Wednesday, March 21, 2018


The old metaphor of life, like a candle, flaring up before it goes out ... really isn't strictly poetic. When you reduce them to lowest terms - that fire, and life, are energy processing systems - they are the same thing, fundamentally. A wick left on its own will burn until all its paraffin is gone or it sinks into its own matter, self-snuffing. Life seems similar; we eat, we burn - and, though human beings of course also do so much more than this processing, the end of fuel means the end of life.

What is rarely displayed is just how efficiently the human system burns, sometimes.

I put the blog on pause to wait out a system at its end ... and here, on day six, we still are waiting. Life is almost cruelly tenacious. And, like a candle, life can gutter by flaring up, by burning furiously and then flickering. And even then it may not be exhausted.

Life is *alarmingly* tenacious.

The sacred time we place, around birth or marriage or death, the most important things to us ... I have never spent so long, in my life, in this time removed from the world, from everyday life. I have been enclosed in sacred time so long now it may be time to emerge, at least for a day. Only, presumably, to go back inside. It is a dizzying prospect, even though the hermetic seal around us right now is itself rarefied and disconcerting/disorienting.

We are exhausted. The living, and the dying. But I have learned this: though I know I have had periods in sacred time before, thinking I wished it would go on and on ... now I understand in a more immediate way, the truly sacred part of time separated from the everyday, from the world: is that it must be finite. The truly sacred part is re-entering LIFE.

Tomorrow, I may have to do that. Let us see what tonight will bring.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

We interrupt ...

The post series I was talking about is nicely developed, and will come. But first, a pause for my family.

When I was a kid, I understood that there *was* death. It seemed, like so much of my understanding, binary. There is life. There is death. We live in a dualistic culture - man and woman, light and dark, good and evil ... life, and death. Black and white. One is not the other.

As we get older, though, we learn: there is so much between Thing One and Thing Two.

It is an ever-growing horror, when we begin to learn *just* how much of a body can be dead, and yet its owner still lives on.

And so, I pause. For family.

I pray that, before you hear from me again, pause will have, for one person that I love, become just "stop." He deserves peace. And release. "Stop" cannot come too soon.

Friday, March 16, 2018


If you haven't already heard about the gorgeousness of Steve, you really ought to have a click. Steve happens to be a new auroral phenomenon ... or maybe he's something else entirely - but he's beautiful, his story is ridiculously charming, and you really have. to meet. Steve.

Oh my gosh, y'all. Judging a book by its spine ... is now kind of copyrighted. Events! Local bookstore small-business gloriousness! Discuss.

Here's a new one on me. I have friends who live in Israel, and have known many folks who grew up there, or lived there in the 80s, and one of my best friends goes pretty much every year with her family. I have even been myself, though that too was back in the 80s, and I was only fourteen. Through all this acquaintance with Israel, particularly Jerusalem, I've never heard of the Razzouk family: Coptic Christian tattoo artists who have been at work for seven centuries (first in Egypt, but since 1750 in Jerusalem). It makes sense that literally marking a pilgrimage to the Holy Land would be an enshrined act of faith, but having grown up in an American Christian community in which tattooing is all but The Devil's Work, this just had never occurred to me. From fertility to the blood and pain of a tattoo, they make a badge of faith and a reminder of it too. Interestingly, the family have also used the art in therapeutic tattoos, which we have seen on Otzi and seems to have been practiced for millennia across the world in many cultures. A fascinating article from tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak.

Side note - at the longer link above and then here, I learned that George V and Edward VII both had tattoos. Huh.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Let's have a kiki

Image: Wikimedia Commons (labeled for re-use)
Miss Fame

It's on my mind to do a series of posts - specifically riffing on drag, though I will try to keep RuPaul's Drag Race references to a minimum - and focusing on the many layers of its making, as well as its cultural position and place(s). While I wonder a little whether this might alienate what audience I have, the point is more to look at the incredible breadth of Doing A Thing - and, in fact, one could write a similar series about just plain being an actor, or firefighter, musician, or visual artist. The discipline tends to be a part of the life of its practitioner, and I want to look at just how much we do in service of results which an awful lot of people might see as a single point in the wide tapestry of life.

Drag happens to touch on the recurrent thematics of this blog - social thought, yes, but also costuming, makeup, a focus on (at least certain particulars of) history, and the multifarious work of entertainment. It can be beautiful and challenging - at its best, and like so much art, it is both at once - and laughter and tears are all but mandatory.

Image: Wikimedia Commons (labeled for re-use)
This is Acid Betty

And too, like so much of what I write about, I am both an insider and very much NOT so. Subculturally, I've always been accepted even as I think of myself as an outsider, or even a poseur. So drag is one more thing I can appear to write about intelligently, but cannot with integrity claim to be any part of personally. Watching it, even caring deeply about it, being acquainted with those who *do* ... these are not qualifying criteria. So I have knowledge, but not cred.

So stay tuned. The organization is underway, and the thoughts, they are a-thinkin'. Your feedback in any form is always welcome, and I really hope to produce a thing or two of interest, even if the whole series may not be to all my readers' tastes.


Every now and then, Blogger stats provide an interesting rabbit hole, or at least a blast from the past. Today, I happened upon this referral link. This makes me smile bittersweet smiles - firstly, because I have not seen The Lady Herself in far, far too long. But also because she talks of our writing group, and a particular story prompt which has never left my brain. The story is above 3500 words, but I've never found a finish - though its ghost has teased me more than once over the years.

This is why my main/long-form writing is historicals. It's never so hard to find an ending! (Just titles.)

Yes, Donna, I am thinking of the conversation we had, where you have no problems with titles and I take years to find them!

(T)he legitimation of cruelty, prejudice, falsehood, and corruption is the kind of thing, one would think, that religious people were born to oppose, not bless.

It's not a short read, but it's *splendid* writing. As all the best writing is, it's open, intelligent, and honest in viewing shortcomings from the inside ... as well as the margins. Because those who were once in are out, in many ways, and no single outlook can be said to typify perhaps any label anymore.

OH NO, NOT MORE TBR. Both the paean and the lament of any reader, the song of More Yummy Delicious BOOKS. I must-must-must have After the Death of Ellen Keldberg, not least because it sounds like an awfully good book, but also because the cover is a grabber, and at the link above you will find some thoughts on its design. By way of The Caustic Cover Critic. "Enjoy the crocuses." Excellent advice.

Am I the only person who enjoys the heck out of a good scholarly argument? I choose "argument" over "debate" because one of the joys of This Theory versus That Theory is witnessing how partisan participants can be (and indulging the luxury of not having any interest in either side, thus being open to many arguments). Here we have a great example of the genre, in anthropology. Archaeological/anthropological arguments often provide the best enjoyment, because these disciplines after all tell the story of humanity, and we certainly do like talking about ourselves. This sort of thing, for me at least, provides great exercise in critical thinking, which happens to be one of my favorite things. And this particular argument, centering on a volcanic winter, touches on phenomena which actually come into play in my own WIP, wherein the plagues and climatic changes post-535 AD loom large in the plot. I don't actually, necessarily, fully buy into the Catastrophe theory. But it sure makes a good story.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


The book is precious – the scale of its contents makes it quaint, but those contents also store an  invaluable body of information. Instructions on Needle-Work and Knitting contains not only a curriculum, but also a hint at the sewn objects relevant to the lives of its students, and, in all likelihood, the products of their own hands...
Wow, is this a great post. Sewing is such a fundamental part of human history and culture. It's a shame that now so many of our clothing is really just extruded product like our food or cleaners or anything else - mostly chemical, and seldom considered. Fascinatingly, a recent marketing phenomenon, subscription clothing, makes an appearance in this text, providing an interesting consideration of class economics and the training side of education of the time. Excellent writing and scholarship (this post is sourced), and a glimpse of material and social history that can be hard to find in other studies. Also worth a click for the photos; the flowered embroidery design reminds me of my younger niece's art, it is wonderful - so much so, I hope I may be forgiven for reproducing it (caption intact)

A page of embroidery design’s from Ann Flower’s sketchbook.
Ann Flower, Sketchbook, ca.1753-1760?, Doc. 1244,
Downs Collections, Winterthur Museum, Library, and Garden.

The Atlantic gets into a topic that's rattled around the back of my own mind of late, human sacrifice. While I was considering the spiritual prejudices of taboo (and more specifically child sacrifice) , the focus here is hierarchical - the social structure and implications of ritualized human sacrifice. An attempt to analyze is providing some interesting concepts about the development of the practice, and the point at which it collapses as well.

With staggering frequency ... it was religion rather than reason that turned people away from ritualized brutality.

Corporation, person, citizen. History is fascinating stuff, kids. Legal history can be maddening, when you realize you are governed by century-and-a-half old lies. (The click beyond? Oddly enough, I ran across Roscoe Conkling twice in today's reading. Have a look at him here, this time in a story about the assassination of President Garfield.)

Ahh, Smithsonian Magazine - you always make for good while-away-a-lunch-hour reading. Today, I enjoyed a piece about Holi, one of those festivals of joy and empowerment I'd love to experience. This leapt out: "blue is a reminder that evil exists but can be contained, through courage and right actions." As a recently-blue-haired old lady, that appeals to me. (Extra credit question: does Crayola still make the Indian Yellow crayon ... ?)

Thursday, March 1, 2018


She's the weirdest tattooed-and-blued woman. The blue hair is there, check. Maybe I only imagine that the tattoos are showing, subtly, through a thin gauze blouse with a wide neckline. But there is something so weird about the way she is weird; she does it wrong, and she does it wrong on purpose.

Most people color their hair unexpectedly, or get tattoos, or get piercings or ever-increasing-gauge plugs, to rebel, to have cred for a subculture or attitude. To be indelibly and obviously - overtly - aggressively - Different. "I am apart, and this is how I am apart." She's done it because she is drawn to the colors she paints herself. And she's brought nonconformity in line with a taste level that's just off to one side of her corporate day job AND her penchant for the unusual.

She can conform neither to normality nor revolution.

It's hard, still, not to stare at her. In an airport full of corporate road warriors, kids, geriatrics, families, and military from all over the world, she's the oddest thing going. Not least because she is utterly still.

She's staring at me, of course. Transfixed in that way I knew once, almost a decade and a half ago - so much younger I think of that face as a girl's now, though she was mid-thirties even then. Her face is a rictus, contorted, both in relief and in pain.

There is a chain of beads around her neck, gleaming facets silver as mirrors breaking the smooth, wide swath of her skin between her strange, short hair and the gauzy blouse. Her throat, the sinuous line of her profile as she turns away a moment - the negative space around every part of her makes her seem small, even as her eyes seem bigger than I remember.

Nothing is, and everything is, as I remembered. All that luxuriant hair is gone, and the swirling strands that are left aren't even the right color. Her clothes seem hippie-ish; even knowing there was a bit of the flower child in her, she's never been that image in my head, that wasn't the her that I spent our time with. She seems taller, and darker, and softer, and stranger.

Everything strange, until I am next to her. And a fragment of scent steals toward me, and I know this is her. Something she wrote once... "Roses and pepper and honey and fear."

The airport asserts itself when she speaks, even as tiny as the verbiage is. "Hi."

I lean down to her, and ... Oh. To be against her. When my eyes are not on her, that's when she is most familiar, suddenly. *That* breathing. *That* curve of her back. My hands find their places on her hips without either of us negotiating. There is no kiss, and, for the moment, no more words. Something more elemental than greeting. There is some frisson, there is a release, there is some unbidden, sub-verbal thing. Reunion. I feel myself squeezing, and utterly still.

We stand there a minute, breathing. Randomly, I find myself laughing, because I can feel her smelling me, and I remember all the times she said, last time, "You smell like *you*." She also kept saying, "You are stupidly hot" just to be a dork.

That hair is silken at my jaw. She is sweet and spiced. Warm. Living space heater, she always was that, and all the grey and watery time we'ves spent, stolen visits since I went away, were warmed by her.

We don't look at each other. It's baggage claim.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Random Title

Mis-reading a sentence at lunch today, I came across a phrase that made my brain think, "The Chance of War" and I thought, ooh, neat, using chance in both its senses would make a cool title for an interesting story.

But I'm not going to, which is a shame, because I have such trouble coming up with titles for the things I *do* write.

So it's free for anyone who likes it. Have fun!