Nostalgia Calling, However Briefly

Every once in a while, I run across something that makes me wish for a moment that I’d stayed in Academia.† Like this call for papers:

Inside Out: Dress and Identity in the Middle Ages, the 38th Annual Conference at Fordham University’s Center for Medieval Studies.

Not that I’d have anything to present — material culture was never my field — but my word, the papers should be fascinating.


Not often, though, or for very long. I got out at just about the same time as Academia started devouring its own young.

Food and Drink in the North Country

Things you can have if you travel up this way.  Possibly #1 in an ongoing series, depending upon how much I get out of this house before winter comes back around.  (The Starks of Winterfell could have a summer home up here, I suspect, and nobody would even notice because they’d fit right in.  “Winter is coming.”  “Ayup.  Got your wood in yet?”)

Anyhow.  Here’s a photo of that pHtea Jim Macdonald blogged about in his post about the Vermont RennFaire:

PhTea

That’s white tea, chamomile tea, and yerba mate in the photo; the black tea had already been consumed by me the night before.

And here is breakfast at the North Country Family Restaurant in Groveton, New Hampshire, where they make their own corned beef hash.  (As does any diner in northern New England with a shred of self-respect.)

Hash and Eggs at the NorthCountry Restaurant

That’s two eggs sunny-side up over corned beef hash, with homemade toast and a side of hash browns.  (Well, up here they call them hash browns.  As a transplanted Texan, I feel obliged to point out that they are actually country fries, because proper hash browns are shredded, not cubed.  Nomenclature aside, though, they’re done well, and come with or without onions at the diner’s preference.)

The other breakfast, in the background, is a fried egg sandwich made with French toast.  I have it on good authority that it tastes just fine.

A Bit of Amusement

(God knows, we need it.)

If you were raised in (or have ever lived for an extended time in) the South, this is hilarious:

“Tennessee Williams with Air Conditioning”

(I read an article somewhere once† that attributed the rise of the modern South to the invention of air conditioning, which made it possible for people in that region to actually work from 9 to 5 in the summertime without turning into puddles of economically unproductive sweat. The writer of the article, as I recall, seemed to vaguely resent this.)


generic all purpose citation, bookworms, for the use of

Summertime, and the Living Is Sneezy….

We’re now well into the time of hot, oppressive days and high pollen counts.  The cats, instead of sitting like little furry meatloafs with tails and paws neatly tucked in, are stretched out into longcats, and can be reliably used to find the spots with the best cooling cross-drafts.

Which are no good to the rest of us, because the cats own them.

Summer is not the most enjoyable time for doing work, but work nevertheless must be done (this is where I point, in a discreet parenthesis, to the “Editorial and Critique Services” link up at the top of the page), so I’ll leave you with a handful of links to amuse or interest you during the days when you’re not on vacation at the beach, or in a mountaintop cabin, or in a hermetically sealed and thoroughly air-conditioned hotel room, if such is your pleasure:

First, a clip of Jim Macdonald, my co-author, in his other role as a magician (complete with top hat!)

Next, a good (and funny) explanation of the context rules for the use of bad language, and a report on the discovery of the earliest known use of the f-word in written English.

And finally, a video demonstrating how to put on a set of late 14th-century armor.

Stay cool, and enjoy.

Sometimes the Transmission Gets a Bit Fuzzy

As a tool for getting ideas out of one person’s head and into another’s, language (whether spoken or written) is a poor substitute for telepathy . . . but it’s the only tool we’ve got.

It’s not surprising, then, that writers often have an ambiguous relationship with language.  It’s both the tool we use and the medium we work in, and we admire its beauties and cherish its quirks at the same time as we curse at it for its limitations – not least because we can never really be certain that the worlds and characters which we use language to create are being re-created as we intended in the minds of our readers.  (Who, after all, speak their own personal  subsets of our common language, which of necessity are not the same as ours.)

For an interesting example of this phenomenon, consider this post on the Oxford English Dictionary’s blog, which discusses J. R. R. Tolkien’s description, in the Tale of Beren and Lúthien, of Lúthien dancing in “a mist of hemlocks.” The blogger points out that English and American readers may well visualize that scene differently, since the English “hemlock” is a flowering plant and the North American “hemlock” is most commonly a tall coniferous tree.

Really, given the different word-hoards and world-views that we all carry around inside our head, it’s amazing that language works as well as it does.

A Source of Amusement and Some Good Advice

I first encountered Wolcott Gibbs’s “Theory and Practice of Editing New Yorker Articles” in James Thurber’s The Years With Ross, Thurber’s memoir of the early days of the New Yorker magazine.

In many ways, it’s a relic of its moment in time (1937, to be precise); it was an internal memo, intended to bring new fiction editors up to speed on the magazine’s general style and tone.  Unlike most such documents, though, it’s fun to read.  A few samples:

Our writers are full of clichés, just as old barns are full of bats. There s obviously no rule about this, except that anything that you suspect of being a cliché undoubtedly is one, and had better be removed.


Mr. Weekes said the other night, in a moment of desperation, that he didn’t believe he could stand any more triple adjectives. “A tall, florid and overbearing man called Jaeckel.” Sometimes they’re necessary, but when every noun has three adjectives connected with it, Mr. Weekes suffers and quite rightly.


Among other things, The New Yorker is often accused of a patronizing attitude. Our authors are especially fond of referring to all foreigners as “little” and writing about them, as Mr. Maxwell says, as if they were mantel ornaments. It is very important to keep the amused and Godlike tone out of pieces.


The piece is available in its entirety here, and I highly recommend it.

Consider This an Unsolicited Recommendation

I have successfully obtained a refund for a piece of software that was on the netbook I don’t use any more. I had thought that when I purchased a year’s subscription that I would get a notification when it was time to renew, and would then need to do so manually . . . but no, it was an automatic thing, and the transaction went through about a week before Boskone, and nearly threw a monkey wrench into the works for that expedition.

I don’t like automatic updates. If my computer is going to change something or add something, I want to be present for the occasion so I can flip the switch myself.

The subscription charge was substantial enough that I went to the trouble of looking up the refund procedure, which – much to my surprise – turned out to be relatively painless and not to require actually talking to anyone at any point. So kudos to AVG PC Tune-Up, which I still have on all my working machines, for being prompt and efficient about the whole thing.