What I wanted was to take a week off. What I'm getting instead are two half-weeks off, Mon-Wed of this coming week and of the following week. BookExpo and BookCon are intervening, as is a big work project with deadlines that can't be moved. Such is life. It's still a vacation.
Things on my to-do list/wishlist with deadlines:
* Go to arm doctor May 30
* Prepare BookCon handout by June 1
* Read ILL book due back June 1
* Return book by June 1
* See visiting friend before he leaves on June 2
* Do BookCon panel and booth duty on June 3 (if you'll be there, come say hi!)
* Meet first work deadline by June 5 (ideally much earlier)
* Meet second work deadline by June 7 (see above)
* Write guest blog post by June 7
* Read ILL books due back June 8
* Return books by June 8
Things without deadlines (fun):
* Hang out with X, who also has this coming week off
* Watch the StevenBombs
* Watch Voltron: Legendary Defender (I'm five episodes in; it makes great knitting TV)
* Stroll in the Botanic Gardens on a day with nice weather
* Ditto Prospect Park
* Maybe steal the baby from daycare early one day and get extra baby time
* Read a book for fun? I hear people do this? ???
Things without deadlines (productive):
* Tidy room enough for vacuuming
* Vacuum (or ask J to if my arms are sad)
* Change sheets (or ask J to if my arms are sad)
* Move clothes from valet to closet
* Catch up on laundry
* Promote Story Hospital
* Clean out inbox
* Watch Baby Signing Time and practice signing on my own and with the family
I have just finished watching season 1 of Skin Wars on a friend’s recommendation. It is very very far from my usual sort of thing: it’s a reality show that’s a competition in body painting. My friend promised that it was very low on the interpersonal cattiness/drama, with lots of very skilled work and a certain amount of people learning stuff about their art, learning from each other. New art and learning? Hey, I’m there for that. And I was immediately hooked, and I will definitely watch the other two seasons, especially since my friend is a person who would have warned me if there was a lot of body-shaming weirdness in store.
One of the things that fascinates me is that the artists involved in this were often financially struggling–it’s not a fast route to fame and fortune–and they had pretty well-entrenched justifications for why they deserved success that were not always easy to dislodge by circumstances that really should have dislodged them. Examples:
—I have put in the time. I have worked long hours. This is a competition with firmly set time limits, around each piece and around the competition as a whole. Each artist gets literally exactly the same amount of time. There are no examples of artists putting their feet up and being done early, and beyond that here is absolutely no way for anyone to put in more time than anyone else. Eventually this got clarified to:
—I have put in the time. I spent my whole life learning this. Finally someone turned to the person who kept repeating this and said, how old are you? and determined that they were very close to the same age. And that they had both spent their whole life learning it, so…yeah. Not a distinguishing feature. I’ve seen both of these at conventions, though: I have devoted more time to science fiction than the other people at my day job! And I’ve seen a certain amount of it in various factions in the field who are convinced that they are the ones who are truly, deeply devoted–and that that kind of devotion has to be what matters. (Spoiler: it does not have to be. Sorry.)
—I need it the most. My living conditions are worse than other people’s without recognition. There are indeed need-based scholarships for various types of study, and I’m very glad. But they’re usually clearly labeled, and “I like your art a lot” and “I think you need money” are not actually the same thing–and “you should like my art a lot because I need money” doesn’t actually work very well.
—I need it the most. I poured my heart into this piece. “You should like my art a lot because I need validation” does not turn out to work better than “you should like my art a lot because I need money.” It is often a great idea to pour your heart into art. I recommend it. Then make more art and pour your heart into that. Also technique at the same time.
—I have the most technical skills. Ever heard a pianist play Hanon? They are finger exercises. They are finger exercises, they are to make you a technically better pianist, and nobody plays them in concert because they are no fun to listen to. (Or play. Freakin’ Hanon.) Okay, okay, they have a certain hypnotic power, they can be impressive, but…at the end of the day if you are showing up and playing Hanon, nobody is buying your book, your painting, or in the most literal sense, tickets to your piano concert. (Freakin’ Hanon.)
It is apparently really, really hard to say, “Mine is good. Here is what I did well. Look at this part. I deserve this because mine is really good art. I combined the technical and the creative, this has thought and feeling and everything it’s supposed to have, and who cares whether I picked up those skills in two minutes or ten million hours, who cares whether someone else thinks that they are overall better than me and paid their dues more than me, here is the thing I made, it doesn’t come with dues, it comes with awesome.”
It is even harder to say, “I don’t know what’s missing. I did everything right. It’s just not happening for me. Can you help me see what’s going wrong in my piece?” And sometimes there are ten million answers, and sometimes there’s one answer, and sometimes there…isn’t. And sometimes the artificial contest structure of a reality show has made something happen that reality doesn’t support, it has made a thing where there is a winner and a loser where actually in a group of ten there might be three pieces that really work and four that don’t and three that meh, or ten that meh, or any other combination of numbers.
But the attachment to previous explanations of why you deserve it, the strength of that: that really got fascinating for me, and I will be riveted to see whether that continues for future seasons.
Look, I am only a casual superhero comics fan, but here’s my sideline/peripheral take:
When I was two years old, Lando Calrissian betrayed his friends to the Empire. And then he thought better of it and became a good guy again. Two years old. I don’t actually remember experiencing this story for the first time, it’s a thing that entered my brain through cultural osmosis and repetition. I am now almost thirty-nine.
Why do I bring this up?
Because “maybe someone you thought was good is actually bad! but wait, no, they’re actually good again!” is not a new story for anyone who is an adult now. We have all done this one. It is not daring and new, it is not a shocking twist, it is–in fact–kind of the default. Yes, yes, who can you trust, anyone might turn out to be blah blah whatev.
We have never experienced a Superman without a kind of kryptonite that can turn him evil. We have never had a hero without shades of gray. And I’m not suggesting that we should do a ton of that. I’m not suggesting that abandoning nuance is the way to go. I’m just suggesting that “the ground beneath your feet is shifting! who should you trust!” is yeah, yeah, yeah, pretty old hat to more than one generation in a row by now. So you really need something better than that if you’re going to try to convince readers that you have something great up your sleeve. As far as twists go, this is as twisty as “maybe they’re all dead we promise they’re not oh wait they are.” Other people have made the moral arguments already, the arguments based on character background/origins. I find them pretty compelling. I just wanted to say, also? it’s really sad when you go to shock people with things that have been standard templates for longer than they’ve been alive. It relies on one of us not paying attention, and buddy, it’s not me this time.
ETA: It was also the year that Terry Brooks cut the interesting parts out of Lord of the Rings and created not only a bestseller but a template for the infinite replication of fantasy product. Anus mirabilis, or something.
The complete book of Papercrafts;
Papercraft of the World;
Papercrafts and Origami;
Making & Decorating Your Own Paper;
Greeting Cards from A to Z;
Nature crafts with a Microwave;
Natural crafts from America's backyards;
The weekend crafter series: Gourd crafts;
It's a Snap!;
Folk Art Gifts;
The Scrap Craft project book;
Patchwork Puzzle Balls;
Napkin decoupage: simple, clever, effective;
More crafts for fun;
The button make;
Collage and Assemblage;
Art from found materials;
Pack 'n' go puzzles in plastic canvas;
Darling dowel dolls;
Year round welcome in plastic canvas;
Quick & Easy Scrap Projects;
More about Decoupage;
Masterpices in paper;
Travel Totes & Bags;
Herb & Spice Decorations (two copies);
Essential slow cooker recipes;
The cooking of the British Isles;
American Cooking: SOuthern Style;
Quick, Light and Healthy;
Cooking for two;
Soup: an international cookbook;
Fit, Fresh & Fast flavors from Florida;
Red, White & Blue: Winning Recipes from the past year's Top Recipe Contests & Food Fesivals;
The Portable Feast;
In the kitchen with Rosie, by Rosie Daley;
Foundations of Food Preparation;
The best bread machine cookbook ever;
The Garlic Lover's Cookbook;
Fat free living family cookbook;
The Great American peanut butter book.
Bringing Up Father;
Browse at Your Own Risk, by George price;
AD&D Fiend Folio;
Super Crossword Book #13;
The Best of Li'l Abner;
Mister Boffo: Unclear on the concept;
Speaking of Mrs. McCluskie;
Cats at work;
The big book of Life's Instructions;
Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs;
50 Great myths of popular psychology;
The story of Edgar Sawtelle;
You are not so smart;
The Day after Tomorrow.
Christmas Handcrafts Book Two;
Christmas Handcrafts Book Four;
Joy to the World: A Treasury of Christmas Crafts (two copies);
Favorite Christmas Quilts;
Quilted for Christmas;
The Magic of Santas;
Christmas Quilt Traditions;
Angel Ornaments in a Hurry;
In the Nick of Time!;
Christmas Cooking from the Heart;
Simple Fabric Folding for Christmas;
Christmas Cooking From The Heart, volumes 6,7,9-11,13,14,22;
Decorating for Christmas;
Old-Fashioned Christmas Crafts.