Tag Archives: writing

Oh, But I Do

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people see no worth in you

 

I wanna stay in bed today. And if I must get up, I’m keeping on my pj’s.

I wanna drink coffee and flop around the couch until eleven.

I wanna watch videos called “The Philosophy Behind…”

I wanna take a shower at noon, and put my pj’s back on.

I’ll read a book from one until two-thirty. Then I’ll take a nap.

I wanna watch a movie I’ve seen before.

And then talk about it till late.

 

 


I Wanna Call Saul

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but I just ran outta nickels

I’m falling for Better Call Saul (AMC, Mon. 10/9 c). Which is weird because my hopes were not high for the show regardless of the opportunity to see Bob Odenkirk reprise his role as Walter (I am the danger!) White’s “criminal” attorney. But Black & White Cinnabon flash-presents aside, this show grabs me in its own right.

We follow, Jimmy McGill,  petty con-man cum attorney-at-law struggle, suffer his way towards his destiny to transform into Saul Goodman. Which is kinda fun. Because the show is an old tragedy we already know the end to. Apparently, seeing the process unfold is glorious. Because I adore it.

Odenkirk, Jimmy, endears himself. His sad, kicked puppy-dog look, his terrible shoes, his hair that’s clearly transitioning from once being “really cool”. This guy is a nice guy. But he sucks at straight life. He’s a con-man with a gift for gab. He’s desperately losing his battle with encountering his destiny.

He has three angels of his nature. Firstly there is Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). Don’t groan! She’s awesome! She’s the anti-Skyler White! I love this chick. Kim strives honestly to move up in the law. But she can’t help but occasionally hooking up with Jimmy to con a mark out of $50 shots of tequila. Really, those two are great. Super chemistry. I don’t want to die when I see her on-screen like her counterpart on Breaking Bad.

Oppositely we get back our favorite dead-mackerel eyed tough guy, Mike Arhmentrout (Johnathan Banks). Dude, Mike is an older, tougher, more beat-up Humphrey Bogart. He’s a retired Philly cop taking work as muscle to support his widowed daughter-in-law and his grand-daughter. In his spare time, Mike maintains an on-going “misunderstanding” with a Mexican drug-cartel.

Then finally, there’s Chuck. Chuck the older brother, senior partner in a big law-firm, has some One Percent allergy to electro-magnetism. Chuck exists to remind Jimmy of what a screw-up he used to be, and may still be. Chuck is what Jimmy will never be: a “respected man”. He’s utterly resistant to Jimmy’s charms.

But I am not! Watching Jimmy McGill is like if, without knowing it, you were staggering your way towards becoming Luke Skywalker. That’s how it feels. Uplifting! I mean, we all are stuttering, stammering fools, but here’s one fool who has the gift we lack. He speaks! It’s his super-power. And his destiny. (Just a Jimmy B.S. sample: a lie involving a client, and videos, and sitting in pies.)

Jimmy isn’t a mad-scientist psychopath like Walter White. He’s just a guy in bad suit, with a degree and a gift for gab. That’s really all he’s got. I want to believe that this schlub who keeps an apartment/office in the back-room of an Asian nail salon can unfurl like the glorious peacock we all know as Saul Goodman. He also doesn’t kill anybody. So, yeah, he’s just relatable.

Anyhow, I watch this show through the Amazon Prime Season Pass where you buy a season, get it the next day, then you have it forever. I usually only do that for The Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad before. But I know the first season is on Netflix now. I suggest giving it a shot. Because wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a destiny?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Nothing Personal

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A projection reflected 

“A monolith protected by a Sphinx at each cardinal direction…eternally reflecting projections, with a challenge to all who approach.” That’s what I found looking back through my journals from last year, about this time of year. It was actually more of an oath I took with myself. I would never reveal myself fully in earnest to anyone ever again…it ruins all the fun.

Did you know that Sphinx is from the Greek for “to strangle”? Makes sense, like “asphixiation.” But yeah that’s what I wrote. That was my pledge to myself. Why? For a lot of reasons that are nobody’s business but my own. But I thought of this because of some recent requests that I post “more about myself” or urges to “be more honest.”

I’m here. I’m all over this blog. I’m all in the writing I’ve posted here. I’m in every character I write. They’re all more me than anyone  or anything else, including anything I could tell you about myself. Why look for the petty details? I urge you to believe that the facts are as dull as a year’s worth of Facebook pics of lattes and lunches…OMG my whatever is so whatever today…cats…

Regardless, some people like a mystery. But, as Sherlock Holmes often lamented, revealing the mystery behind his solutions to mysteries, mainly met with “Oh well that’s so obvious now.” Surely, the appreciation that Watson still held for his process was the reason he was Holmes’ only friend.

So why not leave well enough alone? Going back to Sphinxes, Oedipus paid a high price for his search for the truth. And once he saw, he blinded himself. So why not just leave it be? I’m all there, for the intrepid and observant, but is it really worth the pain? Me, my writing, it may all be me, but what you see is whatever you like. An infinite reflection of infinite projections. Why not just enjoy the show?

 

 

 


Faking it with Fellini

“Could you leave everything behind and start life all over again? Choose one thing and be faithful to it? Make it the reason for your existence?” The character of Guido Anselmi asks of Claudia Cardinale. The glowingly young and beautiful Claudia answers by asking him if he could. He has no answer.

8 1/2 AKA Otto e Mezzo, dir. Federico Fellini, 1963 is a film about a filmmaker without a film and without answers. Guido spends most of the film at a spa under the pretense of working on a new film, as he attempts to make sense of his life, while besieged by the questions and demands his producer, crew, actresses, critics, his mistress and his wife. Haunted by memories and dreams of his childhood, blending his fantasy and escapism with reality,  Guido must confront the fact that he has, in fact, no answers at all, while discovering that he still has something to give.

I recently watched the wonderful Criterion Collection Blu-ray of this old, personal favorite. Certainly I had never seen such a beautiful copy in my life, which was a revelation in itself. But more importantly, somehow, this man’s tale resonated with me more now than it ever has.

8 1/2 is a film that anticipates every criticism you may have of it. Through Guido’s own expressions of self-doubt, the words of the ensemble cast, but most especially through the character of The Critic that Guido has hired to help him with his new film — 8 1/2 knows it is a selfish film, a sentimental, romanticized version of a man’s life. The film, and Guido himself, are well aware that Guido objectifies human beings — especially women — that he expects to be able to hide behind fantastic imagery, a beautiful soundtrack (by Nino Rota, also of The Godfather), and a cool suit and pair of shades. Guido lies, cheats and literally dances his way through the throngs of his troubles and the very real human beings that his selfishness and self-doubt affects. But in the end, as Guido comes to face the truth of his situation and own up to his lies and deceits (his affairs, his lack of a film, his inner-doubts and demons) we as the viewer find pity for him and our own imperfect selves.

The film is full of images of cleanliness, new beginnings and escape, personified by Guido’s fantasies of the young Claudia. While set at a spa (from Latin sanum per aqua – health through water) Guido pursues his dreams of escaping the messy reality of his life. Meanwhile, his crew and producer fret over the cost of the gigantic space-ship they are constructing for the non-existent film, in which Guido imagines the human race will escape a post-atomic Earth in search of a new Eden.

When Guido’s producer forces him to attend a press-conference to announce the film before the hulking and unfinished rocket-ship, he must confront the truth. His panic causes him to seek refuge under a table and fantasize, or not, that he’s put a bullet through his head. But as he gets in his car afterwards, it is clear that he has come clean last. The film is cancelled.  And finally — having accepted his role in the human drama and as director again — the entire film’s cast gathers as he directs them in a dance, holding hands, in a circle.

He confesses to his lovely, yet embittered wife (Anouk Amiee), “Luisa, I feel I’ve been freed…Everything is confused again, as it was before. But this confusion is me.” And he is able to join with her and the rest in the dance again. There may be no answers, but he’s begun again in honesty.

Behind these sunglasses, this confusion is me.

 

 

 


Let’s Pretend

I lived.

I lived.

Let’s play pretend. OK. Let’s say this is who you are: You’re male. Mother died at say age seven, father soon after, perhaps ten. You were shipped off to a boy’s school with all the neglect, abuse and buggery that entails. You got on other boys’ good-side by doing their work for them. They all got A’s, but you neglected your own work. You attached yourself to a more forward boy. First in class, with your help. He’s a dick, but he protects you. Or at least he leaves you enough space to exist without the need to assert yourself too much. You can tolerate him, let’s say.

You graduate, you’re a professional. You and your school “friend” go off to finish your studies together. You pick up a strong habit of general laziness, debauchery and letting your buddy direct your life. He starts a business, you follow him into it. You’re his grunt, and his secret. He’s got the ego to push himself forward, you’ve got the brain to work out his professional problems for him. And you don’t care about credit. You get to continue your anonymous life, drifting. He gets to use you. You let yourself be used. You have no sense of deserving anything else. Anything better.

You stay up all night. You drink. You keep bad company. By your late twenties, you’re a person of wasted talent with no idea of how to turn the life that repulses your soul around. And if you did know how, you don’t even know if it’s worth the effort. You’re life is already a waste, to you, a “might have been.”

So let’s say something turns you around. Of course, it’s a girl. A perfect girl. A female so far above you, so ideal in your mind that you’ve turned her into a “goddess” that you worship, but of whom you’d never be worthy. So you hang out in her presence, around her among others. You don’t speak to her too much. But you’re there.

So, obviously, a woman so perfect would get a lot of attention right? And there HE is. And fuck him, but he’s so perfect. He’s just got to be for her. Not you, right? So why not make sure? You finally go to her and speak to her. You tell her you love her. All the words rush out in a torrent. But she doesn’t stop you. She’s even encouraging. And then, you do what you have to, you spell every microscopic, disgusting detail of yourself. You lay a perfect picture before her eyes of the ruin you would make of her life if she chose to be with you. Surprise! She agrees. But she’ll never betray your trust in opening up to her, and wants to save you (you of all people!).  So you simply promise that she will save, just by letting you do anything for her or the people she loves.

So, having spent a few minutes with this guy, what do you think? How do you feel about him? What sort of person is he? What sort of future does a man like this have? What sort of future does he see himself as having?

Most importantly, what if he actually got his chance. What if he (you) did have the opportunity to save her and her loved ones by making one great sacrifice — this life you hate. And what if that sacrifice not only completely failed, she died in the process. Everyone died but you. You lived — were, in fact, saved…what would you do? How would you feel?

Thoughts? Feelings? Please play with me?


Nobody Told Me

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“Time wounds all Heals.” JL

 

There’d be days like these. Also, nobody told me that adults could get mono. I’ve slept for a week straight. A sleep of oblivion. I am the sleeping dead.

This is that Lenten time of year when we are forced to reflect upon ourselves, but how does one reflect through fever-sweat dreams? My Time is my most precious commodity. But what can I do with Time when I’ve lost why that is so precious? My mental capacity. I cannot think. If I cannot think, I am not…I am not myself at any rate.

All of this upsets me more because of the momentum I had built up in my writing. Gone. I have flashes of thoughts that disappear into a drugged fog. People talk at me, I can’t form a response. I can’t even watch movies.

All I can do is sit here with the soundtrack to Barry Lyndon, watch the snow and rain. There’s a cat on my lap. My dog sleeps. And but for a flute, all is silent.


What a Loverly Daze

morrissey_bona drag

And if I seem a little strange, that’s because I am.

What a daze. What a loverly daze. Another snow today. Not the blizzard angry Thor thunder-snow sort, just a stay in and drink tea in jammies with books day. And, if you’re like me, you couldn’t resist some Smiths and writing in your journal. And if you are like me, well, where have you been? And if you’re not, that’s OK too.

Man, is there anything important or useful that can be done on a day such as this? I can’t imagine what or why you’d want to. I was impressed that I cleaned a bit and wrote a bit. Showered.

The journal writing was good. I can be even more personal, random and meaningless there than anywhere. And yet, that’s where I come from. As far as writing is concerned. My first journal was a Tinkerbell notebook from the 1st grade. I always wanted to write. I always wanted and kept a journal. Look in my Mom’s basement. Look in my wooden chest. A whole life in little bound books.  (*Get those back from Mom.)

And it’s not that my journals are going to rival Samuel Pepys’ or Thoreau’s. But they represent an actual thing I have accomplished. But more importantly, that’s where my voice comes from. I can wriggle through every crease in my mind, process it all, write through the thousands of voices I take in and come out sounding something like myself. And that’s gotta be something. For a writer.

Honestly, voice is key. If you can nail you, you can nail anyone. What more is my voice than a grand amalgam of every voice and influence I’ve ever taken in since I was born? That’s a lot of voices. All of those people, characters, movies, books, the poems and songs, the interwebs.  All condensed and focused through the lens of me.

And while, yes, I might fall into your “journal keeping” stereotype. It’s a thing I’d suggest all writers do. It’s the easiest, least pressure way to just write a little, every day every day every day. And journals don’t all have to be the mole-skin or Red Book of Westmarch type of journal. Go to the dollar store. Use a legal pad. Start a new notebook on your computer, on your phone. Just write. It’s not precious or for posterity. It’s for you.

Have a cup of tea. Play your favorite music. Scribble lines in the margins. Keep your favorite quotes in the pages. Write down something you just heard in a movie or on that TV show. Just put some writing on some paper or pixels. You’ll feel better I swear. Even if better means you just want to wallow. Wallow away. No one’s there to judge.

And if you are like me, then remember, I may wear black on the outside ’cause black is how I feel on the inside, but I have a heck of a time doing it. You know, just being me. Go be you, and choose any color you like.

 

 

 

 

 


I Don’t Want to Go Out

david_bowie-Modern Love

Never gonna fall

I want to stay in…get things done.

Bowie understands. As usual. And people who love winter can go do their lumberjack and I’m OK thing. Just leave me be. I don’t want to go out. I’m sick and things aren’t getting done that I want to do. I’ve figured out a few things though.

Firstly, my goal of writing an outline in a week was not attainable. I realized this the other day. Someone asked me what was the best way to refine their writing project. So I gave them the old schpiel. Find a few words that describe the basic themes. Words like Love, Revenge, Ambition, Betrayal, Wonder, Coming of Age — the basic stuff we all get: sex, death and all the stuff in between. Fix a genre with one or two sub-categories (sci-fi action/drama). And explain the plot in one or two sentences (A college-kid must decide whether his Uncle killed his father, and struggles with how to react to that knowledge, while tearing the lives around him apart). It’s Jaws meets Terminator. What have you. Basic stuff.

And then it hit me, that I needed a dose of my own medicine on the writing front. I’ve been looking too carefully at the individual parts and the esoteric stuff that I’d lost perspective on my own story, and I need to go back and do this to my tale again.

So, that’s my new focus for this week. Would i’twere so simple. I just can’t seem to feel well. People want me to do stuff and go outside. And as usual, I’m convinced I have walking pneumonia, and I’m slowly dying. But aside from my hypochondria and feeling less sociable than usual (which is never particularly social), I’m becoming less than pleased.

Last year, I put too much on hold because of “life”– not even my own. That made me feel like a good human being for tic. But when my own health took revenge in a bout of bronchitis, I figured I’d outdid the “others” thing. Then there was the holiday we do not mention. And now I’ve gotten back to work, people still want to do stuff like that’s normal in February because they’re insane and my body is in revolt again.

I think the best thing for me to do is stay in my pajamas until April. Going outside makes me sick. Activity gives me asthma attacks. My sinuses don’t like the dry air. So I’m staying in, getting better and getting some things done for me. I just don’t care about going outside. I don’t care about much that isn’t in my sphere of interests on a good day. So, I’m not over-extending what little brain power I have left. Just let me write and play Battlefront and color and leave me be. Also there’s my violin. Jeez, I have a lot to do. How am I’m supposed to take care of outside stuff. I feed myself and my animals. I walk my dog. What else do you want from me world?!

When the spring comes, I will feel better. Although that’s another bad time for the allergies, but I don’t mind it because it’s nice out. I’ll still find ways to ignore people and stuff. But this is what I’m rocking for now. Don’t believe in modern love or winter.

 


JKHOA: What Can I Say?

The Seer - de chirico

One of my favorite images. The Seer, by de Chirico

 

For two weeks I’ve been posting here everyday except Saturday. Time to take a look at the experiment and get some new plan set out. See what I’ve learned.

I certainly have plenty so say, and I’ve hardly run dry. But, honestly, this has become a slightly more formal version of my journal. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But looking back, mainly I just sat down with some tea and Mozart and started typing without a clue as to what would come out, with varying success.

Honestly, I got more responses from my nearly absurdist posts, with less interaction for the ones that I gave more thought to. I don’t know what that means. It could’ve simply been the day on which those posts were made. Maybe this the sort of thing Google understands. I surely don’t.

Also, I don’t know if it was the Mozart, or the lack of pressure I felt about what I was typing, or the caffeine in this chronic chai I’ve got (I mean the tea. I’m a tea snob. Shut up.), but even the posts I put more thought into weren’t much. I was just really goofing off the entire time. I almost feel a bit of fake. Sometimes when a thing is easily done, I don’t do it as well. Hey, or do I?

Anyhow, so aside from getting through a snowstorm, having the plague and some Nicholson level cabin fever, what’s next for Jess? Well, that’s a deep subject. (Yes, that was a very bad pun.) Dah! Darned if I know.

I suppose I’ll keep up on the blog here twice a week. I’m going consider which days. It’ll most likely be a combination of my stats for each day over two weeks combined with whatever the heck I feel like — probably a strong emphasis on the latter. And as I seem to find it useful to keep talking about myself and whatever happens to be on the brain that day, I’ll stick with that. By far my most popular posts are tagged “Geek”.  And while I also have a high level of nerd in me — I guess I’ll just keep on with my super-nerd/geek self.

I’m not apologizing for being me. I will continue to consider Star Wars, Roman military strategy, whatever video game I’m playing and documentaries about irrigation and flood management in ancient Mesopotamia with equal enthusiasm. After all, what is being a geek if not simply being a rabid fan of “your thing”. I don’t see any conflict between my enthusiasm for Galaxy Quest and that for ancient epic poems. If anyone takes issue with that, I don’t care. I just don’t. Go write your own damn blog.

But how about your book, Jess? Well, part of myself that just has to make that “B” an “A”, I’m glad you reminded me not to let myself slip. I was reading back in my journal to when I was working on it full-time. I’ve also been looking over my old notes, and I got some interesting thoughts from the feedback on the rough chapter I posted, but what I need is a new outline. And that will have to come before another chapter, because I don’t like the next chapter as it is. Let’s make my outline a goal for this week. That should satisfy my self-loathing. And make me happy. Not being disgusted with oneself is generally conducive to personal felicity.

I will post the next chapter when I’ve done the outline. I enjoyed that. I saw its shortcomings with far more clarity.  Possibly with the knowledge that someone was actually paying attention to the thing. Which is really why I’ve taken up the ebook idea anyway. I’ve got all these screenplays that I send out, and sometimes they get a read or something, but generally they just sit taking up hard-drive space.

Unlike Kafka, I did not take up writing with the notion that all my work should be discovered in a sock drawer upon my death. I write to speak to other people. It’s the best way I know how to communicate. So, at least with a book I can “publish” online, a series in which I’m interested and invested in the character and story, and hope that more people will read what I’ve done. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do. I hope they feel something when they read it. I hope they geek out on the reading as much as I did on the writing.

I guess I’m just here to talk to folks, and this is the best way I know how. So that’s probably the biggest take-away I’ve got. I like to write, and I enjoy it when people enjoy what I’ve written. Simple. What else can I say?

 

 

 

 

 


JKHOA Pt. 2.4 Being Other People

Mona_Lisa

All portraits are self-portraits.

I don’t know how you make up people, but here’s how I do it. First off, when I say “make up people”, I actually mean create a character. I’m of the mind that writers simply call it “character creation” because it sounds more sane. It’s not. At least for me. But I get into it, so I suppose I enjoy it. Here’s how it goes for me.

Let me make clear I’m speaking of intentional characters. These are the ones I’ve intended to be in the story from the get-go. There are other characters that sort of end up happening because plot, but I always try to give them the love they deserve too. This just isn’t about them. The intentional ones get lots of time. I usually first look for a model for this person. An actor, a performance, an actual person, another fictional character. But it helps me to have a visual model. They may experience some drift over time, but once I “cast” my character in my mind it’s a go. And characters that refuse to find a model are infuriating.

I do the written exercises. I write several pages of their biographies, and I do Syd Field three “P’s”. That is: What are their Personal lives like? What is their Profession? And what do they do in Private? My personal favorite is what they do in private. What one does when one is alone is probably more telling than anything else. Rocky Balboa tells stories to his turtles. Gollum talks to himself. Dexter kills people. Walter White just sits there, thinking. And often revealing what a character does on their own is where some wonderful story telling sneaks in.

Obviously, this requires a lot of thought. And how I deal with it is role-playing. I consider my self as this other person and pretend to be them. I do this normally while going about my daily routine. I imagine what they would say or do in various situations. How they walk. What their speech patterns would be like. How they act and react. And if you ever catch me seeming not myself, it’s because I’m trying that person out on you.

I’ll tell you what though, it’s more difficult to be some people over others. I’ve written so many different people from different times and circumstances, I’m not even going to list them. And, yes, of course they all get a lot of me. But, to my mind, finding what’s “like me” in a character is finding what makes them human, to my mind. It’s what makes them sympathetic. And even a “bad guy” ought to have that. But the worst are the ones that reflect back on “like me” something I’m not overly-keen to see.

My latest fellow is probably the worst of a fairly varied lot that includes both the innocent and the wise, as well as the murderous and distasteful, and a lot of places in between. But I just had to pick a depressive this time. It’s very difficult to be objective with someone who is already “like me” in a way that I’m less than excited to admit. He’s a lot worse off than myself in some ways, and I pity the guy. But it’s like looking at your pores in a magnifying mirror, or trying on bathing suits under florescent lights. Uncomfortable.

So even if my carriage of myself may be off, or I may seem a bit down. Don’t fret. I’m taking an honest look at man who of himself, would have this to say, “Think of me as one who died young. All of my life might have been.” And remember that I’m giving him a lot more life than he ever expected or would have wanted. So, he’s in for a lot more pain than he already has. Torture time! Poor guy.

Maybe if I can pity him, I can do the same for others who may or may not be a bit “like me.”  Maybe I can even find room in my heart for just me.

 


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