Thursday, June 21, 2018


I am a living binary of faith and skepticism.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


Fourteen-to-eighteen-year-old me would have of course DIED of this piece of news, just because: Cornwall! Tintagel! There is nothing here, of course, even theoretically pointing to a young Arthur learning literacy and practicing at a windowsill. Still I would have come up with the dreamy idea.

Medievalist intercessionality.

Tony Mattera has a beautiful piece on patriotism and our times. A short, perfect read.

Women are perpetually asked to be the cops, the police, the bosses of their bosses, the judges of their judges; the ones held responsible for patrolling and controlling and meting out punishment against — or graciously forgiving — men who trespass. And God help us if we get it wrong.

The Cut has an eloquent discussion of the current Bill Clinton moment - which, as timesome as it is and he is, does bear consideration right now.

In related non-news, the Patterson brand and the Clinton/Patterson ghost(s) aren't great authors. Who knew? Absolutely everybody. Gary Sue, let'r rip. Two reasons I will not read this book - incidental and not even applicable anti-Muslim villain naming, and egregious use of the term Dark Ages. Y'all know how I feel about *that*.

Unfortunately, the title, “The President Is Missing,” depends upon what the meaning of the word “is” is.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Contrarian Collection(-ish)

Funny how clicking through can go. You're reading about how nostalgia can be a societal ill, and within two clicks the news is how great nostalgia is for us.

Of course, it's a matter of restrictive dieting, where we forget about simple balance in favor of magical prohibitions.

Maybe you need a little escapism just to unkink. And maybe you don't want to fiddle with credits. But wait, credits are culturally vital. And then *again* ... Stingers are really the evil that will destroy us all.

If it appears I am picking on The Guardian, this is largely an accident - you could argue that they're pan-opinionated in these non-news pieces, but it might also be said the flexibility is itself destabilizing and crippling, deconstructing any integrity by offering all options.

Really, it's any thinkpiece these days. Like this post itself, there is so much inspirtation/opinion/guidance on offer in the world that it can be all too easy to cling to one given social, philosophical, or would-be-scientific outcropping just to hold on for dear life.

And that always ends up as a restrictive diet. It doesn't matter the hill, too many of us are willing to pick ONE to die upon, and this is the danger of our times.

There are many vistas, from many hills. It might not be a bad idea to trek to more than one outcrop just to see the perspective another one doesn't offer. And build a worldview from more than one point. Staying fixed leads to resource collapse, and we die of the entropy.

#CriticalThinking may be the best tool we have to stave off incivility, insensibility, insularity ... insurrection. Because dying on one hill, or living on just one outcropping: insanity.

Monday, June 4, 2018


There is NO reading like in-depth, contextualized journalism! The more I read of it, the more I want of it, because: fella babies? I am a history nerd. And well-researched, well-rounded journalism is HISTORY, kids. Here we have a stellar piece from The Guardian about sugar, fat, and nutritional fashion/factions. The history here goes through decades of science, reportage, politics, and real-world effects. It is brilliant, and genuinely gripping reading. Please read it, please? Pretty please with ... sugar on it?

Here is a point where we have to engage in critical thinking. Have you heard the stories about those missing 1500 unaccompanied immigrant children? I will disclaim: I have not researched what is said in this thread, but I haven't researched the screamy headlines in-depth either, and I find this counterpoint worth a pause, if not facile endorsement. Is this analysis dangerous? Or is it dangerous when we call these unaccompanied kids "missing", indulge screamy headlines about it, and fail to understand (or try to) what is really happening with them. The dangers of clicktivism, y'all.

(E)ventually something horrible will happen, something dynamic and powerful. It’s going to have to be cataclysmic for people to wake up and say: ‘OK, is anyone gonna do this?’

Now yet another History Blog link, because although I depend upon the HB perhaps too much in these Collection posts, it's because they're so resource-rich. Oh, and the content is pretty spiff. Here is a rare piece on a Hawai'ian artifact repatriated - and I am a sucker for repatriation. I'm also a sucker for Hawai'ian archaeology, but that is another link.

Oh, here is a sigh of a piece, a 2014 interview with Bill Murray, including a quote from Harvey Weinstein which might turn your spine to chalk. Still eminently worth the click. (Also, next time I march I STILL won't wear one of Those Pink Hats, but I might just indulge a Murray Mask ...)

Talking of icons of the 80s, have you read the Molly Ringwald piece in New Yorker? Pretty fascinating reading, for many reasons, and her penchant for research adds to the layers here. She's also an excellent writer; thoughtful, open, interested and interesting.

Hey, and this is a writer's blog (of sorts), so how about a literary link - that is also timely?

We need to reflect on the way the literature we celebrate supports the idea that women who are sexually frustrated create problems for themselves, while men in the same situation create problems for the world.
We have always treated the alienation of men as if it deserved thousands of pages of analysis, perhaps because we feared it had the power to endanger us all.


How we KNOW

Through the past several months of #MeToo and all of the stories we all have endured, one of the less-spoken throughlines comes down to something like "how do we know not all men are like this?"

Granted, we certainly have the #NotAllMen hashtag to 'splain about these things. Ahem. And lots of us will note the guys in our lives we're sure are above it. Men themselves discuss how abhorrent certain behaviors are.

But there are real STORIES, real moments in time, which prove the lie that all men are creeps.

And, you know? I think these stories really need to be told. The unambiguously clear stories about non-predatory behavior.


Names, obviously, are altered to protect folks I have not seen in years, but let's start off with a couple Tales from College - and I went to a college where tales of the #MeToo sort abounded, to be certain. Hell, the earful my parents got the night before my graduation is enough to speak to the sexual entitlement of drunken frat boys.


Then there was my brother.

He and I became friends early out of the gate, freshman year (1986/87). It is not unlikely he had a bit of a crush on me, at least at some point, but he never acted upon it. Literally never - and we spent a lot of time together, at all hours and at that age when Not Acting On Things was more an anomaly than an expectation.

Then there was M.

I worked in the scene shop, and he was an associate in the drama department, I think 25 years old or so and himself scarcely past the college years (and so forth). He was wonderfully moody and intellectual, scathingly funny, and pretty well fixed up with all the things I still dig in a guy: dark, curly hair, sardonic wit, and a level of marginality.

I spent a lot of hours alone in the shop with M, and (as faulty memory implies) probably not without hopes that something drastically inappropriate might occur with him. Memory of any specific ideas I had about him are not clear, but I do have recollection of one particular day, when Beloved Ex and I were on the outs (I met BEx sophomore year, but worked in the scene shop for several; so by this point, I would have known M for a good year and a half - taking a class with him, working with him, making sure of course to display my intellectual cred at every opportunity). We talked a long time, and he let me go on a bit about whatever bothered me - maybe "boys" as a general caste, maybe just BEx specifically. I am fairly certain I made my vulnerability and availability for "reassurance" pretty plain.

And M didn't do a damn thing about it.

Now. Let it not be said I think I was some irresistible thing, so to resist me must be a feather in any man's cap. But I was fairly cute, making myself clear, and oh about twenty to, by then, his maybe 26 or 27. It wasn't exactly out of the question.

But M not only cared about the preservation of his job: essentially, he just was not that guy. He wasn't the guy who would mess with a student, even one he knew well, even one who wasn't "out of the question" - in circumstances other than the situation we actually did share.

Plus, I believe he had a girlfriend.

So, not only is it a dead-cert FACT that some men don't infringe upon women who might even be up for some level of infringement, but some men don't mess around on their girlfriends to do it. This is unquestionable.

There are men who do not use power - authoritarian, financial, or physical - to extort or demean a woman. There are men for whom that could never be sex (etc.) at all.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Empathetic Magic and Writing: Lose Yourself in the Cheetah

This essay on writing by Cutter Wood (and how great a name is that?) speaks to something I definitely understand.

The moves in the book that felt most freeing were not taking on the perspective of the victim or the murderer, but these brief dips into other points of view—a minor character, a bird sitting on a branch. Those moments where, in the space of a single adjective, the lens just shifts slightly. As a writer, that’s where I feel happiest, I guess.
All of this is a way of trying to move past our fundamental loneliness. ... we have these amazing computational organs in our heads, and seemingly the only thing they can’t do is connect to another one?

When I was a kid, I used to play by myself all the time, and much of what I played at was mental - empathetically occupying the body of our dog, or the neighbor's cat, imagining what it felt like to be "big", to use the counter without climbing anything ... to be a boy, or to be old, or to lack a limb or the use of them.

I envisioned my body in states other than the state I lived in, other than the species I lived in, and really tried to imagine what a tail must feel like, or limbs all one length, carrying me all at once, without free hands, with my head out front instead of on top. It was especially interesting to imagine inhabiting a snake or a worm - something ALL tail, or something without bones. To project myself into fish was difficult, but elephants, fascinating.

Really, it's the most concentration I can think of ever honestly applying to *anything* in my life. I'm not good at physical endurance, I never was an intellectual. But play? Solitary play, imagining myself out of my life, into something else's? Irresistible. Wonderful.

The connection, for me, to writing - what Wood describes in his experiences, the ineffable transfer out of self or transformation of nonself internalized ... his feeling is different, but I understand it.

Diana Gabaldon says something to the effect that "write what you know" is a drag, that the very point of storytelling is to evoke - to occupy - a world other than one's own. This is elemental, for me, as a writer. I could not be less interested in replicating myself, or my environs - for me, the entire point of reading and writing both is the escape from the everyday, the release from myself.

Irresistible. Wonderful. And who needs a story without wonder?

All this is not to say I dislike living in my own skin. It's good skin, and I've cultivated quite a nice life in it. But it is JUST too interesting to think about what others' lives, worlds, experiences must be. I know my own life pretty well, so reading about it or writing about it doesn't have the same draw as reading about altered landscapes, different eras, unknown people.

The point Wood makes about fundamental loneliness, too: I considered myself a bit friendless as a child. I wasn't - it's just that childhood is not a perpetually social experience, and (looking back) being alone might have been the only way to stretch my brain and get away from ordinary old family life. I used to sit in my closet alone, I'd appointed it with books and my beanbag chair. I would take Speedy, my gerbil, and read and let him scritch and tickle around my knees and arms. Sometimes, it was the front porch or back patio. Or even the loft in the shed my dad built.

I would read, or just throw myself into some imagined world - desiring to be grown up, glamorous, living in the 19th century, or the first ... surrounded by people, in my mind, but people I created, maybe controlled. Costume excited me, and history. And animals, of course.

My older niece went through a prolonged period as a puppy. She had a "tail" (a pink leash, clipped to whatever pants or skirt she was wearing), she was always in character. And the character was complete; she would not break it, not even for her granddaddy, sometimes only reluctantly for mealtimes. She wasn't even telling a story, she WAS the story.

That seems a long time ago, but I can remember that too - watching, and knowing I had once been the same, though without her levels of sustained concentration. I might make it an hour, building my consciousness inside an imagined body, but she sustained this for months, maybe a year. And, it happens, this was during a difficult time in our family, in her life. That puppy life probably, for her, provided the control I got out of living in another century with characters I got to conjure.

Each borrowed gesture—whether it’s an intentional homage or just something a writer adored and internalized‚ is a sign someone or something broke through.

There is both danger and security, wearing the skin of another character, of an animal. And, like Richard Pryor's cheetahs ... just a WHOOSH of your own breath ... and the cheetahs disappear.

But they were there. They were real.

Friday, May 25, 2018


I have long felt this way about the (w)racking of the nerves. Oddly enough, though, I don't mind seeing either spelling. Free rein, however, reigns for me.

Okay, THIS THIS THIS THIS SO VERY THIS, when it comes to complaining that Al Franken is out but the GOP tolerates worse abusive and demeaning behavior than his. "There is a difference between the actions of Harvey Weinstein (accused of rape) and Franken (accused of forced kissing and groping women). But that doesn’t mean women should have to choose between the two. The ideal is none of the above." (Emphasis added.)

And here we are with one of those sites I always depend upon ("Too much?") for Collections posts, with a great pairing:

You may have heard of the partially mummified baby, but The History Blog, as they always do, has excellent background of its own along with their usual collection - ahem - of links. Make with the clicky for the clicks beyond on this story! Also: yay, science!

THB link #2 *may* not be for the squeamish - note, the words "gnaw" and "bones" occur togehter in an analysis of burial practices. But, for my gravedigging money (there's no research like grave goods!), funerary finds are the richest finds of all. So make with the clicky here, if you can stand the phrase "four pelvises on a stick" in service of a REALLY interesting look at Celtic warfare and military burial.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Catastrophe! Hee.

Holy CATS, it is fascinating when science can tell a novelist their historical fiction may have been fiction in the historical documents themselves. I was happily reading along, this Atlantic piece about Greenland ice core sampling and how it correlates to the Roman economy and conquests ... when it casually BLEW MY WEE AND PALTRY MIND with an aside about the Plague of Justinian. Which just happens to be awfully important to my WIP's action, themes, even those aspects of my work which I literally don't even believe in.

The mention, in the article, of absence of evidence of Justinian's Plague in the ice record does not equate to evidence of absence. (Evidence of exaggeration? Always possible. Discoveries can indicate many things.) I am content to accept Procopius, amongst others. Lucky thing: I am neither scientist nor historian, and as a novelist of historical fiction, I need not dash down the twin rabbit holes of history *nor* science to justify my theories as to how the "Dark Ages" (I don't even believe in) began. Ahh, liberty!

Do you know, I do believe some authorial bits of my brain may be awakening? Well, my my my ...