I’m working on a short story that I think is called “Sunshowers.” It’s really slow going. I think this won’t be in it, but I like it anyway.
I launder Keisha’s clothes at the hospital and throw them out with all the other rags and shrouds ruined by the touch of substances never meant to leave the body. I have a series of thoughts, philosophical and literal in an uncertain mix: The body breaks like glass breaks, screaming. The body lashes out when it breaks, blighting everything it touches. The body speaks when it breaks; blood howls its exile, bright as bells. The only thing blood doesn’t stain is skin. Stain is history, and skin spurns history. Skin is immemorious. Skin bathes in blood and forgets. The porcelain carapace of our shower will remember Keisha’s husband’s blood longer than her skin will. You can pull the blood from the body and the vessels will be a white web, innocent as plastic. I look straight at the sun, not thinking, and it doesn’t even leave an afterimage. I think of a book I read a long time ago, written when nuclear winter was a bigger threat than global warming, about a world where you could look directly at the dying red sun in the twilight of what passed for noon. I’m destroying evidence of a murder, and I tell myself that it’s because I know he had it coming, but that isn’t true. If it were true I would have pressed Keisha on it, I would have tried to be sure. But the truth is that I don’t care if it was the blood of thirteen nuns on her clothes. We take care of each other. That’s all I know and all I need to know.
We planted seedlings today—bell peppers, jalapenos, carrots, and broccoli. This required clearing out the garden, which had been taken over in late April by the usual forest of mint:
Usually we just toss extra mint, since it’s a pain to do anything with, but this year I decided I’d try making a gigantic quantity of mint simple syrup for use in future ice cream, mojitos, sodas, &c. I harvested four cups of leaves, mixed them with 2 2/3 cups each of sugar and water, boiled them for a few minutes, and ended up with a bowl of what looks like raw sewage:
It tastes great, although I think it could stand probably half again as much mint. Unfortunately, I have at least that much to go…
This is not exactly a declaration of intent. But it’s getting pretty close.
Unfortunately, at the moment I can’t use this particular cover commercially—both the texture and the dandelion require permission from different sources for commercial use, and the dandelion in particular requires a paid license that costs about $15. It’s not clear whether I could work something out for the texture, but luckily that’s a bit less important. The fonts are Igino Marini’s Fell Types and Schoon, both—amazingly—free.
Astute readers will note that the image is called “cover9″; revelation of the previous eight would constitute the sort of public self-flagellation that’s really best left for the million-dollar stretch goal of a Kickstarter. But the below is, at least in my mind, a pretty respectable runner-up, although the feel it’s going for is (purposely) much more “70′s paperback” than… well, whatever the thing above is. The one great deficiency of the cover below is my lack of courage—there’s an early version with an appropriately retro font (Futura) for the byline, but it felt too chunky for the application and I switched to Helvetica Neue Anorexliche instead. Despite my affection for it, I never actually made a proper version of the runner-up in the GIMP; this is literally a screenshot of a PowerPoint mockup.
I’m trying to get back into running through the Couch to 5K running plan. This is less because I don’t have the endurance to run 5K (though, hey, maybe I don’t) and more because, when I just leap into physical things without a progressive plan, I tend to hurt myself. (Sometimes I hurt myself anyway.)
But I think this particular plan is smart motivationally as well as physiologically. It is, admittedly, a little hard to run in stops and starts around the neighborhood—if someone sees you stop, you always sort of have the urge to explain. “No, it’s part of the plan.” But running in stops and starts means
(a) you’re not tired while you’re running, so
(b) you’re running with good form, and
(c) you’re running at speed, so
(d) you’re enjoying yourself, and
(e) you’re associating running with good form, a good pace, and enjoyment.
This would not be the case if you tried another thing that I’ve done before, which is the following: Make a conservative guess at how long you can run continuously, run half that time/distance out, then run back; add a minute to your run out every week or so until it gets unreasonable. If your guess is decent, i.e. you’re running below your capacity but only a little bit, then a lot of the time you’re running, your form is bad and you’re slow and you’re really dragging. And (and this is really the only value added from any of this) you associate the running context with those things.
I honestly think the association with enjoyment may be the least important part of this—I generally find running pretty motivating no matter what, probably because it’s easily the most effective way for me to lose weight. (Actually, the causality there is quite plausibly backward.) But the association of the running context with good form and a good pace is what’s really new for me. All the other times I’ve tried to get into running, I end up sort of shlumping along after a while, because I really want to wring myself out. I’m sure my form and pace will suffer as the runs get more challenging, but I’m also pretty sure they’ll be better than they would if I were just dogging it the whole way.
I’ve seen the above-linked article posted on Facebook a few times, mostly with accompanying lamentations like “Thanks for the reality check” or “sigh.” I respectfully submit that the lamenters have misread the piece as satire when it is, in fact, a straightforward work of inspirational prose. Seriously, look at this stuff.
Because when you get right down to it, everyone has dreams, and you deserve the chance—hell, you owe it to yourself—to pursue those dreams when you only have enough energy to change out of your work clothes and make yourself a half-assed dinner before passing out.
And I’ll tell you this much: You don’t want to wake up in 10 years and think to yourself, “What if I had just gone after my dreams during those brief 30-minute lunch breaks when I was younger?” Because even if it doesn’t work out, don’t you owe it to yourself to look in the mirror and confidently say, “You know what, I gave it my best half-hearted shot”?
You think this is sarcastic? Does this sound wrong to you? 85% of the writing I’ve done in the past four years has been on the R7 between Trenton Transit Center and 30th Street Station. I haven’t sold any of it. I may never sell any of it. I have, more than once, “beg[u]n to question whether this was all a giant waste of time, whether you even want to [write] anymore, and whether this was just some sort of immature little fantasy you had as a kid and that maybe it’s finally time to grow the fuck up, let [writing] go, and join the real world because, let’s face it, not everyone gets to live out their dreams.”
But never for very long.
I live a charmed life, gentle readers, because I am privileged enough to carve any time for writing out of it. And I am not alone. Thank you, The Onion, for reminding me.
From PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE: Facial Structure Is Indicative of Explicit Support for Prejudicial Beliefs
This is amazing. I’m praying for a commentary headlined “Psychologists unwittingly reveal information about own facial structure.”
Plot summary: Crazed genius invites several young people into a labyrinth of his own making, in which all but one suffer terrible mutilations. The one who remains is recruited as his successor.
Is this a pitch for
(a) SAW III?
(b) CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY?
This issue is no longer live on Facebook, so people may no longer care—if indeed they ever did—and it’s solidly outside my wheelhouse(s?); but I’m going to swing anyway. Wish me luck.
TruthOut said, about six weeks ago, that the Second Amendment was ratified to preserve slavery. You’ll remember that the Newtown shootings were much closer to the front of people’s mind in mid-January than they are now, and it’s perhaps testament to the evanescence of what passes for political thought on social media that the headline already sounds a bit absurd, like “why would anyone go there?” But you’ll remember that we were all quite concerned about saying how concerned we were about guns back then, and this bit of analysis got passed around. The topic sentence is at the beginning:
The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country” (the Framers knew the difference—see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia’s vote.
The sheer political convenience of this construal is cause enough to doubt its veracity, if you’re ignorant like me—but, if you’re ignorant like me, you’d better at least not be dumb enough to say flat out it isn’t true, and I won’t. I don’t know nearly enough about the political machinations surrounding the Bill of Rights to confirm or deny. What I will say is, then there’s this:
The WaPo link doesn’t contradict the TruthOut link, and for all I know they are both true. But the WaPo link complicates things more than a little. Arguably our major problem with guns today is not so much the Second Amendment itself, as its reconstrual to emphasize individual (rather than collective) rights to bear arms. And that seems to have been an unintended consequence of the reconstructionist Republicans’ very understandable desire to suppress insurrections and allow black families to defend themselves in the postwar South.
Which makes it seem a little off to go after guns with guilt by association to slavery.
By the same token, it’s off to valorize guns as a keystone of our civil rights. We’ve used violence for truly noble purposes a few times in the nation’s history, for purposes ranging from questionable to downright vile a bit more regularly. If we buy both articles linked above, what we learn is that the framers used the Second Amendment for bad, then the reconstructionist Republicans twisted it around to use it for good, but what was good back then is bad now. And even that is probably too simple.
It’s good to know history. But I think that knowing history tends to foreclose convenient analogies. It’s appealing for liberals (of whom I am one) to blame the South for things we don’t like—and the South has its share of things to answer for. But if we reject Virginia, we reject Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, all of whom owned slaves. Adams never owned a slave, but spoke out against emancipation. Hamilton was anti-slavery, but tried to kill Aaron Burr in a duel with a gun. And, of course, today’s President, beneficiary of a transformational respect for civil rights that is still new and far from total, only recently “evolved” enough to acknowledge the full civil rights of his gay countrymen.
This is a long way of saying that history only takes us so far; new worlds have new problems, and we have to assess the factors on their own merits. Lazy thinking doesn’t work. Believe me, I try it every day.
(Unrelated to the more sanctimonious bits of the above, it’s dynamics like this that make me understand how people become Civil War buffs. The more I learn about that period of time, the more interesting it gets. Although it swiftly becomes apparent that you need to go back to at least the Revolution to really understand how any of it works.)