Naming Names Part 1
Posted by JVJ @ 9:34 pm
Mar 27th : 2008
The Great Gatsby, Scrooge, Heathcliff, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Huckleberry
Finn, Gandalf, Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, Scarlett OíHara and Rhett Butler:
these are names that tell us something about their owners. Even before we
meet them we have an idea of what kind of characters they are. Naming a
character is an opportunity to describe character. In Great Expectation,
the hero is named Pip. Small, insignificant: a seed. Ahab, in Moby Dick,
shares traits with his biblical counterpart; a doomed, obsessive king.
Just like people, names come with baggage. Name your hero Jack and readers
will expect a manly man, rugged and prone to infidelity. Jack Nicholson,
JFK, Jack London, Jack-of-Hearts: popular culture affects how we view
names. Similarly with Monica, Bill, Michael, Johnny, Dick, Barbara,
Elizabeth, George, Jennifer and so on. As writers we have to keep this in
mind when choosing names, only letting the baggage do extra lifting as a
Posted by JVJ @ 9:51 pm
Mar 25th : 2008
Every tent and studio at Concordia has a guestbook. The eco tent guestbook
is a work of art. Folk have drawn beautifully-rendered maps, detailed line
drawings of wildlife and birds, and passed along their stories of how,
when, and why they came to stay in tent P10, the windiest spot on St. John.
The guestbook in the studio is different. Shorter, less lovingly rendered.
A heartache is laid bare across two of its pages. A man stayed in the
studio alone for a week. His wife, not fond of traveling, had stayed home
in Boston. The man, who did not sign his name but provided the dates of his
visit (late 2007), was lonely and heartbroken. Detailing the deterioration
of his marriage--the slowly widening gap between he and his wife--he asks
future guests of the studio, ďWhat more could I have done?Ē
Posted by JVJ @ 10:15 pm
Mar 22nd : 2008
To mark the knighting of the title for Book IV, Watcher of the Dead, hereís
a sneak peak at the book itself. The Prologue
takes us far North, back to the Ice Trappers and their ancient and
troubled Listener, Sadaluk.
Watcher of the Dead
Posted by JVJ @ 9:39 am
Mar 20th : 2008
Book IV now has a title, Watcher of the Dead. This has been one of Raifís
names from the beginning, referring to the raven lore he wears around his
neck. When Death comes to claim Raif in Book I, she says, ďPerhaps I wonít
take you yet, Watcher. You fight in my image and live in my shadow, and if
I leave you where you are I know youíll provide much fresh meat for my
children. Kill an army for me, Raif Sevrance, any less and I just might
call you back.Ē When naming Book IV, it was this quote I had in mind.
Arthur C. Clarke
Posted by JVJ @ 11:28 am
Mar 19th : 2008
Arthur C. Clarke died yesterday. He was one of my favorite SF writers and one
of Dadís favorites too. I grew up in a house where copies of Childhoodís
End, The Sands of Mars, and 2001: A Space Odyssey were left lying around on
the windowsills. Iím very sad to hear of Clarkeís passing. He was a great
writer and visionary, and heíll be missed.
ViTran: Virgin Islands Transport
Posted by JVJ @ 10:31 am
Mar 19th : 2008
You can spend a lot of time waiting for the bus on St. John. The ViTran
comes once an hour, except when it comes every two hours. No one on the
island can predict which schedule the bus is adhering to on any given day.
Bearing this in mind, itís probably best to plan for the two hour schedule,
then youíll be pleasantly surprised if the bus turns up early. Riding from
Salt Pond Bay to Cruz Bay takes 45 minutes. For most of that time youíre
traveling through a National Park. Green mountains and canyons, waterfalls,
crescent-shaped beaches and clusters of islands can be appreciated from the
bus. The roads are narrow and Virgin Islanders drive on the left--using
left-wheel drive cars. The buses however are right-wheel drive, which means
that their drivers can see farther ahead. The cost of this magnificence is
one dollar. All rides, anywhere on the island: one dollar. Throw into this
the fact that you can watch wild donkeys, wild goats, wild pigs and wild
chickens from the bus stop and you have a pretty good way of getting around.
Posted by JVJ @ 9:14 am
Mar 18th : 2008
Charlotte Amalie is the largest town on St. Thomas. Itís where the big
cruise ships come to dock, offloading passengers by the thousand daily.
Each super ship has an average of 3,000 passengers. The day I was there
five of them dropped anchor, effectively doubling the population of the
city. Many folk come to shop. Main street glitters with tax-and-duty-free
jewelry stores offering diamonds and emeralds, platinum and gold. Itís a
relatively small town, though, and you only have to walk a few blocks to
escape the commerce. The rhythms of reggae and corrido float from old
peeling buildings, along with the smells of frying pates and conch.
Posted by JVJ @ 8:45 am
Mar 17th : 2008
Cruz Bay is the main town on St. John. The beach and ferry dock are right
there, only a block from the post office. Rolling off the ferry at 8pm that
first night, after an entire day without food, we hauled our luggage fifty
feet north from the terminal and had barbecue at Uncle Joeís. Our view
across the street was of Capís Place, which we came to know over the next
few days as home of the two dollar Presidente. Pretty much everything was
two dollars: rum cocktails, Courvoisier, rum cocktails, gin and tonic, rum
cocktails. While youíre enjoying their mean rice and peas, you can keep
abreast of the horse racing results which are beamed onto their eccentric
collection of smallscreen TVs.
Spotting Sea Turtles
Posted by JVJ @ 4:56 pm
Mar 16th : 2008
Your fearless reporter at jvj.com isn't afraid to get her feet wet in
search of wildlife. Here I am at Waterlemon Key on St.John investigating
the claim that giant sea turtles have been seen close by. "Find the sea
grass and you find the turtles," locals said. I donned snorkel and
rashguard and waded out to investigate. I quickly found said sea grass and
it wasn't long before I spotted it: a sea turtle as big as a VW. Grazing
sedately on sea grass, he didn't seem the slightest bit bothered at being
ogled by a strange creature with flaying limbs and bug eyes. As I don't
own an underwater camera, you'll have to take my word for this big turtle
A day at the eco tent
Posted by JVJ @ 11:09 am
Mar 14th : 2008
One day I stayed (you can hardly call it camping) at the windiest spot on
St. John, Rams Head Point, where the Caribbean and Atlantic meet. The
canvas of the eco tent billowed and flapped through the night and the wood
creaked. It was like being on a ship.
As you can see the eco tent is cool. Itís sturdy vinyl canvas tied to a
wood frame, with zip-up windows and a plank floor. It has running water,
which is reclaimed, and an outhouse with a shower. Part of the outhouse has
a glass roof, where the water tank sits. Sunlight, and nothing else, heats
the water over the course of the day.
Back from the islands
Posted by JVJ @ 9:24 am
Mar 13th : 2008
Blue skies, turquoise water, sea turtles, two buck Presidentes, shrimp
Creole, palm trees and warm tradewinds: these are just part of being in the
US Virgin Isles. I spent four days camping on St.John and the final day in
St.Thomas. Getting around, I either walked or caught the bus. A gentleman
named Charles gave us a ride into town and then gave us a gift of lemons. I
have them in my suitcase. Iíll be using them today.
More on the trip in the days to come. I have to get back to work. Thereís
an image I have of a man macheting a coconut that I need to write about
before it fades.
Posted by JVJ @ 1:04 pm
Mar 6th : 2008
Tomorrow I head south, to St. John in the US Virgin Islands, for a few days
camping. The campground Iím staying at is eco-friendly. They generate their
own solar power, cache rainwater, use sustainable building materials,
recycle, reclaim, and other interesting stuff. This is good news as most of
St. John is a National Park. The other good news is that the camp provides
all tents and equipment so you donít have to haul all your gear on a plane.
Iíll let you know how it goes.
Paulís been tinkering
Posted by JVJ @ 6:56 pm
Mar 4th : 2008
You may have noticed that the first update of the month was a little late,
thatís because Paul has been working behind the scenes, building a better
website. Weíve gone widescreen. And weíre finally acknowledging that itís
2008 (we tried to fight it, holding out long past the Chinese New Year but
time marches on) and have indexed 2007 and 2008 separately. We hope the
changes work and they improve your viewing experience. Email Paul with any
Spirits: both kinds
Posted by JVJ @ 2:08 pm
Mar 3rd : 2008
Last month I introduced you to our old cellar, complete with secret tunnels
and tombs from the 1600ís. Hereís a photo of the pub (foreground), and you
can see how close the church and graveyard are. The original church dates
back to the time of the Norman Conquest, and the pub was built over part of
the graveyard. In respect for the dead, tombs were left intact with their
tombstones, eventually forming part of the cellar floor.
How cold was it yesterday?
Posted by JVJ @ 10:43 pm
Mar 1st : 2008
Iím glad you asked: -4F. Thatís minus twenty Celsius, a record low here.
Just standing outside for a few seconds was enough to make my hands ache. I
know that people in other parts of the world endure colder weather, but for
someone from the North of England, where the temperature rarely dips below
freezing, itís pretty chilly. Giant ice crystals grow on the window panes
and the air is very still and dry.