Last Week at the Movies

I do from time to time catch a current TV show* or a movie that’s in theaters now, and over winter break I gorged. There are plenty of full-on reviews and summaries around the Web; here I’d like to highlight some interesting moments in the banquet.

Up in the Air. George Clooney plays a man who travels constantly for his job with an organization that’s contracted by companies to do the actual firing when they downsize. Clooney plays it subtle: he’s in nearly every scene of the movie, and he could have been exhausting to watch. Instead the onion is peeled. He delivers the HR speak calmly and earnestly—does he believe it? Does he know the impact? What does he want? He smiles at most of what happens, but the low-key delivery ends up saying a lot. In other words, the movie shows rather than tells.Continue reading “Last Week at the Movies”


Serendipitous Reading Choices

I accidentally did some thematic reading this week: Blind Descent, by Neveda Barr, followed by Bulletproof Texas, by Kay Thomas. Both are mysteries that figure largely around caves. Barr writes a series that takes place in the national parks, and this one is in Lechuguilla cave in Carlsbad Caverns park. I didn’t realize that Thomas’s book also involved a cave, but on the first page the characters make a discovery that they think may be on a scale of Lechuguilla. Both books have main characters who are terrified by dark, enclosed spaces, and coping with their fear figures throughout the stories.Continue reading “Serendipitous Reading Choices”

I Wanted to Believe

I admit it—whatever the equivalent of “Trekkie” is for The X Files, I was one of them. I thought Mulder was hot and Scully was smart; I taped reruns, went to the movie when it came out in 1998, and bought the DVD. Last summer, I was excited to discover that a second movie was being made, but I managed to miss it when it came out. So it was with a sense of vacation well and truly started when I brought the DVD home to see at last.

A lot has changed, though—at least in TV land—since the days when a paranormal investigator like Mulder would be relegated to a basement office at the FBI.Continue reading “I Wanted to Believe”

Contest Winner

I was one of four winners of a contest to write a “life story” in five parts that could each be “tweeted”—that is, they’re 140 characters or shorter. My story, “He Hardly Remembers the Crisis from Childhood,” is being posted this week (December 28—January 1).

You can go the suspenseful route and read one each day on Nanoism’s Twitter page (you don’t have to be a Twitter user to read this), or you can wait until Friday and see the whole thing on their blog.Continue reading “Contest Winner”

Alternate Versions

This is one of the prettiest Christmas carols I know, and I love the effect even when performed in two very different styles.

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

It’s a very old song, and it’s a toss up whether the traditional feel is better conveyed by a sweet and ethereal children’s choir or a costumed madrigal group.

Pete Seeger sings by himself, accompanied by a banjo. When you click through, choose track 10 and a new window will pop up to play the song.

Either style reinforces the improbability of the event the song describes: a flower that blooms in the winter.

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
as those of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright,
amid the cold of winter,
when half spent was the night.

Identity and Appearance

Baby AnnIf you go for the Gerber baby type, I come from a family of very cute babies. For a variety of reasons, it’s not something the relatives comment on, which, blissfully—perhaps especially for a girl—meant a youth engaged in action, not image. The grandparents and aunts and parents talked up deeds (working hard, tucking in your shirt) rather than genetic inheritance (being tall or smart, having a marketable ratio of long-twitch to short-twitch muscle), and largely they were successful. I only learned how to do makeup after being in community theater, and after meeting someone, I can far more readily tell you, say, their stand on gender roles than their eye color.Continue reading “Identity and Appearance”

NaNoWriMo Thanks

I didn’t blog much about how it was going during November because I was trying to be diligent about working on the novel. If you want to get a feel for the zeitgeist, though, check out Doyce Testerman’s blog.

Having a gang of fellow travelers helped me stay in motion more than I realized it could, and the Internet made them available 24/7 when I needed another prod. I’m glad to have fallen in with the right crowd on Twitter who offer up conversation and enthusiasm 140 characters at a time, especially @karenquah (who also did some blogging about NaNo), @Scribblerati (who built a whole website where writers can hang out), @uppington (for having done it before and showing us what to do next), @WriteAdvantage (who talks about editing and reminds me I know something about this), @catepolacek, @TamaraNKitties, @KeriStevens, @CraigCottingham, @count_01, @merrileefaber, @jennspiller, @silverwriter, @vdemetros, @hdgrogan, @jessrosenbooks, @marybrebner, @boudreaufreret, @AlannaCoca, @jhtatroe, and @BCB_.

Oy vey, and Scott, who remains untempted by Twitter (but did you know half my Facebook peeps think you’re my brother—which means I get to read your novel, right?).

And thanks to my unflagging townie writing peeps, especially Phil, Deni, and Amy. I am reading for brainstorming any time, any place, as long as we can eat croissants there.

I Won NaNoWriMo

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
At some point, from some position, I'll be able to see a path through this thing

I did it. The story is there. The pacing is a disaster; one of the scenes I wrote twice because I changed my mind about where it should appear, a third of the characters don’t have names, and around the 20th I quit updating my outline. I always have to go back and write in more so you know things like the hero has brown hair, or the conversation took place in a subway car . . . but . . . but . . . the main and most of the minor pieces are there.

Used to be I thought 500 words in a day was good; 800 words was terrific. During NaNo I had to average 1,667, and during Thanksgiving break I logged 3,500 a couple days to make the deadline. It was hard; it took me all day, some days, and I remember at least six days of hitting my target and thinking, “I have no idea what I’m going to write tomorrow.”

Continue reading “I Won NaNoWriMo”

I Was a Child Freshman English TA

tower of booksWhen people ask what books influenced me, they’re usually expecting a list that could double for some Great Books High Literature syllabus, especially if they know my father was an English professor.

In fact, my exposure in that genre is pretty sketchy, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t reading. For one stretch of middle school, I read a book a day (thank goodness for libraries). The school librarian recommended books. The school librarian’s mother was our next-door neighbor, and she loaned me romances that she’d saved from her youth (I thought they were too mushy). One of the grad students in the English department always asked what I’d been reading (and always listened to my answer). Another loaned me his childhood favorites (the adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy).

But it wasn’t all books that I read.Continue reading “I Was a Child Freshman English TA”

Headache Cures

A prosaic post for the middle of NaNo. Disclaimer, not in small print in case you are currently in the throes: I am not a doctor. Sometimes headaches can be the sign of something serious.

First pass at a cure:
500 mg of vitamin C
16 oz of water (2 cups or about 250 mL)
8 oz of something with caffeine in it

The theory is that most headaches are caused by dehydration or by coming off a caffeine high.Continue reading “Headache Cures”