New Worlds: Elemental Imbalances

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

Just as the miasma theory of disease wanders in the direction of something useful (germs) before veering off to be totally wrong (bad air), so too does the notion of elemental imbalances contain a grain of truth in a beach of incorrect concepts.

By “elemental imbalances” I mean the various theories — European humorism, Indian Ayurveda, Chinese wuxing, and others — that envision the human body as being made up of a small number of humors, elements, energies, and so forth, with disease arising when one of them becomes too prevalent or too lacking. Not just physical ailments, either; they also diagnosed mental issues such as depression or phobia by these same means. And it’s true, excess and deficiency can indeed cause disease! The latter is more common, I think, resulting in conditions like anemia, beriberi, rickets, or scurvy, but gout is an example of a disease brought on by too much of something (uric acid, in this case).

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Elderhood

ElderhoodI’m old.

I’m also healthy, happy, and enjoying life, so this is not an announcement about health issues.

It’s not a declaration that I’m giving up on having goals and ambition. Hell, I’m younger than most of the leading candidates for president. If they can have ambition, so can I.

Nor is it an effort to get people to tell me I’m not old. I’m not fishing for compliments. I know that I don’t look or act like the stereotype of an old person (and I’m not planning to start, either). I just also know my date of birth.

I’m still doing things that matter to me. I have lots of projects and they aren’t hobbies, though if I can find time for a hobby or two I might take one up.

But I just read Elderhood by geriatrician Louise Aronson and it’s helped me put my age and my life in perspective. I’ve also noticed of late that when I hear about what middle-aged people are doing it makes me grateful not to be that age or have their struggles. (And I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be young again.) Continue reading

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The Shattering of Gaia

 
“Burn! Burn! BURN!”
“Wait! Stop!” Gaia reached out to gather a gasping koala into her arms, looked up into a sky which was an improbable shade of dark red and empty of birds. “What are you doing? Who are you?”
“I am Flame,” said the other, and fire danced in the eyes that Gaia saw turned towards her. A fire that was fueled by hatred and madness, by something broken, driven beyond endurance. “What am I doing?” Flame continued, baring his teeth in a rictus that might have been intended as a smile. It was, frighteningly, not. “They asked for this. THEY ASKED. They didn’t care. Now they will care. They will remember. If they live, they will remember.”
Gaia, now clutching two koalas and with a half-grown kangaroo clinging to her leg, stared down to where a ring of fire was irrevocably sweeping down the curve of the land, down to the sea, down to the beach where now a clutch of hollow-eyed humans, trying to breathe through filter masks, milled about aimlessly at the water’s edge, stood in the ocean while it lapped at their knees, or hunkered down on fragile-looking boats that floated on a sea that was turned to blood by the red light all around them.
“What did they do to you?” Gaia gasped.
“Individually? probably nothing,” Flame spat. “Collectively? They’re a disease. Humans are a VIRUS. I don’t see YOU grabbing any of them, do I?”

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My Fair Lady: A Very Short Review

My Fair LadyWhen I was in New York City earlier this year I simply didn’t have the time to take in the revival of My Fair Lady at the Lincoln Center. Heartbreaking! But fortunately the show is now on tour, and thank goodness I live near the Kennedy Center in Washington DC!

There’s something so dedicated, so determinedly grown up, about dinner and a show. And the Kennedy Center is a grand monument to the late president, a living space in constant use. The classic musical fits in perfectly here. Nearly everybody has seen the award-winning movie, starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. But this is the first time I’ve seen this on stage.

And I picked a great production! There’s no point in reviving My Fair Lady if you’re not going to go first class, so this show had a vast cast, a full orchestra, and an elaborate revolving set. The actress playing Eliza Dolittle is the first Arabic Muslim actress to play in the role. There is not a problem with this show except the one baked into it from the very beginning: the ending. If you saw the movie, you saw one of the endings: that in spite of all their difficulties Henry Higgins and Eliza Dolittle stay together.

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Engaging With the Text

‘Tis the season, and because it is, I saw three different versions of A Christmas Carol last week (and completed my annual re-read of the book as well). The first was a stage production done by San Francisco’s A.C.T. Conservatory. It was lovely–not ground breaking, but rather precisely what I expected: a straight theatrical retelling of a well-loved story. Then there was my annual rewatching of Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol–still my favorite version ever, and despite the fact that it’s a musical, I think it’s one of the truest renditions of Mr. Dickens’s story.  And then I saw a new BBC-produced version with Guy Pearce as Scrooge that is not, as the advertisements might have it, your father’s Christmas Carol.

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Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Listen!

Hng GlideIf you’re a pantser you are not in sole charge of the work. The characters, the plot, the theme, all chip in and drag the book to new and exciting places. You want them to do that. This is the whole point of pantsing in the first place. The book will go to places that you, if you outlined it at the beginning, could never have imagined. You know the thing’s really alive, when it gets up and runs!

But to get this to happen, you have to listen. Listen to the characters. Do they have concerns? Would they really behave that way? Hear the plot, the creaky places where it’s not bolted together well. Brood over the entire work as a unit, and mull over each section or chapter or arc. Go to sleep thinking about it, and when you wake up in the morning lie in bed and think about it. Continue reading

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The Not-so-reluctant Traveler Goes to Palm Springs

“Hey, I’m going to Palm Springs. Want to go?”

“Um, yeah!”

My friend Mel and her husband are P. S. aficionados. Mel knows when flights and accommodations are cheapest (between Thanksgiving and Christmas), and they have stayed at least a few nights in every retro chic vintage you-name-it motel in town. Their favorite is Casa Cody, a Moroccan-style compound near central Palm Springs.

Harriet Cody, wrongly identified as a cousin of Buffalo Bill Cody, was a wealthy Philadelphian and accomplished horsewoman married to an ailing architect from San Francisco. For health reasons they moved to the Southern California desert, settling in a tiny town called Palm Springs. To make ends meet as her husband struggled with tuberculosis, she rented out houses and horses, and after he died, she established the lovely little motel, adding houses and rooms, pools, and tall palm trees. As for all P. S. hotels of a given age, celebrities such as Charles Chaplin and Anais Nin are among those claimed as one-time residents.

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The Rambling Writer Returns to Crete, part 10: The Road to Irakleio

Join Thor and me as a few kilometers of roads (with slight detours) takes us from ancient Minoan Phaestos to Roman Gortys to modern IrakleioAnd images of my writing muse Ariadne, old and new.

NOTE: Of course, Thor and I had to make another trip to Greece, as he’s fallen as much in love with the islands as I am. This time, in addition to other island-hopping, I wanted to return to Crete after 37 years. My first months-long trip was as a hippie backpacker, camping in the ruins and falling under the spell of the mysterious, vanished Minoan culture. This time, I got to introduce Thor to “glorious Kriti” and research more settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT. This new blog series started October 19, 2019, and will continue every Saturday.

Last time (blog post of Dec. 14), Thor and I departed the serene archaeological site of Minoan Phaestos and headed north toward the bustling port city of Irakleio and the famous site of Minoan Knossos. On the way, I wanted to see the Roman site of Gortys. After an unplanned detour through fields and dusty villages as Thor’s “girlfriend” Siri became very confused about place names, I followed the traditional navigation technique of asking locals the way. A couple of truck drivers at a roadside kafenion spoke no English, but directed me to a woman who understood enough to point the way. “Efcharisto” (thank you) once more to the patient, generous Greeks! Continue reading

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New Worlds: Special Cities

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

Some cities are special.

Capitals are the obvious example of this — in some ways all the more so because not all cities you think of as capitals actually have any official status as such. London? Paris? Lisbon? They’re conventionally spoken of in those terms, but there’s no legal designation backing it up. Instead they’re capitals in the older sense, which is what we’re going to unpack now.

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