Saturday, May 10, 2008


Tonight, in place of the usual C&C, a few of us went to see David Mamet's Redbelt. We all enjoyed it, and I especially liked it. You should not, however, go to this movie if you want

* a fight film
* a realistic depiction of mixed-martial arts training or competition
* a laughfest

Okay, you probably knew the last point already, but the trailers might convince you that the movie would provide the first two.

Rather than being any of those things, Redbelt is a classic reluctant samurai tale set in LA today. At times beautifully underwritten, and with moments of classic Mamet starkly violent emotions, the movie takes you through the temptations the samurai must resist and the obstacles he must overcome.

Until less than five minutes before showtime, we were alone in the theater. Then, four more people joined us. That's it. That Redbelt drew such a small crowd on its opening night is a shame. This film deserves a wider audience.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mornings and I

do not get along. It's not my fault, not really. They simply arrive too early. On a typical day, at 4:30 a.m. or so I crawl into bed and read for a while to calm my brain. When I'm ready, which is usually half an hour to an hour later, I turn out the light and fall asleep quickly and easily.

At which point morning sticks its head into my life and ruins a perfectly good sleep. It's downright criminal, I tell you. With only a little consideration morning could hold off until 11:00 a.m. or so, then sneak in on tiny tendrils of light, and I wouldn't mind at all--well, not much.

Morning, of course, remains insensitive to this suggestion.

In fact, morning plans a very early assault tomorrow--rumor has it about 8:00 a.m.--so I will keep entry this short.

While I'm grousing at the universe, I should also mention that though I'm glad to see our cat, Lyra, turning affectionate, I would prefer she not again get one of her claws stuck through my shirt and in my nipple. I don't recommend you try this with your own cat. It's not fun, not fun at all.

Ah, well, enough whining. Off to Overthrowing Heaven go I.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Crossing the chasm

I'm working right now on a very cool bit of Overthrowing Heaven. I can see it all very clearly in my mind, and it's a part I quite love. My challenge, of course, is to translate my images, my dream into words that let readers experience something akin to, if not identical to, those images, that dream. I have to do this while not letting the plot drag, because I always want the story to chug unstoppably along.

Sometimes, like now, I find this challenge extremely daunting. As much as I want to get it right, by my own definition of what that means--letting you see what's in my head--I am doomed from the start. None of us can ever show another exactly what is in our head.

Until a few years ago, this is exactly the sort of thing that would have frozen me in my tracks for days, weeks, months, or even a few years, as the story idea faded away and my navel-gazing fear prevented me from writing. That doesn't happen any more. For better or worse, I write through this and every other obstacle, do the best I can, try to improve the book in the subsequent passes, and then move on to the next novel. After Overthrowing Heaven is out and you've read it, tell me your favorite parts, and I should know if I've succeeded.

Meanwhile, I'll keep writing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I voted today

and I wore the little sticker that said so until a few minutes ago. I did so because I was happy to have voted, in fact happy to have the chance to vote. A lot of people in a lot of countries don't have that chance, and you can bet your ass that a great many of them wish they did. I'm thrilled that I do.

It pisses me off when people complain about the government but then don't vote. They'll often claim that their vote doesn't matter, and in any given election they may well be right--but not always. As I write this, the race in Indiana between Clinton and Obama is down to about 17,000 votes with 95% of the precincts having reported. That's 17,000 out of almost 2 million votes so far--less than a percent. If you're in Indiana today and you voted in the Democratic primary, your vote definitely counted.

I can't stand the current government, but I love my country. I believe in its resilience, in its people, and in the act of voting, which is one of its foundations.

Regardless of which Democrat wins, come the November presidential election, we'll have two very different candidates. Choose the one you prefer, and make your voice heard: vote.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Iron Man

We went to see it on the Thursday night before it officially opened, but I've been remiss in writing about it. Bottom line: Go see it.

The movie has heart, good acting, action, and the larger-than-life virtues of comics. Robert Downey, Jr. is on, which means he's delivering a very good performance. Jeff Bridges does a fine job. Even Gwyneth Paltrow, who always leaves me cold, managed to earn my affection in the film. The origin story, though updated from the very old comic book origin, was reasonable enough to pass and true in spirit to the comic.

You don't, by the way, need to know the comic-book character at all to appreciate it; several people in our party had never read a comic with Iron Man, and we all quite liked the film.

Of course, I am a huge comic book fan, so I was a natural member of the movie's audience.

I recommend this one.

Monday, May 5, 2008

On the road again: Florida, day 3

Today was a travel day, with all the overhead that entails. Fortunately, the trip was uneventful, though I did for the first time experience the air-gust machine at airport security. I didn't enjoy it, but I didn't hate it, either. It was far slower than I expected, but otherwise it was no big deal.

I'm very glad I got to spend the time with Mom, and I know she greatly enjoyed the party. My brother and his wife were perfect hosts, and I even slept well there.

Still, I'm quite glad to be home.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

On the road again: Florida, day 2

When I can sleep late, I do. I wake up only when either someone or some event requires me to do so. I thus did not get up today until about 11:30, which unfortunately was a good hour later than I should have slept. (The eight hours I was in bed were, however, glorious, the longest straight sleep for me in some time.)

My brother, my sister, and I spent lunch and most of the afternoon with my mom, whose wish was to have all her kids around her. It was a pleasant time, somewhat a reminder of the notion that when you get together with someone from your past you revert to who you were at that time, but also somewhat a time for us to learn to be with each other as who we are now. We left for a bit as Mom napped, then reassembled, along with two of my cousins, for dinner. The meal was quite pleasant, as were the dessert and conversation back at Mom's.

As we were preparing to leave, Mom said the time with all of us had improved her health, and at least for those minutes that statement seemed to be true. I believe she's well on her way to recovery, and I am hopeful that she will continue to improve.

Both as a writer and as someone who spends part of most gatherings stuck in his head, struggling to connect with those around him while at the same time trying hard to make sure they can't tell what's going on inside me, I was struck by both how utterly routine and how noble the situation was. People all over the world are fighting diseases, getting together with their families, renewing and sometimes recreating connections, and holding tight to life. There's nothing unusual about it--except that this time it is my mother locked in the battle. Pull the camera back a very long distance, and it all blurs into a boring description of one of life's many inevitabilities. Zoom in, however, and in each and every case you find someone whom others love doing all she or he can to stay alive. As a person, each of us faces the related challenges of doing all we can to help those closest to us and when it happens to someone else remembering how it was for us so that we never forget that the others aren't all that different from us. When we do forget, when we make others less than us, when we relegate them to not quite human status, then evil has entered the room, and bad things will happen.

To return to my little corner of the Earth, however, I'm putting my money on Mom to recover. Go, Mom!


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