Here is a list, compiled from my long, ignoble dating career, that will help the young ladies spot a dud early on. (I hope.)
1. He doesn't laugh at your jokes. This is a lame power play, and a subtle way of embarrassing you.
2. He is rude to your friends or family. If he's a nice guy and he really likes you, he would want to please the people in your life, not drive a wedge between you and them.
3. He either arrives late for a date, or stands you up. No brainer, right? Dump him.
4. He checks out other girls while he's with you. This is impolite and uncool. You're the one he's with. He should be paying attention only to you.
5. He lets his buddies make jokes at your expense. Any guy worth hanging out with has nice friends, and won't let anyone treat you with disrespect.
6. He talks meanly about girls he's dated in the past. If he pulls out the "B" word about another girl when he's on a date with you, he'll probably say something nasty about you later on too.
7. He doesn't make eye contact with you while you're talking. There is shyness, and then there is rude disregard. Learn to tell the difference.
8. You find yourself making excuses for him, or you spend a lot of time trying to understand his behavior. A jerk acts like a jerk because he is a jerk. Nice guys don't need excuses made for them.
9. He's mean to animals or younger siblings. This is a sure sign of a bully. A good guy doesn't use his strength to hurt someone who can't defend themselves. Get this guy out of your life ASAP.
10. He bosses you around. "Don't do this." "Do that." A good guy asks nicely, says please, and doesn't expect obedience.
The sexier a guy is physically, the more likely you are to stick around past his expiration date. The best way a young woman can protect herself and stop wasting time on jerks is to think clearly and logically, look at the behavior, and not let her mind get too clouded by hormones. Easier said than done. But I do wish I'd had a list like this when I was a teen and even into my twenties, and I wish I'd run from the guys I describe above. Time is precious. Don't waste it on someone who doesn't deserve it.
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Amy's thoughts on young adult literature, the universe, and her dog Miles. Amy is the author of Vibes and Shadow Falls.
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Here is a list, compiled from my long, ignoble dating career, that will help the young ladies spot a dud early on. (I hope.)
I see plenty of girls who like their lacy tops and their denim, and they rock theirs even more than I do because they haven't had kids and they're young and gorgeous. ***
When I was younger, and I would dress for work, I would ignore the voice in my head that said, "Perhaps showing your bra strap while serving people ice cream is somehow NOT a good idea." This voice sounded like my mother, so naturally I disregarded it.
Mom always said I'd get the "wrong kind" of male attention if I showed too much skin. She wasn't wrong. I got plenty of gross come-ons, but I knew how to shoot down a guy who was less than respectful. I didn't realize that it wasn't the guys I should be worried about. It was the girls. And the women.
When I dressed in my skimpies at work, I was sending the signal that I was AVAILABLE. The signal wasn't wrong. I was available, looking for a boyfriend, and I didn't want to miss out on any opportunities. The problem was the CONTEXT: An ice cream shop where husbands and wives brought their little kids in for a cone.
Now that I'm married, I know that any man who has a pulse can't really help but look. And the older I get, I know that no matter how good I look for my age, I can't compete with a teenager. And so when my husband and I take the kids for ice cream and I see a hottie who would be prettier than me wearing a HASMAT suit, and she's showing off her lacy bra under her skimpy little top, and I see my husband pretending not to look, I hate her a little bit. Can't help it. I'm human.
And so I run through my memories, and understand all those times when a friend who thought herself unattractive clammed up whenever I wore a sexy top just to hang out, or when an older woman stared daggers at me for no discernible reason, or a male professor or teacher or boss was checking out my boobs when I was trying to impress him with my brain --and I get it. I finally get it.
It's about context. I was all good wearing those sexy lacies to a party, on a date with my boyfriend, or to a dance. There, all the girls are showing the goods. But the sexy lacies ought to have stayed in the drawer when I was in a context that wasn't all about attracting a man. Work. School. Hanging out with girlfriends, some of them sixes like me, some of them tens, some of them fours. And especially when I'm around married couples. When you're young and gorgeous, it's just considerate not to dress too sexy. Other women, the young and the old, will appreciate it, even if they don't say so.
***Even if you don't think you're gorgeous, wait until you're 40. You will realize that you were gorgeous when you were young. So don't miss it. Just admit that you're gorgeous and stop worrying about not looking like a model. Display Comments Add a Comment
This most recent shooting in Connecticut has our nation reeling with the unimaginable horror of it. How could anyone do that? How sick and evil can a person get? And why the hell did he have an assault rifle?
The pro-gun lobby in this country is holding us hostage. Until our leadership grows spine enough to stand up to them, killings like this will continue.
Nicholas Kristoff has written an excellent Op-Ed in the New York Times on the subject and puts forward some sobering statistics: "Children ages 5 to 14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries, according to David Hemenway, a public health specialist at Harvard who has written an excellent book on gun violence." For the full article, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/opinion/sunday/kristof-do-we-have-the-courage-to-stop-this.html?smid=fb-share
Kristoff goes on to give some impressive examples of how other governments have curbed gun violence with some sensible laws:
"Other countries offer a road map. In Australia in 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation’s conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The “national firearms agreement,” as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands.
I am a contributor to the awesome anthology Dear Teen Me, in which authors of YA books write letters to their younger selves.
Check out the book trailer to see some of the fabulous authors who contributed!
To pre-order your copy, follow the links:
A: When I first started off as a writer in my twenties, and I would tell people that's what I wanted to do for a living, I almost always got some warning like, "Being a writer involves lots of rejection..." Few people were particularly encouraging of my dream. Now that I think about it, this might have been my first taste of what was to come. I didn't sell anything at all in my twenties. I wrote short stories and poems and sent them off to very unrealistic places like The New Yorker, or The Paris Review. I don't think I was so naive as to think I'd be accepted. I always received those rejection letters with a grim kind of complacence. Probably deep down I knew that what I was sending off wasn't actually good enough, and so the rejection came as no surprise. It's when I started really getting serious, and trying my hardest, that the rejection started to hurt.
Please check out this interview with me on author Catherine Stine's awesome blog, Idea City:
Bananas for Books:
Candace's Book Blog:
The Teen Bookworm:
The Book Swarm:
Genre Go Round:
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Some people think that guns are really cool. I do not really see the appeal, but I'm willing to concede that most people who own guns are decent, responsible citizens who would never engage in such senseless violence. They're not the ones I'm worried about. I'm worried about the nut-jobs.
A dozen people are dead now because some total lunatic got his hands on four guns and decided to externalize his angst in a public place. One of the dead is a little six year old kid.
I am tired of this. I want stricter gun control. If it were up to me, and I wish it were, we as a nation would take every gun we own, melt them down, and use them to make useful things that don't kill people. How many more people have to die before our "leaders" stand up to the NRA and create some legislation that at least tries to keep guns away from the mad men? I for one am tired of our kids dying violent, painful, terrifying deaths, and I'm tired of our politicians doing nothing about it just because some people think that guns are cool.
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Too hot for gardening. Too hot for walking dogs. Too hot for playing outside. Too hot for firefighters trying to kill a wildfire. It is too hot.
My garden soil is cracking. The worms are baking dry. The more I water my plants the more they wilt. I stepped outside to spread some mulch, and after ten minutes I looked at my shoulders to discover they had aged 50 years. My skin is wrinkling and sagging, scaling and blowing away in the wind. It is too hot.
I saw a butterfly land on the hood of my car and vaporize, so I mashed up butter in a bowl. I added sugar, flour, spices, and chocolate chips. I spread the dough out on my dashboard to make cookies. They burned. Now my car smells like the Keebler Elves (TM) torched their tree for the insurance money. It is too hot.
I saw a small child step from the shade into the sun and a fine trail of smoke rose from her feathery hair. I called out to her, "It is too hot!" She ran back to the shade, leaving smoking footsteps in the grass behind her. I called the police. They sent a rescue squad. Four strong men in protective clothing wrapped her in non-combustible blankets and rushed her to the ER. She is recovering but the freckles on her nose have joined into a chain that spells out: "It is too hot."
The trees are burning. The grass is burning. The cabins are burning. They were beginning to take the High Park fire in hand, but now...
It is too hot.
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I'm getting excited for the release of SPARK, coming up on July 17th! It's always daunting writing a sequel, so I was very relieved when my editor told me she thought it was even better than GLOW. That sentiment has been reiterated again and again, by readers, bloggers, reviewers, and my staunchest critic: my brother. As an 'artiste', I should be above such gratification, but I freely admit I am not. With all this approval flowing in, massaging my fragile writer's ego, I'm feeling pretty good about this book.
I guess I agree that in some ways SPARK is better than GLOW, if only because with the second novel I had room to really get into the characters' minds. I'm especially proud of the work Seth's character does to improve himself. He's not a good guy in GLOW, but now he recognizes his mistakes and flaws, and he wants to try harder to be the kind of man who would deserve Waverly. Kieran, on the other hand, finds himself in increasingly difficult situations as the leader of the Empyrean, and I love how his pure heart gets twisted by the pressure. In SPARK, though, no one is more twisted than Waverly. She's still recovering from what happened on the New Horizon, and her experiences left a mark on her. She's a bit of a loose cannon, and though she always thinks she has good reasons for doing what she does, by the end of the book she has begun to seriously compromise herself. Spark is dark, it's fiery, and it's fun. At least, I had fun writing it and I hope my readers will have fun reading it!
So raise your figurative glass and toast the coming arrival of SPARK! May you read! May you enjoy! May you tell your friends! May they read it and enjoy it too! And may it sell well so my kids can go to college! Hurray for SPARK!
I just finished a great book called The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson. Reading good writing always makes me want to write. There's something inspiring about finding a fresh use of language, savoring it, and trying to use it for my own purposes. Some writers fear influence, but this has never made sense to me. Language flows through individual people like tributaries, each of us contributing to the great river of thoughts and sounds that make up the very grand, very adaptable English Language. This is how language changes. Writers should never fear influence from other great writers. I believe reading excellent work is what improves us as craftsmen.
Vibes certainly had many influences. I pulled the device of telepathy as a means of exploring the human condition from the brilliant Ray Bradbury. His work in The Martian Chroniclesuses telepathy to reveal how faulty are our constructions of reality, how individual, how fragile. Emma, by Jane Austen, was also a big influence on Vibes. Emma, just like Kristi, starts out thinking she's got everyone's number, but ends up learning that she is much more deceived and confused than anyone. I think Kristi's caustic wit was also borrowed from Austen, who can be every bit as caustic as any modern teenager. I very purposefully madeVibes a comedy in the Shakespearean sense, for the plot follows the basic outline of Add a Comment
A wild fire is burning in the mountains near where I live. The smoke is thick, and it stings our eyes and burns our throats. It's making my little daughters cough. They couldn't play outside yesterday, and they won't get to today either. We're running an air purifier in our house, and we're thinking of buying more because it still smells like smoke in our living room and the fire shows no sign of slowing down. This could go on for weeks. Even months.
Fires are a natural part of the cycle of any forest in the western United States. What isn't natural are the thousands of dead trees still standing, red tufts among the green, made ready for the flames by years of rampant pine beetle infestations. The pine beetles have been loving the warmer winters we're had over the last two decades. These warmer temperatures were predicted by scientists studying how the climate would change due to man-made pollution. These same people are predicting that temperatures will continue to rise, which means worse tornados, worse wild-fires, worse hurricanes...
There are a lot of people who want to deny that man-made climate change is real. None of them are, however, climate scientists. Sure, Fox News can find the occasional weatherman to act as an "expert" and tell us all to go on using our lawn mowers and driving our giant cars. But a weatherman is not a climate scientist. He's a meteorologist. He studies local weather patterns and makes predictions on a small scale. The climate scientist is the guy who dedicates his life to studying long term global weather trends. Man-made climate change has been tested and re-tested and verified hundreds of times by thousands of scientists. Yet so many people refuse to believe it. Why?
I think a lot of it has to do with a distrust of "experts." Because some experts are wrong some of the time, in some people's minds, they think that means experts as a group are untrustworthy and foolhardy. But this anti-intellectualism isn't the whole problem. Huge corporations spend gazillions of dollars on propaganda designed to make everyone feel better about our present energy and transportation infrastructure, because these companies stand to make a whole lot of money harvesting non-renewable resources like coal and oil and selling it to the very people they're poisoning. Because of these huge propaganda machines, lots of regular people are fully willing to bet the planet that the true experts have got it wrong.
For the sake of argument, let's ignore the science for a moment and imagine there's a 50% chance climate scientists' predictions about climate change are wrong. I'm not such a gambler that I'm willing to bet the entire WORLD on a coin toss. Are you?
Even if we don't agree on climate change theory, can't we all agree that the smoke from coal power plants isn't good for people to breathe? Can we agree that there are good medical reasons why we don't all lustily inhale the exhaust from our cars? Can we agree that it is better for our children to drink clean water rather than water polluted with petrochemicals? Why is it so bad to expect our industries to work toward clean solutions to these problems?
When will it change? What can we do? I'm asking you guys. Tell me. I want to know what you think.
I've got a friend who, at the tender age of forty-ish, has joined up with the rock'em, sock'em roller derby. She skates like quicksilver around the track and rams into other women with her shoulder, whether her opponent is still in play or not. She gets sent to the box and then sniggers about it on Facebook the next day. She is my hero.
After seeing Drew Barrymore's awesome film Whip It, I considered joining our local derby. I was attracted to the camaraderie and general sassiness it represented. The goofiness was also a plus. I imagined the fun of being part of a team, the thrills of speed, the rewards of skating like a demon in front of a roaring crowd... Then I imagined knee surgery and decided against it.
Not my friend. She is fearless. Daily she writes of her aches and pains with plucky cheerfulness. And her recently posted pics of herself as she cruises around the track, her eyes on the back of a toothsome girl with a blonde ponytail, teeth gritted, eyes ablaze with fury --she's downright scary. And, oh yeah: She took her down.
People like to think that girls don't have that "killer instinct." We belong on the sidelines of battle, ready to tend the wounds and wipe the sweaty brows of our brave fighting men. I myself have no interest in soldiering, but I think the assumption we often make about the docility of women might be a little off. In fact, some of the meanest, most aggressive, black hearted people I know have been women.
So let's hear it for the general bitchiness of our sex. Women are tough. Women are scary. Women are mean. Do not cross us. Or we'll shoulder-check you in the kidneys and gloat at you from the penalty box.
Yesterday was my seventh wedding anniversary, so today hubby and I took a break from being parents and drove to a nearby touristy town to walk around. There were lots of cute shops with colorful merchandise, and plenty of fun stuff to see and people to watch. It was wonderfully freeing to be out and about, wandering around, with nowhere to be, nothing to do, no stinky diapers to change. It was a full day of playing hooky.
We had a beautiful lunch at a mediterranean restaurant, and seriously considered buying some totally awesome lighting fixtures for our house. I thought about a nifty twirly-kite looking thingy for our entryway, and I bought some sandals. It felt like when we were first married, when we had no obligations and life was mostly just about having fun together and making each other laugh. It felt great.
But right around nap time, when it would be time to cuddle my sweethearts and sing them to sleep, I started missing them SO MUCH! There is something so addictive about your children. Their smell, their laugh, their smile... If you're away from them too long you go into withdrawal. So I phoned the sitter and found out they had a good lunch and played hard outside and were basically having a lovely break from being parented. Just like daddy and mommy, maybe they needed a little space too.
When hubby and I walked in the door, though, it was all hugs and kisses and a few minutes of desperate competing for the first cuddle from Mommy and Daddy. I could tell they missed us too.
So all in all, a very good day. Would it have been quite so good a day though if they hadn't so clearly missed us? I don't think so. It's a little selfish of me, but I'm glad they wanted me when I wasn't there.
I've been thinking lately about what people think of as "psychologically healthy" in our society, and how value-laden that term really is. I think a "healthy" person is defined as someone who can have loving, stable ties with others, can be a productive member of our society, doesn't do unnecessary violence to persons or animals, and is prepared to take personal responsibility for his/her own problems. I think a person like this is generally fairly content with life, which is probably a huge factor in one's health. Perhaps more importantly, if everyone were healthy in this way, our society overall would be a healthy one.
Of course, not everyone is "healthy." Interestingly, it is accepted by most psychologists that there are sociopaths among us, people who were born with wiring that is very different from most people's. The sociopath, I understand, is an individual who lacks the ability to form meaningful lasting ties with other people because they do not possess empathy. The sociopath tends to see other people as a means to an end, and are often quite willing to do violence to people if they think they can get away with it. They also lack the ability to experience or process feelings of guilt. Some sociopaths are made, through horrific abuse or neglect from caregivers. But not all abused children grow up to be sociopaths. In fact, very few do. Most abused kids grow up to be quite lovely people themselves. The reasoning is, therefore, that sociopathy arises organically in some individuals. In other words, sociopaths are born with the natural tendency, and then their horrible parents bring it out in them.
Why would this be, though? Evolutionary theory posits that most traits present in the population of a social species are there because in some way those traits benefit the species as a whole. This may not be true for all traits or for all species, but natural selection tends to work pretty well. In other words, it tends to help useful traits survive in a population, and it tends to suppress traits that don't work well for survival. (The operative word being "tend," because there are some traits, like armpit hair, that persist for no real reason. But that's another essay.) So assuming natural selection is acting on our population still, it has found a balance. The human population tends to produce pretty nice people who are good at working together and who find plenty of other people to like and love. But it also tends to produce a few members of the society who don't think like this, who are willing to do violence when it is necessary, and who, it seems, are actually pretty good at it.
If you look at history, it becomes pretty clear that sometimes these sociopaths rise up to lead their tribe, their clan, their nations. Stalin, Hitler, Amin... There is a long depressing list, and I'll stop there. Somehow these crazy nut-jobs get the healthy people to follow them down a rabbit hole of horrors. Why?
I'm no evolutionary psychologist, but I have a theory about this. (I doubt I'm the first, but whatever. It's my blog.) Most of the time, the healthy personality thrives, and helps everyone else thrive too. The healthy people work together to create a vibrant, happy, healthy community that is stable and safe for its members. This worked very well for thousands, maybe millions of years of human evolution. But sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes there is a horrible threat from outside, a threat from other people, and sometimes the healthy people have to take up arms, and go against their kinder natures, and do violence to other people.
In these conditions, the sociopath shines. The sociopath doesn't look at the onrushing tribe with their stone axes and think about how he'd really rather not kill other people. The sociopath looks at them and says to himself, "Remove the threat." And unlike the healthy people who are preoccupied with empathy and guilt, he coolly and efficiently sees the most expedient way to remove that threat. Instinctively, the healthy ones see how efficient th
I don't have time to write. It's a common excuse. It's one I use frequently because it is frequently true. I don't have time to write if I make time for other things, like hugging my kids, walking the dogs, making dinner, spending a couple hours with hubby after the girls go to sleep... Having a life.
Life gets in the way. It does for every writer.
That's because, for most writers, there is no one looking over our shoulder making sure we're getting our work done. Our boss is our own sense of discipline, and that can be a pretty lame task master. Even a contract and a deadline are a weak force that acts like gravity: The further away the deadline is, the weaker its pull.
The problem with writing is, even for a professional, it can feel like a hobby. That's because for the longest time, before we get published, writing is basically a hobby. It's something we as beginning writers did in our spare time, like weeding the garden or embroidering linen napkins.
But the truth is, if you want to get published and keep getting published, your hobby has to be your job. That means you have to be willing to let writing be more important than walking the dogs or opening the mail. Sometimes it even has to be more important than hugging your kids. Even though we might work in our pajamas, writers have to at least pretend that when the whistle blows, we must be working. The other things will just have to wait. Because if we had real jobs, you can bet we'd do all kinds of acrobatics to put the cute babies down and give the dog a chewy and rush out the door to get to work on time.
So here's me pretending that I hear my boss coming down the hallway to check on my progress. Here's me getting to work.
Here's me writing:
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In this story, the characters are hiding a secret. Can you tell what it is? Say so in your comments!
An Honest Woman
Candy, my favorite cousin, lived in terror of rattlesnakes. She had only ever seen one her entire life, when she was a little girl. She spotted it right before it bit her dog’s paw. Grandma always said that Candy was such a little thing she never could have carried that dog all the way home by herself, that angels had watched over her to give her strength. I was never able to reconcile this theory of divine intervention with the fact that Woofer died in agony anyway, an hour later, in the middle of the kitchen floor. That was why Candy never let me run ahead on the dirt path. She always went first when we went on our long walks together. We lived on the edge of Saratoga, Wyoming, and only had to walk about ten minutes before we were over the ridge and in the middle of the desert.
“Candy, do bachelorettes tell a lot of lies?” I asked. Candy was my best resource for decoding the adult conversations in our family.
Candy wrinkled her nose. “Why would you ask a thing like that, Ellen?”
“Because Uncle Jasper asked Ned when he was going to make an honest woman of you.”
She laughed, moving her hand as if to sweep the hair out of her eyes, though it was all gathered in a golden bundle at the nape of her neck. “No, Honey. Jasper’s talking about something else.”
She looked at me sideways and asked, “How old are you?”
“Well, I suppose you’re old enough to know that that Jasper was really talking about sex.”
She said it like it wasn’t even a swear. “So when a man makes a woman honest, he’s really having -- with her?”
“Well... no.” She smiled at me sheepishly, squinting at the horizon, which was just drawing the sun into twilight. “It means that he finally marries her after doing it with her.”
“So you and Ned do it?”
“Yes, we do.” She said this solemnly, like she was in church confession.
“Isn’t that a sin?”
“According to some people. But I think it’s just something people do, Ellen. Like cooking and gossiping. We just do it.”
“But it’s in the Bible, isn’t it? That it’s a sin!”
“I don’t know. I’ve never read the whole thing. Besides, people have different feelings about what the Bible means. Some people think sex is shameful, I disagree. That’s all.”
I thought about my prudish Aunt Sidney. “Why would they think it was bad if it isn’t?”
She sighed, pulled me into her bony side with a hand on my shoulder. “I don’t know. Because people don’t w
Came across this piece I wrote in graduate school in New York. Thought you might enjoy it.
“Look at that man.” Bertram pointed across the subway car.
Fat in mismatched clothes, the man twirled a plastic tube of Avon lotion like a wand. He said in a Queens squeak, “Hand creams. High quality. Ten dollars.” His expression changed from grimace to smile to frown as he rocked back and forth.
“He looks crazy,” Helena agreed. The man was wearing brown pants and a hot pink tee shirt, much too small for him. She remembered the design from the seventies, but time had been unkind to it. Farrah Faucet, her face cracked, her hair streaked like alien’s tentacles, smiled maniacally, her torso painfully warped by the man’s enormous paunch. Helena shuddered, and smoothed the green wool of her pleated skirt, amazed by what some people thought looked good on them.
Bertram, handsome in brown leather, said, “I would never let myself go like that.”
She nodded, patted his firm arm.
She thought of the poached salmon with tarragon she was planning for that evening. She would light the candles while Bertram put Bach on the stereo, and they would sit across from each other over their Venetian tablecloth. Bertram would say how her cooking reminded him of home. She never told him, but Bertram’s mother had scrawled recipes on cards with gold foil edges and sent them tied in a blue silk ribbon. Helena had ironed the ribbon flat again, and sent it wrapped around an anniversary gift to her parents, who still used paper bows. It was useless. They were paper bow people and there was no changing them.
The crazy man dropped the plastic tube into his Sax Fifth shopping bag and picked up another, identical to the last. She wondered how he got that bag, if he sifted through garbage at Midtown apartment buildings, or if rich women brought donations to his shelter.
The train shrieked into the next station. Helena watched colors and patterns scrambling for a seat. Fluorescent light flickered over blank features - subway faces - she mused, careful not to be caught looking, embarrassed by chance eye contact. She snuck a look at Bertram’s patrician profile. She had gotten everything she had wanted when she came to New York. It was the perfect city for her, for them, the perfect setting for the life she wanted.
A pretty brunette passed him by, gave him a smile with knowing brown eyes.
“I got tickets to As You Like It,” Helena said. She had planned to tell him that evening over dinner, but she wanted to please him now.
His eyes skirted over her as he fidgeted with a cufflink. “Shaw, right?”
She let it pass. He hated to be corrected. “It’s been sold out for months.”
“How did you manage that?”
“I spotted them in the classifieds,” she said proudly.
He said, “Not his best play, but I hear its a good production.”
Of course. She should have waited for Pygmalion.
She teased the Times from under his arm and glanc
I just read a very moving obituary in The Economist about a soccer player who was also a medical doctor and a social agitator. He died at the young age of 57, directly after "a dinner with friends which his weakened liver couldn't take... As a doctor and ex-midfielder, he knew he should not have done it." This man, a Brazilian soccer player known as Socrates, traded years of life for a rich meal and too many cocktails. Granted, he lived a lifetime this way, probably pushing his body too far, but I have to wonder about this attitude. The writer of the obituary grants him a pass for such behavior: "As a philosopher he sealed his death warrant with his usual wit and serenity."
The man was very admirable in his fight for democratic reform in his native Brazil. But I take issue with this prevailing attitude that an opulent, hedonistic lifestyle is a fair trade for years or decades of good health and life. I've often heard people cheerfully say that they'd rather not live if they couldn't eat steak and butter and smoke their cigarettes and swill their brandy/beer/wine/whathaveyou. Though I completely understand how unsatisfying a salad can be in lieu of prime rib, I'm still puzzled by the willingness to ignore dire warnings from doctors in favor of fleeting pleasures.
This reminds me of my feelings when I heard about the untimely death of Stieg Larsson, the author of the excellent Millennium Trilogy. When I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I was filled with admiration for a writer who's method is so completely different to my own. I felt I learned a lot from him about how to build a character. But my pleasure at reading his books is tinged with a bit of anger, because if he had taken better care of himself, there would be more than just the three books for us to read and enjoy. He had an immense gift, one I greatly envy. He could write in a way that captures the imagination of millions of people all over the world. This puts him in the company of very few writers. But he squandered this gift on three packs of cigarettes a day and habitual disregard for his body's need for rest. In short he smoked and worked himself to an early grave. I did not know him, though I wish I had because he was a courageous advocate for human rights in his work as a journalist. Still, I feel personally insulted by his neglect of his own health. How dare he treat his health so poorly when he could write so well?
I sound petulant, I know, but this is my honest reaction. I resent when the talented, the courageous, the brilliant among us let go of life so easily. We need Socrates here among us still. We need Stieg Larsson. Someone needs you, whoever you are reading this. The good, righteous people of the world need to stick around as long as possible so that they can continue to illuminate the dark side for the rest of us. Life is such a beautiful gift. Let's not treat it carelessly. Let us be reverent. Let us all take care of ourselves.
This is a fun writing exercise. Here are some examples I found from my own days as a student:
Sam the marine went to war. He wrote to Francine every day. Each letter ended, “Until the day I die.” Tragically, he kept his word.
Eustace sat in the front row for Dr. Conrad’s lecture on Aristotle. By Seneca, Dr. Conrad’s ethics faltered. By Sartre, Eustace was existential for two.
He saw her every day at the train station for fourteen years. She wore a diamond ring. When her finger was finally bare, his wasn’t.
She speaks Farsi. He speaks Bengali. She eats saffron. He eats curry. He sees her brown eyes; she, his gentle hands. Time to learn English.
What if the prince from Cinderella were the same as the prince in Snow White?
A Prince for All Seasons
A Spoof for Young Adults
There were so many rings on Cinderella’s fingers that she found it tiring to wave at her subjects as her carriage barreled through the village. This time she didn’t stop at the dress-maker’s. She didn’t feel like shopping. At the edge of the woods, she rapped on the roof, and the driver let her off at the mouth of a forest path she had never walked before.
Cinderella was feeling down. Her husband had seemed distracted of late. He hardly even looked at the new cape she had woven for him, and she had to ask him twice to help her find her slippers. (They can be hard to spot on a Persian rug.) The Prince was preoccupied about something, but she didn’t know about what.
As she rounded a bend in the path, her curiosity was roused by grief-stricken wailing. She ordered her coachman to stop the horses, crept behind a bush, and peered through the leaves. Several little men were gathered around a glass box, weeping, trying to console one another, but they seemed beyond help. Cinderella put her jasmine-scented handkerchief to her tiny white nose. It was clear these men hadn’t bathed for quite some time. She craned her neck to see what was in the box, but she heard someone approaching to her right, so she had to duck down.
She nearly gave herself away when she saw her husband sidling through the thick brush toward the men. The tallest of them, clearly the leader, rushed up to him. “Sir! The evil witch has cast a spell over our beloved mistress. The only thing that will save her is a kiss from her true love!”
Cinderella stifled a cry as her husband, seemingly entranced by the occupant of the glass box, lifted the cover and leaned down with lips puckered. She could stand it no more.
“Just what do you think you’re doing?” She burst through the foliage with her silken arms folded over her chest.
“Honey! I didn’t see you…”
“Clearly. Who are these people?”
One runny nosed dwarf approached her with hat in hand, “My dear lady, if you’ll permit me to explain…”
“I heard everything. Enchantment, witches, true love’s kiss, same old, same old. What I want to know is why my husband is the man for the job!”
There was an embarrassed silence as the little men looked from one to another. She heard someone murmer, “He never mentioned a wife…”
The Prince pointed into the glass box. “I can’t just let her languish forever in this coma!”
Cinderella looked into the box and was even more dismayed to see the patient was a gorgeous brunette. “She looks fine to me.”
“She’s a vegetable!”
“Please mum!” The sleepy dwarf has knelt before her and was pulling on her skirt. “Our mistress is under an evil spell.”
“How long has it been,” she said, yanking the emerald silk from his grasp, “since you washed your hands?”
Now the Prince flared in anger. “Before I married you, you were just a…”
“You would bring that up now, as if this weren’t humiliating enough!” Her jewel-eyes filled with tears as her hand rushed to cover her trembling lips.
Prince Charming rolled his eyes. “Here come the waterworks.”
“That’s IT! You’re coming home RIGHT NOW!” She shoved the dwarves aside, and dragged her husband by the ear toward her carriage.
“What about our beloved Snow White?” The leader of the dwarves stepped forward, his little hand on the hilt of his dagger.
“There’s a pond nearby,” she said over her shoulder. “See if you can find a frog.”
Then people moved on to these:
And suddenly people could buy these:
This enterprising young woman is using the power of the internet to effect change. Her target: school lunch.
She is fighting the system one unappetizing picture at a time. Every day she takes a photo of the lunch she is served at school, and I must agree with her that they seem to be planning their menus rather monochromatically. Very starchy. Few veggies.
I think she and her parents are brilliantly using the TRUTH as a weapon for change. Bully for her!
Link to her blog:
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