Another Mystery Model

Thursday, February 27, 2020

From Behind My Window Curtains

Ohh, I can hardly stand it!
I wonder how my fellow-citizens can endure the brawling that goes on in these endless Democrat candidate debates!  I understand that the candidates feel a need to come before the public more or less steadily, until the voting takes place.  Exposure is important.  But how can they avoid repeating the same old points over and over in every debate?  Where do the moderators find some of the most inane questions to ask the candidates?  (It really has gotten a little better these last few debates.)  I was so relieved that the candidates did not sharpen their claws against each other in the first few debates, and actually, they have been much more civil with each other than, say, the GOP candidates were in 2016.
I'm beginning to think that only Elizabeth Warren could be the Democrat nominee who would make me happy.  She has the style, the personality, the values, the plans, the attitude that I have.  I love Bernie Sanders, I can handle any of the others, except Joe Biden, and honestly, I can handle even him being the President.  I dislike his 'crazy Uncle Joe' rhetoric, and all that goes with it.  But except for being reactionary, and conservative enough to make the Alt-Right extremely happy, even Joe B. would make a better president to follow Trump, but, after Biden leaves office, we're not likely to be very much better off.
None of the male candidates, as far as I can tell, look like they would be serious champions of women.  Clinton surprised everyone by signing legislation that was fairly progressive for its time.  But I would be very surprised if any of the guys would be as progressive as even Clinton.
If Bernie Sanders becomes president, and manages to put through even a fraction of the changes he suggests, all our lives will be better, and the women's lives together with those of everyone else.  (Of course, the GOP will insist that the entire thing is a fiasco, and present false information to support it.)
In all other respects, nothing has really changed, except, of course, for Michael Bloomberg.  He made a fair Mayor for New York City, though I wasn't close enough to his mayoralty to have an opinion about it.  He ditched the Republican Party to become a Democrat, but he isn't either one.  He is basically a very rich guy, who likes to throw money around like Andy Warhol threw paint.  (I don't know very much about Warhol's paint-throwing!  He may not have done it, actually.)  Bloomberg has supported many good people, especially those who were fighting the gun lobby.  Well, if any of the other candidates had that much money, they might have done the same.  (They might not have, too.)
What do you think about this new flu that is going around?  I'm going to eat my vegetables, stock up on dry goods and canned foods, and keep an eye on whether it comes to my locality.  I have a very reclusive lifestyle, and I don't often go out if I can stay home and write!  Keep your spirits up, because a depressed person is more likely to have a bad case of the flu than someone who has a cheerful disposition.  As time goes on, they're sure to come up with how to fight the flu if you get it.  This is why it pays to give up smoking, and working in places with bad air; these things weaken your lungs.  If you have kids, I suppose you really have to work hard to keep them from being bored and cranky if their schools close down for the flu.  Note that only people who are sick, or are prone to flu, or have Asthma, are expected to have a bad time with this disease.
Kay, spitting into the wind.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Just Keeping in Touch

I'm going to put up a new post in our companion blog: Helen, which sort of does not belong here.  This blog I'm going to keep for matters concerned with my activities as an author; the other blog is for matters that are Helen-specific, which is why it was originally created.
At first, having started with this blog, as a means of publishing a story called Jana, I began to post episodes from that story.  After a while, I took seriously the thought that I should keep the story fairly innocent, and devioid of graphic sex.  (I'm not sure why; perhaps it was the belief that kids would be reading it.)
At that time, the story of Helen was full of wildly sexy passages.  I had been writing it in a much more self-indulgent phase, and I used Helen as an outlet for all my frustration!  In the end, though, very little of that made its way through into the blog.  (I must go look; I can't remember!)
Now, however, I have different roles for the two blogs, and they may as well be one blog, really.  Each blog has a link to the other one.
The last post I put up in Helen is an interview of Helen, from a political perspective.  I have decided to make that blog have a political voice, though Helen, as she is now, does not have the perspective that a convincing commentator on politics should have.
Well, if you're interested in my take on all the events that are taking place these days, go over to that site, and read what I have to say, via the character of Helen!
Kay Hemlock Brown

Friday, January 17, 2020

Grrr! Lost Knowledge Behind Fashion Artifacts

Sometimes I get so mad!
As I have reported, I spend a lot of time on the website, which is a website for artists to show their work to each other, and to fans.  It attracts lots of youthful artists who contribute what is called Fan-Art, which is essentially artwork paying homage to Japanese popular art (from Anime, Manga, computer games, TV, movies, etc).  Often, of course, this artwork depicts superheroes, gods, goddesses, aliens, mutations and so forth, so that the characters in these derived works look weird and sensational, and are shown doing things with their enhanced powers and physical attributes.
So far, so good; the fantasies of young people these days are inevitably fueled by the entertainment that is available to them, so many of the characters they like to draw are goddesses, ghosts, magicians (like Harry Potter and co.) and even vampires and zombies.
Vampires and zombies are laughably hokey to the greater part of the population, but there are enormous hordes of people who are able to suspend belief to the extent that the doings of vampires and zombies are of urgency and concern to them.  Oh, how cruel of X to do that to Y!  And he (or she) had been so patient and so loving, etc, etc.
There are some things, however—things I have mentioned often in the past, I believe (I'm too impatient with the subject to go look whether I have mentioned these things often)—which make absolutely no sense.
I must have mentioned stilletto heelsPlatform shoes.  But let's not forget banana clips, barrettes, and nipple piercings, and similar things that only make sense for ordinary ladies, 9-5 folks, or perhaps denizens of the night to sport.  Why would a goddess, who normally lives in the Astral Plane, have such low self-esteem as to adopt platform shoes and stilletto heels, and so on, which are usually associated with human mating rituals?
Then there are stockings, and garters (or garter tabs; I'm not too sure of the latter).  Some younger girls may not know, and guys may know even less: garters are intended to help keep up the stockings girls wear, especially if they wear shorter than ankle-length skirts or dresses.  Stockings, meanwhile, are intended to smooth out the appearance of the lower legs, and to provide a little warmth in cool weather.  A goddess, who can smooth out the appearance of her legs with sheer effort of will, does not need stockings, and certainly not garters to hold them up!  And, in any case, for whose benefit is this supernatural being wearing these appearance-enhancing equipment?  Imagine you're a goddess.  Would you go to the trouble of obtaining garters and stocking to impress your secret sweetheart, or would you simply influence her mentally with your god-like powers? 
Most recently, I have noticed the details of the lip color that the immortals who are depicted in Anime-style artwork wear. 
A few decades ago, it became common for professional makeup artistes to slightly enlarge the lips of their clients, by applying lip color slightly outside the line of the lips.  This was very effective in enhancing the lips of women in show-business who might have needed the enhancement.  Then, of course, women began to use collagen injections to enhance their lips, sometimes with disastrous effect.  But can you imagine a goddess enhancing her lips by painting on color outside the lip line?
Push-up bras, open-crotch panties—you name it, these goddesses do it.  Well, of course they might have a sense of humor, and do it just to make us laugh.  But that sort of defies reason. [When the artist comments on his or her creation, it is usually something on the lines of: "I just felt like doing that!  Haha!  Sometimes I think Xxyzzy needs a little something extra, you know?"  Of course, Art needs to make no excuses!
What we have here is a crisis in imagination.  There are a few authors who are true innovators in how they conceive their immortals to appear, and what characteristics (read: super powers) those immortals have.  Then, the fans love those protagonists so dearly, that they are unable to conceive of any new super characters (gods, goddesses, fairies, aliens, you name it) that are entirely different from those.  Even their names are derived from classical names of heroes, sometimes declined or inflected in painful ways. 
I suppose Western mythology has been tremendously influential on the youth culture for more than a century.  Many of the stories that young Japanese and Chinese and Korean and Vietnamese people love best are derived from Greek and Roman myths and legends, and Norse and Irish folk tales, and when a young person of today wants to invent a monster, for instance, nothing is more natural than that she or he should create a name from a Norse root, juxtaposed with an Indonesian suffix.  (Forgive my murderous way with linguistic objects, but I hope the essential ideas are coming across.)
Take away the—to my mind—embarrassing missteps with clothing and accessories, and even the outsized swords and guns that Manga protagonists choose as their weapons, and you're left with some really innovative artwork.  I did not mean to demean the quality of the art; it is just that some of these young artists take what I'm going to call anachronistic styles and accessories completely for granted; they don't hesitate for a moment in drawing a character wearing leather armor, sporting both a knife and a laser weapon.  My word anachronistic is a hold-all for all pairs of accoutrements that combine any sorts of objects whose use together makes no logical sense, whether or not it has to do with temporal issues.
I also have a problem with females with super-large breasts.  This is a cultural issue; both young boys and young girls imagine their heroines with ponderous breasts, it seems.  Meanwhile, since a large number of users of the DeviantArt website are models and cosplay artists, it is clear that about half the girls who put up nude photographs on the site are well-endowed, while the other half is very slim.  I'm not sure whether it takes a great deal of courage for a girl to show herself in the nude, if she has AA-cup breasts; at any rate it must be the braver ones who put up their self-portraits, and nine times out of ten, they are lovely.  I suppose that betrays my personal taste.
The heavily-endowed girls are also quite attractive (though I don't particularly admire them), but I get the impression that they're not automatically favored over the slimmer girls.  So there are subtleties with how audiences like their breasts.  It is difficult to understand this trend towards super-large mammaries (a word that I dislike intensely, but which I'm using to avoid saying 'breast' too many times).
I suppose I must just get into the habit of skipping over the artwork that annoys me.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Little Women (2019)

Just a warning: This post has little or nothing to do with my books on Smashwords.

L-R: Beth March [Scanlen], Jo March [Ronan],
Meg March [Watson], Amy March [Pugh]
A few nights ago, I watched Little Women starring Laura Dern, Saoirse Ronan, Meryl Streep, and numerous others.
First of all, I have read Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men, the main books that form part of a single connected story, and read them often, and so I know my way around the narrative extremely well.  Bear that in mind, when I wax critical about this latest movie.
First and formost, I see numerous matters that concern the author, Louisa May Alcott.  Anyone, with any sort of observation and sensitivity who lived at that time--even without the history of the world since that time to illuminate their thinking--could have had similar concerns:
* The status of women, who were under the control of their menfolk.  Many women--if not all women--could see the unfairness of this state of affairs.  But especially in times of war, it was more glaringly obvious that men, and male politicians and legislators made matters worse than they already were, though there may have been a few wonderful leaders of the masculine gender.
* The fact that women were consigned to certain tasks and responsibilities, which kept them out of the running in tasks and responsibilities that were far more important, which were jealously controlled by inept men.
* The fact that no matter how brilliant, a typical woman had no access to higher learning, no matter how well fitted she may have been to have the world of knowledge opened to her.  Women needed access to knowledge both in order to make a difference in the social and political sphere, and also in order to follow their instincts and their thirst for knowledge in any area.
* The fact that women had to subject themselves to often quite unreasonable demands of their husbands to bear large numbers of children.
* Alcott was painfully aware of the sorry plight of poor immigrants.  Whether or not this was a central concern of hers I do not know--reading her personal papers could tell us the answer to that--but she certainly brought up the matter in Little Women, and presented the death of Beth March as a direct consequence of the lack of medical care available to the Hummel family.  Another factor was:
* The poor state of public health practices at the time, and sanitation standards.  It is hard to tell whether Alcott was sufficiently far seeing to imagine what would be possible in the future.
* The limitations of poverty.  The March family, while certainly better off than the Hummels, still looked upon the Lawrences next door, and their Aunt March, with envy.

A unifying theme in the context of all these concerns, is the powerlessness of women, even if it does not have a direct bearing on every single one of these items.  Certainly being a woman made everything so much worse, if you had to have a connection between, say, the Hummels and female powerlessness.  It seemed that the Hummels were a family headed by a woman, and such a family would usually be worse off in every respect than a family led by a man.
However, I think that, to make Little Women a monothematic piece of work would be to do it an enormous disservice.  Directors with a vision often think that, in making a movie out of a book, it is impossible to convey more than a single important point.  I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the main driving force behind the Little Women (2019) project, Greta Gerwig, subscribed rather too enthusiastically to the belief that Louisa M. Alcott's governing concern was feminism, which seems to have resulted in a very heavy-handed use of the flashback technique.  Never before in the history of mankind has so much flashback been resorted to, with such confusing effect.  To follow what was going on, you had to have known the story intimately already, and you had to keep track of what the lighting was, how long someone's hair was, and so on.  Ms. Gerwig may have succeeded in elucidating the motivations for various actions by backing them up with flashbacks, so, OK, motivations in this movie might have been a trifle easier to understand than in earlier Little Women movies.  But the thread of the story really suffers.
There were brilliant moments.  Beautiful visuals, gorgeous costumes, scenes improved by realistic acting.  But it was difficult to follow the thread of the story; and I fear that only those who knew the story, and were desperately trying to salvage something from the temporal confusion, would have made the effort to thread their way through the spaghetti.
An interesting turn of events is that Professor Bhaer, the gentleman who eventually wins the heart of Jo March, has only a few minutes on screen.  This is explained by presenting the happy ending to the story (the consummation of the love affair of Jo and Bhaer) as being an unwelcome result of undue pressure being brought to bear by the publisher.
I suppose I'm too much of a lover of the original stories, and the author, L. M. Alcott, in my own superficial way, I suppose, to appreciate the deconstruction, and the painful reconstruction of the story by Greta Gerwig.  If there had only been two time periods between which the camera switches, it might have worked.  But sometimes Gerwig switches between three, or more.  I have a horrible suspicion that the actual flashback she wanted was between the scene at the publisher's office, and Jo's scramble to intercept Bhaer before he leaves for New York; all the other flashbacks were (I believe) merely a means to convey legitimacy on that final one.
I should talk.  I have wielded flashback ruthlessly in my stories.  But I freely confess that it was due to my ineptness as an author.  Well, perhaps one day, a Director's Cut will be made available to us, where the flashbacks are handled more delicately, or hopefully, eliminated.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Updates On "Prisoner!", and "Lalitha".

Well, first of all, I made The Lost Years:  Helen & Lalitha  a free download, and then I made Prisoner no longer free, but priced at 99 cents.  (I think it is one of my best stories, and easily worth more than the price I've set.  But stories that sell on Smashwords are, I believe, priced very low, and that's what readers are looking for.)
Immediately, of course, Prisoner stopped selling; in fact nothing has sold for the last few days!  The message is clear: I may give away my stories, but I may not try to sell them.  (On the other hand, there are a few steady sales on Apple Books, and Barnes and Noble, for which I'm grateful.)
Lalitha, meanwhile, priced to move as a free download, has not sold a single copy, which is frustrating for me.  I think that story, which is not an essential part of the Sharon story, except for establishing essential background for the character Sita, is nevertheless a lovely, romantic story on its own, with several fascinating characters, even though they're essentially adults.
Prisoner, which was downloaded enthusiastically, is certainly a great story, but it is set in a fantasy universe, and the characters are in their late teens.  I wonder whether that's the secret of the popularity of Prisoner?
Meanwhile, I commissioned an artist to supply for me a cover for Lalitha, and she delivered a few hours ago.  The main illustration for the cover is shown here.  It depicts the unofficial 'wedding' where Helen and Lalitha are informally married according to a Hindu rite.  I'm pleased with how Lalitha has been drawn, but in the story Helen has been a worker in housing construction, something which I did not make clear to the artist.  Still, I do see Helen and Lalitha in the artwork, and I think it is just perfect.  Whether it will help to make the book more attractive, I cannot say!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

"Prisoner!", and Other Stories

My story Prisoner! is now being given away for free on Smashwords, and all the other books are being sold for 99c or a little more; as a result, only Prisoner is selling!  I'm a little annoyed, and I'm also not annoyed; it's complicated.
Prisoner! is an interesting story, because of the voice of the narration.  In a nod to the historical flavor of the story--not that it is historical, or even fictionalized history--it has a sort of dispassionate, matter-of-fact tone to the narration; perhaps this works really well.  The emotional relationships emerge well into the story, and there is a sort of objective flavor to most of the sex that is there.  (There is very little graphic sex.)  The main character is essentially a female security guard of the bronze age, who develops feelings for the princess whom she is assigned to guard.
If any of my blog readers have read it already, you will know the story, those of you who have not read it, well, what can I say?  It is as well written as any of the other stories, and better-written than most, really.  And, of course, it is being given away at the moment: 2019.  In fact, it has been given away for most of this year.  Unfortunately, none of the other books are like it; the story whose tone comes closest is Alexandra, which is set at a time when the civilization is like the late 19th century / early 20th century.  It is in the distant future, but technology has regressed, and so scientific knowledge is somewhat primitive.  However, Alexandra was an early effort, and I was not as experienced when I was writing it.
There is another story set in a bronze-age universe: Jana.  It isn't ready for publication, but I had put up episodes from it on this very blog; the last few episodes were mere summaries of the story.
Well, it seems common sense to change my strategy, and do two things: (1) charge for Prisoner, since if its sales take a dive, it will have no implications for the sales of any of the other books; (2) select another loss-leader, e.g. Helen at Ballet Camp, or Helen and LalithaBallet Camp is a sort of goofy piece of writing!  It is unlikely to lead anyone to follow it up with reading any of the other Helen stories.  Helen and Lalitha, in contrast, is a very strong story, with characters who are very real to me, and three-dimensional.
You know, literary coaches are always telling inexperienced writers to cut the fat in their writing.  Take out anything that isn't absolutely necessary.  Kill any inessential characters, and so on.  Well, I did this for Lalitha, and you know what happened?  I killed the vitality from the thing.  The interaction between Helen and Lalitha, which was one of the greatest events in Helen's life, and in Lalitha's life as well, which cast an immensely long shadow on their histories, just stands there, like a ruined castle.
In India, Helen fails to do anything consequential to prevent Lalitha's marriage to someone she does not love; in fact the ten years Helen spends in India (which is a little implausible, because certainly someone in Helen's family would have tried to find out where she was) is totally wasted; it accomplishes absolutely nothing.  Well, life is like that; some years only succeed in making you older!  (That's certainly true for the past three years of my life.)  On the other hand, Helen does become fluent in one Indian dialect, but that fact never has any bearing on what happens to Helen.
I'm not very motivated at the moment, so I'll get around to changing the pricing on Prisoner!  and Lalitha sometime, possible next week.  Because of the prices I have chosen: 99 cents or less, I cannot put these books into the promotional plans that Smashwords sets up for the Holiday Season.
Well, happy holidays anyway!  I strongly believe in enjoying holidays to the fullest, even if you don't believe in any of the mythology!  Don't let the bastards grind you down!  Broadcast love to everyone, even those rotten conservatives!  Nobody is at their best when they've got their backs to the wall.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

What Does Sharon Vuehl Look Like? New Artwork

One of the things I now enjoy the most about publishing an e-book on the Internet, is creating cover art for the books, with the help of young artists on DeviantArt, a website and an organization that supports artists.
Helen & Sharon is a book that recounts the story of how Helen starred in several hit movies masquerading as a new young talent, Sharon Vuehl.
When I first published H & S, I just threw together a cover picture depicting an Amazon (from a sculpture), as well as a picture of the goddess Saraswati (also from a sculpture), since Sharon Vuehl's co-star, Sita Maunder, was a devout believer in the goddess.
It was well past time to replace this placeholder with an appropriate piece of cover art, and when the artist whose work I prefer announced that she had some free time, I described what I wanted.  She had it ready within a couple of weeks (which is very fast indeed), and here it is:

What's going on here?
On the left we have Helen, perhaps a few months after her little boy James was born, dressed for a concert, holding a baton.  Presumably she is about to conduct the performance of an orchestral work.
On the right, we have a depiction of Sharon Vuehl in her role of Merit, the principal character in the most high-grossing movie in which Sharon starred, namely Merit and the Princess.  Merit is a high-born young woman in a society in which the coming-of-age ritual has the girl going on an adventure, leading a team of women warriors.  Merit and her band are skilled fighters, and in the picture, Merit is in a fighting crouch, ready to take on some antagonist that is not visible to us.
According to the story, Helen secretly trains and exercises, to build muscle, and her disguise involves straightening her curly blonde hair, and having it colored red.  Sharon Vuehl, when she goes into the studio, looks both more muscular, and younger than Helen, and has blue eyes and red hair.
The artist was instructed to make the two figures plausibly the same woman, except for the blue eyes and the musculature.  We would expect that Helen's disguise made it impossible to recognize Sharon as being Helen, whereas in the artwork, Helen and Sharon had to look convincingly the same person.

Kay Hemlock Brown