Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Vice

I couldn't help myself, so I gave in and read Travels. It was a quick read, very short compared to most of Auster's other works, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was intriguing from the very beginning, and as the story progressed I started so see some familiar faces, which I have to admit I found comforting and amusing. Based on some Amazon reviews, it appears that not everyone agrees. To each his own opinion, I guess.

As I progressed through the story I thought I knew where it was going, and I even was starting to feel pretty proud of myself for figuring it out as early as I did. I was sort of right, but only in the sense that I grabbed hold of one small piece of the end of the story. He threw a little twist at the end that caught me quite off guard. Stories don't surprise me often anymore, so the fact that I did not see the ending coming made it one of the better books I've read of late. It was unusual in that it was not typical Auster fare, but then again it was. The style was very different in some ways, but the themes were very much his and the voice was most certainly none other than Auster himself. It was familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, which interestingly enough pretty much describes this book. I like his Escheresque method of writing stories, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting tied up into the mobius loops of this one as well.

I don't recommend Paul Auster to everyone (not to most people, in fact), but for those I do recommend him to: I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Writing Bug

I'm in a phase again where I am devouring books, and the more I read the more I want to start writing again. I've already started, although it's more of a half-hearted effort at this point. I get caught in between my desire to read and my equally strong desire to write. I can't write too soon after putting a book down or my writing starts to take on qualities of whatever author I happen to be reading at the moment. Instead, I have to step back from everything and turn inward for a while, to find my own voice again. That in and of itself is actually a very healthy thing. It's good for me to be introspective on a regular basis. It keeps me from getting blindsided later by feelings I hadn't realized I'd been keeping bottled up. The problem is that life is always so busy that it's hard for me to take much time out for inner reflection. And when I can, I become relaxed enough that I want to go to sleep. The problem at this point becomes one where I am faced with a choice between curling up and going to sleep, helping to ensure that I will have enough energy to carry me through the day, or getting up and delving into my writing for a while before I become too exhausted to continue.

The problem with beginning to write is that it is very hard for me to stop. If I could make a living solely as a novelist I'd be one of those people in a remote cabin somewhere who locked herself away for weeks at a time until the novel was finished. I'd take a month or two (or six, depending on how deeply the subject affected me) to recuperate and rejoin the world, then go right back at it. I find this is how I tend to operate in everyday tasks anyway. I've always been able to take on a lot more than anyone would expect at work and burn the midnight oil to get projects done within tight deadlines. I can't keep up that pace for much longer than about 6 months before I start to burn out, but if given a couple of months of "slow work" to recover I can take on more time-sensitive crises.

The problem of course is that most jobs don't allow for that kind of down-time. I've always had a hard time explaining to people how I operate. Once the expectation is set that I can do X, Y and Z plus A, B, C and D, people think that not only can I continue juggling these things forever, but that they can also continue to pile more things on top. I've gotten better at seeing the warning signs and setting better boundaries for myself, all with the intention of avoiding burn-out catastrophes, but very rarely does it seem to work out well. My current job is a welcome exception. I've taken on a lot, but not only does my boss appreciate what I've done, he never takes it for granted and frequently checks on me to make sure that I am ok. For someone like that, I'll try moving the Earth. The nice thing is that I know he'd never ask me to.

But back to writing... I've got several unfinished stories I am going back to, and ideas for more popping into my head all the time. One idea that's been amusing me lately is to write a story that somehow incorporates all of the sayings that people mishear and incorrectly regurgitate, neither understanding what they're saying, nor realizing that they've gotten it wrong. One of my favorite examples was from the TV show Sports Night, where one of the characters mentions that the saying is "It's a dog EAT dog world, not a doggy-dog world." I'm not sure how I could pull that off without it seeming like I didn't know the correct phrases, but it's amusing me to think about it.

I've been reading more Paul Auster lately, and as usual it's made me want to go back and read (or re-read) classics. I went to a bookstore today and went a little nuts (nearly $70 in reality, but with the giftcard I received for Christmas I was only out of pocket nearly $50), but I got enough material to keep me busy for a few weeks: more Paul Auster, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Thoreau, Kafka, Dante, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (I've been neglectful of poor Sherlock, and feel that I owe him at least a one-time reading of his stories). I'm engrossed in Amy Tan's Saving Fish From Drowning at the moment so I'm trying very hard not to start reading anything else, but I finally found Auster's Travels in the Scriptorium today and I am dying to read it. I'm probably going to break down and start reading it before I'm done with Fish, which will mean I will put down Fish until I've finished Travels. It's the way it works, for some reason. Auster almost always trumps anything else I'm reading. The really terrible thing is that the biggest reason I bought Thoreau's Walden today was so that I could read it and then re-read Auster's The Brooklyn Follies: A Novel. There are some interesting themes centering around Poe and Thoreau in that book, and although I know Poe's work fairly well, I sadly have never been able to make it through Thoreau's. I think my perspective has changed enough now that I can appreciate and enjoy it (I hope).

At some point I really need to get off my behind and work on trying to get something published. After all, what really is the point of writing if no one is reading it?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Virtual Books

So recently I was nudged in the direction of I've been likening it to Flickr for books. Essentially, you go to the site, set up an account, and start adding books to your virtual "bookshelves". You can categorize them into ones you are currently reading, ones you've already read, ones that you intend to read someday, or you can make up your own categories. You can add friends and see what they are reading, have read, etc. The site also allows you to rate the books from 1-5, and even allows you to write reviews if you choose. I've been having fun adding books as they come to me. It's a little frightening that the list I have so far is just off the top of my head, without much thought. If I were really ana...I mean, meticulous and methodical, I would add every book I've ever read. I think that would take me half of the rest of my life. Scary.

If you are curious and want to see my books click here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What The...?!

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this one. Maybe someone out there can help me understand this. When our daughter was born we did the normal new parent thing and took about a million photos. And that was just the first week. We have friends and family who are out of town, so the easiest thing seemed to be to post photos of our new arrival online. We were young and innocent then, and it didn't occur to either of us that perverts and weirdos would dig through sites looking for photos of small children.

A few months ago I noticed some freako had favorited some photos of my daughter and her cousins in various states of undress. I never put naked photos up, but anything where you could see a lot of skin or a diaper this person apparently really liked. I and several other concerned parents (who also had photos this person liked) complained and that user was banned. I marked every photo containing children as friends and family only, and thought everything was settled.

Apparently my husband had left some of his photos open to the public on Flickr. Mind you I mean they were VIEWABLE by the public, not that they were up for grabs for anyone to take and do what the pleased with. He, being the analytical type that he is, was trying out Flickr's statistics page and noticed that someone had linked to a photo of our daughter that was taken her first night home from the hospital. He looked up the page and found this extremely disturbing blog, and noticed that this person not only had stolen a photo of our daughter and put it up on her blog, but she actually seemed to be claiming that the photo was of HER BABY. This definitely takes the cake for my WTF Moment of 2007.

My husband posted about this here.

I think any parent out there will understand this, but just for those who may not have children (including the psychotic person who is pretending my daughter is hers), when a perceived threat comes into the picture and is in any way shape or form related to your offspring, the maternal/paternal protective instincts kick into overdrive. I wanted to call the police, the FBI, Interpol or any other agency that I thought could help. I wanted to track this person down and ask them what they hell they thought they were doing. After I calmed down a little, I posted a comment on the blog above (note that as of yet the comment still has not been made public by the blog owner) and essentially expressed my concern and displeasure. I also inquired if s/he was a psychopath. My husband meanwhile contacted Six Apart (who is hosting this horror of a blog) about the process for having the photo taken down.

The following morning, I received the email below:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Dec 17, 2007 6:03 AM
Subject: baby photo

Hi, I wanted to give you and your husband a sincere apology that I didn't link your Flickr page and I do see now that it is copyrighted. Again, sincere apologies I'm def. not a psychopath and I hope you'll forgive me this oversight. If you are scared of psychopaths I def. wouldn't put your children's photos as public access on Flickr. Moroccan Maryam (of the blog) did and and a pedophile site stole her son's photo (he was older - I put my baby's photos up but not my 4 year old daughter's.)


Where to begin? First of all, the photo was not taken down. As a matter of fact, it is still displayed on the blog, staring defiantly back at me as though nothing were out of the ordinary.

Second, please note that her "apology" centers around the copyrighted-ness of the photo, rather than the fact that she is PRETENDING MY BABY IS HER KID.

Third, I'm glad she assured me that she is not a psychopath, because otherwise I'd just be carrying on in my false assumption that she was completely f-ing insane. I'm glad she's not crazy, and I feel better knowing that this is normal behavior.

And fourth, and I do save the best for last, I LOVE that this person is giving me advice about avoiding sexual predators online. The best part about this though? "I put my baby's photos up but not my 4 year old daughter's." No, you don't. You put OTHER PEOPLE'S BABIES' PHOTOS UP. Psycho!

So, the email above bothered me just a wee bit, to put it mildly. I sent her the reply below, typed out on my phone first thing in the morning right after I saw her email:

Date: Dec 17, 2007 6:57 AM
Subject: Re: baby photo


Our concern is not so much that the photo is copyrighted, but rather that it appears that you are trying to pass off a photo which you clearly stole from our flickr photostream as a photo of your own child. Did you steal all the photos of babies on your site? You probably did. I'll bet none of the others are yours, either.

I find this whole thing quite sickening. Just because a photo is public does not give you the right to steal it and use it to perpetuate the grand lie that must be your life. Get real and tell the truth. It would have been different if you'd linked to the photo and commented that you liked it or something. Seeing a stranger post a photo of my baby with a note that it was a photo of their second child made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Frankly, I doubt you are a mother at all. No mother would ever break such an obvious social more. You need some psychiatric help.

I notice that you apologized for taking a copyrighted photo, but said nothing about pretending that our baby was yours. I accept the apology for the former and again, that is not my primary concern. With all the children that go missing every year you should understand why what you did was wrong on a much deeper level than just because of the copyright infringement. The fact that you try to put the blame back on us for having the photo available offends me in the extreme. Would you take a book at the library and pass it off as one you wrote? Looking at your site, I think you just might. Except this isn't a book. This is my daughter. If you really are a mom you should understand the protective instinct that comes with being a parent. I see that the photo in question is still posted on your site, but my comment has not. Take the photo down.

You should consider using your own photos on your site. If your life is so empty that you feel you must lie to the world by all means be my guest. Putting photos of other people's children up and claiming they are yours is liable to make someone call the police.

A little harsh perhaps, but I'm a little touchy about this situation.

As things stand right now, the photo is still up, she has not replied again, but Six Apart has responded to my husband's DCMA request to have the photo removed from her blog. I expect it to be taken down within a matter of days. As insane as she seems to be, I would not be shocked if she disputes it and tries to get it put back up.

This whole experience has made me want to hug my baby and never let go of her. I really don't see this person as an actual physical threat or I would go to the police. I think for whatever reason she has created at least one (and I suspect more than one, looking at her blog) false persona and uses photos she finds from other people's lives to give more depth to the lies. The most amazing thing about all of this is that we really wouldn't have known if she hadn't linked back to the original photo (I assume trying to indicate that the photostream was hers as well?).

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this entire thing. I just don't understand.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Time Flies

With various illnesses and other drama going on lately I haven't had time to update this in a while. We took Alice in for her checkup recently and she is doing well. She's off the charts for height, and is in the mid 90s range for weight and head size. She talks up a storm now and she's stringing words together more and more often, so now we are hearing phrases rather than just words here and there. She's got enough hair now that I think I might be able to put a clip in it. Whether or not she will keep it there is another story, but I may have a photos tomorrow. We shall see.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Eyes in the Back of my Head

I always wondered how Mom always knew when we were into something we shouldn't be into. After becoming a mom myself, I quickly realized that it is in fact extremely obvious when a child is into something he/she shouldn't be getting into. I never realized as a child how deafening guilty silence was, but as an adult I can be in the middle of a crowded room talking with several adults and realize in a moment that I don't hear Alice adding to the general din. The tell-tale silence is a sure sign that something forbidden is be explored at that very moment. Now I know why Mom seemed to have eyes in the back of her head.

What I've continued to wonder, however, is how she always knew to check on us when we were sick. I can remember a few occasions as a child when I would have exhibited no prior signs of illness, but late at night would wake up sick and miserable. And despite the fact that I hadn't made any noise, or gone into my parents' room, or in fact done anything that would have awakened a normal person, my mom would come seek me out in short order. Sometimes she'd already be there. I never knew how she was able to do that until tonight.

I hadn't been able to sleep well tonight. I just wasn't able to fall asleep soundly and any noise Alice made over the baby monitor woke me up. She woke up crying in her sleep a few times, and although she does this frequently at night and typically goes back to sleep herself, this time it was different. Her cry was a little off, or something didn't seem quite right. I honestly couldn't say what, but something got me out of bed and I kept going in to check on her. I got her up at one point, changed her diaper and rocked her back to sleep, and I thought that was going to be it for the night. I came back in the living room and settled back down to sleep on the couch (no sense waking Chris up if I'm going to be up and down for a good portion of the night), but I still couldn't quite fall asleep. I was just starting to drift off when I heard Alice again, but this time something was definitely wrong in her cry. I was just starting to head down the hall when I heard her throw up. I ran the rest of the way into her room. Without going into details, I held her by both shoulders standing in her crib for the next several minutes while she finished, crying between volleys, and was starting to clean her up when Chris groggily came in. Once I'd cleaned her up and gotten a fresh shirt on her she took off running and didn't stop until she was at the far end of the apartment, with her back against a wall. I know the feeling, kid. Between Chris and myself we got her settled back down, the room cleaned up and a fresh sheet in the crib. A little febreeze made the room smell nice again and Daddy rocked her gently back to sleep while softly singing Amazing Grace.

She seems to be sleeping quite soundly now, so I should be able to go to sleep myself soon. I wanted to stay up a bit longer and make sure she was ok before I could relax and go to sleep myself. Also, I need to wait for the washing machine to finish. It's rather loud, and no, there was no way that pile of blankets, clothes, sheet and teddy bear were going to wait until morning. Yikes.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Time Passes too Quickly

This is Alice:

The New Face

She drinks out of a straw now.

Where did my baby girl go?