Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What I'm Reading

Except for fandom-related reading, I'm reading in a very scattered way. These are the books that were lying in a circle around my bed this morning. 
None are directly related to  fandom research except for Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. (Thank you, Tom Bissell--now I don't have to play a video game to see what they're about. They're not my kind of thing, (not enough story), but now I get why they're some people's.)
Here's an excerpt:
Though it sure feels like everything is indirectly related to fandom. You (I) could argue that half of cultural history is fandom.
Philosophy? Plato meta fandom! 
The gospels? Jesus fanfic!
And so on. 
Enough for now---I must go do things!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Heavy and Light

I. It Could Be Otherwise

I am indexing a book about a survivor of the US bombing of Nagasaki in 1945, and I want to recommend to anyone who doesn't already know it the alternate-history short story "The Lucky Strike" [links to complete story], by Kim Stanley Robinson.

It imagines how one American in the bomber over Hiroshima might have altered the course of history. It's wonderful and encouraging in that it implies we could do things differently now, but it's devastating to reflect that's not how it went then (or, with some exceptions, since).
Trigger warning: may cause deep philosophical "what might have been" grief.

I draw a faint dotted line between my country dropping atomic bombs on civilians, for military purposes, and the bombings of citizens in recent days (Brussels, Istanbul), and weeks, and years....

I don't mean they're equivalent, point for point, but they're relatives of the same myths:
the one with the father god who eats his children; or the god asks the father to sacrifice his child [even if the god takes it back, the father's willingness to obey is held up as a good thing]; or the one where someone feeds a stew of someone's children to them; or the one where the mother kills her children to spite their father; and so on, and on.

II. Flailing in Fanfic

Meanwhile, I've been gone from here for entirely delightful reason: I've been playing over in fan fiction, which never attracted me before. I could say it's research, and it is, but it's much more than that.

via tumblr

And I'm not just reading either:
I've been writing the stuff myself!

It's been a trip: 
Writing hasn't made me nervous in ages, and now it does again, which is a thrill.  
I've always thought I could never write fiction, and it turns out I was wrong. (I make no claims for the quality of my fanfic, but a quantity of it does now indubitably exist.)

It helps that I'm writing about already existing characters (like Robin Hood or Merlin), but the brain work of imagining new stories is what it is: 
really different from nonfiction (blogging, journalism, personal correspondence, books for school libraries).

Though I still (and always will?) favor nonfiction, even in fiction.
 I posted a 244-word fic about a first kiss and attached endnotes 571 words long--including an explanation of what ozone smells like, in case people didn't know or didn't live in the geographical conditions they might smell it. 
(Here on the plains, it's the metallic-y odor before a rain storm, when the lightning splits the air (ozone = O3).) 
Marz commented that I put the fic in scientific.

It's a fun and frustrating challenge to write in this new way. 
How do you describe people kissing, for instance, without ending up sounding like a cliché manufacturer or a GPS?
Or without falling into inadvertent screwball comedy--evoking Laurel and Hardy when you were going for Scarlett and Rhett:

"As they drew close, the heat of passion rippled the air between them and they tilted their heads 45 degrees to get their noses out of the way...."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

In Which I Award Myself a Prize

Remember when bloggers used to give each other prizes to put on their sidebars?
Maybe they still do?

Anyway, I really have been working hard (and not just googling Lewis references, either) and so I am hereby awarding myself

The Doctor + a Kitten Award for Internetting a Lot

Lost in Lewis

 I. Google, why can't I quit you? [says everybody, all the time]
Lucky for me, there are only 33 episodes of the British TV mystery Inspector Lewis
it is pushing my "obsessively look things up" button with its many scraps of references to literature, art, philosophy, theology & religion, and English culture, including guest stars from every British production you've ever seen. 

Such as Anna Massey (d. 2011--her "life in pictures" in the Guardian), who I know from the weird and wonderful Peeping Tom (1960, dir. Michael Powell):

Here she is, below, in the Lewis episode "Whom the Gods Would Destroy" (fans of Star Trek may notice similarity in episode titles). She's reading in the Bodleian---I thought it was the Duke Humfrey's reading room---checked, and so it is.

I am no Anglophile.
But just as Starsky and Hutch took me back to the 1970s,  Lewis, set in Oxford, takes me to the decade I spent involved, off and on, with O., originally my [Oxford-educated] classics prof. 
Our affair started in Oxford, … at a patristics conference
(Elements of the story would make a comic novel, like Lucky Jim, or Small World by David Lodge. Barbara Pym could have written it.)

II. Boarding School Syndrome

Not funny: Boarding School Syndrome--the lasting effects of "the psychological abuse of children" in boarding schools from "long-term emotional neglect, the absence of safety, the failure of justice, the loss of love";
 plus, from this (being sent to boarding school) being a privilege, accorded to children of high social rank.
Talk about a mind fuck. 
I got thinking about this because Sgt. Hathaway, a public school boy, possibly suffers from it. Lewis says Hathaway doesn't know himself at all. 
Not knowing yourself is not unusual, of course, but this is more like dissociation from self.

 (O.,  sent to boarding school at seven, certainly suffered from this.
Tales of his school days were like Dickens or if…).

Joy Schaverien, a Jungian psychoanalyst, came up with the name Boarding School Syndrome a decade ago, but it's hardly a new idea.

Writers such as "George Orwell to Roald Dahl, wrote in their different ways about the systemic cruelty, psychological and physical, and of its wider effects," 
according to the Guardian article,
 "Boarding School Syndrome Review: A gripping study of the mental wounds inflicted by classic British institutions" (June 2015), which further reads:

"John Bowlby, the psychologist famous for first coming up with attachment theory in the 1960s, described public school as part of “the time-honoured barbarism required to produce English gentlemen”." 

The author of the article writes:
I once knew an American psychoanalyst who worked in a Bangkok practice, specialising in expats. …He said, “Middle-aged, middle-class Brits who went to your crazy private schools may just about be the most damaged social sub-group I’ve ever come across.”
Picture File

My friend who introduced me to Lewis has started a shared google doc, where we can record our questions and findings.

Just for fun, and because I'm spending a lot of time on this, I'll plunk items from my Lewis picture library here. 
They're random:
I won't bother here to note their episode or the plot points. (You can ask, if you want.)

 Below: Royal Mail, Classic British Comics 

This last isn't a direct reference to Lewis---there is a Bertrand Russell quote, but it was "Absolutism has always been accompanied by some form of slavery or serfdom." However, this quote applies more to me, googling away at Lewis references:

Friday, March 11, 2016

Books I *Bought*

I almost never buy books--I mostly don't want to own them, and I can't afford them. I use the library or the Little Free Library boxes around town.
If I had extra money, I'd definitely buy books full price from actual bookshops, not just the 1¢ + $3.99shipping books online--and then give them away.

I did buy two books for my fandom research, in person this week, because they aren't in the library--and interlibrary loan is too short (3 weeks, no renewal). 
They're both on videogaming, about which I know  basically nothing, so I really need the help.

I got one at an all-'round independent bookstore,
 and one at Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore, 
a place that'll make you weep with joy because of how crammed with ramshackle goodness it is … or weep with allergies because of how dusty it is.

It's "The oldest independent science fiction bookstore in America. Founded in 1974."

< < < I also did order this old (1990s) one online for $4.
Anime and manga are other areas I'm weak in, 
but also I just couldn't resist the title.

This one I may have to keep on my own bookshelves.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Fandom Round-Up: The Game of Life; In a Couple youTube Comments

Credo: If you laugh out loud, it's good to share. [I usually do share. Sometimes.]  

I'm researching the history of video games--and I came across the Game of Life, from 1970. [1]
So, I watched  Stephen Hawkings The Meaning of Life (John Conway's "Game of Life" segment)
on youTube, and I  laughed out loud at this exchange of comments.

Wait for it.

OK, you can see by the dates that youTube creates the illusion of  dialogue there, but it still makes me smile, it so delightfully represents youTube interactions.
[I mean, plenty of conversations on youTube are exactly that disconnected.]

It seems no one ever answered asdfghijkl's question.
I'm tempted to sign in: Yes, according to IMDb, Cumberbatch is the narrator.

But I'm not going to. I can't take the time to go down every rabbit hole. And really, if a person can comment on youTube, you'd think they could google the answer. Seemingly not.

This is the sort of comment I was actually looking for:


[1]  Here, someone else [bitstorm.org/gameoflife] explains the Game of Life (and you can play a simulation of it there, I think?):

    The Game of Life is not your typical computer game. It is a 'cellular automaton', and was invented by Cambridge mathematician John Conway.

    It consists of a collection of cells which, based on a few mathematical rules, can live, die or multiply. Depending on the initial conditions, the cells form various patterns throughout the course of the game.
 This game became widely known when it was mentioned in a Scientific American article in 1970. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Public Service Announcement

A Public Service Announcement, from the countercultural world of Noir:
"Relax. No law says you got to be happy."

Thank you.
From Act of Violence, dir. Fred Zinnemann, 1948

Monday, March 7, 2016

Fandom Round-Up: Jesus in Smallville

What were our heroes and loves like before they were our heroes and loves?
That's a common fandom question.

Smallville, for instance, is an American TV show (2001–2011) that imagines Clark Kent before he became Superman, struggling to get a handle on his superpowers. 
Tied to a cross in a cornfield? I admit I have not actually seen this show.

But the premise reminds me of the Tring Tiles:
a medieval comic strip (in clay) that show Jesus as a boy, struggling to get a handle on his superpowers.

They're pretty funny in their recognizable humanity, 
imagining Jesus as a petulant teenager. 

Here > > >
for instance, Jesus restores with his foot someone he'd killed in anger 
(the guy had messed up a pool Jesus was making)--
because his mother, Mary, is making him. 

["Fine, I'll do it.

 But you can't make me like it."]
Below, left:  
A boy jumps on Jesus' back (in front of a schoolteacher), and Jesus smites him dead [signified by his being upside down]. 
The boys' parents complain to Joseph. According to the "Infancy Gospel of Thomas", When Joseph saw what Jesus had done, "Joseph arose and took hold upon his ear and wrung it sore."
Jesus restores life to the boy, who walks away. [I'm not playing with you anymore!]

Luckily, as he grew up, "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and grace."

Tring is in England. According to the British Museum, where the tiles live,
"They illustrate scenes from the stories told in the Apocryphal Gospels of the childhood of Christ, which were very popular in the fourteenth century."

I got thinking about this because Michael sent me a link to a scholarly article, "A Most Violent Martyrdom". 

The author writes:
The stories told within the Apocrypha were irresistible to many
Christians, perhaps more so due to the stories’ unofficial,
unsanctioned status among church leaders. 

In many ways, exploring and adding to apocryphal stories was an early form of fan fiction...." [bf mine]

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Birthday Gifts I

I. The Mongolian Sparrow

I spent my 55th birthday afternoon yesterday at the Third Annual Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at the downtown library--
part of a national push to recruit more female editors and to get more women artists in the encyclopedia.
So fun! so great!

Oh--hey, I just searched to see if there are any pictures up---and here I am, signing in, on the Twitter of Amy KH [I don't know her]:

(Gee, my short haircut looks better than I thought. This is a very "me" picture, chatting with the registrants.)

I'd started editing already existing wiki entries last month, you know, but it was super helpful to have face-to-face help with starting a new entry from scratch.

At the end of the afternoon, I went up to the three editing volunteers--typical Wikipedians--that is, geeky young men--and thanked them.

"You've all been editing for years," I said, "so I guess maybe you don't feel so moved anymore… but this is so moving to work on. It's like stone soup, you know---where everyone contributes whatever they have, and you end up with this great thing that shouldn't even work, but it does."
"No, it still can be moving," one of the guys said.
"I'm always moved when something I write gets translated."

The other editors nodded in agreement. "That's amazing when that happens."

"I was really moved the other day," he continued. "Someone had translated my entry on a Mongolian sparrow into Mongolian."

…No, humanity is not all bad, not at all.

II. Gyokuran and the Gift

This rush of disinterested but well-meaning connection---
it feels like being in love. 
The Internet has made possible this enormous gift economy.
Connecting with strangers, from our best selves---the part of us that wants to freely share what we love--that's behind the thrill of fandom too, at least in part. 

And the strangers don't even need to be alive to feel that connection.
I wrote a new entry on a Japanese woman painter, poet, and calligrapher, Ike Gyokuran (1707-1758) 
[note: page still under construction]. 

I chose her from a list of women artists not yet in Wikipedia complied by local art librarians, who'd prepared files of xeroxed reference material for each artist. 

(I chose Gyokoran because I'd studied Japanese history for a couple years at the U---one of the many branch lines of my education....)

She's been dead 242 years, but after I wrote about her, my fingers on the keyboard, I felt I'd met her ---here, in Gyokuran's own handwriting, her poems "Two Autumn Poems" she wrote in her brush-and-ink:

Ah--here's a picture of that sense of connection I'm talking about--
from this weekend's editathon in Paris.  > > 

The feeling reminds me of when I saw Charlotte Bronte's handwritten draft of Jane Eyre at the British Library--
--this shock that this woman had existed, physically in space, just like me.

Gyokuran's calligraphy piece is actually at the art institute a few blocks from me. It's not on display, but maybe I could convince a curator to let me see it in storage.

Art+ Feminism Tumblr 

I may act like an extrovert in public---like in that photo of me, up top, and the way I went around talking to other participants---but I feel socially overwhelmed afterward.  

Lucikly, I'd decided not to gather a group of friends afterward (as I was originally going to do)---I just went out for a cocktail with my sister, her wife, & bink.

I was still so wired when I got home, though, I still couldn't fall asleep for hours.
What a great birthday!

Birthday Gifts II

I got an unusual number of unexpected gifts this year, including several online birthday cards & greetings, including:

1. from and by bink--- on a photo she took of a painted mural in England:

2. from (and by) Mortmere, who recently introduced me to her fandom, Inspector Lewis:

3. Not fandom related--my 90-year-old auntie got a friend to photograph her jumping for my birthday, in response to the picture of me jumping in Duluth (now not fuzzy) :

4. Marz made me a vid of Baymax, set to ELO's "Strange Magic" but--darn--- it's too big, Blogger won't load it (it's not on youTube).
You can just look at this and hum along---you know "Strange Magic", don't you?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Leap, Year 55

As of Saturday, I'll have completed 55 years.

I'm pleased because...

1. I had no trouble hiking the 5-mile trail down to Lake Superior.

 [But don't imagine me emerging from the woods onto a wild shore; the trail comes out at a restaurant/bar that specializes in local brews.]

Despite having worries about being heavier and squishier after spending the winter sitting with presidents, I could still chug up rocky hills and down icy slopes, just fine.
I feel I've been let off lightly, with a warning:
Don't take another season off from exercising.

It doesn't matter if I enjoy exercise for its own sake or not. It's not optional at this age.

Also, I'd never hiked in the woods in winter (it's winter up here). Birch and fir and only the sound of your footsteps on bright snow.

2. I just now heard from the publisher that they want to see a full proposal of my Y/A book on fandom! 
This is pretty much a, say, a 95% yes to doing the book. 
This is good work I want to do---thinking and writing about something I care about.

A few things in my life aren't so happy. But that's life, eh?
Let us march forth.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I'm Proud of Minnesota!

62% for Bernie Sanders, and we're the only state that went for Rubio, and the only state where Trump came in third.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Watching Columbo in Duluth

TWO times in two separate episodes so far, Columbo asks a suspect if they want ice cream, so Marz and I are eating ice cream in the evenings while we watch Columbo, on vacation in Duluth.

(I picked up oak leaves and pine branches on my walk to the SuperAmerica for coffee this morning---there was NO coffee at the place we're staying (a friend's weekend house).