Monday, June 30, 2014

What Fresh Pitchforkery Is This?

Self-described plutocrat Nick Hanauer, a not-even-one-percenter, but higher by dizzying heights event than that, takes a rather well written look at America today ... and every revolution in history.

No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None.  ...
I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.
Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world.  ...
The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too.

Hanauer loses me flat when he takes credit for "reminding" the seething masses of our power, but the point that our economy is a "complex ecosystem" an not merely the playground for, say, obscenely (his word) wealthy plutocrats (again, his word) is at least reasonable.  We haven't seen any surfeit of reasonableness in public discourse of late (... in my lifetime, actually - and I'm old), so I'm seeing fit to link and even to quite this guy.

You can skip the first few paragraphs, of background self-aggrandizement, but the general gist is worthwhile - and necessary.  I only wish I thought any of the other plutocrats was really listening, rather than the likely reality, that all the relatively-poor slobs are the ones liking this article.

I believe I do own a pitchfork.  But man would I rather just use my shed for yard implement storage for things I may never use - rather than as a magazine for arms.

When those who set bad their workers close to the minimum wage, what they’re really saying is that they’d pay even less if it weren’t illegal. ...
The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics isn’t believing that if the rich get richer, it’s good for the economy. It’s believing that if the poor get richer, it’s bad for the economy.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Page 69 Test?

I'm intrigued by this random-sampling idea found at Gary Corby's blog.  Of course, doing it by pagination is random as well - the same manuscript with different font, margin, or spacing choices will render a different page sixty-nine with every option; but there's no particular value in shifting that for, say, the 2500th-word test.  The point is to randomize in some way.  Corby's page sixty-nine sounds pretty good!

In the working draft for The Ax and the Vase, page sixty-nine finds us about to go to war for the first time:

The last work of the celebration was done.  The battle was ready to begin.
... (T)he King of Soissons—the Master of Soldiers—would not get to wait for spring.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


I am late to post this, but please enjoy the book trailer for Elizabeth Chadwick's The Summer Queen.

Gary Corby hosts a post by Stephanie Thornton on the women of ancient Egypt.  And he has a note about one of his own old posts as well ... which leads me to say:  YIPES!

Donna Everhart has some of the best spam.  I have had ones like this, but for me the volume (given the relative traffic here!) is far lower!  I think the spelling one might be my favorite ...

So as to not load up this page with vids for you to load - AND to give credit where it is due (I have not linked Unleaded and/or Day Al-Mohamed for far too long), please take a click here and listen to the wisdom of Stan Lee on how to build a story ...  "You just have to keep interesting yourself while you're writing it."  Too true!

The Passion of Former Days strikes again (... and again?) with a visually arresting series of double-exposed vintage images.  Some of these are metaphorical, some are just interesting juxtapositions.  Enjoy!

And finally, for this lovely evening ... and for those Extra Special nights, when nothing else will do but to smell like a Viking ... Now you can! Yep, this is a thing now.  For reasons.


Aww.  Happy 21st non-anniversary to my Beloved Ex.  Today's SlushPile Hell seems charmingly apropos!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Quantum Singularity

Now ... today is a pretty good example of one of the reasons it kind of stinks sometimes being single.

  • I didn't work particularly late, maybe 15-20 minutes.
  • But then I had to stop for groceries.
  • Then, when I got home, put away the groceries, toot-sweet.
  • Then I had to reconfigure all the baby gate-age.
    (Penelope has graduated from her cage, but not from her habit of savaging soft furnishings, so she's still contained in 800 square feet or so of the house.)
  • Feed the furbabies.
  • Oh, wait, it's time for the news.
  • While wrangling all the remotes it takes to turn on and set up the TV, why not turn on the laptop and check email?
  • Penelope out to her magical, beloved yard.
  • Check email, then check Mr. X's blog, brother's blogs and/or Tumblr.
  • I still haven't gone upstairs?  I'm still wearing all my work clothes?  Ugh.
  • Upstairs, dump bags.
  • Shuck professional togs, get distracted by choosing clothes for tomorrow.
  • Neaten up the shoe shelves, recently freed from other duties.  Yay, shoe shelves.
  • Shoes for tomorrow.  Purse for tomorrow.  Bag for shoes for tomorrow.  Where the hell did that work phone go?  I know I put it in today's damned bag.
  • Pack bags, lay out clothes, lay out jewelry and makeup for the morning.
    (Yes.  I am THAT pathetic, in the morning.)
  • Oh, wait, I still haven't put on comfortable clothes yet.  I'm wandering around al fresco, here.
  • Downstairs, back to the computer.
  • I bet that work phone landed in the wrong pocket when I dropped it in the bag.
  • Still forty-seven things to do ...

Every bit of all this crap takes "just a second."  Just a second and I'll go up, just a second and I'll get back downstairs, just a second ... and it's well after 7:00 and I have not even begun to contemplate what to do for supper.  I have a headache.

I also have pork chops, broccoli, a dab of decent kraut, some pickled beets.  And exactly zero energy left for cooking the stuff.  There's editing yet to deal with, and I have a pretty screaming headache.  I still haven't tied my bloody sneakers yet.  I haven't gotten a cup of WATER and I am very thirsty.

So ya gotta ask yourself ... when I've lost 25 pounds and people will bring food to my front door without my ever so much as having to pick up a telephone ...  Is it any wonder I always end up with at least one pizza box in recycling every two weeks when they come for it?

7:19 p.m. and there's nobody to make supper for, or even just *with* me.

At least when I order in, I buy from local or regional restaurants.  (I even support my own employer, second-hand ...)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Death Takes a Holiday

Two years ago on July 4, which I have for the past nine years or so not really "celebrated" to speak of, I was here at home as the sky slowly decided to grow dark, looking at my Sweet Siddy La, and I decided to go to my office and pick up my laptop.  I felt like I might be being overdramatic, but I had this overwhelming need to be with her, to not leave her the next day and just go back to work.  And the next day, she did go to the vet ... and not come home.

Sidney was the gooderest thing, and I'm *still* grateful to ever have known her, to have been privileged to love her.  Her death began what has been a hideous two years - I was in a car accident one week after she died, I had health scares, there has been a surfeit of stress and fear and difficulty, culminating in the fear, starting almost a year ago, that my job was, if not in jeopardy, at least in for some fundamental changes I could not see as positive.  I reacted in knee-jerk fear, did not find a way out, settled down ... and then almost by accident an opportunity called my name, and I responded.

Image:  Wikimedia

I did NOT want to leave that job - least of all my team, whom I still adore to bits and have maintained friendships with - but it has in the end turned out to have been the right thing.

We used to look out our window there, from time to time; the cube farm was next to a small manmade lake in a large manmade office park in an area very close to the swamps of my childhood.  We'd be like little kids watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom if eagles, deer, our huge gleaming-finned carp, or the heron showed up.

For years, I've loved the Great Blue.  I saw them when I worked beside the river downtown, and they were regular players on our pond.  But I'd never seen a White Egret until last year, and the ghostly appearances of them starting just when I was going through such fear got me all schmoopy and I looked up the animal symbolism of the bird.  They stood for self-determination, among other things.

Starting with that job change, I was blessed to have the *power* of self-determination, and the past six months have brought ever-growing reasons to be thankful and grateful.  The job has been a good thing, and I have yet another new, great team and a really interesting desk full of work.  I like it and am happy there.

Right now, a new two years looks good to me.  Some of the best news in my life came in May.  I have a completely charming new (ish) little Prius.  Penelope and Gossamer are both two themselves now (I adopted the latter just two days after that car accident mentioned above), and we're a pretty good little pack family.  One of these days, I might even get to take a vacation for the first time in three years.

And the final polish on Ax is so close I can almost touch it ...

At its solstice, 2014 has been a wonderful year, to be grateful for, and the main thing I wish now is for my friends to be so blessed - and more.  I wish the same peace and prosperity for everyone.

Get to it.  And watch a few birds along your way - and pet a few furbabies.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

What Does an Addict Do ... ?

When you have a bit of a (costume) jewelry addiction ... sooner or later, you have to just start making it, so you can give some away.  My dear KTA has a pair of glimmering black-diamond crystal earrings.

Here are a few more ...

There are also some cuff bracelets, and a few miscellaneous repair jobs to be managed ...


Leila Gaskin airs her psychological underwear!

The HB tells us who might be hiding in (... well, under) Picasso's Blue Room.

At the Rags of Time, we consider exactly when the ruff "fell" out of style, and take a look at many styles *of* ruff.  I like the cabbage ruff, myself.  Voluminous, overstated, irregular - it's everything a ruff should be!

Finally, some ecstatically gorgeous photography - get addicted to this Tumblr, the images are varied, striking, and extraordinarily beautiful.

Image totally cadged without permission
Let the owner come kick my tuckus

Monday, June 16, 2014

Trek, Trying, and The Solitary Author Thing

The Writing Process isn't much a part of my work here on this blog - frankly, so many authors have so much rarefied and high-class stuff to say about How I Write that anything I'd add would look pretty paltry ... and, in any case, it's really nobody's business.  Process isn't the sort of thing some other person could try on for themselves (and it's not like I've got any success anyone could possibly care to emulate, anyway - though I stand by my actual results).

But, tonight, my process broke down in a good way.  Not least, because the breakdown is temporary.

Some authors have an office, or a secluded space - they cordon off sequestered hours of a day, or walls not to be breached, or what have you.  Some may need that - those with kids, or a partner, or other demands on their space, time, what have you.  But this house is all mine - apart from sharing it with Gossie the Editor Cat and Penelope, there aren't any actual voices to call me away nor distract me.  And so, I can work wherever, whenever I please (outside of my nine-to-five).

The odd thing - perhaps embarrassing (if only I had any shame) - is that I actually synthesize voices.  I don't want to create distractions, but silence is for me problematic, and I don't currently (nor for the past thirteen years or so) own a decent stereo system.  So I turn on the boob tube.

In order to prevent myself from feeling any need to WATCH it, I spend a lot of streaming hours going through the many Trek offerings, with the occasional Buffy or Angel thrown in.  Most of these series, I have seen enough that they're like the music I do listen to at work:  it can be on incredibly quietly, but I know what I'm hearing, and that is enough.  TV is the same way - it can be on, I know it's telling me a story (that story has zero connection to/influence on whatever I'm working on), and that is enough.

In silence, I find myself noting the pain in my hands from typing, the *sound* of my typing, how fast or how slow I am going.  The noise, oddly enough, keeps me from becoming too focused on the physical details of writing work.

I've read that people doodling in meetings and on calls actually aids in concentration, rather than reducing it - that the mental removal-from-the-moment by something abstract, yet which takes up one's attention, can allow for free form focus.  In my mind, it's the old cliche' - that a writer faced with a blank sheet of paper, nothing else, and with time to fill it, is something at a loss.  For me, the laptop and nothing else is perhaps similarly problematic.

I don't succumb, to speak of, to any mental state I'd describe as "writer's block" - but I do seem to find the demand itself, of writing work to be done, stultifying.  I don't get paralyzed, but I sure do find a lot of drawers to clean, laundry to do, adorable pet antics to laugh about, and so on.  Creating my own, controlled, "distractions" seems to allow me the freedom to focus, in my own free form and abstract way.  Though I'm aware abstract focus is oxymoronic - pure focus just never has been for me.

Which - at last - brings me to the way it broke down earlier this evening.

The episode I've reached in the latest random streaming was Star Trek:  The Next Generation, "Half a Life".  This is the first time in all canon the character of Lwaxana Troi (played by Majel Barrett, the character is mother to the emotive and pretty Deanna, ship's counselor) is treated with dignity and real depth.  Sadly, the ep does start off with a *heavy* dose of insulting "humor" at her expense from every male in the cast., but the extent to which it redeems itself makes me forgive that every time I see it.  David Ogden Stiers is wrenching, indelible, excellent - and presents the dignity of a culture which at first presentation might have been an opportunity for the human-centric and culturally superior plotline ... and which, in the end, is not.

Season four of ST:TNG has some excellent stories, but "Half a Life" is one I would be proud to show someone, in order to exemplify the best of Trek - to show why I am such a lifelong fan.  It's powerful and *inclusive* in the way that has made Trek so important to so many.  It easily transcends every last possible criticism anyone has ever had of Star Trek - means something - is transformative - and it's entertaining.  Hell, it's gripping.

Watching "Half a Life", you don't know where it will go, and it's a fascinating look at one of the better-drawn imagined species' culture.  The Kaelons expectations, offensive in the extreme to the Federation mindset, are treated with an internal logic, and expressed by two characters in particular with both emotional conviction, and heartbreakingly believable doubt.  Stiers' turn here - a one-off character never to appear again on screen - may be one of the greatest roles of his career (and I loved Winchester; grew up on M*A*S*H, too).  But it's Michelle Forbes (later to return to ST:TNG as an entirely different character, the contumacious Bajoran Ro Laren), in a single scene, who really tears apart the preconceptions about this culture - and who, in one single *line* - delivers possibly the most devastating emotional blow Trek has ever produced without killing anyone.  Her face is a master class, actually - she's a great casting choice to put with Stiers.

I didn't make as much progress on revisions tonight as I had hoped.  But I was wonderfully transported by something I genuinely love -and I count that an acceptable diversion.

For those who are not Trekkies or Trekkers (and who, like me, also don't freak out about which term is used), the episode is #22, here.  If you've ever wondered what the deal is with Star Trek anyway ... consider watching it.  And, please - tell me what you think, if you do.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Carolina Dog Behavior - Open Forum!

Of all the behaviors I've read about in Carolinas, there is one Penelope exhibits I've never seen discussed, so I wanted to put it down here - and open the floor to any comments from others, about Carolina Dogs they've known, and whether they've seen this.

Regular readers, of course, know about my dog's unique ur-breed - and probably more about her habits than is interesting.  She does the snout-holes, has the wary attitude, the incredible physical power and energy that come with her breed.  She's a perfect Yella Dog in her coloring.  She has that wonderfully fun fishhook tail (which she will thank you NOT to play with, apart from getting the leash in its circle while out on a walk).

She also has a particular behavior I've never seen before, but which speaks to me of some sort of protective instinct.

If I am sitting or lying on a piece of furniture, and one of my feet happens not to be on the floor, but in midair - if my legs are crossed, or I'm on the bed with a foot hanging off - she positions her body to cover it.

She is very particular about how this is done - she must place herself so that my foot is under her lower belly, between her haunches.  She doesn't want my foot in her genital area, but just having my foot under the tuck of her belly, not surrounded by her limbs, is not quite good enough.

If it weren't for the "low" position she seems to go for - and she will go as far as *lifting* one of her legs, to get her body in the right position over my foot - I might mistake it for some sort of maternal drive, a nursing posture.  But she seems pretty urgent to get the midair-foot rather surrounded by her body.

She herself, in physical affection, and on the odd moment she expresses nervousness physically, does like to surround her own head in my body.  I can encompass her with my arms, but she likes to have my head or my body *over* her as well.  She's the only dog I've ever lived with who seeks greeting with me wherein I don't just bend over her body to pet her, but actually bend over her, and wrap my arms around her belly, so her entire torso is surrounded by me.  And, in this position, her head is not so far from where she tries to get my foot, when she's "protecting" it.

Nothing about this looks like a mating behavior of any kind to me, either.

"Your head's under a chair arm, did you know that, Dog?"

I wonder whether anyone else who has or knows or has studied the Yellow Dog/Dixie Dingo/Carolina Dog has seen this behavior.  I personally have never seen exactly this positioning in any other dog I know, but if other dogs do it, I'd be interested to know how they manifest it.

Pen can be so particular about her positioning when she does this, it gets quite comical.  Particularly when she's lifting one leg to get it JUST right.  Bless her canine soul.

This definitely appears to me some sort of drive, and instinctual, rather than just a peculiar way she and I individually behave together.  Her urgency is just too specific, and apart from my own instinct to greet her in that arms-around-her-belly way I found myself doing with her from puppy-hood for no reasons I even understood, I don't know that she *learned* this in response to anything.  It's just too strong and clear a quirk.

Anyway - anyone's thoughts on this would be most interesting!  Comments welcome, no matter how old this post is when anyone finds it.  Thank you!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Life in Circulation, in Conservation, in Change

Pour la Victoire recently did a great post about the egregious fates of vintage clothing, the irreplaceable textile artifacts of our past which are (cringe) tie-dyed for modern hipsters and recycled in ways which destroy their historical natures.  One glaring point was how many pieces of clothing end up on eBay, and – given a certain obsession of my own, very much nursed and developed ON eBay (yes, I know they gave up that capitalization pattern some time ago – I’m a Virginian, and old, and I revel in certain privileges of obsolescence; plus, for me, the funky B is an identifier), I had to stop and think about culpability.

There are certain differences between textiles and (my vice) jewelry, which most often is made of sturdier stuff than a dress or slippers.  Indeed, I think an awful lot of people who buy vintage on eBay do so precisely out of desire to admire and preserve the artifacts of the past – Lauren at American Duchess, I know, has a collection of very old shoes indeed, redeemed from eBay and the like.  She restores some – but, I think, not all – and she probably knows a great deal about proper care:  but she’s not a museum, nor a trained conservator.  Just experienced.

But not even lovers of a style or a particular type of thing collect with conservatorship and/or preservation in mind.  Even if we did, tales of terrible conservatorship litter the art world alone – Oh! The things we’ve done to masterpieces in the name of love!  And those who don’t – well, hell.  I number among them myself, honestly.  Like the time I spent months putting together just the right vintage costume – genuine, UK union-made early artificial silk moire’ dress … velvet wide-brimmed hat … embroidered appliqued gloves, still in their original package (not any more) … just the right styling, just the right shoes, just the right lipstick.  Even a crinoline.  And I wore the whole kit out, and got drenched with rain.  I probably sweated in it.  I’ve worn that dress – that irreplaceable, seventy-year-old dress I stole from the United Kingdom – that dress that had repairs at the cuffs, and whose cuffs I tried to lovingly re-repair myself – that dress from which I removed its original shoulder pads – to work.  I’ve worn it to church.  This thing which cannot be recaptured, remade – I wear it for all the world as if it was any other Sunday-go-to-meetin’ dress up dress.  I let my body come in contact with its ageing fibers, I clean it with my own blundering hands.  And I know it.

Oh, the mistakes I have made.  That bracelet – still beautiful, mind you – which I repaired by reglueing the rhinestones with a cyanocryalate (BURN THE WITCH NOW!!!).  I actually do shudder a bit thinking of it, but it takes years for that damage to appear – and I may be dead or ugly, wizened, and old enough for pretty jewelry to be pointless by the time it does.  I also have (as you must see, by the progress of this post) an impeccable skill with rationalization …

We commit atrocities against the products of our humanity, knowing and unknowing, a thousand times a moment.  I am guilty of both, and guilty too of learning of my own sins too late – or just of being in too much of a rush to “do things right” …

Quite a number of people in this world have custody of artifacts they know nothing about.  I bought a wildly valuable Art Deco camphor glass necklace on eBay.  The seller was some Alaskan with clearly no idea the worth of the piece.  She didn’t name it correctly in her listing, she sold something which could have garnered well over $100 on the educated market … for NINE dollars.  It was in dandy condition, and someone who knows what the piece is recognized its worth from a blurry photo and some hope … and now I have a piece I should never have been able to afford in a collection increasingly filled with random items like this.  Did I feel like I cheated her?  Not really.  And to have photographed, named, and sold it properly, for the “right” price (by all those  subjective measures we so love to apply) – she might not have sold it for months, or even at all.  I’ve seen valuable pieces linger for over a year on eBay’s vintage jewelry (and clothing) sites.  It’s incredibly common.  (See also:  illiquid assets, kids.)  Still – that seller “could” have gotten ten times the price, or fifteen, if only she’d been aware.  If that had mattered, she would have been.  One way or another, she didn’t, and was ignorant.  My “win” (again, if one looks at things that way).

I’ve often told the story of The Bathroom Brooch – a piece I looked at at a convention one time, made an offer on, and was turned down ... then later got for free, because the seller wanted to clear out her inventory before the end of the event, and asked me to help her get her Steampunk outfit straight for her, when she had to go to the ladies room.  (Corset dressing – even if your textiles aren’t genuine 18th-century – is not a venture for anyone without a lady’s maid, or a temporary friend you can recompense with a brooch you got in some bulk estate clearance.)  She was far more likely to have an idea what it was she had her hands on.  Perhaps not fully, but she certainly wasn’t a neophyte frontier woman (her costume was safari, actually) letting a 90-year-old treasure slip through her fingers all unknowing.

The Bathroom Brooch, as it turns out, is a $300 turquoise-matrix Juliana, by Delizza & Elster.  D&E made spectacularly beautiful pieces for many designers in the 20th century, and whose work is now highly sought after.  Juliana and Weiss designs are especially popular, and this brooch would take time to sell perhaps, but would eventually get triple-digits without problems, from someone even geekier than I am … and who would probably take similarly good (if unprofessional) care of it.  If I wanted that particular sort of profit, and if were patient enough to wait for that person.

The Juliana brooch
(Now, as a set - even more valuable, by collectors' standards)

The question becomes … how important is professional conservatorship, when the world is filled with artifacts we don’t even *understand*?

Humanity loses and destroys with almost the same prolificity as we create – and it is difficult to imagine the proportion of our material history we’ve lost outright simply by living.  Without ever being conscious of it.

I cringe with the most persnickety of them, I won’t pretend I’m immune.  When I recently saw someone I know casually manhandling a box filled with tribal musical instruments brought from Africa in the middle of the twentieth century, and when I saw the dessicating state of the many many irreplaceable pieces (as this person joked, “These should be in a museum!”), bits of me kept passing out.  It felt like a cultural crime, and an anthropological farce.

But … those things were sold; they were relinquished.  They weren’t stolen by bad guys.  They were not viewed by their makers as sacrosanct (or they never would have left native ground), and they live on, unknown to The Powers What Be in the world of music, African studies, museums, what have you.  They would be adored and restored, I am sure, in certain hands.  But are those hands necessarily the “right” hands – any more than those hands which have held and occasionally played them for the past forty or fifty years?  The hands that received them in a perfectly ordinary series of transactions in which (I have to hope) nobody was exploited but maybe the white tourist paying big for handmade trinkets … ?

I am not the authority to judge this.  Emotionally, I like the idea of these things being appreciated.  But humanity doesn’t work like that.  We are not a species wholly given to treasuring our own handiwork.  Those of us who do find a certain almost magical and/or mystical importance in the concrete talismans of our past.  There is a logic in maintaining knowledge – even (re)building it through study of our artifacts.  This blog would not exist, if I didn’t believe that pretty fervently.

But, as I have learned to let go of some of the more illusory “rules” of our language with age (language may mean more to me than physical artifacts ever have – and regular readers know how profound a statement that is), I’ve been willing to learn to let go of some of my more shrill opinions about the care and feeding of that river of STUFF which is the detritus of human experience.  From, of all people, an archaeologist.

Mojourner told me a story once, about a community garden, and the book-learned guy who set up the rule book for the garden.  An earnest and motivated guy, Book-Guy had provided a bucket or two with sand infused with oil.  He was very concerned that garden members must be sure to dip the community tools in this oil treated sand after using them, to clean them and to protect the blades and so on from rust and deterioration.

Now, rust or no – not one of those blades is going to deteriorate within the lifetime of a member of this garden.  Nor their grandchildren.  Countless mattocks, hoes, and pickaxes attest to the staying power of even the most profoundly rusty implements – and they might get little flaky red chuckles at the idea they were endangered, they who can lie in the soil a hundred years and still be polished.

But sometimes you just use the oiled sand, you do your bit, you garden along with the *community* and the guy who learned what he knows on a printed page, not some midden dig a thousand miles and several bands of latitude away.  Books are written sometimes by people with good intentions, and even knowledge.  And the oiled sand won’t hurt the garden’s tools.  It’s funny to think its absence might.  But … rust can be seen as a destructive force, or a simply natural one with little power against us or even our handiworks.

Sometimes, it’s not all about the oiled sand.

Our attachment to our tools and our expressions is the basis for the very concept of sin.  Yet it is also the expression of pride in the pinnacle of our brains’ achievements.  Sometimes, both an achievement and a sin in one undertaking – how many of us can wrangle the ethics of so many of the discoveries we have wrought into technology?

We put too much store in “things” and “stuff” – so much that the idea of losing our obsolete objects can be literally horrifying.

We value the work of artisans in ancient or outmoded artifacts so little that the idea of selling it all on eBay, to be made into jewelry (see also – DIY ideas with watches and vintage typewriter keys) or “repurposed” doesn’t even look like destruction.


Yet DIY recycling, repurposing, destruction – these are no more new ideas than any of the other recent fads we’ve been vain enough to imagine we invented.  It is desecration, by most definitions, to see an Art Nouveau sculpture melted down, or even by some definitions, for a Mid-Century piece of furniture to be dismantled and reborn as framed art or the basis of some installation at a subversive gallery.  The alteration of an original artifact sends shivers up the spine – and I won’t pretend that the sight of shattered Edwardian silk fills me with satisfaction – yet we have always done this.

Clothing, through most of history, was mended and altered and handed down and reduced, recycled, reused – even unto the point of becoming rags.  Jewelry missing a catch or a few links, stones loosened or finishes lost – this is available in bulk by the pound, literally, and there are thousands of people eager to save these things from the flames of oblivion by cobbling together this shiny bit here with that functioning bit there, and creating something new, something that will still be seen and even give someone pleasure.  Even those things not already gone archaic or broken are rertrieved, ripped up, revamped, relaunched.  It is our nature – our contrarian way – to see well enough, and be unable to leave it alone.  We do it with ourselves, with our friends, with our bodies, with our lives.  To imagine we might restrain ourselves from “improving” on our *things* by tweaking around in ways which might look damaging or state-altering is unrealistic … and, indeed, short-sighted.  If we didn’t jiggle the handles on things sitting around being reasonably serviceable, we might not come up with newer ways for them to be serviceable – or different ways altogether.


Our past is a magical thing, and should never be forgotten nor discounted.  Yet past-worship can render results just as problematic as history-condemnation – it can ossify the mind, make people reactionary and recalcitrant, unwilling to innovate, even to risk change that, yes, might turn out badly.  Maybe that would not be a bad way to live.  We’ve got cultures dedicated to that, too, and there’s no reason to say those are “worse” than the Western culture so many imagine is the “right” way to live.  Many of us are unaware that not all human endeavor is dedicated to “progress” at all – yet, to lose that diversity, that would be as much a tragedy as any shattered silk in the world.  Our delicacy expresses itself in so many ways, material and metaphorical.

And the go-go progress way of life most people who might happen upon this post are most likely living, in one way or another, to one degree of intensity or another:  it brings with it both the reverence for those things that made us what we are … and the impetus for the destruction – or changing – or damage – or improvement upon those things.


As much as disappears – humanity’s mark on our Earth will not be obliterated any time soon.  As much as we obscure, there is a tendency of history, of our creative and innovative past, to tell on itself.

Ancient Alien proponents notwithstanding, the interest in the history of human ingenuity captivates us all from time to time – whether in people who are fascinated by mummies, or the historicity of our holy documents and myths, or those fascinated by the bones of royals or the beauty of clothing (or jewelry …) of some particular period.

The methods of our making are perhaps endlessly fascinating to me.  I can be as excited about the contents of Otzi’s belly as the composition and stitching of his garments, as I can by the remarkable process of pattern welding steel as an ancient recipe for garum, as the recreations, from art and intelligent analysis, of some of the most ancient hairstyles in the world.  I am captivated by the fact that women’s hands are literally stamped in our earliest and most treasured prehistoric marks on the world.  Humanity itself, its mind and its spirit, is almost relentlessly engaging—inquisitive, expansive, remarkable, beautiful.  And THAT is what cannot be destroyed, no matter how many of the pieces of evidence of it we mangle.

We can kill our brainchildren.  We can, with that hideous tenacity that has always lived in its devastating strain alongside our sublimity, kill each other.  We are a contumacious and transcendent and complicated and impossible to pin down – we contain multitudes, the sublime and the wretched.  None of this can be hidden.  None of it can quite be lost.

No matter how hard we try …

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Seven Slicin' Grammaw - and Other Stories

I wish she'd had a leather jacket with "Seven Slicin' Granny" on the back.  She'd have preferred a soft cardigan, but she could have rocked that.  As she rocked the skill of her almost-mythical pie slicing talent.

The Arrant Pedant frees us from yet more rules that only prove ... the language ain't what it used to be!

Leila Gaskin knows a little something about crit groups.  And writing communities, at that!  I'm grateful for both - which gave me the golden friend who is:  Leila Gaskin.  Parenthetically, it was that Mojourner guy who got me to my first JRW conference, all those years ago (I think it was only the second or third one).  So we can thank/blame him when Ax finally gets out into the world.  But we can blame/thank Leila, too - she's a most motivating Broad.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Nothing I Could Add ...

... would add a thing to these posts about guns and anger and cruelty in my country.  Pat's words on compassion are the balm--and lack of it.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Unfamiliar Territory

The revisions I've been working on have brought out a side of me seldom of much prominence in my life.  I've been second-guessing myself a great deal.

The intensity of this, for me, is nothing like the self-doubt I know many suffer every day, and I'm grateful for that.  But its very unfamiliarity is knocking me off-kilter.

The polishing work started when an agent whose opinion I'm willing to internalize (you can't take all the advice) gave me feedback I agreed with and wanted to implement.  That was April 10, and here almost two months later I am very well along in the MSS.  I've made some changes slightly off-script from the advice given, fleshed out a number of scenes and characters after the draconian cuts of the last revision, and ...

... of course.  I found a pretty serious continuity problem.

How I managed this is beyond me, but I left Queen Saint Clotilde pregnant for about a year and a half.

Oh dear.

Of course, a mechanical fix like this is not all that straightforward, what with the ankle bone being connected to the knee bone and the knee bone being connected to the thigh bone, and so on all the way up and then back down into the nervous and circulatory and circulatory systems.  I'm angry on a few levels, that this happened at all - bewildered at how I could have missed it - and that I can work on something for so long and still be finding something so profoundly wrong with it.

It's humiliating.  It leads me to question whether this publishing thing is ever going to happen at all - whether it should.

These questions, it must be said, last about one second or so and my confidence arrogance reasserts itself.  But then I come up against - "am I taking too long!? I wanted to get back into querying really quickly! - and "am I not taking long enough? will what I am doing be substantial enough?" - and (probably scariest of all, particularly after stripping tens of thousands of words out in the previous edit) "am I adding TOO MUCH BULK???"

All I can do is trust myself, be grateful this particular agent was kind enough to give me feedback, NOT hang all my hopes on that, and do the work.  Listen to a lot of Star Trek while wielding the keyboard on the MSS.  And soldier on.

Ax will get out there, and we're getting closer and closer to that time.  Get it done in this first half of the year.  Get agented before 2015.  And then ...

More writing.

Time for me to soldier on.

Beautiful Music

A sweet Sunday interlude ...


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Quality is Job Two

Gossie the Editor Cat
inspects a stain on the nasty rug, pre-demo

Having done the nasty work of ripping out old carpet yesterday, today the job was housecleaning.  That wasn't limited, this week, to dusting, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, running the Roomba and changing sheets.  No, this week, after kicking up the nastiest dust my kitchen has ever seen in its 64-year-long life, there was a serious cleaning of EVERYTHING in there.

Most of the house, sure, got a fairly regular treatment.  But the kitchen - I spent hours in and out of there (and down into the basement, too - cleaned the steps going down there, on top of everything else).  Disinfected and scrubbed everything from the counters to the appliances to the parts of the fridge not already scrubbed after the work yesterday (we also scrubbed bits of the oven and walls) - I even got the top rims of all the cabinet doors and drawers, the handles of everything.  Washed everything from all the countertops and shelves mom didn't swab yesterday.  Even the drip-tray for dishes.

Everything I eat from or cook in for a while, I'm going to wash first.  Considering I found that dust between my toes last night, and I'd been wearing shoes and socks - that stuff got EVERYwhere.  I don't want to eat it.  So it's going to be some time before I cook or eat without washing *first*!

I also did a bit more cleaning on the floor itself - and got up a bin full of more of the glue, carpet dust, and disintegrated/disintegrating padding.

The hardwood is not pretty.  Yet.  But that kitchen looks clean, no question.

I'd even eat in there.  With a great deal of smug satisfaction.

Kitchen Ripping

There are those who might not find the following photos to look much like an "improvement" - but, for me, it's another in a year which so far has been one of outstanding blessings and great thanksgiving.

When I moved into my home, every single inch of the floor, both storeys, was carpeted.  1970s red deep-pile shag in the former-porch/now-office wing room.  Pea green, thick carpeting through the other wing, dining room, foyer, and living room - and on up the steps and into the master bedroom.  In the guest bedroom, faded-lime green deep-pile shag again.

The bathrooms were carpeted.  And my home was previously owned by a widowed 86-year-old man.  With all the best of intentions, over the course of 30-odd years, a man will ... miss.  I will not forget the day I came home from work to find the carpet removed from one of the bathrooms, and a note from my brother (my family used to work on this house even when I wasn't here - wonderful people), saying, "No greater love hath any mother ... than that yours removed your peepee carpet!"

Good times.  Hee.

All these years later, she and I got together yesterday (I took a few hours off work this time), and tore out the kitchen carpet.

Which - given the rather trying training period with Penelope - was itself a bit of a peepee carpet, I can admit.

Anyway - no greater love hath any mother and daughter than when we get to do a grubby job together - every year or two, we find our way to spend a few hours fixing up my yard, cleaning my basement ... tearing up carpet that never should have been in the first place ...  (Yes, the work always tends to be at/on my home.  Mom's home is perfection, you see!)

My dad would love it - well, does, I have little doubt.  He always did like when his girls found some way to work together, figuratively *or* literally.

Beneath the carpet was not, as you might imagine, a simply stunning alternative, pristine and clean and ready for the decorating magazines.  But it's hardwood exactly like the rest of the house.

A lamentable detail is that, in the 1970s when all the carpeting went down, hardwood was so passe' they apparently figured it would never, ever, ever, ever, ever see the light of day again - and so did some painting without benefit of dropcloths, and so on.  The entire house, most of which has had its floors exposed for many years now, needs sanding and refinishing.  The kitchen merely represents the most obvious need - the black glue and partially ossified carpet padding here and there.

But the boards are solid upstairs and down, but for two slender strips in the foyer, which have termite damage at least a generation old which clearly got dealt with in a hurry.  Two little boards, out of an entire house.  And one loose one, at the wall under the refrigerator.  That's the worst of it.

Still Life with Kong Toys

Maybe next time, mom and I rent floor sanders.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Well, since it's been a whole eight days since I had to call in to work with a bad back, it's a good thing I've gotten myself a nice cold now - wouldn't want to work an entire week straight, after all.


So while I'm home and in pain today, I'll share a highly intriguing piece of costume (and jewelry) history, as The History Blog takes a look at the Revninge woman pendant.

And another look at jewelry, this time in the Anglo Saxon arts.  I can see, too, from the link, that I am going to have to get myself addicted to The British Museum blog.  The HB's post introduces me to a phrase I have not seen before, but find charming - "animal salad."  Hee.

And, from the British Museum blog (I probably shouldn't reduce them to an acronym, hm?), here is a great post with wonderful photos of the Lycurgus ... lamp.  And a curator's question - how do you graphically render "something which was never intended to exist in a tangible way" - perhaps the least-forseen lament about bitcoin I've ever encountered.  Interesting post, though!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fall Collection?

Today, two posts about clothing.

First, the world's oldest known pants, found in China.  Thanks as always to The History Blog.  I think Three Thousand Year-Old Pants would be a great title, or a band name or something.  Get on that, m'kay?

Second, a nice and not over-long post (with great images) at Pour La Victoire - on vintage clothing and preservation.  Oh, and tie-dye.  Aieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Looking Into Richard

The saga of the bones of Richard III will not end any time soon, and the latest is a 3D print look at that remarkable spine of his.  The History Blog has an excellent .gif of the bones as they would have been in life (inside the late king), along with some thoughts and good links to further discussion.

This is a use of 3D printing that offers a look (if you will) at tools for both discovery and conservation.  The study of Richard's actual bones must be limited by their age and delicacy - and, of course, the fact of their uniqueness.  As artifacts go, the skeleton of an individual could not be more scarce:  there is only one Richard III.

We've seen mummies taken to pieces and study methods of the past which have damaged and even destroyed human remains and our ancient creations and possessions.  We've seen a hundred means by which the material of history can be lost forever - warfare, natural disaster, the simple accident of losing track of things through centuries.  We've seen false artifacts, hoaxes which sometimes drew into question the value or even the reality of those items of past times which have been misunderstood or subject to the varying value systems of prejudice.

Being able to study Richard's bones thanks to replication opens a wide array of possibilities.  Perhaps not all of them are positive, but this one is a little exciting.  The .gif, to be fair, might ook some folks out as it were.  But for me it's just a neat example of new technology with quite intriguing new uses for an area of study which might not have seemed obvious when 3D printing was developed.  Thanks again to The HB.