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hello there, the angel from my nightmare
stock: not touching you
I just finished reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott on Thursday evening, which I enjoyed the heck out of. It's a book about writing, but it's also a book about learning to be still and really look, really see the world and distill it in your writing, about learning to see the truth clearly and to write it as best you can. This was the message in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, too, though I wasn't much interested in hearing it at the time (I was seventeen, and convinced that I knew better). My best friend and I joked that we were going to drive out to the creek of the book's title and take pictures of us peeing in it, and write our response to the experience of reading the book and making our own pilgrimage: Pisser at Tinker Creek. (This still makes me chuckle a little, which is how you know I have not even vaguely moved past the level of sense of humor of a nine-year-old.)

Anyway, Bird by Bird was great stuff, and I immediately ran to the post office to mail it to my mother when I was done with it, not just because she would dig the learning-to-be-still stuff, but also because Lamott's sense of humor is EXACTLY like my mother's -- dark and a little sick and deeply hilarious. That had a lot to do with why I loved it so much, I think.

Lamott also devotes a ton of time to talking about a lesson I only just learned this year, and that, once walkawayslowly got through to me about it, seemed so obvious that I could not believe I had never known it before, which is: get to know your characters, for the love of God. So much of the original fiction that I've written has felt like it was missing its center, somehow falling flat, and it was because I didn't know my own characters. I've been writing a lot less in terms of actual stories since that conversation with Merrin, but I can tell you why my character's great-grandmother died when and how she did, and while it's highly unlikely that I will ever once mention it in the story itself, I know it, and that's the whole point -- it gives my character history, grounds her, makes her more real.

Bird by Bird also has absolutely one of the best lines about plot that I've ever read, a line that immediately made me run to my notebook to write it down:

That's what plot is: what people will up and do in spite of everything that tells them they shouldn't, everything that tells them that they should sit quietly on the couch and practice their Lamaze, or call their therapist, or eat until the urge to do that thing passes.

It made my breathe catch in my throat a little, because that's just it, really, that's it exactly: that is what I want to be reading, about characters who know better and do it anyway, whatever that it may be -- I want to read about them giving in to their urges and coming through it all okay in the end, eventually. I want them to pull through, but I want them to do that thing in the meantime, and I want whatever that thing is to be the inevitable thing, the only option there could possibly be for how they will actually act, even though we and they both know that they should know better. And that's what knowing your characters is about: knowing what that thing is, and why they would up and do it. That is what I'm going for.


I'm meeting a friend for drinks tonight. This friend is a cute boy, and it's not a date, it's so not a date, but I can't quite shake the date-like feeling, anyway. We're both new to this city, we've known each other for three years and some change, we're both single, and he's really cute -- that's probably got a lot to do with why I've got it on my mind. Years ago, when we first knew each other, he and one of our mutual friends had this huge messy UST thing going on, which I wanted absolutely no part of, and also he was way awkward back then. I feared the awkward when I met up with him for coffee a couple weeks ago, but it never appeared, except for a little bit of stumbling over his words as we were parting ways ("Want to get lunch sometime?", since we work near each other). I'm having a really hard time remembering why, exactly, I should not go for this. We've got a bunch of mutual friends scattered around Europe, but he and I don't have this great friendship that we'd be ruining or anything. Food for thought, anyway.


I'm moving out of my apartment, also. It's not my roommate -- my roommate is really great. It's my roommate's cats, one of whom is currently attempting to be cute by sleeping on my lap. It's hard to remember how much I despise them when they are being cute, but it's very, very easy to remember how much I despise them when it's six in the morning and they are meowing and clawing at my door. Earplugs are my very best friends, but I decided it was time to pony up and get my own place. I've already got a new place, as of the 15th, and got the lease for it in the mail yesterday. I'm a little terrified of what signing a lease entails (I'm just a little scared of committing to anything in this country) but am working on getting over myself. I'm also beyond thrilled about getting to pick out my very own IKEA dishes. One of my good friends and I compared notes a little while back and discovered that we both used to eagerly await the Williams-Sonoma catalog when we were nine or so, and would make lists of everything we wanted in our future houses. That should give you an idea of how deep and enduring my love of kitchenware is. The new place is a tiny little studio, but I like the area, love the balcony, and the price, she is RIGHT. Good thing, too, because I have lots of travel plans, and seem to have committed myself to even more while at a friend's party last night. Hey, cool. That's what being in Europe as a twenty-something is for, right? Traveling lots and saving no money!
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oh, for the love
stock: red means go!
Via [personal profile] such_heights and sheafrotherdon: ...and Harrison Ford as Dr. Chen (at Angry Asian Man)


Extradorinary Measures, starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser, opens in theaters today. It's a medical drama about a desperate father who finances a cure for the rare Pompe disease that is killing his children. It doesn't look very good, but it's noteworthy as yet another movie that should've starred Asians. Or at least one Asian actor.

Basically, it's a crappy Lifetime-esque movie about a father with very sick children who takes, wait for it, extraordinary measures to save his children, through starting a pharmaceutical company to produce the medicine they need. There's just one thing, though. The geneticist who develops the life-saving medicine, played by Harrison Ford, was not, in RL, a gruff old white dude in Nebraska, like the movie wants us to think. He was a graduate of Taiwan University named Dr. Yuan-Tsong Chen, who was at Duke University at the time and who has been mentioned as a Nobel candidate.

Roger Ebert makes a really excellent point in the article I just linked -- Ford's character isn't even good. There's absolutely no reason for the fictional Dr. Stonehill to have replaced the real-life Dr. Chen at ALL, and one can only imagine that the story would have been far better in innumerable ways had they, you know, stuck with the ACTUAL FACTS. (It's not just the Chen/Stonehill switch that the story got wrong, btw -- Ebert goes into other factual hand-waving, as well.)

I haven't seen the movie, but I HAVE read the script, back when it was The Untitled Crowley Project -- I interned for the production company behind this movie a couple of springs ago. At the time that I read the script, I was totally aware of how crappy a script it was, but had not thought to go through and fact-check. What the scriptwriters and the people behind this movie did to the actual story is not just sad and upsetting on a racefail and fact-fail front, it also reduced a complex and potentially very compelling story into something that nearly put me to sleep while reading it. I can't imagine the movie is any better.

what do hp fic and food blogs have in common? this post.
stock: for prevention of wart-biting
Apparently I still read HP fic! But dude, it's helenish, who wrote Close Enough, which is not only my favorite Harry/Ron fic but also one of my very favorite pieces of fanfiction in ever. Helen writes emotion in a way that it gets up under your ribs and grabs you by the gut and twists, just a little, and she writes characters who aren't very in touch with their own emotions, or who are too stoic or stupid to act on them, or who do act on their emotions and manage fuck things up with the person they love for ages. In addition to Close Enough, see Semaphore for another example of what I'm talking about (Sports Night, Dan/Casey, longish).*

Helen hasn't been writing so much lately, but I pop over to her LJ every now and then just to see what she's up to, and found this:

Theft of Assets, Destruction of Property by helenish
HP, slightly AU | Draco/Neville | NC-17 | 23,061 words
Surely it is a mistake to allow a single youthful indiscretion to cloud an already promising career.

It is a modern Harlequin AU with a side of indulgent awesome, not to mention all the food description you (okay, I) could ever want. Have I mentioned that food blogs are my new crack? For example:

smitten kitchen (with which I am more than a little obsessed)
food in jars (which makes me want to get into canning)
Not Eating Out in New York (which makes me wish I still lived in NYC a LOT. :( no Union Square farmer's market visits for me.)

Anyway, go read Theft of Assets, Destruction of Property -- good times will be had by all!

*And if any of you guys have awesome Sports Night recs that you've been holding onto, I would love you FOREVER if you gave up the goods.

we lift our hands and pray over your body but nothing ever happens
stock: round and round
Happy 2010! I haven't quite gotten my New Year's resolutions worked out yet, though I've been asked about them repeatedly. I would, however, like to use my LJ more, since I accidentally renewed my paid account in November (meant to turn automatic payments off and did not)!

I was with old friends over New Year's, in the city where we all studied, which was lovely. We watched firecrackers go off in the streets and danced until five in the morning and staggered out of bed in search of Chinese food in the morning which was, alas, nowhere to be found. After that we lounged in bed and quasi-napped and I, in the process, finished reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

I went into that book completely unspoiled save for the blurbs just inside the cover, and I really think that's important for this book, being as unspoiled as possible. N.B.: I would not really recommend reading the blurbs. The blurbs speak very highly of the book, obviously, but they also told me more than I would have really wanted to know, going in -- even though the prologue is a huge ol' chunk of foreshadowing itself, the reviews give it a little too much color.

Having said that, I know how I feel about spoilers, which is that I HATE them a whole lot for things I am really invested in (I was invested in this book from the moment I opened it, which is a very high rec right there), but I know not everyone is like that. I already spoiled walkawayslowly (who would have been pretty pissed had she not known the spoilers I gave her) and one of my RL friends massively for Edgar Sawtelle. I can say, without spoilers, that David Wroblewski's prose is beautiful, and that that level of richness is what I aspire to.

Spoilers from here on out.Collapse )
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(no subject)
stock: don't forget your vegetables!

Accidentally burning the office down because I forgot about the five pounds of sweet potatoes I was somewhat illicitly baking in the office oven would probably not have been the best way to ring in the end of my third full week here, so it's a really good thing I wasn't in any danger of any of that.


Happy Thanksgiving!
stock: rain in spain

Hope everyone who celebrates is having a lovely day! November is an odd time to have moved to another country, and I haven't quite gotten to the point of having a set group of friends here yet, so it was really excellent to have not one but two different coworkers invite me over for Thanksgiving. I'm grateful for that this Thanksgiving, and for having the opportunity to live in another country right now, because that's a pretty darned cool thing. And also I'm grateful that my family is safe and together, even though they're far away.


i could never be malicious though i seem so bittersweet
stock: leads to somewhere
I was eating pumpkin soup for dinner, and this song came up on iTunes: pumpkin soup // kate nash Too freaking random -- eating and listening to the same thing!

Do you guys have any favorite house-decorating blogs/websites? I am soon to gain a bigger room than I have had in . . . ever, actually, and am going to need some kind of inspiration regarding what to do with it. I'm inheriting a wardrobe and a couple of bookcases, but beyond that I have right around 21 m2 (approx. 210ish square feet) of space to decorate. That is kind of a lot of space.
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said yes to the girl about the apartment
stock: rain in spain

So hey, that's pretty cool. As of December first I officially have a home! Which means, this weekend? IKEA weekend. Yeaaaah buddy.


apartment hunting
stock: no two euro vegetarian breakfast
LJ! Help me make my life decisions!

Poll #1486846 apartments

I have an offer to live in an apartment with a girl who's right around my age and who I got along with REALLY FREAKING WELL. The apartment has two cats, a living room, a balcony, a washing machine, and basically anything else I would want. Not the prettiest apartment ever but also not at all objectionable. The neighborhood is a little bit more residential than I'd figured on wanting, but is actually quite cute in the daytime. And I REALLY LIKED THE POSSIBLE FUTURE ROOMMATE. Do I:

jump on this like a FAST JUMPING THING because it's really incredible to like a potential roommate that much, in spite of the fact that I haven't looked at other places yet
definitely go look at other places first, even though the other places REALLY DON'T LOOK THAT GOOD and I am kind of scared of moving in with a dating couple/three older women
more thoroughly consider living by myself, even though it would be expensive as butt what with higher rent on top of broker's fees and all of my money is still starting out as dollars right now which is BAD

I just really clicked with this girl! (You can stop planning our wedding any day now, Lauren.) My gut says go for it, but I am second-guessing myself, because seriously, who finds the apartment they are going to move into on the first try? By accidentally emailing the person about South Africa, no less.

a surprise to no one but me: standardized test results are no good.
stock: round and round
Dear LSAT people,

I really don't appreciate you sending me my LSAT score early. It isn't that I didn't want to know it, you understand, but that I didn't want to know it at 11:45 on a Friday night when I was most of the way to drunk off wine at late dinner with a friend, and was happy and full of too much pasta and veal and really just wanted to go to bed and sleep off that Little Italy dinner. Instead I felt compelled to check my personal Gmail right before I went to bed -- which I know isn't your fault, LSAT people, but really, did my results have to go out on Friday evening at 5:00, on a day when I was too crazed to check my Gmail until I was about to collapse into bed?

So now, instead of having had a night of glorious, half-drunken sleep, I have been miserably restless all night (and we are not even all the way through the night!) and am now awake at a little before five in the morning because I was definitely not sleeping, and I kept thinking that maybe after all that wine I'd hallucinated the LSAT results email, and my LSAT score isn't actually as bad as all that, and really I should just get my laptop and check.

Sadly, I was not hallucinating, and my score really is that bad.

I mean. Not THAT bad . . . but bad enough that, if I decide I actually do want to go to law school, I should really retake the LSAT, and fuck me, that was the whole point of taking the LSAT now: having this part of the equation out of the way.

It's honestly most upsetting because I came out of the test feeling really good about how I'd done on it, and what I got was right around the level of my very worst practice test score. Ugh FOREVER.

And really, this isn't the biggest deal in the world. Even if I do decide to go to law school, I don't actually have to apply to the top ten schools; or if I did, I'd still stand a chance of getting in -- the rest of my application is (or will be) really strong. It's entirely possible that I won't end up going to law school at all! It's not as though law school is my only option.

Regardless, this is not what I was hoping for here, and I greatly dislike the feeling of getting shitty results on something I felt confident about. Like -- awesome, I LOVE finding out that my confidence in my abilities is wildly misplaced.

And LSAT people, you can say whatever you want about it being my fault I did poorly and not yours, but you still owe me this night's sleep.

No love,