Wednesday, July 31, 2013

50K

And that, my friends, was the night I hit 50,000 pageviews on the blog.  And, given Blogger's own bizarre under-reporting of stats, that probably means nothing - but I'll take an underestimation that high and the knowledge it's even mostly-human readers, though bots do prowl around here and there.

Good night, all.

Getting Good Things Done

At last, I have gotten the interview for Elizabeth Chadwick put together, and reached out to Day Al-Mohamed about writing for Unleaded.  Editing is still going well, and I have to say I quite like the last post I put up.

Work isn't going badly either, right now, and with August's final approach, the weather is still lacking for 100+ temps and years-long droughts.  I don't miss those one bit.  The leaves are already debuting a few late season changes, and the mornings have been something approaching what could be called cool.  I've even put off ten pounds; that's still a good thirty more than I was carrying a year ago in springtime, but the direction is at least preferable to me.

There are some significant stressors, but at least right now, at least today, I am managing them without turning into a beaten dog.

Life could be worse.  I'm guardedly, but honestly, grateful.

The First Queen

Clovis’ mother was the Thuringian Queen, Basina.  Famed for the scandal she caused in leaving her first husband, Bisinus, to marry Clovis’ father Childeric, she was clearly a woman of remarkable power in a society not poor in the exploits and strength of women.  It was Basina who gave Clovis his name, a rare fact preserved in a history full of men.  Of course, a very great deal of what composes “history” in this period is stitched from legend and half-truths, propaganda and hagiography.

Clovis, I would say, was highly interested in propaganda, and I make it an explicit point in The Ax and the Vase that he depended heavily upon it in his quest to increase his kingdom from the Roman province of Belgica Secunda into a vast Frankish power standing in its own right.  The legend of his vengeance concerning the Vase at Soissons was only one of many tales which have a distinctive flavor about them, of making a public point for the sake of display.  His conversion, and fairly worthwhile evidence that he modeled himself on Constantine, follow a pattern of propaganda it was impossible not to manipulate intentionally, as I believe the king himself must have done, in the writing of his story.  He wrote it himself first, after all.

It’s not impossible he could have had an example in legend-making from the mother who gave him life, gave him his name, and gave him, even, the legend of a Merovingian dynasty (unnamed at that time, of course) itself.

Basina is said to have used King Childeric, Clovis’ father, to make a point upon their wedding night.  Before she will consummate their marriage, she sends Childeric outside thrice to look about him and tell her what he sees each time.  The first time he steps out, he sees a lion.  The second, he sees bears, wolves, or leopards.  The third, he reports seeing marmots or dogs, “lesser animals.”

Each iteration of Childeric’s investigations illustrates a deterioration, first shown in Gregory, which must have been perceived by contemporaries, of the dynasty Clovis founded.  The Merovingians started out strong, to be sure – Clovis’ conquests, his wealth, his production of princes, his career and his rule were in many ways the paragon of monarchical success.  He was the biggest thing the Franks had ever seen, and there was pride, fear, and resentment both within his life and beyond it.  The epochal developments of his reign – Clovis became the first Catholic king in Western Europe; he set forth the famous (infamous) Salic Law – were themselves the stuff of legend, and could have been no accident as such.  Yet when his kingdom passed on to his four sons, divided as patrimony between them, the power held by one lion was compromised by the division, and the Merovingian legacy (far from being Christ’s bloodline) became a famous litany of family squabbles.

Of course, the likelihood that the tale of the lion and the lesser beasts, told a generation or so after Clovis’ own death, was really told before even his birth, is slender at best.  This doesn’t stop me from using the story in any case.  In telling certain stories, those who are familiar with the attendant legends expect to see how this piece or that part may be handled; and the story reflects and fits so well with Basina’s character it would have been unthinkable to leave out this story.

Then, as tends to happen – I cut so much of her out that the tale was lost.  Indeed, Basina herself lasts only a few pages now, and is sacrificed very early in the going indeed; victim of an arbitrary but nagging need I had to be rid of her.  She ends by suffering much the same fate of Morgause at the hands of her son Agravain, but without the bloodshed.  Basina, instead, is shut out of society – the worst punishment a Frank could suffer, in a culture utterly bound by family ties.

In some ways, the loss of this powerful feminine presence may be a great loss for the novel, but as a woman writing first-person from the POV of a decidedly male character, I could not abide her presence.  Perhaps instinctively, perhaps even jealously, as the feminine author of this legendary king, I could not brook the presence of any other feminine force which brought him into being.  Indeed, until the advent of Queen Clotilde, the novel is notably unbalanced by female characters; even Clovis’ friedelehe, Evochilde, dies with little more accomplished than bearing his first son, Theuderic.

The French remember the end of the Merovingian dynasty, in particular, with the epithet they gave those kings known as do-nothing kings:  the roi fainĂ©ant.  The story of the dynasty goes much as the story of Basina’s animals goes, and by the end little boys and ineffectual heirs have most people all but rooting for the advent of the Carolingians, who had ruled from behind the Merovingian throne for generations, as Mayors of the Palace.  Yet the individual stories of Merovingians, and certainly their women, do not suffer from the same tarnish, the same flagging vigor as the tale of the dynasty as a whole.

Radegund, whose uncle betrayed Clovis’ eldest son Theuderic (this story is alluded to toward the closing chapters of Ax), and who herself was apparently close with Gregory of Tours.  She was a poetess and another saint, and one of those women along the line who was closest to Clovis’ sons.

Aregund, one of six wives of the notorious Clotaire I (son of Clovis), whose tomb’s discovery in 1959 shed much light on Frankish craft, society, and burial – and, not incidentally, whose state of preservation was good enough that her DNA was able to provide proof, in 2006, that her line carried no characteristics of Middle-Eastern extraction.  This has been put forth to put paid to the Merovingian Heresy, though of course there is no real way to destroy the allure of conspiracy theories for those who love them.

Waltrude, one of the many sainted wives of Frankish nobility of the Merovingian period, exemplifies the flux in which marriage and monastic vows still existed as late as the seventh century:  after a fruitful marriage, both she and her husband, Count of Hainault chose to retire into the church.  Like so many Frankish/Merovingian saints, she founded a convent.  The city of Mons arose around this holy site.

Waltrude’s possible sister, Aldegonde, is remembered both for her founding of a hospital, which became Maubeuge abbey.  Her fortitude in the face of terminal breast cancer is remembered 1300 years later.

A favorite Merovingian queen, Balthild, started her life as an Anglo-Saxon child of nobility, sold into servitude, and finally married to a king who loved her.  She is alternately described as ruthless or as humble and modest, but what remains clear and true of this sainted queen is that she held, and used, real power.  She endowed many religious institutions.  Her seal matrix (a fascinating two-sided design for use in official and personal documentation) survives to this day, and it is she who is credited with the abolition of (at least) Christian slavery, as well as guiding the minority rule of her son Clotaire.  Three of her sons eventually became kings in their own right, and she too retired to an abbey, where she is said to have spent the rest of her life in service to those in poverty and suffering illness.

Of Frankish women, the matrimonial tales can rank among the most fascinating glimpses both of their character and the society itself, in which they lived.  There are raging legends of women who stood up against betrothals they did not desire, the scandalous remembrance of Basina, of course, who left one king and wed another, becoming mother of a dynasty herself – and the stories like Balthild’s (not unique in the annals), of women who suffered servitude either by birth or by misfortune, and who then rose to become queens with influence and indelible places in the history of this maddening, fascinating line of rulers.  With the place family held in Frankish life, the mothers’ and wives’ prominence is undeniable and noticeable.  Basina may have been a scandal, but she was not, I think, regarded with actual surprise; women in this society were not reduced to ciphers in their own time nor down through the generations.  A certain Itta, called Merovingian herself by some sources, indeed came to Basina’s own role for the Carolingians, as mother of the new dynasty – once Basina’s marmots had run their deteriorated course.

There is so much drama in these characters – in these players of our world’s history – you can’t help but see that they must have been on the stage.  Any one of them – or their sisters, their mothers, their daughters – might make a hundred novels’ worth of inspiration.  I have my list set, for at least three novels of my own.  Still, it would be fascinating to see someone take these stories and tell them, restore them, weave them anew for the rest of us.  Let me know if you are inspired!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Good Things

Elizabeth Chadwick agreed to let me interview her, and the bronchitis sidetracked me for too long, but I hope to take time in the next several days to GET ON that so I can bring you something exciting.

Day Al-Mohamed asked me on Twitter tonight to write for Unleaded.  That would be pretty exciting - their platform is such a nice variety and view, with very engaging writers contributing.  I'd love to be a part of that, even if just for one shot.

And, of course, there is this.  I'm still an awful interview.  But maybe I can learn.

This is the sort of thing I'm supposed to do, as I refine and perfect the work itself.  It's gratifying and encouraging, and it's bouying me through a period of doubt and difficulty, as I edit again when I didn't expect to get back into that and am still working alone.  Feeling like I'm proceeding without a net these days, I'm very grateful for these things.  I have a lot to be thankful for - now to do it all some justice.

Editing is going quickly - if I had readers, I'd know better how *well* I was doing.  But I'm doing what I can to put into the world what it has been giving me.  I hope it's good stuff I am giving back ...

Talk About Bitchy

Wow, people can get mad about just about anything.  To wit:  stamp rage.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Worst. Interview. Ever.

But it's the first time anyone's ever published one with me, so I'm linking it.  I am a horrible, horrible subject for questionnaires, unfortunately ...

With my thanks to the far more web-savvy, and perfectly delightful, Kristy, for featuring me anyway!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

More on Henry and His Offspring

An intriguing new book is out, looking well fixed for popular consumption, about King Henry VIII's children.  Here's an interview with its author, Jon Guy - and a few more thoughts on Diagnosing Henry:

(Y)ou find that Henry’s personality changes at a different date depending on which historian you’re reading! Robert Hutchinson opts for 1531, whereas Jack Scarisbrick went for 1529, the year he thought the King’s first divorce suit turned nasty. Other historians advanced the date to 1527 when new material on Henry’s divorce difficulties came to light. Milo Keynes, a retired senior medical consultant at Addenbrooke’s Hospital at Cambridge, plumped for 1528. Susannah Lipscombe has more recently gone for 1536. This sort of speculation is always intriguing and can be worth pursuing, but isn’t a satisfactory basis from which to construct a medical diagnosis.
--Jon Guy

Preying and Hoping - the Difference

When I wrote The Uncensored Post, it had been my intention to follow up pretty quickly with a post about men which would put the negativity and outrage into better perspective, but time and inspiration have gone against my doing so to this point.  For that, my apologies, but now is the time.

Though a feminist and avowedly, publicly so, I have never fit into that half-delirious stereotype so many men *and* women fear, who refuse the label for themselves, or outright revile it for everyone.  I'm not a humorless, man-hating creature, out to set traps so I can consider men to be failures in one context or another.  Indeed, I never quite got over the eager proneness of my innocence, to indulge in crushes, and I was every bit as boy-crazy as any other kid when I was one.  It's just that my ability to find objects to crush on was refines with age, and my ability, too, to stick a landing so to speak - to stick with *one* crush (permanently) - reached an apex and hasn't fallen back down.  It's something of a privilege (and relief) of age.

Fun fact:  my very first crush of any kind, before I even had any idea of romantic interest, was Muhammad Ali.  I was about four or five - and he was right:  he was beautiful.

So on to the point, then.

Just now, in the grocery store (oddly enough - given how I was going on about grocery stores in that first post), I was approached by a guy.  (I say guy rather than man because, as young as he was, I feel almost squicky referring to him as fully mature, because I feel a certain need to repel myself from any hint of cougar-dom.)  He asked me what gym I work out at (I was wearing a knit cami and my "dog-walking" pants).  I laughed I'd been playing with my dog, and moved easily on.

The key to this encounter:  he let me move on, no further interest shown, no question, not even a backward glance.  It was fairly clear he was gauging his own possible level of attraction, but when the message came that there was not prospect, he stopped completely.  Passed him again a few minutes later, and zero "signals" of any kind.

The phrase men need to remember:  NO HARM/NO FOUL.  Now, most of us can live with a guy taking a shot.  As human beings, we'd never procreate at all, if  nobody approached anybody else, ever.  If there were no physical attraction.  It is vital to our humanity to make connections where none existed before.  The only problem is when there is no availability but that is ignored.

Persistence is a virtue - but a woman has an absolute, hermetic right to refuse and even to rebuff overtures.  So do men - and, in full disclosure, I have been rejected myself in making an approach.  Since I was eighteen (I remember the first time), I have been the one who started an approach which resulted in a relationship.  I get hit on, sure - but for pretty much all the significant relationships of my life, I initiated first contact.  That boy I watched Tootsie with.  The one I was sure I'd marry, senior year.  Beloved Ex.  That one with the metrosexual pants, whom a few folks were sure was gay (he was not).  Mr. X, in fact, has told me a hundred times he never would have crossed that room when I smiled at him, because he was sure I must be with somebody.  Shameless flirting is not enough.  So I just get pointblank.  There have been occasions it didn't work for me.  But I've been pretty lucky.

When someone says, though, "I have a girlfriend" or makes some demurring remark - I do precisely what I would expect and require any man to do in kind:  I let the heck go and either depart completely or change the subject.  Flatly.  The idea of pushing through a show of not being wanted is bewildering to me.

But our culture, unfortunately, has this "hard to get" practice, which renders BS in a man's mind any show of reluctance from a woman to his desires.  Even worse, there are women who actually *do* play hard to get.  (I don't mean to presuppose all games are terrible and must be forgone - but this one has created more problems than it can possibly be worth, and there are safer ways to tease someone you wish to keep on a hook; so "worse", above, isn't precisely a moral judgment ... even if I do find that dynamic personally worthless.)  So we've institutionalized the idea that "no" doesn't mean no, and that subtler signals, lord help us, might only be gaming cues.

I am again fortunate in that it is not typical for me to be outright misunderstood by anyone exhibiting interest.  In the past, I have indulged in ostentatious Ice-Queenery to get a point across, and when truly pressed, I've been able to provide acrobatically nimble rejections which leave no doubt and no room for further pressing.

Not all women are fortunate enough to have confidence enough that they're allowed to say no, never mind blessed with a pair of parents who taught them by unwitting but unremitting example just how to do it effectively.  I was given, and understood, boundaries from the earliest age.  It was also demonstrated to me in no uncertain terms that as a human being - as a girl - I had boundaries of my own, which were to be defended.  To some extent, this was a religious imperative imposed on a virgin daughter - but it was also the simple worth and value with which I was treated from the moment of my birth.  I was worth something, and nobody had a right to the core of me in any way, without my consent.  Ever.

Through my life, I have found men who did not plough over that worth, but who admired and valued it too.  That boy, that first love, that Beloved Ex - and Mr. X.  All of them responded to my sense of self with instinctive support, not some adversarial imposition of *their* sense of self as if it were an opposing force.

Not one of these men was in the slightest an emasculated nor submissive person.  As I expect not to be halved nor dominated, I do not reduce nor dominate either.  Beloved Ex and Mr. X, to be sure, are almost stereotypically manly - in all the good ways.  BEx has the warmth and comfort in his own skin I associate with manliness - with, indeed, the very model of manhood in my life, my own dad.  Who, himself, was no milquetoast.  He was passionately in love with my mom from the moment he found her, and was never anything less nor the worse for it.

No man has ever been diminished by emotional commitment to his partner.  Indeed, the measure of a real man (and a real woman) is the person who can give themselves completely and not see it as submission, as any negation of self.  To give fearlessly.

And I like:  real men.

I like them a very great deal indeed.



Edited to add that, ironically, this episode of Voyager happened to come up on my queue just after this post was finished.  Somewhere between Fatal Attraction and Trek, we have another character violating a crew member.  At least it wasn't Deanna getting raped again this time.  Voyager has a way of inverting the explorations of human relationships done on some of the other series.

How to Read

I didn't want to steal a vid from Day without credit, and so this appears in the Collection post below.  However, this lesson is extremely useful for those of us still learning our way - and hoping, someday, to have readings of our own.  This deserved a *post* of its own.

So l...i...s...t...e...n...



Good material, well taught.

Part 2:





Be audible.  Do it from your diaphragm (Steve Martin jokes may be leaping to mind - and that is okay ...).

Read slowly - pacing is important in the writing; why wouldn't your rhythm as a reader matter?

Choose your passage carefully - watch the number of characters in a scene; is it self-contained? (dramatic content/is your stopping point a cliffhanger?); listen to the language (onomatopoeia); control your own interpretation (read the meanings) ...

One of her pieces of advice is to read from the POV of your own gender ... a trick I won't be able to accomplish with Clovis, written as it is in first person from his POV ...  But even so, it can be done.  I suspect my abilities do run so far; I've read this MSS so many times, out loud, just in its very writing.

The voice is a muscle.  She comments near the beginning of video #2 on resonating and what a sinus infection can do to you.  True too of bronchial issues:  this past couple of weeks?  I could not have used mine properly!

Pitch, placement, pacing, accent, attitude.  (And not all attitude is 'tude, yo.)

GKDTBP.

Also, I agree with Day.  The attitude section is great.

Sunday

I've reached page 57 out of 450 in the new edit.  The chicken strips are in the fridge, marinating in a vinegar, maple, and cumin bath, with a couple miscellaneous spicy ingredients.  The Texas Pete will come later, I think.  Later on, we'll bake a sweet potato, shred the meat, and throw around some broccoli or spinach.

The house is clean, and the laundry is ready to go.

Now let's see how much further we can get in the edits.

A New Collection

Agricultural aphrodisiacs:  randy candy.  Of course it's from a root.  Also, you'll never look at orchids the same again, and who'da thunk a plant called lovage might be an aphrodisiac?  Click through if you want more for the list - or a few antidotes!

Elizabeth Chadwick on medieval sweeteners - yum!

AUGUST 27, AUGUST 27, AUGUST 27 y'all!!!  Get a load of Leila's gorgeous cover design across the top of her page!

Ben Kane reveals his favorite histfic - take a look and find something to enjoy!

Historical Fiction Research gives us Many Many Medici - which, even if I didn't get a kick out of it for that headline alone, includes many tasty portraits, and who doesn't love a good portrait?

Anyone who thinks taxation is out of hand in the United States today hasn't seen anything yet.  If they tried to tax my dog, I might go start building a compound on a prairie somewhere myself.

Anthony Riches makes me feel confident all over again, discussing how long it can take to reach publication.  The stories of how our stories are born are endlessly fascinating - and the ways we learn to manage the difficulties of publishing are instructive.

I'm bummed to have missed a Day Al-Mohamed reading at Balticon, but here we have a consolation post with some good advice *on* readings.

And, finally ... obligatory "women" characters (who are just called Susie instead of Sam, but are nothing more than a market mechanism).  Have you checked off that ... erm, box ... ?



Question for my regular readers:  Do you like these "collection" posts?  Should I continue, or no?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Prey - the World We Live In

Anyone who doesn't understand why I posted the personal and uncensored post I did has not been paying attention.  When men habitually get away with claiming to "suffer" from the imaginary illness of "sexual addiction", when two weeks' vacation in therapy is prescribed as a "cure" for decades of self-oriented thinking - these things need to be said.  Again and again and again and again.

The men in these obvious, dominating power play situations are not the ones in need of "help" - they are in need of simple ordinary decency, self-control, and the clear awareness that those around them are actual, real human beings with rights, sentience, and desires all their own.  That they are not entitled to anything and everything *they* desire, instantly and upon demand (if they even stop to demand).

These men are not suffering.

They are the cause of it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Powered by Blogger

Blogs *do* have power, sometimes, to spur us to action.  This post, for instance, inspired me to look here at options available in my state.  I'm mulling over whether to opt for a block option or 100%, but even just $10 is stated to be the equivalent of removing 1.2 gasoline-powered automobiles from the road for a year.  A far better $120 than spending it on a few of the pizzas I might order in a year, or vintage jewelry I'm not actually in need of collecting.  Vintage purses, of course, I desperately need, but baby steps ...

Think about it.  Thanks also to Teh Intarwebs, looking into - and signing up - for these things is now remarkably simple.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Prey: An Uncensored Post

This blog is usually written to a standard that literally anyone could read it - my mother, my coworkers, my bosses, my nieces.

This post is written to that same standard.  And it has absolutely filthy language and ideas in it.  Sadly:  this needs to be said.  Again and again and again.


The first coherent experience I had of a sexual predator, fortunately, was anecdotal and not personal.  The Guy in the Yellow Camaro.  It is so general as to almost be an urban legend, but when I was pretty young, maybe nine-ish, there was a guy in the neighborhood driving around in his car trying to get little girls into it.  There were no horror stories (we heard) about his actually succeeding, but the word was out and the word was clear:  girls were for hunting.

I've tried, without enthusiasm, and realized that to catalogue my experience with creeps would be impossible.  I remember them all, but again - without enthusiasm.  There was the guy at the lake, when my family and my cousins' family were all together eating chicken and swimming.  The first stranger who ever told me to smile; we were on a trip and my family were all going to the bathroom or warming up the car - in any case, I was standing by myself in a restaurant and found the experience of a strange man attempting to turn my emotional state into his personal life decor - which must be *pretty* - ineffably horrifying and invasive.  Those boys at that party thousands of miles from anything I understood, whose Maccabee beer-driven sexual desires were more important than mine or my cousin's humanity.  I was fourteen.

The one who tried (and failed) to get in my pants all the while telling me he thought "that smell that girls have must be urine."  Because he found it filthy, as girls were apparently, and his grasp of feminine anatomy began and ended with "wanna grasp" and that was it.

The one my freshman year who fortunately was too drunk, even as huge as he was, to overcome me for meaningless, but still more-important-than-my-personhood reasons.

The one my freshman year I never so much as stood in a room alone with, who sneered a sexual smear against me to one of my best friends.

The one who pulled my skirt up over my waist while Beloved Ex, then my boyfriend, was onstage.

The ones my mother heard, on the night before my college graduation, screaming "I WANT SOME PUSSY" outside my apartment window (not particularly at me).  Mom got to like Beloved Ex, and understood why I was dating a "Townie", a whoooole lot better that night.

The one at that temp job who left anonymous notes on my car, when I worked sixty miles from home and was completely alone.  I never did find out who that was.

The one who walked me to my car, because that's what you do, you walk women to their cars.  So you can then attempt to coerce them into letting you into their cars so you can fuck them, again meaninglessly, because that is always more important than her dignity, her desire (or lack of it), her humanity - than anything about her except her genitals.

The ones who came up behind Beloved Ex that one night while he sat in his van waiting for it to warm up.  They saw beautiful blond hair and said to it, "Hey, baby - you want some cock in you?"

Beloved Ex, bless his very fine soul, was utterly horrified by that.  He was shaken.  I still remember his coming over to my apartment after that, telling me about it, genuinely bewildered, deeply offended and shocked.  "Do men SAY things like that?  Really?"

Yes, B.E.  Well ... not *men*, no.  But human males come up with that sort of thing all the time.

I kvetch a lot, sarcastically, about the whole "there is no war on women" thing we hear all too regularly (from the same quarters who helpfully inform us "it's not about race" when a young black boy is heedlessly murdered).  But it occurs to me ... one declares war on an enemy army.  The men who say these things, who do these things, do not consider women to be anything like an actual force.  We're seriously nothing more than a series of holes to these creatures.  Nice to stick a penis in, but otherwise only to be dismissed, and violently if necessary.


***


For any male who has read this far - ANY male - and, yes, I am thinking of all those among you whom I know will read this, my family, my friends, any one and every one of you:  this is what it is really like, to be a woman.

I am one of the lucky ones.  I've held my own, pretty much, even through my own utterly stupid years.  No man has ever hit me.  No man has ever called me worse than "bitch".  The man who did that cannot begin to know what it was he wielded, the abuse and damage that was simply by virtue of its being said by a man.  None of you can ever experience what it is actually like, all our lives.  Not even the ones who've heard things like, "Hey, baby, you want some cock in you?"

Because that happened once in the entire lifetime of a person now approaching half a century.

Because even if anything so shocking could be said to a man consistently, for life - merely by that physical presence we women hate to know is so different - the threat and the experience of it could never be the same.  As it is for a girl of nine, walking with a cousin across a parking lot near a lake, family not more than a couple hundred yards away ... but as far as the moon, if things had gone differently.  Being approached by a man pointing out her nascent breasts, being appraised like meat because that is what girls are for for too many men across our society.

Don't kid yourself it's just some creep in a yellow Camaro, either.

It's that rich boy in college, raised and tumescent with his own entitlement to satisfaction - and reared on ideas that women aren't really people.

It's the awkward guy in an office, who ties up a cherry stem, hands it to a woman after everyone has left the building, and says to her (honestly imagining this is a pick-up line ... and utterly unaware that there is no place for this behavior in this - deserted - setting), "NO HANDS."  Or who tells her confounding and gruesome stories, of all things, about his ex wife's bloody and horrific childbirth of their son.

Or the one who walks up behind a woman, again at work, whispering to himself - very archly so she can hear it - "I just have to say something" and then corners her OUTSIDE THE BATHROOM for fifteen minutes, starting off with the question, "are you married?" as if a wedding ring is the sole possible defense for a woman in any possible scenario denying him her attention.

It's the banker who, in 1962 or '63, my mom and all her coworkers have to use a buddy-system to avoid being alone in the vault with.

It's a perfectly nice guy on a date, who begins talking about the sex swing he and his ex had as a viable option for future time together.

It is the stranger in a parking lot, sure, who says "want some cock in ya" to someone he can't even identify as female ...


... but it's also the ones in disguise.  The ones we don't know for sure are harmless.  The ones who force us, every day, all of our lives, to gauge our personal safety, completely aside from "hating" men - but entirely because in order to function normally in an abnormal and sometimes terrible world, it is necessary to keep with us the gift of fear, at all times.  Without the healthy skepticism a certain level of fear for our personal wellbeing provides regarding interacting with other people, no woman can survive our society.

Period.

I am one of the lucky ones, and I am richly talented, full of life, confident, even sexy (sometimes ...).  And there isn't a day in my life fear has no role at all.

Someone recently scoffed at me, after a new door was installed in my home.  It has a large window, and I cover that window every night with a towel.  In order to see in that window, it would be necessary to come far up my front walk, to be very close to my house, to be making a stalkerly point of attempting to look in.  I cover the window anyway.

Live for twenty-five or so years of your life, as a woman alone in our country.

Live in that one apartment where the guy across the hall (a "nice" looking person, an upscale apartment building) comes to the door at three a.m., clearly with the intent of getting laid - and shocked that not only do you answer, when finally and awfully you feel forced to do, looking bleary and sleep-mussed (not in a sexy way), but that you evince instantaneous and forbidding hostility at the obviousness of his intent.  That bastard is fortunate I never called the police.

Live for a couple years with a registered sex offender as another neighbor.

Live, essentially, your entire adult life as a woman alone.  Not a woman hideously abused.  Not a woman with unusual experience of others' sexual deviance.  Just an ordinary woman.  In our decidedly non-ordinary world.  And see if you don't feel you have the right to cover a damned window, and let logic be damned.


***


My experience isn't even remotely encapsulated here.  I share what I have to give a reader ... to give men, frankly ... the slightest shred of understanding what goes into the life, even, of a highly privileged and fortunate woman on her own.  Every single one of you is a RISK, for us.  Every hello in an elevator, every passing car honking, every would-be friendly fellow at the movie theater trying to strike up that conversation we must navigate with painstaking care so as not to offend, and so as not to encourage.  Every.  Single.  One.  Of you.

Every man, whether WE like it or not, at the point of introduction (no matter the introduction) can be a threat.  That one boss who used to like to throw the rubber band ball at the front window of our office when women walked by - and who talked about the most illegally inappropriate things.  The nice guy we go out with once several friends and family are informed exactly where and how long we will be on a first date.  Even the friend of a friend, whom nobody could have known was into "that" ... or the man in the grocery store, who could be perfectly nice, but whose clear attempts to gain our attention will *not* desist no matter how utterly they are ignored.  Even the weird religious guy and his wife who interviewed me for a job that one time and who scared the bejeezus out of me with endless probing questions about whether I went to church and what my social life was like.  In an after-hours interview.  When nobody was in the office but the three of us.  *URK*

You think you are Just This Guy, See.  And we get that, and we aren't hateful about that.

But we require proof.  Just to survive.  KNOW this.  Know that I wrote this post specifically for you, and even to upset you.  For you to show your son, for you to remember if you have a daughter.  Know that nothing you ever do, say, nor consider, where a woman you don't know yet is concerned can be said or done without her having to go through a sophisticated process of calculation and vetting, just to swipe a damned ATM card at the damned grocery store.  Know this:  for your children.

Don't hold it against us because we put as much of a premium on our life and limb - and genitals - as some men put on their random and impersonal urge to domination and sexual release.

But do remember:  our lives are not like yours.



And, no.  Most of us, on the whole, are extremely unlikely to "want a little cock" in us if the approach is anything like so entitled, threatening, and dangerously random.

The man who doesn't even know I am a human being at all, I don't want to entrust with my decidedly human, and spiritually priceless, body.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Staying Tuned ...

... by the way, the upcoming interview with Elizabeth Chadwick has not gone off the radar here at I Contain Multitudes central.  A recent two-weeks-long(-so-far) bout with a nasty bronchial infection somehow distracted me from writing up the actual questions for said interview, but I am working on it, kids.  Please bear with me!

Fleur de What Now?

... MY APOLOGIES TO ANY MEN WHO READ THIS POST ...

Because:  this isn't fun male thinking, I believe.

Among the flotsam of my recent reading - a new take on what the Fleur de Lys symbolizes (from, it must be said, a wildly conspiracy-minded and anti-Semitic screed of such prodigious length, ignorance, and offense, I absolutely will not link it here):  circumcision.

It does have a certain thrusting and, dare I say...peeling sort of look...
Image:  Wikimedia
(though I'm sure they/the city of Florence won't be pleased to see it here)

To be fair, I can actually see why someone (weird) would come up with this theory, but in all my years of Frankish research, this is definitely a new one on me, so I'd like to posit that this idea is not common nor accepted.

Merovingian Heresies, Divine Descent, “What’s In A Grail?” and the Inspirations That Don’t Come to Fruition

Nyki Blatchley has a great post about all of the above, the Merovingian bit of which sets me to thinking, inevitably, about my own work and some of the more fringe people I might expect to meet once it gets out there.  The Heresy I have discussed before, but the origin of the Franks themselves I should perhaps get into further than the excerpt from Liber Historiae Francorum here.  He's got some good takes on some of the interpretations of what The Holy Grail "means" - both literally, and to us, as readers.

Nyki's experience is a useful illumination of how we come to retire certain stories, and why they can still be interesting even if not viable.

I Never ...

Apropos of PRECISELY nothing appropriate nor relevant ... In my life, I have never said the words, "Kiss me."  You see that, sometimes - books, movies.  When the moment calls for it, if it's not happening, I guess I've always just done the kissing.

That is all.

A Collection of Great Links for Your Perusal and Enjoyment

Personal glee and HUGE FELICITATIONS to Leila Gaskin on her forthcoming heir - I can't care much about royal nativity, but this has me excited!  Top hats all 'round for us SBC'ers, we are all behind Leila.

CONGRATULATIONS to Kim Rendfield on The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar, coming soon!

And one more WAY TO GO, for Sharon Robards, on the success of A Woman Transported.





Women in mourning - a fascinating look at how Regency women were allowed to mourn, and the expectations of society as to their delicacy.

Four Magna Cartas together for the first time ... Jay-Z not included ...  Perhaps he's the backup copy.  Ahem.

Leicester Cathedral designs a tomb it may not have the right to populate, just yet.  Richard's got to go somewhere, and apparently it's not just the Ricardians who want it to be nice digs.

A queasily fascinating image:  the Nasothek in Copenhagen.  Did you know that the punishment of nasal amputation was reserved mostly for women?  For the art lovers, there's an interesting bit about Michelangelo.  For the scientists:  Tycho Brahe.  Of course.

Paris in 1939 and in images so dazzlingly crisp they are all the lovelier for capturing the ephemerality of a city over seventy years ago.  Tour Clovis is nowhere to be seen, but these are still arresting photographs.

Gordon Doherty interviews Daniel F. Bowman, author of Alaric:  Child of the Goths.  How I failed to see this post in May, I do not know, but my apologies - and better late than never ... I hope.

D. L. Thurston as an unpublished author burning bridges publicly, a good read and a short one at that.

Loving to hate Dead Poets Society - and a good look at one of its major literary flaws - with Jeff Sypek.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

On Look-ism, Economizing Materials, and Female Scriptoria in Medieval Manuscripts

Here is a fascinating look at The Popular Kids in medieval studies, specifically through the lens of what gets attention and what does *not*.  When ancient texts are lost because of sexist, lookist bias, it's a shame, because there's somehting to be learned from anything that was written down and bound, in an age when writing was an enormous undertaking, and rare in comparison with today's ubiquity.

Take the five minutes to watch Erik Kwakkel's comment as well.  I know him on Twitter as well - always good links and manuscript images!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Healthful Histfic

I read a discussion recently about the state of health of people in past centuries, and it got me thinking once again about a certain cut I made in The Ax and the Vase.  As people in historicals (novel or film) have a tendency to either be far too clean or dirty in the extreme, so they also often appear throughout an entire story to go through their lives in apparent good health.  Like the ubiquity of royalty in the genre, the curious absence of any infirmity, deformity, or disease not archly relating to a plot point has sometimes bugged me ... and, of course, is a tendency I have now perpetuated.

It turns out, there is a pretty good reason for this situation, and it is:  economy.

In its original draft form, Ax included a subplot in which Clovis suffers from trichinosis (the disease is unnamed, but I researched and used its symptoms) after getting some bad meat.  For the rest of his life, he has problems with meat, which is an issue for a monarch so concerned with status.  Meat was a status symbol, beef most of all, and for a powerful king interested in propagandizing his reign and displaying his wealth and power - to be unable to indulge in the finest would have been humiliating.

More than that - it's just realistic.  It's clear that among the most common ailments across time are gastro and digestive issues.

So why is it that we so often read the rich results of an author's research on the food a character ate ... yet we so seldom see "results" issuing from the sanitary and other elements of that food's making?  It can be as cosmetic an issue as writing every character as a brilliant intellect and stunning beauty.  In my case, though, it was mechanical:  there is only so much you can - or should - include.

Editing a novel is like editing a film; if a scene or subplot does not move the plot forward, it is unnecessary.  And so, when we do see any indication of a character's health, it almost certainly bears on their arc in some way - the young woman who feels nauseous is pregnant; the person who coughs is going to die of consumption - and we end up with cliches, because a character's health or lack of it almost invariably becomes a mechanism.  I justified Clovis' trichinosis as realistic and supporting the theme of his concern for status and display, but in the end it was a thread that added nothing but a bit of contrived/would-be "grit" that sat there sort of by itself like an introvert at a party.

It had to go.

In The Ax and the Vase, we still see some hints of the medical state of our friends in Late Antiquity.  The mother of Clovis' first son dies after childbirth, there are war wounds and deaths - Queen Saint Clotilde herself, after a difficult delivery, actually chooses to deprive herself physically for reasons of her faith.  But nothing sits around outside the plot, having nothing to do.

I cut the trichinosis story for the same reason I cut a bodyguard named Wilichar and, indeed, any presence at all of Clovis' father, Childeric (who, however, is so fascinating a character I have a very minor side project touching on his history).  The manuscript was bloated, and clearance was required.

So, sometimes, the cliches we end up with in historicals (or any writing, come to think of it) are born of the economies of storytelling.  Done well, it can still produce a worthwhile story, even if the portrait of a period remains focused and misses a more complete picture.  Read Ax when I get it out there - and tell me whether you agree ...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Madonna Principle

Truth or Dare is on TV, and I find myself flipping over to it and stopping in some fascination.



Blond Ambition
Image:  Wikimedia
For some years now, I've had a sort of personal review process I half-jokingly refer to, at least to myself, as The Madonna Principle.

When I was younger, I considered sneering at certain things an important part of maturation.  It's not unlike the "I discovered Feminism (or what have you)" or "my first beer" overbearing behavior all of us fall into at a certain age - and, in my family, either formalized or not (I'm not even kidding), sarcasm training is part of the territory.

I was fourteen when Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone hit the big time, and fourteen ... is that certain age.  After Cher, she was the first big performer who went by a single name, and - growing up, as I did, in what we not-very-jokingly-at-all referred to as Beautiful Down Town White Flight Suburbia - I was mystified at the idea that this was her actual name.  Surrounded by Lauras, Kellys, and Karens, even the girl in middle school whose name was Athena seemed almost incomprehensibly exotic.  Madonna was ... well, positively biblical.

Lucky girl, that Madonna.  Having a name quite so calculated for those obsessions which dominated her thematically (and calculated was always the word for Madonna), she was built in set dressing for her own provocative ideas.  She also has a middle name like mine, which in my case inspired a novel.

So here's my personal progression with Madonna.  See girl at bus stop near Hallowe'en, "wanna-be'd" out, ask her what gives, hear the name for the first time, shrug and move on.  See a video in which she's wearing green skirt, orange shoes, go "oh, that is who that chick meant", shrug and move on.  Madonna became huge at what back then was top speed, but let it not be said I didn't have time to be ignorant for a little while.  And then:  she is huge.  She's on the cover of TIME (this was a benchmark accomplishment in 1985).  She's the crass competition for Cyndi Lauper.  She's screechy and vain.  I am done, probably by the time I see the BOY TOY belt buckle under her midriff.  And that was only the *first* of her incarnations.  Insert sneering here.

Like most pop cultural contrarians, I sniffed at her, sniffed at Duran Duran - I even sniffed Prince while I was turning up my nose about Michael Jackson.  Prince, I reconsidered first (maybe my review process should be called The Prince Principle - but it doesn't have the same ring; and I never found him as snob-inducingly execrable; just needed to be negative about any music that popular).

By 1991-92, between Beatty, the movie, that effing BOOK, and the ugly gold tooth and greased hair she was sporting in her latest efforts to scandalize (fetish gear, meet fashion), most of us were done.  Even the gay boy hipsters were sneering how over she was - I remember this, because I took inordinate hope in the idea.  But, man, does it take a long time for an icon with her kind of stubbornness to fade away.

I did come to believe she had finally gone away.  And then came Ray of Light, and Music, and I felt like Pacino, complaining they drag me back in!

And I found myself alone in front of one of her videos at some point around that time, and I let myself watch it.  And damn if I didn't enjoy it.  I don't remember what it was.  Perhaps one of the scandalous cuts from her SEX days, but I have a feeling it was something closer to her chubby girl/messy-hair days like Lucky Star or Borderline.  Doesn't matter, I sat there and let it make me bounce and admitted it:  I liked the damn song.  Didn't *admire* it - nor her.  But I liked the hook, it was doing its job.

And so was born The Madonna Principle:  I began a policy of giving certain things a chance.  Not to hate Anna Nicole Smith just for being Anna Nicole Smith.  To accept that some of Madonna's music is catchy.  To review my prejudices to see whether they are valid.  I let time get between me and a knee-jerk reaction, and I allow myself to evaluate something on its own terms.  Being a person who's let go of many of the self-conscious snobberies of my youth anyway, I take an awful lot more of our pop culture on its own terms than perhaps is quite discerning - it seems only fair to question those things I have sneered or screeched about in the past.

There are those offerings in this world which I find it possible to revise a negative reaction to in this kind of a review.  That one song from Madonna, for instance, made it possible for me to a little bit guiltily dig the gold lame and beef-jerky skinnyness of the clips from her Music years.

But there are those things, too, I can't ever get around to forgiving upon review.  Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum.  Howard the Duck.  (I tried to give it a fair viewing, I did - and I swear to heaven, the VCR spat out the tape my brother gave me as a joke THREE TIMES before it would actually play - and the VCR was RIGHT.)  Most of the Real Housewives I can still look down on with impunity; reality TV exists precisely so we can hate its participants.

Open mindedness is important to me, but I can't commit to indiscriminacy.


Anyway, so.  Truth or Dare was on tonight, and I let myself peek at bits and pieces.  Even using her as my guiding principle for this tenet, there's only so much of Madonna's ego I can watch sanely.  And yet, she does exert some kind of curiosity, even if only for me.

The movie is (astoundingly) twenty-two years old now.  I remember a friend in college having it on at her college rooms (she had CABLE, in COLLEGE, in 1992).  I recall pooh-pooh-ing the idea of Madonna starting up seventies retro so soon after they happened.  BELLbottoms - to be sure.  And still bemoaning it ten years later, when the same retro fad was still hanging around.  Eighties retro got short shrift by comparison - heh.  I remember the coverage of her *around* the making of the movie, its release, the constant barrage of flotsam and jetsam which soon enough we'd come to recognize on DVD releases:  the extras she was pioneering so relentlessly.  Back then, though, we didn't have to buy the disc - Madonna was the hell every damn where, and I would be surprised if I didn't put it something very like that at the time.

By now, Madonna is as much a part of the cultural furniture as any other hugely famous person whose advent predated the internet.  She might as well be Elvis, as far as old-people's idols go - she may not be dead, but she's not quite the living, vital, messy little human person she was now over thirty years ago.  It's been a generation since Madonna spawned her wannabe's, and most of those are moms and even grandmothers now.  She herself has become wannabe-British, went through her sinewy early middle age, and has entered a strangely dewy and terrifyingly ginger approach to what some are still able to call, even if sarcastically, The Golden Years.  With a decade on me, I'm still part of the Madonna Generation, but the good news is, fewer and fewer people all the time find even me relevant, and she herself is more and more only a useful 80s-shorthand yardstick, more than a living part of culture right now.

So it's interesting to look at her "then" - at the height of her power, complaining about vulnerabilities, constantly hoarse (that was always amusing, given even her own admission about her level of talent as a singer), thin in that way she was when she first lost all that tender flesh ... eminently blond.  The film looked as contrived as anything she'd ever done, back then, but looking at it now, it's curious to view the different ideas she had about contrivance before motherhood, before Kabbalah, before her attempted grafting of a veneer of fake British diction onto her more raw, earlier personae.  Before (at least so she claims in the movie) it was acceptable to her to allow any part of her body (except the peroxide and hairpieces) to be FAKE.  Erm.

Back then, her affected accent was Noo Yoak broad, and it suited her well enough, especially with the hoarseness, which I have a feeling she found appealing as a sort of gritty, sexy accessory.  Back then, her protestations of weakness and not at all self-deprecating laughter at her own "joking" arrogance seemed unsparingly honest, in comparison with the faces she's worn for the past fifteen years or so.  She was already a mega-star in 1991, even a force beyond her own limited reckoning and prodigious calculation - but what she is now is literally unreal.  Her distance from the constant exposure she courted for her first twenty years or so renders her as remote and inconceivable a human character as her stratospheric wealth, fame, and success rendered her (as she was so desperately trying to show us) in the film itself.

She seems almost quaint, of course.



I still don't "like" Madonna - even "the old" Madonna, the one with the fishnet hair ties, big black glasses and tiny, actually very pretty little hands.  The one I suspect many would call, as a yardstick, "my" Madonna (by virtue of my own predating of the internet, and the unfortunate conformities of so many of my teenaged ... peers).  But I can study her with a lot less trepidation than my self-defensive snobbery about her used to produce.

She may not be interesting in herself anymore.  And yet ... a generation later ... I'm still talking about her.  And without that exhausting angry denial I needed in dismissing her in 1991.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thoughts from Someone Else's Bad Day ...

There is a place, somewhere between masochism and denying, where we dare exactly the worst things to come for us.  Things we already know are the worst things.  Things we should never, ever court.

Someone I love is going into that dangerous and seductive shadow.  That place where we start to taunt the universe, “just you do it again” and pick at the fear like a scab.

Prayers welcome.

My Pets Are So Mean

That little bastard of a cat – he refused for five days straight to make me any hot chocolate, even though I stopped on the way home on the day I got sick, and bought myself milk (I did not touch the cashier …).  He kept whining that he only *weighs* like ten pounds to start with and has these tiny little one-inch thumbless paws.  Mean old cat.  Just because the milk weighs more than he does and he might burn his jellybean peds.  So selfish.

The dog, for her part, refuses flatly to punch me in the back.  It’s like that boyfriend of mine, the guy I was good friends with and very briefly dated, who simply would not hit me, even when I had the most hideous flu and was loaded with chest congestion and needed it knocked loose (don’t laugh; my dad needed this done after bypass surgery and it’s recommended to whack someone in the back).  Sure, sure, your momma taught you not to hit a girl.  But I wasn’t askin’ for a paddlin’ – and, Penelope, my dear, neither would you be, if you’d just ball up your forefeet and give my lungs what-fer.  Really!

Mean old pets.  One won’t burn himself to flinders for me, and the other won’t beat me up, even with a free pass.

Meanwhile, I went in to work today.  I made it, but heck if I could breathe with my mouth closed all day.  Nothing so fun as appearing the slack-jawed yokel, but the only remedy for it is to burn my sinuses out one at a time, painfully, as the congestion shifts left to right all day long.  Slackjawed yokel it is, then.  Of course, the thing about preserving the sinuses from the burn is that the air still has to go in and out – so it just burns your throat a bit less than the nose.  Take that across the space of a good ten hours in air conditioning that makes my home climate control seem wimpy, and incorporate all the coughing fits and half-coughing fits you try to suppress in that many hours – and what you get is a chest that hurts so much it kind of makes you want to beat up on your pets since they won’t beat up on you.  Mean old pets.

To be fair, this rather nasty bronchial infection does actually seem to have done its worst by now.  As much pain as today held, it wasn’t half as miserable as the past three (non-combined …), and for that I am grateful.  Honestly, by the time a pipe burst in my house yesterday (oh yeah – everyone out there jealous of my week yet??), and the plumber stood outside in a rather beautiful soft summer rain, looking up and saying, “It’s just one cloud, right over your house!”, the litany of fresh hell really did become just a comedy routine.  I’m fortunate to have a home, even if bits of it must malfunction; I’m thankful this illness is on the petering-out end rather than its building-up period; I even like those darn pets, but don’t tell ‘em.  And pain, schmain – the truth is, I don’t even notice it compared to the way I felt Saturday through yesterday.  The humidity is fierce stuff – but it’s somewhere I can *breathe* comfortably, even if it does make me sweat.  I may be the one person in this region grateful for muggy air (and it is muggy to the tune of 3-digit heat indices).

Some other people I know?  Facing much harder things than a regimen on antibiotics.  Facing much greater pain.  Me, I’m just a comedy routine.

With stingy, rotten, mean old pets.  WAH!

I have hope tonight I will be able to sleep with my mouth closed.  Simple, comfortable - bliss ...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Home, Sick, Home

So that resolve to stay offline was a poor one, and already abandoned.  Not out of any dilution of my fear/upset about the George Zimmerman verdict - but, for one, people appear not to be responding with great ugliness which cannot be escaped; and, for two, I happen to find myself without a literal voice in the real world right now, and it isn't going to be possible for me to not write/blog/communicate *and* endure the bronchitis (?) which has removed me from human commerce.

The intellectually diverting cold I had starting on Wednesday/Thursday took a turn on Saturday night, and has gone from an "oh, isn't this curious" sort of an illness down a route of extreme pain and difficulty.  My voice, quite literally, is gone now.

Well, or what remains of it is nothing to go around inflicting on anyone, even if it were not excruciatingly painful to do so.  Just breathing is a trial at this point.

And so, I shall blog.  It may still be necessary to keep myself off Twitter (even the slightest excitement causes me to breathe too much; too much of a miserably bad thing, that), but here at least I shall blather for an outlet.

Because:  no human contact since last Wednesday, people.  Except for mom taking me out to dinner on Saturday night, and one trip out to the grocery store, I have been inside my house now for the best part of five days.  Laundry all but killed me (breathing is a requirement for lugging a huge basket up and down stairs), but I have clean socks and pants, which was a worthy outcome.  Housecleaning?  Forget it.  Apart from a trip to the doc and feeding the fur kidlets, I'm not setting any goals today except listening to my ears pop and the congestion slowly bubbling its way around in my head, and POSSIBLY braving the nightmare of an attempt to sleep (you wanna talk about pain ...).  I haven't even trusted my medicine-head to work on my writing, because my brain is a muzzy old mess, has been all weekend.

BLAH.  Whinge.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Gossy at One Year

Back when his name was Soloman - our first day at home!


After deciding to stay offline for a while yesterday, Gossamer brings me back to at least my own blog.  Today is the one-year anniversary of my adopting him, and I apparently have a thing about observing anniversaries and birthdays.

Glow-eyes today
The coloring got a little more vivid, eh?


I adopted my boy in a state of such acute upset and confusion (not from the loss of Siddy, but from events of that Thursday.  Never did get the hang of Thursdays ...), and in fact I adopted two cats in a fit of impulse.  They were running a two for one special and I adopted these grey little sweeties named Soloman (my Gossy) and Elijah.

I should have known from the name:  solo man.  But I understand Elijah got snapped up in a hurry once I returned him, and Goss and Pen are my wonderful little pack.

Gossamer blessed me the second he grabbed my finger with his little baby paw.  I remember our first afternoon; we came home and all of us napped; he came close up on my neck and slept with his head in the curve between my chin and my lip.

He's still the littlest cat I've ever had, but then, that day, he was so immensely small, he was the tiniest thing I had touched in twenty years.  His neck a mere fiber, his paws loose little rubbery latex jelly-bean paws.  His fur all poofy, and his warm, soft belly all chubby and full.  I recall the sensation of his growing, every day a little different, every day able to do a little more.  He has the best jump I have ever seen; nimble and yet soft-footed like nothing I have ever seen in the world.

Chill
... he seems okay with his lot ...


Happy adoption day, my pearly grey, Gossamer love.  A new plant sprouted to celebrate.
*Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr*


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Not Guilty.

I have to be honest, this looks to me like a good time to get offline for about a week or so.  Let's see whether I can actually manage it, hm?

Be well.  I'll be prayerful.

Friday, July 12, 2013

PBS Again

+Ulfberh+t ... now available on Netflix streaming.  Yayyy for NOVA!  I love PBS.  I love NOVA.  Seriously, put it in your queue and get your pattern-welded nerd on.

Woot!

Racism For the Cause

Images of anti-Japanese racism in America, specifically circa WWII, are unfortunately familiar to me from the cartoons of my youth.  Even so, it's easy to allow ourselves to forget just how virulent and overt the problem actually was.

We know about internment camps, but I suspect we like to focus on the word camp in something more approximating summer-camp, or perhaps even just Hogan's Heroes' POW camp, than to believe that America ever (never mind so hideously recently) had anything like a concentration camp.  But we did concentrate a certain population and our purpose was not moral.

ONLY YOU ... can fight racism.  Fascinating, but incredibly ugly, images of jingoistic fire prevention messages from the forties - and, thank heavens, some of the ways we have evolved.  I find the image of Smokey giving people bear hugs questionable, but at least it isn't outright offensive.

Moral Ineptitude

This is a terrible wrong.  This is the world we live in (and a virtual world some want to live in, though this link isn't about government politics).  But remember:  THERE IS NO WAR ON WOMEN.

And it's not just women, either.

A refusal to even to sit at a bargaining table is another way of refusing to govern.

I am depressed at what we consent to have in power over us.

Journey of a (Rescuer/)Preservationist

Pour la Victoire, one of my more recent blog addictions, has been running an excellent series on the work of taking responsibility for and rehabilitating a local display of period garments spanning a few generations.  Some of the damage is almost harrowing to see, especially a beaded flapper dress which cannot precisely be brought back to its full beauty, but even as a ruin displays the beauty and ingenuity of vintage seamstress techniques and truly gawk-worthy design.

The science of textile and costume preservation is itself very interesting - not least, because it is a study in both the physical development of the human body over recent time, but also a fairly good lens for attitudes towards our bodies.  It's also not a half bad look at how best to take care of the most delicate of artifacts.  Mankind leaves behind so many fewer of its clothes than its tools and furniture.  Anyone who thinks curation of our clothing past is frivolous could learn a thing or two even from this small microcosm.

Tootsie

I have a fond memory of the movie "Tootsie" and, over the years, when I've had occasion to see bits of it here and there, the movie has held up pretty well.  This is an interesting clip about how it was made.

 

I had no idea Hoffman had much to do with its creation beyond filming, never mind the actual conception.  The story is, if a touch actorly, still very interesting.  Worth the watch for its very last line.

Summer Cold

It's been a few years since I come down with a cold; and I'm unsure whether I've ever had a summer cold at all.  "They say" summer colds are actually more common, but I've never been sure how anecdotal that is, and how much allergy symptoms inform what we define as a "cold" during warmer months.  Whatever the proportion of science is to wisdom, between the copious rains, swinging shifts in temperatures outside, extreme air conditioning inside - and its just being my turn - I have a summer cold going on.

And, being a writer and overly fascinated by my own experiences, I'm going over all these sensations in my head.

Sore throats SUCK.  How I could stand all the years of bronchitis I endured during The Ohio Period of my life, I look back and cannot fathom.  (Except that I was a horrid little drama person back then, and almost certainly stood nothing of the kind, likely whinging for attention all the way along.  It did get me some attention; I still remember Beloved Ex coming over to take care of me, and watching the extremely brief comedy routine of Diane On Codeine of an evening before I passed out completely.)  The memories of the pain are what come back to me at the moment.  My esophagus suffered the arid cold up there in agonies still clear to me more than twenty years later.  The scraping-by-glass-shards pain, the coughing up of copious amounts of blood.

I haven't missed bronchitis, nor any manifestation of respiratory disease.  So, having my first fairly bad sore throat in several years, it's easy to recognize it as very much less distressing than those I had in my youth.  This hurts, but I feel like I keep bracing for it to become as bad as it used to get.  Say what you will about summer colds being "the worst" - with heat and humidity the like of which we're having down here, there is simply no chance my entire mucousal support system will evaporate in the dry and cold, leaving me sucking up steam in the bath which almost hurts the wounded interior of my breathing apparatus.

Even so, my initial assessment, yesterday morning, that I was not "sick enough" to stay home, did endure a revision.  I stayed at the office for about two hours, and shortly after my nose decided it was time to run I called it a day.

Sick sneezes are worse than allergy sneezes.  My brain is currently too medicine-muddled to quantify this eloquently, but the short of it is that ordinary sneezes don't *hurt* thanks to swollen-up everything-inside-the-headbone.  Elegantly phrased, yes, I know.  Hey, we're just observing (and I can hardly discern the letters on the screen), so give good writing a break.

Swallowing is its own worst reward.  And you can NOT not do it.  Ugh.

Talking really does hurt.  Enjoyed doing the crossword over the phone with mom (we haven't done that in a while, and I love it), but chatting was perhaps an error.

The older I get, the more of a petulant, icked-out child I am about swallowing cold syrup.  Gross.

Three naps and I still went to bed by ten.  Which is odd, given that, actually, sleep is the WORST thing for breathing, when you have a cold.  All the raw and sore things exacerbate badly in sleep.  Bleah.

Eating seems to help.  Fantastic, given that I am not exercising and had JUST managed to lose about ten of the forty pounds I put on in the space of the last year.  Just great.  Drinking water seems a neutral stimulus.  Drinking hot chocolate, I know, would feel very good indeed; I have not yet actually made any hot chocolate, though I did stop at the store just to buy milk when I left work yesterday morning.  Genius.

My next-door neighbor, as I have noted in the past, remains The Best neighbor in the history of ever, and I've had some good ones.  She is a great blessing of a human being.

The headache I could live without.  But then ... yeah, all of it, I guess.  Duh.

Oh how I want to take a nap ...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Clever Title-Wise ...

... I just have nothing for this item.  Don't even preview the URL, just click through.  It's short.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

There Are Quotes ...

... and there are quotes.  I don't actually go in a great deal for Bible verses, but there *is* a reason, after all, this book has survived as long as it has.

Jeremiah 29.11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I've loved "I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance" (John 10:10) for a long time.  Gratitude is central to my worship, even if often it falters in my actual faith.  It's been proven, indeed, that gratitude is clearly linked to measurable states of happiness and success, and my dad's greatest example was in his gratitude.  To me, one of the most tragic sins is to fail to accept, to be grateful for blessings - and we do all have them.

This and congregation are the essence of the good that religion has to offer.

May today be abundant for all, with hope - and a blessed future.

Friday, July 5, 2013

AxDraft

I have been finding that the new revision on Ax has been, so far, more of a polish, but the first change may be the profoundest.  There is still some work to be done, harassing the SBC into helping me decide whether anything else needs to be cut (I'm willing, but unable to see a *necessity* just yet), but I wanted to share this work.  The opening page.

Here is the original (well, last-revised) version:

481, Autumn
            The day had been windy and hot at once, scudding clouds moving aloft in a milky blue vault.  With my elder cousin Ragnachar, I’d been on a week’s patrol with a dozen guards and scouts, between Tournai and Arras.
            Riding into the courtyard of the timber fortification, the place had an air almost like the abandoned farms we had surveyed.  It wasn’t truly deserted, yet there was a strange quiet.  The space was … insufficiently occupied.  We took our horses to the stables ourselves.
            Before we emerged, my mother Basina’s youngest slave boy appeared to fetch me.
            I saw my father in the hall, silent, facing away from everyone and staring into a powerful fire.  A slave was nearby, but otherwise, King Childeric was alone.
            It was impossible not to guess what she had sent for me to discuss—the King alone, the stockade at an unnatural hush … and the son, sent for by the Queen.  The unbidden, unwanted thrill:  a prince is always in waiting for the king to die.

            My younger sister, Audofleda, was with Basina, and all but ran when I appeared.
            The news need hardly be spoken.  Still I asked, “How did it begin?”
            “You know he was ill befor you left.”
            “He was recovered before I left.”  I could not understand what had happened.  “He had just gotten over a chill.  He was recovered.”  I repeated myself, willing it to be true, denying my guilty excitement.
            Basina turned away from me.  “It was past supper one night.  We were not yet retired—he’d bidden me join him that night—but I had dismissed the women.”  She paused and looked up.  “He’d taken leave to review work lists with Cholwig, but Cholwig came to me privately after nightfall, telling me the king had collapsed.”
            Cholwig, my father’s closest advisor and oldest friend, was with Childeric more even than the queen.  He had once been Master of the Infantry, and now was steward of the king’s house.
            “I was gone … only a few days.”  Even with the searing thrill of a throne of my own roaring through me like storm wind, I resisted, sought not to feel such desire for Childeric’s death.
            Basina placed a hand upon her belly, seeming to find no other place to rest it.  “No longer,” she said simply.  “It’s settled in his lungs, they’re filling with fluid.”  She took my hand slowly, her eyes taking a slow and directionless path back toward my own.  “You will be king any day now, Clovis.”
            It was difficult to respond.  The back of my throat had closed, and in what might be the greatest moment of a prince’s life I was choked and lost and emptied.

            As her hand absently let go of mine, Basina released me, and I found myself walking away.



... and here is the new opener ...



            Guilt and blood are the first anointing.
            Even without the sin of parricide, there is always the waiting for the father’s death.  One king takes his throne only with the death of another:  damned in the moment of fulfillment.  Unable ever to forget.
            I was fifteen years old, returning from a patrol to Arras with my cousin Ragnachar and several soldiers.  We found the stockade at Tournai too quiet, too empty.  The thought of my father’s death arose, shrill and unbidden, even before my sister Audofleda came and fetched me to our mother.  I knew.  I knew, and fought down the thrill.  But I knew.
            As it happened, he was not yet dead.  Not yet.  Childeric was attended, reclined on a cot and blankets, in front of a prodigious fire in the great hall.

            “I was gone … only a few days.”
            “You know he was ill before you left.”  Basina’s head was bowed, and she picked at a fold in her dress.
            She’d been working in the main room in king’s house, a small but finely built dwelling past the great hall, where now lay in the busy center of the stockade.  The house was needed for funeral preparation; it had always been his workroom as much as sleeping closet, and brooked less traffic than the hall where he lay.
            We were alone with none but two slaves she had set to sorting his personal treasures.  Audofleda, huge-eyed and wordless, had pulled another girl away the moment she had brought me here.  They ran across the dusty yard, I watched through the open door as my eyes accustomed to the darkness.
            “He was recovered before I left.  He’d just gotten over a chill.  He was recovered.”  I repeated denials, insisting the guilt away, insisting to myself I did not want the king dead, pretending I didn’t seek my throne.  My throat clogged with the searing fear of my guilty ambition.
            She turned away from me and began to explain.  “It was past supper one night.  We were not yet retired—he’d bidden me join him that night—but I had dismissed the women.”  She paused and looked up at the wooden wall before her.  “He’d taken leave to review work lists with Cholwig, but Cholwig came to me privately after nightfall, telling me the king had collapsed.”
            Cholwig, my father’s closest advisor and oldest friend, was with Childeric more even than my mother, the queen.  He had once been Master of the Infantry, and now was steward of the king’s house.
            Basina placed a hand upon her belly, seeming to find no other place to rest it.  “No longer,” she said simply.  “It’s settled in his lungs, they’re filling with fluid.”  She took my hand slowly, her eyes taking a slow and directionless path back toward my own.  “You will be king any day now, Clovis.”
            No response was possible, nothing I could say would not brand me guilty.  I was choked and lost and emptied.  And overwhelmed with unspeakable joy.
            As her hand absently let go of mine, Basina released me, and I found myself walking away.



Feedback, as always, is welcome ...

Life Goes On

... and, for that matter, sometimes life lies at your feet and has a gurgling little tum on a quiet day.

Also, it does this:




Aww.

(If you click on the top one - get a load of the muscles on that "little" puppy I adopted!  Sheesh!)