Thursday, August 31, 2006

No News is...OK News.

I'm in one of those moods where it feels like I don't really have anything to blog about--nothing interesting enough to tell, anyway. I read friends' blogs and they're full of cool escapades: houseboat vacations, writing soap operas, drinking beer in Cardiff, seeing Chuck Berry in St. Louis, living in cool places like Seattle, meeting food-blog celebrities, and so forth.

I have not been doing much of anything. That might be because we recently got an HD Tivo and are watching a lot of television. I've been working on rewriting my YA novel The Other Olwen. I've been doing some art-related experiments with non-toxic methods of transferring inkjet prints to watercolor paper, in preparation for a new series of pieces I want to do (and to help Rob with a new class in alternative drawing methods), but I'm not quite at the point where I'm ready to do the actual artworks yet. I've been attempting to get caught up with large numbers of piddly tasks associated with being President of an organization. I'm also trying to get caught up with my freelance research job, which I sort of blew off for about a month while I was working on the Welsh conference. When you put it all like that, I sound busy. None of it is particularly noteworthy, though.

I did write a rather lengthy book review on our ReadingYA blog, before finding out that a quite excellent review of this book had already been posted earlier and I somehow missed it. I've also started posting again to our WritingYA blog, so I'm trying to get in the mindset for blogging, but I feel moody and blah. This feels like a time period for a lot of grunt work and not a lot of reward. This is the part they never tell you about being an artist or writer.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Flickr Fiction: Keep Off The Grass

Everything is drab in daylight: sandy-dusty-dormant-ashen, old-folks-having-tea-front-of-the-wireless, please-keep-off-the-grass, no-smoking-in-public-places drab. He really shouldn't be driving when he feels like this. He knows it. It was a late night, a horrible night. Actually it was a wonderful night, but his head is pounding and so it feels like it must have been horrible.

But it wasn't, because there was this girl.

Must have been six feet tall, if it wasn't the constant pints of lager addling his already sodden brain. Six feet tall and blonde like a Swedish bikini model. And that dress with the deliberate holes, there and there, just so; yes, she was just so...something. Something like in a song. One of those ooh-baby, let-me-get-you-in-the-back-of-my-car songs.

Jeremy swerves; narrowly misses a street sign and runs a red light. He was driving on the wrong side of the road again. He really shouldn't be driving, doesn't have an international license or anything, but Harvey is passed out in the back seat again. Where are they going? He doesn't actually know. They are somewhere in the middle of London, rapidly proceeding outward on some southbound road into the suburbs. The police, the fuzz, the bobbies, the coppers, the pigs; they got left behind at the scene of destruction.

It was the flat of a friend of the Swedish bikini girl. Or, more exactly, the Swedish bikini girl was a friend of the girl who lived in the flat; all the girls who rented the place were students at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and the Swedish bikini girl was, like them, studying film studies or some other girly thing that snotty rich girls did who had money to pay for art school but no talent.

Yeah, you should be in film, he said to her last night, envisioning her in an even smaller dress with even higher heels and even thong-ier underwear, quite a feat of the imagination.

It was a few minutes later that the shit hit the fan, or the shite, as Harvey would no doubt put it. Somebody had spiked the punch, of course, because somebody always did, but not always with liquid LSD droppered in on the sly when everyone was busy watching the terrible band abuse their doublenecked guitars. Harvey chuckles to himself, nearly sideswiping an old couple out for a scenic stroll, the old man extending two fingers in a V symbol that always makes him feel like he's being flipped off with a peace sign.

Yeah, by the time the cops came it was five in the morning and some people were lying on the floor counting ceiling tiles, some were vomiting in the potted plants, and some were just...staring. The Swedish bikini model, now there was a sad story. They'd been on the verge of getting their clothes off when the drugs hit her, after she consumed plastic cup after plastic cup of punch. All she could do was stare at her hands and giggle. And then she'd stare at his hands and giggle. "Your hands are hairy," she'd say, and scream with laughter, falling backward on the bed. Then this scene repeated itself about four times before Jeremy gave up and left the room. Shortly afterward the police sirens started wailing and everyone who wasn't too messed up to move scattered to the four winds. That included Jeremy, who grabbed Harvey and half-dragged him to the car two blocks away.

There was a moral to this story, Jeremy thought to himself. There really was.

Thank God I stuck to lager.
***

This week's piece was inspired by this photo by Flickr user Pablo Gavilan. I have no idea why I wrote yet another story involving a bad drug scene. It really wasn't deliberate. It just sort of happened. Anyway, check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, and Linus

.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More Fun With Craigslist

Apparently, being a creative genius does not make you an editing genius.

This seems like an interesting and potentially contradictory situation. Or, if that doesn't suit you, perhaps this would be better.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Services Not Elsewhere Classified

It's really hard to explain to people what it is I actually do. That's why my City of Modesto business license is for "Services Not Elsewhere Classified." I don't want to simply tell people I'm a writer, because that leaves out a good portion of the work I do that's merely writing-related, or editing, and totally doesn't mention anything about visual art or design, which I also do.

That might still seem relatively simple to explain, but when I say I'm a writer and artist, or a writer, artist and designer, people then tend to latch onto one of those and grill me about just that one aspect. Usually it's "So what do you write?" Which often means I have to launch into a lengthy explanation of the various different types of projects I do, because if I say, "Oh, a variety of things--fiction, articles, whatever," that will provoke a blank look, or further curious questions.

Lots of times this leads into either "I had an idea for a novel once," followed by the story of said idea, or "I've been thinking I really should write my autobiography because I had a really interesting life." Variations on this conversational thread happened to me several times today, at the annual Chew family picnic in Point Richmond (my husband's extended family). On the other hand, there was a delightfully chilly breeze that we here in the valley are only privy to after the midnight hour.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Flickr Fiction: Lamewad

Flickr Photo: DreamThe first time I heard him use the word "lamewad," he was sitting on the naugahyde couch playing a video game.

"Lamewad!" He burst out. I was in the kitchen, but I could practically hear the spit flying out of his mouth and hitting the flat screen. And again: "Effin' lamewad! I swear to god!"

"Jojo," I yelled. "Be nice to your friends." I brought in a couple of Keystone Lights poured into cold beer glasses. But it was just Jojo sitting there in front of the TV all by himself, yelling "lamewad!" at nobody but himself. Or possibly the oafish humanoid monkey attempting to teleport using a giant banana.

I had this horrible moment then. It wasn't my husband of ten months, Jojo, sitting there on the couch in the sticky summer heat, but a giant monkey. An ape, really, to be scientifically accurate. There wasn't a lot of difference, because both were trying their goddamndest to use a giant banana as a teleportation device, a function for which it was clearly not designed.

Or was it? "Well, smack my ass and call me Judy," I said, as the cartoon TV monkey finally ambled successfully onto his banana platform and the peel zipped up around him. He reappeared in a new scene, on a different banana platform.

"You know," I said, still standing there with two freezing glasses of beer raining condensation on the carpet, "You're pretty good at that."

Jojo grunted. He pressed pause for a moment, flashed me a quick, feral smile, scratched under the left armpit of his well-worn Def Leppard shirt, and went back to his game. I set one of the glasses of Keystone on the coffee table in front of him, and took the other one back to the kitchen. Then I thought better of it and set that one on the coffee table too. He'd drink it himself, even if I'd meant it for some mythical friend who I thought was being pegged as a lamewad.

I went back into the kitchen for a while and rinsed dishes, put them away in the dishwasher where I couldn't see any remaining grime. I got out a pint glass of my own and rooted around in the back of the pantry where the good beer was. I poured a bottle of Newcastle, making sure to leave a nice little head on it. Jojo always says Newcastle tastes like banana. So I hide it behind the Health Valley cookies.

During this process, I could hear:

"Fuck!"
"Fu-uuuck!"
"What the fuck was that?
And, of course, "Lamewad! Your ass is grass!"

I went back in after draining a good third of my glass of Newcastle, wondering for the thousandth time whether it was a mistake to marry your roommate in Reno when you were both drunk and knew, knew there were no other options, ever. Especially when he is clearly a lout.

The lout was still sitting there in front of the video game, his little gorilla jumping around in palm trees, collecting some kind of coins or coconuts or whatever greedy task was assigned at the outset of the game.

A lush green jungle surrounded him. The steam was almost palpable, the cheery little critters so vivid and the random booby traps so shocking in their suddenness as they deprived him of all of his hard-won bananas. His life force meter was almost drained to the bottom. An insistent warning began. Beep. Beep. Beep. It was almost over; I'd have the TV to myself. And I heard something else, something from Jojo; an almost primatelike hideous screech.
***

I started this piece because I really wanted to use the word "lamewad." This piece is also inspired by the fact that we had a case of unwanted leftover cans of Keystone Light in our fridge from a party two weeks ago, and finally drank the last ones last night. The problem was, I would drink one, and just not want another one. Blech.

This week's piece was inspired by this photo from Flickr user Gavin Mackintosh. You might also find Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, and Linus

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Yosemite Sarah


Bear
Originally uploaded by Aquafortis.

Some of the photos from our recent Yosemite visit are now up on Flickr, including this one--a bear who created a rather large traffic jam going into the park on Wednesday, causing us to say to ourselves, "Damn, this traffic sucks--there better be, like, a bear on the side of the road or something."


Friday, August 11, 2006

Flickr Fiction: Bite

it wasn't something you would ever notice
she thought,
dipping red nitrile-covered hands into
the tray, caustic tendrils of vapor
rising
agitating
the copper plate swimming in light blue
image biting deeper with every minute
him standing there with her, but
not just regular standing there
his arm around her shoulders.

his arm around her shoulders
why?
perhaps her grandmother died
or her rent was late--facing eviction
these were the only acceptable reasons
why he should be standing
his arm around her
his cheek to her cheek
like jenna wasn't even there.

so now she was here.
smoking on the balcony
where countless balcony smokers had stood before
where she could count on something
besides the smell
and incorporeality
of smoke
count on the acid to bite the plate
chlorine rising into her nostrils
the press to roll the paper flat
ink smelling of linseed
pass by pass, crushing out the image
of the three of them
micron by micron.
***

Jeez, I might be the only person I can think of who would actually write a poem about printmaking. What a nerd.

This week's piece was inspired by this photo from Flickr user Donina. You might also find Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, and/or TadMack.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Need RSS Feed Help!

Okay, here's a question for you computer-y types: I'm looking for a blog feed aggregator that will compile clippings from ALL my feeds, preferably organized into categories I specify, and e-mail them to me in a daily digest format.

I'm subscribed to Bloglines, and I like the way I can organize feeds into categories, and read them online, etc. I also like the way there's a little RSS notifier in Gmail. But what I really want--what I need to ensure that I actually get to everyone's blog postings--is a way to just get e-mailed that information. I don't want to use a notifier. I want one daily e-mail with clips and links. Does such a thing exist?

I looked around a bit, but could only find e-mail RSS aggregators that send you digests for individual blogs. I really don't want to log into a website every time I want to check for new blog postings. But if that's my only option, I'll have to get into the habit, I guess.

Unplanned Celebrity Encounter

This one's for MeiMei, and I almost forgot to post it in my houseguest-induced haze. On the weekend, Rob and I went to see a soccer game at the L.A. Coliseum--FC Barcelona was playing a friendly match with Chivas de Guadalajara.

A little while before the game started, heads in our section (which was on the 50-yard line, about midway up the stands) began turning, and whispering spread through the crowd: Kobe. It's Kobe.

That's right. Of all the celebrity sightings I could have had, I had to see Kobe Bryant. Yay. Sure enough, he was making his way to a seat in some kind of blue-satin VIP section at the top of the stands, waving benevolently in the fashion of a true monarch. Gee, thanks for waving. I feel so special now.

The really goofy part is that, every ten minutes or so during the game, people would turn around again and stare, as if asking themselves, What's Kobe doing now? Is he going to wave at me again? Forget that they could have been watching Ronaldinho, who is arguably more famous, at least world-wide.

At some point, somebody must have flipped him off, because when I turned around (I tried to resist doing this most of the time, but I had a few moments of weakness), Kobe was flipping somebody the bird.

I feel a little torn about this Kobe encounter. On the one hand, I really can't stand him. I feel like he's ruined the Lakers, the team I adored as a child. Of course, now I'm a Kings fan, so I hate him extra. On the other hand, he's attending a high-profile soccer event, and God knows U.S. soccer needs the help and the publicity.

I only ever seem to have encounters with celebrities I dislike or don't care about. Like the time I was 11 or so and saw Tina Yothers at the L.A. County Fair. Tina Yothers. Why not Michael J. Fox? Or even Michael Gross? Honestly.

Online Aversion

I get sort of e-phobic sometimes, especially when going online means I have "chores" to do like answering work-related e-mails, grading essays for Rob's online class, or figuring out that I have a number of related tasks to do offline. Right now I have to remember a bunch of things for Cymdeithas Madog (the Welsh group I'm prez of this year)--thank-you letters to outgoing Board members, wrapping up various details of the past conference like outstanding refunds and payments, assigning Board members to committees, getting in touch with our delinquent mailing list administrator.

Plus there are the other items on my to-do list: writing a letter of support for a former Board colleague who is being considered for tenure, continuing to edit my YA novel The Other Olwen, filing the huge pile of papers on my filing cabinet, researching writing markets, tackling some artwork ideas I had, etc. etc.

My cousins and I on the hike up to Vernal Fall

When my list gets that big, I start feeling overwhelmed and exhausted before I even start the day. Plus I have household-visitor-hangover. My younger cousins (22 and 20) spent several days of their vacation up here, Sunday through Thursday. They're a lot of fun, but I get exhausted having people stay in our house. Also, we went to Yosemite on Tuesday and stayed until Wednesday afternoon, staying in Groveland and going into the park both days. On Tuesday we climbed to the top of Vernal Fall, which is a steep 3-mile hike round trip, but well worth it. On Wednesday we walked to the bottom of Bridalveil Fall (which is easy) and then climbed the boulder pile up to a small pool at the foot of the falls (which was a bit more athletic). It was all a lot of fun, but I'm definitely achy at the moment. I do want to go back when I'm in slightly better shape and hike Half Dome.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Great American Musings, Part 2

Sorry. I had a beer and a half and now I'm loquacious.

Thinking about the Great American Music Hall led me to thoughts of working at IGN.com, back in the days of heady spendthrift dot-com revelry. One year we had our company (the company at the time being Snowball.com) holiday party at the Great American Music Hall. It was a fancy-dress occasion; the band performing was made up of twentysomething employees; there were hired young ladies in silvery elf costumes running around taking black-and-white Polaroids of everyone. There was a buffet dinner. The place was mobbed.

Midway through the evening, the CEO (who was merely thirtysomething himself, of course) announced the winners of various sumptuous raffle prizes: ski lift tickets, a snowboard. I still have the dress I wore that night--a cheap, black, sleeveless silky number that came to about mid-calf and had rows of blue spangles along the bust area. I still have the jacket, an extra-long black fitted blazer that has come in handy for work many times. Rob wore his three-piece suit. The black-and-white picture of us has gradually been fading.

I even vaguely remember our IPO party. It was in this warehouse loft space somewhere in San Francisco. Random representatives of all our corporate partners--mainly from the video game world--were there. I talked to some game testers from Sega for a long time. They had quite a high opinion of themselves for people who sat around playing video games all day for shit wages. (Not that that sounds entirely bad.) And I remember going to some Tomb Raider-related party thrown by Electronic Arts at Bimbo's 365 Club, which is down the street from the Art Institute. There was free food there, too, and free video games (of course), and a free Tomb Raider wristwatch for all guests.

Sigh. A good time was had by all. Until the bubble burst. And until I got a bitchy boss at the same time as I realized there was no hope of career advancement in the desired direction. And then half of my friends got laid off; whee. No more happy-go-lucky games of Quake on the LAN. Far less Razor-scootering around the office. The commute just didn't seem worth it any more. They were good times (as I'm sure you've gathered, by the sheer frequency with which I ruminate nostalgically on them). I just have to keep finding other good times, I guess.

Strange Brew

This is pretty funny. Upon reading it, I was flooded with a memory of actually trying "He-Brew." Rob and I had gotten tickets to Purim-Palooza at the Great American Music Hall because Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction fame was going to be spinning records as DJ Peretz. This was probably about six or seven years ago. Purim-Palooza turned out to be really cool...and a bit weird. Not knowing much about Jewish traditions, we stumbled into a costumed holiday. We saw outlandishly dressed audience members, Orthodox Jewish rappers, and much much more. And He-Brew. We felt very underdressed. Plus I think I was probably stoned, which is why I can't remember much more than that. My memories between 1997 and 2002 are a bit hazy on occasion. I do recall having to wait until the VERY END of all the other acts before DJ Peretz came on. And then he spun some really trippy shit and seemed like he was probably going to continue in that vein for hours on end, so, not being rave junkies (at ALL) we left at a fairly decent hour.

So, yeah. That's what reading that article made me think of.

Belated Post on Art

An artist friend of ours from undergrad school, Sandra Low, had a really good write-up in the Ventura County Reporter a while ago. One of these links that got missed because I had conference stuff going on. Enjoy.

Flickr Fiction: Riot Gear

A smoldering glass bottle zipped past Constable's left ear and smashed into what was left of the corner-shop window. The flames roared up again, huge, and he knew there was no chance in this hell of going back in and salvaging anything more. He hitched up his charred army bag and made a break for it.

He heard shouts echoing down one of the side streets, probably from the old Russell Square station, and ran faster. His breathing, through the respirator, was loud in his ears, and the pounding of his footsteps seemed painfully audible. His boot crunched into something wet and sticky; he didn't want to look.

To one side was the grey, fenced-in hulk of old St. Pancras church, miraculously unscathed. He didn't know how the fifty-odd people who'd holed themselves up in the main transept had managed to survive up here. It had been four months since martial law had been declared, after the Religious Riots started. The riots were still going. Some good martial law did, Constable thought bitterly. Look at us.

The bells of St. Pancras started to chime, faithfully as ever, the artificial faith of the electronic timer. 12:30 a.m. Constable looked around him. There was nobody in immediate sight, but the shouting voices were closer, and he thought he could hear the sharp bark of the Soldiers of Order. He suddenly banked right and ran into the middle of Euston Road, past the blackened skeleton of a burned-out bus. He thought he could see a pair of eyes, two or three pairs of eyes like small children or raccoons, watching him from the darkness of the bus wreckage. Too late to worry now; they'd be coming up the street any minute, from Woburn probably at the same time as they came up from the encampment at Cartwright Gardens.

Skirting broken hunks of asphalt, Constable reached the center of the empty road. It was dark except for the waning moon; they'd long ago shut off the electric lights and the blinking traffic signals. He lifted the manhole cover, crouched down, and swung himself back into the Lower Blooms.

Lower Blooms. The city beneath the city. Under Dickens' house, beneath the home of Virginia and Leonard, the plumbing that served the Yeats museum. All those places had been either looted to nothing--a lucky thing, if it preserved any of the treasures within--or leveled by the Preservation of Order special corps. Constable crouched in the trickle of storm water at the bottom of the tunnel, removed his helmet and respirator, and gasped for breath in the stagnant air. At least it didn't smell like smoke down here. At least he wasn't breathing the ashes of hundreds of years, the ashes of London.
***

This week's Flickr Fiction inspired by this photo from Flickr user Petteri Sulonen. I've been reading the graphic novel V for Vendetta, if you couldn't tell...

Other places you might find Flickr Fiction this week include The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, and Bob.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Loving Catness Meditation

Have you ever tried to meditate with a 17 lb. cat on your stomach? It isn't an easy task.

Earlier today I lay down on the living-room floor to do some quick meditation--all part of my grand scheme to relax, decompress, and get rid of stress hives. About a minute later, my cat Roxie walked in and decided that my abdomen looked like a good place to sit and purr. Now, because Roxie is large--in both directions--this meant that her head was on my upper thigh and her butt was nearly on my chest, with a back foot pressing into my diaphragm. Nice, kitty. It's just a good thing we trimmed her claws last night, or that kneading into my bare leg would have been really painful.

Whenever we're out of town or extra busy like we have been the past few weeks, Roxie gets needy. She doesn't hold a grudge or get cranky, but she gets extra meowy and wants to be near you or on you all the time, even if the weather is nonconducive to that sort of behavior. In other words, she'll sit on your lap, raise your core body temperature to about 500 degrees, and then leave.

Fortunately for me, this morning's involuntary ab crushing only lasted about ten minutes. Much longer than that and I would have had to do something about it.