Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Thoughts: Halloween

Top 10 reasons why Halloween is the best holiday of the year:
  1. Costumes!!!
  2. Carving pumpkins
  3. Spooky stories
  4. Candy corn, blow-pops, ring pops, fruit roll-ups and other yummy stuff
  5. Roasted pumpkin seeds
  6. Chocolate!
  7. Trading candy so you don't end up with all the gross licorice-flavored junk
  8. Making funny masks out of paper plates
  9. Glitter
  10. Tricks instead of Treats (or both!)
This year, I'm embracing my 80's self and dressing up as my favorite cartoon character from my childhood: Jem. Tomorrow, I will don my hot pink sequined shirt, black pleather mini and leg warmers; I will try to live up to the epithet: Truly Outrageous!

What are you dressing up as? Anyone going as a literary figure or favorite character from their kid years?

Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


While working my way through Homer and reading some additional critical sources, I just discovered something fascinating:

There is no Trojan Horse story in the Iliad. The Trojan Horse story is part of the Odyssey!

In fact, the only place where Homer ever mentions this story is in the Odyssey, when the bard in the Phaecian palace sings the story of how Troy fell (book 8, I believe). While I had read the Odyssey twice before I had yet to read the Iliad (yes, I know, I know... what kind of bibliophile am I if I haven't read the Iliad?) For this reason, I never really focused on the horse bit all that much; I just figured the Iliad must talk about it more since it focuses on the Trojan War and that the mention in the Odyssey was just a little Iliad reference Homer did for fun. There are so many other things going on in the Odyssey, that the horse moment is really minor.

But now, in this most recent read-through, the Trojan Horse segment caught my attention and I decided to do a little research. Turns out, the Iliad only takes place over a period of forty-some days, and ends with the death of Hector. From my knowledge of the Trojan War events via the Aeneid, I knew that Hector's death and the scene with his body being dragged around the city happened before the horse event. I did a little more research and voila! No Trojan Horse in the Iliad.

A note for those readers who haven't been following this saga from the beginning. The reason I'm so incredibly excited about this piece of literary trivia is that one of my writing projects refers to certain events in the Odyssey, including the famous horse. If the horse were an elaborate part of the Iliad, it would make things... complicated, to say the least. I'd have to do more research and reconfigure things a bit. I'm rather tired of research right now and this discovery made my day. Time for a happy dance!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On the Road

This weekend I read Jack Kerouac's On the Road. I had tried reading this book before, and never got past the third chapter. This time around, I made it all the way through but only because I allowed my brain to check out every so often, when the story got tedious. This is one of those books that goes over better after a few drinks or if the TV is on in the background.

I think the thing that bothered me most is that the narrator, Sal, seemed rather one-dimensional and Dean, the protagonist being described from Sal's point of view, went from being crazy to being crazier. Not a character development that would make him particularly sympathetic. There were too many characters but not enough that I actually cared about. The idea of hitchhiking across America would be a great theme for a novel, but this one falls flat. Overall, I feel about this book the way I feel about J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, I can understand why someone would like it, but that someone is definitely not me.

Truman Capote once said of On the Road "That's not writing, that's typing." I must admit, I'm with Capote on this one.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Thoughts: Amethyst

I have decided to institute a regular "Happy Thoughts Friday" post. No work-related stuff, no serious business, just happy thoughts to welcome the weekend.

This week's happy thought is: Spiky Amethyst Rock Crystals

In other words, something that looks like this:

First of all, they're purple, and that alone makes them fabulous. Think about it, how many naturally-purple things are there in the world? Not many. There's tons of green and yellow and orange and red and blue, but purple seems to be horribly underrepresented. Off the top of my head I can think of: eggplants, grapes, irises (though they're more of an indigo color), violets, lavender, lilacs and some types of seashells that have purple coloring on the inside. Compare that to the prevalence of grass or sky or pumpkins or lemonade, and the world's purple quotient is rather low. Back in the olden days (and by "olden days" I mean sometime way back when people used to dye their own stuff), purple dye was always reserved for royalty because it was so rare and expensive to make. How's that for a snazzy color?

Back to the crystals. When I really want to tickle my brain, I head to the Natural History Museum's rocks and minerals exhibit. While I'm there, I skip all the boring stuff in the glass cases and stare at the crystals so gigantic you could almost camp out inside. They're big enough that the museum doesn't even bother to put them in a case or have an alarm or anything because if someone wanted to steal them, they would need a forklift. When planning a museum heist, it is not advised to try and steal something that would require a forklift, because they're big and clunky and hard to sneak in and out undetected. Just FYI.

Crazy life goal #37: Someday I will have a large amethyst rock crystal in my living room as furniture. Crazy life goal #38: Someday I will also have a living room large enough for it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Do I Torture Myself?

This morning I decided to go running. Again. After the mishaps of yesterday afternoon, this was perhaps not the wisest decision, but I did it anyway. My ankles screamed "Not this again!" My bad knee sobbed "Have mercy, please!" and my good knee just groaned and muttered four-letter words under its breath.

Ten laps on the track and a sore ankle later, I ask myself the obvious question: why do I do this?

In a word: Endorphins.

What can I say, I'm addicted to stuff and a day without some sort of exercise turns me stupid and lethargic. It makes my brain feel dull and I'm more likely to putter around and waste time. I've learned the hard way that the time I "gain" by forfeiting a workout is not nearly as useful as the productivity I get from those delicious little molecules. But there's another reason why I run. A secret reason. One that is remarkably simple but powerful nonetheless.

When I run, I can't think about the book.

On the elliptical machine, I pedal away and think about the book. On the rowing machine, with each tug at the "oar" I think about the book. On the subway, when I'm crammed between two people taller than me, I think about the book so I won't think about the body odor. In yoga class, when I'm trying to do "downward-facing dog" without falling on my face, that sneaky book creeps into my mind and before I know it, I'm twisting up plot threads instead of my arms and legs. Even when I'm sleeping, I seem to think about this book because when I wake up most mornings, my brain tingles from activity and I don't feel that restfulness you get from a night of thought-free sleep.

But when I run, it all melts away and the book disappears from my mind, like it never existed in the first place. All I can focus on is one more lap, one more step, one more breath. My brain stops racing and my legs take over the job, only instead of talking to me about theme and story arc, all they say is the occasional "ouch" or "oof" or "can we stop soon?"

And I reply: just one more lap. I'm not ready to give up my freedom just yet.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Greetings from the Planet Zorg

Dodging meteors in the Zebadu Galaxy, the intrepid Galactic Gabi must face her newest set of challenges.
  1. Sacrifice a short story recently completed to ten servants of the god Bogwan, hoping to appease the volcanic monster.
  2. Combine 5,000 words in such a way to break the unspeakable code and free work-in-progress No. 2 from captivity in Bogwan's evil dungeon.
  3. Remove draft 2 of work-in-progress No. 1 from inter-galactic quarantine.
  4. Resuscitate work-in-progress No. 1 by installing two and a half bionic organs.
  5. Circulate the pedestrian ring of terror for five galactic neplons.
That's all, kids! Don't forget to brush your teeth! Ka-pwing!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Anger Management

Those who have known me for a long time, know that I have a fiery temper. In order to maintain the docile composure most of you see regularly, I have had to learn various ways for venting my frustrations in a constructive (or at least non-hazardous) manner. Here are a few things I have found that work:
  1. Write the names of all the people who have made you mad on a piece of paper. Crumple it up. Now stomp on it. If you're really in the need for catharsis, light it on fire.
  2. Pick up the offending object or person and throw it across the room. (Note: this only works if the object or person is smaller than you, or you're really strong. Also, it's best if you don't mind dents in your walls.)
  3. Choose some really obnoxious music and play it really, really loud. My preferred method of musical venting is tweeny-pop. Dancing around like a lunatic is optional.
  4. Go for a run and imagine that with every step, you're squashing all the things that make you angry.
  5. Take one of your characters and write a scene with her in it. Make her suffer.
What about you? What do you do when you need to vent?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Card Games for Writers

Maybe it's because I spent so many years surrounded by toys, but I love games. Especially card games because they're so portable. My favorite games ones always seem to have something to do with words or writing. Here are a few from my shelf.

Once Upon a Time by Atlas
This is one of those games where it doesn't matter who wins, it's the process of playing the game that counts. The goal is to tell a fairytale story using the cards in your hand while trying to steer the story toward the ending that you were dealt. Players can interrupt each other to take over the story. I especially like this game because it works for a large number of players.

Man Bites Dog by University Games
The idea is to come up with the silliest, craziest headlines possible using cards in your hand. The crazier the card, the more points it's worth, but the harder it is to use it in a headline. The winner is the player who gets to 500 points first. I haven't played this one in a while but I remember laughing a lot when I played it last.

Quiddler by SET Enterprises
This one is on my shelf but I haven't gotten around to figuring it out yet so I cannot give an accurate review. I can say, however, that the company that designed this game is the same company that created SET, which is my favorite card game of all time!

Mystery Rummy Case #3: Jekyll and Hyde by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
This is more a strategy game, rather than a word game, but it's based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novella so I think of it as a writerly game. This is essentially rummy with a twist, where depending on whether it is Jekyll or Hyde who is "awake" you can only play certain cards. Playing it the regular way is fun, but the real challenge comes from trying to get a "shut-out" (where you play all-Jekylls or all-Hyde cards). I think this game may be out of print, which is unfortunate because it's one of my favorites.

What about you? What's your favorite writerly game?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gone are the Days of Letter Writing

Once upon a time, I used to write letters. I think I even have some special stationary saved away somewhere. Getting the mail was always an event because the anticipation of receiving a letter was often as good as the letter itself.

Today I am reminded of letter writing through this blog: Letters of Note

These two letters are some of my favorites:
To a Top Scientist and All of this is nonsense

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Oh What a Beautiful Morning!

It is not even noon and already today is an marvelous day. Let me count the ways:
  1. It is October but the sky is clear and the sun is out. Also, it is warm enough for flip-flops.
  2. My heart is at ease with school matters.
  3. I finished Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman at five this morning and decided that today I will speak without contractions.
  4. Despite waking at two and reading until five, I managed seven hours of sleep, which is a respectable amount. Would that I could sleep this much every day.
  5. Morning tea is always a pleasant pastime, but morning tea with a friend is doubly lovely.
  6. I have already written half of this week's literature paper and it is only Sunday. I might just finish early this week.