Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Writer's Paris by Eric Maisel

I've had this book for a while on my writer's shelf: A Writer's Paris by Eric Maisel. He describes a writer's six-month sojourn in the City of Lights: strolling through the streets, (flânerie, in French), patronizing cafés, and drawing inspiration from famous writers that came before. Some of his advice can be taken anywhere, from a small town to a huge metropolis. Others are more flamboyant and risk-taking. Yet the sense of joie de vivre shines through the entire book.

Can you write a novel in six months? Maisel offers encouragement regarding the creative process, all in the backdrop of Paris and its various arrondissements (suburbs). The illustrations in this book are definitely breathtaking. Danny Gregory drew many of the pen and ink sketches, while Claudine Hellmuth did the collages.

The only drawback to this book is its tiny font. Those with bad eyesight (like me), might have trouble reading the typeset without a strong glasses prescription or a magnifying glass. If you can get over that, Maisel's book is a good resource, not only for the creative process, but for the Paris itself.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

Italy out of hand by Barbara Hodgson

In the spirit of travel, I picked up this book, Italy out of hand, A Capricious Tour by Barbara Hodgson. Italy has always been one of my favorite countries. I lived there for 5 years, from 1982 to 1987. My father was stationed there, first with the Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean), AFSOUTH (Armed Forces Southern Italy), then at the Naval Hospital. I have fond memories of living in Europe: going to Rome for Christmas Eve Mass, visiting the islands of Sicily and Capri, traveling via hydrofoil in Venice, eating ices and gelati at Tony Sampan's, and eating pizza al metro (pizza by the meter) in downtown Naples.

Naples is one of the cities explored in Hodgson's book. The list includes Genova (Genoa), Milano (Milan), Bologna, Ferrara, Venezia (Venice), Padova (Padua), Firenze (Florence), Arezzo, Perugia, Pisa, Roma (Rome), Napoli (Naples) and Sicilia (Sicily, including Palermo). This is no ordinary guidebook; it brings together famous (and notorious) historical figures, expatriates, churches, squares, fashion, food, music and stories galore. I enjoyed revisiting places I'd been (albeit almost 30 years ago, now). There is always more to learn and more to discover, no matter how much you know.

Life can be gritty, messy, and wholly embarrassing, and the book explores the scandals as well as the triumphs. I was disappointed to reach the end of these only made me want to go back. Someday, I will.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Muse is Back from Holiday...

...I think. She's quite the world traveler. This time, she decided to go to Saint Kitts in the Caribbean, with side trips to Egypt circa 2000 BCE and Rome circa 50 BCE. She came back wearing an elegant Italian noblewoman's gown, complete with beaded headdress and corset. Custom-made, she said, from the same dressmaker who outfitted Lucrezia Borgia.

"Oh, and since your latest writing challenge is supposed to be set in Renaissance-era Italy, I got you all sorts of goodies," she trilled. She reached into her beaded handbag (bigger on the inside, than the outside, of course) and pulled out a scribble book from Leonardo da Vinci ("He won't miss it," she reassured me), several written Papal bulls from various Popes ("the proclamations, not the animals."), and an autographed sketch by Botticelli ("Tried to get a marble bust by Michaelangelo, but they wouldn't let it through Customs.").

I'm envious of her, but it's hard to be mad at her when she gives me this child-like smile that lights her eyes up from the depths of her soul. That's how she is: fickle, adventurous, curious, eclectic and wholly fun. It reminds me of when I was a child. I wanted to travel the world, meet all sorts of people, learn every language and custom.

I may not be able to do it in reality, but my Muse keeps that hope alive.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Meaning of Empathy

This was via a good friend of mine on Tumblr. It's a scientific definition of empathy. The last part brought me up short: "...without having the feelings, thoughts and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner." That means anything from facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. In other words, you can catch a clue that I'm angry without me having to come out and say, "I'm angry at you because..."

Most people are empathetic to some degree, and some more than others. On one end are the ones who notice things that most people miss, the ones who ask, "Is there something wrong? You just seem upset (angry, off, etc.)."  And on the other end are the ones who don't pick up subtle clues, even if you picked up those clues and smacked them over the head with it. (People on the autism spectrum, especially with Aspberger's Syndrome, have trouble relating to other's emotions, to "putting themselves in the other person's shoes.")

How would it feel if you're the empathetic one that's surrounded by non-sensitive people all the time, or vice versa? In Star Trek terms, a Betazoid being stuck in a cave with Tellarites, or vice versa. I think it would drive that Betazoid mad, dealing with people who don't understand what/how you're feeling. The Tellarite would go nuts with having to deal with hyper-emoting people.

How would you feel if you lived in such a situation? Misunderstandings galore and resentments on both sides. In that case, you'd have to find a compromise pretty quickly, before one or the other walks away.

And an opportunity to learn and grow is forever lost.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

Where have I Seen that Actor/Actress Before?

This past weekend I watched the movie Botany Bay, a film depicting a ship of English prisoners being deported to Australia. One of the characters, Hugh Tallant, is an American wrongly accused of highway robbery. He was a medical student, and ends up becoming the only surgeon on the ship. Tallant has to contend with the evil Captain Gilbert (who is a lot like Captain Bligh, personality wise) and the other prisoners.

All throughout the movie, I was staring at the guy who played Gilbert and wondering, "He looks SO familiar. Where have I seen this guy before?" Considering the film was made in 1953, it certainly wasn't from anything fairly recent, and if it had been, the actor would have aged considerably.

This hasn't been the only time I've though this while watching a film. I remember watching Armageddon and wondering who a specific actor was (it turned out to be Steve Buscemi). There was a creepy, sadistic doctor in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies whose face I recognized, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember his name. It turned out to be Vincent Schiavelli. Sometimes when the actor/actress is playing a role that is different from the one I saw them, it can really throw me off and have me thinking..."Where is she FROM?!" I was most of the way through the first episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures before the light bulb finally flashed on. "Ms. Wormwood is Moneypenny!" I all but shouted.

My husband was like, "What?" And I had to explain that I'd seen the actress before playing a "good guy" in "Tomorrow Never Dies" and a ruthless bad guy in "SJA".

Captain Gilbert turned out to be James Mason and I'd seen him with Cary Grant in North by Northwest and A Star is Born with Judy Garland. So, mystery solved, thanks to IMDb!

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chinese Bookbinding (and Chinese Hanzi)

I went to Barnes and Noble, despite an upset stomach and a headache of horrible proportions. It was only a matter of time before the flu bug bit me, after my three kids having it, one after the other. I saw this book on the discount shelf: Chinese Characters: The Art and Meaning of Hanzi. The black, red and gold cover definitely made it stand out. The pages were sewn together with a red band through holes punched in the margin. Each character occupied one side of a folded page, which was something I'd never seen before.

On the copyright page, a paragraph explains Traditional Chinese Bookbinding:

"This book has been produced using traditional Chinese bookbinder techniques, using a method that was developed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and remained in use until the adoption of Western binding techniques in the early 1900's. In traditional binding, single sheets of paper are printed on one side only, and each sheet is folded in half, with the printed pages on the outside The book block is then sandwiched between two boards and sewn together through punched holes close to the cut edges of the folded sheets."

 My first reaction was "Wow!" because it was unlike anything I'd seen before. The binding is definitely more secure on this book than most of the others in my collection. Since each page is doubled and folded over, it takes some getting used to, but it's a unique collection of Chinese characters and their meaning.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Becoming a Medicine Woman (Seneca)

The life of women follows a particular cycle: birth, maturity, decline and death. But there is much more than that. The Seneca (American Indian) tribe had strict requirements of who could become a medicine women. Only a woman who has gone through the years of childbearing and entered menopause.

The Five Requirements (Seneca):

a) She must be counselor who can assist others to find their personal talents and life path with the Medicine Wheel, tribal law and her own wisdom.

b) She must be a historian of earth, air, fire and water, as well as prophecies of the future world.

c) She must be an herbalist and a healer, and able to diagnose what ails the body, mind, and spirit.

d) She must be a seer and must be able to contact the spirit world and interpret their signs and symbols

e) She must have the ability to teach all aspects of this wisdom to the next generation.

I remember seeing (and comparing) many variations of these Five Requirements. They were all similar in one thing: only those who have experienced life can guard and protect it, and only those who have "been there" can pass on that wisdom to their children.

That responsibility falls on all of us. Are we ready for it?
All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Song Lyrics: Vale Decem (Farewell, Ten) Part II

In this post, I jotted down some lyrics for "Vale Decem", the Tenth Doctor's swan song in Doctor Who "The End of Time, Part II). It seems that there are several different versions of the lyrics are floating around out there. Here's another one:

Vale Decem (Farewell, Ten)
Ad Aeternam (On to Eternity)
Di Meloria (The Fates be with You)
Ad Aeternam (On the Eternity)
Vale Decem (Farewell, Ten)
Di Meloria (The Fates be with You)
Beati (Oh, Blessed)
Pacifici (He Who Brought Us Peace)
Vale Decem (Farewell, Ten)
Alis Grave (Lay Down Your Burden)
Ad Perpetuam (We Will Remember)
Memoriam (Forever)
Vale Decem (Farewell, Ten)
Gratis Tibi Ago (We Give You Thanks)
Ad Aeternam (On to Eternity)
Numquam Singularis (You Are Never Alone)
Numquam (Never)
Vale (x10)  (Farewell...x10)
All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

So Many Things to Chatter About...

Not too long ago, someone asked me an interesting question. "What's the purpose of your blog? Some people with rheumatoid arthritis have that as their focus (awareness and efforts for a cure). Others have special needs as their sole focus, some have just art. You go all over the place."

Yup, I sure do. My real-life friends know I tend to chatter about anything and everything and sometimes it reflects in how (and what I choose to) write. This particular blog is about writing and everyday life, though I do have separate ones for art (Phoenix Fire Arts) and special needs (Three Very Special Kids). All of these (and my RA) are important parts of my life and all the pieces are interconnected and interdependent. It's like a mosaic or a picture puzzle.

I trained as a linguist/philologist and language teacher, love to travel, eat too much chocolate and drink way too much coffee and tea. I'm exploring my Filipino, Chinese and Spanish heritage. I watch a lot of Star Trek, Doctor Who and Torchwood. I paint, draw, collage, and spend way too much money at the art supply store. I'm the one parked on the couch during football season and I cheer on Manchester United during that football season. I'm a Detroit Red Wings fan (courtesy of a language professor at the University of Virginia about 12 years ago. Thanks, Doctor Mac!). I'd rather live at the ocean than in the mountains, and I'd rather deal with warm temps than freezing cold.

And I've just written about all of those in one blog post.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rolling with the Punches...

It's been a hectic week here at la Chez Anne. My son's had the flu since this past Friday, so the weekend (and Valentine's Day) were mostly spent at home. He's on the mend now, thank goodness. Whatever this bug is, it's pretty nasty. Christina had it a few weeks ago, so I guess having it make the rounds was inevitable.

Even now, I'm playing catch-up, with art and writing and other more mundane stuff (like laundry and dishes). There have been some glimmers of enjoyment amid the coughing and the headaches. The new season of Top Gear on BBC America, for example. Getting a new pair of headphones for my laptop after my last one was stepped on (and broken). Chocolate Ghiraradelli brownies for V-Day. Squeezing in some colorful Artist Trading Cards late last night.

It's those glimmers that keep you going, especially when the going gets really tough. Otherwise, it's all too easy to throw in the towel before you should.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy V-Day for everyone celebrating it! And Happy Singles Awareness Day for those celebrating that!

For all my friends and followers, some artistic (and virtual) chocolate:


All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What am I Reading This Month?

I haven't done one of these in a's only recently that I've been able to squeeze some pleasure reading into my chaotic schedule. Here goes:

How to be a Villain: Evil Laughs, Secret Lairs, Master Plans and More by Niel Zawaki It's a step-by-step guide to joining the forces of Evil and Darkness. This book is a humorous look at every cliche of villainy in literature. After all, you need the catchy name, the flashy costume, the secret lair, the evil henchman, and the Plot to Destroy the World, right?

Aitchison's Linguistics by Jean Aitchison. This is part of the Teach Yourself (R) series. It's an introduction to basic concepts in the field of language and linguistics. There are many different sub-specialities (such as computational linguistics, sociolinguistics, historical linguistics and applied linguistics) that describe the many different branches of study. For the record, a philologist is a person who speaks many languages, while a linguist is interested in the structure and reason for languages (but does not necessarily need to speak all of them). Many start out as one and end up as the other.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu I had a smaller version of this classic treatise on the art of war, but lost it, so I got myself this particular version, printed by Arcturus Press (UK). I like this illustrated version, and I like how this is easily indexed and arranged by chapter and verse.

Lost Languages by Andrew Robinson I've read this one before, but I've decided to re-read it. It focuses on the linguistic puzzles of all time, including the Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Mayan glyphs, and ones that are still a mystery, like the Etruscan writing.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Clarke's Laws, and Asimov's (and Tilden's) Three Laws of Robotics

Clarke's Three Laws

1) When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

2) The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

3) Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The Three Laws of Robotics (Issac Asimov)

1) A robot may not injure a human being, or through its inaction, cause a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey an order from a human being, unless it violates/conflicts with Law #1.
3) A robot must protect its own existence, as long as it doesn't violate Laws #1 and #2.

David Langford (a British sci-fi author and critic) modified the three laws:
1) A robot will not harm authorize Government personnel, but will terminate intruders with extreme prejudice.
2) A robot will obey orders from Humans, except when it violates Law #3.
3) A robot will guard its existence with anti-personnel weaponry, because a robot is bloody expensive.

There are two other (optional) Laws added by other science fiction authors:

4) A robot must know it's a robot in all cases, and establish its identity as a robot.
5) A robot must reproduce, as long as it doesn't violate Laws #1, #2 or #3.

Tilden's Three Laws of Robotics:

1) Protect your existence.
2) Feed your existence. (i.e. obtain and maintain access to your power source)
3) Look for better real estate. (i.e. search for better power sources to protect your existence).

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Admin Post: New Writer Website is Finally up!

My writing website is finally up and running!

I'll put fiction excerpts, PDFs of some fics and poetry, links and podcasts!

If you are a writer with a website or blog, and are willing to do a link exchange, please drop me a line and I'll add your address to the link page!


All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quotes about Language, Part II

More language quotes...

"Learn a language, get a new soul." Czech proverb

"Swearing was invented as a compromise between running away and fighting."  Peter Finley Dunne

"It's no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase 'As pretty as an airport' appear." Douglas Adams

"It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs." Thomas Hardy

"War is what happens when language fails." Margaret Atwood

"England and America are two countries divided by a common language." George Bernard Shaw

"Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work." Carl Sandburg

"I personally think we developed language because of our deep-seated need to complain." Lily Tomlin

"Any time you think some other language is strange, remember that yours is just as strange. You're just used to it." The Language Mystic

"'I am' is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be 'I do' is the longest sentence?" George Carlin

"The four most beautiful words in our common language: 'I told you so'." Gore Vidal

"Wer fremde Sprache nicht kennt, weiss nicht von seiner einigen." Those who don't know any other foreign language, don't know anything about their own. (German) Goethe

"Tir gan teanga, tir gan agam." A country without its language is a country without its soul. (Irish Gaelic)

"Cave quid dicis, quando, et qui." Be careful what you say, when and to whom. (Latin)

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Quotes about Language, Part I

It's been close to 15 years since I've formally studied anything to do with linguistics, but I've taken it up again. And I've found some quotes, stories and little ditties about language:

"Alice was too puzzled to say anything, so after a minute, Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them--particularly verbs, they're the proudest--adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs--however, I can manage the whole lot!'" --Lewis Carroll (Through the Looking Glass)

"Change and decay in all around we see. But not all change is decay, and some decay turns into new life." D.J. Enright

"I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse." Emperor Charles V.

"Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne."  Quentin Crisp

"In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer." Mark Twain

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery." Mark Amidon

"Our language is a funny thing...a fat chance and a slim chance are the same thing!" J. Gustav White

"Let's not be so worried about not offending everybody that we lose the ability to distinguish between respect and paranoia." Larry King

"But if language can corrupt thought, thought can corrupt language." George Orwell

"When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose to mean, no more and no less.'" Lewis Carroll (Through the Looking Glass).

"There was a young man of Dunlaoghaire,
Who propounded an interesting theoghaire
That the language of Erse
Has a shortage of verse,
As the spelling makes poets so weoghaire."
J.B. Searle (note: Erse=Irish Gaelic and the "oghaire" is pronounced "eery" like "theory" and "weary." The place name is pronounced "dun-laeery".)

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pick Yourself Up and Dust Yourself Off...

..when things go absolutely kablooey in your face. Easier said than done, but when you have 3 kids who need you, who go about life completely oblivious to the adults' problems, you need to gain your balance. For their sake, if not yours.

When it was just me, I had only my own feelings to worry about. When you have children, suddenly it's not just about you anymore. You have little ones who depend on you. They look to you for guidance and in the case of my autistic two and my toddler, they can't understand the twisted complexities of real life.

They remind you of what life really means, and just what is the most important priority.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

One character I definitely identify with... the person who's the support for the others, who usually stays behind at the control center (inside the spy van, the weapons/gadget garage) or sits ready as back-up while the heroes storm the gates and take down the bad guy, destroy the superweapon and generally get showered with glory.

The quiet, unsung hero that's there with the real (or virtual) coffee or alcohol, back rub, sympathetic ear. The one with the tech smarts to pull our heroes out of the fire in the nick of time. The researcher who does the grunt work, pulling together information from different sources, so our heroes look smart.

The one that's usually picks up the pieces, knows the combinations and the passwords, can go to the grocery store blind-folded and one hand tied behind their back and STILL pick up all of our heroes' favorite munchies, and get them on sale too. With double coupons.

The one who pulls the night shift so our heroes are well refreshed to face crises during the day (and I never understood how they ALL happen during alpha shift/in broad daylight. What, trouble takes a rest when the sun goes down??) and generally files the reports from said crises. The one who knows how to confuse and obscure and simply write it off as "a training exercise" or "a weather balloon".

But there's one thing the heroes tend to forget about these unsung few. When something really bad happens to them (kidnapped, blown up, they get pissed off enough to turn to the other side (enemy or someone else), go look for another job, they kick the bucket doing something unexpectedly heroic)...

...our heroes are lost without them. What was the combination to the armory door again?

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Year of the Rabbit 2011

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Gong Xi Fa Choi!

Happy New Year and may peace and prosperity be with you and yours!

Here's what I was working on most of today:

Dragon Maiden
acrylic, metallic acrylic,ink
© 2011 by A. Dameron

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dragons and more Dragons

I seem to be in a "dragon-y" mood lately, probably because it's the Chinese New Year tomorrow (2/3). Ironically enough, I was cleaning out the garage and found Drawing Dragons by Jim Hansen. I'd bought it from Borders on clearance (it still had the sticker on it) and got stuck in a box and forgotten.

These are featured in my art blog, but I'd like to share these with you here too:

Fire Dragon
acrylic, ink
© 2011 by A. Dameron

Purple Jade Dragon
ink, acrylic
© 2011 by A. Dameron

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chinese New Year Recipes (3)

WARNING: This recipe is HOT. If it's not your taste, cut back on the ginger root or leave it out altogether.

(For Year of the Tiger)

Fish with Ginger

500 g (1 lb.) cod or haddock, 4 fillets
2 tablespoons oil
90 g. (3 oz.) butter
1 tablespoon grated ginger root*
4 springs parsley
4 lemon wedges

Wash and dry the fish. Heat the oil in a wok and fry gently until tender. Melt the butter in a small pan, add ginger, stir until well mixed and pour over the fish. Served garnished with the parsley and the lemon wedges.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010