I’ve been struggling a lot to keep writing, to keep creating, to find the inspiration and the focus I need to do my job. A lot of it is related to my Depression, but there comes a point when the difference between being a professional and a hobbyist is actually doing the work, even — especially — when it’s hard.
So this weekend, Anne and I took the kids up to Santa Barbara to celebrate our birthdays (which are all in the next two weeks), and to get a change of scenery for a couple of days. It was a gorgeous trip, emotionally and spiritually, and while it didn’t give me the magic bullet to suddenly break through the struggle I’ve been having, I made a ton of progress, because I read a book that I took with me. Here’s my review that I posted to my Goodreads thingy:
It’s a quick read that you can finish in one sitting, but the ideas and advice it contains will stay with you long after you’ve put it down. Some of Austin’s suggestions will validate what you’re already doing, some will challenge you to fundamentally change a creative practice, others will inspire you to grab a notebook and get to work immediately.
Because it’s such a small and accessible book, you’ll want to go back to it from time to time. Just like Stephen King’s On Writing, as you change and grow as an artist, it reveals new ideas and inspirations to you that you may have missed on a previous read.
This is a fantastic addition to your library, and a wonderful gift for any creative person in your life.
I’ve been profoundly inspired by Austin’s book, because he reaffirmed things I’ve already been doing as an artist, but mostly because he gave me permission to think about the entire creative process differently.
For a long time, I have felt like a travel writer who never leaves the house, and Steal Like An Artist helped me find the door so I can get back on the road.
Girl Asleep is a delightful recent entry in the sub genre “girl on the cusp of womanhood who is confused by her changing life (and body) and learns to deal with it via a fantasy universe”, like Labyrinth and Mirror Mask. (I’m sure there must be more examples, but I’m having difficulty recalling them. Anyone want to add to the list?)
This particular girl, Greta, is growing up in Australia in the late 1970s. This is, in itself, more than a little fantastical, and the boundaries between the real and the visionary remain porous throughout the film. (I particularly liked the “integrated captions” for the scene changes, such as focusing on a bucket of fried chicken with a logo on the side reading “later that day”.) Her mother means well, but doesn’t understand her introvert daughter. Her father is little better, and over indulges in dad jokes (and an impressively 70s ‘stache). Her older sister is clearly thinking about moving out and has a dangerously sexy boyfriend. The family has moved to a new town, so Greta has to deal with the new school and all that entails. The only kid at school who seems to want to be friends with her is incredibly dorky (and adorbs). But a gang of archetypical “mean girls” also offers her membership – with unclear but intimidating strings attached. And then mom takes it into her head to invite all her little classmates to Greta’s 15th birthday party. The horror, the horror!
The party starts out okay, but piles stress upon stress until either reality or sanity fractures (there’s enough ambiguity that you may have your pick). Greta becomes lost in the woods, which are inhabited by wonders, but also by Big Bad Wolves. (And a friendly huldra. Don’t see too many of them around…) It all comes to a head in a climactic battle that I was quite charmed by, alternating seamlessly between hair pulling and pillow fights on the one hand, and advanced martial arts movie moves on the other.
The story had its genesis as a stage play, but the film fully embraces the possibilities of its new medium. While the film doesn’t seem to have a huge budget, it used that budget to excellent effect, creating many beautiful and memorable images. What I think it brings most from the stage is a “theatrical” sensibility, where the creative staff are willing to trust the audience’s suspension of disbelief, presenting images that work on multiple levels simultaneously, and respecting the audience’s ability to interpret. Both Kestrell and I were reminded of the excellent work of Lifeline Theater in Chicago.
It’s available on DVD and on Amazon video. Highly recommended.
One week and about ten hours ago, I decided to step away from Twitter for a little bit. The specific details aren’t important, and I suspect that many of you reading this now are already nodding in agreement because you grok why. But I took it off my phone, and I haven’t been to the website on my desktop since. For the first 48 hours, I spent a lot of time wondering if I was making a choice that mattered, and thinking about how I wasn’t habitually looking at Twitter every few minutes to see if I’d missed anything funny, or to see the latest bullshit spewing forth from President Fuckface’s mouthanus. I was, ironically, spending more time thinking about Twitter since I wasn’t using it than I spent thinking about it when I was.
It started out as a 24 hour break, then it was a 48 hour break, then it was the weekend, and here we are one week later and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything important. I feel like I’ve given myself more time to be quiet and alone, more time to reflect on things, and I’ve created space in my life to let my mind wander and get creative.
I’m not creating as much as I want to, and I’m starting to feel like maybe I’ll never be able to create as much as I want to, but I’ve gotten some stuff done this week that probably wouldn’t have gotten done if Twitter had been filling up the space that I needed.
Here’s a little bit from my blog post that became a short story that grew into a novella that is now a novel, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything:
My mother was leaning against her car, talking with one of the other moms, when we arrived. My sister was throwing a Strawberry Shortcake doll into the air and catching it while they watched. I walked out of the bus and across the blazing hot blacktop to meet her.
“Willow, catch!” My sister cried, sending Strawberry Shortcake in a low arc toward me. I caught her without enthusiasm and handed her back. “You’re supposed to throw her to me!” Amanda said, demonstrating. Her doll floated in a lazy circle, arms and legs pinwheeling, before falling back down into my sister’s waiting arms. The writer in me wants to make a clever reference to how I was feeling at that moment, about how I could relate to Strawberry Fucking Shortcake, spinning out of control in the air above us, but it feels hacky, so I’ll just talk about how I wanted to make the reference without actually making the reference, thereby giving myself permission to do a hacky writer’s trick without actually doing it. See, there’s nothing tricky about writing, it’s just a little trick!
It’s still in the first draft, and I may not keep all or even any of it, but after putting it aside for months while I was depressed about too many things to look at it, it feels so good to be back into this story.
Oh, speaking of writing, I got notes back from the editors on my Star Wars 40th anthology submission. I thought that, for sure, they’d want me to rework a ton of it, but all they asked me to do is change a name! And they told me it was beautiful! So I’ve been feeling like a Capital-W Writer for a few days.
And speaking of feeling happy for a change, Hasbro and Machinima announced that I’m a voice in the next installment of the Transformers animated series, Titans Return. And it feels silly to care about this particular thing, but Daily Variety put my name in the headline, which made me feel really, really good.I’ve always felt like the only thing that should matter is the work, and that the work should be able to stand on its own … but that’s not the reality even a little bit. Daily Variety is the industry’s paper of record, so when it chooses to put you in the headline of a story, people pay attention and it matters in the way that can make the difference between getting called for a meeting, or the last ten years of my life as an actor.
It’s also a good reminder that, even if I’m not getting the opportunities I want to be an on-camera actor, it is entirely within my power to create the space I need to be a writer.
Google Translate says the agreement essentially says if someone hacks your account, any damage they do with your credentials is your fault. Not going to sign that.
The user is responsible for the safety (resistance to the selection of the attacks) they selected authentication data and their privacy.
You are responsible for all acts performed by using authentication data users. All actions performed after login using authentication information the user is considered produced by the User, except in cases when the user in the manner prescribed by the Agreement by notifying the Administration of the possibility of unauthorized access and / or of any breach (suspected violations) confidentiality of the authentication data .
The user is responsible for any loss or corruption of data, as well as other consequences of any nature that may occur due to the violations of the provisions of the User Agreement.
I made a neckroll for reading for my spouse; it's the Librarian, who is sick, poor thing. VERY LARGE IMAGE, sorry:
( Read more... )
From The Fifth Continent, by Terry Pratchett.
"The Librarian was very, very ill.
There was a heap of blankets in front of the roaring fire. Occasionally it shuddered a bit. The wizards watched it with concern.
The Lecturer in Recent Runes was feverishly turning over the pages of a book.
'I mean, how do we know if it's old age or not?' he said. 'What's old age for an orang-utan? And he's a wizard. And he spends all his time in the Library. All that magic radiation the whole time. Somehow the flu is attacking his morphic field, but it could be caused by anything.'
The Librarian sneezed.
And changed shape.
The wizards looked sadly at what appeared very much like a comfortable armchair which someone had, for some reason, upholstered in red fur.
'What can we do for him?' said Ponder Stibbons, the Faculty's youngest member.
'He might feel happier with some cushions,' said Ridcully.
'Slightly bad taste, Archchancellor, I feel.'
'What? Everyone likes some comfy cushions when they're feeling a little under the weather, don't they?' said the man to whom sickness was a mystery.
'He was a table this morning. Mahogany, I believe. He seems to be able to retain his colour, at least.' The Lecturer in Recent Runes closed the book with a sigh. 'He's certainly lost control of his morphic function,' he said. 'It's not surprising, I suppose. Once it's been changed, it'll change again much more easily, I'm afraid. A well known fact.' He looked at the Archchancellor's frozen grin and sighed. Mustrum Ridcully was notorious for not trying to understand things if there was anyone around to do it for him. "
2. Easy fixes: I got a dunning notice form the MA Department of Revenue yesterday, saying that I hadn't paid my taxes. Which is of course absurd. Have you met me? I checked my bank records and there was the canceled check. I called this morning and the situation was remedied in 5 minutes. They had filed my payment under 2017. I was all set to get belligerent, but fortunately that was unnecessary.
3. New water heater: We now have a tankless water heater. It's so small! There's so much more room over by the laundry area. It does take a while to get hot water to the third floor, but we'll never have to worry about running out (or the tank failing) again.
4. Working from home: I work from home once or twice a week now. Some things are harder to do because I'm working on a PC remotely through a Mac and my home "office" isn't actually set up for all day working. On the other hand, I can do laundry, make a really nice lunch, maybe run out to the gym, snuggle with Albert, sit around all day in a big soft t-shirt, and still get all my work done.
5. Organization: The corner cabinet in our pantry was a mess. My baking supplies were in there as well as some junk and apparently some mice from time to time. Things were hard to find and inefficiently stored. Also, I hated my flour canister. It's supposed to be sealed, but the gasket always falls off the lid into the flour.
The other day I hauled everything out. I scrubbed the cabinet (can't find where the mice get in though). I bought some great containers for sugar and flour (and will probably get more. Yay, Prime). Reorganized everything. All the baking supplies I rarely use are now in the basement -- equipment in a box, oddball flours in the freezer. I just need to get another storage box for the empty tins, which should also live in the basement until needed and figure out where my enormous cake topper mold goes.
Bonus: Albert. He's just the best.
It is definitely not a WWII clear-out-the-bunkers flamethrower - fortunately. It's also more than a glorified heat gun. When fully operational, it spits out approximately a one-foot blowtorch-style flame. Today I just did a small test run on some weeds growing up out of the cracks in my driveway. It looks like it killed everything, but I'm going to check on Thursday to see if there's any regrowth involved.
My tentative conclusion is that this is a very useful weeding tool, but for me, at least, it takes two people to operate: one to run the blowtorch, and one to operate the garden hose. It's another thing Meredith and I will get to do together.
A young boy aids in the fight against a mechanized terrorist organization as the sole controller of a prototype giant robot.
I couldn’t sleep, so I wandered into the weird and comforting landscape of UHF television’s modern equivalent, which in this case is a digital antenna station on 56.4 here in Los Angeles, called Comet TV*
For the next half hour, I watched this magnificently bizarre thing called Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot. As far as I can tell, there’s this little kid called Johnny Sokko, and like all the other kids in school were all “Johnny Sokko, you’re a stupid face!” so he was like “h*ck you guys, I’m going to get a giant robot and live on a boat for some reason. Oh, and also, I’m like 8 or whatever, and I’m in charge of a giant flying murder machine. So watch your step, bitches.” Johnny gets this this giant robot who flies, and he controls him by issuing commands into a gold wristwatch. Instead of telling the robot to breakdance for his endless amusement, Johnny cries a lot and makes the robot save the world from a squid guy or something who lives in a sunken spaceship, adjacent to a pineapple under the sea? It’s all a little fuzzy in the translation, I’ll be honest, but I think I got the gist of it.
Anyway, I probably made some of that up, but this is all true: There’s a Flying Robot who is vaguely Egyptian. There’s a Gargoyle Gang, the Emperor Guillotine, a military group of children who are called Team Unicorn and are the only thing between Earth’s survival and intergalactic destruction for some reason, and all the bizarre 1960s Kaiju visual effects you could ever hope for. The music is exactly what you want it to be, and at one point, an entire freeway overpass is destroyed, because who among us hasn’t wanted to do that!
A quick search on a few of the Internets made it clear to me that I was not just way late to the party on this (the short I saw was originally released in Japan in 1967, as Giant Robo because obviously) but I am also discovering this literally decades after it became popular with the cool kids. So if you’re like OH GREAT WIL WHEATON THANKS FOR WASTING MY TIME WITH SOMETHING I ALREADY KNEW ABOUT now you can feel like a jerk because it’s new to me, Roland. It’s new to me!
It’s weird, and fun, and overflowing with potential audio samples, so I thought I would share it with you today. Here’s what I think is the first episode, in which we meet Johnny Sokko, the Flying Robot, an unsettling sea monster, and more:
There are several collections of Johnny Sokko films at the Internet Archive. I guess you can also buy remastered DVDs if you want to go that route (though I strongly believe that the faded and aged look of the originals at archive.org is a significant contributor to the charm of the thing.)
Good luck. We’re all counting on you.
"The #1 Gruel Cookbook in the World!" What?
I subscribe to The Mysterious Package Company's "newsletter", Curios & Conundrums. The first one this year, Gods of Madness was on a Victorian theme and included, amongst other oddities, this small cookbook (10 recipes). It sounds like joke, but the recipes, all grain or legume-based porridges, beverages, soups, &c., all sounded really good and the photos were quite appetizing.
I made Victorian Restorative Gruel.
Cook steel-cut oats in beef stock and a little sherry. Meanwhile, cook chopped bacon until crispy and then brown chopped onions in the bacon fat. Add to the oats. When the oats are soft, take off heat. Whisk together a spoonful of molasses and a whole egg. Add to the oats and let sit under cover 10 minutes. Thin with a little boiling water.
It is SO good! Savory and creamy and hearty. Kind of like oat risotto.
( photo )
I'm eager to try some of the other recipes, like Atole (Mexican cornmeal drink), Pig's Foot Congee (Chinese rice porridge) and Pootjes Pup (Dutch noodle pudding). I also have another MPC cookbook on the docket -- How to Poison Your Friends, which was part of the paranoia-themed issue.
121/130, 7 this year, 9 left to go!