AJAX BELL

Author of the Queen City Boys books


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Not Enough Time to Be Lazy

I’ve been writing a book. Or rather, I’ve been writing a series a books, in fits and starts, in the few hours I can grab between doing this and doing that and pretending to be a responsible adult. I’ve got one close to done and many others started.  Right now I should be pouring through my recent edits and making a crap draft into a good working draft.  Instead I’m drinking chai, watching the rain and listening to the dryer.

Despite having not achieved much more than a long, long walk and few household chores yesterday, I am utterly wiped today. I feel like I’ve been beaten with sticks. Like I could sleep for a week. Hopefully the chai will clear my foggy head enough that I can intelligently string words together in some semblance of story of and character development.

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I want nothing more than to lounge in bed all day and read comics.  Okay maybe something more.  Maybe someone could prepare my food and bring it to me and rub my feet too?  I never think I’ve done terribly wrong with my life until I’m forced to confront my lack of houseboys to do my bidding, then suddenly my choices seem sinister and stupid.  I could have done better.  Sigh.


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I been missing you, hope you’re missing me

Wow, so yeah I haven’t really been blogging at all recently, huh? Maybe it’s time to start again.

I’ve been complaining lately to friends about how much I miss LiveJournal. The heyday of it anyway, since it still exists. Recently I’ve watched a lot of movies and TV that I want to squee with someone about.  I miss my old LJ community, a group wide, deep, and diverse enough that at least surely a couple people would be interested in talking to me about which Korean dramas I’m watching, about German pop-glamrock bands, about anime, and about why I might be the only person left who still enjoys Supernatural (do I enjoy it because I watch it in a void without fandom’s influence? I may never know).  But now I feel like I’m just shouting into the void or pestering my friends with things they don’t care about but indulge my babbling out of love (which is actually kind of awesome in it’s own way).

Lacking that community I’ve been trying to seek out folks I lost in the diaspora years ago. Looking the Tumblrs and the Twitters, poking around sites I last saw faces I recognized, but everyone has moved on to unknown fandoms, has changed their names, or otherwise I’ve forgotten how to recognize them.  Which is kind of sad, but won’t stop me from continuing to shout into the void.

So I’ve been watching Ouran High School Host Club (OMG Hitachiin twins!) in fits and starts, mostly when I work out.  Which it’s totally not conducive to working out because I find I’ve often slowed or stopped and am staring at the TV, slack jawed.  I mean really it’s like an entire anime made up of nothing but fanservice.  And layers of meta so deep you need hip waders to get through it.  Somehow despite how obvious it’s pandering is, it’s still gripping and smart enough that I actually care about all the characters.

I found this amazing academic paper, which didn’t tell me much I didn’t know about OuranHSHC, but it did prove that I made major misstep in my life by not going into a field where I got paid to teach and write about things like anime and manga.

Man, this show is so weird.  It gets as much right as it does wrong and I’m not sure you’d really enjoy it if you weren’t already familiar with anime and boy’s love manga. Or maybe you’d love it and be super disappointed when everything else didn’t turn out to be like the crazed, ridiculousness this anime is.  It’s on Netflix, subbed or dubbed, and I think everyone should watch it and come contemplate Mori-san’s love for Honey-sempai with me. We can talk about how every episode is more batshit crazy than the last. It’s just nuts. Nuts only my fangirl homegirls would really understand. If only I could find them all again.

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In which I tell you that Kalends are surely more dangerous than Ides

The Ides of March

The term Ides comes from the earliest Roman calendar, which is said to have been devised by Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome. Whether it was Romulus or not, the inventor of this calendar had a penchant for complexity. The Roman calendar organized its months around three days, each of which served as a reference point for counting the other days:

Kalends (1st day of the month)
Nones (the 7th day in March, May, July, and October; the 5th in the other months)
Ides (the 15th day in March, May, July, and October; the 13th in the other months)
The remaining, unnamed days of the month were identified by counting backwards from the Kalends, Nones, or the Ides. For example, March 3 would be Five Nones—5 days before the Nones (the Roman method of counting days was inclusive; in other words, the Nones would be counted as one of the 5 days).

Used in the first Roman calendar as well as in the Julian calendar (established by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C.E.) the confusing system of Kalends, Nones, and Ides continued to be used to varying degrees throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance.

So, the Ides of March is just one of a dozen Ides that occur every month of the year. Kalends, the word from which calendar is derived, is another exotic-sounding term with a mundane meaning. Kalendrium means account book in Latin: Kalend, the first of the month, was in Roman times as it is now, the date on which bills are due.


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Busily sewing Lisettes

I’ve been working on several sewing projects at once, which kind of is and isn’t a good idea.  I am slowly sewing my way through every premutation of Simplicity’s Lisette 2211:

I started with a muslin, in some unlikely colored fabric I had sitting around:

I left off the sleeves and edged it in black bias tape.  The pattern calls for buttons on the faux placket detail, but I thought with this fabric it actually looked better without them.

Belted:

I’ve actually worn this a bunch.  Despite the fabric’s weird chartreuse coloring and pattern, it’s really comfortable and summery.  YAY!

I didn’t set out to make exactly the skirt on the envelope.  I’m trying not to buy fabric rather just sew with what I have on hand, and what I had looks just like the envelope:

This pattern runs really big.  I went down two sizes from what I originally cut in the skirt and I will probably have find a way to sneak some elastic into the back waistband or something to make it comfortably wearable.  The top has some nice details which are kind of lost in the fabric I picked:

I haven’t tried it yet, but I suspect the blouse will get some wear untucked and belted with jeans or something.  I just really love it’s funny little Art Nouveau print and care not all that it’s really too busy for this pattern.

I have the shift dress cut out from this pattern as well, in some grey cotton twill.  I’ve been having trouble deciding on a color to go on the collar/placket, as everything I’ve picked looks too matronly or too twee.  Hoping to finish it this week.

I have been working the long promised bird dress as well.  It’s nearly done, just needs hemming and finishing on the sleeves and neck.  However, I’ve decided to forgo the tie belt the pattern calls for and make my own self fabric belt with a buckle.  This will surely end up being more work than the whole dress, but hopefully it’ll be worth it.

This weekend I also made a little tunic out of a pretty remnant I got for a couple dollars:

I used Simplicity’s Cynthia Rowley 2586.  Holy cow, is there a lot of ease in this!  This is down two sizes from what my measurements said I should cut and I’ll probably take another 3 inches out of the side seams before I wear this out.  I’m really glad I muslined this.  My plan is to make a dress from it next and I would have been swimming in huge tent if I’d done that!

Last month’s wadder is still hanging around.  I’m thinking I might try and recut it into the Cynthia Rowley pattern.  Hopefully I can mange that with out confusing myself too much and destroying all the fabric.


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Things made and unmade

I’d show you pictures of sewing projects this weekend, but alas, there’s nothing to show.  Still working on the same dress I was working on last weekend.  I think so far I’ve ripped out more feet of stitches than I’ve successfully sewed.  Great for a patterned advertised as ‘One Hour.’  I’m about 6 hours into it right now.  As far as I can tell it’s going to look like a sack when I finish.  Still I persevere!  Maybe next weekend I’ll finish.

For your jolt of color, here is my new summer weight bedspread!  I tried to make curtains out of my previous summer weight bedspread, which I messed up so bad it basically became rags,  YAY ME! Luckily that meant getting a bright new one.  This is basically the weight of two sheets together, so total weight on me is an airy, breathable, nothing, but allows me to pull the covers up to my chin (as is my wont) even on hot, Southern summer nights!

My browsing for a new bedspread gave me this, which I now really want for when the weather gets cooler.  And of course I’d need this to hang in the bedroom.  It’s sweltering in Tennessee and I’m fantasizing about an autumnal, Moroccan interior design.  Of course then I’d need all new rugs.  And maybe a new lamp.  It seems unreasonable to think about this now, but I am seriously considering buying these things slowly over the summer and stockpiling them for a dramatic room transformation when fall comes.

I did manage to make a website this weekend for my friends, The Magnificent Others. Their album is going on sale soon and you should totally get it.  It’s rock n’roll for people who like rock n’roll, yeah?

Now it’s on to a week of work with hopefully a few short days that I can sneak something creative into, or maybe a festive fire in which I burn the simple dress that is taking me far too long to create!


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In which I read, so you don’t have too.

I feel like in any given week I vacillate between trying to finish all the half-watched series in my Netflix queue and to finish all the books, well, just all the books.  This week it’s books.  I spent all of Sunday finishing Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  Multiple fails on my part here.  I didn’t (as is my tendency) research the book at all.  So it’s probably safe to say that if I’d known it was the first in a trilogy and I ‘d known it was 800 pages long going in (it’s always hard to tell on a Kindle which is something they really should fix) I might have felt differently about the book.  But honestly it would have benefited from an editor able to make it 200 pages shorter.  But it wasn’t just my not knowing.  The author failed as well, I think.  The first 250 or so pages were amazing, excellent, well written and engaging.  And then I spent the rest of the book waiting for it to get good again.  Not only did it not get good again, it didn’t end (the trilogy thing).  Incredibly frustrating.  And I was perhaps so disappointed in the decline of the story as it went along that I doubt I’ll bother with the next 800 page bit he puts out, trilogy or no, I just don’t care enough now to even find out what happens.  Cronin’s writing is engaging enough that you keep turning pages, assuming the good part is just around the corner, but it never was.  And the characters in the second part of the book are flat and flaccid, not vibrant like those in the beginning.   For some satisfaction after I finished reading, I went and read a bunch of Amazon reviews and many folks felt the same way I did: starts strong, winds away into nothing.  And I kept pushing through in hopes of it improving, of some of the new characters turning out to be likable, but alas.  Fortunately I think I needed a restful day and now I’m done so I won’t waste any more days on that book and  can start a new one from the dozens in the ‘waiting to be read’ pile.  Or I guess that should read waiting to be read “pile,” since it’s all on my Kindle and not actually in a pile like we used to keep books in the olden days.

Yesterday I had a 45 minute wait in the doctor’s office I spent much of it with my eyes closed trying to remember the best parts of The Passage all that came to me was fleeting images of Colorado autumn, or what the walk to the Zoo in Memphis is like, or glasses of tea on hot summer, water beading on the sides.  So I’ll grant Mr. Cronin that he does an excellent job places descriptions and has a way with words, but now, a few days later, none of the characters have stuck with me at all.

After reading up on The Passage I fell down the Amazon rabbit hole and started reading customer reviews of the book I intend to read next.  Which is either brilliant and amazing, or dumb, confusing and derivative. So now do I want to read it so I can feel superior to the people who didn’t get that it was brilliant, or will I read it and wonder why I wasted my time? And this, my friends, is why I always go into book blind, or with a few words of rec from friend and not much more.

Because I’ve been sewing so many utilitarian, solid colored skirts I haven’t been posting pictures.  I mean you saw the one, right? The other look the same but better.  Basic staples.  I don’t need to show you pictures, in the same way I don’t give you the recipe when I make mashed potatoes.  Still I am doing stuff so here’s a quick shot of what’s currently half done on the sewing table:

Only the bodice is actually done, the ‘skirt’ here is just folded fabric.  It will be a kimono sleeve, empire waist summer dress when it’s done.  But look how pretty, the fabric!!  Wheee!


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Strange news from another land

I’m pretty sure anyone reading this knows that there is weirdness on the internet.  Indeed in the grey fringes of the net there be monsters the likes of which you should never click on.  And I suspect most of us stick to some regular circle of online places to visit, only occasionally straying out when someone offers a link of promised amusement.

I read a lot of sewing and fashion blogs.  It encourages me in my sewing, gives me ideas and tips and keeps me thinking about it when I’m not doing it.  But even in this tiny subculture there is much weirdness to be found.  Now in fairness, fashion is weird, or people try and make it weird, but sometimes it’s just incomprehensible to me.  And I don’t mean bizarre, haute couture, or strange high fashion you could never wear.  No, I mean things like Hel Looks.  As far as I can tell, this is a street wear fashion blog from Helsinki.  Like the Sartorialist or Urban Weeds.  But I can’t figure Hel Looks out.  Is it satire? Are Finnish people just so weird that they are actually parodies of their own stereotypes?  Yes the clothes displayed here are offbeat and funky, but not, in my opinion outside the range of actually normal for urban young folks.  However when I start reading their comments with the pictures I begin to feel as if I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.

I know a lot of people. Hundreds of Americans I call friends or acquaintances, dozens of Europeans and a smattering of folks other places. I read a lot of news, a lot blogs and a lot of fiction.  I follow links on the internet, I eavesdrop on conversations, I pay attention to the way people talk, what they choose to talk about, and how they address other people.  And given all the data I have I’m just sure that no one, ever, when asked about fashion influences says, “I like German submarine officers, especially their caps and headphones.”  Or “I like to wear these trousers. Even my friends want to wear them.”

So either the world is much stranger place than I thought, something is wrong with Finnish people, or this is satire, right? Or maybe it’s surrealist art?

Finland is longer a country full of people in folk costumes or is it?