Monday, August 25, 2008


I'm almost finished with Chapter 12, but I'm not completely satisfied with how it's coming out. There's nothing specifically wrong with it, I suppose, but the second half of the chapter is mostly narrative as Sam goes through what she hopes will be the final surgery on her injured hand. As I've said more than once, I think I'm best when I'm writing dialogue, and at my weakest when writing the narrative. Well, here it is.

When I am finished I'll just have to go over and over that section, making little corrections and edits each time, until I'm satisfied. That's what I always do.

In other news, the Olympics are over, and I'm simultaneously melancholy and sick of them. I like having some interesting sport to watch on TV each night, and I like learning a little about the athletes. I'm definitely sick of NBC's coverage, which seemed like it had grown a little worse since Athens in 2004. I never once caught any sailing, indoor cycling, rhythmic gymnastics, pentathalon, archery, or rowing. I do believe last time I saw at least a little of some of those sports, but not this time.

London in 2012 is going to have to come up with the display of all displays to beat what Beijing did for the opening and closing ceremonies. Another bus delivering Jimmy Paige, Becks, and some random popster I'd never heard of, isn't going to get it done. Surely I can't be the only one who thought the message being sent by all those umbrellas was, "The weather really sucks! Welcome!" Although I now do want an electric brolly with lights, and I totally covet one of those circular unicycle things they had riding around.

And we go from that, directly to the Democratic convention in Denver. I for one will watch not an instant of it. I'm tangenitally interested in politics -- I'm interested in theories and arguments, but not specifics, details or (god forbid) personalities. I've watched the conventions before, and they're all the same: hot air, new heights reached in unspecified promises, and partisan sniping.

It's a complete turnoff for me. Politics is a sewer, and it tars anybody who dares to wade into it. A few months ago my email group and I were having a discussion about this. I think we were having a talk about who was or wasn't or should or shouldn't be running for President, and my friend Paul asked me who I would want to run. I told him -- nobody. I hold no admiration for the people who do run, and if I did admire someone enough I wouldn't want them to run, for fear of their becoming irrevocably stained by the process.

Yes, I realize that's quite the little interesting paradox I've created for myself. Is it too late to set up a monarchy, or an enlightened despot? We really couldn't do much worse by having someone's eldest child inherit the throne, compared with the way it's set up now.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In which I've solved a problem

I finally figured out how to get through that impasse in chapter 10, though I'm still not completely satisfied with the result. I think I'm just going to have to go forward as unsatisfied, and leave it at that, unless fantastic inspiration strikes. I want that scene to be there, despite the difficulties I've had in completing it.

Which brings me to one of my faults as a writer: I fall too much in love with my characters, which results in my wanting to give pretty much each one of them more page time than required by the plot. This can lead to -- and has lead to, many times in the past -- dialogue-heavy scenes running far longer than they need to be, and occasionally even entire scenes that don't need to be there. Writing too much is always a problem, surely not just for me, and excessive enjoyment of minor characters is surely something that merits a warning.

I'm almost done with that little scene, and I'll just have to see if it turns into a speed bump as time goes by. Excising it won't be difficult if it turns out to be disastrous, but it won't be any fun either.

I'm just sayin'

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Someone can do it right

As much as NBC's TV coverage can be biased and annoying, their official web site is a fantastic place to watch events live. You won't see everything there live -- I think they hold off the events they'll end up showing in prime time, like the swimming and gymnastics events -- but that's sort of the point of this site. This is where you can go to see the sports you can't see on TV.

I'm not a huge fan of the format, if only because you're required to download Microsoft's Silverlight plugin. There's nothing wrong with it, per se -- it's basically just a Flash analog, as far as I can tell -- but I dislike having to install extraneous programs on my computer. I already have Flash on it; why do I need something else?

And the coverage is strangely addictive. Even more bare-bones than the Triplecast, the webcasts are little more than live feeds of events, with score and point graphics, but without any commentary. Which, I have to say, I love. It's fascinating how utterly irrelevant most sports play-by-play is; we're just used to it. Yes, I personally need it for football (which is incomprehensible without it, thanks to its Byzantine collection of field rules), but nearly evey Olympic sport there is can be deciphered easily on your own.

Weightlifting, for example, which I'm watching right now. It couldn't be simpler: keep lifting heavy things over your head, until you can't any more. It's the womens' 75+ kg clean and jerk (that's how much they weigh, not how much they're lifting; at this point they're well above 150 kg), there's nobody telling me the life story of the woman from Uzbekistan, no cutting away from some random competitor, and no commercials. It's fantastic.

Seriously, I would pay money if my TV coverage was like this. Heck -- I did pay money in 1992. I would do it again gladly.

And the woman from South Korea just set a wold record by jerking 186 kg over her head. For the metrically disinclined among us (like me), that's 310 pounds. Wow. I feel a soliloquy to the wonders of the human body coming on.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The 16 day grind

It's right around this point on the Olympics schedule, just like clockwork, that I begin to loathe NBC. I'm not going to whine about why they're not doing this or that instead of what they are doing (or not too much, at least); I know how much they spent for the broadcast rights, and I know they have to recoup their money. But still.

Beach volleyball? Every freaking night? Live?

Seriously, this might be the most overrated, boring sport at the games. This is how pretty much every single game progresses: serve, set, smash, point. Repeat until one team scores 21. Volleys are rare; sustained volleys are all but nonexistent. In between games loud music blares and cheerleaders run out for a brief booty shake.

I won't pretend I'm not aware most of this inexplicable popularity has to do with the fact that the female athletes' "uniforms" consist of a minuscule bikini barely large enough for their names and numbers. One of my friends at work more or less confirmed that as the reason he watches. Which is fine, I guess, as far as that goes, but it meshes poorly with an athletic event. If skinny women in empty bikinis are your thing, great. Go service your thing on line. But don't watch an athletic event for the wrong reasons, driving up the ratings, and making me have to watch it too.

I'm not sick of Michael Phelps yet. Yet. Fortunately he seems like a genuinely nice guy, as opposed to arrogant buffoons like Gary Hall Jr., so he wears well.

NBC's jingoistic, xenophobic coverage of US athletes is irritating, but that's not a battle worth fighting. I would like to see all the athletes covered equally, but obviously most people want to see their own athletes. I get that, and I get that it simply isn't possibly to give all the athletes equal coverage. But NBC really dropped the ball on Wednesday night during the finals of the mens' gymnastics all-around competition. They were all over the US and China athletes all night long, with some brief glimpses to the Japanese athletes. Not once did they cut away to the French athlete -- and he ended up winning the bronze. Come on, NBC. You can do better than that.

Or...maybe you can't. And it's not like I'm not going to watch, so all you can do it suck up any annoyance you're feeling and enjoy the spectacle. I said before that I love the Olympics, and that hasn't changed. I suppose what's going on is, while I love the Olympics, I hate the way the TV broadcasters have decided I must watch it.

Bring back the Triplecast!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

11 Down

And some unknown number to go.

I finished Chapter 11 over the weekend, on Sunday to be exact. It followed basically the outline I'd planned for it in my head, and ended up little better than I'd hoped for. Some of the chapters up until this point had been making their own paths, but this one seemed to need a plan first.

The Persistent Wife, who hasn't read it, has expressed some concern with the level of detail I may have employed when describing the makeout session between Samantha and Alex. I think that's valid. As I said before, this book is what it's intended to be, and the characters are the ages I've decided them to be; that requires some restraint. I wouldn’t describe my own feelings as concern; more like, it’s an awareness of a need to reign myself in. I think I’ve done that. Nevertheless, there will be some refining, as there always is.

Chapter 12 should also pretty much take care of itself, since I know pretty clearly what’s going to happen. After that, though, I’m going to have to start thinking (I know: I hate that!). In my head have the foundations of at least a half-dozen somewhat pivotal scenes throughout the remainder of the story, but as I’ve mentioned before, it’s linking all those scenes together that’s often the hard part for me.

I’ve thought about making an outline for the rest of the story. I think that would help with the filling in, but I also don’t want to feel like I’m constraining myself. I like free writing; I think it’s working for me, and I don’t want to mess up what’s been successful so far for 11 chapters.

Anyway, I’m taking another rest at the moment. I wrote myself out over the weekend, and there’s some gosh darn good trap shooting and equestrian events that need watching this week.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I love the Olympics. Love them. I love the pageantry, the drama, the huge stories and the little stories, the triumphs and the heartbreaks. I love how powerful it can be, and I love how corny it can be too.

I don't remember watching any Games before 1980. I have vague recollections if 1976 in Montreal, but I don't know if those are my memories, or if they're things I've heard about and read about over the years, until I can't tell the difference any more. I'd like to think that I watched Nadia Comaneci, for example, but I don't think that I did.

The first Olympics I do remember watching was the Winter Games in 1980, and even then the only memory I have, obviously, is the hockey team's Miracle on Ice, defeating the Soviet Union 4-3 -- not the gold medal game, as a lot of people incorrectly remember. The US had to defeat Finland 4-3 two days later for that. But there's nothing else about the 1980 Games I remember. I probably watched figure staking, as Linda Fratianne and Robin Cousins seem so familiar, but if I did watch it's gone now.

I remember the opening ceremonies in Los Angeles in 1984, which was wondrously corny kitsch at its best. Especially I remember the 88 grand pianos all playing Rhapsody in Blue. I remember Rafer Johnson lighting the flame; barefoot Zola Budd from South Africa tripping Mary Decker; Carl Lewis being superhuman.

For some reason I don't remember the 1988 Games in Seoul. Did I not watch it? What was the matter with me?

Interestingly, what I most remember about 1992 in Barcelona was the absolutely astounding view from the swimming pool, looking out and down over the city; and paralympic archer Antonio Robello lighting the flame with an arrow. And eagerly gobbling down the 24/7 live coverage from NBC's unfairly maligned Triplecast--which nobody else seems to have watched--instead of their worthless tape-delayed coverage.

All that's left from the winter games in Albertville that year was the weird opening ceremonies with the dancers all wearing bizarre costumes. Those crazy Europeans!

Everyone remembers Nancy and Tonya from 1994 in Lillehammer -- and probably not much else -- so that shouldn't even count.

A billion and five memories from Atlanta in 1996, not all of them good. The opening ceremonies coming to a tremendous crescendo leading immediately into the parade of nations, with Muhammed Ali lighting the flame; the rampant, nauseating commercialism; Michael Johnson absolutely obliterating the world record in the 200 in track; the pipe bomb; Amy Van Dyken winning the 50 free in swimming, maybe the most exciting event in all of Olympic sports; Kerri Strug and the gymnastics team.

From the opening ceremonies in Beijing last night, mostly I remember how fucking pompous and aggravating Bob Costas is. Hey Bob -- shut up! Nobody is interested in your blowhard speechifying! We dont need constant narration for us poor dumb Mekins, explaining what's going on. We have brains ourselves; we can interpret and infer. And, you know, simply enjoy. It is possible, you know.

I'll watch pretty much anything I can get access too, just like all the other times. This morning I watched team handball (France defeats Angola) and badminton (Poland defeats Estonia). Sports I wouldn't give the time of day to normally become fascinating once the Olympics come around. Like curling in the winter games. Curling! Yes I watch, enthralled. The Olympics are important, and so that imparts a similar importance to every event.

And I try to imagine what it must be like to be, not someone huge like LeBron James, who looked bored and inconvenienced last night, but an athlete from a small country with no realistic shot of medaling. I try to imagine being that person, and then actually doing it. I think that's what the Olympics are all about, it's why it's so exciting, and it's why I'll always happily watch -- even if what I'm watching is judo.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

All the faux news that fits

I thought this was hysterical. And typical.

On Thursday Omaba was at a rally stop in Ohio, where some fool got himself a press credential and then started heckling from the audience, demanding to know why Obama hadn't begun with the Pledge of Allegiance. (I must have missed the news reports of the new law making this a requirement.) Instead of inviting this gentleman to put his money where his mouth was and begin the Pledge himself, Obama instead caved and led the crowd in the Pledge.

The fun came when Faux News, the propaganda mouthpiece of the right wing, decided to report on this incident. Their take on things? "[Obama] skipped Pledge of Allegienace." Probably becuase he hates America.

Really, is there anyone left who takes Faux seriously as a news source? I'm sure there are; people who still believe Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, for instance. But it's not even comedy like The Onion or Stephen Colbert, so I'm not quite sure how to characterize it. Pravda, maybe? Or we could just borrow the phrase used by the judge in Fox v. Franken, where he called the lawsuit "...wholly without merit."

I don't think Fox News can be described any better than that.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Back in the Groove

Not so persistent lately, though. Sorry about that. Well, persistent at this, anyway. On the other hand, I have been writing the new thing, which I think I really ought to title one of these days. (Originally, years ago when I first started the original draft, it was going to be linked together with several other stories I was musing over, all dealing with the same group of friends in high school. I'd been referring to the series as "Senior Year" in my head, but that's out the window now: Samantha lost a year during this recent revision, and is now a junior instead. Back to the drawing board, I suppose.)

The Halloween scene I've been hammering away at all weekend is about half done, and it's going well. Part of it is Samantha finally allowing Alex to see how badly she was injured in the crash that killed her friend Harriet; part of it is just more of them getting to know each other; part of it is the two of them experiencing their first fight; and part of it is some fairly heavy making out.

That bit I haven't quite got to yet, though I did pre-write it a few months ago while I was stuck on something else. I'll plug it in when I get there, with editing to reflect how the build-up to that scene has changed since then. They're not going to have sex, but other than that I'm not too sure what it is they are going to do. I keep going back and forth between reminding myself that the characters are both 16, and that this is allegedly a YA novel whose theoretical readers will be about the same age; and knowing that real 16 year olds have sex all the time, and trying not to make parts of this book seem corny, even though my own values are likely a little out of synch with the times, hooking-up-wise.

There's an interesting dichotomy there. If I were 16 again now, knowing what I know and remember at 42, I would likely be cutting myself a horny swath through the girls at whatever high school I was at. (In my head, at least.) And yet, though that's how I think, my characters are always more shy and reserved, modest and honorable. Which isn't to suggest I'm, like, the complete opposite of all that, or anything. My characters tend to be hyper-realized versions of good people. Their flaws tend to be a little hyper as well.

Anyway; blah blah. Finishing this chapter won't take too long, unless I get stuck on another tangent like in the previous chapter (which I still haven't solved, or excised). That will pretty much end Chapter 11. Chapter 12 will deal with the aftermath, both good and bad; Samantha learning something nice about two of her friends (which I'm attempting to hint at in that damned scene from the previous chapter I may of may not keep); and yet another surgery to repair her hand. Tally ho!