Monthly Archives: March 2006

The Thrill of Reading Early, the Agony of Silence

I couldn't stand the long wait till September, so I gave in. Yes, I paid Baen Books fifteen perfectly good US dollars for an "electronic Advance Reader Copy" of Some Golden Harbor by David Drake.

So I read it last night. And loved it! It was great! Because…

Ah. Can't tell you.

That's the problem with Advance Reader Copies. Yes, it's great to get the book you're waiting for. Yes, it's fun to announce smugly to your friends that you Know All, months ahead of everyone else. But then what?

Unless you let someone else read the book (and they live close enough to make this practical, or you're very trusting of the US Mail), you don't have anyone to discuss the book with! Frustration! 

Still, I'm glad Baen is doing this. Real Advance Reader Copies used to be very hard to find. Then advance readers started selling them to used bookstores in decent numbers, which was a great boon to collectors and fans. But then E-Bay came along, and the market got very weird indeed. Fifteen dollars is a lot cheaper than a hundred dollars or more.

Especially when I have an extra five months to contemplate the implications of Tovera's new friend, or the way Daniel told Adele…

…something I can't tell you. πŸ™‚ 

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“His Whole Bohemian Soul”

Whenever I go back and spend a lot of time reading the ordinary and forgotten literature of past times, I find lots of references to things that the world has forgotten. Things which were ordinary points or cute comments to the contemporary reader become incomprehensible to us today, yes. But what's worse, such digs can go totally unnoticed, fading into the fabric of the story and disappearing without a trace.

Now, for my six-days-a-week podcast, I've been reading a story or poem by Fitz James O'Brien every Monday. He's a wonderful example of the antebellum New York Bohemian writer. He loves Poe. He loves writing about theater, mysteries and crime, drugs, drinking, odd ethnic groups, and odd professions. He is in love with love, but he also wants to have last minute twists. Convention is fought, for progressive good or decadent ill.
Now, think of Doyle (or Watson's!) story, "A Scandal in Bohemia", first published in July of 1891 (and purporting to chronicle events a decade earlier). Yes, it stars Holmes, who is described as having a "Bohemian soul", and features the very King of Bohemia. But I have never seen it mentioned that, like its predecessor novels, and like many of the "Adventures" that followed, "A Scandal in Bohemia" deals with the very topics enjoyed by the old Bohemians. The theater? Irene Adler. Lovers fighting convention? Yup. Crime? Blackmail. Exotic foreigners? A Bohemian and an American. Drug use? Yeppers. And there's more: double and repeated masquerades, explosive devices, large generalities about human nature used to perform small tasks.

It's not just a story; it's a literary declaration of loyalties.

So really, when that famous 1887 literary lunch with the publisher brought both A Study in Scarlet and The Portrait of Dorian Gray into the world, Doyle and Wilde were not such an odd couple as all that. They both were writers who, at least at first, took up the banner of the old Bohemian literary generation, which was considerably prior to their own.

It's as if Kipling had started his career by declaring himself a new Pre-Raphaelite. Which he sorta was, actually; he knew some of them from childhood. His Puck stories owe a lot to them, in a non-drippy way.

Okay, fine. So it's as if somebody from the 1920's had declared himself a Pre-Raphaelite. πŸ™‚ 

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Apparently, I’m a Pale Ale….

I thought for sure I'd be a Guinness or a Bass, or maybe a Harp. But at least I'm still in the pub!

<table align="center" cellpadding="20"> <tbody><tr>
<td align="center"> <font
<br><font size="1">(<b>33</b>% dark &
bitter, <b>33</b>% working class, <b>66</b>%
genuine)</font> </td> </tr> <tr> <td>

Boddingtons is a slightly ritzy, but truly tasty, beer. In case you
don't know, each can has this little contraption inside that fizzes when you open it to give the beer a delicious creamy head.
<br><br>Now, being a good girl, I will make no claims about the
creaminess of your head. But I will suggest that, based on the results
of your test, you have a light, friendly disposition, and I consider
the bouyant fizz of a Boddingtons to be the beery analogue of that.
Your test also indicates you have refined tastes, and Boddingtons is my
favorite beer. If you've never had one, get one sometime soon.
</td> </tr> <tr> <td align="center"> 
</td> </tr> </tbody></table>
<br><br><br> <table cellpadding="20">
<tbody><tr> <td> <span id="comparisonarea">My
test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people <i>your
age and gender</i>:<blockquote><table border="0"
cellpadding="0" cellspacing="4"><tbody><tr><td
valign="middle"><table bgcolor="black" border="0" cellpadding="0"
cellspacing="1"><tbody><tr><td bgcolor="#b2cfff"
height="20" width="12"><a
src="; alt="free online dating"
border="0"></a></td><td bgcolor="white"
width="138"><a href=""><img
src="; alt="free online dating"
valign="middle">You scored higher than <b>8%</b> on
valign="middle"><table bgcolor="black" border="0" cellpadding="0"
cellspacing="1"><tbody><tr><td bgcolor="#b2cfff"
height="20" width="6"><a href=""><img
src="; alt="free online dating"
border="0"></a></td><td bgcolor="white"
width="144"><a href=""><img
src="; alt="free online dating"
valign="middle">You scored higher than <b>4%</b> on
valign="middle"><table bgcolor="black" border="0" cellpadding="0"
cellspacing="1"><tbody><tr><td bgcolor="#b2cfff"
height="20" width="42"><a
src="; alt="free online dating"
border="0"></a></td><td bgcolor="white"
width="108"><a href=""><img
src="; alt="free online dating"
valign="middle">You scored higher than <b>28%</b> on
</td> </tr> </tbody></table> <table
cellpadding=20><tr><td>Link: <a
If You Were A Beer Test</a> written by <a
on <a  href=''>Ok Cupid</a>,
home of the <a href=''>32-Type
Dating Test</a></td></tr></table>

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Millennicon Post

I went to Millennicon last Saturday for a few hours. We had a bit of trouble getting there, as Kevin confidently did not print out the directions and I forgot to write them out. πŸ™‚ This year we brought along a couple of people from our gaming group, which was fun. We of course lost each other almost immediately. πŸ™‚

Anyway, Millennicon is a small and relaxing con these days, mostly due to a very nice venue and a much more relaxed con committee. I haven’t actually attended the entire convention for a while, though, due to both lack of a ride willing to stay all weekend and lack of energy in the middle of March. (Not that I have any more energy the rest of the year these days.) We stayed a few daytime hours, which was about as long as I really wanted these days and didn’t exhaust me.

I know that sounds that I’m an old lady or something, but I’m not joking. I even got offered tickets to see Liz Carroll that night, and had to refuse from fear of exhaustion. I am tired these days, and I am prone to respiratory illnesses, and I already had a cold and a body part healing from two needle biopsies. I have to be realistic about what I can do, especially when I still have to get to church early Sunday morning.

Still, I’m sorry I dragged my lack of energy into Tom Smith’s concert, as I could tell it worried him. But I had a lot of fun at Mike Resnick’s gossipy talk on the Golden Age sf writers. The weird thing was that I really had to yell for Mr. Resnick to hear me. Since my normal speaking voice tends to carry really well, I really must’ve been half sick! πŸ™‚
Anyway, we all went and saw Elizabeth Moon, who’s a very good writer when she sets her mind to it. She doesn’t seem to be quite so good when she’s stressed and depressed as when she’s relaxed (based on bio details she told us versus what books she was writing at those times). Still, any writer who has produced both The Deed of Paksenarrion and The Speed of Dark has not wasted her talents.

Speaking of Paks, it seems that her story was not in fact based on a D&D campaign. It was based on having a campaign running in her home, with her listening to a bunch of kids who had no idea how war really worked. (She’d served as a Marine.) Being a long-time fantasy fan as well, the frustration got her writing. However, Moon did admit to using wargaming techniques to plan her battles — like turning real topographical maps of real nearby places on their sides and using the results for terrain in various bits of battlefield), and rolling minor characters’ survival chances against her battles’ average casualty and kill percentages. (Cracked me up!)

However, the big success of the Q & A was me asking whether Moon had done a lot of research for the futuristic foxhunting in her Hunting Party/Heris Serrano series. Hee! It turned out that Moon had done a lot of riding in her past, but not foxhunting. (We have foxhunting in the US, true, but not in her part of Texas.) However, she had become a HUGE fan of our Mr. Surtees during college. (Comedy! Social satire! Only a few years off from Austen! Honestly, I agree you’ve got to love him….) So she’d re-read, done some more research, and extrapolated from that. (And honestly, although the Serrano books are okay and interesting, I was much more into the riding and foxhunting than anything else. I think most people are.)

Anyway, she extrapolated so convincingly that she inadvertently convinced the Master of the Fitzwilliam (be impressed!) Hounds that she actually was a foxhunter. And got an invitation in the mail.

In a typical fit of writerly depression, she set it aside.

Then, in a fit of Extreme Horse Love, she came to her senses. Of course she was going to accept the invitation. She explained that she was a total novice, didn’t get in much riding anymore, threw herself on the Master’s mercy, and of course was still invited. She then went into training for the six months or so of time she had before going.

She couldn’t find anyplace to get a lot of her hunt equipment until she actually got to England, but when she did go, she found the little store which had everything and was run by the old guy who knew everything and could make everything. Then she went down to visit, and got shown around a place that had been a hunting preserve for the last thousand years and more. In short, she saw an England just like what an American who reads too much would like to see!

However, when she actually went hunting, she found reason to feel grateful to every bad horse she had ever ridden. Due to various snafus, her loaned horse came straight from a horse-dealer, and hadn’t been out of his stall for two weeks — until two minutes before the hunt started! Yes, and this horse was big and strong, too! He sounded exactly like Hercules from Mr. Sponge’s Sporting Tour. So Moon managed to stay on his back and keep up reasonably well, but only at the cost of lots of saddlesoreness during and afterward. Of course, she still thinks of this as just about the most fun she’s ever had on a horse, and one of the great moments of her life. (And by the time she was done telling the story, I think even the anti-hunting types in the audience were convinced that foxhunting was nifty.)
Sometimes you feel envious when you hear stuff like that. I just felt glad for her. I love horses, too, but I have to admit that kind of thing is well beyond me. Heck, it’s well beyond my younger brother, who has done a lot more riding than I have. Kevin was just a solid wall of dropped-jaw impressedness, in fact. So he was very glad he went, and that I asked that question. πŸ™‚

However, during the book signing, Kevin gave Moon a biography of military renaissance man and philosopher John Boyd. She was intrigued and started leafing through it right away, which is a great compliment to a giver of books. So Kevin went home very happy.

We finished the evening by going to dinner at Maharajah, back home in Beavercreek over by the mall. Maharajah is a very good South Indian restaurant. It’s family-run, and the place is very relaxing and welcoming. So we often go there after gaming. There are lots of things on the menu that are new to us, so the big danger for our gaming group is ordering too much food! All in all, a good day.


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Like Salt for Licorice

I was very brave today. Be impressed! for lo, I willingly tried eating “salty black licorice“.

Now, you may not like black licorice. You may feel that licorice with a high salt content is a pretty gross idea as well. But actually, for our Nordic friends, that just wasn’t weird enough. No, the real base flavor for them is its third major flavor, “salmiak”. Sal ammoniac, for those of us with a historical bent, or ammonium chloride, to give its scientific name. Sour chemical salts. Only in the land of lutefisk would this be cuisine! But in fact, in Norse countries, the licorice and regular salt are only embellishments. Sal ammoniac is the real candy flavoring — and vodka flavoring, too.
The weird thing is that, after your first horrified taste, the flavor grows on you a little. Not enough to ever make you want to scarf a whole bag. Oh, no, one piece of candy is more than enough to overpower your tastebuds for hours. But it’s really not bad, per se.

I suppose repentance is a bit like that — a little bit salty with tears, a little bit biting with realism about oneself, and a little bit soothing like licorice. Also, definitely strange and outlandish, very much against the normal customs of the country. But it grows on you.

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Fairbanks Movie with Greek or Russian Orthodox Wedding Scene

I’m home sick today, as you can tell. However, I woke up this morning just in time to see a very romantic Russian Orthodox wedding scene in Scarlet Dawn, an old Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. movie (if you can call something only an hour long a movie). Apparently I missed the beginning, which sounds kinda silly. I also pretty much missed the end, except for the part when they get deported back to the Soviet Union to get killed like dogs (even though they tried to make that sound all happy). But the wedding part was good.
The young guy suddenly decides to marry his sweetheart. He’s in Istanbul as a refugee with her, so this might not be easy. But he finds an Orthodox church of some stripe and gets the priest inside to agree to marry them. But they need two witnesses. So he runs out and gets some kind of German tailor and a French lady of ill repute. The two witnesses, happy for the young couple, hold the wedding crowns over their heads.

The priest said the ceremony in English, which was interesting. I don’t remember hearing the prodigal son thing about “he put the ring on his hand” as a wedding scripture before.


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St. Patrick’s Day the Hardcore Way!

John has a rather different idea of how to celebrate the good saint’s feast:

One must wonder how the Saint, himself, would have thought about this business of getting dispensations in order to eat Meat on his feast day? I mean it really makes you think about the Holy Men and Women who have become Saints.

Perhaps for St. Patrick’s day this year we could redouble our efforts at Fasting and Pennance? It seems a more Catholic way of celebrating rather than throwing a party and getting drunk.

Aeh. Well. Where to start.

First off… there is a reason we call these things “Feasts”. Holidays are little Sundays, and Sundays are days of joy — especially in the midst of penitential seasons like Lent. The Irish being naturally given to extremely severe penances and mortifications in their spirituality, the existence of happy feasts and holidays was sorely needed.

Secondly, we have absolutely nothing going in the US on the traditional patterans (patron saint festivals) held in Ireland back in the day. “Shillelagh law” is not the rule, for one thing. Of course, we don’t have as hard of lives, either.

However, that said… it’s true that we should make an effort to behave in a happy and friendly way which honors the saint and spreads the joy of his deeds, not in a crazy, mean, sloppy way. You should be nice to the musicians and tip your waitresses, make sure nobody drives drunk, and in general be a bright spot of brotherhood to men and service to Christ (in a fun way). A festival shouldn’t be something you regret the next day.

Also, it is an old tradition to fast on the day before great feasts of the Church, especially if you’re planning to go to Mass that day. So if you wanted to fast and do penance, the eve of St. Patrick’s Day would be when I’d do it.

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