Month: November 2004

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum!

I talked Lee into helping us put up the tree today. He may have had fun; I’ll ask him after he’s had time to think about it.

Of course, after three years, putting the actual tree up is pretty much a science, this snaps together with that, this goes here, the branches really do look better if you do this, so I put up the tree tree by myself, put the lights and the garland on. He and Ray put on most of the decorations, though. There were about a dozen little ornaments all on one branch for a while. Very cute.

I wonder how long a string of popcorn would last. Ooh! I could put up a string of real cranberries and watch Ray try to eat one of those. No! Bad mamma!


The Brothers Karamozov, by Fyodor Dostoesvsky

As it turns out, this is a fun book. It has many of the features of an epic fantasy, except, of course, for the fantastic and epic elements. There’s the same sense of world-saving importance, the same philosophical digressions on good and evil, the same psychological themes turned into seeming reality, the same ironies, the same page-spanning dialogue…

I liked the book. I’ve been reading some of the classics lately, to stretch out the brain, and this is one of my favorites. It’s the same kind of pleasure as watching Dallas, or seeing a soap opera. There are very few characters you’d want to meet, per se, but you love to watch them nonetheless. Maybe I should write something deeper about the other aspects of the book, but the fact is that sometimes a classic is just a classic because people have enjoyed reading it for a long time, not because the book says something important or the style is innovative. Like Jane Austin. I like her, too.


“They’re thirteen. The boogeyman is no longer in the closet or under the bed. The boogeyman is inside you.” — Alfonso Cuaron, probably not an exact quote, from the Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban interviews on the DVD.

He said it in such an offhand, matter-of-fact way, too.


I’m writing this down so I’ve written it down. Some people have eidetic memories. I have the kind of memory that remembers what I’ve written, at least the general gist of it. (I don’t have to use bookmarks for most books.) The next time I stare at a blank page and try to talk myself into a fit of writer’s block, I’ll flip open the book in which are written USEFUL THINGS TO KNOW AT TIMES LIKE THESE, and I’ll remember:

I’m good at coming up with ideas. The problem is having the sense to know which ones are going to work. It’s like there’s a computer in my head. You turn it on, feed it the data, set the parameters, and let it run. It kicks out crap–sometimes pretty interesting crap–until it finds what it wants, and then it shuts down. (Unless it just keeps running the problem because it’s fun.)

I was trying to come up with an idea for a TV show yesterday, for gaming purposes. I’d have to wait for a pause in the conversation, or just for a moment when it looked like I was going to say something relevant, spit out the idea, and go on with things. So far the one I like is some kind of Shaun of the Dead thing — an office, something terrible happens. Maybe not zombies, probably not cthulu, but we’ll see. Another one that I remember was “something weird happens when you do this one particular thing.” Which could be anything from Dream On to a spy with a fugue state that kicks in every time he finds out something he’s not supposed to know.

Thoughts about TV shows: You need likeable characters and/or characters you like to hate, because people watch TV for the characters rather than the plots. Collary: If you kill off characters without making a BIG STINKING DEAL about it, people won’t watch the show, because they know the writers and producers can’t be trusted. You have to be able to do the same thing over and over again, with interesting variations. (Murder/monster of the week, con of the week, etc.)


“Author of a highly acclaimed series of mystery novels, world

traveller, former Zen student, and former police officer Janwillem

van de Wetering brings an unusual perspective to the detective

genre. His novels and stories feature a diverse and richly drawn

cast of characters and settings that range from the streets of

Amsterdam to the Caribbean and from rural Maine to Japan, South

America, and New Guinea. A careful eye for the details of police

investigations is joined with a quirky sense of humor and a keen

interest in philosophical and spiritual matters.”

Henry Wessells

Quote, and Ramble.

Coming up with titles for blog entries makes my sympathize with painters who title their stuff, “Woman with Plastic Frog #1, Woman with Squeaky Duck #2,” etc. Jeez, it’s hard enough for me, and I like words better than pictures.

Doyce sent me a quote that made me laugh out loud:

“Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

So I sat down and wrote a ramble back to him, remembered I hadn’t written a blog post for a while, and decided to post it. Voila!

I’ve only done that with one book, St. Augustine’s Confessions. I was supposed to read it for Western Civ. The prof asked me in class what I’d thought of it, and I stood up and told him. He made me promise him to try to read it in a couple of years or so, to see if my opinion had changed. It hadn’t; I’ll probably keep trying until I get it read.

I actually screamed at the book and threw it across the room–I must have been menstrual or something–I still can’t stand to read that book.

But Vonnegut’s right.

I’m reading Ulysses by James Joyce, another one of those lifelong I’ll-read-it-if-it-kills-me books. Fun, actually. It’s like reading a thousand pages of Zelazny’s shadow shifting, if he were any good at writing that stuff, or Spider Robinson’s telepathy rambles. Figuring it all out would keep you busy for a career, that’s for sure.

–Another thing. I need to find some good, new science fiction that I like. I’ve read a good fantasy novel lately (Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Suzanna Clarke), but I can’t find anything good in science fiction. I don’t want “the latest in a series,” so don’t recommend Something Rotten–I’m saving that for a bad day.

–And yet another thing. How many books did Steven Brust take to reveal that his fantasy world was sort of science fiction, anyway?


Ray has pink “fleece” gloves (the kind that’s flat, not the kind that looks like sheep’s wool). They’re warm, they stay pretty dry inside, and they don’t slip off unless they’re meant to. All good.

One problem. Yesterday I pelted Ray a good one. She picked up a handful of snow, ran after me, got close enough to throw her handful of snow at me, cocked, aimed, threw — and the snow stuck in the mitten. It just cracked into pieces and stuck.

Poor girl. She had to run up to me and squish me with the snowball.


Ray’s in the bathroom, screaming about being naked, and clutching her chest.


I say to Lee, “I can see where repression would be a logical thing.”


“How so?”


“Imagine trying to keep all that bottled up for twenty years.”


“I guess so.”

I go back in the bathroom with a clean shirt. She’s squeezing her nipples at the mirror and yelling, “Bam! Bam! Bam!”

“Are you ready for a shirt?” I ask her.

“Ready!” I slip the shirt over her head and she’s on her way to something else.


I’m in a coffee shop, drinking coffee out of an oversized teacup and saucer. Cute teacup; it’s all in Russian and there’s a big star on the saucer. No hammer and sickle, though — it’s a cultural Russian thing, not a political Soviet thing.

The saucer has a curved edge and a small circle in the center for the bottom of the teacup. I’m looking at it, thinking about all the British novels I’ve read where the country hick character dumps tea into the saucer to cool it off, then drinks the tea out of the saucer. I never realized how tacky that would be before. I mean, pouring anything out of a teacup is messy at best — it drips. And that saucer looks like a mechanism for spilling hot liquid in your lap if ever I’ve seen one.



Here’s your rare political post.

Bush won. What an idiot. Daschle’s out. I have mixed feelings about that. More GOP seats in Congress. F@#$ me, why don’t we try anarchy for another four years instead? It’ll be survival of the fittest without the smarminess. Why hasn’t Bush been impeached, instead of re-elected? Why, oh, why, did the Democrats have to put up someone who sounds good on paper but makes my skin crawl?

I still agree that war with Iraq was a good idea. Too bad this administration screwed it up — not enough troops, terrible diplomacy, what I call criminal deceptions.

Three observations: Bush better not get assassinated. We’d have Cheney in office. And at least it isn’t Buchanon. And Keyes lost again. What a looney.


Okay, I’m calmer now. As a couple of people have reminded me, it’s four years of letting current Republican ideology dig itself its own grave. And as a friend reminded me the first time W. got elected, music will get better. Being pissed off makes good musicians get really good — they have something besides themselves to sing about.

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