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Subject:still truckin'
Time:11:20 am
things are incredibly hectic. i'm trying to maintain some level of sanity, but i am way stressed. work is insane - my full-time job plus my freelance work plus the vet journal for which i'm managing editor. no downtime in sight!

personally, though, ryan and i haven't been happier. i can't imagine us being more content than we have been these past few months. my going back to work has removed a huge weight from his shoulders and he has been super productive around the house and yard. we've started turning of the dreaded television set and now spend more time listening to albums and planning our home improvement projects. i look at him and wonder how i ever could have allowed myself to let him go for even a moment.

i hate writing. my stupid horoscope said i should maintain my "diary," but i just hate writing. maybe i'll start voice recording my posts instead so i can avoid having to re-read everything and check for spelling and grammar. i do that all day - why do i have to do it here, too? not like i care if anybody corrects my posts, but as an editor, there's a lot of pressure to get it all right.

ok, i'm done for the day. now the stars can't be mad.
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Subject:best year of my life - to come
Time:09:32 pm
i've decided that i NEED to make a few changes in my life and that i NEED to start now. i can be so much more than i am, but i am just too lazy to even try. but not this year. this year i intend to stay motivated, make my current business as successful as possible, and get my ass out of debt. ryan and i made a deal: he is going to quit smoking (i recently quit and want us both to be nonsmokers before we start trying to have a child, which should be next year) and i am going to refrain from purchasing anything but food and household necessities for 6 months - i will, however, be allowed $20 per week for gas, etc. i will also be able to carry that money over from week to week if i need to "save up" for something, such as if we need to buy a shower gift or the like. this is going to be next to impossible for me, so i decided to track my progress. i really hope i can keep this up - both the no shopping and the documentation of it. i also hope to work twice as many hours as i have been in order to clear enough $$ after taxes to pay off my debt, which is substantial. here are some ways i'm going to accomplish my goals:
1. no more procrastination! when i get a job, i will work on it until it is complete. my turn-around time for every project i receive will be 24-48 hours, depending on the size.
2. i will set up a work schedule for myself so that i will have regular office hours and be able to keep track of how many billable hours i work. i am going to have to put in some hefty "overtime" to meet my goal, but the no spending thing should free up plenty of hours.
3. i will set aside time each week for just me, when i can focus on fun projects and spending time with ryan. you know what all work and no play does to someone!
4. i will actively seek new work and promote and market myself in new and interesting ways. i will set up a portfolio for myself and advertise locally. more work = more $$$!!
5. i will try to set aside some money for the end of year when i can reward myself for my hard work. i don't want to run up more debt after i just eliminated it!
6. i will reaffirm this commitment to myself everyday and succeed!

this may seem cheesy, but i am tired of waiting for something to happen that will make my life easy when it's obvious i have to work for it! i am not putting off any longer what i can do today! if anyone feels like making this year the best year of YOUR life, start dreaming and planning now! we can work on it together!
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Time:10:25 pm
i quit smoking. again. i think this may be it, though. i have to keep reminding myself that it's bad for me. this is not an easy task, especially since ryan still hasn't quit. he's getting much better, but i know he still smokes a ton at work. not fair.

i also felt the need to quit since we are leaving for peru next tuesday and i suddenly became very concerned about not being able to breathe when we get to cuzco. it's, you know, pretty fucking elevated there. this has also caused me to start going back to the gym. no weight loss yet, but i'm not giving up this time. working from home has definitely given me more motivation to do the things i want to do.

let's see. since quitting my job, we've actually accomplished some work on the house. we are going to peru. i'm quitting smoking and hitting the gym. i'm getting along better with my parents and ryan's parents. my cooking is getting tastier and tastier. and, ryan and i spend lots a quality time together. lots (wink wink, nudge nudge). ok, that's tmi.

not much more to type. just felt like posting something.
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Time:12:31 pm
1. Go here.
2. Pass it on.
my answersCollapse )
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Time:03:53 am
Current Mood:disappointeddisappointed
i find that while writing for some people is an excellent way to express oneself, others view it as less-than-excellent, especially when the writing is directed at someone in particular. i don't mean when someone writes something like this that only alludes to it being about you, but when the writing is TO YOU. someone feels the need to pour out their soul onto a piece of paper and then gives it to you to read, only for you to read that it's about you. you are the reason they need to express themselves, and i'm not talking about love letters here. i'm taking about writing down all the horrible, mean, nasty things that pop into their minds, spewing them across a page in anger and disgust and then actually giving it TO YOU. now, i'm not one for holding my tongue, but i certainly wouldn't write it down and then give it to someone - enduring physical evidence is much harder to take back when you realize what you've just done. i can't imagine how selfish one must be to actually chronicle these daggers ON PAPER and then put them in the mail. those words will be saved - deny it all you want, you know you would do the same - to serve as a reminder why this person is no friend - fool me once, shame on me... when you want to remember something, what do you do? you write it down. it's much more difficult to forget (or forgive) when you have it to read over and over again. even that first time you read it - you MUST read it again to actually believe that someone sent this TO YOU.

"they" say you should always get things in writing, but i am inclined to disagree.
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Subject:i quit!
Time:01:59 pm
i gave my 2-weeks notice today - FREE AT LAST!!!!! i've decided to work from home as a freelancer. of course, the cons of this are that i will have to purchase my own benefits, make sure i pay quarterly taxes, and actually be forced to save money on my own that i can't match because i am my own employer, but the pros are that i can stay in my jammies all day and spend mucho time with my ryan. so that totally outweighs any cons.

so yeah. i've just thrust a whole lot of responsibility on myself.
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Subject:a special guest commentary from my friend hank.
Time:11:51 am
Extremely Boring and Incredibly Annoying:
A Review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Every other year or so, mainstream media decides to devote a little attention to literary fiction, particularly in our ever-increasingly youth obsessed culture, with some young, "it" writer who promises to be the next Great American Author. Not that there's anything really new about that -- go back to Hemingway and Fitzgerald in the 20s and you'll see the same pattern. The difference these days is that the coverage focuses more on the size of the advances or the author's looks (hey, wasn't literature the last great hideout for artistically talented, minimally attractive people?) or on their upbringing or political bent, than it is on the work. This isn't always the fault of the authors. Blame the agents and the marketing morons at the publishing companies. And sometimes the hype is merited. David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, Zadie Smith, Jonathan Franzen and Jonathan Lethem have all written highly-publicized works over the last ten years or so, and I would say that they have largely proved worthy of a great deal of praise, having written books that are artistically and stylistically pleasing and also quite fun to read. Whether they can sustain that early promise isn't the issue here. They got off to a good start, and no one should begrudge their attention or success.

But then there are the other ones, the ones who are all hype, naked examples of the Emperor's New Clothes, who are artists the way Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson are musicians. We are told these are incredibly bright and extremely talented young writers, as if being capable of writing a functional novel in your 20s is a feat akin to curing cancer. But when you actually read them, it's like being forced to endure the literary equivalent of listening to someone running their nails across a chalkboard. Having suffered the latest -- and I think most egregious example -- I have a favor to ask the Publishing Gods. Knock it the fuck off. Seriously. Or I'm going to stop spending thousands of dollars a year on books and talking to my friends about books (assisting your lame ass marketing campaigns) and join the rest of my brethern playing videogames while you all get bounced down to shilling for the next cheesy celebrity bio and eventually find yourself out of a job and having to ask your mommies and daddies for an advance on your trust fund.

Ok, I got that out of the system.

Before I set off to bash Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, let me just say, I've got nothing against JSF personally. Sure, he strikes me as uptight and tedious, a sort of Americanized Dieter from Mike Myer's SNL skit "Sprockets," but hey, that's not his fault. Having read the precious and mopey piece in the NY Times Magazine, I'd say blame his parents. But regardless, it's not his fault that people want to write about him or pay him a lot of money to write. He's not taking food or an advance our of any other writer's mouth. (His book may indirectly lead to fewer literary novels getting published, but I'll get to that later.) The only beef I have with JSF is this: dude, lighten the fuck up. You've been handed the Serious Writer's Dream on a silver platter. Enjoy it. Acting ever so serious about writing, or worse yet, as if your "talent" and the attention are a burden, reeks of bullshit, every bit as pretentious as Madonna complaining about the tabloids in that faux British accent of hers.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close should be titled Extremely Boring and Incredibly Annoying. It could very well be the worst "serious" novel I have ever read. It certainly was torture getting through. I have never rooted for the death of a child character in a novel until I picked up this piece of workshop nonsense. Oskar Schell may be the most unrealistic narrator I've ever encountered. Before getting into literary fiction, I weaned myself as a kid on pulp: mystery, spies, sci-fi, fantasy. I went through this whole noir phase (which still endures today while my fascination with the others does not) and was really into Mickey Spillane for a bit. I read this one book, I think it was called Death Before Sunrise and the main character was named Tiger Mann. I shit you not. Guess what? Oskar's name is just as phony and at least Mickey had a smirk while writing his book. Gee, JSF, are you calling to mind Grass's Tin Drum (which is also a boring, full-of-itself book, no matter what critics say)? Fuck you. There are other connections one can make to the name, but why waste your time? It's about as subtle as Benchley calling Quint "Melville" or "Ahab" in Jaws. It's so fucking cute I forgot to say "Ooh."

The main problem is that Oskar isn't remotely believable as a character, especially as a child. Nine-year-olds, especially in today's world, are not nearly as wide-eyed as he is, nor as NPR-ish. Everyone has been giving shit to Wolfe for what a clueless sap Charlotte Simmons is, and it certainly sounds deserved, so why not JSF. Same fucking defect if you ask me. Even the hippie parents of "Family Ties" produced Alex P. Keaton. Oskar comes across as some unholy offspring of Garofolo and Franken. Who knows, maybe Sarandon and Robbins' kids are this fucking precious and annoying. The point is, nine-year-old boys talk like Cartman, not like Terri Gross.

JSF seems obsessed (or limited talent-wise) with speaking in goofy voices. His first book was ok, although it dragged on for me and was probably the longest 278-page book I ever read, and I was never as enamored of his goofy Russian and his cute speech quirks as I was supposed to be. "Heavy boots?" Who the fuck says that? Really. What nine-year-old is obsessed with Stephen Hawking? Fuck you again JSF. Plays the tambourine? Is a vegetarian? Give the kid a fucking Big Mac, fries, and an Eminem CD, for Christ's sake. Oskar is annoying and not remotely believable. So what happens is, you begin to resent the writer for intruding so clearly on the narrative. You can't read more than a graph without JSF poking his sensitive mug onto the page looking for compliments. It screams: "Look at me! See how outrageous and original and clever I am!"

Well, not really. It sounds like you, JSF, trying to sound like a clever and weird nine-year old. And you know what? There are plenty of clever and weird and brilliant kids out there. But they are brilliant and clever not because they are some NPR-listening, granola-eating, birkenstock-wearing leftie's wet-dream of a child, wrapped up in a bunch of silly phrases and interests, but because of something deeper, a wonderfully crazy and unpredictable mixture of emotions and thoughts, brought on by genetics and environment and some other factors (their souls if you will) and it comes out in their actions -- but they still do and say things that nine-year-olds do. Nine year old boys are already starting to be obsessed with boobs and butts and everything else weird and mysterious about women. Oskar gets some woman to kiss him with a come-on worse than anything James Bond ever laid on some lady.

Don't get me wrong. It's not the politics that make me hate Oskar. I hate the far-right as much as the far-left, and I've loved plenty of books -- and been influenced by them -- that espoused views different than my own. No, what bothers me about Oskar is that he is not a character, but a summation of a bunch of traits a very small segment of society can identify with. He is not a character, but a grocery list of ideas and interests and associations that I'm somehow supposed to identify with. I kept hoping somebody would kick his ass. In real life, someone would have. Sure there are bullies out there. But here's the dirty little secret of life: sometimes the people who get beat up in the school yard are mouthy, obnoxious assholes (like Oskar) and deserve it. Then they grow up to be lawyers. Or self-involved writers.

Again, it's not the politics I despise. It's the laziness of the writer. It's no different than Bret Easton Ellis' gimmick of relentlessly throwing hair care products and fancy electronics at you in order to develop his character or show the shallowness of our age. I don't resent JSF's success. But if he wants me to spend money on his books and admire them, then he has to fucking work at it. And I don't think JSF has had to work at much in his life.

I think it's admirable that JSF took on 9/11. Any author should feel free to. The idea of a "quest" in the shadow of the event is a good idea. But the execution is lazy and shiftless. Did JSF watch any of those memorial services? Has he read any articles on the kids left behind? They sound like real kids. They are hurt and sad and confused and angry. Oskar sounds like some rich kid who watched the whole thing on tv and is just scared now that his prep school won't be so much fun anymore.

Beyond that, the book is a mess. The grandparents' plot is absurd and pretentious too. Grandpa survives Dresden and now can't speak. Boo fucking hoo. Too bad he didn't lose his ability to write or else the book might have ended quicker. Vonnegut nailed Dresden so much better, it makes Grandpa's bit seem like a Lifetime movie (A Bombing for Gramps?). JSF's attempts to touch on that and Hiroshima are so obvious -- you just don't see the puppet strings, he climbs out on stage and moves the figures with his hands -- that you want to shout: "I get it asshole -- you've read a few history books and the post-modernists. Now shut up and actually write a sentence that's worth remembering."

I have no problem with all the graphic design tricks in the book (although I thought the photo effect at the end was a cheap ploy), other than, again, it's incredibly masturbatory. It stops the story cold and screams: "Look at me!" Yes, JSF, we're looking at you. And there's not much to see.

Keep in mind, I never liked the snarkiness of creative writing classes. Most writers are very insecure and bitchy. I think everyone who wants to write, should, and if they succeed, God bless them. But some books are a waste of time and will actually hurt literature. Why? Because a lot of people, who normally don't read literary fiction, will see all the press and hype and think: "Hmm, ok, I'll pass on Grisham this time and give this a shot." And read it and hate it and swear off serious novels for another decade or so.

Which touches on the larger problem. Literary fiction has become very incestuous and masturbatory and every other sexual analogy you can think of. Forget all the soul's corporate assholes and marketing creeps. Sure, they're part of the problem. But so is the "serious literary establishment." The problem is, publishing is over-run with trust fund kids with the same kind of world views and background as JSF. Mom and Dad are professors or "progressive" lawyers or artistic types and send their precious wunderkids to get MFAs taught by teachers in the ivory tower who have never done anything but teach and haven't been outside the safe confines of campus in decades and they produce a morass of elitist shit. So much of it reads the same. There's no heart, no original voice. Just polite sentences written by sensitive, polite people. Tell a fucking story and keep your politics in your pants. For every Richard Russo and Tom Perrotta out there -- who write novels with real characters and real plots, that a majority of people can identify with -- there are way too many JSFs out there wasting everyone's time.

That is not to say that literature should ever dumb down. But must it all be a circle jerk? (I know, the sexual comparisons are getting repetitive, but hey, they're pretty fucking accurate). I mentioned at the top Eggers and Foster Wallace and Franzen and Smith. They all were obviously influenced by the post-modernists, they've all been steeped in pop culture, they all like irony and add a certain smart-ass flavor to their writing. But you know what? They know how to write about real human emotions. They've shown they can develop characters. They know how to be clever without it being excessive. And they all, in the end, tell a story that anyone -- and I mean anyone -- can follow and relate to. So read them and praise them. But instead of trying to force us into thinking frauds like JSF are in their league, why not take a chance on some traditional, straight-ahead novel, written by someone who has actually been off the reservation? Or at least away from the safe confines of their parents' house, removed from their mother's tit?
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Subject:about friggin' time
Time:12:01 pm
last night i booked a trip to peru! psu alumni association sponsors a ton of really cool trips every year, and the last one of 2005 happens to be "treasures of peru." ryan and i have been talking about going to peru for 2 years now. originally, we were going to go for my 30th birthday, but since we bought a house and my birthday was practically forgotten, we decided to put it off. but not any longer! 11 days in november, baby!
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Subject:oh boy. the holidays are here.
Time:04:02 pm
nothing like being rushed into the holiday season. our local paper, "the beverly bee," included an interesting editorial this past week. the editor, whose name oddly enough is also beverly, stated that time is perceived to move faster the older we become because it becomes a smaller portion of our lifespan. for example, a 4-year-old waits in anticipation for his next birthday for what seems like an eternity because a year is a full 25% of his life. a 50-year-old, however, turns 51 before he can blink because a year is now only .02% of his life, a much smaller portion. does that make sense? it did to me.

anyway, the holidays are here already, and that means i get to rush around, decorating and baking and buying gifts and going to parties. while i complain about this to you, i secretly love the holidays. sshh! don't tell anyone, okay? i like the rushing, to be honest. i work best under pressure. i like baking and parties and giving gifts. i especially like it because i am able to do so. so many people are not fortunate enough to enjoy all these things we (ie, the royal me, ie, me) love to complain about all of the time. share the wealth, people. there's nothing wrong with helping people - it's not a race to see who has the most in the end. you're not better than someone because you have more things. let's just let the greed go this year, okay? it won't hurt, i promise. it might even feel good!
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Subject:warning: long-awaited rant to follow
Time:01:13 pm
wow, i haven't been here in a while. my screen is all different and stuff.

did you ever have days when you just wanted to be left alone? i mean, i want to spend 24/7 with my man, but i want to just ignore everyone else around me - friends, parents, coworkers. just leave me alone, for chrissake! of course, it could just be because i am under an indomitable amount of stress at the moment. my job is absolutely atrocious - talk about compromising your morals. we basically promote drugs that cause cancer. plus, i'm stuck working for 2 men who are inefficient, overbearing, and absolutely ridiculous. i hate working for men (not all men, just the ones here- i am sure there are some great male bosses somewhere, just not at my workplace). I AM NOT YOUR BITCH!!! I AM COLLEGE-EDUCATED!!! MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN COPIES AND PHONE CALLS!!! my job is to edit, not be your little indentured servant. fuckers.

ok. i feel slightly better.

next is the house. ryan and i bought a house, which in and of itself is excellent news! we're thrilled to pieces about this great investment and actually owning our place that we can decorate however we like and throw huge parties and start a family. but it's friggin' stressful, man. we're closing next thursday. NEXT THURSDAY. are we packed? no. do we even know if all the repairs the sellers needed to make are completed? no. do we need to do a million things to the house before it meets my move-in conditions? of course. have we bought paint and paint supplies, cleaning supplies, or figured out our mode of attack? hell no. and all in 1 week. no stress here. nope. not at all.

of course, there's also the many little things that need to be done - car tune-up, take the kitty to the vet for check-up and shots, dentist appointments, baby showers, housewarming parties, dad's birthday. parents' anniversary, surprise parties, fitting for bridesmaid's dress... ARRRGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i'm going to be sick.

of course, i know that i'm over-reacting. i know that all of these things are completely controllable and that i merely need a plan. it's finding time for the plan that eludes me. of course, i could have made a plan instead of typing this, but i have priorities, believe it or not.

well, thanks for reading this, those of you who made it to the end of my whine-fest. if you expect a quick response, don't bother commenting. i'm cranky and you don't want that in your inbox. it's like an emotional virus spreading across the world. but if you're willing to wait for a happier response, by all means.

hang in there, kids. if i can make it, you can, too!
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