Oct 31 2012

My take on Disney buying out Lucasfilms, and what it might mean for the Star Wars franchise


It can’t be worse, and it might be better.

This because:

1) Disney, whatever its flaws, knows how to tell a story.

2) Lucas does not.   Anymore.

3) The people who saw the first three movies as kids and loved them, and then saw the three prequel movies and were perplexed and saddened, are all grown up now.   Some of them are writers, scriptwriters, directors, actors, casting directors, stuntmen and stuntwomen, film editors, etc.

4) Some of them already work for Disney.  You know they do.  Let them  make the  next movies; they want Star Wars to be good again.

You know, there’s something worse than two-dimensional characterization: it’s characterization reduced to flash-cards

More is needed really.

Just state the attribute -- that's the same as characterization, right?

.     I’m pretty sure Disney won’t do that.   They might err in the other direction, which could be just as bad… but it won’t be worse.

I shall watch developments with interest.

Oct 29 2012

Nothing but wind…


We’re inland in CT, so there’s nothing but wind.   Still, plenty of it!  Other people (along the coast, for instance) are much worse off.

You should go listen to this.

I love it that the audience starts singing even before he does…

There’s another version with better video, but too much static in the sound.



Oct 25 2012

A few steps apart


Someone had already snagged my favorite seat in the library, so I had to scout around for another with as many virtues.   I like: a window; elbow room; solitude; quiet.

As I wandered, I was also scanning the bookshelves, as one does –  and I spotted a friend!

Hi, Laurie!

Fire Logic and Earth Logic by fellow Genrette Laurie J. Marks

Which naturally meant that all I had to do was turn around, and shuffle to the left a bit, and:

Actually I believe they have two copies of each...

Tucked in between Kirst and Kirwan

Hm.   I’m going to have to give them some copies of The Language of Power.    But that would mean talking to someone!   And I rather love my anonymity here.  Maybe I’ll mail them instead of handing them over in person. 

Today’s random quote:

Were I to make the simple statement that I climbed to an altitude of thirty-three thousand feet, that statement in and of itself would mean nothing because I have often gone higher than that.  But when I add that I did this in 1937 in a fabric-covered biplane without heating, without pressurization, and without an oxygen mask, the elements of an accomplishment are added.   I nearly froze; the pipestem between my teeth through which I tried to get an oxygen supply from a tank and connecting tube was inadequate for the purpose, and I became so disoriented through lack of oxygen that it took over an hour to get my bearings and make a landing.   The difference between the pressure my body was accustomed to on the ground and the atmospheric pressure at 33,000 feet was  such that a blood vessel in my sinus ruptured.

— The Stars at Noon by Jacqueline Cochran, Little, Brown and Company, 1954.

Now, that's what I call a real author photo!  Think I should do that?

Chuck Yeager: "Jackie and I had one experience that can never be duplicated. I as the first man to pass the sonic barrier and Jackie as the first woman to do so each took a Sabre-jet, climbed to nearly fifty thousand feet of altitude and put the two planes, almost wing tip to wing tip, into a full-power vertical dive past the barrier, as a sort of supersonic duet"

And so to work…




Oct 23 2012

More library hours….


Still at it…

Latest random quote:


When you are blind, a hand suddenly grabs you.  A voice suddenly addresses you.  There is no anticipation or preparation.  I am grasped.  I am greeted.  I am passive in the presence of that which accosts me.  I cannot escape it.  The normal person can choose whom he wants to speak to, as he wanders around the streets or the marketplace.   People are already there for him; they have a presence prior to his greeting them, and he can choose whether or not to turn that presence into a relationship by addressing his acquaintance.  For the blind person, people are in motion, they are temporal, they come and they go.  They come out of nothing; they disappear.

Touching the Rock, an Experience of Blindness by John M. Hull, Pantheon Books, New York, 1990

"If I have to carry a cup of tea from this room into the next, I can do it.   If you put a full glass in my other hand, then I cannot do it."

Scanning through, I seem to find a lot of religious references, alas. But nevertheless, there are plenty of fascinating observations and insights.

Must. Put. Book. Down. And. Write.




Oct 22 2012

Lost in translation


Over on Facebook, my German cousin Ute left a comment after my link to the Sun Dogs post: “I’ve learned something new now, never heard about sun dogs before.”

That’s interesting, I mused.   I wonder what they’re called in German?   Because certainly they occur in Germany.   Perhaps if I used the actual German term, Ute might remember having heard of the phenomenon before.

I know!  I’ll just get the German translation of The Language of Power and turn to the section that mentions sundogs, and see what word the translator used!  Simple, right?


Yes, that is a Michael Whelan cover on the German edition

Click to see all the German versions.

Just one problem:

From The Language of Power, American edition:

The air had been too dry for snow, but the ground itself froze, as it often did, so that it crunched and crumbled beneath the feet, and two sun dogs, nearly as bright as the sun itself, stood in the sky, illusory companions of the true sun.

From Die Sprache der Macht :

Fur Schnee war die Luft zu trocken, aber der Boden war hart gefroren, sodass es unter den Fussen knirschte, und am Himmel stand eine grelle, milchige Sonne.

With some assistance from Google transate, as my German is shaky at best, this comes out as:

For snow, the air was too dry, but the ground was frozen solid, so it crunched under the feet, and in the sky stood a bright, milky sun.

Yep.  A conspicuous absence of sun dogs.

Now, I am not going to get all huffy about this, because:

a) I am a mid-list writer.  I get no respect.  Fact of life.

b) Translators of mid-list writers also get no respect.   It’s highly likely that the unfortunate translator had all four books dumped on her at once, and was told: “Here.  You’ve got two weeks.”   Or some similarly ridiculously impossibly short amount of time.  She probably came across the sun dog section, and said something like:  “WTF?  What’s a sun dog?  Things in the sky?  Makes no sense!   Should I look it up?  OMG, IS THAT THAT THE TIME?  I HAVE TO FINISH THIS BY 8AM TOMORROW I NEED THAT PAYCHECK!!  Sorry sun dogs, you’re history…”  People have to eat, folks.  I bear her no ill-will.

c) It’s outside of my control anyway.   But someday!   When I’m incredibly famous!  Some publisher (or me) will finance a highly accurate and gracefully artistic translation!   And some genius translator will make his or her fame by recreating in another language the sense and substance of (what Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010,by di Filippo and Broderick, calls) my “measured and alluring” prose.

d)  When I first submitted the book, one of my editors at Del Rey/Ballantine/Random House suggested that I cut the mention of sun dogs;  I said that I preferred to keep it, since sun dogs as bright as the ones Rowan saw are generally only seen in very cold locations, and I wanted to give the reader some authentic details of what it would be like in  the Red Desert in winter.  We decided to keep it. So, the translator merely accomplished what might have been, under other circumstances, if I had a hardnosed grouchy editor, instead of the amazing Betsy Mitchell and the wonderful Shelly Shapiro.

and e) What the heck.

But, of course…I can’t help wondering if anything else was left out.   Oh, I’m certain something was, possibly several somethings.   The sun dogs were not critically important; but, how can the translator know what is or is not critically important, without knowing what’s going to happen in the rest of the series?   Really, I plant a lot of seemingly-unimportant, seemingly-off-hand things that later pay off two, three, or even four books later.    She left out the sun dogs… Gosh did she leave out the mumble mumble smfff mmf mumble?  That would be terrible!

PS: The correct German term for sun dog is Nebensonne.

PPS: no library today, as I had to do some necessary shopping.   I hate shopping.  Except for books. And toys!   And paper goods of any sort.

Oct 21 2012



The WordPress blog style that I use (“Elegant Grunge”)  is designed indicate the absence of comments by saying  “no comments” — that is, there are no comments yet.

It became clear to me that some people interpreted “no comments” as meaning “No comments are allowed” — which is absolutely NOT the case!   I love comments, and crave and cherish them!   ‘

Obviously, the correct thing to do is get rid of that “no comments!”

Easier said than done.   It’s designed to say that.    It’s not a menu selection, it’s not an option.   It’s in the code.

Ah, but I am an old programmer, correct?  Yes, but I haven’t done it in a dog’s age, and everything has changed while I was gone, and this is why I do clerical work as a day-job instead of, oh, creating computer animation for Pixar.

But a programmer’s brain is a programmer’s brain.   I applied the brain…

After many sad attempts to figure out where in the heck within the many files that make up Elegant Grunge this  particular label was set, I finally located it in the Main Index Template, in amongst other examples of class= metadata.    Who knew?  (Apparently: web designers.)   I tweaked it with the editor, and — Voila!

You may now gaze in awe at the label below, inviting you to “leave a comment.”

Unless someone has left a comment.   But scroll down to other uncommented posts, and note the change!

This pleases me out of all reasonable proportion.   Which only serves to prove the genuineness of my Geekhood.

And damn proud of it!

NOTE ADDED LATER:  But wait!  If you came here from Facebook or from an RSS feed, you won’t see the new notation at all!  Because you came directly to this specific post,  which has a “leave a reply” form at the bottom already.  That ‘no comments” problem only happens on the main page of the website, at the end of each post.  Click on “HOME”, above, and you’ll see what I mean.

Oct 18 2012

Sun dogs


Today is the second day I saw sundogs, while driving away from the DayJob.     Sundogs are rare enough, but two days in a row?   And yesterday’s were especially spectacular, with bright glowing nodes on opposite sides of the sun, and a faintly visible full pale ring.

Alas, my camera was unavailable yesterday; but I managed to catch today’s dogs:


I spelled it with two words (sun dog) in the book; but I think the accepted usage is one word (sundog).

Sun dogs are familiar to Rowan, as mentioned in The Language of Power...


The opposite sundog was a) much dimmer, and so did not photograph well, and b) photographed by a person who wiggled the camera too much that time.

They’re caused by ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.

Yesterday’s were really, seriously bright. Under the right circumstances, sundogs can get so bright that it looks like there are three suns in the sky. That’s something I’d like to see in person…

But as much as I delight in every sort of atmospheric phenomenon, and as fascinated as I was by sundogs two days running, I do worry, just a bit.

Ice crystals? It’s only October… too soon for ice, I would think.

But remember last year?

In other news, today’s random quote, from something snagged from the non-fiction section as I was on my way to my little corner of Biographies:

Among the words that have been “done almost to death” with us are alibi, fortuitous, synthetic and sophisticated.  The man who remembers his Latin resents alibi when used as if it meant “excuse,” for it means “other- or else-where,” and in law is the plea of being somewhere else.

Fortuitous, as any one who has studied the word knows, means “by chance”; or, when used loosely, “without any known cause, accidental.”  Its Latin significance is “chance,” and has nothing whatever to do with fortuna, fortune, yet among amateur astrologists fortuitous is commonly misused for fortunate.

… The absurd length to which some persons will go is best illustrated by the ridiculous associations in which the word sophisticated is found.  To speak or write of sophisticated furniture, calories, or peppermints is foolish even as it is to do so of a sophisticated countryside.  In fact, to use the word sophisticated in any sense but relation to an individual is silly.

How to Use English by Frank H. Vizetelly, Litt.D., LL.D., Funk & Wagnals Company, New York and London, 1932


His heart's in the right place...

Hate to break it to you Frank, but you lost the battle for "sophisticated."



Oct 16 2012

Rather unfanciful legends


You’d expect legends to have some sort of fantastical element to them — but apparently, not necessarily.    Except for the Lorelei material, it’s all sort of mundane.   A lot of religious this and historical that, and the devil said xyz.   A little heavy on the retribution and lack of sympathy, too:


“One day as [the young nun] was singing in her stall, her glance fell upon the congregation, and there, among the people, she suddenly beheld her lover, who had not been slain, but only sorely wounded.  Her surprise was so great that she paused abruptly in her pious strain, and a loud, discordant cry broke from her trembling lips.”

“The abbess, who was a quick-witted woman, and equal to any emergency, immediately perceived the cause of the young nun’s confusion.  To bring her promptly back to a realization of time and place, she raised her hand and dealt her a sound box on the ear.

“Startled into propriety by this stinging blow, the nun went on with the service, singing as truly as before, and tradition recounts that never again did she dare to raise her eyes during the service, or sing a note out of tune, for fear of feeling the abbess’ heavy hand.”

Legends of the Rhine by H.A. Guerber, A.S. Barnes & Co., 1895

Plus: bonus anti-semitism!

You'll take your lumps and like it, say the Legends of the Rhine



Oct 15 2012

Back in the mines…


Lovely weekend, with a lovely hike with my lovely pals!   What could be finer?

But, no time to chit-chat; back to the mines of mystery…

But first to punch in with my now-traditional random quote:


“Knapp went on about the explosiveness of lox[liquid oxygen], the common oxidizer in rocket engines: ‘A little grease can set off lox: some people believe even fingerprints are enough to set it off.’

“Knapp was going on about the celebrated case of the coffee can at Edwards, during the X-1 program, when the Bell project engineer, Wendel Moore, took a piece of the gasket material, the infamous ulmer leather, out for a test.  He filled a coffee can with lox, topped it with a square of the leather, then hit the ensemble with a hammer — and ended up with half the coffee can wrapped around his neck.  Fortunately, he was uninjured.  But he proved the hard way that leather seals were explosive when soaked with the oxidizer.”

— X-15 Diary, The Story of America’s First Space Ship, by Richard Tregaskis, E.P.Dutton & Co, Inc. New York, 1961

rebound for your reading pleasure

one of those cool book covers...


In other news:



Oct 10 2012

Creative use of wallpaper


Not only has this one been rebound– some appropriate wallpaper was scavenged as a dust-jacket:

We know how old the book is -- wonder how old the wallpaper is?

pretty big image for a wallpaper, actually


“Taking things by and large, as sailors say, I got on fairly well in the matter of provisions even on the long voyage across the Pacific.  I found always some small stores to help the fare of luxuries; what I lacked of fresh meat was made up in fresh fish, at least while in the trade-winds, where flying-fish crossing on the wing at night would hit the sails and fall on the deck, sometimes two or three of them, sometimes a dozen.  Every night except where the moon was large I got a bountiful supply by merely picking them up from the lee scuppers.”

–  Sailing Alone Around the World by Captain Joshua Slocum, The Century Co., 1907