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17 posts from December 2006

December 31, 2006

My Year In Review

(Not that anybody really cares, but I'm dropping the pretense that this blog is anything but an exhibitionist diary. From here on out, I'm going to regale you with every moment of ennui, lovelorniness, cute-cat revelations, and spite. In with the autobio, out with the brains [such as they were.] Just so ya know.)

Altogether, not a great year. Not terrible, but not gonna make it into the Claire hall of fame for great years.

Notable characteristics:

1. got bailed on by crazy roommate
2. lived with parents for five months
3. endured eight month separation from cat
4. applied to 27 residencies and fellowships and received not a one
5. did not finish Da Nobble; did not even finish a second draft thereof
6. lost 15 pounds and gained it right back
7. got a spotted flu
8. couldn't find a job for 2.5 months
9. started new job while entire staff of said job away on vacation; flailed
10. not a single new lit journal publication

On the other hand:

1. started two blogs, enjoyed them
2. halfway through second novel with actual prospect of finishing
3. got on the yoga train and actually have biceps and triceps now
4. did actually get life in order, although it took an entire year; not a bad rate for a "recent" graduate
5. published two little "drabbles" in Farthing
6. wrote a great story I really like
7. did some skiffy-reading catch-up
8. got on a good plane with my relationship with my parents (v. important!)
9. got to finally visit friends in L.A. and New York (v. fun!)
10. went to Wiscon and participated in programming
11. volunteered again at the election and we actually won!

So good on me, ya know.

Anyhoo, I'm way too old to be depressed about a non-red-letter year. Glad it's over and a new one's beginning. That's all.

Tomorrow I will make some very specific resolutions.

December 27, 2006

One Sentence Movie Review: Eragon

I still think Paolini is Asperger's, but I rather think the filmmakers are ADD.

December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

'Cause I'm just all dominant culture like that.

Here's yer prezzie: The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle's blog, upon which he has been posting, daily, one of thirty short poems about his favorite black metal one-man-band.

You're welcome.

December 22, 2006

I Am So

not in the mood to post.

Happy Hols, in case I don't straighten up and fly right before christmas is over.

xxxooo

December 17, 2006

BSG Sux

I just watched it, and I'm not durnk, yet as I write this I'm struggling to remember what the episode was about. I'm talking about "The Eye of Jupiter," Battlestar Galactica's mid-season cliff-hanger.

I was actually so appalled at this latest episode that I went to a fansite and scanned the writing credits for each show of the entire series just to make sure they hadn't suddenly started plugging in new writers for season three.

WTF? Starbuck and Apollo having an affair might be in character, but the whole stupid stupid stupid conversation they have about it is sooooooooooooo not. Why does Starbuck suddenly consider marriage a sacrament for no random-ass reason? She married Anders on the fly. Why does Apollo, typically her bullshit detector, just accept this cheap-ass excuse? And then why would Starbuck, who doesn't say things like this, say "Where does that leave us?" And then why would Apollo, who has only just started making stupid stupid stupid melodramatic pronouncements, say "Trapped"?

And can we be more silly and cliched than a "who's in charge?" pissing contest between Apollo and Anders which ends with a "I'm gonna shoot you if you disobey orders" stupid stupid stupid cliched scene?

And what's with the dumb stupid stupid dumb "We still love you but we have to exclude you" scene between Deanna, Caprica, and Gaius? It's like the writer jerked awake at 3 a.m. at the computer the night before they were to shoot that episode and realized that s/he needed to set Caprica up with a reason to betray Deanna and Gaius. And Deanna's whole trip is even more vague and random than Cylon motivations usually are down BSG way. If we're gonna go there, can we get some more specificity?

And don't make Hera suddenly sick after half a season of ignoring her. You can drop in a scene or two of something every episode until you're ready to address it directly, can't you? That's what you used to do. Oh, BSG, we hardly knew ye! Don't die! Please don't die! We love you! Please, fight! Rage, rage against the dying of the light!

December 15, 2006

Alpacas

Cute Overload pointed me to my new favorite blog, Ugly Overload, which is, ov coarse, pics and vids of ugly animals. They provided me with this video, which made me laugh repeatedly at the end of a very sucky day.

Mwah!

December 14, 2006

Genre Dismissal

(And yes, all you white, middle-class, American, skiffy-writing men, let me just say here for the record that bracing yourself for impact after you've just told a stranger that you write science fiction is very similar in experience to bracing yourself for impact after you've just given in and told some boorish stranger what country---or in my case, colony---you were born in.

No, I am not giving you permission to say this publicly. Don't say it publicly. You will be justly censured---at the very least with that justly-censured-by-my-rolling-eyes expression---by the nearest conscious liberal or person of color. And I will deny ever having admitted anything of the sort to you. Because really, if you don't have anything to compare it to, then it really doesn't compare. Ya know what I mean? If you don't know what I mean, then drop this discussion entirely. Really. Don't ever mention it again.

No, seriously. Please don't compare being discriminated against by literati because you write genre, with being discriminated against because of your race or ethnicity or country of origin. Please don't compare it even by implication. Thanks.)

Yes, I'm tired of people calling me a "science fiction writer" in that tone of voice. You know who you are. I am not your fucking coffee table curiosity. Plus, I write ... not only science fiction. Just because I have more imagination doesn't put me below you or your favorite I-refuse-to-challenge-you-in-any-way, status-quo-reifying dumbfuck on any scale.

The next person who qualifies my "writer" with any adjective at all whatsoever gets the sharp end of my pen up their hole. The nether one with the hairs. And I don't even use a pen.

December 11, 2006

Sharon Stone vs. The Komodo Dragon

For Your Delectation: just started new job today and I'm bushed. So here's a hangover from Thanksgiving. For some complicated reason at Thanksgiving we were talking about crocs and komodo dragons, and I googled the Phil Bronstein/Sharon Stone/Komodo dragon incident, in which Bronstein got his foot bitten by a dragon. (FYI Bronstein is the editor of the SF Chronicle and he and Sharon Stone are no longer married.)

I came across this 2001 Time magazine interview with Sharon Stone about it. Know what? She's crraaaaaazzzy. But she gives good interview.

The zoo invited us. 'Yes, wonderful, come, bring the baby.' The baby had an ear infection so we didn't bring him. So we get to the zoo and they brought us inside the reptile house, so we saw iguanas and those amazing turtles that have been around for god knows how long, and like that. Just being inside looking in the cages was plenty of thrills for me.

Phil didn't know where we were going or why we were going there. It was a complete surprise. So we came around the corner and he was like, 'Oh my god this is so fabulous, I've always wanted to see this.' And the zookeeper said, 'would you like to go in the cage? It's very mild mannered. Everybody goes in there. Kids pet him. It's fine.' I thought, well I'm not going in there. I want to go to the bunny cage. But I thought, well this is so neat, he gets to go in.

It gets better. It gets much, much better. Want a little more?

He yelled, like screamed out, then he reached down and opened the jaws off his foot and threw this thing. Then he started to try to get back out the way he got in, which was the feeding door, which was about 3 and a half feet high by probably 20 inches wide, so he's coming out foot first and I'm trying to pull him out.

I see that his foot is completely mangled. And we're trying to pull him out and now the animal has gone completely crazy. And the poor zookeeper who was just horrified, who was paralyzed in shock when it happened, was now trying to keep this thing away. And now that it had the taste of blood from Phil, it was continuing to try to attack him. It was slamming against Phil's back and clawing him. As I was trying to pull his upper body through the hole in the cage, the dragon's tongue literally came out between the cage door and his shoulder. The zookeeper who's still in the cage is screaming, 'Get him out! Get him out! Get him out! Get him out! I gotta get outta here! Get him out!' And I'm pulling him as fast as I can through this door, but it's still attacking Phil. The zookeeper is trying to kick this thing off and it's going crazy.

Seriously, read it. It's a crazy story from a crazy lady.

December 09, 2006

TV Rattle

I am soooo not watching "The Nine" anymore. I don't really remember when or why I lost interest in it, but I haven't watched it for weeks. I think it's because it tries for psych complexity but fails. People always come down on one side or another side of something in every episode. Even if they keep changing their minds. It's splitting black and white into smaller and smaller modules, so if you stand back far enough, it looks grey, but it's really just a bunch of tiny black or white dots. Anyhoo, "The Nine" is outta there. Don't care.

I've had deep conversations about "Battlestar Galactica," and I think the show is in serious danger of starting to suck. I hope enough people are making noise about this that they start to take notice. As I write this I am downloading this week's episode. Please god, don't let it suck.

Bummed about the infrequency of "Ugly Betty", but very glad Betty is interested in Henry. Walter has good ideas, but his presence is so insufferable. I cannot understand why Sofia is even remotely interested in whatsisface. Sooo unattractive. But whatever.

I've started watching "Grey's Anatomy" again. Realizing that they strike a good balance on the show--a balance of what, I'm still trying to figure out. But I look forward to the show in a way that I do not look forward to, say, "The Nine," or even "Ugly Betty" for that matter. I still hate the lead actress, who has no charisma, is anorexic, lisps, has a baby voice, is 37, looks it, and should not be playing an ingenue (get me not wrong: I am 36 and have no problem with women being and looking 37, but they should not be playing ingenues). McDreamy is unacceptably smarmy. But I don't watch the show for them. I watch it for everyone else.

Finally, I have given up on "Studio 60" being good. I'm still watching it because it's fun and I like the characters, but it's cheap and easy and means nothing to me, baby, nothing. Memo to Aaron Sorkin, re: your sucky inability to make anyone bad: Dude, get over yourself. Not everyone can be a good guy. Not everyone needs to be a good guy. And guess what? In television, not everyone can be a good guy. That everyone at "NBS" is motivated by noble things is completely unbelievable, and your entire audience knows it. You're losing us, dude, and you're soft as cheese doing it. If you don't start introducing real conflict with a real face (blaming everything on faceless Christian hordes, or faceless TV censors isn't gonna cut it for much longer) we're all gonna die of terminal narcolepsy.

"Heroes" is, god help me, complex. For everything I don't like about the show, there's one thing I like, and one thing that completely puzzles me. Could it be that they know what they're doing? All the shows are up on the NBC site over the holidays and Ima watchem all. Then I will blog--god help me will I blog.

December 08, 2006

InNoWriMo Plan Change

Okay, I haven't written anything for two days because there have been holiday parties and three potential jobs that I had to wrangle. I have finally been offered, and accepted, a job, and I am starting immediately. Like, today.

What this means is that I can, and have to, start looking for a new apartment. So, basically, I'm going to be busy and tired for the next couple weeks. I had reached day 16 of InNoWriMo on the fifth (and 33K words) when I became too stupid and insane to continue. So I'm taking a break before I complete the other 14 days. I suspect I'll be able to begin again in about a week's time. And, of course, I'm going to try to work at my writing date on Sunday (if I do, that will count as a day). I'll be going to my parents for Christmas, so I can get in a week's worth there.

So InNoWriMo is turning into an individualized learning plan or whatever that thing is that they do with learning disabled kids in school. That's why we call it InNoWriMo.

I do hereby pledge to finish the month by December 31, though. Hook or crook.

December 07, 2006

In Which I Am A Bad Monkey

Arrrrgggghhhh!

I got two job offers yesterday and prepared for another job interview (which I am going to now) and went out with the Other mag folks for a group snark at The Fountain (about which I will be blogging in the Other blog), and in all of this, I simply forgot to do my writing yesterday.

Forgot!

I am a bad monkey! I do not deserve the red, bold type today!

December 05, 2006

12/5/05 Tally

Yeah, only 27,000 more words to go. Yee haw. For the past five days I've been extremely lame and it has to stop. Tomorrow will be a bit difficult, but I will manage. I will get it up, so to speak.

InNoWriMo Tally:
Today's sorry wordcount: 1322
Total wordcount: 33,066

12/4/06 Tally

I'm superlame and my wordcount is lame. But I have another issue, which is that I noticed tonight that I finally hit page 100 of my MS. But I'm already at 31,700 words. A little strange. So I reformatted my MS (originally Times 12 pt, 1" margin all around) to Courier 12 pt, 1.25 inches on right and left, like I've seen lots of people doing it. And suddenly, my MS is 142 pages long. WTF?

InNoWriMo Tally:
Today's weeny wordcount: 1230
Total wordcount: 31.744

December 04, 2006

12/3/06 Tally

I'm lame. I know. I'll get more written tomorrow. I swear. Only half a month left (sixteen days). Although, I am a little ahead of the original game, since I'm 30 K into a 50 K task. But my individual task was a minimum 60 K, so I'm right where I need to be. Can't fall behind now.

InNoWriMo Tally:
Today's sad and sorry wordcount: 1129
Total wordcount: 30,514

December 03, 2006

Kickass BSG

(Warning: geek blog post, for BSG geeks only.)

Okay, this week's episode of Battlestar Galactica rocked! It didn't rock, but it rocked!

I haven't been blogging about BSG because, frankly, it hasn't been all that good this season. The ideas are good, but the realization of the ideas ... not so much. All the hallmarks of the show that have made it such a revelation---the moral ambiguity, the multi-episode conflicts, the refusal to explain or to wrap up everything in a tidy moral or rousing speech, the ability to use the fucking visual medium already and show-not-tell---have been largely missing this season. WTF? Have they forgotten how to do it?

Every episode has been a single arc, pretty much. Every episode introduces a conflict, deals with the conflict, wraps up the conflict. Rousing speech. Basta. Plus, each episode deals with a thinly veiled Metaphor For Something That's Going On Right Now. It's like Star Trek. We're not watching this to get our Star Trek on. That's what the CSI franchise is for.

BSG is about reading a novel; investing in characters and long-term conflicts, not so we can see them neatly resolved, but so we can watch how characters behave under the deforming effects of ongoing conflict. We don't want everyone to have the chance to be a good guy. We want everyone to have the chance to be a bad guy, and then watch, fascinated, what they do with it.

Last season Starbuck had the opp to identify with Admiral Cain and lose a part of her humanity. That opp disappeared without a peep. Last season Apollo had the opp to go to the dark side, lose his courage, become a thug. This season, it's like it never happened. The Chief ended up marrying the woman he beat up in a delirium of self-hatred, and there's not a crack in their baby-makes-three happiness. Sharon had the opp to become of two minds about her betrayal, instead, she marries Helo, reconciles happily with everybody, and even gets a lovely, mythological call sign ("Athena," but damn if I'm gonna call her that). I was hoping that at least Tigh would get all ambiguous and go off and sow discontent in the fleet. But one episode after he quits, fucking Adama Rousing Speeches him and he ends up right back where he was, with flashbacks of his deliciously morally ambiguous wife, but no real edge left. Even Gaeta is forgiven and forgotten. And we've lost Gaius entirely to the cowardly side. Dude, where's my conflict?

This week's episode, despite my encomium above, is more of the same SPOILER ALERT: there's a cheeeeeeeeeeeseball scene where Starbuck and Apollo finally get it on (mercifully edited so we don't get any glowing sex scenes) and then go on to, literally, declare their love for each other to the heavens. Yak. There's a place near the end where Adama wraps up his conflict with Tyrol (and by extension, the whole crew and the whole fleet) with a, you guessed it, Rousing Speech. And the ending is pure whipped cream. Here's a hint: Starbuck and Apollo hug and tell each other how much they missed each other. Huh. I missed them too, but do you see me hugging and saying so?

But in between the cheeseass bullshit was a kickass BSG episode dying to come out. Let me rewrite it---no, let me just edit out the badness and reveal the kickass goodness within:

The crew of BSG are having a "dance," i.e. a rank-free boxing tournament where they can beat old and new grudges out of each other. We begin with Apollo vs. Helo, obviously (without anyone needing to say so, folks!) punching out their lingering resentments over Helo sabotaging the biological anti-cylon weapon against Apollo's orders. During this fight, Apollo keeps flashing back to a day and night on New Caprica where something went down between him and Starbuck. Meanwhile, Starbuck is having breakup sex with Anders in the dorm. He tells her he wants her back. She says no and goes to the dance. Apollo see her, loses his fight.

Starbuck gets called out by Hotdog and wins. A few more random fights follow (with Kat beating another woman, possibly Racetrack). Throughout there are flashbacks by Apollo and Starbuck about that one night, and also by Adama and Roslyn about the same night. The structure and pacing of the episode is beautiful; almost as good as "33," the award-winning premiere episode of the series. (If you haven't seen this one, see it.) A scene between Adama and Roslyn on the fateful night subtly suggests not merely that there's sexual tension between the two of them, but that that tension may have found an outlet on New Caprica. This is fittingly left as is. There are also flashbacks of Tyrol asking for permission to resign and raise his family on New Caprica. Adama calls out Tyrol, who doesn't take the fight seriously, until Adama beats some seriousness into him. Tyrol ultimately wins the fight and Adama (this is my rewrite) gives him a meaningful, triumphant look (end of rewrite) and shuffles out of the ring.

Tigh declares the dance over, but Starbuck can't let it go. Throughout the episode, every time Starbuck or Apollo has been punched in a fight, they've each flashed back to that one night on New Caprica, and it gets more exciting every time. Finally, Starbuck pushes Apollo into punching her and the fight is on. As we knew already, when the two are finally in the ring together, we get to see the substance of that key night. But what's really exciting about this sequence isn't that they get it on on New Caprica, but that they get it on in the ring. Apollo, who's been domesticated in this season and is just this side of boring, shows that menace contained by decency---that dangerousness that he usually masks with paternalistic authority---with bared teeth and an unrelenting scowl. Starbuck laughs and teases and tortures him until he starts hitting her in earnest. I'm glad they didn't even attempt a sex scene, because nothing can compete with this.

The fight scene is interspersed with flashbacks of Starbuck taking Apollo to the site where she plans on building a house, and telling him she doesn't plan to marry Anders. (In my rewrite, the love declaration scene is excised.) She wakes up the next morning naked with him on the ground. He wakes up the next morning naked and alone. He half-dresses and goes back to town where Adama tells him that Starbuck and Anders just got married. Apollo gives a beautiful, choked, devastated take. Just then, the newlyweds re-enter the scene and Apollo goes to meet them. Anders, unlike Adama, notes that something's wrong between them. Starbuck gives a beautiful, unreadable, half-smiling, half-crying look.

This is why these two were cast. They have that one-in-a-million chemistry that you can't fake. When they're in a scene together, Starbuck just looks beautiful, and Apollo just looks dangerously happy and baffled. This is what we go to the movies for. You could write a scene where Apollo and Starbuck sit side-by-side watching a tennis tournament---or a scene where they stuff envelopes in silence, where they do dishes---and once the actors were done with it, your panties would be wet. She is what they call in clichéland "a force of nature," a fucked up, amazing woman with a brightness she throws everywhere, an inability to reflect, and an absolute presence in the moment. He's a typical decent guy who doesn't like to reflect, either, but does like to order things according to his sense of morality. Without any Starbucks in the world, he'd be a better man, but less vivid. In her presence he lives in duality, constantly tempted to be less good, but more alive, than he usually is. And he doesn't ever understand why she does what she does. He's the one person she can push so far that she loses control of his response.

They beat each other and beat each other until they're tired (in my rewrite, we excise the flashbacks to the rest of their relationship), then they just stand there, leaning on each other for a long, long time, while the excited audience gets bored and wanders away. (My rewrite) nothing is said. No one is hugged (end of my rewrite).

Now, isn't that an episode you want to see?

*****UPDATE

Okay, after sleeping on it, I'm realizing the function of the declaration of love scene. We do need a scene where Apollo and Starbuck drop their defenses totally and are totally intimate. Starbuck's way of seduction is always contention, competition: she seduces Gaius through a poker game (whatever happened to that amazing thread, anyway? He just forgets about her), she seduces Anders through a pyramid game. But sex for her isn't necessarily about intimacy. She was perfectly happy last season to attempt to seduce Apollo as a way of keeping her distance from him. It's Apollo who invests sex with too much weight---more than it deserves, actually.

For her betrayal of Apollo on New Caprica to have real weight, they have to give in totally to one another. I get that. But to have Starbuck having sex with Apollo as a way of warming her up to intimacy, and then shouting her love for him to the heavens is just ... out of character. This is a cookie-cutter love scene straight out of romantic drama one-oh-one. Starbuck is work. You don't just fuck her and then get her to behave like a romantic lead. She has to be coaxed and won, over and over again.

So this scene needs to not be about sex, or about post-coital vowiness. The writers needed to find some way of showing them being intimate in an in-character way, showing them being playful with each other, possibly playing a silly word game or something, but in a way that allows them, slowly, over the course of the scene, to release the contentiousness of their play and turn it into something they do together, turn it into something tender and intimate. This would be especially effective in contrast to the intimacy of them beating the shit out of each other in the ring.

Over and over again, with Starbuck, the writers/producers are kickass with showing her usual MO: how she turns other people's tenderness into weapons, how she fights and lures people, and turns around on a dime. She's an amazing character. Yet, over and over again the writers/producers flub the scenes where she allows herself to be vulnerable. They almost got it right with the Casey scenes when she was in detention. But they can't seem to figure out how Starbuck herself would let her guard down. She's not a romantic lead, folks! She's deformed by pressure and heat. She can't take the straightest line, and she's far too intuitive to follow societal behavioral cues. She never does what's expected of people.

And Apollo's more than a straight man. He understands what she means very well, he just doesn't understand why. And he can't predict when she's going to turn (although all of us can by now), so he's constantly betrayed by it. So when she lets it all go, Apollo will know immediately. He should be there, with her. He should even take advantage a little bit, in his sort of bludgeoning, I-don't-get-it way. There can't ever be a perfect moment with them, because there's always a level of power struggle between them, and for either one to be intimate with the other, they have to win or lose. And neither can stand losing.

Anyway, that's how deeply I sink into this narrative. I haven't talked this much about characters since I was reading Dostoievski and George Eliot way back when. That's why I love this show so much. Real characters.

*****UPDATE II

Annalee Newitz hated the boxing episode, but don't worry, I gave her an earful on the way to the bar.

InNoWriMo Tally:
Today's totally lame and pathetic wordcount: 952
Total wordcount: 29,385

December 01, 2006

Brainfog

I'm actually a bit on a new roll with da YA nobble, but my brain is fogged in right now. I'm fighting off something icky and chesty and phlegmy. Went home early from a reading tonight and I'm now going to hit the sack with the latest episode of "Ugly Betty." In bed before 11 on a Friday night. Needless to say, there will be no 2000 words tonight, so tomorrow and the next day I will need to do minimum 3000 each.

That is all.

I Am A Sad Fish

I don't know why fish.

When I'm writing, I don't read. It has taken me a week to get through six chapters of "The Quiet American." A couple of observations on reading slowly and reading while writing:

1. I can see the seams. Yes. I can see where Graham Greene himself (yes, himself!) was thinking, was making shit up, was reinventing stuff that actually happened, was straining to get to the end of a scene, etc. Yes, I am projecting. Nevertheless, I can see the seams. They are there.

2. Graham Greene is a fucking good writer. Fucking. Good. I just read a scene which is pure, unadulterated symbolism from start to finish (an American spy and a British journalist meet in the Brit's apartment to discuss the disposition of the Brit's Vietnamese mistress, whom the American covets. The Brit is married to a woman at home who won't give him a divorce, so he stays in Vietnam and lives with his mistress comfortably, with no intention of ever going home. The American is young and single and wants to marry her. The two are discussing her fate in her absence. The American brought his dog along, who growls at the Brit -- in his own house -- when he starts to get aggro. The mistress comes home in the middle of the negotiation, watches them making fools of themselves, and then simply says "no.") Like I said, point-for-point symbolism of the coarsest, most obvious kind. Yet it works like gangbusters.

3. I am going to write about this, "Mavala Shikongo," the Terrence Malick film "The New World" and all kinds of stuff like that. Just you wait.

InNoWriMo Tally:
Today's torturous wordcount: 2023
Total wordcount: 28,433

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