Friday, January 30, 2009
Instead, I'm going to just do a teensy-tiny bit of ranting. I think I shouldn't listen to media in the morning. I've stopped listening to the awful "Two Angry Guys" from Cincinnati because, frankly, all they do is shout over the top of one another and talk about stupid things. Now, normally, stupid topics don't bother me when they're discussed well. But when it comes down to two men shouting to see who can talk the loudest, I have no patience. Instead, I've been turning on the TV and listening to the news. This is fine. It's the commercials that bother me.
For example, this morning, it was a Progresso soup commercial. Perhaps you've seen/heard it. There are several women talking about their diet's- one's on the Manhattan Clam Chowder Diet, another a Chicken Noodle Diet, etc. Naturally, it means they're eating Progresso soup because there's only 100 calories per serving.
The thing they don't mention is that in one of those Progresso soup cans, according to the nutritional label, there are 2.5 servings per can. Which means in order to stick to the 100 calorie promise, you'd only be eating less than half a can. That's not much soup. If you live alone, like me, chances are that can of soup will be your entire meal. Yes, on the scale of things, it's still pretty healthy but, of course, just reading the label alone and realizing you're eating enough soup to feed three dieters makes you feel a bit like a giant hippo.
Then there are those little cups that you put water in and microwave. Confession time, I love Stovetop stuffing. I don't like it as much when it's been stuffed into a chicken nor do I like it as much when it's been roasted into stuffing balls. I like it freshly made from the saucepan. So, imagine my delight when i saw that you can get little cups of instant Stovetop. Ok, so they don't have the sage flavour I like best but the Chicken isn't too bad. It's put in a little cup that clearly looks like a Serving for One.
Yes, then I read the back. There are at least two servings per cup. Which means you have to double the nutrition facts. Ok, I get that if you're on a strict diet, Stovetop Stuffing probably isn't really much of an option. Yet if you're trying to just be mostly healthy like me, it is. What am I supposed to do, give someone else a spoon and say "Hey, wanna share my Stovetop Cup?" NO! First of all, NO ONE eats my Stovetop and secondly, that would be kind of silly.
Same goes for crackers. Usually a serving is anywhere from 10 to 16 pieces. When you're hungry, that's not many crackers. Besides, counting them out to put in a baggie is tedious.
Yes, I know. The serving size is just a guide. If you eat more, you can double it. Yet then you feel like a hippo again.
I think my problem is that I should just stop looking at nutrition facts. I mean, who really can just eat one slice of pizza? Usually, without an appetizer, the average portion is 2.5 to three pieces of pizza. Then, when you go to view the nutrition facts, you realize "Crap! I just ate over 1,000 calories".
I know, I know. If I was really on a diet, I wouldn't be eating pizza. I know that. Yet on a normal day, i tend to eat at least 5 to 7 servings of fruit and veggies, often as a main course. So, once in a while, I splurge. The problem comes when I report what I've eaten. I have this neato site that keeps track of my nutrition and exercise. It's great, except it grades you. I've been averaging about a B to B+ for the last two weeks. Then I ate pizza. Bad idea.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that while serving sizes are supposed to moderate you, they don't because a normal person who isn't constantly trying to be a size zero needs more food than that. If I stick to the serving size, I feel good for a little while. Then I'm suddenly hungry again and I'll eat whatever I can find which is usually something not good for me. I mean, honestly, when you've got the munchies and can choose between salt and vinegar crisps, a bar of Cadbury's chocolate or an apple, who's really going to choose the apple? Small serving sizes lead to big cheats. They lead to sudden and inexplicable needs for McDonald's french fries or a big old slice of gooey cheese pizza.
So while those Progresso soup commercials aren't lying per se, they're not telling you the truth. They're not telling you that when you've measured out the one serving and realize that it's a little bowlful, you're going to look at the can and think, "will I really eat this again tomorrow and the next day?" and then dump the rest of it into the saucepan to heat.
Ok, so there's some self-control involved with being on a diet. This might explain why I define my own diet: Lots of healthy fruits and veggies, flavoured with something slightly naughty (like cheese) and balanced with some George Forman cooked stuff. I also sort-of exercise but you'll never see me being one of those die-hard joggers who runs in place until they can cross the street.
And I also do eat junk food because otherwise, when I decide to cheat, I'll really cheat and spreading it out over time, in my book, is better.
Or at least that's what I tell myself.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
So, yesterday, we had our snow day. It was truly good. I got to exercise a little longer, be lazy a little longer, do part of a jigsaw puzzle, drink hot chocolate and....clean off my car.
"Oh", I can hear you saying. "Why did you have to do that, Captain Monkeypants? You weren't going out in that nasty weather were you?"
Have you ever noticed how life never turns out the way you plan?
So, I got dressed into my winter boots and coat and gloves and went to face my snowy car. I have this handy sheepskin ice-scraper mitt-thingy that I got as a Christmas gift so I naively thought that would clean the snow off nicely.
The only problem was that I'd forgotten about the sleet. You see, in between our first four inches of snow and our second 3 inches, we had about 3 inches of sleet. This means that my car was covered by an ice sandwich.
I needed a shovel. I live in an apartment building and recently moved from California. There is no reason I believed I needed a shovel. Well, that was until my car got stuck. I wasn't the only one. There seemed to be few shovels in my apartment complex. I saw a girl with one and was going to ask to borrow it but she disappeared before I could get a chance. I put my car in neutral and decided to give myself a push (yes, not the wisest idea ever but it seemed like a good idea at the time). That didn't work.
Deflated, I went upstairs and called my friend/coworker who lives in the same complex. Sadly, she did not own a shovel and was also stuck. We decided I'd head to her place and I would push while she tried to reverse. Yeah, that didn't work. We pushed quite hard too.
This morning, I managed to pull out of my parking spot whith no problem whatsoever. The roads are a little vile and there are many idiots out there driving, one of whom cut me off as I was going through a green light today. I'm glad I could stop without skidding. I honked my horn loudly at him. It's those people that cause the problems, not the ice and snow.
I know I'll be called crazy again for this but I can safely say I love winter. It's a challenge and it makes life much more interesting. The layers of snow and ice add a layer of complication and puzzle solving that summer does not. I do, however, think I might need another ice-scraper. I'm also going to buy my very own shovel. I think I'll name it Digger.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
And, best of all, I have my long-desired gift of a snow day from work.
Yes, blog readers, one of the advantages of working for a university is that they cancel school for both students and staff. Granted, it's more likely they'll cancel classes and make us minions, um, I mean staff, go in anyway but when it's really bad out, it seems they do think of us. Thus, after waking up at my normal time and finding out I had a two hour delay then, slowly, getting out of bed to discover if I really had to go in because, frankly, it looks like the North Pole out there, I finally discovered I have a snow day.
I'm so glad. I hadn't even started to get ready for work yet which is a huge bonus. Usually, these things happen as I'm about to walk out the door and then I wonder why I bothered getting myself all nice-d up, just to stay home. Not today, however. Today is all about the snow day.
I'm going to have a real snow day. I'm going to have my hot chocolate, edit my novel, watch movies and probably head over to my coworkers for "Lost" tonight since she lives in the same apartment complex and a walk through the snow might be fun. That's it.
Yes, I should probably do other things like cleaning. I might do some of that. The nice thing is though is I don't have to. This is a bonus day, one that is spontaneous and unscheduled. These days are meant for doing exactly what I want.
Ok, so I know there are people who don't get it, who see the snow as an inconvenience and a cold, wet blanket of winter overkill but I'm not one of them. If I was in California right now, I'd probably be hoping it rained, just to add variety. Yet it would never snow. That's why I love being back in the Midwest.
I'm still in my pajamas, something that wouldn't be happening if it wasn't a snow day. I am actually wondering why this Crest toothpaste does have the aftertaste of marijuana every time I use it. Not that I am a marijuana user but if you've been to as many rock concerts as I have, you learn how it smells. Ok, so when I was in college and constantly exposed to the aroma, I didn't know it and just thought it was chinese food but I'm older and wiser now. I know what it smells like. I'm just wondering why my toothpaste makes me feel like I'm back at a Green Day concert for a split second after I've brushed.
You're probably wondering where that randomness came from. Never ask. It's safer that way. Just know that the snow makes my random thoughts randomer because I don't have to be anywhere else today. I just get to stay home and enjoy the winter weather.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
You see, last night, we had a winter storm. I went to bed and there were icy patches of snow but the yellowed grass was visible in cracks and rivets in the snow. This morning, the world is white.
Don't get me wrong. I think it's beautiful. From my apartment, I thought it one of the most beautiful things I've seen in a long while. An entire world, cloaked in the soft carpet of snow, the flakes still delicately pouring from the sky. I even did a dance of happiness. You know, a "Yay! Snow!"sort of thing.
Silly me. I had a strange notion that since the snow was so deep (we had at least four inches and it's still coming), we, like every other university and school in the area would be closed. When I clicked on the website, I saw that we were. Well, two of our branches were. We have three branches. Our branch....not closed.
So, realizing I was not going to get my jigsaw-puzzlin', hot-chocolate drinkin' day I'd secretely wanted, I went down to clean off my car and warm it up. The snow was deep. My jeans and boots got wet.
By this time, I was a little rankled that we had to go to work when, obviously, it was not a good day for driving on roads. What the university for which I work does not seem to realize is that not everyone is like me, living (on a normal day) ten minutes away. There are a lot of commuters. However, they're expected into work and thus, so was I.
It wasn't until I made my first left turn that I really slid. I was a little frightened because the snow was thick and there was no traction at all. It didn't help that I had a moron behind me who obviously thought I was being a wuss and literally took the left turn so that he ended up a foot away from my bumper while I was still sliding. He stayed close for a while but I saw him fishtail and, finally, he slowed down.
There were a couple of these drivers who thought they were superior. I'm a wimp. I go slowly. Really slowly. I'd rather get there late than smash up my poor car.
It took me about 25 minutes to get to work.I usually make it in eight. When I got to work....no one was there. No one. Just me, my little California car and a big, empty, unplowed lot. So, once I actually find the driveway and get into the car park, I naively think, hey, I could do a donut.
Now there are more people in the office; not many but a few brave and intrepid made it in. I'm leaving at noon today because it's supposed to get worse and my car is begging me to leave. Well, ok, it's in my head that it's begging me to leave and I might be projecting but who's really to know...
We're supposed to get ice tonight and more snow. Don't get me wrong, I still love snow but I've decided that I love it very much when I'm at home and I don't have to drive on the roads. Otherwise, snow can be a little scary especially in such volume. If I had a pack of sled dogs, it might be ok but my car doesn't have the same traction. Also, other drivers scare me. I can control my own driving but not theirs and when they tailgate me as I'm taking a left turn, it doesn't help my confidence.
Monday, January 26, 2009
It never matters how much sleep I get the night before. I could go to bed at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night and wake up at 6:45 a.m. and still not feel like I had enough sleep. Any other night, I'd be fine but Sundays lead to Mondays and that makes them different.
On the plus side, we're supposed to have a major snowstorm tonight. If I were going to be a Pootle, I'd worry about the bad roads, of my family having to drive in it. I refuse to be a Pootle though and thus, I'm going to allow myself to get excited about it. We're supposed to get up to 6 inches. I can't wait to see the cascading flakes fall from the clouds and cover the world.
I can feel my mother cringing and curling herself into a ball as she reads this. As I've mentioned, she hates snow. I tried to get her to tell me why and all she says is that "it's cold." I don't get it. Then again, she thinks I'm mental because I love it. I think she should go out and build a snowman and take time to appreciate the uniqueness of a world that's covered with freshly fallen snow. The world is so much more silent like that. Sounds are muffled by the ground covering and the echo of life is much more apparent.
Yet I'm going to choose to be happy about the snow. I was going to write a miserable little blog about how cruddy I feel because I got rejected again, I was going to talk about loss and grief because I lost a friend a year ago.
I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to enable Monday to throw its shadow of simply being over me. Instead, I'm going to wait for the promised snow. I shall enjoy the fact that "24" is on tonight and though poor Jack Bauer's already had six really bad days, he's having another one and I can't help but watch.
Now, if only that would work.
Friday, January 23, 2009
The cumin-like scent isn't a good one. I took a shower last night while my chicken was roasting in the oven and came out to smell this strange, spicy, slightly burned smell. Naturally, i thought it was the chicken but since I had rubbed it with olive oil and rosemary before roasting it, I wasn't sure where the cumin came in.
Yes, it took me an hour to discover that. How was I supposed to know melted plastic would smell like cumin? Well, I remedied that issue immediately and the smell started to drift away though a slight imprint of it remains. I'll try to chase that away with my Yankee Tart Burner thingy. That usually covers up a lot of scents with it's lovely wafting fragrances.
So, anyway, back to the scent in the hall. It smelled like neither roast chicken or Dewberry and there was definitely no cumin. It was rotting...something.
Now, I get that there are some days when it seems like a lot of effort to walk to the dumpster. However, compared to some of the buildings in my apartment community, our building is one of the closest and it takes about three minutes to walk there, less than a minute to drive. Usually, I'll either walk it there or I'll throw it in the boot of my car as I'm headed out and then stop, dump my rubbish and continue on my merry way.
So, what I'm trying to say is that taking the rubbish out is not terribly hard. Ok, so maybe the person inside the apartment is sick or disabled or too exhausted to take it out. I get that. However, we all have balcony/decks in our building with these handy-dandy sliding doors that open to the outside. Perhaps the nasty bag of trash could have been placed there temporarily instead thus wafting the vile stink out into the open rather than into our living spaces.
Also, their house smells better than mine at the moment.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Yet that means that I'm working. To me, a lot of clean desks is a bit suspicious, like you're trying too hard. I think there should be one clean desk thrown in amongst three haphazardly messy ones. I mean, there's always going to be the Sarah's who are impecabbly neat and organized but there's usually a lot more me's. My old manager used to have a placard in her office that said "A messy desk is a sign of an organized mind." Her desk was always overflowing with papers and books but she was great at her job.
So, you see, cleaning my desk should be a natural reaction, not one to impress my potential employers. I'd be suspicious of me if I were them. Also, I had a discussion with a coworker as to the need to remove personal stuff from our desks. I'm a bit of a toy person. I usually have a collection of toys and fun objects to amuse me during long phone calls or office meetings. They're harmless but they make workspace feel like mine. Currently, I have my Green Day Superhero Action Figures, the Geico Gekko statue I have (that I imagine talking to me in his adorable cockney accent) and Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. The reason I have Aragorn is to accompany my coworker's same-sized and style Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. My other coworker has a William Shakespeare action figure. We're a nerdy, weird group but it works.
ps. It just occurred to me that I think I told you all that I imagine my Geico Gekko talking to me. Perhaps you should just forget I said that. Now I reread it, it makes me sound a little....odd.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I'd like to believe that it is possible to get an agent to read my letter and the first ten pages I send. That's why I keep trying. I'm not bitter at the moment, just frustrated that this should be so hard when the writing is so easy. I've been told that I should go to conventions to meet agents. I would love to but given that the average entrance fee is at least $300 and I pretty much live paycheck to paycheck trying not to incur more debt, it's not as easy as just signing up for one.
That's not going to stop me though. At the very least, there's the Amazon contest. The nice thing about being a somewhat seasoned writer (even without any publishing credit) is that I have almost everything ready to go. They want a pitch this year- essentially, that boils down to the meat of a query letter. Since I'm the queen of queries, that's the easy part. I have one of the potential novel candidates already edited and ready to go. I might have the other one I'd like to try edited too. The only thing with that is I can't find my hard copy with my edits scrawled across it. I have a sneaking suspicion I loaned that to a friend before I left California but said friend isn't returning my emails or calls to confirm. I think the only thing to do is to hit the manuscript freshly and re-edit, just in case. That's not exactly torture, to spend hours with those characters.
(That just happened in that book I mentioned on Friday, The Baker's Apprentice. One of the characters happens to write a memoir/fictional novel and sends it off to an agent. The agent likes it but wants it completely rewritten. Then after the rewrite is done, the writer gets a nice-sized publishing deal.)
I'm sure that happens. However, all the writers I know, including myself, never quite get that chance to completely rewrite the manuscript to change points-of-view and structure. We just get the "thank you for submitting. Unfortunately, we do not feel we are the right agents for your work" email. For us, it's like getting to the auditions for American Idol, filling out our form and being rejected before we're even allowed to sing because we're not pretty enough for TV or we aren't wearing the right clothes.
Ok, so maybe I am a teensy bit bitter. Maybe I'd like the chance to get to 'sing for the judges' before they decide I'm not worthy. Maybe I don't want to be the girl who wears a bikini just to get Simon Cowell's attention or the person who dresses up in a Star Wars costume just to prove I'm unique.
Maybe I, like so many other fledging writers, just want the chance to "sing", to prove that while I might not have a famous name or face, I can write and my novels are worth reading. Then, if I'm rejected, I'll at least feel like I had a fair chance. That's not to much to ask, is it?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The last inauguration I watched was that of Bill Clinton. I was still in high school then. Maya Angelou was reading an inaugural poem and our English teacher wanted us to see and hear history being made. She was a great English teacher, probably one of the reasons I'm a writer now. I'd like to tell stories of how she believed in me, how she made me believe I could become a published writer.
She didn't. Mostly she was just good at giving feedback and giving me lower grades on papers than I expected which, I suppose, made me work harder. I craved her praise because it meant something. When it came, it would make me happy. When I got a lower grade than my best friend, I would be miserable, wondering what I'd done wrong. I was much more competititive then and I wanted to be the best. I don't think I ever was. My other friend was also a writer and went on to major in it in college. Of the three of us, I'm the only one who ended up wanting to be a full time writer. Maybe there's something to being the average one in high school; who knows?
What I do know is that I remember that teacher more than any other. I remember everything about that Inauguration Day. My best friend and I were in the 'pub' room where we'd be pasting together the latest issue of our high school newspaper. Back then, we used to use a waxer to do layouts, sticky tool-lines to break up content, cropped clip-art to make it more graphic. We didn't yet have the technology to make a shiny, professional looking paper; instead, we thought it was great if the tool lines were straight.
That was the nice thing about being in journalism; we got to spend our lunch hour being silly in the pub room instead of having to sit in the bleachers at the gym, waiting for the bell to ring. When it came time for the Inauguration, our teacher gathered us around a TV set that had been purloined to a classroom. We got to hear Maya Angelou's "A Rock, A River, A Tree" poem live, to see Bill Clinton at his freshest, before the years in office wore him down and aged him.
It's funny. Today is one of the most historic inaugurations ever. Naturally, I think that it's a great thing that we now have a black president but I'm also sad because it's such a big deal; it's one of those things that should be unremarkable, the best man or woman should win the job regardless of their skin colour, race, sexual orientation or sex. Yet I suppose it's still a step forward to the day when none of that does matter and for that reason alone, it is historic.
I'm hoping Mr. Obama does a good job in office. I'm hoping that he lives up to the hopes and dreams that so many have pinned on him. I'm hoping he magically restores our economy so that I don't have to hear horrible things like the local Cost Plus World Markets are closing. I love the World Market. I love that you can buy British goods, German chocolate, wine glasses and Strongbow Cider all in one place at a very decent price. I love the way they give free coffee and tea samples. I love that they have an old-fashioned toy section where the toys don't beep or flash but rely on a child's imagination to make them come alive.
But I digress. I don't think Barack Obama can save the World Market though that would be very awesome. I do think he can start to lift us out of this scary economy where so many have lost their jobs and the threat of more victims looms. It will take time but today is a good start to hope. Sometimes it takes a fresh view to get things going again. Here's hoping President Obama can do that.
Happy inauguration day.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Yet it's a powerful show. It's fun. It's full of energy. It takes me back to the days of my younger self in which I was still in college, the most stressful thing that could happen was to fail a test or I missed a lighting queue when I was working on a play or show.
It's amazing how much we look back as we get older. I like who I am far more now than when I was in college; I know who I am and what I want. Yet those days were fun. I'd stay up until 3 a.m., go to Taco Bell for midnight runs, have dinner with a bunch of boys and think nothing of it.
I may still be single. I may still be unpublished. I may be away from the friends that know me best. Yet when I put in my cd of Tommy, when I watch "An Officer and a Gentleman" or when I watch the snow fall in the solitude of my apartment, I realize how much I love being an adult. The experiences I've had are one-of-a-kind. I'll never drink Boones Strawberry Hill without thinking of my friend Rachel. I'll never hear Tommy without thinking simultaneously of the first boyfriend I ever probably loved and the second summer of my independence- no longer an intern but an apprentice who gets to use mouldy paint and worry because our Tommy is losing his voice.
It's been a few years since I sat in the St. James Theatre on Broadway and watched Tommy. I saw Les Miserables the next day and though I had already loved that show and knew it back to front, it never wowed me the way that Tommy did. I suppose it's like life, really. You might think you know what to expect but it always surprises you, taking your breath away when you least expect it.
Friday, January 16, 2009
It's lovely to be inside at the moment, that's all I can really say. It's nice to look outside and know it's that cold and wrap your hands around a cup of coffee, even the vile office coffee that I'm currently drinking. It's not that vile at the moment but it's the first pot. It only increases in vileness as the day goes on. Yet I continue to drink it because it's coffee and on a day like to day, coffee helps the world not freeze.
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Bloody freezing also means that if you leave a twelve pack of Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi in the boot of your car, it freezes and then explodes. Naturally, being a somewhat-intelligent Captain Monkeypants, you'd think I would have realized this. I did- after I went to get out a can to take to the office and found my twelve-pack covered in (frozen) Diet Wild Cherry. I suppose the good part about it being bloody freezing is that cleanup will be easy- I can remove the frozen explosion before it gets too sticky.
The cold blast took our breath away. The snow was thrown at us, ice-cold pellets attacking our faces, no matter how we tried to shield ourselves. The cold got through my coat, my boots. I forgot my gloves so my hands were freezing. For a three minute walk, it was pretty intense. Needless to say, i ordered a nice hot Irish-type coffee when we got inside. Nothing like a spiked cup of coffee to warm the chill off your bones.
Just kidding. Mostly. Happy Thursday. Stay warm (unless you're in L.A. where, apparently, it's been nice and warm all week.)
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
It's also freezing outside, almost Siberian temperatures again. It's supposed to get colder. I don't mind as long as I don't have to be outside and that I don't have to drive on icy roads. You've probably noticed, I'm a big fan of snow.
I've been spending the last month or so editing my manuscript for Rainlight. My intention is to enter it into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I don't really know why. Last year was such an abysmally depressing affair that I don't know why I'm willing to subject myself again. But I want to. I like that I have a deadline.
The only problem is the word limit. They want novels of no more than 150,000 words. My novel, after all my cuts and edits is still 162,000. So the question is, do I pick another novel, use that one but cut large chunks of them out with hopes that, if I'm ever published, they can go back in? Or should I be ruthless and just cut scenes out, scenes I love?
The thing is, I've tried to be ruthless already. I've cut portions out that I liked but weren't necessary. Now I have to cut a lot more and I'm not sure how I'm going to manage that. I'm hoping I'll find away. I do have a backup plan though- I have another, much shorter novel, ready to go. There's always that option.
I've mentioned in the past how hard it is to kill a character. I've now realized that no matter how many times I do it, it never gets easier. I was just editing a novel that I wrote seven years ago and I still couldn't stand the fact that I'd killed this character, John. I feel guilty. I see the course the novel takes and everything that could be done to prevent his death and yet...still he dies. He has to; without his death, the next four novels in the series couldn't happen. It's hard to reread what I wrote all those years ago because I know what happens and even though it's my creation, I'm powerless to prevent it. Rereading his death scene is almost as hard as when I wrote it. I'm angry that he didn't fight harder but I also know that there's only so much one sixteen-year-old can take and he reached his limit.
I suppose that the power I have as a writer could be used for ill. I can create and kill, give life and take it. It's a scary power to have but I try not to wield it unwisely. That's why, as I've mentioned, I listen to my characters and don't tell them what to do. It's their story; I let them tell me. Sometimes it takes a while, sometimes it doesn't but, when I'm done, I always have a finished book and it never ends the way I planned.
I know this blog isn't as interesting as some of my other ones and for that, I apologize. I will try to do better tomorrow. It's snowing harder outside, a cascade of flakes that blind you. I'm happy about that. I know my mother is not. She's not a winter person. All I can say is that in a few short weeks, the snow will subside a little and you'll see the snowdrops fight their way out of the earth to bloom, even when snow still surrounds them. I, for one, have to enjoy winter because, without it, spring would have less meaning.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Anyway, today feels like one of those days where I need a good rant to get me kickstarted since it's a soggy Tuesday morning, it's not light outside yet and my brain is still waking up. So, lucky readers, todays rant is all about Fan Fiction.
Are you familiar with fan fiction? I wasn't really until recently. It's one of those things I knew existed but I had no interest in it so I ignored it completely. Lately though, it's been crossing my path as I surf the web and I finally decided to figure out what it was all about.
Frankly, I'm slightly appalled at the amount of it out there. In short, fan fiction is written about already existing characters usually from TV shows, books, even theatre. It can be innocent fiction that basically fulfills someone's fantasies, allows unsuccessful writers to change their shows/books/movies/theatre storylines in the way THEY would do if THEY wrote for TV or it fulfills some rather twisted fantasies on the part of the writer.
I'm sure there's more to it than that. What I have figured out is that fanfiction writers have to honour the canon of the original material; they can't change what's happened already on the show, in the book, in the movie, or whatever. They can't change the personalities of the characters they write about just to suit their needs. They have to respect the parameters of the worlds that the real writers who created them have set up.
Some of it is fairly silly. Some fanfiction writers focus on what is called 'shipping. That is to say they take an existing romance on a tv show and write about those two characters. They also take two opposite sex characters who are not romantically involved and write romance between them. There's also alternate universe in which they find ways to change the history of the tv show/book or whatever and write a different version of events.
The one that disturbs me a little is slash fiction. I had no idea what this was until I looked it up on Wikipedia. This particular brand of fan fiction takes two same-sex characters and gets them romantically or sexually involved, regardless of whether they're gay or not. Usually, they're not. The more I read about it, the more disturbed I got. One of the most popular themes is Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Seriously, what is wrong with these people? Harry Potter started as a children's book. Yes, it got darker as the series progressed but it was still aimed at children. Nowhere in the book is there any scene with Harry and Draco having a romantic or sexual moment.
Here's the part where I give the obligatory "I'm not homophobic" explanation. I'm not. We can't help who we love and are attracted to. We can fight it but, ultimately, it's in our genetic makeup to be sexually attracted to someone, whether the same sex or the opposite one. I know that being gay is a lifestyle and all but in my mind, it still boils down to who's in your bed at the end of the day. I'm British with stereotypical reserve: Whatever someone does is up to them but don't make a fuss about it. It doesn't bother me who the heck someone sleeps with. I've never understood the need for gay people to "confess" or "come out". It's not like I'm running around saying "I'M STRAIGHT! I ADMIT IT!" It should just be something we are. Yes, I'm an idealist. Knowing is half the battle as my character, John King, would quote.
Anyway, enough of that. What I'm trying to say is that if J.K. Rowling had made Draco and Harry a couple, it would be different. It would definitely be a different sort of book but given J.K's genius, it would still be very readible, I'm sure. But she didn't. She wrote a book about a boy wizard who grows up, vanquishes the evil villain and falls in love with Ginny Weasley. There's plenty of fan fiction about Ginny and Harry too, by the way.
It's the same with TV shows. I love Grey's Anatomy even if I think it's on crack at the moment. But Meredith and Christina are NOT a couple. They are friends. Derek and Mark Sloan are also JUST friends.
You can tell, slash fiction bothers me. I think of it as a form of porn. I actually have no problem with porn, as it happens. It fills a need, some people consider it art. It's there if you want it.
Which makes me question why I'm so bothered by slash fiction. It's probably because it's out there for anyone to see. They do have a rating system so readers can make sure it's suitable. Yet it's out there. The best reason I can come up with is that becasue I am a writer. I find it offensive. I have a series of books, as I've mentioned, that have three teenage boys who are good friends. I know if it were ever to get published and get popular, slash fiction would be born and I'd be horrified. Those are MY characters- get your nasty fanfiction hands off them.
Yes, I'm a selfish writer. I have a moral beef with stealing other people's ideas. It's the same reason I refuse to read "sequels" to books like Pride and Prejudice or Gone with the Wind. Unless a sequel is written by the originating author, it's not really a sequel. It's fan fiction, regardless of the cover price, publisher or level of prestige that goes with it. There is NO way to know what a deceased author would have written about their character in a sequel and so it's not fair for another writer to assume they do.
I apply this logic to everything, even books I despise. There are 'alternate versions' of Stephanie Meyer's Breaking Dawn floating around, books that were written by angry fans who hated the way she wrote the ending of the Twilight series. As I've mentioned, I hated Breaking Dawn and thought it one of the worst books I've read in several years. Yet that doesn't mean that I have the right to change it. It's Stephanie Meyer's baby, her creation. Even if it is a self-indulgent, twisted piece of anti-feminist rubbish, that's the way she wrote it. End of story. Unless she decides that it is, indeed, absolute crap, recalls every copy she published and issues a better version, that's the way the series ends. No amount of fanfiction is going to change it.
I can hear the opposing arguments: At least fanfiction writers are writing, using their imaginations, finding ways to get through bad times in life. It's an outlet, a way to inspire creativity. Sure, that's fine, I suppose. Some of them are actually quite good writers and I can't help but wonder if, maybe, they applied the same energy to original stories with their own characters, we'd have less Breaking Dawns and more Harry Potter type novels.
I know that writing fanfiction is almost like a drug; a way to escape into a world that is more interesting than the real one around us. It's a way to 'talk' to characters that are loved, adored, hated, admired. It's a way to crawl inside those characters head's, to be a part of that world we've read about or watched. It's a way to be a part of it, to wrap ourselves up in the lives of the people we've only ever observed before, voyeuristically or otherwise.
So I get it. I do. I still hate it. I still hate the violation of an original idea. I still think the fanfiction writers should step outside of fantasy and project that creativity into the real world around them but, like any vice, I don't suppose they can help it, not really. I really have no right to condemn them and, really, I'm not. I'm just stating the fact that I, as a writer, and as Captain Monkeypants, do not really understand why there is so much fanfiction out there and why it's tolerated. I suppose imitation is the highest form of flattery which is why some of the "canon" writers don't mind but I can safely say, it would bother me if someone took my characters and used them for virtual sexual gratification. Whatever reason the fanfiction writers do it, I still don't like it. I suppose it's like shrimp; you either love it or you hate it. I, personally, hate shrimp. The taste is ok but the texture and feel in my mouth is vile. Fan fiction is like shrimp. I like the canon but I feel dirty when reading the fan fiction, like I'm commiting a violatation against the original writer.
I'm sure I'll offend with this post and I do, honestly, apologize. It's just my opinion. I have friends who like fanfiction, who even write it. Maybe there's more to it than I've ranted about here. Maybe there is something I don't get about it. If so, tell me because, as I said before, knowing is half the battle.
Monday, January 12, 2009
You'd think in the age of Doppler 7000 or whatever we're up to now, the weather reports would be right more often than they're wrong but I haven't found that to be too accurate. Ok, so I know we have to allow for Mother Nature to interfere with the weather but I can't help but wonder why the weather reports are wrong so often. But that doesn't stop us from watching the weather though, does it?
Weather reports can be amusing. My parents, being in a different television broadcast area to me, have a different weather lady. She not only wears the strangest outfits but also acts like the End is Nigh when the weather threatens to do anything. The same channel also has this poor little newbie reporter who inevitably gets to stand by the side of the Interstate whenever it's snowing, freezing raining or...it's cold. She gets to tell us that....it's cold. Ok, so I know that new reporters have to pay their dues but really chances are that those of us watching the weather have figured out that it's cold outside. We really don't need a reporter to tell us something so obvious.
The other thing that makes me smile about the local weather people is that they're using a blue screen- you know that nifty screen that moves behind them as they tell us about the incoming weather? When I was in college, I took a Journalism for TV class and the first thing they taught us was that if you're using a blue screen, you shouldn't wear blue. You see, it blends into the screen. I often see local weather reporters with floating heads and such because they're wearing blue. It's actually rather amusing.
Anyway, we're not actually supposed to have any major weather over the next week so they're emphasizing the fact that it will be really cold. Yes, it's January. This is the Midwest. It's sort of expected. We really don't need to devote ten minutes telling us how cold it's going to get. This is the kind of reporting that sends the panickers to the store where there's a run on bread and milk.
I don't get that, either. Whenever bad weather looms, people run out and get bread and milk. Why? Milk usually has a shelf life of less than a week these days. Bread goes mouldy. If we're going to get snowed in, that's not really the only thing you can live on. How about some nice pop-tarts, some canned soup, some crackers? Why bread and milk?
Anyway, so it's cold outside and it's a Monday. This is a combination that adds up to the fact that I'd dearly have loved to have just stayed in bed and slept this morning. Again, what else is new? I'd love it if employers would, along with sick time and vacation, give you some "sleep in" hours. Wouldn't that be great? You get, maybe, two hours a month for that. By the end of the year, you can combine them to take one day off if you don't use them. If you do use them, you have the luxury of looking at the clock in the morning and opting to take them.
Yes, I know logistically, this would wreak havoc. Everything does, these days. Chances are, you'd still have to call your boss to tell them you were using your "sleep in" hours which would interrupt sleep. If you didn't call, it'd be hard for bosses to keep track of you. Still, the idea sounds nice, doesn't it?
I didn't sleep well this weekend. I had odd dreams. I won't bore you with the details because second-hand dreams are always a little boring when they're not your own. I did dream I was going to County Cork, Ireland. That was a weird dream because it was so specific. Maybe it was because I was at my parent's- who knows. I did manage to beat the bad weather and get there on Friday night. Unfortunately, the weather on my birthday was crappy and I didn't get to do much other than stay home and do a jigsaw. That's actually not a bad thing, necessarily. At least I was with my parents who made the most of such a horrible-weather day.
Yet now it's time for another week. I don't feel any older than I did on Friday. Nothing much has changed. My feet are as cold as they were on Friday. I have the same work to do. Life is the same as it was. I am older though. They say with age comes wisdom. I'm still waiting for that...
Friday, January 9, 2009
I suppose birthdays are about getting older. I'm not a big fan of that anymore. I've reached the stage where I'm happy the way I am and I don't want to be any older. Then again, I never really see myself being the age I am- which I choose not to reveal to you. I still feel like I did ten years ago with perhaps a few more aches and pains and, perhaps, a little more wisdom. Nothing much is going to change tomorrow when the calendar shows I've officially passed another year on earth. I'm still going to adore Harry Potter, I'm still going to love Green Day and I'm still going to eat Cheetos with a fork (or toast tongs, if I have them on hand).
As a kid, I used to think people my current age were grown ups, creatures who were never children. Now, I know I was silly and I probably read too much Enid Blyton. In those books, the grown ups were barely acknowledged, creatures too old and dull to be part of the adventure or fun. Now I'm one of those grownups. It's a little scary when I think about it. I'm not really sure I like being a grownup.
I've decided that instead of making new year resolutions, I'm making birthday resolutions. After all, I wasn't born on a new year and thus had to wait almost 355 days AFTER I was born to celebrate one. I don't exactly know what those resolutions will be but I'll work on it. I do know that this is the year I'm going to get published in some form or another and I'm not talking about publishing this blog. That's one resolution, at least.
I apologize, once again, for the babbling nature of this email but by now you should be used to it. Sometimes I have a topic, sometimes I don't. Today, i didn't. I just thought, hey, I should probably blog about my birthday so I did. Thanks, as always, for reading.
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, January 8, 2009
You might wonder why I don't just walk slowly. Well, I can't make any sudden movements in my boots. I tried that once. Let's just say I came microscopacally close to falling down, my legs in the air, resembling a fly in its last minutes of life. If I were braver, I'd go ice-skating in my boots but since ice-skating to me is a bad idea, I think I'll leave that to my stray. My idea of ice-skating is clinging to the rail of the rink, slowly getting up enough balance and courage to move away. I can usually make it round the rink after about half an hour as long as I don't stay too far from the edge. I still end up falling down but it's still quite fun.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
For example, one of my earliest obsessions was with a British children's author named Enid Blyton. As an avid reader anyway, I discovered that she had hundreds of books. They were books about boarding schools, fantasy lands that could be found at the top of trees, child detectives, mysteries and even had my most favourite character: Noddy. Noddy was a little elf-like thing whose best friend was the grumpy Big Ears. I used to call him "Biggy Ears" before I knew better. I absorbed Enid Blyton's books like a sponge: I used to go to the library and come home with a stack of five books, all by her. I wanted to go to boarding school, to have midnight feasts, to do all the things her characters did. Actually, I've always had a sneaking suspicion that J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter, also read her share of Enid Blyton when she was younger. There are definitely some good Blyton-esque scenes in her books, especially the earlier ones before the world of Hogwarts got too dark.
Anyway, my obsession got to the point where, I believe, a teacher even told my mother that I should probably read something else to give me some variety. You see, I didn't know it then but Enid wasn't, um....a good writer. She tended to use the same words over and over and being as young as I was, I didn't realize how dated her books were, even when I was a child.
Sadly, I got my hands on some Enid Blyton books fairly recently, books that I'd loved as a child about St. Clare's school. I was horrified. They were terrible. They were full of terms like "fiddlesticks" and "golly gosh" and they were absolutely horrendously written. Needless to say, I was mildly crushed that such a staple of my youth wasn't the paragon I believed her to be. Yet she'd given me an impetus to read voraciously as a young 'un and there was value in that.
My obsessions continued. They veered in music in which I am now sort of embarrassed to admit I was a huge Wham! fan and was in love with George Michael. Ok, I'm more than sort of embarrassed. Hey, I was ten. We didn't know he was gay then. My best friend and I would had recorded two Wham! videos- "Careless Whisper" and "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" (and yes, ok, I know technically "Careless Whisper" was a solo effort by George but that's irrelevant to my story). We would run home at lunch EVERY DAY and watch them. My poor mother- she had to suffer through that. Sorry, mum. Really.
From Wham! I moved on bouncing from films to television to books and back to music. I went through a heavy metal period in my teens, wearing the black band shirts and thinking I was cool because I liked hair bands. Again, hindsight is 20-20 but at the time, they were a metaphor for my painful awkward teen years. My friends and I would have lotteries to divide up who had 'custody' of a band for the week. Yes, again....I was an unhappy teen for a while but, then again, show me a happy one. As teens, we all think that we're misunderstood and unliked by our peers. It's only fifteen years later and you realize that all those people you thought hated you really were just as messed up and befuddled by life as you and suddenly they all want to be your Facebook friend.
Uh, sorry...I digress. After that phase, I changed friends. I think it's because I suddenly realized that life really didn't suck and I was just a dork in a black shirt listening to music from men more effeminate then me. I made new friends and started to listen to happier things like Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals.
It was a new phase. That one lasted me a while. During that phase, I also went through an Anne Rice phase in which I loved vampires again. I've always liked vampires but Anne Rice made them more romantic and less, you know, fangy and bloody. Phases can overlap, you know.
Since then, I've probably had a dozen more phases. I went through a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer phases but, then again, that one is still ongoing merely because Joss Whedon, the writer and creator of the show is a genius and I will follow his creativity wherever he goes because he always keeps me amused, spellbound and fascinated by his ability to write and create such original stuff.
You may wonder why I'm telling you all this. My snarky answer is that it's my blog, I can tell you what I like. Surprisingly, however, I do have a point. This whole reverie was sparked by a visit to a bookstore this weekend in which I saw two teenage girls grabbing several copies of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books and literally being so excited you could see them jumping up and down.
Surprisingly enough, given my past rants and blogs about Ms. Meyer, this isn't actually a tirade against her and her mediocre books. It's mostly because when I saw those teens being that excited over a book, I could relate to it. Maybe the reason I hate those books so much is because I know, as a teen, I, too, would have wanted to be Bella Swan with her sparkled-skin, bronze-haired hero to save her from her mundane life. I would have felt catharsis in Bella's unhappiness too. So I can't even mock them as I normally would. Mostly, I'm excited that they are that excited over a book. Ok, so I wish it was someone more deserving like Neil Gaiman, Celia Rees, J.K. Rowling or even Stephen King but, well, at least they're excited over a book of some kind.
The only thing that I wonder, especially as I surf the pages of the internet, is how those Twi-hards are going to feel in a few years. At the moment, every entertainment site I read likes to talk about the sequel to the blah Twilight movie and who will play who and if the new director will be good. With each online news story, there is room for comments and that space is filled with devoted love from Twi-hards about how amazing the movie will be, how much Robert Pattinson resembles the Edward in their head and all of that. Yes, I read them. I used to be a quasi-journalist- I'm a firm believer in reading the good as well as the bad.
The comments are often written in that annoying shorthand used for text messaging, so fluidly done that it's obviously a teen. They love their Twilight. They love Stephanie Meyer. They love the books so much that they've read them multiple times.
There's nothing wrong with that. Whatever gets 'em through the day.
Yet, as I mentioned, in a few years, when those devoted fans are a little better adjusted to life, when the awkward teen years are behind them and they find themselves becoming adults, will they really be able to go back to Twilight and see the same beauty and brilliance they see now? Or will it become one of those slightly embarrassing obsessions that got them through middle school or high school but now needs to be forgotten?
I can't answer that because I don't know. What I do know is that when I was fourteen, I read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I fell in love with the book. I read it and reread it. I memorized the opening. I wondered what would happen if I met Ponyboy. I watched the movie. It wasn't great but I was willing to overlook that because there were Sodapop, Ponyboy and Johnny on the screen.
I reread that book a few years ago. I get why I loved it. It's the tale of a teen who doesn't fit in but eventually, after some crappy experiences, realizes that he has to stay true to himself. Something like that, anyway. I don't know why I could relate to it. I was from an unbroken, nicely stable, loving middle-class family- completely the opposite of any of The Outsider's characters. Yet I also cringed a little that I'd loved it as much as I had. I recognized that value it gave me in my teens but, as an adult, like any youthful obsession, I couldn't remember why I'd loved it to the point of obsession.
I suppose, maybe, The Outsiders was my Twilight. Minus the sappy romance and drippy descriptions, of course. I know now, having the hindsight and something resembling wisdom, that had I loved Twilight in my teens, it would now be one of those shelved memories along with Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and crushes on skateboarders who should have bathed more often. I'd be slightly embarrassed that I loved it but in a way, it made me who I am, for better or for worse. I like who I am now and that means everything. I hope those Twilight fans have a similar experience.
Sorry for the long blog but thanks, as always, for reading. Happy Wednesday.