BTW, OMG: “Dr. Strangelove” scenario/”WarGames” scenario and a smart man

Today commemmorates the day that Mr. Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov of the USSR saved the world in 1983 by correctly discerning that an alert telling their military commanders of an impending missile attack was a false alarm. He thereby averted a mistake like a “strike-back” that would have triggered the dominoes to fall and the end of the world as we know it (and please not to think we would feel fine or even still exist). Mr. Petrov, I salute you for your wisdom and quick action!

Anyone who hasn’t seen both “WarGames” (a little cheesy and definitely techno-dated, but the basic idea is still real) and the masterpiece “Dr. Strangelove” (written by Terry Southern and director Stanley Kubrick using a novel that isn’t even funny as the basis), must do so. We’ve gone into the “terrorist fear mode” and have almost forgotten the “superpowers in cold war and sword of Damocles hanging by dental floss” mode that so many of us lived through for years.


You had me at “##@$”

Dear readers: Let’s pretend that you like cozy/traditional mystery novels.

What would you as a reader think of a title like “MURDER AND THE SINGLE PERVERT” for a cozy with an edge? Is it just too over-the-top? Or would that tempt you to flip through or download a sample to take a peek?

Right now, the book is titled NICE WORK (IF YOU CAN GET IT), but that isn’t the kind of title that works nowadays. It’s the first Jacquidon/Chantal Carroll mystery. (Unless the one I’m working on about them going to a contest in NYC turns out to sell first.) Several of you have read it already, but if spoilers bug you, there are a few coming up for the plot.

The story is actually about a woman (Our Intrepid Amateur Sleuth) who is accused of killing the boss who just laid her off. She goes searching for the real killer to clear herself, and finds a web of deceit and intrigue leading to various S&M sex clubs and interest groups where people may or may not be entirely consenting adults. (The scenes are funny and there’s nothing explicit at all–it’s played as “strangers in a strange bar.”)

The boss turns out to have been a sexual predator who took advantage of a trusting newbie to the–would you call it a “belief system” or a “hobby” or what–lifestyle. But most S&M practitioners are NOT predators and take pains to ensure that nothing happens that has not been consented to and/or asked for. I don’t want to offend people who are into mild S&M by implying that they’re “perverts.” Or do they have a sense of humor and could handle the teasing use of the term in the title? It’s tough to say, because everyone takes offense at everything today. (“But I am IN-no-cent, Sir!”) On the other hand, it would intrigue people enough to peek inside the book, perhaps.

It’s supposed to resonate with the title of _Sex and the Single Girl_, see . . . but if I have to explain it, that ruins it. Maybe it’s just a dumb title. Can’t be worse than the title I now have, which doesn’t give any hint at all about the nature of the crime and sleuthing. I had planned to name those books after old standards (THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC, THE SHADOW OF YOUR SMILE), but it isn’t going to work in today’s market.

I don’t want readers to feel cheated by the promise I make in the title. I mean, the book also has a recipe for diabetic-friendly (hi there!) pumpkin muffins, but it’s not a culinary mystery–it’s just that the heroine has just been diagnosed, and I thought that it was a great recipe to share with others in the same situation. So it’s not all whips, chains, and Oscar Wilde readings. It’s mostly not that at all, in fact.

I just don’t know whether it would be worse to imply that the murderer was a “pervert” or just call him “differently turned-on.” Maybe just “kinky” would be better. I don’t know. Titles are tough. The book is a traditional/cozy with humor, a sister-sleuths thing like the Anne George books, but not quite so cozy and domestic as those books; my protagonists are in their late twenties and are urban professionals in Dallas instead of being retired ladies with a retinue of older people. Still, I think it might appeal to the same audience. And that might mean “pervert” would turn off the potential readers who are most likely to enjoy the story.

If this were easy, everybody would be doing it. Wait–isn’t everyone?

It was a great plan, on the face of it

Made a quick WallyWorld run this afternoon. As I rushed towards the front with my booty (no, I mean the stuff in the basket–MUCH smaller), I heard a small voice ring out behind me.

“Hi, Mommy!”

It was a little girl, around six, all in pink and orange with floral sneakers and an armful of friendship bracelets. Skipping along behind me.

In front of me I suddenly noticed a woman. No, an IRATE woman. Imagine Dr. Evil with hemorrhoids. “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” shrieked the harridan, gripping the basket handle.

The child skipped happily around me. “Looking for you! You got lost, Mommy.”

The mommy elevated three feet off the floor. “MOTHERS DO NOT get lost. CHILDREN get lost. They are forbidden to wander off, yet what do they DO?” She was visibly keeping her cool.

The child was still not fazed. “I’m sorry, Mommy,” she sang in an unconcerned tone calculated to charm a rampaging Tasmanian Devil.

The mother now notices something. “WHERE IS RODNEY?!” She sounds on the edge of panic.

“He’s looking for you. In TOYS.”

I could hear the poor mother’s teeth gnashing. Yet she managed to keep her temper. She did not even ask why she would be in TOYS in the first place. “You are supposed to keep track of him.”

“I know where he is. Come on!” The child skipped down the main aisle, back towards the back of the store where the array of pre-pre-Christmas offerings lurked.

“Let’s find him FAST and then we need to talk,” said the mother in a defeated tone as she hurried to catch up.

I would bet the kids drew straws to see who would “go find Mommy” and who could browse the dinosaur replica aisle a while longer. Parenting sure has gotten more difficult now that we are enlightened. My dad . . . well, let’s just say he would have given US a free trip into the future by knocking us into the middle of next week. He would be in jail these days. I just giggled and thought how much fun it might be to get a do-over nowadays, when you can have video games and an iPod and a laptop when you’re eight! *grin*

If you can’t afford to feed a REAL steer, here’s an alternative!

An unexpected backlash/frontlash. People were listening!

Thank you, everyone, for commenting on and linking to my previous post! I’ll be answering comments this afternoon (LJ has been slow in forwarding them). Who’d think I could inadvertently create a fooforaw in a couple of venues when I was just trying to entertain you with a small incident?

Honestly, I had no idea this would be such a triggering issue for so many people. I just thought it was funny, and after so many YEARS of small incidents like this (in which the bullies probably don’t even see themselves as bullies, because they’re conditioned to think fat people are lazy and worthless by the media and the doctors who constantly preach what a health problem it is and how easy it is to “just diet and exercise”), I thought I would try a different approach. I mean, in my experience it doesn’t do any good to confront and question people and make a big stink, because then they think you are fat, lazy, and RUDE AND OBNOXIOUS to boot. This sort of thing has happened in stores, in offices (“I can’t believe you were brave enough to wear that” and, to my husband, “Why would you marry such a FAT b**ch?”), at home (“My God! All your fat rolls show! Put on a huge boxy blazer that’s three sizes too large and hide your nasty evil bulk!”–typical Mother and female relative response), and in school (you can fill in those blanks yourself.) I could often de-fuse the tension by making a joke or being a clown. Sometimes they even came to accept me as The Clown, or they were able to overcome the barriers that they usually threw up (ha, threw up!) between themselves and people they thought were unworthy or unattractive, and actually came to know me as a friend.

I am not into the whole fat acceptance movement, although I approve of anything that makes people happier and more confident about themselves in this cruel world. It’s just that I can’t wave a magic wand and change myself into something “acceptable,” and it does no good for me to go around hiding or hating myself, so I have to do SOMETHING other than wear a cloaking device, which would actually be my first choice. I diet and exercise and work on myself, but for several years my medical issues have made results very difficult to get and hold.

I just thought the whole thing was funny. Granted, my blood sugar might have been high or low–one never knows these days–and I’m fairly fatigued all the time from the responsibilities of taking care of people and keeping up appearances, so of course it was funny to ME. *grin* In the old days, they called this “sarcasm,” and most people would’ve recognized it. “Are you being sarcastic?” would be a more insightful question than “Are you mentally ill?”, which is the question that the fats/unfats threads seemed to think was appropriate. Hey, perhaps even the old Saturday Night Live skits that were sarcastic/sardonic back in the day would be considered high art now, because people take everything so seriously. Hee!

As for pursuing them in some way, I think I’ll leave that to the next person they are rude to (and that will happen soon enough–it’s an overall attitude and pattern with people who act like that.) I have no vendetta and don’t want to get people fired; I know from living a while that what goes around comes around, and if they do something like that to someone who DOES have a lot of energy for correcting everything, they’ll be straightened out. Or maybe they’ll go telling people, and someone will point out that it was supposed to clue them in about how they should be there to sell, not to judge. Or maybe they’ll just go on as they are–airheads, in my view, and not worth worrying about because they don’t want to change (which is the necessary impetus for change.)

I posted about the incident on the fatshionista community, thinking they’d laugh and try something similar to be silly, but after the first few comments of “that was neat!” and “we love that response,” there was a HUGE pile-on about how I should have taken the Teachable Moment and lectured so as to change hearts, etc. (and about how they didn’t believe this had happened at all–a HUGE analysis that astounded me, because of course my post was partly tongue-in-cheek and Benchleyized, and I thought that was obvious.) They held me up as a bad person for not Straightening Those People Out.

Well, perhaps they still have the energy for that because they’re young, but I no longer do. In my experience, I’ve found (and your mileage may differ) that you don’t change hearts and minds with some impassioned plea or a burst of logic like a debater. Do all those corner evangelists get converts? No, mostly they get snorts and jeers, and their passion results in people who turn against the religion they are preaching without ever giving it a chance, because they don’t want to be preached to. I feel it’s the same here: had I gone on and on about how they shouldn’t be rude to any customer or anyone, or how fat people are people too, they’d have tuned it out and been angry if I got them into trouble. It’s not my purpose to get people into trouble or raise a stink. (I used to watch my mother do that, and it was almost always way more trouble than it was worth.)

I’d rather give someone a piece of my heart than a piece of my mind. So I took a different approach that was just funny, and that should have made a smart clerk realize that they were being played–and then if they wondered why they had been played with, they might figure out for themselves that they’d been inappropriate. But apparently most people are very literal, and a group of posters took the issue to unfatshionista and carried on for quite a long thread about how pitiful the incident was, how made-up it is, how I must need a lot of attention, how I’m obnoxious, and the usual stuff that they do over there (it’s basically a snark comm.) They spent a lot of time entertaining themselves with that, which I suppose is a good thing . . . my work can evoke an emotional response! Yay?

Really . . . when I was younger, I used to think I had to correct EVERYONE and everything. When I moderated FidoNet WRITING, I used to bug people about grammar, math, and everything, as if I were on some sort of crusade. I truly BELIEVED that they needed to know how to form plurals and that it’s not spelled “writter,” ever. But I realized people generally don’t WANT TO HEAR IT. Unless they ask, they don’t want to learn; they’re happy in ignorance of direct objects or plural forms. Many who came there claiming to want to be writers were just that–they wanted to have written and be famous for it, not to write something timeless and lasting (that takes lots of work, and even then it may not happen.) I decided to stop wasting energy on crusades and teaching pigs to sing. I know that there’s always someone else who will come along to do that, and if it works, yay. I now try to change hearts and minds in a more subtle fashion through storytelling (novels with themes). That may not work, either, but at least it doesn’t lead to a lot of shouting and getting people into trouble (which always makes me feel guilty, anyway.) If the change is ready to happen, it almost doesn’t matter what you do–you are the catalyst, and the change comes when the trigger presents itself. I’ve seen this over and over.

But there’s gotta be a response to anything, so instead of going meek or going postal in this situation (which wasn’t a big deal because I wasn’t even really shopping), I took another route. It was just a whim to shake things up. Really, don’t take it too seriously.

I think art projects on the wall would be awe-inspiring, actually. The reason I would never try it here–well, there are reasons. My mother would go postal, because she sees this as an “Executive Home” and she already thinks I keep it like a pigsty and hates the various artworks and things that I like as offbeat. My husband would just sigh and shake his head, because anything weird or awful would embarrass him when he brought his friends home or when anyone stopped by. It would be too flamboyant to do that. But somebody should do it in a bohemian loft somewhere. I’d like to see photos.

I wish more people on the fat/unfat communities had laughed and appreciated the humor. That they didn’t gives me more evidence that I won’t connect with the audiences out there when I write; my style isn’t their style. I still believe my style reaches SOME people, but maybe not a large enough audience. It’s always an eye-opener when I get responses taking my sarcastic humor so seriously and saying “that didn’t happen and is not true, and therefore is of no value.”

Fighting back with surrealism

Yesterday I went mall-walking. It’s still too hot to walk outdoors (and my allergies are acting up), and the mall is a quarter-mile if you do the top tier and lower tier. Then I wandered around in a few stores as a reward.

So I chose to wander into one of those skinny-minnie fashion places that has a reputation for “sexy” stuff. I figured I’d look at the accessories and all the other amusing things they had, as well as fingering the skimpy stuff and marveling at what people will wear. It’s not against the law to browse, is it?

Apparently it is. A clerk approached me almost instantly. “Um, what are you looking for? We don’t have anything in”–she sized me up, probably a couple of sizes up from what I wear, in fact–“YOUR size. So really, it’s not a good use of your time.” She flipped her hair.

I suppose I was “supposed” to burst into tears and run out, or salaam to the Superior Being and back slowly out, dripping rose petals. But I had a thought. (Always dangerous.)

“Oh, I wouldn’t be WEARING it,” I said brightly. “My WALLS will. I mean, I don’t wear the clothes I buy. Oh, no.” I shook my head happily, as if correcting someone who had told an evangelist that he shouldn’t believe in monetary contributions. “I stick them to the wall. See, I mix up this solution of powdered starch, you know, like they use in collars, and warm water? And I have cans of spray starch as well. I position an outfit on the wall and spray in in place temporarily. Then I take a big fluffy paint roller and saturate it in the starch.” I’m gesturing appropriately. The clerk is just staring. “So then I roll it on and really get the items pasted to the wall good. It doesn’t take long to dry. If I want a belt, I just nail in on there.” I’m on a roll! “Then I pencil in the heads and faces, the arms and legs, hands and feet. I really get some neat-looking people that way. Sometimes I use fake hair, or yarn hair. Eyeglasses, sunglasses. It really depends.”

“GOD!” she finally explodes. “Get out of this store!”

Another clerk has approached, hearing part of my fabrication. “Yeah, leave the clothes for people who can actually WEAR them.”

“It’s an art form. I have lots of wall space left, in fact.” I smile brightly, wondering whether they’ll call security and whether they can have me ejected for no reason at all–or if they’ll lie. I think most businesses still have the policy of “we reserve the right to refuse business to anyone for any reason,” although they could get into trouble easily if they tried to enforce it and it looked like racism or sexism. I pluck a sheer top off a hanger. “I haven’t seen a Peter Pan collar since 1971! I used to wear a blouse like this in fifth grade, except it was cotton lawn and not so sheer.”

The clerk takes the blouse out of my hand. “Leave the store,” she says menacingly.

You have to pick your battles. I waved at the other clerk. “I get your catalog. Lots of good stuff in there, too!” I exit before they can get any more red-faced.

I mean, what the hell? A fattie not only coming into the store but brazenly speaking up about her rights to purchase things? Man! What is the world coming to?!

You’d think they’d be happy for any business they got. But the last “acceptable” prejudice rears its ugly head again.* (Lose 10 pounds of ugly fat immediately–cut off your head!) These were silly teenagers. I don’t believe the chain has any official rule about not waiting on people you don’t like. In fact, it would probably not like this behavior overmuch.

But it’s not my inclination to be a troublemaker or to try to change people’s hearts when they are solidly set in stone. I just laugh and try to confuse them. I think these two were plenty confused. They’ll probably be talking for weeks about the Crazy Fat Broad who glues clothes to her walls and draws people to go with them!

You don’t want to hear what I told the guy at the restaurant who asked if I should REALLY be eating that burger. Trust me!

* Sorry if this pushes one of your buttons, but what I mean is not that it IS acceptable, but that society SEES it as acceptable: for example, television people seem to believe that it’s OK to say awful things about “fat” celebs and guests, or to laud their weight loss as if it is a cure for aging and wrinkles and psoriasis all rolled into one, and to say things that promote putting fat people down because “it’s just their own fault” and “they could just STOP EATING” and so forth. It is NOT acceptable, but it is not something you will be scolded for the way you would be for racism and sexism. You would be told that “you’re right, and we’re only thinking of her HEALTH.”

Beautiful on the INSIDE . . . that’s what really matters. Except today, if you believe what you get from the media.

I got a Kindle!

Have I mentioned that I broke down and got a Kindle?

We got one of the $115 models at Target. It connects to your home or hotel or coffeeshop wi-fi. It has a small advertising banner on the bottom and when it’s turned “off.” Otherwise, it is like any Kindle.

I got it for two reasons. (I may have already told you, but duh, the last two weeks have been tough, so I can’t remember.)

First, I needed to see what my e-books would REALLY look like to a reader who bought the Kindle edition. The Kindle for PC app doesn’t show any glitches for me in titles that readers say have glitches. I have already been able to fix some things by looking and editing. This is nice!

Second, I figured I could carry that under my arm up to Mama’s hospital room while she had her blood transfusion and the assorted tests that they always run. I did read a bit on the device. I got some $1.99 Benchley books and various other books that I’ve always loved, along with some of the free specials and classics. And, of course, the beta editions of my YA books!

Okay . . . another reason is that Hubby is going to be able to download PDF or other e-editions of various manuals and so forth, and then he can just carry that to the place where he’s going to work on whatever instead of lugging huge manuals along. That is a good excuse, isn’t it?

So! What do I think of it?

Well, it would be great for someone with no visual infirmities. I do have visual infirmities, and they mean that I can only use THIS computer (a desktop with a Dell LCD monitor) for yea-many-hours without a break. It used to be, back in the CRT days, that I had to take even more frequent breaks. I have large fonts turned on. There are various other limitations that I have. (For example, I simply can’t read three-columned text any more because the lines of text are too short . . . it’s complicated. There’s an optimal line length for text when you have various infirmities. I’ve set the Kindle font size and line length so that it’s comfortable for a while, but after about twenty minutes my eyes burn and things blur a bit. It means it’s break time.)

I still think, though, that even if I had no infirmities the way I didn’t have before I had surgery (heh), I’d be a bit cramped and hampered by the screen showing only X amount of text. I typically read very fast, and I usually have books or magazines open to a two-page spread. It’s just more homey and comfy. Nope, I can’t really explain. I also tend to flip back and forth through everything now and then. You can search for specific stuff in Kindle files, but it’s tough to have the illusion that you can flip back and forth. I kind of miss the feel of print and paper, too.

The GREATEST feature so far, though, is that you can e-mail ANY Word document or PDF file or text file to your Kindle address (your user ID at kindle dot com) and it will be converted to a Kindle format file (!!) and put out there for your Kindle to pick up the next time you update/connect! That is so cool! You can see what something will look like in Kindle format by just e-mailing yourself the most current Word document, without committing to publishing with CreateSpace or paying anyone to convert it (or trying out all those other services that don’t quite work properly.) It’s so cool! Hubby sent manuals in all different formats and they went on the Kindle just fine.

The keyboard and search function and menu (shop Kindle store anytime!)–that’s all grand. You can get stuff instantly if you are connected to wi-fi. You can subscribe to magazines or newspapers–for now, that means the New Yorker and Reader’s Digest and New York Times, mostly. It can read books to you, or you can play audio books on it. I enjoy doing highlighting and marking passages that I can later look at again (“What did I think was a great line that Vonnegut had in this one?”)

It’s pretty neat as a toy gadget. It was worth the investment because we are somewhat solvent (and we splurge like that on toys), but it isn’t for everyone.

Why do I say that? Don’t I believe the current hype that “print is dead” and “everyone is dumping publishing houses in favor of direct publishing” and so forth?

Well . . . I know that a lot of e-books are priced low as promotional items. But also sometimes you get what you pay for. There’s a lot of junk out there. I can send off for a sample, but that will only be the first chapter. I won’t be able to riffle through and read random pages and do the other things I do with paper books. With the classics, how are they formatted? Some are good and some aren’t.

“New” e-books are expensive, costing around $10. I understand why they are priced that way, but somehow I have that feeling that I used to get when I would purchase software and games for the Apple and old computers . . . I’d use them a couple of times and then they’d be obsolete and I’d throw them out. You can’t take an e-book that you didn’t finish or that you have read and won’t want to re-read and drop it into the charity box, or the rest home’s library cart, or the half-price bookstore’s slot, or a friend’s car (where the friend can read it or pass it along until it falls apart.) There is no more “People’s Library” or “bookcrossing.” Man . . . that is $10 that I just sort of threw away in exchange for reading a couple of chapters and then deciding it was junk. Maybe that’s just me, but it rankles. I could have at least found someone who did appreciate it, if it had been a print edition.

I’m concerned about people on fixed incomes, low incomes, and so forth. E-book reading requires you to have one or more e-readers. If people are struggling to feed their children macaroni and cheese, there’s no extra money for this special equipment. Lower-income people can get mass market paperbacks at church rummage sales, library sales, used book stores, and so forth–often for a quarter or fifty cents. They’re not deprived of reading as long as the cheapie books are around. Can the schools or government agencies provide everyone a laptop and an e-reader? Can we really afford that? I don’t know.

Why can’t the two technologies coexist? I don’t see why they can’t. After all, my most rich source of reading material is the Web and the rest of the ‘net. I still read books, too.

What about art books, coffee table books, photography compendia, and that kind of thing? To appreciate the art books, you need for them to be large format and glossy paper. Some books are meant to be hunched over and savored. You don’t want to stare at thumbnails if you want to get a good idea of a photograph’s charms.

But anyhow. The Kindle is a pretty neat gadget. You could do worse than get this bargain edition of the device.

Home at last!

Mama got her blood transfusion. It went smoothly with no complications, and she feels better, although she’s still weak. She was supposed to have gone in last Tuesday, but her tests weren’t in, so she had to wait until Thursday. Then they didn’t get things rolling until 7 PM (we had checked in at noon!), but her night nurses and attendants were completely efficient. She got three units and various shots and prods, and was all finished by 11 AM.

The rest of that third day she spent sitting in her walker, all packed up, telling them that she needed to check out! The doctor said he’d be by around noon because checkout time is 11 AM, but he didn’t show until 7:15 *PM*. She had by then irritated the two main nurses, and when they came to take out her IV, they jerked it and caused a HOLE (her skin is like paper–toilet paper thin!) and had to make it stop bleeding. They gave her a piece of gauze to hold over it and said she should hold her hand up so it didn’t swell. She said she might need to go to the ER for it, and that made the other nurse rip off the EKG stickies so hard that most of them bled, as well.

Icky pics of her owies-cut for the squeamish, like me