Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Was this our 22nd wedding anniversary present to each other?


I really, REALLY wanted to give him his anniversary card in an envelope labeled "Clue Number One," but I restrained myself.

not about you

I kept remembering something Michael Fertik had said to me at the Village Pub in Woodside. 'The biggest lie,' he said, 'is "The Internet is about you." We like to think of ourselves as people who have choice and taste and personalized content. But the Internet isn't about us. It's about the companies that dominate the data flows of the Internet.'

- Jon Ronson, So You've Been Publicly Shamed

Monday, March 30, 2015

Aspiration is not the same as ambition. Ambition forgets mortality; old writers never do. Ambition wants a career; aspiration wants a room of one’s own. Ambition feeds on public attention; aspiration is impervious to crowds. 

....Old writers were spared (by the nonexistence of such things) the institutionalization of creative writing M.F.A. programs in the universities, taught by graduates of M.F.A. programs — a cycle of M.F.A. students becoming M.F.A. teachers teaching M.F.A. students who will in turn become M.F.A. teachers: a Möbius strip of job-­manufacture.

- Cynthia Ozick

Friday, March 27, 2015

There was, of course, even for Conrad's Lord Jim, no running away. The cloud of his special discomfiture followed him like a pup, no matter what ships he took or what wildernesses he entered. In the pathways between office and home and home and the houses of settled people there are always, ready to snap at you, the little perils of routine living, but there is no escape in the unplanned tangent, the sudden turn.

- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times
and NOW, I have the flu, a fever, a sinus infection AND an ear infection! IT'S LIKE SOME KIND OF BODY HORROR BINGO

//just waits for Sam to fly me into the sun

Thursday, March 26, 2015

John Edgar Wideman, Paris Review interview

There’s a phrase that comes up in a lot of your books: “All stories are true.” What do you mean by that, and how does it relate to your work?

The source of that phrase is Chinua Achebe, and Achebe’s source is Igbo culture, traditional West African philosophy, religion, et cetera. It’s an Old World idea and it’s very mysterious. Rather than say I understand it, let’s say I’ve been writing under the star or the question mark of that proverb for a long time and I think it’s something that challenges. You peel one skin and there’s another skin underneath it—“all stories are true.” It was a useful means to point out that you don’t have a majority and a minority culture, you don’t have a black and a white culture—with one having some sort of privileged sense of history and the other a latecomer and inarticulate—you have human beings who are all engaged in a kind of never-ending struggle to make sense of their world. “All stories are true” then suggests a kind of ultimate democracy. It also suggests a kind of chaos. If you say, Wideman’s an idiot, and someone else says, No, he’s a genius, and all stories are true, then who is Wideman? It’s a challenge. A paradox. For me it’s the democratic aspect of it that’s so demanding, and it’s been a kind of guide for me in this sense. I know if I can capture certain voices I heard in Homewood—even though those people are not generally remembered, even though they never made a particular mark on the world—at certain times and in certain places and in certain tones those voices could tell us everything we need to know about being a human being.

If you use your imagination a little bit and think of dance or music as story, then those too fall under the spell of that phrase.

movies seen in 2015

I used to do this on LJ (not very regularly) and I miss doing it, so here we go. Lots of these are rewatches, but I'm too lazy to separate those out.

Captain America
The Winter Soldier
Iron Man 2 (solely for Black Widow; it was GODAWFUL)
Jupiter Ascending (in the theatre, pretty rare for me -- LOVED it)
Guardians of the Galaxy (sheer fucking awesome)
Sunshine (2007)
A Scanner Darkly
Chameleon (2010)
Impostor (2012)
Contagion (2011)
Gone Girl (ROBBED for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Everything)
Push (2009)
Edge of Tomorrow
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (man, I read the fucking BOOK and I was still just open-mouthed and gobsmacked)
World War Z (also GODAWFUL)
Mad Max: Fury Road (HOLY FUCKING SHIT)
Nightcrawler (HILARIOUS, loved it)
Before We Go
Iron Man (actually pretty good!)
The Martian (terrible squared)
Young Frankenstein
An American Werewolf in London
Everest (2015)
The Losers
Citizenfour (brilliant)
The Poisoner's Handbook (PBS)
Spotlight (fantastic)
Crimson Peak (beautiful!)
Dog Soldiers

TV shows:

Warehouse 13
Continuum (binge-rewatch in preparation for new season)
Agent Carter
Agents of Shield (noped out after first season)
Hannibal (Red Dragon arc only)
Dark Matter
Les Revenants S2
Jessica Jones
Person of Interest
I have the flu, I have a fever, there's a cement mixer and a circular saw (? -- some kind of horrible whining droning saw-thing, I don't know what the fuck it is when it's at home) about thirty feet away from my bedroom window, and Terry Pratchett is still cracking me up with Weaver the thatcher and Carpenter the tailor.

Now that's the real magic.


*yes, I had a motherfucking goddamn flu shot

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"Depression," Jim Hines

- Depression lurks in the corner.

- Depression waits for an opening.

- Depression is exhausting.

- Depression has little patience for others, and even less for you.

- Depression remembers every mistake, real and imagined.

- Depression is afraid of change.

- Depression is “fine.”

- Depression teaches you to lie.

- Depression is ashamed of you.

- Depression is forgetful.

- Depression doesn’t want you to go out tonight.

- Depression thinks you deserve it.

- Depression tells you not to talk about it.

- Depression is abusive.

- Depression is seductive.

- Depression disguises itself.

- Depression is always tired.

- Depression thinks you’re weak.

- Depression wants you to read the comments.

- Depression doesn’t care about the good things that happened yesterday.

- Depression expects you to fail.

- Depression doesn’t believe things will get better.

- Depression is overwhelmed.

- Depression wants you to think you’re the only one.

- Depression knows you more intimately than any lover.

- Depression is a glutton, and depression can’t stand the thought of food.

- Depression demands perfection.

- Depression undermines success, and magnifies failure.

- Depression is comfortable.

- Depression is a bully.

- Depression lies.


"Living," Jason Shinder

Just when it seemed my mother couldn’t bear
one more needle, one more insane orange pill,
my sister, in silence, stood at the end
of the bed and slowly rubbed her feet,
which were scratchy with hard, yellow skin,
and dirt cramped beneath the broken nails,
which changed nothing in time except
the way my mother was lost in it for a while
as if with a kind of relief that doesn’t relieve.
And then, with her eyes closed, my mother said
the one or two words the living have for gratefulness,
which is a kind of forgetting, with a sense
of what it means to be alive long enough
to love someone. Thank you, she said. As for me,
I didn’t care how her voice suddenly seemed low
and kind, or what failures and triumphs
of the body and spirit brought her to that point—
just that it sounded like hope, stupid hope.

líexte se léoma ofer landa fela

In these festivities tonight in your Blue Hall, we honor the vitality of this great tradition, not just the few of us fortunate to receive its bounty. For those whose exploits are being sung here, Grendel is a symbol for other dangers (as doubtless he has always been): for disease and ignorance, for human greed and brutality. As Mike Bishop and I listen to your praise and music, accept your art and gold, and enjoy your food, drink, and good company, we recognize that, unlike Beowulf at the hall of Hrothgar, we have not slain our enemy, the cancer cell, or figuratively torn the limbs from his body. In our adventures, we have only seen our monster more clearly and described his scales and fangs in new ways - ways that reveal a cancer cell to be, like Grendel, a distorted version of our normal selves. May this new vision and the spirit of tonight's festivities inspire our band of biological warriors to inflict much greater wounds tomorrow.

- Harold E. Varmus, Nobel banquet speech, 1989

a view from the front line

....Michael Lerner likens cancer to a parachute jump, without a map, behind enemy lines. There you are, the future patient, quietly progressing with other passengers towards a distant destination when, astonishingly, (Why me?) a large hole opens in the floor next to you. People in white coats appear, help you into a parachute and – no time to think – out you go. Aaaiiiieeeee!

If you’re lucky the parachute opens. You descend. You hit the ground. You crawl upright. You are surrounded by a thick fog through which a crowd of dimly discernable figures call and gesture ‘Here! This way!’. But where is the enemy? What is the enemy? What is it up to? Is it here, behind this bush? Over there? Near? Far? And which way is home? No road. No compass. No map. No training. Is there something you should know and don’t?

The white coats are far, far away, strapping others into their parachutes. Occasionally they wave but, even if you ask them, they don’t know the answers. They are up there in the Jumbo, involved with parachutes, not map-making.

It is true that recently some of the parachute-makers have been asking new questions which may revolutionise the process: monoclonal antibodies; oncogenes; vaccines; DNA – all this research may lead us someday to a cure or cures, or at least delays and surer remissions. But can you promise me the magic parachute in a year? In two? In five?

Meantime I am down here in the war zone, trying to figure out my map.

suddenly my inbox is filling up

....A chemotherapeutic poison was a poison was a poison, and one did not need to understand a cancer cell to poison it. So, just as a generation of radical surgeons had once shuttered the blinds around itself and pushed the discipline to its terrifying limits, so, too, did a generation of radical chemotherapists. If every dividing cell in the body needed to be obliterated to rid it of cancer, then so be it. It was a conviction that would draw oncology into its darkest hour.

- The Emperor of All Maladies


//reads on

"organ bouquets" Mary, mother of God

"In the early days, among the first doctors to encounter and treat AIDS patients were oncologists....the first clinic to be organized for AIDS patients was thus a sarcoma clinic"


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

two quotes from a Margaret Atwood interview

I tell people that I feel that Oryx and Crake is quite hopeful because people are still alive at the end of it compared with what we might end up doing. Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you're assuming that someone will be around to (read) it.


What other recent science fiction have you enjoyed? Have your tastes in science fiction changed at all over the years, particularly as you've written it?

I'm a big fan of Blade Runner. Mister [Ray] Bradbury, indeed, is an early read of mine, and very important...I'm a big fan of this book called Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban.
I'm not sure that I have any taste. I'm a ubiquitous reader. I am the person who will read the airline magazine on the plane if there is nothing else to read. I'm interested in it all.

the inevitable point in any anti-AA article

If I had a big glass of wine for every time I'd ever heard this, I....still wouldn't have as much wine as I washed my liver pancreas* with back when I was actively drinking, probably. ANYWAY. It's this moment:

The whole idea made Jean uncomfortable. How did people get better by recounting the worst moments of their lives to strangers? Still, she went. Each member’s story seemed worse than the last: One man had crashed his car into a telephone pole. Another described his abusive blackouts. One woman carried the guilt of having a child with fetal alcohol syndrome....She couldn’t relate.

And it always just makes me go //EYEROLL FOR FUCKING EVER, because that attitude is just I'm not like them, I'm not that bad, they're nothing like me. THAT'S THE WHOLE DAMN POINT OF AA. YES, YES YOU ARE LIKE THEM. We are all like each other. The point is empathy. The whole enormous creaking arguably messed-up enterprise started with two drunks talking to each other. That's it! That's all it really is. For wherever two or three are gathered together in Dr Bob's and Bill W's names, there AA is. All the rest is fucking window dressing, cafeteria choices, a la carte, however you choose to phrase it.

Is AA perfect? No. (Is anything? Sorry to break it to you, but no.) Is it surrounded by a shitload of myths and eternally brightsided and is there a lot of cargo cult nonsense all around it and do people have blind faith in it? Sure. Does the same thing happen with MEDICINE, both alternative and allopathic? Betyourass.

(Amy Lee Coy, the author of the memoir From Death Do I Part: How I Freed Myself From Addiction, told me about her eight trips to rehab, starting at age 13. “It’s like getting the same antibiotic for a resistant infection—eight times,” she told me. “Does that make sense?” -- Dude, you don't even want to fucking hear HOW MANY TIMES I was put on an antidepressant, it didn't work, I was put on MORE of it, then taken off it and put on something else, and then got "Well let's try the first one that didn't work, just in case it does now!" This approach is not limited to AA. FFS. And addiction is all ABOUT relapse. Yeah yeah I've heard stories from people in AA about how they went to a meeting and saw the light and were instantly free and whatever. They're nice stories. They're not everyone's experience. They're not even most peoples' experience. It would be nice if it was, just like it would be nice if the first antidepressant I ever took, back in 1994 or so, had fixed me. But it didn't. Because it couldn't.)

It's such an American article, too -- look, it's Science! There's a pill! All that humiliation and need for discipline and facing up to your inner demons can just be medicated away! WE ARE ALL BETTER, THERE IS A CURE. Praise Jesus Christ, M.D. Talk about signs and motherfucking wonders, indeed.

*All those years, I was terrified for my liver! I feared cirrhosis! Apparently my liver is made out of battlship iron. But on the other hand, at the age of forty-four, now my pancreas is so calcified it apparently resembles a giant tooth. I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, &c &c.

song of the day

Where are your friends tonight? 
Where are your friends tonight? 
Where are your friends tonight? 

 If I could see all my friends tonight 
If I could see all my friends tonight 
If I could see all my friends tonight 
If I could see all my friends tonight

reading about cults always makes me think of this*

When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.
Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.
The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.

- John 4:47-49 KJV

*I also always think of a Latin phrase a friend of mine came up with which I used to tell the Jews for Jesus when they ambushed me at every street corner back when I worked downtown in the early 00s: "Nihil curo de ista tua stulta superstitione" (I'm not interested in your dopey religious cult).

Monday, March 23, 2015

from 'A Death on Diamond Mountain'

Each age had its own Buddhism, every ruler, scholar, emperor, and scribe adding their own perspective and twist on the ancient knowledge. The Buddhism of today is no different....The traditions that are taught (in the US) come from all across Asia and span millennia, and yet we absorb them as if they were a unified whole, mixing together elements of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, and any other seemingly distant "Eastern" faith. The way we reassemble the spiritual practices of the East says a lot more about contemporary America than about their point of origin.

- Scott Carney

Sunday, March 22, 2015


“...Remember, never take no cut-offs and hurry along as fast as you can.”

Virginia Reed, Donner Party survivor

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Q: Say, how's Emperor of Maladies going?

A: The subject matter is SO FUCKING GRIM I took a break halfway through and to lighten up I'm reading a book about a fucking crazy fake Buddhist cult instead. Just reading about people enduring chemo wards makes me feel like I'm getting punched in the ventricles. It's also bringing back bad, bad memories of hanging out in ERs and ICUs and recovery rooms. FUN.

(Also, yes, gripping topic and all that, but OY VEY, Siddhartha Mukherjee couldn't write his way out of a wet paper bag with the bottom ripped open. This won the Pulitzer? And it's not a biography of cancer, per se, but of cancer treatment. Yes, there's a pretty big difference.)

"Castalian Spring," Seamus Heaney

Thunderface. Not Zeus’s ire, but hers
Refusing entry, and mine mounting from it.
This one thing I had vowed: to drink the waters
Of the Castalian Spring, to arrogate
That much to myself and be the poet
Under the god Apollo’s giddy cliff—
But the inner water sanctum was roped off
When we arrived. Well then, to hell with that,
And to hell with all who’d stop me, thunderface!
So up the steps then, into the sandstone grottoes,
The seeps and dreeps, the shallow pools, the mosses,
Come from beyond, and come far, with this useless
Anger draining away, on terraces
Where I bowed and mouthed in sweetness and defiance.

Friday, March 20, 2015

the road runner must stay on the road

the PEN longlisted books


Steve's sketchbook

To name an illness is to describe a certain condition of suffering -- a literary act before it becomes a medical one. A patient, long before he (sic) becomes the subject of medical scrutiny, is, at first, simply a storyteller, a narrator of suffering -- a traveler who has visited the kingdom of the ill. To relieve an illness, one must begin, then, by unburdening its story.

- The Emperor of All Maladies

ETA Just a few pages on, a quote from a surgeon on eighteenth-century mastectomies: "To perform the operation, the surgeon should be steadfast and not allow himself to become discomforted by the cries of the patient."

Thursday, March 19, 2015


LCD Soundsystem - Losing My Edge (Live at Madison Square Garden)

The day this song does not just repeatedly crack my shit up until at the end I can barely breathe, I will truly be dead. (The Sonics! Fuck yes!)

current earworm

Let them come:
They come like sacrifices in their trim, 
And to the fire-eyed maid of smoky war 
All hot and bleeding will we offer them: 
The mailed Mars shall on his altar sit 
Up to the ears in blood.

the new virtual TBR pile (STILL MORE evidence I don't need any more books!)

All in a Don's Day, Mary Beard
It's a Don's Life, Mary Beard
Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up (Sather Classical Lectures), Mary Beard
How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers, Toni Bernhard
Heathers (Deep Focus Series), David Ross Bowie
Island of Ghosts: A Novel of Roman Britain, Gillian Bradshaw
Render Unto Caesar, Gillian Bradshaw
Anglomania: A European Love Affair, Ian Buruma
Anatomy of Restlessness, Bruce Chatwin
What Am I Doing Here, Bruce Chatwin
Afterlives of the Saints: Stories from the End of Faith, Alan Dickey
London Folk Tales, ed. Helen East
My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
The Days of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante
The Lost Daughter, Elena Ferrante
Troubling Love, Elena Ferrante
Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon
Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, Johann Hari
Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001, Seamus Heaney
Fourth of July Creek, Smith Henderson
Censored 2014, ed. Mickey Huff
Angels, Denis Johnson
The Noonday Devil, Alan Judd
alllllllll that Patrick Modiano I snagged when he won the Nobel and still haven't picked up yet
Bark: Stories, Lorrie Moore
Labyrinth, Kate Mosse
Why Homer Matters, Adam Nicholson
The Judges of the Secret Court, David Stacton
Power Play, Charlotte Stein
Swing Low: A Life, Miriam Toews
My Life as a Foreign Country, Brian Turner
A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler
Find Me, Laura van den Berg
The Just City, Jo Walton
Riding Fury Home, Chana Wilson
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

new (updated at least) book wishlist




IT KEEPS ME OFF THE STREETS well sort of....

Rivers of London, Ben Aaronovitch, AUDIOBOOK read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
The Musical Brain, Cesar Aira
A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson (DYING FOR THIS ONE)
Let There be Night: Testimony On Behalf of the Dark, ed. Paul Bogard (almost afraid to get this for fear it could never live up to that title)
A Civil Campaign, Lois McMaster Bujold
Mirror Dance, Lois McMaster Bujold
Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold
Elizabeth Cole, Susan Cheever
The Alchemy of Illness, Kat Duff
The Secret Life of Sleep, Kat Duff
At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, A. Roger Ekirch
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante
Fruitlands: The Alcott Family and their Search for Utopia, Richard Francis
Finders Keepers, Stephen King
Evening's Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe, Craig Koslofsky
Call Me Home, Megan Kruse
Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World's Greatest Art Heist, Stephen Kurkjian
Ongoingness: The End of a Diary, Sarah Manguso
Sculptor, Scott McCloud (hard copy)
Jack of Spades, Joyce Carol Oates
Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books, Leah Price (hard copy)
Addictive Thinking: Understanding Self-Deception, Abraham J. Twerski

van Gogh, Almond blossom

van Gogh, night road in Provence

van Gogh, self-portrait

van Gogh's chair

Bedroom in Arles, 1888, van Gogh

and then on the other hand, it cheers me up to think....

....that right now, Mars is entirely populated by awesome data-hungry robots.


 Vincent Van Gogh used to eat yellow paint because he thought it would get the happiness inside him. Many people thought he was mad and stupid for doing so because the paint was toxic


As far as I can tell this is unsourced, off someone's two-year-old freewriting on a blog, and no, van Gogh didn't eat yellow paint to GET HAPPY. His doctor and an asylum attendant both witnessed him drinking turpentine in a suicide attempt (possibly even several different attempts; sometimes it's reported as kerosene). This is right out of that soppy Vincent & Theo movie, which, while sweet, was really inaccurate in places, and also there's a bad docudrama in which Andy Serkis (yes, Gollum played van Gogh) noshes on an entire tube of yellow paint. I haven't seen it, but presumably he squeezes it right into his mouth as if it's orange fake hot nacho cheese from a can or something.

And! There is A LETTER ONLINE in which his brother says

In his first letter (Vincent's doctor) gave me to understand that it was dangerous for you to go on painting, as the colours were poison to you, but he went a little too far, which might have been due to his having relied on unverified rumours, as he himself was ill at the time.

So that sounds to me a lot more like "That crazy bastard, he even eats his paints!" which got passed on via unsympathetic people. Not anything verifiable.

Oil paint was FUCKING EXPENSIVE. Vincent didn't have any supplies unless Theo sent him money for him, and if you read the letters, he was desperate to work. Not to eat paint. An artist is not going to stand there while painting and just lick his palette like it's a fucking Creamsicle. (Also, have you ever fucking tasted oil paint? I have, because I used to do terrible oil paintings on paper in my twenties, and would inevitably forget and bite my nails, a longstanding terrible habit. It tastes GODAWFUL. Worse than it smells, which is impressive.)

van Gogh was not some kind of whacked-out baby or John Green hero sucking on his paint tubes. He was a grown man! An intelligent, articulate artist. His letters are probably some of the most moving documents on earth. Put them on the moon in an airtight box, instead of Richard M. Nixon's plaque, so if aliens ever get here, we'll know what the best of us was. Yes, I said that.

-- Why does this fucking upset me so? (I checked, I've been annoyed about it for days, I got enough sleep, and I took my medz.) I know, I know, forget it Jake it's Tumblr, and this is one of the reasons I got off Tumblr, all those huge posts about utter bullshit being passed around and affirmed and reblogged and quoted without a second thought. Or a first thought even. It's got something like 450K notes and will probably go well past that. It's so....it's just everything I detest about modern online culture. It's not sourced. It's pathetic. It's syrupy. It's so sentimental it made me gag. (People get on me all the time about how Schindler's List is sentimental, but THIS? This is sentimental bullshit.) It's right out of the endless fucking cliches about how artists are permanently off their nuts! and do Whacky Things! because they are Artistic! and it is necessary to be in pain and be whacky to do Art! and I believed all that, sure, when I was about seventeen.

If you were so unhappy that even the maddest ideas could possible work, like painting the walls of your internal organs yellow, than you are going to do it. It’s really no different than falling in love or taking drugs....

I just, I seriously can't even believe this terrible bullshit. Eating paint (or drinking kerosene) is like falling in love or taking drugs? What the actual shit? It's not even that someone was dumb enough to write this (we've all written dumb things, I'm sure when I was young and dumb I wrote even dumber shit) (yes, probably about van Gogh and Plath, too) or that it's gotten popular, it's that people just don't fucking bother to think about it. Why read van Gogh himself, or think about mental illness or addiction or art, when you can just pass along the equivalent of a virtual chain letter instead?

This shit has NOTHING to do with van Gogh, or mental illness, or art. You could swap in "Spongebob Squarepants" and it would make the same fucking amount of sense. If not moreso. It's a misconception about a shitload of sentimental misconceived cultural cliches that's just taken up happily into an endless echo chamber and there's no way to stop it, let alone fix it. How many people have read that letter of Theo's online? Probably far fewer than people who have clicked "Reblog" as happily as mindlessly as a rat in a lab seeking the next happy hit.

("That's my secret. I'm always angry." When dealing with Tumblr, apparently.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

this made me feel better (and also made me sob again)

For a digital literary monument, it’s surely much better to avoid the kitsch of a Facebook memorial page. And millions of RIP tweets will soon be lost, like tears in rain. By contrast, the encoding of Pratchett’s name into the fabric of the internet seems a fitting modern homage, as though millions of computers were whispering his name, and chuckling softly to themselves. - Guardian

Get the code: http://www.gnuterrypratchett.com/

Monday, March 16, 2015

But there was also something singular about not telling anyone what I was doing. … Once you show [the book] to another person, it becomes less and less yours, in a strange way. This is a necessary process of departure and distancing, but I think that until you know absolutely where you’re going with your creation, you have to keep it close. After you know for certain you can commit to living in this universe—and, more importantly, defend its particular logic—you can and should give it to someone to read. But I don’t think it’s necessary from the start.

- Hanya Yanagihara

'The past is never dead. It's not even past.'

Julianna couldn't remember what, if anything, had been torn down to make room for Whole Foods, even though the store was barely six months old. An apartment complex, maybe?

The landscape of memory was like that. Sometimes the near seemed far, far away and the faraway was right beneath your feet.

- The Long and Faraway Gone

(taking a break from the Lusitania; Larson's increasingly breathless leadup to the inevitable tragedy porn is starting to make me feel guilty about reading the damn thing)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

We’re so cute, I want to punch us in the face.

T and I (finally) saw Gone Girl last night, and it was FUCKING FABULOUS. I told T it was a "thriller/fucked-up black comedy about marriage," and other than that he knew NOTHING about it (he is totally outside the cultural mainstream most of the time, so he hadn't heard of any of the twists). I got to experience his reaction to every single turn in real time, and it was awesome. Pike was perfect as my girl Amy -- she was fucking robbed of that Oscar -- Affleck was a little too nice, everyone else was damn great. The editing was flawless, the direction superb, even Fincher's dim washed-out bleak cinematography perfectly matched the bankrupt, drained environment inside the leased dreamhouse and out.

I've always told people: this story is a black comedy about marriage, and the longer you've been married, the fucking funnier it is. Since we'll have been married twenty-two years this March 31st, we were both howling with laughter almost nonstop. But lots of my friends are single and naive, so they were all "Nooo, it's so mean-spirited and misogynist!" Trust me, Amy Elliott Dunne is the poster girl for marital discontent.

Larson, you are not subtle

This copy (of A Christmas Carol) had belonged to Dickens himself and was the one he entered into evidence in a series of legal actions he brought in early 1844 against "literary pirates" who had republished the story without his permission. On the inside of the book's front and back covers, and elsewhere within, were notes about the lawsuits that had been jotted by Dickens himself. It was an irreplaceable work.

- Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Saturday, March 14, 2015

yeah I'm a mean motherfucker now but I once was *cool*

I've just always loved the super-ironic undercutting way he sneers "coo-ool," like he knows it's such a joke, he never was close to any such thing. And the slide from scared alienation to too-tough-for-the-room numbing-out is so chilling, In my head, am I dead, in my head....I'm fine and fit, I'm wasted, and I'm free, and everybody loves me lets me be....


Not the one I'm still trying to finish, of course -- the one that got eaten -- but this one was a surprise!, a riff off another story a dear friend wrote, and I stayed up all night (thoroughly wrecking my sleep cycle, WHOOPS) and typed away and then it was done. Polished it some, did a few final remove-repetitions-and-picky-word-substitutions/additions later ("ahhh it shouldn't just be 'her back,' it should be 'her BARE back. Yessss") and there it was, just one of those gifts. It's just always fun when that happens. About 2300 words. Now 'all' I have to do is finish the first one (hahaha) AND START ON THAT NOVEL

//cries and cries....

Big Maybelle - I Ain't Mad at You (Live)

That audience is ENTHRALLED. They look like little kids watching a magician at a birthday party.

Tiny Topsy (Otha Lee Moore Hall, 22 May 193-August 1964)


Thursday, March 12, 2015

what I'm reading

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The romantic notion of art, once a fixture of the elite cultures preceding the Second World War, has been increasingly transformed by a mass cultural concept of writer-as-producer. On the one hand, writers are encouraged to think of themselves as struggling for ‘transcendent art’; on the other, they are pushed to reach ever-greater word counts, as if they were some kind of Taylorist or Fordist creative factory. Quality is replaced by quantity. We’re all constantly reminded of this by the incessant tweets (#amwriting) and Facebook updates about the number of words our friends have churned out that day....

As a concept, writer’s block functions as the Jungian shadow to this idea of the prolific writer. To have writer’s block is to be excluded from the system of production, to fail to measure up against those peers. If modern capitalism is interested in competition, this is reflected within the culture of writing itself. The productive writer versus the blocked writer are the two halves of a broken and unhealthy whole.

Western society is facing a social epidemic of anxiety: ‘trickle-down distress’ Maura Kelly calls it in a recent Atlantic article. She notes that ‘nearly one in five’ American adults – some 40 million people – ‘suffer from anxiety disorders, the most common class of psychiatric ailment we have’. Many of the same concerns affecting blocked writers – perfectionism, impatience and so on – affect the population in general.

Neoliberal capitalism is no place for the sensitive.

Our individual psychologies are thus also expressions of social problems, and understanding this allows us to understand the space we have to resolve them as individuals. We cannot step out of this culture, but we can critique it and, ultimately, do our best to build something different.

Rjurik Davidson
I stopped writing. I shut up. It's the closest I've yet come to feeling dead.

- "Writer's Block," Matthew Cheney

Monday, March 9, 2015

I forgot to post this for IWD

Frank Cottrell Boyce on Neil Gaiman

It is interesting that Saint Columba makes an appearance. Columba began his exile on Iona in penance for his part in the 6th-century Battle of the Book, a conflict that had its origin in his secret copying of Saint Finnian’s psalter: a kind of medieval illegal download. The subsequent ruling – “To every cow its calf, to every book its copy” – marks an important moment in the history of books. Were they beautiful, magical objects, to be carried into battle as charms (as the psalter was)? Or were they a means to disseminate information? Should their magic stay locked inside or should it be shared? Trigger Warning seems to grow out of a similar rift – the alternating currents of struggle and synergy that flow between the page and the electronic media.


We will find a better place In this twilight


now playing on repeat on repeaton repeaton repeat


'Down the Moon goes, the Pleiades too: Midnight, time passes, and I lie here alone'


I said goodbye but I I had to try I came back, I came back haunted

basically my life right now


Sunday, March 8, 2015

She comes home and she tells him Listen baby we're through

also best fucking album ever

best fucking album ever

She comes home and she's happy 
She comes home and she's blue 
She comes home and she tells him 
Listen baby we're through

Saturday, March 7, 2015


Friday, March 6, 2015

my anthem no matter who sings it

oh I can't quit you baby
but I've got to put you down for a little while

Thursday, March 5, 2015

1256 words on my story today!


(I had written up this ENORMOUS finish to a story I've been working on for....over a month? nothing big, a dumb short thing, but the last bit was like almost twice as long as the rest of it, and I was typing it all in a comment box without saving it, and, yeah yeah you can see what's coming, THE BROWSER CRASHED AND I LOST IT ALL. So this is rewriting from memory and patchy notes. sigh.)

It's.... //pastes it all into Wordcounter About 5K so far? Hunh.

(And the last time I finished a story was....June 2013! GO ME. If I were writing War and Peace it would take three fucking lifetimes.)

Tom Gauld is the best

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

ain't that a hard pill to swallow

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Franz Liszt: Transcription of Schumann’s “Liebeslied” (Widmung), S.566 by Thomas Yu

'After three days of careful deliberation, the jury selected Thomas Yu as the grand prize winner. Yu is a 37-year-old periodontist from Calgary. He never formally studied at a music school. Instead, he took private lessons with Bonnie Nicholson and Marc Durand while pursuing dentistry at the universities of Saskatchewan and Toronto. In November 2014, Yu won first prize at the Calgary Honens ProAm competition.'

'When Mentally Ill Students Feel Alone' - the Atlantic

I personally just dropped out of my grad school program after getting inadequate (and really expensive) "mental health care" from the student health center, which I mainly couldn't afford -- at the time, Prozac cost $120 for one month, and the insurance only reimbursed me half over a month after payment. So most of the time, I couldn't take it. I didn't commit suicide (this was 1996 or so), but it was a pretty close thing. (Nobody asked why I was leaving, or tried to figure out a way to help me stay, either -- "goodbye and good luck" was pretty much it.)

The debate at Yale comes at a time when mental-health issues are on the rise at schools nationwide. A recent UCLA survey of more than 150,000 college freshmen nationwide found that nearly 10 percent of respondents had "frequently" felt depressed in the past year, up from 6.1 percent in 2010; additionally, respondents rated their emotional health at an average of 50 percent, the lowest level in the survey’s five-decade-old history. Likewise, in 2012, the Association for University and College Counseling Directors revealed that 70 percent of officials who completed its annual member survey said that the number of students on their campus with "severe psychological problems" had increased since the year before. It’s worth noting that at Yale, nearly 40 percent of undergraduates use the school’s mental-health resources before graduating—a demand that, some students claim, has caused long wait-times for appointments and is believed to take a toll on the quality of care.

books read in March 2015

Fiction is in red. Date of first publication in (parentheses).

27. Broken Homes, Ben Aaronovitch (2013) (reread)
28. Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, Sylvia Plath (1979) (second British ed.)
29. Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography, Susan Cheever (2010)
30. Hush Hush, Laura Lippman (2015)
31. The Long and Faraway Gone, Lou Berney (2015) (damn fine, didn't quite stick the ending, but v good)
32. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Erik Larson (2015) (gripping, but so manipulative and so TERRIBLY CLUNKY)
34. A Death on Diamond Mountain: A True Story of Obsession, Madness, and the Path to Enlightenment, Scott Carney (2015) (interesting but superficial)
35. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Siddhartha Mukherjee (2010) (gripping enough, but grim, and OY, that prose style)
36. Lords & Ladies, Terry Pratchett (1992) (memorial reread) (God, we miss you, Sir Pterry)
37. The Boys of My Youth, Jo Ann Beard (1998)
38. Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (1990) (comfort sickbed reread -- haven't read this in quite a while, I wore it out for myself in the 00's I think)
39. Unbound, Jim C. Hines (2015)
40. So You've Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson (2015)
41. The Men Who Stare at Goats, Jon Ronson (2004)

all 2015 booklist posts