Archive for December, 2013

Procrastinating, Python

Pretty cool, eh? There are more realistic resolutions here.

I have exactly one more week of vacation left. If I spend two hours each day grading some papers, I can still enjoy many, many hours of free time, and not be totally stressed out during the final weekend. Sweet!

But.. I’m nearly done with FarCry3. And I’m keen to try Endless Space. And The Last of Us is still calling my name. (And I’m paying for it, from GameFly.) Also Reddit is cool. And there’s a discussion happening about Barton Fink that I should check on. And there’s that book I’m writing. Those things are more important than my mental health this weekend.

Besides, Weekend Me is annoying and who cares about him anyway? He’s all “me me me”. What about all the goofing off I deserve to do now? Oh, it’s only two hours a day? Well, that’s two hours I could be working on some really important stuff, like video games.

And Now For Something Completely Different

We’ve been watching the Monty Python documentary Almost the Truth. It’s got some interesting stuff (apparently Cleese was a bit of a jerkface at times), and it’s just cool to get interviews with all of the surviving members about the whole affair. Plus it’s got interviews about Python’s influence with Eddie Izzard, Stephen Merchant, and other cool people (including, for some reason, some guy from Iron Maiden).

Here’s the trailer:

Kindness Saves

Well, the blues passed and today I woke up feeling better again. (Diane’s loving compassion has a lot to do with this.) I decided I was going to snap myself out of it either way, so I washed the dishes and then worked out and then meditated and then ate fruit for breakfast. It seems to be working.

Best of all, I found two awesome things on the internet today. First, a Wikipedian named Gerda Arendt left me (back in August, heh) a lovely Precious Award for my contributions there. How nice!

I also stumbled into a recent Rolling Stone interview with John Goodman, in which he’s asked which role he’s fondest of. Guess who it is?

But my very favorite character is, surprise, from a Coen brothers production – Charlie Meadows in Barton Fink, because he was very sympathetic, for a man who was a snake, that is. He was someone I could sink my teeth into. Homicidal maniac, but kind of a nice guy. You don’t get many of those.

I guess that deserves a spoiler tag, but whatever. Life of the mind!

Sad and Miserable

Yesterday Diane and I went skiing, which was a lot of fun, even though the lift lines were very long. (We thought we were avoiding the crowds by going on a Friday, but apparently everyone else in Wisconsin had that same idea.)

Today my body aches all over, especially my legs. My head is also in pain. This makes me feel like a wuss, because four hours of skiing did this to me? I feel old and weak.

Then, today, I received a second rejection email for the horror story. As I said last time, I can’t tell if it’s a good story or not. I feel like I ought to just keep trying until someone says something positive about it, but then I think I should just throw it away and forget about it.

The magazine that rejected me today has a thing on their website that says:

we cannot offer personalized feedback on each story. If we say, “send more,” however, it does mean that we hope to see something else from you.

Well of course they did not tell me this, which I’m taking to mean “Please do not ever contact us again with your boring predictable garbage writing.”

How on Earth do people do this for a living? I’m starting to wonder if the past 20 years of writing stories and novels is all just a fraudulent exercise of the ego with some sycophantic niceties from friends and family thrown around out of sheer obligation.


Words, Words, Words

Recently a horror magazine put out a call for submissions on Reddit. I’ve never really written a horror story (partly because, as a schoolteacher, I feel restrained from writing the kind of nasty stuff that is usually found in the genre), so I took a shot.

I think the resulting story, “Dermatobia hominis”, is decent, but it got rejected. The editor gave some feedback (which is rare, and which I appreciate) indicating that the main character is underdeveloped and the story feels predictable. I can’t really argue with these, but in the first case I don’t much care. It’s not about the main character (and yet even as I write that sentence its absurdity strikes me); it’s about what happens to the main character. (Besides, we do know some things about the main character.)

As for the second: Yeah, it’s probably predictable (I can’t judge). But isn’t Romeo and Juliet predictable too? I think this strikes at the biggest problem I face with the horror genre: Everything in it is predictable as heck, and I thought I was doing something interesting by exploring the real behavior of an actual animal.

I know writers have to be tough, and generally I don’t care when someone doesn’t like something I’ve written. But this is why I don’t spend much time on the post-writing part of things. I hate begging people to read my stuff, and it’s disappointing to get negative reactions. Then again, it’s got to be part of my life if I ever want to get a bigger audience.

The other problem, of course, is that I wrote the thing so very quickly, and I don’t know how confident I am about it. If this were “z”, then I wouldn’t give two figs about what people said about it. I know that story is awesome. I think this one is good, but I don’t have the same love for it. I think I’m going to submit it elsewhere, but it’s a gamble. If it gets rejected again, that will feel even more painful. But it’s ridiculous to just give up when I get rejected once. (Insert boring aside about my pathetic love life pre-2k.)


On a lighter note: I got a new keyboard, the state-of-the-art Microsoft Wired 600. I wasn’t opposed to something a little more fancy, but the reason I bought this one is because it was literally the only keyboard in two office supply stores that wasn’t wireless. Why do I want a wireless keyboard!? That’s all I need — more batteries running down and polluting the planet. Besides, my keyboard is always in the same place, in my little roll-out tray under my desk. I can’t imagine who has such an active lifestyle (but still uses a desktop PC) that they need a wireless keyboard.

The interesting thing for me is how different the typing experience is with it. I only recently began to realize how gummy and unresponsive my old Apple keyboard was (I have no idea when I got that one). I’m still getting used to the different spacing on this one, so I’m probably getting the same error rate. But when I don’t, it seems so nice and smooth.

I also got the video game Super Hexagon, which is an evil exercise is masochistic punishment. It works much better with a fresh new keyboard. I still hate it, tho.

My Consumptive Hypocrisy

I pride myself on being frugal and living a simple life. In a world awash in hyperconsumption (and therefore drowning in debt, sickened by media misrepresentations, and inured to empathy), it’s a virtue to reject The Man’s prime consumption directive. (In case it’s not obvious, I’m also in love with the second meaning of the word consumption.)

I prefer to meditate, live well, and enjoy what I have. Long ago I realized the sublime joy that comes from detaching from conspicuous consumption. (I once saw a quote somewhere about “How lovely it is to wander around a shopping mall, gazing at all the things I don’t need”.)

We have a house that’s just the right size for us. Our car is 15 years old but reliable. We have a normal human-sized television. I don’t love shopping the way some people do; in fact, I start to get irritated and grumpy after 30 minutes in a store. I can feel the psychological marketing tricks working on me, and I don’t like it.

There are, however, three areas where my anticonsumption simple-living platitudes break down: Books, music, and video games. We ran out of shelf space long ago, so we have dozens of books laid on top of neatly-organized texts. Music is all digital these days, so there’s no space problem there — and truth be told I’m quite picky these days, so I don’t buy much music lately.

Video games are another story. I accumulate games with a rabid fanaticism that puzzles even me. As much as I ridicule people who live at the mall or go racing off to whatever idiotic sale pops up, I find myself compelled to check the internet every day for new game deals. It’s ridiculous and embarrassing.

This morning I hit a new low, when I bought a game on Steam that I already own. I guess this is how it starts — you lose sight of what you have, and you keep throwing money after money at your addiction, trying to sate the monkey on your back. Before you know it, you’re alone with your crap and you spend hours staring at it, wondering how your life went so terribly, terribly wrong. Then you go on Reality TV.

I’m legally forbidden from judging anyone else ever again for Black Friday shenanigans. I will continue to mock and lambaste the marketers responsible for our consumer frenzy, but after wallowing in new depths of this little inferno, I cannot in good conscience level an accusatory finger at other humans for buying things they don’t need.