An Unexpected Day Off

I called into work this morning to find out if I’d be coming in at noon again, and found out I could stay home. Well, the extra money might be missed, but at least I enjoyed the first snow day of the season.

In fact, by the time I woke up, the overnight snow still dusted the foothills, and it continued to snow off an on. Late morning, the wind came up, making me very glad for  insulation and double-paned windows. Hearing trees whip and the occasional apple blown into the siding was fun, but I can’t imagine the days when the cold would have slipped right through the window frame and eaves.

And there’s something about the weight of a snowstorm, with the wind and the mist, that not only makes me happy to stay inside, but have a productive inside day. Well, after I finished dawdling online—though I did get the three books I finished this weekend, unless you count Thursday, which would make it four.

reading mitt

If I hadn’t had to update the program, you could have seen the bread too! I ate it instead.

So I put on my finished reading mitts, and got into The Man from Beijing, which is…interesting, in a word: the prose is spare, and I imagine in Swedish, probably artless; but the social issues behind the plot are so simplistic, it’s making it hard to read. And yay! after clearing out the freezer, we found the yeast, and I made bread. Yes, homemade bread.

Well—strictly speaking, bread made from scratch, because I did use the bread machine. I have made homemade bread from scratch without that device, all the way from hand-kneading to oven. But with it’s “super rapid” setting, it finished in just two hours. I want.

Fresh bread, lemon-ginger tea with honey, internet, and a book, all while watching the snow fall from in front of the fire?  Best October-weather-change day ever!

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NaNoWriMo

It’s all the writing I really want to be doing. Mainly because there will be so much of it.

While following a discussion of NaNo on a forum, I read a few people who posted what they used as rewards for finishing, say 500 words, or 1,000. Like ten minutes online, or a candy bar. Well, just as I was writing, my dad came in with the half-bag of leftover Halloween Reese’s. Surely that’s not coincidence.

And maybe I’ll eat less candy too.

But it’s hard enough keeping up with this blog without having to worry about writing a novel too. And while it’s a different kind of writing, I do blog faster than I novel. If I may be excused for turning it into a verb. But I can write more than a thousand words on a subject I’m only vaguely interested in, but making up fiction takes longer.

So I think I’ll try to keep up with this here, but now I have to go write some fiction.

Crazy, Crazy Day

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I pulled myself out of bed promptly at six this morning. So early that the sun wasn’t up yet, nor even the cats—though they did slink around the corners a bit. It’s a nice time, and for once I had the house to myself. This could do wonders for my mental health.

Having a goal made the endeavor far more palatable. Not that it was much of a carrot, it still gave me purpose.

I revised my short story. It’s not a good story, and never was, but hopefully it’s a little better. Got some of the little edits in, playing with paragraphs and sentence structures, that sort of thing. Most importantly, I filled in a sort of missing scene. The story itself had no indication that this scene existed, much less missing, but it builds the step between the ignorant beginning and the “epiphany” of the climax. Nothing quite so grand actually, but it’s far too late after my early morning to remember what the term I want is. Oh, the shame!

Then at 7:40 I got the call to sub. Maybe I planned the early wake up as me time, but it certainly made it possible for me to get to school that quickly. And it was the last day I needed this month to pay the bills.

And at 4:30, my brother and I had to head toward the theater to set up the movie. But brother had locked his keys in the projection room. And when he finally called other brother, he found that the other set of keys was in other brother’s car. Which my mom was driving, since other brother is out-of-state. So we went home. I remembered to pick up my jacket if it got cold again at night (it didn’t) and my glasses to focus the movie. We got back to the theater and brother got started setting up the movie, and my friend came over to hang out since we hardly ever see each other. Brother was kind enough to let me get away with this. Friend and I made fun of a certain book that she had lent me from her sisters’ collection.

Now, we could have finished the day off like this, the three of us: setting up the movie, and watching it (to check for errors of course). Except M.P.A.T. schedules “blocking” (play practice) at the theater on Thursday evenings. I forgot to inquire as to why this is so.

I had to go and walk about on stage while trying to read my lines and several actors not present.

It wasn’t much fun. I’m the only newbie on set; as brother put it, I “haven’t been in a play since kindergarten.” I told him that was a little excessive, because who could count kindergarten pageants plays? Other than possibly parents. Nothing against kindergarteners here. At any rate, I can’t enunciate and I don’t know what to do with myself on stage. As every other person in the cast has, I think, several years experience at least, I found this to be hugely embarrassing. Maybe not hugely. And even ’embarrassing’ doesn’t convey all that much, as I get embarrassed by almost everything. Although at least I can finally spell the word.

We finally cleared out the play paraphernalia (that is to say, the metal folding chairs on stage) about 8:30, at which point brother and I were finally able to eat dinner. An over-backed bake-at-home pizza. It was hot though, and dad delivered honey too, so it was almost palatable.

Brother helped me actually set up the movie—run the film through the projector and flip most of the switches. And we finished the rest of the flip switching by eleven.

Crazy, crazy day, I tell you.

My Parents are Trekkies

Which for many years guaranteed I wasn’t.

And when I say “Trekkies” I mean mostly that  my dad can watch the same episodes over and over and over and over and over and over and over again without difficulty, and gives my mom a Star Trek calendar every Christmas, and my mom watched the series, and therefore I knew all the character names, the general ‘universe’ of the series, and the theme song from the very first note. This also helped ensure my indifference.

After the new movie came out, however. Well, lets just say I’ve never had an objection to expanded universes.

When I find something I like, I never really want to give it up, which lead me to fan fiction, which in an indirect way made me a perfect fan for fan fiction. Much like Star Trek, fan fiction is one of those things that is unbearably geeky in popular culture. But I’m not really that fan either. I haven’t a clue what those “star dates” are supposed to be, know little to nothing about the later series, couldn’t care less about when the uniforms changed, and inconsistencies abounded–you know, like all the time. Nor do I know the difference between a trekkie and a trekker, which is apparently important.

That’s my personal theory as to why Star Trek spawned the era of fan fic, by the way. Because it has so many inconsistencies within its own universe, but such great characters you keep watching. Of course, this reason just occurred to me after I started this post, so forgive me some inconsistency of my own. It came to mind, though, because I recently read an claim that Trek evolved fan fiction because it had character potential that would not have been acceptable in the time period: specifically, Kirk and Spock slash. Slash when characters on a show are given a non-canonical relationship. Canon, in this context, means the accepted ‘truth’ of this universe, in this case the TV shows and movies. The ‘pairing’ of Kirk and Spock actually gave name to the term slash because warnings for it apparently followed a progression of Kirk/Spock, to K/S, to /, which of course is “slash”. Or so I’ve heard.

The explanations of which has completely derailed my point.

So. Kirk and Spock. Well, I don’t see it. Then again I rarely do. However, it also bothers me because claiming people did see it and were simple drawn to make it fact almost sounds like an argument that they were simply oh so progressive. That’s problematic to me because so many people who write slash are women, and it really isn’t a way of standing up for gay rights. If anything, it could be called exploitive. It’s a well-established phenomenon though, and it’s on the internet and can’t be stopped.

I think the sheer randomness of the so-called canon though might be what really got it going. Obviously people enjoy writing things like slash or what have you, but when there are so many holes in the storyline, it makes you question what might fit to fill them. Some people really like relationships.

My favorite part of Star Trek though, is that it never seemed to take itself as seriously as the fans–and for that matter, the creators–did. Take, for instance, the episode of “Spock’s Brain”. It’s practically canon crack!fic! Spock’s brain is stolen by beautiful, brainless females who need a new one to run their world. Hilariousness!  And so many of the lines are so over the top–if you watch the original series, the only one I’m referring to–that I can’t imagine the actors didn’t realize it when delivering them. Now, I can’t say anything  about what happened after the fame…because in current Trek fandom, the only thing you can’t say about them is that they don’t take themselves seriously.

Especially the sequel series. Much as I love Data and Picard, the Next Generation is so studious dramatic, half the episode I’m cringing in sympathy for the over-acting. IS SERIOUS BUSINESS people!

Star Trek 2009 was fun for the lens flare and explosions, and I don’t think meant to be taken entirely seriously either. And the score is awesome. I just watched it again a few hours ago, and it really doesn’t translate as well to the small screen, but that music just grabs your spinal cord and shakes you, yelling “it’s exciting dammit!” Also, considering they blew up Vulcan, it’s positively warm and fuzzy at the end. It’s almost as good as The Voyage Home and saving the whales and sending Chekov to look for nuclear veapons in the eighties. How I love that movie.

Popularly, Star Trek seems to be the absolute height of geekiness. Like there’s nothing to recover from: you either love it all or you don’t. Which in some ways makes it very hard to be a casual fan. Especially a casual fan who likes the eighties book series and The Animated Series (hey, they had non-humanoid aliens!). But don’t try to get the original series on DVD because even though it only ran three seasons they’re even higher priced than some current series, which makes no sense to me. So I can’t have them. Other than, you know, watching them free online, where they are hosted by the owners, with really irritating commercials. So I’ll just keep up my whine of “it’s not fair!” and enjoy my (gen) fan fic.

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.

Mopedom

Beware those who have stumbled here:  Self-indulgent rant ahead. I beg you, forgive me now, and don’t actually read this. I’ve started and I can’t stop!

I know I’m not particularly smart, though I’ve always wanted to be.  It comes from living in a small town and going to a small school where all it took to look “smart” was finishing your homework. Not that there weren’t smart people there, but it was still small enough that I could get away with never really making much of an effort at anything beyond what I wanted to do–specifically reading.  I simply didn’t do anything. Or at least it feels that way now.  Admittedly my memories of that time of my life have faded remarkably in only three years

So I suppose I can claim I’m scarred for life from the experience because I can’t stand getting anything less than A’s, a grade level I really can’t keep up, and yet still can’t learn efficient study habits. Mostly I’m deliberately stupid, kbecause I can’t care enough. I really can’t. For one thing, I can’t believe I’m really going to post this when I don’t really believe any of it, though the facts are straightforward enough.

No, I did not get enough sleep last night because I like to punish myself in strange, self-destructive ways (that are really ineffective at teaching me anything) but do I have to actually get sick, too? That’s not fair is it? Really? Well, yes, it is. You’d think I’d learn. Every time this semester (the only time I’ve actually done this) that I’ve gotten less than four hours of sleep (well, last night only makes the second time), I’ve gotten sick (again, twice). Will I learn after this?

And I’ve always had trouble getting sick. It feels so irresponsible. So now I’m feeling sorry for myself.

Depends on how well I do next semester, really.  I have high hopes. There will be someone else in my apartment, so I won’t be able to hide away like I’ve done this semester.  Really, I just need someone else’s expectations, really. Again, on my own I don’t bother anyone, but if there is someone else who will have trouble with my bad habits, I can handle it. Sad, I know. But if I can’t live alone, at least I’m a pretty good roommate. Or I haven’t had anyone completely freak out on me.  At the very least I guess I’m fairly inoffensive. I hibernate. It probably helps.

Proves I’m weird, but since I am with or without proof, I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

For the Title Alone

Yet another post because I came up with a title I liked.

This is definitely the opposite of when I try to write fiction, when I can be just as incoherent, but cannot create titles. At all.

But you know I’ve been reading this book  by M.C. Beaton, which she is writing under another name that I have not bothered to remember, in her same genre–mystery–with the same unlikable characters.

Which is weird, I usually only like books with likable characters. Books, TV, movies, ect, if I don’t like the characters I just don’t bother. Or I bother everyone else about how terrible and or ridiulous the book/show/movie is. But anyway, Beaton’s characters are unlikable, and irritating. But in high school, I read most of the Hamish Macbeth series…all, in fact, of the books my library owned, and enjoyed them. Recently, during the summer, I went through this libraries collection of Agatha Raisin books, tried a Macbeth mystery, and couldn’t stand it.

When I’d read the Macbeth in high school, I couldn’t stand Agatha Raisin, who is middle-aged, heavy-set, ursine with beady eyes.  See–it’s a memorable description, but so very mean.  That was the part I didn’t like.  All her characters too, seem to have love troubles throughout their series. But they are so ridiculous about it I get fed up, and give up. Admittedly, the characters are no more stupid than real life people doing the same thing. But I lose patience with them too. So I’ve liked the Agatha Raisin books recently enough that I could pick them up again despite the characters. (I must say, the characters are not badly drawn, just irritating, annoying, and mean. I don’t like mean. They’re generally unlikable, as far as I can tell, even to their friends.)

But like I said, I picked up a Beaton book, under another name, for another series.  And why does an author write under a pseudonym when just underneath, it has the author’s real name? This is a new series. And it’s “M.C. Beaton writing as ___!”  I just don’t get it.

Anyway. This new series takes place in Victorian England. Naturally.  Where else could you show off how delightfully ahead of her times the heroine is? Urgh.  There were plenty of intelligent women during Victorian times, and many of them were more enlightened than the period wished women to be. Nonetheless, there was a culteral reality to their attitudes, which most modern authors blow right past. Admittedly for mysteries especially, most authors will not probably spend years on their research, but is it really that hard to at least relate to histories realities?  In the subject of history itself, I’m not a fan of cultural relativism, but I think genre literature might benefit from at least a touch of it. Then again, it was the Victorian era, maybe today’s authors are attempting to emulate the gothic, lurid romance adventures of the day.

At any rate, the main character of this series is basically an upper-class, young, attractive Agatha, only she’s just as irritating. Lady Rose, is of course, a female activist horrifying her parents with her politics. To not be sent to India, she’s formed an engagement of convenience, whose other half she is conveniently in love with. Pardon–not so conveniently, neither will admit it. Oh, and he’s a policeman. (Um, Anne Perry?)

Now that was mean.

Still very typical of the modern day Victorian mystery. There are conventions of the genre, and even in 43 pages most of the highlights have been hit. Perhaps the trouble I’m having is that this particular book is not the first in the series. I’m not sure how far in it is, but we’re still being bombarded/smacked in the face with poor Lady Rose’s tribulations in being an activist during Victorian times…and the victim of an attempted assissination! She just can’t catch a break. And her companion, who I can’t quite recall, is either a former prostitute or a former actress–Victorian times, does it really matter–however, this at least, doesn’t seem to bother her parents. The parental units, by the way, are of course fully and foolishly intergrated into socities norms, and therefore not worth the words. Fortunately, Lady Rose managed to rise above her beauty and upbringing to be smart.

Back to the mystery. Never mind, I don’t want to talk about that because it’s kind of ridiculous actually. Only lady lovelier,  than Rose in her first season, the daughter of a Parson, is murdered looking like Lady of Shallot, and because she asked Lady Rose for help, someone is trying to kill poor Lady Rose while she shops for hats.

Ahh.  I’d almost forgotten the impetus for writing this today, at only 43 pages.

For Lady Rose’s protection, she and her companion are shipped to somewhere else in England that I cannot recall. They are fortunate to be able to catch a nap in a Pullman sleep car.  And we get a lecture on Pullman lasting a paragraph, complete with quote by Ambrose Bierce, about what happens when he dies. I really don’t care. No matter how quotable Ambrose Bierce may be–and he is very quotable.

Note: Wiki’d it.  Turns out this is an Edwardian mystery.  Who knew?  Still don’t like it much, and I still think it reads like a Victorian mysetry.  Ah well, I still intended to read it. Maybe it’ll get better. I’m at  nine hundred words and I don’t care to think about it anymore.