Sunday, November 21, 2010

Quote of the Day

Courtesy of the inimitable Julia Child, from a letter to Avis DeVoto on January 19, 1953:

"All this chef-hostess stuff is my particular interest ... but it does take practice and experience, so the stuff is really hot, but not over-done, etc.  When we get into 'recipes for dishes,' we plan always to have 'make ahead' notes for everything, including veg.  (I also think the young hostess should be advised never to say anything about what she serves, in the way of 'Oh, I don't know how to cook, and this may be awful,' or 'poor little me,' or 'this didn't turn out' ... etc. etc.  It is so dreadful to have to reassure one's hostess the everything is delicious, whether or not it is.  I make it a rule, no mater what happens, never to say one word, thought it kills me.  Maybe the cat has fallen in the stew, or I have put the lettuce out the window and it has frozen, or the meat is not quite done ... Grits one's teeth and smile.)"

Source: Page 46 of As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, Food Friendship and the Making of a Masterpiece, edited by Joan Reardon

I have only just started but am enjoying this collection immensely, even if I am having a bit of trouble deciding if I am eavesdropping on a private conversation between these two charming women or have been granted the opportunity to be a silent participant in same.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Which quote is the quote?

"If we have multiiple, highly skilled Special Operations forces identifying targets for precision-guided munitions, we will need fewer conventional ground forces. That's an important lesson learned from Afghanistan."
General Tommy Franks, in "American Soldier"
"If we have multiple, highly skilled Special Operations forces identifying targets for precision-guided munitions, we will need fewer conventional ground forces. That's an important lesson learned from Afghanistan."
George W. Bush, in "Decision Points"

No, I have not read both books.  I have not read either book.  I am not even 100% sure that this is not the stuff of urban legend (after all, pages are not cited).  I snagged these two quotes from, and while the entries under the "Say What?" heading usually amuse me, sometimes they are taken too far out of context to understand or to interpret any way other than incorrectly, so I continue to be a bit suspicious.

(Besides, doesn't the site's webmaster know that book titles belong in italics or underlined and not in quotes??)

Maybe they had the same ghost writer.  Maybe Tommy Franks is George W. Bush's ghost writer.  Maybe the laughable part is the idea that anyone with significant political or military power in this country has actually learned anything from the military operations in Afghanistan.

Draw your own conclusions as you will.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jealous much?

Not everyone thinks that writing should be a torturous experience, although I understand that for some people it is.  I would like to be so bold as to suggest that if it is really that terrible, then don't do it.

As observed in the comments at the end of the article, Mr. Gresko has missed the point.  The point isn't great literature (although that is not ruled out as a possibility) but writing.  NaNoWriMo (I do not have the same aversion to the abbreviation that a writer who chooses to use a particularly erudite word like "hooey" in his headline) participants don't sit down and *try* to write crap.  They sit down and write.  The result might be terrible.  It might be good.  It might even be brilliant in spots.

The point is that the only way to write is to sit down and do it. Writing is writing. Preparing to write is not writing.  Thinking about writing is not writing.  Researching what you are going to write about is not writing.  Reading is not writing.  Talking about writing is not writing.  Writing is writing.

The goal is not to be bitter and complaining about how many years have gone by since the novel was started.  The goal is to put together fifty thousand words of prose fiction in thirty days.  I would even be willing to go so far as to say that the goal is to learn something in the process (even if the word count at the end of the month is less than fifty thousand) and a feeling of accomplishment when it is all over.

This is my second year taking the National Novel Writing Month challenge.  I learned quite a bit last year (although I have not touched that heap of writing since), and I am learning more this year.  One might even go so far as to say that I am building on last year's experience, and learning more about my writing means that I can improve it.

My suggestion to Mr. Gresko is that he stop wasting word count complaining about an activity enjoyed by thousands of people all over the world and get back to one of his unfinished novels.

That said, I am going to stop ironically expending word count on a blog post and get back to writing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

Since I read a lot of books in a similar vein with similar storylines, challenges, themes and characters, I am always looking for an author to surprise me and draw me in with a different twist or take on familiar elements.

Voices of Dragons is a little more serious and a little less whimsical than a lot of the teen urban fantasy type books I have read.  It took some getting used to, but overall it was worth reading.  A savvy metaphor for the contemporary state of the world.

The setting is completely contemporary and modern. The only thing that isn't "normal" is the fact that there are dragons in the world, which is a bit jarring. It takes some getting used to that there is only one thing "out of place," only one magical element -- as opposed to, say, having a character discover that there is an entire magical world.

The dragons are not so much considered magical as large, powerful, intelligent, virtually eternal creatures whose fire breathing capability enables them to have extremely destructive potential. They are relegated behind borders negotiated sixty years ago, after the dragons took issue with the disturbance caused by the testing and detonating of atomic bombs during World War II. Neither human nor dragon is allowed to cross the borders. There is no contact, no communication. It is forbidden and illegal. As a friend pointed out to me, it has a very Cold War feel to it.

One day, Kay accidentally crosses the border when she slips and falls into a river while cooling off after a hike. A dragon not only saves her life rather than letting her die or eating her himself but also asks her to come back again and visit. He wants to practice his English. He is curious. He wants to learn. And so does Kay.

As the fragile and unlikely friendship grows, the larger situation becomes more unstable. The military can't leave well enough alone and begins testing the border ... in order to test new weapons. As the situation escalates, Kay and her dragon friend must make some extremely difficult (and courageous) choices.

The lessons about choosing education, communication and cooperation over suspicion, hostility and provocation are well taught, as is the importance of doing something for the greater good and the longer term, rather than focusing on the moment and the individual.