Wide awake

6 04 2016

Tuesdays wipe me out.

I teach 3 courses on Tuesday (for about 5 1/2h, total), which you’d think wouldn’t be that bad, and it’s not as if I’m up at the crack of dawn, but man, by the end of the day (~8:40), I have had it. Yeah, I manage to hustle to the train, but even if I have supremely good train mojo and make it home by 10, I am done.

I’m still tired today, and I’m not sure why: I went to bed slightly earlier than usual and got a decent night’s sleep, but man, I feel shriveled.

You’d think if I just went to bed early tonight, all would be well, right? Nope. In fact, as the evening stretches out, I’m actually perking up.

I’m not–or not, any longer—a severe night owl, but if I could get away with a 11am-2/3am wake schedule, yeah, I would.

Except, I could, and I don’t: I don’t teach until 2, so I could get up around 10:30, be on the train by 11:30, and get to campus in time to argue with Jtte for awhile before heading to class.

So why don’t I?

I mean, I’m not currently working my second job, so it’s not as if I need to be on a 9-5 schedule. And Athena knows I’m not getting much accomplished in the morning as it is.

No, I think the issue is that I think I should be on a normal (-ish) schedule and even though precisely no one would care that I’m not, it would seem like I’m slacking off if I a switched to a 2nd-and-a-half shift.

I also think I’m worried that I might have to return to a normal schedule at some point, and then, Oh no! WhatdoIdo?!

I’m not making any sense with myself. I do need to pick up some freelance work, but it’s not as if I couldn’t write—I’d rather write—at night instead of during the day.

And that’s just it: I’ve got me some writin’ to do, and writing requires night time.

Maybe that’s the excuse I need to break away from all of the non-judgement my friends and colleagues are not shoving my way and just, y’know, do what I can.

Because I’m a grown-ass woman, and this is something I actually can do.





Keep it down now

20 12 2015

So much concern about black people and brown people and gay and lesbian people and transpeople and women people insisting that they’re people and you know who’s really got it bad?

But seriously, you know who can’t take a joke? White guys. Not if it implicates them and their universe, and when you see the rage, the pettiness, the meltdowns and fountains of male tears of fury, you’re seeing people who really expected to get their own way and be told they’re wonderful all through the days. And here, just for the record, let me clarify that I’m not saying that all of them can’t take it. Many white men—among whom I count many friends (and, naturally, family members nearly as pale as I)—have a sense of humor, that talent for seeing the gap between what things are supposed to be and what they are and for seeing beyond the limits of their own position. Some have deep empathy and insight and write as well as the rest of us. Some are champions of human rights.

But there are also those other ones, and they do pop up and demand coddling. A group of black college students doesn’t like something and they ask for something different in a fairly civil way and they’re accused of needing coddling as though it’s needing nuclear arms. A group of white male gamers doesn’t like what a woman cultural critic says about misogyny in gaming and they spend a year or so persecuting her with an unending torrent of rape threats, death threats, bomb threats, doxxing, and eventually a threat of a massacre that cites Marc LePine, the Montreal misogynist who murdered 14 women in 1989, as a role model. I’m speaking, of course, about the case of Anita Sarkeesian and Gamergate. You could call those guys coddled. We should. And seriously, did they feel they were owed a world in which everyone thought everything they did and liked and made was awesome or just remained silent? Maybe, because they had it for a long time.

Rebecca Solnit can think and she can write and if I were the jealous type I’d be jealous that she gets paid to do the work I can’t be arsed to do but I’m not particularly jealous so instead I’ll just read her and sigh Ahhhhh.

~~~

h/t PZ Myers; update: fixt hed





Paint it black

8 11 2015

Oh my Apollo, CSI: Cyber is so bad. So so so bad that I can’t even watch it.

I mean, I hated CSI: NY and I still watched it to its wretched, moralizing end, but Cyber‘s writing is so ridiculous that all I can think while watching it is why am I watching this?

So I stopped.

I do know exactly why I watch Code Black, however: because it’s good.

Again, a procedural, and, again, I started watching it because of Marcia Gay Harden and Luiz Guzmán—and they are terrific—but I keep watching it because I want to see what happens next.

Okay, so having Raza Jaffrey (a terrorist in Dirty Bomb, yet another sacrificial analyst in MI-5) doesn’t hurt,  and Kevin Dunn is amusing as the ER’s director—and Moesha‘s dad is there, too, with his son (on the show),  foxy character actor Cress Williams. And, slowly, I’m starting to warm to the various residents.

But I’m into procedurals because I like the cases, and Code Black does a great job with its cases. Okay, some aren’t great—the what-the-hell decision to unkink that woman’s ovary was a bit much—but they keep moving, moving, and in all of that movement you get to see the characters of the docs emerge.

It reminds me of early ER, where all of the action was focused on the work, and before it strayed from the fragile and weird in the ER and into the soapiness of life outside of it.

That the characters have lives outside is clear: Harden’s character, Lianne’s, family was wiped out by a drunk driver, the older resident’s son died of a glioblastoma, the asshole resident is a recovering addict, and you know there’s something going on with Jaffrey’s character to explain why he left surgery for emergency med.

Again, however, all of this is handled through the work, how their “outside” lives affect how they’re doctors. I like that.

But what I’m really impressed with is how they handle grief. It’s accepted that people will grieve in an ER, and the show let’s them do it. In one episode, a mother attacked her injured son for the drunk-driving accident which killed her other son. When one of the residents tried to intervene, Lianne said simply, This is what grief looks like.

Later in that same episode she tells the mother, who hasn’t left her dead son’s side, that she needed to be with her other son. He killed someone, Lianne said, and like any decent person who’s done that, he wants to kill himself. You need to help him want to live.

In another episode, a man comes into the ER to dry out, which he does, but by the end, he’s back, with Lianne stitching up his head. She’s gentle, matter-of-fact, when asked if she’s frustrated: No, a terrible thing happened; this is his grief ritual.

Sappy? I guess it could be, but I see it as a kind of rawness: a terrible thing has happened,  and sorrow follows.

And that’s it; the sorrow remains.

I hope the show, even amidst the predictabilities of the procedural, can keep that rawness, and that sorrow.





Little earthquakes

22 07 2014

Ann Patchett writes lovely characters.

Well, huh, that could be misleading, implying that all of her characters are lovely. They are not.

Let me try again: Ann Patchett is a lovely writer of characters.

Yes, better.

Even when the characters are only briefly sketched, or when she chooses to hide aspects of the character from the reader, she gives you enough that you want to learn more about these people.

Dr. Swenson in State of Wonder is, shall we say, an obdurate personality, bound up in her own understanding of the world and impatient-to-dismissive of alternative views. I found her to be admirable, as well as the kind of person who terrifies me. How does someone get to be that way? What is it like to live utterly without neuroses?

You could put a label on it, I guess, call her some variant of -pathology, but that would take away her humanness, reduce her to that pathological label.

In any case, Patchett doesn’t give us much to go on—here’s Annika Swenson, now deal with it—but she gives us (or me, at any rate) enough to make her a real human being, to make me wonder about her.

Patchett is generally able to make all of her characters, supporting and main, human. I was a bit frustrated with the main character in Patron Saint of Liars—or maybe I was frustrated with Patchett’s withholding of information about her—but I never doubted she existed. (In fact, she’s one of the inspirations for the main character in my second novel, who, like Rose , leaves an apparently decent life to live her own life.)

I do have to admit, however, that the opera singer in Bel Canto, Roxane Cross, never did become real to me. It’s not that she was a cardboard character or that I disbelieved that someone like her could exist, but she never came into view.

A lot of people loved that book, but I did not. It shared, with Run, Patchett’s greatest weakness as a writer: plot.

Now, I didn’t have a problem with the set-up of Bel Canto—a gala is taken over by militants—nor with the  suspension of time in which the hostages and militants alike subsequently live: Patchett excels at setting the stage and the letting her characters loose.

No, the problem was with the resolution. Patchett is fine at setting things in motion, but not so fine at bringing them to a close, and the bigger the push at the beginning, the rockier the ending. Had I been more drawn to Cross, (as I was with the characters in State of Wonder, which suffers from a similar dynamic) I might have been able to walk over those rocks with her, but I wasn’t, and thus was left stranded.

The lack of realness in many of the characters in Run meant that the reader was left mainly to the plot, which was. . . not good. Patchett is generally willing to let things ride for long periods, but in Run, she kept jamming up her characters with unnecessary plotting, with the overdrawn happenings crowding out the characters.

Which is why I think her best novel is The Magician’s Assistant. She sets events in motion, and then just lets them go; what plot developments there are arise from the characters themselves, so instead of these events pulling us, er, me, out of the story of their lives, they drew me further in.

Maybe because, like Taft (a much better novel than its name implies) and Patron Saint, the events are smaller, arising out of her characters lives rather than intruding upon them.

I know: the line between “arising out of” and “intruding upon” can be arbitrary, depending on whether you think a couple of runaways showing up at a bar or long-estranged family arriving to visit the grave of a recently-dead son & brother is organic rather than artificial.

Or maybe Patchett is just better at revealing the beauty in the ordinary than the extraordinary.

In any case, I prefer the ordinary set-ups, largely because Patchett doesn’t have to strain to move her characters into place for the denouement: they move there of their own accord and, in that end, we are left with the people themselves.





To the top of gravity

15 04 2014

Ta-Nehisi Coates wants to teach his students to write honestly.

I said, Well, yes, but. . . .

To which he replied, Sure, and. . . .

It’s marvelous to tell writers to write the naked truth, to get the courage to strip oneself naked by remembering that everyone else is naked, too.

Human condition: a talisman for bravery.

Except that, well, maybe not so much “Except that” as “In addition to” the call to honesty one must remind the student-writers to be brave, that honesty often requires bravery, because honesty is a hard good to handle.

To be honest requires bravery because you might get your teeth kicked in.

It is also the case that to be honest can be, as I put it, “giddifying”: you are loosed from yourself as helium bubbles pop through your skin and you can’t quite believe that the words you wrote and are about to send out are your words meant for everyone. You have broken the sound barrier and speed of light and are now stretching beyond time.

You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I’m being honest, at least how I can feel after having written: discombobulated and disoriented and blinking and wondering just where the gravity went.

Not always, not most times. But sometimes, still.

Such a glorious sensation: I’d chase it forever if it weren’t so unreliable.

Or I, braver.





I will try not to breathe

29 12 2013

So I got back from visiting a friend with C. (we decided against a drink at our bar) and went to bed earlier than I usually do on a Saturday night and it took awhile to fall asleep and I woke up at some point in the middle of the night and I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t sleep and I don’t know if it was the visit or the pancakes or coffee or waffle fries but I couldn’t sleep and somewhere in the midst of the not sleeping I came up with an idea for another novel.

I have the title and everything.

Now, I’ve already been working on another novel (and need to finish off the edits of the second novel and oh yeah send out pitch letters) which has been long in incubation and which I really want to see how it works out but now this not-sleep idea came WHOOSH and I think I could knock out a first draft right quick then let it rest while I work on that other novel (and finish the edits of the second and send out pitch letters) and I don’t know, see if I could write two at the same time (they’re very different ideas) and hm there’s that cyborgology conference I want to write a paper for and, well, goddamn.

January’s going to be a busy month.





What’s your name, little girl?

21 09 2013

I’ve written some boneheaded things in my time.

For example, I wrote an editorial for The Daily Cardinal which began “Enough fucking around”, and proceeded to excoriate the Reagan administration for not doing enough to free the hostages in Iran.

And then that whole Iran-Contra thing broke. Yeah.

The narrative I wrote for/about my high school senior class, the one in which I told a tale involving every member of that class? There’s some nasty shit in there; in particular, a smirk about one guy who was sometimes picked on (and maybe a coupla’ of his friends, I don’t remember exactly) being the head of a gay motor-scooter club, or something similarly witless. It was a shitty thing to do: in the mid-1980s, to joke about someone being gay was really no joke at all, and I knew it, and did it anyway.

I’ve tried to avoid meanness since then, and although I do still have some problems with the kind of righteousness which got me in trouble with the hostages, I generally try to write what I’d stand behind, and stand behind what I’d write.

Two recent pieces at Lawyers, Guns & Money, about the names people give their kids, however, have reminded me of a more recent transgression. A coupla’ years ago Ta-Nehisi Coates posted something along these same lines, and a bunch of us jumped in with names we each found ridiculous. I contributed a number of names of people I had known (or known of) whose names were puns—stuff along the lines of Erasmus B. Dragon or Mike Easter.

I regret that now, and pretty much anything else I said about names, mostly because these are real people in the world. They bore no responsibility for their punned names, but because they happened to have crossed paths with me, those names were now held up for ridicule. It was a shitty thing to do, and I should have known better.

So while other LGM writers and commenters were having fun with all of the names they dislike, I couldn’t join in. Oh, there are definitely names I don’t like, but unlike the discussion about the horrors of ketchup, I thought, man, there are people out there with those names, who may love those names, and who are unlikely to shave the distinction between their names being mocked and their persons being mocked.

This doesn’t mean the writers and commenters at LGM are monsters of the universe, any more than I was a monster in writing what I did. Still, it’s a shitty thing to do.








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