“If they weren't solidly real dragons... it wouldn't have been worth doing.”
Jo Walton

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Buck chillin' on the lawn.
Me chillin' on the patio
the great and hyperlocal outdoors
Mon 2015-06-22 23:41:51 (single post)

I've many times sung excited praises of our great new indoors. But the great outdoors in our neighborhood is worth a mention.

First, have I mentioned that we get deer? This first photo is the sight that greeted me when I headed out the door Saturday morning. I saw the tips of the deer's antlers over the half-wall, but it wasn't until I emerged out onto the sidewalk that I realized it wasn't some bush or shrub I'd somehow never noticed before. "Oh, my," is what came out of my mouth. Then I ran back inside and got John. He came out, took one look, and said, "Oh, my." "That's what I said," I said.

John's the one who took the photo. All credit where credit is due.

I'm not sure I've seen a buck in the city with such thick antlers. That and the grizzled look to its face makes me think he's an older animal than I usually see in town. And he just lay there on the lawn, chillin', while neighbors emerged onto the sidewalks and upper walkways to gawk. He didn't get up and leave until the garbage truck thundered into the cul-de-sac. Even then I'd be hesitant to describe his exit as "scared away." It was more like, "What the heck is this noisy thing? What a nuisance! I'm out."

John also took the second photo, which shows off our front patio.

All the first floor units in our building have what I suppose are "privacy walls," based on their apparent purpose being to be shielding the front room's window from the casual glances of passersby. This creates an enclosure which I've referred to as the "front patio" despite that being an overly optimistic description. The space gets perhaps a little sun in the morning; otherwise, it's dim and empty and a little dire. Or at least it was. We were determined to turn it into somewhere pleasant to be.

So we hung up our hanging spaths there on the preexisting hooks that bracketed the window. Then I installed some supports on the privacy wall and hung up some more plants, being careful to choose ones that might flower despite getting very little direct sunlight. (The begonias appear to be doing well. The impatiens in the rectangular box are less enthusiastic, but I hope they'll come around.) And at last, yesterday, we acquired patio furniture.

Now I have an outdoor office!

And these have been our weekend adventures in the great and hyperlocal outdoors.

three happy things and one late thing
Fri 2015-05-22 23:34:06 (single post)

Let's concentrate on the positive. We got the piano tuned today! And the piano bench is sort of fixed, enough to sit on at least; Monday I hope to have it fixed in a more permanent fashion. So I sat down and played the piano today for the first time since we moved. Since months before we moved, in fact.

In the piano bench, which I emptied out in order to fix the piano bench, there's a heap of sheet music that belonged, I think, to one of my aunts. I suspect they were handed down to her from a previous generation. There is a Victor Herbert songbook with pieces whose copyrights range from MCMVI to MCMXXXIII. Victor Herbert died in MCMXXIV, which is the copyright date on a couple of the songs in the book.) I played through one of them--as best I can, that is, which is to say slowly and with many pauses to figure out the next chord. It was pretty dang melodramatic. I think it was supposed to be a cheerful song, though.

In other cheerful news, we have a hummingbird. Or multiple hummingbirds, I don't know. They jingle-buzz around the building, on both sides, and you can often catch sight of one zipping from tree to tree. I hung a feeder outside my office window in hopes of having hummingbirds visit me while I write, but almost a week went by and they didn't find it. Then, today, a hummingbird buzzed our patio window--just flew right into the balcony space and hovered meaningfully in front of the sliding glass door. "All right, already," I said, and moved the feeder from the office window to the patio. And now we have a new friend.

Back when we lived in Oregon, we had a hummingbird feeder outside the kitchen window. We weren't always vigilant about keeping it full, but the hummingbirds were not shy about telling us it had run dry. They'd start buzzing every other window of the house, upstairs and down, hovering outside the glass and going vvvrrrreeeee! in a pointed kind of way. I think today's visitor was doing something like that.

I brought a pair of cheap field glasses to the bedside so I could get a closer look next time the hummer came in for a sip (which it did about once every 20 minutes for the rest of the afternoon), but I haven't quite identified the species. It's got a gray-or-green body, a white-or-light-gray chest, and a reddish throat, which could be one of several species that WhatBird.com suggests for Colorado. My best guess is a male broad-tailed hummingbird. I suppose it could also be a calliope, but I didn't notice that striping/striation pattern in the red/maroon throat of my visitor. (WhatBird.com does not suggest the ruby-throated hummingbird this far west.)

One more happy thought: Roller derby tomorrow! Our first home bout of the season--at least, this will be the first competitive event we're hosting in 2015. The January event was a mix-up tournament. Tomorrow's will feature actual rated-and-ranked teams. I'll be skating with the Bombshells against the visiting team from Pueblo in the first bout of the evening--that'll start at 6:00 PM, with the frontman for Big Head Todd and the Monsters as the celebrity whistleblower starting the first jam for us. Right after that, our All Stars will take on Denver Roller Derby's Bruising Altitude.

I was going to put an article up on AXS.com about the event, but literally minutes before I was ready to upload the article, I got an email from AXS saying that they would no longer accept "game-related sports news or timely recaps." Argh. I was not prepared to try to turn it into some sort of "5 things to watch for" listicle at this late date, either, so I just let it go. You get this blog post instead.

$15 at the door! Doors open at 5:30! I'm assuming Georgia Boys will be there, with barbecue and mac & cheese for all. I know there will be lots of local beers and distilled spirits for the grown-ups. Come watch me skate, and then come see me at the fund raiser table during the All Stars bout (at halftime, of course; otherwise you should be watching the All Stars skate, because they are awesome) and help us keep our travel fund in the black! And speaking of the All Stars, keep your eyes on them this season. Latest WFTDA rankings put them at #33, which means this year may well be Boulder's D1 debut.

Meanwhile, it's Friday, and there is a conspicuous absence of Fictionette. I hope to get it up this weekend (where have we heard that tale before? but I really, really mean it this time. Well, Monday for sure). It was taking me longer tonight than I'd budgeted for, and it didn't seem wise to stay up late with such a big day looming over me tomorrow. So you will just have to stay tuned for tales of painted shipwrecks and sinister countdowns, I'm afraid.

bats in the belfry
Tue 2014-06-03 22:16:16 (single post)

I slept poorly last night, and I'm going to blame it on the bat.

Not, mind you, on the mug of strong tea I had at 9:30 because "It's too early for me to be this sleepy." Not on a session of Puzzle Pirates that went until 1:30 AM because I couldn't resist just one more battle on my way back to port from the site of the looted shipwreck. Neither of these would have been a problem once I finally turned off the lights, lay down, and actually tried to sleep. (Trying to sleep is a thing. It involves actively directing my mind in useful, sleep-promoting places, rather than lying there resentful about the way it races here and there.)

But when a bat gets into your bedroom, well, that'll do it every time.

We still have gigantic holes in our ceiling from shortly after September's storm. Bureaucratic movements towards interior repairs have been detected, but it wouldn't do to get too excited yet. Meantime, it's becoming clear that the roof is not as critter-tight as one might hope. Several days in a row the other week, we were getting bees in the house, despite the windows being closed. They'd show up on the living room window, either crawling around on the inside of the screens or lying dead in the panel track. Our suspicion was, they were getting into the roof and then exiting the roof space via the hole in our living room ceiling. This was no great feat of deduction. It was like seeing rain and suspecting it came from the sky.

That the bat came in from the roof was even more obvious. We could hear it vocalizing from the bedroom ceiling.

Have you ever heard a bat vocalize at close range? It's not a sound you're likely to forget in a hurry. One afternoon a few years ago, we came across a bat clinging to the rim of a step in the apartment stairwell. It obviously wasn't feeling at its most chipper, given that it just hung there stoically as we carefully stepped over it to get to our door. I donned some gloves and gently coaxed that poor, tired, confused thing into our largest plastic leftovers container--the big rectangular one I use for soup--and then I coaxed it back out onto a support strut in the open air parking structure, where it could safely rest until it decided to fly away. It wasn't until it was safely installed in its new location that it took a close look at me (I was taking a very close look at it) and decided it didn't like what it saw. It uttered a series of high-pitched, loud, piercing shrieks that caused me to recoil like a snake just struck at me.

That was when I realized that what I took for "these weird birds that chirp in the middle of the night during the summer" were in fact not birds at all. I've been told that this vocalization is social in nature, rather than having anything to do with their echolocation hat-trick.

Anyway, that sound started going off at 2:30 AM and I sat straight up in bed. "Sounds like a bat in distress," I said, and went to the window. From that vantage point it was clear that the sound was coming from above me, not from outside. "It's a bat in our ceiling." And lo, the elbow bend of a bat's wing briefly jutted into view.

We tried to coax it out--naively, I thought I could get it into that soup container again and take it outside--but it was having none of it. It scrambled back into the tight space between insulation and ceiling until we had no hope of seeing it, much less reaching it.

There didn't seem to be anything we could do. We tried to go back to bed. But that bat kept making noise. It chirped a little more, and then it just--scrabbled. Now, knowing that the scrabbling noise coming from the ceiling is a bat moving around is kind of comforting. It's a lot better than wondering if it's a cockroach, for instance. (Not really a Colorado problem. More of a Louisiana problem.) But it is impossible to get to sleep if part of your brain is constantly listening for it.

But I almost managed it. Right up until the bat was flying circles around our bedroom.

Bats are really, really quiet. It's the most uncanny thing. When a songbird gets into the house, it makes a hell of a lot of noise, not only with its voice but with the very motion of its wings on the air. Feathers are noisy. Furry leather, not so much. It was so contrary to my expectations as to give me the weird impression that I was watching something flying in the far distance, despite knowing it was in the same room with me. Which of course made it all the more startling when the bat's desperate attempts to find a way out brought it suddenly close to my face.

There was no question of trying to get it into a plastic container. This wasn't a tired daylight bat. This was a healthy nighttime bat. It wasn't going to stop for anything. So I opened all the window screens, knelt on the living room floor, and waited. It was kind of awesome in a close encounters kind of way--I could feel the breeze from its wings on my face!--but it was also kind of sad in a trapped bird kind of way. Unlike a bird, it knew exactly where the windows were. But, like a bird, it didn't seem to realize that Here Be Out. It swooped right up to the open windows again and again only to swoop away once more. Every once in a while it alighted on a piece of wall or ceiling to rest for a second. Then it was off again, flying in clueless circles.

Finally it disappeared, not through a window but up into the hole in the living room ceiling. It found the space where the insulation had been removed from the roof awning that jutted out some four feet beyond the window, and it vanished back there completely. I heard a little more scrabbling, and then nothing. It was probably 3:30 AM by then.

I have no idea whether it escaped out whatever hole the bees have been getting into, or if it's still up there. I suppose I'll find out if it starts flying around the house again tonight.

Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll sleep right through it. Like I said, bats are super quiet when they're not shrieking at the top of their lungs. And I am going to be super tired, guaranteed.

the nerdiest nerd that ever nerded
Fri 2014-05-30 23:16:36 (single post)

Is me. This is why: I'm at the Lindsey Stirling concert. She come back on stage after the exceedingly cute montage of baby Lindsey video. She begins the next song. It turns out to be her Legend of Zelda medley. And I totally tear up. Not even kidding. My throat closes, my eyes prickle, and by the end of the song tears are running freely down my face and I'm burying my face in my husband's shoulder to make them stop. I'm not just a nerd, but a soppy nerd.

Also? Stirling was a whole one year old when the original NES game (in its fancy gold cartridge! and its genius new "save game" feature!) was released in the United States. How is it fair that someone who was only just getting born by the time I was ten years old gets to pull my nostalgia strings that hard? (Yes, I am being irrational. Please feel free to envision me shaking my fist at the damn kids who won't get off my lawn. I do not have a lawn, but I will rent one just so I can enact this drama.)

Anyway.

I was initially surprised to hear she'd be playing the 1st Bank Center. It's kinda big. I still think of her as primarily YouTube famous. I admit this puts me squarely behind the times; nevertheless, last time I saw her perform--last year--it was at the Ogden. Tiny place on Colfax. Something like that. So I thought, "Oh, good for her. She must be getting more popular."

O, hi there, understatement. I hear the 1st Bank Center actually had to rearrange the set-up when they saw how rapidly tickets were selling. They originally had the stage closer to the center of the oval, and had to push it back to open up more floor and seating, or so I'm told. And it still sold out. So I hear.

Unless I am forgetting something, this was my first time going to that venue for something other than roller derby. It's where I saw the WFTDA National Championship that got me hooked on the sport in 2011. In 2013, the Denver Roller Dolls hosted the Colorado Cup there (and my league's A-team stormed through undefeated to take home the trophy). But I'm not sure I've been there for an actual concert before.

Which means that Lindsey Stirling and I sort of have something in common. This was her first time playing there. Not only that, but--this is what she told us, several times during the show--her first time playing an arena-style venue ever. For the most part, it wasn't apparent. The lights and effects felt, I dunno, sufficiently bombastic to fill an arena. Although I did wonder about the strobes at the top of the stage; they were almost painful for where we were sitting, straight back and just right of dead center. It occurred to me they might have been angled for a much smaller venue, one where they'd be aimed safely over the heads of everyone in the house. Other than that, and possibly the lack of live-capture video screens, I would not have guessed. And who needs live-capture video? Most of the time she was silhouetted against the multiple screens she did have, which were showing bright abstract patterns and spacescapes and ice caves. I had no trouble watching her killer dance moves, despite the stage taking up about the same amount of space in my subjective view field as would my laptop screen.

So now I feel like I not only saw a wonderful concert, but I also got to be a small part of history. I was there for a landmark in the ongoing adventures of a musician I admire. Neat!

Now everyone go out and buy yourselves a copy of Shatter Me, OK? Also, this is unbelievably cool and you should watch it. Lindsey Stirling and an a capella ensemble doing pop music coverage. With backup cello. I know, right? You're welcome!

spent all evening singing about our feelings
Fri 2014-04-11 21:34:52 (single post)

Today started with a tiny awesome thing, and it ended with a great big awesome thing.

I had my 4-month dental check-up and cleaning this morning at 8:00 AM. That is not usually an awesome thing, tiny or otherwise, but today it acquired awesomeness by resulting in my best report in years. When the hygienist poky-sticked between my teeth and gums to measure the gaps, she never said "four." All the way out to the wisdom teeth, it was "three two three, three two three, two two three, three two three." And that sonic doohickey that moans over decalcification and shrieks at the sight of decay? It didn't let out a peep. It didn't even mutter. The hygienist double-checked it to make sure it was on. And the tooth-scraping didn't go on for very long either. No lie, I felt like a character in that old toothpaste commercial montage where patient after patient looks up and says, "You mean, that's it?"1

Best of all, the hygienist said that if I can maintain this level of home care, we might consider putting me back on a regular 6-month schedule. That's the first time I've heard anything of the sort since they put me on the 4-month schedule in the first place.

You know who we have to thank for this? HabitRPG. I have a daily for "Morning Oral Hygiene" (brush!) and "Evening Oral Hygiene" (floss! fluoride!), and their streak counters are at 36 and 32 respectively. That's how many days in a row that I've done them without fail.

So that was the tiny awesome thing.

The great big awesome thing was the VNV Nation concert tonight at the Gothic Theatre.

I had never seen them live before. I've danced enthusiastically to their music at goth clubs and sung along in the car, so I knew I'd probably enjoy myself at the concert.

I did not consciously expect to be in active bliss for the entirety of the show.

First off, a VNV song is composed of pure joy. Even the sad songs. Every sparkling, dancing synth arpeggio is made of joy and delight and, and, and rainbow glitter, OK? Every single song. They just start running the notes up and down the keyboard like that and it sends a neurological signal straight down the spine and into ALL THE FEELS. This was a recipe for goofy, blissful grins everywhere in the audience. It wasn't just me, and it wasn't just the awesome derby gals I was there with, it was just about everyone I could see.

And as a concert, as a concert experience, which is to say not just in terms of witnessing a live performance but in terms of sharing a unique experience with the performers... well, considered that way, it was the best damn concert I've seen since the last time I saw Cowboy Mouth. There's that same conversation going on, where the performer insists on 150% from every single person in the audience, and where the audience effin' gives it, and the performer gives it right back. There's that same sense that the performer notices you, yes, you, and whether you're having a good time, and if you are, they know it, and you know they know it. There's that same banter and commentary of the performer responding to silly things in the audience. The performer is constantly performing with conscious acknowledgment that the audience is part of this shared experience, and that both us on the floor and them on the stage are aware and grateful to the other for meeting them more than halfway.

Except of course the tone is very different. In a Cowboy Mouth concert, you get this sort of loving, rabble-rousing harangue from beginning to end, where Fred alternately leads you and goads you and scolds you toward the emotional climax of the show. The the tone of the VNV show was more gentle, more wide-eyed with delight, like they were constantly and genuinely amazed at the high we were all having together. I got the feeling that they say something like "This has got to be the best show ever! You are the most amazing audience ever!" at every show on the tour, but not because it's a rote thing to say, but because the performers genuinely feel it every time.

They ended the show's second and final encore with "Perpetual," which of course I was looking forward to all night. When the DJs play that song at a goth club, it's like a call to the congregation to come together in worship, especially when you reach the last lyric line. Everyone goes super serious and emotional, and their dance style gets all interpretive-like, with grand slow-sweeping gestures and meditative looks on every face. And if it sounds like I'm poking fun, well, I'm only doing so to the extent that it's aimed at myself. That's what I do if that song finds me on the dance floor. I can't help it. It's that kind of song.

Well, throughout the song, the singer kept interrupting himself to joke at the audience, encourage us to sing along to the song's signature sparkly synth arpeggio ("I don't care what language you speak, I don't care if you know the song, everyone can sing this song! ...Within reason") , and to threaten the impromptu crowd surfers to "put him down or I will personally kick you out! Jeez. This isn't a Slayer concert!" And none of that dampened the song's usual emotional effect, not a jot. Quite the opposite: all the laughter just added to the sense that hey, we're all in this together, onwards and upwards, joyfully.

The end of the song went on and on, everyone singing together over and over again, "Let there be, let there always be, neverending light," while the lights came partway up and the band members alternately conducted the audience-choir and took video of the forest of rejoicing hands and flaming cigarette lighters and gleaming cell phones. And my feet hurt like the dickens because for the first time in ages I was wearing my stylish stomping boots with their big tall square heels, and it didn't matter, that moment could last for another hour for all I cared.

So. That was the great big awesome.

I'm not sure I could take every day beginning with tiny awesome and ending with great big awesome. But it's a very nice way to construct a day once in a while.


1I tried to find that commercial on YouTube. I failed. Granted, I didn't try that hard. Anyway, you probably know the one I'm talking about. Late '80s, I want to say. Maybe early '90s. Might have been a toothbrush commercial rather than a toothpaste commercial. Gist was, using their product was supposed to lead to less plaque and therefore less unpleasant tooth-scraping at the dentist's office. (back)

They often wander through, flicking an ear in courteous greeting as they pass.
Optimism!
Mon 2014-01-06 22:47:11 (single post)

It's a new year. I'm thinking optimistic thoughts. You know the sort: New year's resolutions, making a fresh start, and all that general gung-ho go-get-'em population of the mental nation known as The First Day of the Rest of Your Life.

Unfortunately, Life sometimes has minor upsets that mess with planning The Rest of. Seems like John and I both picked up head colds when we were in New Orleans--and how much of that is due to our insisting on spending a rainy Saturday in the French Quarter, I couldn't say--so our new year has been off to a slow start.

John's been staying more or less active throughout. I'm not sure how he does it. Me, I spent Thursday in bed. Friday I started getting better, Saturday better still--then Sunday I had my first roller derby practice since A) being sick and B) returning from sea level, which landed me back in bed most of the daylight hours of today while my lungs threatened to go on strike. But I made it to the Rock Day Spin-In and Potluck at Shuttles tonight, having baked banana bread for my contribution during the afternoon. I'll mark my small triumphs where I find them.

Tomorrow, I hope, I'll be able to put my new year's optimism to work pursuing my newly determined daily work schedule (about which, more tomorrow). There are distractions in the near future: preparations for out-of-town guests, then the actual activities involving the out-of-town guests, not to mention sharing the house with said guests between Wednesday the 8th and I think Monday the 13th. But if I waited until my life was distraction free to really settle into a daily work schedule, it might be New Year's Day 2015 before anything got done. So I guess one of my new year's resolutions should be to stop using distractions as an excuse.

Another resolution is, once again, to get back to blogging here daily or at least five days a week. We'll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, here's a picture of one of our neighbors. He came around the side of our building while we were chatting, then headed across the street to spend some time in the Atrium's loading dock. John followed him with a camera, for which exercise he graciously posed. Happy New Year!

But but but tell me what you REALLY think...
Thu 2010-03-11 17:44:55 (single post)
  • 2,680 wds. long

Thing about nervousness in the face of a story critique is, I don't ever get over it. All I do is get used to suffering it. So last week I told myself, "So what, you're nervous? So what else is new? Send the thing." Then I found out that while the nervousness never gets better, it damn well can get worse. There's "I wrote a story and other people are reading it" nervous, and then there's "I wrote a story that's sort of transgressive and psychosexual and may reflect badly on the state of my sanity" nervous.

An additional large part of my nervousness came from not really knowing what I'd written. I spent two hours last Saturday doing a type-in revision of the story, after which I simply spell-checked it and sent it out. After which my only clear memories of the story were all the things that were potentially bad. Predictably, this was followed by a bout of "Oh my Gods what have I done?" panic.

According to my critique group, I wrote a damn fine story that steers just shy enough of purple prose ("it's more lavender, really") to have some stunningly poetic moments and breaks a lot of conventional rules and gets away with almost all of them.

OK then. *pauses to blush and grin uncontrollably*

The "almost" is where the difficulty of revising it will come from, because I think what I'm trying to do there is worthwhile but needs to be done in a gentler way. In any case, the negative parts of the peer review were all the right kinds of negatives. My story has grown-up problems. Now I gotta be a grown-up and fix them, the sooner to send the story out into the wide world.

Today, however, I am being a lump. I work 5 days a week, and I am deciding this week to trade my Thursday for my Sunday. I drove John to the airport today, after sharing breakfast and several bouldering problems with him. Though it's hard to find anything to complain about in a day that started with rock climbing and green chile, I am now unexpectedly tired. And being all alone on Sunday means a good block of time to write then. So tonight I'm doing nothing much productive.

I've been rereading old blog entries since last night. And laughing at them. I don't know if I'm just a vain nut or what, but damn I've written some funny things in these pages.

(I'm sort of snorting soft drinks through my nose over these two.)

And I'm contemplating the new crafting puzzle at Puzzle Pirates. Weaving. I'm still not entirely sure whether I like it. The physics of it are satisfying, but the animations are a little slow. In any case, I may be doing that for a while tonight. Also, my Sage Ocean pirate Nensieuisge ("Nancy Whiskey") bought an Emerald Class Sloop and really needs to take it a-pilly. So that's what I've got on for the night.

Then tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday, there will be work.

Incidents Following An Interception
Mon 2010-02-08 16:31:26 (single post)

Of course the bar went wild. If my cell phone weren't A) set to vibrate and B) in my hand, I would have missed Steve's text message: "HOLY SHIT!" I tried to write back: "I KNOW, RIGHT? That's it! That's the game!" At which point my phone told me that it had encountered difficulties sending my text message, sorry, it had been saved in my outbox please try again later. So I did.

Sorry 4 delay... Tracey Porter broke my network.
I had sort of lost track of the game at this point. Everytime I looked, some Colts play was going wrong, as though everyone on the team, except the quarterback, had accepted that it was over. But I was getting text messages left and right, so I kept ABCing my way through responses that may or may not have gone through.

Then the 4th-and-goal attempt got stuffed and it began to rain indoors.

I actually looked for some sort of sprinkler system that McGuire's might have triggered to go off in celebration. The reality was much less high tech. All of the high tech in the bar had been channeled into showing the game on four TVs and a home-rigged cardboard projection screen. ("I love it when I win," said Zack, bartender and entertainment system MacGuyver. "That's my favorite game in all the world.") Thus the wi-fi wasn't working and even the electrical outlet under the bar was dead, which is why my computer was safely in my bookbag underneath my seat when people began buying bottles of beer to baptize the crowd. Purchase, shake, pop the top, spray. Friends and strangers hugged, screamed, clasped hands in the alcoholic drizzle. Two women near me were crouched to the ground, though whether in emotional overload or because they'd dropped something I wasn't sure.

Some guy jumped up on the bar and began strutting from one end to the other. I handed him my spare Krewe of Carrollton beads to throw and got myself together to head out into the street.

For a moment, all I could think to say was, "I love everybody in the world right now!" I shouted that, and things like it, a lot last night.

Car horns sounded without cease: jubilation, not irritation. As they passed me, or I passed them, windows rolled down, shouts of "WHO DAT?!" were exchanged in call-and-response, hands extended to slap palms with anyone close enough. After awhile, I stopped wincing and started just holding out my hand at the sound of a car fast approaching behind me.

In the Quarter, gently and sloppily drunk adults tripped over families towing toddlers and apologized loudly and politely. Children in pint-sized number jerseys made the most of their rare chance to yell at the top of their lungs at passing strangers without getting rebuked for rudeness. "Who dat?!" they yelled, and adults yelled right back, "Who dat?!" And the kids were delighted. They were part of something tonight. This wasn't going on over their heads or in the next room. They were part of it.

Bourbon Street was as crowded as any festival night, possibly more so. At the intersections, it teemed like a salmon run but without direction. Any attempt to navigated foundered. You entered the current not to get somewhere, but just to be there, pressed up in full-body contact against three or four other people at any given moment, sharing joy like body heat and not caring that your feet were barely touching the ground.

From the river to South Claiborne, there was no traffic. Well, not what you'd call traffic. What there was, was a non-stop tailgate party, traffic signals having lost their meaning, horns continuing to sound in rhythm with the ubiquitous "WHO DAT?!" chanting, sunroofs and windows sprouting upper bodies, styrofoam pointing fingers, second-line umbrellas, hands, voices. Past South Claiborne, lakeward Canal Street flowed smoothly but riverward Canal Street remained bumper to bumper, and if anyone was annoyed by this, you didn't notice them. You noticed the convertible with the top down where five or six riders stood up on the seats and danced to the music pounding out their car stereos. Some riders were standing on roofs and hoods--not that the cars were going fast enough to make this a danger.

"How ya do?" I called, passing fans walking north along the street car tracks. "Wait," I amended, even as the automatic Fine, I do fine, I'm doing great, came back. "Dumb question, is that even a question? Don't I know the answer already? WHO DAT!"

Music ranged from brand-new hip-hop gonna-be-standards written in honor of the Superbowl opportunity, to reworked classics like the "Superbowl Mambo," to old favorites that Louis Armstrong used to sing. Which could also stand to be reworked.

Oh when the Saints
Came marching in
Oh when the Saints came marching in
I was proud to be in that number
When my Saints came marching in

Traffic at South Broad and Canal was somewhat more normal. People stopped at red lights and weren't backed up more than half a block. Kids in a pickup truck parked at a drugstore called out "Who dat sayin' gonna beat dem Saints?" at passersby, who shouted back the only possible answer. "Who dat? Who dat?"

Across the parish line, things fell silent. The party never lasts as late in Metairie. But before locking up and heading home to bed, business owners had left their acknowledgments. The cycling light board at Old Metairie Bank said,

Superbowl
XLIV
CHAMPS
thank you
THANK YOU
THANK YOU
SAINTS!
But this suburb had gone to bed, and I was about to do the same.
WorldCon 2009, Sunday: The Hugos and The Community
Sun 2009-08-09 22:03:35 (single post)

This will be a brief post* and not very polished as blog posts go. I'm tired and attempting to make an early night of it. I know, I know--an early night at WorldCon? That's unpossible! Yet I shall try.

Tonight's big event was the awarding of the Hugos, when the World Science Fiction Society presents big heavy rocket-shaped trophies to people what done good. This is my second time attending the Hugos, and once again they made me both giggly and teary-eyed. The reason for that is why I wanted to blog a bit before I slept.

Towards the beginning of the presentation, we get the IN MEMORIAM list. Names of those members of ours community who have died since the last WorldCon are projected on the big screens. Charles N. Brown, founder of Locus Magazine. Forrest J. Ackerman, "Mr. Science Fiction." And, heartbreakingly, the list went on for pages. After each name was a word or two describing what their role had been: author, editor, artist, etc.

The list was a very inclusive list. Walter Cronkite was mentioned, though he was not someone you'd have thought of as being part of SF/F fandom. His tag was "space exploration enthusiast." Michael Jackson, too: "genre music video." Fandom is ecumenical and all-embracing. Many of the people we count as our own might be surprised to find themselves in that number.

So that's the easy answer to why I get teary. But it goes deeper. See, a lot of the names, they got tagged with just one word: "Fan."

Science fiction and fantasy has its celebrities. Dang straight it does--ask Neil Gaiman, who appears increasingly chagrined as the years go by at his rock star status. (He observed at the "Finding Fandom" panel that his power to create a roomful of applause with a single word--"Sandman"--was a dangerous one that ought only to be used for good. He has been heard to observe that his simply walking into a con party halts all conversation.) And yet in fandom, "celebrity" doesn't imply the same sort of separation between the celeb and pleb as it does in other entertainment industries (my parenthetical comments last sentence notwithstanding). The line between fan and pro blurs to the point that someone might get nominated for "Best Fan Writer" the same year they're nominated for "Best Novel." The line blurs because every pro started out a fan, many fans aspire to be pros, and every pro remains a fan. Thanks to cons, acquaintanceships and friendships form across that blurry line and grow strong.

Tonight, John Scalzi won a Hugo for Best Related Book. Last year, I sat down with six or seven other fans at Scalzi's kaffeeklatsch and we all enjoyed a rambling conversation with him about anything and everything. Tonight, Ellen Datlow won a Hugo for Best Editor, Short Form. Friday morning she and I and several other early risers all chatted beside the fountain while waiting for the daily walk around town to get under way. Tonight, Elizabeth Bear won a Hugo for Best Novelette. This morning, I sat in a small conference room with a handful of WorldCon attendees to hear Bear read us some excerpts from her upcoming novel.

And all of us have been passing each other in the hallways, nodding to and smiling to and greeting each other right across that pro/fan boundary line that isn't much of a boundary at all. "Fan." It's a title we all share here. It doesn't get replaced by other titles--it just gets augmented. "Fan." It's title enough to get you missed sorely by the rest of the community when you're no longer with us here on Earth. The inclusiveness of that is truly touching. It reminds me that "home" isn't just a place; it's people too.

So that's the second reason the Hugos make me teary. The third, which is also the reason I get giggly--well, you watch. Watch what happens when someone gets the award and comes up to accept it. Watch Frank Wu (Best Fan Artist sorry, got that wrong before) galumphing up onto the stage, tripping over his own feet up the stairs, out of breath with hurry and utter surprise. Watch him playing with his Hugo, zooming the rocket ship around in the air and making whooshing noises. Watch him bounding back to his seat, still wielding his Hugo in toy rocket position, while the next category gets underway. And this isn't even his first Hugo, either! It's heartwarming and funny and makes you want to go over and give him a hug. Because you'd be galumphing and bounding and whooshing, too! And listen to the recipients who can barely utter their thanks over the sudden lump in their throats. Or the ones who get punchy and start interrupting their own acceptance speech trains of thought by looking down at the trophy they're holding--as though they can't believe they actually have one in their hot little hands--and blurt out, "Fuck this thing is heavy!"

The Hugos event is full of those little human moments--those moments when you realize, with the force of epiphany, "We're all humans together, and I love these humans, they're funny and wonderful and just like me, really." You want to just encircle the entire auditorium in your arms and not let go.

So I'm a little weepy right now and full of smiles. And very, very sleepy. And now that I have said what I wanted to say, hot damn! I get to go to sleep now! G'night!

* or not. Brief, that is.

In Which The Author Is Inspired
Wed 2009-01-21 11:42:29 (single post)
  • 5,737 wds. long

To my fellow United States citizens and residents, and to my fellow citizens of the global community: Happy Inauguration Day! The U.S. has a new President as of yesterday, and his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and I can't stop grinning.

I will put my exuberance here, for the record. Should I have occasion to regret it, as supporters of the previous President eventually did, I'll own up to it. But right now I can't imagine being disappointed because I don't expect miracles--I expect a continuation of the hard work and competence I saw during his campaign.

What the heck does this have to with a writing blog? Just this: I pledge to work as hard, in my own life, in my own career aspirations, in my craft and art, as I see our new President working for his own ideals. I admit that sounds cheesy. But watching him during his candidacy, watching his constant activity since the election (really, since when have we seriously paid attention to the Office of the President-Elect?), and watching him get to work on Day 1 (I am actually tuning in to CNN to find out what's up to--I've never done that before, and I actually avoided coverage of the previous President because he made me angry and nauseated), is nothing short of an inspiration. And it makes me feel like a bum. And I don't want to feel like a bum.

We find our role models where we can. I pledge to work as hard as I can see my role models have and do--because that's what "role model" means. We model our behavior--hopefully--after the inspirational examples set before us. So. Add another name to my list of role models.

It's kind of like a New Year's Resolution, except made on Inauguration Day rather than New Year's Day. I think that's fairly appropriate.

In other news, "Lambing Season" is in the slush again; I wish it well. And on the freelance non-fiction side, I'm working on some articles for upload to Constant Content. I was mildly excited to learn that one of my existing CC articles was recently purchased, and to find that this customer, unlike some previous ones, honored the Usage License requirement of including my by-line. (Read it here.) Apparently CC has also lowered their payment threshold from $50 to $5, which effectively removes the disconnect between selling an article and getting paid. All of which makes seeding that particular cloud look more worthwhile. So I will.

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