Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Funny Fantasy and Silly Scifi

Just in Time for the Avengers!

Written By: Tracy - Apr• 23•15

This is ironic. My last post was about how I don’t watch much TV, and now here I am blogging about a media tie-in project.  Maybe I shouldn’t have stated that I don’t watch much TV.  Instead I’m selective about what I watch.  Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Because Of that sweet, sweet tie in money Avengers coming out, I have a very important announcement ™.  An essay that I wrote comparing and contrasting Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog with Watchmen  will be in The Comics of Joss Whedon: Critical Essays. 

My paper is titled “Joss Whedon, Alan Moore and the Whole Horrible Future.”  The collection will be out in the fall from McFarland.  

The details are here: http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-9885-7

I don’t typically think of myself as an academic, but this is the third pop culture analysis essay that I’ve had published.  The other two were on the shows Alias and Supernatural for Smart Pop books.

A Breakdown of Network Programming: Or, why I don’t watch much TV

Written By: Tracy - Apr• 20•15
These shows all seem to  have something in common. Could it be the marketing?

These shows all seem to have something in common. Could it be the marketing?

I was one of those kids who grew up with a TV on in the house all the time.  So I remember things most people my age don’t, like Carter being president.

So it’s a little surprising that I don’t watch TV.  Not much anyway (if you wave a Marvel superhero in front of me, you can usually get my attention).

By contrast, my husband’s family watches TV all the time.  All. The. Time.  Like, that’s what they do at family gatherings.  Christmas this year was an excuse to binge watch Turn (which is great).

It’s a little ironic, too.  Because my husband is more hypervigilant about how many hours of screen time our kids get.  I’m all: meh.  I have vacuuming to do.  Here child: watch more My Little Pony.

Maybe my lack of TV enthusiasm comes from knowing what my choices are.  The odds that something is on are good, but the goods are a bit odd.

Here is my interpretation of the major networks.

CW: Wangst! Young, hot sexy Wangst!

SyFy: we hate science fiction!

HBO and AMC: we don’t!

SyFy: well dang!

FOX: we’re sorry we killed Firefly! Really, really sorry! If we gave you another season of X-files, would you forgive us?

ABC: think of us as the Disney Channel for grownups.

Disney: We’re basically one big commercial!  Filled with more commercials! How Meta is that?

CBS: get off my lawn you dang kids!

History Channel (circa 1990): that H logo? Stands for Hitler. All Hitler, all the time.

History Channel (today): what history? Have some pawn shops and alligators.

Lifetime: we like to show movies of abused women.  Because that’s empowering.

PBS: Come for Sesame Street, stay for Dr. Who

 

I’d like to have commented on more, but as I mentioned before, I don’t watch that much TV.

 

History Ya’ll : That Time We Misplaced A Founding Father. 

Written By: Tracy - Apr• 13•15

Engraved Portrait Of John Paul JonesSome of the stories around the American Revolution almost have the ring of tall tale legend to them.  One of these was that when John Paul Jones came under fire from the British on the High Seas, they demanded that he surrender. Outmanned and outgunned, he supposedly said: I have not yet begun to fight. 

His life makes for interesting stories, but what happened to John Paul Jones after he died is just as interesting.

In a pickle

After the American Revolution, John Paul Jones served the Russians under Catherine the Great before returning to Paris to once again work with the Americans.  Before he could take up his post – negotiating for the freedom of Americans taken prisoner by Algerian Pirates – he died face down in his bed from kidney failure.

At the time, France was in the midst of the revolution.  Although the French king had yet to be deposed, he and the rest of the aristocracy weren’t very popular.

In this turbulent time, The American minister to France, Gouverneur Morris (no relation to me) didn’t want to draw attention with an elaborate public funeral.  So he asked Jones’s landlord to bury him quietly for as little as possible.

But the commissary whom they applied to for a burial permit was a fan of Jones.  So he offered to pay Jones’s funeral. For a charity funeral in revolutionary France, the commissary paid a princely sum: 462 francs. Approximately three times the cost of an average funeral. 

With this fee, the commissary paid for an expensive lead coffin, and a large quantity of alcohol.  The alcohol essentially pickled Jones’s body, just in case the Americans might ever want to come get it.  

113 years later, the Americans finally decided to do just that. 

The Bored Ambassador

Horace Porter was as close to American aristocracy as one came to in 1897.  His grandfather had been a colonel in the American Revolution, and a founding member of the society of Cincinatti.  His father had been a Governer of Pennsylvania.  

Horace had an Ivy League education, followed by a distinguished military career.  He served under Grant in the Civil war.  Robert E. Lee borrowed his pencil to make notes on his terms of surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  He was invited by President Lincolon to attend the play at Ford’s theatre in the presidential box (Mary Todd Lincolon was his cousin), but he declined.  (He did a lot of other astounding things, but for the sake of brevity, I won’t touch on them.  Look him up!)

In 1897, president McKinley appointed him as America’s first full ambassador to France. As a foreigner in a strange country, he no doubt needed something to fill the hours in between  state dinners, signing paperwork and reading dispatches.  So when he realized John Paul Jones was buried in Paris, he decided to visit the grave.  (Horace had been the driving force behind finishing Grant’s tomb – and presumably he knew firsthand that grant was buried there).

Except, there was no grave.

The Hunt

When Jones was buried, his few friends in predominantly catholic, Revolutionary France put him in a cemetery for Protestant foreigners.  Then they failed to properly fill out the paperwork.

At the time, the land was the property of the crown.  Sometime later, the French government sold the land.  It became a vegetable garden, then a place for animal fighting matches.  And a dumping ground.  Now the cemetery had a grocery store, laundry and apartments on the land, as well as several wells.

All Horace Porter had to go on was information in a letter sent to Jones’s  family.  It took him six years to find the property.  Then the owners wanted to charge him to dig for the body, figuring that the wealthy US government would pay.  Eventually, Teddy Roosevelt stepped in, securing funds from congress. 

The Find

Workers had to excavate the cemetery working underground – below the buildings.  The work was hot and gruesome.  Workers eventually uncovered five lead coffins.  The third of which was the best made.  This one proved to be Jones’s.  When workers removed the lead, they discovered that the body was so well preserved that the face was still recognizable.  Morticians made a positive ID by comparing the corpse to a life-sized bust of Jones.  **

The Second Funeral

John Paul Jones died a sad, ignoble death.  Most of his friends gave him the brush off.  He died alone and few people went to the funeral.

By contrast, his second funeral would put the more recent funeral of Richard III to shame.  France accorded him full military honors and an escort across the ocean to America.  There multiple cities argued over the right to inter him.  Eventually he was laid to rest in Annapolis, Maryland.  There president Theodore Roosevelt eulogized him.

And at long last, a man who is considered by many to be one of the fathers of the U.S. navy was laid to rest at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis.

And in a strange twist of karma, Gouverneur Morris also died ignobly –  from internal injuries after trying to clear his urinary tract with a piece of whalebone.  He’s buried in an easy to find grave at St. Ann’s church in the Bronx. 

 

** you can actually see photos of his preserved body online if you Google them.  It’s no more graphic than a photo of a mummy in a National Geographic article.  But I won’t post them here, just in case there are kids, or people eating, or kids eating.

In Which I Dust Off My Soapbox

Written By: Tracy - Apr• 07•15

Recently it’s been called to my attention that a certain subset of people out there believe that any woman who has had a C-section isn’t a real mother.  

Now I’ve generally got a very live-and-let live attitude in life.  If you want to go around believing the world is flat, or you want to worship Marduk or wear tinfoil hats because it keeps aliens from reading your thoughts, then I’m content to leave you alone and let you go on your merry way. 

But I’ve had two emergency c-sections.  One for each kid.  So not once, but twice in my life, I tried to squeeze a human being out of my body, labor pains and all, only to be told that if the doctors didn’t rush me into surgery and cut me open, the baby would die and I might too.  

Oh, and if this spinal block dosen’t take effect, they would have to put me to sleep while they did it, and there is a slight chance that I might not wake up. 

Now let me tell you about my week:  the baby started teething the morning of a birthday party, complete with fever.  The three year old had a runny nose.  Both developed into a cold by the end of the sugar-fueled day.  In the course of this week, I’ve spent most nights walking back and forth from each child’s room administering care, and have been thrown up on twice by each child.  

I feel like a real mother.  And if you ask my kids, they’ll tell you that I’m their real, authentic mommy.  

So your opinion does not matter.  

And fair warning: if we ever meet face to face, please make sure I haven’t had a week like this last one before telling me you don’t think I’m a real mother.  Because I will punch you in the throat. 

Have We Learned Nothing From Jurassic Park

Written By: Tracy - Apr• 01•15

The other day I read that scientists are putting genes from an extinct woolly mammoth into elephant cells to recreate the long-extinct species.  Because? Science! I guess. 

The scientists doing the research say that they hope to expand the territory of existing elephants out of reach of humans so that they don’t go extinct.  Then maybe bring back woolly mammoths.  They weren’t really clear on how that is supposed to work. 

I’m a bit skeptical for two reasons:

1. I’m not really clear on how this counts as bringing back an extinct species, since they aren’t recreating an entire woolly mammoth, so much as they are giving an elephant short ears and a woolly coat. Would this thing actually be a mammoth, or a created new species.

2. Whenever a creature is introduced into a non-native environment where it has no natural checks on it’s growth, it usually upsets the environment. Look at the havok zebra mussels are wreaking on inland freshwater lakes in the United States, lion fish in the Caribbean, rabbits in Austrailia and gray squirrels in England. 

There are other ethical questions that some scientists and biologists are asking, but I don’t feel qualified to comment.  Needless to say, I’m just glad that we haven’t found any Velociraptor DNA yet. 

 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.