desk lunch – 2015-11-19

Brought to you this week by Thanksgiving.

Please. Please. Is it Thanksgiving yet. Is it my holiday of family and friends and complete and utter sloth. Please. Am I at my parents’ house yet, watching old seasons of Great British Bake Off and the new season of Masterchef Junior. All I want for Thanksgivingmas is to be home already.


Topography of Short Stories: Upright Beasts

Perhaps another way to put it is that as a writer who isn’t rich enough to not have a job or antisocial enough to not want friends, you have to be a master thief. You have to steal every ounce of time you can. Scribble notes on receipts; revise when the boss turns his back. Grab every speck of time you can until you have enough for a book to bloom in. That might take a year or a decade, but the little stolen moments will eventually add up.

A really good read about shaping a story collection. Now halfway into my NaNoWriMo project, the Frankenstein’s-monstering of a project is starting to show itself, the bumps of writing this one thing every day building into the texture of each story I finish. It’s interesting, and I only wonder if that idea of texture will survive into the revision stages, or how it’ll translate into something else. Hmm!


What if climate change was as scary as the 1950s-era Soviet Union, or terrorists? What would that look like?  Would we come up with something as ostentatious and awe-inspiring as the Apollo space program? Would we find ourselves fighting energy proxy wars in other countries — sneakily funding solar installations, sending renewable energy propaganda out over the airwaves, Voice of America style?

It’s a depressing and probably accurate theory presented here: that the only way to get funding for global warming would be by directing the DoD’s interests towards it and having them fund it. It’s depressing because sheer terror might be the only thing that could work in creating progressive climate policies.


Remember #IliadLive from this past summer? The Almeida Theatre spent another day performing Homer, this time recruiting a huge cast to perform the Odyssey. Almeida livetweet the performance and also made a Storify of viewers’ tweets throughout the day, highlighting the different performers and locations used throughout. STANLEY TUCCI READ ON A BOAT.

Listening to these amazing professional actors perform the Odyssey brought the work into a light that I haven’t seen in years. It’s easy to get lost in the Iliad because it’s such a character-driven story compared to the Odyssey—honestly, it’s amazingly character-driven compared to almost everything that’s survived from antiquity. The Odyssey, at least how I approach it, is just as important as the Iliad, but for totally different reasons; Odyssey is far more about the act of storytelling, the act of writing, the act of keeping track of plots and layers of presentation and the ten different things happening in any given moment. Odyssey is much more valuable for how it looks at the importance of telling stories. That’s all people do in the Odyssey: they do one thing, and tell five stories about it, to different audiences, in different times and places, and for different reasons. It’s wonderful. I could get used to these annual performances.


desk lunch – 2015-11-12

Short desk lunch today because my writing project has actually started to take root in my brain and that leaves very little left for literally anything else word-related. As always: check out what I shared on The Rumpus, where I was coherent for like, entire minutes at a time.

On Shining and Staring / On Ruin

No Wine
This is why I believe in intoxication — because it is true to say I believe in it, though I have given it up: drunk, none of us is any better than any other. When drunk we are not trying to be great. When drunk we are fine with the abject instead. I like the way that everyone turns for now toward the abject, as if it is a home.

That book I mentioned last week continues to pay for itself over and over again.



desk lunch – 2015-11-05

A short desk lunch because things are busy, between my day job and my month-long NaNoWriMo project (not a novel, but just a time when I write and complete something every day for 30 days). Fun times! Is it Thanksgiving yet!


From Vaudeville To Hamilton: Racial Minorities In Musicals

The runaway success of Hamilton has shown that this sort of “race-blind” casting can become an astounding success—and also how far we’ve come from the musicals of the 1940s.

Two things: ONE: I appreciate this piece because it makes the point that the days of Old Hollywood were lose-lose in their portrayals of POC and how they utilized non-white actors once they had them. Roles for minorities offered either deeply uncomfortable stereotypical portrayals, or POCs (and the roles they played) were whitewashed, such as my honorary grandmother Rita Moreno. I didn’t realize she was Zelda in Singin’ in the Rain until I had seen the movie roughly 16,000 times because she looked nooooooothiiiiiing like the way she’s looked the rest of her life. TWO: Hamilton is NOT a RACE-BLIND or COLOR-BLIND musical, and people need to stop calling it that. Race/color-blind implies (“implies”)* that the performers were chosen without considering their ethnic backgrounds, and this is not the case w/r/t Hamilton, where casting POC in every role (except King George) was an active priority because, in the writer’s words: “This is a story about America then, told by America now, and we want to eliminate any distance — our story should look the way our country looks.” The word you’re looking for (actively casting POCs in historically/traditionally white roles to create a double conscious performance) might be racebending, but to the best of my knowledge, there’s no theater-specific term for this sort of thing. However: the term is NOT “race-blind” or “color-blind.”

*Ironic quotation marks because I doubt anyone, literally anyone’s ability to conduct truly “blind” evaluations of any work. For more on this issue (but from a different field) see this piece from Apogee Journal about blind submissions at literary magazines. Readers, especially, often think that “the work” will speak for itself in a pure and objective manner, and that taking the name off a submission will also rid their own brains of implicit bias, and that’s absolutely not the case, ever.

Oh, MAN, do I love anything more than giant compilations of primary sources? NO, I DON’T. I got this book used for about $10 and so far it’s WONDERFUL. It works from the compelling, strangely radical thesis: maybe people have always been people, and maybe same-sex attraction/romance/intimacy/sexuality isn’t an invention of the past 10 minutes, and here are 400 pages of historical documents that can be viewed in that light! Maybe we, the inheritors of this legacy, can take people of the past at their word when they wrote things like: “I have certainly never loved [a] man as I love you—and never shall” and “If I could have lived along side of you all the days of my life, I should have been happier.” (full excerpt) It’s a better solution than superimposing a century of institutionalized homophobia on legitimate emotional relationships that don’t suit an “idealized” concept of the past. (Ironic quotations ABOUND today—no regrets!)

Have you ever heard of the Omura whale? ….There’s a pretty simple explanation for why you probably haven’t; they didn’t technically exist until 2003. You see, until then they were not thought to be a distinct spacies of whale, merely a dwarf version of another species. But in 2003, after a team of Japanese researchers spent a good deal of time studying their DNA and bodily chracteristics decided they were distinct enough to be their own species, and named them after the deceased cetologist Hideo Omura.

THERE’S A NEW WHALE? THERE’S A NEW WHALE!