dimanche 9 août 2009

My sister's cat

My sister’s cat and I know each other, we shared space back when I lived with my sister. 4 months ago, when my sis had to move away for a month-long stage, I agreed to keep the cat for the month. We’re now 4 months later and the cat is still there and will be here for another 3 months.

I’m cat people. To me, dogs are slutty mutts who’ll give their loyalty to anyone who’d rub them the right way. Nothing so easy when it comes to felines; to have a cat like you takes more than a few rubs and some jumps with a ball. But the cat living with me right now is not mine. We tolerated each other the first time we lived together, and it took darn long before the neurotic beast stopped attacking my ankle when I walked by. Let's just say, the relationship wasn’t warm.

These days though, I’m the only human in her world. I’m the one that feed her, that empties her litter (god she stinks), that blot up her vomit and when she needs affection, I’m the only one she can turn to. Now, she follows me around in the place, she purrs the minute I touch her and sleeps on the other pillow on my bed. When she’s on the sofa, stretches and sees me at the working table, she looks at me with heart shaped eyes. She’s cute and has the vulnerable factor to the 10th (she has arthritis, so she limps when she walks, poor baby) but she’s not my cat. When I pet her, it’s only cursory and I feel bad about it. It like lying to your fuck-buddy, saying “I love you” and see his eyes light up, knowing all the while that it's not true.

I’m only doing projection, I know. The cat doesn’t care a fart about my affection as long as she’s fed and stroked once in a while. Still, I can’t help feeling guilty even if it’s all in my head.

This is me with my sister’s cat. How am I with humans...?

Strange thing is, I’m never that self-second-guessing when I deal with other persons; I expect them to tell me if something’s wrong. It doesn’t happen often, though when it does, it’s usually something about how I’m oblivious. And blunt …heh heh, maybe I should do more second-guessing with people… but honestly? Sometimes it’s hard to be bothered.

This is me in real life. How do I shape the characters when I write…?

They’re always observing and pondering the others’ actions, tone of voice and gleams in the eyes. It’s quite heavy actually, all the second-guessing they’re doing, and rather clumsy. It clutters the action and tells rather than shows, which every writing guide tell me it’s bad bad bad. *sigh* ...when I think about it, a lot of my interactions with others is through people-watching, where everything goes on in my head only... Ha! It's no wonder my character writing goes the same way!

Since I see the trend, I should be able to break it! Woo-hoo! Let’s see how it goes.

(Wow, all this from my sister’s cat. Time to feed the beast.)

samedi 14 mars 2009


I blogged a few days ago about Mystery, So Long, a collection of poems by Stephen Dobyns. I wrote at the beginning of that post that it was a few years ago I discovered I could like poetry.

As I wrote it, I wondered. How did I make that discovery? At first I couldn’t remember how the shift happened, until I looked at my bookshelf and saw the first poetry book I ever bought. From there I was able to go back, memory by memory, to the original spark.

It was a movie that did it. Or rather, the music in that movie. You saw The Piano? The main song theme, the one that goes naa na-naa, NA naa na-naa -- y’all remember now, don’t you?? ;-) About that song: I couldn’t get the melody out of my head, so when my aunt bought the soundtrack, I copied the song (on a cassette – this was 15 years ago, remember) and saw it was titled “The heart asks pleasure first”. I was struck by how beautiful it sounded. I was a teenager back then and was probably regurgitating De Musset and Baudelaire at school, and it did not connect at all that the line was poetic. But it stuck in my mind, and every time I heard the piano piece, I thought the heart asks pleasure first and the sound the words made together thrilled me. That was dot 1.

Dot 2 happened years later, in university. I had a course on American Literature, and one class was about poetry (Walt Whitman, which I didn’t read). In class the teacher quickly went through others American Poets and he mentioned Emily Dickinson. He said how she wrote her whole life but almost never published, and only at her death did they find poems stuffed everywhere in her house. The anecdote was so terminally poet-like, it grabbed my attention.

It was in a used bookstore that dots 1 and 2 connected. It was a very atmospheric book store with books piled everywhere and alleys so narrow you had to circulate sideways between the bookcases; the owner kept a lot of cats too so there was always one disappearing behind piles of books or sleeping in a basket. I was going crab-like in an alley trying not to step on any cat when the name Emily Dickinson caught my eyes. Because I remembered her from my American Lit class I took the book to shuffle through it and there it jumped at me:

The Heart asks Pleasure – first
And then – Excuse from Pain –
And then – those little Anodynes
That deaden suffering –

And thus, I discovered I like poetry.

mercredi 11 mars 2009

Mystery, So Long

Like everyone, I had a few poems shoved down my throat in high school. Personally, I didn’t take to it.

It was some years ago that I discovered I could like poetry. Because a lot of people haven’t made that discovery yet, poetry volumes don’t sell at their regular price of 25$~36$, and there’s a whole section at my bookstore where poetry books come dirt cheap when it’s time to liquidate the stocks. This is where I get most of the poetry I read... I’m too new at it to be comfortable buying them full price because most of the time, when I buy poetry, I’ve no idea what I’m getting into.

My latest dirt cheap pick-up was Mystery, So Long by Stephen Dobyns, and, hum, I’m relieved it was dirt cheap.

Mystery, So Long does not feel like poetry. The words fit, but it’s more like a narrative cut up into three-lined paragraphs, with clunky metaphors and simplistic morals. There’s an avalanche of words and detailed descriptions, but no meat to digest. When I’m done with a poem, there’s nothing to think about.

It would still be okay if not for the unforgivable sin: the poems (short short stories?) are boring. And the fascination with the physical functions – peeing, crapping, sexing – really got on my nerves. It’s like Stephen Dobyns never got over thinking with his bowels. I’m only through half the book but after 36 poems, I’m very ready to move on.

lundi 9 mars 2009

People watching

I love people-watching.

People do feel it when someone is staring at them, every time I get too caught up in watching, always the person would turn and look at me. They don’t just raise their eyes, look around and come across my gaze; no, they look up and bam! they’re on to me straight away. The cliché is true, a stare weights.

...or so I thought, until I noticed myself automatically glancing at persons whose faces were turned my way, and concluded our brains were wired for it: oh, there’s this pale blob at the edge of my vision, may be a face looking my way, let’s look, and the eyes obey and 19 times out of 20 there’s a person and that person’s face is turned your way but s/he is not looking at you. And on the 20th time, there's that embarrased jolt that comes with meeting a stranger's eyes full on.

I like to look at people, but to have them look back at me is another matter entirely, so I developed this technique of quick glances. I figured I was okay as long as I didn’t trigger the face-looking-my-way reflex, so I pretend to look around when all the while I’m staring at what I’m interested in.

But since my glasses broke, I keep crossing glance with everyone. It’s much easier to hide a shifty gaze behind glasses, I discovered when I did not have the glasses anymore. That must be why I feel bolder when I wear contacts ---> it’s a side-effect, a survival adaptation to not having a partition between me and the world.

Now, I have to develop a new technique for people-watching. Squint maybe. Or glances from the corner of my eyes (blergh, I hate that expression). Or wear sunglasses the whole day long.

samedi 28 février 2009

Loose the glasses

I broke my glasses some time ago and I wear my contacts all the time now. I feel bolder with my eyes naked, I feel I throw a challenge to everyone I look at. Meet my stare if you dare!

As a kid, I always went to the optometrist with the hope that, this time, I’d come out wearing glasses. As far as I was concerned, glasses were a must for the face. I outgrew that quickly after getting glasses for real (who doesn't??). These days though, I find it fun being myopic. I can choose between 3 states: with glasses, with contacts, with nothing, and they all come with their own moods.

To go with nothing is an experience of its own – it’s my favourite. I know I won’t be seeing anything, so I don’t try. I just walk around in fuzz, all relaxed, a bit lost, a bit uncertain. And because I can’t go to work like this, it’s a weekend experience; for me it’s related with holidays and taking it easy.

It’s also something the 20/20 visioned individuals won’t be able to live before they hit old age. Ha!

To think that centuries ago, before the use of spectacles was mastered, myopic people went their whole life like this...! Maybe they came to think that this was the world as everybody saw it? ...nah, probably not. They must’ve remembered their youth, when they used to see from afar. And people around them must’ve kept pointing things out:
- Someone is coming... it’s Brother Jehan.
- Brother Jehan? Where?
- Over there.
- Where?
- There! Can't you see him??
- Oh? The moving blob? How do you know it’s Brother Jehan?
- !!!

O-kay. I’d better stop.

dimanche 22 février 2009

Done for and bashed in and turned over

I heard back from the beta readers and it was as bad as expected. My beta readers are smart-asses, spot-on with the sarcastic bon mot. They tore through the story and were so funny about it, I laughed and I laughed. I hurt and I (genuinely) laughed at the same time; it was a very weird feeling.

Then I got home and cried but it's because I'm not used to this yet. It was my first time going through a real beta reading done by critical readers who know what they're about. I've always written, but it was in little bursts concentrated inside short periods of time. The last burst was five years ago, before I got a computer, before I could competently surf the web, and there was no one around me back then both able and interested in commenting on my stories.

Also, I think those who read what I wrote in the past did not dare tell me how bad it was. It's a mental gearing to be able to honestly say to someone's face What you did is crap, especially if they're a friend. I wouldn't be able to.

I took notes. I think I'll put the most scathing comments on the wall, to whip myself into shape every time I sit down to write.

...I recently added a subtitle to this blog, something about stumbling my way through a story... it's gonna take months (if not years!!!) before I get a satisfying story... and it really is all about stumbling!!

lundi 16 février 2009

Done for

I finished the story! Hands up in the air! Whoop! Whoop!


I should've written this post last Friday, when I was actually happy and gratified about it. What happened since then? A whole week-end of edits (yeah, let's use caca green for that word), that's what.

I read over what I wrote (T_T) I try to encourage myself -- it's only a first draft! come on! -- but... but... I felt so good while I wrote it! How could it turn into this clunky, clumsy, boring piece of text...!

Worst thing is, I sent it off to a first round of beta reading. When I went through it again afterwards, it was like a slimy cold shower of tar. They're going to read this?? I guess I do have a fear of judgment after all, and boy is it perking up right now. What bugs me the most is that, since then, every time I try working on the story I feel like I’m swimming in molasses.

dimanche 15 février 2009

Tag Legend

I decided to establish a tag system. Here are my tags:

Writing – bad: when the post is about the exercise and/or experience of writing, and the writing is not going well. This will be to help clear the cobwebs.

Writing – good: see the first part of the explanation above, only this tag will be used when the writing is going well. These posts will probably be all about gloating.

Reading – good: When I’ve read something, and it was good reading. Books I recommend.

Reading – bad: When I’ve read something and didn’t like it. I’ll blast it away in posts tagged “Reading – bad”.

Slice of life: all blog posts are by definition slices of life, but in my tagging system, this means the post won’t be about writing or reading. That still leaves a heck of a lot of things, I’ll probably hone the Slice of Life tag as I go along.

Now, if I could just figure out how to have the tag list appear on the menu bar... (=.=)

mercredi 11 février 2009

Impact of a Name

I read something the other day by someone who chose Reneé Something-or-Other as her pseudonym. For those who know French, I did not just misspell, it really is written with the accent on the second e. Reneé. At first I thought: What a dork, she chose a foreign name, the least she could do is check out how to spell it properly.

Then: No. Careful planning goes into choosing a pseudonym; she surely saw the Renée name, then decided it was visually much cuter spelled Reneé. Okay, I can go with that.

And then: But still. Reneé. It means nothing. I can’t even be said properly. Reu-neu-ay. Oh. Maybe this is how she wants it to be said. Her pseudonym would be “Rene-ay” and not “Renay”.

And finally: ... Reneé... aargh! I can’t stand it, it looks all wrong! It’s so PHONY!!!

Conclusion: I could not read what she wrote. I started but that Reneé kept turning round and round in my head. Because of it, she’d lost all credibility with me and her story was a dud. Now, I can’t even remember her full name or her story.

What an impact a name has. Now, I shudder every time I think about Spanish speakers coming across my name... I hope it only sounds weird and not too fake. Robin Oak. Joan Pine. It doesn’t look awful does it, to have a tree as a family name...? ...except mine would be more along the lines of Elizabeth Cactus.

Darn. It does sound fake.
And it's not even a tree.

dimanche 8 février 2009

Mrs Dalloway

I’m reading Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

I loved the opening; Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. It is not grand or punchy, but I found it particular for an opening line and so liked it (I think it's the intimacy that struck me, it's written as if the reader know what the flowers are for, and who was supposed to buy them).

Then I got through a couple of pages and wasn’t so sure I liked it anymore, until I read (in the introduction?) about the stream of consciousness narrative. With it, I went back to the text and what I’d before seen as meaningless jumping about became much more interesting, a window to a subjectivity that felt so very personal for not being mine. The way the sensations flit on random links is fascinating.

I love how a character whose strands of thoughts are laid bare for us meets another character and has all kind of emotions and opinions and feelings about that other character; then later on, we’ve moved on to the insides of the second character, and we see how circumscribed our information about this second character was. Was it Einstein that said there’s a big difference between what we are, what we think we are and what other think we are, or at least, what they say they think we are...?

But then again, what is the “real” us; I could go into all kinds of pseudo-intellectual babble asking whether the me in my head is or isn't truer than the me in the other’s perceptions, or - for that matter - who is “the me in my head” and from where does it come, are its origins physical or spiritual... but, blergh, I can never stand my own for long in these talks, I always run out of steam and/or arguments (as I've already determined, I have no staying power) and deep philosophical reflection is not what I want to do with this blog anyway. All I wanted to say was, I’m enjoying Mrs Dalloway.

samedi 7 février 2009

Staying Power

My pitfall in life? I have no staying power. It often blends in with laziness and a general lack of self-discipline and it results in lots of starts but few finishes. The only thing I easily go through are books, and even then it sometimes is touch and go -- but I don't feel guilty about not finishing a book anymore, not since I read Daniel Pennac's Rights of the Reader.

I want to be a writer. I'm only a wannabe now, but I hope to change that one day. That is, if I ever correctly finish a piece (see above, the "pitfall of my life" thing).

See? I'm so much a wannabe, I'm not even at the Why Won't Publishers Publish ME?! stage, but still stumble on the I Hope I Finish Something block. *sigh* It's all because of this story I'm doing; I stopped working on this other story to start on this one, only to run out of steam now that I near the end and I dither and I read and I start a blog and I don't. finish. the story. Darn.

At a class reunion an old classmate asked me: "So, publish anything yet?" and I was kinda dumbfounded because I never talked about it and how the heck did she know, so I stammered more truthfully than I would've wished about doing stuff but nothing done yet and she said: "So you're scared of being judged." Then I thought of not having yet gotten my degree because of never turning in my final reports in most of my classes and thought Oh crap.

I don't know if it's fear of judgement, but I definitely have a problem. I'm working on the symptoms - I've since completed my degree as well as another diploma - but the root cause is still nebulous for me.

Oh well. I don't have time for this now. I have to go and write.