October 24, 2012

Climbing Up and Out

In the 80s, there was this great HBO comedy special called the Kathy and Mo Show.  It was absolutely hilarious.  Absolutely.  You don’t hear much about it, but it sticks in my mind as a watershed moment not only in comedy but also in women’s rights.  They were saying things that people only thought, that I only thought. It was put on by Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney. 

One skit had no dialog.  It was Mo pantomiming a woman getting dressed in the morning.  Hilarious. Another, which I’ve put below, was two angels figuring out how to have humans reproduce.  But one that sticks in my mind is a typical bar scene.  Kathy plays a drunk and Mo plays a bouncy cocktail waitress.  There’s some funny banter, but then Mo looks at the camera and talks about how awful the life of a waitress is.  She says something like, “It’s the goddamn shower.  Every day, I have to get up and take a shower, but I think, what’s the point.  Tomorrow, I’ll just have to take another goddamn shower.”

That’s exactly what I’ve been feeling lately.  Yep, depression, part of my long-cycle mild manic depression. I think I get it every year at this time. Which is funny because I love the fall.

The symptoms are that I am just so tired that I don’t feel up to doing anything or facing anything—whether it’s taking the kids to another event or even just returning an email from a friend. When I’m in that state, the emotional energy it takes to read an email and respond feels like too much, and I avoid my email and the internet and Facebook.  I get a little phobic about it.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t get things done.  In fact, I’ve been busier than ever.  I love my day job, and it’s a great place to work, but I simply haven’t been able to keep up lately.  I have so many small things to do that the big things, like writing longer pieces, keeps getting shoved back until I feel overwhelmed with the big things I HAVE to get done.  So I have to shut my cube door to get one big thing done and then all the little things pile up.  Emails asking for this and that, oh, and that thing I asked for last week.

And then the ranch part of me says, just get a grip.  What are you whining for?  I watched a great documentary over the weekend called The Boy Mir.  It was done by the British filmmaker Phil Grabsky, and I watched it via this fabulous new service called Fandor. (I’m sure I’ll be talking about it more.) It’s this amazing 10-year look at a little boy who grows to a man in rural Afghanistan.  One of the many things that strikes me is, once again, what in the world do I have to complain about, for heaven’s sake?

And I haven’t been getting a lick of my own writing done.  Lots of work writing, but no personal writing.  Obviously not even this blog.  And I’ve been behind on posting my own photos.  My creative facility has just been tapped out. I’ve had nothing left.

But I’m feeling better now.  As you can see.  Climbing up and out.  So, hey, hi.

And, without further ado, the incomparable Kathy and Mo.

October 22, 2012

Hello There

I'll be back again this week.  Not today though.  But, in the meantime, your moment of zen.


October 9, 2012

Bear With Me ...

I'm not waving, I'm drowning.

Er, I mean, I've been incredibly busy lately.  Will get my virtual ducks in a row soon.  A great Cool Person Guest Blogger waiting in the wings, plus a report about that fab conference I went to.

October 5, 2012

The Literary Connection and Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

I am so so stoked!  I get to work with Tim O'Brien today and tomorrow over at the Literary Connection in Cheyenne.  I also get to work with John Calderazzo, Cat Valente, and Robert Caisley.  I saw Robert last year, and he is one hell of a speaker. 

So I am in the literary riches!  I'll report back on Monday. Yay!

October 3, 2012

'Faithfully' by Journey

All I have to do is hear the first bit of this song and I'm that aching 13-year-old again, yearning with ever fiber of my being for a soul mate, someone to merge my whole being with.

October 2, 2012

Physiognomy As Character


I was thinking this morning about physiognomy as character.  AKA beautiful people are good, ugly people are bad.  Young women are good, old women are evil.  Even more subtle, typecasting such as a man who is beefy with reddish hair and freckles is a bully.  Gap-toothed women are licentious.  Smaller traits that have been thought of as equating with the way a person is.

I was thinking about Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, how the authors play off types.  With names like Draco Malfoy and Cersei Lannister, how can these characters be anything but bad, you know?  They’re both blonde and slim and tall and evil.  But the authors give them more humanity than that.  They explain the characters’ motives, so that you understand them and identify with them.  It’s like George R. R. Martin says, “The struggle of good vs. evil takes place within each character, not between characters.”  (I'm paraphrasing poorly.) In aggregate, these characters tip toward the evil side of the scale.

But we do this every day, don’t we?  We judge people by their looks.  It’s stereotyping, but it is human nature to stereotype.  Back when you could die at any instant, you had to quickly assess the situation and decide what to do.  You had to profile, big time.  Your life depended on it.  To this day, we depend on judging things quickly and altering our actions accordingly.

But we also have to fight against stereotyping and profiling, don’t we?  People ~ the world in general ~ is much more complex than we are comfortable with.  We like things to be black and white, when really they are all shades of gray. 

As an idealistic child, I was way into quotes, and we had a dictionary that had a huge section of quotes, which I poured over.  One from Oscar Wilde said this:  “It is better to be beautiful than to be good, but it is better to be good than to be ugly.” Gosh, I remember thinking on this for days.  It didn’t seem FAIR, you know?  It really bothered me.  I wanted so to believe that your worth equated to what you did, to being good, and I so wanted to be good.  Why would the world be a place where looks matter more than character?  But, as we all know, looks matter a  whole lot.  That’s cause we judge.

It’s a whole other discussion to talk about whether physiognomy equals destiny.  If we look a certain way, are we subtlely and not so subtlely urged to be that thing?  If we look sweet and innocent (as I did), are you urged and expected to be sweet and innocent?  If you look pugnacious, are you urged to be pugnacious?  And names.  Is someone named Wiener bound to be a philanderer?   Is Art bound to be an artist? 

Chicken and the egg questions to be sure. I used to think we were much more molded by our surroundings until I had kids.  My two were who they are from the moment they were born.  In the womb, actually.  So I trend a little more toward nature than nurture nowadays.

So it was interesting to come across this article about a new breed of hunters, especially since I was pondering people’s preconceived notions about hunting the other day. Like this line:
Her friends and “hippie, blue-state parents” were dumbfounded. “Won’t you be the darling of the right wing?” her father says.
We are complex beings. That’s what makes the balancing act that is writing so hard. If you are trying to mirror the real world (not just provide stereotypes for entertainment), you have to work hard to make them real and unpredictable yet not “out of character.  

 Food for thought.

October 1, 2012

Junot Diaz and His Internal Critic

A great bit about and with Junot Diaz at the New York Times. I think we can all relate.

Junot Diaz (via)

There’s a classic bit of creative-writing-class advice that tells us we need to learn to turn off our internal editors. I’ve never understood how to unbraid the critical and the creative. How do you manage that? You’ve raised one of the thorniest dialectics of working, which is that you need your critical self: without it you can’t write, but in fact the critical self is what’s got both feet on the brakes of your process. My thing is, I’m just way too harsh. It’s an enormous impediment, and that’s just the truth of it. It doesn’t make me any better, make me any worse, it certainly isn’t more valorous. I have a character defect, man. 
So turn on your harsh paternalistic, militaristic critic — It’s my dad.
O.K., invite your dad in: I want to hear his review of Junot Díaz the bad writer. What is wrong with that stuff? What are the mistakes you make?  First of all, nonsense characterization. The dullest, wet-noodle characteristics and behaviors and thoughts and interests are ascribed to the characters. These 80-year-old, left-in-the-sun newspaper-brittle conflicts — where the conflicts are so ridiculously subatomic that you have to summon all the key members of CERN to detect where the conflict in this piece is. It just goes on, man. You know, I force it, and by forcing it, I lose everything that’s interesting about my work