Monday, January 31, 2011

Oh, Yeah. Right.

Once again, hat tip to the Angry Black Lady.

Most Insane Movie Trailer Ever

The trailer for Endhiran, the most expensive movie ever made in India.  Worth every freakin' rupee. 

Thank you, India.  And thank you, Angry Black Lady.

Take that, Sucker Punch.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Word of the Day

Quiplash: (n) the soreness experienced in the neck or brain by a spectator in a battle of wit, or the confusion caused by too much clever banter

(hat tip to Liz A, Kath N, and the other members of Tuesdays at Inner Chapters)

This Guy's been in Congress for 20 Years

He seems genuinely not to understand the causal link between the casual overuse of antibiotics and the evolution of resistant strains of bacteria and other pathogens, which is just one example of what happens when ignorance trumps understanding.  The insistence at the end that there is 'adaptation,' whatever that means to Rep. Kingston, but not evolution would be pathetic if it weren't so troubling.

Here, briefly, is how this particular scenario plays out:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What is Where You Live Worst At?

(hat tip Jason Sanford, whose blog I found this on.  Graphic and research from Pleated Jeans).

I'm really glad to know that, of all the things to be the worst for, my adopted state of Washington is number one for Bestiality.  Thanks, Enumclaw.

Friday, January 28, 2011

An Ill-Informed but Somewhat Cathartic Rant about Dentistry

So, I got a root canal the other day (thanks), after which the dentist said that he recommends I get a crown on the tooth.  Now, I get that this is standard procedure in these cases, but there's a part of me that has to ask.


I mean, I don't think they're just trying to get extra money out of me or anything.  But after drilling out every last little particle of nerve tissue and the bacteria that was eating it, he filled my tooth in with permanent filling.  The same stuff they use to patch up the outsides of teeth when they need it.  Basically cement, I'm pretty sure.  But apparently my tooth is in danger of cracking if I chew something too hard.

That is, my tooth, which is newly filled with cement or something like it, is in danger of cracking.

Why don't they fill the tooth with something harder, if that's a danger?  Is the filling material not harder than the dead nerve tissue?  One assumes that it is.  I mean, I understand that they drilled out the core of the tooth, and that they had to do so from a hole they drilled in the top.  BUT THEY FILLED IT WITH F-CKING CEMENT.  How is that not stong enough?

I think the best part was after the root canal was done, and we were talking about it, and I was asking if I needed the crown right away or if it could wait (the expense of a root canal, even at the UW Dental School, is not inconsequential) and he said, casually, "Maybe a month or two."  So I figured okay, I can deal with that.  Then he said, "Just chew on the other side of your mouth."  And I said, "You mean, like, today, while the tooth is still sore."  And he said, "No, until you get the crown."

And of course I'm going to do it.  After all, I have not spent the last several years studying dentistry (he's a grad resident, so he's already got his degree), and I was warned that almost all root canals end up needing a crown.  But there's still that part of me that can't help but think WTF?

Okay.  End of rant.  Thank you for listening.

PS  Don't forget to enter this week's Dallas' writing-related contest.  It's easy, and there're fun and prizes to be had.  You'd be crazy not to.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Contest

The last contest was so much fun, I decided to do another one.

The contest: Over the course of the next week or so, I'm going to do another revision on the short story I've been working on for the last few weeks, wrestling it into what I hope will be its final, submittable form.  How many words long do you think it'll be?

Clues:  This the the third major revision.  The first draft was 3757 words, the second draft was 4181, and the third draft was 6713.  I expect that it will be a short story (generally understood to be 7500 words or fewer) but am not completely sure.

The prize:  The five closest guessers get a sneak peek at the finished story, before I start submitting it for publication.  Besides myself, you will be the first people in the whole world to read it. I will also write you a haiku on the subject of your choice.

Bonus prize:  Anyone guessing within 10 words of the actual total will be Tuckerized in either a future story or the novel I'm working on (up to three people).  No promises as to the survival and/or happiness of the character named after you. *

The rules:  No looking over my shoulder or hacking into my computer.  Contest runs from right now until 11:59 pm Pacific time on Wednesday, February 2nd.  One entry per participant.  Leave your guesses in the comment thread here or on my Facebook page.  Winners will be announced Thursday February 3rd.

* I know John Scalzi just did this, and I'm a total copycat, but I thought it was a cool idea.  Which is why I stole it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Writing Music-Caribou

I first heard of Dan Snaith's band Manitoba (Caribou's earlier incarnation) when I missed them opening for Stereolab on the Margarine Melodies tour a few years back.  A friend of mine caught their set, though, and bought their CD (people still did that, back then).  I've been a fan ever since.

I bought Swim, Caribou's most recent record, just about as soon as I heard it was out, and pretty much since that day it's been my go-to album for writing to; sometimes I just put it on repeat in the background and play it over and over.

It works for me in a lot of ways, being active and energetic enough to provide a sense of subliminal momentum while nonetheless not demanding an active listening.  And even more importantly, the vocals are low enough in the mix that they do not unduly interrupt my own linguistic flow (or lack thereof).

Also, it's just a great f-cking album.

Anyway, here is Odessa, the first track, which in addition to being a fine song is like the Pavlovian signal that makes my writerly tongue begin to salivate.  Probably you've already heard it, but maybe you'd like to listen to it again right now.  I know I'm about to.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Dustin J. Monk, whose guess of 1391 was only 18 short of my actual total of 1409.

Runners-up are Rachael Martin, who guessed 1217, and Annie Dubinsky, who came in at 1542 (thanks for the vote of confidence, Annie!).  Runners-up receive a haiku on the subject of their choice.  Feel free to get in touch and let me know what you'd like, ladies.

Thanks to everyone for playing (and to Kai for the youtube link), and look for the next contest soon, just as soon as I can think of what it is.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Okay, I've got an hour and a half before I have to leave the office and go cook dinner for my lovely lady and her almost-but-not-quite teenaged son, and I aim to do a bit of writing on my novel.

The contest:  How many words will I write?  Take a guess, and leave it in comments here or on the link on my Facebook page that you (probably) followed here.  Closest guess wins.

The prize:  A 500-word story, written by me, about you saving the world from the forces of evil, deliverable within one week of your certification as the winner.

The rules:  No looking over my shoulder or hacking into my computer.  Contest runs from right now until 6pm Pacific time tomorrow (Thursday, January 20th).

And... go!

How many spaces after a sentence?

Thesis:  Typography nerds and Farhad Manjoo don't like the second space after sentences, and think you're kind of stupid if you do.  John Scalzi agrees.

Antithesis:  Tom Lee dismisses much of Manjoo's argumentation and engages what's left, finding that the separation of sentences by the extra space to be a useful innovation.

My take:  I come down with Lee on this one, both for functional and for aesthetic reasons.  It may just be that I am old enough that I was taught that two spaces after a sentence is appropriate (however arbitrary it may or might have seemed).  But as someone who spends a great deal of time in the contemplation of text, both as producer and consumer, I find it not only aesthetically more pleasing to have the extra space between sentences, which variance breaks up the units of sound and meaning on the page into more interesting and pleasing fragments in my opinion, but also more functional, in that I am able to intuitively recognize the discrete lumping of said units of sound and meaning in a better, more meaningful way without having consciously to think about it, which frees up mental resources to engage the text's meaning more fully, however fractional the increment might be.

Chip Delany taught us at Clarion that writing was a means with which to cause a series of effects in the mind of the reader, and, to me, a healthy component of that process is the rhythm inherent in grammar, punctuation, and spacing.  The double space after a sentence tells me, unconsciously, to pause just a tiny quantum longer than the single space between words does, which I find both appropriate and helpful.

That said, I don't hate on people who prefer the single space, though I do find myself hating on Farhad Manjoo a little.  Not for his beliefs and preferences, mind you, but because he comes across as kind of a dick in his article.  Ah well, that's polemics for you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snuff Film

Courtesy of the Salt Lake City Police Department. 

Suicide is Painless

for the person who commits it.  For the people left behind, not so much.

That's all.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Yet another thing I am grateful to the Clarion experience for is my new attitude towards rejection. 

Before that wonderful and amazing crash course in what it is (or at least might be) like to be a professional writer, I had never submitted anything to a publisher.  Okay, I did submit one thing a couple of weeks before I went, but only had the cojones to do so because I'd been accepted to Clarion.  I was totally punching above my weight-class, too, though for what it's worth they still haven't sent me my rejection, so the hope is still alive, however feeble.

But before I realized just how much rejection is part of the game, and an integral part at that, my very first one would have been devastating, because I would only have sent something I had gone over and over and over again, obssessively, until every detail was just perfect (I sometimes lose whole hours and days of writing time fiddling with the prose of the sections I've already written), and would only have been able to bring myself to risk the inevitable rejection after I was convinced that the piece just couldn't be any better.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Now you see the humiliations that authors are put through,"

he said with a good-natured smile in his voice last night, after we missed him at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, due to the random catastrophe of a blown transformer and the liability issues involved in having a book-signing when the power was out.  He was talking about his next appearance, today at noon, at the downtown Costco.

He joked about signing a gallon jar of pickles for us.

Robert Crais is a New York Times-Bestselling author and Clarion graduate (I won't say what year; suffice to say it was a while back), whose writing credits are so lengthy that their word-count exceeds the upper limit accepted by most fiction markets, and who I was fortunate enough to meet last summer when he and Kim Stanley Robinson came down from LA to see Chip Delany, my instructor and also theirs, back in the day.  He's a wildly accomplished writer and a hell of a nice guy, and he taught Clarion in 2009, the year before I went, when my new friend and fellow writer Liz Argall attended, which was how I knew that he was coming to town, since I mostly live in a bubble of my own devising.

We tried to see him last night, as previously mentioned, but he'd left about ten minutes before we got there, so we made the pilgrimage to Costco today at noon.  Liz's husband Mike joined us as well.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Clarion Writers' Workshop

Established in 1968, the Clarion Writers' Workshop is the oldest workshop of its kind and is widely recognized as a premier proving and training ground for aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction. Many graduates have become well-known writers, and a large number have won major awards. 
Clarion has been known as the “boot camp” for writers of speculative fiction. Each year 18 students, ranging in age from late teens to those in mid-career, are selected from applicants who have the potential for highly successful writing careers. 

 Applications are currently being accepted for the 2011 Clarion Writers' Workshop, and will be until 11:59 pm Pacific time on March 1st.  It costs $50 to apply and most of $5000 to attend, and if you are or aspire to be a writer of fiction of any sort, but most especially a writer of speculative fiction (understood loosely as science fiction, fantasy, horror, and slipstream), it will, without shadow of a doubt, be the best money you ever spent.

Scholarships are available.

Something like one-third of all Clarion graduates have gone on to publish, and many have gone on to successful careers as writers (no easy feat, as you will learn).  Instructors are all certified bad-asses (one of this year's is John Scalzi, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America; kind of a big deal), people who have studied and mastered the craft of writing, and can and will teach you the fundamentals of what you need to know in order to one day achieve that mastery yourself.

So what's the secret?  How does it work?  Why does it work?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"I'm rubber, you're glue..."

When Jared Loughner put a bullet in Gabrielle Giffords' head and then opened up on the crowd around her, killing, among others, a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, there was a moment, before anything was known about the assassin or his rationale, when we were all pretty sure that somebody had finally snapped and made good on the myriad threats of violence and reprisal against their political opponents that characterize the state of the right's current political discourse.  Even Sarah Palin's people believed it, as evidenced by the speed with which they tried to take down the target map and relabel the cross-hairs on it 'surveyor's symbols.'  When it came out just how batshit crazy Mr. Loughner turned out to be, you could practically hear the sigh of relief from those whose livelihoods and political agendas depended on the language of insurrection and revolutionary murder.

With their next breath, they started yelling about how it wasn't their fault, and fuck anybody who said otherwise.

After all, as anyone who's seen his YouTube videos can attest, Jared Loughner is obviously crazy, and since the mind of a crazy person is unknowable to us sane folks, it must serve as explanation enough for his actions.  It couldn't be the fault of the people on the right, because Jared Loughner wasn't political.  He didn't subscribe to the platform of the Republican Party.  He wasn't a Tea Party activist.  Sure, his political philosophy has a lot in common with the Sovereign Citizens movement, but they are, by definition, not sufficiently organized or coherent as a political faction to point a finger at, so shut up and quit trying to pin this on the people whose violent rhetoric is as pervasive as graffiti used to be in New York City.

Do you see where this is going?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The great American culture medium seems to nourish, every few years, a person who just can't sleep at night until he's blown away a dozen or so strangers.
-Michael J. Smith
I've been chewing this all over for a few days now, ever since logging on for some internet on Saturday morning and discovering that a Democratic member of the House of Representatives that I'd never heard of named Gabrielle Giffords had been the victim of an assassination attempt.

As far as I can tell, I had the same initial instinct as everyone else on the internet, that some Tea Party nutjob had finally flipped out and decided to prescribe one of Sharron Angle's Second Amendment remedies.  Given the state of things in Arizona, with its gun culture, economic woes, and sharp divisions between partisans on the two sides of our traditional political divide, it seemed like a pretty reasonable hypothesis, and I surely wasn't alone in believing that that was most likely the case.  Before the shooter was identified, and his YouTube channel, MySpace page, and the tweets and statements of those who'd known him were offered up to the national conversation, all manner of folks seemed to believe that he was going to turn out to be inspired by the overheated rhetoric of insurrection, secession, and violent revolution that has characterized the right wing of the Conservative end of the political spectrum for the last couple of years (or, if you will, the last couple of Democratic Presidential Administrations).  Even Sarah Palin's people were scrambling to remove evidence of her map of twenty congressional districts carried by McCain/Palin that had Democratic Representatives, going so far as to float one of the all-time most ridiculous and absurd spin-memes ever, that the cross-hairs on said map were not cross-hairs at all (though Palin had referred to them as such), but "surveyor's symbols."

It's easy to lose track of, but in those first hours, before we all learned just how f-cking crazy Jared Loughner is or appears to be, just about everybody realized that Occam's Razor said this guy was a right-wing nutjob, and acted accordingly.