February 29, 2012

Another day, another frenzy


I am now officially putting in for a day that ISN’T another of those FRELLING DAYS.  I had a friend coming for the afternoon so the first thing was, of course . . . I overslept.  I woke up to the sound of the Delivery Man giving up banging on the door and carrying the FORTY FRELLING TONS of gold-dust dog kibble* up the steep half-flight of stairs beside the house to leave it behind the gate, which is where I ask for things to be left, but that means I have to wrestle the wretched thing back DOWN the (steep) steps and then back UP the steps to the front door . . . and then womanhandle it through the maze of doors, puppy gates, hellhounds, etc to get the freller into the far corner of the sitting room which is where it lives because I have ZERO storage space on the ground floor of the cottage.**  ZERO.***

            Then I failed to learn today’s Japanese vocabulary because the pdf print out simply doesn’t contain this lesson and my memory is nowhere near good enough to assimilate much from someone chirping it at me two or three times while hellhounds and I are out hurtling†.  I’m starting to get a little cranky about the shortcomings of this package.  Also I’m back to the squeaky, breathy Ashley-san section again.  Maybe it’s time I loaded up the Japanese for Dummies CD.

            So hellhounds and I finally got down to the mews with about an hour before I had to go meet a train.  I was outdoors with a bucket, rubber gloves and a sponge, peeling a few layers off Wolfgang’s exterior†† when Peter appeared at the front door and said, You are seeking to impress?  Seeking to impress? I said.  No, I am seeking not to horrify.  I’ve also got the two pairs of muddy hiking boots and two and a half pairs of muddy gaiters out of the front footwell, had a quick—very quick—swipe with the dustcloth at the dashboard, and refolded the hellhound-rubdown towels so that the dirtiest bits are inside.††† 

            I came indoors again, both Wolfgang and I a good bit damper than we’d been half an hour ago, but Wolfgang isn’t dripping on the floor.  I glance at the clock and start on hellhound lunch.  Don’t forget to get some food into you, says Peter.  Menopause metabolism, I reply, I don’t need food, and weren’t you going upstairs to have a nice lie down from which distancy and horizontality you can’t make unwelcome remarks?

            Hellhounds won’t eat their lunch.  AAAAAAAAUGH.


            When I tried to text Clotilda that I was going to be late I kept getting the ‘this phone number does not exist, you call that a clean car you filthy slut, your computer hates you and your dogs are weird’ error message.

            I was half an hour late to the train station.  Clotilda was, I think, so relieved to see me at all that her initial reaction to Wolfgang was muted.‡  I think the afternoon went okay otherwise.  Barring the extremely nasty cup of tea I subjected her to.  Ambience is not all and next time I have a tea-drinking friend visiting we are going to penetrate into the unambient end of town where there is a rumour of a tea-shop that serves the stuff I drink at home.‡‡  Then I forced her to hurtle hellhounds with me.  Oh dear.  Poor Clotilda. . . . 

I’ve been following your discussion of the research you do for your books with a lot of interest. Just this week you’ve mentioned how you’re brushing up on your Japanese‡‡‡ for Shadows and the studying on bees you did for Chalice. As a dog person, I’ve always loved Deerskin for how dog-smart it is, particularly what Lissar learns and observes as she tries to raise the orphan litter of fleethound puppies. Having raised pups myself, there are so many little details in there that ring true to me. I always smile when Lissar uses the straw to get milk into the pups, because it reminds me of the way modern breeders tube feed (though with different equipment, of course). You even captured the fear of what might happen if milk gets in those little lungs. In fact, it reads so realistically that I have to wonder if your research for this part of the book involved more than just reading about puppy raising. Did this scene come from a real-life experience? 

Thank you!  I’ve never raised puppies from first infancy, no, but I did raise the litter of puppies which contained my very first dog, a white German Shepherd, when I was a teenager.  They were not quite two weeks old when their mum decided she wasn’t cut out for motherhood and bolted, and I was in that la-la-la adolescent phase when anything to do with a subject you love is good so I was like, raise eight tiny unweaned puppies by hand?  Sure!  Arrrrgh.  Well, all eight of the little frellers lived, so obviously the learning curve wasn’t too steep.  The owner did keep half an eye on me, but she was already way over her head with other duties—she ran a riding stable as well as a kennels—and I was the kind of over-responsible tool who would sit up all night if that was what was required.  If you’ve been through it, then you know about the very real danger of diarrhea in puppies—it doesn’t take much to tax them past what their tiny little metabolisms can cope with.  Eight hours for a full night’s sleep is way too long, even with vet’s drugs (although the drugs may be better and faster-acting these days).  I never used straws, but I wielded a mean eyedropper.  I can’t now remember where I learnt about foreign matter in the lungs—but I’d survived pneumonia myself only about two years before this, so the fragility of lungs was probably still a vividly disturbing subject. 


Fostered a litter of kittens. All four kittens (and mama) found homes. One kitten’s home didn’t work out. I don’t even like tuxedo cats, I said, nearly crying with happiness as he leaped back into my arms.

He’s doing his best impersonation of a fuzzy ball right now in my lap, purring and dozing with ears the size of bat wings. Speaking of bats. 

I love stories like this.  I therefore forgive you for the reference to bats. 


If I am not mistaken [Haro] is a very well formed wire haired fox terrier puppy. At which point I melt and go SQUEEE! I love my terriers. 

He does look like one, doesn’t he?  And far more this week than last—if I’d got photos of him last week you’d’ve known he wasn’t.  He’s really come into his own as diabolically cute.  No, he’s a Jack Russell/Border cross, and while they are all frelling little terriers he looks like he’s going to grow up to be a very handsome scion of the genre.


* * *

* Yes, it’s a lot of gold dust.  Priced accordingly.  But if you want free postage—and at these prices you certainly do want free postage—you have to order it in upper tonnage. 

** I have lots of bookshelves, of course.  But bookshelves aren’t storage.   They’re bookshelves.  They’re a basic necessity, like tea, chocolate and champagne.   And books.  Oh, and there are never enough of them.  Like tea, chocolate, champagne and books. 

*** Did I ever do you my tapdance-with-added-arrrgh about my little row of dwarf appliances under the stairs?  Most people have an under-stair cupboard.  I have to keep my refrigerator, freezer and washing machine under there, and I swear the spice rack on the wall above the washing machine sticks a corner out, like someone putting a foot out in a slapstick comedy, every time I straighten up from doing something with laundry.  At least I can employ language.  It’s worse on handbell evenings, when the spice rack nails me as I’m getting the milk out of the refrigerator for everybody else’s tea.  And they’re all right in the next room, and they’re all British.  MMppphggggrhrhrhrhrhGGGH. 


†† Hey!  He’s red

††† I have also decided I am not letting her indoors at the cottage, where I haven’t hoovered since approximately . . . when I turned the second draft of SHADOWS in.  Furthermore I suspect her of being a neat freak and never having dirty dishes in the sink. 

‡ And I haven’t even mentioned his vibrant array of dents which might cause a feeling of insecurity in the timid. 

‡‡ http://www.charteas.com/ 

Since I nearly always order on line I don’t worry about this interesting factoid from their opening page:  ‘ We are open seven days a week from 10.00am to 5.30pm, and Sundays from 11.00am to 3.00pm.’ 

‡‡‡ ‘Brushing up on my Japanese’ HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  I now remember . . . maybe twelve kanji, although always for the wrong reasons.  For example, the kanji for ‘father’ is described as ‘regrettably, hands wielding a stick’.   Or, to my eye, two sticks.  Or, how about this, from my lovely if over-optimistic READ JAPANESE TODAY:  ‘The character for evening [squiggle] combined with the divining rod [squiggle], used by shamans and necromancers who worked at night to bring their customers news from the spirit world, made the composite kanji [double squiggle], meaning other or outside of.  [previous double squiggle plus squiggle for person], gaijin, other-person, is a foreigner.’

Singing while hysterical


The day did not get off to a great start when I asked Peter why he still hadn’t taken Wolfgang’s paperwork to the Post Office (which is the standard way of doing it over here*) to get this year’s sticker, which he had said he would do.  —I only think of this after Peter has gone to bed, of course, and have then forgotten by morning again.  Clearly Peter has only thought of it in the morning, before I get down to the mews.  I haven’t got a copy of the insurance, he finally said to me today.  What?  Peter doesn’t drive any more, but he’s still on the form and should still have a copy of the new one.  No.

            . . . Neither do I.  Now I am a total flake with my head full of bell methods and Benjamin Britten folk song arrangements** and puppies and the rival virtues of beginning kanji books, but I’m usually pretty reliable about basic life stuff.  Like the frelling insurance policy for the frelling car.  BUT I COULDN’T FIND IT.  PAAAAAAAAAAAAAANIC.  Peter, however***, rang the insurance company, where a nice friendly woman said oh, yes, this happens all the time, we’ll put a copy in the post TODAY.  Now I get to start worrying about the frelling Royal Mail.  Yes, a first-class envelope should get here by tomorrow or at least Wednesday . . . but if it doesn’t arrive till after 5 pm on Thursday, first I will enshroud our local PO in aerosol Cool Whip†, and then I will drive to Muddlehampton practise anyway on the assumption that traffic cops will not be out in force after dark on a small back road in the wilds of Hampshire.

            Anyway.  I was not only hysterical but shrill with adrenaline by the time Peter rang the insurance company, and due to baby-sitting difficulties Nadia had asked if I could have my voice lesson early today . . . so I had to leap into the perilously-poised-on-the-brink-of-illegality Wolfgang and bolt away not having sung myself in first.

            It was going to be a DISASTER.

            It wasn’t a disaster.  How did that happen?  This breathing thing, this opening your mouth and letting the air in without making a big deal of it, this is really cool.  You just sort of breathe and everything settles down and you have all these possibilities.  Although Nadia says that for my next trick I want to learn to sound like I’m enjoying myself.  O Waly Waly wasn’t too bad but Dove Sei . . . hey, it’s an aria from an opera.  This is very threatening to the amateur coward.†† 


Did you hear that the Met is going to put on ‘Rigoletto’ this coming season? Set in the ’60’s Las Vegas. With the Rat Pack, mobsters and all that.  Yikes. Glad I watch it on the radio. 

Ewwwww.  I saw Jonathan Miller’s famous New York mafia version in some revival or other and I might have liked it better if I’d seen the original, when it was a new idea.  As it was I didn’t like it at all.  I thought it was sordid for the sake of being sordid, and I think what makes opera work—at least 19th century swirly romantic opera—is that it’s not sordid, even when some of the characters are.†††  Since Miller I swear everything has been given a New York mafia version:  Turandot.  The Magic Flute.  Eugene Onegin.‡  So now it’s Las Vegas?  Uggh.  Clearly this is one I’m going to watch on the radio too. 


I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at an opera synopsis since I heard Anna Russell explain Seigfried’s women relations in Wagner’s Ring Cycle. 

Since I consider Anna Russell to be the apex of the musical food chain, I am deeply flattered.  

Diane in MN

That great icon of nineteenth-century French literature, Victor Hugo, is responsible for this farrago. 

Yes, Hugo is responsible for Rigoletto too—don’t know if there are any more Verdi operas to accuse him of ruining the libretto of?‡‡  The funny thing is that Peter says that he thinks the original Hugo play isn’t quite the platter of reeking lunacy that ERNANI clearly is.  Someone with good working French could look it up. 

According to the radio commentary, Verdi chose this play over some other subject and closely supervised his librettist.

WHAT?  I knew Verdi was one of my heroes it is a very good thing I never met.  And if I catch the rascal in the Elysian Fields some day we are going to have words.  GAAAAAH.  ERNANI is the sort of drooling nonsense that makes you throw popcorn at the screen and yell, HIRE ME! ‡‡‡ 
The commentary also referred to Elvira as a feisty sort of girl, at least as far as telling the king–she, too, being unsure of what exactly he was offering her–that his proposal (proposition?) was either too noble or too base for her. 

Yes.  I am probably wrong, because I don’t think Verdi or his librettist was particularly interested in making the mere girl clever, but this is one of the bits that I thought worked—and it made me want to rewrite the rest of the scene to fit.  I heard it that she was extrapolating from what he was saying—which was mushy seducer’s drivel—and turning it into something precise that she could then scorn. 

If she’d been seriously feisty, after listening to Silva and Ernani going on about the horn and the knife and the poison in the last act, she’d have grabbed the knife and stabbed Silva instead of herself, putting the frelling testosterone-poisoned boy idea of honor in its place. 

Yes, although slightly in her defense, Ernani sends her on a wild goose chase to get her off stage while he moans to de Silva about his miserable childhood (which is course terribly relevant).  When she gets back she is perhaps understandably nonplussed by the situation.  I was so busy that night frothing at the mouth about the wide and lurid range of the plot insanity that I never got around to saying that Elvira does in fact stand up for herself—and that Meade plays her as such.  She’s still a Verdi heroine, and it would certainly be possible to turn her into a wailing little victim—which Meade with, one assumes, some help from the director, signally does not do.  Hvorostovsky makes an excellent job of being a brute, but Meade is the only character you could bother having empathy with.  Despite her curious partiality for Ernani.  Although I suppose given her other choices. . . . §

I agree with you about the singing, though. And Hvorostovsky. 

No even remotely heterosexual woman with circulating blood in her veins would disagree with me about Hvorostovsky.  


I think the ROH ought to ask you to do the plot synopses in the programme leaflets for their repertoire. Although I suppose the sound of an entire audience giggling might tend to detract somewhat from the dramatic tension of what was happening on stage? 

No, no, it would widen their audience base.  It’s a great idea!  Who do I send the highly professional inquiry, with appended samples, to? 

* * *

*Yes, you can now do it on line.  We’re old, okay? 

** I sang for Oisin last Friday for the first time in . . . yonks.^  And after acknowledging, in what I don’t want to believe was a surprised way, that I’ve got louder, he REALLY ACTUALLY LITERALLY IN FACT SUGGESTED that we try some of the Britten folk songs again.  Yaaaaaay.  They’re huge fun, but hairy, because the accompaniment has nothing to do with what you’re singing and, well, if you know Britten’s music, he . . . had an interesting mind.  I also like to think that there was a certain amount of friendly self- and mutual-torture going on, since he wrote at least some of the folk song arrangements for his partner Peter Pears and himself to perform together.  Old married couples . . .  

^ I may have told you that I went in the week before with a long fulsome list of totally adequate excuses why I hadn’t brought anything to sing.  He looked at me a minute and then said, You mean you bottled out.

            Um. . . . 

*** It’s his job in this household to maintain sanity under stress. 

† Supposing you can get Cool Whip in the UK, about which there seems to be some doubt.  Personally I think Cool Whip would reach its product zenith as a nonviolent protest device, but then I am a crunchygranolahead who only eats organic chocolate.

†† I should be taking heart from the fact that it’s usually sung by countertenors who are (usually) not very loud.

^ Yes I know there are qualities other than loudness.  But on pitch and loud is all that is really necessary in a choir singer.  

††† Someone needs to blow a horn and make that duke kill himself.    

‡ I hope I’m joking.

‡‡ Yes I know Hugo didn’t write the librettos.  But I’m not in a charitable mood.  And it was his frelling translation of frelling Shakespeare that led to the libretto of Verdi’s FALSTAFF which I hate so much I’m glad I don’t understand Italian so I can listen to the music and not have a clue what’s going on. 

‡‡‡ I have this reaction to a lot of movies. 

§ Unless she gets a contract out of the king detailing the terms he’s going to set her up for life in after he gets bored with her.  This is still the choice I’m backing.


(Someone else’s) Puppy, con’t


So last Sunday Niall fixed me with a glittering eye* and suggested that I would Like. To. Ring. Handbells. Again. Next. Sunday.  Of course.  Of course I would.  Of course.**  I have so much free time.  So Niall picked me up this evening and pressed the rocket-launcher button and we were in Helsinki almost before we’d finished our fascinating discussion of long-draught towers.***

            Titus’ wife Andromache heard us coming† and opened the door with Haro†† under her arm.  I came for the puppy, I said.  I knew that, she said, and handed him to me. . . . a few hours later Niall picked me up off the floor and said, We’re here to ring handbells, you know.




I am Fang. I am the Terror of Continents.

He's not biting me. I just happen to have a finger in his mouth.

One of the things I love about puppies is the way they don't have to be actually biting anything. They just like to hang out with their mouths open. Just in case.

AWWWWWWWWWWW. (Hey, nice ring.)

MORE AWWWWWWWWWW. As Andromache was prying us apart at the end of the evening she said, you can sure tell the dog people. --Oh?

The worst of it is that Jasper will be back next week so Titus and Niall won’t need me any more.  Sob.  †††

* * *

* I wonder if the Ancient Mariner rang methods on handbells?  It could explain a lot. 

** Of course I overslept this morning after the bells woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep.  It’s not even a loud noise through two doors^ and a window.  But it drags me out of sleep like the sound of a hellhound suffering urgencies does. 

^ Although I keep forgetting and reopening my bedroom door.  Since the room is only just big enough for my small double bed+ and a lot of bookshelves it is a trifle claustrophobic with the door closed.  

+ Although the four-poster aspect adds loom

# Which reminds me arrrrgh that I need mosquito netting by mid-April.  If my bats were climbing out of their cosy little space under the roof into my part of the house in search of water last year . . . maybe I’d better have that netting by the end of March.  If they’re thirsty they may come back early. 

*** Nasty.  Avoid long draught towers if at all possible. 

† The retro-rockets need adjustment. 

†† So I was cruising a Japanese boys’ names list because—because—why not, and the meaning of Haro caught my eye:  wild boar’s first son.  Oh my.  I admit I haven’t found another list containing it to crosscheck with, but I still have to have it.

†††  You know there’s only three regulars for Sunday nights with Titus.  Maybe they’d like to ring major for a change?  Which needs four?

             I don’t even like little frelling terriers.

             —Oh?  Really?  No one would ever know.


Sublime and Ridiculous


ERNANI may be the dumbest opera ever to approach becoming standard repertoire.  The fact that it doesn’t approach it any closer, despite a good deal of ravishing Verdi music, is probably because it is so dumb.  Gods, heavens, demons, miscellaneous spirits, and anything else floating around—IT IS SO DUMB.  I have it on CD, of course, I have pretty much everything Verdi ever wrote on CD, but I’ve never seen this one staged before.*  I’m not sure this was a virginity worth losing.  I am not the first person to point this out, but possibly its chief purpose in the Verdi compendium is to make the insane plot of IL TROVATORE look sensible and well put together.

            Also, the tenor/hero in TROVATORE is a twit, but he’s not such a whinerpants.  Ernani spends the entire opera moaning about what a hard life he’s had and begging people to kill him.  Come on, de Silva, you old brute, do it now at the end of act one and get it over with.  How did the wet, whinging Ernani, supposedly the brave daring leader of a brave daring band of bandits, meet the globally irresistible Elvira in the first place, let alone long enough for them to fall in love with each other (not that this usually takes more than an aria to accomplish in any opera)?

            Anyway.  Elvira is, for reasons unspecified, mewed up in de Silva’s castle, where he’s going to marry her by force.  De Silva is old and he comes on and sings this self-pitying aria about how he wishes that the ardour of youth did not beat in his aged breast . . . but it does, so he’s going to marry this girl even though she wants no part of him.  If this is the choice maybe I’ll take the whinerpants after all.

            But there’s a third entrant to the Elvira stakes:  Don Carlo, the frelling king of frelling Spain. Played by Dmitri Hvorostovksy mmmmmmmmm okay, did you say there are two other male principals?  I seem to forget.  But the king sneaks into de Silva’s castle—he what?  The king what?—to try to persuade Elvira to run away with him** and at the point where things may be about to go badly wrong for Elvira because the king is not a graceful taker of the answer ‘no’ both the other blokes show up and start shouting at one another.  Because this is all so plausible and well thought out.

            But the really cute bit is the deal with the horn.  In Act Two Elvira has decided, for more unspecified reasons, that Ernani is dead and has agreed to marry de Silva after all.***  Ernani then randomly shows up dressed as a pilgrim and asks for shelter.  Guests are sacred to the de Silvas! says de Silva, and then finds out who it is.  Cue gnashing of teeth.  Then the frelling king shows up, demanding that brave daring bandit Ernani.  Nothing to do with me, says de Silva.  I shall search your castle, because I know he is here! says the king.  A de Silva’s word, once given, even to a lying sneak of a fraudulent pilgrim, must be kept, says de Silva.  Then I will TORTURE EVERYBODY, because I am the king, and a really bad loser! says the king.  Go for it, says de Silva.

            At this point Elvira rushes in and says no, no, no, Mr King, please don’t do that, all this testosterone is giving me a headache!

            For you, anything, says the king.  Come away, come away, you pretty thing, I am going to wrap you up in flowers and ::drools::  I am taking your fiancée hostage, okay? he says to de Silva.  Whatever, says de Silva.  Exeunt everyone but de Silva, who is standing around looking oppressed, and then Ernani bursts out from the hidden priest-hole equivalent and says, you mean you let the king take her AWAY?  Don’t you know he is our RIVAL?

            WHAT? says de Silva.  —Yo, elderly moron guy, that would be why he was going on about how he was going to make her happy, you know?  And all the pleasure that awaits her at his . . . ahem . . . court.  Yes, that would be it:  his court.  Jeez.  Maybe you’re a little hard of hearing?  And a little forgetful?  You were cross when you caught him in her bedroom in act one . . .

            So now we have to form a brotherhood to kill the evil female-plot-device-stealing king! says Ernani.  How do I know I can trust you? says de Silva.  A little late to be thinking about that now, isn’t it?  When you’ve just made the violent and unstable king really mad at you by defending me?†  But listen, goes on Ernani, I’ll tell you what.    You can trust me because I’m giving you my hunting horn.  The moment I hear you blow it I will KILL MYSELF.††

            We will pause here for you operatically inexperienced blog readers to absorb this concept.

            You know how it ends.  But it still takes a few avalanches of credibility to get there.  Carlo—this is Charles V in the history books:  it’s not a nice likeness—is hoping to get elected Holy Roman Emperor.  He may or may not have been a very good king, but the startlingly large band of assassins de Silva and Ernani have brought together still seem to be founded on the idea that he stole someone’s girlfriend.  It’s not any more doolally than the hunting horn business in the previous act.  And then Carlo is elected emperor, by a council of evidently seriously underinformed Electors, and promptly does the miser-leans-against-wall-and-becomes-generous thing, pardons the entire band of assassins, and as they’re standing around gaping at one another, he pulls Elvira out of the scenery somewhere and hands her over to Ernani.

            Um.  I realise that in the context of what’s about to happen in the next scene, where Ernani is, of course, going to hear the damn horn, Carlo is supposedly giving Ernani and Elvira their happy ending and until de Silva does his Al Hirt thing it’s chirping birds and rose petals all the way.  But we all saw the king in the first act.  Is this a man who is going to have been coming round for a cup of tea in the afternoons and meekly continuing to put his suit forward?  I don’t think so.  I think he’s just got tired of Elvira a little sooner than anticipated. . . .

            Anyway.  It’s Ernani and Elvira’s wedding day.   Chirping birds.  Rose petals.  And the distant sound of a hunting horn.  And then de Silva comes around and gloats.  And . . .  after some final moaning about what a hard life he’s had (although in the circumstances I suppose you finally can’t blame him) Ernani kills himself.†††  Usually Elvira merely faints.  In this staging she snatches the knife away from her brand-new (dead) husband and offs herself as well.  And in what I can’t help but think is an acknowledgement of the outstanding gobsmackingness of the whole shebang . . . there’s no blood.  They die (singing) utterly unbesmirched by stage blood or believability.

            PS:  It is fabulously sung.  And a lot of the music is finest kind.  Ignore what the hell is going on and just suck it in.  Anyone who had the sense to stay home and listen on the radio will have had a terrific time with it.  Angela Meade.  My new heroine.  My golly can that woman sing.  Big Verdi soprano voice:  wow.  And she’s got those soft floating high notes too, as well as all the power to knock you over.  Dmitri, well, we know about me and Dmitri.  The square-mouthed Marcello Giordani has the classic Verdi dramatic tenor voice—but he’s not enough of an actor to bring off the flaying absurdity that goes with all the gorgeous notes.  Ferruccio Furlanetto as de Silva has an easier time:  he’s got the voice, and his character is a total creepfest:  all he has to do is slouch around looking grumpy, vain and evil, and sing.  And the staging is fine:  nothing too meretriciously in your face in the name of art and excitement.  But oh, the plot. . . . 

* * *

*First breathtakingly anti-relevant footnote:  I’ve told you I’ve been prodding a couple of beginner books of Japanese kanji in a dubious and lightly hysterical manner.  One of the first characters they all seem to give you is a blank square, which is the kanji for ‘mouth’.  I think of mouths—I assume we’re talking about human mouths—as being more oval.  This is known as falling at the first fence.^    

             ERNANI begins with a rousing chorus, while our hero, the tenor^^, broods backstage on an artfully ruined bit of masonry.  At the end of the chorus he turns towards the audience and opens his mouth to sing . . . and his mouth is perfectly square.  It’s about the squarest thing I’ve ever seen. 

^ Although ‘sun’ is worse.  It’s a rectangle with a line through it.  Yes.  That so looks like the sun to me.  Not.   And kanji started as pictographs?  Sure they did.  Drawn by aliens from another universe.  Where the sun is rectangular and has a line through it and the females of the pictograph-writing species look like folding TV tray tables.  

^^ The hero is always a tenor.  Or anyway if there’s a tenor he’s the hero.  And if several blokes all rush onstage and down to the front together then the short one is the tenor hero.  

** I want to believe that the translation leaves something to be desired but I’m afraid it’s probably pitiably excellent.  So Don Carlo is apparently offering Elvira either to marry her or to install her as his ‘favourite’ and I’m (again) thinking, what?  Not that he doesn’t look like the worst husband material ever, but like yeah get set up as his mistress so he can throw you over after he gets bored with you six months from now.  What a good idea.

            Although six months of Dmitri . . . hmmm . . . But then I’m self-supporting.  And I’m sure I could get a story out of it.  But Hvorostovsky is alarmingly good at playing horny villains.  He was the Count in TROVATORE. 

*** Take the king.  

† Boy ideas of honour.  Spare me. 

†† Boy ideas of honour.  SPARE ME.   


Dark Days for Robin — guest post by Jodi Meadows


Last weekend, I went on book tour* with three amazing authors: Brodi Ashton (EVERNEATH), Courtney Allison Moulton (ANGELFIRE), and Cynthia Hand (UNEARTHLY).

I was warned about going on tour.

When I found out I’d be going on one of the Dark Days tours, I researched author tours. I saw warnings about eating when you can, sleeping when you can, and making sure you pack a carryon bag in case your checked bag gets lost and you can’t change your underwear until it catches up with you — which it won’t, because you are constantly on the move.

Dutifully, I prepared myself for starvation and sleep-deprivation, and made sure I had all my clothes packed into one bag that could fit under the seat in front of me on an airplane. (You know how those overhead compartments are always full of, like, someone’s sweater they can’t be bothered to hold on their lap.) I was ready to be in public-mode for all hours.

Yeah, the Dark Days tour was not like what I had prepared for. While my first day was a 4AM day–I had an early flight–the tour itself was not filled with 28-hour days. (I’m sure they could have managed if they’d wanted.) We had time after flights to hang out with one another, talk, eat, even visit with family.

Our days went like this: get up, eat breakfast, take an airplane, freshen up at the hotel, go to the event, and then eat dinner. (Lunch was kind of hit or miss, since we were usually in the air at lunchtime. One of our media escorts threw snacks at us as soon as we got in her car, though. She should get a raise.) Not a bad day, right? The events were pretty awesome, too.

First, we had interviews with local book bloggers. I think that helped us loosen up a little and got us ready to answer questions in front of dozens of people. Then, we headed into the store where they’d set up tables and chairs. Someone from the store introduced us, we each spoke or read for a few minutes, and then we answered audience questions until it was time to sign books.

One of the strangest things was how the audience kept looking at their cell phones . . . but not because they were ignoring us. After the event, when I looked at my phone, I saw dozens of tweets repeating things I’d said during the Q&A. And photos! (Thing I’ve learned: photos of people speaking are almost always awkward looking. *mouth hangs open weirdly*)

Overall, I had a lot of fun and loved meeting the other authors and all the readers who came to see us. It was a great experience.

Dark Days group

Top: Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows; Bottom: Courtney Allison Moulton, Cynthia Hand
And a few posts, in case you want to see more pictures/random silliness:

My post.

Recap of the Dallas stop.

Recap of the Austin stop.

Another recap of the Austin stop (with some great photos).

Recap of the Houston stop.

Courtney’s “behind the scenes” video.


* Yaaay Jodi!  –ed.

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