"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In TV Land, Hiatus Means Cancelled

But this is Blogland, and in Blogland hiatus can mean whatever you want it to mean.

I really don't have much to say today, except that I've decided I'm putting the blogging on low priority for the next two weeks. As I've said, school is up and coming, and I need to do some kind of prep work. At the very least I need to read those books I'm supposed to teach. Plus, I need to start keeping better hours. Heading to bed after midnight and getting out of bed  sometime between eight and nine in the morning when the baby wakes isn't going to help me in two weeks.

I also need to do some house reparations. Just small things like touch up painting and patching holes in walls and preventing leaks in faucets. I can do the others, but I hate plumbing. Why don't they teach plumbing in school? Who cares about Lord of the Flies when your bathroom sink remains stopped up for six years and the procession of plumbers can't figure out why.

But I procrastinate. I told my wife that if I don't get these fixes done in two weeks, she can call a handyman. What a blow to my masculinity that would be.

And I have my brother-in-law's manuscript to review. And I need to do some revision on my own manuscript. Or at least add something to the new story about ghosts and aliens. And come up with a pitch and log line for an agent.

The last thing before school starts this year is the writer's workshop I'm attending in San Fransisco. It's called the Write to Market Algonkian Conference. I've been putting off exploring a lot of possible pathways to publication in anticipation of this event. I'm supposed to bring a pitch and speak to actual agents and everything.

This is a pretty big deal for me. I've been putting off this particular ambition for far too long. So when I come back in a couple of weeks with my book deal, you can say you knew me when.

In the meantime, I'll log on and read your blogs as time allows. I won't completely disappear. Don't fret. I knew you were fretting.

And you should go back and read a post here that you haven't read before. I appreciate it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Some Summer Reading

This summer I was supposed to read the eight books that I will be teaching this next school year. So far, I've read one. And my summer's pretty much over. Teachers start back at school on August 2 this year (and if you think that's early, last year we were back to school in July). So I have two weeks to read about eight books. Not to mention all the other household chores and writing goals I might have had for the summer.

What follows is a list of books I have read this summer. A couple of them I started reading long ago. Some of them I read in a quick bout of concentration. I usually have several books going at once, so don't judge me on my sluggish readingness.

I'm particularly proud of the variety of genres on this list: Non-fiction essay, science-fiction, YA science-fiction, literary international fiction, memoir/humor, science-fiction, and general (perhaps literary if you're not too snobby) fiction. See? It's not all sci-fi.

I'm in the process of adding full reviews of these books on my Shelfari over to the left. Scroll over the book to read my complete thoughts. You can also navigate with the arrows at the bottom of the shelf to see other books I've read this year. Let me know if you've read any of them. I'd love a little conversation.

In the meantime, here's a few sentences about each of my summer reads:

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman

I wish I were as savvy as this guy. I was introduced to this book just as I began blogging and actually strive to make my posts--at least the ones that aren't about my son--sound as smart as Chuck Klosterman. He writes long, complicated essays about pop culture. Everything from Star Wars to Saved By the Bell. I never watched Saved By the Bell. Now I kinda wish I had.

Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

This is a superfluous entry in the Ender series. It takes place after the war in Ender's Game but before he ever gets to where he is in Speaker for the Dead. Ender's Game has long been one of my all-time besties, so it pains me to speak ill of Orson Scott Card. He is always an entertaining read, but it took me a long while and a few starts and stops to finish this book because there was no clear conflict. We don't really learn anything new about Ender so it's unclear about what purpose it serves in the Ender canon.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson

A teenage girl awakens with few memories and has to figure out who she is. I like the language of this book, but the story is thin. Clever imagery and poetic interstitials are barely enough to sustain you once you find out--early on--what is so special about her and how she got that way.

So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

The one book I've read for next school year, it's a long letter to a friend (which makes a short book) from an African, Muslim woman describing her life from marriage to the man she loves to his taking of another, younger wife without divorce, which is allowed in Islamic law. I should have read this book in college. I would have been all up in arms about that. Oh, I still understand the feminist plight. But now I can't help feeling like she should have seen it coming.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

I'm going to rehash my own line and say I love Tina Fey because she's nerdy in all the right places and she's exactly my age. I feel I understand her, and therefore she understands me, even though I don't think her description of "becoming a woman" is especially funny. Her writing can actually be a little vulgar. It seems like sometimes she's crass just because she can be. I think she's much funnier when she's smart and subtle.

The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

Haldeman begins with a captivating premise--a guy presses a button emitting "gravitons" and accidentally starts sending himself into the future at exponentially farther and farther points--but it doesn't really pay off. The first problem is that the main goal of the protagonist is wanting to go back to his own time (he can't find a time machine that goes into the past), but I see no reason for him to want to do that. The far future is increasingly fascinating (maybe that's just me), and he should want to play that out as far as it goes. But he doesn't. The end.

Room by Emma Donoghue

A woman and her five-year-old son are locked in the backyard shed of the man who kidnapped the woman seven years ago. The boy, Jack, has never been out of that small space. The story is narrated by the boy, from the precocious five-year-old's point of view. The section leading up to their escape (no spoiler; it's inevitable) is heartbreaking, and the rest of the mother and son's "recovery" is no less affecting.

Looking back at what I just wrote, I'm not sure I'm recommending these books or just criticizing them. But you should check them out. I don't regret reading them. If I truly disliked a book, I'd stop reading it. (Unless it's on the IB English reading list and I have to teach it next year. Then, like I try to teach my students, I read it whether I like it or not.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Flash Fiction: Independence Day

I up and decided to participate in today's Independence Day Flash Fiction Blogfest hosted by Ali Cross.

The prompt is: "It's Independence Day and something unexpected happens . . ."
And it's supposed to be no more than a 250 word piece of flash fiction. Mine is 254 words. I hope that doesn't disqualify me or anything.

This took me nearly 17 minutes to write, so please keep an open mind. You're always welcome to tell me I suck if you have a good reason.

The year has taken it’s toll. Father’s posture is worse and his hands are dry and cracked. He might have left a fingernail somewhere in the last batch of bottles he cleaned. He knows that this chore will be over presently. No more bottles to wash. No more waking nights feeding a crying child.

But Father hopes he has a few more days with his son. He looks down at his hands, gray from the dishwater, and wipes the sweat from his brow. Each night gets more difficult to stay up like this. He closes his eyes, feels his aching body, pulls himself away and out of the kitchen.

He creeps into the nursery to watch over the child. Not a baby any more. His son seems eager to break out of the cocoon at any moment. Filling out the cradle now, the child sleeps naked, as he has every night since his midterm. It will happen soon.

Father turns to his own bed, but a sudden cramp drops him to the floor. Not now. Father isn’t ready. Writhing in pain, he manages to look up as his son emerges from his second womb, collapses upon his father, and consumes what he needs of his heritage.

Wings now sprouting from his small back, Son hovers over his decrepit father’s body. “As I take the life you gave, Father, you give me independence.”

Son kisses the father on the forehead, then, in the father’s fading vision, leaps through the chamber skylight and into the night.

Here's the bloghop info and participants if you want to read more.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'm Loathe to Admit

But I am, after all, irresistible AND sweet. I didn't want it to get out, but what are you gonna do?

Gail at Chasing after the Stars sent me this blog award. She added the Stylish Blogger award with it (which I already have and am pretending wasn't included), and she answered questions from the Blog Tag thing that's been going around like the plague an amusing playground game. (And if you don't know how I feel about tagging, read this. My tongue is firmly planted in my cheek.)

Plus, strawberries.

As with most blog awards, I'm supposed to tell seven things about myself. So, let's play a game: One of the following statements is a lie. See if you can spot which one. (If I get enough comments down below, I will reveal the secret answer, so check back often.)

1. I own almost 4000 musical albums.
2. I don't like dogs.
3. I've never read Jane Eyre.
4. There are nuclear-powered squirrels in my backyard. (Remember I said one of these is a "lie." Perhaps I'm just adding language flourishes to a true statement.)
5. I lost 2.4 pounds just yesterday.
6. I don't watch sports unless I'm coaching the game in question.
7. I would literally pay up to dozens of dollars for the never-in-print CD Belfegore by the band Belfegore.

Now I'm supposed to answer these awkward questions.

8.Do you think you're hot?
I feel like I've been sweating for most of the summer. The mugginess of Florida and the heat of Vegas has followed me around for weeks, and now Denver is flooding with rain and it's never been so humid around here. So, yes, I'm hot.

9.Upload a picture or wallpaper that you're using at the moment. 
I like spacewallpapers.net. I always have an image like this on my computers at home and school. Yowzers! is right. Thank you Mr. Hubble.
This is the Sombrero Galaxy, discovered, obviously, by Mr. Sombrero.

10. When was the last time you ate chicken meat?
I'm not sure what this question is asking. Did this meme get started by the Chicken Council of America? Are they taking down demographic data here? If so, my answer is that I like to eat chicken of all varieties and you can reach me through marketing campaigns playing early 80's straight edge hardcore music, like 7 Seconds or Minor Threat.

11. The song(s) you listened to recently:
Seriously? I listen to music all day. Right now Young the Giant is playing. They sing this song. You've probably heard it.

Earlier today, I had a Goldfrapp thing going on. Their last year's album Head First is a disco classic. Sorry about this video. It's like Xanadu met The Crow in an effort to capitalize on Twilight. But the song is outta sight.

12. What were you thinking as you were doing this?
I put the baby to sleep in his crib an hour ago. He just woke up again. Now my wife is mad at me. We can't seem to agree when and where and how to get him to bed.

13. Do you have nicknames? What are they?
My name rhymes too easily, so I think kids had a hard time coming up with anything for me. (Ha ha, Brent the Rent! Has a Dent, with a Cent, and got Bent. Doesn't work, see?)

My mom used to call me Beaker. After this guy:
He doesn't have glasses, but I like the hair.

The Muppets rule, so I was proud of this name. And like The Muppet Show, this nickname didn't last past 1981. Feel free to resurrect it if you want.

Tag 8 bloggers: 

I think I'll tag some of the bloggers I've more recently started following. No offense to the usual suspects over to the left. If you don't read those blogs already, you should.

So "You're It." You can take the strawberries if you want, or you can just be "it" for a day. Or both. Your call.

Jolene at Been Writing
Nubian at Nubian
Mark at Musings of a Madman (Mark is one smart dude who deserves more readers. Help a brother out.)

Sorry to the above chosen few if you don't like this kind of thing. Or if you were just tagged and don't want to go through the ordeal again. Please don't feel an obligation to do anything about it. We all just scattered away anticipating your chase, but you can leave us dangling out there like a skinned rabbit if you want.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hepped Up on Goofballs

The boy would not fall asleep.

He wasn't crying or fussing or hungry or overtired or upset in any way. He just wouldn't go to sleep. In fact, he seemed happier than ever. He was pleasantly playing with toys and rolling around and talking and humming and giggling. As if he were, in the immortal words of Chief Wiggum, hepped up on goofballs.

Usually Xander's asleep around 7:30. Sometimes it takes some doing. Like an extra bottle. Or a tight wrap. Or a time in his swing (which we reserve for daytime naps). Or just a standing rocking motion while his parents finish watching The Wire. And always it's obvious that he's tired. No more playtime. A bit of whining and fussing. Fists rubbing at the eyes.
This is what he should have been doing.

But not this time. For about four hours, Xander behaved like it was the first time his parents allowed him to stay up late and he was going to take full advantage.

We tried everything. At about 6:00, we fed him his dinner of sweet potatoes and rice. For a while he sat quietly next to Mommy while she started watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix. He would doze off, but whenever anyone or anything moved, he woke up and would act as if he just had the best night's sleep of his life. I changed him and dressed him in his new ducky jammies, and then he played with his Clifford dog or his sock monkey, rolled around the bed some more, mewed charmingly at his mom.

A warm bottle around eight-ish, and he was out for a few minutes, the cat-nap tiding him over for another long spell. I took him into the nursery and rocked him on my shoulder, an episode of The Cosby Show on my laptop. Xander didn't mind. He just wanted to look around the place, like he'd never really studied his own room in this dim light before. He wasn't wiggly or fussy. I held him still. His head was up and alert for about fifteen minutes, his hands reaching out for imaginary toys or bugs or fire in midair. Finally, his attention waned, eyes blinking in slow motion, head dipping and resting on my shoulder. By the end of the episode, he was asleep in my arms. I lifted him into his crib, and as I tried to place a blanket over his warm body, he perked back up and smiled and giggled at me, like he was just fooling. Gotcha, Dad!

Swing time. Nursery CD playing. Quiet in the house. Rain falling softly outside. Xander laughing at himself in the mirror at the top of his swing, lifting himself up, doing stomach crunches to grab at the sheep dangling from the mobile above him.

This was officially weird. Nearly 9:30. Any other night, if he were awake this late, he would be so wound up and over tired that he would be whining through his pacifier so loudly the swamp cooler would complain.

The only thing left was the magic car drive. May suggested a final late Dairy Queen run (we begin our diet tomorrow), so I strapped him in his car seat, threw a blanket over him, and drove off. Through the mirror fastened in front of his car seat, I could see him grinning at the blinking street lights, and as I pulled into the DQ drive-thru, he began talking to me. Making noises so adorable I had to laugh and talk back to him. There was a bit of a wait for our ice cream treats, and I was singing Culture Club to him earlier in the day to get him to eat his peas (I don't know why, but it worked), so I sang "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" to see if that would convince him to sleep it off. I know my daughters would gladly close their eyes and cover their ears if they had to endure me singing like Boy George, but Xander was undaunted. I got my last sugar fix and took him home.

Just before my block, I caught a glimpse of the boy's face in the street light. His eyes were closed. His pacifier fallen from his lips. That's a sign that he's asleep enough not to need the soothing suckling. I knew I was home free. I kept him in his car seat and carried it into his room and left him there on the floor, knowing the longer I allowed him to sleep there, the easier it would be to move him to his crib.

I tried to take a photo for proof, but he wouldn't have it.
Or it was part of his game.
Can you guess how long it was before he woke up again? It's about ten o'clock now. Still no grumbling from him, but despite not being asleep, we can tell he is tired now. Out of the car seat, into Mommy's arms. Rocking chair. Hold tight. Into the crib. Aaaaand...he's still awake. Still smiling, still playing this fun game with Mom and Dad, still the happiest kid on the block. Still not sleeping. May tries again. We need to wrap him up. Velcro him together. Put him down.

By 10:30, the goofballs had worn off. He was solidly asleep. Wrapped up for another night.
This is him this morning. You'd never know he didn't sleep much last night.

Geesh, I have a cute kid.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

When the Tractor Beam Was Out of Commission

Every time I hear the phrase "out of commission" I can't help but think of Han Solo's line from Star Wars: "Let's hope the old man got that tractor beam out of commission or this is going to be a real short trip. Okay, hit it!"

So, anyway, not that the above has anything to do with anything, but I've been out of commission for most of a week due to severe vacationing. Nothing especially noteworthy happened, and I think that's the way I like my vacations. Just get away, hang out, read a lot, golf a little. That's all I ask.

The pond at Avon, Colorado,
where you can paddleboat in the rain.
It was a massive reunion. Thirty Wescotts (two parents, six offspring and their spouses, sixteen grandkids) converged upon a large chalet in Avon-upon-Vail, Colorado, for a week of relative closeness, which in my family means light gossip, wicked banter, and surface revelations about how life really is. The most profound item revealed to me: I will forever be the father of the oldest grandchild, but I am currently the father of the youngest grandchild as well.

We went into Vail for the Fourth of July parade. I'm not one for parades, but my parents like them. The Macy's parade is on every Thanksgiving morning, and they've taught us that at least the grandkids like it when the paraders throw candy. I have to admit that it was pretty decent for a parade (the "lawn chair brigade" was especially excellent; I tried to find a video on YouTube to demonstrate what is was like, but every video I saw seemed lame compared to what they did in this parade), but I think everyone in the Eagle-Vail area swarmed the town for the event. The traffic was lame.

That night some of us went out to view the fireworks. I opted to stay in. Xander would not have made it.

The Beaver Creek slogan: "Not exactly roughing it."
One day we went into Beaver Creek and hiked a ways up the ski slopes. All of us took a leisurely stroll up the hill following a babbling brook. My wife and I made it maybe half a mile with Xander in the BabyBjorn before we needed to get him back down for feeding and sleep and oxygen. My second child came with us, while my oldest continued up the mountain with the others. While we were headed back down, there was one case of "uncle falling upon nephew" in an effort to give a piggy-back ride. And only one person twisted his ankle bad enough that he hobbled around for the rest of the week, posting pictures of the development of his swelling and bruising on Facebook. I didn't get any pictures as the batteries in my camera died at just the right time. I am impressed with myself, though, that I brought the camera at all.

Don't judge it if you haven't seen it.
We had a game night, starting with my dad calling Bingo and giving away prizes, everything from candy and gift cards for Quiznos, to a 48-inch diameter beach ball (which took three people twenty minutes to blow up at the pool, and which was played with for about ten minutes before the kids got bored with it) and "mystery" prizes for the adults. These mystery prizes were mainly items my parents swiped from their own shelves at home, items that we used to look at or play with every day as kids. My brother-in-law got the cow bell my mom used to ring to get us to dinner. My wife got a VHS copy of Ishtar. (My family's fascination with Ishtar deserves another blog post altogether.) I felt a little like Charlie Brown getting his rock for Halloween when all I got was a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

A few of us then went on to play Settlers of Catan, which I never win. Still, it's a lovely diversion. My sister introduced us to Hoity-Toity, which is basically just rock-paper-scissors with cards. We rediscovered Boggle, which I can win, due to my OED-esque vocabulary. (Is "OED-esque" in the OED?)

Another day four of us went golfing. About the only time I golf any more is with my dad and brothers and brothers-in-law. And only four of us wanted to spend the money on it. The first two holes went pretty well (bogeys on both), especially for not having played in a couple years. Then my game went downhill because we came to a par-3 hole and I can't putt. After nine, storm clouds rolled over the mountains. We only got rained on for two holes, and it was only slightly Caddyshack-like. Despite playing through in cold, wet clothes, my dad got a birdie by chipping in from about twenty yards out. That's pretty rare where I come from, so we were sufficiently impressed.
The best part was that each hole was a variation on this beautifulness.

It seems I've written a lot about nothing noteworthy. I guess that's the way it goes. Vacation seems to drag along, then when you return home, you wish you could do it all again.