What–is it Labor Day already?

I can’t believe that Labor Day has sneaked up on me. Most years, I go out to Lone Star Park and work the phones for the MDA telethon, but this year I just didn’t get set up to do that. And I don’t know if I’m physically up to going out there (a horse racing track, in the semi-heat, although it’s air-conditioned and you do get to meet the Channel Five news anchors and crew, whoopee-doo). When it used to be at Six Flags, that was a LOT more fun. We’d sneak out for short breaks and go to the top of the Oil Derrick or get a Pink Thing. That was back when I could actually enjoy standing on a rickety orange steel floor and feeling the derrick rock back and forth with the wind.

However, I’ll be watching the telethon on Sunday and Monday. I’m a little worried about JL at his age and with his health, but you can bet he’ll be there and in charge. He’s done it when he was a lot sicker and could hardly breathe. You’ve gotta admire someone like that. (The polar opposite of me, in fact, although our birthdays are only a couple of days apart.) Try to catch Jack Jones, Steve Lawrence, Jason Alexander, and Maureen McGovern; they’re great, and they’re typically on every year. I never knew Jason Alexander (“Duckman” and “Seinfeld”) could SING until I heard him do a Telethon medley. And Gary Lewis always makes a guest shot (although last year they interrupted it for some dumb weather warning, so I didn’t get to hear him!)

Yes, I realize the Telethon is the butt of many, many rude jokes. Everyone’s postmodern and cynical. But I think the cheesy acts are part of the fun, and many really GOOD acts are on during the most-watched hours. (They had the Five Browns one year, a family of concertizing pianists.) MDA is a well-run organization and you can be sure that your money goes toward the charity in the form of MDA camps, help to families, and research, not toward paying the staff. I hope that if you do tune in, you decide to pledge!

You can watch the Telethon live on the Internet, in fact. (I realize that many local markets have cut back on the number of hours they show or have eliminated it altogether.) Scroll down to the picture of the TV screen and click.

http://www.mdausa.org/

With that, we return you to my regularly scheduled whining.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone

(Yes, I know that Mr. Ellison is a Jew, and it’s a toss-up as to whether he’d appreciate my quoting that . . . although I’m sure he’s aware of the entire Bible as literature . . . yet the sentiment somehow fits.)

I’m linking to Harlan Ellison’s public apology/contrition statement. You’ll have to scroll down or do a “find on this page” function in your browser to find the response that he posted about his childish stunt at Worldcon. I think he really IS a bit daunted and didn’t think this through, and even though the apology probably won’t make any difference to those who are upset by The Principle Of The Thing, well, there it is–he said something. Perhaps not enough. For some people, nothing he could say would be enough. They’ll think he’s got too much of a mocking tone in the apology (I see it as the usual self-deprecating humor you’ve got to insert whenever you’re publicly excoriating yourself). Still, he said something.

http://harlanellison.com/heboard/unca.htm

I realize that groping is indefensible (I said before that I even hate it when Hubby passes by when I’m working in the kitchen and pats me on the butt–which he does just to irritate me, and he knows this, but I still ignore it instead of smacking him, and when I was a teenager, I would have been FLATTERED if someone had done that, so our feelings change as we smarten up.) And I do hate being put in the position of having to defend someone–or feeling that I should speak up on his behalf–because it DOES make me into some sort of apologist, and it might make it look as if I think pinching and squeezing and so forth is OK. And I really don’t. It’s about respect . . . it’s about boundaries . . . it’s about Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You (um, except if I want Val Kilmer to lustfully attack me, I don’t get a free pass to attack him, unfortunately.) I’m just aware that this stuff does happen, and it’s not the end of the world, and we wish people’s hearts would change such that they wouldn’t DO this any more, but mistakes DO happen. It’s just a fact of life. Screw-ups are one way that we learn. (“Education is the jockey; experience is the horse,” as Clark Gable’s character says in the movie “Teacher’s Pet.”)

I know Harlan Ellison to be a basically good and well-meaning and smart person, and yet this doesn’t mean he can be perfect all the time. We all screw up. We all make mistakes, of different sizes, all the time. “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.”

Let me tell you a story. Several stories. Well, maybe you don’t want to hear the details. There have been times I’ve hurt somebody’s feelings. A couple of times in teenhood, I was told what to do by my mother, who was using 1940s mentality to cope with 1970s situations, and the result was that I acted like a jackass. [I *still* wish that I had managed NOT to break up with Ann (my ex-best-friend whom I still miss even after 30 years) over that stupid two-timing boy, for example.] After college, I lost two very important friendships when I handled situations unwisely. Once the word is spoken, it cannot be unspoken. These are things that “seemed OK to do at the time,” but were not. Did I learn? Yes. Could I apologize? No, not really. It was just . . . a mistake that couldn’t be rectified. I mean, in each situation I *did* apologize, but it didn’t matter. The page had been turned. The stupidity had been committed.

I think that’s what we’re looking at here. I don’t think there’s any merit in carrying on about lawsuits, or how someone should knee guys in the nuts if they look like they’re about to touch you (which just takes you down to their level, as Mema would say), or circulating petitions to have people spanked, etc. That’s just the big hoo-ha that people always like to make whenever they see the chance, and that stuff will die down when the next gossipworthy event takes place. We mustn’t trivialize the event because we don’t want to set a precedent for dismissive treatment of women, but on the other hand we don’t want to make more of it than just (as H. E. said) a childish stunt that was ill-thought-out and stupid. Everyone enjoys a good pile-on, but this isn’t a plagiarism scandal that is complicated, but just a boo-boo done by someone who just didn’t realize–or had a Senior Moment, which is what I’m betting on. I see that a lot, even in younger people.

(And I seem to recall that during the various recent plagiarism scandals, I was in the minority when I said that it was always wrong and that I didn’t buy that someone could “accidentally” copy fifty passages out of three other books verbatim, and I got yelled at by people who said I was just jealous that the authors were getting published. I kept saying that it’s about the plagiarism. But people wanted to gloss that over and say it was OK. Many more are involved in this outcry. Theft of intellectual property–worse than a male-chauvinist-pig moment in public? Hmm. *I* think so, but then that’s me again.)

This is why I sit at home and write, creating my own versions of the world (or other worlds) in which I control everything that happens and everything that the characters do. This is why I’m an introvert. This is why I don’t try to go out and cope with groups of people all the time. It’s tough to deal with people. It’s fun to deal with ideas.

Ideas don’t get their feelings hurt.

(Well, there *was* that incident with that book by Kierkegaard. But we’ve got to leave the past behind. . . .)

Sometimes we just have to grin and shake our heads

Yeah, yeah, people have been telling me with disapproving glee that one of my heroes and favorite people, the great Harlan Ellison, did a Naughty and Nasty Trick to one of my other author-heroes, Connie Willis, during the WorldCon Hugo awards presentation last weekend. *sigh* No, I’m not surprised. No, I’m not scandalized. She handled it with aplomb and grace, and she says she isn’t upset. I’m sure she *was* a bit upset or at least taken aback, but she’s classy and she doesn’t want to make a big deal.

Lots of people DO want to make a big deal. Well, yes, I’m a feminist (and I know what we went through to make the world into what it is today, after seeing my mother’s generation and how it was OK for their husbands to SPANK them for “spending too much money” or whatever–see “I Love Lucy” episodes–and after hearing at my first job many comments of “Well, little lady,” and “A gal like you should be lookin’ for a husband before it’s too late” and so forth from the Old Boys Network), but I still think . . . that people are doing EXACTLY what HE wanted!

Think a moment. Harlan Ellison is used to being the outrageous one who “made a scene.” He knows that he’s the model for the Appin Dungannon character in Sharyn McCrumb’s adorable (though hated by many fen, and, yes, I can see why but I still find it funny) _Bimbos of the Death Sun_. He’s from the Old School Days and is probably consciously trading on his That Dirty Old Man status. And so I believe that he stood there thinking, “I haven’t made a scene yet!” This was an impulse that he gave in to (if he DID it–I wasn’t there, didn’t see a photo, etc.) on the spur of the moment to cause a ruckus! Everyone played right into his, er, hands (*groan* excuse the pun). He is probably laughing his butt off right now because everyone’s blogging about it! (Including me!)

Though I imagine that his wife Susan is having to pinch the bridge of her nose and shake her head a lot. She’s got to be somewhat aware of his tradition of being outrageous, so . . . she can handle it. Bless her heart, though. Doesn’t mean I don’t roll my eyes sometimes myself.

But the POINT is . . . he WANTS you to get all up in arms and make a big deal. I can hear him going “hee hee hee” into his cuffs right now, in my mind’s ear. The whole idea was to get you all gasping and into a state of righteous indignation. And then to hear the suck-ups saying things to defend him. And to wince when a few of us say, “What do you expect from a guy of that generation? Give an older man a break–he and his guys think that’s funny, and they really DON’T realize they’re being dismissive or what-have-you, but see it as Monty Python-esque. My uncle was like that.” Which is kind of what I’m inclined to say. But then I feel feminist guilt at blowing it completely off . . . ah, to hell with guilt–my guilt-meter stays pegged all the time anyway. So I’m just going to say, let Ms. Willis handle the situation. If she had wanted some kind of apology or scene . . . we’d have heard about it by now. So let’s just laugh it all off and shake our heads.

I’ll say this, though . . . when this kind of stuff used to happen to me now and then (when I was young and less yucky), I would always scold the guy and laugh it off with the “you wish” kind of thing. “Look but don’t touch,” “I’m perfectly adjusted, so don’t fool around with the knobs,” hand-slapping and scolding stuff, but I always felt really funny after a moment or two. I knew I was being seen as an object. The guy typically was doing it to embarrass me, one-up me, or whatever, not just to get a rise out of the crowd, so the situation was somewhat different. Still, I felt objectified and it made me uncomfortable. I don’t walk up to people and start touching them without invitation, even patting their arms or playing with their hair or whatever, all of which seems to be something that a lot of extroverts think nothing of. Or they consider it a legit part of extended flirting. I have been called standoffish sometimes. It can be a little creepy.

So yes, it’s great that nowadays women don’t have to put up with patronizing kinds of touching and so forth. However, I think HE did this deliberately just to see the screeching and hollering and politically correct scolding . . . which would be just like that contrarian . . . and he probably didn’t give it a deep amount of thought. It was just an impulsive grabby thing. Not the most admirable thing in the world, but hey, a minor mistake. It doesn’t lower my esteem for him. It’s just like when Jerry Lewis apparently made some remark about “broads who are uppity” or whatever . . . he was trying to get their goats and get people talking. These guys are almost as old as my dad would be had he lived, so let’s just give the elders a break. Wisdom has to take a break now and then and yield to . . . whatever, I suppose.

I figure it was just the usual “for the record books” outrageous thing to give people something to yammer about. Publicity stunts, anyone? There is no such thing as bad publicity, friends. So it doesn’t bug me. There are more important things to worry about . . . such as how alarmingly not-healthy some of my favorite people are looking in those photos. And whether my instinctive shooting off of my mouth will torpedo all chances of my getting into print once again. And whether I’ll be able to get up on my tiptoes tonight in dance class (ha).

Your mileage, naturally, may differ.

It’s up to you, New York, New York

I spent Friday night and part of Saturday making the changes in _Camille’s Travels_ that the agent and I talked about on Friday. Today I “tweaked” the book a bit more and put fifty-three comments into the text (comment fields–they’re kind of like footnotes) to show her where to look at the changes I’ve made. I used to have a “real” job as a software engineer and product staff member, and I used this feature all the time to show all my managers and software people when I modified the spec documents. I put a comment in the text at every point where (1) the agent made a comment in the original text, or (2) I made changes in response to what we discussed by phone.

All of these changes improve the book, IMHO. Whether we end up working together or not, I owe the agent a debt of gratitude for the helpful high-level insights. I prefer the book without the character having to sleep with those two guys, but after all I had been told about “sex sells” and needing sex scenes (and this was by agents and editors as well as writers!), I felt that I should do it. I don’t miss the few lines I had to take out.

I gotta lotta advice about this endeavor, too.

Advice so far:

Mama: “I told you Aunt1 and I didn’t like ‘Dabney.’ We told you to change that. It’s too hicky. How about . . . George? Walter? Dexter?”

George: destined to be unpopular name for a while because of the President.
Walter: not very of-the-moment, either.
Dexter: too much like “Poindexter,” who was a nerd in my day

Justin, Joshua/Josh, etc. would be better. Old Testament prophets/judges’ names seem to be popular at the moment. I went with the agent’s suggestion of Lance, despite the problem of Lance Bass (of N’Sync) having reportedly come out the other day. (And this guy is one of our romantic interests.)

“Well, don’t pick weirdo names and spell them funny next time!”

Hubby: “Why did you say you had ANY reservations about it being a YA?! You should have said you didn’t care if it was marketed to left-handed Republican Druids!! Who gives a crud! She’s the one who knows how to sell, so let her do the job!”

True. When will I ever learn to keep my big mouth shut? When will I ever learn that we are not Close Personal Friends with everybody who seems nice enough on the phone? When, indeed.

Anyway, now I wait. I also sent along the openings to five of my other completed novels, so maybe the agent will read those, as well. We agreed that another phone call would come next Friday . . . I trust that this will happen. I’ve revised to editorial direction, I made the deadline that I suggested, and I can’t see any business reason that she’d say I haven’t done this thing right. I can only hope that I don’t hear the Sounds of Silence from here on in.
^ @ @ ^
More snappy retorts to common sitcom lines of plug-in dialogue:

Onscreen: “You took the only thing I ever loved!”
Heckler: “What, this balloon? You can have it bac–whoops.”

Onscreen: “I cannot accept such a lavish gift.”
Heckler: “Well, you’d better, because JCPenney doesn’t take returns on personalized diamond-encrusted crossbows, so it’s either you keep it or I find another boyfriend with the same initials.”
^ @ @ ^

“A Grace for Ice-Cream”
by Allan M. Laing

For water-ices, cheap but good,
That find us in a thirsty mood;
For ices made of milk or cream
That slip down smoothly as a dream;
For cornets, sandwiches and pies
That make the gastric juices rise;
For ices bought in little shops
Or at the kerb from him who stops;
For chanting of the sweet refrain:
“Vanilla, strawberry or plain?”
We thank Thee, Lord, who sendst with heat
This cool deliciousness to eat.

from “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry,” edited by Peter Washington; via Barb Jernigan on the BardRoom echo

Shira-what-ki?! A recipe for low-carb dieters

Most of you know that I’m on an ultra-low-carb regimen, actually an 800-950 calorie-a-day Medifast program that allows one “normal” salad/veggie and meat meal a day. Recently the Medifast message boards have been alive with claims that the Shirataki noodles from Japan, which are made from soy or from sweet potatoes and supposedly have very few carbs (if you believe the Nutrition Facts, unless you Trust No One), actually mobilize and burn fat. I don’t know about that–I used to rely on the myth that it took more calories to chew celery than you got out of eating it, and ate tons of celery, but stayed fat–but I do know that it’s like having pasta, and it’s like cheating. So I decided to try the stuff out.

There are two kinds: the curly ones that are like ramen noodles, and the wide ones that are somewhat like fetuccine. The curly ones are better, IMHO.

You’ll have to go to an Asian market or a health food store to get ’em. Our Central Market recently started carrying them. When you open the package, you’ll faint from the stink of bad, spoiled fish. But that’ll rinse away (I’d rather not ask where it comes from, anyway) . . . so don’t be put off.

Now, let’s make a meal that you can have on the diet AND feed your family with.

(Oops. Stuck it behind the cut.)

Continue reading “Shira-what-ki?! A recipe for low-carb dieters”

Jokes no one understands

So you never “got” the “no soap radio” joke? Finally, an explanation.

(If you haven’t heard that one: Two penguins are in a bathtub. One asks the other, “Pass the soap.” The other replies, “No soap–radio.”)

(I heard a variation that begins, “Two strawberries are floating in a tub of yogurt. One asks the other, “Pass the Splenda.” The other says, “No Splenda–Stevia.” But that one is even more looney-tunes.)

This leads to other nonsensical jokes.

Q. How many Mensans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A. Mensans, HA! They’re so smart and they think they can fit into a little bitty lightbulb?

Or the surrealist:

Q. How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A. Fish.

But I like this one that I just made up:
Q. How many cows does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A. Mu.*

Now, THAT’S funny!
* [_Mu_ is reputedly the proper response to an unanswerable Zen koan.]

Note: This is MY fault, not the agent’s or anyone’s

Just to clarify from my previous post. . . .

I’m not saying that the AGENT did anything wrong. I swear by all that I’m allowed to swear by (which I think is pretty much nothing, because IIRC, we’re not supposed to swear by anything in my beliefsystem) that the original communication did say we were going to discuss representation. I don’t think that I misread it or read that much INTO it. However, there were no commitments, and the agent was not obligated to do ANYthing.

The comments are reasonable, and I think the changes will improve the book. All we’re basically doing is toning down the sexual stuff that I felt I had to put IN there in order to make it sell; I’m happier with the character not having to be so overtly sexual. No matter what happens, we’ve probably improved the book. (Also caught a few infelicitous phrasings.) I am not criticizing the agent’s behavior.

All I’m saying is that I guess I’ll NEVER learn not to get excited about things. I need to just never expect anything to turn out well, and that’s a lesson I’ve never been able to learn. I was taught as a child to aim high and believe that anything’s possible, etc., and this has left me an unrealistic adult. A worthless starry-eyed dreamer. I need a constant reality check. Just because everyone else gets something does NOT mean that I’m going to get the same breaks. And unless I want to always be publicly humiliated when I fail once again, I need to learn to SHUT THE HELL UP. What’ll be humiliating is having to explain this to my aunt and various other people who have had such high hopes, and if I had just kept quiet instead of always blathering on about possibilities, there would be no demands for explanations. If I win the Pulitzer, win the Texas Lottery, and get elected President, I need to keep my damn trap shut about it–after all, if someone needs to know, they’ll find out eventually. I don’t know why this is such a tough lesson to learn.

But then they’re ALL tough lessons, aren’t they?

I also don’t think that all is lost. I’m going to do the revisions, and we’ll see what happens. Again, if I am not destined to succeed in this, it won’t happen no matter what and no matter how worthy, so I should not be counting on *anything*. (But try telling my idiotic inner child that.)

I *am* considering making all of these posts friends-locked (that’s a good suggestion), but I hesitate for two reasons. First, there are a number of people who come here to read who don’t have LJs at all, and therefore they wouldn’t be able to read these entries. But more important, I think it would be dishonest to put on a false front and NOT share the downs as well as any “ups” that might accidentally happen along. It’s more honest to admit when I’m disappointed, when I’m licked, when I have to decide whether it’s worth picking myself up off the ground and trying to stand tall again. I’m hoping that someone out there who’s having a tough journey in life can follow along and feel better about being able to say, “At least I’m not as screwed as her!” I haven’t said anything bad about anyone but myself, and I already know I’m bad, so I’m not revealing any secrets here. . . .

But if entries do start to turn up locked, it’s not because of y’all, but for caution’s sake. (Caution seems to enjoy being thrown to the wind around here. I think they’re having an affair.)