This week’s words:
Thanks for reading!
TL;DR: I am writing, or furiously attempting to write, two novels in 20 days, and posting all first draft copy as well as daily notes and occasional essays to cobblerandbard.com. Come stop by.
Hi all. I’m a little late with this, mostly due to frantically getting things up and running the past few days, but I have things to say! And a place to say them! So I’m running out of excuses for not getting them said.
I have a new author site. I haven’t decided the division of labor between the sites yet; as I imagine it, Cobbler & Bard will be pretty business-focused, the Pulchrifex Papers will continue to aggregate random non-writing-related stuff that grabs my interest, and if C&B takes off then PP will probably slowly die. Further bulletins as events warrant.
For those of you who do follow this site in any measure out of interest in my fiction, you should know that NOT ONLY will C&B be hosting that stuff in general in future, BUT ALSO I have a huge writing and meta-writing initiative that I’m posting up there RIGHT NOW, and will be through all of January. This is surely the place to start—so surely, in fact, that it’s sort of mind-croggling that there isn’t a permalink to that somewhere on the blog page, ah well another thing to do oh god.
And I am now officially way over my allotment of social media time for the day. So I do sincerely hope to see you over at C&B, and please share and comment if you like what I’m doing.
I’ve talked a little bit about Wattpad, but possibly not enough. It’s a social network for writers; I have some free work on it, and I’m a little bit active in a couple of discussion groups. The guy running those discussion groups, Jason Howell, was kind enough to ask me a few very sharp and kind questions about my own writing; inexplicably, on reading the answers, he decided to publish them anyway.
Part 1 of the interview is here. You don’t need a Wattpad account to read it. However, you do need one to vote and comment. Votes are the Wattpad version of “likes,” which is to say the currency of the realm, and Jason has done a lot to enrich other Wattpadders. If you really enjoyed the interview, it would be kind of you to join up and vote (which vote will go to him, not me).
If you already know you like my writing, you might also check out Jason’s, either on Wattpad or at his own pad. He works short, so the ante’s modest, and he’s tricky.
This comic came across my transom a few minutes ago. Click and read—there’s much more than just the single panel below. I’ll wait.
On the one hand, beautiful and indisputable. The power of kindness and understanding is formidable. These are values we try to teach our kids, and for the best of reasons, the repulsion of alien despots perhaps not least among them. And I love the art.
On the other… well, it was posted today, today being August 28, 2014. The referents in current events are clear enough, but in case you’re coming to this a few months or years late, let’s state them: the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent overreaction by police to local protests; the recent bloodshed between Israel and Hamas; possibly the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Or, not quite. The referents in current events are the popular reactions to these events. Winehart (Swinehart? I’m assuming he’s “Nate S. Winehart”) is talking about the conversations he’s seeing his friends having. The parallel timelines in the comic aren’t about different things happening in Ferguson, they’re about different ways to react to a world where Michael Brown is dead.
And—it’s difficult to interrogate these sorts of sentiments without seeming to prove their point, but one of those reactions is much easier to imagine when the discussants are both white hipsters who like the same coffeeshop. Who’d want to spend the day together cloud-watching, sharing a movie and a sunset. Who are friends already, whose lives are only separated by different viewing angles on the same abstraction.
It becomes harder to imagine the pink timeline when the two friends have a complicated history. When they’ve hurt each other more than once, then tried to reconcile, then hurt each other again. When one has more often, and more grievously, taken the offensive. It becomes harder to appreciate the pink timeline in light of Ferguson when the joke, the sugar for the pill, is slavery.
I’m grateful for the comic. I’m glad Winehart (please tell me it’s Winehart) drew and posted it. I’m following his blog now because his art is amazing. But—look, I’m reading this book called OVERWHELMED, by Brigid Schulte, which has nothing to do with the ideas at hand except for this:
The overwhelm, they want people to understand, is not an epidemic of personal failures, of whiny moms unable to juggle work and home efficiently. It’s a massive structural failure, and it’s holding everybody back.
The persistence of the blue timeline is not an epidemic of personal failures, of peevish people unwilling to find empathy and common ground with others.
Except when it is. And sometimes it is. But not always, not even close.
Being good to each other is so important. No question. But part of being good is not always insisting on goodness from the other party. Part of being good is respecting justified anger. Part of being good is owning up to history.
The Fraggles sing a song called “Workin’”:
Wake up in the morning.
Get yourself to work.
Fraggles never fool around.
Fraggles never shirk.
Their duty’s always waiting.
And duty must be done.
There’s Ping-Pong games that must be played
and songs that must be sung.
On The Muppet Show, the young and annoyingly earnest Scooter gets to have his way—because his uncle owns the theater. Kermit, in order to put on his show, must keep him happy. Scooter suggests a number with a dancing poodle.
Kermit says, “It sounds, said the frog, displaying his artistic judgment, sappy.”
Scooter mentions his uncle.
Kermit adapts: “It sounds, said the frog, displaying his will to survive, wonderful.”
Ibid. (I’ve just discovered the “your Kindle highlights” page on Amazon — can you tell?)
[Henson:] I didn’t call him a frog.
[Interviewer:] Right, he was just Kermit the thing.
[Henson:] Yeah, all the characters in those days were abstract because that was part of the principle I was working under.… I still like very much the abstract characters and some of those abstract characters I still feel are slightly more pure. If you take a character and you call him a frog, or like Rowlf, our dog, call him a dog, you immediately give the audience a handle. You’re assisting the audience to understand; you’re giving them a bridge or an access. And if you don’t give them that, if you keep it more abstract, it’s almost more pure. It’s a cooler thing. It’s a difference of a sort of warmth and cool.… [I]n terms of going commercial and going broad audience, you want to reach the audience as much as possible, and you need those bridges.
Quoted in MAKE ART MAKE MONEY, Elizabeth Hyde Stevens
These are amazingly beautiful. I have to post the hippocampus out of loyalty, but I think my favorite as a painting is the crab stomatogastric ganglion. (Dunn has a PhD in neuroscience from Penn!)
Yesterday I did a little bit of field work for THE EIGHTH KING at the Princeton University art museum, which has an amazing collection of (among other things) Chinese art: