Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Poetry Tuesday: "Alexander by Thebes" by Anna Akhmatova

I think, the king was fierce, though young,
When he proclaimed, “You’ll level Thebes with ground.”
And the old chief perceived this city proud,
He’d seen in times that are in sagas sung.
Set all to fire! The king listed else
The towers, the gates, the temples – rich and thriving…
But sank in thoughts, and said with lighted face,
“You just provide the Bard Home’s surviving.”

The Lonely Alchemist

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Word Wednesday: "Epeolatry"

Epeolatry means "the worship or love of words."  It is derived from the Greek epos, which means "word."  The term was apparently coined by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr in 1860.  Well, whoever invented it must have had me in mind!

The Lonely Alchemist

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Quote for Thought

"We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from another's vantage point, as if new, it may still take the breath away." 
--Dr. Manhattan, Watchmen

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Word Wednesday: "portmanteau"

Why, oh why, does no one use one of these anymore?  Nobody even uses the word, and the world is worse off for it!  Portmanteaus, large trunks that open into two equal halves, are a fixture in practically every comedy film from the advent of film up until the 1950s (presumably because you can fit a person inside them), not to mention they're beautifully Victorian.  The word comes from the Old French porter ("to carry") and manteau ("cloak").

I would love to own a portmanteau.  It would be the perfect place to pack all my Steampunk costumes and accoutrements, not to mention it would make a lovely antique-ish piece of furniture.  Anybody know of any cheap ones for sale, preferably in black leather?

The Lonely Alchemist

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Poetry Tuesday: "There By None of Beauty's Daughters..." by George Gordon (Lord) Byron

There be none of Beauty's daughters
With a magic like Thee;
And like music on the waters
Is thy sweet voice to me:
When, as if its sound were causing
The charm├ęd ocean's pausing,
The waves lie still and gleaming,
And the lull'd winds seem dreaming:
And the midnight moon is weaving
Her bright chain o'er the deep,
Whose breast is gently heaving
As an infant's asleep:
So the spirit bows before thee
To listen and adore thee;
With a full but soft emotion,
Like the swell of Summer's ocean. 
The Lonely Alchemist

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Word Wednesday: "maledicent"

As I'm sure you could guess from looking, that today's word, maledicent, has something to do with being bad, like maleficent, malefactor, malpractice, etc...  In fact, it means "one who is addicted to abusive speech."  I can't really think of any good examples of this kind of person in real life.  Some characters from "A Bit of Fry & Laurie" sketches come to mind...

As for the prefix mal, it means "bad, badly or ill," coming from Old French mal, from the Latin adverb male, from malus, meaning "bad."

The Lonely Alchemist

Monday, August 5, 2013

Movie Monday: "Fire and Ice"

It's hard to argue against the fact that Ralph Bakshi has a distinct, campy, yet enjoyable style to his films.  Well, if you've seen any of his films, that is.  Chances are, you haven't.  If you have, you are a colossal nerd, and therefore my blood-brother/sister.  His animated features are hardly popular anymore (though a few can be found on Netflix and are definitely worth watching), and perhaps couldn't have been called popular in their heyday.  They are the epitome of campy, over-sexed, sword-and-sorcery, He-Man style, most definitely outdated (not in a bad way) fantasy, and "Fire and Ice" is perhaps the campiest and the sexiest, and to nerds of the adult sci-fi/fantasy sort, it's certainly not outdated.

Larn and Teegra
"Fire and Ice" tells the stories of Larn, a young warrior whose village is wiped out by the evil sorcerer Nekron of the fortress Icekeep, and Princess Teegra, who is kidnapped by Nekron's minions, the half-ape half-human "subhumans" who seem to thirst for violence and sex.  Larn and Teegra, along with the mysterious Darkwolf, attempt to stop Nekron's deadly advance towards Teegra's castle, Firekeep (Fire and Ice, get it?  yeah it's simple).  Darkwolf is a strange character, and older man whose back-story is never fully explained.  It appears that he is a vigilante who is sworn to destroy Nekron and his power-hungry mother, Queen Juliana.  The trio has various misadventures through jungles, swamps, and ancient ruins.  Teegra and Larn fall in love, of course, as they must, and he rescues her from Nekron's evil.  Other than that, I don't want to spoil the ending for you.  If you have a Netflix account, I recommend watching the film.

Could she wear any less?
Part of "Fire and Ice's" charm is the primitive way the story is told.  There are long periods of silence, and the characters' vocabularies do seem to be rather reduced.  This gives everything a pre-historical tone, as much of the interaction relies on touch and gesticulation.  The other part of its charm is in the stereotypical over-sexualization that every sword-and-sorcery film must have.  The characters wear so few clothing items that they must all get frostbite when they go the glacier fortress.  How they manage to survive a single night in the wilderness in such little clothing is beyond me, but of course they are in good company.  I have yet to see an old sword-and-sorcery film where the characters, animated or live, wear more than a bikini's worth of togs.  A third reason to love the film is that the heroine is not blond!

Larn and Darkwolf
Despite the obvious sexism, the relatively predictable plot, and the out-dated feel of "Fire and Ice," it is still one of my favorite animated films.  It's both a serious (and simplistic) story about hunger for power, and a fluffy erotic romp.  I recommend that you get your hands on it, if you enjoy this sort of genre.  Don't watch it around little kids; there's a bit too much sex.  And while you're watching "Fire and Ice," why not add some of Bakshi's other films to your watchlist, like "Wizards," "Fritz the Cat," and "Coolworld."  (Don't watch these films around kids either.  "Fritz the Cat" is pornographic.)  Have fun watching, and enjoy this relic of 80s pulp!

Larn and Nekron

The Lonely Alchemist

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Steampunk Tattoos

As both a lover of Steampunk and a lover of tattoos, it was only a matter of time before I decided to combine my loves.  About a year ago, I got my first (of hopefully many) Steampunk tattoo (not my first tattoo, but my first punky one).  It's on my left thigh, a nice place for women to get tattoos as it can be easily covered, and it usually ends up looking quite sexy (especially in a bathing suit).  Here's a picture, which has rather bad resolution and is upside-down, unfortunately, but I have an awful camera so I hope you'll forgive me (there's a much better photo in my tattoo artist's portfolio, on the second row down):

I already have my next Steampunk tattoo planned.  It will be a mechanical Sailor Jerry style swallow.  I'm debating whether to do it in rich purple and blue, or traditional brown, grey, and gold (like the koi above).  Since I already have a bright blue and purple tattoo on my back, I think I'll go with the copper and metal color scheme.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Poetry Tuesday: "A conversation in the stype of Japanese love poems" by Robin Bonneau

A conversation in the style of Japanese love poems

I no longer walk in my garden
for the flowers there remind
me of your beauty –
and increase my sorrow.
I try to think
that it was only yesterday you left-
but the snow on the trees
and my tear-stained sleeves
do not leave room for excuses.

You have forsaken me. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Poe Week: Poe's Fashion (sort of...)

In case you've never thought about it, here is a short (tongue-in-cheek) guide to the fashions of Edgar Allan Poe's day.  To create the appropriately flouncy, feminine, helpless look of a woman from the Gothic romances of Poe's mind:

accentuate your sloping shoulders

minimize your waist

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Poe Week: That's Poe-posterous! (the internet's best Poe jokes)

And perhaps the only piece of humor Poe ever wrote (he wrote it to pay his tavern bill):

"Fill with mingled cream and amber
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain —
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today."

The Lonely Alchemist

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Poe Week: Word Wednesday

Edgar Allan Poe was fond of what we would consider to be obscure vocabulary.  He was highly educated with an enormous vocabulary (compared to modern writers) and knowledge of many languages.  These are just a few of the words he used that nobody seems to use anymore (alas).  Just for fun, try to use one in conversation today!

abeyance - suspension of activity
abstruse - hard to understand
acrid - sharp and unpleasant in scent or flavor
amatory - relating to expressing sexual love
bagatelle - short piano piece
beldame - old woman
cassock - long cloak worn by clergy
charnel - room or building in which bodies are deposited

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Poe Week: Poetry Tuesday: "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Poe Week: Movie Monday

Edgar Allan Poe wrote with a very distinct and elegant brand of horror and suspense, and no one is better qualified to bring his works to screen than the inimitable Vincent Price, with his articulate, subtly sinister villains and flamboyant "heroes."  During his long reign as the king of suspense, Price starred in 7 films directed by the king of B horror movies himself, Roger Corman, that were loosely based on Poe's works.  (The cycle encompassed 8 films, but Price was absent from the cast of The Premature Burial.)  So let's take a look at the "collaborations" between these masters.

House of Usher:  based on The Fall of the House of Usher, this film stars Price as the ill-fated titular character.  While much of the film is true to Poe's story, the writers added a touch of romantic intrigue and turned Price into a conniving possessive villain, rather than the neurotic depressed character of the story to keep the movie audience interested.  The movie is short, barely over an hour, and the acting is as good as can be expected from an early Corman film (so it's moderately good).  Poe would probably have approved of Price's portrayal of Roderick Usher, despite the differences from the story.  Our rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Welcome to Poe Week!

Edgar Allan Poe is the undisputed master of Gothic fiction and poetry and perhaps the most well known American author of the Victorian era, so here at The Lonely Alchemist we celebrate him with Poe Week on the first week of July!  Every post this week will have a healthy dose of Poe, from his most famous poem to his short stories to his life and times.  On Monday the 1st, check in to see our reviews of the best and worst movie adaptations of Poe's stories, on Tuesday read (or re-read!) his famous "The Raven," on Wednesday brush up your vocabulary with some of Poe's most obscure words, on Thursday enjoy a collection of the cheekiest Poe jokes and cartoons and find out where you can read Poe for free on the internet, and on Friday finish off your Poe week with an exploration of Gothic fashion.  On Saturday, keep your eyes peeled for a special surprise Poe post (or Poest) that you won't want to miss!  Join us every day for you Poe-licious fix!

The Lonely Alchemist

Friday, June 28, 2013

Let's give a cheer for marriage!

In case you don't follow the news, or aren't American, or are American but live in a hole or something, DOMA, the Defence of Marriage Act that legalized marriage discrimination against gays and lesbians, was overturned by the United States supreme court on June 26th.  And in case you didn't know, this is a huge deal for gays and bisexuals in America.  It is just one more step towards marriage equality everywhere, and I can tell you that my Facebook was blowing up yesterday with all the happiness from my gay and straight friends alike.  Now this doesn't mean that suddenly gay marriage is legal all over the United States.  But it is still progress, and I salute those supreme court justices who stood 5 to 4 against it.  If you are against gay marriage, I'm sorry for you and your bigotry, which I'm sure makes you quite unhappy.  You should probably stop reading this post, and don't bother to comment and spread your bigotry.  I will not publish your comment.  But if you are for equality and progress, then please join me in celebrating this victory with an appreciation of all marriage.  Below are some of the internet's best wedding pictures, from gay and straight couples.  Enjoy!

The Lonely Alchemist

Brunch fit for a king!

When I set out to make breakfast this morning, I was only going to whip up some scrambled eggs with the left-over bacon rinds from last night's pasta carbonara.  But when I looked into the fridge, I was inevitably captivated by all the other bits and pieces that needed to be cooked up before they went bad.  So I ended up making a lavish brunch that just tasted heavenly!  And because I love you so much, dear readers, I am now happy to share with you the recipe for one of the most delicious meals you'll ever eat.

Omelet with carrots in remoulade sauce and nutella raspberry sandwiches (serves 2):

4 eggs, whipped together
1/2 of a yellow or sweet onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1/2 cup of bacon or other meat, diced
3/4 cup shredded cheese (I used mild white cheddar)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Disney gets Steampunked (again)

There are hordes of artists (most of them on deviantArt) who have given their favorite Disney characters a Steampunk spin.  Just Google "steampunk disney" and see what you get.  There's some really great re-imaginings out there.  Even Disney itself came out with some limited edition Steampunk-ish art and doodads recently.  But my favorite (so far) punkified Disney characters are from deviantArtist MecaniqueFairy.  She's a genius.  Here are some of my favorites:

The Lonely Alchemist

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Poetry Tuesday: "Aquatic nocturne" by Sylvia Plath

deep in liquid
turquoise slivers
of dilute light

quiver in thin streaks
of bright tinfoil
on mobile jet:

pale flounder
waver by
tilting silver:

in the shallows
agile minnows
flicker gilt:

grapeblue mussels
dilate lithe and
pliant valves:

dull lunar globes
of blubous jellyfish
glow milkgreen:

eels twirl
in wily spirals
on elusive tails:

adroir lobsters
amble darkly olive
on shrewd claws:

down where sound
comes blunt and wan
like the bronze tone
of a sunken gong.

The Lonely Alchemist

Monday, June 17, 2013

Movie Monday: Films that tried to be Steampunk and failed

The list of purely Steampunk movies in this world is a very short list.  The list of movies that attempt to use an aspect of Steampunk (or merely gussied-up Victoriana) to exoticize themselves is a long list.  Some of them do passable homage to the aesthetic and mood of Steampunk, and some fall laughably short, despite making a valiant effort.  Here are just a few in the latter category:

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen:  let's put aside the fact that this is nothing like the comics.  That's another battle altogether.  Neither the comic books not the film are entirely Steampunk, but the comics do get closer to the spirit of Steampunk.  The film tries to rest on Sean Connery's waning star power, and throws some monumental CGI Steampunk accessories into the mix to flesh out the life and death situations.  The problem?  That big fancy machinery isn't really what Steampunk is about.  It's part of it, but it's the independent, ingenious, creative mindset that is missing here.  Not even a sexy vampire can save this wreck.  I will say one good thing for this movie:  the Invisible Man is an intriguing character and I'd like to see more of him in another setting, no pun intended.  Result: one star for effort, and one star for fairly good CGI.  No Stars for Steampunk.  **OOO

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Word Wednesday: "vex"

Oh what a wonderful word, this vex!  It's short, sweet, ends in an "x" (how very sexy) and sounds lovely in old-fashioned poetry.  Vex means "to annoy or harass."  It comes from Old English vexen, from Old French vexer, from Latin vexare ("disturb, agitate").  In the Old English vocabulary, it replaced the word grillen, "to annoy."

And to demonstrate the use of vex in a lovely Victorian poem, we have Thomas Baily Aldrich:

I vex me not with brooding on the years
That were ere I drew breath; why should I then
Distrust the darkness that may fall again
When life is done? Perchance in other spheres--
Dead planets--I once tasted mortal tears,
And walked as now among a throng of men,
Pondering things that lay beyond my ken,
Questioning death, and solacing my fears.
Offtimes indeed strange sense I have of this,
Vague memories that hold me with a spell,
Touches of unseen lips upon my brow,
Breathing some incommunicable bliss!
In years foregone, O soul, was all not well?
Still lovelier life awaits thee. Fear not thou! 

The Lonely Alchemist

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Quote for Thought

“The sea is everything. It covers seven-tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and life-giving. It is an immense desert place where man is never lonely, for he senses the weaving of Creation on every hand. It is the physical embodiment of a supernatural existence... For the sea is itself nothing but love and emotion. It is the Living Infinite, as one of your poets has said. Nature manifests herself in it, with her three kingdoms: mineral, vegetable, and animal. The ocean is the vast reservoir of Nature.”
-- Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kraken coffee?

I saw this picture the other day on a Steampunk Facebook group page.  Now this seems to me to just be an advertisement for Kraken Rum, which I'd never heard of before, so I guess it's a good thing they're advertising themselves so well on social media.  (Sarcasm.)  Would you look at that!  I just gave Kraken Rum free advertising.  Oops, did it again.  Shit.

Well, I would still not be averse to trying this coffee some time... sounds delish!  I probably wouldn't buy Kraken Rum though.  I'd just use what I've got in the pantry.

The Lonely Alchemist

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Poetry Tuesday: "The Kraken" by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Quote for Thought

"Be yourself.  Everybody else is already taken"
-- Oscar Wilde

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Holmes' Pipe

I was feeling a bit nostalgic today for the sumptuously described setting of Sherlock Holmes' apartments, in particular his well used, hand carved pipe.  I don't know what it is about pipes that is so romantic.  Smoking them certainly isn't.  While it gives a man (or a woman) an air of sophistication and vintage charm, it also makes them smell awful, and there's nothing romantic about that.  (Pipe smoke does smell better than cigarette and cigar smoke, but it's still not pleasant to a non-smoker's nostrils.)  But perhaps it is just that sophistication that makes them a thing of beauty.  I smoked a pipe for a very short time, and while smoking it was unpleasant, just having it in my hand or my mouth was relaxing.  I could close my eyes and find myself in Holmes' sitting room, lounging in his favorite armchair by the fire, listening as he played on his violin.  I was holding a piece of the imagined past between my lips.  I still have the pipe and I still pretend to smoke it, just for the calming effect, and when I need an accessory for a Steampunk outfit.

The Lonely Alchemist

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Quote for Thought


The little poets sing of little things:
Hope, cheer, and faith,
small queens and puppet kings;
Lovers who kissed and then were made as one,
And modest flowers waving in the sun.

The mighty poets write in blood and tears
And agony that, flame-like, bites and sears.
They reach their mad blind hands into the night,
To plumb abysses dead to human sight;
To drag from gulfs where lunacy lies curled,
Mad, monstrous nightmare shapes to blast the world."
-- Robert E. Howard

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Word Wednesday: "moribund"

This is a word authors of Gothic fiction loved to sink their teeth into!  Moribund means "at the point of death."  Many a pale, wan heroine of a Gothic romance as been moribund until the moment when her dashing love comes to liberate her from whatever oppressive captor or fever of the mind is holding her hostage.  Guaranteed this has never happened in real life, but at some point in our lives, it is everyone's fantasy to have the object of our affections bring us back from death's door with a kiss.  Well, maybe not quite death's door.  I'm not sure I want to get that close...

The Lonely Alchemist

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The saintly detective, Father Brown

Imagine you are an average person. (If you are reading this blog you're probably not, but put aside you academia and book-begotten knowledge for a second and pretend.) Say I ask you, "What do you think of G. K. Chesterton?"

You would probably answer: "Who the hell is that? Is he running for the Illinois Senate seat?"

As you are who you are, I'm sure you know what I'm taking about. The genius creator of Father Brown, one of the most adorable and oxymoronic detectives in literature. I feel that Father Brown (and his side-kick Flambeau) are totally under-appreciated in today's society. They may not be able to pull rabbits out of a hat like Sherlock Holmes, or entertain like Hercule Poirot and his precious mustaches, but they are just as intelligent, and, dare I say it, more intellectually provoking. In each Father Brown tale I find a new perspective on society or religion that shakes up my beliefs in the order of the world. Let me just say that for a priest, Father Brown is quite a questioner.  Though his adherence to the Catholic Church can be sometimes frustrating, especially for an atheistic reader, he demonstrates more wisdom and willingness to set aside his vows than any Catholic I have ever met.

Nowadays, readers want to be entertained. No doubt that is why Twilight and Harry Potter are so popular. They are jammed full of juicy romance, danger, magic, and pop culture heroism. Father Brown is devoid of all these things. It is instead painted in the colors of tolerance, patience, obedience, unassuming gentleness, and peacefulness. Chesterton's stories are not so much detective stories as they are tales of human failings and forgiveness. Father Brown is the incarnation of "the forgiveness of sins."

So, I challenge you: read a Father Brown story this week. Don't take it at face value. Question every statement the author makes and ask yourself, "What am I supposed to see here that my comfortable little sensibilities are blocking out? What can I learn from this fascinating old man?" The doddering priest will not let you down.

The Lonely Alchemist