Wednesday, February 27, 2008

romance, and people being killed

Tomorrow I shall be across the seas and away--as far as Seattle, for Potlatch, where I'll stay with my very cool friend Lynn, and visit with other VPXers. I'm excited. I'm packed. I finally got my critiques for the writing workshop printed out.

I must share with you the best review I've ever read. After a discussion on the Scribblers thread about the plausibility of certain classic poems, including Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight, by Rose Thorpe, and The Highwayman, by Alfred Noyes, (conclusion: plausibility lacking, historically, psychologically, and physically), I found the (not entirely accurate) words to The Highwayman posted online, along with many many comments, only about a quarter of which were young people hoping to find someone else to do their homework.
A high school English class (all six of them) posted this comment about Sir Alfred's best known work: "We like the way the poem combined romance and people being killed."
What would I not do for a review like that?

Monday, February 25, 2008

big gnashy teeth

Evidently I wasn't getting enough sleep last week, or was confused by the construction (neverending construction) at UVic which moved the entrance of the library over to what was once solid glass walls. At any rate, I forgot to lock my bike helmet up with my bike (my extremely cool matte-black bike) and left it hanging on the handlebar instead.
No, it was not stolen. It was ...(Lovecraftian ellipsis)... devoured!

You must understand, o Best Beloved, that the university, like the general hospital, is beset and beleaguered by rabbits. Spotty rabbits, white rabbits, black rabbits, lops and so on. Everything but native rabbits. This is because Bleddy Irresponsible Pet Owners who probably got Cute Bunnies for Easter, let their rabbits loose at the hospital, then at the university, when they got tired of taking care of them. And they bred, like, like, okay, you know what I mean.
It's the Victoria equivalent of alligators in the sewers.
The hospital has a more difficult time with the infestation. Bunnies get into the furnace rooms and leave little bunny pellets everywhere, they undermine foundations, and so on. The administration tried to bring in a sharpshooter to reduce the numbers, but there was a huge outcry, and volunteers rounded up hundreds of rabbits so that the people who had pleaded for the bunny-lives could adopt the cute little critters and save them from a dreadful fate.
You can guess, yes? About a dozen were actually adopted. There's a great difference between getting all sentimental about the fluffy bunnies and actually being willing to do something oneself.
A later attempt to bring in a falconer was also shouted down, even though it was the natural process and all that. It seems to me that even Disney nature films let the predator do the job once in a while.

So there are many cute bunnies on campus. And students feed them, but perhaps not enough. I returned to my bike in the dusk, to find my helmet some distance from the bicycle, with its foam pads torn from the velcro and scattered all about. Deep fang-marks were torn into the styrofoam, as of flocks of miniature vampires. I imagined them squabbling over it like seagulls, one snatching it from another, a little soccer play, the victor carrying it off (or climbing into it, which might have been easier), the others grouping and plotting their next foray.
It's Watership Down out there.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

they make me happy morning

Oh, I've tried to deny it, but I've been tempted by notebooks since I started school, even when they were utilitarian objects with tables of weights and measures in the back (the opportunities to learn how many gills in a tun, or pecks in a bushel, wasted year after year) with jackets of muted greens and yellows, and unbleached pulp pages.

When blank books became popular in the 80s, the ones with attractive pictures on the cover and pages with borders and decorations, it just got worse. I have one from that era, with a fluffy black & white cat on the front, which has, unexpectedly, an isbn. It's 0-8378-6999-4, in case you wondered. That's a hardcover, as is the corduroy-covered book by Quill Marks, copyright 1981. If I had written anything inside, would it also be copyright 1981, and would it be mine?
I have two softcovers, one calling itself A Woman's Notebook II and also having an isbn (0-89471-143-1) but less ludicrously so, since it has quotes by women within, one per page, the other with a red marbled cover and the words 'Blank Pages' in gilt script. Blank Pages is not quite truthful anymore, since I've drawn a number of pictures in it.
After Chris started school, I scavenged his unused Hilroys and Keystones. One of my prizes is the Spiral (that's the brand-name; the books are staple-bound) notebook with a cover of dressed chimps (possibly bonobos) squatting and gyrating across it.

But my true downfall has come with dollar stores and especially with notebooks from Korea, with the delights of off-kilter English captions and references to manhwa or tv shows I know nothing of, or possibly to worlds known only to mad Korean commercial artists. I'm doomed now. It's like Pickman's Stationery Shop.
Here is what I have on hand, from recent purchases:
spiral-bound small square notebook--reversible! One cover is white, the other black and reversed. The covers are lenticular, each having a cartoon striped cat. The white cat is crouched, and its ears, eyes, and tail wiggle back and forth as it watches a mouse run across the bottom of the page at 5 frames per wobble. The black page has a striped cat with a huge grin, either closing its eyes and reclining, or opening its eyes and disappearing but for eyes and grin. Yes, I have a Cheshire Cat notebook. A happy thing. Lined pages with brown paw-prints.
mini spiral-bound notepad. Also lenticular, this one shows fantasy fruit floating like a colliding galaxy above a sparkling green ocean, with the caption NOTEBOOK Refinedly Made For The Success of Your Outstanding Cause.
spiral-bound hardcover small square notebook, with bonus elastic--Doggie-Woogie Stories. 'Don't eat plants. Don't chew my shoes. Don't grab my hair. Be good and smart.' The green cover shows Bruto, a bull-terrier sort of cartoon dog, lifting his leg against a power pole. Lined pages. Made by Young Art Co. Ltd., Korea.
perfect bound hardcover small notebook, lined pages. The cover shows three views of a blue cartoon dog apparently constructed from shiny bubbles. A giant winking head with peg teeth in a gaping grin; a startled look behind of a seated dog; a dog with his back to us. The dog (or notebook) is called Fancy Boy, and the captions are 'Good Times Are For Sharing With Friends' and 'The number 12 is sweet - I live to hear your voice at midnight'
perfect bound lined notebook. Cover is a watercolour of an imagined (by someone who's never been there, I suspect) Mediterranean scene, pale buildings with blue domed roofs and round-headed arches. Caption is in Greece / Open up your heart / and greet the world as it is. We can always find joy / and love everyplace that our eyes land. Young Art.
perfect bound lined notebook. Textured pale brown cover, with torn-paper type graphics of a doughnut (with sprinkles!) and a mug with a heart design. The typeface is letters cut out of darker brown squares, giving the whole an air of the ransom note: Wednesday Morning Dew / The birds are waking / sun rises in the sky / I start today with sweet donuts & coffee / They make me happy morning. Young Art again.
perfect bound large blank notebook. At first glance the cover is a watercolour of a Venetian (or other city on a canal) scene at dawn. Then you notice that one of the balconies is occupied by a blobby cartoon dog, looking wistfully (for a blobby cartoon dog) at the sky, and the caption is Memory Haroo, Can you wait for me, my dearest? I'll build a heaven for us somewhere. This one made by Barunson Co., also in Korea.
perfect bound lined notebook. Cover is a girl in a flared red dress (oddly, she doesn't look manga or manhwa-influenced) with a selection of interior design closeups behind her. Captions read Rara story / "I feel like starting over" / kick off your shoes and dance... / catch the mood let your heart sing / the colours of old cube / drenched in sunshine... / luxurious fabrics in a clashing mix / of pattern and colour / dynamic vivacious and full of life. The lined pages have a row of hearts at the top of each page, Rara in different outfits with the caption 'I don't take myself too seriously' and a bust of Rara at the bottom of each page, with different hairstyles. Unfortunately these don't work out to a flip-book animation. Made by I Will Fancy Co. alas no website.
two small perfect bound notebooks with charming finger-painty covers of the matte paper that's nice to touch. One has an illustration of a staring ladybug on a leaf, the other two blobby bees amid flowers. Lined paper. I don't need these. They're just cute. Cheer Star, China.
two hardcover stapled notebooks, lined. The covers are sparkly holograms, one of scattered stars, the other of intersecting squares and diamonds. Selectum, Toronto.
spiral bound hardcover notebook, lined paper. Palace Story, with a long caption below the picture, in Korean only. The picture shows a girl in ornate traditional clothing leaning out of a window, her face caressed by a slouching boy wearing a flowered shirt. Barunson again, but this time a context I could discover.
perfect bound small diary, lined. Brown textured cover, with scribbly line drawings of rows of houses, lamp-posts and trees, a double-decker bus. Caption is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Clearly this is meant to be my travel diary for my next UK trip. Another by Young Art.

Sometimes people give me notebooks.
When I met Zoe in Lincoln, she gave me a classy hardcover lined book with an alligator-hide textured cover. I took it to VPX and other workshops and lectures on writing.
One Christmas M-- gave me a snazzy 5-subject notebook with a black plastic cover and a sheet of sparkly snowflake stickers to customise it, which I have done.
Alis/Anne gave me a lovely faux-medieval little book, with leather cover and incised decoration. Inside is not only note-taking space but quotes and cartoons of the Canterbury Tales.
I will never break free, I fear.

Monday, February 11, 2008

bookbinding geekery

Mark is off in Arizona (February is probably one of the better times to be there) at the Estrella War. As is my wont, I've done some tidying, though I haven't hit the full-out blitzwerk that I sometimes achieve. I've cleared off most of the big table, and emptied three of the cubbies so that they can hold cds, but only a little dusting has occurred, and next to no sweeping. It tends to come upon me in spells, so I'm not much bothered that it hasn't yet.

The Medieval Seminar topic this year was Medieval Inventions, with a fair variety of lectures, including talks on water clocks, brewing, paper, and what Leonardo da Vinci actually invented.
Our display went well, with Daniel's contribution of clockwork and a puppet booth, Eda's loom, Brenda's great wheel, Stephen's music and Judy's pewter moulds. I got to play with the puppets, too.
I went to the talk on the invention of the page, which was a bit disappointing. Leaving aside the problem that the David Lam Auditorium is a cure for insomnia at the best of times, there was very little mentioned that was new to me, and I had philosophical issues with a number of the speaker's assumptions. First, he seemed to be ignoring the physical book in favour of pages in isolation--perhaps because, as he admitted, he loves fragmentary pages. But he considers the basic unit of the book to be the page. Not the leaf, not the two-pages-open, but the verso or recto considered all by itself. Which is only possible if you're examining a picture of the page, not the leaf or the book itself.
Even his diagram of a quire assumed that the folia were separate pieces from the get-go, inserted one inside the other. The folded model of a quire--the most common--wasn't even mentioned. Okay, I think the Insular mss were constructed that way, at least in the beginning, but it doesn't work very well, and it was abandoned for the folded model. (Unless you're talking one of the huge books that took one skin per folio.)
His mental model of a book seemed to be a stack of pages glued along the spine, like modern 'perfect' binding (irony of name duly noted) not medieval bindings at all.
This blinkered view created problems with his discussion of the proportions of the page as well. He didn't give any mention of Christopher de Hamel's observation that 'books are oblong because animals are oblong', and as Stephen said afterwards, he didn't discuss the relation of the page proportions to the Golden Ratio. In fact, he professed some bewilderment as to how the page had come to be so consistently proportional.
One of the difficulties of getting acquainted with the aesthetic of the medieval illuminated page is that we hardly ever see it the way it was meant to be seen: as two pages open, balancing each other. We see half, a page sundered, leaning awkwardly towards its vanished mate. A similar problem arises when we look at photographs of medieval or Renaissance panel paintings, usually shown without their frames, frames which were an integral part of the painting, created, glued, gessoed and gilded with it in the same workshop. It's as if art from all times and places must be reduced to the minimum, the studio concept of a stretched canvas.
Well, now I'm just depressing myself.

The Astrologer's Death creeps along, at maybe 150-200 words in an hour. But it is moving, at least. I expect it to be a much shorter draft than Willow Knot came out at, thank the Lord.
And I have an idea for a silly little short, based on a folksong I was listening to this morning. No possible market, but perhaps worth writing as an exercise.

On the arthritis front, the second knuckle of my left hand has stayed swollen (though not uncomfortable) since mid-January, but I don't know whether that's significant. My right shoulder was giving me gip this morning and most of the day, but that seems to have passed off now. I had full motion, but had to push my elbow with my other hand to get it above my shoulder, and after that it was fine.
I'm still learning the difference between 'not working' and 'hurts a bit but functions'.