X-Men: Apocalypse and the Egyptian Mummies in the British Museum

Self took this post down for a while but then she decided to put it back up because she just went and saw X-Men: Apocalypse for the second time and — Evan Peters, hell yeah!

BTW, the movie improves on repeat viewing. But why Mystique keeps carrying a torch for Magneto is really, really frustrating. Every time she talks about him, with tears in her eyes — aaargh! That’s why it was such a breath of fresh air to have Quicksilver around: imagine, a man who feels no subliminal attraction for any of the female characters, whatsoever!

Below, her original post:

_____________________________

About a week ago, in London, self walked all the way to Shaftesbury Avenue after spending three hours in the Egyptian galleries of the British Museum just to watch X-Men: Apocalypse in the Odeon in Covent Garden.

She also thought it would be a good excuse to check out the Covent Garden area. See? Like killing two birds with one stone.

That turned out to be an excellent idea. Because the movie began with — ancient Egypt! Some dude was harnessing the power of the sacred pyramids — or something — to give himself eternal life! Of course, self had no idea that Egyptian leatherface was actually the beautiful Oscar Isaac.

Anyhoo, watching the movie was like entering a zone, where everything happening had a connection to ancient Egypt (mind-blowing, right?). Of course, it also reminded her — when all the Egyptian stuff was done — that there was an actor named Evan Peters who plays Quicksilver.

Honest-to-God, how could she have forgotten this guy? She loved his scene from the earlier X-men movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, so much. But there were just so many X-Men crowding her thoughts, not to mention James McAvoy. In almost every scene. James McAvoy. And there was Nightcrawler. And the Archangel. And Jean Grey (looking exactly like Sansa Stark; self almost expected Littlefinger or Ramsay Bolton to put in an appearance). Not to mention Fassbender emoting and singing to his daughter. And J-Law being very capricious about when she wanted to be blue or not. So, finally. EVAN PETERS! She nearly jumped out of her seat. She was so happy to see him again.

Anyhoo, the point of all this. The point of all this is that she also has a short story that involves Egyptian hieroglyphics. It appeared in a fabulous magazine called Isotope, and was edited by Chris Cokinos. Isotope was a magazine that featured both science writing and  creative writing. Self’s essay, “The Lost Language,” appeared in Isotope in 2007. A year or two later, it went defunct. And now, nobody can read that story anymore! WAAAAH! (She does have extra copies of the particular issue with her essay. It’s back in her house in Redwood City, CA. Which is a long way away — across an ocean, in fact. Across a continent, even — from where self is currently: Oxford, UK. But if anyone wants to get a copy, she can promise that, as soon as she arrives back in California, she will get her hands on those issues and mail it to whoever wants one. Because it seems such a terrible waste to keep those issues mouldering in her closet, taking up space and being useless)

Here’s how it begins:

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper, they would look like a series of waves. Or like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

The rest of the essay is very digressive and is actually pretty funny. There was a time when all of self’s short stories were so filled with angst and pain that she actually rejoiced when she wrote “The Lost Language.” At last! She was capable of showing a little more range!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sometimes You Just Gotta Have That Chocolate Milkshake

Have dear blog readers ever tasted a lukewarm chocolate milkshake?

(Self knows, right?)

It is a hot day in Oxford, UK. Everyone strolling around, including three tourists who are attracting attention for a (fake) loud quarrel — self is pretty clued-in now to what’s fake and what’s real. All you have to do, really, is look at the person’s face. The woman who is allegedly being wronged by her two male companions has a huge, shit-eating grin on her face. She has cropped, dyed-platinum-blonde hair. She has deep brown, leathery skin. She’s wearing blue jeans and a white tank top. This makes her stand out because most of the women self sees around Oxford are of two, maybe three types: young Asian women who are extremely thin, very stylish, and very low-key; young white women who wear sneakers, cigarette jeans, and muted sweaters; older white women who dress a bit eccentrically, in floppy hats, or voluminous, bright sweaters. The strange woman keeps screaming, at the top of her voice, ruining a pleasant afternoon: LEAVE ME ALONE! ASSHOLE!

Really, self hates the drama. This is on a tiny street, where everyone’s so quiet, they all jerk their heads up and look alarmed. If self were to be truly cynical about it, which she isn’t, she might hug her purse closer to her body, just in case there is a point to this loud altercation.

Demonstrative fake quarrel aside, today self got to:

  • see a couple of Shakespeare folios
  • see the Harry Potter dining room
  • see an annotated map of Tolkien’s Middle Earth
  • check out Blackwell’s Crime & Thriller section, where she jotted down the titles of a couple of mysteries she wants to add to her reading list.
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An Amazing, Almost-Summer Day in Oxford, UK

Really, if a lukewarm chocolate milkshake is the worst part of self’s day, she’s had a pretty good day.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death (3 May 1616)

It is also the 400th Anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes’s death, what a coincidence!

Seriously mind-blowing.

Self is in Oxford. She went racing to Victoria Bus Station two days ago, lugging the Mother of All Suitcases, only to find that the bus she had tickets for had left at 1:30 a.m. She got in line at the ticket booth (30 minutes wait) and then explained to the lady that she was from America, she made a terrible mistake, she was aiming for 1:30 p.m., not 1:30 a.m. The woman was so kind, and put self on the 1 p.m. bus. She also booked self’s return trip: 15:30. “That’s 3:30 p.m.,” she said. “All right?”

Yes! Yes! Yes! Sorry to be such a stupid American!

The last time self was in Oxford was to attend the Saboteur Awards, which were held in a tavern. That was a fun time. She was a finalist in the novella category.

That was two years ago. How quickly time flies! Of course, she did not win, but it was such an honor just to be a finalist.

Yesterday, self went to a fabulous open-air market on Gloucester Green, and then she caught the last showing of Captain America: Civil War at the Odeon. What a great movie. Sorry, but Marvel cornered all the sass: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Don Cheadle,. The women are great actresses: Scarjo, Ellen Van Kamp, Elizabeth Olsen. (Not that J-Law isn’t. Self loves J-Law. And also Sophie Turner).

After seeing Captain America: Civil War, though, she thinks that Fox should really do their utmost to hang on to Evan Peters(Quicksilver), as he is the only element in their whole Brit-actors-chewing-scenery cinematic universe who is capable of delivering sass on the level of, say, Robert Downey, Jr. And Lord knows, the X-Men could do with a bit more sass.

Now, where was she?

Oh, right, Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary! So, she has determined that she must see at least one thing today that is connected to Shakespeare. As it would be pretty lame of to leave Oxford having only seen Captain America: Civil War.

She does a little internet search and finds that there are quite a number of Shakespeare exhibits in Oxford, operating concurrently. Mama Mia! What an absolute plethora of riches!

She’s going to spend the entire day rushing from one exhalted library to another.

Starting with the Weston. Because the Weston has, in addition to an exhibit on Shakespeare, a map of Middle Earth, annotated by Tolkien himself.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Lunch: Chéz Mamie

They’re doing massive construction work on Hanway Street: a tall building’s going up. Self asked what that building was going to be and was told: an expanded Primark and luxury condos.

Oh gosh. That means Hanway Place will be awash in posh types. How’s that going to change Chez Mamie? Self probably won’t be able to get a seat there any longer! It’s such a wee restaurant! Maybe because of the noise of construction, the place was rather empty. Self loves their salads, though. Absolutely loves them.

And, just like that, self got the idea for a story and started scribbling like mad into her notebook:

Maxine had impressed her parents into gift-ing her a trip to London by getting an A on a paper about the Thirty Years War (“1618 to 1648,” Maxine told her mother Cici, who blushed with maternal pride).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“X-Men: Apocalypse” Has One Bona-Fide Break-Out Performance

“X-Men: Apocalypse” has produced a break-out star.

And it’s Evan Peters.

Seriously?

Seriously.

Here he is in “American Horror Story,” doing the Banana Fana song (Official Title: “The Name Game”) with Jessica Lange. He is never not enjoyable to watch.

And he is the ONLY reason self would ever contemplate seeing an X-Men movie. Heck, she might be back in the Odeon tonight. Who knows?

Stay tuned.

 

British Museum, Lines

Today at the British Museum: for the first time, serious security check. Everyone had to line up outside and pass through a white tent (Why a white tent? Self has no idea) and have their bags inspected. First time ever (and self has been to the Museum many times). There was a police van parked right outside the main entrance to the Museum (Also a first; last summer, security was very discreet. Now, the British are flaunting it.)

Met an American pathologist from Seattle who, having wrapped up her conference, was sightseeing. This was her third visit to the museum in a week. Self told her about the “Sunken Cities” special exhibit, and the woman asked if self had seen the Rosetta Stone. Do you know, in how many visits to the British Museum, self has never actually laid eyes on the Rosetta Stone? Go figure. As soon as we got inside the museum, the woman led self straight to it. (There’s a 20-minute Rosetta Stone tour, free, every Friday)

Self was in London last July. All those weeks, and she never set foot inside the British Museum. Not once. Instead, she remembers just holing up in her room and writing. And writing. And writing. London was full of pigeons and tourists and ice cream trucks. It was incredibly hot and muggy. She went on a Jack the Ripper tour of Whitechapel.

Part of the reason she bought her ticket so far in advance this year is because she realizes she needs that push. The British Museum is overwhelming. In the last gallery of the “Sunken Cities” exhibit, a woman about self’s age seated herself on a bench and lowered her face in her hands. Self knew just how she felt.

The gallery of Greek antiquities has these colossal statues. They are completely stunning. A rider at full gallop on a gigantic horse. A running leopard. A mastiff. She hasn’t seen such massive things since the Olmec exhibit at the de Young, several years ago. You talk about Greek sculpture and you think: classical. You think: refinement. But these were from only one period (Hellenistic? 350 AD?) After that, Greek sculptural representations no longer have that gigantic, absolutely in-your-face, larger-than-life ethos (Why?)

There is a piece showing Aphrodite being surprised during a bath. Seeing the statue from the front, self walked right by. As she was leaving the gallery, she saw that same Aphrodite statue from the back. And, gosh, from the back, it is beautiful. Look at the dimples of her lower back! And the hips! OMG the hips!

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Aphrodite, Surprised at Her Bath: British Museum, Friday, 20 May

Self thinks she’ll walk around a bit more. Stay tuned.

Cork, Ireland News Flash

Today, self walked quite a bit. She took a break mid-afternoon and went back to her room. A news program came on. “A young boy drowned today in the Liffey, 2:30 p.m.”

She looked at the time: 5:30 p.m.

So, only three hours earlier?

It’s Saturday. How could the boy drown on a Saturday? With people out and about. In the middle of the afternoon.

It was a beautiful day. At first self thought the death occurred in Cork. Then she remembered the river around Cork is the Lee. The Liffey is in Dublin. This made the news marginally better. She would absolutely hate to think the boy drowned in Cork. She was enjoying the day, it was such a nice day. And in the meantime, a boy was drowning close by. And she so unaware!

This is the thing about Ireland: it’s small enough that a boy’s death in Dublin gets broadcast to Cork.

This trip, she learned that the greater Los Angeles area has more people than the whole of Ireland. One city in America, just one city, has more people than Ireland.

That really puts things in perspective. Somehow, because of the literary richness, she imagined — still imagines — a much bigger country.

Ireland is small, but it’s also so specific. Which county you’re from in Ireland matters a lot. She always ends up asking people which county they’re from, and the answer makes a big difference: County Kerry means one thing, County Monaghan another.

That trip she made two days ago to Dublin? Two and a half hours by train.  She was in Dublin one night, then back to Cork. Self could probably do the whole country in 24 hours.

During the last AWP conference, self was talking to Your Impossible Voice editor Stephen Beachy, and he told her he commutes to his job in San Francisco from San Diego. So it’s all a matter of perspective, really. Californians would probably think nothing of working in Dublin and then going home to Cork every night. Cork (if it were in California) would be considered a “bedroom community” — a suburb that’s like a ghost town in the daytime, while everyone is away, working somewhere else. A two-and-a-half hour commute each way? Small potatoes!

For that matter, you can even work in London and go home to Dublin every night. It’s only an hour each way by plane, after all.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

While Self Was at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre

She worked on a number of things. One was a collection of her dystopian science fiction. She placed one of those stories while she was still in Annaghmakerrig (luck of the Irish!)

She also worked on “First Causes,” her sequel to “First Life,” and got a very quick response. Though the magazine did not take her story, saying it was a little too “out there” for their magazine, the editors “nevertheless” wanted me to know: “This is indeed a very good story and we have no doubt it will be picked up by some other magazine.”

YES! YES! YES!

Ridiculous to get so excited over a rejection letter. But —

YES!

Self had worked particularly hard on the ending, and on the dialogue between the main character, Dragon, and his nemesis, Big:

There’s a bluish-greenish shadow on Big’s back, right between his shoulder blades. I see it when he disrobes for inspection.

What is the cause? Is it Tumor? Is it Plague? Is it Virus?

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The Pod, Viewed From Somewhere Near Whitechapel, London

Stay tuned, dear blog reader. Stay tuned.

 

 

The Reading Addict

Honestly, yesterday was a killer.

Moving from Annaghmakerrig to Cork, with bags of books dangling from each arm. What was she thinking?

By the time she got to Café Paradiso, she was like, dead. D-E-A-D.

Anyhoo, it’s been a very blissful day, spent doing absolutely nothing. Holed up in The Red Room, reading. Listened to a classical music station. Wrote a further chapter of her Everlark WIP, which she warned her readers (five chapters ago) would take as much as a year between updates, because for some reason she feels she must be in Ireland to continue, and she won’t be back in Ireland until next year.

But she keeps saying that in the notes to each and every chapter, and right after she writes that, she ends up writing another chapter.

Her last chapter ends with this image of Katniss:

  • She hears a sound and whirls, snatching her bow and nocking an arrow in one swift movement.
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Reading in Cork

What a tease she is.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Things You Never Wanted to Know About the Ku Klux Klan

The presiding office is called the Exalted Cyclops (Say what?)

A local Klan is referred to as a Klavern.

Followers are called Klansmen.

Extremely young followers are called Ghouls or Knights.

They killed a young black man on March 21, 1981. Of the two perpetrators arrested, one got life in prison, the other death. The man sentenced to execution was kept in a prison referred to by inmates as “the slaughter house.” He died in an electric chair painted yellow, the so-called “Yellow Mama.”

Fascinating, simply fascinating. Paul Theroux is such an avid researcher.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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