Three Pasty Dudes Bring the Thunder

The biggest political feud grabbing us all by the balls and the throat? Nothing to do with Clinton vs. Obama or McCain vs. Romney. The real brass knuckles-switchblade-head smashing brawl is being waged between three titans of comedy.

Check out the Stewart/Colbert/Conan rumble:

Who Made Huckabee?

Posted in Random Information by: Amy 
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The F Word Before Super Tuesday

Feminism is about something very simple: equal rights between men and women. But in today’s world, and in highly scrutinized presidential campaigns, it gets very complex very quickly. Take this week’s campaign developments. Earlier this week the New York chapter of the National Organization of Women threw a rather undignified fit, pissed that the Kennedys are endorsing Obama. They went so far as to label the endorsement an act of betrayal. Real right-thinking, women-supporting, NOW PAC-toting candidates would vote for a woman because she’s a woman, they contended, and anything else is unacceptable.  

This is just ridiculous and wrong on so many levels. First off – sure, getting the Kennedys was a coup. But how is that related to the feminist cause? Just ‘cus Ted is a staunch leftist doesn’t mean he has a strong track record of supporting the old females in his personal life. With this guy, its all about the name, and association with the storied Camelot of yore.

More important is the assumption that good feminists must automatically vote for Hillary. Only with a woman will we get all our crucial issues of abortion rights, civil rights and general equity protected properly.  This is such a fascinating election in so many ways, not least of which is the ability to have this discussion in the first place. Heading into Super Tuesday, we’ve got the first “viable” woman candidate facing off against the first “realistic” African-American candidate. Yippee for us, right? Theoretically, we’ve grown up and into the new society we’ve always thought was possible. We’ve cast off the burkas of racism and sexism, and we’re all about the person inside. Right? But this kind of vitriol being exchanged between supporters (and the recent questionable volleys between the candidates’ camps) show we’ve still got major issues.   

What it comes down to is this: equal rights between men and women means truly judging someone by effort, character, and merit. Gender, or race, or sexual orientation, is a secondary concern. Our votes are supposed to be carefully made, taking into account an entire range of ideas and past history. We’re supposed to consider who will be best for the country, in the context of this clusterfuck of international relations and quagmire of domestic issues. We shouldn’t blindly choose based on anything, whether it be party, or gender.  

I’ve considered the two candidates as candidates, as people, as leaders. I’ve made my choice. And I feel like I still can keep my storied Feminist membership card after I vote for Obama.

Thoughts? Talk amongst yourselves.

Posted in Rants by: Amy 


Cultured Pop, Prepared Fresh Weekly

And now, the inaugural edition of what will certainly be my insanely anticipated and influential take on the weekly cultural offerings. Take notes.  

Tunes: I’ve been digging on Vampire Weekend this week. Sure, their buzz was ridiculous. They were touted as the second coming of every big indie band in the past few years, along with Paul Simon circa-Graceland. If you remove all that hype and just listen in, it’s entertaining, grooveable, and original.  

Digging into the archives, I’ve been getting addicted to old school androgynous glam rock. Think Lou Reed on his first two albums, and David Bowie in the Ziggy Stardust era. Such weird, wonderful stuff, and the combination of pop, rock and sci-fi glory that is Ziggy is still mildly shocking and eminently enjoyable today.  

Books: This week I finished Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. What struck me about this book was the starkness of the writing, the plain language, the step by step by step approach that seemed at once masterful and completely lost. I watched Didion search desperately for meaning at a time of tragedy, return to her journalistic education and seek out help in the only way she knew how. Of course, the painful and inevitable conclusion is that no matter how much “information” you can get, no matter how much “knowledge” you can obtain about death and grief and survival, it’s still not enough. It’s not a thick enough buffer to protect you from the reality of living without a loved one. Heartbreaking.  

In two nightly gulps I finished a little novella by Joyce Carol Oates called Rape: A Love Story. It’s been a while since I read Ms. Oates, but I am continually in awe of her writing approach, technique and ability. This short snippet of a book felt just that - way too short. The story was extremely compelling, telling of a beyond-brutal attack in a small town and the repercussions. But I wanted more. At 153 pages, it felt like the book barely scratched the surface. It did get me thinking about my own writing, though, and encouraged me to continue taking some of the linguistic risks I take and experiment even more.  

TV: JJ Abrams et al, how I love thee. You entertained and titillated me with Alias. You taunt and frustrate me with Lost. But I keep coming back for more. And you reward me for it. This week’s premiere of Lost was shocking (the ability of this show to continue to shock is shocking in itself) and rending. The Oceanic 6?? WTF?? And Jeremy Davies is here! Can’t wait to see what kind of douche he plays.  

One other short take. I tried Torchwood last season, and gave up within a couple episodes. It seemed too monster-of-the-week-ish for me, too campy, lacking in emotion and compelling characters. But hearing that my boy Spike (James Marsters from Buffy and Angel) was making a guest appearance on the second season premiere as a bisexual bad boy was just too much. So I tuned in last week. And holy lord - there was hotness. There was male kissing. There was extreme fighting, and lots of drinking. All in a two-minute reunion scene between Capt Jack Harkness and his ex, Spike (of course he had another name, but I forget. He’s Spike). But even more, there was improvement in this show, in terms of storytelling ability and content. So I’ll keep tuning in. And hope Spike returns for more.  

Posted in Bookwormy by: Amy 
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A Total Cliche

The life of writer should focus on ridding the world of cliches. Eliminating all those tired phrases and cringe-worthy crutches. Infusing the world around us with the new, the creative, the fresh. But think about how many cliches still exist about the life of a writer, or the process of writing. My favorite? Read short or long biographies about established authors and you’re bound to find some reference to how their characters took on a life of their own. Without fail, some author will describe how, during the writing process, their characters moved in unexpected directions and developed their own worlds, separate of what the author intended. The literary persons jump off the pages into flesh-and-blood people, “It’s Alive!” style, dragging their devoted writers, relegated to simple describers, along for the ride.  

As a younger writer, I kept waiting for that magical process to happen. Result – I didn’t plan enough, waiting for inspiration and supernatural creation to take over. I’d always get stuck and never finish my stories. So I stopped waiting. Over the four years it took to create my novel (unpublished y’all – waiting for that particular version of magic to strike), there was no lightning from on high that made my characters Frankenstein-monster-like entities. What did happen was a lot of hard work, a lot of planning and replotting and revising and rethinking and re-everything. There were surprises that came from problem solving and reworking. But it all came from that weird stew that is my noggin.  Writing can be magical in many ways, and the resulting read ideally even more so. But I feel a snarl coming on every time I hear tired cliches about the processes that occur during writing.  

What about you? What writing cliches drive you nutty? 

Posted in Rants by: Amy 
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To the Skin that is Thick

Us writers are supposed to have thick skins. It’s a catch-22: we’re supposed to be intuitive, observant, and sensitive to the things around us. That’s what gives us the material to be witty, satirical, heartbreaking, or simply kickass at selling stuff. But at the same time, we’re supposed to be hard, resistant to the “slings and arrows” that become part of our job. We get a lot of crap as part of been a working writer, criticism that’s both constructive and merely bitchy. And we’re supposed to be able to take it. 

So how do we resolve that?  The best I can figure, as unfortunate as it sounds, is that it only comes with time. After years of writing for highly varied (and highly critical) companies and clients, and years of merely surviving in corporate America, my natural inclinations for fight or flight are pretty dulled. While occasionally I still want to crumple down and cry after a particularly hard piece is met with disdain, or yell back in my best adolescent sneer, “well, you asked for this, stupidhead!” I can control it pretty well.  I guess it’s compartmentalizing. When it comes to reactions to work projects, I’m shiny steel. When it comes to creating work projects, or my own fiction work, I call upon all that malleable softness underneath, all that feeling and emotion. I’m trying to remember this as I hear rejection after rejection for my novel from agents. I picture myself like Colossus from the X-Men (geek alert), with an impenetrable exoskeleton I can call upon at will. It helps.  

What about you? What ways do you deal with the essential catch-22 of professional writing?

Posted in Bookwormy by: Amy 
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The Quiet Rebel Writer Makes NonResolutions

I refuse to call them resolutions. Resolutions are fleeting and fail without fail. Instead, they’re goals. Goals that just happen to be made around the new year. I made them, and they revolve around work – specific income goals, client wish lists, etc. All very statistical and nicely aggressive. I’m proud of them.  

But I also made some other goals revolving around work/life, which, as any freelancer knows intimately, is hard to separate in our chosen profession. And I struggled with it last year – when to call it a day, when to respond after-hours to clients, and when to get out of my comfortable cave and talk to real, living, breathing people. I have a hermit tendency that’s given way too much room to grow with a home office and independent writing. So this year, my goal is to join a few more writers and networking groups, and take advantage of social opportunities when they arise.  

I’m starting strong – signing up for some writers’ groups and meetings, reading for a book club or two, and reaching out to some folks I’ve never hung out much before, but who look pretty cool. I’m so proud of my introvert self.  

I’ve heard that being introverted is naturally aligned with being a writer or other creative type. It makes sense – a willingness to devote yourself to unnatural hours and solitude means it probably feels comfortable. I’m definitely an introvert. I got over my adolescent fear of people and moved past the painfully shy period in my life. I learned to enjoy being with groups of friends at parties and out on the town, or simply one-on-one. But I also learned that I will often choose blissful solitude, whether its at home or going to a movie, when I have a choice.  For 2008, my goal then is for more balance. Give myself the quality me-time that I definitely enjoy, but also try to get out of the house and mingling more.

What about you? Any introverts in the house? Any social-themed goals for the new year?

Posted in Writing as Sanity by: Amy 
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