Saturday, August 12, 2017

That Google memo, women in tech, and stepping in landmines

(Reblogged from my Tumblr)
I wasn’t planning on tackling this at all, and certainly not with what will most likely amount to a statistically meaningless anecdote, but whenever I read feminist arguments regarding nature vs nurture (and let’s face it, when it comes to discussions about the gender, the left can look pretty hypocritical sometimes), I think, “Jeez, I haven’t made it to feminism yet.” I was good in math and science when I was a kid (enough that I was skipped from a third grade math class to a fourth-fifth at the end of semester), and then I just wasn’t so good at school for reasons to numerous to go into here, but no one ever said to me, “Hey, this is a job you can do,” not because I was a girl, but because without role models, I had no idea what a computer programmer did or a scientist did outside of, like, Young Frankenstein. All of the adults around me had “jobs” not careers. A job was something you did to earn a paycheck. A job was something that probably left you tired and dirty at the end of the day. A good job – like my grandfather’s truck driving job – gave you security and a pension and healthcare – and if you want to talk about “masculine” working-class jobs vs “feminine” (waitressing, housekeeping, service industry) ones, I can, and I think we should, but “Omg, someone at google is thinking the wrong things!”
The memo was dumb. And in the giant game of telephone that is the internet, it was turned into something evil. I read what was posted to Gizmodo and thought the reaction was overblown but unsurprising (and apparently he was fired so good job I guess). But also disappointing because this is how we talk about these issues now.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bill Maher's Teachable Moment

I caught Real Time last night, Bill Maher's first show back after dropping the n-word in response to a clumsily insensitive remark from senator Ben Sasse. Full disclosure: I've watched Maher's show in some fashion since his Politically Correct days, which I know in 2017 is the wrong answer. It's easier to not only outright condemn but demand punishment, but I think Real Time is one of the few shows out there that does feature a diversity of opinion among its panelists (sometime to its own detriment), and Maher isn't afraid to criticize his own tribe, sometimes to his own detriment, and that's pretty rare these days. Anyway, this is what I scribbled down after watching "Bill's teachable moment":

Maher is in a position of great "privilege" (and I don't use that word casually) in that he's afforded what most people who's been at the receiving end of a public call-out don't have and that's a large platform. Despite the calls for HBO to fire him, he's never been in danger of losing his show. He can screw up royally and survive. Even if HBO had decided to pull the show, he'd still land on his feet because he's done it before. Everyone should have this luxury. (And guess who generally doesn't?)

That said, he's a clueless 60-year-old white guy whose brand of comedy went out of style decades ago, and didn't exactly demonstrate that he understood why what he said was wrong in any context. (Symone Sanders, one of the panelists, was astute in pointing out that it wasn't just a slur against African-Americans, but black women in particular.)

I did like how he said it was "wasted political capital." Maher's a polarizing figure, but he thrives on controversy almost to the point of being self-destructive (especially now when it's better to signal loudly than offer nuance and context). But it was a little selfish.

Ice Cube made a really good observation that he might have to choose between comedy and politics, because it's almost impossible to juggle being  thought leader and a subversive comedian. I've always thought the same thing -- you can't be both edgy and "woke." Sorry, in 2017, it doesn't work anymore.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Writing, editing, structuring

The biggest problem I have isn't writing, it's structuring writing. Making a long piece of fiction make sense is fucking hard! No really, you can conceive of a complete story in your head and have it all turn to shit once it hits paper.

I can't stop obsessing over this. Is it a "writer" problem or just a "me" problem? The un-fun aspects of writing are rarely talked about, There's much said about inspiration, about writer's block and how to get your ideas on paper, but very little about the dirty work required once you've vomited those ideas all over the page.

As a child, when I wanted to makes something, I'd taken an existing thing apart and lay all its pieces out on the floor to see how they were interconnected. A few years ago, I did the same thing with a novel I was reading. I literally dissected it, chapter by chapter, and made a timeline to have a visual representation of how the narrative "flowed." I recently did that with one of my drafts, and I plan on doing it with a second. I can't say yet if it's working, but I can spot some of the flaws easier than I would if I had to treat it as some big thing, and that's a plus.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Update

It's been a while since I posted here. As standalone blogs have become quaint and limited to those with a large platform, this one has become largely unnecessary for me to maintain on a regular basis. I haven't give up yet, but I don't relish coming here anymore.

Despite my reservations about its being a platform for younger people, I've been using Tumblr as my online home. It's actually pretty good for fandoms and the kind of casually blogging I started with before everyone was required to take a political stand on everything. Yes, it has a history of that, too, but it's unavoidable, mostly, if you know who to follow. The bad part is, of course, how quickly a post can go viral, so I feel as though I have to be extra-careful there. Not because I'm so afraid of being hurt (one of the benefits of getting old is developing a pretty thick skin), but because I'd rather not strangers have feelings all over me or be tethered to an online fight. I do miss the contrarian bullshit I did here, however tamely.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Updates; NaNo, etc.

It's been a while since I've posted here. Between NaNo and some family I haven't had time, and frankly I don't know if I'm going to continue this blog in the future. (I'm still active at Tumblr, by the way.)

Camp NaNo went as smoothly as could be expected, meaning chaotic as hell. The last thing I needed was another long piece of fiction that I'll probably never edit, but I hadn't written in a while, and the diversion was a good one. The story, on the other had, is a meandering piece of surrealist garbage.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Resources for Writers (Updated)

There are plenty of free online word processors out there, but Google Drive and Zoho Docs  are two of my favs. Personally, I use a combination of Google Docs and Microsoft Word on an old laptop that I use primarily for writing. That way, I can write anywhere, and download later when I'm home. Plus I have an extra saved copy. (I also periodically print my work because I like a "hard" copy I can mark all over.)

Writer Unboxed and Ploughshares are two excellent writing blogs for when you need extra help and inspiration, or just an impetus to keep going.

NaNoWriMo's Writing 101 forum is just what it says: a nuts and bolts writing forum where no question is too basic or embarrassing. All of their forums are a fun diversion from NaNo's kamikaze style, but this one is particularly helpful, as are NaNo'ers as a whole.

Write or Die forces you to write by punishing you when you don't. According to their website, it's "a web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Start typing in the box. As long as you keep typing, you’re fine, but once you stop typing, you have a grace period of a certain number of seconds and then there are consequences." To be honest, I've never used this, but I know a lot of people who swear by it. And swear at it.

This name generator is helpful if you're stuck on a character's name. There are options for names as rare or as common as you need.

Need help organizing your writing? Here is a handy novel blueprint.

Monday, June 27, 2016

What should writers write?

Short answer: whatever the hell they want to write.

I want the trend that says a writer should only write about things they've experienced directly to be over. At best, it says, it's inauthentic; at worst, it's appropriation. I even saw an example of addiction being something that shouldn't be written about unless one has experienced it directly.

I'm not about to become an alcoholic to create a character who is an alcoholic.

James Walker of quillette posted a lengthy piece on the fetishization of identity and authenticity in art and literature:
What has been forgotten in this consciousness of how we are shaped, misshaped, and battered by the world is our own ability to shape it: Freedom. And it’s this forgetting that has perverted our understanding of authenticity. We take how the world has acted upon us as definitive of who we are. We rarely consider that authenticity might not lie in what has been done to you, not in the mere situation in which you find yourself, but in the manner in which you conduct yourself toward it. Writers are not merely receptacles of experience just as they are not the sum of their influences. As much as authors draw from their own experiences or other authors, they seek to define themselves from them, to set their own work apart. When we admire a beautiful work of art, we do so not as if it is a sort of serendipitous accident, the fortunate convergence of historical and social determinacy, but because it bears the mark of a particular will, imagination, and creativity. It is what is active that renders art art, defines the artist as an artist. Authenticity is activity.
It's important to view this as part of a larger phenomenon where experience trumps knowledge and is exempt from criticism. To this, he adds:
Rationally and epistemologically speaking, this elevation of “lived experience” to a sort of untouchable status makes little sense. At the most basic level, personal experience is unreliable at best, outright misleading at worst.
And it says nothing about talent, about detailing the human experience in a way that anyone can find meaning in. Restrictions on who gets to say what doesn't make the canon any stronger.