2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Meanwhile, I was reading the intro to Sweater Quest this weekend, and the author could remember nothing that year she would put on her obituary. Well, I thought, there’s nothing in particular I can think of that would make my obituary interesting, but at least I’ve done stuff this year.

1: I finally got a job—Hooray for passive networking! Because that is one thing not on my skill list.

2: I wrote approximately 1.3 novels. Even if, for November’s National Novel Writing Month, finishing the 50,000 word goal meant typing about a third of that in six hours just before the deadline. Which is an accomplishment alone.

3: I read 132 books, seven more than my goal. Mostly they were not of the enlightening type of books and more entertainment, but that’s what I needed this year. Unfortunately, reviewing fell by the wayside.

4: I completed some knitting?

5: I at least didn’t gain any weight.

Eh, enough about the little things I’ve managed. I wasn’t completely oblivious to the outside world. Then again I’m still only going to talk about what interests me.

For example, while I linked to GoodReads before, I haven’t been using the site since it was purchased by Amazon in…March, I believe it was, and when the first major policy change lead to many user reviews being deleted, I’ve hardly visited. Even so, it is already clear that the site is transitioning from reader oriented to an author/sales focus. And a lot of the active users I followed really did leave, either deleting accounts or only posting links to reviews on other sites.

I made an accounts on BookLikes, and if I ever manage to get it up and running, I will link here.

Haven’t been to the movies much this year, but mid-summer realized that only two of ten trailers had speaking female characters, and of those one says evil and the other was eaten. When I watched Catching Fire, practically the same thing happened, only there was one more trailer with lots of women! And that, Divergence, sounded absurd. Apparently girls only get to watch other girls act out nonsensical plots. Once you’ve noticed, you’ll never be able to ignore it.

What else…the library’s book group is still hanging on, if only just. A few of the remaining members started a writing group as well. Speaking of, if I don’t bring a story to Thursday’s meeting, I’ll have to read my high school fan fiction. I have four stories in-progress because that will. Not. Happen.

And there will never be links to that.

Other book-related news, not too long ago, all the major online ebook retailers removed all “explicit” content books from their stores. Because no one wants to read erotica. All this in response to a vocal group in the UK. That’s not insane or anything. Look, I don’t read it (mostly because it’s not a genre known for high quality literature) but I refuse to accept censorship as the answer.

When you go from that to the NSA*, well. What else can I say? Isn’t that a note on which to end the year.

Let’s declare 2014 the year of intellectual freedom! Positive energy can’t hurt.

*My tablet tried to force me to blame the NBA which I know nothing about. Creepy.

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I’ve Been Feeling Protective of Tourists Lately

Several weeks ago I picked up The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (who also wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil—and he has awesome titles). I read the prologue and first chapter pretty quickly, and then came back today to read the second, which is all of fourteen pages long.

And then I had to stop and respond.

Indeed, I held the pages open, grabbed my sketchbook, and wrote four pages all at once—it’s a smallish sketchbook. But up till now it was a sketchbook and not another of my random doodles book. Oh wells, it was available it happens. At least I didn’t try to write it on a series of old receipts (although wouldn’t that make an interesting art piece? hmmm).

And then I tried to read pulp fiction after that to actually read something without having to start another blog, and promptly wrote three-and-a-half pages on Star Trek: Killing Time in less than fifty pages. Yeah. I’ve got to stop doing that. Spies, though, by Michael Frayn, seems to be going well. The main character is already super engaging and there’s a mysterious bush that wouldn’t be mysterious if I looked it up but I don’t want to do that because this is definitely a book I could get lost in and I’m looking forward to it but I had to write this post first.

The City of Falling Angels is about Venice. As I am only 45 or so pages in, I’m not entirely sure of the premise although it appears to be primarily about the native Venetians and how they feel about living in such a city, framed by La Fenice (meaning the phoenix) and how it burned in 1996 (hence the picture).

Berendt’s style is very lyrical. The destruction of the Fenice and the reactions of the people watching nearly brought me to tears—especially the glassblower who couldn’t stop creating.

When I tried reading today, I got caught on the description of Venice as a city in the modern era. Now, I don’t actually know really anything about Venice other than its sinking, which is of course shameful. But from the description, so far I don’t have the most favorable impression from a cultural standpoint (don’t worry, most of the review isn’t actually bashing Venice, or the author for that matter).

Berendt calls Venice “dying” but if its centuries of poverty have left it so much like the paintings of the eighteenth century—no “modern intursions”—then I could only call it a dead city.

Much as I lament the loss of old buildings—my first thought when I learned of the controversy of the ‘mosque’ near ground zero was ‘must you take down a 100-year-old building to do so?’—I have to concede that that isn’t the way the world works. Things change. For one thing there are a lot more people (duh). As pretty much everything used to be, they don’t work in the modern world. Which like it or not, we live in. And modern architecture is hardly all bad. Much is boring (and some is bad) but unlike earlier time, they aren’t designed to last forever. Common architecture is not how we make our mark. and anyway, most common dwellings and other structures from the olden golden days were quite gleefully torn down for the next generational architectural statement.

And does no one realize what it takes to make such lovely cities? Berendt mentions Venice’s eight of power when it was a conqueror and an empire. Only in the case of art does this get described as a good thing. Artists definitely live in a happy world where they don’t have to consider things like that. Only in this situation is this description a positive. Try saying the same about the Imperialist United States or British colonialism . To get a pretty city generally requires human suffering.

So Berendt’s blank admiration for Venice for its oldness and prettiness just slightly got on my nerves. Which is totally hypocritical of me, I admit, as I love most old cities for that very reason and why I want to live in one (I never would survive).

As I said, the first chapter of this book made me want to cry. It hurts to hear about the diamonds of history being so easily destroyed—and before I would ever get the chance to see it! Something so beautiful in which went so much work and love, something visited by so many people, and it burns to the ground and everyone loses. I’m not very good at dealing with this stuff, I take it far too personally. I read about libraries burning in Russia and cried for them too. (What book was that?)

Still Berendt gets on my nerves the next chapter  and it has to do with how closely he identifies with the Venetians. What was so lyrical in the first chapter is now rubbing me the wrong way. Because the first few pages of the second chapter is all about how evil the tourists are, and such a pain. (Okay, you’re still not a native, no matter how much you empathize.) And in many ways they are invaders, but as I said before, Berendt has already described Venice as a dead city. People are still living there, but only because the tourists like to visit. I’d hate to think of what would happen to all those beautiful old buildings if they weren’t there to be looked at. And what other industry is there? So far, I’ve read about the art, but art isn’t self-sustainable.

And if there weren’t tourists, it would still be a museum, just not one hat people visited. And once the scholars had their share it would be left to rot—excepting the straggling archeologist and student historian who needs a thesis.

Can I say, here, that I can’t stand people like Berendt describes and transcribes Ludovico De Luigi? As described he’s just obsessed with getting attention. Berendt calls him an artist—but without having seen his art, all I can imagine is one of those post-modernists who confuse concept and flash with art (I don’t think I’m using ‘post-modernist’ correctly, but anything after that art period I don’t know). He (the theoretical artist I’ve switched to rather than the real person) likes to make a lot of noise, and get attention, but his art is nothing that will stand the test of time once people get over the surprise.

*end rant* (of an entirely different subject)

This is by the real Ludovico De Luigi, and is actually pretty cool. If his exploits are true as told by Berendt, though, I still wouldn't want to meet him in person.

Not that I disagree that Venice’s citizens would be an interesting subject. I look forward to learning more about how people deal with living in a dead city—or does their conviction of its ‘aliveness’ convince me? I just wish Berendt had a better understanding of tourists because his whining about them is just a little irritating. (Honestly, it’s rather subtle, and only a few comments over the entire chapter, I’ve just been thinking about it lately.) Why has being a tourist always been such a bad thing?

It seems to be a popular exercise for the intellectual, as far as I can tell, to be intellectual and look down on the plebeians. Which is rather odd because not everyone can be an intellectual and we shouldn’t want them to be—because frankly I would consider myself an intellectual (although I make no claims as to my relative intelligence) but intellectuals on their own aren’t all that useful in regards to practical applications, i.e. getting food to put on the table. Yes, I will make that argument.

Mind you, I’m not referring to stupid obnoxious people (that is, when talking about tourists, not intellectuals) here—because they do exist (and aren’t necessarily American) and they behave exactly the same there as the do at home, I theorize. They aren’t any more loved there either, so give the people who behave at home and abroad a break, eh? (<- where did that come from?) When you have to put up with those people and then find yourself treated like one? Well, I guess that’s what they call a vicious circle. Resentful people don’t make nice visitors and not nice visitors make resentful locals.

That’s my pithy comment for the day.