Archive for September, 2009

September 26, 2009

Repost: Not Entirely Behind the Times

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Not Entirely Behind the Times

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I don’t quite know how long I’ve been receiving invitations to join Facebook, and assiduously ignoring them.  Things happened recently that made me finally break down and sign up, and so now I am a member of that community, having been brought in almost against my will.


I don’t know how active I will ultimately be over at Facebook.  I have seen some things there that seem to indicate that it is a place full of real opportunity — a place for reconnecting with old friends, a place for keeping up with family, and a place for making new contacts who might prove to be important to me in one way or another at some time in the future.  I see all of that, after having dipped a foot in the Facebook ocean.  It’s a lot like I felt when I first started blogging at a community blog site (now defunct).  There are some excellent discussions going on (like, say, this), and the nature of the site allows for so many different viewpoints that anyone who reads much there is sure to find a new perspective on whatever issue is being discussed.


But I also see here a spot for incredible levels of wastage.  There are so many games, so much nonsense to be discussed, so many loose threads to be pursued… how can you not waste time on the site, once you begin?  How do you keep from answering every tag, responding to every request for participation in this or that event?  How do you balance it all up?  I mean, I know you can block certain functions or users, but then, isn’t that somewhat defeating the community aspect of it all?  I’ve already used the “hide” option once, just because one connection was making updates and comments pop up on my wall every few minutes.  And that when I’ve only been on Facebook for a few days.  I wonder how many other things I will have to choose to cut out, to ignore, to hide, as time wears on.


When Facebook began, it was only open to students, and was by invitation only.  Since it has opened up to the general public, everyone — even me, now — has been joining.  I have lots of friends on the site, even after just a few days, and they range in age from about 10 to over 70 years.  What I like about it that is different from some of the other social sites I’ve experimented with in the past is the way I am connected on Facebook more with people I have “real life” connections with, instead of those I simply “know” online.  I think that is, from what I’ve read, the general appeal of the site.  I have, in these few short days, chatted with friends I’ve not seen in years.  And I’ve enjoyed that.  But I can also see how easy it would be to spend waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time doing this.  I can’t imagine, as a college student, how much time I might have spent on the site, had it been available two decades ago.  Honestly, I am glad it was not.


It is amazing to me how savvy some of the kids on the site are.  This is their world.  They know what they are doing on Facebook.  It is, it seems, their natural environment.  I, on the other hand, am somewhat overwhelmed.  There’s so much there, so many people to catch up with — so much that could be a distraction, if I let it.  But there’s also a huge potential for making positive connections.  It is, for me, all rather exhausting.


I’m not entirely behind the times, I guess.  I have, after all, finally signed up for Facebook, and begun exploring the possibilities it opens up for me.  I am also, however, not entirely up with the times.  I don’t do this naturally.  I do it because I think I should, because I don’t want to be left behind, and because I can see a glimpse of the world it opens up.


And of course, the biggest sign that I am not yet quite up with the times is the fact that I still think it worth talking about at all.  Perhaps one day, though, it will all become just a part of the mundane world for me.  And maybe by then I’ll have a clear idea for how to balance it all.




© 2009 Shelly Bryant


9 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Yes, I joined too, months ago, but I still don’t quite know what I’m doing there that I can’t do elsewhere and better but it seemed like something I ought to do. Am still resisting Twitter mind.
Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 01:00 AM
As authors, we’re told we really need to be on these social networking sites if we expect to “get anywhere” in today’s publishing environment. Social networking takes a lot of time, though, and it’s hard to see what part of it is helpful and what part is a waste of time.


Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 03:33 AM
Twitter!  Now I really have a headache!  That’s another I’ve avoided with a very stubborn resistance.  I can’t imagine I’ll be willing to do that, but then, I never thought I wanted to be on Facebook either.  (I will look for you on Facebook, though.  Expect a friend request soon.  ….sigh.  How quickly we get into the routine.)

It is hard to know when it is a waste of time, and what might be useful.  I do think there is the possibility here of informing old friends from high school that my book is going to be released next month, and that some of them might buy it.  I guess that would be helpful, and perhaps even (regarding Jim’s observation) that it might be something I couldn’t do elsewhere.  BUT, one part of me cringes at the thought that all of my friends from high school would know I about my book, and would read it.  I can’t imagine the response it might get.  And that is frightening.

Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 06:43 AM
Muhahahaha We have you now.
I know what you mean though. EVERY thinking person goes through this when they first join facebook (and eventually twitter)
it’s kind of the “who am I, Why am I here, what is the meaning of life” phase that an android goes through when he/she becomes a sentient life form.

Anyway, Good Luck and enjoy. by the way.. we have wireless at our house now.. you can always come over with your mac  and play with me. we can chat on facebook while sitting in the same room  😉

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 – 04:49 PM
ps. Ultimately facebook is for stalking the people you want to keep up with… without actually having to email them all the time ;o)
Wednesday, September 30, 2009 – 04:50 PM
I almost feel like I am making the opposite journey, Michelle — a sentient life form becoming a droid.  Being so connected all the time…. we’re cyborgs-in-waiting.  All we need is the implants, and it will literally be 24/7.  Talk about overload.

Twitter?  Oh man, my head hurts!

I haven’t tried the stalking feature on Facebook yet, but thanks… you’ve given me some ideas.

Thursday, October 1, 2009 – 12:14 AM
I’ ve avoided facebook too. though sometimes I do log in under my husband’s account, but then that makes him look bad since I ignore those wanting to chat w/ him, etc while he’s on ! 🙂

I hope to avoid twitter too.

good luck to you!

Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 06:08 AM
ps-I did actually use facebook this week. dallas theater had a 50% off discount code to their performances of Mary Poppins!
Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 06:09 AM
silken, I think you can make it show that you are not online, so if you wanted to log in as your husband, and yet not chat, I think you could.  That’s one of the things I think it is hard to negotiate — when to engage and when to ignore.  In that sense, it is more like blogging at WU than at a site like this.  But still, I suppose there is always an answer, for those who are willing to just turn the computer off.  🙂

In the first couple of weeks of my surrender to the Dark Side, I have to say it isn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe because my “real life” is busy, or maybe because it’s really not that bad… but one way or another, I’ve managed, I think, to keep it all pretty well balanced.

Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 01:28 PM
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September 19, 2009

Repost: It’s Official, I’m an Alien

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

It’s Official, I’m an Alien

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I am now officially an alien.  I even have a license, issued by the China government, to prove it.  It is my “Alien Employment License.”  As an avid reader and writer of all speculative genres (novels, plays, poetry), I suppose I should be thrilled.  Mostly, though, I am just wondering why the word “alien” has an impact that is so completely different than that of “foreigner.”

The little dictionary built into my computer offers these definitions

foreigner |ˈfôrənər; ˈfär-|

(noun) a person born in or coming from a country other than one’s own.

• informal a person not belonging to a particular place or group; a stranger or outsider.

Mostly innocuous, I guess.  Let’s see the comparison

alien |ˈālyən; ˈālēən|

(adjective) belonging to a foreign country or nation.

• unfamiliar and disturbing or distasteful : bossing anyone around was alien to him | they found the world of adult education a little alien.

• [ attrib. ] relating to or denoting beings supposedly from other worlds; extraterrestrial : an alien spacecraft.

• (of a plant or animal species) introduced from another country and later naturalized.

(noun)a foreigner, esp. one who is not a naturalized citizen of the country where they are living : an illegal alien.

• a hypothetical or fictional being from another world.

• a plant or animal species originally introduced from another country and later naturalized.

Funny how the two words can be so similar, and yet not quite the same.  That little subdefinition in the “alien” listing’s inclusion of words like “disturbing” and “distasteful” seems to make all the difference.

Strangely enough, I don’t feel any more alien here than I do anywhere else in the world, even on the days when I am starkly aware that I am a foreigner.  There has always been something in my experience of life that hinted to me that I was an alien, wherever I might find myself.  I guess I should be grateful to the China government for officially acknowledging the condition, after all these years.

© 2009 Shelly Bryant

Personal Note

I just lost my little friend, Rigley, this week, making me feel all the more alien in this world.  She was a good girl, and will be greatly missed by me and everyone in my family.


4 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Sorry to hear about your pooch.  And that you’re disturbing and distasteful.
Sunday, September 20, 2009 – 03:49 AM
It’s been a rough week, Pinhole.  Losing my friend is hard.  And one never likes to know the unpleasant truths about oneself.
Sunday, September 20, 2009 – 06:30 AM
Sorry to hear about the doggy!


Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 03:29 AM
Thanks, Malcolm.  It’s been hard.
Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 06:47 AM
September 12, 2009

Repost: Fill in the Gaps, Infinite Jest

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Filling in the Gaps:  Infinite Jest

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Last weekend, I finished one of the longest titles on my fill in the gaps 100 books list, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  It is hard to say exactly how I felt about the book.  But immediately upon completion, I already knew it was one I would be thinking about for some time.  So, my comments here are not going to be a review per se, but a rundown of my responses to the book, more like what I would record in a reading journal. I begin with last Saturday, Sept 5, the day I finished the book.



Saturday, Sept 5

I’ve been working on this tome since May.  It hasn’t been an easy read, though parts of it were incredibly absorbing.  It took me a long time to get to those parts, but I am not sure if that had more to do with me as a reader and the state of mind I was in, or with the novel itself.  Anyway, the parts that were engaging were worth the read, even though there were large chunks of the book that did nothing for me.


The end of the book frustrates me.  It seems it did not end at all, in fact, and that I could just pick it up and continue reading the same old thing over again.  There is no resolution, which I more or less expected.  But worse, there’s no sense that we’ve come to a stopping place at all.  But then, perhaps that is because we’ve not really had a plot either.  It’s more like a prolonged rambling (in amazing prose, of course) that just comes to a sort of abrupt stop.



Sunday, Sept 6

The notion of Entertainment and its connection to addiction (perhaps only made possible by contemporary consumer culture) is so adeptly explored in Infinite Jest.  I think this is what there is to love in the novel.  When I read about the book, before having purchased it, this was what made me want to read it.  I have to say that the treatment of the theme(s) is somewhat disorienting.  Perhaps that is the way it should be, though, as a sort of representation of the mind-reeling abundance of Entertainment possibilities today.


The treatment of sex, drugs, and addiction as interconnected facets of the Entertainment culture was especially fascinating.  It isn’t so much that that’s a foreign concept to me, as that putting it right up against sports, movies, etc., gave it a whole different perspective.  The intertwining (or entangling) of these elements in the text is probably what I enjoyed most about it.



Monday, Sept 7

Depression.  Who could know more about it than David Foster Wallace?


I am usually not one to read the author in(to) the text he’s penned, but it was hard not to  have thoughts of DFW’s demise enter the head when reading some of the more eloquent passages about depression in Infinite Jest.  Those bits are so well-written, so piercing, so insightful.  Is it authorial intrusion into the narrative?  The modest training I’ve had in critical theory recoils at the suggestion, but the casual reader in me found it difficult not to see a good deal of DFW in those bits of prose that dealt so poignantly with the black dog.


One way or another, the book’s treatment of Depression is elegant.   The descriptions of a despondent mind’s thought processes and the understanding of the impulse that drives the depressed to actions that seem so irrational from the outside (including suicide), are so lovingly presented that it brings the melancholy horror of those feelings close to the reader, simultaneously allowing for empathy and examination.  Anyone who has experienced depression would recognize the truth held in those passages, the first-hand knowledge they present.  Anyone who has not experienced depression would probably do well to pay close attention, if they want to understand it from the inside.


On another note, I finished Velocity last night.  After the long 4-5 months it took me to finish the 6th book from my Fill in the Gaps list, I finished the next in just a day.  Infinite Jest is a demanding read.  It required a lot of slow, careful attention from me.



Tuesday, Sept 8

The whole treatment of Subsidized Time in Infinite Jest is the first thing in the book that really caught my interest.  It is funny.  It is handled with a wry cynicism that is just perfect.  The idea of selling ad space on our marking of time just makes me laugh, and is well suited to the book’s critique of our current situation in which everything is for sale — or at least open for sponsorship.   And, it is quite fitting that most of the action of the novel takes place in the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.


I just happened across the Infinite Summer website today.  I didn’t know this challenge was out there.  I started a little early, and finished a few week’s before the challenge’s dates dictate.  But I guess I unwittingly joined this community of Wallace’s readers.  Well, not exactly.  But I did more or less follow their reading schedule.



Wednesday, Sept 9

The characters in Infinite Jest are not at all endearing to me.  I’ve read plenty of comments by other readers about the characters, mostly calling them “memorable.”  That might be true, but I don’t feel much for them other than a sort of detached interest.  Hal is, not surprisingly, the closest to a sympathetic character that I find in the novel, but even he is presented in such a way that seems to distance him from the reader.  In this way, the book reminds me of the Gormenghast novels.  There I have a similar feeling that the characters are not at all sympathetic, though Titus does, from time to time, invite you in a  little closer.  Infinite Jest struck me in much the same way.



Friday, Sept 11

One of the things about Infinite Jest that is really well done is the way the book shows the problem of drugs, and of addiction in general, being something that cuts across social barriers.  There are abusers in the book who are young, and those who are old.  Rich and poor.  Various races and backgrounds.  It runs the gamut.  Drug and alcohol abuse play a significant role in exploring the theme, but it is really much wider than these problems.  It is all in the context of addiction to consumption, which covers a whole lot more ground.  And perhaps why it is so all-inclusive.


I also like the way the book handles its critique of various programs set up to help people suffering from addiction.  It is not just the fact that it pokes fun of these things, but that it seems to hit hard at the notion of a system that treats all problems of addiction as a pre-packaged sort of thing, as if all addictions are built on an assembly line.  And, even more insightful, it discusses the way these support groups can become an addiction in themselves.  When one of the characters finds himself in the wrong meeting altogether, this idea is handled especially well.  Our addictions, it seems, can sometimes function as interchangeable parts.



Saturday, Sept 12

I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what all Infinite Jest has to offer.  I think it isn’t a book for everyone, but that those who do read it will find plenty there to think about for a good long time.  I find myself thinking of it several times throughout the day, pondering over little bits and pieces at different times.


I have a friend who has decided to read it, but not necessarily from beginning to end.  She’s more likely to flip through here and there and read whatever jumps out at her at that point in time.  This might be a very interesting way to approach Infinite Jest, as a linear, beginning-to-end reading isn’t necessarily the best way to really get into the book.  Anyway, I am interested in seeing how her reading experience goes.


I wouldn’t recommend the book to just everyone, but would enjoy hearing thoughts from anyone who does decide to tackle it.  There’s a good reason that it was so much a topic of discussion when it came out.  It really has a lot to offer.  Even though there were parts of the reading process that were quite a chore for me, I am very glad I read it now that I am done.





© 2009 Shelly Bryant


4 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
having never read the book, I must say that when I initially read this part of your post:

“The end of the book frustrates me.  It seems it did not end at all, in fact, and that I could just pick it up and continue reading the same old thing over again.  There is no resolution, which I more or less expected.  But worse, there’s no sense that we’ve come to a stopping place at all.  But then, perhaps that is because we’ve not really had a plot either.  It’s more like a prolonged rambling (in amazing prose, of course) that just comes to a sort of abrupt stop.

Sunday, Sept 6

The notion of Entertainment and its connection to addiction (perhaps only made possible by contemporary consumer culture) is so adeptly explored in Infinite Jest.  I think this is what there is to love in the novel.  When I read about the book, before having purchased it, this was what made me want to read it.  I have to say that the treatment of the theme(s) is somewhat disorienting.  Perhaps that is the way it should be, though, as a sort of representation of the mind-reeling abundance of Entertainment possibilities today.”

I thought the Infinite Jest and the notion of entertainment and its addiction were indeed the infinite jest, as well as the part of you never finishing it but could continue on and on and on reading it over and over again. kind of like those “how to keep an idiot busy” jokes (“A small card with “If you’d like to know how to keep an idiot busy for hours, turn this card over” printed on both sides.”) NOT THAT YOU”RE AN IDIOT, it just reminded me of that…his infinite jest….anyway, I thought it sounded funny! 🙂

Sunday, September 13, 2009 – 05:31 AM
That is exactly what it is like, silken.  And I think part of the thing the book is getting at is that we are idiots, an idiot society.  The society that built this whole entertainment culture must be an idiot, not just for building it in the first place, but for falling for the joke we ourselves set up.

In the book, there is a video cartridge in circulation that, once someone starts watching, s/he can’t stop.  THey watch until they die of it, effectively entertaining themselves to death.  Infinite Jest is the title of that film.  I read about this in the introductions to the book before I bought it, and it was this that really made me want to see what DFW had to say, since I always love reading him anyway.

In the end, the ideas were more absorbing for me than the actual reading experience.  But I could sure see how this book could suck someone in, putting the whole phenomenon it is talking about into action, even as it critiques it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009 – 07:45 AM
Monday, September 14, 2009 – 06:19 PM
娱乐至死 – that’s it exactly!  Entertaining ourselves to death.  Maybe DFW should have written in Chinese.  🙂
Monday, September 14, 2009 – 11:58 PM
September 5, 2009

Repost: Hit or Miss, August ’09

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Hit (or Miss) List, August ’09

It’s been a rather slow month for reading, especially because of the huge volume, Infinite Jest, taking up most of my time.  (I actually only finished it today, but am listing it with the August post because that’s when the bulk of the reading was done.)  Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching for the past month:


Hit List

  1. •Grosse Pointe Blank (movie)
  2. •Say Anything (movie)

an old favorite (yeah, I know….); and yes, it was something of a John Cusack phase, with these two titles in there

  1. •Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace)

I’ll have more to say about this one down the road, I think

  1. •The Crab Flower Club (onstage)

a nicely put together, ironic piece about the women in a Chinese family who decide to start a poetry club

  1. •The Reduced Shakespeare:  the Complete Works (onstage)

absolutely hilarious performance; if you get a chance to see it, you’ll definitely want to catch it!

  1. •What Day is Today (onstage)

extremely disturbing, and very compelling; the narrative structure was very innovative, and the whole performance was very nicely done

  1. •The 2009 Rhysling Anthology (Drew Morse, ed.)



  1. •various issues of these journals:

Star*Line and Dreams & Nightmares



Miss List

No misses!



Neither Hit nor Miss

  1. •The Crucible (onstage)

not a good performance overall, but there were a few bright spots that redeemed it from being a  miss — & of course the script is amazing





So, what have you been reading and watching this summer?