Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crime and Punishment and Me

I just found out I'm a sociopath.

This morning I took one of those online quizzes: "What Work of Literature are You?" Here's the disturbing outcome:

Your result is Crime and Punishment.
You have an unimaginable ability to rationalize your own wrongdoings. You see the world through your own eyes. Laws weren't made for you, no, they were made for those who are not destined for greatness, and no matter what "wrongs" you commit, in truth it's all for the good of the world, right?

Now, I've always thought of myself as a pretty mild-mannered sort. This sounds like there must be bodies stashed in my basement. And I don't even have a basement! I've been framed, I tell ya.

So I went back over the quiz and tried to figure out which of my responses could have tripped the amoral-psycho button. Here's what it asked me, followed by my answers ... and my defenses.

Q: If I could live at any time and place in history, it would be...
A: 20th Century Europe (never mind the blasted war!).
I chose this one only because "here and now" wasn't an option. And hey, some mighty fine music came out during that blasted war.

Q: Which passage most appeals to you?
A: "The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it."
I liked the folksy style of this one immediately, even before reading far enough to recognize it as a line from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. You can't go wrong with Mark Twain. Or so I thought....

Q: Your best friend is...
A: My family.
Hey, what could be nicer than that?

Q: When confronted in life by difficulty, your attitude is...
A: There are some things which are surmountable, and some that are not. Isn't it strange that what some of us perceive as difficult and impossible, other perceive as simple, or character-building, or valorous. I wonder, where do these perceptions come from?
Okay, that's pretty pretentious. Maybe that's the one that nailed me. But the other choices ranged from Super-Teflon-Woman to helplessly wringing my hands and dunking my head in a bucket.

Q: Of the following films, which has been your favorite?
A: Chinatown.
Yeah, this one could have gotten me into trouble, too. But my unlikely alternatives included Star Wars, Milo and Otis, Love in the Time of Cholera, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (another Jack Nicholson film likely to set off the psycho buzzer).

Q: Your preferred mode of transportation would be...
A: Anything that brings me homeward.
See? See what a nice, loving homebody I am? I admit, I did flirt with "a steam engine, rolling through the hills and jungle." But it sounded kinda hot and sticky.

Q: What gets you through the day?
A: The pursuit of greatness, despite humble surroundings.

Maybe this one pushed some closet-megalomaniac button. But the other available choices didn't include anything close to "a hug from my husband," "a good book," or even "coffee -- and lots of it." So, I settled for the dream of being a bestselling author living in the heart of suburbia.


The charge of "soulless anarchist" is a hard one to defend. Kind of like the accused witches of Salem. The more you try to deny it, the more guilty you sound. So I'll leave the verdict up to you.

If you're reading this, you have two obvious choices:

A) Don't believe everything you read in quizzes.
B) Don't sit anywhere near me at a dinner party.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Time Sucker

I don't know about you, but my computer has tentacles that reach out and grab me by the face whenever I sit down to use it.

I wish I could tell you those tentacles belong to my Muse. That when I sit down, I create page after page of compelling prose, dragged forward by characters who won't let me go until they live happily ever after, or at least until the need for food drags me away from my chair before I fall over.

But this tentacled time sucker goes by another name, and I think you and I both know what it is.

The Internet.

This wonderful source of information and communication has a sinister dark side that most writers know all too well. Sit down to write? Better check my e-mail first. And my other two e-mail accounts. I'll reply to this one. Oh look, here's a link to a review of that new movie. And while I'm at it, I've been meaning to look up that familiar face I saw on a movie two weeks ago on IMDb (the Internet Movie Data Base, which really is a gold mine). Wonder who's on Facebook. And what's going on with my favorite blogs? Oh, and maybe I've gotten a reply to my reply....


That's the sound of my face being sucked into the computer, along with a lot of my time and very possibly some of my brains.

For a person who often complains about not having enough time, I surrender a lot of it to this brain sucking beast. The thing is, unlike writing -- or doing the laundry or cleaning the house -- the Internet requires almost no effort. No discipline, no prep time, and hey, it'll only take a few minutes. (HA!!) Do monitors have cathode rays that lull us into a near-hypnotic state? Whatever it is, for me, it's way more addictive than channel-surfing.

Now that I've made a public confession, I feel a need to follow through and clean up my act. So here it is: I hereby limit my Internet hours. I'm going to shoot for nothing between 10 AM and 4 PM -- that's when those "quick checks" seem to gobble up the most of my time. 'Course, I'm breaking my own rules by posting this now, but after all, the rules are brand new. Watch me from here on out, and see if I can stick to my guns.

And the same goes for the Internet's wicked cousin, Spider Solitaire....

Friday, May 15, 2009

Keep Your Hands Off My Bodice

I'm blogging today at the Avalon Authors blog! Come share your thoughts on that inescapable phrase, "bodice ripper,"

Avalon Authors: Keep Your Hands Off My Bodice

See you there!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

or, Frank Sinatra Remembered ... Again

How can Frank Sinatra be dead? He was singing in my living room just the other day, sounding as big as life on my home stereo.

I've got you under my skin....

Nevertheless, May 14th marks the eleventh anniversary of his death, and I couldn't resist the desire to say a few words about him. Even though it's hard to find say anything about Sinatra that hasn't already been said.

When somebody loves you, it's no good unless he loves you
All the way....

Every time I put on some of his music, I'm struck anew. Popular music may not change the world very much, but still -- the world sounds better because he was in it.

The world may forget you as time goes passing by
The stars will remember, and so will I.

That last set of lyrics comes, ironically, from a forgotten song Sinatra recorded in 1947, "The Stars Will Remember," written by Leo Towers and Don Pelosi. (If you can hunt it down, it's a beauty.) While Frank Sinatra is in no danger of being forgotten any time soon, he is in danger of being oversimplified. Too many people today know him only as the Rat Pack guy, the finger-popping dude who did songs like "Luck Be a Lady" and "New York, New York." That's one side of Sinatra, and the razzle-dazzle style is hard to forget. But there was so much more. That fourteen-carat voice gave us some of the most amazing melodies ever sung, and he knew just how to caress the words and make them glow.

In this world of overrated pleasures
Of underrated treasures
I'm glad there is you....

Frank Sinatra didn't write any of the lyrics I've posted here. But he was one of the first to re-record many of the songs we now know as standards, songs that came before his initial heyday of the 1940s. Without Sinatra, we might not know "I've Got You Under My Skin," "I've Got a Crush on You" or "The Way You Look Tonight." Or songs he made famous in his era, like "All the Way," "I've Got the World on a String" and "Young at Heart." That's what I love about Sinatra. His work embodies so much of the greatest music ever written.

So, in that way, Sinatra lives, alongside great songwriters like Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. He brought their music to life, for me and countless others.

And I guess that's as close to immortality as you can get.