Last week. This week:
- If you live it up you won’t live it down
- And fact and fiction work as a team
- And there’s somethin’ lucky about this place
- Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
- I ain’t never did no wrong
- ’cause every little thing gonna be all right
- There’s no time to brush your teeth
- Some girls as sweet as a ripe nectarine
- And if you say, hey, go away, I will
- The same city where I go when I sleep
So this happened today at the office.
I have had worse days, I’ll just say that.
I finished one review report and sent it to the commissioning editor this morning, then kind of unexpectedly did the same for another review report after lunch. Both are projects that I inherited from colleagues who’ve left the company — at their own choosing, and we were sorry to see them both go — and the latter is just one I’m helping to shepherd along until our new development editor starts work in a few weeks. In all honesty, there wasn’t a lot to be done, and I was just compiling the reviews and summarizing what they said. Of course, there weren’t a lot of reviews, so points of consensus were a little scarce on the ground. But the feedback was generally positive, and I think the book will do just fine without me.
I always feel a little weird talking about work here, in part because I’m not sure it’s interesting to anybody else but me. (Then again, I could probably argue that about two thirds or more of what I post here.) I like what I do, but the mechanics of it aren’t necessarily exciting. I do market research, look at courses and enrollments, send out questionnaires and surveys to instructors, get feedback on textbook chapters and pedagogy, look for points of consensus about the strengths we want to highlight and the weaknesses we need to address, and put this all into a format that’s hopefully easily digestible for the book’s editor and its author(s). I do other stuff, taking books from proposal to production to publication, but that’s the main thing. And while textbook research can be surprisingly interesting — I think about pedagogy more now than I ever did as a student — it’s probably not the kind of interesting that’s easily conveyed in a weblog post, much less that’s infectious.
Though, honestly, without all that, the most interesting thing that happened all day was that I forgot my MetroCard at home and had to buy a new one this morning. And if you thought collating and summarizing reviewer feedback was less than scintillating…
Anyway, it was a pretty good day.
The Sunday crossword puzzle and my weekly writing group. I don’t ask a lot out of Sunday.
She had been interrogated. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, Sergei thought. There was not a spot of blood, for one thing, and although her left eye was blackened and swollen shut, he knew for a fact that she had arrived here like that. A souvenir of the front, he’d been told, though possibly self-inflicted. Already the medics had seen to it and her other wounds, and she was in better health than most of the other prisoners that had arrived the same day. There was nothing about her now that bespoke of hardship or captivity, much less the fist and boot of a proper interrogation.
The recruits they sent him, these young boys from the country, were so helpless and timid. They handled her with kids’ gloves, if they handled her at all. The duty sheet nailed outside the cell door said she had last been visited three hours ago, shortly after the noonday meal, and questioned. He saw the word forcefully penciled in beneath that but knew it was a joke. The boys meant well, even those who were enlisted only because the farms held no more work, but they wouldn’t know forcefully if it slapped them across the face. They would put their questions to the woman, dutifully repeat the scripts they had been handed, but they did not recognize her danger. They did not understand that you needed real force to loosen the enemy’s tongue, that you survived this war only with cold steel in your veins, and that you should never suffer a witch to live.
He had not seen the witchcraft himself. Even the soldiers who had delivered the prisoners, had faced this woman and her compatriots on the field of battle, would speak only hesitantly about what the hag had done. Darkened skies, a river turned to mud. Sergei had seen these things himself in the war’s early days, before the enemy’s mages had been killed, before he’d lost his leg and had been re-stationed here. Now, though, these magics were less common, more woman’s work, and the soldiers who encountered them were perhaps less prepared to act. They could not even tell him if she’d lost her eye in the volley of fire or…
Last night, I watched How to Steal a Million, which, while enjoyably pleasant, was maybe less than you’d expect from a romantic heist movie set in Paris starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole.
This afternoon, I re-watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I haven’t seen in several years. It’s still quite stunning, and a hugely important work, but it’s a movie I probably admire more than I enjoy. (I’m sort of tempted to seek out the sequel, which I remember having something of the opposite problem.)
After that, I went for a walk, then came back and watched Akira Kurosawa’s Ran. I do think I like his earlier movies, like The Seven Samurai and Yojimbo better, but there’s no denying this is much more epic and beautifully shot. Seriously, I could watch the castle attack — which this clip shows but doesn’t really do justice to — almost all day.
After that — I took a short break to go to the local diner with my parents for dinner — I watched John Carpenter’s The Ward, which I was just kind of waiting to be over. It’s really not very good, boring more than anything else, with a twist ending that almost seemed clever the first hundred times I’ve seen it in other movies. A couple of months ago, I watched Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, which is at least interesting in its flaws. Weirdly, unshakably interesting. The Ward, on the other hand, isn’t even representative of Carpenter at his absolute, crazy worst (like the terrible In the Mouth of Madness). There’s nothing distinctive about it at all. It’s not even risibly bad; it just kind of is.
Which isn’t a great way to end the evening or a day spent mostly in movies. But there you have it.
It’s hard to believe the long weekend is almost over. There’s still tomorrow, and I don’t go back to the office on Monday, but it’ll be back to work for me soon. Of course, that’s only for a couple of weeks. When the heck did it become December already?
Last week. This week:
- “Destroyer” by the Kinks, guessed by random passer-by
Feelin’ guilty, feelin’ scared, hidden cameras everywhere
- “Let it Bleed” by Johnny Winter (orig. the Rolling Stones), guessed by random passer-by
And there will always be a space in my parking lot
- “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us” by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
I hear the music up above my head
- “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield, guessed by tammy
You know I feel so dirty when they start talking cute
- “Troubleman” by Electric Guest
Girl of the bohemian kind
- “Have a Good Time” by Paul Simon
God bless our standard of living
- “Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well” by Mike Doughty
I sought to lose that cloud that’s blacking out the sun
- “Where Is Bobbie Gentry?” by Jill Sobule
Then ten years later, disappeared and broke everybody’s heart
- “Love of the Loveless” by Eels
Always been my own man, pretty much alone
- “Rock and Roll All Nite” by KISS, guessed by Occupant
You’re lookin’ fancy and I like your style
Here’s a hint: they’re the lyrics to songs.
You could kind of just take last year’s Thanksgiving post and repeat it again this year. Different restaurant, different MST3K episodes — well, except for “Final Sacrifice,” which is playing now — but the basics are just the same.
We had a nice meal, just the three of us, and now I’m enjoying the rest of the evening.
Have a happy Thanksgiving, or just Thursday, which ever it may be!
It rained and rained and rained all night, and although it let up quite a bit by morning, it rained and rained and rained again all day.
I was just as glad not to be at work. Our office closed early for tomorrow’s holiday, but I’d taken the day off altogether, in the same plan that’s had me burning up left-over vacation days with three-day weekends lately. This will be a five-day weekend, thanks to Thanksgiving and the Friday after, and I won’t go back to the office until next Tuesday. Just last week, we were talking to our UK boss about Thanksgiving, and he was saying, “That must be nice. And I suppose lots of people take the Friday off as well?” He was actually shocked when we told him the office was closed, that both Thursday and Friday are paid days off, and that a four-day weekend for Thanksgiving is a pretty typical American custom.
I went and got a haircut this morning, to at least try and pretend like I had some kind of schedule. But mostly I just sat around, watched an episode of Sleepy Hollow, tried to explain iTunes to my mother, and avoided going back out in the rain. I only replied to a single work e-mail. Not exactly an eventful day off, but I’m not complaining.
Last night, I watched Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, which I seem to remember having watched in theaters, even if the movie itself wasn’t perfectly familiar. It wasn’t bad — not as good as Wrath of Khan or as much fun as The Voyage Home, perhaps, but I think history has been kind to the movie, and there’s a certain hokey nostalgia that hangs over it. A lot of the practical effects are dated, and there’s a fair amount of scenery chewing — Christopher Lloyd’s no Ricardo Montalban, but his Klingon and Shatner’s Kirk trade a good bit of yelling — but it’s entertaining.
Wake in Fright, on the other hand, which I watched this evening…well, it was interesting. It’s set in the Australian outback in the early 1970s and starts to feel like a horrible fever-dream after a while. I think the moral of the movie is “don’t drink so much that butchering kangaroos in the dead of night seems like a good time.” Seriously, the kangaroo hunt is bloody and graphic and awful to watch. Though maybe the disclaimer about this at the end is strangely preferable to the “No animals were harmed during the making of this picture” we often see — and which it turns out might not be worth a damn. Still, that doesn’t make the scenes any easier to sit through.
Anyway, that’s been my Wednesday. Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving, and then I have three more days of weekend to get through. I wonder how I’ll manage.
It’s been a couple of days.
I took Friday off again, mostly just trying to make it feel like a Friday instead of a Saturday — mostly because that makes Saturday feel like a Sunday, and I don’t need two Sundays in my weekend. (I like Sundays, but I don’t need two of them.)
That evening, I watched Before Midnight, which I really liked a whole lot. While I think it can be enjoyed without having seen Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, it’s absolutely a companion piece to those two films, and it’s a delight to dip back into these characters’ lives — even when those lives themselves aren’t always delightful. (Watching them fight is like watching good friends, or your parents, fight and almost as uncomfortable.) I’m surprised to discover I was hoping they wouldn’t make the movie a couple of years ago. This, too, seems like a fitting end to the story…and yet I could see coming back to them again in another ten years. This film is sometimes less fun than the first two — it’s less about falling in love than struggling to maintain in — but it’s still terrific.
Yesterday, I thought about watching a movie, but ended up just watching a bunch of television. Scandal, Agents of SHIELD, the new Doctor Who. Mostly that’s because I went to dinner with my parents and aunt and uncle to celebrate a birthday and got a home a little later than I expected. (A short but furious snow squall that made driving almost impossible for a good stretch of road didn’t help any.) And today’s it’s mostly more TV, trying to avoid the ridiculous cold and wind outside.
My writing group got canceled, thanks to a friend’s car troubles, but I decided to make use of the writing prompts he posts every Saturday and do some free-writing on my own. I really do need to get back into writing more regularly, above and beyond the forty minutes of it I do most Sundays.
Anyway, here’s what I wrote:
She was staying at the cabin, the one her father bought before he died, when she saw the thing that might have been a wolf.
There wasn’t any heat or running water at the place, and only candlelight or a beat-up lantern by which to see. But she was only staying the one night, packing up the last of the old man’s books and papers because nobody else in the family wanted to. There were ten months of notes and ratty journals squirreled away up here, maybe more; and although she and her sisters were just as likely to burn it all, Karen had agreed to travel the three hours north to box and tag everything she could find. She wasn’t sure if anyone outside the family even remembered her father’s novels, and whatever he’d been working on here, it sure as hell hadn’t been another book. But maybe there were still some collectors out there, die-hard fans who would pay good money for a glimpse of his later writing.
God knew the old man hadn’t left them much of anything else. It was only chance that Karen had even found out that he was dying.
He’d come back to Chicago for some reason. She didn’t think it was to die — she couldn’t even say for sure if he’d known he was sick — but that’s how it had played out. Almost a year without contact, not even a word, and then one morning Deb called her from the hospital and said, “Um, Kar? I think they just wheeled Dad into the emergency room downstairs.”
Karen was tempted to think of it as destiny, or maybe karma. Those were the kinds of words that Deb had used at the funeral, and like always Maggie had echoed her, but maybe there was some kind of truth to it. All Karen knew was that the man was dead, and there was a strange satisfaction in knowing that he’d breathed his last in a city that he’d always hated.
Not that the cabin revealed anything more about her father. She’d glanced at the writings she was bundling for the drive back home, but it seemed like there was more of his madness than answers in there, and the building itself anonymous and ramshackle. He’d apparently been there since last October, paid in full, but it was a lonely shack in the woods more than anything else.
Not quite sure where it’s going, but it’s something that wasn’t there before I started, so that’s something.
Last week. This week:
- “The Great Divide” by the Cardigans
There’s a monster growing in our heads
- “White Knuckles” by OK Go
You never get the paw prints out of the hen house now
- “Fidelity” by Regina Spektor
Suppose I kept on singing love songs
- “Piece of My Heart” by Erma Franklin (later Janis Joplin), guessed by Clayton
Didn’t I give you nearly everything that a woman possibly can?
- “Rivers of Babylon” by the Melodians
How can we sing King Alpha’s song in a strange land?
- “Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)” by Pixies
I’ve kissed mermaids, rode the El Niño
- “Blame it on the Stones” by Kris Kristofferson
And the taste of his martini doesn’t please his bitter tongue
- “Who Are You?” by the Who, guessed by Clayton
The policeman knew my name
- “Here Comes the Rain Again” by Eurythmics, guessed by Clayton
I want to breathe in the open wind
- “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” by Elvis Costello
Is there only pain and hatred and misery?