who the heck knows anything, anyway

Friday, July 29, 2011

Research Schmeesearch

New short stories inevitably mean new ridiculous research. I'd say it's annoying, but it really isn't. I kind of love it. Sure, it can be distracting to fact-check when you're in the writing groove, but knowledge is its own reward! In the spirit of new discoveries (and also because I'm in a coffee shop*), I'm going to blog about some fun stuff. Hopefully you find it as interesting as I do. If not, then I'm sorry. But only a little sorry.

1. Russian Currency
"1976 remint of a 1923
Soviet Russian golden chervonets"
 --image & words from wikipedia
Specifically, the chervónets. I had first encountered this Soviet currency while reading The Master and Margarita**, but since it was so obviously a form of currency, there wasn't much point in my looking up a more technical definition. Boy, was I wrong! The chervónets has a very interesting history. The name, itself, dates back to the early 1700s, but the use I have in mind came about during the Russian Civil War in 1922, when the currency was devised to "eliminate debt through systematic devaluation of the rouble and its associated currencies"(quote via wikipedia). It survived until 1947. For ten years, it had Lenin's face on it. But, and this is one of my favorite bits, the plural form of chervónets is chervontsy. Don't ask me why I love it, but I totally love it. 

2. Speaking of stories taking place in Russia... 
...there is only the teensy-weensiest sweet spot (as far as I can gather, because, let's face it, I am not an expert on international travel between WWI-WWII) that would allow a character from England to travel to Russia pretty much for the hell of it. T'was a touchy political time, and I don't really have the brainpower to come up with hyper-complicated logistics. Essentially, there is a period of time (and, please, guide me in the right direction if you know me to be off track, here. I like to be factual) between 1923 and 1925/26, post WWI, pre-Stalin-being-a-dictator. Slim little window. I'll admit, if I were of an Orwellian-bent in this time period (and a man. Or a very sneaky woman good at disguising herself and maybe also at fighting), visiting Lenin's Soviet Union would be very interesting. I still give good ol' George Orwell endless credit for signing up to fight the Fascists in Spain. You have to either be insanely passionate or insanely aimless to fight in a war for a country you have no familial ties to. But here I am, getting derailed. Just do yourself a favor and read Homage to Catalonia; it's Orwell at his most genuine.

3. Tea!
Still stuck on Russia, but tangenting off a bit, the Russian word for tea? Chai! How easy to remember! The Polish word for tea, herbata, is probably the strangest. The Irish word for tea? Tae. You should check the Wikipedia page for tea in your spare time--there are two roots for the word "tea", both Chinese, that stem from the two different pronunciations ( = Hokkien, chá = Cantonese) and every other language's word for tea comes from one of those two.***

4. Now that we're on the subject of speaking Irish, 
I have always been aware that there is some debate about the root of my name--I've seen definitions ranging from "church" to "small, dark, and war-like", and I had no idea why the heck people couldn't figure it out. So I dug around a bit and I found the two Irish Gaelic roots that my name possibly came from: Cillín and Ceallach. "Ceallach" has the definition attributed to "Killian" that I have encountered most often: war-like, "bright-headed". However, "Cillín" seems more obvious, when one takes spelling and pronunciation into account. That being said, I have no idea why people would have started naming their children Cillín after discovering the long-winded definition (hint: "church" is not the whole picture): 
A cillín (Irish: meaning "little church or burial ground"; plural cillíní), was a historical unconsecrated burial place in Ireland for childrenunbaptised at the time of death.[1] Suicides, shipwrecked sailors, strangers, urepentant murderers and their victims were also sometimes buried there—they were used for "infants and other ambiguous categories of individual".[2] Some of them are more than 1,000 years old. Ancient pagan burial practices were sometimes later co-opted by Christianity.[2]
I would like to mention, however, that I think this is the coolest thing to be (potentially) named for, because it is THE MOST HARDCORE-AND-SIMULTANEOUSLY-TRAGIC THING I HAVE EVER HEARD. It fits with my interests pretty well. Though, really, Ceallach ain't bad, either. Moral of the story: perhaps there are a lot of slightly-morbid Irish parents out there. Or, you know, it sounded good.

Hope you enjoyed learning some sweet stuff with me today! 


*I can't actually be productive in coffee shops. Too many people talking, and I can't turn off the part of my brain that drops hella eaves.
***Ok, there may be exceptions, but I don't have time to cross-reference every language with the wikipedia list to verify. I admit this is a bit of a generalization, so please consider it as such!

Monday, July 25, 2011

birthday birthday

How To Spend One's Birthday: a List

1. Wake up at 10:30
2. Have significant other make breakfast
3. Decide that you want another tattoo
4. Draw a tattoo
5. Go to the closest tattoo parlor to your house
6. Get tattoo
7. Celebrate grandpa's birthday with extended family (the regulars, plus one or two you are just meeting for the first time)
8. Eat lots of different cheeses
9. See the last Harry Potter movie
10. Cry during the last Harry Potter movie
11. Re-read Franny and Zooey for the nth time, until very sleepy
12. Sleep

zee tattoo

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman"

The road trip to Arcata, CA (and a few other places thereabouts) made me think of this poem by Dylan Thomas. I'll let photos and the poem do the talking for me, I think.

 FERN HILL (dylan thomas)

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
    The night above the dingle starry,
        Time let me hail and climb
    Golden in the heyday of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
        Trail with daisies and barley
    Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
    In the sun that is young once only,
        Time let me play and be
    Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
        And the sabbath rang slowly
    In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
    And playing, lovely and watery
        And fire green as grass
    And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
        Flying with the ricks, and the horses
    Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
    Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
        The sky gathered again
    And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
        Out of the whinnying green stable
    On to the fields of praise.

And honored among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
    In the sun born over and over,
        I ran my heedless ways,
    My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
        Before the children green and golden
    Follow him out of grace,

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
    In the moon that is always rising,
        Nor that riding to sleep
    I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
        Time held me green and dying
    Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Monday, July 11, 2011

awesome possum

I'm just going to go ahead and give myself the green light to actually be excited, on the internet, about one of my projects. My mystery is so exciting, guys--maybe not everybody's cup of tea, but I actually think it's pretty great. And that's amazing. Granted, I am not of the opinion that my writing is bad; the struggle is with most of it just feeling off in some regard. Writing a serial, however, has freed me from the confines of perfection. If I write myself into a corner, editing past chapters will not save me: I am forced to write myself out. Like MacGyver, but with words instead of toothpicks and duct tape and bedframes-turned-slingshots or whatever the heck.

-img from leninimports.com
-quote dictated to me by Dickens' ghost
So challenging! So rewarding! And I have also discovered that I can, occasionally, be hilarious.

I spend most of my time on this blog (and in my head) worrying about "art".* What I don't spend nearly enough time doing is considering the fact that I have written about fifteen thousand words of a single story (that's about a fifth of a novel!**) in the past six months. That's nothing to be ashamed of! Sure, it would be nice if my brain was better at juggling projects and could spare a little bit of extra juice for a short story or two (because I really do need to be submitting more often), but my mystery is totally legit. I need to remind myself of that. Plus, my mystery is very literary. Sure, it has a fairly traditional mysterious plot. Yes, ok, so it takes place in England. But I feel that the story is actually quite character-driven! This story is not just a cast of names and a pre-determined set of twists and red herrings. I like to think Dickens and Doyle would be proud of me, even if I am a bit silly.

If I were less paranoid about plagiarism (I am so paranoid about this, it's not even funny), I'd share some quotes with you. But you guys will just have to wait until it's finished and I can convince someone to publish it.

Now, I certainly haven't given up on writing artful, thoughtful, folk lore-inspired literature about family and spirituality, etc, but why do people have to pick one genre to write in? Doesn't that seem fairly limiting? I want to write in every single genre. All of them.


That is all.

*I think I just spend a lot of time worrying, in general. And suffering from a perpetual mild panic. I have consternation lines burned into my forehead. ...My body cannot possibly be pleased with me.
**you know, based on the theoretical "average novel size"  (80k-100k) found by doing a two-minute search on Google

Friday, July 8, 2011


I love Amtrak. Everyone knows this. I am horrible at keeping my love a secret, and Amtrak is a recipient of my mad, mad love. Trains, people. They are the way to travel. Having spent every weekend for about a year traveling on the 509 and 516, I know what I'm talking about.

Daniel and I are visiting NYC and Ithaca in October (a little bit business, a little bit family time) and I have--by magic--convinced him that we should take the train out there. Not that it took much convincing, but, you know...some people don't like the idea of spending three days on a train. I, however, LOVE IT. When we've hammered out all the deets, I'll be sure to make you all jealous.

Aside from the usual writerly business, and because it turns out that we're going to be traveling a TON in the next few months, I've been thinking about getting a new camera. I love taking pictures, but my phone (and its "retro effects"--cool as they may be, I shouldn't have to use them as a crutch) will only get me so far. So if you have an opinion on any of the following cameras (or have another suggestion), let me know, pretty please. I spent a million hours last night researching them, but there are A BILLION CAMERAS out there, and it's hard to go into this kind of  purchase (i.e. the spendy kind) 100% blind.

Without further ranting, I give you: le cameras!
--canon powershot G9
--olympus PEN E-PL1
--fujifilm finepix S5700

note: I'm going for mid-range to nice (I'm looking for new or used <$300) and a digital point-and-shoot. SLRs are neat, but too huge (and, um, expensive) for a fair-weather hobbyist.

Also fun news: a couple cousins and my younger brother (all of whom will be 18 in the next year), as well as a few friends of mine, want me to design some sweet tatts for them. I'm pretty pumped about it.

Ok, in case I actually have something interesting to write about later (today, or this week, or what have you), I'll try to keep this shortish. So: In honor of my train/camera theme, I'm going to share some photos from my beautiful ride home a couple weeks ago.

Photos from the Cascade Line--i.e. my "other home"--en route from P-town back to Sea-town.

(in no particular order)

I wanted to jump out and go swimming.

Tacoma Bridge

Dark Clouds Approacheth!
 (10min outside of Seattle, of course)

I love the hidden backs of small towns. Little secrets only
train passengers get to witness.

island in the Sound

Daniel works hard, even on the train
Another small town's backside. (heh)

Centralia's station. I was obsessed with the clouds that day.

That's all, folks! And I apologize for being excessively parenthetical today. There are just some syntactical urges you can't fight.