Back to the grind

It’s always weird coming back after a vacation. My time sense is all screwed up. Isn’t it lunchtime yet?

Last week was event-heavy. Paul, a friend of ours from Illinois, flew down to visit over the Memorial Day weekend. It was a pretty low-key visit as Matthew and I had much prep to do for the new arrival and the road trip to Iowa (gah–twenty hours one way). Paul treated us to a showing of AotC–he’s our resident (or not-so-resident as the case may be) Star Wars fanatic. This was his fourth viewing, only the second for us. And we introduced him to “Sam’s Gourmet Vegetarian Paradise” which specializes in faux meat facsimiles. Yummy.

And then there was the driving. Fortunately, Matthew and I are on different wake/sleep cycles. He drives at night while I nap, and I drive during the day while he naps. But twenty hours in a car is grueling no matter how you look at it. We left on Monday after driving Paul to the airport for his flight back to Illinois.

We arrived at the breeders in Iowa at noonish on Tuesday feeling pretty wiped already. We spent a few hours talking to the breeder and meeting Hobkin’s parents and touring the farm (they also breed foxes and lynxes) and then it’s back on the road for another twenty hours with baby Hobkin. Made it home early Wednesday morning–around 8am. Man, that was rough. There are NO rest stops in Kentucky and precious few in Tennessee. What’s the deal with that? There were some definitely worrisome hours there when I was so zoned I couldn’t keep my eyes open so couldn’t help Matthew stay awake, and Matthew’s hanging on to consciousness-behind-the-wheel by his fingernails, struggling to make it to the next rest stop so we can pull over and nap for a few hours. Yeek.

But it was worth it.

For those interested in hearing me gush about the new baby.

Fucking insomnia

When I was younger, I always thought insomnia meant 3am wakefulness and tossing and turning and not being able to fall asleep. I thought I was immune. I never had problems sleeping through the night, nor did I have difficulty falling asleep. But I was always an extremely early riser. Now I know better. Insomnia is your red, bleary eyes popping open at 5:30 AM and your heart pounding with excitement at the idea of waking up while the rest of your physiology rails profanities at it. Blagh.

Not being able to go back to sleep is a bitch. Especially when you’ve only had four or five hours of quality snooze time and it’s the seventh day in a row that this has happened. Fuckity fuckity fuck.

Matthew saw a show, several weeks ago, on the Biography channel or Discovery channel or something, about many great (terrible) historical world leaders. People like Stalin and Hitler and Mao, and some of them were loons, and some of them just really ambitious, but all of them, down to the last one, had problems sleeping. There’s also a greater percentage of tortured artists who have sleep dysfunctions.

Oh, and did I mention that sleep problems are a major symptom of incumbent or progressing mental illness? Well, it’s nice that my graduate degree in Psychology is of some use. I can tick off the symptoms of my ailing brain as they happen and hand a diagnosis on a plate to my physician. And then I can write my own psychotropics cocktail prescription. Snarl.

I wonder how much of it is whacked out circadian rhythms? I’ve always had an internal wake-alarm (and they’re only now examining the existence of an internal alarm clock in sleep research–snarf. The sillies.) which tended to wake me about a minute before my digital alarm went off, or that I could set if I needed to wake up in the AM without an alarm clock, but I think the clock in my brain got skewed. Like when you reach your arm out in bed and accidentally thunk your clock and it jumps forward a couple hours. That’s me. One poorly set clock.

Oh well. I’ll be awake for sure when my alarm goes off in about . . . oh an hour. So we won’t be late picking up our friend, Paul, at the airport. He’s flying in from Illinois to visit over the long holiday weekend. Hurray!

Hah. I ended this ranting entry on an up note. Good for me.

I feel like whining.

Overdid something at belly dance class on Tuesday. Owitch. Not sure what those muscles are, but they sure are protesting loud. It wasn’t this bad yesterday, but I felt twinges. Should’ve soaked in the hot tub. Owie. Will definitely spend some quality time under the Jacuzzi jets tonight. Ouch.

I took some ibuprophen, but, as I suspected, ibuprophen appears to inflame my thoracic nerve (don’t know why. That makes no sense that I can comprehend.) and now my arms ache and my hands are tingly. Dammit.

My story picked up thirty critiques on Critters this week. Blink. I typically average twenty, so that’s a larger sampling of readers than I’m accustomed to. Lotso mixed reviews. I got TWO regulars who said this was the best thing of mine they’ve read. I’d be worried except they’re usually pretty glowy about my stuff. And I got several useless “you should re-write this story completely and make it my story instead of yours” and quite a few comments about the vocabulary complexity. Can’t help it. “I don’t understand the big words you use” sorts of comments always irk me. Writers and aspiring writers should have extensive vocabularies. I got one critique from someone who didn’t know what the words “cloying” and “precipice” meant. Oh dear.

But, since I rewrite as I get comments in, the rewrite’s done and the story’s off to seek a home in the wide, wide world. Good luck little story! Do me proud!

Now if I can just finish up the @#*$&! three stories I’m currently working on.

Or, better yet, sell one of the ones that’re currently out.

Sigh.

Harlan Ellison

Okay, I just finished Angry Candy. I read “Chained to the Fast Lane in the Red Queen’s Race” and “The Function of Dream Sleep” during my lunch break and I’m all weepy-faced and sniffly in my cube.

Damn, but that man can write.

And I was so absorbed I stopped eating my lunch and now it’s cold and vaguely glutinous. But it was worth it.

I was thinking of switching to some William Gibson after Angry Candy but instead, I think I need to find more Ellison to read. Damn. “Dream Sleep” really got to me. I still have that hollow feeling you get with tears coming. Damn. I wish I could write like that.

Ramblings

Waiting on the database analysts to upgrade our test environment. This project has resembled a fiasco since moment one. But, while I’m in the limbo ether of waiting, my mind sort of spiked off into a ramble-a-thon.

I’ve been on a Harlan Ellison kick recently. I read his Deathbird Stories anthology and am mostly through his Angry Candy anthology. Authors who excel and revel in the short story form are rare these days. The short is an under-appreciated and under-utilized format. I think most genre writers view it as more of a training ground than as meritous in itself.

Did I mention that I’ve met Harlan Ellison? The man’s amazing. Rather intimidating, but you can see the heart beating on his sleeve. There’s a picture of me with him at Dragon*Con floating around on a hard drive somewhere. Gotta get that.

Anyway, Deathbird seems to be much angrier than Angry Candy, ironically. The fire which is a hallmark of Ellison’s writing is . . . banked in Candy. It’s more despairing than angry. I think his works are best served simmering.

And on a tangent–I mentioned this was a ramble, didn’t I?–I’m seeing a trend in authors where their childhoods really shape what they write. Like with Ellison, he had a vicious childhood as a Jewish child at a time when anti-Semitism was still pretty prevalent in America. And, as anyone who’s met or seen Ellison knows, he’s never been one to back down from a fight. And he carries a lot of angry memories from that time, apparently. You can see it in the stories he writes–in the children’s faces, either innocent evil or oppression. While Ray Bradbury seems like he had a more idyllic childhood and he writes of long, beatific summers and the mystery and wonder of youth.

I kind of wonder that my childhood doesn’t shape my writing more. I mean, it was horrible. And it’s not like I’ve blanked it from my memory or anything. I’ve still got some pretty vivid memories of my mother railing abuses at me at the top of her lungs in public, and in front of my little school children non-chums who then proceeded to mock me with it. Plenty of emotional abuse, pain, and repressed fury, a ripe landscape to transfer into emotion-filled tales. But it doesn’t seem to figure into my writing much. Wonder why? And I wonder if I should try to explore that more, give my writing that edge of despair.

Or maybe it’s because it doesn’t really bother me anymore. My childhood was horrible, but it happened and I’m over it. It sort of feels . . . I dunno, feels odd somehow to consider intentionally trying to revisit it.

Aw Hell. I just need to write something. I’m in the middle of three stories now. Dammit, I need to finish one of them.

Enough rambling. It’s lunchtime.

Early morning insomnia and “Attack of the Clones”

Argh. I hate insomnia. I am way too awake for how early it is and how little sleep I’ve had. Dammit.

But, on an up note, Matthew and I went to see Attack of the Clones last night. Yes, theater full of children, but they were much better behaved en masse than the children from Hell we had sitting behind us at Spider-Man. The single adult male sitting in the seat beside me though, well, he was kind of weird. He kept talking to the screen. Loudly. Better than being kicked in the back, I guess.

However, despite my misgivings and my expectations to the contrary (and many reviews I’ve stumbled upon even with my best efforts not to), I liked AotC. Okay, the writing blew goats. And, err, so did the acting. The number of cosmic coincidences necessary for the plot to carry itself along is best glossed over. The Anakin/Amidala romance was completely contrived and unbelievable. And it’s pretty damn obvious where Luke got his whininess. But I liked Ewan McGregor. And despite the fact that the man can’t write or apparently direct, Lucas makes cool special FX. The planetscapes, the battles, the alien critters! Much that was shiny for me to oooh at gives AotC my snort of approval.

[Itty bitty teeny weeny spoiler alert--but only if you've been going around with your head stuck in a box about Episode II]
I’m also amused that the evil count must be a ferret. After all, with a name like “Dooku”, he’s gotta be at least part ferret. (For those of you not familiar with ferretkind, when they’re excited or happy the sound these usually silent animals make is “dook dook”.) I also loved the duel between Dooku and Yoda. 70-year-old man and CGI muppet duking it out with lightsabers. Woohoo! But if you think about it, Frank Oz has been around muppets since the early 60′s so it should’ve been old hat for him.
[/spoiler alert]

So yah. The movie had way many flaws–most of them right in the middle of the film when you start to notice that your butt’s been sitting on an uncomfortable theater non-cushion for an hour–but it makes up for it by sheer shiny wowness.

Fun fun.

Othello, vegetarian shepherd’s pie and thou beneath a bough . . . .

Matthew and I went to see Othello at the Shakespeare Tavern last night. We’ve seen a lot of Shakespeare–regularly attended the Illinois Shakespeare Festival for as long as we’ve been together, hit shows in Chicago, San Fran, etc.–but we have yet to see a company perform Shakespeare as well as the folks here. Their R&J was the absolute best version we’ve ever seen–and we must have seen dozens of R&Js–and their Merry Wives was amazing. I laughed so hard, I thought I’d split something. But, having said that, Othello was not their strongest performance. Actually, I’d even say it was the weakest Shakespeare play (they did a few productions not written by ole Bill which I just don’t clump into the same category) this season. Ah well. I suspect it’s a shortcoming of the play or perhaps they didn’t put as much effort into it as their other performances. Othello isn’t one of our favorites either. I did see hints of their trademark deep character/plot interpretation in Iago. They managed to insert drops and splashes of implication that Iago’s actions were spurred by his repressed sexual attraction to Othello as well as some secret interest in Desdemona. But it wasn’t enough to carry the production.

I’m pleased to say that even a not-so-great performance at the Tavern is still enjoyable, though. And I love their food! We had dragon noodles for an appetizer and shared their vegetarian shepherd’s pie and sun-dried tomato with brie sandwich for our main course. Yummy.

Next month, Comedy of Errors. Getting season tickets to the Tavern was one of the best entertainment investments we’ve made. Definitely gonna renew them next year.