Friday, August 31, 2012

RIP Shulamith Firestone

I've just found out that Shulamith Firestone, feminist, radical, and author, died on Tuesday.

Her The Dialectic of Sex: The case for feminist revolution (Morrow, 1970) was the first explicitly feminist book I ever read. I read a battered library copy. It was chewy stuff. I was nineteen. Her basic thesis was that if women didn't have to bear children, we could eventually dismantle the oppressive patriarchal apparatus and attain true equality.

Here (lifted from Firestone's Wikipedia entry) is a fairly representative quote:

So that just as to assure elimination of economic classes requires the revolt of the underclass (the proletariat) and, in a temporary dictatorship, their seizure of the means of production, so to assure the elimination of sexual classes requires the revolt of the underclass (women) and the seizure of control of reproduction: not only the full restoration to women of ownership of their own bodies, but also their (temporary) seizure of control of human fertility - the new population biology as well as all the social institutions of child-bearing and child-rearing. And just as the end goal of socialist revolution was not only the elimination of the economic class privilege but of the economic class distinction itself, so the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally. (A reversion to an unobstructed pansexuality Freud's 'polymorphous perversity' - would probably supersede hetero/homo/bi-sexuality.) The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would born to both sexes equally, or independently of. either, however one chooses to look at it; the dependence of the child on the mother (and vice versa) would give way to a greatly shortened dependence on a small group of others in general, and any remaining inferiority to adults in physical strength would be compensated for culturally. The division of labour would be ended by the elimination of labour altogether (through cybernetics). The tyranny of the biological family would be broken.
—Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex
If I remember correctly Firestone imagined artificial wombs. This vision influenced a lot of feminist science fiction. It influenced me--because it made me think. It made me work out what I didn't like about her vision.

What I didn't like was the separation of mind and body. On some level I've always believed that if we all--women and men--just loved our bodies more, not less, if we valued our organic and visceral selves, our overlaps and differences, rather than despairing over or disliking same, we would all be better off. We are our bodies. The more divorced we become from them, the more alien we become to ourselves and each other.

But that book was a mind-opener to me, the crack that let the light in.

Print

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jeepster

I have a new toy:


A ukelele made by a friend, Karina. And, trust me, it was a complete surprise. (Though apparently Kelley was in on the plot.)


But it's a very happy surprise. I had no idea I was yearning to get back to music until I tried this out. I'm calling it Jeepster, because of its decoration (also by  the multi-talented Karina).


I suspect that over the next months I will drive those I love, plus a few neighbours, batshit crazy with my amateur plinking. After ten minutes with it, I know it's going to be a lot easier to play than a guitar. So maybe it won't be too long before I'm driving you all crazy with it, too, bringing YouTube to its knees...

Anyone out there have any notion of how the music of Jeep might sound?

Print

Monday, August 27, 2012

Publishing-related tidbits and some wild guesses

I'm still catching up on news that might be of interest from the last ten days or so. Today: publishing.

Last week, the Department of Justice accused publishers of wanting to be treated like Special Snowflakes:

The DoJ maintains that arguments made by the parties that the government doesn’t understand the e-book business is just a variation made by other industries at other times. “While e-books are a relatively new arrival on the publishing scene, a plea for special treatment under the antitrust laws is an old standby,” the DoJ wrote. “Railroads, publishers, lawyers, construction engineers, health care providers, and oil companies are just some of the voices that have raised cries against ‘ruinous competition’ over the decades. Time and time again the courts have rejected the invitation to exempt particular businesses from the reach of the Sherman Act.” (Publishers Weekly)
Well, okay, they didn't actually call them special snowflakes, but Courtney Milan, in a post definitely worth reading, did:
Your Unspecial Antitrust Snowflake 
This post is for those publishing professionals who think that if they can just get the DOJ to understand the argument that publishing is special, the lawsuit against the agency publishers will magically vanish.
These people have probably not taken a look at the history of price-fixing. Every industry that has been socked with a price-fixing complaint has argued that it is special, and if only the court understood how special it was, the court would agree that it should have the capacity to fix prices. Every industry. I don’t know why every industry feels it has to make this argument, but they all lose—every single time. 
This blog post is a "greatest hits" of antitrust—throwing together a smattering of cases in which industries have argued that they should be exempt from antitrust law, that the Court simply doesn’t understand the industry, and that if only it did, they would prevail! (via Dear Author)
If you have a subscription, Publishers Marketplace also has analysis.

I have little doubt that the matter will be settled soon. Very soon. The DoJ will prevail. This is going to mean big, big changes. For one thing, some Big Six publishers will be playing by different rules from the others. I suspect that there will soon be an Astonishing Merger (though I've no idea how quickly this will happen). If someone put a gun to my head and made me pull something out of thin air, I'd say that Random House will acquire HarperCollins. Is this very likely? Well, no, but making this kind of wild guess/juxtaposition is one of the ways I both entertain myself and learn to not fall into a rut when it comes to thinking about my business: how it works, and why, and who benefits.

Anyway, if you tie that notion of big change into Amazon's announcement of an up-coming Big Press Conference for September 6, it's difficult not to wonder. My guess is that they'll be introducing Kindle Fires of various iterations: possibly a 10" version (though more probably a sleeker, faster, more featured 7", and something backlit). It wouldn't shock me if they also announced some kind of publishing infrastructure surprise. They've been very quiet lately, so I bet something's brewing. But we'll find out soon enough. I wonder if it will be the long-awaited showroom (or acquisition of, or partnering with, bookstores that would serve as same). See note on wild guesses, above.

One thing's for sure, they won't be introducing this retro typewriter for iPad:



(Via AppNewser)

Print

Saturday, August 25, 2012

More on nuns, money, and the evolution of language

I know, I've been largely absent. Life is just being very, hm, lifelike at the moment. But here's a long, juicy post of some of the things I've found interesting in the last ten days or so.

We'll start with language. The Economist has a piece on the origins and evolution of Indo-European, the ur-tongue of the people stretching from Australia, Indian, Turkey, the Mediterranean and Western Europe:

In 2003 a team led by Quentin Atkinson, of the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, employed a computer to generate a genealogical tree of Indo-European languages. Their model put the birth of the family, which includes languages as seemingly diverse as Icelandic and Iranian, between 9,800 and 7,800 years ago. This was consistent with the idea that it stemmed from Anatolia, in modern-day Turkey, whence it spread with the expansion of farming.
A new report in Science settles the question once and for all. If you like pictures better than words, you can watch a nifty animation of the spread of the language family here.

In the Guardian, Ali Smith talks about style vs. form. I'm not sure it's really possible to draw a meaningful distinction. The words we choose, the order in which we place them, creates the story, people, theme, emotion, atmosphere, subject and object we are describing. But Smith lays it all out as only she can:
It's the easiest argument in the world, and one of the most specious, style v content. The cliched view of literary style, especially style which draws attention to itself as style, is that it's a surface thing, a thing of appearance, a skin-deep thing; a fraudulent thing, not the real thing, blocking us from what it's trying to say even as it says it.
But everything written has style.
The biggest organisation of American nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), have had their conference to decide on how to respond to the Vatican's appointment of an overseer (which I discussed here). As the National Catholic Reporter notes, they've decided on a strategy:
"Religious life, as it is lived by the women religious who comprise LCWR, is an authentic expression of this life that must not be compromised," [the statement] said.
"The assembly instructed the LCWR officers to conduct their conversation with Archbishop Sartain from a stance of deep prayer that values mutual respect, careful listening and open dialogue," the statement said. "The officers will proceed with these discussions as long as possible, but will reconsider if LCWR is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission."
[...]
When the final draft was read aloud at Friday’s afternoon executive session, said Benedictine Sr. Anne Sheperd, the group gave a "lasting standing ovation" to the final draft.
Asked what she hopes to receive in dialogue with Sartain, Farrell said LCWR wants "to be recognized and be understood as equal in the church."
Equal, in this context, is a powder keg word. The vatican has been explicit: women obey men. More particularly: nuns must obey bishops. I couldn't begin to say where this will end up. I have such mixed feelings: I'm delighted that the nuns aren't going to take it lying down; I'm dreading the possible consequences for these women. Are they doing the right thing? Absolutely. Will it end well? The odds aren't very good. But the American Catholic church is the financial mainstay of the global church. What happens here is of consequence to the Vatican. Let's wait and see. If you want more detail, go read the LCWR's press release, and their take on how the first sit-down with their appointed overseer went. Note the reiteration that their take on religion "is an authentic expression of this life that must not be compromised."

From USA Today an article about the LCWR's 'conservative rival' organization, the CMSWR:
Often overlooked in the coverage of the LCWR showdown, they largely belong to a separate organization, called the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, that the Vatican set up in 1992 as traditional alternative — some say a conservative rival — to the more progressive LCWR.
[...]
[T]he CMSWR communities are growing, and getting younger, which has many fans saying that they represent the future of women's religious communities precisely because they reflect the past with confidence and with no discussion of dissent.
More on the Catholic church, this time the way it handles money. The Economist has strong words:
OF ALL the organisations that serve America’s poor, few do more good work than the Catholic church: its schools and hospitals provide a lifeline for millions.* Yet even taking these virtues into account, the finances of the Catholic church in America are an unholy mess. [..] The church’s finances look poorly co-ordinated considering (or perhaps because of) their complexity. The management of money is often sloppy. And some parts of the church have indulged in ungainly financial contortions in some cases—it is alleged—both to divert funds away from uses intended by donors and to frustrate creditors with legitimate claims, including its own nuns and priests.
This one is most definitely worth reading.

----
* And guess who runs those programmes? Right: nuns. And not the contemplative, cloistered nuns of CMSWR but the roll-their-sleeves-up types in the LCWR.

Print

Monday, August 20, 2012

Writers are not happy with their publishers

From the UK last week: a survey of published authors. Two-thirds of respondents have published three or more books. And nearly three-quarters were published by a Big Six UK publisher (Random House, HarperCollins, etc.), a serious independent press (Faber, Canongate, etc.), or academic/educational/professional outfit (such as a university press). In other words, not amateurs.

In my thoughts below I'm paraphrasing the results and so, no doubt, taking liberties of interpretation. But, hey, the data's there for all to see. Go look for yourself.

First of all, and no surprise: the money is pitiful. Around 59% of the writers surveyed got an advance of less than ₤5,000 for their most recent book. (Remember, the majority of these writers have published three or more books with big, serious publishers. And given that most books take at least a year to write--it takes me longer--this is abysmally far from a living wage.) Despite that, during the  first few questions the publishers seem to be coming out well: nearly three-quarters of respondents found the editorial input from their publishers good or excellent, and more than 80% thought the production values to be so. When it comes to feeling paid promptly--which, for this author at least, is one of the prime indicators of satisfaction--this sinks a bit to about two-thirds.

But then everything goes to hell.

Marketing and communications is clearly a big problem: well over three-quarters felt unguided by the publisher. About half felt that communication after publication was poor. As a result, nearly three-quarters of these professional writers are seriously considering self-publishing in the future.

I haven't seen data like these from North America or Australia or India, never mind other-language markets, so it's difficult to extrapolate to literature in general. But I feel it safe to say that a substantial number of writers in the UK are less than happy with the way things currently work in publishing.

In most professions, this level of unhappiness would lead to change: industrial action, radical reform, or mass exodus. But (and I speak from personal experience) writers are lazy people, and publishing as a field has a history of whingeing.

Nonetheless, if were to extrapolate from this survey to the future of publishing in this country, I'd predict divergence of the writing ecosystem into at least three layers:

  • The Ivy League of writers who attend the best MFA courses and sell their literary fiction or creative non-fiction to the top tier old-school presses (FSG, Knopf, etc). These presses, in turn, sell their books via all the usual online retailers; through carefully curated reading series; and in the few remaining, powerful indie bookstores. The books will be reviewed on NPR, in the NYTRB, and on the biggest book websites.
  • Young, fiery self-pubbed phenoms who will be astoundingly creative at raising money, crowd-sourcing skills and resources, and finding new ways to sell.
  • A colourful variety of nimble hybrid presses who fill the in-between space, recruiting from both proven self-pubbers and litfic grandees who fancy changing their game. Some will be d-only, some p-only, some p-o-d, some bundling all of the above with performance or education; some paying advances, some profit-sharing. Etc. That is, every permutation you can think of, and no doubt many we can't yet.
In other words--and no surprises here, either--the changes we've already seen will accelerate. In the way of all change it will happen a little bit at a time and then all at once.

I'd love to see a similar survey of editors, and independent booksellers, and literary marketing professionals, and from more than one country. Then we'd start to really get a picture of what's going on. But this I'm sure of: change is. We are in it. Enjoy the ride.

Print

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tightrope

Because Sunday is for music. And there's nothing at all wrong with watching a good looking woman dancing (and she can dance) in a tux...


Via @ShermanAlexie

Print

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Terms of Service; Didn't Read

I have read and agree to the Terms” is the biggest lie on the web.  We aim to fix that.

We are a user rights initiative to rate and label website terms & privacy policies, from very good Class A to very bad Class E

Terms of Service; Didn't Read is a very cool initiative. If you have a detail-oriented mind, a bit of free time, and a passion for privacy and transparency on the web, they'd love to get your help.

They've already rated a few services (SoundCloud good, Twitpic bad) but their list of those that need attention is long. I'm really looking forward to finding out how the Google ToS compares, for example, with Twitter, and Apple witih Microsoft. Any bets?

Print

Friday, August 17, 2012

A pretty way to die


This is bornite (Cu5FeS4), also known as peacock copper, for obvious reasons. It's from Montana, courtesy of our neighbour, and beautiful, and heavy.


As you can see, it's small, but if I threw that at your forehead with sufficient force, you wouldn't get up again. A pretty way to die.

Why, yes! I am back in Hild world, thank you for asking. I'm researching and pondering Book II and so thinking violently again. Lovely!

As I ponder I'll be using this lump of shiny goodness as a paperweight for all my notes and vaguely hoping for an opportunity to use it for it's true purpose...

Print

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Harry Harrison

Harry Harrison died this morning. He was the author of (among others) the Deathworld trilogy, The Stainless Steel Rat series, and Make Room! Make Room!

I never met him, but I read his books. My favourites? Deathworld 1 and 3. And of those two, probably the latter. It taught me the uses of history and the remorselessness of cultural change. All that and swords and ponies. I loved it. I would like to have met him and told him so.

In his memory, I think it would be a fine thing for all of us to go read a book we love and then tell its author why.

Print

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Want to help put a lesbian in the Senate?

This morning I was reading the Wall Street Journal (an excellent paper if you ignore the editorial pages) and came across a photo of the four candidates battling it out in Wisconsin to be the Republican candidate for the Senate. I burst out laughing: they all looked the same. Same grey suit. Same red tie. Same mid-brown-to-grey hair. Same hair cut--though two parted on the left and two on the right. All white. All boys. The similarities were so striking that for one wild moment I thought it might be a joke. (See the photo for yourself here. ETA: I forgot, you need a subscription for that. Sorry.)

I drank more tea, regained perspective, and moved on.

Later, at my desk, I read in The Advocate (also an excellent paper, though I thought their recent piece on quiltbag biography was rather shoddy--why so few women?), that the Democratic candidate who will face the grey-suited, red-tied Republican in the Senate race will be...Tammy Baldwin.

I burst out laughing again, this time in delight. My delight was compounded when I read that Baldwin will be the first candidate endorsed and supported by the lesbian Super PAC, (LPAC).

But here's the thing. Baldwin (an advocate of social justice, women's rights, and marriage equality) will need every penny she can get. Her Republican opponent (not an advocate of social justice, very probably anti-abortion, and doubtless against same-sex marriage) will be funded by people like the Koch brothers. So if you want to see the first lesbian (the first out queer person) Senator this year, and if you have some money to spare, go give it to LPAC. And let the games begin...

Print

Science fiction awards database

Oooh, look at this: the Science Fiction Awards Database, put together by Mark Kelly for the Locus Foundation. (Thanks to Cheryl Morgan for the link. And Kelly, of course, for compiling all the stats: very, very nifty.)

Being more than only human, I went to look at my own page--and was delighted to discover that my novelette, "It Takes Two," took second place for the 2010 Locus Award. Who knew? (Well, obviously lots of people. The writer is always the last to know...)

There's something very gratifying about seeing a list of awards like that. If only I could persuade some kind person to create a list that includes all my non-sf awards... Oh, wait, it's called an Artist's Resume and I built one of those earlier this year. Then spent the next week swinging like an emotional pendulum from godlike to unclean. As a result, I've come to the conclusion that it's really not healthy to chortle and croon over one's outside validation. I think Martha Graham was right: It's not an artist's job to decide how good her work is, nor how valuable to others; an artist's job is to keep the channel open.

Print

Monday, August 13, 2012

Orange to Apple?

It used to be called the Orange Prize for fiction, but Orange announced a while ago that, due to its merger with T-Mobile, it won't be renewing sponsorship. Currently it's vaguely referred to as the women's Prize for Fiction. But if the rumours from the Telegraph are true, soon it might be the Apple (or iBooks, or iPad, or other product name) Prize for Fiction.

If I were Apple, I'd be tempted to call it the Mac Book Prize. But, eh, that's just because the writer's brain likes to play. Apple are much more likely to tout a more-firmly reading-related product.

To me, one of the most interesting things about this whole story isn't that Apple is interested in sponsorship (though that is interesting), it's that so many other companies are, too--eighteen, at last count. I don't know how much it costs to run a prize like this, but my guess would be somewhere around $500,000 a year. That's a significant chunk of change. Those eighteen corporations must understand the power of the book, the influence of story and the culture surrounding it.

That's a lovely way to start the week.

Print

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Keep the channel open

For you today this exerpt from a letter written by Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille:

“ There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost, the world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ”
Keep the channel open to your art. Whatever it takes. Go live in the flow. That's the whole point.

Print

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Recently arrived


I'm looking forward to this one. From the recent Wall Street Journal review:
Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta and Madge Garland were singular women who came of age between the wars and who have fallen through the cracks of history. They moved in overlapping social circles in New York, London and Paris, powerfully influencing those circles yet never building bodies of work that would endure after they died.
The fact that these women, all fundamentally lesbian, knew one another and sometimes romanced one another places them in a milieu of personal and sexual freedom that, while mostly under-the-radar, was progressive for its time. In provocative and beautifully paced prose, Ms. Cohen writes that "juxtaposing [these] lives was a way to illuminate work that has not been recognized as such: in Murphy's case, prolific conversation; in de Acosta's, the fervent, often shameful acts and feelings associated with being a fan and collector; in Garland's, a career in the ephemeral, often trivialized world of fashion."
Anyone read it?

Print

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Working on something

Today I'm going to focus on writing a story. Which will probably end up as a novelette or even a novella. Because that's just how this shit works. I rarely have neat, 6,000-word ideas. I'm more a 12,000-words person. Or 20,000. Occasionally 2,000. But, trust me, this isn't a 2,000-word idea.

So today, girls and boys, you're on your own. Go watch the Olympics. Even better, go for a walk, then sit in the sun and read a book. Or pick one of the other dozen daily delights I've recommended. A little of what you fancy is good for you--a lot is even better...

Print

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Nuns, medals, Mars

Nuns:

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is meeting today in Washington D.C. to formulate their response to the Vatican's decision to appointment an Archbishop to oversee and vet their activities and statements. (For background on this, see previous posts here and here.) LCWR will probably release a statement on Friday, and I'm intensely curious about it. This could be a make-or-break moment for the Catholic Church in the US.

For a taste of how the nuns might respond, read this paragraph from a recent interview with Sister Pat Farrell, President of LCWR, with Terry Gross on NPR. Gross asks Farrell how she feels about the things the Congregation for the Doctrine on the Faith (the lovely people who brought us the Inquisition, back in the day) have said about LCWR, and Farrell says:

Deeply saddened and angered, and I think that's just offensive. And I think it reflects a serious misunderstanding and misinterpretation of who we are. And I think it reflects the impoverishment of the church that has not held the leadership and the voice of women in a place of equal prominence. I think that's what we're seeing reflected there. And to call that concern radical feminism I think just reflects the fear of women in the church and the fear of what could happen if women were really listened to and taken seriously.
Do read the whole transcript. I don't think LCWR are going to take this control of their organisation by bishops quietly. And I don't think they'll be alone. The Franciscan friars of the US have declared their support.

Medals:



I'm feeling happily patriotic when I contemplate the Olympic medal table (especially as two Yorkshire lads from my neck of the woods just increased the haul). At some other time I'll go into what that means, and why, but today I just want to watch lovely bodies doing extreme things while British people shout their throats raw. Great, uncomplicated stuff.

Mars:

And finally, Curiosity has landed on Mars. It cost several billion dollars. It used a daring landing technique. It's a one-ton mobile lab on another planet. I feel as though I should be more excited about this but while I'm perfectly happy that it's landed successfully, I just can't beat myself into a froth about it. After all, it's the seventh probe sent to Mars. I do hope it finds something nifty, but I'd be more breathless if it was Leigh Brackett's Mars they were landing on.

Print

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why I Really Like This Book: a great podcast

From: Kate Macdonald

I'm starting a new miniseries of podcasts on my weekly 10-minute podcast site, Why I Really Like This Book, on feminist science fiction, and Ammonite is the culminating entry. I was wondering if you ever thought of writing a sequel, or had published short fiction extending the Ammonite world? I see that your new book is called Hild, which is an Ammonite name: is that connected?
No, I have no plans for a sequel to Ammonite. And no, currently there are no short stories out there. But I do have ideas for stories every now and again and suspect that one day I'll write one of them. (I talked very recently to a newish e-only publisher who is very keen on the idea, so this could happen.)

Meanwhile, there are two audio snippets from the book available on my website. Enjoy.

I listened to your podcast about Mary Renault. I love her work, particularly Fire From Heaven. I think she's a magnificent storyteller--and, as you point out, her work, the people, the place, is easy to fall into. I've read The Praise Singer--I think I've read all her fiction--but I don't remember it very well. You've made me want to reread it, especially the oral-to-written Homer episode, so thanks for that. Thanks, too, for reintroducing me to the concept of dividing historical fiction into the categories of 'felt past' and 'recovered past'. (I forget where I first read about it: a review by Tom Shippey? Sounds like the kind of thing he'd say.*) I'll be spending some time pondering which camp Hild belongs to. I'm temped to bellow, "Both!" but perhaps that's wishful thinking. I don't have a firm enough grasp of how one differentiates.

Renault's fiction, along with the Aubrey/Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brian and Mary Stewart's Merlin series, was important to my development as a writer. I doubt Hild would exist without it.

Hild is the closest I've come to sweeping story and epic world-building since I wrote Ammonite. Both novels have female protagonists; language, too, is integral to both. But one is set in a future that will never be while the other is set in a past that actually happened. That is, the central character once existed: Hild of Whitby. It's Whitby, of course, that provides the connection: the place where I first encountered ammonite fossils (which in turn triggered my still-evolving fascination with phi. See Always for more on that.) Whitby, too, was where I fell in love with history. So, yes, the two novels are deeply connected but not, perhaps, in the way you might think.

Is Hild an Ammonite name?? I don't remember that. (There again, I wrote the book more than 20 years ago.) Hmm, I've just spent half an hour trying to check: looking for a glossary and list of characters I compiled long ago for the second edition of the novel--which, sadly, was never used, and somehow got lost in the moves from one hard drive to another over the years. A quick search through the Word document is essentially useless, because I don't know how to persuade it to look for Hild as opposed to child or children.**

If any readers know how to make Word do that kind of search, please, share! Meanwhile, I urge you all to go to iTunes and subscribe to the Why I Really Like This Book podcast, or to check out the Facebook page. It's good, chewy stuff.

-----
*Turns out to be the formulation of Harold Orel in The Historical Novel from Scott to Sabatini (Macmillan 1995), which sounds like a pretty nifty book.
** It also turns out that it wasn't Hild Kate was thinking of but Hilt, Thenike's sister. That's a relief. I was vaguely creeped out at the thought of not remembering one of my own characters. I imagine it'll happen one day (especially with Hild's cast of thousands) but, hey, today is not that day...

Print

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Summer evening


Thanks to two neighbours--one witting, the other not so much--yesterday we had lavender creme brulée for dessert. And thanks to some miraculous foresight on our part, we had Pouilly Fuissé to go with it. Delicious. And perfect for a hot summer afternoon melting into evening.

I hope you're all staying cool.

Print

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Absinthe ice lolly: a slip 'n' slide for the hot and bothered mind

From Wikimedia Commons. "Green ice pop" by dumbfoundling, a flickr user
For those of you tired of being too hot, here's something that will help: an absinthe ice lolly. (Or 'pop' as people here seem to say. Why? I've no idea.) Basically, you make a punch from absinthe, fresh lime, simple syrup, and water. If you make it in a punchbowl with ice and slice some cucumber into it, then, cool, there's your punch. Though I loathe cucumber so would use melon or something similar instead. (I'm open to suggestions.)

Alcohol has a lower freezing point than water, so many punches don't translate well to popsicles and lollies. This one does. But you'll need the exact proportions. So go get the recipe (from Anne-Louise Marquis) from Gizmodo. And have a blast.

Print

Friday, August 3, 2012

Drugworld

I've been zoning out and watching more Olympics. (Hey, my post-operative instructions say I'm 'required to rest.' What's your excuse?) And I'm enjoying more and more the physical power of the women athletes. Even the gymnasts are now standing with their legs apart, owning their space. None of that demure, folded-in body language we've been seeing for decades. Not before time.

And the football players... Well, I wish some of them would lose the froofy hair stuff--particularly the North Koreans--but, hey, if it makes them feel good, why not? (The Koreans are very young--about half the team are teenagers.) Ditto the sparkly cosmetics favoured by the Russian gymnasts.

I did enjoy the body decorations of a Team GB swimmer: she had the Olympic rings tattooed on her ribs. My names is Nicola Griffith and I approve of that message.

I admit, though, despite the improved body-language, I'm getting just a wee bit sick of the Olympics. It's like reading non-fiction: no matter how good it is, eventually I want to good sword-swangin' adventure fiction.

So I sat down to watch the entire Season 2 of Game of Thrones. (I have all eps of both seasons securely stashed on TiVo. I've watched the first season eps at least twice each.) But to my dismay, I couldn't manage even half an episode: it bored me. This, of course, could be due to all the meds I'm taking: tiny minds are easily bored. But I recall that even the first time around I found the first couple of S2 eps less than satisfactory--although the season hit its stride as it progressed. There again, after seeing so many real-life powerful women, the sexualised object of GoT might, this time, altered state of consciousness or not, prove unbearable.

So now I don't know what to watch. Perhaps Rome (but, eh, there's that horrible ep where Atia is abused). Perhaps TiVo can find me something suitably graspable-for-tiny-minds, non-sexist, and epical. Perhaps my interest in the Olympics will pick up when the track and field starts. Perhaps I'll recover enough brain power to, gasp, read.

ETA: I tried to watch Tron: EcstasyLegacy instead. I'd never seen it before. I sat, stunned, feeling the same way I had in 1980 when I took three mystery pills at a friend's house--which turned out to be MDMA--and got lost trying to walk the four blocks home while sodium lights  and stars streaked around me and the noise of passing cars turned into the best music I'd ever heard. Pretty wild. But I could only cope with about forty minutes of the film.

Print

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Marriage equality and the election

In The Advocate, Barney Frank says that marriage equality will be part of the Democratic Party platform in November:

Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts said in a telephone interview Monday that the Democratic Party will affirm its commitment to marriage equality in the platform currently being drafted and that the move has his "full support."
"Yes, it will be in the platform," said Frank. "I am in favor of it being included and it will be included."
I'm sorry that man is retiring.

Here in Washington State, things continue to look good for Referendum 74. But if you live here, if you know people who live here, please don't get complacent. Remind everyone--now and in November--to vote to approve R-74. Approving R-74 means approving marriage equality.

More on this--so much more--when my post-op drug fog evaporates.

Print

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Meat management

I was sitting in front of the TV yesterday watching women's swim finals in London (okay, zoning out--hey, the kind of drugs you need for oral surgery will do that to you) when I heard the commentator mention 'meat management'. I was surprised enough to drop my bag of frozen peas (great for reducing swelling), open my eyes, and lean forward.

Wow, I thought. The world certainly has changed when a commentator on NBC can be talking about lithe, lissome lasses while blithely discussing meat management and no one laughs nervously.

I tried to reconstruct the commentary. My drug-addled brain decided they'd been discussing the vagaries of bringing athletes to peak fitness. I decided I liked this acceptance of the body, with no shilly-shallying about women being feminine beings first and great athletes second. I liked it a lot. I drifted off into a reverie of a world in which women and men were truly and equally seen as physical machines while at the same time having emotions that influenced their performance...

And then, of course, it struck me: the commentators were talking about meet management. Meet management (I'm assuming) from two perspectives: the venue people organising the heats, the seeding, the schedule; and the participants, managing their energy and training to bring themselves to a peak at the important moment--while ensuring they don't lose the heats that will get them to that moment.

So, hey, gum surgery's been good for one thing: an interesting vision of the world. Watching the swimming was cool, too. Neither of which would have happened without the vile gum surgery and the lovely drugs that go with it. Moral of the story: never let anyone tell you there are no silver linings. (Though gold, of course, is better...)

Print