Saturday, January 5, 2013

#NaNoReMo: National Novel Reading Month

February will be National Novel Reading Month. It’s a simple idea. We’ve all got at least one classic book we think we ought to read and have put off too long. Last year people flocked around the hashtag as they put away classics; I finally read Jane Austen, and am hoping for better results this year. I have six titles in mind, and the literary guilt may actually be killing me.

Check your shelf. Check your conscience. Isn’t there something long removed from the Bestseller’s List you think you ought to read? Be it for craft, for history, or some gap in your personal English canon. #NaNoReMo is about catching up with the classics.

One thing that bothers me about National Novel Writing Month is it isn’t located in a country. “National” is a poor word choice for a program that’s clearly international. Yet it’s popular, so #NaNoReMo will double the dubiousness. Not only can you read it in any nation of your choice, but your classic doesn’t have to be a novel. Want to brush up on Virgil or Ovid? Go for it. The rule is to read a classic.

We’re using a personal sliding scale for "classics." Some people don’t think Jules Verne is a classic author. I don’t like to talk to those people, but they exist, and so they can read someone else. But if you do think he’s a classic writer who deserves your time, then it’s your choice.

It begins on February 1st. We’ll be on the honor system; nobody cheat and start reading now. In advance you’re welcome to hop onto blogs and Twitter to chat about your potential choices. Our hashtag is #NaNoReMo. Then join us throughout February as we discuss our progress through our chosen classics. If it works the cross-pollination of encouragement will increase our reading lists as well as encourage us to finish reading great works.

I’m actually asking for advice on my choices. Each is too big to expect to read together.

  • George Elliot’s Middlemarch
  • Alex Haley’s Roots
  • Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables
  • Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations
  • Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities
  • And the book that lost to Austen last year: Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita

I’ve wanted to read them all for years, and have owned a copy of Roots since 2007. Wolfe and Bulgakov seem the most likely to entertain, while Les Mis has the greatest mystique with all its hype and plethora of adaptations. I can’t mention the book on Twitter without someone gushing. And I’ve never read Hugo, never read Elliot, never read Haley, and was only ever exposed to Dickens’s Christmas Carol. It’s a lot of literary guilt.

Is there one of the above you’d most like to subject me to, or read me digest? I know how much people enjoyed watching me squirm over how insufferable Pride and Prejudice was last year.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: The Only Thing Worse Is the Cure

I have never encountered an illness like that of the Young Master. What more rational name there is than “illness,” I am unaware, though it is an admittedly uncanny affliction.

Never had I wished for a thing so as to continue in my employers’ service when they announced they were expecting. The Master and Mistress had gone to great strains to conceive, importing all number of chemicals and powders, and seeking all number of blessing. One night I even witnessed the Mistress reading an occult tome, though the next day she ordered our precious blind cook to burn it and toss it out with the morning dregs.

The Mistress conceived it was time for me to retire. I could not deny the charges of my posture, of my trembling hands whenever I carried a tray of dinner to the Master’s upper study, and of my liver was deteriorating in much the same pattern as had that of my father and two forebears. It was only upon extreme begging of their charity that they allowed me to serve in reduced capacity through the birth and entry of a new member unto the household.

The Young Master was born of perfect health. I checked him myself as the doctors swarmed our Mistress, chanting of “internal aberrations," though I cannot recall her ever complaining of such conditions before. I carried the Young Master out of the room so he might not witness such pain as his first experience on our earth. It would be unseemly.

In the weeks that followed, the Master spent his days either in utter solitude in the upper study, or with the Young Master. How he stared at the the child, I sometimes feared he was going vile. I was almost relieved when he took ill and could no longer visit the lower floors.

It was by these emergencies that I was charged with finding wet nurses for the Young Master. Never have I heard of such trouble. Six we went through, six sturdy women, every one of them documented and with fine history. Four suffered anemia after their initial visits, and the other two were bedridden from unknown malignities.

We had such weather the night our Master finally slipped away. Nearly all the staff remained by his door, and it remains a regret that I could not join them, yet the Young Master required attention. I had to call upon a wet nurse of no documentation, who swore upon her life that her malignity was exclusive to her person and in no way transferable. Had I not been so shaken, I never would have admitted her, and yet?

The Young Master took to her breast immediately and found no complaint. Her milk was as fine as any of the women who had attended him before. No illness beset him that night or any night afterward, whereas, and I appreciate the sound of irrationality about it, but the wet nurse’s sallow malignity seemed to dissolve by morning. Even the boils on her neck waned. By Friday, she was comely for her age. I’ve had letters from her since that claim a total remission.

A coincidence, if not for this personal factor: since the Young Master came into my hands, these fingers have never been so steady. The pleasure of snapping one’s fingers is a thing I had forgotten, and now reclaim. I stride through these halls with endurance and posture unknown to me for fifteen years at the most conservative. And the pain in my liver? I have not felt it bleed in nigh on a month, and I should, for the Young Master takes to prodding at it whenever I carry him about his estate.

Census of the staff confirms my conviction: arthritis is extinct, and malignity seemingly out on vacation, while every able-bodied servant has taken to bed or had to excuse himself. I took my census to our precious blind cook for advice of one who thinks without the clouded vision of sight. Her answer shook me to my core, for after I asked her, she looked upon me for the first time in our long tenure together, and I realized that was her answer. She saw me, and it brought a tear to an old man’s eyes.

She has no more notion of what to do with the Young Master than I. Is this a condition that can be cured, and is it something that even ought to be cured?

So I must indulge in an indiscretion. Tomorrow, before the authorities arrive to take the Young Master into their care, I will shuttle him to the insane asylum on the other side of the mountain. I have known numerous educated men who claimed insanity to be an illness of the mind. Well if this is true, then after I push the Young Master’s pram through those halls for an hour, I may find several dozen cured and grateful minds with whom to discuss how best to serve him.

My apologies to any orderlies who catch the annual chill from our visit. I hear it is quite savage this year.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Consumed Podcast #14 is Live: Locke Lamora, Jo Walton, Battlestar Galactica, more

For the second episode in a row we managed to get all three hosts together: Nathanael Sylva, Max Cantor, and myself. This time we had an insane jumble of topics, two thirds of which we cut right before air. Still, we managed to cover a lot of distance, including the most book talk the podcast has ever seen, covering Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora, Jo Walton's Among Others, and Shirley Jackson's classic The Haunting of Hill House.

Eventually we shift to the television shows Max and Nat have been binging on, particularly Battlestar Galactica and Justice League Unlimited. Surprisingly, it's the superhero cartoon that gets more praise for its depth, while Max struggles to balance the narrative achievements in Battlestar against its racial and plotting issues.

We saved the weirdest part for last, discussing Frog Fractions, a free videogame that starts out parodying educational games and becomes a genre-bending work of art that I could only compare to Tristram Shandy. I'm not even sure how much Max left in of this conversation, because it goes to a lot of paces, including self-publishing, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, how pigeonholded Romance is, whether editors help or hinder creativity, and... well, you should really just hear it.

You can download the episode for free right here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Pigpun

There is a physician’s office at the end of the sty. It is open only Mondays and Fridays, when something funny is put in the slop. On those two days per week a particular pig puts on a pristine white coat and polished stethoscope and tends to the medical issues of her fellow cloven-hoofed kind. She has a PhD from out of state, an overturned slop bucket for a desk, and a banner with her motto: “Do No Ham.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: In Defense of Looper

Foreword: I haven't actually seen the movie. Allegedly I'm watching it tonight.

“Anyone fighting them must cross a certain skepticism: how is it that the mob, rather than a government or major corporation, controls time travel? We don't associate mad science with bowler hats and tommyguns. We certainly don't associate them with theoretical physics and R&D.

“To this skepticism, appreciate that whoever time travels first will control it retroactively. History will be changed, and it was.

“What do we associate with mob organizations? Moles. Spies. Inside men. Bribes. Things disappearing off of trucks.

“The mob didn't invent time travel. It had two financial backers, and one covert sleeper, in a Pentagon project out in New Mexico. Or it did, in a timeline we'll never remember. What we record is that they pulled the time machine out of the ether, and always had exclusive access to it, and every scientist who ever had a hunch in the right direction has been missing for time unknown.

“That's the devil of it, because it was a such fringe project that before an oversight committee could take it seriously, it was rewritten into a line where it had always been and no one could ever touch it. That's how we remember it because every time we've thought different, they've changed our past. We live in a gerrymandered present.”

Monday, December 31, 2012

100,000 Hits

I don't run many milestone posts, but I had to do this one. Sitemeter has long been flawed, but it's been monitoring my blog for so many years that I've grown attached to its often incorrect, often low-balled numbers. Usually the number on my page and the embedded counter don't even match up. Thanks to you, yesterday the counter finally ticked over 100,000 unique visits to The Bathroom Monolouges.

It stalled out at around 99,000 several days ago, and I thought Sitemeter was finally going belly up. A shame, really, since it'd be a wonderful way to ring in 2013. I love round numbers.

While it's a milestone, it's also an excuse to thank you. Thank you for every visit, every reading, and every comment you've left. Thank you for laughing, even when inappropriate, and cringing, especially when appropriate.

The Bathroom Monologues have been a weird rabbit hole to descend into. Between hits 1 and 100,000 I've made my first pro-rate sale, gotten my first partial-request, done anthologies and writing conventions. I'm deep into writing a second novel while still figuring out the best home for the first. A lot of a career has ticked away as you've clicked. Thank you, sincerely, because you've made much of this art worthwhile.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

10 Things I Learned About How I Read the Internet in 2012

1. If you’re ranting, I will skim. I am not interested in vitriol, particularly because I’ve read so much of it that it all sounds the same to me. I want claims, evidence, and information. I can tell when you’re bending facts, and every time you make a leap of logic in order to continue attacking the opponent, my hand is getting closer to closing the tab.

2. If I’m tired or had a long day, and I have to use my scroll button at all in order to get to the point of your post, I will close the tab. More interesting was the discovery that this most frequently occurs on bad blogs and The New Yorker website. At my most generous, I will tab over and return to your work later. I don’t know when stream of consciousness and images became such a problem, but jeezy-creezy, learn to organize information.

3. Hell is somewhere north of Youtube’s comment section.

4. As much as I love long-form journalism, I don’t want to read it off a screen. 2012 was the first year where text on my monitor started to blur from reading too often. Even before eyestrain became a serious health problem, I hated clicking through five or eight pages for a single article. Somehow the digital space has not reproduced the desire to consume great lengths of text, especially not when I’m spending so much time editing my own on that same screen. Will a tablet or Kindle change this? I don’t know. The Kindle does seem gentler on the eyes.

5. List posts are starting to work on me, but in tenuous fashion. Clearly they work enough for me to write one that includes discussion of them. I used to disdain them as the lowest possible thought, but now I’m so immersed in internet culture that I recognize a little of their utility. Now it’s merely any list that has two useless, redundant, boring or common sense items in a row that will get me to ditch out. Maybe I’ve already done so to you.

6. If there is a pop-up ad begging me to sign up for an RSS feed or mailing list, or to LIKE you on Facebook, I will close the tab immediately. You do not throw advertising in my face before I’ve read your content.

7. I don’t need gurus or motivational speakers. Seth Godin is for other people. When these things work for other people, they make me happy because those people are finding satisfaction. When those people try to turn me into a follower, I tune out.

8. Dozens of people will unfollow you if you tweet about trying to find a liver donor for your dying cousin.

9. Dozens of people will retweet you in an effort to find an Alzheimer’s patient who wandered from home.

10. It’s still big a mixed bag. Bring on 2013.
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