Write a novel with me

December 10th, 2010

When life gives you spam, make spamerade. That’s my motto, and it explains why no one ever drinks my signature cocktails at parties.

I’ve been collecting good names from my spam folder for a while now, and I think I’m ready to bring them out and let you play with them, too:

Confidence Namogo
Aisha Skimp
Bronson Faulk
Numbers McKenzie
Roscoe Cornelius
Fidelia Igabo
Hawk J. Zou
Emilio Swain

Here’s what I propose we do: write a little novel together, or at least the bones of one. Because how wonderful are these character names? I’ve figured out who some of them are:

Confidence Namogo is the protagonist, a cheerful and strong-willed young woman in her mid-twenties. Confidence has a generally good nature, but her ambition and eagerness to experience the world lead her to neglect the needs of others, and at times take reckless chances.

Aisha Skimp is Confidence’s maiden aunt, who raised the girl from a young age after the death of her parents. Aisha is cautious to a fault about men, manners, and money. Confidence continues to live with her aunt, although she pays rent in order to maintain her independence. Aisha worries deeply about Confidence’s outgoing ways, but this worry is mainly caused by the deep secret in Aisha’s past, a secret known only to …

Bronson Faulk, a seventy-year-old hobby farmer and heir to a utilities fortune. Having no need to work for a living, Bronson has devoted his life to the study of ancient languages, and practical botany. As a younger man, he once combined these interests by attempting to re-create from original sources the potions used in Dionysian rites. Although this was decades ago, uncanny rumors still cling to Bronson’s tweed-clad, reticent person.

Numbers McKenzie is Bronson’s farm manager, accountant, and general factotum. When she was a young girl, Bronson often found her in his goat pens, petting the animals and escaping from the chaos and verbal jousting of her large, Scots-Irish family. Realizing that the girl was extraordinarily gifted at working with animals, numbers, and power tools, Bronson paid for “Numbers” (born Evelyn Louise) to attend college, where she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Numbers is fiercely loyal to Bronson. She also does taxes for many other people in town, including Aisha Skimp, whose excessive social propriety Numbers finds relaxing because it means every conversation follows the exact same lines.

All right. That’s half of them. Now! You write up what the other characters should be like … and we’ll see where we go from there.

Staying sane on the internets

October 22nd, 2010

Is it me, or are the internets wearing a lot of people out these days? It seems that a number of blogs are shutting down, and I’ve been feeling a lot of angst among my Facebook set as well. Those of us who have computer-centric jobs can feel continuously bombarded with upsetting news, most of which we can’t do anything about. (I don’t know which I find more depressing, really: the opinions of my FB friends whom I disagree with politically, or the constant links to an ongoing litany of outrages shared by those on my side.) All of which led me to post this a few weeks ago on my Facebook page:

A crazy idea: for every one thing you read on the internet that makes you sad or angry, commit one act of love. Sign a petition. Post a funny video to a friend’s wall. E-mail the manager of your local Starbucks and tell them about the excellent service you got. Introduce two people whom you know would enjoy each other. Ask for other people to share their stories on your blog.

I’ve been practicing this without being consciously aware of it for a few weeks now, and it has, I feel, made a huge difference to my head and heart and soul. Try it.

I’ve been keeping it up since then, and it’s continued to work. And then yesterday, I was catching up on some back issues of New Scientist, and read an article about happiness by Dan Jones. Much of what he said I was already familiar with, but I learned about Barbara Frederickson’s “broaden & build” theory of positive emotions for the first time. According to this theory, positive emotions — joy, affection, curiosity, playfulness — lead to a broadening of our ability to imagine different ways of thinking and acting. And the actions that these emotions prompt us to take — expressing kindness to others, getting physical exercise, exploring the environment, learning experientially or through books or dialogue — build long-term health, social, and cognitive benefits.

I found Dr. Frederickson’s link between immediate good feeling and long-term rewards intriguing, because in the past couple of weeks since I’ve been trying my little “use the internet for good instead of evil” routine, I genuinely have felt better — not just cheerier, but more satisfied with life and my place in it, and even more optimistic about human nature.

(Not, of course, so optimistic as to have lost my basic faith in Murphy’s Law. I know this advice is likely to be read and followed most enthusiastically by exactly the sort of person who shouldn’t: the sort who finds LOLcats to be the very apotheosis of internet humor; who considers sending a chronically ill friend a link to a new alternative-medicine treatment a good deed; who assumes that everyone’s spiritual life, and therefore taste in inspirational quotes or art, is more or less identical; who considers availability and heterosexuality the only qualifications required to be a candidate for matchmaking. But what can I do? I seek to empower, and this at times means empowering the clueless as well.)

Spam I am

February 8th, 2010

I get an amazing amount of spam on this blog — really, the spamosphere greatly overestimates my influence with the American reading public, I fear. Many of them are just long links to sites where one can acquire porn or drugs, but some actually attempt to look like a real comment of someone delurking. This one, I simply adored; it came with a link to some (probably designer-fake) Ugg boots:

I all joking aside enjoyed reading your blog and frame it both educational and interesting. I hot pants be unwavering to bookmark it and secure in it as large as I can.

Yes, all writers have a dream, and mine is to have a readership that is both hot pants and unwavering!

Friday fashion AND dog blogging!

December 18th, 2009

Response was good for my fashion blogging debut on Monday, so I think I may keep this as an occasional feature. Thanks for your kind responses, everyone!

Today I thought I’d mix up two great internet traditions and do street-fashion blogging AND dog blogging at the same time. My Monday post was about the power of dressing against the season, with glamorous blacks in summer and springy pastels in winter. Well, peep this little lady who totally gets the concept:

penny

This is Penny. Penny is owned by a good friend of mine in New York, who got her as a rescue from a puppy mill. When she first came to my friend, Penny was sick, underweight, terrified of humans, and her back legs were so weak from living in a tiny cage with her own filth that she could barely walk. She was too afraid of life to even stand up — when you stand up is when they do the Bad Things to you. Penny is also blind, which means one of three things: 1) she was blinded by someone, 2) she went blind because she didn’t receive veterinary care when she needed it, or 3) she was born that way, and a puppy mill used her for breeding anyway, despite her genetic defect.

Well, look at her now, owning the mean streets of New York! (All right, the gentrified streets of Park Slope, but don’t mess with my narrative.) Penny’s all right. My friend says that springtime green just somehow is Penny’s color, and I can see why. Penny’s like those shoots of grass that come up through the sidewalk in April. Fragile, vulnerable, delicate, but with enough hope and strength and spirit to bust through concrete.

If Penny’s story upsets you, don’t ever buy a dog from a pet store or a “backyard breeder.” Get a reputable breeder, or better yet, get a rescue dog.

And get some clothes that make you feel as good as Penny does in this picture:

penny2

Penny says, “I don’t have to see to know I’m lookin’ fly!”

A minor oops

September 25th, 2009

That post on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” was supposed to run today, not yesterday; I got the date wrong when I set it up. So no post for you! If you don’t get over to the Miss Conduct blog much, you might want to check out this question that I posted yesterday — it’s generating some excellent discussion.

Oh, wait, I’ve got a little sumpin’ sumpin’ for you. In the fine internet tradition of Friday Dog Blogging, here is one of Milo. He has stolen something very important and is looking very guilty.

Milo_and_the_pills__guilty
Do you think this is his way of saying he wants a little two-legged brother or sister? Not gonna happen, little man!

(Note to any concerned dog lovers: this happened shortly after we got Milo. He gave up the pills immediately without a fight, as we have trained him to do. We do NOT normally leave medicines where he can get them, and he developed common sense about living a in a house very quickly and won’t try to play with anything that isn’t one of his toys.)

Miss Conduct: A Novel in Tweets

June 23rd, 2009

I’m on Twitter (robinabrahams, if you want to follow me), and have been since early May, before the book came out. I’m still not entirely sure how to best use Twitter, but I’m in there, gamely tweeting away. Here is my short happy life in Tweets:

twit21
twit22

And so on …

Click to continue reading "Miss Conduct: A Novel in Tweets"

Worst screenname ever

June 16th, 2009

othello2

I’m going to hope this (rather attractive) gentleman has simply not read “Othello.” What’s particularly bothersome is that his handle suggests that at least one other person thinks “Othello” is a good name to signal “romance.”