Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Still Stewing and Brewing

I’m still struggling with “World Enough and Time.” It’s pretty much settled in my mind at this point that Mark knows what he’s doing. That is, he actually builds, not a time machine, but a device to move between realities, parallel universes. Conveniently for him, Kathleen is not terribly interested in Quantum Mechanics, and doesn’t know the difference. So far so good. Here’s the rub. Kathleen is the first person narrator. Not only does she not understand Mark’s work, she doesn’t understand his motivation for that work. Not understanding his motivation, she can’t convey it to the reader, not directly at any rate. And, without understanding Mark’s motivation, the reader only gets half of the story.

The obvious solution is to recast the story in third person narrative. The problem with that is grammar, even language itself on the most fundamental level. There’s a scene in which Kathleen, the Cat who is narrating the story has a mind meld with the Kathleen in a parallel reality. The grammar gets extremely tricky for a few lines, but between first and third person, it remains possible to tell who’s who. If the story were written in third person, this passage would be unintelligible. So, the narrative has to stay in first person; which brings me back to the problem of Mark’s POV. The circumstances in which the characters find themselves do not allow for him to write her a thirty page letter explaining everything, a handy if sometimes slightly forced device. There is a point at which he could make a speech, a point at which her sudden understanding of what has been going on is handy for the plot development but stands, just now, totally unsupported by any kind of previously laid information or clues.

Hmmm... That might work, though a speech, like a letter, has to be handled carefully to prevent its seeming forced. Also, there is the danger of its becoming something of an infodump. I guess the thing to do is to have a speech to pull everything together and spell it out for Cat while placing clues throughout the rest of the story, things that she reports without understanding their significance. Yes, that might work.

Again, writing out my ideas and difficulties has helped me work through them. Or, at least, it has helped me realize that the problem may not be insoluble.

Friday, June 25, 2010

How It's Done

Doris Day is one of the most genuinely nice people on the planet. This note in response to a tabloid smear from a little over a year ago shows how it's done. The lady is the epitome of style and class.

In the note she mentions always calling John Denver by his real name, Deutschendorf. That reminds me of a darling clip of Doris and John from her 1975 special, Doris Day Today.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Dark Is Rising Sequence

I’ve been reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence. Finished the fifth and final book, Silver On The Tree last night. They are delightful books, vaguely Arthurian (and I’m a pushover for anything Arthurian, however vaguely), wholly delightful Fantasy Adventure novels.

Two of the books are set in Cornwall, two in Wales and one in the author’s native Buckinghamshire, which is where I lived during my three years in England. Five children are brought together over the course of the sequence, under the direction of Prof. Merriman Lion, to help him in his long fight against the Dark. It very soon becomes clear that Great Uncle Merry is rather more than he seems, and by the end, all the children know him for who he really is, and they understand exactly what he is fighting.

The charm of these books lies not only in the “magic,” and the ancient lore, most of it Celtic, Cooper weaves into the narrative, but also in her descriptions of landscapes and of ordinary life, especially family life. The people and places are vividly drawn. Though I’ve never been to Wales, I could see the mountainsides with their granite outcrops and hear the baahing of the sheep and the high call of the curlews. Though I’ve never been to Cornwall, I could see the grassy headlands and the golden sanded beaches. The characters, too, are well drawn. They are individuals, each doing what is appropriate for him or her. The reader understands them and cares about what happens to them.

And, quite a lot happens to them during the course of the sequence, both in the here and now and in other times and other places, some of which are historical, some out of the mists of legend.

The NLS notice on each book says, “For grades four through seven and older readers. I don’t hesitate to recommend them to readers of all ages.

The Dark Is Rising Sequence
Over Sea, Under Stone
The Dark Is Rising
The Grey King
Silver On The Tree

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Word Verification

Because of the high number of spam comments on this blog, I have reluctantly instituted word verification for comments.

I apologize for this unpleasant necessity and for the inconvenience it will cause. Please be assured that I've done it as a last resort.

Monday, June 21, 2010


The past few days, I've been on a kick of listening to a lot of Engelbert Humperdink. YouTube has a number of clips from his 1969-70 television show and a program he did in 1972 which, if I understand correctly, was shown in Germany, as well as various other TV and concert appearances through the years. There are also the ubiquitous homemade videos and slide shows to songs.

I've always loved Engelbert. I grew up listening to him and Andy Williams and Julie Andrews. In my teens I discovered Vic Damone *swoon* and Johnny Mathis *dreamy* and of course I liked the pop music of the day: I loved the Carpenters, really, *really* liked Barry Manilow and, well, I shudder to think of it, but I was well and truly mad for Donny Osmond. Oh my goodness but I was obnoxious about him. I don't know how my parents managed not to murder me. *wry grin*

But, you know, the first record album I ever saved up for and bought with my own money was Engelbert's After the Lovin' album. I like to think this means that, underneath the silly, obnoxious teenybopper, I had good taste all along.

Here's Engelbert from his 1972 show singing "Another Time, Another Place." If he's not the definition of a heartthrob, I don't know who is.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Aung San Suu Kyi

The Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday is today.

All of us who accept our freedom without a thought, who live in peace and prosperity and democracy owe an incalculable debt to heroes like Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Birthday and Freedom

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flag Day

As listener reminds us with this photo, today is Flag Day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Family Outing

This cute photo is by listener.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Exoplanet Caught Mid Orbit

Astronomers using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) have caught an unprecedented glimpse of an exoplanet moving in its orbit around a distant star. Called Beta Pictoris b, the exoplanet has been directly imaged in two separate points covering nearly half of its orbit. The achievement could prove a significant stepping stone in our understanding of how planetary systems, including our own solar system, formed.

 Exoplanet caught on the move

Jacques Cousteau's Centenary

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gulf Project

Obviously, BP can’t cap its runaway oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.

What I want to know is, why hasn’t the call gone out to every university, college and institute, to every federal, state and local government agency (especially in Gulf states) and to every NGO in the United States that has expertise with oil, marine environments and/or engineering for the best and brightest to assemble in a Manhattan Project style endeavor to solve the problem. Surely, preserving the ecology and economy of our Gulf coast states and the Mississippi River is more important than working out how to build a goddamn atomic bomb!

I don’t know who would be the most appropriate person to send out such a call, whether it would be the President, the Vice President or the Secretary of the Interior. All I know is, the call has to be put out now. Hell, it ought to have been put out as soon as the search and rescue operation concluded. What are they waiting for? This accident is a matter of acute national interest and economic and environmental security

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Environmental Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill

Renowned environmentalist Jean Michel Cousteau on The News Hour discussing the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Thinking about Time

In the course of reading The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene, I came across an intriguing concept, that travel to the past may perhaps be possible, but that changing the past is not. The reason for this is, more or less, that each moment is its own immutable now. Sound familiar, fans of Walt Whitman and St. Augustine? I wrote a paper in grad school dealing with the eternal nature of now in relation to the Tree of Charity in The Vision of Piers Ploughman. It's a subject that interests me.

In particular just now, however, I found Greene's idea provocative because one of my current active projects deals specifically with time travel to the past that goes awry. The traveler ends up in a couple of different parallel realities rather than going straight back in her own. One of them is pretty far removed from her own timeline, and I've been wondering how such a major mistake could have happened. Her friend, the “time machine’s” inventor is a talented and highly skilled quantum mechanician. How did he land her so far from her home reality?

Since reading Greene's remarks, though, it occurred to me to wonder if it really was a mistake as such at all. Maybe the operator of the "time machine" meant to send the traveler to a parallel reality all along. The story is told in first person narrative by the traveler, a person who knows next to nothing about Quantum Physics. The operator could have told her a fib, an oversimplification...His goal might have been to send her to a parallel reality all along, since he knew that changing the past, as such, is impossible.

I'll need to chew on the idea some more, but it presents possibilities. It may mean that the story is more complicated, and thus more interesting, than I initially anticipated. That's good, since simple stories don't sell.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Beach Boys - California Girls ( with Bob Hope and Jack Benny )

This can make you smile, even on a really down day.