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blaugust #27: the sound of silence.

For a while now, I’ve been in the habit of keeping subtitles on when I watch anything on tv. I started doing it because it’s easier when Phil and I watch things together. I’ll just mute my video and use his sound so we don’t have a horrible nano-second echo. After a while I realized it was great for screenshots – particularly for Murder She Drank nights – and now I just leave it on all the time. They’re a constant source of entertainment, especially on B movies. (Eerie music.) (Moody music.) (Spooky jazz.) (Sultry jazz.) Once, memorably, (Jazzy jazz.). The descriptive ones are almost entirely focused on music, in my experience.

Until this week. I’ve started watching Penny Dreadful. I’ve not gotten very far yet, but so far it’s good campy atmospheric fun. A love a supernatural drama in period costume to while away the hot days of summer. Almost immediately, I noticed something that sets it apart from anything I’ve ever seen before. Nope, not the plot. Deffo not the dialogue. Camera angles, just like mother made. But the closed captions are something else. They are superb. Not only is every line of dialogue accurately captions (much less usual than you’d think), but the non-verbal atmospheric descriptions are incredibly specific. Somebody felt really strongly about conveying the atmosphere of this show to viewers who can’t hear, and it’s pretty amazing. I’m not sure it truly adds to the tension of Penny Dreadful, but I was impressed. I kept pausing and screenshooting over and over again – it took me an hour and a half to watch the first episode. This is what I’m talking about:

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It got me thinking about sound, and the role it plays in fear. For me, it’s pivotal. If I couldn’t hear Freddy’s metal fingernails scraping along the walls, I wouldn’t be half as frightened. The inhuman hyena laughter of the Texas Chainsaw family is the main part of my fear. The nightmare I most fear having involves scratching and whispering outside my door. Thinking about all the scary films I’ve seen, I think Halloween might be the only one that could still make my skin crawl without sound. I’d miss the music, but Michael Myers’ silent, psychotic head-tilt is entirely visual. Looking at it in the light of no sound (as it were), that’s a remarkable achievement.

Those details closed caps are a remarkable achievement, too; it would be great if every film was as thorough.

(Today is Blaugust 27th.)

blaugust #04: alone in packed room.

On the way home from work tonight, I realized I didn’t need to hurry. I hardly ever feel like that: there’s some errand that needs doing, or I want to catch the last of the daylight so I can take product photos, or I’m in a competitive rush to claim the laundry room for the evening. Tonight, though, nothing was jostling me. I decided to stop downtown, halfway through my commute home, and eat dinner by myself in a restaurant I like. As I ordered a glass of wine and pulled my Kindle out of my bag, something struck me: this is a luxury. It hasn’t always felt like a luxury to eat a meal out, alone. I can remember eating out alone and cringing at what felt like the scrutiny of everyone else in the room. But something has shifted, and I don’t think it’s just me aging into comfort with being by myself.

The years I’ve been alive are split almost exactly down the middle into pre-internet and post-internet. Or, as I increasingly feel, the private life years and the public life years. A lot of that feeling has to do with how I live online, which is entirely my choice and not the fault of the internet. But that way of life can make me feel, in a very subtle way, that I’m in public even when I’m home alone in my living room. I portray a persona – genuinely mine – of a person who loves and needs solitude. But I portray that persona publicly, daily, in a variety of mediums. That doesn’t give the lie to my solitude, but it does make it harder for me to actually experience it, when I’m wondering if I should be posting this thing I’m making to Instagram, or making a joke about some rabbit hole I’m researching on Twitter. So over the last few years, I have found it increasingly difficult to feel genuinely alone. As I ordered my wine tonight and settled into my book, it occurred to me that the only places I feel genuinely by myself are on an airplane, or in a restaurant or movie theatre by myself. Essentially, places that are filled to bursting with other people. Something about those environments fosters a bubble of away-ness for me. A suspended time that I don’t need to document. The feeling that no one knows where I am – once a feeling that inspired a faint dread, in the prehistoric era of no cell phones – is now a secret delight. No one knows where I am! It’s almost a guilty pleasure.

So I lingered over my dinner for nearly two hours, just because I could, and I came home feeling calm and self-possessed and happy. I am aware that by writing this up as a blog post, I turned my dinner of solitude in a bubble into a public event. What can I say, it’s Blaugust, I needed something to write about, and this was on my mind. But I’m not going to tell you what I ate or what I read, and I didn’t take one single picture of my glass of wine. Those things are mine.

(This is my fourth post for Blaugust.)

with thick strokes of ink.

In Portland, we are at the midway mark of our three months of unbroken sunshine. During June, July, and August, it’s warm and bright. Cloudless, hot sunny days and cooler nights that feel like high desert. I moved here chasing the rain: the lush mossy green and perpetual misty damp of the other 9 months of the year. Fog is my familiar, and the relentless sunshine tends to make me feel disoriented as summer wears on.

This morning when I woke up, it felt cooler than usual in my apartment. I turned off all the fans and enjoyed the quiet. Then, over breakfast, I looked out the window and it had started to rain. Not a vague mist, but a proper silent soaking downpour. It kept up for at least two hours, and it was absolute heaven. The smell of it, the sound of it, the light of a rainy day. I know it’s months until autumn, still, but I felt something prickle and unfurl inside me at the memory of it.



With thick strokes of ink the sky fills with rain.
Pretending to run for cover but secretly praying for more rain.
Over the echo of the water, I hear a voice saying my name.
No one in the city moves under the quick sightless rain.
The pages of my notebook soak, then curl. I’ve written:
“Yogis opened their mouths for hours to drink the rain.”
The sky is a bowl of dark water, rinsing your face.
The window trembles; liquid glass could shatter into rain.
I am a dark bowl, waiting to be filled.
If I open my mouth now, I could drown in the rain.
I hurry home as though someone is there waiting for me.
The night collapses into your skin. I am the rain.

A blank page is my most-feared final boss form.

Hi blog, you look nice today.

Wow, I’m stuck right now. Remember back a couple of years ago when I was all stern with myself about personal narrative and writing my way through things and trying to be bold and not over-edit and all that? I have a dim recollection of such a time. I was pretty proud of some of those posts, and working that way helped me wrestle through a hard time. It bothers me to look at this website recently, and see that it’s lost its shape, that my voice doesn’t really seem to be here right now.  I’ve lost the habit. I’ve let a couple of regular disciplines fall by the wayside. I’ve slowly and unintentionally built a silence, and that is a thing that I know to be bad for me. I’d like to find my way out of that shapeless, voiceless void and start using this space as a workshop again. For myself, and for the things I make.

So here I am, looking for small ways to find my way back into this conversation with myself. It’s nice to see you. Let’s do this again in a day or two.