summer plans

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The first week of summer vacation

Published May 19, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Just looking over how this first week has been treating me.  Or rather, how I’ve been treating it.  Or rather, how well I have — or have not — been living up to my plans.

Spoiler alert:  I have not been living up to my plans, at all.

So, my weekly plan was as follows:

  1. On Mondays, go out to lunch someplace nice, taking my laptop, and work at least an hour on my fiction writing.
  2. On Tuesdays, go out to lunch someplace nice, taking my laptop, and work at least an hour on my ludicrous desire to write (misanthropic) philosophy.
  3. Spend Thursdays cleaning my house.
  4. Find time every week — maybe even every day — to work on my mythological project.
  5. Read some of the fiction on my backlog pile.  Again, reading some every day.
  6. Start swimming laps every evening, or at least most evenings.  (Technically not an option on Sundays, when the Y closes early.)

My specific plans for this week were to make three very important phone calls first thing Monday morning, do my laundry, go shopping to get the new clothes I desperately need, go grocery shopping before I run entirely out of food, deposit my tax refund at the bank, and finish up some dolly projects.

My results:

  1. I didn’t go out to lunch on Monday or Tuesday, but I have done a lot of work on my fiction.  Sort of.
  2. I haven’t even started the whole philosophy thing, though I know where I’m probably going to start.  Probably.
  3. Okay, technically, Thursday is only just starting, but…yeah, not likely to get any cleaning done.
  4. Haven’t started the mythology project.  Probably because I’m daunted by my desire to start by applying a Derrida-style deconstruction to the Iliad, which sounded like a cool idea when my professor was explaining how real deconstruction worked, but now that the idea is to be applied, it sounds a little overwhelming.  Also because there are a ludicrous number of names in the Iliad, and I’ll have to catalog each one.  (Maybe it’s not the place to start after all…)
  5. have been reading, at least.  But since I decided to start with a Kindle book, I can’t read in the bath, which slows the process.
  6. I haven’t even gone to the Y to pick up the current pool hours, let alone done any swimming.  (I haven’t even checked if my swimsuit still fits…)
  7. I made one of the three phone calls.  Yesterday.
  8. Due to rain, cramps and other general unpleasantness, laundry was not on the table.  (Well, my basement gets pretty damp when it rains.)  I eventually got dragged over to my brother’s house yesterday to “help” him get his stuff packed for his move.  By which he meant for me to sit there in his condo so he’d feel like someone was watching him so he’d have to work.  And so I did half my load of laundry there.  (Well, his condo has a very small washer and drier.)
  9. I felt like I was swollen, so I couldn’t go clothes shopping.  Also I had cramps on Monday, and Tuesday was just too cold and depressing to leave the house.  And then it was sunny yesterday, so I couldn’t drive anywhere because of my stupid arm.
  10. I finally got grocery shopping yesterday.  But I think I forgot some stuff.
  11. I still haven’t deposited that check.
  12. did at least finish one of my dolly projects.  And I almost finished another one.  Only everything seems to be not working right, so I have to take the doll apart again and figure out what’s wrong now and…ugh.  Putting that off for a while.  Because ugh.

So, all in all, not a successful first week of vacation.  Like, at all.

But I do like what I’ve been doing with my writing.

I spent most of the writing time over the last three days working on the “character questions” I came up with, “asking” the questions of each of the leads of the three main projects I was thinking of working on over the summer.  Asking Atalanta, Ariadne and Eurysakes the questions was kind of fun (along with one other character from the first book) but the idea of going back and re-writing their books is still pretty overwhelming.  There’s a lot that’ll need to be done there.

I didn’t get very far in “asking” the questions of the leads of my superhero thing.  I wanted to move on to the third project, the new project for Ashley and Paddy.  (At this point, I think I almost need to give them their own tag.  I keep talking about them.  Mostly in IWSG posts, but still….)

The idea was, basically, as follows:  you know how there’s this trend to give the heroines of romantic comedies a “gay best friend”?  (Or so I’m told.  The most recent romantic comedy I’ve seen was made in the 1990s.  If this trend was around at that time, it wasn’t in any movie I saw.)  Well, so how would the story look if told by that friend?  Especially if he wasn’t a terrible stereotype like I’m sure he would be in the movies.  So, that’s the starting point, with Ashley being the friend in question…though comparing his character questions to hers is pretty funny:  he never mentions her, but she’s always going on about how the two of them are best friends.

I finally began the actual book last night — I’ve done a decent amount of plotting for it, considering it’ll probably be  more of a novella than a novel anyway — and I’m really enjoying Ashley’s voice as a narrator.  (Yeah, it’s first person.  Given the premise of “bad romantic comedy as told by the gay best friend,” I wouldn’t be able to leave his POV, so I might as well just let him narrate.)  I looked up a lot of movies and stuff from the early 1980s (when it’s set) to give me an idea of how people dressed before the 1980s really got going, but I’ve yet to see if any of the more obscure ones are available on Netflix.  (Some of the less obscure ones I don’t even need Netflix for…)

Anyway, I’m thinking I’m going to enjoy this project, and I’ll probably want to talk about it a lot, so you may be bombarded with posts about it.  Consider that your fair warning.

In any case, I’m hoping that in the week to come, I’ll be able to stick to my plan better.  (And no, I don’t plan on filling you in on it every week.)  Also, next week I’m hoping I’ll finally pick up the myth retellings again.

April A-to-Z and Sources

Published May 6, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

So, if you read all my April A-to-Z posts — or even just most of them — you may have noticed that from time to time I complained about having had to pick a new topic at the last minute, and other such complaints.  Well, there was a good reason for that, and I’d like to share it with you…in the form of a lengthy section of text originally intended to be part of the A-to-Z Reflections post, but I decided that since it didn’t actually have much to do with the experience of A-to-Z itself, I should probably put it elsewhere, so I made it into its own post.  Which would be this.  And now I’m stalling by writing nonsense because I don’t want to go back to reading the letters exchanged between Princess Elisabeth and Descartes, because argh.


Yes, I’ll just get on with the actual post now…

The comparative world mythology theme did drive something home for me:  the world needs a really good mythology reference resource.  My plan, when I decided to do this theme, was to look through a few “mythology encyclopedias” I had, jot down information about the candidates that sounded good, and then research them properly.  Well, the one that had the gall to call itself the “ultimate world mythology” encyclopedia only covered Eurasia, and some of what I found in the one on the Americas failed to come up in any other source I found, and almost everything in the book on African mythology failed to come up anywhere else.  I got several books from my university’s library to cover Oceanic myths, and another book on African myths, but then I discovered that the university library gave me access to two online encyclopedias, and I made the mistake of relying on them more heavily than I should have.  (It didn’t help that it turned out I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to dedicate to this project, because on top of class work, my volunteer work turned into employed work, starting with a time-intensive project.)

The first clue I got that there might be something seriously wrong with one of my online sources (the one with far more myths listed, naturally) was when I couldn’t help clicking on the entry for “Patroclus” because the thumbnail text (as it were) made the odd and untenable claim that his father had been king of “Opus” which makes it highly illogical that his father would join him when he was exiled from Opoeis for homicide.  (And yet his shade in the Iliad very clearly states that his family joined him in his exile…)  Anyway, like I said, I clicked on it because I’m such a Patroclos fangirl, and then to my surprise it soon said this:

Achilles, like all children of sea-creatures (his mother was the sea-nymph Thetis), was bisexual, and at Troy took Briseis as his mistress, sleeping with her and with Patroclus on alternate nights.

That was the point I stopped reading, because “um, what?” is the only way to respond to that.  In what text, exactly, did it make the bizarre claim that Achilles’ bisexuality had anything to do with his mother’s aquatic nature?  That was normal in ancient Greece!  There would have been more need to explain it if he had expressly refused ever to enter into relationships with one sex or the other!  (Furthermore, what other child of a “sea-creature” do they have in mind as being expressly bisexual?  Most of the other individuals I can think of who have myths about them pursuing romances with both men and women are decidedly not descended from “sea-creatures”:  Patroclos, Apollo, Heracles, Zeus, possibly Poseidon (who is himself a “sea-creature” of sorts, but isn’t the son of one) and Orpheus, for a handful of easily summoned up examples.  Zephyros is the only one I can think of who is descended from a “sea-creature,” but Pontos was his great-grandfather, not father.)

And what text ever made such precise claims about Achilles’ sexual habits?  The ancient Greeks didn’t actually like to get that specific.  We know that Aischylos portrayed them as lovers, and that Phaedrus in Plato’s Symposium was enthusiastically in favor of that opinion (though he reversed Aischylos’ opinion of which one was “in love” and which was was “loved”), but all surviving texts tended to be pretty vague about such things, and the fact that Phaedrus had to specifically single out Aischylos (several decades out of date by the time of the Symposium‘s events, and even older by the time Plato actually wrote it) indicates that there weren’t that many other texts that talked about the relationship that openly.  (And keep in mind that the Symposium was set in the home of Agathon, the fourth most popular tragic playwright of ancient Athens, who was famous for being in a life-long same sex relationship.  If he never portrayed Achilles and Patroclos as being lovers, then surely it was pretty rare to talk about it!)  Not because no one thought of them that way, but because no one wanted to write about it.  Like religious matters, you just didn’t go there.  It wasn’t done.  And it particularly wouldn’t be done about someone who was both one of the greatest heroes of the ancient world (despite his desperately flawed personality) and was actively being worshiped in several places.

The point where I realized I had a serious problem was actually when I was working on the “U” post, though.  I made the mistake of basing my post on the entry from that same e-book, the Bloomsbury Dictionary of Myth, which said this about Uaica:

Uaica, in the myths of the Juruña people of the Xingu river, was given healing powers by Sinaa the creator, and used them to help his people. He brewed potions, made poultices from herbs and insects, set bones and sang spells to keep mortality at bay. But his powers depended on sexual abstinence, and they waned, first when his people gave him a wife and then when the wife took a lover. Finally the lover tried to kill Uaica, and Uaica disappeared into the ground forever, taking his healing powers with him. Before he went, he offered his people one last chance, if they followed him to the shadow-world; but they refused, and from that day on, human beings have been plagued by disease and death.

Then, late in the post, I realized I’d forgotten to check if it was listed in the other book, the Oxford Dictionary of World Mythology, which had so many fewer entries.  Well, it was listed, and this is what that book had to say about Uaica:

The Asclepius of the Juruna, an Indian tribe living along the Xingu River in Brazil. One day Uaica, out hunting in the forest, noticed a lot of dead animals under a large tree. When he approached the heap of beasts, he felt dizzy, fell down, and went to sleep. In his deep dream he saw Sinaa, the jaguar ancestor of the Juruna, who talked to him. This happened on several occasions till the deity told him to keep away.

Uaica obeyed. He also made a drink from the bark of the tree: from this potent brew he acquired many powers. Uaica became a great medicineman who could take away disease with the touch of his hand. Sinaa would come into his dreams again, and through their conversation all the needs of the people were supplied. Pressed by the Juruna, Uaica consented to marry, but his wife was unfaithful to him. Through this shortcoming and the attempt of her lover on Uaica’s life the Juruna lost the medicine-man. It happened that Uaica, who had eyes in the back of his head, saw the swinging club, and instantly he disappeared into the hole it made on striking the ground. Uaica said: ‘I shall not return. Arrows and clubs will be your lot. I tried to teach what Sinaa wished, but now I go.’ Later the medicine-man is said to have beckoned the Juruna to follow him underground, but they were too baffled and frightened to do so.

Just from that short summary, I can tell the latter version is more accurate, because of the natural, folkloric structure of the story.  More importantly — for my A-to-Z post — it was totally different in the key areas, especially in that in the accurate version, he was never commanded to abstain from sexual relations, so my post was completely screwed up, but it was late enough that I didn’t want to fix it, so I had to post it with the disclaimer that it was wrong.

hated having to do that.

But if I’d fixed it, I’d have lost the comparisons I’d prepared, and would have had to spend time I didn’t have searching out new ones.

Anyway, the frustration made me realize that I really want to see a proper, accurate, and comprehensive encyclopedia out there.  Maybe there already is one, but if there’s one online, I don’t know about it, and if it’s a book, it’s not in my university’s library system.  More importantly, even those online encyclopedias I was consulting — flawed as they were — were only accessible within an academic server (I seriously had to put in my password every single time I wanted to look at the texts) and thus only to a limited few, but a resource like the one I’m describing should be open and available to everyone, because there’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there.  (Especially on movie screens…)

So I plan on working on one myself.

I’m going to go through every primary text available in English (and in other languages once I learn other languages), and I’m going to write entries summarizing each text, and summing up who each character is, and I’m going to do theme-based entries, too.  The characters and themes will start out as just notes, getting fleshed out as I go along, obviously.  All entries — the fleshed out ones, I mean — will have notes explaining where each point comes from, so people can check them out for themselves.  I’m going to do it on LeanPub, so that once there’s enough to be worth others’ time, I can make it available (for free, obviously!) but can keep updating it as I go.  (Then if it’s ever actually completed, it can be moved to more popular places like Amazon.  But still for free, or it would negate the purpose of the project.)  This is one of the projects I’m going to work on over the summer break, as I talked about earlier.  (If anyone would like to help with this, btw, please let me know!  It’s going to be a crazy-slow process, so if anyone wants to tackle primary texts other than the ones I’m starting with (the Iliad, of course, and the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes) then that would be heavenly.)

I know this sounds like a crazy amount of work — and it’s going to be — and it may look like a waste of time, “because there’s Wikipedia.”  But the thing about Wikipedia is that anyone can go in and change things.  (Though admittedly most of the less well-known mythological figures probably don’t get the types who would maliciously/ignorantly enter false data even visiting them, much less bothering to change them.)  And information can go up without being checked, and without any citations.  And there’s just plain a lot of stuff not present there.  (Though I’m ashamed to admit that I consulted it as well during April…)

More importantly, I want to make a resource that could actually be cited academically if need be.  No college would ever accept a paper that cited Wikipedia (I hope!), but I’d like to make a resource that could be cited in a paper without the student losing credit.

It may be crazy, and maybe I’ll never even get it one tenth done, but…I really want to do this project, and I want to do it right.

IWSG – Summer Plans

Published May 4, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

It may be a foolish plan in more ways than one, but I’ve tentatively made up a plan for trying to renew my writer’s spirit after I finally get my final paper in this semester (due a week from tomorrow, ack!).

As far as I know — we haven’t discussed post-semester schedules yet — I’m still going to be working on the weekends, and probably on Fridays as well, if not even more days than that.  (I am at a part-time standing, though, so probably not more than three or four days a week, I’d think?)  But the museum is closed Mondays, so there’s obviously no way I’d be working then.  (Even the director and assistant director don’t go in on Mondays.)

So my plan is that on Mondays I’m going to take my laptop to some fairly laid-back location that sells lunch, and after having my lunch, I’m going to get out my laptop and write for an hour.  I don’t know if I’ll work on my experimental story involving super-powered people, or if I’ll finally get around to the re-writes on my semi-YA series.

Both projects have advantages and disadvantages, so I think I’m going to leave it open as “whatever I feel like at the time.”

In fact, I think I’ll be so open that I’ll be okay with writing something else, too.

The important thing is to get writing again.

A lot of my April A-to-Z posts this year ended up going into full story-telling mode, and I think that’s probably because I was feeling an itch to write fiction again, one I haven’t been able to scratch lately for one reason or another.  (A super-demanding class had something to do with it, for sure!  I have to spend more time on the work for this one class than I’d have to spend on two or even three normal classes.  Even at the graduate level, it’s ridiculous.)

Obviously, there are a lot of flaws to this plan…one of the biggest being the expense of going out to lunch every single Monday.  I’m trying to think of places around here that give a discount to frequent customers, or have loyalty cards or something…I can only think of one, off-hand, that has a loyalty card and has the kind of atmosphere I need.  Maybe instead of going out to lunch, I should just take my laptop to the local library and write there.  (Getting out of here, I think, is important, as there’s too much here to distract me.)  But the nearest library hasn’t got any place to sit, and if I recall correctly about the next nearest one, they set the air conditioning on “arctic ice storm,” which would be too distracting.

Hmm…yeah, the location is something I’ll have to keep working on.

But I think the basic plan of setting aside one hour every week in which I must write seems like a good plan.  Hopefully once I get going, I’ll find myself better able to write the rest of the time as well.

Y’know, reflecting on the “which story to work on” angle — yes, I’m adding this about eight hours after writing the rest of the post, why do you ask? — I think I’ll start the first week by drawing up a set of questions to ask all my major characters, and then write out their answers.  That’ll give me a jump start on deciding which set I want to work with, right?

Missing Letter Monday – No “W”

Published May 2, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Summer Plans

Okay, let’s see if this is possible.  I’ve been intending to post about my summer plans, and I need a Missing Letter Monday post, so…gonna try to combine ’em!  Okay, this is definitely a bad idea considering one of my goals…ugh.  Nope, not gonna give up so easy, or I’ll have to pony up another MLM plan!

Right, so, this summer.  After my class is out — I have about eleven days to get the paper finished (and I’ve barely started the research!) — I plan on making some changes to my life/lifestyle.  Uh, not counting the fact that my employment time is going to go up, I mean.

In any case, I plan on spending time on my novels.  Either editing the ones I’ve already finished, or on ones that have yet to be started.  As long as I’m at the keyboard, that’s the important part.  So I’m planning on spending lunch of one of my off-days at some public eatery, my laptop before me, typing like mad and sitting there beside an emptied plate and a half-full soda, so I can pretend I still have business being there.  I figure if I can spend at least one hour per seven days doing that, maybe it’ll kickstart that part of my life in the other six days.

I’ve also decided to try my talentless and untrained hand at philosophy.  Because — as Descartes pointed out — technically all you need is your mind and your reason, right?  (Yeah, you need more than that, I’m conscious of that.)  Of course, mine’ll not be as clever or literary or competent as anything I read for class this semester.  Or as happy and fuzzy and humanity-loving.  (Not that most of it is all that happy-and-fuzzy…)  It’s probably going to be pretty misanthropic, in fact, ’cause that’s my current take on human race.  That, of course, is one of the many reasons I don’t plan on making this “philosophy” available for other people to read.  I’ll keep my misanthropy to myself.  But I plan to spend — as in the case of the novels — one day’s lunch + at least an hour on it.  So if Monday is novels, Tuesday can be philosophy.  That kind of thing.  And yes, it’ll be the same “on the laptop in a public venue” kind of deal.  (Can I find someplace around here that gives you cash back or a discount or something…?)  But most likely it’ll be different eateries, of course, because if not they might start thinking my motives to be shifty or evil.  (As I’m a misanthrope, that might not be entirely unreasonable of them…)

Thirdly, I’m going to spend time on a project I’ll talk more about on the 9th.  It’s kind of similar, in that it involves a lot of time spent on a laptop, but…it’s also kind of different, and probably’ll only be done in the privacy of my home.

Fourth, I plan to get this house cleaned up.  Of course, I’ve been saying that for years, but this time there’s a special motivation, in the form of 2 expensive ball-jointed dolls that I Kickstarted; I need to get the place nice before they arrive in November.

Fifth, I’m going to start doing laps in the pool at the Y again, in the hopes that it’ll make the fire in my arm back off a little, ’cause this is really getting out of hand.  (Even if it doesn’t, I need the exercise desperately.)

And finally, I’m gonna spend some time reading.  Not the usual hard-to-get-through non-fiction, but some good, old-fashioned fiction.  ‘Cause I don’t spend enough time reading that anymore, and I need to.  Plus I just bought four novels at Barnes & Noble the other day (okay, technically three novels and a novella), and another one at the used bookstore on Saturday.  And I already had a backlog of them, including the Alice in the Country of Diamonds light novel, and a Young Adult first-in-a-series novel that looked really interesting.  (And I need to see the current state of YA these days, since my in-need-of-editing series is kinda-sorta-basically YA…)

Hopefully, I’ll actually manage to stick to this plan.  After all, only the fourth one actually has an end-point to reach.  The rest are continuing projects (and exercise) so that should hopefully make them less daunting.  Hopefully.

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