Another Damn Election Year

There’s this long article by Glenn Greenwald in Salon; It’s worth a read. Essentially, Greenwald takes progressive partisans to task for supporting Obama and vilifying Ron Paul when Paul is making all the same arguments against Obama that progressives made against Bush. Endless war, military engagement without congressional approval, further erosion of fourth and fifth amendment rights, increased surveillance powers for domestic espionage,  suspension of habeas corpus, and, of course, Obama’s one truly novel innovation: summary execution of American citizens without even a hint of due process.

I don’t agree with all of Greenwald’s policy priorities: I support Israel; I think a committed non-interventionist policy would be about as successful as it was for Chamberlain in the 1930′s; I don’t think that increased debt in combination with currency devaluation is going to do anything to promote economic growth… but I do agree with the thrust of his critique. Someone needs to be making the arguments Ron Paul is making, it’s just a damn shame it has to be Ron Paul.

Right now (and things could certainly change), it looks like we’re going to have Romney vs. Obama. That’s not much of a choice. It would, however, provide rich opportunity for  seriously deep hypocrisy. We’d get to see Romney–architect of the Mass. law (RomneyCare) that mandates health insurance coverage–argue that  the national law is bad policy. We’d get to see Obama–recipient of more Wall Street money than any other candidate in history and architect of multiple multi-billion dollar financial sector bailouts argue that Romney is a shill for moneyed interests. It’d also be interesting to see the media scrutinize Romney and the LDS but continue to minimize Obama’s association with pastor Wright.

Hypocrisy isn’t an end in itself, but it looks like it may be all that we’re going to get this year.

Still stuck

I wrote the first draft of this post well over a year ago and, unfortunately, it’s still mostly true. I lost 40 pounds last year and now I’ve gained it all back. I’m tired. Fatigued. All the time.

I’m in a rut, a creative valley, a box-canyon of clouded vision, a swamp of confused and tired metaphors. Everything I write reads like crap and nothing makes it past the backspace key. It’s been like this for months. Months and months and months at idle.

I’ve tried editing previous stuff and have rewritten page upon page. The problem is that when everything reads like crap, everything reads like crap. So as bad as the old stuff is, the new stuff isn’t much better. I’ve tried kick starting new projects only to see them stall and grind to a stop. I watch my inspiration—whatever meager scrap I’m clinging to at the moment–ossify and harden as I type.

It’s happening now.

It’s not just that my voice seems muted; it’s that I don’t seem to have anything interesting to say. I don’t why I’m in this funk and I don’t really know how to get out of it. I’ve tried the exercises, write and write and don’t stop and I’ve produced some stuff, but… ehhh.

I tried to supplement with other creative action. I made sour cherry and ginger syrups for mojitos. I subjected dinner guests to plate after plate after plate of fruit topped with savory sauces. I did ceviche trios, pork two ways, tacos carnitas with salsa explosion, caramelized scallops on green curry risotto cakes with grilled pineapple and a chorizo cilantro broth… and it was all been yummy and healthy and satisfying but it didn’t translate to the page.

Lately, even culinary inspiration is eluding me.

Writing about politics and economics exhausts me. And besides, there’s not much to say that I haven’t already said. I’ve thought about it, believe me , I’ve thought about it. But the truth is I don’t care enough about it right now to waste the energy. The administration is inept, spiteful and amateurish and the opposition party sucks. Long-term indicators are astonishingly, mind-bendingly awful and outside a handful of econ departments nobody seems to care. Want to know what I think? It’s all here.

But still… stories languish in limbo, plot twists seem more and more hackneyed and trite and dialog stutters and tumbles as if I’d stapled stilts to the characters’ legs.

Part of the problem, I think, is that I write for myself. I don’t have deadline pressure and nobody will complain if I spend three weeks revising two hundred words, only to revert at the end to the original. There are no readers knocking on my door or sending me angry emails. No one is second-guessing my priorities and wondering why I choose to spend my time sitting on the couch with my family watching yet another food-based reality show instead of at the keyboard getting Laiathal out of prison, helping Renée get someone’s attention, or figuring what the hell Colin’s fucking purpose is in the first place. Mike is swimming in his own depression while Susan is in Japan and I haven’t done anything to help either of them. I’ve got to kill Chip and I don’t know how to do it–maybe I’ll just kill  Hiroki instead, but I don’t know. Alex’s ending changed twice and in each version it just feels like I’m punishing her, whether she gets her guy or not. Harold has cheez whiz in his hair and probably some bodies in the basement, but who knows? John can’t get out of his goddamn bedroom to move the story along.

Maybe if my characters could complain, I’d figure out some way to push them along. But they can’t, of course. So they languish, unwritten and incomplete. And I can’t find a way to make myself care about them.

I can complain, but I can’t even figure out a way to push myself along.

And of course, there’s no happy conclusion to this post. I don’t have a resolution to my problem or a magic answer for anyone else suffering from a creative depression. But I know that it sucks and I want to get out of it. I just don’t know how.

I’m just so tired.

 

A General Update

It’s been a while since I last posted.  Not for any dramatic or unusual reason, just the business of life pushed blogging to the side.  I began a long commute to the City for work and that made finding the time to blog harder. However, I’ve now accepted a new position with a new company, Etherios, and I’ll be working mostly from home. (Which doesn’t mean that I’ll necessarily have more time to blog, but it does at least free up the time I had been spending on the train.)

As for the fiction, I’ve taken the excerpts down for now.  I realized that I’ve been spending too much time editing and not enough time finishing, so I’m going to wait to solicit comments until after I’ve got a whole first draft completed. Which will be… whenever it’s finished.  I’ve actually been moving again on that. Moving slowly, but still moving.

Other than that, the kids are just amazingly impressive.  They’re each tremendously talented, gifted, and good and it’s a special pleasure to watch them excel and grow.

No, no, no.

A quick hit on the case of Ahmed Ghailani, the accused terrorist who was tried in civilian court for the bombing of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.  Charged with 281 counts of murder and conspiracy, Ghailani was convicted on only a single count of conspiracy, because the judge ruled that certain testimony was inadmissible on the grounds that it was obtained through the use of torture.

The conservatives are making hay of this. Ed Morrissey at HotAir:

The failure of Holder’s DoJ to win anything more than a single conspiracy count against Ghailani as a result of using a process designed for domestic criminals than wartime enemies shows that the critics had it right all along.  It also shows that both Obama and Holder have been proven spectacularly wrong, since a man who confessed to the murder of over two hundred people will now face as little as 20 years, with a big chunk of whatever sentence Foopie receives being reduced by time already served.

And on the Left, Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

But the most important point here is that one either believes in the American system of justice or one does not.  When a reviled defendant is acquitted in court, and torture-obtained evidence is excluded, that isn’t proof that the justice system is broken; it’s proof that it works.  A “justice system” which guarantees convictions — or which allows the Government to rely on evidence extracted from torture — isn’t a justice system at all, by definition.

They’re both right.

A justice system, if it makes any pretense at all at justice, is predicated on protecting individual rights–including the rights of the accused.  If the evidence was inadmissible (and it likely would have been inadmissible in a military tribunal as well), then it was inadmissible.

However…

Civil justice is simply not the right forum in which to deal with international terrorism. The administration has already admitted that regardless of the outcome of the trial it has the right and the will to hold Ghailani indefinitely anyway.

A justice system, if it makes any pretense at all at justice, is predicated on the idea that the results of trials matter.

The one point on which both Morrissey and Greenwald agree is that this whole exercise was nothing more than a show trial. It was a farce masquerading as principle. Money, time, energy wasted on a mock trial whose outcome simply doesn’t matter.

But we knew all this already. When the Obama administration announced that they would seek civilian trials for some of the Guantanamo detainees, but not all, it made the tacit admission that the trials were being conducted for political purposes only.  When it further announced that it would continue to hold the defendants, even if acquitted, as enemy-combatants, it ceded the entirety of the argument to the opposition.  The administration has admitted that these men are enemy combatants, but will, in an attempt to mollify a particularly vocal group of political partisans, hold show trials and make a pretense of justice.

Infidel

Infidel

Infidel

Just finished Infidel.

Buy it.  Read it.

It’s an amazing book by an absolutely amazing woman.  An unflinching, honest, wrenching and extraordinary memoir from a woman about whom not enough can be said.

I’ve written about Ayaan Hirsi Ali before, but nothing really prepared me for this book. I’m simply astounded and awed.

Two excerpts:

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

One November morning in 2004, Theo van Gogh got up to go to work at his film production company in Amsterdam. He took out his old black bicycle and headed down a main road. Waiting in a doorway was a Moroccan man with a handgun and two butcher knives.

As Theo cycled down the Linnaeusstraat, Muhammad Bouyeri approached. He pulled out his gun and shot Theo several times. Theo fell off his bike and lurched across the road, then collapsed. Bouyeri followed. Theo begged, “Can’t we talk about this?” but Bouyeri shot him four more times. Then he took out one of his butcher knives and sawed into Theo’s throat. With the other knife, he stabbed a five-page letter onto Theo’s chest.

The letter was addressed to me.

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

When I was born, my mother initially thought death had taken me away. But it didn’t. When I got malaria and pneumonia, I recovered. When my genitals were cut, the wound healed. When a bandit held a knife to my throat, he decided not to slit it. When my Quran teacher fractured my skull, the doctor who treated me kept death at bay.

Even with bodyguards and death threats I feel privileged to be alive and free.

People accuse me of having interiorized a feeling of racial inferiority, so that I attack my own culture out of self-hatred, because I want to be white. This is a tiresome argument.

Tell me, is freedom then only for white people? Is it self-love to adhere to my ancestors’ traditions and mutilate my daughters? To agree to be humiliated and powerless? To watch passively as my countrymen abuse women and slaughter each other in pointless disputes?

When I came to a new culture — where I saw for the first time that human relations could be different —
The kind of thinking I saw in Saudi Arabia preserves a feudal mind-set based on tribal concepts of honor and shame. Would it have been self-love to see that as a foreign cult, which Muslims are forbidden to practice?

Life is better in Europe than it is in the Muslim world because human relations are better — and one reason human relations are better is that in the West, life on earth is valued in the here and now and individuals enjoy rights and freedoms that are recognized and protected by the state.

To accept subordination and abuse because Allah willed it — that, for me, would be self-hatred.

A rut

Status

I wrote the first draft of this post well over a year ago and, unfortunately, it’s still mostly true. I lost 40 pounds last year and now I’ve gained it all back. I’m tired. Fatigued. All the time.

I’m in a rut, a creative valley, a box-canyon of clouded vision, a swamp of confused and tired metaphors. Everything I write reads like crap and nothing makes it past the backspace key. It’s been like this for months. Months and months and months at idle.

I’ve tried editing previous stuff and have rewritten page upon page. The problem is that when everything reads like crap, everything reads like crap. So as bad as the old stuff is, the new stuff isn’t much better. I’ve tried kick starting new projects only to see them stall and grind to a stop. I watch my inspiration—whatever meager scrap I’m clinging to at the moment–ossify and harden as I type.

It’s happening now.

It’s not just that my voice seems muted; it’s that I don’t seem to have anything interesting to say. I don’t why I’m in this funk and I don’t really know how to get out of it. I’ve tried the exercises, write and write and don’t stop and I’ve produced some stuff, but… ehhh.

I tried to supplement with other creative action. I made sour cherry and ginger syrups for mojitos. I subjected dinner guests to plate after plate after plate of fruit topped with savory sauces. I did ceviche trios, pork two ways, tacos carnitas with salsa explosion, caramelized scallops on green curry risotto cakes with grilled pineapple and a chorizo cilantro broth… and it was all been yummy and healthy and satisfying but it didn’t translate to the page.

Lately, even culinary inspiration is eluding me.

Writing about politics and economics exhausts me. And besides, there’s not much to say that I haven’t already said. I’ve thought about it, believe me , I’ve thought about it. But the truth is I don’t care enough about it right now to waste the energy. The administration is inept, spiteful and amateurish and the opposition party sucks. Long-term indicators are astonishingly, mind-bendingly awful and outside a handful of econ departments nobody seems to care. Want to know what I think? It’s all here.

But still… stories languish in limbo, plot twists seem more and more hackneyed and trite and dialog stutters and tumbles as if I’d stapled stilts to the characters’ legs.

Part of the problem, I think, is that I write for myself. I don’t have deadline pressure and nobody will complain if I spend three weeks revising two hundred words, only to revert at the end to the original. There are no readers knocking on my door or sending me angry emails. No one is second-guessing my priorities and wondering why I choose to spend my time sitting on the couch with my family watching yet another food-based reality show instead of at the keyboard getting Laiathal out of prison, helping Renée get someone’s attention, or figuring what the hell Colin’s fucking purpose is in the first place. Mike is swimming in his own depression while Susan is in Japan and I haven’t done anything to help either of them. I’ve got to kill Chip and I don’t know how to do it–maybe I’ll just kill  Hiroki instead, but I don’t know. Alex’s ending changed twice and in each version it just feels like I’m punishing her, whether she gets her guy or not. Harold has cheez whiz in his hair and probably some bodies in the basement, but who knows? John can’t get out of his goddamn bedroom to move the story along.

Maybe if my characters could complain, I’d figure out some way to push them along.

But they can’t, of course. So they languish, unwritten and incomplete. And I can’t find a way to make myself care about them.

And of course, there’s no happy conclusion to this post. I don’t have a resolution to my problem or a magic answer for anyone else suffering from a creative depression. But I know that it sucks and I want to get out of it. I just don’t know how.

Any ideas?

New Chapter

I put up another sample chapter.  This one, “Birth,” introduces us to Wedge.

The offer to read all of what I have so far is still open. Currently, I’ve got a little over 105,000 words down (about 500 pages) in what’s essentially a first draft. Right now I expect the end result to come in around at around 180,000 words, so I’ve got just a shade over half done. I’m happy to bundle it all up and forward it on to interested readers, as long as I get a promise that the reader will provide lots of critical feedback.

It’s fun to write, but it’s hard and the process is slow.

Anyway, the chapter is up here.