Category Archives: It’s my life

Making sense of the past… or at least trying

ARGH! Today I was doing some research on a battle between the Arabs and the Byzantine Empire –that would be the Battle of Ajnadayn, if you want to get technical– so I went to see what Wikipedia had to say about the whole thing. I got the basic outline of what happened (sort of) and I also got the coordinates to its exact location. Those place the battle in question what is today Israel… the problem is that one of the things I needed was the name of the ancient province, not that of the modern country. I mean, we are talking seventh century here and by then the old and familiar Syria Palestina had been subdivided into a number of ever-shifting  Syrias and Palestinas, but as a result of what I fear was a hyper-zealous attempt by some ‘editor’ to edit ‘Palestina’ right out of history somewhere along the line, the actual name of the ancient province was not included… do I even have to say that I found the whole thing incredibly frustrating? (okay, to be fair, it could also be that, in light of those ever-shifting Syrias and Palestinas someone just threw his/her hands up in the air and decided to play it safe by sticking with a good, old-fashioned set of coordinates).

Now, if that had been the extent of it, it wouldn’t have been that bad, but to make matters worse that particular article had a few other fun issues. For instance there are also some references to a general by the name of Theodore and others to one by the name of Theodorus, and it is not clear entirely clear whether or not these refer to the same guy (given that they seem to play the same role I am inclined to believe that they are one and the same, but the problem is that while the article claims that ‘Theodorus’ was killed in this battle, the entry on ‘Theodore’ has him dying a couple of years later… as for ‘Theodorus’ there is no entry on the guy at all). Let’s just say that trying to make sense out of that one turned out to be a fun way to spend an afternoon!

Oh well, Wikipedia is still a wonderful resource (let’s face it, most places don’t even mention the fact that there ever was such a thing as a Battle of Ajnadayn), and I am  most definitely still a fan, but this time around I have to admit that it left me scratching my head.


I am currently working on several projects (in fact, seeing how between original works, revisions and translations I am currently juggling five/six projects, I think it’s safe to say that I am working on a few too many projects). The thing is that while I can usually handle multitasking just fine, I am afraid one of these projects is spinning out of control. That has me a little worried, seeing how it is one I am really excited about. What’s happening there is that what began as a wacky idea for a short book that I thought would be maybe 30,000 words long has sort of ballooned. In fact the first draft currently stands at 40,000 words and I think I’m a little more than half way through. That shouldn’t be much of an issue as I usually have no problem letting my books take me where they will, but I do feel it is getting bloated with too much detail… and that the spirit of the book I set out to write has been lost somehow. Still, I am not giving up. Sure, it may need a lot of editing in the next round, and it will probably take much longer to be done, but there is no hurry. I know I can tell my time, that is the beauty of being a totally unknown writer… though this is shaping out to be one of those projects that leave me wondering just who the hell happens to be in control of my writing!

Killing language

Earlier today I came across this article about a couple of lawsuits that have been filed by the Faulkner estate for copyright infringement. One of these targets Woody Allen for daring to use a nine/ten word quote in a movie (words that were openly credited in the film), the other targets a defense contractor for quoting the author in an ad. From my perspective the second one of these lawsuits does have some merit (even in a full page ad, an identifiable quote is likely to represent a measurable chunk of the content of that ad, not to mention that a quotation under those circumstances can be seen as a tacit endorsement, and I agree that authors and their heirs have a right to refuse such a thing), but it is the first one of these lawsuits that I find not just troubling but also extremely dangerous.

Yes, copyright is important (though I also have to say that the laws that were meant to protect it have been badly abused in recent years)  and plagiarism should not be tolerated, but there is no plagiarism here, and as far as I am concerned this particular lawsuit is not only taking things too far, but if successful it threatens to set a precedent that would be extremely dangerous. Let’s face it, authors have been quoting each other for centuries, and when it comes to very short snippets the truth is that that may not even be deliberate. In fact I have read hundreds of books in my life, some as a child (to say nothing of countless newspapers, magazines, blog posts and other sources of written material, plus films and TV shows), and I freely admit that there are any number of turns of phrase that have crept into my long-term storage without the appropriate bibliographical reference attached. That comes with living and being human, it is part and parcel of the way in which we absorb language from the world around us. The question then becomes where do we draw the line. That is not an easy one to answer, but I do believe that the freedom to quote other authors, within reason, has always been one of the cornerstones of writing and literature as a whole. No, I would not extend that freedom to advertisement, that is a completely different kettle of fish as far as I am concerned, but when it comes to film and literature I do believe that suing over less than ten words out of a whole script is taking things a bit too far.

Now, as I reread my words, I can only hope that I won’t get sued for saying that extending such a freedom to advertisement would be ‘a completely different kettle of fish’, after all that particular expression is precisely one of those that have crept into my long-term storage without the appropriate bibliographical reference attached. I know I didn’t come up with it but I don’t know who did, and you know what? I don’t particularly care. It is a part of language, one of those expressions that are understood by most even if it doesn’t really seem to make much sense, and I suspect that by now its origins have been all but lost. That is how language lives, how it grows and how it thrives… and it is precisely that ability to thrive that I fear is being threatened by the Faulkner’s estate decision to sue over nine or ten words.

Row, row, row your boat (redux)

Remember how some six weeks ago I mentioned that the river had overflowed its banks and I had seen one of my neighbors kayaking home? (if you don’t you can click here) Well, yesterday it overflowed again, and this time I did manage to snap a picture. It’s not too good, but here you have it, proof that sometimes you really can row, row, row your boat gently down the street.

Row, row, row your boat (again)
Row, row, row your boat gently down the street (again)

Not much of an update

Okay, seeing how I am still going over the Discworld books, but I feel like I have covered the basics of what I intended to do when I set out to write The Flatland Chronicles I don’t really have much to write today. I am past the halfway point though (in fact I am currently rereading The Last Continent). I am still having fun though, and I am still enjoying the evolution of that particular universe.

As I said, not much of an update, but I just wanted to let you know what I was doing.

To be continued…

Okay, this one is about my own books. I know I rarely talk about my own projects here, but today I decided to make an exception. Right now I am working on the second book in the Citlalli universe and as I try to keep things coherent I am developing a far more intimate understanding of the advantages and the challenges posed by working within the context of what is basically a known universe. The biggest advantage is that, with a couple of exceptions, I don’t really have to worry about getting to know the characters anymore. That was one that gave me some trouble in the first one, as it took us a while to get comfortable with each other, but at the same time now I live in constant fear of contradicting myself, or of realizing that something I mentioned in book one has effectively caused me to paint myself into a corner in one of the sequels. I mean, when I write a stand-alone story I can always go back and make whatever changes I deem necessary to make sure that the whole thing works out in the end, but with a series the first book is already out there –firmly set on bytes and paper– and while I think book two is coming along nicely… well, there are still books three and four for me to consider. Continue reading To be continued…

Hammocks in the fall

One of the greatest joys of the summer is being able to curl up in a hammock with a good book. On the other hand, as most of us who enjoy hammocks year round can attest, a hammock in a cold day can get very cold very fast. Now, my hammock is indoors, so extreme weather is not an issue, but still my choices are to crank up the thermostat –something I try to avoid due to the whole carbon footprint thing– or to figure out a way to make my hammock a little more winter-friendly… an important concern, seeing how said hammock also doubles as my bed.

Now, first of all, let’s rule out what doesn’t work: sleeping bags. Yes, at first glance these would seem like the most logical solution and they are wonderful for sleeping on the ground, but they work by trapping a layer of air between your body and the outside world, and then using your own body heat to warm it. If you are on a hammock, however, your own weight is effectively squeezing the air out of the bottom part of that protective cocoon, and your sides and backside become an incredibly effective heat sink… not a pleasant experience by any stretch of the imagination (and keep in mind that while this is particularly true of sleeping bags, it applies to a lesser degree to other kinds of clothing).

Continue reading Hammocks in the fall

The sky is falling…

The sky is falling, the sky is falling… okay, so maybe it isn’t falling but they are fixing the roof, and right now I feel as if I were living inside a drum. The rhythm of my head’s pounding matches that of the hammer and it looks like my migraine is building up to a rather impressive crescendo. I’ll try to post something a little more substantial (or at least coherent) tomorrow.

Row, row, row your boat…

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the street…

What do you mean it was supposed to be ‘Gently down the stream’? I stand by what I said, I mean, remember how a week or so ago I mentioned that I was having a bit of trouble due to the fact that I had suddenly found myself living in the river? Well, here you can see what I meant (the river did get quite a bit higher than that, but that happened at night, when I actually got to see one of my neighbors kayaking home, thus proving that you can sometimes row gently down the street).

Row, row, row your boat
Row, row, row your boat…

Anyway, life is back to some semblance of normalcy… though the truth is that around here the above picture qualifies as normal.

Too many nines

And today, on the ninth day of the ninth month of the year, I am still missing my cat, who left me nine months ago (and that’s not even counting the whole nine lives thing, which I really, really, really wish he’d had). I guess I should be getting over it, whatever that means, but I still miss him like crazy and today it hit me like a ton of bricks. Still, don’t panic, I promised that I was going to try to keep the pictures of my pets to a minimum, so I’m not going to repost them here. I already uploaded them three months ago so, if you want to meet the little fellow, you can find them here (a fair warning: you’ll probably get a new batch for the first anniversary on December 9, though that should be the extent of it).

Trying to find myself

And I seem to be stuck. Yes, I am new to this whole blogging thing, and while I love writing about what I read I can’t help but to feel that this thing has about as much spontaneity as a rocket launch. Sure, I could write about my life, but that’s pretty boring and I am a private person. Oh, well, I guess I’ll just have to play it by ear.

One of the best films you’ve never heard of

Yes, I usually talk about books, but this is about one of my favorite films of all times, one chances are you have never heard of: Strings, a 2005 movie directed by Anders Rønnow Klarlund. I first saw it with no expectations whatsoever. Someone just handed me the DVD without a word (and without the box). Within five minutes I was hooked. The movie is an unusual one to say the least, and even though the ending came as a bit of a disappointment (I felt like the director had tried to force in an ending that was consistent with the story he had set out to tell without realizing that the film had soared so far above it that it no longer fit), it just took my breath away. It is beautiful, shocking and haunting. An epic tale of war, peace, love and hate that had me from the opening scene. Yes, the performances can best be described as ‘wooden’ but that is what makes them absolutely unforgettable, and in a world in which CGI plays an ever increasing role in film production this one does serve as a sort of wake up call. Five stars, and that is just because most review systems don’t allow me to give it six.