Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill, 1913

I remember Ruth Fielding as being bold, thoughtful, creative, brave, and somewhat of a no-nonsense personality, who works hard on achieving financial independence. She was an orphaned teenager who comes to a small town to live with her mean, crusty old uncle Jabez Potter who runs the local mill on the banks of the Lumano River. His arthritic, hunchbacked, ancient, warm-hearted housekeeper “Aunt Alviry” is not actually Ruth’s aunt but is a servant and for a long time is the only person who loves Ruth. Uncle Jabez doesn’t believe in educating girls. But Ruth manages to win him over somehow. Anyway, Ruth goes off to boarding school at Briarwood Hall with her rich, beautiful motor-car-driving friend Helen Cameron, makes friends with everyone, and ends a terrible schoolgirl rivalry by creating just one big sorority, the Sweetbriars. I seem to recall their moonlight and candlelight ceremony where they’re hanging out in togas by a graceful statue, with a harp. Ruth goes on to have a lot of adventures that center around her solving mysteries, helping poor girls get an education. Her companions include the jolly and popular plump girl, Jennie; and the slightly bitter lame girl, Mercy, as well as a rich friend with a cute brother and a motorcar. Nothing new there, right? But…

Ruth Fielding book cover

The cool thing about Ruth Fielding is that she’s a scriptwriter for moving pictures! She saves her school when a building burns down by writing a moving picture scenario for Mr. Hamilton from the Aelectron Corporation! And goes on to become a successful writer, even transitioning from silent film to the talkies.

Note the fashion in the cover picture. It reminds me of the book from the Betsy-Tacy series where Betsy and the other girls try to look like Gibson Girls, with their dresses gracefully draped instead of being tightly fitted, and a “droop” to their figure, slouching rather than standing up straight.

I believe this might be the series where all the girls make graduation dresses from simple white cheesecloth so that the poor girls won’t feel outshone by rich girl satin and lace. Or is that Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm? There was an amazingly cunning plan for their class valedictorian, Mercy the lame girl, to be able to graduate on stage by the clever and unprecedented use of a podium or a sort of Grecian drapery on a dais. Because it would be impossible for her to graduate on crutches despite her being the damn valedictorian on crutches! Mercy had a sharp temper because of her pain and illness and difference, and all the other girls take that into stride. She wasn’t cured magically like Katy and Pollyanna and she didn’t develop perfect patience; she stays crippled and a little bit bitchy. She’s my hero!

Alice B. Emerson was a pseudonym used by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Known authors who wrote Ruth Fielding books include Mildred Wirt Benson, W. Bert Foster, and Elizabeth M. Duffield Ward. Thanks to Jennifer at Series Books for Girls blog, which I’ve only just now found while searching for anyone… anyone… on the net who is also obsessed with this stuff!

Click through for my re-read and chapter by chapter summary of Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill in all its glorious faily goodness. Or, you can read the full text here from Project Gutenberg. Summary: The miser has a heart of gold; the crippled girl walks again; Ruth wins the spelling bee and gets a new dress; there is a lone page where a Mammy and a young black girl make cameo appearances. The young black girl does not get to go to school or make any friends or get any dresses…

(more…)

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New improved! books in the bathtub

I’m reading a bunch of books at once. I finished up The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole, an autobiography by Mary Seacole which is mostly about her travels to Panama and the Crimea. In the 1850s during the Crimean War she was a nurse and kept a field hospital. She tried to join up with Florence Nightingale’s effort but was rejected for what sound like racist reasons. I enjoyed her memoirs, especially her entrepreneurial spirit. She’d go pretty much anywhere, and with a little capital would set up a boarding house or hotel and store, and would naturally turn into the community’s medical care. It is a bit awful to imagine what cholera must have been like, especially under the doctoring philosophy of being given violent emetics. Ew. I looked up cholera on Wikipedia and elsewhere to find that you can pretty much survive cholera if you just stay as hydrated as you can.

Meanwhile I read a bunch of Robin Hobb “Assassin” series books on Zond-7′s iPod Touch with the Kindle reader app. Another fantasy series about an assassin! And a bastard! I thought of the “Lens of the World” series and also of Curse of Chalion. Actually, I expected not to like the first book from its first chapter, which piled fake-medievally world stereotype upon stereotype, with characters named Verity and Chivalry and Shrewd. Then the decent writing and fast moving plot completely sucked me in. The guy who takes care of the young assassin bastard, the stable master, was just a great character, a flawed unhappy guy doing his duty… And then the assassin guy himself, who doesn’t know his own name till halfway through the book and nearly an adult, grows and changes over the course of the stories and isn’t really that much of a hero either. I have criticisms and complaints about the Plot Device magic powers but mostly I could let that go and enjoy the story. Any deeper criticism I would need to do with the book in hand & a lot of quoting from it.

Somehow, I ended up reading a book called Mulengro by Charles De Lint. How did it even get into my house? Was it a present? Did someone recommend it? It’s awfully boring. The characters bore the daylights out of me. They appear in vignettes and I utterly don’t care about them and then they get disembowelled by the Bad Super Magic Romany Dude/Spirit Who Was Traumatized By Nazis. Now it is not like I know jack about anything Romani. Other than, that I spent half a year tutoring an 8 year old kid to read somewhat against the wishes of his family – I was working as a tutor, and from what I could tell he didn’t go to school but there was some legal trouble *and* someone in the family *did* want him to learn to read and so, twice a week tutoring. We would have long discussions over why it might be pointless to learn to read (his view, reinforced by his uncles) and why it might be okay and in fact useful (my view, and his grandmother’s; but it was interesting to hear his reasons.) I’m slogging through the book to see if there is any point. So, my question is for you all, is there any point? Am I just reading the wrong De Lint novel? Should I try another one?

I really liked reading on the iPod, way more than I thought I would. Flipping pages was effortless. The reading experience was so seamless that I kept putting it down, then looking around for the physical book to pick it up again, then remembering there WAS NO BOOK.

It is easier to wash your hair while reading on an iPod than to do it while holding a regular book; just riskier. True!
I re-did my purple hair dye tonight half while not looking and reading Mulengro, which is now more like Purplengro. Then I realized that I was wearing a white shirt which I had to take off over my head. FAIL! Good thing I don’t mind.

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Reading 50 books by people of color: a blog challenge

Earlier this year I signed up to do the 50books_poc challenge, to read 50 books by people of color.

Part of the fun of this has been noting other people’s books and reviews, getting leads on good books to read that I’ve never heard of, and participating in discussions. Today I saw a question about history books by POC especially focusing on history of Asian countries or regions. So I contributed a bit by looking at my own bookshelves. While I have mostly fiction – and an entire bookcase full of mostly-fiction from China, Korea, Japan, and India – I picked out some histories, historical fiction, and stories that are kind of political or that I learned history from – especially socialist realist fiction, which I love.

Here is my list of recommendations for history,

Korea Unmasked, a comic book history of Korea, very odd and interesting, by Won-bok Rhie. I particularly recommend this as a view of Korean history and China and Japan that you will not get from a Western source.

A New History of Korea – Ki-baik Lee This is the most tolerable in style and authoritative feeling history I have found in English. I would love to see comparably well-sourced and annotated Korean history books but written for a mass audience or maybe sort of more pop/journalist storytelling style of history.


Feminist Cultural Politics in Korea
– ed. Jung-Hwa Oh. A collection of academic essays. Very interesting!

Korea Forty Three Centuries by Tae Hung Ha. (A bit dull and textbooky like so many English translations of Korean history, but full of interesting details.)

A Handbook of Korea Extremely boring AND YET STILL INTERESTING. It is a very “official publication”.

And here’s a few interesting novels which sort of, well, have a lot of history in them:

The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River by Ding Ling (really, anything by her that you can find in translation to English is pretty awesome.

My Innocent Uncle – Ch’ae Man-Shik (short stories)

A Ready-Made Life: Early Masters of Modern Korean Fiction (more short stories, again heavy on the politics)

But I have more to say as I gaze fondly over my bookcases, with a full heart!

So, a few years ago I went on a reading spree and sought out books from China. I read some of the major classics like The Scholars, Outlaws of the Marsh (or The Water Margin, or The Marshes of Mount Liang), Journey to the West, and Story of the Stone (Dream of Red Mansions or Dream of the Red Chamber). They are very huge long complicated epic novels. I read them in multiple translations. As well as all the “classic” scandalous books I could find like Golden Lotus and The Peony Pavilion and The Carnal Prayer Mat. Ranging backwards in time, I read some translations of Sima Qian (or Ssuma Chien), The Three Kingdoms, The Pearl Blossom Fan, and whatever stuff Arthur Waley translated, some buddhist scriptures, and translations of Mencius and Confucius. And the Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature. And a lot of other random stuff that was quite old, that gave me more background to understand stuff going on in the epic novels. Moving into the 20th century, I read translations of both versions of Rickshaw Boy. They are quite different – one with a happy ending kind of tacked on. Then, a completely wonderful anthology which I highly recommend, called Literature of the People’s Republic of China. It is crucial if you want to get a flavor of literature in 20th century China! I read other authors like Ding Ling and Gu Hua and I’m sure I’ve mentioned him before, you should read Wang Shuo’s Playing for Thrills if you are going to Beijing to get a good unhealthy dose of modern cynical street thug postmodernism. (This balances out the socialist realist novels about love and wheelbarrows.)

That isn’t even counting the poetry and I have read rather a lot of Chinese poetry as well. Maybe best for another post.

Basically, I have this secret self-taught degree in Chinese literature which I never particularly get to talk about or share. It was a reading kick that lasted many years. I still re-read the long epics, which I love the best because they suck me into a completely different world full of hundreds of characters and they last a good long time. (I read fast, so a regular paperback novel is over in a couple of hours.) I have a lesser knowledge of classics from India but have read multiple versions of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, Pancatantra (one of my favorite books ever) and I read every single Penguin classic from India as well like the Rg Veda, Upanishads, Kathasartsagara, and so on. And I have a similar middling depth in Norse sagas which have a similiar feeling of epic scope and a huge cast of characters.

The Korean history books I list at the top of this post are from Rook’s completely separate reading kick over the last 2 or 3 years – I have read some of them but not all.

My goal in doing all that focused reading was to get some real depth in something that was not my background and not what I was being taught or that everyone around me assumed was true, so I could have a better picture of reality, history, truth, human nature, and the nature of stories. That has been a driving force for me since I was a teenager and began to read as widely as possible. The beautiful thing for me is that there is always so much more out there – infinitely more amazing literature than I could ever manage to read in a lifetime.

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Vacation with Saturn and proplyds

I'm in the parking lot of a motel staring at spectacular red and buff cliffs! It's the Kaibab Limestone and the Coconino sandstone and that other red rock formation I forget the name of. Spiky little lizards are playing on the fence next to me.

After a great but exhausting week at ETech and SXSWi, I'm on vacation in Arizona with a rental car and no particular plan. Last night in Sedona we picked up a flyer in the Super8 lobby, for Evening Sky Tours which I pictured as a couple of old retired guys out in a parking lot picking up some spare cash for new lenses by showing off their amateur astronomy knowledge. While this was close to the truth the Adventure was run in a scarily businesslike and professional manner and rather than being a once a week or sporadic deal it was clearly a real job. Three guys pulled up with a trailer or two full of telescopes with a D**'s mount sort of a huge wooden box like a box kite with mirrors stuck in and lenses and spotting scopes stuck on! They had a row of folding chairs with wooly blankets laid out. Reclining lawn chairs would have been more the thing.
The main dude went around in a bossy way reminding his employees the telescope flunkies to "tell 'em what they're lookin' at". It was excellent. They did an especially good job of saying "In Africa" or "In the MIddle East" when talking about the names of stars and the history of astronomical discoveries.

As the Milky Way began to slide into our consciousness we saw a few satellites and every time I wanted to scream "Satellite!!!" Might have done just that. We had out our G1 Skymaps at first but put them away so as not to be assholes. I knew Orion, Taurus, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, the Big Dipper and North Star, and that is about it. With luck I can spot Cygnus and the Corona Borealis. Zond-7 knew where Sirius was, which impressed me. I guessed where Gemini was, but got it wrong. Then I did what one of the astronomy dudes suggested and learned "Arc to Arcturus" and "Spike to Spica". Now I know a new thing!

The Night Sky Adventure dudes explained what we were looking at very well and were patient and sweet about all the questions. It was a little hard to get them to go into any depth. But it was light years better than going to a planetarium!
Stuff we saw: M51 which is sort of colliding or interacting galaxies, M3 (a globular cluster), M81 and M82 together (they affect each other with tides!), the Beehive Cluster, the Pleiades, a red dwarf star among the Double Cluster,  Mizar A and B and Alcor, (The horse and rider!), Saturn and 5 moons, and a bit of the Orion Nebula where the Trapezium is. We looked at Sirius through a polarized filter to see its spectral lines.

Later, the Wikipedia entry on the Orion Nebula turned out to be incredibly great; hello, iron tipped glowing blue "bullets" of supersonic incandescent gas. It just got more and more extreme and crazy in the descriptions. Keep reading. It gets better and better. Like this:

The green hue was a puzzle for astronomers in the early part of the 20th century because none of the known spectral lines
at that time could explain it. There was some speculation that the
lines were caused by a new element, and the name "nebulium" was coined
for this mysterious material. With better understanding of atomic
physics, however, it was later determined that the green spectra was
caused by a low-probability electron transition in doubly ionized oxygen, a so-called "forbidden transition".

In between lurching up from my wheelchair to peer through telescopes, I kept saying over the things we'd seen, so that I could look them up later. "You must have studied this!" one woman said in amazement. "No…. I'm just repeating to myself what the guy just told us…"

I don't mean this meanly, but I have forgotten how dumb most people are. Or maybe not dumb but just, without the most basic snippets of information about things like what a moon or a constellation or a galaxy is. Compared to our amateur astronomer hosts Zond-7 and I were just a couple of people who grew up liking science magazines and who might read the Planetary Society blog once in a while. But the people around us, holy crap. One lady was asking what it meant for something to be a moon. As we explained (super nicely) she *got it* that moons go around a planet, and planets go around the Sun, and so the moons are also going around the Sun at the same time, but with extra wiggling. I could see her getting it, even in the dark! Zond-7 explained very clearly to someone else what it meant for Saturn to be in Leo (which it was). Earlier, someone else went "Is there a thing called a .. a 'quark'?" and boy howdy did I feel like Mr. Peabody just able to say "It's a tiny elementary particle" Zond-7 asked if she meant quasar, but she meant quarks which were mentioned in a movie she saw. When I hung out with large feral packs of theoretical physicists I noticed how they would speak with disdain of washed-up media whores meaning anyone who ever talked to the press or wrote a popular science article. Meanwhile I wish popular science was more popular and more people would learn how to explain (with strangeness and charm) what a quark is to a regular person.

Anyway, I was struck by how much people don't know. We don't need to know it, people go around and function and are smart as anything, but I forget that most people don't care for some of the things I like to know. And I was struck by the thought that I am used to being around people who do know and who have a fairly huge internal database of random knowledge not applicable to their daily life. The people who came to the astronomy event were self selected to be people who were interested and curious and willing to learn stuff, unlike the general population. I am not trying to be judgmental on people by saying this, it is just that I felt a gulf suddenly between my assumptions about what's in people's heads all around me, and what actually is. Heather Gold at SXSWi in her talk show at Plutopia touched on this rather sweetly when she mentioned the movie Powers of Ten and said "You know, like that thing you do in bed when you're a little kid, where you imagine you're in your address, St. Louis, Missouri, United States, North America, Northern Hemisphere, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way, like that? … and the crowd just kind of stared at her…. As Heather did, I assumed everyone did that! Did you? But no – not everyone spends hours poring over photographs of galaxies and nebulae and reading encyclopedia articles. I have not felt like a freak for having a lot of book learning for a long time, not for years. As a kid that was a hard lesson – I thought all reasonable people would automatically know what mitochondria were, and so on.
This crowd, the idea of spectral lines was going to be so completely over their heads that it was impossible for the guys to explain anything. I was glad they showed it anyway.

Meanwhile, I don't know the parts of an engine or how to fix a toilet or knit a sweater or take someone's blood pressure as probably the people on our Star Tour do know.

Saturn's moons freaked me out the most. They just hang there. The light reflected from Saturn shades them like our Moon is shaped and shaded by Earthlight. They were more surreal to me than Saturn itself, because they looked so three dimensional.

There is a flythrough of a 3-D model of the Orion Nebula! Can't wait to try it!

When we get home I have a book called Agnotology waiting for me which promises to be about theories of Not Knowing. What don't we know? And why don't we? And how does that affect us?

One last note, Zond-7 asked one of the astronomy dudes how many stars
were in a galaxy and was told a trillion.  He gently drew out the guy a
little more and then shut up. Later in the car he told me that the
trillion stars theory was in the process of being debunked, as it is
based on "a trillion solar masses" but like 99.999 % of that is dark
matter so there are likely not a trillion stars in the galaxy at ALL.
Speaking of Agnotology!

If you are wondering about a proplyd you may go read the article on the Orion Nebula! Happy pointless knowledge voyage!

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Get me off this ice floe!

The rain and cold are kicking my ass. Likely I am a bit physically weak from not doing much while I was sick. At least I can breathe really really well. (Yay steroids) But damn, I’m really worn down by pain, the last few days.

I can walk but it’s slow and creaky. This morning I woke up aching so hard. I moved around in all directions in bed, progressed to PT exercises, then got up and forced myself to walk around and pick things up off the floor. Unstiffening is good. Oh, for last week when the sun was out and I was full of strange vigor and I felt like being alive.

Distraction is the most helpful thing & also it passes the time so I can endure this grinding annoyance until I can legitimately be unconscious again. In short – I am cranky.

Before I got up and while doing slow leg lifts and stretches I read “Ice Drift”, a very dull book about two Inuit boys adrift on an ice floe. It’s hard to convey how dull it was for something that should be good. Plodding! Untrustworthy-feeling! Stilted As-You-Know-Bob dialogue on every single page! And pointlessness. It was like two pieces of cardboard, spouting bits of children’s encyclopedia entries to each other!

The afterword was the best bit, where the author explains that the real story that inspired him was the story of some of the crew of the ship Polaris in 1871, 19 people including 2 Inuit men 2 Inuit women, and 5 of their children, stranded on an ice floe for six months. The author read the manuscripts from the Captain and two crew members. “In the end, rather than attempt to boil down the mass of information about Tyson’s ordeal — the many characters, the murder of the Polaris master, the near mutiny, the shameful treatment of the Inuit — I decided to write a novel about two young boys who were forced to go on a similar journey.” A novel in which white people show up in their ship only to nicely give the boys a ride home and cheer for them.

There is also a bit from 3rd person omniscient focused on the kids’ mom who bravely sets out against her husband’s wishes, risking death and divorce to rescue them, but is warned by two big burly men to turn back, and then turns back. That’s after she and her husband go out to find them the first time and turn back after 1 day when they realize they were too stupid to bring any food with them. Why was that scene even necessary!

Why not write the story of the Polaris in all its complexity, from the point of view of one of the kids? I just re-read Treasure Island and was impressed with its moral complexity… and thought of how I loved it when I was little. The book I read this morning had none — zero, zilch, nada.

Also, I couldn’t get past the younger boy being named “Sulu”. Elementary school kids might not have this problem but for me it was a hurdle!

IN the book instead of being people who kill, kidnap you, and take you to be exhibited in museums, as well as setting off on polar expeditions that are complete clusterfucks because they all have their heads up their asses; instead of that, the white people on the ships are competent and benevolent – everything they do benefits the Inuit. Even the wrecked ship the Reliance is dismantled and its wood used by the Inuit to make their only “real village” of Nunatak with “even a proud community hall building, courtesy of the Reliance wood” as opposed to what they were before which was a “collection of temporary makeshift huts and iglu“. With this totally non subtle subtext like, “even the accidental garbage left over from our total failures helped immeasurably to civilize the childlike natives.”

It is a good book for this blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, to take apart. I’m going to write to Debbie Reese and suggest it.

The best account of the actual ice floe journey that I could find:
http://www.oldnewspublishing.com/story1.htm

Doesn’t it sound like everyone on the Polaris was going mad from slow arsenic poisoning? and the Captain just got the most lethal dose?

Here’s some details about the Inuit who were on the ice floe. Unlike the Inuit in the “Ice Drift” book, these people were well acquainted with white folks. Hell, they had met Queen Victoria.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tookoolito
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebierbing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Hendrik – innnnnnteresting, Hans Hendrik wrote a book: “Memoirs of Hans Hendrik, the Arctic traveller, serving under Kane, Hayes, Hall and Nares, 1853–1876, by himself ”

Well, that’s how I spent my morning, obsessing over the ways that this type of “historical” fiction actually erases history in a way that is stupid, dull, inaccurate, simplistic, and racist, all in the guise of educating young people.

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Camille, with a gun, in pants!

Every time something exploded or there was a cliché in Quantum of Solace I punched Rook excitedly. He is now black and blue all up one arm. Yay, it was fantastic! Things were totally on fire and going very fast and there was broken glass everywhere and there were lots of guns! That makes it the best movie ever, just like XXX and The Killer and Bullet to the Head and, apparently, the new Vin Diesel movie which from the previews looks like heaven. NOT as heavenly as the Star Trek movie preview though. Holy crap! They seriously aimed that trashtasticness straight into my soul! You didn’t know I had a soul? Well I do, and it has Spock and Kirk in it looking like they’re going to kiss while their spaceship explodes.

Back to Quantum of Solace. The highlight of the whole fucking movie was PANTS. Camille is always whipping a gun or a knife out of somewhere when she’s wearing like 6 inches of fabric. And then finally in the ending scene she is wearing pants and has a big old gun. Thank you god and whatever movie director was like “yanno what it is fucking stupid these tough secret agent movie chicks are always in high heels and an evening gown in the middle of an airplane crash, how about we give her 5 minutes to prepare for going out to shoot this guy in the head on her secret mission and let her put on a pair of fucking pants. Tough ones with pockets in.” THANK YOU.

I will leave the intelligent critiques for later. For now it is all burbling and dreamy looks. Oh, but I did feel that though camera cutting from thing to thing in the action scenes was distracting and annoying, it was not ineptness or cheating but was meant on purpose to disrupt the linear narrative of violence. IN other words it was important that the violence be confusingly nonlinear so you don’t know what what hit what or where that grappling hook came from or where the crane is swinging to on the scaffolding, because it’s important that you be very unsure *what caused what*.

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Getting rid of some books, part 2

Another small round of decluttering. I spent most of the day in bed reading 5 Miss Marple novels. They are so classist and racist and sexist and full of horrible gender stereotypes but they are oddly satisfying because there are so many active women characters in them who are smart, powerful, shrewd, or who have other positive qualities – usually, they pass the Bechdel test very well. I kind of enjoy the classist bits because they make particular attitudes about class very clear – as in girls’ series books.

- The Mirror Crack’d. The neurotic American film star at the top of the stairs whose baby was born “mentally defective” and was put away in a home. Ugh! Makes one appreciate how times have changed. Sly blackmailing secretary with a nasal atomizer. Scatterbrained, gardening Mrs. Bantry whose house it use to be. Arty photographer girl from London. Busybody self centered organizing woman who does a ton of charity work (victim). Stupid parlormaid (victim) though not actually a parlormaid, is temporary help from, uh, the village. Or something.

- A Carribean Mystery. Miss Marple on some tropical island. Casual racism. Nice young couple who own a hotel. Stuffy old bore who tells stories of shooting lions in Africa, and murders (victim). Black parlormaid (victim) blackmailer. Cantankerous semi-paralyzed old man, Mr. Raffiel, who is insanely rich and who teams up with Miss Marple. His snoopy male secretary/valet/masseur. His widowed assistant/nurse/attendant.

- Nemesis. Sequel to Caribbean Mystery. Mr. Raffiel leaves a mysterious mystery to Miss Marple. Gardening tour. Middle aged ladies (I liked them.) Three sisters who live in a decaying old house. Many interesting references to a bad girl from the village who has been running around with boys since she was 12 (victim). Pure schoolgirl with heart of gold from days of yore (victim). Saintly, powerful headmistress of a school (victim). Miss Marple seems quite old in this book and it is suggested she might die in the next year or so.

- What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw. Miss Marple’s friend witnesses a murder on a passing train. Good character of the insanely competent university educated woman, Lucy Eyelesbarrow, who chooses to be an incredibly high paid domestic servant instead of academia, in order to have an independent life. Big family. Cantankerous old Mr. Crackenthorpe and his various children who want to inherit his cash and estate.

- The Body in the Library. Mrs. Bantry, much younger and still living in her enormous estate which was later bought by the neurotic film star in Mirror Crack’d. Arty, scandalous film people. A hotel in a nearby village or town where idle people seem to come and stay for an entire season, dancing, playing bridge, taking tennis lessons, and being secretly scandalous. Hotels seem to routinely keep a staff of “hosts” who mix with the guests and play up to them (as in Caribbean Mystery)

Why am I poisoning my mind with this crap! I have so many nice books to read!

Other books on the way out:

* Our National Parks vol. 1 and 2 (from the 50s, with cool illustrations)
* Several other very old guidebooks to parks and regions and beaches
* Sew Simply, Sew Perfect (for its 1960s-ness and basic concepts)
* Comparative Mythology by Puhvel (textbook?)
* How the Irish Saved Civilization
* The Voice of the Whirlwind: The Book of Job (???)
* The New Golden Bough
* Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga
* The Book of the Dead – dover thrift of the Wallis Budge version. Tempted to keep this one.

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Getting rid of books, fiction, A-C

The books in my own library function as my external memory. I’m going through some of the fiction bookshelves in my office to get rid of some books. So that I remember what I’ve read, and where I could find certain information or stories again, I’ll record what’s going out the door. (And if you want any of these books, ping me to come pick them up. Otherwise – donation.)

Frozen Future A prophetic report from Antarctica. Ed. by Richard S. Lewis and Philp M. Smith. 1973. A very cool book with lots of charts and diagrams. I like knowing what people thought was going to be the future in 1973. This was part of my 1999 inhalation of everything about Antarctica, just before Rook went to work at the South Pole for 6 weeks.

The Speedwell Voyage: A true story of survival at Sea in the Bestselling Tradition of The Endurance. Piracy & mutiny in the 18th century. Kenneth Poolman. Okay, but not great. Too far removed from the source. Why not just re-read Hakluyt again if you’re going to go there.

The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition. Caroline Alexander. Coffee table book. Again… go to the source.

Nisa: Life and Words of a !Kung Woman. Marjorie Shostak. Interesting but sometimes I want to slap the anthropologist. Nisa is cool.

Travels in West Africa. Mary Kingsley. Fabulous, but falling apart and missing some pages. I will tear some more out and save them for envelope art and throw away the rest. I especially remember the scenes where Kingsley is lost in a mangrove swamp.

The Book of Weird. Why do I even have this?

Paula, and Stories of Eva Luna. Isabel Allende. I so don’t need this. Allende bugs the ever living crap out of me. I kept House of the Spirits just to critique the hell out of it.

Ranger’s Apprentice. John Flanagan Utterly unmemorable YA fantasy book. Why do I have it?

Dragon Keeper. Carole Wilkinson. YA book set in China. Passing this one on to Moomin. I think someone sent it to me for review. Read it, can’t remember it… I think it was okay…

A whole bunch of Kushiel books. Jacqueline Carey. Might have re-read them once over while sick. Could get from library so easily. Worth keeping? What do you think? In 10 years, or 20, will I still be able to find a copy? I think so.

Xenocide. Orson Scott Card. Advance uncorrected proof.. Going, going, gone.

Agatha Christie. 4 huge hardback collections of mysteries and short stories. Mostly Miss Marple. Others too. Okay, these are around so that when I have a cold, I can tear through them. Again, couldn’t I just send someone to the library to fill me up with junk reading? Yet, these are relatively compact. I’m torn. Miss Marple Meets Murder. Miss Marple Complete Short Stories. Five Complete Miss Marple Novels. Then another book with 5 Tommy/Tuppence novels.

John Dickson Carr. hardback “Three Detective Novels.” See above.

Wit’s End. karen joy fowler. Liked it, not necessarily going to re-read it.

Territory. Emma Bull.. Ditto.

Nancy’s Mysterious Letter. This one sucked!

Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill. Volume 2. Great, but why do I have two copies of volume 2 and NO VOLUME ONE?

The Fortunate Fall. Raphael Carter Fabulous. Duplicate copy!

The Collected Stories, Isaac Babel I remember these with affection but have not touched the book for 15 years… Out it goes, if I want to read Babel again, will go to library.

Lynn V. Andrews. Jaguar Woman. sacred journey blah blah. Don’t remember it. Why do I have it? Not the sort of book I would even bother to read. At least not since I was about 13 years old. Book 3 of a trilogy I don’t think I’ve read.

MLA handbook 3rd edition good riddance

Bruce Chatwin. In Patagonia Duplicate copy of a rather loathsome book. It’s so loathesome that I’m keeping copy 1.

La última niebla. La amortajada. María Luisa Bombal. Good stories but likely I am not going to translate them. I will stick with poetry. Someone out there wants this book. Will donate to library…

El Aleph. Borges. Duplicate. In spanish

The Fall of the Towers. Samuel R. Delany. Duplicate copy. paperback.

Sundiver. Startide Rising. David Brin. I so don’t need this on my shelf. Left over from high school.

Oroonoko. Aphra Behn.. Duplicate copy!

Phantom Islands of the Atlantic Okay but just not worth keeping on the shelf. Better idea than execution.

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Geek out at BlogHer Boston and DC

This weekend I’m flying out to Boston and DC for two BlogHer conferences. I can’t wait to meet new people and the women I already know! Every feminist conference I go to is super inspiring and this is one where it is totally normal to have your laptop going at all times, so at dinner there you are with 10 other chicks typing like maniacs in between the laughing our asses off, insane gossip, politics politics politics, book recommendations, and WordPress plugin tips.

erin feeling the computer love


Here’s my talk, which i will just keep on thinking of as “Quick Blog Overhaul” though it is really called “Blogging Basics: 6 Steps to Personalize, Polish & Promote Your Blog“. It will be a brief talk and then we’ll split into small groups to do the hands-on workshop stuff.

Join BlogHer’s {{Badger Hemulen}} and a team of subject-matter experts for a quick and effective blog makeover. Let’s look at your blog, whether you’ve got one post up or 100, and give it some love. Liz will explain 6 simple steps you can take to give your blog a tune-up, and then we’ll break into small groups to try out some of what you’ve learned. These 6 steps can help clarify to your readers who you are and what you write. Whether you use WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, or any other platform – you and your platform are welcome.

  • Personalize: Danielle Henderson will work with you make sure your readers know how to identify and reach you…and that you feature your community, so they can also see themselves. In addition she’ll work with you to learn how to add images, or even audio and video, to show who you are.
  • Polish: Megan Garnhum will cover the basic geeky ingredients that add up to a truly functional, findable, fabulous blog. Learn about appropriate, search-friendly hyperlinking, tagging…why and how, and even about headlines and why they matter.
  • Promote: Alissa Kriteman will help you learn how (and why) to put your post on BlogHer, Twitter, Kirtsy, Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit, Stumbleupon, other social sites.

  • Then there are the parties!

    I can’t help it. Women get in my lap. What can I say?

    In DC I’ll be doing the same workshop with a different set of local bloggers:

  • Personalize: Veronica “Roni” Noone will make sure your readers know how to identify and reach you…and that you feature your community, so they can also see themselves. In addition she’ll work with you to learn how to add images, or even audio and video, to show who you are.
  • Polish: Andrea Meyers (well known for Andrea’s recipes) will cover the basic geeky ingredients that add up to a truly functional, findable, fabulous blog. Learn about appropriate, search-friendly hyperlinking, tagging…why and how, and even about headlines and why they matter.
  • Promote: Kristen King will help you learn how (and why) to put your post on BlogHer, Twitter, Kirtsy, Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit, Stumbleupon, other social sites.

  • There will be too many awesome people there for me to name them all but I’m going to be super happy to get to hang out with Beth Kanter, Candelaria Silva, Erin Kotecki Vest, Laurie White, superfantabulous feminist geek Shireen Mitchell, and of course my friend Sarah Dopp, the BlogHer founders, and my co-workers like Kristy who are fantastic bloggers and who I see practically every day but don’t get to hang out or really talk blogging because we are WORKING WORKING WORKING.

    So, along with all that, I get to see my main partner in crime, editorial and geeky soul sister forever, Laura Quilter and my awesome brilliant ex and good friend M.M. and their new baby! You have no idea how excited I am. Actually it’s worse than that. Last time I got to be with Quilter and then had to leave I sobbed for an hour in the car. I will have to drown my sorrows after I leave their house, on Friday night in bloggity sisterhood in the Boston Burlington Marriott hotel bar.

    On Sunday I’m flying to Baltimore, renting a car, and sloping off to see my grandma on the Eastern Shore. I haven’t seen her in years or my uncle either. I got to hang out with her for about a day when Moomin was 2 or 3. Other than that it is all little cards twice a year and I usually lose her $25 check and am a very awful person and never write back. I regret not being very close with my extended family but that’s the truth of it. I think of them very fondly, but in actual practice, there is not much of a relationship.

    Then glorious Blogheristas on Monday again in DC! Or, really, Bethesda!

    On Tuesday before my plane leaves I want to go find my friend lavendertook and hang out at her funky local internet cafe and co-op – then it’s back home where I’ll collapse into a little travel-weary puddle.

    I know it is sort of boasty but I would like to say not for the first time that I am proud of myself for going on giant trips in my wheelchair and just kind of facing it down. I get unnerved sometimes. That feeling to me is a red flag that means I MUST DO WHATEVER THE THING IS. In general I’m walking pretty well, but after hours on an airplane, I won’t be and my ability to walk isn’t predictable especially with travel. Walking, who needs it? It’s more the exhaustion and being demoralized by pain that gets me. Still, consider the allure of jetting into town, renting a car, and the open road! Could go anywhere! (But probably won’t.) Now is the time!

    If you live in those areas and haven’t registered for the conferences, think about it, there’s still time, it’s only $100 for an all day conference with food and a cocktail party. & well worth it for learning stuff, meeting great people, the massive, massive hit of inspiration from hanging with other women writers and bloggers and geeks and people putting their ideals into practice, “networking”, and last but not least huge fun.

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    Garage Sale for Obama

    I saw this flyer up on a post outside of the Safeway at 29th and Mission, a garage sale to raise money to give to the Obama campaign.

    Garage Sale for Obama

    The other day in a friend’s blog I noticed her thinking of saving money for some expensive Fluevog boots, but then she reconsidered and decided to give that money to the campaign instead.

    I wear a size eight and covet these boots. How can I justify spending over three hundred dollars (that I could conceivably have in a month or so) on boots when I could give that money to the ” Obama FTW ” fund. Its true…. So maybe no boots for me right now. Woe.

    Don’t they both seem like very Gen X middle class fundraising ideas, more than bake sales or auctions or whatever? It struck me as something I’ve never seen before.

    Today I did a little housecleaning to get ready for Bork to come visit, finished reading I Am a Cat, thought more about Random Acts of Senseless Violence, had lunch with Bork who is here now, yay! Did a driving lesson with Zond-7 and we drove around Pee’s harbor and Ducktown Marina to look at what it is like to live there. Pee’s Harbor was more posh. Ducktown was more the sort of thing that appeals to me especially “Nancy and Jane’s garden” and how everything is a bit half-assed and jumbledy. Apparently the politics of Ducktown are: the owners are a big fancy trust, and want to sell. the people offering are offering a few million too low. Meanwhile there is Measure You-Know-What that defines that area as open space. How could they evict the people who have lived there for 30 years and have giant floating houses not just little boats on their bit of dock?

    Then up to the city – rested – had dinner with vito_excalibur – went to SFinSF and liked nihilistic kid and dlevine’s stories – T.B. was very funny and scatterbrained – had a little of Vito’s whiskey – was in pain – didn’t know what to say to people who congratulated me on my verticality – gave out handfuls of Obama buttons. N.K.’s story was a Raymond Carver – HP Lovecraft mashup with 3 people drinking whiskey in a cave. I am sure Ken H. should read it if he hasn’t already. He must have? He’d like it. I shrieked “Wooooooo!!” way too loud when the chick took a mouthful of whiskey and there was mention of a lantern because I am a gamer and knew what was coming, but then felt silly. Then like 5 minutes later she spewed fiery death over a shoggoth and I was vindicated. At least vito got it. We gave dlevine hell teasing him about how he was flying colors (yay sf hanky code) but guessed his code slightly wrong. NK’s comments during the slightly doofusy “question and answer” period were awesome. Yay for people who make sense and are funny. At one point I just wanted to smack dlevine for his comments on the obviousness of deism and then his attempt at a save in saying some people did not think so but there was always room to change one’s mind. Boooo from the row of atheists! His story rocked – he read Charlie the Purple Giraffe, which I enjoyed. Zond-7 asked how one could sustain this sort of meta narrative for a much longer story which led us to some mention of Don Quixote, She-Hulk, and I brought up The Great Good Thing which while it has some twee elements was well done. Vito had some muttery comments about alternate histories and time travel and the point not being the Twist. I cannot remember the other people’s questions or comments all that well or if I do I will remain mercifully silent because some of them were embarrassingly silly. Saw Rina, J.W., klages, whump, cyn, nk’s friend who i can’t remember but who was introduced charmingly to me as my secret stalker, so I hope she comments somewhere, kate, and a jillion other people. Home, bed, merciful horizontalness, lovely warm electric blanket.

    Also watched a ton of Sarah Haskins Target Women – go watch them – they’re great. The cleaning and yogurt ones were the funniest.

    Tomorrow will do lots of hard work – Rook and Moomin are out camping for the rpg nerdy beach party – I will meet up later on with them and Bork – I’d like to go to the Emperor Norton party at Borderlands for a bit but it might depend on working on the book and how much I get done.

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