September 6th, 2006


strange stories

Reading an odd book from the beginning of Emma Tennant's career (before she became the official botherer of women's literary classics, and author(ess) of such classics as Emma in Love and Heathcliffe's Tale, she was a fantasy/realist in the vein of Angela Carter and Jeanette Winterson and produced some memorably weird pieces of which Hotel de Dream is probably my favourite) about a bunch of girls who go missing on a sponsored walk near Melplash and Bridport (i.e. just up the road from where I grew up). I'm disappointed by the lack of fairies, but keeping myself amused by running a mental sweepstake: at some point in the story, one of the girls kills another. My current bet is that Bess will kill Mary, probably by decapitation.

Ah, Snakes on a Plane. CGI meets body horror and prosthetic venom damage wins ("remember -- time means tissue!"). I liked the way they gave the boa constrictor extra spikey teeth! And also -- oh, but that would be a spoiler. It was OK, but as action on planes goes, not quite up there with Con Air. And speaking of action, if the heteronormative bumslapping at the end is anything to go by, trapped in a plane with a bunch of hormone-crazed venomous snakes can be added to the great movie list of Good Places to Pick up Chicks. Why so grumpy? Well, later on that night, I had a dream about a pheromone-based pest control which drove muskrats crazy and made them pile on top of each other until they crushed themselves into a sort of muskrat paté, and thanks to the glories and mysteries of the subconscious, got to see this in action. Yes, it was disgusting. So thankyou, Snakes on a Plane.

Remember those swarming caterpillars I linked to some time ago? Well, it seems that in America they call them (or a cousin of similar habits) army worms, and, even better than that, some fool has made wine of them: not recommended for the squeamish. He's saved some worms up to put in special bottles, as for tequila. Who will get them? "Very special people," apparently. "Not necessarily people I like, but they'll be special in their own way." Oh, you'll want to know how it tasted, of course: "dry, pale and crisp. They compared it to a pinot grigio or white bordeaux".

Last night, too tired to go to the pub, I instead found myself finding out about the lost pyramid cities of Tucumé, ancient, eroded adobe pyramids in a place now dubbed Purgatorio, where (rumour has it) the conquistadors set fires to convince natives that the place literally was hell. Perhaps they needed little convincing, as alongside the treasure-packed tombs of the Lambayeque lords, there were the decapitated corpses of sacrifices killed while conscious but paralysed. Human sacrifice peaked as their civilization collapsed. The documentary had theories about why that was, but I was taken by the pyramids themselves -- huge platforms that towered above the valley floor, entrances baffled by mazes and controlling rooms, and beyond, the homes of privilege, the workshops where miracles were made in gold, silver and textiles -- and huge, open spaces, large enough for gods to walk on. Odd how just a small change sideways would have made of these pyramids flood shelters for livestock and workers, refuges against Incas and Conquistadors. But instead they burnt them, as imperfect gods, and built another, better, bigger pyramid. There were twenty-six of them in one valley.
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    and they will plant vineyards -- the orb