P.S. What I Didn't Say
Thursday, October 1, 2009
If you're interested, I also contributed to this anthology, compiled by the same editor:
Ah heck, let's go for broke. I'm in this, too:
So start that holiday shopping early!
trucks: a short story
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I've been thinking about this short story, written when I was in my 20s, because of the story about which I wrote this blog post, for The Introvert's Corner, my Psychology Today blog. Life imitates fiction. Like the character in this story, the author of Spiral Jetta thought she would find romance and poetry in a roadside bar but ended up sneaking out and fleeing when the exotic started feeling threatening.
By Sophia Dembling
There was almost no one on the highway but Elizabeth and the trucks.
It was the dinner hour on a lonely stretch of Interstate between Arkansas towns. Elizabeth had been driving since morning. The beginning of the journey was receding, but its conclusion was still distant place at the end of a long road. She was neither here nor there.
It had been pretty easy. She got in the car and got on the road. A small street led to a big avenue, to a state highway, to the Interstate. But there she was struck by the distance she had to travel and the solitude of the journey.
The Interstates are a place in themselves, but that is no place. Designed for passing through, they allow no leisurely meanderings. Elizabeth was in new places before she even realized she had left the old ones. Signs led her from city to city, and in between was mostly billboards and nothing. The houses that sat by the Interstate were stripped of their intimacy, exposed to millions of passing eyes. Some had probably been cozy until the Interstate plowed through and changed everything.
This time of day, when the world is bathed in gray, always made Elizabeth feel as though she was dying -- as if it were not the light that was slipping away, but her life. Even with her headlights on, she made no impression on the darkness that descended on Arkansas. The radio was a tinny rattle. She had it on for company, but it made her feel lonely and far from home.
After the jilting -- an ugly, painful affair -- she had sold what she could, packed the rest in her old blue Chevette, said a few tearful good byes, and begun her journey. She thought it a brave adventure, when she didn't think it a foolish gesture or a cowardly retreat.
While the Chevette held the road with determination, the trucks possessed it with assurance. They shook the car as they passed, sucking it into their wind, pulling it faster and faster until it broke free with a shudder and the trucks sped off into the distance, points of red light disappearing into the twilight.
They moved with purpose, carrying America's products: Levis, Oreos and toilet paper, Jiffy Pop and Pontiacs and widgets and gears and cows packed nose to butt on their way to becoming burgers. Next to the trucks, Elizabeth felt inconsequential in her little car full of clothing and small mementos.
She could see nothing of the drivers but an occasional arm hanging out a window or a shadowy face in a side mirror.
She passed a roadside rest area where a dozen of the great machines were parked. Elizabeth imagined the drivers napping in the little bedrooms behind the cab. She wondered if they hung pictures of their wives and girlfriends inside. Thinking about it made her feel less nowhere. Even the road is somebody's home.
She turned the radio to a country-western station and sang along loudly with Johnny Paycheck, but her voice was immediately swallowed by the highway. She passed a sign welcoming her to Tennessee and imagined another chunk of land falling between her and who she had been.
As the last light faded, she was overtaken by a convoy of five trucks. They came up behind her suddenly, then ground and rumbled into slower gears as the road began to climb. Carefully arranging themselves on the road, they settled in at the speed limit, surrounding the Chevette. It was like driving in a school of buildings. Elizabeth's car seemed practically lifted off the road by the great wind and roar.
When they reached the top of the hill, the trucks reorganized with a series of signals, flashes, crunching gears and lane changes and Elizabeth lost them as they barreled down the other side. But climbing the next hill, she caught up with them and rode their wind again.
This went on for miles. It was a game, a dance. Elizabeth moved aside politely when a truck came up behind her, flashed her lights to let him know when he had cleared her and could move into her lane. Sometimes the drivers honked in appreciation and Elizabeth would wave, but she didn't know if they saw her.
It made her feel safe to see the same arms hanging out the window, the same license plates, the same "Wash Me," written in dust on the back of a truck with a load covered by a filthy blue and white striped tarpaulin. It was a mobile neighborhood.
An arm with a tattoo and blue shirt hauled a massive piece of machinery, or maybe it was just piece of a piece of machinery. It was round, it had valves and bolts. Elizabeth couldn't even guess at its purpose and the scale was almost frightening. She admired the muscles of the arm. The man who dumped her had slender arms and serious eyes and a million excuses for not making love. She didn't imagine the arm with the tattoo made or needed excuses.
A load of boat trailers was hauled by a beefy arm with hair that was turning white. The cab was painted with elaborate gold scrolls and identified the owner as Arthur "Bud" Uerlich of Tulsa, Oklahoma. A skinny arm with thick, black hair drove a moving van.
She imagined that from their high perches, the truckers could see only her legs. In shorts and barefoot, Elizabeth felt exposed. It seemed so intimate to be witnessed in her little pod, all her dials glowing.
And it was exciting. She was aware of the size of the trucks, the size of the men driving them, the size of the country she was crossing mile by mile in the deepening darkness. She had only ever driven as far as she needed and no further. She had only ever loved boys with skinny arms and no tattoos. She had only ever done the sensible thing.
Now she was Interstate. Everything was dark and fast and she was part of something big.
After about an hour, the trucks began a ponderous set of maneuvers that put them single file in the right lane. Elizabeth let them all pass and dropped in behind the last truck to see what they would do, as they were obviously working in unison. Ahead glowed neon announcing the Hi Way Truck Stop, a huge, brightly lit plaza that offered Food! Showers! Clean Restrooms! and Diesel. Dozens of trucks rested out front.
Elizabeth flipped on her signal, retaining her place behind the van as the line of trucks exited the highway. She would eat at the truck stop among the truck drivers. She was one with the road.
While the trucks pulled around to the side of the restaurant Elizabeth parked out front, next to the four or five other cars that had ventured into the land of the behemoths. Her legs were a little wobbly and the lights of the plaza were jolting after the soothing darkness of the road.
The walls of the dining room were decorated with hundreds of gimme caps bearing the names of trucking firms and horse ranches. Under the clatter of silverware and rumble of conversation, a small television droned on the end of the counter and a jukebox played Hank Williams, Jr. Along one wall was a row of huge booths with seats covered in red vinyl. Formica and chrome tables and chairs filled the rest of the room.
Elizabeth sat at a small table against the wall. There were just four other women in the room -- two waitresses, a fat middle aged woman sitting with a fat middle aged man, and a woman at the counter who might have been pretty before life got hold of her. Otherwise, the room was about half filled with men who surely belonged there.
A waitress with ratted blonde hair slapped a menu in front of Elizabeth.
"Coffee?" she asked, not looking up as she swabbed the table with a soggy grey rag.
"Please," said Elizabeth.
She opened the menu. Behind her, she could hear new customers entering.
"Hey, Texas" said a voice close behind her.
Elizabeth froze. What had revealed her point of origin? Then she remembered her license plate and looked up to see the tattoo, a grinning skull, standing by her table. Attached to the arm was a young man with a sunken chest, angular face, dark shock of hair and a day's growth of beard.
"You eatin' all alone?" said a bearded man in thick glasses and a cap.
"I reckon we'll sit right here and keep you company," said the tattooed man. "Since you been keepin' us company for so long."
He sat at a table across a narrow aisle from Elizabeth and the others joined him.
"My name is Ray," he said. "This here's Charlie." The bearded one grinned. "That's Bud," -- Arthur "Bud" Uerlich looked to be in his fifties and wore a sharp flattop. Another man, muscular and with mournful eyes and a toothpick tucked into the corner of his mouth, walked up to the table. - "An' this here's Don," said Ray. Don sat at the table with the others.
The waitress returned with Elizabeth's coffee. "Are you boys bothering this young lady?" she asked.
"No we ain't," said Ray. "We're just gettin' acquainted."
"Well don't you bother her none," said the waitress. "What'll you have?" she asked Elizabeth, without displaying any sign of being an ally in the strangeness.
Elizabeth ordered a cheeseburger and the waitress turned to take the orders of the truckers. When she was gone, Ray turned back to Elizabeth.
"Where you goin', Texas?"
"New York, eh? New York City?" Elizabeth nodded. "I been to New York City. That's a helluva place. A helluva place."
"A helluva place to git ripped off is what it is," said Charlie. "What you wanna go there for?"
"I'm moving there," said Elizabeth
"Where you moving from?" asked Ray.
"Dallas," said Charlie. "Now Dallas is all right. I've had some real fine drunks in Dallas."
"I think," said Bud quietly, gaining the immediate attention of the rest of the men at the table, "I'd rather live in Dallas than New York City any day."
"That's the truth, Bud," said Ray, and the others nodded in agreement.
"It's awful crowded there," Bud continued slowly. "And I never seen any place so dirty."
"I've got a friend there," Elizabeth explained.
"Must be a special guy to get you to drive all that way," said Ray.
"It's a woman."
"You drivin' all that way for a woman?" Ray was incredulous.
"I thought it would be fun to live in New York," said Elizabeth. "She talked me into it. She needed a roommate."
"Don't seem like a very fun place to live to me," mumbled Bud.
"Ain't you got no husband?" said Charlie.
"No," said Elizabeth.
"You're pretty cute not to have no husband," said Charlie. "What's the matter with you?"
The men laughed.
"Maybe she don't wanna get married," said Don. "Maybe she likes being a free woman."
"I do," said Elizabeth. "I like being free."
"How free are you?" Charlie said, and the men laughed again.
Elizabeth, uncomfortable under the scrutiny of the men, was relieved to see the waitress approaching with an aluminum tray heaped with food. She served up the dishes like a dealer flipping cards. The men's table was laden -- great steaming mounds of mashed potatoes, slabs of roast beef in thick brown gravy, bowls of yellow green broccoli, baked potatoes, hamburgers, eggs, bacon, grits, French fries, pie, coffee and Coca Colas.
Elizabeth bit into her cheeseburger. Ketchup, grease and blood oozed out, forming a small pool on her plate.
The men didn't say much while they ate. Don commented on the good weather they'd been having and the others grunted in assent. Bud gave his opinion on gun control, prompted by a news item on the television.
"Somebody comes after something that belongs to me," he said quietly. "I'm gonna blow his head off. I don't care what the law says."
Elizabeth ate silently. The burger had little bits of gristle in it and her soda was flat. The smell of the truckers' food was making her queasy.
"What you gonna do in New York City?" Ray asked through a mouth full of roast beef.
"I don't know. Get a job I guess," she said. "I sold clothes in Dallas."
"You work in a mall?"
"No. In a boutique on Greenville Avenue."
"Ain't that where all the bars are?" asked Don.
"There are bars there. There's other stuff, too. Stores. Restaurants."
"I just been to bars there," said Charlie. "Met a real nice girl there, once. Texas women is the best lookin' in the country."
"You drivin' that whole way by yourself?" asked Don.
"You gonna drive all night?"
"No, I'll stop somewhere."
"Shoot," said Charlie. "You can stay with me. I was just about to catch a few winks here. Course, we wouldn't have to sleep."
"Shut up, Charlie," said Don. "She don't wanna catch none of your diseases."
Elizabeth looked at Don, her savior. His face was puffy and his dark hair dirty, but he was attractive. He caught her staring and winked at her.
"You got a nice wife at home," said Bud.
"I guess I'll have to go to a motel," said Elizabeth, trying to play along, hating the conversation.
"Don't you mind us," said Ray. "We been on the road a long time. A pretty girl just gets us thinkin'."
The thought of their thoughts frightened her a little.
Elizabeth left her hamburger half eaten and ordered another cup of coffee.
When the men finished eating they leaned back, lingering over their coffee, smoking cigarettes and complaining about someone named J.J.
"That sumbitch has his head up his ass," Bud said. "Pardon my French," he said to Elizabeth.
"Shit,'' said Charlie, without even an apologetic glance at Elizabeth. ""He's too busy worrying about his dick to worry about his job."
"Well, a man's dick is his best friend,'' said Ray. "Ain't that so?" he said, turning to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth knew women who would know what to say to such a statement; she knew there was a certain bantering tone required, a way of joking back that would let them know she'd been around and could take their nonsense, but wasn't going to. Except she didn't know how to do all that and so she just turned red. Ray grinned and turned back to his conversation.
Suddenly, Elizabeth was embarrassed by the incongruity of her presence in the restaurant. The truckers' mystique seemed to have been left outside in their rigs.
Why had she expected poetry from them?
In their eyes she was just an unwanted salesgirl driving across country to a crummy place for no particular reason.
Ray's tattoo leered at her.
Elizabeth got a five dollar bill from her wallet and tucked it under her plate. She stood up.
"Where you goin', Texas?" said Ray.
"I've got to get back on the road," she said. "New York's a long way away." She attempted a friendly smile.
"Well, don't go yet," said Charlie. "I was just gonna take a shower."
While the men laughed, Elizabeth slipped away. As the door closed behind her she heard Ray shout, "So long, Texas."
The parking lot was loud with the roar of idling trucks and the buzz of neon. Her car was quiet and warm. It smelled slightly of the apple she had eaten earlier that day. She turned the key and flipped on the headlights. The dashboard lit up. She pulled out of the bright plaza and onto the highway, the road unfolding before the small pool of illumination her headlights cast. The Hi Way Truck Stop slipped into the darkness behind her.
Elizabeth drove another two hours that night. She stayed in the right lane and let the parade of trucks rumble past her.
Copyright 2009 Sophia Dembling
on visiting india
Monday, August 31, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
We'll start with some of the motivational mantras I use to get me through life.
One of my favorite motivational quotes comes straight from the mouth of Ricky Martin. I found it in the newspaper and had it on my bulletin board for years. I no longer have a bulletin board by my desk but the quote is seared into my brain and still comes in handy. He said, “You have to dare to suck in order to be great.” Yes, Ricky Martin, yes. You are so correct. That may be my life's guiding mantras, but some others that I use regularly:
Suit Up and Show Up. Not only is it the name of one of my other blogs, it's also the best exercise advice EVER. No matter how reluctantly I suit up and show up, once I start the workout, my heart says “Yippee!” and I start enjoying myself. Of course, these days the pleasure lasts only about 30 minutes before I lose interest but that’s where the axiom “Better than nothing” kicks in.
Apply Ass To Chair. A corollary to Suit Up and Show Up. People often tell me, “I have an idea for a novel…screenplay…article.” The only way writing gets done is if you sit down and write.
That’s Not a Problem It’s a Message. I’m thinking about this today because this morning I received an email from a friend that is so full of negativity and anger (not directed at me), it startled even me, the Queen of Surly. I see in this email a road map to a happier life if she can see the messages in the problems.
Life Is Too Short To Work For Assholes. I’m a prima donna. Everyone should be. When an employer treats me disrespectfully, I take a hike. There’s another job around the corner.
That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger. This is a musty old saw but I live by it. Hard times are hard but they put steel in your spine and, I think, teach us compassion.
Do Other Things. You think Ricky Martin is a silly source of wisdom? These words come from Jenna Elfman, who continued, “I don’t just act. It starts to feel like you’re digging into an open wound when you do the same thing all the time. It becomes achy, sore and tiresome.” I have to remind myself of this so that I get up from the computer sometimes and do things that don’t involve words.
Got words that get you through the day?
P.S. What I Didn't Say (the book)
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
First, for no particular reason, here’s a totally random photo from my last trip to Oklahoma. I have a lot of photos. Might as well toss some out there from time to time.
OK, so, what’s on my mind today?
Well, I’ve had a semi-crappy week and I’m stressed out, so I’ve been watching this awesome interactive music video a lot. It’s a guaranteed stress reducer. Really, go watch it. Use your cursor to move the line. The song is lovely, too. (Worth the wait for it to load, I promise.)
Every now and then I get to write an article that makes me very happy. This article, in Southwest Spirit magazine, about the benefits of nostalgia, is among those.
Oh hey, check out the polite umbrella.
Speaking of nostalgia, this blog of photos of NYC in the 1970s (my NYC) moves me to tears. Look how little the skyline is!
And finally, some interesting research:
Here’s research into our friendship networks—evidently, although the size of our networks tend to stay stable, the contents change about every seven years, when we cut and replace half the people Hm. Having undergone a great deal of churn in my friendships recently, this makes perfect sense to me. I’m sure proximity and other environmental factors have a lot to do with friendship turnover, but it’s also a matter of my ongoing re-evaluation of what I need, want and don’t want in my relationships. Also, sometimes I really piss people off. And sometimes, I don’t care when I do.
Expanding further on the ever-fascinating introversion theme, here’s research into the social brain, although I kind of resent the way this blogger divides us into “socialites” and “curmudgeons.” Oh, I suppose I’ve called myself a curmudgeon, but it does have negative implications and I contend that there is nothing wrong with liking solitude.
And finally, research into a subject I have gone back and forth on a thousand times: couples staying together for the kids, something I’ve seen my parent friends wrestle with. It sounds right, it sounds wrong, it sounds right, it sounds wrong. I don’t know. These researchers say that if the marriage is truly contentious—lots of fighting—kids tend to drink, smoke and do poorly in school by adolescence. I suppose that’s kind of a no-brainer. I wonder, though, about homes with unspoken tensions.
Have a nice weekend. I plan to drink heavily.
women and writing
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
One interesting point Showalter makes, as discussed in the review, is that historically, European women writers tended to create greater works of literature because they had servants. American women writers were so busy with housework, they had less time for writing and their field of experience was proscribed by the demands of their lives. Reviewer Laura Miller writes:
The obvious subject for such women was what they knew: home life. But, as Showalter observes, "Domestic fiction has been the most controversial genre in the literary history of American women's writing, an easy target for mockery and an embarrassment to feminist critics who wish to change the canon." Margaret Fuller articulated that ambivalence when she announced that she wanted to "not write, like a woman, of love and hope and disappointment, but like a man, of the world of intellect and action"; she never managed to pull it off. … Even socially influential writers, like Harriet Beecher Stowe (teased by Abraham Lincoln for starting the Civil War), got sniffed at by the critical establishment, and it only got worse when the 20th century ushered in the cult of the he-man novelist as personified by Ernest Hemingway. (The leftist writer Meridel Le Sueur complained that an editor rejected one of her stories for lacking the requisite amount of what she called "fishin', fightin' and fuckin'.")
… many critics and editors, especially male ones, make a fetish of "ambition," by which they mean the contemporary equivalent of novels about men in boats ("Moby-Dick," "Huckleberry Finn") rather than women in houses ("House of Mirth"), and that as a result big novels by male writers get treated as major events while slender but equally accomplished books by women tend to make a smaller splash.
This is clear and obvious to me—and the review points out that critical acclaim leads to the kinds of grants and gigs that allow writers to support themselves to write, and those go primarily to men.
I’m still sorting out in my mind, though, the difference between women’s literature and chick lit and what allows traditionally told female-centric stories to transcend the chick lit label. Jane Smiley has broken out, has Anne Tyler? Annie Proulx, definitely, although I struggle with her. I read her book Postcards on a trip once and found it relentlessly bleak. I left it in an airport when I was finished (I often do that when I travel) and then felt guilty because someone else would pick it up and end up as depressed as I.
Is Nick Hornby chick lit? Was Edith Wharton chick lit in her day? As I recall from the monumental biography of her that I half read, she saw greater success than her friend and contemporary Henry James, but did she get the same critical respect? (I don’t remember off the top of my head. Anyone? She certainly has my respect. I adore her.)
And I recall a friend telling me about being told by agents and publishers that because her novel was about a teenaged girl, it could not be sold as an adult novel and needed to be recast as a young adult novel. Yet the male coming-of-age novel is a literary institution.
Of course, Showalter points out that changing attitudes about domestic fiction is only one way for women writers to gain more respect. The other is for us to seize the big canvases.
Sigh. I don’t think I have the big canvas in me. (And of course you realize, this is all about me. It’s my blog.) Maybe I do. Maybe I have to get all my little stories out of me first and eventually the big story I have to tell will coalesce.
I guess I just have to live long enough and keep writing.
david foster wallace, cruising and me
Friday, February 27, 2009
I found the essay dazzling, annoying and frustrating.
It is dazzling in its humor, insight, broad sweep, attention to detail and just plain great writing. I don’t need to heap praise on it—praise has been heaped on it since it first appeared in Harper’s magazine in 1996. I battled all my taunting demons of envy as I read it. Wallace’s death last year, by his own hand, is certainly a loss to letters.
But I also found the essay annoying because as far as I’m concerned, mocking cruises is shooting fish in a barrel—and I use a cliché to describe a cliché. Anthologies could be filled with cruise-mocking essays (hm … not a bad idea). Cruises are for philistines, for white-shoed, shuffleboard-playing, sunburned geriatrics. Hahaha! They’re so OLD! Not old-old, Wallace wrote, “…but like fiftyish people for whom their own mortality is something more than an abstraction. Most of the exposed bodies to be seen all over the daytime Nadir were in various stages of disintegration.”
Yeah, sure, I take that personally but it’s more than that. I also feel a little queasy when writers insert themselves into situations they know they’ll scorn and then give themselves free rein.
The captain of the ship—fair game. (Most cruise ship captains I’ve met were mockable—dinner at the captain’s table is an honor I dread.) The cruise director—fair game and well played, Wallace. Same with the scary hotel manager.
But Wallace’s fellow passengers were people who had saved their money to do something they enjoy and who the hell is he (or any other writer) to stand on deck and take potshots? “There is something inescapably bovine about a herd of American tourists in motion, a certain greedy placidity,” Wallace wrote about observing his fellow passengers from an upper deck as they disembarked.
Well la-di-da. Funny, yes. But nasty.
Granted, I am a little torn. I don’t necessarily disagree with what Wallace wrote, but hipper/younger/smarter-than-thou scorn gives me hives. Wanna get my eyes rolling? Tell me you’re “a traveler, not a tourist.” Uh-huh. Why? Because you take public transportation? Because you don’t wear white shoes?
I note that when Wallace got to know some of his bovine shipmates—specifically the group he dined with each night—he liked them a lot. “…I want to get a description of supper out of the way fast and avoid saying much about them for fear of hurting their feelings by noting any character defects or eccentricities that might seem potentially mean,” he wrote.
As with any bigotry, Wallace could not maintain his negative preconceptions when he became friends with a member of the group he scorned. This was not a faceless bovine group, these were individual human beings. Why did they deserve cheap shots from an on-high observer who, if not being paid, would not choose to participate?
I laughed at his descriptions and then felt guilty.
My final personal issue with Wallace’s essay has nothing to do with the writing or the topic. It is simple and pure career envy. The essay ran 24 pages in Harper’s. Twenty four! It’s full of digressions and his famous long footnotes and navel-gazing and even some repetition of concepts. My god, I can’t imagine having that kind of space to indulge an essay. Every time I submit anything more than 1,000 words, it is either rejected outright or trimmed to its essence. State your case, give an example, and out. No indulgence for color or creativity or experimentation. Nobody has time for that.
I’m no David Foster Wallace, sure. I know that. But to develop writing chops for long-form essay, I would need an editor’s help and no editor I know has the time or inclination.
I feel like a bonsai tree. Every time I try to grow, I am trimmed back until the effort seems futile. And so my writing grows ever more precious. I enjoy writing short but am starting to fear I’m incapable of more.
All that, from an hour of reading...
the thing about 25 things
Friday, February 6, 2009
Some of us shamelessly embrace this opportunity to reveal little-known facts about ourselves. Others sneer at what this Washington Post writer calls “just another online outbreak of mass self-disclosure and self-importance.”
In this NYT article, editor Telisha Bryan sniffed that she wouldn’t deign to participate.
“ ‘Whatever happened to talking to people face-to-face?” she wrote in an e-mail message. “Since when do we have to give our friends synopses or overviews of our lives? Anyone who wants to know 25 things about me can call me or ask me.’ ”
No, not so much. As another person interviewed from the story pointed out, “I’ve gotten 25 random things notices from people that absolutely fascinated me, but I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t want to be stuck on a bus with them telling me these things.”
Ms. Bryan, the holdout, is the editor of a women’s magazine (a quick Google revealed it to be Cosmo), and the stock-in-trade for women’s mags is TMI and celebrity chatter, so I’m a little confused by her attitude. Why should I consider the details of Jennifer Aniston’s life more relevant than the details of people I actually know? (And yes, I do know the majority of my Facebook friends in some capacity beyond Facebook.)
The NYT writers says, "The idea that real intimacy is achieved by telling 25 people about the first time you saw a horse or the name of your kindergarten boyfriend is, admittedly, worthy of ridicule." But that's so missing the point. Who says this is about intimacy? Totally missing the point, dude. This isn't intimacy, this is entertainment.
People who choose not to participate in things like this do so with a holier-than-you losers attitude, but who cares? I filled out the 25 Random Things and passed it along, and I read other peoples’ and comment on them. Why? Because they’re fun. Lots of fun. They’re fun to write and particularly fun to read.
If I were a smart fiction writer, I would be keeping a file of other people’s 25 Random Things because, you know, you can’t make this stuff up. Each list is full of details that could make a character come alive. (Hm, that would be a cool writing exercise: Take a random 25 Random Things list and invent a character around it.)
I love what my friends choose to write about, love how they choose to write them. Are they one-liners or full paragraphs? Are they boastful or self-deprecating? What do they view as significant moments in their lives, what are they confessing to?
How can anyone find stuff like this uninteresting?
plunging right in to 2009 griping
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
It feels odd that I have done no kind of 2008 wrap up or 2009 somethingorother. But it’s too late for any of that and besides, I don’t have much to say.
I’ve been informed via Twitter by a high n mighty journalist that bloggers should keep their damn New Year’s resolutions to themselves because nobody is interested and who do they think they are? (To paraphrase.) So even if I had New Year’s resolutions, which I don’t, I wouldn’t write about them.
It’s funny though—high n mighty journalists are quick to tell other writers that nobody cares what they think and yet the man-on-the-street (or in-the-living-room) interview is considered key to a properly reported news story. Do I really care that that Elizabeth Gross of Lake Highlands hosted a dinner party candlelight last night, when the power was out in Dallas?
Hm. Not really. (Although I did like her remark about how everybody looked young.) So why are the personal experiences of writers considered self-indulgent while the personal experiences of other people are considered news? (To be fair, the journalist under discussion says he has no objection to personal writing as long as it’s not too personal.)
One great thing about man-on-the-street interviews is that they can be unintentionally hilarious. My favorite was in a TV news story about daylight savings time. One anti-daylight-savings-time woman-on-the-street opined, “I just don’t think they should be messing with God’s time.”
What time zone do you think God lives in?
What do you think about all this? Do the resolutions of bloggers hold any interest to you? What about man-on-the-street interviews?
primitive writing tools
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The first draft, with my editors' comments in non-repro blue pencil, is typed on low quality onion skin paper. My editing own marks are in blue pen.
The full article appears to be a photocopy of that original without the mark-up.
You should be able to enlarge these images by clicking on them, should you be so inclined. I wish I could find the published version but it's buried deep in the garage somewhere.
Not bad for a first time out, IMO. (A moment to remember the late Tom Hynds and his wonderful store). And gotta love my prescient last line: "Looking ahead to 1990: don't throw out that lava lamp."
are we cute when we age?
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I said that calling old people “cute” often is patronizing because it’s diminutive and, to my ears, infantilizing. My friend disagreed and considers it just another compliment.
For example, this couple in one of our new favorite blogs, Advanced Style.
This is a great-looking couple—classy and elegant, and the guy’s response to receiving a compliment was smart. But adorable? I don’t see adorable and I don’t think, if these two were, say, in their 40s, the word adorable would be applied. I think we often use cute and adorable for older people who continue to assert personality rather than just slinking quietly off into their dotage. (Unless we call them cranky or curmudgeonly, the alternate personality assertion.) Which is not to say it's impossible to be a cute older person. But to me, cute older people are those who were cute when they were younger, too. They're just cute people.
It seems to me that we go from “cute” and “adorable” childhood, through adulthood when we are not considered cute unless we are 5’ tall and snub-nosed (and I’ve been told by a friend who is under 5’ that she gets very tired of being called cute), then cycle back to “cute” and “adorable” in old age.
I certainly don’t suggest the words are used as intentional slurs—not in this blog or anywhere. I think we often use "cute" as shorthand--it's easier than thinking up more specific words. Once, a friend and I went shopping in the little gifty shops in a small Texas town and tried not to use the word "cute." It was just about impossible.
But in this context, the words just sound patronizing to me, however unintentionally. You rarely see them used in The Sartorialist, the influential blog which inspired Advanced Style.
My friend and I have agreed to disagree but now I’m curious at to what others think. Am I just a cranky old curmudgeon? (Well, yes. I'm spry, too. But what do you think anyway?)
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Last time I went, I saw the original scroll of Kerouac’s On the Road along with other fascinating stuff at an extensive exhibit on the beat writers. You can read my small story about it here.
Currently, the Center has an exhibit about archives in general-—their acquisition, uses, quirks. In truth, when I read about the exhibit I couldn’t wrap my mind around the concept at all. But I was immediately and deeply sucked in when I got there. Along with the usual manuscripts, letters and photos, there were oddities that came long with various archives, such as horribly defiled photos of Gloria Swanson, sent to her by Kenneth Anger after she filed a lawsuit related to his book, Hollywood Babylon. I enjoyed reading a series of letters related to the acquisition of an archive and a slideshow about the arrival at the Center of John Fowles’ archive, which includes his desk drawers and their contents. (Brass knuckles?)
And all this got me thinking about my own archives. For someone who’s a nobody, I have a very well documented life. Hundreds and hundreds of travel photos. Dozens of sketchbooks. Old manuscripts, both in hard copy and on floppy disks. (I was gratified to learn at the Center that the archive of Isaac Bashevis Singer contains three unpublished novels. Nice to know even revered authors have unpublished manuscripts.) Boxes and boxes of newspaper clips of my articles, turning to dust in the garage. Ticket stubs from shows I don’t remember seeing.
Those of you who read me on MySpace probably remember my diaries. For newcomers, you may read about my exciting youth here, and my embarrassing youth here.
I decided to start exploring my own archives from time to time. This morning, I reached into a box and pulled out a little book that turns out to be a journal/sketchbook of a trip I took to Maine by myself when I was probably about 19 or 20 years old.
My own little exhibit of a few random excerpts and pages:
I’ve gotten myself a nice room on Sebago Lake. It’s called “Anderson’s Motel & Kitchenette Cottages” It’s within walking distance (I believe) of the beach. It’s run by an old Maine man. He sits on a lawn chair outside the office, which is a tiny one room shack. My room is all yellow with a couple of lawn chairs with cushions on them and pictures stuck on the wall with thumbtacks. One is a picture of a cowgirl & her horse.
Walking to the beach in the morning is one of those picture book experiences. All I hear are the pines rustling, & an occasional child’s voice or car engine. One sight that suddenly confronted me was a dirt road lined by pines with the lake in the distance and three little children meandering along.
The woman with the black beehive comes every day in a new bathing suit & big, plastic colour-coordinated earrings.
I saw a fox tonight! The first one I’ve ever seen running wild. I slowed down when I saw him & he stopped and looked at me.
Frogs kept hopping in front of the car. I think I must have killed a few. I tried to go over them.
here is something cool
Friday, August 29, 2008
envy and admiration
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
In fact, she even heard from a Hollywood producer. I’ll say no more, but I’m proud of her. (Or whatever is appropriate to say here—it’s not like I invented her or anything.) I’m also plum (plumb?) tore up with envy.
Envy, as you know, is my deadly sin of choice. Well, not choice, exactly. It’s the sin I can’t seem to shake. I’m the Dame Edna of Dallas.
My envy is conflicted, of course, since Ruth’s witty essay is about having cancer. So while I would like the accolades she is receiving, I’d really prefer to take a different route. I’m pretty sure Ruth feels the same way.
She’s being very magnanimous about it, too. “You’re funny too,” she assured me. “You just need a fatal disease.”
I know, we shouldn’t even joke about stuff like that. But since Ruth’s essay is about laughing her way through cancer (however bitter the laughter), I give us a pass.
Nevertheless, I want to think of something appalling to joke about so I too can date George Clooney. (Since we all know he’s not going to marry Ruth or anything. He’s not the marrying kind. Besides, she already has a famous husband. Really. His research about the benefits of self-disclosure is standard in psychology textbooks. He's a personal hero since the research essentially validates what I do best--writing about myself.)
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I am always grateful to receive critique from friends and editors that will help move my writing to a higher level.
Which is not to say it’s “fun,” exactly.
I have received two critiques on two different projects since last night. Both are smart, insightful and useful.
Not “ouch” they were poorly expressed or “ouch” I disagree or even “ouch” I don’t have the ego for this. Just “ouch” I hate confronting my deficiencies, even en route to making amends.
Before I can even fully process what needs to be done to fix the projects, I have to overcome shame for not being perfect first time out. I can accept faults and foibles in all aspects of myself but writing. In some demented, deluded way I expect nothing but brilliance when it comes to expressing ideas. Anything less is like getting caught with my pants down.
That’s not rational. It just is.
Actually, any feedback is painful for me. I received an e-mail the other day from a friend reading a novel in progress for me. She said, "I'm about a third of the way through what you sent me -- and really like it."
I heard, "I can barely drag my way through this and I'm kind of embarrassed for you."
Getting even positive feedback can be a sick game of telephone for the writer's ego, especially when it comes to a very personal project.
Once I process both the positive and negative critiques, I have to get past hating the amount of work involved in fixing the problems. I’m a lazy writer and although I know writing is rewriting, I’d much rather get it perfect the first time and move on. (Haha.) I have word games to play and emails to answer. I don’t have time for all this serious writing business.
Finally and most difficult of all, I have to figure out how to fix the problems. Fixing a broken character or wandering essay is so much more difficult than fixing a misspelled word or clumsy sentence. (Duh, Sophie. Ya think?)
What to do, what to do? Do I wait for inspiration? Do I actively seek inspiration? Do I just plunge in and start tinkering?
Maybe I should just play a few rounds of Word Challenge and worry about it later.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Not in the computer sense, although I do a lot of that, too. But I’ve been pinging people.
Pinging is a great concept I learned a year or so ago from the book Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time.
I don’t have the energy or will for the level of networking this book recommends, but the idea of pinging resonated with me (ping! ping! ping!) and now, every time my work and energy get soggy, I crank up the pinging.
Pinging is just a little poke at people to remind them you’re there and you care. I’m a pretty regular pinger in general. Granted, I tend to be a virtual pinger—I’m not big on the chatty phone call, so sue me. But if I know you and like you and come across an article or idea I think you’d like, I’ll send it along. I’ll sometimes go to my favorite e-card Web site and send a card that makes me laugh with the hope that it will make you laugh, too. If I come across an article by a writer I know, I stick it in an envelope and send it to him or her. I use this blog to ping. If I mention friends, I let them know (because I make no assumptions about who does or “should” read this). And I like to comment on friends’ blogs. Ping! It’s networking of a sort, but it’s a lot more fun than the word “networking” sounds.
I’ve been underemployed recently so I started pinging with a purpose. Queries are a form of pinging. Even if I don’t have specific ideas, I’ve been dropping notes to editors I’ve worked with in the past to say “hi.” I’ve done a lot of lunch recently. Maybe a lunch leads to work, maybe to ideas for articles, maybe just to a solidified relationship. All good things.
Now I find myself with a nice little pile of work. None of it is particularly sexy, but the checks will turn me on. I’ve got a passel of new ideas I need to package and start pitching. I feel reconnected to my career. And all it took was a little pinging.
Ping, ping, PING!
watch your language, assholes
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Some cherce bits:
WASHINGTON - Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois sealed the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, a historic step toward his once-improbable goal of becoming the nation's first black president. A defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton maneuvered for the vice presidential spot on his fall ticket.
Way to patronize...And as the story goes on to explain, she said she was open to being on the ticket as VP. How is that maneuvering? The language here paints Hillary as both pathetic and Machiavellian.
Obama, a first-term Illinois senator who was virtually unknown on the national stage four years ago, defeated Clinton, the former first lady and one-time campaign front-runner, in a 17-month marathon for the Democratic nomination.
AND TWO-TERM SENATOR! The sexism that affected Hillary's campaign is not blatant but reveals itself in this sort of insidious language that ignores her concrete accomplishments to present her merely an appendage to a man.
Obama drew strength from blacks, and from the younger, more liberal and wealthier voters in many states. Clinton was preferred by older, more downscale voters, and women, of course.
Of course. Dumb bitches.
Why not "Obama drew strengths from blacks, of course...."?
Blablablablablabla...until we reach PARAGRAPH 20:
With her husband's two White House terms as a backdrop, Clinton campaigned for months as the candidate of experience, a former first lady and second-term senator ready to be commander in chief.
Ah, there it is, the FIRST mention of her current office. More than halfway into the article and only inserted in this paragraph after yet another mention of the fact that she was first lady.
As the strongest female presidential candidate in history, Clinton drew large, enthusiastic audiences. Yet Obama's were bigger.
This story was written by a committee of 87 writers, I believe. They should all get their asses solidly kicked. This is the kind of subtle and destructive use of language that sinks any pretension of balance in the media. It is odious because of its subtlety--it affects casual readers on a subliminal level.
got what it takes?
What does it take to work for oneself?
First, it takes a certain amount of self-delusion. When I went freelance in the mid 1990s, I sincerely believed that the world was waiting for my words (alliteration and all). Had I known how difficult it would be to persuade people to buy them, I might not have waved bye-bye to my job so gleefully. Well, actually, that’s a lie. I would have. I was very unhappy in my last job and having spent most of my working life self-employed, I couldn’t wait to regain control of my time. But stepping out into the world of freelancing was a rude awakening. Huh—all those newspaper editors who loved my stories when they got them free on the Knight-Ridder wire were somewhat less anxious to run them when they had to pay for them. I couldn’t even get responses from some I knew personally. Huh. Go figger. (How sympathetic am I now to those editors, as they lose their jobs and start freelancing? Not terribly. Welcome to my world. Sink or swim.)
Self employment takes discipline. Mine ebbs and flows. Sometimes I can crank out queries and stories like a little Sophie machine, sometimes I play a lot of Scrabbulous while awash in guilt and shame. Sometimes I need an extreme self-ass kicking to get back on track.
Self employment requires tolerance for guilt and shame. When your workday is not proscribed by set hours and a reliable paycheck, you never feel like you’re doing enough. No matter how much I accomplish in a day, I could do more. No matter how much I earn, it should be more. No matter how many bylines I get, they’re in the wrong magazines. Guilt and shame are my co-workers. I embrace them.
Self employment requires tolerance for solitude. If your business, like mine, doesn’t have employees, you spend a lot of time alone. That’s why God made the Internet. The virtual world is my water cooler. I also try to plan at least one lunch date a week to make sure I don’t go all Red Rum.
Self employment requires creative money management skills. It’s one thing to manage your money with a paycheck, it’s something else altogether to manage it when you don’t know from month to month what will be coming in. In tight times, I go into spending lockdown and all nonessential spending stops. When money is coming in, I make sure to handle the important stuff, like going to the dentist.
Self employment requires a network of sympathetic souls. Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen except other freelance writers. Ours is a particular circle of heaven and hell combined. When our work goes well, little is more satisfying. When it doesn’t, it feels like very personal failure. The weight of rejection gets unbearably heavy from time to time.
And it’s a vicious circle for us—the more we need work the more we have to pitch, the more we pitch the more we open ourselves up for rejection, the more rejection we get the harder it is to be motivated, the less motivated we are, the less work we have. And round and round and round.
I’m in a state of mega burn-out right now. I’m tired, discouraged, broke and feeling unloved. So after I get this post up, I’m calling up a friend in the same business as I who has kindly volunteered to be a sympathetic, empathetic ear. Dollars to donuts (mmm, donuts would help too) I’ll feel better after talking to her. Friends can take the "self" out of self-employment.
Monday, June 2, 2008
I read the whole thing, long as it is, and found it compelling because I blog, because I am conflicted about the nasty blogs (like Jezebel, which is published by the Gawker people) and because I am slightly repelled by the TMI in some blogs.
Honestly—y’all don’t know from TMI here. Or if you do think you get TMI here, then you’re exceedingly sensitive. I used to subscribe to one MySpace blog—consistently the most popular on the site—that I finally unsubscribed to after a discussion of the blogger's most private of private bits. Yeah, that's TMI for me. As I promised when I launched this blog: You will never hear about my sex life or private bits here. I'm featureless as Barbie as far as you're concerned.
Part of Gould’s story involved blogging about her boyfriend, who took offense at one of her posts. She argued freedom of expression and he gave in, but the relationship didn't last.
Tom knows that if I plan to discuss him in any way that might risk his privacy or dignity, I'll run the post by him for approval. (Jack, however, has to live with whatever I feel like writing about him.) I don't think he's ever refused to let me write something and if he ever does, I'll respect that. I play fast and loose with my own privacy but with no one else's. Except Jack. But he gave up his privacy the first time he licked his ass in public. (Hm, right after I finished typing that sentence, he got up and left the room. Maybe I underestimated his sensitivity.)
Anyway, Gould’s NYT article got a large and vitriolic response. Among the 1,200-plus comments:
stop polluting ,find another job
What a sorry little cyberworld you chose to live in. Do you have a real life as well? or is this all you have? You are just a stupid little girl. Go watch the sun set and grow up!
I expect more from the New York Times. This article was nothing more than the ramblings of a moronic juvenile who calls herself a writer. I hope that the New York Times is not paying her for this piece. I long for the days when writers were people who had something to say.
Wow. People took all that time to read what she had to say, go online, and insult her. Shouldn’t they be outside watching the sun set or something?
As with so many other aspects of modern life, we seem to be deeply conflicted about blogging. I’m supposed to feel a little bit ashamed of this hobby. I’m a little sheepish when I mention it to people.
Yet millions of people read blogs and, although tech review blogs top most lists, snotty and TMI blogs tend to be very widely read. (What was Sex and the City but a pre-blogging blog?)
People enjoy voyeurism but when they feel shame about that, they lash out at the exhibitionist instead of kicking their own curious asses.
When I was at the newspaper, my personal essays elicited far greater response than any of my straight features stories. Although Paula LaRoque (hisssssssssssssss) never missed an opportunity to chastise me for using self-referential pronouns, readers seemed to enjoy those articles. What a shocker it was for me when I went freelance and editors started specifically requesting first-person from me. You mean … somebody really does care about me? But LaRoque told me again and again that NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU THINK!
And now, personal blogging is called a form of self-medication in research discussed in this Scientific American article
This is interesting but not surprising. Now-classic research by psychologist James Pennebaker at UT found that student who wrote on personal topics, even if no one ever reads what they wrote, got sick less frequently than control groups. In other words, self-disclosure is good for you.
However, the term "self-medicating" seems patronizing in this context. Is anything pleasurable to be considered self-medication? I don’t really feel like I’m medicating anything. I’m just having fun and doing what I do. Or maybe I have hydergraphia, which the article defines as “an uncontrollable urge to write.” Sure, let’s pathologize a perfectly respectable passion.
In her essay, Emily Gould was hard on herself for the degree to which she exposed herself to the world. To some extent, her excessive self-disclosure may have been a function of her youth. In your 20s, one tends to believe one’s every thought worthy of broadcast. Blogging and other forms of online disclosure are just the newest form of youthful indiscretion.
But that so many people read Gould's essay and then beat her up for it is confusing.
Maybe it’s not those of us who enjoy publicly expressing our thoughts who need a life. Maybe the people who really need to get out more are the ones who waste energy hating us.
P.S. Read Gould's thoughtful responses to her readers questions and criticisms.
fire that editor!
Sunday, June 1, 2008
More than 13,000 expected to lace up to support breast cancer
Must be a breakaway insurgent group.
fire that editor!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Driving down Bennett Avenue just east of North Central Expressway, it's easy to wonder what happened to the neighborhood.
Friday, May 16, 2008
I am happy to report that the incorrigible Jack has become partly corriged. He has adjusted to the electric fence and no longer wanders at will. No more crossing the creek and coming home muddy, no more chasing off the mailman, no more patrolling the alley and riling up the other dogs. He doesn’t seem particularly traumatized by the limits. Perhaps the responsibility of patrolling so large an area weighed heavily on his burly shoulders and troubled his large noggin. His own yard is large enough. So many squirrels, so little time. And so much napping to be done. How is one dog to do it all without some limits?
Now I need an electric fence for the sofa. He is not allowed on the sofa and knows it, but at night, after we go to bed, he helps himself. At the suggestion of one of his many trainers, I tried booby trapping it last night by covering it with newspapers and balancing a couple beer cans filled with coins on the papers, which were supposed to fall off and make noise and either frighten him off or wake us up. They did neither. He managed to fit his large tuchus between the cans, barely even disturbing them. So, back to shutting him out of the living room at night. He hates that. The other night, I had to put his leash on him and drag him out. Literally drag him—he put that aforementioned large tuchus on the floor and wouldn’t move it.
Slate has a special issue on procrastination (speaking of blogging) which includes this story, asking the question What is the difference between severe procrastination and writer's block?
So, I have this novel I’ve been working on for about three years. I’m in revisions. Ten painful pages at a time. And a half-finished book proposal that’s been collecting cyber dust for more than a year. So slow. I could do better. I know it. I’m not blocked, I’m procrastinating, Because as long as these remain remain unfinished they might be brilliant. If I finish them, their lead feet will be obvious.
Says one expert: "The chronic procrastinator knows he's presenting a negative image, but he'd rather be perceived negatively for lack of effort than for lack of ability."
The research corner:
Important news about men and their thingies: First, the International Society for Sexual Medicine has only just come up with (no pun intended) a formal definition of premature ejaculation. I know, can you believe it? I personally have never encountered this particular problem but in case you’re wondering, it is now defined as: “a male sexual dysfunction characterized by ejaculation which always or nearly always occurs prior to or within about one minute of vaginal penetration; and, inability to delay ejaculation on all or nearly all vaginal penetrations; and, negative personal consequences, such as distress, bother, frustration and/or the avoidance of sexual intimacy.”
And, says the study’s main author, “The hope is that more people with these symptoms will understand this is an actual health condition and seek treatment. They no longer need to suffer in silence.”
In related thingie-research: Gastric Bypass Surgery Restores Sexual Function in Morbidly Obese Men—Losing weight may help resolve erectile dysfunction in obese men.
Mostly, it helps them get laid more, I assume.
Having just experienced a highly unpleasant allergic reaction to a drug (my friends got all the gory details, I spared most of you) I was drawn to research into why scratching helps an itch. The study involved 13 healthy participants who underwent testing with functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology that highlights areas of the brain activated during an activity. Participants were scratched on the lower leg with a small brush. The scratching went on for 30 seconds and was then stopped for 30 seconds – for a total of about five minutes.
“To our surprise, we found that areas of the brain associated with unpleasant or aversive emotions and memories became significantly less active during the scratching,” said Yosipovitch. “We know scratching is pleasurable, but we haven’t known why. It’s possible that scratching may suppress the emotional components of itch and bring about its relief.”
So scratching is not really physical relief, it’s emotional. Which, when you think about it makes sense. Itching is so miserable … a persistent itch makes you want to scream, cry, bang your head repeatedly against a wall. Finally succumbing to the urge to scratch? Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. It’s more than physical relief. It’s bliss—however short lived and guilty, since we know we shouldn’t scratch.
The rash is fading and I will never take Aleve again.
Here’s a fun read from the Wall Street Journal, about retail therapy. Yup, psychologists and neuroscientists are studying that, too. Not to help us, mind you. To help retailers.
But keep this in mind—just like those little 100-calorie size snack packs of cookies and other treats can help us eat less, how we carry money can help us spend less, according to one study: Students were given $100 in pretend cash to participate in a gambling study. Some students received one sealed envelope with all the money, and others got 10 sealed envelopes that each contained $10. Individuals with multiple envelopes tended to spend less, sometimes half of what the people with the single envelope spent. "The power of partitioning can reduce spending by 50 percent," Cheema said.
I don’t like carrying lots of cash for this very reason. If I have it, I spend it. If I have to go back to the ATM, I become more aware of my spending. (And I am on near-lockdown on credit cards right now. Not complete, but I’m staying careful. Baby needs a new tank of gas…)
Dunno why it’s taken me so long, but I’d like to point out a new blogroll link—to the blog of my friend Jenna and her friend Rachel. The Haiku Diaries is commentaries on life entirely in the 5-7-5 format. It’s so much fun. I like to comment in haiku when I’m feeling sharp enough.
This week instead of just a list of google searches, a little commentary on a select few.
I find a lot of searches that look like this: 2008 contact emails of the doctors @yahoo.com in Florida; email contact women's america firstname.lastname@example.org
I was baffled until learning that these are the kinds of searches used by spammers to harvest email addresses. OK, that would explain the ever-thickening blizzard of spam I receive.
Three of my photos have become very popular: the one of a pyramid at Teotihuacan, the portrait of a xoloescuintle and the plastic army men war atrocities. These turn up so often, I assume someone is using them for something somewhere, but I can’t figure out how to figure it out.
Someone searched hillary jillette cunt which I suppose relates to Hillary Clinton and Penn Jillette. I know he called her a bitch. Did he call her a cunt, too? What a prick.
Someone searched Elizabet gilbert eat, pray, love review childfree, which is a little confusing.
Chelle, someone searched you. Someone searched my brother Oliver. And someone searched "black and blue" "rolling stones" tribute band dallas, texas myspace which had a very happy ending, since it resulted in a job for Black and Blue. May 31, Tolbert’s in Grapevine. Glad to help…
And that's Friday.
do it this way
Monday, May 12, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
According to this article, the whole emoticons ‘n’ acronyms writing style is creeping into teenagers’ schoolwork.
The idea of emoticons in a term paper makes my eyes roll, and I’m not even
anti-emoticon, as is fashionable among smart people. Wiseguys like me sometimes need to flag our wiseguyitude. I don’t emoticon often but I use them when it seems prudent.
However, the statement that really struck me in the article was from Richard Sterling, a Berkeley prof and emeritus executive director of the National Writing Project. He predicts that eventually, the convention of starting sentences with a capital letter will disappear.
Hm, I’m not liking that idea. I’m not a language purist. I think the evolution of language is fun and exciting. But I also think that what we write should be easy to read and that includes graphically. The capitalized first letter is an important cue—at least as important as the period and the properly placed comma. I like capitalizations, paragraph breaks, commas and clarity of communication.
Unlike this sentence, which I pulled from the Fair Shares for All: A Memoir of Family and Food, which I’m trying to finish but have stalled out on:
"...Dad's minaciously short-winded frame had just been rushed to Oldchurch Hospital, the rack-rent lazaretto where I had reflexively frowned when a scalpel's intrusion spelled spasms of flashlight and seizures of bawling where once in umblical darkness I'd dozed to the clockwork berceuse of Mum's heart..."
I think it means the author's father was taken to the same hospital where the author was born by Cesarean section.
I have a decent vocabulary but in that statement alone are four words requiring a dictionary (minaciously, rack-rent, lazaretto, berceuse). One or two words, OK. I blame myself. Four? That's too many obscure words in one convoluted description. It's reader unfriendly.
The whole book is like that. MEGO. That the book was written by a national magazine copy chief makes the rococo writing all the more puzzling. A copy editor's job is to help make writing clearer.
On a related subject: Call me unsophisticated but nothing turns me off a book more than hearing it described as "lyrical." Possibly the only lyrical book I've ever really enjoyed was Bel Canto, which I loved. So nice I read it twice.
Fickle, fickle media (heh heh heh).
The Google searches that brought people to my blog got better and better as the week passed.
for sale xoloescuintle
sophie Razzle magazine
"eating is boring"
+2 Bangkok contact email address of doctors of Bangkok "email directory update" OR 2008 OR 2009 "@yahoo.com" –indians
I-35 between dallas and austin fun stops
i can make you thin but jean fain
eagle creek subcontinent pack
2008 @yahoo.com @gmail.com florida company doctors
Maybe later I’ll come up with more flotsam for our Friday. Maybe not.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
There are Postal Service restrictions. Names can't be more than 14 characters, so "Down By The River I Shot My Baby Boulevard" is out. Apostrophes aren't permitted, so "What's That Smell Street" won't work. And it can't closely resemble an existing street name. "Turtle Creek Boulevard" is taken.
Want to nominate a name? Click here.
That’s the good writing du jour, IMO. Another fine line comes from Joyce Saenz Harris’ Taste section story about a book/cooking club whose motto, she says, “…might well be a chicken in every plot.” Cute. Too bad the paragraph started with the dreaded “Welcome to…”
In other election news, Oklahoma is accepting nominations for an official rock song. It already has an official state song (“”Oklahoma"), C&W song (“Faded Love”--not my guilty pleasure "You're The Reason God Made Oklahoma"), folk song (“Oklahoma Hills”) and waltz (“Oklahoma Wind.”)
Goodness gracious, who knew Oklahoma was so melodic?
Want to nominate an Oklahoma rocker? Click here.
So, Hillary pulled it out again. You want my theory about why Obama isn’t campaigning negative? He doesn’t have to because his supporters (I call them IOS---Insufferable Obama Supporters) do it for him. I hear many more Obama supporters going on about Hillary’s (and Bill’s) horns and tail than about Obama’s accomplishments. It's perfect--Obama can keep his halo and Hillary still gets smeared.
I would vote for Obama over McCain. No question. I like the guy--what I know of him. It’s his fan base for which I’ve developed a healthy loathing.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
So when I saw The Dallas Morning News quoted this LA Times online feature about the yuckiness that is Dr. Phil, I felt free to holler “I told you so” at my morning paper.
I’m pleased the LA Times mentions our book, however I did write to the paper pointing out that we did not say Dr. Phil had an affair with a 19-year-old patient, as alleged in this feature. In fact, we stuck to the official story, that the unethical dual relationship was because Phil hired this young woman to work in his biofeedback lab. Allegations of sexual impropriety were made by the tabloids, quoting unnamed sources.
Here’s a sobering thought—this Wall Street Journal financial columnist says these days, we’re better off investing in food than in investments. He suggests stockpiling non-perishables, since the cost of food is rising so fast. Woe is me, the sky is falling…
But not that fast, according to another WSJ writer, who points out that as much as we whine about poverty, we do all have iPods, DVD players and flat-screen TVs. (Actually, we don’t have a flat-screen TV and our iPods are second generation clunkers, though they work reasonably well.)
I read this WSJ article, The Do-It-Yourself Tax Cut, with interest. Here the writer suggests numerous ways you can save money with lifestyle changes. I got to be both smug and bummed, since Tom and I do most of the things suggested here and still, as Tom likes to say, we can’t afford our modest lifestyle. At least it’s reassuring that the rest of the country is catching up to us. We don’t feel like have-nots anymore. We feel like everybody else.
Apropos to nothing, we gave stinky Jack a bath in the driveway last night. What a crazy ordeal that was. We tranquilized him (it's gotta be done) and muzzled him and he still went apeshit. He didn’t mind the soap and water as much as the brushing (attempts) of his hairy ass. We finally had to give up on the brushing. He smells a lot better but his hair is a mess. World’s most exhausting canine….
And now, I must whine. Inappropriately. Much as I’m enjoying my adventures in blogging, I admit to being a tad discouraged these days. My readership numbers are stagnant. The freewheeling discussions we enjoyed in MySpace don’t happen here. Many of my frequent commenters have fallen silent, even those who complained about MySpace. Sigh. I still enjoy the exercise but it was more fun when I didn’t feel like I was talking to three people.
The most successful blogs in the blogosphere focus on one topic and I’m considering that—although I haven’t yet decided what that topic should be. Writing? Jack? Money or lack thereof?
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