Monday, December 26, 2011

When I just can't go there with you.

So, it seems that I'm not the only person walking around with a chip on my shoulder.

Depending on what you read and where you spend your time online, you may have heard about Work It, a new sitcom set to kick off on ABC. Both GLAAD and HRC have come out against this show where two men decide to dress as women in order to land jobs. The feeling is that it's offensive to the transgender community.

I've not seen the show, but have spent a good deal of time reading whatever I can find about it and here's what I've gathered.

The show is horrible. It goes for easy laughs by hauling out every kind of stereotype it can get its hands on.

But, even when reading a review of the show written by an activist whose work I have admired for some time, I'm not able to get fired up about the men dressing as women aspect because, basically, it seems to be the least offensive thing the show has going for it.

See, if I thought that what the writers behind Work It had actually taken the time to craft some kind of mean-spirited sitcom intended to target transgendered individuals, then I'd be on board. I'd be posting and hollering and signing on to any letter I could get my hands on. But that's not the case here. The writers who came up with Work It seem to have simply created a really bad, really unimaginative show. For that reason I can't really get more worked up about this show than I am about, say, Two Broke Girls.

I'm irritated that the bar is being set so low. I'm offended that, for whatever reason, the former big three networks seem to have decided that they're going to let cable handle developing shows that involve creativity and imagination.

It also has me wondering what the line is. The Birdcage was considered funny. There have been no protests over classic movie channel screenings of Some Like It Hot. La Cage Aux Folles has not earned ire and consternation. I've not gotten a petition about Bugs Bunny dressing up as Carmen Miranda. Men in drag (1) has always been a part of comedy.

And all this is to say nothing about the lines so many have worked very hard to draw between drag, people dressing in clothing typically identified with the gender that is not their own, and being transgendered. One is costume, the other is identity.

So what is it about this show that has touched a nerve?

1. And in the case of several episodes of I Love Lucy, women in drag.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fits and pieces.

I'm angry.

Lately I've been in one of those periods where my time has largely been spent writing and editing for a number of BIG projects, which means that my radio listening has been more music than talk. 

Today, however, I let NPR news and talk run in the background. This was not a good idea because, as the day draws to a close, I find myself ridiculously angry. I'm angry at Congress. I'm angry at my state's governor. I'm angry at President Obama and the sideshow exhibit that is the GOP line-up. 

I'm angry at the economy and the Tea Party and those people whose only contribution to the country's educational system is telling people who actually work in classrooms all they're doing wrong. I'm angry at the idea of "useless degrees", as though the problems that we face is because there's an excess of intellectualism. I'm angry at a political party that is letting Newt Gingrich lead in the polls while, out the other side of their mouths, they trumpet family values and a return to morality.

I'm angry at bullies that cause kids to take their own lives. I'm angry at the parents of bullies who have failed not just their own child but someone else's.

I'm angry at church leaders who use faith as a bludgeon and not a candle in the darkness.

I'm angry at world leaders who are letting our air and water be poisoned and short-sighted corporate leaders who care more about the bottom line than the burned out horizon they are leaving for those who will come after us. 

I'm angry at people who mock the Occupy movement because that's easier than trying to understand why it's happening. I'm angry at people who have forgotten where they've come from. 

I'm angry.

And here's the thing. I actually have one of those jobs where I am working to try to make a difference. In fact, I've spent my entire life working places where the rule of the day is to make a difference, to make things better. I'm not ashamed to say that today is one of those days where I get to the end of things and ask myself, why? 

No answer right now. No tidy little bow.

I think sometimes you just have to let yourself be angry.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ooo-ah-oh.

Years ago, when I had started, without really realizing it, actually being a writer for a living, I attempted to open a particular piece by referencing The Buggles "Video Killed the Radio Star".

"I heard you on the wireless back in '52, lying awake intent on tuning in on you, if I was young it didn't stop you coming through..."

You know the one.

Well, as it turns out, my boss at the time did not and he insisted, perhaps rightly, that no one would ever understand the reference.

And as you might be wondering how that was possible, that he was unaware of a song with lyrics like, "...now we meet in an abandoned studio, we hear the playback and it seems so long ago, and you remember where the jingle used to go...", I will say I do not know. I don't think it was his age. He was a journalist so it wasn't that he was holed up in a physics lab somewhere or, as is sometimes the case with Leopold, a practice studio where it is always the early Baroque era. But he had never heard of the song so the intro paragraph I loved vanished.

I've been thinking about the song lately (1) and all the times that video, also known as technology, has been going to kill something.

Or, more accurately, the times when technology has been going to kill something and, instead, winds up creating the kind of shift in thinking necessary to open a given form up to become something different.

That was one of the realizations that was strong and forward in my head when I came back from the writers' workshop I attended over the summer. People there were doing things that I never would have considered doing on my own. Things like short narrative poems that seemed more like a chunk of short story more than what I would have thought of as poetry. Novels made up of one page intervals. Short stories that read like a single sentence. Now, Lou Beach's collection of stories that took their word count from the original restrictions from The Facebook. It's one of the many reasons why the only universal rule I know of when it comes to writing is that you need to read a lot. You need to constantly be investigating what's out there to see and learn from.

A friend recently took a trip to South America and declared it a sabbatical to recharge his creative juices. That's not really an option for me, but I'm going to see what might be out there for the desk-bound among us.

Because, really, if The Buggles were wrong about video killing the radio star, maybe they were also wrong about our being able to rewind.

Or, at least, recharge.

1. And perhaps playing it a bit too much.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NaNoNoMo

As I had predicted, I ended up bailing on this year's National Novel Writing Month early. By the end of the first week I wasn't even posting a word count anymore.

Long story short...the whole enterprise simply became more frustrating than fun. Maybe it's because so much of my time is driven by deadlines and constantly shifting due dates. Maybe it was juggling BIG issues. Maybe it's because I was left largely on my own, without the weekly check-in/writing date that The Novelist and I did to break up last year's NaNo, I just don't know.

Trying to come up with a solid reason would only end up making this short story much, much longer.

Not 50,000 words long. But longer.

And so, I continue trying to turn little bits and pieces into stories likely destined for the proverbial desk drawer.

Is it just me, or does anyone else hear a Peggy Lee song playing in the background?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Short. Temper.

The Roller Derby Queen and I were having a conversation where she said one of those things that makes perfect sense.

Bad travels fast.

Okay, that wasn't exactly what she said, but that's the essence of it.

When something is going wrong in your life it's more than likely that it's going to end up overshadowing the everything. It ends up taking all the air out of the room.

Which is why NaNoWriMo is leaving me in the dust. Instead of doing the writing I should be doing to catch up on the word count, I can't seem to put a single coherent thought together. Which is making NaNoWriMo exceptionally frustrating.

Which is making me think of walking away from it for this year.

Truth be told, I don't actually think I'm a novelist. It's never been my great ambition. I love the short story which is unfortunate in a time when some will tell you that the short story is over. Which, ultimately, doesn't really matter. When the books are all destined for the drawer in your office, it's remarkably easy to ignore market trends.

But, tonight, I just can't decide. Am I short, or is it simply my temper?

BIG troubles

So, today I ended the day with a call from my BIG (1) boss.

It came at the end of one of those days where it feels like, one after another, things are happening to you and there's nothing you can do to slow it down. Earlier, before the BIG boss, I had a call with my really BIG boss, BIG's BIG boss, and had a moment where every emotion that I was feeling came clearly enough to the surface that I heard the voice on the other end of the phone change. Change in a "it's not that big a deal" way...

Which left me feeling both embarrassed and more than a little childish.

So, by the time my BIG boss called I was sufficiently frayed.

The details of the conversation are unimportant except to say that they returned to a conversation I've found myself having frequently with folks, and it is this:

Writing is actual, real live, honest-to-sweet-Mary-above work. It takes skill. It takes talent.

And some folks refuse to recognize this. They know more than I do and that's that. There's nothing to do to change that fact.

At the end of the day, I was told, I just have to let folks do with my work what they feel they need to do.

Pieces that I spend hours laying out and fine tuning?

I need to leave them open enough so that people, people without degrees in art or design or writing, can  change them up as they see fit.

So why, I wonder, am I there? Because, honestly, I'm increasingly confused about that.

1. Big Important Group...my workplace.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I'm gonna let him fly.

So, among the things that I do NOT recommend doing during NaNoWriMo (1) is a morning of errands and laundry that includes a stop by the comic book shop.

And why is this, you might ask?

Because you will find yourself sitting and working on your manuscript wondering what possible harm there could be in stopping long enough to read Justice League Dark or the new issue of Batman.

I also received, for my purchases, a Legion of Super-Heroes Legion ring. If you are unfamiliar with either the Legion or the accompanying ring it's like this:

  • The Legion of Super-Heroes is a team of heroes from the 30th and 31st century who are buddies with Superboy. Saturn Girl. Lightening Lad. Bouncing Boy. Matter Eater Lad. It's like that.
  • Members of the Legion were each given a ring that allowed all of them to fly. 
And now, I have one.

Of course, on my way out the door, Comic Dealer did remind me, "Just don't test it out. Okay?"

Somewhat amazingly, this warning appears no where on the ring...which is really just kind of asking for it.


1. Besides spending time writing in your blog as the 10,000 word checkpoint is just 24 hours away. For those who are wondering, the NaNoWriMo counter says that, at the pace I am going, I will finish my novel by February 1. This sounds impressive, were it not for the fact that, as I may have mentioned, I'm still finishing last year's novel. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The first rule of NaNoWriMo...

The first rule of NaNoWriMo is to simply write.

Write hard.

Write fast.

Write messy.

Don't think too much about what it is that you're writing or where it's going because, the first time you start to invest too much in this 30-day draft, in cleaning things up and worrying about what will be taking place in your plot in a few days or a few hours from now, you will get bogged down. You'll miss your daily word counts. The little counter that tells you how you're doing will start to place your reaching the 50,000 word goal in late December, sometime in early January.

I have already, as you know from my previous post, looked down and tripped over my own shoelace.

I am also, as you will also notice, spending time and wasting words here in my blog and not in my manuscript.

A manuscript that I have, despite knowing that NaNoWriMo glory rests not necessarily in the quality but in the quantity, started already to worry about. Despite having two projects already going, two manuscripts that need my attention and, ideally, some significant portion of my brain power, I'm dismantling and re...mantling (?) the draft that I started just three days ago.

I'm the literary equivalent of the buxom blonde who twists her ankle while running away from the zombie in heels. I looked back.

The second rule of NaNoWriMO is never look back (1).

1. I have no affiliation with NaNoWriMo. I am in no way empowered to make rules for them.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoUhOh

So, as I did last year, I'm tackling National Novel Writing Month.

I have not had the excellent start that I did last year.

Some of this is because I don't have a writing buddy that I am meeting with on a regular basis as I did when The Novelist and I were using NaNo as an excuse to get together and eat ice cream.

Some of this is because I've been slammed by work deadlines. The less I say about these, the better. We'll just say that I'm having some BIG problems of late.

And some people are awful.

But much of the issue is stemming from the fact that I started an idea that I find I have no interest in at all, mostly because I fear I have created a lead character who is entirely uninteresting.

And why is that?

I believe it is because the individual that I put on paper is likely 20 years younger than the character that is shuffling about in my head. The character in the manuscript I have been writing has short blond hair. In my head, he is a balding, what's left of his curly red hair is only on the sides. He has a paunch. He wears tweed trousers and thick rimmed glasses and, for the purposes of the where and when of the story, he would likely have a raincoat of some sort. In my mind, it's a very traditional khaki colored trench with at least one missing button.

So why, I find myself wondering, is this other guy wandering around in my story while the person I think I was meant to be writing about is stuck in my head.

I have no idea if trading these two guys out will solve my problems. I have no idea why there's some blond guy in jeans bumping about the pages that I'm struggling to write. I mean, what's so scary about putting yourself in the head of a sixty-year old guy whose facing an occupational crisis and is feeling pushed out and overshadowed by people whose greatest advantage is being hip and attractive and whose greatest talent is how much they've achieved at a very young age.

Oh.

Right.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Artboy: Embarrassing Myself Since 1971

This summer I ran away to a writers conference.

It was a birthday present to myself that did not go exactly as planned...largely because of this unfortunate habit that I have of not remembering exactly who it is that I am.

See, people who know me often do not realize that I am painfully, terrifyingly shy. If an event entails mixing and mingling, my stomach sinks and I go quickly into panic mode.

So, really, nothing says "recipe for success" like a campus full of strangers, the prospect of sharing my writing with said strangers and, because why wouldn't it, the work stress and deadlines that followed me deep into western Massachusetts.

And then there was my mobile.

Because I was juggling work calls, work e-mails, urgent work calls, urgent work e-mails, unimportant work calls and e-mails, and "Oh, I totally forgot you were on vacation" work calls and e-mails, I was toggling my phone settings roughly once every few hours.

Which is how I forgot.

Sitting in a reading by the author Steve Almond, one of the authors who I had specifically attended the conference to hear read and, if possible, workshop with, my phone began to ring. That's right. Steve Almond. The guy who wrote Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life and the absolutely and totally freaking brilliant Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America (1). As intensely humiliating as it potentially is to say this, Candyfreak falls into the category of books that changed the way I think about writing.

Yes. That's right. A book about candy made me want to be a better writer. Based on that look, I'll tell you about the Twinkie book in another post.

And so, of course, it would be Steve Almond's reading when I would forget to switch my phone to silent.

"I bet whoever's phone that is feels like a real asshole," Almond said without missing a beat.

"He does," I said to the two women in front of me who had turned around when the ringing started coming from my workbag.

Well, tomorrow night, if you're in Newtonville or somewhere nearby, it's your chance to make a jerk out of yourself in front of author Steve Almond at Newtonville books. He's not only an amazing writer, but among the most entertaining readers I've heard.

You can also check out his website to see other places he'll be reading.

Really, you'd be an asshole not to.

1. Which brought the Idaho Spud candy bar into my life.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Draw your own conclusions.

I am feeling in the middle right now.

On the one side, I'm watching friends and even a colleague or two who are doing exciting, incredibly creative things that, even if they were not my friends, would impress me.

On the other, I'm working on several deadlines that require me to stick to formulas that I've already created. They are, if we were to borrow from the language used to describe other media projects, elements of the "legacy" media.

And, and I'll do this up here and not in footnotes, here I am using the word media as an element of communication and not, as the shorthand is often used, to imply a journalistic endeavor.

I'm writing and designing print documents...items that some will simply tag in their PDF form onto an e-mail and send with the same care and attention with which you would forward a knock-knock joke or electronic chain letter.

I even had a meeting today where I realized, midway through, that I felt like I had run out of ideas. A few of the items I proposed were even met with the phrase that makes the creative mind go cold, "Oh, we did something like that a few years ago."

And now I'm sitting here wondering not just how to get my own creative juices flowing, not just how to get excited about work again...but how these folks feel as they're watching their projects take flight.

I e-mailed one of them today, cheering the fantastic piece that he had helped bring about, and his response sounded a bit like he was surprised that I would have been so taken.

So, is that what it is when one of the expectations of your work is that you will be creative, always wanting to do more, better and surprising?

Are you simply always living in the eye of the hurricane?

And, if that is the case, then how do you know the difference between the hurricane's eye and creative dead air?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Squatters.

So, if you stopped by earlier today you might have noticed a comment had been made on one of my posts.

It seems the reader, whose name I did not recognized, was so moved by what I had written that she decided to offer low to no interest loans to anyone who happened to come by.

I know. It's very, very generous.

The world would be a better place if there were more fake-person-robo-spammers posting to random blogs about their dubious financial products.

It reminded me of a running issue that I had with another arts writer (1) who, out of the blue, began placing links to his stories in the comment section of my reviews. On a few occasions, the message left was, essentially if not explicitly: "Artboy might have hated this show but our critic thought it was great. You should read our review here [insert link]."

The situation infuriated my editor who was mostly angry about the fact that the other arts writer was plugging his publication for free on our website. It was free advertising that was capitalizing on the fact that I was a critic who people actually read.

Now, my writing is simply anonymously spammed.

How's that for a really depressing virtual reality check?

1. For any who happens to know the individual I am talking about, you will likely be amazed that I refrained from placing the word "writer" in quotes.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Holy [BLEEP] Batman.

So, Frank Miller wrote a graphic novel.

I love Frank Miller or, more accurately, I love Frank Miller's work.

Like a lot of self-identified comics geeks, The Dark Knight was nothing short of epic in my world. It's beautiful and dark and moody and was, truly, my ideal for what a comic book should be.

He wrote, and another huge favorite of mine Bill Sienkiewicz illustrated, an Elektra: Assassin mini-series that absolutely blew my mind.

He created Sin City. Pant. Swoon.

Sigh.

But now there is a significant ruckus being kicked up about Miller's new book, Holy Terror, which some have said falsely conflates Islam and the terrorism of Al Qaeda.

Comics Alliance, my personal online workday cigarette break, closed out today with the following quote from Miller: "I can tell you squat about Islam. I don't know anything about it. But I know a goddamn lot about Al Qaeda and I want them all to burn in hell."

Shocking quote, right? The kind of thing to drive folks into a frenzy.

But here's the thing. After reading that quote I went to Frank Miller's website, and here's what he had to say:

"Let's keep in mind that, back in the forties, Superman punched out Adolf Hitler. Or that the O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow series in the seventies was a left-wing screed that climaxed with Jesus strung up on the head of a jumbo jet. Subtle stuff, all of it.


Come on, Propaganda is rampant. News objectivity is a twentieth-century myth. We only complain about propaganda when we don't agree with it."

There's more. You can read it for yourself. I agree with bits and pieces and feel the hairs on the back of my neck raise from others.

What do you do then, with a writer who says, without shame or hesitation, that he's well aware that he's created something that is blatantly, without shame, one-sided in its view. He's mad as hell, and he's venting it out in the way that he is able. He's a guy that has created some of the most iconic comic books of recent times, so he's created a graphic novel that is explosive and angry.

And, if you know Miller's work, you know that explosive and angry is not a new thing.

And I couldn't help but wonder if Miller's work is being viewed differently because it is a graphic novel, a series of ideas and emotionally-based expressions being played out in a format that some identify with Archie and Veronica. We've had other artists create works of art as provocative as this. We've certainly had writers raise issues with the same violent enthusiasm.

And, more often than not, when the artist in question is pressed, they often divorce themselves from their work. They are "exploring the public discourse." They are "trying to incite a conversation."

Miller's work? It's because he's angry.

Don't get me wrong. Anger can go too far. Propaganda can go too far. Virtually anything in this world over which we have control can go too far.

The question here, it seems to me, is whether it's Miller or the criticism of his work that's perhaps gone too far.

Artboy in the attic.

On Wednesdays, Leopold teaches piano lessons.

Normally, I find a way to be out of the house for his evening lessons. Not because I mind the sounds of a piano lesson, but because I suddenly become horribly aware of how generally loud I can be up here in the attic.

Just less than an hour ago, in fact, I was listening to NPRs All Songs Considered music feed, while waiting with the phone on speaker for a student loan representative, while asking the dog to stop doing whatever it was she was doing at the time (1), while talking to myself, wondering aloud when it is that Mr. Rochester will be getting back with those whoopie pies.

Yes, I made that last one up.

Edward Rochester would never have brought whoopie pies.


1. Say what you will about dogs being or not being child substitutes. All I know is that I find myself correcting Finkelstein's behavior with such blind regularity that the minor, ongoing infractions barely register. Not, "don't pee on the carpet" reprimands (2)...more like "don't", "stop", "knock it off", "I'll kill us both, I swear to god"... That kind of thing. You know how moms do.
2. Which, don't get me wrong, is awesome that I don't ever need that one.

*cough*

So, sometime between yesterday and today, I got sick.

Scratchy throat. Stuffed up nose. Hacking cough.

It's really charming.

But it also raised, yet again, an interesting element of working from home.

When you work from home and you are sick, what would it actually mean to call in sick?

I mean, when most folks call in sick, they're calling in to say that they will not be at work that day because they are staying home.

But I'm already home.

Keep in mind, in this instance I am raising the question of an illness that is more irritating and annoying than anything else. The kind of an illness your co-workers would actually like you to stay home with so that you don't pass it along to everyone else but you don't because, well, it's just a cold.

So I went to work...which is in my home. So I was home, sick, but not home sick.

Or homesick.

Which would be another really interesting thing to stay home from work over.

"I'm afraid I won't be coming in today. I'm homesick."


Monday, October 24, 2011

Well, I'll be...

So, last week was a BIG week which meant my time, for the most part, was not my own.

It's amazing how much more drained you feel at the end of the day when you realize that you're not going to your own house.

You're not going to be sleeping in your own bed.

There's no reason not to pick up a project after getting home, curling up in bed (1) with your laptop and not the book you're reading (2).

It also means that I tend not to write anything that isn't going to have someone else's name on it at the end of the day. It's not that there isn't a silver lining to be found there (3). This time around I got to have an actual working breakfast with Tintin, a journalist who is neither red-headed nor known to travel with a small white dog, but whose country-crossing schedule makes my own look quite zombie-like.

It was at breakfast that this happened:

Tintin: So, it sounds like you're really settled in.

Artboy: What?

Tintin: Well, like this is what you do now.

Artboy: What?

Tintin: That BIG is where you were meant to land.

Artboy: What?

I mean, what?

This was a line of thought that I had not previously entertained. In fact, what I had been thinking for much of the week is how stealthily I have systematically booted myself backward every few years. Moving myself further back down the proverbial ladder and the payroll chart. While it's starting to look like I'll be able to pick up some additional freelance work, my mind is wandering again. I've been wondering what comes next...where I will go next.

I was not thinking, this is what I do now. 

Damn.

1. Or sofa bed.
2. Which, right now, is Swamplandia. Fan-freaking-tastic.
3. Beyond the part where, most of the time, other people pay me to write far better than I pay myself.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Eating out.

As I may well have mentioned in a previous post, because of the spiritual community that Leopold belongs to, we do not eat meat on Fridays.

Or, put more accurately, I do not serve meat for dinner on Fridays. I've been known to enjoy the odd Friday beer and burger combo.

But this week is the last week that we will be getting a meat delivery from our CSA. Our vegetable share, thanks to the very different climate here in our new rural city home, ended last week. Which has started me thinking in a very different way about the omnivore's dilemma.

This week, for no real reason but that there the temperature had dropped a bit and, for reasons I will likely be writing about in the not-too-distant future, we were holding off on letting the furnace kick in until a visit from our friendly neighborhood repairman, I started a pot of beans.

Simple. Easy. Two cups of beans and some cold water set on the back of the stove for the day. Add some sauteed onion, a baby eggplant,  crushed tomatoes and a few hits of rooster sauce...a kind of really good vegetarian chili.

Add to that a side outing I took today to the natural food store located nearby. This is one of two that I had known about but, as time tends to fill faster than you think it will, I had never been to either. So, since Leopold was stuck behind his desk working on a paper about the Biblical Great Flood, I took the opportunity to make a visit and pick up some animal crackers (1).

As natural food stores go (2) this one was actually much larger and better put together than a lot that I've seen. The staff was young and a goofy in a really fun way, joking with each other and singing while they stocked shelves (3). A huge selection of beans and grains and dry goods. Locally-sourced or sustainably raised meat in the freezers. A small but respectably in-season vegetable aisle. There were people out front collecting signatures to get marriage equality on the ballot.

If NPR had been playing, it would have been the kind of scene a fiction workshop would have shredded for being too unrealistic.

But there it was, sitting an easy drive away in our new rural city.

All this making me think that it might be time to push the Friday thing a bit further. Because I was trying to finish up some odds and ends from our last CSA veggies before they went bad, we were actually meatless a few times. Braised celery with tomatoes and lentils on pasta one night. A kale and lentil stew with brown rice another. Artichoke and cheese quiche with roasted potatoes another.

And, as much as I will always consider a good cheeseburger the real test of a restaurant's bar menu, these vegetarian experiments and the discovery of a wall full of solid, cheap options has made me think that a challenge might be in order.

See, most vegetarian cookbooks bore me. While I think that there are some great techniques out there, the reality is that too many fall into the perception that folks have of vegetarian cooking. They are the NPR-listening, gay marriage petition pushing, "natural food" store of food publishing.

But, when I have a chicken in the freezer, or pork chops or ground beef...I don't go to our cookbooks. I might, to check a cooking temperature or sample a time, but I've long since passed that point where I need a daily tether. I know enough to intuit time and temperature. I have a pretty decent artillery of tools at my disposal. I'm not afraid to make my own stock or braising liquid.

So why is it that I've been giving vegetables an easy out on this deal?

Too few months ago, when our very brief CSA had finally started, I tore into our first delivery bag and Leopold joked that I finally seemed excited to cook again. With winter creeping closer every day, and a new farmer's market season well off into the distance, maybe that pot of beans is something to keep my eye on.

The food industry has made it so it's entirely possible to eat exactly and precisely the same four meals every day of the year, wherever you are. The ingredients will likely always be close at hand. What happens then, when we give in and make the most with what we have?

1. Get it? Great Flood? Animal crackers? 
2. A phrase I can't use without instantly imagining a bunch of people in loose-fitting hemp clothes selling dented melons while raving about the pot of bee pollen tea they just brewed.
3. Not in a Glee way, more like how you do when you're riding around in the car.

Pre-occupied.

I am one of the 99%.

Big deal, right?

I mean, I can appreciate a good slogan as much as the next urban camping enthusiast, but there's been something bothering me about this entire back and forth.

And it started before the Tea Partiers decided that their brand of standing in the middle of public spaces screaming at people passing by and waving sometimes incredibly offensive signage was different than the Occupy movements brand of standing in public spaces screaming at people passing by and waving sometimes difficult to fully comprehend signs.

It started before Herman Cain decided to purport the idea that being unemployed and living in poverty was a character flaw.

It started before I had to comprehend the idea of people cheering that the space they were occupying was NOT going to be cleaned and sanitized when many of us who have lived in urban spaces would have been more than appreciative of someone offering to clean and sanitize anything.

It started before the annoying dismissal of the Occupy protesters by a commentator who took issue with the fact that locations were often planned based on the availability of wireless. For anyone speaking in the context of a news organization to not understand the why of that should be more embarrassed than the citizen activist who wants to stay within broadband distance of a hotspot.

It started before the Democrats began putting their toes meekly into the shallow end of the Occupy Wall Street movement, trying to determine when these protesters would eventually wield the influence sometimes demonstrated by the Tea Party.

It started before the Republicans conveniently forgot that, when it was the Tea Party waving "Don't Tread on Me" flags in the streets, they condemned anyone who questioned the motivations of loyal Americans trying to have their voices heard.

It even started before the latest Facebook revamp caused comments made by members of my family, about the whining spoiled liberals with private school educations and advanced degrees, to serve as my morning wake up call.

In other words, it started pretty early, kicked off, as a matter of fact, by an e-mail exchange with a family member who wanted to hear a "liberal" perspective on the protests.

What I said, and what many commentators and individuals skilled with The Photoshop have worked hard to convince us all otherwise, is that I see the Occupy and the Tea Party movements as far more alike than they are different. Maybe the tactics are not the same. Maybe the overall power structure is different and the expressed goals diverge more than they overlap, but at their core, they are both emotions-based outbursts.

I won't diminish or demean either (2) by using a word like tantrum, because I mean outburst much like I would use the word "cloudburst". This is about a sudden release, a flash storm of frustration and anger and, I'll say in both cases...despite the surface support the Republican Party has decided to afford the Tea Party...a sense of real helplessness and powerlessness. A desire to want to make things better, even though the visions of what that "better" future will be are wildly different.

And in that desire to see things get better, I have to say that I'm fully onboard.

In that, I am the 99%.


1.) Points to the Occupy folks though...the spelling has been generally pretty good.
2.) At this point at least.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why I don't have a book contract.

I was sitting behind someone at a book festival a few weeks ago who made the statement, "My agent told me that the animal memoir has crested."

I will note here that this particular individual had managed to mention her agent enough times that there was no choice but for the woman seated next to me and I to exchange eye rolls with one another.

But, today I am here to say that it's not that the animal memoir has seen its day come and go. It's just that people are telling the wrong story.

Here, I will tell the inspirational dog story that the others are afraid to tell.

Why?

Well, because it's kind of gross.

You see, last night, upon arriving home from a dinner party, Leopold went to fetch Finkelstein only to discover that she had had...an accident. A...number two kind of accident.

Finkelstein is not a dog who is prone to accidents. I can, in fact, count on less than one hand the number of times that she has not made it outside.

On two occasions, she was flat out mad. Leopold was away. Our regular dog walker (1) was away. I was working crazy hours and had been deemed completely incompetent as a single parent. Finkelstein was left no choice but to administer her own brand of tough love.

And, in one instance, the last one I recall, she was suffering from a passing stomach bug, which is what did her in this time.

After an unplanned, and very chilly, outdoor bath and a thorough scrubbing of her crate (2), the Fink retired to the comfort of her favorite blanket.

Or, she briefly retired to her favorite blanket. Finkelstein and I would venture out three times before her usual morning walk. At one point, bleary eyed and disbelieving that she needed to go out again, I threw Leopold's giant L.L. Bean flannel coat over my shorts and a pair of Vans to take her out (3).

"It was only later," I told Leopold, "that I realized I was walking our dog dressed as an Alaskan hooker."

But after all this, the accident, the bath, the multiple late night walks with Nanook of the Nooky, and her usual morning walk where things were shown to still not be entirely right, Finkelstein came into the kitchen and went to the spot she goes to when she is waiting to be fed.

And she waited.

And she waited.

I, for all obvious reasons, did not feed her breakfast, hoping quite out loud that we would soon move from "explosive" to plain old "diarrhea" very soon (4), but truly had a moment where I couldn't help but admire our girl's cockeyed optimism. After all that, she was ready to sit down to her usual breakfast.

It's certainly not the kind of story the pet memoir literati is looking to tell, but when you've been up all night walking the streets, you take what enlightenment you can get.

1. ...who broke all the rules and would take Finkelstein with her for hours at a time. For the price of a 20-minute walk, Finkelstein was officially transformed into a girl about town. She was Doggie Golightly.
2. I know that it is controversial to some folks but, I will swear on anything you hold holy, Finkelstein is a big fan of the crate. She will actually take her bones and toys and put herself in the crate. She's the sullen teenager we've never had.
3. Temperatures here are already in the 30s at night. You would not believe how happy that makes me.
4. Every dog owner I know is in full agreement. Nothing causes your stomach to sink faster than the realization that the dog has diarrhea. It's beyond me that it was not named to a circle of Hell.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand...GO!

Today a stack of discs arrived in the mail and, somewhere in the background, a timer began ticking.

As is often the case, I've landed myself in the middle of a project with little time for turn around and less room for error.

Okay, that's a little dramatic.

Actually, it's a lot dramatic.

If I were to miss the deadline (1) no one will die. Children will not go hungry. The opportunity to cure cancer will not be lost. The world will keep spinning.

People will continue to make theoretical lists of very important things against which less important things will ever be measured.

And I will continue to take on projects that will make me kind of crazy and frantic for little to no money and a thin bit of satisfaction.

Sunrise. Sunset. Sunrise. Sunset.

1. Which I will not.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Boots.

For the last several days I've found myself listening to Adele's Someone Like You.

A lot.

Kind of obsessively actually.

I'm going to blame it on the arrival of fall, with the sun going down early and the weather getting colder in a pretty rapid fashion. There's something that just feels right about walking the dog in the gray end of the afternoon with a sad love song playing in my ear.

Which is kind of where the conversation that I had with the Roller Derby Queen started.

You see, I have a theory.

While the Walkman and the Discman were able to let us carry our music around with us well before this -- to say nothing of portable radios and its kin -- the iPod lets us program to our heart's content.

It lets us, with very little effort, create an actual soundtrack for our lives. A seamless, high-quality, carefully curated soundtrack as plotted and planned as the scoring of a big budget Hollywood movie.

Which is why we love the iPod, even if that's not why we think we love it.

It's 15 minutes of fame, with Adele cheering us on.

Or, more accurately, urging us to cry on her shoulder.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cheers.

After dinner, Leopold headed up to his office to read and listen to music. I finished cleaning up the kitchen and then checked in before heading to the family room to watch the second episode of Prohibition, the new Ken Burns documentary.

Artboy: Do you want anything?

Leopold: Are you having anything?

Artboy: Well, I'm going to watch the second part of that documentary, so I'm going to open a bottle of wine...otherwise I'm afraid that the mob will come in and take over the house.

Leopold: Of course.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Seriously?

If you have something to say, something you absolutely and honestly believe, then say it.

Don't try to dress it up in a flag and tri-cornered hat and call it patriotism.

Don't sample various explanations to see which get the loudest applause and then go with that one.

Don't say that you didn't hear the booing.

Don't try to distract folks with a long list of things that you think people want to hear so that the thing you know they don't want to hear is less out in the daylight.

And don't say or do something clearly intended to be shocking and controversial and then express your dismay that people are shocked or find what you're doing controversial.

This all started when I read about a GOP student group at Berkeley who held what they claimed was a satirical race-based bake sale to protest a bill that would allow California's university system to consider race, ethnicity and gender in admissions decisions.

The cost of baked goods for "Whites/Caucasian" was $2.00. "Asian/Asian American" pricing was $1.50. Separate pricing was also offered for Latinos and Native Americans with a discount for women as well.

The student GOP group was then, reportedly, shocked that people found what they had done to be racist. 

Of course, given that the group posted on a Facebook page about the event: "Hope to see you all there! If you don't come, you're a racist!" I'm going to say that they knew exactly what they were doing.

But stepping up and saying that they were engaged in an activist protest against what they see as the mistreatment of "Caucasian/White" students by the university system is risky. After all, making a case for the oppression of individuals who identify themselves as "White/Caucasian" (1) is a difficult side to argue and, at a school like Berkeley, hardly a popular stance to take.

It's also kind of laughable.

So, instead of taking ownership, they did what a lot of folks are doing. They claimed to have been misunderstood.

Which means that I went beyond having little respect for the position that they are taking and having no respect for them as an organization.

It's a list that seems to be getting longer every day.

1. I keep putting this in quotes because this is the phrasing they used on their bake sale sign. I can't even get into the issues involved in the breakdowns.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

ch-ch-ch-ch..oh, forget it.

The saying goes, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

I do not like change.

Or, in the past I have not liked change.

Now I find it's the things that are the same that are getting to me a bit.

Or, more precisely, the fact that the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.

And no, writing it out in French would not make a difference.

It would still be saying the same thing.

Just in French.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Status symbols.

So, the other day I was reading a review of I Don't Know How She Does It, a movie based on a book that would, by my reading, really, really like to be the next Devil Wears Prada.

Based on the review, and every other review I've read, I don't think that's going to happen.

But here's what struck me.

Momster.

This is, apparently, the word used to describe the stay-at-home moms who do all the things that the harried working mom does not. They bake. They volunteer. They are, if we are to buy the shorthand, the enemy of the working mother.

Which is why, as she begins to wrap her review, writer Ella Taylor makes the point of offering that "...we working mothers should be grateful to stay-at-home moms who work their unpaid tails off raising funds for school arts programs and who, when called upon by women working late for emergency child pickups, quietly say, 'No problem, take your time, she can eat with us.'"

Which made me wonder if that's really what the divide, the divide between those who stay-at-home and those who work in an office, really is about. Is it really that stay-at-home moms are unappreciated by those who depend on their ability to jump into the void and lend a hand or that stay-at-home parents (1) spend their evenings scoffing at store-bought cookies working folks bring to the PTA potluck?

Or, is it that tale as old as time, with the grass being greener on the other side?

Or, is it Facebook?

Before the Facebook, the world of daytime was largely secretive. It happened behind closed doors after everyone else headed to work and school. The day of the stay-at-home parent was a mystery generally distilled into a list of completed chores and a meal on the table.

Now, those folks who spend their days in an office see ongoing threads of Facebook posts about trips to the park, afternoon walks and rainy day movie marathons. Even laundry is made lighter when distilled through the Mary Poppins-like lens of watching life at home unfold through chirpy social media.

"Too much laundry! Hope to get it finished soon so we can take advantage of the beautiful day outside!"

And that unbridled online cheerfulness is compounded by the choice factor. The choice of being able to work or not work is not really a choice for some...I would actually say it's not a choice for most, but I've not really got any hardcore statistics to back that one up.

"I need a break! Heading to Starbuck's with the kiddos for a little time out of the house!"

Which means that mid-afternoon Starbuck's outing with the kids is not simply a trip to get an overpriced  cup of coffee, it's the ability to stand up, put on a jacket and do whatever you want to do for a few hours while it is still daylight.

So, maybe it's not really a war between the office and the momsters and their male counterparts. Maybe it's just Facebook, transforming the ability to stay-at-home into a "status" symbol.

1. Because it's not just moms who are staying home to raise kids...it just seems that no one has taken the time to come up with the male equivalent of "momster" or the ever popular "stepmonster". 


First, there's this.

So, I'm in the middle of writing a different post but here's what happened.

Often times, when I'm struggling to come up with a book cover to illustrate what I'm writing, I'll scroll through a few of the design sites that collect great book covers or some online book reviews to see what's out there.

Other times, when those fail, I hit Amazombie and go through their best seller lists or do a keyword search or three.

Today, coming up empty on all fronts, I decided to do a search and used the word "office".

And what did I get back?

Guides for how to use various office products. Which is not particularly surprising.

Mixed in, however, with all those dry "ctrl/alt/delete" textbooks was a surprising number of flowery romance novels placed in office environments.

Which is not particularly strange, I guess, except that the other romance novel trend that I seem to keep tripping over is that category made up of what some have dubbed "bonnet rippers". These are romance novels that involve Amish people.

All of which means that the "recommended based on your past searches" list on my Amazombie home page looks really, really strange.


Friday, September 23, 2011

No where to run to.

It appears that the theme for today is refuge.

As in, taking refuge.

Folks have slowly dropped off my Skype feeds.

A few people have waved the white flag my way to say they're heading home to start the weekend early.

A few people are using the "working from home line", not realizing that it's a euphemism that works better for some than others (1).

And I, of course, am puttering around in my blog, because I'm trying very hard to get back into the mindset of the work I need to do today.

Yesterday ended poorly with BIG, and my response has been the kind of mental frustration that saps your attention and leads you to rail angrily about the fact that someone wants you to feel nervous for what might happen to their $600K annual take.

Which you can feel is more or less fair. That's the beauty of things.

But digging out of these mental ditches is nothing short of a drag. My best laid plans are sitting there, staring at me from my to do list. My body quite literally feels physically exhausted. My brain is bouncing from one thing to another. My motivation has been shot to nothing. The rest of the day is stretching out in front of me like a deserted stretch of highway.

I'm writing phrases like "deserted stretch of highway".

And I'm starting to wonder where it is that I can go to hide out from the world. 

When everyone else is heading for the hills, where do you go if you're already there?

1. If I've been waiting for something from you since yesterday, when it was to be turned over to me by the mysterious COB, and I still don't have it...what you call "working from home" I read as "staying home to watch the last episode of All My Children."

Must be funny.

The other day I listened as a Republican politician explained, with a kind of indignant condescension, to an interviewer just how wrong she was.

Using his own publicly disclosed finances as an illustration of who exactly would be impacted by the proposed changes in the tax laws, the politician explained that, of the roughly $600,000 he made on an annual basis, some $200,000 was spent feeding his family and keeping a roof over their heads.

That meant that he had just $400,000 left to re-invest in his business.

Oh, the humanity.

A mere $200,000 to shoe and feed his children.

But even leaving that ridiculous statement aside, placing the idea that we are to feel some sort of empathy for the fact that this individual is ONLY clearing $600,000 annually into a cookie jar for a rainy day, there is the offensive idea that the proposed tax changes would potentially cause him to have to lay people off.

Because that's what the issue at hand really is.

It's not about not having enough money to keep food on the table, it's about asking others to make sacrifices you are not willing to make. It's about having no idea what it is to live from paycheck to paycheck to such a degree that you expect others to understand the stress of having to live within a $200,000/annual household budget.

Because I don't.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A tale of two authors.

Today I heard the authors of two books - each earning the kind of early critical praise that makes you think this literature thing might just catch on - interviewed on NPR.

Two different shows. Two different hosts. Two very different authors.

The interesting thing?

I had actually read about both books before hearing the interviews. One instantly caught my attention, the other I thought of as having a clever, but not particularly arresting, idea behind it.

And now? After hearing the author interviews?

I've completely flipped my opinion.

The author of the book I thought would be completely fantastic seemed uninteresting and a bit vacant. The author of the book I thought would dissolve under the weight of its own conceit was charming and funny and just the right kind of dry.

I feel that I might have found a way to judge books by their covers in a whole new way.

No. I'm not saying it's right.

I'm just saying it is.

Overnight sensation.

So, I know that I've already mentioned DC Comics' New 52, the reboot of their comic book universe that's intended to attract new readers and save the superhero-making industry from a slow demise.

But here's the thing.

I can't get my hands on most of them.

Sure, this isn't particularly surprising. My rural city was hardly high on the list of places the myth makers down in Gotham were targeting. I never imagined we'd be getting all of the new titles. As much as I would love to read Frankenstein, Agent of Shade, I didn't figure he'd be tromping his size 17s up this far north.

But, no Wonder Woman. No Batman. No Batgirl.

I've snagged a copy of Action Comics #1, with its brand new boho Superman. I have a copy of Justice League. I have my fingers crossed that, next week, I'll manage to land an Aquaman.

I could, of course, get copies of pretty much anything that I wanted online.

No. Not from a friendly virtual neighborhood comic shop.

From eBay...where folks who snatched up first editions of DC's New 52 promptly turned around to resell them.

Ignore the fact that many of the books are getting panned.

Red Hood and Catwoman for mixing up the terms "reboot" and "booty" and serving up heaping helpings of misogyny. Green Lantern and Wonder Woman for horrifyingly graphic depictions of violence in books that have been rated "T" for teen readers. Action Comics for being intensely boring (1).

But forget about content or quality. Forget about those folks who are earnestly interested in following this pretty significant moment in the arc of comic books.

Buy 'em up and sell 'em off. Folks will surely pay any price. You are absolutely, positively going to score a profit.

What could possibly go wrong?

1. Yeah. That was mine.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Genius!

The good folks at MacArthur have announced the newest list of geniuses.

I am not on the list.

I'll give you a minute to come to terms with that.

It's okay. It's taken me a bit as well. We'll get through it together.

But here's who is on the list.

No, not Kay Ryan, though she's on the list and we're all very happy for her.

Francisco Núñez, many congratulations, (1) but we're not talking about you today.

Peter Hessler? A. E. Stallings? Ubaldo Vitali? Great names. Very geniusey.

But no.

No, the person who made me send up an actual cheer would be Mr. Jad Abumrad, who I have actually referred to as a genius in the past and am now heartened to hear that I'm not alone.

If you're not familiar, Abumrad is the co-host and producer of WNYC's Radiolab, a show that makes me very, very happy. The show knits together great journalism, incredibly textured sound and fascinating new ideas.

In a story in The New York Times about the MacArthur announcement, Abumrad refers to the show as "the central creative mission of my life".

Which, seriously, makes this announcement all the more fantastic.

And now I have to go figure out how to return $500,000 worth of comic books and Sharpie markers.

What can I say...I counted those chickens before they were hatched.

1. And thank you also for finally motivating me enough to learn how to finally use the accent keys on the mac.top.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

In which I re-use a book cover and get all philosophical.

So, about all the posts this morning.

This is my last morning in San Francisco and it is, mostly, a day of hanging out and waiting for my late night flight back to my rural city. It means that I am operating completely without schedule and, thanks to a bit of persistence, enjoying the incredibly fast and highly-functional wifi connection of an incredibly empty Starbucks.

What can I say. Sometimes The Mermaid really earns her keep.

But here's why sitting in a Starbucks clacking away on a mac.top earns a post. Or, more precisely, here's why sitting in a Starbucks clacking away, posting to my blog, on a mac.top earns a post that is not filled with post-ironic scorn and/or sarcasm.

This Starbucks is largely empty.

The Starbucks less than a block from here, the one directly attached to a hotel and the size of a New York City apartment kitchen, was packed like a circus act. People were ill-tempered and short, oblivious to the short-order cook frenzy of the counter staff who, to their great credit, assaulted no one why I was in the store, and most, it seemed, who had never actually ordered anything in a Starbucks. My favorite being the woman who, in this extraordinarily busy place, with a line of some 20 people behind her, decided allowing her seven-year old to place the family's order would be a good idea.

We'll leave aside that the kid was ordering lattes for herself, her siblings (1) and an unknown number of people with a fondness for making the lives of Starbucks employees miserable.

And we'll leave aside the fact that the kid couldn't remember the order and kept running back and forth between the increasingly frustrated guy at the counter to her mother who was, inexplicably, standing in the middle of everything while one daughter was apparently texting a novel-sized message to a friend, one of the boys began eating a sandwich snagged from the case and the youngest was turning his pockets inside out, shaking them, declaring how much sand was in there.

And, finally, we'll leave aside the fact that, when the counter person, watching as the line now snaked to the door and the list of highly-specialized drinks (2), asked the mother in the most polite fashion possible, if she could please give him the list of drinks so he could be sure he had them right, she bellowed back at him to come to where she was at the pastry display so she could point to the exact items they wanted.

And so, knowing that I wanted my morning to include both a chai and a chair and some Internet, I walked past that scene of familial terrorism, and discovered this place, with its big glass windows, empty (3) counter and disarmingly friendly employees (4).

All it took was going a block, a block that meant moving away from, not towards, the frenzy of Union Square. It was doing the opposite of what would be expected, and it paid off.

1. There were four of them, the oldest being perhaps 12.
2. They were like snowflakes. No two were the same.
3. Though now beginning to fill. All good things must come to an end.
4. It also includes a view of a large black and blue banner for the Folsom Street Fair. If you don't know what this is, I strongly suggest that you do not Google it in the presence of your children or most of your elderly relatives. It falls in the NSFW category...which is why I giggled a bit when the perfectly coiffed women of a certain age who came through here wondered to each other what went on at the street fair. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest they were not from here.

With a grain of salt.

So, yesterday, we had the event that was the reason that I came to San Francisco (1).

One of the people there used an example in her talk that caused The Freelancer, who was in town for other reasons, to turn in his chair and pull a face.

I did not return said face.

One, because as the person who had brought together this particular crew of people, that would have been really, really rude.

And two, because I found what she had to say really, really interesting.

This individual, we'll call her The Ecoliterati, calculated the miles used to make two separate salads. One she made herself, the other purchased.

The salad that was purchased? The ingredients used - sea salt, pepper, oil and lettuce - traveled more than 35,000 from farm to table. The other, the one that she made, used sea salt that she made by letting sea water evaporate, local dried red peppers that she crushed and oil and lettuce that were also gathered locally. She brought the mileage down to something like 36 miles. The salt and pepper alone were just about a mile.

I eat horribly. I know that. As I've said in the past, while Leopold has done very little to change the way I dress, my eating is far better when I'm cooking for the both of us than when left to my own devices. But this simple example - which was actually designed for school children - has stuck with me and really made me think.

After our first summer in our rural city we're already re-thinking how we'll do next year's farm share. The other night I made a pretty amazing salad with fried green tomatoes made from tomatoes Leopold grew in our yard and lettuce from a farm nearby (3). But little reveals like The Ecoliterati's salt and pepper thing, really does inspire a person to do a bit more.

Maybe not The Freelancer...

1. Yes, that's true. If this were a Nancy Drew mystery about the mysterious identity of Artboy (2) that first line would be written down in a notepad of some sort and might well lead the gang to jump into their speedy roadster. 
2. No. I know. It's really not all that mysterious...but soon we'll, maybe, be having some fun with that.
3. Pretty sure the eggs and flour I used killed any illusions of it being low mileage...

We are experiencing technical difficulties.

The wireless connection in my hotel is free and, might I say, worth every penny.

Facebook will open but posting is generally impossible.

I have no access to my work files.

Yesterday, as the day progressed, I lost the ability to access my personal e-mail.

Pulling down directions from Mapquest has not worked.

Posting to this blog was not happening at all.

Except now. At 6am.

Though it won't let me insert any artwork.

Or, actually post.

Which means it's not working.

Remember when I was saying how I didn't really like traveling?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Time. Travel. (PHL>SFO)

Today, I'm on my way to San Francisco.

Or, more precisely, I'm sitting waiting to be further on my way to San Francisco.

When the announcement was made that we would not all be able to board our flight because of issues involving weight, balance and an unidentified "weather issue" between this City of Brotherly Love and the City by the Bay, some were quick to, how do you say, freak the hell out.

I, on the other hand, as a person who views airline travel as something to be feared and endured, thought only of the movie of the week to be made, where scenes of people filing to their seats are interspersed with that of a gruff ground crew manager insisting to a worried luggage handler, "It'll be fine. Just get the bags on and get this bird out of here (1)." And so, now I wait.

I'm not a traveler. I don't particularly enjoy it, preferring instead my house and my schedule and my own bed at the end of the day. I already miss my attic hideout.

It's not to say that there aren't some stops that I'm looking forward to during my brief time in San Francisco. I love the labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church, especially the outdoor space early in the morning. I'll be doing some event promotion (3) in some great sections of the city and brilliant food landmarks.

I'll be making a point of going to this place, Isotope - The Comic Book Lounge, which makes me a little weak in the knees. I'm setting up time to write, with an actual, honest-to-goodness person who I am NOT related to waiting to read the fiction piece I'm working on. There's even research that I'm doing for a non-fiction project to be done.

And, thanks to the fact that a red eye flight is required to get me back home to our rural city (4), additional stops are sure to be inserted into the itinerary.

What I won't be doing, or, am not currently scheduled to do, is see some of the folks who were once part of my every day life. I have mixed feelings about this, coming as it does on the heels of other news that brought me a bit back into the past, because I find myself in that place where you wonder where the line is between bitter and "for the best".

What is it that makes some parts of your life so difficult to walk away from? Those times that, no matter what you do or how logical you try to be, keep you looking back, wondering about the choices you made. Even when you know, without question, that you would do it all the same way all over again.

Fortunately or not, it's looking like I'll have a fair amount of time to be thinking about this.

1. What can I say. That's how he talks. It's the kind of role that Ed Asner would have totally ruled back in the day (2).
2. Or Bea Arthur.
3. Not that glamorous. What? You might have thought it was glamorous.
4. Time, time, time...see what's become of me...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Walking on sunshine.

Lately, I've developed a strange mental tic.

Artboy: I keep saying Walkman when I'm referring to my iPod.

Leopold: Really?

Artboy: Yeah. I'll be heading out the door to take Finkelstein for a walk and I'll stop and say that I have to grab my Walkman. Apparently, I plan to take our walk in 1985.

Later we will address the fact that I feel the need to explain to the dog why I have to go back in the house.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What would you suggest?

Patricia Marx's new book, Starting from Happy, is made up of 618 "mini-chapters", which makes me ridiculously happy.

This summer it's been demonstrated to me, over and over again, that the boundaries we place on what a book should be, what a story should be, how a novel should be constructed, are actually only suggestions.

I find this incredibly heartening, because these quirks and inventions are about transforming the substance of the novel, not simply the delivery method.


Monday, September 12, 2011

52 Pickup

If you are not a comic reader, or if you have managed to be away from your radio and television, receive no newspapers or magazines at your house and do not live within 10 miles of a comic book shop, it might be that you are unfamiliar with DC Comic's New 52.

Allow me to shorthand it for you. Starting back on August 31, DC Comics - home to Superman and Wonder Woman and the dark knight detective Batman - reset the comic-o-meter. Fifty-two of the publisher's titles will start over again at issue #1 as a way of capturing new readers, exciting old readers and generating much publicity for the cause of sequential illustration.

It's also, I have to believe, no accident that this massive reboot is all taking place as a new school year is beginning because, really, that's how our lives work, right? No matter how long it's been since you headed off to the bus stop with a lunchbox tucked safely in your backpack, there's something about the end of summer that always feels like the start of a new year.

Which is why the blog has a new look and I'm dusting off the keyboard once again. There are deadlines - outside and self-imposed - ahead for me and, with any luck, some actual time to meet them.

Increasingly, I also find myself hoping for my own reboot of sorts. But hoping only gets you so far...then it's about making changes on your own. Or, sometimes, retracing your steps a bit.

See, in the New 52's Action Comics, Superman doesn't fly. He jumps. He leaps tall buildings in a single bound...which is just what he did back when he and his outside-the-pants red briefs first appeared on the scene. Flying came later.

Which makes perfect sense. Flying always comes later.




Sunday, June 5, 2011

Nothing you can say...

So, because genetics have created a situation where I am unable to walk away from an idiotic exchange, I've spent the last couple days engaged in an increasingly strange back and forth on the Facebook.

You might notice that I'm not even going to refer to it as a discussion or conversation, because, well, it really isn't.

What's become striking to me is that the person on the other side has begun to refer to opinions, ideas and courses of action that are being advocated by "my guys". It seems nothing you can say can tear me away from my guys.

Which is all news to me because, well, I didn't know that I have guys. If there's one thing that I've always really liked about the friends that I have and many of the people whom I've gotten to meet and work with, it's that they're mostly a pretty intelligent bunch. On any number of occasions some of us have failed to see eye-to-eye with one another and it all works out. No harm. No foul. As corny and optimistic as it sounds, several times I've found my own opinion moved. That's the beauty of having smart friends and from having an education that is entirely based on the critique system of learning.

There is no easier way to learn humility than, once a week, to sit in a room, unable to respond, while a large group of people dissect the work that you have done.

Not that long ago (1) I was involved with a group of people who outsiders would have likely considered to be "my guys". Some were, some weren't, but those who were weren't "my guys" for the reasons those outsiders would have thought.

Chief among the things that made my time spent with this particular group stressful and frustrating was their habit of either agreeing or remaining completely silent. With a few notable exceptions, these were people who were near clinically uncomfortable with constructive disagreement because to disagree with someone meant risking that they would not like you. That you would be seen as an outsider. A pain.

To be fair, this was a fear that was proven reality on several occasions, occasions where I watched grown adults play out the roles I always suspected they had or had wanted to play while in high school.

This is, ultimately, not part of my nature. While I will freely admit to being lousy at confrontation, I like to think that I'm pretty good when it comes to having a discussion. At the end of it, I don't have to agree with you and you don't have to agree with me. Disagreement is fine. Some might even assert, as I like to do, that it's part and parcel of this little experiment we're calling democracy. We each get to have an opinion. We each get to have a position and our own set of ideas.

We each have the right to plaster the Constitution on the side of a bus and brand our family vacation.

We each have the right to make as many jokes as we feel moved to do about the person that plasters the Constitution on the side of a bus and brands their non-political campaign family vacation.

And we each have the right to turn to the person next to us, or on the other side of the computer screen, to say that your joking is out of line or misplaced.

And if that person next to you happens to be, I just ask one thing.

Just remember who you're talking to.

It's me.

Just me...the one without the "guys".

1. Okay, at this point it's getting to be a fairly long time ago but, I'm not so good at moving on from this particular situation...a button the Freelancer is fond of pressing.