Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Reality Shows" or Why I'm a Fan of Ice Road Truckers

Yes, I have watched a few reality shows in my life. I didn't used to. There was a time when I was above all of that. Oh, I did check in on Survivor once when everyone was talking about it just so I could understand the conversations. I watched a few episodes and then I stopped. It was so obvious to me that the shows were engineered and not reality at all it didn't hold my interest for more than a few weeks. And that's all I had to do with reality shows for a long time.

Then a coworker mentioned she was a fan of Pawn Stars. Obviously this was another show I hadn't seen, although I had noticed the name while scrolling through the TV listings with my remote. One night, with nothing I wanted to watch on television, I clicked it on. And promptly became hooked. Soon after that, I added Storage Wars. The attraction of both these shows is the same as that of Antiques Roadshow, a program I had been watching because, you know, it's on Public Television, so it must be quality. You watch all of them for the vicarious thrill of seeing someone find something they own is worth a lot of money. We all dream that that ugly painting Aunt Martha left us will be worth a million dollars so we can quit the day job and have someone else clean the bathrooms and take out the garbage. American Pickers is similar, although the stories of the people Mike and Frank meet are as fascinating as the objects they find.

After a while, these shows get to be all too similar. The pawn shop guys continue to bid low on items so they can sell high. Storage lockers contain something amazing--or they don't. The pickers stumble upon a treasure trove of items they can sell or run into a "collector" (many of whom would also fit on Hoarders) who refuses to part with any of his beloved goods. The shows then try to add tension by scripting in conflict. On Pawn Stars this included sending Chumley off in search of Bob Dylan's autograph, a weight loss segment, and other things. Since these guys are not actors, it was obvious we had crossed the line from reality, such as it was, to scripted.

Worse, they spawn clone shows with a different set of characters: Storage Wars Texas, Storage Wars New York, for example. I'm not sure how that's supposed to make any of them more interesting.

So what reality show am I still watching, indeed, am sorry the season is over and that it will be months before new episodes are shown?

Sunday, September 22, 2013


I finished Lesson 4 in Holly Lisle's How to Revise Your Novel class this week. I have never looked at my writing in such detail, and I alternate between feeling as if I'll never be able to fix this book and getting excited about how awesome it's going to be once I finish the revisions. Totally typical for a writer.

I have to admit that I never did get all the way through Holly's How To Think Sideways class. There were some concepts of Holly's that I never did get. The dot and the line was the big one. How to Think Sideways is her course on how to write a novel, as opposed to how to fix one. I've pulled out the looseleaf (Volume 1 of 3) in which I stored the lectures from that class because I really have to get started on planning for my NaNoWriMo novel if I stand any chance of actually writing a new book in November. I also pulled out James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure this morning for the same reason. And I'm looking at 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them on my bookshelf right now. Yes, I'm hoping that there's lightning stored somewhere in one of these three places.

So far, How to Revise Your Novel is awesome. It fits right in with my left side of the brain tendencies to overanalyze everything. I'm getting to look at what I wrote from several different perspectives. I'm really looking forward to pulling all the pieces together and getting the rewrite done.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Joy of Live Music

When I lived in the Boston area, where folk music is very much alive (as you can see from the listings at the Boston Area Coffeehouse Association), I frequently went to live music performances. Most of these coffeehouses are run by volunteers and held at local churches. They are done for the love of the music and not for the profit from selling tickets. It was one of the things I hated to leave behind when I moved to Tucson.

Here in Arizona, there are fewer opportunities to hear live acoustic music at a reasonable price. Yes, there is the annual Tucson Folk Festival in May, but that's only once a year, quite a change from multiple shows every single weekend.

Sometimes you have to drop the "reasonable price" requirement. Last Thursday night was one of those nights. Bonnie Vining, who used to own the wonderful Javalina's Coffee Shop, is now the Director of the Vail Theater of the Arts. I'm still on her mailing list and I trust her judgment in music, so when she sent out a notice of a don't-miss-it performance, I bit the bullet and ordered a ticket.

She was right.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Open Windows

I can't remember the last time I opened my windows to let cool air in, but, thanks to the remnants of tropical storm Lorena, the Weather Channel tells me it's 68 degrees outside, so the first thing I did when I got up was exactly that. It's the second day in a row that I've woken up to showers. As I've written before, monsoon thunderstorms, which give us most of our rain, are short, violent, and spotty.

It's wondrously refreshing to have a gentle rain fall for an extended period time and feel cool air coming in windows and doors. This is the time of year when Tucsonans start to get cabin fever from staying inside. We're basically outdoors people, walking and hiking and riding bicycles as often as possible. But, when it's over 100 degrees for weeks on end, outdoor activities are out of the question. We look out the window, seeing bright, sparkly days and want to be out there, knowing the heat will hit us like a blast furnace if we give in to our urge.

It's marvelous to sit in the quiet of a morning and not hear the air conditioner compressor kicking in every hour or so. I'm listening to the raindrops splashing in puddles and water coursing through the downspout. Every time a car goes by, there's the snick of tires on wet pavement, a sound I remember from other places but rarely hear in Tucson.

I could sit hear and watch the rain all day.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

African Violets

I have a black thumb.

I admire those who effortlessly grow houseplants and vegetable gardens. I have a friend whose yard, even here in Tucson, explodes with roses every spring. I struggle to keep anything alive. Whether it's over or under-watering, lack of sun or too much sun, too much attention or too little, plants and I do not always get along.

So it was with great joy that several years ago I discovered that African violets are relatively easy to grow. They bloom most of the year, cheerily flowering in bright colors. The watering problem was solved by using self-watering pots. These are actually two pots. The outer one is where you put the water. The inner one nests inside it and holds the plant. The porous clay lets the water pass from the bottom pot to the soil as needed. I found that the plants like to go a bit dry between waterings, so it was no tragedy if I forgot to check the water level for a few days.

My plants survived several moves, and in each place I lived I found a suitable window where they could get enough sun. Sometimes that required keeping the blinds closed so they wouldn't burn. I was happy and so were my plants.

Until I decided to become the owner of two kittens. Curious kittens. The female in particular is a problem.