Being the Ongoing Chronicle of the Anticks, Misadventures, and Odd Deeds of an Overalls-clad Wanderer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

A friend of mine posted this article about diagramming sentences to Facebook the other day, so here's the simple question: did any of you enjoy diagramming sentences or think it a worthwhile thing to learn? For my part, I hated it with an utter passion. I thought it a complete waste of time that didn't do a single thing to teach what good writing is. I am, however, also prepared to grant that my loathing of diagramming may be influenced by the fact that the teacher I had in seventh grade, who did the most with diagramming in my school career, happened to be one of my least-favorite teachers of my entire grade-school career. It's interesting to me how perceptions of entire subjects can be shaped by our reaction to the teachers who taught them. Sentence diagramming? Bleecccch. And trigonomery -- now there's a teacher I couldn't abide!

So, did any of you enjoy diagramming sentences?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Come all without, come all within.... (How can it possibly have been ten years?)

Little Quinn was born ten years ago today. He'll never know, alas, what he has taught me about who I am and what kind of person I need to be. Likewise, I'll never know, alas, what kind of person he might have been.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Answers the Forth! (or, Gonzo Time With Andy!)

Continuing the cavalcade of questions that need answering, as usual, my friend Andy McBride brings the goofy!

In the tv show ‘Airwolf’, Michael Coldsmith Briggs III is hiding the advanced helicopter from the CIA as leverage for them to look HARDER for Stringfellow Hawke’s brother in Vietnam. Now granted, we are dealing with the CIA here, one of the most powerful organizations in the world. Wouldn’t they use every resource they had to find the chopper that cost then more than $1billion to design and produce? I could sooooooooooooooooooooo see them finding where it was and no one EVER hearing from Hawke, Briggs and everyone involved EVVVVVVVVVVVVER again….. THOUGHTS?

I confess, I never watched that show when it was on. So, he stole this nifty helicopter from the government but then, while holding it hostage to get the government to look for someone, the government never just came along and took it back? Really? Well, I guess this is the same kind of logic that had the US government utterly unable to track down and recapture the fugitive A-Team, even though anyone who was trying to save their little family business in the face of threats by some rich bully could track them down. Strange! But with the A-Team, we're talking a handful of fugitives, not a billion-dollar piece of military hardware. (And was that the only one they made?)

This is the same kind of logic that always had me wondering why SPECTRE, in the James Bond movies, launched such outlandish plots. I mean, this is an organization that can literally build a facility to launch space rockets inside a dead volcano! Didn't it occur to anyone to just say to Blofeld, "You know, we can pretty much use our money to rule the world anyway."

-OKIE DOKIE, this MIGHT get long but hear me out…….. Battlestar Galatica, the recent version, brought up a great thought. It showed the weakness of ALL MALES, Baltar, when it comes to getting it on with a REALLY HOT female, SIX. HELLO! He gave her the codes to ALL the nuclear weapons on the planet!! MEN have caused many sorrows on the human race throughout time for women….. Can you justify his actions in anyway??? I must admit, as a heterosexual male, I can kinda see him justifying it in his mind.

I think it was partly a man, well, thinking with his "Johnson". I also think it was Baltar wanting to be powerful, wanting to show off that power. Baltar comes off as a man who is extremely intelligent, but also deeply insecure, so it probably didn't take much for Number Six to appeal to his vanity and prop up his ego. He probably shared the information not because he thought it would get him sex, but because...well, actually, that's probably a bigger part of it than I had thought. He was showing off. It never occurred to him that this woman might be someone he probably shouldn't give that information to, and why would it? He's the great genius Baltar!

No, I can't justify it. That's really what it is, and by the time he realizes what he's done, he is simply in too deep and can't get himself out in any way. He has to keep playing along with her, continually betraying his people, even as he is horrified at what he's doing and clearly views himself as superior to everyone else while at the same time loathing himself for betraying them. Gaius Baltar is really a fantastic villain!

-Do you have an ‘OUT’ or two with the new ownership of the Bills? I have two, if that CLOWN Trump, everyone that would call him a savior just watch the 30 for 30 about the USFL and how he destroyed it, buys them or if the new owner moves the team after the lease at ‘RICH’ yeah I still call it that, comes up. Then I am OUT!!! I will NOT root for them…….

Heh! I honestly don't care all that much. People who have enough money to buy an NFL team tend to be people so far removed from any kind of life that I conceive that there really isn't much of a "likability" factor at all. It's interesting to watch, though, isn't it? Terry Pegula came out of nowhere a few years ago to buy the Sabres and "save" them, and then he started building stuff downtown to further cement this city's hockey fever, and he was a hero around here. But then the Sabres fell apart as a team, and people decided that Pegula had allowed the poor management to stick around too long, so his star got tarnished a bit...but if he buys the Bills and pretty much establishes them as being here for many years to come, then I wonder how many more years of missing the playoffs they can turn in before Pegula starts dropping again in local esteem!

I do hope the team stays, I really do. It would devastate an awful lot of people if they left. But I really cannot get behind using any kind of public money to build a new stadium; I don't understand why the team needs a stadium with all those bells and whistles and luxury boxes when there is virtually no big wealthy corporate presence around here; and I reject the idea that even if we do have to have a new stadium, it needs to be someplace other than where Ralph Wilson Stadium is. I live here and I can tell you, the current place is not hard to get to. But anyway, if disaster happens and the Bills do leave, my "fandom", such as it is, will not travel with them. I will not root for the Toronto Bills, or the LA Bills, or the San Antonio Whatevers.

And if the team does leave, well, life will go on. There are a lot of fine cities out there that are doing great without professional sports. Being Austin or Tulsa or Providence wouldn't be the worst fates I could imagine!

-What was the moment when you said to yourself, “You know, self publishing my novel is the way to go.”?????

Well, I queried and/or submitted Princesses for the better part of a year or so before I finally decided to go independent. I always kept going indie in the back of my mind as the way to go if I didn't break through in the traditional way, and I think I'm fortunate to live in a time when that's possible. Indie film and indie music (and, to a lesser degree, indie comics) have long had their own infrastructures and their own ways of getting the work distributed, but indie book publishing has been slower to take off, for various reasons. (One is that it took a while for tech companies to figure out how to make e-readers that people would want to use, and another is that print-on-demand technology seems to have taken longer to become a real thing than it had once been mentioned.) So I knew that Princesses would not have to endure its round of rejections and then sit in a drawer, either to be revisited later on when I wrote something "better" or just for me to fondly remember as one of my "practice" novels.

See, here's the thing: there is no question in my mind that I wrote a good book. None. Likewise, there is no question in my mind that there's a market for it. When I started writing it, three years or so ago, I figured that "grimdark" trend in storytelling and popular culture, what I call "Awful People At Work And Play", had to wind itself down at some point, and that there would be a place again for storytelling that was not lighter, exactly, but...geez, how to put this...infused with light. (I'm sure that reads horribly, but I'm going with it.)

I submitted to the major publishers who still accept unagented submissions (and there are only a handful of these), and I queried every agent I could find who represented fantasy and science fiction. Why didn't it get picked up anywhere? Well, I'm going to rule out the most obvious answer, "Because it's not good enough". Now, maybe I'm wrong and it really isn't good enough, but...well, I just don't think that's the case. Sorry if that sounds arrogant, but it's simply true that a lot of books that are good enough get rejected all the time. Hang out in writers' groups online or read writers' blogs or that sort of thing, and you will see article after article after article listing books that are now beloved which got rejected dozens of times prior to publication. Harry Potter is a perfect example -- everybody rejected it, and it was only dumb luck that some editor happened to take the manuscript home and leave it out for his or her kid to find and read and come out later asking, "Is there more to this?", prompting that editor to take a closer look. Good books get rejected, and bad ones get published. It happens, all the time.

Well, my book is on the long side. As an unpublished author, turning in a long book is a strike. So is the fact that its genre isn't totally carved in stone -- I call it space opera, because that's what it is, but space opera isn't a section at Barnes&Noble. It's science fiction, sure...but given the style and the characters, it could be Young Adult...but again, it's maybe too long for Young Adult. I make no bones about the fact that I wrote the book I intended to write, and no other. I didn't set out to write a Young Adult space opera and then keep it to 80000 words or whatever. This is the book I wanted to write, and if I'm going to put myself out there, it's going to be with the book that I wanted to write. As Jean-Luc Picard once said, "If we're going to be damned, let's be damned for what we really are." But again, that may constitute a problem from the industry's point of view.

(And in all honesty, "length" is relative, anyway. Princesses is long for the kind of book it is, but it's still shorter than four of the Harry Potter books, and it's way shorter than anything George RR Martin's been writing of late.)

Even if I refuse to admit the possibility that my book stinks, however, there's another that I do grant: Maybe my query letter sucked. There's just no way to know, other than to have a successful query. Reading up on query letter advice was maddening when I did it: some agents said "Never include any of the writing from the book itself!"; others said, "Give me your first few lines, if you think it helps." Some said "Never mention any other books at all!"; others said, "Feel free to namecheck books that inspire you, as long as you don't compare your book to those." And so on.

The problem there is again one of numbers. Just getting publishers to bite, whether you're submitting or using an agent, is hard enough, but the query letter is tough as well. What you're literally writing, in query letter, is a direct mail sales pitch, and professional copywriters will tell you that a really good rate of response to a sales pitch -- not even leading to a sale, just to a request for more information -- is about ten percent. Think of that: if you're selling by direct mail, if you have a good letter, only ten out of every one hundred recipients will respond. That's why direct mail companies send out thousands of mailings...but there aren't thousands of agents handling books like I wrote.

And the numbers get harder! Consider this: I used a site called QueryTracker (which I strongly recommend, by the way -- it's an outstanding resource) to organize this stuff. QT offers lists of agents that you can sort and exclude on the basis of genre, so I was able to just whittle their database down to agents repping F&SF. Useful, yes...but there's a wrinkle. You might end up with a list of 200 agents in your genre, but you'll find that a lot of them work at the same agencies, and many, if not most, agencies have a policy where a rejection from one of their agents is to be taken as a rejection by the entire agency. If a dozen agents are listed from a single agency, and one of them rejects you, you're not allowed to query the other eleven.

So, basically, getting back to the original question...after about a year, I decided to stop that process and proceed a different way. Did I pull the plug on my submission and querying too early? It's entirely possible...but you know what? I'm tired of waiting. I'm confident that I'm not jumping the gun as far as the book is concerned, and life's just too short. Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'. Or as my Mom says, "Shit, or get off the pot!"

(By the way, here's an announcement, for you folks who have read this far: October 1 will see some strategic leaking of details on the Princesses front!)

Sentential Links!

Time for linkage! These are from blogs of fellow writer type people.

:: Sometimes life imitates art, but more often it's the other way around. As strange as it sounds, what happens to Sara in this chapter happened to me when I was visiting my best friend's grave. Darbi died in a car accident when we were only seventeen, and I thought of her often while I was writing this book. Her death hit me really hard, but I believe what happened that day at her gravesite was her way of letting me know she was okay. (I haven't been reading this story, but I do believe in our writing and our art being shaped by the things that have happened to us along the way.)

:: Something incredible happened to me this weekend. It was an unexpected, monumental moment in my life, one that I have dreamed about for so long but part of me actually doubted if it would ever happen. But it did happen. It definitely did and I have the proof here on my computer.

I started to write my novel again.

:: Do you ever read a book and one of the main characters, or a beloved character, dies? Do you get upset with the story itself or do you actually get upset at the writer? (It depends, I suppose. A death has to make some semblance of sense within the story. It needs to be set up; it can't be arbitrary. Yes, in life, death is often insanely arbitrary, but I don't read or write in order to reflect the real world. Arbitrary death always feels false to me. So does excessive death. George RR Martin comes close to being excessive at times, although frankly, the degree to which his stories are bloodbaths isn't really among my complaints about his books. Nicholas Sparks, though? There's a guy who is so reliant on death as a narrative device that it really lessens the impact his books have, the more you read. And then there are movies where the villains do so much killing that it's not a moment of triumph when they are defeated, but one of relief. I'm thinking of The Patriot, with that awful scene in which a villain whose villainy is already well established decides to lock a bunch of colonists in a church and set the church afire. Another example is Air Force One, which has Gary Oldman kill a couple of people in taking over the plane...and then, a bit later on, has a gratuitously depressing scene where he holds a gun to some poor woman's head as he gives the Action Hero President until the count of ten to surrender. The President doesn't, and Oldman kills the woman. For me, in my writing, death is the Big Gun. I know that I will have to kill a few characters off over the long haul, but I don't look forward to it. You know who handled death really well in her books? JK Rowling. The deaths in the Harry Potter books get to both mean something and be arbitrary. I'm kind of starting to think that Rowling is underrated as a writer.)

:: Have you planned a writing retreat or attended one? (I never have, and I'm not sure I'd want to...let me put that differently, I'd be nervous about attending one. I tend to be wary of sharing my work or talking about writing at all, which is my introvert self taking over. Maybe I need to start getting over it....)

:: So far, so good.

I have a place for all the Elements.

But the problem I have here, is that the mythology of these Elemental directions is then out of whack.

This causes me problems, because I like the idea of endings in the West, where the sun sets, and begins in the East, with the rising sun, and the many stories that go with these associations.

Placing my Elements as I have, doesn’t fit this.

So what is one to do?

:: Parker is almost six, though she will correct you immediately that she is “five and three-quarters” if she hears you say that because she is precise, and detail-oriented, and very much her father’s daughter in that way.

But she is my daughter too.

A daughter that I was petrified of having, and then elated that I was having – all because of a very tumultuous past I have with my own mother.

:: Sometimes when I'm reading a novel or watching a show, the writer throws an empty threat into it. In a novel I was recently reading, a love triangle develops, but I knew from day one that the protagonist was going to stay with her first love. Yet, the author dragged me about this awkward love triangle for the majority of the book. It was still interesting, but it lacked stakes, it lacked intensity because I knew nothing big would come out of it.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Of buckets and the dumping of the water therein

If you've lived beneath a rock of late, you may have missed a viral fundraising activity that's going around the social media sites. I'm not even sure of the exact "rules", but it's all voluntary anyway, so it's not like the rules matter all that much. It involves dumping, or having someone else dump, a bucket full of ice water over your head, after which you challenge a few other folks to do the same, whilst making a small donation to the ALS Assocation. ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) is a particularly awful way to go, and like all awful diseases, its defeat is a worthy goal. There's been an awful lot of tut-tutting over the thing, and to my way of thinking (along with Roger, who as always has some good links), that all pretty much misses the point. Donations are way up, and people are having fun doing it, so what's the problem? Why be such a Muggle? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Anyway, I received my challenge/nomination last week, and I finally got 'round to doing the deed. Aside from the efficacy of this as a fundraiser (yes, I did kick in a few Quatloos!), what are my thoughts on up-ending a bucket of water over my head? Well, it actually felt good! Luckily I got a fairly warm day. This particular summer hasn't been all that hot in my neck o' the woods, but I imagine this would have felt awesome on a 90-degree scorcher in July. It was over quickly, and if it had been really hot, maybe I wouldn't have even bothered changing afterward -- I could just hang out outside and air-dry. Alas, it wasn't quite that warm.

So yeah, I got my challenge done. I'm not challenging anyone else, seeing as how I think I'm coming to this bit at the tail end of its potency (most folks I know have already done it, anyway). But my friends should be warned: if a similar fundraising challenge starts making the rounds that involves a pie in the face, oh, there will be some challenging going on!

A Feline Love Story

Yesterday morning I brought my computer down to the dining room table, where I did some work whilst enjoying my coffee. At one point I looked down, to my left, and saw that my parents' Persian cat was hanging out on our porch, right outside our sliding glass door. (They live next door now.) Along came Lester, and the following transpired:

First, a meeting. Shared looks and stares. He's looking eager, while she, ever the Lady, is playing it cool. She's avoiding eye-contact, and doesn't want to seem eager. But she isn't going away, either.

At last the eye contact comes...but alas! The infernal glass door is still there, forever separating the two feline lovers!

The intensity of Lester's smoldering stare becomes too much. She must look away, lest she be drawn into his web of kitty passion!

Finally Lester decides it's time for a dramatic gesture, displaying what he thinks is his best feature, his enormous gray belly. Sadly, it is, in reality, far from his best feature.

Her reaction to this? "Um...yeah. I gotta go do something now." And away she went, seconds later, to return to her own porch. But see, she loves our porch, likely because of the chipmonks who live beneath it. She'll be back. And next time, it may be Julio!

She's a vixen, that one.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Symphony Saturday

In this installment, we finally reach what is, for me, the most fertile ground for emotionally moving symphonic work ever: late 19th century Russia.

The symphonic tradition, as Leonard Bernstein once pointed out, is a Germanic one, and even in the hands of Russian composers, the formal approach to the symphony is dominated by the fundamental aspects of the form that arose in German and Austria. As Bernstein put it, "Russian symphonies are German ones with vodka substituted for beer." That's not a bad way of putting it. The form is still the same, but the melodic material in the Russian realm tends to be much more lyrical and much more folkish in nature. This is only natural, because Russia was one of the great hotbeds of nationalism in music, which became a potent force in the latter half of the 1800s.

(As an aside, it's interesting to note how nationalism could be such a potent force in driving the creation of some of the most wonderful music ever written, and yet, in politics, the nationalism of the late 1800s eventually led straight to the staggering catastrophe that was World War I.)

Balakirev wanted a Russian "school" of music, as free from Western European influence as possible, and to that effort, he gathered around himself a handful of Russia's most talented young composers, a group which later became known simply as "The Five": Balakirev himself, Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Alaexander Borodin. Balakirev mentored the other four composers for a time, although his influence waned as he tried to wield stronger and stronger influence over his charges, who were, perhaps, more talented than he. Balakirev was no second-tier musician himself, though, and if his music has been overshadowed and sometimes neglected, that's more the pity.

In Balakirev's Symphony No. 1, you can certainly hear the ideas of exotic color and singing lyricism that would shine forth so strongly in later Russian composers, with their symphonies of dramatic build, and their long melodies. This symphony is, in many ways, the start of a path that would lead to such works near to my heart as Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, and ultimately, Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2. Here is the Symphony No. 1 by Mily Balakirev.

Next week: A visit to Italy. The Italians are not known for much of a symphonic tradition in the 1800s at all, being the most operatic of countries, but there were still symphonies being written, and we'll hear one!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Answers the Third! (The Instagram edition)

OK, here is another set of answers! All of these were posed by Instagram users over there. One thing that I find really interesting about social media is the way there is some overlap, but it's definitely not 100 percent. There are people who read this blog and with whom I'm Facebook friends, there are those with whom I'm FB friends and whom I follow on Twitter, there are those whom I follow on Twitter and Instagram...and there are those I only know on one particular platform. It's neat to see the interplay and the different "feels" of each particular arena...but generally, people tend to be nice and open-minded and of good cheer everywhere.

And now, the questions:

Thoughts on Abe Lincoln?

One of the greatest Presidents, quite clearly...and I wonder what he might have accomplished had he not been put in a position where the only real thing he was asked to accomplish was to keep things from falling apart completely. On the one hand, it took a man that great to keep things from utter collapse, but what might have happened had he not been tasked with preventing the most negative outcome? And more, what might he have accomplished had John Wilkes Booth not killed him?

I actually don't know a great deal about Lincoln, beyond the standard "American mythology" stuff. I suppose one day I should do some reading on him, because as with all things, the truth is more complicated than the myth. However, there's really no getting around the fact that he was in all likelihood the exact right man on the scene for the job he had to do.

Van Halen: Hagar or Roth?

It's been said many times that you can only be one or the other...but not by me, because I love both. In all honesty, I love both eras of the band, both the harder-rocking DLR era and the more poetic sound of the Sammy period. Now, if I choose to listen to Van Halen, I'm probably going to select something from the Sammy period, because song for song, my favorites tend to come from that time. But that preference is nowhere near strong enough for me to claim an overall preference for Sammy over DLR. They're both different. To me, it's like making PB&J with grape jelly, versus PB&J with strawberry jam. Different experiences with a lot in common...and both favorites of mine!

Heart: Ann or Nancy?

I can't pick one. Seriously, I can't. I see them as an inseparable unit. The two of them together accomplish something like alchemy. I don't think you can really have Heart without either one of them!

When did you start writing?

This is a great question, because I can read it a number of different ways. For instance, "When did I start writing" can mean, "When did I first get the sense that I might be good at telling stories?" For that version of the question, I'd say, very early on...maybe even as early as preschool. I honestly do not recall a time when I didn't like making up tales in my own head.

There are a lot of ways to tell stories, though, so when did I start to gravitate toward this thing called writing? Sometime in grade school, I suppose. The realization that I could take those letters and numbers that I knew and use them to spin tales came quickly, and I remember writing stories as early as first grade. My favorite assignments were "write your own story" assignments, and eventually I got to the point where I enjoyed writing stuff as a hobby.

So when, then, did I start thinking that writing might be a realistic career goal? Probably the late 1990s, when I started trying to write better and when I started earlier novels. None of those works went anywhere, although I did start piling up a stack of rejection slips for my short fiction, occasionally getting a "This is really good but I still can't use it right now" note scrawled by some editor in the margin. I've kept at it pretty much ever since, sometimes on an "off-and-on" basis. There were a couple of years in the mid-2000s when I barely wrote anything at all. Some of those years are a complete fog to me now, and I don't really miss that decade.

The final way to look at this question is, "When did I realize that writing was my calling/mission in life/the thing I'm best at doing and I should really just get about the business of doing it?" That was just a few years ago, actually, when I finally decided that it was time to actually write that story I'd been kicking around in my head for over ten years, the one about two sisters who happen to be Princesses and who happen to go out into space and have some adventures. I don't know if all writerly-types do this, but I certainly have been known to sit on story ideas for a long time, whether out of fear or some notion that maybe one day I'll be good enough to write that idea. I finally realized I was taking the utterly wrong approach, and all the nifty story ideas in the world are no good to anyone if they're still in my head when my own curtain comes down. I started writing Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title) in 2011, I think, so I might have "started writing" right about then. Or fifteen years earlier. Or ten to twenty years before that...or even earlier.

I think I've started writing a whole lot of times, to tell the truth.

More answers to come!

(And you know what? As of October 1, I won't have to refer to Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title) in that way anymore. I can't wait!)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dispatches from the Fair, 2014 edition

As another August starts to wind down, another iteration of the Erie County Fair recedes into memory. The Fair is one of our favorite things, and a source of a lot of bright and happy memories, all the way back to the first time we attended, way back in, I think, summer 2001. Here are some photographic memories of our time at this year's Fair!

You know how the biggest flags around are at Perkins Restaurants? Not so much!

It's kind of hard to make out, but behind the flag, you can see the long wire that served as the infrastructure for this year's Big Event, when highwire artist Nik Wallenda (who made big news a couple years back traversing Niagara Falls on one of those) walked over the Fair. Sadly, this took place the day after our day at the Fair. Oh well, maybe next time!

As always, we spent some time at the animal barns (which are now less 'barns' than 'big metal buildings', which are frankly a lot nicer than the old buildings). I didn't take too many animal pictures this year, but I couldn't resist bunnies.

There's also a new building devoted to more general agricultural information and education, the chief attraction of which is this big machine. I don't know what this Big Machine does, but those tires are taller than me.

And did you ever wonder how much cut lumber can come out of a single tree trunk? Wonder no more! This display fascinated me.

No, I did not buy this Audrey Hepburn print. I did consider it, but I did not buy it.

I did, though, get one of these NiftyLamps! (That's not the official name. I don't actually know what these are called, but they're cool. You get to pick your shape, size, and colors. I got blue, yellow, and orange.)

We lingered in the horse barns:

And we met the Budweiser Clydesdales!

As well as their tried Dalmatian buddy.

Seeing the Clydesdales in action is always a thrill. They are gorgeous animals.

My favorite part of the Fair each year is the Creative Arts building, which is where all the things made and entered for judging are kept. Painting, sculpture, photography, clothing-making, quilting, the creation of place-settings -- it's all here, and I always spend the most time lingering in this wonderful place. Witness this amazing flower:

And then there was this creation, meant to illustrate the theme of Nik Wallenda's wirewalk over the Fair:

The judges' comments are always provided for the public to peruse as well, and I thought that their tone this year was a bit more, shall we say, douchey than usual.

My stock answer to comments like this is, "Wow, somebody open a window, man!"

The most amazing things at the Fair's Creative Arts building this year were the quilts. Look at some of this work. I am amazed by this stuff!

Those quilts are amazing. This is just a stunning, stunning blend of art and craft.

And so the sun set on the Fair, as it always does, and we left. See you next year, County Fair!

Oh, and my new NiftyLamp? It looks awesome in my library!

It's groovy, man.

Something for Thursday

A couple of selection from Jan AP Kaczmarek's score to Finding Neverland. I've loved this score since the film came out, and one thing that I really find cool about it is that it won the Academy Award for Best Score the very year after Howard Shore won it for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. So one year you have one of the biggest and greatest epic filmscores ever written get the Oscar, and the very next year, this quiet and contemplative chamber-music score got the honor.

The film came out in 2004, which is a year that has some associations for me, as does this music.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Answers the Second! (Politics edition)

As usual, I got some political questions this time out, and also as usual, I'm putting them below the fold, so if you don't want to go down my own personal liberal rabbit-hole, you don't have to! And remember, if you want to ask something, please do!

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

The other day would have been Roberto Clemente's 80th birthday, and in his honor, the Pittsburgh Pirates groundskeepers mowed his number into right field at PNC Park:

Clemente is the one sports figure whom I would most like to travel back in time and see in action, just once. Who is yours? (Assume you'd get to see yours do something representative of his or her greatness. You wouldn't be stuck going back to see Babe Ruth go 0-4 with two strikeouts and two week grounders to short.)