Friday, November 30, 2012

After the Ice notes pt. 1

A note on schedule: for the next four weeks I'm going to be swamped with school stuff, and then over break I'll be away. I've recently been thinking about a number of writing-related issues - but those must wait. For the rest of the year I'll be posting notes from my readings, or writing excerpts. Hope you enjoy.


Story ideas, information, &c I got from reading After the Ice, by Steven Mithen.

Carcass on the river

Ligaments and sinews for thread and cord; bone needles

Meeting of H. sapiens and H. erectus in Asia?

Gazelles in Central Asia

Ch. 3 Title: “Fires and Flowers”

Azraq: oasis, described by T. E. Lawrence

Hunters: gather at oases in winter, in steppes/desert in summer

Dwellings cut into the earth

Dentalium shells often used in Mediterranean jewelry

Between woodland and steppe: water, game, plants

Animals smaller when domesticated

Gardens with significant plants (sentimental as well as real value): traditions, gifts, etc.

Separate wheat from chaff by agitating or sieving

Dwellings only for sleep: most life in open

Hunter-gatherers: intense periodic gatherings in large groups, rest of the time dispersed in small groups

“nether world between history and myth” (46)

When food shortages, less growth, males more affected

Hallan Cemi Tepesi: ancient village in Zagros region - architecture?

Walls to protect against flood

Skull cults, reburials

Early Neolithic Jericho and Jordan River Valley: “small circular dwellings, burials placed below floors, rituals associated with skulls, reliance on wild game and the cultivation of either wild or possibly domestic…plants” (63)

Mother goddess and bull god

Communal storage at center of village: also for rituals

Skulls on the wall, pillars carved with wild animals

Meet on the mountain: religious sites for gathering

Cappadocia: obsidian; coral and bone

Plaster: powdered lime and water; can be painted

Wadi Gharabi: valley of ravens

Petra (2000 years old): “rock-cut temples and tombs” (73)

Leaders know how much grain is stored

Cellar workrooms, placement of walls, models of animals; masks, robes, and headdresses

After domesticating animals, hunting wild game is prestigious

2-headed beasts (Marduk?), ghosts

Farming and herding must be separate to avoid environment degradation

Sculptures that combine human, bird, and snake in varied permutations (Nevali Cori cult building)

Catalhoyuk: “they climbed wooden ladders on to the roofs, dispersing and disappearing down a maze of rooftop pathways, steps and ladders that lead from tier to tier and house to house. Between the paths are plat mud roofs, some evidently used as workshops” (92)

A nightmare of bull heads, enormous deer; burning bones

“concentric wells and radial cells” (103)

Artemisia: successful shrub in 15000 BC Central Europe

Mountain avens: white flowers, Dryas octopetala

Doggerland beneath North Sea: when did it drown? After Mesolithic, when it was the heartland

[picture: Montgaudier Baton]

Reindeer butchery: remove head; skin body by cutting around hooves, along legs, peeling hide away while cutting sinews; lay hide out flat; cut open belly and remove innards, stacking “legs, pelvis,…ribs,…liver and kidneys” (125) on hide, while adding heart to meat, lungs to organs; cut out tongue; remove antlers

Food-sharing important for hunter-gatherers

In Stone Age, flint supervaluable - in chalk and limestone - may contain fossils or crystals

Minimum viable population about 500, usually meet once or twice a year, most of time in 25-50 person groups (4-5 families)

People travel very far for information - food, people, inventions

“flint, quartz, amber,…jet, [and] fossil shells” (129)

Groups cooperate for big annual hunts

Carr: “dense stands of trees in pools of water” (138)

Resin to attach arrow points; natural tunnets

Mas d’Azil: Mesolithic “supersite” - painted pebbles

Stories contain survival information

Mesolithic, floods, Neolithic

Black Sea was freshwater lake, then flooded by water from the Mediterranean: Noah flood?

“rounded grassy summits giving way to splintered stone” (158)

“swathes of wild lilac and honeysuckle that grew within the limestone ravines in which he listened to thunderous torrents and springs bursting from the earth” (159)

The Iron Gates: cliffs/gorges on the Danubs

Bone amulets, snail-shell beads

Lepenski Vir: melancholy fish-human stone statues [image]

Beluga sturgeon up to 9 meters long: river monsters

At Nea Nikomedeia: “polished effigies of frogs, beautifully carved from green and blue serpentine” (164)

Know: where, when, how

Pushkari in Ukraine: dwellings of mammoth bone and hide

Olneostrovski Mogilnik: Deer Island cemetery in Lake Onega, Karelia; heads point east; 2 lineages (elk and snake) - effigies, shamans interred almost standing

Bear tusks

Frontier mentality: speedy colonization, jumping from one favorable patch to another

Saami believe “swans and wildfowl were the messengers of the gods” (land, sea, air), “moving between different worlds”

Lots of fish -> parasites -> bloated stomach, pale face

Sandfire in canoe attracts eels

Deer v. boar cloak-pins at Hoedic and Teviec (respectively)

Hybrid hunting-gathering and farming lifestyle, pick and choose indicates local adopted selectively, instead of a takeover

Peripatetic: itinerant

Beringia: land bridge between Siberia and Alaska, now flooded

Sandstone cliffs, small caves, wall-paintings

Current American Indians different from First Americans to cross the land bridge - what was the conflict?

Labyrinthine mountains and valleys; high glacier valleys

Megalakes formed by meltwaters from ice sheets

Drunken woodlands: forest floor -> water, “on soil which lay upon stagnant layers of ice” (243) - tilted trees

Glyptodont: “giant armadillo-like creature” (244) central American rainforest

Something dwelling in a frozen lake

Friday, November 23, 2012


To the starlight, which
Has traveled a very long
Way: I'm glad you came.


Written November 2012.


Last night, after my family got back from a Thanksgiving party at which I watched Inception for the fourth time and ate about six chocolate-chip cookies, I noticed, for the first time in a long time, the stars. So I stood out in the yard for a while, my cat twining around my ankles, and stared up at the sky.

Everything fades. You are small, small, small - but it's not a bad feeling. The universe is so large. There's room in it for you to breathe.

A piece of scientific knowledge that never, ever grows stale:
"We are star stuff, a part of the cosmos...I'm not just speaking generically or metaphorically here. The specific atoms in every cell of your body, my body, my son's body, the body of your pet cat, were cooked up inside massive stars. To me, that is one of the most amazing conclusions in the history of science, and I want everybody to know about it."
-Alek Filippenko, quoted in The Canon by Natalie Angier


If you tilt your head back far enough, you can feel as though you're about to fall into the night sky. And maybe you can.

A small suggestion:

Friday, November 16, 2012


(Somewhat of a rambling post today. I have a lot of thoughts I haven't yet sorted out to my satisfaction.)

I am always in the process of putting my house in order - to-do lists proliferate with unseemly haste - so now that football season is over, I'm starting to look forward to a more regular schedule.

But I wonder: Newton's first law notwithstanding, is it natural to live in a state of flux? Looking ahead, I can see that the next ten years are going to be full of change: college, graduate school, working and living on my own in the real world. To be honest, it scares me sometimes.

Dangerous side effects include acute apathy: nothing I do will matter in ten years, so why bother? Why should I get worked up over a grade in a class that's not relevant to my future? Why should I bother myself about people I'm probably not going to see again after I graduate?

Yes, I should take a philosophical view when people annoy me. But I still can't stomach the "everything is futile" mindset. I do believe that what I do matters. Maybe not the tests I take, but what I think and learn and create.


"Don't ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
-Howard Thurman

See also: Jungian concept of individuation, Justine Musk.

As long as I am doing something that fires my enthusiasm, that makes me feel joy, then it matters. And the unavoidable boring stuff is just fuel for my stories, or my (personal) story.

Thus: change is good, so long as it brings me new experiences to enjoy or to stack up like firewood, or to absorb into my character. But routine days, dependable schedules, are also necessary so that I get the chance to pause and process what's going on.

Admittedly, a high school student has little business talking about getting her life together - as I said before, everything is going to be different in ten years; any stability I establish now will be wiped out later. Except stability inside of myself, because I'm going to be the one living through the changes.

So, what is my point after all? Evolve but keep what works? I am dubious about elan vital, or fate, or anything of the like...time keeps going, and all endings are the same. I don't agree with that.

The things you do matter. Your stories, and the story of you. Perhaps this is not the best way to end a post; but I shall hit publish anyway, because closed systems are subject to entropy and only by getting this stuff out there can I hope for any resolution.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Good Hunting

The Buffalo Hunt
George Catlin

To learn things: swarm!

Since I've got a lot of stories in which war plays a part, I'm reading up. Here are Murphy's Laws of War, including:

1. The important things are simple.
2. The simple things are very hard.
3. No plan survives the first contact intact.
4. Perfect plans aren't.

Some reasons why smart people have bad ideas: not enough planning, too much emotional investment in a prototype idea, timidity. Also, people are bad at choosing worthwhile problems to solve because school trains us poorly.

Beginners are overconfident. Confucius: if you know what you know and you know what you don't know, then you truly know.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
Dorothea Tanning
I've only read one story by Christopher Barzak ("We Do Not Come in Peace", in Welcome to Bordertown), but it was excellent and his book Birds and Birthdays seems like it'll be awesome. He wrote stories based on paintings by Surrealist women: Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning.

First of all, writing based on paintings is an excellent idea. Second, need more Surrealist art.

For more writing inspiration, check out workspaces at Write Place, Write Time.

A learning log sounds an awful lot like either a blog, a commonplace book, or a personal codex.

Contemplating the Shrine
Appolinari Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov

PCWrede suggests adding regional elements to fantasy.

Also: an enlightening post on the difference between the writer's and readers' perspectives.

MBTI chart.

Another Ryan Holiday post: pay attention. Every situation is telling you something.

Old Russia, a site I shall use as research for a story I have distilled.

Michael Scott, author of the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, on magic.

Theodora Goss explains the difference between contentment and joy.
"Contentment feels like swimming in a warm lake. Joy feels like standing on top of a high mountain, breathing clear, cold air."

"Song of Wandering Aengus", by William Butler Yeats.

Terri Windling with quotes: wilderness and myth.

RavenWood Forest: Songs Without Words. That entire site is essentially medicine for a turbulent mind.

Read Me to Sleep.

Star of the Hero
Nicholas Roerich

Good weekend, good hunting, good night.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Go Deep

Sorry for the late post. It's been a long week, and looks to be staying that way - I'm going back to posting only on Fridays for now.

Lately, I haven't felt as though I've been able to sit down and take stock, to course correct, &c. Every once in a while, it's necessary to review, and lately I haven't been doing that. In the everyday rush, I've been forgetting to live as though I'm in a story; I've been a water glider instead of a shark.

I suspect that, if I am not careful, I could fall into the patterns of freshman year. School will eat me if I let it.

How do I keep my soul away from the meat grinder?

On the weekends, it's easy. I sleep in, I read in bed, I go on long walks through the neighborhood. I write stories longhand. But I'm getting tired of playing catchup on everything from sleep to reading, and I still want to destroy the system.

How do I bring the weekend calm into my school days?

I think I can see part of the solution. On Thursday I finished a short story in the Unwise Ones storyline, a rather conventional school tournament story that introduces the main characters. At no point in the story did I really enjoy my writing; at no point did I break through the membrane between creator and creation, and live in the story.

It was a mediocre piece of writing, and I am somewhat disappointed, but now I know that I have to go deep. I may have finished revising the Utopia Project, but I must take up permanent residence in the dark waters of the mind.

So that this is not yet another complaining post, I shall offer some resources I shall use to help me. I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year after all (everything, it seems, sneaks up on me when I'm chasing grades - I didn't do anything for Halloween either), but in the spirit of high word counts:

How I Went from Writing 2000 Words a Day to 10000 Words a Day by Rachel Aaron, with good practical advice.

For spiritual inspiration, I give you Holly Lisle's blog and Writing a Novel, by Theodora Goss:
But when I do work on [the novel], which is at least every other day, it’s hard to come back out. For a little while, I’m living so intensely inside my head, and when I come out, sometimes I forget what day it is, what I was supposed to do. I just want to be back in London with my girl monsters...
...because the novel is an expansion, it seems, of her excellent short story The Mad Scientist's Daughter. Reading the blog post, you can tell that she loves the story, that it means something, that working on it is more than just a chore.

May all our stories do the same for us.