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Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Reader's Manifesto

I need to pick up this book, read it, then write my own manifesto. I've been suffering a major case of fictional angst ever since I read American Tabloid by James Ellroy.

From the blurb:
Myers makes a serviceable, if debatable, case that DeLillo et al., and by extrapolation much of contemporary literary writing, have strayed from the clarity and artfulness of expression that earlier authors, from Woolf to Conrad to Bellow, achieved; and that the true heirs of yesterday's giants may be today's genre writers. What makes this entertaining book so important isn't the point-by-point relative correctness of Myers's argument, however, but that at last someone has dared to say, with energy and insight, what many have privately concluded: that at least some of our literary emperors are, if not without clothes, wearing some awfully gaudy attire, and that certain sectors of the lit-crit establishment have colluded in the sham, all at the expense of... readers.
My emphasis.

Put me down as a guy who definitely thinks genre writers are better than so-called literary writers. I think, pound for pound, you're going to find better writing in a Theodore Sturgeon story or a John D. MacDonald novel than you would in a, say, Cormac McCarthy novel. But that's just me.

I mean, I've tried to read Cormac McCarthy. Tried, and failed! His language is needlessly florid, unnatural and affected, and the lack of proper punctuation is just infuriating. I mean, come on! What makes you so special that the rules of writing don't apply to you? Use proper punctuation! And don't give me that Hubert Selby "but that's the way I type" excuse. Don't you have an editor?! And if your editor isn't correcting the quirks of your typing, what are they doing? Fanning the air and repeating, "We're not worthy?"

Seemingly so. Here's the first three sentences from McCarthy's The Road:
When he woke in the woods in the dark and cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world.
What imagery! What poetry! What...crap!

In the interests of clarity, the first sentence could use at least one comma, but even if you add in a comma, you're left with a clunky bit of faux-poetry. "In the woods in the dark and cold of the night?" This cluster of prepositional phrases may "paint a picture" but it does so with fingerpaints and broad, childish strokes. It's so tin-eared that if you heard someone speaking this way, you might think that English was their second language.

But that first sentence is just badly written. The second sentence is just bad writing.
Nights dark beyond darkness and days more gray each one than what had gone before.
We've already seen that McCarthy has no qualms about jamming a bunch of comma-free ideas into a single sentence. Here he demonstrates that he has no qualms about even making a sentence.

This...
Nights dark beyond darkness and days more gray each one than what had gone before.
Is a fragment. And there's nothing wrong with fragments. Fragments are perfectly okay. They can even be good. Writers should not be afraid of fragments.

What they should be afraid of is writing a fragment as clunky, silly, and amateurish as that one. Nights dark beyond darkness? Can you even get "dark beyond darkness" or is there some kind of darkness quotient where you say, "Woah, that's dark" and it won't be getting any darker?

I've heard many clever metaphors about darkness. Michael Connelly wrote a book called "A Darkness More than Night," which I think he stole from Raymond Chandler. "A darkness more than night," now that's evocative.

But "dark beyond darkness?" What does that even mean? I'll tell you what it means. It means you're reading crap! You're reading a guy being flowery for being flowery's sake.

"Days more gray each one than what had gone before?" Okay, Yoda. What's wrong with just saying, "Each day more gray than the one that had gone before?" I know, I know, can't be too straightforward or anything. Instead, we've got to talk like we've got a poor grasp of grammatical structure. It's poetic!

And that brings us to sentence #3.
Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world.
What's like "the onset of some cold glaucoma?" The days that are "more gray each one than what had gone before?" The night that is "dark beyond darkness?" I wish it was more clear, but --again-- that sentence is just a fragment. It's missing something.

Like a subject.

And really? A "cold glaucoma?" As opposed to a "hot glaucoma" or a "painful glaucoma" or "a milky white glaucoma." Using inappropriate adjectives can, at times, contribute to interesting juxtapositions, say the case of the Beatles' "Long Hard Night." But sometimes it's just a writer being pretentious and lazy.

Considering that two sentences away we suffered through the "in the woods in the dark and cold of the night," and the second sentence we suffered through "Nights dark beyond darkness," it's only natural that now we have to have cold glaucoma.

Because -- and I don't want to seem repetitive-- what I'm trying to say is that it's dark and cold.

Now maybe it's just a taste thing, but I'm not so sure. Having decided I couldn't read The Road due to what I deemed stylistic excesses, I tried to listen to it as a book on tape.

Predictably, what's clunky on the page is just as clunky when being read aloud. Indeed, listening to it makes it sound even more unnatural and affected and repetitive than it is on the page!

And they say this guy is America's greatest living writer? Oh well. I guess I'll stick with the dead ones....

Not Gonna Hear It

I am trying to non-rudely but resolutely convey to my co-worker that I don't want to hear any bitching about his ex-wife, about how McDonald's put ketchup on his Quarter Pounder*, about how he didn't make any plans for Easter, indeed, about anything.

(* He ordered it plain, he said. And maybe I'm not giving enough credit to the McDonald's workforce, but I can see how that can be open to interpretation, especially considering how McDonald's employees are either teenage part-timers, which means they're not paid to give a shit, or non-native English speakers, which means they might not know that "plain" means "no ketchup." If you want no ketchup, why not just ask for "no ketchup?"

Related thought: The reason why this guy has so much to bitch about is because he's so damn stupid. I mean, you didn't make plans for Easter? Who's fault is that? And why must I listen to you complain about it? Oh, that's right...I'm not going to!)

Updated: After listening to this guy go on for hours about how tired he was and how he might leave early, he finally left early. 7 minutes early. Next week if he even mentions leaving early, I'm going to insist that he does. Just go, dude. Get some sleep. Leave me in peace.

I mean, frankly, I'm sick of hearing about your problems. What I'd like to hear about is how you're going to deal with them. For instance, say you're tired on the night shift...

You can:

A) Complain about it and feel better emotionally, but still be tired and (presumably) still eager to complain about it.

B) You can leave early and go get some sleep. You've got personal time and you can use it. In fact, tonight's the perfect night to do it because you have back-up.

C) You can get some sleep during the day. Black out the windows, put on some noise canceling headphones, drink a bottle of vodka, take some sleeping pills, go for a long bike ride, do something. A book usually works for me.

And those are just three possibilities. There are more, including sleeping on the job, quitting the job outright, or getting hooked on crystal meth to keep you up for days. Another option, if you're so inclined, would be to tough it out in silence.

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Living Room

Is finally coming together. Today I picked up the bookcases I ordered from Wal-Mart and put them together: all four of them. Then I stocked the shelves, happy to see that everything fit.

That's the central domestic dilemma I face, what to do with all my books. And all my exercise equipment.

I don't intend for my weight bench to live here, but until I get the "ghosthouse" cleaned out, it will do.
This is what the area looked like last week.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Announcement

Little did I know when I picked up the phone yesterday that I'd be hearing a voice I haven't heard in well over a year.

"Hi," she said. "It's me."

Psychologically, I was like that Munch painting, frozen in a silent scream, but physiologically, it was more like a Brueghel scene, a chaotic bustle of activity. Palms sweaty, heart racing, stomach flipping.

We talked for a bit, catching up on the old times. I told her about the drivers license situation, the floor, about working the night shift, you know, the same old stuff.

And then she told me what she's been doing the last year. It's been quite eventful, to say the least. What started out as a possible case of the flu turned out to be something else.

You can see where I'm going with this...

Long story short, I saw this girl yesterday --who I'm going to leave nameless for now-- and took this photo. Meet my son, Clarence. I think he looks just like me.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I Hate Hackers

If you were in my contact list, you probably got an e-mail from me with a link to some boner pills. Multiple e-mails even!

I have no idea what's causing it, but I'm trying to find out. In the meantime, don't click on any links in my e-mails. You know me, all my links are on the blog. Delete them. Delete them all.

Run a virus scan too just to be safe. I ran one last night and my computer was clean. I think it's the account that's buggered. In which case, I'm going with the nuclear option.

New e-mail address.

Libertarian Lack of Perspective

While the libertarians are wailing about losing the freedom to forgo health insurance, my friend Denise is dying of cancer. She'd like to resign her position, move back east, and spend the rest of her days --what few she has left-- amongst her family and friends in New York.

She can't do that, of course, because by resigning, she'd lose her healthcare coverage. She wouldn't be able to get a new policy because terminal cancer is a "pre-existing condition," and if she did manage to find a policy that would take her, it would cost more than an unemployed dying woman could afford.

And even though the chemo didn't work and the surgery was ineffective and the experimental drugs she's taking are having no effect, she still may need an oxygen machine or painkillers. Yes, even the terminally ill, no especially the terminally ill, need healthcare.

But where are the libertarian tears over Denise losing her freedom to die with dignity? She should be putting her affairs in order and preparing for the next world, and yet she's still putting in 40 hour weeks --often so pale and sick that it makes me pale and sick-- because we live in a society that's so selfish and uncaring that we can't choose another way.

Nope, instead we've got people saying, "You can't make me buy health insurance with your tyrannical government intervention in my perfectly functioning market!"

Bah. Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Boredom

"Hopefully you weren't as bored as we were," one of my co-workers said as they were walking out the door and leaving me alone for another stint on the night shift.

"I hope I am," I said. Because the night before was aggravating, and I much prefer being bored to being aggravated.

Friday night, I was aggravated. It's the only night I'm not alone and my co-worker, we'll call him Robin, went on and on and ON about his ex-wife and their miserable marriage and their miserable divorce and their miserable custody arrangements.

"I'm never getting married again," he said. "I'm never moving in with a woman again. I'm just going to fuck them once and that's it!"

Alright, dude, calm down.

The sad thing is that people complain about Robin privately. You know what they say? That he won't shut up about his ex-wife. That, and his health problems.

If he starts going on about his health problems next Friday, I might have to gag him and tie him up in the conference room.

Last night...last night was boredom central. The night before I watched Obsessed, the Beyonce movie, and as bad as it was, I was thoroughly entertained. She's so charming that it's easy to overlook her bad acting. But it also had Idris Elba, always good, and Ali Larter as the femme fatale, and she's one smoking hot piece. Horrible movie, great time.

Last night all I had was The Mist, which I've seen more than a few times. Great movie, horrible time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Here We Go Again

This doesn't sound like a recipe for success:
Organizers for Personhood Colorado say they will approach this election differently from the one in 2008. [In which the "personhood amendment" was defeated with 73% of the vote.]

"The campaign will be a little different this year in that we'll be more confrontational. We want to confront the media and the politicians with the undisputable evidence for the God given right to life of every person," said Doug Mcburney, a director with Personhood Colorado.
Oh, you're going to be more confrontational? You're not going to be more persuasive, just more confrontational?

And what will that entail exactly?
They will also utilize the media to get their message out. Information about abortion, including images of abortions, will be part of that message.
Oh, so you're going to gross us out! Greaaaaat.

It may sound strange, but on this issue (and several others, like gay marriage, marijuana policy, nudity on TV, etc) I'm a small-government conservative. My default position on all of these issues "Get the government out of my uterus!"

And I don't even have a uterus.

Seriously

Craig T. Nelson is apparently going the full Teabagger.

Did he really say the following:
I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No!
There's video, which I just watched, and yes, he did say that. Of course it was in a rant about how he doesn't want to pay his taxes and he's sick and tired and blah blah blah.

You know what I'm sick and tired of? Crap like this.

Listen, griping about how much taxes you have to pay is perfectly okay. You can even gripe about where your tax dollars are going. That's all fine and dandy, a bit pointless, but whatever floats your boat.

What you can't do, though, is expect that your tax dollars only go to causes and programs you personally approve of. It doesn't work like that. It's a big, complicated world out there. Everyone can find some program they'd rather not fund. I didn't like the bailouts either, but you know what else I don't like?

The DEA. The Driver Control section of the Colorado Department of Revenue. The Aurora Police Department. John McCain's Social Security check. The Iraq War.

In fact, if a single cent of my tax dollars goes to any of these things, I might have to make a sign with Obama's head in a noose and and go hold it up at some Tea Party rally.

Bah...get over it, man.

Ah, Finally!

Apropos of my last post, here's a lady who gets it. Of course, she's a medical doctor, not a feminist, so...
If you've ever complained that your man doesn't "get" you, it may surprise you to find out that you don't "get" him either. And much as you may want him to be more like your best girlfriend, it's time to let go of that pipe dream and cozy up to the truth. He's different from you, but if you give him a chance to be himself, you're going to like what you see.

Celebrate your man for being a man and stop trying to make him act more like you. It can't be done and it will only add tension to your relationship.
Thank you.

A Feminism Too Far

I found this quote while reading Matthew Yglesias, and you know, it's stuff like this that really annoys me.
I’m e-mailing a guy right now I really want to meet who used the word “heteronormativity” in his profile . . . aside from that, which almost never happens, more what I look for is. . . you know the Bechdel Test for films? It states that any good film has to have two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a guy. Well, this is my test: When I look at personal ads, I look at their lists of favorite books, movies, and music, and they have to list women in all of those categories. They don’t have to have a majority of women, but they have to know that women exist in the culture and be fans of some of them. It’s a pretty low bar—or it should be. I used to look for guys who don’t list Fight Club in their favorites, but I’ve had to relax that rule, because all dudes evidently love Fight Club.
I don't know of any way to say this politely, but that's fucking retarded.

This chick needs to get over herself. And I'm not saying that because one look at my blogger profile would disqualify me from this lady's oh-so-lofty standards. (Go ahead, take a look. I thought I had Fight Club listed, but apparently I don't, something I need to change obviously.)

Imagine a man with similar sentiments.
"When I look at personal ads, I look at their lists of favorite books, movies, and music, and they have to include action movies, crime novels, or heavy metal. I'm not saying it has to be all Fight Club and Slayer, but Fight Club and Slayer should be somewhere on the list."
Or this:
I used to look for women who don’t list romantic comedies in their favorites, but I’ve had to relax that rule, because all women evidently love romantic comedies.
You think?

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying women should be barefoot and in the kitchen or any of that stuff, but at the very least, women should let men be men.