Archive of ‘reviews’ category

The void and the fire: Maggie Nelson’s Bluets

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Behold the stack of poetry that I have been working through for over a year now! Some of them are more recent acquisitions, some recommendations from friends, a few were purchased on a whim and tucked away for another time. Perhaps to forget about, and then stumble upon sometime in the future, on a rainy afternoon. Or a sunny afternoon during which I will dim the lights and draw the shades and pretend like the intermittent cycles of the dishwasher are the onslaught of a summer sudden storm.

Pictured: Dark Matter // Objects For A Fog Death // Bluets // Glowing Enigmas // The Collected Poems Of Chika Sawgaga // The Moon Is Always Female // Complicated Grief // The Book Of Nightmares // Cemetery Nights // Mad Honey Symposium

In truth, so far I have only read two of these volumes of poetry: The Moon is Always Female by Marge Piercy  and Bluets by Maggie Nelson (though I just started the Chika Sagawa book yesterday…it is elusive and fascinating, and will no doubt bear multiple reads.)

The Moon Is Always Female is perhaps best left for another time; months later I am still digesting the potent, revelatory lessons I squirreled away whilst reading it. Piercy, in a voice earthy and strong and brimming with joyful humor, writes of longings, warnings, and dreams–and with a sense of absolute, empowering conviction that made me want to rejoice in laughter and song, scream in triumph. Someone on the internet commented that they thought this collection seemed “dated” (it was published in 1980) and I must disagree with every fiber of my being. It’s an intensely energizing read that I foresee engaging and inspiring women 50 years from now.

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Much like my favorite volume of poetry last year, Bluets was initially suggested to me by Pam Grossman, and I am so grateful that she shared the recommendation with me.
I am, however,  sad to say that in thumbing through Bluets now I am disappointed to see that I did not mark pages or underline passages; nothing to indicate that there was something that struck me as profound or which gave me pause for reflection that I’d like to revisit and re-read. Though I know marking up books in such a way is frowned upon by some people, I personally have no problem with it. They’re my books aren’t they? I’ll underline and asterisk and highlight as I please!  I personally find pristine books highly suspect. Regardless, my unblemished copy of Bluets remains a rare treat. Perhaps the lack of scribbled notes and underlined text is because there was so much in it to love and I could not isolate and elevate any particular passage over the others.

It is written as a series of small vignettes–numbered lists, really–exploring reflections upon the color blue and the connections that Nelson draws between those collected observations and her own experiences.

“1. Suppose I were to tell you that I had fallen in love with a color”, she begins.

From a reader’s perspective, it presents as a collector’s secret diary of sorts, whose pages offer glimpses of morbid heartbreak, pervasive loneliness, pain both artistic and physical, ecstatic grief, and deep sadness, as well as compassion, beauty, and fleeting joy. These confessions are collaged together with all manner of scraps and detritus relating to every blue in the spectrum, consulting numerous writers, artists and thinkers along the way.

156. Why is the sky blue? -A fair enough question, and one I have learned the answer to several times. Yet every time I try to explain it to someone or remember it to myself, it eludes me. Now I like to remember the question alone, as it reminds me that my mind is essentially a sieve, that I am mortal.

157. The part I do remember: that the blue of the sky depends on the darkness of empty space behind it. As one optics journal puts it, “The color of any planetary atmosphere viewed against the black of space and illuminated by a sunlike star will also be blue.” In which case blue is something of an ecstatic accident produced by void and fire.”

I read a review of Bluets wherein Nelson is accused of indulgent navel-gazing, and my response to that is: “…and? So?”.  That’s what poets do, isn’t it?  A poet, I think, is its own favorite subject, and that’s precisely as it should be. Evan J. Peterson writes “The poet is stereotyped as a different kind of pervert, one who enjoys the depths of his own navel and the taste of his own toes, and furthermore, one who wants everyone to know this about him.” Just so!

A handful of readers have noted that they are able to pick this book up and peruse these pages willy-nilly, in no particular order, but I think you are doing yourself a disservice to treat it like that sort of a read.  These writings have a flow, wherein one thought or recollection or recounting of facts leads into the next and though sometimes the connections between them are fragile, tenuous–they still exist. To skip around is to lose the link, and I believe that’s where precisely where the magic, the blue-tinged marrow is found. Not in the bittersweet experiences she shares, and not in the facets or features or characteristics of the color, but in how she links all of these things together.

“238. I want you to know, if you ever read this, there was a time when I would rather have had you by my side than any one of these words; I would rather have had you by my side than all the blue in the world.

239. But now you are talking as if love were a consolation. Simone Weil warned otherwise. “Love is not consolation,” she wrote. “It is light.”

240. All right then, let me try to rephrase. When I was alive, I aimed to be a student not of longing but of light.”

 

The complicated wallpapers of grief: The Midnight Swim

ms6Sometime last year  I became aware of a film which instantaneously piqued my interest…and, as unfortunately happens quite frequently with me, I promptly forgot about it. Later, in trying to recall the title or even what about it I found so compelling, I could only offer, “…well…it was about some sisters…and their dead mom. I think there was a lake.”

Scoff if you like, but I will have you know that was just enough vague information to find the film again. Directed by Sarah Adina Smith, The Midnight Swim is summarized thusly:  “When Dr. Amelia Brooks’ three daughters travel home to settle her affairs after she disappears in Spirit Lake, they find themselves drawn to the mysterious body of water.”

The Midnight Swim is told in found footage, faux-documentary style and takes place mostly at the estranged sister’s mother’s lake house in Iowa. I’ve seen it labeled everything from horror to fantasy to sci-fi, but I wouldn’t classify it as any of these, really.

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I suppose you could say it is a bit of a character study in the aftermath of a loss. Annie seems to be the oldest and the dependable one, Isa is a bit of a woo woo free-spirit, and June, the youngest, is mostly behind the camera, filming the sister’s homecoming and dealing with their mother’s disappearance (and death, we are to assume) for a documentary–one which I think is mostly in her head. June, as we find out later, is troubled, and suffers from unspecified mental issues.

You could perhaps also say that it is somewhat a mystery, for the mysterious atmosphere is pervasive throughout the film, and an ominous tension begins to build after the sisters, recalling a bit of local folklore, attempt to drunkenly conjure a spirit from the lake–one of the seven sisters who supposedly drowned within many years before, each unsuccessfully trying to save the other. Strange things begin to happen: dead birds turn up inexplicably on the doorstep every morning, time lapse footage of the lake is found on June’s camera with no one admitting to having filmed it, and throughout it all, the shadow of their absent mother looms uneasily and mostly unspoken.

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There’s not much in the way of a plot here, nor is there a conventionally satisfying resolution (which is not to say that I did not enjoy it.) What I did enjoy immensely was the sisters’ companionship and camaraderie. They rekindle their connection almost effortlessly, even though it’s obviously been some time since they have all been together, and if you have sisters whom you adore, this is a particular joy to see.  Even the uncomfortable moments, the sullen, weighty silences and the heated arguments–there’s such vulnerability and love there. This, to me, is the most enthralling and captivating aspect of the film.

There is a specific scene wherein the sisters and their neighbour (who seemed an unnecessary addition to the film, in my opinion) are playing in their mother’s clothes; dressing up as her and acting out her eccentricities and idiosyncracies.  Annie takes a “goodnight, children” scenario a bit too far–no doubt fueled by some traumatising memories and re-living that very situation from when she was a child–and the effect on the sisters is heartbreaking and no doubt triggering for many viewers. I have encountered and probably even instigated this moment with my own sisters in the wake of our complicated grief surrounding our own mother’s death, and no doubt we will re-live this scene again, and again, and again.

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What does any of this have to do with wallpaper patterns? To be honest, I don’t rightly know, but they caught my eye throughout the film and it somehow became entangled in my mind with the idea of absent mothers and complicated grief.  From the opening sequence, with June staring moodily in her childhood bed against that robin’s egg blue paper with the multicolor florals to that more modern feeling beige with white floral silhouettes–I don’t know, I just feel like it’s all there for a reason.

The film is currently streaming on netflix and is also on amazon, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find.

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Christie Shinn’s Sepulchre

828883_c75172cd9b654d0a920e673603c2c107If Christie Shinn’s name sounds familiar to you, no doubt you are recalling my brief review last month of the bloody, demented Caligula Imperatore Insanum, for which she was the illustrator. Today I am pleased to be taking a look at another one of her offerings, Sepulchre Volume 1. I won’t call this a review, per se, because I don’t want to give away the story or any plot points!

Gorgeously stark and atmospheric, a violent tale of deliberate betrayal, personal tragedy , and vengeance, Sepulchre takes place “In a world of swords, bullets and blood”  where our main character,  Lady Jaye Hawke, is “betrayed by the one she loved the most, and seeks to avenge that treachery.” 

Some time back I had the opportunity and distinct pleasure to view the first few pages and what I saw piqued my interest tremendously–when I tell you it was both a gut punch that rendered me breathless and left an unforgettable vision seared into my retinas, I am not exaggerating. Without a doubt it left me trembling, intrigued and yearning for the rest of the story. The beginning of this tale grips you instantaneously, and I’ll say no more than that.

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Lady Jaye Hawke has a story to tell, that we know for certain. However due to tragic and an as-of-yet not entirely explained backstory and circumstances, she is left without a voice to do so. Instead, her narrative unfolds through her actions and expressions. Her emotions, fraught with sorrow and fury, hysteria and despair, are passionately illustrated by Shinn in dramatic blacks, whites, and red, and convey to the reader more than mere words ever could.

This is going to be a tale of revenge, we can see that’s where this is heading, and I am all about enthusiastically meting out punishment to monsters who betray us… but I am hoping there are moments of redemption, as well. It is rare that I fall so completely in love with a character that I know so little about, but I’ve glimpsed enough to see that Lady Jaye Hawke is empathetic and has kindness in her heart, so I want to see this play out in a way that doesn’t leave her brutish or monstrous, herself.

If you are interested in picking up Sepulchre for yourself, please visit Christie over at HoraTora Studios for a copy, and be certain to take a look at her projects while you are there. In the meantime you can to peek in on her over on twitter or Instagram to see what else she is up to!

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All fixed up: Stitch Fix Review #whatever

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Tart Anahi blazer and 41 Hawthorn blouse

It was over a year ago (late February of 2015, actually) that I received my first Stitch Fix box and though it’s been a lot of fun, I think I’m ready to cancel my subscription.

I had been documenting every shipment that I received, just to sort of keep track of what I was receiving and the pieces that I really liked, so if you are curious or want to have a look back, here you go:

Stitch Fix Box 1 // Stitch Fix Box 2 // Stitch Fix Box 3 // Stitch Fix Box 4 // Stitch Box 5 // Stitch Fix 8 // Stitch Fix 9&10 (somehow I skipped a few–whoops!)

I had initially wanted a Stitch Fix subscription because over the years my wardrobe had somehow become a pit of despair which consisted chiefly of black tee shirts.  Now, don’t get me wrong–if it were up to me I would be wearing all black tee shirts all the time, but, as it happens, I am occasionally required to attend professional functions and sometimes there are social gatherings which call for something fancier, along with–oh dear!–a spot of color, as well.  So, I really just needed a few things to supplement my wardrobe for these infrequent situations. And to be honest, I really, REALLY hate shopping for those kinds of items.  Blazers, work tops and skirts, professional function attire–ugh. However…if someone picks out a handful of things for me and says “Here! Pick one!” that is really a perfect scenario, and that is, in a nutshell, what Stitch Fix offers.

Nearly a year later I have got way more than I need, and so I think it is time to either call it quits or put the subscription on hold. I’ll be honest, though…the novelty still hasn’t worn off! I always thrill at the “Your Fix has shipped!” email, and I’m so eager to see what my stylist has picked out for me. Usually there is at least one thing that is either really pretty or super functional, and after about 6 months with this particular stylist, I think she’s really nailed it, as far as my style and personality go (lots of dark stuff but with sneaky color accents, florals, paisleys, weird prints).

Since I haven’t been keeping up with the reviews and the show-and-tells, I thought I’d just share some of the pieces I’ve gotten over the last few months that I kind of loved. All dark florals and paisleys, for the most part, and a really lovely blazer. Also, but not pictured are a pair of the highly coveted Margaret M Emers, which are sort of like a combination of work pants and leggings–which, I know, it sounds awful–but they are all the great things everyone says about them and more.  They are a pull on type of pant, but they are a more structured material so they don’t sag or cling too much. It turns out that they are wonderfully comfortable but you actually feel like you are wearing an honest-to-god pair of pants.  I swore I wouldn’t look twice at these things, but now I actually own two pairs because I requested (okay: begged) that my stylist send me the boot-cut version.

Unfortunately…I didn’t keep the style cards for several of these items, so I can’t include the details or the prices.  Of course, if you are a Stitch Fix subscriber, you can always just pin the images to your Stitch Fix-themed Pinterest board and point your stylist to it, and she can probably figure it out!

To sum up, I would say that I’ve definitely been pleased with the service and I’ll probably keep it for a quarterly wardrobe refresh or something like that. I would recommend that you try them out if you have the same wardrobe issues as I do, which is to say that you hate shopping for professional attire and you think it’s a dumb, fruitless endeavor and it reminds you of the stuff you never have time to do because you’re always working. Like learning how to embroider or play the ukelele or graverobbing or whatever.  So let someone else do it for you!

Of course I’d rather be buying something from Hogan McLaughlin’s dark, poetic 2016 collections, but let’s be real here, I can’t get away with mingling with a gaggle of HR professionals in this. Sigh.  The world is a very sad place, indeed.

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41 Hawthorne sleeveless blouse (pictured above)

Gentle Fawn Valterra crochet detail top

Alice Blue floral lace up blouse

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Tart Anahi blazer (pictured above)

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Market & Spruce floral tank dress

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Fun2Fun paisley blouse ( I despise the dopey name of this brand)

Long Live the New Foot Flesh* (a Baby Foot foot peel review)

IMG_1142*First, let me give credit to Ben, who made that foot flesh comment over on facebook.

I am going to lead into this review with an “after” photo.  Otherwise, I am afraid I might scare folks away before they’ve even read the first sentence.  Or perhaps I do not give you enough credit for your iron stomachs and your willingness to delve into the depths of disgusting foot molt with me?  Honestly, this kind of stuff doesn’t really gross me out, and in my postings of this process over on Instagram I’ve found that most people are actually more fascinated than repulsed (or perhaps a titillating combination of both) and so I will stop treating you with kid gloves and just get on with it!

I don’t think I had ever read up on foot peels, or the Baby Foot brand specifically, until I saw a brief mention of it over at EauMG (and let me forewarn you–I never, EVER, come away from Victoria’s blog without desperately coveting and usually ordering something she has mentioned over there.  This visit was no different, as you will see.)

Once the seed was planted, I could not NOT try it.  A disgusting corporeal transformation occurring right before my very eyes?  Body horror delights to photograph and document, with which to freak people out?  Oh, yes, please!  As an aside, I don’t know what is wrong with me.  I have a long history of being in love with grossing people out.  So, my apologies…sort of.  But not really.  At all.

You can find this stuff for about $20 a box, and it is a one use thing.  How does it work? Well, it’s a chemical peel for your feet. The ingredients list mainly fruit acids, but also the stuff you’d typically find in a chemical peel: glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids, as well as alcohol. According to Baby Foot, all you do is wash and soak your feet, apply the booties, wash off, then wait. In five to seven days, the peeling should begin.

A few tips from bloggers and reviews throughout the peel-o-sphere: set aside an evening for it.  Wash and clean your feet and soak them in warm water for a good, long time.  Set up a little area for yourself on the sofa or your desk or where ever, and make sure you’ve got everything you need within reach for at least the next hour or so, because you are kind of going to be stuck.Stick your feet into the gloopy, acid filled booties, tape them up, pull on a pair of house socks over them (just to keep everything warm and snug, I presume) and sit tight for the next 60 minutes while you knit or read or watch a movie or tweet your absurd thoughts on twitter or whatever it is you do to keep busy. Note: those are all of the things I did.

Some folks keep it on past the hour mark, but I did not.  To be honest at 45 minutes, things started feeling like they were heating up, in an almost uncomfortable way.  I de-booted myself after exactly one hour, rinsed and dried my feet thoroughly, put on a clean pair of socks, and went to bed.

day one

DAYS ONE AND TWO.  No change.  But you can see that my heel is kind of tough and calloused looking. When I stir and shift at night, in bed, I can hear it rassssssp against the sheets and it’s pretty mortifying. What you can’t see is the really tough patch of skin on the side of my big toes.  All in all, I guess my feet aren’t too jacked up…but I like to wear sandals, and it is my belief that one’s feet must be fantastic looking for those sorts of shoes.  Also note my terrible tattoo that a budding artist gave me when I was about 17.  Tattoo artist friends! I’d love to collaborate with you on a cover up one day. Let’s talk!

day two

DAY THREE. Many bloggers and reviewers note that they are soaking their feet every day during this process, and me, well.  I am not.  I am both lazy and yet I somehow do not have time for that.  And anyway, I figure that my feet are sitting in a shallow bit of water for 10-15 minutes every time I shower, so that’s going to have to be good enough. And truly, as you can see here, I am not certain it really matters all that much. By day three things are starting to happen, as evidenced by the action occuring just below my toes.

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DAY FOUR. The Cronenbergian Baby Foot experiment intensifies, slightly. The peeling has also begun to start on my toes and is creeping down the outside of my sole.

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DAY FIVE. Shit is getting real and things are looking pretty leprous up in here.  I am wearing socks everywhere to avoid actively shedding my disgusting former foot skin all over the floor, everywhere that I walk. This just about kills me, as I like my toes to wiggle freely.

Day 5

DAY SIX. I had absolutely no idea I was so utterly, gloriously disgusting. Look at the molting majesty of my foot, gaze upon its vile splendor! IT IS SO GROSS AND I LOVE IT. Several folks at this point asked if it hurt at all, and I am being perfectly honest when I say that I didn’t feel a thing.  This all could have been happening to someone else’s body, for all the discomfort that it caused me (none). Also, many people exclaimed incredulously that they could not believe I was not picking at it.  Well, I did pick, a little bit.  When there was a long, delicious strip of ragged skin,  tattered and barely hanging on, I did give it a gentle tug to loosen it.  If it broke off, great. I threw it away.  If not, I left it alone and stuffed my repulsive appendage back in my sock.

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DAYS SEVEN AND EIGHT. By day seven, most of that rag-tag business had fallen off in my socks over night. The bottoms of my feet were mostly free of dead skin. Now there is some interesting business happening on the tops of my feet– they had gotten a bit flaky and ashy and my toe-knuckles (is there a word for this?) had started peeling.  There really was nothing awful about these parts of my feet to begin with, but curiously enough, I think this stage took the longest to cycle through.

AFTER

TWO(ISH) WEEKS LATER. My raspy heels are totally gone, along with my horned big toe. However, I know that this is going to require maintenance which, let’s face it, I will probably never keep up with. The bottoms of my feet are quite a bit smoother and the tops of my feet actually do feel like that proverbial baby’s bottom.

I am sad to report, that Baby Foot did not give me freakishly disproportionate, actual baby’s feet attached to my ankles, so I am afraid that the product name is a bit misleading.

However, if you desire soft, lovely feet that look like they’ve never done a day’s work and if you like disgusting science experiments coupled the unease of body horror as it relates to your own body–I cannot recommend this highly enough.  It satisfies on both the side of money well spent on a beauty product and the personal obsession with weird stuff and things to share with people. Win win!

It must be noted that you should purchase this from a seller or site you trust.  I have linked directly to the product I ordered and I had no problems with it whatsoever.  If you are the kind to get freaked out by Amazon’s one star reviews, though, you’ll find some doozies. The short answer is to order from where ever you feel most comfortable.

Have you used Baby Ffoot, or any chemical foot peel at all?  Feel free to weigh in with your experiences…and I am sure I don’t have to tell you…the more disgusting, the better!

Note: this is not I paid or sponsored or whatever-you-call-it review.  I purchased this product honestly with money that I stole from someone else.