On a recent trip to Astoria, Mr. Waite and I were walking back from dinner when we quite literally stumbled over a man on the sidewalk outside a tattoo parlor. He had a butane torch and was running it along the back of a small metal rectangle, held carefully in his fingertips. Beside him on a tripod was a tall antique box camera with a bowler hat. As he torched the metal, it tilted and I saw a greyscale, grainy portrait, lush with depth and rich with texture.
I couldn't believe it: this man was making tintypes, right out in the open.
His name, we learned, is Giles Clement of Clement Photograph in Portland, Oregon. He was charming and talented and willing to describe each step of the photographic process while he worked. The results are beautifully ghostly -- I feel like I somehow stepped backward in time.
So there is a pertussis epidemic afoot in our neck of the woods at present, and after one local news source referred to it as the Hundred Day Cough—the Napoleon of viruses!—I ran out and got myself vaccinated.
At which point my brain fell all to pieces.
It's not whooping cough, and it's not an allergic reaction: it's just my body taking energy to make antibodies, like it's supposed to. But it has drained all the thinky-juice from my brain-parts, so instead of making headway on any of my works-in-progress I am weeping over episodes of My Little Pony (that poor tortoise just wants to be loved!) and watching a lot of original series Star Trek for the first time ever.
Which is why I want to talk about the Unnamed Female Romulan Commander.
That's her there, center left, in one of the greatest outfits Star Trek has ever given humanity. She appears in an episode called 'The Enterprise Incident,' which is also pretty fantastic. The UFRC is in charge of the Romulan flagship (!) with a cloaking device, and spends most of her on-screen time seducing Spock (!!) using her words, logic, and that incredible minidress-boot combination. (Which is, of course, what any right-thinking dude-inclined woman would do if dropped into a Star Trek episode.) All while trying to also seduce him into defecting, which somehow doesn't come across as evil so much as it does, well, strategic. Spock is clearly a badass and good to have on your side, plus if he's fighting with the Romulans then she can keep seducing him, and it feels like everybody wins.
Spock, of course, is there to steal the cloaking device. There's an elaborate game of espionage being played, though the episode goes to some lengths to keep the reveal from happening too early. It's one of Star Trek's most effectively plotted stories. And though the UFRC doesn't win, she's not humiliated, and she's treated with the respect due to her rank by everyone on the Enterprise, and Spock even privately admits that their brief sexytimes will have a greater impact on him than the theft of the cloaking device.
And then she disappears from the Star Trek universe forever.
This is unacceptable.
I mean, look at her accomplishments!
She can command a damn Romulan flagship, which bespeaks a certain amount of ruthless intelligence and political cunning, but she is never vicious or cruel in the use of her power.
She can seduce both the human and Vulcan sides of Spock, and very nearly bend him to her will without denting his awesomeness or independence. Not even Kirk can do this—except in the slashier areas of internet fandom (love you, K/S!).
She respects the rights and dignity of her prisoners, even those she has condemned to death.
She does not lose control when she discovers Spock's betrayal, and she is as gracious in defeat as she is in victory.
She has emotions and expresses them, but they are not her sole motivation.
She manages to find two flattering, tasteful outfits in the Star Trek universe—which let me tell you, is no small feat. I expect she has a personal dressmaker on staff, because every other non-Federation lady has the worst outfits.
I don't really have a larger point here. Just that one of the weaknesses of the original series is a tendency to ignore opportunities for long-form narrative arcs, as well as a distressing amount of sexism for a show that was/is considered a progressive benchmark. Following up on the UFRC would have been an excellent way to address both.
And if anyone knows where I can find a replica of that minidress, please let me know.
We here at Olivia Waite are terrible at office jobs, but love a well-made business card. In the past we have gone with elegant black text on a matte white background because it stands out in the sea of glossy cover images and author photos (and also because it is cheap). But since we're going to the Romantic Times convention in Chicago in a few weeks—all the cool kids are doing it—we decided it was time to step up and get ourselves something fancy.
These are masterpieces in miniature, tactile and luxurious. The design and letterpress printing (letterpress! I swoon!) were accomplished by the marvelous Boxcar Press, who were an absolute delight to work with.
And yeah, I'm a digital author, but I grew up loving print books and moveable type and the Book of Kells and old book smell and libraries with narrow aisles and all those bibliophilic things that are comfort food for the soul. I've illuminated manuscripts before just for fun. I still get fizzy with delight when someone sends me a letter in the mail, too. The prophets of doom (cough cough Konrath) would have us believe that print is dead, or very nearly so.
They can have print books when they pry them from my cold, dead hands.
We here at Olivia Waite have lived in the Seattle area all our life. Over the course of our three decades, it has become apparent to us that there is a peculiar dance that occurs on the rare occasions when we get sudden and huge amounts of snow. It happened this way in 2008, in 1996, and I even remember it happening that one memorable year when we were in third grade and all but two family members were in Hong Kong.
I like to call this dance the Seattle Snowpocalypso.
Is it really snowing? Will it stick? Should I leave work now and stock up on food? What if I leave work now and everyone else leaves work now and we all get caught in traffic and then it really starts to snow? Can I get home without using the Metro bus system? Because if I need to bus home, I should probably do it now, right? Rather than waiting for conditions to worsen and getting stuck on a bus with angry strangers and possibly sliding down a hill and dangling over the freeway? I'm going to see what my Facebook friends are doing. The gods have mercy on you if you have kids to pick up from school.
It's definitely sticking now. They've got three inches on Capitol Hill, and Delphic weather oracle Cliff Mass says it's only going to get worse. I'm on my way home—either fighting my way by inches along an arterial street or crammed onto a bus whose windows are so fogged that nobody inside can tell where we are. Screw this, I'm getting off. Don't even care if this is my stop—I'll hoof it if I have to.
Knowing that if you slip and break your leg on a slippery patch of sidewalk, it will take ages for an ambulance to arrive. Driving's no better—not with the looming threat of black ice on a twenty-degree grade. That awful moment when you feel the road take control of your car away from you as easily as breathing. Stepping gently on the brakes and feeling the wheels lock but the car keeps moving forward. You knew Seattle was a city on a hill—several of them, technically—but you've never quite realized that means that to get anywhere you must go either up a hill or down a hill. This is a tremendously bad idea and you will have no part in it. Once you get home, you worry about the possibility of power outages. Spoiled food. The story you hear every storm of someone trying to cook indoors on a charcoal stove and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The city becomes an archipelago of neighborhoods, islands of light in the darkness. The break with mundane routine makes all other social rules seem immediately more flexible. People walk to the bar nearest their house in search of warmth and society, greeting each other with all the effusive delight of those who have survived some great calamity. Impromptu snowball fights and sledding runs are common. This is Seattle, so lots of people have plenty of outdoor winter equipment for mountain climbing and skiing and showshoeing and the like. Crampons become as common here as Uggs are everywhere else. With vehicles immobilized, city streets become accessible to pedestrians in ways that only seem possible in the golden glow of an imagined small-town Main Street. People walk boldly down the center of the street, knowing that no harm will come to them.
4. Knee-Jerk Self-Justification
Family and friends in Oklahoma and Nebraska are making fun of the way we drive in the snow, are they? Well they are giant flat boring places with square city shapes. Our city is a series of hills with mountains on three sides, two lakes, and an ocean. Because of the geography, our streets are necessarily steep and wiggly. Anytime it snows here, it means there is also ice. Especially when it snows for more than two days. Few people have big trucks or heavy off-road vehicles because, duh, it is a city and parking large vehicles is a right pain. There are only a handful of snow plows, and they have to move slowly and carefully on account of those aforementioned hills. So tell you what, Nebraska and Oklahoma, instead of mocking what you do not understand, how about you drive up and down one of the mountains in your state and post a video of that to show us how it's done. Oh, you don't have a mountain in your square, snowy state? Well. (Drops microphone, walks away.)
The snow has turned to rain. Melting happens slowly, as though even the weather is exhausted by the thought that the fun is over and we have to get back to the dull grey winters that wear us down so long before spring comes around to green things up again. And it's almost February. February is the worst. I'd go sit by a fire and drink some single malt for comfort, but I have all this catching up to do from the work days I missed sledding down Queen Anne Avenue. At least I can listen to this appropriately poignant Finnish tango while I work.
We here at Olivia Waite love illustrated myths—especially when the illustrations are done by the marvelous Vladimir Verano, whom we are honored to count as a friend.
And Saturday, June 11, if you're in the Seattle area, you should stop by Elliott Bay Books because Vlad will be on hand signing copies of The Prince, the Demon King, and the Monkey Warrior, a book of illustrated stories from the Ramayana retold for younger audiences.
Vlad is not only a superb artist and a well-read man of letters; he also runs the Espresso Book Machine (code name "Ginger") at Third Place Books.
We here at Olivia Waite did not sleep particularly well last night. (Dear dream dictionary: what does it mean when you dream that the bottom of your foot is pink and black and flaky like a grilled salmon? We are totally stumped.) As a direct result, we are a little slow of brain this morning, so writing the incisive, thoughtful blog post we wanted to write seems a bit beyond our capabilities.
The warm, sleeping puppy snoring in our lap is hardly helping matters.
So instead, here are some pretty pictures of the work of Lucio Bubacco, an Italian glass artist. I've never seen anything like them.
Some days, a warrior attitude is all that stands between survival and crushing defeat. Wouldn't that attitude be much easier to attain if you were wearing something like this brilliant handcrafted helmet?
I could don this masterpiece and yell my favorite line from Virgil: Dux femina facti! And a woman was made their leader!