So. An update. Let's see. For various reasons that we need not go into at this time, I am learning Italian and moving to Italy. I'm fairly sure this is a bloody stupid idea, but since I'm going along with it anyway, I might as well enjoy it. At least Italy seems to be well supplied with good bookshops? To date, I very much like Italian verbs, which conjugate prettily, and am significantly less fond of Italian nouns, which come with an unnecessarily extensive and confusing set of prepositions: apparently I'm quite happy to remember whether one uses, say, the dative or the ablative (as in Latin), but confronted by a host of pesky little 'a's and 'a + article's and 'in's I retreat in confusion.

The house to which I will eventually (deo volente) be moving has many attractive and desirable features, although these do not currently include wiring, plumbing or, in some areas, floors. Obviously, undertaking a major renovation of a property uninhabited for at least the last 50 years, in a country the language of which you do not currently speak, with absolutely no experience renovating anything, is a sensible and obvious course of action, and I cannot understand why more people don't do it.

I can't help noting that in the last year – a year in which I was supposed to finally settle down and stay in one place, I ended up at various points in Albania, Chile, Columbia, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Panama, Peru, Turkey and the UK, plus miscellaneous airports*. Which does seem rather a lot, when I list it out like that. (And then of course I decided to move to Italy.) Perhaps it's time to accept that I'm just not cut out for this whole staying in one place thing? Possibly the fact I've averaged over my entire life somewhere between two and two and a half years per home might have been an earlier clue to this.

Luckily, even at that far distant point – doubtless considerably more far distant than the current builder's estimate – when the work now envisaged on the Italian house is complete, there will still be a number of areas that could use further work, which is a very good thing, because moving again would be a major pain (both to sell the property, given the less than brilliant state of the Italian property market, and because it will be the first time in 7 years all my possessions will be in one place, and the thought of packing them all up again is daunting even for me) and it hasn't escaped my notice that the moment part way through last year when I hung the final picture, completing the decoration of the last room in this apartment, was pretty much precisely the moment I started making serious plans to leave. I really, truly am abysmal at sticking in one place. (I'm not even going to pretend I actually intend to live permanently in Italy, as opposed to just using it as a base. At this point everyone, including me, would have to know I was lying.)

What else? My grandfather, to whom I was very close as he pretty much brought me up, died in August. Given his great age this was not, obviously, a surprise, although since his age was combined almost to the end with good health, largely unimpaired mind and remarkable strength I had got around to thinking him pretty much eternal. Cut for discussion of death )

Well, that was last year. What, I wonder, of the year ahead? I aim to post more (proper meta, I mean, not more self-involved rambling); hopefully also my Italian will improve, or I will find a phrasebook with helpful sentences such as 'Why are there five sets of plans of this property lodged with various government offices, all different from each other, and every single one inaccurate?' and 'But you were supposed to have finished strengthening this wall last week'. Oh, and that meme currently doing the rounds? The one that assumes you have so few books piled up around you that it's an easy task to figure out which one is nearest? Taking my best guess as to the nearest books, my sex life will be summed up either by "In the later Indo-Aryan languages, as in the later languages of western Europe, rhyme became a regular feature of verse" or "However, in 1874 the harvest in Bosnia and Herzegovina failed". Frankly, I find both these options unpropitious, especially the latter: I can only assume I read the wrong sort of books. So I'm unilaterally altering it from the first sentence of pg 45 of 'the nearest book' to 'the book selected at random from nearest bookcase', which gives me the altogether more attractive "Such reminiscences could include youthful liaisons with singing girls, or represent singing girls as part of the beautiful 'scenery' of the far-off land." Dear 2012: I expect singing girls.

* At one point I flew in transit through both Houston and Moscow. In one of these airports: I got off the plane; queued up to show my boarding card; queued up again (while being regaled by tannoy announcements anent not saying anything which might be considered inappropriate nor behaving in a suspicious manner, but immediately obeying all commands); was cross-questioned as to where I lived, what my job was, why and whence and whither I was travelling, and finger-printed; queued up again to pick up my cases; queued up yet again to check them back in; queued up to be given the world's most incompetent full body pat-down (seriously, I have no idea at all what they thought wouldn't be picked up by the regular metal-detector but would by their half-hearted and undertrained groping); queued up at the gate to present my boarding pass once more; and queued up to be lined up against one wall with my carry-on against the other wall for the benefit of a sniffer dog. At the other: I got off the plane, looked round the shops and wondered if I felt like having a cup of coffee. One of these two airports is located in the land of the free and home of the brave, but somehow I'm having trouble remembering which.
quillori: blue-jay yuletide icon (yuletide (blue jay))
( Nov. 18th, 2011 09:46 pm)
Dear Author,

If you've offered any of these fandoms, you're obviously a person of taste and discernment, and probably didn't deserve to get stuck with my requests. I really would prefer you to write the best story you can, and one you're happy with, rather than trying to do something that doesn't suit you to fit what I asked for - so please, please do bear in mind that optional details are optional. If you have the opposite problem, and wish I'd given you more or more explicit suggestions, I'm very sorry - I was trying not to be overly prescriptive.

Mythology - Near Eastern )

Li Shang-Yin - Walls of Emerald )

One Thousand and One Nights )

In General )
quillori: Heian period illustration of a landscape (country: japan (heian landscape))
( Jan. 6th, 2011 12:04 am)
This year I had a marvellous prompt from [ profile] lnhammer, who wanted something based on the Kokinshu. (I recommend you drop by [personal profile] lnhammer to see some of his translations from the same - his lj is for general journaling, the dw account for translations.) I fell head over heels in love with the prompt, which led to me spending most of December beating myself up for not writing something as good as it deserved. In the end, what I wrote was as much a love-letter to Kyoto as to the Kokinshu, and I was very, very relieved that my recipient, and some of his friends also, liked it - between my love of the subject, and my respect for my recipient's own writing, I knew I had an intimidatingly high standard to live up to. (I fear, incidentally, that unless you are familiar with both the city and the anthology, the story will mean nothing to you at all.)

Cut for various structural details )

This meant I had no time to spare for writing treats, but then Madness was extended till Boxing Day, so I managed to sneak in two little things after all. Caerwent (otherwise known as 'I can never think of titles') is a quick piece based on Yonec, and Dress Ye Never So Fair, 499 or 500 words (depending on when I edited it last) inspired by various versions of Child Ballad #44, with which I think I'm cautiously moderately pleased: apparently something short enough and written quickly enough can escape my normal tendency to condemn everything I write as insufficiently good; presumably even I apply lower standards to something written in an hour or so. (Well, doubtless I shall come round to hating it, to counterbalance the stories I eventually find acceptable: I was just rereading last year's story (another 'I can never think of titles' effort, and written for someone who asked for 'any' characters, with no prompt, no letter, and no mention of the subject anywhere in her journal) and discovered to my amazement that while it clearly needs two or three thousand more words, minimum, and not to have end notes that make it quite so obvious I've given up on hoping my recipient knows anything about the subject whatsoever, the writing itself, which I remembered as so embarrassingly bad I couldn't bear even to glance at it again, is actually perfectly acceptable. Still, it was a great deal more fun this year, writing for someone who clearly knew the subject very well indeed, and probably rather better than I do.)

My normal rec post for excellent stories you can appreciate even without knowing the fandom will be somewhat delayed this year: I'm busy and there are an awful lot of stories. Nonetheless, it will make an appearance, even if not for several months: after initially wondering if the standard were a bit down this year, I found a number of very good stories I shall certainly be including.
quillori: blue-jay yuletide icon (yuletide (blue jay))
( Nov. 17th, 2010 03:34 am)
Dear Author,

If you've offered any of these fandoms, you're obviously a person of taste and discernment, and probably didn't deserve to get stuck with my requests. I really would prefer you to write the best story you can, and one you're happy with, rather than trying to do something that doesn't suit you to fit what I asked for - so please, please do bear in mind that optional details are optional. If you have the opposite problem, and wish I'd given you more or more explicit suggestions, I'm very sorry - I was trying not to be overly restrictive.

Pu Songling - Liaozhai Zhiyi )

Mythology - Near Eastern )

Meine Liebe )

Li Shang-Yin - Walls of Emerald )

In General )
6. Writers have a responsibility to tell the truth; not however the truth, but only a truth - whatever partial and limited fragment has caught their fancy, however major or minor, and whether about reality or about the reaches of human emotion and ideals. The world in general and the human heart in particular are full of contradictory and hard to reconcile truths, and doing justice to one at a time is as much as can be asked of anyone; demanding that your pet truth be shoehorned anywhere it could conceivably fit, without regard to the subject and purpose of the work, is both an act of philistinism and a denial of that complexity.

7. Owning books is like building a massive external storage for your mind. After all, if you're familiar enough with the contents of the books you own to know which information you need, and where to lay your hands on it when required, it's at least a bit like knowing everything in your library. (Not exactly, but a bit. Although this approach doesn't work for all sorts of knowledge: knowing precisely what point on what instructional DVD there's a clear description of how to perform a given dance move is not even the tiniest little bit like actually knowing how to do it.)

8. One of the things I most love about books is the ability to see things from different perspectives, to step from one vision of the world to another as I go from book to book. To me, each book says not 'to read me you must accept this is the way the world is' but 'let me show you how the world might look from this viewpoint'. On doesn't necessarily have to like a view to consider it a valuable exercise.

For some reason, I seem to have read like that from early childhood. I always took each book as being set as it were in its own individual universe, with its own rules, including moral rules. It was up to me to decide in what manner that universe related to real life. Thus mere repetition of, say, some moral position even across many books had far less impact than you might expect: obviously there were many things that happened frequently in stories but not in real life, so I saw no reason to think moral judgements couldn't also fall into that category. In fact, I consistently read books as propositions, as a specific way of looking at the world that was being offered for my consideration, not as a full and definitive statement as to how the real world actually is.

9. The number of books not only rises to fill available shelf space but tends to surpass it, and probably always will. (with apologies to Parkinson)

10. I have books I've read, sometimes repeatedly; books I've read the part of that interests me; reference books; books extremely unlikely to be useful for anything at all (but wouldn't it be frustrating to get rid of them and then unexpectedly need to know whether the Brahminy Kite tends to vocalize during flight, or details of the classical tunings of the Burmese harp? In fact, my inability to get rid of books is in large part based on precisely this paranoia, that as soon as I get rid of anything, I will have a sudden and unexpected - very unexpected - need for it); new books on the to-be-read shelf (let's be honest - shelves, plural); books I don't really want to read but know I should; books I'm sure I'll get round to finishing one day ... isn't this normal? It's a working library, not a graveyard in which to store books I've done with.
Look! For once, I'm actually posting something, and in my own journal too, not rambling uninvited in other people's. I said I'd do this, oh, only 5 months or so ago, which you'll admit is hardly any time at all, really. For reasons of length, I'm dividing it into three parts, cleverly getting thrice the posts from the one meme, and allowing me to feel triply accomplished.

1. I find I read considerably more non-fiction than fiction, something I always feel guilty about, even though I can't put my finger on why. Do other people who like non-fiction feel that way? If you predominantly read fiction, do you suffer from an obscure sense you should be reading more non-?

4 more things about books )
quillori: abstract design (stock: book of hours (abstract))
( Jun. 12th, 2010 12:15 pm)
I've been working on the assumption that a satisfactory collection of icons my tempt to me to post, or at least comment, more often. I'm not sure that's true, but it makes an excellent excuse for wasting time collecting them. What I have noticed is that there is a definite aesthetic I'm tending towards: mostly muted colours, illustrations rather than photos (unless the photo is so messed about with or so abstract it might as well not be a photo, or it's not so much a userpic representing me as a placard: this entry/comment is about this fandom/this character), lots of text. I could run down my icons and tell you at once which I'm going to end up changing when I find something more satisfactory, not necessarily because I don't like the icon, but because I don't feel it fits this journal. Of course, if I set up a second journal (hardly likely, given how infrequently I use this one), I've found any number of icons I like that don't fit here, and I might end up with a totally different look. Do other people do this, and if so do they do it by having a consistent theme, or just by a feeling that one icon looks like it fits and another doesn't?

from [personal profile] quinfirefrorefiddle:

1. Reply to this post, and I will pick six of your icons.
2. Make a post (including the meme info) and talk about the icons I chose.
3. Other people can then comment to you and make their own posts.
4. This will create a never-ending cycle of icon squee.

Six icons within )
quillori: detail from a modern chinese painting, showing two birds on a branch of bamboo (stock: bamboo birds)
( May. 10th, 2010 06:31 am)
If I claim the only reason I haven't posted for a while is because I was moving, will you believe me? Well, given I almost never get round to posting anything, probably not. (I made a New Year Resolution to post more often! And it's only May, so I'm obviously fulfilling it admirably!)

The new flat - rented, for once, rather than owned - is very nice, and more or less set up as I want it, barring various pieces of furniture that are on order. There are many floor to ceiling windows, and on each is a roller blind, of the sort that, in a wonder of modern engineering, rolls up effortlessly at a twitch of the cord. ............. Have I inserted a long enough pause for you to stop laughing and pick yourself up of the floor? So, in a more accurate description, there are many windows, and on each is a roller blind, of the sort that likes to stick determinedly part way up. The manufacturer's website has many pretty videos of blinds going up and down, and no mention that these videos are works of speculative fiction.1 Luckily my favourite walking stick comes in very handy for teasing them up the last little bit when they jam too high for me to reach.2

Cut )

1 I am not sure whether they should properly be categorised as SF, set in some future technological paradise, Utopian fiction, or perhaps an Alternate History, in which the company concerned designed something that actually worked before bringing it to the market. Or perhaps they are best understood as Fantasy, and the blinds are depicted operating by magic.

2 I bought the stick years ago at Sant Pere de Roda, mostly because I'd had such a pleasant day wandering around there I thought I should buy something from them beyond the rather good lunch. (If you ever happen to be there, I recommend the Gazpacho.) Since then I've used it not just for its intended purpose - presuming that to be hiking and not pilgrimaging, for which I obviously haven't used it at all - but also propped across the bath to hang my BC after rinsing my dive gear, and now for the blinds, so I've been amply rewarded for buying it. I still haven't used the little compass set in the top though, not because of my awesome sense of direction, but because I'm generally so hopelessly lost even a compass is not much use.
quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (yuletide)
( Jan. 1st, 2010 11:32 am)
The general standard of Yuletide stories seems to improve year on year. Stories that this year disappear into the common run would in previous years have been obvious recommendations. I'm not sure I've yet come across anything that matches the stand out bests from previous years, but then those include some of the better stories I've found anywhere online, so that is hardly a criticism.

I haven't had time to read anything like everything yet, and I generally prefer not to read everything in one fandom in a row, so if I've recced one story in a given fandom but not another equally good, it may be I just haven't read the latter yet. As always, I'm trying to concentrate on stories that are worth reading even if you aren't familiar with the fandom.

(Also, guys, come on: you see that little 'Add Comment' button, bottom right? It's fun to click it! Well, I admit it's more like hard work - I'm very bad at commenting myself, and behind even on Yuletide, for which I make a special effort. But I'm still seeing good stories with maybe one comment, which, yes, I know they were written as a gift, but every extra comment will make the writer happy, so, you know, click away.)

First, of course, I'd like to point you to the two stories written for me. A Mystery Rite of Irkalla and In the Dark House. These are both Near Eastern Mythology, and in fact both writers went for the same prompt, so they are both the Descent of Inana. This is a happy coincidence, because my interest is very much in seeing what different writers choose to make of the surviving canon, so have two such different takes on the same theme was perfect. In the Dark House is, in some ways, a very fannish version (femslash! incest!), although also interesting for its emphasis on love and pity in a myth that generally involves violence and deceit. My main story, however, is remarkable: beautifully written in verse, as though the translation of an original Sumerian text, A Mystery Rite of Irkalla is convincingly Sumerian yet with an emphasis on duality and comparison that provides an original perspective. I can't recommend it highly enough; also, I shall feel rather guilty if my brilliant yulegoat has put so much effort and care into creating something like this just for my benefit. I know that's sort of the idea, but this really does deserve a wider audience.

"What is this?" Inana asked him again, and each time he said,
"Lady, do not question the laws of the land of the dead."

Recs, recs, recs )
quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (Default)
( Jun. 26th, 2009 12:15 pm)
I think there are at least two arguments going around, which unfortunately keep getting conflated. More )
quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (yuletide)
( Jan. 1st, 2009 04:02 am)
Not only were there more stories this year than any other, the standard, always very good, is higher than ever. I know I've yet to read almost half the stories where I have some familiarity with canon, and a number of those I've already read merit rereading. However, every year there are some stories which are not only excellent in themselves but can be appreciated even by those who don't know the fandom. Unfortunately, most people don't have the time to read through countless unfamiliar stories in the hope some will make sense, so I always like to draw attention to those stories I've read which I think could be appreciated by a wider audience.

This way to the recs )
quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (yuletide)
( Nov. 9th, 2008 11:38 pm)
Dear Yuletide Santa,

Thank you so much for writing for me. I really will be happy with anything you've come up with, but if you're like me and prefer some prompts and general likes/dislikes, I've expanded a little on my requests below.

Meine Liebe )

Mythology - Chinese )

Petshop of Horrors )

Pu Songling - Liaozhai Zhiyi aka Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio )

In General )
Further to a discussion elsewhere as to what counts as OOC, it struck me that there are a number of approaches to writing fanfic, each of which aims to a have a different relationship to canon, and that there is little point discussing appropriate characterisation without considering what the story is trying to achieve. )
quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (Default)
( May. 25th, 2008 05:22 pm)
"The philologists held that their language was preserved in its purest form in the desert. Moreover, the speech of the desert Arabs abounded in marvellous lexical rarities and both poets and lexicographers went out hunting for these. For instance [...] bahlasa means 'to arrive suddenly from another country without any luggage'.

Robert Irwin, editorialising in The Penguin Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature
I have just met up with a friend who has had the misfortune to fly in transit through Heathrow four times in the last two months. And yes, she has found herself on each occasion in a position to demonstrate that the experience of desert Arabs some 1300 years ago is still relevant to today's expatriate.

In the interests of adding this excellent and necessary word to my vocabulary, are there any Arabic scholars out there who can tell me how it should be conjugated?
quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (Default)
( May. 5th, 2008 02:53 pm)
I've only just heard the terrible news about Burma (Myanmar). Ten to fifteen thousand dead, according to the BBC, four thousand according to the New York Times. I always say when asked that you can't compare countries and pick a favourite, but then if I'm being honest I have to admit Burma is the most beautiful country I have ever seen, and the one I have cared about the most. Only last week I was lightheartedly advising a friend where he should eat when he went to Rangoon (Yangon) and who he should use if he wanted to ship some of the fine wood carvings home: I imagine the restaurant and the shipping agency and the furniture shop I recommended are all gone now. There was a period a few years ago when I really thought things were improving perceptibly, but so much has gone wrong since. The country really has no luck at all.

BBC article here
Local interviews here
Google News results here
Girl With The Dark Hair
Anon, trans W.S. Merwin

      Girl with the dark hair
If you are asleep, be warned:
Half of our life is a dream )
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink )