mollyringle: (Default)
We’re down to the final edits of The Goblins of Bellwater, and those proofing it have pointed out that I need to pick what the singular of “fae” is. I mostly have gone with “faery,” though slipped into “faerie” a time or two. Or hang on, should it just be “fairy”?

Well. Not a straightforward “check the dictionary, duh” kind of question, it turns out. Merriam-Webster and others simply list “faery” and “faerie” as “less common” or even “obsolete” variants of “fairy.”

The word comes from Old French “faerie” and “fae,” leading to Middle English “fairie” (oh look, another variant) which became Modern English “fairy.” So yes, in a sense, the modern version is spelled “fairy,” as the dictionary says. However. Connotations must be taken into account.

First problem I have with “fairy”: it makes people think of the Disney style of fairy. Glittery pink wings, giggling, sanitized, harmless, a cute party costume for five-year-olds. This isn’t the kind of fairy I’m writing about.
Second problem I have: “fairy” has become derogatory slang for a gay man, which is both distracting and a mean-spirited kind of attitude I want no part of.

As someone puts it on this language discussion forum, “fairy tales and the associated idea of fairies typically refer to the genre of folk stories printed by the Brothers Grimm, then sweetened and popularized for modern audiences by Disney et al. Faerie stories, on the other hand, are stories about the fae: otherworldly, unpredictable, and dangerous creatures who appear in the folk-tales and myths of England and Ireland. In origin, of course, the fairies and the fae are one and the same, but the connotations and usage of the words today are headed in opposite directions.”

I like the spelling “faerie,” even though it gets marked “archaic or poetic” by the dictionaries, and sometimes even “pseudoarchaic”—ooh, no one wants to be called that! Feeling the lexicography burn, Edmund Spenser? (With The Faerie Queene, from 1590, Spenser apparently used a deliberately archaic spelling.) But “faerie” also has the complication that it sometimes refers to fairyland, the realm of Faerie, rather than an individual being.

So: “faery,” then?
Much of my visual idea of the kind of fae I’m writing about comes from the brilliant, gorgeous artwork of Brian Froud—whose most influential volume on the subject is of course titled Faeries. In his own writing about them, he spells it “faery” for singular, so really, if Brian Froud calls them that, it’s good enough for me.

Exhibit A: page from Froud’s 
Good Faeries, Bad Faeries:





That said, Froud seems to prefer “the faeries” as the plural, whereas I’ve fallen into the habit of “the fae,” just because I like it. Plenty of others use “the fae” too, just not Froud so much.

Thus I’m going with “faery,” but in case anyone ever asks, yes, I know it’s an imperfect solution, and I know some people will call me pseudoarchaic. I’m feeling the burn. 
mollyringle: (Monkees - b&w)
Things I don't particularly miss about the '80s and '90s, music industry edition:

1. Having to phone the radio station and ask the DJ in order to find out the name of the song and artist. And then having no way to hear it again that day unless you went to the record store. And even then they might not have it. You kids these days with your YouTube and your Spotify, you're lucky.

2. Having to do a somewhat involved math problem in order to best arrange the songs on a 90-minute mix tape.

3. "Hidden tracks" that took the form of a 14-minute track at the end of a CD: a 4-minute song, then 5 minutes of silence, then the hidden track. Srsly, who told them people would like that?
mollyringle: (Minas Tirith - John Howe)
f7969d646e66e054ff0d2ed6dce8414f

Saw this C.S. Lewis quotation today, and it was fitting, for last night I was ruminating again upon how "paranormals" are indeed not some recent shallow fad in fiction, as some people believe, usually those who claim they find deeper meaning in "real" life fiction.

I can write, have written, and will write contemporary ("real life") fiction, and I do read it, and it can indeed be great. But it isn't the only place to find meaning in the world of stories. For what are the oldest known stories passed down among humans? Myths. From all over the world, they follow the same pattern: totally fantastical stories about monsters, gods/deities, faery folk, magical powers, and imaginary lands. Is it just a fluke that those endured, rather than true-to-life family sagas or down-to-earth relationship stories? I think not. I think imagination, and casting our everyday problems into larger-than-life settings and symbols, is exactly what makes us human and gets our brains revving.

If you like myths and fairy tales and other paranormals, you already know this, but maybe you can tell it to the next person who sneers at this silly little fleeting several-thousand-year-old "fad" of humans making up fantasy stories.

Link salad

Jun. 16th, 2014 12:39 pm
mollyringle: (Buffy - drive like a spaz)
Some things that have made me laugh lately:

Two medieval monks invent maps.
MONK #1: wait remind me of what Asia looks like when you put it all together at once
MONK #2: a big horse with wings that’s about to eat Europe
MONK #1: right right thanks
MONK #2: no problem

Similarly, Western Art History: 500 Years of Women Ignoring Men.

A Benedict Cumberbatch coloring book that just got released on Amazon. "This colouring in activity book celebrates Mr Cumberbatch with a series of black and white drawings for you to colour in. All you need is some colour pencils, felt tip pens, good old crayons… or would watercolours suit this posh poster boy better?"
We're almost through season 3 of "Sherlock" (finally, belatedly), so, good timing.

The guy whose video went deservedly viral; the one in which he lip-synched to Celine Dion's "All By Myself" when stuck overnight in the Las Vegas airport.

Flight of the Conchords, the HBO show that ran for two seasons, featuring two lovable, silly, highly parody-talented musicians from New Zealand. I adore pretty much all of it that I've seen so far. Available to stream free on Amazon Prime if you have that.
mollyringle: (Willow - Hi - by aom_leiconz)
Her gaze landed upon a young man across the room in a dark purple cloak, his beard clipped short, his curly black hair braided back and adorned with a wreath of ivy—much less showy than the bright spring flowers Persephone and the others wore in honor of the equinox. He stood apart from the others, squinting against the bright sun as he gazed out the window at the sea.

Soon he turned his head and noticed her. The brooding expression on his face evaporated as he regarded her, an appreciative smile taking its place. Truly, he was quite beautiful. They gazed at each other a moment longer than was proper. A pleasant flutter danced in Persephone’s belly. Was he an immortal? Gold did seem to glint beneath the ivy, as if the vines were twined around one of the gods’ crowns.

Then she recognized him. Hades.
- Persephone's Orchard

* * *

On Hades' purple cloak: in early versions I had him in black robes, as black sounds appropriate for the god of the dead. But online research suggests black cloth was hard to obtain in ancient (and in this case prehistoric) Greece. Dyes required a lot of effort and frequently expense, and black was difficult to make. White wool was the basic material for clothing. Nonetheless, Greeks liked their colors where they could get them, and in addition to adding pretty embroidery to the hems, they did seem to have some reliable dyes. Purple was one of the most expensive. Hence Hades, with his access to the gemstones falling out of the Underworld's walls, could afford it.

But real historians should jump in here to correct any misinformation. We can make adjustments in the next volume.
mollyringle: (Froud - bad faeries)
One of the nerdy mythology books I have around is this one:



And one of its appendices includes translations of various writing found on bits of papyrus from ancient Greek times. The magical spells in particular interested me (these are part of the Greek Magical Papyri, if you're curious), because they are exactly as bizarre and specific as anything Willow ever whipped up on a Buffy episode, or any Herbology or Potions extra credit Hermione ever undertook. For example, check out the instructions for preparing the Spell To Make Aphrodite Attract One's Lover:

* * *

Offering to the star of Aphrodite: A white dove's blood and fat, untreated myrrh, and parched wormwood. Make this up together as pills and offer them to the star on pieces of vine wood or on coals. And also have the brains of a vulture for the compulsion, so that you may make the offering. And also have as a protective charm a tooth from the upper right jawbone of a female ass or of a tawny sacrificial heifer, tied to your left arm with Anubian thread.

* * *

Even in the age of Ebay, a person would be hard pressed to collect all that stuff. I, for one, am all out of Anubian thread and have no idea where to get more. Do you think dental floss would work?

But that spell is less scary than the All-Purpose Magical Prayer to Selene (who is identified with Hecate here). In that one, you're supposed to carve a three-faced Hecate on a lodestone, then dip it "in the blood of one who has died a violent death." Yikes. Is that just a polite way of saying "sacrifice someone for this spell"? Or are you expected to find a recently-violently-dead person lying around by chance?

"Honey? Do we know anyone who died a violent death today? I need it for a spell."
"Let me check the pantry. Nothing here...oh wait! I found one by the back door. That was lucky."
mollyringle: (sleazy fandom)
I don't in fact aim to invite a flame war, but there was this amusing moment in season 4 of The Big Bang Theory (a show that you should watch if you haven't yet, because it is hilarious):

---

Priya: Listen, Rajesh, Leonard and I have decided to see each other again, and you don’t get to tell me who I can and can’t have a relationship with.

Sheldon: Actually, he can. The Hindu Code of Manu is very clear in these matters. If a woman's father is not around, the duty of controlling her base desires falls to the closest male member of her family; in this case, Raj. The code also states that if she disobeys, she will be reborn in the womb of a jackal and tormented by diseases. If true, that seems like an awfully large gamble given that the prize is Leonard.

Raj: There it is, Priya. We're Indian. We believe this stuff.

Priya: I think it also says that if you eat beef, you need to live with cows for three months and drink their urine.

Raj: Some of it makes sense, some of it's crazy. My point is, you can't go out with Leonard.

---

"Some of it makes sense, some of it's crazy" is basically the response I got recently when (with great foolishness) I ventured to say on an online forum that it isn't wise to cite the Bible as a defense for being anti-gay, since you could also use the Bible to be pro-slavery and pro-stoning-women-to-death-for-adultery, not to mention anti-shellfish and a number of other "crazy" attitudes. It was coolly suggested that I don't really understand the Bible if I propose such parallels. Okay, some truth to that; I am not in fact a religious studies scholar. Nonetheless, it *is* almost indisputable that some of the Bible makes sense and some of it's crazy. And the parts that now seem crazy are usually due to out-of-date cultural standards (or maybe mistranslations). So, when are we ready to admit that gayness being an abomination to God is just as culturally out of date as slavery being A-OK with God?

The Big Bang Theory is comedy. They know Raj is actually objecting to his friend dating his sister because of a basic annoyance and disgust factor, not really because of religion. Religion is just a handy excuse. So, yeah. Parallel, much?
mollyringle: (Froud - kissed by pixies)
Evidently today, April 30, is Walpurgis Night, and while I can't say I've celebrated it before or have definite plans to do so today, I must say it sounds rather cool. Here's what Encyclopaedia Brittanica says on it (and it must be true since it isn't Wikipedia):
---
Walpurgis Night, a traditional holiday celebrated on April 30 in northern Europe and Scandinavia. In Sweden, typical holiday activities include the singing of traditional spring folk songs and the lighting of bonfires. Celebrations in Finland include a carnival and the drinking of alcoholic beverages, particularly sima, a type of mead. In Germany, the holiday is celebrated by dressing in costumes, playing pranks on people, and creating loud noises meant to keep evil at bay. Many people also hang blessed sprigs of foliage from houses and barns to ward off evil spirits, or they leave pieces of bread spread with butter and honey, called ankenschnitt, as offerings for phantom hounds.
[Molly's interjection: Phantom hounds! How awesome is that? Why don't any of our usual holidays involve phantom hounds?]

The origins of the holiday date back to pagan celebrations of fertility rights [sic - surely "rites"?] and the coming of spring. After the Norse were Christianized, the pagan celebration became combined with the legend of St. Walburga, an English-born nun who lived at Heidenheim monastery in Germany and later became the abbess there. Walburga was believed to have cured the illnesses of many local residents. After her death she was canonized as a saint on May 1. Although it is likely that the date of her canonization is purely coincidental to the date of the pagan celebrations of spring, people were able to celebrate both events under church law without fear of reprisal.
---

Other sites give the same basic information; namely, that it was yet another pagan celebration that got turned into a Christian and sometimes specifically anti-pagan holiday. There are reports that in German folklore, Walpurgis Night was when witches met atop a certain mountain, so in a way it's a celebration for witches; but nowadays it sometimes involves symbolically chasing away the witches till next year. Very similar to some interpretations of Halloween/Samhain, that way.

In any case, it sounds like a fun way to start off Beltane/May Day/Spring Day. May you all be the May Queen or Green Man of your personal household this weekend. I did bring in some fresh sprigs of sweet woodruff and orange-mint, so perhaps I'm celebrating in my small way too!
mollyringle: (Gutenberg)
It's that time again, when I page through my journal and my Goodreads dashboard to remember what I read last year and pick out my favorites. So here they are--in, refreshingly, no particular order except that in which I remembered or was reminded of them.

FICTION

Isabel's Daughter, Judith Ryan Hendricks. Avery, a young woman raised as an orphan, gets unexpectedly thrown onto the track of her mother's identity when she stumbles upon a portrait that resembles herself, in Santa Fe, NM. The questions of what she'll discover, and how her relationships will turn out with the other people she meets along the way, kept me reading; and I also loved the influences of Native American culture, herbology, and a whiff of magic. But my favorite feature was probably the setting and its mouth-watering sensory detail. The colors of scenery and artwork, the sounds of desert thunder, and best yet, the taste of New Mexican peppers and sopapillas and chilis verdes--yum! Oh, also, Hendricks gets mega-bonus points for actually emailing me back personally when I dropped her a line to say I liked her books--and for saying she'd read one of mine too! Thank you, Judi!

Bread Alone, Judith Ryan Hendricks. Hendricks also wrote a couple of books featuring my dear city of Seattle. This is the first in the series; I haven't read the second yet, but plan to soon. A Californian woman, abruptly dumped by her husband, finds solace and redemption in making bread for a small Seattle bakery. Again, luscious sensory detail. Reminded me never to write a scene without smells, tastes, textures, and colors.

Moon of Little Winter, Margaret Marr. Kudos to Marr for drawing me right in with an original and quirky premise: two strangers (a man and a woman) show up in the middle of the night to claim the same house, which apparently sits smack dab on a property line. Needless to say, sexual tension kicks in immediately, but so do the spooky complications: bones discovered on the property, objects moving by themselves, spirit wolves, witches both good and bad, and the darkest of family secrets. Marr put a fresh spin on the old "haunted house" storyline with her many innovations. I had a great time reading it and didn't want to put it down.

Voices on the Waves, Jessica Chambers. Chambers is such a skillful novelist, I would never have guessed this was her first published book. She writes with the beauty and grace of a complete pro. This story sucked me in from the start with its rich cast of diverse characters and utterly gorgeous English seaside setting (doesn't hurt that I'm an Anglophile, I suppose), and charmed me into staying up late to keep reading. The characters' interactions were complex enough that I couldn't foresee where they would all end up. Though love does blossom in one or two places, its darker cousins, jealousy and shallow lust, play important roles too, as does good old friendship. I truly cared about all these people, even the ones who behaved badly, because Chambers is so good at finding the humanity in everyone.

The Love Thing, Chris Delyani. Delyani's novel is set up with an irresistible premise: the story of Pride and Prejudice as a modern American office romance, with nearly all the characters played by gay men. Really, do I need to say more? All right, I will: the cakes! The young hero gets roped into the job of baking birthday cakes for everyone in the office, and, though lacking culinary training, dives into the task boldly and turns out a drool-worthy series of baked masterpieces that would make Julia Child approve. Made me ashamed of my Duncan Hines boxed mixes, I tell you. A tasty and charming story all around.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories, Susanna Clarke. If you liked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, with its simultaneously dark and tongue-in-cheek mingling of Regency and Faerie, and want another taste, then this collection of short stories along the same theme ought to satisfy your cravings. It also would work for anyone who couldn't get through the weighty length of Strange and Norrell but did enjoy the premise. Fanciful, odd, ever so creative.

Swann's Way (In Search of Lost Time, vol. 1), Marcel Proust. I didn't so much read this as meander through it a few pages at a time over the course of a couple of years. And oddly, I tended to find myself liking it. Calling it a novel would not feel entirely right, though of course technically it's a novel. What's remarkable about Proust, though, isn't the plot and characters so much as the startlingly true insights about emotions, love, the senses, time, and memory--and such insights crop up on pretty much every page. As someone wise once put it, Proust was (nearly) a neuroscientist. I'll tackle volume 2 one of these days. Really.

The Gravesavers, Sheree Fitch. This one's Young Adult, loaned to me by a friend, and I'm so glad I got to discover it. A 12-year-old girl spends the summer with her sour grandmother in Nova Scotia, and discovers not only (of course) the family harmony she'd been lacking, but ghosts and spooky truths about a shipwreck that occurred off the coast long ago. At times sad, at other times invigorating and beautiful, this was a lovely and addictive read.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl. Is this novel overly precocious, with its young author, and even younger narrator (age 16), spouting graduate-degree-level political theories and literary references, complete with bibliographical citations in parentheses? Yes, it is. Does the author lean too heavily on ultra-unusual-and-brainy metaphors and analogies, some of which take the shape of page-long anecdotes that get in the way of the action? Sure, no question. Are a lot of the characters--the teens especially--so flawed as to be annoying to read? Yep, definitely. HOWEVER...as I passed the halfway mark, did I crave this novel more and more intensely, putting off other tasks simply so I could sit and read and learn what happened between a group of cliquish teens and their mysterious teacher (and the narrator's brilliant dad)? Yes, absolutely. And as that is the central challenge to any author, and best test of any novel, I give this one high marks.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Yeah, okay. You know what To Kill a Mockingbird is about. You read it in high school. So did I, but I'd forgotten nearly everything about it, so I re-read it, and was thoroughly charmed and moved, as everyone tends to be. Young Scout is a shining example of a candid, engaging narrator, and Atticus is the parent we all wish we could be. We'll try harder, Atticus, we promise.


NONFICTION

A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson. When Bryson realized he had no idea why the oceans are salty, or how a nuclear bomb works, or why the periodic table looks the way it does, he set out to get a thorough, ground-level education in science. This book lets us acquire one too. Having Bryson as the author makes it a fun experience, of course--he never lets go of his sense of humor, and always gives us a look at the quirky human beings behind the stuffy, dry scientific discoveries. If you, like so many of us, find yourselves in danger of having your high school (and college) science education completely gone from your brain, and wish to remedy the situation, this is about as pleasant a method for doing so as you could find.

The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson. Chicago hosted the World's Fair in 1893, as you might have heard. I kinda-sorta knew that already. But the "White City"--the Fair's huge buildings and grounds--and the effort it took to build them were completely new to me. Oh, and there was also a serial killer operating in Chicago at that same time. An incredibly scary, prolific one, who built an actual murder mansion to make the killing easier. I would tell you about the basement but I don't want to spoil it for you. Or revisit that chillingly horrible part of history, honestly. Still, a fascinating read! The very best of humanity squished alongside the very worst.

Save the Cat!, Blake Snyder. Writers, snap this one up! The sadly departed Blake Snyder penned this little handbook to help screenwriters turn out good, marketable scripts, but the principles of scene and storytelling he lays down are applicable and hugely useful to any writer. It got me rethinking my novels, and energized me to face the revisions with new purpose. Also, he's hilarious, and so easy to read. Thanks, Blake. You'll be missed.

Postscript
To the many, many other authors I know: I probably just haven't gotten to your books yet! I apologize and hope to do so soon. Those two little kids take up a lot of my would-be reading time. Someday apparently they'll be teenagers and spend all day sleeping and texting their friends. Or so I'm told. Anyway, I'll catch up on my to-be-read list then.
mollyringle: (bat)
Uh-oh, people. It's almost 2010 and we still seemingly haven't decided, as a global whole, what to call this current decade. It was the "eighties," then the "nineties," then the...what? Oh-ohs? Zeros? Aughties? Naughties?

This page discusses the main possibilities. But we will probably have to wait several years for a definitive answer, just by seeing which usage shakes out as the prevailing one.
mollyringle: (Gothic Choir)
Dude. My mom recently collected old family stories from her side, via various far-flung cousins, and this one stands out. To say the least.

The Nolans were a large family of Irish Catholic immigrants living in the Midwest in the 1870s, and were devastated when the mother died of illness. In accordance with her deathbed wish, her daughter Rosa willingly joined a Catholic girls' school in Iowa. After that, at about age 16, feeling that the best way to help her bereaved father and brothers was to pray for them and serve God, she joined a convent.

Her dad and brothers didn't entirely like this idea, as this was the type of convent where once you got in, you didn't talk to the outside world anymore. In fact, the nuns enforced the rule so strictly that when Rosa died some time later, nobody informed her family. Her father only found out by traveling to the convent and asking about her. The nuns' explanation was something to the effect that Rosa belonged to God/The Church now and not to the world.

Well, the dad did what any good father would. He went home and collected his sons, and they all drove the wagon back to the convent under cover of night, snuck into the cemetery, dug up Rosa's coffin, and took it home to rebury it, allegedly somewhere on the farm.

As you can imagine, Nolan family feelings for Catholicism after that point weren't of the fondest, but apparently several did remain with the church.

But seriously. Dude. Grave robbing. I am so going to write a short story about this.
mollyringle: (haunted house)
1. Things that amuse me, part one: The Vatican ought to have a pastry shop called "Donut Nobis Pacem," don't you think? (See Dona Nobis Pacem to get stupid joke.)

2. Things that amuse me, part two: Jim Carrey on how his union with Jenny McCarthy has been dubbed "Jimeny": "To be part of that tradition is amazing, to be TomKat and Brangelina, and going back to Markapatra and Napolephine. So, it’s not such a bad thing, really!" Hee hee.

3. Doctor-definitely-not-Dr-or-Il-Dottore-or-Doc Who: Have watched the first Eccleston/Piper disc so far, all of three episodes. I like it! I don't love it yet, but of course I need to time to get invested. Still, Simon Callow as Dickens was a treat; and as to "The End of the World" all I can say is: They had me at "Tainted Love." That's the kind of irreverent silliness I can approve of. (And it's probably the exact point at which several of you decided the new series sucked, which is your right, but I do love me some off-the-wall dorkiness.) Anyway, neither of the leads bother me, but Eccleston does look a lot like a former boss I had, which is disturbing, so I won't mind Tennant taking over.

4. I have this sort of ambitious Halloween idea of getting you guys to send me little sound files of you reading a pre-assigned line of some traditional ghostly tale like "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", which I would then splice together into a cool LJ-people Halloween voice montage. If interested and able to record your voice into a tidy mp3, go ahead and comment and we'll see if the idea flies. [Edit: Voice posts work. I think this can fly!]
mollyringle: (parfumerie)
If I ever get a novel published, and it gets turned into a movie, I hope Sofia Coppola is on the short list of directors. I just watched Marie Antoinette and loved it. I gather it really didn't work for some people, putting '80s music to the glitz of the Versailles court, but to me it was something new, thank God, and anyway I loved the music, so I couldn't complain. The Cure's "Plainsong," finally in a film! And how can I not love a director who intentionally had a rakish character costumed to look like Adam Ant? (He did, too. Yum yum.) Also, refreshingly, no beheadings. It's enough to know they're on the horizon, really. No need to splash blood all over the gorgeous costumes. I say "refreshingly" because I also lately watched and enjoyed Elizabeth I, which again I was destined to love because of my softness for both Jeremy Irons and Hugh Dancy. But jeez, beheadings and drawn-and-quarterings much?

Anyway, well done, young Coppola. She seems to have taken the writing advice "Write the book you want to read," translated here to "the movie you want to see."

Speaking of writing--I'm going to veer off and rant a little about character naming conventions. My feminist streak may emerge. You may want to look away.

I read some writing advice somewhere (I wish I remembered where) that suggested giving your characters names that were easy to say, with no more than two or three total syllables for the men and four or five for the women. Neato, we get more syllables! Uh...why? Wait a sec, are multiple syllables "girly"? "Dirk Pitt" is an awfully manly and curt name, after all, while "Scarlett O'Hara" takes its pretty time to roll off the tongue. Hmmm.

Also, have you noticed that in certain types of novels--usually adventure novels, like Dan Brown's or Michael Crichton's among others--the men are always referred to by their last names, and the women by their first names? Why in the world is this the established style? When we have Dr. Jad Forke (you know, the ex-Navy SEAL who now teaches antiquities) and Dr. Tiffani Engelbright (you know, the 23-year-old nuclear physicist), why do we get usage like "Forke tossed the AK-47 to Tiffani"? (You know, I'm never gonna write adventure novels unless as farce or parody.)

Darn...I wish I had thought of these issues for my Linguistics thesis. Oh well. Someone else can take it and run with it.
mollyringle: (Takeshi-bored-by pear_icons)
Is it normal to feel sedated toward the end of pregnancy? In my life "before," I thought I would be a basket case by this time. But I'm quite calm - sleepy, even. Could be relief along with resignation: now that I'm past the 37-week mark, the birth could happen at any time and not be considered premature. He's firmly positioned head-down (that thing constantly flexing and stretching against my ribs would be a baby leg), so C-section is likely ruled out too. I even tested negative for Strep B, which means I won't automatically have to get an IV with antibiotics during labor. Always a good start.

Other reasons I've ended up calm:
My shoes still fit - some women told me my feet would go up a size during pregnancy. They haven't.
Iron pills have not made me feel sick at all.
I can usually sleep through the night, even now, without getting up for the bathroom.
I have not yet sent Steve to the store to fetch me some bizarre food I was craving. I haven't craved anything bizarre, for that matter.
Steve is awesome. He is happy and delighted and loves to feel the young'un kick, and helps me find my sense of humor when I misplace it. He will be a great dad.

Speaking of the sense of humor: he came up with the idea the other night that someone should start a band called Belle & Sebastian Bach. (If you don't get it, never mind.) We both agree this would be hilarious, but are not so clear on what such a band would sound like.

I finished reading The Mill on the Floss yesterday, in my continued George Eliot kick. Not so thrilled with the ending of this one, so Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda hold their tie at #1 for my favorite Eliot book. But I still enjoyed reading it, and am now thinking I need to read an Eliot biography since this one was supposedly "the most autobiographical" of her novels. Which makes me wonder about a few things. I know she lived for decades with a man who was not her husband, because he was already married and his distant cheatin' wife refused to grant a divorce, but that sounds more like the main cruel twist of Middlemarch. I assume the Mill on the Floss similarities come in with the judgemental reaction from "society" and the shutting out by one's closest family members. I'm not big on infidelity, but see, the vast difference between her and, say, Thomas Hardy, who also lived a life of extramarital temptations and wrote novels about the cruelty suffered because of them, is that Eliot can actually make such characters likable. They're good, if confused; they're flawed, but not thoroughly irritating. In fact, Eliot's characters usually redeem themselves completely, or at least most of the way. Jes' my opinion, o' course.

Another thread of thought, spinning off the latest: I'd be interested to read a book sometime about Victorian theories of, and terminology for, medicine. I've already worked out that "consumption" was tuberculosis, and "ague" was some kind of fever; and "dropsy," I recently learned, was edema, often due to heart failure. And I think "apoplexy" seems to have often referred to a stroke. But the treatments were so baffling! There was mention in The Mill on the Floss of the possibility of an invalid needing jelly. Did they mean medicine was to be put into jelly? Or was jelly considered really good for invalids? And are Eliot and I talking about the same thing - gelatinous sweetened fruit preserves - when we say "jelly"? Furthermore, I've always liked how a shot of brandy cured most cases of chills, vapors, or what have you; and how dabbing your temples with eau de cologne tended to alleviate all kinds of weaknesses; but I have to wonder whether anyone can prove scientific results for such treatments, or if this was just a widespread placebo effect. We already know how useful it was to "bleed" people... *shudder* Anyway, I expect at least [livejournal.com profile] rachel2205, my resident LJ British History grad student, to have a word or two of answer on that one. ;)

That'll do for now. One more week of work (where I get no LJ access) - five more days of getting up early to put on nice clothes and commute downtown - and then I cease, and enter a new phase of existence. (Firstly, lazing around the house. Secondly, labor. Thirdly, motherhood. But we can call it all motherhood, to simplify things.) I am more than willing to make the exchange. And despite the supposed ultra-feminist, my-career-uber-alles attitude of "the world" these days, I have been getting practically nothing but support when I tell people I plan to take a few years off and be with the kid, even from people who aren't doing it that way themselves. So, thank you, world - either you're more tactful, or more practical, than I had thought; and either option is good news to me.
mollyringle: (Uncle Sam WWII - by pear_icons)
(...that would be Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. I had to look it up, at least for the first three letters. "RPG" I knew.)

Excerpt:

Churchill: lol no more france for u hitler
Hitler[AoE]: tojo help me!
T0J0: wtf u want me to do, im on the other side of the world retard
Hitler[AoE]: fine ill clear you a path
Stalin: WTF u arsshoel! WE HAD A FoCKIN TRUCE
Hitler[AoE]: i changed my mind lol

Originally from here; by one Rick. Hat tip to [livejournal.com profile] tdj for finding it. Reprinted below for my own safe keeping, and your enjoyment. )
mollyringle: (Parrish stars)
Since this is a movie post, perhaps it belongs over on [livejournal.com profile] mollyringwraith, but it would be too jarring a contrast after the frivolous parody of Harry Potter #6. Anyway, it's about history and politics as much as fandom.

We Netflixed Judgment at Nuremberg and finished watching it last night. It was, in a word or two, bloody fascinating. This film has been around since 1961, so you may well have seen it already, but I hadn't. It is a courtroom drama, based on true events, about the 1948 trial of four German judges who served under the Nazis. This trial is a bit less cut and dried than the trial of the actual Nazi generals. After all, these were only judges; should you be punished for merely doing your job and carrying out the law, even if the law was signed by Adolf Hitler? Is it really your fault what was happening to the country? Weren't you just trying to uphold some order in a chaotic time?

Or at least, that was part of the defense. I don't envy the attorney who had to defend Nazi collaborators, but the part was played to absolute brilliance, and surprising sympathy, by young Maximilian Schell (who won an Oscar for the role). Why send only these four men to prison, if they were partially guilty for the crimes of the Nazis?, he points out. Why not send all of Germany, or all of the western world?--the voters, the investors, the politicians, the citizens who looked the other way when their neighbors were put into boxcars and sent to Dachau? How did the Holocaust happen, if not for the collaboration, or at least mistakes, of the entire world?

Well, okay, but: I'm no fan of moral relativism, and neither were the American prosecutors. The fierce prosecuting attorney (played by Richard Widmark) chills the blood by his presentation of what he and the Allied troops discovered upon liberating a concentration camp. We've all seen the photos and films by now, of course, but it never fails to terrify me: the children with tattooed numbers on their arms, the ovens with charred skeletons, the piles of emaciated bodies, the parchment made of human skin. Nobody can defend that.

There is guilt and remorse among the defendants: Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster), one of the German judges on trial, has a largely silent role, but the look of haunted devastation in his eyes should have been enough to earn Lancaster an Oscar too. When he does break his silence, it is to deliver an indictment and lament of what has happened to his native land, and of the atrocities in which he and his colleagues assisted, unwittingly or not.

Spencer Tracy, fabulous as the tough-love-dealing judge presiding over the case, cannot help admitting that some kind of horrible mob mentality did take hold of Germany during WWII, and that it is hard to place blame on individuals, beyond Hitler and his immediate henchmen. However, says judge Tracy in the end, we must hold each man accountable for his own actions; for the most important thing in the world, and what was so tragically lost for a time during the Holocaust, is "the value of a single human being." Amen.

All should see this film. Liberals, conservatives, Americans, Europeans, anyone. That the Holocaust was horrible--no, so far beyond "horrible" we don't even have a word for it--is something we can all agree upon. How it happened, how everyone let it happen, is more of a mystery. How far can we be held accountable for laws that are forced upon us? How far should we submit for our own comfort and safety, before it becomes criminal? Judgment at Nuremberg, like any good trial, lets both sides have their say.

It's not nearly as traumatizing to watch as Schindler's List, but there is that bit of actual concentration-camp footage, so be warned if you cannot bear to see that stuff.

Acting, as I've indicated, was excellent all around, including smaller parts by Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift. (Marlene Dietrich I wasn't that impressed with.) Best of all, William Shatner is in it!--young, clean-cut, adorable, and sounding nothing at all like Kirk. He's actually a good actor when he wants to be. (Just teasing. You know I love you, Shatner.)
mollyringle: (Gutenberg)
From [livejournal.com profile] tdj and elsewhere, a very exciting bit of news about, oh, pretty much everything having to do with Western literature as we know it:

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_technology/story.jsp?story=630165

"Since it was unearthed more than a century ago, the hoard of documents known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri has fascinated classical scholars. There are 400,000 fragments, many containing text from the great writers of antiquity. But only a small proportion have been read so far. Many were illegible.

Now scientists are using multi-spectral imaging techniques developed from satellite technology to read the papyri at Oxford University's Sackler Library. The fragments, preserved between sheets of glass, respond to the infra-red spectrum - ink invisible to the naked eye can be seen and photographed.

...In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

...Academics have hailed it as a development which could lead to a 20 per cent increase in the number of great Greek and Roman works in existence. Some are even predicting a "second Renaissance".

When it has all been read - mainly in Greek, but sometimes in Latin, Hebrew, Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic, Nubian and early Persian - the new material will probably add up to around five million words."



...!
!!!
No, I'm not thinking of the gorgeous new film epics, featuring men in togas, that can be made from this fresh material. No, of course not. Kidding aside, I am quite dazzled with the artistic and scientific achievement here. This rocks hugely. And I don't even read Greek plays much these days.
mollyringle: (chocolate)
The other night I bought some molasses ("treacle," to some of you) for use in a brown bread recipe. It occurred to me as I chose the bottle that I know next to nothing about molasses, and whether I wanted blackstrap or unsulphured or what exactly. Up here in the Northwest we don't use a lot of molasses. Ask us about salsa, now, or various types of milk foam used in espresso drinks, and we could talk for hours. But I digress.

Fortunately, I chose unsulphured molasses and not blackstrap--since, having now done the Wikipedia research, I learn that blackstrap is bitter and disgusting; it's sugar-cane juice boiled down several times until most of the sugar has crystallized out, leaving behind the minerals in a sticky black goo. Since blackstrap molasses is high in iron and magnesium, people do use it in health-food recipes, so it is available in the store; but for your brown bread and cookies, you want unsulphured, which is the finest type, made from sun-ripened sugar cane. ("Sulphured," incidentally, is a grade in between: made with unripe sugar cane, and then treated with sulphur during the sugar-crystal-extraction process.)

But at the end of their molasses entry, Wikipedia casually mentions, "A famous incident involving molasses was the Boston Molasses Disaster on January 15, 1919, in which a large molasses storage tank burst and flooded a neighborhood of Boston, killing 21 and injuring 150." The hell you say? In the Northwest, again, while we do get the Boston Tea Party in our grade-school history courses, we do not get the Boston Molasses Disaster, so this was news to me.

Naturally I clicked on it, and, wow.
"The molasses flowed out in a wave between 8 and 15 ft (2.5 to 4.5 m) high, moving at 35 mph (56 km/h) and exerting a pressure of 2 ton/ft² (200 kPa). Twenty-one people were killed and 150 injured as the hot molasses crushed, asphyxiated, and cooked many of the victims to death."

Good freakin' Lord.

"To this day, people say that molasses left from this disaster still seeps up from some of the streets on a hot day."

OK, I shouldn't laugh.

Anyway, you should click on it. There's a photo of the aftermath and everything. But be careful out there: as the Atkins Diet folks have long been warning us, sugar products can kill.

*munches on brown bread, reading in fascination*
mollyringle: (Gutenberg)
Quick! Name the three biggest events/ news stories from 2000 to the present. Doing a very sketchy "at this time in history" for the company annual meeting, and covered the '40s through the '90s. Now they want me to finish the job and do the '00s. Here's the catch: one should be a "fun" thing. Thus, Iraq, 9/11, and tsunamis are a bit of a "downer" trio. So uh...something more positive/fun? Also welcoming suggestions other than Iraq, 9/11, and tsunamis for the serious ones.

(Past examples include: fall of Berlin wall, walking on moon, launch of MTV, cloning of sheep, and invention of first digital computer.)

Thanks.
mollyringle: (MST3LOTR-dance - arwen_elvenfair)
Being in possession of the new ROTK DVD, I set out to investigate the special features. One of the first things I happened to watch was the National Geographic special on ROTK, which didn't really have much to do with the film, but instead compared various themes and characters to similar ones in the recent history of Western civilization. At first I snorted and snickered - Aragorn was, uh, really a lot like William Wallace if you think about it. Yeah. He was like Teddy Roosevelt too. Here; watch some historical reenactment society footage; it'll convince you.

But pretty soon I was digging it. It was like a long, clever parody: the LOTR cast does the History Channel! Wormtongue as Rasputin! Gandalf as Benjamin Franklin! Frodo and Sam as Lewis and Clark! (I pounded the sofa laughing at that one. Does that make Gollum Sacagawea? Not very flattering to the poor girl.)

And the Gandalf = Ben Franklin one gave me an inspiration: anyone else thinking we simply must write a LOTR/American Revolution parody, in time for the 4th of July? I can see it now: The First Continental Council of Elrond! "The Declaration must be written. One of you must do this." That means Frodo is Thomas Jefferson, I guess. (And Sam, then, would be Sally Hemings. Ha, ha, ha... Ahem.) Aragorn, clearly, is George Washington, out there wading around in the muck and doing all the fighting, proving his worth before getting crowned/inaugurated. Is Legolas fussy enough to be John Adams, or should Gimli take that part?...well, anyway. Someone ought to do it, that's all I'm saying.

Shall go x-post, with modifications, to [livejournal.com profile] mollyringwraith.

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