Showing posts from October, 2010

On Mammoth Attraction

From The New Way Things Work, by David Macaulay with Neil Ardley:
One day, I happened upon a mammoth whose hair had been lovingly combed. The hairdresser, in fact, was just about to return her creation to its owner. No sooner had the perfectly coiffed animal stepped into the street, however, than a combination of litter, loose laundry and stray cats flew into the air and secured themselves to the startled beast's freshly combed coat. It is common knowledge that a well-groomed individual is more attractive, but never before have I seen this so forcefully illustrated.This is the prologue to the entry on electricity in The New Way Things Work. Whenever I need a refresher course on how something works (or my first lesson ever, when it's something I've never wondered about before, like, oh, I don't know, a sewing machine), I go to this book first. SO MANY THINGS are explained in it, and I find that I understand mechanics more quickly when the lesson includes laughter, lar…

Up There Orbiting the Earth

My subject heading is from my most favorite This American Life ever. It's spoken by John Hodgman (who is, among other things, that wonderful man who plays the PC in the Mac ads) in a piece he did about the strange phenomenon of fame. The episode is called "Nice Work if You Can Get It" and I strongly recommend you listen to the entire thing, if you ever have 60 minutes to do so. If you have less minutes than that, then Hodgman's piece, which is my favorite in an episode of favorites, lives in the first 20 minutes.

I've always been fascinated by the phenomenon of stardom. The phenomenon just gets more bizarre, too, as social networking grows. If, by following the actor Shah Rukh Khan on twitter, we know that he just ate sushi and also he's nervous because he's base jumping off buildings, does that mean that Shah Rukh Khan and we are friends? Of course not. Shah Rukh Khan has not the foggiest notion who we are, nor could he even begin to get to know all…

Because I'm Tired

I have been working hard on a LONG speech (60 minutes) I'm giving next week in Chicago, and I feel like I should write something here about speech-writing and revising and timing and practicing, but, you know what? I'm too damn tired. Also, I've been researching the American health insurance industry and, well, do I need to tell you how mindbogglingly infuriating and dispiriting that is? For-profit health insurance companies make me hope hell exists.

I'm too tired for serious blogging.

Hence! Would you like to see some pictures of my new favorite movie star?

Why do I like Shahrukh Khan? Well, his acting, OBVIOUSLY. Here he is in the role of "Cloned Man Jealously Guarding His Necklace."

Here he is in the role of "Tiny Chess-Playing Man, October 2009."

Here he is in the role of "The Bad Boy." I can tell because it says so on his shirt. In glitter. It is impossible to argue.

Oh, that's better. Here he is, my new favorite movie star, in th…

"It's a barbarity that clarity is a rarity."

News: the Fire paperback is coming out on January 25, 2011 and is available now for pre-order on Amazon and I don't have any timing information regarding Bitterblue, but I promise to post it here once I do.

So, my subject heading is a line of dialogue I enjoyed from last week's episode of Bones. More specifically, I enjoyed Bones's reaction to it. Bones (a.k.a. Dr. Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist who catches murderers with the help of FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth and an excellent team) is one of my favorite ladies on TV. If you're looking for a show full of satisfying murder mysteries that make any sort of sense, then I wouldn't particularly recommend Bones. But if you're looking for funny dialogue and strong characters and relationships, well, I think this one fits the bill. I can't get enough of Bones and Booth -- they're the perfect foils for each other -- and I love Bones's extreme logical nature combined with her sudden…

This Is How It's Done, Take Two

The girls are playing together quietly in the other room. Signs suggest that they intend to keep doing so indefinitely -- but it's 2pm, which is a good nap time, and they aren't bouncing around with energy, so... well, you might as well try.

You pick one up in either arm, stand up (that's one serious squat), and sit in the rocking chair. At first, they don't protest; this could, potentially, be interesting. Maybe you're going to play Trot Trot to Boston with them, or let them bang on your laptop. But then, when all you seem to be doing is rocking them and ignoring their signals that they'd rather get down... well, this might call for some screaming and struggles. At least, now that they're 14 months old, they're more aware of each other and of their own bodies than they used to be, so they're not kicking and pushing each otheras they did 7 months ago. No, the kicks and pushes are directed at the appropriate person: you.

Briefly, the girls are dis…

Boston Book Festival and South Bend (and a Massachusetts Voting ETA!)

A quick reminder that I'll be at the (free!) Boston Book Festival this Saturday, October 16, appearing on a panel with Francisco X. Stork (Marcelo in the Real World and The Last Summer of the Death Warriors); Kathryn Lasky (the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series -- have you seen the ads for the owl movie?), and Noni Carter (Good Fortune). The event is at 4pm at the Trinity Forum. Check out the schedule to see all the other stuff going on. Also, a note: I've been informed that President Obama will be at a rally a couple blocks away from the festival. This means you should leave some extra time for your transportation. :o)

Also: the time has changed for my event in South Bend, IL on Thursday, October 28. It now begins at 4:30pm. See my Appearance Schedule for more details.

ETA for Massachusetts Voters: I talked about Ballot Question 2 last week, and now I want to mention Ballot Question 3. This is the proposed cut of MA sales tax from its current rate of 6.25 percent to 3 percen…

At the Risk of Sounding Like a Broken Record: You Learn to Write by Writing

When I travel, I almost always bring work along, but the kind of work depends on the kind of travel. For me, writing and revising require a level of focus that itself requires periods of planned, uninterrupted alone time. ("Planned" meaning "anticipated." The uninterrupted alone time can happen on the spur of the moment, but I have to know at the time it begins that it's happening. In other words, I need to be confident that I will not be interrupted in the next however-long. In (other) other words -- if I believe the cable guy is coming, then that's not good writing time, even if it turns out that the cable guy never comes. Also, when the cable guy doesn't come, WOW do I ever hate him for ruining my writing time for nothing. But I digress.)

As it happens, planned uninterrupted alone time does not occur very often when one has traveled to a house of twin babies. :o)

Therefore, last week, when I went to Florida, I did not bring writing or revising work.…

Life Gets Better

If anyone has been trying to register for the Teen Volume Conference in Chicago using the link I provided the other day -- I provided the wrong link. I've corrected it, and here it is again if you want to go there now.

A shoutout today to Massachusetts voters! You may or may not be aware that there's a confusing question on the ballot for the mid-term elections on November 2. (FYI: The deadline for voter registration in Massachusetts is October 13.) I'm talking about Question #2, which regards the repeal of a law called 40B. 40B is Massachusetts' affordable housing law. It's not a perfect law, but nonetheless, I think that its repeal would be a terribly mistake. Here's a blog post that explains why -- and my apologies for not explaining it myself. I'm traveling right now and am pressed for time (I know, always an excuse). Please vote no on Question 2!

Also -- I'm guessing a lot of you -- particularly in the wake of the heartbreaking news ab…

Mamet, Hogwarts, Plus, Come See Me in Chicago

Every once in a while, I watch the movies of a writer/director whose writing style is completely different from my own, and think about how funny it would be if that writer were to make my books into movies. For example, David Mamet.

Here's the scene between Katsa and Po, when they're arguing in Katsa's rooms near the end of Part One after Katsa has had a Very Bad Conversation with Giddon (that was me trying not to be spoilery...):

KATSA: The thing is -- how DARE you! How could you --
PO: I never -- Katsa, I never -- see, the thing is --
KATSA: But, see here now, listen, I've got to get downstairs. He's calling me, you know he's calling me.
PO: He's -- calling? But -- what --
KATSA: It was terrible.
PO: Did you -- no, you didn't. Did you? Tell me --
KATSA: It was your idea! You said -- you TOLD me!
PO: I'm not saying I said --
KATSA: Oh, what does it matter? The thing is, he's calling, so what should I do, bring a knife?
PO: You think -- a -- what? A kn…