Weekend In

•June 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The strings of outdoor hanging lights were on sale so we bought four. The only light on the side patio consisted of a single glaring spotlight that did an adequate job of filling the patio with light if you didn’t mind feeling like you were trying to casually visit with friends and neighbors in an interrogation chamber. So we spent a portion of the afternoon installing the new lights along the side of the house and tested the new lighting setup after it got dark. Suddenly the patio was transformed into an ambient visiting place. I, for one, could not be more pleased with the results. 
This seemed to be the theme of the weekend: small domestic projects paying off in satisfying ways. We made pizzas from scratch and watched John Hughes movies with the sound turned down. We (well, the Curmudgeonly Lion) dug up a broken segment of the sprinkler irrigation to make way for a new storage shed. We took the van to the car wash for a much needed scrub down. We went looking for a bankand instead found an Italian deli that might be our new favorite place: Just walking in the door was to walk through a curtain of garlic-and-oregano aroma that made me never want to leave. 

We even managed to make it out for a bike ride- almost seven miles round trip. I could feel the ache in my legs within the first mile. It’s been ages since I rode a bike. The Curmudgeonly Lion put me to shame once he decided to open up the speed on the bike trail, but it was fun to get to go riding with him.  

We’d hoped to try to catch a screening of Wonder Woman, but the matinee we wanted to see was sold out nearly an hour in advance which foiled our plans. Instead we went to Target and picked up a blue ray of “Rogue One” and watched it at home while eating dinner. 

So it was a low key weekend, but a good chance to recharge and just enjoy being close to home. Not all adventures have to be big ones. 

New West

•June 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’m trying to get back into the habit of reading again. During a recent visit to Chicago I made the unfortunate misstep of going into a half price book store and walked out five minutes and five books later. If I’d have stayed a sixth minute, I would have bought a sixth book. Or more. I might have a problem. 

After packing all these books back to Loss Angeles in my luggage, I set about to read them. One was a gift, two were graphic novels and went quickly, so now I’m down to The Dark Tower by Stephen King, and The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx. It was probably not a good idea to try to read both of these books concurrently. I’m having some pretty weird dreams. 

I feel like I’ve been seeing a lot more Westerns lately. Or, at least, stories set against a Western backdrop, even if, like The Dark Tower and Westworld the stories themselves are dystopic sci-fi/fantasy. Is this a reflection of a cultural impulse, I wonder? What does the Western mean to the American mind in the current political landscape that is suddenly making it popular again? Is it a return to our grandparents values? Is it a longing for free range and wide open spaces and larger than life heroes and villains fighting out a clear battle between white-hat good and black-hat evil? Or have we simply awoken to the fact that Superheroes are not going to save us and that the law is wild and the environment unforgiving? 

It seems to me that the contemporary Western is more about the struggle than the victory. The traditional trappings of a Western are window dressing on the question of identity and the nature of reality in America- which, one could argue, is not the same as reality in other parts of the world. 

I have to wonder why trends happen. What collective purpose do they serve? Was there a logic behind the recent obsession with zombies? Some way of dealing with the mindless crowd impulses of social media, maybe? Or with the obsession with vampires before that? The fear that there were people among us set on draining us dry for their own benefit (right at a time of a major recession)? Or, again, with the gritty reboot of every superhero ever? A way of questioning how people with power should answer to the people they protect and what lines they should and should not cross with that power? Do trends end because we find answers to these dilemmas or because the collective attention becomes drawn to a new problem that suddenly seems more pressing?

Leftovers

•June 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment


I’m ready to get back to work, now. I’ve been out of the work mindset for several weeks now and have been enjoying the unstructured mental space, but now I’ve pretty well reached the bottom of my tolerance for surfing Facebook and starting into space and I want to get back to being submerged in something that lights up my brain again. This unstructured time is beginning to feel like wasting time and life’s too short to waste. 

That said, I don’t really have much control over my muse: he appears when he’s damn well ready to appear, but I’m at the point where I’m ready to open the doors and clear the workbench (literally and figuratively) in preparation for that visitation. 

What I ought to be doing is clearing old projects off my slate, yet even knowing this I’m struggling to motivate myself to actually do it. I know what steps I need to take. I know where all the materials are. I’ve had it on my list for days now, yet still I procrastinate. It’s like getting around to eating the last of the leftovers in the back of the fridge: it needs to be done so new stuff can go it, but everything is stale and limp and cold and not quite big enough to be a satisfying meal and not quite compatible enough to combine with anything else. Le sigh.

So I guess I have my work cut out for me.

Grain

•June 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The chair is probably the only thing actually made out of wood in this whole office.


With nothing else to do, and no inspiration to light up my imagination, I found myself staring into space. This might have proved to be a more interesting pastime if the ‘space’ in question had any kind of a view, but since I was in the office it consisted of plain walls, florescent lighting, and industrial carpeting. All in all, an acceptably bland workspace environment: I don’t believe that offices need to be quirky or unique to be functional. I’d probably find a ‘creative workspace’ distracting: open floor plans and beanbag chairs do not particularly spark my ‘process’. 

At any rate, I found myself staring at the door. It was a typical interior office door: an uninterrupted panel of blonde colored wood with a silver lever for a handle. I knew that the handle wasn’t silver and that the door wasn’t wood: I presumed that they were brushed steel and particle board, but they looked nice. I let my eyes trail over the pattern of the wood grain until I found an interesting area of motif that I could admire for its striations of light and dark.  I admired it for a moment. Then I realized that the same motif repeated itself a few inches to the right of the original.  I did not find this surprising: often wood grain veneers are made by shaving a piece of wood into one long roll of paper-thin sheeting that can be flattened out and glued onto partical board to give the impression of actual wood. The spiral cutting naturally involves some repetition. 

This, however, was different: the motif didn’t vary as the pattern progressed, and in fact, the exact same motif repeated itself at alternating intervals above and below the one that had caught my eye: it wasn’t wood at all, it was a carefully designed printout. 

I shouldn’t have found this surprising, but somehow I still did. At some point, real wood of any kind became too expensive to make interior office doors out of, but we as humans still like the look of word grain- and like it so much that we would rather print out a wood grain pattern to pretend that we still use the real thing than to just accept that the door is made out of… whatever it is that it is made out of.

Is it wood itself that appeals to us, I wonder. Is it the fiction that we are still connected to the natural world that we cling to? Or is there some advantage to wood that we are trying to capitalize on? Does it imply strength? Does it disguise scuff marks? Why bother with the pretense? The world may never know.

Origin Story

•June 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

INT. HELL – ETERNITY

Somewhere deep in the pits of Eternal Damnation, Research and Development Department, it is progress review day. A young down-and-going demon innovator pitches his passion project to the Pointy Horned Boss.

DEMON: Sir, I have a plan for the greatest plague of curses humanity has ever seen.

POINTY HORNED BOSS (PHB): IS IT A WAR?

DEMON: No, not a war.

PHB: IS IT A PLAGUE?

DEMON: No, not a plague. It’s a device.

PHB: A DEVICE?

DEMON: Yes, an addictive device carried in the palm of the hand. So addictive that everybody will want one and will spend every moment of every day lovingly gazing upon it. 

PHB: I DON’T SEE THE APPEAL.

DEMON: It will start small- a device for communicating over distances with one’s voice. Then there will be simple games. Then… The Internet. Soon everybody will use it all the time to spy on each other’s lives- vanity, envy and greed will flourish! And then… Phase Two.

PHB: AND WHAT IS PHASE TWO?

DEMON: We start to make the devices bigger. Slightly bigger with each version: still meant to fit in the palm of a human hand but too big for a pocket- too big to use one handed…

PHB: AND THEN?

DEMON: Then, we make the devices out of the most shock sensitive technology that the human world has to offer and cover it with a screen so brittle it will crack with the slightest touch, scratch or scuff. And then… We coat the whole thing with Teuflon, to give it some shine. 

PHB: TEUFLON?

DEMON: Yes sir- like they use to coat nonstick cooking pans… Only more fiendishly slippery.

EXT. EARTH – DAY

A human struggles to type a text one handed. Drops the phone. The screen cracks.

HUMAN: Damnit!

INT. HELL – CONTINUOUS

PHB: MAKE IT SO. 

Drafting

•June 2, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This feels about right.

I finally managed to build up some momentum last night. I made a list. I actually crossed a few things off it. They were small steps, but every step helps, right? 

The task of the evening was moving all of my current writing projects over from the free writing software into the pro writing software: a task that I worried might involve hand transcribing hundreds of pages of text from one program to another. Luckily, thanks to the internet, I learned there was an easier way to export/import straight into the new script format, so the task only took a few minutes at a time. The only hitch was that the new software would occasionally misinterpret a character and their dialogue as a scene heading and action. This meant another forty minutes of reformatting, but all things considered it was easier than retyping the whole script. 

Scripts, actually. 

Turns out I’m building quite a slate. I found myself rereading one unfinished project with some trepidation, fearing that I would think it foolish in retrospect, but I was edified to discover that I still felt the charm. Maybe I’ll get around to finishing it yet: every time I lose momentum on a project I worry that I’m never going to get back to it and that it will pile onto the heap of unfinished works that I drag around behind me like a ball and chain. 

At any rate it felt good to be back to work. The fallow time between projects might be necessary, but it isn’t much fun: there’s always a tiny part of my brain rattling around in the empty space after the muse leaves like a lost puppy worried that it will never come back again. Do I define myself by my work? Maybe. It’s not that I don’t know who I am without my work: I have plenty of interests outside of my work to occupy my time, but rather I feel like my work gives me an outlet to the parts of myself that I would otherwise never experience. There are parts of me that long for chaos and adventure, while my “real” self likes the comfortable order of routines.  Without order I would go nowhere fast, but without the adventure of my creative work Jack would be a dull boy indeed. 

At the moment I seem to have struck exactly the right balance of routine and creativity. It’s difficult to explain to people how edifying I find my office job exactly because it is so unimaginative. It requires just the right amount of focus to keep me engaged for hours on and in which I don’t have to give a single thought to whether or not I’m doing the right thing or using my time wisely, or whether or not people like my work subjectively. It doesn’t involve feelings. I can save those up for creative works in the precious evening hours. 

Will this sense of satisfaction last? Probably not. At some point I’m going to have to share all this creative work with the wider world, after all, and it’ll be right back to all the judgy-feely distractions that I struggled with in the past, but for now it’s just about right. 

Focus

•June 1, 2017 • 1 Comment

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but not so heavy as my head feels this morning. Why did I think it was a good idea to have so much hair?

Just when I thought my neck was getting back to normal it went out again. I swear, it goes out more than I do. I can’t help but wonder whether it is trying to get even with me for some perceived insult. I can’t help but feel a tiny bit betrayed by my own bed. I thought we were friends, but now I’ve put my neck out twice in five days by doing nothing more than sleeping. Is this meant to be a rebuke?

Needless to say, I’m back to a routine of ice, tiger balm, and anti-inflammatories. And turning my whole body to look both ways to cross the street. And wishing I could just pop my head off, Barbie like, to take the weight off. Tiger Balm under open air feels like a sunburn, but Tiger Balm under clothes feels like fever chills, but if it helps keep me upright then I’ll tolerate it. I purchased a bottle of anti-inflammatory gel caps at the drug store and spent the morning staring at a lone blue pill, wondering if there was a red pill option somewhere that I didn’t know about. 

Considering how scattered my mind has been lately, I can’t help but wonder whether my personality is undergoing a tectonic shift. My mind seems to be a million miles away and it takes all my effort to pull it down into the here and now.  On that note, I’m going to wrap this up and let my mind wander back out into the open. 

 
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