Monday, August 22, 2011

Blogjam Explained, Exhibit B:

Jetsam is made from crap I haven't thrown away yet, or am in the process of throwing away, or sometimes bottling out and keeping for a while longer. The significant thing is that it's the stuff I've hung onto. Right now the Monkeyhouse is going through a B-I-G tidy up as we make more room for Jet Jr's growing needs, so more of the third drawer stuff is appearing!

Blogjam Explained, Exhibit A:

Also why it took me so long to update my Facebook photo.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

So it's come to this - a post about snow.

This is altogether the wrong sort of post for this blog. Late (hah, not so wrong there, then), and nearly off-topic in its topicality; you can’t actually throw snow away, can you? Of course you can reminisce about snow, cherish the memory of it, gloss over the cold and inevitable slush and damp which follows as you wistfully recall the fluffier, warming, magical overtures of that rare winter phenomenon. Of course in Wellington snow is so rare it’s never discussed, unless the Orongorongos and Rimutaka Hill get one of their dustings, or further along, the Desert Road. Not Wellington though. Not good old Wellingtown and its hilly suburbs, they never get snow. That would be silly…


So it is for me and my beloved that snow was until recently a distant memory, a keepsake memory of Dunedin winters or the occasional hometown experience (Gorillamydreams actually got stuck in Canterbury’s Big Freeze of ’06, of which more in another post). In fact, GMD was only a fortnight ago wistfully and vocally regretting the capital’s lack of snowability, and now look what’s happened. As it was, we can’t say we weren’t warned. It even had the decency to arrive on a late Sunday afternoon in a startling and surprising flurry of specks, then motes, then great sudsy blobs, rendering Darkest Paparangi the look of a suburban snowglobe. Jet Jr was summarily clad in extra layers and marched out to capture and enjoy the moment, and yours truly gathered wood for the fire. Around us people emerged from their homes and the street took on the sounds of kids playing and older kids and younger adults too – it was really rather brilliant. And it lasted for two days, until after early dismissals from work and frosty bus rides (including a memorable climb through Woodridge during which I glanced up from my cell phone game to wonder where in the hell we were in all this muffled clutter of royal icing houses) the rain finally arrived on Tuesday night and dutifully washed drifts and slurry away. Only the wind and the chill remained, as they continue to do.

Ah, but that snow. For a short while Wellington was a would-be Dunedin, and if you squinted and thought of the southern city then maybe, just maybe you could fool yourself into thinking you were back there. But Wellington under snowdrifts I’ve found hasn’t quite got the charm of its deep south sibling. It might be the size, the narrowness of the streets or the closed-in hills that deprive you of the truly big sky vistas of the mainland that I remember. Maybe the scale is wrong, or the angle is off. And maybe that’s why the snows of winters past in Dunedin, on campus and spreading up the valleys and city rises deadening the drone of traffic and closing off the motorway from Pine Hill to the Kilmog have become the stuff of jettisoned past. You can’t throw snow away and you can’t take it with you, but it never loses its magical ability to transform the places you take for granted.

Two days on it’s probably time to take stock – count the logs under the Monkeyhouse, inspect the pak choi and puka for frost damage and consider a little more weather strip around the windows for next year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"This item due: measureless eons behind history."

A slow reboot to the blog, then. And this story from the Dom Post, 5 August. Wellington City Library have kindly eschewed fining the borrower a theoretical $6852, as it was originally due on 12/2/1988.

Of course, they may have been well-advised to do so, given the title novella features the grim consequences of Wilbur Wheatley's own doomed attempt on the closed stack of Miskatonic University's library collection.

Seriously, how many copies of the actual Necronomicon could you buy with that money?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Doctor is in

Among a few entertaining coincidences in my reading and listening of late is the appearance of a figure from English history whom I intend to read a little more about, er, at some point soon.

Dr John Dee was royal astrologer to Elizabeth I, and her sister Mary before his skill and persuasion found better favour with the Virgin Queen. Dee seems to have been cut from similar cloth to the genii of his era and the later Renaissance; he was a scholar, cartographer, Hermeticist, military strategist, an astronomer and a mathematician. By forecasting the potential death of Mary he courted his own demise, yet in setting an auspicious date for Elizabeth’s coronation almost certainly retained his station as one of her most trusted advisors. His feats were humanist, yet remarkable – he owned the largest library in England and conceived the idea of a national library in the interest of the preservation of knowledge (Mary wasn’t keen), and for Elizabeth he presented the notion (and thus coined the epithet) of a British Empire. By predicting the approaching tempests off the Dover coast he encouraged his Queen to spare her navy the perilous and precipitous defence against the approaching Spanish Armada, and instead they watched nature perform the task from the safety of land. Alongside the Queen’s ‘spymaster’ Sir Francis Walshingham he pioneered the use of espionage and was literally through his own codename the original “007.”

As befalls one who straddles history and mysticism, Dee finds his way into the canon of Iron Maiden songs, with The Alchemist from The Final Frontier:

Dee’s pursuit of mysticism and the occult is presumably what endears him to Maiden, and has helped to ensure the longevity of his name today. He has been described variously as the inspiration for Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Shakespeare’s Prospero; Alan Moore surely also had him in mind in his conception of the latter character for the closing of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, yet it’s curious too that this somewhat late pursuit of his life turns him into an utterly human figure as well. Taking up with mystic John Kelly, an aging Dee and his young wife travelled Europe with Kelly in their pursuit of the supernatural. Communing with angels, Kelly claimed that he had instructions from the diving agents to share a bed with Dee’s wife; Dee reluctantly submitted, and returned to England alone, never seeing Kelly again.

This year’s Manchester Festival of the Arts saw the debut of Damon Albarn’s Dr Dee: An English Opera, from which the following song Apple Carts is taken. Albarn originally was to have worked on the opera with Alan Moore, but the would-be modern polymath and postmodern magician parted company early on, the cause apparently being frustration on Moore’s part rather than the intervention of alleged angels. I love the song; it’s so much that Maiden’s galloping biography simultaneously isn’t, humanist and spiritual, it suggests a twofold narrative, of Dee ordering a new Empire built on the mystical landmarks of England’s past (Silbury Hill), and later returning to “the kingdom of the broken heart”, much beaten and seeking solace beneath its stones, the same man who returned from Europe to a ravaged and looted library and ended his days in poverty, the new monarch James I being the antithesis of his aunt in a morbid distrust of the supernatural.

It’s Dee’s fate to have become one of popular literature’s playthings, portrayed as a spy, a wizard, a necromantic villain or a mystical guru. This side of the story interests me less than his falling in and out with Kelly, of whom the jury is itself still undecided – was it carnal interests that led him to turn Dee into a cuckold, or was his growing fame as an alchemist leading him to some drastic action to divorce himself of a man on the wane? It might depend on what book I eventually read…