Saturday, January 31, 2009

Twenty-Five Things

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note (on your wall, go to "Notes" in the top row of tabs) with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you! (or b/c I want to see what you come up with)

A Likable, Active Character in an interesting setting.

John was "Corvallis Nice," which was similar to but different from "Japanese Polite."  Corvallis, at least the Corvallis he grew up in, was a place where you didn't come out and say 'no.'  You didn't talk about cancer, diabetes, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, or being gay, either -- unless you unpacked a toolkit of euphemisms first.  Unlike Japan, Corvallis had no hilarious books by Dave Barry explaining how the Japanese communication style was inspired by politeness.  And although it must not be true, in John's childhood memories, everyone was white.  Corvallis children had to learn social conventions by osmosis, and he suspected that "Corvallis Nice" was an outgrowth of a syndrome he'd labeled in his high school days as "Corvallis Smug."

He studied his husband, Mark, who was "New York Loud."  If pressed, John would say, "New York Direct."  On a trip to visit Mark's family, John retreated from the raucous game of Trivial Pursuit and made his way to the television room in the back.  The TV was off, the lights were low, and he found the spouses of Mark's family sipping tea and exchanging quiet conversation.  A light went off in his head; "They've all married 'Corvallis Nice' people."  
"Awh!" Mark said sometime later, "you're all instigators."

"Oh look!" John pointed out an illustration in a childhood book to Mark.  "There's Miss Kitty in the Riverbend parade; I always sort of admired Miss Kitty."  
"John," Mark said, "You're supposed to identify with John Mouse, who rides a wind-up toy car.  
"Well, yeah; I kind of did that, too."  
"You can't fool me; you really wanted her crown and to ride on a float in a white dress."

John sat back for a moment and wondered about his childhood.  If, at age eleven, he couldn't consciously desire Captain Kirk's sweaty, shirtless body, would becoming like Mr. Spock enable him to sublimate inarticulate, forbidden desires?  Naw, pretending to be a Vulcan insulated him from the emotional barbs of his middle-school peers.  Besides, being able to Mind Meld and do the Vulcan Nerve Pinch was pretty darn cool.  Not to mention the techno-toys.

John wrote.  In high school English class he wove the week's vocabulary words into a chapter for a semester-long serial.  He wrote a spoof of Dante's Inferno.  He wrote lots of bad poetry.  His senior year,  he started keeping a journal, and continued the process into college.  Those things ought to be pretty funny by now.  In college he wrote a spoof essay on Antigone, and a spoof of the Song of Roland.  And he discovered e-mail.  Somehow, the medium of e-mail swallowed his writing output, channeling it into missives  sent to friends and relatives.  Sort of like a message cast out onto an electronic sea.  
They call it "blogging" now.
Professional writers warn about the seductive nature of e-mail and blogs.

But this is supposed to be a narrative.  This is supposed to be writing.  There's a hopefully likable character (John) in an interesting setting (oh, wait!).  
Eugene was the Hippy and Tie-dye capitol of the world.  On good days, John said, "Eugene is the kind of place where artists live because folks with part-time jobs can afford to live here."  On bad days, John repeated a joke he heard once, "Q: Why did the Hippy move to Eugene? A: Because he heard there wasn't any work."
On good days, he liked the cool grey overcast and the romantic fog.  On bad days, he lamented that the Metropolitan Museum of Art was three thousand miles away and had to make do with surfing to the Museum's web site.  
Sometimes he wondered what "New York Nice" or "Corvallis Loud" would be like.

A precipitating event creates a problem which threatens something the character loves and which the character tries to solve with common sense and only makes things worse.

John entered Reed College with the intention of entering the 3-2 physics/engineering program.
At Reed, he read Sherry Turkel's book, "The Second Self."  In it, a young girl, typing on a word processor, wrote, "The computer allows me to erase my mistakes.  It helps me be perfect."
Sherry Turkel spoke twenty years later at the University of Oregon.  "Cell phones," she said, "have tethered us to our community.  A young person today experiences something and then posts an instant message about it.  Growing up has changed focus from the question 'what do I feel about something?' to 'what do my peers feel about something?'."  
John graduated Reed with a BA in Psychology.  He stayed an extra year working for Reed's Academic Computing Department.

For a while, John worked at the Carleton College Computer Center.  He joined a text-only bulletin board group, called "The Fillard Stories."  Authors, mostly Carleton undergraduates, took turns writing chapters in the narrative.  The stories were meta-fiction; most of the characters were avatars of the authors.
Carleton was in Northfield.  "Northfield Nice" made "Corvallis Nice" look like "New York Direct."
When he first moved to Northfield, the most common questions asked of him were, "Are you married?" and "Are you a student?"  
John wound up with three avatars in the Fillard stories.  They did things John couldn't -- like fly.
Eventually, two of the avatars merged into one and then became a machine.

For some time, John wrote fantasy weddings.  There were at least six.  One was a Hippy wedding in a field; another was a Goth Wedding (before there were Goths); still another was performed entirely in the dark, with everyone wearing dark clothes and glow-sticks (before there were raves).
"Here," said John, rustling around a pile of papers and files.  "I've got the weddings here."
"Weddings?" asked Mark.
"Yeah, I wrote a bunch out.  People liked them; they thought the were romantic or funny.  I thought they could help us plan ours."  He shifted through a stack of old poetry.  
"Um, John," said Mark, "Doesn't it strike you as a little odd that you were writing these things and you weren't even dating anyone?"
John moved to Arcosanti.  
He fell into the habit of asking the moon for a lover.  Starting in May, when the full moon sailed over the Sonoran mesas, he'd slink out of his apartment and make his way to the pool.  The white rails surrounding the concrete deck gleamed; shadows softened the basalt cliff on the pool's north side.  Furtively, he slipped off his clothes and dove into the still reflection of the moon.  Public nudity was technically Against The (unwritten) Rules and he didn't want to be caught.
Ripples from his passage painted lightning-like patterns on the bottom of the pool.  Seen through the water's surface, the moon was a white light behind a silver fishnet of wavelets.  He breached, whipping his hair and water out of his face.  
"Hey moon," John whispered, "send me a lover."  
Mark broke into the narrative again.  "Did it work?"
John grimaced and looked at the ceiling.  "Uh, not really."
"And you tried that for how long?" Mark asked.
John changed the subject.

The concrete structures disappeared from John's rear-view mirror as he drove away from Arcosanti.  It was instructive living in someone else's vision, but his internet access there was spotty.  Decades later, he still dreamed he was in the prototype arcology of Italian architect, Paolo Soleri; in the dreams, his flight from Arizona was leaving soon, but the airport was a very long and very rocky road away.

John put on his crown and typed into the computer:  "Mirror, mirror, on the wall..."  It occurred to him that the mirror might be one of those psychology mirrors like the ones they had at Reed College.  He brought his eyes closer to the screen as if to catch the motion from any shadowy figures on the other side.
But the screen only showed a shadowy figure when it was turned off:  himself.
The bed creaked and covers rustled.  "What are you doing?" asked Mark.  "Go to sleep."

Second Try:  The character tries to fix this worse situation and digs her or himself in deeper.

Mark looked over John's shoulder as John pulled back his hair and gazed in the mirror.
"Trust me," said Mark.  "I have four sisters, and every night before the prom they were crying because their hair was ugly.  You don't want to be worrying about your hair when you get your award."  
John released his hair and it cascaded past his shoulders.  "Are you sure?"
"How many Bad Hair Days have you had lately?" Mark asked.
John sighed.  The electric shears waited in the bathroom.

John's stomach growled during the writers' seminar.  He been writing under a tight deadline and had neglected to eat anything other than breakfast, almonds, crackers, and carefully timed Pepsi all day.  He thought dinner would be right after the deadline, but it (dinner) had been moved back to make room for a marketing seminar.
"It's very important to have a presence on the web," said the presenter.  "You need a web page of some sort and you need to develop a fan base.  In order to do that, you have to update your web pages regularly to keep your fans coming back."
John's first professional sale was "Mask Glass Magic," an urban fantasy set in Eugene, Oregon.

"Give a man a mask and he'll tell you the truth," wrote Oscar Wilde.  These words remind John of the passage in Jane Yolen's collection of essays, "Touch Magic" -- in it, she commented about the power of mask pins in Venetian society.  A Venetian wearing a mask pin on their lapel is effectively incognito, and Yolen marveled at the mask's power to proclaim, "I am not I."  

John read a Twitter post from David Pogue, a technology writer for the New York Times.  David Twittered that he had the hiccups and asked for a cure.  Many fans Twittered back with various cures.  A half hour later, David thanked everyone and confessed that he was demonstrating Twitter in a seminar.  Many accused him of crying wolf.  John couldn't help but think that David had somehow threatened his fans' virtual selves -- the fans saw themselves as caring people, and they had an image of themselves as helping David.  David betrayed their virtual self-images by revealing that he (inadvertently) fooled them.
Or possibly they felt as if they had been cast by Pogue as the glyphed characters enslaved by the bad guys in Vernor Vinge's "A Deepness in the Sky."

John wondered if this was real writing.  He wasn't sure that he could make this piece work commercially; maybe he could make it work in a small literary press.  Writing always seemed to come down to the dichotomy between "art" and "sales."  He reminded himself that this piece was destined for a web page, which probably fell under the category of "marketing."  
John shrugged, and endeavored to make the language as clear as possible without betraying anyone.

Do-or-Die:  Thinking out of the box, the character comes up with a solution and risks death (or at least the destruction of the cherished object) to make things work.

Mark crossed his arms.  "You're not going to write about our sex life, are you?  Because I don't want my saintly mother to have to read about it on the internet."
"Well..." John considered -- and then imagined how icky he'd feel reading intimate things about his own parents.  "Hmmm, can I make stuff up?"

The stars wheeled in the sky and he was falling with them.  
When the philosophers wrote of divine madness and gold they were drunk.
He came home with inspiration burning in front of him and he raced to capture the word that was written in his brain onto the screen.  But he felt the drunkenness floating away from him and it was difficult to see the burning logos.  He had to come across it sideways, like looking at a star with his peripheral vision.  He sacrificed uncounted brain cells for the following:
"I am the wondering at the stories I tell myself.   I am the map I am writing.  I am addiction. I am lost.  I am the sound of myself.  I am the mask that falls off to reveal the smooth surface of another mask.  I am the darkness behind the mirror."
The gold of the evening turned to mud in the morning.

"Everybody thinks they're original," said Mark.

"Would you be interested," asked the salesman from his booth, "in this nano-tech mosaic?"  He held up a foot square matrix of small, white tiles.
John was intrigued.  Usually the Eugene Saturday Market featured tie-dye or blown glass.  "Hey, look Mark."  
"Just stand here," said the salesman, "and, viola!"  The white tiles fractured and pigmented.  John's head and shoulders appeared in the mosaic.   "Each tile is a little nanobot camera.  They take your picture, then talk amongst themselves to make your likeness."
"Cool," said John.  "But can I --"
"And that's not all," said the salesman.  He picked out a tile.  "And it's durable.  The bots can regenerate themselves from the dirt in your home to replace any that get lost."
"Oh," said John.  "I'm having a Bad Hair Day; can I take a new picture?"
"Yes; and if you want to go back, the 'bots will remember the way you used to look."
John turned to Mark.  "What do you think?"
Mark shook his head.  "We already have a lot of stuff in our house.  What are you going to give up in order to have it?"

John erased words from slips of paper and put the papers into a metal box.  He buried the metal box late at night.  No one would ever see those words.

He re-read the instructions and saw that he was supposed to tag twenty-five people.  He wasn't going to do that on the grounds that it was a kind of informational pyramid-scheme.  The people behind the mirror were trying to distract him with his own image to see what he would do and whom he would betray.  

Conclusion:  Someone says, "He's dead, Jim" or "And they lived happily ever after."

Undoubtedly, someone would confuse Life and Art and be miffed or feel left out.  That wasn't his intention, and he offered preemptive apologies.  

At the end of the Symposium, the guests smashed the earthenware urns that had once held the wine and each took a piece as a memento of the night.
"Hey," said Mark.  "What's with all the smashing?  Who's going to clean this up; that's what I want to know."
"But it's Interstitial Art," said John.
"Well, listen, Art-boy; smashing urns doesn't get any stories finished -- so get to work!"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

January Things to Smile About

In the tradition of Mary Robinette Kowal, I'm thinking of things that make me smile.

  • My family (multiple smiles for multiple reasons).

  • Tales of youthful pyromania (I nearly had my drink come up my nose).

  • Modeling Leslie What's mail (as in chain) for the Wordos. (I'm not sure which was more funny: me saying "I think Princess Leah wore something like this," or someone else shouting "John! Don't do that, we're writers!")

  • Creating a geometric font of questionable legibility using two X-ed out squares as stroke guides.

Now, off to writing duties.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Link to "Up"

Some family members were asking, so here's the link to my short story on the Whidbey site again.

It seems a lot longer than 25 days since it first went up.

In other writing news, I'm working through the backlog of manuscripts that need tweaking before I send them out. The current one I'm looking at has been pulled into Scrivener and I've gone though and highlighted the places where the sound settings are wrong... I haven't looked at the manuscript for (ahem) a while and in some ways it's a good thing because I can more obviously see where readers were confused (mostly be my characters' murky motivation).

Anyway, today I'm making an effort to not sit at the computer and spend time with actual physical people... and obviously I'm sitting in front of a computer typing this...

Stonehenge ?

Here's what happens when geeks go to the beach in January and it's 60F with no wind.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Too Many Networks

Oh dear.

As someone recently commented, I've "taken the blue pill" and created a facebook account.

It will be a challenge to not let FB suck up my writing time (ooops, so much for tonight).

It's interesting to me that FB seems to have become a kind of e-mail service (only with more pictures and more IM like features). I'll be curious to see if FB postings (notes?) are supposed to be as permanent as e-mails. The amount of transparency is a little . . . startling as well.

And I thought Twitter was bad.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Nice Version

One of the purposes of Neo-Paganism is to break through dogma by actively exploring the mysteries of life and the truth of deity. Another purpose of Neo-Paganism is to act as a guide through life transformations so as to bring grace -- an inner sense of mental balance, spiritual poise, motion, and connection between a person and the universe.

Neo-Pagan practices aid in communing with the divine, living in grace, transformation and celebration; and Neo-Paganism can take us to the realms of wonder, mystery, enchantment, portents, beguilement, awe, connection, and surprise. But Neo-Paganism has three malaises: diversion, superstition, and habit. The first, diversion, reduces Neo-Paganism to a mere party at best and a preoccupation from problems at worst. The second, superstition, turns it into mindless inaction as Neo-Pagans waste their time with lucky charms to get something for nothing. The last, habit, robs it of any creativity -- or worse, sets up structures that allow Neo-Pagans to remain complacent, unchallenged, and unchanged.

We can resist the forces of diversion, superstition, and habit with mindful celebration, communion, and transformation. Celebration is not to distract ourselves from who, when and where we are, but to focus ourselves on and remind ourselves of these things. Communion with the divine systems of random chance and consequences entwined is not a superstitious practice to get something for nothing, but a way to open us to the mystery of cosmic participation. Transformation, when it doesn't transform the mundane into the sacred, at least opens our perceptions to the sacred all around us so that we may move within the world aware of and with grace.

So make yourself comfortable and think about the following Neo-Pagan purifications:

I release myself from confusing ritual time and space with therapy, a potluck, entertainment, or a comparative religion seminar.

I release myself from focusing on meditative techniques, occult practices, or ritual performances instead upon on their spiritual benefits.

I release myself from spiritually fetishizing culture, gender, orientation, race or economic class.

I release my theology from having to have a pedigree in order to be valid or useful for me. I give others' theologies this permission also.

I release my theology from having to be anti-science or anti-intellectual, and I release myself from the notion that I must "get out of my head" in order to be spiritual. Additionally, I recognize the inability of a formal logic system to completely describe or explain my theology.

I release my theology from having to be bound by dichotomies such as mind / body or body / spirit.

I release my parents from having to live up to my expectations of goddess- and godhood. Mom is mom; dad is dad. Both are human.

I release my children (if any) from having to fix the world, from having to meet my spiritual needs, from having to usher in a golden age, or from otherwise living my life.

Likewise, I so release any lovers and my genital organs from the responsibilities of deity or cosmic energy source.

I release the cosmos from the expectation that it exists to fulfill my needs, dreams and desires as if it were a kind of personal mail-order catalogue.

I release deity to expand beyond the limits of human forms.

Blessed Be.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Post Not Made

Arg. Last year I wrote some non-fiction about Neo-Paganism. At the time I thought it was really good, and funny; but now I see that it was a form of therapy -- especially the tone, which is incredibly snarky. I'm not too sorry I wrote it -- it was funny at the time and it was a way to creatively re-direct some frustrations. The information is good; it's just the presentation is wearying.

Sigh. I guess I'll print it out and keep it around for late nights when I need reminders of my own personal theology.

I think an unsuspecting world is grateful for the "delete post" key, because I was really close to posting excerpts here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Back Yard Labyrinth

Here's a happy thing that didn't make it onto last month's happy list: One of the things I did for my birthday (a few weeks ago) was design a labyrinth. There was something relaxing about using a compass to mark out distances measured from the back yard. I've been wanting things like fountains, a Stonehenge or large obelisks, but Mark has pointed out that it would chop up the yard into even smaller parcels. So I suggested a labyrinth made out of sunken bricks (not so much maintenance, and the lawn mower should go right over it).

This one is two interlocking circles; one is centered on our ornamental cherry tree. The paths are two feet wide. The entrance will be at the south end (the left side of this picture) by the Sphinx. I've laid out an experimental circle of rocks around the cherry to see if two feet is wide enough and it should be (for one person).

Now of course, we have to buy the bricks, and I'll have to dig little trenches. I'm sure that given the differences between the flat-paper drawing and the topologically interesting terrain in our back yard that I'll discover things Euclid never dreamed of.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Twitter and Leisure Information

I've discovered Twitter. I'm trying to decide if it makes me feel young or old. It is useful to see updates for the New York Times or NASA. It's fun to see what's up with some of my writer friends and acquaintances. And it's fascinating to me that folks I don't recognize are following me from India (I hope they don't think I'm John Burridge the English Goal Keeper).

Mark says that it's too much of a distraction.

I think that there is a tendency to post things to Twiter because I can and I'm trying to resist that urge. The character limit raises interesting questions as a writer -- what is the boundary between conciseness and a short attention span ? Can our lives or great ideas or a zeitgeist be expressed down to 140 characters (or six words ("These are testing times. Study hard.") and is this a good thing? ("Herr Mozart, there are too many notes in your opera...")

Interestingly, as I was writing this, I received David Pogue's take on Twitter, which seems to be close to my own.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dreams and Writing

Dreamt I was attending some sort of museum lecture. The speaker was a local radio hostess, and she was talking about paleolithic art. She asked the audience a question, and I answered something about ancient Paganism. Her response was to walk up a clear acrylic pipe that was sticking through the museum wall. There was a bit of a break in the dream...

More clearly, I took an elevator up to the top of the building. (This is usually a bad sign, as elevators in my dreams typically stop between floors, go to the wrong floor, or give every indication of moving after their doors have opened and you're just stepping out.) I got to the top without mishap... and then the anxiety motif hit.

A bunch of us were at the tip top of the building. I have a strong image of either the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building (in other words, tall, narrow, and pointy). We were in a kind of indoor-outdoor observation floor; no glass, but lots of vertical metal bars to keep people from falling -- sort of like the fire escapes on the south end of the Prince Lucien Campbell Hall building on the U of O campus. The building started to sway back and forth as if it were a tree in a strong wind, or else as if the building were made of rubber.

There's nothing quite so alarming as looking down onto the tops of other buildings from an observation grating which is supposed to look out. The top of our building swayed all the way down until it was dangling about ten feet over the roof of a smaller, neighboring building. During all the swaying, I and one other woman managed to get outside the grate, and we were hanging over the other building. I think a second woman from inside was urging us to let go and drop onto the other roof.

Our skyscraper paused -- there was a sense that it might go lower -- if we dropped, would the observation deck fall on us? -- and then it began to straighten. We'd missed our chance to drop safely. I locked my arm around the bars as we were flung upwards.

Upon waking I had a strong feeling that I'd just received an oneiric tarot card reading featuring "The Tower."

On the writing front.

Finished critiquing stories for tonight's Wordos session; it's always interesting to see how other folks write characters and also their language usage.

Received a rejection (after 103 days). Hmmm. Looking at the record holders, it looks like I need to query some folks who've been sitting on my manuscripts.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Viking Tribute

I decided that I needed to make a Viking Ship to say goodbye to Grandma. (I think if we'd been able to be at her grave site I'd feel less strongly.) So I gathered craft tools. After about ninety seconds of research, I decided to make a keeled and clinkered hull "dragon ship." I figured I'd forgo cutting out cardboard planks and use a sheet for each side of the hull.

For the keel, I cut out identical shapes and glued them together to hide the cereal box printing. I also cut out some dragon shapes for the head. I didn't want to paint the ship, so I relied on different layers to get the idea across.

As I was cutting out the shapes, I remembered all the Viking decor she used to have around her Ash Street house -- mostly pewter longboats. I'm trying to remember if she used to wear a Thor's hammer (I think it was called a "Norwegian" or "Viking" cross at the time) or if that was one of her friends.

At first I thought I'd be able to use thwarts to help give the ship a classic longboat shape, but they didn't really work. If I'd had more time (and patience) I suppose I would have built the ship the proper way, as it took about an hour of fiddling with the cardboard hull to get it to stay ship-shaped.

Typically, there was a Wagner soundtrack going on in my head.

After gluing the wrong shape sides to the keel, I ended up trimming the excess cardboard from the hull off (while it was still attached to the front of the keel under the dragon's head). I used some heavy clips to keep the hull halves in place along the keel while the glue dried.

For some reason I kept going back to Grandma's Ash Street house in my mind. She used to have a windowsill of knick-knacks, mostly ceramic owls that at one time had been filled with skin product. For some reason I remembered her in one of her lavender sweaters (with a braided knit going down the front).

To widen the boat, I ended up putting a kind of thwart system in post-hull-construction. For my purposes (having a boat that would float long enough to be a virtual pyre), it worked; but if I wanted an actual floating model I would have sectioned the hull more. I added some ballast (big old nails) along the keel to keep the boat upright in the water.

Once the boat was glued together, I used some duct tape along the bottom to keep the hull parts attached to the keel while I widened the boat more with some more thwart parts. The tape kept the boat from leaking too terribly. I also cut out some shields and a picture of Grandma. In this picture, she's drinking her second-favorite social drink, Scotch (I think her last drop of the stuff was when she was 95 or 96). Her favorite drink was probably "half a cup of coffee (but only if you're getting up)."

I put some paper bits into the boat, filled up a wading pool, placed the boat in the water, and lit it. My inner pyromaniac would have liked bigger flames (I couldn't find any rubbing alcohol), but I think it was more in Grandma's character the way the flames quietly and efficiently consumed what needed to go.

"Goodbye Grandma," I whispered. The boat sank quickly into the cold water with a hiss.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Odd Funeral Thoughts

I'm back safe and sound after gallivanting all across Oregon. Most of the driving was done by others.

Grandma's internment service was... interesting. Astoria received about four inches of rain (and about eight since the start of the month), so her grave site was full of water. The original plan had been to bury her, but it would have been sort of a burial at sea if we had tried. So the service was at the mortuary (sort of at the last minute).

I hadn't realized how much reading Alison Bechdel's Fun Home has affected me (her book is an autobiography and her father was a part-time mortitian). I started looking at all the large doors and panels and wondered which one held the embalming studio and which one opened onto the back end of a hearse. I had hoped that the telephone ringer would be turned off (it went off during the sermon) but the sound of a power saw brought to mind someone having to "arrange" a body in the back rooms. ("Joe, this arm needs to bend so the flowers will be held right; hand me that Black & Decker...") So start with the sound of power tools and add my Grandma's name, "Agnes" leading to "Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem" (no, it was a Lutheran service, ) and suddenly I've got Mary's little lamb in my head. (Don't worry, I'm used to odd notions colliding in my head like this.) And P.D.Q. Bach's "Anges and her sister Dorris Dei" lurking in the sub-processes of my thoughts.

After hearing the sermon today, there are two stories about my Grandma that I want to share.

When I was a twenty-something, I liked to wear my "seal of Reed College" T-shirt, which is a griffin wearing boxing gloves surrounded by the motto: "Communism, Atheism, Free Love." When Grandma saw it, she was dismayed (moreso than I had intended) and exclaimed (to my surprise) "Atheism? Oh no!" (I thought it would have been the "Free Love.")

Years later, my sister and I were driving with my Grandmother. I forget exactly how we got on the subject, but Grandma declared, "I don't understand how the same God of love can go around telling people to kill other people; it's doesn't make sense and it's just wrong."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Merriment and Whatnot

A friend of mine asked me how Eeyore would sing, "She'll be Comin' Around the Mountain."

I thought about it...

She'll be comin' around the mountain, I suppose. (X2)
She'll be comin' around the mountain (X2)
She'll be comin' around the mountain, I suppose.

She'll be riding six white horses, I suppose.
Some people have six horses, I suppose.
She'll be driving six white horses.
How do you clean six white horses?
And she asked the six white horses, I suppose.

I guess we'll have to meet her, I suppose
We will have to go and meet her, I suppose...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ephiphany Hummingbirds

I was working on a prototype for the labyrinth we'd like to put in the back yard when I heard a whirring buzz. It sounded like, yep; hummingbirds. The day after the Feast of Epiphany. Someone must have a feeder around because I can't imagine what they'd be eating this time of year.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Photo Credit?

This is really weird.

My first photograph to ever be published in a newspaper is for my Grandmother's obituary. You'd think I'd be used to having my photos made public à la the web, but seeing her photo on a newspaper site, cropped to a head shot, feels emotionally dislocating. (And by this, I mean that it feels like words about somebody else next to a picture of a stranger.) For one, I guess I've gotten used to my text accompanying my photos. For another -- I guess it's just weird to read about a relative in the past tense. And obituaries leave so much out because they're so plug-and-play; I just read someone else's obituary and it's virtually the same wording -- so I the writer in me wonders what the untold story is.

OK. I take that back; I'm starting to contrast and compare different obituaries and it's interesting to see the differences.

I think I'll stop now.

Tuesday Searchings

Tonight at Wordos is going to be interesting. Six of us worked from the same story outline and turned in (more or less) the same stories. Probably what's most intriguing is how the supporting characters (who were least defined by the experiment) came out differently. One character consistently came out as either "Natasha Fatale" or Lee Meriwether's "Miss Kitka" (aka Catwoman disguised as a Russian newspaper reporter).

In the "surfing the web instead of writing" department, I've been trying to find a video of The Cookie Problem, and the image of a woman standing on the surface of Mars in a Green dress from a picture snapped by the Spirit Rover. So far both have eluded me.

And then there's Twitter. So far it's been good for learning new things at NASA (for example the green dressed woman on Mars). (Isn't that a false color image, anyway?)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sick Monday

I'm sick today. It seems to be a combination of being a little run down and Eating Deadly Red Peppers at a potluck. So I've been in bed reading "Unholy Business." Mark has brought me ginger-based foods to help settle my stomach.

I decided that I'm going to build a model boat, fill it with kindling, place a small picture of my Grandma on it, set it a float and then light it on fire. I figure that that would be Norwegian enough for her.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Three Dreams

Things here are kind of calm on the Grandma Front. I created a Google Map for family and friends to drop markers with memories of her. My Mom and I spent some time trying to find the old Farmstead where she was born. There's an old family graveyard (pioneer style), but the location is written in terms of plats and headings, not GPS coordinates, so that one's proving harder to place.

I thought I might have a dream about Grandma, but instead I had a dream about elevators (always a bad sign of anxiety) and certain irritating people invading my space. Friday night (the night Grandma died) I had three dreams which I was going to post anyway....

The first was a kind of video documentary that started out with some people I know. Anyway all sorts of antics were going on and then I'd walk out of (my old house on Adams) and do normal mundane things (like walking around and pulling the occasional weed) completely unaware of the circus.

The second was more Arthurian. A bad noble had imprisoned King Arthur within a circle of twelve long swords. Because it was a dream, the swords started out being under white circular pavillion but later it seemed as if the sword circle were in a stone tower. The swords themselves reminded me of the swords from the Rider Waite tarot deck -- they were shiny, long, with large hilts.

King Arthur was a little cold, and had a fire of about three lumps of coal with him within the circle. But the bad noble (rather Scrooge like) only brought him enough coal (usually a lump or two) to keep a small fire going.

The King and I looked out a window and saw the Pearwood Pipers (a music group I play harp in) riding beneath the tower. The bad noble had caused a crevasse to open up and they had to urge their horses to jump over the crevasse. One of them didn't quite make it, and was stuck. This was part of the noble's plan (although I'm not sure how catching traveling musicians furthered his goals...)

The third dream was a kind of 1960's World of Tomorrow. I walked into a room that in waking reminds me of my parent's living room. Only with more chrome and glass. And lots of white fabric. A virtual hostess appeared on a giant glass screen (where the fireplace would be in real life). She reminded me vaguely of Shirley Bassy. She wore a white body suit with various bands of black on her arms and legs (remember, this was the 1960's, so it was supposed to look futuristic). It's possible that some of her bands weren't black, and were mylar. I also have the impression that vinyl spheres, cubes, and pyramids were sown onto her suit around the upper torso area (no, *not* in a Tank Girl or Madonna kind of way).

The guests arrived. White fabric fluttered. Martinis, daiquiris and margaritas flowed. There was clever conversation. I think somehow the virtual hostess and I got into some kind of argument... less rock-em-sock-em and more debate. My closing argument was to say something like, "But you're just a program," pick up a dark remote, aim it at the screen, and turn it off.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Agnes Jeppesen 1909 - 2009

My Grandmother died last night. She had celebrated her 99th birthday last September. My favorite stories about her:

She used to tell us about her dog, Sport, "who wasn't afraid of man or beast" quite a bit.

About twelve years ago, she wasn't feeling so well. So she hopped into her car and drove the eight or so blocks to the local hospital. She went to the emergency room and they told her, "Mrs. Jeppesen, you're having a heart attack." I think she was something like 86.

Once I saw a ceramic coffee mug that had been "sliced" down the center, with the caption "half a cup of coffee" in its glaze. I always thought it would be funny to get it for her because she was always Norwegian Polite (sort of a variation on the Jewish Grandmother) and never wanted anything unless you were getting up to get it anyway (and then it was always "oh, just half a cup").

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Story "Up"

The link to my flash fiction, "Up" is on the Whidbey site. It's a dark Christmas story that I read to the Wordos during a holiday reading party (Wordos holiday stories come in two flavors: really dark, and very silly; occasionally both).