Thursday, August 31, 2017

Music at my first job: Windy by The Association

Windy on Youtube. Ah heck, here is the video:

I am certain I heard this song playing on the radio at home. Hmm, I cannot recall the station; the DJ for the show was Don Dainer (sp?) and the show was "Looking Back". We listened to it Saturday nights in the late '70's so this song would have been ten years old.

I most recall it on 590 AM in Muskoka on my way to or from work in the summer. I was a carpenter's helper in the summer, swinging a hammer or carrying stuff.

I really thought this song had a whistling section as I definitely thought I was whistling along with it. That is to say, I was whistling although I am not sure a listener would have recognised it.

Who's peeking out from under a stairway
Calling a name that's lighter than air?
Who's bending down to give me a rainbow?
Everyone knows it's Windy

Who's tripping down the streets of the city
Smiling at everybody she sees?
Who's reaching out to capture a moment?
Everyone knows it's Windy

And Windy has stormy eyes
That flash at the sound of lies
And Windy has wings to fly
Above the clouds (Above the clouds)
Above the clouds (Above the clouds)

I also thought there were more words to it. Full lyrics can be found here.

the song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July of that year[1967].
Maybe that's why it is a big deal for me: it was big when I was born.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

TWIC: D&D, O'Connell, game the system, banksy in Korea

I want to play D & D again. I miss it. I was (am) too much of a snob to appreciate D&D themed books like those of R A Salvatore, but I do think the creativity that goes into planning a campaign or dungeon and the creativity of the players trying to survive is remarkable and at least an introduction to story telling. And, I have read a few books by Salvatore.
D&D Beyond offers a character-generator for free and some other cool for-pay offerings for players and DMs alike. Boingboing has a summary. In the comments of the B'Boing article, people recommended similar services from roll20.
CBC interview of Grace O'Connell Eight other Canadian authors each asked her a question. Here is
one of them:
3. Vivek Shraya asks, "Who is a Canadian writer you aspire to write like and why?"
There are so many! Lisa Moore for gorgeous sentences and emotional depth, Timothy Findley for amazing depictions of madness and grief, Alice Munro for building worlds within paragraphs. Kathleen Winter for deep empathy and unexpected beauty. Robertson Davies for dry humour and totally unexpected, wild plots. Margaret Atwood for perfect similes and deeply human characters. Brian Francis for huge range and a keen emotional understanding of people. I'm sure I'm forgetting favourites, but that's what springs to mind today.

A Handbook for Mortals: did it buy its way into the New York Bestsellers list? And more on the subject.

Exhibit in Seoul of Banksy works. I plan to visit this Friday or Saturday. Exhibit ends Sept 10.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Gangwon Animals: broad-bordered bee hawk-moth

I know this type of insect as a hummingbird mimic or hummingbird hawk-moth. Of course, there are no hummingbirds in Korea so there is good reason to not associate it with that bird.

And yet it hovers and flies very much like a tiny hummingbird.

Korean name: 북방황나꼬리박각시Wikipedia has details about it  here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Music of my middle age: Cinderella (trying not to scream)

I grew up on Doug and the Slugs (Doug on Wikipedia). Along with a few other bands and songs that will be featured here, one of my swim coaches loved this band and played their cassette tapes repeatedly while we swam.  I am certain to feature more Doug and the Slugs songs here but this one is interesting because it is relatively recent (he died in 2004) and I think only exists on Youtube.

I have discussed this song before, focusing on the interesting choice of detail; the only concrete detail is green walls. A very quick Google search shows the phrase he used describing schools, maternity hospitals and spas.

We further know she lives alone and she has no place to go. The rest are merely evocative language and cliche. Let me pick out a few cliches:

  • Down in flames
  • Streets paved with gold
  • Half-full glass

Elsewhere are everyday icons, used by everyone and nearly cliches themselves:

  • Cinderella
  • broken mirror
  • broken heart
  • heart of stone

Bennett puts them together well and makes his own kind of tragic love song from them. I don't know if Bennett made any other kind of love song. One of my favorites that made it onto an album is Tropical Rainstorm.

Some questions: "Shattered dreams like Napoleon Bonaparte". I have listened to the line a few times and wonder if he uses the ending to a joke, "Blownaparte". Bonaparte's dreams were indeed shattered but not in a love song kind of way. I hope there is more to the choice than a rhyme with 'heart'.

Cinderella Trying not to Scream.
When we first met, there was a sound of music and the streets were all paved with gold.
Then fact and fiction began to collide and the love letters all turned cold.
One of us in denial, the other down in flames.
But who got busted, who gets dusted, it's the same old game.
She sits in the window of a haunted house where the walls are all painted green.
Cinderella, trying not to scream.
When you live a love without any glory, its a love you live in vain.
With so many lies and so many stories we live in a spiral of shame.
One of us a broken mirror, the other a broken heart.
Shattered dreams like Napoleon Bonaparte.
She sits in a window of a haunted house where the walls are all painted green.
Cinderella, trying not to scream.
She lives alone with her own expectations and the spaces in between. Cinderella trying not to scream.
All those lonely days and lonely nights that she slowly walks us home.
No one knows  she has nowhere to go and no one to call. No one to call.
When we first met, there was a sound of music and the streets were all paved with gold.
 Then truth and religion began to collide and the love letters all turned cold.
Some say the glass is half empty.  And others say half-full.  But she thinks the glass is pointless. I guess she always will.
She sits in a window of a haunted house where the walls are all painted green.
Cindrella, trying not to scream.
She lives alone with a heart of stone. Its the saddest thing I've ever seen.
Cinderella trying not to scream. X4

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stories of my youth: the disappointing elements of fantasy books.

I grew up reading Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, and The Riddle Master of Hed. Riddle Master is probably the series I have most often reread. I just finished the first book an hour ago. I have reread it more than ten times. Beautiful writing but the hero, Morgon, seems more whiny with each reading.

All fantasy has wizards and magic and swords and royalty. Many such stories have ancient secretive races like elves and dwarves -or Earth Masters. I wanted in this post to dig into the other stuff common to these fantasy stories and focus on Riddle Master of Hed.

The things I note are:

  • wine
  • harps
  • approachable royalty
  • robes

In Lord of the Rings, I would add:

  • other boozes
  • tobacco
  • healing plants

I guess I would add in general:

  • capes
  • swords

Wine and booze. Tim Powers' Drawing of the Dark made beer magical. But Tolkien had already done this with wine. Maybe he was making his story less fantastic and more historic. Note what the Founding Fathers of the USA drank!
The Huffington Post reports, “In 1787, two days before they signed off on the Constitution, the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention partied at a tavern. According to the bill preserved from the evening, they drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer and seven bowls of alcoholic punch. That’s more than two bottles of fruit of the vine, plus a few shots and a lot of punch and beer, for every delegate.”
What I really want to get at here is my disappointment with booze. I was a nerdy kid; didn't smoke and wasn't even interested in alcohol. At age eighteen, I snuck into a bar. Not to drink, but to listen to the band playing that night (Doug and the Slugs, often featured here at Creativiti Project).
I finally became interested in alcohol and tried wine. It was okay and I could drink it out of politeness but none of the brands for sale listed medicinal or medical uses (for the latter, come to Korea where traditional liquors have remarkable claims of effects.)

I like beer now and have become something of a connoisseur. At least as far as my wallet allows. Rum and Coke is great. Gin and Tonic is refreshing and protects me from malaria. But none have the effects described of even house wine in Tolkien's stories.
Beer image from.

Morgon of Hed, in RMoH, is stubborn and frequently smashes a glass against a wall when he cannot do as he wishes. This makes more sense when you realize how often he is drinking wine. Maybe that description of drinking is accurate - though depressing. Morgon of Hed is a damn drunk?
Everyone in the RMoH universe plays or loves to listen to the harp. In the first book, the two main characters both carry them. And they do so through difficult travel. I don't know how small a harp can be but even a small one would be annoying to drag around, I would guess.
Seventeen years ago, I decided I wanted to learn an instrument. I had played tuba and a few other brass instruments in high school but they were bulky and expensive. I didn't want to learn the piano due to its size. I didn't want any stringed instrument because I have a tin ear and would never be able to tune it. I was lucky to be able to take Danso lessons in Korea. The Danso is a small flute held forward and down rather than horizontally. I had a lot of fun learning it and still bust it out on occasion.
I can see professional musicians wanting a harp, but can;t imagine anyone else wanting to carry one around.
I guess I don't have an actual problem with approachable royalty but it just seems weird.
Robes. So many people in fantasy stories wear robes. I don't understand it. 'Nuff said.
In addition to imagining myself drinking various fortifying alcohols, as a youth I also imagined myself smoking a pipe.  Maybe I would control the smoke with my mind or allow it transport my thoughts into other spheres... smoking is pretty nasty in real life.
Aloe Vera is a great plant with medicinal properties. Touch-me-nots in Ontario have sap that relieves the itch of poison ivy. I am now done with my knowledge of medicinal plants.
Capes. Capes look cool. You know, in the right situation, having a blanket hanging from your shoulders would be handy. I was very disappointed with the cape my mother made for me one Halloween as it barely reached down to my waist and everyone knows a good cape should reach the ground. My mother ruined Halloween that year! And capes forever after!
In addition to learning an instrument, I have also learned swordfighting. This is another thing I am not disappointed with.
But glaives and bills and halberds have so many military uses. I don't understand why they aren't more common in fantasy stories.
Hafted weapons Image from.
Halberd image from.

Okay, reader(s). What do you see in fantasy that affected your childhood imagination but was ruined as you matured?

TWIC: The fall of the house of Simpsons, library love

I was in my early twenties when the Simpsons started and it was nearly the best thing on TV. When I can, I still watch it but somehow it is not as good. It seemed to me that the writers had used up every single joke possible for a ten year old boy - as Bart has been now for 28 years. This video goes into loving detail about how the first eight seasons were magic and the following ones worse and worse. The explanation for how it failed is clear and has links to many episodes so it feels well researched but I had always just thought the show ran out of ways to fill 22 minutes and instead made three seven minute stories that often had no connection to each other. I always enjoy the Treehouse of Terror episodes which follow this format but it doesn't work as a routine thing.
Canadian Author Melanie Mah loves to write in libraries. I sure don't blame her. ... Hmm. The interview only shows she writes in libraries, not that she loves it. I mean, she probably does, but now I have to worry about fact-checking at the CBC!
I write in a library. I am what some might call temperamental about temperature. So I usually don't wear skirts or sleeveless tops to the library. In my giant library bag, I'm usually carrying a couple of sweaters. Discomfort distracts me. I need to be comfortable while writing, so I don't wear anything tight or scratchy or anything that rides up too much with wear. Turns out, I'm temperamental about lots of things…

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Baedari Bookseller's Alley in Incheon

I think this is a creativity-related post.Writers don't get far without readers so we need to encourage reading, right? Of course, I don't think authors make much money on sales of used books!

Let me argue this point a little. This post is creativity related in two ways. First, the area I will soon describe was once the main street of Incheon but is now a nearly forgotten backwater. The locals are trying to keep their community alive and also retain its soul. Some of their responses have been a little cutesy for my liking but I'm old.

Second, looking at the English language section of a used book store in korea is a great way to see forced connections between ideas. Books on Biblical subjects are next to one on traveling Ireland by mule-cart (these two concepts were in fact closely related), beautifully illustrated covers for Spanish and Vietnamese (they used a sort of European alphabet) are mistakenly stacked in this area because the text looked close enough, cooking is next science fiction, middle books in trilogies sit alone... Chaos in its third purest form!

Alright, I walked from Dowon station to Baedari Bookseller's Alley and saw this Wooden Knight on my way. There was also a sad robot. Closer to Dowon, I walked through 'Culture Street' with many artforms on display.

 As I wrote earlier, the neighbourhood is not what it used to be. The signs below tell locals to STOP the new improvements to the road that will destroy homes. This article from KoreaBizWire describes how a TV show had been set in the area and brought new life to it. For a little while, at least.

 There seems to be a lot to do in the vicinity.

 Cafe Oasia is in the middle of Bookseller's alley and there are several store on either side. This place seems more of a 'browse and choose books' than 'buy books the meter' as it seemed in Busan's used book store district.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Music of my youth, and a little more recent: Africa by Toto

I suspect it is just nostalgia that drives me but I am becoming more interested in music, and especially lyrics, these days. I hope to write about one song a week a while. I would not describe my musical taste as discriminating and many songs I am thinking about are obvious. Probably the others are banal. But they are my musical choices; make of them what you will.
A still from the video in the first link below.

Today's pick is in the obvious category: Toto's Africa. That site continuously plays that one video. I didn't expect books to play such a large part in the video.  Again, I've been thinking about music more lately, but this post on Salon convinced me to put fingers to keyboard.
[Verse 1]
I hear the drums echoing tonight
But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation
She's coming in 12:30 flight
The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation
I stopped an old man along the way
Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies
He turned to me as if to say "Hurry boy, It's waiting there for you"
It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never have
[Verse 2]
The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what's right
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti
I seek to cure what's deep inside, frightened of this thing that I've become

A later lyric changes "It's" to "She's" as in "She's waiting there for you".

Huh. I don't think it is the lyrics that sold me on this song. Most recently, it was this version, which is an acapella and a somewhat novelty take on the song. What do I remember from this song?

  • Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you.
  • Rain
  • Kilimanjaro.

The sense of a quest is entirely absent in my recollection. The drive to make a choice, to correct a wrong or personal demon is new to me as I read the lyrics.

There seems to be 'just enough' detail. A wannabe traveller like myself might want more detail and perhaps a more specific location than the second largest continent. I wonder if the song would do so well as "Tanzania" by Africa? ... Now checking that Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania... Anyway, the Serengeti is more than two hundred kilometers away so it would have to be a very clear day for the mountain to rise over it. Aside from that name, the atmospheric words are rain, wild dogs, drums and ancient.
I am  a socially awkward sort so this song has taught me more about 'wistfulness' than any other source.

So, ah, what is 'solitary company'? Romantic time? Are wild dogs all that romantic?

Time to enjoy this song again after finally paying proper attention to it.
I plan to look at You're So Vain by Simon, Windy by Association, and The First Cut is the Deepest, probably by Cat Stevens. In less obvious, more personal territory, Cinderella by Doug and the Slugs.  I should add something from the J Geils Band and even the Nylons as well. Maybe a song from Ian Bell....

Monday, August 14, 2017

TWIC:bulwer, lytton, soviet children, fonts, art, podcasting, ideas

Via Kottke, the 2017 Bulwer -Lytton Fiction contest winners have been announced. Some of the Dishonorable mentions:

Follow either link for the winner.
A different sort of winners - of The Hugos, can be found here.
Also from Kottke, an archive of Soviet Children's books.
Why study Soviet children’s books? In the selections featured here, the user can see first-hand the mediation of Russia’s accelerated violent political, social and cultural evolution from 1917 to 1953. These conditions saw the proliferation of new styles and techniques in all the graphic arts: the diverse productivity of the Russian avant-garde, photomontage, experimental typography, and socialist realism. As was clear both from the rhetoric of the arbiters of Soviet culture – its writers and government officials – the illustration and look of Soviet children’s books was of tantamount importance as a vehicle for practical and concrete information in the new Soviet regime.
Via Boingboing, Comic Parchment is a new font you can buy.
A free Arabic font can be found here.
I am paying more attention to art forms I didn't much care about a decade or two ago. Painting is one. Here is an article on Picasso's change in style as seen in self portraits.
Despite my increased sensitivity to art, I don't really see this as art.
In the course of writing a Science-fiction books, Rob Reid interviewed various thinkers for background information. Not all of those details made it into his book. But they did make it into his podcast.
My handwriting is terrible. This might as well be magic.
Another attempt to answer, "Where do ideas come from?"

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Gangwon Animals: Meles leucurus

I just finished working at an ESL/biology camp in central Gangwon Province, South Korea and will share a few animals sighted there over the next few weeks. Here are some Asian Badgers and they should be standing in front of their burrow. We have several minutes of game camera footage but I am not sure of the burrow is obvious in this still.

Species:M. leucurus
The honey badger of "don't give a f---" fame belongs to a different sub-family:
Storr, 1780
Species:M. capensis
I remark on this only because it was a discussion topic at the camp.

The game cameras used are pretty cool: Moultrie.

Friday, August 11, 2017

TWIC: ideas, self-publishing, toronto library, crowded sky, 78s,

Where do you (or does N.K. Jemison) get your (her) ideas?
Make a living as a self-published author. (10 tips)
I wake up at or around 5:00 AM every morning, without an alarm. Why would I need one? Even before my feet hit the floor, I’m excited to get started. I love what I do. My neighbors must wonder, Why is that man with the giant nose ALWAYS smiling?
This perfectly describes how I want to feel -and also my nose. When I am busy, I wake up already knowing what I will do that day. This feeling is both thrilling and exhausting. I think I need to find a balance between the two feelings. Usually, I feel neither thrilled nor all that tired.
Toronto's science fiction library has a new head librarian (Check out the URL; I wonder what titles they were first thinking of to come up with that). I think it's cool that Toronto has a science fiction library even beyond that the head it changing. another reason to go home.
I have in mind to try -some day- writing a story set in a 'crowded sky' as described on this blog. The blog post uses gas giants in the Goldilocks zone of a star to cram in many Earth-sized moons. They also place pairs of Earth-sized planets at the LaGrange points to eventually fit in 36 or more habitable planets. New Scientist offers a summary. Now, Scientific American offers news on how common - or in fact, not - moons are as observed around distant stars. This set of links in this post are mostly for my own reference, I guess.
Another link not directly related to this blog's intended content: I often offer links to archives of public domain material and I am not sure if this qualifies but if it doesn't, I think it will soon. Archive dot org has 25,000 songs digitized from old 78 records. Kottke has a summary of what this means.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Gangwon Animals: Steppe Rat Snake

Behold the beautiful Elaphe Dione:

This is an entirely non-venomous snake and I wonder if it is kept as a pet in Asia.
Found here.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

TWIC: Leonardo, d&d, setting

I am using the spotty internet service at camp so although this link to Leonardo's notebooks digitized looks interesting, I cannot see them myself. As Boingboing points out, the notebooks are written in Leonardo's unique right-to-left style and in Italian.
Escaping Prison with D & D. THe game itself requires creativity, but in prison it also requires creativity to acquire dice. Gambling is forbidden so dice are not allowed. Inmates use paper templates and origami to make their own and they even test them for randomness.
Setting can be a character.  As a reader of science fiction and fantasy, I say of course but the best example I can think of is Tony Hillerman's series of books set on reservation land in the American south west. The location was a real but unobtrusive character. His daughter(? or wife?) continued the series and is a skilled writer but the descriptions of the setting seem more obtrusive to me.