Posts tagged with "childhood" - Faerye Net 2011-08-11T09:35:03+00:00 Felicity Shoulders On beauty and bridges 2011-08-11T09:35:03+00:00 2011-08-11T09:35:23+00:00 <center><a href="" title="Marquam Bridge (1966) by poetas, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="333" border="0" alt="Marquam Bridge (1966)"></a><br /> <em>Marquam Bridge, photograph by Dave Feucht</a></em></center> <p>When I was young, I remember reading some opinion piece or quote in the <em>Oregonian</em> about the <a href="" target="links">Marquam Bridge</a>: how ugly it was, what an eyesore, a concrete monstrosity. I turned to my mom and asked which bridge that was. She patiently managed to explain it to me, despite the utter ignorance of which freeway was which that I cultivated in those pre-driving days.</p> <p>She had extra difficulty in explaining because I simply didn&#8217;t believe it was ugly. Yes, it&#8217;s notorious for ugliness, I now know. Just in choosing a photo of it on Flickr to illustrate this post I have come across several comments on that score. But I didn&#8217;t agree, and I still don&#8217;t.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s what the Marquam is to me: once you merge onto the top deck, there&#8217;s a curve and a bank and all at once the horizon opens up around you. The city&#8217;s on your left with a progression of pretty bridges, but on a good day you don&#8217;t care at all because on your right is Mount Hood, and ahead is Mount St. Helens, your friendly local volcanoes fresh in white or burned out in grays and blacks on a blue canvas. On a clear day, it takes your breath away. That is a beautiful experience of a bridge.</p> <p>I thought of that admittedly odd perspective recently when I was listening to <em><a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9781596914278'>Medicus</a></em>, a historical mystery set in Roman Britain. A British viewpoint character is being asked her name in Latin &#8212; <em>quid nomen tibi est?</em> &#8212; and thinks about how ugly Latin is. Again, I was shocked. Latin, ugly?</p> <p>Well, yes, I suppose it might be. I have only one year&#8217;s formal study of Latin, in addition to some childhood lessons from my Latin teacher grandma and years of singing liturgical Latin. I understand from Latin 101/102 that the way we pronounced Latin in choir was grossly unlikely to be how Romans pronounced it. The hopefully accurate rendering robs it of some of its dignity: <em>kikero</em>, not <em>sisero</em>; <em>weni, widi, wiki.</em> It&#8217;s full of hard noises, abrupt sounds. I suppose I can understand that to that imaginary Briton, it might be ugly. Unlike some of its Romance offspring, you can&#8217;t imagine it being called &#8216;flowing&#8217; and &#8216;musical&#8217;.</p> <p>But to me, even with my imperfect understanding, its a beautiful language. It communicates so effectively, so efficiently: the endings tell you precisely what the word is doing in the sentence, so that you can move the words about for aesthetic or rhetorical effect and lose no meaning. It has a set of assumptions that clip out unnecessary words. It allows for clarity and nuance. It&#8217;s a beautiful machine of a language, even all these years later. It is elegant. It is awesome.</p> <p>Or, you know, it&#8217;s just a concrete double-decker that gets you from one place to another.</p> <p>I suppose I think beauty isn&#8217;t in the eye of the beholder &#8212; it&#8217;s in where she stands.</p> Creepy Kid Calibration 2011-05-30T15:58:13+00:00 2011-05-30T15:58:21+00:00 <p>Creepy kids in movies are a thing. I&#8217;d go look it up on TVtropes, except that I would lose hours of time reading TVtropes. So let&#8217;s just take it as read, as denizens of popular culture, that there are a lot of creepy kids in movies (and TV, and books.) They&#8217;re a horror clich&eacute; at this point, especially the female version &#8212; and why are they so often female? There&#8217;s another blog post there, don&#8217;t spoil it for me by being brilliant.</p> <p>Anyhow, the creepy Feral Child in <em>Road Warrior</em> made me think of other movie children I have known, and try to set his creepiness amongst them. I must confess, I initially made this scale run up to a maximum of St. Alia of the Knife, but Ryan disabused me of this notion, arguing persuasively that the scale was recalibrated in 2002 if not earlier. So, feast your eyes on this <span class="caps">SCIENCE</span>!</p> <p><img src="" title="scale of creepy kids" /></p> How to tell a 28-year-old from a kid (a remedial guide) 2009-02-04T21:20:55+00:00 2009-02-04T21:24:25+00:00 <p>I realize that in our youth-obsessed culture, a twenty-eight year-old (well, 27 and fifty weeks) is expected to giggle with girlish glee when a strange man thinks she&#8217;s young. But there is something in a solicitor saying &#8220;Are your mom and dad at home?&#8221; that gets on my nerves. The feeling that the hipster on the stoop is not part of the reality-based community, perhaps, or the fact that the question clearly dismisses me as a potential source of help to destitute orphans or environmentalists &#8211; dismisses my agency, as it were.</p> <p>Therefore, I offer the following tips, fully cognizant of the fact that they rely on generalizations about what kids and teens are like versus what adults are like. In fact, some of them wouldn&#8217;t have held true for me at 14 (and I do realize I&#8217;m wearing a shirt I already owned at that age.) Regardless, please read on, charitable clipboarders of the world. Read and consider.</p> <p><b>Observe interrupted activity</b>. Is the woman wearing an apron or overalls? Does she have a dust-rag stuck in her pocket, or is her face or shirt covered in flour? Juvenile humans tend to have more success avoiding homely tasks such as cooking or cleaning than do the fully grown specimens, and they less often have specialized chore-clothing for these activities. If there is evidence you have interrupted the subject while reading, does the book appear to be an introductory textbook? A weighty Russian novel? Use your skills of inference.</p> <p><b>Listen to the music.</b> Holst art songs are more likely to belong to a twenty-eight-year-old than to a teenybopper. If it were Beyoncé, I admit that might be a poser. But in general, Miles Davis means adult, Miley Cyrus means pre-teen. Got it?</p> <p><b>Assess bosom size.</b> You heard me. I have it on good authority that heterosexual men are skilled in observing this area without appearing to do so. So use your peripheral vision and your judgment, and remember that while many grown women wear A-cups, not too many eleven-year-olds sport Cs.</p> <p><b>Consider which way you want to err.</b> I have never heard a fourteen-year-old annoyed by being thought to be grown up. I am not the only twenty-something, however, who is annoyed at being written off by people who came around to bother <span class="caps">HER</span> in the first place. Being thought too young to buy alcohol means you look like a young adult; being thought too young to hear a spiel on beach clean-up is a little insulting.</p> <p>Do I really think this blog post will make a lick of difference? No. But I have hereby tried to meet them halfway, and I&#8217;m therefore allowed to indulge in any hijinx I may please in future. Next time I come to the door in an apron and a <span class="caps">BUN</span> (pigtails I can understand, but a <span class="caps">BUN</span>?) and get asked whether my parents are home, there will be sport.</p> Random note: doll diversity 2008-12-22T20:32:09+00:00 2008-12-22T20:36:09+00:00 <p>In my interwebby travels, I found myself at a list of <a href="" target="links">black dolls</a> available from a web store, linked to by a <a href="" target="links">blogger suggesting dolls for Zahara Jolie-Pitt</a>. Yes, I was reading a blog about the care of African-American hair. No, I can&#8217;t remember why. It&#8217;s the internet, it&#8217;s like that.</p> <p>Anywho, looking at the ranges of dolls reminded me of something from my childhood: my favorite dolls were Asian (and Pacific Islander). My favorite Barbie for many years was a Hawaiian doll named <a href="" target="links">Miko</a>, who was succeeded upon her eventual decapitation (Mom always told me not to take them outside &#8212; dropping Barbies on the sidewalk is fatal) by an Asian-American <a href="" target="links">doll named Kira</a>. I was already deeply ambiguous about Barbies as a child, thanks to my feminist upbringing, but I did like them and created epic storylines where they warred around the room in various outfits (the blondes were usually the villains.)</p> <p>I had forgotten why Miko and Kira were my favorites until I was looking at the above-linked list of black dolls. Several of the dolls are parts of lines that include <a href="" target="links">a blonde doll, an &#8220;Asian&#8221; doll, and a &#8220;Black&#8221; doll.</a> Some, like the one I linked above, include a redhead. Some lines have <a href="" target="links">a whole mess of white dolls</a> (in this case, with crazy hair colors) with one &#8220;Asian&#8221; and one &#8220;Black&#8221;. Another side note: apparently you can&#8217;t have Asian or Black dolls with purple hair when all the white dolls have pink, lavender, et cetera &#8212; the Asian doll has just streaks of pink, while the Black doll has black hair and what really look like hair-curlers. I hope many theses have been written on this stuff, because <em>damn</em>.</p> <p>My point is that toy companies now apparently try to satisfy diversity, when they do at all, by rounding out their lines with one Black doll and one Asian doll. This was even less widespread when I was a little brunette (and my hair was almost black as a child) &#8212; mostly there was just one white doll, usually blonde, and if there was another option she was black. I grabbed any doll with light skin and dark hair I could &#8212; and often they were Asian dolls (I saw ads for brunette Barbie friend Teresa but never found her in the store.) Heck, I even grabbed redhead Midges, to have a relief from the sea of blonditude.</p> <p>So I have to wonder what little Latina girls are getting at the toy store. I&#8217;ve heard that retail spending by Latinas (teens and up, but still) is the fastest growing in America. So why the hell wouldn&#8217;t you make a doll with dark hair? It seems that there&#8217;s some realization that Bratz&#8217;s diversity as well as their much-vaunted &#8220;style&#8221; made them popular &#8212; Barbie&#8217;s <a href="" target="links">attempt to hit back at Bratz</a> had black, Asian-American and brown-haired white dolls, and was adding a Hispanic doll. But it&#8217;s still puzzling to me that the blond hegemony is so firmly in place overall. Dark hair is a dominant trait &#8212; there&#8217;s a lot of us. If rarity were the rationale, all dolls would be redheads. Since that&#8217;s not the case, what&#8217;s with the lack of brunettes?</p> <p>I made this a rambling, casual note on purpose because this is one of those topics that yawns before you, demanding endless research, and it isn&#8217;t really my field. But seriously, why so few brunettes? And is this Asian/brunette partial equivalency well-established, because now Barbie seems to sell more Teresas and no Kiras?</p> The Midnight Folk 2008-08-25T08:56:44+00:00 2008-09-26T22:21:20+00:00 <p>The other day EMeta mentioned <a href="" target="links">in comments</a> how inexplicable it is that Gene Wolfe isn&#8217;t a household name. Here is another one of those inexplicable oversights of the book world: <a href="" target="links"><em>The Midnight Folk</em></a> by John Masefield.</p> <p>This book sat on my shelf for years unread when I was a child, one of a few red-banded paperbacks like E. Nesbit&#8217;s <em>Three Children and It</em> that had materialized there unseen, like untorn books in Colin Craven&#8217;s sickroom. I often picked it up and put it down again in favor of more known quantities (for I was a great rereader) in spite of the cover, which sported a young woman on a <em>horse</em> inexplicably hovering in the night sky!</p> <p>Whenever it was that I finally opened it, I could have kicked my previous selves for putting it down unread. It is charming, brimming with adventure, and written with a seamless confusion between the real and magical realms. Its charm is partially in its hero, Kay Harker, who writes himself a letter at one point (an assignment from his supercilious governess) that runs:</p> <blockquote>My dear Kay,<br /> I hop you are quite well.<br /> I hop your friends, the cats, are quite well.<br /> I am quite well.<br /> Please give my love to Ellen. I hop she is quite well. We have a nice dog here, but he is norty.</blockquote> <p>If that doesn&#8217;t have you saying &#8220;hop you are quite well&#8221; and &#8220;norty&#8221; (naughty) for the rest of your life in sheer delight (as I do) then you&#8217;re constituted quite differently from me.</p> <p>John Masefield was the Poet Laureate of England for a while, and the book is quite enjoyable to adults (who, in our degenerate age, are more likely to understand Kay&#8217;s horror at Latin lessons and French conjugation). Its challenging habit of hopping from a reality where witches convene on brooms pilfered from the Harker family house to one where Kay&#8217;s guardian, Lord Theopompus, holds forth is engaging and wondrous. The common thread in both worlds is the lost fortune said to have been stolen and hidden by Kay&#8217;s seafaring forebear. With the help of various magical personages and the friendlier local cats and foxes, Kay tries to find out the truth about the treasure (and his family&#8217;s past) before the greedy coven of witches and wizards can beat him to it.</p> <p>In short, this book is a strange, idiosyncratic delight with a twisting historical mystery, a cast of bizarre characters, and a charmingly disobedient protagonist. It deserves a place on the bookshelf of every book-loving child and child at heart. However &#8211; and this is why I write this blogget &#8211; it is largely unknown in our era and has long languished out of print. 108 people on <a href="" target="links">LibraryThing</a> own it, and only 21 on the more populous <a href="" target="links">Goodreads</a>. When I discovered that my childhood copy had gone missing, my mother quietly looked for years before buying a 1959 printing over the web from New Zealand and presenting it on my 19th birthday.</p> <p>However, these dark days are coming to a close. <em>The Midnight Folk</em> is being reprinted, available September 30 <a href="" target="links">according to Powell&#8217;s</a>. I encourage everyone intrigued by this blog post to pick up a copy (but not to read the spoilerish Publisher Comments) at once &#8211; preorder if you like! It&#8217;s a book that deserves a wide and loving audience. I hop it shall do quite well.</p> I've been wrong my whole life! 2008-08-05T08:01:17+00:00 2008-08-05T08:01:17+00:00 <p>When you&#8217;re a kid, the facts that don&#8217;t make sense are all the more important for it. Other kids will fall into the same trap you did, and you can correct them. This is important stuff. These are the foundations of being right. &#8220;Koala bears aren&#8217;t bears,&#8221; for example; and &#8220;Panda bears aren&#8217;t bears.&#8221;</p> <p>Except <a href="">Giant Pandas are bears</a> and have been for years (that article is from 1985). Now, I&#8217;m not sure whether I already had a panda vs. bear opinion in preschool, but it&#8217;s quite possible I&#8217;ve been wrong about this distinction my entire life. The change took a while to percolate out into public knowledge &#8211; I remember the <a href="" target="links">zoo</a> feeding us the Proconyid (raccoon family) line on field trips when they showed us the <a href="" target="links">Red Pandas</a>. It took even longer to filter into my consciousness. I actually realized today, after the first shock of hearing &#8220;panda&#8221; listed among the bears on a nature special, that I have been told this before. The information simply broke against the wall of kindergarten certainty that Pandas Aren&#8217;t Bears (compounded perhaps with a later tendency towards <a href="" target="links">splitterism</a>) and fell away.</p> <p>So partially I&#8217;m blogging this so anyone else out there laboring under this misconception (and as enamored as I of Being Right) can learn the startling truth, and partially I&#8217;m admitting my error publicly so it will forever be cemented in my mind. From now on I will remember: Everything I thought I knew about Pandas was a lie!</p> <center><a href="" target="links"><br /> <img src="" title="Panda Cat, photo by fox_kiyo" width="240" height="180" alt="Panda Cat" border="0" /></a></center> The potential mystery of confederate gray 2008-07-09T14:12:56+00:00 2008-07-09T14:14:22+00:00 <p>In yesterday&#8217;s post <a href="" target="links">on the spelling of &#8216;grey&#8217;</a> (even I can&#8217;t believe the things I talk about sometimes) I was going to mention how I finally cemented that &#8216;gray&#8217; was the US spelling only by calling to mind the wrapper on my Crayola confederate gray crayon.</p> <p>I searched for a picture of this crayon, thinking that, such is the capacity of the internet for nostalgia and even indignation over necessary change that there was a chance someone would have snapped a picture of a surviving crayon. Behold, I could find no picture, and almost no mention of the thing (and the comments at the free republic aren&#8217;t the most reliable source.) Finally I looked at the <a href="" target="links">Crayola history of crayon colors</a> and discovered it was not listed. Other changes, like the change of Indian red (after a colorful soil in India) to chestnut? Yes. &#8220;Flesh&#8221; to &#8220;peach&#8221;? Certainly. But the axing of confederate gray? Nowhere to be found. Wikipedia, where lost information goes to find itself, does not mention it either.</p> <p>Now, I suppose one could impugn the honesty of the Crayola company, but I find it hard to imagine that they would be more ashamed of having &#8216;confederate&#8217; on a pretty genuinely confederate-uniform-colored crayon than of thinking all skin was peach-colored. Was there ever a &#8220;confederate gray&#8221; crayon? I had hazy memories of it being canceled amid a contest to name new colors. I&#8217;m sure the contest happened, but is this just the mutability of memory? Is &#8220;confederate gray&#8221; an urban myth that attached itself to my strangely capacious Crayola memory space?</p> <p>Does anyone else remember this crayon?</p> grey and gray 2008-07-08T11:27:48+00:00 2008-07-08T11:27:48+00:00 <p>In my third semester in the <span class="caps">MFA</span>, I got a marginal note from my advisor: &#8220;grey is Engl. spelling &#8211; gray is U.S. spelling&#8221;. On the next page, he circled &#8216;gray&#8217; (pushing consistency), and by the end of that semester I had added &#8220;find/replace grey&#8221; to the list of final touches I must put on a story before sending it out.</p> <p>I actually remember having trouble with this as a child. We largely learn to spell by reading, or at least I did, and massive numbers of the books I read as a child were British. I remember being admonished for writing &#8216;colour&#8217; and &#8216;flavour&#8217; as a first- or second-grader, and my indignation at the unfairness. It was in books! How could it be wrong if it was spelled that way <em>in books</em>? But some variations between British and American English are further under the radar than &#8216;glamour&#8217; and &#8216;theatre&#8217;. Enforcement of &#8216;gray&#8217; was not widespread, and I wasn&#8217;t sure which I should use. I remember misspelling my grandmother&#8217;s name as &#8216;Vey&#8217; instead of &#8216;Vay&#8217; &#8211; I don&#8217;t think my parents realized it, but that was because of &#8216;grey&#8217;.</p> <p>Now that I realize the distinction, it&#8217;s interesting to see that, while I obviously prefer &#8216;grey&#8217;, I use both. Search finds 69 non-Grey City hits for &#8216;grey&#8217;, 31 non-name hits for &#8216;gray&#8217; just on this site. Heck, I even spell Marvel Girl&#8217;s secret identity both ways. I&#8217;m hemorrhaging geek-cred while we speak. At any rate, I think I use the word &#8216;grey&#8217; for more subtle or numinous hues and connotations, whereas I reach for the American &#8216;gray&#8217; for flatter, darker tones. Zombies are gray. <a href="" target="links">Skies over oceans</a> are grey. No wonder I&#8217;ve been using the latter extensively <a href="" target="links">in my thesis</a>. One wonders what other linguistic quirks I will discover in myself as I turn a disciplined eye to my writing!</p> Childhood memories: Mother Ocean 2004-08-17T15:18:15+00:00 2008-08-14T11:21:20+00:00 <p>When I was little, my parents would take me to the beach, and my father would carry me in a sturdy baby backpack along the grey, shimmering margin. I don&#8217;t know, truly, if these are my memories, or back-formed images tricked out of photographs and later trips. But the later trips &mdash; those I know I remember. My mother would wear a quilted aqua jacket which I privately thought looked like Princess Leia&#8217;s Hoth vest, and my father would wear his sturdy brown corduroy coat with the big knobbly buttons, just as he would to work outside in bad weather. The corduroy was large of wale, and made a sound like a giant zipper when he moved his arms.</p> <p>My sister and I would wear little hooded sweatshirts or jackets, gathered tight around our faces to save our ears from the whistling wind, but there was no way to save our red noses from cold and dripping. Our bangs would tangle and fill with salt and sand as we dug and played. I loved to dig, and my sister, I think, loved to build, so she would set me to making the moat while she used the resulting pile to build a castle &mdash; one year, my parents bought her sand castle molds, and her castles rose perfect and tidy until the waters came.</p> <p>I would dance along the waterline, spinning in the wind or the sun, just as I do now, child that I am, when I see the sea. I walked along the coast alongside my long-legged parents, and ran like an excited puppy at every tantalizing treasure half-exposed in the sand &mdash; the fragment of sand-dollar that <em>might</em> have been a whole, the bit of wood that <em>might</em> have been a timber of a wrecked ship, the jelly-fish that <em>might</em> have still been alive, and wriggling, and dangerous. I would write my name in the sand, and then, as I grew older and came to look upon the ocean not just as a vast, beautiful noise, a force that had tried to draw me in when tiny, a m&eacute;lange of shimmers and shadings, but as the source of life, I would dawdle behind my parents and my sister as they headed up the beach away from the waterline, and write in the wet sand, &#8220;Mother Ocean.&#8221;</p>