Saturday, January 4, 2014

The first time I read The Great Gatsby

Earlier this evening, I watched for the first time the Baz Luhrmann film of The Great Gatsby.  I enjoyed it well enough, though I still dream of a movie that can do justice to the book--a task that may well be impossible.

As the movie was ending, and Nick was reading the closing, one of those flashes of vivid memory hit me, and I recalled the first time I read this wonderful ending. 

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

I was stretched out on my crappy twin bed in my terrible little apartment in Tuscaloosa, my head propped up on pillows, a freshman with few friends and walls that didn't reach the floors.  I read this passage, sat up, swung my legs over the edge of the bed, and released a breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding.  My heart pounded in my chest; I remember putting my right hand to my heart in fear something was wrong.  I was in the presence of greatness, I knew that much, but more, I had read what I was sure was if not the great American novel, then one of the great American novels.  In that moment, Fitzgerald's work was mine and mine alone, as the very best novels are for each of us, until we later realize the very different joys of sharing them. 

Books that move me strongly, that grab my heart and invade my mind and wring me out and cast me aside as if tossed from a speeding roadster, those books are always with me. 

I do not believe I will ever write a novel that leaves someone on the edge of her or his bed, heart pounding, breath held, mind and soul entrapped in the book's vision, but I will always dream of doing so, and I will always love it when others do that to me, no matter how rare the experience.  I'll keep running that race, writing and stretching out my arms, in the hope that this particular fine morning one day comes.

Friday, January 3, 2014

If you're not already busy next weekend... should swing by the Embassy Suites just off Harrison Boulevard in Cary and check out illogicon iii, this year's installment of a fun little local convention.  In addition to guests of honor Mary Robinette Kowal and Lawrence M. Schoen, the con will feature panels and discussions with a bunch of local and nearly folks, including yours truly. 

I'll post more about my schedule as the con finalizes it, but for now it looks like I'll be there at least a bit on Friday night and during the day on Saturday.

The folks who run illogicon, like those who run other SF cons, are unpaid volunteers who are helping keep the SF community going.  Help them out by buying a membership, participating, and making the con a success.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

My goals for 2014

Several folks have asked me what my goals are for 2014, so though I don't normally make New Year's resolutions or set such goals, I gave the question some thought.  I decided I did indeed have two goals for this year.

1. Get much healthier.

2. Produce more art.

I'm not willing to go into details as to how I propose to accomplish these goals, but I do have at least a vague sense of a plan. 

We'll know in a year how I did.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Two songs in my head today

I can't explain why, and I see no clear connection between them, yet there they were, running around my noggin much of the day.

This one came first.

Shortly thereafter, this one climbed into my brain and joined it.

As I said, I have no idea why either was there, or how they were related.  Songs just happen sometimes.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

As you enter 2014, may you...

...have the discipline and strength to reach your personal goals

...have the empathy and strength to help others reach theirs fiercely with no expectation of love in return loved fiercely

...enjoy great art

...create art, great or small, that makes you happy safe

...take new risks healthy

...push your limits

...see the world clearly and as it is

...see the world as it could be and work to make it so

...hold tight and close those you love

...give the freedom they need to those you love

...give more than you demand

...receive more than you expect

I hope this New Year is a wonderful one for you all. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

A piece of job interview advice I've never read elsewhere

Don't wear any perfume or cologne. 

Some would amend this advice to say "wear at most very little scent," but I believe you're safest wearing none.

Before going further, let me stress that no one I've interviewed recently has violated this advice, and I'm not talking about anyone in particular.  So, if you're reading this blog and wondering if I'm talking about you, I almost certainly am not.

In past years, though, I have run into multiple candidates of both genders who chose to douse themselves in such strong scents that their odor inevitably became a topic of conversation among those discussing their interviews.  This is not a good thing, because you want those who have interviewed you to be discussing only how great you are, how you'd fit with their teams, and so on.

This bit of advice is particularly crucial, by the way, because most interviews occur in relatively small spaces (offices, small conference rooms) whose doors are closed for the obvious privacy reasons.

A corollary is that it's probably a good idea to come to an interview freshly showered and dressed appropriately--or slightly over-dressed.  Starting an interview reeking of gym funk--and, yes, in years past I've encountered this--is effectively choosing a different scent and just as bad as wearing too much perfume or cologne.

If this piece of advice is unnecessary, sorry about taking your time.  If, though, you were planning an interview and trying to choose the right cologne or perfume, then put them all away, take a shower, and head off to win a job. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street


  1. a compulsively watchable three-hour train wreck of a film
  2. a movie that exists so Martin Scorsese has an excuse for showing dozens of topless young women
  3. a sleazy trip into the darkest heart of the American dream, with an unrepentant dreamer as your tour guide
  4. the home of the very best performance Leonardo DiCaprio has ever given
  5. all of the above
The answer is obviously E, all of the above.

I was not bored for a single second of this movie that ran a only one minute short of three hours.  I knew how it had to end, knew its trajectory, and didn't like anyone in it, and still I didn't want to look away.  The direction and the performances were both so good that I was with DiCaprio to the very end.

The levels of nudity, drug use, and general debauchery were so high that at times they felt completely over the top--and yet, again, I bought that these characters went that far.

I was also taken by how very little Jordan Belfort, the character DiCaprio plays, learned and grew.  He managed to reach great heights of wealth and great depths of characters and emerge the same shallow salesman he began--though a more polished version of himself.

A lot of the movie's appeal rests on DiCaprio's performance, which is astonishing.  I'm generally not a fan of his work, but he was superb here.  When Oscar time comes, I hope he and Christian Bale battle it out; both deserve to win.

I very much recommend this movie, even though I don't think it teaches us much and certainly none of its characters learn anything, because it is a masterful and gripping piece of filmmaking.  Check it out.


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