Hello there, 2012

Delicious consumables...and this is just the food

Our NYE party has come and gone, along with its delicious spread of spreads: pear-blue cheese chutney, mushroom-walnut pâté, spicy hummus, homemade crostinis and cinnamon sugar tortilla crisps, various cheeses, bacon-wrapped shrimp, cranberry-orange relish, bhel puri…many of these recipes I will present in the near future for your own experimentation.

As much as New Year’s lists can seem trite, I think it’s important to document where I’m at as an arranger of words, as well as where I am in my life at large, in a space that allows me to revisit my desires and goals and that enables others to encourage me to keep my word. So, without further adieu:

Things to Do in 2012

I. The Professional

  • Set up and maintain a solid, unchanging three-day a week writing schedule, during which I write for three-four hours at a time.
  • Maintain this blog regularly: Adventure Day recaps/status updates at least once every two weeks, more recipes (with photos and perhaps video)
  • Maintain Drawing Coffee regularly: update/cycle through my writing portfolio online, columns/essays on the state of writing and writing-, narrative-, and publication-related issues at least once every two weeks
  • Develop coding skills.
  • Finish all of the work I’ve begun revising and new work I’ve started over last fall and the coming spring.
  • Make some decisions about my thesis by September.
  • Secure at least one internship.
  • Develop bookmaking and binding skills.
  • Write personally about my writing process and my critical self once a week.
  • Submit my work to ten publications.
  • Finish reading one book a month.
  • Perform at three readings.

II. The Personal

  • Set up and maintain a workout schedule three times a week by the first week of February.
  • Take one day a week for myself–to write personally, to get things done around the apartment, to make food for the coming week, do laundry, clean my work space, play video games, etc.
  • Write and adhere to a personal monthly budget.
  • Volunteer.
  • Find/start a band, and play at least one show.
  • Plan at least one road trip.
  • Plan a writer’s retreat+trip for January next year.
  • Acquire enough poster frames for all of my artwork.
  • Go to at least one Cards game.

The beginning of the year has to come to be a very significant time to me. At the beginning of 2010, I felt like everything in my life had dropped away and left me suspended, free-floating in empty space, and I couldn’t tell if I was flying or falling. Graduating from college felt like I had run a marathon and vaulted over a single last hurdle off the edge of a cliff with no base, no ground to crash to. I forced a minimal amount of writing, and mostly stopped altogether. 2011 started with a bang and a bruise, celebrating in Chicago for the first time with tons of significant people who, though they may not know it, help keep me driven even though they are typically far away. And I was, of course, playing the waiting game in many ways, including hearing about grad school admissions. As compared to the previous year, however, I believed in the direction I had come to, and was cutting through the air around me despite not having hit the ground yet.

On the front page of my datebook for 2011, I wrote an important note to myself to be read every time I opened it up–“Devote this year to love.” Over the course of the year, my understanding of love developed in incredible ways. Love–big love, capital-L Love, not just the kind you say to your family or your SO, but the way you feel about life and what’s in it and all the people and objects and places you will never know–is why I write, is one of the things at the center of me that makes me the person that I am. Life is too short not to genuinely extend yourself, the best part of yourself, to as many entities in as many ways as you can and to try to see them for what they are and what they can be, to try to understand them in the way they understand themselves and to be a force of exploration and curiosity and growth and passion in their existence, if only for a brief instant.

More than any other goals for 2012, I plan to devote this year to love. My feet brush the ground beneath with every step.

It will probably be 2 months before I update again (let’s be real)

Things I’m reading for funsies:

  • Clash of Kings by GRRM (again)
  • Storm of Swords by GRRM (again)
  • Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender

Things on my list:

  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  • A Brief History of Authoterrorism edited by Gabriel Levinson
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Things I’ve cooked (that I hadn’t really made before):

  • a ton of potato soup
  • tempeh hash
  • egg & rice bowls
  • vegetable korma (with homemade paneer)
  • tempeh shepherd’s pie
  • pasta with white wine & veggies
  • vegan & gluten-free chocolate chip cookies
  • oatmeal & buttermilk pancakes
  • whatever’s in the fridge curry

A bunch of miscellaneous things:

  • First-time occurrences: getting laryngitis, collapsing on the subway, watching O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Hustler, and Black Dynamite, going to a bachelorette party, cleaning the sun room completely, becoming an aunt, filing insurance claims, blah blah
  • Projects I’m currently working on: two (2) new stories, a bunch of old works, a collection of text self-portraits, my photo project, a collaborative live-writing performance, a triptych of monologues, bunches of things (probably a text-based game in the near future, among other things)
  • Things I’d like to do here: update, finish my LotR live-blogging (maybe get back into it over January), include more cooking updates, offer more opinions/speculation on things about writing and publication (as well as inevitably, current events), start blogging Adventure Days with one of my program-mates

The Two Towers Liveblog Session 3

9:45PM: LIVEBLOGGING HAS ENDED. I didn’t make it all the way through this chapter (because it’s fairly long), so I found an appropriate stopping point to take a break and will pick up there for the next session. Treebeard just finished telling Merry and Pippin about the loss of the Entwives, and everyone went to sleep after one of Tolkien’s 9000 songs.

8:00PM: LIVEBLOG SESSION IS UNDERWAY. All updates will be made in comments on this post. Refresh regularly or you’re going to miss shit. Also, I may be a bit slow at first because I’m also eating dinner after a late trip to the gym but you don’t care about that so let’s get starteeeeed

Curious as to what the hell this is about? Find out more here.

The Two Towers Liveblog Session 2

9:07PM: LIVEBLOGGING HAS ENDED. Thanks for tuning in for this miserably boring chapter that rehashed the conclusions we were pretty much able to draw from the previous chapter.

8:04PM: LIVEBLOG SESSION HAPPENING NOW. All blogging/commentary will be made as comments in response to this post.

After an overhyped football game and a Hallmark holiday about love interfering with my reading schedule, I’ll be back at you tonight at 8pm with more of The Two Towers liveblog experience. Needless to say, this liveblog is going to be a hell of a lot funnier if you participate, so join me right here at 8pm for a dose of high fantasy and total nonsense.

First time hearing about this? You must be filtering my inane postings out of your Facebook feed! But you can still get the scoop on why I’m doing this and what it’s about right here.

As foolish as four Hobbits leaving the Shire: live-blogging The Two Towers

In December I decided I was going to give the Lord of the Rings trilogy another shot, so I brought Fellowship of the Ring home to read through January. Then I started posting commentary about the book while I was reading, which people seemed to find relatively amusing. This, unfortunately for the internet, contributed to my personal delusion that I’m funny, and got me thinking that perhaps I should step up the ridiculousness in my first-ever complete reading of this fantasy epic. Instead of just making the occasional offhanded comment, why not live-blog the whole thing like some sort of culturally significant current event?

So, as I read The Two Towers, I will be live-blogging jokes, thoughts, and the like on What the Fidd as they occur to me. Ideally, I’ll notify you guys far enough in advance of each live-blog session that people can be engaging with me while I’m reading, trading comments back and forth. Needless to say, this is going to be slow going. Given how long it took me to do the first two chapters, I’m only going to do this a chapter at a time, which  means this may continue for a while, depending on the rest of my schedule (not every day is the Snowpocalypse, after all).

I hope you’ll join me in this completely silly venture and continue to support my egregiously incorrect belief that I am hilarious.

Jan/Feb books

So, a while ago you might remember that I mentioned I was reading The Fellowship of the Ring, which I finished just in time to meet my January two-book goal. Pretty enjoyable read that went much better than my previous attempt some years ago that also spawned some hilarious tweets and the idea to live-blog The Two Towers (more on that in my next post, or review the absurdity in the previous post). Tolkien’s craft is the really impressive part of the book–his care in illustrating the world he’s created consumed me more than parts of the actual Fellowship plotline. For all my jokes about the obscene number of songs, chants, and poems in the book, most of them were interesting enough to encourage me to take a crack at The Silmarillion after I finish the main trilogy.

Despite being somewhat lacking in the character development department at the expense of his worldbuilding, at least reading Fellowship means that characters that are frankly almost indistinguishable in the films have much more distinct personalities. This is particularly true of the Hobbits–Merry and Pippin hold their own much better in the books so far, and Gimli feels much less like comedic relief.

As I mentioned before, I’m gonna be live-blogging The Two Towers over the course of February, but given that it’s going to be pretty slow going to blog each part of the book as I read it, I’m not anticipating finishing it this month, and it’s not going toward my two-book quota. As some of you may know, I have a habit of reading multiple books at once, and another habit of not finishing any of the books (or video games) I’m in the middle of before picking up something new that I will maybe finish instead. In the spirit of trying to cut down on books I am halfway through, I’d like to finish J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians this month (if I sounded like I thought Orhan Pamuk’s Snow was depressing, wait until I’m done with this!) and also treat myself to a book a recently picked up–The Discreet Pleasures of Rejection by Martin Page. I am not helping my chances of avoiding seasonal affective disorder at all this month! I’m anticipating having to switch back and forth between these two somewhat frequently due to do literary density, so if I’m lucky, I’ll add a lighter third book to offset the other two (sorry, live-blogging Two Towers does not make it light enough).

On a final note, it is a bad idea to get back into listening to Pandora when you have no money to procure all of the cool things you’re being introduced to on your stations.

The Two Towers Live-Blog Session 1

8:19pm: This session of The Two Towers live-blog experience has closed. Feel free to continue commenting, though any responses from me will be less prompt.

Covered in this post: Book 3, Chapters 1 and 2

Why on earth am I doing this?

5:11pm: The Two Towers live-blog session underway. All blogging/commentary will be made as comments in response to this post.

Well hello there

I thought about discussing my 2010–some variation on the standard “year in review” post, maybe include some obligatory 2011 goals, &c., &c. (bringing back the “&c.” is one of my 2011 goals). But that would be terribly boring for me to write and equally terribly boring for you to read, so if you really want to know, I guess you’ll just have to ask me.

I will say that after working non-stop on them for about the last two months, I’m finally finished with my first round of grad school applications. I imagine I should hear back from all five places by early March, and depending on the results, I’ll apply to a sixth place for fall 2011. Otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board for 2012 apps, which I already have some ideas about. I would still really like to do a post on my ideas about writing and what I’d like to be doing at graduate school, so I’ll try to make sure that materializes over the next week or so.

Moving on: another of my goals (god, this might as well be a year-in-review post), and the only other one I’ll talk about (whew) is my intention to read at least two books a month, which I’m well on my way to accomplishing for January. After many years of thinking I would like to read it, I finally got around to Dave Eggers’s memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which I found absolutely excellent. His writing style is definitely polarizing–you’ll either love his lengthy, manic asides and purposely hyperbolic language and representations of scenarios, or find it obnoxious. One of the reasons I enjoyed it is Eggers’s willingness to rip himself apart in front of your eyes–he talks boastfully of himself and then elbows you in the ribs and says, “Jesus Christ, am I a douchebag or what?” His writing is very self-aware without bragging about his own cleverness…it really sounds like Eggers trying to qualify the situation and being unable to stop himself from trying to explain as much as he can, and realizing oh shit I’m talking too much, shut up shut up and feeling genuinely embarrassed.

I’ve moved on to The Fellowship of the Ring, which I tried to read once in high school and found incredibly boring. This time’s going much better, although it’s still not making its way to the top of my fantasy epic list. From a world-building perspective, I give Tolkien a lot of credit–that has been the really impressive part thus far, more so than the story itself, although he doesn’t go into a significant amount of it in depth in this particular book. Fellowship also gives me an opportunity to use my amazing summarization skills. What follows is a real conversational excerpt from earlier this evening:

Chelsea: probs gonna read me some more Fellowship of the Ring tonight
Allison: barreling through it?
Chelsea: yeah, chugging along
Chelsea: It is much less boring than the first time I tried to read it
Allison: that’s good
Chelsea: Frodo just got his bitch-ass self stabbed in the shoulder
Allison: ahah. stupid ass.
Chelsea: they just crossed the first river and Aragorn’s like “effffff we are too far north, we gonna miss Rivendell”

After this, I should probably finish Waiting for the Barbarians, but I’m also interested in opening either The New Life (a perhaps less depressing employment of Orhan Pamuk’s ability to enchant through his writing) or Visions of Cody (a book of sketches, which are a huge point of interest for me, regarding much of the character material for On The Road, which I finished recently and which touched me deeply). Of course, in addition to all of these ahem ahem literary selections yes well, I also devoured the Scott Pilgrim series in its entirety.

Anyway, hello, 2011. More soon.

My blog–now with even more webcomics

In case you thought I haven’t been voraciously devouring more webcomics, here is yet another advertisement for things you should read.

I was browsing for something to chew through when I got home from Texas Sunday night, and decided to finally getting around to reading Dylan Meconis’s Bite Me! And yes, I did real the whole thing in one evening (hearkening back to my college days). The storyline and characters are amusing, as are the French Revolution references and notes. Most of all, it’s been a pleasure to see the evolution of Meconis’s art and storytelling from the beginning of Bite Me! to the present moment in her current endeavor, Family Man. The story is riveting, delightfully humorous at points, and expands so much on a few of the characters introduced in Bite Me!, and yet there’s more: Meconis also works deftly with the cultural issues of her chosen time setting to create a believable setting for her slightly fantastic topic. Wonderful, wonderful works that you should read as soon as you get the chance.

Also, a reference to someone I’ve mentioned before: Evan Dahm has begun his most recent narrative adventure, Vattu, which he’s opted to update (at least for the moment) in one-page increments three times a week, hoping to make it easier for new readers to get introduced to the work. Strike while the iron’s hot—that is, get in on Vattu before you’ve got a lot of make-up reading to do. Dahm’s only got 11 pages posted at the moment. You don’t have to read his other two completed works (Rice Boy and Order of Tales) to understand what’s going on, so if you like strange lands and the surreal, check this out now. Dahm doesn’t disappoint.

On a side note, I think webcomics are about to get their own post category.

Your daily dose of more stuff to read

More webcomics for you to read–I’ve been hearing a lot about reMIND from webcomic creators who also read webcomics. It’s on my radar, I just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

If you want to get in on the ground floor of a promising-looking comic that’s just starting out (and has a really spectacularly designed webpage), check out Sfeer Theory (though my jury is still out on the idea of “sfeer” being an acceptable word). The premise is promising and the art is beautiful.

But the big plug of this post is a comic I finally got a chance to read through today called The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal. It is a quick read even through a year of archives, but it is one you will want to re-read and re-re-read. E.K. Weaver’s art is gorgeous, with even the wispiest, vaguest of sketches capturing heavy emotions. She doesn’t lead the reader by the hand, but her art perfectly conveys the obvious facts you need to advance the storyline while leaving emotions and thoughts richly nebulous. The story could be told through black and white sketches alone, but her audience gets the added treat of phenomenal text. Her dialogue sparkles with charm and is some of the most convincing I have ever read. You are really missing something beautiful if you don’t check this out.

What I think when I read things like this: I stick by the idea that to be a writer, you have to be first and foremost a reader. To me that means “reading” any and every type of story you can find, and working to seek out those beyond the traditional.

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