Saturday, December 30, 2006

Flickr Fiction: Dream in Color

Ida dreamed in stories. Not flickers of images like the switching of TV channels, or half-remembered childhood memories, or partially digested daily events mish-mashed together into an incomprehensible soup.

Stories. Complete plots with characters and an arc that rose to a dramatic climax and then, always, always, stopped at the most absolutely crucial moment. If these had been actual written pieces, then she would never get to the end of the key scene, never experience a character's epiphany, never find out the moral of the story.

Like this, from her dream diary dated October 2, 1992: She was a girl working in a tavern somewhere in 1800s England. A soldier came in. The soldier was her brother; their mother had taken ill with a fever after helping their sister give birth to her first child, a boy. She--Ida--rushed home to find her mother in a state of delirium. She bathed her face gently with compresses of cool water, but the situation worsened. In a rare--perhaps her final--moment of lucidity, her mother reached out one trembling, careworn hand to touch Ida's face and opened her mouth to speak, at which point Ida woke up, sweating, frustrated, angry, crying.

Or this, dated just last Monday: She was a young man--sometimes she was a member of the opposite sex in her dreams, though at the same time, curiously, she remained herself--a young man living in Chicago, alone in a cramped but sunlit apartment. He had moved there just a few months before to study with a world-famous tap dancer, jazz-tap style, and life had not been easy for him, working odd restaurant jobs at late hours and falling into bed exhausted after practicing until he was ready to drop. But the very next day, he received a visit from his teacher at the world-famous tap dancer's school, and the teacher asked him to dance right then and there, in his apartment, because the teacher was considering suggesting him for a key role in an upcoming performance. The young man pulled on his shoes, excitement warring with trepidation, his hands shaking but his feet steady. He stood in the empty, wood-floored living room and began to dance. After several minutes, he stopped. The teacher opened his mouth, raising one hand to emphasize what he was about to say.

Ida woke up.
***

This week's piece was inspired by To the dancers in the sun by Flickr user dejon. This is another sort of unfinished piece, playing around with a character who might work her way into a short story... Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, Linus, and new members Neil, Valsha, and Dermot, who's still getting set up.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Guess What I'm Doing Right Now?

Talking to my sister on the phone. In Australia. !!! More later.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Flickr Fiction: At the Sign of the Sheep

The dark-cloaked figure staggered up to the wooden building, creaking in the wind, and leaned against its outer stone wall for support. For a time, Aster did not move or speak, but merely breathed, each inhalation a struggle against the grating in his ribs, each exhalation an opportunity for more blood to trickle past his fingers, out of the stab wound in his shoulder. They'd almost succeeded this time. But they hadn't. If only...No. Thinking that way would surely focus his thoughts in the wrong direction, and then they'd be sure to detect him again, with their Mind-Hounds. No more.

The wind picked up, gusting into the folds of his cloak along with a spatter of drizzle, and he began to shiver uncontrollably. Time to go inside. With any luck, She would be there. That's what they'd told him. But was this even the right place? He looked up. There was a wooden sign creaking back and forth, back and forth, lit only by the glow of moonlight reflecting off the clouds. He could just make out a crude drawing of a sheep, sitting drunkenly on a barrel of ale.

He stood with his head cocked, staring for several moments. They'd told him the sign of the sheep. This was the only sign of a sheep in the town of Meadowmore, which was a mere village compared to the vast capital city where he'd spent his childhood roaming the streets. Somehow, though--the reverence with which they'd spoken of it, that hardened band of toughs who'd helped him escape the patrol of Orderkeepers and their Mind-Hounds--he'd thought it would be somehow more imposing. Not a mere public house.

Then, for just a moment, the clouds allowed a sliver of moonlight to blaze through from the Gibbous Lady, may-her-peace-shine-forever. Aster followed the beam of the Lady's gaze to where it shone upon the public house and its crude banner. And, for the space of a blink, a heartbeat or two, the wooden sign no longer hung there but a much older, rusted-metal, portentously heavy ornament, more gargoyle than sheep, its corroded chains swinging silently. The moonlight shone through its cut-out eye and came to rest in a small spot directly above Aster's heart.

Yes, this had to be the place. The moon returned to her cloudy sleep, the sign once again the crudely drawn sheep imbibing a tankard of ale. But Aster knew, as surely as he was standing there, that the Gibbous Lady herself had given him a sign of his own. He felt the first stirrings of hope he'd had in a very long time. Perhaps he was not doomed to spend his youth in an Orderkeepers' labor crew.
***

This week's piece was inspired by judgement day (sic - no need for that "e"!) by Flickr user columbo's dad. Sorry it's late. I'm not sure where this story might be going, but I occasionally try my hand at the fantastical... Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, Linus, and new members Neil, Valsha, and Dermot, who's still getting set up.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Holiday Procrastination...

...Or, I'm Still Not Done With All the Shit I Gotta Do. That's right, this really ought to be a Flickr Fiction post, as it's Friday, but I haven't managed to get to that yet. Trust me, it's on my list, but I have this problem...I make lists that are too long to humanly accomplish in a day. Then, of course, I feel crappy if I fail to complete them, as I inevitably do. It's a vicious cycle.

Here's what I have accomplished this week:

  • Exercise: Today Rob and I finally did our in-the-gym sprint triathlon. Yay! I am very tired. We started with a half-mile swim (16 laps); went on to do the 5K run on the treadmill; and then finished off with 10 miles on the exercise bike. It took me about 1 hr. 55 min. including transition time; about 1 hr. 48 min. not including the transitions (changing out of swimsuit, coping with sudden breakage of hair tie, etc.). Verdict: My legs hurt. And leaving chlorine on your body while you exercise for another hour and a half is kind of itchy. Also: Take that, gym people who said I had an obese body fat percentage!
  • Baking: This week I baked another pan of gingerbread, a batch of persimmon cookies, a batch of oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies, and a vegan orange cake (for a friend's vegan wife). Fortunately, I didn't give it all away. However, there's still baking to be done--two custard pies, which my mom will help with when she gets here tomorrow evening; another batch of gingerbread, if I have time; plus assorted other goodies for people I won't see until after Christmas.

Really, those are the main accomplishments I'm happy about this week. Sadly, I still have some presents to wrap, tidying of my office to do, Flickr Fiction to write, and Cybil graphic novel nominees to rank. Speaking of which, one of my book reviews was Review of the Day yesterday on the Cybils site. Woo! They picked a strange one, though, out of the reviews I've written for nominees so far. Plus now the whole world will know of my feelings for David Bowie.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Flickr Fiction: Dumbbell

"Unnrrrgggghhhh!" Sweat dripped down Sean's slightly protruding, artificially-bronzed pectorals, in rivulets from his neck, across his orderly six-pack of abs, down into the waistband of his designer gym shorts. Missy, five years old, watched in utter fascination, Malibu Barbie lying forgotten in her lap. Charisse flipped a page in her issue of Cosmo and moved her cigarette to the other side of her mouth in a cloud of menthol.

"Unnrrrgggghhhh!" More sweat, more heaving pectorals. Not to mention bulging biceps. Charisse had her feet up on the table, and moved them slightly so that her legs formed a more effective magazine stand and blocked off the sight of the sweat hog.

"Unnrrrgggghhhh!" Charisse and Sean had not had sex in months, but those rare occasions when they did were marked by grunting, sweating, and self-aggrandizing statements of masculinity such as You like that, baby? You know I'm the only one who can satisfy you. Which was indeed ironic. Charisse had not had an orgasm by anyone's hand but her own in several years.

"Unnrrrgggggggnnnhhhh!! Oh yeah." The dumbbells were set down with a clank and another brief grunt. "Whaddya think of them apples?" He picked up a towel and sopped up the sweat rivulets, rubbing himself down with almost postcoital bliss. Charisse raised her eyebrows and peered up momentarily from "Bitch in the Bedroom: Sometimes What He Really Wants is What He Thinks He Doesn't Want."

"What are you up to now, twenty-pounders?" Charisse sounded bored; her question sounded rote. Her sigh sounded truly martyred.

"Twenty-five," Sean said, in a voice an octave lower than his normal speaking range. "How d'ya like your strong-man now?" He smiled, flexing, but it turned into a grimace as his strained muscle fibers protested.

"Hot," Charisse said, looking back down at her magazine. "Missy, what do you think of your big buff daddy? Like Superman."

There was a long pause, as Sean inspected a sculpted quadricep in front of the mirrored basement wall. Charisse stopped reading, though she didn't look up, as Missy straightened in preparation to deliver an irrefutable pronouncement.

"Daddy, you have man-boobies," Missy said, and laughed hysterically.
***

This week's piece was inspired by daddy's dumbbells by Flickr user fadedmilkyway. I think I might be spending too much time at the gym... Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, Linus, and new members Neil, Valsha, and Dermot, who's still getting set up.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Flickr Fiction: The Return

It is time. He heard the voice in his head, from a long way off, and realized he had been asleep, lost in dreams, for heaven knew how long. He hardly remembered who he was, but he must not have been asleep the entire time, for he had some inkling of where he was. From the looks of it, it was some kind of stasis tube, an isolation chamber. He was looking through water, some kind of liquid. Was he still dreaming?

He lay there for a moment, eyes open, not quite fully conscious, as the room warmed around him, prodding his sluggish blood to life. In his head, he remembered that voice, that same voice that told him it was time--a woman, or a high-voiced man--telling him of the wonders that sprung up as he slept, the horrors. It was a voice out of time. Out of time, as he'd been for so long, so long that he only remembered a name: Arthur. I am Arthur. But who am I?

Arthur sat up in the fluid-filled tank. He gasped as warm air flooded into his lungs; vomited as the fluid that had kept him alive and nourished but static and unmoving forced its way out of his eustachian tube. His organs convulsed; he felt like every nerve was on fire. The light in the room was growing brighter only gradually, but it was like a dagger being driven into his temple. He sat there for heaven knew how long, until the air moved in and out of his lungs unobstructed. Arthur realized he was cold, and looked down; he was naked. It made a certain amount of sense that he would not wear clothing in a fluid-filled tank, though he wasn't sure how he knew this, just as he wasn't sure how he knew that someone would be coming for him, soon.

He found a gray jumpsuit and blue vest of some strange, supple material hanging on a hook on the wall, and he put them on. Arthur. I am Arthur. Am I Art? Artie? What is my family name? Where IS my family? And, soon: Where am I? Yet he had a strange feeling, a knowing, that all would come clear. He thought he remembered the voice in his dreams, telling him that this would happen. Who was that voice?

There was a soft ding, and a set of doors he hadn't noticed slid open at one end of the small, smooth-walled chamber. A tall, slender man in a white coat entered. A scientist? He was holding a square device with a stylus poised and ready to write.

"Excellent," the man said in a dulcet and soothing voice. It was not the voice from Arthur's dreams. "Our Rip Van Winkle is awake. It's been a long time; even we aren't sure how long. How are you feeling?"

"Why, I'm..." Arthur's voice came out hoarse, his vocal cords contracting painfully as he tried to speak. He swallowed, and made another attempt, lifting his head proudly, though he wasn't sure why he felt he should do so. "The waking...was difficult." His own voice sounded strange to his ears, the words felt odd on his tongue, the shape of them. He didn't sound like the man who stood before him. Why?

"I'm sure, I'm sure. Please, drink this." The man handed him a clear bottle of some strange green liquid. It bubbled startlingly on his tongue and down his throat, and was achingly sweet, but he immediately felt clearer-headed. Perhaps he'd been missing some vital nutrient that was supplied by this...he looked at the bottle again, saw the name, and smiled. Somewhere, surfacing from deep within his memory, was the taste of dew from the mountainsides. This was nothing like it.

"We had arrangements made for you upon your awakening from stasis," the man said, "if you'd like to come with me."

Arthur nodded. It didn't seem as though he had a choice. There was nowhere else but this room, devoid of people, of food, of life. He did not know what life was like on the outside, except that it had been changing, so much, so quickly. He followed the man, who walked briskly, his shoes making crisp tapping sounds, and found himself in a huge network of corridors. They walked through the maze, Arthur hurrying to catch up with the larger man while still gaping at the unfamiliar sights, still straining to use his eyes after their long rest.

At the end of a long hallway, a set of doors slid open and they stepped through. Arthur stared, and his eyes slowly moved upward. It was a huge cylinder, the likes of which he'd never seen; like the inside of a castle tower, a grain silo, only much larger. Lights twinkled along it at intervals, and huge semitransparent red spheres were moving up and down the sides and even the middle of the space, suspended in clear tubes. He thought he could see the shapes of people inside the red spheres. This was confirmed when one glided down to a halt right in front of him, and a smiling young couple stepped out, wearing green jumpsuits. They nodded and hurried to a set of doors labeled "A Plus Resort and Underwater Hot Springs."

"Underwater?" Arthur exclaimed, astonished. The scientist nodded. "What is this place?"

"Why, sir; this is Apple Isle. You've been in the underground research facility ever since you were found miraculously preserved in some kind of natural stasis field about thirty feet below the island's surface. But you've been unconscious for so long; maybe..." Arthur must have looked blank. The scientist blinked and shook his head. "It's worth a try, I suppose...In the old stories people called it Avalon."
***

This week's piece was inspired by Christmas on Madeira by Flickr user Madeira. It was also inspired by watching too many Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine reruns, while also reading a kids' graphic novel about King Arthur. Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, Linus, and new members Neil and Dermot, who's still getting set up.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Some Extra Coolness

So yesterday I was driving a bunch of bags of crap to the recycling center (in theory, we can put blue bags of recyclables in with the regular garbage and the garbage co. will sort them out, but we doubt that actually happens). I was in the car for a total of about two minutes, idly listening to Insight on NPR.

But perhaps I need to back up. After actually managing to finish my 50,000 words (see humongoid graphic at left) for National Novel Writing Month, I thought I'd drop the show's producer a line. I thought they might be interested to know I'd finished, since the segment about NaNoWriMo basically ended with them asking me if I thought I'd get to the end and me saying I was sure as hell going to try (without the hell part). Thus, on Friday I wrote a short e-mail to the host and the producer saying thanks again and, incidentally, I managed to finish by about 9:30 pm on the day of the deadline; and, gosh, being on the show must have given me a fresh burst of enthusiasm or somethin' for me to write 5,000 words in about six hours.

So fast forward again to yesterday. I'm sitting in the car, half-listening to Insight and thinking how it would really be neato (but unlikely) if they announced on the air that their guest last week for the NaNoWriMo segment managed to finish her 50,000 words in case y'all were wondering. And then...the host, Jeffrey Callison, announces it. Right at that moment, at approximately 2:18 pm. And he read my little e-mail on the air.

Whoooooooo!!!!

On a totally different topic, I have a couple of artists' websites to plug. My friend Corey does some really excellent nature and landscape photography and has prints of his work available. Secondly, I randomly got back in touch with someone Rob and I went to Cal with, in the Art Department there, when we saw her work on a book cover. I looked at the name of the artist and we thought, geez, that has to be her. It was. If you know someone who likes fantasy art, visit Shadowscapes, the art of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I'll get back to writing in a minute. I swear.

I was making myself a cup of coffee when it hit me that I've just fulfilled one of my lifelong (or at least career-long) writing fantasies: getting to read my work on NPR. Dude!! I JUST GOT TO READ MY WORK ON NPR!!!

Honestly? I'm a lot more excited about that now than I am about writing those last 5,000 words.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

...more like twenty minutes. I'm breathlessly reeling from the fact that I was just a phone guest on the NPR program Insight, which is local to the Sacramento/Central Valley area (some of you who know me well will know why the particular choice of program is funny). They did a segment on NaNoWriMo. I just happened to see a post in the NaNo forum last night that they were looking for guests for the show today, and so this morning I e-mailed them. (I was undecided about contacting them, because I need to spend most of today slaving at the keyboard so I can attempt to finish my last 5,000 words; hence the not e-mailing them until this morning.)

At about 1:15, they called me to ask if I'd like to be a guest on the program, and that they'd call me at 2:35 right before the segment started. I said yes, and they asked me to read about a minute's worth of what I'd written today. I proceeded, for the next hour, to freak out about what was worth reading and what was brief enough yet "stand-alone" enough to read on the air.

Chris Baty, the founder of NaNo, was featured, as well as another participant in NaNo from Dixon. Both of us participants got to read an excerpt, Chris talked about the origins and purpose of NaNo, and Jeffrey Callison (the host) asked us some fairly standard questions about why we were involved, how we fit it into our schedules, and what we were going to do now that the month was over. Eventually you'll be able to get a podcast here, but as of 3:30 pm, it's not up quite yet.

I have to tell you, that was the longest 20 minutes of my life. I was so nervous. Rob said I sounded very calm, but I think that's because I made many notes beforehand of what I might say to introduce the excerpt and that sort of thing. I do that for important phone calls, too. I just know I get nervous on the phone and can sound much more tongue-tied or air-headed than normal, so notes are good for me. Ironically, I can read things aloud or speak in front of a crowd without too much nervousness.

Being a phone guest was probably a less stressful than it would have been actually being in the studio, though. It was just like having a four-way conference call...that you know is simultaneously being broadcast to thousands of listeners over the airwaves. Yeah.

Okay. Back to word-slaving.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Real-Life Strange Conversations

I hate getting into conversations with random people at the gym. I really don't want to talk to people while I'm exercising, even if (perhaps especially if) I'm just winding down in the hot tub or sauna. Today I had to have two, count 'em, two random conversations. Yeeks. One of them was relatively benign, with a lady in the hot tub, mostly about eating and health habits. However, she started the conversation in the following way (approximately):

Strange Random Lady: Do you eat at all? Because you have a really nice body. (At this point, I was afraid she might be hitting on me.)
Me: Yes, I eat too much, which is why I have to come to the gym.

It proceeded from there to a conversation on eating habits and, somehow, tamales. But it wasn't too strange. It was the random conversation I had in the sauna room that left me feeling a little icky. Here's the scene: I'm enjoying some rare alone time in the sauna room, leaning against the side wall with my legs up on the bench. A guy comes in and claims he jumped about a foot because he didn't see me at first. Fine. But then he kept talking. (The following conversation is an approximation of what was actually said. Call it creative non-fiction.)

Strange Random Guy: I really didn't see you there. Did you see me jump? Man.
Me: I guess I'm kind of hiding back here. Heh. (I attempt to close my eyes to ward off further conversation, but this fails.)
SRG: You know, one time I was in the steam room and there was someone else in there but it was so steamy I didn't even see him. And then when he got up it scared me because I had no idea he was there. I guess he knew I was there because he saw me walk in.
Me: Yup, it gets pretty steamy in there. It's too steamy for me. (I should have kept my responses monosyllabic, in retrospect.)
SRG: The steam room here's better than the one in Ceres.
Me: I've never been to the one in Ceres.
SRG: In Ceres they have a private steam room so people go in there butt naked. That's so gross. I don't want to go in there after someone's been sitting in there with their naked butt.
Me: I guess they probably don't rinse it down every time someone's used it. (Abort! Abort!)
SRG: Even that would still be gross, just knowing someone's been in there all naked. And it always seems like I'm going in there after some hairy Iranian guy. (He said something else, but due to amazement I did not absorb it.)
Me: Hmmm.

Fortunately, not long after this he decided to move to the steam room. But before he did, and after the "hairy Iranian guy" comment, I had a brief moment of indecision. Should I say something? Like, "Hey, that's kinda racist?" Or "I'm offended by that." Should I enlighten him about my own ethnic origins? Ultimately I decided on none of these, and said merely, "Hmmm," because I did not want to be having this conversation any longer than necessary. In fact, if he hadn't left soon afterward, I definitely would have. The "Hmmm" would have been followed by "okay, bye now."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My laptop hates me and I'm never going to finish NaNoWriMo.

Yes, our laptop--the newer one, ironically (the old Windows 2K one seems to work just fine) has officially entered archnemesis territory. Fortunately, it's still (just barely) under warranty under the extended service plan my mom bought. And there I was just having listened to an NPR report on how the extended service plan is almost never worth it. Well, this time it is going to be worth it because (after I transfer the ownership of the plan) I will take the stupid computer back to CompUSA and tell them they need to fix it. I'm tired of trying to fix it. I'm no expert. And the computer is being a bitch.

Plus, spending several hours over the past few days trying to fix the damn thing has really put a dent in my progress towards the 50,000-word goal, as you can see from the widget in the left-hand column. I've gotten to the approximate point I got to last year, which is OK, but I was really hoping to finish this year. The sad part is, I convinced my mom, who was reluctant at first to try it, to participate, and she's been done for several days now. Gotta love that irony.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Strange Occurrences

Tonight I half-watched an episode of Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy, a prime example of why reality shows are just so wrong, yet so right. Only now I feel kind of dirty and icky. On the other hand, I very much appreciate everybody in my family now, foibles and all.

I had some really weird dreams this morning. I remembered two of them vividly enough to write them down:

Dream #1. I was online and somehow found a blog kept by Sid Vicious of Sex Pistols fame. There was a music video of him with his new band on there. I decided to leave a comment on his blog, but having done so, I wondered what the hell I'd been thinking, since he would now be able to visit my blog, which was clearly lame and inferior.

There are a few things glaringly wrong with this scenario:

  • Sid Vicious is dead. Very dead. For many years now, thereby escaping washed-up-stardom.
  • Even if Sid Vicious were not dead, chances are he would probably not keep a blog.
  • Even if he were alive and had a blog, why he would he bother to visit the blog of every person who left him a comment?
  • My blog clearly rocks. Just kidding.

Dream #2. I was with a group of people in a train waiting room somewhere in China, waiting for a train to take us from one part of China to another. However, I could not manage to round up my luggage or various pairs of shoes. To add insult to injury, once I'd rounded up as much of my stuff as possible, the train was pulling out of the station and I had to jump on while it was moving. Fortunately for me, the train was moving extremely slowly and looked like a hayride vehicle, with many white wooden-railed carts strung together along the track. The train was traveling past a boardwalk of shops on either side.

That one's just weird. I can understand the China part, because an acquaintance asked me this week about traveling in China because she was planning a trip there. But the luggage and the shoes? And the hayride train? Baffling.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Swamped

Life too crazy. Too much work. Work work work. No time to blog. Sleeping badly and stomach hurting (although caffeine might be abetting the former and a poorly digested Boca burger on a carnivorous stomach might be responsible for the latter, at least for the moment).

I spent most of Sunday preparing for a lecture and demonstration on artists' books that I gave in Rob's evening class on Alternative Drawing Methods, and much of today preparing a handout for the second demo I'm giving tomorrow evening. These are classy handouts. They have step-by-step diagrams and everything. The diagrams were the time-consuming part, but they look pretty.

Plus I spent large amounts of time over the past week doing a scratchboard drawing and drafting a poster for the next play at the Prospect Theater Project (note: picture currently on web page has nothing to do with me). I'll put up a little graphic of the final version of the poster when it's done. That looks pretty, too, so far.

And I've been trying to get hold of an artist and Mills professor, Ron Nagle, so I can arrange an interview for the Mills alumni magazine...finally talked to the dept. secretary today and found out he doesn't do e-mail, so I'll have to make a few more dreaded phone calls.

I also have Art Appreciation paragraphs to grade, preferably by yesterday; book reviews I'm behind on; graphic novels to read over the next few weeks as a panelist on the Cybils nominating committee; my office to organize (ha! like that's going to happen anytime soon); and my NaNoWriMo novel that I'm also at least three days behind on. Oh, and family stuff this weekend AND Thanksgiving weekend. Whee, we are havin' some fun around here. And people just seem to keep calling me and asking me to do even more stuff. I don't feel like I'm in a position to turn down a paid contract job right now, since most of the aforementioned work does not earn any money and I'm so not pulling my weight right now. Yet somehow I work my ass off around the clock, when I'm not eating or sleeping.

Let's hope my brain doesn't explode in the next few days; if it doesn't, then I should be OK.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hey, Where'd I Go?

I saw a very strange warning sign on the back of a truck today. It said something like "Caution: Use dummy gladhands if air lines are disconnected." It might have said "air pumps" instead of "air lines," but that's not the part that baffles me. Dummy gladhands? I find that phrase utterly incomprehensible. If anybody can enlighten me, that would be great.

Anyway, I know that as usual I had a lot of things I wanted to blog about which I have now forgotten. Part of the problem is that I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month again this year, and this time I'm determined to make it to 50,000 words. So much of my free time and brain space is taken up by logistics and idea-generation for The Latte Rebellion, a young adult novel about a moneymaking scheme that goes horribly wrong.

I'm also spending inordinate amounts of time at the gym during the week. Inspired by our friend Peter (whose Halloween costume you absolutely must see--should be the second blog entry down), Rob and I decided we want to train for a sprint triathlon. Our goal is to do the required "events" in the gym sometime in the next month or so, and then maybe think about doing an actual sprint triathlon in spring when the weather warms back up. We've been working out at the gym for about a month and a half now and are pretty much on track. I spent about an hour and a half at the gym today, doing about 3 miles on the treadmill, various strength-training machines, and 15 laps in the pool. I usually do that on Monday and Wednesday. Tuesday, Thursday, and/or Friday I do just the running and swimming part, for about an hour. You'd think I'd be losing that 5-8 pounds I've been attempting to ditch, but you would be wrong.

Monday, October 30, 2006

All Hallows' Weekend O' Fun

As you can see from our pumpkin, at left (officially titled The Glowing Eyes of the Scary Buddha Are Watching You), it's that time of year again. I like Halloween. I like coming up with a costume. And my Medusa costume was officially a success, after road-testing it at two parties this past weekend...although, at one of the parties, there were two people who had to ask what I was--as if having a bunch of snakes on my head would qualify me to be anything other than Medusa. Snakes On A Head, maybe??

Anyway, you can see the costume (with me in it) at right, along with a close-up of the snake headband, which I'm quite proud of. I don't know why the lighting is so strange; multiple light sources, I guess. There might be better pictures of me and Rob from the other party, which had an actual photographer set up in one of the rooms. On the other hand, it is a rule that Rob and I can never both look normal in a photograph of the two of us. Either I have my eyes shut and he looks great, or I look normal and he looks like the devil, etc.

This one is Rob in his jackalope costume, which basically consisted of the antler/bunny ear headband. This one was harder for people to guess, which kind of surprised me, but I suppose it depends on where you grew up. I think if you're from the southwest it's more likely that you'd know what a jackalope is. Lots of people guessed reindeer. Those would be some pretty mutant ears for a reindeer.

Anyway, besides educating people on the more obscure mythical denizens of the American West, we also learned a few interesting things at these Halloween parties. For instance, I was alerted to the existence of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which apparently everybody but me knows about. Be sure to read the Open Letter to the Kansas School Board. And, though I'm breaking my anti-MySpace rule by telling you about it, there is a highly amusing music video on Weird Al's page. Scroll down a little bit to "White and Nerdy" and hit play. Trust me, it's worth supporting Rupert Murdoch for those five minutes. It is so freakin' worth it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Flickr Fiction:

The crowd will roar. The streets and buildings will echo with the sound and nobody will be able to escape. We will all be caught up in it and rattling like peas in a pod. It will be the worst day of our lives. It will be the best day of our lives.

And Sanctus Oren the Paramount said that all of you will be forsaken by all of your gods, Marabus and Dominia and Crator, and that one shall rise to take their place, and It shall be the Golden Ox, the One who lives but to strive. And after your centuries of striving, of hard work in the name of the Golden One, then comes the Day of Release, and we shall all be released from our burdens.

That is what they tell me. That is what I learn from Mother and Father, from Mistress Bett during Sanctusday lessons each week. When I am in school, those rare days when I can be spared from the farming, they tell us, too. It is coming, they say. The Golden One's Day of Release. Nobody knows exactly when, but all the Revered Ones at the temple say that it is soon. I ask my parents how the Revered Ones know this, but this earns me a hard slap every time I ask. I know I deserve it. For everyone down to the littlest child knows that it is true, and that until the Day of Release we are commanded by the Golden One to spend our days in toil so that our kei, our innermost selves--that part of us that makes us individual workers for the Golden One instead of merely automatons--so that our kei are worthy of ascent into the Next Plane.

Before, in the Lower Planes, it was first the mountain kingdom of Marabus the Monkey where our people toiled to create the first tools, the first fires, the first clothing to cover our nakedness. So it was that we, the Ascensior, were lifted to the plane of Dominia, where we built rude structures to live in, and our first holy idols to worship. When these were deemed worthy of the Great Dominia, we were then lifted to the existence of Crator, the Owl, who ushered in the age of Wisdom in which the books of the Golden One were first received and written.

But the Golden One has not seen fit to transmit to us any knowledge of our destinies beyond the Day of Release. He has not seen fit to tell us what god will rule our next Plane, though there is much speculation by the Revered Ones. Even the great Sanctus Oren, prophet of old, had little to say on this. It troubles me greatly that nobody seems to find it odd, this lack of knowledge. Am I the only one who questions? Am I the only one here who will brave a slap to find the truth?
***

This week's piece was inspired by King Kow by Flickr user isolano. I'm on time this time! Amazing! Worship my Golden Ox! Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, and TadMack.

Forty-Eight Time-Wasting Questions.

Got this from Chris's blog. Apparently my procrastination has reached gargantuan proportions. And no, I don't know what happened to Question 34.

1. FIRST NAME?
Sarah

2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
I was almost named after a nun, in which case I would have been Stella. My middle name comes from my great-aunt.

3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY?
Yesterday, when the chlorine started burning my eyeballs following a long swim at the gym pool. I really need to get goggles. Seriously.

4. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
Yes, when I can bother to make it look tidy. Ironically, I did poorly at penmanship in grade school. Or maybe I just resented having to write out the Gettysburg Address a bunch of times.

5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCHMEAT?
Really thinly sliced roast beef, or leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Of course, bacon in a BLT is also pretty goddamn good. (Coincidentally, it's lunchtime right now.)

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
I would probably find myself freakish and aggravating.

7. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL?
I have blogs. I've kept journals on and off throughout my life, but always very poorly. This blog is the best I've ever done.

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
Yup.

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
Probably not. I'm not a thrill-seeker. I don't even much like roller coasters.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
Mmm...Cereal good...I like Cheerios and Raisin Bran, if we're going for major brands. Kashi also makes some tasty ones. Hot cereal's got it's place, too, on cold days...

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
I try to buy as many shoes as possible that don't have laces, like the Skechers slip-on tennis shoes, because I'm lazy.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
Well, I've been working out a lot lately. I look stronger.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR?
Right now, mint chocolate chip. Or the pumpkin pie frozen yogurt at Yogurt Mill.

14. SHOE SIZE?
5.5 US

15. RED OR PINK?
Red. I loathe pink.

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
I waste huge amounts of potentially productive time worrying about all the shit I have to do and stressing that I won't be able to get it done. And then I waste a bunch of time comparing myself to other people who seem to be far more productive and accomplished than I am.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
My friend Fumi, whom I'm missing in advance because she's probably going to leave for a medical residency program far, far away, and I fear that the hospital will suck her in without a trace.

18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU?
God, no. But if you put it on your blog and want me to read it, you can leave me a comment.

19. WHAT COLOR PANTS, SHIRT AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
I'm wearing blue jeans, a brown shirt, and really goofy house slippers my mom gave me, which are black with grey applique cats on the top wearing leopard-print scarves.

20. LAST THING YOU ATE?
Toast, coffee, and orange juice.

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
A whirring laptop, an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Rob moving his ruler around a piece of paper as he makes a technical drawing.

22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
I would be clear and gray, the school colors of the San Francisco Art Institute (I shit you not).

23. FAVORITE SMELL?
I like yummy food smells, like onions and garlic sauteeing or cookies baking. Hard to pinpoint a favorite. The smell of a not-too-distant ocean breeze.

24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
A recording asking me to vote for Proposition 84.

25. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO?
Face; eyes; smile; overall build. If I'm actually talking to them, how intelligent I perceive them to be. (Yes, I am an intellectual snob.)

26. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON YOU STOLE THIS FROM?
He's a peach. A very funny peach who drinks a lot of beer.

27. FAVORITE DRINK?
Non-alcoholic: Coffee or tea (iced or hot). Alcoholic: Since a couple of negative puking incidents with vodka gimlets, that one's been demoted, so I'll stick to good beer. I can't drink it fast enough to hurt myself. Currently in my fridge--Gordon Biersch Marzen.

28. FAVORITE SPORT?
Soccer (i.e. football), basketball

29. EYE COLOR?
Brown

30. HAT SIZE?
Umm...small?

31. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
Nope.

32. FAVORITE FOOD?
Japanese or Italian

33. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
What kind of a choice is that?

35. SUMMER OR WINTER?
Winter, definitely. Then again, I live in California, so this is basically like asking "100 degrees or 50 degrees?"

36. HUGS OR KISSES?
You better have a good reason for hugging OR kissing me, or else please don't touch.

37. FAVORITE DESSERT?
Creme brulee is up there. So is the chocolate souffle at Mangia Mangia in Albany, CA, if it still exists.

38. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
No clue. Somebody as prone to procrastination as I am, I would guess.

39. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
Anybody with legitimate things to do and the motivation to actually do them.

40. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING?
Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee; A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (which I can guarantee you I'll probably still be reading in a year's time).

41. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
I'm not currently using a mouse pad. Ha HA! Take that.

42. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV?
Whose Line Is It Anyway, MASH, and part of the EPL Review Show.

43. FAVORITE SOUNDS?
My cat meowing, music that I really want to listen to right at that moment, and rain outside while I'm cozied up inside.

44. ROLLING STONE OR BEATLES?
Don't see why I have to choose, but if forced I guess I'll say Beatles.

45. THE FURTHEST YOU'VE BEEN FROM HOME?
China, I guess, is the obvious winner, unless I wax metaphorical.

46. WHAT'S YOUR SPECIAL TALENT?
Finding work that doesn't actually pay anything.

47. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
Glendale, Calif.

48. WHO SENT THIS TO YOU?
Procrastinatrix, The Mighty Goddess of Nonproductivity

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Burst of Productivity

I seem to work in bursts these days. However, my definition of productivity is probably up for debate. In any case, I have news I've been accumulating. Not news like the meth "super lab" they just busted a couple miles away from my house. Good news. Firstly, and most belatedly, I found out that the young adult short story anthology that I was supposed to be part of after winning third place in a contest is back on. Click the link for the full story of why I had kind of given up on it. Sorry; just way too lazy to type it out twice.

Secondly, there's been a lot of activity on the non-paying writing scene. I contributed two book reviews to The Edge of the Forest, an online children's literature monthly journal put together primarily by children's and YA bloggers. There's no monetary compensation for this, but I get free books! That's a nice thing. I've also gotten a couple of free books directly from publishers, in order to review them on our reviews blog, which is cool. Lastly, I'm going to be part of the Graphic Novels committee for the Cybils--the first annual Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards. I'm looking forward to that. I feel like all TadMack's and my blogging efforts are showing some interesting results, finally.

And now for something completely different: I've been working on Halloween costumes for me and Rob and I can safely say that our costumes rock this year. Yes, I know in the past I've grossly misjudged the awesomeness of our costumes, but this time I swear it's different. Nothing fancy. Just fun. As mentioned before, I'm dressing as Medusa, and I spent an evening attaching rubber "bendy snakes" I bought on eBay to a headband using big fat bookbinding needles and thread. I can definitively tell you that the snakes will give way before the thread does. You can see the in-progress and finished headband at right. I also borrowed a flowing black dress from a friend. I tried it all on earlier tonight and was very pleased. I promise to post a picture.

Rob, meanwhile, decided he wants to be a Jackalope, which I have to admit is an awesome idea. So our friend Jay found a pair of black bunny ears (which, amusingly, seem designed for a Playboy-bunny-type costume), and then I went to Michael's and bought an array of craft materials from which to create the antlers. I ended up constructing a sort of wire mesh armature, onto which I adhered brown felt. Then I used brown pipe cleaners to attach the antlers to the bunny-ear headband. See left for the result. I'm rather proud of myself. They're not perfect, but they get the idea across.

We'll be testing out the results tomorrow night at a friend's Halloween party at the Health and Social Justice Co-op in Berkeley. We're going to a show at Yoshi's first, so I'll have to try a quick-change in the car. Good thing it's pretty much just a dress and a headband for me, and a headband for Rob. I'm not going to a jazz concert dressed as Medusa.

Monday, October 23, 2006

(Belated) Flickr Fiction: The Imaginary Friend

"I saw it, I'm telling you," Mira insisted, pointing at the gap in the fence between her family's property and the open, unclaimed meadow. "It was right here!"

"Sure it was." David had that smirk on his face that meant he didn't believe her. He was an annoying little goonbag anyway. So what if he didn't believe in fairies? She knew what she'd seen.

"Just because you think you're too old to play Dapple Glen doesn't mean I didn't see what I saw," Mira said, stubbornly. When they were eight-year-olds, growing up next door to one another with nobody else living in the area for miles around, David hadn't cared that he was playing with a girl. He'd been happy enough to build a pretend world with its elfin inhabitants and its imaginary rules. They'd even written it all down, drawing pictures and stapling it together in the Book of Dapple Glen.

That's why Mira didn't want to tell him the strangest thing about what she saw. The little creature she saw struggle to get his shirt free of a fence nail--

He looked just like the picture they'd drawn. She even knew his name. Johnny Woodcutter.
***

This week's piece was inspired by this photo by Flickr user bernardo.borghetti. This one is really brief, and it's late, but better than nothing... Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, and TadMack.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dig that Wench

Rob & Me As you can see from the evidence at left, we went to the Renaissance Faire this past weekend in Hollister, at Casa de Fruta. (Speaking of Hollister--if I may digress a moment--why is it so popular right now to wear clothing with "Hollister, California" on it? What the F is in Hollister? Nothing, except maybe the nearby Gilroy Garlic Festival. The clothing company seems based in Southern Cal, which explains something, since clearly they have not been to Hollister if they are putting it on a shirt. It's like putting Modesto on a shirt. Okay, I'm done, with apologies to Hollister for my rant.)

The RenFaire always makes for good people-watching, though there usually seems to be an abundance of middle-aged-and-older ladies with ample bosoms heaving out the top of their bodices, and not necessarily in a good way. As you can see, my costume was quite modest in the bosom department. It's an awesome costume, though--my friend Jay made it (along with Rob's costume), and she is quite a seamstress. I did buy the bracers--that was my one major purchase for the day besides booze and food (and the admission ticket, which is none too cheap). And yes, I'm wearing hi-tops. I have boots, but they're way too nice to get dusty at a fair, for crap's sake. Seriously.

Speaking of dust, the faire was so dusty I spent the next two days sneezing like a mofo. Dust and hay. They don't call it hay fever for nothing.

Anyway, I have more news, but it'll have to wait for my next post since I'm in the middle of cooking (salmon roasted w/vegetables).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Preserving Ephemera

This Yahoo Time Capsule is an interesting idea--just found it when I signed out of Flickr.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Flickr Fiction: The Beast Wakes

C'etait un vrai desastre. Nuages... brouillard... partout, et les personnages... chacun courant sur les rues pendant la nuit... Non. Je ne puisse pas oublier cela.

No, I could not forget it, though it has been centuries of human time. It has only been a matter of days for me. Something happened that night, something that was not supposed to happen. I was watching it all from my window, pulling the drapes back and peering out at the marching throng, torches held high, ghostly reflections flickering off the fog. Just as now I stand at a window of a Paris apartment, watching the men and women purposefully stride towards the subway and the bus, workplaces and schools. Only today they are not looking for me.

I was supposed to have her--elle, la plus belle de la ville, de la paysage--my Belle Fontaine--that is what it says in all the stories, does it not? La Belle et La Bete? And I, the beast, does my inner beauty not prevail? No, they did not consider the practicalities. That she would be considered mad, and walled up in her parents' home. That they would then come after me in my own home, despite that I have never harmed a single one of that village or any village. That I would be forced to exercise the only option I felt was left to me; a dignified death by my own hand and not by the pitchforks and kitchen knives of a ravening horde of rabble.

But the moment I drew my knife across my broad wrist, the fog swirled in through my open window to engulf me, the voices spinning around me--Lui, lui, il est la! Venez, vite!--and that fog was all I knew for a time.

And in another rapid moment, I awoke. In a ludicrously small bed, unadorned with the canopies and carvings I had labored so long in solitude to create. A small mirror hung on the opposite wall, over an even smaller basin. I never once allowed a mirror in my manse. Clearly I was far from home. I could still hear voices outside, but there were also strange grumblings and roarings, belchings of smoke and honkings as if of wild geese. When I hastened to the window, the world was not as it had been. Mysterious machines prowled the hard black roads, carrying people to and fro, and the buildings grew tall, much taller than ever my own tower had been.

Not that it has been difficult to accustom myself to this new world, this modern world. At first it seemed as though someone, somewhere, must have wanted to ensure my survival. At first I did not know how or why this could have happened. I still do not know why. All I had was a letter, written in some strangely familiar script, that explained how the electric devices worked, told me where to find the food that had been left for me, and told me how to turn on the computer.

Without this computer, I would not have been able to survive. It has allowed me to eat, even to begin some small amount of work, though it has taken me many weeks, even months, to get to this modest plateau. And it has enabled me to control my earnings. The anonymous benefactor who left me the note, the apartment, also left me a surprisingly generous gift in an account with the national bank. This allowed me to live while I looked for a way to earn my own living.

Now, some years later, I have educated myself about the computer. I know much more than most in this modern age of technology. I have searched every last petit peu of this machine that was left for me when I first woke here. And all I have found is one single piece of information about my benefactor, one single name that was on the bank account when the paperwork was first drawn up.

Le Duc de Bellefontaine.
***

This week's piece was inspired by this photo by Flickr user sevres-babylone. This piece made me realize how much French I've forgotten...I can understand things, but as for writing any complete sentences, forget it. Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, and TadMack.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

SIGH.

Today has definitely been one of those too-depressed-to-do-anything days. At least, I found myself paralyzingly unable to write anything or work on any art or even think about the huge work-related to-do list that I tried to break into manageable pieces but instead just succeeded in making horrendously long.

I did manage to: mow the lawn; do the dishes; finish reading a really enjoyable YA novel, Gilda Joyce: The Ladies of the Lake; get my car serviced; go through a long list of e-mails; write a rather lengthy comment on this very interesting blog entry; and work out at the gym for an hour and a half. So it's not as though I've been completely idle. But I feel like I'm falling farther and farther behind on the to-do list, which probably has too much stuff on it anyway. The list seems to accumulate items faster than I can cross them off, which is bad. Plus my dad keeps pressing me about when I'm going to visit next, and before I do that I have to get his video camera fixed, which mysteriously stopped working when we were in China.

I realize I've been a total downer the past couple of days. There was one high point of the conversation with crazy woman Tuesday night (after which everything went rapidly downhill): I heard a rather amusing joke about Congressman Foley and how his next goal is to turn over a new page, or something like that. Har.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Invasion of the Psychos

Despite my 45-minute appointment with Dr. Yoda, Ph.D., today, at no time did I actually discuss a truly aggravating incident involving a complete nutcase I had to hang out with for several hours yesterday.

Last night we had tickets for a Roger Waters concert at the Shoreline in Mountain View. I have to digress here and say that I really don't like the Shoreline--the acoustics are fine, but it's so huge, and I'm really not a crowd person. Plus, when you're 5-foot-one-and-a-half, and you have lawn tickets, and everybody's standing up, that is a recipe for not being able to see anything but the TV screen. Ugh.

So anyway, Rob and I went to the show with a guy he plays music with, T., and his wife C. We pull up to their house at around 5:00 to pick them up. This was my first time meeting C., and I could tell practically upon sight that I was not going to like her. It was like some primitive animal instinct, or crazy-radar; or maybe it was just a glint in her eyes. Sure enough, within one minute of conversation with her, I realized that she was--pardon my Anglo-Saxon--utterly fucking nuts.

She was just one of those people who has something to say about everything and absolutely has to say it; who just knows and is right about anything that comes out of her mouth because of her oh-so-worldly life experience; and she completely bossed her husband around, which was hard to watch. Plus I had major doubts about the degree of veracity of most of what she said. For instance, she referred repeatedly to how she "grew up in Spain," but I detected zero trace of any accent. Not that people who grow up in other countries can't speak fluent, accent-free English, but, at the risk of sounding like a know-it-all myself, I'm fairly good at detecting even slight accents, probably because my mom spent years teaching ESL students from a variety of countries while I was growing up. Even people who grow up entirely in the U.S. with immigrant parents often have a slight accent.

Anyway, I could only conclude that "grew up in" meant "lived there for a while, perhaps a few years." And C. just did not stop talking throughout the entire three-hour-plus traffic-filled car ride to Mountain View. As previously noted, no matter what topic of conversation came up, she had something of dubious accuracy or interest to add. Meanwhile, I made only the bare minimum of conversation required by politeness. Fortunately, her yammering filled any potentially awkward silences. Rob said later that he can always tell how much I like a person, or how comfortable I am in a conversation, by my level of talkativeness vs. silence, and that he could totally tell I was not happy.

Luckily, the concert was loud, and crowded, and Rob and I were able to make the excuse of "being able to see better from way up here" after T. and C. had settled their lawn chairs. And then we took a potty break, and gee, what do you know--it was just too crowded to try to find them again. (Actually, that part is true. I hate having to wend my way through a crowd in the dark, stepping on blankets and feet and god-knows-what.) And on the way home there was blessed silence because everyone fell asleep while I drove.

Unfortunately, my method of dealing with Crazy Woman was to drink a lot of beer very rapidly; and then we got home really late. So today I was very tired and slightly hung over. (Whee! Wednesday hangover!) I also felt slightly depressed because I've really been missing some of my friends (which I did talk to Dr. Yoda about). Being phone-phobic and living in Modesto are not conducive to staying in good contact with people. But I do miss you guys (you know who you are--many of you are over there in the Blogs list). So let this constitute a shout-out to the Walnut House Kroo for another Oregon get-together sometime, and a yahoo to the Millswomen for a celebratory shin-dig for TadMack, who sold her novel!!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Disco Inferno

I was totally planning for months to dress up in 1970s garb for Halloween this year, complete with roller skates. Then I lost the eBay auction for size 5 roller derby skates that I had my eye on. I was kind of glad because I really wasn't looking forward to paying the $17 or so in shipping, which would have probably exceeded the price of the skates. I was really into this idea until A) I lost the auction, and B) I thought seriously about the practicalities of wearing roller skates to a Halloween party. I don't think most people would appreciate me skating all over their floors, no matter how cool the costume might be. (And it was going to be cool--there was going to be an afro wig. And lots of gold spangles.)

Some might opine that I could still put together a good 1970s disco-era costume without the roller skates. I could wear Chuck Taylors, I suppose. But I also think one ought to be tall and thin to pull off the disco look. Otherwise I might end up looking like Little Orphan Annie instead.

So I'm coming up with some alternate ideas for costumes now. I used that website a couple of years ago and Rob and I ended up going to our friend Jess's Halloween party dressed as a plastic surgeon and a post-breast-implant patient, which I thought was hilarious, but, if you read the blog entry, did not quite go over as well as was hoped. So I'm going to try for something a little more obvious this year and less prone to misinterpretation.

  • Medusa. I could wear a long black dress, and then make a hat with a bunch of fake snakes attached to it. That would be quite amusing.
  • Rosie the Riveter. I'd have to obtain some work clothes, though, which would be hard to find in a small size.
  • Renaissance Wench. This would be the laziest option, as I already have a costume a friend made for me for the purposes of next weekend's Renaissance Faire, at which I plan to imbibe with gusto so I don't have to say "huzzah."
  • Greek Goddess. The only problem with this one is that I'd probably insist on being a specific goddess, and then I'd end up with another one of those costumes that nobody gets. Anybody have a spare Golden Apple of Discord?
  • Beatnik. Again, this could lend itself to misinterpretation.
  • Richard Simmons. I actually thought of this one myself, before reading it on the costume website. This would enable me to utilize the afro wig.
  • Rastafarian. The only problem with this one is I'll be going to a party in Berkeley and it's highly possible people won't notice it's a costume.
  • Catholic School Girl. I'm saving this one until someday in the distant future when I might be pregnant, because I think that would be hilarious.

I'm kind of liking the Medusa idea right now. I'm not sure I could get Rob to be Perseus, though. I'm thinking about making little stuffed snakes that I could put a wire in the middle of because then I could bend them into a truly dramatic hairdo.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Getting the Dodge out of Hell

I'm going to attempt to post something to all the blogs I contribute to before we leave for a long weekend in Pacific Grove. We were hoping to stay in Asilomar like we did one year, but it was all booked up, so we're going to the nearby "HoJo". Let me just say that it's been eons since I stayed in a Howard Johnson, and this looks about a million times more upscale than any HoJo I've ever stayed in.

Anyway, I keep meaning to say that for the past week or two, it's been feeling like fall around here--finally! After those horrible, horrible weeks of 115-degree heat this summer, we're due a good long autumn. It's my favorite season, too. There's something about the quality of light in the fall that's so much nicer and gentler than the summer sun, blazing down on you blindingly like you're in some fascist interrogation chamber. The other day we even had our first rainshower of the season, which was very pleasant. I was hoping the rain would launder my car for me, but all it seems to have done was move the dirt around. (Washing my car is not high on my list of priorities. Fortunately, my car's a light silvery blue color that hides dirt quite well.)

Well, we're off tomorrow to the wonderful ocean. Finally, a few days of real vacation!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am.

I'm very bad at posting great links when they come my way, so here's one that is seriously not to be missed. Swear to God, this is the funniest thing I've seen in a while. It's the kind of thing that makes me wish I still wrote Weird Wild Web. In fact, the first Weird Wild Web I ever wrote, I think, was on the Captain James T. Kirk Singalong Site, which sadly seems to no longer exist.

On a somewhat related note, last night I had another dream about going back to IGN. I have these every so often. Apparently part of me still wishes I was working there, writing drivel for no supplementary income whatsoever.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Flickr Fiction: Sanctuary

I sigh with relief; the key still opens the padlock, even though the lock is rusty and I have to jiggle it around.

The sun is high when I walk into the place, but inside it's cool, damp, woody-smelling, just like it always used to be. It smells the same. It feels the same. In the corner is the old couch cushion I salvaged from my parents' garage, the brown tweed ripped, stuffing poking out of the corner, a cloth-covered button hanging off by a thread. There are probably mice living in it now.

I put my huge backpack down on the rotting planks, stretching my shoulders. It's been ten years, but the sun still hits the same spot in the afternoon, streaming through a wide crack in the wooden walls and hitting the old ochre plastic chair my junior-year boyfriend, a German exchange student named Axel, stole from the school library. I don't think anybody else has been here in all this time. Why would they? I don't think anybody knows about this place; or if they do, they don't care. It's always just been...mine.

I go over and sit down in the chair. Just the smell of this place brings back memories. Some good, some bad. Here's one of the good ones: I'm seventeen years old, my hair dreadlocked and bleached blond instead of short and plain like it is now--easy wear for crossing country. I ditched school with Axel, David, and Rennie. We're all sitting around a makeshift incense burner, a ceramic shoe that David made in ceramics class with a stick of incense poking out of the top. We're passing around a joint, a big fat one that Axel rolled. We are celebrating. It's the day before spring break, for one thing, and for another, Rennie's dad bought her a car for her birthday. We weren't stuck in stupid Grant Line any more. At least, that's what it felt like.

I look down; lean over and pick up an old cassette tape lying on the ground next to my totally burnt-out tape deck. It was on its last legs when I got it at a garage sale when I was thirteen. The tape is a mix tape that Ed, a different, much younger boyfriend, made for me. We were fourteen. Heavy metal ballads, Whitesnake and Poison, side by side with sappy Motown from his parents' collection and eighties new wave emo shit. OMD and crap like that. I never did like that tape much. I pretended to.

The same question comes to me now that came to me so often then: where do I go from here?
***

This week's piece was inspired by this photo by Flickr user DarkTranquility. This doesn't really feel "done;" it's more like just a scene this week. Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, and Linus.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm Surrounded By Idiots

As if yesterday's brush with obesity weren't enough, today I had another encounter with someone who really shouldn't be dealing with the public. This happened when I called my doctor's office. Now, I really like our doctor, and his nurses are pretty good, but I cannot stand his office staff. They are, to put it mildly, not too bright. Moreover, one of them is what I would call mean in a patronizing sort of way.

So I called today and of course got the mean one, who also handles all the appointments. I was asking them if they had any suggestions for a referral to a psychologist who was covered by our insurance (yes, I'm planning to rejoin the world of therapy after a few years of hiatus). The office lady said yes, but that I really wanted to see a counselor or a psychiatrist, not a psychologist, because "all psychologists do is give tests."

I refrained from pointing out that that is not, in fact, true, and I know this because one of my undergraduate majors was psychology. I figured at least one of us should resist the urge to act like a know-it-all.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Complaint #1 About My Gym

I started going to a gym last week. I like our gym, considering I'm not exactly in love with going to the gym in general. Mainly I'm joining to use the pool, take a class now and then, and perhaps use a few of the exercise machines. As part of the enrollment package, we got a handful of sessions with a personal trainer, which I figured would be useful in terms of learning how to use the machines, 95% of which I have no clue how to operate and would probably injure myself trying to use on my own.

Today I had my first session with the personal trainer, which consisted mainly of discussing a rather lengthy health and fitness questionnaire, clarifying my fitness goals, and taking some measurements. These measurements included the infamous caliper body fat test, which I haven't taken since I was in early high school (anyone else remember the Presidential Physical Fitness Testing?).

Anyway, according to some dubious statistics which supposedly come from the American Council on Exercise but which I couldn't actually locate on their website, I have 33.1% body fat and am therefore obese. OBESE! Now, most of you reading this have probably seen me relatively recently and can attest to the fact that, while I'm not what you'd call majorly ripped or anything, one thing I am not is obese. I calculated my body mass index, which is the governmentally accepted method of determining obesity; it's perfectly normal. It's not even in the overweight range, which, incidentally, this chart from the gym did not actually include. The chart goes from "acceptable" straight to "obese." (I demanded--okay, asked nicely--if I could take a copy of their dubious chart home with me.)

I also did a little research online and found that caliper tests vary widely in accuracy depending on who is doing the testing (big surprise) and that you're really supposed to take the average of two or three measurements (which of course my personal trainer did not do). Sigh. I know I have plenty of room for improvement--after all, I've never been quite the same since A) moving to Modesto, the land of obese people, and B) taking corticosteroids. I've also never been quite the same since meeting Rob, who increased my weight to a healthy, above-100-pounds range. Age also probably did that--I was 19 when I met him, and ten years later, I've gained about 20 pounds. But 118 pounds is NOT OBESE, I'm sorry. I might believe that if I were totally sedentary, but I exercise 2-5 times a week for 30-45 minutes.

Still, when a chart and a personal trainer tell you you're obese, even if you don't quite believe it, it still has a negative psychological effect. In other words, it put me in a really pissy mood. I'm going to go drown my sorrows in alcohol now. My friend the bottle of empty calories.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rejection with a Twist

I was looking a little more closely at a rejection letter I got a few days ago for a manuscript I sent to the Phelan Literary Award competition at Intersection for the Arts. It was a rather lengthy letter, announcing the winners and even mentioning my manuscript by name (probably mail-merge) as well as encouraging me to apply again, blah blah blah. The usual.

Then I got to the bottom and noticed there was an actual signature, in actual ink. Then I noticed the name under the signature, and realized that I know this person. Yikes! It was signed by their Program Director, who we vaguely know because he used to work at Kala Art Institute when Rob was an intern there. He's a really cool, nice person. It's weird to get a rejection letter signed by him, especially since we haven't seen him in years. I doubt he would even make the connection with Rob, since we weren't married yet at the time Rob was working with him.

Anyway, that also reminded me there's a Phelan award in printmaking, too. Maybe I'll apply for that instead. I'm feeling a little blah about my writing right now, so I may focus on visual art for a bit and take a short mental break from writing (except for a paid gig I'm working on for the Mills Quarterly, which is an entirely different animal). I'm sort of thinking about illustration, because a few potential leads have come my way and I'll need a better, more appropriate portfolio if I want to do anything in that area. I'm working on a few fine art pieces that might work in an illustration portfolio, but I really need to keep those as separate as possible (lest my fine art be dismissed as "illustrational"). I've always felt uncomfortably stuck in the middle between fine art and more commercial forms of art; though my art is fairly conceptual, I usually depict things representationally, I'm very figurative, and I don't work on a large scale. And I have no problem with illustration as an art form. In fact, I'm very interested in artists who blur that line between art and illustration--many of them are/were printmakers. Frankly, I think it's valid to call art depicting religious or Biblical themes illustration, in a way, yet nobody has a problem with hanging that in fine art museums.

But anyway. My rant seems to have run out of steam. My point is that I'm feeling a little lost in one creative area, so I think I'll turn to another for a bit and hope that energizes me again. Tomorrow we're going to an art opening for a friend of ours, so maybe that will get my mind going.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

World's Largest

Corey sent me a link to this giant lamp, which is just seriously insane. I mean, look at the picture, for god's sake. It's larger than the height of a man, unless those are carefully crafted miniature people complete with expressions of alarm at the giant lamp clearly about to...uh...blind them with its monstrous bulb.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How I Spent My Summer Vacation...Working

I've been a sporadic blogger of late. This week I had two projects I needed to get mostly finished by today: the first set of essays from Rob's online Art Appreciation classes needed grading, and I needed to finish designing the program for the Prospect Theater Project's first production of the new season, which opens this Friday. (Yes, they/we are a bit behind.) That's my newest gig--graphic designer (programs and, sometimes, posters--see image) for a small black box theater in town. The theater's founders are friends of ours, so I'm excited to be helping them out in a very tangible way, even though there's not a lot of compensation (just season tickets). And, frankly, the poster looks damn good if I say so myself.

Today I'm also basking in the knowledge that I have been personally sought out and contacted by an editor at a big-name publishing house. This sounds much more exciting than it really is; it has nothing to do with my actual YA novel. But it's still quite cool. (And a girl can always dream...) Anyway, an editor at Penguin Putnam found our YA book review blog, apparently did some puttering around to find my e-mail address, and contacted me to ask where he might send a book (for reviewing, I assume). I had, in fact, seen this editor speak on a panel at an SCBWI conference in 2005, but it took me a while to remember where I'd seen his name before.

So of course I e-mailed him back to say, yes, please. He seems to currently be promoting this book, which I hope is the one he wants reviewed, because it looks cool; plus it was illustrated by the author, and you know how I feel about that sort of thing.

And now I can spend the rest of my day blissfully daydreaming about editors asking me if they may have the privilege of seeing my novel and, by the way, would I also like to supply the cover illustration? Please? Oh yes, of course, I'd love to.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Flickr Fiction: Broad Side of the Barn

"You never could hit the broad side of a barn, Adrian." I knew his aim was bad; really bad. And I couldn't help taunting him. I don't know why I did this, only that I felt compelled to do it, and all the time.

That day he dropped his arm, let the tennis racket swing at his side, and smiled sheepishly, nodding in agreement, like he did every time I said anything. Anything at all.

"Adrian, you suck at typing. Give me that letter." He'd hand me the letter, nodding and smiling.

"Adrian, you know you're a sloppy drunk. No more Long Island Iced Teas, only coffee for you. It's getting late." Enthusiastic nod; simpering smile. Coffee was drunk.

"Come on, Adrian. Hurry up." His steps would quicken so he could catch up to me, nod, and smile.

No doubt you've noticed a trend.

It didn't matter if it was his aim that was in question, or his excruciatingly slow walking pace, or his irritating habit of cleaning his glasses by audibly breathing on them with garlic or coffee or sandwich breath. It was as though I was compelled by some irresistible force, a geas, if you will. I lived to torment Adrian Bell.

I broke up with him six months ago, after I got sick of all those little things that first endear a person to you, the things that make them them, all the habits and tendencies and quirks. After a year, they all drove me nuts. Bonkers. Crackers. Apeshit. I realized that everything I had once loved about him now made me hate him.

So I ended the relationship. Oh, we were still friends. But it was one of those uneasy friendships, the kind where they hope every smile of yours might mean something, and you're afraid every smile of theirs does. We would see each other every week or so, to play tennis, or see a movie, or some other activity that doesn't require talking. Still, at every opportunity there was to open my big mouth, there I was saying something like "Don't you realize how silly that sounds?" or "You really shouldn't do things like that; it's so disgusting." Picking and picking and picking.

Until last weekend. We were on one of those rare outings that involved a long car ride--prime territory for our usual sort of one-sided conversation. The car wound through countryside on the way back from a concert in some podunk-ville winery town. Adrian was driving. That was one thing he could do well. I, on the other hand, woudl swerve every time I had to talk to someone.

It was a gorgeous day. We had the windows down and the smell of plants and fertilizer wafted through. The low, rolling fields were bright green with rows of shrubby crops and tethered grapevines. Every so often you'd see a truck in one of the fields, or a rotting barn way out in the distance. One of those barns was coming up real close on the right-hand side, all decaying weathered wood and peeling reddish paint. Inside, you could see it was an empty, abandoned husk.

The road curved slightly and suddenly you could see that the side of the barn used to have some kind of billboard painted on it. I chuckled.

"It's cute, huh," Adrian said, brightly.

"Cute?" My voice rose. "Because some poor sap of a farmer sold out his wall space to some company that would never be of any use to him? Can you imagine a farmer in Guess Jeans and a pair of fancy Ray-Bans? Maybe in Brokeback Mountain, but not here. God, Adrian, you really missed the mark again that time. Cute." I snorted.

Suddenly the car veered to one side. I screeched as I was thrown against the gearshift.

"Adrian! Don't be psycho!" But the car was inexorably turning, quicker now, bumping over the reflectors on the side of the road and right out into the field. Adrian drove expertly over one of the raised levee dirt roads that I hadn't even noticed, dividing a cornfield from the grapevines.

He accelerated, the car bumping faster and faster, me screeching the whole time. I could see the building getting closer and closer. I could see every detail of the peeling paint, the woman's once-perfect face rotting away like a million years had passed. And then there was an impact, a giant crashing noise, and splinters of termite-infested, flaky, musty wood were raining down on us through the windows. I spat a wood chip out of my mouth as the car ground to a halt in the middle of the barn. I could smell ancient manure.

"What," I panted, "in God's name, do you think you just did?" I gathered my breath to give Adrian the tirade of his life.

"What did I do?" he said. "I just proved you wrong, is what I did. I, Miss Nay-sayer, just hit the broad side of a barn."
***

This week's piece was inspired by this photo by Flickr user tangent. I have no idea what I was thinking here. Just some garbage I hacked up at the last minute. Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, and Linus.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Flickr Fiction: The Alchemist's House

The hallway was pitch-dark. A gauzy curtain or wall hanging kept brushing up against her bare arms, rustling and cobweb-light, raising gooseflesh and making her throat catch, but if she didn't hug the walls she wouldn't be able to find the right room. Dennie hadn't thought to bring a candle. Her flashlight was back in her room...at home.

Dennie shook her head violently from side to side. No reason to think about home, now. She wasn't going to get back there any time soon. The Alchemist had seen to that.

The Alchemist. Dennie paused for a moment in her slow creep, listening for any sound, any footfall, any creak of a door or floorboard. Silence. The Alchemist had been imaginary, a fable to scare children into obeying their parents. If you don't come here this instant, the Alchemist will mark you on his list. Good children stay, but bad children stray; the Alchemist finds them and takes them away.

The rhyme echoed in her ears like a whistle from far away, even though Dennie hadn't heard it in years, not since she was in second grade at least. Seven years. Two times seven. She shuddered. Sevens were the Alchemist's number, two. Seven, fourteen, twenty-one--all considered to be inauspicious at home, the tiny backwoods town of Los Brujos. The warlocks. Nobody could prove where the name came from, but everyone whispered it. Him. HE used to live here. When? Nobody knows. A long time ago. Don't talk about him; he might hear you.

SsssSSSSssssSSSSssss... Dennie heard something. She held her breath; it wasn't the hissing of air going in and out of her own lungs. It was too regular. Her own breath caught; juddered; blew; caught again, like a frightened animal. She closed her eyes, even though it was dark, and strained her ears to listen. She crept a little further down the hall. Her fingers, trailing along the wall, hit a smoothly polished wooden surface. Hinges; carvings; the doorknob.

Here she paused again, and brushed her tangled hair behind her ears. She put one ear to the door, gently, silently. SSSSssssSSSSssss... It was louder now, punctuated with clicks and slight groanings of machinery. If Dennie was lucky, she might find a way out of this horrible house, this maze of black corridors. If the Alchemist got her here--wherever "here" was--he had to have some way of getting her out. None of the old stories ever told of anybody who was stolen by the Alchemist and then returned again, to live happily ever after, but here she was, wasn't she. Dennie. Here. Dennie, who all the boys were afraid of but secretly wanted to be with more than any other girl. Dennie, who, in sixth grade had beaten up every boy who tried to kiss her; who, in seventh grade, was repeatedly suspended for smoking in the girls' bathroom between classes; who, one month ago, almost lost her virginity to one of the off-duty soldiers from the air force base, until he found out she was fourteen.

She was Dennie. NOTHING scared her. She pushed open the door with trembling fingers, and the slight crevice of light became a dim column about eight feet tall. The door opened silently, without squeaking of hinges, and she opened it until she could slip through.

She stopped, the darkness of the hallway pressing on her back almost tangibly. The room was dimly lit by a few lone candles in sconces set at intervals just above the wainscoting. Strange machines were everywhere, whirring and clicking to themselves. Test tubes and beakers lay on bare wooden tables with sinister-looking clips, wires, and pins. Yellowing jars of formaldehyde housed floating creatures from her nightmares, lifeless and rubbery as the frog she'd dissected last year. She half-expected to see cages of children lining the walls, bad children like her who'd been snatched for persistent misbehavior.

There was a soft click at the back of the room. And footsteps. Heavy, unmistakable footsteps. A figure entered, shrouded in darkness that the candles couldn't quite banish, and stopped next to one of its machines. It seemed of average height, but its shadow stretched crazily up the wall, reaching nearly to the ceiling. It chuckled, and she could see a flash of white teeth.

"I know what you did," he said. Dennie's knees felt like they were about to give out, but she put one hand on the doorframe and dug her fingernails in. "And there's something you...Dennie...can do for me."
***

This week's piece was inspired by this photo by Flickr user masticanotte. This is interesting...I might decide to explore this one more later. Anyway, check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, and Linus

.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Not the Brightest Bulb in the Chandelier


090306_2230a.jpg
Originally uploaded by Aquafortis.

I like that saying. It accurately describes some of the drunken spazmasters who were seated in front of us at the Tool concert we went to Sunday night in Oakland. I took this photo between the performance and the encore. Normally, these days at concerts you see people holding up cell phones instead of lighters (at least that's what happened at the Red Hot Chili Peppers show) but this crowd had lighters in abundance.


I know I haven't posted in a few days. I was stuck in computer hell--Rob's laptop had to be wiped clean and everything reloaded, but at least I was able to retrieve our files first. However, the whole process was exceedingly time-consuming and annoying.


Yesterday I finally finished the job, but then I was scheduled to conduct a phone interview for the Mills Quarterly. I found the subject of this interview to be very intimidating, plus because of the computer fiasco I wasn't as prepared for the interview as I should have been, so I think I came off sounding kind of dim. Rob points out that she's probably been interviewed by some VERY dim bulbs over the years and that this couldn't possibly have been all that bad. He's probably right, but I can't help but think she had to be underwhelmed by my incisive line of questioning. "Um, uh, so, could you talk about your, you know, time at the Fine Arts Museums, like, what led up to you working there?"


Phone interviews are tough anyway, because you can't really gauge how the person is reacting to you or your questions. I had started to think I was actually better at interviews than I thought, because my last two for the Quarterly went so well. Now I realize I'm good at in-person interviews; I'm not so good at phone interviews. Oh, well. You can't be good at everything. But I try.