Wednesday, March 8, 2017

For International Women's Day: The First Alchemist

For my readers who are aficionados of the history of myth and magic:

Mary the Jewess, aka Mary the Prophetess, is considered the first true alchemist of the Western World. None of her writings survive, but her works, sayings, and inventions have been preserved in works by alchemists from al-Nadim to Zosimos.

Mary - probably Miriam, originally - lived sometime during the First to Third Centuries of the Common Era. Zosimos of Panopolis, a Fourth Century Gnostic Christian, is the first writer to mention her that we know of. 

She was said to be able to make caput mortuum (a purple dye that was a big deal among alchemists) and to have invented several pieces of alchemical equipment, some of which are still in use today - the bain-marie double-boiler, for instance. 

She also left us the following cryptic comments (everything the alchemists said was cryptic - go with it):

Join the male with the female, and you will find what is sought; and
One becomes Two, Two becomes Three, and out of the Third comes the One as the Fourth.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Sic Transit Shepard Mundi

Dave Shephard, one of my instructors at USC, passed away recently. One of the good things about USC's film program was the instructors who were not only professionals, but enthusiasts: Tom Holman, who invented the THX sound system and genuinely loved everything audio. Bruce Block, who broke down visual composition in a way that actually made sense to non-graphics laymen. And Dave Shephard, THE film historian.

To my knowledge, David had no advanced degrees, but he was responsible for saving a significant percentage of all the movies that had ever been shot on nitrate stock, transferring them to safety stock and then to video. I remember delivering a paper to him at his lab and getting a brief tour of the facility, from the safety locker to the liquid gate printer to a Steenbeck that had been used by Fellini. "Enthusiast" is the best word for him - a man who truly loved his work. He will be greatly missed.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Best Writing Software Ever!

I've been asked a lot...a LOT...which writing software to use. Final Draft? Scrivener? Dramatica?
Obviously, a lot depends on what you're looking for. If you're a screenwriter, film or television, Final Draft is the industry standard. That's mostly because of its automatic formatting and the ease of file sharing: screenplay format is an epic pain in the ass, and it's hard to make it look professional unless you've been doing it for a while...or (of course) you have Final Draft.

Then there's Scrivener, which lets you write your manuscript but

Monday, January 2, 2017

It's Medieval Recipe Day - A Winter Stew

As per usual, we're taking a recipe from that 15th Century cookbook, Le Viandier (the James Prescott translation). It's winter, so let's try a meat pottage.

Meat Rosy (Pottage)

Crush unpeeled almonds and steep them in beef broth, wine, and verjuice (a sour grape vinegar).
Strain it through a cheesecloth.
Cook breasts of veal and chicken together with some good piece of beef and brown it in lard. 
Add fine cinnamon (not a lot), white Mecca ginger, and "Small Spices" like grains of paradise, cloves, and long pepper. 
For color, use turnsole or alkanets. 
Soak in warm water for three or four hours. 
Afterwards put it in your pot, and stir vigorously after the pottage has boiled until it's rose-colored.

Turnsole = a dye from the plant chrozophora tinctoria.
Alkanets = a red dye plant
Long pepper = a pepper that's similar to, but hotter than, our standard black pepper
Verjuice = the juice of unripe grapes or other sour fruit, used as we would use some flavored vinegars today

Since this was a pottage - a thick soup or stew - we can assume the meat was prepared with grains and vegetables.

And as always, if you try this...let me know how it turns out!

Monday, December 26, 2016

"Rogue One" Q&A Review

Q. Should I see Rogue One?
A. Yes. Yes, you should.

Q. Star Wars has burned me before. Like, three times AT LEAST. Is Rogue One really good, or is it just "good for Star Wars"?
A. It's good, period, full stop. It's the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. Certainly better than The Force Awakens.

Q. Okay, neat. So, how many Jedi does it have? Is it true there's a Busby-Berkeley style light saber duel on a rickety bridge over an infinite canyon while flying droids buzz overhead and zap things?
A. Umm, no. That's not

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Io, Saturnalia!

Before December 25 was Christmas, it was the end of the Roman festival of Saturnalia. The Romans celebrated from the 17th to the 23th, and later to the 25th, which was Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, "The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun God."

Saturnalia celebrated the Golden Age of Man under the rule of the god Saturn, who taught them the arts of agriculture and ushered in a golden age of peace and prosperity. On Saturnalia gambling was

Friday, December 23, 2016

We're Back!

We're Back Like Charles II
Hey, gang -

It's been a while since my last post. The election, writing assignments, and a nasty little back problem all did their bit to make blogging a low priority.

But that's in the past, and here we are. Some exciting news: I've past the midpoint of my newest novel, Conjure Man. A bargain has been struck. Mysterious happenings have raised eyebrows.  A black site has been escaped. A devastating secret has been revealed. And things are going to get even hairier from this point on.

What comes next?