Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movie Musings: "What The Fuck Have You Done Lately?"

***This blog post and its links contain spoilers for the movie Wanted
(in case you cared).***

The movie Wanted is a 2008 action movie starring Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, and Morgan Freeman. It's loud, messy, and violent as all action movies are. I thought a reviewer described it best:
"Wanted may be the most absolutely stone bonkers, crazy-good movie of the century. Or it may be a gargantuan piece of trash. Chances are it's a combination of the two. But man, does it rock." - Tom Long, Detroit News, 2008-06-27 (reference noted in the link above).
After a couple of years I think the movie veers more towards the "piece of trash" reference but the movie does boast some impressive action sequences such as the opening sequence and the death of super assassin Mr. X, the red car chase scene with Jolie and McAvoy, and the scene where McAvoy goes on a shooting rampage through a textile mill. There's also the novelties of "curving" bullets by using a particular technique while firing them out of a handgun (impossible, if you didn't know that already), and Morgan Freeman saying the word "fuck." There's McAvoy rebelling against his bitchy boss and slamming his keyboard in his best friend's face. His best friend is screwing his girlfriend. That's a great scene, by the way, for anyone who's ever dreamed standing up to the people who really piss us off but we can't really do anything about. It's childish but this is only a movie.

For me, and the point of this post, the best part of the movie is the end. McAvoy's character, Wesley, who has been a passive nerd for most of his life, has been trained to be a super assassin and has stood up against those people who are using him for their own ends. During the ending sequence, he blasts through the fourth wall and lists his accomplishments. He ends by looking at the audience and asking:

What The Fuck Have You Done Lately?

After more than two years, watching this ending still gives me the chills. After more than two years, I still ask myself this question. I used to carry a 3x5 card around where I could see it with this sentence written on it. I've done the electronic equivalent by writing it down on a large post-it, photographing it, and turning it into my wallpaper on my Droid phone. When my marriage was falling apart a very good friend of mine gave me a new mantra. She said my new mantra was "Fuck It." This is just an extension of that mantra and much more useful.

I'm not trying to offend anyone here by asking this question. This is a question I ask myself. This question makes me think about what I've done lately and if it's in line with what I want my life to be like. It's too easy to get complacent. It's too easy to keep doing the same shit day in and day out. There are other mantras, nicer sounding ones certainly, but this one makes me want to grit my teeth and grab life by the balls. This one makes me actually want to do something with myself. It's an ongoing battle to stay alert and focused on what's important. If part of that process involves watching McAvoy's character glare at me and ask that question then I'm all for it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Writing Life: Deciding What To Post

A friend and I were talking about blogging and she asked me how I decide what to post. She said it seems I post whatever I feel like writing about at the time. This is true though I've been trying to steer this blog a little more lately. She asked me what makes a good blog post and it was difficult to explain. I wanted to try to write down the elements just to clarify in own my mind what makes a good post:
  • The post has to be a complete piece of writing in itself, able to stand on its own. This seems obvious but I've written drafts where I didn't know where they were going or the ending was really weak and have chosen not to post them. I realize I probably do put up blog posts like this from time to time but the ones I decide not to use are really bad.
  • I still write for myself but I've become more relaxed about writing for my readers over the years and I usually try to think of what will be interesting for them. On the other hand, certain posts like my conversations with my brother and the Mr. Gryphon posts are just for me. I get a huge kick out of writing out conversations with my brother and posting them even if they are strange. Mr. Gryphon posts are a way for me to keep in touch with that aspect of my personality that he and the weird world I've created represent.
  • The post has to be interesting to me. I've started posts and then abandoned them simply because I realized I wasn't interested in the subject matter after all and noticed my writing had gone down the tubes during the drafting stage.
  • There's a particular mindset necessary for me to get into while writing for this blog otherwise the post won't work. One thing I've noticed is the more I write, the easier it is to get into that mindset even if it's late at night and I'm tired or in a bad mood or have no idea what to write. The act of sitting down at the computer and opening up a "New Post" screen is usually enough to get me there.
  • I try to keep the posts balanced, thinking of what I haven't written about in a while. This can be tricky because I lose track what I've written in the past, a sort of blog post tunnel vision.
  • The post either has to move me or give me a little zing when I read it even if it's one of my "Junk Mail" posts. One thing I love to do is read my blog posts (and stories) out loud. It gives me an enormous pleasure to hear my own words spoken. If I don't feel that pleasure then I don't post.
I realized just now that the previous list doesn't really explain much. Blog posting for me is such a subjective process and it's very difficult to explain why something works and something else doesn't. I will say that I do post most of what I write. There are relatively few entries that don't go up.

Thoughts about the types of posts:
  • Pictures. Pictures are important and I dare say I've become a much better photographer while taking pictures for this blog. There should be plenty of pictures, particularly about San Francisco and the Bay Area. I had the idea that people enjoy coming here to see the City from my viewpoint and I'm planning on adding more San Francisco posts in the future.
  • I like to write about my interests here though I don't write about all of them. I don't see this blog as a showcase for whatever project I'm working on unless it's about the writing but it's fun to throw in posts about my other interests here and there.
  • Emotional stuff. I'm always worried about whining too much and so have been trying to pull back on those posts lately. My friend pointed out that ranting and raving posts are good sometimes and I shouldn't leave them out altogether because they likely resonant with others.
  • Surreal Shit. This is the only place where I write anything surreal. They are always about something in particular and I have a lot of fun with them. They're important to do every now and then as a writing exercise.
  • The Writing Life. These posts are very important to me and I use them as signposts for my own writing progress, ideas, and attitudes as they're evolving. Whether anyone else finds them interesting and/or useful is completely beside the point though I'm happy if people like reading them.
  • I really enjoy using this blog as a chronicle for my major trips. I still haven't finished all my posts for this year's trip to Europe.
I haven't posted on my other blog, Fainting in Coils, in a while since I finished "FailSafe." I'm going to write another long story sometime in the beginning of next year and will post it there. Though I don't post there regularly it's very important for me to keep that blog up because it's only forum for these stories.

I do wish I could draw. I'd be creating illustrations for my stories for sure and I would enjoy posting pictures for you but I'm a lousy artist. I'm pretty good at copying/sketching other works but can't create something of my own.

I sometimes ponder the differences between posting here and FaceBook. I used to include surreal notes there but don't anymore. FaceBook is all about skimming through statuses and posting your own. Plus, I know everyone on FaceBook. Many of my friends on FaceBook don't even know I have these blogs and I'm reluctant to share that information for some reason. I think it has something to do with worrying about what those people would think of me if they read this stuff.

Thanks for reading and I hope you are all enjoying your Holidays.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sick, Rancid, Grotesque...

When the remarkable becomes bizarre, reason turns rancid.

- Cheshire Cat (idle), American' McGee's Alice.

An image from the sequel, Alice: Madness Returns.
These games are considered part of the action-horror genre.

American McGee's Alice is a third person shooter video game released in 2000. I haven't played many games in my life but this is my favorite game of all time. Not only is the music amazing and the environments riveting, it's also insane, dark, twisted, and extremely violent. Alice's family has perished in a fire and she's gone mad, locked away in an asylum. She goes back to Wonderland to confront the broken, horrific mess it's become. The game does a fine job at referencing the source material and is so far up my alley I used to think I dreamed it up myself. Apparently, the long awaited sequel will be released in the Spring next year. Yippee!

Alice collects a host of weapons including the Vorpal Blade, Ice Wand, Croquet Mallet, Demon Dice, and Jack Bomb, among many others. My personal favorite weapons are the Vorpal Blade, Ice Wand, and Croquet Mallet, with the Croquet Mallet being the most satisfying of all ("Here's a riddle: When is a croquet mallet like a billy club? I'll tell you: whenever you want it to be." - Cheshire Cat). Alice's enemies are relentless, powerful, and ruthless and you really have to fight for your life. Even my two best characters, Mock Turtle and Gryphon, make an appearance. Thankfully, they're on Alice's side.

The Cheshire Cat acts as a kind of guide to the game and often makes cryptic, disturbing comments but he's a friend and sometime companion. There are four levels: Easy, Medium, Hard, and Nightmare. I've played all four levels many, many times with Nightmare being my favorite. I even have a version of the game for my Mac which is apparently difficult to find. I haven't played the game in years but the comfort of recognition and the glory of reveling in all that darkness really relaxes me.

Here's a link to the trailer if you want to get a sense for how dark this game is.

When I was coming up with a name and persona for this blog, I initially considered becoming Cheshire Cat since he was my favorite Alice character while I was growing up but I was moved by the quote in the blog header and how they used it at the end of the 1985 film Dreamchild starring Ian Holm as The Rev. Charles L. Dodgson AKA Lewis Carroll, a sort of background film about the writing of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The Wonderland characters in Dreamchild were created by Jim Henson's Muppet Shop, and they were huge, gross, and nightmarish. It was the first time I'd ever thought of Alice has being a little scary and it was really cool!

The Mock Turtle persona really suits me. I think I've grown into it well. Writing this post makes me wonder when the other Wonderland characters will show up in my weird little world. None of them are there now and I think they deserve a place. Or at least a few of them do. Hmm. I'll have to ponder that idea.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This Huge Banquet

The wind blows rain against my window. The window rattles, cheap thing that it is. On some nights it rattles so hard I worry it will break or crack. Gray sky. It's a beautiful day.

I've been thinking lately about gender roles and shifts. It seems the longer I live here the more fluid these ideas become. It feels good, free even, to entertain ideas about how humans can and want to relate to each other.

I'm not relating to anyone at the moment. Not in a shifting, intertwining, curling capacity, that's for sure. I think about it a lot, and I'm surprised at what floats my boat. I think that's a good sign. It's better to be surprised, especially with yourself. You never know what you're capable of and what really fires you up unless you maintain an aura of openness and a commitment to exploration. Are we all destined to follow the same path? Can't there be some variations or even a lot of variations? Why restrict ourselves anyway? It's almost like putting yourself in jail when there's a wild party going on outside.

This huge banquet that's life is just sitting here waiting to be savored. Trying to break out of my own preconceived notions and ideas of what I will and won't do, what I want and don't want is the key to letting myself sit down and enjoy the feast. The first step is to get closer to the table and see what's there to try. Abundance is the rule not the exception.

Happy Feasting, Everyone. I hope you're all enjoying your Holiday.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mid-December Junk Mail

Here's what going on with me lately:
  • You all know a lot of what's going on with me since I've been trying to post more regularly. I've been making a conscious effort to "engage" more in general. This means checking and posting on FaceBook more often, contacting my friends more, stuff like that. When I started version one of this blog (I shut it down after a while and then restarted it again), I used to post almost every day. Over the years it becomes more difficult to post regularly but I noticed my readership is up and the best way to continue that is to keep posting on an almost daily basis. It's also a good way of staying grounded with the writing. Posting on this blog is a great way to balance out the intense fiction writing.
  • I'm still looking for a job but it looks like a good one might be in the works. We'll see. I probably won't hear about that one until after December. I heard from another recruiter today about another job so that's good.
  • I've also been making an effort to have a plan for my days, a schedule. This is difficult for me because I get distracted easily. It's been an interesting exercise. Right now, I feel like I'm just slavishly following a schedule, it almost feels like everything I'm accomplishing right now is secondary to the "schedule." I've had this feeling before and really don't like it but have decided to stick with it for a while to see if that feeling changes over time. I keep wondering what that feeling will change to.
  • As part of my recent Christmas Tree breakthrough I also bought some "icicle lights" because I've always wanted a strand or two. I strung them up in my bedroom and...they're almost seizure inducing with the way they flash on and off. I feel like I'm in the middle of some kind strobe light situation with them on. Not good.
  • I have all of next week off. I'm so looking forward to it!!!
  • I've been seeing quite a bit of theater recently (since early November): West Side Story, Equus (amazing!), The Story of My Life, Coraline, a stage reading of Amadeus, and I saw the jazz trio The Bad Plus. Next week I'm going to Playground at Berkeley Rep Theatre where they do stage readings of new plays by new playwrights.
  • I just finished listening to this great audio learning course from the Teaching Company entitled "Social Deviance." Though the course was recorded in 1994, Professor Wolpe does a great job with this fascinating subject and I even found some of the ideas he presented in this course useful for the current NaNoWriMo novel I'm drafting. All of the lectures were great but the ones I found the most mind-blowing were the ones on "Labeling Theory" and "Conflict and Constructionism." I'm looking forward to listening to it again.
  • I'm done with: Christmas shopping, button-down shirts that don't fit, "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak, cleaning out all my email boxes, watching movies in the theater (with few exceptions until I get more income coming in).
  • I started: a playlist for my post-apocalyptic novel, another bizarre story theory for "Sherlock," "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Ecco, "A Study in Scarlett" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (reading on my Droid with the free Kindle app), re-learning how to use my sewing machine.
  • Three things I'm grateful for other than the super important things like family, friends, living here in SF, and good health: 1) my pea coat is part cashmere and part merino wool (been chilly here), 2) the penguins still know me, and 3) Lipton tea.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writing Life: The NaNoWriMo Novel Progress

I'm still working on my National Novel Writing month novel. I'm up to about 59,000 words and first draft still isn't finished. I just completed the most harrowing section of the story this evening at my writing group and am going back to my two characters who fell off the balcony overlooking Battery Park in the Financial District in NYC. I'll finally find out what happens next with them.

As for the harrowing section, I've been dragging my feet and resisting this part because it's so intense. I thought I would feel a little better, even lighter, after getting through this section but now I have a new problem: my character is in the very worst kind of personal Hell and I don't know how to get him out, or even if he's going to get out. It's an emotionally tiring problem to carry around so I need to get through this part pretty quickly.

I'm working on what I'd consider the last quarter of the novel but it's probably the most difficult. After this first draft is finished I'll put it away for a while and work on my other novel, the historical mystery.

There were only three of us at my writing group this evening but we had a wonderful discussion about writing and the creative process. We talked about the importance of getting out and about and letting yourself "wander" whether physically wandering or internet wandering or mentally wandering as a way to make interesting connections that inspire your work. We also talked about how the creative process seems to come through you, that it seems to be coming from somewhere other than yourself. I've already written about these ideas in my Beginning Tips for Writers posts but it was fun to hear my fellow writers' ideas on these subjects.

Christ, I'm tired. I was supposed to do some more organizing this evening but I think I'm going to watch "Sherlock" instead. I need a break tonight.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

City Life: Ocean Beach Sunset

Ocean Beach is about 3.5 miles from where I live and one of my favorite places. Yesterday a friend suggested we go for a walk at sunset. It's usually cold and foggy down there but it was so warm, maybe in the mid-60s, and barely any breeze. I left my jacket in the car.

My friend looking out at the waves.

The Pacific Ocean.

We drove through Golden Gate Park on the way there, stopping at the Bison Paddock. The Bison were already in their Paddock, stoic and silent as always. The far western edge of the Park is across the street from the Beach. The Great Highway runs parallel to the water.

Another self-portrait of Miss Turtle.

It was very clear and the light was wonderful. And there were plenty of surfers. Ocean Beach is one of the top Bay Area spots for serious surfers because of the strong currents and intense waves. I've been on the beach when the wind was so strong that sheets of sand were blowing only a couple of inches above the ground.

A shot of the golden light on the water.

Serious nuclear-looking sunset.

My friend and I talked and took a bunch of pictures. I took a little over a 100 photos. I was trying to capture the color I see with the camera but everything kept coming out too orange. I like the above sunset but would have preferred it if there was a little more blue in the waves. I really should take a photographer class so I can learn to use my camera controls instead of just pointing and shooting all the time.

Post-sunset clouds.

Love this picture my friend took of me!

I definitely don't spend enough time here and it's so close. I should be coming here most days with my dog. She loves running around on the beach even if she doesn't like the water.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Miss Turtle's 2010 Holiday Post

First Christmas Tree in Seven Years
Yes, it's real!

Hi Everyone,

I wasn't sure if I would be able to get a tree this year. Each year I'd drive/walk past the Christmas tree lot down the street and think "This year I'll do it for sure," and each year I'd fail. Much like how my writing constantly surprises me, I've managed to surprise myself with my own actions. I've taken back my Christmas Holiday I left behind all those years ago. This is my Christmas now...No, that's not right:

This is our Christmas! I wish all of you the very best during this Holiday Season and a wonderful, lovely New Year

Thanks for reading and thanks so much for your support.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Conversations With My Brother: Sherlock Walk

Intro: One of the many cool things about my brother is he tends to notice interesting details, more so than me. As you've seen sometimes I take his random wonderings and run with them. This is another example involving an observation he had about the BBC show "Sherlock."

Him: If you watch the last scene in Study in Pink. Sherlock's walk is more one foot after another than John's.

Me: I'll check it out. By the way do you have any Primus (n.1)?

A later reply from me.

Me: He looks like he's doing a sort of model walk in that last scene. One foot directly in front of the other. If you watch him walk in the scene where they go back to their flat after all that running he doesn't walk foot directly in front of the other, it's a more natural gait. I read a blurb about model walks and putting one foot in front of the other (having to land first on the balls of your feet) is supposed to make your walk more elegant, kind of like a ballerina walking on her tip-toes. At the same time you're supposed to lift your leg a little more. Both actions combined are supposed to make your walk longer and more commanding. And it gives you that characteristic model swing of the hips.

Why would he do that when he's already tall and commanding esp. when compared to our Martin (n.2)? Because it makes his coat swing and swish (n.3) while at the same time giving him a more commanding presence. Because he's wearing his coat we can't tell that he's swishing his hips a bit more so he doesn't look like he's doing a "model walk." With his coat swishing and swinging, he looks more heroic in the same way that running while wearing a long coat with volume also makes you look heroic. Since this is the last shot of the first episode it creates a compelling image that they want viewers to remember.

I tried it with one of my own long coats and it does indeed swing more when doing a model walk, even in my socks.

There! How's that for an explanation? I'll bet if we watch Benedict's walk in other scenes in the series, I'm certain he isn't walking with one foot in front of the other most of the time.

Him: It brings to mind a comment by Neil G. (n.4) about Paterson Joseph (n.5) not being that tall but "acting" tall.

Subsequent In-Person Conversation: My brother pointed out the other night that Martin's stride in this last scene seemed to have him walking with slightly wider steps. He mused this could be because his character John is a military man and would be used to carrying something on his back thus the wider steps.


(n.1) My brother has a music server. Not a music hard drive, a server with something like 500 CDs loaded onto it. Yes, he bought them all.

(n.2) We have our own conversational conventions. He tends to refer to the actors in "Sherlock" by their character names whereas I refer to them by their real names. I also have a convention of putting "our" in front of certain actors' names as in "our Martin" (for Martin Freeman who plays Dr. John Watson), or using the more generic "our boy." My brother and I sometimes discover shows and movies which aren't in the mainstream (or haven't appeared in the mainstream yet) and I have a tendency to think of them as belonging to us, hence the "our." I use this convention most often while discussing Korean actors with him.

(n.3) We're quite taken with Sherlock's fashion and his clothes seem to be popular in the U.K. Here's a U.K. GQ article if you want to see Benedict in his lovely coat.

(n.4) My brother, not surprising, is a huge Neil Gaiman fan and we are big fans of Gaiman's series "Neverwhere" which aired on the BBC in 1996.

(n.5) Paterson Joseph played the Marquis de Carabas in Neverwhere. He's quite dashing and has a lovely long coat as well. You can see an introduction to the character here. Gaiman has said on the DVD extras for Neverwhere that Puss in Boots was the inspiration for the Marquis.

Friday, December 10, 2010

City Life: Inner Sunset Fog

A staircase on my street

Today's beauty was all about fog and water. The City was wrapped in filmy droplets. Though not thick enough to obscure completely nor drippy enough to cause a drizzle, fog whirled and dipped low in my neighborhood. The streets were wet and shiny, the fog brought along scents of moss, juniper, Douglas Fir, and a floral here and there (I live up the street from a community garden and a Christmas Tree lot). I hadn't realized how scent likes to catch a ride on fog until this afternoon.

The usual black outlines of bare trees, power poles, and telephone lines stood in muted dark gray down the block. Stands of trees fencing the steep hill behind my apartment swirled with romantic mists, caressing tree bark and leaf alike. Water dripped. It's cool but mild, a delicate humidity. A warm day by a resident's standards.

I drove out of the City in the evening and watched as headlights from oncoming cars played tricks against the concrete freeway divider. It looked like the commuting cars were belching and coughing smoke but it was merely a visual trick of headlights, fog, and the occasional tree.

No rain today.

It's suitably quiet outside even with the random motorcycle rider roaring far away and the 36 bus. The window is open and I smell the fog, the wet, the green, traces of earth, even hints of the ocean as I sit here in my apartment. The dog wants to go out for her evening walk. The night beckons gently.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Matt Smith's Interview with Craig Ferguson

So uh, yeah. As many of you know my brother and I are huge Doctor Who fans. I've been watching the show with him since I was 15 years old. I did miss one or two doctors in the middle there after I sort of grew up and got married but now I'm back where I belong...after having been hijacked by all that adult marriage bullshit. Adult marriage bullshit can't be all that it's cracked up to be if it takes you AWAY FROM THE DOCTOR!!!

Whew! That felt good to say.

I'm posting this embedded youtube video here on my blog because my brother couldn't access the link when I sent it to him via email for some reason so this post is really just for him.

Note to My Brother: I love the cut of his suit, the socks, and the shoes.

City Life: The Ceilings At San Francisco Centre Shopping Mall

The big dome in the newer part of the mall.

Yep, that's Nordstrom's up there.

San Francisco Centre is a mall located on Market Street near the area known as Union Square. The Square is renowned as a shopping area, particularly for tourists. Though I say I don't like malls I do come here more often than I'd like to admit, usually because I'm stopping at the bookstore on the way home.

The mall is divided into two connected sections. The Nordstrom's side is the oldest. The side with the big dome is the newest section and comes complete with a Bloomingdale's.

The food court in the basement on the Bloomingdale's side is the best food court I've ever seen. All manner of good eateries are here; not one place could be called "bad mall food." I usually get Fish & Chips at Catch Isle located in the middle of the Court.

The mall was busy today but not what I'd call a mad house. Still, Holiday shopping is in full swing.

I Must Have This Book

I swooned when I saw this on the shelf. I gently removed it, carefully opened the pages, read entries for copulate and helter-skelter, looked at the price, tenderly fingered the paper, and slowly slid it back into place being careful not to rumple the dust jacket. Exhale, sigh of longing. Later, love. More later...
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.4

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Completely Awesome Food

Well, this came about because I went to the Ferry Building today when I was hungry. Always a bad move. The Ferry Building houses very upscale food shops, some nice restaurants, and hosts what has to be the most impressive (and expensive) Farmer's Market in the City.

It started with the cheese. I just love Cowgirl Creamery and always visit whenever I'm in the building. Today's selections (clockwise from upper left): Appalachian - a semi-soft cow's milk with a mild buttery flavor and more than a hint of earthy mushroom. Redhawk - a triple cream soft cow's milk with a strong smell and an earthy, slightly tangy flavor. Landa - a mild, semi-firm buttery cow's milk cheese inspired by Caerphilly.

Next, house mixed olives, blanched almonds, and Medjool dates.

Round it out with my favorite crackers and some Safeway Salami I had laying around.

I popped open a lovely bottle of Syrah: blackberry, blueberry, dark cocoa powder, with a hint of bright raspberry in the medium length velvety finish. Gorgeous nose: sweet blueberry, like pie filling. I already had this in my wine fridge and so was able to cut down on the cost.

Last but not least: a few pieces of Recchiuti Dark Milk Chocolate. Not as good as fresh chocolate from Bruges but more than adequate.

All this should last me through the weekend. I hope.

Sudden Increase In The Number Of Stars

"You've been impossible to get a hold of."

"Yes, I know. I've been neglecting everything. You know you could set off the alarm or something if there was an emergency," I say, "Wait, was there a problem I don't know about?"

He glances at me but keeps walking. Mr. Gryphon and I are strolling through the Forest of My Imagination. It's nighttime and in keeping with tradition it's the same temperature here as it is right now in my beloved City which means it's uncomfortably cold outside.

"You haven't answered my question," I say looking at him. He's right, of course. It's been far too long since we've had a conscious chat.

"And you haven't been around," he stops walking. The moon is out and the air is hard, cold, sparkling. The dirt path we're walking on is only a little moist. My toes are cold. The trees, the leaves, everything is just slightly damp.

He faces me and his wings flutter for a moment like they might open. At least his claws aren't showing. "Miss Turtle, let's get a few things straight. I'm not a piece of furniture or some picture you add to your blog page for fun. I'm not Benedict and I'm most certainly NOT your Sherlock."

"Well, you sound somewhat like him and you're tall enough. Or rather he's tall enough." I smile. I know it pisses him off but I can't help it. I love the idea of him being my Sherlock, running around in a wool trench that costs a thousand pounds wearing a narrowly cut beautifully tailored suit but it's only a temporary personal indulgence like everything on this blog.

"I'm serious. Very series," he says. His ears twitch and he frowns. He looks closely at me. "Why aren't you wearing your gloves?"

"I forgot them. In my backpack." I can see the vapor from my breath. I shove my hands deeper into my pockets. He approaches, looking grim, and then opens his arms. I go to him and he opens his wings, wrapping them around me. He's warm, furry, and feathery.

"We need to get back and have some tea," he mumbles. He strokes my hair.

"I've hurt your feelings. I'm sorry. I've gotten so much writing done but I haven't been around lately. It's been longer than lately, hasn't it?"

"Yes," he says. He sighs. "There are no problems here. Everything is fine. We've just been missing you. I most of all."

"I haven't cleaned my apartment or done my laundry in ages either. I have so much catching up to do. So much more to write. Mr. Gryphon, how the hell did I get anything done with I was working regularly?"

He doesn't answer. While he's with me all time, he's right. I've been neglecting him and this world of mine. Everything keeps going on, of course. My characters all have their own adventures I'm just not thinking about them consciously. Even he has adventures but he can only do so much when I'm not there. Gryphon and Mock Turtle are always together but when I'm not paying attention, he's usually waiting around for me.

"I'd tell you not to wait so much but I know it won't do you any good. I hope you know I'm serious," I say.

"I know you are. I've made your point by posting this here on SF Life and not on Fainting in Coils," he says. He stiffens. Something is walking through the forest behind me. He relaxes. "One of the frogs." I nod. There's a trio of frogs wearing waistcoats and tails who stroll around playing two violins and a cello. They play when we have picnics, in the reading room of the Library, in the dining room, whenever they feel like it. The frog walks by, wrapped deeply in a warm winter wool. He smiles and waves then goes off towards the Library.

"I'm going to revise 'FailSafe' and add some more side stories. Mr. Gryphon how I wish I could draw. I would love to illustrate it!" I say this so he knows I really have been thinking about him lately.

"Your drawings of me are just fine."

"Yes, but those are sketches, mere copies of other works. I can't figure out how to do my own characterizations."

He squeezes gently. If he hugged me too tightly, he would hurt me. We stand there in the forest at 2:00 a.m. It's time to go back to the Library for tea but we don't move. The night is so cold but it feels magical.

"Something's going to happen tomorrow," he says.

"Yes. I wonder if it's going to be as important as they say it will be," I say. I look up at him. "I really do love the idea of you being Benedict."

He snorts. "I'm much better than him. Certainly more elegant."

"Yes, you are, Mr. Gryphon, indeed you are. Much more elegant than any mere human being could be."

There's a sudden burst in the starry skies above us, an impromptu meteor shower. We both look up. What with stuff happening tomorrow, the gross underestimation of the number of stars in the night sky, and the sheer number of brilliant gifts in the Universe, it's no wonder I'm feeling blessed and lucky.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

City Life: Crossing the Upper Deck of the Bay Bridge on Sun

On our way home to SF from El Cerrito.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.4

NaNoWriMo 2010 - Made the Minimum Deadline! Current Count 50,749 Words

For those of you who don't know what NaNoWriMo is here's another overview:
  1. The idea is to write a novel of 50,000 words in one month (about 140 pages).
  2. NaNoWriMo takes place every November.
  3. It's sort of a contest but not really. People often ask what you "win" if you reach 50,000 words. You win some badges like the one I've posted on the right. The point of it isn't to "win" but to finish your novel in 30 days which is enough in itself since there are plenty of people in this world who talk on and on about writing a novel but never get past the first five pages.
  4. I'm sure there are exceptions but for the most part the finished novel will be a rough first draft, and probably a "shitty" first draft as Anne Lamont put it so well in her classic book on writing "Bird by Bird."
  5. No one tells you what to do with your novel when you're done. It's up to you to decide if you want to continue to work on it or move on to the next experience.
List of things I learned during this year's National Novel Writing:
  • Just because I've done this before doesn't mean it was any easier. In fact, writing this story was much more difficult than the first one. This was partly due to the story subject matter (Post-Apocalyptic) and my own doubts and writing related meltdowns.
  • The middle of the month is the worst. By the 25,000 mark I hated my story, my characters, and was thinking of throwing everything out even though I was caught up on my word count. I kept re-reading sections I'd already written and thinking the story was pretentious, stupid, and over-reaching. I was thinking things like I'm just a nobody who will never amount to anything. What am I doing with a novel in progress, a new novel, a short story, a blog? Thankfully, these feelings have passed, for now.
  • I can write about 1,000 words in an hour, give or take a hundred. That's just laying down words without editing (or trying not to edit). Does it come out as gibberish? No, the story plot is intact, has character development and arc, plot twists, settings, lots of dialogue, description, and even the beginnings of my complex story world. The fact that my story does not come out as gibberish is an enormous blessing and I count myself lucky to have this ability.
  • I was constantly surprised and still am. Several times while writing I pulled my hands off my keyboard and thought WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED? WHAT DID THAT GUY JUST SAY/DO? It got to the point where I was worried the story was starting to careen out of control. For example, there's a new development that doesn't seem to fit with how I thought things were going to turn out for the two main characters. The best solution for a problem like this is to keep writing to see if everything comes together later.
  • I'm still working on this first draft. Sure, I made it to over 50,000 words by today and had it verified but I need to finish this draft. I'm hoping it won't be more than 60,000 words.
  • Establishing brilliant rituals really helps. One of my friends and I have been going to a cafe with excellent food in Lower Pac Heights in the evenings. She reads caselaw and I work on the novel. We've been doing this everyday now since Sunday. It's been fantastic.
Things I really like about this novel so far:
  • The name: 56 Days.
  • My descriptions of the morning the world ends on 11/22/2066 at 6:21 a.m. are BAD ASS! The world collapsing in on itself, the ground splitting open, massive earthquakes, and the sea rushing in from far away, a torrent of gorgeous blue water pouring into the gaping maw that used to be terra firma were so much fun to write.
  • My two antagonists are virtually indestructible and I couldn't figure out why at first. I could have just left the reasons out but I really wanted to know the answer. Figuring it out a couple of days after I started writing was tremendously satisfying.
  • So far there are a total of ten fight scenes involving explosions and fire, various firearms (twin revolvers, a Browning, and a shotgun), swords, an SUV, a trusty machete, and a very handy Uzi Submachine Gun that fires 600 rounds a minute.
  • The first half of the novel is entitled "The End" and is about the end of the world. The second half is about what comes after.
  • In the last sequence I wrote, two men are hanging off a hotel balcony above the Financial District in New York City on a beautiful clear night. Below them is New York Harbor and Battery Park. One falls, the other leaps after him. I have no idea what's going to happen next.
  • All of these ideas, sections, characters, settings, story could change later.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010 - 35,155 Words So Far

It's been tough but I'm getting closer. The story is crazy! I don't know what to make of it so far but it's surprising the hell out of me.

This story is all about relationships between the characters. It's odd since I'm writing about the end of the world and the horror that comes after. I thought it would be more about the situations that brought about the end of the world in the first place and the massive destruction that occurs but it's really about love, loyalty, friendship, and the miracle of creating a "family" in an environment where there's nothing left but violence, destruction, and certain death.

By my calculations I should finish this bad boy by Sunday. Have a great Turkey Day, everyone. I'll check in with you all on the weekend.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Speaking of Shiva...

So because of my mistake in the post below I started surfing around looking up Shiva Nataraja, the Hindu deity known as the Lord of the Dance. Shiva Nataraja in this incarnation is dancing the dances of creation and destruction.

I've always loved this image of Shiva dancing, one of my favorite images of all time. That person he's standing on represents human ignorance.

I'm not going to bother explaining what this is about because I can't really do it justice except to say that Shiva dances the dance of destruction (of the weary cosmos) to make way for the dance of creation (of the new cosmos). You can click on the link above for a bit more information.

It never occurred to me that there could be real dances but I found this one on YouTube and it's so beautiful. This video was uploaded to YouTube by Jakubstoll. I'm providing the link to the actual YouTube video for credit purposes.

Just looking at her posture, the placement of her hands, and when she lifts her leg in that iconic pose makes me happy. Enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

City Life: Torso of Shiva...No, that's Buddha, in Front of City Hall

Saw this rather overwhelming sculpture while walking by.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.4

11:30 pm Addendum: Good thing I looked this up when I got home. That's Buddha, not Shiva. How embarrassing. I'm not used to seeing multi-headed Buddhas around so I hope I can be forgiven for my mistake. Yeah, I saw the lotus in his hand but the multiple heads really threw me. Either way it's huge and it's cool in front of our City Hall.

Also, I posted the better picture here. It's hard to pick the right picture when it's dark.

NaNoWriMo 2010 - 22,148 Words So Far

The goal to aim for so far is 25,000 words since we are halfway through the month. I've made good progress this weekend though I'd hoped to be a little more ahead.

I was reading portions of my story this afternoon and I really don't know if I like it. I'm surprised by the characters and their relationships with each other, I just don't know if I'm going to want to keep working on this story after Novel Writing Month is over.

I think I had a similar reaction to my current novel while I was drafting it during the last NaNoWriMo, and I think it happened right about the halfway mark. The NaNo folks send pep talks to my in box which I didn't think would be very helpful but this week's is right on point. Here's an excerpt from Lindsay Grant:

"Week Two is a battle for your novel's future, and you are going to win it.

You've been carrying around a story for a while now and you finally started writing it. Getting started is hard enough, but then you went on to write for a full week, bringing your story to life and making your noveling dream a reality. You're well on your way, writer, and you have come so far already! Don't let your inner editor convince you that this isn't worth your time, or that you should start over, or—even worse—that you should start over some other time. For this novel there is no "later." There is only now.

And when you reach November 30 with the rough draft of your novel in hand, the struggles you overcame this week will make that already-triumphant moment even more incredible.

The world needs your novel. This is the time to write it. And it is infinitely worth fighting for."

I have to say I find this pep talk inspirational. When I look at my story right now and don't really like what I see, I have to grasp at something, anything that would tell me it's worthwhile to keep going. The whirlwind will continue and sometime early next year when I've had time to let this story sit and ferment, I'll be able to see if it has been worthwhile.

No, wait. It's all worthwhile because even if I don't use it, work to further develop this story, it will still be a complete story with beginning, middle, and end, character development, plot twists, and hopefully a great ending. The act of writing down stories is always worthwhile because it's the only way you get better.

Also, even though I have a very general idea of how the story is going to progress from here on out, I don't know the details and I don't really know how it's going to end. I had an ending in mind when I started but I don't know if I'm going to use it. What's going to happen to my characters when they reach the end of their trials and tribulations? What is the the massive, huge plot twist that will explain all the bizarre goings on in my story? I have no idea. I guess I have to keep going to find out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Conversation With My Brother: Three Little Pigs

I just love some of the email exchanges I have with my brother and couldn't resist posting this one:

Him: Why in the Three Little Pigs does the wolf threaten to huff and puff and blow the house down? He could just kick the door in or break a window, why blow the whole house down. Maybe who ever had a fear of windstorms? And... it seems there are more than two ands in the sentence and comas.

Me: The wolf's capability of leveling the house by blowing it down is far scarier than kicking in the door or breaking the window. More than a mere repair job, the leveled house literally makes the pig homeless.

As for the "and," I seem to recall it's a type of writing convention perhaps used as away to build suspense and for emphasis. It certainly creates a unique rhythm precisely because we've been taught not to use multiple "ands" in this way. I saw a Wikipedia article, can't find it now, which discusses this convention. It uses the speech Brad Pitt gave in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds as a example:

"We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. And they will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us. And the German won't not be able to help themselves but to imagine the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, and our boot heels, and the edge of our knives. And the German will be sickened by us, and the German will talk about us, and the German will fear us. And when the German closes their eyes at night and they're tortured by their subconscious for the evil they have done, it will be with thoughts of us they are tortured with."

Friday, November 12, 2010

City Life: Secret Hiding Place in Golden Gate Park

Crowds of people just steps away but it feels like we're in our own world.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.4

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010 - 14,354 Words So Far

I'm still two days behind but that's a lot better than being almost a week behind. Damn, I thought this was going to be easier but it's not. This is tough going. The story is flowing out of me but it's difficult to keep up the right mindset.

Monday, November 08, 2010

2010 Europe Trip: Bruges - The Medieval City

Bruges is a perfectly preserved medieval city in Belgium. I'd read about Bruges years ago but it wasn't until after I saw the movie "In Bruges" that I decided I really had to visit the place. In addition to its weirdness and relentless profanity, the film really showcases the city.

I had an interesting reaction about Bruges from that weird couple from Toronto I talked to while in Amsterdam. When I told them I was going to Bruges, the wife said, "Bruges! I had a friend who went there and she said it was completely over the top. I'd never even heard of Bruges before she went." She went on to admit that she didn't exactly know what her friend meant by "being over the top" but she'd assumed it was a negative reaction. She also said visiting a medieval city held no interest for her. I mentioned that the historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and she scoffed at this fact saying "EVERYTHING is a UNESCO World Heritage site so that doesn't mean anything at all." Her husband and that guy from the midwest both agreed with her. She asked me why I would want to go there and I explained that I loved Northern Renaissance art, a comment that had everyone in the room stumped. I changed the subject and took everything she said with a grain of salt. After all, this is a women who announced to everyone she couldn't see why ANYBODY thought Van Gogh had talent. Now, I can understand people not caring much for his art, we all have our preferences, but I couldn't see how she could make a statement like that.

Okay, back to the city. Bruges has a small city center and can be seen easily in one day. I spent a little less than two days here and it was a nice amount of time though if you ask me for a recommendation I think three days would be really lovely.

A view of the Markt (market square) from one of the many surrounding cafes. The tall building is the Belfort (belfrey). I was there during their Pride weekend though I drank too much beer and ended up sleeping through their Pride Parade. Still, when I arrived in town and saw the rainbow flags up at the Markt I was really tickled.

My Bed and Breakfast is just around that corner. This street is about a block and a half from the Markt.

Bruges is a pricey town. While my bed and breakfast was reasonably priced (about $80 a night), the restaurants were expensive. Of course, there are cheaper places to eat, street vendors and such, but I noted there were plenty of upscale, beautiful restaurants, tea houses, cafes, etc. I had an absolutely decadent Belgium waffle with chocolate and strawberries along with some tea at the cafe in the picture above and it cost over $20 when I did the conversion.

Here it is, the $20 Belgium waffle and tea. Was it worth it? I think so. The quality of the chocolate was out of this world and the strawberries were super sweet but I still have to admit that I was a surprised when I got the bill.

Chocolate. The best chocolate I've ever had was here (including white chocolate). There are chocolate shops all over the place and it didn't take me long to pick one so I could buy some for souvenirs. I bought two boxes, one for my Dad and one for the folks at work. The chocolate was handmade that week with fresh ingredients. While this chocolate doesn't last as long because there are no preservatives, nothing tastes better. It was beautiful. The ladies at the shop said you can buy boxes of their chocolate at stores but the ingredients aren't fresh so it tastes different.

There are plenty of beautiful gift shops as well. Bruges only has a handful of tacky gift shops around the Markt. The rest of the shops are all upscale designer type stores. Yep, Bruges caters to folks who have money. I'm not saying you can't go there on a budget, you just have to be aware and plan accordingly.

Not surprising, Bruges is all cobblestones. If you're not used to walking on them they're killer on your feet so make sure you bring supportive, broken in shoes. I'd brought my cute leather clogs but had to switch to my white sneakers. I didn't get used to the cobblestones until my trip was almost over.

Here I am in front of one of the canals in this place. There aren't as many as in Amsterdam but they're still beautiful. Note the touristy white sneakers.

A proper picture of the canal from the bridge above.

A view of the Markt from one of the lower floors of the Belfort. They were doing renovations at the top so I didn't get a shot of the Markt from there.

Here's the shot of the view I was able to get. This view is from back side of the Belfort.

As I mentioned in my photo comments, this trip was all about climbing stairs. Climbing the Belfort was quite something and the stairs get steeper and narrower as you get closer to the top. They thoughtfully provide a rope for you to hang on to. I met a young man from Kentucky who was visiting his sister in Brussels as I made my way down. I asked him if he wanted to go ahead of me since I was taking a long time but he said he didn't mind. We had a nice conversation about our travels.

The Belfort stairs. A whole lot of them. See the rope in the upper left of the picture?

The courtyard leading to The Church of Our Lady, the largest Church in Bruges.

Even with my interest in medieval art I have to admit I didn't realize what medieval architecture was about. I'd never studied it before other than what I'd seen as background in paintings so I had a wonderful time walking around the city and noting it's beautiful buildings. Bruges was never bombed so the historic city center is completely and wonderfully intact.

Some buildings on the Markt. The large gray building is the Provinciaal Hof (Provincial Court). The red brick building on the right is the post office where I mailed a bunch of clothes home in a desperate bid to lighten my luggage.

The back of the Sint Salvator's Cathedral. While smaller than the Church of Our Lady (and lacking a Michelangelo), I still loved this church. It felt so good to be here. I don't know why. I was here for a long time and I couldn't stop touching the walls.

The interior of Sint Salvator's. I actually kissed one of the pillars before leaving. It was my weird way of saying thank you (and I left a small donation).

Since Bruges is so small you could easily walk to the train station from the city center (about a 15-20 minute walk) but if you have a lot of luggage I suggest you take the bus instead. The bus stop was just a few steps away from my B&B. When I took my side trip to Ghent, I walked to the train station. It was a beautiful walk and I had fun because I followed a group of school kids going on a field trip to the station.

On the way to the train station, I walked through a park with the school kids. I stopped to take the following shot. Yep, those are people's actual houses.

Bruges is well known for its swans and they tend to hang out at the Minnewater, a canalized lake, also called the Lake of Love. There's a legend about the swans (go here) which explains why Bruges is supposed to keep swans for eternity. I missed two opportunities to take a canal cruise so I opted for a carriage ride instead. The carriage ride was expensive but worth it.

The driver took me to the Minnewater and let me (and the horse) relax for about 20 minutes.

Miss Turtle at the Minnewater. I spent quite a bit of time observing the swans: two of them were nesting. I probably should have been walking around taking more pictures but the swans were mesmerizing.

The carriage ride was worth it in other ways. The driver pointed out a narrow alley in Bruges, right off the Markt which didn't look like an alley, more like a space between two buildings. Down this alleyway is a legendary beer bar, Staminee de Garre, which has over 100 beers. Apparently, tourists prowl around the Markt looking for the elusive alleyway and walk right by it because it's so narrow. He showed me right where it was and after my carriage ride I went for a drink.

The alleyway looking towards the street. It's incredibly easy to miss it because it doesn't look like anything. Mostly locals hang out here.

I'd mentioned in the photos that I'd walked into the pub and, not knowing what kind of beer to order, requested a recommendation. The man at the bar suggested the "house beer" known as Tripel de Garre. I remember thinking I was going to get gyped into some subpar beer but I was wrong, of course. I included this shot in the photos I uploaded to Picasa but just have to post it here again.

11% alcohol. Very strong tasting. Comes with soft white cheese, and that's not a beer glass, people, it's a beer bowl. I drank the entire thing. I'm not a beer drinker but it was incredible.

I learned that beer in Amsterdam and certainly in Bruges is much, much better than beer here in the U.S. American beers, even if they're imported, taste like watered down crap and have no complexity to them. Bruges is known for having the best beer in the world. If I hadn't been traveling alone I would spent a lot more time drinking in all the places I visited. I almost never drink beer at home but if I do I tend to like Guinness Stout.

The sign for the beer bar near the front of the alley. I might have been a little tipsy when I took this picture.

As I've been writing this post I really do think I would have preferred to be here for at least three days, maybe even three and a half. Bruges is a small city but there's so much walking and strolling to do, and the city encourages you relax, sit at an outdoor restaurant or cafe, and watch the world go by.

View from my B&B window.

NaNoWriMo 2010 - 7,600 Words So Far

I'm so behind. Oh well. It just means I'm going to have to really work at it this week.

This novel I'm drafting is Post-Apocalyptic and is based on a short story I wrote a few years ago. Already I'm surprised at the turns the characters and story are taking. It seems their relationships are far more complex than I imagined.

I'm a bit intimidated by all the worldbuilding I'm going to have to do for this novel. I have to figure out how the end of the world came about and the social/political/religious structure of the current setting but I can't spend much time on that now. The main focus is to write the story down and deal with the rest of the stuff later.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Droid Camera

While driving home from Zion Nat'l Park a couple of weeks ago i snapped some pics when it was my turn to be a passenger. I'm always amazed at the quality of pictures you can get with a phone camera. I mean those are some serious cloud pictures and i got them by pointing the damn Droid out the front windshield.

I guess phone cameras are getting better and better. This is a test post, by the way. I'm experimenting with posting from my Droid while riding home on the 6 Parnassus MUNI bus.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.4

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing Life: My Three Month Timeline

Pictured here is my three month timeline which shows all my writing projects and steps I want to take. Each project has its own color. I thought about just making a list of steps and printing it out but realized I'd have to keep printing out the list every time it changed. I also thought about using index cards but didn't feel right about wasting an entire card on one task. With the color coded post-its I can move things around, add tasks, subtract them. Also, I can see at a glance where I am with each project even from far away.

It's such a relief not to have all that stuff in my head, weighing me down, and I love that I can just glance to my right to see where I am and what I need to do next. I love it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

End of October Junk Mail

Here's what's going on with me:
  • I'm still unemployed. I'm looking for a job but it's pretty tough out there. I'm approaching the ceiling of my salary range and I'm getting low balled salary-wise. The funny thing is employers want someone who has my level of experience but don't want to pay for it. I suppose they'll hire someone they can pay a lot less who says they can do the job. Good luck with that. Word to the wise: if you're looking for a job and have a lot of years of experience, stay away from labor and unemployment law firms. They don't pay shit and they want a ton of trial experience. Fuck that.
  • Further to the previous item, if it turns out I can't get a job without taking a big pay cut it might be time for me to leave the law altogether and do something I really like. No sense getting paid nothing and working like mad for attorneys. I don't know what I'd do but I'm sure I can think of something. Any suggestions?
  • I'm almost done with my short story. It's an employee ghost story. I had it critiqued at my writing group and I'm going to submit it for publication. We'll see how it goes. I'm looking at it as a learning experience, an experiment as in "how many times can I submit this thing before someone finally says yes?"
  • I'm going to draft the next novel during November's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Damn, that's less than a week away! I'm betting I'll finish the required 50,000 words before Thanksgiving weekend. We'll see how I do. Heh.
  • My newest obsession is the BBC TV show "Sherlock." Here's the trailer link. They're showing it on PBS right now though I don't know the schedule since I still don't watch TV. I read about it and noted it was created by two writers who work on "Doctor Who." I'm a long time "Doctor Who" fan. I told my brother and he ordered the DVDs from We watched the entire series, then watched them again with commentaries, and watched the documentaries in mid-September. There are only three episodes but I just LOVE them! They're coming out with a second series next year. My brother and I are hating that we have to wait that long for the next episodes.
  • I'm still working on my current novel. I'm in the research phase which is substantial since this is a historical novel. By my calculations I should start working on the third draft by mid-January. I'd hoped to go back to Nuremberg and Ansbach to do more research in December but that's not going to happen. I really wanted to be there for the Christmas Market and the snow.
  • At some point I'm going to polish up "FailSafe" (my weird story on "Fainting in Coils"), rewrite and expand "The Asides," probably write a new side story or two for it, and turn it into a hardcover book. In fact, I may include the other two super personal stories starring me and Mr. Gryphon, including "The Coda" and the story about the nightmare. I may even include a section with my favorite posts with Mr. Gryphon in a separate section though I'll probably rewrite, polish some of it. Why not? I might even attempt to illustrate it but I think that's way too ambitious for me. My mother writes poetry and we went onto to create a beautiful softcover book of her poems. Some of my photography is in the book. Her poetry book is so gorgeous that I'm going to do the same for "FailSafe." I'll likely only create one, maybe two. It's just for me. I have no intention of trying to sell it. I'll probably do this in January as a way to take a break from writing the third draft of my novel.
That's pretty much it. Thanks for reading. More substantial posts to come a little later.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Big Animals Take Over Transportation

It's been a bad day for transportation. The MUNI drivers left in disgust, too tired to even revolt with the Union anymore. The buffalo protested from not getting enough fresh alfalfa and blocked the underground tunnels; they hung around playing marathon Texas Hold 'Em tourneys. Giant octopi effortlessly grabbed at the ferries, holding them in place but not pulling them underwater. Traffic stopped. Pedestrians took videos of it all, carelessly posting their raw footage on Youtube.

Above the Bay Bridge, the helicopters hovered helplessly. The herds of brachiosauruses stomped their way across the newly built sections of the Bridge testing them for truth, justice, and structural soundness. The sections failed on all three accounts. Thankfully, the bridge didn't collapse, nor was it unseasonably foggy, nor were there muscly container ships trying to barrel their way past the bridge supports thinking they could pass this close without a cheeky sideswipe. It wouldn't matter anyway. If you pit Bridge/Brachiosauruses against arrogant container ships, the suspensions/dinos always win.

Out in forlorn orange, wisps of fog drifting by, our most famous landmark sat regally regarding it all. No one bothered it unless you count the annoying ant-like cars that traipse across it all day and all night long. Everyone leaves the Golden Gate alone. There are too many people with cameras hanging around. No matter how nutty this city gets we still have the royal Golden Gate to provide us with some measure of dignity.

Buses. God, the buses. What can I say? Being on the bus is so ridiculous that I don't have to invent anything weird to go along with it. BART you say? BART trains are still running on time because they're better funded and actually have a chance of arriving on time.

Eventually, the buffalo finished their tourney and went home, the MUNI drivers got back in the saddle, the octopi dropped their arms and splashed into the Bay, the dinos packed up their things and went home (to Tracy). The buses ran on, oblivious. The city went back to normal, like nothing had happened at all.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Sometimes I dream about him but lately I sit in my small rowboat on the other side of the Milky Way, watching and waiting. During the day the stars have faded, too light to see from down there but from up here the sky is only a darker blue and the stars, milky and smeared, shine like they were just given their favorite ice cream cones to eat. Cherry Garcia, Neapolitan, Mocha Almond Fudge, Coffee, and Raspberry Sorbet melt in seductive drips down the sapphire sky.

At night it's the Blaze of Heavens. The fire and passion of millions of shimmering stars, twinkling and beckoning. Every day and night the stars remind us over and over, without tiring, of all the things we are ignoring, of all the things we are missing. The stars reach out for us. They know we need to be blinded by beauty and wonder. They're waiting for us to look up finally and see.

I imagine him in his own little boat, rowing away and minding his own business. We are not on the same paths, nor have we ever been. Still, I hope and wish for a moment when he stops rowing long enough to see me on the other side of that galaxy. I imagine he will know me and will put his oars down. I'll lean forward, reaching across those stars to him, and he will have waited long enough to know it's right time. There will be no freezing cold vacuum of space or the deadly fires of comets, just the friendly twinkling of the stars. Just the helping hand of the Universe.

We'll finally clasp hands again and everything will fall into place. We'll run along the stars' paths and the orbits of happy planets. The true Universe will come gently and truthfully into view bearing nothing but gifts and riches.

One Of My Favorite Self-Portraits Of All Time

I altered this one this past weekend.

I LOVE this picture. It looks surrealistic. Like my face in pieces floating in a black coffee colored puddle after the blinding, hard sun has come out in the middle of a downpour.

Here's the original photo.

Damn, I'm just noticing it now but my eye looks completely different in both pictures. Ha! I'm tickled.

Too Much Story World?...Unemployment Check In...My Purpose In Life

These days I drift along in my story world, allowing myself full rein of my imagination. I spend all my time either writing, agonizing that I'm not writing, and/or thinking and feeling stories and characters. On Monday, I told myself I would only spend 2-3 hours tops writing before I turned my attention to something else. I wrote for 10 hours without stopping. I don't even know how I did it. I didn't think I was taking that much time but I started around 4:00 pm, looked at the clock and it was 7:30 pm, then it was 11:30 pm, then those last two and half hours of strange magical time, then I checked the clock and it was close to 2:00 am and realized I have to walk the dog and go to sleep.

My characters hang around me in groups, visit me in dreams, flood my fantasies. It's a scary place to be sometimes. I've been wondering if I'm letting myself get pulled too far into my inner life. It's been a long time since I've let myself really inhabit this place.

There's always a barrier. Some fine line. The main barrier is I only give myself full rein when I'm physically writing about my characters or story. The rest of the time stories and characters drift in and out on the surface of my conscious mind but the real meat happens below the surface. This is partly how my "muse" operates and part defense mechanism. I have this secret fear that if I leap full on into my inner life during waking hours (and I'm not filtering it through the physical act of writing) I'll never come back out.

Sometimes I wonder about that too. If my brain chemistry does a radical shift and I lose my mind at least I know where I'll end up and who I'll be talking to (so will you). Gryphon and Mock Turtle are always together. If we're not together then I'm certain I'll go looking for him. Lately, I've been seeing this imaginary world, the story world, and my characters as a kind of afterlife too. No one knows what happens when we die. I have as good a chance of ending up in my story world as I have of going to Heaven or Hell after I die. I mean, why not?

I'm so broke. I have financial help, thank God, but even with it the beginning of the month was pretty scary. As it is, I've got no money for the next week or so. Still, having no money for a week is a better situation than some people. I'd be all right if I didn't have to pay full price for my health insurance. It's a hazard of being unemployed.

I'm still surprisingly relaxed about not having a job. In a month or two things will be tougher if this continues but I keep thinking that I don't want to go back to the 9-5 grind. I like having all this extra time. I wonder if I can figure out a way to earn a living without having to go back to that. Food for thought.

I've been concerned about my reluctance to share my stuff with people, as I've noted in previous posts. I have yet to show anybody even portions of my novel after working on it for so long. I tell myself I'm not ready. I tell myself people don't deserve it. I tell myself it's not fit for sharing. I think this is the reason I've been putting off working on the next draft. When I'm done with it, the novel will more or less be a cohesive whole and ready for someone else to read and comment on. The thought of getting to that point makes my stomach drop.

It's an odd paradox because I've figured out my purpose in life. It might even be considered almost a divine purpose. More on that in a moment. My purpose in life is to tell stories. Not much of a stretch, I know. My job is to tell people stories and to do that I need to hone my storytelling skills and get those stories out there. My stories are needed in this world.

Needed in this world. Know what that means? It means I can't just write my stories down and hide them in a password protected file on my desktop so no one can find them. It means I can't spend years working on a story and never show it to anyone. As for the divine part, I only came to this conclusion because many times when I'm writing, amazing stuff happens to my plot, characterizations, etc. I'm always surprised and delighted and I don't know where this stuff comes from. Sometimes it feels like it's coming through me from somewhere, that I'm merely a conduit for something greater than myself. Sounds hokey but that's how it feels.

People go on spiritual quests, read self-help books (I've done my share), and take seminars to discover their purpose in life. I guess I should feel lucky that I've found it.