Obviously last Friday marked the first occasion of me skipping my self-imposed blogging day, but that’s probably somewhat understandable given 1) it was Christmas, and 2) I was sick as a dog. Today is equally special because 1) it is the first day of a New Year, and 2) it’s five days until my flight to Old Blighty. I have no particular enchantment with the idea of the new year and I’m not one to make resolutions so I’ll spare you that. I’ve been packing on and off again for most of the past week, since I’ve never had a trip of this length or international variety before and I’m worried to pieces about whether or not I’ll have everything I need and still come in under the airline’s weight limit.
Also I have a new rejection count: 36. Ta-dah.
In other news, my original plan to ring in the new year was to do a lengthy write-up of last fall’s most successful horror flick, Paranormal Activity. It didn’t happen for a couple of reasons, the chief one being that there are far too many ways for me to talk about the movie — I can fit it into three or four different contexts and produce a coherent reading from any of them. Suffice it to say that the movie is good — not as good as the press would have you believe, nor as scary (unless I am just desensitized), and it has a few notable flaws, but it still manages to be one of the best horror films of the past decade. As someone who is very obviously picky about this sort of thing, I suppose that’s saying something.
A friend of mine, in response to my reading of American Psycho, jokingly asked me which Shakespeare Paranormal Activity rewrites, flippantly suggesting The Tempest. I laughed, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it was absolutely true. It’s obviously not an intentional rewriting, but screw intent, and I think highlighting connections between The Tempest and Paranormal Activity actually produces a really interesting reading of the latter. So if I ever feel like doing something completely and utterly ridiculous, you can expect my writeup on that, though if my blog degenerates into me excavating Shakespeare from artifacts of modern pop culture I might have to change the name. The same friend who got me to thinking along these lines was kind enough to even offer a title: Rebarded. So props to her for that.
Just got word from the UK consulate in Chicago that my visa application has been approved and the visa itself is in the mail. So ends this chapter in the horrible, drawn out saga of Paperwork.
Also, I now have a twitter for some reason, and if you like the random thoughts that pop into my head that don’t warrant 3000 word rants here then maybe you will like that.
Also also, speaking of 3000 word rants, the second part of the series on American Psycho should be up Friday-ish, I am thinking. The third part might be a little delayed since we are getting to crunch time for school work and the entries are a little more time intensive than anything else I write here.
Things don’t seem to be very smooth for Esme, and it’s less than a week until her wedding! Oh no! How will this drama come to a close in the next few days? Again, I remind you that Alissa’s twitter the best way to follow the action up until the finale post on the blog.
In AtME news, the visa application paperwork is all turned in, including my biometric appointment with the DHS, and should be mailed out by now, so it’s just a question of whether or not I paid the $260 fee for nothing and my application is rejected. I thought I had more to say here but I guess I didn’t! You can expect some kind of Halloween post from me around the middle of the week.
Esme has a tiny bit to say herself before the big finale at the end of the month.
Alissa’s twitter, I am sorry to say, has not progressed quite as much as I wanted it to. There are various reasons for this, but the primary one is that I have been scrambling to get my paperwork in order for the UK visa application. It seems like I’ve been talking about this fucking thing forever now, and it’s a wonder why I haven’t gone ahead and completed it yet. Well, that’s the rub — my college has changed the way they handle the program, and this is the first year with the new system, so there’s a bunch of paperwork that I had to given before I could even start the visa and the International Programs Office here didn’t manage to get me that stuff until last Monday.
So now I’m on a short vacation (a midsemester break, which the college confusingly refers to as an “early semester break”) and after I get some books read and get a haircut you bet your ass I am going to be getting this visa app over and done with. OH, YES, BUT THEN AFTER THAT I HAVE TO GO ALL THE WAY TO INDIANAPOLIS AND GET BIOMETRIC READINGS DONE BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A HORRIBLE DYSTOPIAN FUTURE WHERE EVERYONE TYPES IN ALLCAPS. Anyway, I suppose I’m technically entering the home stretch as far as this crap goes, so I should consider myself lucky.
Also: Halloween is coming up and I am ostensibly some kind of horror fan and I write about horror as a genre more than I write about other things, so I feel I should throw something up here in celebration. I’m not sure what that will be yet, maybe I’ll bitch about movies some more. We’ll see.
So we had another orientation session today, filled out some roommate papers and so on. We also got the load of visa applications dumped on us, and let me tell you, that is terrifying. I have to get biometric readings, do a criminal record check on myself, and come up with a bit over two hundred dollars to pay fees. In three weeks. I also have to fill out an application for the particular program in London my college is working through, write a résumé, and write a mission statement.
This is all because, of course, a key portion of my program is a volunteer job placement, ideally one suited to my academic interests. There’s even a list of these academic interests in the application we have to fill out, and hilariously enough most of them do not coincide at all with my interests. Things like “human rights/conflict resolution” and “homelessness/housing” and “environment/sustainability” and “gay/lesbian issues” and I really don’t care. I know that as a student at an institution that values justice and progress and charity and many other fine things, I should feel more strongly about these and many other issues than I do. I sometimes feel a little guilty and say to myself, “Man, you should really do some volunteer thing about like immigration or fossil fuels or whatever it is the TV is telling you to care about today.” Nothing ever comes of it, though.
We’ll see how this job placement pans out, anyway. Providing I don’t fuck over my visa app.
And we have this month’s very special Esmeralda Sinn story up and live. Also, here is a secret bit that is not secret at all because I keep linking it. I have never had to read an Esme story out loud before, and doing so for this actually made me feel embarrassed for myself. But being embarrassed in public is what the internet is for, right? Incidentally, the background music I used is from Metal Gear Saga by Harry Gregson-Williams, it appears on the soundtrack to MGS4 and incorporates motifs and themes from the previous games and is generally pretty awesome. I have absolutely no right to use it and I’ve sullied its existence by including it in this story about pseudobestiality, and I’ll probably get some cease and desist notice over it sooner or later.
On other fronts:
- I’ve touched on the genre-lit-death-of-culture thing here before and written a lot of boring stuff about it. This essay by Nina Siegal, grabbed from The Daily Dish, does a good job of summarizing the arguments of the various sides and pointing out how all of the factions use more or less the same tactics to get us to sympathize. She makes the very good point (that few people seem to be aware of) that literature often manages to transcend genre; Ada or Ardor is pretty blatantly sf, for instance, and Shakespeare wrote wrote things we would classify as thrillers or fantasies. In the end, though, I still seem to come down on the side of guys like Chabon, who argue for that “well-told tale” and insist that strictly divvying things up into genres and pronouncing some unclean and others sacred is to some degree detrimental to the diversity and health of the literary establishment and blah blah blah.
- I haven’t talked about films much here outside of horror movies, but I can safely say that Inglourious Basterds is a wonderful, beautiful thing and it is the best movie I have seen in a very, very long time. I have literally not been that pleased while walking out of theater in maybe five or six years. Tarantino delves into some trippy metafictional commentary (seemingly designed to win my heart) on how cultural fictions (be they movies or books) shape and inform our conception of the past, or even the present, and how these things could be used for good or evil. Please, see this movie.
- I have my paperwork turned in for the London trip, finally.
- 28 rejections.
Yesterday marked the first orientation meeting for my eventual trip to England at the beginning of next year. While there is nothing of particular interest to report, we did get our handbook of orientation materials, which includes a packing list, suggestions for social conduct, etc. There is an extensive and hilarious section on culture shock, which such section headings as “What is culture shock? Will it ever end?“ There is also a shorter, equally delightful section on dating and how you, the American, might interpret certain signals as communicating some romantic or sexual interest but which do not strike the Briton you are talking to as such. It’s so vague that I literally have no idea what they’re getting at, since even among Americans there’s such a thing as receiving mixed signals. The rules for social conduct include such tips as “don’t be loud and obnoxious” and “don’t cut in line” and “don’t insult people,” which again I think is (or should be) pretty standard American etiquette. Well, whatever.
Today I also tried to get my paperwork in order and turn it into the International Programs Office here on campus, since the deadline is fast approaching. Naturally I forgot it was Labor Day, since my school does not take seriously such paltry holidays and I had class, but this meant that most of the college’s clerical departments were closed for the day. So I wasted a trip. Oh, what I thrilling life I lead.
As we move on into mid-June, Esme once again updates her blog. This is another Maya story, a series of ideas I have that revolve around some sort of smart-mouthed prostitute/assassin who habitually ends up in rather odd situations. You’ll notice these stories focus more on plot and character than normal Esme endeavors; they’re altogether more serious stories, though still pretty weird. This is because I got the idea for this milieu before Esme was even a twinkle in my eye — I actually wrote the first story, “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” circa 2003 or 04. When I decided I wanted to have more than excerpts on the Esme journal last fall, I pulled out the old story, rewrote it so that it suited how the characters had evolved in that time, and posted it. I have a few other Maya stories rolling around in my head, and I think one of them could be an honest-to-goodness novel. If I ever write it then I will be, for serious, a supernatural romance (or at least urban fantasy) author. Whoa.
Speaking of novels, I sort of completed a new novel manuscript a few days ago, a thing that would likely be sold as a “short novel.” It’s rather strange, a non-supernatural satire of my experiences with college life and the vague direction my generation is heading. It’s basically Evelyn Waugh fanfic, though I’m waiting to hear back from some of my friends on whether or not it’s any good. If it is, then I certainly have no clue what to do with it. My experiences of bashing my head against the wall in the speculative fiction market have not prepared me for finding people to reject my attempts at “serious” fiction.
Oh, but before I forget, more Esme news. Despite thinking it is a completely insipid platform, brought to the fore only by text messaging (which is itself a completely insipid form of communication), I have opened a Twitter account to expand the Esme fiction and give us some insight into the mind of Esme’s assistant, Alissa.
I’ve also managed to procure a passport and get my scholarships approved for my study in England, so that’s how things look on that front.
Oh, and in two days I will be getting my wisdom teeth taken out. Thanks, human evolution.
Yesterday, in preparation for our eventual time abroad together, the professor leading the England program (programme?) had all the participating students, save a few with prior comittments, over to his house for a tea. There was actual tea, naturally, but his wife (who is also going to the UK with us) managed to produce a healthy selection of scones, Scottish shortbread cookies, lemon custard, frutis, etc. Good times were had by all.
Since it’s a relatively small campus, most of us seemed to know each other already. There are currently sixteen-maybe-seventeen of us students, all from various majors, though English majors definitely have the majority. Still, we’re a rather motley bunch, perhaps even a ragtag group of champions, and we all seemed to get along well enough. We had pretty good conversation, and if that holds up throughout the year I don’t see why our time in London would be any different. Sometimes I am pretty sure I acted like a jackass but I am a jackass in mostly any situation that deals with other people so that’s to be expected. Also! There was a packet of British English dialect differences and slang that we passed around and quizzed each other on, and do you know what the British call a band-aid!
It’s elastoplast! I think this is fantastic because it sounds like a horrible science fiction device that runs on hydrogen and you strap it to your wounds and it might heal you or it could go horribly wrong and electrocute you or maybe mutate you into an animal/human hybrid.
Also, on the endless paperwork front, I have managed to obtain and fill out my passport application, get my photos, and all of my supporting documents. Now all I need is $100 and the time it takes to get to the license branch and turn the damn stuff in.
Other news: Rejections – 19. If you read Stephen King then you know this is supposed to be a magic number. But also if you read Stephen King you should also know that Stephen King is SOMETIMES REALLY TERRIBLE AND WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING, SHUT UP.