Friday, January 25, 2008

Writing is Like Being That Ginormous Life Making Machine Doohickey in the 5th Element

Lately my fiction writing has come to a grinding standstill. Sprawling satirical space operas that attempt to say something about the drug industry (both legal and none) is apparently kind of tricky.

I've taken refuge in reading books (Story by Robert McKee and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass) about fiction and story. These deal with down to the bones ideas on craft and artistry and how best to go about constructing your work. There is a lot to learn, and so much I don't know. But the beginning writer, such as my self, is always in conflict with two urges: one, to write it, get it down, work as fast as you can and maybe the dreaded Writer's Block won't catch you; and two, dear lord PAY attention to fundamental principles of story design and structure!

It's not unlike being that Ginormous Life Making Machine Doohickey in the 5th Element. You know the machine that rebuilds Milla WhatsherfacesomethingthatsoundsRussian? There it is, furiously working, trying to make a living organism from a single cell that happened to survived inside a glove, creating the bones and nervous systems, muscles and what not. And then they flash the end product with UV light, skin is made, and Boom! Milla is once again an action hero who is outweighed by her weapons by a ratio of 4 to 1.

Writing is exactly like that, for me, at least. Except for the end product, replace a European model with a three legged, profanity spewing orange hippopotamus with a partially working digestive track attached to its tail. I look at it and think, "Something just iiisn't right here." Just a nagging suspicion, I'm sure.

There are fundamental, down to the bones error in some of my pieces (I've thus far finished 2 novels (one through it's 3rd draft, one 1st draft), and like, 80% of this space opera (nothing published)). But I feel like I'm too close to the works, and not entirely sure what I'm looking for. Part of me thinks, "Well hell, it's living and breathing, technically, it's an organism.", and the other, rational, less forgiving part of me things "Oh dear god what have you done!?" I avert my eyes. I can feel that an abomination against the universal laws of Story have been committed. Something, or many somethings, just isn't quite working.

It's troubling. To say the least.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Email : Server, down.

So our network server's hard-disk filled up, and when that happens, the entire office gets a repeating network message, which gets somewhat irritating. This is what I sent to the entire office, yes, I'm a prima donna. Yes, I have undue faith in my job security.

Once upon a morning dreary, while I programmed, alert, yet weary,
Over many a hard and contorted lines of forgotten lore,
While I focussed, near exhaustion, suddenly there came a popup,
As someone gently messaging, messaging on my windows core,
"Tis some friend, " I muttered, "IMing at my Window's door-
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I rememebr it was in the bleak of winter,
And each separate bugging message wrought upon my Window core,
Eagerly I wished the stopping, vainly I had sought Stop Popping!
From the IT staff of five, stop the buzzing of the hive -
For the sought and beautiful silence which is popups no more -
Unheeded here for evermore.

And the sad unbidden message of the disk is fillen,
Chagrined me - filled me with terrors of servers dying,
So that now, to still the beating of my mind, I sat repeating,
"Tis some IT staff will get it,
Some time soon the staff will get it
Before the server has a fit"

Email : I've never rambled, ever.

I've posted a few emails that I've written that I though weren't half bad, this is one of them to a person in my writing group, concerning my rambling style.

I have never rambled in my entire life! Now, maybe
like an itinerant and slightly loghorheatic vacuum
salesman with a poor grasp of English, I've felt a
need to extrapolate and finely craft the inner and
outer details of a subject. I may have, on occasion,
used points and counterpoints on my prose like so much
bling on hard-hitting gangsta rapper (originally from
Vermont). There may have been pinpoint of weakness in
the timeline of my writing, in which a short snappy
sentence might have created a world of it's own, an
interior life replete with absinthe fueled imaginings
of how if only it could be discovered it would move to
Paris and finally finish that post-avant-garde
pre-anti-post-modern epic poem in Swahili.

I admit, that how fleetingly, a sentence may have
added compounding to it's own compounds, until the
weight of it's commas and semi-colons brings it to its
knees, grasping for the quickly failing vision of
whatever point it was trying to make.

However unfair, critics may have taken up arms against
my fondness of words in which twenty or ninety words
might be used in the place of three or four.

But ramble? Ramble?

Surely not.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Figures

News is suppposed to keep one informed about the world. Besides giving us details on the latest arbitrary tragedy, lascivious details on the most recent car crash, or how fast the last police chase was, I mean. Ideally, in an ideal world, the news should be informing us. We would put off, I think, if we turned on the 6 o'clock update to hear them speaking latin backwards through a trumpet mute.

That's why I'm always amazed when they just throw out a figure, and assume that everyone knows what the hell it means. For example :
"Crude oil production is down 3 million barrels this quarter."

What the hell does that mean?Is that a large percentage? Historically, does this happen often? What's the percentage change, even, would be nice. If you told me crude oil production was down 10% last quarter, even me, a OPEC ignoramus, would have a rough idea on what this means.

But now, they just throw it out there, and hope that the five people in the audience who even havve the faintest clue what it means and why, will tell the person next to them. Maybe they have hopes that, like a country wide game of telephone, the useful bit of information from that odd piece of data will make its way around.

I mean, can you imagine if everyone else did this in real life?

"I see your blood is pumping at 1 litre per39 seconds now...." as doctor stares ambigiously at you.

"Our special today is the roasted duck, which is $1.20 per 45 grams. Would you like to see the wine list?"

Life would be that much more frustrating.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that many professions do just that. Spout off facts and figures assuming that you will understand, or that you will be too embarrassed to ask for clarification. Some mechanics come to mind, that annoying IT guy who feels that much better about himself because he knows how to reseat your RAM. The land of mystery, of the unknown. Many professions, I'd grant almost all professions use it for ill and for good. I don't particularly want to know how they make my sausage. That's a good mystery.I do, however, want to know what a gasket is, why it's blown, and why it costs $500 to 'get er done'.

I can give them a pass on it though. It's the way they do business, hell, it's the way many of them stay in business, but the news? The business of the news is to inform you. Giving us figures without any context or significance behind it makes me glad I get all my news from the web.

Cocaine in the Water Cooler

I don't know what it is about certain service workers. Whether it's the deli woman who's far too enthusiastic to take your order of turkey on rye or the Mastercard phone rep who seems to be doing speed as he's talking to you, they are veritable beacons of over-cheer in a land of Just Trying To Get Through The Day With My Dignity Intact.

They must put cocaine in the water cooler or something. Maybe their bonuses are based on serotonin levels?

It's much worse when they interacts with you on a daily basis. That overly cheerful barista who must come from the land of Sunshine, Lollipops, and Electroshock Induced Happiness in order to maintain a level of blithe joy is a daily attack on my attempt to keep my head down and plough through the day.

They must have watched, and taken to heart, every movie with Robin Williams where he keeps a child-like innocence about the world and admonishes the stuffy authoritarian figures 'that if they just let their inner child laugh and play, if they just smell the roses once and a while', everything will be fine. Never mind that they'd put you in a mental institution before you could say Lithium or "I have a slight aversion to bovine tranquilizers".

It takes a measurable amount of energy out of me to even look at them, much less talk to them; energy I'd much rather put into thinking about "what the hell I'm going to blog about next", or "how much coffee would create a lethal caffeine blood level?". They are energy vampires. They must take pleasure out of culling from their customers every line of cheerful pitter patter, every last ounce of Disney-inspired goodwill towards men and small forest animals.

Maybe they are really soulless harpies who realize the amount of subtle pain they inflict on their customers and take a secret glee each day in extracting the hidden wince and under the breath groan. After all, it's good to be cheerful right? Enjoy your job, bring joy to others? That's the current train of thought anyways.

Personally, I'd be much happier if we could just buy everything out of vending machines. At which point, of course, I'm sure the vending machine technicians would start getting on my nerves.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

People You Meet on Transit #3

by scripted_addicted (Flickr)
The hipster. This is the guy (I have yet to recognize the gal variety) listening to the newest iPod as conspicuously as possible, with fashionably tousled hair, a rakish grin and a scarf that costs more than my coat.

They are like a Gap commercial come to life, if Gap's name-brand cheerfulness and ability to swing dance at will was replaced with a sardonic mind that framed all the world in either post-Chomskian analysis or as fodder for their next avant-garde three act interpretive shadow puppet dance featuring the vocal stylings of the only ethnic person they know.

It must be tricky being a hipster, since by default everything they say or think has to be sarcastic. Now, at some point, that has to get cliche,so does one layer sarcasm on top of sarcasm? Does sarcasm work like negative numbers, where two negatives multiplied together creates a positive? Are optimists merely pessimists who have gone too far? Or does sarcasm work like watercolours? Where if you layer enough sarcasm together, it all looks like a grey mess and you can't be sure if you just used the dirty water where you store your brushes or have created a new NEW grey which may be featured in your friends next art show at the corner gas and frappucino bar.

I imagine that when multiple levels of sarcasm are layered upon each other - in a slave-like fashion not unlike how the pyramids were built; every layer more difficult to lay upon the previous one, and the all the while the previous layer bringing all sorts of doubt as to it's structural strength - the sheer weight of analyzing everything for pop-culture reference, blatant hypocrisy or whispers of post-consumerist neo-capitalist faux-objectivism must get tiring.

The hipster, I'd imagine, gets crushed.

I mean, you can't seriously wear those twill houndstooth jacket with the army surplus hats forever, can you? At some point it all looks fairly ridiculous. At some point, you are going to be mocking your own ability to mock things, which in turn can be seen as a transparent grab at seeming extra edgy and on the envelope.

Dang, I don't even know where I'm going with this, except to say hipsters are the black holes of the Transit universe, they eventually implode. What comes out the other side, well, someone must know. Do they become the power-broking attorney who works 100 hours a week but smokes weed every three months so they are 'still cool'? Do they metamorphosize into a barrista with visions of finally doing a proper edit of Casablanca?

Where do they go off to? There are no 40 year old hipsters.

Maybe they just eventually save enough money for the downpayment on that Jetta they've been eyeing.