Wednesday, 31 August 2016 06:39 pm
carose59: scary stuff (they're coming to get you barbara)
"Oh, Oh Sweet Lord! This Is What Evil Must Taste Like!"*

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I have now finished The King in Yellow, and I can say with great authority that I do not understand it.

It's a collection of stories, "loosely connected" to, I thought, each other by way of The King in Yellow, which is "a forbidden play which induces despair or madness in those who read it," and apparently another name for Hastur (one of the Elder Gods, the ones Lovecraft later wrote about).

Here's the problem. The first story, The Repairer of Reputations is definitely creepy. It's about a man who has lost his mind, though nobody seems to have noticed—or if they have, they aren't taking it very seriously. It reminded me a lot of a short story I read in grade school in an Alfred Hitchcock collection; it's called Sleep Is the Enemy. Both stories are first person and have seriously unreliable narrators who don't seem to get what's going on around them. It's been described as being set in an imagined future 1920's America, but that's presupposing the narrator can be trusted—which he really, really can't. It was going along fine until we got to the end, which was . . . abrupt. But I was happy because I thought this was the tone of the book.

I was wrong.

The next three stories are dreamy, supernatural, and disturbing—well, disturbing unless you grew up watching The Night Gallery. There was nothing particularly unexpected. And as the stories went on, they became less and less disturbing and more average until we get to the last three which—

Honest-to-God, the first story had me craving some Lovecraft, but by the end I was laughing and wanting to re-read The Lawrenceville Stories! (The Lawrenceville Stories are set in Lawrenceville, a prep school for boys, in the 1920's. There's nothing remotely scary about them.)

I know I'm jaded. I've been reading and watching scary stuff since I was a kid—and really, this is a problem with all genres. When you've read those who were influenced by the originators, it's very hard to go back and be shocked by the originals—or even surprised. I knew where most of them were going long before they got there. The problem is, I've read a lot and I remember the patterns. They taught me well in high school.

I might listen to the first one again, to get my Lovecraft mood back.

*Phoebe Buffay
carose59: drama of the theatrical kind (life with the dull bit cut out)
Chaucer Is Dead, Spenser Is Dead, So Is Milton, So Is Shakespeare, And I’m Not Feeling So Well Myself.*

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Well, I finally hit an Arthur Miller play I like: All My Sons. It's about a family after WWII. The father had been accused—and cleared—of selling defective jet parts to the military. His partner (next door neighbor, and father of the girl his MIA hero son was engaged to) was convicted and is in prison.

Now the younger son wants to marry his brother's fiancee. His mother freaks out; she believes her missing son is still alive. It's one thing for her to marry someone else, but the brother marrying her is stealing his girl—and admitting the hero is dead.

Then the fiancee's brother shows up. No-one in the family has seen the imprisoned father since his conviction, but now he has talked to his father, who has accused his partner of being responsible for the defective parts being sold.

And then everything falls apart.

I found the characters more likable, easier to take. For a long time now I've been evaluating the narrative I consume by how much I want to spend time with the characters. In high school I refused to read The Magnificent Ambersons after two chapters because I could not imagine spending two hundred pages with those horrible people. (The teacher who'd assigned it was amused by this and give me a different book to read.) My attitude is that life is short and there are lots of great books and movies and TV shows, too many for me to experience in my life. So why should I waste any of my time with characters I dislike?

Anyway, I liked the story and I liked the characters. And Julie Harris was in it and I always like Julie Harris.

A few weeks ago I did an adaptation of Adam's Rib. It was strange for a couple of reasons. First, it wasn't updated, but it also didn't feel like it was in the right period. The tone reminded me of the radio adaptions of The Twilight Zone I listened to a few years ago. Those, they updated in a haphazard way, throwing in modern stuff without excising the old stuff.

The other thing was Anne Heche as Amanda. She was trying to sound like Katharine Hepburn, but it came off like a Warner Brothers cartoon Katharine Hepburn, going on about the calla lilies being in bloom again.

Adam Arkin, however, was lovely as Adam. He has that nice, solid, comfortable quality Spencer Tracy had.

I'm now doing The Crucible, which I read in high school but don't remember terribly well. I don't remember liking it. (Yes, I know. I make no sense.)

*Mark Twain
carose59: movies (the real tinsel)
"Great, We've All Got Names."*

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I just finished listening to The Garner Files, James Garner's autobiography. I really enjoyed it. (I was disappointed that the didn't read it, but not surprised. Disappointed because of course James Garner had a lovely voice, but more because I love listening to authors read their work. You'd have to be a stunningly bad reader for me not to prefer you to a pro—nothing against the pros. Actors who read lots of books are generally better at reading than the actors you've heard of. Apparently it's a different skill set.)

My favorite thing in the book was what he said about Victor/Victoria. It's always annoyed me that King tells Victoria that he doesn't care that she's a man right before he kisses her, because he knows she's not a man. When the scene was filmed, he didn't know—Blake Edwards chickened out and added the scene where King finds out Victoria's a woman. James Garner was disappointed by this; he liked it better that King thought he had fallen in love with a man.

I live in constant hope for things that I know won't happen, and listening to this book I was hoping he'd talk about The Dick Van Dyke Show.

James Garner was never on The Dick Van Dyke Show, but he made a movie called The Art of Love with Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner. And then there are the two episodes Stacy Petrie parts one and two.

These are the second two episodes Jerry Van Dyke guest starred in as Rob's brother, Stacy. In these episodes, he's been released from the army and is moving to New York and is engaged. Sort of. You see, he's been writing to this girl he never met. His friend asked him to ghost write his letters, then when the friend lost interest, Stacy began writing for himself. Now he's in love with the girl, but she doesn't know he's him.

One of the running gags is that the friend's name is James Garner. Every time Stacy says the girl thinks he's James Garner, there's a double take and again he has to explain, "Not the actor, he's this drummer friend of mine."

And the things I want to know are myriad. When did Carl Reiner come up with the idea of having the unseen friend be named James Garner? Did James Garner know about this before the episode aired? How did he feel about it? It seems like just a wonderful joke and I want all the details.

*Angel, Angel

I am very stubborn.

Friday, 1 April 2016 09:31 pm
carose59: computers and other machines (what do you think you're doing dave)
"Things Are Sure Getting Tough. You Can't Go Anywhere Nowadays Without Having A Door Walk Up And Bust You In The Eye."*

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Back in December, I think, I decided to listen to all of the Nero Wolfe books, in order. I knew I had most of them on CD, and I was pretty sure that what I didn't have, the library did.

It was nice, sinking into the Nero Wolfe universe. They're read by Michael Prichard, who also read a lot of the Spenser books. The year Pat died, I spent a lot of time listening to both of these series. I spent more time with Michael Prichard than with anybody else.

I was going along fine until the end of January when I hit book twenty-four, Three Men Out. Along with novels, Rex Stout wrote a number of longish stories. He'd publish those in magazines, then gather enough of them together to make another book. One of those books is four stories long; the rest are three. Three Men Out is a three story book.

And it's rare as hen's teeth.

Our library doesn't have it. So I put in an interlibrary loan request, but none of the libraries we have an arrangement with have it. (I find it appalling that there are Indiana libraries that don't own all of Rex Stout's books. He was born in Noblesville, which is just north of Indianapolis.)

I started looking for it online. Audible doesn't have it. Nobody on Amazon or Ebay is selling it. Overdrive doesn't have it. Recorded Books doesn't have it (which is weird, because they did. Michael Prichard recorded it for them). iTunes doesn't have it, though they do have the ebook. I didn't even know they had ebooks. (All of this also applies to Three for the Chair, except it's book twenty-nine.)

So I started checking torrent sites.

I found one that looked good, but it wasn't Mac-compatible. Of course.

I gave it some thought, then hit the pawn shop down the street and there I found myself a lovely little Asus notebook for a small sum of money. It doesn't have the best battery in the world, but it's quite nice. And since there are some things one needs Windows for, it was a good investment.

Except it doesn't have enough memory. Of course.

So I did a little searching and found that Office Max was having a sale on external hard drives. For a c-note and change I picked one up with two terabytes of memory. Another good investment, and something I should have done years ago.

Then I read up on how to download directly to an external hard drive. And then I downloaded all the Nero Wolfe books.

(Through all this I refused to let myself listen to any other books. Instead I listened to back episodes of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. So while I've been frustrated, I haven't been suffering any.)

I've now heard Three Men Out and am only two books away from Three for the Chair. Being stubborn pays off.

*Managing Editor, Thirty-Day Princess

Do the mashed potato

Tuesday, 29 March 2016 08:39 pm
carose59: writing about writing (always something more to say)
[Originally posted elsewhere October 20, 2005]

I Like To Play Blackjack. I'm Not Addicted To Gambling, I'm Addicted To Sitting In A Semi-Circle.*

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An acquaintance asked about "mashed potato" stories—that is, comfort stories. I started writing a comment, but it all got out of hand and OT, so I thought it would be better to post here.

The idea of comfort reading interests me. There are novels that I have a deep love for because I read them during times of terrible personal crisis. I don't go back and read them again because there isn't really anything special about any of them, nothing to make me love them the way I do. I love them because they saved me, the way you'd love a life raft. You'd love it, but you wouldn't show it to people and claim it was the Queen Mary. There are some movies and TV shows that I feel that way about, too. Last year I was addicted to L&O for its incredible ability to comfort me. I'd tape a tape full of shows, then on the weekend I would turn on the tape, tip my chair back, wrap myself in a blanket and sleep. I needed the distraction of some safe TV to keep me from stressing and not being able to sleep.

Fan fiction doesn't do that for me. Finding an occasional brilliant piece of writing in something I'm interested in (like, say, the A Separate Peace story recently posted to yuletide treasure) is like finding an extra episode, or in that case, an extra chapter. But there's been so little new fan fiction in my preferred fandom that I don't even know how I feel about it anymore, or what it does for me. Wiseguy is my only real fandom (that is, the only thing I write seriously in), and coming across a beautiful piece of fiction is like getting a love letter from a dead lover: it's lovely, it's beautiful, and it means nothing. Your lover is still dead and will not be coming back.

For me, comfort fiction is what I write. The biggie was a story so dysfunctional I should probably show it to my psychiatrist if I ever decide to go back into therapy. I wrote on it only when I was depressed, when I was PMS-ing, whenever I was anxious and unhappy. The story itself was so painful, I couldn't throw myself into it unless I was already hurting, and when I got there, I gave it all my pain. (Poor Vinnie gets all my depression. On the other hand, he gets Sonny, too, so he's doing better than I am.) When I hurt and want to escape, writing is the escape. Maybe that's why I'm not reading anything the way I used to, it doesn't take me away. (I've been feeling guilty over that, that I don't read like I used to, because you know we live in this cult of reading-is-morally superior, which—is reading a gothic romance really superior to playing solitaire? Or is it simply a matter of which one makes your mind feel better?)

Maybe it's why I'm writing so obsessively on this ridiculous AU.

*Mitch Hedberg
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
"My Next Next Paper's Gonna Be Titled, 'Our Friend, The Triangle.'"*

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I was at Kroger a few weeks ago and needed to use the ladies' room. There are two stalls in this restroom; one was having plumbing problems, the other no longer had a door. (My general policy regarding unflushed toilets is, if it looks like all it needs is flushing, I flush it and use a different one. This is probably a symptom of something, but I don't know what. If, however, it looks like it might overflow if I flush it, I leave it alone. This was the situation I encountered.)

The main door didn't have a lock. I wasn't willing to be walked in on while using the toilet, so I thought I'd just wait to go wherever I was heading next and went back to my shopping.

But the place I was going next didn't have a public restroom, so before I left Kroger I decided to try again. Maybe they'd resolved the problem.

They hadn't, but as I was walking out, another woman was walking in. I apprised her of the situation, finishing with, "Look, why don't you use the handicapped stall and I'll guard the door, then you can do the same for me." This is the world I want to live in, and making suggestions like this simultaneously thrills me with a feeling of camaraderie and scares me because people think you're crazy when you say stuff like this. Fortunately, this woman did not think I was crazy and agreed to my proposal.

I didn't have to warn anybody off. And apparently someone had complained to the management because an employee came and took care of the problem while I was using the other stall. Still, it felt like a strange solidarity moment and made me happy.

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Driving home from work Monday, I noticed there are a couple of little free library kiosks on 10th Street just past Massachusetts Avenue. This is a wonderful thing, since I have books I want to get rid of. (They aren't really my books; I picked them up at the booksale for one of my mother's roommates, only she left before I had a chance to give them to her. Now they're just helping to clutter my life.)

The problem with taking things places "on the way" is that I'm so often carrying so much crap, it requires a lot of additional effort to get those things to the car. I feel like a pack mule most of the time. But yesterday I got a bag of books to the car and on my way home, I stopped to drop them off.

It was slightly adventury because I overshot the kiosks and it was raining. But I did not let that stop me! I parked and walked a block and a half in the rain! And I got rid of the books! Today I will get rid of even more!

*Charlie Epps
carose59: writing about writing (always something more to say)
In Marilyn's House The Milk Cartons Were Put Away So Promptly That They Never Sweated, And The Mayonnaise Was Treated Like Some Hopelessly Insane Relative That Was Never Allowed Out. *

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For reasons I can't remember, I decided a few days ago I needed to re-read We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I wanted to read it all in one afternoon, so I waited for today. I mostly read it in the car, though it did get dark and so I had to come in the house. (In between reading, I did some shopping.)

If you haven't read it, you should. Go now and read it. It's only one hundred and fifty pages or so. Do not read this first; there are spoilers.

I was thirteen when I first read We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a year older than Merricat when she poisoned her family. (This happens before the novel starts.)

I fell in love with her immediately. (This was also the first Shirley Jackson I'd ever read; After You, My Dear Alphonse wouldn't come along for another year, and we didn't read either The Lottery or Charles in my grade school or high school.) I was grabbed by the title, held by Merricat, whose life I understood. We were sisters in superstition and torment.

The first scene in the novel is the best description of what it's like for a depressive or agoraphobic to go out. She's walked into town for groceries and library books, and her route is problematic: crossing the street where the cars don't stop (and might actually want to hit her); walking past the men who sit outside the general store and comment on the Blackwood family; stopping in the diner for coffee to show them she's not afraid of them. She pictures the town as a game board, moving over the squares: lose one turn when it takes too long to cross the street, go back to the beginning if you drop the groceries. She pictures the townspeople dead or dying.

That feeling of being watched by malignance nicely sums up my grade school experience, and it seems to run in my family; my grandmother was sure the neighbors were watching and it's my opinion she wasn't wrong. It attacked again after my house was broken into the first time—and I wasn't wrong then. My house—and my cousin's—were broken into by people who lived behind us.

I've found that people who write about this book tend to be disturbed by Merricat. Yes, she killed most of her family for not giving her the kind of adoration she wanted, and in the novel itself, she burns down most of the house to get rid of an unwelcome cousin who is threatening to evict her. And I'm sitting here thinking, why is there a problem with this? But there's a pervasive idea that we're only allowed to like characters we agree with, admire, would want to be like, or be friends with. I've never understood that. I had read Wuthering Heights the year before, memorized great hunks of it, adored Cathy and Heathcliff—but never had any interest in being like either of them, let alone knowing someone like them. Sometimes that's what literature's for, but not always. Sometimes it's so you can enjoy things you don't want to happen.

I'm much, much more tender-hearted than Merricat or Cathy and Heathcliff. I don't have to want to be Merricat to find her story satisfying. She takes action; she doesn't let herself be stepped on. When you live a life where you can't do that, reading about someone who does is wonderful.

Merricat wasn't even my first child-murderer. That would be Josephine Leonides, another young girl who killed her family members, in Agatha Christie's Crooked House. That was my first Agatha Christie, and I loved it so much, I started buying the books. And yet I've somehow never killed anyone. Maybe that's why I've never killed anyone.

Shirley Jackson, like Emily Bronte, wrote magical, dream-like prose, and reading it always takes me somewhere where the world is strange and dark and primal, and things might not end happily, but they are satisfying.

*(George), E. L. Konigsburg
carose59: the rose behind the fence (Default)
'Cause It All Comes Out Wrong
Unless I Put It In A Song.
So The Radio Plays,
"I Think I Need A New Heart"
Just For You.
"I Think I Need A New Heart."

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I've been listening to the Nero Wolfe series at work, and I'm up to the twenty-third book, Three Men Out. The library doesn't own it, nor do any of the libraries we have a reciprocal borrowing agreement. It's readily available to buy, and I wouldn't mind buying it—it's only eight dollars.

So why is there a problem? Because the only place it's available is iTunes, and neither my iMac nor my MacBook is new enough for it.

So I'm looking at buying a new computer to so I can listen to two books. (There's another book later on that's unavailable any other way—at least, any other way I can find.)

By "a new computer," I mean going to the hock shop down the street and seeing what I can find. The requirements for a PC are more lenient, and they're cheaper and easier to find. But it's still stupid.

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The Tommy cat showed up again yesterday. I saw him down the block a few months ago; I thought he had a new home, but now I'm not sure.

He was sitting by my car when I went out to go to my mother's, and he started up the ramp and gave me a little meow. I feel so bad for him; he wants a home and somebody to love him, and I simply cannot do this. I'm committed to Meg, who I'm sure won't accept another cat. The best way for me to get Meg to come when I want him is to talk to Little Cat; he comes and pushes her out of the way. He's my baby. And here's this poor cat who needs a home and love.

Anyway, it's awfully cold, so I made the Tommy a bed. I put an old, soft coat in a plastic box, then I put the box inside an old trash can. I put the whole thing with the opening close to the side of the house to keep out the wind, but with enough space for him to get in.

I sprinkled catnip and dry food on the coat.

And you know what I keep thinking? Some possum's going to find himself a nice bed. How do people who put out these cat beds make sure cats get them? Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to find Meg curled up there, and how do I keep that from happening? I don't understand how other people's lives work.

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Today is the first anniversary of my pacemaker. I'm used to my heart beating hard when I exert myself. It never used to do that, and when it started, it disturbed the hell out of me.

*I Think I Need a New Heart The Magnetic Fields

Brain stuff

Thursday, 23 July 2015 11:31 am
carose59: mental health care (and the pelican says)
"So One Way Of Looking At It Is Simply Not To Look At It At All."*

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I'm listening to The Marshmallow Test, and I shouldn't be. My brain does not work like other people's, and I find it very upsetting listening to how things are "supposed to be" when I simply can't make them be that way. (This isn't the fault of the book; the author isn't talking about manic-depressives, so what he's saying isn't necessarily supposed to apply to me.)

One study they did was on how realistically people rate themselves socially, particularly how depressed people rate themselves, as opposed to other people with serious mental illnesses. The participants didn't know what the study was about, and there were outside observers also rating them, to compare how realistic depressives were about their social skills.

What they found was that while most people—including other seriously mentally ill people—give themselves unrealistically high ratings, depressives are incredibly accurate in their evaluations. Once again, depression is shown to be realism.

I say this stuff, and people think I'm somehow in favor of depression. I'm saying it because people tend not to listen to depressed people because we're depressed and not saying the things they want to hear. We're not pessimistic, we're realistic. It might feel good to have the optimists ruling the world, right up until their rosy plans crash and burn. That's why we need to listen to the depressives, who will point out the problems because depressives can see reality. We need optimism to see the future (because you can't build the future if you can't see it first), but we need depressives to keep it grounded.

By the way, I have excellent social skills. People talk to me, people like me, because I'm interested and engaged and amusing. They don't know that I'm mostly lying.

I keep wondering about these other seriously mentally ill people. Are we talking about schizophrenics? Maniacs? [I mean that literally, people in manic episodes.] Paranoiacs? God knows people in manic episodes can be very charming, but they can also be utterly insufferable, and how crazy were the schizophrenics? I can't imagine paranoiacs being very sociable. I'm thinking about this too much, but it's amusing the hell out of me.

The Marshmallow Test has to do with how we use our hot and cool brains, delayed gratification, and how it affects our lives. My cool brain methods are humor and logic; I find things funny, which cools them off. Or I find the flaw and just start deconstructing the thing until it's a small pile of rubble. Hell, I just did it here, now, while you were reading. I started off upset, but when my brain started picturing social interactions with seriously mentally ill people, it just went really funny.

*John Lennon
carose59: grade school (unsettle the minds of the young)
"I Want More Cake, I Want More Cake, I Want More Cake!"*

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Third grade was also when I started cheating in class.

This was not bought on by my many, many absences, or even an attempt at better grades. It was brought on by addiction to stories.

See, third grade they moved me from the regular classes to what they called Programmed Reading. We didn't have any regular readers that year, we had work books, a series of twenty-something of them. They'd start you out where they thought you ought to be, and the stories got progressively more difficult, both in vocabulary and in concepts. By the end we were reading about the Greek and Roman gods and I was absolutely fascinated. And before that, there was a long, involved story that sounds like it was based on the Narnia books, at least according to the people I've mentioned it to who have read C. S. Lewis. It was about these children who went down in the basement one day, only the basement steps went down much further than they ever had before, and they ended up in some other dimension, or something. It was wonderful, and I couldn't stop reading it.

Which is where the cheating came in.

Because in Programmed Reading, you read at your own pace. They started you out at what they considered to be your proper reading level, then let you go. You'd read a chapter, then there would be a test to take. You take the test, score it, turn in your paper, and go back to reading. It was pretty much on the honor system, though I suspect there were people who were considered less-than-honorable, and were watched more closely.

I wasn't one of them. I was always, always a good girl. And the thing was, nobody would ever have suspected I was cheating because I really was a good, fast reader who comprehended what she'd read and could tell you the story back if you asked. I was doing just what they wanted in those terms.

I was just cheating on their tests. See, I found out pretty quickly that if you just mark down most of the right answers, rather than actually take the test, you can get back to the stories that much sooner. And, God, I had to get back to the stories! The stories were wonderful, and besides, it wasn't like a book, where you could take it home and read it all night 'til bedtime. The only opportunity I had to read these stories was in school. (This is how much I loved them—when we had free time, to draw or whatever, I would go over and get the books that came before where they started me, so I could read the beginning of the story. And let me just say right here that I love how experts think. Apparently it never occurred to them that it might be something of an obstacle to start out a kid in the middle of a continuing story, that it might somehow impair their interest and/or comprehension.)

Stories were such an escape for me, they got me out of whatever stressful thing was happening in my life (I really don't remember). But, you know, I never cheated at anything I was actually bad at, like math or geography. I can't figure out just what this says about me. I think it means I'm basically honest—that is, I represent myself as honestly as possible. Sort of like here—the things I'm writing are true, but the names are changed. Would the stories be any more true with the real names in them? Would I be any better or worse a reader if I'd taken their tests?


July 2017

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