Thursday, November 04, 2010

Something I've Noticed

When Republicans win, by whatever margin, it is not only a mandate from the people, but God's will, and everyone who thinks otherwise can go suck it, and shut up, that's why.

When Democrats win, by whatever margin, it is evidence not only of voter fraud, but the hijacking of our great nation by dangerous, un-American forces bent on destroying everything the Founding Fathers stood for, and Republicans and their associated cadres of Libertarians, militiamen, and now Tea Partiers have not only the right but the absolute obligation to do everything in their power, to lie, cheat, threaten, and kill if need be, in order to take their country back.

Please, Oh Please

Let this come true.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

More Hilarious Irony, a Response to Someone's Facebook Post

Q:  It's November 3rd and I'm so disgusted I could spit.  So many things yesterday went horribly, horribly wrong.  WTF is wrong with people???

A:  Congressional Blue Dogs prevented the stimulus from being large enough, and diverted too large a percentage of it to tax cuts, which had the overall effect of stopping the economy's slide into Depression but not reversing the momentum.  As a result, unemployment remained high, even as the economy began to grow again and more private sector jobs were created than in the entirety of the Bush Administration.  Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, and in the face of persistent unemployment and economic uncertainty, the electorate did what they always do, which is punish the party in power.  In a hilariously ironic twist, the majority of Dems who lost their congressional seats were the aforementioned Blue Dogs, whose conservative voting records and philosophical bent did nothing to save them from the monster they created and then failed to appease.
 

Also, a bunch of white folks freaked out because we have a Black President.

(hat tip Kristina for the prompt)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Pre-emptive Schadenfreude, or The Silver Lining

Everybody seems to agree that today will be an electoral bloodbath, not only for Democrats, but sane people who would like to see the nation's problems addressed in a constructive manner by qualified grownups in general.  And of course I do not wish to downplay the severity or tragedy that I believe is afoot.

But there is something funny that I think will come as an unintended consequence for those making up the bulk of the Tea Party movement.

From much of what I have read, the Tea Party is largely made up of anti-Socialist activists who have lots of time on their hands to go to rallies and listen to talk radio because many if not most of them are on some sort of state-sponsored financial support, be it Social Security, Federal Disability, or Medicare.  And while they do not appear to appreciate or even see the irony of such a position, there will be ironically hilarious consequences to their activism and votes for their wing of the Republican party.

See, the two things I think we can credibly expect from a Republican-controlled House of Representatives are a) investigations, most if not all of them spurious, into any- and everything the White House does or has done, and, more importantly, b) another Government shut-down like they pulled in the '90s when they don't get their way legislatively.  And that's where the hilarious irony kicks in, because when the shut-down occurs, all those dumb fucking assholes who voted Tea Party and who live on Social Security, Disability, and Medicare are suddenly going to stop receiving those checks.  If the shut-down goes on long enough, some of them may lose their homes, or become sick, or possibly even die, and it'll be their own damn fault for not paying sufficient attention to the actual policy outcomes and political platforms of the people and party they voted for.  They'll have to live in the dog-eat-dog paradise that is the unregulated market without the social safety net government properly provides, and may their God help them when they are suddenly forced to realize just what that really means.

And, individually, it will be tragic.  Just absolutely horrifying.  And it may make me a bad person to think that it's funny, or will be.  But I suppose I am, at heart, American enough to enjoy seeing people get what they deserve, and as I am forced to watch this land that I love turn away from what I believe in my heart to be the right way forward, and to become less than it is or should be, I cannot help but take some small comfort in the suffering of those who helped bring it about.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Found this from 2004 on driftglass.  I have to admit, it's got me to thinking.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Initiatives, Referenda, and Joint Resolutions: a Guide to Washington State's Midterm Ballot

As an American, I feel it is every citizen's duty not only to vote, but to inform themselves as to the choices they have in the voting booth, and the consequences of those choices.  But I also understand that not everyone has the time or inclination to dig into it that I do.  So, as a public service (or possibly just a cry for attention), I have spent the afternoon going through the Washington State Voter's Pamphlet, reading through the wording, the consequences, and the statements for and against, and I have assembled this handy guide to how I think you should vote and why.


Please note that this is only a guide to Initiatives to the People, Referenda from the State Legislature, and State Senate and House Joint Resolutions.  I may or many not have time to write about the races for federal and state political office later this week.  I feel like people are probably already pretty set as far as the types of candidates they support, being that people generally know where they stand on the political spectrum.  But ballot initiative and the like take a little more unpacking, I think, and I wanted to devote a little time to figuring it out for myself, and apparently I've decided that you want to know what I think, too.  So here it is.


The Quick and Dirty Version:


I-1053:  NO
I-1082:  NO
I-1098:  YES
I-1100:  YES
I-1105:  NO
I-1107:  NO
R-52:  YES
SJR-8225:  YES
HJR-4220:  NO


Reasons why below the jump, for those who care to know.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Curb-Stomping the Bitch



You know she had it coming.  If the damned media hadn't edited the video you'd see that that woman was totally a Muslim sleeper agent, probably illegally Hispanic, and that the ironic Republicorp Employee of the Month award she was attempting to give Rand Paul was so dangerously unConstitutional and would have done such grievous ideological and political harm to his anointed candidacy, that the Confederacy Republic, God bless her, would never have recovered.  So really, these large and seemingly irrationally violent men should lauded as the heroes they truly are, bravely and selflessly wrestling this small, suspiciously swarthy woman to the ground and stomping the Satan out from under her disguise wig.

Hell, bitch is lucky they didn't express their Second Amendment rights, too.  You know she was asking for it.  They all are.


UPDATE:  The curb-stomper in question appears to be directly involved with Rand Paul's campaign.  Which makes Paul's non-condemnation on Fox news even more craven.  I guess what they say about lying down with dogs must be true...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sigh

You know your girl's a keeper when she sends you links like this.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reading and Writing 10/10/10

Once upon a time, Glen Cook was one of my guilty pleasures.  What's changed is that I am no longer guilty about how much pleasure I take in his work.  Put simply, Glen Cook kicks ass.

My earliest encounter with his work was the first three or four books of The Annals of the Black Company and, later, The Garrett Files, back when I was just a wee young whelp blazing through as many tomes from the Fantasy and Science Fiction Book Club as I could get my hands on.  Later, I read (and loved) The Dragon Never Sleeps, a stand-alone space opera that I found a used copy of a couple of years ago and read again.  To my great delight, it was just as good, if not better, the second time around.

So when I recently found myself gazing upon the vast to-read pile that adorns my bookshelves, with an (oddly rare these days) opportunity to read whatever I wanted, I leapt at the chance to read Passage At Arms, one of his lesser known works, a military SF standalone that is, in the words of my esteemed Clarion instructor (and literary hero) Jeff VanderMeer, the "Das Boot of SF."  If you look at the picture above closely enough, you can see where he says it, there at the top, above Cook's byline.

Synoptically speaking, Passage at Arms is a first-person narrative account of one ship's patrol into unfriendly space during a protracted war between humanity and an alien race called the Ulant.  Told from the perspective of a discharged Navy Lieutenant turned war correspondent, the story revolves primarily around the claustrophobia and paranoia of the crew on their months-long patrol through the vicissitudes and uncertainty of war in space.  Despite its science fictional premise, there's a certain verisimilitude here that really brings things home.  The narrow focus on surviving the present; the lack of information; the contempt for Command:  it all rings true.  It all sounds like what it's really like to be at war, or would be, under those circumstances. 

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Worthy Quotations

One of the great rewards of a writer's life is that it lets you read all the books you want to without feeling guilty.
-Damon Knight

Monday, October 04, 2010

Reading and Writing 10/4/10

Finished Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell today at work (not a single customer all day; I used to dream about having jobs like this).  What a great freakin' book.  It'd be easy to get bogged down in the structure of the work; it's a series of nested stories, each of which references the previous one, which are arranged palindromically, I guess you'd call it, since each ends in a cliffhanger somewhere in the middle, until the story at the center, which completes, and then the stories are reprised and finished, in reverse order, until the book ends with the same story with which it began.  But while the structure, which in lesser hands would be downright gimmicky, certainly dominates the reader's attention (and kept at least this reader's attention with the unceasing novelty of a new character, setting, POV, and narrative/dramatic arc every--for lack of a better word--chapter), there are some interesting  and insightful themes running through the work (colonialism, violent conquest, historical teleology, the way that words, things, and ideas take on a life of their own) that carry it past the merely gimmicky and into the realm of Literature-with-a-capital-L.  And it's fun, too.  The proliferation of stories and POV characters allows Mitchell a great deal of room to play (even while the underlying project has all the seriousness one might ask of a work of literature), and the result is an absolute joy to read.  Friends of mine have been recommending this book to me for years now, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.  Especially after 2666, this was just what I needed: just the right blend of levity and gravity in an interesting puzzle of nested narratives each with its own particular flavor and character but that connected to each other in interesting and not always obvious ways.  I've also got Black Swan Green, one of his later books, sitting on my bookshelf, which I hope to read soon, but, alas, will not be able to get to immediately, since I'm going to have to be more targeted in my reading in the immediate future.

Why? you ask.  Well, I'm glad you did (which is why I did it for you).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Reader's Journal 9/24/10

A few days ago, I finally finished the second half of Roberto Bolaño's 2666.  I'd begun it way back in February or March, right around the time I was applying to/frantically writing stories for the Clarion workshop, and I'd got about halfway through it by the time I was accepted (you can read my thoughts about it then here).  I put it down at that point, partly because it was pretty overwhelming as a work of fiction, but mostly because I suddenly had a lot of reading to do in order to prepare for the workshop.  After it was over (and I'd finished reading The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi, which I read for fun at Clarion (you know, in all my spare time), and which I really enjoyed, and will hopefully remember to write about sometime), and I had returned home, I decided to pick it back up again.

As I recollect, I'd blown through the first of the five books, The Part About the Critics, very quickly, getting lost in the intertwinings of the the professional (and personal) lives of a group of Eurpoean academics whose scholarly work revolved around the books of a German author named Benno Von Archimboldi.  Archimboldi bookends 2666, as the subject of scholarly interest in his work in the first book, and as the protagonist or at least the subject of the fifth.  One can only assume that his (tenuous, ambiguous, possbily illusory) connection to the three middle books, which deal with the imaginary Mexican city of Santa Teresa (modeled, I have it on good authority, on Ciudad Juarez), comprises the mystery that Bolaño invites the reader to... well, not really solve, but perhaps explore, since it seems to be one of Bolaño's central artistic tenets (at least so far as 2666 is concerned) not to solve any mysteries, but merely to present them in all their ineffable squalor and glory, that the reader may contemplate and engage with them on his or her own.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Sun, in Ultraviolet



Thank you, APOD.
Peace, though beloved of our Lord, is a cardinal virtue only if your neighbors share your conscience.
-David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas p 16

Why I Love John Cole

Because every now and again he says something like this:

You know what? Screw the damned markets. How about we start crafting economic policy that makes sense for Americans, and the market thing will take care of itself. How about we get people back to work so they can start spending and investing and saving, rather than worrying about the fee-fees of our “producers” on Wall Street. I’ve got a basic premise here I’m working off of- if more people are working, more people are buying shit and paying taxes, the market will be just fine.

 It's the complete lack of bullshit that really makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.  I've been reading this guy for years now, and I can't think of anybody who's made me say "Not just yeah, but hell yeah!" so consistently and often.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dept. of True Dat

A conservative doesn't want anything to happen for the first time; a liberal feels it should happen, but not now.
-Mort Sahl

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Enthusiasm Gap

I've done my level best for some months now to stop obsessively following politics in America.  I still think it's important (being that this is the game that determines the shape of the field and the rules of the game we all play by), but I've been trying to concentrate on other things, for the sake of my sanity as well as many other good reasons.

But I still keep my ear to the ground, if for no other reason than that obsessions die slowly, and one thing I keep hearing in the run-up to the midterm elections this November is about the enthusiasm gap between those on the left and those on the right.  The story I keep hearing goes something like this:  the wingnut right is in ascendance, making lots of noise and getting lots of coverage, because their side lost last time and so they've decided it's the End of Days, and as a result they've gone even crazier (or just gotten louder about it).  And since apparently very few of them work they spend a lot of time protesting and driving up Glenn Beck's TV ratings.  They hate Barack Obama and everything he stands for, even when he stands for the same things they do, and they're all really excited to go to the polls and elect like-minded ignorami who believe things that are completely crazy, like that doctor visits should be paid for with chickens, that social security ought to be privatized or abolished, and that tax cuts will solve the budget deficit.

On the flipside you've got the left, who're upset because Obama hasn't completely reversed the world-historical fuckups of the Bush Administration and because the political realities of actually governing (especially when the opposition party doesn't negotiate in good faith or actually want government to work) require compromises that are disappointing to them.  And apparently many of them are so upset that they are considering staying home en masse come November in order to punish the Democrats for not living up to their dreams and making everything better in the two years or so they've had control of the White House and both Houses of Congress.

Now, I have every sympathy for people who find the Democrats maddening. 

WTF?



(Hat tip Xeni J. from Boing Boing)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Quick n Dirty Chimichurri

This is a recipe (or variation thereon) I got from my Aunt and Uncle back in Florida.  They are pretty foodie kinda folks, and my uncle is one of those guys that can do just absolutely magical things with a hunk of meat and a grill.

Made this this morning to marinate some bison steaks for a BBQ this afternoon.  I'd say the proportions as enumerated below make most of a quart (which you can use as marinade and/or condiment, and which freezes quite nicely).

2 bunches flat-leaf parsley
1 large red onion
1/2 head of garlic (peeled)
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste (I use a tsp of each, more or less)

Peel the garlic, coarsely chop the onion, throw it all in a food processor, and let the good times roll.  Easy peasy and delicious to boot.  Works especially well on red meat.

Mmmmmmmm... red meat.

Update:  Ken K. points out (quite rightly) that a little crushed red pepper is both delicious and appropriate, with which I heartily concur.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dept. of True Dat

That earnest, upward-striving society of Eisenhower simplicity, of well-paid factory workers dreaming of a little summer place at the lake, and the Main Streets bustling in the cheerful early twilight of Christmas Eve, and the Beach Boys crooning about "fun, fun, fun," and purloined German physicists stashed in comfortably aire-kooled rooms, turning a few tossed-off equations into moon-shots, and Bob Hope cracking wise before a nationwide audience of car-dealers and self-satisfied Rotarians - well that America has imploded like a weevil-infested hubbard squash in a back pantry. And all the prayers to Moloch by the Jesus boomers in and out of congress won't make it whole again.
-James Howard Kunstler

Dept. of Yup

On the other hand, the 100-million-dollars worth of banking industry, brokerage industry, oil industry and pharmaceutical industry commercials that paid everyone’s salaries were bright and lively.
-driftglass

Epigram

What Americans desire most from their entertainment is to identify with the good guy as he kicks the bad guy's ass.

Mad Props!

To Tom Underberg and Kali Wallace, two of my Clarion classmates whose entries were selected for the Thackery T. Lambshead's Cabinet of Curiosities anthology.  Good job, guys.

An explanation of what I'm talking about, along with all of the submissions, can be found here

And, for what it's worth, here's mine, slightly redacted:

WOODEN STAKE.  8-3/8” long, base diameter 1-15/16” tapering to a sharp point.  Item was mistaken for a structural element of the cabinet until the discovery, in a separate wax-sealed box, of a note dated September 1735.  Signed by Drs. Flückinger and Glaser, the note identifies the item as the hawthorne stake driven through the heart of Arnont Paule’s exhumed corpse in the village of Medveda in Serbian Moravia, ca. 1726 (the posthumous certifications of Paule and Petar Blagojević by Austro-Hungarian medical authorities are considered proximate causes of the Eighteenth Century Vampire Controversy).  Dendrochonological analyses confirm item to be fire-hardened Crataegus monogyna, 250-350 years old.  Haematology samples reveal certain unexplained irregularities and traces of at least five individuals’ genetic material.  Dr. L-------- is believed to have won the item from a bastard son of Otto Habsburg-Lothringen in a card game in Paris in 1967.

Writer's Journal 9/12/10

Today's been downright writerful, all things considered.  Woke up and spent the morning doing critiques for my new writing group (or, rather, the already-established writing group that was kind enough to welcome me as a new member), finishing just in time to make the meeting in a punctual manner.  Seemed like a productive session.  I feel like it's probably about time for me to submit something for critique, though I'm not quite sure what.  Of the things I wrote at Clarion (which comprise the bulk of my shorter work), I've only revised one, and it seems like kind of a waste to workshop any of the rest, at least until I've had a chance to fool around with them some and fix the problems I know are there.  I suppose that means that the thing to submit is the one I've revised, but for some reason I left the session with the ambition that I would pick another one and fix it up for everybody (and, of course, it was one of the ones I haven't really thought about much yet, because that's how I roll).

I need to be careful about that, though.  After all, the plan is to stay focused on the (hopefully short) novel I've been developing for the last couple weeks.  I have not been terribly productive of late (hence the paucity of Writer's Journal posts here, or any posts at all for that matter, aside from my habit of passing along various and assorted pithy encapsulations and quotable quotes for your delectation and delight). 

Partly, it's that my regularly-scheduled life has taken up a fair bit of my time; I'm currently in the midst of reorganizing my files and paperwork and such, with an eye towards getting my various taking-care-of-business-type stuff wrestled into manageable and comprehensible form.  I was also, until Friday night, organizing a surprise birthday party for my lovely and awesome girlfriend Kendal, (in the Pussy Room at the Copper Gate in Ballard; later the two of us wandered down to Ocho, which is where I took Kendal on our first date (and have taken her on several subsequent dates), for some late-night tapas and cocktails).

So, partly I've just been busy with life, and not very disciplined about making time to work.  But I've also been trying to lay back and let my creative subconscious do its thing.  So far it seems to be working.  I finally got a chance to sit down and work on the outline a bit tonight, and though I definitely suffered from some focus issues (as I tend to do), I managed to get a fair bit of work done. 

I'm kind of excited with this new approach I'm trying, figuring out how it's all going to fit together before I actually start writing it.  I've always been a start, and when you get to the end, stop kind of writer, which, given the rate and quantities at which ideas occur to me, has led me down any number of paths that led nowhere besides the conviction that it was time to start over. 

So this whole planning things out in advance thing is a really refreshing change.

And it seems to be paying off.  Despite my hummingbird's attention span, I still managed to tack 1000 words or so onto the plan tonight, and I seem to be developing a structure (for the plan, at least) that's working for me.  I've got much (though not quite all) of part one figured out, two ideas for the prologue that are fighting it out in my head, and the early stages of part two mapped out as well. 

The way I'm organizing it is into three sections for each part (there are three in addition to the prologue, provisionally named Camel, Lion, and Child):  a summary of what happens and what it means, writing notes (on POV, tone, what's hidden and revealed, etc), and a basic sequence of events.  I imagine as I make more passes over the thing, the structure will continue to ramify, but I am pleased so far with how I'm figuring out not only the plot but also how to tie it to the overall structure of the novel.  I mean, I've experienced some of these sorts of epiphanies before with my previous project (the giant sprawling mess currently on the backburner while I do this more limited, probably more saleable project), but never in this focused a manner.  It's great.

As to the plan going forward, I aspire to have the outlining and preliminary work done in three to four weeks, after which I intend to schedule enough writing time (and keep the project limited enough) to bang out a draft in three to four months (say by mid-January). 

I think I'm most of the way to ready to start pushing it a little in terms of engagement.  After all, I did much if not most of the heavy lifting at Clarion, concept-wise, and it seems like the ongoing epiphany process seems to be well underway.  I've been taking it easy since I got back, waiting while my subconscious reconfigured itself and internalized the many invaluable lessons I learned over the summer.  I'm still not quite ready to start writing.  But I can feel it coming, and I think my plan, though it'll be intense, is doable, especially if I'm able to keep forging ahead with all this planning and outlining.

The only problem is staying focused, which brings me back to the first paragraph of the present installment of this writer's Writer's Journal.  Because I do also want to workshop stories, and critique, and submit for publication and such.  But I have some fear that I'll get sidetracked from the project I'm supposed to be working on, so I'm going to have to figure that out.  I've thought a little about trying to write some flash fiction (1000 words or less, for those unfamiliar with the term), which doesn't seem like it would be too distracting, and would provide sufficient fodder for submission (and rejection).  I just have to think of things that are amenable to being written in that form.  But I don't know.  Maybe I should stay focused on the project at hand, and let the rest slide, at least until I've got a completed draft.

Either way, it's a pretty exciting place to be. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dept. of Yup

So many pixels are wasted in the pundit business arguing that good people shouldn’t have to follow the law of the land, when what ought to be argued is that the law of the land needs to change so good people can get on with their lives free of state interference.
-mistermix at Balloon-Juice

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Dept. of Speak, Brother, Speak

When someone says that the drug war is a failure because instead of stopping drug use, it destabilizes narco-producing regions of the world, brutalizes the underclass, perpetuates inequality, and foments the expansion of the police-prison state, then that person has mistaken a slogan for a product. When someone muses that our "strategy" in Iraq or Afghanistan is a failure because it is not producing "a durable, non-violent resolution to . . . political conflicts", then that person is a fool. And when someone says that late, post-industrial capitalism fails to "bring together willing buyers with willing sellers in order to produce value," then I wonder in what idealized world of pure form and meaning has this man been living, because obviously, if you consider the current American economy and the global system in which it is embedded, the production of "value" is incidental to the continued concentration of material wealth and political influence. That is the point. It isn't a failure of the system. It is the system.
[...]

Cui bono, motherfuckers?
-IOZ
That last line should be the motto and first question of any serious seeker after political or economic truth.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Dept. of True Dat

When you expect stuff, you get disappointed.  When you don't expect stuff, you get surprised, and that's much better.
-Mike O.

Dept. of True Dat

Conservatives are satisfied with present evils; liberals want to replace them with new ones.
-Anonymous

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Why Damon Knight was Famous and I'm Not

Real life does not often furnish a dramatic series; if it did, our instinct for order and design would be satisfied, and very likely we would feel no need for fiction.
-Damon Knight, Creating Short Fiction p 90
 See, it's just like what I said, only pithier and more insightful.

I've been reading Creating Short Fiction off and on for the last week or two, and it's pretty freakin' fantastic.  I wish I'd read it before Clarion, so as to avoid some of the rookie mistakes that I made there, and I'm pretty sure I'll end up reading it (or parts of it) over and over again, until I have finally and fully absorbed the many, many invaluable lessons on craft and storytelling it contains.

It's out of print, but if you or someone you love wants to be a writer, or a better one that you/they already are, I can't recommend this book enough.

While I'm at it, I also highly recommend Kate Wilhelm's Storyteller.  The two of them pretty much invented the Clarion Writers' Workshop, and, in addition to successful careers as writers, they taught writing (or what of writing can be taught, which is a post for another day) for decades, and both of them have a lot to say about how it's done sucessfully.

It's funny; I spent many years convinced that I could figure out how to write on my own, and in some senses I was right.  But it sure is a lot easier when you have such handy guides to the nuts and bolts of things.  Wish I'd picked up both of these many years ago.

Truth is a Bitter Pill to Swallow

While we were distracted searching for Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, Iran began revving up its actual nuclear program and Osama bin Laden and his fanatics ran free to regroup in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We handed Al Qaeda a propaganda coup by sacrificing America’s signature values on the waterboard. We disseminated untold billions of taxpayers’ dollars from Baghdad’s Green Zone, much of it cycled corruptly through well-connected American companies on no-bid contracts, yet Iraq still doesn’t have reliable electricity or trustworthy security. Iraq’s “example of freedom,” as President Bush referred to his project in nation building and democracy promotion, did not inspire other states in the Middle East to emulate it. It only perpetuated the Israeli-Palestinian logjam it was supposed to help relieve.
-Frank Rich

Friday, September 03, 2010

Writer's Journal 9/3/10

By the last week of Clarion, I was pretty sure I knew what the plan was, at least as far as my writing was concerned.  I was going to revise (some of) the stories I wrote there, one by one, and send them out for publication or, more likely, rejection.  I was going to buckle down and write an outline for the novel I've been slaving away on for the last eight or ten years, then get to work on a draft, which I'd hoped to complete in some reasonable yet currently unspecified period of time.  Then I was going to do some concept-work on a couple of other ideas I've been kicking around. 

Oh, and I was going to start looking into putting together a Clarion Class of 2010 anthology, so we could all become rich and famous and stuff, and maybe even raise a little money for the Workshop, which is, like all worthwhile nonprofit enterprises, generally in need of financial support in order to continue its mission of training and grooming the coming generations of speculative fiction authors to delight and amaze readers of all ages and backgrounds.

That was the plan, anyway.

I knew I'd probably experience a slump in productivity after it was over.  Indeed I was encouraged by several of my instructors to welcome such a period of creative inactivity whilst my hindbrain absorbed and internalized the many valuable lessons about craft and storytelling I'd learned.  So I didn't much worry about the fact that on those few occasions I sat down to write something (even a simple blog post) that my brain turned quickly to inarticulate, unimaginative mush, and so I went on with the business of getting my regularly-scheduled life back in order without worrying about it overmuch.

Then, this week, I decided it was time to get back to work.  It was a little arbitrary, to be honest.  I had recently joined a writers group, and there was a session scheduled for Wednesday for a few folks to get together and write.  Of course I forgot to check the yahoo group, so I didn't know that noone else was going to show up, but once I was there I figured I might as well do something, so I pulled up the story I'd intended to revise next and tried to get to work.

It was not quite so difficult as literally pulling teeth, but the phenomena were not unrelated.  I kept getting lost in little culs-de-sac of word choice, and I found that my hindbrain had neglected to formulate solutions to the many problems my fellow Clarionites had so helpfully pointed out to me, nor to string together a plot or any real narrative structure out of what ideas I did have about it.

Okay, I thought to myself.  No worries.  Maybe that one needs to marinate for a little while.

So I thought maybe I'd hunker down with my novel, really get it figured out and outlined at least enough to start working on again, but it's so big, and there're so many things to figure out, that it gives me a headache just thinking about it.  Truth be told, I'm starting to think that GoATDaD and the Army of Monkeys will turn out to be my masterpiece, which means, among other things, that it'll probably be a good few years before I'm ready to complete it.  I'm still thinking about it, and mulling over the details of the plot and the themes I'm trying to string together into something meaningful, but I'm realizing that I want a more limited project to work on for now.

Which is where today comes in.  Having run into the previously enumerated dead ends, I decided to do some concept-work on another project I've been mulling over.  Despite a few obvious flaws, I was really happy with the last story I wrote at Clarion, and one of the things that were on the near-to-middle horizon was to do a little thinking about expanding it to novel length.  So today, lacking inspiration to do anything else, but feeling like I needed to do something useful and writerly with my time, I decided to do a little background work on character and plot.

Apparently, this is the project I want to be working on.  Backstory and concepts literally poured out of me, two thousand words' worth in a few hours.  My protagonist's life story, which I'd sketched out in my mind beforehand, came together as if I were reading the executive summary of her biography.  The speculative elements (some of which I'd developed for GoATDaD) fit themselves to each other and the world I'm building as if made for one another.  I even got about halfway through a basic plot/strucural synopsis before I got tired and switched over to writing this.

I don't know if I have a muse, other than my readerly self, but I definitely have what Kate Wilhem (one of the founders of the Clarion Writers' Workshop) calls a Silent Partner (her husband and co-founder Damon Knight apparently called his 'Fred'), which is basically the voice of my creative unconscious.  You can't really tell your Silent Partner what to do, from what I understand, but you can tell them to think about stuff, give them problems to solve and images or scenes to string together, and they get back to you when they're ready.

Apparently mine is most interested in this right now.  Which works for me, I think.  I mean, it would probably be good if I could focus in on revising my short stories, since those are easier to find markets for.  But if there's one thing I learned at Clarion, it's that I'm not really a short story writer.  It's not that I don't think I can do it so much as the things I naturally gravitate toward writing are longer-form, because my brain gets all excited and wants to pack all these interesting ideas into whatever I'm working on (which is one reason I've been working on GoATDaD for so long without having ever completed a draft).  I might could write flash fiction every now and again (my most successful Clarion story was only about 1000 words; its current form is only 750 or so), but for the most part, I think I am a novel- or at least novella-length writer, which I'm okay with.

Looking at where my head's at right now, it seems like what I want to do is to work out how to turn that last story into a 60-80K word novel, which is long enough for me to have room to stretch out and play around in, but short enough that it won't get away from me, and something that, if I really put my mind to it, I could plan out and get a draft of in a few months (say 4-6).  It's totally not what the plan was, but one of the things I learned at Clarion is that when you're really excited about writing something, and it's easy and fun, then that's the thing your creative unconscious wants to be working on, and that's the thing you should do.  So I think that's what I'm going to do, even though it's totally not what I thought I would or should be doing right now.

More Words to Live By

You carry either arms or drugs, but not both at the same time.
-Roberto Bolaño, 2666 p 492

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Words to Live By

Pee where you're supposed to pee, and don't steal things.
-Desiree

Monday, August 30, 2010

PAYPAL IS THE WORST COMPANY IN THE WORLD

As requested by John Cole, my favorite political blogger.  Pretty f-cked up sh-t.  Read about it here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

If such a thing were possible.  If it were possible to convey what one feels when night falls and the stars come out and one is alone in the vastness, and life's truths (night truths) begin to march past one by one, somehow swooning or as if the person out in the open were swooning or as if a strange sickness were circulating in the blood unnoticed.  What are you doing, moon, up in the sky? asks the little shepherd in the poem.  What are you doing, tell me, silent moon?  Aren't you tired of plying the eternal byways?  The shepherd's life is like your life.  He rises at first light and moves his flock across the field.  Then, weary, he rests at evening and hopes for nothing more.  What good is the shepherd's life to him or yours to you?
-Roberto Bolaño, 2666 p432

Thursday, August 26, 2010

True Dat

Profiting off crime and war should be left to novelists, filmmakers, and the video game industry.
-E.D. Kain

Smart Guy says Something Smart

Hey, maybe decades of downward pressure on real wages, the destruction of even the tissue of socially guaranteed retirement, and the artificial extension of the duration of the working life in response to these pressures has created a paucity of demand for new labor that has made economic independence economically unobtainable for young people. I'm just, you know, throwin' it out there. Maybe the near-total absence of even subsistence-level wages for people without an at-minimum four-year program of educational debt-indenturage is driving the upticking of the age of marriage and the formation of independent households just as much as "social acceptance of premarital sex." I'm just, you know, sayin'. Maybe the general trend of our society at all but the highest levels of class and income, which are principally inherited anyway, is toward debt-and-wage-peonage that is gradually reducing the viability of the independent household to exist at all.
-IOZ

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Epigram

Skepticism is healthy, until it starts closing off possibilities.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Evil or Stupid?

You be the judge.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party


Myself, I lean evil with a splash of stupid for color.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Writer's Journal-What I've Been Working (and Not Working) On

Spent most of the last week, along with many of my fellow Clarionites (-oids?  -istas?) working on a 150-word micro-flash piece for Jeff and Ann VanderMeers' upcoming The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, a follow-up to the award-winning Thackery T. Lambstead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases.

A description of the project, and my entry, can be found here (also look for entries from fellow Clarionites Leah Thomas, Gregory Norman Bossert, and Tom Underberg; entries by Kali Wallace, Nick Farrar, Jessica Hilt, and Dustin J. Monk are currently in the works).  We've been reading each other's entries all week, and it's been great fun, and great reading, too:  that's a talented bunch of people I got to learn with this summer, and I don't doubt that many of them will be chosen for inclusion in the Cabinet, as well as accepted for publication at the many and sundry markets to which we are all submitting these days.

Speaking of which, I also spent a bit of time this past week revising a flash piece I wrote while at Clarion, which I have tentatively entitled 'Emergence.'  It's a 700-word story about a hive-mind on a space station that's lost contact with the rest of humanity.  I'm pretty happy with it, I think.  I put it up on the google group today for my fellows to read through, so we'll see what they have to say.  I'm going to send it to Clarkesworld first, though it's kind of a longshot, since they only take 12 unsolicited submissions per year.  But they are a pro market, and they turn around their slush pile pretty quickly.  Jeff and Ann, who read and critiqued the original version, suggested I start there when I was ready to try and publish it, which seems like an even better reason than those stated above, since they are, if not as gods, then still pretty freakin' awesome.

That said, I have not done a great deal of writing or revising since I got back home.  It's getting better, but my hindbrain feels as if it's in the middle of reconstructing itself after being broken down into its constituent parts at the workshop, and the thought of trying to write anything (even this) makes my head go all fuzzy.  I'm told it's relatively normal, and it was suggested to me by at least half my instructors (two of whom were in the Clarion class of 1992) that I take a few weeks off after all was said and done to rest up and internalize the lessons I learned while I was there, but I do wish I felt more like being productive (both as a writer and in general).  It felt good to write that micro-flash piece (about the stake used to 'kill' a 'vampire' in 18th century Serbia), and to do a bit of work on 'Emergence,' but I've got at least three more stories from Clarion that I think I can make something out of that I'd like to be able to work on.  And there's getting back to work on my novel, which I may or may not put on the back-burner for a little while while I work on other projects (for one thing, at least one of the stories I wrote at Clarion strikes me as eminently novelizable, and much easier to write than the one I've been working on for the last several years).

Ah, the life of a working writer...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Epigram

What you owe your ideals:  a realistic understanding of the historical, political, and social world you inhabit, and a plan for advancing them that accords with that understanding.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Something I've Been Thinking About

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.
-Mark Twain
I've been thinking a lot about this quote lately, partly because I've been so engaged in the writing of fiction and the craft of storytelling, but also because of the way it plays into some long-running thoughts and speculations I've been toying with for many years now.

It's long been a contention of mine that one of the primary ways people engage with and understand the world is through stories and narrative.  From the mythologies of the Greeks and the Norsemen to the vagaries of the modern news cycle, one of the primary drivers of any phenomenon's meaning is the narrative structures it can be fitted (or forced) into.  Human brains, by nature, function primarily by recognizing patterns, by focusing in on specific details and then using those data-points to backfill a larger picture.  Later data-points are then interpreted through the established/recognized pattern and fitted into it or, if they don't fit, they are often discarded and/or ignored, since the maintenance of the pattern/larger picture is so important to the perceiving subject's mental and psychological well-being.

This is why truth is stranger than fiction (well, most fiction, anyway), because the world as it truly is is a sprawling mess of a place that is generally too complicated and contrary to make any sort of sense out of, at least by such limited creatures as human beings.  To say things happen for a reason is, at best, an assertion of faith. 

Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.  It's what we want from our narratives.  We need these patterns, these narrative structures that make some sort of underlying sense, because otherwise the world is just this crazy mess of a place in which we are lost, because nothing means anything.  Fiction is truth hammered into some sort of recognizable form, a tool we can use to understand ourselves and the world.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Free Market of Ideas

The fact that they believe they will lose the debate without that legal coercion speaks volumes about how confident they actually are in the rightness and persuasiveness of their views.
-Glenn Greenwald

This is an almost perfect encapsulation of what I think every time I come across someone who wants to legislate morality or squelch the other side of any debate or conversation.  If your ideals and ideas can't stand up to scrutiny and can't survive the crucible of reasoned argument and debate, if they can't be compared side-by-side and win on the merits, then maybe you ought to reconsider them, because by refusing to allow opposing ideals and ideas to be aired you are more or less saying outright that you don't think that yours are very strong and you don't have very much faith in them.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

"I was born," the Mouse said.  "I must die.  I am suffering.  Help me.  There, I just wrote your book for you."
-Samuel R. Delany, Nova p175

Monday, June 28, 2010

Quick Note

So, turns out I will not be blogging the Clarion experience.  Our first instructor, Delia Sherman, made a very good case last night as to why we should not (having mostly to do with focusing on our work), and I have decided to bow to her wisdom and the strength of her arguments.

As a result, I expect posting will be sparser than previously expected, though you never know:  I may just take it into my head here and there along the way to spit something out that I'm thinking about that doesn't fit into any of the things I'm doing here.  You'll just have to check periodically and see.

I will, however, continue with my plan to post micro- and flash-fiction, along with various fragments and cast-offs from what I'm working on, on my Facebook Writer page.  So if you just really need a fix, try that.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

1200 Miles Later

I have arrived in San Diego.  Too tired to talk in detail about the trip (which was good) or the four fellow Clarionistas I've met thus far (they're awesome), but I am here, and this is happening, and, so far at least, noone's popped up and said "Smile! You're on Candid Camera" so I'm just going to continue on the assumption that this is not some elaborate hoax played by the forces of evil on yours truly.

Perhaps tomorrow I will be less exhausted, and I will blog more blogfully about what's happening, but for now I am pretty well done in by three days on the road and reunions with friends old and new.  Those few who're just absolutely jonesing for some content can look to my Writer page on Facebook, where I posted a little splash of a thing that I made tonight.  Not sure how I feel about it, if I like it or not, but I promised myself I'd put new content up there most every day, and I didn't want to not do it on the first day.  So there.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The King is Dead. Long Live the King.

Change is coming to the anticontrarian blog.  Those of you that already read it probably know that I'm attending the Clarion Writers' Workshop this year (indeed, in two days).  Those of you who've found your way here from elsewhere probably know that, too, come to think of it.

Up til now, this blog has been whatever I wanted it to be:  rants on politics, work, and people in general; a few stabs at philosophy; links to things I think are cool or funny; other cool, funny things that I embedded; quotes from other writers that struck me for some reason and that I wanted to share; the occasional aphorism.

However, given the focus I expect to exert over the coming six weeks on writing and craft and particularly the craft of writing short fiction, I expect the focus of this blog will also change to reflect that.  I imagine I'll still post interesting quotations and/or the occasional video of a dancing cat.  But I'm moving into a phase where I'll be focusing almost exclusively on fiction writing, and so the political stuff and general internet-related weirdness is likely to decrease.

The plan is that I'll use the anticontrarian blog to write about writing, about the workshop and the things I'm learning there, and how I'm applying them to my own work, both at Clarion and on other projects (most notably my novel-in-progress, which is provisionally entitled GoATDaD and the Army of Monkeys).

Those of you who are interested in what I'm actually producing are invited to view my Facebook Writer page, under my full name:  Dallas Simmons Taylor.  I would be grateful if you hit the like button there.

I won't be making any longer-form fiction available online in the immediate future (and I haven't really tried selling any yet), but I will be posting flash- and micro-fiction pieces there, along with interesting phrases and fragments from works in progress that I like but can't use.  I hope you enjoy them.

Welcome to my brand new world; I'll show you around once I figure out where the lights are.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Two Haiku I Wrote a Couple of Years Ago

The mountain looming
over my fair city will
one day destroy it.

Paranoia may
destroy ya, but only if
They don't get you first.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Yup

There are many ways to distinguish between the two major political parties in the United States, but one of the more obvious ways is in how they choose to implode. Democrats, for example, tend to implode in slow motion, when their own aimless, plodding inertia turns them into lugubrious and easy targets for the right wing media, which scurries around them, draping yet another thin, disingenuous stratum of “they’re socialist grandmother killers!” over them until the whole sludgy edifice collapses from the accumulated weight, and the Democrats are crushed underneath. Republicans, on the other hand, implode like old, fat, gassy stars, when the depleted fuel of their empty ideology can’t sustain further inward pressure from their personal idiocy, and the whole mess sucks down and then spectacularly erupts into a blazing display of abject stupidity.
-John Scalzi




Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Warm Fuzzy Moments

Me to my friend (whose son was born a couple of months ago):  So how's fatherhood treating you?

My friend:  Like the first chapter of a book that you know you're gonna love.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Obama's Oval Office Speech

Can be viewed here.

In all, I can't say I was impressed.  For me, this was a lost opportunity, a chance to go big, and ask the American people to rise to the historical occasion in a meaningful way.  Which, frankly, he didn't.  Far as I could tell, his grand call to arms was sort-of kind-of urging the Senate to pass the Climate and Energy bill that passed in the House a few months ago.  Oh, and to pray.

As somebody said in the comment thread at the Washington Monthly (and I'm paraphrasing here), when the President tells the American people to pray, we are well and truly f-cked.

Here's what I would have liked to have seen:

Fascinating Stuff

It's interesting.  I had a very similar notion about the northern/southern nation prosperity gap a long time ago, which I attributed to weather, rather than time.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

True Dat

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you always lose if you never try.
-John Cole

Friday, June 04, 2010

Night never leaves the Atchafalaya, she just lies up through the heat of the day, same as the rest of the swamp creatures.  Live in the swamp long enough, you'll see her pooled in the deep cypress groves or hiding out in the black depths of a mangrove ticket, patient and sure, biding her time.  Now and then, you'll catch a glimpse of her in mid-day, in the wind-driven shudder of a palmetto leaf or in the languid dapple of Spanish moss, draping the trees like cast-off wedding finery, ivory veils aging slowly to an antique gray.  Then the sun starts down.  Slowly, imperceptibly, night takes hold.  She steals invisibly across the water, like smoke; she spills out from the wells of shadow beneath our houses.  Night's like love.  She creeps in and takes possession of everything you ever knew or hoped to know without so much as a by-your-leave.  She takes dominion of your heart before you ever know she's there.
-Dale Bailey, from The Census Taker (The Resurrection Man's Legacy, p 164)

On Dying, and What Happens After

About a month ago, my grandmother passed away after a long period of mental and physical deterioration.  She was ninety-six, and had had a good long life, with children and grandchildren and even a couple of great-grandchildren who gave her great joy.  She died peacefully in her sleep, and we buried her next to my grandfather not far from where they'd lived their lives and raised their children.

She had a Catholic funeral, since she was a devout Catholic her whole life (her last words, so far as I know, were near-endless iterations of Our Fathers and Hail Marys), and we all agreed that it was right and proper, since she remained strong in her faith to the end, even if none of us really shared it.

And that's the thing I'm wrestling with.  Not the funeral, but her faith, and, I guess, what (if anything) it means for her after death, and what that means for me.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

My Entry for the Scalzi/Wheaton Fanfic Contest

If you'd like to know what the following is about, click here.  It'll make a lot more sense when you see the picture.

Behold, this Last of Days has come.  Dark clouds roil.  Volcanoes thrust themselves skyward, hurling dust and ash into the clouds, which cause them to roil even more roilishly.  Magma flows, glowing in the darkness, which is good, because otherwise the dark, roiling clouds, which have blocked out the sun entirely, would make it too dark to see, completely ruining the atmosphere; but it’s also bad, because magma is hot and will kill you if you touch it.  Believe me, I should know.  Not that I’ve ever touched magma, because if I had, I’d be dead, and  obviously I’m not, ‘cause if I was then who would be telling you this?  Not me, that’s for sure.  But I saw it once on TV, maybe an episode of Jackass or something.  To tell you the truth I don’t really remember.  Maybe I just read about it somewhere, like on the internet or something.  Anyway, it’s not important.  What is important is that there’s no lightning, which seems weird when you think about it, but it makes sense because then the colors would be all wrong, because lightning is kind of blue-tinged, and the theme for Behold this Last of Days is definitely red and not blue, and if it were blue, well, I can’t really imagine it would be this Last of Days because even if it was lightning-ing, that would mean it was probably going to rain, which makes plants grow, and if it’s Behold this Last of Days then that probably means that there aren’t any plants anymore anyway, so lightning is out for lots of reasons, not least of which is that there isn’t any.
Anyway, where was I?
If it wasn't for high school poetry, this would be the dumbest, most fatuous thing anybody's ever written.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pure, freakin' gold.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Also, Too

In our fear, we create false histories devoid of our failures and full of super-human heroes.  We fabricate an impoverished, monochromatic history that tells us we’re wonderful and always have been.  We lie to ourselves about who we are and what we’ve done.
We lie to our students, our children, because we fear that if they learn the truth they will lose all respect for our society, they will despise our government, they will “overthrow” our power structure.
In short, we lie because we’re afraid of our kids.
-Russell King
...what we Americans are is not a stew but a salad, in which all the individual ingredients retain their unique flavors and nutrients but combine to create a greater meal.  This has always been true, as we have always been a nation of immigrants, and it is even more true today as we become ever more diverse.
-Russell King

Friday, May 21, 2010

Libertarianism and the Limits of Ideology

Just in case you've been hiding under a rock these last couple of days, here's Rachel Maddow's interview with newly-minted Libertarian Senate Candidate Rand Paul (R-KY), son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, in which he admits that he'd probably have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on ideological grounds (can't seem to get the video to embed).

For what it's worth, I don't think that Rand Paul is a racist. He goes to great lengths to say so, and I'm willing to believe him. He even comes across as a not unreasonable guy, who takes his beliefs seriously, even when they lead to conclusions that are difficult to defend.

And see, that's the sticky part. In the rarefied air, well separated from the dirt and grit of the real world in which we are all constrained to live, in which intellectual argument takes place, Paul's argument, and even libertarianism in general, has some merit, and he's to be respected for being willing to enunciate that he believes that business owners have a constitutional right to be racists and to discriminate against potential customers, even if he finds racism and discrimination to be personally abhorrent. On this ground at least, Paul is being intellectually consistent, which is laudable, if in this case almost wholly misguided.

There is, after all, a certain attractiveness to libertarianism. If everybody was cool, it might even be sort of viable in the real world. But everybody isn't cool. And that's where it all falls down.
"...Hawk, I am suddenly catapulted into a paranoid world where the walls not only have ears, but probably eyes and long, claw-tipped fingers. Anyone about me--yea, even very you--could turn out to be a spy. I suspect every sewer grating and second-story window conceals binoculars, a tommy gun, or worse. What I just can't figure out is how these insidious forces, ubiquitous and omnipresent though they be, induced you to lure me into this intricate and diabolical--"
-Samuel Delany, from Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones (in Aye, and Gomorrah and Other Stories, p 239)
Fun story, with one of the best titles ever (almost as good as We, in Some Strange Power's Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line).

Smart Guy says Something Smart

Whenever I think about the environment (Be Green; Love Mother Earth; Blah Blah Blah), I like to think of a family going out to a nice restaurant. Mom and Dad place their orders–but for some reason, the kids don’t get anything. Instead, the kids wait and watch while their parents gobble down dinner.
Their parents eat the arugula salad, the rosemary-infused bread, the sun-dried tomato farfalle, the veal piccata, and generally have a pretty great time. Maybe Mom’s wearing pearls, because, you know, it’s a nice restaurant. Dad is definitely wearing a tie–he’s classy that way. Mom and Dad go through a couple bottles of wine, linger over the tiramisu, and then, when they’re stuffed to the gills, they shove their picked-over and scraped-over plates down the table to their children, with the last bits of pasta and the runny lines of sauce, and some chewed-up bits of meat, and say, “Here kids, eat up!”
So the kids get the scraps, while their parents get the meal.
And then, to top it all off, Mom and Dad get up from the table and walk out the door, leaving the kids to deal with the pissed-off waiter who just showed up saying that the credit card has been declined. So the kids end up washing dishes in the back for the next couple hundred years to pay off the bill.
That’s Environment 101.
-Paolo Bacigalupi

This Is Awfully Smart and Well Put-Together

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any sort of self- deception or illusion, that a light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognised.
-I Ching, Hexagram 5 (Calculated Waiting), Wilhelm translation

The Perverse Incentives of Modern Day Capitalism (first in a series)

BP has wasted so much time on efforts to save the oil and its investment in the well that it is just now getting around to attempting to seal the well. It's pretty simple. Fuck BP. Fucking blow it up. Fucking collapse the earth around it. And be fucking done with the spill and get to the clean up.
-The Rude Pundit
It has long been an intention of mine to produce a series of short think pieces on the perversion of incentives inherent in modern day capitalism--how the elevation of making a buck to the highest (some might say only) good creates not only negative objective outcomes, but actively devalues much that is good and beautiful and righteous and true in the world.

I'll give you an example from the wonderful world of booze, a world I am both professionally and personally conversant in, and that I think illustrates the sort of thing I'm getting at.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This Made Me Smile

Furthermore, the lack of appropriate outrage from the left on this is also an outrage.  In response, we need to put together two simultaneous protests--one against the outrage, and one against the outrageous lack of outrage expressed by the absent left.
-Chris Bowers
 The whole thing's pretty funny.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Talk About Yummy Couture...

More here (hat tip the internet)
And the first time some brave patriot gets sloshed and lights up a honky-tonk, you know whose fault it will be? The patrons who weren’t packing heat. If they’d had guns, they could have stopped him.
-DougJ
Speak, brother. Speak.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Delia Sherman's Changeling

I'll start by saying that Changeling is not the sort of book I'd've likely picked up on my own. Were it not for the fact that its author, Delia Sherman, will be the instructor for my first week at Clarion, I'd likely have gone my whole life without reading this. It's not that I don't like fantasy. I do. It's just that the kind of fantasy I tend to read these days is more in the China Mieville/Jeff VanderMeer vein.

That said, I'm really glad I did read it, because I really liked it.

Set in New York Between, a sort of fairyland version of NYC populated with imaginary monsters and spirits from all over the world (not unlike the real city), Changeling is the story of Neef, a mortal child stolen by the fairies and replaced with one of their own (which is what a changeling is, btw), who breaks the rules of the Genius of Central Park and has to go on a quest in order to return to her home and the life she has always known.


Like many a YA fantasy heroine, Neef is long on moxie and short on foresight. She knows the rules (we all do, because we all grew up listening to fairy tales, which are really valuable life lessons disguised as parables and stories and where the negative consequences of foolish actions are exaggerated for pedagogic effect), but she's at that age where rationalization and the beginnings of adolescent entitlement start to blind us all to the realities of the world as it is (as opposed to how we think it ought to be). We've all been there: old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway and rationalize after the fact. Of course, she learns some valuable lessons along the way, and everything comes out alright in the end; but, as with all quest tales, the journey is the destination. And for the reader it's an enjoyable, engaging page-turner of a journey.

Can't Get This Song Out of My Head



Odessa, on Caribou's new album, Swim, which is not at all what I expected it to be, but is pretty awesome nonetheless.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Further Evidence that Teabaggers are Dicks

Some folks, while caucusing in a rented classroom at the nearby middle school, got it in their heads that the classroom’s teacher was a commie liberal indoctrinating the children with commie liberalism, and so they just dug through all of his stuff and trashed the place.

Jeff VanderMeer's Ambergris Cycle

Thanks to a bout of unexpected travel (with its attendant lengthy spans of time in which one is obliged to sit in place and do, essentially, nothing, during which a good book (or two, in this case) can really come in handy for the whole staving off boredom, madness, and anxiety thing (painkillers also work, but are not nearly so entertaining)), I have recently had the opportunity to finish the second and third books of Jeff VanderMeer's Ambergris Cycle, Shriek: An Afterword and Finch.

Being that Mr. VanderMeer will be one of my instructors this summer at the Clarion Writers' Workshop, I'm going to do my best not to gush here, as there is some small chance he will read this and it would not be seemly and could conceivably make things a bit awkward come the end of July. But given that his presence at the workshop was the primary driver behind my application (I was perfectly content being all autodidactic and such until I realized I'd have a chance to work with him and the other stupendous badasses who will be teaching there this year), the possibility exists that I will not be able to stop myself.

But the truth of the matter is that I love these books, and am amazed and inspired by them, as individual works and, most especially, as a whole. I'm going to do my best not to spoil them for anyone who might be inspired to give them a read, but there's a lot of formal innovation and dialogic interplay that I'd like to suss out and explore, because I'm so bleepin' impressed with it. I think I should be able to do what I want to do without unduly exposing the overall narrative arc of the cycle or ruining the enjoyment of the story as such. If I do, apologies in advance.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Sounds About Right

OK, put the kids to bed and lock the cat in the cupboard, because I'm going to reveal an Awful Truth about the Real World.

Ready?

The Real World is run by dolts, drones and particle-board humdrums.

There. I said it. And there ain't no takesies-backsies on Teh Internets.

Me and mine have traveled far and crossed many latitudes and longitudes across the great, wide Sea of Gainful Employment and -- with all of the usual exceptions excepted and stipulations stipulated -- I can tell you flat out that, whether you're taking the measure of the titans of industry, or education, or gummint, or not-for-profits, or faith-based organizations, like as not the people you will meet in the executive suites are some timid, risk-averse motherf**kers.

Not necessarily evil people, but not the tamers of frontiers, conquerors of mankiller mountains or tortured geniuses who have shed blood and sinew to hew the Great New Thing from the raw rock of an unforgiving Universe. Instead, you'll find Organization Men who roll off the assembly line hard-wired with a whole set of behaviors optimized to mute and mollify and reflect back on their superiors flattering images of themselves.
-Driftglass

Sunday, May 02, 2010

(hat tip Megan M.)
Hear fawking hear.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Found on a Coaster in the Bar

I thank the fuck-ups in the world for showing me how to be a better person and live the life I want to live. Thanks fuck-ups.
-S.B.

Thank you, S.B. Thank you.

True Dat

Every asshole who ever chanted 'Drill baby drill' should have to report to the Gulf coast today for cleanup duty.
-Bill Maher

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I really like this guy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hmmm...

It's almost as if the right-wing crowd is only offended by government abuses when they're imaginary.
-Steve Benen

I hadn't thought about it that way, but you have to admit, it makes a certain amount of sense. Otherwise, why is it that the Tea Party, who are, apparently, so upset over government overreach, not rallying against Arizona's new immigration bill? Seems like it'd be exactly the kind of thing they'd be up in arms against, if their stated reasons for their protest were factually accurate.

Whatever the explanation, I'm sure there's not a racial component to it. I mean, it's not like we have a Hispanic in the White House.

Credit Where Credit is Due

"...It does offend me when one out of every three citizens in the state of Arizona are Hispanics, and you have now put a target on the back of one out of three citizens, who, if they're walking their dog around a neighborhood, if they're walking their child to school, and they're an American citizen, or a legal, legal immigrant -- to now put a target on their back, and make them think that every time they walk out of their door they may have to prove something. I will tell you, that is un-American. It is unacceptable and it is un-American."
-Joe Scarborough
He's right. It is un-American.

It's like in every movie ever about Nazis or Commies or Fascists or whatever other totalitarian regime, historical or fictional.

"You have papers?"

I don't think the incrementalism is creeping anymore, at least not in Arizona.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Just About the Dumbest F-cking Thing I've Ever Read

But should the Tea Partiers actually aspire to break out of that range, attract lots of young people and become something more than just entertainment for Fox News, I have a suggestion:
Become the Green Tea Party.
-Tom Friedman
Because the teabaggers are so environmentally conscious, after all.

Seriously, they pay this guy to write this shit. In some circles, he's considered quite the deep thinker.

Also.

This Seemed Like a Useful Encapsulation

[T]he whole idea of civilisation – the collective decision by all of us not to screw each other over even if we can.
-Matt Taibbi

Had to Repost This in Full

Found at The Agonist (hat tip to Russel King for the link):
To be a Republican you need to believe:
1. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton
2. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's Daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.
3. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Viet Nam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.
4. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq .
5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational drug corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.
6. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing
veterans' benefits and combat pay.
7. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.
8. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money.
9. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism. HMO's and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.
10. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.
11. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.
12. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet .
13. The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.
14. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your
recovery.
15. Supporting "Executive Privilege" for every Republican ever born, who will be born or who might be born (in perpetuity.)
16. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960's is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80's is irrelevant.
17. Support hunters who shoot their friends and blame them for wearing orange vests similar to those worn by the quail.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Best Amazon Review Ever

Wow, I guess there really is something to The Secret.

Ultraviolet Sun

I have to say I loved the sheer randomness of it all-there is nothing more liberating than playing an illogical game where only you understand all of the rules.
-Jeff VanderMeer, Shriek: An Afterword, p.77

Thursday, April 22, 2010

To the Late-Night Kids From the Bar Last Night

So, I generally have two responses when people I don't know ask me to hook them up at the bar. The thing you have to understand is this: at this point, you're already an asshole. In fact, even if I know you, and have swung you a little love in the past, you're still an asshole for asking. The reason you're an asshole is that a shot is a shot and the price is the price, and it's up to me, not you, to decide whether and when to bend or break the rules. And if I do decide to do that, it's usually for a good reason: either you're a friend, or a regular, or somebody who's been good to me, who's built up a bit of goodwill through playing the game according to the rules.

And one of the rules is this: you never ask for anything that you do not expect to pay full price for, no matter what your history with the establishment or the person serving you. Period. It's not classy, and it's not okay. It may be that you have some relationship with the place, or the people serving you. It may be that you have been comped a drink or two in the past, or had your bill discounted because the people there like you. Good for you. Probably you did something to deserve it, and you should figure out what it was and keep doing it.

But when you walk in the door, you have your money ready and you expect to pay for what you get, just like everybody else.

"In this entire year and a half of cleaning up the mess, it's been tough because the folks very responsible for a large portion of this mess decided to stand on the sidelines," Obama declared. "It was as if somebody had driven their car into the ditch and then just watched you as you had to yank it out, and asked you: 'Why didn't you do it faster -- and why do I have that scratch on the fender?' And you want to say: 'Why don't you put your shoulder up against that car and help to push?' That's what we need, is some help."
This guy is so toast.

Chase Whiteside Strikes Again



There's a lot I could say about the people documented here, but I think they say everything that needs saying on their own.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pretty Much

The Left, on the other hand, is more or less organized around the difficult task of Solving Actual Problems, one of which is the fact that Conservatives broke the country, and another of which is the fact that the Conservative Movement has lost its fucking mind.
-driftglass
Time for the left to nut up, and the right to nut down.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Political is Personal, Too

"There's so much frustration going on right now with people not being heard," Tidrick said. "And we see this country in a spiral downward. People are lashing out in different ways... You take somebody that's had a bad day and sometimes they may say things they regret later. But until things get straightened out, we don't have a lot to hope for."
-from Eli Sanders' interview with a speaker at the Yakima Tea Party rally on April 10
In the above quote, Brad Tidrick is trying to, if not defend, then at least explain some of the rage that might've led Charles Alan Wilson to make more than a dozen threatening phone calls to WA Senator Patty Murray, cluminating in such statements as "Somebody's gonna get to you one way or another and blow your fucking brains out. If I have the chance, I would do it."

Obviously (at least it should be obvious), there's no real defense for such behavior. I'm all for rigorous disagreement in the realm of politics and ideas, but when you get to the point of making death threats, you're no longer debating the issues, you're essentially engaging in terrorism.

But there's a line in there that reflects something I've been thinking for a while, and I wanted to highlight it and tease out some of the implications. The line is "You take somebody that's had a bad day and sometimes they may say things they regret later."

I think a lot of what drives the passion that many people bring to their political views, especially those whose politics is driven by anger and rage, has little or nothing to do with politics at all.