A friend mentioned the other day that she’d run into a novel set in the mid-19th century in which everyone addressed each other by their first names. All the time. Under every circumstance. It was driving her nuts; her interior historian kept being thrown out of the story. Wouldn’t there have been more formality? And if the author was fudging this aspect of etiquette, what else was she fudging? Or getting wrong? Or figuring just didn’t matter?
It would drive me nuts too. I’m a very forgiving audience, except when I’m not–I can gloss right over what I believe to be an error in world building, if the story and characters are sufficiently engaging that I just don’t care. But make an error before you’ve got my heart and you’ve lost me.
So: how did people talk to each other in the Olden Days? How did they talk about each other? When did the new informality, if I may call it so, become a Thing? As so often happens when such questions are raised, I turned to Emily Post.
I’m a little ranty today. When we moved into this house, we had to join the HOA. Not all that expensive per year, so okay. We wanted this school district and we liked the house a lot. Only it turns out that every time the board changes members, it changes its interpretation of the CCR’s, which are Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. So anyhow, we built a pergola and a added a patio and fixed an enormous drainage issue in our back yard at the same time, and now the HOA is saying it wasn’t approved. But our understanding at the time was that it didn’t need to be approved. They aren’t saying take it down, so I’m not sure what’s going on. Working on it.
But here’s the thing. It’s barely visible from the road. Barely. And yet someone is so freaking nosy that they have to get on our backs about it. Do people not have anything better to do? The thing is lovely with cedar wood and the roof can’t even be seen (and they are complaining about) unless, of course, you look from the neighbor’s yards. So I don’t know what’s going on and I’m highly irritated. And yes, I know. I knew it was an HOA before I joined. But I’d hoped they weren’t so freaking annoying. And after the kids graduate high school, we’re moving somewhere where we don’t have to listen to other people tell us how to live.
I swear I’m going to do a story about an obnoxious bureaucratic collection of people with too much time on their hands and a deep desire to micromanage other people’s lives.
That is my rant. Got HOA horror stories? Maybe I’ll feel better about mine if you have much worse to tell me.
The roach killer
There’s an old phrase that pops up occasionally. “Setting it free” or “Returning it to the wild.” No, they’re not talking about animals. They are talking about possessions. Books, clothing, kitchen items no longer used–anything that can be recycled, re-purposed, useful in a new way, or to someone else.
I’ve been downsizing for years, both because I had to and because I wanted to. I surrender books only when I am convinced I will never re-read them; I give away good clothing that was acquired in swaps or thrifting when it no longer serves my needs. I decided that fifteen years was long enough to keep compromise furniture from a marriage that was history, and gave away two rooms worth to people who are using those things and loving them. That’s a successful exchange with the universe.
But there are things that I simply cannot surrender–things that I will never set free, that my family will have to decide what will happen to them, because as long as I have breath, I will not let them go. Continue reading
(This is the thirty-fourth installment of Dice Tales, an ongoing series of posts about RPGs as storytelling.)
I like running arc-plot games. By that I mean campaigns where the GM has a central plot in mind, and the intent is for the whole thing to reach a conclusion within a reasonable span of time.
I suspect I would have always had this tendency, because my favorite type of novel series (or TV show or whatever) has the same kind of structure. I’m less satisfied with the type of ongoing tale that’s going to keep on trucking until people get bored and wander away; that approach it doesn’t deliver the kind of payoff I’m looking for. But my reasoning is also practical: I’ve been in a small number of campaigns that drew to a satisfying close, and a much larger number that just kind of . . . . stopped, on account of scheduling conflicts or the GM being too busy to run or other OOC factors. When I set out to run my own first game, I was bound and determined that I would not have one of the latter type. By god, I had a story in mind, and we were going to tell that sucker from beginning to end.
“Oh, that’s my comfort read!”
“I’m in the need for a comfort read.”
“I have to confess, all I can read right now are my guilty pleasure books—you know, for comfort.”
I’ve been seeing that around a lot these days, what with grim news from around the world, and here in the USA the polarization of an election that everyone seems to be tired of. I posted about comfort reads four years ago , which sparked a lot of discussion and recommendations, so I think it’s time to give it another go.
(Reposted from last year around this time. The recipes are still good!)
We’re actually a little past blueberry season now, but Maine is so synonymous with the little blue jewels that I couldn’t resist sharing some of my favorite recipes. First, though, let’s clear the air on one major issue: lowbush (aka “wild blueberries) vs. highbush (aka “cultivated blueberries”). I know that in much of the country if you buy a quart of blueberries in the supermarket or go to a pick-your-own operation, you are getting those blue, marble-sized things they call blueberries. You may think, in fact, that those are the only kind there are. Poor you. Lowbush blueberries are tiny by comparison, but–in my far-from-humble opinion, at least–sweeter, firmer, and richer in taste, especially when cooked. I am willing to concede that this may be an irrational prejudice. I have friends who grow the highbush types (which are also, incidentally, naturally wild in some areas of Maine, just as they are in other parts of the country), and they are perfectly happy with the jams and pies they make from cultivated berries. But they just don’t work for me except for fresh eating, so when I call for blueberries in the recipes below, I’m talking wild blueberries. Continue reading
There are many ways to tell a story and I have been mesmerized by every form I’ve come across. I get lost in novels, caught up in radio plays, sit transfixed before storytellers, am moved by plays, binge-watch television series, and happy at the movies.
As near as I can tell, there are no bad ways to tell stories. There are weak stories and poorly constructed ones, but the problem is not with any given method, simply with the inspiration or execution. Not every story works.
One of my favorite methods in recent years is the graphic novel (and its cousin, the graphic memoir). Putting pictures together with words allows the artist/writer to do things with both forms that deepen the story.
I recently discovered Indigo Animal, by my fellow Oaklandite Rue Harrison, and was transfixed from the first page, on which Indigo Animal stands on the porch and “wonders, ‘What’s my purpose in life?’” Continue reading