Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Radiohead says goodbye to Ted
Headed up to Sydney with a carload of buddies for the weekend to see Radiohead's second Australian concert. We had a spare ticket, so Linda managed to convince Mistah Toad to come along and make up the numbers so that we could monopolise his time on his last weekend in Sydney. Mission accomplished. He seems pretty comfortable with his planned move to Tokyo and not at all intimidated by the language thing, the unemployment thing or the impending marriage thing. Remind me never to play poker with him.
Radiohead kicked all kinds of arse, by the way. They were great, with astonishing music and a fantastic stage presence for a band that did virtually no speaking. Thom Yorke does a great line in creepy leering, by they way.
Back to work
My extremely leisurely period of long weekends has come to an end and now I have to get back up to speed at work. It's proving surprisingly difficult. A lot seems to have happened while I'm away that nobody seems to want to talk about - it's obviously very political and tricky and has enormous implications blah blah blah. But it's rather difficult to gauge how it will affect me, since I don't know exactly what's been going on.
Meh. Like I care.
The Versace Bros., together at last
As of this weekend, all three Versace brothers will be living in the same town again, for the first time in about twelve years (I can't exactly remember when Ginge, the first to fly the coop, moved south - must have been about 1992 or so, I think). Ian and Sonnie and Flynn will roll in sometime on Sunday. The upside of this is that we don't have to drive quite as far for a family Christmas this year. The downsides are that we no longer have a valid reason for driving up to the Gold Coast a couple of times a year, and now Mum and Dad have even further to go in order to visit us (and vice versa). But speaking with selfish candour, it will be awfully nice to have them around and especially to have more frequent opportunities to corrupt my nephew with rock music, roleplaying and cricket...
Friday, April 23, 2004
Just not in the mood? Not exactly...
I've discovered - No, wait. Let me start again. I've reacquainted myself with the obvious truism that regular writing takes discipline. I mean, that's implied by the use of the word 'regular', isn't it? It probably doesn't sound too hard to muster the discipline required to produce 400 words a day - writing that many words doesn't usually take more than half to three-quarters of an hour most days. But that pace is only possible (for me) when the momentum is there. That is, when the last writing session stopped while the mental connections were still firing and the words were coming easily and the next little bit of the path was well-illuminated and clear of debris. When I can stop on that kind of writing high, I find it quite easy to pick up where I left off and get on with the ploughing. Some days I can even keep the furrows more or less straight right from the outset.
But if the last session was hard, or too short, or interrupted, or too long ago, then I can't easily re-establish that connection to the story. Instead I find myself asking questions about where I was going with a scene, what did I expect to happen, who's this new character that I obviously just made up on the spot and what possessed me to think that I needed to spontaneously create another mouth to feed (so to speak). This usually leaves me floundering - typing a sentence, crossing it out, making a couple of dot-point character notes and so on. Generally I'm just killing time until the wheels are getting into gear and up to speed.
Usually I can relocate the threads after a while and follow them through to the conclusion that I had previously intended. Other times I know of a certainty that what I eventually produce bears no relationship or resemblance to what I would have produced if I had pressed on last time I was sitting at the keyboard.
And where am I going with this thought? Well, basically, that I'm pretty lazy. Sometimes I just can't be enthusiastic about picking up those threads and sorting through the tangle. Some days it just seems like it will be hard work, so much so that I can't even bring myself to try.
And you know what the funny thing is? I know - and this is true every single goddamn time I write - that once I just get started, it will be easy and fun and relaxing and rewarding. Okay, it may not produce work of a particularly high standard (and I'm convinced that it's possible to pick out where I resumed writing after a break from a particular narrative by identifying the clunkiest sentence) but the words will exist.
All that's holding them back is that wall of laziness and uncertainty and inertia. That's the real battle, right there.
Are they called wisdom teeth because pain teaches you valuable lessons?
Fiona had three wisdom teeth extracted on Monday and is now well on her way to recovering. Her cheeks and lips are still a bit swollen and she's not going to be eating anything hard for the next few days, but she seems to have come through it without complications. Which is something of a minor miracle, if the "So you're having your wisdom teeth out? Be incredibly afraid!" preparatory literature is any kind of gauge. No rotting infections, no collateral damage to neighbouring teeth, no constancy of vomitus. So that's good.
She is still at home, curled up on the sofa watching videos. We've watched a lot of them this week, mostly because she gets dizzy if she walks around (thank you, panadeine forte). I've been hanging around watching the movies too, initially because I thought I should hover attentively in case she had any merest whims to attend to, and later because I got used to lying around all day watching videos. (Just in case you're wondering, this attitude was a significant contributor to my lack of writing this week. No, wait, I guess that's probably obviously, isn't it? You weren't wondering at all).
But to get to the point, she is feeling much better and will be heading up to Sydney with me (and JimboSimnoLidnor) this weekend for the Radiohead and Farewell to Ted tour. Although she will be rebelling somewhat and watching gymnastics vids with Niall and Jamie rather than listening to moaning alternative Britpop.
Yay/Meh/Yuck - Movie Reviews
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen isn't anywhere near as bad as I imagined, except for the crap bit with the car racing through the streets of Venice and as long as it considered entirely exclusive of the source material. Love Actually is very very good and although one or two of the plotlines are less compelling than the other nine or ten, it is neither confusing nor does it drag at any point. God only knows what its critics were crapping on about. Kill Bill Volume 2 is, like its predecessor, entirely cool, but manages improbably (given the stylistic violence and wafer-thin personalities populating KBV1) to be more about characters than presentation. Finding Nemo is rather charming without being all that memorable beyond the stunning visuals.Wit is apparently very good, but I dragged myself away to do some writing while it was on, so you only have Fi's word for it.
- The Yards wasn't as interesting or thrilling as I was expecting. Nice cinematography doesn't make up for unengaging characters and a plodding, predictable plot. Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life wasn't exactly bad, but judging by the pacing of the plot, Jan De Bont is really trying to distance himself from any misconceptions that he is an action director (I mean, come on, the guy once directed something called Speed, you'd think he'd remember what it was like...). About A Boy was okay, but not as good as a Nick Hornby story starring Hugh Grant ought to be. Or maybe it was, I dunno, but High Fidelity still kicks its arse.
- The Matrix Revolutions blew chunks. Never have action sequences been so expensive and so unremittingly dull. I see Keanu managed to drag Carrie-Anne and Lawrence down to his acting level, but at least Hugo looked like he was trying to scrape a good time out of the experience. We gave up on The 39 Steps, which was sufficiently replete with twists and turns to qualify as classic Hitchcock, but not actually very entertaining or at all well-acted. Sigh.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Today's Lexifab entry is brought to you thanks to Mr Enthusiasm's pointed reminder that I'm overdue. My only revenge for this slight upon my honour is to disappoint him with my poor showing in terms of word count. The last few days have been extremely wordless. I've no excuses, beyond the fact that once I've arrived home, gone for a walk with Fi, and cooked and eaten dinner, I've mostly felt pretty shagged of an evening this week. Today won't be much better, since in addition to all that, I'll be taking a bus halfway across town to pick up the car (which has been in the shop since Sunday night with a dead alternator, worn rear brakes and split boots, whatever those might be)
So, upshot is I'm back to owing myself an additional 800 words, though hopefully those will roll out pretty easily in the upcoming confrontation scene. Hmm. Why do you suppose it is that I find arguments easier to write than description or plot...?
Fiona officially smoked her last ciggie on Tuesday night and quit as of breakfast yesterday. No sign of dangerous mood swings or desperate cravings yet. She's on nicotine lozenges, but I suspect they contain much more nicotine than her 1 mg Winfields, so it's not entirely certain that they will be much help.
She doesn't seem to be having much difficulty though. She always said she'd give them up when she was ready, and once she's made her mind up about something it's going to take more than a mere physiological and psychological addiction to change it, right? In this case, her hand was forced a bit by the strong recommendation that she not have anything to smoke for five days before and after her wisdom tooth extraction (next Monday), so a ten-day window seemed like as good a time as any to stop once and for all.
She hasn't necessarily made things easy for herself, though, as she has simultaneously stopped drinking coffee and alcohol. The logic behind this is that she normally combines these vices with smoking, so if she gives away the sticks, she needs to avoid associated situations. But yow! Wrestling nicotine is one thing, but letting it tag team with caffeine and booze at the same time? That's asking for a beating.
So, Easter in brief
Friday - Wrote all morning, did a lot of sitting around, had afternoon tea with Fiona's cousin Erika and her partner Mal (one of my cricket buddies), and then went to watch my first ever live game of rugby. The Brumbies totally demolished the Highlanders, if you care, to the delight of the rather large and extremely parochial crowd.
Saturday - having decided to cancel our open house because Easter weekend is a pretty slow time for house inspections, the plan was to do some shopping and then indulge in a serious DVD-watching afternoon. Instead, we got a call from someone who wanted to come and have a look at the house, so we had to do an emergency clean and then put on cheerful smiles as she and her entourage trooped about the place making admiring sounds. She sounded like an encouraging prospect at the time, but we haven't heard back from her. Hope is fading a bit on that front, but we remain resolute. Made up for it by watching Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (a witty conundrum-with-spies film, kind of half-thriller, half-screwball comedy, with Michael Redgrave putting in some early practise for his brilliant later turn in The Importance of Being Earnest. The evil not-Nazis from the unnamed Central European country were priceless) and The Thief of Baghdad (Arabian Nights fantasy which the Disney version of Aladdin clearly borrowed heavily from. I was surprised by the technical accomplishment of the special effects - or rather, I was surprised by how little big budget special effects developed between the early forties and the late sixties. Overall it was pretty dull, and Conrad Veidt made a surprisingly unappealing leading man. The genie with the barely-disguised New York Jewish accent was pretty amusing, though).
Sunday - We were supposed to go on a motorbike ride around the Cotter, so of course it rained. I caught up on my writing and published a new chapter of the Attempted Novel. We went to a barbecue, where we berated politicians and Scientology, then the car broke down on the way home. Sigh.
Monday - More movies: Charade - A too-young-for-him Audrey Hepburn and a too-old-for-her Cary Grant in another thriller-screwball caper thingmajig. Excellent, especially the two leads. Also The Big Sleep - Bogart, Bacall, ice-cool murder mystery with an extremely complex web of bad relationships and vengeful slaughter. Not as good as The Maltese Falcon, but still pretty damn good. Ran out of steam before I could get to The Day the Earth Stood Still, but I'll try to get to it some other time. Played cricket at 9:30 pm, didn't get a wink of sleep and wasted the entire weekend's worth of rest. Still feel like crap as a result (the jarred muscles in the neck don't help).
Monday, April 12, 2004
Laziest Easter ever
I would recount the various things I've got up to over this extremely welcome Easter long weekend, but the main point of making this entry is to lob in a pointer to the new Bard Wars chapter, which is finally done.
Parental Advisory: it's pretty mean and some people die horribly. You were warned.
Now, I go to watch old movies.
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Keys to the kingdom
We got the unofficial nod from Tim the Real Estate Agent yesterday that the soon-to-be-ex-owners of the new house have agreed to let us have access before settlement. This is great news for Fiona, who is going stir-crazy waiting to get started on the renovations. Now we'll at least be able to measure the kitchen area up and get some quotes on building it. apart from that, we need to look seriously at what walls are load bearing (ie can we knock out the bits that we want to knock out?), what our options are for floor and ceiling coverings (the kitchen and dining room have the most profoundly ugly ceiling tiles at the moment. Their days are definitely numbered) and there are quite a few other little bits and pieces that we can do prior to the renovating proper.
But as Fiona pointed out this morning, the news that we would be able to get into the place by this weekend and start doing stuff (as she likes to emphasize it) is the point at which we can finally feel free to start getting excited that we have a new house. Yay! New house!
Not so much writing
Last night was another maelstrom of beer and wordless non-productivity, but before I descend too far into self-recrimination, I will say in my defence that I was drinking Kilkenny.
Okay, that's not such a great defence. Never mind. But while Fiona did do a post-project review with one of the guys from her team, I sat back and had a couple of quiet pints while reading over "Bard Wars" and trying to get my head back into the story's space. I'm glad I did too, because I found a foreshadowing reference that I subsequently completely forgot all about. I think that I've come up with a workable solution (it was a suitably vague reference that I can change what it really meant and possibly come out looking cleverer than I really am) but it's the sort of thing that I would fix with a comprehensive restructure in the edits, so I won't be doing much more than a hand-waved repair job in this draft.
In between pages, I chatted with an old bloke who's lived in Canberra for seventy years and drives buses. He shares my prejudices with respect to the new Canberra suburbs (the blocks are too small), poker machines (there are too many of them) and smoking in pubs and restaurants (we don't like it much). So there you are, a true story from Aussie suburbia...
On the plus side, I now know more or less what the next few things that have to happen in the story are. I'm very excited about two of my characters finally meeting face to face, and I'm looking forward to writing some extremely crass exchanges of dialogue (hint: one of them is Ductio, of course).
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
For the few that care about this what-should-be-essential news, Kill Bill - Volume 2 opens in Australia on 22 April. I'm going on opening night.
Interesting side note concerning Mister Tarantino: apparently he is trying to convince the producers of the James Bond movies to make a faithful adaptation of Casino Royale as the fifth and final Pierce Brosnan movie. It would be rather cool to see an action-lite, cool-as-ice spy thriller rather than another godawful collision of explosions, gadgets and boobs, but I'm not holding my breath.
How do they do it?
I have no idea how the few literate professional sportspeople manage to balance what is presumably a fairly heavy training and play workload (not to mention media and other public engagements) with the demands of churning out a tour diary or the latest annual instalment of their autobiography. To be sure, some of these great works of literature are likely entirely ghost-written, but I assume that at least a few of the thousands of such works lining newsagent and airport shelves are a result of the elite athlete in question knowing how to type. I mean, sure, these are presumably fit and healthy people with impressive endurance and powers of concentration, but it sure seems to be asking a lot of a body to sweat and strain all day and then pass the reins over to the brain for a few solid hours of anecdotes about sledging the Poms, or drinking the All Blacks under the table, or who is doing a bit of 'late night training' with whose coach.
All of which speculation is a roundabout way of alluding to the fact that I was too buggered after indoor cricket last night to do my 400 words on the novel. Pathetic, I know, but I was, more so than usual, a shuddering wreck after the game. The thought of trying to access the files in my brain responsible for wit, spontaneity, sparkling dialogue and coherent sentence structure was more than I could bear. I'm going to try to make it up over the next couple of nights, which in theory shouldn't be too hard.
Something else I'm curious about
Is the fact that Channel 7 is desperate for viewers the reason that it keeps giving away the big twists on 24 and Alias in its "on next week's thrilling episode" promos? Because I've noticed lately that they are really blabbing some pretty critical plot developments. Last night's 24 is a case in point: it started with the usual hyperbolic sound bites like "For the last 3 years, this show has redefined suspense" and "For Jack Bauer, what happens next is the biggest twist of them all" - and then proceeds to tell you exactly what that twist is!
Not that I care, exactly - my interest in 24 is pretty much limited to one plotline (because I still find Keifer Sutherland's performance extremely watchable) and the fact that every week is a class in film editing; and I accidentally spoiled myself on all the good twists for this season of Alias before it even started, so there's probably nothing Channel 7 can do to ruin it further (which is not to say it won't try), and I'm not a slavish devotee of either show in any case - but I do find it odd that the network seems to be determined to over-hype their wares in such a way that it undermines the fundamental strengths of shows essentially built around the Big Twist Principle.
Meh. Luckily, the only show at the moment that I care about at all is Angel and it's buried in a six-foot-deep timeslot that doesn't exactly call for a hyper-aggressive marketing campaign.
Monday, April 05, 2004
Words don't come easy
So, having arbitrarily decided to get back into working daily on the Attempted Novel, I'm having some trouble getting back into the rhythm of writing. Actually, that's not it - the words themselves are easy enough to churn out, and let's face it, 400 words a day is not exactly stretching the limits of endurance. I've written shopping lists longer than that.
But when I finished the last marathon writing session at the end of November, I left Chapter 8 in the middle of a fairly unpleasant scene (I know, I know, big surprise). Coming back to it cold after the entire summer off, I found that my sense of the scene - its pace, its shape, even its point - had completely vanished. I gradually reconstructed it and muddled my way through to a conclusion last night, but I don't think it reads particularly well. (You might well ask if that had ever been a priority before now, but I'd be forced to poke you with something sharp if you did). Worse still, I've written three one-sentence outlines for the remaining scenes in the chapter, and I have no idea what I meant by any of them. Not a clue. They completely lack informative qualities. One of them doesn't even mention which character it's referring to.
My only choice is to break my NaNoWriMo rule and actually go back and reread what I've done so far, in the hopes that it either sparks some recollection or inspires me in some new direction. I started last night, and it's a bit disheartening. First of all, some of it is just plain not very good, and reading it back gave me a scary insight into how big a job editing this baby is going to be. Second, there's a lot of stuff I wrote and just forgot about afterwards, though in some cases that was probably a good thing. Third, there's an irritating number of typos, which makes me want to take to it with a red pen - but there's no point, because essentially I plan to completely rewrite the first draft. Fourth - well, I still have no idea what those outline fragments are referring to...
On the plus side, assuming I actually slips the blocks and make my word count, I should have finished Chapter 8 by sometime over the Easter weekend. I'll let you know.
Saturday, April 03, 2004
Okay. Pretty much poor now
The contracts are signed, the deposit is paid, it's more or less all over bar the million and one details that still somehow have to get sorted out. The only really worrisome one left is that we still really need someone to buy the duplex, otherwise that rather awesomely large debt is going to stop seeming like someone else's money and will take on a rather noisome reality all of its own.
That's part's not going quite to plan, and today's open house didn't exactly inspire confidence. Our deadline to settle on the new place is the 19th of May, and at this rate it is looking pretty unlikely that we're going to get away with the hoped-for seamless “sell and buy on the same day” transition.
To look at the bright side, I suppose this means that means that for a hopefully-not-too-extended period, we'll be multiple property owners several years ahead of schedule...
Back on the word watchers program
Well, between encouragments from Herr Fellows, Stu, Valamir and Mr Enthusiasm, my procrastination has finally lost the will to carry on the fight between me and Evan's September deadline for each of us to have completed our novel. (And yeah, that's pretty much the kind of excruciating sentence construction you can expect from here on in. I gave up tonight after writing one of the purplest pieces of nonsense I think I have ever rendered, which is saying something).
It's my own fault. Andrew was casting about for a daily word count target that falls somewhere between actual Achievement and horribly demotivating Burden. I suggested 400 words a day, which you can pretty much rattle off in about ten minutes if you aren't particularly concerned about letting the Inner Editor out to play. On a cheerful whimsy, I agreed for some reason to meet the same target. I can only assume that Yesterday-Me had forgotten what it's like to start blankly at a monitor for two hours while Imagination takes a short vacation.
So anyway, here I am back at the keyboard, hammering out the prescribed number of words and trying not to end too many of them in “-ly” (harder than it looks, believe me). I suddenly recall why it was I resisted going back to the novel for so long. When I hit the required word count in November, I was in the middle of a rather unpleasant murder scene (as opposed to?) and I recall giving serious air time to the notion that this story has gone completely off the rails and cannot possibly redeem itself.
I still think that's a strong possibility, but I've decided that I'm going to press on with it regardless, because I'm kind of interested to see where it will go now that the shackles are off. Since I no longer have any expectations – I don't even know how long I can keep my protagonists alive – the story is pretty much free to go where it will. Which is...well, fascinating, even if only to me.
One problem I do foresee is that there are a lot of characters and factions and competing interests in this sucker, and as I reread it I'm not at all sure I still know who everyone is and what they were up to. In fact in one or two cases I am not sure I ever did. So I'll just apologise in advance for any confusion that may occur during this sudden resumption of the Attempted Novel. I'm sure I'll fix it all up in the rewrite.