Sunny came home

16 09 2019

Hi! Hi! Hi!

Sorry I’ve been away for so long, but I was:

*Away, for a bit, in Chicago. I really like Chicago—it’s the place I’ll move to if I ever get chased out of New York—and every time I visit I think “Ohhh, maybe I should just move now.” But that’s just because NYC can suck hard, and when you’re in a likeable city for a few days it’s easy to think that that city won’t also have its sucky moments. Anyway, I was there with friends from Sheb Falls, and it was fun.

*Trying to cram in all of my hours on my second job. Whenever I work at my long-standing second job, I feel the need to work every last hour they give me, not least because these gigs are only temporary. I try to bulk up my bank account, because I just don’t trust the work, be it teaching or freelancing or this job, will keep coming.

*Prepping for classes. I’m using a new textbook for my American govt and politics course, so I have to take all new notes. It’s my contention that all American govt textbooks are mediocre, and that new editions are a scam—usually the only thing that gets changed (besides the price) are the 1- or 2-page intros to each chapter—but the text I was using was 5, 6 years old. I have tended to use the second-most-recent version, in order to keep the costs down for the students, but as American politics in the Trump era are occurring at hyper-speed, I thought I’d best go with the newest version of whatever text I chose. I looked first at the new version of my old text, but, jeez, that cheapest version of that one was 75 bucks; other books were even worse. So I said to hell with it, and went with a (legit) free online textbook, and, y’know, it’s fine.

*Writing an ‘intro to politics’ essay for those same govt-and-politics students. I’d long led discussions of ‘what is politics’ for relevant courses, and this essay pulled together a number of those ideas into a less-fractured format. In fact, this was an excerpt of an incomplete draft of what I plan to develop into a short-ish manuscript I’m calling “A Partial Politics” (have I mentioned this before? I think I’ve mentioned this before). Once I get a bit of breathing room, I want to get back to the manuscript; I may try to pitch it to the same online publishers as that textbook.

*I have a new great-niece! My second niece gave birth to Lyana Rosa two weeks ago. She is a wee angry potato, and it is all I can do not to pester her mum for more pics. No, I wasn’t there so I can’t really excuse her birth for my absence; it’s just good news.

So now that we’re all caught up, I’ll try not to fall behind (again). . . .

 

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Some cats know

6 02 2019

Oh hai!

Yeah, that’s an old pic of Trickster, but since it’s been awhile since I’ve written, it seemed apropos.

Anyway, this won’t be long, since I’m dead tired and have to get up early, but I’m trying to get back into the habit of writing for you and me.

You see, I’ve been researching and writing for other people—which is good! I’ve been getting paid!—but after a day on the computer I have been, shall we say, disinclined to spend the night on the computer.

Still, I miss this. It’s not that what I have to offer is so terrific [way to talk yourself up, lady], but it is mine, and sometimes, sometimes, it’s not half-bad.

Okay, have some more cats:

And a way throwback, to my Minneapolis kitties:

Be well!





Workin’ in a coal mine

15 10 2018

Still doing clean-up work on the main freelance project, but I am beginning to see the light!

After which I’ll be doing some ongoing work for this gent, but it shouldn’t (?) be so intense.

I do want to get back to this, if only because I miss writing in my own voice. I’m ghosting his, and he is, as I told him, a more “enthusiastic” writer than I am. While I don’t have too much trouble getting the basics of it right, I am leery of adding too much of his beloved “WOW” moves. (No, he doesn’t actually write WOW, but he does like to dial it way up.) So I send him a pale imitation of his style, and he cranks the color.

It works for both of us most of the time.

I’ve worked for him before. He’s a good guy, straightforward in dealing with any conflicts, and he pays on time. It helps tremendously that he works in a field that I care almost nothing about, so it’s easy for me to yield when there is any difference of opinion: I’m not invested in being right. I want to do good work for him, and it’s up to him to decide what that good work entails.

After all, it’s his name on the cover.

Oh, and I’m not at all conflicted about ghosting. It’s his project, his ideas, and he’s got the last word when it comes to editing. I do offer my thoughts when I think it might be useful, but mostly I’m filling in a sketch he offers. I’m a bit more than an amanuensis, but it’s easy to think of this as work I do for him, rather than my work.

I mean, I’ve worked for organizations to which I’ve contributed my words and ideas and only rarely has my name been attached to those items. That’s kind of the job: they pay me to think and to write, and they claim the output.

And, again, I’m fine with that.

But I do miss my writing, work that I claim as my own. I fell away from it before I took on this latest project, but now, having written tens of thousands of words for someone else, I’m kinda juiced to reel off a few for myself.





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.