Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Tall Ship update

I passed the strength test and climbed into the tall ship rigging for the first time. This is the sort of stupid thing writers do. I'm afraid of heights and climbing up some giant dangerous swinging ropey thing holds little appeal in and of itself. But damnit, I can't work on a tall ship and not know what it feels like to go into the rigging.

So up I went. And for the record, it feels like UTTER TERROR. Which I'm hoping wears off with practice and better footwear, because a climber needs to be able to do more than cling, huddle, and meep.

Right now the ship is in dock, and there's a canopy over the forecastle to protect the carpenters. To climb the foremast I needed to climb out a hole in the tarp and swing myself sideways onto a shroud. This was the hardest part of the climb: there are no footholds or handholds visible from the deck, and the fall is a good 10 feet already, so there was a great deal of faith and clinging involved in that swing. Also, the lower shrouds are huge, thick vertical ropes about 6 inches in diameter -- far too big to wrap my hand around -- so they aren't exactly conducive to holding and swinging.

(This was my first moment of revelation, btw. A ship is not a climbing wall. It is designed to be a ship first, and a Thing That People Climb On a distant second. Much rigging climbing involves stepping on and clinging to things not designed for that purpose.)

A tall ship's rigging includes shrouds (vertical ropes that connect the mast to the sides of the boat) and ratlins (horizontal ropes strung between the shrouds that form a ladder for the climbers). When climbing, one is to never put one's hands on the ratlins; hands are for shrouds and other standing rigging only. Standing rigging (a rope that will never move) is tarred black, to preserve it and to signal to climbers that this rope will not move.

(Another revelation. Climbing rigging means climbing rope ladders. Ropes move. They move when you put your weight on them; they move in the wind; they move when somebody else sets foot on the rigging. Presumably when the ship is moving there is yet more motion. It's like climbing a mountain of jello.)

(Also: while we have climbing belts, we can only clip in when stationary, and we have no belay. For the most part, holding on for dear life is a very good idea, because yes, you can fall, and if you do, you will go splat. There is no safety net.)

Anyway, I made my climb and got up and down without incident. Returning to deck was easy, actually, because I could see where my feet could go to support me.

(Another revelation: when you are focused to holding on to ropes and not falling, heights don't matter. I had thought height would be my problem, but actually I barely noticed how high I was, I was so focused on not slipping.)

Eh. That's it for now. More adventures of a cowardly climber at some future point. 


I finally caved and joined SFWA. Since then I've been reading a lot of excellent fiction, some of which has made the Nebula ballot. Congrats to all the nominees!

But before I start raving about some of the nominated fiction (a future post), I wanted to mention some short stories that I thought were wonderful but which didn't make the Nebula list. Vylar Kaftan's Hero-Mother (the costs of an alien culture's attempt to control reproduction), James Allen Gardner's clever nightmare Three Damanations, and Genevieve Valentine's evocative fantasy The Sandal-Bride are all terrific and worth a read.


I didn't Oscar out this year as I have previously. But I will say that I thought THE ARTIST was a deserving winner. It's a wonderful movie. You should see it, preferably without having seen any trailers or footage from it. All you need to know is that it's a film about a silent-movie film star at the dawn of the era of sound. And it's lovely.

THE IRON LADY was the film J. EDGAR aspired to be: a clinical examination of a person who pursues, then loses, power. Like J.EDGAR, this film is not a political history. It's not out to educate you. Instead it wants to take a famous political figure and strip away their defensive shell, showing us what might drive a person to excel at the blood sport of politics. J. EDGAR did this clumsily; IRON LADY does it with skill and nuance.

Streep gave a fine performance, but I'd have rather Davis won for THE HELP. THE HELP was a fine movie, with a strong ensemble cast. It was hurt because it came out during the summer, and by the time the Oscar voting began it had faded in voters' memories.

HUGO was immensely overrated, imo. It looked lovely, and I loved its recreation of silent movie sets, but the story clunked. The pacing in the last third of the film was off, and events seemed to drag rather than fitting neatly together. I also have to say that I didn't engage with the main character. The actor (who will be donning the mantle of Ender Wiggin in ENDER'S GAME) was competent; but the character remained a surface to me. I think one of the problems may have been that it took so long for the film to reveal why Hugo was stealing clockwork, etc. If you keep a character opaque, you up the mystery but lose out in audience identification.

So anyway. Some folks seem to have loved HUGO. I wasn't one of them.

And that's it for me and the Oscars this year.

Monday, 13 February 2012

More Tall Ship thoughts

I passed the climbing test, so I ought to be able to ascend into the lower rigging soon. I could have tried for the higher rigging test, but I'm not overly fond of heights. I want to take things in stages.

Fun fact: when climbing rigging, always stick to the windward side of the ship so that the wind presses you against the mast.

Another fun fact: if your ship catches fire near shore, you should try and fight off the firemen, because the amount of water dumped on your ship by their fire hoses will sink it in under 2 minutes.

That's all the fun facts I have: the other facts involve knots and belaying pins, and they're not that interesting to those who don't have to use them.

That's all for now.