Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Close to the end

When you get close to the end on something big, everything around you is in shambles. My clothes are piled everywhere - clean, dirty, whatever - and dishes are everywhere and take-out is everywhere and books are everywhere and the bathroom is a wreck and the kitchen is a wreck and you can't imagine how it got that way, because you've been cleaning so hard, so hard... Just, your prose, not your apartment.

Almost there.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An exciting day at work, yesterday. Coming back from lunch, we discovered that the neighboring office had an electrical fire. Four fire engines arrived, and quickly. Good job Alpharetta Fire Department!

I particularly loved the the flashy, spinny things on the front of the fire truck. Those were nifty.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Where will you sleep, tonight?
Will it be the same place you wake up?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Got some time on your hands...?

Worth watching, or at least letting it run in the background.

I don't understand people that think private, for-profit health insurance is net good for society:

My favorite part is where these guys sit in front of congress and say they will not stop rescinding policies for mistakes made in good faith by the insured.

Write your senators and representatives. How can this bullshit possibly get any worse?

For all you Transformer Fans...

I didn't go see the movie, because it got panned by the critics, and because I'm still scarred from Optimus Prime's death in the 80s cartoon movie.

Found this, though, and it's pretty frikkin' awesome. Kudos to the creators.

Lost in a Maze...

In the cave, Saitan snuffed the torch out. He pressed into my arm. He pulled me close, and wrapped his hand over my mouth to keep me from screaming. Shh...

I heard the footfalls, steady as stones.

A flash in the dark - a moving shadow against ghost light - and Saitan held me, and hushed me.

Like a dead tree and a lizard and a man, it poked and prodded so carefully upon the bush of the ghost light.

We watched it, Saitan and me, prodding the branches and the fountain of light like a gardener. Under the long, spindly fingers - talons? - of the monster the bush seemed to expand a little and tremble with ecstasy.

We waited. It moved on, down and down the cave, beyond our light.

We waited longer.

Saitan let go. He ran his hand along my hair. He whispered something in my ear. Don't fear, he had said.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Excerpt from poem I'm working on.

I do this for fiction a lot. Might as well do it for poetry, too. Here's just a piece of something much larger I'm working on:

...I read these advertisements here, and wonder where people
meet in this city. A woman in a car shouts in all caps. I SAW YOU
I SAW YOU I SAW YOU... driving a car, two eyes locked - woman
and man - but there's no way to speak in cars. Nothing to do
when the highway bends the lanes apart. A man in a grocery store describes
your summer dress, the way you touched your beautiful son's hair,
and he couldn't think of things to say in time because you
were already loved by a man – your younger one – who
wouldn't breech an interruption. Another man stumbled in
all the rings on your hands, dozens of beautiful rings, and doesn't know
what they mean, but he describes a tattoo, where dolphins
swim in circles around your navel, their bodies
curved like chasing each other's tail in the lunar water. You're looking
for him at the gym, where he hides inside his headphones, like you do
now, with me, on the train.

Was your smile on the train something real, or a memory of fish...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Warning Signs on a Small Tractor

Tractor, very small, but apparently very dangerous.

Every time you see a warning label, you're also seeing a history of injuries that gave the label birth.

I find warning labels fascinating. If you don't, naturally, move along.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What's next in the realm of publications?

1) "Death's Shed" was finalized with the editors for Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet.

2) "Dragon Came To Galveston To Die" is awaiting editorial approval at Space Squid, who had needed a slightly shorter story than the one I sent them - and I am always going to try and help the editors out where I can, everywhere I go.

I know there will be more news, soon-like. If the news is good, I'll post it here. If not, well, you know how that goes.

Back to work, party people!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Interesting Reading from L.E. Modesitt, Jr

"Yet they'd be outraged if someone applied the stereotype of "parochial" or "limited" to mainstream fiction." - L.E. Mosesitt, Jr, source

What was really interesting was also that people who work hard in the F&SF genre were also outraged that anyone lay such a claim against the mainstream genre.

Question of control...

The strange thing about Nick's claim is that the people who are being silenced are going to write more, and longer, because they're being silenced.

It's not silly at all. It's human.

What he describes as "interesting debate" is made so not because I left the discussion. There's another human fact at work here.

(BTW, Nick, in case you're google alerts pop up to lead you here, or something like it, in fact, I was in the middle of BFE Maine with limited web access, doing graduate work morning, noon, and night, while still working on my dayjob and new writing. So... No, Nick, it actually had nothing to do with you, or your continued insistence on shoving my voice and thoughts into your own experiential narratives. Your odd insistince on engaging in rudeness is part of why I'm posting this right now.)

The thing is, when Nick describes the debate as "interesting", it is also because he took the reigns of it, and forced it down a path he wanted. He shoved everyone into his experiential worldview at the expense of other narratives.

Look at how many posts Nick makes in comparison to everyone else, after I left, and the shape they took and you see how the discussion shaped itself around one man's voice, the crankiest one, the first one to engage in true juvenalia up above, like putting words in my mouth, or thoughts in my head. Once again, he's shaping the narrative around his own preconceptions of what that narrative should be, and if you watch, you'll see him shutting down perspectives that don't line up with his own.

It's a control thing, man. It got interesting to him because he took control of it, not because it actually got more interesting. It was just as interesting the whole time.

Try to see yourself from the outside, party people.

The thing about publishing and books is that no one has the whole picture. We all only know a very small slice, no matter who we are. If we actually want to create a whole, we can't use our little slice to cut away other experiences.

We learn more by approaching everyone's perspective as inherently valid in the soft knowledge learning of books.

It's weird to know the many things Nick's done to try and increase the liberation of the mind, yet to watch him engage in discussion in a way that is loudly and softly bullying.

Cats are like the crazy ex-girlfriends...

Cats are like the crazy ex-girlfriends. You see them. You think they are cute. They look at you with cat eyes and mew. You think this means - because your body and brain and biochemistry are built to think this - that the animal loves you.

Actually, what that animal is saying is "If you were only a little bit smaller, I'd kill you slowly and eat you."

We think they are rubbing against our leg, we think this means they are engaged in an act of affection. We hear their purrs and think we are beloved.

In fact, the cat is marking you as their possession, in preparation for the day when you die, and they get to eat you. The purring you hear is just the anticipation of a meal.

Serve them, if you must. Clean up after them. Brush the mats from their hair. Coo their name into their ear and tell them they are so cute.

You're misreading the signs in their human-like faces. It's like those crazy ex-girlfriends that you thought, at the time, you loved, and it turns out they weren't wired the same way you are wired, and it's only a matter of time before you are devoured. They want to devour you.

There was a cat at my doorstep this morning, with a collar around its neck. It looked up at me like I was everything in the world to it, with big, cat eyes. It pressed against my leg.

"Does the one who loves you know you're cheating on them?" I said. I refused to open the door. I refused to pet the creature. "Go on, now, pussycat. Go home."

Had I but known this ten years ago, about certain women and all the cats...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The most interesting part of this story is...

...someone apparently tampered with his front door lock.

Failure to self-identify is a no-no, for the officer in question.

But, the weirdest part of this story is how the lock was apparently tampered with.

That's where things get fishy, among a lot of fishy things.

Monday, July 20, 2009

So much to do... So much to do...

I will be including all of these things in this story I'm working on. Especially the electric headlight.

Home from Maine, and why I just wrote a check for 1000 dollars to a Scam Operation

Maine was lovely. The seminars I attended were nifty, and I think the workshops were pretty all right, too.

Travel was odious, but isn't it always odious? Blah. Airports.

Ah, homecoming... Slogging through mail...

Wait... What's this? A warrant for my arrest? WTF?

So, there's these little tiny-ass towns in Texas where they derive a ton of their budget from traffic violations. Little Texas towns are famous for giving you tickets for 71 in a 70, and for doing all kinds of things to encourage cops to write more tickets. Look it up. Google Pantego, Trophy Club, (this particular town...) and quite a few others.

No state tax in Texas, you see, and low property taxes. They tend to make up the gap in aggressive violations.

(On people who do not live in that town, mind you. Local inhabitants don't realize how come their city has so much money while property taxes are so low, on the whole... Easy to do in a communter society.)

Right, so, many, many years ago (over 3 years ago) I was issued a warning, not a ticket, but a verbal warning that went something like this: "Hey, did you know your registration is expired? Oh, no wonder you didn't know! You moved! Well, don't forget you have to tell the DPS not just the Post Office! Right... Go to that court house over there to fix your registration."

Apparently, I was issued a ticket for that. I had no ticket. I was given a verbal warning on this, while my car was parked. No fines. No fees. No sheets of paper in my hand. Nothing but a friendly, "Dude, oh, here, let me tell you how to fix that..."

This particular town is actually famous for being total citation bastards. (They're usually spoken synonymously with Pantego, and Trophy Club, for all you D/FW residents out there.)

One step was missing, however.

Apparently, I was also supposed to go to the particular city courthouse, because apparently I was issued a ticket, and apparently I was supposed to physically show them that I had updated my registration and address. How I was supposed to know this in advance is beyond me. I didn't even know I was issued a ticket.

Here's where it gets even more shady.

Apparently, no one noticed this issue until I moved out of state.

Now that I'm a few hundred miles away, I'm issued a warrant unless I pay over a thousand dollars on two overdue ticket. Even if I prove that I, in fact, registered my car in Texas and changed my address in Texas with these documents that are, at this time, four years old, I'm still fined in the neighborhood of 400 dollars.

I register in Georgia. I change my address, register my car, etc., etc. Suddenly, a four year old verbal warning has become a citation that requires 1000 dollars, or I'm at risk every time I set foot in Texas.

Even if there really was an actual ticket, you'd think, in a sane, rational universe, there'd be some step between "Take this form and show it to the city clerk." and "Give us a thousand or go to jail." For instance, a form letter might go out, indicating that there's some problem that needs to be addressed. Fees are accumulating. Nip in this in the bud, fellow American.

No, that would make it too easy for criminals to get away with their evil, odious crimes of lost registration papers. Also, taxpayers would have to pay for an envelope, a stamp, and a sheet of paper with ink on it instead of getting 1000 dollars in the mail.

Now, I have an option. I could hire a lawyer, and arrange a court date, and make my case before a judge...

I would have to show up in court (halfway across the country, mind you...) with a decent lawyer to confront the city on this issue. Plane tickets alone would likely eat most of the 1000 dollars. And, that doesn't even begin to cover the cost of hiring a lawyer, and missing work. And, there's always the possibility I would lose the court case, in which case I pay even more fines, and still paid for the lawyer and the plane tickets.

If there's anything you should know about tiny towns in Texas, it's that the city judge tends to favor the word of local law enforcement officers over the word of people who flew in from out of town and hired some slick, city lawyer.

All told, I'm fucked. I wrote a check to this municipal scam operation. I put a stamp on it. I'll mail it in the morning.

Not only am I scammed by the city in question, what's even worse is how arrogant they are about it.

They wouldn't even tell me why a warrant was issued. They told me to call this other number to find that out. Twice they gave me the wrong number, (Oh, I'm sorry, did I say "XX00"? I meant "XY00", and "Oh, *you* obviously entered it wrong. The number is XZ00." As if they genuinely enjoy fucking with people. Yes, I was getting angry. Because you're fucking with me, and I can tell you're getting off on that over the phone.

People ask me, sometimes, if I miss Texas.

I miss my friends and family. Texas? No. No, I do not miss Texas.

In a sane, rational universe, I'd be able to challenge this. Verbal warnings do not equal tickets. If I fix this at one courthouse, and there is no piece of paper or person telling me I have to go to this completely different courthouse to negate a ticket that did not - to my knowledge - exist. If there is a fine accumulating to the point of warrant for your arrest.

You'd think. You'd think there'd be steps. You'd think there'd be something between a cop giving you a friendly verbal thing, and a warrant for your arrest four years later.

You'd think.

These little towns, they just thrive on that equation that people have to run in their heads, when the warrant shows up with the bill... "Is it worth fighting city hall? What's my cost-benefit analysis, here?" They thrive on people like me, who are quick to discover that the only solution is "Fuck. Nope. Fighting it and paying it cost exactly the same, except paying it means I don't have to lose time at work and graduate school."

I bet that shit happens everywhere, too. I bet there's a bunch of small towns just like that, all over.

Steps, man. Someone should put into law some kind of degree between cop saying "Dude!" and courts saying "Warrant!". That way, if the cop's fudging his citation numbers (as they are encouraged to write tickets in a couple of these little towns) American citizens can actually prove it.

Also, I think, if the citizen is wrong, at least they'll know there's a cloud hanging over their heads.

Oughtta be a fucking law. Degrees of warning between citation and warrant.

But, again, that would mean cities don't get a check in the mail for 1000 dollars, no?

(Certified, of course. You think I trust these fucking people? They gave me the wrong phone number twice just to get a rise out of me. They wait four years to pull this shit, when I'm showing up as an out of state resident. Now, it's more expensive for me to actually fight back than to write them a check for 1000 dollars.)

Maine was nice. Maine was very nice. Better than Texas.

It wasn't until I moved out of Texas that I've started to realize how awful that state was.

When you live there, you just get used to it. You don't even notice all the little things that add up to divide the rich and poor, the haves and have-nots.

Coming back from the airport, I rode public transportation - a very nice, clean, efficient metro train - directly from the airport to a station nearby. I rode a city bus to the elementary school across from my apartment complex. It cost me $2.25 to travel from one far side of Atlanta to the other far side of Atlanta. Along the way, people of all ages, races, and economic classes were riding the city's public transportation. Good luck trying that in Dallas. The buses are terrifying. The train is underfunded, and has to dramatically cut back its trips all the time. And, if you're in one of the suburbs, there are no buses. Arlington, TX, is proud of the fact that it is the largest city in America with no public transportation. It had been problematic trying to explain to the people I met while there why that's part of what causes the urban blight rotting out the center of Arlington into crime and despair, because people who don't have cars suddenly can't realistically work outside a four or five block radius.

When I get confirmation this is dealt with from this fucking city I might tell you which one it was. I'm a good citizen, after all, and do not deserve to be treated this way. I do not want to risk being treated worse just because some bureaucrat thinks I have an attitude problem. I also do not consider myself some kind of social activist. I'm just another grumbling sheep, wondering when the change we all voted for might sprinkle down into the red states.

God, I am so glad I don't live in Texas anymore. You have no idea.

And, for all you Texans out there, isn't it weird how everyone is always complaining about the "Good Ol' Boy" Network and you keep voting those turds back into office?

Here's a tip: vote female, minority, and often. It never ceases to amaze me that the towns who are most notorious for behaving badly are run by and for a bunch of rich white guys.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

About the latest internet tempest in a teapot

(If you don't know what I'm talking about, feel free to ignore.)

Have a moment at a cafe, with decent WiFi and I'm a bit burned out on other stuff, so I thought I'd mention something important.

Prior to the latest tempest in a teapot, a good day at my blog netted 7 to 10 page hits - all people I know by name, most of whom I've met in real life.

I know posting things here does suggest at least the openness to a larger audience. However, one does get quite used to scribbling on the outside of my locker to a small, narrow audience of people who are my friends.

In the original post, I was careful to frame everything in terms of what my experience was, even with that in mind, because it is more about what I like to read and why I like to read it than about what all you have to read and how you have to write.

This, however, was not good enough. Because I used the word "Literary Fiction".

Now, I know I used a quick, lazy term - and a dismissive one - for the 7-10 people who may or may not show up for today's post.

I used the wrong term, because I used what I think about when I label something "literary fiction" in my mind and this is really throwing people in a needless furor.

I think almost everyone is digging their heels around their own, personal definitions of a term that isn't actually clearly defined. Notice, you folks who've been on board for this whole thing, that the act of definition is *still* going on, over at Jeff VanderMeer's blog.

I think everyone has a different mental definition of what the words "literary fiction" means, and the way to deal with this is not to engage in right-or-wrong intellectual throwdowns, but to engage the point of discord with the kind of elegant and respectful discourse that Hal Duncan does over and over again so brilliantly, to locate where future experiences can be shaped around better understandings of terms.

So, be at peace, party people. Focus not on who has the best terminology, or who's experience is more valid (for everyone's reading experience is fundamentally valid) but in how the terminology we use shapes our shared experience, and how we can find better terminology to understand each other.

And... seriously, where are all these pagehits coming from? I've gotten more traffic this last week or two than I have, like, ever.

(And, for my next offensive rant, I think I'm going to spew inelegently about how much I hate cats... Or, how much I hate the meaningless and offensive separation of salt and pepper in shaker form...)

I'm in Maine a while longer, and I hope the debate continues successfully without me.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I'm off to Maine in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, and I wonder if I will bother posting anything at all until I get home.

Have fun, interwebs. See you in a while.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Been somewhere else today...

It's not that Nick is wrong in his content, he's wrong in his delivery. You can't refute a reader's experience. Books are not a science - are not a quest for irrefutable proof. Treating books that way ends by hammering one person's experience into another person's, and misses the point of reading entirely. The result is a lot of readers who are afraid to engage in discussion because they don't know if their experience meets with the approval of the biggest referencer in the room. Ultimately, no one has read enough.

Happens at SF Cons all the time. Happens elsewhere, too. Bothers me, obviously.

It also bothers me that it's an accepted form of class discussion in literature programs. We're raising lawyers not readers.

And, it did sideline from the useful discussion going on elsewhere, with Jeff and others.

I'm still thinking about how the metrics of book recommendation mixes the genre definitions up a bit, and sharpens the categories.

If anything, someday it may be possible to talk about a specific genre because the metrics will reflect it in booksales, that there are distinctive camps of audiences. But, that day's not today, for the most part.

I think, what it does is weakens the boundary between mediums. Fans of Lost, for instance, also buy a lot of books, and the same quest for the art experience arises out of all these different mediums. You'll see Lost showing up in Amazon also recommends for plenty of writers.

Still, I'll think about it more.

Anyway, that's where I am, today, and it's a nifty place to be.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wait... They have music videos?

I've known for some time that for groovy Eurolectrofop music, you can't get much better than "The Knife" (and the sister act, "Royskopp").

Little did I know they also have awesomely headtrippy videos until I was looking for a live version of Heartbeats on YouTube, having heard their live act was awesomely headtrippy...

There's two music videos for this first song, apparently. I watched both. This one has mouse puppets.

We Share Our Mother's Health is... Well, just see it for yourself:

Was that just too normal for you? Try this one:

And, finally, here's what I was actually looking for when I found all that other stuff, as a nice, strange, Martian palatte-cleanser:

I like it.

Thanks to DD Tannenbaum!

Woo! Weekend's work saved!

This merits a question for all you writers out there:

What software do you use to write novels, and how well does it perform after about page 250?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

OpenOffice Emergency

After a full weekend of major revisions and rewrites on a large project, and mere minutes before I was going to be saving and backing up my files Open Office crashed.

Then, re-opening the file, it's blank. 500 pages gone. GONE.

I have backups, yes. Yes, I do. They do not have the full 3 day weekend spent in revisions and edits.

I need help.


From a distance, Canada Geese are gorgeous.

Up close, they hiss. They stink. And, make giant mounds of poo all over the hiking trail. Many of these filthy, stinking beasts are also mangy.

The ducks were cute. The turtles, too. Not the geese.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Made of Win

Happy July 4th, everyone!

Thinking about racial language...

Recent-like, I had a chance to chat with some older citizens of Georgia, who talked about the changing demographics of Atlanta and the vicinity. None of these were racist. There were numerous races and creeds at the event in question, and all were friends and friendly neighbors, co-workers, and etc.

I did notice that an older generation of citizens had a strong tendency to use race as a convenient framing device to talk about the real issue: poverty and the culture of self-replicating poverty.

It is important to note that the historic events that fed much poverty in this region was rooted in racism. It is also important to note that talking about the problem in racial terms is counter-productive. Poor is poor is poor. White poor and black poor and Hispanic poor and Asian poor and Indian poor all face serious issues lie the lack of quality in many things:education, healthcare, food, and justice.

Framing this problem in terms of race only hinders our ability to tackle the true causes of poverty, by separating it from our own culture. You think your kids and grandkids couldn't possibly live exactly like that? Crazy. The system, at a certain level, creates a feedback loop of despair.

I wish we would stop framing the fight to end poverty and all the social injustice that come with it in terms of ethnicity.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Geeks vs Hipsters


It's a word with associations of skinny people with large sunglasses and vintage clothing posturing ironically to the music of bands you've never heard of.

I've done my time among the hipsters. I even tried my best to be one for a short time after college.

The thing about a hipster is that the primary motivation is "cool", which presupposes the judgment of others. Ultimately, vanity and selfish motivations and empty relationships with vacuous people result from this lifestyle.


Geeks are superior. The primary motivation of a geek is "Awesome!", a childlike wonder that celebrates the universe and the amazing things that are both possible and impossible inside that universe.

Now, there is much similarity between geeks and hipsters. "Awesome!" is somewhat synonymous to "Ain't it Cool?!. That's quite similar to the hipster's quest for "cool". But there are important differences that must be remembered.

Hipsters deconstruct like happy post-modernists. Geeks construct like happy mutants.

Hipsters search for a smirking sense of the self-awarely ironic. Geeks smirkingly point out other people's ironic failings to which they are not self-aware.

Hipsters listen to bands you've never heard of. Geeks are in bands you've never heard of, and throwdown the filk and nerdcore at conventions and YouTube.

Hipsters have iPods and iPhones because they can't identify with the Microsoft brand. Geeks have iPods and iPhones because they can't identify with Microsoft's quality control.

Hipsters are excited when they discover they have something that makes them different and more individualized. Geeks are excited when they meet someone else who shares what has always made the geek different.

Hipsters are dirty and wearing cheap, ugly clothes because they were up all night with their friends being somewhere. Geeks are dirty and wearing cheap, ugly clothes because they were up all night with their friends doing something.

Hipsters are underemployed because they can't get into the whole consumer culture, working hard for rewards mythos of American culture. Geeks are underemployed because they realize that living up to their full potential, professionally, would mean missing out on what they actually like to do with their time, and therefore seek just enough employment, but not too much... (Unless it's something awesome like game designer, or Systems Administration with all kinds of neat, geek-tastic tools and toys!)

Hipsters suck. Geeks do not.

I've located plenty of hipster bars here in Atlanta. Where are the GEEK BARS!?!?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

About the term Zombieconomy

So, this post about the Zombieconomy in the wake of Jack-o's death, and what it means to performingand recording artists of the world.

It's no wonder that so many of the most talented musicians I know about don't show up on the MTV Celebrity Machine.

Many other folks can tell you all sorts of things about that.

I just thought I'd mention that as far as I can tell that has absolutely nothing to do with book publishing.

Unlike music, authors tend not to be traveling around to sold out reading events. In fact, if I was charging for readings, I suspect my family would only come if they were given tickets gratis. My friends, also, would probably not be able to make it.

Unlike music, no one wants to plaster my likeness all over consumer goods.

Unlike music, people do not create their fashion-identity around the way my characters dress.

I could go on.

The point is that producers of stuff of value - like me - are not all operating under the same market rules. Music, movies, video games, books, fashion, and all sorts of numerous and diverse items and errata are all unique.

Be careful when creating such BIG, CATCHY, BUZZ-FRIENDLE words like "Zombieconomy", because it might spill over into places where there is no place for the ideas that created the word.