Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Collection - BOO!

Sadly, Edward Gorey images are not available for (legal!) reuse.
Image: Google image search, labeled for reuse

Jeff Sypeck on how easy it is to make an eerie little sentinel. Hooray for seasonal ghoul-ery! I have not felt NEARLY enough in the Hallowe'en spirit this year.

To get in the spirit, it is a good time for ghost stories. How about River City Secrets, an anthology including quite a few talented and charming authors I happen to know?

If you prefer Old World scares, or happen to be on the UK side of the Pond, Nottingham's Monster anthology may be your taste. The cover is a nicely evocative piece of art.

Diwali Ragnoli decoration with lamps
Image: Wikipedia

If Hallowe'en and All Saints are not your thing, how about an enjoyable look into the preparations for Diwali, where an entire town cleans house and welcomes the goddess and the holiday in beautiful style? Instilling "the spirit of ownership for the city" sounds like a wonderful celebration.

However you celebrate - or if you do not - be careful out there. There are flour and egg crackdowns, and souls going around ticking the Devil off enough to get kicked out of Hell.

Have fun! And, if you can't be good, be good at it!

Saturday, October 22, 2016


How the Reformation helped to create the nuclear family model, and how Millennials are retrieving a pre-modern way of life. Perhaps The Golden Girls had it “golden” for reasons other than we thought!

How many of us have a default setting that ancient artifacts are the product of male fabrication?
How many of us realize that that sets an assumption of male gaze in early art? What if the earliest goddess figurines were not made by men in worship … but by women, perceiving themselves? Why not? Women made a great deal of art before we started creating history.

The History Blot has had a couple of good digital reconstructions this week. One, a look at the face of Peru's Lord of Sipan, from the pieces of his preserved skull. You can watch the art of the process in the video in fairly amazing detail. Next, a very nice look into a home in Pompeii. There are THREE videos at the HB on this piece, but I included this one as the most instructive of the two shorter clips, for my fellow history nerds. There is a 10:44 minute one that is even more detailed; the mosaic of a dog at the entry indicating a guard dog, and more in-depth consideration of the architecture.

Friday, October 21, 2016

"Dixie Dupree is eleven years old and already an expert liar"

For my Reider readers and beyond, many of you have seen me mention The Education of Dixie Dupree, Donna Everhart's upcoming debut novel. For those who have not: I've been eagerly awaiting this book for a LONG time now. Eagerly!

Well, I am not alone ... and pre-order is always an option.

Donna knows I have a "thing" about the intimacy of reading, but I also have a thing about supporting good authors, and without a doubt she qualifies. The struggle to wait is real.

COOL cover, right?"
You know you're curious.

But now ... the wait is but a couple of business days!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Dark" Times ... (?)

This morning, a thought wandered around in my head a bit, and I'm curious what some of you might think.

As a researcher and writer of a period in history at which the so-called Dark Ages were born, one of the issues I have with my work is the dearth of primary sources. It's difficult in the extreme to research some of the key aspects of my plot: could, or even *would*, a community's midwife become a nurse to a single household? At what age did children begin to to to Christian services? At what age would a king's child have begun to go, and was that earlier? What did the Arian service look like?

I can structure a day around liturgical hours known beyond Catholicism during sixth century Christianity. I can provide the shape of a night's segmented sleep. I can hear the echo of the hushed voices in the palace at Ravenna.

But I'll always be up against the damned Dark Ages. The lack of voices to tell me what they thought, had to say, even did, in most contexts of their lives.

The lack of primary sources.

There are not a few folks who fear we are tipping into a dark age right now. Brexit, perhaps, is worrisome. Name-the-outcome of the U. S. election looks to folks of all persuasions like the invasion of the Barbarians.

But my readers know, I don't believe in Barbarians. I don't accept that the whole world went dark and stupid for a thousand years. I don't believe there are, as a bloc, genuine heroes and villains at the national/imperial/tribal level, one entire nation of people good, another evil.

And the thing is: even the most partisan believer in these things will agree. The entire reason we call them "The Dark Ages" is because we don't know as much about the period.

That we know humanity was actually dumber for one thousand years ... I don't think any honest lover or student of history can say that with integrity.

So here is the thought that came picking about my brains today.

Whatever comes on November 8, whatever we despair of the loss of privacy and the uprising of technology that takes away our autonomy, even (perhaps) our individuality ...

Nobody will be ignorant of what we thought about these times, any century any time soon.

Nobody will look back at the early twenty-first century (or whatever era they name us to be in future - The Antrhopocene has some traction, but it's a self-given nickname, and those don't always catch on) and WONDER WHO WE WERE.

We are going to be a hard lot to lose in time, is what I am saying. We are not opaque.

Indeed, one of the possible tragedies of this age is its vomitous ubiquity. There is a wide swath of our culture right now dedicated just to photographing food before we actually eat it, reporting on it, commentating it.

Which either fascinates somebody I've never met, or reflects something deep and internal about the current generations of living humanity in a way that tells us about a lot more than that tasty churro shot.

Heading for destruction?

I don't know.

But I do know this: Rome never burned in a way catastrophic enough her legacy was obliterated. And my society, my culture - whatever it is, with all its good and its bad and its laughability and its heartbreak - is not a relief cut into the Earth that is going to erode easily.

What is beautiful about humanity right now is not going to disappear.

What is ugly, we've ensured will endure, too.

Do you think there can ever be a Dark Age again? Do you even believe there ever truly has been a descent of mankind, ever a period in history marked by the absence of redemptive qualities?


Am I the only Blogger user who's getting MASSES of bot traffic - now not from Russia or Korea, but from the US? On Macs? Every two hours almost on the hour, every day for over a month, there are 32-38 hits all in one go.

The problem with domestic bot-ification is that I've lost all sense of any actual readership (down, I know, of late; I haven't been linking my posts on Twitter, and my content isn't what it could be).

So, as shamelessly shill-ful as it is to beg for comments: who else is getting this sort of bot-ery?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

26 Tabs

“it (is) like heroin mixed with crack mixed with anime

I started off several days ago, amused by some link I saw somewhere about The Dung Ages. As my regular readers know, I have a few issues with the whole idea of The Dark Ages, illusions of recency, and The Dirty, Stupid Past. So the link-intensive piece on The Dung Ages led me to Medieval Morons and The DARK Ages.

TV Tropes looks like a lightweight site, but in short order I’ve been through dozens of tabs (part of the addictiveness is the brevity of many of the articles), and I’m extremely impressed with the scholarship here. It’s more intelligent, and far less snarky, than so many “this is how” websites about pop culture, writing, or television. It also goes far, bar beyond “TV” and examines sources back to ancient mythology and oral traditions.

This might not be a site to use for research if you need a depth of understanding, but I’d call it a hell of a reliable one-stop-shop for general understanding of … well, many things. It is great for writers (though dangerous, and filled with The Bunnies of the Plot), or just consumers of entertainment. It’s even responsible and intelligent.

TV Tropes is also an absolutely superb place to educate yourself, if you have a nerd of almost any sort in your life whom you do not always understand. Five minutes’ reading can teach you a lot about their obsessions!

Of course, five minutes reading there is not possible …

I would caution against clicking even a single one of the TVT links (mine are probably safe; I am not addicting except in very limited ways!) for a few minutes’ reading. The very brevity is what makes clicking “just one more” all too easy. You can get a wide array of tabs open, and winnow your way back down to a mere three, the tantalizing promise of “I will stop” so close before you, and that hope will disappear when five more fascinating links present themselves in those three innocuous little tabs. TV Tropes may be a cruel mistress.

But dang. Sure is fun. Enjoy! Carefully …

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Ego Tripping - Nikki Giovanni

Today, I did not want to make the moment I shook her hand about myself. So instead of telling Nikki Giovanni how she had affected me, I said only thank you.

But the first time I ever read Ego Tripping is still indelible, powerful in my experience. You don't forget moments that change you, that elevate your perspective.

I hope it is forgivable, permissible, for me to reprint her work. It is too important to just hope you will click somewhere and read. And so ...

I was born in the Congo
I walked to the Fertile Crescent and built
The Sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
That only glows every one hundred years falls
Into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad

I sat on the throne
Drinking nectar with Allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to Europe
To cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is Nefertiti
The tears from my birth pains
Created the Nile
I am a beautiful woman
I gazed on the forest and burned
Out the Sahara desert
With a packet of goat's meat
And a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
So swift you can't catch me

For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son Hannibal an elephant
He gave me Rome for mother's day
My strength flows ever on

My son Noah built New/Ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
As we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
Men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save

I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
The filings from my fingernails are
Semi-precious jewels
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the Arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
The earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
Across three continents

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission

I mean...I...can fly
Like a bird in the sky

The line that captured me a generation ago, and holds me to this day is "I am so hip even my errors are correct" ...

As I grow older, though, it is "I cannot be comprehended except by my permission" that comes to mean more and more.

What gets you, in this piece?

Or in any other poem?

Library of Virginia Literary Lunch

Today, I shook Nikki Giovanni's hand and said thank you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Always a sucker for a good sword-making article, I reveled in Tom Williams' latest post, looking at the combination of iron and carbon best calculated for "the whole cutting into your enemy and killing him bit." Pattern welded steel - the work of ages.

In "worst pink label EVER" news ... yes, it is true. Melania wore a pussy-bow blouse (why yes, of *course* it was PINK) to cap this weekend's sexual assault extravaganza. Sigh.

By the way. Is there ANYBODY left who doesn't understand the concept of rape culture?

In a much happier link: death! And taxes! Please click and enjoy a short story from Stephen G. Parks - and leave him some feedback, too, if you have any.

Teh Funnay! Also: because I needed MORE blogs to be addicted to. What it's like to be married to a writer. Pure reality gold, my friends.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


The Peach-Hued Puckered Mouth Hole Himself
Image: Wikipedia

I'm not sure there's any woman I've ever known who has not been sexually assaulted in the way described by the current Republican nominee to the presidency of the United States.

“To say that locker room culture is somehow this defense for what Trump is saying is really denigrating all professional athletes,”
--Former Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe

I smile that the quote above comes from a Viking, because the man I married is a Vikings fan. The purple sweater I was wearing when we first met, he liked, because it was just the right Vikings color.

Beloved Ex is a MAN. He is a man in the sense of the word I came to understand under the tutelage of my mother and father, a man in the sense I expect of any man I have ever dated or been friends with, a man in his own skin and in his own mind, a man of integrity such that he need never impinge upon the dignity of another human being. Ever.

Around the time he and I became engaged, I was living in an apartment on campus, and he came to see me once, bewildered and upset. He'd been out to a bar the night before, and while sitting outside on a freezing Ohio night waiting for his van to warm up, his long, looping golden hair had caused two guys to mistake him for a woman alone. Not his first experience being mistaken for a girl, from behind, though he was 6'1" and had shoulders even more prodigious than my own. But this was the first time he ever got TREATED like a girl alone.


As I recall his retelling of the incident, this was about the extent of their enticements before they realized he was a guy and (thankfully) failed to gay bash him for their error(s). (In all the years I have known him, BEx has not felt the need use his fists; but my suspicion has never been that he would be unable to - and brutally - if he perceived the need.)

He came to me with this experience, with this story, to retell it: to hope that I would tell him it was strange, that this doesn't really happen, that his experience was special and awful.

"Do guys SAY things like that to women?"

I can still feel, in memory, the tired smile I gave him. Hell, I heard fifty comments like that in a weekend, back then. On gigs with HIM, while I was watching him play and when our friend Joe (even bigger than BEx) wasn't by my side. He even once watched while a bunch of guys came up behind me and pulled my skirt up, exposing me. (No. He didn't use his fists even then; it was FAR too easy to just stop the show to call them out - management ousted the idiots, toute de suite.)

BEx is many things - boyish, even now. Perhaps even still, in some ways, dazzlingly innocent. He's not ignorant (magna cum laude,  in fact). But his purity is beautiful, and his virility is as pure as all his sweetness. He's ALL man - his skin is warm, his hands are big, he's got an enviable square jaw, he looks like a man, a big, Nordic man.

He has no need to grab a woman or a girl, and no desire to lessen anyone else in the world.

This is the kind of man I knew was worthy of attention, from the earliest age. I've never blessed an ass with my regard, never loved anyone who wasn't a real MAN - a man of such wholeness in himself he could no more fracture another person than murder them.

Real men are bewildered by Donald Trump's idea of "locker room" talk.

Mr. X is the same way. Perhaps less a wide-eyed Midwestern boy than BEx is, Mr. X still cannot fathom the objectification of women. He knows about it; he's not shocked by it. But appalled? He is appalled by it.

He's a man, too. Tall, dark, and handsome, at that. And he's a man who also happens to have a daughter.

The thing is, he does not find sexism wrong because he had a child with matched chromosomes.

He finds it wrong because it IS wrong. It was wrong before he ever had children. It's literally inhuman: dehumanizing.

I've known a lot of men, boys, and guys in my life. At a certain stage in my youth and development, I had no use for girls. So I hung out with boys - school mates and mall rats. I heard a LOT of the kind of discussion Trump wants to pretend his comments released this past weekend were - indeed, wants to pretend his entire view of womanhood is. I heard boys looking at other girls passing by, I heard them talking about things that happened with other girls the night before. I heard them assess me, right to my face, and I was okay with that.

There are issues there. Deep, and layered.

But the fact is, even RIGHT NOW, I know this: not one of those guys, even the ones telling me right to my face I was cute, or my chest was small but my ass was great, ever would have encroached upon me physically. They never DID. For one, they were afraid I would kick *their* asses. My reputation did not include the likelihood I was ever going to put up with being grabbed, or kissed, without clear consent - or, more accurately, encouragement. My reputation also included the salient fact that I was a virgin, and not looking to change that. My virginity both soured and sweeteened the grapes; they knew I wasn't a going concern, and they were a little tender about it, protective of me.

Paternalistic? Yep. Threatening and dehumanizing? No. I didn't hang out with the Trumps of this world. That was the preppy guys at school and, later, certain entitled, rich frat guys at college. Those called me a whore for not being available to them. Logic!

My friends were not a bunch of boys with clean noses. They got into drinking and drugs, many of them did indeed knock up one girl or another ("She trapped me" was a wearyingly familiar refrain). Scrapes with the law. I even remember one I didn't know so well, who showed us a trunk full of guns he had to sell. Not choir boys. But not rapists, either.

None of these guys (well, save First Love, of course) ever quite measured up to my standards and expectations. So none of them ever really got my attention. None of them was, by my archetypal, by my conscious or unconscious or ineffable standards: a man. Save First Love, of course.

Some of them, all these years on, I imagine may be voting for Trump. Those who are alive, who even bother with voting.

Caging the animal is a start.
But don't self-confessed criminals belong behind bars?
Image: Wikipedia

My point is, my experience of men's "talk" about women is not limited to the pretty compliments given me by adoring wooers. Or even the wary kindnesses emitted by those familiar with my big brother. Eep, he scared off some boys, he did. (Reasons I dated younger guys in high school: they had missed out on Diane Major's big brother.)

Even after my mall rat years - spending as much time in bars with BEx gigging as I did, alone by appearances, while he was between sets or onstage - I had plenty of ears full of men's talk about women. Sometimes, about my person, sometimes not. Heck, even if you just sit quiet and still in some bars, they forget you are sentient, and speak pretty damned candidly - either for you to hear, or not realizing you do. Some say execrable things, even concerning things.

MEN: never speak like Donald Trump.

Not even most boys, not ones raised by anybody who cared. I started to say "in a barn" there, but Trump is beneath the barnyard, frankly.

A barnyard is a place where horse shit is wholesome, and perfectly congruent.

When somebody tells you who they are:
believe them.

Monday, October 3, 2016


Random thought: how about … never trust anyone (man or otherwise) who decides anyone (woman or otherwise) must not be TRUSTED on the basis of any aspect of their personal tastes?

Let it be said: The Telegraph is not my favorite UK paper. But they have a couple good links now and then.

First, their list of 30 great opening lines from literature . It's a nice breadth of recent centuries and authors. To read them all at once makes for interesting inspiration; even in a single sentence, the different novels take you to different places and introduce us to a variety of characters. Well worth the look, for my writer and reader readers!

Next, just this quote, though it's only one from a longer series. Anyone would know I'd agree with the sentiment, but in keeping with my Illusions of Recency posts, it's looking at the date on this one that'll either sober you up quick or reassure you somewhat about today.

Star Trek: Axanar and the legal aspects of copyrighting Klingon. What a fandom buzzkill, Paramount. Fan produced for *generations* (b’doom pssshhhhhhh) have been fun, hallowed, and even considered canon at times. So much for that thing where “CBS has a long history of accepting fan films” and “…realizes that we’re just making their brand that much better.”. Bummer. With thanks to Dena Pawling for pointing to the suit.

Weird Illusions of Recency

The big problem with this post, opining that Stephen King basically invented cultural weirdness, is that the only comparison this writer is REALLY making is their own assumptions about, say, their own experiences growing up (and how King seems weird to HIM based on what he’d seen before) or perhaps some idea that the Eisenhower era really was what it looked like on Happy Days or something and that the whole world before it was a drab and colorless fantasy of Victorian purity and boredom.

Stephen King’s breakthrough was Carrie, in 1973.

Life and the pop cultural landscape before 1973 just were not a bounteous, homogenized world of normalcy. Sorry, folks.

Colin Smith linked this piece, and here is my comment from his blog:

Looking at the article, I am just not persuaded he’s that *fundamental* a force, culturally speaking. A great force, yes – but this writer clearly hasn’t sampled a wide variety of entertainment before the 1980s. The name Rod Serling leaps nimbly, if not actually aggressively, to mind here. The Outer Limits. Heck, even The Monkees, Lost in Space, and the Batman television show were cradles of pop cultural weirdness, and even a certain kind of horror, especially the latter. Torture was the order of the day in that cartoonish, camp outing. Even in the article itself, King’s own citations of his inspirations – which the writer clearly has not actually read – display plentiful weirdness and off-kilter obsessions.

I’m always annoyed at the idea that any given cultural/social construct was invented recently. The 20th century is particularly rife with illusions of recency, and it’s all predicated on the idea that (a) humanity actually changes and (b) evolution itself is heading toward some sort of Whig-historical idea of greatness.


People have been bizarre since we’ve been people. The weirdness of our psyches is plain to see going back thousands of years, with even a casual acquaintance with history and the arts.

It's hard to think of anyone who has injected so much strangeness into the pop culture consciousness, and no one else has done it this long.

Again: Rod Serling.

Noël Carroll writes that for King, "the horror story is always a contest between the normal and the abnormal such that the normal is reinstated and, therefore, affirmed."

So: anti-weird, in the end?

The truth is, if we look at pop culture and weirdness, frankly we’re a lot LESS weird now, especially in cinema and in music, than 40 years ago. Some of what came out of Hollywood before I was even born, and through the 1970s, would never be made today, because: corporatization and money. Take a look at major studio productions like Tommy (you want weird? Two words: baked beans), Myra Breckenridge, Zardoz … even 2001, which was not presented as any sort of oddity, features as its centerpiece an extended, trippy stretch of special effects and curious philosophical imagery the like of which really has not been matched since. Kubrick’s first film, by the way, came in 1951, and he wasn’t waiting around on Stephen King to get weird.

The literature inspiring many films predates them by decades, in some cases. Some literature, too, going back to the eighteenth century, easily gives King a run for his money. Oh wait, and did I mention millennia? Yeah, read some ancient mythology for human eyes on death in the most stunningly … hey, *human* way.

In music, the 1960s gave birth to progressive rock, an experimental form borrowing from its own predecessor, jazz, and frankly from a lot of heavy drug use (also not invented in the 20th century; read a little bit of Louisa May Alcott’s lesser-known ouvre for some serious looks into tripped-out drug use and supreme weirdness

Ever heard of the Grand Guignol? Look it up, kids.

Sensation novels? Well, see above; their seeds go back three centuries previous to this one. Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus was an eye-popper in the weird and horror departments, both (and Julie Taymor’s adaptation is a shocker featuring Alan Cumming AND Harry Lennix, whom I admire to little bits all over the floor. Greek and Roman drama are filled with the most stunning human behavior.

“We live in increasingly bizarre times,” the blogger says.

Only if you have never studied anything about the past.