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August 20th, 2016

09:57 pm:  The other day I decided to spring for a couples' Royal Ontario Museum membership, so yesterday Andrew and I were able to take in the Tattoo show at the ROM. The ROM's regular exhibits are free on Fridays after 4:30pm, but not the special exhibits. I also admit I fancied the idea of being able to go to the concert in the members' lounge, but as it turns out, it's still a cash bar, and the music was... warblier than I'd been led to expect (they were supposed to be a blues band), so downstairs we went to see the tattoos, which was just as well, since we had just enough time to look at everything before closing time. 

Perhaps the most interesting exhibit was a case of letters from Sailor Jerry to Ed Hardy, discussing their art, Japanese tattooing traditions, also how busy Sailor Jerry was (he also hosted a radio show) and guys he'd worked with in the past. Couldn't help but notice that Sailor Jerry was much more formal in his hand-written letters than his typed ones. Perhaps the typed one was to someone else. It was in all caps and there was a lot of swearing.

"Tattoos" included a lot of new and old photos of people with tattoos, sketches and designs for tattoos, and several displays of body parts cast in silicon from live models, which were then tattooed with original designs commissioned for the show from the best-known tattoo artists working today. There was a touchable sample of the silicon "skin," which felt less realistic than it looked, and looked less realistic as a flat panel than as a body mould. I liked the Russian-Constructivist-influenced arm. The arm with the glow-in-the-dark tattoos in a maze-like design based on a swastika was... eerie. The text noted that the art was inspired by its pre-Nazi use as a positive symbol, but I can see why one would not want it in ink visible under normal circumstances.

An hour or so later I saw a post about the Razzouk family's tattoo shop, whose sign reads "since 1300," though I believe the hard documentation only goes back to 1600, and said "I think they were in that exhibit I just saw."

Next time, we check out the exhibit on bishonen in Japanese art.

09:31 pm:  Years ago, I had one of those dreams where you remember your house has one or more extra rooms you never use. In this case, I was in another neighbourhood, at night and in the rain, and suddenly remembered I had another apartment nearby where I could stay the night.

I can't picture the place in any detail, but the architecture and decor were sort of 1930s-40s Modernist, with a melancholy yet comforting vibe. Recently it occurred to me it was like the Thorne Rooms' California Hallway, and also like some of Paul R. William's work. I think at the time I also identified it with the Hotel Central, Belem, described in the intro to Daisann McLane's Cheap Hotels.

I've never managed to conjure it up again, but when I can't sleep, I remind myself I own an Art Deco flat in my dreams.

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August 5th, 2016

09:28 pm: 'Round and 'Round and Up and Down We Go Again
 My co-worker's musical tastes are pretty eclectic, and despite being twenty-two she occasionally puts on Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again." I assume the 'again' part refers to his hit the year before with "The Twist," but it always strikes me as slightly weird that the song evokes nostalgia for... the previous summer.

I suppose a year *is* a long time in the music business, or when you're a teenager, or if something terrible has happened in the meantime (see: most of 2016). But the cheery tone of  "Let's Twist Again" doesn't really fit any of those scenarios. It's not "Let's twist again, like we did last summer, before you broke my heart," or " "Let's twist again, like we did last summer, before that bus crash killed the whole pep squad."

Come to think of it, both of those could have been hits in the early 'sixties, but they're not really in the same musical genre.


August 3rd, 2016

04:25 pm: Look at that hair! Are you a rock star?
There are a few half-remembered stories I read as a child that even the Internet has so far not been able to help me track down, and one of them was an issue of Harvey Comics' Wendy, the Good Little Witch which in retrospect was kind of an adaptation of "Feathertop," my favourite Hawthorne tale.

From what I remember, Wendy has a scarecrow friend who complains to her that he's no good at, you know, actually scaring crows; she being well-intentioned but with no understanding of consent issues casts a spell that turns him into a different Universal monster (Dracula, the Wolf Man, and I think the Frankenstein Creature?) for each of three successive nights. One of her aunties encounters him on each occasion and, being a witch, is smitten. Since Wendy doesn't know this, and the scarecrow is amnesiac about his transformations, they wonder why her relative is dreamily enthusing about all the handsome men who've been visiting the area of late.

Once she figures it out, however, Wendy gamely turns the scarecrow into a "handsome man" --- a Hollywood lead type with perfect teeth. Poor Auntie runs away screaming in disgust, as Wendy looks bewildered, and a crow asks the back-to-normal scarecrow where he's been the past few days. "I don't know, I just haven't felt like myself."

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July 24th, 2016

09:19 am: Dream Journal
I was with a group of soldiers on the eve of combat. Technologically we appeared to be in the present day, and the soldiers included men and women, but there was kind of a WWI vibe in the air.
One soldier, piqued at his commanding officer who he perceived as favouring another over him*, proposed a theoretical situation in which the commander had to directly choose between their lives: "what if you had to pick between her dying at fifty, or me at seventy?" I kept trying to point out that they were all in their early twenties, and at the front, both those options looked pretty good, and in any case the choice could be tabled for a few decades, but the question had struck everyone concerned as prophecy/bargain, and even as the situation shifted to running an SF convention, it haunted them. I took to spying on them, hacking emails in hopes of finding some resolution, though I only got as far as discovering that one death would take place in a French-speaking community in Florida (which would narrow things down, I guess.) And the signal was hard to pick out of the noise -- there was a kind of Facebook feed everywhere filled with photos of trees and squirrels and articles about what cologne a particular baseball player wore, etc.

*He may have been left over from the groups of protesting MRAs in an earlier dream, who kept blocking roads while wearing badly-done drag outfits.


July 23rd, 2016

09:12 pm: He liked ordinary things, and any day would have gladly bartered a murder for a case of chicken-pox
More vintage-mystery news: a few days ago I finally located some of H.C. Bailey's Reggie Fortune stories online -- the first collection, as it happens. Apparently the character appeared in around eighty stories, but all I've ever been able to find in hard copy is one short story in an anthology many years ago, and a reprinted novel (Black Land, White Land) some time in the past decade. I've finally been able to read a sizeable chunk of the stuff, and I'm not sure just how to describe it.

Mr. Fortune (a doctor who keeps getting consulted by the police, often to his annoyance) is usually described, when the stories are remembered at all these days, as a Lord Peter Wimsey knock-off, usually by people who hate Wimsey. I don't see the resemblance myself, except that he speaks in the odd slang of a certain type of 1920s upper-class character. YMMV, but for me this dialect is sufficiently removed in time that I can view it as period detail rather than an annoying affectation (casual racism is pretty much a given for this period, though the character who keeps being described as "the little Jew" becomes a trusted ally, and almost everyone lower-class or flamboyantly foreign turns out to have been wrongly suspected, which makes me wonder if Bailey was deliberately subverting cliche, or if I just got lucky in this collection).

Fortune's age in the first story is given as thirty-five. He is interested in wide variety of subjects; two that frequently come up are the theatre, and archeology. He is frequently described as neat and placid, almost too much so; he claims to have no imagination. Under his bland surface, he's got a rather fierce passion for justice. He doesn't put it into words until the novella that concludes the collection, but by that point we've seen him kill the murderer himself in one story, and possibly in a second one. Without being supernatural, there's something faintly numinous about the stories which escalates as they go on; by the last one in the book, Fortune is up against a killer he suspects is both methodical and profoundly unhinged, yet somehow the creepiest section is that in which he examines the victim's flat, a set of rooms curiously devoid of personality. There is a motive, but someone else must bring it forward to conclude the tale.


July 19th, 2016

07:57 am: Dream Journal
More often than not, when I try to recall and write down my dreams, it's a process of piecing together and imposing some kind of narrative on what was, at the time, a collection of drifting, looping images.

Last night, I was visiting an animation/game studio, founded many years before by two British doctors; presumably they already had had a good grasp of character anatomy. One of them was my friend Fiona's father (who is a doctor in real life, though afaik he has no interest in video games.) The other doctor was named Dudley Manlove. The name seemed familiar when I woke, and I googled it to find out that my subconscious had seen fit to name someone after a bit player from Plan 9 from Outer Space.
At the studio, I watched as various RC craft were flown and filmed for reference. Also they gave me a game which consisted of a bunch of tubes of scent -- the aim was to identify the studio staff by smell. Both of the founders apparently smelled like cough drops, but not the same brand.
Also (and this didn't really fit into the setting), a snake kept darting out of a tree and biting my hand. Luckily it was non-venomous.

Later, I had an appointment to visit a super villain HQ. The atmosphere was very similar to the games company. The doorman told me it was a great place to work, and cheerily assured me that the woman I'd come to see probably wouldn't kill me. For some reason I was putting on an elaborate early-1950s New Look getup. Another visitor barged ahead of me in line, a young man who I think was trying to join up. He kept gong on about how everyone was jealous and afraid of him. I woke up before I could see if the doorman was rolling his eyes at this like I was.

July 10th, 2016

06:10 pm: I don't have anything helpful to say about current events, so I took refuge in a secondhand copy of Walter Mosley's Little Scarlet, in which Easy Rawlins, the day after the 1965 Watts Riots, is drafted by the LAPD to catch the murderer of a Black woman before news of her death gets out and sparks more violence.

At least in books Easy can occasionally score for the forces of Neutral Good on an individual level, even if he can't do anything about a racist infrastructure.

Also Mosley, like Chandler, writes terrific atmosphere and makes every character interesting, even people who only show up for one scene. (Actually I think a lot of the background characters have storylines that stretch over several books -- the only other one I've read from this series was Black Betty, which had a far less straightforward plot, and a bunch of people from that one have moved on with their lives -- for instance Jewelle, the teen fleeing her abusive aunt, married the much older Mo Fass, has since been widowed, and is now a budding real-estate mogul in a relationship with con-man/actual genius Jackson Blue.)

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July 4th, 2016

10:06 pm: Dream Report
Forgot to write this one up this morning:

I was watching/reading a series about a school. The plots tended towards the fantastic but in varying degrees -- frex, one episode might involve some students becoming haunted after having remixed a hospital recording of a heartbeat into the music for a school dance; another episode might just be about a bake sale.

"I can't tell what decade this is set in," I said at one point. The technology and social mores seemed contemporary, but there were occasional touches that suggested the 1970s or earlier.

Just before I woke, the story involved one of the teachers, a chubby blond man who basically looked like a human version of Desk Sergeant Clawhauser from Zootopia, going through some historical-research notes. He was in a bar, after work, and another guy kept trying to flirt with him but he just kept going on about the importance of comparing primary sources. I think he even used the word epistemology.


June 29th, 2016

09:02 pm: It looks like someone got even with Henry Ford
 Andrew recently acquired a copy of <i>Just Imagine</i> (1930), a movie he last saw in 1980, the years it is set. I can see why he's always going on about it - This movie feels like the perfect early-'Thirties movie: Singing! Dancing! Rockets! Art Deco sets! Comedy Swedish accents! Women in extremely pre-Code costumes! Props and FX scenes that would be re-used in every SF movie or serial for at least a decade afterwards! Cocktails in pill form! 
As the first sound SF film, it's..... kind of a cross between <i>Metropolis</i> and a Marx Brothers comedy, with maybe a bit of <i><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bedbug">The Bedbug</a></i>. Single-O/Ole Petersen (El Brendel) is a man revived from a state of suspended animation that was somehow induced by a lightning strike in 1930. El Brendel's Swedish-immigrant schtick ought to be annoying, but somehow, maybe through sheer goofy good humour, it works. Unfazed by his situation, he is befriended  by J-21(John Garrick) and RT-42 (Frank Albertson), who want to appeal the Marriage Tribunal's refusal to let J-21 marry LN-18 (Maureen O'Sullivan). Somehow this leads to the three of them going to Mars, where the natives are friendly but all have evil twins. No, I don't get it either. There is a drinking song on a dirigible. This movie may have been filmed especially for <lj user="sovay" />.

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