Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mid week ruminations

Writing:  Got home after Wordos, and then managed to stay up too late.  So, I got up late to get enough sleep.  As I stood in the shower, I recalled an old Rhonda episode from the seventies, where the metaphor of three tea cups called, work, play and sleep were shown.  When you pour too much from one cup into one of the others, you make a mess.

On the radio the other day, I heard a story about a Jewish composer who put his music in the hands of one of his students in order to preserve it before the Nazis killed him.  The thought of trying to save one's work, and of hiding a mentor's work struck me, and I need to put it into the list of story prompts.

Working Out:  Wednesday was a work-out day.  Alas, I'm developing tennis elbow or something in my right elbow.  So I started out slower on the rowing machine 650 cal/hour instead of something in the 700's.  I also stuck with some more traditional free weight things.  The working theories are that I'm gripping something too strongly, that I pulled something last week when I yanked the rowing machine up to 1000 cal / hour for about 40 minutes, that I pulled something with a "skull crusher" declined lift.  Bother.

Dream:  I had a Renaissance Fair dream.  I had a silver wire crown which rested over my eyes and on the bridge of my nose (in waking, the crown felt a lot like my glasses, and probably looked like the Elf-King's crown in the Hobbit movie).  I think I could fly.

I'm pretty sure this dream is a result of giving a short lecture about writing magic in fantasy stories to the Wordos, followed by coming home to Mark watching a Dr. Who episode with a minotaur alien.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Weekend Update

Friday I was in a Reddit interview, an AMA or "Ask Me Anything" about leading critique groups.  I've never used Reddit before, because it seemed like one more internet distraction, although I know some writers who use it for research, networking, and fun.  Reddit brought me back to my USENET days.  It was interesting and retro at the same time.   I'd say it was successful.  I'm not sure how many lurkers there were; most of the questions came from about the same four people.

This weekend was generally laid back.  I had a bad headache Saturday.  Mark thinks I should keep a headache journal.  I'm going to guess that this one was a combination of sitting at a computer funny, sleeping funny, and not working out since Wednesday (or was that Tuesday?)

Sunday the sun came out and I was tired.  I decided that I'd spend a minimum of time on electronic things and read.  So I chose a book in the stack I have from the library and read Orson Scott Card's "Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction," wherein I re-discovered the MICE (Milieu, Idea, Character, Event) Quotient (I'd first heard this concept at an OryCon panel with Mary Robinette Kowal and David Lavine, and I'd forgotten that OSC wrote about it in 1990).  

True Confession Time:  The rest of the family has been playing Clash of Clans, so I finally took the plunge and started, too.  I wish there was a web-interface for it so I could play on a large screen instead of a mobile, but it's a mobile-based game.   And... gee, it's built to be a time-sink.

Workout:  Monday I did 180 calories in 14 minutes, with a cruising speed of about 720 cal / hour.  I think I've pulled something in my right arm just below my elbow.  No reverse barbell lifts for me (not that I do them).  Mostly I do a lot of the free weights in the ten to fifteen pound range, so I think it's nothing serious.  I suspect that I might have pulled something when I was doing the row machine, and I'll have to be careful to build up to those moments where I'm at 1100 cla / hour instead of plunging into them.

Writing:  I've been plugging away at a fantasy story for Sword and Sorceress.  Considering the reading period opens in a few days, I need to get a move on it.  I've been revisiting other pieces as well.  I should add critique of three pieces, and an evaluation of a jury piece set.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Writing and Haiku

Writing:  Chipping away at the fantasy genre short story.  Usually I'm an intuitive/exploratory writer, but what's nice about the loose outline is that I can jump right into a scene and start writing.  If I can keep everything a "candy-bar scene" that should be nice for the reader -- and likely there will be some connective scenes I need to do.

I made a conscious effort to use the emotional motivation from one of my "tapes" and, my goodness, that got me into the protagonist's head.    I keep telling myself that I need to figure out some good fantasy world oaths for when people swear.  I gave in and used "Lady's Tits" as a swear phrase; it just makes me giggle, like "Great Moons of Neptune!" ... I'll edit it out later.

The family woke a little earlier than normal.  I got up to make an extra cup of tea, and I looked outside at our yard.  The moon, which had so brightly shone east of Scorpio, was now muted in the growing dawn and palled by thin clouds.  Our cherry tree is in full bloom; for about another week the branches will be covered in pink blossoms and the tree will look like some cotton-candy growth imagined by Dr. Seuss.  I took a moment to enjoy the luminous pink, and then returned to the keyboard:


The blooming cherry
Under the veiled moon at dawn
Reminds me to fix

Electronic words;
Clouds gather over the moon
and blossoms will fall.



Thursday, April 09, 2015

Journal: April 9

Not much in the remembered dreams department, although the other night I did dream that The Child had dreamed a scene out of a book-on-CD we listened to in the car.  The Day Jobbe has been somewhat stressful, because I've had to deal with brain-dead factory-installed OS 10.10 Yosemite with Samba 3 playing badly with Microsoft Active Domain servers.  I'm hoping the solution is to force the Macintoshes to always use Samba 1.  As The Child said when I was explaining this to him, "Aye Caramba! It's the Samba!  It's the one dance I don't do."  [Editor's note: nope, Samba 3 is not the whole problem... stupid Yosemite and Active Domain Servers.]

Working-out:  Tuesday I went in and did the routine.  I should probably figure out some things to do at home for those days when going to the gym doesn't work.  Like push-ups and planks.

Writing:  I've re-started getting up a little before 5 AM to wright.  It takes about fifteen minutes to have the tea brewed and mugs in place, so I've been aiming for 4:45.  Since I need about seven and a half hours of sleep to be functional, it helps to be in bed with the lights out by 9:30.   

The latest project is a short story for Sword and Sorceress.  I've got a lose outline, and I keep repeating Forster's example of the differences between "The king died and then the queen died," and "The king died and then the queen died of grief."  


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Writing Journal: April 6

Easter was fun, but starting Friday, various family members have been taking turns being sick.  I'm hoping that I'm not next.

Writing:   Monday I managed to spend a few hours going over a fairy-tale manuscript.  It's at 7000 words and will probably get longer.  It's fun writing it, but 7000 words is not a marketable length for short story unless I serialize it   The fairy-tale voice isn't in vogue at the moment (and really hasn't been for a while) which also hurts the manuscript's marketability... and it also distances the reader from the characters, so I've been attempting to round out the characters.   I may have to do another pass on each scene and tighten things up mercilessly.

Tuesday I switched to outlining a more regular mainstream fantasy story.

Working Out:  Did 160 calories in about 13 minutes with a cruising speed of 730 cal/hour.  I managed to do some different free weight routines, focusing on my pectoral muscles.  I think it will even out some of the muscles so that my chest looks more uniform (instead of unevenly developed).

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Lunar Eclipse 4 April 2015

For once, the cat's antics were somewhat welcome, as he woke me up with enough time to gather some warm layers and my camera and tripod and go outside to watch the lunar eclipse.

I was slightly surprised that the sky had cleared, as it was rainy when I'd gone to sleep.  Low clouds hung in the east, and there might have been a wisp here and there, but the Big Dipper, Arcturus, Scorpio and Antares, and bunch of other stars and constellations were clear, as was the shrinking moon.

The moon was a tiny sliver when I stepped outside at about 4:45.  I managed to set the tripod up next to the house with a view of the moon and its reversed crescent, the horns pointing down instead of away from the horizon like a regular one.  The air was not too cold.  Dawn wouldn't be for another two hours or so.

The sliver grew less, and the argent glow never left the top.  An orange glow appeared at the bottom of the moon and faded as it moved up.  The moon was a copper orange mirror, with a silver ouroboros of light circumscribing it.  I found myself singing We Three's "Center of the Sun," along with the recording of Sarah Favret, Judy Johnson and Kim Scanlon singing in my head.  And then the whiter light along the moon's top really did look like a snake swallowing a thin line of a tail wrapped around the burning orange part.

I'd pause and take a picture -- carefully not looking at the camera screen so I wouldn't have a rectangular afterimage superimposed over the night sky.  Once again, I wished I had a telescope mount for my camera or my tablet.

I was looking down a funnel of all the sunrises and sunsets on Earth stretching their focus from the rim of the world and painting the moon citrine.  If this had been the early nineties, I'd be freezing with the Carleton Druids, gathered together for a ritual, celebrating the dance in the sky and tuning ourselves to the seasons.  I miss those rituals, when we'd all gather together under the sky (OK, or in someone's house).  In the pause, I thought about my writing and the cycles of the sun and moon, the Solar Eclipse sex scene from "The Mists of Avalon," and how thinking about my writing during a lunar eclipse felt like Londo Mollari wanting to meet the shade of a former emperor in the Babylon 5 episode "Day of the Dead."

The moon sank lower

And then the moon sank into the trees.  I tried moving around, but next to the house had been the best vantage point.  The moon was leaving eclipse totality, and the diamond bright white was driving the citrine away.  It was about 5:20 when I came inside.


I went through the pictures; I should have put the camera on manual and set the focus to infinity, because I would have gotten more shots -- the six good ones I stitched together into a mosaic.




Thursday, April 02, 2015

Yesterday's Tapes, Tomorrow's Stories

Arg.  I've been wanting to write, and write mindfully, and practice, and this has been the last few days where that doesn't happen.  Dion Fortune was right:  when you try to accomplish a spiritual goal, a zillion distractions rise up to bar your way.

Working out:   Monday was a Work Day from Hell, and I got home late, so I went to the gym Monday night.  I did about 150 calories on the rowing machine in about fifteen minutes.  I've managed to reach a cruising point of about 720 cal / hour which feels good.  I did some extra free-weight things.

Writing:  Tuesday, someone asked me about Arcosanti, and the next thing I knew, I was reliving a particularly obnoxious moment.  I apologized for stepping onto a soapbox and we joked about Capricorns never forgetting, and she said she was a Cancer and that Cancers feel people's emotions, and I said, "Oh Capricorns feel things, too; we just don't let anyone see."  And I joked about how I should have a circle of friends, and we'd light candles, and I'd mime returning various strings to pictuers of some people from my past, and I'd say things like, "This is the string of anger that ties me to the past, and I return it to you."  

So.  Here I am Wednesday morning, writing, and focusing on writing.  But I sometimes play tapes in my head, and I'm thinking that one way to put the tapes away so I can focus on today and where I am may be to use a version of the tapes as character motivation.  Hmmm.   That  leads to the question of just how close to get to writing as therapy.  But then again, on the other hand, I read about published authors who have had terrible years and written from that place.  Anyway, Tuesday's particular tape has given me a story idea I want to work with.

Working out:  Wednesday was another day where the afternoon was spent dealing with Other Things and writing.  So I went to the gym in the evening.  I managed 200 calories in 17 minutes, followed by some weights-on-string lunges, lat pull-downs, triceps curls, power-station curl-ups, some dumbbell curls, and some other free-weight work.  

Writing:  I'm  working from some hard-copy of a rough draft of a 6000 word fairy-tale re-working.  Forster's aspect of Plot is rearing its head, and I can see that I need to show the Princess's emotional reactions much more than I am now.  On a story "and-then" level, the manuscript mostly works, but the plot "why" is weak.  I can see how the Princess's dialog in one section needs to be returned to match the Elizabethan style she used in the first quarter.  And as I was working out, my rowing machine guided fantasy of the Moon Priest in a Boat Prow turned a little bit into imagining the Princess getting out of her dilemma.  
 Here's some pictures of the falls at Sweet Creek Falls.  Mark wanted to go on a hike, and when he asked me where we might go, I suggested going to a waterfall.  I think I've gotten these pictures a little out of order.  When we went, it was a little after noon and the sun was mostly shining on the water.
 Sweet Creek flows between two steep hills.  As the day progressed, the sun sank be the ridge.  The creek never looked the same twice.
 We were lucky; the temperature was just right.  We saw many of Mark's co-workers on the trail.
 I like this photo because the rocks look like they're floating.
 This is the next-to-last fall on the creek, and the end of the trail.  Below this fall the water collects into a cauldron, and then plunges down again into a swimming hole.
Mark thought the water matched my hair.

After this fall, we drove up a narrow road to the top fall about a mile away.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Over the weekend we went on a hike to Sweet Creek Falls.

Along the trail there were many blooms and plants.  I saw this fern unfurling and used my camera's macro lens to take a picture of it (actually, this is one of three -- I like this one the best because I managed to get an angle which showed the growth's depth).

The engineering, if that's the right word, involved in packing all the leaves and the stem into a compact disk is incredible.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vancouver Bell Phone Exchange Building

 Last weekend we went to Vancouver and saw the historic 1935 Vancouver Bell Phone Exchange building.
 I was particularly drawn to the tile work, which reminded me of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
 I liked the way the tiles stacked together and the brick patterns.  There were some specialty bricks which made vertical channels in the building.
 Over the doorway, they placed a Bell Telephone Logo.
I think Eugene used to have buildings with character like this before urban renewal efforts replaced them with American Brutalism concrete and glass cubes.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Reading and Dreams

I'm reading Lilith Saintcrow's "The Iron Wyrm Affair," which I'm enjoying ever-so-much more than either "Boneshaker" or that other steampunk-Sherlock novel with zombies which veered schizophrenicly between a science fiction adventure story and a romance.   Saintcrow's story (in the Foster sense) starts out action packed.  She's doing a good job revealing character motivation and back-story by an artful use of change of point-of-view... Although I'm beginning to lose some sympathy for her grim-tough heroine.


Dreams:  Last Wednesday or Thursday, I dreamed that Mark and I were sleeping in our old place.  Only it wasn't exactly our old place.  Our  bedroom abutted the garage.  It was like our bedroom had been moved to the south end of our current garage, and the whole house had moved to Sarah and Gretchen's neighborhood.  The house was old wood, sort of like an old barn.  

In the dream, I woke early in the morning because I heard some sort of sound.  Our silver car had been stolen, and the remains of some beat-up orange car were strewn across the driveway.  The thieves had broken into the garage, too.  

"It's a good thing they didn't use the tools to break into our bedroom," I said.  Although there was something not quite right about the house.  I think Mark and I had some further conversation as we looked around the garage. 

Suddenly, it hit me, and I said, "Mark, this is a dream; our bedroom isn't normally against the garage this way."

"But John," Mark said, "somebody stole our car."  I think we may have had a couple more exchanges where I pointed out that this must be a dream and Mark reasserted the reality of the situation.  .... and the dream went on to other things.


Last night I had a documentary dream focused on me.  The setting was supposed to be Carleton College, but physically, it reminded me a whole lot of Western View Middle School hallways.  I was a whole lot smarter and competent than I probably was back in 1990, and I recall thinking as I watched myself giving user services support that the film must be edited or something.  

A user was having problems logging in, and I was behind a plate glass kiosk, asking diagnostic questions, in a relaxing, reassuring way, with occasional hearty comments like, "Oh, that happens to me all the time" thrown in.  

The dream kind of went downhill from there.  There was something about my paycheck not going through.  At one point The Child appeared and started playing with the office phone, to the annoyance of the operator.  I had made a mechanical exchange that played recordings -- sort of like a hundred mechanical spiders whose legs tapped each other or help messages.  And then the dream turned into a credo dream where I voiced some issues from 1991.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Writing as Spritiual Practice

I read an article by Damien Walter and the big message that I took from it is that writing should be a practice which is approached as a spiritual practice -- something you set aside time to do every day, like meditation or prayer, because it makes you a better person more fully engaged.  There was also some additional benefits, like being a productive, happy writer (instead of a blocked, product-product-product writer).  I'll need to re-read this and think about how I can apply it.

On a slightly related note, yesterday I attended the memorial for Anne Warren Smith.  Anne was the mother of one of my high school friends.  She was (which I hadn't realized) very active in the Corvallis folk music scene, and (which I did know) a writer (I took one of her classes around 1997).  Many folks there met her when they were in their teens and had maintained a relationship with her into adulthood.  What struck me was how much guidance and mentoring she was able to provide during her very creative and productive life. 




Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday Journal

Working Out:  In a attempt to get back into the groove of things, I went to the gym Sunday and Monday.  Sunday's workout was the standard one, with about 140 calories in 15 minutes on the rowing machine and a session with the weights.  I added dumbbell flys to the mix.   Monday's session was more a maintenance session, with reduced time on the rowing machine (all though at one point I sustained a high burn of 1000 cal/hour for about 30 seconds -- I usually cruise at about 700).  My pectoralis major is sore.

Writing:  Spring Break has swizzled my schedule all over the place, which is not a good thing.

Dreams:  Gah, I keep having stuck in Arcosanti dreams.

Review: An Arrow's Flight

The following is a book review written Tuesday, 17 Nov 1998


       Hitting the Mark in An Arrow's Flight
            a book review by John Burridge


If you were an urban gay man in the '70's, chances are you will like An Arrow's Flight, a novel by Mark Merlis set somewhere between Tales of the City and The Illiad.  If you were not an urban gay man in the '70's, you might find the book, funny, tiresome, depressing and compelling.  Merlis seems to be aware of this when he writes:

"The city, before the war -- to listen to the scattered survivors of those days, you might suppose they think about nothing else.  Kids who come along now are sick of hearing about it.  Why should I add to the overburdened shelves of hymns to that time and that place?  Yet I must:  it will truly be gone the day we leave off singing about it."

The main character, Pyrrhus, is the son of Achilles.  Achilles has died in the Trojan War.  Before the Greeks can conquer the city of Troy, Pyrrhus must be present on the battlefield, along with the bow of Philoctetes.  Pyrrhus knows nothing of this destiny or his father's death, and leaves his boring island home for The Big City.  There, the young prince stumbles into a career as a go-go dancer and prostitute.  After various childhood flashbacks and scenes of burlesque exposition, Pyrrhus is shipped off by Odysseus -- played as a conniving, heterosexual lawyer -- to the island of Lemnos to pick up the bow of Philoctetes and then off to Troy.

Although Merlis has cleverly juxtaposed contemporary times and a bevy of Greek heros, he has taken his cue from the likes of Flaubert and Hardy and provided us with a main character who is a two-dimensional idiot you want to slap for being so bored and directionless.  It is possible that Merlis is trying to deflate the mystique surrounding the ideal male physique by having a walking centerfold as the main character; but I suspect his main reason was that it made it easier to start the book with a grope show on top of a bar in a strip-joint.  Merlis's secondary characters have much more depth and motivation.

What is tiresome about the book is that it occasionally lapses into whining about the now-gone Golden Age of Gay Eros, when men were Fabulous Men, and queens were Bitchy Queens, and the universe as a whole was AIDS-free.  This is forgivable.

Unfortunately, Merlis seems to have spent some time reading Robert Bly, and so we read about Pyrrhus trying on the fabulous armor of Achilles and secretly wishing he was a butch warrior instead of a sissy-faggot.  I spent page after page wondering when Merlis was going to unite the opposite poles of male expression in a culture of shame and introduce us to Patroklos, Achilles' "comrade in arms."  But the butch/femme dichotomy remained to the book's end; we never read about the relationship between Achilles and Patroklos, and Merlis never explores male expression which can be both loving and martial.

What is fun about the book is that Merlis occasionally breaks the narrative and speaks directly to the reader in the same manner as a director of a play stopping the action on the stage to address the audience with wry remarks about the staging, or how much the costuming costs.  I have a weakness for this kind of "I'm telling you that I'm telling you a story" meta-fable, and I recognize that not everyone likes the narrator breaking in every so often with an aside.

What was compelling about the book was that Merlis knows how to write well, and he knows how to write about people in love.  He knows how to write about people with AIDS.  He knows how to write about exiles from the country of the self.  He knows how to use metaphor, although near the end of the book his metaphors acquire an overbearing sheen of Dickins-esque symbolism.

Despite periodic lapses into nostalgia over the sexual freedom of the '70's, Merlis does a good job of mixing elements of destiny, love, shame, coming of age, sex, and gay identity into his retelling of Sophocles' Philoctetes.  In an era where authors are frequently re-writing "historical novels" in the image of the political movement de juer, Mark Marlis's An Arrow's Flight offers a cockeyed reflection of contemporary gay consciousness in the late 1990's.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Farms and Greenhouse

The other weekend we visited a friend's farm.  They have a kind of portable greenhouse built right on the rows of produce -- I think these are peas.

I like this photo because of the regular geometry of the greenhouse structure, the rusty texture of the stakes, and the organic feeling from the ground.  Also the cross-beams on the top of the beams looked vaguely like Golgotha, or at least like the telephone poles in John Roger Cox's "Grey and Gold."