Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Post NaNo Doldrums

Happy Hanukkah, a Blessed Yuletide and Merry Christmas to all reading this...


I finished my NaNo novel this year at a record (for me) 62,019 words (okay, NaNo's word counters shaved 3 words off, but still...) and I was pretty happy with it and anxious to work on it some more.

Truly, I was anxious to work on it some more. I did not think, "Once more a pile of dreck in 50,000 words!"
I thought, here's something I could work with.

I am doing anything but working on it.

For instance, right now I'm blogging.

Earlier today I was making a deposit, paying bills and running errands. Anything but writing.

So, if you are a writer and you have any suggestions about how to apply that darn chair glue and sit and write now that the month of November is over, please let me know.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

LOST: Flawed TV show unfriendly to gays & women

I've spent the last few months watching Lost via Netflix and while I was hooked because of the exotic setting, the cliffhangers and the moral ambiguity of some of the characters, I feel there are a couple of things I need to say. In criticism, not of the unanswered questions but because despite this show's popularity and intensity, it failed to touch me on a personal level. In fact, it annoyed me, really annoyed me.

I'm not even going to warn you about all the spoilers here. Who cares?

First off, in an enlightened world, you would think that there might be some gay characters in the drama. Yes. There's one, Tom Friendly, but he's a villain at the outset and you only learn about it offhandedly when he tells Kate she's not his type and then later he kisses a man. That's it. That's all we have for the one gay character.

And he's killed! No chance for redemption. 'Bye gay character. You could have been a contender instead of belittled and dead, which is what you were.

As for women: Kate was a great character. But I wish Kate had looked a little less good in jeans, you know what I mean? This was network television which means the viewers need eye candy and so do the sponsors.

In fact, every time one of the women characters, from Kate to the forgettable Zoe, they've either got cleavage or cling to their bodies. Rose Nadler wears loose, drapey, comfortable-looking clothing. Is that because she's a bit overweight or older? Does she not have to exude sexuality because she's the Island's mystic for a while? And she's married. What does that say about sexuality? You get married and you don't have to be sexual?

What a relief--you don't have to shake your thing once you've got a ring on it!

While we're on the subject: tokenism. Once the black cast members, Michael and Walt leave and Rose and Bernard kind of fade to the background, they're not important they're not there there every week. And by the way, is Bernard Nadler Jewish? We don't know. Anyone who dies on the Island is buried with a cross. Churches and other religious and mystical symbols seem to play an important role in Lost. And it's not until the finale that we get to be in a church that seems to have lots of religious symbols from the Muslim Star & Crescent to the Magen David of Judaism.

Which brings me back to more stereotyping: good mothers and evil mothers.
Good mothers: Claire, Kate, Sun, Cassidy--all eye-candy.
Evil mothers:
--Jacob & Man-in-black's adopted mother (she kills their mother, deceives them about their nature and is just icky) played by the remarkable actress Alison Janney--who is magnetic and watchable, but not "sexy." I love that she speaks Latin with the boys' real mother.
--Eloise Hawking: Not only do we encounter her mostly aged, but she kills her own son--tries to kill his soul by making him put aside his music and then shoots him some time in one of the time traveling sequences. At least she had an affair with Charles Widmore, the wicked thing!
--James Ford's mother has an affair with the con artist Anthony Cooper. Of course she's killed and her son is affected by it for the rest of his life.
--Shannon & Boone's stepmother. Ugh.

By the way, the Boone & Shannon thing...they're half-siblings and it's pretty sticky.

The "good" mothers are all in peril. They either lose their lives & babies on the Island due to some weird disease, or they lose their lives & babies due to the Others kidnapping and killing them. The "evil" mothers by the way, have immense power and they do the killing.

Maybe this would be fine if it weren't Hollywood men writing the story. Maybe I, as a complicated, morally ambiguous female human might feel that I could empathize with some of the characters. Well, I did with Rose--because she loves her Bernard and they grow old together and they just live their lives.

You know, although I believe there's an awful lot of good writing on HBO, I'm glad Lost was NOT an HBO production. You think Lost's sadomasochism soft-porn was bad? Think of what it would look like with full frontal nudity--or mostly female frontal nudity. Think it was frightening when Kate, captive, had to put on that dress and break rocks in front of leering men? What about any time Sayid has to torture someone? Think of that under HBO or Showtime.

Just sickening.

In the final analysis, it's women's bodies (oh yeah, there's plenty of masculine eye candy too for those who like that sort of thing)--or the symbolism of women's bodies being used to sell a TV show and therefore advertising.

For excellent and angry critique of the abuse and exploitation of women, I urge you to read this great blog by NineDeuce: Rage Against the Man-chine. I don't know if there's a post about Lost. In any event, I might just swear off TV.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Owl City!!

This is a picture of a Barred Owl in our backyard a few mornings ago. I shared this on Facebook and heard from a friend who lives a couple of miles away in the same town that she has one too in her neighborhood. We wonder if they're the same since, a Barred Owl can evidently cover lots of territory.

I understand that they are pretty aggressive in claiming territory and are pushing away the Spotted Owl in the west. My regrets, but I do not know if we can blame humans entirely on this, especially if it's in an owl's nature to compete for hunting territory.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

E Pluribus Unum

Like so many others, I want to write about my memory of that day 9 years ago, a Tuesday, beautiful and sunny, cool, clear and full of blue-sky promises. If you were a student, you'd have felt you'd pass any quiz that morning. If you were just out walking your dog, you and your pooch would have frisked and run, not just walked.

If you had leukemia and had to have a bone marrow biopsy, well that might very well be the worst thing that you could anticipate, but such a beautiful merry day might presage healing and hope.

My husband has Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML). He had been diagnosed in January 2001. By June he had become severely depressed from his treatments (Interferon & Ara-C, the standard at the time). His doctor decided to prescribe Gleevec, a drug that targets the specific cancer-causing mechanism in CML. His first dose was on June 30th, if I recall correctly and we were visiting St. Louis. Within a short period of time, his mood and energy level improved. He was due for a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy on September 11th, 2001 and a week after that we'd see if it was the new medicine working or just not suffering the debilitating effects of Interferon and chemo.

So the worst thing I expected, that day, was to hold his hand while the med techs punctured his hip bone and drew bloody, viscous samples of his bone and bone marrow. I anticipated my husband's pain and that was it. Soon, soon I hoped, we'd hear that his disease was being defeated.

He met me at the entrance to the KU Med Cancer Center (it was on the hospital's main campus at the time) with the words, "There's been an attack!" I said, "what, the Palestinians and Israelis? They're at it again?" because that seemed reasonable to me.

My husband said no, they'd attacked the World Trade Center...and we went to the waiting room and were riveted to a small television. There were the words about the attack and then without warning, another plane flew into a building and the buildings collapsed.

The news about the Pentagon. The news about a flight going down in Pennsylvania.

The beautiful September day full of transitory pain and ongoing hope was ruined.

My husband had his bone marrow biopsy. The results showed that the medicine was working. A year after his diagnosis, he was in remission.

This is one story out of many. One memory: September 11, 2001 and my husband's disease are linked forever in my mind. But I have this memory of the day after: I am driving and it is a little overcast. At an intersection, cars are slowing down to hand money to firefighters raising money for bereaved families in New York.

I look at the cars next to me. No one is smiling. No one is putting on makeup. No one is even sipping coffee. We are one in our pain and our awareness of our suffering. We are all there, holding each others' hands while the terrorists ripped at our hearts. The great horror of the attacks drew us closer as a nation for a while.

E pluribus unum.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I vote for Hurley

I recently learned that a former colleague, X was terminated. I was unhappy to hear that his organization's Upper Management had taken that step and I was further unhappy to hear that X may fight this.

I knew They had been unhappy with X for some time. A long time. I knew X had been unhappy, too.

But here's the thing in an organization that claims to be able to terminate at will: the reams of documentation you need, the support from the Stratosphere (it's chilly up there too) can be daunting. And to get that documentation you need clients and staff to be able to say with certainty: X was doing a lousy job on a specific date. And you have to use specific language: X did not fulfill his duties as a Whatever when he arrived late for meetings 5 times this year. X did not contribute to the Newsletter in a timely way. X does not give or accept feedback to his colleagues in a constructive way.

Ultimately X looks like a blot on the organization.

But what if these complaints have been slightly engineered? What if the meeting times were changed at the last minute and X was in no position to check his Outlook calendar? What if the guidelines and deadlines for the Newsletter were not clear?

What if this had been happening in such a way so that X was completely discouraged from asking questions about how things should happen, so that he could not get honest feedback? What if X had been put in progressively more uncomfortable situations at work, afraid to ask for help and with no one in his corner? What if X had been set up to fail?

What would you think of an organization that operated that way? I wish X had left on his own steam. I am not sure fighting Them and the Stratosphere is going to help. I think this economy is leading more and more organizations to shuck off the employees they think will be a liability, a drag, a drain on precious resources. The shucking process never seems fair to the one who was terminated, and often to onlookers.

Okay, what does this have to do with the title of my post? I have been watching Lost for a while, catching up intensely with the show thanks to Netflix. With interest, I've watched the power struggles between the doctor, Jack--who immediately takes command at the start--and Locke, who by virtue of his wilderness savvy gets some leadership props too. They sort of share command at times.

Anyway, and I don't think there are any spoilers here: it all depends upon who you believe in. Do you believe in Jack's rational and scientific approach? Do you trust his judgment? Do you believe in just letting go and letting Locke do his thing? Who do you follow?

If you believe X's organization is doing what's best for everyone, then X has to go. If you don't, maybe your solution would be to encourage X to find another organization or to start his own. But what makes you make that decision?

If you're Hurley, however, you do your own thing and you just want to be happy and make sure everyone else is okay with it. That's me right now. X, you and me dude, we'll just hang out together, catch some fish, enjoy the sunset.

Later I'll muse more on organizations and what to look for when deciding for whom to work.

Just sayin', dude.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Elephants & Leaving The Circus

I am not a vegetarian. I like my locally produced, hormone-free & free-range chicken and beef in moderation. And I generally have dissed People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, when I read or hear about extreme tactics. Once I got yelled at for trying to sell my grandmother's fur jacket on an online classified service. This was a zillion years ago, when all we had were campus BBS's and email. The respondent told me I was a killer.

Frankly it pissed me off that some college freshman was insulting me for trying to recycle this moth eaten old jacket. I had not purchased it; my grandmother had given it to me and it did not fit or suit me. It could, however, make someone very happy. For the record, it was Karakul or Persian Lamb, probably crafted in Asia Minor somewhere.

However, here is an article that showcases the best of PETA. The article, by my friend Andre DuBroc is about his decision to leave the circus, specifically Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey. I think no matter what you think about PETA, or whether you are a vegetarian or not, his story will bring tears to your eyes and make you never want to take yourself or your children to the circus again.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Reading Reptile

We went to Brookside today and picked up some children's books that I want to send to someone who has just had a baby. The Reading Reptile is the best children's book store in the world. It had been a while since I'd been in the store. I got to tell Pete I'd quit my job and was going to work on my great American YA novel. He suggested, what if I made it about an 8 year old girl--because one of my story ideas involves vampires and werewolves--and there's nothing for tweens about vampires. So they end up reading the stuff aimed at high school readers, like that dreck, Twilight.

Well, it might work. In reworking my NaNoWriMo novel from 2009, I changed it from an adult story to a YA story.

But anyway, I want to say a few really good words about the Reptile. Because if you're in town, I want you to go there. And buy stuff. Not just books, but they have cupcakes now, too. And Pete's, I mean, Albert Bitterman's book is coming out soon. It's a children's book, illustrated by Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Chris Raschka...oh wait, it's not the Nobel Peace Prize he won--it's the Caldecott. But in my not so humble opinion, it's just as good. Maybe even better.

Bill Harley, in his blog, writes about the Reading Reptile, and the sense of both comfort and vitality one can find in the store. Long may it flourish. And the cupcakes are delicious!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Those who support us

While we're thinking of entering writing competitions, here's a look at classical music competitions. The author reminds us of the time Martha Argerich walked away from a competition in which Ivo Pogorelich was competing. The judges eliminated him but Argerich championed him.

What do we do without those who champion us? Mentor us? Now, Pogorelich is brilliant and there's no question about it, but what would have happened if Argerich had not stood away and stood up for him?

Barbara Sher, the author of Wishcraft: How to get what you really want points out that people who achieve their desires have support: from cheerleaders to naggers to spouses who do the household stuff.

I thought about this as I wrestled our aging cat into his carrier for his annual trip to the vet, thinking all the time, "I'd much rather be writing and reading." I thought about how my spouse had never taken our kitty to the vet--he'd picked him up once, but never had he wrestled him into the carrier, made sure the A/C had been blasting in the car, attempted to soothe the kitty by singing and making small talk.

The point is, I am seamlessly slipping into the role I had when I was "just" a stay-at-home mom: Errand-Runner/Grocery-Getter. And it all takes time--but even when I was working 40-plus hours a week, I served in that role. I would have made the kitty's appointment for some time before or after work, or during a time when I might have had a morning off.

Now how do I get this out of my head?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Salve atque vale, O JCL!

The Corinth branch of the Johnson County Library is where I've spent my days since February of 2004. I started there in Youth Services and moved up into the world of branch management--which is where I thought my passion should be.

I was wrong. I spent 3 1/2 years spinning my wheels trying to right (my) wrongs and be a good manager. I am not. I could not. And with all the changes lately in the library, I felt I could not even put on my team-player-manager hat with a smile and equilibrium and go out into the branch and say, "Do it this way, it will be good for you."

I am not a leader. Obviously. I'm probably the only person who took the JCL Leadership class and failed. Well, not exactly fail--just did not emerge confident and a "leader."

Ironically, it was the session led by Denise Upah Mills, that gradually led me to make my decision and to understand that being a "leader" is not the only thing in the world to be. I could be happy being a great person on my own and the dedicated follower of a "leader."

I liken it to singing in a choir. Each choir member has her own beautiful voice--or his own beautiful voice. Each one of us sings as best and as beautifully as we can--together. But we do take direction from our conductor. If our conductor can't lead us, we still have our beautiful voices, our appreciation of the music but maybe the piece doesn't come off as perfectly as it might.

Understanding that I have my own beautiful voice, my own talents that I can nurture has been the treasure to me during these rough months of deciding and saying farewell in my heart.

But now I sing it. Or rather I let someone singing under Ned Beatty as Josef Locke:


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

40 hours a day for what? A rant

I think it sucks, frankly.
The 40-hour work week. You spend 37.5 to 45 hours in a place that is not your own, with people you might never have chosen to spend all that time with. That is hell, my friends, true hell.

I mean most of us in this work cycle spend more time at work than with the people we love: our family and friends, our support network.

Now, you can love your job. Nice work if you can get it, but I think for the majority of us with many interests, doing any one thing for 40 hours a week is stultifying.

I offer this song:

Friday, July 02, 2010

Something Else

I have been working for the Johnson County Library for a little over 6 years. It's time for me to move on.

Whether I will still write a library-related blog, I don't know. I may get more personal here in Z Words or I may move it all over to another blog.

All I can think of are the words of that haunting Led Zeppelin song, "Babe, I'm gonna leave you": "...I've really got to ramble
I can hear it callin' me the way it used to do
I can hear it callin' me back home."

For sure, I'll be home some of the time. Life demands that.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

I'm So 2010; You're So 2 thousand and then!

Hey, welcome to the new year, the new decade. Add the digits, it's a 3 and that's magic.
Just my random thoughts about the new year.
It's got to be better than last year, although if it's worse for some of us, that's what it is.
One day at a time and that will be good enough.
Right now it's -1 F (-18 Celsius) here where I live with the threat of more snow hanging over us. Is that good? Bad?
It is what it is.