Monday, February 28, 2005

No Rest for the Weary

 I expect at least some of you want to know whether I made my deadline of closing the books of 2004 by the end of February, thus earning a $300 bonus.

Mal looks in as I photograph my messy desk last week. Well, no.  Not exactly. 

When I left work this evening, there were three reports I still needed to compare to the trial balance.  There was also a largish stack of loose printouts mixed in with two notebooks on my office floor.  (Sorry, no new picture tonight.)  If the three accounts are right--and they should be--then I still need to hole punch and organize most of the printouts, put them all in the notebooks, burn a CD to give the tax accountant, and hie me over to the Swan and Speedway area to drop the stuff off. Still, that's not much, compared to where I was in the process 48 hours ago.

Why am I not still at work then? "Blame" my boss for that.

He came into my office just before 5 PM, and told me not to stay to finish it all tonight.  "Tomorrow will be soon enough," he said.  He teased that it meant no bonus, but it was only a tease.  "Get some sleep," he said.

I told you he's the best boss I've ever had.  This is yet more evidence for my claim.  Mind you, he told me this while waiting to hear back about the status of his wife Sandy's latest trip to the ER at Tucson Heart Hospital, and trying desperately to catch up on a backlog of work for our clients.  The phone didn't stop ringing all day, and Mal took most of the calls. If you believe in such things, please say a little prayer for Sandy tonight, and for a client of ours whose husband died over in Hawaii this weekend.  That was one of the many calls I took today.

But the stressful final workday in February is over now.  Tonight John and I went to a new restaurant in town called Claim Jumper, apparently part of a chain out of California. (With that name, it would pretty much have to be a California chain.)  I loved the architecture, the fresh mint sprig in the ice tea, and the roasted asparagus.  John was unimpressed with the cobb salad, and put off by the crowd, the wait, the noise and the high prices.  Still, it gotus out doing something different.

Tomorrow I'll finish up the 2004 reconciliation, start cleaning my office and make a preliminary stab at catching up with current work.  Tomorrow night I'll probably start on the Quantum Leap article I promised to Sharon.  After that, I've got to get started cleaning.  My dad will be here for the graduation ceremony in less than three weeks! 

When all THAT's done, maybe I'll have a couple of weeks to work on the novels before I need to start studying for the CPA exam in May.

Still, I'm feeling pretty good tonight.  One obligation is almost completed.

So why does my back hurt?  Perhaps it's the lack of sleep, but I think my back knows that the pressure's not off yet.  See, when I do get caught up at work, it will be time to start job hunting.

But not tonight.  Tonight I sleep--after I update the church website, that is, and work on JW, and...!


P.S.  Check out Sara's silly reader participation serial about the King and Louie:
Funny stuff!  If you like Douglas Adams and James Thurber, you'll probably enjoy this!


Oh, I'm so tired.John Scalzi, Becky and I all seem to be pulling all-nighters tonight.  Scalzi was working at home, Becky's sick, and me--I'm about to leave the office.  It's 3:15 AM.

My husband, John B, called about 45 minutes ago to make sure I wasn't dead in a ditch.  When I get home, I have to do dishes.  We're on a week on, week off dishes schedule ending Sunday nights.  I haven't done dishes since, uh, Tuesday I think.

But every asset and liability account is reconciled.  Tomorrow I print out stuff, do some last-minute checking on things, and take my paperwork to the CPA's office. I'll get my $300 bonus.

And tomorrow night, I'll sleep.  In theory.

Scalzi mentioned in his entry of a few minutes ago that after 3 AM or so, he doesn't think it's worth going to be, only to get up again at 7 AM.  I go the other way on this.  I'll get 4.5 hours of sleep tonight, and be glad to get that much.

One memorable, extreme example of at work all-nighters for me comes from when I started this job nearly 12 years ago.

I'd given my notice at the previous job, and since I'd never taken any bookkeeping or accounting courses, I was a bit at sea trying to clean things up before I left.  (My previous boss had a marked tendency to make things worse by entering data himself--badly.)  But I was determined to do my best for him.  I stayed all night, and closed the books on 1992 for TN at 7:30 AM. 

I was at Worldwide Travel for orientation at 9 AM that same morning.  In between I got 45 minutes of sleep.


I'm home.  I'm safe.  I don't think there was even one other eastbound car on the road, all the way home.

I am, however, freaking out because my computer just said, "Who's doing the dishes?"  Becky, was that you? The last time something like that happened was when Teresa and I were up late, working on TARDIS Time Lore and waiting for the BBC toopen so we could call for Doctor Who news.  (There wasn't any.) We were in separate rooms, getting ready to use the phone and the extension,, when an unattended Mac SE sudeenly said, using a program called Talking Moose, "I know what you're doing!" Scared the heck out of whichever of us was in the room--me, I think.

One more quick story before I do, in fact, do the dishes.

In college the first time around, I edited a film until 7:30 AM for a class that was at 8:30 or 9:00 AM.  There was no point in going home at that point, so I did my best to take a nap on the classroom floor.  The janitor was a bit surprised, to say the least.

Here's the leftover footage from that film, or possibly the other student film I made.

Good night!


P.S. Today (2/28) is the day this blog is featured on If you found your way here from there, please drop me a comment or an email (mavarin @ aol). If not, how about checking them out?  Thanks BotD!

Dishwasher's broken. I went to bed, couldn't sleep, got up, did the dishes, went to bed, couldn't sleep, and came in here to fix one little thing. Time: 5:19 AM. If I hurry, I can still get three hours of sleep. I hope!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Fiction: Meet Joshua Wander, Part Seventeen

Art by Sherlock, adapted from an early draft of Rani's portrait.

Joshua Wander's story is too long to summarize here. Please see Part Seven for the story up to that point, and Part Twelve for most of the rest. Links to earlier installments are at the bottom of this entry.

Part Twelve: Chris/Josh insists on going to see Professor John Grayson. He and Rachel both think he's probably at the lab rather than the funeral home. Indeed he is. Josh and his friends find Officer Hennigan unconscious outside the lab. Leaving his friends behind, Josh goes through the door to confront Grayson.

Part Thirteen: Grayson has Officer Cindy Farrell tied in Rachel's chair in the lab. Grayson has been experimenting on himself as he experimented on Chris, and now he's trying to recreate the circumstances of Rachel's death, secretly recorded on videotape. Chris/Josh manages to interrupt the power to the lab, reducing Grayson's ability to use energy as a weapon. Just then, Hennigan, Onclemac and Jerry finally make it past the locked door and rush in.

Part Fourteen: Officer Farrell threatens to arrest Grayson, angering him further. Josh manages to deflect one bolt of electricity, and tries to block further attack by covering her with his own insubstantial form. Then he moves off again, leaving Rachel's spirit visible where Cindy Farrell stood a moment before.

Part Fifteen: Rachel tells Grayson that he's being irrational and unscientific, and that all three of them--John, Chris and Rachel herself--were responsible for her death. A pool of light then forms above her, and she ascends into it, leaving Farrell behind. Her telepathic parting words to Chris are "See you in Heaven--and don't dawdle."

Part Sixteen: Farrell and Hennigan manage to arrest Grayson, and Josh and friends leave the lab. Onclemac wants to take Josh back to Angland immediately, but Josh insists on going upstairs first--alone. This is ostensibly to disrupt the power to the lab from above, depriving Grayson of electromagnetic power he could use to attack or escape. But when Josh enters the third floor classroom, Rachel is there, as he'd hoped she would be.

Part Seventeen: Power

Rachel didn’t answer me directly. “Do you realize that these are John’s Physics 101 notes? I’d know his handwriting anywhere. After today, he’ll probably never teach again. At least, not at Syracuse.”

“I suppose not,” I said. “It’s only fair, after the way he’s behaved.” Even if I did benefit from it, I added silently to myself.

“Right. Fair. The man did lose his wife, you know.”

“Yes. Sorry. I do know,” I said.

“You know what else is fundamentally unfair?” she said, her thin voice rising. “It’s unfair that I had to manufacture my own fake white light expressway to Heaven, instead of finding a real one somewhere.”

Rachel’s sudden passion surprised me, especially since she had blithely expressed nearly the opposite opinion back at the dorm. “I thought you were in no hurry to get to Heaven,” I said. “Isn’t that what you told me earlier?”

“Well, yes,” she admitted. “But I’d like to at least have the option. As it is, I’m just stuck.”

I nodded in sympathy. “It could still happen. If there is a Heaven, I’m sure you’ll get there eventually. The question is, what are you going to do in the meantime?”

“Oh, that. I’m coming with you.”

“Good,” I said.

I stood still as Rachel walked over, turned around and backed into me. For a moment I saw nothing but sparks and colored light. Then she disappeared inside me, making me feel more complete somehow.

Let’s go, she said.

I told the others I would try to disrupt the power to the lab from here, I replied. Do you mind?

Not at all. Sounds like a sensible precaution to me.

I’m glad you approve. I leaned forward, then, until I was hovering on my stomach, about an inch above the floor. Then I reached down and “swam” through the floorboards.

The space between the floors was a two feet high maze of dust, ducts and multicolored wires. Most of the wires led to the fluorescent light fixtures, but there were also heavy cables carrying power to the lab equipment. I could feel them, humming with power. Everything led off toward a transformer or circuit box (I was going to have to learn more about electrical engineering!) in the south wall.

Below us, I could just barely hear Grayson and the two cops, but not what they were saying.

How are you going to do this? Rachel asked.

First, I’m going to siphon some of this off for our use, I replied. Then I’ll set up feedback to overload the wiring.

I reached into one of the heavy cables, the one that fed the wires to the light fixtures. I could feel the power flowing past me, threatening to suck me along with it. For a moment, I was terribly tempted to let go, to become part of the current instead of just interacting with it.

Don’t! Rachel told me.

I hurriedly traced an alternate path for the uppermost electrons to follow, out of the cable and into me. It felt good, except that it tickled a little. In fact, it felt very good.

Careful! Rachel warned. Don’t overdo it!

Oh, right. When I felt I had as much energy as I could handle and still be me—whatever that meant!—I traced the rest of the electrons’ path, circling back into the same cable, but going the other way. As the channel widened, it became visible to me as a tiny river of lightning that did not fade. I started a second channel and a third, feeding them all back into the main cable. I smelled burning rubber. Then there was a flash, and the cable burned out. I heard Hennigan, Farrell and Grayson yelling below me as the light fixtures buzzed and died.

That was fun, I told Rachel. Now what do we play?

Now that you’re done with your dangerous games, Rachel said disapprovingly, it’s time to catch up with your friends.

I decided to take the third floor hallway back to the stairs, the better to avoid the lab and the people in it. Just standing upright took me most of the way into the classroom where Rachel had waited for me.

What did you tell them about me? Rachel asked.

I told them you were an illusion, meant to fool Dr. John. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? I sort of gathered you don’t want them to know about you.

That’s right.


For John’s sake, I don’t want anyone here to know that I left with you. Even in Onclemac’s Angland, I don’t want people bothering me with questions. Not yet, anyway. Not when I don’t know the answers myself.

I thought about this as we made our way to the stairwell. So you want me to lie to my friends some more, I said.

Yes, please.

All right. But I hope you change your mind eventually.

We’ll see.

Right. We will, I said. We had reached the bottom of the stairs I walked out a door on the northeast corner of the building, only to find that Harry and Jerry were waiting for me on the Quad, nearer the northwest corner.

I walked over to meet them.

this again.

I think we have two entries left, folks! Well, maybe three.

The Real Joshua Wander
Joshua Wander: Two Fragments
Joshua Wander Lives (the history of the character)

Joshua Wander on BlogSpot (use sidebar to get to the individual installments)

Joshua Wander in Musings:
Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six
Part Seven Part Eight Part Nine Part Ten Part Eleven Part Twelve
Part Thirteen Part Fourteen Part Fifteen Part Sixteen

And the Days All Run Together

I'm so tiredI've been up until 2 AM or later every night this week, trying desperately to have a Life (or the online portion thereof) after leaving work at 8:45 PM.  I think one night I went to bed at 4 AM, but I don't remember which one. 

Since John often goes to bed before 9 PM, I haven't seen much of him this week.  So tonight I left work at 6 PM, and had dinner with John at the local Chinese restaurant (house egg foo yung for John, shrimp with pea pods for Lent-observing me). Afterward I cleared out my email (most of it) and headed back to the office until 10:20 PM.

In case you're wondering, my office at work is even messier now. 

Progress has been made, however.  I finally got one particularly nasty reconciliation figured out this afternoon, and tonight I got the next most troublesome one under control.  I may actually make my deadline on Monday for the $300 bonus.  The other good news is that I've earned enough OT over the past two weeks to ease what had been a fairly desperate cash flow situation in our bank account.

I haven't slept a wink. But boy, am I tired.  At age almost-48, this full-tilt boogie routine on insufficient sleep takes its toll.  I see it in the substantial increase in typos I have to fix in my blogging.  For example, it took me three attempts to type the word "am" in the first sentence of this paragraph. 

Fatigue also makes it harder to think through the complexities of year-end reconciliation, or to make appropriate decisions, such as whether to buy hair coloring to tone down the top of my head; and if so, what kind and color. And if not, should I instead go back to the barber college guy, or just live with it?  Tonight I spent about fifteen minutes at the grocery store looking at hair coloring and highlights and touch up and color streaking kits.  I finally got in line at the checkout with light brown touch up, only to put it back on the shelf and leave without purchasing anything.

Oh, I'm so tired. This degradation of reason probably explains why I researched World War II slang from 1 AM to 2 AM last night, coming away with nothing more than a definition of the word "ace" and a better understanding of the "Kilroy Was Here" phenomenon.  I only know what day it is insofar as it relates to counting down to my deadline.  It sure as heck doesn't feel like Friday night.

I've written little fragments of JW material for what I estimate will be just two more entries, but it's been a few days since I got any word done on Heirs.  I owe Linda an email. I also haven't done those Holiday Trivia prizes yet.  Good thing you guys are so understanding.  And of course, I've made negative progress on cleaning up messes at home.

On the other hand, Harlan got the photos today.  That's one obligation discharged.  Non-obligations, semi-obligations and recreations, such as reading most blogs I like or doing the blog exchanges, will just have to wait until after Monday, at least.  I promised to write a Quantum Leap article for The Observer in early March.

My mind is on the blink. So here it is, almost 12:30 AM.  I have a noon appointment Saturday at the Red Cross; they called this week saying that they're short on A positive.  Then it's back to the office all day and probably all evening.  I don't know when John and I will watch the right of the Farscape episode in which Crichton finally gets to Earth, but it's the wrong year.

I'm not quite ready to go to bed yet, but I'm getting there.  First I'm determined to do a little typing on my Joshua Wander snippets, and go through a page or three of Heirs.  Then it's bath and bed.

Or maybe I'll waste a little over an hour illustrating this entry with a bunch of silly extreme closeups of exhausted me.

Yup.  That's what I did.


Friday, February 25, 2005


Weekend Assignment #12: Thanks to time travel and invisibility, you can be on the spot for any important event of the last 100 years (1905 onward). Which important historical event do you choose? As a twist, if you actually were at an important historical event, you can't pick that one. Why? Because you were there already. What, you want to be there twice? Think of the paradox!

Extra Credit: Think of a piece of now-dated slang that should be brought back into circulation. Make it reasonably clean slang, please.

Um, am I allowed to invisibly jostle Lee Harvey Oswald's arm?  According to a The New Twilight Zone episode from the 1980s, saving JFK would probably result in World War III, but I'd like to give it a shot.  Ditto stopping Mark David Chapman from killing John Lennon.

If I'm not allowed to "put right what once went wrong,"  then I'd rather witness a happy event than a depressing one (naturally!).  In my lifetime, that includes the moon landings (I remember the first one, and I've seen Mission Control, with its clunky old computer terminals), the fall of the Berlin Wall, and, well, not much else, really.  I wouldn't mind watching JFK's inaugural speech live and in person. (But see below.)

Is this my dad? Copyright 1999 www.b24.netmy future parents in 1949.

A little farther back (ooh, Freudian!  I typed "father" instead of "farther"), 22 years before my personal lifetime, was the end of World War II. Since my dad was a POW in Germany, I'm more interested in VE Day (and the events leading up to it) than VJ Day.  The liberation of Stalag Luft 1 would probably have me in tears, though.  Those guys weren't terribly healthy by the time the the Germans moved out (late on April 30, 1945), the Russians arrived  (May 1-3, 1945) and the POWs were evacuated (about May 6-15, 1945).

Aww, the heck with it.  Even if it would make me cry, that's what I'd choose to see: the liberation of my dad.

Update: aside from forgetting the  Happiest Historical Event On Earth (but  Barb didn't!), I failed to mention a number of fun historical stops I wrote about in previous time travel tourism entries many months ago.  Chief among them: watching the Beatles on a Temporal Mystery Tour.  I did mention Disneyland in one of the entries, but only as a great place to shop in 1957.  Perhaps I can cheer myself up with such diversions once my dad is safely out of 1945 Germany.

Extra Credit: In keeping with the rest of this entry, I went looking for World War II era slang, but what I found was mostly about old equipment for killing people.  Even "Ace!" or "Aces!" (meaning "Great!") probably relates to flying aces (pilots who had shot down at least five enemy aircraft.)  Aw, the heck with it.  I could go with a Beatles era term like "fab" or "gear" or--wait a minute!  I've got it!  "Heck!"  People (other than me) hardly ever seem to use that any more.  They go for the stronger stuff.  But I prefer the relatively inoffensive substitute.


Photos:  left, a photo from Stalag Luft 1 in Barth, Germany.  From the collection of A J Zywiczynski. Copyright 1999; used without permission.  But doesn't that guy look like the man in the picture on the right?  That's my dad with my mom in 1949. Photographer unknown.  One of the photos would have to be reversed to make the hair match, but otherwise, that's got to be him, don't you think?

As Many Wars As People Who Were There

My Favorite Veteran

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Mess of Work to Do, and 10 Things As Requested

Office Banter:

Mal:  "What are you doing?"

Me:  "Taking pictures of my messy desk."

Mal wants to know why I'm taking this picture.

Mal:  "Why do you want a permanent record of that?"

the corner

Me:  "So I can compare it with how clean my office is a couple of weeks from now, and be proud of my accomplishment."

This isn't even a real desk.

Mal:  "You only have until Monday."

Me:  "I only have until Monday to close 2004.  I don't have to have my office cleaned up by then!"

office cabinets

This is actually not as bad as my office looked about ten minutes before I took the pictures.  At one point, I had stacks of yellow check copies all over my desk and on the floor.

I accomplished a lot today, though.  I got a major, messy reconciliation completed, did payroll, and discovered that a mystery credit card number was accociated with an account that has a different number on the statements.  Best of all, I came up with a plan for completing two major expense/liability reconciliations in less than half the time it usually takes, without sacrificing accuracy.  Yay, me!  I'm beginning to think maybe I can get this done in time after all.


Per John Scalzi's "Wednesday Meme":
Ten Things I've Done That You Probably Haven't
(for which I'll try to avoid duplicating any of last week's 100 true things about me)

1.  I've caught up with my "daddy" at Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario, only to have him turn around and speak to little me in French.  Oops!  Wrong man!

2.  I've walked backwards, all the way home from elementary school.

3.  I've eaten peanut butter and bologna sandwiches (with lettuce, mustard and mayo) and claimed to like them; and laced diet cola with black pepper as a possible cold remedy.

4.  I've been kissed by Isaac Asimov.

5.  I've read Thurber in the balcony of the Metropolitan Opera House during a performance of Madame Butterfly.

6.  I've co-founded an international fan club for a tv show.

7.  I've sneaked away from the Universal Studios Tour in order to look for a certain production office on the Universal lot.  We found it.

8.  I've failed to recognize my favorite actor in makeup.

9.  I've junked a car outside Indio, California after the vehicle's top speed dropped to 15 mph (bad transmission).

10.  I've learned that Max Wright is much more enthusiastic if you mention Misfits of Science to him instead of ALF.

Not as impressive as Scalzi's list, but at least it's quirky.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

More on Movies, and Dropping the Bomb

This is going to be one of those potpourri catch-up entries.

More on Movie Adaptations

People who commented on last night's entry had an interesting variety of thoughts on the subject of movie adaptations. I thought everyone had good points to make:

Lord of the Rings, x 2 media Sarah mentioned being curious about adaptations, "because I'm interested in how directors and actors and costumers and other creative types bring things to life." That's true for me, too, up to a point.  If I were to tot up what I liked best about Peter Jackson's LotR, it would have to do with getting the casting exactly right, and all the amazing work Richard Taylor's WETA people did on the sets and the armor and the costumes and the creatures and...!

Mary finds that most movies are inferior to the book, but enjoyed the "new," different story in Under the Tuscan Sun.  I haven't seen that, but that's part of what I was trying to say.  Movies can give an alternative story, a different "take" on the same basic concept.  That's what  Mary Poppins did, and what Peter Jackson did in beefing up Arwen's role (at the expense of poor Glorfindel, but that's okay).

Vince, who apparently isn't worried about Hitchhiker's Guide, made a sly reference to my Mavarin books.  As often as I joke about the movie rights to these, I haven't really thought about the degree to which a director would change the story, or whether I would mind this.  I guess if the movie got the characters and major events right, I wouldn't mind other changes.  Like Sarah, I'm interested in seeing the translation of people, places and things from page to screen. I'll love to see live action, moving versions of Del and Crel, Rani and Fayubi, and how the FX people would render the tengremen.
HP - 3 DVD sets, lotsa books Becky prefers that films be faithful to the books, and appreciates the first two Harry Potter movies for doing this well.  Cynthia, on the other hand, thought the first Harry Potter movie was weak "because it was too faithful to the book."  She thinks a film should have something new to add, some surprises or "magic." Paradoxically, I think they're both right.

Paul mentions a similar discussion on, part of which focuses on the Lord Of The Rings films. He points out that different fans react differently to the same liberties with the books, and have different favorite scenes from the book that should not be messed with. This makes sense to me, too.  I'd be surprised to learn that anyone was actively pleased by the omission of "The Scouring of the Shire" or Tom Bombadil, but I'm sure that each omission bothered some people more than it did others.  And I expect that I'm not the only one who liked Arwen's enhanced role in Fellowship, but for purists that must have really grated. I had the same negative reaction to Aragorn's spurious, unnecessary fall and and near-drowning.

Dropping the Bomb

This is the week I'm working evenings to try to close the books on 2004, so if I skip a day in my posting you'll know why.  I'll try not to, though.

Airlines Reporting Corporation Today at work I suddenly remembered a form that I was supposed to fill out, for which the deadline was today.  The purpose of it was to provide ARC (the company that collects the airlines' money from travel agencies each week) with contact info for setting up the new secure-but-web-friendly version of their reporting procedures.  Since this won't happen until April or later, I was reluctant to put myself down as the contact person, as Mal intended me to do.  I was going to have to tell him this, and why.

So I waited until the poor guy was off the phone (he worked a 12-hour day today himself!), and asked to speak to him for a minute. I was hoping he'd take the hint and go into my office or the conference room, but no such luck.  He was too busy for that. So right there at his desk up front, I told him that I was uncomfortable with being the contact person on the form because "I don't know how much longer I'm going to be here."

He looked stricken.  I really thought he had some idea it was coming.  I was wrong.  He said he didn't know anything about the ARC procedures in question, but I reassured him that it didn't matter. I wasn't going to leave him "in the lurch" without training someone in this stuff.  So he put his name down on the form, and I faxed it to ARC.  End of discussion--for the moment.

After the end of the day (for him--I had another hour-plus ahead of me), he came into my office and said this was the first he'd heard of my leaving.

I told him that if I weren't $50,000 or so in debt, I'd stay as long as he would have me, and that I'd hoped he had at least an inkling what was coming.  We talked about the CPA exam coming up in May and whether I would pass it, and my master plan of getting my work caught up and training a replacement before moving on.  He seemed relieved that I wasn't planning to leave immediately.  After that he relaxed enough to chat about accounting issues one of our clients has, due to the company's government contracts.

It's going to be all right.  The discussion I was dreading is now over.  Mal is surprised and disappointed and maybe a little hurt, but he's also understanding and supportive.  I'm not kidding or exaggerating when I say that he and Sandy (his wife, who no longer particupates actively in the business for health reasons) are far and away the best bosses I've had in my entire life.

Let's hope the next bookkeeper appreciates them, too.

Writing and Stuff

I think I'll post the writing/editing update in Inspirations instead.  Meanwhile, go play a fun "Choose Their Adventure" game with Sara G.


Monday, February 21, 2005

Movies and Other Travesties

There was a bit of discussion on Ellison Webderland over the weekend about books and short stories people would (or would not) want to see as films. It was generally thought that if a story wasn't inherently cinematic (i.e. not very visual or translatable), or was so short it would have to be padded, then it was better not to adapt it into a movie at all.  This naturally led to the question of how faithful a movie or tv show had to be to the underlying story, and whether the writer of the individual work should keep it from being adapted at all, if the screen version would very different from or inferior to the printed story.

When I was in high school, I was very partisan on the subject of creators' rights.  I believed that the original writer should do his or her own screenplay if possible, which little or no interference from producers or director.  Failing that, the screenwriter should write something as close to the original work--in plot, dialogue and even theme--as the necessities of the medium allowed. Anything else was an adulteration and a travesty.

As I got older, three things changed my mind about this: Mary Poppins, "The City on the Edge of Forever" and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Mary Poppins  book and 3 DVDs I think I have all the Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers. I've read them several times since fifth grade, most recently a couple of years ago.  They're interesting and magical and fun, and a little dark in the way Poppins is cross and unpleasant to the Banks children, especially if they dare to mention a recently-completed adventure.

I also have the Disney movie Mary Poppins.  Over the years I've bought it in VHS, on Laserdisc, and on DVD--the latter three times, as different editions came out.  The out-of-print CD soundtrack has spent an awful lot of time spinning on my boombox at work, with me paying special attention to the Sherman Brothers interview and demos at the end. Robert and Richard Sherman are fascinating in their discussion of the development of the film, what songs were used as originally written and what had to be dropped or changed, and the development of Bert and Mr. Banks in the movie.  Great stuff. 

The film is very different from the stories in many ways, but that's as it should be.  Frankly, it's superior to the original, dramatically and in terms of characterization.  A faithful adaptation would never have worked.  I for one am grateful that Walt Disney managed to wear down P.L. Travers for permission to make the movie, and that the filmmakers were not bound to her vision of the story.

"The City on the Edge of Forever," of course, is Harlan Ellison's Star Trek episode. His original script had brilliant touches, and other elements that simply didn't belong in Gene Roddenberry's universe. Both Harlan's version and the final adulteration of it won awards--and again, that's as it should be.  Ultimately, it had to be Gene's vision of the episode that made it onto the air.  Sorry, Harlan, no drug-running on Kirk's Enterprise.

Hitchhiker'sThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has been a radio show (actually several of them), a series of books, an LP, several audiotape adaptations, a TV series and a bath towel. No two versions are exactly alike; even the unabridged tapes of the books have a few textual anomalies. But they're all brilliant.  (Mostly Harmless makes me want to throw things and rant and yell and never read it again, but even that's brilliant.)  Because of the way Douglas Adams did these things over the years, and the nature of the universe(s) in which they take place, I can accept the wild inconsistencies.

A few things were pretty consistent, though.  Other than readings of the books, Simon Jones was always Arthur Dent, Peter Jones was always the Voice of the Book, Mark Wing-Davey was always Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Stephen Moore was always Marvin the Paranoid Android.  To me, these people will always be the definitive players of those roles.

But now Peter Jones is dead, the others are getting older, and a Hollywood film is finally in the works after many false starts.  The definitive players have now been pushed aside for younger, prettier actors, including at least one American!  Say it ain't so, Zaphod!  Unlike all previous HG iterations, I look forward to that film with dread and trepidation.

And yet I saw a trailer for it on Amazon the other day, and it doesn't look half bad, except for the slapstick that always seems to turn up in comedy movie trailers. *Twitch* Maybe it will be okay after all, even with Douglas Adams no longer alive to oversee the project. Maybe I should not, in fact, panic.

John says that a movie version, good or bad, doesn't detract from the original.  Tolkien's novel The Lord of the Rings can still be read and enjoyed, regardless of the choices Peter Jackson made on screen. Movies can stand or fall on their own, and the books will still be around. So what is lost?  Faithful or unfaithful, good or bad (not necessarily the same scale as faithful or unfaithful), movies do not change a word of the books or stories themselves.  They merely provide an alternative universe vision of the story.

A Wrinkle in Time - classic and travesty Ah, but what about A Wrinkle in Time?

For nearly 40 years, Madeleine L'Engle turned down producers and directors and screenwriters and studios that wanted to make of movie of her most famous book. She didn't want anyone to make it who didn't quite "get" the original, what it was about and what it meant.  Maybe mortality breathed down her neck, or maybe she liked the latest applicants for some reason, because she finally let the movie be made.  It aired as a Disney tv movie on ABC last year. Afterwards, she told Newsweek, "I expected it to be bad, and it is."

She's right  The tv movie has its moments, but Meg is far too hip and pretty, Charles too bratty. Other characters have been renamed or combined or altered, and the whole thing is over-the-top preachy and pseudo-inspiring. 

Does it take away from the wonderful book that this deeply flawed thing aired on ABC, and has since been released on DVD?  Maybe not, but it bothers me.  Nice as the people are who made it, L'Engle should have stuck to  her  guns and said no again.  My only consolation is that the book is still being taught in schools, and passed on from parent to child.  It is in no danger of being overshadowed by the Disney version.

So what do you guys think?  Must a movie be faithful to the book, or should it stand on its own?  Is a bad adaptation worse than none at all, or will you go see it anyway?



Bishop Smith and "Dexter"Aside from being the Second Sunday in Lent, today was Confirmation for about thirteen people at St. Michael's.  The new Bishop of Arizona, Rev. Kirk Smith, was on hand to preach and annoint and all that good stuff.  His sermon contained an extended analogy about riding on the back of a tandem bike, with Jesus on the front seat.  (I can see some of you clicking away from this page already.  Please don't.  I'll try to make it worth your while.)  According to Bishop Smith, it's a wild ride, and all you can do from the back is hang on and pedal.  I'm going to have to think about that one.  I'm about to embark on a bit of a wild ride of my own, as I leave a job I've held for over a decade and try to find my way into a new career at the age of 48 next month.  I wouldn't presume to put a religious attribution to this, but there's still some resonance there. The bishop also talked about confirmation being "Baptism, Part Two."  I suppose it can be thought of as sort of a spiritual makeover.  Or not.  I'm just using the analogy to tie several subjects together tonight.

One other thing about Bishop Smith before I move on: he incorporated a ventiloquist act into the Mass.  No, really!  Here's the picture. The bishop explained to "Dexter" and the kids about what a bishop does, and about his hat (mitre) and staff (crozier).  After church I told fellow parishoners that I was jealous.  There wasn't a ventriloquist's dummy at my confirmation at St. Ann's, about 35 years ago!

me, my hair and my power suit, 2/20/05As I get closer to being ready for job hunting, I'm dieting and trying to do a makeover on myself. (Aha!)  I don't expect to lose 100 pounds in a month, but maybe I can make a little progress.  But that's just one part of it.  I was about a year overdue for a haircut, so I got one on Wednesday.  I said "shoulder length," but at that particular place, that apparently means "eight inches past the shoulder."  It was a bit of a shock, spending 40 minutes and coming out with hair so close to the previous length that nobody but me could tell the difference!   So I went back there on Saturday to get it to the length I wanted, and also to cover the mousy brown (the color I've had since childhood) tinged with gray (which started about a decade ago) with copper hair coloring (which I've had before, but not to this extreme).  The head of the barber college did it himself, and when he was done I agreed it was the color I wanted and asked for.  Except: when it was dry, my hair was about 3 shades lighter on top than at the bottom. (The flash picture makes the bottom of my hair look lighter than it is.)  Oh, well.  I got several compliments after church, so I guess it will do for now.

Stage three of the makeover was to get a decent outfit for job interviews.  The result, purchased today just before the mall closed, is in the photo.  Granted, I still won't be gracing the cover of Women's Wear Daily any time soon, but it's definitely a more professional look than anything I've worn in recent years.

Third "makeover" -- and yes, I know this whole makeover thing is a really lame way to link all this stuff together -- is on Heirs of Mâvarin.  I'm only on Chapter One of the manuscript, currently sitting in a binder on the bathroom floor, but I've already tinkered with several sentences and fixed two minor continuity glitches. Well, it's a start, and it means that I finally have enough distance from the previous edit to pay attention to the words and the plot, and notice any problems.

Fourth -- I spent FIVE HOURS tonight clearing out 1000 emails and a couple hundred pieces of alleged spam (most of which was leftover legit mail received once I hit the 1000 piece limit) on another screen name.  95% of it was from a Scott Bakula email list.  The cancellation of Enterprise accounted for part of the chattiness, but it's a very active list at the best of times.  Yeegh--I don't have time for this!  But at least now that screen name can start fresh.  Also in the deluge were two emails from the founder of the local Star Trek club I was in 30 years ago.  Hi, Carl!  Glad to hear from you!

Fifth -- Becky has generously agreed to help me with a makeover of the banner atop the Messages from Mâvarin blog.  I'll say no more for now.  I also need to try to find out why the St. Michael's blogs look bad in IE, and whether I can find a way to fix this.  But that's not tonight's problem.  Tonight I still need to do my weekly update of the St. Michael's schedule stuff.  It's 1:22 AM now, and last week the job took me an hour and a half, not the half hour I blithely predicted to Sarah.  And I'm already so tired...!

Sixth -- I gave the JW entry a makeover today, rewriting about a third of it. 

The one I'm working with is darker than this.Last -- I am having a tough time with my Mâvarin stationery.  The Sun and River looks fine on screen, but the medium blue prints out as something between royal blue and navy, and the darker blue prints out as purple!  And the template won't even open properly on another computer.  I know the printer is kind of cheap and the Compaq tends to show things lighter than they are, but I can't seem to track down the source of this particular problem.  Thoughts, anyone?

Yawn.  One thing about myself that I still need to "make over" is the part about getting adequate sleep. Where's all the free time I was supposed to have once I was done with school?


Saturday, February 19, 2005

Fiction: Meet Joshua Wander, Part Sixteen

Art by Sherlock, adapted from an early draft of Rani's portrait.

Joshua Wander's story is too long to summarize here.  Please see Part Seven for the story up to that point, and Part Twelve for most of the rest. Links to earlier installments are at the bottom of this entry.

Part Twelve: Chris/Josh insists on going to see Professor John Grayson. He and Rachel both think he's probably at the lab rather than the funeral home. Indeed he is. Josh and his friends find Officer Hennigan unconscious outside the lab. Leaving his friends behind, Josh goes through the door to confront Grayson.

Part Thirteen: Grayson has Officer Cindy Farrell tied in Rachel's chair in the lab. Grayson has been experimenting on himself as he experimented on Chris, and now he's trying to recreate the circumstances of Rachel's death, secretly recorded on videotape. Chris/Josh manages to interrupt the power to the lab, reducing Grayson's ability to use energy as a weapon. Just then, Hennigan, Onclemac and Jerry finally make it past the locked door and rush in.

Part Fourteen: Officer Farrell threatens to arrest Grayson, angering him further.  Josh manages to deflect one bolt of electricity, and tries to block further attack by covering her with his own insubstantial form.  Then he moves off again, leaving Rachel's spirit visible where Cindy Farrell stood a moment before.

Part Fifteen:  Rachel tells Grayson that he's being irrational and unscientific, and that all three of them--John, Chris and Rachel herself--were responsible for her death.  A pool of light then forms above her, and she ascends into it, leaving Farrell behind.  Her telepathic parting words to Chris are "See you in Heaven--and don't dawdle."

Part Sixteen: Upstairs

I couldn?t believe Rachel was gone, just like that.  Neither could Grayson.  He stood and stared at the ceiling, long enough for Officer Hennigan to sneak up and snap handcuffs on him.

?As I was saying,? Cindy Farrell said, ?You?re under arrest.?

I half-expected Grayson to slip out of the cuffs like moonlight through a window.  He tried, but it didn?t happen.  John Grayson was still fully corporeal, at least for the moment.

?If you?ll take the advice of a disembodied ex-physics student,? I told the police, ?you?ll keep him out of brightly-lit rooms.  In fact, you may want to wait for sunset before taking him downtown.?

Grayson used one of Nixon?s more colorful expletives.

?Why?? Hennigan asked.

?Because he can use light as a weapon.  Obviously.?

?We?ll see what we can do,? Farrell said.

?Chris,? Harry said.  ?We should go now.?

I looked at Grayson.  After that last outburst, the fight seemed to have gone out of him.  He was slumped over, staring at the floor as Hennigan and Farrell finished securing him between them.

?Yeah, okay,? I said.  I started toward the door, where Jerry and Harry were already.

?No,? said Onclemac.  ?I mean it?s time to go.? He looked at me meaningfully.

?Soon.  I promise,? I said. ?But first, let?s leave this lab.?  I turned back to Grayson and said, ?I?m sorry about all this, Dr. John.  I truly am.?

?Eat ultraviolet and die, Stein,? he said.  ?This isn?t over.  Wherever you go, I?ll find a way to follow you and take my revenge.?

?Tag,? I said.  ?I guess you?re it.  Maybe by the time you find me you?ll be a bit less homicidal.  Let?s go, guys.?  I walked through the open doorway, closely followed by Jerry and Harry.  Once we were well down the hall, I said, ?He?s going to escape, you know.  He?ll never stand trial.?

?I know,? Harry said, ?but it?s better that you not be around when he does escape.  Are you ready to go back to Angland now??

?Almost. Just let me go upstairs for a minute.  Then I?ll meet you outside.?

?Why?  What?s upstairs?? Jerry asked.

I had already decided on an answer to this. ?If I?m lucky, I?ll find a way to keep the power supply out of commission for a while. I should be able  to disrupt things from the wiring above the lab. I also need to replenish the energy I expended on the illusion of Dr. Rachel and her trip to heaven.?

Jerry frowned.  "The illusion of Dr. Rachel?  She wasn?t real??

?The important thing is that Dr. John thought she was real,? I said.  ?I don?t need you to believe it, too.?

Harry frowned. ?Then why bother to retrieve energy from the wiring? Why not just go outside in the sunlight??

?In Syracuse? Are you joking? This isn?t one of the 87 sunny days a year. Besides, I seem to do better with concentrated energy sources than with anything as diffuse as daylight. Notice, for example, that crossing the Quad didn?t give me my feet back.?

Jerry nodded thoughtfully. ?That?s true,? he said.

?But look here, Josh,? Harry said. ?What does it matter if you use electricity to replenish your noncorporeal form? With any luck, you?ll have a human body again as soon as we get to Angland.?

?Even humans need energy,? I said. ?I imagine that wizards need even more of it than most people. Am I right??

?As a general rule, yes,? Onclemac acknowledged grumpily.

?Well, then, I mean to leave her with at least as much energy as I had coming in. Now, let me go, before the cops lose control of Grayson.?

?We?ll come with you,? Harry said.

I shook my nonexistent head.  ?No.  Too dangerous, and you can't go where I'll be going.  I?ll be right back.?  I ducked into the stairway, not because I needed the stairs themselves, but as a handy way to determine my angle of ascent.  Harry and Jerry stood on the landing, looking up at me.  Then they turned and started down the stairs.  Good.

The room above the lab was one of the older classrooms on campus.  About 30 steel chairs with fold-down veneered mini desktops stood in mostly neat rows.  Rachel stood in front of a green multipaneled chalkboard, which was all covered in notes about vectors and velocity.  She turned as I came in.

?Is this soon enough?? I said.

The Real Joshua Wander
Joshua Wander: Two Fragments
Joshua Wander Lives (the history of the character)

Joshua Wander on BlogSpot (use sidebar to get to the individual installments)

Joshua Wander in Musings:
Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five   Part Six  
Part Seven   Part Eight  Part Nine  Part Ten  Part Eleven  Part Twelve
Part Thirteen  Part Fourteen  Part Fifteen

Check, Check, Check

* Call my friend back - check.

* Post in LiveJournal about John Scalzi's link to that list of tips for writers - check.

* Post Father Smith's "temptation" sermon, complete with public domain illustrations tracked down using Google - check.

Harlan in 1977* Find Harlan Ellison's address - check.

* Spend an hour writing and revising the cover letter to Harlan, and a further hour experimenting with PhotoStudio 2000 to print out halfway decent copies of the "Harlan's Hat" photos - check.

* Comment on Carly's latest posting - check.

*  Write my Musings entry for tonight... what, now?  It's 12:40 AM! (So?  Since when has that stopped me?)

All this, plus Enterprise, dinner with John at the local Chinese restaurant, and the lack of a really good idea for a topic tonight leaves me yawning and scrambling for something to say at this moment.

The phone calls with my friend would be the most interesting posting fodder of the lot, if I wanted to violate her privacy in a major way.  This friend, who has a couple of disabilities that will go unspecified here, has decided to go back to school to study CSI stuff.  She's really into it, not just the fictional shows but the nonfiction ones on A&E and elsewhere, plus Court TV.  I suspect her counselor will take a dim view of all this, assuming that my friend won't stick with the program or be able to physically handle a job in that field.  Myself, I wouldn't care to bet against her.

I like the writing tips.  I may actually pay some attention to them in my final Heirs edit.

by DuccioAfter a while, it gets boring to post sermon after sermon with the same standard pictures of the priests who wrote them.  So I tracked down two old pieces of art relating to the temptation of Jesus in the desert.  It got me thinking about conventions in religious art over the centuries, from the medieval lack of perspective to visible halos to the Irish Jesus who invites kids to Vacation Bible School each summer.  Neither piece of public domain art I found to go with the sermon really does it for me.  One is too fine in its black and white subtlety, and makes Satan look like a gargoyle.  The other makes Jesus much taller than the buildings the devil is showing him.  Ah, well.  At least it breaks up the page a bit.  If I could draw well, I would do something more naturalistic.

Harlan's address turned up in a location I considered pretty much a sure thing: my white notebook of autographed letters and photos and other artifacts.  It's not the 1975 letter I've been looking for since 2002 or so, but the follow-up, responding to my request for permission to reprint his previous letter in 2-5YM, the Star Trek zine I edited in those days.  The notebook itself failed to turn up when I looked for it a couple of times over the past week, but it turned up tonight in a different bookcase.

the Sun and RiverThe cover letter is on a neat template I designed for letters to agents and publishers, with the Mâvarin logo at the top and "Welcome to Mâvarin" at the bottom, just above my contact information.  I'm ashamed to say that the template has not yet been put to its intended use.  Not even once.

Printing from PhotoStudio required a bit of experimentation, and the results were disappointing.

I want more apple-pear scented bubble bath.

That's all for this entry--except for one last item on my checklist:

*  Remind my writerly friends to answer my poll - check.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Unamusing Dog Stories of Non-Attacks

Weekend Assignment #48: Recount an amusing tale of a pet attacking someone or something. By "amusing," I mean that a) no one was seriously injured, least of all the pet (pet humiliation is okay), b) you laughed about it at the time, or sometime shortly thereafter. You know: Funny! Okay, then.

Jenny and me at Rockarama circa 1981Extra Credit: Ever seen your cat/dog walk right into a sliding glass door? Do tell.

Darn you, John Scalzi.  In your apparent continuing quest to find a topic I can't write about, you've very nearly defeated me this week.

Jenny (Princess Guinevere of Westcott Street) never attacked anyone or anything, let alone amusingly. For all I know, she may have killed a mouse or a bird at some point in her life, but if so there was no amusing story about it.  A meter reader once threatened, unamusingly, to kill her, merely for being present at Rockarama when he showed up one day.  I sent Jenny out of the store with someone so he wouldn't see her again, and then reported the guy to the gas company.  I hope they fired him.

Wafer (Wayfarer, a lab puppy I had for a month in 1979) did a little puppy-style chewing on my hand, but that's in no way remarkable or amusing.

John and NoodleNoodle was a lover, not a fighter.  Again, she may have killed a bird at some point, but not amusingly.  The only stuff she ever attacked was food.  She was not a bright dog like Jenny or Tuffy, but she was a genius at finding a way to get a loaf of bread off the counter or open the cupboard to get at the trash.  Not all that amusing, really, especially for the loaf of bread. Oh, the humanity! Or at least the yeast.

Tuffy - well, you folks should know by now that Tuffy's name is ironic.  Tuffy's usual tactic with anyone but family is to bark and run away, preferably far away, as  in outside (if the guest is inside).  I don't think she's ever attacked anything, although she's occasionally shown interest in a large bug.
Tuffy, 2004But if you want to stretch the point, and I mean really stretch it, you can say that she "attacked" the love seat and the leather couch right after I adopted her. Remember, she was a "pass around puppy," as John put it.  We were about her sixth owners, and she was only six weeks old at the time, so she was understandably insecure.  She chewed holes in both pieces of furniture when we weren't home, and even tore a strip of fiber from the wallpaper. 

There you go.  That was the big attack.  From John's point of view, it wasn't amusing at all.  We had to replace those two pieces of furniture, and spend $575 on dog training.

Extra credit:  I've never seen a pet walk into a sliding glass door.  But I did it once.  Or twice.  John didn't find that amusing, either,  due to the damage I did.

Karen (who at least tried to tell this amusingly)

Tags: ,

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Software and Hardware

I got my software today.  ("Software? What software?" you may be asking.)  It's good, important stuff: Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003, QuickBooks Pro 2004 (2005 would have cost a few hundred dollars more) and Peachtree Complete Accounting 2005. I ordered them through the UoP alumni assiciation, figuring I'd better use the student discount before my eligibility runs out.  Office 2003 is an upgrade from my XP Student and Teacher Edition, which left out Access and Publisher entirely. The others - well, let's put it this way.  How much trust would you place in a newly minted CPA with exactly zero exposure to the two most popular accounting programs for small business?  Since University of Phoenix didn't see fit to do more than mention the programs in passing a couple of times, I thought I'd better take the initiative myself.

It wasn't easy to take physical possession of the software.  It went out UPS Ground, and I'd gone with my home address for the delivery, having previously made arrangements for UPS to drop off without a signature when necessary.  Or maybe I only made that arrangement with FedEx.  Oops!  When the first of the delivery attempt stickers turned up on my door, I failed to notice that it was marked with a requirement that I sign for the package in person.  The second night, I got the message.  I called the 800 number to reroute it to the office address, but the 800 number said to do this online.  So I did.  I entered the tracking number, and it let me input the alternate address and phone, and even special instructions.  When I was done, it gave me a confirmation of the change to print out, which I forgot to do.

Just as I was leaving for lunch today, the UPS truck pulled up in front of the office.  Oh, joy!  My software!  I eagerly signed for the package, only to learn it was addressed to Mal.  Brochures.  Well, I thought disappointedly, maybe it takes an extra day to get it onto a different truck.

no, this doesn't mean the computer is working properly.But when I got home tonight, there it was on the kitchen counter!  John happened to get home earlier than usual, at 5:50 PM, and the UPS guy was 3 1/2 hours later than usual.  Maybe he did that onpurpose to try to catch us, bless him.  He told John he'd received no notice of a change in delivery destination.  Hey, if I can't trust the UPS website to have any effect on the routing, why have me do that stuff online?  Oh, well.  At least I got it.

I've also started looking at the Monster listings that have been mailed to my Yahoo inbox every day for almost a year.  There's always lots of stuff in Southern California, almost as much in metro Phoenix, and nothing or next to nothing in Tucson.  Granted, it's only one source of listings, but I don't like the trend.  My pastor wants me to stay in Tucson, and frankly I don't want to leave St. Michael's, especially while Eva, my 99-year-old friend, is still alive and healthy enough to want a ride to church.  If I do move, I'm thinking seriously of driving two hours each way between Phoenix and Tucson every Sunday.

The only recent Tucson listing that sounded promising was for one of our corporate clients.  I was actually getting a little excited about it, until I read the qualifications.  Close, but no cigar.  Oh, well.  Something will come along. 

I'm not ready yet, anyway.  I'm still working on the year-end, and having weird tingling and soreness in my hands and forearms (not wrists) toward the end of the day at work. I'll have to keep experimenting with the placement of the keyboard and mousepad and wrist rests, not to mention where my arms go.  I didn't have trouble with the old computer at work, and I don't have this trouble at home.

I have a different trouble at home.  My Compaq refuses to recognize my external floppy drive tonight, and my internal one went south months ago.  I therefore can't upload that photo of my unopened software boxes with the Academic Price notices on them.  If you see such a picture later, you'll know that rebooting helped.  Still, added to the other weird problems this computer's been having lately, I remain worried that I'll have to replace it soon.  And yet, Norton and AOL Computer Checkup both insist that everything's hunky-dory.  Go figure.


Holiday Trivia Answers

Answers to Mardi Gras and Valentine's Day
Holiday Trivia Questions

(Are you ready?)

Question One: Aside from New Orleans,  the most famous place to celebrate Mardi Gras (Carnival) is probably
     d) Rio de Janeiro

Question Two: What is traditionally served on Shrove Tuesday in the U.S., Canada, England and elsewhere, especially by Anglicans and Episcopalians?
       c) Pancakes
   Well, it was news to me!

Question Three: In Germany, Mardi Gras / Shrove Tuesday is
    a) called Karneval or Fasching, depending on where you are
 There are two different greetings, too. 

Question One: Which of the following did not take place on February 14th?
     b)  Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd, and addressed the Illinois state legislature for the first time (1843).
     What kind of a guy do you think he was?


Question Two:  Which of the following technological milestones did not take place on this day in history?
      c) Usenet expanded beyond the first four "nodes" at Stamford, UCLA, MIT and the Pentagon, adding connections to Harvard, the University of Arizona and CalTech (1971).
    I made that up, based on part of a team economics paper.

Question Three: Who was killed in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1929)?
   a) Seven of Al Capone's rival gangsters from the Bugsy Malone gang,plus an opthalmologist.
    Gotta feel sorry for the eye doctor!

Question Four:  Who was St. Valentine?
    d) At least three different early martyrs are associated with that name and saint's day, all of them fairly obscure.
   Kind of makes him/them seem superfluous to the holiday, doesn't it? 

Question Five: What February Roman holiday is most closely associated with the development of Valentine's Day?
    b) Lupercalia, the festival dedicated to fertility god Lupercus.
    Just another banal talking point in the discussion of love versus Eros.


Becky - 3 /3, N/A
Jeff - 3/3,  2/5
Sara - 3 /3, sort of, N/A
Sarah - 3 /3,  3/5
Paul - 2/3, N/A


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Buried Treasure

Oh, my.

Over the past year or two, I've made a number of forays into my type 703 boxes of old papers, looking for my Mâvarin maps, for old poems, for stuff from my Clarion days and other items that I desperately wanted to find again. Sometimes I found one or more of the things I was looking for, sometimes not.  Sometimes I found things I had previously failed to find.  Sometimes I found things I didn't remember owning or drawing or collecting or writing.  Overall, though, I built up a mental list of the following missing items:

1.  Either the color map of Mâvarin, or the black and white one that preceded it, or any photocopy of either.  One of them was drawn by my next door neighbor in Manlius, Sue Keeter, now a professional artist.  The other was drawn by John, based on Sue's map.  The reason I wanted it was that I wanted to reconcile it with all that I've written since then, and use the result as the basis for a new map. 

2. The comic ballad of Epli and Amtula, rejected by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF) circa 1975. I refer to the existence of the song at least twice in the books, and wanted the text of it to possibly revise and include.

3.  The poem 4967, and the 1976 update of it.

4.  The poem Window Taps, or at least my 2004 reconstruction of it.  The latter really shouldn't be hard to find, but it is.

5.  My first letter from Harlan Ellison, on its distinctive gray stationery.

6.  Harlan's address, so I can send him those photos I promised.

7.  A program from the play I Love My Wife, autographed by Tom and Dick Smothers.

8.  A spiral notebook of my early writing and art, and I mean very early, as in late elementary school.

9.  A story I started about someone named Jon, which may or may not be the alien telepathy story, and which may have been printed in Mycenae Gazelles.  I wanted to know whether that related to my abandoned early novel attempt, The Simian, or to the creation of JW, or neither.

There are probably other items I've been persistently missing, but you get the idea.

Well, tonight I wanted to pull out one of those one-page story beginnings for Becky.  The boxes are not well organized, so any given box may have stuff from junior high and college, but skip high school; or from high school, a little college and then 1986 or 1993.  Still, there was one box I hadn't been through recently.  At the moment it happens to be on top of the pile of boxes teetering on my office floor, because I didn't put things back in the closet after my Friday night foraging.  (Read: tired and lazy and busy.)  Judging from what was on top, the contents of the open box looked to be from 2001 or so, far too late to hold any hidden treasure.


Just a couple of inches down, I found a semi-thick folder of Mâvarin notes from 1974 through 1977, the very early days of my attempt to write the first book.  Together with the box I recently found to contain single-spaced drafts typed on erasable bond using my mom's manual typewriter in 1974, it's the genesis of the Mâvarin novels, as envisioned by a 17-year-old Tolkien fan.  Not only that, but farther down in the box were notes and letters and whole notebooks of fragmentary material from 1989, when I sat in restaurants, finally finishing the first full draft of what was then called The Tengrem Sword.

I didn't find either of the good maps tonight, but I found a bad photocopy of part of a different one.  It's full of place names long-since forgotten, and totally unsuited to the revised geography developed for Mages of Mâvarin.  One good thing:  I found out the name of the ocean.

bad photocopy of part of a map I probably drew myself.

Remember my mention of a song written in Mâvarinû?  I found that, too.  I don't know what every word of it means, but notes in the same folder reveal that the song refers to races and species that I dumped or renamed decades ago.  If I want to revive it, I'll have to revise it.

The Ballad of Epli turned up, too, and I'm sorry to say that it's terrible.  I'm embarrassed now that Ed Ferman of F&SF ever saw the thing.  Nevertheless, I'll type it into my LiveJournal, Mâvarin and Other Inspirations, as an object lesson in how bad a high school poem can be and still be fondly remembered.

Reading through pages of handwritten notes and fragmentary drafts, I'm struck by how naive and juvenile and embrionic it all is.  My first attempt to differentiate Mâvarin from Middle Earth consisted of changing the names of everything, and mostly leaving them alone otherwise.  Somehow I thought that if I called them "haven" instead of "dwarves," "bargen" instead of "dragons" (so help me!), and made sure that shamûnen didn't have pointy ears, that would make it all original.  Harry, the wizard sidekick in my Joshua Wander serial, gets pages and pages of notes, including an admonition not to make him too silly compared to the rest of the story.  And yet I have a song parody that he sings on one page, which I knew even then I couldn't use in the book.

very early notes for the end of the book, completely different from what I eventually wrote.

What does all this mean to me?  Well, I'll tell you.  It means a couple of things: 

From a purely egotistical point of view, it means I've preserved the beginnings of the book(s) for whatever historical, biographical or literary value they may eventually have.  Many years ago, I went with my family to a museum in Chatham, Massachusetts.  The one thing I remember about the experience was that they had old papers, including early versions of some writer's work.  I vowed then and there to hang onto my early writing, so that when I was a famous and successful writer, people would be able to trace the humble beginnings and evolution of it all.  That sounds terribly pompous now, but I still believe it, at least in principle.  Just today, a handwritten draft of Kerouac's On the Road went on display, all 200-something feet of it on butcher paper or whatever it was, one very long sheet. I'm not saying the Ballad of Epli and Amtula will ever inspire the interest people have in Kerouac, or for that matter Tolkien, but it's still good to have it, as a curiosity if nothing else.

And that brings me to my second point.  The primary value of having all these handwritten notes and typed pages from high school and beyond lies in how very different it all is from the version of Heirs of Mâvarin that currently sits on my hard drive. In 1975, my Mâvarin book consisted of that pathetic Tolkien-inspired poem, a story with an illogical beginning, no middle and an unsatisfactory ending, and many pages of largely misguided notes.  If thirty years
and thousands of pages can take me from that junk to what I have now, then it's been worth all the time: the false starts and years of neglect, the notes on napkins and the printouts sent to friends, the pointed questions at Clarion, the disheartening rejections from editors and agents--all of it.  It's all worth it, because I know how far I've come, how bad it was then, how good it is now. 

I just have to do that last draft (again), revise the cover letter (again), and gather my courage to send it back out into the world, seeking an agent and an editor who agree with me that the book's time has finally come.


Monday, February 14, 2005

100 True Statements About Karen

 100 True Statements About Karen based on the false ones.

1.    Karen in 2004.Karen lives in Tucson, Arizona.
2.    Karen doesn't smoke, and drives a Saturn.
3.    Karen is close personal friends with her husband.
4.    Karen voted four times against people named George Bush (HW or W).
5.    Karen hates conflict and confrontation.
6.    Karen has never been to Japan.
7.    Karen appreciates comments in 4 of her 5 blogs and journals, as long as they aren't hateful. The St. Michael's announcements blog doesn't accept comments.
8.    Karen's street has a Spanish name (it's a Calle or a Camino).
9.    Karen and John saw the Clash in concert several times.
10.  Karen never saw the Beatles in concert, only Paul and Ringo separately circa 1990.
11.  Karen thinks much of Management theory is pseudoscience, not to mention boring.
12.  Karen is fairly shy, but good at speaking up in class.
13.  Karen avoids alcohol as much as possible, even buying alcohol-free cough medicine.
14.  Karen's current boss is the best, most intelligent, supportive, decent one she's ever had.  It will be a wrench to leave, but economic necessity requires it.
15.  Karen's first novel has been rejected by a number of agents and editors.  However, the manuscript itself has not been submitted anywhere in about a decade, and it's much better now than it was then.
16.  Karen's second novel is so long she's broken it into three volumes à la Tolkien.
17.  Stephen Spielberg has never heard of Karen or Heirs of Mâvarin.
18.  Stephen Sondheim knows no more about Karen and her work than Spielberg does.
Karen has no children.  Had the fertility treatments worked, the kids' names would have been Romana Jean and Alexander Scott.
20.  Karen has read The Lord of the Rings lots of times.
21.  Karen has never read Dune, mostly because Bob ordered to to read it.
22.  Karen dated a lawyer before she met John.  Bob was smart, funny, honest and non-exclusive.
23.  Karen is too fat. This is the main reason why most of the photos she posts of herself are either very old or involve Halloween costumes.
24.  Karen doesn't do nearly enough cleaning.
25.  Karen seldom dresses up in conservative career wear, and almost never wears makeup.  That will probably have to change soon.  Drat.
26.  Karen has loved dogs all her life, and got one of her own as soon as circumstances permitted (fall 1978). Jenny was a housewarming gift from Bob.
27.  Karen is terribly allergic to cats.  This has limited her appreciation for them.
28.  Karen's birth name was Karen Christine Funk.  Her confirmation name was Genevieve.
29.  Karen was falsely teased about flunking first grade, as part of the teasing about the name Funk.  In fact, her mother wanted Karen skipped ahead to second grade, but the school principal didn't believe in doing that.
30.  Karen is allergic to guinea pigs, cats, horses, and feathers, pollens, grasses and other stuff.
31.  Karen's least favorite kind of weather is 10 degrees F with blowing snow.  However, she wouldn't mind one of those rare Tucson snowfalls that melt in a couple of hours, tops, if they stick at all.
32.  Karen drove through a lot of winter monsoon rain this past week, and didn't enjoy it very much.
33.  Karen prefers series fiction and other long forms, with lots of backstory, sometimes bult up over decades.  Examples include Doctor Who and the Murry-O'Keefe and Austin novels by Madeleine L'Engle.
34.  Karen never took calculus or physics, because she did badly in intermediate algebra and chemistry.
35.  Karen has had a fair number of traffic tickets, especially for speeding.
36.  Karen is a hopelessly bad guitarist and pianist, due to poor eye-hand coordination and lack of practice.
37.  Karen seldom gets enough sleep.
38.  Karen's only moped was stolen from in front of her house in the early 1980s.  She and John were home at the time.
39.  Karen has two Honda scooters, both in terrible condition.
40.  Karen was a big fan of the original series of Star Trek, and once sat in on a Gene Roddenberry press conference (1975).
41.  Karen found the compilation of the previous list harder than she expected. This one was easier.
42.  Karen knows from personal experience that tengremen are interesting to write about.  They could never be pets.
43.  Karen once got into a childhood fight with a girl named Jamie, and accidentally "flipped" her.
44.  Karen collected bone china animals in fifth through seventh grades, possibly later as well.  Most of there were eventually broken, either by her or the twice-a-week housekeeper, and were probably disposed of by her dad after the divorce.  She wants them back.
45.  Karen did a lot of birdwatching in 1986 and 1987.
46.  Karen has been to Niagara Falls at least five times, including twice during a scooter trip between Columbus and Syracuse.
47.  Karen is not secretly from another planet. Really.
48.  Karen's license plate says MAVARIN, and her license plate holder says "Follow me to the country in my mind."
49.  Karen has read A Wrinkle in Time many times, and can quote parts of it from memory.
50.  Karen appreciates her online friends, including old friends from her Syracuse days.
51.  Karen has many Disney movies on VHS or DVD.
52.  Karen taped the entire Zorro tv series off Vault Disney before Disney Channel stopped airing vintage shows.
53.  Karen has been to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but not Disneyland Paris, Tokyo DisneySea or Tokyo Disneyland.
54.  Karen wants to visit Animal Kingdom and the Disney MGM theme park, plus all the new Magic Kingdom and Epcot attractions since she was last at Walt Disney World years and years ago.
55.  Karen and John would buy annual passes to Disneyland if they lived in California.
Barbie and friends, plus Heidi, a troll, and a Breyer horse.56.  Karen had a Barbie, Skipper, a Tutti and a Casey circa 1967, and has the same iterations of each doll now (but not the same actual dolls).
57.  Karen played a lot of Canasta with her family as a kid.
58.  Karen once aspired to play the fastest mistake-free games of Klondike in the world.  This was during a rainy vacation near Old Forge, NY.
59.  As a kid, Karen usually lost at Monopoly to Joel R.
60.  At some point in the 1990s, Karen compiled numerous fun song combinations for the My Three Songs and Top Five at Five features for Cool 92.9.  This was before her friend the program director was suddently fired for no good reason.
61.  Karen got through her bachelor's degree in just under 29 1/2 years, from beginning to end (September 1975 to February 2005).
62.  Karen is a terrible athlete who usually got picked last in gym class.  The only athletic activity she was ever good at was bodybuilding in the early 1980s.
63.  Karen never owned a Chatty Cathy, only a Chatty Baby.  She has two vintage Chatty Baby dolls now.
64.  Karen had a Jan doll from Remco, but not Jan's friend Heidi.  Now Karen owns the entire line of Remco pocketbook dolls, and would like to get all the accessories.
65.  At the age of seven or so, Karen was lashed to a tree trunk by an excited cocker spaniel that was tied to the tree.  The dog, Lucky, lived next door to Karen's grandmother and Aunt Flora in Dewitt, NY.  Lucky ran around the tree in circles, trapping Karen with its leash or chain.
66.  Around 1972, Karen was badly scratched and bruised by a St. Bernard near the Speakman camp on Lake Ontario.  It wasn't a mean dog, just large and young and excitable.
67.  In high school and college, Karen often got stuck at the bottom of page one of a story she tried to write.  Her files include quite a few such attempts.
68.  Karen's husband dislikes much of Karen's writing, because he dislikes the fantasy genre.  However, he does like The Princess Bride.
69.  In 1987, Karen sprained two ankles (and broke one of them) trying to see a fan-tailed warbler in Sycamore Canyon near the Mexico border.  It took her about 12 hours to hike out of the rugged canyon.  She didn't even get a definite sighting of the bird as it flew away.
70.  Karen once spent an hour and a half waiting from someone who simultaneously waited for her at the same intersection. Bob was on the southwest corner, Karen on the northeast corner - or something like that.  Bob got mad anyway.
71.  Telling Karen she must do something usually makes her want to stubbornly avoid doing it.
72.  Karen has many hundreds of unread emails on other screen names. Most of them are from a very active email list she wishes she hadn't been subscribed to.
73.  Karen often spends time in IM with people she's only met online.
74.  Karen almost never wears a watch.  Watches irritate her skin, and the cell phone makes a good substitute timepiece.
75.  Karen has terrible eyesight, and got her first glasses in second grade.
76.  Karen has had two colds in the past five months, and her right ear is still ringing from the first one.
77.  Karen has outlived at least one of her doctors, a personal friend who died of a heart attack a few years ago.
78.  Karen doesn't read most of the blogs she likes more than once a week, if that often.  There are a few exceptions, however.
79.  Karen has written extensively about the tv series Quantum Leap.  However, she's pretty much burned out on doing so.
80.  Karen has interviewed  many actors, writers and producers, mostly in connection with Quantum Leap or Doctor Who.
81.  Karen once discussed James Thurber with William Windom at a charity tennis tournament.
82.  Karen has broken an ankle at least three times.  She's not sure whether it's been the same ankle each time.
83.  Karen and Jenny on Westcott Street.In college the first time around, Karen tried to let Jenny Dog go outside by herself on the "honor system."  It was winter, and Karen didn't want to get dressed in winter clothes just to walk her puppy. This was a mistake, because Jenny would take off to go visit Liz, about a twenty minute walk away.  Once some girls took Jenny into their home before Karen got there, and renamed the dog "Sabrina."
84.  Karen used to read textbooks to a blind grad student named Liz. Liz said Jenny's fur reminded her of a lion.
85.  For most of the 1990s, Karen and the United Whovians of Tucson used to answer phones at KUAT pledge drives.  Once, John Levene (John Anthony Blake) came to town for one of these events at Karen and friends' instigation.
86.  Karen has called or emailed the NPR show Talk of the Nation quite a few times, most recently today. Sometimes her remarks have been aired, sometimes not.
87.  Karen has a friend who is a struggling actor in L.A. but a former household name in England.  See #85.
88.  Karen eventually washed dishes last night.
89.  Karen has been extremely unproductive on her novels this past week.
90.  Karen tries never to say mean things.
91.  Karen does her best to encourage her friends to write, particularly Sara, whose current draft is better than she thinks it is.
92.  Karen considers William Shatner a bit of an ass who needs a good director to keep him in line.  He can be highly entertaining, though.
93.  Karen has never ever watched an episode of Survivor. Well, maybe 10 minutes of an early episode once.
94.  Karen hates nearly all reality tv, especially gross and mean-spirited ones. Exceptions: a few PBS and BBC shows, usually with the word "House" in the title.
95.  One of Karen's  least favorite tv and radio personalities is Howard Stern.  However, she believes in Stern's first amendment rights.
96.  Karen thinks that almost nothing Michel Eisner has done in recent years was good for Disney or its fans.
97.  Karen once wrote a song in a Mâvarinû. "
Mâvarin, Mâvarin/Besta lûva [something something]..."  It was a very very long time ago, and she can't find a copy now.
98.  Karen wishes John would write that mystery novel he started a couple of years ago, because it sounded really interesting.
99.  After 25+ years of marriage, Karen still loves John very much.
100. Karen wrote this list by revising the false statements list.

This time they're all true.