Second Draft

Let’s Hear it for Technology

Posted in Writing by Michael Skeet on Sunday, May 30, 2010

The weather in Toronto today was/is gorgeous: sunny, hot, and not so humid that I can’t stand it. So Jill & I have been indulging ourselves by writing face-to-face (normally we telecommute, as it were) under the Dread Gazebo in hers and Do-Ming’s back yard.

I don’t know that this face-to-face thing makes a huge difference to our writing technique (which I fully realize I have yet to describe properly, as I have been threatening to do), because we haven’t said a whole lot, and most of what we have said we’ve said using IM, just as if we’d been telecommuting. But this al fresco writing thing does seem to have affected our productivity: nearly two thousand words between us this afternoon. Trust me: for us that’s a good day.

I have been working on my travel notebook, a tiny perfect Sony Vaio X. This is the perfect tech for backyard writing, in fact: as a word processor it has a battery life of over ten hours, and a screen resolution that allows me to look at about thirty lines of text on a browser. As far as I’m concerned, this beats hell out of using pen and notepad, the way I used to write.


A Better Sort of Gulag

Posted in Drink by Michael Skeet on Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lorna and I threw a small Prison Break party for Peter Watts a few weeks ago, to celebrate the better-than-odious (’cause you can’t can’t really call what happened to him good even though he doesn’t have to do time) resolution to his encounter with the U.S. punishment system (’cause you can’t really call it justice, can you?). We even provided a cake with a file hidden in it (said file courtesy of Jill).

I generated a series of celebratory cocktails, and somebody came up with the brilliant idea of giving them prison- or prisoner-themed names. (There was a Number 6, for example.) Peter’s favourite of the various drinks was the Gulag, and so I’ve decided to publish the recipe here. It’s a very easy drink to make, but one of the ingredients isn’t exactly easy to obtain.


1.5 ounces vanilla vodka

0.75 ounces ice cider

Combine in a shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Serve in a cocktail glass, garnished with a cherry. (Alternately, serve over ice in an old fashioned glass.)

The ice cider we use comes from Quebec; occasionally we find it at the LCBO. I have no idea how available ice cider is outside of Canada. Note that regular hard cider is not an acceptable substitute.

Shout It Out? Unlikely

Posted in Research,WorldBuilding by Michael Skeet on Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spent rather too much time, recently, on my back as a result of the influenza. One of the things I did to entertain myself, while my head throbbed and the world spun, was to watch a borrowed copy of the “Shogun” miniseries from three decades ago. It was the first time I’d seen “Shogun” since its initial airing, and I discovered that a lot of what I thought I remembered about it was, well, wrong.

But I’m not writing to complain about my memory. What was I writing about? Oh, yeah. There was one thing that suddenly made me say “Hmmmm…” as I watched. And it wasn’t the historical inaccuracy (First use of firearms in battle in Japan in 1600? Really?) No, it was one of those things that likely wouldn’t have occurred to me at all if my brain had been working properly. I was watching the big set-piece, leading up to the drippy heroine getting herself blowed up real good, and shortly after the villainous samurai had stabbed his third or fourth minion in the back, I found myself wondering…

How did they clean up all the blood?

Srsly, people. Killing was supposedly anathema to Buddhists (Jill says samurai just automatically expected to go to hell) and blood and death were serious defilement to Shintoists. So when there was some sort of treachery, and blood was spilled (despite what most TV and movies would have you believe, sword wounds could bring out tremendous amounts of blood in a short time; watch the remarkable ending of Sanjuro to get an idea), how did it get cleaned up, and did everybody have to leave the house/mansion/castle until it could be purified again?

I’m pretty sure that the answer to the second question is Yes, though I’ve never seen reference to it. Even in Throne of Blood, where there’s specific reference to a bloodstain that still disfigures a room, there’s no description of the cleaning process.

As for the first question, the logical persons to do the cleaning were Burakumin. But what self-respecting samurai would have those people in his house?

As I said, it’s perplexing. Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments. (In the meantime, I’m feeling much better now, I apologize for my prolonged absence, and I’m looking forward to getting back to writing again.)

Not Dead…

Posted in Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Tuesday, May 4, 2010

…just busy and, in my case at least, inarticulate. Sometimes the necessity of running errands and performing work-related tasks makes it difficult to think of what to blog about. But I promise we’ll get back to it shortly.

I suppose it’s relevant to the blog if I mention that I got hold of my neighbourhood’s last available copy of “Throne of Blood” today. At a discount, even. And on the front of the DVD case is a screen-shot of Toshiro Mifune, looking terrified out of his mind as he realizes that the arrows being shot at him during his prolonged death-scene aren’t props, but actual arrows with actual sharp metal tips that could actually kill him dead. Kurosawa decided to do that so Mifune would appear genuinely afraid. Apparently it worked.

See you soon!