water filter guy occasionally will talk about how other Toms River customers go through the filters twice or three times as frequently as customers not in Toms River do. I'm lucky not to have had cancer already, I suspect. And nothing in the future will surprise me on that front.
starlady: Anna Maria from PoTC at the helm: "bring me that horizon" (bring me that horizon)
Díaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007.

This is a really, really excellent book, clearly the exception that proves the rule that the Pulitzer Prize often goes to the totally undeserving.

Probably everyone knows by now that this book is about the eponymous overweight Dominican nerd from New Jersey of the title. Let me tell you, if you haven't read this book--particularly if you're in a position to get the genre, and particularly Tolkien, references--you really, really should. As the late [personal profile] skywardprodigal pointed out, Oscar's very existence is a rebuke to a lot of the nastier myths about (the lack of) SFF fans of color, and if only for that reason, it's worth reading. But there's a lot more going on here than that, and I don't want to overlook any of it.

The book tells the story of Oscar from the perspective of his one friend, Yunior, but Oscar's story isn't just his own--it's the story of his sister Lola, of his mother Beli, of his grandmother La Inca, of their family, of Trujillo, of the Dominican Republic itself. Unlike many other readers, I did get about a microsecond of Dominican history through reading Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies, whose protagonists the Maribal sisters are also frequently name-checked in the footnotes.[1] Díaz goes deeper and much more explicitly into all the ways that Dominican history is fucked up, and it was interesting getting a comparative perspective on the Trujillo era, to say the least. More to the point, words fail at the sheer verve and pleasure of Díaz's writing, even when he's describing some of the most horrific practices of a horrific regime, and a horrific history. (Sidenote: I don't suppose it surprises anyone that Oscar's New Jersey and mine are almost totally different, but let me assure you, this is New Jersey, and Oscar and his sister are indisputably of New Jersey, and I could recognize New Jersey in their lives and even some of the places they spend those lives, and I really enjoyed that.)

Having skimmed most of the enthusiastic blurbs on the covers and endpapers, I actually suspect that most mainstream literary critics didn't get the real point of this book. No, I don't think riffing on Kurtz means the world has been saved. )
starlady: (rain)
My dad never lost power, making him one of only 600K people in Jersey who still have it. I heard from my friends in Toms River this morning; no power of course, but they're all right. I think their neighbor's house may be in the bay. Or the bay is in it. Not clear from their text messages. If it's in the bay it's probably part of the debris blocking the bridge.

That helicopter video going around is the barrier island directly east, Seaside Heights. I go there every summer and have since I was born. Whole swaths of it are just gone. I haven't heard about the carousel, which my mother loved, but I doubt it's still there. Apparently the roads to LBI are still impassable. I wouldn't be surprised if the lighthouse is now an island. In fact I suspect most of the barrier islands look profoundly different than they did on Sunday.

The upshot is that the Shore, which is the heart of the state, has been smashed and permanently reshaped - until the next time. Like our esteemed governor, I know we'll be all right, but it hurts.

Ditto New York City. Hang in there, everyone.

I wore my New Jersey shirt today, in solidarity.
starlady: (rain)
I think I dreamed about the hurricane this morning - not a nightmare, but definitely a dream. (I also dreamed about fighting as a Jedi in the Clone Wars on Sunday morning, so I also just haven't been sleeping well.)

My dad and our bird still had power and were fine as of about 9pm - high tide - tonight. Ditto my friends in South Jersey that I've checked in with, though I've not heard from all of them yet, and ditto my friends in New York on the Upper West Side, though again, I have friends in Brooklyn and elswehere I haven't heard from yet. I'm worried about my friends in Toms River, where the hurricane made landfall around 8pm - I talked to them at 3:45 their time today, and they were packing to go into the basement for the night to avoid the tropical storm-force winds and preparing to lose power. Their street abuts the bay, and it's never flooded, but this has been an event out of all proportion to past experiences. I could tell this morning when all of Atlantic City was flooded after the morning high tide that it was going to be categorically worse than anything anybody could remember, and that looks about right. I'm going to text them first thing tomorrow. (This is the problem with making decisions based on past experiences: they're of no use in the face of a path-breaking event, whether it be a hurricane or a genocide, but that's another post.) Currently viewing with concern the situation at Oyster Creek, though with any luck the tide will recede and avert this particular potential catastrophe.

I feel like I should be there, though I couldn't do anything else if I were. Stay safe, everyone, and let us know that you're okay.
starlady: (lemons)
Black, Holly. Red Glove. New York: McElderry Books, 2011.
---------. Black Heart. New York: McElderry Books, 2012.

Thanks to [ profile] swan_tower for borrowing these to me.

Premise description, from my previous post: In brief, a certain segment of the population is born with the ability to work curses on others via their hands--but each worker can only work one type of curse, and each curse creates blowback directly in the worker, so that death-workers, for example, are always liable to lose fingers. To make things even more complicated, Prohibition outlawed curse-working in the States, and of course, to deal with that, workers have formed organized crime families.

I enjoyed White Cat, and though the latter two books aren't quite as shockingly twisty as the first one, I liked them a lot too. They are compulsively readable, and as always, Holly Black is really good at capturing the atmosphere of New Jersey and also the character of New Jersey people. I also really appreciated the very believable New Jersey-style politics and violence of the overarching plot - there's a scene in the third book that is basically straight-up pasticheing Jim McGreevy, the former governor who resigned over a gay affair. Spoilers realize they never should have left New Jersey )

I'm on the fence about whether to tag this post as "chromatic protagonist" or not. The end of Red Glove finally confirms that Cassel is brown-skinned (it was ambiguous but suggested in the first book), but…Black doesn't really do anything with it. (To be fair, Cassel doesn't know his own family history because he lives in a family of con men.) I don't know. That was one of the few sour notes for me, but overall, having read all of Black's YA novels, I think these are her best yet.
starlady: (run)
I was lazy this break and didn't get to any of my intended destinations in Old City--I did stop by my old orchestra and see some people, and I saw my friend J for lunch in between her interviews at the APA conference, and I also wound up hanging out with[personal profile] shveta_writes and [personal profile] solanine at the launch party for K.M. Walton's novel Cracked in Chester. I couldn't even tell you the last time I've been that far down the Blue Route; it has to be high school, when we played away field hockey games at Westtown.

But I did go to the best gelato place in the States, Capogiro, and my friend M and I had sushi at Raw, which I really like, dodging Mummers straggling back from the parade all day, and I did see snow flurries in between getting a $76 parking ticket (thank you, Philadelphia). I'm still not sure what the best coffee shop in Philly might be--I like Old City Coffee and La Colombe a lot, but I'm also a fan of Ultimo Coffee down in South Philly. I finally got down to the place in South Jersey on the espresso map, Crescent Moon Coffee and Tea Company, for a writing date with [personal profile] shveta_writes. I haven't been to Mullica Hill since elementary school, so of course I thought, oh, the indie coffee shop will be in one of these lovely converted Victorian homes on Main Street! No, it being South Jersey, the excellent indie coffee shop is in the strip mall a mile outside of town. Let that be a lesson to you, young Jedi.

You can't find a whole head of lettuce in supermarkets in Jersey in winter to save your life, but it's home.
starlady: (lumos)
Home in Jersey! With the combined powers of my sister we are well on our way to making Christmas happen in ~4 days. One of these days I will remember that no chain restaurant here can properly dress arugula. 

Yuletide status: Can't Must sleep, bears will eat me.  

Happy Hannukah, all. 
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
The peerless saxophonist and key member of The E Street Band, Clarence Clemons, has died at the age of 69.

Fuck. Just, fuck. I grew up on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to the extent that I tried to deny it and only realized just how awesome they were and how much I loved them when I moved out of Jersey to college in Minnesota. Clarence Clemons is an irreplacable talent, and we're all poorer without him.

ETA: Appreciations from The NY Times and The New Yorker. The New Yorker's is better. /eta

His last performance is probably in Lady Gaga's newest video, "The Edge of Glory," which I embed below.

starlady: closeup on Lady Gaga wearing her totalitarian steampunk monocle (lady gaga is queen)
Related to the last post, via [personal profile] crossedwires, an interview with Hiromi Goto! I can't wait to read Chorus of Mushrooms.

Black, Holly. The Poison Eaters. Easthampton, MA: Big Mouth House, 2010.

This is the first collection of Holly Black's short stories to appear in print, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The stories tend to be wittier and a bit fleeter on their feet than her novels, which is a function of the form more than anything else, I think; they're certainly no less dark than her books, which I enjoy since I enjoy the North Jersey Gothic atmosphere of her books.

It's hard to pick a favorite in here: I particularly liked "In Vodka Veritas," which features the immortal line, "Dude, the Latin Club is totally evil" and is I believe set at the same central Jersey private boarding school as White Cat. "The Land of Heart's Desire" follows Black's trilogy of Modern Faerie Tales and checks in on Roiben and Corny, two of my favorite characters; it's particularly noteworthy for being partiall from Roiben's point of view. I also really liked "The Coat of Stars" and the title story, but really, they're all pretty great (particularly "A Reversal of Fortune" and "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown"). Several feature queer protagonists, while others are set entirely in secondary worlds; I want more of both. In the meantime, bring on Red Glove!
starlady: (impending)
Black, Holly. White Cat. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010.

So I heard Holly Black talk about the genesis of this book and this series, The Curse-Workers, in her Guest of Honor speech at Sirens and, as well as being utterly hilarious, her speech definitely made me glad that I had this book waiting for me at home in my room. (Yeah, you don't even want to know how many books I have here in my room.) And it's good. 

In brief, a certain segment of the population is born with the ability to work curses on others via their hands--but each worker can only work one type of curse, and each curse creates blowback directly in the worker, so that death-workers, for example, are always liable to lose fingers. To make things even more complicated, Prohibition outlawed curse-working in the States, and of course, to deal with that, workers have formed organized crime families.

When a white cat crosses your path... )
starlady: meralonne and kallandras in the wood (in a dark wood)
Black, Holly. Tithe. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002.
--------------. Valiant. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2005.
--------------. Ironside. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007.

I borrowed these books from [personal profile] shveta_writes in preparation for Sirens 2010, where Holly Black is one of the guests of honor, and I liked them a lot--I was actually sort of surprised by that, because I have never particularly had any affinity for fairy stories, particularly in contemporary fantasy and YA. But these books have enough convincing detail, and vivid characters, and also they're set in north Jersey and New York, that I was taken under their spell.

The obvious comparand for these books is Emma Bull's War for the Oaks, and at one point Bull is actually name-checked in the text, just to make the point clear. In comparison with that book, though, Black's protagonists are younger, more desperate, poorer )

So, yeah. I really liked these books; I loved the characters, particularly Corny and Kaye (Corny gets what has to be the nerdiest coming-out scene in literature, even if it is told in reported discourse), but everyone feels incredibly real, and when characters suffer the reader is not indifferent. I liked that Black is insistent in her acknowledgment of pain, not as anything more than that but unequivocally as something that people have to learn to bear, or fail at trying. She exposes too the ways in which pleasure and pain can run side by side or even overlap each other; her writing is dark and rich, shot through with dazzling flashes, as befits her subject matter. I also like that balance she strikes in playing the reader versus the characters knowing but not knowing how they are being played, and how people figure out the intrigues, or don't. I've bought Black's short story collection, and look forward very much to reading it.
starlady: closeup on Lady Gaga wearing her totalitarian steampunk monocle (lady gaga is queen)
I am not really a very good American, if we define a good American as someone who spends all her income on consumerist crap and wants a car and a house in the suburbs. I want less crap, out of the suburbs, and prefer to ride trains rather than drive a car, much though I like driving itself too much. The only attraction owning a house holds for me is that a house could probably fit all my books. Probably.

That said, the house I would buy for myself in a heartbeat if I could is for sale, and it could be mine for only $1.69 million.

This house is worth living in Haddonfield for, you guys. Here's the street view--it's hard to convey just how awesome the house is, the sweep of the hill up from the street; the listing photo is taken too close to really convey that.

starlady: Aang with fire (aang can be asian & still save the world)
I would just like to note that when I got home this evening it was 107º outside. For those of you in countries with rational measurement, that is 41.67º Celsius.

And right now it is 101º (38.3º C). Yup.
starlady: ((say it isn't so))

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Ah, how short are the days! How soon the night overtakes us!

In the old country the twilight is longer; but here in the forest

Suddenly comes the dark, with hardly a pause in its coming,

Hardly a moment between the two lights, the day and the lamplight;

Yet how grand is the winter! How spotless the snow is, and perfect!"

Of course I have an opinion )
starlady: (revisionist historian)
This is a post about Philly and New Jersey, or more precisely, about how they're all going to hell in a handbasket.

The news this evening that The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Daily News have been sold to their creditors in bankruptcy auction is, quite frankly, a huge blow to the region--The Inquirer has 180 years of history in the area, and The Daily News is actually doing okay despite print journalism's woes, but none of those will matter a damn to the creditors and hedge funds in on the deal. I can't pretend that I actually really read The Inquirer anymore, because it's gone to hell in the last 10 years and only recently started getting better under Brian Tierney and company, and I've never really been in The Daily News demographics, but it seems a very real possibility that the region could lose one or both papers--and if The Inquirer goes, south Jersey will be entirely bereft of a paper even halfway deserving of the name. Both papers perform important investigative and public watchdog functions, and civil society will suffer without them.

This is a policy rant. )
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
Tonight I made soup, and washed the dishes, and picked up three books from the library. I feel like there's something I'm forgetting to talk about, but damned if I can remember what.

So instead let me just take the opportunity to say that Kamikaze Girls (the book) is AWESOME. I love Momoko so much, she is so great! Ichigo is great too, but Momoko is first in my heart because she is the narrator. I am totally going to try to find some of Novala's other books (in Japanese, for great kanji virtue) at Book-Off on Saturday. Also the book is hilarious, which is not something I can actually say all that often. Momoko, I ♥ you!

Oh yeah, I started reading a book called Pioneer Women of Historic Haddonfield last night, and I am amused that I can tell that 95% of the chapter on Elizabeth Haddon is lies, discriminately salted with facts and the odd detail that rings true. (Who would have thought the Haddonfield Historical Society would be a comparative paragon of truth and scholarship?) Also apparently Longfellow wrote a poem about Elizabeth Haddon? Yes I'm going to post that on here for NPM, and I'm not sorry, not at all. She was awesome too, though luckily for my purposes there's far too little in the historical record about her to write anything like a biography.


starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

March 2019



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