Dita Parker

Monday, November 30, 2009

An Autopsy of the Woman as a Young Writer

"And what have we here?"

"Ms. Dita Parker, female in her mid-thirties."

"No way. Thirty-three tops."

"It says so right here, Randolph."

"No way. Older than her looks then."

"Older than her years, as well. Have a look at the report. Three lives long at least. Well traveled. Speaks several languages. Multidisciplinary education. Married with children. ATCK."

"Ouch. I hope she didn't suffer much."

"It means adult third culture kid, Randolph."

"Hmm, interesting."


"Nothing. I'm just saying."

"You are mumbling to yourself. Shall we concentrate on Miss Parker?"

"Does it say what she did?"

"She's a writer."

"Was, Richard."

"Was what?"

"A writer."

"Yes, thank you, Randolph."


"Yes,  t h a n k  y o u, Randolph. I do believe we established that."

"Does it say what she wrote?"

"Fiction, genre and literary. Essays. Blogged, translated... Don't say it!"

"I was only going to ask what she succumbed to."

"With her history, probably some sort of multiple personality issue. 'Superfluous curiosity about too many topics, blah blah blah... Infatuation with languages, dialects and word play sometimes inhibits crystal clarity and objective output and causes confusion of the comic slash embarassing kind.'"

"Did she get to work on it? Ever publish anything?"

"According to this, she started out with Roman...Romantica. Something about some cave in...Ohio?"


"No, Ellora. Ellora's Cave. What? Do I have something in my teeth?"

"No it's just... Let me see that."

"Why are you smiling like a...like... Like that?"

"Just thinking of the missus, that's all."

"Not now, Randolph. Concentrate."

"Oh, I am. Aw lawdy, I am."


"Yes, dear? I mean, Richard."

"What's in that cave?"

"A good time."

"As in..."

"A mighty good time."


"Who told me to shut up and concentrate?"

"Now Who is asking you to explain yourself. Out with it."

"You know. Romantica. What sort of rhymes with Romantica?"

"I have no idea."

"No ear for language and apparently no sex life either."


"Can't prove it by me, Dick."

"Let me see that."

"Oh, you want to see it, do you now? Caught your attention, did I? Not now, Richard. Concentrate."

"Is it cold in here?"


"Do you need to have a break?"

"No, I don't need a break. Do you?"

"Why would I need one?"

"I don't know. You look a little red. Around the collar."

"It's hot in here, isn't it?"

"I thought you were cold."

"Yes. No. I need a break. Ten minutes? No, twenty."



"You can't take that out. The report. Policy and all that."

"Yes. No, of course not. Have you seen my biro?"

"The who in the what now? Oh, right. Let me write that down for you. It's http://www.jasminejade.com/p-8212-alex-rising.aspx. And show it to Frances, will you. I promise she will be pleased. Several times."


"What? Just show it to her. You won't be disappointed either, I swear."

"Has Franny said something? She has said something. What did she say?"

"My lips are sealed."

"They will be bleeding in five, four, three-"

"Get outta here."

"A writer?"

"A writer."

"Is that a smile on her face? Did she die funny?"

"No. It says here she wrote happily ever after."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Killing time

Remember my last entry, about how there's nothing on television? Or I think there isn't? Therein lies the problem, I was informed. That it was snobbish and what not to say so. That there is in fact loads on and maybe I haven't been paying attention and how dare I snub reality television when millions love it to death? 

Hold up. I wasn't writing off anything, merely saying in a roundabout way I don't enjoy reality TV, and believe you me, I make a point of checking out everything. Want to catch that ever-elusive Zeitgeist? Take a close look at popular culture and there you have it.

I've killed a particle of my ability to enjoy TV and film by studying them in earnest, and as with most things you set out to deconstruct, they lose some of the magic and luster in the process. Only when and if you get past the analytical phase can you go back to enjoying something in antediluvian bliss. Almost. 

The more you consume any certain form of popular culture, or any art form for that matter, the harder it becomes to find something jaw-dropping to induce goose bumps and make you want to go tell it on the mountain. But when you do, you forget everything. You exist for that moment, in that moment, wish you could hold on to it indefinitely. It may have been something as far removed from your daily experience as they come, but it rang true. It felt real. You felt it. You felt.

Those moments I enjoy. I only haven't found them watching reality television. Doesn't life and livelihood feel enough as if you're on The Apprentice and Big Brother at the same time? It's sudden death in the boardroom and it's murder on the dance floor and aren't we all glad it's not us and what the hell was s/he thinking? Gimme my fifteen minutes? Ka-ching?

If that sounds elitist or finger-wagging, so be it. If I have time to kill, I opt for reading and writing; calling the amazing women in my life I'm proud to call my friends; loving Hubby; an enredo I can dance with our babies; kicking and punching until I'd need more than Firestarter to pick me up from that mat if I truly needed to kick butt. That's what's real to me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stranger than fiction

I didn't take part in NaNoWriMo. What I seem to be doing is IMoMoI, as in moving images of the international kind. I also have WriAWriMo going on, writing about writing, but more on that perhaps some other time.

What have you been watching lately? Did you do your homework and go Ghibli? What next? 570 channels and nothing on, huh? Will Work for Food in Hell's Kitchen while Dancing with the Bachelor Apprentice on the Amazing Race for the Biggest Loser on the Brazilian Highlands felt like déjà vu all over again, to only marginally misquote Yogi Berra? 

Still in search of drama? Emotion?! Human interest?!! Blood, sweat and tears of the really real kind? Our human condition in all its misery and life-affirming glory? It doesn't get any more real than this, I promise you that.

I've watched some disturbing, hilarious, revealing and inspiring stories this month. Some older, some new, all timeless. I didn't set out to watch nothing but documentaries, based on a true story films and true to life tales but really, there's nothing on. 

For your viewing pleasure, amazement and horror, I give you the trials and tribulations of humankind as only life seen through an unflinching lens can deliver:

Sin Nombre (Mexico/USA, 2009)

S.O.P. (USA, 2008)

Pray the Devil Back To Hell (USA, 2008)

Waltz with Bashir (Israel/Germany/France, 2008)

Katyn (Poland, 2007)

The Yes Men Fix the World (France/UK/USA, 2009)

The Three Rooms of Melancholia (Finland/Denmark/Germany, 2004)

Let's Make Money (Austria, 2008)

Crude (USA, 2009)

Band of Brothers (UK/USA, 2001)

And that's all for now, folks. Yes, I know it looks like a list of nominees. They have all in fact been nominated for some award or several, most have won at some festival or other, and I highly recommend you look into one or all of them. 

Sorry I deleted the synopses. I didn't think you'd wade your way through to the end of the list and I happened to save the best of the bunch for last. If you have any questions or comments or you'd like to tell me to sod off for not even providing a tagline (not that all even have one), shoot. 

I'll let the pictures do the talking and you'll get to do the World Tour. Or Half the World Tour. Come on, I searched for the most representative links, in English. It'll take you a couple of minutes each (I clocked) to find out what they're all about, if you don't know already. And then some, if you have the time and the inclination to go deeper.

Stranger than fiction, indeed. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Try them and you may, I say

I like to think I'm a tolerant person. I am. I've been around the world and decided that no culture is more beautiful or less special than the rest, only different, and any ugliness is in the eye of the beholder. And that taking anything to the outer limits, say tolerance, makes you just another fundamentalist. You know, those types who by definition take things dead serious and won't change their mind or the subject.

I like to think I'm not that kind of person. Not that tolerant at all. To celebrate International Day for Tolerance, try to come up with ten things that make you go hmmm. Or grr. Here's my list.

Yes, I too could have gone on and on. The world is by no means perfect and completely to my taste but I'm an optimist. Things can only get better! Come on, repeat after me. For Dita, please... And again, like you mean it. 

Circumcising girls with razorblades and without anesthetics, no less? I don't care how many centuries of cultural tradition back it up, it's inhumane and beastly. 

Women being beaten for flashing an ankle, caned for wearing pants and stoned to death for suspected adultery, see above.

Honor killings, a contradiction in terms if there ever was one.

Maybe we are as fat as we imagine. I'm not saying we are, only that it's a real possibility we should look into if we're feeling physically and/or emotionally constipated. 

Must you sneeze, spit and cough all over the place? You don't? So why do you?

80's fashion was ridiculous the first time around, it isn't looking any better with each revival and it will remain ridiculous with every revival to come of the ridiculous fashion of the 80's.

Some flags and national anthems aren't all that beautiful.  In fact, some are belligerent to the point of being offensive.

I didn't laugh at your joke because it wasn't funny which you of course thought it was since you were drunk but let's face it, people aren't funnier when wasted, only hammered and too drunk to realize it.

There is either too much nudity on television these days or simply not enough. I can't decide.

Your favorite band sucks.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shakespeare's sisters

Ladies, choose your weapons, Mars attacks! Not really, but trenches have been under construction here and there after Publishers Weekly announced their Best Books of 2009 list. What's wrong with the list? Nothing on first glance, but the Top 10 has been weighed, measured and found lacking in one notable segment of writers, i.e. women. 

You probably wouldn't reject something solely on the basis it was written by a man or automatically like something because a woman wrote it. A good book is a good book. And taste is a subjective issue. So what does it matter what PW's list looks like? It's a list and for many that's all it is: just another list. But it's a list that gets coverage, sells books, helps define quality. And it's notably lacking in women. 

How many women would have made it okay? One? Fifty-one percent? What if there had been no men on that list? Impossible, you say? If it's a coincidence, if gender has nothing to do with anything, how so? So women did write inferior books, is that it? Or do men have an automatic advantage women suspect/know is there but PW categorically denies exists?

See how easily and how fast discussions like this escalate into a Mars versus Venus battle of the sexes? Come on, they do. Many women, assertive women, competent and competitive women are shrugging their so whats thinking it's nothing because they have gone through life pretending sexual biases don't exist. Or it isn't pretending, per se, but rather a self-assuredness and forcefulness born out of all that competence and a sincere belief in equality which has taken many women far and even further.  

But none of those women could say they didn't encounter at least once along the way someone who didn't share that belief, who couldn't get past the face or the figure, or who didn't carry a sexist grudge that tainted everything making it that much harder for them to get along and move on. This someone wasn't necessarily a man. 

Then again maybe it was and you see where the story is headed since all women have been there at some point in their lives. Trivial or life-altering, we tend to remember the moments we turned invisible. Because we felt senseless shame. We felt rage. We felt indignation. No matter how stupid the remark, how idiotic or inconsequential the person or the situation, it raises that "Not-this-bs-again-Couldn't-think-of-anything-else-could-you-The-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same" feeling women hate hate hate. I'm sure I had a point before jumping into a trench myself...

No, that is my point. That is exactly the feeling lists like this raise. Because art isn't an exact science, it's a compilation of subjective choices without objective meters, none that they have disclosed in detail anyway, and it's therefore easy to take it as a personal affront no matter how hard you tell yourself it doesn't matter one way or the other. 

"Really?" (SNL could take it from here.) "50,000 to choose from and not a single woman made the cut? Really?" I wouldn't want a pc consolation prize to be handed out, PW is free to choose whatever they want with whatever criteria they may or may not have, but ten men? Really? What are the odds? What is their ranking method anyway?

I've read two books from that list: Holmes' The Age of Wonder and Grann's Lost City of Z. I highly recommend them, but I could just as well recommend picking up Atwood's The Year of the Flood or Munro's Too Much Happiness: Stories. They made my list. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Penny for the Guy?

Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot. 

No history lecture on the way, only a rhetorical question: Do you watch certain movies at certain times? Of the year, I mean? Tonight, for obvious reasons, is V for Vendetta Night. If you haven't seen it, and if you liked Fight Club, Sin City and The Dark Knight, go get it. 

Go on now. Hugo Weaving's in it, and Stephens Fry and Rea. And Natalie Portman! John Hurt!! Don't take your movie violence on an industrial scale? Too bad, The Wachowski brothers didn't mess up this one.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Don't lose your head

I got lost on the way to work and ended up roaming Blogistan for far longer than I had intended. What I didn't write, I made up in reading. Fantastic stuff. Brilliant characters. Time robbers and hateful rubbish. Opinions, attitude and even substance.

Cyberspace is to man as the universe is to mankind. It makes you feel small, it makes you wonder can anyone see or hear you, and if you don't take care it will make you lose your sense of purpose and direction. 

Case example: The Accidental Writer, AW for short. AW writes a naughty and nice story and gets hint exactly where to submit. She does; the required digest, a witty query letter, curious about where she stands as far as this particular genre stands. Will she receive a generic rejection? Will she get any answer?

AW has no way of knowing for sure. Back in the writing game after some odd years in odd jobs in odd places, it's the first story she sends out. But she has a good feeling about this. Call it intuition. In that moment in time, that story feels right for its market.

She receives an offer for it she accepts. Some of you are now calling her a lucky bastard, some of you are shouting "Lucky bitch!" and some are wondering what she has done to deserve a lucky break like that. All of you will have to stop mentioning luck. As far as AW knows, it's not a matter of luck but a combination of pitching, talent and timing. The right story in the right place at the right time. 

"So now what," asks AW, and those of you who haven't spaced out. "Write it and they will read it, right? No? No?! What do you mean who and where are 'they'? The ones at the end of the rainbow, of course. The readers."

We're losing AW again. She's getting lost in space, deep in cyberspace, searching for those readers and that rainbow. She wrote that naughty and nice story; she got an offer for it; she is working to work it out and get it out. And no one will ever find out about it if she doesn't get to the right place at the right time, manuscript in hand. Here's hoping AW navigates her way there and back and back out again. 

Social media can make you a king for a day and a fool for a lifetime. Knowing your limits and honoring other obligations is essential, but pleading total ignorance about the importance of meeting and greeting and generally sticking your neck out won't do. You don't get published by accident. You don't want to be ignored by accident either. 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Surviving Picasso

I took a trip to Helsinki to see a man about a painting. And some sculptures, portraits, photographs, lithographs, sketches, still lifes... If you're anywhere in the vicinity, say a ferry away, get thee to the Finnish National Gallery. No, sorry, they're not coming to Oslo or Copenhagen or anywhere else in Scandinavia for that matter, and once the National Picasso Museum in Paris reopens, these babies aren't budging.

This is Picasso's own collection ranging from the late 1900's to the 1970's. You may not care for fine art. You may not like Picasso. You may say "My three-year-old can do better." Personal opinions aside, I linked my exhibition experience to my own craft and beyond and came up with

10 writing lessons by Picasso

1.) It's never too late to get the career you want or to do whatever it is you're postponing until the kids move out, you finally do switch jobs, go back to school, divorce, marry, the wind changes and humidity is optimal. In his sixties, Picasso was only getting started.

2.) Passion. Picasso had a passion for art. It meant closing the door behind him and tuning out everyone and everything else. The idea of moving to some remote location to become a recluse be it ingenious hermit may not appeal to you. But could you carve space for what you are most passionate about? Sure you can, and no, it's not selfish or self-indulgent. If it's important to you, make it known and take the time. Don't wait for permission or validation. 

3.) There's no substitute for hard work. Picasso was always working, as many writers will attest they are. His work was an integral part of him. He breathed it, lived it, could not be separated from it. Most of us do need a break from whatever it is we consider or hope one day to be a livelihood just to be able to spend time with friends and family, but if your mind wanders, don't take out the ash and start sprinkling, you may have found your calling and hear its call.

4.) Inspiration. Picasso didn't sit around waiting for the muses to move him. His body of work consists of some 50,000 pieces. Ideas are everywhere. You only need one to get going.

5.) Influences. He was influenced by everything from a cobweb to his contemporaries. He stole from many, but he didn't do what they had done, he turned it into something all his own. Know your peers and predecessors, but avoid comparison.

6.) Free your mind. Picasso experimented, played with and tried out everything. He didn't limit himself and he defied being pigeon-holed. Maybe he was that multitalented because he kept in touch with the curiosity and open-mindedness of a child. You don't grow old, he believed, you ripen.

7.) Reinvention.  Picasso reinvented himself many times over. He'd take a technique apart, study it thoroughly, and then move on to something else, not because he was exhausted with it but because he had exhausted it. He carried what he'd learned with him, all the richer for it. If you feel stuck and ready to stuff it, it doesn't mean there's nowhere to go, it only means you've stopped looking.

8.) Integrity. Picasso was fearless in his art and his opinions, in expressing them and himself. He got in trouble for it, but he kept true to himself and his vision. Some parts of yourself you never sell. Only you know what those are. 

9.) The masters and critics of his time didn't care much for his art. Most simply didn't understand him. Picasso didn't care if they cared, or understood. He thought they were trying too hard, searching for meaning in the wrong places, not seeing beyond the lies art tells to tell the truth. The only question should have been: "Do I enjoy what I'm seeing?"

10.)  "Everything you can imagine is real." Joy and pain, bulls and bullfighting, war and peace, women, the Minotaur. These are some of the themes Picasso kept revisiting. Hundreds of variations could spring from any single theme. If there was only one truth, one answer to every question out there, we would have no use for art or stories. But art, or writing, isn't a science. People are complex, motivations vary. The arts deal in possibilities, in the "Why not?" and the "What if?". In that universe, there's plenty of room to move no matter what your story, theme, genre or technique happens to be. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.