Thursday, June 28, 2007

My degree!

Did you ever wonder what a masters in science from Georgetown looked like? Did you ever wonder what it would look like if poorly photographed? Well now's your chance to find out! Lo- this is that for which I worked so hard and took on so much debt. Bask in its glory!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

S&M Jousting?

Last weekend, Pete and I were driving around looking at apartments and houses for rent, when we saw the most curious sight. In the park at SE 21st & Belmont, we saw two men jousting. On super tall unicycles. In what appeared to be S&M gear. Surrounded by a crowd of people. We couldn't get pictures right then because the light turned and I was at completely the wrong angle. But we circled the block and got the following shots. Apparently the guy in the black shorts had won, and the crowd seemed divided as to whether or not this was a good thing. It is so weird to hear people booing in Portland!

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Historian Can Bite My Butt

And lo, my butt is big! 650 pages! I wasted my whole lunch break to read the last 50 today and it was so disappointing. Here is a summary of why it was a total waste of my time, as told in snotty narration as I imagine the author must have conceptualized it:

"I'm going to tell most of the story through letters so that 70% of the book's paragraphs will start with quotation marks! Then I'm going to wait until the last 50 pages to neatly tie up all the loose ends, except for the last 5 pages in which I will pretend like there is the possibility of a sequel even though all the characters are dead, totally squared away or both."

Why did I finish it, you might ask? Yes, why indeed. There are several reasons.

1) I hate to leave a book unfinished. Especially when they're a really easy read. Or I'm trapped on a plane and my only other option is Daredevil. ::shudder::

2) There was only one thing I couldn't figure out. One stupid, stupid plot point that seemed too poorly thought out to go unexplained. It takes too many sentences to explain the actual plot point, but suffice it to say it was along the lines of writing a book about the Greatest Chef's In All Of History and they all happen to be from the same town in the same state and they were all born within 50 years of one another and all end up working in the same restaurant together. That is so patently ridiculous, the author must have an explanation, right? Oh - she does - but that doesn't mean it's a good explanation, or that she'll spell it out before the last 50 pages.

3) At some point, you've looked at a train wreck long enough and you just have to stick around and see if anyone survived.

Anyway, there are only two reasons I would ever recommend this book: you're at the beach (where anything is worth reading because, hey, you're at the beach!) or you're stuck on a plane where your other option is talking to a sweaty old guy with a bad comb-over who keeps looking at your "goodies" or a really fabulous movie like Mrs Doubtfire or the aforementioned Daredevil.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Another Thought About Writing

Here are two things that very few people should ever attempt in novels: genius characters and descriptions of sex. Someone who is not a genius cannot write genius. I think that if I were a writer I might - might - be able to write a side character who was a genius by describing as exactly as possible the two geniuses I've known in my life. (What's that, Pete? Oh, sorry. Three. Three geniuses. Thanks, Pete.) I don't know that I could write that character as saying very much, but I could describe how s/he sat while watching TV or eating steak. But I would never - in a million years! - attempt to write, a) a first-person novel about a genius, or b) a novel where one of the main, speaking characters is a genius. This is one of my major criticisms of The Di Vinci Code: there wasn't a single "puzzle" in that book that was in the least bit difficult to solve. And yet the characters - one of whom is a genius cryptographer, the best in France!, and another of whom is a genius "symbologist" ::grumblegnashhiss&spit:: - were totally mystified! Here is the deal, Authors Of The World: if you are not a genius (and please, seek outside verification on this, and not from your mother), and you can figure out the solution to a puzzle you have created, then Q.E.D., it does not take a genius to figure it out. And it's insulting to your reader to imply as much!

And the sex thing... I cannot think of a single book in which I've read a really detailed sex scene and thought, "Man, now this is art!" But I can think of plenty of times when I've thought, "Man, now this is embarrassing!" Here are the books that spring immediately to mind where this phenomenon is concerned: Clan of the Cave Bear, Jean M. Auel (and any of the sequels, for that matter; I've heard Plans of Passage is essentially pornography, but I couldn't even make it through The Mammoth Hunters); and The Mists of Avalon, Marion Bradley (and any of the sequels or prequels). If you have read a truly beautifully written sex scene in a book, please suggest it! But if tongues swirl anatomy in moist detail or ladies that are just deep enough for their lovers' giant johnsons, I will seriously question your taste.


The book I'm currently reading (The Historian) violates both of these precepts (or "fiats," if you prefer). There are no puzzles, but the side characters make very prosaic observations about things historical and the main character frequently comments on how he is "astounded" by the "quickness" of someone's mind, the "breadth" of their "intellect," or their "genius." And while one reference to a sex scene is very tasteful - more like a movie montage of provocative images - the other is a pseudo-sex scene (in that sex doesn't actually result) and involves "adolescent fumbling" and an "ugly white brassier." I mean really! It just leads me to believe that the author has never actually had sex and has never seen a movie with a rating higher than PG-13. And that makes it embarrassing, the way fan fiction is embarrassing. It's like a window into how she wishes her 16-year old life had been, or how her first time with her True Love had been/would be. And I don't need that window, because it's not an autobiography; it's a work of fiction with sci-fi/fantasy overtones that seriously stretches the limits of my suspension of disbelief.

Anyway, The Historian is like 600 pages long, I'm on page 444 and I've just been tearing through it (because the story is more interesting than the writing is bad/embarrassing, even if it's a stretch) so I've been thinking about this a lot. I have a high tolerance for crap: I read all but one of the Ender's Game sequels. (If that offends you, I... wait, no. I don't apologize. If that offends you, you enjoy bad novels. Sorry, but I'm pretty sure this is empirical truth. Okay, okay... Ender's Shadow wasn't so bad. Geez!) And I read a ton of Star Wars novels and a lot of fantasy novels, and let's face it, many of the latter are soft core for geeky adolescent girls. "I am a witch who rides a unicorn - don't fondle my heaving boozums, Mister Night Elf! Oh, your tumescent manhood - I mean elfhood - is too much for me! Make me a woman, sexy mythical creature! Take me now, before my unicorn gores you!"

Sunday, June 03, 2007

English Slang and American Weirdness

I've been reading "Scary Go Round" from the beginning, and I've learned some new British slang. Well, new to me anyway.
  • Skellington: variant of "skeleton." Pete pointed out it's also in the Cream song about the baby going down the drain. That song is awesome!
  • Trumps: farts.
  • Tupping: frickin'
  • Smalls: undergarments
"Skellington" is by far my favorite. Normally it's Americans adding extra sounds and syllables into English words ("burglarize" instead of "burgle," "Acclimatize" instead of "Acclimate", "Orientate" instead of "Orient"... there are other examples here and here - although it seems that some of the examples at those links are of British legthenings).

I've also been reading this great book about word origins that has some really wonderful, oft forgotten American words.
  • Hornswoggle: origin unknown. But it belongs to a group of "fancified" words invented in the American West to poke fun at the sophisticated. Why can't our anti-intellectuals invent words these days instead of "Blue Collar Comedy"? The next three are also examples of this.
  • Absquatulate: "to depart in a hurry." Faux-Latin affixes: ab- "away from;" -ate "to act upon in a specified manner." All around the made-up root -squatul-. Literally meaning: to squat away from. Hilarious!
  • Busticate: "to break into pieces."
  • Argufy: "to argue."
  • Buckaroo: from the Spanish "vaquero," or "cowboy." Interestingly, we got the word "cowboy" from translating "vaquero," and "buckaroo" from mispronouncing it!
  • Hosey: dibs. (Bostonian) Maybe from "call holdsies," maybe from the French "choisir," "to choose." But "I hosey shotgun!" is pretty neato.
There are others from that book, but I can't remember them. Also a neat word:
  • Grampus: kind of big fish in cold water. Also, an orc.
In fact, looking up "orc" to see if Pete could use it in Boggle is how we found the word Grampus.

::snicker:: grampus...