Monday, October 26, 2009

Where I'm At, Fall '09 edition

Movies I want to see:

-Paranormal Activity
-new(ish) Coen Brothers

Things I want to eat:

-Burritos. Burritos that I have not made myself.

Music I want to listen to:

-"Suedehead" is on right now, which is pretty good.
-early, skiffle Beatles.
-later, Get Back Beatles.

TV I've been watching:

-Battlestar Galactica, again. I think this is my third or fourth time through season 2.
-In Treatment, season one. We're almost done!
-Pete & Pete. I don't dig the second season so much, but the first is fantastically weird.

Things I have been thinking about:

-The End of the World, in a fictional sense.
-Choosing your own adventures.
-Echo Park.
-Writing fellowships.
-POD magazines
-Life 2

Things I have been working on:

-novel, draft 2.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shared Worlds

Thinking of shared worlds again ... playing Fallout 3 and a new D&D 4E campaign has me itching to world-build. I think my perfect vision is a wiki based around a concept that would be split into different eras or specialties -- and four or five writers would contribute, each specializing in a corner of the universe that may or may not overlap with the others. One of the basic rules would be that whatever you did had to build on what someone else did, but not negate it.

It would have to be a group that worked together well, that was keyed into the same ideas and wanted similar things from the project. There would bound to be disagreements, but hopefully the wouldn't turn nasty, and would ultimately lead to something even better than what was there before.

The ultimate goal would be to have a world that any of the contributors could then set stories within -- novels, screenplays, games or whatever they wanted to write.

I started something with this basic idea with Pato -- god, about a year ago now. But I haven't ever been entirely comfortable with the "hardware" issue -- with the wikis that we found, and with my own capabilities of building it. So I've tended to let the actual wiki sit, even as I keep taking notes on the world and even writing stories set within that world.

Anyway. I've got airships and tentacles on the brain these days.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Everything I Know About Time I Learned From Steve Miller

I was just reading A Brief History of Nearly Everything, particularly a chapter that dealt with the age of the universe -- where I'm at right now some scientist or other has speculated that the universe is 20 billion years old. And it got me to thinking -- probably too simplistically -- but it got me to thinking, how can we really think about "years" on a scale like that?

Because a "year" is the time it takes for the earth to travel around the sun. But if the earth is, what, 4.5 billion years old, or something like that -- how can we measure years before the earth existed? If there was no earth to travel around the sun, I mean. If "time" is relative to gravity, if time is relative to movement through space -- I don't know if we can think about "20 billion years" once we're talking about something off of the planet earth, can we? I mean relative to us, sure -- it takes 76 years for Haley's Comet to swing within viewing distance of the earth. But that's 76 years for *us* -- if we were to attach a pocket watch to Haley's Comet, would it calculate the same amount of time?

I think I've read that if you take an airplane from, say, New York to Los Angeles -- when you get off that plane you're a little younger than the folks you left behind in New York, by virtue of the speed you've traveled through space. Space meaning physical space, not outer space. So if even *that* movement alters one's own perception of time...

I guess ultimately what I'm saying is, how can we talk about "20 billion years" when there haven't BEEN 20 billion years -- meaning, 20 billion passages around the sun by the earth?

And somewhat separate -- what if the earth has made some passages around the sun, or WILL make some passages around the sun, either faster or slower? Is it still a "year"? Are we really talking about "20 billion theoretical revolutions around the sun"? We already have a concept of a "Martian day," since it's something like 23.5 hours as compared to our 24 hours ...

I realize I'm thinking myself in circles, and I just got out of bed to type this as a means to not forgetting all about it in the morning. I'm not a stupid guy, but once you start talking about physics or astronomy I get easily confused. I'll just post this, move it to the back of my brain for now, and then go back to reading.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sure, but who wouldn't be?

"Let me start by saying the women of my generation have a reason to be fired up."

This is what you said in a dream. Not to me -- I read them in an interview. Your face (and your hair, and your mouth -- you wore a lot of lipstick in the photo, if you'll forgive my saying so) was on the cover of American Legion, which I think is a magazine my dad gets from his union. There were pictures inside, too -- you with all of the women of your family, most of whom I have never seen in life, and another where you are sitting down next to a white picket fence, using it to brace yourself as you stretch one leg high in the air and flash and embarrassed smile at the camera, presumably for being photographed so in the first place. It's an infectious and endearing smile. There's a young man in the foreground, stealing a glance at you. I don't feel jealous. I think, "Yeah, no kidding."

In the background of that photo -- or perhaps in an accompanying photograph is a seaside town on a hill, with a clock tower, an old movie theater, streets that are winding and not wide. The photo caption describes this town as a "lazy seaside" place you pass through every day by train, and that it's come to have special meaning to you.

On the magazine's cover you are proclaimed as the face of a new movement of young women, one that inspires more and more to "receive catechism." I'm not sure if that even makes sense as a phrase -- I get easily confused when it comes to religious ceremonies. I understand that it is (or was meant to be) different from communion. But then again, maybe not. In any event, the article's author proclaims that, as charming and true as you are, she was not convinced to forgive God on your account.

I didn't find out anymore, I'm afraid. I settled down with the magazine but woke up after that first line: "Let me start by saying the women of my generation have a lot to be fired up about." And then, "Let me find you the women of North Kokomo, Indiana," at which point I believed you played a piece of audio for the interviewer. At this point I was probably a little jealous.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Interlude 2

There was something I wanted to share with you, but it doesn't seem like I really can. (But then that's what this blog has become, yeah?) It would seem like I was being petty, or that I felt things that I really didn't, or that I didn't feel things that I really did.

I won't quote it exactly, since that's not the sort of thing I believe in tonight. But it's a sentiment expressed in Michael Ondaatje's DIVISADERDO: "Romance is romance, and not a promise of permanence."

And I guess that's true. I guess objectively I believe that. And I guess (all the same) that you (once again, as always, I) never really think it will happen to (me).

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Last night I had a dream that I moved back to my old house in downtown Oakland, and all the old cats had been dropped off there as well. My old/new roommate said my ex-girlfriend had left them there the day before, saying it was for "a month or two."

I was really happy to see Tubby again. I picked him up and it still felt like carrying a baby horse.

But then I kept finding pee everywhere -- my bed, the floor, behind books. And when I woke up it was one of those take-a-moment-to-remember-it-wasn't-a-dream reactions. And though it would have been nice to hang out with Wolf again, it was also nice to not have to look out for pee on my blankets.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Dear, part two

Back to the car for a minute...

One of the things BSG left me with was this idea of species memory. SPOILER ALERT if you're thinking of watching the show, but the ending basically tells us that we have neckties and democracy and a legal system because, 150,000 years ago the human race as WE know it was born from a human/cylon hybrid baby.

(Look: it's a good show.)

And I'm not so much talking about "specie memory" as a scientific true fact -- I'm more interested in its neatosity factor, its narrative potential, and the way it makes my brain tingle. Lord knows I think enough about spaceships and dinosaurs as I walk around the world, but I haven't really thought about -- you know -- cavemen very much. As individuals with day to to day dramas and epic troubles. And surely there were wars, there were loves, there dramas among people who were literally the first humans (or human-like) on Earth. They had art, and the ability to perceive the real world through art. And that's enough for me to believe that they qualify souls worthy of consideration from those of us left today. We've had language for something like 40,000 years, but we've had history for, what, 5,000 years? There have been tools for about two and a half million years, and those are just the ones that we've found.

And when I think about human history (or human pre-history) in that vastness of time, my first impulse is to feel sad for all the names we don't know anymore, the sagas -- real or imagined or metaphorical -- that are lost. But that's a selfish way to think of it, yeah? They are still things that happened, whether I know about them or not. There's plenty of history that happened, and was written down, that I don't know simply because I haven't read the right books. And I don't get sad about that. So...

I dunno, a lot of this feels like college-age navel gazing. But I can imagine you nodding and smiling as I talk this out, happy to read what's going on in my head, happy to watch me work it out and articulate it. And that's not embarrassing at all.

My second impulse is to be so very pleased that it happened at all, to remember that there's so much happening right now that's being experience by those there to experience it. Something Dr. Baltar says near the middle of season four jumps out at me: "I love living. I really do. I really, really love living." I like it too.

While I was driving I also saw something that caused another piece of my novel to click into place, which is a much appreciated gift, and really the whole reason I wanted to be alone in a car for ten hours in the first place. It was grafitti on an overpass, the kind you have to hang upside down from the top to write (or at least, that's how I imagine it has to be written), and it was simple, with no embellishing flourishes and no punctuation, and it said I LOVE YOU AMY and I thought, well damn right you do.

Ethan is a junior whose girlfriend Amy has dumped him. She's reconnected with a middle school love she mostly talks to on the phone and sits in food courts with, and Ethan's been trying to sort out how to win her back. It's a relationship between supporting characters, and it's something I've known was going to happen all along, but I was never quite sure how much of it was going to go on the page. There are plenty of things I'm secretly proud of myself for with regard to the book, and one of them is the rather involved and evolving lives the supporting characters have that Berto never even finds out about, since he's so stuck in his own head. But Ethan and Amy's relationship troubles are something I wanted him to encounter, but I didn't really have a sense for how they would wrap up, or what role Berto might have in their conclusion. But seeing that simple spraypainted line, I thought of my ol' pal Adrian, who went on a spraypainting spree after his high school girlfriend broke up with him. He sprayed "KLF" over a Pepsi sign on 131 going toward Day Heights, and I remember -- we were just out of high school at the time, so I was 18 or 19 -- driving back to Clifton from visiting my folks and feeling so Tall whenever I saw those three letters over that rusty old Pepsi sign. Someone I knew had changed the landscape of familiar ground, even in a very small way, and I liked that.

So, "I Love You Amy." I immediately thought of our man Berto being driven in a car (he's a lad of fifteen), or maybe out riding his bike (he hasn't yet, but I imagine he's the sort who would like to range far on two wheels), and discovering a message written to someone he knows (Amy is his cousin, remember?), by someone else he knows, and I imagine it opening up entire rooms in his brain he'd never even known were there. I imagine Berto buying his own can of spray paint and spraying I Love You Amy on the linoleum floors of his high school, not directly to help Ethan, but because he has the power to do it. He can alter his world very easily and change the way people walk on the floor beneath their feet.

They probably won't think to write it down, and somehow that floor will be torn up or the school will fall down around it, and maybe by then no one will remember or no one will care that a boy once loved a girl named Amy and wanted her to know it, but then -- it wasn't written for posterity, was it? That's not really what we think about when we write. We have a message we want to impart to another person in the world, so we write them a letter or a statement or a blog.

I don't know what Amy will make of it yet, but that's okay. I also imagine the feeling Ethan's gut having written it down in the first place (I know that feeling well, and can feel a little bit of it now). Sometimes it's about killing the bull, but sometimes it's just about drawing the bull on the wall.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Dear __________

Nerd Alert: over the course of the ten hour drive to Baltimore, I spent most of my time thinking about Battlestar Galactica. I won't bore you with why you should have been watching BSG if you weren't, because this isn't really a story about a TV show. But I watched the last episode of the show, went to bed, woke up early and got in a car headed east. I had a little Cylon on the dashboard of my rental car, and I was taking special pains to be nice to him. I'm trying to break the old cycle, right?

I've never driven east before. The mountains (the hills?) were sloping and broad. I like them in retrospect, but I remember wanting to get out of West Virginia. It felt good to arrive in Baltimore, though the directions from Google Maps dropped me off the highway farther west than I might have liked. I made promises to myself not to think (or at least not to talk) about the Wire in the lead up to my trip, but it was hard not to when I got off of 70. I've been in rough neighborhoods before -- I've lived in rough neighborhoods before -- but this was honest to goodness block after block of buildings that were boarded up, but not abandoned. One two separate occasions I wondered why dudes were trying to hail my car like it was a cab, before realizing they were simply offering me a unique business opportunity, much like D'Angelo or Poot. I looked straight ahead at stop lights and turned down my Morrissey cd, lest the rental car stereo be more powerful than I might realize.

Adam called while I was following the internet's labyrinthine directions to their apartment, and I tried to be clever as I a) told him I was nearly there, and b) realized his call had instantly distracted me from an important split in the road I was traveling. So I tried to follow my spider-sense out of the Wire's establishing shots and the apartment of my friends, and as you may have already guessed, I eventually made it there safely. I picked up Adam and Kate Lynn, changed my shirt, ate a veggie burger, and we went to see a Talking Heads cover band.

Adam brought up seeing the Psycho Killers (natch) when we were emailing about trip specifics, and I took a moment before responding, and then decided not to be a dick about it. On the one hand: a cover band? On the other hand: Talking Heads! As I yelled to KL during their set, it's not like I'm going to get to see the Talking Heads perform in a club in Baltimore anytime soon ... but after about two and a half songs I was ready to not be listening to a cover band anymore. On the plus side: their David Byrne looks like the son of Dave Matthews and Jon Favreau, and that was kind of awesome.

One of the many TV shows I have made up and secretly journaled about is about a rock band, and it was fun to watch the band on stage and imagine the relationships at play. The singer/guitarist was obviously the most interested in what was going on ... one of the two backup singers got bored and left after the first song turned into a ten minute jam session ... the bass player never looked at anything but where the walls met the ceiling ... the drummer would continually get frustrated and try to catch the singer's eye so he could wrap up the song. The keyboardist looked 17 and overjoyed to be playing Talking Heads songs. Adam also told me the drummer had had a thing for Adam's high school girlfriend when she went off to college, leaving Adam at home for his senior year. He would continually update Adam that he was "looking out for her" at school. Secret failures and embarrassments ... and the feeling I wasn't getting the whole story. I liked that.

The night may have ended with an episode of Flight of the Conchords, and then a phone call to KM. I don't entirely remember what happened after the band though. I met a lot of Adam's high school chums but I couldn't hear anything they said to me. I was hoping they would ask what I did for a living, because my prepared response was "street juggler." And then, in case they asked me to juggle something, I would say, "Look, I don't ask you to suck my dick on YOUR day off, do I?"

(This is not something I would have actually said; rather, it was a thing I told Adam the next day after seeing an ACTUAL street juggler, and it made us laugh, and I put it here so I don't forget it.)

Next time: The Po' House, crabs, clawed tour guides.