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Archive for October, 2013

I wish I could put my finger on exactly what it is I love about Halloween.

It is my dad’s birthday, so there was always an extra special sheen to it.  In our family birthdays were major holidays with full celebrations, so to know the day would end with cake was always nice.

I am a security freak.   I hoard things;  even now we have a cupboard in our house called “candy mountain” where I stash various candies, 98% of which never get eaten by me.   The feeling of having it there if I want it is actually more satisfying to me than the taste of the candy.   So of course any holiday where I could procure lots of candy (a rarity during my childhood in the 1970s) left me feeling very contented.

I am a sucker for coziness.   The harsher the weather outside, the more cozy I feel in my home.  Halloween, with its gray rain and undercurrent of chill makes reading in front of the fire all the sweeter.

I love the feeling of “holiday”–where everyone is in a certain sort of special frame of mind.   It’s not a very tangible thing all the time but there is enough of a sense of it that it makes the coziness and contentedness feel amplified by societal peace.

Spooky things draw me, as does water.   It’s not that I like to be scared;  I just like the philosophical ideas behind ghosts.  I like to ponder what ghosts are.   And the “Halloween ghosts”–white blobs with eyes and smiles–are not regular ghosts to my mind.   To me, haunted houses and those Halloween Ghosts are external pictures of my internal mind.   It’s what it feels like to always be accompanied by other stories that didn’t happen here but happen vividly in your mind.    Happy stories, but transparent and less tangible than reality.   I think that’s why I like ghosts.

And then there’s Harry Potter.  To me they go together, Harry and Halloween.   Not for the obvious “it’s about witches and so is Halloween” nonsense that puts a certain brand of cultural Christian on the offensive.    Back in 2000 I had an abusive boss–literally physically abusive as well as emotionally–and a large part of what got me through those seven months from February to early October was the fictional families in Laurie King’s Mary Holmes novels and then Harry Potter, which I read for the first time that year.   And the second, third, fourth…etc.    I quit the job with a settlement in early October.  By mid-October I had what was pretty close to a dream job for me, and I still had Harry.   The surrogate family of fiction kept me strong inside.

So those are all the pieces of the puzzle, I think, as to why I love Halloween so much.   If you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go dive into Chamber of Secrets.

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As the United States debates the Affordable Care Act, more and more talk is bandied about medical costs.   You can’t follow a news site without being hit in the face with stories of headless fat people and how much they cost.   

Oh, the stories never come right out and say “your fatty grossness is costing me money and i hate you and think you are gross” but the commenters will.  So you know that thought is out there, even though the articles themselves are politely worded.    

There’s a lot I don’t understand about this type of story-telling.   Why aren’t there pictures of headless men and stories about how being a man is so much more medically costly because men die earlier and tend to have more stress-related health problems.  Half the population is male.  Think of how much we could save on health care costs if they would stop with their bad manness.    

Even more than that, what I don’t understand is why all these stories act like the money spent on healthcare costs is being taken out to a big field in the middle of Kansas and set on fire.     

The articles will say something like “Jumping frog fungus costs $117 million annually in health care costs.”  Their point is that if we killed all the jumping frogs and showered in Selsun we wouldn’t spend that $117 million and it would still be there.   But the thing is…that money doesn’t  get burned in a field.   It gets put in paychecks for doctors, nurses, receptionists, bookkeepers, customer service reps at insurance companies, custodians, construction workers who build medical buildings, electricians who wire them, people who work in the factories that manufacture the film used for x-rays, etc.   

The money is spent on giving people jobs.  Those people use that money to buy things.  That gives other people jobs.  Etc.   

As a person who is sickly, I’m very sensitive to the idea that I am a waste or a drain on the economy.  I’m not.  I’m just an alternate revenue stream with sore joints.   

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One of the worst parts of dog-parenting is what happens when the back end of your buddy is messed up. When it comes to diarrhea OR constipation, there is one easy fix:

Pumpkin.

Because it is a special fibre, it digests in a higher part of pup’s intestine. The same fibre firms up the runny stuff and loosens the stubborn stuck stuff. If you have a dog you should have a can of pumpkin in your cupboard as part of you Puppy First Aid kit. (Other items include Hydrogen Peroxide, matches, tweezers)

Make sure you buy 100% pumpkin purée, NOT pumpkin pie filling! That being said, Kroger and Publix both stock the 100% pumpkin in the baking aisle next to the other pie supplies. (I’ve asked them to have a small display in the pet aisle, but we’re still waiting on that.)

Since the 100% Pumpkin Purée comes in such large cans, unless you have a Mastiff or other big fellah, you’ll likely have much left over. (You only need about 1/4c for every 15lbs of dog.)

I find it VERY handy to freeze the pumpkin in a plastic ice cube tray. That way you can just pop and defrost as needed.

I use the type of tray that makes the longer narrow cubes for water bottles. Each cube is enough for 15lbs of dog. If my schipperke needs pumpkin he gets 1 cube. My 28lb American Eskimo gets 2. The Bernese Mt. Dog gets 6. Although really for him I should probably just open a new can! 😉

20131027-071136.jpg

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I do not know how to write a short story.   I can’t do it very well at all.   I feel tonight like I should write some brief burst of an untrue tale that lets me spin some fiction without swimming in the lake of my novels but I just can’t do the tiny pieces of story.   I need them all to go somewhere larger.   But I’ll admit I can’t do this and then try to do it anyway.  So I’m compromising.   This is a character piece for one of the people in my novel.  It’s part of the story in a way, but still its own thing.

———–

At the time it had seemed like a very good idea, like the very best idea she had ever had.   The sun had cut hot and bright through the mist-heavy air, back when the world was younger and the water was woven thickly into the atmosphere.    It was probably that very dewy youngness– of the world, of herself–that left her feeling softly drunk and very much at ease.   Back then Mari had liked very much to travel in the upper places.  She liked especially to visit the trees.

He had been in the trees when she first saw him, perched in the branches like a bird of prey.  An owl bright-eyed with the hunt in the light of day.   It was the very incongruity of him that drew her.   He was fully human but, unlike others  in the Thinn, he seemed to Mari a creature unto himself.   He was not like her, but he was not like most humans either.   He carried the memory of the water in his sinews, because even as he sat still in the oak he seemed somehow all fluid and grace.     It was then that she had her very best idea.  It was then that she fell so deeply in love with her very best idea that she committed to it forever, knowing even at the moment she thought it she could see the ends happening in the far off tomorrows, blood-drenched and then slowly draining, dwindling to dry.    She could see how it would end her but somehow none of that mattered.   It was all far-distant and the boy who was boy and bird and briny sea was right there in front of her.    

She would do what none of the rest of her kind had ever done before.   She would make a new life with the boy from the tree.   She would do this not because she wanted to but because she had to.   There really was no other choice.    

Mariloneanna opened her soul to the joy of the sun and the water and the trees and put that joy into song.  

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Is it wrong that I don’t want to see the Carrie remake?  That I didn’t like the movie and that it ranks up there as perhaps my least favourite of the well-written Stephen King books?

——Sidebar——

There are two kinds of Stephen King book; the really well-written and inspired ones, like _The Stand_ and _The Shining_ and the mediocre-to-awful ones that feel like he has to keep writing or die and this is what he came up with out of his perpetual motion typing.   _The Dark Half_ maybe straddles the line, but others (like _The Dome_) don’t.   If you think I’m wrong, just read about any review of any book he’s written in the last five years .   Most of them say “Stephen King is BACK!” as though now he’s reclaimed his earlier glory instead of just churning out a thing or two every three months.

————-

So what’s my problem with Carrie? I guess it’s that I strongly dislike the whole “periods are scary, motherhood is scary, faith is scary” theme.  I can’t be the first woman out there who disliked having womanhood in all her seasons be the villain.   I mean, I suspect that’s why it touched such a nerve–people ARE scared of women and were even more scared of women when the book came out.    After all, we go to the hospital for Women’s Troubles but men get to have Prostate Surgery without whispering it or calling it Men’s Trouble.   Why am I making a very stale feminist argument from 40 years ago?   I don’t know.  I guess maybe since they remade the movie I felt like I had to re-make my justification for not liking that particular story.

—–Sidebar #2—–

Carrie is obviously a novel that preaches, although it does so in a rather entertaining fashion.   I wonder if there’s a metric that says how entertaining your story has to be for the message to hide effectively in the tale.   I wonder this a lot when I read different didactic books.   A Casual Vacancy, for instance.   That book practically OPENS with “I am going to take the vanishing middle class to task for the oppression of the poor”.   Of course I didn’t read more than 50 pages of that so I have no idea how it held up in the telling.   But I suspect there was more of the same.   It’s irritating when an extremely wealthy person derides the middle class for oppressing the poor.   Like, really.  A lot.

————

I suppose now is where I end up weaving the sidebar thoughts together with the main thought.  (It had to happen sometime.)   I think, as I think more closely about it, what bothers me most about Carrie is that it’s always been a story about a horror which is fully outside the author’s experience.   I know you can’t write what you know and be interesting unless you’re living the life of Hemingway.  (And even he, frankly, was not that interesting.   Ultimately he was a drunk on an island with a bunch of weird cats.)   Yet I also think if you are so fully-removed from the situation of your story it can be very hard to craft.   I don’t know that Stephen King really understands getting your first period.  I think he imagined a cartoon version of it and thew it onto paper.

I suppose this also explains my growing interest in speculative fiction.   It’s more comfortable for me to vacation in a new universe than to accept ersatz  versions of the one I currently live in.

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Yep.  I’ll admit it.  I’ve read all the writing advice that says you are supposed to write every day no matter what.  I’ve read the writing advice that says to track word counts and write the same way you work out and to drag your carcass from your deathbed to your desk lest you be caught out as a poseur instead of an auteur.

I don’t care anymore.   I do not care.   Why?  Because I wait for the story to find me.   When it does I work on it with the fevered joy of reunited lovers.   (Ugh.  What a terrible sentence.  Really.  It makes me slightly nauseated.  I’m leaving it in because this is one of my “you are not allowed to hit the backspace key” posts.   I only delete typos, not gawksome phrases.)

I write all the time.   I write blog entries, emails, Facebook status updates.   And lest you decide to loftily declare those things to be “not writing”, let me tell you that all writing is communication and if I can’t clearly communicate my thoughts on politics or religion or pet care or movies and episodic television to people I fail to see how I can adequately communicate a story carved out of my imagination.    The mechanics of story telling are more difficult than people first realise.  As a long-time reader I can see the difference between those who do it well and those who do it poorly.   Doing it poorly always involves a failure to communicate the tale.

So I’ve been waiting for the story to find me, and find me it has and tell it I have been.    I love the way it comes together, the increases and decreases that shape the fabric of it.   I love how things are happening that make it beautiful.

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I understand if you’re depressed or fatigued or in pain.   At many points in my life I have been all of those things; often at the same time.

That does not buy you the right to bully people.   It especially doesn’t buy you the right to ridicule and mock a person who is someone you have never even met before.

I suppose I shouldn’t be astonished at this, but I am.

I see at a lot; I have a few acquaintances who do this.   What I find most troubling about it is the “tyranny of the good person”.   Betsy Phillips first mentioned this to me in a conversation about a year or so ago and since then I’ve noticed it A LOT.

People who believe they are right about something and that the something they are right about is good then believe that they are a good person.   Believing themselves to be a good person, they give their actions a pass.    It’s even worse when they are interacting with someone they believe to be on the opposite side of the Good Right thing they believe in.

  • People who believe they are on the correct side of a political argument think they are good and right when they confront and mock folks of the other side of the argument.   Call it Limbaugh/Stewart syndrome.   (I can’t link to this example because I deleted it. )
  • People who are ardent followers of their religion believe they are doing good when they treat others with meanspiritedness, as long as those others are not followers of that religion.   Folks who would never look at a person in a wheelchair and say “you’re a feeble waste of space” will look at a nonbeliever and call them a Cretan.  (Which sounds like Cretin when you say it aloud, and if you aren’t a Christian you’re most likely not going to get the reference anyway.)
  • People who believe they are smart about tangible and empirical knowledge, preferring it to faith, have no compunction about calling religious people stupid.  
  • People who like to read and think they are somehow better or smarter will mock those who like sports or tv programs or other leisure activities, even though they themselves dislike being mocked for being non-athletic.

Those are just a few of the examples, but once you know about it you start seeing it everywhere.

Believing in a good thing doesn’t make you a good person.   Being forgiven of your sins doesn’t make you a good person.

Good people treat others with kindness.   Religion and politics and a low carbon footprint do not serve as camouflage to hide the way you treat others and excuse your pettiness.

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