Advice, Twice

22 September 2002

The universe -- specifically the post office -- is taunting me. You remember yesterday, how I was taunting it with what would be in yesterday's mail? What I got in yesterday's mail was...drum roll, please...a summons to jury duty!


The California system summons people once every year and a half at least. Seriously. I've been summoned twice since we've been out here. Timprov has. Mark has, I think, although it may be more than that because he lived here two years longer (but maybe they don't choose people with university addresses, and he spent those two years living on the Stanford campus). It's just a whole mess of jury duty summonses, although they almost never make you actually show up, and none of us has ever been on a jury.

The summons is for October 17, which means that if, by some freak of nature I got put on a jury (yeah, right, with a nuclear physics background), I might still be on it when it's time to go to World Fantasy Con. On the other hand, this spring is going to be rather busy, so maybe I should just take it now and count on not getting put on a jury that lasts too long. I just don't know.

Other than that, it was a halfway decent day at least. I worked on the Not The Moose book some more and spent time with Mark and Timprov, separately and together. We went to see "Spirited Away," the new Miyazaki release, and it was much fun. And it was also good that Timprov felt up to going out, over to Palo Alto and all. It was a clear day. We could see all three mountains from the middle of the Bay, Mount Tam and Mount Ham and Mount Diablo. For some reason, the Bay Area has decided to have some summer, probably in honor of fall, I guess. Or just to taunt me that the folks are in the Minnesota River Valley in September and I am not. Whatever. Silly Bay Area. But the clear skies were nice.

I do recommend "Spirited Away," especially to you, Kev, and anyone like him: Kev reads and watches movies largely for setting. And Miyazaki can do setting. I've decided I like surrealism best when it's whimsical, when there's something clever to it. Any fool can put a bowling ball in a hat-rack these days. The behavior of the hopping hand at the bottom of the lantern pole, though, that was cool. And this time, he had a reason why nobody called the little girl heroine by her name throughout the movie. In "Princess Mononoke," they kept calling Mononoke "San." In "Spirited Away," Chihiro was "Sen." We're wondering in which movies Son, Sun, and Shin will be appearing. (Shi and Si are the same noise to many Japanese ears, which is why I have a friend who spent a year being Shijay.) Anyway, it was very nifty. About five minutes away from the theatre, I said to the guys, "What are we supposed to do after seeing a movie, when we're not picking apart the ways in which it sucked?" Ahh, the tough questions.

I have one piece of advice to those of you who want to see the movie, though: don't spend a lot of time wondering what these beings are supposed to be like in Japanese mythology. They're not, necessarily, and it's not important to the plot. Think of them as you would Muppets: the big fuzzy white guy, the funny thing with the fan. The movie will explain the rest. Don't get hung up on what you think you don't know.

Car alarms are so useless. I hate them so much.

What else, what else...oh, Columbine and I had exactly the opposite reactions to Stephen King's retirement announcement. Columbine says, "As long as he's writing anyway, and as long as he can sell it without trying, I feel that he has an obligation to do so. I feel like I'm a peasant watching Marie Antoinette throw uneaten loaves of bread in the trash." I don't think King's obligated to anybody. Why should he be? He's already made his deals with fans on each book -- he writes, they buy -- and what the retirement announcement says to me is that he is not Sandy Claws. He isn't writing for anybody any more, and he doesn't have to. Why should he have to listen to people whine and complain about how far downhill he's gone since their favorite novel, just because he wants to do something different? Some novels shouldn't see the light of day -- that's professionalism. Some novels aren't written for an audience of more than three or four people. Retired singers probably sing in the shower, too, but we don't begrudge them that.

When J. K. Rowling didn't come out with a new Harry Potter book immediately, children's book sales kept going anyway. The kids (and their parents) bought Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper and now Neil Gaiman and (I'm told) Kathe Koja. So if King got people reading, they'll read some of the rest of us. They'll move on. And I really, really don't think that's a bad thing for the rest of us.

Thanks to my subconscious, I now have the "Kidnap the Sandy Claws" song in my head. Sigh.

Ah well. I have another piece of advice for you, fellow bra-wearers: do not buy the suboptimal bra. No, really. If you try on two bras, and one of them is Right and costs $40, and the other one is Sort Of Okay and costs $24, because you're at Victoria's Secret because you're a weird size, so don't even talk to me about $12 bras, okay, because they are not for the likes of me and anyway, if you're in this situation, do not buy the bra that is Sort Of Okay, because it will continue to be Sort Of Okay in the drawer, and you'll never want to wear it. And then when you do wear it, you'll feel funny, like you're leading with the boobs, maybe, or like they're being corralled into doing heaven knows what in there, being pushed that far forward. Breasts should be allowed to have some sideways component, is what I'm saying. No garment should attempt to make them linearly forward. And then you'll wish you'd bought the Right bra, even though you don't have $40 for one stinkin' bra, because then at least it would feel decent and you could maybe wash it on Delicate in hopes that it would last longer, but then when your sister-in-law gives you a gift certificate for -- glory be -- $40, they will have stopped carrying the Right bra completely. And then you will be sad, because you will be deprived of the Right bra forever.

Also a spider will bite your hand, possibly because of the bad bra, possibly because you routinely kill its cousins, most likely because it's What They Do.

Maybe that was just me, though. Moral of the story is: don't buy something almost-right-sort-of-okay-not-too-bad unless the option is having to go out naked. Because it invariably turns out that almost is not close enough, and that sweater itches more than you thought it would, that shoe that rubbed a little funny in the store gives you blisters forever, and it's all very much a waste.

Okay, I'm going to read the newspaper now. I can't wait to see what the latest opinions and policy statements about Iraq will be. I just wish I thought someone would say something sensible on some side. Makes me see why people stop reading the newspaper. I'm not going to, though.

There was an ad in our Parade magazine that read, "Man's Best Friend...the Lab!" It seemed awfully pro-technology for that kind of publication, but it turns out they meant the dog. Well, those are nice, too, sure. Slobbery, but who minds a little dog drool now and then?

Not I. Even if I do intend to get a small and mostly drool-free dog.

You know why I sometimes mistake myself for a misanthrope? Because I hate the way people talk about things I actually do myself, and crankiness often feels like misanthropy. "Developing a unique fictional voice," for example, and "Generating additional tension in the character arc." I do both of those things, but half the time people talk about them that way, it makes me itchy. It makes me want to ask them, aw, for the love of Pete, are you going to write a story or aren't you? I think sometimes that this terminology comes up in workshops because people think it's nicer to say "I thought Bob's character arc needed to be sharpened a bit" than "I wasn't interested in anything Bob did in the whole story." But it makes things sound much more arcane than they actually are, and I don't like that.

Okay, well. I should actually pretend to be useful for awhile, I think. Have a good Sunday.

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