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Monday November 29, 2010 @ 01:35 PM (UTC)

I only made four pies this year! I am such a slacker. Although I note that since we had our Thanksgiving gathering on Saturday rather than Thursday, my not posting the pie pics prior should not be proposed as part and parcel of my procrastination.

Felicity's maple custard pie
Maple Custard Pie, photographed by Ryan. Pumpkin in background. Pecan lurks.

As ever, the maple custard pie comes to us via Ken Haedrich’s Pie: 300 Tried-And-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie. Long may it reign!

Reluctant romantics

Saturday November 27, 2010 @ 03:25 PM (UTC)

At the beginning of the “Much Ado About Nothing” production in the BBC’s Shakespeare Retold, the credits roll over events several years before the action of the play. Beatrice is preparing for a big date; Benedick is preparing…to skip town for a big job.

Now, some of you may realize this isn’t countertextual: it’s a spinning out of one line:

DON PEDRO: Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of
Signior Benedick.

BEATRICE: Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave
him use for it, a double heart for his single one:
marry, once before he won it of me with false dice,
therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.

I could go on at some length about the casting of this production — Damian Lewis as Benedick, be still my heart; and Sarah Parish, the pretty, witty Beatrice with the motile face. But I’m here to talk about the introduction and one shot in particular where Beatrice scatters red rose petals over her bed, then looks at them, goes off screen, and comes back with a dustbuster to remove them. With her expressive face, you see the whole thought process play out.

I love this moment. It crystallizes something very important: Beatrice is a reluctant romantic. She is a romantic, or she never would have thought of the petals: but once deployed they strike her as too much, too obvious, too vulnerable, too earnest. Too romantic.

I can sympathize. I don’t know what scholar put forward the idea of the romance cult, but I first read about it in Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death. Basically, the idea is that as the power of the Church has declined in post-Medieval Europe (and the European-inflected West) the place of Christianity has been supplied by worldly romance. Sure, the Western world is still chock-full of Christians, but Christianity can no longer safely be assumed to be a universal constant. Stories told in the Renaissance and later depend on different universal truths and aspirations, a different transcendant happiness: romantic love. Love, moreover, that transforms and elevates, that is itself a destiny and purpose. True Love with One person, Forever.

It’s natural, perhaps, that this world order should have its cynics, just as the religious one did. But most of us — not all, I note — do crave companionship, and the idea of a lasting partnership that will fix us and save us from ourselves has been programmed in from an early age. Even those of us who believe more in density than in destiny often have a yearning heart.

And so, for us, there are the reluctant romantics, the bickering lovers, the banterers and sarcastics. Beatrices and Benedicks, Hans and Leias: characters who are strong and self-reliant, resistant perhaps to the vulnerability of love or belief in it, characters who demonstrate with every barbed word and cynical protest that they will not go gently into the sunset. It’s become an overused device itself, but done right, it still enchants. In the process of convincing their doubting hearts, they convince ours too.

Dreaming up books

Wednesday November 24, 2010 @ 02:53 PM (UTC)

For the second time in recent months, I’ve woken up from a dream that I rapidly realized could be a novel idea. I scrambled out of bed and found my writing notebook and started scribbling notes. This is still a really weird sensation for me — I’m used to dreams where everything Makes Perfect Sense that, upon waking examination, Doesn’t. But these have a few plot threads which do make sense, and a bunch of images or characters I find really compelling. In this dream, I had the advantage of seeing it as an unfolding fiction while I was in it, and having a spectator along (my mom, I think?) to whom I had to explain world elements.

I have no good explanation for this, and I’m almost ashamed to talk about it publicly. I know it’s my own brain, and I put all the stuff into that subconscious soup that’s now bubbling to the surface, but it feels too easy. It’s like cheating. It’s like a gift.

On the other hand, maybe it’s less of a gift and more of a nag. Maybe my self-conscious wants me to write faster, and won’t stop putting the spurs to me until I pick up the pace….

For the high-schoolers

Friday November 19, 2010 @ 11:35 PM (UTC)

I have written a limerick for my sister to put under a windshield wiper, should she so desire:

Every day two teenagers play hooky
To park on this street and get nookie.
Allow me to hint it:
Your windows aren’t tinted
All the neighbors could have them a look-see.

Birth order and sleep?

Thursday November 18, 2010 @ 10:44 PM (UTC)

I’m currently watching over the baby monitor as my sister and brother-in-law take in a show. When they left, they asked me to go in and check that the younger nephew was sleeping in five minutes, which I did. Fast asleep. And this, mind you, with his door cracked and next door, his older brother keeping up a running dialogue with himself about whether he wanted to be a construction worker or an “old-time car driver”. Yes, he was supposed to be asleep. No, he didn’t want to be.

It made me wonder if those two perennial favorites of psychological study, birth order and sleep, have ever been considered together. When the older boy was this age, surely, we tiptoed around as he slept? The younger one is learning to sleep through all sorts of outbursts and upset. It might be interesting to find out if many older siblings are, like Ryan, light sleepers. For myself, a younger sibling, I am a deep diver into the sea of sleep. Probably a specious theory, but perhaps worth looking up tomorrow, when I’ve completed my night’s dive.

Fisheses and things

Wednesday November 17, 2010 @ 11:12 PM (UTC)

I’m having yet more travel days – this time to Seattle for what one might call Nephewcon, if one weren’t yet over the humor of appending “con” to things. (One isn’t.) Here, however, in lieu of actual content, is my favorite of the photos I took last week:

Mystery fish.

He is a fish, obviously, but I haven’t yet researched what kind. Should any of you know, please enlighten me. I feel I should have an inkling, but I have just started Mass Effect 2 so now he looks like a Krogan to me.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I should have the time to throw some links in the meat of the letter I am going to send to several branches and nodes of government about this TSA outrage. Just because my congresspeople are going to get it on paper doesn’t mean I shouldn’t imbue it with linkjuice for you, denizens of the intertube. I will also be making a version for my state government, because this seems like a good idea.

Sidenote: when I write fiction, I tend to write skeletal drafts which need fleshing out. When I write angry letters, I tend to write more voluminous drafts which need to be trimmed to a crisp, incisive point. Now I’m going to go watch a YouTube video of kittens to relieve my civic angst.

"Flabbergasted by the commonplace"

Saturday November 13, 2010 @ 08:07 AM (UTC)

I’ve blogged a bit of late about observation, and harvesting potentially telling details from the world about you. A longer while ago, I blogged about “try[ing] to make the world strange again, so I can dive into it anew.”

I thought this blog post was sharply relevant to all that. It’s by Stephen Kuusisto, a writer and professor attached to the MFA program I attended (though I’ve never worked with him, myself.) It’s about how he sees the “dreadful color” of school buses.

How you see something is shaped by everything that came before it: who you are, the sum of your past experiences, the associations your brain forms, your mood at the moment, what you think is important or unimportant. In Steve Kuusisto’s case, it’s affected by his history with vision as well as with school buses: “I’ve been blind for for most of my life, and now that I can see a little I’m largely flabbergasted by the commonplace,” he says.

I love this blog post because it’s so unexpected – I honestly see the color of school buses in an entirely different way that probably has to do with the color of standard #2 pencils, and not so much with failure – and also for what that unexpectedness gives me, the reader. No two people see a telling detail the same way, and the shock of seeing the school bus from someone else’s context is one of the lovely, rich displacements of reading.

But also I love that phrase he uses: “I’m largely flabbergasted by the commonplace.” As writers, I think that would be a good state to cultivate. Our habitual, ordinary world can lull us, and stop us perceiving it or piercing it. I want to be shocked anew by the strangeness of things that have surrounded me for decades. I want to be flabbergasted by the commonplace, don’t you?

rogo, rogare

Friday November 12, 2010 @ 01:27 PM (UTC)

Rogō, rogāre is one of those Latin verbs – “to ask”, mostly – that have spawned all sorts of useful English words.

Interrogate, obviously.
Abrogate, always a good one. Great for eloquent rants.
Derogate, more fuel for your Phillippic.
Arrogate, the very precise word which inspired this post. I like the specificity of it, and the sort of tumbling fall of the sound.
Rogation: this one I didn’t even know.

Maybe all roads don’t lead to Rome, but I like the sign posts on the ones that do.


Thursday November 11, 2010 @ 01:41 PM (UTC)

At 6-something this morning, I surfaced from sleep, confused and still dripping with dreams. I didn’t know why. Oh. A sharp meeping sound. After a few repetitions and some heavy thinking had convinced me that this noise had nothing to do with my dream, or the RPG character I was thinking about before I fell asleep, I decided it must be a very small fire, a very mild case of CO poisoning, or an alarm low on battery. Sleepy and probably hilarious information-gathering steps led me to the final conclusion.

The alarm in question was in my room. Of course. I lugged a folding chair in and studied the cream-on-cream instructions. I pressed to silence. One ear-bloodying meep. Then, after the interval precisely calculated to give you a few seconds of sweet hope, another meep. I pressed to silence again. Three attacks, then one more, then silence. I had a feeling my travails were not over, but I was also very sleepy and my feet were very cold. I tweeted my woes and returned to sleep. At 8:14, of course, MEEP.


Now, I am almost certain that I’ve blogged about smoke alarms meeping at midnight before, because two houses ago we had a perfect epidemic. But searches are not availing me, so we’ll all have to settle for déja-lu. At any rate, I could clearly see the path I was beginning: too sleepy to solve the problem, I would postpone it, like the devil’s snooze button, until it woke me again, and again. I would never feel rested, so I would never wake up fully, never end my night’s sleep, never be free of the MEEP.

So I carefully bestirred myself, carried the chair back in, took the alarm off the wall, carried it downstairs, put on slippers, cautiously opened the cabinet from which it takes 15 minutes to roust a cat (I thought I heard Qubit behind me, but the MEEP lacerated her ears and sent her running), opened my big trunk o’ games, silenced the alarm, put it in, closed up, went back upstairs, replaced the chair, heard a desolate moaning, located Qubit to make sure she wasn’t trapped (she was just scared of the MEEP), petted her into complacency, and went back to bed.

Only then did I check twitter for commiseration, and found out that Ryan has 9V batteries. Sigh.

Ambercon Northwest FAQ

Tuesday November 09, 2010 @ 06:02 PM (UTC)

In my new vein of attempts at unusual con reports, here is a report on what I’ve been doing since last Thursday (since I’ve not been blogging, or even reading twitter, or responding to many emails…) I was at Ambercon Northwest, a gaming convention dedicated to the worlds of Roger Zelazny’s Amber and the Amber Diceless Roleplaying System. It is held at McMenamin’s Edgefield and it is awesome. Only read ahead if you care at all about Amber and/or gaming.

Questions most often asked of me at my first Ambercon Northwest

Questions not asked: I can’t recall fielding any questions about my hair, which is unusual. Even at World Fantasy I got questions about my hair, and out in the workaday world, it’s almost daily.)

Aren’t you a little young for Amber? How’d you get into this?
At the first meeting of my critique group, Dave Goldman prefaced a comparison to Amber with “This would only occur to someone of my generation”, and I had to show him the margin note where I’d written the same thing. I think I’m an honorary member of the sci-fi-reading class of 1971, since the way I read science fiction as a child and even as a teen was to go to my father and ask for a book. Sometimes I even held my hands out in a ritual gesture, waiting to receive the next Science Fiction Book Club hardback. This is why I’m Generation X/Y (cusp!) and my childhood SF favorites were by Asimov, Simak, and Zelazny.

How did you find out about Ambercon?
The fabulous Lee Moyer, illustrator extraordinaire, posted his latest Tarot-inspired T-shirt design for Ambercon Northwest on Facebook. I was immediately mad to know more. Amber? Con? NORTHWEST? (As it happened, Lee ended up coming to ACNW for the first time this year himself, after years of designing their shirts, and we saved the universe together at least once.)

You’re from Portland?
Oh yes.

How did you not know Ambercon existed then?
I DON’T KNOW. I’m starting work on a theory of geek insularity, though, thankee very much!

Which was your favorite game?
(Look of slack-jawed indecision)
I think next year I’ll do even more Amber games. There are non-Amber games that Amberish people would enjoy — mostly using the system or diceless — and those were fab as well, but there’s something about Amber. Still, I didn’t regret signing up for a one, even the one I found out afterwards was a LARP (my first.) That one, trying for a Princess Bride feel, was hilarious.

Are you enjoying your first Ambercon?
Ambercon was a busy, fabulous, full four days of top-notch gaming. I can see why people cross continents and oceans to get to it. I want to come next year, and run games, and stay at Edgefield so I don’t have to drive home every night, and come the next year, and help the organizers out…I’m sort of in love. May all roads always lead to Amber!

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