Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Funny Fantasy and Silly Scifi

 More Super Heroes than a DC Reboot 

Written By: Tracy - Mar• 27•15

Midsouthcon is one of the first conventions that I ever went to along with Rockcon in Little Rock.  Rockcon is gone, but Midsouthcon is still going strong.  

 

I’m more familiar with literary conventions in Oklahoma and Texas.  Midsouthcon has quite a bit more competitive, high-caliber costuming.  The hall costumes are amazing and the masquerade costumes are even more amazing. 

   

       

But I didn’t see as many familiar faces this year, because apparently the convention was scheduled at the same time as Gulf Wars. 

I did see Melinda LeFevers, who has a new book coming out from Yard Dog Press next year.  It’s going to be called Memoirs of a Hoarder.  Sounds intriguing. 

I also ran into an old fencing buddy, Leif Hassell, one of my favorite members of the Darrell Awards jury members Tim Gatewood (I promise I’m not sucking up) and famous Arkansas Restaurant Blogger Kat Robinson. Her daughter is not a baby anymore. And had the most creative Rainbow Dash costume out of many, many Rainbow Dash costumes at the convention this weekend.  Buy her book Arkansas Pie.  Because pie.  

The trip home went quickly as well.  I was even able to get home in time to spend time with my favorite two super heroes, Princess Batgirl and Prince Superbaby.

  

They’ve Given Wonder Woman Back Her Pants.  Pop Some Popcorn and Let’s Enjoy the Fanboy Rage.

Written By: Tracy - Mar• 18•15

It looks like Wonder Woman is getting yet another new costume change.

 

But not everyone is happy about things.  Some comics creators are out there giving us their humble opinions about why the costume dosen’t work for them.

First up: J Scott Campbell, who wrote: “ gotta say, shoulder pads, especially big bulky metal ones NEVER look good on women. Everything about them is unfeminine and lacks style. No grace to this approach at all.” 

To get some idea of what Campbell thinks is stylish and feminine, this is his tribute to the wizard of Oz.


Does Dorothy keep her internal organs in a pocket demension?  Or is she built like a TARDIS?

Also weighing in is Erik J. Larsen, who draws women like this:


Please note that her thigh is bigger than her waist.

Larsen tweeted:

I’m tired of the big two placating a vocal minority at the expense of the rest of the paying audience by making more practical women outfits

… or “That costume is impractical” (to which I point to the many athletes who participate in sports and wear considerably less…

… because bulky clothes actually hinder movement). 

I guess, having been a Wonder Woman fan since the 70’s TV show, as well as a cosplayer, former ballerina and SCAdian, I’m as qualified as any woman to offer a rebuttal.  

 

1.  Those unfeminine shoulder pads?  They’re called spaulders.  People who actually fight in armor with with swords actually use them.  

 


2. Nobody would dress like that.  But cosplayer do. 

Yeah, but I’ve heard of cosplayers wearing nothing but a jar of peanut butter.  Would you call that a good costume?

3. Many athletes wear less.

It depends on the sport. When I danced, it was usually in a leotard.  However, part of the point of ballet is to exhibit the dancer’s physique. And I never had to worry about my personal safety.   Wonder Woman is going into battle, not dancing swan lake.

You want to know what athletes wear when they go into battle?

 

Her armor does not hinder her movement any more than a police officer’s Kevlar or a soldier’s flack jacket (or Batman’s Kevlar uniform) would.

And  also?  I want to be her when I grow up.

The thing is, women aren’t a vocal minority.  Statistically, we’re about half the people buying comics in the shrinking market these days.  And we want to be able to see ourselves in our heroes, just the same as the guys do.

We’re more likely to do that when the heroines we read look less like cheesecake, and more like someone who could take on the bad guys.

Just a thought.

 

We’ve Lost the Mark Twain of our Time.

Written By: Tracy - Mar• 15•15

My Facebook feed is blowing up with memorials to Terry Pratchett (or Sir PTerry as his fans like to call him.) Unsurprising, since I know a lot of fantasy and scifi authors.

Many stories are recycling some of his best quotes. They remind me of things Will Rogers, Mark Twain and Ben Franklin said. I hope somewhere in the afterlife there is a place for people like that to gather. I bet if there is, then Terry is there too.

I’ve been turning over in my mind what to say about him since I found out that he passed away on Wednesday. Partially because I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said so well elsewhere.

It’s a little surprising to me that we never met. So many of my writer friends, and so many of my fannish friends knew (or had at least met) Terry. But it seems like the years that Terry visited North American conventions always coincided with years that I’d taken a break, so it was never meant to be.

I’m told by friends that his speaking style and wit were exactly like his writing style. I’m sorry never to have been able to know that for myself.

I was “introduced” to Terry in 1999. I lived, about as miserably as one can possibly live, by working the night shift for the census bureau in Kentucky. There a coworker handed me Interesting Times and told me that I would enjoy it.

Terry’s work made me laugh, which I needed. But more than that, I connected with the sharp observations that were hidden under the wit like thorns under a rose.

Neil Gaiman recently wrote about how Terry had anger inside of him. I understood that anger because everything in my life made me angry back then.

But more than that, I loved the Discworld books because they were fun. Pleasure reading is something writers don’t often get to do. Too frequently, we’re trying to peek behind the curtains and see how the show is put together. Here were a set of books that I could just read and enjoy without looking for the seams.

In one summer I blew through Terry’s considerable backlist. I suppose that the books were my escape. When I hated life, I could open up a book-sized door into the Discworld and live there with Granny Weatherwax, Rincewind and Commander Vimes for a while. Who needed happy pills? I had Ankh-Morpork.

I haven’t read the newer books, though I need to. Life has been good to me this last decade. I suppose I haven’t needed to visit Discworld now the way I did then.

Perhaps I won’t read them. As long as I haven’t read them, there will always be one more great reading adventure.

But I suspect an unread book is like an uneaten heart-shaped box of truffels: the longer you wait to enjoy it, the more the actual experience pales in comparison to the way you imagined it would be.

I wish I had some kind of Pratchettesque way of saying that. But I’m no Terry Pratchett.

My Dirt, Let Me Show It To You.

Written By: Tracy - Mar• 11•15

One of my early happy memories is planting potato eyes in the soft dirt of my Grandpa’s garden.

Now that I’m no longer on the farm, I love the idea of a garden, but I’m basically lazy. I like to plant things, but I hate weeding.

A couple of years ago when I only had a deck, I discovered container gardening. And while I’ll never feed my family of four on a container garden (if you can, more power to you) it does scratch that gardening itch.

Plus, I don’t have to spend a lot of time in January working the soil. I just dump some potting soil in an old pot (or a Rubbermaid tub. My tomatoes aren’t picky). Then I put my seeds in the soil and walk away (like I said: lazy).

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The copper tub was a gift from my husband. I’ve been reading up on square foot gardening, and wanted to build a raised bed by our carport. He was worried about how that would look. So we found something we both liked the look of, he had a coworker give him the tub. Then he painted it. My dad provided the dirt (it’s composted manure from the farm).

So that’s my great farming empire. Once I got my greens planted, I took little miss out to see it.

Just think kiddo: some day, all this could be yours.

When Life Hands You Snow, Make Snow Ice Cream. Because, mmmmm Snow Ice Cream

Written By: Tracy - Mar• 05•15

At my house, I have five or six cans of sweetened condensed milk in the pantry because last year my addled mommy brain made me get that mixed up with evaporated milk, and buy that instead whenever I made mashed potatoes (as you do).

Which ended up working out today when we decided to make snow ice cream.

When I was little, we got snow maybe once or twice a year, and it was maybe an inch. If we could scrape up enough clean snow (or put out a bowl in time for it to collect) we would have snow Ice cream.

The way I’m used to snow Ice cream is to mix snow, milk, sugar and vanilla. Then eat the resulting soup. It’s not really anything like Blue Bell, or even real homemade ice cream from a churn. But because we hardly ever got snow when I was little, it tastes nostalgic.

Tonight hubby and I looked up snow ice cream on the Internet, and found out how Paula Deen does it. Instead of milk and sugar, she adds sweetened condensed milk. 

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I have a pantry full of it, and a husband who is like the little shoulder angel who says “do it!” When it comes to things like this. So we mixed up a batch of sweetened condensed snow ice cream.

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All I can say is that I think I’ve been making it wrong all these years. This stuff tastes like Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla, only richer.

The recipe said it made 8 servings. I think I are about 4 of them. Good thing we didn’t make more.

I finally learned how to chop an onion.

Written By: Tracy - Feb• 27•15

This last Christmas, hubby told me not to plan anything for Valentine’s Day weekend (which meant that Con DFW was out). Completely unbeknownst to me, he booked us into a cooking class at the Winthrop Rockefeller institute.

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The Rockefeller in that name is the same as in Rockefeller center in New York City. Winthrop Rockefeller was a younger son of John D. Rockefeller JR.  He moved to Arkansas and became a rancher on the advice of an army buddy post WWII. After he passed on, his ranch became an educational facility.

So I got to take a cooking class in an old barn, and had dinner next to an old silo.

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The class is called table for two. In it a master chef demonstrates how to prepare a meal. Then the students go into the lab and prepare the same meal. Then we get to eat the fruits (and vegetables, and meats) of our labors in an elegant candlelit setting (under a silo).

Our meal included bruschetta, creamy Italian chicken soup, bacon wrapped stuffed chicken with Asiago cheese sauce, Italian vegetables, polenta and tiramisu for desert.

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Now, I cook every day. And I think of myself as an advanced amateur. Even so, I learned a thing or two that made the class worth the price, and enduring the waiting list to get in. I sharpened my knife skills, and learned easier ways to chop vegetables and butterfly chicken. And we’ve since made the soup at home.

The tuition includes an overnight stay in the facilities, which are on par with a lot of nice lodge hotels that I’ve stayed in. The next day, after we checked out, we borrowed bycicle a and explored the grounds.

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The institute is on top of Petit Jean Mountain, so the scenery was terrific. There is a working, self-sustaining demonstration farm on the grounds, a lake and a botanical garden.

If this interests you, here is the link to the cooking class information. http://www.rockefellerinstitute.org/educational-programs/culinary

History Y’all: That time Boston never wanted Gingersnap Cookies Again

Written By: Tracy - Feb• 17•15

Last week when I was writing about the London Beer Flood, I learned of the most bizarre disaster to occur in US history.

On January 15, 1919, a storage tank along Boston’s waterfront burst, sending a 15 foot high, 160 foot wide wave of molasses rolling through the streets of Boston at a speedy (for molasses) 35 miles per hour. The wave flattened buildings, knocked rails off of a nearby elevated railway, nearly knocked a train car off it’s track, and crushed or drown people, horses and other animals under it’s horrifying, sticky mass.

Background
Molasses (or Treacle, if you happen to be British) is a byproduct from making sugar from sugarcane and sugar beets. It is what makes brown sugar brown. It’s a syrup, as thick as honey and darker than motor oil. In addition to cooking, molasses may be fermented to make ethanol for alcohol or munitions.

These two products were in high demand in the previous years. Munitions for World War I, and alcohol in the lead up to prohibition.

A Rush Job

Just three years prior, Purity Distilling Company had the tank constructed to deal with the massive amounts of molasses moving through their distillery.

At five stories (50 ft. High) and 90 feet in diameter, constructed of seven riveted vertical rows of steel plates that overlapped horizontally, the tank dominated the neighborhood.

The tank was completed just three days ahead of an expected shipment of molasses, leaving no time for the construction company to fill it with water to test for structural weaknesses.

Warning Signs

Neighborhood residents noticed problems with the tank as soon as distillery employees filled it with Molasses. The tank’s overlapping steel plates leaked profusely.

Children playing nearby would scrape the leaks with sticks to make molasses suckers. Adults would collect the leaking molasses in jars to take home.

More ominously, some employees noticed rumbling sounds from within the tank. The distillery had the tank painted brown to hide the leaking.

The Dam (actually the tank) Breaks
At 12:30 pm on January 15th the tank ruptured, spilling 2.3 million gallons of Molasses (26 million pounds) into the streets.

The wave flattened the entire Boston Waterfront area, including the offices of the distillery and a three story fire house nearby.

Aftermath

116 sailors of the USS Nantucket, which was docked nearby, rushed to the rescue.

By the time doctors arrived, they described treating finding victims who looked like they had been covered in a heavy oil slick. Some victims couldn’t even be seen through the thick, syrupy glaze. The final victim wasn’t even discovered for four months.

In the city stables, police had to shoot trapped , injured and struggling horses.

Volunteers set up a makeshift hospital to remove syrup from noses and mouths, so that survivors could breathe, as well as eyes, and ears.

The molasses clung to anything it touched, including the clothes, hands and hair of rescue workers.

Gawkers tracked the molasses back through the rest of the city, where it stuck in the streets, on handrails, doorknobs, public phones and the seats of public transportation.

The Cleanup

Removing the funk took an estimated 87,000 man hours.

Firemen pumped water from the harbor through fire hoses to spray away the gunk. Others used chisels, saws and brooms. Although the accident happened in January, the water in Boston Harbor ran brown into Summer.

Investigations into the accident pointed to the tank. Investigators said it was too thin and had too few rivets to contain so much molasses.

Additionally, the temperature on the morning of the accident rose from 2 degrees Farenheit to 41 degrees, which could have caused the Molasses to ferment and put further stress on the tank.

By August of the following year, 119 lawsuits had been filed against Purity’s parent Company, United States Industrial Alcohol (USIA). The suits were all consolidated into one lawsuit which took three years to settle. It remains one of the longest, most expensive suits in Massachusetts’s history.

The USIA settled out of court, and as a result, most of America today requires that building projects must be signed off on by an architect and an engineer. Plans must also be filed with most city building departments.

Today the site of the tank is now a playground. The events have passed into folklore. Some Boston residents swear that they can still smell molasses on hot days.

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History Ya’ll: Beer Tidal Waves Aren’t As Fun As You Might Think

Written By: Tracy - Feb• 10•15

The Super Bowl has just passed, which made me think of today’s topic: the London Beer Flood of 1814. (And if Super Bowl commercials don’t make you think of beer tidal waves, you and I don’t watch the same sport).

On October 17, 1814 George Crick, a storehouse clerk at Meux and Co. brewery (sometimes called the Horseshoe brewery) noticed that a 700 pound iron hoop had slipped off of a three-story tall vat of porter (a type of beer that the brewery specialized in. ). Although the vat was completely filled with the fermenting beverage, Crick wasn’t alarmed. The hoop slipped at least three times yearly.

On the advice of his boss, Crick left a note for another brewery employee who could fix the vat.

At 5:30 pm, crick heard an explosion as the vat splintered under the pressure of 1 million pints of beer.

Like a twisted game of dominoes, the flood of beer knocked the taps off of surrounding vats, causing them to empty their contents and growing the tidal wave.

An estimated 570 tons of beer smashed it’s way through the streets of St. Giles Rookery, the poor tenement neighborhood where the brewery stood. Since the streets had no drainage system in place, the beer had nowhere to go but straight into the homes.

Under the pressure of the wall of beer, Two houses collapsed, and eight women and children either drowned or were crushed by debris.

In the wake of the tragedy, a jury ruled the accident an “Act of God,” and refunded the brewery for taxes that it had already paid on the beer. The brewery closed in 1921 and was torn down a year later. The Dominion Theatre was built there immediately after.

Ironically, a Hillsong Church London holds services there each Sunday.

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It’s Groundhog Day! It’s Groundhog Day! It’s Groundhog Day!

Written By: Tracy - Feb• 02•15

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So today is that American holiday where we all gather around the TV set and watch Bill Murray repeat the same day over and over until he learns to play the piano and build Ice sculptures to win the woman of his dreams.

Just kidding. Sorta. When I was a kid, I learned that Groundhog Day was when the groundhog comes out of his burrow and looks around. If he gets scared, he goes back in and there will be six more weeks of winter.

Then I saw news coverage of the “official” groundhog pux pax Phil. Let’s just call him Phil.

Phil gets a ceremony every year in which a ton of paparazzi gather around his burrow before the sun is up, and a man in a top hat reaches in and pulls him out. Then the man in the top hat holds Phil in the air and let’s everyone snap photos of him.

Generally the report after that is that Phil got scared and went back in his burrow.

Happy Groundhog Day, everyone.

History Ya’ll: That Time Washington wore Falsies

Written By: Tracy - Jan• 21•15

gilbert-stuart-george-2Whenever I see portraits of George Washington (and I see them a lot. I live near an American Art musuem.) I’m struck by how his jawline reminds me of my grandmother’s. Like Washington, my grandmother wore false teeth.

Despite the name, Washington’s false teeth weren’t actually false. Nor were they wooden (contrary to popular myth). Most of his dentures actually had real human teeth in them. During his lifetime, he steadily lost his teeth. Often he saved them and had them wired to his real teeth. By the time Washington became president, he had several sets of dentures made using hippopotamus ivory or metal for the foundation, and “donated” human teeth.

George-Washington-teeth-hippo-ivoryAccording to Mount Vernon, Washington disliked the teeth, because they were uncomfortable and made his lower jaw stick out. The ivory ones tended to stain and needed lots of cleaning.

“Donated” teeth weren’t always donated. After wartime battles, looting of soldier’s bodies wasn’t only confined to their valuables. A looter could pull a soldier’s teeth and then sell them to a dentist. Some career soldiers even carried tools for extracting teeth from fallen enemies in case they had just such an opportunity. After the battle of Waterloo, so many solder’s teeth flooded the market that even up through Victorian times dentures were known as “Waterloo Teeth.”

But Washington’s teeth weren’t “Waterloo teeth.” By the battle of Waterloo, he’d already had his dentures made. The-antique-dentures.