Image: Michel Balasis

I was upset by something I saw on Facebook this past weekend. I won’t go into any details and I will never confront the individual, but I’m still thinking about it almost 24 hours later. It was just…mean. There’s no other word for it. Mean.

It’s possible that this person’s observations and remarks hit me so hard because I too, can be mean. I’ve tried to reign it in over the years. And I don’t think it’s that I am mean to someone’s face. But I have certainly been known to make a snide or snarky remark, sotto voce, or perhaps internet-dm-voce, to a circle of close friends or sisters, about someone who I think has done something dumb or foolish.

Maybe I thought I was making a funny observation. Maybe I thought I had some sort of point, hinging on some sort of principle. I don’t know. I’m not denying it, though. I can definitely be kinda bitchy, and I am not sure that I always recognize it for what it is when I am doing it, but when I see it in someone else…oooof. It is not a good look. It’s awfully ugly, as a matter of fact. And in seeing this, and drawing parallels with my own behavior, I begin to feel a deep sense of shame. No doubt this is why I can’t stop thinking about this other person. Because that’s been me, as well. More times than I can count.

Bernard Meltzer is credited with having offered the following:

“Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”

And granted, there’s nothing fun about keeping your mouth shut. The experience of someone laughing at your clever commentary can be a high, and certainly one that I can ride on all day long. And there’s nothing worse than someone pooh-poohing your fun, I know! “That’s not nice,” seems like such a weenie thing to say, or to hear, like having a bucket of water dashed in your face, when you’re being hilarious, or at least you think you are, and on a roll!

But…more and more I realize (and I’m pretty sure I have always known this, deep down, where my heart is supposed to be) that being cutting and contemptuous, disguised as clever, and at the expense of kindness and compassion…well it’s not being clever at all. It’s rude and shitty.

There’s nothing clever or cool about shitting on people who are just enjoying things and living their lives. You’re just mean. And you look like an asshole. And so do I.

Maybe let’s just say nothing next time. Or if we do, let’s be more discreet* about it.

*And here’s where maybe I am the biggest asshole of all. Am I upset because the person was so mean and shitty, or because they were so thoughtless about who might be reading their words? Am I suggesting that we keep our mouths shut, or that we read the room and know our audience if we choose to flap our mean girl mandibles?

As usual, I have no answer. Maybe it’s just best to write about these things, passive-agressively.

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You may have noticed that Unquiet Things has a new look. You have a keen eye! After about five years I think it was time for a change, don’t you? Many thanks to the folks at RecSpec for helping to shed our old form and emerge as something new, brimming with moody glooms and midnight blooms, but with an overall look and functionality that remains familiar, because let’s face it, we don’t like change very much.

A lot of blogs that I see recently just don’t look like a blog to me. They look more like a commerce site, like they are trying to sell me something. I suppose I am mentally and emotionally stuck in the look of the 2003-2008 era blog. Maybe before people realized they could monetize their content…they didn’t even view it as “content” yet perhaps, and they were just shouting into the void, hoping to make a connection. When blogs looked like blogs! So that’s my comfort spot. And “when blogs looked like blogs” is also maybe the dumbest sentence I’ve ever typed. Whatever! I know what I like!

 Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606–1683/1684), Vase of Flowers, c. 1660

Additionally, you have perhaps noticed I am posting more frequently than usual here in this blog space. Indeed, I am. For the month of February, I have challenged myself to create one blog post per day for the entirety of the month. I’ve got a few ideas, and a handful of things already scheduled, some snack-sized, and others more meal-shaped morsels. But you know, with words. Not food. But there might also be food! You know me.

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Finishing a thing–whether it’s a book, or a television show, a piece of writing, or, in this case, a knitting project, always makes me a little sad. This thing and I, we built something together, we took a journey together, traveled as companions, unraveled mysteries and solved problems together, we probably hit more than a few bumps in the road, and then… we reached the end of the line. Rewatching, re-reading that same story, recreating that sweater or shawl or whatever, it’s just not going to be the same as the first time we embarked upon and engaged with that experience. This reddit user sums it up pretty well.

And although holding a finished project in your hands is nice…that *thing* you’ve now got is never really the point. It was the stitches we made along the way, you know? And anyway, I don’t keep most of the things I knit, so having the thing after I have bound off the last stitch is definitely not the reason I knit it to begin with, and certainly not what kept me working on it for five months only to rip out the whole thing and turn it into something else entirely.

Whoa, that is strangely specific, isn’t it?

This is the Vedbaek shawl, which began its life as the Carlina sweater. I had knit up the entirety of the body and half of a sleeve when I decided it absolutely was not working for me, and I then proceeded to unknit the whole thing. I will confess that the demise of that sweater is one ending which did not make me at all sad.

In the process of taking that sweater apart, I was not able to unravel the yarn in one entire unbroken piece, and so there are several knots that poke through the pattern of the shawl now, in places where I had to tie the snipped pieced back together. I’m trying to convince myself that these imperfection add to the wabi-sabi rustic beauty of this piece, but I don’t know that I am entirely persuaded.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter! That project is bound off, pinned down, and stretched out, and there’s nothing more I can do with it. Furthermore, as soon as it is dry and and the ends are woven in, it’s going to surprise someone in the form of a parcel at their doorstep in the next week or two, and I will never have to see it again!

Unless, of course, this individual sends me a photo of it being draped or dangled or worn or used in some way, in which case I will be very happy to see* the beginnings of this finished thing’s next journey.

*P.S. if I have ever sent you something that I knit, I hope you will always feel free to share with me photos of you wearing it! Nothing delights me more do see how these projects live out their new lives.

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https://youtu.be/kHkp5PyBYzU

[Edit] Looks like that video above was taken down due to copyright violations. Hope you were able to see it while it was up on YouTube! Otherwise, maybe it will show up somewhere else. I realize it’s more a less a broken link, but I am leaving it there as evidence that it once existed.]

When I was young, oh maybe about five or six years old or so, one of my very favorite television shows was Benson. Which…was kind of a weird pick for a little kid. Not a cartoon or a fairytale or kid’s variety show, or even anything that I might typically watch now, as an adult–I think it was what I might refer to as a “classy comedy”, which some critics and reviewers note as being on par with MAS*H and Barney Miller. Neither of which I have ever watched, but so I can’t really comment on that!

I’m not sure how this sitcom came across my radar or what my mom thought about me watching it (she didn’t let us watch The Flintstones because she thought Fred Flinstone was an asshole) but somehow I guess Benson was okay.

Running from 1979–1986, Benson was a spin-off of Soap, a show which apparently parodied the melodramatic antics of soap opera families. Witty, sharp-tongued Benson DuBois is a former butler from Soap who becomes the title character in his own show, and the “director of household affairs,” to a bumbling state governor. Benson moves up in the world, becoming the state’s budget director, then lieutenant governor and eventually candidate for the executive mansion. I am not sure what on earth drew me to this show, but I loved Benson’s character so very much and wanted us to be the very best of friends. I thought he was silly and smart, and that he would be an amazing person to have on my side.

Up until the season 4 opener episode, “Death in a Funny Position,” Benson was just a funny, light-hearted television program that I looked forward to watching once a week and which made me laugh. Everything changed when I first saw this particular storyline, and I mean EVERYTHING.

As a little girl at that age, I don’t think had encountered many references to death at all, let alone any instances of it. And on a lesser note, I certainly didn’t realize that television shows had episode titles, to even pick up on this particular episode’s theme. I don’t think I really even comprehended the idea of a season of television. It was just an ongoing story, as far as I was concerned.

There were a lot of things I didn’t pick up on. Either due to my immaturity or just being an oblivious little person, in general (maybe both, I am still pretty oblivious as an adult and there are many things I don’t pick up on!) Re-watching a snippet of this episode just now, it’s clear they are setting it up as some sort of mystery, whodunit episode, but I don’t recall that as keeping in tone with the typical plots on Benson. And so you must understand that child-me was totally blindsided and shocked by what happened next. I thought this guy was declaring his romantic love to Miss Kraus, but instead, he was pleading for help because HE HAD BEEN STABBED IN THE BACK. The visuals of which I have tried to capture for you, above, but it’s awfully fuzzy and grainy.

As an aside, it’s just been in the past few days that I have been thinking of all of this, and if you look to see when the video was uploaded to YouTube, it was February 4, 2021–just two days ago! How weird is that?! Must be a sign from the universe! Definitely time to write this blog post you’ve been sitting on, Sarah.

I screamed and hollered right alongside Miss Kraus. I was in such a state of profound panic and extreme terror that if my mother had some sort of sedative, I am quite sure she would have administered it. What WAS that? WHAT HAPPENED? The guy was alive and then…then…he just WASN’T ALIVE?! And not only that, someone stuck a KNIFE in him? What was the point of that? What was the point of someone witnessing that (both Miss Kraus and me)? If this is what happens to that guy, is that what happens to all of us? And if so, what was the point of…anything?

Hoo boy.

I don’t think I ever quite recovered from that betrayal and loss of innocence, and I certainly never watched another episode of Benson. As an adult many decades later, sometimes I still question the point of anything. Of everything. But you know what? I think I am ready to forgive my old friend Benson, and finish watching this episode.

If you want to watch it as well, it’s a two parter! Here’s “Death in a Funny Position” part 2, below.

https://youtu.be/KLGndC97YEw

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5 Feb
2021

1. Amber Recycled Glass Vase from Terrain I’ve been obsessed with vases and vessels lately, and these handmade beauties are exactly what I’ve been looking for.

2. Samantha Pleet Banquet Dress Why look like a snack, when you can look like a whole goddamn feast?

3. Pyrrha Andromeda 14K Gold Goddess Talisman I’ve been enamored of Pyrrha’s wax seal jewelry, full of myth and meaning, for the longest time. I recently peeped at their Goddess collection and it was tough to choose between the empowering energies of all of these beautiful talismans, but how could I not go with the dreamy, heart-following light of Andromeda?

4. Aesop Hwyl Eau de Parfum In looking for smoky, campfire scents for a friend recently, I stumbled across a review for Hwyl, which, according to the perfumer, was inspired by the calming nature of Japanese forests and “walking among the remarkable 300-year-old Hiba trees in an ancient Japanese forest and experiencing the country’s lush temple moss gardens.” The reviewer’s succinct summation describes the fragrance as “the one that smells like Totoro’s home.” Enough said. Gimme!

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I used to love to share music with friends and would compile playlists on a weekly basis featuring the new, or new-to-me artists that I had uncovered. I both love music and I also love it when someone says, “hey, thanks for introducing me to this new band, I’d never heard of them!” I guess it’s a bit of an ego thing. I always want to be the reason that someone found out about something new and cool. I want credit for something. That’s probably an embarrassing confession, but it’s undeniable. It is also probably something to look at more closely and sit with for awhile, like why is that important to me, and what am I getting from that recognition? I don’t know the answer right now, but it’s a drive that’s compelled me for as long as I can remember.

Sometime in the past few years I’ve slowed down when it comes to seeking out and sharing new music. I don’t have the time for it that I once did, but aside from that, it’s possible I have become more comfortable with just listening to other people’s suggestions, recommendations or even whole-ass playlists. What a weird and dumb thing to think and write, but it’s like, hey, why not let someone else do all the work and get the credit for once? It doesn’t always have to be ME. And also, I don’t have to know everything, I can’t find or don’t have access to everything, so why not listen to someone else’s offerings now? Think of all that I have been missing while I was trying to do it all on my own!

HOWEVER. as part of something else that I will touch on at a later time (although I will note that it is an initiative having to do with revisiting old activities that I loved as an effort to keep myself off of social media) I kinda miss my eternal quest for fabulous new musicians, every-song-is-perfect new albums, and breathtaking new songs and pieces of music. And so I have slowly been dipping my toe back in, and thought I might include a handful of favorites here today.

But ok, wow. This is super frustrating. Apparently with whatever version of WordPress I am using, I can’t embed bandcamp albums. Boo! Stupid WordPress. Whatever. Anyway!

Demonologia by Mala Herba

Mala Herba on bandcamp

MALA HERBA is a solo project of a sound artist and queer music activist Zosia Hołubowska. Their sets fluctuate between minimal darkwave, experimental interpretation of Eastern- European traditional music, noise soundscapes, and dark techno. Demonologia “is peppered with allusions to Eastern European music, magic, herbalism, and demonology, combining these references with contemporary electronic music. The results are akin to a disco at a witchy ritual.” (I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing about music, so I realize I am pulling a lot of quotes here. This is from The Quietus.)

Painting the Roses by Midnight Sister

Midnight Sister on bandcamp

Pitchfork describes this duo’s sound as that of “disco extravagance with Old Hollywood glamour” and “lush, shape-shifting glam rock, orchestral pop, and breezy psychedelia.” Sounds about right. I concur,


Tomo Nakayama (Live on KEXP)

Tomo Nakayama on bandcamp

On weekends my partner and I will often share a bottle (or two, le whoopsie) of wine and stay up til the wee hours of the morning listening to music. We particularly love to find new artists and musicians through KEXP live shows.

Tomo Nakayama is a Seattle musician is and songwriter and his most recent album, Melon Day has been touted as an “exuberant synth-pop spectacular” and we just adore this guy. His offerings, to me, just feel so universally relatable. In “Get to know you,” Nakayama sings:

Tell me stories, tell me rhymes
Tell me anything you like
Tell me all about the good things
That could make you feel alive
Could be just one little spark
Just two strangers in the dark, honey
I’d like to get to know you
I’d like to get to know you now

…and this conjures so vividly for me the wonderful, exhilarating nostalgia of a first date wherein we went from coffeeshop, to restaurant, to bar and stayed out until 4 in the morning talking and laughing and learning all about each other the first time. Feels! Lots of them!

Bonus! A BPAL Playlist!

Lastly, the folks over at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab polled their fans with the question of what songs make them thing of BPAL scents. The results of this enquiry are reflected in this playlist. I think friends who have been listening to my mixes and playlists for a long time can probably pick out the song that I submitted! Any guesses?

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3 Feb
2021

Ok, yes, I get that you are probably reading books to learn stuff, and that’s the whole point. Like, you didn’t read that book about growing mushrooms not to pick up the finer points of the hobby, right?

But what I mean by this blog post’s title, “stuff you learn in books” is to indicate the unexpected tidbits that you come away from, the neat little surprises that come up in the pages, or between the author’s thoughts, and over the course of your experience with the book– those things you weren’t looking for, but when you saw them, you thought, “Huh! How about that?” Or “wow, that’s really interesting–I need to read more about THAT!”

I know there’s so many instances of this that pop up in my reading; for example I recall last year reading Carmen Maria Machado’s wildly creative memoir In The Dream House, recounting the emotionally scarring trauma of a psychologically abusive relationship, and at one point she references Amy Mann’s vocals and lyrics in the Til Tuesday Song “Voices Carry”. And I was like “wow, no way! I didn’t know that was Amy Mann!” And then I listened to that song non-stop for a week straight. Obviously not at all the point of the book, and I promise you I am totally aware of that, but I love these little eureka moments that pepper the path of your overall journey with a book.

I am currently reading The Houseguest and Other Stories by Amparo Davila, and if you are interested in hearing more about this little collection of strange tales, I do discuss it in my recent video, but what I wanted to share here today was this passage in the photo above wherein the narrator mentions a perfume that an ex-lover would wear. A fragrance called Sortilège by Galion, which I’d never heard of before. Was it a made-up scent, or was it at one time a real-life perfume? Does it still exist? Where can I find it? Can I purchase a bottle for myself??

Sortilège Ad by Claude Maurel

I love coming across little treasures like this! And yes, the perfume was/is real–I didn’t mean to imply that just because I had no knowledge of it, that didn’t mean it couldn’t possibly exist, ha! And though it looks to be reformulated, yes, one can still purchase a bottle of this “iconic fragrance of the House Le Galion and signature perfume of the famous Stork Jazz Club in New York in the 1930s…a floral aldehyde composition, a totally seductive fragrance full of history.”

I just consulted my reading notebook (which I also discuss briefly in the video referenced above), and here some other examples of things in which I have become interested or perhaps will do further research on because I had read mention of it in whatever book I was reading at the time:

The “Dark Star” expeditions in Uzbekistan

Arts of Inclusion, or How To Love A Mushroom

Goose of Hermogenes by Ithell Colquhoun

Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Unleashed: Of Poltergeists and Murder: The Curious Story of Tina Resch

What about you? What’s come up in your reading that you weren’t expecting, but which led you on merry chases and rabbit hole depths of research or discovery? Did you find out about a new pastry technique you’d never heard of? A wine from a certain region in Argentina? A musician or an artist? Please consider the comments to this post a place where you can stop by at any time–even years from now!– and share the weird and wild and wondrous things you learned of, but weren’t necessarily looking for, within the pages of a book. And if in doing so, you happen to stumble across the German word for this scenario (I mean, there’s got to be one, right?) please let me know!

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Some stuff and things that I’ve found interesting and/or insightful. It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these round-ups, it looks like the last one was over a year ago!

Short Horror Films by Women to Stream Right Now
Self-soothe with this video of a 120-year-old book of fairy tales being restored.
How Leonora Carrington Feminized Surrealism
Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village
Turkey embarks on cultural mission to preserve its fairytales
17 Iconic Fashion Moments in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Reconstructing the Menu of a Pub in Ancient Pompeii
Could Unsolved Treasure Hunts be the Answer to Pandemic Boredom?
100,000-year-old story could explain why the Pleiades are called ‘Seven Sisters’
I Just Want to Hang Out in the Wardrobe
HoloVista: Mixed Reality Magic
Geologists Discover Agate With Cookie Monster Hidden Inside When Split Open
How “Promising Young Woman” Refigures the Rape-Revenge Movie by Carmen Maria Machado
Things That Made Me Happy This Week from Victorian Hairworker, Courtney Lane
Thoughts On Blogging Every Day For A Month from Wyrd Words & Effigies
Octopuses sometimes punch fish out of spite

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On YouTube this week I shared my Ten Books I will be reading this Winter and Spring, along with various reading habits I’ve picked up over the years. I’m trying to make a habit of a corresponding blog post for these video offerings, for those who would prefer to read rather than watch. See below for all of the things I mentioned in the video!

I thought I might check in today and share with you the books I plan on reading over the next few months. If you caught my post over on Instagram, you may have noticed a stack of ten or so books that I shared, in the last week or so. Most of the titles included in that post are the ones I will be mentioning today, although I did make a few swaps for a book or two that I would prefer to read sooner rather than later.

A few people asked me if I was really reading all ten of them at once and the answer is yes! Sort of! Maybe. I didn’t begin each book on the same day, and I am not reading from all of them every day, but I am at least a chapter into each book on this list and some of them I have already finished.

This juggling several books at once is a habit I picked up while I was spending weekends caring for my grandmother before she died. When she was sleeping–which was most of the time–there wasn’t much that I could do for her, so I ended up bringing various projects and books with me to pass the time. Of course, more often than not, I found myself scrolling on my phone, which, while not only being pretty unproductive, I can also find looking at too much social media to be awfully detrimental. So I promised myself that after I spent half an hour reading a chapter from various books, usually a combination of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic novels, then I would allow myself a quick few minutes looking at my phone.

I found this very helpful with not only curtailing my screen time and making the day go a bit faster, I was also making headway with my TBR stacks and even getting into those books which had been sitting on my shelves and gathering dust for the longest time! And it’s a habit that I practice to this very day; when I set aside a portion of time for reading, unless it’s some sort of really riveting mystery or horror novel that I am compelled to read straight through, I typically do read a few chapters from a stack of 4-5 books. I find that keeps your mind constantly engaged and thinking and making connections, and as a writer, it’s the discovering and digging into those connections (which usually adds additional titles to your stack) which I find so fascinating and really, just an eternal source of inspiration. 

The Houseguest and other Stories by Amparo Davila

It’s difficult to say what these strange slice-of-life snippets are about, the characters are often fearful of something nameless, or if their dread and paranoia does appear to focus on something concrete, whatever that is, it probably won’t make any sense. I would suggest these ominous visions are best experienced in the lull of liminal hours for people keen on terse tales of unease and unidentifiable weirdness.

Strangers: Essays on the Human and Nonhuman by Rebecca Tamás

Strangers is an exploration of the world and our relationship with nature through a series of essays linking the environmental, the political, the folkloric and the historical. It felt like a deeply necessary, urgent read for all human people anywhere along their their journey, who wish to experience life and living in a profoundly intimate and compassionate way. There is one particular essay about a cockroach that I highly recommend. And that is a sentence I never could have foreseen myself typing out.

 HABIT NO.2 This second habit that relates to my reading is that I always keep a notebook and a pen nearby when I’m engrossed in a book. Whether it’s to jot down an unfamiliar word or turn of phrase, to capture a phrase or sentiment that particularly ensnared my heart or set my imagination alight, or make notes on this, that or the other interesting tidbit or topic for further research, I have found my booknotes absolutely essential to deepening my experience of and engagement a story while I’m reading it. Equally as important, I revisit the thoughts and words I’ve recorded there for inspiration in my own writing when I am working on various projects.

Perfect Blue by Yoshikazu Takeuchi

I was reminded of having rented from Blockbuster (!!) and watched Perfect Blue many many years ago when I recently spied it on someone’s goodreads list and realized that the film I had seen was either originally based on a book, or that there was a book adaptation of the film. Intrigued, I found a copy online and probably paid too much for it, because it is not easily available. For those unfamiliar, the basic premise is that there is a cute Japanese pop idol, Mima who is working to transform her image to something a little more mature and risque, and this does not sit well with an obsessed fan who desperately wants her to remain “pure” and thinks he has a plan to save her soul. After finishing the book I immediately had to rewatch the movie because aside from the very basic plot I just gave you, they are handled so differently. The movie (directed by Satoshi Kon, who also did the fantastically bizarre Paprika) was a surreal psychological thriller in which there are actually several characters who are experiencing unraveling mental states or are losing/have lost their grip on reality. It’s not just got an eerie vibe, it’s downright sinister feeling in certain scenes. The book itself is much more straight-forward in terms of being a stalker/slasher story. If you like twisty and thinky and strange, go for the movie. If you like twisted and gruesome served straight up, then go for the book.

Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power by Sady Doyle

Though I am not very far into this book by essayist, social critic, and culture buff Sady Doyle, I can tell you two things. A history and examination of the patriarchal and misogynistic fear of “monstrous” women, covering everything from literature and cinema to mythology, religion, history and current events through the lens of a brilliant –and funny!– writer is right up my alley and two, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has created an incredible collection of scents inspired by this book and the monstrous feminine archetypes which perpetually recur in storytelling. They are all really incredibly interesting fragrances and they are still available for purchase.

 HABIT NO.3 So, I was at one time what you might consider an absolute and utter monster, and I used to dog-ear my books to mark my page! But no more! I have become a major bookmark enthusiast and I have an entire box on my shelf devoted to them. As I’ve mentioned in previous videos, I am a passionate art collector, and when any of my favorite artists releases a version of their work in a bookmark format, I will always grab one. Aside from that, I recycle the postcards and notecards and greeting cards sent from friends and use them to mark my place in a book as well. I’ve got quite a surplus at this point and whenever I gift a book I always slip one of these tiny pieces of art in the pages to accompany it. Oh! And if you have an instax camera, those snaps make great little gifts.

Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary by Briana Saussy

An idea that’s become a way of life for me (though it’s been a long journey in becoming so) is that there are potential portals to magic that permeate every instant of our lives if we slow down, take notice of them, and actively choose to think of them as such. Our everyday routines are more than just rote habit, they can truly be sacred rituals, full of pleasure and meaning. In Making Magic, Briana Saussy speaks directly to this belief and writes of how magic is found at the very roots of our experience. Magic doesn’t have to be this arcane, abstract thing– belongs to everyone, and it is a part of everyone’s actual lineage. Filled with exercises, hands-on work, and guided journaling, it helps us to remember and reimagine how to engage with the extraordinary in your everyday life. 

The Weird and the Eerie by Mark Fisher

I originally learned of this author on an episode of the Faculty of Horror podcast in which hosts Andrea Subasatti and Alex West were the 2007 Steven King adaptation movie, The Mist. Which I don’t know about you, but that’s a bleak masterpiece and it’s probably one of my top ten favorite films of all time. I’ve not read any of Mark Fisher’s works, nor had I heard of him before this podcast, but I believe he was an academic, a theorist and philosopher, who often wrote on dark and difficult subjects, and I am sad to learn is no longer with us, as he passed in 2017. The Weird and the Eerie offers discussion of the literary styles that one might describe as ‘weird’ or ‘eerie’ and which can be found in forms of fantastic fiction. I am not very far along into it and I have a suspicion that this is going to be one of those difficult reads that is even more of a struggle to discuss (especially if you are someone, like me, who is lacking in an academic background), but for purposes of clarification and because I found it interesting, here’s something I read in an article about Fisher’s differentiation of these two terms:
“…..the weird should be understood as that ‘which does not belong’, most commonly finding expression in ‘the conjoining of two or more things which do not belong together’ (10–11). The eerie, on the other hand, indicates a different type of affect – one that is not so much about the terrifying intrusion of something that does not belong, but more often with a frightening absence where one would expect a presence.” (Source)

Witch Hunt: A Traveler’s Guide to the Power and Persecution of the Witch by Kristen J. Sollée

If you have read this wondrously knowledgeable scholar, historian, and second-generation witch’s previous offerings,Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive, and Cat Call: Reclaiming the Feral Feminine, then no doubt you were over the moon to learn of her most recent title, Witch Hunt. A hybrid travel guide and memoir which at points dips into the realms of historical fiction, Witch Hunt reflects research gleaned from travels to seven countries, forty-five cities, towns, and villages. Through her intrepid adventures across Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom Sollee explores the fraught and fascinating history of these haunting figures from the past and uncovers how the archetype of the witch has been rehabilitated as a symbol of power.  

 HABIT NO.4 I don’t think we can talk about cozying up with a book–or at least I can’t anyway–without the very important discussion of what snacks accompany your stories. When I was young I used to pilfer oyster crackers or saltines from the kitchen cupboard and stuff them under my pillow to nibble on when I was rereading Harriet the Spy for the umpteenth time. When I was old enough to buy my own snacks I would pour a combination of various snack sized baggies of cheetos and doritos and funyuns into a bowl and munch on what my sisters called a “Sarah Special,” while I read Stephen King, and sure, mock all you like, but to this very day I maintain it’s a delightful treat!

As an adult who is more concerned with appearances than I was as a teenager, I’m too embarrassed to be seen shopping for things that coat your fingers in orange dust, so instead I make a big batch of popcorn, drizzle it in butter, and sprinkle it with salt, nutritional yeast and nori for a savory, salty, crunch snack that is only slightly less embarrassing and if you saw how much of it I can put away in one sitting you’d see what I mean by this.

Foreshadow: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing YA by Emily X. R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma

Editor Emily X.R. Pan shares in the book’s introduction that Foreshadow is an ode to the short story, and that what makes this medium of story-telling so remarkable, is how the author must sharpen the experience of a story, condense it into something powerful. They must take all of the things that make a good novel and compress it into a neat little package. She further reveals that when we “tell the blank page a story…. it will tell you who you are.” and that “always, there is something of the author preserved like a fossil in amber –you can see it so much more clearly because the story is sliced so thin.” If this sounds like the editors of this collection are excited at the opportunity to celebrate unique young adult short stories and showcase underrepresented voices in the genre, and if that is getting you excited too, I think that excitement pays off in the luminous and fantastical stories they’ve chosen to include. What makes this book even more special is that after each offering the editors take a closer look at the techniques employed in the story, highlighting different aspects of the craft, and in addition to that, there are writing prompts and interviews with the authors about their processes and inspiration. 

A sonnet to science: Scientists and their poetry by Sam Illingworth

In Edgar Allan Poe’s “Sonnet – To Science” the poet’s laments the dangers of scientific development and its negative implications for poetry and creativity. Illingsworth, an expert at the forefront of the intersections of science and poetry disagrees with these sentiments, noting that the more we find out about science, the more we realize what a beautiful and incredible world we live in. With this book and its accounts of six groundbreaking scientists who also write poetry, he is attempting to determine whether these disciplines are complementary, whether scientists who embrace poetry were also increasing their understanding of the world, expanding their language and thereby their capacity to communicate their science to others.

Unknown Language by Huw Lemmey (Author), Hildegard von Bingen

For those who are unfamiliar with this individual, Hildegard Von Bingen was a 12th century mystic, scientist, composer, herbalist and inventor of one of the earliest known constructed languages by a woman. Educated from the age of eight at a Benedictine monastery at and later becoming an Abbess, Hildegard experienced prophetic visions since childhood and spent many years writing the visionary works. She is a truly fascinating human in many respects but I’ll be honest here– I am a few pages into this into this “mutant fiction of speculative mysticism” wherein the works of Hildegard von Bingen have been reimagined in a novel format and I have got no clue as to what the heck is going on. So I am going to cheat and read to you the back of the book. I’m also going to link to a very interesting interview with Lemmey if you’re interested in reading more about this author’s “collaboration” with Hildegard von Bingen.

“In this story of survival and miracles, Hildegard encounters love, both queer and divine, and great peril. As the visionary healer travels through the unfamiliar landscape following a great cataclysm, she discovers the mythic quantum energy of viriditas in the natural world around her. Her journey becomes one of return, to the sacred truth of her own being.”

I am going to further cheat by sharing with you what I messaged a friend, shortly after beginning this book:
“I am reading this and getting spectacularly excited and emotional and I don’t know why because I don’t understand any of it! But it’s like my little cells and atoms are all crowding together and jumping over each other in a frenzy, shouting I KNOW THIS I KNOW THIS! I feel them bubbling and boiling in my blood because I bet they DO know something and my brain just hasn’t figured it out yet!”

 HABIT NO.5 I suppose this last habit is more of a compulsion, really. When I finish a book, I IMMEDIATELY have to begin a new one. No waiting! I get antsy and irritable and weird if I don’t have my next read lined up and ready to go after the final page of the previous book has turned. 

So what are you reading now and over these next few chilly winter months? What are your reading habits–good, bad, weird or otherwise?

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Artist: Anneke Wilder

A gathering of death-related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From heart-rending to gut-splitting (sometimes you gotta laugh, you know?) from informative to insightful to sometimes just downright weird and creepy, here’s a snippet of recent items that have been reported on or journaled about with regard to death, dying, and matters of mortality.

Previously: {January 2020}|{January 2019}| {January 2018} | {January 2017} | {January 2016}

💀 Claudia Crobatia Is Getting Ahead Of Death

💀 Maori Ancestors Are Coming Home

💀 What is ‘Toxic Positivity’ in Grief?

💀 How to Hold a Virtual Memorial Service

💀 Things I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You About Your Funeral

💀 Lost touch: how a year without hugs affects our mental health

💀 Deaths keep coming at one L.A. hospital as workers weep

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