Wednesday, August 16, 2017

the thing he loves

May I say ... something?

Oh it did annoy me when they called me Little Nell.

But when I told Chuckie he mustn’t—when he stopped, I found I missed it. Gruff old Chuck. And only I got to call him Chuckie. My duckie, my fellow. And just after I turnt twenty-one, he called me Missus, and I confided to him the secret, I had liked to be *his* Little Nell. He allowed then he would be my Chuckie.

Chuck had all the flattering words for me until we married, but the garrison must be obeyed, and once he'd dipped me and done me, he was off ... and I sighed relief.

My pain I could not feel.

I never let it be heard. But Charles. He frightened me. No idea the tiger I had gripped by its tail. And when his tail was limp, it was his fists grew hard. When he found he could not be hot, then he grew cold, and Regent's Park—a place *I* never saw—made itself my refuge.

He loved me little, but long enough to make me his claim to shame.

It was a lucky thing; perhaps still thinking me their Little one, mum and da opened up and let me come home. We called me Glendell.

But the claim. Twas a noose on me.

Would I have worn it without a sigh? Had I known?

Did we play only the roles playwritten for us, or was my life—was Chuckie's—such a dark disgrace? Perchance he found the honor in it, and maybe just as well. The Wilde might have meant that was redemption.

Where lies the collateral? To Chuckie's—to Charles'—propitiation?

What is the measure of his death to mine?

A ballad. And eleven inches. More than the tiger's tail.


He must have thought I might actually come. Summoned to Regent's Park, where I had not been permitted to darken the doorways an they called me Mrs. Woolridge, I sent instead the letter asking him to 

Beat my face and snap your fingers, thinking I will come for more? Not so long as there is a bolt-hole, and I will bolt under a labor of moles, if it is safe from your visitation.

Those men. They did not wish him married in the first place, and they encouraged his dissent against me in the second—she has been untrue, she is posting more than the mail, old boy—and in the third, my neck and a razor.

Monday, August 14, 2017


It is depressing how adamantly attached a certain type of person is to the idea that people of color never existed before the 1960s, except as slaves in America. Even Egypt is subject to the most bewildering whitewashing. And yet, here we are - arguing about a black person in a children's cartoon set in ancient Rome. Good Lord.

This post was begun before Saturday. I've taken out of it a more lighthearted link. These two will stand alone.

If we refuse to engage in the patient and difficult work of reconciliation ... If we sell away those with whom we disagree, what do we lose?

I love you, Mary. Thank you.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


Mmmmmmmm! Palimpsest joy. Taking us back to the sixth century, no less. Speaking as an historical novelist writing in that period (indeed, the place and the people involved in Justinian's law itself), and having struggled with the dearth of contemporary primary resources: YAY!

Also, Palimpsest Joy would make a great name either for a band ... or maybe a porn star.

Oh, hey - speaking of pornography. I was having a "hmm" about how to frame this next link, but that may do nicely ... The Caustic Cover Critic has a good laugh for anyone who wants to see book covers NOT featuring that magical body part that might make Palimpsest Joy such a big star. It's technically SFW, but click at your discretion. But do click. The CCC is always worth it!

Another BOO from the cultural zeitgeist: hey, it's perfectly okay to ask female politicians discriminatory questions which are literally illegal in, say, the context of a job interview. (Prepare for the phrase "deliberately barren" to exist well past the 19th century, because it does.) Sigh.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Surface tension linguistics - how cities and bubbles build dialects. This is an article about population centers and the creation of dialects; fascinating research for *most* writers, I might say.

A very cool look at developmental spelling science, because there is NO SUCH THING as too many linguistics links, and kids' brains are neato.

Can you imagine a policy that prohibits white girls, many of whom are born with straight hair, from wearing their hair straight? Absolutely not!

White readers: imagine having your hair policed. It's all but inconceivable to you, right? The politics - and systemically discriminatory policieis - of hair. For anyone who finds themselves distracted by braids - the problem is not the hair: it is your perception of the person whose hair it is. It is you.

Okay, a lighter note. Now imagine a world without windshield wipers! Well, that's messy. Score one for the woman who invented them - thank you, Mary Anderson! "She didn't have a father; she didn't have a husband and she didn't have a son. And the world was kind of run by men back then."

Kind of.

History! Now that we've had time to cool off about the U.S. election (or not), how about a look at another electoral upset that was so profound it ended an entire type of democratic process? The fact that ostracism is still practiced - just not with pottery - doesn't lessen the interest of this story! Courtesy of Gary Corby.

And a click beyond worth a little blurb all its own here in Collection-post town, a little further reading in Gary Corby's blog took me to the Met's FREE ONLINE DIGITAL BOOK COLLECTION. Holy drooling reading/history/art nerd Heaven! FREE BOOKS, y'all! Available to read online (Google Books), for download to PDF, or print-on-demand. A look at the very first title displays a good, clear digital copy, too. So: free and clear. Literally. (So many puns...)

Friday, July 21, 2017


Kenneth Jay Lane was a jewelry designer. I can't say I love his work across the board - I can't say I seek his pieces when I am browsing jewelry on eBay (which I do a LOT, just for fun). But his line in the article here struck me: "Our jewelry is designed for people who want to be noticed."

On my first day at my previous job, I wore a necklace my mom had given me at some point. I didn't know who'd made it, and never wore it often (I still don't; it's a heavy piece), but I always thought it was special. I wear it when I want something even a little more profound than a Pop of Color.

My friend Cute Shoes took a look at the new admin, and the way I was dressed (simple navy dress, big bold necklace) and decided there might be something to this chick.

Never trivialize fashion, clothes, style. And never forget that you are always visible - but you can punch up your visibility, without a doubt.

She told me about that first impression early in our friendship, and a few years later she even found the necklace herself, trolling eBay in the same way I do. Hers even had the original box, and earrings! I think that was when I even learned who designed the piece at all.

The other association I have with KJL is one of those elusive things I saw once, looking at a particularly large search result on eBay - a big, chunky necklace which wasn't even really my style ... but which had the single best copy of one of Childeric's Bees that I have ever seen. I recall being tempted to buy it, and kicking myself when I didn't. So, ever since, whenever I'm bored and happen to do a KJL search, that is what I am looking for. The bee that got away.

There is plenty of bee jewelry to be had on the 'Bay. Joan Rivers had a big line in bees, and I own at least one - a gift from Cute Shoes, one I just love. But KJL's bee was more like the stylized, possibly fleur-de-lys-prototype bee so famously excavated in 1653. And he has done s-necklaces that recall royal collars of office, and clearly he enjoyed playing with history in his designs, not merely shape - but story. And that is what attracts me in true couture fashion - the way it harks, intentionally, to history. Fashion and design are at their pinnacle when they are SMART - not just "smart".

And I could care less that Jackie O wore his work.

I care that Cute Shoes noticed when I did.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


A drag queen('s) ... identity is created, but no more so than the identity that each and every one of us have created for ourselves.

Nietzschean realness, y'all.


I have a question. Do I TELL my mom, who still clings to the last very few pills she has of Darvoset N (not available on the American market - or, possibly, anywhere at all - for decades now), that she was right all along? I made her throw out my 1986 Rx for Percodan at least a dozen years ago, when she was getting rid of things before marrying my stepfather and moving to his home. Did we destroy precious relics?

I think maybe no. I won't tell her. But still, pretty interesting science (and worth the clicks beyond for a wider view of the expense of medical waste). Maybe mom and I should have invited some researchers over when we threw out those painkillers. TEO's father, a pharmacist, may be spinning in his grave ...


Something of a different kind of archaeology here:

The Museum of Modern Art on somewhat less-modern art installations. Oh my gosh, this is such a cool confluence of several of my pet obsessions. Art, conservation/preservation, technology, the questions of relevance and impermanence, and - for me perhaps the most absorbing part - a detailed look at the process of resurrecting art by way of old tech. One of the most interesting aspects of this is that the installation in question isn't completely being brought out of its old medium by reproducing it digitally, and the driving force in reinvigorating the pieces is reversibility. The guts of the original computer code take us into a rather wonderful and tense procedural - "the elegant motions of the robotics". A lesson in writing - how to build tension! Stay tuned for the payoff.

(There is a small amount of male nudity at the link, in case that is an issue.)


Ever since Blogger inexplicably chose to redesign the dashboard so as to hide the Reading List of blogs I follow and reduce the view of information that used to be easily available, I've been poor about, you know, FOLLOWING the blogs I follow. One of the least-posted ones is also a very good one, Madame Isis' Toilette, which posts detailed beauty tricks and recipes, as well as sewing, mostly for the 18th century. Recently, several of Madame's 2013 posts have popped up on my Reading List ... here is a SPLENDID one:

The recipe for Queen's Royal - and, far more interestingly, a varied consideration of what the stuff was for! Her first positing post on the matter is here. One point worth noting in the first link I point to (her second post) is that she questions a clove-and-cinnamon heavy recipe's use as a lice repellant. But y'all regular readers here know - American Duchess has actually noted the specific use of clove for this very purpose, and even today, it is suggested as a natural mosquito repellant (please note: research is inconclusive on any uses noted at this last link; I include it as a demonstration of known USAGE, not as any kind of recommendation).

Critical reading, folks. It's a good idea, and I'm not excepting this blog from that standard.


And here is some critical Googling. I did an image search on Kamala Harris, because though I've heard her testimony of late, and know WHO she is, I wasn't sure I had a face to put to her name, and ... this is what I found:

Image: Google screen-grab
PLEASE embiggen this.

Yes, folks, the most important aspect of an image of a United States Senator is: her body. After that, because she is after all a woman, it's mostly family relationships. "Senator" is not among the categories Google has seen fit to choose for her. Not even "Politics" or her home state, constituency. Nothing but traditional feminine roles.

First and foremost comes her body. (And let us not even get started on the latest news in assessing women's bodies. Again.)

For comparison, a Google image search for John McCain falls thusly: Family, POW, Arms, Wife, ISIS. His body and his family do come into play, but then John McCain's body is very much in the news this morning, and the attention to it is largely born of his status as a former POW - not his sexual charms as a man. Possibly his cancer will change the labels above. And that is not ALL there is to see about him. On the other side of the aisle, Bernie Sanders yields: Quotes, Family, 2016, Socialist, and Bird. His body is clearly a source of amusement, but it comes in last, and again nobody's concerned with his physical appeal.

I would say this qualifies as Nietzschean UNrealness.


The final point made, I should also add that in fact my prayers are with Sen. McCain and his friends and family.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Voice Crush

A man's voice has always been one of those things I find deeply attractive. Many people these days go for Benedict Cumberbatch, and I will say, I understand how he's become the thinking person's crumpet. But when he speaks, frankly, I just hear a smoker's voice. It's got more fry than a man his age perhaps ought to have, and is so dry there are times I wonder about the quality of his breath.

For my idea of a classic Englishman's voice: Tim Curry. Much more velvet there. And who ever had a finer sneer? American? Frank Langella, of course. He doesn't even bother sneering.

But the voice I love most is Peter Egan. Perhaps not so well known by many Americans, I first "met" this actor in the BBC historicals I grew up with (introduced by Alistair Cooke). The first one was "Lillie" - and his performance here still all but makes me cry (minute 41). Yes, it's a claustrophobic costume showcase, yes it's basically only the story of a popular girl getting by on her looks. (Francesca Annis, though, is splendid in it.) But Egan's turn as Oscar Wilde is THE best Wilde I have ever seen - and, indeed, I do include Stephen Fry's go at the role.

There is something about Peter Egan's use of his breath that creates some sort of sympathetic response, and I find myself squeezing at oxygen when he plays intense emotion, precisely because he does it so quietly ... but his breath is attenuated and silent and desperate, and it brings me to the place he is portraying. No bombast, no effort. He just has that Thing.

And that Thing, he emanates in his breath. His voice.

Watching him read aloud, I suddenly recognize something else - something itself pretty resonant with me.

Without resembling him, without sounding like him really at all - Peter Egan's cadence, even the way he moves, looking at the book and looking up, making some small gesture - reminds me powerfully of my dad.

Dad was a teacher. As much as any actor in the world, the great job of a teacher is to communicate. To build the sympathy of *understanding*.

Without, perhaps, admitting I have for decades been a bit in love with Peter Egan: I would say, at least, that he is a consummate builder of sympathy.

And seriously: that voice. You could NUZZLE with that voice.

Friday, July 14, 2017


Not too long ago, I said I was going to do a post about the twentieth century transformation of evening and formal textiles/jewels into day wear. The idea is one I've cogitated on for many years, not as a blog post, but in a more philosophical sense. I was reading one of Ann Rice's Lestat novels, probably Queen of the Damned, in which he had awoken to the modern world and observed how everyone now had access to glimmering clothes and finery. Written in the 80s, and read by me in the 90s, the idea did stick with me - that we had an abundance of riches, in the modern world, which were unreachable in centuries past.

A little age, education, and experience puts a great deal of perspective on the equation of flimsy acetate with cloth-of-gold. But the point of abundance is not quite negated, and the point that we're a flashier lot these days holds pretty firm.

As much as I rail against the idea that humanity has "evolved" (oh, and the semantics baggage in that word) from stupidity and filth into any new-and-improved form, it doesn't do to deny we've invented a whole lot of stuff. Good and bad. But production is a different question than quality - see also, the difference between centuries-old handmade cloth of gold and mass manufactured lame or acetate of any variety of shiny-ness, boldness, etc.

And so we turn to quality, and the evolution of its usage.

As a younger lady, I was addicted to Miss Manners. Sure, what she actually had to say was always splendid, but the real draw was her writing. Like Roger Ebert (with whose movie reviews I almost *never* agreed), I read her columns faithfully, because she could express ideas with eloquent insight. AND so often the ideas were something much more than answers to straightforward questions.

One of the more concrete things you can learn from the study of etiquette is the language of gems. Like the language of flowers, certain stones denote certain implications, not all of which have to do with the months of our births.

All this may seem very quaint and perhaps romantic to many people, but the value and magic of nonverbal communication never dies. We just find different ways to do it.

It was the concrete rules of dress that laid the groundwork for the somewhat more subjective messages sent by what we wore - and when. Ask a fan.

And so it was: there was a time diamonds would never have been worn during the daytime. In the evening, they conferred elegance, glamour, and conspicuous consumption upon the wearer, but during the day, anyone in any glittering gem (pearls and I believe mourning jet were acceptable; if anyone knows more than I, I'd love your comments!!) was nothing but gauche. Display had rules. Getting the rules wrong only demonstrated someone's ignorance of wealth, but probably what we now call "trying too hard" (if not, worse, actual depravity).

Then diamond engagement rings became de rigueur, and the rules began to shift.

Certain necklines were acceptable only in the evening as well, and dress followed the appropriateness of the hour of the day, the age of the wearer, their status and station (see above), and the activities they had afoot. Morning dress, riding habits, low gowns, certain hats.

Oh, hats. There is a wonderful fun bit in one of the early episodes of "Are You Being Served", iterating the acceptable hat styles for various levels of employee at Grace Brothers department store. Bowlers are right out, unfortunately, for Captain Peacock, a floor walker - higher in status than the sales staff, but not so high as manager Mister Rumbold.

And yet, a bowler suits Peacock ever so well.

Another fine scene involves the proper fluffing of a pocket handkerchief.

These things matter, was the issue - and big issues they were, even so late as the 1970s. It wasn't so long ago. Mrs. Slocombe might wear any color hair she desired - but Captain Peacock needed dispensation to sport that bowler.

For a look at an encapsulated moment in the timeline of women's fashion, watch seasons one and two of the American show, "Remington Steele". Most famous for bringing Pierce Brosnan onto the Hollywood scene, what tends to be forgotten now about this series is the driving "sit" of this particular com, which was that a woman in 1982 presuming to act as a private investigator was so utterly outre' she had to invent: "a decidedly masculine superior." Hijinks ensued, and a jolly good heartthrob I still don't mind taking a gander at.

In season one of the show, Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist), our inventress, spends an interesting amount of time in hats. Fedoras in particular. She heads to a horse farm wearing a more tweedy ensemble (and woolen cap), but more than one episode sees her costumed almost for one of the old movies Steele constantly invokes as they follow their cases. But she's not costumed like the femmes fatale of these classics; she is modeled more on Sam Spade - or even Columbo. Structured tailoring, subdued colors, sturdy textiles. And always covered. She presents entirely feminine, but her character design still does not flutter nor blush. Even her most spangled evening wear (and spangles there are) speak to power, to her skill in the work she does and the refusal to become a conquest, even as most eps end in breathless kisses in the early going.

The upshot is a woman in "a man's world" - demanding respect and commanding authority.

Season two plays up, in every possible aspect, the Bondian parallels (we will not point to aspirations on Brosnan's part) of HIS character. And hers shows up in shorts and bathing suits rather suddenly. The season premiere is a lesson in what producers felt they had on their hands, and even all but cops the famous Bond theme music.

The good news is, Laura Holt is not reduced to being a Bond girl, but the contrast in production design - in costume design - captures something else of the time. By season three, she's almost always sporting elaborately swirling hairstyles - more Gibson Girl than Big 80s Hair, but still a notable change from our introduction to the character, who only got Gibson for special occasions, and not even all of those.

Even in 1982, as realistic as it was to portray a female lead in need of an imaginary man to make it in business, the fact was, women's place in American society was not quite what it had been years before, when the series was actually conceived (1969).

So, season two. They stopped presenting Laura in the clothes of male private detectives partially because the series changed in tone - and because she had nice legs and so forth - but also because women overall were becoming a little less likely, even then, to package themselves mannishly in order to make it. A little.

Fast forward a couple of years, and we have Maddie Hayes in "Moonlighting" - conceptually similar on several counts, and trying to push even farther. Hayes hardly ever wears anything but brights, in silky fabrics, and always with heels. (Note that Cybill Shepherd famously rebelled against heels, herself.) The fact that this character (and Shepherd) was a former model provided the excuse for the frippery, and the sexual tension in "Moonlighting" was if anything even more prominent than that in RS, but the difference in the female leads' outfitting was fundamental.

Women didn't just gain knees in the early 80s. Take a look at the textiles I mention. From Laura Holt to Maddie Hayes hardly represents all womankind by a long shot (pretty, young, white), but the fashions on these shows make an interesting microcosmic study of the decade. Because Hayes' fashion actually WAS a bit like what we were seeing in the real world. Jacquard silk drop-waist/slim-skirt dresses DID get very popular. My mom wore a baby pink chiffon dress like this for my 1993 wedding.

Following this advent/onslaught of affordable, light, silk or faux silk dresses, I recall a big surge in men's short-sleeved silk shirts, sometimes with mandarin collars. Beloved Ex wore this look well, and I had silk right down to a pair of *pants* in the material, and many long scarves did dedicated duty as belts. In the early 2000s, the light men's shirts of this sort were still on tap with Mr. X as well. This is the transition of a sort of evening fabric firmly into the daylight.

Belts - we got to like showy little belts in the 80s. Skinny gave way to more cummerbund sizes (that scarf wrapped around me twice, back then), and even leather belts were soft, wide, and more and more sash-like. Buckles became increasingly jewelry-like. And then rhinestones crept off buckles and into our workaday earrings, even onto shoes. BLING burgeoned. There are reasons even that word gained the traction it did, when it did.

And more evening daringness made its way into our days.

(Notoriously, of course, many people's hair got excessive. I can't pretend guiltlessness in this, but I did fail Clue-Catchers 101. In some things, it is good to be a slacker.)

Another thing that burgeoned in the 80s was designer labels. It's hard to overstate the nature of this change to anyone who hasn't lived on both sides of the designer era. And this, too, is something of an evening concept brought through the rest of the day. I had heard of  a "Halston gown" when I was little, but nobody was wearing specific-maker-anything in the 70s during the day, to speak of.

In the 70s, it was in fact just weird to wear a shirt that advertised its maker. We'd gotten some memo or other, about a thing called "designer jeans" - but it took the Reagan 80s to cement product placement in our wardrobes. In my world, knowing about Aigner and Izod led almost faster than we realized, to the Hilfiger style revolution still with us, in which everything from sunglasses to purses to jewelry and clothing are logo'd, and that's actually desirable.

(Not so much with me, but that is another day's rant.)

And then came the body parts formerly reserved for special occasions. Grrl Power midriffs have given way by now to "cold shoulder" and side-boob/side/butt, but it is still conceived as special to show the nighttime bits during the day. (Even though this isn't really new, in 20th century terms and thanks to humanity's chronological myopia, it was.) Statement Necklaces and ever-expanding eyebrows ("called it!!") came in after giant implants and fake tans with frost lipstick. Even minimalism seeks a certain boldness. More than the workaday.

And, along with wearing chiffon tops in the middle of any ordinary day, the very textiles we are dressed in are ever more ephemeral, which makes an interesting counterpoint to the perception of ever more "glamour" in their deployment. When clothes are meant to be trashed six months out, can they really be all that elegant ... ?

Things don't change, not really - but our deployment of them keeps us thinking we are brand new.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


Because I need MORE painfully addicting things to read online (don't we all - not): random history; how about the history of hookless fasteners? Because - neato! What's nice about this site is that the research is solid. Not perfect (the history of wigs calls Elizabeth I Mary Queen of Scots' "predecessor", which is an imprecise use of a term with specific implications - and in another article it discusses flour used as wig powder, which we all know was Not a Thing, thanks to American Duchess, right?), but above average for online history, and sources are included, which is great for research AND history dorks!

Image: Wikipedia, of course
(Original? No, but I hate to be a thief!)

One of the great pieces of received wisdom in the United States is that fat people in poverty are chubbier because they eat so darn much fast food. Challenging one angle of the theory that poor people eat more poorly - it is in fact the middle class who eat the most fast food. That said, differences across the board, demographically-speaking, are not wide in the U.S. The findings seems functionally obvious to me; those of us who spend the most time in cube farms live lives all but tailored to eat McFud the most. I keep this to a minimum, but there ARE times it's just easy. (But no: I have not had fast food during the past three weeks ...) The click beyond: on the possible ineffectiveness of fast-food bans in lower income areas. Because, really? Fast food is NOT actually cheap. Hmm.

American independence and personal responsibility for being poor. This is quite a good read, one that de-fuses emotion and contextualizes things in a way Americans don't always stop to do. Poverty is not a static, unchanging state; we move in and out of it (I have myself). And its victims do not have the control we as a nation like to ascribe to each of our individualist individuals.

Many may have read about Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, who was arrested in Michigan for performing FGM/C (a good interview, and explanation of the nomenclature here). A quote at the first link - "The practice has no place in modern society" - and this insightful essay both point to the way white America distances itself from ritual or behavior we either do not understand or wish to disavow. But these stories brought me to mind of the embrace Jeff Sypeck and Amy Kaufman see in our current culture, of "medieval" stereotypes, and the consequences. The fact is, we perform some damned indefensible procedures on ourselves, and no I do not mean body-obsessive plastic surgery - I mean "the husband's stitch" (see the second link), most "routine" circumcision, even some dental practices which may not truly be necessary for our health. Highly worth remembering: FGM/C in the modern world is NOT a Muslim tradition - one more reason to "other" this faith or mark them out as archaic, backward. It is performed across religions and cultures. And includes Christians. Clitoridectomy was covered by Blue Cross until 1977.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Once it is known that buyers are willing to purchase items with dubious or nonexistent provenance, the market for those items expands, which in turn encourages the kind of looting that we’re witnessing today in the Middle East. The connection between a scrap of papyrus and on-the-ground violence may be difficult to see. But it exists.

Many have seen the headlines of the $3M judgment against Hobby Lobby in regard to the thousands of tablets and bullae they amassed by questionable means. Here is a closer look at their path to such startling acquisition - and the speed at which they took it. "Breakneck" is not often the pace of archaeological commerce. This is an interesting, in-depth look at the people involved and the often all-too-shady business of trading antiquties.

Sometimes, it's a shame I am so slow to toddle through the blogs I follow and read; John Davis Frain has a personal and extremely good entry on Independence Day. It is both unique and universal: the trick of a mighty fine writer. It's also brief, and not really about flag-waving. So, worth a click any time of year.

I was late, too, to Celia Reeves' blog, where some weeks ago she talked about a Day of Remembrance. Beautiful post, with a photo worth clicking on to enlarge and really look at closely.

Colin Smith has two posts I wanted to share with anyone who hasn't seen them already (again, I am shamefully late in my perusal). One on writing about writing, as a pre-published author. And another, from the genuine-interest-in-people side of the "where are you from - really" question. CNN link worth a click beyond as well, from the "I am exhausted" side. These two pieces make good companion looks at the question - and not super-long reading, either.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


Sometimes it's refreshing to realize how many smart people (a) also hate the whole "oh the dirty stupid past" foolishness we like to bandy about a bit too much, and (b) also know better than to accept the most commonly held generalizations about the Dark Ages, barbarians, medieval/fantasy/The Dung Ages and so forth. Jeff Sypeck is one of those who reassures me that not everyone thinks uncritically about historical stereotyping. He's also introduced me to Amy Kaufman, whose paper he discusses above is easy reading, free, not so long as to scare one off a scholarly work, and accessibly written and reasoned. It's highly worth the click beyond.

The ideas under discussion - our "romanticization" of some of these ideas of The Past, and the consequences (ask Mark Twain) of ... well, what frankly is often called "branding" these days. Specifically, Kaufman looks at the same dynamic as embodied in the so-called Islamic State (side note: it's nice to see ANY use of the "so-called" anymore; even mainstream media seems entirely to have forgotten that ISIS is a made-up title and self-bestowed, and that using it straightforwardly confers legitimacy). It's a pretty chilling look, not least in the gender politics* involved.

*I refuse to call rape "sexual".

Readers here know, I have plenty to say about women's treatment in this world - doesn't matter "when", we are prey, and anyone who thinks otherwise is simply ignorant. But I don't consider things worse than they once were ... and I do not consider them BETTER, either. Like bubbles in wallpaper, the position may be pressed out of shape or shifted around, but one look at human trafficking, slavery being perfectly alive and well no matter its perceived absence in our own personal worlds, the lives of children across the globe - and the regressive state of nationalism and politics worldwide - leaves no doubt: human beings don't really change very much.

So just as bad as chronological snobbery - the idea that we have evolved beyond what we think we used to be, that the past was populated by morons and we today are educated and therefore actually more intelligent - is the offensive mistake of chronological romanticization. The good old days never were, and the bright new tomorrow isn't, at least so far.

As I grow older, the irony is that this view of humanity SAVES me from much of the fear so many of us find overwhelming. Knowing that we did not really clamber up from darkness and ignorance to a more enlightened place provides perspective that we're not about to fall off a cliff.


Okay, I won't keep going on. But your thoughts would be most welcome. And please do read Sypeck's post, and Kaufman's Muscular Medievalism.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


Five years ago right now, I was alone. More alone than I'd been for nine years, nine months.

Sidney. Sweet Siddy-la, my Lolly, my Lolly-ya, Stinky Tuscadero, Funky Monkey, pup-head. Bebe'. Gooderest t'ing.

La was about four when I adopted her, and she was, as I still say to the Poobahs currently livening up my life, a particular favorite girl of mine. By the age of fourteen, she was still fairly spry and healthy, but she'd had some setbacks in the months before she died.

I remember all the lead up, I remember the way she lay on her bed next to the couch (a large old ottoman, I brought it downstairs while I tapped on my laptop and answered emails and such; the floor looked so hard, and she was closer to my touch) and put her head on a pizza crust I gave her - loving it, but unable to eat it.

She never got up again.

My mom came, with the new Buick she and my stepfather had bought, and she and I lifted Sidney lock stock and big bed into the back of it, and we drove to the vet. I know she was with me while Siddy died, and we spent time together after, but I do not remember the after.

I remember going back to the vet when ... she was taken care of. To pick up her ashes. I still have them, though never have really known quite what to do with them. She lives in the guest room. (My dad's ashes do not. Today was perhaps not a good day to read this. But then ... maybe so.)

One memory wraps around another, and one love skeins through others, never necessarily comes to an end.

And now I get to love Gossamer and Penelope.

And still hope I will ever be good enough for either of them.

Monday, July 3, 2017


On the likelihood Henry VIII called Anne Boleyn a trollop when he was courting her - the messages within the song Greensleeves, and who probably would *not* have written such a song.

Multi-layered nerd link! James Marsters' Trek audition. Worth a click beyond for a bit of Tom Hardy, too.

For everyone who EVER didn't want to admit loving a show ...

SNL Drag Race from Nicola Mari on Vimeo.

A wee lexicon for your edifictation: "fish" is feminine beauty - beating your face means doing your makeup well - "beat for filth" is doing it so well you end up giving fishy realness, Erica Jane is a completely synthetic Housewife who also records club music, and Kenan Thompson just watching the competition here is hilarical. Enjoy!

It turns out that the poor often know much better than outside experts how to improve their own condition.

Sigh. When this ↑ is radical thinking, no wonder we don't act in the immediate. On charity versus philanthropy. You know what? A bandage is a good idea when someone is bleeding.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


A "well-healed" amputation and a prosthetic toe (no actual heel present) - on the most ancient prosthesis ever found in-situ. Or in-sitoe, if you like to draw out the punnery. So many chortles, so little time while reading this cool post from The History Blog.

An illustrated guide to writing PoC for the white author. Perspectives, and more perspectives! I think "cudnt spel to sieve her lyfe" is the perfect detail. Nicely done indeed, with a lot of Teh Funnay too. Fair warning, though: there are a LOT of tasty links here in addition to the observations and comics!

Just who gets to play in which cultural sandboxes?

"Columbusing." I guess this is what the kids are calling it now. Back in the 80s, all people said about this kind of thing was, "I remember my first beer." I remember when our year-younger-than-we-were friend discovered feminism for me and another friend. (I remember the phrase recency illusion as well.) ... and now I feel a little conflicted, because I was in the mood for Mexican for dinner, and my mom has a few "things" about PoC from south of the US border ...

I don't see what humanity has done over those 200 years that would make anyone have a softer view of humanity.

Need some more for your TBR? Well, I sure do. This revisitation of Frankenstein - now with a new revenant of a very different sort added to the old Monster - looks absolutely stunning, and maybe more terrifying than ever for some people. This may be my "I need 37 copies of this" release this year. Even just the interview is so beautiful and striking, linguistically. Voice, kids. Voice.

"I'ma Send You to TIMBUKTU!" and Other Stories ... (or) ... on Literature Itself

When I was a kid, there were a few mythical experiences in life that never, somehow, lived up to their hype. Snipe hunts amounted to a load of pointless wandering and taunting, often with a group of kids who didn't even like each other (see: taunting). Opposite days - where every word was an argument against itself. Pediatric exercises in negation and frustration, that was all the "magic" I ever understood.

Then there was Timbuktu. I don't know how prevalent this was outside my little slice of the world, but there was a magic by which my brother used to "send me to Timbuktu" - and I think other kids would say or do this to each other, too. To be sent to Timbuktu meant some hand gesture, perhaps, or a magic word - spoken by some hapless exilee, or by the ones wanting to send them away - and an instantaneous disappearance the victim never could perceive.

When my brother sent me to Timbuktu, he evinced the most astonishing inability to see or hear me anymore. Indeed, one might even say his imperception of me was overacted, almost. Now and then, other people might be present and play along as well.

Again: the ultimate in frustration. "I'm RIGHT HERE!" is perhaps the most pointless piece of dialogue between kids or in science fiction, in recorded (or invisible/inaudible) history.

So Timbuktu, to us, was no real place, it was just a neato sounding word some kid had appropriated to be mean, and its geography was simply the delineation of disempowerment of some poor other kid. Usually not for too long.

They lectured the townspeople on the evils of their cult of protector-saints, then began to smash the intricate carvings with pickaxes and metal crowbars.

It's a joy, then, to read a little history/politics/culture/reality/hope ... about Timbuktu, today.

Timbuktu is a rich skein in the cultural history of the world, and its treasures have been imperiled. But there are people who save our shared human legacy.

Imagine the Library of Alexandria, with allies covertly preventing its obliteration. Imagine an alternate ending to The Name of the Rose.

Imagine your TBR pile growing by just one more volume of narrative nonfiction.

Conserving, and protecting, the material evidence of human innovation, ingenuity - art.

We are worth saving. We are worth studying. We are worth questioning, and maybe sometimes revering. Humanity is like a field of corn, constantly shifting and perhaps too-rich with vermin or smut, or maybe too try to grow - but as a whole, absolutely hypnotizing to view, as the wind lifts some eddy and draws undulating patterns. As we contemplate what grows before us.

And ...

Let's not forget that we also lecture and smash and destroy the artifacts of culture when it hits our prejudices.

Friday, June 23, 2017


That awkward - not to say cognition-stompingly surreal - moment when Donald J. Trump and Barack Obama are in the same place linguistically. *Blink*

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Science Daily has a great piece on the reward mechanisms in our brain relating to making art. This article focuses on the study of visual arts in this, but I would expect any writer to pipe up and say, "me too!" on this phenomenon.

(Bonus question for the novelists: is this a new meaning for the term SCIENCE FICTION? Heh.)


Regular readers here know, I love me a good debunking of The Dirty, Stupid Past - and American Duchess is serving up an epic takedown of the old 18th-century-bugs-in-the-hair routine. Along with quite a lot of good info, and a little period experimentation. Their podcasts are not short, but SO cool. And the very depth is what I am digging.

I have family in the Pacific Northwest, and one of the first local uniquenesses I remember hearing about was the wooly dogs. The mention of separating the dogs connects to hearing about their island breeding; this was a precious animal (as indeed all dogs are). So these Salish dogs fascinate me in a similar way to Carolinas.

Unscented flatus and original sin. A very interesting piece indeed on Augustine at The New Yorker. I am intrigued by the many quotes here, most uncited - and the very contemporary-versa vulgata translation of his Confessions mentioned at the top.

200 legitimate voters may be impeded from voting for every double vote stopped.

Finally, from The Atlantic - an in-depth look at the extensively documented relationship between white supremacist organizations and the GOP's voter-fraud initiatives. To anyone who feels "just having to show a driver's license" is not a coded method of racist targeting, look again. Or just look once. And consider the emphasis on data which purges tens of thousands of legitimate voters in a single state. Alfred K. Brewer could tell you a story.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"I don't live by the river"

Editing at the top to add this curious note. One of the people at this concert dropped into my brother's life briefly, pretty much at the moment I was inspired to write this post. I hadn't gotten around to posting it yet when he told me about the encounter, days later.

Curious thing, life.

Should've worn the Chris Crafts.

But, I mean, it was a concert. It was The Clash. The little Asian cotton Maryjanes were the thing. I wore The Thing. And my nerdy jeans and beige socks, yeah. But then the cool top, it was kind of new wave. Vivid turquoise stripes, cool puffed sleeves.

As cool as *I* got in 1982.

I was fifteen.

My brother asked me to go to a concert with him. It was weird, but with his girlfriend's little sister going, maybe he kind of had to. Or maybe he was just being cool with me. It was about this period in our lives that sort of thing began to happen here and there.

Whether he had to bring me, or wanted to ... Didn't matter. We were excited. I remember us spotting other cars as we got closer to Williamsburg, "Bet they're going." Seeking shared anticipation.

Fortunately, for a change: not seeking boys. This isn't because I was with my brother, though usually he terrified any boys I might find interesting, event he other punks. No, it was because Joe Strummer with a mohawk looked too much like my big brother.

So I enjoyed the whole show without dreary old sex interfering mentally, and actually experienced the concert.

That unique smell - of The Reagan Years ... of the ozone-crackled electricity that was the music itself (mountains of speakers and amps) ... of that much youth packed into a venue. The incredible, the ineffable scent and sensation and sight of youth, in the early 80s. Angry youth, but exultant too.

The crush was intense at the front. I was with the other kid sister, against the barricade; barely more than a child.  Some guy saw me (us?) and got concerned. Or maybe he just wanted my spot. But ... it was after ... Maybe he really was scared for me. He signaled the roadies, they pulled me out of my cherry position. My memory has failed, in 35 years, as to her being pulled up to, but probably so. Dragged up onto the stage, shooed off it, shepherded around - and ended up out of the crush. I was annoyed.

Where my brother and his girlfriend were, who knew - I didn't care, there was nothing to be afraid of. Not even death by general admission. Safe. Wherever the older sibs were, they were never farther than the walls of the venue. Nobody in the crowd was out to hurt us. There was a show to go on.

And so, I wormed my way BACK up to the front, once again causing annoyance, but this time to the guy who had ordered us "saved" from the crowd. Maybe the other kid sister and I did this together. I just remember I was there.

I latched onto the barricade like a tick.

The Clash. Front row. Sea of kids, strange adulation and imperative demand. It was sensational.

At some point, we pulled ourselves back out - noise-fatigue, or the desire to find the others, or maybe they found us. I have some recollection of standing on the seats, scream-singing, bopping.

I had lost one of my flimsy cotton shoes, either in the dragging moment of my salvation, or stomped off during the second round, surrounded by combat boots. Stuck the other shoe in my back pocket - heaven knows why. Maybe I thought I'd find the lost one after the show. Maybe I even did. History and memory have failed in this detail.

Standing on a seat, beer-sopped socks, the muck of spit and sweat and beer and cigarettes. Just a few hours of a life; a meeting of four people. Of thousands.

Then a drive home, on an autumnal night. Ears ringing.

"Rock the Casbah" was the big deal that year, and it was pretty great. But even today, I maintain that "London Calling" is one of the great tracks in recording history. It echoes in a way beyond the mere sonic definition.

The weekend before that concert, The Clash appeared on SNL. Little Opie Cunningham was the host (this was before he disappeared completely *behind* cameras). He drank a beer live on camera, protested his Little Opie Cunningham-ness, and got ribbed by Eddie Murphy.

The ineffable scent of the 80s. The sound of soaring, roaring, echoing, raw music. GOOD music, but raw in a way that's really only synthesized anymore.

I really did see all the good concerts.


Ever notice how hard it is to find a supermarket in a city's downtown? But easy to find a McDonald's or other fast food? It's not just a happy coincidence.

There's a fast-food restaurant within walking distance in many low-income neighborhoods, but nary a green leafy vegetable in sight.

Do you know who Maggie Walker was? Find out here and especially here - it's nice to see her getting some attention.

A brief history of children sent through the mail. Bees, bugs, and babies, y'all. Thanks, Smithsonian Magazine, I am well and truly squicked. (And how many of you are now wondering what the weight limit on modern drones is ... ? Yeah, I thought so. Same as a Europran swallow.)

Also from Smithsonian, here is a cool look at Wonder Woman's origins ...

American Duchess talks with Cheyney McKnight on a range of things, including a nuanced look at slaves' clothes in America. The post alone is interesting, but the hour-plus podcast is highly worth the listen. Never say what we wear - what YOU wear - sends no message.

Yet again, researchers have looked to the yucky/bizarre medicine of the ancient past, and found it was not so bizarre after all.

One of the problems with the modern concept of The Dirty, Stupid Past is that we no longer understand the most basic mechanisms of our world. We judge crazy old plant medicine without understanding plants in the slightest, nor allowing for the possibility that what we now call chemistry was for millennia the mere result of observation and implementation. The scientific method was only named in recent centuries; but the need for experimentation and innovation go back as far as humanity itself. Contemporary society considers itself very advanced, but hardly any of us understands the workings of anything we use, from our technology to our environment. Whereas, in times past when people were dependent upon their environment, and had no vast networks of text-bound research or even vast networks of other people's observations and experiences, communities (a) worked together and (b) knew their world intimately. Small as those worlds may seem to us today, the individuals living in them knew them better than we even know our own bodies anymore.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Rest in peace, Wallace.

This is frustrating. Labor is being paid first again. Shareholders get leftovers.

Revisiting the shareholder-first business model - courtesy of The New Yorker.

On the unexpectedly morbid history of ribbons as adornment. Naturally, this piece brings to mind the Beresford Ghost, and other stories.

To my knowledge, this lady hath much joy and pleasure in death.

I have to say, this makes more sense to me than fear, perhaps *especially* in the direst of circumstances - precisely because those people are facing deliverance from suffering.

The real point of this article - or, really, the research it discusses - is the guiding force in American healthcare: avoidance of death. I have known more than one person who would have been happier had they not been treated not-to-death, honestly. I do not intend to become the dying person constantly snatched back from the brink, either, and I don't wish to die in a hospital. This morning, I said to someone who said, "Getting old sucks!" "Yeah, but it beats the alternative." The fact is, sometimes death beats some of the medical alternatives, too. The trick is to know when to choose what. At some point, perhaps I will have the grace and blessing to choose not to incur obscene debt for life"saving" measures which prolong my agony and deplete my earthly resources. If I get there, I don't expect I'll face the end with horror or regret.

To people furious over the Kathy Griffin photo I ask, where were you when effigies of Obama were lynched and burned across the eight years of his administration...?

The Boston Globe has an EXCELLENT piece looking at the outrage surrounding the Trumpian Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar. And I say: um, yeah. Anyone who thinks this play is a celebration of assassination is ... well, let us use the term "uninformed" to be kind.

Throwback post - because it needs to be said. Again and again and again.

And again. Because we KNOW it's about power, not sex.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


Even apart from the fact that I am a writer, words have always meant a great deal to me. They are more than stories, more than communication, they are avatars for what me must express as human beings. Today, I learned a new word. It is meaningful to me. How about you?

How to keep cool in eighteenth-century summer clothes - American Duchess provides such interesting background (yes, silk IS the worst in summertime in Virginia!). Observations from experience, some of them unexpected. (And, inauthentic or not, an icepack in the bonnet does sound pretty good to me ...)

Aww ... I shall recuse myself from entering Janet's latest caption contest, but it's about my boy again! Also, I already won a book this week, so someone else deserves this win. I deserve just to enjoy the entries!

Notes to entrants: Kate Larkindale, Gossamer used to RUN under that door when I first adopted him! And kathy joyce, a draft sock didn't even stop him. I used to pull a DRAWER out of my chest of drawers and put it at the crack to keep him from careening in and out all night long. He was so wee. I love Melanie Sue Bowles's caption, and BJ Muntain's, and got such a laugh out of Mark Ellis's and Colin's and Donna's and Elissa M's and Craig F's. Note to Brian Schwarz - I have a pic of him on my cube wall at work - all giant eyeballs and curious whiskers. On it is pasted, in about 24 pt. bold font, the question, "Didja ever get the feelin' ... ... you was bein' WATCHED?"

My theory? He was remembering when he used to bolt under that door, and reminiscing about being so small he could do that ... and then fall asleep on my neck with my chin for a pillow. And how he used to knead on my head so I got such INTERESTING hairdos. (Because: Gossamer.)

Editing to add another link - Donna Everhart is going to start her first-sentence Fridays feature again, now for her new novel, The Road to Bittersweet. In celebration, a clip of great music and dacing - one of those things it is a joy to see digitized online, real people in a real place and a real time, in joy and creativity and community. What a wonderful document, and a fine way for Donna to celebrate.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

TROUT Again!

Funny I should run into this today, after yesterday's musing about Brautigan et al. Could be one to hunt down.

Image: Wikipedia, of course

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"... and ALWAYS for something completely different"

It was about 1983 when Mark and I became best friends. I use his real name because enough time separates us, and the name was common enough around here then, that it's as anonymous as calling him any other name.

Fifteen to his fourteen, I was in high school, but he was the cool one. I came over one time, he turned on the party light he'd built and calibrated to respond to his stereo, and he plunged my brain into something incomprehensible.

It was the original radio recordings of Hitchhiker's Guide.

I had no understanding of what was coming out of his speakers, there was no reference point by which I could make sense of the chorus of Cyrius Cybernetics voices buzzing out their little piece of the universe being built out of sound effects and voice acting. It all made no sense to me, and as is still to some degree my wont, that which was unfamiliar made me resistant, because I hated the confusion.

It probably took half an hour at least for me to even get that there was a story being told.

For me, back then, "writing" meant books - I was scarcely aware that the fare on our TV set (we used to call them "TV sets" - now ask me about hifi) involved composing scripts - and books came in few genres. Lots of nonfiction, for which I hadn't yet gotten the hang of caring. 19th century lit of various stripes, owned by us but belonging to nobody in particular. Mom's romantic novels. Dad's joke books; nothing else he might read could possibly have interested me.

So I "got" Bennet Cerf and even Art Buchwald, and novels by Poe and the like. But comedic science fiction? In radio format? I only understood radio drama as something that had gone the way of the dodo shortly after Baby Snooks cut her teeth.

Douglas Adams bent my brain.


Then I got to college and read Richard Brautigan. It is more than my eloquence can even attempt, explaining this lit, but Trout Fishing in America meant a lot to me once. Thirty years on, I'm not sure my geriatric behind could make head nor tail of it anymore.


Then I discovered Donald Harington. The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks, only one of the Stay Moronian novels he penned, layered in ways even by then I couldn't intellectually cope with. Historical fiction? Yes. Picaresque? Yes. Folk tales? Yes. Family epic? Yes. Fantasy? Yes. All of, and so much more than, the above.

And it was Harington who put it best: we must write neckties.

Write things that are impractical and colorful. Write neckties.


Recently, I have picked up my late and beloved Aunt L's copy of The Known World.  I was fortunate to meet Edward Jones at a conference years ago, and yet somehow in the vagaries of the TBR pile, this has never quite hit the top at a time when I ended up finishing it. This week is different.

The novel is a quilt; not merely featuring a wide cast, but it is in itself a wide cast of a large net. There is factual history to be found here, and some detail so vivid it feels like documentation, or memory, or The Sight. Scenes are discussed as if by a storyteller - BY a storyteller, of course - but the "there-ness" is complete, the characters breathe and move in life not because of our intimacy with their imagined thoughts, but because they are viewed with respect - both literal and in the perspective sense - to their humanity. Human action, nuance by nuance. And so the omniscient document becomes the novel, and draws us into the curious world of freed men who owned slaves, in American history.

Having not so long ago finished reading Gigi Amateau's Come August, Come Freedom, there is a resonance, though her style is more what my brain would have called "traditional" as I grappled with all of the experimental and unexpected and creative work mentioned.


My own work is "traditional" in the extreme, of course. I don't color outside the lines; it took me too long to learn how to stay *in* them. But the obvious truism to (neck)tie up this post is this: without listening to, reading, learning from those who don't need the lines at all, I would not be able to color at all.

Work (the Paid Kind)

The only use spam comments have is to remind me of the occasional old post I don't hate rediscovering. Today's special was this one. I remember that day, but my memory is unlike what is said in the post. Funny how brains work.

Yet again, though, it gets me thinking about my current gig. For a long time, I still thought of this as my "new" job - and yet, in a career blessed with so many reorgs and layoffs, it is by a huge margin the position I have held for the longest time in my history.

For decades, I never kept a single job for more than two years. By and large, this speaks to the nature of the economy since I began participating in it; and only a few of my job changes came at my own hands, as promotions of sorts. When I was with a certain large securities firm no longer as-such in existence, my tenure was over five years, but I held four jobs in that time: and every change was upwardly mobile, and every change was at my own instigation. But mostly, I am a product of the ever-"evolving" (growth-and-shareholder-obsessed) economic times I came of age in.

So realizing recently that I've been with my team, my "new" company, for three and a half years has been curious.

It doesn't feel like a long time, compared to the most important jobs I hold in my memory. It also REALLY doesn't feel like I've reached (or distantly passed) an endpoint, which I have felt even in jobs I have loved in the past. Two years and I become afraid. Two years, and I see change whether I want to or not. My last job, which I was proud to hold and did not want to leave, lasted two and a half, and I was giddy with fear just because of my own presumed expiration dating ... slightly before I realized that the changes around me gave me reason to be giddy with fear because I recognized what was going on. I left. And almost immediately, the cliff I'd been perched upon crumbled. I was safe, but it was heartbreaking.

And I am still safe.

The things I have accomplished in this position, with this company, pretty easily surpass anything I have been able to manage before.

When I began to look afield, after a couple internal interviews with said previous employer, I reached out to someone I knew from HR there, who had left. And ended up with the company she went to.

She had recommended me to my now-team, specifically my now-executive, knowing that I was a seasoned admin and he was unseasoned with having one, and that I would be able not only to step into required competencies, but also to form the work I'd do and essentially train my team to have an admin at all. The unwritten side of this was that she knew I'd be able to create my own work.

The way this has played out is that I have created my own terms.

My team don't have me doing PowerPoints to speak of, I rarely write memos that aren't my own idea, and apart from monitoring expenses for compliance and speaking to my direct boss's availability, I don't do a lot of the things most people THINK secretaries spend our lives on.

When I first started, one of the managers under my boss's care jumped in with both feet. He had me working on a lot of things, but one key one remains a core part of my work - albeit now in a very different way.

Both Feet left our company years ago, and in his absence, I picked up a great deal in his area. It took a long time to fill his position, so by the time we did so, I was uppity in the extreme in this department. So the new guy came into a situation with a secretary already managing up. And he seems to have been willing to leave me to it. With the result that that administrative tedium I picked up way back when is now an area in which I have streamlined, assertively managed, and brought into an entirely new proportion.

I've saved my company a crap-ton of money, on my own initiative, cemented best practices, insert-your-least-favorite-corporate-speak here. Because I cared, and because nobody else was doing this work, and because nobody told me not to.

I lived right up to what that HR person expected of me, and then some.


So re-reading that old post was interesting, in the context of my continued realization that I seem to be in a job well on its way to Methuselah status as far as my CV goes. I see in it a bit of the same sinking-my-teeth-in/getting-it-done-ery that has served me here, and even some of the amusement I felt at losing a job I so desperately hated (but which I took a long time to realize I did).

I still call that the worst April Fool's Day joke ever - not least as they jumped the gun by a day on the punchline.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


In the past month, comments here have dried up entirely. It doesn't seem to me the content has changed, so I muse about the possibility that summer has led to less traffic.

Unfortunately, it is hard to tell. My traffic stats have for the best part of a year now shown massive bot traffic, from the U.S. It used to be when my "viewership" was up, I'd see Russia all over my posts. Anymore, though, it's domestic traffic, curiously enough all Mac. I'd indulge vanity and think I had a geek stalker but the levels indicate bot, not human.

There are still days Russia dominates the fake traffic around here, and we've always got Asia. But the major point here is that my actual readership appears to be gone.

And just when things have been getting so exciting with the WIP, too.

The point of THIS wallowingly self-indulgent post is this: what content is worth commenting on? Right now, is it better just to leave the blog fallow, wait out vacation season, and not worry that nobody's around much anymore? Or are all of you lurking and yawning ... ?

I have an idea for a good post. But it's possible I may be wasting my time.

(And yes, I know I need to shill this place on Twitter for stats' sake; it does work. BUT it does not ever result in comments.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nothing Old is New Again

Some readers (and Reiders) are aware, I put away my first novel about two years ago. Not easy, at the time - and I am still grateful for those of you who were SO very supportive and sensitive and generous - but it has been the right thing to do. The possibility of a final revision and self publishing still exists, but my focus is decidedly fixed on the WIP, and that feels healthy and very good indeed.

Not long ago, someone online who is aware of The Ax and the Vase expressed interest in reading it. I sent it their way with thanks for the attention, and turned back to the WIP. It's not the first time this has happened, and the very first reader I ever had was very kind indeed.

This time, my reader began to offer questions and some feedback. It presented for me a terrible temptation, and I turned to my old first pages and found myself a rather cruel reader. The thing is dross, there are some pretty words, but I began to feel "OF COURSE THIS DRECK NEVER GOT PUBLISHED" and felt the urge, a rather strong urge, to tear into it again.

Happy endings: the moment was lust, passing and intemperate. I was drunk with self-critique and old dreams. But only drunk. I did hate what I read, enough to wish I hadn't sent it out to the second reader ... but his feedback has hushed, and my interest has quashed. Fortunately, without a hangover. I didn't drink deeply enough. (I didn't read deeply enough; it was that bad, really.)

The WIP is my One True Love, and I will not stray. Indeed, I didn't actually edit anything while I was under the influence, strong as the influence seemed in the moment.

It's a funny thing, a book's corpse - or its ghost. Very much like a bitter ex: there may be some allure, but in the end, most often, you look at the face of once-beloved, and think ... "What did I see in them?" Or a lost love: you remember, but the feeling is distant, like novocaine. Not quite real.

The Ax and the Vase is no longer entirely real for me, and that is both bizarre and necessary. As a writer, there's only so much energy, only so much focus - and monogamy is important for the way many of us need to work. Even pantsers (still not my favorite term, but it does  have its utility) probably tend more often than not to concentrate on one project, even if not in one area.

It occurs to me how often I referred to the WIP, after I discovered the subject and knew it would be my second novel - but before I had finished with Ax - as the thing I had on the backburner.

Ax isn't even on the backburner now. I know, too, what I want my third novel to be; but I am not contemplating it, and the research will be entirely new and separate; no cross-pollination anymore. There is nothing going on in my writing world right now but the WIP. Two long-comatose shorts exist, and now and then I peer at them momentarily. But neither one pulls focus, and neither has really grown in the period I've been working on the WIP.

It is, in its quiet way, gratifying to know how cleanly I've let go of Ax. Not killed it, nor forgotten it. Only the expedient: put it away. Self-publish? Or even some new route? Maybe someday.

But the interest, the intent, and the intensity: are all on the WIP. Invigorating!


I'm going to lead y'all into the next post coming up this afternoon, with a look at writing across gender, a vintage essay from The Atlantic. Early in my going with The Ax and the Vase, I put a great deal of what Mr. X and I call "mindtime" into the fact that I was a woman writing first-person from the perspective of a male character. Never mind that I was also attempting to occupy a world gone now for fifteen centuries; the concern was always gender-based, not world-building. So this essay renews some curious questions for me, and I hope someone will comment here on their experience, mine, the points made at TA, or any other thoughts ...

We're totally living in a time of giants.

Fun with science-nerding - NPR has two really cool pieces this week! One, on the development of GIGANTISM in whales ("It's the baleen stupid!" Okay, and population/migration feeding patterns.). Next: on the development of the human spine. Neat.

More from the animal kingdom (and The Atlantic) - a kinda-gross/macabrely comical moment with a flamingo that teaches us about their ability to balance on one leg. One more intriguing point: "explaining how the birds stand on one leg doesn’t tell us why they do." Too true. (Bonus points for the wonderful photo graphic even I could have created. Hey, but it's clear and gets the point across. "THIS IS THE KNEE." Hee.)

I have not written a real fashion post in far too long, but here is a great look at the revolution of Business Casual and dress through the twentieth century. For twenty years now, I've all but had to apologize (to other women) for being a woman who still wears pantyhose; today, I wore heels and a knee-length skirt, a soft knit blouse, and vintage rhinestones to work. I also "go to the office" about 95% of the time.

Fair warning on the plethora of excellent links above - and beyond - this blog might be simultaneously maddening and addictive. Also worth the clickage. This may be just me ...

One of these days, I'll have to look at the flip side of the casual revolution, and post about the daytime-ization of what once were exclusively evening and/or formal items - satin and rhinestones or precious gems, hemlines once reserve for weddings or for bars ... codes of clothing old and new. And the increased manufacture of cheaper, ersatz reformulations of these things.

Most of us are aware of Marie Curie's research in radium, but I for one was surprised to learn how, in part, it was funded - the part of the story so few of us find romantic. The story of the American women who funded her acquisition of the rare, expensive, element. Makes me proud to be an American woman (who also supports science).

Bat talk! No, this is not a new American talk show.; though it would undoubtedly be an improvement on most. No, this is a look into the linguistic patterns of Egyptian bats. And it seems they have a lot of things to say about where each of them sleeps. "SHOVE OFF!" being chief among those things. I wonder whether American bats just despair of how Kardashian-obsessed the local humans are.

... and then there's the science I am more skeptical to read. Hmm.

The thing about any popular science - even Smithsonian magazine - is, when I see claims that revise "common knowledge" by orders of magnitude, I am instantly skeptical. Indeed, when I saw the "news" about human occupation in North America circa 130,000 years ago (originally in a MUCH less respected news outlet), I took the "it must be this" conclusions of the scientific team as quoted with a very great deal of salt, and moved on without linking it here. Seeing this in a venue for which I have more esteem doesn't entirely change that. There's nothing at SA that contradicts the statements I saw and originally dismissed as facile, and respect for the outlet doesn't redeem paucity of evidence. Indeed, at least SA shows more detail, and healthy questioning of the conclusions. Barring reliable dating or ANY hint of middens, fires, architecture - or *human remains* for that matter, even within a few thousand years of the extraordinary dates claimed here - it all feels like so much faith-based archaeology does: kind of interesting, maybe fodder for a story, but not hard science. And not persuasive. The fact SA indulged the provocative headline is actually kind of bothersome. (Special note: stay away from the comments, they are dispiritingly racist and foolish.)

What do you think? About any or all of these links?

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Casey Karp's blog is a new favorite, not just for his talents in wordlery, but also because he brings the learn-y stuff. This week, take a look at some of Amazon's REALLY chilling new problems. One, the new world in gig-economy logistics, and two, the Authors Guild article he links from that post, about how a new algorithm may cost the publishing industry - and authors. The final sentence here is pretty frightening.

I enjoy Jeff Sypeck's unique outlook; here is an interesting area of cultural context leading up to the American Civil War. Excellent quote from Mark Twain on this. Looking at what we consume as relating to what we enact.

"Rubber ducky, I love you - and the writing you help me do!" Maggie Maxwell has a great strategy, apparently used by IT programmers. I've never heard of talking to the duck, but it does make a kind of sense. (Though, personally? I tend to use actual coworkers or other writers or readers, depending on my issues ... Writing buddies really DO make great ducks. Heh.)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Another Five Years

Right at the moment I was thinking of one scale of time, I was missing out on multiple others. This year, I managed to forget not only TEO's birthday, but Gossamer's (May Day) and Penny's (my April Fool).

Last night, I saw something I have never seen before. Goss has closed his eyes in the *presence* of Penelope before, of course. But last night, as I got up from the laptop and TV to go upstairs and go to bed, I saw Gossamer closing his eyes AT Penelope.

For those non catters among us: a cat's closing its eyes "at" another living thing is a specific communication. It means "I trust you", and is a profound cue to its relationships. Cats aren't famous for handing out their trust lightly. So to see Goss gazing clearly and fixedly on Penny (who was on the couch and oblivious), and repeatedly almost-closing his eyes at her was a revelation to me. I wished it were possible for Pen to understand. But she didn't even see it. She was as unaware of Gossie in that moment as she was of current events in Southeast Asia.

Which is a shame. But I saw something wonderful.

Between the two of them, he tends to be the aggressor when they scuffle, and their scuffles - while not worrisome - don't feel like play. It's not because he doesn't mean to play, it's because Pen doesn't understand him as playing. The two of them speak completely different languages. Shoot, Pen and I speak completely different languages.

I have wished, since the two of them were kidlets, that they would ever become snuggle buddies. But I realized not long ago that Penny actually doesn't know how to snuggle. (Well ... not REALLY.) When she wants to be near me, she can't sit still. She demands pettin's, or just needs to wiggle. She's actually very physically awkward with affection, has been all her life. On the occasion she is allowed on the couch or on the bed, she can lie down, but rarely is she touching me. When I try to cozy up with her, she gets actively confused - and by actively, I mean that the physical contact, no matter how relaxed my demeanor, drives her to activity, even anxiety. She can't sit still and just snuggle. She cannot even seem to conceive of it. So approaches to snuggling confuse her and set her off.

Now, Gossamer: he is a nestler from way back. He likes body heat, and he likes stillness. Sure, he loves a good pettin', but he can settle in for a good sit without being attended to, and often prefers that over any form of movement. Petting itself tends to end in lying still and snoozing.

So obviously, the lack of snuggle-ation between these two has never been antipathetic, it's just that one party is incapable of it. They have their moments. And since I realized Pen doesn't know how to snuggle, I've tried to work her towards at least understanding snoozy physical contact. When she's been allowed on the bed of late, I put my feet against her back and just say the word, "Snuggle." Once or twice, I've been able to achieve non-petting contact when she's been on the couch, and said the word, "Snuggle."

Communicating. I'm slow, but I learn.

Happy fifth birthdays to my Poobahs, yellow and grey. They are my ongoing adventure, most of the laughs in my life, and constant blessings.

I still aspire to be good enough for either one of 'em.