Saturday, August 31, 2013


There's a reason Venice has its reputation for beauty.  Click here for vintage photos, if you're romantic about this city - a great variety, and so much beauty.  Passion of Former Days strikes again!

An interview with Elizabeth Chadwick I DID NOT DO ... because I suck and life is obnoxious, too.  "I know what I'm worth."  I wonder whether it's worth *her* time to waste more time on my belated interview.

Margaret Beaufort.  Hey, I gave credence to the shedunnit theory like twenty years ago, trend or no trend.

I did not even know there were egg globes, and here's one which may date to 1500.  It's got to be a task of extreme will and control to carve an egg.

Taking testing from the lab to your smart phone - a billion Lycurgus cups and nano sensor technology.  Woo.

Thinking about that phrase - "an heir and a spare" - and why it mattered so much.

Readers never have given any feedback/comments - should I keep doing these collection posts, or no ... ?  I want to know whether y'all like these.  It'd be lousy of me to publish useless flotsam at you!

Brand Labels

There was a time it was not only tacky, but would have even been outright baffling, to wear an advertisement on purpose.  When I was a kid, the only labels you could ever see on someone's clothing would have been the Toughskins patch on the back of someone's jeans - and that was not a statement of status, wasn't meant to be a brag.

The eighties brought us alligator shirts, and eventually Izod skipped the non-explicit logo and went straight to putting its name on things.  Then came juggernauts along the lines of Tommy Hilfiger, and paying for the privilege of becoming a marketing tool for a brand was de rigeur.

I've been thinking about this because recently I had the experience of how omitting a label can give you a great deal on something which otherwise would be pretty ridiculously priced.

Some years ago, my sister-in-law found a pair of earrings for me, which I kept in very regular rotation all the time.  They were a simple sterling design, a slender cone with filigree.  A few months ago, one of them came out while I was working downtown, and it never cropped up again.

I've missed those earrings, but because they were made by (apparently) a schmantzy designer, in looking for a replacement I was finding that a few grams of silver were costing forty-seven to fifty-three bucks.  This, for me, is kind of stupidly high, particularly for a replacement pair of earrings.

Over the course of a few months, I kept looking now and then (eBay - and, yeah, I still capitalize it that way, I'm a Virginian after all), and recently I found a pair which had a starting price of ten bucks.

The seller also omitted the schmantzy brand name.  They probably didn't know it, and the failure to suck the teat of status lost them something on the order of thirty or forty bucks.  (And, no, I don't feel I chiseled this seller; they set their own starting bid, so they determined the lowest comfortable price at which to sell.)

Obviously, I won the baubles with no other bidders.  I'm pretty pleased, not only to have gotten my earrings back, but of course for doing so without having to pay half a hundred dollars for 'em.

My dad used to express bewilderment that people were eager to become advertising billboards.  I tend to feel the same, and mostly own vintage purses (one of the favorite logo items for a women's designers) and clothing which is not easily pegged in terms of makers.  I did once buy a dress with a label on it, but because the dress was navy blue and the logo was cotton, I just used a magic marker to stain the little white box, and it disappears pretty completely.  Nearly all my jewelry is vintage (even the earrings from schmantzy designer probably date back a decade, and I count on their simplicity not screaming out some irrelevant brand which you'll notice I have not named in this post).  If anyone recognizes a Coro piece from the fifties to the seventies, fine, but it'd take a pretty different sort of connoisseur to spot and identify vintage jewelry, than someone really dedicated to today's "status" advertising.

So it's a nice little grin, looking forward to having back a gift someone chose for me, which I really liked.  And getting it for about 20% of the schmantzy maker's asking price.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Did you ever have one of those lives where things get tricky, and you weather it with aplomb - but the whole aplomb thing takes up SO much of your energy and resources that lovely wonderful other things are neglected?  Geesh, a month since I was on about all those good things.  Not good.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Trek Post ...

... just because it's been a while since I geeked out on Trekkery.  From an email I wrote to Mr. X this week - I won't rewrite it for the blog, just edit as needed.  If I rewrite, it'd never be posted.  Right now, I'm too busy being lost in that comic.

Over the weekend I caught the 3-episode arc of Brent Spiner guesting on “Enterprise” (directed by LeVar no less), as Dr. Noonien Singh.  Though of course there’s no appearance by Khan (Noonien Singh), there’s a serious tip of the hat to Wrath in the costume design and hairdos for the “augments” (genetically enhanced human beings the Dr. is working with/”fathering”).  Nobody wears a fake chest, though, of course.  Well maybe the women ...

Of course the whole thing ends with the doc musing about artificial life forms – “it would take a generation or two, but ... cybernetic life forms ...”

It’s remarkable to me how little of “Enterprise” I have recalled, re-watching that series.  It was still on the air when you and I started dating, and I seem to recall deprioritizing its space in my life for other interests at that time.  But I am having a few “oh yeaaaahh - that!” moments.  It’s a good series, but it is interesting to see the gender roles really thrown back to TOS in a lot of ways.  At first they were clearly having a go at the amorous captain thing, recapturing some Shatner fun, and in season one the whole cast’s prettiness is *much* exploited, but it’s fairly strange watching what they did with, of all characters, the Vulcan science officer.  T'Pol ends up reduced to breathy chick status an awful lot of the time as the series goes on.  They even went so far as to explicitly weaken her and make her a drug addict, so as to put her together with another cast member (because, in Trek, outside of DS9, a woman owning her own carnal interests is still impossible to countenance).  The only other female officer, the token Asian, and the one African American man on the crew, have been all but abandoned as I cruise through season 4.  Very subtly, too, the design has slowly crept backward in sophistication from the cinematic look which was so popular at the time production began, as the show swings focus back onto The White Guys (and one horny Vulcan chick).

I recently read, and have been meaning to refer/respond to, an interesting essay about how gender progressive Voyager was, but in a lot of ways (revisiting this series as well) I’m not sure I’m persuaded of that premise.  On the surface, I see the points – female captain, strong focus on female characters who aren’t a bunch of pansies – but my recollection of frothing fanboy-dom over the super sexy avatar of abuse survivorship, Seven of Nine, is still bothersome.  That’s what men remember about that show; if there was a real message about the evolution of women in/and power, it is not what stuck with a significant portion of the audience.  Not to mention, I’ve seen one too many eps of Janeway pining to disappear into the Victorian era – and just watched one where ensign Harry Kim is kidnapped by a planet of women right on the heels of The Lorelai Signal, which doesn’t exactly speak much for the evolution of Trek’s writing/enlightenment over a THIRTY year period.

That post will probably still come; I want to address the points of the essay just to deal with them myself.  For now, this quick infusion of Trek is the offering of the day.

I Was Lost ...

... but now you know where I can be found.

It may be necessary to fire the coworker who sent me this link; it is deadly dangerous.  Oh, sure, I could make excuses about how my time of late has been occupied with work, and I don't do personal stuff at work, and it seems to be a pattern that no matter how well I manage my time, someone is pinging me at 5:30 with a fire drill.

But clearly I am sunk in mires like "why are there squirrels" and the painfully engaging philosophies of life's many questions.  Click through because everyone I know who reads here will kind of love this, and for those of you I don't know, I have my suspicions this is still good stuff.  Don't ask why.  You'll find that has been well taken care of ...


Just because I like them, and felt I should make an appearance in here ...

I shall revenge myself in the cruelest way you can imagine. I shall forget it.
--John Steinbeck

The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man almost nothing.
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, August 26, 2013

"(W)riting Is an Act of Love"

Sometimes, an author you don't always love can still give an interview well worth the reading.  Here is one such from Umberto Eco, with the Paris Review.

Image:  Wikimedia

(A) good book is more intelligent than its author. It can say things that the writer is not aware of.
I like the notion of stubborn incuriosity ...  You cannot be totally greedy.  You have to oblige yourself not to learn everything.  Or else you will learn nothing ...  For you and for me it is enough to know that Einstein proposed the theory of relativity.  But an absolute understanding of the theory we leave to the specialists.
To believe in the end of something is a typical cultural posture. Since the Greeks and the Latins we have persisted in believing that our ancestors were better than us. I am always amused and interested by this kind of sport, which the mass media practice with increasing ferocity.

It is not a quick read, but a fine one and well worthwhile.  Take a little time over a few days, maybe.  But savor it.  It's pretty good.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Snowballs and Life-Saving Musical Pigs

This may be the most interesting Titanic survivor story I've come across - how a pig saved lives, complete with the music it played.

I knew that tune when I was little.  My cousin and I used to sing a song to it - "My mother gave me a dollar, to buy a collar, I didn't buy a collar, I bought some chewing gum.  Chew-chew-chew-chew-chew-chewing gum, how I love chewing gum, I'm crazy over chewing gum, what shall I do?"  It had verses for nickel/pickle and quarter/soda water, but you get the picture.

And now I'm going to go to bed with that song running through my head, but at a slightly slower tempo and far more pingly.  Could be worse, as brain-worms go ...

Time Pieces

Eleanor Updale has a great point in this post, one I've discussed myself in the past.  Here I sit in a home furnished with chairs dating back generations - my grandmother's rocker, my dad's leather chair - looking at paintings and even photographs ranging across almost a century.

Not all artifacts in a scene written nor production-designed are anachronistic if they are out of period.  Only if they are post-period.  And a home designed without history does not look like human habitation ... it tells no story.

MS Public domain image

Saturday, August 24, 2013


On the way we slept before the 19th century came along - an interesting look at a two-sleep-cycle system!  It's odd to me, though, that the examples of activities people might take part in between first sleep and second sleep (reading, smoking, even praying, which here seems not to see beyond the Christian world in which smoking/reading would have been possible) are extremely limited in period/geography ...

As always, Elizabeth Chadwick has good thoughts on writing - this time, a look at the language of a historical novel.  I tend, as she discusses, to keep it simple, though one always has to keep an eye out for anachronisms.  The fun part is making a reader do a little looking - as with blankets!

She's ALIVE!

Ella is alive!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Helen's Daughter!

It is not news to me to know that Laura Gill, whom I'm acquainted with via the Historical Fiction Online fora, is a dedicated artist of Etruscan subjects, but a painting she posted this week is the sort of beautiful thing I could enjoy getting lost in for a good while.  Take a look at Ariadne at the Grove - or here for the full size image, it is one of those detailed glimpses of a world, every flower of which is unique and entrancing.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Happy Late Birthday ...

Gene Roddenberry shares a b-day (yesterday, yes – I’m a day late) with Jonathan Frakes and Diana Muldaur, but also Bill Clinton, Fred Thompson, Ginger Baker, Mary Matalin, and Tipper Gore.

So there ya go.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Love and Market Boundaries

Tom Williams is sadly correct in a brief surmise about the limits of the market, as a reflection of the limits of our minds and hearts as consumers.  The bit about "Splash" is particularly depressing - but it is a worthwhile read.  So go read it, it'll only take a couple minutes.  I finally bought Cawnpore just to snub the damned market (and because I *am* interested - no matter how huge the TBR pile is!).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Entertainment for the Mood

Entirely consciously, thanks to the offense I was nurturing earlier today, I finally gave a long-lurking film on my Netflix queue a chance this evening.  And so I'm watching The Trojan Women, with Genevieve Bujold, Katherine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Blessed (I love Brian Blessed!) and Irene Papas ('71).

I'm just old enough that being able to simply pull up programming like this on my TV is almost like living in futuristic sci-fi, and I'm grateful that 'flix bothers with productions like this and many of the classic BBC series I grew up with on this side of the Pond in Masterpiece Theater.

This production is the best sort of cinema that came out of the 1970s - realistic looking by dint of being a bit bare-bones (the production design doesn't dominate nor overwhelm, and in some ways even evokes live theater), a little self-conscious in a way I don't really think we see anymore (slow, arty monologues), and both faithful to its source and innovative.  It can take some patience if arch readings and intentional theatricality aren't your bag (to use as seventies a term as I can think of), and Bujold's performance is exhausting precisely because it's good.  Hepburn is as stripped-down as she ever was, one of those rare actors who could shed stardom and still do justice to a role even as you never forget for a second who she is - which, in this case, does serve the story in the end.  What director could object to an oak tree for Hecuba?

Of course, the cast, even extras, though the production was filmed in Spain, tend pretty heavily toward a white-girl sort of homogeneity (Papas is a glittering exception - the personification of that legendary beauty, Helen - and it's a pleasure to get to watch her in a role of some substance).  Her introduction is astounding and compelling (one easily believes this woman launched a thousand ships - even with only a glimpse of her, part by part, starting with penetrating eyes).  This role is the introduced as the villainess, so perhaps it is a pity it's also the only one not cast pretty much lily-white, but Irene Papas is to powerful in herself to suffer much by being the token accent.  More to the point, Helen here is vulnerable, and even (... perhaps? ...) a rape victim.  Then again, Hepburn gives the villainess, as she sees Helen, a tongue lashing as only Hepburn could, and it is joyous viewing, her best moment among a lot of good ones.  And through it, Papas' confidence and irony are exquisite.  Her exit is just as fabulous as her entrance; if I were a man, I'd despair of ever finding a woman like Irene Papas - *or* her Helen.
As an aside, Papas and Bujold also both participated in "Anne of the Thousand Days" a few years later, as Katherine of Aragon and Ann Boleyn respectively.  From Helen to Aragon, an interesting pair of roles so close to each other.

There is a great deal of beauty on display, especially including the arty line-by-line speeches delivered straight to camera by many women - and it's nice to see as much beauty in real women as in luminous girls.  The seventies was a decade between the airbrushed and candy-coated prettiness of the Classic Screen Siren age and the mass-produced pneumatism and narrow confines of the 80s and into today.  Sure, directors still required having a pretty, pretty Regrave around, but at least her looks have the appearance of being her own.  She isn't the processed, vetted, and fully packaged focus-grouped image of beauty that's put paid to any hope of another Streisand making a movie career.

The film manages that wonderful balance of bringing an ancient play closer to accessibility by making it immediate and excruciating (in a "good" way, for a movie about the bitterness of war) and keeping it stylized and very much of its period.  As arch as the readings may seem, one never quite feels removed from the period we're meant to  be set in.  As howling an outrage as the statements of the film's, and play's, themes are, they never feel like modern sentiment applied to ancient Greeks inappropriately.

Some of the emotional conclusions, brutal to a contemporary mindset, are played as they should be - dramatically, yes, but with faith to the expectations of honor and sacrifice which would have prevailed in their time.  "You little thing" is a devastating moment, even as it is inevitable and tragic.

One of those things we don't seem to have in movies nor television currently is the dramatic cruelty of shame on honor.  This film lays it out pitilessly.  Redgrave cannot be faulted for failing in this scene.  Nor Blessed - who performs it deadly quietly.

The print is not bad, though it is cropped for pan-and-scan, and the sound quality is at times typically tricky.  Particularly with Blessed, the Loudest Actor in the World (G-d bless him, seriously), it's easy, at least for an old broad with much-abused hearing, to lose lines here and there.  That's a fairly major failing in a production like this - it is a wordy, talky play - but one imagines that with ever-improving accessibility and tech, they may iron out these issues at some point.

As historical fiction, of course it transcends the period of its setting without ever leaving it.  As legend - and starring modern celebrity legends - it satisfies and surprises.

MY Body. Not Your Decor.

Our culture is loaded with things like this - The 9 Weirdest Facts About Boobs ...

The term "boobs" is, in this context, calculated to distance readers from the FACT that these body parts are attached to human beings (who, by the way, are indeed more than these appendages).  All but one of the "facts" cited are about men:  these "facts about boobs" in fact only involve women's breasts insofar as they affect and/or interest MEN (straight ones, of course - because gay men don't exist any more than women do).  The solitary fact about women indicates what suicidal morons we are if we get fake boobs.

Here is the news:  my body means more to me than its appeal to or its effect upon ANYBODY who doesn't live in it with me.  Men, women, wombats, brickbats.  You're not in here with me.  So you aren't invited to judge, fact-check, analyze without consent, nor consider my body like any sort of exhibit.  Period.

My breasts are NOT ABOUT YOU.

This.  Is what.  It is LIKE.  To be a woman.

Oldest Color Film!

I haven't done a vintage clip post in a while - so it was handy that this just happened to show up!  Oldest color film discovered, restored.  (Apologies it's not embedded, their copy function appears not to work.)

Saturday, August 17, 2013


I've been meaning to link to this interview with Mark Patton for ages, but as most regulars know my posting has been less steady of late.  His novel, An Accidental King, shares some elements in common with The Ax and the Vase, and it'll top my electronic TBR pile as soon as I finish Adams' The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul.  Looking forward to some meaty lunchtime reading!

German badgers, not content to let young boys and carparks in Britain have all the fun, have gotten into the archaeology business (be sure to click through to see how Hadrian's moles did last year).  It's hard not to admire the time the badger took - a five year dig.  One hopes he screened everything properly ...

When is Laundry More Than Laundry?

When the History Girls take a good long look at the politics of hanging your things out to dry.  This is a great post, with a look into the past, and a look into current civic issues which touch on class, economy, and living space.

I have four clotheslines of my own, two outside, two in my basement.  And I smile quietly to myself, even as this morning I pulled fresh sheets and tops off of the two indoor ones.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Baiting the Past

People are quite taken with the idea that The Past is home not only to ghastly tales of What We Do for Beauty (or fashion – though it’s often the same thing), but that ONLY in the past was there ever any danger in what we do for beauty or fashion.  Much as we like to gawk backward at (GASP!) ancient medicine as being brutal and wrongheaded (see also ...), there’s long been a fascination with just how far the darn stupid people of The Past would go with corsetry, chemicals, or self-mutilation for fashion and/or beauty.

The truth, as it is wont to be, is far more complex – and we shall get to the facts of our modern-time bigotry as well.  The article no longer appears to be available, which is a shame, but Madame Isis did a great article some time back investigating just how poisonous the cosmetics of the 18th century actually was.  Her findings, though further investigation may be worthwhile, do go a long way at least to nullifying perhaps the favorite modern scapegoat trotted out to exemplify The Stupid, Stupid Past – “they wore LEAD MAKEUP” ...  It’s a shame this post is gone, it was meticulous and sourced, and even without that, it was good reading.  So here is another of her well-compiled pieces (also sourced), guesting at American Duchess this time, and at least touching on the same theme.

As for the contemporary bigotry in sneering and peering at the past, perhaps those holding these prejudices feel they're safe, knowing that bigotry against other cultures' practices and simple, generalized racism are less socially acceptable or normal than once they were.  I'd argue that, when it comes to bigotry, there's no such thing as no harm/no foul, and the preening superiority we like to feel over centuries (and even just decades) past breeds dangerous ignorance.

I would not ask hagiography as an alternative - that way madness lies.  When we went in for fake and faint praise racially speaking, we came up with the Noble Savage and "boy can't those black folk dance" - which, as a means of reparation for centuries of slavery, I think we can all agree is embarrassing reparation.

One of the remarkable features of jeering at The Stupid, Stupid Past, particularly in this context, is the apparent absence of awareness that we do idiotic things to our bodies now.  I don't mean just faraway foreign folk we can judge bitterly for things like female genital mutilation or one-child rules, but the glaringly plain practices of the society we all live in in the mainstream, pop-culturally inclined Western world.  I also don't just mean the scary ubiquity of laws against bodily autonomy, but ("obviously!" thinks every reader by this point) the equally terrifying acceptance of fake lips, fat sucking, perpetual masks of standardized makeup, and standards of beauty not just unrealistic and irritatingly expensive ... or cheap.

As a feminist, duh, I find the now-canonized Unrealistic Standard of Beauty justifiably bothersome, but as a woman of age and prodigious style, it gets to me even beyond the standard-issue (... see what I did there ... ?) feminist outrage.  Frankly, even as it's unrealistic, the current pop-culturally mainstreamed standard of beauty is INCREDIBLY BORING.  Women are expected not only to maintain an unremitting mask of acceptable makeup, clothing, jewelry, and shoes, but to keep it up all the time - and keep it prescriptively, and bizarrely, narrow.

For my money, as joy is made the deeper by knowing sorrow and as glorious days are the more dazzling for the occasional rainy days ... style and beauty are nothing but enhanced by actually being special.  Because I know what it is to maintain very different standards for Saturday afternoon grub work, a day at the office, and a Saturday night out dancing, the heightened primping of Saturday night out means more.

Not for one second.

All this said, though - that primping I go in for is a subscription to the clearly artificial standards of our time.  Here is the thing:  it's all artificial.  The minute a man *or* a woman stops using mud as sunblock and begins using it as paint - the minute we find a pretty shell and put it around our necks - the minute even a talisman of power is fashioned into an artifact we keep on our bodies visibly - we've crossed from the natural state of our person into some form of alteration.  And anything visible, even if it isn't "meant" to be cosmetic, is a part of the visual story we tell of ourselves, the signals we send to strangers and friends alike, is in one way or another a statement about what we believe to be beautiful.

Not all "beauty" is a matter of sexual attraction.

But all personal adornment - ALL of it - is about beauty by one definition, one expectation, or another.

Find the beauty.  And find fascination in the myriad ways we seek it, express it, and memorialize it.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year ... ?

The James River Writers conference is coming again sooner than we think - and registration is open!  This isn't my sort of thing to say, but:  I cannot recommend this event highly enough.  Check out the events, this year's agents and guests, and think about it ...

Anne Westrick

Between Leila and Anne Westrick, I know two authors debuting within the next few weeks!  Anne is beginning to pull in great reviews for her novel, "Brotherhood":

"... an impressive debut ..." Publishers Weekly
"The constant sense of danger evoked will keep readers interested." Kirkus
"Great historical fiction always feels like a gift... All the characters, dialogue, and action support each other deftly and with no filler." VOYA Magazine

Book Launch Party
BROTHERHOOD by A. B. Westrick
From:  Viking (Penguin Young Readers)
Thursday, September 12  ...  5:30 - 7:30 pm
The Library of Virginia
wine & cheese, book talk, sales & signings

Oh, and - the worthwhile small print:  The Library of Virginia loves educators!  All educators who show a current school badge/I.D. will receive a 20% discount off the purchase price of BROTHERHOOD.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Age Eleven

In 1979, I was eleven years old, and went to see The Muppet Movie.  This was a little bit strange because at that age, I was too old for the Muppets, and even today I look back on the show and the film not as a pleasure of my childhood, but perhaps my first introduction to an experience we come to know as adults as a guilty pleasure.  Seeing the movie may have been more acceptable than watching the show because, at eleven, and in the seventies, there was essentially no entertainment meant for me.

Between Francis Hodgson Burnett and Judy Blume's "Are You There, God?  It's Me, Margaret" there was no transition.  Back then, eleven went somewhat unregarded.  Hollywood was aware of what Kids Today may still be calling little-little kids, and had gotten an inkling or two about teenagers, but "tweens" were not yet invented and the millennial arrangement by which medium-aged children would become a goldmine had not been drafted.

There were G-rated movies and there were PG ones, but there wasn't much for double-digit-but-not-teens.  Likewise, there were Golden Books and there were paperbacks stuffed with compilations of B.C. comics or excerpts from MAD Magazine, but this was a time when publishing was not dominated by - indeed, not even interested in - the youth market.

And so, eleven-year-olds who understood themselves to be too big for the Muppets went to the Muppet Movie anyway, enjoying it in spite of their maturity - and in spite of the fact that we mostly didn't give a hang about Madeleine Khan and all the other cameos either.

The Muppet Movie is available on Netflix streaming now, and I am watching it.  And, by now, I think I may be exactly the right age to enjoy it without guilt.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Is One Link a Collection?

Doesn't matter, I'm not editing the last post, but had to share this item.  For me, this is the sort of science to thunk my jaw right on the floor and make me say "GEE WHIZ" when I can scrape it back up again.

The Day Before Death - how to learn what the soft tissues might have told us about a body even when they have decayed and broken down.  Poignant, fascinating, intellectually wonderful beyond description.

With thanks to The History Blog, where I found this item.

(Collection Post) We Now Resume ...

... some programming, at least, if not "your regularly scheduled" ...

The past week has been a bit much, but it is time to make myself do some normal writing, reaching out, etc.  Starting off with a collection post so limited in options it's really just a pair.  But it's something.

Off we go:

First off, a discussion of the human concept of ancestral "descent" I would find rather wonderful if I weren't such a jaw-clenching jerkweed about use of the "word" millenniums.  The not-at-all-incidental sideline to this piece is a spiffy deconstruction, if not precise debunking, of the Merovingian Heresy.  I always love those!

The risk of today's genetic genealogy tests is that they tend to divide people into groups, whereas the real message that emerges from genealogy is one of connections. ... In the 18th and 19th centuries, they pounced on the idea of race and used it to formulate hypotheses about human differences that had disastrous social consequences.

Secondly, yet another extremely charming example of the ridiculous "snips and snails and puppy dog tails" school of gender understanding (I'm sorry - that's contamination, actually) which still - and more than ever - informs and downright rules our culture thanks to advertising.  The Mad Men were and still are bastards.  Even the ones working from the thriving advertising industry outlets within my own community ... where that dadgum lizard was born, y'all.  Gender conatmination - because, even without millennia-obsolete male-dominated religion to keep us in order, women are still ritually unclean.

Le Sigh.

(Edited to be completely disgusted that Blogger accepts the non-word millenniums above with no problem, and marks the correct term, millennia, with a jagged red MISSPELLING underline.  Speaking of bastards.)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Medieval Pet Names

Not sweet-nothings-style nicknames, but actual names for dogs and cats.  A delightful piece on animals' names from the medieval and early modern period.  Click through to find out about Anne Boleyn's punny puppy!  And another similar item with Greek dog names, along with possibly the most shocking method of choosing a pup you'll ever read.  Still - it's fascinating how old names like Blackie and Killer actually are.  I like Pell Mell myself.  Well, or Pell-Nell-o-pe.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Small Collection

Eighteenth century women shipwrights.  Fascinating history I had never heard of before.

Intriguing possible TBR fodder - the cover design is beautiful.  Hard, as a costume/period snob, not to take a little exception to the glamour model and her fake eyelashes, in the trailer, but the subject matter is exotically interesting.  If it's done without exotiCIZing the female characters, could be good stuff.  Given that it's written by a woman of color (which is, sadly, almost surprising in this genre - though I have become a bit acquainted with Lisa Yarde's work online), hopes are high.  Certainly the review is promising.  And the research looks delicious.

Finally, an exploration of sibling marriage in history including a great look at the Ptolemies, in service of Nyki Blatchley's new fantasy, The Triarchy's Emissary.


I used to do word count count posts, but have not been systematizing reports on my progress in the most recent edit.  For one, this is a far less profound revision - and, for two, while my productivity in a lot of areas has been up, I've fallen away from the social networking habit of keeping myself honest by telling anyone where I stand.  Tweeting the occasional #AmEditing brag is a useful option, but putting up a permanent post (even if on a very old-fashioned blog) is one of those indicators (and motivators) of progress you "feel" more substantially.

So I've completed about twenty percent of the current round of edits.  There are two items to revisit - the first is a question about "is this bit necessary?"  (There is, of course, the instinct that having to ask answers the question "no", but for one thing I have no readers to request objective feedback from right now, and for two, the resistance to deletion is strong enough I don't distrust it yet.  As willing as I am to kill my darlings, having doubts about doing so is a reasonable informant against doing so without feedback.)  The other backtrack I'll need to make is a sense that one character needs punching up.  In the previous edit, his earliest presence was drained of a bit of blood, so I need to make him more obtrusive and important.  It doesn't require lots of new scenes, a return of shed bulk - but some judicious description and exposition will contextualize how vital he is to a story in which I reduced him a hair more than I should have.

The work, pretty generally, has a very good weight to it now as I read it, and increasing experience in this process is great education.  Many authors dislike, or at least have a hard time, with editing and revision, but my main issue with it is the aforementioned absence of readers and canny, objective feedback.  One part of my education is the role readers play, and the loss of mine is pretty painful.

Oh, for an agent who'd shake me by the shoulders and show me where and how to edit.  (Yes, I know - selfish dreamer.  I'm allowed that sort of dangerously stupid freedom ... for the moment.)

Printing Money

Who needs gravitas when it comes to the dollar?  LeVar Burton takes us on a Reading Rainbow field trip - RR is my favorite thing he's ever done, and that's big news coming out of a Trek nerd.


Prey About It - Again and Again and Again ...

Most of the men I know who read my blog, or at least these posts about what it is like to be a woman, have asked me what exactly triggered what essentially appears to them to be an outburst.  Triggered is an interesting word choice, given its increasing association with the post traumatic stimuli of violative assault (I repudiate the term "sexual" assault, as rape is not and never has been about SEX - which is a sacred and blessed part of our humanity), and - yes - there was an incident recently that got me thinking about just how little most men understand the experience of womanhood - and, sadly, of girlhood.

The trigger, for me, was not something to get upset about.

And, the more I have let it sit and the more I have thought about it, THAT is precisely what upsets me so much and has got me talking.  The fact that an incident of personal violation, because it's "just" verbal, is not "worth" getting upset about in our world.

If it were a man, or a boy, people would smack foreheads and freak out.  But the thought of a woman's being inappropriately approached, in public, is quite literally "nothing" to us.  To men, *and* to women.

Which is simply an outrage.

There are a lot of other things going on in the world, too, which are worthy - indeed, demand - upset.  The boys club of the Texas legislature.  The depravity and intimate brutality to which a woman must be subjected by strangers because she has the temerity to create a professional career in sex education (this link is the story of a woman first verbally assaulted with vulgarity and insuperable presumption by a stranger with sexual advice for her to take with her own husband, and it is perhaps the finest written piece of meticulously reasoned, and REASONABLE, outrage I've read in months).  And it's not all sensational stories about ass-grabbing, either.  Sometimes it's disguised in terms like "gravitas" as we dismiss the (imaginary - and faultily reasoned) specter of the "gender backed" "female dollar."

We live in an excessively screwed-up (terminology and entendres quite entirely intentional, yes) world, society, and culture, and the rapidly increasing control exerted by every aspect of it upon women is frightening and angering an awful lot of us.

But, yeah - I began talking, began my personal version of "activism" by airing out the things I have to say and participating, well, actively in this "conversation" because of those things - and because of the recent thing - which have happened to me.  These things MUST be exposed to the light of day.  The intrusive consequences of simply being a woman are immoral, and these things must be said.  Again and again and again.

I regret, to an extremely small and not particularly uncomfortable degree, minimizing what has triggered me most recently - and yet, I also feel that, as Jill McDevitt points out, there's an awful lot about the experience of my gender and my body which are flat-out nobody's business but my own.  I may privately backtrack somewhat and explain what I am discussing here, for those extremely few men whose concern I actually give a rat's behind about managing - because I care about them and The Unknown, particularly when so archly published on the internet (after discussions dismissively saying "nothing happened") is sort of a wench move.  It may lead to clinical and substantive conversations which aren't all about me, and for those men I care about who have daughters, it could be worthwhile to take the instructive posts I've already written and contextualize them in the current events of a woman they care for in return.

As for the rest of you - given the disturbing and intimate personal information I've already shared, I don't feel it's appropriate nor necessary to go on about more.  This doesn't bear further actual explanation, no matter how strongly I feel that "these things" need to be said again and again and again.  Please understand that no new sexual (again there's that inappropriate terminology) harassment at work has occurred.  That physically I am intact and untouched.  That, depressing as it is, "It's really no big deal" is all it deserves, in terms of public discourse.

That my privacy is as much my own as my body.

Sometimes, I look at the extent to which my parents emphasized for me my bodily and spiritual autonomy, beginning way back in the wee hours of the 1970s, is almost miraculous.  That is the people who raised me - human beings of such dignity.  Who put a premium on their children.  Whose ultimate goal, whether it was religion or politics or personal experience of violation, was to protect and preserve and always to VALUE their daughter.

My sense of self wasn't something they taught me with tedious explicitness, by rote, even by words.  It was their inimitable example.

I am incalculably grateful for their lesson.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Free Reading - Women of Science Fiction

This is a great piece about female authors of science fiction.  The best part at this link is an excerpted list of links to those stories, out of the 100 best, which are available online for free.

Because if you're like me, you don't have NEARLY enough material in your TBR pile ...

Um.  :)