Monday, January 30, 2006

Rated for Language

Not too long ago, I received a critique for a chapter of my current work in progress in which the critter took offense to my "salty" language. (Yes, that's how he described it.) The grounds for his objection were that fantasy worlds shouldn't include swearing and that fantasy publishers didn't want foul language in the books they published. CS Lewis and Tolkien were cited as examples. (Because they're current, and all. *cough cough*) He claimed that he read fantasy to read about pure and noble characters who made sacrifices for the greater good, and not for lowbrow swearing.

Because I try not to scare off the newbies, I merely thanked the critter for his effort and mentioned that he might not enjoy my work if he was looking for purity and nobility of mind and spirit.** I'm more interested in how people react under pressure and how human beings cope with horrible events. Because I'm evil, that's why. Because purity of spirit bores me to tears, for another.

This is not to say that my characters (or I) curse incessantly. I'd say there's a few who never curse at all. But to say that cursing is always wrong is utterly asinine. Few things are always wrong, just as few are always right. It's about context.

I'm not the type to go around saying (or writing) "effing this, effing that" just for shock value or because I can. (Though I've always liked "because I can" as a reason.) I worked at Scout camp for five summers without once swearing in front of the campers or parents. Sometimes, swearing is not appropriate. Sometimes it is. If I look down and see that I'm about to put my foot on a big fat desert hairy scorpion on the hiking trail in the middle of the night, you can rest assured that I'm going to being saying "motherfucker" before I jump off the path and succumb to the willies. The key is knowing the difference between appropriate and inappropriate times/places/audiences.

This is why I try not to swear in front of small children. They've got no idea about when and where different language is appropriate. So if I slip and say "shit" in front of them, they think it's a cool new word and just suck it up into their little brains along with "b'bye" and "more". And once it slips in.... you just never know where it's going to slip out. With my own (hypothetical) kids, I don't think I'll worry about it too much, but you can't get other people's children to forget something they heard, or the fact that they heard it from you. And some people don't much like that. And I don't much like pissing people off for no good reason. So.

It's not about some language being "bad", it's about knowing when and why to apply all kinds of language. In the academic world (at least the parts I've experienced), they use the term "discourse areas" to describe the different worlds of communication we live in. For example - a kid growing up in a working class family with parents who speak English as a second language if at all, is going to need to speak very differently at home than he does while at school. For such a student, "school language" may be a whole new code to be broken, and is too often one that defeats him. In reverse, take a upper middle class white kid and stick him in the ESL household and see how well he survives. Each culture and sub-culture has its own code of language. One is not better than the other. It's all about context.

Language is control. Language is power. Language gives you the power to create, the power to move through this world, the power to control how people perceive you. I wish my students would grasp this concept.

**Of course, what originally wrote after reading this crit was something a little more explicit and a little less tactful. Of course, since I do have some measure of impulse control, and I realize he's new to this critting business, and I don't like to burn my own house (or crit circle) down, I deleted all that and put in the "thanks for the effort" post as mentioned above.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Where you can put that stick

So, as you may recall, in December we got a brand new, shiny, beautiful, Atlantic Blue Pearl, 2006 Subaru Outback. Standard transmission.

As you may also recall, I once learned how to drive stick, but only briefly, and not for any extended period of time, so my skills withered away before they got a chance to develop.

Here's an update:

The scene: me behind the wheel, Jay in the passenger seat, various college parking lots

me: *concentrating really hard, doing the 1st gear, stop, 1st gear, stop, 1st gear, park, reverse, 1st gear boogie.* I think I hate this.

Jay: You're doing fine.


Jay: Too fast on the clutch.


Jay: Too much gas.


Jay: Not enough gas.


Jay:Too much gas.

*rev* *stall*

Jay: When in doubt, step on the clutch.

*evil glare*

Jay:You didn't even look when you backed up that time.

me: Yes I did. They're called mirrors.

Jay:You can't see everything in a mirror.

me: Right. You can tell because I back into people all the time.

Jay:That's not the point.

*rude hand gesture* *rev*

Jay:Too much gas.


Jay:No, you're still too fast on the clutch.

*stall* *rev*

me: Fuck

Jay:More gas.

me:Fuck you.

Jay:More gas, more gas.

*gives it more gas* *stalls*

Jay:If you think you're going to lose it, just press the clutch.

me:But you said more gas.

Jay:It's okay, just press the clutch.

*extremely evil glare* *stall*

Jay:More gas.


Jay:Just press the clutch.



me:No, Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

*ebrake on, door open, lesson over*

Jay:Yeah, I think Nimbus has had enough of you. (said in extremely snotty tone while sniffing for clutch burn)

*slam* *slam*



Jay:You're kind of cute when you're mad.

*evil glare plus rude gesture*

Jay:No, I mean it.

So. I think we're pretty much done with lessons. I can drive the damn thing. I just need practice. Real practice. Not in a parking lot practice. Preferably without Jay and his helpful comments. The World's Worst Passenger should not ever be a driving instructor.

Good thing he is cute.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Brain Backlog

I have about four new posts I want to write, and a dozen or so knitting pictures to post, and I haven't had a chance to get to any of it. Gah.

The trip to Maryland and Virginia was mahvelous. My sister does indeed seem to know every single person on the Washington and Lee campus, and they all know her in return. Eerie. Like visiting a movie star on set or something. Heh. I'm so proud of her, and mad jealous of her people skills.

The wedding was very very nice, even though Jay and I did have to refrain from laughing during the vows. Fortunately, Karen, the hottie bride, assured me that she had to get all her giggles out during the rehearsal, so I don't feel too bad. Saw a few people I had lost touch with post-graduation and am thrilled to have been able to spend time with again. I will totally be harassing them via email because they are awesome people and make me laugh constantly. And, as usual, even though it had been more than a year since Karen and I were in the same room, it felt like no time had passed at all once we got together. Thanks for reminding me how much I love you, chica. Mwah.

And now I must go prep for my 3pm class. This back to work thing really gets in the way of my free time, I must say.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

the issue with no Internet chez moi

I have just spent the last 9 hours in front of the computer. Mostly online. I processed the submissions for the latest short story contest over at Writing Monkeys, transferred a crap load of debt from one nasty, pain in the a$$ credit card to one with a much friendlier online interface, caught up with email, read blogs, found a new blog, caught up with my crit group at Forward Motion, answer more email, searched restaurants and directions for the upcoming trip, read blogs, ogled yarn, checked back in at the two writing sites, did more email stuff, fooled with Yahoo!'s new beta maps, and at last, updated the blog.

No wonder I have a headache. Gah.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Creative Energy Elsewhere

I have been doing a lot of writing, just not in blog format. Several more email between the motherperson and myself... issues not entirely resolved, of course, but at least on steadier ground. My mom says that communication will be her project for the year.

I've finished the last of the in-laws gifts. Finally. Scarves for the women, hats for the men. Fortunately, as I mentioned, I love love love me some Malabrigo yarn, so it wasn't exactly torture to keep working with it. AND, as a bonus, Jay's dad wears silly hats. He put on this military-style black beret over the Turkeyday holiday... and it was just a wee bit too small... and I just about peed my pants laughing. And then I found out it really was HIS hat, and that he was wearing it on purpose... and then I just fell over I was laughing so hard. Heh. I laugh just thinking about it.

But anyway. Point is, I got to experiment with hat-making while doing Fred's hat, and I think it's pretty damn funny. Kind of has a Dr. Seuss vibe, with ear flaps ending in i-cord (like yarn rope) that curls outward, and a narrow cone on top with a tassel on the end... and the cone will stand up unless you knock it down on purpose... Like a chulla gone wrong. Heh.

I love clothing that makes me laugh.

I've also been working on my more serious endeavor of finishing the fantasy books. I'm making good progress on book 2, and have gone back to fix a few things in book 1. And yes, I know I should forget about book 1 until I finish book 2, but there were some details I needed to look up, and then there were some glaring mistakes I had to fix, and... you know how it goes. Maybe. I am working more on book 2, and only switching over to book 1 when I get stuck. Enh, whatever.

I have also got to find some 2006 calendars. We've still got the 2005 ones up all around the house and it's downright disorientating. Gah. We're leaving on Thursday for a wedding down in Baltimore. Though we're actually going to spend the first two nights in Lexington at K2's college. She's been asking me to come visit forever, and this is the first chance we've had to get there. Since she's a senior, I figured I didn't have any time to waste. So I'll be missing the bachelorette party, but I'll be there for the wedding. And that's the important part, right? Right? Hope so.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Education and Entertainments

Been enjoying the time to read and watch movies and knit stuff with school being out until January 17th. (Don't hate me... because I'm poor.) A brief review with recommendations:

The Forty Year Old Virgin: Oh. My. God. I had no idea this movie was so damn funny. I'd heard a little bit about it, but not much. So when I saw it in our local gas station/movie rental place, I picked it up with relatively low expectations. I don't think I've laughed so much at a movie since... well, can't remember when I've laughed so hard. Unless you find men offensive, you must see this movie. Totally could watch this three or four times more. Might even buy the DVD.

Malabrigo Yarn: I am so in love with this yarn, it's just not funny. It's like buttuh. So soft in my hands, such pretty colors, warm, soft, light weight. Gorgeous. After I finish off the rest of the xmas presents, I'm totally going to make myself a sweater out of this stuff. Love it.

Talyn, by Holly Lisle: Such a kick ass book. Holly's books are so complex, and her fantasy work is always so complete. Though I've found some of her past books (like Vincalis) to be a bit skeletal, I have to conclude that this was a result of publishing word count limits, and not her natural storytelling talents. In worlds as complex as the ones she creates, subtlety cannot be accomplished in 100,000 words. Talyn is one of those books that really makes me look at my own beliefs about the world, and what I think is right and wrong; it makes me shuffle through all that, rearranging a few bits here and there, and then helps me put it all back together again. So, if you're looking for a book that will challenge you to examine your own beliefs by way of reading an amazingly good story, check this one out.

Cunt: a declaration of independence, by Inga Muscio Okay, strange title, I agree. Catchy, though, neh? My sister, the women's studies major, gave me this book for christmas. It is not the kind of book you should swallow whole, by any means. (I won't give it to my BIL's GF for that reason... she thinks The Da Vinci Code was a major breakthrough for women... I'm not sure what she would do if she read this one.) I don't think the author intends this to be a guide to living life. She never says, "You should believe this. This is Truth." I rather thought that the purpose was to make the reader question their own beliefs, to really look around and think. It's funny and compeletely irreverent, and written in a conversational style that makes the book very accessible. I also like the way she includes references to other works in the manner of - Did that idea blow your mind? Well, check these sources for more. So many of the negative reviews on Amazon aim from stances of either intellectual indignation or else focus in one one or two statements, ignoring everything else. Muscio makes statements about abortion and religion that others may disagree with. But for the love... why the hell does everyone have to agree? No matter what your stance on christianity, if you look at the history and development of the Church, you have to acknowledge that the Church absorbed other "native" religions and supressed the worship of other deities. Looking at the objective historical/anthropological record doesn't seem to me to be "dissing" christianity. I took it as a "hey, look what came before this" challenge to the common perception of "this is the way it has always been and always should be" so prevalent in the arguments about rights for women, gays, lesbians, bis, trannys, etc. Anyway. Another mind opening book to consider.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by JK Rowling, read by Jim Dale No she did not end it that way. Oh my god. So had to happen, I see that. But oh my goodness. Love listening to the story while I knit.

Okay, I could go on... but I have other things to do before we go back to the Internetless refuge we call home.