Wednesday, March 6, 2019

SciArt Tweetstorm 2019

The SciArt Tweetstorm is back! And it's almost over, by the time this post goes up. But there will be lots of cool stuff over at the #sciart hashtag to wade through.

It's been rough over here at this little bloggo, mostly because your girl can't hold down a full-time job and work on her passion projects and read ALL OF THE BOOKS and brush up on her lost languages (Russian, French, Korean, German...I hardly knew ye) and successfully run an indie biz or brand or whatever the heck this thing counts as. But holy crap I've been posting here for ten years, I can't just retire this bloggo either. And my Etsy is still open and sometimes people buy things from me. (And leave me 5-star reviews, which is amazing and very much appreciated!)

Maybe in the future I'll fold everything into one domain, my professional language self and this weird semi-pro crafty self and people will just have to deal with the mess. All this talk of niche! and branding! and whatever else! forbids it, but honestly? If I have a full-time job (with salary!), I don't need to market myself anymore. I can be myself. And the self I am—the whole, weirdo, complex self—reads a lot, thinks a lot about words in all kinds of languages, loves rocks and minerals, and makes the occasional piece of STEM-inspired jewelry. And will go to her grave with the serial comma clasped tightly to her chest.

I have two custom projects I finished that I should get around to talking about here, because they were really fun to do and because I'm proud of the work I did on them. I have a million beads and jump rings waiting to become finished products but hahaha first I better photograph my backlog first, and also when exactly do I have the time to sit down to make new things?

But wow, let's save that navel gazing for another time! The point of this post is supposed to be HEY SCIART TWEETSTORM IS LIVE.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Tiny Moments of Joy: Hamlet at Stora Scenen

Hamlet is my favorite Shakespeare play for no other reason than I read it in high school and liked it better than Julius Caesar and Romeo & Juliet. It's also the only Shakespeare play to be featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, so that's something.

When I learned that Dramaten was putting on a production of Hamlet, I conferred with friends, found what were maybe the last four seats (all together) for the season, and booked our nosebleed cheap seat tickets for March 3.

Hamlet intermission, view from the cheap seats.

Because I'm pretty familiar with Hamlet, I thought a Swedish version would be a challenging test of my language skills and, in terms of translation, provide some food for thought. I wasn't wrong. In fact, I was smarter than I realized to pick a play I already knew well, because my own background knowledge of the story was sometimes the only thing that helped me follow just what was going on despite the very modern language. (Though, sambo mentioned later that he also had problems following what people were saying, so part of it was certainly related to theatrical, dramatic elocution rather than to my poor Swedish. Part of it.)

The translation is a new one by Ulf Peter Wallberg, in the collection Det blodiga parlementet. I might take a break from everything I'm reading now to dip into this and see if my reading comprehension fares any better than my listening.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Friday 5: It Means Everything

That high school nostalgia.

If you were outside right now, what would you most likely be doing?

If I had answered this when I usually do (Saturday), I would have said "running." But I woke up this morning to fresh snowfall so now the answer is "not running." Good thing I dragged myself outside for a run on Saturday, at any rate! Monday's not looking like a good possibility.

Right now, what’s a little too close to you?

Downstairs neighbor likes to play REALLY LOUD music every Sunday. But we're leaving in a few hours to see Dramaten's production of Hamlet so whatever.

Right now, who misses you?

Family and friends, I imagine.

Right now, what’s having its way with you?

The wifi all the way out to my "office" in the kitchen is absolute garbage, and the minute my sambo does anything online I'm stuck waiting for what scraps of bandwidth are available.

What do you most wish you were doing right now?

Nothing else in particular. My life at this moment in time is going pretty well.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

What I Read: Steering the Craft

This one came to me by way of a crit group member. I borrowed our group's shared copy and burned through it over the weekend to see what Le Guin had to say about writing.

Image courtesy Mariner Books

People often recommend Stephen King's On Writing as a guidebook for writers. I did too, once upon a time, and I still would. I would just pair it with Steering the Craft. I think King still has fantastic insights on the process of writing, but LeGuin has the better grasp of what makes for good style. Not surprising, since I find King's writing fairly pedestrian whereas LeGuin's prose is actually good. To that end, I think Steering the Craft is a good book for editors to have in their library, while they give On Writing a pass (unless they're also writers, of course!).

LeGuin doesn't give any hard and fast rules about anything; she merely points out what most people do these days and what most people used to do in previous eras, recognizing that there is a time and a place for following guidelines and for departing from them. She also provides a good 101 level introduction to the technical terms of English grammar, rightly pointing out that a writer should be able to name their tools specifically rather than just having a vague idea about things.

Some of the literary extracts, being over a hundred years old or using a particular regional dialect (or both!), might be hard for non-native speakers to process, but the instructional aspects of the book, including her exercises, are crystal clear. The exercises are originally intended for a workshop or feedback group, but would work just as well in a traditional classroom setting. Editors would probably want to keep a copy of this on hand, or at least browse through it once or twice, so as to be able to better diagnose or name what would otherwise be a vague "I don't know what it is" problem in a manuscript.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Spring Thaw

Saturday was my first run of the year. Since I started 5K training in 2016, I've become so used to running outside that I don't think I can ever go back to treadmills. During the winter I just don't run at all, and yet the break doesn't seem to take much of a toll on anything. My pace is always within just a couple minutes of what my average for the previous season was; my muscles aren't any more sore afterwards. Still, this year I had big plans about intense yoga at home three days a week until the ice melted; instead I just slept in.

A strand of birch and fir trees in thawing, melting snow.

This is a miserable time of year for me. It's nice that the sun's back, of course, but now with the melting ice and snow means gray, sad trees and (in Stockholm) giant mountains of gravel and snow. Mostly gravel. Spring is lauded as a time of warmth and flowers, but in my experience it's mostly just muddy and unpleasant. There's two weeks of spring, maybe, that's nice, and by then it's practically summer.

Bushes in thawing, melting snow.

Still, once you get out in nature, the thaw becomes a lot more attractive. And that's exactly why I've been put off the treadmill forever.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Friday 5 on Sunday: Mischief Managed

This week's Friday 5 has a Harry Potter theme and it's killing me because I think the Harry Potter books are the trashy TV of the book world and are some of the most overrated books I've encountered. Also, Rowling keeps liking vaguely and not-so-vaguely transphobic posts on Twitter and it's really off-brand.

selective focus photography of grumpy face toddler sitting on plaid pad taken during daytime
 My "mediocre book" face. // Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

At least the questions are interesting?

The Mirror of Erised doesn’t show a reflection of you at the moment, but of you and what your heart most desires. If you gazed into it today, what image would you see?

I would see SO MANY finished manuscripts. And I don't know how you could visually convey linguistic fluency: I guess a library full of books in Swedish, Korean, French, Farsi, Russian, German...

Who's really pissed at you right now?

There's a couple people in Stockholm I definitely haven't endeared myself to (and sometimes it feels like such a small city that I genuinely worry about running into them on the street or at an event), but I don't know if they're actually angry at me. Nor do I want to know!

What model vehicle would be great to turn into a flying car?

Obviously a Chitty!

What item in your house could use a dose of magic, and what would extraordinary quality would you like to imbue it with?

Hell yeah I want my oven to just materialize food out of nowhere. It's not that I mind that my dietary intake for the past few weeks has been peanut butter sandwiches, instant noodles, and pizza—I just know that I need a little more variety than that.

Among people you know, who is most likely and secretly born with magical ability?

If it could be anyone it might as well be me, right? I want it to be me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

What I Read: Burnt Shadows

Is it bad manners to pan a book from your college writing workshop professor? I guess, but I'll go ahead and bite the hand that fed me.

The current political atmosphere in the US, when the national paranoia stoked in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001 is once again on the rise, may have affected how I felt about everything. Maybe my own impatience with reading and wanting to get back on track with my book goals might have also forced me to rush and engage with Burnt Shadows differently than if I were just leisurely reading.

The story itself, about the thin threads of happenstance that connect people half a world apart, is intricate and fascinating and the multigenerational aspect of the story  is handled really well, in that all of the parts that Shamsie includes in the story feel absolutely essential.

The sticking point for me was the characters. There are a lot, but it's not their plenitude that I had an issue with. Actually, on a technical level, the multiple perspectives are handled masterfully. Usually switching perspectives within a scene is confusing and unnecessary, but in this case it works for Shamsie and brings essential information and development to the table.

But the reason that these perspective shifts work on a micro level might be why I was lukewarm about the book on a macro level. Maybe it's easier to smooth the transition between "head hops" when all of the characters have the same inner narrative style: vaguely lyrical, poetic, refined. It's not up there with the dialogue in John Green's Kids With Cancer Falling in Love Makes For Rave Reviews Because Who Would Shit on a Story About Kids With Cancer*—each character's language and thought process, in isolation, is completely believable; there's nothing bombastic or ridiculous about any of it—but it does strain credulity a bit that everyone in Burnt Shadows looks at the world through similar metaphors and has essentially the same inner narrative voice. I was reminded a lot of  A Death in the Family and why I rage quit that one years ago: characters were only surface-level different; they still all thought with the same voice and noticed and commented on the same sorts of things. That one was an atheist and another was religious had no real bearing on anything. They were all interchangeable.

There is also an element of melodrama in the writing that feels out of place for me. This is a story about really terrible things, like the atom bomb and Guantanamo Bay and Islamophobia and kids in military training camps—the extra layer of interpersonal melodrama feels unnecessary, and undercuts the gravity of the story.

*I mean, I would. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯