Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disney Buys Star Wars (j)

In case you haven't heard, the Twitter-sphere and the internet in general is abuzz with the jaw-dropping news that George Lucas has decided to retire, and has handed over the reins of his multi-million dollar baby Star Wars to - yes, you heard correctly - Disney.  The opinions vary, and I myself am nothing but skeptical about this change... and the supposed plans to create "episodes" 7, 8 and 9 in the next decade or so.  I'll reserve actual judgment when the details come out.  Otherwise, I hope Mr. Lucas enjoys his retirement. 

Leia Organa contemplates change in The Empire Strikes Back.

Adventures in Logophilia Day 50: el chupacabra (j)

Happy Halloween!  Today's spooky word is...

El chupacabra (noun) is an animal said to exist in parts of Latin America - particularly Puero Rico - where it supposedly attacks animals, especially goats and drains them of blood.  The word literally means "goat sucker" in Spanish. This was the "monster of the week" in the 4th season of The X-Files entitled "El Mundo Gira," and became a dry joke between Mulder and Scully in later episodes.   According to Ye Olde Wiky-paedia, this legend/mystery emerged in 1995 in PR, killing goats and sheep, and has been "seen" in random locations in the US ever since: about the size of a bear with spines along its back.  Some "witnesses" describe it similiarly to an alien in the movie Species.  It's existence (like Bigfoot and his contemporaries) has never been confirmed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 49: fell (j)

Today's Halloweenish word is...

Fell (an adjective) is a semi-archaic word that means fierce, cruel, terrible, sinister and malevolent.  It can also mean sharp or pungent (I'm assuming on terms of odors.)  I first heard this word when I saw The Fellowship of the Ring, only I didn't know it at the time.  The Fellowship attempts to climb the mountains over Moria, and Saruman is thwarting their progress by means of sorcery and chants.  Legolas percieves that something is amiss and says "There is a fell voice on the air."  Only at the time, I thought he said "There is a foul voice on the air," which seems just as appropriate.  I don't think I realized the different until I actually read the book. 

A fell is also a noun meaning a high barren field or moor, such as this one.  This picture was taken in North Yorkshire on Skipton Moor.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Wisdom from Yesteryear (j & m)

[hulk-from-the-movie.jpg]I am perusing the Daedalus posts of yesteryear, and have come across an old post Michelle wrote almost four years ago on the dangers of not writing and striving to appease the inner artist child.  Otherwise, you might turn into the Hulk. Para-paraphrase, of course.  She put it far more articulately. I find my rediscovery of this to be quite apt as I've not had proper write time in a while - thanks the Sturm un Drang of this month and various synopsis things.  (Excuses excuses.)   Please read

Adventures in Logophilia Day 48: bete noire (j)

Today's word is...

A bete noire (noun, meaning "black beast" in French) is a person or thing strongly disliked or feared.  It could be the candidate you don't want for President.  It could be the cat lurking around the corner, ready to pounce (in our house, we call this special kind of bete noire the "furtive beast").  It could be a thing of deeper nightmares. It is anything and everything that could possibly be out to get you, hold you down, giggling as you struggle.  Perhaps in that cornfield with the eyeshine.


Adventures in Logophilia Day 47: necropolis (j)

The word for day 47 is...

A necropolis (noun) is a fancy (possibily euphemistic) word for a cemetery, particularly a large cemetery in an ancient city.  I rather tend to compare the structure of this word to "metropolis" and "cosmopolis"... and "city of the dead" comes to mind.  Creepy because, if you think about it, that is exactly what a cemetery is: a community of dead people.  It makes me want to read The Graveyard Book again. Never has there been a more charming necropolis than in Neil Gaiman's book.

Adventures in Logophilia Day 46: moonset (j)

The word for day 46 is...

Moonset (noun) is the setting of the moon below the horizon.  Indicating that the ghosts, goblins and vampires have gone to bed. 

This word has particular poetry to it - a realization that it's not just the sun that rises and sets.  In the Doctor Who episode "Smith and Jones", the Doctor and Martha team up when the hospital they're in is transported inexplicably to the moon.  At one point the Doctor marvels; they are standing in the "earth light."  How beautiful a simple change of perspective can be.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 45: eyeshine (j)

Today's word is...

Eyeshine (noun) is the reflection of light from the inner surface of the eye through the pupil, giving the eye a luminous appearance, especially in cats.  This is an affect of something called the tapetum lucidum (meaning "bright tapestry" in the Latin), which is a layer of tissue found directly behind or sometimes within the retina.  Humans do not have eyeshine.  But wouldn't it be super creepy if they did?  So here's your warning - if when out in this most haunted of seasons trick-or-treating or wandering a cornfield and you happen to spot a human with glowing eyes... it's probably not human.  Run! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 44: golem (j)

Today's sort of creepy word is...

A golem is an element of Jewish folklore in which a clay figure is brought to life by magic.  According to Ye Olde Wiky-paedia, the first reference for a golem comes from Psalm 139:16 "my unshaped form."  Golems have been formed supposedly for defense or menial tasks, a creature made of mud with holy words etched into its forehead or around its neck, which once taken away will reduce the creature to dust.  I came across this term in two places: Sherlock and The X-Files.  In "Kaddish" an episode in the fourth season of The X-Files, Mulder and Scully investigate mysterious happenings in a Hasidic community, murders that can only be attributed to the golem-esque reincarnation of a dead man.    In the first series of Sherlock, "The Great Game" a serial killer - a giant of a man with laptodactylic features and superhuman strength - referred to as a "golem" is a component of Moriarty's web of crime.  Great name for a villain, huh?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 43: skullduggery (j)

Today's word is...


At first glance, I would have said that skullduggery probably had something to do with "digging up skulls" but not according to the Lexicon.  Skullduggery (noun) is a word for crafty deception or trickery.  Body-switching, perhaps? 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 42: gloaming (j)

Today's word is...


Gloaming (a noun) is another word for twilight or dusk.  I first happened upon it in Jane Eyre and many more contemporary places since.

Retellings: Sherlock vs Elementary (jillian)

'Tis the season of retellings... particularly on terms of television.  I've been trying to wrap my head around the new CBS series Elementary, which sees Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in contemporary New York with Lucy Liu as his sidekick Joan Watson.  The Telegraph has a nice article on it, today. I've not seen it because television in general tends to eat time, but I have to admit I am curious now to see if it works or if it flops. 

As a devotee of BBC's Sherlock, I came to this as a bit of a biased snob.  "What?  Making Watson a woman?  Taking Sherlock out of London?"  Etcetera, etcetera.  But, of course, people probably said the same when Sherlock came out in 2010: "How can Benedict Cumberbatch possibly be better than Jeremy Brett?  The idea!"  But... while these misgivings are valid in their own way, I've come to realize or remember with humility that these are all retellings, not the original story. 

Like my argument about viewing a book and its subequent film or films as different animals (i.e. Pride and Prejudice), I think we need to look at the different versions of the stories as equally legitimate renderings.  There cannot be one "true" film or television verson of a story.  Each will be different.  Elementary chooses to emphasize Sherlock as a brilliant drug addict with tattoos, and Watson as a woman and the doctor assigned to keep him sober.  In Sherlock, he labels himself a "high functioning sociopath" and texts compulsively, as Watson is the roommate who keeps him in line and keeps him human.  One show is American, the other is British.  One is slated as a regular series, the other is a miniseries.  The comparisons continue, but neither is wrong.  Both are a celebration of the original seed of the Sherlock Holmes stories that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in the late 19th century.  To nitpick about Watson's gender or Sherlock's hair color is to totally miss the point.  The details are just colors, shadows and angles.  The writers, actors and directors of both shows have distinctly different ideas about what makes those stories and characters so compelling.  That's why I sit humbly on my hands when i think about my ire for Ridley Scott's Robin Hood.  No one owns Robin Hood.  No one owns Sherlock Holmes.  They belong to everyone.

Retellings are in our blood, those left-over Anglo-Saxon narrative impulses.  Our version of Beowulf isn't the original, but it celebrates the original seed of the story.  Same with King Arthur and Robin Hood, and Homer's tales.  In this era, the stories have evolved from oral anonymities to published works.  I ask again, how many times has Pride and Prejudice or Great Expectations made it to a miniseries or theatrical form?  Many times celebrated.  If anything, film versions always bring the most intrigued back to the source, back to reading how the "real" Sherlock Holmes solved mysteries, made meticulous observations and shot cocaine when he was bored.  (No, I don't condone him.  We're not supposed to.)  So how can multiple versions be a bad thing?  And can't they co-exist? 


So... pick your poison!

Elementary starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu.  CBS.

Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  BBC.

Synopsis Metaphor (jillian)

A metaphor for you...

This is how I've come to think of writing synopses and queries: writing a synopsis is like orbiting the earth whereas writing a novel is being on the ground, engaging in the world. (Pretend that my pattern of orbit on the left actually makes sense.) When you orbit a planet, you take in a very general view, but no less breathtaking angle, of the Earth.  When you're actually writing a novel, you are inside and very intimately involved with the details.  So actually, writing a synopsis or the actual the novel comes down to a matter of angles and viewpoints, a telescope or a microscope.  Suddenly everything about this process becomes less daunting if I look at this way.  I'm orbiting.  It may not be fun, but it's a good skill to have, a good exercise to use in the aftermath of a year and a half of work.  What does my novel look like from a distance?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 41: will-o'-the-wisp (j)

Today's word with a sort-of-All-Hallows tilt is...


Will-o'-the-wisp (noun) is a phosphorescent light that appears in the night over marshes and is thought to be due to the combustion of gas from decomposed organic matter.  In other words, a ghostly light in a swamp.  Another name for it is ignis fatuus.  More metaphorically speaking, will-o'-the-wisp can refer to a goal or a person difficult to reach or catch.  According to Oxford Dictionaries, this is a 17th century word originally known as "will with the wisp", the wisp being a lighted torch.  This always puts to mind Tolkein's Dead Marshes from The Two Towers, as Frodo and Sam follow Gollum through the ghostly lights passed dead things in the water.  Freakiest passage ever.  Freakiest movie scene as well.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 40: harpy (jillian)

Today's word is...


A harpy (noun) is a predatory monster from Greek mythology, which has a woman's head and a vulture's body.  A contemporary harpy would be a predatory person or a leech, and also a shrewish woman.  Not your average insult, eh?  More effective, too.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 39: fey (jillian)

Continuing with our Halloween theme, today's creepy word is...

Fey (an adjective) simply means "fated to die", and something that is fey is foreboding of death or major calamity.  It can also mean crazy - something marked by a strange, otherworldly air.   Other uses of the word are "excessively refined", "dainty or precious" or "quaintly unconventional."  Fey, as a harbinger of death, was probably the earliest use - pointing to fairies who were the scapegoats for sudden, unexplainable death and everyday inconveniences (oh, no!  The milk went sour!) in early centuries.  In my first lesson on the Middle Ages - Catherine Called Birdy - a character dies in her sleep and she is considered "elf shot" because there isn't a mark of trauma on the body.  Elf shot.  Stroke.  Same thing, right?  I don't think we will ever stop being shaken to the core by death, no matter what the explanation.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 38: chimera (jillian)

Today's word is...



A chimera (noun and sometimes capitalized) is a fire-breathing she-monster from Greek mythology with a lion's head, a goat's body and a serpent's tail.  Chimera has come to describe any imaginary hybrid monster.  Chimera is also one of my favorite metaphors describing a illusion, vision or an unfathomable, soul-shaking nightmare.  In biology and genetics, the term refers to an individual made of unmatching genetic material; in theory what might happen if an embryo sometime in the early stages of division absorbs another "sibling" embryo. One also thinks of chimeras in regards to conjoined human twins or a cat born with two heads - phenomena stranger than fiction.  If that's not an image for Halloween, I don't know what is.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 37: Lycanthropia (jillian)

Today's word is...


Lycanthropia (an archaic noun) refers to "a variety of melancholy in which the person believes himself to be changed into a wolf." (From Jeffrey Kacirk's Forgotten English) Therefore a lycanthrope is a werewolf - not someone who likes lichens.  That would be "lichenthrope."  According to Oxford Dictionaries lycanthrope is a 17th century term.  So... not medieval but a decidedly early modern paranoia.  It makes me wonder how the werewolf myth began in the first place.

As it is so close to Halloween, I should have put this word into spooky calligraphy, but alas, I ran out of time this morning. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Whimsy on Wednesday (Jillian)

A little literary news reel for you:

  • On the Telegraph, British author Hilary Mantel has won the Man Booker Prize for her novel Bring Up the Bodies, a sequel to Wolf Hall, which follows Thomas Cromwell at the court of Henry VIII.  Bring Up the Bodies details the Anne Boleyn scandal and her unhappy end.  Ms. Mantel is one of two authors to have won the Man Booker Prize twice and the only woman to do so.  This is a great testament to the power of fiction written well... and historical fiction at that.  Hers is the only Tudor-esque novel out of the hundreds that exist that I want very badly to read. 
  • Ian McEwan, also a Booker Prize winner, has said recently that the novella is the perfect literary form.  He might be right but that's quite a difficult thing to accomplish.
  • NPR has a lovely article on the 60th anniversary of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web.
  • National Novel Writing Month is coming up in November.  Writer Unboxed has several posts on preparing for the project.  I am considering participating in it this year, if only to maintain my sanity during this time of the Sisyphean synopsis.  I think it would be a good way to churn out a first draft of a novel, intense though it may be. 
  • Publishers Marketplace had an article on Ann Patchett interviewing JK Rowling.  One tidbit I found interesting: "I find that discussing an idea out loud is often the way to kill it stone dead.  They all sound rubbish," she said. I find this to be particularly true.  My ideas for stories or little nuances in my novel must be kept inside - let out too soon, even in private dialogue with oneself, and the idea evaporates or turns to dust. 

Adventures in Logophilia Day 36: St. Luke's Summer (Jillian)

Today's word/phrase is...

Saint Luke's summer

According to Oxford Dictionaries, Saint Luke's summer (a British term) is a period of fine weather around the 18th of October, which is Saint Luke's feast day.  I honestly don't remember how I came across this phrase, but it fascinates me... an older version of what we'd call "Indian summer."  Especially in England and Europe where the days of the year were marked by saints' days and sundry feasts, this makes particular sense.  It puts a new spin on the word lukewarm, as well. 

It makes for an interesting metaphor - a little pocket of summer come to rest inside another season.  For the last several days we've had a glorious St. Luke's summer: the leaves are golden, red, orange and purple, beautiful autumn, and yet temperatures climbed into the 80s.  It was summer.  I tend to enjoy these bizarre weather-fronts: the odd January days that reach the 60s or 70s and melt a month's worth of snow; the chilly, blustery fronts in July when we suddenly wonder where the oven of summer has gone.  They're rogue summers and winters - visiting out of season but welcome guests nonetheless.  I don't think it's as significant as climate change, but weather-change and weather-mood. 

There is another version of Saint Luke's summer which is Saint Martin's summer, basically nice, warm weather around the 11th of November, the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Sisyphean Synopsis (Jillian)

I mentioned Sisyphus this morning right?  He was the man with the impossible task of rolling a boulder up a hill only to have it go rolling down again - eternal punishment for something he did to the chagrin of the gods. 

Since I've completed my novel and intend to send it to agents - the starting point for any novelist hoping to publish - there have been the inevitable tasks to complete, ends to sew up tightly, advice to be read and heeded.  It was quite a strange transition to make from one day being immersed in a world of words to the next when I was on my own again, orbiting that world instead of walking it.  The tasks are writing the dreaded query letter and writing a synopsis.  Ick.  Double ick.

The query letter is a basic, basic, basic letter no more than one page long.  It is the piece of writing one emails/mails to an agent, selling one's book in a matter of two (sometimes three) well-crafted paragraphs... in other words, just a handful of sentences to grab his/her attention.  The first paragraph involves the hook sentence much like that on a book jacket that encapsulates the novel's story, essence and selling-potential in one go.  The next paragraph is a slightly bigger expansion or synopsis of that hook paragraph.  The third is a discussion of one's credentials.  Etcetera.

Somehow I wrote it, rewrote it, embellished, pared down, expanded, pared down, cut, cut, cut, until the thing was the epitome of professional succinctness and naunce.  It is not easy, I tell you, to "say more with less" but it can be done.  After all, writing 125,000 words is a lot easier than 500 or 300: greater margin for error, for one thing. I think if one comes out of the process with a satisfactory query letter one doesn't mind showing to friends and complete strangers, one has grown as a writer.

The synopsis is my present onus.  This is a 1-2 page summary of the book, written dryly with all the facts about the story more or less revealed in sequence.  I didn't realize I needed one until I began to look at submission requirements to particular agencies and did a little subsequent research.  Luckily, Chuck Sambuchino of Writer Unboxed posted some advice on this very thing months ago, of which I found helpful.  One of the things I learned is that a synopsis is very important in genre fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, bla, bla) so that agents can easily follow whether or not one's novel has Acts I, III and III in the right places and in the right proportions.  It makes perfect sense, and yet it seems hopelessly Sisyphean.

Of course, my novel is science fiction, and I realized there is no way around this thing.  "One to two pages?" I asked aloud.  No one heard but the cat, who thinks I'm a nut anyway. "Double spaced?  How can I implode an entire 125,000 word novel into two pages?" The camel through the needle's eye... sort of...

When my panic wore off, I had to remind myself that I thought the exact same thing for the query.  Then, the reaction had been, "An entire novel in one paragraph?  Can't do it!" Obviously, I could and did, but it took me a while.  I'm in the process of reminding myself that the synopsis is really just a bit bigger than the query itself, another expansion of the details presented in those little paragraphs.  But slogging through it in the meantime is utter torture.

Advice to self (and others):

1.) Work on the synopsis a little every day, just like the query letter, then put it away and work on something else.  The first versions will stink, but first drafts of anything usually do.  If you don't have a first draft, how else can you write a better second draft and a good third draft?

2.) Patience.  When I'm on roll - having just finished a project or otherwise blindsided with enthusiasm and overconfidence - I often get the delusion that I can send out the query letter or the entire submission inside of a week if I just work hard enough on it.  This is unrealistic thinking.  Better to take time on something like a query or a synopsis than to send something off that it is rough around the edges.  Remember that you don't have a deadline yet.  That will come later.  Above all: no self-deprecations!

3.) Simplify, simplify, simplify, as Mr. Thoreau said.

4.) In the hours spent away from the query or synopsis, write something from the heart - get back into a routine.  Otherwise, you may feel drained and blocked for no reason.  Writing a query letter or a synopsis does not preclude you from going ahead with new stories.  This is for your sanity.

5.) Read lots of advice on formatting, etc.  Don't ignore it.

6.) Remember that you are doing this for your novel, your brainchild.  It is worth the torture.  And it might not nearly be as bad it seemed at the end.

All right.  Back to the boulder up the hill...

Adventures in Logophilia Day 35: Niobe (jillian)

Today's word is...

In Greek mythology, Niobe (noun) was the daughter of Tantalus and the wife of Amphion, of whom Homer refers to in the Iliad.  The gods punished her for an over abundance of pride (or hubris, which means "excessive self-pride or confidence" either in honor or in defiance of the gods... leading to a smack-down) with the deaths of her children.While weeping for her slain children she was turned into a stone from which her tears continue to flow. 

Niobe turns up in metaphor the way that Sisyphus and Oedipus do, and we just can't remember where we've heard the name before.  Homer did, of course, pack on the characters.  Well, now we both know that any reference to Niobe implies sorrowful, eternal weeping. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 34: juvenescence (jillian)

Today's word is...

Juvenescence (noun) is the state of being youthful or of growing young.  My goal/resolution/mantra every birthday. 

Adventures in Logophilia Day 33: brackish

The word for Day 33 is...

Something brackish (adjective) is described as either somewhat salty; or not appealing to the taste and therefore repulsive.  This is the perfect word to describe the bread I made yesterday - 'twas brackish and wouldn't rise for the life of me, even though I followed the recipe in the bread-machine booklet.  Naturally, the loaf went into the bin, and I was thirsty the rest of the evening.

Adventures in Logophilia Day 32: pomaceous (Jillian)

The word for Day 32 on our logophiliac journey is...

Something pomaceous (adjective) is of or relates to apples... or resembling a pome (an apple).   We've entered into a time of apples, all right.  The only apple I can really stand these days is a Jonathan, perhaps because they are sweet in a way I don't find disgusting like a Gala or a Braeburn.  Unfortunately, I've noticed, the worms like Jonathans, too.

Adventures in Logophilia Day 31: katzenjammer (Jillian)

The word for Day 31 is...

Katzenjammer (noun) is distress, depression or confusion resembling that caused by a hangover; a discordant clamor.  It is a German word constructed of "cats" and "distress", so it could conceivably refer to the mess left behind by an overly curious cat longing for attention, as well as a pounding headache or a panic attack.  Perhaps all three at once.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 30: Anthropomorphic (jillian)

Today's word is...


Try saying that three times fast!  Anthropomorphic (an adjective and proof that if you force yourself to write it out several times you will eventually learn to spell it properly) simply is an act of attributing human qualities to non-humans. 

No one was better at this than Beatrix Potter.  I grew up with tales of Tom Kitten, Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin - speaking, getting into trouble, trying to run away from home (and sometimes winding up victim to a family of kitten-hungry rats... roly poly roly...).  It filled me with such joy when I heard Emma Thompson, actress and writer, came to write the further adventures of Peter Rabbit.  On NPR today, there is an excerpt with illustrations of the new book, and it seems to be as charming as its predecessors.  Please take a look!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 27, 28, 29 (Jillian)

It has been a crazy handful of days, so we're playing catch-up here at Daedalus Notes.  So... here are three words for today to fill in the days:


Day 27.  A cabal (noun, pronounced ka-BAL) is a secret clique or faction (sometimes political) trying to overturn something or have their own way.  I attribute this word to Michelle, as she used it several times during our visit.  Beware cabals for those in them may not be aware they are cabalists (which is now a word, sort-of-rhyming with "catalysts", and therefore can also be spelled "cabalysts.").  They may be lurking in unsuspecting places.  They may be the reason for your inexplicable stomach aches or back pains.


Day 28.  Something pluvial (an adjective) relates to or is characterized by rainfall; it is ultimately from the Latin word "pluvia" for rain.  Yes, we had our rainy days aplenty in New England this last week.  Michelle and I spent a few afternoons huddled by the light-box, drinking tea. 

mackerel sky

Day 29. A mackerel sky (noun) occurs when the sky is dappled with rows of small, white fleecy clouds (cirrocumulus), a pattern which resembles the spots on a mackerel's back.  I saw such a sky when Michelle and I were on the boat after seeing whales, heading back into Gloucester, a testament to the near-perfect weather we experienced that day.  Whales, mackerel-clouds, water painted silver in the sunwash.  What more could one ask for?


And a whimsy for today.  The great Salman Rushdie, whose autobiographical work Joseph Anton was published recently, was quoted commenting on Fifty Shades of Grey in the Telegraph: "It made Twilight look like War and Peace." I laughed.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 26: fluke (Jillian)

Today's word is...

A fluke (noun) is many things: (1) an unlikely chance occurrence, (2) a parasitic flat worm (ew); or (3) a triangular plate on the arm of an anchor, or either of the lobes on a whale's tail.
Guess which one I saw yesterday:
I think I saw fluke 1 and 3 yesterday: a chance happening and a whale's tail.  Aren't they the same thing?  I think so.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 25: Frisson

Today's word is:

I am currently experiencing a frisson (noun, pronounced FREE-zon), which is a French term for a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear, a thrill.  We are going on a whale watch today.  That's pretty thrilling, I'd say, for a girl from the prairie, who has seen more buffalo than whales in her lifetime.  Coming to the ocean itself is always a new experience, like being on the edge of the world and knowing there is an entirely new environment with new creatures out there to discover by catamaran, kayak or tourist boat.  I've seen dolphins off the Gulf Coast of Florida and patted sting rays in Boston.  There is nothing like this new-world thrill. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 24: Watershed

Today's word is:

A watershed (noun) is a divide or, more specifically, a region or area bounded peripherally by a divide and draining ultimately into a particular watercourse or body of water.  This is used to describe a crucial dividing point, line or factor; a turning point.  A watershed moment.
Always, I've found, that coming to see Michelle divides little epochs in my life.  The last time I was here, I had the spark of inspiration for a novel.  This time, I am learning to test the waters of a writer-in-the-world.  This is the point where things have come into total clarity (or near-total clarity), and I cannot go back to the former way of thinking about graduate school or how it relates to my worth as a writer.  I am in watershed days now, and I am excited to see what pool these waters eventually fill.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Days 21, 22, 23 (Jillian)

I've been travelling this week, so the logophilia had to be pushed aside for a few days.  Nonetheless, here are a few snippets for your enjoyment:

Day 21:

One who is maladroit (adjective) is clumsy and tactless.  I thought this was especially appropriate considering episodes that happened Monday, as I wore contact lenses for the first time in ages and as I adapted to the sudden change in depth perception, I found myself tripping over things and running into walls.  Classic, unrehearshed, unintended slapstick.
Day 22:

A marplot (noun) is one who frustrates or ruins a plan or undertaking through his or her conscious or unconscious meddling.  According to Oxford Dictionaries, this word is indicative of a 17th century tendency to add "mar-" to nouns to create a term for someone who "mars" or "spoils" something, like "marjoy" or our version of it "killjoy." 

I've thought about this word and I couldn't help but envision it as a tactless person who inadvertantly spoils the major plot details and ending of a movie his or her friend hasn't seen yet.  In other words: spoilers.  I was a kid when the original Star Wars trilogy was re-released into theatres.  I went to see The Empire Strikes Back with a friend from school, and I remember her saying, "You do know that Luke and Leia are brother and sister, right?" I was both stunned and dubious.  Then, I went home and asked my parents at dinner, thereby spoiling it for my sister who hadn't known either.

Day 23:

 A quinquennium, simply put, is a period of five years.
This is one of those "there's a word for that?" terms.  It makes the word "decade" almost boring - so you could say instead "Two quinquennia ago, I was in high school." It will make you sound cool and learned.  It is one of those long words normal people would not use, and probably shouldn't use in everyday life, but I firmly believe that even big words can be used in our writing if done so with great care. 
Until tomorrow...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Questions on Simmer for Gone With The Wind (jillian)

This will be short, but I wanted to share.  I stumbled across an article from last week on the NPR website, linking two previous reflections from May - two different authors (Jodi Picoult and Jesmyn Ward) takes on Gone With The Wind.  Having recently read it myself, I am constructing a longer blog-post in my head about the problems with and the strengths of the story, mostly on terms of character.  But it is interesting to hear what others think about the iconic novel for good or bad.

Adventures in Logophilia Day 19: Michaelmas

Today's word is Michaelmas (noun, of course), the feast day of St. Michael, otherwise known as the Archangel Michael. 

I chose Michaelmas because I'd meant to write about it on September 29th and subsequently forgot.  Michaelmas is a milestone date in the medieval calendar: harvest-time, formerly a holy day of obligation, and recognized as the fall quarterly when accounts were settled between peasants and their overlords.  One of my favorite, oft-read books as a child was Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman, depicting life from the point of view of a thirteen year old girl in England in1290 .  It's brilliant.  I still read it to this day actually, because it paints a vivid picture of the feast days, the uncertainty of life and the wonder that inhabited the world in those days.  Michaelmas was one such feature and showed the peasants "settling accounts" with (and trying to cheat) Catherine's father, and the entire community feasting and carousing.  Lammas (first of August, marking harvest) and Michaelmas marked the passing of time, the days before All Hallows and the coming on of winter, like our own Labor Day or even this rash of football Saturdays that spread across town.  (Even more appropriate as this football team's color is an unmistakable shade of red.)  I remember being absolutely fascinated with celebrations long-gone that sounded like Christmas.  That was before I understand what the "mass" implied and some of the mystery went out of it, but still... curiosity is and always has been fuel for me.

Michaelmas, I came to learn some years ago, is how Oxford and other British universities mark the beginning of the autumn term, called Michaelmas Term.  The first week of classes (called North Week) begins the first week of October.  The spring term is Hilary, the summer term is Trinity. 


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