walkingshadow: anne taintor. it's not easy being easy. (with a cigarette there on your lips)
saturday night

the parents and cousin m. and i went out to downtown hollywood for an "art walk," which in principle is a nice way for some of the galleries and shops to showcase their work and get people in the door, and in practice is actually like a pub crawl, but with art and tchotchkes and finger food in place of, you know, ale. some of the art was quite striking and beautiful; some of it was easily surpassed by the shows my high school ap art class put on. it was september in south florida, so it was warm and muggy even well after sunset, but in the course of our walk i downed a glass of champagne and a glass of wine, and then finished it all off with two scoops of the most amazing gelato, so i was feeling no pain.

after we got home i planted myself in front of the computer and chatted with [livejournal.com profile] silentfire while i read my way through the harlequin challenge stories at [livejournal.com profile] sga_flashfic and laughed myself into a wheezing fit. seriously, these authors need to write harlequins for a living. were they born awesome, or did they have to go to awesome school and take advanced degrees? i kept sending erika links and summaries and back-cover blurbs and choice quotes, followed by my reactions, e.g. *dies* and *DIES* and *dies and dies and is reanimated and DIES AGAIN*. that last was to [livejournal.com profile] hyperfocused's TEASER that ended with An all-knowing Mountie, a know-it-all Canadian Physicist, and two American men with experimental hair fight against the odds to brave the wilds of the Yukon in Overdue South.

i was up and rolling around in the crack until after seven in the morning. at that point i had a dozen stories still unread in open tabs, but it was, you know, after seven a.m., and the parents tend to get tetchy when they hear me heading to bed just as they're waking up.

sunday

i had myself a great workout, and, and. i can't really remember much of sunday. my mom and i visited my grandmother, who was pretty perky and very chatty; we had a huge vegetarian taco salad for dinner and finished off season one of sports night. i'd just like to take this moment to state right now, for the record, that i love dan rydell, and i love josh charles for being dan rydell, and i really wish we saw more of his mouth him around these days. i love him and casey together, even when i'm not picturing them comfortably in love and rejoindering happily ever after, because they're such good *friends* first.

earlier my mother had been watching season three gilmore girls, particularly a scene where rory comes downstairs to find lorelai going through stacks and stacks of all the catalogues they receive, with the good intentions of calling the companies to cancel the duplicates, but she bails mid-project, as rory had predicted; in despair, rory calls after her, "these catalogues are gonna be here forever!" to which lorelai replies, "no they won't—they're biodegradable." that scene, plus watching josh charles, et al. give life to aaron sorkin's dialogue, led me to an epiphany regarding interpretations of characterization and fanfic, especially concerning the recent kerfuffle over [livejournal.com profile] rageprufrock's hindsight, and the epiphany was delivery.

one of the criticisms of hindsight that i remember most clearly was that rodney's characterization was off, specifically that he shouted all the time. i had to admit that he did do a lot of yelling, that it made him come off as shrill, and i had a little trouble reconciling that with the rodney i saw, until i realized it was more a problem of translation and transcription than characterization. because on the show rodney does do a lot of shouting—except that's not quite the right word for it. the prototype in my mind for "yell" isn't what necessarily comes out of his mouth onscreen, though it might be the best word to describe it.

it's easier to go from the written word to the spoken one: there are layers and layers of nuance to add to a single line-reading, incorporating tone and speed and emphasis, facial expressions and body language; you could perform any given line a hundred different ways, but when the time comes to transcribe that performance, the hundred different readings are compressed back into a single line of dialogue—plus descriptions of body language and facial expressions, the context clues of the entire scene, and adverbs (use sparingly). but one of the best tools that a fanfic writer has is that we know the characters: we know what they look like, sound like, how they move; if i can hear a character in a story i'm reading, that is it, that's the best thing. i think what i do too often is read the story and try to let the words give rise to the action, instead of giving the characters a chance to act out the words. so the text says rodney yells, and that strikes me as not quite right; but david hewlett could pull it off, and suddenly rodney's speaking snappily and unhappily, exasperatedly and maybe even angrily, but it's rodney, it's not all-caps anymore. i loved hindsight pretty unequivocally the moment i laid eyes on it, but i take my epiphanies where i find them.

on an unrelated sga fanfictional note, i am a sucker—a SUCKER—for that moment when john is smarter than rodney expects. i LIVE for that. and as [livejournal.com profile] silentfire said, rodney's always surprised! every time! he is nothing if not predictable.

monday

my father woke me up today, but it was almost one p.m. at the time, and it was because he needed help putting up the hurricane shutters, so resentment was given no opportunity to build. we're only expecting tropical-storm-force winds in broward county, but my parents regretted not putting up the shutters a couple of weeks ago when katrina came through, so up they went today. no harm in it, better safe than sorry, etc., etc., and it's more comforting to hear things slamming into the metal than into the windows. between the two of us it only took a little over an hour and a half, under hot hot sunny skies with the occasional darker cloud passing overhead bearing a drizzle, and a stiff breeze that waxed and waned. when we were all done and i went inside, dripping sweat and dirty from climbing in all our shrubbery, the dog came bounding up to me, freaked out by the noise we'd been making and the way it had gotten steadily darker in the house at three in the afternoon.

it's a weird feeling, artificial nighttime inside when the sun's high in the sky, and it's weird to look at from the outside too. a house with hurricane shutters up looks suddenly blind. a boarded-up house is a signal of abandonment, but this is a matter of protection: we seal up the walls and ourselves inside. i walk down the hallway and glance out the back doors, but my line of sight is abruptly shortened to the metal panels a couple of inches beyond the glass. it's the constant visual equivalent of feeling for the landing at the top of the stairs when there's really one more step. the dog seems to have gotten over it; these days the cat only moves back and forth between my pile of dirty laundry and his food bowl and litterbox.

and then we threw an impromptu hurricane party, like you do. my mom and i picked up wine (frank at the liquor store is a super-nice guy who knows his stuff and is thrilled to recommend things we might like), fish and chicken at delaware chicken farm, and a prescription for my grandmother at target. (we delivered it to her too, as she had a new caretaker start today and that kind of transition confuses her terribly. sometimes she falls asleep, and when she wakes up can't differentiate between dreams and memories.) cousin m. came over after she'd put up her own shutters, for wine and fish in this incredible sauce that my mother whipped up from the tomato sauce that had been languishing in the refrigerator, garlic, onions, red peppers, and i know not what. we watched how i met your mother; i forgot about the premier of kitchen confidential, but i'm hearing very good things about it.

i've been working through the rest of the harlequin stories and the latest recs from [livejournal.com profile] ship_recs all night. at one point i solved the sudoku in three minutes, forty-six seconds, and i wanted a COOKIE, or like, sirens to go off and quarters to start flying out of the cd-rom drive.

we have hurricane days like other people have snow days, and there's no school tomorrow, though i think cousin m. is still obliged to show up at work. i'll be sleeping in, just as usual; in case of power outage we're in good shape for bottled water and peanut butter, my ipod is fully charged, and i've got a stack of unread books that just won't quit. house and NCIS are on tomorrow though, so hopefully it won't come to that.
walkingshadow: anne taintor. it's not easy being easy. (Default)
You know what I need? New icons. NEW ICONS. Everybody has such pretty icons, man, and I get crazy jealous. I'm tired of mine. What should I make? Who wants to make one for me? And which ones should survive the great purge that is a-comin'?

This is a new icon—or rather, an icon that I started months ago and then abandoned, but I resurrected it tonight. It's keyworded the boy's got a lot to be mad about.

It rained all day again today, and based on weather reports from regions to the north of us, I think we can expect more of the same tomorrow. I like weather. I get a community feeling from fronts that sweep down from Canada, through most of the states in my time zone and some to either side, until they finally drift down to us, warmer and maybe messier but often just as wet. I feel close to everyone who bitches about snow or thunderstorms when the rain comes to my house a week or three days later, a hand-me-down feeling, a you-too? kind of connection with the whole world. I also grin as we all make our left-hand turns when the arrow turns green, everybody playing their proper role in our little traffic dance. I don't know if this is symptomatic of the way I don't get close to people, or the cause of it, but I have the feeling it's somehow related, either way.

But—it rained today. S. and I met up at Barnes & Noble where it poured and poured outside while inside we ate sandwiches, browsed, and lost our wills to live over a casual study session for the GRE. This is where I lodge my official rage at the GRE and, for that matter, all standardized tests! I realized today that I've gone four years without sitting down to take a standardized test, and those were good years. The last time Educational Testing Services and I danced a tango, I burned through five AP tests in a week at the end of my senior year of high school, fifteen hours or so of sitting in a desk filling in bubbles and feverishly scrawling timed essays. I didn't mind those nearly as much as I minded the SAT or, now, the GRE. With the exception of the writing component, the two look identical. My advice to high school juniors and seniors today who are in the standardized-testing zone already and won't (in accordance with Weber's Law) really notice one more, is to take the GRE now and get it out of the way. Similar scores would be one indication of a lack of testing validity, right?

If it had anything to do with what I've been doing for the past four years, or if it had anything to do with the skills or knowledge I would need for graduate school, or even if it was a basic measure of intelligence (though you could debate long and loud the relative merits and demerits of IQ tests and different kinds of intelligence and whether, in the end, any of them would predict success or failure in a specific learning environment) I would not mind. But it is none of those things: it is a measure of how well you can study for a test—which probably is one indicator of how well you might fare in college/graduate school*, but that's immediately biased against people who can't afford study guides and thousand-dollar Kaplan courses. I mean, the majority of the "verbal" section is composed of "antonyms" and "analogies", which basically tests your raw vocabulary—and not only that, but your familiarity with the least-frequently-used words. Why do I not believe them when they say this section will measure my "effectiveness at solving a problem hinging on [my] command of the English language"?

And to be totally honest, I'm bitter because I haven't done Algebra II** since ninth grade, and I haven't brushed up on systems of equations since I last studied for the SAT in eleventh grade, so I totally got served when I sat down cold to the practice test this afternoon. Other things to be bitter about: the test is completely computerized now, meaning you get your (unofficial) score immediately (which, by the way, I have never enjoyed! I like at least a day between the effort and the evaluation), but you have to answer the questions in the order in which they appear, so 1) you can't skip a question and come back to it later, and 2) you can't go back and check your work. The other big change from paper-and-pencil tests is that computer tests (this one, at least) are adaptive, so they give you harder or easier questions based on your correct or incorrect answers. I'm sure that as more and more tests become computerized and they eventually enter the classroom to replace Scantrons and the like, that new test-taking strategies will emerge to elicit the test-taker's best possible performance, but I don't have those strategies. All I have is IRE.

* But not necessarily, if you'll just compare the study habits of (for example) myself and former-roommate N., along with our respective test scores.
** Is this stuff even Algebra II or is it all just Algebra I? I can't remember anymore. It's been a while, is all I'm saying. I could integrate better than I could tell you exactly how much pears cost apiece if three of my friends bought pears, apples, and oranges in different combinations but either neglected to note the unit prices or else are refusing to tell me.


After we lost the will to live, we wandered the aisles, recommending books to each other, and I bought pocket-sized books of weekend NYT crossword puzzles, to keep in my bag along with whatever book I happen to be carrying—because, as Edward Conlon explained to someone who asked, you never know when nothing's going to happen. I drove home in rain but stopped on the way at Batten's Farm for a fresh strawberry milkshake and picked up peaches while I was there. I'd walked right past them, but their scent drew me back. At home I napped for an hour and a half, until my mom woke me for dinner of Thai take-out.

My parents had taken out The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas the other night to show me who Charles Durning was (a perennial That Guy for me), and started watching it; we finished it tonight, or rather they did, and I excused myself to read or something. The movie was cute, and maybe I should have had more fun with it or appreciated the town's open acknowledgement and wholesome treatment of their whores, but I kept getting hung up on the phrase romanticization of prostitution, which is a clunky and pretentious thing to have scrolling through my brain, but there it was. I watched The Poseidon Adventure with my dad tonight too, and the dialogue was formulaic and cheesetastic, but what kept bothering me was the gender roles and distribution of labor. I understand it's a disaster movie (one of the first of its kind and boy did it set the tone for the genre), so stock characters are to be expected, but the way it broke down, the women had great legs and wore short shorts and high heels while they screamed and panicked and clutched at the men to save them. The men weren't contemptuous about it, just helpful and stoic; when the men froze up it was the other men who got them to continue, not by gentle coaxing, but by bracing, blustery, these-people-need-you! or are-you-man-or-mouse?! pep talks.

I think that slash, at some level, is behind this. That is, my reading slash has affected the way I view this film. Disaster movies from the 1970s (their ruffled shirts and humongous bow ties!) have a different and skewed presentation of gender from what I see in my daily life today, but even in real life today I'm often taken aback by the way men and women interact and are expected to interact with each other. I spend so much of my time reading about relationships (intimate and otherwise) between men, exclusively. It's fanfiction, so the relationships are often idealized on both the personal and the macro (cultural, political) levels, but they meet as equals in a way men and women never get to. There are often other confounding factors at work—preconceived notions, power differentials, "my friends all hate you!", "I'm not really gay!"—but even that last one is eased (a function of fiction, perhaps) by that recognition of equality and you're-like-me (and not just in the, "hey, he has a cock too!" kind of way). The distancing effects of courtship and whatever "games" women are supposed to play (and the accompanying resignation and resentment men feel at jumping through those hoops) are eliminated, ipso facto. I need more data for comparison. I've never been a reader of femslash, so I don't know if the same set-ups are found there; but really the question must be what is it actually like—from here it feels like culture and history are what stand between men and women: patriarchy and pornography, men's clubs and women's magazines, double standards and Sigmund Freud. It concerns me; it worries me; it gets my back up. And yet, even though it feels like same-sex couples must meet in a space removed from those reverberating expectations, surely it's more the case that the expectations are simply different? I know I've been immersing myself in fantasies all along, large fantasy worlds with thousands of different dreams inside them, but just because I've been over-exposed to unattainable ideals doesn't mean that I need to dismiss all of my dissatisfaction. I'm still sorting it out, it's too amorphous to even be coherent yet, but some of it at least I plan to hang on to and fight for.

I finished Never Let Me Go today: I was impatient and eventually unsatisfied with it, and I think fanfiction, along with all the nonfiction I've been reading lately, has something to do with that as well. This isn't the first novel I've found lacking recently, and the problem is in the pacing, or the thinness of the plot, or both. I read an awful lot of fanfic, and because I'm kind of a snob, and because I can, I read an awful lot of really, really high-quality fanfic. Across the board, with few exceptions, really good fanfic is tight, everything to the purpose and nothing in it that doesn't advance the story. I can think of two reasons for this (and I'm sure there are others): 1) the focus on the relationship (and even in a gen story the focus is almost always on the character(s)), and 2) essentially unlimited flexibility with regard to story length. There are a lot of novel-length stories floating around fandom, but there are a whole lot more mid-length, short, and tiny stories (see: the drabble, whatever your feelings about it) that always give the impression they were written until they were done, not to pad pages or fulfill a word count. It means the novel-length stuff needed to be novel-length, and I never read a section of it and wonder why it was there, or wish the author would just get to the fucking point already. I've been spoiled.

There was an internal problem with Never Let Me Go, too—it was first-person, and the storytelling method including mentioning an event in passing, with the assurance that she (the narrator) would explain it to us later, and I hate that, when people do it in real life as well as in a story like this. Either tell me something or don't, but don't hint around it, and especially don't hint around things throughout the entire book. The book itself was about a possible present: it's a slow—very, very slow—reveal, but essentially it's about the ethics of cloning, the status of clones, and our responsibility to them. But the revelation of information went too slow for the amount of information that was revealed, and the last few pages ended in a Goblet of Fire-style expository infodump. I'd have cared more if it had been paced better, is what I came away thinking, instead of barely caring at all.

March 2011

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