Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tony Soprano

There exists a great tradition of rogue heroes: Moliere's heroes are almost all of this stripe, powerful main characters who behave in morally ambiguous or immoral ways.  The classical view was to indulge such characters only if they paid the price for their immorality by the end of the story.  Thus we have Don Juan carried off to Hell, Falstaff abandoned by Prince Hal (King Henry V), etc.  The 20th Century will be remembered as the formative years of an entirely new artform: The cinema.  Cinema did not have the equal rights with print media, and it was explicitly contrary to the Hayes office that evil or immoral characters be allowed to avoid punishment for their behavior.

These days, the rogue has become a favorite for writers wishing to explore morality in the modern world.  This has given birth to some remarkable characters: James Ellroy's Bud White (if not all Ellroy's policeman characters), The Shield's Vic Mackey, and The Sopranos' Tony Soprano to name a few of the more obvious examples.  These characters are complex mixtures of light and dark.  But the serial form of storytelling, which has become every bit the vigorous, trenchant equal of cinematic storytelling, does not provide easy answers due to its very structure.  A character such as Vic Mackey and Tony Soprano must perservere.  We see more intimately into their lives.  They are not simple symbols, but metaphors for society at large.

In the first season of The Sopranos, Tony Soprano begins seeing a psychiatrist due to debilitating anxiety attacks that leave him collapsed and on the verge of unconsciousness.  As he begins to explore his feelings, his agitation increases, rather than decreases, but he stops collapsing.  By the 12th episode he experiences anhedonia and hallucinatory fantasy (he interacts with someone who doesn't exist and has no awareness that he is experiencing a hallucination).  It isn't until an attempt is made on his life that he breaks free of this downward spiral and resurfaces as a strong, self-assured, mafioso.

Clearly, Tony Soprano was suffering from an existential vacuum; the loss of personal meaning.  Tony was unconscious of his own value as a man and a capo, until someone saw in him enough of a threat to attempt to whack him.  At that point Tony's inner demon is vanquished.   This is piquant irony.  It is also an extremely powerful character arc.  Who cannot identify with what Tony is going through?  We must all tame our feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, and anxiety.  Sometimes we have to have an external change before the internal change can occur.  For Tony, that was surviving an assassination attempt.  Few of us need to endure such a dramatic event, but the idea of cheating death often lead to a strong sense of existential certainty.  Maybe this is why we ride roller-coasters, after all. 

I have also found that making a big life change can also stir up the emotions and get one back on track.  Moving is a good example.  A new job, relationship, etc. can kick-start the psyche.  Something that leads us to the new awareness that life is an unfolding series of revelations.  As long as we're open and receptive to our own lives as they are, we will stay relatively sane and healthy.  It isn't until we try to "cope" that our troubles ensue.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Two reports of infanticide this week.  One is the continuing saga of Andrea Yates, the incontrovertably insane mother who drowned her five children in a Texas bathtub.  Apparently the state of Texas is no longer thinking that her actions were criminal but rather criminally insane.  She will be moved from prison to a mental hospital.  There is no question she pushed her little one's heads under the water until they died.  That she did the deed is an undisputed fact.  However her convictions were overturned when forensic psychologist Park Deitz wrongly implied that she had hatched the idea based on an episode of Law & Order.  Such an episode did not exist.

On the other hand, a 33 year old Morman man in Twin Falls Idaho was arrested in connection with the deaths of three young children under 10 in his home.  Nothing about the relationships of the children to the man has been reported, but they had been seen playing in the house's yard prior to their deaths.  I assume that the children where his children and that he killed them.  Andrea Yates was originally convicted of capital murder.  Through a technicality she has been released.  I don't believe that this was necessarily an error on the part of the court system, because the expert (Park Deitz) testified incorrectly and erroneously. 

What does this teach us?  First, never send anyone to prison based on the opinion of an expert.  Second, women and men may not suffer unequal fates when convicted of killing their children.  Andrea Yates, if we are to believe the experts who defended her, suffered command hallucinations.  If that can be proved (and the insanity defense is a defense which must be proved) then she was de facto legally insane.  Family annihilators, such as the guy in Twin Falls, or Christian Longo or John List, are psychopaths, but fully aware of the illegality of their actions.  Their motives stem from a neurotic desire for control, rather than a mental defect.  They have choices.  People with mental defects such as those of Andrea Yates do not.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Interesting that I should have mentioned Dan White in Friday's post.  On Friday, John Spencer died of a heart attack.  In 1985 I saw John Spencer play Dan White in Execution of Justice at the Guthrie Theater.  I remember it vividly.  I went to the opening night performance, which was on a Friday in October of that year.  For those who don't know who Dan White was, he was a former San Francisco city supervisor (an elected official, like a councilman) who assassinated Mayor Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978.  A few years later, Dan White was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, even though he brought a pistol into City Hall, and reloaded it after killing the mayor and before killing Milk.  He presented a novel defense: that the amount of chemicals he had ingested from the junk food he had consumed in the weeks leading up to the murders had given him some kind of diminished responsibility. 

The irony, which was lost on nobody except the jury, was that if White had murdered only the mayor, he probably would have been in prison for life.  But because he also killed Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the United States, he was convicted of a lesser crime.  The result was 6 years in prison.

At any rate, fast forward to October of 1985.  Execution of Justice opened on Friday.  On Sunday the news broke that in San Francisco, Dan White had asphyxiated himself in his garage.  Emily Mann, the author of Execution of Justice, flew back to Minneapolis to rewrite the ending of the play.  But the metatheatrical nature of the event has stuck with me ever since: all of the outrage engendered by the play abruptly resolved by a very real death.

So it is that John Spencer has always defined that moment for me--because although I never knew what Dan White looked like, John Spencer embodied him for me.  So that whenever I saw John Spencer on television or in films, I hearkened back to that extraordinary moment when theater and life intersected in a uniquely dramatic way.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Michael Jackson: Last Days?

M. Jackson is mere days away from going into default on nearly $300 million worth of loans.  The Enquirer reports that an overdosed, drunk Michael collapsed in Bahrain and was in critical condition.  Though it was darkly fascinating to speculate on Jacko's suicidal tendencies during his trial, wouldn't it be ironic if in freedom, sublimated guilt over whatever crimes he may have committed and been acquitted of, ended up destroying him?  It wouldn't be the first time--remember Dan White?

Friday, December 2, 2005

Epictetus' Hymn to God

Lead me, Zeus, and you too, Destiny,
Wherever I am assigned by you;
I'll follow and not hesitate,
But even if I do not wish to,
Because I'm bad, I'll follow anyway.

--Handbook 53, trans. White

Thursday, December 1, 2005

America's Best Christian

Whenever the devil gets me down, and rampant sinning seems to be the order of the day; when all about me swirls a miasma of godlessness, I turn to Miss Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian (tm) who can put me firmly back on track.  Betty's beatific bloviations can be read here.  You have nothing to lose: except your ticket straight to HELL--so enter the "No Sin Zone."  Her movie reviews are especially good, particularly The Talented Mr. Ripley.  Glory!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Let The River Run

In 1988, Carly Simon won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for Let the River Run, sometimes titled The New Jerusalem, which was featured in the movie Working Girl. I remember hearing this song for the first time and being thrilled by its pure spiritual content and its gospel style. It is about personal rebirth--but it's also about rebirth of the nation. After eight years of Reagan, and four of Bush 1, during the height of the AIDs crisis and the avarice of Wall Street, Let the River Run evokes the spirit of individuality, the vision of poets and dreamers that was missing from the nation's soul. In the gospel style, it is a cri d'coeur of the poet's grief, as well as hope for the future. This is Carly Simon's hymn for America and joins such poems as Leaves of Grass and Wichita Vortex Sutra by Allen Ginsberg in its theme.

Let the river run,
let all the dreamers
wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
the morning lights
the streets that meet them,
and sirens call them on
with a song.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
stand on a star
and blazea trail of desire
through the dark'ning dawn.

It's asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
the sky is the color of blue
you've never even seen
in the eyes of your lover.

Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.


It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
let all the dreamers
wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Friday, November 18, 2005

What Star Trek Can Teach Us

As if there were any doubt that Star Trek had something to say about the world in which we live, I happened to see another object lesson in that very subject yesterday. My sinuses in an uproar, I called in sick, and after groggily getting up around 2:30 in the afternoon, watched an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation on Spike. This was an episode I had seen during its original airing, but when I saw it then, it didn't have the same context as it does today.

In the episode, Jean Luc Picard is captured by evil Cardassians, and tortured. The first time I saw it, I was much more preoccupied by the character that Ronny Cox played, trying to weasel his way into Picard's captain's chair and dissing No. 1 along the way.

However this time, I was much more interested in the story of the evil Cardassian interrogator Gul Madred, played by David Warner and how many lights Picard could see behind him. If you haven't seen that episode (Chain of Command II, Episode #137), Warner keeps asking Picard how many lights Picard sees--the camera clearly shows four--which answer Picard gives. Warner's response is always to punish Picard for giving the wrong answer. The theme then, is that torture results in coerced information which is largely useless. But there's an even deeper level of futility, as exposed in the last scene, between Picard and Counselor Troi, in which Picard says that not only did he want to give the interrogator the information he wanted, but that Picard wanted to believe it himself. The information being sought is thus two spaces removed from anything real or useful. It was a devastating moral to a drama which is being acted out in our names even as we speak.

But I'm not going to think about it anymore. It just makes me too sad to even continue to type.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Better Place

When I hear that so-and-so has gone to "a better place," almost always in reference to their death, I've always though that to be a platitude.  I'm not a believer in the afterlife.  I believe in the resurrection.  However, after the heart stops beating and the lungs stop breathing and the brain stops thinking, darkness ensues.  It is the "sleep of death" written of in the bible.  I do not believe we ascend into heaven immediately upon expiring and join the choir of angels.  The concept of the soul as being an eternal part of humanity just might be neoPlatonic heresy.  I'm not well read enough to know.  However, far from being a scary thought, oblivion is a comfort to me.  I certainly don't want to dream in the grave--nor do I want to have to worry about those I've left behind.

My first cousin, Cally Jo Eckhardt, daughter of my Aunt LaDonna, who was my mother's younger sister, passed away on Friday evening.  She had suffered a long illness, a complication of gastric bypass surgery.  She kept getting blood clots and finally had a stroke.  She had always been very troubled.  By the time she went in for the procedure she weighed 500 pounds.  But it wasn't vanity that motivated her to have the surgery--it was her health.  Her weight was a symptom of a profound inability to reconcile herself with the world and to experience peace of mind.

So in Cally's situation, although I cannot judge and say that she has gone to a better place, I know for a fact she's gone to a more peaceful place. 

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Not so fast...

Apparently, wishful, magical thinking has had the better of me.  After reading a disturbing article in Slate, I'm going to take back my earlier endorsement of Alito.  The jury's still out.

Alito's Okay

The more I read about Sam Alito, the more I am less afraid.  This is in sharp contrast to other Supreme Court nominees such as Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork.  If Roberts and Alito are the worst this administration can do to the American polity (thank you Orson Scott Card, for that word) I think we will have dodged a bullet.  This candidate is not polarizing enough to filibuster.  If it had been Priscilla Owen or Janice Rogers Brown, then things would be much different.  I'm convinced that Alito is sufficiently intellectual to rule based on legal principal and precedent and not some neanderthal allegiance to talking points distributed by conservative think tanks.

The senate should confirm him post haste and let Madame O'Connor take her last bow.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Orson Scott Card (3)

After performing a Google Search on Hypocrites of Homosexuality Orson Scott Card  I hit on a plethora of blogs, netlogs, message lists, and the like thoroughly discussing both the original essay and the followup, Homosexual "Marriage" and Civilization, written in February of last year (2004).  One site, Frankenblog, does an excellent job of parsing the logic and lack of it in both essays, exposing the language which is inflammatory and cruel.  Another message list, Aint it Cool News has a lively debate about the same.  There have been quite a few comic book sites dealing with these issues as well.  Apparently OSC has been hired to write Ultimate Iron Man for Marvel Comics. 

I find the arguments of the few who cannot see the bigotry inherent in the essays remarkable and interesting.  They do not see the minimization of our relationships, the demonizing of a whole group of people, the comparisons with children and the insane, the advocation of selective imposition of the law to silence those who aren't discreet.  That particular idea is very troubling.  What is the definition of indiscreet?  Card never says.  Who would decide?  The police?  And finally his assertion that people who choose to be or are different cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.

I don't understand how people cannot see such language as anything other than bigoted.  Note here that I'm not going to call OSC a bigot or a homophobe.  I agree with him that such terms are bandied about without thought.  I disagree with him about the reason such epithets are used.  He believes that they are used to victimize him and squelch his speech.  I believe that people call him such things as a way of venting their outrage.  They feel real pain upon reading his essays and they retaliate.  They reduce him to a concept rather than a flawed human being.  I don't want to make that same mistake. 

But my own outrage is fueled primarily because I feel duped.  I loved his books, especially Songmaster.  I thought "here is someone who understands  the gay psyche."  I still believe that to be the case.  He can't have fooled me, it was very true.  He wasn't making it up.  Is Orson Scott Card really gay?  Who knows.  He must have at least visualized the gay relationship in Songmaster.  He has stated elsewhere that he has been thought to be queer himself.  The worst homophobes are always the closest to the closet.  Normal straight people really don't care this much.

Halloween Irony

File this one under "Irony to the point of absurdity": Pastor electrocuted while performing a baptism.

One doesn't want to be observed chuckling at such things, but it's very difficult to master the impulse. 

How do I hate Halloween?  Let me count the ways....  I just got a visit from the crocodile hunter.  Krikey!  Earlier there have been witches, marines in camoflage, the CSI investigation team, a dirty ape from Planet of the Apes, and horror upon horrors, even a lawyer or two. 

I myself have come as Orange Juice.  I have a fedora, hornrimmed spectacles, orange ribbons hanging from my sideburns and an orange shawl.  Sometimes I can be heard to exclaim, "Oy jay!"  If only I could have figured out a way to get circumcision worked in.  However, that might have taken the joke into the realm of bad taste, so I'm happy this way.  The problem with being orange is that everyone thinks that I'm a pumpkin, a Hasidic pumpkin, but a pumpkin.  Once I tell them what I am I usually get a pretty big laugh. 

Friday, October 28, 2005

Orson Scott Card (2)

Yesterday I was too close to the boiling point and I don't feel that I supported my opinions well enough to be persuasive.  Let's look over The Hypocrites of Homosexuality and parse out why it's so offensive.  Clearly Card doesn't understand why it is offensive since he evinces confusion over opposition to its content.  Perhaps those well-intentioned souls among my readers might read the essay and think that Card "hates the sin and loves the sinner."  While that may be true, as he claims, there is far more in the essay that establishes proof of a mind enmeshed in bigotry.

First, I will stipulate to the fact that 90 percent of The H of H is concerned exclusively with the policies of the LDS church.  I don't give a rat's ass what the LDS church thinks and never will.  They are perfectly free to believe whatever nonsense they wish and require their membership to believe the same.  No.  I'm concerned with the 10 percent of the essay that deals with "the polity" as Card calls it, the role of homosexuals within the larger society, American society. 

I did learn that for most of them their highest allegiance was to their membership in the community that gave them access to sex.

Here Card reduces our relationships to merely the quest for sex.  This diminishes our lives and relationships, dehumanizes us, and is patently offensive.  It is also intellectually disingenuous as the very same thing could be said about his membership in the LDS community.  And how would he react if someone reduced his community to merely a group of people who gave each other access to sex?

In paragraph 9, Card compares gays (I simply cannot continue to use the term "homosexual") to children and the mentally ill.  We are either immature or insane.  This is the modern way of demonizing us, and it is intellectually disingenuous.

In paragraph 12, Card goes off track completely, taking his argument out of the LDS church and into society at large.  Here is where his argument must be forcefully engaged. 

This applies also to the polity, the citizens at large. Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those whoflagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.

Obviously his essay was written before the most recent ruling by the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, but nevertheless sodomy statutes were uninforceable and unconstitutional then just as they are now.  He should have known better.  Furthermore, he advocates using laws selectively in order to quell the First Amendment Rights of those who disagree with the view of the majority.

The goal of the polity is not to put homosexuals in jail. The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place, and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity's ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships.

Again, Card is advocating using the awesome power of the government to control the thoughts and behavior of people with whom he disagrees.  He places some people's relationships ahead of, or better than, others.  This is unAmerican.  Our system provides equanimity for everyone.  He further advocates using law to squash the First Amendment rights of those with whom he disagrees.  Be discreet, or else go to the slammer.

The rest of his dissertation can easily be dismissed as self-serving sophistry.  His real aim, I suggest, was to represent himself as a mainstream member of the LDS church.  Doubtless Songmaster raised more than a few eyebrows in Salt Lake City.  There were parts of that novel which dealt compassionately with homosexuality.  When I first read it, and had no inkling of Card's religion or religiosity, I was quite moved.  I found it sympathetic to gay sensibilities.  I believe that with his essay, Card is trying to distance himself from that book, and to justify why he was so kind to his gay characters (kind?--one of them commits suicide by eating a towel) and reassure the Mormon hierarchy that he's one of the faithful.  I believe this was why he wrote this screed, and that is at the minimum a dual motive, if not pure hypocrisy.

Fortunately for me, I grew up in the Lutheran church, a church from which you cannot be excommunicated (that I know of).  It has a far less rigid hierarchical authority than the LDS church.  I find it frankly amazing that Card uses scriptures to justify his trope against gays while ignoring the following passage:

Galatians 1:8-9

8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

the Angel Moroni, anyone?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Orson Scott Card=Homophobia

Homophobia is defined as the neurotic fear of homosexuals.  For most people this means gay bashing.  Intellectual writers such as Orson Scott Card hide their neurotic fear behind a bevvy of fine words meant to project their own sin onto others.  It is thus my mission to acquaint fans of his fiction with his vile manifesto called "The Hypocrites of Homosexuality" which can be found here.  Note how he spends half the essay saying that homosexuals who have any kind of self esteem must be shunned, while the rest of his cant is a screed of whining and kvetching about catching heat for his loathsome viewpoint. 

His "religion" has no tolerance for debate, no room for any but the most authoritarian viewpoint.  All must bow to the will, not only of God, but of their graven image: The Prophet.

His essay is the moral equivalent of "The Eternal Jew" or Wagner's "Jews in Music."  My mere words cannot express how loathsome I find his viewpoints.  I find that most of those who are acquainted with this essay turn away from their admiration of his fiction.  Like Wagner he may be a completely repugnant polemicist, but an artist of surpassing merit.  However, I do not have to stomach it.


Intelligent Design

"Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex it must have been created by some kind of higher intelligence."

Similar reasoning has frequently been displayed by various advocates of the theories that any one of a dozen intellectuals of the renaissance authored Shakespeare's plays, rather than the Bard himself.

None of these people seem to grasp the concept of Occam's Razor when it comes to science or literary criticism.  Oh, wait a sec, that's it!!! William of Ockham wrote Shakespeare's plays!  Eureka. 

Karma (1)

What goes around comes around.  Looks like the Bush Administration's dirty tricks policies are at last reaping bitter fruit.  There's no way they'll be able to smear their way out of this one.  We can only hope that tomorrow brings indictments aplenty for this gang of criminals.  May they go down in Plames. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Back from Surrey with an incredible desire to go forward and write, write, write and publish, publish, publish.

I met Donald Maass, the powerhouse literary agent who has seminars all across the country concerning writing the breakout novel.  That's the title of his book: Writing the Breakout Novel.  He signed my copy with the following epigraph: "Tension on every page."  His workshop on pacing echoed that sentiment.  You can always try to rephrase a sentence to evoke more tension.  Each and every sentence in your novel.

I was invited to send samples to two editors.  I've tried sending to Donald Weise at Carroll & Graf, but his e-mail doesn't seem to be working.  I called to confirm his e-mail address and left a message.  I guess I'll have to send hard-copy. 

The experience was tremendous.  I can't wait until next year.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Wish List (2)

Back in the day, when I was poor, I used to create Wish Lists.  I'm still not rich by any means, but I can do things financially that I wasn't capable of 10 years ago: such as pay a mortgage, invest in a 401(k), etc.  Yet with those items in my financial portfolio, cash flow is just as slender as it was when I was poor.  So, I'm going back to the practice of creating a wish list.  The wish list gave me time to think about major purchases and decide what was most important.  Very often large ticket items got pushed to the background and items with smaller price-tags moved forward.  This is as it should be.  When wants are wants, a feeling of deprivation occurs if you save money until it hurts--then you start getting into the Scrooge mentality--an outlook on life that there isn't enough, that one must hoard in order to survive.  It's a very limited way to live. 

Keeping a Wish List is a very enlightening method of determining value.  You contemplate these future purchases with an eye toward what is the most important--what most resembles a need.  Those get resolved first.  Then you can further contemplate purchases, and some may fall away, cease to be needs or wants.  They can be removed from the list.  I've gone back and forth about getting a new car for several years.  I want something with front wheel drive and more cargo space.  But my T-Bird is gorgeous, fit, and has 20 more years of life in her.  The desire for front wheel drive is based on experiences I suffered more than 10 years ago, when snow was much more typical in Seattle.  Specifically the blizzard of 1989, when we got 21 inches of snow and people abandoned their cars on the freeways, etc.  We don't have weather like that any more, or very, very rarely. 

The cargo issue is valid, but I can always walk down to the bottom of the hill and rent a truck from U-Haul, which is less than a 1/2 mile from my home. 

These are the ways in which I must try to resist the urge to hoard.  For example, the Ipod at the top of my list has been in my mind for the past year.  It would be compatible with my audio book club, and would replace my portable CD players and my portable tape players.  It is a much better solution than MP3s on a CD, which roll and skip and aren't very useful. 

Whenever a desire lasts for more than a year, I realizethat these are not about to go away.  I need to pay attention to them.  They speak to something deeper than a mere impulse purchase.  I can rest assured that it is not a toxic purchase.

I can get drunk on money and spending as easily as I can on a bottle of Jim Beam.  One must be very careful. 

Money is, after all, divine.  The first money was coined (minted) at the Temple of Juno Moneta in Rome.  Moneta means "advisor" or "warner" and refers to an ancient legend wherein Juno's sacred geese warned of an impending Gaulist attack.  Later money was minted and treasured at the Temple of Juno Moneta, and Juno became goddess of coin/money.  The word "money" comes to us from Latin through French.

Money in the United States is also spiritual in nature.  Annuit Coeptis means "He (God) has favored our undertaking."  What better motto to put on money?  One should always be mindful of doing God's will with money.  Money, philosophically and literally, is power.

So I'm not ashamed that I nitter and natter and kvetch about what to buy.  My parents instilled in me the value of money.  And I'm grateful for that.

And the best thing about a wish list, is that you cross off the items which you spend your money on.  And soon, perhaps sooner than you imagine, the there are more cross-offs than remaining items.  And that can give you a real feeling of accomplishment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Wish List (1)

My Wish List:

1.  Video Ipod (white? black? Help me decide)
     And all the accessories...:)
2.  Quicken Deluxe 2006
3.  Endurapro 104 (Buckling spring keyboard, with the integrated stick mouse)
4.  37" Sharp Aquos flat screen tv.
5.  Pen case
(to be continued ....) 

Writing Instruments

Let's face it.  I am triple-extra large.  At 6 feet, 8 inches and 300 pounds, I have special size needs when it comes to most things others take for granted, such as clothes, furniture, and, believe it or not, keyboards.  My favorite keyboard, beating out even the old Northgate keyboard, is the IBM AT/PS2 Buckling Spring.  This used to be sold by IBM as the "Enhanced" keyboard.  This type of technology gives an audible click when the key is struck and when it releases.  So, the keyboards are noisy.  However, this can be turned to one's advantage, especially at work, because you can be heard being productive.  The springy feel of the keyboard is just right for people like me, who began their typing life on electric typewriters.  The keys are also larger and spaced more appropriately for my hands than smaller keyboards, particularly those on laptops. 

Unfortunately, IBM/Lenovo no longer manufactures these keyboards.  But demand is high enough that a company named Unicomp bought the technology and has continued to manufacture the keyboards.  At home I still use my IBM Enhanced keyboard for writing, though I use my Microsoft cordless for surfing. 

I also like to write long-hand from time to time.  This rarely amounts to more than jotting down ideas, but sometimes I'll sketch out rough scenes.  When I'm writing long hand it is almost exclusively description or scene setting, the more poetic part of fiction writing.  When I'm writing action or dialogue nothing works better than the keyboard.

For long hand writing I prefer the Waterman Phileas rollerball pen with a Pilot G2 Gel insert.  (The Pilot inserts fit nicely into the Waterman Phileas, and they're one-third the price).  G2 Gel ink is quite simply the best ink on the market for writing.  Smooth, black and doesn't bleed. 

Having the proper instrument enhances productivity if not creativity.  While I have very specific opinions about Pens and Keyboards, my attitudes toward paper are not as well defined.  I like to use the brightest white I can find, with the best cotton mix, with no watermark.  My favorite right now is the Hewlett Packard Ultra White Ink Jet paper.  I use inkjet paper in my laser printer as well, because it is slightly stiffer than xero-copy paper, and doesn't curl as much.

Happy writing!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Anne Perry

This weekend I'm off to the Surrey International Writer's Conference in metropolitan Vancouver, British Columbia.  One of the scheduled guests of the conference is British mystery novelist Anne Perry, the pen name of Juliet Hulme, who with her best friend Pauline Parker, conspired to and murdered Pauline's mother in 1954 in New Zealand.  Both Hulme (Perry) and Parker went to prison, Hulme for 5 years, and Parker for 10.  One of the conditions of release is that Hulme and Parker never have contact with each other for the remainder of their lives.  A condition which clearly would be unconstitutional in the United States, but this was New Zealand.

Hulme returned to the British Isles and faded into obscurity.  But then, in 1979, Anne Perry began publishing a series of Victorian novels which quickly became quite successful.  Fifteen years later, when Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh revived interest in the original case with their film Heavenly Creatures, the whereabouts of Juliet Hulme were traced back to Scotland, and it was revealed that the very successful novelist Anne Perry was, in fact, the girl in question.

Attitudes toward crimes such as Anne Perry's (Juliet Hulme's) are different in America than in the rest of the Western world. An apt comparison would be if Caryl Ann Fugate had gone on to be a successful novelist under a pen-name and was exposed well into her career. I'm pretty sure that would have ended it. While I have human compassion toward Anne Perry (she has repented, she has paid her debt to society, she has not profited from her notoriety, and she has shown remorse), will I be able to be in the same room with her and not think, "there sits a murderer?" Doubtful.

Remember what happened to Michael Skakel? His crime of murdering Martha Moxley also happened when he was 15 years of age. (Not exactly a parallel because Skakel evaded justice for so long). But that resulted in a life sentence. All I'm saying is that in America, we have less tolerance for mitigating factors such as youth than other nations do. It recently took the Supreme Court to rule that offenders younger than 18 could no longer be put to death. The youngest person ever put to death in the United States was 10 years old (and that happened *after* World War II). When the Europeans got rid of all their fundamentalist Christians in the 1700s the whole lot of them moved over  here.

Nevertheless, Perry is more of a magnet for criticism because she is famous and successful.  Had she lived out the rest of her life in obscurity, people wouldn't be so up in arms.  But because she had the temerity to discover and nurture her own talent she is now an object of fierce debate.   The debate would not exist if she hadn't become somewhat famous in her own right.  And that in itself is hypocrisy.  However, I myself am a guilt monger regardless of status.

Much of my fiction is fueled by guilt over past bad acts, so I find this particular story endlessly fascinating.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Pen and the Sword United

Again, I cannot shake the image of Paul Schrader's haunting film Mishima from my mind, nor can I stop contemplating Mishima's ritual suicide.  This is bordering on obsession.  Was the act a poetic gesture of the unification of pen and sword, an expression of bushido, a strict adherence to ethical behavior in the military way?  Or was it something else entirely?

My set of values and beliefs hold that suicide is immoral and irrational.  Self-sacrifice is something else entirely.  Saving someone else's life and risking your own, even if the attempt is foolhardy, is not necessarily immoral.  For example, on the Titanic several persons gave up their space in the lifeboats for someone else, neither is this immoral.  These acts were done for objectively selfless reasons.  I believe that in a moment of transcendence, one is able to come to peace with one's own fate, and allow the gift of life to be passed on.  These are moments of great spiritual certainty, and a person is fortunate to be able to experience them.

Mishima, however, orchestrated his own shame.  In order to commit Seppuku in the Bushido manner, he had to be vanquished on the field of battle or his leader had to have died.  He also must have experienced shame or loss of face.  In order to generate this state of affairs, Mishima took the garrison commander General Mashita hostage, and presented a speech to the assembled soldiers. 

They jeered and mocked him.  He was, after all, merely playing at bushido.  It was all uniforms and strutting and posing.  He was, after all, an actor and a poet, not a warrior, not in truth.  Maybe in his mind, but not in objective, literal reality.  In reality Mishima got together with his boys on the weekend and played dress-up.  So the soldiers met his judgment of them as being soft and unmanly with derision.  Mishima must have counted on that.

That was the shame that Mishima needed in order to follow through with Seppuku.  However, in the west we have a system of logic which repudiates this line of thinking.  If the tree is poison, then the fruit that falls from it is equally polluted.  The scenario Mishima created was a fantasy.  Thus his response to it was equally fabulous and on the far side of rationality. 

An argument can be made that Mishima misused and exploited the tradition of Bushido to serve subterranean personal desires, not to honor his ancestors but to indulge himself in an obscene public expression of personal agitation.  Perhaps he wanted to see himself as a martyr, to concretize in his mind an image of himself as self-sacrificing.  Here I am disembowling myself so the reasons which led me to this point must be real.  They were not.  They were fiction. 

Unfortunately for Mishima, life is not fiction and fiction is not life.  Fiction is an illusion of life.  If he had reached maturity in the Western tradition he might have understood this profound and unassailable truth passed down the millennia from Aristotle. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Yukio Mishima

Over the weekend viewed the film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters by Paul Schrader, director of The Affliction and more recently, the famously deposed director of the Exorcist prequel Dominion, which was entirely refilmed by Renny Harlin after studio suits saw Schrader's rough cut and wondered what had happened to all the blood, vomit and horror that they thought they had paid for. 

Very often motion pictures, as do songs, get stuck in my head and no matter what I try to do to shake them loose, there they lay, undigested meat for my subconscious.  I had heard the stories about Mishima, his final act was so outrageous, so over the top, that his memory was bound to live in infamy, or at least notoriety.  Schrader's film however, was a revelation, intermixing shots of Mishima's life in flashback (in stark black and white) with dramatized scenes from Mishima's novels (in vivid color) with the events of Mishima's last day.  The dialogue is all in Japanese with English subtitles, and there is a spoken English voiceover, originally performed by Roy Scheider (it was redubbed for the DVD release by an uncredited artist, presumably because of contractual technicalities).  As with everything Japanese, the color scenes pop with vividness.  The black and white scenes have a remarkable serenity.  The scenes from the novels punctuate the film with emotional epiphanies.

And all this to a simply stunning soundtrack by Philip Glass.  The opening moments, the wind chimes, seemingly random, begin to sound with a recognizable pattern, as the lower strings, agitato, tremble with urgency, running here, running there, building, building, and suddenly the bottom falls out--thump!  And bells, chimes, and soaring tonalities gyrate, revolve, revolve, arpeggio, arpeggio, in a triumphant explosion of the upward surging heart!

As with Runaway Horses, the young hero, facing the east, at the moment he slices the tanto through his viscera, the sun leaps over the horizon, a vivid orange circle, and he feels his soul depart his body--this is the moment Philip Glass has put to music--the moment of Seppuku, the ritual suicide not only of Mishima's hero, but of Mishima himself.

There is something of the Buddhist contempt for the tangible world in Mishima's final act of ritual suicide.  But that he dramatized it, orchestrated it, planned it with meticulous detail, speaks more of P.T. Barnum than Gautama Buddha.  That's the cynic in me, but I believe suicide is immoral.  Mishima's "coup" was merely a pretext, a given circumstance to demonstrate his humiliation and shame and require his penultimate act.  He could have had no legitimate belief that his actions would have lead to military uprising.  He cannot have been that deluded.  He wanted to die, and he wanted to change the world, and for a few brief hours one November day in 1970 he focused the attention of the planet on himself and then drifted away into the footnotes of history, proving more than anything else, that Buddhism is a great religion, but when it's mixed with Western Romanticism, it's poison.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Fassbinder against Genet

Murder.  Sadomasochism.  Homoeroticism.  These are the sexterior trappings of Querelle, the novel by Genet and the film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder starring Brad Davis.  Querelle is a young sailer whose ship has moored in the harbor of Brest, France.  He hears about a certain salon, a night club, where Lysiane, a chanteuse, receives gentlemen customers under the nose of her husband Nono.  Nono plays dice with these gentlemen customers, and if they win, they go on to Lysiane.  If they loose, they lower their trousers for Nono.  Querelle's older brother Robert is now the principal lover of Lysiane.  Besides being a prostitute, Lysiane is also a prophetess.  She reads the tarot for Robert and says of his younger brother, "the worst possible thing will soon happen to him: he will discover himself."

Fassbinder filmed Querelle in a studio utilizing an elaborate unit set with transparent walls; ramps and walkways lead to playing areas, much like a stage set.  There is no attempt to be "realistic."  The predominate colors range from white along the yellow-red spectrum through orange to blood red.  It is a darker, more menacing color than pink  A male choir sings in the background to punctuate scenes, their voices a rising epiphany as Querelle discovers himself. 

Fassbinder intercuts the action with quotations from Genet.  There is no intellectual experience here--it is meant to be utterly nihilistic, he equates sex, death and self-discovery.  Men live to screw, to kill, and to die.  These are the only expressions of passion that ultimately matter.  There is no meaning other than the meaning of the moment.  Men move from passivity to action and back again to passivity.  Words mean nothing.  Only through action can one truly experience living.  Love and marriage, hearth and home, all are illusions.  True beauty has the power to kill you.

"Each man kills the thing he loves," is Lysiane's refrain.  This line is taken from The Ballad of Reading Gaol, by Oscar Wilde.  Genet has brought Wilde's critique of modernity, of manliness, to vivid life.  There is one very interesting moment in the film where Querelle, who has experienced only passive sodomy, tries to summon the will to sodomize his friend.  He realizes that to be passive, one need only to experience pleasure, with no strings attached, no meaning, nothing other than the act itself.  To be active, one must be able to love.  Querelle cannot do it.  Afterwards, he turns his friend in to the police.

Querelle is like picking through someone else's garbage: disgusting, but fascinating.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Solvitur ambulando

Solvitur ambulando is a Latin aphorism that means "it is solved by walking."  Attributed to St. Augustine.

docendo discimus - by teaching, we learn.  This is absolutely true.  As I observe the objectivity in the writing of my students, I better see how I can revise my own work to plumb the depths of subjectivity and make it a visceral, emotional and satisfying experience for the reader.  Tonight!  Revisions!

Thursday, October 6, 2005


For my readers who don't know who Joseph E. Duncan III is, this is his resume:  Convicted in Washington State in 1980 of sexual assault on a 14 year old boy.  Released in 1996, he returned to prison for parole violations shortly thereafter and was finally released after serving his original 20 year sentence in 2000.  Five years later, this past March, he got in trouble with children again, this time in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.  Although five years had passed between his release from prison and his rearrest in Minnesota, it is conceivable that other assaults and rapes occurred for which he was never charged.  In Becker County Duncan was released on bail.  He fled the jurisdiction. 

In May, a family near Coeur D'Alene Idaho was found murdered, while the two youngest children had disappeared.  After a very observant waitress spotted one of the children in a Denny's restaurant, Duncan was apprehended.  He is now charged with the bludgeoning deaths of the three Groene family members in their home.  Prosecutors will not charge him with the death of one of younger children, Dylan, aged 9 until the courts resolve the three earlier murders.  Shasta, the youngest child, was the only survivor.

Now it appears that a lawsuit for negligence has been filed against the judge and the prosecutor who permitted Duncan to post bail in Minnesota.  The complaint seeks $500,000 in damages.  That seems remarkably low under the circumstances.  However, judges, prosecutors and their ilk usually enjoy some limited immunity from suits alleging bad judgment or malpractice in their official capacities.  Otherwise judges and lawyers would have to be defending against them on a daily basis. 

Usually, when you're suing the government, you have to get permission.  Sometimes the government waives immunity in the interests of fairness and justice.  Implausible as it may seem, it sometimes happens.  That may have occurred in this case, I don't know.  Becker County officials claim they haven't seen the suit papers, and that is possible.  They won't admit to having seen anything until an sworn affidavit of service appears in the file.  If no prior agreement to waive immunity has been made, their first response will no doubt be a motion to dismiss.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

The Best that I Could Find

I would really like my blog to be about more than politics.  However, it is a juicy subject that incites rabid prose and so I find myself drawn back to it again and again.  George W. Bush said today of his choice to nominate Harriet Meirs to be the Supreme Court justice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor that she was "the best that I could find."  Hardly a ringing endorsement of his pick, or for his administration.  Did he look very far?  Well, I suppose he opened the Oval Office door and looked as far as the end of the hall.  I get the image of a beleaguered president, an incompetent administrator who is so insulated by handlers, spin doctors and sycophants that he is out of touch with everything and anything outside his immediate zone of reference: The White House, Kennebunkport and Crawford, Texas.  The President in the Plastic Bubble.  He's the best that the voters could find. 

Still, that Harriet Miers is a total blank slate is better than the alternative, a neo-fascist right wing idealogue.  And for that, there is reason to breathe a sigh of relief.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

R.I.P. M. Scott Peck

Philosopher, psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck has passed away at his home in Connecticut.  He was 69.  The Road Less Traveled was more than just a self-help book.  It didn't provide work sheets or personal empowerment tips, how to be more successful sellers or how to lose weight or gain the person of your dreams.  It was an unadorned dose of reality.  Life is difficult, are its first words, echoing the Buddha's noble truth.  Pain is part of life, and it is only when we try to avoid necessary emotional pain, legitimate, existential pain, pain we are meant to feel in order to grow and change, as opposed to the misery we heap on ourselves for no good reason, do we run into psychiatric difficulty.  Coping mechanisms eventually turn into neuroses when they are used too frequently.  Neurotic people feel they are wrong in the world.  Character disordered people believe that the world has wronged them.  Neurotics are much easier to treat.  The will to transform the character flaws which are instilled in us in childhood is a painful, ongoing process which frequently fails and can be of life-long duration.

There is nothing in Peck's book that sugar-coats life in America.  For that reason, he is worth reading since he tries to tell it like it is.  In addition, he does a masterful job of giving a crash course in psychology for the masses. 

Monday, September 26, 2005


My first class went very well last Wednesday.  I like my students and everyone seems extremely focused and excited.  I feel very lucky to have such a good, smart bunch. 

Over the weekend I saw Roll Bounce, which was very enjoyable.  I was only white person in the audience until a white couple snuck in after the previews started.  I must say, it was an incredibly ennobling and spirited film.  No swearing, no sex, but a story told in charming, forthright terms that had a good message.  Notable because of its wholesomeness, but also because it took me back to high school.  There is something precious about those memories.  Some of them make me cringe, but the friends I made then are still my friends all these many years later.  And the 70's was a time of innocence, wasn't it, before AIDS, before the cynicism of Ronald Wilson Reagan.  Trickle-down economics indeed.  People know when they're being trickled on.

I was almost about to say before terrorism.  But as I recall terrorism was a fact of life in the 70s.  The Olympic murders in Munich, the hijacking of the jet to Entebbe, etc.  It's just that it was so far away.  Not any more.

It soothes me to think that George W. Bush is simply a hypocrite.  That he's only a born again Christian for the sake of politics.  He certainly found Christ at the same time he entered politics.  So the timing of it all is somewhat suspect.  That actually makes me feel a lot more secure than the alternative--that he really IS a Bible-believing evangelical who really doesn't care to preserve the earth because God will just simply remake it, and why take any pains to conserve the environment because the end times are upon us anyway.

I would rather have had the voters repudiate him in 2004.  However, if the GOP loses its majority in both houses of congress in 2006, that will be solice enough.  Vote Democrat.


Friday, September 23, 2005


Another so-called "Christian" school has expelled a student because of homosexuality--in this case, the homosexuality of her parents.  Christianity is about love and acceptance.  "They'll know we are Christians by our love" the old hymn goes.  However, the word "love" underwent a profound change during the 80's when Republicans invented the term "tough love" as a way of mitigating their reprehensible tendency to kick people when they're down.  Okay, okay, I don't know if Republicans really did invent the concept of tough love, but it's certainly plausible to think so.  Rather than reach out to someone who is different, to expose them to true Christian values, the principal indulged himself in the dubious luxury of passing judgment.  It is great to be able to transfer and project one's own sinful nature on to someone else, which is precisely what Christ spoke against when He said, "do not look at the speck in your neighbors eye and ignore the log in your own."  Christians are supposed to transfer and project their sinful natures on to Christ alone.

Just as in the Texas case, all the school has done is demonstrate hypocrisy and created a lifetime political enemy in the person of the girl they abused.

Monday, September 5, 2005

Der Untergang

Of all the actors who have convincingly played Hitler, Alec Guiness, Derek Jacobi, Anthony Hopkins, Noah Taylor, it is Bruno Ganz who comes closest to capturing what must have been his authentic decompensation in the Fuhrerbunker.  Downfall or, Der Untergang, follows the final two weeks of the Third Reich, with one brief flashback in the point of view of Traudl Junge (Hitler's stenographer) when she is hired in 1942.  This provides us with a glimpse of a healthy, hale Fuhrer who has an impish gleam in his eye, and an avuncular warmth of spirit, which he never really abandons.  When Traudl says she is from Munich, Hitler hires her on the spot. 

Is it right to present Hitler as anything other than a colossal fiend, the greatest evil of the 20th Century?  Yes, it is correct.  To do otherwise is to deny the reality that here was a man who, through personal magnetism, ruthlessness, and willpower rose to challenge the world's great powers.  He didn't do it by acknowledging his intrinsic depravity.  He was an all too human monster.  That he could be quite charming and tender in person is to all reports, accurate.  Yesterday, watching the President of the United States embrace hurricane victims in Biloxi, I thought to myself, he's probably quite charming and warm in person.

Too many absurd parallels have been drawn between our current president and Der Fuhrer by MoveOn.org and others.  There is no comparison whatsoever.  To try is to reduce Hitler and the suffering of his victims to the banality of modern politics.  It is nothing more than a sound-bite, a purile attempt to shock and offend.  It makes the accuser feel more self confident to call the enemy "Hitler" than to express a cogent argument against him, which might involve some mental effort.

But there can be no dispute that Hitler the person is as fascinating today as he has ever been.  Der Untergang is an amazing work of cinema that shows a society on the brink of collapse through the actions of their duly elected government.  But in the final analysis, they were moral midgets.  Neither Hitler nor Goebbels acknowledge the suffering of the citizens on the streets above the bunker.  "They get what they deserve" is Goebbel's argument.  Hitler says, "the best are already dead.  What remains is inferior."  And so they were willing to let the German nation die.  Rather than take any moral responsibility for the disaster that they perpetrated on the world, they contented themselves with the notion that the German people failed them.  Sheer, classic transference.  No wonder Freud was on Hitler's death list.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Transference and Projection

If there's any lesson I keep having to learn without making any progress, it's the fact that I'm hypersensitive and it gets in the way of communication.  This is exacerbated when coupled with my tendency toward transference, in which my ego, trying to manage and control uncomfortable feelings and sensations, unconsciously projects those feelings onto someone else.  In this instance, my attitude toward my own defects was projected onto another individual.  "My god, she thinks the whole world revolves around her."  This was occasioned by an innocent statement "I feel odd planning my own reception."  I took it as a dig, that I wasn't doing enough to help plan the reception.  When her statement was a simple fact--she did feel somewhat odd planning her own party.  My ego transferred my uncomfortable feelings about planning the party, and projected it onto her.  My uncomfortable feelings about planning the party (it's going to be a lot of work) were transferred and displaced.  I couldn't face the reality of my own laziness, and so my ego cast her as the egomaniac. 

This was all unconscious and subliminal.  And it isn't until I'm shocked out of this disordered thinking that the truth of the matter becomes apparant.  Usually that has to happen through confrontation.

Friday, August 26, 2005

August Wilson Ill

Seattle resident and internationally renowned playwright August Wilson has been diagnosed with liver cancer.  His play 7 Guitars was one of my favorite productions at Ashland and upon seeing it, I knew August Wilson was a genius.  I saw its sequel King Hedley at Seattle Rep and was blown away.  Jitney toured to Seattle Rep. as well and was amazing.  I have yet to see Fences and The Piano Lesson, the two plays for which Wilson has won Pulitzer Prizes, but I hope to some day.  May he be blessed with a complete recovery for the joy and value and humanity he has brought to the world, which is a much better place for him having been here.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

So much for a daily entry

So much for a daily entry.  Nice to recommit to failure.  Oh well.  Some good things have been happening.  I did get a green light for the teaching job.  So if you live in the Seattle area and want to work on polishing up that novel you've got sitting in the closet, come and participate. 

In other news, Dad sent me two family heirlooms: the table he made in manual arts (high school) and my grandfather's desk.  The desk is a depression era Chippendale style cherrywood secretary which is completely gorgeous.  I am thrilled to have both pieces.  But now I have to make some hard decisions about what stays in my small apartment and what goes.  I think the massive blondewood hutch is going.  It was always too big for the place anyway.

Inside the secretary:  a white button, a blue poker chip, a book of matches from New Orleans, a spool of thread, a box of toothpicks, and a $5 bill, series 1988.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Back in the Saddle

After taking a few weeks off, I'm going to recommit to a daily entry.  The things that are on my mind today: my obesity and desire to lose weight, a desire for some new clothes, reducing America's dependence on foreign oil, the turning of the seasons, Carl Hiaasen, and the possibility of teaching this fall.

My teacher, Pam, may move to Phoenix in order to pursue her academic career.  She is going to recommend me for taking over one of her classes at BCC.  I won't know until later today, so check back tomorrow for the results.

Carl Hiaasen has a very terse, funny style and I'm enjoying Sick Puppy very much.

I want a Jeep Liberty diesel so that I can drive on biodiesel.

And if it's not too much to ask, a few new wool sweater vests.  Sweater vests are my signature.  They protect and hide.  They are like wearing a breast plate.  I love them and all of my current ones are either too small, acrylic or have seen better days.

Losing weight is a very difficult proposition.  Recently due to lactose intolerance I stopped intaking any kind of dairy.  I still am not able to lose weight.  I suppose exercise might make a difference.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Accepting Critique

Critique is a beast that grows from a cute cub to a preditor that bites.  It's wonderful when you're in the beginning phases of a project, when reactions from readers can cause a cascade of ideas to burn through your imagination like rivers of lava from Mauna Loa.  Later it becomes harder and harder to take, as your project takes on shape and a life of its own, and the resistence to effort becomes greater and greater. 

So, critique last night was a mix.  Very difficult.  I wanted to quit--both critique group and writing.

For those familiar with my ouvre (Steve, among some others) I wrote an epic fantasy that I finished in 1987, and workshopped through 1990 or thereabouts.  It's in pretty good shape.  I read the very first scene of the novel for my group last night because I'm attending the Surrey International Writers Conference in October, and there are going to be so many publishing industry professionals there looking for fantasy.  And since the novel exists, why not pitch it?

One of the plot elements in my novel has to do with magic artifacts.  The "evil" magic artifacts are called Sorcerules.  They are medallions with obsidian centers.  The "good" artifacts are Staves and Rings which are used in conjunction to form a focus to draw power from the elemental planes.  In the first scene, my character Drue, sees one of the good artifacts, the Ring of the Air, embedded inside a Runestone of obsidian (evil stone).  The other fantasy author in the group said that the "ring" concept was too derivative in feeling and tone.  I took that very personally right off the bat.  My inner critic lambasted me with "See, I told you so, it's trite, derivative and worthless."  But I have been learning from Pam to filter feedback and find the kernel of value in it, and that's usually hidden by emotional baggage.  That is certainly true in my case. 

So, ultimately, the pain gave way to a new solution.  Rather than magic artifacts be rings and staves, the "good" wizards will also have sorcerules--only their stones will be different.  For the Earth: Chalcedony, for the Air: Crystal (which has caught the light of the Aurora), and for the Water: Nacre. 

So, by filtering the feedback and abstaining from self-flagellation, I managed to find a solution which may not be unique and completely original, but certainly seems more in keeping with my theme, and the title of my novel.  This method of accepting critique is a supreme victory for me, and demonstrative of a wholesale raising of my consciousness.

Monday, July 25, 2005

When is a Witch Hunt not a Witch Hunt?

Answer: When it's outing.  Mainstream press in Seattle has characterized the outing of conservative politicians who conceal their sexual orientation from their constituents as a witch hunt.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  In a Witch Hunt, the victims are either accused of something untrue, such as being witches, or punished for a truth, such as being communists.  In outing however, a community is taking steps to protect itself from someone in a position to do it great harm, a position that is steeped in hypocrisy.  All outing does is state the truth where the truth needs to be stated.  The gay community is not interested in punishing anyone.  Nor are we slandering anyone.  The truth is simply the truth.  To accuse the gay community of a witch hunt, who have historically been the victims of witch hunts throughout history is to turn the facts on their head.  Not all exposures are negative.  And sometimes, the vampire needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into the cleansing light of truth.  Then let the chips fall where they may.  All a politician needs to do if they do not want their sexuality exposed, is to abstain from voting against the interests of the gay community.  They don't have to vote for them, but if they vote against, their sex lives become fair game if they are foolish enough to be indiscreet.  On the other hand, a conservative politician who is also "out of the closet" has nothing to fear, now, does s/he?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Out Out damned GOPs

Odd.  I've read two articles about outing in the mainstream press this week.  One, a column by Danny Westneat, columnist for the Seattle Times, the other an article from Fox News online about the editor in chief of the tabloid Star deciding that they would no long speculate on the sexual orientation of celebrities.  I had thought that the issue of outing in the press had been settled, but it appears that only applies to the gay press.  The mainstream press has just woken up to the issue.  It appears that conservatives like to have some closeted homosexuals hanging around, just as they like some Uncle Tom African Americans within reach.  Best of all, they like those homos whose sexual orientation is an open secret, such as the daughter of Dick Cheney or political strategist Arthur Finkelstein, who married his "longtime companion" in a civil ceremony in Boston last year.  That way the neocons get to sound progressive, they get to say that sexual orientation is a private matter and nobody's business.  That's what they say in public, in private, however, they acknowledge that homosexuality is a bar to advancement and the best that homsexuals can expect in the corridors of power is the position of Machiavellian consultant ala Arthur Finkelstein, Terry Dolan, or Roy Cohn.  They simply don't want to think about it.  I've had several conversations with conservatives who like to dance around the issue of sexuality and engage in "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" banter.  Sometimes they want to apply their fantasy to your relationship (I have a friend who does this to me all the time and it drives me crazy).  If you show up on the arm of your same sex partner at some event or other, they want to ignore the elephant in the living room, and reduce the relationship to "friend" or "companion" in that special Victorian sense.  They want to be able to define the relationship so that they can both accept the exterior and deny the reality, or fit you into their fantasy.  In any event, they want to be in total control of all information. 

It is an interesting phenomena of psychological bracketing akin to "compartmentalization."  There are also those, usually of an older generation, who consider gay sex to be on a continuum of sexuality, that it is a taste of something obscene in an otherwise heterosexual orientation.  They go in for boys every once in a while, but they regardthemselves as "normal", i.e., straight. 

These are the most dangerous to the gay community, because they are prone to transfer their guilt and self-disgust onto other homosexuals, their envy for the gay life, and their fury that they are unable to participate in it openly, onto the gay community itself.  This is when outing is most effective.  We saw this last year in the case of Ed Schrock, an otherwise straight man who cruised gay chatrooms and voted against gay civil rights.  This was outing at its most effective. 

On one level I agree with the editor of the Star.  While gay movie stars are not in a position to harm the gay community as a whole, they are in a position to reinforce the idea that hiding one's sexuality is normal.  I believe that if one lives in the public arena, one shouldn't have the expectation of that level of privacy.  Your sexuality is no more a private matter than who you marry.  What you do in the privacy of your bedroom, whether one is a top, or a bottom, however, is, and should remain, private. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What are these piercing sounds I keep hearing?

At home this morning, as I wait to give access to my unit to the folks who are coming by to clean out the dryer vents.  At the same time, the folks who test the fire sensors are also here, and every few minutes, they're giving off short, powerful sonic bursts which startle and annoy, like firecrackers or gunshots.  I put my earplugs back in and that cuts the startle factor down to a manageable level.

So much has happened in the world since last I blogged.  Clutter expurgation has occupied my free time.  It is amazing how much junk accumulates from move to move to move, until you're swimming in useless crap.  Yet, sorting through it is so onerous that you're just willing to throw it into a box and take it with you on the off chance that you just might need one of the items inside for something someday.

As a very wise coworker said, "I can afford to replace something much more easily than I can afford the square footage."  Words to live by. 

Friday, July 8, 2005

A WotW Scenario

The motives of the aliens in WotW don't make much sense.  However, they aren't outside space and time, like the diuternal entities that populate the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, whose mere dreams cause catastophe and dissolution.  Spielberg's aliens are (just as H.G. Wells' were) quite physical, and subject to the laws that govern flesh, those of gravity, of time and space, and last but not least, of Murphy. 

Why?  Aye, there's the rub.  Must they be simply evil?  Or does humanity's presence in the universe pose some sort of implicit threat?  Obviously, life does--they are (as in H.G. Wells) susceptible to microorganisms.  They catch cold and die.  I'm not spoiling here--this is exactly the same ending as in Wells' novel and the 1953 version.  But what if, what if the Aliens were being damaged by television?  No, wait, before you scoff, what if radio waves, going out into space, were lethal to the aliens?  Reruns of Three's Company actually killed them?  They have to destroy humanity in order to preserve their own species?  Or at least, destroy television?

Another thing about the film vs. the novel.  When H.G. Wells published WotW, Louis Pasteur had only recently revolutionized science and the world with his discovery of microorganisms.  A remake of this story should find something, anything, that is as recent as Pasteur's science was to Wells.  I would think that nanotechnology would have been a likely choice.  There is something wonderful about Wells' ending, anticlimactic though it is--human beings have the right to be here.  But it is better to put more science into science fiction. 

If movies are feeling the pinch, and they are, box office is extremely poor these days, it's because Television is catching up.  Shows like Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Nip/Tuck, The Shield/Rescue Me, Oz all succeed because they place character at a higher premium than spectacle.  As spectacle comes more and more from the palatte of a software program, the days of justifying $20 million to sign a movie star are numbered.

The entertainment industry is on the cusp of vast change, due in part to satellite, cable, HD TV and DVD.  We no longer have to go to a cineplex in order to see something thrilling.  For too long movies have been spectacular but devoid of heart and soul.  That's going to change.

Monday, July 4, 2005

War of the Worlds

Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds is similar to many dreams I've had, of running away, ducking and hiding from vague, barely glimpsed but still terrifying, gargantuan shapes.  As an anxiety dream, WotW is a slam-dunk success.  As science fiction it fails, just as all of Spielberg's SF since Close Encounters has failed, and as a blockbuster it succeeds.  Two out of three ain't bad, and is good enough, in this instance, to justify the ticket price. 

But pierce the veil, and WotW is a lot more.  It is a universal conflict played out as a domestic drama, and it is also a 9/11 passion play.  No famous, familiar landmarks are lovingly destroyed as in Independence Day or The Day After Tomorrow; rather, the action is kept to a tight focus--viewed only through the experiences of the main characters.  This gives the film a claustrophic feeling and keeps the anxiety at a fever pitch throughout.  There are times when it almost becomes unbearable, and the desire to flee one's seat for the safety of the lobby is seriously entertained.  Of course, the competing desire to see how it comes out wins.  H.G. Wells is present in this film in spirit.  These are his tripods and his moments of destruction.  Spielberg, in an attempt to justify the innate instability of the tripods shows us the aliens who drive them, three toed, three fingered, three legged (should have been three-eyed).  They have created machines that look like themselves.

Scenes of people running from explosions and collapsing buildings, of dust covering Tom Cruise, of the impotent anger felt in the wake of a surprise attack, all bring to mind the zeitgeist of 9/11.  This is intentional, and one is not surprised to see SF return to the state it was in in 1953, when the George Pal WotW was released, a state of national anxiety caused by an outside threat.

The alien's motivations seem pointless--what do they want?  Why didn't they plan their invasion better--have they never encountered a microorganism?  But that itself, plays well into the whole 9/11 theme--and the nonsensical motivations of the terrorists and their ill-conceived and pointless attack. 

Sunday, July 3, 2005


The best, most concise definition of "Gothic" I've read was written by Roger Ebert, in his review of The Piano:

[Campion's] original screenplay for "The Piano" has elements of the Gothic in it, of that Victorian sensibility that masks eroticism with fear, mystery and exotic places. It also gives us a heroine who is a genuine piece of work; Ada is not a victim here, but a woman who reads a situation and responds to it.

Saturday, July 2, 2005


In his review of The Weight of Water, Roger Ebert has this to say:

Another problem is that psychological conflicts get upstaged by old-fashioned melodrama. The storm at the end, which I will not describe in detail, involves violence and action which would be right at home in a seafaring thriller, but seems hauled into this material only to provide an exciting action climax. It is not necessary to the material. And the revelations in the historical story would have more depth and resonance if we'd spent more time with the characters--if all of their scenes were not essentially part of the set-up.

This is something I needed to hear.  With After the Fire, I kept trying to force a gun-fight, car chase, abduction and/or lying in wait--none of it was necessary to the material, which my critique group kept telling me, Kate Sykes in particular.  It is gratifying to hear Ebert say the same thing.  A book as psychological as mine does not need the trappings of melodrama.  The material and the story must mesh--when they don't--you get a mish-mash of distractions, like The Weight of Water.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Nobody Walks in L.A.

Just back from my trip to Hollywood.  Many interesting sights were seen.  I saw two houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright--the Barnsdall house and the Ennis-Brown house.  Of the two, Ennis Brown is by far the more famous, having been the site of numerous film locations, including The House on Haunted Hill and Disney's The Rocketeer.  I am sad to report that Ennis Brown was catastrophically damaged by the Northridge earthquake (photos 1-2).  Steps are being taken to shore up the hillside and protect the house from further damage, but restoration has not yet begun on the southern facade.  The Barnsdall house, by contrast, was beautifully preserved (3-12).  The kind curator who happened to be there, waiting for someone else, unexpectedly and amazingly invited me inside and I was able to take several pictures of the interior.  She was quite proud of the restoration, and her personal contribution was restoring the carpet with Frank Lloyd Wright's original design.

In addition, with my friend Jeff Goode, the creator of Disney's animated series American Dragon, we got as close as one can possibly get by road to the Hollywood Sign.  We also visited a park in Hollywood that overlooks the reservoir, and is another famous filming location.  (14-17).

Picture #18 is of Universal City at dusk.  I took in Batman Begins at the Universal City Cinema.  I could have seen an IMAX showing, but I worried that I would get sick.

I found a couple of interesting locations which were uncannily similar to settings from my novel.  One, the cafe with the yellow awning is identical to the Paradise Cafe, on Melrose Avenue, where Mark sees Andy Lord (23).  Second, the house Wolf's Lair is a dead-ringer for my concept of Raptor's Roost, Samson Day's gothic mansion in the Hollywood Hills, where Mark and Mondre attend the tragic Halloween party (24-25).  Other photos include the famous Observatory (13)--which is used in hundreds of films, (the observatory was off limits due to construction), the courtyard of the Kodak Theater, where they now have the Academy Awards--constructed like the Babylon set from D.W. Griffith's Intolerance, (19-20) and the famous Capital Records tower, which is destroyed in Earthquake as well as The Day After Tomorrow.  (21)  I finished off with a visit to the famous Santa Monica Pier, and looked at the happy people enjoying the beach (22, 26).  It was a great trip and I saw a lot in 2.5 days.  However, there were too many people, and I had a low-grade headache the entire time I was there.  I'm glad to be back under gray Pacific Northwest sky.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Dotson Convicted

Carlton Dotson, ex-Baylor University basketball player, was today sentenced to 35 years in prison for shooting his teammate and roommate Patrick Dennehy to death.  In a courtroom surprise, Dotson changed his plea to guilty without any sentencing deal with the prosecution, clearly a self-destructive act, which I presume was motivated by the guilt that surfaced once Dotson's psychosis was brought under control by anti-psychotic medication and he came to understand the full weight of his behavior.  It is clear that Dotson was in a delusional state when he killed his team-mate, and while 35 years seems like a very long sentence, it may in fact, be a lighter sentence than 25 years to life.  With a set upper limit, parole is much more easily had, and Dotson is clearly remorseful over his conduct, unintentional though it was.  I sympathize with his mental illness.  It is unfortunate that he now has to pay the social price of an untreated and unrecognized serious illness, for which he is no more responsible than if he had cancer. 

Monday, June 13, 2005

Jackson Acquitted

Having not been on that jury and heard all the evidence they heard, only highlights of the testimony, I suspect that the jury, in the absence of physical evidence, and weighing the credibility of the witnesses for both sides, were confused by the accuser's inconsistent statements; inconsistencies which raised reasonable doubts.  Furthermore, they were convinced by Macauley Culkin's strong support.  In fact, I strongly suspect that Culkin and Debbie Rowe are directly responsible for today's verdict.

Monday Blah

Monday.  Blah.  I don't wanna work.  Don't wanna.  But here I am.  Next week, vacation.  Trip to LA.  Gotta lose weight.  Have had a few adjustments on my spine by a chiropractor.  It gives me a great deal of energy.  Went to a graduation party yesterday.  Got some sun. 

Michael Jackson has dropped from sight.  Wonder if he's still in the country.  If he wants to flee jurisdiction now is the time.  Watched the entire first season of Deadwood.  Great television drama.  Absolutely great.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Letter Posted at Advocate.Com

I had a letter posted today at Advocate.Com.  Check it out!

Class Doth End

Class has now officially ended.  I am so, so happy.  I have met my goal of having a completed draft by the time I went to Los Angeles (next week!) and I am ready to start sending out proposals.  I want to share what my teacher wrote to me as a final word on my progress as a novelist.  She is a remarkable teacher, and if you live in the Seattle area and you are interested in perfecting your skills on the novel, you cannot do better than to take her program.  If you are interested, check out the Publishing Institute at Bellevue Community College.

Michael, I am so pleased that you have finished your draft and that you are pleased with it yourself. I have talked with you about your plans and know you are going to get the full reads done and then move on from there. I like the changes you have made. I like the focus of the book now. I have always enjoyed the characters. Your writing is detailed, sensual and emotional. Now that you understand how to ground and how to elicit a response from the reader, I think you are unstoppable. I worry that you are your own worst enemy though and I hope, with all my heart, that you will believe in your work the way I do. That doesn’t mean everything is perfect, it means it is all viable and perfectible. Remember that your instincts are never wrong, only the words are wrong. And there are an infinite number of words to chose from, don’t take problems with words and equate them with something wrong with the work. That is never the case. Things do need tweaking and changing and sometimes, as you know, deleting. But your ideas, your vision, your images are always important, relevant and worthwhile. Know that you have support as you begin the next phase on this project. I will help you in any way that I can. I think all of us in the class and who know your writing are anticipating what will happen to this project next.  (--Pamela R. Goodfellow)

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Jesse Helms Rot In Hell

Helms writes, "it had been my feeling that AIDS was a disease largely spread by reckless and voluntary sexual and drug-abusing behavior and that it would probably be confined to those in high-risk populations. I was wrong."

That's from Helm's forthcoming Memoir entitled Where I Stand.  I guess that voluntary behavior such as drunk driving, smoking and eating too much butter ought to be ignored by the federal government, too.  As long as it's not someone like you, let them die, and decrease the surplus population.

Also note that Helms isn't saying that he was wrong about his belief that as long as AIDS was restricted to groups such as drug users and gays, it was okay to ignore them and let them die--he only admits to being wrong in his belief that AIDS would not spread beyond those groups.

Elsewhere in the memoir he states that desegregation was forced upon certain states "too early" and that civil rights protests antagonized race relations in America.  So I guess keeping mum and taking it leads to change?  If the entire world hadn't condemned South Africa Apartheid would still be the law of that land.  Die Jesse Helms.  America doesn't need you or the loathsome obscenity you call a value system any more.  There's a spot reserved for you in Hell right between Doctor Mengele and Pope Benedict XVI.

Monday, June 6, 2005

Mysterious Skin

I saw Mysterious Skin Saturday at the Seattle International Film Festival.  If you haven't heard about this film yet, you will.  It is the most emotionally true films about childhood sexual abuse that I have ever seen.  It blows Happiness out of the water (though that was told more from the abuser's point of view, rather than the victim's).  The film follows the lives of two boys, Neil and Brian, who are abused by the same man at the same time (their little league coach).  They share essentially the same experience but as they mature, they develop different ways of coping with the trauma.  Neil becomes sexually obsessive and irresponsible.  Brian withdraws into himself and represses his experience with visions of alien abduction.  Joseph Gordon-Leavitt gives a rock solid performance as Neil, which is the flashier of the two roles.  Brady Corbet plays Brian, the "worst player on the team," with tremendous sensitivity and nuance.  It is a masterpiece of cinema, a film which will ignite the world to this issue.  More than any other film I've seen, it tackles the subject head on, and dramatizes the years of emotional turmoil that follow the rape of a child.  Yet, the film is never preachy or polemical.  It doesn't wrap things up in a tidy way at the end.  The aim here is character.  There is no vengeance, as at the end of Long Island Expressway (L.I.E.) and that makes it more truthful, more real.  It will unsettle you for days.  If Aristotle was right, and we attend tragedy for the purpose of purging the strong emotions, this film is as effective as it gets.

Friday, June 3, 2005

On the Record with Furor Scribendi

Have you ever been a juror?  I have.  The case involved three counts of first degree rape of a child.  In Washington State, the law makes no distinction between types of illegal sexual contact between adults and minors and refers to all of it as rape.  Most interesting about my experience was the way in which the jury, having heard all of the evidence, have sat in the same room with each other, could be evenly divided, 6 to 6, during the first poll in deliberations.  More astoundingly, though, we managed to reach a verdict.  It was a compromise verdict.  We found the defendant guilty of one count of the three counts against him.  In retrospect there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Actually, there was proof beyond a shadow of a doubt.  By implication of his guilt on that count, he was guilty of the remaining two counts.  But implication is not good enough. 

I can say with complete assurance that the entire case hinged on the testimony of the victim who was seven years old at the time.  That's a lot to rest on the shoulders of one so young.  There was no evidence other than testimony, no physical evidence at all.  The court required us to weigh the testimony in the balance and determine the truth of the matter.  That is a higher burden than you might at first imagine.  Sending someone to prison without some sort of corroborative proof is daunting. 

In the end, our jury compromised.  We found the defendant guilty on one charge, not guilty on two. 

Likewise, I feel, the jury in the Michael Jackson case will weigh the testimony of his accusers against the impeachment of that testimony by the defense, and they will be unable to convict.  From what I've heard described in the media, the defense sufficiently impeached the testimony of the primary accusers to the point that renders them insufficiently credible to support a conviction on the most serious charges.  I predict that the Jackson jury will compromise, and find him guilty of some lesser charge, such as supplying a minor with alcohol.  That is, if they are able to reach a verdict at all.  More probable than not, the jury will hang.  If not, then they will return with a compromise verdict.

I do not believe that Jackson will spend a single day in jail, nor will he ever be in handcuffs again.  At least, not for a charge of this nature.

By the way, and apropros of nothing--Michael Jackson was married to Lisa Marie Presley who is a celebrity Scientologist.  Greta van Susteren, the Fox News legal maven, is also a celebrity Scientologist, and perhaps that's why Fox News takes a very even-handed approach to this trial. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Oh, It Just Makes Me Bilious!

Jim West that is.  He was on the Today Show today, and made the comment that gay people can be conservative, that he was representing his constituency and not advocating for himself when he voted against every gay friendly bill that crossed his path in the Washington state legislature.  What gaseous, bloated, cancerous hypocrisy!  It makes me freaking insane.  First, would those same constituents he claims to have served have ever VOTED FOR Jim West had he been forthcoming about his sexual orientation?  NO!!!  Second, if your goal is to conceal your homosexuality by bashing other gay men and women, which is what all gay bashers really are, then perhaps you ARE advocating for yourself when you vote against gay rights--because in that way, you get to repress your profoundly sick self-disgust and loathing by projecting it on someone else.  Neither his constiuents to whom he lied, nor the gay community he continously bashed for decades, should support him now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Dream House

I had another extremely vivid house dream last night.  As usual with my house dreams, I was the new owner of the house.  It was an old house, a bungalow, and it looked very small.  It was much bigger on the inside than the outside.  Rooms kept expanding and giving way to more rooms.  There were three refrigerators in the house.  One of the refrigerators hid the entrance to a commode right off the kitchen.   There was a sack of hamburger half defrosted on the floor in the cellar and I put it into the freezer of one of the refrigerators.  The refrigerators were full of supplies.  There was a root cellar off to the side of the main cellar, painted white, full of old furniture.  Old upholstered chairs, picture frames, a mirror, cob-webs.  That cellar was cramped and very tight.  It was difficult to move.  I had to bend over, and crawl over many obstacles in my path.  I also remember that in the bathroom off the kitchen there was a metal cabinet of supplies that had been left there by the former owner.  It was a large cabinet, stacked very neatly with all kinds of supplies, soap, cleaning materials, cigarettes, deodorant, as well as tools: hammer, pliers, wrenches.  Everything was in perfect rows and arranged in alphabetical order.  The objects in my dream were very colorful, greens,  yellows, pastel reds.  The walls of the house were white.  There was a white and yellow striped shower curtain in the bathroom.

Is it significant that earlier in the day I had completed the first draft of the novel manuscript that I had been working on for two years?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

On the same theme as yesterday...

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

     --Aleister Crowley, The Book of the Law

Perfect humility would be a full willingness, in all times and places, to find and to do the will of God.

     --Bill W[ilson], founder of A.A.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Is there no middle ground?

There is nothing either fundamentally good, nor anything fundamentally evil; everything is relative, relative to our point of view…This point once established, it is extremely possible that something, perfectly indifferent in itself, may be indeed distasteful in your eyes, but may be most delicious in mine; and immediately I find it pleasing, immediately I find it amusing, regardless of our inability to agree in assigning a character to it, should I not be a fool to deprive myself of it merely because you condemn it?

—The Marquis de Sade from The 120 Days of Sodom

Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching," looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

—Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI)
Homily at the Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff, April 18, 2005

Friday, May 20, 2005

Mortal Thoughts

Sometimes when the work flow gets unmanageable, and attorneys get snarky and unreasonable, it salves my spirit to meditate on Lady Macbeth's monologue.

Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts
Unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe
Top-full of direst cruelty.  Make thick my blood.
Stop up the access and passage to remorse
That no compunctuous visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose nor put peace
Between the effect and it.  Come to my woman's
Breasts and take my milk for gall
You murdering ministers, wherever in your
Sightless substances you wait on nature's mischief.
Come thick night!  And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of HELL!
That my quick knife sees not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark to cry,

This was typed from memory--so the line breaks may not conform to Shakespeare.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Die Tag

Several days go by and no entry.  Harumph.  Many things to report.  First, The Gift is a very moody, moving, character-driven film.  I recommend it.  Cate Blanchett plays a very credible deep south psychic.  The only thing I didn't like was the use of the Rhine symbol cards in divination (sometimes called the Zener cards).  The Rhine symbols were never divination devices, they were designed to test telepathy and precognition.  That made me think Annie (Blanchett's character) was a fraud.  Film is not like fiction.  When you get something wrong it's not easy to go back and fix it, like it is writing a novel.

Novel writing goes well.  I've decided to place the action of the story around a film shoot--rather than a discotheque.  That is a much more active choice, and the connection between the characters make much more sense.  It comes as a result of a comment by one of my fellow writing students.  Funny how an off-hand comment by someone outside the process can be so on target.  Sometimes you are so focused on maples, elms and firs, you can't get a very good view of the national park. 

Looking forward to the weekend.  I've rewritten though scene 11 and now I've got to tackle scene 12, which needs major revision.  The rest can be glued together pretty easily, but I didn't really know what direction Steve Sims was going to go at that point, and as written, that scene doesn't work now.