Is There Nothing Left?

Wednesday, my post “My Parent’s are Trekkies” was featured on “Freshly Pressed”. Indeed, I have evidence:

Screen cap of my post

It’s right there on the third row, middle column. That’s me.

This is also proof that TVtropes is the most dangerous website in existence. Help, I can’t get off!

However, rather than make a whole post about my last post, which for so long was all I could think about and would be lame–but what am I supposed to do now? It’s given me stage fright.

Instead: They’re putting up a wind farm right on top of a mountain up here in the Northstate…actually it’s even more north than that. While the mountain range in question is not actually in the area of my growing-up place, nothing is, and it’s on a significant thoroughfare. Now this rather crappy picture can’t really show how shockingly out-of-place these were to me when I first saw them on my way back to town:

What is this doing here?

I did get stuck behind one of the trucking carrying in a piece though…I think it was one of the blades. And that would have been a better picture: because it was on a narrow, curvy road and the size of the load, the CHP pulled over the traffic in the opposite direction, and we had to follow the thing for several miles at maybe 30 mph. And when they finally came to the turnout, and the officers waved us by, we still only had to use the other lane. Poor officers though…I remember the one waving us 0n, and his hand was just going around and around and he was staring straight ahead. He seemed so bored!

Anyway, despite the massiveness of just that one piece, I still didn’t think anything of it until coming back down again a few weeks later and they were all put together. This is from coming back up the same trip, and they don’t loom nearly so high. On the way down though I could see them from the other side of Fall River Valley. Which is huge! And formerly had great vistas.

I think I nearly drove off the edge of the mountain.

But I’ve taken that road in and out of town for almost twenty years! Well, okay, for most of them I wasn’t taking myself in and out, because my parents were driving, but still. They’re so big! The picture really doesn’t do those on the ridge justice–and I don’t know that it really compares them to the size of the trees. They are too big to exist. It broke my brain, it really did.

Once I’d gotten over the initial shock–and I had to adjust somewhat, because they were looming the entire drive through the valley–I got to thinking about whether this might compare to how people felt when they first saw hot air balloons or airplanes overhead. For some reason, when I actually saw these in place, it required a fundamental revision of my worldview. I suppose the shock though might be more akin to people finding I-5 after having driven nothing but a two-lane highway their entire lives…familiar with the concept, less so the scale.

The problem was mostly age, I think. And the fact that I’m used to living in the middle of nowhere. Living in the middle of nowhere is not like living somewhere. Somewhere things happen. Nowhere, everything stays the same and nothing changes. By definition. (Putting in a RiteAid is too much an immediate gratification to cause the same shock).

These don’t bother me so much. There are a few closer to town–or is it all the same line? You know, I actually have no idea, they’re so much a part of the landscape.  I’m not sure of their relative scale, but they certainly seemed huge to me growing up. But they’re also old, and familiar for that reason. And they’re so much friendlier. Like giant skinny robots, long-sufferingly holding up our lines for birds to sit on, because they’re sweet like that.

It’s Wall-E vs Eve. Wall-E is adorably old-fashioned and Eve is new and sleek and dangerous.

Not quite so big though.

Hopefully I’ll get used to them soon. After all, I will continue to use that road for what is looking to be a long time. The view won’t be the same, but maybe it won’t be as scary.

I’ll leave you with this safety message in the meantime, brought to you from Oregon:

You are not immortal: buckle up

Is it just me, or is this making fun of Twilight?


How About a Round of Applesauce!

(What can I say? I read the headline “How About a Round of Applause” wrong. It has nothing to do with anything…but I do like applesauce.)

So, let me think of a ‘real’ topic.

Hmm. I played the clarinet from fifth grade to senior year. With a few things that actually happen in my life, I tend to mention it on a fairly regular basis. At first, when we got to choose our instruments at the end of fourth grade, I had no intention of actually choosing the clarinet. I went straight to the line for the flute…and couldn’t even get a sound of it. Probably tried the trumpet next, although I don’t remember that. I do remember that at some point I got a hold of the trombone, which I could play, but hated.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the trombone, or even that trombone, but in fourth-grade though I like to play at playing it, it just wasn’t good enough. Neither was the clarinet, for that matter, but it didn’t require so much arm work. And I could play it.

Therefore, I told the music teacher I would play clarinet for fifth grade band–with the intention of later switching to something cooler, like the flute or French horn. Whereupon I went home, informed my parents of my decision, and found out that my uncle had played the clarinet for years himself. In fact, his band had played in front of the president…or the governor of Illinois…or some other illustrious personage, which I cannot really recall, but found myself much impressed by at the time.

At any rate, I got to borrow his instrument. A lovely instrument, wood, in a very battered old-fashioned case (that, most unfortunately, did not survive my stewardship). For clarinets, wood is better, unless it’s new and gets too cold and cracks on you. His wasn’t, obviously, and there were no cracks. Although the key pads had to be replaced at least once. By the way, I can’t say way wood is better, or even that it is to other people. It’s personal preference , really.

I don’t really know much about the clarinet, as an instrument. I have read that silver-plated keys are sometimes considered to be better than nickel-plated, although, again, I don’t really know why. Clarinet reeds come in several degrees of “hardness” though I don’t know if that’s how someone who actually knows clarinets would word it. When I graduated high school, I was playing on a 4 1/2. I believe the harder reeds are supposed to be better for playing on the highest register of the instrument. I also have a second mouthpiece, which, again, I think is supposed to be better for the highest register, but this time I did know, and just forgot this time.

Throughout middle school and (most?) of high school, I heard pretty much the same thing: “Play louder!” Over and over again. Because I played quietly, and for the most part never felt any need to play louder. Usually there were a few other clarinetists in the band either better or with seniority, so I figured they could play, and then the teacher wouldn’t be able to tell when I was playing the wrong note, and stop the whole band just to make me fix it. Generally though, despite the quiet playing, I seemed to get by well enough.

Bad habit: once I stopped having to verify that I’d practiced, I’d pretty much stopped practicing. I’d still play probably fifteen minutes out of school about once a month when I either particularly liked, or had a particularly hard, passage. But mostly I figured I practiced enough during school.

In high school, my senior year, I somehow ended up wanting to apply for the Western International Band Clinic (WIBC: pronounced WIB-ic)–fancy name, but dare you to find much about it on Google. I suppose band teacher thought: her senior year, may as well offer the chance, though probably understood it wasn’t very likely. Told me to practice. And I really didn’t. Well, more than I usually did, say about an hour total in my month of “preparation.” Had to do the audition tape twice…really upset the teacher though he didn’t say anything, and hid it rather well (yes, it was a terrible thing to do–I am sending telepathic apologies to him as I type).

Apparently though, they had a bad crop of clarinetists that year. I got in. Scraped by in the last chair of the last clarinet section of the last band. Theoretically, the bands are all equal, but among the students it seemed very clear that they were arranged by skill anyway, I was the…twelfth? (no longer remember for sure)…seat of the third clarinet section, which meant that all my parts were boring but easy to learn. The girl in the seat ahead of mine went to a music academy and owned a two thousand dollar instrument, with silver-plated keys. Made me feel a little better, true or not.

When I was in band, I never played in a group, say, larger than fifty. That may well be stretching it. At any rate, each of the WIBC bands was about two- to- three hundred people (no longer remember this either…what can I say, I’m bad with numbers). And the day of the concerts, two bands would combine for a 600 person band. That many people…it was incredible. So much more powerful. I loved it. It was definitely the most fun I’d ever actually had playing band. I’d had plenty of great experiences in band, but though we’d had some pretty good local concerts, they couldn’t compare to the grandure.

Not only that, but the guest soloist that year was clarinetist Robert W. Spring. Probably the first professional clarinet I’d ever even heard of. I even got his signature. When he came in to practice, he played “Flight of the Bumblebee” without pausing for breath–he was breathing, it’s called circular breathing, just in case that worried you. Now that was cool. And though it was very cool, it did not make me want to be a professional. He mentioned he had to practice hours a day. Still very inspiring though.

I took band a lot more seriously after that. Even got to play the solo part once during a concert. I wish I was still playing, but without having an already structured class, it seems hard to find the time. Or place. Or band for that matter. I’m thinking of looking into a concert band at this school… one band advertises itself to those students who haven’t played since forth grade. Right about my speed, there. Time after time, I still practice. It’s just much harder when you have anyone living nearby. Since fourth grade, I’ve come to see that the clarinet is highly under-appreciated, and is in fact totally awesome, but when practicing the upper registers, it can sound really bad. Really painful.

I should break these posts into sections or chapters or something.

What Could Have Been

Had I not been surfing the other side of unconsciousness.  Working mouth, and (almost) fingers, without any input from the brain.  Well, hopefully, I now know to avoid that state in the future.

Going back home wasn’t so hard in the beginning. When I first moved out, I spend the first two years living with relatives, so even though I didn’t visit even as often as I do know, the ties were nonetheless closer.  There’s an intangible “togetherness” that comes with living with family, no matter who’s there and who isn’t, or any physical distance at all. And back then, just starting college-level work, even at a community college, Real Life just seemed so far away. The very concept of adulthood was entirely out of the reach of my understanding. Now it’s entirely too close, and like billions of others before me, I’m missing my innocence. Or at least childhood, and it’s lack of responsibility beyond minor chores.  Those I can manage. Real Life, real independence, not so much…although that’s as much fear of the unknown as anything. I still call it “home,” but this weekend I was definitely visiting.

I stepped outside and it smelled like cold.  It doesn’t feel cold, not right away, though there’s an awareness. Then it prickles along the skin. The stars burn brighter on cold nights, too. And when the moon is full, it’s light seems  more right to me than the sun. I remember looking out my bedroom window at the apple tree as a kid. Everything would be drenched with a silver glow, and the shadows were holes of nonexistance.

I was a weird child.  But I’ve always loved the moon better than the sun.

We would drive home during the winter, after a long trip, and it would be snowing.  Only occasionally, but I remember it as a regular occurrence. But it was when the falling snowflakes would be highlighted by the headlights. I always preferred the larger flakes.  Big or small, though, when you watched them from the windshield (leaning sideways over the littlest brother asleep in the middle seat), it was like flying through space. Warp-speed, of course.  My dad watche(d/s) that show all the time, especially when we were little and had to watch with him.  So that’s what I saw.

When I was a little kid, and the family had to go on long car trips, all I had to do was watch the world go by outside the car.  I read everywhere else, but reading in the car has always given me a headache. So instead, I’d watch.  Whatever the landscape was, it became a part of the story…whichever story I was telling myself at the time. Honestly, I’ve always preferred to use the characters from my current reading list the actors in these stories. There’s a pre-set situation, and characteristics, and I can put them through increasingly fantastic and wild plots. Plots that will never exist in a real life novel or story, and that I likely wouldn’t read anyway. But they’re amusing in the short term. And they lasted awhile for car trips.  During the mountainous areas, I often imagined someone riding a horse desperately and carefully over the rough and rocky terrain. Over the plains…well, they were boring, so I imagined how my favorite characters would be bored in my place.

Again, weird child.

Though I hated them at the time, one of the things I do miss about growing over my childhood dreams, is losing them.  When I say childhood dreams, I don’t mean the things that I dreamed of doing as an adult–those dreams involved either becoming an artist or a marine biologist, and I lost intrest in both long ago. No, my childhood dreams were simply the dreams I had as a child, which sometimes, I think I remember better than my actually child.  Even when I was younger, say early middle school, I sometimes had trouble even remembering that they hadn’t happened.

My dreams weren’t fantastic like the stories I made up about the stories I’d read…I suppose I’d used that up during the day…because my dreams were entire alternate realities, that, most confusing for me when I was younger, relied heavily on images, people, and places from the real world.  My family was the same, as was our house, but the alley behind us became a slope down to the houses on the other side.  And a mean old man lived there, who had no equivelent in the real world. He didn’t like it when our dream-selves rolled down the hill for fun.

Actually, the alternate reality dreams weren’t often fantastic.  They proceeded much like real life, until middle school, when talking, superhero cats became involved.  Only the nightmares bled into the supernatural, though they too used the alternate realities of my happy dreams. In about second grade, the house burned down.  I was standing outside, in the back, holding Bear Bear, while flames billowed out the windows. It was winter, and I was cold…the flames weren’t actually hot for me, but I was screaming because the house was burning down. In fourth grade, the elementary school was on fire, leaving the sky yellow. And I think this may have been about the time I was reading Little House on the Prairie, because timber wolves were chasing everyone around campus. I ran around the kindergarten building and hid in a claw foot tub with a yellow shower curtain, and turned to look into the yellow eyes of yet another wolf.

The one that has reoccurred from about that time on, though, at least until high school, though I have had similar ones up until fairly recently.  Usually, the alternate Mt. Shasta (alternate, because if you look Mt. Shasta from my house…which is facing my old window…my dreams always have had it on the other side of town…where it wouldn’t be) is errupting. And the lava, smoke and flames are chasing everyone out of town. We’re all trying to drive away on the same road, which tended to have more lanes just for the evactuation. I don’t believe I let anyone die in my dreams, and even then I always remember, not just waking up into safety, but knowing everyone would get away before I woke. And when we were fleeing, I’d look back, watching the eruption, waiting to see if it got the house (which it never did) and the sunset would be gorgeous. My dreams were always beautiful, and bright.  The colors were always more real, and for my memories, still to a certain extent, more so.

I know that I didn’t like to control my dreams. I used to have very regular dreams of being on a swing, and wanting to go higher and higher. And I would, until the swing would break loose from the bars, and go higher, hundreds of feet high. And then it’d drop, and I could feel the loss of gravity, the air rushing past, my hair flying up, and my stomach dropping. Then I’d pull up and go up again, watching the sky. It was lovely fun.  Terribly exciting, far more so than anything I’d try in real life. The swings would get more and more extreme though, the longer I dreamed, until it got to the point where I’d start to be afaid I’d hit the ground, that I was going too fast to pull myself up. At that point I’d pull on the chains of the swing mightily, closing my eyes to concentrate my strength, and not just pull my dream-self up, but pulling myself out of the dream. Sometimes, it would fade after that, but usually I had to wake myself up. Then I’d fall asleep again, and sometimes the dream would start again, getting worse and worse until I had to wake myself up again. Up and down. Up and down.

What I miss most though,  is reading in my dreams.  I hated it then, because I could never finish anything, or not anything that I could remember. Even magazine articles. I remember having them open, reading the words on the page, and then watching them fade as the sun came though the window and returned my consciousness. I’d try to hide under the covers and screw up my eyes, and hold on to the words, force them to show themselves again, but they were always gone. But the stories were so good! and I hated that I couldn’t read them in real life.  Or even bring them to life myself.

The Literature Conspiracy

I don’t know exactly what this post will be about.  I just read the title of Will Thomas’s “The Hellfire Conspiracy” incorrectly, and I like the sound of it.  Maybe I should write about Terry Pratchett.  There can never be enough discussion about Discworld as far as I’m concerned.

In 2004/2005 a book called Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature was published.  I would dearly love to read it.  Unforunately the only edition I found for sale was on Amazon for about $350 dollars.  He’s that awesome.  Or people are just that opportunistic.

Actually, I start lots of drafts far more than I have posts (as if I have all that many), and so since I started this one, I’ve changed my mind.

I’ve been really lethargic and out-of-sorts lately, kinda depressed, and it’s making it very hard to get things done.  I’ve always had the bad habit of procrastinating on homework, particularly papers, mostly because I usually can write papers fairly well in a rather short amount of time.  The more you get away with something, the harder it is to stop.  Can’t do much about that now, actually. So I’m going to write about NaNo.

National Novel Writing Month (more completely NaNoWriMo) which is in November and means that you’re supposed to write 50,000 words in one month, specifically November.  Turns out that November just came at a really bad time this year. For me. At least I distinctly remember October, but the beginning of November started way too early and I missed it. I think it was the the forth (?) or something before I remember that I was supposed to start this whole fifty thousand word thing.

The only thing discovered is that I simply don’t write fiction well. Or at least quickly. Summary is okay, the summary of a story, but all the rest of the parts of fiction–dialogue, description, etc., I just write really, really slowly.  That same day, when I started the only fiction I could think of–fanfiction, because NCIS wasn’t on because of the election–and got about 645 words. About. Not like I counted. Word did it for me, and that is kind of the point. Well because of that I counted the other writing I did that day…only the stuff I did on the computer.

Found out I can’t write fiction, but I can write a whole lot about myself and my opinions really quickly. And usually at the times when I really don’t have much to say.  So that day, or the next maybe, I wrote almost a thousand words in an email to my aunt, and then a note on facebook got…I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure more than I got on that “story.”

I think the problem is that I’m simply not much of a storyteller.  Either of my brothers, now, they were born telling stories. I just prefer to read them, and occasionally watch them.  I can tell, usually, when I’ve read a good story, and whether it was told well–entirely separate issues. So I know well enough the aspects of writing…in fact I own far too many how-to-write books (maybe I should sell them?). The only reason I got them though was because, really, I like to read them.  I’m not very good at following advice. At least in from books, I don’t know if I get much advice in real life. If I do, I think we can safely assume I don’t follow it.

Anyway. So I like the title of the post, but I really have nothing to say.  Very sad that I can’t live up to the title.

I can say I went to the library to pick up a copy of a novel for class. I own it, but the only problem is that it’s part of a collection, and that book is a nice copy, but heavy, and I’d like to keep it nice too. Anyway, I got it at the school library first–picked up two others too, even though I was in there for about fifteen minutes or so–wait, that’s pretty good for me. I didn’t like that copy (at the school) because it’s old, from maybe 1948. And it’s hardback and looking like it will fall apart.  Risky for taking to class. I got a bit luckier at the county library (and I can’t believe there’s only one in this town, I used to have access to three in the same town) and they had a far newer, paperback, lighter copy. Much easier to read too, without the old-fashioned typography. I was in that library for about fifteen minutes too, and that time I picked up five others.  None of these extra books are really all that likely to be read either, I suppose.

I miss reading.  The kind of reading I did as a kid. Used to be I was never caught without a book. Now I have the books I’m reading for class, but I don’t actually carry all that many others.  For an English major, and such a lover of books, that’s a very sad state of affairs.

I’ll blame the internet.  Why not?

Sweating Blood

“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler

Writing is something that many people do now.  Blogs, obviously, and I’ve obviously been infected by that.  But also fiction writing and poetry.  With (literally) tons of books written on the subject of helping even the those unfamiliar with pencils to write fiction and get it published! lots of people try their hand, fail miserably and try to get published.  The greatest obstacle faced by these authors is their own inability to rate their fiction.  Or anyone else’s.  This is my failing as well.

I like to write…not so much here actually, because, really, who cares?  Most of what I would write here is stuff I’d be perfectly comfortable talking about with my friends.  And since they are the only ones who actually likely to read this, I could just talk to them in person.  But I’m not very good at steering conversations, so whatever I don’t say in person, I can say here.  Anyway.  Fiction writing: I do enjoy.  Unlike the authors who dream of success I don’t.  Nor do I try poetry.  Fortunately I had to practice writing poems for a class, and have so discovered, it is not, nor will it ever be, my forte. (Convoluted sentences with too many adverbs, maybe.)

Telling stories.  That, in my opinion is how one can recognize someone else who could write. Well ususally, but right now, I’m not look for exceptions.  My youngest brother could be an absolute genious writer.  Make lots of money, even, and be on talk shows.  He can be very charming, and oh! can he tell a story.  When he was little and a friend didn’t come to class, he’d tell us it was because the kid’s grandfather’s plane had gone down in the Atlantic Ocean, and the whole family was dead. (Disregarding that the kid’s older sister was in my class and I’d seen her that day–he’d say it was because she hadn’t gone.) His talent: the plot, of course, but also the concrete details that really make a story convincing. He’s also tends to be morbid, benefitting both the boy in him, and the storyteller.  My middle brother is also good at telling stories when he chooses to.  Sometimes just to mess with me when I ask him a question, and he doesn’t know the answer, he’ll just make up something.  Again, concrete details and absolute confidence.  I believe him every time.

Me?  As you may have guessed from the end of that last paragraph, I’m rather credulous.  Also, I miss some great opportunities for telling stories, because when they come, they fly right by me.  Can’t even hear the ‘whoosh’ as they hurdle overhead.

And I’m the one who really wants to tell the stories.  The one who has almost literally spent my entire conscious life reading everything I can get my hands on. The one who used to take the characters from those books and making up my own stories from them as I went to sleep at night. (In middle school…before Harry Potter…I was so relieved when I discovered fan fiction.  I wasn’t crazy after all!  Or at least wasn’t crazy alone.)

So I’ve found a few stories that I did in the years between when it never occurred to me to write (or not) and when I decided I couldn’t write.  There’s one from about sixth-grade, which for it’s grade level, has a good, tight plot; interesting, complex characters; and a happy ending.  And an epilogue for Mice and Menfor a 9th grade English assignment.  It’s interesting, and I think, not too bad.

Then, I think it was my senior year in high school, maybe junior, I decided I could write.  (As differentiated from “just writing when I felt like it”)  I wrote a 7 (?) page story based on the usualassignment to imitate the “Walter Mitty” story.  I thougt mine very clever.  Then we had an assignment to write a traditional gothic story–think Poe.  I was very pleased with both of these attempts and they both had several drafts.  I was so impressed with myself, I made two of my favorite teachers read them several times each.

Recently I have found them again.  You could say the gothic one was Poe-esque, only it’d be a horrible insult to Poe.  Very sophomoric…very stereotypically attempt, in fact, in imitating Poe, with absolutely no value in it whatsoever as I can recall.  Maybe there’s something good about it, but even if I knew where it was, I’m not sure I could bring myself to actually read it again.  As for the first “Secret Life” it did exactly what it was supposed to do.  There were even some interesting bits of characterization and description.  But most of it was just…blah.  Really nothing, no substance (although better than the gothic, which was nothing but a desperate, desperate pasting of heavy words onto emptiness to imitate substance) and a really jerky ending.  As in, it ended.  Stupidly.

I took the writing class in community college.  Wrote several bad poems.  Finished one, maybe two, stories.  And started two ridiculous attempts at plays.  One of the stories I took to a novel writing group I went to once a week, and it, apparently, was not a total failure.  These people had very good judgment, good writers themselves, and I trusted it.  I’d been with the group for two years before they saw this story, and they liked it.  We circled some problems with tense and such near the end, but they thought it good.

I’d actually been attending that group because when I was so enthused with my writing in high school, I took on the greatest attempt at all for the new writer armed with too many writing books.  I tried to write a novel.  I wrote maybe 100 pages total, about thirty perhaps usable…if I’d actually decided to try to continue it.  Whenever I brought anything to the meetings, I read quietly, quickly, and immediately apologized for the quality.  Then they’d tell me it was good, and to stop apologizing because I was better than I thought I was. Am.

Then, after that group, was when I realized how bad those two I wrote in late high school were, and I gave up for awhile entirely…for instance the novel has been abandoned.  I tried NaNoWriMo last year, and kind of liked that attempt, as I didn’t dislike the ‘novel’ I’d been working on before, or the sixth-grade story, or the Steinbeck epilogue.  But apparently…I tend to write extreme characters.  Actually in many ways they reflect how I think, and then I show them to other people, who say they are weird, and need serious help.  Which may be a good argument against having this blog.  But anyway, I took that to mean, I can’t do characterizations, can’t write, etc, etc.  Well, I thought I could write, but not for actual people to read, besides me.

Then I joined a website with a very supportive and kind (and genuine) group, that really welcomed me. For a fandom that I’ve never really been strongly involved in, and I was inspired to write something that I could post and share there, as thanks.  So I’ve started working on something.  And actually working on it.  Planning ahead, revising, actual working that I’ve never really attempted with my writing before.

I’m really enjoying it.  It’s not the best.  And (self-helpness-type happy ending ahead) it’s not as bad as lots of other stories that I can find on the internet.  Or even published (think Harlequin).  Well, maybe nearly as good as that.  But it doesn’t matter.  In this case, I know that the readers where I post it will either like it and say so, or they might not say anything because they don’t so much.  So long as I don’t expect to be the next J.K. Rowling (who I’m not sure I’d want to be anyway) it’s all good.