Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Rhetoric of Failure

There was a dude outside the CTA station handing out energy drinks this morning. I shouldn't have taken one. I'm way too hyper to be at the office. (In case you're curious about MONSTER:KHAOS ENERGY JUICE, it tastes like carbonated, sweetened orange juice and may cause you to sing Beatles songs in stairwells. I expect to start twitching any moment now.)

Last night Chris Elliott and Hugh Jackman were on Letterman, and Paul Schaffer's musical cues were . . . interesting. When Chris Elliott came out (with Gerard Mulligan, who also used to write for the shows and makes frequent appearances as everyone from Oprah to Brad Pitt), the band played a Police song. I knew it was a Police song, but it wasn't until after they did their bit--a pre-taped spoof on "Ghost Hunters" which was pretty funny--that I placed it as "Spirits in the Material World." (Hence the title of this post.) So, fairly clever. At least, I thought so until they played Hugh Jackman out, to the tune of Prince's "Jack U Off." Jackman even gave the band an extra look, as if to say, "Yeah, that's my song." It was a beautiful moment.

So I've been thinking about whether to do a Thanksgiving post. I have lots of things to be grateful for, particularly lately. Friends, good things on the writing front, the potential for political change. I'm thankful for those things, and if you're reading this I am thankful for you, specifically.

But I'm not sanguine with the universe. Our country is still fucking with other countries in unacceptable ways, and the best solutions our military minds can come up with come out of a football playbook. New Orleans is still in ruins, corruption is rampant, and I can't turn on my TV without being told about Tom Cruise or O.J. or Paris fucking Hilton. Not to mention how afraid everyone wants me to be, whether it's of people who pray but are not Christians or of terrorists in Congress. Hey, fearmongers? Fuck you. Go be afraid on your own time. I've got a life to live.

The election itself is not a change. It opens the door for changes, but it could also just mean a whole lot of the Same Old Crap. So while I'm thankful for the good things I have, I'm a greedy bastard. I want better, from our leaders and our citizens and myself. I know the posts here have been pretty shiny happy lately, but I reserve the right to be pissed off. Just to let you know, Universe.

I would also really like my uncle back. Tomorrow is going to be rather bittersweet.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Two Items of Good News

Firstly, it must be noted that Justin Morneau is now the AL MVP. WOO-HOO! In your face, every person at ESPN! There is justice in the world. Sorry, Jeter, maybe next year. OR MAYBE NOT.

Secondly, my long-ish short story "Oma Dortchen and the Pillar of Story," a fairy-tale about ethnographers, swans, ash-lads, trolls, men in top hats, a crone with a leak* and, um, fairy-tales, will be part of the 2007 exhibition over at Farrago's Wainscot. I'm very proud of this story, and I'm glad to see it at a good home; Farrago's has a classy look, and they've got a helluva lineup shaping up over there. So far they've collected pieces from, well, too many people to list. Here's the list. They've also got a livejournal for keeping track of what they're up to. Details as they develop.

*Not like that.

I'm Pretty Sure I Know All the Lyrics to "Milkshake and Honey," Though

You know that recurring meme where they tell you that there was a study at X University that determined that as long as the first and last letters of a word are in place, the rest of the letters can be all jumbled up and you'll figure them out in a snap? I'm calling BUSHLILT on that. OK, that one wasn't so bad. But the thing is that it only works if the rest of the word is gibberish. If, say, the scrambled word contains actual words, it's not so easy. PRIMET a SLAML DOMESTARTOIN. AWAYNY. Why have I become so bugged by this linguistic theory that I wish to debunk it? I don't know. BESAUCE.

A headline from the past, as remembered by Archie Bunker: Hippies still trying to ruin the country! You have to wonder if the editorial staff (I mean, EROADITIL staff) wasn't deliberately trying to undercut this one with the title.

I cannot account for the fact that last night's episode of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" did not, in fact, suck. I mean, there were actually funny parts, and the characters acted in ways that were oh, I don't know, CHATCARTRESTIIC (I'll stop now). Good things: Matt and Danny, as usual. Harriet seeming more human. Actual conflicts and realistic compromises. Ricky and Ron, particularly Ron not being a cardboard cutout. Lucy Davis being set up for a much larger role. (Considering that the last time we saw her character she was reduced to the girl-who-cries-to-her-boss-about-her-bad-relationship.) There are still bad things, Amanda Peet being number one. Since I don't believe that she ever got the network president job in the first place, and she is consistently annoying and unbelievable, I couldn't care less that her job is in jeopardy. Good. Get rid of her. Steven Weber's character is far more interesting. Overall, though, the show may be on an upswing. Now if we can just get Sorkin to stay in the studio and stop talking about the ghetto and/or the Midwest, neither of which he knows a damned thing about.

Am still working my way through Austen; finished Emma (good, but a bit long, and you can see why they named the movie "Clueless") and Northanger Abbey (wow. I can't say it's a great book, because as it's so clearly a reaction to a certain sort of book it can't really stand on its own merits; but it has some great moments--Catherine Morland as Don Quixote?). In addition I'm reading Cops and Robbers by Donald Westlake. For those who aren't familiar, Westlake is the guy who wrote The Hot Rock, which the Robert Redford film was based on. I'm assuming that it also inspired the Sleater-Kinney song, but it falls into that half of Sleater-Kinney's songs where I can't really understand the lyrics so I'm not sure. What Westlake does well is write ordinary guys who feel like they can't get anywhere through legal means. He convinces you that they really don't see an alternative, and that they're not bad guys, and the whole time they're planning their jobs you wish they would just give up and go home because you're so damned worried about them but you're also rooting for them to get away with it and also wondering what it would take for you to plan that big caper and get Gwenda to work the toll booth. I don't really know what that means, it's just something she said once. What I'm saying, Westlake is good stuff.

In major earth-shattering news, yesterday I submitted things, for the first time in, like, MONTHS. And I got to put "my first novel" etc. on the cover letters. Coooool.

Not sure I'll be blogging again before I head north for the holiday (complete with writerly get-together!), so for all of you who will be eating on Thursday I just want to wish you a DICELOUIS meal. (You knew I was going to do that at least once more.)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We Always Lose to Sweden In Hockey and Eurovision

This morning I wrote a scene in which two diplomats had a disagreement over cheesy potatoes. I'm not sure if it's a good scene, but I sure had fun writing it. I suppose I should blame my recent reading of Lud-In-the-Mist (which is excellent, BTW) and the frequent exclamations of "Toasted cheese!" within.

This weekend I saw Stranger Than Fiction and enjoyed it very much. (Mildly SPOILERY comments follow.) It's meta- in some of the same ways that, say, "Adaptation" is, and while the latter is (I think) a better film overall, it's the fact that "Stranger Than Fiction" knows and acknowledges this fact that makes it work. All the questions--but why would she fall for him? Isn't the ending gratuitously feel-good?--point back to things which are stated within the film-as-text about what kind of story it's choosing to be. Good stuff. Also, Maggie Gyllenhall with a fake tattoo = teh Hawt.

ALERT! Galactus is coming!

Without a doubt, foot care is crucial for zoo elephants. (Either that, or a helluva a lot more room to roam.) But I don't see why the Animal and Plant Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is asking for suggestions from the general public on how to take care of it. Why not talk to, I don't know, biologists and such? Granted, the suggestions the article cites sound sensible, but I'm sure they've had far more suggestions for Dr. Scholl's, carpeted enclosures and one of these in XXXXXXXL.

I know that Neil Gaiman already linked this and he has waaaaay more readers than me, but the Helsinki Complaints Choir makes me very, very happy and if you haven't seen and heard the video you should do so.

One of these days I will have a more substantive post, I promise. My head is kind of bubbly lately, though, so I'll have to calm down first.