Friday, May 31, 2013

Buried Bottles

The French have come up with a kind of pay-it-forward scavenger hunt I have to think a number of people I know would think is the best in history.  I can't help but think of watching a bunch of conspiracy theorists digging up equally shiny bottles with significantly less interesting things in them.  Even I would prefer the beer.

Cable Television

Since getting cable again for the first time in about 15 years, less than two years ago, I've made a running joke about being grateful for my Roku box ... but, the fact is, cable seems to have a special place in the dumbification of our society.  The internet and broadcast are hardly great examples, and reality TV crosses boundaries - but cable generates some of the most shockingly stupid programming it is quite literally terrifying.  In this case, we have two documentaries about mermaids being real.  Why does that matter?  Read the link.

It's not just science, but our society and communities themselves under fire.  For every Housewife (and there are SIX of those series), there's an unmarried person babbling about "connections" and "this journey" under the pretense that game shows can end in "lurve."  And it's not just content; the sponsors have turned me into a middle-aged suburbanite who can't poop without resenting Jamie Lee Curtis and the massive conspiracy to get my obsessed with my own eliminations, losing weight, and an industry of food products designed to promise weight loss (because that is the only worthy goal for a woman) and simultaneously designed to hew precisely to exactly the poor diet issues which have brought my country in the space of half a generation to ownership of the fattest and most risk-ridden bodies in the whole of history.

There is a shrillness in the politics, in the morality, in the gender roles, in the rather overwhelming presence of alcohol in places it will create the most televise-able drama, which goes beyond the anti-science foolery of Animal Planet, Bravo, History, and what have you.  It goes into our PEOPLE, and that is sickening.  When I tell people I earned every minute of my age, I'm simultaneously blessing it.  With age, I've come to a more critical view of the world (even than I trouble to express in this largely non-critical/analytical blog), but a very real gratitude for the fact that I missed out on the rampant opportunities to whore my very "life" out for money in order to entertain and confirm the self-superiority of millions of Cheeto-snarfing strangers.  Because I certainly would have wanted to.  Impossible not to be concerned about the psychological fates of not only those who do it, but the susceptibility of those who consume this from early ages.

But the central problem is the willful ignorance cable so successfully fosters.  Believing in mermaids, but disbelieving climate change.  Taking talking heads of no credible expertise at face value, especially when they are popularly and entertainingly barking mean things about proven science, economics, what have you.  "Fairy tale" gender roles, self-defeating politics, incendiary anger directed not at oppressors, but at those who are different.  Bread.  Circus.

The older I get the more I realize I don't even know how to question our society properly or to any effect.  And the more I see that needs to not only be questioned - but changed.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Just Because It's Beautiful

... and it has a Penny dog in it.

Image:  Wikimedia
William Holman Hunt

Look Again: at Jane Seymour

In the strange proportions of the marriages of Henry VIII (Aragon's duration being by far the longest, though in the telling she tends to be dismissed in a hurry in order to get to the blood and sex; and then three wives in quick succession during his final seven years), Jane Seymour's less then two year reign beside the king is often simplified as the quiet after the storm, when a milk-faced cypher meekly made history first by being the greatest love in the life of a man later immortalized as a bloody tyrant, and then by bearing his madly-desired son.  Jane herself has been immortalized for her submissiveness - bound to obey and serve - and for being the one bright flame for a king hurtling viciously through darkness.

But what might Jane have really been - behind the legend ... and if she had survived ... ?

"Because I Couldn't Help Her Then"

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Given My Mood ... Is This Too "On the Nose" ... ?

Because, in fact, I was loving this when I saw it.

He looks rather young.
Who is he ... ?

Once More Unto the Dragon, Still Wielding My Trusty Butterknife

I haven't liked to post about it, but will keep this short and less-painful.  In this past week, Carole Blake has finally sent me my rejection (I didn't expect otherwise, but hormones still make it deflating), and James River Writers' letter came, 'congratulations, you didn't win this.'  Again, hardly a shock (JRW has never much featured my kind of fiction; it took like six years to even get a first page read, between all the Southern fiction and writers writing writerly-ly about being writers), but again, not feeling good about it.  I think the latter bugged me mainly for its patent expectation I'd rewrite.

Taking advice does not come hard for me in my work.  The problem is - I'm out of readers.  The two I want to trust most have full lives, and writing of their own - and taking on a 130k word manuscript of someone else's is too much a demand on their time.  Mr. X, who's always been one of my best readers, abdicated the position some time ago because he somewhat unnecessarily recoiled in a moment when I explained the market inadvisability of preserving some passages he happened to like.

It is what it is, but it was thus I spent six months of before my last real go at revisions flailing and not knowing where to stab that butterknife at the dragon which was the MSS.  I finally tackled it, essentially alone, and felt I'd done a lot of good with it.

Not surprisingly, even to *my* vanity:  clearly I haven't done enough good.  Not that JRW is the last word in a genre they don't prefer, obviously - but even dipping back into it myself, I know I can do better. Must do.

And it is completely exhausting.  Not exasperating.  But I want Mr. X back, or to have the capacity to trust. It's not lost on me that you can find readers online, but the one way I am "precious" about my writing is in that making a reader of a stranger is almost giddily horrifying to me.  It's not the sharing of my work - it's the trusting to the competence of someone I don't know to know how to follow the path to where I want to go.  The idea is nearly offensive in its alienness to my way of working.

Though to be sure I never was a joiner - and went on to become a First Chapter member of JRW - and actually a founder of the SBC ... still, for me, reaching out for help to someone anonymous to me is beyond my capability.

And so I read (again) and so I see, cold now, the words I once could not see for the forest, or whatever it is the kids say these days.  And so I wield my trusty butterknife.

And stare into the cold eyes of the dragon again.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Notes From a Commentary

As a topper to yesterday's movie experience, it seemed only reasonable to combine my plans to spend time on research today with a bit more Trek - indeed, a bit more Khan.  Wrath was the obvious choice, of course.  But, since I wanted not to be concentrating on the film too much, I opted to listen to it in the background, as it were, with director's commentary playing.

My mistake, of course, was to turn on Mike Okuda's text track as well.  (Have I geeked out and mentioned lately that Mike Okuda follows me on Twitter?  How awesome is THAT???)  Here are some thoughts from his contributions ...

  • I love that Roddenberry had the "no smoking allowed on the bridge" sign removed because he hoped smoking would not survive into the future.
  • Okuda observes the then-state-of-the-art CG and states, the more advanced a computer, the faster they seem to become obsolete.  Has to make production design pretty challenging!
  • Wait, we didn't establish the Klingon neutral zone until 1982??  Amazing.
  • "One can't help but wonder how wise it is to use live explosives  as part of a training exercise."  Hee!  (One might also wonder why the crew of the Federation's flagship is acting as part of this exercise ...)

He's too good to waste - so I had to turn his feature off in order to get through more research.  But still - there's this:


I was just saying to my brother, Penelope looks less puppy-ish since her head isn't quite so bubble-round.
She still photographs puppy-ish, obviously.

I get this a lot.

This is not about to be an affectionate moment ...

Gossamer has the most vivid little snot-green eyes.
My handsome little kit-kit.

Napping with his tongue sticking out.

As snuggly as they get.

Star Trek: Into Awesomeness

Finally saw Into Darkness yesterday.  As deep as Trek is in my DNA, it was a very satisfying flick, even better than the 2009 feature (and that one I got to see with Mr. X).

Abrams made a lot of noise in 2009, that he was giving Trek a Star Wars treatment; and I can admit, it was a good adventure.  In subsequent watchings, though, I found it felt more SW and less Trek to me, which (and I'm ducking as I type this, because one of my favorite readers here happens to be a Wars fan) begins to be distancing, somewhat.  ID, though, feels ALL Trek - and that makes it a bit of a deeper a story, and all the better for me as a fan.

I did have a couple of "huh" moments and a couple of nerd (*) moments, of course.  The ship underwater bit (it can't be a spoiler if they put it on a poster) - it was cool and all that, but they did do that in Avengers, so I found it a little less whizzbang for just having seen it during our last Blockbuster summer season.  No harm/no foul, though, but rather a lot of production money for a repeat.  I also laughed in the wrong way when they ripped off the Godfather trilogy, because I was laughing - "really? going to do a scene from a Godfather movie, and we pick PART THREE? seriously?" - but hey, they did it well so it was fine.

My nerdier moments were, "aww - they just mentioned the Mudd incident last month!" and (MICRO SPOILER) "oooh, so we're admitting to Section 31 just that easily, are we?" and, finally - "they're spelling Q'onos THAT way???"  Hee.

I can admit to realizing, as I watched, just how much Trek really does mean to me, in those couple of moments I wanted to kill my moviegoing companions for giggling and joking during moments I was sitting there welling up at scenes custom made for me as a lifelong fan.  I can also admit giving a wee smackdown to one of them, all of nineteen years old, saying he knew more about Trek than I because he's read the Reddit and "all" the novels (at that age, to read "all" the Trek fiction out there would have had to take 70% of your life, kid).  "It's just not the same experience as to have had this stuff in your DNA for forty years, though."  He agreed to this pretty readily.  Hee again.

ST 2009 I loved and still do, but I can see 2013 meaning a lot more to me over the long run.  As a popcorn flick it is par excellence on its own terms, but as a fan flick it is amazingly well done.  Its use of existing canon is wonderfully finely balanced, and its deviations are a very nice set of inversions.

There's much talk of how pretty the cast are, but they've come into incarnations now whose maturity and oneness with the original cast are breathtaking.  Zoe(umlaut) Saldana is a fine actor and (it sounds stupid) but I'm so proud of her; stepping into Nichelle Nichols' boots has got to be a hell of a job, and she is doing it unbelievably well, while still bringing some new feelings to the role.  Bravo.  Pine has begun to eerily resemble Shatner, and I actually mean that as a compliment.  Though his upper lip is still distractingly pouty.  Heh.  And Karl Urban continues to bend my brain by sustaining a teeny tiny crush on Bones, of all characters.  Heh again.

One standout was Simon Pegg, a brilliant casting choice, who has been aged to look a lot more like classic Scotty (though the rest of them, mature as they are in the roles now, don't look actually older) - and, indeed, much harried now that he's fully in the role (... and out of it ...).  The sole quibble I had with the fantastic choices they made in using Scotty is that they had him kill someone right on the heels of a moral stance so firm it shaped the entire film.  I almost felt Jimmy Doohan there in his opening scenes, and hated to see Scotty used even to kill one minion.  You don't use Jimmy like that.  He may be the most LOVED of all the characters.  You give him a moral stance, you give him harrowing frustrations.  You don't use him to kill a guy.

Finally, Cumberbatch.  I wanted him for Christmas the first time I saw Sherlock, but that's the pretty cast for you.  (EVERYONE is gorgeous in this movie, from Bruce Greenwood to the little girl in a coma who never even opens her exquisite eyes onscreen.)  Blown up to the bigscreen, he's great in his role, but I was distracted by the weird fact that his mouth resembles and ex boyfriend of mine, who himself very strongly resembles Mr. X, but who in turn bears no resemblance to Cumberbatch to complete that dizzying personal circle of psychological issues.  (Say it with me:  erm/hee ... ?)  You can't go wrong with a Brit for a villain, of course, particularly one as nicely complex as this one - and the eventual ruthlessness is perfectly realized, following some displays of almost clinical civility.  This guy makes Hannibal look like an absolute wreck, and of course it's immaculately, wonderfully terrifying.

All the relationships are just CINCHED in this movie.  And that is the thing that means most in Star Trek, any iteration.  It's enough to make a fangirl cry, and EVEN want to see it (in theaters!) again, and wish I had a hellacious sound system on my TV for when I get it at home, so the movie need never be diminished nor compromised.

So - yeah - liked it.

(*Nerd moment - I meant to note when I first wrote this post, my brother and I analyzed my level of ST geek cred, and I seem to settle, not at geek, but at nerd status.  I'm more than a mere bystander, if only by dint of a generation (plus) absorbing the Trekverse by osmosis ... and yet, I stand not quite in the pantheon of fully *geeked* fans.  I know far too much - and care enough about the minutiae - to assert a certain status for myself.  But I fall short of fully fledged Trekker/Trekkie-dom.  I don't even passionately care about the choice between Trekker/Trekkie ...)

Sunday, May 26, 2013


It's funny, the places you can run into wisdom.  I've thought for a while now, but continued to avoid, posting about exactly what my religion (as opposed to my faith) really means to me.  At times, it seems like it could be important; but mostly, I know that my heart is my vanity.

A couple of days ago, I fired up "Bloodline" on Netflix, and finally finished watching it just now.  This documentary is the breathless following, over a couple of years, of an investigation into the Merovingian Heresy.  It could be funny, I could play a game of (pardon the offensive terminology, yet it is exactly the right phrase) "bait the 'tards" - making fun of the whacko conspiracy nerds (as one could play the same way with so many docs - about Trekkers, about ferret lovers, what have you) - but I chose to put it in my queue just because the heresy, named for the very dynasty Clovis I founded, is one which, while maddening, is also of at least a passing interest to me.  I have a hard time abiding Dan Brown and this sort of thing (Foucault's Pendulum, which I allowed myself to read twice, with a decade or more between attempts, I have confirmed as a nuisance read), but anyone who knows me or reads here regularly won't be surprised to know this is exactly the sort of car wreck I succumb to rubbernecking.

So we started off this post with mention of wisdom.

I don't find wisdom in the games people play, performing edge-of-your-seat-AWFUL "archaeology" while following TV-series-Batman-level-silly/convoluted clue games and digging up bright shiny bottles they've caked with mud and swear are generations-old buried treasures.  I don't find wisdom in missing the point that, in debunking something passionately, you actually accept its premises in order to deconstruct them.  If you really don't believe a mythology, it isn't particularly necessary, for most people, to spend time and energy (and, in the name of making a documentary, one assumes many many thousands and thousands of dollarse/euros) obsessing about it.

The wisdom I found in "Bloodline" crops up near its end.  With ten minutes left in its nearly two hour run, we come to an interview with the Right Rev. John Shelby Spong, DD, retired Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark.  The documentary introduces him as controversial, and, though I must state that even as a relatively newly minted Episcopalian, I know nothing about him - I can believe he's controversial.  Like many in this Church I was drawn to for its compassion, Spong sees change, and perhaps even the abandonment of certain traditions, as growth.  I want to quote him at a little length here:

I think that traditional Christianity, that institutional form of Christianity, is probably dying.  And I'm not sure that letting it die wouldn't be a good thing to happen, because I think When you look at the manifestations of traditional Christianity, they're not very life-giving.  We blessed slavery with the Christian scriptures.  We blessed anti-Semitism with the Christian scriptures.  We stood by and watched Hitler destroy six million Jews, and then we were negative about women, and then we were negative about gay people, and we've been negative about left-handed people and we've been negative about mentally ill people and we've been negative about divorced people.  The Church has victimized a great number of people in this world; now how does that square with the portrait of Jesus drawn by the Fouth Gospel, that says the purpose of Jesus is that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly?  Is the way we treat gay people giving them life?  Is the way we have treated women giving them life?  ... and so the traditional way in which we have told the Jesus story I think is inaccurate, and I think it will die.  But I don't think the Jesus story will die, and I don't think the power of a G-d presence in human life will die.

As a rule, I write this blog to the standard that anything here could be read by my coworkers, my boss, my government, my nieces - my mother.  This post is not one she'd have a happy time reading.  It's also possible that, apart from being described as "controversial" by a conspiracy documentarian to whom he agreed to give an interview, the Bishop holds views or has done things I might find anathema.  For some reason, I prefer not to start worrying about that with facile research; because in many ways what he says resonates with me.

At bottom, the very concept of divinity is beyond the ability of the magnificent, and yet wee and paltry human brain to actually comprehend.  Those of us who believe in it choose mythologies to cope with it, to guide us, to grapple with *everything* we encounter which is beyond our wee and paltry brains (spirits and hearts).  Some believe those mythologies very deeply indeed.  Some believe an "essence" of these roadmaps to faith. Me, I give up on the particulars, rejoice in the spiritual leader I have been fortunate to find,  and bless what wisdom can be gleaned, without (as above) trying to peer too closely at its provenance.  Staring into the sun is bad for the eyes, and doesn't look interesting enough to justify doing it.  Take the light, live in it, hope it shines on a good path, and try to stay on *some* track, for the most part.

Or explore, be brave, bless the light and still proceed at night as well.  If that means concerning yourself with conspiracies, go with G-d  as they say and try not to hurt anyone including yourself.

It's an interesting watch, in some ways.  But could have been edited down significantly and still have said everything it does.  Watch it, or don't.  This is just the story of what I accidentally seem to have gotten from stumbling on this in my own path.

Edited 07/29/13 to add this - turns out the hoax is admitted.  Hardly a pearl-clutching revelation, but does make taunting the fakers less fun.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Long Days

8:40 p.m. and I just came in from mowing the grass.  Yep, 2013 is going by in a HURRY - and the days are seriously long!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Reading and Telling

Even as long as I’ve been working to make this blog a presentable platform for myself as a writer and lover of history and archaeology, it is still hard for me to discuss reading publicly (even as little comment as this blog gets; I still know you’re out there *reading*).  I can air out my draft writing without a second thought (I need to get BACK to that project) and I do remember to bring up topics, process, and interesting little inroads of research or storytelling from time to time – but discussing that thing so deeply intimate to me still comes only reluctantly (I’ve even eliminated using the “here’s what I’m reading/watching/etc.” widget in the sidebar; does anyone read those things anyway?).

At the moment, though, I’m reading one of those pieces of popular lit which is itself so ostentatiously intimate in tone it distances me enough to be reading as a mechanical exercise more than an immersive, never mind emotional, one.  It’s “The Red Tent” – in which the Telling is so much more of the work than any Showing that, though it’s clearly intended as a whispering, urgent, immediate confessional, I’m set apart from it completely.  It’s not bad writing (though I know some who argue with its presentation of actual behavior in its period), but for me such intentional intimacy invariably produces the opposite of its desired effect.  Storytelling can’t be done without some Telling, of course.  But when it’s all Telling, it must be impeccably well done for it to envelop me.  As easily as I'm willing to give it, my WSD, it still doesn’t come stock just because I picked up a book.

Similarly ancient, similarly feminine in POV, similarly speculative and researched – “Lavinia” trumps “Tent”, for me, in its ability to take me in.  Ursula LeGuin, in writing it, wasn’t working to be literary, nor to write The Latest Bestseller – but urgently telling a story she felt from deep within.  Of course, Diamant must have done the same, must have borne “Tent” from the same motivation – but the result works a different spell.  LeGuin was so inspired she spent years teaching herself Greek and read The Aeneid in its original language before she could or would write her own work.  Lavinia came from a practical drive as much as it did from fanciful or emotional needs, and its discipline produces a work all the more ineffable.  Where “Tent” tells us of memories, relationships, emotions, and points of view … “Lavinia” is a poem.

I’m not much a reader nor a writer of verse, and epics turn me off sight unseen if I am honest.  So it is perhaps necessary to note that I mean poem as a rhapsodic descriptor.  “Lavinia” tells, yes – but, in telling, it creates, and there is no questioning it.  “Tent” leaves me room for “but, but, but” while I am reading.  “Lavinia” held me so beyond my own will it’s one of the few books I own with barely any marginalia scribbled in its edges.  For those who know what an inveterate commentator I am with my books (some of my novels have layered years of copy editing, cooing, snarking, or questioning laid down over different readings and bearing different reactions) – “silence” from me, in my reading, is perhaps the clearest signal of a novel’s success.

If I am so enthralled I’m rendered speechless - reactionless - by a novel as I read it, it must be of immensely potent power.

One of the things I found distancing about "Tent" was its insistence upon changing the very basis of the story.  Instead of laboring seven years for Rachel, only to be given Leah - then laboring seven more to finally win her, Jacob marries both sisters within months, the basis of the deception and Leah's role are utterly changed, and no powerfully compelling reason for this seems to explain these liberties.  I have said myself that historical fiction depends as much upon its fiction as its history (or accepted mythology), but alterations to fundamental plot points accepted for literally millennia now beg some fairly hefty storytelling questions it does not do to leave unanswered.  The result is that this fundamental story becomes nothing but a prelude to whatever enflames Diamant's imagination "more" than ... you know, the story she takes as her own text.  It feels like Short Attention Span Theater - and there is no reason for it.

Since Dinah is, like Lavinia, scarcely on the stage of the traditional tellings, why turn toward the text if only to ransack it pointlessly?  If you want to tell the story of Dinah, why waste the time on telling the biblical tale and changing it so?  Yes, it's important to the character at hand.  But few would have needed instruction, and providing revision is somewhat irksome.  I don't nitpick out of religiosity, but the *literary* presence of this story is so indelible changing it is inexplicable.  Dogma be damned, if you are inspired by a source, respect it - you're not the only one.

Basically - if the idea is to bring into the light a familiar detail of a time-honored piece of the culture and history of so many societies even today, why point your light onto distortions before pointing it on her?

Also somewhat irritating is the character of Laban.  No joy of a fellow, to be sure, the character who deceives his nephew and son-in-law to chisel fourteen years of labor out of him, his shabby greed *still* comes across as shallow in characterization and so repellant as to distract me, at least.  When I read "women's fiction" (which itself I find such a reductive genre), incest comes off always as a tool to vilify a character not given enough room to grow, not as the traumatizing violation of (usually the main) character it would be if treated more organically.  Laban's diddling of his daughters seems little more than shorthand for "he's a bad guy" - as cheap a piece of characterization as the verb diddling is for such a profoundly dysfunctional, selfish, evil behavior.

In fact, a number of the characters are hateful in “The Red Tent.”  This again seems to be characteristic of “women’s”/feminist fiction, and even as a feminist I find it a turnoff.  Perhaps particularly because I am one, and don’t feel the need to “shore up” my convictions by demonizing anyone.  It's easy to depend on villains, but characters are compelling.  When the first thing you know about a novel is the good guys and the bad guys, you're cheated out of learning something which can be one of the most interesting things about reading.

I'm not a great one for axioms - "write what you know" is outright foolish - "show, don't tell" is good, but can limit innovative storytelling.  Some things have to be told.

Some authors know how to tell.  Diamant is good.  LeGuin is peerless.

The British Are Going! The British Are Going!

The History Girls have an excellent post by Leslie Wilson, on the latest wolf cry in the land – we often hear of the “death of” (insert a much-treasured whatsis here – rock and roll, Star Wars, a given nation-state, good manners, any –ism you like).  Indeed, I get guilty of this sort of thing myself, but lack the energy for much sustained shrillness about most matters.

Here we have the death of Brisish-ness (as evidenced by a theoretical and statistically unsound minoritizing of white people Coming Soon to an Island Near You, and the advent of “human rights” – some sort of alien concept brought on by too much affiliation with the Continent, that).

Britain and the British (… or England and the English? even the decryers can’t say, apparently!):  “dying” at least since 1066 …

A “sadly popular narrative” indeed.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Building Houses ...

... in the thirteenth century ...

Photos of People Reading

Sometimes, a cruise through The Passion of Former Days is just what the doctor ordered.  These are fantastic, and as always a nice variety.

LIFE Archives @Time Inc.

I Lied, Of Course ...

... that last bit in that last post was NOT last ...

But this needed an embed, and that post was already carrying a bit much weight.  Plus, this vid deserves a solo staging area.

So - here we go, and don't miss the History Blog link where a *lot* of these gems can be found:

Archaeology Articles at the History Blog

Yes, it's definitely become my new addiction.  On their front page right now, there's nothing not worth reading, from things reminding me of that fountain story, but involving an ancient statue from a ritual ball court in Mexico and a piece about, instead of excavating in road fill, the razing of a site to create it - harrowing reading, actually - to yet another dig in Britain ... but this time by a little kid!

There aren't even words (appropriate from a privileged white woman 150 years or more out of date) to blithely, bloggily contextualize the story about the slave cabin the Smithsonian is preserving and moving in Virginia.

Then there is the medieval adventure story of the pope on the run - was he murdered?  Read and find out ... maybe - and take a look at the late/abdicated pontiff's new and improved death mask along the way.

And last but not least:  dolphin "bomb-sniffing" archaeologists.

So long, y'all - and no thanks for all the fish!

Caring and Coming With the Territory

One of the things in life I dread most is the extent to which I am a burden on my mom.  Financially, I don’t have an exceptionally bad record, and in my actions I don’t tend to justify some of her more fevered imaginings (mom was still having the occasional nightmare about me showing up on her doorstep pregnant, like some sort of wayward teen reality TV star, even past my age 40), but sometimes life is stressful, and we share the stress with those we love either through action, complaint, or simply because caring about someone means worrying sometimes, even sometimes when worry doesn’t help.

One of those parts of my life I keep offstage, I have successfully been able to distract myself from.  Still, life does flare up, and when it does that even a dried up old biddy aunt can’t keep the experience entirely personal.  So mom’s been worrying about me, and it breaks my heart.

Try as I might, I’m mom’s daughter, and nobody can be someone’s child without their care turning into concern – and worry – from time to time.  I worry about her, too, fair is fair.  That’s family – we scold each other out of fear for wellbeing, and we protect each other even from things those we’re “protecting” want no protection from.  In this case, mom wants to protect me from something I dearly wish I could protect HER from – wish I could not “be” this problem in the first place.  I suppose that wish goes as much against logic as all our wishes for our loved ones seem to.

It’s a blessing my mom loves me.  I only wish it were an easier blessing on her.

Don't They, Um - AUDIT ... ?

I work for an entity pretty serious about its expenditures and internal audits, so when a coworker sent me this yesterday, I was something like morbidly fascinated.  Not least because:  the IRS, for goodness sake????

From personal experience, I’m aware of the extent of oversight on EVERY expenditure we make, and so the extent of this woman’s profligacy is astonishing.  Where I work, we can’t even make certain types of purchases from otherwise approved vendors (it is acceptable to purchase training books from Big Online Retailer We All Know, but if we buy electronics there because they’re not on our supply-catalogue contract, there is an inquiry).  If we buy a lamp or a cheap wall clock without going through a facilities procurement process, there are consequences.

It all makes for a lot of PROCESS (and, heaven help us, “PROSSA-seez” when there’s more than one), but we don’t see a lot of admins buying jammies, makeup, and candy/sno-cone makers.  Holy Hell – and over $8500, yet.  If I bought a $5 lunch at our own cafĂ© and accidentally used the wrong card, I’d get a ton of bricks on my head and feel it was only justified.  I owe the entire public the responsibility of good stewardship with this responsibility, and I take it very seriously.  The idea of buying ANYTHING for myself goes right beyond inconceivable into immediate self-punishment.  And so I share in the public pillorying of this Haughty and Naughty mascara-wearing horse’s hole, because:  SERIOUSLY, woman.  Chocolate.  Fountain.  And bankruptcy.

There is a saying at my place of employment:  “You don’t get rich working here.”  I have a saying of my own:  “We don’t get poor either.”

And we HAVE JOBS.  That, too, is a responsibility – and, these days, in this economy – you’d better believe there are HONEST people eager to have the ones idiots such as Yetunde Oseni treats so cavalierly.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Animals of Words

This is delicious enough to gorge on.  Constellations and Cicero and the 9th century.  Oh my.

Trek-nology Again

3D printing food - a step toward the replicator.

More of What It's Like ...

I have this overwhelming urge, when he writes something really good, to squeal at our mom and complain, "He's DOING IT again!!!!"  The crosses we bear.

And yet - you must read it.  Go.  I'll still be here next time you come by.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Absolute Write

Every time I hit up Absolute Write fora for the past day or so, Google says it's broken.  It can't find a usable link, and even going back to the base address, just, it's still not working.  Did I miss something important ... ???

What It's Really ...

It'd be fun to start a series - "what it's really like" ... to do this, to be that, to have the other.  I'll have to think about that.  But my inspiration is my brother, talking engagingly but simply about ... what it's really like, to be an archaeologist.

This isn't Solomon's treasure, it's not Nazi fighting and snakes - and it's not Lara Croft, not any iteration of her.  It's all the more fascinating for being real, for its tease and its tantalizing clues.  For its path.  Archaeology doesn't stop in one single place, 'history' (nor prehistory, of course).  It follows a line, and tells us about more than one thing at more than one time ...

Wikimedia:  Archaeologists in Iowa

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Late Memorial

Today, the croton plant is down to its last leaf.  Gossamer has been slowly killing the plant almost since his advent, and it's the one plant he's been most successful in doing in since he's been here - though he does go at more than one of them.  It makes me sad, because that plant was such a full and beautiful one, and I really have tried to bring it back (and protect it from kit-kit).  I even moved it away from where her bed used to be (long ago - that bed is back, and it's Penelope's now).

*Le sigh*

There is a bit of irony, of course, in the memorial for a cat-hating dog being killed by a cat.  It's the one quasi-hateful act the boy has indulged in, too - though I know it's not actually emotional, it still is for me, rational or not.

When it was new ...

Siddy will still rest in peace.

I miss my sweet bebe'.

Did the Internet Do It?

Many of the items I post here, though without criticism nor even always much/any comment, I don't necessarily agree with.  Here is an intriguing one:

“... a word that manages to convey both a capacity for mercurial insight and a lack of practical job skills."

I don't think it's anywhere near so simple a cause and effect, but considering aspects can help in looking at a whole.

What do you think?  Was Kodachrome really rose-colored, one of those examples of how things "used to be better" ... ?  Is the story here the hero's death, or something more complex?  White boy dreds never inspire confidence in me (and this article is from Salon, after all) - but this guy claims discipleship to no less than Richard Feynman.  So do we call him and say "Surely you're joking, Mr. Lanier" ... ?  Could be an interesting read, the book this shills.

We shall see, of course.  The question is whether we'll actually look - or learn.

The History Blog

... and, after the second link in my last post, we've found that resource I so dearly don't particularly need - another blog I'll follow and share.  Here we have a bit about a bored Viking.  It also invokes dendrochronology.  I LOVE dendrochronology.  In the word and spelling of my youngest niece:  OSUM.

"Killroynachar was here."

No Parking

It turns out, the Brits *do* perform archaeology in places where no car has parked before.  Even in England, one's manners should be too good to park on a saint, after all.  But peeking in the Roman sarcophagus promises to be, quite literally, a fascinating look at pre-Conquest England.  Its points of interest:  that it may be a votive site, and that it is a very small area for such a rich find, only 10' x 10'.  The original Saxon church it is a part of may have been as small as 23' x 13'.

Here is a further look at the dig in blog form.

Amusingly - this dig is in preparation for a lift shaft.  (For our American English speakers, a lift is an elevator. Bit on the nose, that?  Still amusing.)

(Sorry 'bout the Trek reference creeping in, all my hoped-for dates for the new film have imploded and I haven't seen it yet!)

NOVA // Neanderthal // Secrets of the Dead

PBS ran two specials in a row on Wednesday night, the last night of my recent work travels before returning home. At nine was NOVA's investigative piece about a find indicating cannibalism, which led into geological, genetic, and other avenues of research about neanderthal life.

Watch A Neanderthal Burial on PBS. See more from NOVA.

The NOVA episode goes into the science of discovery, the theories we've developed out of artifacts and their deployment, and a great reconstruction of a red-headed, blue-eyed neanderthal woman - not the dark, monkey-like object so many 19th century racist theorists would have liked to liken to certain peoples of color.  In fact, the overwhelmingly clear finding is that African genetics are by far the most "modern human"/homo sapiens to be found on the planet.  The caveman's genes are most highly concentrated in Europeans, so take that, uber-mensch.  (And, yes, once again too lazy to go umlaut hunting.  Sorry ...)

At ten, and the more challenging for me as I was well fed, highly head-ached, and extremely fatigued from some weeks' exertion, stress - and, oh yeah, travel (my personal idea of Hell), was Secrets of the Dead with Caveman Cold Case. SotD is always a bit pop-science and even sensationalistic, but as paired (clearly an intentional thematic repetition by PBS, and a good one) it was enough to keep my lolling head up almost through the entire program. Rather a feat, considering I'd been getting ready for bed till I saw the "up next" teaser after enjoying NOVA so much. Here for your viewing pleasure, is the whole 52-minute vid. Please make a point of finding the NOVA ep when it's available. Like all NOVA pieces, it's worth the watch.

Watch Caveman Cold Case on PBS. See more from Secrets of the Dead.

I will have to re-watch it myself, in fact, because with the best of intentions I seem to recall being horizontally smeared across my hotel bed through parts of the second show, like a five-year-old swearing "I am NOT tired!" and wanting "just five more MINutes, MOM!"

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Historical Notions - and a Bit About Horses

J, this has some fascinating equestrian detail - had to think of you.  An excellent piece for historical novelists who write about horses, and some thoughts on hewing to popular "wisdom" as an author in this genre.  Topple the orthodoxy!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Irritating Query Research

I'm going to paraphrase a quote from an agent bio found tonight as I was trying to work on queries.

She wants stories told with an honesty that can only come from the heart of the storyteller. 

Apart from being a bit purply-prosaic, this agent's blurb is maddeningly non-specific as to genres she represents.  It does, however, wax not-at-all-helpful with the encouragement to excite her with the following undefined requirements:  "artful" storytelling, a "unique" voice, and "a new perspective" ...

How is an author supposed to know what this agent finds "new", "unique", or "artful" (something I'd prefer to stay away from, as "artful" is to me a term limited to the coy romantic stylings of young Victorian heroines I find repellant)?  My voice as expressed through Clovis is without question unique - but I get the sense from the schmoop here it would hardly appeal to an agent hunting through her submittors' hearts.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  we as writers owe a great deal of work and research to our submissions, and gratitude to agents, along with a modicum of respect for submission guidelines.  But agents and agencies owe us the courtesy of *clarity* in those guidelines.


Love is Stronger Than Death

Image:  Huffington Post
Thank you, Mary.  You make me wish I didn't stay away from church on Mother's Day because the sermons always patronize my failure to reproduce.  Bless you.

Space Coolness

Twelve shot in New Orleans today, at a Mother's Day parade.

But human beings also do this:

Even Bowie must be geeking on this one.

The small lyrical changes are fascinating ... but the images and the personal intimacy are heart-catching and magnificent.  THIS is *art* ... and I can't even aspire to such beauty.  I don't even want to, I'm just grateful we are capable of such immensity.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Horse Guards

The History Girls (I seem to have missed out on the trend of giving my blog a "Girl" name ...) have a very neat litle piece of London history here today.  Instead of a palace ghost - the ghost of a palace.

Hey, did everyone here know that Henry VIII did more than marrying to excess?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Weight and Curve

A bit more on regency fashion, and the reality of curves versus the fantasy thinness of fashion plates.  We really didn't invent ANYTHING in this generation - not even the ridiculously thin body ideal.  Indeed, look at the columnar human imagery of early medieval sculpture, the long and slender lines of men and women.  Long and lean comes and goes ... as does compact and curving.  The more things change.

The most interesting thing, to me, about all this talk of bums, is that the LESS textile lumped around it to exaggerate its shape, the MORE the natural curve of a woman's body becomes provocative.  The wedding dress photo I posted on yesterday's musings about the behind and about fashion clearly shows this phenomenon.  Bustles and bumrolls do more to HIDE the actual body beneath them than to emphasize them.  There's nothing erotic about a farthingale.  But a light drape of fabric, unaccompanied by corsetry, bustling, and petticoats ... is incredibly suggestive.

Ado Annie

Look it up, kids – she’s singing my song.

The one way in which I align with the expectations of people who think that being “just a secretary” is an ambitionless state without honor is that, through much of my life and career, I have not been what anyone would call an overachiever. My job, as much as I love it, is at the end of the day a means to an end. It isn’t who I am. I didn’t dream of becoming a secretary when I was a kid – but then, I didn’t dream of becoming an astronaut, artist, politician, nor corporate go-getter either. I was interested in *life*, not the means by which to pay for it.

Certainly, being a professorial family, we were not over-endowed with the means to pay for a lot of things when I was growing up. We didn’t suffer penury, but we were not wealthy – and didn’t especially aspire to be, either. Okay, maybe mom. But she took care of herself. She was the investor, of my parents, the one driven by certain financial motivators – and she took care of that. But my expectations were not set on wealth … and so, for a long time, my expectations of myself in a job weren’t exactly exalted either. You work, you do okay, you get paid, fine.

It took me until I was thirty to realize how much I *cared* about my work. Strange to think how many years ago that was, too – it doesn’t feel like a decade and a half – but then, what does a decade and a half feel like? (It looks like hell, but that’s another post/kvetch …)

Age thirty was about the time I had spent three or four years worming my way into the entire works of the agency I worked for at that time. I took on a lot there. Learned over a dozen software packages. Became the entire company’s go-to for tech issues when our Tech guy was unavailable (and I was amazingly good, too, now that I think of it – being the luddite I am now! … huh). Created, edited, produced, and all but wrote our newsletter – complete with all those yummy, delicious sales stats our guys loved to show off publicly. I got myself Life/Health licensed and was on the way to some securities certifications, too. I took on responsibility for all our orphan clients, and over the course of my tenure there I was assistant to at least four different folks, some of whom were founding partners. This was where I worked that amazing day the Dow first topped 10,000. This was where I encountered one of the best managers I ever expect the privilege of working with. She saw what I was good at and what I enjoyed, and maximized both those things in a balance that paid off DEARLY for our employer. I still have such respect and gratitude for her, though I haven’t seen her now in 15 years.

I got to be well enough liked that I got professionally felt up. “Do you know an admin who’d like to get paid what you might think is megabucks … ?”;

I still remember calling my dad that night – “dad, was this guy asking what I think he was asking?” “Yes, that’s pretty much international code for ‘would you like this job?’”;

To this day, I honestly could not identify what I ever did for this particular client that got his attention and made him offer me a job, but I didn’t stay with that outfit more than four months anyway. The fact was, it was the single worst job I ever had, and when I walked out the door the daily notice of the stock price was plummeting, and I cannot pretend that seeing their name in ugly WSJ headlines didn’t fill me with gleeful schadenfreude.

But that job – the salary I thought was megabucks at that time, and the first time I ever got to put “executive” in front of my “admin” – changed things for me profoundly. My next job paid better, and was itself a great gig. I became indispensable across the largest national division out of four. Over my time there, I taught all the other divisional admins how I did my job. I loved my team (most of whom I never had the opportunity to meet) and they loved me. I also got vice presidential bonuses – every quarter. But it was the nineties. Times were different …;

Even going unemployed for eight and a half months after 9/11, I never lost my home. And was blessed with a temp gig after that, which I was able to promptly parlay into full time (a manager who saw the benefits of advancing his people; he was known for running something of a nursery for promising contributors). From that, I promoted myself two more times, finally spending five and a half years with that employer, over the course of four positions. By age 40, in the space of ten years, I had improved my financial standard of living by forty percent. I was proud as hell of that – could quote statistics, for the longest time, of the relative movement of my career from “can we afford toilet paper?” while I was married in the Midwest to owning my own home and having a car I’d actually chosen, not had handed down to me.


And so it is that I came to my new job – now three years old almost, unbelievably – with a bit of a “thing” about how good I am. I hated my last gig – the last thing they needed, wanted, nor knew what to do with was a secretary with a fully functional brain (that one manager was impressed with me – and OUTRAGED when they laid me off – but they laid him off in turn, and we’re both probably very well out of that place). By the time they severed me, I’d been looking for work already for over three months. I still remember that, too. The case of bitchface our executive had, as if my being fired by her somehow offended her. Whatever, lady, you abandoned our group a year before I did. (Bloody COBRA. Stuff your bloody COBRA.)

And here we are.

Things being what they have been, it’s not surprising I suppose that this past year-almost has seen some difficulty. Last summer was the litany of losing Siddy, being in a wreck, having a cancer scare (and all that in one WEEK), and so on. Then sustained frustration with myself at work owing to lawyers and life itself, not to mention debilitating horror at what lawyers can do to a somewhat decent living, hard-earned. A good amount of trouble with certain relationships. Life, life, life, life.

Every time I think things are getting better, ONE mistake crops up and turns out to be visible to the wrong people. Last night, I sent that whole list of “here is what is done” and found out this morning that item one – a crucial bit having to do with someone’s expense reimbursement – was NOT done, and I had mistakenly relied on technology which never did its job.

I tried again today. Tech thus far has stayed mum on its part of the bargain. This time, though, I did some confirming, some follow up – things are done.

And thus – the Conversation. As Top Boss put it the first time we had this chat – there is fear I am overwhelmed. “It’s not a problem with attitude nor aptitude.”;

Surprisingly, my response to this concern is not to admit the problem. It is to over-own, as one of my coworkers puts it, and to try to pretend away the sheer volume and try to take on MORE.

My mom, and dad too, were he here to read this in any way those of us still tramping the dirt of life as we know it could recognize, would probably scoff, even if only inwardly, at this idea. Diane is Bart Simpson. Diane is good, but she’s never been THAT good.

My own response to my own responses is enormously skeptical. I know I only do what is most necessary.

The problem is that I have become a person for whom it is necessary to be perceived as NEVER offloading. Anything. At work. (Heh.)

My standard phrasing on our chat software is “What can I do for you?” I’ve given at least one manager a complex, because I say that and he gets all guilty that he only ever chats me when he needs something from me.

But – I mean, dur, that’s what they pay us all for. Right?

My standard phrasing in email is, “if there is anything I may do or provide.”;

Now, let’s get this bit straight right here – I am not this interested in just doing, doing, doing. HOWEVER. I am PAID to do, do, and do.

What I am not paid to do is to fail at doing.

Which means … I actually need to learn to say no.

Mamma knows – and Mojourner can testify – this is not something I am naturally programmed for, when it comes to authority. (Moj learned how to do it early – heh – but as much of a pain of a girl as I’ve always been, actually refusing anyone I perceive to be superior to myself (a surprisingly high percentage of the population, some days) is damned near impossible.) At the bottom of my stylishly-soled feet, at the bottom of my whitening roots – I am still the little brown-haired girl who desperately cannot take power. And so, oddly enough, I take ON … too much?

Top Boss was clear, today. I need to put people off, I need to push back.

Oddly enough, I’ve actually done that a couple of times lately. It made me half sick with guilt, too. I hate asking ANYONE else to do my job.

Top Boss himself, actually, has headed me off personally – asking that one “what can I do for you” manager to take on some of the logistical planning for the huge events we have coming next week. It makes sense.

But my little, shy, brown-haired core is terrified it means I haven’t been good enough. I’m actually near tears of frustration just typing it here. I feel like a disappointment. It’s a pretty sick feeling, because – again – I know how disappointing I actually *am* deep down inside where nobody sees past all the fakery of professional alacrity.

There’s a gratification in competence, and I am surprised by my own pretty much every time. Because I know how happy I would be to go home, curl up on the couch with a good book or a particularly bad movie, and perhaps never work again, if only I had the option.

Intellectually, I know most of us feel that way, at least some of the time. But I also know, believe deep in myself, that “everyone else” is better than I am, if only by some variable degree. “Everyone else” had some thoughts, when they were younger, about what they wanted to “be” to “do” … Everyone else earned some position or other legitimately, and is pushing to improve. I’m not interested in “improving” – as defined by getting out of my current job. I happen to LOVE my job, and what I do. I also know how much everyone else hates the work I do – and so I am loath to give it to anyone else, ever.

It isn’t so much greed – “This job is MINE, and you cannot have it (and it is thin at one end and thick in the middle – oh, wait …)” – as it is, “I know how sucky my job is and I would never give it to anyone else, plus I don’t think it’s sucky, so let me do that.” The number of times, especially given the extremely virtual nature of my team, I have had the conversation “I do NOT want to ask you to do my job!” is incalculable.

For a while there, taking it all on was do-able.

But this past number of months … it’s more than one job, anymore. Need to learn to “push back” as Top Boss put it. Need to learn how to measure scope and set other people’s expectations. Need to put people off.

That’ll be a trick. I’m just a girl who can’t say no.

Who ever would have thought? (Not my mom …)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Out of the Parking Lots and Back to Where We Park "It"

The blogs I follow seem to have had a focus on bustles and panniers lately.  Here are the Two Nerdy History Girls (well, Isabella to be exact) with a look at bustles and a brief history of the bum through the past 500 years of fashion, as well as an interesting thought about the bum-less columnar looks more popular at the turns of the preceding two centuries (hey, and the one we're in is seeing a great deal of interest in long-line maxi dresses and the vertical draping of the Grecian/Roman look as well ...)

Here is a look, at American Duchess, at why when it comes to petticoats, bigger is not always better!  And here is some bustle lust in the form of the breathtaking Green Acres gown, recently completed and paired with some of AD's beautiful footwear - lots of fun both from the historical and from a steampunked-up perspective, and lushly lovely just to take in the gown even if you haven't been following the blog about its creation from start to finish (which is breathtaking itself).


The days continue to be pretty challenging, but today seems to have been a turning point, or at least one among many which was less painfully out of my control.  For a couple of months, things have been at a level of busy the word only glancingly begins to evoke.  For the past two and a half weeks. the volume's been turned up to eleven - ten and a half hour days, keeping my online status at "busy" constantly, battling a dizzying array of priorities, feeling good just to manage adequacy.

I kicked today's BUTT, though.  Today I scratched off some other people's priorities, as well as a *nicely* significant whack of MY urgent to-do's.  Review of points of contact - done.  Security review - done.  Transactions reconciled - done.  You wanted a meeting?  Done, my friends.  Initial forays into The Next Big Things coming down the pike - done.  Final confirmations for the imminent monster of a big thing already breathing down my neck?  So done, done, done, done, done, done, and done - and updates send to everybody too.  And, to top those things, a nice little "done" checklist for the top boss.  I even dang near managed to take on a print shop job - had it licked by the time ... one of my partners in crime said she was taking it off of my plate.  I almost felt "darn" about losing the thing, having nailed it upon some trial and error.

One of the best things about today was not only getting out on time (no lunch, but no late hour either), but also getting to reach out to a number of my favorite, and most reliable partners.  One of the best, who is coordinating a massive video conference event.  Two of the nicest to work with, for those Next Big Things, through the rest of 2013.  And another arm out, reaching for guidance on how to manage something I've been asking to take on for some months now.  Think we've got the right contact at last, and she even answered my initial entre' before I left the office.

This time next week, I will still be quite exhausted, but it won't be a bad thing.  I'm grateful it's gotten to the turning point now.  And looking forward to the day off I've given myself when the looming thing is finally over.  SHEW.

Non Car Park-chaeologist Speaks

Mojourner has some fascinating thoughts on the recent phenomenon of carparcheaology.  Since he's a pro and I'm an enthusiastic total non-historian, let's let him take it away, shall we?  Enjoy.  Some pretty slick thinking on that dirt-diggin' dude, don't you think?  Well, go tell *him* about it - much as I want comments, he's the one doing the heavy lifting here.

For links to the actual articles about carparchaeology, take a look here and here.

Here here here here here here here here and here is the series of posts on Richard III, with links to better articles following the ultimate progress of that find.

Believe it or not, I haven't begun to cover the incidence of carparchaeology in this blog, either.  Pretty sure I don't have the stamina!  Shew.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Caustic Again

Some of the ... gems? ... the Caustic Cover Critic comes up with are too good not to share.  This week, we start of with some fairly good covers (CCC likes them fine - I have a few issues with the breaking-down of the compound words, myself; this fundamentally tampers with classic titles), but then things morph into the inexplicable, as they are wont to do.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Day in Twenties

It takes until twenty after six to get out - but then, it took until eight a.m. to get up, and I was two hours late getting in today.  Without a single break all day - for lunch, even for a "short break" (easily accomplished when you're not drinking enough water - and miss breakfast) - it ends up coming out in the wash, actually.  I might have been able to leave sooner.  But mom's training and my own desire to accomplish certain things keep me there, and the worst is beaten down.

The past two weeks have been ten and a half hour days in a long row.  I'd had hopes today would let up, at least normalize, if not be less busy.  No such luck.  The highest of the high opens my day, word from the extremities of my employment, the stratospheric heights have chosen Transaction X for an audit, and I have to provide electronic copies of the documentation.  Not a tricky task, but between the digging, the picky equipment, and the interruptions, it's twenty minutes gone when every minute counts.

The whole day goes like this - including a nasty knock when the calendar I haven't looked at carefully enough comes up with a call for me, with my top boss.  I'm unprepared, but he appears unfazed.  We get through.  I keep pushing.

(And now, as I write, I realize one thing not done was the penning of a note, the sending to the team - an open invitation to do something nice for a couple of our folks.  Sigh.)

Notes to people I need to meet on an upcoming visit.

Orders set, and room notes taken down.

Several consultations with my chief partners in crime.

But I push off a friend for lunch - and do all I can for our attendance confirmations.  An astoundingly time-consuming task, reaching out to dozens of people for personal yea-or-nay when the electronic ones either haven't come, or don't tell the whole story, and neither has word of mouth.  This seems like the bulk of the day.  But there are also updates of to-do's, updates of general calendars, meeting inquiries sent,  all the sleeve-tugging of the day to day.

Travel for my management.  Two trips held; one slightly changed, then finalized.

Series of management trips, set out through November.

A dozen things I can't even remember now.  It's not my worst day, not by a long shot.  Not the hardest, not the most discouraging.  But not easy.  A day where the paycheck is earned.

It takes until twenty to six to get out.  The building is as empty as it needs to be; I can't see the guards, I don't see housekeeping, I am gone.  It's green through the window, and as I step out the grey sky asserts itself, the wind, the first drops of rain falling at the horizontal - not hard, but blown.

My skirt billows wildly, a bohemian confection of georgette and lace, asymmetrical, long.  Beiges around my body, a long soft sweater not quite warm enough for the mid-sixties with rain and wind in the grey.  The parking lot definitely empty.

I've never told anyone, but I can't bear to drive the old way home anymore.  Always take the "long" way now, unable to face stop and go, unable to face intersections, changes in speed limits, too many variables.  I've become afraid, this past year, to drive by anything but what seems somehow easier.  So it goes.

In the car, I want something not liable to make me bounce, to evoke dancing, noise, and dark rooms.  I shift, among the CDs available, over to Whitesnake.  It's cheesy, but the 80s evokes something for me.  Something I like.  It's not too downbeat, but it suits well enough.  By "Cryin' In the Rain" it's on the nose, perhaps, but I can take it.  The rain isn't too bad, I take it slow relative to the other traffic, and whistle my way home.  Whistling is the way I keep my face exercised.  You'd be surprised how well 80s hair bands work for this maintenance.

Home and in.  It might be a fair guess that the house of a single woman, unoccupied but by a cat and a puppy, would be a quiet space - but the radio is on for them, they themselves are life and activity.  Just putting down my bags isn't the silence of peaceful relenting.  The day isn't anything like over.

Pup out of the cage, I put my hands on her back and she's wiggling - grabbing one toy, getting away, exciteable with freedom - with the alpha coming home.  Radio off.  Dinner served.  A short trip to the yard, and I hoist my bags upstairs.

The bedroom is fragrant, still, darkening.  Soft pants, sneakers, cozy sweater dug out of the guest room - it's all spring clothes in my room now.  The weather report, on quietly enough, tells me this is foolish.

Penelope back inside again.  Computer - Windows crash.  I am not up for dealing with this.

Almost too late for the news.  I sit, eschewing windows, on the bare-bones, the quick-launch power side of my laptop.  Can't think about the problems awaiting on the full system.  This will do.  I connect to wireless.  Need to charge the tablet, too.

No ... interesting ... email.

It's already almost eight.  How did that happen?  Time soon enough for bed.  I've learned my lesson, of course - tomorrow I'm up at six no matter how miserable I feel.  Still may be there till after six, but every twenty minutes counts.  Open up Blogger.  It's been 100 minutes since I left work ...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

"Hollywood is exploiting an ever-popular cultural phenomenon to sell you something."

The Gatsby movie is here - and, whether it is itself trading on the astounding popularity and vintage fashion porn of Downton Abbey or just upping the game for its own purposes, the much-touted fashion tie-ins have gone beyond providing style-keteers such as myself with clothing and shoe design options much improved over the recent box-pleats-over-the-hip-area and seven-inch-plats inexplicable trends, they've started (yet another) conversation.

Here is an in-depth, and extremely good, look at what flapper fashion was, what it wasn't, and some of the many points missed by modern entertainment literally dressed up to sell.  Fascinating indeed is the point that much of what we're having pitched at us is - once again - filtered through The Male Gaze ... a dangerous way to look at flapper era perspective indeed.

Don't be afraid of cherrypicking through some of this link-rich article's branches.  I enjoyed a few, including a critical look at how the latest mania for vintage has sparked a new abundance in cruelty-inclusive clothing.  Very interesting perspective.  It veers for some time into tips on how to wear vintage fur fashionably, but also includes a lot of information on the more ethical points of vintage fur, as well as other options to recycle.


This is my word, and you cannot have it.  ;)

But - yeah.  Coming soon to a parking lot near you (should you be in the British isles, anyway) - yet more fascinating excavations.  There had to be an easy term for it sooner or later, don't you think?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Again With the Carparks ...

... seriously - it's like something out of Douglas Adams' improbability physics, the apparent correlation between the parking of cars and fascinating archaeological finds in the U.K.  Crazy.

How long before The Onion does a treatment of this, publishing a popular-science style article about the unique advantages archaeological sites provide for the development of parking areas in the United Kingdom?

Sumptuary Fun

"Ancient Chinese Secret, Huh?"

Is that headline impossibly crass ... ?  Well, ignore it.  Because THIS is the latest coolest thing ever, and it insults precisely nobody's ethnic background, it just proves one more time that human beings didn't come up with almost anything we do very recently.

Agriculture in China dates back 23,000 years.  Amazing!

Also, I want yams now.

How'd We Sound?

The BBC has a fascinating piece on the sounds of history, I need to take a listen at some point.  Some of the debunking looks excellent - the metallic *SCHWING* thing drives me nuts, and indeed it's used for far more than swords.  I've seen it used on little paring knives.  But then, the excesses of foley artists have driven me mad ever since Robert Downey Jr. used THE WORLD'S LOUDEST COLD CREAM in the opening scene of "Chaplin" (1992, apparently).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Quote, Interrupted

“Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.”
― Jules Renard

This quote cropped up in my random reading this evening, and it struck me negatively for some reason.  I couldn't put my finger on it at first, but quickly realized that, beyond simply reducing an entire universe of communication to a selfish world of useless indulgence, it's fundamentally in error.

Writing is almost never formed in a single, glutting, go.  It is by nature almost nothing BUT interruption.  Few authors, scriptwriters, essayists, working in ficiton or non, in short form, long form, poetry, or even graphic work - nor any other writer - creates an entire piece in one sitting, without revision.  Ever.  For the sake of the reader, writing almost *must* be interrupted, and for the sake of the author's message, story, issue, interest - likewise.  For clarity - interruption.  For entertainment - interruption (who can build tension, perfectly, with nary an edit?).  For every possible purpose - staying on point, getting the story told well, evoking a setting (fiction or non, we're always *somewhere* when we read) - interruption.

Writing is the art of perfecting your OWN interruptions.  Of learning to use them - the down times between having the actual moment to write.  Of winnowing inspiration by the process of editing - learning how to use the interruptions in time, the interruption of revision, the interruption of feedback, refining, polishing.  Writing is the *cultivation* of interruption, in order to write well, to engage.

Talking without being interrupted is just self indulgence.  It isn't writing.  Not good writing.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What Is It With Carparks?

Well, who's to say?  But we do know the Scots' automotive resting spots are as rich in bones as the Brits'.

So weird, though.  Before we know it, there'll be nowhere left to park in the U. K.

05/05/2013 - updating to add this link.