I guess I just need to remind myself, as the Bard once said, to "lay on - and curst be he who first cries, 'Halt, enough!'"
The first ten respondents to this post making the request shall get probably-crappy sketches from me, word- or pencil-. However, they have to make a similar offer on their own blog, or be forever2 dubbed a freeloader.
1. I suppose I could leave the whole "of a pairing" language in, but (a) I have no fanficcing experience and (b) my fandoms pretty much comprise, first, the original Dragnet series with Jack Webb, second, most of the Hal Clement canon, and third, Castle.
2. Length of forever may vary. Offer not valid in parts of Alaska south of 51° 15' 43" north latitude. Limit one per customer.
gregvaneekhout begged to differ, and suggests that "the designation 'writer' can only come from the act of doing it".
The question I am inclined to ask is: whence* comes the divide?
First: I claim that it truly is a divide, not merely a quibble of the sort which may be casually dismissed in a footnote. It tears along the same line dividing elitism and egalitarianism, distinction and description - either the former elevates Writer to a title or the latter reduces it to trivia, depending on which side of the line the reader falls, and there is a real sense of investment in the side. "How dare you claim we are not writers?" one might ask; or, inversely, one might ask, "If you are writers, where are your publications? Where are your awards? Where are your membership cards?"
Second: that's where it comes from. It comes from the split between the prototype of the writer and the etymology of the term - from the difference between definition by similarity and definition by function. Further, it gains its power from the conflict in the definition. To use an elitist frame, because we ascribe merit to the title, we wish to gain it (this drives the meaning towards the more general functional form), but because the merit of the title comes from the prototype, we wish to restrict the title to the deserving (this drives the meaning towards the prototypical). To use an egalitarian frame, because we pay attention to this behavior, we wish to employ our language to match the behavior as logically as possible (this drives the meaning towards the functional), but because we pay attention to this behavior, we want to make sure to be thrifty, to only pay to the truly exemplary examples (this drives the meaning towards the prototypical).
Third: These very tensions make the divide impossible to resolve by any maneuvers. Nevertheless, I have an opinion.
My opinion is thus: the best strategy is to employ the word in the functional sense. This does tarnish the trademark, if you think of "writer" as a trademark, but to try to apply the elitist standard raises too many ridiculous confusions. (Check it out: Is Anne Frank a writer, by the elitist definiton? Samuel Pepys? William Topaz McGonagall?) But on the other hand, we should recognize that adjectives apply - professional versus amateur, good versus bad, original versus derivative - and we should recognize that people may (or may not!) take "Writer" as a part of their identity, and not to deny them their identity or ascribe too much moral or social value to their identity.
The same goes for a lot of other titles - "artist", "dancer", "fisher", "poet". These words are not states of being, they are states of doing. Best to recognize it and go from there.
* Linguistic aside: "from whence" is an equally valid form. I simply prefer the shorter version.
Let's face it. You're in a blog rut.
Most of the time, you write about more of the same kinda stuff that you usually write about.
Maybe it's your day-to-day life, the stuff you did. Maybe it's topical news response. Maybe it's short fiction. Maybe it's re-linking random stuff you see on the internet. Maybe it's LOLCAT porn. (I hope it's not LOLCAT porn.) Maybe it's here on LiveJournal, or it's over on Vox, or Blogspot or Blogger or Blogblog or Postablogablowablog, or WordPress or Facebook or FacePress or FacePlant or maybe it's just your Twitter account. It's what you're comfortable with, I know, I know...
...but why not try doing something different, just for a day?
Tuesday. January 27th. Rabbit Hole Day is coming.
Pass it on.
Up it all went for the Dodgers, in nine pitches. The Philadelphia Phillies poked one homer just beyond the fence. They smacked another one halfway to the next Zip code. But distance didn't even matter. One measured these sorts of shots by the silence they caused, the home team's lead they erased, the series they likely shifted -- if not ended.
( What *would* I do? )
Of course, in reality, the odds that something like that would happen are remote. If morality were as easily crushed as that, it wouldn't still be here.
Put your music player of choice on shuffle (all music, or at least your Top Rated playlist), and wrote a story for the first ten songs that played. You can only write for the duration of the song. Concept, execution, final draft - you have between 90 seconds and 10 minutes to write each story. (depending on how long your music is, of course.) If you want to fix up the writing, post it separately - this is to show quick, raw work.
For once, I'm not editing the meme text - it sounds pretty good already. Raw writing, ho!
( Song 1... )
Postmortem: Oh, for another thirty seconds apiece! But I think it was a good exercise.
(Humorous: the very next song - see the current music line - is 8:08.)
What advice do I wish I could take, but cannot?
Don't read this.
Stop browsing Livejournal. Stop getting that little burst of joy when you're see new LJ notification emails. Stop commenting on other people's posts and comments. Stop feeling like you're connecting when you fling your messages-in-bottles into the websurf and find others washed up on your shores.
Stop browsing other journals. Stop reading other comment threads. Stop replying in other comment threads. Stop looking for meaning in electrons.
Ditch the webcomics. Ditch the web serials. Ditch the forums. Ditch the Internet games. Ditch the e-books. Ditch the YouTube music videos. Get rid of the entertainments of your hours.
Throw away the computer. Live in the real world of hard work and rare pleasure.
Yeah, I didn't either. Can I get a "not cool"?
Let's start with my door, shall we? Bedroom door, closed at night because the light on the corner of the industrial park shines right down the hallway, and it's aligned just about like this:
,. ___---\ , \*--- ' '(The asterisk is the hinge, the dashes and underscores are the door, the backslashes and periods and commas and primes are the frame. Yeah, I'm no ASCII master.)
Now, during rotation, the door remains constant length, right? And length is measured by max(x,y), right? Therefore, rotation goes like:
|......./ | /: |...../ : | /: : |.../ : : | /: : : | / : : : |/ : : : *--------...with the end sliding north first, then west.
Now look at the diagram of my door again. Think about it for a second. Odds are you'll draw the right conclusion.
Welcome to my day.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to see if my digestive system is less pooched than the plumbing. Oh, and mop the bathroom floor.
Wish me luck.
"THE SLOW WAY OUT." By Merle D. Zimmermann, author Robin Zimmermann, editor
The dark-clad figure, floating silently in the abyss of stars, moved wrist and hand clumsily in the unfamiliar encumbrance of the suit and eyed the flexible status screen. For once, his sigh of dismay was unfeigned.
Of all the suits he found, of all the oxygen cells he could have lifted, why one with less than quarter reserves?
And of all the times, why hadn't he made sure to radio first?
The opportunity was too good. It was always too good. Or too bad, he thought, and dialed the filter valve down until the air grew stale and the edges of the dimmer continents drifting above began to flicker into darkness. He had known he was going to die, like all the other fools who were on what was now the battered broken wreck of the satellite substation. But he always thought his death would come much later back ... home, where the icy blue fields of frozen glass held the rainwater, cupped it in the monstrous prints of outstretched hands which were all that remained of test site twenty five, of "fairvale" after everything became nothing and he returned to find an ocean of silicon ice.
He didn't expect death like this, quiet, slow, creeping and choking.
Recalling something he had read as a child, he reached glacially across his chest again and slowly turned another knob, beginning to shiver almost before the first wisp of chill tickled his skin.
His silent sixty crewmates, or soon to be silent sixty, had to be floating somewhere nearby. He hadn't the heart to turn the radio back on. Whether he lived or not, he knew the few cries he would hear before switching it off again would haunt silence's steps, echoing mutely in the gaps between breaths, between thoughts.
He felt the cold now, and savored the shivers while he could, savored the little glimpses of the sleeping rabbit of eurasia, now below him, and the moon's shadow, now above.
Then he closed his eyes.
Footnote: He wrote a wicked audio track that 'goes with' this, too. (Technically, it's a tone poem for the unwritten prequel to the story.) Pity you can't hear it. *hinthint*
2. At some point early on, it has been established that AIs are legal persons.
3. An AI breaks the law in a way that would normally confer the death penalty.
4. Its sentence: to be reprogrammed - not killed - so that it will not do it again.
The story follows the hacker or hackers employed to do the job.
Jeremiah Meiners whisks in six pitches: a ball, a strike, a strike, a foul, a foul, and Alter hits a grounder to the shortstop that almost beats him to first base – one man on, with the home team manager disputing the play. Eric Allen behind him takes one-two-three balls and a strike before getting a walk to first. Adam Baker knocks his second pitch off a grounder towards first base for a single, jumping over the first baseman, Tim Park, as the latter tries to recover the ball. Bases loaded, one out. Mark Tracy steps up, fouls, watches a ball go by, and shoots one to the shortstop – it goes to the plate to catch Alter out at home. Bases loaded, two outs, and Beau Brooks comes up to bat.
Steve comments approvingly. He's an old-time baseball fan, was talking about Harold Baines Sr. (father of the left-fielder) a few minutes ago, and he thinks Brooks's got a good name. Dad replies, I'm keeping the score.
Meiners throws the first pitch, a ball. Brooks fouls off the next one, lets a strike by, fouls again. A ball. Another ball. Foul. Foul.
Over the right-field fence.
Pandemonium. The visitors are cheering, the runners are circling the bases. First grand slam we can remember in this stadium, and it's simply beautiful. The runners go into the dugout and the fielders get ready for the next batter when the second base umpire comes running in to talk to the home plate ump.* They retrieve the bat. They talk. They measure it against the plate.
Suddenly, the fielders run in. Someone says it was an out, some sort of illegal play. I'm yelling at the announcer, in the booth behind me, "What happened? What's going on?" No-one off the field knows, as on the field the visiting coach fiercely argues the call, and in the stands an unknown home-teamer taunts him. We hear something about an illegal bat from the umpires before the visitors take the field. Four runs vanish from the scoreboard.
Two innings later, scoreless despite two more runners making third, we learn that the bat had pine tar too far up the handle – halfway, it seems like. Steve talks about major-leaguers who've gotten away with it in the past. We watch to the end, as first the visitors score a run in the seventh and the home team two in the eighth, one on a shortstop's error that's officially counted as a hit. The game ends in the top of the ninth with a nail-biting infield play for the final out at first base while a runner tries to come in from third. The wind has died down as we leave the field, and Dad gives directions to Steve for his trip home. The bout ended at 10:23, almost three-and-a-half hours.
I love this game.
Note: The above was the fifth game of the season for the Silver Spring - Takoma Thunderbolts, playing against the Rockville Express at their home field behind Montgomery Blair High School for the Cal Ripkin, Sr. Collegiate Baseball League.
* Update: According to the official news, Thunderbolts coach John Duffy initiated the check of the bat. The Express protested the decision to the League on the afternoon of June 15.
Update the Second: The appeal was rejected, as it did not come before play resumed.
In other news, crisper has reminded us that January 27, Rabbit Hole Day, approaches. This Saturday. As the man said, take a break from the Every Day and write about your Rabbit Hole Day. Your normal life will be waiting for you when you get back.
Ernest Hemingway was once prodded to compose a complete story in six words. His answer, personally felt to be his best prose ever, was "For sale: baby shoes, never used." Some people say it was to settle a bar bet. Others say it was a personal challenge directed at other famous authors.
Some of my favorite attempts of the past few minutes:
Four cups, now. He's still waiting.
Prove impossibility. Then prove yourself wrong.
It's a powerful challenge, I think.
* Still Google Translate.
I'm not done with it yet. But judging it so far, there's an important lesson I think people should learn, here, in writing books or articles on popular science. And it comes down to these two things: rigor and readability. You can be exactly right, or you can be easily understood. Being both is hard or impossible. In this case, Gell-Mann was writing a popular science book, so he wanted to be understood. But he is a physicist, and used to exactness*, and he let that lead him into a big mistake: he tried to stay precise – correct – without spending the time to explain the definitions.
This is unbelievably important. Unless you spend the time to make definitions, you cannot be precise. 90% of confusions are definitions or semantics.
Scientists are probably worse off here than anyone else, since they're used to talking with people who already know the definitions. But if you want to explain it to people who don't, you have to fudge it or spend a lot of time working it out.
This has been another installment of "Robin Pretends To Know All Theatre". Thank you for coming.
* For all the jokes that science guys make about the philosophy guys**, they do have this in common: they both define words very precisely. Defining words precisely is absolutely necessary to clear and correct reasoning on any difficult subject.
** Q: How do you get a philosopher off your porch? A: Pay him for the pizza. Q: What does the liberal arts major say to the science major? A: "Would you like fries with that?"
Also, I kept a journal at Goshen this year. I'm thinking of typing it all in and putting it online over the next few [days/weeks/months]; here's an atypical sample:
( 8:22 am, Day 5 (Wednesday June 28) [from the middle] )
I haven't done much yet – I'm about to check my friends page, then perhaps take up my parents on that free dinner.
Packbat ... out!
That facility with language is actually the first characteristic I want to mention in my review. G. K. Chesterton is a good writer. I compared him to Dorothy Sayers, to Jerome K. Jerome, and to Charles Dickens – I stand by each of those comparisons, that to Dickens the most. His language is literate, it is evocative, and, most importantly, it is precise. Like a classical artist, Chesterton simultaneously makes his language beautiful in itself and makes it always serve the story.
Ah, but the story...! I cannot appreciate it.
( The following contains spoilers of the worst kind - spoilers for the ending. It also contains spoilers for the middle, and to a lesser degree for the beginning. If you wish to read this novel from a state of ignorance - although I do not recommend it, in this case - do not continue. )
* "Diablerie" is also a term which, according to Wikipedia, refers to a particular action that can be taken in the Vampire: the Masquerade et al. games from White Wolf. I image a number of modern readers will have a pretty odd reaction when they see the word in The Man Who Was Thursday.
Mysticism is a rational experience. Religion is not. The mystic has recognized something about the nature of consciousness prior to thought, and this recognition is susceptible to rational discussion. The mystic has reasons for what he believes, and these reasons are empirical. The roiling mystery of the world can be analyzed with concepts (this is science), or it can be experienced free of concepts (this is mysticism). Religion is nothing more than bad concepts held in place of good ones for all time. It is the denial—at once full of hope and full of fear—of the vastitude of human ignorance.
A kernel of truth lurks at the heart of religion, because spiritual experience, ethical behavior, and strong communities are essential for human happiness. And yet our religious traditions are intellectually defunct and politically ruinous. While spiritual experience is clearly a natural propensity of the human mind, we need not believe anything on insufficient evidence to actualize it. Clearly, it must be possible to bring reason, spirituality, and ethics together in our thinking about the world. This would be the beginning of a rational approach to our deepest personal concerns. It would also be the end of faith.
That was the end of the penultimate chapter of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris. The final chapter is the Epilogue, which in all honesty reads like an extended summary. I think the book truly ends with the above.
I find myself in a curious position relative to this book. Harris seems to oscillate between the roles of the angry atheist and the modern mystic, almost without pattern, while speaking chiefly in the style of the objective observer. He is entirely contemptuous of the modern idea of religious tolerance – he seems to believe that religious beliefs (while protected the same as any other beliefs) should be accorded the same degree of respect (or even a lesser degree) as alien abduction beliefs. On the other hand, as is evident above, he believes spirituality and mysticism (neither of which, he states, are accurate terms for what he speaks of, as they do not connote the "reasonableness and profundity of the possibility [...] that there is a form of well-being that supersedes all others, [...] that transcends the vagaries of experience itself") are not only rational, but necessary.
I am being unfair.
I can say honestly that the book is not badly written – in fact, though dry in parts, I daresay it is well-written. Harris makes arrogant claims, but defends them with facts, logic, and references (not all of which I find convincing – for example, a book titled "The Case for Israel" does not sound to me in my state of ignorance like an objective source). His claims include many which I agree with, mostly about the flaws of religion (for I am an atheist myself, and occasionally prone to anger), and many claims which I consider absurd (for I am an atheist myself, and as dismissive of mystical claims as religious ones). He makes heavy use of endnotes (my count is 63 pages out of 281) for both citations and for extended side arguments, and provides an extensive bibliography and useful index.
However, I don't like the book. I think his conclusions are too strong for the academic tone he seems to be trying to maintain, and I think some of his basic premises – well, specifically his premise that spirituality in some form is a necessity – are far from obvious. (I, being uncharitable, attribute his shortage of skepticism towards psychic phenomena to his mystic stance as well, and condemn him in my mind for it.) My greatest objection is that I cannot imagine his book will be useful; he speaks at times as if all religious tenets are obviously risible, which would seem to be turnoff to most theists, and at other times as if his mystical beliefs are obviously reasonable, which would seem to be a turnoff to most atheists.
Again, I am being unfair.
Bah! I am a useless reviewer. I would not recommend reading the book – I think the good fellows of the Internet Infidels (who have on their site their review of the book, which is far more positive (and heavily cited) than mine) and the members of their forum would be a better resource for those curious about the arguments against religion. If you are interested in atheistic ethics and spirituality, Chapters 6 and 7 respectively might be of interest, but he does not go into great depth. If you are interested in arguments against confidence in religious pluralism and against supporting religious moderates, the remainder of the book might be of interest. Otherwise, I do not believe it will be of great interest.
I think that's all I have to say about the book. Sam Harris has a website he cites in the dust jacket. It links many positive reviews of the book (giving somewhat the lie to my idea that most readers would reject it), and has some info on related topics as well as an apparently large forum community.
I stood outside the door, looking at it and feeling ridiculous.
"No-Puzzle Fee: $15", said the sign, in smaller type towards the lower half.
Well, that made things simple.
I walked in.
In the lobby, there was an elevator and another door. The elevator was behind a subway-style turnstile, with a cash slot in it, blinking cheerfully. "Puzzle Bypass - $15" was emblazoned boldly above. The door, on the other hand, proclaimed, "Puzzle Gate - Trivia: Monday/Thursday, Math: Tuesday, Riddles: Wednesday, Logic: Friday. Closed weekends." A smaller paper sign said, "JAN 27: LADY & TIGER PUZZLE - Choose the right door (there is only one!) to advance".
I was lucky, indeed. Raymond Smullyan's books had adorned my house before I was born, and it showed. With a grin plastered across my face, I opened the door and turned down the hall.
Room 1: Three doors, each with a sign. No numbers, but I could see they weren't needed. The three signs said,
"THIS IS THE RIGHT DOOR",
"ALL THREE SIGNS LIE", and
"TWO SIGNS TELL THE TRUTH AND ONE LIES",...all in nice clear block letters.
I copied these down for your entertainment, so I won't spoil it for you. Suffice to say that I solved this one, and proceeded onwards, into another hall.
Room 2: Three signs, three doors, again. Reading them off in numerical order:
- "All the wrong doors have signs that lie."
- "Door 1 is the right door."
- "Door 2 is the right door."
At this point, I found myself at the base of a handicap ramp leading up to the next floor. I wondered momentarily why there wasn't a stair, but I realized that they must have wanted to accommodate wheelchairs. I was somewhat surprised at this modern touch, but then I remembered the wireless internet and continued up.
...where I encountered a fellow taking down the signs. We tried to talk, but he didn't speak English – eventually he just opened a door for me and shooed me through. I guess they were closing up. Awfully disappointing.
Anyway, I wasted no time, having gotten through. Straight back down (and I knew it was day – it was bright out), out the door, around the corner and into the church...
...and into a concert. A string quartet was playing something I didn't recognize, right in front of the door I needed. So I sat, to wait out the concert, almost tempted to tap my feet in my impatience. Fortunately they were very good.
(By the way, I think it may have been a Mozart-only concert – I did recognize a couple pieces, and all of it sounded like a similar style. It wasn't all strings, either – a fellow who looked like the pianist from the pub played something on the organ as well.)
The concert ran very late, or so it seemed to me, and the people took quite a while to file out afterwards. Eventually the crowd dispersed enough to let me through, and I rushed into the back room.
The lizards were moving! They were! I didn't stop to watch them, though – first thing I did was look for the exit. Standing up against the table, I caught sight of it – eight feet overhead. Fortunately, the table was right there, and I was able (by dint of very careful balancing) to throw my bag through first, and then leap and catch the edge. A pull-up, another gravity tilt, and I was on my bed!
...right on top of my backpack and all the books from my shelf. Ouch. Climbing off, I turned around.
The posters were ordinary. It was over. Suddenly, I realized that I had no evidence of this ever happening, besides a missing five dollars.
And, if I'm lucky, a few posts on LJ.
I walked easily at first, just went straight away from the river on a nice thoroughfare, but nothing happened. I walked past a house after the first couple corners, and past a windmill at a distance of a couple hundred feet after that, and then I was just in the middle of the fields. I walked through them for an hour before I began to get suspicious, and after two hours I turned around.
The river was right there. I might as well have been on the Red Queen's raceway – it took me all of forty minutes to get back to the public house from there. No point in trying this anymore – next step, I don't know. I guess I'll walk around town again. Maybe the sun will come up in a few hours, I don't know.
The center of the town was dominated by a big church. I considered for a moment, and then went in.
I wasn't disappointed. There was the vaulting ceiling, the pews, the altar and the podium, and it was magnificent. The wood was rich – it must have been very old, but it glowed. Also the paintings were impressive, and the stained glass. No-one was there, but the lights were on. I went into the room in back.
And was shocked to see Reptiles.
I do not mean I saw reptiles, I saw "Reptiles", the etching. The table was the same – the cactus, the package of cigarette papers with "JOB" written on it, the drawing, the open book, everything. The only flaw was that there were no moving reptiles.
Someone spoke behind me, in a Germanic language. I don't know what he said – when I tried to write it down, he looked over my shoulder and wrote for me, "Sie ziehen während des Tages um." I said "Danke schön" to him, I think he was speaking German; he replied "Bitte." I walked out, and returned to the public house to think, and to post the entry.
I don't know what he said, but I think "Tages" has to do with day – "Guten Tag" and all that, you know. If I really am in "Night and Day", that means that maybe I should be trying to get to the Day side. I think they were side-by-side in the picture, with the river running on the outside edge each time – that means that if I walk away from the river, maybe I'll find it.
I have four Escher prints on my walls: Night and Day, Reptiles, Three Worlds, and Puddle. (That last one is the one with (surprisingly enough) a puddle that has the tire tracks and footprints running through and past it. I honestly forgot the title – I had to look it up myself.) Now, while I could enter any of them, a moment's thought revealed to me that (a) Night and Day is looking down from rather a dangerous height (hence the breeze), (b) Reptiles shows nothing but a table, so it might be difficult to get anywhere, and (c) Three Worlds is perched above a substantial body of water. That left (d), Puddle. Having thus decided, I carefully cleared the bookshelf under the poster, climbed onto it, and stepped into the picture.
Do you remember that scene in Monsters, Inc. when the main characters are jumping through all those closet doors? Remember that one where they jumped through the door that was horizontal and falling, and when they got out they fell sideways, because that was now down? Well, it wasn't that severe, but the change of gravity did hit me, going through the poster. I did manage to land on my feet, though.
I stood and looked around. Comfortingly, the frame of the poster through which I entered was still present, hanging with a cheerful indifference to gravity some seven feet above the ground. The road on which I stood was muddy, just as depected – it passed through tilled fields, but I could see little else. It was night.
A sudden impulse caught me, and I looked up. Gleaming, in the air, I saw a triangle of bright white birds flying by, their brightness all out of keeping with the dimness of the night. "I'm in Night and Day", I realized, happily. "Hofstadter was right; they are all connected behind the scenes." With this to fortify me, I paused to take notes (I want to make this as complete a narrative as possible), and set off down the road, towards the sounds of water and the distant birds.
I walked for about half an hour before I reached the outskirts of the town. I passed through a few more fields before crossing a bridge – I could see a river from there, but the bridge was over a feeder stream. Actually, it was probably a canal – streams aren't that straight.
Anyway, the road paralleled the river for a distance, with fields on the other side, until it made a sharp turn in front of a pair of buildings. (There was a line of ships steaming down the river – I feel I should mention those.) Fortunately for me, the one I approached seemed to be some sort of public house or inn, and I was able to go in.
Um, Escher was Dutch, I think. And I was reminded of this, very strongly, when I discovered that all the signs were in Dutch or German or something. A few minutes of gesticulation with the bartender served to inform me that (1) I could get a glass (well, mug) of water (I tried saying "wasser", because I thought that was the German for it), and (2) no, it wouldn't cost anything. This was most fortunate, as I had no Dutch money. I guess I'll have to leave American dollars as a tip.
I just noticed that they have wireless internet here. I have no idea if it's the same Internet as back home – for all I know, it could be that the school's Internet can cross the border of the poster. But on the off-chance that it is, I'll go ahead and post this now. Then I'll see what else I can find.
I had four Escher prints on the wall when I fell asleep last night. Somehow, they'd all opened like windows to the worlds within.
I've read Gödel-Escher-Bach; I know what I have to do. I'll put on my boots and long pants, I'll fetch my ... drat, I forgot my digital camera! Well, I'll bring my computer, anyway. I promise you all an entry as soon as I'm back.
Confused? Check here for an explanation of Rabbit Hole Day.
One of the first things I tried to do, waiting in the room for class to start, was identify the purpose of the debris in the rear. My eye caught a skeleton - for anatomy lessons, perhaps, though it was broken. A tricycle, sans wheels, lay on its rusted frame several feet away, in the midst of another pile of things. I began to compose a sort of still-life in my head, of a broken skeleton (there was more than one, there may have been a skull I didn't see), lying as if it had fallen from driving the tricycle. It would be a post-apocalyptic scene, perhaps.
After a couple minutes of such contemplation, I decided to perch on one of the numerous round high stools in the room. They were those metal stools, four legs, a circular frame with wood in the middle, another circle acting as a support lower down. I was not even settled when another individual came in - one of those lucky, healthy people who could be thirty or could be fifty. A moment's exchange of words revealed him to be the professor. He advised me to sit in the other half of the room, telling me that he would be speaking from that end. I did so, grabbing for myself a chair with a hard back.
As I sat there, deciding whether to occupy myself with a few moments' drawing or with the reading of more online fiction, the teacher began to arrange the tables and easels for the class. Observing my laptop, he asked me how to connect to the local wireless internet - I answered in a somewhat muddled fashion, but told him what I thought he would need to know. Soon after, he suggested I review the handouts he had spread out before class, and moved on to arrange something else.
There were four handouts, neatly stacked. In a moment, I had gathered a copy of each, and returned to my stool. I was amused to see that the inventory of items I had found for the other drawing section did not apply. Reading through the others (skimming, rather) told me little that was unexpected, and less that I remember, although I was amused to see "John Cage" attributed as author of one of them.
That reading complete, I found myself again dithering over the two options, sketchbook or laptop. In the end, I found myself needing neither - the ten minutes I had to spend vanished well before I reached an conclusion. I grabbed my notebook for the class, and was ready when the teacher began.
First, the caveats. I have not, in fact, read the book since that review. Nor have I read other analyses of the book (though I discussed it (very) briefly with my mother once). Further, I am not disowning the earlier review. I wrote it, I meant it, and most of what I said is stuff I honestly haven't changed my opinion on, with one exception.
In my old review, I said "Perhaps I am too harsh on this book." I was, no question. I was, because my entire review was of the shallowest surface of the book.
This is not to say that the surface is irrelevant. As renown blogger Eric Burns said (I feel like Dan Brown!), if the surface isn't good, then any deeper meaning is lost (I'm paraphrasing here). So, the first question to be answered is not, "Is this story perfectly executed", but "Is this story enjoyable as a mere story?" In spite of what I said before, the answer to this question is pretty likely to be "yes".
And since the answer is "yes", we can ask the second question: "Is this story rewarding when considered more deeply?" To which the answer is, "definitely".
In a way, Sheri Tepper's book "The Gate to Women's Country" is not about the plot, it's about the world. And taken from that perspective, it is incredible. It does a far better job than any mere description of the world could, either – it conveys both the beauty of Tepper's invented society and the terrible flaws of it, in a brilliant fashion. The choice of characters and of plot show the world from every side, in the best and in the worst lights. There is tragedy on the order of Greek tragedy, with characters who almost, but don't quite, transcend their destiny. There is even cleverness.
All that said, the world is still flawed. But it is no more flawed than a fictional world should be, in fact it clears that standard by a fair margin, and the truths at the heart of the story remain.
In honor of his birthday, crisper instituted the Annual Livejournal Rabbit Hole Day, to occur on January 27. It is a day for Livejournalists to post blog entries from other universes, for everyone to take a dive through the famous Rabbit Hole to land in another universe. Here's one collection of links to such entries from last year, just as examples of what has been done.
January 27. Spread the word.
Wanting to be worthy of the wealth I have been given,
Wanting to make magic, to make marvels, to make glory
For those who chose my muses to awaken.
I read a thousand authors' writings -
Letters, journals, novels, stories, fables, vignettes, papers;
Letters, words, and sentences, and paragraphs, and passages -
I find them fine, impassioned writers...
...but I am not. I write frustrated.
Language is a needed thing to value and protect,
Language - I have stolen it, to value and protect
And made poor recompense in writing text.
But I will strive to make that recompense
For all the wondrous writing I've been sent.
I could tell who this comic artist was, and what the change was ey made, but I won't – it's irrelevant to this essay. What I'm interested in is the idea that one can publish a work on the web and then change it after it's already been viewed.
Is it words in lines the author chooses?
What makes poetry? What makes it?
What makes prose not poetry?
Ancient poems in verse were written
Rhyme and meter being sound and rhythm
Modern Muses cast off scansion
Writing, lacking meter, modern poems.
Is just imagery sufficient?
What do poets want to make in writing?
Is mere metaphor unfinished
When it lacks the form of ancient writing?
What is poetry? What is it?
How am I my poetry to write?
( If I was someone else... )
telophase is right. I'll be the first to admit there are exceptions, but I'm not thinking about those right now. Instead, I am thinking about two novels I read awhile ago, The Devil and Deep Space and Angel of Destruction by someone named Susan Matthews. Devil and Deep Space is the second in the series, but both drop the reader into the world of the story without the slightest cusioning. And both make it work.
This is a cool thing for writers to do. Like telophase, ursulav, and limyaael, and many others have said, it's boring when you spend so much time describing exactly how so-and-so works. Not only that, why? Sure, there's a place for just telling your readers what's happening, but please! Most readers are smart people! As long as you know how it works, it'll work!
Of course, that's a blatant lie. But if Susan Matthews got away with as little exposition as she did writing realistic science fiction, you can at least try to. All speculative fiction could benefit from this idea, which isn't mine, and which I didn't have. So please – if you write sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction, anything, try not explaining everything.
P.S. Originally, the title of this post was going to be "Please don't remind me I'm supposed to be doing homework". Then it was going to be "It's pointless, but since the point of this blog was to get me writing anyway..." Then I remembered that I liked the title to actually relate to the subject of the post. After all, the title line is labeled "Subject" in the little Livejournal field, and we all know that we should obey the labels.
Of course, the post field is labeled "Entry", so long, irrelevant footnotes are perfectly fine.
This will be good. The 'eleventh' interest which didn't appear in the interests meme below was 'writing', and regular workshops like this would be a great incentive to write both poetry and fiction. Hopefully they'll send an email out with info on how to sign up, although I'm not sure I should submit anything for review the first time. I hope this will be fun.
( The post )
As she explains, this contest was made in a similar spirit to the original Bulwer-Lytton contest, but with noticeably different judging criteria. Both were inspired by the oft-maligned opening sentence to Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's Paul Clifford (the original source of "It was a dark and stormy night"). However, the Lyttle Lytton organizer decided that the old contest was biased far too much towards long, convoluted sentences, so he made his require the sentence to be relatively short.
Naturally, this year's contest is already over. Thus, this advertisement is particularly pointless, since submissions won't be judged for over eight months.
Still a cool link, though.
(Note: The Waves is still in copyright in the U.S. until 2026. This is ridiculous, since the author has been dead since 1941, but nevertheless current U.S. copyright law confirms this. However, the use of short excerpts in a scholarly fashion, like I have done below, is protected as Fair Use.)
( Original Passages from "The Waves" )
( Analysis )
Next is an exercise in writing in meter. Should be easy enough – I'll post any poems it inspires.
In any case, I thought that, since I wasn't posting very much on this journal, I'd provide the short essay that was assigned as part of Exercise 1 in the book. The exercise was straightforward: I was to read two passages, the 23rd Psalm from the King James Bible and a quote from John Milton's Areopagitica, and analyze their rhythm and figures of speech in a variety of specific ways. The essay was to present the content of these analyses and to suggest which was more effective in presenting its point.
Before the essay, naturally, comes the texts it analyzes. Then the essay, divided into three (very short) sections.
( The Twenty-Third Psalm )
( Areopagitica excerpt )
( Analysis of 23rd Psalm )
( Analysis of Areopagitica excerpt )
( Conclusions )
Sadly, this is but the first exercise of four in the first chapter. If I want to finish before the semester starts, I'm really going to have to start moving faster. I'm tempted to skip the second one, which is almost exactly like the first, but the passages it asks me to analyze seem even more interesting than the above: they are three excerpts from Virginia Woolf's The Waves.
Ah, well. #3 is an exercise in writing in meter – I'm good at that, and I can probably turn at least one of the lines into a poem to put up here.
O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised; thou hast drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two narrow words, Hic jacet!
This segment of "rhythmical prose" appears on pg. 4 of Forms of Verse, with stresses and pauses marked. It is part of the introduction to rhythm and meter that makes up the first chapter of the book. However, in one of the following paragraphs describing features of the sentence, the authors state that, "since Raleigh addresses the personified Death, [he utilizes] the rhetorical figure of APOSTROPHE." (5)
This use of the term "apostrophe" startled me. I soon turned to the glossary, however, and found it there defined as
a figure of rhetoric in which an address is made to someone not present, or to an abstraction[.] (310)Subsequent examination of the Merriam-Webster Online definition of apostrophe and the Wikipedia "Apostrophe" entry confirmed this, as well as offering the etymology; the word is derived from the Greek "apo" ("away from") and "strephein" ("to turn"), and therefore literally means "to turn away".
However, I suspect that a more detailed etymology would require mention of Greek plays. (Note the "I suspect". The remainder of this entry is pure speculation.)
(Incidentally, "speculation" comes from the Latin "specere" ("to look, look at"), by means of "specula" ("watchtower") and ... err ... never mind.)
Last year, I attended an "Intro to Drama" class at the University of Maryland. In that class, around the start of the semester, we studied two Greek plays, "Oedipus Rex" and "Lysistrata". (Incidentally, the latter is one of the bawdiest plays of all time. Be warned.) In reading the stage directions, quite frequently the following pair of words arise: "strophe" and "antistrophe". These terms are stage directions for the chorus in the play; the strophe and antistrophe refer to turns in opposite directions as the chorus sings its lines. In fact, in the later plays (and "Lysistrata" is among these) there are sometimes a pair of choruses, and each addresses the other: one during the strophe, the other during the antistrophe.
Therefore, it is my suspicion that "apostrophe" came from the Greek plays, and was a direction for either a chorus or a player to address someone off-stage, or to address some non-person concept, off the stage.
A fascinating word indeed.
To make up for the delay, I shall
( And if you didn't understand micro-electro-mechanical, you really will be bored )
Now that my diaristic obligations have been fulfilled, I shall nap. Or try to nap. Or just lie in bed for half an hour. Yeah.
The proximate cause was limyaael, as it happened. You see, I started reading her journal, fell in love with her brilliant ranting on all things fantasy-novel, and began paging through all her old entries. Eventually, I ran into a post reviewing a fanfic (in an unusual manner, as it happens), and I decided to investigate. So, I followed the link to Blood Magic, a Harry Potter alternate-universe fanfic in which ...
Actually, just read Limyaael's description. Or her other description. Or, y'know, read the real thing, if you trust me that much. It's really quite good, even if you haven't read the Harry Potter books. (And I haven't.)
In any case, I was quite surprised, three days ago, when Eric Burns posted an essay about fanfiction. And I was quite happy. Huzzah! Websnark agrees with me about fanfic!
Then I read the fic he'd linked (Special: The Genesis of Cyclops; a X-Men novel-length fanfic, and it's Not Safe For Work like whoa). And I ... didn't like it.
Or rather, I fell out of liking with it. It started off terrific, all psychological and exciting. The main character (Scott somethingorother – he turns into Cyclops) was severely messed up in realistic and scary ways, and it was great watching him recover from all the damage going on in his head.
But then ... romance started happening. And love triangles. And clichés so corny that even the characters acknowledged them. And I ditched it.
Now, to tell the truth, I've no clue when it comes to actual, real-life romance. I haven't even been on a date. I don't know how people act when they're in love. Not really. All I have is this sense of out-of-characterness, this sense that the author was bending the characters to fit the plot.
So, I'm disappointed.
I originally intended to end this article with some hypothesizing about established characters, and prequelitis, and the fear of changing other peoples' creations, but I realized I didn't know enough to make any such claim. Instead, I will plug more good fanfic: archangelbeth has been writing this cool series of In Nomine fanfiction she calls Interesting Times (I link the first in the series).
It's not as stand-alone as the HP one, though. There were several spots where I was flat-out lost, and imagining the visuals was very difficult without having ever read the original In Nomine material. Apparently, In Nomine is a tabletop (is that the term?) roleplaying game, and a first-rate one, based on some big conflict between Heaven and Hell. Most of what I know comes from the several mentions it's had on Websnark (they're in there, somewhere).
And now my eyes hurt. Goodnight.
Avoid things that dull your brain. Yes, I've heard about writing from your soul or your heart, too. I'm not one of those writers, or at least not a writer who can tell clearly what writing comes from my "heart" and what from my "head." I tend to think the brain has a great deal to do with good writing in the purely physical sense, at least, given how drastically the smallest occurrence there can affect someone's mood.
I find that I don't feel much like writing after watching TV or playing video games. In fact, I find it much less easy to do anything that I normally find fun after those two. They exhaust me in an odd way, cloud my thoughts, or make me have to give up a whole lot of arguments with the plotline in order to enjoy whatever entertainment they can provide.
Thing is, I need my mind to write. I want to be able to know that a plot twist wouldn't make sense, that a character wouldn't say that, that I really shouldn't write that scene because it would contradict something I said two hundred pages earlier. So I avoid playing video games altogether, and watch TV only when I absolutely cannot get out of it or when (for those rare shows I enjoy on their own merits) I've finished my writing for the day.
Other people might get incredibly stimulated by television, though I don't actually know anyone like that. Other people may find that contact with other people tires them out, or that reading through Internet flamewars dulls their thoughts and makes them rabid. So avoid them. Ultimately, this comes down to self-discipline on your part. If those things have that kind of effect on your mind, you are the only one who will realize it, and the only one who can grab your own arm and frog-march you away from that thing before you hurt yourself.
I don't think this is just writing advice. I remember feeling lethargic after playing videogames for hours. I remember having a hard time concentrating on homework after surfing the web all day.
Avoid things that dull your brain. Hmm.