Wednesday, April 30, 2008

In These Pages

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a woman in possession of a good library, must be in want of more books.

Something like that, anyway.

This is getting more and more interesting. We seem to be having a real conversation about books, across multiple blogs and comments threads. I love it! And the really fun part is the sheer variety of tastes and opinions and experiences.

Your responses since last night have me reconsidering my position yet again. Is it important that I read many kinds of books, or only important that I read books, preferably ones I enjoy? How does quality factor in to it? What about cultural literacy? Is it important to read Moby Dick, as poet Thomas Lusk warns?

"Eyes Scooped Out and Replaced by Hot Coals"
by Thomas Lusk

I, the final arbiter
and ultimate enforcer
of such things (appointed by the king!), make official
and binding this: that the eyes shall be gouged out
and replaced by hot coals
in the head, the blockhead,
of each citizen who,
upon reaching his/her majority,
has yet to read
Moby-Dick, by Mr. Herman Melville (1819-1891), American novelist
and poet.

Or is it enough that I know the gist of it, the first sentence, the name Ahab and so on?

Isn't it equally valid to be a specialist, like Pat, reading in depth in areas of interest? Pat regularly introduces her readers to new books and new writers, most of them in the YA Fantasy field. That's got to be helpful both to readers of that genre and the writers themselves. I know more about the fiction of Madeleine L'Engle than 99% of her readers, and have written extensively on the subject. Surely that's valuable, too. And the generalists and binge readers among us, meanwhile, can point us in all sorts of directions with their recommendations.

Meanwhile, I have indeed saved a PDF of Pride and Prejudice, and dug up my paperback copy from the 1970s. I figured I could carry that around more easily than the laptop or a printout, and read it once I finished reading that Doctor Who book (which I've now done). But it turns out the first 20 pages of my old, yellowed, 50 cent copy (apparently purchased used for 25 cents) are missing, and pages 21-22 are loose. Maybe I'll print just the beginning of the PDF and then switch over at Chapter VI.

Or maybe I'll read some of my collected L'Engle nonfiction. I've been threatening to do that for years.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008


It's too soon to write this, but oh, well.

When I was twenty years old, the writer Harlan Ellison ordered me to read Remembrance of Things Past and threatened never to speak to me again until I'll at least read the first volume of it, Swann's Way. All these years later, I haven't read so much as a chapter of Proust. I don't know whether to be ashamed or perversely satisfied about that.

But I do feel a little embarrassed reading over everyone's Weekend Assignment entries this week. Most of you seem to have a broad range of reading interests that put mine to shame. I haven't read a biography in several years, haven't read any Jane Austen except Pride and Prejudice (and that was in college), never got through Tom Jones, and when was the last time I read an entire Shakespeare play? As far as genre stuff goes, I've never read Christie or Grisham, Le Carre or King. The closest I've gotten to reading horror is Buffy novels, and a few non-Xanth offerings by Piers Anthony. And what am I reading right now? A 1997 Doctor Who novel, The Well-Mannered War, by the guy who wrote the 2007 tv episode "The Shakespeare Code."

And yet the Museum of the Weird is filled with books, many of which I've read or at least perused. I have a fairly large collection of children's classics, every L'Engle novel and most of her non-fiction, a lot of Thurber, and quite a few poetry collections and anthologies. I was starting on a nice little collection of Holmesiana when I married into John's more substantial one. My reading includes fantasy, sf, nature guides, tv tie-ins (obviously), Disneyana, Peanuts, and books on writing, midcentury modern design, and the history of technology (James Burke rules!). Put like that, I guess it's not so one-sided, but I probably need to expand my horizons.

Earlier this evening I happened to think of the book that first introduced me to the Bard, Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb. I dug it out tonight to have a look at it. My edition is copyright 1924 (1925 in the Philippine Islands; how does that work exactly?), and was illustrated by Frank Godwin. Unfortunately, the book, which probably belonged to my grandmother, is in fair-to-poor condition. The binding is torn and loose; John, who took classes in book repair in his librarian days, says it should be reglued with acid-free glue. There are also signs that something chewed the edge of the first forty pages or so. I blame Eowyn, the gerbil I had in college in 1976. I can live with the fact that it's almost impossible to read a 1990s Doctor Who novel without the cover coming off, but I don't think I dare read this. Fortunately, it's available online, having been digitized by Google Books and the Gutenberg Project and other entities, in a couple different editions. Yay. Maybe a downloaded version of this 1807 book will serve as a warm-up for renewing my acquaintance with the real thing.

One day, when Celia was talking in her usual kind manner to Rosalind, saying, "I pray you, Rosalind, my sweet cousin, be
merry," a messenger entered from the duke, to tell them that if they wished to see a wrestling-match, which was just going to
begin, they must come instantly to the court before the palace; and Celia, thinking it would amuse Rosalind, agreed to go and see
Speaking of renewing my acquaintance with books online, I looked up a Sherlock Holmes quote last night and ended up reading the entire short story "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" on someone's blog. Any you know what? I loved it just as much as I did thirty years ago. ("Strange the way the brain controls the brain!") I went to dig out the story in book form tonight, but my beat up copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes is hiding from me, as are the reprints of the later Holmes books with the original illustrations. Drat. I really don't want to disturb our copy of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes. Guess I'll do any further reading of the later stories online.

Hmm. Maybe I should download some Jane Austen while I'm at it. And The Tempest.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday Photo Shoot #18: Unreal!

New Monday Photo Shoot #18: Show us something that isn't real. This can be a special effects shot, or the product of photo editing, or just a picture of something that is in some way fake, whether it's a silk plant in bloom or your pet lizard destroying Tokyo. Just photograph something that isn't really what it appears to be. Extra points if what we see is actually impossible!

Here are mine:

This dragonlike creature started out as a closeup of Pepper's ear!

This planet was Tuffy's fur from the entry below this one.

PhotoShop Express edit of above

Further manipulation of original in PhotoStudio

The planet shots were inspired by YouTube instructions for making an exploding planet in PhotoShop. My cheap editing program lacks some of the tools found in better programs, but I did my best!

Your turn! Photograph and/or edit your way to a photo of something that doesn't really exist. Post it to your blog or journal along with a link back here, and post a link to your entry in the comments below. I'll be back in a week with the results of your creativity!


Monday Photo Shoot Results: Fur, Fuzz and Fluff

Last week, I asked to see photos of the furry or fuzzy: You found:

Jama: tall grass in flower, and a stuffed toy chipmunk!

Julie: a genuine David Gerrold tribble!

Carly: the delicate fuzz at the edge of a butterfly's wings!

Martha: ALF, on drums!

a dandelion!

closeups of a variety of mystery fur!

Fine fluffy fun, folks! Thanks!

Next MPS will be posted momentarily.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Golf in the Dark

I ended up not golfing at all at the Magic Carpet benefit for Valley of the Moon, but I did make a donation for the cost of a round. Then I walked around taking pictures, as did a lot of other people. Here are a handful of the 149 shots I uploaded from my camera tonight. (Okay, about half a dozen shots were of the dogs.)

Golfing through Stoneface.

One of the figures I could not see from the perimeter
on previous visits was this green alien.

I finally got close enough to the Buddha for a decent shot.

Kids play Crocodile Hunter.

The dinosaur has a visitor.

Ooh! Ghosties!

A band played by the back gate. No idea who they were.

I think he's a tree.

A polka dotted octopus.


More tomorrow - with words, even.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

On to the Last Round

I stopped by Magic Carpet Golf on Thursday after work. Unlike last time, the place was far from deserted. Volunteers were finishing up preparations for Saturday's fundraiser, "One Last Round," to benefit a bizarre local landmark called Valley of the Moon. I really need to get to that place someday.

One reason I went back over to Magic Carpet on Thursday was that this week's Tucson Weekly had articles on both Valley of the Moon and Magic Carpet Golf. The latter article said that volunteers trimmed the foliage and painted the sculptures last weekend in preparation for the benefit. Sure enough, I noticed immediately that the snake was much more colorful than before. I wish I could say it was an improvement, but really, it kind of looks ridiculous in pink and purple. Ah, well. Nor was everything painted. The monkey still had bare spots, but was as lovable as ever.

I made my way around the side and to the back, taking pictures of everything I could see. A teenager was painting the Sphinx, and the alligator (crocodile?) was bright green. The giant skull was bright white, and the Buddha...well, that looked a little odd, actually, but it's hard to get close enough to photograph it.

Around the back I noticed this bike rack. I never did quite figure out what the head at one end is supposed to be.

The front and back gates were open so that the volunteers could get in and out. I struck up a brief conversation with a man about the painting of the sculptures. He told me that volunteers last weekend pretty much haphazardly picked the ones they felt like working on, including these ghosts. "But oh, well," he said. At least some of the painting got done. "And there will be an art auction here on Saturday," he told me, not for the giant sculptures but for donated paintings and such.

Back around the front, I didn't dare walk onto the property, but I did take more photos. And I found another major sculpture I'd missed before, this sort-of kachina. It was probably hidden behind foliage last time.

And the Easter Islandish tiki/stone god figure was looking much better. The graffiti had been cleaned off and the eyes were lit, as indeed they were on most of the sculptures. It turns out that moving them to new homes is going to be harder than they thought, because they aren't designed to stand up to being moved. One woman I talked to expressed hope that the tiki figure will make it to Fourth Avenue as planned. "It belongs there," she said, because the Fourth Avenue crowd will truly appreciate it.

During One Last Round, there will be a disc jockey stations on top of the head; nobody else will be allowed to climb up. She doubts that climbing will be allowed at the statue's never home, either, since it would be "an insurance nightmare." Still, there's a chance that the new owner, Doug, will let us get away with it, if and when it reaches Fourth Avenue, based on past acquaintance. The woman (my apologies for forgetting her name!) also said that the stone god figure was never officially a tiki, or even an Easter Island statue. "Its real name is Stoneface," she told me.

I seem to have blown my chance to register for a round of golf tomorrow, but there's a good chance I get get a walk-in slot tomorrow afternoon. And yes, you can bet I'll bring my camera.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Weekend Assignment #213: Book Boosters

Restored from last week:

I'm dipping into my Weekend Assignments-in-Waiting for this week's topic. I had an alternate idea at the last minute, but this one is better, so:

Time and again, readers of this blog have proven to be a pretty literate bunch, which is hardly surprising considering how many of you found the Outpost by reading blogs by a certain well-known writer. That fact, plus the requests for books in March's "birthday" assignment, has me wondering:

Weekend Assignment #213: While it may be difficult to choose your favorite book of all time, there's probably a certain genre or category of books you prefer over other kinds. Do you love a mystery, or would you rather read about dragons? Are you thirsty for a good vampire tale, or is science fiction more your style? Do you mostly stick with the classics, or look for the latest spy novel? Are you a biography buff? Do a lot of your books have the word "Dummies" in the title? Do you like to read about real-world politics, science, history or sports, or would you rather escape the real world with a good romance? Tell us! And while you're at it, tell us your second favorite category of books.

Extra Credit: Do you ever loan out books to friends or family?

I don't know what to list first in my own case, fantasy novels, as exemplified by Tolkien, Lewis et al., or science fantasy, mostly by Madeleine L'Engle but also including all those Doctor Who novels in the front room. Let's lump 'em together as speculative fiction, that handy catch-all into which I can cram Old Man's War, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Dragonsinger, The Once and Future King and the novelization of Remembrance of the Daleks. If it involves magic, time travel or non-human protagonists, there's a good chance I'll like it, subject to the following conditions:

1. The characters should be likeable and for the most part well-intentioned, but flawed and fallible; and

2. The prose should be accessible, neither too flat not too flowery.

The books nearest my computer at this moment

That should cover about 70% of my personal library. The rest mostly falls into three categories:

Also at my desk: Disney, sf, science and school stuff

1. "Making Of" Non-fiction about my favorite writers, films, tv shows and theme parks. I guess that's my second favorite. This category includes a bunch of books about Disneyland, Walt Disney, Disney films and Disney tv, and a bunch more about science fiction films, the Marx Brothers and various aspects of Doctor Who. I also have several books about the writing of Madeleine L'Engle.

2. Humor. Actually, this category consists almost entirely of books by James Thurber.

3. Kids' books. If you want to be really lax about that speculative fiction category, you can skip this one and show my children's and YA books in with the other sff (science fiction and fantasy). I'm talking about Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh, Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.

And no, I never lend my books to anyone. But I do need to return some!

Off you go, then! Write a blog entry about your favorite kinds of books, and be sure to include a link back here. Then leave a link to your entry in the comments below. The roundup of responses will be posted next Thursday night as usual. Happy reading (and writing)!


Tomorrow: Preparing for "One Last Round." Here's a picture by way of a teaser:

Weekend Assignment Results: Celebrating Poetry

Last week I took an awful chance
And hid some bookish words away
To pose upon the seventh day,
Meanwhile to risk your won'ts and can'ts,
By inviting you to a poetry dance.

For some who think of words as friends
To help you with your blogs and tales,
Your fervor for them sadly pales,
If put to use for other ends;
Use of the word "poem" sends

You to a panic: make a rhyme?
The words I write just won't behave!
Will readers laugh? I'm not that brave!
I'll never get these lines to scan.
No, I'm just not a poetry fan!

But others jump in without fear,
To count the beats or rhyme the rhymes,
And think it is the best of times
When they make poetry appear;
It fills them with unbridled cheer!

Saqib does not write a poem,
but hopes his post in vain won't be;

Mike tries his best, but warns us off,
Lest he do us injury;

Sarah writes of mirrors gone,
and says "Hooray for poetry!"

Carly writes five haiku, each
Paired with her photography;

Seventeen beats appear as well
On efforts by Unfocused Me;

Vicki wrote a haiku too,
And she did so happily!

Florinda promised to invite
The poet in her family;

Kiva writes about a dog,
That wagtail Rocksie; let's go see!

Kristi thought that she was late,
But Thursday evening's fine with me;

And now I've got two lines to go;
And now I'm done! Yes, finally!

Last week's bumped topic will reappear momentarily.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Default Entry

Okay, which would you rather have tonight: a) four paragraphs about the caraway seed that got under the letter E in my keyboard for a while tonight, and the fact that the letters are worn away again and by the way John and I are slightly unwell, or b) mildly amusing photos of the dogs?

Yeah. Thought so.

Is this worth interrupting my nap?

How much is that doggie in the window?

Move along, nothing to see.

Probably more comfortable than my office floor.

Pepper has a definite preference for hanging out with me, or at least near me. Sometimes she tries to lead me elsewhere; must be the border collie heritage we think we see in her. She's still a little intimidated with John, but getting better. And she will now sit for a dog biscuit, even when we don't ask her to do so.

Best I can do tonight, folks. There's other stuff going on in my life right now, but I can't discuss it yet.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Excellent Blogs

Kiva, that wonderful participant in the Round Robin and Monday Photo Shoot who wants "to be eccentric and a Renaissance woman all at the same time," recently honored me with an E for Excellent award. Thank you so much, Kiva! It really does mean a lot to me, especially knowing that you read this blog for more than just the three memes.

Sandcastle Momma (whose blog is also a hoot) recently gave Kiva this same award, which Kiva is now passing on to me and Mrs. Annie and Vicki of Maraca. That's how some of these online award thingies work, as a sort of meme. Blogger A recommends the work of Bloggers B, C, and D, who in turn praise Bloggers E through M, and so on. In theory the mathematics of it would eventually lead to every blog in the world (assuming they have any readers at all) being honored at some point, but people do sometimes break the chain. In practice, many of the really good blogs get recommended fairly often in one way or another, while other blogs, good, bad or indifferent, mostly get ignored.

What I mean to say, in my ungracious, over-intellectualizing way, is that it now falls to me to award this neat little graphic to some other worthy bloggers. And I'm going to be a little boring about it, and recommend blogs that I've recommended before, for a few reasons. One, I'm extremely lazy in my blog-jogging, and tend not to seek out new blogs except as their authors turn up as participants in the Round Robin, Weekend Assignment or Monday Photo Shoot. I'm therefore fishing in a relatively small pond compared to the ocean-sized blogosphere. The other reason is, it's hard to avoid recommending blogs this good! Onward, then: here are three blogs that are all updated more or less daily, feature both good writing and good photography, and are genuinely interesting:

1. Ellipsis. I know, I know. Not a surprise, is it? I can't help it. Never mind the Round Robin: Carly's blog, Ellipsis, is quite simply one of the very best blogs out there. Passionate, insightful, whimsical and quirky, Carly writes about her rather interesting life, her eccentric cat Elvis, lighthouses and butterflies, politics and art, diabetic-friendly recipes and Bay Area photo safaris. Each entry is illustrated with her colorful, professional-quality photos. If you've only dropped by Carly's blog in connection with the photo shoots, you're missing out.

2. Julie's Journal at Stately Barrett Manor. Julie didn't just customize her blog; she built it from the ground up. She writes about writing, pop culture, Texas, scams, bureaucracy, poor customer service, and life as a freelancer. She's another one for great photos as well, even when she doesn't squeeze the Round Robin into her busy schedule.

3. Here, There and Everywhere. Pat has had an interesting life. She's helped out at a wild animal refuge, played in a band, hung out with actors, and volunteered at autograph shows. Now she takes care of her brother and reads a lot of books, and occasionally makes it to an sf convention or autograph show. She reviews a lot of books, mostly YA fantasy novels, and writes about classic films and their actors, many of whom she has met or corresponded with. Good stuff!

Obviously there are a lot of other great blogs out there, many of which are on my sidebar. I am frequently impressed with the blogs of most of the Robins, the Weekend Assignment gang, and the Monday Photo Shooters. Our beloved blogfather, John Scalzi, is still being his usual entertaining self over at the Whatever, but he doesn't need me to promote him. And I'm thinking now that I should have put Bea's great blog Wanderer in here, save for the fact that her posts aren't as frequent as the other three. All I can say is, if you're a blogger, keep at it. Make your posts frequent and interesting, and participate in internet challenges and such so that readers will find you. Sooner or later, people will notice. In fact, for many of you, it's clear from your sidebar awards and comment threads that people already appreciate your efforts.

I see that Cox cable is down yet again. I think that's the third night in four days. Arrgh. I'll have to post this in the morning. Good thing I've already had five hours of sleep tonight! Back to bed....


Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday Photo Shoot Results: Next Room Spontaneity

For last week's Monday Photo Shoot, I asked people to go into the next room and take pictures of whatever was there, without preparation or setup. Some of you bravely did as requested:

Jama Hameed showed us some of the seriously cool stuff in her son's room.

Laura beings us a set of framed photos of her "five circus clowns" (i.e., family).

Kiva takes us to a "a geek programmer's lair" - with trains!

Martha lets us tour bits of her own Museum of the Weird, featuring Luigi the Iguana!

Linda shows us what her furniture is like without the dogs on it.

Thanks, all! The new MPS topic is already posted, and I'll have a special announcement tomorrow night (thanks, Kiva)!


Monday Photo Shoot #17: Fur Sure

Betcha thought I forgot, didn't you? But no, it's not my fault. Cox cable was down last night, and I had no Internet when the time came to post last week's Monday Photo Shoot results, followed by this week's topic. So here I am, rushing to get the new topic posted before going to work this morning. The roundup will have to wait until tonight.

New Monday Photo Shoot #17: photograph something furry or fuzzy, whether it's a textured fabric, an animal (real or otherwise), a beard, a piece of fruit, or something else. All I ask is that the photograph concentrate on whatever it is that's furry or fuzzy, and ignore other features (such as eyes and noses) as much as possible.

Here are mine:

Pepper's fur is thick and dirty. When we bathe her, she rushes out afterward to lie in the dirt. But at least she no longer scratches constantly. John's been giving her a supplement of "Omega 3s for doggies."

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.

A different Tuffy

Your turn! Photograph something fuzzy or furry, and concentrate on that part of the picture in your framing and editing. Post it to your blog, and leave your link from there to here, and from here to there. I'll be back in a week with the results - unless the cable is out!

See you tonight with your entries from last week!


P.S. I've now added my (illustrated) poem to the Weekend Assignment entry. Take a look!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

More Fun With Captions

This is probably not my official entry for today. I'm just having fun!

Leftovers Toniight

It's been a long, busy day, what with Round Robin and giving blood and a new episode of Doctor Who. So I won't attempt anything ambitious tonight. It's just leftovers, I'm afraid. Well, sort of.

Leftover variety:
I bought this matchbook collection at an estate sale about a decade ago. It's not that fabulous, but here it is. The swizzle stick collection is much better, but inaccessible at the moment. I thought originally of using these for the variety show topic but ended up with the bags and pens instead.

Leftover cups: John culled these from our cupboard years ago, but I won't let him sell them, donate them or toss them. The Toros cups in particular were once extremely common, but they're pretty much irreplaceable now. The team hasn't existed in a decade. The larger blue cup celebrates the Diamondbacks' World Series win years ago.

Leftover dog pictures for Feline and Furball Friday (a little late as usual):

Speaking of Toros, here's Tuffy Toro, giving us a rare opportunity to examine her surgically truncated tongue. Yes, she seems to be doing great; no sign so far of the cancer returning.

Pepper hasn't quite learned yet what it means when I point a camera at her in a darkish room. Flash!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Variety of Pens. And Bags.

I'd like to reply personally to everybody but I just haven't enough pens.
- John Lennon, The Beatles Christmas Record, 1963

It's Round Robin time again, and the topic is "Variety Show", as suggested by Nancy of Nancy Luvs Pix. The idea is to photograph "something that comes in different varieties." I didn't know what I was going to do for this one until about Thursday at work, when I suddenly realized that these oft-used tools fit the criteria:

Pens akimbo

That's a little boring, though. Let's rearrange them:

Latticework of pens

Hmm. Perhaps I should clean them up:

Pens on a tray.

Still not terribly interesting. Time to break out the photo editing effects!

"Light marker" and magic mirror" effects, x2

There's also a "dark marker" effect. Seems appropriate!

Dark markered highlighters! Kind of an oxymoron!

Oh, one more. Pointillism, solarization and negative.

Thursday in the office with pens.

And if that's not enough, I can show you these as well: assorted gift bags in a variety of patterns and colors, purchased for 50 cents each from a dollar store that's going out of business. They're rather pretty in their natural colors, which I've boosted just a little below:

Gift bags for all occasions

Aw, what the heck. Let's throw some effects over these, too!

Dark marker and solarized, I think!

Oh, that'll do. They're only pens and bags, after all, not High Art! But I've had fun getting artistic with them.


Now go see what a variety of photos the other Robins are posting this weekend!

Linking List

Nancy - POSTED!
Nancy Luvs Pix

Karen - POSTED!
Outpost Mâvarin

Carly - POSTED!


Sarah - POSTED!
Charish Me

Jill - POSTED!
Letting Crazy Take a Spin

Chris-seas Corner

Kiva - POSTED!
Eclectic Granny

In My Dreams I Can Fly.....

Tj's Photo Expressions

Jennifer Robin - POSTED!
Robin's Woods

Wammy - POSTED!
The Ellis Family Cincinnati

Lisa Marie
Lisa's Chaos

Monica - POSTED!
Family Affair Photography

Marie - POSTED!
Photographs & Memories

Pictures of Craziness

Suzanne R - POSTED!
Living . . . Suzanne R's Life

Robinella - POSTED!

Angela ***Welcome New Member*** - POSTED!
Chocolate Syrup for the Soul

Janet - POSTED!

The Prytz Family

Martha - POSTED!

Jama Hameed - POSTED!
Sweet Memories

Momma - POSTED!
Sandcastle Momma

Swampy - POSTED!
Anecdotes, Antidotes, & Anodes

Sahvvy - POSTED!
The Instantaneous Existence of Me

Gattina - POSTED!
Keyhole Pictures

Nekked Lizard Lady

Vicki - POSTED!
Visions by Vicki

Teena - POSTED!
It's all about me!

Vicki - POSTED!