Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Cornucopia List: May 27

(Some glitch happened with Facebook and this didn’t go out last week, so here it is a bit late.) I’m wondering if I need to differentiate the weekly titles or if it will get confusing calling them all the Cornucopia List. So I’ll start adding a date. The list of five things for which I’m grateful this week follows:

  1. Emotions–They are what makes us. Many animals (at least mammals) have emotions as well and this can

    From the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow

    be seen by their attitudes, such as contentment in cat when purring, or feeling angry or threatened in a dog by growling. There is a range that we may not even quite grasp in animals because we can’t truly ask them. But with people, yeah, emotions can run helter skelter, causing chaos, trauma and tragedy. Without them though we would be mere androids, with less attitude than Spock. I like that we can feel good or bad. With the bad we would not appreciate the happy times and everything would be pretty boring. People whose emotions are out of control can be scary but I like that we can change and feel a range of things. I’d rather a world with the vagaries of emotion than a world of robots. (I took the above picture while in Scotland.)

  2. Sun–Hello, Sun! It’s been somewhat sporadic for a mostly chilly and wet spring, but boyoboy do I love the sun. I don’t love it beating intensely down upon me. I have to move in it. But I love the way it will play light over things, making water sparkle, leaves adding shadows, warming the earth and giving us flowers and life overall, of course. It also takes us pasty white people to a color a little more robust. I wouldn’t want to stare at the sun, nor actually visit it (unless it was completely safe) but I do love the sun and I quite understand  how people would see it as a god.
  3. Limbs–As in legs and arms. Not everyone is born with them and not everyone gets to keep theirs and many people have ones that stop working. So I truly appreciate that I have two legs and two arms (though sometimes I wish I had three arms). They ache sometimes and they may not be the most beautiful out there but they’re functional, giving me a fairly normal range of movement and working in tandem with my mind. I don’t have to concentrate to move my arm; it will just go as I decide to pick something up. I don’t have to put each foot forward in a laborious process, I just do it. Limbs let me move faster, sometimes elegantly and I can crawl under things, or climb over them. I have known people who had limited to no use and those who were born that way adapted well but it made me more grateful for the ease in which our limbs work with us.
  4. Shells

    –They all begin as homes and exoskeletons for sea creatures and they are beautiful pieces of nature’s sculpture. The shapes are myriad and the color diverse. We make them into sculptures, jewelery, food and supplement sources. The ocean’s floor is a foundation of ground stone and millions of shells, corals and other aquatic debris. They hold the secrets of mollusks and of the sea and are worn as lingerie by mermaids.

  5. Babies–I’m fortunate enough to work in a place where there is always a baby or two.  I’ve come to learn much better the stages of development by watching the babies grow. And it’s fascinating to see how much of an individual personality they have from day one; everything from calm to fretful to mischievous to coy to angry. Babies are full of uninhibited joy and use their whole bodies to express their emotions, squealing in happiness, turning red and tense with frustration. They’re very pure, not yet formed by society’s culture and moires, not yet tamed or shaped by conventions and fads. Sometimes it would be nice to be able to attain this state again, but really only in the happy emotions. People do not take well to adults displaying rage and having temper tantrums, so yes we are constrained by society and manners, which isn’t always a bad thing. But babies are a true natural joy of the world.
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Movie Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop

Banksy's art

On the weekend I went to see a movie with a friend, and it’s not the type of movie I normally would see. Usually, I like my escapist mind candy. I see a lot of speculative (SF and fantasy) movies because it’s what I mostly write. I like a good drama; once in a while a good comedy. I don’t tend to go to horror/thriller movies, slapstick humor, chick flicks or documentaries. With documentaries I guess I feel I want to just enjoy a world of make-believe, of fiction, and not have my emotions tossed all over the place. Or I believe they’ll be boring.

So I wasn’t expecting much when I heard we were going to see a movie about graffiti artists, Exit Through the Gift Shop. The movie started out with this guy Thierry Guetta and his obsession with filming everything in sight. There was a little interview/statement at first by some guy in a black hoody whose face was hidden and his voice disguised. The shots are like old home movies, bad angles, out of focus, insipid color. I didn’t think much of the first ten minutes, but then the brilliance of the movie started to unfold.

Now I come from an art background and I know there is graffiti art, those jagged large letters on walls all but unreadable, yet of a discernible style. There are wall murals but they look to be done by artists hired by the establishment. There are some pictures or posters. And there is the slogan graffiti, like the one on the little bathroom in Grandview Park, painted with a simplistic landscape and some crows, but some anti-everything anarchist defaced the art by painting “F**k the pigs!” and “Kill the pigs!” Not particularly intelligent, deep or new and nothing to do with the most recent protest (on upgrading the park facilities) which was when it was painted.

What I had no clue about was the depth of graffiti art, or street art, where people devote their spare time and money to making images and posting them, usually illegally. How this relates to Thierry the obsessive videographer is that when he is visiting family in France his cousin makes these plastic tiles and sticks them up on walls and underpasses, and they, like his name, are all about Space Invader. Street artists have aliases (probably to protect them from police and being fined) and become known for their particular style. They will print 10-20-foot tall images and then paste them to sides of buildings. What I did notice of all the artists shown was that they use blank walls and never deface public art. They might paint over a previous artist’s work if it’s old and known as a graffiti wall.

The better artists have a good style and may also have a message to get across. Thierry in his obsession began filming his cousin and was then filming numerous street artists, in a way documenting a transitory art form that had not yet been captured for history or memory’s sake. One of the most notorious  and political street artists was in Britain and goes by the name of Banksy. As Thierry finally meets Banksy, Banksy tells him it’s time to get this documentary out there for everyone to see this impermanent form of art. But what they don’t know is that Thierry has thousands of cassettes and he’s never looked at any of them or cataloged them in any order. What results is an unwatchable 1.5 hour film.

What is evident through this film is that it’s a bit of a biography of Thierry, a documentary of street art, a commentary on art and value, a look at culture and a very complex, multi-layered piece. Along the way it’s obvious that Banksy and others stepped in to take some of Thierry’s footage and make something truly historic. And street art starts to move into the big LA and British galleries, being auctioned off and worth big money. Banksy tells Thierry to go home and make some art. But what he didn’t realize was how powerful Thierry’s obsession was.

Thierry goes from filming to wanting to be a street artist too. Banksy gives Thierry a quote: “He’s a force of nature and I don’t mean that in a good way.” (paraphrased) Thierry isn’t just doing a bit of street art; he’s doing a lot. Plus he mortgages his house, sells his business and mounts a truly monumental show. In essence, he makes himself an artist almost overnight. And the thing is, this guy isn’t the trendy artist, nor an anti-culture rebel icon. He’s very provincial, sort of an innocent, and not very eloquent, and yet, he has something. This film also is about what is art and can someone create art without going through the long steps of training and gaining notoriety.

The brilliance of this documentary is subtle and so multi-layered that I’m still thinking about it. And yes, it highlights the elusive Banksy, who remains mysterious, but then it looks like, in the end, that he produced the movie. And Banksy, well, he’s subversive, he’s political, he’s talented and really quite brilliant (I hope his head doesn’t swell too much should he read this.) I’ve included one of his images here, which says a lot , and his website from where I found this piece. You can also find out when the film is being viewed in your city. http://www.banksy.co.uk/index.html

Exit Through the Gift Shop is so ingenuous that it’s worth seeing, whether you like documentaries or not, or are interested in culture, art, history, politics or people. And this is a subtly funny film too. I know that when I go for walks from now on, I’ll be looking at graffiti with a different eye. I don’t know how big the street art movement is in Vancouver but I can say that the best of it is truly a form of unique art worthy of appreciation. I would give this film five stars.

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The Cornucopia List

Here are this week’s list of five things for which I’m grateful. In the future I imagine I will repeat some things as it will be that which makes me grateful that week, but for now there will be larger items, like life and chocolate. 🙂

  1. Thunderstorms–They’re not as frequent here in Vancouver as they were in Calgary where you could get super hot days and super cold rains. When a thunderstorm was imminent my mother would unplug all the electrical appliances, a very smart thing before power surge protectors when a lightning strike could travel into your appliance and kill it or start a fire. We would then all go down to basement and hang out, without the lights on, just in case of an electrical surge there. The sky would be vein with white light and the loud tumultuous clash of gray, broiling clouds. It was magnetic, dramatic, exciting! I remember one, while still living in Calgary down by the river. My boyfriend and I were watching the thunder and lightning outside our balcony window when there was an electrifying flash and smashing crash of sound that vibrated the building. Instinctively we had both run away from the window and were halfway across the apartment by the time we realized what we had down. That lightning strike hit on the hill not a mile behind our building. Today they warn that we could have a thunderstorm in Vancouver. I hope so.
  2. Turquoise–this is my absolutely most favorite color though I do like the whole range of greens (except for maybe puke green). Turquoise can be blue-green or green-blue, called peacock as well. I tend to like my turquoise on the slightly greenish side of blue, and I love it. I can’t explain but it is almost a visceral hunger to swallow, touch and taste this color. Contrary to what you might believe I don’t swathe myself only in this color though I tend to have more green clothing than anything else and one wall in my bedroom is turquoise.
  3. Cats–besides giving us an excuse to talk out loud without looking crazy for talking to ourselves, cats are lovely companions. They fill a space with energy and fur, they purr and express love for you, even if it is only cupboard love. They warm your feet and make you part of their family. And they certainly have unique personalities. From my first cat Beko, through Ming, Tiger, Banshee, Mango, Figgy and now Venus, they’ve all given certain traits and opinions. They can be a big pain in the ass, getting underfoot, knocking things over, scratching the wrong thing, howling to get in, in fights with other cats, clawing your leg on accident or purpose, demanding food, but hey, humans do much the same (except maybe clawing your leg). So yes, I am extremely grateful for the companionship of cats especially when I’ve been down. Venus, pictured above, is the epitome of a love cat, with people at least.
  4. Being female–Yeah, we have little choice with this unless we want to go through and expensive operation and face ostracization and social isolation. It’s very hard on people who feel they are the wrong sex in a body. And there are women supposedly who experience “penis envy” though I think that was more of a Freudian era than real, though there are women who feel they must act/dress like men to be respected or get a certain job. And unfortunately there are men who feel women are chattel, property to be dictated to, owned and wrapped and hidden away except for their own viewing. And of course, the Catholic church has long blamed women for leading men astray because gosh, I guess men can’t think for themselves. But still, I like being a woman and I feel that I am pretty empowered. If I chose I could give birth and I get to wear a way larger range of clothes. No wonder some men, who are truly heterosexual like to wear women’s clothing once in a while. I’m grateful I’m a woman comfortable in my body most of the time, with all my bumps and curves.
  5. Shoes–yes shoes. That I can afford them, that I have more than one pair (even though I do have foot issues) and that they come in such funky styles from stiletto with pointy toes, to round toes and wide heels, to flat shoes, to platforms, to straps, to slip-ons, to buckles and ties. A myriad of colors and materials of designs and patterns, and even of comfort, but I like them. I had a boyfriend once long ago who really liked shoes and maybe it was a shoe fetish but I developed a love of shoe styles through him, and they can completely ruin an outfit if not right. I have runners (tennis shoes or whatever they’re called in the US) but I only wear those for working out or hiking. They’re not for every day. But yeah, I’m grateful for shoes.

And there we go, from nature to fashion, my Cornucopia List for this week.

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Writing: Even Tyra Banks

It’s not unusual for a celebrity to dabble in other arts fields. Sting and John Mann (of Spirit of the West) have not just done music but acted. Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood went from acting to politics (one would argue that it’s all acting). Others start as actors and move into singing or modeling, or start as models and become actors. There is always some crossover. And some actors, singers and models try writing. Look at William Shatner with his Tekwar series, though in fact he didn’t write them but had a ghostwriter. Shatner may have come up with the ideas but he didn’t flesh those ideas into a written story. An unsung writer did that but Shatner’s name sold them.

Princess Sarah Ferguson (Fergie) has written children’s books to some success.Of course there are many kiss-and-tells or autobiographical memoirs that the rich and/or famous indulge in, whether they write them or have someone do it for them. But those celebs who write fiction are rarer and there is quite a range of quality, more than you would get with a straight fiction author. The reason is that publishers look at saleability. If you’re John Doe, you will have to convince the publisher that your story is so good that they can make money on it. If you’re George Clooney, on the other hand, the publisher will look at your popularity and sex appeal in general and then see if the demographic looks promising for selling a book.

You may not even have to write it and they may go to the trouble to get a tried and true ghostwriter. But even if you should insist you write your fiction and be dumb as a piece of toast they may publish based on your popularity and have a couple of good editors go through to clean up the worst parts. After all, poorly written books do not necessarily mean they’ll bomb. Many mediocre books have sold well, due to the topic and the marketing campaigns.

from Banks' site

So, Tyra Banks with her Bankable line (including Bankable Books), and who started as a model, then moved into TV shows such as the Tyra Banks Show and America’s Top Model reality show, has decided she’s going to write a fantasy trilogy called “Modelland” (and as she puts it, pronounced Model Land). My writers’ list has already had a lot of eye-rolling and scoffing over this. I mean, it doesn’t sound that crazily wonderful with some young girls transported unwillingly to a land where “drop-dead beautiful, kick-butt fierce” intoxibellas rule with their powers.

Now I don’t watch these shows so I have no idea if Banks comes across as powerfull and intelligent or as just some ditzy petty model. But…uh…Modelland. It sounds pretty teen-set-princess-girly-dreamworld. There is not much about the story so far except that Tyra plans to write three books published by Random House. Will Banks write the books or will there be a very well paid, very secret ghostwriter?

Now there is an attitude in our world to heartily roll our eyes when a model (or actor) tries something more serious like politics or writing. But not every model is just a beautiful bimbo. People are often judged by their covers, like books.

Tyra Banks might write the next book as popular as Harry Potter. Except, we don’t know. No one knew that Harry Potter would make Rowling one of the richest women in the world. It’s pretty much hit and miss and even writing in the style of, or copying the stories will not guarantee a hit. In fact, the factors that allowed Harry Potter to skyrocket have changed now.

I can’t really judge Tyra Banks’ book until I’ve read it, and I would read it to review. However many people will read it because she’s writing it (and she’s got a marketing empire going already), others for curiosity, others because they are kids and it sounds fun. Will it be good? Who knows? I’m just skeptical with the title but then I’m not a teenager and seriously, as a teenager I was reading science fiction by Herbert, Heinlein, Clarke, Norton, McCaffery. Very little of it was dubbed teen or young adult fiction except for Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. So chances are I might not like it. But the proof of the pudding, as they say, will depend on the reading.

And Tyra Banks… Well, if she is only a beautiful Barbie, then she is still a very rich one and is doing several shows and lines of merchandise and might be Businesswoman Barbie. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

http://www.tyra.com/view/BANKABLE_BOOKS

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/100637-Tyra-Banks-Fancies-Herself-the-Next-J-R-R-Tolkien

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Writing: News & The Rannu Competition

I’ve finally received my issue of Evolve and the reviews continue to roll in. It’s interesting how reviewers pick different favorites. I’m not mentioned in one but I am in the other and my story continues to intrigue and disturb, as I intended. Overall, it’s getting good reviews. Following are two more reviews.

http://roverarts.com/2010/05/stretching-the-vampiric-envelope/

However, there are also some stories that will stand out and sparkle, that come across as an exceptionally new take on what some think is rapidly becoming an over-plowed field.

Among these is Claude Lalumière’s “All You Can Eat, All The Time,” his female-narrated first-person take on vampirism as an extension of the hyperactive, quick-to-burn, fear-of-growing-old generation being spawned at this very moment. In “An Ember Amongst The Fallen,” Colleen Anderson gives the reader an all-too-visual/tactile glimpse at a world where humans are used as cattle for food and blood – and the results when the metaphoric apartheid barriers are crossed.

http://www.sfsite.com/05b/ev320.htm

As well, my poem “Of the Corn” is about to come out in Witches & Pagans. The poem was lost for about two years due to computer crashes and restructuring of the magazine. I have “Secrets of Trees” about to come out in Pinecone. It likewise was stuck in a two-year limbo.

Once again I entered the Rannu competition, in fiction and poetry. Last year one of my stories made it onto one of the judges’ shortlists. Again, this year, my story (unpublished at this point) “Freedom’s Just Another Word” made it again onto at least one judge’s shortlist. I didn’t win but that’s still not bad. And one of my poems, “A Good Catch,” bout a modern-day mermaid, did get an honorable mention. This comes with a small cash prize and I’m quite pleased by that.

Competitions are even harder than magazines to get into. Whereas you may be competing for several spots in a magazine, this repeats monthly or quarterly. A competition has only one spot (and up to three often) and everyone is competing for that one spot. Like the Olympics and getting Silver or Bronze, I’m happy with the honorable mention.

I know the winners of the fiction and poetry prize and they are both excellent writers.  I recommend finding their work. I believe the winning entries may be printed in the future on the CZP site but I’m not quite sure.

Fiction Winner:
“Foretold” by Barbara Gordon

Fiction Honourable Mentions:
“Little Escher” by Robert Borski
“A Swarm of Shadows” by Francine Lewis

Fiction Judges: Don Bassingthwaite, Nick Stokes, Sandra Kasturi

Poetry Winner:
“Barren – A Chronicle in Futility” by Steve Vernon

Poetry Honourable Mentions:
“A Good Catch” by Colleen Anderson
“Manifesting Universes” by Francine Lewis

Poetry Judges: Gemma Files, Helen Marshall, Sandra Kasturi

We would also like to note the entries that made it onto one or more judges’ shortlists:

Fiction:

“Freedom’s Just Another Word” by Colleen Anderson
“Water of Life” by F.J. Bergmann
“Bat Story” by Michael Colangelo
“Book of Kishon” by Ivan Faute
“Gentle Awakening” by Maybelle Leung
“The Official” by Eric Sandler
“Simulove Industries, Model #69” by Myna Wallin

Poetry:
“Nephology” by F.J. Bergmann
“Overtures” by F.J. Bergmann
“Polterguest” by Robert Borski
“Yeti-Nessie: A Cryptid Love Story” by Robert Borski
“Persephone Depressed” by Adrienne J. Odasso
“For the Reverend Adelir Anton de Carli” by Matt Schumacher
“From a Little-Known Collection Entitled ‘Legends of Spiders & Water'” by Matt Schumacher

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The Cornucopia List

If you happen to be reading this (why, even if you’re not), tell me what you think of my blog. Should I change anything, add or delete something? There are other designs and I’ve been using this one for two years. But perhaps I should tweak it or rearrange elements.

But it’s now time for the Cornucopia List for this week, listing five things for which I am grateful, or that are beautiful, but in some way positive, to negate the dire aspects of weekly media and the state of the world.

  1. Irisesthe flowers, not the eyes. There are small ones, which don’t have a scent, to the large ones, which do. This scent is used to flavor Bombay gin and some perfumes. It’s the reason I love the irises

    from Wikipedia

    as my favorite flower. The scent is sweet yet lemony, and the intriguing shape of the bloom is complex and lovely. When I was a kid, we only had the purple ones and the pale yellows. Now there are many more. Yellow irises are also used for filtering pollutants out of water. Last night I stopped to sniff the two-town purple irises. There was also a mauve colored one with rippled edges. This one tends to smell sweeter but it is that tangy lemony scent that I love most.

  2. Life–this is diverse but in this sense I mean my life. It has had its traumas and tragedies, downfalls and failures. It’s not perfect, not what I thought it would be but it is my life. And I have had successes and love, accomplishments and beauty. No matter how terrible it has been I choose it over the alternative. I would rather experience the hills and valleys of living than live in blissful ignorance. I don’t always live my life to my fullest but I try and I love it dearly.
  3. Dance–I never tried anything professional with this and discovered a bit too late that I have a natural ability. I still have to work at dance styles but I can put a dance together intuitively and remain graceful. It’s one thing where I don’t usually tend to worry about how people judge me and I just dance with confidence. I bellydance and do freestyle dance where I can be expressive. I took a tango class last year and that took some work as I’m not used to following. It would take many lessons yet to be really good at it but it’s very intriguing with the different moves. It allows me to be truly expressive, joyful and exuberant. I don’t think I could live without dancing.
  4. Thai food–if I had to be stuck with one food for the rest of my life, it would be Thai food. I am extremely grateful to be able to have this whenever I want. Of course I don’t because that yummy coconut milk is very fattening. And it’s a good thing I can’t make this stuff easily or I’d be three hundred pounds. But the blend of lemon grass, lime, chilies, coconut milk and other secret ingredients makes this a palate pleaser for me. I like complexity in my food.
  5. Silver–not the price of nor the monetary worth but the look. I like silver jewellery far over gold and find something as pristine and bright about it as I do with water. Silver is shiny and it’s what we as humans love, shiny. I’m grateful for this metal for giving me forms of ornamentation. It can be beaten, soldered, smelted, molded, twisted into a variety of objects and I like a great many of them. And it’s not toxic to wear.

That’s this week’s list. Items or things for which I’m grateful.

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Writing: How to Ignore Women

Here we go again. You’d think a few people might learn by now. And perhaps these fellows truly believe the greatest writers that ever lived or live are all men. But you would think that if they include the very first and the very latest there might even be one woman? Albeit a list of the Top Ten SF Writers of all time is a pretty small list, but still.

Who are Shaun Nichols and Iain Thomson that they would be experts on SF writers? Well, they are techy geeks guys, which by definition makes them SF fans. And they write for http://www.v3.co.uk , some techy geek site that does Top Ten this and that. And as readers of SF they are as qualified as you and me. Here’s a bit culled form their bios on the site. Shaun Nichols is the US Correspondent for V3.co.uk, and primary writer and editor for the Mac Inspector blog. He holds a BA in Journalism from San Francisco State University. Iain Thomson is the US editor of V3.co.uk and was previously technical editor of PC Magazine, reviews editor of PC Advisor and editor of Aviation Informatics.

Now, within the restrictions of the top ten, they decided to go with SF novel writers, not short stories, nor with TV or movies, though they gave an honorable mention to Gene Roddenberry. They mentioned they’re going to get hammered on their list, and seem to be looking at who has had a”key role in inspiring research and eventual technological development.” Okay, that’s one way to put it but their list won’t hold true to all of their choices though the great three, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein, whose fiction did inspire inventions and many of them are named after the artifacts in the books (a waldo is one example).

They in fact wanted to put the writers of Red Dwarf onto the list but maybe it was TV before it was a book? And I’m not sure how Red Dwarf inspired technological development. As well, the authors say, “SF deals with the possible and sets specific constraints on the writer. Fantasy, to my mind, is just an excuse to develop alternative realities with no reference to the real world.” This is a pretty important quote because it means all the SF they mention needs to be Earth-centric. But how? Do the books only need to have humans who once began on Earth? Does it need to refer to Earth in the course of the book? Does Earth have to be central to the plot, because indeed there is much SF that does not take place on Earth or the “real world.” And what exactly constitutes the real world? The real world today, fifty years from now, a thousand years from now, a hundred years in the past or a world that would be if X happened?

The ten names are all recognizable to SF readers: Iain Banks, H.G. Wells, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Robert Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov, Douglas Adams, Jules Verne and Arthur Clarke as number one. Okay, real world and Douglas Adams? Hmm, it’s humor but is it possible? In fact, some of these authors write plausible futures but probable? Not likely. Still, most of them were influential to the genre. David Brin would count as would others not mentioned, but what is really missing are the women. Saying only hard science counts, or mundane SF, might help if the list didn’t have Douglas Adams, or Ellison in that sense. Maybe there weren’t any women of influence in SF, but that’s just not true.

Ursula Le Guin is one who comes to mind. For mimicking parts of US fundamentalism mixed into politics you could even have Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, or Orwell’s 1984. Writers of long ago? What about Mary Shelley and Frankenstein? That’s spawned many a tale and Soviet experiments of truly frankensteinian nature of attaching a pup to an adult dog or two heads to a dog. But maybe she didn’t write enough. Other female authors include Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffery (oops her world is not Earth based), Sherri Tepper, James Tiptree, Kage Baker, Doris Lessing (How many other SF authors have received a Nobel prize in literature?), Pat Murphy and Pad Cadigan who had a book filled with people watching numerous weather channels or food channels and it was called food porn and weather porn. That book prophesied aspects of today.

It would have helped to name more specifically what the writers contributed. But with each of the definitions the writers of the piece gave, there were at least several authors who did fit that description. I think that a woman stepping into the SF ring alone changed the history of much and there should at least be honorable mentions. But Nichols and Thomson can redeem themselves, should they choose to do the Top Women SF Writers of all time, if they’ve read any.

TopSFWritersofAllTime

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Judging the Book by the Cover

On my “About Colleen” page I allow comments but do not approve them for viewing. I had to laugh at the very long comment I received in which I was told that I don’t take “good enough care of yourself and your career” with my hair going every which way. I was told I look a bit “balmy” but I’m not even sure what that means. Is that British slang? So let’s start with my image, which coincidentally I was going to change but I just can’t now. My hair is in what we call here in North America an up-doo. Most of the hair is pinned up in looping curls with a few curls hanging down. The every which way this person commented on is actually something on the wall behind my head and possibly the chopsticks that were in my hair. The rest of the cropped out photo had me in long white gloves and a lace shawl, wearing a corset and holding three books in which my erotic writing has been published.

But it’s nice to know someone can psychologically analyze me from one picture alone. I have revealed aspects of my past life on here and talked openly about the fact that I was abused. But not every abused person is an emotional wreck nor a slob. So although this person decided that I was uh, balmy from one photo, one photo does not a person make. Think costume, folks. I like to dress up. And should you ever interview people who know me they will almost all say I have a strong sense of style. But maybe I can use this when I sell my novel: by the balmy writer, Colleen Anderson.

I was also told to “join Debtors Anonymous if I were you, where you will find others of the creative type who refuse to acknowledge that they need to make a living with their art and remain scattered and disorganized.” Hmm, Debtors Anonymous is not where one goes to make a living but where one goes to manage debts out of control. I’m sure I’ve said little about my monetary lifestyle and I am happily making a living. At times I have made a living off of my writing and at other times it supplements my income. If I surveyed most of the members of SF Canada (where I was once president to help organize things) there would be less than 5% who make their living off of writing. Even when selling a novel, chances are that unless you’re doing three a year you may not make a living. We all can’t be as lucky as J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. 🙂 I would also like to say that people who have debts are not just artists. All sorts of people end up in huge debt-owing situations, especially with the economy of the past couple years. Let’s not stigmatize artists as all owing money and being scattered and disorganized. Try writing a blog five days a week for two years and see how scattered that makes you.

Now she did give some advice for artists though some of these points go against the ability of a debt-owing artist and are a little too all-encompassing. “If you can write poetry, draw, write and edit and sculpt, why not establish yourself in an art gallery that you start with others cooperatively, while maintaining control of the exhibits and publicity?” Writing is pretty hard to display in a gallery and where would a scattered and disorganized artist get the money to rent or buy a gallery? These things can be done but running a gallery is a different ball of wax from creating art. Still, it’s not a bad idea if I was doing more than writing. Better to own a bookstore than a gallery if you’re a writer.

Craft a career with real direction instead of wandering about aimlessly, hoping to ghost write other peoples’ lives.” Errr…really? Ghost write other people’s lives? I don’t think I’ve done this except for the lives I’ve made up. Ghost writing, if done properly, can be very lucrative. I would never ghost write for anyone who didn’t pay professional wages. I kinda wish I could wander aimlessly. Writing can only be accomplished by…writing and that takes solitary time and dedication. As I’ve said before, perseverance is a large part of the recipe.

You can then properly exhibit all your creations, package and market your poetry books and novels and short stories and articles properly while helping other creative artists to get their own products out there for sale.” Oof, when I do this I hope to be editing a magazine or part of a publishing house. I can package and market my books but it is infinitely better if they’re not all self-published. There are some very good self-publishing ventures these days that some of my friends have decided to go for as the publishing market gets tighter.  I may look at this option in the future but it does take a certain amount of capital to begin, not something a person in Debtors Anonymous could afford though.

Hosting a weekly party with fresh invites out each time can bring new audiences into the space to expand your reputations and putting flyers on windshields to announce your openings which occur regularly can bring in people, too. Everybody will show up for a bit of juice and food, especially if music is playing. Put out a tip jar in front of the musicians, so a variety of musicians will do the honors for your entertainments.” Don’t forget that juice and food, and gallery space, and flyers all take money. They are not heaven sent. But to put out flyers if you have a reading or send invites is a good thing to do and of course, galleries should have invite lists when they’re starting.

If I thought my mother read the internet I would thank her for her opinion. Likewise, I thank this person for concern in my welfare, even if based on a lot of assumptions. Still, brainstorming on ways to publicize and suggestions as she gave are not bad and can always be used by someone.

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The Cornucopia List

Bridge in Trim Ireland

In the continuing effort to battle bad news and dire prophecies of the future about rising prices and taxes and population, wars, defects, ill will and political rivalries, I have my second installment of the Cornucopia List.

I will be continuing the list once a week with five items, ever expanding it and making me more of a shiny happy person. It will encompass everything inner and outer, physical and spiritual, visceral and ephemeral that I cherish in my life. Here are this week’s five things for which I am grateful.

  1. My Aunt Elsa, who is very ill right now. She reached across a family rift that happened when my parents divorced. Being one of my father’s sisters there was little contact with that side of the family and because I never saw my father from that day forward, the contacts disappeared. But my older brother kept in touch and one day Aunt Elsa and Uncle Fred called me up, as they still lived in Vancouver then but were about to move away. I met all my cousins but have really only seen them once. Aunt Elsa and Uncle Fred came to town from time to time and we’d get together for lunch or dinner. Elsa gave me the Anderson family tree, which I have just found. And my aunt and uncle were the only people to attend my university graduation (it being during a work day and most friends working and family far away.) Elsa has always been gentle, humorous and nonjudgmental, and I cherish that.
  2. Birds: many of them are annoying little buggers and some are downright scary beasts. But birds remind us that we can soar, that we can leave the earth. Albeit we must do it by means of devices (planes, gliders, parachutes, hot air balloons, Apollo missions) but we can do it. And even if it is only this way that we can unshackle ourselves from an earthbound existence birds help us see farther and indeed gave humans the idea of flight. They come in a range of sizes and colors and purposes from hummingbirds to condors and ostriches. They have feathers where we have skin or others have scales or fur. They are related closely in some ways to our dinosaur history and they add a natural chorus of song to nature’s backdrop.
  3. Chocolate: Yes, yes, I’m a chocoholic. I’ve done month long elimination diets and the only thing I craved throughout was CHOCOLATE! Where would we be without the ancient Mexicans (the Olmecs, Toltecs, Aztecs) and all those folk who had the cacao bean. The world would definitely be a lesser place and the Dutch and everyone else would be diminished without it. Definitely a food of the gods, the darker the chocolate the better it is, and toss in some chili or orange or nuts and it’s even better. Yes, I’m am smitten by and unequivocally grateful for chocolate. Just imagine what life would be like without it: no chocolate cake, eclairs, sauce for ice creams, chocolate bars, hot chocolate, cocoa, etc. A dull place I tell you.
  4. Writing: without it we would not be able to share our thoughts, except with a small group of people and not in a long term way. There would be an internet of pictures only. But more than that the many worlds that people imagine, the histories of nations, the stories of our lives, the workings of a myriad things would be mostly lost to us. Our history would be thinner and not as longlasting and fewer people would know of much. I can learn of events, places, things and I can curl up and get away with a tale. And I am of course grateful that I have a little bit of a gift and a lot of hard work and can write to some degree.
  5. Stars: One of my very first blog posts was about being a kid, growing up near the edge of the city and going to this empty lot to lay in the weeds and grass and stare up at the millions and millions of stars. There was less light pollution then but stars are amazing from what we can see from this angle of the galaxy. They range in sizes and colors and types. Stars make our night world brighter and mystifying, adding questions and searches to our lives. I love stars for bringing out my imagination. And no matter what we do to our Earth, there will always always be stars by the billions.

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The Ease of Automated Answering Systems

With the advent of computers people said, it will cut down on paper usage, we’ll have far less need. As we all know, this was not the case and in many ways paper consumption has increased with the ease of being able to print pages off of a computer screen. Not to mention all those businesses that archive in paper because the computer might crash and wipe out sensitive, even insensitive information.

Everything is automated now. A mechanic can’t seem to troubleshoot a car by listening to it and tinkering. They have to plug it into a computer. If the power goes out, how many of us sit at work and twiddle our thumbs because we need the computer? Many if not most companies have gone to automated answering systems. But like the advent of computers and hope for less paper, have the automated answering machines made for less questions and easier answers?

How many times have you called up some place and there is such a long list of: If you want service, press 1, if you want sales, press 2, if you want accounting, press 3, etc. that you zone out and actually miss the one you should be listening for? I’ve done this. The most annoying is when you know that you have to talk to a real live person but it lists all the options except that one; you then have to go to a submenu and perhaps another submenu. Either you find out the button for real people or you don’t and have to hit * and # and 0 hoping one will work.

The most frustrating aspect of the automated system happened once when I had to pick up some friends from their return flight to Europe. I had Air Transat’s name and the flight number and the city it was departing from. So I called to check that the flight was on time and couldn’t find anything listed with that flight number or that city. I tried to call Air Transat but it was completely automated with flight departures and arrivals, rules for flying, etc. but there was no other number nor way of contacting a real person. I checked the phone book, I checked the website and no luck.

So then I thought I could call the airport and find out if they had any other information on where the flight had gone. My friends hadn’t contacted me to say they were delayed so I had to presume they were coming in but when? Well, the airport too has only an automated line, if you can even find that. This was a few years back so perhaps they have a tangible person in case you want to call and say, oh, I don’t know, you saw a terrorist with dynamite strapped to his chest driving into the parkade…but don’t bet on it.

I was still nowhere after a half hour of pushing buttons. I finally resorted to calling all the other airlines that had flights coming in that night from that area. I can’t remember which airline it was but I finally found one, only one, that had a live person. It might have been Air Canada and I may have called the flight reservation number. I explained my dilemma and the woman was very nice, trying to help me track the flight down. It took sleuthing on her part too as it turns out the Air Transat flight did exist but landed first in Toronto where they changed the flight number and its point of origin to Toronto (but didn’t put that on my friends’ tickets.) So the flight was coming in at the right time but with a different number and city altogether. That bit of sleuthing took over an hour.

I always thought they put in these automated systems to cut down on labor and having to pay more staff, but I think it is a reverse measure. It was put in to irritate the hell out of people and when they finally get a real person they’re relieved and don’t notice if that service is worse than it would have been without the messages. And I think it keeps people employed, because now they’re needed to fix the issues that the automated bots have caused. As well, should you become furious because of the system that leads you on a merry trail all over but never gets you to where you need to go, you can’t yell at anyone because no one is there. Saves them wear and tear, I guess. But, I know that with all the automated systems and when I make a call, about 85% of the time I actually need to talk to a person so it just seems to be a way of slowing down the incoming calls.

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