Thursday various

Back from Boston

Oh, the day that I’ve had.

It started with the first truly nice weather we had all the time I was in Boston, yesterday’s quite pleasant evening excluded. The sun-dappled river made a lovely, if perhaps at times a bit too sun-dappled and bright, view from our exhibit booth. I spent the day selling books, more or less the same as I’d done the days before, and then started cleaning up a little before three o’clock.

Clean-up went well. We’ve started bringing only a display copy or two of most of our books — and offering free international shipping in exchange for not being able to take the copy with you. It saves us considerably on shipping, and on sending books back that might just get pulped. Today, our last day at the conference, I was selling everything left on the table, display copy or not, so in the end I definitely had fewer boxes going back (some to Kentucky, some to New York) than were delivered. Which is almost always a good thing. Our shipping carrier showed up early, while I was still boxing everything up, and then the hotel staff they sent to collect the boxes — two of the same who’d been really helpful on Wednesday night finding our books — started hovering. But I got everything boxed up and ready to go by about 3:30, and a quick cab ride later had me at the airport.

Where I proceeded to wait around for several hours. You can follow the whole sorry story on Twitter (albeit in reverse), about the ground delays and the confused announcements and the fellow passengers with whom I first sympathized and then grew to see as impatient jerks. It was a long day. I think I slept on the plane — I must have slept on the plane — but I still feel pretty tired. And, woe is me, there’s no episode of Kojak here to console me.

I did, however, learn just this morning that I was accepted for a self-directed writing residency at the Banff Centre in Alberta this fall. Heather‘s talked about it so much, I just couldn’t let her have all the fun there. But seriously, I’m looking forward to it. There’s still a lot of planning to do for it, come September, and the last thing I want to do right this minute is look at an another airline itinerary, but the Centre seems like a really great place to develop my writing, enjoy the “powerful mountain setting,” and be inspired. I’m excited and really pleased to have the opportunity. Plus, you know, getting to meet Heather before that apocalypse she keeps reading about for her graduate classes actually happens. That should be nice.

Right now, I foresee sleep in my near future. It’s Daylight Savings Time this weekend, which is an abomination upon the earth. (Except in fall when it’s a quite pleasant extra hour of sleep.) So all the more reason to turn in a little early, I suppose.

All in all, I think it was a successful conference. I won’t know until at least Monday, when I add up the tally, just how many books we sold — and some people will take our catalog or order online; we offer the discount for thirty days after a conference, too. But I think we sold more than a few, and I think my boss met with a few key authors for some good projects going forward. I didn’t get to see much of Boston, or even much of Cambridge — and both ways my flights were delayed — but I’m glad I went.

Is Obama in Big Salmon’s pocket?

After the excitement of yesterday evening — which, in retrospect, was perhaps not terribly exciting to an outside observer — I spent the rest of the night with the thrill-a-minute that was President Obama’s second State of the Union address. I don’t make a habit of watching the speech, which can sometimes make me feel like a bad citizen, but I happened to be on YouTube a few minutes before it started at 9 o’clock, so I decided, on a somewhat guilty-conscience-ridden spur, to watch it there. And you know what? It was fairly boring and kind of ridiculously long. And, considering how much of the speech I spent making jokes about it on Twitter, I’m not sure how actively my citizenry was engaged.

Most of my silly comments were directed at John Boehner, our new Speaker of the House, and Michelle Bachmann, the Senate’s resident Crazy Lady. I think the former might deserve it — with an Oompa Loompa tan like that and such a quickness with the tears, it’s hard not to poke a little fun — but I know the latter does. And I didn’t even watch her deer-in-the-headlights, dictated-to-invisible-elves response to Obama’s speech last night. (Can someone please tell me how the Republicans get two televised responses? Say whatever you will about the Tea Party and their connection to the Republicans; they still are Republicans.)

Anyway, more snow today, though I managed not to oversleep or miss my train. I had a busy day at the office, and seemed to be mailing out more things out of the country in one day than I usually do in weeks, or months. We had one of our “Brown Bag Lunch” speakers again, but I decided to skip it. Instead, I grabbed a quick bite and ended up mostly working through lunch, since the weather was bad enough I couldn’t really go anywhere.

And the weather was very icy this evening, on my commute home. The snow had stopped, but it had been replaced by freezing rain and sleet, which made walking very treacherous. I was turning a corner in Manhattan and had to grab onto the side of a building to keep from falling to the ground. And then at home, I found myself wishing people hadn’t shoveled the sidewalks. I don’t love walking through snow if I can help it, but I’d rather than a thin sheet of ice I can’t really see.

I made it home safely, though, and we’ll see what the weather ends up being like tomorrow. More snow is predicted, and in fact it’s snowing now. I’ll tell you this much: whatever happens, I’m wearing boots tomorrow.

Wednesday various

  • When defending someone’s horribly poor choice of words, it’s probably a good idea to choose your own words a lot more carefully than this. I suppose we should be grateful the Washington Times didn’t suggest we look for a “Final Solution” to Sarah Palin’s recent troubles. [via]
  • I have mixed feelings about writing contests in general, particularly ones with entry fees. I took part in this year’s Geist Postcard Story Contest, for instance, since there’s not a lot else to do with a story that short, and the fee a) goes towards a subscription and b) helps out a really good magazine. But, in general, I tend to think money should flow towards the writer, and any story worthy of winning a contest should also be worthy of getting paid something for. (Obviously “money” and “paid” can mean a number of different things here, from actual cash to contributor copies to your name printed somewhere. It’s the principle of the thing.)

    But I absolutely think it’s writing contests like this that give the reputable ones a bad name, that leave me with my mixed feelings in the first place. Seriously, writer beware.

  • Tasha Robinson and Keith Phipps have an interesting discussion about which is worse in popular culture: blind, overenthusiastic hyperbole…or bland, unengaged apathy.
  • While A.O. Scott puts the lie to the notion that critics represent some kind of anti-populist elite:

    Speaking personally, but also out of a deep and longstanding engagement with the history and procedures of my profession, I have to say that the goal of criticism has never been to control or reflect the public taste — neither thing is possible — but rather the simpler (but also infinitely difficult) work of analyzing and evaluating works of art as honestly and independently as possible….There is a cultural elite, in America, which tries its utmost to manipulate the habits and tastes of consumers. It consists of the corporations who sell nearly everything with the possible exception of classical music and conceptual arts, and while its methods include some of the publicity-driven hype that finds its way into newspapers, magazines and other traditional media, its main tool is not criticism but marketing.

    False populism, this idea that some snobs in their ivory towers don’t want you to have any fun — or, worse, want to ram their culture, their ideals down your throat — well, that’s sort of what’s given us people like Sarah Palin, isn’t it?

  • And finally, this is how rumors get started: Twitter in a panic over Oxford Circus ‘gunman’. A “gunman” invented out of whole cloth over Twitter, it should be said. See the course of the brief panic charted here. [via]

The tweeting dead

I didn’t do a whole lot today, on my first day off, beyond run a few errands and do a very little bit of writing. I watched most of Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking one-woman show, mostly just because I stumbled across it on HBO. It’s kind of a weird experience, but she’s thoroughly engaging.

Then this evening, I watched 28 Days Later with friends over Twitter. I liked the movie a lot when it first came out, but it was a lot of fun and truly interesting to re-examine it. I remember not being as enamored with the sequel, but I definitely need to revisit it as well now.