Wednesday, November 27, 2013

List Makers' Delight

A Christmas list is like Christmas candy.  When the holiday is over, I still want some.  Luckily, January is a list maker’s delight.  I can throw away the old lists and make new ones!

My friends claim that my need for lists is a sign of a clinical depression or OCD or a need for control or some such.  So I made a list of medical conditions that people talk about wrong:

·      Lactose intolerance
·      Sudden leg-jerk syndrome
·      Facial recognition phasia – really mean she saw you but is ignoring you so you won’t ask her again to borrow money

Once I decided to stop making lists, even grocery lists.  I found I list the needed groceries anyhow, but I purposely leave the list at home to punish myself.

Many people are list makers and don’t admit it. Doctors make lists, but they call them categories to sound smart. Librarians are major players. They have lists of compendiums that list the number of specific old books still extant. There’s a cry for help.

So I made a list of list makers:

·      Starbucks employees
·      Airline pilots
·      Writers on Amazon – all want to get listed with Kindle 100 best free books

·      Efficiency experts
·      Anybody in sports (but they call the lists stats to avoid sounding domestic)
           
Website designers are list makers, trying to draw order out of chaos. “Okay, everybody talks, but one at a time and 140 characters only!”

The internet is list nirvana. Google is basically a list with most visited first. Goodreads has a section titled Listopia. I limit my time there from 7-9pm as an act of personal discipline.

My need for lists is satisfied with students. I list the grades I think each will get, then the final grades they actually earned with the variance and frequency. Aaahhhh, I love teaching.
 
The only group that cannot seem to make a quality list is healthcare.gov. 

So I say, list makers stand proud. There are more of us that can be counted. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Perspective on Bad Reviews


Many years ago at a science fiction convention I was seated next to a famous writer in a well appointed hotel lobby for a book signing – his most recent novel and my first attempt. The idea was that convention attendees offered bought books for a personal autograph, except the many sci-fi fans were there to wear skimpy costumes, read comics and watch animee, and maybe get laid.

The writer and I chatted during a long series of quiet moments while infrequent shy readers approached and he flourished the felt tip pen. One reviewer came by carrying four weighty copies of new books and forty extra pounds under a tucked-in and buttoned-down shirt. “I reviewed your book,” he said.

The famous writer looked over his glasses while he finished an autograph for a young reader. “You said I played fast and loose with time, and the events were out of sequence.” The reviewer registered surprise and pleasure that the writer quoted his words back to him.

“You said the last chapters needed editing,” the writer added, “and the ending was too fast.”

The reviewer took out his phone and glanced at me like I might be willing to serve him to capture the moment.

“I’m reminded of a famous Van Gogh painting that hangs at the Art Institute in Chicago,” the famous writer continued. “Maybe you’ve seen it. The painter’s bedroom is depicted in too-bright yellows with the furniture outlined in squiggly strokes, and the bedposts are too big so they seem to loom off the canvas. I visited the gallery with my mother who claimed that was her favorite painting. She felt confident providing a critique because so many elements were obviously wrong.”

The reviewer’s countenance fell so he resembled a wax figure that was melting. He turned on his heel and marched away with fat thighs and buttocks pumping. The famous writer showed me the briefest smile before he reached to sign the next offered book for a fan.

Of course, we all know that the wrong elements made the painting recognizable at a glance as a Van Goth. Writers also seek a style that’s instantly identifiable for paragraphs taken out of context like with Flannery O’Conner, Margaret Atwood, or even Joyce Carol Oates. O’Conner was slammed for too much violence, Atwood for word smithing, and Oates for, well, everything. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Change is (mostly) good


Been absent here a while since I downsized to a walk-up in an upscale neighborhood. Did you ever notice that when you make one change, soon enough you change everything? New haircut, new purse, new jeans, new bedspread, new published novel.

The biggest adjustment, though, was my diet.  I was accustomed to perusing the Treasure Island salad bar and eating out of the container.  Dinner was pot pie, or enchiladas at the local Mexican place. Now I live in the land of a thousand restaurants, and I was eager to sample the many choices.

I wanted to start small. I entered a hole-in-the-wall hot dog place that doesn’t serve french fries. When I asked the manager how often he got requests for french fries, he claimed he was philosophically opposed to them. But he serves HOT DOGS!

So I went next door to a California-style lunch place with storefront windows that allow too much light, and artwork that references no cultural preference. They’re open only four hour a day, so I need to set an alarm on my phone. They offer egg entrees at weekend brunch but not at 11am on Wednesday. The menu had five lunch specials, five sandwich choices (one being duck tacos), and four salads.

I was served an overpriced and slimy spinach salad with the stems intact, but no onion slices and no olives. Pine nuts instead of sunflower meats, and tiny globs or what I took to be dried pepper. They need to move back to California.

Just so you don’t think I’m a crudgeon, I did find a steak house that serves real steak with a real baked potato with real butter and even sour cream, not some California soy cream substitute. And there was a line out the door of Midwesterners who can discern value for the dollar.
 
I need to move to Pilsen where steak burritos come wrapped in waxed paper, pizza by-the-slice is served on a Styrofoam plate, and french fries are piping hot and salted.  In this city… In this city, hot dogs come with fries. Spinach salad comes with onions. Attitude is gruff but not haughty. And I can get eggs any damned hour of the day.