June 24th, 2011

blacklick goblin

Winter Is Here. (65)

The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin.

Icicle castle,
winter's white jack-o-lanterns,
better than snowmen!

Yep, this is definitely a children's book by the author of the Game of Thones series. That is absolutely what it is. If I told you "George R.R. Martin wrote a book for kids called The Ice Dragon!" you might jokingly reply "what, is it a book about a grisly encroaching winter & dealing with the horrors of war?" To which I can only answer in antiphon: "that is exactly what this book is about." This book predates A Song of Ice & Fire by a bit, & it prefigured it in a lot of ways. Winter hangs over everything, though without the seasonal aberrations of Westeros. War is a force that disrupts lives & ruins people. Dragons are in it. Heck, dragons are involved with the seasonal cycle-- the snow dragon is wrapped up with cold weather in the same way the Others are, & unless I miss my guess with A Song of Ice & Fire a clash between dragon's fire & Other's ice is inevitable in the endgame. So yes, the book tugs a little on the heart-strings, yes it goes to some pretty dark places. What did you expect? It is always nice to see a kid's book that has the guts to get grim-- to get Grimm-- these days. I quite liked it.
mano negra

S Rioghail Mo Dhream. (66)

Victorian Occultism and the Making of Modern Magic by Alison Butler.

Black Rose, Thelema,
& Dawn is the Golden Rose
What's Gordon's Blue Rose?

I really enjoy a more scholarly look at the occult than the sort of participatory paradigm of something like Greenwood's Anthropology of Magic, so Victorian Occultism... really worked for me. Give me Jay's Throughout Your Generation Forever or Carlo Ginzburg's Ecstasies any day of the week, you know? Some meat for me to really sink my teeth into. Butler hits a home run here-- the scope is Victorian Occultism, but really that more or less translates to The Golden Dawn. Right off the bat, before we get out of the introduction, Butler defines her working terms:
    [M]agic is a particular way in which an individual interprets & participates in existence. This particular way is based upon an ordering of the universewhich enables the individual, once he/she has knowledge of this ordering, to interact directly with the universe & to manipulate aspects of this universe through the appropriate correspondences & through the use of the individual's will & imagination. This interaction & manipulation may or may not involve intermediary beings & such beings may or may not being supernatural (xii).
Once you wrap your head around the academic tone of it, I think it is a pretty good rubric, especially as the move into Victorian magical systems sheds things like John Dee's seer Edward Kelley in order to work directly with the supernatural a la the Abramelin style, without the means of a medium (52, 139). She also tosses of a casual definition of black magic as connecting things not meant to be connected that has a strength to it (20). More to the point, Alison Butler boils down an essential concept of Victorian magic, an idea I think is core any good system: magic as a means of self-improvement, of becoming & being, of true & higher selves (41, 52, 89, 147-151, 178). If I had to say there is a thesis statement for the book, that might be it.

Discussing the founding of the Golden Dawn my MacGregor Mathers, William Woodman & William Westcott is all well & good. Following it as MacGregor Mathers claws his way to the top of the pile is fascinating. Watching his paladin Aleister Crowley betray him is just perfect. That is all history, context for the insights Butler peppers through-out. She links in the influence of Freemasons & of Rosicrucians without devolving into any undue speculation; all above board & proper. Anna Kingsford tried to kill Louis Pasteur with sorcery because she considered vivisection to be black magic (114). Well, if that doesn't illustrate the relationship between occultism & science in a nutshell, I don't know what does. The role of women in the Order & in the occult is addressed-- there is a surprising parity-- as is the tension between occultism & spiritualism. Lovely stuff.

The Sons of Nimrod.

A pretty packed Thursday, actually. I'm more or less decided that I'm going to be a recluse today. I could change my mind at the last minute, but I think I'm going to stay in, not drink anything, & go to bed early. I had pretty crappy dreams last night-- the sort of nightmares that you can't even talk about, because they're just no good. Nothing good can come of it. The day! Lets look back at that. A solid work day; got lunch at Rye House with Terra, Vicki & JJ. I showed them an embarrassing kind of lean that I can do & asked the bartender about his tie clip-- I'm pretty sure it was from Spragwerks. Also, had another Goose Island Domenique, because that is a heckuva beer. After work, it was the first CSA pick up of the season! Netting us: a bunch of turnips, a bunch of dinosaur kale (?!), a couple of garlic scapes, a bunch of radish greens, a bunch of arugula, a bunch of spinach, a head of butter lettuce, a bunch of scallions, a pot of basil & chives & two cartons of strawberries. Met up with elladorian while I was down in her neck of the woods, & stopped by Bierkraft on the way home, picking up supplies for the evening. I got the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier because I figured it would be fun to give fatbutts a smoke beer, & also the Captain Lawrence Five Years Later Ale, their fifth anniversary ale made with five different malts, five different hops, a nice dark but hoppy beer. Almost a Russian Imperial Stout. Or maybe totally one, I don't know. Maggie met up with fordmadoxfraud at the grocery store buying some Blue Point Toasted Lager & Lilly showed up with Archie in tow. We started things off by video chatting with Jenny for a little bit-- she comes home tomorrow, thank heavens-- & then a break to order food from La Boulangerie Lopez-- before we got settled in to watch Superman: The Movie, which Lilly had never seen. In fact, Lilly isn't very familiar with Superman mythology, so it was a lot of fun to watch her going "oh no!" when Lois is dangling from the helicopter & "oh what! when shit gets real. Plus, a movie that doesn't introduce the lead till fifty minutes in? It sure has guts. I mean-- Donner's version of Krypton is basically amazing & perfect & Christopher Reeve is...well, he's just iconic. The music is amazing. Margo Kidder as Lois Lane is...a mistake, & Gene Hackman's Luthor is...not a credible threat, nor a good foil for Superman. To be fair, Until John Byrne revamped Lex Luthor in 1986 he was...not a good character, I don't think. The businessman angle is perfect, especially when Grant Morrison synthesizes it with the mad scientist. Lex Luthor, smartest man alive-- that is what I want, not some fumbling comedic buffoon. After they left, I couldn't get to bed, & so I stayed up later than I meant to fooling around online, & then fell into a restless slumber. Oh well.
elfish meme

Get Equipped With...Bitter Meal! (67)

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang, art by Thien Pham.

The card: "You're So Good!"
The ghost reads the words inside.
Dad: "I'm proud of you."

I still haven't read American Born Chinese, but based on enjoying Prime Baby, & went ahead & picked up Level Up on a lark & read it on my evening's train ride home. Unsurprisingly, things that are targeted towards geekdom attract my eye. Some of them are embarrassing train wrecks like The Elfish Gene-- books I fully intend to like & then find myself a little bit annoyed about. There are a few moments in Level Up that raise my eyebrows-- "is this going to turn into a piece of self-loathing? I hate that, you know," but then...the book doesn't go down that route. It takes a few twists, & yes, it is a bit of a "second generation immigrant story"-- somehow that is a genre of comic book? The "drawn from my autobiographical roots" thing is sort of the crux of a lot of indie comics, but I'm very glad we've finally gotten past the gross-out books & the...well, I already said self-loathing, didn't I? It is just a thing I worry about sometimes. Like an endemic sickness in the genre. There is a wistfulness instead-- another unifying trend in the funnybooks-- but Yang's story has a very fulfilling conclusion, actually, unifying the conflict with an elegant twist of the wrist. Nicely done. & the Gameboy-esque packaging is perfect.