On Becoming a Professional Amateur: Because the Writer Said So

Scenario: A detective is in a car crash and passes out twice in the flaming wreck, which he escapes at great peril. Five minutes later he just gets up and flags down a passing cop.

“Hey,” the detective says as his car combusts quietly in the background, “can I trouble you for a ride home?”

The responding officer smiles. “Anything for a fellow cop.”

How realistic is this scenario?

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Pin Money, Romance, and Silver Fork Novels

In my own particular mental map of the modern novel’s river, the watershed is Jane Austen. Her books were romantic, but she was not writing romance as it later came to be understood. Romance in the early sense could be characterized as depicting life as it ought to be, with a happy ending for those who deserve it.

Within a very few years after her death one of the forks in that river was fashioned by Bulwer-Lytton in Pelham–the beginning of the so-called “Silver Fork” novels, the social romances, usually satiric but not always, that focused in on the bon ton. (My first post on this subject was here.)

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Fleeing the Country

Due to current events, a lot of people have been talking about leaving the United States. Just pulling up sticks and going somewhere else. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. It’s the classic fantasy — there’s a reason why THE HOBBIT is subtitled There and Back Again. But let me offer some practical thoughts, if you’re hoping to do more than dream.

The first thing that has to happen is that humanity at least has to get a grip on the covid virus. Until that time, travel is going to be fraught with difficulty. As I write this, most of the world is not allowing travelers from the USA. None of us are going anywhere until these bans are lifted.

Sooner or later, however, you’ll be able to buy an airplane ticket and go! Almost every polity planetwide welcomes tourists. To go many places you don’t even need a visa, just your passport. But that’s for tourism — a short-term stay. If you plan to move there, start looking into the paperwork now. Becoming a permanent resident of another country means having your documents in order. You will wish to be able to rent someplace to live, rent or buy a car, open a bank account. To do this you must be able to prove that the authorities are cool with you. There’s enough terrorism in the world that, at least in First World countries, being an illegal is asking for deportation or jail. Continue reading


Some Musical Notes

Whatever planet was ruling my techno house has passed out of it, and I am no longer obsessing with indefinable, unanswerable cybersphere questions. Querying the digital heavens is a lot like talking to whom confused Christians call God, (in her many manifestations—all of which is in our heads). There is never a clear definition of anything.

Enough of this. Today I write about music.

Although I hate to read about music. What I mean is that music critics, when describing composers and artists, use words. I have the same arguments with art critics and even critics of literature, although since literature—writing, books, etc—is made from words, it’s easier to snatch a quote from a book and interpret, interrogate, and generally opinionate about it. Continue reading


The Rambling Writer Visits Thailand, part 18: Phangnga Bay

Join Thor and me for the last leg of your virtual Thailand vacation as we arrive at Phangnga Bay to see the famous karst sea stacks.

NOTE: “And now for something completely different.” Thor and I made our first trip to Asia — the beautiful country of Thailand.  We were lucky to squeak through the pandemic flight closures in January/February of 2020 as we returned from our three-week trip. Since more travel has now become a distant prospect, we hope you’ll take a virtual vacation with us in the following weeks. (This blog series started on June 13.)

It was hard to tear ourselves away from the wonderful snorkeling at Baan Kratig, but eager to see the sea stacks of Phangnga Bay, we boarded a ferry to Krabi and got our first glimpse: Continue reading


New Worlds: Let’s Have a Parade!

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

Not all holidays involve parades, and not all parades happen because of a holiday. But there’s enough overlap for this to seem like a suitable place to take a look at processions of all kinds.

Where’s the line between processions and parades? I don’t think there really is one, as they both involve long trains of people making a journey between two points. This may involve vehicles ranging from horses to carriages or cars to enormous Rose Parade floats, and many of them include music, partly as a means of keeping everyone energized and together. The two terms are more of a spectrum, with “processions” at the solemn end of the spectrum and “parades” at the raucous end.

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Robin Hood’s Merry Men: Robin Hood

Robin Hood’s Merry Men: Robin Hood

To wind up this romp through Sherwood Forest, I’m giving you a sketch of Robin Hood himself, the heart and soul of legend, ballads, poetry, folklore, and modern media.

Robert Locksley, displaced Earl of Huntington (or Locksley) is a Romantic (in the classic literary sense) and compelling hero. He is a larger than life and has evolved along with his audiences. There is little if any evidence that such a figure ever existed. The naysayers pluck out truly ancient lore about Puck or Robin Goodfellow from oral tradition and fragments of crumbling scrolls to identify him.

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Artist in Residence Quarantine Diaries Episode 20: The Day Before the Day Before Christmas…

Oh, my friends. Time for a recap of this year that has lasted a decade. I sincerely hope we are heading towards a dawn because the darkness has been wearying in teh extreme.

I don’t know about all y’all but I suspect everybody is shouldering a certain amount of exhaustion and ennui by now. For myself, the year started with my mom suffering a minor stroke and a concomitant stay in hospital and a nursing home (for recovery) during January and February of this year – in the teeth of Real Winter which made me drive into screaming blizzards because I had to because there was nobody else to do it even though I am terrified of driving on ice and snow and don’t do it unless I absolutely see no other option. At the end of all this… she came to me for a few weeks to recover, and arrived with a galloping case of Clostridium difficile she picked up at the hospital. (no, you go look it up. I’ll wait…) We survived THAT, and then she went home again and home health care was arranged for a while and then that dried up but then we hit real issues with her health insurance situation and I had to fight that battle well into the spring… by which time Covid was in full swing and both of us were pretty much locked up in our respective abodes. With her over at her place and getting lockupitis in a major way (she was going stir crazy after a while and driving ME there…) and me with a high-risk husband over at my house, and me the only driver, and me the only person who could hop in a car and go buy FOOD or drive anybody to any appointments… I feel I’ve been running all year, and finding no place to stop.

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BVC Eats: Plum Pudding

BVC Cooks: UK vs US

Plum Pudding—but it has no plums.

For special holidays my mother used to make her English grandmother’s recipe for plum pudding. Who knows how old this dish was, or even this formula for it. But it comes from a time when central heating was not the norm and people didn’t bother counting calories or carbs because they burned them all of trying to stay warm. My sister got the notebook with all of Mom’s and Nana’s recipes in it. Since I have never made it, I don’t want it.

I remember the biggest bowl in the house, some flour, suet, molasses, raisins and buckets of dried fruit. And brandy. A cup or more of the good stuff. Probably a dozen eggs as well, but I don’t know for sure. When it was all mixed well it got stuffed and packed and pounded into a 3lb coffee can, covered with cheesecloth that she tied in place with a string—my sailor father was big on string and depended upon it like we do duck tape. Then Mom boiled the can for 3 hours, at least. It kept in the fridge for a month or more so it didn’t matter if it was overcooked. Continue reading


Magical Thinking


(Picture from here.)

As I sit here and write this on 12/14/2020, the last few electors in the electoral college are voting. The last few states are Hawaii, California and Oregon– another 66 electoral votes, officially making Biden president-elect.

This is not news. We’ve known this for a month, right? Yet, people have been screaming themselves blue in the face that the election must have been stolen.


I’ve gone over a whole lot of documents in the last month trying to figure out what evidence in this world could possibly allow anyone to hold on to this conclusion. There isn’t any.

There’s only one word for it: magical thinking. Continue reading