Friday, September 28, 2012

Give me mountains to climb

For the past few general conferences I have watched with a small notebook, and I note each speaker and a few keywords. Sometimes, if one really gets me, I star it. I do this because sometimes I remember that something was special to me, but not which one, and the notes help me figure it out.

“Give me mountains to climb” is all I have down for President Eyring’s talk. His talk was actually titled “Mountains to Climb”, but he refers to a talk from 1979 by President Kimball, “Give Me this Mountain”, and I guess I combined the two.

I don’t remember having a strong reaction to it while listening, but when I was reading the talks later it started working on me.

For President Eyring, when he listened to the original talk, it impressed him to seek out challenges, and to actually pray for them, so that he could grow. Reading it, my first thought was that I cannot do that. Yes, I have grown from my trials, I am grateful for those experiences and growth, but I cannot seek out more. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I had a friend who was the opposite. I remember saying something to her once about no one seeking out pain, and she said she did, and that made sense, actually, because she had a little bit of a masochist/martyr streak, and a lot of emotional issues, so I did not find her point of view persuasive. I will take the challenges as they come, but I‘m not asking for more.

The first insight came with an unexpected memory of an old Ensign article. It was about going the second mile. The article explained that Roman soldiers could order the Jews to carry their gear for a mile, but no longer. On that first mile, you are basically a servant, but the soldier can only compel you for one mile. So, if you choose to offer your service for another mile, you walk as a free person. It offered a different mental point of view, and a feeling of independence and influence.

It occurred to me then that perhaps the point in this for me was more for a different viewpoint. Instead of being frustrated with challenges and trying to power through them, to try and get an image of how it is going to be helpful before and during, rather than just coming to understand it afterwards. It would mean being more active than passive.

That was one thought, and it seemed like a good thought, and I did decide I was going to do a blog post on it. I read the talk again, and this time I noticed that President Eyring said that at the time that it was too soon for him to pray that prayer. So what had I been worrying about? Except that he still didn’t express regret for it, he still gave the talk, and he still was grateful for the growth.

This led to more thinking, and what I started thinking about was why the thought of new problems worried me so much, and I realized it was a time issue. There is always so much I want to do and read and write and learn, and problems tend to take away from my time for making that happen. That being said, a lot of that is me. I am the one who will get all broody, and then play mindless games or watch television or mope rather than reading or writing or spending time with people. There are times when there are things that you actually have to do, but reacting appropriately can help a lot with the time crunch.

This led back to the whole “powering through” concept. When things are really bad, I try and just keep my head down and ignore it, because it won’t last. There are things that last a while, though, and so there is a lot to be said for being able to keep on functioning through trials, because they don’t all require going into emergency mode.

Taking the long view is also helpful because I am getting better at seeing progress, and noticing that there are areas where I have gotten better. That feels good.

I have read the talk at least once more since then, and I also decided to read President Kimball’s talk. The interesting part about that is that it doesn’t even sound so much like he was asking for trials as he was asking for opportunities for growth and blessing. It was based on the story of Caleb, and the first part of that was that when he saw a good land, he was willing to take it and trust in the Lord, when others were stopped by fear.

Caleb still had to wait the forty years for that generation to die off, but he did not die and his strength was not diminished, and when he said “Give me this mountain”, he was asking for land for his inheritance, and he received it.

Well that touches on important points for me too. I feel like so much time has gone by that I haven’t capitalized on that I have really lowered my expectations for life. To some extent that has been fine, because life has been really gratifying. I am happy to be writing and travelling and enjoying friends and family, and if that comes with being an old maid with a day job until the day I die, it’s still a good life.

What this reminded me is that more is possible too, and the things that could stand in my way are not guaranteed to stand in my way. And that leaves me with one more scripture, which comforts me at times:

D&C 111:11 Therefore, be ye as wise as serpents and yet without sin; and I will order all things for your good, as fast as ye are able to receive them. Amen.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How to have a horrible bathroom






As I mentioned yesterday, this house is 42 years old. It was built in 1970 and we moved here in 1978. Not much has been replaced from then.

I know originally the bathroom was pink, and then it got changed to a green, and that lasted until fall of 1996. Dad had left and I was between jobs, so I painted the bathroom a cream color, and put a border around the top. It looked pretty good, though the paint job was not perfect, and it lasted for a while.

Around 2011 (so 15 years later) we were ready for a change. I can’t remember if it was from my tax refund or from the profit share, but I had an extra $300 and I decided I would spend it on getting the bathroom painted.

I had just gotten a permanent job in 2010, after about a year of nothing and a year of temping, and so it felt good to be able to contribute again. Also, I knew how the economy had been rough, and I thought it would be good if I could benefit someone else with it. Much of this post will be about me being stupid, but I think at this point I was still being reasonable.

I had a friend from school that did contracting work, and so I called and asked about it. He wasn’t going to do it himself, but he could send me two of his workers, and then I would pay them directly, so it would be extra for them.

I guess my first mistake here is that I was not helping him here. Clearly, he did not need the money. However, one other benefit that I felt would come with going through him is that I could trust him. At this point, I was definitely being stupid.

The first thing that should have worried me is that he did not come over for a quote or anything. I said how much I could pay (this was definitely stupid), and he said to pick up the paint we wanted, and then they would just come over and apply it.

Remember that I put up a border. My sisters and I somehow got it into my head that we should take it down. This meant that they went to buy the paint without me, because I was working on removing that. This is another area where a quote could have been useful, because he could have said “Don’t worry about that; we can get that right off.” I could not get it all off and they got it off very quickly. However, the real mistake here was letting my sisters go buy paint alone.

The only recommendation we had gotten on the paint was to use Behr, which is what we used when we painted the house for sure, and might have used for the bathroom the first time. That was no problem. However, my sisters did get the recommendation at the store to get the paint with the primer mixed in. This does not have to be a problem, but I think it may have been for us.

The other issue was color. We had been talking about Aqua. The accents for the new decorating scheme were based on rubber ducks, so something that would look good with that color. I guess they were told that it would dry lighter than it went on, but this was not a reason to go with almost navy. Nonetheless, that is what they got. On the plus side, when they make suggestions I don’t like on anything now, I refer back to this decision and say they have lost their right of input forever.

Anyway, the painters came over, put on one coat, hung out for a while, put on another coat, took my $300 and left. Here is the reason I think the paint/primer combo was a problem. It gave a specific amount of drying time required on the can. They did not wait this full time, but I figured they knew what they were doing. However, as it dried that day, little spots of white started appearing, where I think the paint was pulling away from the primer because of the second coat being applied too soon. I can’t swear that’s the reason—maybe they were just sloppy—but something about that was not right.

There were other concerns about sloppiness. After they left we started finding other things, like that they had skipped a big patch behind the toilet (hard to reach,  yes, but not impossible), there was a big splotch of paint that fell on the floor behind the toilet that had since dried on the floor (it is still there), and another big splotch of paint on the light fixture (that is no longer there because we changed the light fixture). Also, there were questionable judgment calls, like painting over ceiling hooks instead of removing them, and things like that.

I found I was getting really angry. My friend had sent a message, asking how it went, and I responded honestly, and he said it was the dark color and the roughness of our walls. Well, there are issues with that, but my specific complaints were not from that. I wrote back again, feeling like I needed at least a partial refund, and he never responded.

Again, here’s where a consultation would have been good. If the walls are really bad, tell me that, and what possible remedies are. If we are making a horrible color choice, say that. Also, tell me how much it should cost before I tell you how much I am willing to pay.

It was very frustrating. He has had two birthday since then, and I have not wished him a happy birthday, which is huge for me, because remembering birthdays on Facebook is really important to me, and with him, I don’t want to. I know he has used his crew for mutual friends, and been really helpful, and I don’t think he’s a bad guy—I just think ultimately he did not care about me. And I can forgive him, but I can’t really go back to respecting him, because I deserved better than that, and I certainly paid for me than that, and he did not care.

Obviously, a lot of my anger was with me. Why did I let my sisters go to Home Depot without me? That was a problem, and I should have known better, but they performed to the level of their abilities, which are not strong in this realm. In his case though, they should have been able to do a much better job, and there were red flags and I just pushed them down, because there is a friend in this and he knows what he is doing, and they know what they are doing, so it will be fine.

Anyway, now is time for healing. Part of that is writing this out, but also, part of it was repainting the bathroom. I went back to relying on my own labor, and it is a lot better. And it shouldn’t be. They had better equipment and know-how, but I actually cared. I do need to do a few touch-ups, mainly for some places where some paint came off along with the tape. Visitors who use the bathroom are welcome to look for flaws, though residents who complain are encouraged to find their own place. It’s not perfect, but I feel a lot better about it.

I don’t know that I would hire an acquaintance again. If I do, I will have to do it differently.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A bad leak

I mentioned not long ago how I would love to have someone take over my home maintenance responsibilities, and part of it was that right then I was going through an unusually bad time with it.

It all started with a wet spot in the family room. It was right by the dogs’ water bowls, so our initial though was that it was a spill, but it kept on being wet after Mom had shampooed the carpet and it had time to dry. Uh-oh, there appears to be a leak.

Now, we had just had an issue where the washing machine was not completing cycles, because it needed the belt replaced. We went to the Maytag site, and scheduled maintenance, he diagnosed the issue quickly and replaced the belt, and all was well. Yes, I did have to deal with the service call and the expense, and the wait between scheduling the service call and them arriving, but it seemed fine.

Now there was a leak, and it was not obvious where. That seemed like a good time to call a plumber, and we have one company that we always work with, so we called them and they came out. He checked the washing machine and the water heater and did not find any leaks, and what he finally decided was that the dryer was not venting properly, so the built-up moisture from the clothes was coming out.

Okay, that did sound a little weird, but we have had problems with the dryer venting before, and this was a professional, and I called a professional because this is not my forte.

A friend came over and looked, and the dryer was indeed not hooked up properly to the hose, but that was not the source of the water, and he thought that the drain line for the washer was leaking. However, those would be easy things to fix, and both machines were Maytag, so I went back to the Maytag site, typed in a request for having the dryer hose and the washing machine drain line replaced, and the first availability was AE, much like it was with the belt needing to be replaced. I set up another service call, though that first ability was five days away.

This one went wrong from the start. First of all, the guy had no idea what the call was about, so he did not have a new hose or new drain line, though I had specifically asked for those things. He said when you call in it’s a big call center, and they are not even around. I used the web site. Oh, that’s even worse. We don’t get that information at all, he said, except that he then brought up the appointment on his scheduler, and he read that off to me.

Okay, there were no parts, so he could order those and we could set up another call. How about just hooking the existing dryer hose back up? No, we don’t like getting in back there, I would have to charge you for a new call. Basically, his service consisted of him filling up the washing machine twice to prove that the drain line didn’t leak. During this time, I heard him get a call from someone else where he was explaining how at the previous call he told the customer that it was not their fault, it was something the installer did, and they would have to call the installer, and the customer said that was fine. I apparently had gotten the most work-averse service person available, though he said he could work on anything.

Other irritations of that call were my credit card being declined because it set off red flags on their end that the charge appeared to be coming from a Sears in Indiana, and after I had finally gotten rid of him, he came back because he forgot to replace a tie he had cut.

At this point the friend came back, and he reattached the existing dryer hose, and accepted that the drain line was not leaking, so the only other possibility we could come up with was snaking the drain. He gave us a recommendation from Angie’s List, and they could come the next day.

They wanted to do some diagnostics too, and he did, and he found a few things, but he did ultimately snake the drain, as we wanted, and that fixed the problem. The diagnostics revealed that there is one pipe that is not level, which probably explains why the washing machine sometimes backs up into the sink, and that we do not have a P-trap or an auto-vent on the line by where the utilities hook up, which could increase the odds of more backups. Those things can be fixed, but it would be about a four-hour job and $600. (I do want to fix it, but it will have to wait. Since the house has gone 42 years under those conditions and the drain only needed snaking now, I hope we can manage a few more years.)

So there was that to think about, plus I was completely dissatisfied with the first plumber and with A&E. I have not named the first plumber, because they had a good history, and I called and explained the issue and they gave me a full refund for that call, and so I do not have a bad opinion of them, and I don’t want anyone to get a bad opinion of them from reading this.

As far as I am concerned, you are perfectly welcome to have a bad opinion of A&E. I made my complaint to them, and they said he followed policy. I then complained to Maytag, and they were a little less dismissive, but still not helpful. If you want parts replaced, you need to call in advance and get an order in and then they will come out. Well, if the web site said that, it would be one thing, but also, the guy’s attitude was horrible. I am glad I heard the other call but it was very unprofessional that he let me, and it reinforced that he was the laziest, least effective service tech ever.

Later on I did some searching and I found a lot of complaints about A&E, and I wish I had checked that first, but the Maytag site led you to them—that’s one of their approved providers. That’s why I complained to Maytag specifically; I thought they might care about how they were being represented. Obviously I will never use them again. With Maytag, I haven’t decided yet. They’re good machines, but they’re not the only good brands out there, and support is really important.

Obviously, a lot of the frustration is that I am out of my league here. I need to trust the professionals that I call to accurately figure out the issue and resolve it without cheating me. Actually, I did take a class on home repair, so I do know some things, but there is so much to know, and then throw in appliances, and, yeah, it gets frustrating. And a lot of them do treat women worse, because they think they can get away with it, I guess. So a lot of my friends just let their husbands handle the repairmen, but I can’t do that.

So I have some frustration here, and there is another event that I will write about tomorrow that adds to it. For now, I will just say that yes, I am a clueless female, but I will say this for myself. I do the jobs I get paid for and I don’t cheat people. I value that. Also, I am signing up with Angie’s List myself, and I am looking forward to adding some reviews.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Practice writing

Returning to Jane Austen, another thing I admire is how different her primary characters were. I know that there are people who get really annoyed with Catherine Morland, but you still have to be impressed that someone who gave you Eliza Bennett gave you Catherine too.

Let’s revisit the questions in my post, “So which one are you?”

http://sporkful.blogspot.com/2012/09/so-which-one-are-you.html

The short answer was none and all, with the point being that you can only write what you can conceive of, but that there should be variety in that. Looking at my characters, I have found pretty good variety, but there are two things I have never done with any of my heroines. I have never had a dumb one and I have never had a blonde.

I didn’t think it was a matter of going with the stereotype of dumb blondes, because I know better than that, but it also made me feel like I should try and stretch myself a little, and I wasn’t sure how to start.

Now, covering both at the same time would be reinforcing the stereotype, which is probably bad, but I did find kind of a solution in that I know someone who is blonde and an idiot, and if I based a lead character on her, I think I could do it. And just thinking about that in terms of zombies gave me all sorts of interesting ideas, so I think there may be something here.

Sometimes I do get ideas about things I haven’t tried, and could try, and usually from that perspective it is about challenging myself as a writer, and sometimes thinking they would be fun to write.

Usually, my writing is dictated by the idea that has taken a hold of me. Twice now, kind of three times, I have worked on someone else’s idea, and those have all been learning experiences, with a fair amount of frustration too, but that was part of the learning.

Anyway, I do have projects in mind that I would like to try, and some of them could totally happen, but it’s a matter of priorities. For example, I am putting off writing episodes for existing shows, or trying to get into television writing. I don’t want it enough. (I would still love to see Dark Horse do a Grimm comic at some point, and would not mind being involved with that, but I think you don’t start comics until after the show has ended, so no hurry.)

One thing that I had wanted to do was based on a contest that I cannot find now. I thought it was DIVX, but that’s a format. Anyway, they would periodically set up new themes, and people would submit six minute films. It occurred to me that it could be a really good thing to have a month where I wrote one six-minute script per day, just to keep me doing things differently, and to build some discipline. Lately though, I have been pretty disciplined anyway. I’m not ruling it out, and probably November would be the month to do it, because that is the month when other people are writing novels or blogging every day, but if I’m already working on something, I’m probably just going to stick with that.

Another thought was that it could be interesting to make one of those celebrity-packed holiday flicks, like Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve, but maybe not stupid. One way of doing it that could be interesting would be to work in the cast of Portland-based shows, so when writing having in mind the actors from Grimm, Leverage, and Portlandia. Then, another way to make that interesting, and to guard against problems if you can’t get buy-ins from each cast, would be to make the movie in cast segments, so that even though the scenes are interwoven, you could remove one cast and still have a cohesive film. That way, you could have Portlandia-Grimm, or Portlandia-Leverage, or Grimm-Leverage, no matter who you get. That would probably make the movie less interesting, and more disconnected, but trying to make it work would be a challenge. I am leaning towards making the holiday in question Flag Day, but maybe Arbor Day or Earth Day is more Portland.

The truth is, there are always plenty of contests out there, some of which would involve submitting what you already have, and some of which involve you taking someone else’s pitch and developing it. Ultimately if I do not feel good about an idea I probably won’t develop it, meaning that the next time I start a screenplay it’s probably still going to be zombies and/or love. I’ll know when I get there.

There has been something else that I have wanted to do, though, for a different kind of writing, and I am not ruling it out. There was a point when every time you got asked to speak in the singles ward they asked you to base it on a specific conference talk. I was not asked to speak during that point, so I never did it, but I liked the idea. First of all, it is just a starting point. That talk has already been given, so you are still going to come up with your own thoughts and experiences, but in the process of preparing, you would get to know that talk really well, and maybe you would get extra things out of it that you did not get just listening the first time and then reading later.

Anyway, I thought that I could write a talk based on every talk, and just work my way through the conference issue. One of my neuroses is the thought that I will miss something important (or interesting or cool), and that seemed like something that would help. The problem again was time. Still, there was one talk that has really affected me from the last conference, and I am going to write a blog post on that.

Also, I have thought about starting a magazine based on interviewing different people and getting into what makes them tick. It started with an issue of Smithsonian where they were talking about Andrew Steele who as a student (and I think it was graduate student in college, but still) offered to help get better pictures of some Mars rocks, and they accepted, and he just invents things to get what he needs done, and I was thinking, what is inside that mind? And then I saw a really handsome man on the Metro in DC, at the Pentagon stop, and his rank and his age indicated that he had risen through the ranks fairly quickly, and yes, I noticed him because he was good looking (think Viggo Mortensen in A Perfect Murder), but he was interesting too. And also there was a Smithsonian article about Brazil wood, and they talked to someone who made violin bows out of it, and I guess I just realized that it’s interesting how we start and where we end up and the path between. Smithsonian takes interesting subjects and the people come up in relation to that, but what if you focused on people?

If we had world enough and time enough...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Write!

My favorite line in Jersey Boys was when the one guy was explaining why he left the band, and he said “It just came out of my mouth!”

I know over the last series of posts about the graphic novel it may have been hard to tell if the focus was about writing, or about myself, or about My Chemical Romance. These are just things that I think about, then I have the urge to write them, because it gets them out. There was a lot of thinking about the writing process though, and it may be helpful for other writers, or they may end up having completely different methods.

If this series has any importance, though, I hope it is that you will be encouraged to write because of what it will do for you, and the way it will help you.

It may feel weird to start, but go with what you feel. If that means writing a journal entry, do that. If it means writing a letter to someone you care about, even if it is not something you will send, that’s a great start. Maybe it’s someone you can’t send it to, and those letters can be really helpful. It can even start out as writing a list of things you want to do. That’s kind of how the three-part ten-year plan started.

Your specific talents and tendencies may make it come out in different ways. So maybe you will start by writing in prose how you feel about something, and then the form becomes more abstract and it is poetry, or it becomes musical and it is song. Perfect. If it ends up being a story, great. Sometimes the process of having characters encounter and overcome obstacles can be very empowering for your own life. Go with it. Just building a narrative can be hugely helpful for sorting things out.

And this is where I need to give due credit to scrapbooks, because they tell a story too, and for someone who is kind of tactile, that 3-D effect may really enrich the whole experience.

Maybe you will end up drawing how you feel. That’s fine too. Every year I get one of those big At-A-Glance calendars, and I do that so I have plenty of space to write, but also I will illustrate it at times—mainly for vacations.

This is probably a good time to reference my old post on creation, back when I started the comic book. I know so many people who feel that they are not creative at all, because we have gotten this narrow idea of what being creative means, when really it just means that you made something.

Let me go back to the Comic-Con movie. The one aspiring artist ended up needing to keep working at it. He had potential, but he wasn’t there yet. There were interesting things in his feedback though. First of all, he had a portfolio of different standard characters, but the one that really caught the one person’s eye was a portrait of H. L. Lovecraft. And what he was told about the other stuff was, “I don’t think this is really you.”

Now obviously if you get hired by a major comic house, you are going to be drawing characters that aren’t yours, but somehow with that you still need to be you.

Here’s the other part that was interesting. Someone else asked him how he usually drew, and he said he worked from pictures. I totally relate to that actually, because I will often use pictures for guides when I want something to look right. What the other person pointed out though, is that he needed to get over that because often he would need to draw things for which he would not be able to get pictures.

So what I was thinking from that is maybe the reason he had not really developed his own style of drawing, where he would be himself no matter what he was drawing, was that he was trying to copy pictures instead of just letting things flow out of his mind. Maybe he really needed to just let loose.

It can be scary, like dancing without a net upon the wire, but there needs to be some freedom. Also,  you totally have a net. If the words don’t seem write, go back and edit. They usually don’t come out the best way the first time. That’s what rewriting it for.

If you write something you hate, there is deleting and shredding and burning. If you find that you hate it because it reflects a part of you, know that you can change it if you need to, or learn to accept it if it is not something that should be changed. Maybe it is just something you need to learn to understand. There needs to be some trust in yourself, that whatever ugly or scary things there are inside you, that there are bright and beautiful things too.

I keep coming back to this quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
-- by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

This quote still scares me, but it scares me less than it used to, and maybe that’s because of everything that I have been pouring out and putting into words over these past few months.

I saw a movie, Pina, based on the choreography of Pina Bausch, and the quote they started with was “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.” For a dancer, that makes sense. There are probably lost of people who don’t need to dance to be found, but there’s something they need to do. What’s yours? I’m biased, but writing is the easiest way to start.

Now, one more thought for the aspiring professionals. Do not do it to get rich and famous. The odds of either are pretty low, and both at once, well, it’s a long shot. If you need to write, and always have more to write, to where your day job feels like it is in the way, then it makes sense to try, and yes, this has periods of derangement.

That’s not a reason not to start. Yes, sometimes I get anxious and frustrated with the writing, but it’s way better than when I’m not doing it. If you have that inside you, don’t even try to suppress.

http://sporkful.blogspot.com/2012/04/creation.html

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rock and Roll Scrapbooking

Happy Fall! I feel like I want to go all out for Halloween this year, though I’m not sure what that means yet.

Last month Frank Iero was tweeting about doing some August spring cleaning, and that yes, he was a pack rat, but that meant he had a lot of cool stuff, some of which he posted.

He did have cool stuff. I was particularly impressed by the funeral card from the “Helena” video.

If there is one thing we have learned about me, it’s that I get weird thoughts and will follow them through to their absurd conclusion. So the thought that came to me here was that he should scrapbook.

In one way it’s not that weird of a thought. Putting memorabilia into scrapbooks is a time-honored tradition. It’s just that I kind of hate it. When I was a kid a scrapbook meant a book with photos, and it was basically flat, and I liked looking through them. Somehow, it morphed into this thing where now they are fabric-covered, quilted things that end up pushing out accordion style due to being stuffed with two pounds of rickrack and buttons and bows and decals and they really irritate me, as I assume they would irritate all right-thinking people. Nonetheless, I got an image of Frank doing a scrapbooking segment with Martha Steward, and I could not stop thinking about it.

To be fair, I don’t watch Martha Stewart either, so I have no idea whether scrapbooking is even one of the things she does. It seems to go with crafting though, so I could buy it. All I can say is that despite an aversion to both Martha Stewart and scrapbooks, I would absolutely watch a Frank Iero segment.

I guess first of all I trust him to not come up with something unbearably twee. Also, what all would he have? How would he arrange it? What kind of decals? I guess I imagine coming up with something kind of Halloween themed. Maybe instead of the rick rack you have cobwebs or vines (or amp cables), and instead of glitter you have fake blood—not because he is gory, but in the early days of their career pretty much every photo shoot involved fake blood, to where I think they were tired of it, but it happened, so incorporate it into the album of those times. Then you could go into brighter colors for Danger Days, and something kind of Warc Cleaver-ish for fatherhood.

Most of what he posted pictures for were paper items, like day sheets and flyers, but what else? Would there be Mikey Way toenail clippings? How about a lock of hair from Gerard for every color and style? I don’t know, and I can’t recommend that specifically because then you are just tempting young girls to make voodoo dolls—maybe they should stick to guitar picks— but I am still interested in this segment happening. I know a lot of the appeal is its incongruity, but there seems to be something workable there, and I would totally watch, and now I am getting weird Martha Stewart Living Dead thoughts.

Anyway, that idea was intriguing in itself, but also I have been becoming much less comfortable with just dismissing things that I don’t like. I know some of that has come from the music that I am listening to, because I am learning to appreciate things that I don’t like, and to appreciate the mere fact that tastes do vary. Also, variety certainly exists in political opinion, and I see so much condescension there that I don’t want to be a part of the problem, even for something like scrapbooking.

See, even saying it that way kind of diminishes scrapbooking—well, it’s not very important, but I will try and treat it respectfully. Clearly, I still have a long way to go. However, that I am trying to hold back, and be more thoughtful, does allow other thoughts to come in, to where I can see that scrapbooking may be an important form of self-expression, and that will be explored further in the next post. (Monday)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Exciting Fall Preview

I am pretty much done with writing about the comic book at this point, as well as mostly done writing it. (Currently at 389 pages and only one major scene left, but it’s a big one.)

The plan going forward is that I am going to go over the material once, and then leave it alone for at least a week or two while I work on something else. Ideally this will involve revamping my children’s book, The Bear in the Net, and submitting it to a few places, and then doing a review of one of the existing scripts, probably Coulrophobia.

Having taken some time away and cleared my head, then I want to go back and do one major rewrite to the comic book, and then I will find a place to post it and do it. Maybe at that point I will blog once more about it, perhaps a nice post pointing out everything that is wrong with it. I mean, I have given away a lot of the plot already, but that may not turn enough people off from wanting to read it. Posting the things that suck about it might do the trick.

Regardless of how scary posting it will feel, and how weird, I think I need to go for it to get a sense of resolution to it. Rewriting is funny because this desire to make it perfect can take you past reasonable and helpful changes into once more going a little bit nuts. I remember once changing something (I think it was the screenplay for Hungry), and it seemed weird, and I realized I had just changed it back to the original line, after I had altered it on the last round of rewrites. Publication, even if just on the internet, provides a certain amount of finality.

Anyway, there are some odds and ends to blog over, and there will be at least one more post on writing in general, though not specifically about the comic book, but my intention is to go on another round of writing about music.

Last time that ended up being about three weeks of posts, and they went to some unexpected places. I never thought that listening to different kinds of music would end up making me feel sorry for Lindsay Lohan, and I feel kind of bad now that the Charlie Sexton post is tied to her. The overall point works, but he deserves better.

So I don’t know where I’m going to go with that exactly, but also, I know down the road there are many political and religious posts, and I don’t know that I am actually ready to go down that road yet, but at the same time there is so much information out there that gets me thinking, and that I want to respond to, and also, there is an election coming up, and anything that I have to say about that should probably be posted before it happens.

In addition, there is something that I have been meaning to do for a while, and I think it might be time.

I have three blogs, and once upon a time it made sense, because I would want to blog about travel and preparedness, but then I would have these multi-post series on everything else that I wanted to have in the main blog, and to keep things kind of on track it made sense to separate them.

Actually, with the preparedness blog it was specifically a way to archive the newsletters, with occasional bonus material, and then I was no longer doing a preparedness newsletter, but I want to start reviewing materials and setting new goals again, and this seems like a good time.

For travel, it took a long time to cover everything in the Australia and New Zealand trip, and when I was done I thought that I would start blogging about previous trips, like Italy and Hawaii, but then everything fell apart, which has been covered. Now not only am I writing again, but we have traveled again. This year alone I have gone to Mexico, Alaska, and Idaho Falls/Yellowstone Park. It’s time.

Anyway, the plan going forward is that this blog, the sporkful, will be Monday through Friday now. Saturdays will be travel pieces on sporktogo, and Sundays will be provident living pieces on preparedspork.

We’ll see how it goes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The aberration

Obviously, this story has been primarily influenced by Danger Days, not just the concept and music videos but very much by the individual songs on the album. That’s as it should be.

Perhaps less obvious, but still not terribly surprising, it has been influenced by other My Chemical Romance music, most noticeably The Black Parade, but not limited to it. It is very much an MCR soundtrack.

(Also, at one point Ray plays some Spanish guitar, which is probably weird but worked in the context of the scene, and I suspect in the scene with Ray’s nieces what they are playing is “Wild Thing”.)

What did end up kind of surprising me is that as we got to the wedding scene it was inextricably linked to the Finn Brothers “Won’t Give In”.

It’s always been a song that has had a strong effect on me, but it kept coming to mind, and the song changed for me during that time, and it all kind of goes along with what music is and what it does for us, so I am going to try and speak to that today.

“Please to be kind and I'll try to explain; I'll probably get it all wrong”

I know the first time I heard the song, my thought was of those times when you are with the people you love, and it feels so good, you want that moment to never end.

“Everyone I love is here, all at once.”

That’s why it seemed odd that it was coming up for that particular scene, because so many people are missing. Some are just somewhere else, and they’ll turn up again before the end, but most of them are dead.

So I was thinking about that, and about how really, when do you actually have everyone you love together? It’s good that even having a few can feel amazing, because that’s usually the best we get. And it occurred to me that when they wrote it, their mother had died.

For the purposes of the scene, it’s acknowledged that people are missing, but there is love among the people that are left—a lot of love— and it ends up being enough. And also, a big part of what leads up to that scene is that you do not lose the love when you lose people, and that the group of people you love keeps growing.  So the song became about just carrying everyone in your heart. Everyone I love is here.

The song took on two more meanings before I was done though, because I could also totally imagine their mother, or anyone trying not to die, trying to hang on to life on earth because of the people who will still be there.

“It means that I won't give in, won't give in, won't give in
'cause everyone I love is here
Say it once, just say it, and disappear.”

But I don’t accept that those relationships end, and maybe that is how the last thought came. Maybe it could mean someone coming back from the other side, just to look in.

“Once in a while I return to the fold; With people I call my own
Even if time is just a flicker of light; And we all have to die alone
What does it mean when you belong to someone
When you're born with a name, when you carry it on?”

(I think I better just get it out of the way and mention that friend that I have known since I was six died suddenly a few days ago. The song was already there, the thoughts were already there, but now I keep thinking about Greg.)

Anyway, so yes, death has emotions associated with it, and there is a lot to that, and I have been dealing with that in page after page of writing. This post is not so much about that, though, as about how music makes all of those things work.

Remember when I was writing about how “Kids in the Street” reminded me so much of Josh?. The words were not us, but the emotions were. (And also, he’s been very present lately, and yes, I know what I need to do and I am going to do it.)

Getting back to “Won’t Give In”, yes, there are lines in the song that do not specifically work for each scenario, but the song contains emotions for all of those situations, and I am sure for others. It could also totally be about a black sheep who is often absent, but not because of a lack of love.

That is the amazing thing about music. I believe part of it is that with songs we allow music to do some of the heavy lifting, where you do not spell out each specific detail, leaving the song general enough to apply to multiple situations without losing its power.

In addition, and this is so important, it’s worth remembering how emotionally similar we are. No matter how unique we are when we get into specifics, there are broader things that we share, like love and loss. Music makes it easier to remember our commonalities, and that gets more and more important all the time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Editing

Drama is life with the dull parts cut out of it.—Alfred Hitchcock

There is editing that is basically rewriting, where you clarify, and correct mistakes, and improve the quality of the language. That is really important. Often you can’t write something well until you have written it badly, to at least get the idea down. Then you can see where things are stilted, or take longer than they need to, or whatever it is that needs fixing.

What I am writing about now is something else though, and that is deciding what goes in and what doesn’t.  I remember when I purchased my DVD of The Lord of the Rings, there was the decision whether to get cut or uncut, and I went with uncut, and wow, it really dragged. I did not finish watching it. It’s not even that those scenes would be boring in and of themselves, but inserted into the narrative it makes the movie boring.

In the finished product you have scenes that happen, and get written or filmed. Obviously there would be things that happen and do not end up captured, and also, there are things that could happen that do not.

Mainly the things that don’t happen at all are conversations, where people could hash things out, but they just don’t get the chance, or they need to talk about something else instead. Figuring out thing like this was a situation where the journal writing was handy.

For example, there is a scene where basically what needs to happen is that Gerard needs to make peace with the fact that other people die. He’s fine with his own mortality, but living when other people die is a real problem. There are a lot of emotions there, and there are a lot of things that they could say to each other, but then that would be an overly long conversation, and it would lose a lot of its impact.

In my journal I went over all of the emotions, and all the questions and answers, and the ones that were left were the ones that were most key in getting him to where he needed to be—they made the point the best, or they were the most pertinent. The other things did not end up being said, even though they were totally applicable.

One takeaway from this post could be that if you have an important conversation coming up, it might be a good idea to write it all out first, and see what your main points are. Mental clarity is a beautiful thing.

There are also things that happen, but you only hear about them. This conflicts with another axiom, “Show, don’t tell”, but I found there were some cases where seeing more deaths wouldn’t help, because there was already so much of that, and also, for the main characters, all they could do was hear about it, and it was already past and they were left with that feeling of shock and disbelief and helplessness, so then the reader has that feeling too. There is so much that is out of control in life, that element needed to be in the story.

Also, there were scenes that happened that did not get written. Some of them I have a certain fondness for, but they don’t fit. In between two scenes that do get written, Jane and Gerard have a conversation about what he wishes he had done differently, but she points out that they don’t know that it would have worked, because there are so many variables. It’s an important conversation for them to have, and the content is true, but it just doesn’t fit.

Another thing that doesn’t get written is that Jane paid for Sophie’s stuffed rabbit. Her mother couldn’t afford it, and Jane at that point felt like she would never have anyone in her life again, so being more invested in her patients and in other people’s relationships made sense, but the scene doesn’t really tell you anything. Jane’s caring but her life was really sad for a while. Sophie’s mother was poor. These are things you already know. The origin of the rabbit isn’t that important.

That leads to one more scene that could have been written, but wasn’t, because I did send my mind there, and I know how it went down when Frank found the bodies. Although there is some sweetness to it, it is terribly sad. Here’s the thing, in terms of the information that is given, anything that you learn from that scene is well established in the next two scenes, and those scenes have elements of hope to them that this scene wouldn’t. And if that scene was shown, it would subtract from the impact of the next scene, which should be high-impact. So really, that scene would just be gratuitously sad, and I try not to be gratuitous.

I mean, on one level the whole thing is gratuitous. No one is begging me to tell the story, and you could negate the need for every single scene just by never starting. But then, once you’re going to do it, there’s a lot to be said for doing it well. In terms of some of the jokes, and the things that are just nice moments, do they need to be there? I guess my rule of thumb is whether they keep the pace right.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Things that were not automatic

I am at the point now where I go a little crazy. I’ve been here for a few days.  It happens with every writing project as you get closer to the end, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the rate at which said light gets closer is not everything you hoped for. I get a little antsy, but I still need to spend time with my family, and fulfill my church responsibilities, and blog (yes it feels like something I need to do), and work too.

I have written about how some things you just know automatically, and some you feel your way towards, but there are also conscious decisions that you make, and there were two things that I specifically worried about, and both of them ended up making things better, and in both cases it was because it led to better characters.

Timing was helpful. With the movie of The Hunger Games coming out, there was some controversy over some of the actors who were cast being of color. The most disturbing part was the objections of some to Rue being black, and at least one comment that it made her death less sad. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, so I have no personal stake in how any of the characters looked, but I care a lot about that kind of ignorant racist garbage. I know it was probably a minority of the fans, but it shouldn’t have happened at all.

You have to take a lesson from things, though, so it reminded me of other things that I have read about exclusion of minorities in casting, and how seeing positive images is important, and just of how easy it is when you are white to just picture everyone else as that, and I wasn’t going to go down that road. I wanted there to be people of color, and minor characters began springing to life.

A lot of the richness from any work comes from the minor characters. The main characters can’t necessarily be altered from the original vision, but if they are surrounded by cardboard characters or if they are surrounded by people who seem just as real,  even if they do not figure as prominently in the main story, then that’s good.

Taking that extra thought made these characters become more.  There was going to be someone in Natalia’s place, but once she became Hispanic she had a look and a personality, and I knew what she was wearing, because apparently I care about clothes now. I don’t think anything in Harry’s personality is stereotypically Asian, so I don’t think it was making him Asian that made him who he was, but I think taking a second look maybe did do it.

Also, it ended up being kind of comforting for me. I was still really upset over the Trayvon Martin shooting. (I’m not exactly unupset about it now, but it was still pretty raw then.) So, we ended up with a black teenage boy. I couldn’t name him Trayvon, because that was too close, but I gave him Aaron’s middle name, which is Latron, and he is someone who lives, and will be fine, and as corny as that may seem, it helped.

One other thing was very important, and a huge risk in any kind of fan fiction: I did not want Jane to become a Mary Sue.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_sue

This was actually a fairly new concept to me, because I first heard the term when some people were discussing whether Daenerys in Game of Thrones is or not. I have no idea about Daenerys (haven’t read or watched that either), but I understood the concept instantly. They mean when the character is the most special special that ever specialed.

The references to Wesley Crusher are appropriate. I remember an episode where he tried out for admission to a training program at the Academy, and he excelled in every test, schooled the guy who eventually beat him, charmed the girl, and then just was turned down but was very close. Okay, I get that if you want him on the show you can’t send him away to Academy, but then don’t make him so perfect that it makes no sense that someone else is selected. It’s common sense.

In retrospect, I think you could apply the term to Nancy Drew, too, although given how she was naturally good at everything and always outsmarting everyone, it was odd how often she needed to be rescued.

Anyway, I had just seen a Danger Days fan fiction where just in the opening the word “special” was used three times in reference to the main character, and okay, teenagers need to go through this, we covered that, but I should be past it. After all, just starting out Jane has medic training, rides a motorcycle, and has limited psychic abilities. Also, Gerard loves her, and even though it is not really Gerard, I think that still carries some serious cachet. What to do?

Well, a lot of it went back to the supporting characters. If someone should be trying to get plants started, and be nurturing life, that doesn’t have to be Jane. Otis can do it. (And it does not make him a magical black man.) If someone needs to start a tradition of consideration and gift-giving, that can be Lastri. (And hey, she’s Indonesian. She’s probably Muslim, and still a good person!) Jane does not need to be the one coming up with plans and strategies. Other people can do that.

And again, it made those characters better. They became more interesting and more distinct and more real. Suddenly I would realize what someone’s job background had been, and how they ended up in the Zones. A lot of it seems like you are just channeling, but you are the one constructing the channels.

Still, for things that you just don’t have any control over, there was something worth noting about the deaths. There was no way to keep Ray and Mikey alive, because the Jet Star and Kobra Kid track had them dead on Route Guano, and it not only killed them but it created a pretty solid image of how it happened. There is no track explaining it, but it was nonetheless clear that Gerard was going to die, and how and when. But somehow, nothing ever killed Frank.

One thing that I read on comments for “Save Yourself I’ll Hold Them Back” is that it is Gerard to Frank. Ray and Mikey are already gone, so the heart attack in black hair dye is the only person left who can make Gerard cry, and so he will sacrifice himself for Frank. Well, that’s totally not how I heard it, and not how I have it going down. Also while I am sure that Gerard would sacrifice himself to save Frank, I am not sure that Frank would let him. Regardless, maybe I don’t even know. Maybe there was something in the song that reached out to me and said “Frank must live!”

After all, who am I to question the power of Frerard?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Clothes lines

Having to think a lot about weapons was new, but I also found that clothes were surprisingly important in this, and that was kind of a switch too.

It’s not that I have never thought about them at all, because I usually had kind of an image of how the character dressed, based on who they were. Cristina in Jade Mask is a jewelry designer—very artistic, but also easy-going. She tended towards the almost Bohemian, with flowing skirts and long necklaces. Cady in Coulrophobia was a detective, and as a woman in a man’s world she tended to dress in suits. If I ever do write Against the Grain, Sheena* will stride into that copy shop with a Ramones t-shirt and short spiky hair, because she is a punk rocker.

Still, those are all just basic ideas. For this, I have had very clear ideas on how the characters dress. Some of that may be from the strong visuals presented in the music videos. Especially in Na Na Na, the Killjoys are just so colorful! There’s a kind of pageantry to their rebellion. (Actually, it’s so bright that I almost thought they changed clothes in Sing, but it was really just the difference between bright exterior light and blue interior light, which went with the mood.)

Oddly, Jane’s outfit went the opposite direction, to where the first impression is that she is all in black. There are actually some other colors in there, but the overall impression is just black and dark. She didn’t go into rebellion—she went into mourning and then ended up a rebel anyway.

Beyond that, yes, there were clear images of how they looked in 2019, but there were also clear images of how they looked in 2012, which were fine, but for summer term at a state school, the looks were a little formal. Most students wouldn’t dress that way. When they first meet, Gerard is in black pants, white shirt and red tie, and Jane is in a blue A-line skirt and a sleeveless white blouse with a ruffled scoop neck. I’ve been around college campuses in the summer—that’s not how people dress. These two people did, though. Maybe that’s why they were drawn to each other.

As a theme clothing continued to be important, because acquiring new clothes is not easy in the post-apocalyptic dystopian future. How did they get to looking how they looked?

One thing that had made a strong impression on me back in the day was Luke Skywalker’s transformation in the original trilogy. Starting in white, he went to khaki, and then black where he was kind of looking like Hamlet. It may have been intended to show that threat of turning into Vader, but I never took Luke’s corruption seriously. For me the color shift symbolized loss, as he lost person after person.

Jane kind of goes on a similar journey, as she gradually goes from the figure in white and blue to the figure in black. She starts a new journey when she is shot and has nothing but a hospital gown, and from that point on replacing clothes is not easy.

Eventually she gets a chance to get back some of her old clothes, and for a brief moment it feels like she can get back some normalcy, and that comes crashing down pretty quickly. She ends up in the same outfit that she started in, but it kind of highlights the differences too. No more manicure, or hair styling, or jewelry (with one exception), and there is a big scar on her chest that wasn’t there before.

It’s important that it happens with Jane because she is the one who worries about losing herself, about who she will be as the world changes and she changes.

Now back to the jewelry. The one piece of jewelry that she has at this point is a wedding ring, and the reason she has it is because Mitch had been hanging on to his and his wife’s rings after her death, and he gives them to Gerard and Jane. Everyone is giving to each other. Mikey’s jacket changes hands three times, and each time there is love.

That is part of Jane’s problem. People need to scavenge because it’s their only option, so much of her stuff has gone elsewhere. At the same time, that comes with love and caring and remembrance.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Conventional and Unconventional Weapons

My title comes at least partly from some exciting (to me) news, for which I am going to link to another blog:

http://www.mychemicalromance.com/news/

Still, it was always going to be something about weapons.

Part of the action-packed post-apocalyptic dystopian future is that there is a lot of shooting going on. In the music videos, they appear to be operating more as laser guns, with flashes of light from the muzzles and probably something like grenades coming out of the launcher. My problem was that I am not exactly sure how a laser gun would work.

This is in no way a criticism, but the videos are not particularly gory. People get shot and they go down, but I can only think of two instances where you even see burn marks on the shirt. With one of those, it is a dark shirt and he keeps moving around until he gets shot, so I can’t even swear that it wasn’t there before. Initially I thought I saw scorch marks on Frank’s stomach, but those were his tattoos, and I thought I saw a flash of red when Gerard was shot, but that was his hair.

I found a really interesting forum with people discussing the issue, and part of the problem is that a laser cuts, so you could slice through a person but you would need to keep moving the path and if it’s not impractical enough that way, it’s also that you require an enormous power source, causing big portability issues. Also, I needed the weapons to be something where you could have people building them in a basement.

http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/forums/reference-desk/threads/4282

The forum had some interesting thoughts on Gauss guns, but what I found most interesting was this part:

“The lasers that the various militaries are currently investigating, for use as hand-held infantry weapons do not use the actual laser beam as the weapon. Rather they use the laser to ionise a pathway through the air from the weapon to the target, then send a strong electrical current down that pathway - essentially like a wireless taser.”

We had just had an electrical storm, and I was suddenly thinking about a lightning gun where you would have a powerful surge of electricity that would split the air, hit the target, and then have a crash of thunder. Still, it’s an intriguing idea for something else, maybe, but it didn’t really seem to fit here.

I had also thought about something that I was thinking of as “pulse” technology, inspired by the solar flares that set up the catastrophic chain of events. They would function as just a pulse of energy that would temporarily disrupt the functioning of the target, but probably what works on people would not be the same as what works as vehicles, and it didn’t feel right either.

I ended up going with traditional guns and bullets, because I pretty much get how they work, especially in terms of how the injuries work, and that was very important, because there are times when I need people to be hit and live.

I also tried to be realistic about recovery times and the impact of injury. Movies and television tend to be really overly optimistic on that. I probably still have people recovering too quickly, but no one is taking two bullets, continuing to fight, and getting back on the force in time to wrap up the case. Remember, for the violence to not be gratuitous, there has to be a cost, and that goes for both physical and mental.

This is actually the first time I have had to do any weapons research since my first screenplay, and I finished that in June 2008, so clearly it’s been a while. Even then, I was just trying to figure out how soon someone would run out of bullets so that he would not be able to shoot Cristi, and the answer was not soon enough. Apparently the days of “Did he fire six shots, or only five?” are long past. It’s way too easy to be deadly now.

The other thing that was interesting though, and it goes into how you can pick up on the characters’ emotions, and I was surprised to feel their excitement about weaponry. Of course, that was not in a life and death situation, so maybe that’s why it has never felt that way before. Here it was just about getting the weapons, taking on new identities, and target shooting, and it felt pretty cool. Yeah, I don’t know where that came from.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Action!

Dialogue has always been the easiest thing for me to write, and even though I was not writing descriptions previously, I had done enough in the past that I was okay with them. I may be using too many adverbs, but I’ll have to see how I feel about that on the rewrite.

One thing that has always been a little different for me, though, is writing action scenes. It’s not so much that I struggle with them— I have rough ideas for how they need to go and they are good ideas (I think)—but I need to write them a little differently. Often in the past that would maybe mean that I would need to stand up at one point and go through some motions. No, it was never acting the whole scene out (so far), but just getting a feel for the follow-through of a punch or a dodge. An action scene is something more physical, so I need a more physical sense.

Part of it for me is that I want things to be logical. You can just edit a bunch of cool moves together, and especially in a comic book you could get away with that, because you just have the panels and you don’t need to show the connection, but it feels like cheating to me. Even in movies I favor a gritty realism, where I don’t usually like wire work or jitter cam or bullet vision or all of those things to make it look super cool.  Make the action cool and then let me get a good look at it.

Anyway, I was having a harder time with some of these scenes at the beginning, until finally it ended up becoming this multi-stage process. First I drew a diagram of the layout of the scene, and then a list of the characters in it, and where they were all starting, and how they needed to end up, and then I wrote in my journal about how things needed to go, and I how I thought they would work, and then I wrote the scene.

I thought I might need to do this every time, but sometimes I am only using parts of it. For example, yesterday there was a very complicated scene, where 14 characters were attacked by 18 in a good-sized building. I still did the diagram, and wrote notes on where everyone was starting and how they needed to finish, but I did not have a journal session after that, because I felt ready to go. I use the journal for other things though, and maybe those first times part of it was just getting back into the swing of things.

One thing, and this is not necessarily true of me, but it goes back to my desire for logic to follow, is that the scene needs to have a point. Maybe you are just demonstrating how the rules or the relationships work, or maybe you are advancing the plot, but the scene has a purpose, and that purpose needs to be met, and the scene needs to be viable. After that, it is nice if the scene is also kind of cool.

A good example is the scene where Grace is taken. There are certain things that were needed with the scene. You don’t want any of the four main characters dead, but they all need to be incapacitated, or they would never let Grace go. Also, for the purposes of something that was going to happen later, there needed to be one dead Draculoid.

Some things came from the videos. In “Na Na Na” Ray gets hit in the head with a bottle. That’s the kind of thing that could lead to a concussion, and unconsciousness, so that incapacitates him. Also, in “Sing” he is wearing an eye patch, so an after effect of the injury ends up being the loss of vision in one eye (detached retina—they’re usually not injury-related but it’s not unheard of).

At the end of ”Na Na Na”, everyone else seems to be unconscious, but Gerard’s eyes are opened, and his breathing is a little labored. I could not get the phrase “sucking chest wound” out of my head, so I looked it up, and it sounded right. After all, sometimes it’s not enough just to have a hole in you, it needs to be a hole that threatens to collapse your lungs.

Mikey, for reasons that I cannot explain, totally had a dislocated shoulder. He just did! I had no say in the matter.

That left Frank, and I initially was not sure how he got injured, and so it changed a few times, because at the same time you are establishing a flow of action where all of those injuries make sense, and are happening in the right order and proximity that no one becomes conscious again before the right moment.

Also, that eventually required an explosion, but it had to be done in a way that the cars and the people did not get blown up, and then the other gas explosion was too repetitive so that needed to be changed, and there’s just a lot to it. Still, when I was able to do the scene with about triple the combatants, and it went easier, I had to feel like I was getting the hang of this.

I hope I’m right, because I really need to punch up that motorcycle chase.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

So which one are you?

“Your aunt is a very lucky woman Angelica. She has two lives. The life she is living, and the book she is writing.” –The Hours

Based on yesterday’s post on names, let me say that one of the things I admire about Jane Austen is that she had characters named Jane. Neither Jane Bennett nor Jane Fairfax seemed to be particularly similar to Jane in personality (I tend to imagine her as a bit more like Elizabeth Bennett, with a bit of Anne Elliott.)

I can never name anyone Gina. I mean, it is probably not as common a name now as “Jane” would have been in Regency England, but still, it just feels like saying “That’s me!” And I don’t want to say that.

With this Jane, I never thought of Jane Austen, or my dog, or anything like that. I wanted the name to be kind of simple and sweet—not fancy—and that’s kind of how the Simpson got there too, with no reference to Springfield’s favorite family. However, once I had Simpson I remembered my 9th grade biology teacher, so I decided Jane’s middle name could be Lenore, though there are no particular connections between the teacher and the plot either. She was cool though, and we had good field trips.

The other question though, and it is worth looking at, is how much of any of the characters are the author. I kind of hinted at this a little with Bigg City Heroes, but with my novel, “Cara”, most of the people in there started out as someone too, including Cara herself.

One thing you quickly see is that even as you start writing based on someone, they start changing and becoming their own people.  Also, at least for me, I usually don’t start based on someone real, and I don’t automatically base the female lead on myself. This is basically my way of saying that Jane is not me.

I’m a little defensive about that. Part of the awkwardness there is Jane’s relationship with Gerard, because remember, I have this taboo against being attracted to married men, and so I would not want to give the impression that I am into him that way, but also, not only is Jane not me, but Gerard is not Gerard. He looks a lot like him, but he became his own person too. They all did. They have different backgrounds, and the age ranges ended up being a little different, and new characters came in who were not anyone at all, but were still so real, and that’s great. That’s one of the most amazing things about writing, is how things come into being.

Now, it’s not like that for everyone. If an author has different main characters in every story, but they feel somewhat interchangeable, then you may have something different going on. There was an old sitcom, “The Single Guy” where Jonathan Silverman was an author and at one point he was dating a critic who gave him a scathing review. One of her criticisms was that the protagonist was a thinly-disguised version of himself, which he denied, and so she read the description of the character as he was looking into a mirror (horrible device for putting out a description), and Silverman was looking in the mirror, unconsciously mimicking, himself, I guess. I do not want to be that guy.

I also look askance as writers whose characters are always writers, because, really? But LM Montgomery made both Emily and Anne writers, and yet they were clearly different from each other. (”Journalist” doesn’t count as a writer, because that can function similarly to making the protagonist a detective.) I know they say to write what you know, but that’s a really good reason to know more than one thing. You need to be able to imagine lots of different things, and lots of different ways of being.

At the same time, this is where everyone is sort of you, because you can only write what you can conceive. Sometimes that might be because you have lived it, or observed it, or saw something kind of similar and then added some “what ifs”, but you need to have kind of a broad view. In that way, sure, Jane is me, but so is everyone else.

I think this might be why I sometimes come up with an idea for a story with a really cool, in control kind of character, maybe someone kind of like James Bond, and then it never goes anywhere. Maybe I can’t get into the head of someone smooth. Give me someone with messy emotions or weaknesses or fears, and then it all just springs to life. They aren’t always my particular weaknesses; maybe I’ve known someone with them, or read about them, or just imagined how it would feel, but it has a resonance that feels real, and so it works, and that character works.

I think one of the most important personal attributes for a writer (beyond language skills) is empathy—to be able to feel what things are like, and would be like, and could be like.

This has its downside. I feel things a lot when I am writing. I have said Jane is not me, and even more emphatically, Jane’s parents are not based on my parents. Also, I was writing out of sequence anyway. That being said, the reason I wrote the scene where Jane’s mother dies when I did was because I would be on my way home on the train, and I would keep going into the scene, and starting to cry because it was so sad for Jane and I needed to exorcise that scene from my brain by writing it out. Yes, I had to rewrite it, and will need to do so again, but for the actual pain part, the first writing tends to be the most important.

It isn’t just bad emotions. There are good emotions too, and I get glimpses of the feelings of first love and ecstasy and relief and warmth. It would be very easy to just always live in worlds of my own making, though I think they would lose their quality in time. On my own, I need to make sure that I spend time in the real world, and with real people.

I think this could be a real pitfall for actors too. They’re not only bringing up the emotions and motivations, they are going through the physical movements. Obviously, they need to have their own safeguards in place, and if they don’t, this could result in sad little lives, disaffection, or serial costar relationships. I wouldn’t want to be a part of that either.

I guess what I most hope for is that I produce a good read or movie that people enjoy, and then they go live better, and if I didn’t help them, at least I didn’t hurt them. Ambitious!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What’s in a name?

Writing based on other people’s characters has its own pitfalls, and then when those characters are based on real people, that can add a layer of awkward.

I’ve had experience with this before, with the Bigg City Heroes franchise. Everyone in that came from a real person, even the villains (though their identities were a little more disguised). The audience understood that these characters were supposed to be them, and they were fine with that. They also understood that it was fictional. After all, no matter how closely the superpowers sprang from the personalities of those involved, none of us truly had superpowers.

At the same time, artistic license was taken, because the characters became their own people, and one thing that I found was that I could not feel right using actual last names. Real first names were fine, but somehow the last name made it too real. That ended up being the same thing here, so it is Gerard and Mikey White, and Ray Torres, and Frank Ayers. (Though Ayers doesn’t sound right, so I am still hoping to think of something better. Current page count 342.)

That little bit of distance is important. Maybe that’s part of why the band took on alternative identities for the album too. On a similar note, I did think of using the wives’ names for the love interests, but there were two problems with that. One is that Frank has three potential love interests (Mikey sort of has two), and a future where anything can happen. He could end up with Beth, Michelle, or Lark, or someone completely different, and that’s fine. That’s the point of still being alive—the future is unwritten! However, name one of them Jamia, and there is no question that she’s the one.

Also, and I don’t know parent and sibling names anyway (though the internet would probably tell me), but this could correlate for them too: everything is just so grim! In the long run it ends up optimistic, but there’s a lot of death and destruction along the way, and yeah, it’s good to maintain some distance.

There is one name that will probably leave some confusion. In the story, Ray has a brother named Bob, and it would be easy to think that is Bob Bryar. That was not intended. The truth is, around the time that I really liked “I’m Not Okay”, but had not yet gotten into the band, I thought Ray’s name was Bob. I thought it was just a mistake, but now I think there was probably something about Bob that I thought was referring to Ray, and that’s where it started. I don’t know, maybe Bob should be Bob Bryar. He’s my favorite of the drummers, in that my favorite drum work is on Black Parade, and that’s him. But I sort of pictured Bob Torres as looking more like Ray.

The other name that really bugs me is Liu. That’s one I came up with, and it sounds right, so I don’t feel like I can just discard it, but it bugs me because it’s a Chinese name. On “Party Poison”, the dialogue (which could totally be her) is in Japanese. In “Sing”, she has a sword that also seems to be Japanese. I think it’s too short to be a katana, but that is outside my field of expertise. (Though there will be a fun post on weaponry coming up.) The point is, she shouldn’t be Chinese, but she is. I think somehow it is wordplay with “Liu” and “lieu”, because she supplants the regular leadership. Finding a name that feels right is hard, and once a name sticks, it’s hard to move past it, so I’m still calling her Liu, but I think I have a Japanese person with a Chinese name. Maybe she’s half.

Also, I haven’t actually written anything about Jimmy yet, and I still think maybe I should not add that layer in because this thing just keeps getting longer. If I do, he is named for Jimmy Urine, and it’s because the Agent Cherri Cola storyline did not fit, but different pieces of it ended up in other places, and that would be the final piece.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Looking back

I really hadn’t been thinking about the anniversary itself at all, maybe because the 11th seems like less of a milestone. I only realized the date because of a reference to the day of service. Now there are all these thoughts swirling around in my head, and I do not know that they will come out right, but that’s kind of normal.

Even before remembering the date, I have been thinking about September 11th a lot, and it is because of the comic book. There are just a lot of elements in it that are reminiscent of the attacks and their aftermath. Last night I was writing a scene where Liu is appealing to Mitch’s patriotism to get him to do her dirty work, and there are actually a lot of correlations throughout, some of which I had not initially noticed. I’m sure the election has been influencing things too.

This really isn’t at all surprising. My Chemical Romance even forming as a band is a direct result of September 11th. It is not necessarily obvious when you are listening to Bullets, but with “Skylines and Turnstiles” you can really hear it, and there are other echoes of it throughout the album.  It was a huge event anywhere you were, and if you were close, if you saw it in person, that can only have increased the impact.

Obviously I have been listening to Danger Days more, but to some extent I feel like Danger Days is a follow-up to Bullets. Some of the imagery is the same, especially on “The Only Hope for Me is You”, and there’s a really important question in there: “What have we learned?” The answer would appear to be not much, which is kind of mind-boggling. How did we not learn?

I was in bed (I was working the late shift), and my mother came and told me, and it did not make any sense, but I remember sitting on the couch and watching the footage of the planes hitting over and over again (that wasn’t healthy) and trying to understand.

There was extra security at work, but I still did my shift, and I went for a walk at lunch like I always do, and I don’t know how many times I had walked and seen helicopters from the flight school overhead, but I remember that the next time I saw one (it might not even have been that day, because nothing was normal that day), I suddenly felt afraid. I knew the likelihood of anything happening there was small, but there was a new sense of vulnerability that took a while to subside.

I was at work, but no one really did any work. The phones were silent, and the only email to answer was stuff that had already come in. We talked in small groups, and surfed the web. At the time I was pretty active on the IMDB forums, and I remember people asking about users from New York. One poster asked about someone he did not get along with—they disagreed on a lot—but now he was worried, and when the other user showed up he was touched and the other was relieved.

I think there are a few things that went wrong, including some people shamelessly exploiting the circumstances to push unrelated goals, and other people being weak, but maybe the real issue is that we don’t change easily. Something affects us, and we feel differently, but without a real effort, or something happening below the surface, we revert back to form, usually within a year.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though that ends up being much easier. I remember talking once with someone in the singles ward who was frustrated, because people had so many needs, and most of them would have felt a lot better if they were serving each other, but they were not. They were only thinking about themselves.

I really wanted to help her, and I didn’t have any easy answers, but the only thing that I could suggest was to maybe enlist some in serving the others. Make cookies for person A and invite person B to help you. Maybe it gives people a chance to feel a spark, and see, yes, this does feel better. This is a good thing.

Which I guess is really my way of saying that I think having a day of service is a really good idea. There are a lot of great ways to celebrate being alive, but that one might be the most useful.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Method Writer

Happy birthday Mikey Way!

This seems like a good day to talk about how I did some of the writing, especially because Mikey’s voice was probably the hardest one to find. Seriously, he talks a lot less, especially in older clips. He does seem to be a little more talkative now. Though, I think maybe when Gerard is your brother, it could be easy to let him do the talking.

Anyway, I was playing the music a lot, mainly because I wanted to listen to it, and often bringing the songs up on Youtube if I did not have the appropriate CD with me, or if I wanted to listen to some of the other songs. Often I would see little interview clips too, and I would click on those, too, which is where I really started to like them as people, as well as musicians.

At the same time I remembered reading about an actor who was covering for Alison Sweeney while she was on maternity leave. And no, I am not using “actor” as a gender-neutral term. In one of the most creative ways of covering a maternity leave ever, they had Sami disguise herself as “Stan” to wreak havoc.

The only time I have watched “Days” on a regular basis was in my first year of college, when my roommate was really into it, but when I was subscribing to Digest I would read about it a lot, and I read an interview with Dan Wells where he was saying that he would have tapes of Sami playing in the background while he was doing stuff so he could pick up her speech patterns and everything. I did tune in once, probably just to see him, and it was uncanny—he was crying like Alison would have cried.

Anyway, I made it a point to have MCR running in the background a lot. Previously, I would start a writing session by playing any pertinent songs, and then I would just play other songs too because I was still writing so I might as well still be listening, which could have led to some overlap, but I started focusing on the interviews more too, just to hear them speak.

One thing I have out of that is that there was a clip where they were talking about their “Danger Days” characters, and they said Kobra Kid has a kind of a short fuse; he’s misunderstood, and that directly influenced the character.

Because there is kind of an immersion thing going on, while I am doing other things, probably a lot of it is unconscious—that maybe I heard one thing that registered and another thing that registered but I did not realize that I put them together, but there are also things that I totally know why it went that way.

For example, I listened to Pencey Prep a lot for Frank, and his backstory is basically somewhere between 8th Grad and 19, which I guess is why he is 16 when his backstory really kicks into gear. Those two are right next to each other on “Heartbreak in Stereo”, and they are also the two songs that are really associated with specific times of life, so that could be it, but also, yeah, that’s just how it worked out. It felt like it fit.

Ray also could be a little more talkative in interviews, but his was actually the first voice that I really heard, because there’s a bit at the beginning of the “I’m Not Okay” video where he is talking to Gerard:

“You like D&D, Audrey Hepburn, Fangoria, Harry Houdini and croquet. You can't swim, you can't dance, and you don't know karate. Face it, you're never going to make it.”

Now, that seems a little negative, and he does end up being kind of the naysayer at times, but at the same time, it’s sympathetic, and so Ray just ends up kind of being the voice of reason. Sometimes that involves being negative, but it is also often being conciliatory, and practical, and he is the one who is going to hear you wake up from a bad dream and be there to talk about it.

(Actually, I really like his voice, both for speaking and singing. I find it soothing. Also he is my hair twin.)

I think it has made the writing better, but it was also a good listening experience. There’s worse company you could keep, and I found things I didn’t know about. For example, one thing that kept coming up as a related video was “Safe and Sound” by Kyosuke Himuro. It was coming up because Gerard Way is featured on it, but also, related videos let me realize it was a song from Final Fantasy: Advent Children.

Some of my favorite things in my early Youtube days were Final Fantasy Fan Videos, and actually the very first that I found was an Advent Children one for “Rest in Pieces” by Saliva. Actually, I like both videos for Safe and Sound. The live one makes me want to dance in the rain, and the clips one makes me want to fly. It looks completely impractical, but I guess gravity works differently around Midgar.

Also fun was finding their Yo Gabba Gabba appearance. How can anyone not love them? I do not get it. And that led to finding out that they had done “All I Want for Christmas is You”. Frankly, I’d been looking for another version of that, beyond Mariah Carey. I am starting to feel guilty about being down on specific artists, but just because you can yodel doesn’t mean you should do it on every single song. One of these days I am going to write about my frustrations with Ballroom Blitz, but I’m still analyzing it.

Anyway, good times happening, with good music in the background, and learning more about the band, and now I am dreaming about them. I think it’s just temporary. I’m kind of doing the final push to finish, and usually I am writing until midnight and then crashing, so it’s on the brain. I’m currently at 322 pages, and I sort of have page goals (330 for today), but it is more that I have scene goals, where today I want to cover the backstory on Mitch, Jacob, and Lastri, and get up to where, well, actually this will make no sense if you don’t know the story. Suffice it to say, I have a goal, and I have been pretty much meeting my goals for the past week or so.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Won’t somebody please think of the children?

Today’s fun fact is that scientists have determined that the age when children start becoming less cute is four. This is because what we find cute is the large eyes and small noses, and four is when their faces start getting bigger while their eyes stay the same size, and their noses actually get bigger faster than their faces. So basically, kids become less cute when they start looking less like anime characters. It has nothing to do with discovering that they can drive you crazy merely by asking “Why” after every single thing you say.

Obviously I did not capture everything I have thought or felt in the writing in yesterday’s post. Actually, I wrote six more pages after I posted, so it wouldn’t have even been possible. When I was writing the post though, I pointed out that the two scenes that I was writing about both came from people trying to comfort Latron.

Latron is only 17, and even though he is being treated like an adult, he is really a kid, and so it makes sense that he will take some things harder, and that the others will look out for him, and that got me thinking about how children become so important in the narrative.

Again, this starts with the album. Not only do the Killjoys get themselves killed to rescue the Kid, but there is imagey in the songs “Na Na Na” and “Sing” that reference children, so it was there. It ends up being important in the story not just because of Grace, but with other children too. That’s why you need to fight, and why you sacrifice yourself, but also why not everyone can sacrifice themselves, but someone has to stay alive to take care of the children.

Initially it felt kind of ironic that I was going in this direction, because really, I don’t have a lot to do with children. I don’t have children, I don’t have nieces or nephews, and even though a lot of my friends have children, when we get together it is child-free, because I may care about their children, but they see their kids all the time, and look forward to the break. They see me to escape.

It’s not that I don’t like children, but I don’t feel like I am particularly good with them. I’m good with babies. They curl up on me like lizards on a hot rock, and they make little baby grunts in their sleep, and yes sometimes there are nasty fluids and smells and even solids involved, but there are cloths and wipes for that and you just deal with it. Past that age, I lose my touch.

First they start being able to wander around, and intoxicated with the novelty of controlling their limbs, and the freedom that it brings, all they want to do is go back and forth over the same stretch of ground, and they have no use for me.

After that they start talking, which should give us some common ground, but I find that they tend to communicate in high-pitched squeals that I can’t understand, and trying to get them to repeat it just makes things worse, especially with the shy ones. Plus, they older they get the more likely they are to start swarming in herds, and nothing good comes of that.

Finally, just as they start speaking intelligibly and learning the rules for socially acceptable behavior, they turn into surly teenagers with chips on their shoulders who could not possibly want to have anything to do with an unrelated adult who could easily act as the embodiment of exactly how disappointing adulthood can be.

Really, I am not good with children. That being said, I really care about them.

I guess I have been more aware of this recently. After a long time in the singles ward, hardly ever seeing children, now I have been in the regular ward for over two years, with lots of children.

Initially you just notice that some kids are really cute, and some are big showoffs, and some could really use some discipline. Add time to that, and there are all these other things, like noticing that a girl is so friendly and loving, but in an awkward phase, and suddenly she’s not awkward anymore. Boys who were really nerdy have gotten taller and fuller, and with the one, with his sense of humor, I could see that he was not going to stay that geeky, but yeah, now it has happened. With the little kids growth spurts happen, and maybe you suddenly doubt that you have the ages right, because the two youngest boys are now bigger than the third youngest, and catching up on the older ones, but how did that happen?

And somehow what I find in all of this is that I care deeply, and I feel protective, and that when I worry about the state of the world in general, a lot of it does come down to the children, even though I know I care about adults, and I’m actually capable of talking to them.

I remember reading something several years ago, and I could not even tell you what hot spot of the world it involved, because there have been so many with prolonged warfare, but there was a concern because the children were growing up with no happy memories. They had never known a time of peace and safety, and it was messing with their development.

I think of that, and then I think of this music video that Westboro Baptist Church put out, God Hates the World (set to the tune of “We are the World” /irony). After a big group chorus it ended with a little girl singing the refrain alone. My initial thought was that it was a tragedy to have this cute little girl being taught like that before she could know any better, but then the nagging thought was that she wasn’t actually that cute. Honestly, she looked a little inbred, which does not seem impossible considering her affiliation, but maybe she was just older than four.

So there’s that, and all the local stories of child abuse and neglect, and neglected education, and all I can say is let’s not do that. They are developing. They are learning how to be. They need support. If you need to ruffle feathers or risk embarassment and report child abuse, do it. If some people who are not the best workers or parents are getting government benefits and it keeps their kids from starving, be grateful that there’s something in place. Fund schools, and health care, and community safety, and things that will give kids a chance. Give something beautiful a chance to grow. They really are the future.

I am weird and awkward, but even I know that.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Things I have been getting from the comic book

This could end up being pretty hard to convey. It may not even be necessary—I mean, the writing is my journey, so these things are for me. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be good for anyone else.

Remember, starting out I was recently in love with a band, obsessing over a music video, and feeling somewhat depressed about both the sorry state of the world and the persistence of my having to walk it alone. Put that way, it sounds pretty pathetic, but I started writing, as I do.

And I really needed it. I needed to work my way back into writing, and there is always a certain amount of fear with that for me, which I think is a big part of the procrastination. This was low risk, though. At the time, I was sure that I would never try and sell it to anyone or make a dime off of it, so there were no career or aspirational fears, and I was sure I would not put it online, though maybe if friends asked to read it I would let them. (Now I am pretty sure I will put it online, but I don’t know where, and I’ll worry about that when I’m done. And it will be scary, but I’ll do it anyway.)

The first issue that came up—besides some struggling with the action scenes, which I will cover later—was realizing how dark the material was. The odds were so insurmountable, and death was so much a factor, that it felt like the only way you could possibly have any kind of a happy ending was to go all Last Battle, Narnia-style. The problem is that the Narnia series has religious symbolism throughout, so when you have a mega-religious ending, it makes sense. In this case, it wouldn’t.

A lot of writers I like will stay fairly positive with their long fiction, but get really dark in short stories. I have been darker in short form, but this was turning long—much longer than I expected. I initially thought it would maybe be about 120 pages, because that would be a standard script. I’m at 309 now, and I’m guessing it will end up at around 360. I guess it’s a trilogy.

Okay, things were looking dark, but part of why I was drawn to the material was that the world is dark and it was hurting me, so it made sense to sort through that darkness and see what I could find.

The first thing I found was that there was a lot of love there. That includes romantic love, and that’s important, but there was so much more, with familial love, and friendship, and friendships that become family, so that no matter how many people you lose you are not alone, if you will let yourself not be alone.

In my Black History Month reading, I read Black Like Me, and I think I have already mentioned that he talks about the one thing that really gets you through all the hate and persecution and oppression is the small kindnesses that you show each other. It resonated because at some point in the writing a tradition of gift-giving had started, where they were always looking for ways to help each other. I haven’t actually written the scene where it’s explained yet, and I thought it was going to be Otis who says it, but maybe it will have to be Mitch or Jacob, but the point will be that it is a horrible life, and those remembrances are the things that make it better.

You do write things that are true, and you don’t necessarily know that you know them until you write them. I have three favorite things there.

One happens when Natalia is comforting Latron after another death, where the two people he has been the closest two have died within a few weeks of each other. He is a teenage boy, possibly with some anger issues, and certainly some tendencies to be macho, and she says she want’s to hug him, but she’s not sure if he would like that. He does want it, but what if he just gets attached to her, and then she dies too?

“That’s why you need to love as many people as you can.”

And then she and Deanna and Grace all hold him, but the moment does not become too maudling because the other guys are all standing around awkwardly. Then Deanna tells Latron that being male will make his life harder and stupider, which is equally true.

The other scene that kind of surprised me also comes out of comforting Latron. It’s the night before the big push, and he is looking at an old War Memorial and feeling that they will all be dead and forgotten, and Gerard gets the idea to take some spray paint and create their own memorial on an empty wall. Initially it is just them, but every one else joins in, until the wall is covered.

I think the idea actually came from “Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back”. There’s a line in there, “It’s not about all the friends you make, but the graffiti they write on your graves.” The song has a totally different tone from the scene, though there is a transition.

In the start there was a feeling that I had of these internal primal screams where you just want to yell out the name of the person you have lost, especially with Mikey and Ray. You feel like you can’t yell it, because once you unleash that pain who knows where it will go and what it will do, but keeping it in is no good either. Spraying the names becomes a release. It is based in mourning but it becomes celebration, and everyone feels kind of euphoric.

The after effect of that release is that everyone sits around talking and sharing memories. The barriers are down, and they can talk now, and it doesn’t hurt anymore, at least not the same way. It is art, and it is communal, and it is healing.

The other thing came fairly recently, and it has not spawned a scene, but it sort of covers the entire thing. I was thinking about first aid, actually, and emergency preparedness and what to do in certain situations, and the thought clearly came to me, you can’t fix death. The immediate follow up thought was, you don’t need to.

You know, just accomplishing something, and achieving a goal, would feel good anyway, but there’s been a lot more to it than that.