September 8th, 2005

enough already

Dumb Dressed in Smart, or, the Flatterer's Escapade

I know a lot of smart people who are adherents of astrology. I don't get it, myself. Why not rhabdomancy? Why not haruspication? Likewise, I know a lot of smart people who are fans of Rob Breszny's "Free Will Astrology", whatever that means. Let's see what Rob predicts for me this week:

You are becoming very relaxed. All tension is flowing out of you. Your worries are dissolving. With each breath, your body feels a growing sense of peace and well-being.

Are...are you coming on to me, "Free Will Astrology"?

Your mind is expanding naturally, allowing you to experience a harmonious attunement with life.

See, this is why I don't get the appeal of this cat. What's different between this and any other New Age hokum other than that he has a slightly more high-toned vocabulary?

In response, deep sources of practical intelligence are welling up into your awareness, filling you with good ideas about your long-term financial future. Soon you will begin writing down a ten-step master plan that will go a long way toward making you into a money magnet in the next 18 months.

Whoops, let's redact: what's different between this and any grindhouse newspaper daily horoscope? I used to write this stuff, folks, and this differs from my hackwork ("Financial security is just around the corner! Focus on long-term goals when Aries is in the house.") only by its wordiness.

Rob closes up with an advert for his new book, Pronoia (It's the opposite of paranoia! Ha ha ha! Although, technically, "intranoia" would be closer to the opposite of paranoia.). I am meant to be tempted to buy this thing based on the following crypto-affirmations:

Plant orchids on a strip-mined hill.
For 24 hours, imagine in great detail that you have a guardian angel.
Sing the first song you ever heard.
See how far you can spit a mouthful of beer.
Make believe you are the ocean king or thunder queen.
Improvise a fresh bedtime story for someone you love.
Put on an inflatable sumo wrestler costume and play a bagpipe as badly as possible.
Watch TV with your third eye.
Sip holy water blessed by a smart teenage girl.
Bear in mind that you are the Chosen One, and so is everyone else.

Again: I just don't get the appeal of this guy. Even if I was less ill-disposed to astrology, he reads like a slightly more highbrow Ashleigh Brilliant.

Fiddle-dee-dee, fiddle-dee-da, see how I give the evil eye to passing dust.
i brung you purty flowers

Everything I write today is eminently skippable

So, hey, look! Somehow while I was busy not watching them fall apart, my beloved White Sox have once again regained their status as the best team in baseball. I never yield to hope with these guys, but barring a literally unprecedented collapse, far worse even than the hated Cubs' 1969 season, it's almost a dead cert that the Pale Hose will end up in the post-season this year. It's probably way too soon to start thinking about potential matchups, but I'm going to anyway.

If the season ended right now, the AL playoff matchup (I won't even address a potential World Series opponent; it's far too premature and I don't really follow the NL, so I just have to reserve a vague hope that the Cardinals aren't as good as everyone says they are) would be White Sox vs. Yankees and Red Sox vs. Angels. This would actually be far and away my preferred scenario, for a number of reasons:

- I don't think the Yankees would be able to beat us. Although they can always turn it on in the playoffs, and we're 3-3 against them on the season (with a worse record at home than in Yankee Stadium), they've struggled mightily to get where they are, and they're likely to wear themselves out trying to catch up to Boston in September.

- It means that the Athletics won't be in the playoffs, which (sorry, janehex) is a very good thing. They've been floundering lately, but Oakland has absolutely owned the White Sox for going on three decades. We simply cannot win against them, particularly in California. The less we see of them, the better.

- It also means we'd only have to face one or the other of Boston and Los Anaheim rather than both; they're dangerous teams and I'd be happy to see a situation where one takes the other out. I like our chances better against Boston (see the White Sox's inability to win on the west coast), but either way, it's one less thing to worry about.

Of course, there's still a month of regular-season baseball to play. With 24 games to go, a lot can still happen. Toronto is still technically in the race, but in practical terms, I think they're a writeoff, so I don't think too much of them. The highly frightening Twins have lately fallen victim to a resurgent Cleveland, which is a twofold good: it means (a) the White Sox almost certainly won't have to face the Twins, which saves me from the possibility that they'll lose to them and open me up to endless humiliation at the hands of hipsterdetritus, ninafarina and her sisters; and (b) if a team from the Central does sneak into the wild card slot, it'll be Cleveland, who we've manhandled all year. I'm still terrified that Oakland will get their breath back and win the wild card, in which case I pray to the ghost of Babe Ruth that we start throwing games in order to fall to second-best team in the AL. That would allow us to play the Angels, and let Boston have to deal with the team we can't beat.

Man, September baseball. There's few things that cause me such joy and stress at the same time. It's almost enough to make you yearn for the days when the White Sox blew and spent all of September simply playing out the string.

Almost. Not quite.
it says here...

(no subject)

Okay, to close out today's vaporing on a note neither trivial nor bitchy, here's this.

I do a lot of self-deprecating spiel about my own writing, but let me tell you this: I love writing. It is without question one of the very few things I enjoy doing without reservation. There's few times in my life when I feel as happy as when I'm writing, even if I'm writing something frivolous, or something that isn't the best I can do, or isn't going to go anywhere except the junk drawer of my hard drive. (Like, for example, this entire LiveJournal.) And I am absolutely unqualified in my love of reading good fiction. I'm not quite as unconditionally enthusiastic about hearing writers talk about their writing, about the process of creation, or about their theories of literature; it can be terrifically rewarding (I am, after all, a lit theory geek), but it can also veer wildly from pretentious to dull to self-congratulatory to pathetic to dogmatic.

On occasion, though, a writer you really like talks to another writer you really like about the kind of writing you really like and says things about the process of writing that are so dead on, so precisely right, so unspeakably true to you, that it rejuvenates you. It reminds you that there are people in the world who get it like you get it, who do it for the reasons you do it, who have the same kinds of problems you have but manage to create something amazing for all that.

Such is this interview, courtesy of the indespensible Maud Newton. It's a lengthy question-and-answer with Roy Kesey and George Saunders. The latter writer, subject of the interview, is someone whose first short story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, I'm reading right now (and in case you were wondering, it's fucking tremendous), and his second, Pastoralia, is one of my favorite books of all time. The former writer, the inquisitor (but also participant), is someone whose work I'm less familiar with, but everything I've read by him I've enjoyed. Like I say, it's long, but if you care at all about hearing talented writers talk with passion and intelligence about the thing they love, it's essential. Read especially Saunders' statements about the process of becoming a better writer; the similarity between skill-sets used in writing fiction and maintaining a relationship; the way the sheer joy of writing, heedless of the fact that you may not be writing the best or most usable stuff, can shock you out of unproductive periods and improve your habits overall; the differences between how a short story and a novel are imagined and constructed; and how content and subject can often be a distraction from the fact that universal themes can be applied in any situation -- that the world and everything in it can be placed in the most restrictive framework. Maybe you won't agree with all he says, but you'll not regret reading it.

As an aside, my gal ninafarina and I, apparently pretty much simultaneously and independently, read this article 400 miles away from each other and had almost exactly the same reaction to it. She even beat me to the message board where we both sometimes hang out to sing its praises. I gotta say that made me feel pretty good, and it's one of the ten thousand reasons I'm glad she's in my life.