Lace For Your Life

Lace For Your Life
by Phyllis Irene Radford

Ribbons and lace adorn little girl clothing and big girl finery. For centuries, lace has defined elegance.

When I was in grade school, I watched a film strip about Spain for social studies. The only thing I remember about that film strip – indeed for much of that entire year – was the image of a little girl making lace. She used about a dozen threads wound onto cards and she wove those threads rapidly into a pattern unique to her family that had been passed from generation to generation.

I was fascinated. The images stayed with me to this day, several decades later. The idea of creating beautiful fabric from air and thread remains a passion.

Without realizing it, I embarked upon a life long quest to make lace within a year of watching that film strip. Embroidery, knitting, crocheting, and sewing became a part of my everyday life. Continue reading

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Science Fiction on the Big Screen

Brent Staples recently had a brilliant essay on the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still in The New York Times: “Klaatu Had Better Rent the Video.”

Klaatu and Gort depart
Klaatu and Gort depart

He not only compared the movie unfavorably to its predecessor — though he was gentler than most of the reviewers — he got at the heart of what’s wrong with science fiction movies in general:

Digital effects have revolutionized the monster, science-fiction and superhero genres, making the films larger than ever visually. But the same effects have whittled away at the acting space, making the movies smaller in the dramatic sense.

Exactly. The original of The Day the Earth Stood Still has very cheesy special effects. In my story “The English Major’s Revenge” (still available here on BVC), a respectful homage to the movie, I describe the aliens’ ship like this:

It looked like one of those aluminum covers they use in Chinese restaurants. Silver colored, with slanted sides and a large flat top.

But it’s still one of the best science fiction movies ever made. Continue reading

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When it’s Really Cold — Musings

When it’s really cold, the light in the morning takes on a peculiar quality. It’s an intense whiteness overlaid with a transluscent pink veil that lights the ice-encased tree branches as if they were beginning to burn.

When it’s really cold, the sky sky shows all the seasons; winter white near the horizon, then cornflower blue for spring, then clear summer blue then smokey autumn blue at the peak of the dome.

When it’s really cold, there’s an odd sourceless mist near the ground first thing in the morning that blurs the edges of the world, but only for a short time before drawing back and revealing them in a new clarity.

When it’s really cold, the snow takes on the consistency of sand. It snakes across the roads. The snow drifts become scoop-sided and knife edged and the pure, sparkling whiteness that is the source of all metaphors.

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The Future of Animals

I think that people’s attitudes toward animals are changing, and this is a good thing. While I do not ascribe to the extreme (some might say “bizarre”) views of Peter Singer – which include, basically, indicating that chickens should vote and advocating via advanced logical structures that those of us in developed nations should crack off 25% of our respective GDPs to support those in developing nations – Singer introducted a concept in the 1960’s called “speciesism” to indicate that humans ought not approach their interactions with other living species from a biased, species-oriented viewpoint.

CavemanHere we have some PETA advocates, dressing as “cavemen” to protest the brutal treatment of rabbits raised for fur in Australia. This picture immediately reminded me of the cruel bias against the GEICO cavemen. According to a recent LA Times blog, “everybody hates PETA.”

Probably because their point of view is divergent from most others, and because they do gross and disgusting things (this caveman picture indicates the better sort of PETA attention-getting behavior). Continue reading

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Rant: Heraldry in Fantasy – Get it Right, Dang it!

Something that bugs the heck out of me is when fantasy writers make up their own heraldry and it sucks.  I confess, I was a herald in the SCA years ago, and it made me obsessive about the quality of heraldry in fiction.

I don’t demand that the rules of heraldry be followed absolutely (there are multiple systems, for one thing), nor that fictional heraldry maintain enough difference so as not to conflict with existing heraldry.  That would be absurd.

All I want, and it isn’t much, is for the founding purpose of heraldry, specifically in a battlefield context, to be remembered.  Heraldry is a means of identification.  When warriors are armored head to toe, the pictures on their shields are the only way to tell friend from foe.

heraldry2heraldry1It makes me nuts to read descriptions of beautiful banners that couldn’t be made out from a distance of more than five yards.  Take a look at these two shields.  Which one would you be able to read from half a mile away, in motion, through a forest of spears?

I rest my case.

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BATMAN #684: A Very Short Review

At this moment I suppose it is fair to say that Batman is the biggest DC hero going.  batman684A blockbuster movie will do that.  This means that it is to DC’s advantage to suck this brief phenomenom dry by reissuing old classics, plastering Batman everywhere,  repackaging popular runs, and in general beating the drum as hard as they can.  (This will get even worse if the late Heath Ledger wins a posthumous Oscar for his role as the Joker; look for DC to go briefly All Joker All The Time.)  Certainly there are masses of Batman titles and collections out there — I confess I am looking forward to see the Batman Annual collection, predicted to contain nuttier Bat stories like his various adventures on alien planets.

This latest issue of Batman is therefore a bizarre rarity — a stand-alone issue in which Batman does not actually appear at all.   To recap briefly, in the previous far-too-long arc Batman fought and defeated a villain but took sufficient hit points that he has either died* or is laying low to recover.  None of his usual intimates — Alfred, Robin, etc. — know his whereabouts.  This leaves his first lieutenant Nightwing (aka the original Robin aka Dick Grayson; his evolution is more complex than that of Eohippus and cannot be gone into now) to pick up the ball and run.

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Rise of the Lichens

I’m really looking forward to the release of the new movie Rise of the Lichens. We have far too few movies about lichens, algae, archeobacteria, fungus, mold, or pond scum, though yeast gets some play in the sponge of Hollywood.

Sponges themselves, on the other hand, get very little live-action screen time, which is quite a shame. Rumor has it, however, that the producer of the cult movie Sponge Diver is planning a sequel, Revenge of the Sponges, in which sponges and giant clams unite to immobilize their ancient enemies and scrub them to death.

I haven’t been able to put my hands on a screenplay for Rise of the Lichens, as it’s being very closely guarded by the studio, but the buzz on the movie is amazing.

Don’t read past the jump if you don’t want to see spoilers.

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