Friday, October 31, 2008

A Halloween mystery!

I just noticed something amazing about one of my Red Rock photos. A human figure in the upper left corner:
See it? An archer. Jesus with a bow and arrow?

On gloom

I was getting ready to blog this morning about the end of Daylight Savings (I know it's "Saving," but I find that gross to say) Time--about how it seems to me like the end of the world--but then the power went out due to a storm. So here I am at a little after 5 p.m., the sky a pale green, darkness about to clang down all around us (not to mention sugar-crazed children and their minders out terrorizing the streets; thank god for our second-floor condo and security building). As a lifelong Californian, Trev does not understand my problem. It's true that here we have plenty of sun in winter, and much-needed rain, which causes spring to happen round about December, just when life is really starting to suck for the folks back in my place of origin. That would be Ohio. It's clear that my seasonal gloom is hard-wired into me from growing up there. Daylight Standard Time means Time to shrink. I feel my muscles contracting even now. Going anywhere is a project: you stuff your feet into boots which never, ever keep your feet warm, and wrap your neck in an itchy scarf which does not quite address the fact that your coat leaves a mysterious gap in coverage in the center of your chest, which the wind then finds and slugs with fists of ice. Don't get me started on hat hair. The fact that I don't have to deal with severe cold and snow anymore only engenders guilt and alienation, which causes me to focus more and more on the darkness, which none of us escapes. Dark at 5:00. That is madness.

However I would trade six months of a full-on Cleveland winter* for:
--Obama win
--Defeat of Proposition 8
*I offer this only if there are no alternatives; i.e. if these things weren't going to happen unless I personally volunteered to experience a full-on Cleveland winter for six months. In that case I'd do it for a year if I had to. But only if.**
**For an Obama landslide, I'm prepared to offer three months, with same conditions as above applying.***
***Lots of liberals, including me, think they are magic. That is, they think they personally can doom the election through any expression of optimism. Maybe we're narcissists, infants, just like everybody says; or maybe the fact that any human being could be so deluded as to vote for McCain/Palin or so cruel as to vote for Prop 8 is inexplicable by any form of rational thought, so we turn to magic.****
****We are not magic. But we have power.
Barack Obama for President.
No on 8.

This cheered me up. Especially this part:

The I Forget How to Turn a Doorknob Effect This is expected to keep roughly one percent of Republican voters from leaving the house.

Monday, October 27, 2008

On blooming late

I was ecstatic last week to find, in the New Yorker, a justification for my existence. At last! Malcolm Gladwell writes in the Oct. 20 issue about late-blooming creative types, like Ben Fountain and Cezanne. OK, the problem with laties is that they do look, for much of their lives, very much like another group whose designation starts with "l" (followed by "o," "s," "e"--you get the picture). So they require a good deal of forebearance and faith from those around them--those who may even have to financially support them, while telling them over and over that they don't suck, even when, at the time in question, they do. The early work of the late bloomer is indistinguishable from that of the loser. But Gladwell's point is that late-blooming is not simply a matter of figuring out, late in life, what you are good at. There are, in fact, two different kinds of creativity. One is the "young genius" kind that we are most familiar with, in which beauty springs fully formed from the often equally beautiful young creator. The other is the "experimental" kind, which requires years of gathering and testing and reviewing and rehearsing. Yes, years! Decades, even! Did I mention Cezanne? How about Mark Twain--it took him 10 years to write Huckleberry Finn. I've only been at my novel for four...and a half...

That's my new story, and I'm sticking to it. Thanks, Malcolm!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Red Rock Canyon

Mind still blown from Mojave trip. Here are photos of Red Rock Canyon, while we wait for my words to come back:

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Off to Kernville tomorrow to visit my cousin and poke around Bakersfield and the Mojave Desert--both settings for my novel, about which I know rather little. (The way things look now my next novel will be set in Cleveland. Why can't I think of stories about Maui?)

One thing we will not be doing in Kernville is kayaking on the Kern River. My cousin took us out for a spin, literally, about four years ago. We beginners got to use inflatable kayaks, which, OK, don't tip as much, but they do get blown along on the current like giant leaves, causing smaller persons borne thereon to outstrip all the people in the other kayaks who know what they are doing and can shout instructions as you dive over the rapids. Not that instructions might have helped at that point. Oh, the other thing these inflatables do is they spin around backward, which is how I went over the dreaded Ewing's rapid the first time out. The second time, I actually came out of the boat (this all really did happen in slow motion) and hovered above it for a few moments; but I was somehow able to polevault myself back in, using my paddle.

So a little car trip through Oildale doesn't seem so bad now.

Monday, October 13, 2008

George Saunders

Have I mentioned lately that George Saunders is this atheist's God? We saw him last week at City Arts and Lectures with our friend Amy. (He's also coming to Stanford in February.) He was of course funny and passionate, and he gave the following advice to someone in an MFA program: write what only you can write. It sounds like a variation on "write what you know," but it isn't. He went on to relate his experience, which I share, of discovering to one's dismay that one's best writing is funny. Which leads one to worry that one is "just" a comic writer or a humor writer or a satirist, as if humor were not also deeply serious. I love Saunders' work because it is so relevant, whereas more earnest-seeming pieces often aren't. It may often be the case that the kind of writer you most fear being is the one you are.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Where are the pastors?

Via Talking Points Memo, this is a start, as a former supporter calls McCain out:

John McCain: If your campaign does not stop equating Sen. Barack Obama with terrorism, questioning his patriotism and portraying Mr. Obama as "not one of us," I accuse you of deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate, and therefore of potentially instigating violence.

However, where are the nation's great Christian leaders at this moment? Where is Rick Warren, for example, the oh-so-reasonable one? Does Christianity have nothing to say about "instigating violence"? The silence from the pulpits is astounding.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The mush-mouthed among us

I used to think that George H. W. Bush stumbled over his words when he was lying. Somewhere not terribly deep inside him (because he was not terribly deep), he felt that what he was saying was wrong--and indecent. The structures of grammar and common morality, somehow intertwined, were fighting him at those moments. This was before I had plumbed the true evil of the Bush family, so I may rethink that theory. However, as many have already noted, Sarah Palin and W. also share the gift of garble. And they speak most clearly and forcefully when they are lying ("thanks but no thanks," etc.). So what's happening? Is it sheer stupidity, a lack of contact with sentence structure in general which one gets by, say, reading?

A few years ago someone (I can't remember who, unfortunately) observed that W. stumbled most commonly when speaking about caring for others ("Is our children learning?" "I know how hard it is to put food on your family"). These notions either brought up some kind of weird emotional blockage, or else were so foreign to him that he could not even use the language. As for Palin, I don't know for sure. But I think the issue is foreignness. Anything not directly related to Sarah and her quest for power is simply baffling. Other people? Other countries, opinions? Newspapers, you say, with, what did you call them? writers...? Does...not...compute....