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 – 2015-08-20

Brought to you this week by BURNOUT. I took on a lot of projects at the start of the summer and now, as the summer draws to a close, I have several barely-started drafts of things in scrivener waiting for the time and quiet mind to actually write them, and I’m just tired. I’ve subscribed too heavily to the Joan Rivers and William Shatner schools of work: what if you stop working and then you never work again? What if, dudes.


Last Friday (8/14/2015), the Almeida Theatre and British Museum put on a live reading of Homer’s Iliad that started at 4 AM EST (9 AM GMT) and ran until about 8 PM EST. It was tremendous. Highlights:

The commentary. The theater’s official running commentary twitter @IliadLive, whose commentary is preserved online maybe-forever!! At the British Museum part of the event (from the start until about 6 PM EST), the commentary was streamed on two flatscreens in front of the audience so they could follow the realtime annotations as they listened to the performers. THAT’S VALUABLE. Reading an annotated text can be so distracting when flipping to the bottom of the page or the back of the book to consult who’s who, what this word means, etc. The immediate side-by-side “Xanthus is another name for the river Scamander” type commentary makes a difficult text accessible, and made it a genuine experience for, say, someone on another continent who spent literally her whole day off on Friday listening to the livestream and following the tweets.

The performances. Exceptional performers: the women (Dame Janet Suzman and Amanda Drew) who split Book 3 between them, one reading Paris’s aborted duel with Menelaus and the other the argument between Aphrodite and Helen after Aphrodite bails Paris out of the duel. Bertie Carvel (of recent BBC Jonathan Strange fame) gave a heart-stopping performance reading from Book 18 when Achilles receives the news that Patroclus has been killed. Don’t take my word for it! HERE’S A CLIP. The audio is awful, the performance is great (and switches to Ben Whishaw at the 15-min mark!)


To live even in relative poverty deprives of you new ideas; it deprives you of the tools and education you need to escape. In the most severe cases, it locks you out of society—out of voting, out of socializing, and out of connecting with others.

I can relate; the life I have has been made possible through piracy. I’m too curious, hungry, and impatient to wait for media gatekeepers to make culture accessible to me.


The Late, Great Stephen Colbert

He was 35, he said, before he could really feel the truth of that. He was walking down the street, and it “stopped me dead. I went, ‘Oh, I’m grateful. Oh, I feel terrible.’ I felt so guilty to be grateful. But I knew it was true.


Jurassic World: Drink up that toxic masculinity

I love good action movies because they blend in-your-face spectacle with whisper-quiet subtext in between all the explosions. Good action movies call back to Western culture’s urtext action movie, Homer’s Iliad; they perform a similar balancing act between subtlety and a spear literally breaking a guy’s head apart from the inside out. It’s the subtlety that sticks with me because it takes longer to sink in and then lingers much longer.

Enter Jurassic World and its lack of feminism in that overt Katniss-branded sense. (Never mind that Bryce Dallas Howard did everything Chris Pratt did while wearing ivory pumps that he deemed impractical.) Jurassic Park had Laura Dern and Hacker Girl while Jurassic World had four speaking roles for women (Howard, Judy Greer, Control Room Girl, and Morgana from Merlin) compared to three times as many speaking roles for men. That’s not reflective of the world I live in, but the world I live in also doesn’t have a dinosaur theme park.

Those gendered choices represent the reality of Jurassic World. Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t use a rocket launcher against Indominus Rex (THE UNTAMED KING!!! NOTHING IS CHILL ABOUT THIS MOVIE!!!), but there’s more to feminism than portraying women as ultra-violent monsters at the same rate that men are portrayed ultra-violent monsters. That’s the subtext of Jurassic World: a disaster movie that predominantly features men messing up and served with Action Movie Justice. We can use feminism as a lens on Jurassic World that allows us to identify toxic masculinity for what it is and call it out.

So, in order of appearance, here’s an incomplete list that examines the men in Jurassic World and their experience in this culture of toxic masculinity. All movie-canon errors are my own because, at the time of writing, I saw the movie less than 48 hours ago and IMDb can only supply so much. SPOILERS BELOW, OBVIOUSLY.

Continue reading Jurassic World: Drink up that toxic masculinity