Tatiana Maslany Should Get an ‘Orphan Black’ Emmy. But First She’d Need to be Nominated

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Well, the list of Emmy nominations is out, and Tatiana Maslany, the brilliant actor at the center of “Orphan Black’s” Clone Club, was not named. At all.

Neither was the show.

In a world of television you can half-watch while playing games on your phone or browsing the internet, “Orphan Black” is different. Look away from the screen for a moment during an episode, and you might miss something. Strike that. You will miss something.

It’s a twisting, turning show full of unexpected paths, one that grips you from beginning to end, and it wouldn’t work without Maslany’s immense talent. So what gives?

Could it possibly be the genre? Sci-fi doesn’t get a whole lot of respect, and when it does, it gets shuffled off into the more genteel-sounding “speculative fiction.” But sci-fi is the lifeblood of our future, and it tells us a lot about our present.

With science-fiction, writers imagine things impossible for their time, that yet sometimes come to be long after they’re gone. Jules Verne, for example, pictured a man on the moon in 1865, a century before it happened. Margaret Atwood–who tends to fall into the speculative category–envisioned the future of genetic engineering in Oryx and Crake,  the first of the MaddAddam Trilogy, a decade before we got to engineered meat.
“Orphan Black” reflects something back at us, magnifies it, tells us who we might be given time and technology. And Maslany executes that reality flawlessly. She deserves recognition for her work.
Sci-fi matters.
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Laugh Time: Check out Trevor Noah

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It’s Wednesday. Who couldn’t use a laugh (or 20) on a Wednesday? Check out South African comedian Trevor Noah, he’s absolutely hilarious and takes on race from a completely different perspective. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Borrowing eBooks is Addictive

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I may have over-borrowed ebooks from the library. Hmm. Strike that, I definitely over-borrowed ebooks from the library.

When I first got my Kindle, I wasn’t able to put library books on it. Besides, the library didn’t have much to offer then. Well, that’s changed.

It’s like discovering the magic of a library all over again, only better. I can sit on my couch and browse books. If I put something on hold, and it becomes available, I don’t have to go down to my local branch to pick it up.

I took out a book on the 4th of July. That’s a hair shy of miraculous.

Unfortunately, though, the pull is great. It’s not like I have to lug them all back again, awkward ballast in my Chicago Public Library tote. Nope, they all weigh absolutely nothing, all nestled in my Kindle until my time runs out or I finish them, whatever happens first. I don’t have to hold them as I browse, the hard covers digging into my arms as the load gets heavier.

So I possibly, perhaps have more books right now than I can read before they expire., Does it matter, though? The magic of the internet as the most convenient return box of all.

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Finding Your Voice in a Surreal Way

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I saw the Magritte exhibit, Mystery of the Ordinary, at the Art Institute of Chicago last week. Rene Magritte,in case you don’t know, was a surrealist painter, known for works like The False Mirror:

which was at the exhibit, and Son of Man , which was not. What struck me about his work was the deliberate reuse of themes, again and again, from different angles, with different elements, as though he was trying to work out a puzzle.

It got me thinking about the work of writing, about how, time after time, we find the same things cropping up, unconscious seeds sprinkled through the body of a work. The things that you can set your spell check by when the time comes to edit.

Magritte took those things, the ones that seemed to stay foremost in his mind, and he played with them. He looked at them, really looked at them, deconstructed them and put them back.

In some ways, his early work–the focus of the exhibition–was a broad, fruitful practice for the pieces that would come later. It was a means of taking those elements that seem to creep into his work as a whole and taking ownership of them for subtle and complicated use later.

In that way, those repetitive stutters we all have in our writing might be more than something to search and destroy. Perhaps, as they were for Magritte, they’re our portal for a completely distinct perspective on the world. Maybe they form the cobblestone path to that elusive thing called voice..

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Happy 4th of July!

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100_8836 Happy 4th of July, everyone! Have a wonderful and safe holiday.

The Unruffled Cyclist Facing Certain Death

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So yesterday, I was on Lake Shore Drive, at the north end of Grant Park, the first one in my lane at the stoplight. The light changes, and this cyclist starts across all those lanes of traffic to the lake. He got into the street, and the bus on my right wasn’t having it, so it went. The lanes on my left took off.

There he was, directly in front of my car, stopped. Facing me.

He didn’t seem at all bothered by the situation. He just stood there, on his bike, looking back at me impassively, the light green above him, the line of cars behind me impatient. I must not appear to be the kind of person who will mow another person down rather than risk missing the light (I’m not), because he had an air about him like he’d be fine camping out there for a while.

I raised my hands on either side, flat, palms up, and mouthed, “Could you move?” In all this time, the bus was still passing, it was one of those enormous, lumbering things, two buses stuck together with an accordion middle. From behind me somewhere, a car honked.

I didn’t use my horn because what good would that do?

Finally, the right lane cleared, and he darted back toward the west side of the street, without even a nod toward me for granting him safe harbor.

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Ideas Are the Yeast of Writing

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I keep a collection of my ideas on my computer. It seems that, no matter what on this planet I have to worry me, the risk of running out of concepts for fiction isn’t among my issues.

It’s not just my computer. It’s notepads and notebooks, my phone, anything that’s handy when the inspiration strikes. I scribble a line, or two lines, and there it is to be used later. Once in a while, when I’m stuck, I browse through to see if I can marry two concepts together; there have been times when I realized, with a bang, that disparate things were meant to go together all the time.

There’s probably not enough time on earth for me to see all of those ideas through to fruition. They’re not all whole, anyway. Some are fragments, details, bits of character, crumbs of situations.

Ideas are not the problem. It would be great if that was all that was needed, a quick concept, and the whole thing rises like bread dough in a warm oven. Wipe your hands on your apron, and it’s fresh slices in a few hours.

Of course, bread doesn’t work that way, it takes more than just yeast. Writing doesn’t work that way, either. Thinking of something, that’s easy. It’s building it out of nothing more than letters, that’s where it gets tricky.

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