Monday, November 26, 2018

I actually finished something!

No, not a book this time. Lacking a decent sense of humility, I will brag that since resuming a writing career in 2017 I've established a decent track record for not only finishing books but getting them out there. Eight books out in that time period, five of them published this year; three more in the queue to get covers and formatting; and a twelfth book on track to be done by next week.

No, it's the piece of embroidery up above, which I currently love so much that I'm thinking of making it my header pic. In the course of cleaning up the sewing room and tackling the mountain of things to be mended or altered, I came across this piece of "fabric" which I made during the years before back problems knocked me out of doing anything at all. It's actually a conglomeration of different fabric scraps, some painted and dyed silk, some dryer-wrinkled, some insubstantial bits of net, all fused to a felt background and held down by a ton of ribbons, stitching, and rose montee crystals.

Hmm. Felt-backed, pretty, about the size of an opened book; what to do with that? Well, my current favorite writing spot is one end of the new couch, with its handy footrests that rise at the push of a button. It's got broad arms suitable for holding a cup of coffee, but the catch is that if I keep drinking coffee there the upholstery will eventually have coffee-colored stains. Enter this little piece. With a bit more embroidery to hold everything in place, and a blue cotton back cover from the fabric stash, it's almost perfect to lay across the arm of the couch right where I want to keep a cup or glass.

"Almost," because the surface is just a bit scratchy. So, eventually it will probably be replaced by something less decorative but smoother to the touch; one of the cotton prints I brought back from India should work. But for now, I'm going to admire my pretty turquoise fantasia... and stitch on the unfinished crazy quilt blocks I unearthed at the same time, which make a nice break from summarizing A Revolution of Rubies to send off to the cover artist.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Still thinking about the Great War...

Back in the Dark Ages before video games, I was once involved with a group of crazy people who were addicted to a board game called Diplomacy. It was based on a map of pre-WWI Europe and -- as you might guess from the name -- was not so much about tactics and ammunition as it was about making and breaking alliances. It was the between-moves huddles with other players that accounted for ninety percent of the game time, as we all tried to mislead (Sure, I went in the corner with Germany and Austro-Hungary, but I didn't make a deal with them), obfuscate (No, I'm not planning a naval battle, I just feel like talking to Britain and Turkey) and cheat (I know I promised not to stab you in the back. What, you believed me?).

It was a lot of fun, and along the way, repeated experiences hammered some basic principles of geopolitics into my head. I started with the naive view that all players were essentially in the same boat but eventually had to concede that your place on the map had a lot to do with your fate. If you're Great Britain, you become a major naval power ASAP or you lose. If you're Belgium and the Low Countries, it doesn't much matter what you do; Germany will wind up marching through you. And if you're the Austro-Hungarian Empire, you're screwed.

I wonder if all the Great Powers would have been so interested in war if they'd played a few rounds of Diplomacy first?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

Because everybody else is quoting "In Flanders fields" I thought I'd put up a lesser-known poem to mark this day and the end of the War to End War:

The magpies in Picardy
Are more than I can tell.
They flicker down the dusty roads
And cast a magic spell
On the men who march through Picardy,
Through Picardy to hell.

(The blackbird flies with panic,
The swallow goes with light,
The finches move like ladies,
The owl floats by at night;
But the great and flashing magpie
He flies as artists might.)

A magpie in Picardy
Told me secret things—
Of the music in white feathers,
And the sunlight that sings
And dances in deep shadows—
He told me with his wings.

(The hawk is cruel and rigid,
He watches from a height;
The rook is slow and sombre,
The robin loves to fight;
But the great and flashing magpie
He flies as lovers might.)

He told me that in Picardy,
An age ago or more,
While all his fathers still were eggs,
These dusty highways bore
Brown, singing soldiers marching out
Through Picardy to war.

He said that still through chaos
Works on the ancient plan,
And two things have altered not
Since first the world began—
The beauty of the wild green earth
And the bravery of man.

(For the sparrow flies unthinking
And quarrels in his flight;
The heron trails his legs behind,
The lark goes out of sight;
But the great and flashing magpie
He flies as poets might.)

-T.P.C. Wilson
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