Monday, August 30, 2010

...Did *What* Now??

Picture this: You just watched a teacher you really, really dislike transform into a cobra the size of an apartment building. It is now trying to eat you. So, you turn on your heels and run. So far, natural response, right?

Now, your phone rings.

Do you: A) keep running; B) chuck the phone at the snake, hoping it'll decide it likes phone innards better than people guts; or C) answer the phone?

Well, if you tend towards the saner, smarter end of humanity, you probably picked either A or B. Only an idiot would pick C, right? I mean, avoiding the giant snake-monster would probably take precedence over answering the cell.

Apparently not everyone thinks so, because the character in the show I just ever-so-subtly described answered the probably non-lethal phone.

At this point, I totally missed everything the person on the other line said, because in my head I was going, "What the blazingflyingdefecating flying trout is this?" This thought took pretty much the entire phone conversation to complete, because, being opposed to cussing on general principle, I can't just think "What the ****?" and be done with it.

Who in their right minds takes the phone over avoiding death by cobra stomach acid?

This sort of idiocy jars me out of the story, whether it be a movie, TV show, or book. Well, I have yet to see something on such a giant-snake scale in a book, but I imagine an occurence like that would cause me to hurl the offending book against the wall, or the ceiling, thus ruining the popcorn stuff and sending asbestos raining down on my head, which would not be a good thing. (But again I digress. Ooh! Bug!)

How does everyone else react to illogical character reactions? Does it result in a blank screen or a dented wall? Or are you more forgiving than I am?

Or, in this phone-centric age, would it actually be more natural to pick the phone over the snake? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure I'd be surprised if this were the case.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Culture Shock

I've been in Oregon the last ten days or so, visiting my dad and his side of the family, and it's been quite an... interesting experience.

My family is the one poor family in two generations of hard workers and extremely wealthy, successful people on my dad's side. (This has a lot to do with the state of my dad's work ethic, but that's not the point here.) So I've grown up with the mindset that money is something to be put towards bills and food.

So I come to Oregon, and suddenly I'm thrust into this "culture" where people commonly spend upwards of $30 on a meal for two people.

My grandpa's a retired doctor. I have no clue what my aunts and uncles do, but they're all just as well off as my grandpa is, at least compared to my own family's financial state. Also, they're all very close. My cousins are real buddy-buddy with each other. (Not with me--my family has never been close to my extended family on my dad's side, mostly because of horror stories he's apparently told about my mother, none of which are true.)

I have never felt so uncomfortable.

These people have no problem spending money. Save three cents a gallon on gas if you've got a Safeway card? Oh, no, that's fine, it's just three cents. Leave a $20 tip? No problem. Spend over $100 on books in one day (something I have always wanted to do)? Pocket change.

This whole mindset of "price doesn't matter" is so completely alien to me. When I go to restaurants, particularly if someone else is paying, I get the cheapest thing possible. Here, the restaurants we've gone to, the cheapest thing is $14. This actually causes me physical discomfort. (Really, it does. I swear.)

And this has made me realize why I hate politics. Politics is the rich man's pasttime, in my world. People who don't make enough money to pay mortgage on a regular basis quite frankly don't have the time to listen to all the mudslinging people do in Washington that passes as political talk. Politics make people unpleasant and argumentative. There are a grand total of three people in my dad's side of the family who don't give a crap about politics, and they are me, my mom, and my sister. (Used to be my brother, too, but he's been corrupted recently.)

Right. I realize this is somewhat ranty, but I can connect this to writing! Really!

I will probably never be able to write well in the point of view of someone who doesn't care that they're paying $14 for chicken and dumplings. The whole idea of that rich-guy mindset is just so alien to me that I'd feel like a complete poser if I tried to capture that worldview through writing.

Anyone else feel that way about certain mindsets? Or am I just a freak? (Both options are equally possible, I assure you...)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Nothing's As Expected, Apparently

Today, I officially finished my evil, evil Frankenstein essays. They are DONE. And the last one, I'm pretty sure, is going to get a big, fat F.

This is not me bemoaning my perceived lack of writing talent. (Well, actually, that's part of it, but we'll just pretend that's not the case for the sake of argument.) This is me realizing that the theme I argued in that essay is probably not an "accepted AP answer."

Let me share an anecdote. I'm sure it's not angsty or anything...


Third quarter, last year, we had a block period in English class to read a really interesting article by Annie Dillard and write an analytic essay response to it. I enjoyed the essay. It was about babies.

Ha! Despite the fact that my Google-fu sucks, after twenty minutes of fruitless searching, I finally remember a name from the text, and I have it: it appears to be an excerpt from Dillard's book For the Time Being, and was (as far as I recall/was able to Google-find) used at some point in an AP English test.

Anyway, to make things short, the excerpt is in the viewpoint of someone who is certainly not a nurse. This person describes a part of some obstetrics ward like a kind of assembly line, and just basically treats the whole thing like some giant baby factory.

The accepted AP answer for this is: nurses are disillusioned about babies. Without this, one cannot hope to get more than, like, a 3 on this essay, because if you don't get exactly this answer, you have gotten the wrong answer.

My answer? The narrator is disillusioned about babies. Why? Because all the imagery that is supposed to make us think nurses don't like babies after being around them so much is in the narrator's point of view. Thus, the narrator's view of the world colors the text, not a nurse's. (It is made very clear in several places that the narrator is not a nurse.)

I know that I got my answer partly because I view literature through the lens of a writer. And I was "wrong," because I got the "wrong" answer, because I do not get the right AP answers. I get the answers I think make more sense in the context of the fiction-y things that are happening in the text. Like the little issue of who's actually got the point of view.

But, had I written that in a proper AP exam, I would not have scored well.

Does this strike anyone else as, like, wrong?? English is all about analyzing stuff. How does a person analyze something incorrectly? Analysis is, practically by definition, individual to each person, with infinite variations colored by each person's life experiences. So how can you say that a person's analysis is "wrong"?

I encounter this in the whole AP English curriculum quite often. It gets me quite annoyed. But of course the English teachers think it's perfectly natural.

So, really, does anyone else feel this way, or is my whole view of analysis completely "wrong"? I'd hate to labor under the delusion that I'm in any way correct, or anything...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Not As Evil As All That, Really

I'd intended to post my backlogged rant on clarity today, but something happened that I have to comment on.

I have, officially, found a book I hate on principle more than Twilight.

(Gasp! Impossible! Surely you jest!)

No. It's true.

The book?


And not entirely (but, admittedly, partly) because I had to read it for school.

Modern interpretations of Frankenstein's monster, I think, tend to portray him as an unintelligent beast who can do naught but murder. (At least, that's my experience, although sometimes this is a bit skewed for comedic purposes.) I feel that such portrayals do the poor thing a great disservice.

For one, he taught himself to talk, and read, without any healthy human interaction.

This book sickens and disgusts me for one very powerful (in my mind) reason: the absolute bigotry.

People judge this poor monster because of his looks. Frankenstein himself, upon seeing the monster (he never even gets a name!) is sickened by the guy's ugliness. It's his own fault for making the poor creature all out-of-proper-human-proportion and ugly. It's not like the monster had any say in the matter.

Further, everyone treats him like a monster because of his looks. The one person who shows him kindness is the old blind man, and this because he is, indeed, blind. Frankenstein's creation is a very articulate, intelligent, kind person while talking with this man, which shows the potential he has in the world, if only people would ignore his ugly outer shell.

The worst part, of course, is that this view is presented as "good." Walton, who opens and closes the story through his letters to his sister, is enchanted by Frankenstein, describing him in terms that nowadays would have earned him the label "homosexual," and completely shares his view that the creature is a monster.

And then, the monster is remorseful that he caused his creator such suffering. And Walton still views him as a monster.

The monster should feel terrible remorse over killing people, and feel compassion for the suffering he inflicted on Frankenstein, but he treats Frankenstein like some martyr. The guy caused his own troubles by rejecting completely what he, in his pride and stupidity, created in the first place. The monster has no reason to revere Frankenstein, or call him--and I quote--"the select specimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men."

This whole thing makes me realize why I hate classics so much--they're filled with bigotry. I know that was simply the mindset of the times, but I simply can't stand books filled with misogyny and xenophobia when those things are presented as right and proper.

Ahem. And this concludes my indignant tirade against all things classic, but especially Frankenstein.

And, to you, Mr. Frankenstein: You are a poopy-face.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Goals. Goals? What Goals?


This is me in panic mode. Because I have only--

Wait, why is my computer clock stuck in February 2006?

Ahem. Sorry for the derail. Went to my handy calendar to check the date, and my computer is apparently not just a good twelve hours behind; it's a whole four years, six months, eight days, and twelve hours behind.

Not sure how that happened.

Ahem. Back to your regularly scheduled panicking.

I am panicking because I have only thirteen days left until school starts, and less than a week before my out-of-state vacation ends, and I reallyreallyreally need to get those Frankenstein essays done before Friday. And I haven't even finished the freaking book yet.

Ah, well. It's my own fault if I don't finish. Doesn't keep me from panicking, but keeps me from being too depressed. (Don't ask how. I have no clue. I'm just a freakish alienbrain like that.)

And now I don't remember why I started writing this blog post in the first place. This happens to me a lot, when writing, I think.

Ooh! I should blog about that!

Oh, right. I decided on my project for SeptNo, and will probably begin writing it before then. Meh. It's an unofficial NaNo-type challenge, after all, so I can just go with, "If I write 50k total on it in September, it still counts!"

Unless I finish it, in which case I count it anyway. Muahaha! I haz ebil laff!!!

What, me, slap-happy? Nah, can't be. I'm too awake to be tired.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Just PRETEND This Title Is Witty and Goal-Oriented

So, previously, I talked about goals, and the differences between ones that help you and ones that hinder you. So, now I'll take the time to be shamelessly egocentric. ('Cause, y'know, I've never been shamelessly egocentric before, or anything like that...) Ahem.

I'm in an... er... "honors" language arts program at my high school. I completely despise the program, and the teacher, but there are two very, very, very good reasons why I haven't dropped out. And there's one not-so-great reason, but hey--nobody's perfect, amirite?

1.) I really want the endorsement I get for finishing the thing. I mean, it's not like the national program--baccalaureate something-or-other, I think?--but it just sounds cool. I get an endorsement on my transcript! Awesomesauce! (Note: "Awesomesauce," or the use thereof, is a sure sign I've been spending too much time over at AW.)

2.) I refuse to quit things. I hate quitting things. I do that enough with my writing projects. Plus, the only time I quit something really BIG (a school musical), I felt horrible about myself afterwards. But mostly I don't want to be like Traitorboy, who quit the program and is now forever doomed to be tormented by those who remained.

3.) I really, really, REALLY want to do the big senior project. One, the teacher lets seniors have time to, say, work on writing (the theoretical focus of the class) instead of wasting their time with pointless "literary discussions." Two, I'm going to prove, once and for all, the thing I came so close to proving last year (twice): it is PERFECTLY POSSIBLE to write a whole freaking novel for the senior projects. Yes. Yes, it is. And I will prove this. And yes, this is petty, but I am proud to be petty if it means I finish a novel.

Anyway, the focus of this post is in the senior project. Sorry for the derail. I derail quite often, in case you can't tell from previous posts.

So. I decided, for the sake of getting the teacher off my back, to plan the steps of my project ahead of time. This is not something I do very often. It doesn't help much, so, uh... Well, anyway, I worked out a project plan, going up to December. And I thought I'd post these goals here, so that any loyal blog minions that might be lying around with nothing better to do can go ahead and poke me incessantly should I stray from this project plan and neglect these goals.

Heh, this is going to be a long post. Oh, well.

1. Plan project for SeptNo.
2. Write at least one short story.
3. Research at least ten agents and/or agencies.
4. Begin list of agents to query.
5. Blog. Weekly. At the least.

1. Participate in SeptNo. 50k FTW.
2. Revise last month's short story.
3. Research at least ten more agents and/or agencies.
4. Update list of agents to query.
5. Blog weekly at least.

Hm... y'know, I think I'll leave it at that for now. Around the end of September, I'll post a progress update. Or, at the least, I'll post the next two month's goals.

What? Me? Actually work on August's goals in a timely manner? Surely you can't be serious.

...somehow, a lack of AW smilies detracts from any sort of smiley effect one might attach to a post. Ah, woe...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

And.... GOOOAAAL!!!

Yes, well, I spent a good half-hour last night trying to come up with something witty to call this post, and I got nuthin'. So, you get this title. Sorry muchly.

So, goals. Goals are shiny. Goals can really help writers, I think, because they can give a person a concrete place to aim for, and a way to measure progress and thereby think he or she is doing something right.

Let me call attention to the key word up there: concrete.

Certain "goals" are not actually goals, but hopeless wishes. A goal--one that can actually benefit the goal-setter--is something that you, personally--"you" being the "goal-setter"--has the ability to attain without regard for outside influences that directly impact the fulfilling of the goal.

So, a "workable" goal, for writing, would be: I will write twelve chapters this month. A non-workable one would be: I will become able to support myself through my writing and give up my day job.

Why is the second one unworkable? Because, quite frankly, the odds of being able to make a complete living off of writing are about the size of a quark. Or, like, one-millionth in 4,866,723,609,127 times infinity. Probably less. (Naturally, these odds only apply if you actually write, which is another post in and of itself.)

Setting unrealistic goals for yourself is only going to hinder you. So, set goals you have a chance of completing. Stuff that relies on you doing it (ignoring possibilities of illness or whatnot), and not on some happy miracle deciding to settle on you (like the above example, and winning the lottery or whatever).

I've been setting goals lately. Writing goals. Which I now think I may save for another post. Because this one seems to be getting a little long.

And, for no particular reason at all...

If you find yourself at a crossroads, and bad guys are coming for you in three directions, take them out for ice cream. Bad guys are notorious for their severe ice cream allergies.

Next time: More shiny, shiny goals!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Refreshed and Ready for Another Go

What, no posts since May? Oh, shame on me. Shame.

Well, looking back on my last post, can I just say: bitter much? Yes, life sucks, but it's much more bearable when it's both fun *and* sucky.

Right. So, the blog has undergone many changes. All aesthetic, of course. (Me? Make a useful change? Pssh. As if.) The most dramatic, naturally, is--or will be--this rule:

No. More. Whiny. Posts.

So, loyal blog minions (*cough*if you exist*cough*) feel free to poke me mercilessly if I break this rule.

This post would be longer, but this computer I'm using is missing both the left shift and the "A" key, and is driving me nuts. Will have more patience tomorrow.

Also tomorrow: Goals! Shiny, shiny goals.