fifty million french people: right or wrong?

I was interested in this article: “In a Nonbinary Pronoun, France Sees a U.S. Attack on the Republic

(First of all, the idea that anybody, on any side of any “culture war” in the United States, is thinking, even for a minute, about the effect their opinion might have on the French… Well, that’s just adorable. 🙂 )

I’m all for maintaining rules for language (“farther” and “further” are not interchangeable, for one example), but if someone or something new, or previously unseen, exists in the world, languages need to evolve. Pronouns (and words in general) should adapt to people, not the other way around.

Also, if someone wants to be addressed by a specific name, or described with a specific pronoun, to do otherwise is simply rude.

(I am not, obviously, including situations of deliberate fraud. I remember there was a guy years ago who checked into various fancy New York hotels and ran up big bills while pretending to be David Bowie. That’s not okay.)

I also have never liked the idea that “when it comes to the choice of pronouns for groups of women and men, the male form takes precedence over the female; and when it comes to adjectives describing mixed gatherings, they take the masculine form.” Likewise the practice, which I learned in school, of referring to an individual of undetermined gender as “he” (though I’ve been writing for many decades about a famous amateur detective who proudly does just that).

I do think it’s funny that the French make a point of not finding out how many of their citizens might be of which race or place of national origin, but they insist on gendering everybody and everything, including household furniture (for example, “chair,” in French, can apparently, according to Google Translate, be either masculine or feminine, depending on which word you decide to use).

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it’s nice to have one television show to follow

I’m finding that I like to have a TV show to follow. I guess it’s a replacement for the weekly comic books that I no longer buy.

Of course, I don’t have a TV, so it has to be on some sort of platform (is that the right word?) that I can get on a computer or a tablet (and without paying for Disney+, which I’m still resisting — they have too much content).

Last fall, for example, my TV schedule was too busy for my taste because Stargirl and Legends of Tomorrow and Wheel of Time were all cooking at once, but then Stargirl and WoT ended their seasons, and Legends took a mid-season break, so I decided to try The Witcher, mostly because some of my favorite reactors are following it (and it’s on Netflix, which I’m already paying for).

It’s a fantasy series, a bit like Wheel of Time, but more subtle in terms of “good” and “evil.” Everybody is much more ambiguous (though not to the level of Game of Thrones). Geralt, the main character, is a “witcher,” who kills monsters to protect people, but the monsters are complex, too.

As one character (a monster) says:

Monsters are more than just horrid looks and claws and teeth. Monsters are born of deeds done. Unforgivable ones.

I think my favorite thing in the show is that Geralt is now traveling with Ciri, a teenage princess who he’s sworn to protect, and it’s (gradually) becoming an interesting father-daughter relationship. It’s such a Disney cliche (with superheroes and Star Wars and so on) that heroes are orphans, or have big-time father issues, or at least one dead parent, or something like that.

Parents are not only compelling in absentia. Parents can be very interesting even if they’re actually around, which reminds me of a line from Moonrise Kingdom:

Suzy: I always wished I was an orphan. Most of my favorite characters are. I think your lives are more special.
Sam [an orphan]: I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Geralt and Ciri have a complex relationship, and it develops over time. Is the most important thing for him to protect her, or for her to learn to protect herself (in a very dangerous world)? If he does teach her to fight, who and what do you fight, and when, and why (as opposed to just worrying about the “how”)?

The story has season-long elements, but it’s also rather monster-of-the-week, which I’m fine with. Not everything needs to be, or should be, Game of Thrones (where there was a murder mystery introduced in the very first episode which wasn’t resolved until the seventh season when nobody was really thinking about it anymore). A series of individual stories which also link together as a longer unit — that’s my favorite (it should be — that’s what I do).

The negative aspect of it being on Netflix, of course, is that the entire season is made available all at once (serial stories should always make you wait), but so far I’ve been pacing out my watching of the episodes, so that’s almost as good.

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unfortunately, “agathism” doesn’t mean what I thought it did

I get the A.Word.A.Day emails every day, and yesterday’s was about “agathism,” which I thought was a coincidence since I had just talked about Agatha Christie in my last post, but it turns out the word is not related in any way to Dame Agatha.

Oh, well.

I’ve hit a bit of a roll on my new story — I finally got to a scene that has some momentum. Until then it had been basically me pulling the story along, paragraph by paragraph, like dragging a heavy kid on a sled.

(This may be why I stay away from metaphors.)

I would consider starting to post it, except that it doesn’t have a title yet. That’s one of the things that’s specific to writing serial stories — you have to commit to the title at the beginning of the process, rather than at (or after) the end. So, I view this as part of the process — if the story isn’t clear enough to have a title, it isn’t clear enough to start posting either.

I thought this article was interesting also (although rather longer than it needed to be): “The Case Against the Trauma Plot.”

I have always stayed away from “trauma plots.” I have characters who have suffered various kinds of trauma, and that informs their actions and reactions, but that’s knowledge I hold — backstory, not story. And I have characters with what are generally considered mental problems and I’ve never given a “reason” for their condition.

This part of the article caught my attention specifically:

Classics are retrofitted according to the model. Two modern adaptations of Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw” add a rape to the governess’s past. In “Anne with an E,” the Netflix reboot of “Anne of Green Gables,” the title character is given a history of violent abuse, which she relives in jittery flashbacks. In Hogarth Press’s novelized updates of Shakespeare’s plays, Jo Nesbø, Howard Jacobson, Jeanette Winterson, and others accessorize Macbeth and company with the requisite devastating backstories.

Reminds me of Orson Welles’ take on Iago. Various productions and adaptations of Othello have conjured up a reason (or reasons) for Iago’s actions, but that’s a modern sensibility. As Welles put it (paraphrasing here), everybody who’s spent any time out in the world has met an Iago or two.

Needless to say, “Rosebud” from Citizen Kane was not Welles’ idea.

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in which i am (a bit) like agatha christie

Here’s an interesting article: “Can ‘Distraction-Free’ Devices Change the Way We Write?

Microsoft Word is a terrible tool for writing, because it’s not designed for it. It’s designed for corporate word processing (and, more recently, simple desktop publishing). It has every tool you could possibly need (well, in theory), and 98% of them are useless, at best, for writing a story, or an article, or a college paper.

But I think the bigger obstacle to getting words out of your head and “on paper” (or wherever) is the internet (and, I guess, more recently social media, although the Web can be plenty distracting even without social media).

After reading this article, I even considered buying myself a reMarkable tablet, but it costs $400 dollars, and it would not be the perfect writing tool for me, because there is no perfect writing tool for me. For me, the best writing tool this week is whatever I wasn’t using last week. I am currently using iA Writer, also mentioned in the article, but of course it won’t last.

To some extent, I’m like Agatha Christie — I write in or on whatever is closest to hand. My current story already exists in several different places, and I’ve started a new section of it in iA Writer, without looking back at what I’ve written before.

* * * *

I do want to see this movie.

Can’t tell that much from a short trailer, of course, but it looks like it might just be, shall we say, a bit Wellesian.

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the wheel of time

I am watching, and, so far, enjoying, the Amazon Prime adaptation of The Wheel of Time. I read the first book in the series a very long time ago, but I don’t remember much about it.

The first two episodes were made up of very standard fantasy elements (many of which, in fact, mapped directly onto elements of The Fellowship of the Ring), but the third episode did have one moment that surprised me. Since then, things have been improving week-to-week.

The Wheel of Time (the show) exists, reportedly, because Jeff Bezos said, “I want my Game of Thrones.”

Which has led to a lot of articles comparing the two series, but I think that’s a waste of time. Bezos was not making a genre request — he was making a request (demand) for a show which would attract attention and eyeballs and buzz and, as we used to say, “ink.” In other words, water cooler discussions (as we also used to say).

And, frankly, a too-obvious an attempt to create “another GoT” would have been immediately called out for what it was. WoT was written before GoT, and it relies on a lot of the tropes that GoT deconstructed (and/or trashed).

I’m not a big fantasy buff, but there is one specific reason that I’m enjoying the show as much as I am.

There’s a main character named Moiraine. She’s basically the Gandalf character (magic user, from a group of magic users, wandering the world for reasons of her own, befriending and protecting and leading, or trying to lead, the — much younger — main characters).

Unlike Gandalf, though, Moiraine does not travel alone.

She’s an Aes Sedai, one of the society of women who use magic in this world, and, like most Aes Sedai, she has a Warder, named Lan. A Warder is a man who travels with an Aes Sedai — a bodyguard, a confidante, a sounding board, a partner. They are magically linked, so they are always aware of each other’s feelings and situation. Some Aes Sedai/Warder pairs are also lovers, and some are not, and it seems that they don’t usually advertise which it is. (Moiraine and Lan are apparently not lovers, but they did share a long soak in a hot tub in the first episode.)

The Aes Sedai is generally in charge, but the Warder apparently has some leeway when there is danger or potential danger, as a bodyguard should.

(Lan has noticed that Moiraine has muted their psychic connection for the evening — for personal reasons.)

Lan: Get back before dawn.
Moiraine: Is that an order?
Lan: Did it sound like a suggestion?

You can probably guess why I find this relationship interesting.

Update: A couple of caveats after the most recent episode.

1) The show is a “chosen one” story (definitely my least favorite fantasy trope), and now, of the five possible chosen ones, the least interesting character (by a wide margin) appears to be It.

2) A good deal of this episode was taken up with adolescent hormones and angst, which was a bit annoying because, unlike in the books, the characters in question are quite a bit past adolescence. I understand the need to “age up” young book characters when making a TV show (Game of Thrones did it, too), but sometimes you have to then do some rewriting to make it work.

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I’ve been writing down scenes and ideas as they occur to me, but so far nothing has coalesced for a new story.

The other thing I’ve been doing is re-reading the first three stories in the current series (“The Marvel Murder Case,” “The Town Hall Mystery,” and “The Heron Island Mystery“), mostly because I knew there were some threads which I wanted to pick up again, but I also found some little, tiny glitches here and there (word choice, punctuation, etc.).

So, I’m thinking this would be a good time to go back and fix those. Not for the “Heron Island” story — it’s too soon to work on that one again — but the other two could benefit from a little (just a very little) polishing.

Also, having gone back and re-read the first two stories, I’m starting to feel that the story which should come next is not the one I’ve been assuming I ought to be writing…

Anyway, following up on my last post, Legends of Tomorrow has just had their 100th episode, and it was wonderful.

Gideon, who was the AI on the team’s (now destroyed) ship the Waverider, has now joined the team as an actual person, and the episode was a trip through her memories, including a lot of appearances by actors who are no longer on the show. It was nice to see all the familiar faces again, and the episode made excellent use of the fact that Amy Louise Pemberton, who has played Gideon since the first episode of the show, has a really good singing voice. There are also a couple of inside jokes based on the fact that over the years the show has had a lot of British actors playing American characters.

Also, regarding Doom Patrol, I loved this clip (and the episode it’s in). The young girl in the woods is Kay. She’s the core personality of Jane, who has 64 personas, all created to protect Kay, who was a victim of abuse growing up. She (Kay) usually stays in the Underground (Jane’s subconscious), but obviously she hears what Jane hears, and she decides to start dancing to the music, prompting Jane and then the other characters to dance also.

(I also love how Rita, the second person to start dancing in the real world, begins by standing, squaring her shoulders, clenching her fists for a second, and then moving forward onto the dance floor. She’s a studio-trained Hollywood actress, and that’s a nice moment of her “getting into character” for the scene.)

One thing that’s been new in this season is that Kay, who barely spoke in the first season, is becoming much more vocal and assertive now. She’s growing up, and healing, and this is unnerving to some of the other personas. This is a very interesting development, and I’m interested to see where it will go.


Also, a propos of nothing, here’s some Arcade Fire:

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