Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My Favorite Things

By Cornelia

1. & 2.

Window seats and toile de jouy curtains, respectively. No doubt a double-X chromosome thing.


Heirloom tomatoes, and the way the plants smell when you're walking barefoot through warm humid garden dirt on a hot July afternoon to go pick some for dinner.


This photograph of a magnolia blossom by Imogen Cunningham, because she makes it look like a temple.

This photo of Imogen herself, with model Twinka, taken by Judy Dater in 1981. Imogen is the one on the left.

5. & 6.

Patsy Cline, and

Hank Williams SENIOR.

Because some days you just need twangy yodeling.


Robinson Jeffers' poetry--not least, these days:
Shine, Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic.
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains.
And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught--they say--God, when he walked on earth.



William Manchester's magnificent biography of Winston Churchill, which for me stands as one of the acmes of non-fiction writing, both for its flights of oratory:

England's new leader, were he to prevail, would have to stand for everything England's decent, civilized Establishment had rejected.... Like Adolf Hitler he would have to be a leader of intuitive genius, a born demagogue in the original sense of the word, a believer in the supremacy of his race and his national destiny, an artist who knew how to gather the blazing light of history into his prism and then distort it to his ends, an embodiment of inflexible resolution who could impose his will and his imagination on his people -- a great tragedian who understood the appeal of martyrdom and could tell his followers the worst, hurling it to them like great hunks of bleeding meat, persuading them that the year of Dunkirk would be one in which it was "equally good to live or to die" -- who could if necessary be just as cruel, just as cunning, and just as ruthless as Hitler but who could win victories without enslaving populations, or preaching supernaturalism, or foisting off myths of his infallibility, or destroying, or even warping, the libertarian institutions he had sworn to preserve. Such a man, if he existed, would be England's last chance.

In London there was such a man.
And for his ability to capture Churchill's wit:

He called Atlee "a sheep in sheep's clothing," and "a modest man with much to be modest about," and he drove a sharp needle into Labour policy one day when he met him in the House's men's room. Attlee, arriving first, had stepped up to the urinal trough when Churchill strode in on the same mission, glanced at him, and stood at the trough as far away from him as possible. Attlee said, "Feeling standoffish today, are we, Winston?" Churchill said: "That's right. Every time you see something big, you want to nationalize it."


Josephine's bed at Malmaison, because sometimes humanity requires a profound and absolute respite from all things IKEA, even though I think dusting is a massive pain in the butt and plus you'd probably have to have those sheets drycleaned every damn week or whatever. (See #1).


Holland and Holland shotguns.

I mean, how could you not love such an object?


"Cher Guevara," and whoever invented her.


Hanging out on the beach in Bali with an Aussie named Tony Ruwald who my sister Freya met while surfing there, in 1988.


The view from Nepenthe, in Big Sur, home of the "Ambrosia Burger."

Although I miss the old days, when they still had canvas director's chairs scattered around the terrace, instead of plastic.


Old VW single cab trucks. Just because.


Being able to make a Southpark self-portrait.

How about you guys? What's your fave thing du jour?


  1. Reading your posts ranks pretty high on my list of fave things.

    Finding the answer to odd questions like: When a man was being held before trial in 1941 DC, what was he wearing? I've spoken to everyone, including the historian of the US Marshalls, and I still don't know.

    A newly opened bottle of tonic and a fresh lime.

    My daughter's singing.

    The smell of a new book.

    The sound of an old tube amp, cranked.

  2. Ah, Cornelia, you are not a child of your own generation. Truly old school. And that's why I love you.

    In the spirit of fine things, I choose:

    * peonies

    * the smell of angostura bitters

    * Lauren Bacall

  3. I'm sure there are things I like more in the world, but the things I am loving right at this very instant (in no particular order) are:

    The A's beating the Reds and taking the series win.

    The jumbo-sized bag of dried mangoes that my coworker picked up for me at Costco.

    A warm enough day to go for a walk around the office park.

    The Broadway station on my satellite radio.

    Oh, and since no one else is going to say it, congrats again on the Macavity nomination.

    Off for my walk.

  4. That South Park thingie is my new fav thing. Sadly, I couldn't figure out how to save my portrait.

  5. Steve McQueen. Your posted photo says it all. He WAS/IS the real Thomas Crown. Pierce Brosnon, eat your skinny Irish heart out.

  6. I'm SOOOOO miffed - I can't copy MY South Park image which is almost as good as yours. I can't believe how perfect that is - love the pearls, snookie, LOVE the look. But I can't seem to get mine copied.

    You know me - my recent find is

    Window seats - Are they X chromosome? I adore them and have wanted one all my life.

    And alas, guns make me queasy - literally, not just hyperbole, i've been known to want to fwow up on seeing them so can't quite get the whole shotgun thing.

    I'd come up with some more meaningful ones but I'm way too whiny for that still as I'm still fighting the flu - keep thinking it's done, but it's not and I'm $%$%"&(!* exhausted. which isn't to say I'm strong when I don't have the flu but I am SO fed UP with it.

  7. 1) the sound of a horn screaming a righteous fanfare of the sort which seems the natural side dish to an entree of clanging steel

    2) good beer

    3) that feeling of "getting good wood" when you abso-fucking-lutely nail the sentence your head is trying to describe to your fingers on the keyboard

    4) the smell of horsehide, glove leather, and fresh-cut bermuda on a summer afternoon

    5) that moment when you realize that you understand the solution and stand poised to scream down the path to the finish line

    6) the contentment of having done the job and done it better than anyone else could even have dreamed of doing it

    7) "Amarillo By Morning"

    8) Branagh's reading of the Crispin's Day scene in HENRY V

    9) venison sausage fresh off the grill

    10) that incredible and fleeting moment in some contest when you realize that you are untouchable, unbeatable, and in absolute command of every action happening.

    PS-- Kiera Knightley's mouth is climbing higher on this list, the more I think of it...

  8. David: I tried Googling a bit for you, but all I could find out is that the DC jails are administered by the Department of the Interior. Maybe you could find a photo of someone famous arrested in the '40s in Washington? Not much shows up in the National Archives online images.

    Louise: I think I was born about 80 years old. Sad, really. I LOVE your list! Especially peonies... okay, and angostura... and...

    Daisy: Thank you! And mmmmmmm... dried mangoes....

    Patty and Andi: DAMN! I must have copied the wrong URL for the South Park thing. There's another website where you can save it after you make it.

    Debbyj: you are, as usual, a woman of exquisite taste and sensibility. Especially when it comes to the menfolk.

    Andi (solo): I am so so so hoping the damn flu leaves you ALONE at long last. I had some bug that knocked me out for a couple of weeks. SUCKED!!! I don't blame you for whinyness.

    Brett: You are righteously awesome. Ditto on Branagh's #8, especially, though I'm more about the backstrap when it comes to venison in #9.

  9. Brett

    "8) Branagh's reading of the Crispin's Day scene in HENRY V"

    Oh my. He SO made me GET IT - the sort of speech that I never relate to, never get, it's either too guy or too martial or too, well,it's lovely but.....

    And Branagh made me feel it.

    Good one.

    You can have Keira, i'll take Orlando. He's so dreamy....

  10. too many favourite things......but here's some Churchill for you:

    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
    — Winston Churchill: Former U.K. Prime Minister.


  11. One of my current favorite thing is the Pythonesque "Men Doing Dressage" video clip on YouTube - oh you have to watch it, it'll crack you up:

    And if it doesn't, well, maybe it's a Brit thing.

  12. Andi, I think you have to put asterisks around *dreamy*. It's a law. Seriously.

    Jon, *right* on.

  13. Cornelia,
    Your posts always make me stop and think - mostly about the things I take for granted.

    What do I love?

    The smell of old books, especially old children's books and picture books.

    Rediscovering my childhood at flea markets - rare these days, on this side of the pond. :-)

    Open fires and teddy bears.

    Bogie AND Bacall!

    The full moon, pearls and roses - so, I'm old fashioned. I used to look hot in the proverbial little black dress, pearls and big hair. (I wore pearls all through the 80s. My mother gave them to me, because she'd never wear them. I nearly died when I found out how much they were worth. My Dad had given them to her after they were married)

    The colour and texture of fabric - I can lose a day in a fabric store.

    The feel of oil paint under a soft sable brush.

    Books, books, and more books.

    I miss bushwalking from when I was a teenager.

    Old houses, vintage classic clothing, and old photographs.

    Brett: you're a poet, mate!
    David: I have photos from courtrooms in the 1950/60s - old black and white ones from a photographic magazine of the time. I also have a stock photo catalog of period photos. If it's something you really need, I could go look. :-D


  14. Our J, OMG--the shot of the wellies alone... I have not watched anything so perfect on youtube since discovering Posh Nosh:

    Thank you!

  15. Marianne: I'm torn between the smell of old books and the smell of new books. But on everything else check, check, check, check, check... though I've never gone bushwalking. I like walking through groves of eucalyptus here in California, though. Pale substitute...

  16. Cornelia,
    You've given me the Honky Tonk Blues. Great clips by both Hank Williams, Sr. & the immortal Patsy Kline. (The tremble in her voice shoots shivers up my spine).

    Your interests are far-ranging, from the intellectual to the sensual. I don't mean to sound like a beer commercial, but you really grab for the gusto.

  17. If I could take us back in time to the reserve near where we lived, I'd take you Crawchie fishing in the pond deep in the bush. That's freshwater crayfish to you yanks. :-)

    Also, think of the eucalypts, a golden haze of summer day - 'the hot gold hush of noon' where only the insects chirrup. The silence and coolness of earth filling your nostrils, and the soft dirt of the trail beneath your bare feet.

    Or walking among the dew laden under scrub with the cobwebs still bejeweled with water droplets just catching the sun from a shaft of light that's just punched through the leafy canopy above. And above that, a sky so cobalt blue it hurts to look at it.

    Such were my childhood rambles. :-)

    Oh, and we owned a burnt orange twin cab vw truck much like the one in your picture. Owned a combi van too at one stage. :-)


  18. Paul: why and I suddenly craving a nice cold beer?

    Marianne: I love "the hot gold hush of noon." Beautiful image. And good on you for the twin cab and the combi!

  19. Oh, I've *always* wanted a windowseat! My next house is going to have one, I've decided.

    Um, three favourite things:

    1) A tub of pansies
    2) Reclining on my back, eyes closed, at a festival, listening to my favourite band
    3) How the air smells outside my house in the mid evening at this time of year (sort of green and fresh and slightly moist)

    And as first reserve, listening to my four-year-old niece laugh. She has quite the dirtiest laugh I'eve ever heard -- sort of like Sid James in the Carry On films. Makes me laugh every time.

  20. Ah, Shaz... now I want a windowseat with a bed of pansies for a view. And I want to hear your niece's laugh.

  21. Definitely the touile de jouy until I saw Cher Guevara

  22. Maybe we need a toile de Cher, Cara? THAT would be funny!

  23. there you go...add the pearls and timeless!

  24. The part of the day when both my children are out of the house and there's still coffee left so I pour a cup and enjoy the silence

    watching old Sopranos episodes

    re-working a line of dialogue until it's something a real person might actually say

    writing group meetings when we celebrate big accomplishments--completing a first draft, getting an agent. It's so inspiring

    seeing good things happen to people you respect and admire--Congrats on yet another award nomination, Cornelia!

  25. My dearest Cornelia.
    You never cease to amaze me. You & I pop up at will, anywhere on the planet & we're sitting here, my pal & I, watching (Aussie) football and there you pop again...on this blog. Give my love & regards to Freya. Can't manage to get emails thru successfully. Am changing to a less clunky i/net provider - you get what you pay for! (as you well know, my dear one.) Hope both of you are absolutely fabulously fabulous & continue to be fabulous. Yours sincerely, the fabulous Mr Ruwald.
    p.s. Stay fabulous!

  26. Cornelia

    This is Nani Steele here (Cappy's sister)-found your blog via a search on Nepenthe-and thought, hey I know a Freya and made the connection. I'm working on a book about Nepenthe/food/family, etc. and live in the bay area-where are you? enjoyed your post of things you love-and yes, I was also fond of the directors chairs and lament the old days.

    Nani (