Jul. 31st, 2011 01:02 pm
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I'm sorry, but LJ is a disaster. I greatly appreciate how hard they're working to get the site back up and running, but this is the second major breakdown this year and I'm starting to feel like it's only a matter of time. I don't know how much I trust "volunteer supported" Dreamwidth to stick around in the long term, and part of me suspects Dreamwidth would not be able to handle a mass exodus from LJ, but wow, I really need a fallback and this seems to be the only game in town.
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I was thinking the other day that I literally can't remember the last time I read any contemporary novel that wasn't in the fantasy/horror genre. I read (and re-read) non-genre novels by authors like Dickens and Bronte all the time, and a couple of months ago I found Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men during a bookshelf cleanout and I read that in a couple of days, but it must be at least ten years since I read any "ordinary" modern fiction.

When I was at the airport last week I was flipping through Time magazine and came across an article on summer reading, where famous authors were asked what they were planning to read this summer...and more than a few said that David Foster Wallace's The Pale King was tops on their list.

This is a book with a deceptively intriguing title. It makes me think of that great line from Revelation:

"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."

Brrr, right?

Well, The Pale King is about...IRS agents in Peoria, Illinois.

Now, I've never read anything by Wallace. He's one of those authors who is adulated by critics and his peers but man...I don't care how good of a writer he is, I don't want to read anything about IRS agents in Peoria, Illinois unless one of them starts conjuring Satan from his Rolodex while his cubicle-mate just happens to keep a sawed-off shotgun full of rocksalt in his desk.

Maybe I'm missing out and maybe novels like this would have something to teach me, but at this stage in my life, I honestly have no stomach to read anything about real people in real life, no matter how gifted the writer is. Seriously, here is an excerpt from a review of The Pale King:

"Richard Rayner in the Los Angeles Times writes that The Pale King's subjects are "loneliness, depression and the ennui that is human life's agonized bedrock, 'the deeper type of pain that is always there, if only in an ambient low-level way, and most which most of us spend nearly all of our time and energy trying to distract ourselves from' [quoting Wallace] ... The Pale King dares to plunge readers deep into this Dantean hell of 'crushing boredom,' suggesting that something good may lie beyond."

For the love of God! "This Dantean hell of 'crushing boredom'" already IS my life! Why on earth would I want to read a 560-page novel about it!?

I'd also never read anything written by someone who committed suicide while he was working on it. Part of that is superstition, but part of it is OMG THIS MAN COMMITTED SUICIDE WHILE TRYING TO WRITE THIS BOOK! WHY WOULD ANYONE READ THIS??!?!?

Give me wizards and elves and hobbits and hot demon-hunters and hell, you can even give me sparkly vampires and perpetually shirtless werewolves. Keep your loneliness, depression and ennui. I'm full up on that, thanks.
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I am horrified, horrified at how quickly time has begun to pass.

They say this happens to everyone as they get older but it's beyond anything I ever imagined.

And it's not just now compared to, say, childhood or adolescence. It's moving faster now than it was even a few years ago.

I was talking in another post about my past fandoms and I realized that I've now been in Supernatural fandom longer than I was actively involved in Lord of the Rings/Elijah Wood combined. LoTR/EW altogether lasted from early 2002 through mid-2005, roughly three-and-a-half years. Next month will mark four full years that I've been in SPN fandom...and yet when I think of LoTR/EW, it seems like that went on forever, and meanwhile, these past four years have just...I don't know where they went. It's getting faster all the time.

I swear, I'll remember something and I'll think, Oh yeah, that was a couple of years ago, and then I'll realize it was six or seven or ten years ago. Last month marked eleven years that I've been at my job. This November it will be five years since my dog died. I have the feeling of being trapped in a car with a jammed gas pedal and no brakes...and hurtling right toward a concrete wall. Hurtling downhill toward a concrete wall. Faster all the time.

There's something ominous about this because I think it has to do with death. The closer you get to it, the faster things go. It's an inelegant metaphor, but it makes me think of water going down a tub. When the tub is full, the water's moving so slowly you can hardly tell it's going out at all. That's like childhood, when time seems to stand still. The more the tub drains, the faster the water moves. That's adulthood, slipping by faster and faster. When the water's almost all gone, it's moving so fast that it's just a blur. That's where I'm at now. Everything's just a blur. Circling the drain.

Jesus Christ, someone put a stopper in this thing.

ADHD World

May. 16th, 2011 06:29 pm
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Is our current Twitter/Facebook/YouTube soundbite culture responsible for the absolute epidemic of plotless fiction? Has the technology revolution caused a global ADHD that keeps people from even noticing that they're consuming plotless fiction?

Spoilers for Eclipse and South Riding )

Glee sucks

May. 10th, 2011 08:37 pm
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I dislike Glee for a number of reasons but not the least is because it asks me to believe that in a time when our popular culture is dominated by song-and-dance competitions, a bunch of attractive kids who can really sing and dance would somehow be the school "losers." Really, Glee? Really?


Apr. 6th, 2011 09:32 pm
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After reading The Hunger Games I had a great desire to go back and read some of my favorite books from my own young-adult years. I was a young adult back in the days when such fiction wasn't the bestselling, guaranteed movie-adaptation juggernaut that it is these days, so none of these authors are household names. That's unfortunate because these were some great writers who, in my opinion, paved the way for folks like J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins and even the execrable Stephenie Meyer.

Two of the books I ordered were The House With a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs and Under the Root by the prolific Zilpha Keatley Snyder. The Bellairs book was a standard paperback but I immediately recognized something unusual about the Snyder book. It looked and felt like a self-published book. In fact it resembled almost exactly the version of Lazarus Came Forth that [livejournal.com profile] liptonrm published for me a couple of years ago -- even the font was the same.

I checked the copyright and it was indeed published via iUniverse (a self-publishing company) by a group called Authors Guild Backinprint.com. According to the message in the back of the book, Authors Guild is dedicated to using today's "print-on-demand technology" (in other words, self-publishing) to publish books that have fallen out of print. A quick look at Amazon.com seems to reveal that all or most of Snyder's books are only available this way.

While I'm immensely grateful that such a company exists to restore these works to publication, I find it incredibly sad -- and almost incomprehensible -- that a Stephenie Meyer can become a multimillionaire off her cheesy, shallow dreck while a writer like Snyder wouldn't even be in print anymore without "print-on-demand technology." Is it really possible that no mainstream publishing house wanted to reissue her work? This woman was a three-time Newberry Award winner! When I was a kid, the library had an entire shelf full of her books!

Seriously, I don't know what's wrong with the world.
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This article in the New York Times is a fun account of Edward Gorey's work but it's grossly remiss in not mentioning that Gorey illustrated one of my favorite childhood books, The House With a Clock in Its Walls, by John Bellairs.

It's a real shame that Bellairs lived at a time when children's books never topped the bestseller lists and writing for children was a far more workaday occupation, not the path to superstardom and outlandish wealth that it can be today. I have no doubt that writers like Bellairs made a very good living off their work, but I'm sure none of them ever collected paychecks like J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyers. I have never heard Rowling mention Bellairs as an inspiration, but from my very first reading of Harry Potter, I thought she must have been familiar with his work -- Bellairs' atmospheric series of novels about an awkward orphan boy who discovers that he belongs to a family of wizards combating the resurrection of an all-powerful "dark lord" were just so similar to Rowling's premise, if not her execution.

Along with Bellairs, another childhood favorite was Zilpha Keatley Snyder, whose work I see very much echoed in Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games trilogy. It's funny, and also kind of sad, that today a young-adult author can build a huge following off just one series, while writers like Snyder churned out dozens of novels in relative obscurity to anyone over the age of twelve.

As for Edward Gorey himself, I've adored his work since I first saw it, which I'm pretty sure was in Bellairs' books. There's something in his illustrations that often can't be explained -- black humor, of course, but also something genuinely frightening, even the ones that are not overtly macabre. They have the quality of some of the best ghost stories and worst nightmares, the sort where you can't put your finger on exactly what's wrong, but you just know that something is, and terribly so. You can't just look at Gorey's drawings, you have to stare at them, always imagining that if you just study them closely enough, you'll finally figure out why that curtain, or that picture frame, or that bit of hedge in the background is making you shudder. But you never do.
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I have to give another recommendation for Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games trilogy. Not just because it reads like good fanfic, but because I actually believe that Collins intentionally wrote it to inspire fanfic. The only fanfic element that's missing is the explicit slash but then you can't really expect that in books published by Scholastic for a pre-teen audience. But everything else is here, there's even a beautiful, tragic rentboy. I'm not joking. There's a beautiful, tragic rentboy with a heart of gold nonetheless. So technically speaking, there is slash, it's just implicit not explicit. Frankly, he's not even a rentboy, he's more of a sex slave. Even better! A beautiful, tragic sex slave with a heart of gold!

If SPN still has a big fandom going by the time these books are made into movies, I fully expect a proliferation of SPN/Hunger Games crossover fic. And Suzanne Collins will be loving it.

ETA: I also have a strong suspicion that Collins may have been a Dark Angel fan. Just a hunch.

TV Rec

Jan. 23rd, 2011 05:51 pm
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I've been meaning to post about this but kept forgetting -- I've gotten totally hooked on this British series, Downton Abbey, which is airing here on Sunday nights as part of PBS's Masterpiece Theatre lineup. Tonight at 9:00 is the third installment of four (for any of you who aren't spending time with the Packers, Colts, Steelers or Jets tonight).

This show is like Brideshead Revisited meets Upstairs Downstairs meets...One Life To Live. It's one of those gorgeous period drama that only the British can pull off properly, and yet it's also kind of deliciously trashy. You've got the big estate, the exquisite costumes, a meeting of the hounds, lords and ladies, fancy dinner parties...PLUS pretty boys kissing, seductive Turkish noblemen, girls behaving badly, class conflicts and Maggie Smith chewing up the scenery in a never-ending succession of astounding hats. (Seriously, did women have stronger necks in the Edwardian era? How on earth did they ever support those hats?)

I haven't watched anything on Masterpiece in years...I think maybe not since Bleak House. I just happened to tune into this by accident two weeks ago and was instantly hooked. I'm almost sorry they're airing it as only four installments here because I'd love to drag this out longer. The good news is that it was apparently such a huge hit in the UK that there's already a second season in the works, the bad news is that I guess Season Two won't air here in the US until next January. But at least it's something to look forward to!
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Because I've been unhappy for so much of my life, I sometimes think I must be a "complicated" person. One who's hard to please or who has some sort of...inchoate and grandiose desires that could never be fulfilled.

Yesterday it started snowing around 11:00 in the morning and while I usually ignore the drama surrounding weather forecasts, I somehow knew this was going to be a big one. I also knew that I probably wouldn't have to go work today. By afternoon, it was an absolute certainty that I wouldn't be going to work today.

I was just so happy yesterday. I had a houseful of food including homemade Christmas cookies. I even had a bottle of wine. My apartment is nice and clean and my Christmas tree is still up and I had it lit all day. I had plenty of nice scented candles to burn. Watching that much snow come down made me positively giddy. I knew I didn't have to get up early for work so I was up past midnight having tea and cookies and watching Return of the King. I spent a big part of the day writing fic. And what made it best of all was just knowing that I didn't have to go to work on Monday. An unexpected 24-hour reprieve.

So yeah, this is what I need to make me happy:

1) Not having to go to work
2) A comfortable home
3) Not having to go to work
4) Writing
5) Not having to go to work
6) Not having to go to work
7) Not having to go to work
8) Not having to go to work
9) Not having to go to work
10) Not having to go to work

That? Is not complicated. And yet most of the time? So completely out of reach.
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Explain this:

Out of 8 million people in NYC, only 5 of them were in yoga class on a quiet Sunday the week before Christmas...and one of them was a co-worker of mine.

The mind boggles.

The Secret

Dec. 6th, 2010 09:32 pm
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After last night's riveting season finale of The Walking Dead, I found myself wondering what is the secret to creating great entertainment in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genre. I think it comes down to two things --

1) Taking the subject matter seriously.

2) Respecting the audience.

Which frankly, are interrelated. If you take your subject matter seriously, you'll respect the audience because you know they take it seriously too. In contrast, if you think your story is kind of silly, then you'll no doubt think your audience is silly for liking it so much. And because it's a vicious cycle, once you start thinking your audience is silly, you'll take your story even less seriously because its biggest fans are losers who probably have nothing better to do than watch your silly show. See how that works?
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I checked out The Vampire Diaries tonight and much to my surprise, Lauren Cohan (formerly SPN's Bela) was a guest star. It took me a half hour before I realized it was her because her look was so different...but more because she actually had something to do. I really disliked Bela's character on SPN but I never felt anything but pity for Ms. Cohan, who had one of the most useless, thankless roles I've ever seen on television. So, good on the CW for hiring her and actually giving her, y'know...a part.

I've also seen both Mr. and Mrs. Carrigan (the pagan deities from "A Very Supernatural Christmas") turning up on the CW this past week. I just spotted Mr. Carrigan on Nikita (playing a "Senator Kerrigan" LOL) and last week, Mrs. Carrigan was once again a party to human sacrifice on Smallville. Regarding the latter, WHY oh WHY is the idea of hicktowns sacrificing unwitting travelers for the sake of their crops so popular in genre television? I mean really...their crops? It's 2010 and the world turns on credit default swaps and hedge funds. How much mileage can a small town in the middle of nowhere get out of a good apple harvest? Have all of these writers just seen The Wicker Man too many times?

Speaking of which, if you ever get a chance to watch The Wicker Man (the original, not the piece-of-shit remake with Nicholas Cage), don't pass it up. And wear diapers, because it's shit-your-pants scary.
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I just did something I've never done...joined a health club. Not just any club, but a very expensive yoga studio. Signed on for the whole year. The only way I'm going to get my money's worth is if I go at least twice a week so I hope I can stick with it. The place is gorgeous and immaculately clean (unlike some other yoga studios I've checked out) and, from what I've seen, blissfully low on all the hippie-trippy "third eye" stuff. And boy, their clientele is their best advertisement because everyone just looked fit and healthy and gorgeous, with those long, elegant muscles that I want so bad. I saw a girl in the locker room who was wearing a thong and actually had the ass to wear a thong and I went to the YMCA for over a year and never saw an ass like that. I want that ass. On me, I mean.

I was supposed to do a free guest class on Sunday but I was too sick to go so I hope that doesn't mean I'm getting off on the wrong footing. I really need to do this. And now I'm contracted to do it until next year so...it's either this or flush $145 a month down the toilet.

Namaste, biotches.


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