Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

The morning after

In Collages on May 31, 2010 at 6:43 am

Since I make a point of looking fairly sane and reasonable around other animals and people, the above photo isn’t so much about the scene photographed as about the fact there was another human, plus a dog, not far off from that spot. I would be horribly embarrassed, not to say deeply ashamed, to let the raving internal lunatic loose in their presence. So this shot is about me, packing up the raving internal lunatic, and taking her for a walk in the countryside, cleverly disguised as my every day, reasonably calm and composed persona. The wheat is playing itself, and waving at the camera; idem with the poppies.

I wish to add I am also ashamed and embarrassed to let the raving lunatic loose in a number of other circumstances, outside of the playpen I call story. The fact is: finishing the story felt like receiving an unexpected boomerang on the back of the skull. I’m starting to adjust to the idea I have to live with my own words, even when they get hijacked by entities known as characters who decide they want to tell their story as they see fit. So be it, et ainsi va la vie.

Where it starts getting funny is when, in dreamtime, one of the political figures I had in mind while writing shows up to give me his opinion on the manuscript. It’s funny because a) he doesn’t realize I had him in mind while writing and b) he’s telling me people understand neither subtlety nor caricature but he has no doubt my story is excellent except for those two aspects I may wish to reconsider. In the dream, I told myself: “you’d better wake up now, or you’ll laugh in his face.” So I woke up laughing, and  leaving one of Québec’s political figures to receive the respects and kowtows of those he had shafted and used for all they were worth. Ah, life.

Today: clean-up. Timelines, spelling, lay-out. Get used to the idea the story is done. Take it from there, et vogue la galère.

Getting the words right

In Collages, Music on May 30, 2010 at 6:53 am

No, this isn’t what my room looks like right now. This was at the heighth of the Mots en voyage exercise, while I was trying to organize the materials by country and main language spoken by the characters in the stories. It’s a fairly accurate description of the state of my thoughts this morning which is why I’m posting it.

Getting the words right. In the right sequence, in the right order; with the right energy behind them – not too much, not too little. Goldilocks and those damn bowls of porridge.

“I should be finishing the last chapter today or Monday at the latest,” I crowed a few times yesterday. Ha! Eat your words, one by one.

We shall overcome. We are not afraid.

12:00 Experience has taught me one thing: typing in the words THE END is only one step on the road of re-writes. But it’s a major one, always deserving of a musical break. This time:  Carnaval de Sao Vicente, with Cesaria Evora.

Et vogue la galère.

Here comes the sun

In Collages, Contes d'Exil, Hautvoir on May 29, 2010 at 6:47 am

Granted, the message at the bottom of the Sunracer may be somewhat of an overstatement. “Donner au monde l’énergie d’être meilleur” (Giving the world the Energy to be Better) it reads. Even at one million euro a pop, that’s a fairly ambitious program for a car. But where would we be without big dreams? In way less trouble, for sure, but probably bored out of existence. You don’t get to build a Sunracer because all’s well with the world. Although, in my own big dreaming, we get to a point where, as a species, we get to do just that: create things for the fun of it, not as a desperate scramble to escape the latest mess of our own doing. (As I write these words, am I thinking about the oil spewing out of the busted oil rig off the coast of Louisiana? One hundred percent yes.)

Creating for the fun of it. Aging hippy that I am, that sounds like a variation of the old ‘Make Love, not War’, yes? They say  that’s the recipe for the most gorgeous babies: fun. Did you know that? Even if it hasn’t been proven in labs, myself, I’m willing to buy it as a hypothesis.

How any of this will move me closer to the end of Chapter The End in story, I have no idea. I’m going with the flow, where it stops, I will too. Images of Louisiana come streaming by. Of a crazy time moving some guy’s busted camper from one crummy, run-down campground to a cruddier sleep station yet. In the first, the kids were playing with busted beer bottles. In the second, each flea had a dog all its own. But the sun was shining, we told stories about another country further North, some of the folks told  stories about a country further South; the sun raced by, the dogs scratched their flea, and the flea bit back.

It’s not that there isn’t plenty of sorrow and grief to it all. It’s just that there’s more  usable energy at the other end of the spectrum.

“Un rien l’amuse”

In Collages, Film, Hautvoir on May 28, 2010 at 7:46 am

The photo is a displacement activity if I ever saw one. Here I am, either at mid point or earlier in the concluding chapter. Not only are things unresolved but I’m cursing myself for not having held my own against one of the characters’ insistence she was flying in from such a crazy distance (why couldn’t she be in Honolulu? No, I’m in Kuala Lumpur, she said. How a donkey-brained writer ends up getting such donkey-brained characters must be divine justice and retribution at work).

So I look through the photos, read through my emails, pretend I’m not in the least bit concerned about the whole bunch of them; then, I pretend the rabbit is looking at me, and playing silly games of hide-and-seek. As one of the nuns once told another nun, as I giggled over something or other: “Un rien l’amuse.” True enough. But since laughter is just as contagious as every other emotional state, I’m pleased to put down in my list of Lifetime Achievements two separate incidents in two separate convents in which the giggling carried over to 1) the mother Superior, in the first instance and 2) la préfète de discipline, in the second. Infectious, they call it. No, I won’t switch on the Habbe und Meik video yet again. I realize only little kids can watch the same stunts and pratfalls over and over again, and still find them funny. Besides, there is absolutely nothing amusing about the situation at this point in the story. Nothing to be gained by avoiding the dire, the fraught, the growing sense that time is running out, yet running too slowly at the same time, the certainty I’m going to muff this thing something awful,  chomp-chomp on my fingernails. Nothing to… Actually, the situation in story is pretty much like the sequence that runs from 2:51 to 3:05. We’re moving folks, we’re moving. We’ll get wherever we’re going (the “we” referring to the writer and her cast of thousands.) Mon dieu. Un rien m’amuse, en effet. Clearly, I’ll never manage the five-seconds to doomsday genre, so long as there’s a magnetic red bunny and a ventilation shaft to play with.

Trains, and boats, and planes

In Collages, Hautvoir, Irish Mist on May 27, 2010 at 6:38 am

So funny (no, not the shot above, although the loudspeaker looks like a hair dryer, so that’s mildly amusing in itself).  The joke is on me, and those are the best: here I am, somewhat anxious this morning, trying to keep track of all the circling planes, moving trains and occasional rowboats in which my characters find themselves in this, the final chapter of the story. Not only do you need to know these things to avoid collisions; just as important, if you plan to bring the mighty tumbling down, you had better find the window of opportunity open, or else.

In the midst of all this über-serious plotting and devising, a comment appears in my email, for publication on the community blog. It is from none other than one of the film directors on whose sets I loitered during the winter. The comment sets me straight on the attribution of a quote (and on his opinion about the author I’m quoting, too). The joke being I know perfectly well who the author is. I even use the names of his eponymous characters as those for two canaries in my story. When I saw the quote attributed in a search engine to a Franciscan preacher of the fourteenth century, I thought: how interesting that Bernardin de Saint-Pierre took his name from such a source. The quote was amusing, and I thought nothing more of it. Now of course, I must invent a Franciscan preacher, born in 1380 and deceased in 1444 who would have said: “Nature divided the melon into slices so it could be eaten by a family. The pumpkin being bigger, it can be eaten with the neighbors.” I see it as part of a Lenten predication, yes? Ah yes, the man has something to do with the Voynich Manuscript, I’m ready to bet on it. I’m cracking up.

All right. Serious. We have serious work to do, an arch-villain to cut down to size, no less. (The photo above is from a barber’s storefront. I was on my way to the Phebus European Solar Rally when I grabbed it. Perhaps the story of Samson and Delilah can be useful, when applied to a villain in need of trimming down? Let us go forth and find out.)

Moving forward

In Collages, Current reading, Film, Hautvoir on May 26, 2010 at 6:57 am

I’ll be using this photo on the community blog to announce the concert. I’m using it here because I liked the combination of the name of the group with the clouds reflected in the window.

Story-wise, the plan for today is to finish reading through the manuscript in sequence; then, finalize the last chapter; then, do a search on all dates, times, units of measure (I swing back and forth between miles and kilometers, for example), and other such distractions. I still have the nagging feeling there was something else I wanted to work out in the storyline – in terms of simplifying or clarifying. But maybe I’ll get a better sense of what that is once I’ve stepped away from the story for a few days; or maybe it’s something I’ll work out in the next one.

Parallel to this, I’m working on ideas for the script of the animation film. Great discussion with Anne yesterday. It always comes down to the same thing: when  a story isn’t working, it’s because you haven’t pushed it to the limits of whatever it is you need to do with it. All kinds of reasons for that: you’re “saving” the material for a more ambitious project down the line, or you don’t think you have the technical skills required, or the financing, or the peace of mind, or… whatever. But if the project isn’t worth the effort to deal with all those real constraints, what’s the point in doing it? The next iteration is going to be more challenging, both technically and story-wise. But we’ve nailed the basic  theme running through all of our collaborative efforts: we both feel strongly about the creative power of dreams, and about that power as an exploration tool. The idea behind the various film projects we’re looking at being to illustrate this through different stories we work out together (but most of the writing being my job) and visual techniques (her end of the operation, with smart ass suggestions from me.)

After our discussion, and after reading through How Wang Fo Was Saved again last night, I started jotting down ideas inspired by the spaces in the story.  For me, once a notebook gets going on a project, it’s like pulling out the saddle for the horse. (P.S. The story itself has already been treated cinematically; the point to this exercise is using the story as a launching point for a further exploration into the creative process.)

“…into the wild blue yonder, climbing high…”

In Collages, RLB trivia on May 25, 2010 at 6:43 am

It’s the same as any other weaning: the body protests louder than a two-year old throwing a tantrum at the mall. No more salt? No more pâté and/or cheese? No more coffee? Of course, the grown-up in your head (yes, there is one in there somewhere), said grown up nods, agrees, says it’s all for the best really; and long overdue, at that. Thank you Doctor, and how much do I owe you?

The first few days aren’t so bad. There’s the novelty of it all; plus, your system is busy adjusting to the meds. Then, the body wakes up. “Hey! Where’s the salt? Hey! I want some of that cheese! Whoah, what do you mean no coffee?” And so on – but in an internal dialog that gets way less civil quickly. The body isn’t happy one bit. Reminding the body it got itself in this mess in the first place adds an extra layer of bad mood to the proceedings. If there’s one thing a body doesn’t like to hear is: it had it coming.

Reminder to body, once again: you quit smoking, remember? And twice, at that. What made you quit for good the second time? The fact you couldn’t bear going through it again. So, what does that tell you about this new lifestyle, destined to make you a newly vibrant and finely tuned instrument (I know; the body ain’t buying it, that’s not the point). Speak up, oh body: what does that tell you? (“I had it coming,” mumbles the body.)

I, being a part of said body, must concur. This body now returns to the main business at hand: finishing the read-through on one storyline, before doing a full read of the full story, to discover what it has managed to produce this time around, other than piling on yet more pounds than are good for it.

We shall overcome. We are not afraid (personal mantra).

Photo: in the waiting room at my cardiologist’s office.

“Quo usque tandem abutere…”

In Collages, Hautvoir on May 24, 2010 at 6:47 am

Apologies for the title. It comes at the tail end of a mental iteration started by the photo above, taken yesterday afternoon in a small town called Saint-Paul-Cap-de-Joux. Suffice it to say that, in Gallo-Roman times, the week started on Thursdays there; it did so because Thursdays were consecrated to Jupiter. Even after the town was reconsecrated to a Christian saint, there remained the Cap (from the latin for head) and the Joux (from the old occitanian for Jeudi) as markers from the previous incarnation.

Still on the topic of etymologies, on the way home, I found out the local avenue du Général de Gaulle was formerly avenue du Maréchal Pétain; but the townspeople called it “avenue des collabos” – meaning those who collaborated with the town’s German occupiers during the  Second World War.  Just as interesting, for future story purposes, is the fact some of the town’s finest mansions stand on that avenue – abandoned, most of them. Their owners either left town after the tannery trade crashed or their grandchildren blew the money in a matter of years. Details about how the trade crashed are also part of the stories I’m hearing. Edifying, and also inspiration for the partial quote from Cicero above: “how much longer, Catilina, will you abuse of our patience?” (Before being a salad dressing, Catilina was a tyrant who fled Rome after Cicero lashed into him. Us convent-raised young ladies translated Cicero’s Latin into approximate – and sometimes terribly funny – French.)

On a lighter note, the quote is also a self-directed joke. The other day, someone asked me, with a fair amount of impatience, how much longer I would  be working on this story of mine. As in: when will you accept my invitation to drinks and gossip?  It set off the donkey reflex in me. I felt like answering: “what difference does it make? When I finish it, I’ll only be starting on another.” Instead, I answered: “oh, a good six months, minimum.” It had the desired effect. Actually (just don’t tell the woman who put the question to me), unless I’m missing something the size of a mountain range, I’m moving closer to bringing this particular story as far as it will go – or it, as far as it can take me. I have mixed feelings about that, but I’ll save them for the moment I literally do type in the final words.

Untitled for now

In Collages, Hautvoir on May 23, 2010 at 6:35 am

The young lady in the poster above is following Goethe’s well-advised words: “Do you wish to live happy? Travel with two bags, one for giving, one for receiving.”  Goethe never mentioned the type of bags he had in mind. The young lady decided she might as well have them color coordinated to her outfit, her shoes and her eye makeup, too.

I note she’s on her way to the Forum so she may well have been one of the people in the crowd when Tariq Ramadan and Pierre Tournemire debated on the topic of religion and society. Sexy topic? You bet, when it boils down to nitty-gritty issues such as: is it OK to be treated by a doctor of another gender than yours? Can members of one religious group insist on having special schedules at the municipal swimming pool, so that men and women don’t wade in the water together (hopefully, they can wade in the same water or else the town will have huge water bills; yes, I’m being facetious.) Can members of a specific religious group insist on their children not taking certain classes because the topics don’t agree with the tenets of their faith? And so on. Close to one thousand people attended the debate. A huge number for a town of twelve thousand inhabitants. The staging of this debate had been denounced all the way to the major media in France. Regional political figures had taken this town’s mayor and Youth Council to task over it. The police was out in force. Neither the anticipated fistfights nor the general mayhem materialized. Much to the chagrin of the sky-is-falling faction, the young lady in the poster was not forced to cover her midriff, nor to don a burka – although she is thinking of trying one, just to see what covered-up feels like. (These two paragraphs being reference notes for a future story.)

Back to the current story I go. Looking forward to reading through all characters in full sequence – the only way to make final adjustments. I’m not quite there yet; still have to finish the  review of characters by storyline, and complete one of those.

Do I have a title to this post? Hm, no.

In weather, today…

In Collages, Film, Hautvoir, RLB trivia on May 22, 2010 at 6:31 am

I haven’t tweaked the values on the photo much (lightened the shadow just a bit) because this is really what the light was like yesterday when we sat in the garden, working on the storyboard and the script for an animated short. The amusing thing being the fact we were sitting in the sheltered area of what was the town’s first movie ‘house’ – an outdoor screening room, with the projection done on the wall of the pickle factory. Neither of us was in great shape, physically; there was even a “what’s the point?” moment when we deleted the middle section  of the storyboard, and floundered about searching for another way to move the story forward. At which point we went back to the initial questions we had left unresolved, and decided to explore one of them. We’ll see what comes of it.

In story, I’m going cold into a scene I hadn’t planned, involving one character I had already dismissed, mentally. It feels a bit like a film director discovering he still needs an actor who is no longer on the set. I started paging my character last night, but he’s taking his sweet time showing up. I may have to start the scene without him.

Sun. At last. Warm weather, finally. I label it ‘RLB trivia’ but really, the trivia often accounts for most of everything else that follows.