Thursday, October 30, 2014


"You don't see what I see."

Today, talking with a woman I've worked with for a while now, but never had the privilege to meet face-to-face, she said this to me as we were talking about how we each aged, and our general sense of self.  It was by no means a Meep and Deaningful, but it was certainly an insightful conversation.  We were just discussing how we get along well with one another, and sometimes have a harder time with others.

It's easy for me to forget that my apparent personality (it's not a put-on, but it's by no means all there is to me, my general demeanor) gets in other people's way, and this is not what they see ...

See now, for ALL of us - we don't forget our Liddle Kid inside.  We scarcely remember we are anything else, some days:  but nobody else sees the Liddle Kid.  Most of us get taken at face value all day long, day in and day out, to the point where an objective view of how we seem to others is all but impossible - because WE know our own past, our insecurities, those things we don't share, or try not to, all the sausage-making of the daily process of being amongst others (yes, even if only online).

I often have to contend with the fact that people find me "intense" and a very strong personality.  From the inside, not only is there that little overexposed tot half hiding behind a shoulder and one knee, but there's also the simple fact that, being comfortable in my apparently-tough skin, the experience of wearing it is pretty chill overall.  Being  myself didn't come easily, but it's also the only option I've ever entertained, so it's not a hectic feeling, containing my exuberance, my volume, all the "intense" things-and-stuff that go into making Diane.  I may joke about faking it till you make it - and I make no bones about how carefully calibrated my visible behavior is - but there's no pretense in the calibration, and whatever manipulation is involved is generally, as I say in all seriousness, the passive-aggression I employ in order to get my job done.  When I say "if there is anything I may do or provide" to get X or Y done or delivered at my job, it's both a way of requesting clarity and trying to get balls in play that may not be in my court at some given moment.  It also is a highly effective phrase, assuming onus instead of throwing it around.  (You'd be amazed how frequently people go, "Oh, look!  Some onus!  I think I'm going to take that on myself!" - seriously, it's astounding.)

But for all the refined calibration and arch posing, the kid up there is LISTENING to the performance coming out of her own galdarned middle-aged mouth, and just marveling at how totally believable it all sounds.  And realizing - you know what, there's reason to believe.

All this is to say ... this week at my job has been pretty great.  Not 100% easy, and not without irritations.  But a series of events that all seem to underline how grateful I am to *have* said job, to work with those I do - and to have met a wide swath of my team at last.

At moments - that kid came gibbering dangerously toward the fore.  But nobody seems to have seen her.  Overall, I came off as I usually do - competent, perhaps a bit strong - and, crucially, *competent*.

So, after several days with huge chunks of OT, I'm looking forward to a bit of celebratory fun tomorrow, at my first job ever where apparently Hallowe'en is seriously celebrated.  And an afternoon off.  I'll take photos of my costume and share them here, if I get a good shot.

Even with half a work day still to go, I'm enjoying the weekend already.  Hope you will get to as well!

Not Being John Malkovich

Sandro Miller has teamed as a photographer with John Malkovich as model, to recreate some of the most disturbing, affecting, and enduring photographs in history.  I think the aim was true here, the images are an engrossing mix, and there's little that feels parodic (a feat, considering that Malkovich appears as Marilyn Monroe at least twice).

The Dorothea Lange is a standout in its own right and as homage.  The Einstein is almost indistinguishable from the original!

Not to go all rarefied-arty-talk or anything, but the dialogue between these images and the original portraits is definitely arresting.  Worth a look even if you DO find these parodic.  There's value in that as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Today was about an eleven hour day at work, and tomorrow should be about the same, but I could not resist sharing two links from my daily reading.

First, the HB interviews Brian Willson of Three Islands Press font design.  (Worth the side trip of a separate click:  Janet Stephens' historical hair designs, but I've posted her before, so back to the subject at hand.)  Willson creates historical handwriting fonts.  How enchanting!

Next, take a look at Elizabeth Chadwick's possibly-Elizabethan chair, which is art, furniture, artifact, and a tantalizing clue to an architectural aspect of English ecclesiastical history.  If I weren't about to go to bed, I'd be researching Victorian restorations right now to see if the "junk" heirloom might have come from one of these refurbishments.  But I am probably late to sign off and get ready for bed as it is, so will leave you all to it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

T-Minus Seven Minutes ...

... I've got the binoculars out tonight.  It'll be interesting to see how tonight's launch compares to last night's!

6 minutes after liftoff, no visual.  Supsect too much cloud cover, it's a hazy, hot summer night in these parts.  (Which:  ridiculous.)

Verdict:  last night's launch was better.

Still.  Watching a rocket take off on my laptop WHILE watching the skies for its trajectory - that's pretty space-age, and seeing the sight again after as many years as it's been since we used to gather and watch a rocket (or the Shuttle) take off brings back good memories.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lunatic with the Vote?

And, following on the heels of the rather unsettling implications of the last post, it may be less than exciting for anyone to realize - I plan to vote next Tuesday.

But, see:  I found someone I really want to vote FOR ...

Wallop Rocket

I just stood in my back yard and watched a rocket take flight over Virginia.  Kind of exciting, for reasons beyond the tiny, bright light in the twilight sky - and I am kicking myself for not taking my binoculars outside.

Once I saw it, though - no question of going inside and missing a moment.  It was just neato-spedito, to use the term of excitement popularized by my bro closer to a certain moon landing I caught as an infant, but don't properly recall.

On the phone with my mom waiting for something to appear, she and I were frustrated by multiple airplanes - but, once I did see it, there was no mistaking the tiny, but unmistakably vastly distant, fiery light in the sky.  Smaller than a plane, but more vivid, and with the barest visible (for my eyes, not what they once were) trail of light.

As it arced from the south in what may have been a curved trajectory eastward and away from the Earth, the steady light appeared in the minutest way to flicker - from the puny vantage point of a woman in a backyard, it looked like it was turning away and perhaps the irregularity of its afterburners "face on" (or bum on, more like) allowed the intensity of the faraway fire to show its dim, distant flares from the different angle.

The speeding star of light started out farther south than I expected to see it, my catching it when I did was almost by chance.  Its distance was impossible to quantify in description, but this light was clearly not on a plane with the planes; something ineffable communicated that it was very far off - and its speed was clear, given that.

It stayed bright for a minute, but once it took its turn, fairly close to my own parallel, for the east, it diminished VERY quickly.  Even the flaring light that appeared at this point shrunk in my vision bewilderingly fast.

Dad would have enjoyed this.  We'd have come inside and maybe had popcorn - or made it and taken it out with us.  Or chocolate pudding.

Mom and her neighbors didn't really see it, it sounded like, but I'm happy I got to.


Here is the really amazing thing about the whole event, though.  I came inside, pulled up this post, wrote it, and even put the link in above ... before I finally went to the NASA Wallops Island site and decided to look at footage or images or the story.

And the launch was scrubbed for tonight.  Ten minutes before the 6:45 Eastern liftoff, the thing was canceled.

It didn't happen.


Very recently, I learned something in my life that is profoundly and deeply important, which I appear to have blocked out completely.

Tonight, I witnessed something that didn't happen.

The power of the human brain can be breathtaking and beautiful, but its power to do crap like this is seriously disturbing.  I wanted to tell my brother, my nieces all about this.  I did tell my mom.

And it never happened.

I'm not persuaded I'm losing my mind, but am open to the possibility I"m alone there.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Reasearch is Funny

It can be odd, the things you find yourself having to research as a historical fiction author (or the things you just want to research, whethery they have a place in a manuscript or not – research can be a labyrinth of rabbit holes teeming with plot bunnies).  Reading up on pattern welded steel swordmaking, brickmaking and architecture, and horse breeding/horseshoes is one thing, but then you find yourself needing to answer the question of whether and what type of scissors may have existed in your period, and confounded as to what exactly such tools might have looked like in use – not as artifacts, but as a part of regimens of toilette long lost to history, because they were *not* historical, and not recorded.

I know that Clovis was one of the reges criniti, the Long-Haired Kings, and I know from grave goods that Franks and so-called barbarians (get a load of the Swabian knot) took meticulous care of their hair and hygeine, even if without suds and “product”.  What I don’t know is what the *ritual* looked like.  I feel safe in assuming the king had body slaves, that this was not self-administered primping such as I indulge in the morning at my pretty little vanity table.  Though there once were scenes of Clovis’ mother, Queen Basina, tending to his hair almost as if it were his power and ambition itself, those are gone – and I cannot say I know that such “service” and personal interaction would align with the real picture of a Frankish queen and the familial interactions of the time.  I used the time spent thus to develop the difficult relationship of queen and prince, mother and son, and to draw in broad strokes the character of a woman Clovis wants nothing more than to shed, yet whose influence upon him was at least as powerful – if not moreso – than  his father, Childeric.

It is possible that the court of the time was sophisticated and rarefied enough the idea of this kind of tending and touching would have been unthinkable.  Yet this sort of maternal “indoctrination” feels authentic to me in a way that, as an author, I just beg off further research and write the story – because, sooner or later, *that* is the point, and (as we have noted before) I am NOT a(n) historian.  This is the limit of my responsibility, and my writing is always couched in service to the story above authenticity.

This is not to say I want to have Theodoric nattering away, say, while getting a haircut and receiving dignitaries; or to portray childbirth with willful inaccuracy – which is where those damned bunnies start hopping, and I find my prodigious ass lodged in a burrow too small for my ambitions, and get stuck.

As one of the more irresistibly charming agents I’ve met along my journey so far has insisted, I need to have food in the kitchen and furniture in the rooms.  I also need to know when to stop describing every stick of it, and when the recipes are not required.

One of the truisms of historical fiction and other authors working with much research must keep in mind is that research is like an iceberg.  Of the mass of what we learn along the way, really only the smallest tip should show itself; the rest is just what we need to gain authority in a period or world we’re building, unseen by any but us as we build it.  “Your research is showing” is a dreadful reminder that “show, don’t tell” has limitations.

It may be this that creates the sort of odd dissonance (resonance) between what we look into and what we end up writing.  In a way, the tension can be interesting.  Mostly, it makes you giddy as a writer – what to do, where to go?  You kind of turn into a rabbit yourself, or at least The March Hare, a bit frayed, a bit at loose ends, learning and then having to be your own arbiter:  “What, of what I have learned, should I share?”

I think most of us simultaneously love this part – and hate its implications.  There can be so much inspiration, yet not all of it is part of The Story … and we are, all of us, in service to The Story …


The History Girls take a long look at a mural and ask, "Who IS that crowned man?"  The answers are scholastically engaging, and the list of other answers tells us so much about the eyes of the beholders.

Gary Corby has an answer about another, more ancient piece of art - it was Persephone.

I found out this week someone I work with is a writer as well.  Who could resist "Nobody Craves Celery" (so to speak)?  I can't.  Bookmarked, perused, approved.

And, finally, please enjoy this charmingly odd, sweet clip inspired by The Rochester Bestiary.  Not your typical interneTV, this.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Just two mourning posts today.  I've got a post archived, but this just is not the time.

For anyone in reach, the Met has an exhibition of mourning gowns of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  I would love to see this, but though I'm on the correct coast, "in reach" just now has a proportion that keeps this event off my social calendar.

Pour La Victoire, always meticulous and fascinating, with copious detail photos, also has a look at just one mourning gown, but a fascinating look it is.  In this case, too, the comments add to the post.  Take a look at a rare and endangered silk dress, circa 1867.


Another human tragedy today.  Someone at work said, "What is WRONG with the world?"

Same thing that's always been wrong with it.  We let everyone in.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Darwin's Barnacles and Dr. Livingston's beetles - the History Blog is on an interesting roll indeed!  All this and Tolkien references - who could ask for more?  Also, "Darwin's Barnacles" is a great title for ... well, pretty much anything at all. Get on that!

Nyki Blatchley on tribe-versus-nation - a worthwhile look at cultural attitudes toward:  other cultures.

Two Nerdy History Girls have a nice post about corsets in the 19th century - the good, the bad, and the mythical.  Be sure to check the comments for a point about the dress movement, which condemned corsets even at their peak.  The thing people often forget when shuddering in horror, or lusting to wear, corsets is this:  they were only very rarely tight-laced, and the sort of corsets people get frothy about in the 21st century were *not* sexy, nor even intended really to modify women's bodies sexually.  Just as today we wear fashions which have nothing to do with fornicating or procreating, FASHION, even in past centuries, had little to do with mating practices.

Finally ... Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.  Just 'accoz.

"Oh, G-d.  I can smell his face."  Hee.

Actually, Marcel represents an EXTREMELY good example of great writing - memorable, clear, and engaging voice.  (By which, though his portrayer does an extremely cute job, I mean writing voice, not actual actor's reading.)  Give it a shot, it's actually highly incisive writing; capturing the tone of a Liddel Kid, and the production includes a wealth of enjoyable peripheral detail.  Marcel is kinda OSUM, y'all.