shoebox_dw: (nemo shiny)
Most of the time, I'm an eccentric and proud of it. Once in awhile, though, as you tend to do, I start wondering about my congruence with the wider world; it's not just me, right? Surely others...

...Have very specific routines for eating, such as only taking exactly twelve crackers out of the box, and counting out the Skittles by colour so I can eat the most common ones first? (This is really important, because heaven forfend I carelessly scarf all the red ones only to face an ocean of yellow and green.)

...When out walking with the headphones on, start pretending it's your own personal life soundtrack? Bonus points if you adjust your pace to the beat; a gold star if you find yourself doing a tiny little Travolta-esque strut on the really fun parts.

...Whenever the phrase 'other sheep' is mentioned during services, turn to your seatmate and (quietly; I'm not an absolute moron) go 'Baaaaaaa!'? More bonus points if you're also secretly working up a complimentary sound for mention of 'the goats'.

...Spend slow times at work bending paper clips and other malleable items into abstract sculpture? Then get really upset because overnight the cleaners have totally dissed the timeless work of art sitting on your monitor stand, entitled One Wonky Clip, a Gold-Foil Twist-Tie Spiral and a Couple Shiny Stars Picked Up From the Brand Launch Confetti?

...Start feeling really really bad if you accidentally leave a stuffed animal to smother under your covers? (Uh...don't ask what they were doing there in the first place.)

...Have conversations with the cat in which you respond to their meows as if they were actual, er, responses? Or sometimes, vary it up by meowing back, making a serious effort to try and duplicate the correct tone? Which never works, because you always end up collapsing in hysterical laughter at the cat's expression, which indicates you've probably just told it you want to have sex with its mother?

...Occasionally have little competitions with yourself by way of making important life decisions, like, 'Let's see, if I can get up these stairs before the door closes, I'll have a good day at work' or 'OK, if I can cross this street in the next ten minutes, that means I should go with the green blouse?'

...yeah. Like I said, just checking.

shoebox_dw: (butterfly free and flying)
...I've caught up on all ten chapters of Ursula Vernon's Digger. Really, I need to stop discovering wonderful webcomics that've been running for years; compulsive archive-reading does not mesh well with the amount of sleep required for coping with fashion vendors. Especially the ones who change their retails on 1500+ units, and - whoopsie! - somehow forget to tell the ticket printers before shipping. There are days, in this job, when you seriously consider the 'Is everyone else crazy? Or is it just me?' dilemma. Long before noon.

Anyway, Digger. It is one of those media which naturally lends itself to listing off the goodies - Heroic wombats! Vampire vegetables! Oracular slugs! Metaphorical pigeons! Pirate shrews! - but as you can see, in this case we'd be here for a lot longer than it'd take you to just travel to page one and get hooked.
Because you will. Oh, yes, you will. This thing is almost hypnotically addictive, gorgeous art, literate wit and all. What I love most about it, though, is that every single one of the fantastic elements are so firmly grounded - even the Shadowchild. Vernon is not writing fantasy for the sake of it; nor is she being clever for the same reason. Her characters speak from solid convictions about interesting ideas; their damage - and a lot of it is severe - is nonetheless real, their varying degrees of strength in the face of it no more and no less than natural consequence.

****************************************

Meanwhile. This weekend. In a weird way reading Digger has given me some help with my own fiction-writing blockage...Thinking about starting, that's OK. Even fun. But actually starting...over the last year I've realised that the problem is that it'd mean going to a place of total honesty within. And that in turn means confronting some things that - I don't - really - want to. Mind, I'm not saying I have any baggage on the scale of Vernon's characters to deal with. I mean, pretty sure there are no shadows of malevolent goddesses on my brain, or anything.

Just...everybody has an Unknown, and mine and self don't really get along so well. So following Digger and company as they deal with theirs has been a treat in more ways than one. Perhaps that's part of what I want to write about - why my subconscious is so insistent I get on with this sci-fi story. It's a vivid reminder that considering reality does not make one mad, no matter how mad the reality may seem; that in fact confronting one's fears, doing something active about them - while it may or may not make things easier - is one hell of a lot better than just sitting around brooding. In a way, I've been just sitting around inside my head since I was a teenager, and it's high time I got out and explored a bit.

Right then, this is me, doing something. Sitting down and sketching out my ideas - since, as you may have noticed [/self-deprecating sarcasm] I'm one of those anal types that can't function unless I know where the story's going from the outset  - and then going back and editing the first few chapters a bit, and then posting them here. And then I have to go on, or I look like an idiot. A pretentious idiot, to boot. And being thought pretentious may be the only thing that bothers me more than being thought crazy.
shoebox_dw: (gf enlightened)
...Just in case you were wondering.

Yesterday was a very odd day at work, as I imagine most of this type are. I don't want to say anything else about it, on account of this company has a privacy policy that makes North Korea look like Happy Fun Land, and wouldn't it be just too ironic if I got fired for blogging about layoffs? Ha ha ha...whoops.

(The best part was coming home to Shoemom, who informed me that - oh, she knew I would've called, but you know - she had 'the big speech all prepared - all about how it was OK, we'd get by, you'd find a better job...' I suggested she save it, just in case. She assured me she would.)

Anyway, other than that - Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how'd you enjoy the play? - I'm having a good time filling in for my supervisor. Except of course that I have to kill him slowly, with fire, for forgetting to leave me his network password, thus condemning me to painstakingly recreate his weekly Huge All-Important Financial Report from scratch over two nerve-straining days. (It was due on the first, natch.) 

On the plus side, as I mentioned to his supervisor - hi, tact, we'll really have to get together sometime! - I've never actually had the opportunity to screw up an entire company division before.  Hilights include the moment when, just before hitting send, I decided to double-check and found I'd accidentally reversed this year and last year's sales columns. X-Treme retail admin!

But that was only the first couple days. Since then, there's been time to look around, and it's gotten interesting. I've had my first taste of management, and find it agrees with me. I'd almost forgotten my flair for trouble-shooting and devising workarounds. Once, away back when I switched buying groups, a co-worker told me that I couldn't leave, because 'you're the one we all go to to explain things!'. It feels so good to have that working for me again.

And now here I sit, still employed, and the family is fighting and the cats are cranky and it's the coldest day of the year...and I don't mind. Because there are always possibilities, after all.
shoebox_dw: (garfield monday)
OK. So my entire f-list is all being reviewed in the Financial Times (of London!) and musing on historic inaugurations and such, and here I sit, staring wide-eyed and blowing the equivalent of one of those little party tweeters: Whee! I have a new iPod!

Which is not to say that I don't lurve my new 'iTouch', which is quite simply the coolest thing ever in the history of electronic toys, not excluding the tabletop Pac-Man arcade game I got when I was twelve. Once I master the complex and bewildering world of Wi-Fi connexions, I will be set for many, many long months of blissful time-wasting. There is even a little app that will let me post to this journal on-the-go. Bliss.

Still...there is something lacking here, namely: a backdrop of time so productively and interestingly used that wasting it is an awe-full concept to begin with. I will not say I need to get a life, because I do after all have enough of a one that I now own an iPod Touch, but it could clearly stand some improvement...

...just the sort of thing that needs some intense musing over a Starbucks espresso truffle and a new playlist, methinks.
shoebox_dw: (i need a hug)
[sigh] Were the back-from-vacation blues supposed to kick in this early? I was having a ton of fun yesterday, unpacking and looking at downloaded pictures and cataloguing smuggled American chocolates (oh, Dove, why must you stint the Canadian market so?)..then I woke up today, and looked out at the grim winter gloom, and suddenly...

I suppose it's understandable in one sense: namely, the 'tomorrow I have to get up and face the cold dark Monday commute all over again' sense. I love summer, and I love how summer makes me feel - 'happy and aimless and idle and pagan', as per Annie Sullivan. I don't like the feeling of being confined by the weather again.

But that's not what seems to be uppermost. What's really bugging is a sense of having done something different, unusual, out of the daily grind, for a short two weeks...and now here we are again. I am just not feeling very interesting, today. Not so much in terms of my writing (although I will confess to having hyped myself up a little in re: coming home to find an email from PopMatters, since the editor mentioned considering submissions over the holiday break). Just...you know that Barenaked Ladies song, Pinch Me? "On an evening such as this/It's hard to tell if I exist"? Like that.

Yes, I know this is basically a self-pity fit. Also, that I've brought a lot of it on myself. I look back at my entries for 2008 and see a whole lot of wishing and hoping and excuses, but not so much with the going out and grabbing the brass ring by the tail, or whatever it is I'm supposed to do. There is procrastination, and then there is yours truly, brushing out the mane of the My Little Pony toy she got with a Happy Meal in West Virginia.

So this seems like as good a time as any to think about New Year's resolutions. I hereby resolve, this year, to stop yapping and start doing. To quit thinking of an hour spent reading people rambling on about how much they hate comic strips as time spent productively on the computer. Over the course of this year spent searching so haphazardly for a writing focus, I ran across one simple piece of advice that really resonated, from Toni Morrison: "Write the story only you could write." It shall be my mission, in 2009, to find that story and commit it to, er, MS Word.

Meanwhile, to all the friends and other readers who've stuck by me and my pretensions thus far, you are either completely crazy or...well, yeah, you're completely crazy, and I love you for it. Here's hoping we all land at the bottom of the new year with our crazy intact.
shoebox_dw: (self discovery)
I have very good friends.

This became evident during this past four-day stay-cation weekend. I had some paid days to burn off and decided to spend them questing a little further in search of feedback. It having occurred to me during that last fit of whining about it that I hadn't ever actually just, y'know, asked people for some.

My first foray involved an LJ review site. After checking out some of their previous reviews, I applied with the pleasant assurance that they'd find me a step above the herd, at the least. No emo poetry on this journal!

Ah, yeah. I'm still pretty proud of the 'no emo poetry' thing, no question, but - well, if you're reading this, chances are you know where we go from here. The general gist involved too much rambling, also a 'lack of interesting or engaging content', specifically the personal touch. I needed to take chances, to 'spill my guts'...or at least, something like the 'story of how you once almost got a tattoo on your right breast'.

(The best thing about the whole experience was actually Shoemom's failure to pick up the hypothetical there, when I asked her to read the review. "You did WHAT? On WHERE?")

Didn't help much in dealing with the criticism, though. The ensuing crisis of confidence, here @ Shoe Central, is when I developed a new theory of true friendship: it's what causes the people you run panicking to over bad reviews, instead of merely patting your hand and going "Mean ol'critic!', to instead take the time to gently-but-firmly point out that yes, you have flaws, but no, it's by no means the end of the world, let alone your writing career. Although you're right, nobody else cares about the damn comedy team already.

Look, the reason I don't get deep into the personal around here is pretty simple: The Shoe story is just really, really boring, with a side order of unpleasant. There is verbal abuse and depression and struggles with weight and nerdiness, and occasional existential crises, and that one nagging incident where memory tells me I saw an episode of a favourite TV series, I discovered later, about a year before it was actually frelling made. (No, it doesn't hurt much, but it does make the Matrix flicks rather uncomfortable viewing.) 

Outside the immediate region of my navel, there's also the part where the one Shoesis is a gorgeous slender blonde chick with so little self-esteem Shoemom and I have had to rescue her from no less than five total losers over the past few years... Eventually we'll have to get into the story of the one paternal uncle who's contrived to drive three wives to nervous breakdowns while accumulating five kids, and trust me, neither of us wants that.

Put bluntly, I am inclined both by nature and nurture to suck it up, princess. Even listing the above broad outlines gives me an uncomfortable sense of over-reaching both peoples' interest and sympathy. Thus - not un-naturally I'd thought - I've been treating my online life as a distraction from all that, trying to find topics much more interesting and engaging while treating of my personal life in a gentle, inconsequential fashion to avoid it intruding. I do believe this qualifies for both the orthodox and Alanis definitions of irony.

The other problem draws on from that one - I've been treating this blog as a writing project. Which is fine as far as it goes, but does leave me alarmingly dependent on the goodwill of audiences; as was gently-but-constructively brought home to me this weekend, you can't just leave your rough drafts lying around without people coming to the conclusion that they might as well wait until things get sorted out.

Especially when you're in as dire need of a firm-handed editor as I am. I do ramble hopelessly, I know that; albeit you'd be amazed at what I manage to take out. It doesn't help that my first taste of online writing success came in an environment (ie, TWoP-style Idol recaps) in which I was not only praised but encouraged to be clever at length on multiple obscure topics. I came away from it with perhaps rather an inflated sense of myself as too precious for words.

So...I have some things to work on, and more to think about. I have to find a more suitable place for my essay-style pop-culture pieces, is what I think first of all. I do have some decent ideas in that direction. In the meanwhile...well, the people that have stuck around in some cases since the beginning, thanks. I now have a much clearer idea of how not to try your patience, as much. Although the comedy team may still be making occasional appearances...look, I don't get on your case about Dr Who, you leave me to Bob & Ray. And somehow we'll figure it all out.
shoebox_dw: (pbs zebra reading)
Question: Why are people who are manifestly dressed to get attention generally so upset when they get it? Specifically, people I pass on the street, wearing leopard-patterned hair or wildly mismatched clothes or tees with snarky sayings or whatever other non-conformist behaviour is the order of the day.

I'm not talking creepy stalkerish behaviour, here. (I should point out that my own dress and grooming makes that abundantly clear.) Just a friendly, open, interested second glance: thanx for giving me something new and different to look at, I appreciate the effort. And for this - aside from the odd and welcome impudent grin - I get confused looks at best and ferocious scowls at worst.

It's enough to make a person throw up her hands and bemoan the decline of Western Civilization...except that doesn't quite feel right, either.

************************************

Anyway. So posting those capsule book reviews the other day turned out to be a lot more fun than I'd anticipated; it's been awhile since I wallowed in any new and unique parts of my psyche around here, and it was a curiously refreshing experience. Besides, I'd like to think I have fairly good taste in the general way as well.

As it happens, I've got lots of grist for this particular mill: my very first experiment in online communication - aka inflicting my random opinions on a helpless public - happened on the Chapters/Indigo website. At the time I was working on the special orders/info desks at Toronto's landmark World's Biggest Bookstore, part of the same chain. I would literally browse through the latest releases in the morning, then run upstairs to the Net cafe to write a review at lunch (and sometimes just, ah, slightly into the afternoon shift as well - sorry, Randy and Mike, wherever you are!) In that respect at least, it was a wonderful life.

So...below is the first in a reposted series of short reader reviews I wrote circa 1999-2001...at least, the decently clever ones.
I've done some close editing/proofing and removed the star ratings, and then organised them by genre as best I could. This week, I thought we'd kick off with a topic that hasn't been covered around here in awhile: History/Biography.

Literary goodies under the cut... )
shoebox_dw: (pbs happiness fairy)
Can somebody please explain Dragnet parodies to me?

I mean - backtracking a little here - I get Dragnet, itself. For that matter I get cop shows generally, having been a tender devotee of A&E's rerun lineup in the early 90's. As such, I even get how ripe - nay, automatic - a target the format must've been for hip young comics back in the day. Clearly, this is a touchstone of modern American humour.
Somehow, though, I remain completely unappreciative of their efforts. In whatever format they choose to present them, so I know it's not just the style. I've seen some of the Tom Hanks movie; I've seen the Muppet Show skits with Fozzie Bear. I've listened to Stan Freberg's classic 'St.George and the Dragonet' ("The story you are about to hear is true. Only the needle should be changed to protect the record"), and the slightly-less-classic Bob & Ray serial 'Squad Car 1182 Alameda' (in which the officers of said squad car routinely miss the scene of the crime entirely). Hey, I've even read some of the dialogue from Dragnet'67.

And my only reaction is the kind of bemused 'well, I'm sure that was all very clever...' parents give kids just before hastily slapping their fingerpaints on the fridge. I appreciate the effort, I'm just not laughing at it. At all. It's like there's an entire manic mindset I'm not tuned into here. Probably not to the detriment of health and happiness, or anything, but still a little un-nerving.

Otherwise, this week is shaping rather well. Made the Comment of the Week runner-up float over at the Comics Curmudgeon (scroll down past the baby pics).

Then Shoemom got the urge to redecorate, and I got the new area rug for which I've been begging over a year now - one of those pseudo-Oriental jobbies that, in conjunction with a new heavy dark-wood(-finish) bookshelf, is giving off v.cool 'becomingly serious yet charmingly idealistic' vibes. Which I can now enjoy to the full, because my work situation is likewise flattering. At one point, yesterday, I paused to realise I had all the fall showcase samples in a full day ahead of time.

Then
I got the chance to weigh myself and discovered that not only is the current diet working, I've lost twenty pounds in two months. Oh, and later this week the mondo Bob & Ray Amazon order arrives.

It's getting to be kinda freaky, and clearly I need to take advantage while it lasts. If I get some time later this week I think I may try wishing for world peace...or, y'know, going over to Holt Renfrew and staring wistfully at the gorgeous handbags, just to see if any wealthy benefactors will swoop down and gift me with one this time. 

Interlude

Apr. 16th, 2008 03:28 pm
shoebox_dw: (lucy)
So I haven’t been spending all my time lately extracting double-entendres from perfectly harmless comic media. I’ve also been very busy trying to avoid calling stores to make sure their contest signs are up.
 
…Long story. Let’s just say the boss is on vacation and left some makework projects for when things got slow, and this is the last one. I’m not one of the people for whom the prospect of spending lots of time on the phone is an ideal morale-booster at any time, and especially not while trying to figure out if I still care about this job generally.
The past few weeks my imagination – while not otherwise occupied with ensuring my resume gives the impression that, when an employer says ‘Call those stores,’ I immediately hop to - has been soaring pleasantly afield from retail, to publishing or library science or similar academia…especially since an HR-type friend told me I could probably substitute experience for actual halls of ivy in most cases. Maybe I could just print out this blog and go from there…
 
Which reminds me, thank you much everyone who offered those nice comments to my original post on the subject. I hadn’t even thought about a history-related job before that, and you see where it’s led? (No, not there! Geez.)
 
shoebox_dw: (Default)
First off, I must thank those who've been participating in the poll. Your comments have been taken to heart, I do assure you.

The rest of you, well, it's either speak now or...uh...well, stop reading, I guess. Which is not at all the direction I envisioned that sentence going in. Let's just skip to the part about it's still open, link in post below, and move right along, shall we?

So this is the Quest for Interesting, Part II: the post that should've happened on the weekend, except the weather coated me in a deep thick blanket of meh. The extra time actually worked out pretty well, inasmuch as it gave me more time to mull the question...also, more time to mentally edit the Bob & Ray article, hence need distraction PDQ.

The process of sitting down and trying to quantify what makes a person interesting is kind of thought-provoking in and of itself, actually. Especially given the wide audience you face on the Net. Either you settle down happily to become a legend in one small corner of cyberspace, or you go absolutely bonkers trying to be all things to all people, only to discover you've left out...well, I dunno what 'furry fandom' is exactly, but that's what finally tipped my dreams of being a Super-Popular Cyber-Presence over the edge. Niches forever!

Therefore, new readers, this is it. Herewith and henceforth I present the official List of Interesting Things About Shoebox, and will accept the consequences regardless:

Read more... ).

Rah! rah!

Nov. 5th, 2007 05:39 pm
shoebox_dw: (ed bunny)
OK, so I'm a little late to the NFL football season.

This isn't news. I am late to any number of things, most recently all the stuff I promised Shoemom I'd have done before she returned from her weekender in New York. Funny, how dishes escape your consciousness, just sitting in the sink like that - I mean, they just look like that's where they're supposed to be, y'know?
Besides, years of soap commercials have convinced me that if they were really suffering they'd be emitting little ceramic cries of horror: "Mold! mold! aiiiiieeee!" But no, ours just stack themselves neatly, seeming as content as clams to be covered in, well, clams and stuff. I do not wish to blame the victim at any time, but there is clearly a lack of initiative in the case. I blame dependence on the godlike Mr. Clean, or possibly that goofy lady who gave Palmolive uppity notions.

...er, yes, I have spent the last few days alone except for a couple cats, why do you ask?

shoebox_dw: (self discovery)
I got to thinking about maturity today, apropos of not much except running across a mention of High School Musical 2 in our inventory database. In quick and wondering succession I realised that a) I had no idea what this thing was all about, except that it starred the latest improbably wholesome Tiger Beat Ken doll...and furthermore, b) I had no interest whatsoever in finding out. For the first time in my life a major pop-cult phenomenon was happening and I was totally content to let it pass me by.

Clearly, I have finally reached adulthood - spiritually, I mean; I have of course attained to physical maturity long since, or at least that explains why all those people are yelling at me about making sure the volume-sleeve swouses come in on time. Mentally, however, I was still a wide-eyed sixteen-year-old wondering when this 'grown-up' thing commences. Until now.

shoebox_dw: (Default)
So what do you do with the Sunday after being sick?

You know how it is: that limbo you get trapped in when you're about ready to take back responsibility for entertaining yourself from your bodily functions, but still not feeling quite well enough to face rejoining a society that will expect you to form an opinion on whether Britney or K-Fed deserve the kids this week. So you try to pacify yourself with putting on fresh pyjamas and watching other people be interesting on the Food Network, or if you're still feeling the effects of the Nyquil, the Discovery Channel...

...Erm, not that this is my usual post-illness syndrome, or anything. For one thing, I also put on fresh fuzzy slipper socks. Then I sit down at the computer and 'fall to snipping and spoiling', as Louisa M. Alcott put it. I've been known to download at least six lavishly impractical free trials before breakfast.

 
shoebox_dw: (Default)
Seriously. If you ever want an exercise in humility, try sitting yourself down and trying to figure out exactly why anyone should be interested in reading your take on the universe at large.

However, here I am, improbably enough, and I've already made the big play for humility below so am pretty much permanently schnookered in that direction. (See, kids, this is why an addiction to self-pity is so dangerous. I mean, as long as Apple's still in business there will always be a need to weasel another iPod upgrade out of Mom and/or Dad, y'know? Learn to pace yourselves.)

...Ahem. So anyway, I'll just add that there will be very, very few solutions to world angst proffered or pondered from here on in. I'm not even a particularly political animal - although given that my memories of Conservative goverment involve things just getting crappier and crappier until the e.Coli arrived, I confess to being rather glad at the slimness of their federal mandate).
My entire rep as a writer [and the crowd goes wild: Yay.] rests on an ability to - notice things, I suppose you'd call it, and point them out. That's it...hope it's enough.

I suppose I'd best begin with what I've been doing in the, er, entire year since I last posted. Not honing my razor-sharp communication skills, obviously. Read more... )
shoebox_dw: (Default)
...and the cats are bored.

They express this in inimitable feline fashion, sitting with their backs to us, staring out the balcony doors. Stymied not only by multiple snowdrifts - hey, even wet paws are acceptable if you're desperate enough for quality prowling time - but by the glittering green shards of Perrier bottles sticking up out of the grimy whiteness.
After a recent trip to Costco, you see, Shoemom obeyed received wisdom and stuck her six-pack out there to keep it nicely cool. Forgetting, in her enthusiasm, that other wisdom she'd received about carbonated beverages and sub-zero temperatures. In February, apparently, even fizzy water is too exciting for the universe to handle.

So the cats sit and stare. Except that every now and then they glance back and give one of those mews that indicates all-encompassing bewilderment with the state of their existence, and more pertinently, human inability to fix it. "No," we patiently explain, "in the three minutes since the last time you asked, spring has not arrived." Patiently explaining things to life-forms who routinely drink out of the toilet is another standard feature of February.

But it isn't enough, eventually, because we are members of a higher race, and thus it is our duty to keep our brain cells from their ongoing attempts to hibernate. So we open the paper.

News item: 'The Santa Barbara International Film Festival to present Leonardo DiCaprio with lifetime achievement award".
Quick check of the IMDb. Yes, Leonardo is still thirty. He still is the star of Growing Pains, and Critters 3. And he still has that mouth that looks like a particularly spoiled sixteen-year-old-girl's.

We glance at the paper. The cats glance around, and mew. We glance at the paper again. Then back at the cats.

"Move over."

February wins for another year.

*****

As a former book superstore employee I can testify to the incredibly common practice of parents dropping the small kids off in the children's section, saying something dumb like "OK, now, Mommy's going to look in the grown-up books, you stay there," and heading off to an entirely different section of the store - completely out of eye- or even ear-range - without a backwards glance. It took a rash of incidents involving pedophiles in our chain for 'concerned caregivers' to get the message.

Some other $tupid Bookstore Customer Tricks (which of course nobody reading this would ever stoop to): Read more... )

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