Friday, December 28, 2007
In less than a week, I will have begun my quarter of study in Oaxaca, Mexico. I'll be there from January 3 till March 16, and during that time I'm subverting the original purpose of this blog and turning it into a travel journal. I'm going to try to post as regularly as possible, with pictures (I predict) even more frequently. I hope to keep writing (or pick up again, haha) writing fiction while I'm there; should have plenty of new inspiration, but there will be more of the "here are some cool things I've bee doing/seeing around Oaxaca" kinds of posts. I hope everyone will keep reading!
Wish me luck!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
don't forget the clitoris: (i)
vagina dentata: (w)
the cockblock: (x)
Inspired by gchat's monkeyface: :(|) (try it and decide what you think it looks like). It has also inspired the words vulvicon, vulvatron, and monkeygina.
But, seriously, I've been spending my break sleeping in well past noon, trying to get over a cold, and making tasties:
Yes, oohs and ahhs are appropriate. I did manage to type up the story I wrote on my travel day, but have yet to work on it. I also read The Golden Compass and went dancing. So, not so much with the writing, but it definitely has been a vacation full of vacation-appropriate activities. And it's not over yet!
I'll make a post about this specifically, but after the holidays I am flying out of the country to live and study in Oaxaca, Mexico, for 2.5 months! Am I preparing for this? Nah...
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
...the people who eventually write science fiction are the people who grow up reading science fiction. People start writing literary fiction as they tumble through writing programs at Sarah Lawrence or Bennington or Iowa because that’s what they’re expected to write and they want to impress their professors and fellow students; people start writing science fiction, on the other hand, roughly ten seconds after they set down The Star Beast or Ender’s Game or Snow Crash because they get done with the book and think, holy crap, I want to do that.Read the rest of the post
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Thursday, December 6, 2007
But soon I'll head into work where we're having a little going-away party, and then I can go home and maybe nap or maybe start packing up my stuff. Or play Portal. Who knows? My life stretches out in front me unhindered by papers and exams (tundra though it may be at the moment). I've got a couple ideas for stories floating around...maybe I can coax those into something readable.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Saturday, December 1, 2007
If I start with my Machine Death submission, this makes my acceptance rate 2-1, which is pretty awesome!
Friday, November 30, 2007
If you haven't listened yet, I encourage you to do so, and to check out the other fiction on Drabblecast as well! To read or participate in discussion on these or any other Drabblecast stories, check out the Drabblecast forums.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
In addition my short story "Marbles," the episode also includes one of my drabbles, "Shark Attack," both excellent narrated by the one and only Norm Sherman.
If you listen and enjoy the presentation (and I highly encourage you to listen to all the other stories there as well!), please consider making a donation...that way I can get paid for my next submission.
In short: a Drabblecast presentation of "Marbles," by Ayn Sauer
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Anyway, if I really want to write about these movies I need to rewatch them. Which is why Night of the Living Dead is in my computer right now. I'm going to "live blog" my viewing experience of the film's first sequence (except it's not really live because you don't get read it until after I'm done posting).
Consider this a SPOILER WARNING: if you haven't already seen the film, you may want to stop reading now and wait until you've seen it.
The opening shot is a long, still long-shot of car coming toward the camera. It's got a really satisfying, calm-before-the-storm feel to it, and almost feels like a point-of-view shot.
All of these still shots of open roads provide the setting: isolated, middle-of-nowhere countryside, and they are obviously far from home. The music is minimal like the setting, and unabashedly eerie.
Shots alternate of the car coming toward the camera and away from it.
The shots, still long, get gradually closer until we end up with the nicely framed shot of the cemetery entrance. Cool.
Almost 2.5 minutes into the film before we see any people.
Johnny is such a complainer. Their relationship is strained even before he gets zombified.
The camera angle is not quite straight for the shot of Barbara and Johnny heading into the cemetery. That combined with their quibbling and the creepy music definitely has me feeling unnerved.
I think the tilting camera through the trees is hand-held.
The shot of the two heading toward the grave feels like a PoV shot the same way the opening shot did; I think it's the tree on the right hand side of the screen that does it. That tree really unbalances the composition; J and B are centered in the frame, and the wide open sky is behind them, but with that tree trunk cutting off a significant portion of the frame the shot suddenly becomes claustrophobic, and I feel like I'm watching them from behind the tree.
I love Johnny's tie.
Speaking of Johnny, the medium shot of him exasperatedly watching Barbara pray at the grave is kind of weird, mostly because he's just so centered, framed even by the pine branches, and yet he really isn't do anything. Maybe it makes more sense given the sudden cut to a close-up of his face, illuminated by lightning, which then leads into a Johnny's-PoV shot of--the first zombie! The cut to the close up is pretty awkward; it is precipitated by the crash of thunder, and the difference in lighting makes it feel a little discontinuous. But then, a jarring effect might be exactly the intention when the next shot we get is ZOMBIE. Of course, we don't know that random rambling dude is a zombie yet, but even Johnny seems to feel that something is up; he's putting on his gloves.
Not much sense in his going to church, eh? So his soul is beyond being saved, eh? Also, awesome how these lines of dialog lead right into Johnny's demise. But you didn't hear that from me...yet... Focusing on what we've got in front of us at the moment, we haven't cut back to Barbara since she knelt down to pray; it's been all Johnny and zombie prime. Is he being set up as the hero, or the first victim? Hey, it even happened in this very cemetery!
"They're coming to get you, Barbara..." One of my favorite lines from a movie ever. His eyes look really creepy when he sticks his face out. Barbara has raced out of the frame, and as Johnny prepares to say the line the camera closes in.
Hey, there's zombie prime in the unfocused background. We get the kids in profile, Johnny following Barbara and still being creepy.
Dude is suddenly a lot closer than he appeared. I like how the camera keeps his head out of the frame: it makes him feel larger and more imposing as well as adding to the shock factor of the sudden close-up of his face when he grabs Barbara.
The angles are all wonky again, and this time we know why--because shit is going down! Weird shit! That bizarre, aggressive fellow just killed Johnny...and now he's coming for Barbarba!
By the way, this movie is really nicely scored; instead minimalist eerieness we now have tense, screeching violins.
Shots that merely give away important bits of factual information, like Barbara's losing her shoe and the key missing from the ignition, are very short, getting just enough time to get the information across, while shots that present emotional reactions (and to which the viewer will respond more emotionally) get much more screen time.
Barbara has locked herself in the car, and the zombie is pushing frantically against her window. Just like the tree limited the frame in the graveyard shot, now the inside of the roof closes us in from the top, making the viewer just as trapped as Barbara.
Barbara's terrified expressions are terrific and innocent, like her shrieks.
This sequence ends with such high energy that the absolute silence (minus the thunder) or the inside of the farmhouse is completely jarring; what should be a respite really doesn't let us off the hook just because there was no cool-down time.
Well, THAT was exciting.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Ghosts of AvalonFrom the balcony rotunda at the top of the world, we greet the full moon. Its beams, upon reaching the water, abstract until they are nothing more and nothing less than stars glittering in a second impenetrable sky.
With the arm that does not encircle my waist, you point out smugglers’ ships en route to the mainland, and we hypothesize about their cargo.
And even though it is not yet Halloween, in the ballroom behind us the phantoms twirl and step in a slow waltz around the circle of destiny to the songs that haunt their memories.
Shall we dance?
Monday, November 19, 2007
BUT--only a month or so later, I depart for Oaxaca, Mexico! at which point this will turn into primarily a travel journal, replete with exciting tales, anecdotes, and pictures. So, awesome things to come.
In the meaning, forgive my absence.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Airplane travel is the closest thing we have to teleportation--the plane picks you up in one place and sets you down in another. It's nowhere near instantaneous (of course, we only guess that teleportation is), but it's a heck of a lot faster than any other method of transportation currently available.
Riding in a plane is similar to teleportation in another way (again, open for debate): presumably you are the exact same person when you arrive as you were when you departed. With a few exceptions, it seems that the average traveler on the average flight is unlikely to go through any significant changes during the journey. It's a very isolated, bubble-like kind of travel, as close to stasis as we get outside of sci-fi movies. Very little that you do on a plane has any sort of lasting consequences, mostly because you are so limited in what you are able to do. About the consequence I suffered from my last flight was feeling rather queasy fro consuming the in-flight snack.
I think this isolated character contributes to planes being good places to write. It's possible, of course, that the real advantage lies in the fact that you're stuck there--you can't turn around, can't change course, can't play on the internet. But while these are good distractions to have done with, I believe their absence merely contributes to the overall bubble atmosphere of the inside of an airplane.
"The things one does aboard an airplane seldom have consequences" seems like a dangerous statement, but I do mean it, in a way., And it contrasts sharply with the consequences I am now dealing with, of the decisions I made at either gate.
Called That for a ReasonSaying “They’re just words—they don’t mean anything” doesn’t make any sense. Having meaning is exactly what makes words words. If they had no meaning they would just be sounds.
Sounds can have meanings, too. Even if you don’t recognize a word for what it is, if it seems to be a sound, maybe it’s in a foreign language, you can derive its meaning in other ways.
But it is impossible for a word to lack meaning because that would be contrary to its definition.
So, tell me again, what exactly did you mean when you said, “I love you?”
Sorry for the lack of posts recently. Life occasionally succeeds in trumping the internet.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Here are some of the examples of why you should play FreeRice:
autarky - self-sufficiency
pulchritude - beauty
frigorific - chilling
terpsichorean - dancer
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Sleep beckons. Also waves. Also makes threatening gestures and hops up and down until I notice.Which is a delightful image. Except that to me I think Sleep just cowers feebly in the corner, whining, "Have you forgotten about me entirely?"
Thursday, November 8, 2007
The Customer“We’re closed!” I called.
The knocking continued.
Leaving my work, I crossed to the glass-paned door at the front of the store. A man stood there, gaunt and hungry-looking. From his sunken eye sockets, something menacing gleamed.
“We’re closed,” I repeated, tapping the sign that hung on the door.
Before my eyes, he began to change. His jaw extended, his forehead scrunched and writhed as his eyes burned in their cavernous depths.
My mind flashed on the flayed corpse lying on the back table. There’s always room for one more, I thought.
Gripping my stake tighter, I unlocked the door.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
The Office DroneWhen the robots were brought in, we knew we were screwed. Doomsday predictions about the effects of introducing robots into the workforce had dominated office gossip for months now.
But we’d gotten it wrong. The robots weren’t brought in to replace us—they replaced our bosses. Believe me: that was worse.
At first, things didn’t seem so different, and on the bright side there was no more sexual harassment, no more yelling.
But robots don’t know how to treat human beings. We might as well have been replaced by machines.
And it’s not like I can complain to the management.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Lottery“Annie, did you hear what I said?”
I gazed out over the charred landscape, what I could see of it through the clouds of smoke from the still-burning fires.
“I said: we’re losing altitude.”
I knew all the implications of those three words. Anxiously, I fingered the chips in my pocket, momentarily enjoying the plastic *clink* they made when they fell against each other before the sound turned my stomach.
His hand on my shoulder. “Annie, there are no other options. It’s simple mathematics.”
“I know.” Turning, I passed him without making eye contact and walked toward the children’s quarters.
Man, it feels good to write something again! I like to turn this into a longer story, but I'm pleased with what I was able to do within the word limit.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
By the way, in case you were not informed, one of my stories was selected for publication on Drabblecast, which is quite exciting. As soon I as know when it's actually going to be up, I'll definitely post here.
November is, as many of you know, National Novel Writing Month (I encourage everyone to participate! Both of my roommates are!). Now, I don't write novels. But I do want to branch out and begin again to write pieces longer than 100 words. The point of my writing drabbles is rather similar to the point of (the terribly nicknamed) NaNoWriMo: to write as much as possible. But, I eventually want to get more publications, and it's difficult to find a market for drabble. Most of my other work falls in the 500-800 word range, which is still incredibly short (flash fiction is anything below 2000 words). So, perhaps I can take this month to encourge myself to draw out some stories beyond three or four pages. =)
But, even if I did take a bit of a break, now that I've got this academic interest in horror, and that Halloween has come and gone, I'm back on the zombie kick. Just for some examples, I watched two zombie films last weekend (Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead and the new comedic Fido); I dreamed about, but did not follow through with, dressing as a zombie for Halloween.
Thankfully, I don't seem to be the only one with this passion. A plethora of awesome links has surfaced recently, on websites I frequent and from friends who know me well, that are playing into my fascination. I'd thought I'd share the most recent ones:
- How Do You Survive A Zombie Attack? Scary-Movie Vets Roth, Tarantino, Raimi Give Advice - I only watched the video, but it's definitely worth it.
- 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen - A pretty interesting rundown of, if zombies were to go from fiction to fact say, tomorrow, here are some potential causes.
- 100 Zombies doing yoga in the park - a trailer for the book The Zen of Zombie : Better Living Through the Undead, made possible by a bunch of people willing/eager to dress up as zombies and do yoga in a park.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
In the meantime, I want to recommend the new TV show Pushing Daisies to anyone who hasn't had the opportunity to check it out yet. In short, Pushing Daisies is about a pie-maker named Ned who discovered as a boy that he can bring the dead back to life with a touch and also that a second touch will re-dead them permanently. Ned and partner PI Emerson use Ned's ability to solve murders and claim rewards. The thing gets complicated when Ned restores his now-grown childhood sweetheart. It is, of course, more complicated and delightful than that, but that's the gist of it.
While it has gotten several people I know to start using the word "twee," it's also really deserving of the attention of anyone who has even a passing interest in the following:
Dead Like Me
television shows actually doing something original, for once
The most common remark I've heard (and made myself) about Pushing Daisies is that in a lot of ways it feels more cinematic than TV show-like. While this can be taken as a criticism (the assumption being that it won't be able to keep up its energy and quirkiness for a season's worth of episodes), I think it speaks more to the originality of the product. It feels different than anything else on TV, and I like that about it. Plus, the fear of "where will they go from here?" hasn't been an issue at all; while there is a chance that the death-mystery per episode could get old, Pushing Daises has also used each episode to develop the main characters and their relations with each other (as Doctor Who shows us, even the monster-of-the-week formula of a show can avoid feeling like a rut when the writing is good).
And Pushing Daisies just looks and feels like candy! Delicious, pretty candy. The fact that most of the cast comes from Broadway really comes across, and in a way that gives life to what is, at heart, a fantasy (this is a point that must be remembered if we are to have any tolerance for this program).
Anyway, please just go check it out. It's been picked up for an entire season, so it's going to be around for awhile, and this delights me to no end.
Something else that's been on my mind lately is careers. Specifically, ones that I would enjoy having. Obviously, I would like to write, but that's not currently something I'm picturing as a full-time occupation. Below is a list of things that are or sound like careers that I am potentially interested in:
- copyright law (of the sort that Cory Doctorow discusses...think digital rights, blog law, stuff like that. Future-fast-becoming-the-present kind of stuff...or at least something having to do with creative people's rights)
- web programming/design
- movie reviews (so, journalism?)
- working for NPR (radio journalism or sound engineering...on a show like This American Life or Radio Lab)
- non-profit management (hey, look how this one moved down on my list...I'm still really vague about it, and my experience this summer was not especially beneficial in giving me any better idea)
- editing (also vague, but I do enjoy copy editing and imagine I'd like other sorts of editor duties)
- podcasting (specifically, running a site like Escapepod, Pseudopod, or Drabblecast...though I'm not sure this is really a full-time kind of option, either)
If anyone has any thoughts on this, suggestions, or places I can look to give myself more stuff to think about, let me know!
EDIT: I am definitely going to apply for an internship with The Onion! This one sounds just about right.
Monday, October 29, 2007
From our point of elevation, the water below took on the appearance of solidity and, at the same time, of translucence. The sunlight streaming through the clouds above, rather than glinting off the waves, dappled the surface of the water. As I looked out the window, it seemed that two cloudscapes met at the horizon.
A lone ship sailed through the midst of the illusionary clouds, an aerial voyager. I pondered this ship, its passengers and its destination.
As I watched, my own cloudship ascended, breaching the billowy white banks and obstructing my view of my traveling companions far below.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
For anyone not in the know, Vosges Chocolate is known for their rather unusual--I mean Exotic--selection of chocolates. This one particularly appealed to me, though (also for those not in the know, I love bacon).
So I purchased one of said bacon chocolate bars, and just now we had mini sampling party.
Immediately upon opening the packaging, the aromas of milk chocolate AND bacon flooded our nostrils. Mmm. Really, there is very little reason to think this wouldn't be delicious. Bacon is often prepared with different kinds of sugars.
Breaking off a piece allows one a glimpse of the bacon bits perforating the chocolate.
It's really nice blend of salty and sweet, and the bacon is a little crunchy.
So, how did our reviewers feel about Mo's Bacon Bar?
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
CondolencesThe tinny melody of Frère Jacques issued from Lola’s coat pocket. Retrieving her phone, she checked the screen before answering.
“Hey, John! What’s new?”
There was a pause.
“John’s dead. I thought you should know.”
The disconnect tone still ringing in her head, Lola wondered if this was some sick joke. She hadn’t spoken to John in a year, not since they’d split up. Now this?
As I pressed “End,” a wave of satisfaction washed over me. I was doing a good thing. Not done yet, I reminded myself, and accessed John’s contacts. Going down the list, I dialed “Mom.”
"Only given certain background capacities and experiences is morally problematic experience sufficient for understanding."
(in relation to the question of whether moral reprehensible artworks can be aesthetically virtues and if, indeed, more virtuous because of their immorality)
From Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgment:
"...a human being...could have much finer features and a more pleasing, softer outline to its facial structure is only it were not supposed to represent a man."
(in relation to the difference between pure beauties and adherent beauties when it comes to aesthetic judgment)
Monday, October 15, 2007
I have a couple ideas for stories, though. I also have a few older ones that I could brush up and get in presentable shape.
So, sorry for this dismal excuse for a post about excuses. I'll do better soon. =/
I was going to post a photo to make up for it, but the blogger picture-posting thingy is broken.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
And I'm really enjoying myself. I'm learning which streets I enjoy riding on, I'm comfortable taking the sidewalks and riding slowly around pedestrians. I'm still going to walk when I've got my computer, and I've discovered a new challenge: wind. That really wasn't an issue this summer, but I felt like I was almost blown over on the midway a couple times this week.
Anyway, I am a bicycle-rider now. Boo-yah.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
My major, in brief, is an interdisciplinary program focused on the study of philosophies of ethics, and how ethics can be explored through the mediums of literature and film. Now, that is a pretty broad question, so for my actual BA I am going to narrow it down. Therefore, I am currently planning on looking specifically at how morality functions within the framework of the horror genre.
OKAY. That said, I have a ton of work to do. I need to come up with a definition for horror. I need to read some carefully selected books/stories and movies (I'm thinking Frankenstein, Edgar Allen Poe, Psycho...but I need suggestions). And while doing these things will hopefully help with us, I'd like to form an idea of what I'm looking for (not in the sense that I want to go into the project with preformed notions, but I don't want to head in blindly, either, stumbling around, waiting for the ax-murderer to remove my head with one or two deft strokes).
Something I have been thinking about in general is, what is frightening/horrifying, and what does these things have to do morality. Most of what people think of as horror films seem to rely on things like gore, extreme violence, disfigurement, and darkness (and the things hiding in it) to frighten their audiences. There's another, less campy way to classify a few of these things, though: the category of "the unknown," which encompasses of course the darkness, as well as change and things that are just different (I suppose we can throw disfigurement in here, too). Monsters and demons are often a combination of all these things--they are ugly but just human-looking enough to grip us on the inside, and yet they are not human enough of us to understand.
I want to go in a slightly different direction, too, mostly because I want to see what I can do with it. Another thing I believe we, as humans, are afraid of is not knowing what to do (this too fits under the category of "the unknown"), of being out of control, or at least lacking any controlling force in our lives. I think something that goes along with this is a fear a moral ambiguity. In my philosophy studies it has become glaringly apparent that what we are always searching for is some kind of system or mechanism that will help us determine the correct course of action in a given situation. A machine where you input your situation, and the right way to act comes out the other side. Because knowing the difference between right wrong isn't always so simple, and which is which isn't always clear. Intense "moral" situations usually are so exactly because the "right" thing to do is unclear. And it seems to me that we never will uncover a system that can apply infallibly to every situation, and such a thought can be terrifying.
Of course, it isn't terrifying in the same way giant spiders crawling out of your toilet, or being buried alive are terrifying. But as frightening as evil is, isn't it worse when you can't tell who is evil and who is good (and never mind the thought that the dichotomy probably doesn't exist at all).
That's all for now, but I will certainly come back to this.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
In section 16 of the Analytic of the Beautiful, Kant describes the differences between "free beauty" and "adherent beauty," the first which "presupposes no concept of what the object ought to be" and the second which "does presuppose such a concept and the perfection of the object in accordance with it."
Examples of "free beauties" are things like flowers and "a host of marine crustaceans," which Kant sees as things that only a botanist or a biologist (if anyone) cognizes the true concept of and therefore our feeling that these things are beautiful cannot be derived from the concept, and also abstract things like non-lyrical music and "foliage for borders or on wallpaper" that are non-representational and "signify nothing by themselves."
Examples of "adherent beauties" are things like "the beauty of a human being...the beauty of a horse...[or] of a building" (I have some idea of why a horse is different from a crustacean, but we'll leave that aside)--objects that, Kant claims, "presuppose a concept of [their] perfection." And consequently these things are only as beautiful as they compare to their concepts of perfection.
Later, Kant says that "a human being...could have much finer features and more pleasing, softer outline to its facial structure is only it were not supposed to represent a man."
This part really struck me, and I paraphrased it for myself: "People could be more beautiful if they were not supposed to look like people." Essentially, because human beauty is held up to this concept of perfect human beauty (Hello, Plato!) but must always be attached to the human in question, it can never be as beautiful. If there were no ideal, no such concept, then our feelings on human beauty would be less restricted and we could appreciate it for just what it was and not what it was supposed to be.
I am not silly enough to claim that this is a valid excuse for the ridiculous media standards of beauty, and definitely not crazy enough to think that anyone in that industry read this and used it as a justification for such objectifications, but I think it is worth wondering if these standards of beauty are unrealistic by definition and that perhaps it is ridiculous for ANYONE to hold him or herself to them because you can never that ideal, by virtue of being human.
Man, that sounded more eloquent when I thought of it four hours ago. Ah well.
Monday, October 8, 2007
Shark Attack“Shark! Shark!”
The beach-goers fled in terror; I grabbed one by the arm as she passed me and demanded, “What’s going on?”
“Over there!” she sputtered and pointed back to where she’d come from. “A shark…that little boy…”
That was all I needed to hear. Releasing the woman I rushed to where she’d been pointing. As I approached the shore I could see blood in the water surrounding a small figure, and a shark fin bobbing just a foot away.
Hearing my footsteps, the child turned to look at me. He smiled, a big red smile.
I sighed. “Not again…”
This was inspired by a hilarious misreading I did of a sentence in my Film Art textbook.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
I wrote this back in April, for a project called Postcard from Hell. That name explains the basic premise. I tried to take a unique route and also be a little humorous...but I ended up not doing anything with the story, and I stopped following the project, too. But it was fun to write and nothing else it happening with it, so here you go. (You get 125 words more than you usually get from me at once!)
I really shouldn't complain.
S'a thankless, dead-end job just like any other thankless, dead-end job. And hey, at least I know I ain't ever gonna get fired.
Haha, "fired." Laugh, it's a joke.
Don't get me wrong--it's not all cream and roses. I bet you'd have a hard time finding anyone who enjoyed being a janitor, and I'm certain it's worse here than a lotta places. For one thing, I never actually get the satisfaction of a job well-done, 'cause nothing ever really gets clean. You know how they say that police use Coca-Cola to clean blood off crime scenes? Doesn't work here; we only have off-brand cola and it doesn't do the trick. Besides, even if I did get it cleaned up, there would just be a bigger, grosser mess in the same place tomorrow. Blood, organs, vomit, fetuses—have you ever had to clean fetus off a wall? Try three walls—there's a continuous supply down here. And lemme tell you—you can never get the smell of sulfur out of anything. Sisyphus has his rock and me, I've got goat's blood, cat guts, and an eternity of backed up toilets.
Still, it's easier than washing away your sins--Bossman only knows I tried. Holy water ain't that much of a miracle solvent.
"Dead-end job," hehe. That's a pretty good one, too.
The HoleThe machine has been there for a week. Every morning they come and use it to dig a big hole in the ground and every evening they use it to fill the hole back in again.
I can see the machine from my window, and I watch them moving the dirt up and down. I don’t think they’re burying anything, and if they were trying to uncover something it wouldn’t make very much sense to cover it up again.
But tonight, the mystery ends. Tonight, I’m taking a shovel and I’m going to find out what’s down there for myself.
This story is dedicated to Emily Pelka.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
But no. This is the photo I receive:
Is my mother now a voyeuristic turtle pornographer? But more importantly, my parents will have baby box turtles in their garden!
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
(The answer, if you need an answer, is "no," because beauty exists within the perceiver and not within the object; whether or not it would be beautiful if someone had seen it is an entirely different question.)
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Sapling“Why me,” he whispered, words that did not really form a question.
She began to answer him, but the moment she opened her mouth, something caught in her throat.
His eyes met hers and he saw terror bubbling up within them. He started—“Lucy?”
Again she tried to speak, but her skin had already begun to change, to become brittle and darken in color.
“WHY ME?” He screamed this time, but it did not matter for the bark was closing over her mouth. Her eyes winked out behind knot holes as he pounded her trunk with his fists in futility.
I was inspired by this Pseudopod story which I didn't actually like that much but which I must credit with getting my brains creaking.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
UnderwaterpassI groaned as the vehicle that had pulled away from its hiding place in the shadows turned on its lights, signaling that I should pull over.
“License and registration?” the cop burbled at me. He turned them over in his claws.
“Are you aware that you were going 60 in a school zone?”
“I’m sorry, officer,” I started, “I’m starting a new job today and this reef is unfamiliar.”
His eyestalks pointed in my direction. “Well Ma’am, I’d advise you to pay more attention from now on.”
I thanked him and drove away, a trail of bubbles in my wake.
Friday, September 28, 2007
It doesn't bother me if you don't like Neil Gaiman, and I hope you're not trying to like him on my account (or anyone else's other than your own); if nothing else, I do believe in personal taste.
My (rather obvious) response to your "Why fantasy?" question is "Why not fantasy?" I don't believe that fantasy and substance are mutually exclusive (and I don't think you're saying that they are, either, but I do want to elaborate on it). In most good sci-fi or fantasy (Kurt Vonnegut Jr. comes immediately to mind), we learn more about human beings than we do about any alien race, and we learn more about our own time than any future world; the contrast is just another way to examine ourselves.
Neil Gaiman's advice to people who want to write fantasy (and so I assume his own approach) is to use the "What if?" method: "What if...cats could talk?" "What if...my baby brother was a troll?" etc. Those are really banal examples, but I think that that method, which can certainly be called "fantasizing," can be applied to other realms of thought: "What if...war was always considered just?" "What if...adults really do always know best?" "What if...morality could be bought?"
Of, what you do with the "What if" is almost as important, if not more so, than the asking, and do feel like Neil Gaiman is making points. American Gods is making a point about mythology, for example. The specific question is something like, "What happens to old-world Gods when their cultures move/move on/disappear?" And that kind of question can be answered on many different levels. I feel like most fantasy at least tries to examine questions of love, society, politics, faith... No denying that some of it isn't just fun, of course.
I'm a little confused by a couple of your criticisms. You say both that you feel like Gaiman, as an author, is holding you at a distance and not letting you in, but also that you want him to challenge you as a reader. I having trouble reconciling your desires there. Perhaps you are looking for a way in (the challenge) and not finding one, and therefore assuming that the challenge does not exist, that there is just a wall to understanding with little to nothing behind it. And if that is true, then I agree that it's disappointing. I think for me, part of the challenge of the writing is having to imagine the things described...that's not a complete answer, just something that occurred to me.
I do feel comfortable saying that Coraline is a children's book, and that probably automatically means it won't be as deep as some other literature. I think that Coraline has as much "substance" as James and the Giant Peach, for example, which has important things to say about family, friendship, and being yourself, things that seem to be the general topics of children's literature (including Coraline). But, I don't necessarily put Coraline on the same shelf as American Gods or Sandman, and when I recommend it to people, it is usually by saying "This is a fun book."
Now, if the question is, "Why do I like fantasy?" at least a part of the answer has to do with the fact that I read a great deal besides fantasy, mostly for classes, and when I come home from school I want something a bit different. Not necessarily easier, but at least of a different character. I'm in a literature class right now that is focusing on very close readings of "perfect" short fiction. And I love it, but I also want a contrast from that in what I read for fun. I also read a lot of philosophy, and while I want philosophical ideas in everything I read, I want to spend my free time reading a style that differs from a philosophical text. This is a shallower point than most of the ones I'm trying to make, but it's definitely valid.
Finally, I think your actual question was about the need for fantasy in Neil Gaiman's writing. Personally, I think it's because a) he likes it and b) he's good at it. Generally, it seems to me that the kind of ideas that he gets it in his work are best examined, at least by him, in the worlds he chooses to operate it. To me, the question is kind of like asking about the need for music in Bizet's writings. Neil Gaiman is a fantasy writer, and I don't think he claims to be anything else.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
SundaysSunday, lazy afternoon
Finds me in the drawing room
Gossiping with Gossamer and Gloom
We all know that Monday comes too soon
Feathers stolen from a crow
Cat's eye, and a glow-worm's glow
Mix them up and boil it real slow
And never, ever tell them what you
Outside, there among the weeds
We shall talk of our misdeeds
Then we'll tell our secrets to the reeds
No one harmed and no one ever bleeds
Sometime, when I'm old and grey
And I'm very far away
I'll remember all the games we play
But for now let's just enjoy today
I had a pretty productive afternoon: read two stories for class, worked on songs with Elizabeth, submitted a story to Drabblecast, and vacuumed the living room. It's the third one that has me going.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
What caught my attention in this article was this defense:
But rapper and record producer Levell Crump, known as David Banner, was defiant as lawmakers pressed him on his use of offensive language. "I'm like Stephen King: horror music is what I do," he said in testimony laced with swear words. "Change the situation in my neighborhood and maybe I'll get better," he told one member of Congress.Now, I think he''s making two different points there, but the first one made me pause. I had never thought of "horror music" as something that existed, much less as a description of a certain variety of hip-hop/rap. And it made me think, I read a lot of horror fiction. I'm getting into horror movies. I enjoy hyper-violence in graphic novels and film. And yet I get really uncomfortable if I have to listen to music like the kind of being discussed in that hearing, like the Eminem songs we listened to in class, like the radio shows my brother listened to, and therefore forced me to listen to on the drive to high school for two years.
There is something about violent/vulgar imagery and language in music that affects me different than the same sorts of things in prose, or even in cinema, and I'm curious why that is.
My first thought it that maybe it has something to do with catchiness; a good lyrical song will have you singing along with it or even singing it when a recording isn't on. You don't find people repeating the dialog--much less the actions--of a book or movie in quite the same way. So perhaps its the infectious quality of music, the way that it is so easy to take the narrative and make it yours. Perhaps there is a power in poetry and music that gets inside of us in a way that is more difficult for text or cinema to do.
It's also possible that I'm overthinking this, and that I just dislike this style of music. Depictions of rape in literature and film affect me just as viscerally as the songs...but for some reason, I think the songs feel more personally directed.
I started this post yesterday, and at the time I titled it "Art, morality, and censorship." I'm assuming that "censorship" was referring to the question of, are there things that we shouldn't allow anyone to read/see/hear? This is, of course, an enormous question that can be taken from any number of angles and have any number of answers. Our legal system, I believe, favors a negative answer, and I think that if you ask almost anyone, at least in this part of the world, the first reaction will be to say that no, we shouldn't censor (with a few exceptions like in the case of children, but that's one of those angles I mentioned).
It's interesting to think about why this should be, and it kind of came up (at least for me) in class yesterday, discussing Plato. One view, which is definitively NOT Plato's view (though my professor says came out of The Republic anyway), of the relationship between art and morality is that, as my prof put it, art exists in a protected realm, free from the limitations of moral judgment. I take it that this isn't to say that art doesn't have moral value, but that we can't hold that up as a reason to remove something from view.
But perhaps I am being too generous to the enemies of censorship. When I studied these passages of The Republic (367e-403c and 595a-608b) two years ago with this same professor, and we all cried out against the extreme censorship, he wanted to know why. If art can truly have as much of an impact on a person's virtue as Plato believes it can, then why shouldn't it be treated as a force to be reckoned with? Perhaps we are defensive of the freedom of art only because we see it as "just art." And to call it just art, to deny it its power, is rather...not condescending exactly, but it seems as if Plato respects art more, precisely because he recognizes its danger.
Bud“So, what’s for lunch?”
I ignored the question.
“I hope it isn’t tuna again; you can get mercury poisoning from eating too much.”
“That so,” I answered brusquely.
“Yep! Apparently, some boy ate so much tuna fish that he lost his fine motor skills.”
Awkwardly, I turned my head to face it. “Could I just eat in peace?”
“Hanging out with you is so much fun,” it replied. “We should do it more often.”
“How is it that you developed sarcasm before you developed legs?” I asked.
The half-formed human growing out of my shoulder shrugged. “Just lucky, I guess.”
Yes, it's a punchline format, but it's also mainly dialog, something that I know better than anyone that I need to work on. Whoo hoo.
Monday, September 24, 2007
By the way, my classes have started again. I'm reading (re-reading) selections from The Republic
I will get a drabble or two up as soon as I've got an idea formulated, but this past weekend was filled with roadtrip, and I've currently got a lot on my mind, but in the exciting kind of way.
In the meantime, check out One Laptop Per Child.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
But it's in their living room, which is essentially right above my bedroom, and now I've been concentrating on it so I'm not going to be able to tune it out...but I really don't want to go upstairs and meet my neighbors by asking them to turn their music down.
It's like people don't know what the time is tonight. Someone just called our apartment phone, actually. And I know it was a wrong number because no one we know has our phone number, but I answered it anyway so that it wouldn't keep ringing because it was 1:30 at night! And yes, I'm still up and actually not feeling that tired, but who makes house phone calls at 1:30am?
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
That night, the light coming through the window was orange, a warm rectangle framed by the deep blue darkness of my bedroom. It was neither the yellow glow of moonlight nor the fleeting illumination of headlights. It could have been dawn except that it had only grown dark a few hours earlier and nights last longer than that.
It was the color of spaceship light, and I immediately thought of home.
The translucent drapes across my window diffused the light from the street lamp, and so it left no silhouettes of unidentified flying objects upon the floor or my bedspread.
Monday, September 17, 2007
In fact, I recommend just about anything I've heard on Drabblcast. Norm Sherman's opening, "Strange stories from strange authors for strange readers, such as yourselves," is about as accurate as anyone could want. Check out the Drabblecast promo first, if you don't believe me.
And no, they are not paying me.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Cary Grant looked bewildered and slightly terrified, as he often does. Perhaps he, too, was puzzled at his presence in
I gazed up the hill toward the gazebo and watched as Uncle Teddy came upstairs from digging his basement
As Peter Lorre consoled his homicidal patient, I turned and continued my stroll through the park, smiling to myself.
(This story can only be called fiction because the movie was actually The Phantom of the Opera and I was not alone.)
Friday, September 14, 2007
State of the Union
My fellow Americans,
It is with mixed feelings that I come before you today to officially declare the existence of something that most of us assumed impossible. There is no longer any doubt that there are individuals among us who possess extraordinary, terrifying capabilities.
But do not be frightened. These individuals are citizens, just like you and me, with the same protections under, and the same obligations to, the laws that govern our great country. As a nation, we take pride in our diversity—let us extend that acceptance to the friends and neighbors we are only beginning to understand.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
And now, a drabble inspired by my sudden, unplanned trip to the dentist this afternoon:
Tyler was the smartest boy in his grade and probably the smartest in his whole school. Ever since the first grade, his name and “Harvard” had been mentioned in the same breath more times than his proud parents could keep track of.
And then, the summer before his junior year of high school, a decision was made in small clandestine room that would alter their plans for good.
Tyler cried and begged them not to do it, but his pleas were to no avail—Tyler’s wisdom teeth had to go, and with them went any hope for a bright future.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Because college is pretty wonderful. In its own right, but especially compared to high school.
Monday, September 10, 2007
A Taste of Power
I’d tasted Power, and I wanted more.
So, I ordered the number 5. The first couple bites went down smoothly. Not as intense as Fame, not as rich as Fortune, it had a more complex flavor. And it was delicious.
So delicious that, at first, I willingly ignored the unpleasant aftertaste, but soon it was all I could do to keep from spitting it out. I drained two glasses of water trying to rid my mouth of the acridity. Power tastes like a new Porsche—literally. Like licking the exhaust pipe.
Next time I’ll just order it on the side.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
(That sounds exciting, doesn't it?)
I was lying on the floor under my desk, trying to figure out where (and how) the hell to plug my internets back in. People came and replaced this desk I'm working at today, and they didn't plug everything back in. Turn out there are two data jack port-y things...and they back behind some metal plates, and poorly illuminated. I think I've earned some kind of degree in contortion thanks to what I had to do to find a plug that worked, especially considering that I couldn't see them.
It turns out that the phone plugs into the data jack and the ethernet cable plugs into the phone. Who knew?
By the way, it's time to face the facts:
I work in IT.
And actually, I like it a lot. When I started here, I thought to myself, Well, this is a pretty good job for now, but definitely NOT a career move I'm interested in. But I'm starting to change my mind. I definitely want more training, especially in web design, but assuming that I do get to increase my knowledge base, I could see this as a potential future career.
And, you might think that my office is filled with social incompetent dorks, and sure, there are a couple people who fit the stereotype, but most of the people on my floor are...well, hipsters. In the cool way. I wish I had their fashion sense.
Anyway, just sayin'.
And, if I had to say one other thing today, it would be that This Sounds Awesome. Who's with me? (I am also delighted that the author has an accompanying post which reads, "Getting a bunch of introverts to pull public stunts is harder than cold fusion. Lousy internet."
Okay, one more thing. Here is a charity that I can really get behind: http://www.zombiehunters.org/
(Actually visit the site; it isn't just a bunch of horror movie fanatics.) Too bad there doesn't seem to be an active Chicago chapter.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
A Mix CD
- Pull Shapes – The Pipettes
- FNT – Semisonic
- Bohemian Like You – The Dandy Warhols
- Whistle for the Choir - The Fratellis
- Forget About Here –Math and Science
– Phantom Planet California
- I’m Beginning to See the Light – Ella Fitzgerald
- Let Go – Frou Frou
- Winter Wooskie – Belle & Sebastian
- Love You Madly – Cake
- I Should Have Known Better – The Beatles
- Burnin’ For You – Blue Oyster Cult
- First Kiss – They Might Be Giants
- Guilty – Al Bowlly
- Marching Bands of
– Death Cab For Cutie Manhattan
- Anybody Else But You – The Moldy Peaches
Yes, there really are exactly 100 words, counting the numerals and not counting the words "A Mix CD." I think this piece took me longer than any of the previous ones. Also, this playlist really exists, and I do actually recommend all of this music. How's that for a change in format?
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
“We can go anywhere in the whole wide universe that you want to go!”
“Can we go home?”
“But…we can go anywhere in the whole wide universe that you want to go.”
“Yes, but I’m tired, and this place is cold.”
“We can go somewhere warm…?”
“It would still be cold, I think, in some way.”
“Well…I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s alright. I was excited in the beginning. I thought that doing it together would make all the difference.”
“But, it’s cold here. And I’m tired. And home is the only place that really smells like you.”
As I see it, this is the challenge of writing drabble:
-Say what you want to say as quickly as possible without sounding rushed
-Trim that down so that it still says what you want it to but meets the exact word limit
100 words is so few...heh, I was actually worried with the idea for #4 that I was going to have trouble meeting it. That's the last time I worry about that, because it's pretty silly to assume that I can't find at least 100 to say about, well, almost anything.
You just have to get creative. So "to be precise" becomes "specifically." "Eating her way through" becomes "eating through." And of course I find places where I actually want to add words...often to keep the phrasing from sounding rushed...and then I need to hunt for places to trim more to make up for it.
I'm thinking now that I don't really mind the beginning-middle-end format that I brought up before...because I understand why I'm putting it in. I want these "stories" to feel complete; I don't want them to feel like excerpts or like I just trailed off. So, while I do want to experiment with the format some, I'm going to try to avoid feeling self-conscious about my natural tendencies. I will also try to avoid every ending being a crazy/creepy twist, but I think that's doable.
Anyway, another one up tonight, hopefully.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Time Flies When You’re Eating It Up
Lilly enjoyed birthdays—specifically, her own. She just couldn’t get enough presents. The day after her birthday was always an enormous letdown, and she despaired that it only happened once a year.
She grabbed the page-a-day calendar from her desk and began tearing off the pages and stuffing them into her mouth. Eating through the entire year took hours, and she ended up dousing the pages in chocolate syrup in order to get them down.
She went to bed with indigestion, but she was confident that tomorrow would bring more presents.
Maybe someone would give her a new page-a-day calendar.
There's really nothing like spending a hot summer afternoon baking cupcakes in your underwear.
(There's also nothing like spending a hot summer afternoon baking in your underwear to make a woman feel like she's in some "Fried Green Tomatoes" movie.)
So, no, this isn't a drabble, but they are yellow cupcakes with orange glaze (made with fresh squeezed orange juice).
I'll put a drabble up by the end of the night, but in the meantime:
Monday, September 3, 2007
I'm working on a couple of ideas for this week's drabbles, but in the meantime, here's a book recommendation.
I am, and have been for about a month now, in the midst of reading The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon. That doesn't sound like a great way to introduce a book I'm going to recommend, but the truth is that it just took me a little while to get into it, and only in these past couple weeks have I really been devoting the necessary attention to the task of reading.
I pick up this novel kind of randomly. I'd heard of the author and could see the Pulitzer sticker on the cover. When I found out by the reading the back that it was the story of two boys in New York in the 30s and 40s who write a comic book together, I decided it would probably be a good buy, and did so.
The reason it took me awhile to get into the book is that it's very long-winded. Elaborate, lengthy, complex sentences...beautiful descriptions, but ones that require a lot of attention from the reader. So, not a book to be sped read. I liked it from the beginning but just didn't commit enough. Now, I'm really enjoying.
It very well might be the most romantic book I've read in a long time. Not just the actual romances in the novel, either; the whole book is a romance. (The actual romances are, however, quite romantic.) It's a love story about art, and history, and New York, and growing up, and I think that this perspective of it helps explain the long-windedness. I think my own romantic inclinations are on the long-winded side.
Of course, there is a more taciturn form of romance, as well, understated rather than over.
Anyway, I highly recommend this novel, even though I haven't finished it yet. If the end changes my mind, I'll do the responsible thing and let you know, but I doubt that's going to happen.
Friday, August 31, 2007
I realize that now I've created this project for myself, I haven't been very good about just posting every day. In a lot of ways, I think that's alright; just writing something in order to have a post doesn't feel as useful as putting some extra thought and time into something more meaningful. Anyway, hope you like the photos.
As a sidenote, the coconut photos might remind some of you of a movie I made my first year...with grapefruits. But this time, I was not the one who caused the destruction.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Looking at the drabble I've produced so far, I'm seeing some trends... Clear beginning, middle, and end, which unfortunately tends to want to translate itself as hook, middle, and punchline. I don't want to write punchline stories, but it's so awfully tempting. I'm okay with the approximately three paragraph thing, and I know that I can get around it. After I've written a few of these I really want to start experimenting more and seeing how different sorts of thing I can get out of this restriction.
Anyway, they've been fun to write and it sounds like they're fun to read, as well.
EDIT: Also, apparently this was POST ONE HUNDRED. Yay!
The first thing I heard was screaming.
I turned around and watched in horror as the enormous, lizard-like foot came crashing down on top of the unfortunate hiker. Over the sound of the terrible ground-shaking STOMP, I imagined that I could hear a squelching sound…but I’m sure it was only my imagination. Something came rolling towards me—it was her hat.
Then the thought sprang to mind, What if he has friends? I need to get out of here. As the other bystanders and I clambered away from the scene, I imagined I could hear the monster talking to God.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Margaret decided at age 19 that adults were nothing special. When she was little she’d believed there was a switch that, when flipped, made you unafraid of doctors’ visits or ordering for yourself in restaurants, and gave you confidence in any situation. Now she knew, there was no magic button—you were still afraid, just taller. So imagine her surprise when a man came to her door to issue her a license for adulthood. “What kind of adult would you like to be? Nurturing? Intellectual? Romantic? Confident?”
“This is bullshit,” she answered.
He nodded. “I’ll put you down for Cynical.”
Monday, August 27, 2007
I don’t know what it has to do with the dead coming back to life, but there are fires everywhere. Thank goodness I’m safe inside this bus.
Thank goodness there was a bus at all. Thank goodness the driver offered to give me a lift. He’ll take me to my aunt’s place, the next state over, and I can wait there for this insanity to subside.
Only, the fires are here, too. I thought they’d have ceased after the first couple hundred miles, but they’re blazing all around as the driver tells me, “This is your stop.
“You gettin’ off?”
*The rules of Drabble count the title and any footnotes outside the 100-word limit
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I have the Drabblecast to thank for this idea. The goal is for me to write, polish, and post three drabble pieces a week. 300 words a week doesn't sound like much, but coming up with an interesting idea and then conveying it effectively in only 100 words in definitely a challenge. One downside to this is that doing this kind of writing doesn't directly get me closer to my goal of submitting stories to publications as even places that accept flash fiction probably want more than 100 words. But, I'm hoping that as an exercise, writing 100-word stories will help me focus my writing...I'm rather fond of long, elaborate descriptions, and while I like the way I write descriptions, I'm hoping this will teach me word economy and the value of dialog.
So, there's the goal. I'l start sometime next week...hopefully I'll get a start on ideas and writing on m busride back to Chicago this evening. Anyway, since I'll most likely still be posting other story ideas and bits, I'll label the drabble project posts separately. Maybe I'll get really ambitious and start hand-writing them on paper with illustrations and scan them in and post them...but only time can tell at this point.
She ordered a cup of tea and read her book. Sometimes other customers, especially young men, would look over in her direction; this isn't surprising as she was very pretty in an unglamorous yet somehow striking way. Mostly she just kept reading her book, but sometimes she would notice their glances and would smile to herself as if she knew something they didn't, or perhaps just because the attention pleased her. The attention did please her, but it is also true that she knew something they didn't.
She knew a great many things they didn't, in fact, like what it's like to stand at Niagara Falls in the middle of January with ice blowing in your face, and how fresh pineapple tastes in the morning on the banks of the river Kwai, and that at 3am, from the interstate bus, the street lights of distant rural roads look like stars or like the lights of ships on a vast, dark ocean, and other mysteries of travel and perspective. She knew mysteries of love and heartache, as well, the kind of mysteries whose answer change every time the question is asked, as it is asked in countless pop songs, rock songs, folk songs, operas.
She only got through a few chapters of the book; the people on bikes outside were too distracting and her tea had gotten cold. Humming a song that exactly captured her mood, she put away her book, stood, and exited the shop. She walked home, stopping every now and then to take a photo of some happy accident that reminded her of how wonderful the randomness of life can be.