Communion Of Dreams


Machado-Joseph Disease: Home, sweet home.

Yesterday I spent the most I’ve ever spent on a glass of water. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

See, my wife had a business function at a conference center at the Lake of the Ozarks. She’s retired, but still somewhat active with the AIA in a volunteer/mentor capacity. We drove down, checked into the hotel, dropped off our bags, and changed to go to a reception we thought also included dinner, awards presentations, and a full evening. I had a glass of water to take my routine evening meds, and we went off in search of the reception.

All went fine, but it quickly became clear that our expectations for the evening were somewhat at odds with what was actually planned. This was the first time this particular event was being held post-Covid, and contrary to the pre-pandemic routine (we’ve attended a number of these events), there was just a reception and brief awards ceremony. It was good that we were there, since my wife is a previous recipient of the same big award, and she was happy to support the new recipients. It was also important for her to be recognized for her past work on behalf of the profession.

But it was all over by 7:00 PM.

Now, since it was just an informal reception, we’d all be standing around chatting (and then listening to the presentations) for a couple of hours. A couple of hours during which some of my MJD symptoms made it abundantly clear just how much had changed for me since the last time I’d attended such a function (pre-Covid). I wasn’t miserable, but I was painfully aware of just how fragile I was feeling (as noted recently). Just being around people was work — even moreso than my usual introvert reaction to such events.

So, as we walked back to the room from the reception, we talked about just checking out and heading home. In just 90 minutes we’d be back in our refuge, I could sleep in my own bed and get back to my usual routine. It meant forfeiting the room cost, though.

I decided it was worth it. One of the lessons I’ve learned in my life is that sometimes you just have to write off the sunk costs of a decision, and get on with things.

So we changed again in the room, gathered up our things, and left. Got home safe & sound, played with the cats, crashed. I slept well (which I never do at a hotel), and this morning was able to get in my usual sunrise walk and exercise routine.

This wasn’t entirely due to MJD, of course. Partially it was due to the weird almost-over-but-not-really pandemic reality we’re still adjusting to. My ‘extrovert batteries’ aren’t what they once were, due to lack of use. And there was a breakdown in communications as to what was happening, so our expectations were at odds with what actually happened. Had we known that the event was going to be over so quickly, we would just have planned all along to return home after it was over.

But I do have to say that the changes I have experienced due to MJD were a major factor. None of my symptoms were noticeable to anyone else, and we didn’t discuss it with anyone. Yet I felt it, and it took a toll.

Lesson learned, and adjustments made.

Jim Downey



Printed in blood.

While on my morning walk, I was enjoying the beautiful day, the glint of sun on the dewdrops, the company of my dog.

And thinking about blood.

Specifically, about the old notion of a “contract signed in blood.”

Well, what if you had a culture which took books so seriously, that they were always made using blood as the ink?

Just off the top of my head, I could come up with all kinds of justifications for how such a culture might arise, from fantasy (‘blood magic’) to Science Fiction (books could always be traced back to their source through the DNA in the blood) to the plain creepy (“we do honor to our ancestors/enemies/icons by using their blood to write history”).

Yeah, it’s a little scary how my brain works sometimes.

 

* * *

And after I come up with something like that, usually within just a few seconds, my mind races off to consider what the practical ramifications would be to such a thing.

Economically, there’s some fun stuff you could do with it. Books could be purchased with the buyer’s own blood: “Price – just 750ml – get yours today!” Which also implies blood as the basic economic unit, but that wouldn’t necessarily be the case.

Mechanically, blood itself wouldn’t be a great printing ink without some other elements. So you could have the whole printing revolution based not on the development of a printing press, but on the discovery of how to make blood suitable for mass printing.

As a book conservator, dealing with books printed in blood would present some additional challenges. Depending on what else was added to it to make it suitable for printing could make it damage the paper it was printed on (this is actually a big problem with some printing inks used in history). And if I needed to do restoration work, would I need to find blood of the same type, in order to match the original ink?

 

* * *

Usually about this point in such speculation, I start to wonder just what in the hell got me thinking about these things in the first place.  What was my subconscious chewing on?

I could perhaps tie it to the odd little movie we watched last night.

Or that my wife had a close call last week. There wasn’t a lot of blood per se, but the symbolism is kinda hard to ignore.

Both good candidates. Both likely elements.

But in the end I decided that it was just that I’ve been thinking a lot about writing. About printing. About bookbinding.

All those things are measures of my life. In some very real sense, they *are* small, tangible pieces of my life.

Not unlike blood, I suppose.

The Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams will be free all day tomorrow. And remember, if you would like a chance to win a full-leather, hand-bound copy of the special edition, you need to write a review on Amazon and post a link in the original blog entry about the drawing. That’s a $250 – $350 value.

Even more, it’s part of my life.

Maybe it will be a part of yours.

 

Jim Downey

 



Then and now …

A lot of folks don’t know it, but I have an undergraduate degree in Economics (and another in German). And, while I haven’t really done anything with that degree, it does still largely inform how I see the world: in terms of economic forces at play.

So this nice little explanation of how the industry of making books worked during the Medieval Period … and the forces which led to it … as well as how it relates to modern publishing … well, let’s just say it ties a lot of my interests together. Here’s an excerpt:

The professionals who made books for profit were usually found near the biggest church in town. This was a well-chosen spot as canons and clerics (i.e. people who visited the church and who could read) formed an important part of the clientele. By the 14th century true communities of the book had formed in the neighborhoods around churches and cathedrals. Evidence from such cities as Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, London and Paris suggests that in these communities a diverse group of artisans interacted with clients and with each other. It was a world bound not only by the book, however, but also by profit.

The whole thing is worth a read, and it’s actually quite brief. Brief, but insightful.

 

Jim Downey



Game on.

One of the principal characters in Communion of Dreams is a mystery child who is a prodigy at Game theory.

Game theory first started to interest me back in college, when I was studying economics (one of my undergraduate degrees). I haven’t kept track of all the developments in the field since then, though I do still pay attention when I see something relating to it. And this item caught my eye over at MetaFilter (and if you don’t read MeFi, you should – it has the most intelligent and diverse conversations I’ve found online, and such writers as John Scalzi and Charlie Stross are regular participants). It is a brilliant application of Game theory:

Here’s another brilliant application: get your *free* copy of the Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams all day today. You don’t even need to own a Kindle – there’s a Kindle app/emulator for just about every computer/tablet/mobile device out there. Seriously, it’s free – and it is good, going on the reviews (an average rating of 4.8 stars from 16 reviews to date). Go download it now, if you haven’t had a chance to do so yet!

Jim Downey