Renegade Reflections, ROW80

A cautionary tale

editing, writing, red pen,
Red Pen by Cellar Door FIlms from WANA Commons

Please scroll down for my ROW80 check-in.

Earlier this week, I was pointed to a funny, true, and far-too-self-revelatory comic by The Oatmeal on creativity. (Thank you, Kristen Lamb). I heard from fellow writers that The Oatmeal is well-known, although not to me.

I sent the link to my husband, who, as it happens, follows law blogs and copyright law.  He said, “Oh, yeah, that guy was in a lawsuit,” and proceeded to send me all the relevant blog posts.

It is a cautionary tale for those of us who create.  The Oatmeal called out a site that posts creative works without permission or attribution; the site’s response was to threaten legal action.  An awesome set of bloggers, known as Popehat, found lawyers to work pro bono for The Oatmeal.

I cannot tell the story better than the string of posts about it on Popehat; the snark is delicious and redolent. They are in reverse chronological order, so one has to read up, but they are numbered after number 3.

I was touched that Popehat puts up a Popehat signal (yes, like Batman) when they feel someone needs legal assistance; lawyers respond by the legion, and offer pro bono help. It seems the name Popehat is an inside joke among the founding bloggers, with nothing to do with the papacy or Roman Catholicism, but coming from a staunch Irish Catholic family, I had to love the Popehat as a Batman-type signal.

I also love to see lawyers paying it forward in this way.  I cannot say with any certainty, but I suspect some of those offering pro bono work enjoy fighting the sleazebags who have given lawyers a bad name since Shakespeare’s time.

A incident like this one makes me nervous about sharing anything I’ve created. I would hate to feel powerless against a legal threat when I merely want the rights to my own work.  Early in my academic career, it was accepted procedure to sign away all rights to the journal publishing one’s article.  The sea change has happened in that world as well, with academics keeping the rights to their work.

I have no snappy conclusions or smart solutions.  I wanted to call your attention to some of the good guys. I think it is arrogant for a site to think they can post things without attribution or permission.  I am glad that, with Popehat’s help, The Oatmeal won the day.

How do you feel about having your work out there?  Do you post excerpts or serial snippets? Have you ever had anything posted without permission or attribution?


I’m still in the chrysalis phase, uncertain whether I am Swallowtail Spicebush or Monarch. The blogging class is coming along reasonably well, and I am learning some elementary things like embedding videos and the like.

I spent most of the week feeling like I’d been drained by vampires, with none of the eroticism. I’m probably valiantly fighting off some virus making the rounds of the students, so I’m not worried, but it has put paid to my doing much outside of the day job.  I have gotten most of an article written for the day job, which does help keep the pump primed for fiction writing.  All in all, I’ll take it. 🙂

Please go encourage some of the cohort here.

Renegade Reflections

Autumn pictures and song

I’m a bit under the weather today, but I do want to share this video.  This fall is the first in five years that I have been living where leaves turn, the air crispens, and the days grow shorter, inviting one to sit by the fire with a dog on one’s feet and a quilt on one’s lap.

I find something to like in all the seasons, but I’ve missed fall so much, it is my favorite right now.  What season do you prefer?

Renegade Reflections

Veterans’ Day

unknown soldier, tomb, military, remembrance,
Source: Jolene Navarro from WANA Commons

For Veterans’ Day (U.S.), Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day, whatever it may be called in your part of the world, I want to thank everyone who is serving, or has served, to protect all of us at home. Both my own family and the one I married into are full of veterans.  One of my uncles was involved in D-Day. My father was in the Army Air Forces in WWII, my brother in the Navy in Vietnam, and one of his sons was in Iraq last year, and now is in flight surgeon training. My brother-in-law was in the Navy during Vietnam; one of his sons was in the Navy during Desert Storm, and one of my nephew’s daughters is in the Navy. I thank then, all veterans and currently serving military.

I cannot do any better than this post that Another Damned Medievalist posted on Blogenspiel last year, and so I urge you to go read the full poem by John McCrae.  I will quote one stanza from it here:

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Renegade Reflections

Music as Trigger of Memories

    Theme from The Onedin Line/From the Ballet Spartacus by Aram Khachaturian

Note: I have tried for more than an hour to fix the formatting.  I stopped in order to preserve some of my hair. My apologies!

My parents listened to classical music when I was little.  With such a background, I easily found a job in a classical radio station when I was in graduate school. I did have a minor problem, which I never shared with the station, because although I knew hundreds of classical pieces, I had never learned the titles or composers. I found myself seeing a list of upcoming titles, which meant nothing to me, but being awash with memories when I heard them.  Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique, Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake all broke into hidden, locked rooms, transforming me into a four-year-old. At times, I was so moved that I had to leave the booth.  Once I knew how to find these sounds from my memories, I became obsessed with having the best orchestral copies I could find. I still have many that provide solace, calm acceptance, and quiet joy.  A few pieces, like the video at the top of the post, are tied to television shows or movies.

About a year ago, a friend of mine mentioned the theme music to The Onedin Line; much like my radio station experience, I couldn’t recognize it by title, but once I heard it, I was thrown back to the days of snuggling under a quilt in the overstuffed chair to watch the show. The music retains the power to give me goosebumps and bring tears to my eyes.

When I was young, we only had one television.  While my parents ceded control on Saturday mornings, overcome by four children, my father was the sole arbiter of what we watched in the evenings. Therefore, I grew up watching the evening news and a handful of shows that met my father’s rather high standards, one of which was The Onedin Line.  A BBC production, shown on PBS in the Atlanta area, the show follows the rise of a shipping line and the founding family from 1860 to the mid-1880’s.

Television has often ruined some favorite songs for me by using excerpts, or worse, new words to the original music, to hawk everything imaginable. So far, my favorite older themes have escaped, perhaps since they are based on, or use, classical music. 

Marcel Proust wrote that the scent of a madeleine brought memories, but I  have the strongest memories with music.  Have you found music that you had forgotten, entwined in your memory?

Have you had a favorite song or television theme used for the dark side, forever tarnishing your enjoyment of it?

Renegade Reflections, ROW80

More Gratitude and ROW80

Siesta Key Elizabeth Anne Mitchell December White ChristmasI’ve included a very cute video of a puppy playing with his favorite toy below this post on gratitude, above  my ROW80 check-in.  I hope you enjoy!

After writing about some of my family in the last post, I wanted to express my gratitude to some other family members: my aunt, my brother, and my sister. I am very grateful that my aunt found time to spend with her niece, and that my brother and sister have endeavored to stay connected with me despite the centrifugal force that characterizes my family. My mother’s sister was nine years older than my mother, with no intervening children; my mother always looked upon her as a mother, and I saw her more as a grandmother.  A big believer in idle hands leading to devil’s work, my aunt taught me how to knit, crochet, embroider, and tat when I was very young.  She was teaching my oldest sister, but I hung around like a pest and learned as well. She came to see us every month or so; we were always glad to see her, because she knew all sorts of stories and could bake the best pies and cookies I’d ever had.Even though she always made me keep my hands busy with knitting or tatting while we talked, I looked forward to her visits.  I felt as though she could see me, when very few other grownups could.  She despaired when I became a perpetual student, often shaking her head at my explanations of why I studied all these things.  When I finally got married and settled down with my instant family, you would have thought she had been the matchmaker, she was so proud.  And when we added more children, she was ecstatic that I had given her more children to love.Two days before my youngest son was born, Aunt Ellene felt ill, describing it somewhat like indigestion, but worse.  The hospital gave her heartburn medication and sent her home.  Three hours later, she passed away from a massive heart attack.  My mother debated delaying her planned trip to help me with the new baby, but she came the day he came home from the hospital, missing her sister’s funeral, because that was what my aunt would have wanted. My son is nineteen now, and I still miss talking with Aunt Ellene over our knitting or embroidery.
My brother didn’t become a human being until I was 11 and he went to college.  He actually corresponded with me; when he was home on vacation, he still acted like a jerk sometimes, but that behavior diminished through the years.  He married into one of those huge families that gets together for birthdays and holidays and weddings; I have never asked him directly, but I suspect he felt the same kind of attraction/curiosity at the concept that I did when I first saw this unaccustomed behavior.  No matter, he threw himself into it wholeheartedly, leaving my father to shake his head in consternation at how he and his wife travel cross country to see their kids and grandkids.  I stand back in admiration.Last year, my brother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and had one lung removed.  I had not realized until that point how much I thought my siblings were immortal, nor how hard it would hit me.  He is still fighting, but it is a long path through the woods.  He cannot fly anymore, but he and his wife pack up the car and still travel hundreds of miles to see their families. I am so grateful that he has tried valiantly to establish the sort of relationship with me that his wife has with her siblings. I am thankful to them both for showing me that it could work when I was still young enough to do the same for my own family.

One of my sisters is four years older than I am; reportedly she told my father that I was not the fun kind of baby doll, and would he please take me back.  No luck, sorry!  After this bumpy start, my sister and I started to bond her senior year in high school.  I stopped being the “faery child” who did not seem connected to the world, and started being able to see her.  During her college years, we shared hopes and dreams, despite long periods where one or the other of us would pull away to nurse our wounds in private–she, an abusive marriage; me, an early failed marriage, the abyss of graduate school.  Even now, she calls me regularly; I promise to call her, and forget (I am a very bad sister).  She and I are so different in so many of our world views, but we get each other, especially given our shared history.  I am grateful that she continues to knock on my door and pull me out of my little world now and again.

ROW80 Check-in:
While there is still a lot going on behind the curtain, I haven’t much to offer.  I am uploading hundreds of photographs from the past several years, creating a pool to use in my blog from those and others that are not copyrighted or restricted.  I am slowly shoehorning three blogs into one, and endeavoring to find my voice and my niche.  The hardest part so far is to find what might be most interesting about my odd pockets of knowledge or interests.
The day job is heading into high gear, the rush before the holidays. I’m facing longer and longer days, but enjoy most of the work.  I feel the tidal pull to get back to writing, which is only slightly sated by doing the day job writing.  Soon!
If you can take a break from NaNo or your other projects, please go encourage some of the ROW80 folks here.
Renegade Reflections, ROW80


Fall colors, pear tree,
source: E. K. Carmel, from WANA commons

My ROW80 check-in is  at the bottom of this post, if you want only to look at that.

Shan Jeniah, a writer I have met through ROW80 is participating in Thankvember.  While I haven’t signed up, I have been thinking about gratitude. Going through some of my posts while combining my various blogs into one, I found this one still rang true.

The holiday season that ends the calendar year often focuses on family.  Many of the bloggers I read have recently posted about family and family celebrations during the holiday season.  I, too, am very grateful for my family, but I have very few traditions to draw upon.

My parents both had such Dickensian childhoods, it is nearly unbelievable that they grew up in the 20th century.  My father was supposed to be the daughter that arrived two years after his birth.  A fourth son, he was seen as completely superfluous.  My mother was the youngest daughter in her family; in the Southern tradition I thought went away by the end of the 19th century, she was marked to stay with her parents and care for them until their death.  To that end, she was taught early how to run the household, standing on an orange crate to cook and wash dishes at four years old.

My mother and father met on a blind date and married within a year.  Because my father was an Irish Catholic from Massachusetts and my mother a Southern Baptist from Georgia, both of their families summarily disowned them.  My mother’s family went so far as to obliterate her name from the family Bible.  Eventually, some members of both families had some contact with our family, but for most of them, it was limited in both time and warmth. It left a legacy of a real lack of warmth among my own siblings, which is something I realized only in contrast with other families.

Also, my parents seem to have very little tradition to call upon. My father has resisted all my questions about holiday family traditions; my mother has been only slightly more informative, saying that she often got nothing but an orange for Christmas. Because my mother then spun into her “you ungrateful children” speech at that point, I never asked for more details.  Given these deficits, my parents tried to give us children the American dream holidays.  We rarely had a turkey for Thanksgiving, due to the cost, but my father did relax that day.  Christmas Day was a bigger deal, with  presents under the tree for the four children.  I did notice we never had any other family around, like all my schoolmates did.

Due to this upbringing, I really didn’t bring any holiday traditions to my married life; in my first marriage, I played along with traditions I didn’t feel inside.  When I married my second husband, we worked to create traditions together, melding his traditions with my dream holidays. We went through the common tug-of-war between the families, whom to visit when, whom to eat with, whom to stay with if we had travelled.  The situation was complicated by my daughters having their own traditions, as well as another set of grandparents, aunts, and uncles to visit. Thankfully, it got much easier as the girls became older and made their own decisions about the scheduling, rather than being pulled so many different directions.  Even when they spent less time with us, I felt better knowing they were making the decisions.

Perhaps because of my background, family is very important to me.  I don’t tell them often enough how important they are to me.  Some of that reticence is due to my teenage sons, who flee emotion as if it were hydrofluoric acid, but sometimes I take all of them for granted.

I am grateful for my sons, who defied all medical opinion to exist, appearing after three doctors had told me I could not have children.  They helped me learn how to be a mother to alien creatures, who didn’t act at all like their sisters. Furthermore, I had met my daughters when they were 5 and 3, so 0-3 was uncharted territory.  My sons laid to rest any nature versus nurture discussions I had in my mind; their drive and fearlessness taught me how to take risks, while making my face pale with fear.

I am grateful for my daughters, who accepted me as a second mom, and weathered my learning to walk the tightrope, and how to be that second mom. Recently, one of my sons-in-law paid me one of the best compliments I’ve gotten.  He told me that the way I accepted and loved my youngest daughter showed her how to love and accept his two children.  He said she might not have married him had she not grown up with me. It brought me to tears when he told me, and it does so now.

And I am grateful for my husband, who puts up with my weird mental glitch, where I point right and say left, especially annoying when giving directions in the car; follow the hand, not the voice, is the trick.  He accepts my ADD as well as my Irish temper; he glories in my nerdiness, and thinks I’m still as interesting as I was when he met me so very long ago.

To all of you, thank you for keeping me sane, human, and open to the people around me.

writing pencil composition book, L.E. Carmichael WANA commons
source: L. E. Carmichael, WANA commons

ROW80: Not much to report here,  I feel like a cop, saying “Move along, people, nothing to see here.”  While there is a lot going on beneath the surface, I have very little on the surface that reflects the changes. I am learning and working hard in the blogging class; I have managed to keep up my sponsor duties; I have written scads and scads of words on the academic article and procedural documents at the day job (woo-hoo!)

I will return to the novel and blogging by the end of the year.  For now, please go encourage someone in the ROW80 group.  They are a great bunch, and can be found here.

Renegade Reflections

Gratitude of a 21st century daughter

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with Matt Hofferth about how, while the 19th century has a lot of coolness to offer, it didn’t have things like antibiotics and electricity.  Soon afterwards, I realized that it was fitting that my last post on Lapidary Prose was on gratitude, since I am grateful for several things I take for granted.

I do not have to imagine the life of my grandmother or great-grandmother to appreciate the difference between the 19th and 21st centuries. My mother grew up in Appalachia, in circumstances that had not changed since the nineteenth century. She learned how to cook on a wood stove, splitting wood to replenish the woodpile, hauling water from the well.

My grandparents grew all their own food.  They raised chickens and cows for eggs, milk, and meat.  If they needed things they could not produce, my grandfather would barter his carpentry skills, or work to get the money for things beyond barter, such as postage stamps. My aunt taught my mother how to make dresses from flour sacks; the scraps were sewn into quilt tops. There were fireplaces for heat, and kerosene lamps for light to read and sew. Transportation was by mule; one of the funniest stories my mother ever told was of a first date conducted on mule back.

Although my mother did very well in school, graduating as valedictorian of her high school class, my grandparents did not believe that girls should go to college. At age fifteen, my mother was sent to Atlanta to get a job, sending money home to pay for her brothers’ college educations. Also, my grandparents expected that my mother, as the youngest daughter, would work as long as her brothers were in college, but would then return to take care of her parents for the rest of their lives. They were shocked and unhappy when she met my father and made other plans.

I am ashamed to admit that my teenage self was bored by her stories, uninterested in how her life had changed so thoroughly in her lifetime. When I was learning how to cook, it annoyed me that she could never just give me a number for the temperature, but always had to work her way through the vague description of warm, medium, or hot fire, only then settle on an approximate temperature.  She insisted on calling plants by their botanical names, telling me the medicinal uses and folklore of each. I thought she was hopelessly out of touch, frozen in an earlier time that had nothing to teach me.

Now that I am older, and no longer as focussed on myself, I remember my mother’s childhood with admiration for her grit.  At four years old, she was standing on an orange crate to cook dinner on a wood stove for her family.  At four, I was daydreaming and writing stories in my head.  I am grateful that I have water and fuel delivered into my home without my having to haul it there. I am grateful that I do not have to wring a chicken’s neck to cook my dinner of an evening, nor cut up flour sacks to make a dress. However, I am more grateful for my mother’s strength. Because my mother never went to college, she and my father made sure that their daughters never had any doubt they would go; it was an assumption made before I was born. My parents taught us to take care of each other as well as them, but never to the degree of sacrificing the youngest daughter, from which I, as the youngest daughter, have benefited. There are times when I feel sorry for myself as part of the “squeeze generation,” when I bemoan the independence of my frail and elderly parents, but it was that independence that fostered my own, and for that I am truly grateful.

Renegade Reflections

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell protests the Protect IP Act

Many websites are blacked out today to protest proposed U.S. legislation that threatens internet freedom: the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). From personal blogs to giants like WordPress and Wikipedia, sites all over the web — including this one — are asking you to help stop this dangerous legislation from being passed.