In Defense of #NaNoWriMo? Kind of?

We’re a bit more than a week from November 1, which probably means a lot of things — it was my grandfather’s birthday, for one; he passed away a couple years ago, but he’d have turned 98 — but around the internet (and almost-equally among the event’s devotees, its haters and many of the utterly ambivalent), one of the most noticeable things has become that it signals the start of National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. (I’m largely going to assume familiarity here; click over there to read up.)

As far as I can tell, Twitter and other social media was really first inundated with NaNoWriMo about four years ago — people enthusiastically updating everyone they knew on their word counts, plot structures, favorite lines, etc. Very quickly after that came the backlash — people who hated that other people were cluttering their feeds with this stuff (and understandably, I think), mocking it. Some of the backlash-type stuff is funny (see Fake NaNoWriMoTips), some is really not; much more isn’t meant to be, just (again, understandably) annoyed.

In my experience (and it’s a very limited, very skewed experience, probably not representative), the backlash very quickly quieted the…frontlash? We’ll go with frontlash. I’m sure there’s a lot of earnest NaNoWriMo tweeting still going ON out there, I just don’t see it in my own little corner of the internet, and haven’t for a couple years. People I know don’t really like feeling like they’re being mocked by people who for the other eleven months of the year are their friends.

I did NaNoWriMo three years ago. I didn’t publicize it, kept it fairly well hidden, actually — I just felt like doing it, and I did. What I got was 50,000 words (more like 55,000, I think) of…something. It wasn’t a novel, certainly (not that I was expecting it to be), just the very beginning of a story about something, with some good bits and some bad bits with a strong beginning and a super-weak ending and a whole lot of holes to be filled.

I was working 60-hour weeks, and had a spouse and a toddler; it probably took a year after that November 30 to get back to it at all, and when I did all I could make myself do was reread, clean up a bit around the edges (when what I needed was a bulldozer, and then twice as many words) and wonder where I’d intended to be going with some of it. My wife has read through most of it, and I sent a few pages of it to a friend for feedback who (as far as I can tell) never got around to it, and that’s it. Not that there mightn’t be some part of it that has some use to me, somehow, someday, but it’s pretty clearly not going to turn into the Great American Novel, or even a small-n novel. I “won,” per the rules of the site, but if the goal was to actually write a novel, there’s no avoiding the fact that I basically failed.

On the way, I confirmed a lot of things I thought or knew, a lot of them pretty valid criticisms of the whole NaNo idea. Whatever they may tell you, 50,000 words isn’t really a novel (unless you’re a genius like Jerzy Kosinski, and even then I assume you start by writing twice that many words and then cutting out the trash); you can’t write a novel in a month (unless you’re Stephen King, so no matter who you are you can’t write one I want to read); writing is incredibly hard, and not nearly everybody who thinks they can do it can do it. Most of the fiction written in November (and most months, but especially November), I’ve no doubt, is trash, valueless to anyone but the writer him- or herself.

So…I’m doing it again.

It’s weird. I know how much time it takes and how frustrating it can be and how much false advertising there is in it and how unlikely it is that anything of any measurable value will come out of my doing it. But I decided, a week or two ago, that I’m going to do it again. Because I have the beginnings of an idea that’s been nagging at me for months and I want to see if it’s anything. Because I love to write, and at least as much as that, as good and rewarding as my various excuses may be, I hate not writing, and yet I still seem to find time in my day for at least a few bad reasons not to do it. And sure, there’s no reason I couldn’t just kick my own ass and do the same sort of thing any old time of the year, but it’s almost November and it’s a good time for me, so why not do it when everyone else does? Why not show up some Sunday afternoon next month and spend a couple hours typing away with a bunch of other freaks? I can’t think of a reason.

So it occurred to me to rattle this out because the other night, a Facebook friend of mine — and a really smart, funny guy I respect a whole lot and with whom I seem to agree on almost everything else — put up a status complaining about NaNo. Not, as above, about the formerly-incessant public updates about it (though I suspect that’s at the root of it), but about the idea of doing it itself. And beyond my total inability to grasp why anyone would take issue with a little thing other people decide to do for themselves that couldn’t possibly affect him in any way, the “reasoning” for it just blew me away: in essence, if you were going to be a great writer, you’d be doing it already, and wouldn’t need that kind of jump-start, wouldn’t need a super-special month to focus on it.

And to me, that stance missed so many points at once, so completely, that it really cemented in my head why I wanted to do it. For just one thing, writing fiction isn’t like, say, athletics, where if you have the natural talent you go for it while you’re young, figuring that if it doesn’t work you’ve got the rest of your life to make something else of yourself, or just that (in a lot of cases, sadly) it’s all you’ve got. Writing pulls from other skills and experience, and those skills and that experience often add up to other careers with lower failure rates that demand a lot of your time. I’d love to win the lottery or for my schoolteacher wife to suddenly fall into a $500,000-a-year job, freeing me up to stay home and drop off and pick up the kids, and in between to write 5,000 words a day, every day, until I got good at it. I would. Turns out that’s not my life, though; turns out I’m a lawyer and a dad and that the rest of my life boils down to a couple exhausted hours at the end of the day, that I don’t love writing or feel a pull toward writing any less but that I love other things too, and they take turns bumping each other out of whatever scraps of those couple hours are reserved for leisurely things.

I’m probably not going to be a great novelist, and not even a novelist, and that’s so not the point; but hell, I wouldn’t be the first English major and full-time-working professional to publish his first novel in his mid-to-late thirties (or later), either. If it’s a thing I want to do with big chunks of my precious free time for a month — and right now, it really feels like it is — then why on earth not? Really, given all those time constraints, a thing like NaNo is perfect for me. Take all that energy that’s pulled in all those different directions and force myself to focus on this one thing for four weeks, or rather for those tiny little slivers of the day during those four weeks that belong more or less to me.

So, why not? I’m not a great fiction writer right now, and I don’t think I’ll suddenly become one next month, I think I probably won’t ever be one, and I know for sure that I won’t come out of November with anything like a novel that I started at the beginning of November, and that neither will anyone else. I am a good writer with a lot of thoughts, and with an urge just now to do something with that. So I’m going to sprint right into this, again, and hope that this time I come out of it still jogging.

And the great thing is — what happens if I don’t, if I fall flat on my face instead? My consolation prize is that I spent an hour or two each night for a while working out the creative parts of my brain, with nothing else to show for it. Oh no! Guess that’s just a risk I’ll have to take…

Stuff I’ve Learned About Sodium

I’ve had a few doctor visits lately — two for an injured arm (side effect of working out without a brain) and a regular-for-me eye specialist trip — and in each of the three, my blood pressure has come back a bit high. Just a bit. Could be nothing — I’d gained a few pounds lately (from eating garbage and the arm not letting me exercise properly), I was in pain, I was stressed out, all that stuff. I’ll get it checked again sometime soon under no stress at my mom’s house or a Walgreen’s or something, and it might be right back to normal, right where it should be and has (until about a month ago) always been.

But I decided to treat it like it’s something, mostly because I’d like to avoid medication and much more sweeping and permanent changes going forward. The only real recommendation for someone like me — mildly high BP, relatively young, not overweight, no family history — is to cut back on the sodium intake a bit. So I’ve been trying. And in this age, in this country, it’s a freakin’ hard thing to do. There’s no escaping salt. Sodium — a lot more of it than you’d likely ever imagine — is everywhere.

Here are some things I’ve learned about sodium, and the avoidance thereof:

  1. People eat a ton of it. Duh, right? But it’s more than you think. The US recommended daily allowance for sodium is 2,400 mg; the Centers for Disease Control, which has been a bit nuts about this in recent years, says 2,300. People at risk (like me, now, in theory) are urged to keep it under 1,500 or 2,000, depending on who you talk to. The average American consumes nearly 3,500 mg a day. If you’ve eaten at a restaurant today — any restaurant, fast food, greasy spoon, fine dining, whatever —  there’s a pretty decent chance you passed 2,000 in that meal alone.
  2. But that’s probably okay, for most people. They’d have preferred not to admit it, but CDC’s most recent study found no solid evidence that the average person would benefit at all from reducing her sodium intake from around the average down to below 2,300 mg. No doubt we all (or almost all) get a lot more of it than we need, and a high-sodium diet isn’t good for anybody, per se, but if your blood pressure’s normal and things are otherwise good, there’s not a lot of reason to be concerned about it.
  3. Sodium is sneaky. Easy enough to stay away from soy sauce or anything soaked in brine (a pickle or a cup of olives alone will both get you to around 1,200), and maybe you’d assume that most frozen or fast food meals are packed with the stuff (you’d be right), but that’s about as far as intuition will get you. Most chips and crackers that taste salty aren’t that bad, sodium-wise, if you stick around the serving size; pretzels, generally lower in calories and fat, tend to have more than double the sodium per ounce. (These have quickly become my favorite snack.) There’s loads of sodium in packaged flour tortillas; not so much in whole grain bread; approximately a metric ton and a half in whole grain bagels or hamburger buns. White rice generally has almost no sodium, but Chipotle’s white rice has a robust 200 mg.
    There’s no system, and it can’t really be learned; it’s just the sort of thing, I’m finding, where you have to check, every time.
  4. Prepared “healthy” foods are the devil. The thing is that salt has no calories and is cheap and readily available. So, I’m convinced, people who make low-calorie foods for restaurants or grocery shelves view it as the all-purpose replacement flavor for all the flavors they have to take out of the food because they, those flavors being supplanted, carry too many calories. No Lean Cuisine I’ve ever seen has had enough calories to count as a meal, yet they all seem to have 500 mg or more of sodium. Kraft’s ranch dressing has 300 mg per serving, while its watered-down fat-free variety has 330. An “All-American Flame-Grilled” meatless Boca Burger patty has 380 mg, more than four times what an original ground-beef Bubba Burger has (of course, the Boca is going to be better for you in almost every other way).
    If low sodium is going to be a part of your healthy lifestyle, fresh vegetables, fruit, unsalted nuts and meat you cook yourself is pretty much the only way to go. As someone who still has a bit of a panic when he has to fire up the burner to scramble a couple eggs for his kids every morning, this is going to be the hardest thing to accept. I’m not there yet, and may never be there.
  5. You can get more than 2,000 mg of sodium — my doctor’s recommendation for me for a whole day – from the following harmless-enough-sounding restaurant orders:
    - Lasagna Primavera with grilled chicken from The Olive Garden (on their “Lighter Italian Fare” menu at 530 calories)
    – A Chipotle burrito bowl with chicken, brown rice, black beans, cheese, the tomato and corn salsas, guacamole and romaine lettuce (I tried to be as “good” as I could, for fast food Mexican. No Tortilla! Brown rice, black beans and so forth!)
    – A Potbelly’s turkey breast sandwich on multigrain wheat bread with swiss cheese and hot peppers, plus Baked Lay’s (a reasonable-for-fast-food 610 calories; 2023 migs of salty stuff).
    Almost literally any full entree or appetizer at Applebee’s, including at least four of the salads. Hell, several entrees have more than 5,000 mg, and two of the desserts at Applebee’s have more than 900.

So there’s a moral here, and I think that moral is: don’t develop high blood pressure. Or: don’t ever go out to eat, ever. Or: if you have to do one or both of those things, don’t live in the United States.

Gonna be fun!

On semi-retirement

It was about four and a half years ago I started writing, on a regular basis, about baseball. In April 2009, I started a blog on Blogspot (or Blogger, or whatever it was called; it blew) and started making myself do it every day. I did it partly just to give myself something of my own to do, partly because I really had something to say, and mostly because my best friend since forever was doing it and I felt like I knew I could do it better than him if he could do it. And, I don’t know, I was probably okay at it, and said friend and I got some attention and joined together, and we happened to come up with a couple pretty unusual ideas (did you know that Jack Morris’ entire career plus Mariano Rivera’s entire career through 2010 was almost exactly equal to Bert Blyleven’s career?) and got some more attention, and eventually I was getting paid — in money! — to write about baseball. We’re not talking about quit-your-job money, but we’re talking about actual currency that is exchanged in the real world for goods and services, and that alone, to me, was amazing, the sort of thing I’d dreamed about for the preceding ten years or so without, by and large, taking any steps toward making it happen.

And, okay, it still is amazing. That one might spout opinions (however backed up with research, etc.) on the internet and have them read by any number of real people living real lives is, itself, quite something, and that other people might pay such a one in real money for the privilege of hosting and publishing such opinions is a whole other crazy thing entirely.

But it’s over now, if only (probably) temporarily.

I’ve just come through a period in my life that was many things, almost all of them awful. In 2011, I jumped from a good job in Chicago (a perfectly lovely town, but not home) to a perfectly horrible job in a horrible (to me) small town because it was a bit closer to home, and then to a much-better-but-not-quite-right-for-me job in the town that is home, with great people. But this last was one that left me separated for most of the time from my family, leaving me living mostly in the same bedroom (and, stereotypically, the basement) I’d lived in when I met my first girlfriend and was awkward on the Mickey Mouse Club and was co-captain of the debate team, going to work and then going to the gym and then coming “home” to that, my loving (though Big-Bang-Theory-watching) parents who go to bed at 9:30 and then nothing, two hours’ drive from my wife and kids.

That was my life, for most of this past year. I didn’t tell you that, or not really, because you are the internet, and who wants to talk about things like that to the whole internet? But that sucked. There are a handful of things that kept me sane through that time; among them was that I had this whole second life, writing dumb little baseball things (mostly dumb ones, anyway) and, more than that, interacting in person and on Twitter and elsewhere with a crowd of baseball folks I’d come to know, many of them more prominent (and much better) writers I could never have imagined regarding as something approaching equals a few years earlier.

Here’s the thing, though: stuff has very quickly come together. Life is good again. Very suddenly, I have a house, and a cohesive family, and a job downtown (starting tomorrow) that pays me pretty well and justly demands a whole bunch of my time, and while I love baseball and will always continue to love baseball, it’s become priority number, like…twelve? Something like priority number twelve. We didn’t reactivate our television when we moved, which means I can’t watch the Twins live anymore, and I have to say that so far I haven’t missed much.

So the upshot is: I have to stop that second life. At least for now, at least until I really know what my real life is now and how much extra time I have and what it is I want to be doing with that little bit of extra time. I want to do exceedingly well at this job, and to continue to do the best I can as a dad and husband, and to write the things I want to write, and how can I commit to writing baseball things until I know about all those things and how much time they take and how much they leave me with?

Thus the reason I’m “retiring” at age 34. I’m not going away; I’ll stay active (probably not during the day much) on Twitter, keep being a part of the community, and I’ll keep writing things here as they come to me, and I imagine there’ll be times when I get moved to write something baseball-related and put it up on TPA (which I hope to keep active as an editor; I’ve scrounged up some guest posts and am on the hunt for more). Maybe (as Mike has suggested) I’ll be storing up good ideas and come back on fire in a few months, once I’ve figured things out. But for now, at least, I’m out of it (almost) altogether.

This is a hard thing for me. I make a lot of jokes about how little I actually watch or pay attention to baseball, I talk a lot about Doctor Who while there are twelve or fifteen baseball games going on, but the fact is that it’s a huge part of my life, and giving the writing part of it up — even partially, even temporarily — feels like letting a dream die, a bit. But in this world of finite time, it’s a sacrifice that (temporarily) has to be made.

And in the early going, let me tell you: it can be incredibly freeing to watch a baseball game, notice something interesting, and realize you don’t have to write 1200 words about it. So I have that going for me, which (among many other things, just now) is nice.

Promisses No. 14: Don’t Be John Popper

Yesterday, through a fellow baseball writer friend my editor whatever a guy I know who is those things and is also into video games, I learned about this. It’s worth a read in a train-wreck sort of way, but basically: a managing editor of a gaming site and general Twitter funnyperson named Holly Green tweeted a joke at someone else that poked fun at John Popper, the lead singer of the band Blues Traveler (you’d remember and/or recognize “Run Around” and “Hook,” 1994). Frankly, the joke was probably in bad taste, not the kind of thing you should say about anyone, even when you’re clearly joking (as she very clearly was). I don’t know Ms. Green and have no way of knowing this, but if she’d thought the man himself was particularly likely to see it, I kind of doubt she’d have sent it.

Anyway, the man himself did see it, and he responded. And responded, and responded. That first link above tells that part of the story. It’s crazy. His tweets read like they were written by a nine-year-old, but it’s clear enough that he’s bullying her, borderline-stalking her, and threatening her with what would be an utterly frivolous defamation lawsuit. It just kept going. Many others got involved yesterday — mostly tweeting ridiculous things that mentioned his name (but didn’t tag his Twitter account, because there was clearly no need, he was going to see it anyway). Mine got me blocked by Popper, right after he tweeted this:

(As I went to get the link, I noticed that after we’d blocked each other he nonetheless found something else I said mentioning him and responded. That dude from Blues Traveler appears to have some time on his hands these days, is what I’m saying.)

(Also: it appears that all of his tweets have at least one winky face in them. It doesn’t make them any less creepy.)

Anyway, it’s a weird, weird thing, but the thing that sticks out most to me is the fact that John Popper, who is 46 years old and has won a Grammy and still tours and is on TV sometimes, searches his own name on Twitter and (at least sometimes) responds to whatever he finds there. This is a colossal waste of time for the most sedentary and unaccomplished of us. And John Popper, a guy you’ve heard of and whose mid-twenties singing voice you’re hearing in your head right this second, is out there doing it.

Sometimes, I’m really glad I have a stupidly common name. Not that anyone’s talking about me anyway, but even if they were and I wanted to, I wouldn’t be sure how to find it.

Googling oneself

Fridayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

How much does it suck that we’ll never, ever have time travel?

steampunk_time_machine_icon_by_pendragon1966-d5e8pr2My current obsession, shared by approximately half the world (half, that is, of my own predominantly white geeky more-or-less-affluent American world, as gauged mostly by Facebook and Twitter), is watching my way through the most recent iteration of Doctor Who (2005-present) on Netflix. I’m coming to the end of the fourth series, if you’re wondering, which I’ve gathered means the end of my time with David Tennant as The Tenth Doctor. Which is probably going to make me cry or something.

Something that’s occurred to me lately is that I have a more exacting standard for time-travel stories than I do for stories of any other stripe; they generally have to be brilliantly inventive and have actors and/or characters that really pull me in, like the most recent Doctor Who has, for me to be willing to devote much of my time to them (though of course I enjoyed the camp of the Back to the Future franchise as much as any good geeky child of the eighties and nineties). And that’s because it — time travel — is simply never going to happen.

It’s not that I have a hard time suspending my disbelief, generally. It’s not as though lasers are ever likely to make good gun-type weapons, or that we’re ever likely to get past the inherent problems posed by traveling at the speeds necessary to traverse large distances in space; that doesn’t bother me. I’ve loved stories about Hobbits and vampires with souls and grammar schools for wizards and witches and MMO players who sometimes leave their homes.

I think, rather, that it’s just that I want time travel so very, very badly. There’s little I’d like more than to be able to see where we’re headed (to know what replaces TV and the internet in a hundred years, what people look like and are eating in five hundred, if we’re still around at all in a thousand), and one of the few I would prefer may be to be able to look back — see a Shakespeare play, compare Lincoln’s oratory style to Daniel Day-Lewis’ attempt, watch Ruth and Gehrig go back-to-back (and kill Hitler and such, but that’s a whole thing).

I want that to happen so badly, and there’s just no way it’s ever going to. Even with the other things I mentioned, you can imagine the doubts away; scientists could come up with a way around the near-light-speed problem at some point, even though we can’t currently imagine what that might be. I’d make the same assumption about time travel: it’s a pretty ridiculous concept right now, but maybe some day, far down the road, some researcher could stumble upon the secret that makes it all possible.

Except she won’t. No one will. If they were ever going to, we’d have found that out by now.

I picture it going like this: the secret that may one day lead to time travel is unearthed, and the U.S. government, or whatever world government is similarly powerful at that point, quickly and silently controls it. The first time machine that’s developed is probably used under highly controlled conditions, utterly in secret, for limited military or government purposes. No one who witnesses the time traveler ever finds out, or if they do, they’re sworn to absolute secrecy or otherwise silenced.

But then, it goes the way of the fax machine, and the internet, and every other non-weapon military technology. The technology advances, becomes cheaper, slips out to the public. The future equivalent of Xerox and Minolta start producing time machines that can be had for the future-currency equivalent of $5000, then $1000, then $150, then free with the purchase of some other product. People are moving around in time by the dozens, then the thousands, then the millions.

Maybe it’s more controlled than that, but the point is this: if people were going to learn how to time travel, we’d know by now. At some point, however it might be regulated, some doofus is going to show up in the middle of the Revolutionary War in those crazy silver robes from the future scene in Bill and Ted. Someone’s going to go back and bet $100,000 on Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson. Someone‘s going to try that “killing Hitler” thing. We’d have a record, somewhere, of something that really can’t be explained except by time travel. Cave drawings or Renaissance paintings of smartphones and sunglasses and future technology we haven’t actually imagined yet. It’s not the kind of secret that a large-enough group of humans is capable of collectively keeping.

I suppose one could cook up possibilities that would explain this (maybe we’re at or near the very vanguard of all of time, all of the possible universes — maybe time travel will be possible, but not until we get there?). But if we were going to have time travel in the way it’s usually portrayed — you can travel to all points ahead and behind, with the possibility of seriously impacting your own present-day world if you go back — we would know by now, we’d be dealing with some of the implications, both good and bad.

So: no time travel, ever, no chance. That’s my sad thought for today. What say you?

I_has_a_sad

Promisses No. 13: Hot Enough Fer Ya?

Quick, late one today: it’s been hot here. Today is lovely, but most of the past week was close enough to 100 degrees, and humid. I sat in the sun for an hour and a half for a meeting a bit ago and almost died. I walked 30 feet from my car to my office in jeans, and my legs started sweating. It’s been a bit hot.

Then I happened to notice a bit earlier today that on February 1, I posted this on Facebook:

Not even a real number.

Not even a real number.

And that in the middle of April, there was this (to be repeated as late as May 1, but I didn’t even have the energy left to take a picture then):

April 18

I mean, how miserable is life, if we don’t live in Hawaii or San Diego (which I suspect could get miserable in its own way, or at least boring), and we really only appreciate the five or six days a year when nature sets the thermostat to our own personal numbers? I’ve never minded a little heat. It’s good pool weather, and a good excuse not to do much of anything else. If I’m going to whine about the cold and snow in February and later — and make no mistake, I most certainly am going to, always — it’s time to toughen up about this.

Weather

 

Happy Friday! It’s my younger son’s third birthday today, and I hope you’re as excited, awestruck, happy and frequently confused by life as he figures to be this weekend.

What’s a Geek? Are there Fake Geeks? Do You Care?

I hate to keep relying on the same couple sources, but my internet friend Emmie keeps writing smart things. (It’s also a quantity issue, I think; by my calculations, Emmie is writing approximately 35 percent of the modern internet.) Yesterday she was at Spellbound Scribes, writing about the idea of the “fake geek” and how profoundly silly all that is. It isn’t the first time I’ve seen that subject dealt with (not by a longshot), but the writers of those other pieces typically lament (rightly) the treatment of certain women, especially cosplayers, at conferences and the like, and leave it at that; Emmie’s is a more inclusive and holistic approach. I won’t quote much, because you should go read her words for yourself, but the key takeaway: “Being a geek is about loving a thing.” Geeks know what it is to be an Other, and denying others their geekery is really just Other-izing someone else. What sense is there in keeping anyone out?

I love this. For the most part.

In addition to all the reasons Emmie gives: where does that weird geek pride even come from? I don’t get that, and I say that as a confirmed, dyed-in-the-wool, multidisciplinary geek; there’s just not much to be proud of in knowing every Doctor Who or Battlestar Galactica episode by name, number and its three most memorable quotes. You really, really like something that someone else created; come forward and claim your cookie! Don’t get me wrong: we loves what we loves, and should feel all sorts of good things (in addition to, y’know, love) about those things. Pride, though, the kind that makes you want to keep other people out of your exclusive little club? Eh. That’s pretty weak.

I do get where the impulse comes from, I think. It’s easy to say “you know what it’s like to be Othered, so stop Othering others.” The thing is, though, that to a large degree, geekdom developed because geeks were being Othered, and was created to allow them to escape all that, to escape the whole rest of the world. It’s a step beyond the Golden Rule; it’s asking your OG geeks to treat others not only as they would want to be treated, but precisely as they were not treated, growing up, by some of those same others, which is why their little club existed in the first place. I can see how some geeks would find that sort of thing a bit irksome, and especially so when the “fake geek” looks like the kind of guy or girl who gave you wedgies and swirlies and worse in school (or who dated that first guy or girl). It’s wrong, of course, it’s stupid, for Emmie’s reasons and the one or two above. I get the impulse, but impulses can and often should be ignored.

So my quibble isn’t with that, but with this: I want words to really mean something, and I want to avoid broadening their definitions so much that every word means exactly the same thing as a ton of other words, such that we just keep sliding further and further toward Newspeak. When you hear the word “geek,” you think certain things, and even beyond the unfortunate appearance- (or even gender-) based stereotypes, you think of certain real, immutable things, too. It can’t just mean “one who loves a thing” — we have words like “fan” and “devotee” and “connoisseur” and a dozen others that all mean basically that. A geek has to love a certain type of thing (or a thing within a certain range of types of things), and in a certain eccentric way. I’m not an authority on this (or on anything), and I’m not going to tell you what those types and ways are. But I definitely envision certain qualities, and so do you, and there’s a pretty good chance that what you are envisioning right now resembles what I’m envisioning, and it definitely goes well beyond just loving a thing. There’s plenty of room for differing types and degrees, but there’s a certain indispensable character to geekery. Continue reading

Promisses No. 12: My Two Weeks Away and Sharknado

You shouldn’t apologize or explain when you’ve been away from a blog for awhile, I’m told, because nobody really cares, it’s just a blog, and there’s no reason to draw attention to it.

So…

Sorry I’ve been away! What happened was this: I bought a “spaceship” on craigslist, but the lady totally screwed me over and I actually ended up spending my fifty bucks on a damn time machine, and she ran away before I’d figured it out and had left a fake name, so I figured what the hell, lemons => lemonade and all that, right, and I went back in time to 1593 England, and because I had modern clothes and a keychain flashlight they all thought I was like a wizard or something, so I got to meet Queen Elizabeth, and I basically just spent two full weeks hanging with the Virgin Queen (sooo not a virgin, bee-tee-dubs; I know what you’re thinking and no we didn’t but we’re like totes BFFs now and *pantomimes lip-zipping*), and we rode horses and she taught me how to shoot a bow, and we watched the premiere of Shakespeare’s Richard III (meh, bit long), and I taught her how to play a couple offline games on my iPad (Lizzy loves Temple Run 2) and she made me secretly assassinate Christopher Marlowe and it turns out that the only problem is that this timeline keeps moving, and you can’t just go back to like a second after you left the way they do in the movies sometimes or you’ll run into some alternate-reality version of yourself so I came back and two weeks had passed. But Liz gave me this neck ruffle thing as a memento, so all in all I think it was a success.

Anyway. So I couldn’t blog. Again: sorry!

A bunch of people watched something called “Sharknado” last night. I couldn’t do it — something about intentionally awful movies just doesn’t do it for me the way a good earnestly awful movie might, especially one with the MST3K guys in front of it — but following along on Twitter was amazing, so funny. One fun game, I found (and I wasn’t as good at it as some others, but it’s my blog so you get my tweets anyway), is coming up with alternate animal-disaster-combination titles for SyFy to try next.

This week’s Promiss follows: Continue reading

A Partial List of Total Point-Missers (Promisses No. 11: Stuff is Complicated)

I’m not sure exactly what the rules are for what shows up in Google News, but I know the default search doesn’t go back too far, and a Google News search for “Scalia hypocrite” (without the quotes) currently returns thousands and thousands of results. More than 2000 of them are lumped together in one “see more” link, because they’re all about roughly the same thing: Justice Scalia voted to trample on the popular Voting Rights Act  and then the very next day wrote a dissent preaching democracy and judicial restraint in voting to uphold of the Defense of Marriage Act. The words for his hypocrisy are words like “stunning,” “jaw-dropping,” “galling.” 

Only, as we discussed yesterday, that’s not how it went down. Not even close. But a lot of people got it wrong, and I haven’t seen anybody else take the time to set them right.

That’s a bit upsetting to me, partly because (a) you really only needed to bother to read the tiniest little bit beyond Scalia’s second paragraph to see that he’s not saying what you’re about to accuse him of saying, and (b) it distracts from all the horrible things Scalia does say, things that dehumanize certain individuals and families and that show just an appalling failure to understand certain realities that, by now, simply everyone should understand, or at least accept.

Here’s a terribly incomplete list of self-righteous and angry and mocking articles or blog posts that are getting all self-righteous and angry and mocking about very much the wrong thing (note that many of these are excellent pieces that make a number of excellent points, but all of them rely, in an early or prominent place, on the Scalia’s-hypocrisy silliness):

The Atlantic Wire: Justice Scalia Hates Judicial Review, Except When He Doesn’t
The Nation: The Supreme Court’s Constitutional Hypocrisy
BET: Commentary: Gay Rights, Civil Rights and the Supreme Court’s Hypocrisy
The American Prospect: Justice Scalia’s Infuriating Hypocrisy
Wonkette: Supreme Court Update: Special ‘Over-the-Top Nice Time Let’s All Gay Marry Our Dogs’ Edition [Note: this one's really funny, and vulgar. But still gets it wrong.]
News Corpse: DOMA vs. Voting Rights: Justice Scalia’s Jaw-Dropping Hypocrisy
Nashville Scene: The Hypocritical Stylings of Justice Scalia

Sigh.

Law is Hard

Legal Stuff! DOMA, VRA, and Defending Scalia (which, gross)

One reason I changed the name and tone of this site a bit ago is that, while I have a lot of deeply-held convictions and strong opinions and am way more than happy to share them, I hate the idea that those things define a person, that they compel him to toe a certain line in all instances, that they make all those who disagree, however reasonably, the enemy. “The Cranky Lefty,” in the political meaning of it, might accurately describe my leaning and general disposition, but kind of signifies the opposite of anything I want to be, a myopic and closed-minded crusader who is too busy speaking to listen.

And Oh. My. God were there a lot of cranky lefties on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Continue reading