Monday, April 30, 2007

Emily Pelka on writing a paper

Guest writer! Pelks has kindly consented to allowing me to post the start of her paper for Civ on my blog. Here you go:

Emily Pelka



This is my HIPS paper. It is about science. I am waiting to come up with a really sweet title before I start writing, even though I am leaning towards one topic more than the others already, without any title to speak of. Typically, though, the coherence of my paper rests on how much I like my title, so I am desperately trying to remedy my lack-of-title problem. I need five pages. I am doomed.

Vonnegut's genius

I really recommend that anyone who enjoys reading and/or thinking check out this article at the Onion's AV Club: 15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will
While it is surely kind of annoying to sum up someone's work into a few catchy phrases, that's not actually the goal here; it's more like presenting snap shots from Vonnegut's collected works, bits that, really, he did say better than anyone else ever has or ever will. Each passage is thought-provoking, evokotive of his humanism, cynicism, and humor.

Even before seeing this article I'd been thinking that this summer would be a good time for me to read all of Vonnegut's novels. I've read a few...
Slaughterhouse-5 a couple times, Mother Night, Cat's Cradle (but ages ago!) and maybe even Galapagos. Oh, and I saw a really weird film version of Breakfast of Champions (I think I rented it at the time because it starred Bruce Willis--you have to see it to believe it). But the most recent of these readings was senior year of high school. I think I'm in a place now where, given my interests, studies, and hopes for the future, I could really enjoy these books.

One of my favorite insights from the Onion article was this:

"Vonnegut touchstones like life on Tralfamadore and the absurd Bokononist religion don't help people escape the world so much as see it with clearer reason..."

Ideally, I would like to do something similar with my writing. Science fiction and fantasy does not just have to be escapism (though perhaps escapism, too, has its place)--it can also teach us about ourselves and the world we live in, and what kind of world we'd like it to be (and I don't just mean one with dragons and/or flying cars).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Shame and superheroes

I missed a post for Sunday! My invisible yet oh-so-present other is silently reprimanding me--only a little more than a week in and I'm already dropping the ball!

To be fair, a) it's still Sunday to me and b) I was terrifically busy today and was, among other things, writing a paper. So I still got some writing in.

If anyone read the gargoyle poem-thing, I hope he or she enjoyed it. I have a couple other stories in the works, including the postcard story and a couple from winter break. I feel like it's cheating if I just post previously-unfinished pieces on here, though, so I'm not going to put them up until I can commit to adding on to them, as well.

I'll end with this:

I invented a superhero the other day, as I do from time to time. This superhero is the Human Thermometer, and was invented as an answer to where the "feels like" number comes from on the Yahoo weather forecast. Yes, I know it has to do with wind chill, or humidity, or some other such factor that affects straight up pressure or [I am ignorant to the ways of measuring temperature]. But wouldn't it be more fun if this were the scenario?

Weather guy: Hello, Chicago. Today will sunny and in the low 40s.


Weather guy: Hey, it's the Human Thermometer!

HT: Hello, Weather guy. I couldn't help but overhear your description of the weather, and I have to say, I was just outside, and it actuallys feel like 33 degrees fahrenheit.

Weather guy: There you have it, folks. Guess you'll have to dress a little warmer today. Thanks so much, Human Thermometer!

HT: Just doing my job.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Stony-face II

We are cold, and that is all.

On a Sunday afternoon in April, the sun warms our backs and bakes the stone, but we are still cold.

We are immovable and never-changing.

The rain on a Wednesday night in April waters us, but we do not grow. We do not even shiver.

We have a gaze that does not see.

In the place of a look-out, one might suspect that we are witness to all happens beneath our perches, that our vision is far-reaching and none can escape, but we are not your protectors.

We are old but not wise.

The wear caused by the cyclic passing of the season does not represent lessons learned and battles fought. Cracks in our stones are not equatable to wrinkles on a human face.

We have mouths that do not eat.
We have wings that do not fly.
We have claws that do not rend, that do not tear.

We have faces that do not show emotion, but this is not an indication of a strong constitution.

This is how we were made.

We are naught but edifice, and we do not care about you.

Friday, April 27, 2007

One week down

Another Friday with not enough to do at work, so I'm at the bloggin'. It was actually last Friday at the end of my work time that I created this blog, imagine that.

Unfortunately, my work environment is not very inspiring. So it goes.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A million words

To explain the URL of this blog, I provide the paragraph from Neil Gaiman's journal from whence I stole it:

"Chuck Jones told would be artists to draw, explaining that "you've got a million bad drawings inside you and the sooner you get them out, the better". Raymond Chandler is reputed to have told would be authors that they have a million words of crap to get out of their system. And in both cases there's a lot of truth there -- if only because it allows you to keep going despite your technical limitations and inability to get the words or the pen to do what you want, and eventually find yourself, well, competent. And some of the words and pictures you turn out on the way can be pretty good too."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

No Kant

I deleted the Kant post. If you didn't get a chance to read it...that is okay. I deleted it because when I actually sat back and thought about how this is my professor's reading of the text that she's been working on for some time and hasn't gotten to publish it yet, it didn't seem right for me to make public my understanding of it. She gave us the text of her lecture but want us distributing it...and this didn't seem too different. So that's why.

Seriously, you're not missing much, and if you're curious ask me sometime. Or better yet, ask Candace Vogler.

Postcards from Hell

I've found a really cool writing call. It's called Postcards from Hell.

It's someone experiment (hopefully an successful one): send out 13 postcards to subscribers; each postcard contains a short horror story that is a glimpse of hell.

It sounds really interesting. Plus, it's $50 for a 500-word piece, which is about ten-times more than the going rate for flash fiction. Even if I don't come up with something to submit I think I'm going to subscribe. Who doesn't like to get mail? (Even if it's from hell.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Licensed, yo!

Apparently today is the day of me posting instead of doing work.

Everyone should scroll down to the bottom of the page and check out my CreativeCommons License! It looks snazzy.

What the license means, in the immediate sense, is that I will start posting fiction here.

Hooray! A Crispy!

(That's an inside joke.)

Heroes and Distractions

Rather than doing reading for classes (of which I have plenty) or writing the gargoyle story or the post about Kant that I intend to write, I am watching a video of Neil Gaiman reading from Fragile Things, his latest collection of short stories, and it is very tempting to just sit here and dream for the rest of the afternoon.

I highly recommend
Fragile Things (really, anything by Neil Gaiman), and especially Smoke and Mirrors, Gaiman's first short story collection. If you read it, don't you dare skip the introduction.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Nothing changes?

I have been thinking about this for short while.

I do not know if I am suprised, not suprised, sadly not suprised, or happily not surprised that, despite living in the world for an extended period of time, making lot of different friends, and even moving away from my original home, in many ways I am the same person with the exact same interests I've always had.

Is that surprising? I don't think it would surprise my parents, just that's an inkling.

This realization was prompted most recently by my resurgent interest in creative writing (the same thing that prompted the creation of this blog). As I said in that first post, I've always been a writer; writing has always been a prominent method of self-expression for me, and I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I gave up on that for whatever reason, moved on to other interest: I later knew that I wanted to be an actress, a director, a singer-songwriter, movie soundtrack producer, etc. Still, creative expression was always at the forefront of my concepts of my future.

I sort of did a turn-about the summer before going to college: I was telling folks that I intended to major in Chinese and minor in math (thanks to a sense of China's growing place in the world and an especially excellent calculus class). However, I was mostly just trying to come up with a succinct answer to the question, "What are you going to major in at college?" and after realizing then that I didn't really want to go into international policy or business and that few math classes are as wonderful as Mr. Jonak's, I turned my eye to those classes in UChicago's course catalogue that really caught my eye.

What kinds of classes were those? Largely philosophy classes, but I realized after a brief time here that I didn't want to be just a philosophy major. Why? Because i didn't just want to study other people's ideas, I wanted to create my own, express my own ideas about the world.

Creative expression? There you go.

Even very recently, I assumed however that I was going to take this interest in a new direction. I am planning to enter the vague field of "arts-related non-profits" after graduation. A focus on service is new for me, right? I don't have an extensive history of volunteer work and service.

Except that I had some concept of publicly-minded work even when I was young. I wrote letters decrying animal testing to Procter & Gamble during elementary school. I took a strong interest in entrepreneurship (as it related to the crafts I enjoyed making) but the money was always going to be for one organization or another, most notably the World Wildlife Fund (I ended up donating it freshman year of high school for school supplies for Afghani women). During high school, I ran the environmental awareness group.

I did theatre, too, and the only way the two activities related was when sorting recyclable made me late to build crew every other Wednesday. But I guess the drive was kind of always there?

Even now I'm beginning to think of myself in capacities that I think my parents have perhaps associated me with for awhile: when I wanted to act in musical theatre, my father told me I would make a better director than actress; now, while I want to devote my life to service, I imagine making my contribution through an administrative capacity (my mother once told me that I should be a school administrator, and I must admit that from experience I would much prefer that to being a teacher).

But--to the point (which has been the point all along, of course):

Am I really that predictable? And is this an unfortune? One other constant of my life is that I really have always liked myself and been comfortable with my propensities and satisfied with myself (naturally in the ever-developing sense of satisfaction). So perhaps consistency in interest has been tied to my sense of myself; this doesn't seem a far-fetched notion.

Well then.

The question of the day is, should I consider applying for a Truman Scholarship?
My answer for myself currently is: consider, yes. Apply? Probably not. It's complicated...but mostly it would be for the same reasons that I want to postpone my graduate education--I want some time after undergrad to discover and articulate exactly what it is I intend to pursue; I don't know if I will be able to do that effectively without that time.


Sunday, April 22, 2007


Passing through Cobb Gate this afternoon I noticed someone taking a photograph of the gargoyles that roost atop it; not an unfamiliar sight, as those gargoyles are particularly impressive and, more importantly, visible. Visitors are always aiming their cameras up high and capture a digital memory of our stony protectors.

In the afternoon sun (!) I felt moved to write a story about these immutable beasts. And maybe I still will. But not tonight.

Hot Fuzz

Saw another movie this weekend, Hot Fuzz, from the creators and cast of Shaun of the Dead. As a huge fan of the latter, I was expecting great things, and I was not disappointed.

(I have always kind of wanted to write that)

Imagine a town where winning the "Best Village of the Year" award so far surpasses anything else that the residents of that town are willing to go to any lengths to ensure it--even to the extent of failing to record any kind of criminal activity (what's better than a low crime rate?).

And why wouldn't they? After all, those in charge are the ones committing the most grevious crimes (although they would tell you that having a house that doesn't fit the villages rustic charm, or being a terrible actor justifies the murder that will keep the village's reputation from being tarnished).

Add in an absurdly successful London cop with a clear-cut sense of right and wrong, and you're in for quite a ride.

It was a fun idea--absurd enough to fit this company's style and creepy enough to engage an audience. And in case you need more than that to keep you in the theatre, don't worry, there's a boatload of gore headed your way, along with car chases, gun fights, and a missing swan.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


I saw Pedro Almodovar's Volver yesterday evening at Doc Films, the movie theatre on campus. I'd been waiting to see it since I first saw the previews, but it was better than I hoped.

Volver had many of the same elements I've come to recognize in Almodovar's films--absurdity, violence, dispensing of the male characters early on in the film...the usual. But for whatever reason, this one felt warmer to me. A humorous and touching film that has rape as a main element and surpasses the "Fried Green Tomatoes" corner of the film world is rare and a joy. The movie was really funny, from the opening credits of all the widows polishing tombstones in the blustery east wind and Aunt Paul's absurdly magnified eyes to things later on in the movie (that I won't say because I hope you'll go and see this film), I never stopped laughing for very long.

I love the color in his movies, as well. Even the dolly used to cart the infamus freezer to the van is painted in bright patterns of red, yellow, purple, green. Mmm, gorgeous.

Almodovar is interested in issues of gender and family, and it clearly comes out in this film, perhaps the second more than the first. The way he contexts generations and relatives is very elaborate in some ways, and so simple in others. The end is really lovely.

And since I'm kind of rambling now, I'll just stop there. Go see
Volver when you get a chance.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Challenge--

I've always been a writer. There have been times when writing has been more or less at the forefront of my activities, but it's always been a part of who I am.

Recently, I've gone back to an increased interest in writing, especially fiction, thanks to the realization that I don't have to write novels in order to write fiction--the short story is a perfectly valid (and perfectly delightful!) form of fiction writing that provides some interesting boundaries and possibilities that fits my style (very image-based, or character-, scene-, word-, etc-based) very well. I've written, or started writing, several stories in the past several months, and it's been really fun, so I've decided to dedicate myself to it more firmly.

I don't usually have much time while school is in session to write things that aren't for class, but I've started this blog with the intention of writing something every day, of some idea, a review, a few lines of fiction, a comic panel...who knows? To keep in shape, you know.

When summer arrives, I'm going to really start browsing for open calls that sound fun. Last month, I submitted a story to the Machine of Death anthology (admittedly I found that through Dinosaur Comics and Wondermark); hopefully I'll hear back end of May!

Alright, time to leave work and therefore the computer. Tonight I'm going to see Almodovar's Volver at Doc Films; perhaps I will write up a review tomorrow!

Also, I am going to put this picture here for hosting purposes: