shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass



Originally uploaded by gwenda.
We've broken down and invited someone new into our relationship. I'm so in love with her ability to clean the dishes without the use of my hands.

saturday morning throat clearing

I've been catching up on my blog reading this weekend. When busy, even blogs I think I've read somehow have posts that slip by unseen and so this morning was the first I noticed the little conversations going on about clubbyness, friend pimping and aspersions on Kevin Brockmeier's judging of the Iowa fiction prize this year. To tell you the truth, I find it all very depressing and kind of wish I'd remained blissfully unaware. I mostly glaze over when the blogosphere tries to deconstruct itself -- it's impossible to make a valid generalization when you're dealing with so many personal sites. Motives vary wildly (mine is to have fun and call attention to things I think worthy of it) and it's only natural that social networks build up over time. The best discussion of the network phenomenon that I've heard was Bookninja's George Murray's on the book blog panel C-Span ran--and I'll be paraphrasing because I don't remember exactly--which was essentially that every blog is part of a slightly different circle, that each blog opens out with its own cast of characters and friends in the way of other blogs. You start at Bookninja, go to Maud Newton, from there to Tingle Alley or Return of the Reluctant and maybe you end up here or at Syntax of Things or any one of a dozen other sites. Depending on where you start, you'll end up someplace different. And of course, it should be pointed out that sites like this one (and most of my favorites actually) are not actually "book blogs" per se, not necessarily concerned with news.

This part of Nathalie at GalleyCat's post is what's most bugging me:

While I've always thought the MSM's response to blogs -- of all things! -- linking to each other, and treating each others' best posts with the same respect they'd show pieces in the NYT -- was absurd, I'm beginning to wonder if the letter's accusation of "hypocritical clubbiness," in relation to blogs' product-plugging, isn't so off-target. While blogs treat most books like they would celebrities -- at least, in the sense, that they feel free to openly critique them -- the more casual atmosphere of blogs (versus, say, newspapers' book reviews) has two obvious results: 1) bloggers feel comfortable encouraging readers to check out their friends' books, and 2) other bloggers have begun to count as friends -- i.e., people who can be publicly plugged, but not publicly critiqued. If blogs are moving -- as the suspiciously trend-hungry media occasionally suggests -- to the center of our literary culture, it's easy to wonder if they, even more so than traditional media, will fall prey to a "hypocritical clubbiness" -- one that's clear to everyone but them.

Now I'm a small fish in a tiny pond, so I have no illusions that this is really talking about anything other than the handful of top literary sites. But I think there are universal accusations in here that are worth responding to -- or that I just feel like responding to this morning. (My overall reaction is similar to Ron's.)

On point the first, yes, I often urge people to check out the work of my friends. I expect most of the people that come here know that and have made whatever peace they need to with it. But I stand by those recommendations, because, you know what? My friends are fucking talented and I believe you should be checking out their work. I make no apologies for that. So I will repeatedly bang, bang, bang the drum for friends' work. Not only because their work is worth it, but because it matters to me that it gets read, because it's deserving. (There's the circle jerk, because, because, because.) I see nothing wrong with this. It's a big part of my motivation for being here (see above) and spending time on this and I am never coy about it. Intentionally, anyway. And I'll beat the same drum for works I love that are not by friends (though perhaps not with the same repeated vigor).

On point the second, where other bloggers count as friends. Yeah, of course they do. Some of these are people I interact with as or more frequently than any of my other friends. Some are going to stay forever in the realm of acquaintances. Or even strangers with opinions.

I will not be trashing my friends' work here, ever, period. Most work I won't trash at all, unless, as Terry has said (paraphrasing again because I couldn't find it in the archives), the person/entity is in a position to withstand the criticism. I'm not here to bad-mouth people or their work. I'm just not. Period. Writers and artists do find this stuff. They do. So I will not be saying anything I would not say to someone's face, which means occasionally not saying something I'd say in a private conversation with a friend. That's because this site isn't private. If I don't like something, it's far more likely that I won't mention it at all (and that I won't read/watch/listen to it).

This all reminds me a little bit of the uproar when Amazon's anonymous reviews were suddenly tagged with real names and it turned out that people were posting reviews of their friends' novels. Frankly, I do think they should probably have used their own names to begin with, but I was never sure what the hub-bub was about. OF COURSE, people leave favorable reviews on Amazon for their friends and family members' books (well except for Stephen Elliott's dad). Of course, they do. Hell, if they're smart, they do it like a synchronized hit squad and wait until some really bad, stupid, pointless review is at the top and then go in with the rave. There is no law that says that just because you know someone your opinion of their work is invalid or hopelessly biased.

Which ties into the Kevin Brockmeier thing, about which I'll just say: I hope there's nothing there. I like to think that even if he did recognize the stories, he gave the writers the prizes because he truly believed their work was the best. Maybe I'm naive. If so, I'm in good company.

Here endeth the pointless blahblahblahing which is likely meaningful only to me in clarifying my own thoughts. Less navel next post, promise.


one day a pretty web site

The Believer joins the ranks of those with beautiful sites, and also promises to put up content from the first two years in archives and make some full articles from current issues available online soon.

The Rake notes this too and mentions the Jonathan Lethem/Paul Auster conversation in this month's issue, which I haven't got around to reading yet. I will say that I wondered if the Believer has dropped its convention of tagging the "interviewer" or the person not the focus of the interview as BLVR throughout the interview rather than using their name or if they just dropped it for Lethem. This has held for all the interviews I've read, regardless of the prominence of the interviewer. (I do read it as Paul Auster being the focal point and it not being about both of them.) An idle thought.

You might also be interested in Laurie Muchnick's latest Newsday column, about various things and including this paragraph:

What's wrong with this, you might ask? Publishing has always been more of an art than a science, and you never really know when an author is going to break out of the pack. Who would have predicted that Ann Patchett's "Bel Canto" would become a bestseller after she had published three novels to good reviews but no great sales? You probably never heard of Karen Joy Fowler until she wrote "The Jane Austen Book Club," but she's the author of four earlier books. And Lipsyte himself has gotten so much publicity that his book is selling much better than expected.

But you and I knew who KJF was, we loved her four other wonderful novels.

Other than that: have a nice weekend. Don't wake me, I plan on sleeping in.


finally: something exciting about the awards weekend

Everyone's favorite cinephile announces that Bravo is wayyyy smarter than you think they are, so they've got her blogging the Indie Spirit Awards and the Oscars.

I think the drinking game should involve the ghost of James Lipton, even though he's still alive. Oh and, drink when you wish a different movie/person/entity had won.

Will there be a ... Oscar pool this year? Has any of us weary souls seen enough movies? Stay tuned.

funny love

Romance novel cover remixes -- funniest thing ever. (Via Boing Boing.)

Also, see the one below: Nicole Kidman paying the rent before fame? Hmmmm?

no. 11 (update with poem)

A friend wrote me and said she thought I should add to the list of ten things, one more item:

11) Once tried to set a poet on fire.

What poet, did I do this? I wrote back. When, where?

She wrote back enough identifying information that I did remember. But 11 must still be amended, however briefly, to:

11) Have forgotten that once I tried to set a poet on fire.

But now I remember. He was a REALLY bad poet. It was in Atlanta.... anyone else remember this?

UPDATE: And my favorite anonymous commenter ever leaves the following poem:

i lift my glass
of port
and tilt it to the north,
and the other cardinal points
and to you,
thinking of
all the things
i have not done
i conjure the waif.


wednesday hangovers

Because I haven't done this in a few days.

1. Curtis Sittenfeld should really start using the picture accompanying this WaPo story, in which she gets to be all pensive and well lit.

2. Howard Kurtz quotes Lee Siegel in TNR on the upcoming Peter Jennings-hosted special on UFOs. Which means I can steal this HIlarious excerpt without having to register for TNR:

A major network is producing a two-hour special--airing this Thursday--arguing that, as Peter Jennings, the show's host, gravely repeats over and over again, 'we are not alone,' that we get 'visited' by aliens on a regular basis. Or at least since 1947, when someone obviously bored out of his mind and scared witless both by the specter of nuclear war with Russia and the infinite silence of rural America at night, looked up from his cornfield or something, saw a giant dinner plate soaring through the nocturnal sky, and called his local police department to report an imminent invasion from outer space.

You thought all we had to worry about was Al Qaeda lurking behind every iPod? Think again. If you only knew the cosmic dangers that lurk above us, the green, spindly, big-headed beings that nurture dreams somewhere in their caves, spread out over billions of galaxies, of traipsing suddenly into our living rooms and, well, saying hello. And this is the least of it, only the beginning of a nightmare. What if they are not green? What if they are beige? What if they are (unreconstructed) liberals? What if they speak French? What if--please move your children away from the screen--they are sane?

Watching ABC present convincing dramatized accounts of UFOs flying over the country, listening to Jennings calmly make the case for a government perniciously indifferent to the threat from outer space, you have to wonder whether we are all as nuts as what we watch on TV. Or are the people who make television the true crazies?

DVR's at the ready.

3. Andrea Seigel thinks about the motivations of taggers:

Then tonight I went to the movies on the other side of town, and the seat two rows in front of me was tagged on the back. When I wasn't being distracted by how high Clint Eastwood wears his pants in the movie, I was being distracted by the writing on the back of the seat, which, incidentally, was empty. "So someone really likes that seat," I thought. It's an okay seat- in the middle of the theater and a little closer to the screen than I like, but still good- and so I can sort of understand why that particular one was chosen as a favorite. The tagger liked this seat so much that he commemorated himself on the back of it, except, because he can't be in that particular movie theater all the time, the seat must frequently become much more not-his than his. It's like having a wife that you get to sleep with on Wednesdays, except the rest of the town gets her every other day of every other week. In the end, I'm just not sure what it would mean to even have the wife.

4. David Kipen in the SF Chronicle draws attention to my favorite part of the Oscars -- the races that pit writer against writer(s). (Via the storySouth-recognized Sarah Weinman.)

5. THE NYT profiles Francesca Lia Block. (Via Beatrice.)

6. If you have more money than I do, maybe buy Hunter Thompson's ice bucket.

7. You should really look at all the smart, smart things people are saying below and add to them if you have anything to say.

That's probably it for today. The first three quarters of the co-written story are up on the block tonight. Should be fun.


8. Very jealous of Mr. Barzak's trip to The Ghibli Museum -- but he did best the no picture police and get out with some very nice pictures that he's generously posted.

Also, I'm VERRRRRRY behind on email, but am hoping to catch up tomorrow. So, sit tight if I've been an offensively long time in not responding to you. I love you, anyway. I promise.


question with no real answer, but lots of interesting ones

So, Gilmore Girls is taking the well-worn path of having a couple that all fans know are destined to be together get together then break up for reasons of miscommunication, then not talk to each other and stay broken up due to sheer stubbornness. Even though this is believable for both characters, and I'm not giving the Sherman-Palladinos credit for how well they're doing this, the fact one of my favorite shows is following a proto-storyline of many modern(?) love stories still fascinates me.

Christopher slept through tonight's episode (late-ish nights take their toll on us weeknights) and he probably won't think it's as good as I did because his reaction to the pattern above is more annoyed than mine. I will keep watching to see how it resolves, to see just how terrible and complicated it'll get, secretly wanting them to actually calm the waves and let the relationship play -- damn it -- and meaning it. For some reason, there seems to be plenty of conflict inherent even if the Luke and Lorelei characters are together because they're both such rich characters. And the actors are doing a damn fine job of showing that they can do broken-hearted without going over the top. But, gah, for this show, if it's going somewhere else. I fear this show doing something so expected, at least in terms of plot; I'm afraid they'll do something silly to try and twist the usual conclusion.


I know you've seen this in other shows, even if you don't watch this one. I'd be interested in your reactions when it plays out and whether it makes you scream or tune in or both. Specific examples are welcome.

(Also: That Fiddler on the Roof moment would have been a perfect reconciliation point, even if it would have been too quick to justify last week's episode.)

Perhaps this seems low-brow. I wallow in the low-brow at this moment.

ten things that you probably haven't done

Because I'm really a follower. (It hurt to type those words, because they are a lie.)

Off the tippy top of my head:

1. Combined Guinness and espresso late at night in a Huntington club that was half coffee-bar/half real bar and drank it, under the color theory of mixology.

2. Bought a turquoise bowling shirt off Sally Timms’ back after a Mekons show.

3. Heckled Prince Charles in order to get kicked out of the British Museum. (Worked!)

4. Told a USA Today reporter to fuck off when I was 12, following the resolution of a hostage situation involving my brother.

5. Closed down a bar just outside Regent’s Park with a whole team of softball-playing barristers. And out-argued them.

6. Been made a reverend by a rock star and author.

7. Read a friend’s novel manuscript while on a private airplane with a Very Important Person (TM), pretending it was “a report on potable water.”

8. Climbed into a giraffe pit in the zoo to rescue a young lady’s ruby slipper.

9. Mocked both Fabio (“Do you use Mane and Tail?”) and Hansen (“Can I buy you a drink for sucking?”) to their faces. Among others.

10. Read all of Shakespeare when I was 12 on the theory that I’d get a lot more out of everything I read after. Sorta true.

reasons to be glad Ed's back, no. 13

I want an ipod (but it's fairly low on the list of things I want, actually), but this sentence made me spit tea all over my keyboard:

I'll confess that music is important and that I listen to a lot of it. But who knew that one out of 10 Americans view the iPod as their fucking savior?

Good morning.

(Link to whole entry.)

Also, The Sadies fucking rock. And well, you know how wonderful Neko is. Happy sigh, despite supreme sleepyhead jones state of being.



We go see Neko Case and the Sadies at The Dame. Yay for smokefree bars with Monday night early shows! In bed by 11 p.m.! So rock and roll! Yay!

complicated by thompson

So, as you've surely seen everywhere Hunter Stockton Thompson has died by his own hand. I ask myself if it could have ended any other way? Doubtful.

Here's the thing: This would have made me much sadder when I was in my late teens and early 20s. I was a huge Thompson fan, perhaps too enamoured of the lifestyle his early work memorializes (just ask McLaren), not to mention of the mindset that caught fire with exposure to gonzo in j-school, and, of course, he was a Kentuckian. Bred, anyway.

I got to The Rum Diaries about the same time I read Paul Perry's
Fear and Loathing: The Strange and Terrible Saga of Hunter S. Thompson. I remember the experience of reading it vividly. It was the summer after the fire at my parents' house and I spent half of it living in England and the other in the claustrophobic attic bedroom at my grandmother's house, soothed only by the roar of the window unit air conditioner. I read the biography late at night in that close room. I'd had no idea about the pattern of violence toward women. I suppose it shouldn't have come as a shock, but it did. I had lionized someone who was capable of that?

This was the first time I ever wrestled with how to balance what I felt about someone's work with what I felt about them as a person. It's something that still comes up from time to time. I have to say that the bloom on Thompson's rose died for me then and never really came back, a fact that's probably as due to the fact I'd read all his best work by then, and only the mediocre was left.

My lasting impression of Thompson is that he was the kind of person it's better to know of, than to know well.

(Johnny Depp can come fight me if he wants.)



Christopher Rowe and I are going to write a story together.

Should be fun.

I'll let you know later whether or not we're still married.

Now, to the office supply store!

Update: Despite dire predictions of doom, this is really fun. We still have lots left to write, but got a pretty good start. Stay tuned for the further adventures of Penelope Fowler, museum security consultant. Good name, huh?

is that a headache or am I just awake?

(I think it's a little of both. Too much wine, pizza delivery guy lost our order until halfway through Battlestar Gallactica. Also, bad art in the presence of good company.)

Matt Cheney pointed to a letter the divinely southern Andy Duncan wrote Locus about SF writers and the big dog literary short story annual anthologies. I find it so interesting, I'm going to blockquote it in whole below:

Dear Locus Online,

In my most recent incarnation as an academic, I actually presented a paper on the sf magazines and the canonical year's-best anthologies, namely The Best American Short Stories and the O. Henry Awards series. Harlan Ellison [regarding his interview comment in the July 2001 issue of Locus Magazine] has reason to be proud. Before "The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore," only three stories from sf magazines ever were reprinted in The Best American Short Stories volumes, and all three were from F&SF in the 1950s: "Dead Center" by Judith Merril, "One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts" by Shirley Jackson, and "The Man Who Lost the Sea" by Theodore Sturgeon. The only O. Henry volume selection from an sf magazine, to my knowledge, was from Ellen Datlow's Omni in the 1990s, as was the Ellison: "Unidentified Objects" by James P. Blaylock.
If one goes looking through the volumes not for stories from sf magazines but for stories by sf writers, the pickings aren't quite as slim. In the Best American series, one finds Michael Bishop (1 appearance), Nelson Bond (1), Jack Cady (4), Charles G. Finney (1), Ursula K. Le Guin (2) and Ray Bradbury (4). In the O. Henry volumes, one finds Peter S. Beagle (1), Miriam Allen deFord (2), Thomas M. Disch (2), Stephen King (1), William Kotzwinkle (1), Joanna Russ (1) and Ray Bradbury again (2). All these writers, however, are represented by stories originally published outside the sf magazines, from The New Yorker onward.

Andy Duncan
15 July 2001

The third SF writer in this year's volume of BASS (whose story was not published in a specifically SF venue -- another hint for the guessers -- but in a place that's published at least one other original science fiction short story in the last year or so) still hasn't spilled. I'll keep an eye on it and update when s/he has.


help me be a pirate

... or at least find out what kind of pirate I be.

What kind of pirate am I? You decide!
You can also view a breakdown of results or put one of these on your own page!
Brought to you by Rum and Monkey

(Via Jessica Lee Jernigan, Woman Pirate.)

Updated: I'm blushing.

finally friday hangovers

1. I'm still completely psyched about the next Best American Short Stories containing "Stone Animals" and "Hart & Boot." (And I'll also coyly tell you that I think it's going to be one of the strongest volumes in that series' history.) Here's why, mostly, besides the fact that it's cool on so many levels when writers of consistently excellent fiction are rewarded -- especially when they're your friends: when I was a kid, I read this book every year without fail. Maybe not every story, but every year our local library got this book and I'd read most of it. Later I actually started buying it (my favorite editor so far has been Amy Tan). Most years, kind of eh. It thrills me to think of some young (or older) reader or writer picking up this volume, maybe they too pick up every year's edition, and having their head completely blown open by a story like "Stone Animals." That rocks. Related: Matt Cheney reacts.

2. Sarah Weinman posts about one of her favorite young adult books -- Julian F. Thompson's THE GROUNDING OF GROUP SIX (I'm told you must use all caps). It sounds like the kind of thing I would have loved (as someone who actually practiced the teacher terrorism proposed in 13 Ways to Sink a Sub), but I'm not sure I ever read it. Must seek out now, definitely. Sarah's post was prompted by a discussion over at the Old Hag's place, itself prompted by the uncovering of a treasure trove of vintage Lois Duncan covers.

3. You are reading Maureen McHugh's endlessly fascinating and funny blog about her Hodgkins experience, right? Her latest brill post about feeling like a Cindy Sherman artwork shopping in one of her wigs is not to be missed.

4. You middle grade writers out there might be interested in the Ursula Nordstrom Fiction Contest at HarperCollins, which seeks to "encourage new talent in the writing of innovative and challenging middle grade fiction." Deadline info, rules and restrictions found at that site. Winner gets a contract. (Via Greg Writes.)

5. The Little Professor has a meme (gasp, it's that word again) on naming all the writers you've read more than 10 books by. This one's going to take some thought.

6. Laurie Anderson's show inspired by her time at NASA as artist-in-residence (one of the writers in my old screenwriting workshop works at NASA and got to meet her, even) is open for business. It's called "The End of the Moon" and the site sez: "Drawing from her NASA-inspired travels and research, impression-packed journals, dreams, and theories, Anderson takes us on a music-theater journey that examines, among many other compelling themes, 21st-century perceptions of beauty and time, and the stories we exchange to help us along the way." More info or buy tix here. (Via Voltage.)

That is all. Go forth and behave as you would.

more please

Hank Stuever writing movie reviews? I'll take several, especially when the first is Constantine:

But enough catechism class. Of course you'd rather talk about the Spear of Destiny! (It's a relic that was believed to have been used to stab Christ's torso as he hung on the cross.) It's been found! Wrapped in a Nazi flag in a Mexican garbage dump! Are you with us?

Manuel, the stereotypical peasant who scavenges the spear, is immediately zombified and begins his trek to Los Angeles to use the Spear to call forth Mammon, the Son of Satan. It's going to be a long trip, and only Constantine and Rachel Weisz (and the ingratiating Shia LaBeouf and don't forget Djimon Hounsou as the Voodoo Pimp Daddy from the Devil Bar) stand in the way of the rise of the Antichrist.

Swedish actor Peter Stormare, who played the creepy eyeball-transplant surgeon in "Minority Report," shows up and shames the acting skills of Keanu et al. with his surprisingly understated (and, as such, convincingly frightening) performance as Satan. After so many cheap sci-fi devils, it's a brief pleasure to be tempted by Stormare's gentle evil, but it's a fleeting one, and soon enough he slithers back to the chili swirls of Hades. Thus concludes this hackneyed, cheap-looking episode of "CSI: Revelation."

Stormare as the devil almost makes it worth it, but then that's what catching the last 15 minutes of a bad movie on cable's for.

See also: The ever-right Cinetrix's take


big news about best american short stories future

Michael Chabon is editing the next Best American Short Stories. And he's just let Ms. Kelly Link know that her story "Stone Animals," which originally appeared in Conjunctions: 43, will be appearing in this year's volume. Two other science fiction types will be included as well, but I'll only disclose those after they've done it elsewhere. Congratulations to all three, but especially to the two of you I know.

YAY! Go, Kelly, go! And obviously, big props to Michael Chabon for mixing up a pretty staid tradition with some new blood.

Related link:

Matt Cheney's comments on "Stone Animals"

My interview with Kelly at Return of the Reluctant last year (announcing her new collection)

Pre-order Kelly's new collection Magic for Beginners, coming soon (which will also include "Stone Animals")

Or spring for the sure-to-be super-fantastic limited edition

Update: Tim Pratt has divulged that he's one of the other writers I referenced above. His story "Hart & Boot" from Polyphony was chosen. Yay, Tim!

random library books before dance club (edited)

We have to go to dance club in a few minutes. We love it, we do, but we're not really into it today. Sadly, we've already used the "sick" excuse to violate the 24-hour cancellation policy -- so we have to go. Christopher has a fractured coccyx (which is painful and sucks, but isn't as bad as it could be apparently) and understandably doesn't much feel like it tonight. I'm just kind of tired and don't feel so hot. But Christopher also reminded me that I promised some sort of nonlink-to-others type post.

So, I figured I'd post the last few books I picked up randomly from the library and what I'm reading and ask what you lot are reading. I've been digging books found on recommendations and is there anything more fun than knowing the nonintimate contents of someone else's bedside reading table? (Well, yeah, lots of things, but it is fun.) Here goes:

-- Honored Guest: Stories, Joy Williams: I've been meaning to pick this up for ages, but Williams came up in conversation last night a the post-writing group drinks at a round table and I was reminded. Ran my fingers along the spines of the not brand-spanking-new but newish bookshelves on the first floor of the library and pulled out this neat little volume with its simple, beautiful cover featuring a little black bird perched on a hand. I've read only the title story so far, about a dying mother and her struggling daughter, and if you've never read Williams (or you have, but just not this), recommend you do what you can to get a copy in your hot little hands. A snippet:

At the beginning, death was giving htem the opportunity to be interesting. This was something special. There was only one crack at this. But then they lost sight of it somehow. It became a lesser thing, more terrible. Its meaning crumbled. They began waiting for it. Terrible, terrible.

-- Our Ecstatic Days, Steve Erickson: This is the one I'm really reading first. And I didn't chose it randomly, but thought I'd throw it in anyway.

-- Best New American Voices 2005: The FInest Writing Emerging From The Top WRiting Programs and Workshops, edited by Francine Prose (John Kulka and Natalie Danford, series editors, or the ones who actually winnow down the massive pile of stories): This I picked up because I'm a skeptic, but one who wants you to convince me, at lesat a little. Do I think this will be the finest writing emerging? Well, no. But I'm hoping something will surprise me. (I read half the first story already -- a portrait of a Mississipi funeral that pits headbanging motorcyclists against traditional southerners, which seems a little longish, but maybe I was just sleepy. I'll give it another shot.)

Change of heart (update): Finished that story and it turned out I was just sleepy -- it's an excellent story, which avoids sentimentality like fire and captures its characters perfectly. Although I would have liked one brief, clear glimpse of the making of the rock video at the funeral, not in retrospect.

-- Lux, Maria Flook: Frankly, I think Maria Flook is an awesome name. This book came loaded with blurbs and, also frankly, had a pleasing size and heft. The beauty of the library is there's no commitment, but I have high hopes for this one.

-- Mercy, Alissa York: A critic's comparison to Ann-Marie MacDonald's beautiful and depressing Fall on Your Knees (but saying this book is better) caught my eye. I'm in the mood for something with a little sweep and some cheek. Seemed a good bet.

-- The First Female Stars: Women of the Silent Era, David W. Menefee: Looks academic, but you never know. By a journalist. Oops, just looked at the acknowledgements ("First and foremost, to my faith in Jesus Christ, without whom nothing would be possible.") You're going straight back to the library with only a cursory flip through unless you are the best. book. ever.

-- Now you. And I mean it this time. (Too lazy to link these, that's what's google's for.)

(And wow, great phone call with exciting news from friends, that _most_ of you don't know, but I can't tell, not for a while! Must go! Skipping dance lessons because I'm not going to make Christopher dance while his coccyx screams!)

thursday hangover things

And a promise for some content that isn't linktastic later today. Maybe.

1. There's good stuff all over today and to try and link it all would be madness. So, make sure you check in with the folks to the right (especially Mark at TEV, who is back in style and correcting the NYT). This morning's hangovers will more be pointers to things you ought not miss, in addition to the latest Tourney of Books smackdown, the NYT article about the tournament (complete with Malzberg and Pronzini reference, baby) and the USA Today article. (I'm still pretty confident that Mark's decision will break for Ozick tomorrow, but I've always loved being surprised.)

2. Everybody's Rakish Pal comes through with a fabulous account of the recent Michael Chabon talk he attended.

3. Coffee and Ink has the exciting news that Bringing Up Baby will finally come to DVD next month!

4. Elizabeth at the Cupcake Blog on DIY and This American Life.

5. Lauren Cerand (also a Cupcake goddess but this is on her personal site) posts about architecture and prisons and points to a fascinating-sounding article in the Architect's Newspaper. Her explanation of why she finds architecture interesting is wonderfully succint: But: I actually don't understand how people aren't passionately interested in architecture, especially as it relates to issues of sustainability and global development. I mean, chances are you live in a man-made building, right? It affects your life.

There's things I'm forgetting, but that's it for now.


wednesday hangover time

Your trusty Bond Girl seems to be a little under the weather today, or maybe just tired from getting less sleep than usual for the past few days. No matter, the content here will be mostly pointers to other places today. (But we're used to that, you say. I say hush.)

1. The Hotel Allegro, the Nebula weekend hotel, is pet-friendly, which means -- of course -- that George Rowe the Dog, Poster Boy for American Values, My Attorney will be coming with us. This is so exciting that I keep telling him, "George is going on vacation, George is going on vacation." Also, the Chicago premiere of Wicked happens the night we arrive at a theater two blocks away. And, of course, as Mr. Klima pointed out yesterday, a visit will be made to the Lush store. Very exciting.

2. Speaking of the Neb ballot, Christopher posted a lengthy history and thank you to the people who helped "The Voluntary State" along the way. And yes, kids, it's true; it started as a flash fiction exercise I gave him, stolen from my screenwriting workshop (I believe the fabulous Lacy Waltzman originally came up with that one). Even the beach was part of the set-up. So, really, I practically wrote the thing. (wink) Also, he reports that Lance Armstrong will race in Le Tour, something I've said all along. (Hello? Like Discovery is going to fund the team but let their star sit out this year. Uh-uh.) Say what you will about Sheryl Crow, but she has ridden up Alp d'Huez on a bike.

3. Keep an eye on the fabulous, busy, busy Rake this week, as he promises a full report on the talk he attended by Michael Chabon last night.

4. Awwwwwww. (No, seriously.)

5. Agent Jennifer Jackson has written several posts recently that are straightforward, illuminating and full of stuff you may not know (I didn't). Especially her explanation of some of the things a good agent does for you, financially and contractually.

6. David Schwartz on Ender's Game. I laughed, I cried. I agreed with him.

7. "Your eyes shine with the greed of a misplaced tea strainer." "Your fingers are as divine as the pope's nostril hair." Visit the Surrealist Compliment Generator, via the lovely and talented Sonya Taaffe, whose journal you should also be following for her continuing translated snippets of Ištar's journey to the underworld. It looks pretty even before it's translated.

More later.


looks like we're going to chicago

This year's final Nebula ballot was announced in the wee hours of the night. Those of you who've looked at the preliminary ballot will notice the jury additions in a few categories:

2004 Final Nebula Ballot

Paladin of Souls, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Eos, Oct 2003)
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, by Cory Doctorow (Tor, Feb 2003)
Omega, by Jack McDevitt (Ace, Nov 2003)
Cloud Atlas : A Novel, by David Mitchell (Sceptre, Jan 2004)
Perfect Circle, by Sean Stewart (Small Beer Press, Jun 2004)
The Knight, by Gene Wolfe (Tor, Jan 2004)

"Walk in Silence," by Catherine Asaro (Analog, Apr 2003)
"The Tangled Strings of the Marionettes," by Adam-Troy Castro (F&SF,
Jul 2003)
"The Cookie Monster," by Vernor Vinge (Analog, Oct 2003)
"The Green Leopard Plague," by Walter Jon Williams (Asimov's, Oct/Nov
"Just Like the Ones We Used to Know," by Connie Willis (Asimov's, Dec

"Zora and the Zombie", by Andy Duncan (SCI FICTION, February 4, 2004)
"Basement Magic," by Ellen Klages (F&SF, May 2003)
"The Voluntary State," by Christopher Rowe (SCI FICTION, May 2004)*
"Dry Bones," by William Sanders (Asimov's, May 2003)
"The Gladiator's War: A Dialogue," by Lois Tilton (Asimov's, Jun 2004)

Short Stories
"Coming to Terms,"by Eileen Gunn (Stable Strategies and Others, Tachyon
Publications, Sep 2004)
"The Strange Redemption of Sister Mary Anne," by Mike Moscoe (Analog,
Nov 2004)
"Travels With my Cats," by Mike Resnick (Asimov's, Feb 2004)
"Embracing-The-New," by Benjamin Rosenbaum (Asimov's, Jan 2004)
"In the Late December," by Greg van Eekhout (Strange Horizons, Dec.
22, 2003)
"Aloha," by Ken Wharton (Analog, Jun 2003)

The Incredibles, by Brad Bird (Pixar, Nov 2004)
The Butterfly Effect, by J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress (New Line
Cinema, Jan 2004)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, by Charlie Kaufman & Michel
Gondry (Anonymus Content/Focus Features, Mar 2004)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, by Fran Walsh & Philippa
Boyens & Peter Jackson, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien (New Line Cinema,
Dec 2003)

Congratulations and good luck to everybody!



real magic

Teller has an illuminating review on a new book called The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick in the NYTBR:

When you're certain you cannot be fooled, you become easy to fool. Indian street magicians have a repertory of earthy, violent tricks designed for performance outdoors -- very different from polite Victorian parlor and stage magic. So when well-fed British conquerors saw a starving fakir do a trick they couldn't fathom, they reasoned thus: We know the natives are too primitive to fool us; therefore, what we are witnessing must be genuine magic.

This idea of genuine magic in a far-off place filled a void in the West. Physics, biology, geology and archaeology were challenging traditional beliefs, especially religion. Hungering for the unexplainable, but eager to consider themselves enlightened, Americans and Englishmen were turning to spiritualism, which promises ''scientific'' evidence of immortality, while providing satisfying shivers in a darkened seance room. Other new religions, like theosophy, proved their truth by citing the miracles that were supposedly commonplace in India. ''It was from this imagined India, rather than India itself,'' Lamont writes, ''that the legend of the rope trick would emerge.''

Any day with a little Teller in it is a good day. You can read the first chapter of the book being reviewed at the BR site.

(Via David, the Brooklyn correspondent for Black Market Kidneys. Thanks, Tito!)

happy tortured love, y'all

For much of my life I've been known as the girl who hates Valentine's Day. You're thinking: well, who hasn't? This is the comforting thing, isn't it? You grow up and discover that everyone hates February 14. It's not just you.

My grade/high school best friend -- who I now refer to only as Satan -- and I used to plan for weeks in advance. Most years we managed to pull off only the most inept of scams where we sent ourselves flowers or something. My parents always sent me something from a "secret admirer," which only made things even sadder -- except for eighth grade when they got Satan and me tickets to see Bon Jovi. (I am not proud, people. My friend J and I used to compete for who had The Biggest Hair on a given day.) Once we got cars, Satan and I would conduct more elaborate ruses, where we'd pretend to be dating boys from out of town, who would of course send us flowers. I'm sure this fooled nobody. Having an overprotective big brother and being a smart-ass didn't seem like virtues at the time, but now I'm also glad I never really dated any of the boys at my high school.

In college, I wrote a column about how much I hated V-day. I turned it in late, as usual, handing it in to lay-out and going off to sleep a few hours. I walked in to my first class the next morning to the hush that can only be brought about by one's editor putting one's mug shot above a giant heart with a giant NO symbol across it. All my fellow bartendrixes, who had dates for the evening, invited me to tag along in solidarity, thus completely missing the point that I only wanted the day to disappear. That what I'd written my column about was not being a romantic and wanting the superpower that allows you to punch someone in the face really hard only they can never tell anyone about it and if they try to they just talk about how great you are. Or the power to cause multiple accidents involving flower trucks.

That sort of thing.

Now it's hard to believe I ever invested the effort or the loathing into a little fertility celebration about fucking birds named after one to three Catholic saints. Looking back, it was all kind of fun.

Tonight we'll have champagne and something not cooked in our kitchen for dinner; I'll take any excuse for these two things, actually. And I got the Wonderfalls DVD as a present, but the Barnes and Noble girl blew that one two weeks ago, even after being told not to say the name of what had been ordered when checking to see whether it had arrived or not. Damn you, Barnes and Noble girl! Well, not really, I just like saying that. I'm giving Christopher tickets to Neko Case. Basically, in other words, we use this as an excuse to buy stuff we'd buy anyway.

I still invite y'all to post your favorite love stories, anti or pro, movies or books, in the comments section. A quick think about mine turned up: The Awakening, Happy Accidents, Midnight, The Princess Bride, Jeannette Winterson's The Passion, Of Love and Shadows, I Capture the Castle (hey crushes are what Valentine's Day is really about, right?), and, hell, I'll keep adding as I remember.

rake & erickson, or the best thing about monday morning

The Rake has a fantastic interview with Steve Erickson. I'm not going to steal any of it. You'll have to go read it.

Erickson is one of the few writers alive I'd actually trot out the word genius word for.


a few open tab hangovers and wishes of loveliness

Closing out the tabs....

1. The marvelous Jennifer Davidson reviews Malcolm Gladwell's Blink in the Village Voice.

2. Just in time for V-Day, Jeff gifts the world with another Webjay playlist.

3. Susan offers up some advice about writin' (and turns me off framing devices For Life). (Also, you'll want to go read the stuff about not pissing off the editor.)

I had two pieces of real advice at that panel, both of which I still think were pretty good advice. 1) Trust yourself to tell the story you're telling, and 2) trust your readers to follow you when you lead them.

In practice, "Trust yourself" means (among other things) that you shouldn't rely on framing devices--when I see a story that's structured as "this guy goes into a bar, sits down, and tells this really wild story to the bartender", it almost always means that the author didn't trust herself to just tell the really wild story, she had to put a layer between herself and the story. It's as if the author is subconsciously thinking "well, if this sucks, it's not like _I_ was the one telling the story." It's not that framing devices (guy tells a wild story to a bartender, guy in jail tells a wild story to his lawyer, guy discovers a letter or diary from a lost friend or relative in which a wild story is related) never work, or that they're always a bad idea. It's that they're usually a bad idea.

"Trust your reader" is harder to explain, and often hard to pull off. But have y'all ever watched soap operas? Soap opera writers understand that most of their viewers watch irregularly, and most of their viewers aren't giving their full attention to the show while they're watching. Soap opera writers cannot trust their audience to be paying attention, so they constantly recap the action and the backstory. Soap opera narratives spend a lot of time on people standing around and having interior (or exterior) monologues explaining what just happened. I'm okay with this when it happens in soap operas--I watch Days of Our Lives about twice a year, and I appreciate the fact that characters will stand around telling each other who they are and what kind of relationships they have with each other.

But for god's sake, people, don't do that in a short story. Stop explaining every goddamn little thing. Stop telling me how clever you are, while you're at it.

4. Code 46. Eh. Not bad. I don't think I could ever hate anything with Samantha Morton in it. She's the bees knees. If she and Cate Blanchett starred in Sideways 2, I'd watch it. Remember when everyone said her dress was ugly at last year's Oscars, but it was actually this lovely vintage thing and she looked dynamite cool (pic at second row, end)?

5. We really meant to send out little paper card valentines since we didn't do Christmas cards, but missed the window because life it too too hectic right now. Next year. But I love you all and so does C. (We haven't done thank you's either yet, so it's not just you. We have a year! We were told so!) We listened to all 69 love songs today while doing dishes and cooking up lots of good stuff. It's nice to spend a rainy day cooking, eating, drinking, reading Kage Baker and watching movies. I'd wish the same sloth on you all.


sunday mornings feel different

Yesterday was a lovely day, unseasonably warm, drowsy from staying up too late the night before. These things can conspire to make a day like a bubble, closed off from what came before and what comes after, from anything distressing or stressful. I don't know if you can think in a messy house, but I can't, so first we cleaned furiously the shambles that had grown up around us. Then we went out to the Headley-Whitney Museum as planned.

The World's Worst Docent, an older lady with a little bit of the hydra neck going on, if you know what I mean, escorted us to the bibelot collection -- telling half-truths that were far less interesting than the actual ones. For instance, her account of the robbery several years back, which devastated the bibelot collection was that the robbers were "trying to get into the mafia" and were "in jail now." The second part is right and, hell, the first part may be too, but here's an account of the robbery I found on a museum theft news page:

The cleverest crooks can even make it look easy. Three summers ago a well-oiled team relieved the Headley-Whitney Museum in Lexington, Kentucky of its collection of bibelots by jewelry designer George Headley. The state-of-the-art alarm system was rigged to automatically telephone the police upon detection of an intruder. But a short distance from the museum the high-tech thieves cut into the phone line and sent a dummy signal that made it appear like a routine service problem. Meanwhile, accomplices drilled the cyllinders on the locks, disarmed the security system, and gathered up 103 jeweled objects in gold, silver, and precious gems worth $1.6 million. Despite their command of the latest telephony, the perps opted for a decidedly low-tech mode of escape: tracks in the dirt suggest they made their getaway on cross-country bicycles. "The most-asked question we get here," says executive director Diane Wachs, is, "Haven't y'all solved that yet?"

The collection does still have a number of amazing things, though. A big costumey pin of a wasp, famously rejected by Joan Crawford, provoking an angry missive from the designer Headley saying essentially, "But it matches your personality."

The hydra lady was one of those obnoxious people who think that rich people are inherenty interesting and that anything they do is just fine, even if it involves them acting like they really do own the world.

Not that George Headley isn't interesting, he is. If for nothing else, than for his elaborate pet cemetery. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the camera, but I do swear I'll post some pictures at some point. Each animal has its own little foot-stone, complete with a descriptor of its personality or place. Biffy was "A Friend to Barbie." Kitty White Sox "thought she was a dog." Apparently, Headley often put his necklaces on his dog Ernie and let him parade around the starlet-surrounded pool of his Bel-Air mansion. Hydra thought this should be endearing; I think it's funny. I bet Ernie would have written something besides "Courageous Friend" on Headley's tombstone.

Anyway, we ditched the docent for the shell grotto, which is pretty unbelievable and, oddly, completely different from what I remembered from grade school. I remembered it as an arched structure made entirely of shells, but it's actually a spacious, airy room coated in shell designs and coral.

Still though, I think the oddest and possibly most sickening thing are the Whitney Estate Dollhouses. Yes, it's amazing to look at tiny bookshelves and be told that the tiny books on them can actually be read, but it also makes you think that there should be some guidelines put on people when they have enough money (and thus time) to construct such things. You know, $1 million to cure cancer for each room of the dollhouse built to amuse. That kind of thing.

A couple of unrelated links for your reading pleasure:

Bill Sheehan rave reviews Steve Erickson's latest.

The WaPo quizzes different writers on their favorite fictional love stories. Y tu? Post in the comments and I'll do a round-up on Valentine's Day. Or don't and I won't.

Update: It occurs to me that tomorrow is Valentine's Day and no one reads blogs over the weekend. So, if you want to post favorite love stories (or anti-love stories; which most of mine turn out to be) during the day tomorrow, I'll do a post-V-day thingie.


saturday with slight hangovers

!. Very slight, actually, considering we were up until about three. (Very late for us, except for our rotating bouts of insomnia.) We visited the lovely Erin's kick-ass reading series InKY last night for its anniversary party. If you find yourself in parts Louisville when the readers are at the Rud, I strongly advise that you go there and be merry.

And I finally got to meet Full Unit Hookup mastermind Mark Rudolph, who's more southern than you because his mom had a deep fryer.

It's going to be an arty weekend, as it's LexArts, featuring a ton of free,awesome stuff (free is good, c'mon payday!). This afternoon, after doing a ton of dishes, we're at least making it out to the Headley Whitney, which Christopher's never seen and I haven't been to since a grade school field trip.(Check out the library alone to see why that's unacceptable.)

2. Go to the Infinite Matrix and read Patrick O'Leary's "The Witch's Hand."

3. Ayelet Waldman is ending her blog too soon, too soon, to go write a column for Salon instead. It's a shame, because however wonderful the columns are, I bet they'll have a different consistency.

4. Writers, you should probably read this.

5. What do y'all think about the new blogger comments interface? Also, will you please come and clean our house?

6. Alan sends along tantalizing word of a bike shop/coffee house with a blog in the cities, making us want to visit.

7. Mr. McLaren sends along word of Glen Hirshberg's "novella/CD limited thing." Which I didn't know about at all but want.

8. Bride and Prejudice is finally coming soon! (Coming here soon, it may already be where you are.)

9. And finally, Ed (who is back!) reveals the best NYT correction ever: "A picture in The Arts yesterday with a chart listing television shows that portray women kissing, to increase ratings during sweeps weeks, misidentified the actress being kissed by Alyson Hannigan in 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.' She was Iyari Limon; Amber Benson is another actress kissed by Ms. Hannigan in the series." CAAF points out in his comments that this is probably just their way of saying nobody liked Season 7.


the world sparkles again!

Ed is back.

Hands off, India Times.


cycling fans meet oprah and uma (for those of you who don't work)

Mr Rowe sends the following email from his cycling club, with the subject line "Not That I Watch Oprah":

LANCE WILL BE ON OPRAH, FRIDAY, FEB. 11TH. (For those of you who don't work) :) Or, record and watch later. Check your local tv guide for time and channel.

Also, it turns out that rock star girlfriend Sheryl Crow will be joining Oprah and Lance to make sure that Oprah keeps her claws off. Or maybe to sing love songs inspired by Lance, which is the cheesiest thing I've ever heard. Topics may include: what we do with our giant piles of money, etc.

Christopher just accidentally set our DVR to grab Oprah every day instead of just this once. Will we be able to purge this timer or is the O now inside our system, ready to jump into George's body and colonize him? Only time will tell. If we must battle her, I know only one thing:

Oprah will win.


I may bring back the little song reference thingy at the bottom of the posts. I'm liking lots of music right now. But for the moment, here's a few ear worms:

"When U Were Mine," Blue Rubies*
"Heliopolis by Night," Aberfeldy*
"Sunny Road," Emiliana Torrini (Her voice is almost as beautiful as her name.)
"Here Comes Everybody", Autolux (I like this because it sounds like a Pixies song.)
"Run Into Flowers," M83

Also, you can go vote for the best Scottish album of all time here, or wail about the worst omissions in the comments. (Thanks, RLB!)

*Thanks to KDL for these two.

the hangovers just keep coming

A few more:

1. John Klima has put up Alan DeNiro's story "A Keeper" online where you can read it for free. The story was originally published in Electric Velocipede, a magazine you should subscribe to after you read Alan's story. You'll be sorry if you don't. And your little dog too. (Thanks, John!)

Unrelatedly, except that it involves Alan -- so, relatedly, Alan has posted two poetry exercises at his original web concern.

2. All sorts of fun stuff up at The Loom, my favorite science blog, including that picture of Caitlin Flanagan's spirit animal I posted the other day.

3. Pete Lit posts a Stuart Dybek passage. Heart Dybek. Just picked up his latest collection at the library last night.

4. Andrea Seigel may be a mutant. Or a transformer. At any rate, her blog's new look is lovely and reminds me of when ER was good. (Well, watchable.)

5. What's your Lipsyte Love Rating? Visit the calculator and find out. (Via supergirl sleuths Frye and Weinman.)

thursday morning hangovers

Weather report: yesterday it was in the high 50s, just now I came in from pretty, fluffy non-accumulating snow. Welcome to the apocalypse, kids.

Margaritas are tasty, but do in fact lead to...


1. Is there a universal law governing the placement of Guns, Germs and Steel and City of Quartz on bookshelves? I think maybe so.

2. Stonyfield Farm employs a full-time blogger and maintains several blogs. I just like their yogurt.

3. Dana at Twinkle Blah sez you should actually buy that New Yorker this week for Burkhardt Bilger's story about feet, or rather "one man's lifelong quest to create the best shoes ever" (which isn't online). I'm a fan of his Noodling for Flatheads: Moonshine, Monster Catfish, and Other Southern Comforts, though I must set the record straight: most people in Kentucky do not eat squirrel brains. At least not every day.

4. John Scalzi has posted a thoughtful rumination on the difference between getting a larger advance and a smaller one, and in the average size of advances for literary vs. genre fiction -- inspired by this NY Observer article on TBR pile dweller Sam Lipsyte's Home Land and its difficulties in securing U.S. publication. It's definitely worth your time if you're interested in such things.

5. Boy, do I not care about Charles and Camilla getting hitched. And yet, still I will be inundated with these images until the deed is done. Also probably barraged with older images, those grainy beach shots of which the paparazzi is so fond. Great. Remind me to tell you my story about heckling the good Prince at the British Museum. I was hungry. I wanted out. It was a fast method.

6. Today's horrorscope, from the still crack-smoking beyond the grave Omarr replacement:

CANCER (June 22-July 22). A corporate entity with money to burn is eager to finance your latest project! Watch for subtle opportunities. Be sure to buy a lottery ticket. Call your business partners, and stir the pot a bit. See what bubbles up.

Alan and Christopher, stay by your phones. We're going to stir the pot with a lottery ticket. I'm a little afraid of what might bubble up. The Fortress of Words does not like water.


hipster, thy name is snake.

You're the Tortured Intellectual!
You're the Tortured Intellectual!
Take What sort of Hipster are you? today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Personality Test Generator.

You're sensitive, you're emotional, and you wonder why everyone else in the world exists on a different plane. You cannot eat, breathe, or sleep without analyzing each action to death. You're usually sombre, depressed, lethargic, but you can be nearly glad from time to time. You wear whatever you can find on your cluttered bedroom floor. You carry books, notepads, reading glasses with you wherever you go. You have friends, but only a few who truly get where you're coming from. You frequent coffee shops, libraries, and the less crowded bars. You're obsessed with past people, past ideas, past lives. You wish you could die and be reborn as Jack Kerouac.

Because quizzes are the easiest kind of content. Why are we all on different planes (sic)? And why is this picture scaring me? Must drink hipster blood.


Via the fighting me to be reborn as Jack Kerouac Ms. Keane.

life where the stars are hollow (updated)

For those of you who are uncivilized philistines, it may come as news that this evening marks the 100th episode of the Gilmore Girls. Some assorted links:

See Dana Stevens' (aka the fabulous Liz Penn) Slate column about these "literary lionesses" on the occasion of this season's visit from Norman Mailer.

Be in Rory's Book Club (which is mostly awesome, except things like the ringer Five People You Meet in the Bathroom When You're Dead).

There's a wikiquote page full of GG goodies.

Or see this discussion of two characters that may have Asperger's.

Kind of scary, stalkeresque article about Rory in "Girls' Life" magazine.

A much less scary article on Lauren Graham from Los Angeles Magazine. ("Recite 'Jabberwocky,' now, now! Or die, bitch!")

And, um, apparently there was a hoax article circulating at some point claiming that creator extraordinaire Amy Sherman-Palladino was "just a fictitious name representing a writing collective of Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), Patrick Caddell (The West Wing), and Kevin Falls (Sports Night)." They wish.

Brand new NYT interview with the very real Ms. Sherman-Palladino. Well, my writing, my banter comes from my upbringing, my Catskills/Borscht Belt influence. My father's a comic, now in his 70's. He's the king of the cruise lines. He works on the cruise lines 90 percent of the year.

See you at 8. This is the only show left that I still actually watch while it's on, suffering through commercial hell and everything.

UPDATED to add a couple new links: Tito Perez (whose site you should be reading) points out the Onion AV Club interview with the popular Ms. Sherman-Palladino and HGStabler writes in with this cool link.

don't sneeze or you'll eat that check.

Justine follows up on her original first novel advance post (and I'm snitching the first graph or so whole so you'll also have the link to Tobias Buckell's advance survey results):

Back in December I posted a little essay about first novel advances. Thanks to John Scalzi linking to it in three different places, but most especially at metafilter, thousands of people have now read all about what my mates got for their first novels and it's been linked to all over the shop. The musing also seems to have served as a wee reminder to Tobias Buckell that he promised to put together a database of first novel advances in the sf field, based on Brenda Hiatt's sterling work in the romance field. Well, now he's done it. So, if you've sold a novel and haven't already filled it in, go do so. It's a fabulous project.
Now go read the rest -- if you want, you know, to be depressed. Did I say depressed? I meant smarter.

(Also, psst, Justine, set up an RSS feed.)

Via Ms. Tingle.

tuesday's lonely hangovers

1. Happy Mardi Gras. Go eat some pancakes and show your...

2. Dana at Twinkle Blah is on a roll. Do not miss. Especially this tripstery entry.

3. Ten geekiest hobbies revealed at The Wave. (Thanks to Pancho and Lefty, who would never do any of these things.)

4. That Wiley Cinetrix nails the reason I'm afraid to ever even acknowledge having seen a Tom Cruise movie on Netflix, for I fear the recommendations and seeing his face with each log-on. (Also, Tom Cruise's Cousin will totally kidnap your ass.)

5. Happy birthday to Terry! May the year be as good as you deserve it to be.

6. The WaPo has a piece about a new Andre Kertesz exhibit at The National Gallery. Never heard of him? Go read it.

7. Some days your fucking horoscope is so meaningless you have to call attention to it:

CANCER (June 22-July 22). The obstacles you build in your mind have nothing to do with reality. This is especially true in reference to a central relationship. In actuality, one courageous phone call could solve everything!

Is Sydney Omarr's replacement smoking the crack? (Dead or Alive? is a very helpful site, btw.)


this is not about Caitlin Flanagan.

Though it could be. I just really love this star-nosed mole, who is a marsh-dweller (much like CF), it must be said. (Via Boing Boing.)

For Caitlin Flanagan Watch keep an eye on these ladies.

what she said

She being one Maud Newton:

If Texas is to be the country's political weathervane, I'll take Kinky over Governor Rick Perry any day, but my fantasy Texan celebrity governor is Molly Ivins. I might even move to Austin for that.

Let me just get my bag.

monday, monday hangovers ed.

1. Bud Parr sticks a needle in my eye. However, I'm always open to new voices and interested in seeing new ways writers find to express themselves and carry on the conversation - the Gaddis Drinking Club being an interesting attempt at bringing several people together to write on one topic (next time let's not choose a thousand page book). Emphasis mine. It burns, it burns. But he's right, you know.

It took awhile and several re-checks of The Recognitions at the library for me to admit it, but despite my joyous first week of reading, there's just too much ELSE for me to actually finishing reading this chihuahua killer of a book right now.

Oh, and that's just an aside in Bud's piece, you really should go read the whole thing.

2. Ms. Melissa ruminates on titles. Titles are odd sort of in-between things. They're not really part of the story, but they're the signpost on the way in, so they're deadly important. If the sign says, 'next exit, New York City', and you want to go to Kansas, you're not going to go any further.

3. Stephen King does the numerals thing.

4. The tug of war between Victoria detective Simon Overland and "gangland survivor" Judy Moran over her memoir is pretty interesting, but even moreso is the accompanying photo of her hard-living visage next to the urn containing her murdered husband's ashes. The pinkish, flowery urn.

5. Tsk, tsk, Cherie Blair. But the first event of her six-date speaking tour left guests - who had paid up to £380 a ticket - feeling badly let-down, with many dismissing her speech as a "boring book plug".

Mrs Blair even committed the cardinal sin of confusing New Zealand with Australia.

"I thought Cherie was very poor," said insurance executive Caroline Canning, 34. "She flogged her book and I think for a woman of her credentials she could have talked about a lot more meaningful subjects.

6. Deep Throat revealed? (Too bad Dana Carvey isn't still relevant.)

the upside of global warming... being able to take your bicycle out for the first 10+ (okay, 11.25) mile ride of the year -- in February. It's wrong, and yet so very right. And we didn't even have to wear cold weather gear. We crashed The Islands, a oohlala private neighborhood that hasn't quite figured out that we can zip right by their guard post and gate. It's my favorite ride in town because you come flying down hill and all of a sudden there's a lake with a road that's basically a glorified driveway across. This hidden in the middle of the city (well, and a little to the left). I'd hate to live there, but biking there's a blast. Leaving the hood, we witnessed two crows divebombing a hawk until it finally gave up and flew away.

Nice day.

Also, on Saturday, I went shopping. Ladies, is there anything better than a good end of season sale?

Now it's Monday again (please pronounce that A-GAAAANE). Check you later.


sorta true.

You're a Plot writer!

What kind of writer are you?
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saturday hangovers

...or, I love you so much I don't want the Glove Monster to be the first thing you see when you come here.

1. Ayelet Waldman confesses her love of the grotesque, which makes me feel slightly less lonely as one of the few people still suffering through Carnivale for this very reason. I also highly recommend the book Strange Cases: Natural Anomalies and Historical Monsters by Rosamond Purcell.

2. Clint chronicles Douglas Coupland's visit to Chicago, making me slightly nostalgic for the high school reading experience of Generation X* and yet amazed at the news that Coupland still publishes lots of books. I thought he was dead or something.

3. Carrie points to Jessa Crispin's Guardian diary and their list of favorite lit blogs (agree that the omission of Maud Newton is a head-scratcher, but kudos to those who made it).

It's sunny outside. And time for lunch. Decisions, decisions.

*On the inside cover of which I wrote my dad's visa number for those special occasions when 16-year-old me needed it and my parents were, um, asleep or something.

where's Miss Celine when you need her?

(Getty Image from NYT)

The NYT examines celebrity courtroom fashion. I ask wouldn't this Winter White outfit be better accentuated with a dangling baby and a towel?

you can't handle the truth!

Jonathan Lethem explains the many answers he may give if you ask him whether one of his characters is based on a real person:

So that reply, too, is a brand of honesty I can offer up without withering my self-respect. The problem, though -- the thing I'd explain if only I could -- is that while it's right to remind a reader that a character is a chimera, a shadow, a glance, far less in substance than even the shallowest human being who ever lived, it's equally true that most characters are dwelling-places for dozens of human lives, containers for much more than a description of a single person. These notions may seem to contradict one another, but they don't. Philip Roth has pointed out, rightly, that a writer only begins by basing his or her work on some real person or event. It's everything that follows, everything the writer elaborates after that point, that makes it worth reading, that makes it, maybe, literature.

There's an interview as well headlined "Jonathan Lethem: Chameleon," which makes me hear "Karma Chameleon" in my head.


the further adventures of dance club

Last night we went dancing, even though we were both exhausted, didn't really want to go (in a very, very three-year-old "Don't wanna!" way), and would have much preferred to be configuring computery bits that weren't working properly and that sort of thing. But, here's the thing, they know this. And by they, I mean the dance people. So they put a 24-hour cancellation policy on these lessons, which are not at all as cheap as an envelope of tuna. Why not call in sick, you ask? Well, we did that last week. (These past couple of weeks have been really, really, really hard.)

But we had a great time, as we always do. Our instructor loves us, because we laugh and laugh and we make him laugh too. He mocks us, we all mock the other dancers and especially the instructors. "Look at the expressions on the bald guy!" And then our instructor threatens to also make tsk-tsk faces, ouch faces and the occasional faux-beaming face. We were also told last night at our first private lesson taking place at the same time as a group lesson -- picture a really crowded studio with lots of people paying no attention whatsoever to one another and yet dodging each other at the same time -- that people "clap around here when they get excited." At which point we asked if they were clapping for the geeky Muppet hair kid. "Usually," was the deadpan reply. So, foxtrot, waltz, and not much else, as we were even more giggly than usual. When we screw up, it's usually because we're laughing so hard. Once, Christopher ran me into a table just to make a point. Now I routinely stop and look over my shoulder. Lessons, people, lessons. Not just dance, but life.

We were given a sheet of paper and told to choose what "level" we want to be at. A level was pointed at in response to my question of, "Which one's good enough that people who don't know any better will think you're really good?" The middle. Always the middle.

But here's the most important thing of all:

The dwarf is actually a very good dancer.



You are Captain Malcolm Reynolds, aka. Mal or
Captain Tightpants. You saw most of your men
die in a war you lost and now you seek solitude
with a small crew that you are fiercely devoted
to. You have no problems being naked.

Which Firefly character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I'm not quite sure how this happened.

(Via Brutal Women.)

art shopping for numbers

I just bought this wonderful little piece of repurposed art by Marco Cibola after seeing the site linked on Boing Boing. Rub your cursor to see how it actually looks, instead of just where it started. Most everything is already sold (or out of my price range), but it's all worth seeing anyway. I especially love this one, which reminds me of Mark Rich's sheet-wearing hamster drawings (which we're lucky to have one of).

happy tender buttons

Today is Gertrude Stein's birthday, wherever she may be. You could go read her Academy of American Poets bio and follow all those nice links at the bottom. Or visit this beautiful biographical site full of photographs from throughout her life.

Her 1946 statement "Reflections on the Atom Bomb" is here:

They asked me what I thought of the atomic bomb. I said I had not been able to take any interest in it.

I like to read detective and mystery stories. I never get enough of them but whenever one of them is or was about death rays and atomic bombs I never could read them. What is the use, if they are really as destructive as all that there is nothing left and if there is nothing there nobody to be interested and nothing to be interested about. If they are not as destructive as all that then they are just a little more or less destructive than other things and that means that in spite of all destruction there are always lots left on this earth to be interested or to be willing and the thing that destroys is just one of the things that concerns the people inventing it or the people starting it off, but really nobody else can do anything about it so you have to just live along like always, so you see the atomic [bomb] is not at all interesting, not any more interesting than any other machine, and machines are only interesting in being invented or in what they do, so why be interested. I never could take any interest in the atomic bomb, I just couldn't any more than in everybody's secret weapon. That it has to be secret makes it dull and meaningless. Sure it will destroy a lot and kill a lot, but it's the living that are interesting not the way of killing them, because if there were not a lot left living how could there be any interest in destruction. Alright, that is the way I feel about it. They think they are interested about the atomic bomb but they really are not not any more than I am. Really not. They may be a little scared, I am not so scared, there is so much to be scared of so what is the use of bothering to be scared, and if you are not scared the atomic bomb is not interesting. Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. They listen so much that they forget to be natural. This is a nice story.

Or read some poetry. The Academy of American Poets features "Stanzas in Meditation." Here's one stanza:


Which I wish to say is this
There is no beginning to an end
But there is a beginning and an end
To beginning.
Why yes of course.
Any one can learn that north of course
Is not only north but north as north
Why were they worried.
What I wish to say is this.
Yes of course

Or just say something beautiful, and secret.

the thursday edition of hangovers, or open tabs.

1. Our dear Michaelangelo Matos reveals the new group blog he's taking part in. Music critics. And people say they're secretive loners.

2. The Fuccon family are mannequins, an American mannequin family to be precise, living in Japan. Yes, friends, this odd Japanese TV show is now available with English subtitles. Ms. Gilly, run don't walk. (Via.)

3. Susan touches on all sorts of interesting things, and reminds everyone that you need to suggest Wiscon programming this week (although those of us that came up with the where are southern women writing fantasy idea last year prolly need to come up with something that won't lead to this again) and to go vote in the Strange Horizons Reader's Choice Awards.

4. Guess what? Tom Shales doesn't love Happy Days. But he thinks your parents do.

5. Seattle librarian and action figure model Nancy Pearl names her top 10 spy novels. (Via the Very Elegant Mark, who also has the skinny on the Black Clock issue 2 partay.) (Black Clock 2 features a Lew Shiner story; very exciting.)

6. Boing Boing has the goods on someone who potentially saw Bigfoot in their backyard. I just love the fact that the operator asks "Ok, but is it a person?" Tape can be heard here.

7. Ron goes to a Samantha Hunt reading. You should to, if you get the chance. I loved the playfulness and melancholy of The Seas.

8. Our Girl in Chicago offers an account of David Thomson's dueling nature. I keep meaning to read Thomson's novels. Loved his Orson Welles' bio, Rosebud, and of course the Dictionary is beyond brill.

9. Eek on beards. She married one, so she should know. (I have to say that I agree and seeing anyone with a mustache brings on hilarity. Especially '70s mustaches -- what are they smuggling, guns?)

That's all for now.


here's to rabble-rousing ptarmigans

Alan gets his groove on and yes, yes, you really should go read the whole thing:

This is really getting out of hand on my part; it's one am and I'm rapidly losing coherency. I'm not going down this road just for the sake of it, but to really figure it out--because I really, really think it has a lot to do with the way we not only think about SF/F (or whatever mode) but also how the very work is produced--the worlds written about, or not written about. And which books are bought and not bought (by editors, I mean--the public is a whole other ballgame). It matters how we look at each other. I want to think, every day, that my writing helps me become a more decent person. The core of personhood is at the center of what I write. What I write may change, and sometimes my interest in stupid byways might puzzle me, but that keenness to write in the first place, despite mutations and inconstancies of subject matter and form, that in itself gives me hope, and always has.

Mandel also said: "Your work is a lifelong arc (well, a much more complex shape than that); its weaknesses, lapses, gaps may contribute to strength."

Here's to weakness.

be buried in a chicken. or a bible. no, really.

Best coffins ever. Get thee to the BBC and see them all.

not the robot

A new short short, "Night," by Aimee Bender is up at LitHaven (a site which definitely merits more exploration). It'll be included in an anthology of insomnia stories, which was due out in January according to the pub date at Powell's, and features work by Lethem, Jonathan Ames, Stacey Richter (yay!), and many others. Looks like a new addition to the procure list.

(First spotted at the Singularity blog.)

more cribz photoz

Jeff over at Syntax of Things continues the blogger crib phenom* with pictures of his swank pad. (You really shouldn't let your dog smoke though.) Most amazing thing: he has plants and they live! They live!

How do you do that?

(But seriously, I want everyone to post annotated house photos! A little house porn is good for the soul.)

*note Morrissette-like irony.