Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song

I’ve been meaning to watch this documentary for over a year. I kept a poster I saw about a showing in New York on my desktop to remind me.

So… here are things I loved so much I stopped the documentary to write them down. There was a lot more that I didn’t write down. And yes, I cried.

“I think the borders have faded between a lot of endeavors. Like the poet, or the singer… It’s just a matter of what your hand falls on. And if you can make what your hand falls on sing, then you can just do it.”

“Sometimes I would go with the old Beat philosophy: ‘First thought, best thought,’ but it never worked for me. There hardly is a first thought. It’s all sweat… The experience is the experience of work. And of failure. You’re just trying to lay it out as accurately as you can.”

“I visited the Chief Executive of Columbia Records… First of all, he reviewed my suit. Then he said, ‘Leonard, we know you’re great. But we don’t know if you’re any good.'”

“I feel as if I have huge posthumous career ahead of me.”

“If I knew where songs came from, I would go there more often.”

“It’s a rigorous life. It’s designed to overthrow you… It’s a very careful and precise investigation into the self that was urgent for me. If you’re sitting in a meditation hall for four or five hours a day you kinda get straight with yourself. So this is not on the level of a religious conversion. It’s closer to science than religion.”

“You keep discarding the stuff that is too easy, or too much of a slogan.”

“But I really am a writer, and a writer is deeply conflicted. And it’s in his work that his reconciles those deep conflicts. And it doesn’t set the world in order. It doesn’t really change anything. It just is a kind of harbor.”

“One is always trying to write a good song. Like everything else, you put in your best effort, but you can’t command the consequences.”

“Nothing’s over till it’s over, but I find myself in a graceful moment… It’s not so much that I got what I was looking for, but the search itself dissolved.”

“70 is indisputably not youth. I don’t say that it’s extreme old age, but it’s the foothills of old age, and that urgent invitation to complete one’s work is very much in my life.”

– Are you gonna tour?
– I may. Because, you know, it’s a good solution to old age and death. Just play till you drop.

“The only way you can sell a concert is if you put yourself at risk. And if you don’t do that, people know. And they go home with the feeling that, well, they like the songs, but you know, they prefer to listen to them at home. But if you can really stand at the center of your song, if you can inhabit that space, and really stand for the complexity of your own emotions, then everybody feels good. The musicians feel good, and you feel good, and the people who’ve come feel good.”

His text to his frend at the end:

“Ducking away to write and write feverishly, if two words a day constitutes a fever. Many pressing concerns, but ignoring most of them in favor of a finished lyric. Not interested in anything else, and this interest fairly fragile also. Another beautiful day.”

“You look around and you see a world that is impenetrable, that cannot be made sense of. You either raise your fist, or you say Hallelujah. I try to do both.”

Other raw emotions besides awe:

I got the angriest at the artist’s assholery (at least assholery as I perceived it from the outside, out of context, knowing nothing but what I was told) was during the John Lissauer narrative. The cultivation, collaboration, and then abandonment of a younger artist. And eight years later, a new call for collaboration, after complete silence–and the forgiveness Cohen received. Just… shocking. How understanding Lissauer was… how relieved, even grateful at the warmth. And then, how they went on to keep working together. I loved that in the credits, we were shown Lissauer inducted into the Hall of Fame for his work on the original Hallelujah.

Also, the whole part when the rabbi talks about the bat kol! I wish I’d written everything down. But then, there’s always Wikipeida.

AND THE WHOLE TOWER OF SONG SEQUENCE TOWARDS THE END! When the audience member yells, “Leonard Cohen, I love your voice!” And he smiles and says, “You’re the only one that does,” before launching into that verse, “I was born like this, I had no choice/ I was born with the gift of a golden voice,” with such irony, and appreciation, and camp, and sinking into his own septuagenarian sexiness, all to please the audience. And they lapped it up.

I loved how, in the beginning of the documentary, he announces that really wants to be an Elder. And by the end, we see exactly that that is what he became. Globally.

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I Dreamed a City Like a Woman on Her Side

I dreamed a city like a woman on her side
her boundaries silver-lined
a gray wall with glass atop, or tinsel
to keep birds and bounders away.

her hair flowed into a great lake
her tears flowed into a great lake
she lay upon her side, and wept,
her hair in her face,
her verges sun-tipped, jagged.

was the lake her wound?
the city lived in her, yet she wept.
her walls were fortified,
her outline strong to anyone
watching with a bird’s eye.

did they know they lived inside her,
her citizens in their scurry?
did they let the lake crawl into their laps
stroke its waves and whisper:
don’t cry, don’t cry?

was she sore at her stony boundaries?
close to rupture?
groaning under glass, or tinsel?

did she bleed every time they closed
or opened
her doors?

May 30th, 2023
C. S. E. Cooney


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Bonus Scene (cut from Saint Death’s Herald wip) plus deep-cut BONUS SONG “Master Jack”)

The cover for Jack o’ the Hills, published by Papaveria Press. Artwork by Rebecca Huston.

Ah, writing a novel.

My current cut file is longer than my actual, you know, publishable draft. Which is still in process.

So, in this present section of Saint Death’s Herald (the sequel to Saint Death’s Daughter), I’ve brought Lanie and a few of her allies (well, one of them is a dubious ally at best) to the kingdom of Leech: particularly, the capital, Witch Queen’s City.

All I know about Leech was what I wrote in some very early work, these being: “Stone Shoes” my first professional publication ever, which appeared in Subterranean Press Magazine; and “Oubliette’s Egg,” its sequel, which appeared along with “Stone Shoes” in a slender volume called Jack o’ the Hills, published by Papaveria Press.

Rights have since reverted to me, and you can get the ebook online at Amazon still, and I may have a handful of paperbacks left, but… there you have it.

In the present day, I’m worldbuilding a much larger idea of Leech, in the far more complex world of Athe, where most of my writing takes place. (Or… it does–sort of–but all over the timeline, across the mythos, and on many different continents.) (And, including, of course, the uncanny worlds folded into mundane spaces).

So as I write, I’m trying to remember, explore, and expand on some of the ideas I had before.

In the section I’m working on, I was rereading Jack o’ the Hills to refresh myself on the details, and I wrote this sort of fairy-tale retelling section, where Lanie is, in a flashback, telling the story of “Oubliette’s Egg”–the second half of Jack–to Datu.

(FYI: there’s a third, unfinished Jack tale, which I always had in mind as being part of Havoc Dreadnought’s backstory, for those of you who like tidbits and read footnotes. If you’ve read Saint Death’s Daughter, you’ll probably know and love Havoc. I have PLANS for her.)

The long-ago, original cover art for the (never-released) (indie) (DYI) audiobook for “Oubliette’s Egg.” Art by Rebecca Huston.

But… as is often the way of these tales…

I woke up yesterday morning knowing what I should have already known: this scene doesn’t really belong in the novel. It was just for me, telling the story to myself.

But since I spent a few days writing it, I thought I might as well show you the process at. Some of you who are familiar with my early writing might get a kick out of it, and others of you who already love Lanie and Datu might get a different sort of kick out of it.

I give you, the excised chapter, “Oubliette’s Garden.”

Yours truly,

C. S. E. Cooney

P.S. Oh! And if you want a bonus song, here’s “Master Jack,” which my brother Jeremy Cooney and I wrote together. That’s him on vocals and guitar. I still think the tune is VERY CATCHY.


Lanie had first come across the legend of “Oubliette’s Gardens” in a battered old storybook found on the bookshelves of Stones Nursery, called Spook-Fables and Cradle Tales: Legend and Lore from the Lands Beyond Liriat. 

She had read that book to literal pieces, and then, as the years passed, lost the pieces. But later, as Datu was growing up, her bedtime rituals growing ever more elaborate as she demanded stories that would stave off sleep for as long as she could, Lanie recalled all those old beloved stories again from memory, and recited them aloud. 

While Datu claimed not to like any stories that were not absolutely authentic, verified, historical fact, the truth was, she enjoyed spook-fables too much to excise them from her nocturnal diet. The gorier the better—especially when she was around five and six. “Oubliette’s Gardens” was one of her favorite requests, though her didyi found it distasteful, bizarre, and too bloody-minded for a child who was ostensibly on her way to sleep.

But Lanie never put up much resistance when her niece demanded any specific tale of her, and a typical night’s telling of “Oubliette’s Garden” went much like this:


In olden days, back when Witch Queen’s City was still called King’s City, ruled by a family of humans who had hunted the local skinchangers to near extinction, there was a princess called Oubliette.


“Yes, Datu, Oobly-Goobly is what her brother called her. Brothers can be such pests.”

“You do not have a brother, Auntie Lanie.”

“Your Didyi is kind of like my brother. Don’t tell him I said that.”)

Oubliette was not just a princess; she was also a secret sorceress. Her powers lay in the realm of fascination, granted by the god Aganath, Queen of the Sea. With these powers, the Princess could push and pull a weaker will than hers with the ease of the tides. With these powers, she could bewitch any suitor she did not fancy marrying into doing what she pleased.

Which, it turned out, was all of them.

(“How many is all, Auntie Lanie?”

“Oh. A lot.”

“How many is a lot?”

“At least six dozen. Suitors come in batches, like eggs.”)

Princess Oubliette knew she was under a curse—to die on the morning following her wedding night. Therefore, she found herself highly motivated to maintain her unmarried state for life.

(“And can you blame her, Datu?”

“That is not a part of the story, Auntie Lanie.”)

Every time an ill-starred suitor arrived at Leech Keep to court Oubliette for his bride, the princess would cast her fascination magic upon him. She would command him to perform some public scandal—as illegal an action as it would be irredeemable and unseemly.

(“What is a scandal?”

“Like, she’d tell him, “Go play with the pigs in the pigpen, and then he’d have to do it.”

“That does not sound bad to me.”

“It was how he played with pigs, Datu.”


“Never mind.”)

Princess Oubliette would then “discover” her suitor thus compromised, and denounce him as unfaithful to her hand, and thereby a traitor to the crown. 

Such an uproar, every time! Her father, the King of Leech, would summarily execute his daughter’s erstwhile suitor in Gallows Plaza, where all King’s City could watch and cheer. 

Then would the Princess Oubliette hang his body in her private gardens, where she could admire his decay and revel in her own continuing survival. 

By the time she was sixteen, Princess Oubliette had quite a collection of corpses. She called them her “wind-chimes,” and loved them as other princesses loved fluffy kitties and golden balls and dancing slippers.

(“Auntie Lanie, was Oobly-Goobly a necromancer?”

“I don’t know, Datu. I don’t think so.”

“But she likes bones, like you.”

“Yes, but… liking murder is not the same as loving death. It’s hard to explain. Now, would you like to engage in a theological discussion with your genius aunt, or would you like the rest of the story?”

“Story, please.”)

One morning, upon reading an omen in her tea leaves, Princess Oubliette began to weave a splendid shirt from stinging nettles, and laid upon it an enchantment of fascination. When it was finished, she went riding with her twin brother the prince out into the high ridges beyond King’s City. 

There, she lay in wait for her quarry. She did not have to wait long. 

Soon came passing by a wild young skinchanger, just recently come of egg-laying age. Princess Oubliette cast her nettle shirt over the skinchanger’s head, and with its magic bound her body between two forms: that of a girl, and that of a swan. Her arms became useless wings, weighing her down till she could neither flee nor fly.

The princess, greedy for more power, sold the poor skinchanger to her brother, the prince, in exchange for the sorcery in his blood. 

(“What did his sorcery do?”

“It doesn’t say. But I think it was pain. The prince was cruel. I think he could hurt anything he touched.”

“Like Mumyu.”

“Um. Yes. Like your mother. Except your mumyu uses weapons and poisons and things. And all the prince had to do was touch.”

“I wish I had that power.”

“No, you don’t, Datu.”)

The prince thought he had the better end of the bargain. He planned to collect all the skinchanger’s eggs for his own. He would sell the fertilized ones to the highest bidder, for young skinchangers were prized by wealthy human game hunters who wished to chase exotic fare in the field. 

But even a skinchanger’s wind eggs were valuable, for when they carried no precious child inside their empty shells, the shells themselves were made of purest gold. The prince planned to line his household coffers with golden eggs, so that the royal kingdom of Leech would grow in riches and power.

Such would have been the skinchanger’s life, and oh! An awful life it would have been. 

But thankfully, wild as she was, she was not without friends.

(“This is my favorite part.”

“Mine too, Datu.”)

It just so happened that the skinchanger was traveling with two peasant boys from the hill country of Leech. 

The older was strong, but strange and silent, pale and lumbering like a white bear; the younger was small, but cunning and clever, quick as a fox with a fox’s rufous hair. 

Years ago, they had found the skinchanger’s egg all lonely in the hills, and raised her from a hatchling. Every day for all her life, they had fed her souls to suck, so that she could learn and grow. She supped on people from the hills, people like the boys themselves, whom nobody would miss.

(“People like us?”

“No. Because, you see, my plumula, your didyi and I would miss you. Very much.”

“But what if a skinchanger was very, very hungry, and I was outside playing in the garden, and they found me and…”)

“Datu. I will not let any skinchanger sup on you. If they ever tried, I’d raise an army of the undead and bury them in a pile of bones. And if they tried to turn into a mouse and scurry away, then your didyi would turn into a falcon and eat them up.”


When the boys did not find the skinchanger on the ridge where they left her, they grew frightened. They followed her trail all the way to to King’s City, where they learned that she had been stolen by the princess and princess. 

The younger disguised himself as an emissary of a foreign king. The older played the king, his pockets heavy with the skinchanger’s golden eggs. Together, these two brave boys marched upon Castle Leech and requested Princess Oubliette’s hand in marriage.

The princess, thinking to add more fine skeletons to her collection, agreed to marry her new suitor in seven days—provided he would stay faithful to her till the wedding night. 

Little did she know that her silent swain was no king at all. He was not even the peasant boy he appeared.

(“What was he then?”

“I’m getting to that, Datu! It’s like you’ve never heard this story before.”)

No, his true form was that of a great white bear. He was the natural son of Wykkyrri Ten-Thousand Beasts, a god known to roam the hills of Leech in His many forms, and lay with any willing bird, beast, or fish He met there—including humans. 

Because he was the child of a god, none of Princess Oubliette’s powers of fascination had the power to bend him to her will. And so, bound by her word, at the end of seven days, she had to marry him. 

On the same night, the Prince of Leech married his captive skinchanger. The kingdom rejoiced, for surely this was a sign that Leech would prosper henceforth.

(“No, it was not. They were wrong.”

“Not exactly wrong, Datu. Just… the prospering went in an unexpected direction.”)

But though at night the kingdom rejoiced, by morning’s tide, the kingdom mourned. 

(“Told you so.”)

No one knew exactly what had happened during those night-dark hours when King’s City slumbered. 

All they knew was that, when dawn broke, the King of Leech was found dead—mauled, they said, by a great white bear, who had disappeared into the heart of the rising sun. 

Alas, poor Leech! For the king’s heir, the Prince of Leech, was also dead! His body was strewn across his wedding bed, pierced through and ragged with wounds, his remains wrapped in the bloody rags of a nettle shirt.

(“You should not capture people. You should not trap them and make them marry you. You should not be cruel with your magic when you touch them.”

“That’s, uh, yes, the moral of this story, Datu. Well, um, said. Your didyi would be proud.”)

And so, the Princess Oubliette was declared Queen of Leech. Wild she was with happiness, beneath her semblance of grief. Her meddlesome father and brother were gone. Her magical bridegroom was released to his true form. She had survived her wedding night, and her path to the throne was clear.

But in her giddiness, the new queen forgot two things.

(“The younger brother! The younger brother! The fox one!”

“Yes, indeed.”

“I like him.”

“That’s because you’re just like him. Small, but clever and cunning.”)

She forgot the boy from the hills. And she forgot the skinchanger, whom he had helped escape in the night.

The skinchanger struck fast as Oubliette passed. She caught the queen in her quicksand gaze, and sucked the soul from her body, and stole her shape for her own. 

Now the skinchanger was the queen. She spoke with the queen’s voice, and knew all the queen knew: magic and mathematics, science and sorcery, languages and literature, politics and poetry. The old Oubliette was only a shell; she could not even speak. She had no memory, no words, no self left, for the skinchanger had eaten it all. 

So the new queen denounced the old queen as an imposter and caused her to be burned upon a pyre.

(“Did you say something, Datu?”

“No. I was only sucking my thumb.”

“Do you want me to stop?”

“No, you are almost done.”)

And that was how the skinchanger took Oubliette’s title, took her power, and took her country. She became the Witch Queen, who gave Leech back to the skinchangers. All the humans who had hunted her people now became the humans who were hunted down or driven out, never to be heard from again.

And the olden days turned golden days, and were golden ever since.

(“That is a happy ending, Auntie Lanie.”

“I always thought so, Datu.”)


Long after the days when her young niece grew tired of those old spook-fables and cradle-tales, Lanie remained fascinated by Leech. One day, she vowed to herself, she would travel there. She would climb the ridge, cross the bridge into the capital, and walk up to the municipal Court of Pneumaphages, and apply for a permit to visit Oubliette’s Gardens.

And then, if she had the chance, she would ask the dead for their side of the story. 

But in her wildest imaginings, Lanie had never dreamed to arrive in Witch Queen’s City like this. 


The original (wraparound) cover art for Jack o’ the Hills, published by Papaveria Press. Artwork by Rebecca Huston.
The video my brother Jeremy made me, in the early days of my publishing career, when he was just learning how to mess around with animating still images. The wonderful things my family does for me!


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Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Carlotta-B from 1593!

For today’s blog entry, I would love to direct you to Carlotta-B from 1593: the Ultimate Feminist Shakespearean Contemporary Leading Lady!

First of all, because you’re all so dang cute, you should just enjoy yourselves with this wee SIZZLE REEL of Carlotta-B’s! Because once you see her in action, you will want to LAVISH HER with support!

The second thing I would do is BEG YOU to sign up for her NEWSLETTER, which is a hot treat!


In Carlotta-B’s own words:

Thanks for letting people know about the opportunity to support Carlotta-B in paying all her contributing artists!
Essentially, ANY donation of ANY amount made to Shakespearean Cabaret Co. between May 22nd-26th puts us in the draw to receive $1000 towards the project, which will be spent paying contributing artists (musician/s and dramaturg).

So, if 20 people gave $1 each, there’d be 20 more chances to win. Also that $1 is tax deductible. It’s a win all round!

Thanks to everyone who considers, and for supporting Shakespearean Cabaret Co. in all the ways – was so great to see so many new faces at ‘Unbecoming’ last year!

Here’s our mission statement: 

We aim to entertain you in ways that make Shakespeare accessible – by interrogating the language and the structures and systems of thought that pervade our belief systems and cultural landscapes today. Together with our audiences, we strive to reimagine a better, kinder world through a broader understanding of human experience. And we believe Shakespeare can be a bridge to cross over into that new territory. Will you walk with us?

Check us out via our website and Instagram and sign up for updates on our mailing list!

Here’s the fine print on donations: Shakespearean Cabaret Co.is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Shakespearean Cabaret Co. must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Here’s the actual link to make a donation!

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when the mud comes

the pallid house, the livid house
it ate the proud, it ate the young
it reached out with its scarlet tongue
or were those roof-tiles, gleaming?

those fine, fat lawns, those glossy shrubs
their roots like squirming worms and grubs
the tennis courts, the swimming pool
clear as vodka, warm as drool

the Maserati on the drive
with scarlet leather stitched in black
seamless, keyless, gazing back

glass wine cellars, marble halls
Möbius sculptures, mirrored walls
cat’s cradle for a chandelier
sinewy and trochlear

years it feasted, years it tasted
the smooth and luminous, silken-fleshed
they entered lavish, left in debt
no more backward glancing

and now the house is grown with mold
the fungal house, the charnel house
the fly and rat, the luckless mouse
these are for its wasting

and on the mountaintop it rots
and on the mountainside it slumps
and down the mountain slope it slides
when the mud comes, when the mud comes


Sitzfleisch Poetry Hour–“anyone can write poetry for one hour a month!”


I wrote something more personal at first, but it made me cry, and also it wasn’t very good. So I deleted it.

Then I wanted to write something fun, but it ended up being this. Gwynne had a successful night of turning a failed short story into a good poem. That made me want to try something like that. But not, I thought, tonight. Too late for that.

So then I wanted to write something reverse-Gothic. Not like “girl-running-from-house” gothic (thank you, Kathleen Jennings), but “old woman-running-to-house” gothic.

But this came out instead. Just a monster house. It started out fictional. Then I started reading about houses, and now it’s half-based on a true story of a house called The One.

Anyway. It’s all very silly. I need to write more poetry so that I can write something I really like and also really mean. In the meantime, at least the process remains interesting.

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Roots of Enchantment: Theodora Goss and C. S. E. Cooney at Pandemonium Books and Games

Great news! Towards the end of the month–on April 23rd!–I get to take a train up to Boston and be on a panel with Dr. Theodora Goss!

Pandemonium Books and Games will be hosting us, thanks to a gracious invitation from Kat Pavlovich, whom we met at this year’s Boskone. Of their store, their website says:

Pandemonium Books and Games has resided in Boston for over 30 years. Our community is for anyone interested in enriching their life through play, literature, and imaginative storytelling. We have the largest event space of its kind in the Boston area, where we strive to create a comfortable and welcoming place for folks of all ages and identities

…which just… makes me want to buy ALL THE DICE from them!

Looks like there’s a sign-up for the event on their website, so go check out their ROOTS OF ENCHANTMENT EVENT and come see us if you’re in the Boston area!

It’s always terribly exciting and fun to be on a panel with Dr. Theodora Goss. Half of it is that we both like to play dress-up, and the other half is, I just think she’s so great and smart and is such a good talker, so it’s like going to see a panel she’s on for my own pleasure, and occasionally talking too.

For those of you who don’t know, Dora and I were in a writing group together for a hot minute, way back in the beforetimes.

It was she–from a casual remark about wanted a rose named after her–who inspired the character of Dora Rose in my novella “The Bone Swans of Amandale,” which can be found in my collection Bone Swans.

The cover of Bone Swans: Stories. Art by Kay Nielsen.

We both got to release our books from Mythic Delirium at Boskone two months ago–her The Collected Enchantments, and my The Twice-Drowned Saint.

I think Dora and I both love Mythic Delirium so much, and feel such gratitude for a small praise whose entire aesthetic is “beauty and strangeness.”

If you haven’t seen or read or heard of The Collected Enchantments yet, it is a gorgeous collection of many Theodora Goss short stories, and best of all–POEMS!–(I know, that’s just a personal preference; I love her stories too, I just love ANY collection with POETRY in it).

Like this other one of hers that Mythic Delirium put out, Snow White Learns Witchcraft.

As you can see, it’s so beautiful, with powerful cover art by the internationally renowned Catrin Welz-Stein and internal illustrations by the great Paula Arwen Owen.

I believe that Pandemonium Books will have copies of our books–and we shall be there to sign them!

Saint Death’s Daughter, cover art by Kate Forrester.
The covers of Dark Breakers and The Twice-Drowned Saint, art by Brett Massé and Lasse Paldanius respectively.

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Playing D&D–For Cancer Research!

HUZZAH, my nerds!

On May 25th, at 6 PM, in Bridgeport, CT, Carlos Hernandez (writer, professor, game designer), Zac Clay (voice actor, educator, professional DM), Robert Austin James (voice actor, audio/video editor, singer/songwriter), myself (YOURS TRULY, C. S. E. COONEY!!!!) and a yet-to-be-Chosen One/High School Student from Connecticut will all be playing D&D live for charity!

We will be at the historic Klein Auditorium, rolling under the awesome DMing powers of Gregory Wilson (academic, author, musician, and regular Twitch streamer on his own ArvanEleron channel!).

$5 entrance fee! Buy tickets HERE!

That’s the same price both for an IN-PERSON ticket, or a VIRTUAL ticket.

Watch a game! Support cancer research!

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New Newsletter: Stars of a Distant Star

Friends, I have started a newsletter!

You can subscribe here, and get it right in your email box.

It’s sort of exciting. I used to write “newsletters” to friends and family in my early twenties… until I discovered LiveJournal. And then I never looked back.

I will still blog here, because I love a blog! But I will be more focused in my newsletter about specific projects and appearances, particularly: Ballads from a Distant Star, Negocios Infernales, The Devil and Lady Midnight, and Lamp. Or whatever else, as it comes!

Here’s a sneak peak of some of cast photos taken by the wonderful Nelson Luna (also, find him on Instagram!). More to come!

Cast photo for Ballads from a Distant Star, courtesy of Nelson Luna. Left to right: Amanda Baker, C. S. E. Cooney, Miriam Grill, Carlos Hernandez, Tim Rodriguez, and Carla Kissane.

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Random Thoughts on Mamoru Hosoda’s “Belle”

Carlos and I watched the anime “Belle” by Mamoru Hosoda, as rec’ed by a friend on Twitter. We had MANY THOUGHTS and frequently paused the movie to share them with each other.

All in all, I have zero regrets… BECAUSE MY DREAMS LAST NIGHT WERE HALF-ANIME, HALF-MUSICAL THEATRE, and far more entertaining than they’ve been in a while. WHICH MAKES ME WANT TO WATCH MORE ANIME MUSICALS BEFORE BED.

A few thoughts:

– This movie was really eight movies trying to be one two-hour movie. Very ambitious. Kind of a glorious mess. Lots of emotional whiplash. Perhaps unintentionally comedic because of this whiplash in parts.

– The grief narrative of losing/finding one’s voice and the abuse narrative (both domestic and cyber) were the emotional and moral hearts of the story. When the movie was working its deepest metaphorical magic, it was here. The cloak of bruises. The relationship between the tiny, fragile angel and the dragon beast. Ah! My heart.

– The re-telling of Beauty and the Beast part (which was one of the eight movies this movie was trying to be) was essentially DISNEY’S Beauty and the Beast–both in emotional beats and narration style–almost at the level of pastiche. Not parody. It took itself far too seriously for parody, and I think was done in a spirit of homage not plagiarism, but it came really close.

The re-telling was actually one of the things that didn’t work for me, because “Belle” was using an adult romantic-love narrative to overlay/explain an essentially platonic rescue narrative among child characters. Kind of squicky?

– I kind of wanted the world–both the real world and its cyber counterpart to be a sandbox-style VR experience, so I could just wander around and LOOK AT THINGS. Sometimes it was so visually stunning I almost cried. Sometimes the CGI and normal animation were not… very well integrated. At all. But when it worked, IT REALLY WORKED.

– The music-video-concert-style parts were unexpectedly moving and catchy. They were set pieces, and could stand alone. And might have worked better that way.

– I don’t watch a lot of anime, and looking at some of the intentionally comic moments made me think of the history of Japanese theatre/clowning vs a more Western commedia dell’arte/vaudeville history of theatre and clowning. So much of our (Looney Tunes) early cartoon style comes directly from the vaudeville–slapstick, stock characters, situations.

I think some of the things I don’t connect to emotionally in anime comedy–the stylistic cartoon changes in face and posture, the long pauses, the emotional hyperbole–are simply things I don’t key into historically or culturally. BUT I WANT TO LEARN!

– What was up with the choir ladies? I mean, I LOVED THEM. But they were almost in a whole other movie. CHOIR LADIES, HOW I LOVE YOU. Choir ladies ex machina FTW.

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Shearing Season

for Carlos Hernandez, on February 13th

come here, my curly-headed ram
come lean against my belly, in trust
and in full blissome, give the blossom
of your head unto my shears

tentative at first, then all too ardent
my bladework leaps alive at you
you sit and hum your secret smile
content to barter proficiency for intimacy

then shall I lop at you and chop at you!
hack and whack and saw at you!
snip and clip and rip at you–and only when
I’m through, will I run my fingers
warm over your skull, and shake
your loosened winterfall away

the day before this day, I play
at mourning: extoll the thing
I must, by your request, annihilate
your medusa mane of brown and gray

I tug your curls taut, then let them sproing
and sproinging, think of spring
as you scrub the shrub about your ears
eager to be tidy, greedy to be clean

now shorn, my ram, you move to get the broom
I wrap the clippers and reset the room
you stop me in the middle, as if by chance
“ah, my kindness!” you whisper, and we dance

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