Archive for August, 2004

In Case You Didn’t Catch It…

August 31, 2004

In case you didn’t catch it, Michael Moore is covering the Republican National Convention for USA Today. Entertaining stuff.

Hanging out around the convention, I’ve encountered a number of the Republican faithful who aren’t delegates. They warm up to me when they don’t find horns or a tail. Talking to them, I discover they’re like many people who call themselves Republicans but aren’t really Republicans. At least not in the radical-right way that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft and Co. have defined Republicans.

I asked one man who told me he was a “proud Republican,” “Do you think we need strong laws to protect our air and water?”

“Well, sure,” he said. “Who doesn’t?”

I asked whether women should have equal rights, including the same pay as men.

“Absolutely,” he replied.

“Would you discriminate against someone because he or she is gay?”

“Um, no.” The pause — I get that a lot when I ask this question — is usually because the average good-hearted person instantly thinks about a gay family member or friend.

The World of the Book Review

August 31, 2004

Well, uh, at least he reviewed it:

“This book shows every sign of being a hasty first draft; it does its author no credit at all and is a significant disappointment.”

Eeeek.

For the record, I actually do enjoy Adam Roberts’ work in a purely entertaining way. I do, however, like Priest’s work far more. Different expectations for different works, I suppose.

Vegas, Baby

August 31, 2004

Back from Vegas. Had a great time catching up with my writing buddies, most of whom I hadn’t seen in several years. The funny thing about meeting back up with people in person who you talk to all the time online via e-mail and messageboards is that you’ve already caught up on the smalltalk by the time you meet up. “I was going to ask you what’s going on,” my buddy Patrick said at dinner the first night, “but, well…”

Yea.

I think the most amusing part of the trip was watching our buddy Greg (who had never been to Vegas) staring, stunned, at the cocktail waitresses and birdwomen (alas, he missed the Sirens of TI! show).

This was the first time I’d been to Vegas when I was old enough to drink and gamble, and I gotta say: it’s much more enjoyable that way. I lost $10 at the slots and bought several $8 drinks. The highlight “event” of the trip was trekking over to the Bellagio and seeing Cirque Du Soleil’s latest show, “O”. It was worth the exorbitant price, and I’m glad I went. This was one of those, “Let’s do everything we usually do, only more of it, in water, with bigger costumes, and a ship hanging off the ceiling. Can you bend that way and then *dive* off the trapeze?” Amazing shit. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I arrive home poorer in pocket, but richer in experience. Most of our time was actually taken up lingering over our meals. We often spent two hours eating, talking, and playing keno.

It was just what I needed.

And now: back to work.

Yes!?

August 26, 2004

Just about to head to Vegas, and stumbled on a “breaking news” headline at CNN.

Federal judge finds Partial Birth Abortion Act unconstitutional. Details soon.

YEEEESSSSS!

Corporate Socializing

August 26, 2004

So, it turned out a couple people didn’t show for our corporate golf outing, so I got shut out of chauffering the boys around in the Beer Cart – fine with me. I hung out at Borders for a couple hours, then met up with the Boys at the steakhouse.

The Boys arrived an hour late (I was liason with the steakhouse), drunk and in highly good spirits. It doesn’t get much more surreally interesting than hanging out with a bunch of drunken executives (the least senior of which makes just over 90K a year) at a posh steakhouse while running up an exorbitant bill on a corporate card.

I was worried that this would be one of those staid, fake roundabouts with smily, boring people. I need not have worried. Only about fourteen people showed for dinner, which ended up being a perfect batch. Blaine was in high form, drunk and expositing football stories. Ned, the Big Cheese from our group, was just as sloshed and fun (and everyone was very careful with their hands – nobody put a hand on me anywhere but my arm or shoulder, though Yellow ended up sitting next to me, and had his arm on the back of my chair for some minutes, which nearly set off my “pissed off” radar. But all in all, I appreciated being treated like a real person).

As they all arrived drunk (lots of cigar smoking and beer drinking on those golf courses), I had to do a lot of catching up. Pete, who works with the firm we’re partnering with, ordered the wine. I sniffed and sipped the first glass and was surprised at how good it was. These are a bunch of blue-collar background types who’ve worked their asses off and done well. Very few of them actually came from old money, so I wasn’t expecting fireworks when Pete ordered.

Turns out the wine was $85 a bottle.

It *better* have been damn good.

The damn good wine flowed all night. We took out at least a case and a half, and wiped out the restaurant’s whole supply of the stuff.

I got a great table, Ned on one side, Yellow on the other, sitting across from Sarah, who’s one of our on-the-ground construction managers, and Bettie and Pete, who both work with our partner company. Everybody was damn fun. Yellow took the opportunity to announce to the table that I was selling a book — I knew I should have shut my mouth in the car during our three and a half hour drive down to the golf course. He kept prodding me for more information about my books. After admitting that I had wall maps, languages, and had, in fact, written eight previous books before trying to sell this one, he announced:

“You’re a Trekkie!”

“No, Yellow. No. Some kids had ballet lessons or football practice. I wrote books. We all have our things. What the hell do you do every night?”

“Probably fuck around with my motorcycle.”

“See,” I said. “We’re all weirdos.”

After Yellow’s speech about my writing at the table (we’d pushed the round table between two longer ones, so we were all at one big table), he sat back to watch the conversation fly.

Ferdinand, a big mucky-muck from our corporate offices, was very interested in what I was doing.

“He wants to know how the company’s computers are actually being used all day,” Yellow said.

I think my biggest gaffe of the night was saying to Ferdinand, “So, you grew up in Switzerland –”

“Sweden,” he said.

Blah. I knew that. But hell, if that’s the biggest gaffe of the night… I didn’t even hit on anybody. A night when I don’t hit on anyone present is generally considered a successful one (though Yellow was looking damn fine the next morning in tight, long sleeved white shirt and baggy gray cargo pants. But my twinges of attraction for Yellow are few and far between. Most days, I just think he’s damn funny).

After dinner, we migrated to the bar and drank still more wine, and smoked cigars.

“I’ve got to see Kameron smoking a cigar,” Ned said, doling them out.

So I smoked cigars (god only knows how expensive they were) and ended up talking with Bettie and Rhea. Rhea’s also working with our partner company. She and Ned have known each other for something like 20 years. You can’t throw a rock around this business without hitting someone you’ve worked with before.

I think Rhea’s damn cool. She’s gotta be over fifty, has bleached short hair, a deep tan, and wears skimpy shirts that show off her bellybutton ring. And she’s wildly successful. She apparently got her engineering degree in 1978, and was the only woman in her class.

“I wasn’t trying to make a statement or anything,” she said, “I just really wanted to be an engineer. My dad was an engineer. I never really wanted to do anything else.”

She also imparted a valuable bit of information to me – when I told her and Bettie that I didn’t make enough money to afford a cell phone, Rhea leaned into me and said, “You’ll be all right. Blaine *adores* you.”

I had suspected I had a pretty secure job place, so long as Blaine could afford me. Now we just have to sign another contract, and I’ll be taking advantage of this liking to get myself a frickin’ reasonable wage (like, say, *double* what I’m making now).

After we wiped out the last of the restaurant’s case of our chosen wine, we migrated back to the hotel. I tried to flick the ashes of my cigar out the window of the car and ended up losing the whole damn cigar. That was one of those stealthy, “Gosh, I hope no one noticed that” moments.

By this time, it’s after midnight, and we’re all plastered. Those of us staying at the same hotel congregated in the lobby’s bar, and I had another cigar, and part of a glass of cheap wine which then made me sick. Blaine was in fine form, likely talking more football stories, though honestly, I don’t remember actual conversation topics from that point in the night. He and Ned finally bowed out, as they had an earlier flight back to Chicago, and the rest of us said goodnight.

The next day, at breakfast, Yellow said, “Kameron, you must have talked the most of *anyone* all night. I knew you were going to have a good time.”

I’ve found that the older I am, the more I know, and the more I’ve done, the easier these social bullshit things are. And, let’s be honest: I really liked the people. I thought Bettie and Rhea were awesome, Ned treated me with total respect, Yellow kicked up conversation about my writing and his motorcycles, Blaine was just a big sweetheart puppydog drunk (which I suspect is his default form), Pete and Bettie had great stories, Sarah and Garret (our construction managers) spent an hour before the dinner talking shop with me while we waited for the drunken golfers (I really need to know more about the actual groundwork than I do), Rhea was just a frickin’ powerhouse, and everybody was really easy going and cool. I had a great time.

At the end of the night, Ned handed me the bill so I could add on a little extra tip to the automatic one and write the new total before he signed it (he was toast, and had forgotten his glasses). I was a little dumbstruck at the sight of the bill total. I’ve never seen a dinner bill with that many digits. I was also pretty drunk by this point, and my math was off. I undertipped by at least $40, but seeing the “automatic” tip added in ($400), the thought of writing more hundreds underneath it made me vaguely nauseous.

When we moved to the bar and I caught site of the bar tab as I handed it off to Yellow (almost $300), I realized how addictive this sort of life could become for people. I mean, I was sure as hell fired up about it. Wouldn’t it be great to be like Blaine or Ned, and do these things all the time? Order $85 bottles of wine and sign off on dinner bills that cost more than most undergraduates’ first cars? Hob-nob all night with movers and shakers in companies worth billions of dollars?

It’s gotta be addictive.

Me, Yellow, and Dee (our lead architect for the project) drove back the long drive to the office, and then I went straight home, packed for my Vegas trip where I’ll be meeting up with my writing buddies (let’s talk about my real addiction), and slept for 12 hours. Seriously. I was so exhausted and hung over I thought I was going to fall over.

That was damn good wine.

And, surprisingly, damn good company.

Work-a-do

August 23, 2004

Yellow just took off for the day (it’s, um, 10:30am). I love working for these guys.

Anyway, I’ve got about 3 short stories I need to finish up and get out Cheira-Cheira, Heros, and Locust Dreams – today’s gotta be a pure working day. So, for your amusement:

I’ve finally picked up Nick Mamatas’ book, Move Undergound, largely because I’m enjoying his blog, and have given into the “buy my book,” “have you bought a copy of my book” comments. We’ll see if he’s worth all his posturing. Of course, he’s got a great review from Matt Cheney, which also helped push me over. The book is Cthulu meets Jack Kerouac, apparently. Not exactly up my alley, but I like the internet personae behind it, so we’ll see.

I’ve also got a couple more book orders coming in: Christopher Priest’s Fugue for a Darkening Island, Iain Banks’ A Song of Stone. Very much looking forward to this set of books. These last two are absolutely brilliant writers (I may have mentioned that I’ve read Priest’s The Affirmation about five times. It’s a brilliant, brilliant book about a man creating and living in his own fantasy world. A great making and breaking of the world book).

OK. No ranting today. I really need to be working. Really.

On the Morbidity of Flora

August 22, 2004

I live with a lot of plants.

I managed to kill about four batches of basil and cilantro through lack of light before I got a potting table and tossed it out on the enclosed balcony at the back of the house. This’ll be fine until, say, late September, when I’ll need to buy a heat lamp and move everything inside. I’m adept at slaughtering plants. I went out the back today and realized I missed a watering day on my basil – it was deathly ill. I repotted and rewatered. Another batch bites the dust…

In other news, I got a very nice personal reject from Sheila Williams at Asimov’s for my story, The Women of Our Occupation, (my first personal rejection from Asimov’s in, what, 8 years of sending stories to them? This new editor switch over there is a damn good thing for shaking things up) and I’m going to go ahead and slip it off to Datlow and see what happens. It’s the last of my latest batch of Brutal Women stories I finished up a few months ago that Datlow has yet to see. Invariably, she appears to end up liking them, and I get personal rejects every time – they just aren’t “Sci-Fiction” types of stories. I won’t go on a rant about what that means. This is a public forum, afterall.

Anyway, I’ve got hours of weekly prep stuff to do today. I’ve got a crappy corportate golf outing on Tuesday, and I’m off to Vegas Thursday to hang out with my Clarion peeps. I also really should go jogging today. Blah. Blah.

Ciao.

Blah

August 20, 2004

I’m drowning in RFPs.

Random Blog Slices

August 19, 2004

I think that what I like best about trolling through strangers’ blogs is that you get these really random snapshots of people’s lives:

Are You A Zombie?

The Tyler Durden Beauty Standard

August 19, 2004

My buddy Jeff was nice enough to give me permission to include his comments on my recent “Worklife” rant. He says:

…I don’t think that the remaking selves for the opposite gender thing is as one-sided as you describe. Plenty of women talk quite brazenly about ideal men, and I think perhaps the most universal male experience (judging from milennia of literature anyway) is inadequacy. Plenty of men are intimidated by Brad Pitt. I know I am. Check out Chuck Pahlaniuk’s books sometime. (He’s the writer of Fight Club) He went through a phase of working out obsessively, taking steroids, and even having plastic surgery to get Brad Pitt-like beesting lips. This is why when the book made it big and Fox wanted to make it into a movie he insisted that Brad Pitt play Tyler Durden.

I’m a big fan of Palahniuk – I’ve budgeted in his latest nonfiction collection into this week’s paycheck. He’s doing some really edgy, visceral work: not a literary genius, but somebody’s who’s really tapped into the dark places in the social landscape (particularly relationships among men and men who find themselves unable to connect with others, including women) that nobody really wants to talk about. The ravaged, mad, bizarre stuff. “Inspiration,” writes Palahniuk, “needs disease, injury, madness.”

I would, in fact, argue that a lot of the failure of sexual equality has been the conception of “equality.” Women have fought (and continue to fight) long and hard for the rights to be accepted as whole, strong, independent individuals. You can wave the flag of feminism all you want and say, “Now women are just like men,” but you know what, maybe they shouldn’t be. Maybe the social roles are the problem. I don’t know that I’d like to suck up the “Bash people around as affection and show emotion only through anger” role. There are certainly a lot of the role qualities that I like, and I’d like to be just as free to choose which ones I like and which I don’t, and until men are given the same option without threat of death or dismemberment, I still think we’re a long way off from that breezy hippie liberal “equality for everyone” ideal that sounds really good to me on paper but looks trickier and trickier the more I see people trying to put it into practice.

Anyway. If nothing else, I’m inspired to catch up on my Palahniuk reading. I recommend him to you all, too (though I must warn you – he’s not Mormon-safe).