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This is why I hate New Year's: because it kind of feels like someone is standing at my elbow waiting to collect the last twelve months, glancing at their watch and tapping their foot, and I'm sitting here thinking "Hey! I'm still working on this, you fucker!" This is my life we're talking about, and I don't believe in stages or other arbitrary divisions--those are the constructs of fiction. I don't believe in clean slates and I don't believe we can just put things behind us. 2009 sucked in many respects, but that doesn't all go away at the stroke of midnight; it's just a tick on an arbitrarily set clock. Taking stock is all very well, I suppose, but I don't need a calendar to tell me that I'm not where I want to be.

So anyway; happy new calendar day, you jokers.
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1. George W. Bush. Occasionally, as this man worms his way out of office, I have irrational flashes of nostalgia for his slapstick leadership. Like, during the press conference this morning, when he made that little joke about the press "misunderestimating" him. Then I remember that he is not the governor on Benson or the mayor on Spin City, and everything that he has managed to fuck up, and I am angry again.

2. Save the Sea Kittens. I swear PETA was relevant once; or did I imagine that?

3. The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror is no more. Seriously, this was the anthology that made me want to write short fiction, and introduced me to a zillion writers. One of my career goals was to get a story into one of those volumes. I can't believe it's going away. (At least Ellen has a deal with Nightshade to do a couple of horror Year's Bests.)
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I don't know if I'm squeamish or what, but there are two recent commercials in heavy rotation that I can't watch; I mean that I literally have to look away until they are over, or change the channel. The first is that AT&T commercial where the texting thumbs have FACES on them. Right, because the world would be better if our fingers were able to carry on conversations that our mouths are too busy to have. AGH! It makes my thumbnails itch, it is so damn wrong.

The other commercials are the XBox 360 commercials where they pan around the people's heads to show that the back of them have been blown open to become a stage, etc. Man, I'm sure glad that special effects have progressed this far, but if the future means that I'll be watching movies on the inside of the guy's skull in front of me on the bus, I'm heading back to the fourteenth century. In the fetal position.
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Critique by Dave


You know I like these stories, and I was excited to read this. I've been hard on your last few submissions, but I was hoping this would be a return to form. I do think there's some good stuff in here--the action scenes, for the most part, are really well done--but in the end I had a lot of problems with it.

I hate to say it, but you lost me right at the beginning. )
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Dear Hallmark, Hershey's, FTD et al:

Why don't you just declare February "VALENTINE'S MONTH" and get it over with?

I hate your candy hearts,

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For those who are not aware, here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is winter. I say this because it seems that many of you are NOT aware. Here in Minnesota it is a daily discovery for many, like sheep who are startled to see the sun rising in the morning, and astonished by all the green stuff in the fields.* "It's COLD out there!" people like to say, and I will grant you those four words upon entering heated confines, although I myself prefer to go with a simple "Brr." In extreme cold it may be necessary to verbally acknowledge the temperature in order to shake it off. Neither of the two above variations requires a response from the hearer; a nod or a sympathetic smile is courteous, but not mandatory. This is how we roll. Meteorologists are permitted to talk about the weather at greater length, but considering that meteorologists are witches who manipulate the weather and feed false information to the public, there is little point in listening to them. THE SENSIBLE THING TO DO is to say very little about the weather, lest you be mistaken for a meteorologist.

IF YOU ARE NOT a meteorologist, and you feel an urge to expound upon the cold, to detail how cold your ears are, how you thought the windchill was going to kill you, or how the snow stuck to your shoes, YOU MUST LEARN. Winter is cold. Ice is slippery. Also, water is wet, speed kills, and Godzilla is angry. If you are a recent immigrant from warmer climes, you have a grace period of two winters; after that, you are no longer allowed to remark with wonder about the heaps of snow lining the sidewalk or the fact that, gosh, driving on snow and ice is sorta tricky. THE SENSIBLE THING TO DO is to swallow your rage against the weather until such time as a meteorologist crosses your path, at which time you may "slip" on a patch of ice and decapitate them with a snow shovel. The authorities generally look the other way in such cases. Be sure, however, that it is a silver snow shovel, or you will be haunted by the meteorologist's disembodied head, which will hover outside your bedroom window at night, singing "Summer Breeze" and vomiting needles.

FURTHER, if your vanity does not permit you to dress for the weather, you have already forfeited any right to complain about it. This is Protestant country, after all, and Protestants are hard people. (Look up the Salem Witch trials if you don't believe me.) If you will not wear the many layers of shapeless-but-practical winter garb of our culture, swaddling yourself in long underwear, boots, scarves, hats, hoods, and coats that give supermodels the appearance of being well-fed, then the merest shiver from you will become an invitation to rebuke. "You shoulda dressed warmer," we will say, in sober, disapproving tones, as if preemptively mourning your death by exposure. And you will deserve it. (The disapproving tones, not the death by exposure. Protestants are hard people, but--witches and meteorologists aside--not bloodthirsty.) Particularly if you will not sensibly accessorize for fear of "messing up" your hair. UM. Today, with the windchill, it is 15 degrees below zero by our quaint American temperature scale. Be a glam guy or a tough girl if you like, but if that is your choice then your suffering is your own business and no one else's. THE SENSIBLE THING TO DO is to shave your head, wear a hat, and install a personal generator to store all the static electricity you generate against the day when the meteorologists take out all the power plants with tornadoes and try to seize the government.

FINALLY, do not watch the local TV weather-persons. They are, in most cases, meteorologists, and therefore the enemy. Their subliminal messages will convince you to buy SUVs and crash them in the ditch for their highlight reels. Buy your own thermometer, ride the bus, and do not trust people who talk to you about the weather.

*Yes, this is an allusion to Douglas Adams. If you didn't catch it DON'T BLAME ME.


Nov. 14th, 2006 10:17 am
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The truth is that aside from, say, M&Ms and Dr. Pepper, I'm not much for sweets in most cases.* (You may hate me now if that is your way.) When I was a kid it was different. No disrespect to Mom, who makes some great cookies, but it was Grandma Burros that spoiled me. I used to bogart her brownies when we visited. They were a compulsion, like you get from those guys with the spiral hypno-wheels on their hats. (I run into those guys all the time. Sorry about the sugar in your gas tank, BTW. I WAS HYPNOTIZED!!) But the best, the best ever, were the donuts. Grandma made these insane cake donuts that were dense with super-goodness. They were tasty and filling but not overly sweet. She used to save bread bags and fill them with donuts, send them with my uncles when they went deer hunting (my uncles have been known to hunt via the pickup method, which involves them driving around on the property in their trucks, stopping when they meet each other to ask each other if they've seen anything. Authorities please note that they would of course never shoot at a deer from inside the car, as that would be quite illegal) and with us when we went home after a visit. Mm, those donuts. No one else does them quite as good, although Lane's Bakery in Madison comes closest.

Anyway, because the perfect cake donut is a lost artifact of the past, I'm not much of a donut guy. Krispy Kreme is just Not Right. I mean, what is that? Some kind of Wonder donut? Once in a while, though--and I'm talking every 4-6 months--I get a craving for a Bavarian Creme from Dunkin' Donuts. It satisfies some primal semi-annual need. For a couple of weeks now I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to buy one. (Yeah, just one. The counter person always looks so sad when I tell them this.) The problem is I don't want donuts in the morning. That's not the way to start out the day, with a big ol' sugar bomb. And every afternoon I stop by one of the three-count-'em-three Dunkin' Donuts franchises between the office and the train station (Chicago, fat? That's unpossible!) to ask for a Bavarian Creme. The counter person smiles and says Of course and looks in the trays, which are empty of Bavarian Cremes. Sometimes they wander in back, I guess to see if the Bavarians have left for the day. Every time I have been left bereft.

Dramatic sigh.

It's all about the quest, though. I will, before long, be satisfied in my search. And then, in 4 to 6 months, I will take it up again. This is my story.

Have you slipped into a sugar coma yet? If not, here's a video of elephants swimming. I kind of wish those guys would get off their backs, though.

*There is also the bread pudding which I make every year for Christmas Eve, which is now a controlled substance in several Minnesota counties.
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Although I haven't seen an official notice yet, other people have announced it; so I thought I'd let you all know that my story "The Water-Poet and the Four Seasons," which originally appeared at the inestimable Strange Horizons, will be appearing in Prime Books' Fantasy: The Best of the Year, edited by Rich Horton. May I just say WOW. My first reprint! Yay! I can't wait to see the full TOC for this one.

In book news, I just finished Valiant (I know, I know; I'm way behind the curve on this one) and as much as I liked Tithe, Valiant was a step above. Awesome, awesome book. Now I'm reading Hope Was Here. (Yes, I'm still reading Emma, but it's a long book and I need breaks.) I really kind of love Joan Bauer. Her books maybe wrap up a little neatly at times, but her protagonists are so, so wonderful.

It's been awhile since I gave y'all any elephant links of note. This just came out yesterday: elephants know themselves in a mirror. In other words, they are self-aware. I know this is science and all, but I can't help thinking . . . duh? Good to have more evidence, I guess. Also, lots of buzz around this NYT article about rogue elephant behavior, which also points towards elephants as susceptible to trauma, frustration, and despair; not to mention malicious intelligence. Again, not to paint myself as an expert, but this all seems pretty obvious to me based on the reading I've done. F'r instance, they've found that this sort of aggression in young males can be related to the culling or poaching of older bulls in the population; if elder bulls are reintroduced into an area, they act as mentors for the younger ones, teaching them to curb their aggression. But there has been a notable escalation in elephant attacks against humans, as the article notes. Mainly this is true in areas where there's just not enough space for both. Humans think of all land as their own, to cultivate and settle, but there's no universal truth that makes it so.

So . . . is it just me, or does this Borat thing not look in the least funny? I saw him on SNL over the weekend, and on Letterman last night, and at neither point did he make me laugh. (The dude in the background during the SNL open made me laugh at one point, but I'm not sure that counts.) I actually caught a fair amount of Yakov Smirnoff back in the day (I watched a lot of "Night Court"), so maybe it's just that I've seen the material before. So it's conceptual humor, eh? It's not making fun of Kazakhstan, but of the geographically and culturally ignorant Americans who take the act at face value? OK. It seems like a bit of a reach to me, but fine. But while I get the conceptual part, I think they forgot to add in the humor. Peppering one's talk with phrases like "the sexy" and punctuating it with a grinning thumbs-up isn't cutting it for me. I don't know. I'm not really sure why it's rubbing me wrong, but it is.

And finally, I'd like to end on a serious note. Today is Halloween, and you all know what that means. Please, please take all necessary precautions to prevent any undue pain and suffering. I'm speaking, of course, of dogs in costumes. Just don't do it. Pretend your dog is a wolf or some other such beast if you must--imagination is a powerful thing--but do not put him or her in a hat, a wig, or anything with sleeves. Your dog puts up with a collar; asking more is unreasonable and rude. Thank you for your support.
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I am a Midwesterner. I was born here and I've always lived here. There's a decent chance I always will. The lazy dismissal of the citizens of "flyover country" is one way to quickly get on my bad side; in other words, if you use "Midwesterner" as shorthand for "ignorant and unimaginative" I will get ticked off. Not to say that we don't have a few of those folks here, sure. But I don't care where you live, you've got some of those folks living on your block. Don't try to pretend that sophistication is a regional attribute.

That's only one strike against last night's episode of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." Aaron Sorkin, according to Wikipedia at least, was born in New York City, so perhaps he's never met anyone who admitted to being from the Midwest. I don't know. But from the moment that Tom mentioned that his parents were coming in from Columbus, Ohio for a visit, I was afraid there was badness coming. And Jesus Christ was there. Tom's mother goes out of her way to tell Simon, the show's only black cast member, how much she likes Halle Berry; his father doesn't give a crap about Tom's work and only expresses any emotion when he inexplicably blurts out a line about his younger son being in Afghanistan. Neither of Tom's parents has ever heard of Abbott and Costello or "Who's On First?" (for god's sake, if any of you reading this haven't heard of it, go watch this right now) and they are so dazed by the big city stage lights that they are unable to grasp their son's success.

Argh. I haven't spent much time in Columbus, but it's a big town. Three-quarters of a million people, nearly a quarter of whom are African-American. They have TV there. Cable TV, even. Lights, too. Fucking hell, Sorkin; seriously, are you smoking the crack again? I can't buy this as a character note, because although we're five episodes in, Tom is barely a character at this point, and I'd guess we won't be seeing his parents again. If you're trying to make some point about Middle America vs. Hollywood, then congratulations, you've just regurgitated every contemptuous dismissal of the audience as a bunch of clueless, reactionary rubes ever committed. The next time you get on a plane, try getting off somewhere that's not the coast. I'd offer to show you around, but I've got a problem with ignorant people who think they know a lot. They rub me wrong.

What with all the regional stereotyping, I hardly had the energy to get irritated with the mess Sorkin made of the race issues (apparently all black people come from the ghetto, and the "good" ones feel guilty for getting out of it) or his trademark civics-lesson-within-an-episode (the random appearance of a blacklisted sketch writer from the Sid Caesar era, held up as a mirror for us to better watch the continuing hagiography of Matt and Danny). Man. I just don't think I can watch this anymore.


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