Friday, July 11, 2008

The reviews must be better than the product

Boing Boing made me aware of Balla powder. What made me howl with laughter, though, were a few of the user reviews on the Amazon page for the product. I have to hope this stuff is real, just so more people write reviews.

In completely unrelated news, the rains came this afternoon, and they took away part of my writing time, because the weather was just too perfect for napping. If I could just stay on vacation for a few months and learn to sleep through the night, I might get fully rested. (Despite the nap, I wrote most of a short chapter today; the work must continue.)

We watched a Henry Rollins spoken word performance on DVD tonight, and the experience strengthened my resolve to get back to--and more seriously into--spoken word. I'd done some at cons a long time ago, but not a lot. I've been collecting material for a long time, and soon I think I'll try out local open mic clubs. If any con organizers are looking for cheap entertainment, let me know; I'll be there.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Burn Notice returns

We gathered in front of the TV in the primitive way: watching a show as it was broadcast, no DVR, nothing other than the Mute button to protect us from the commercials. The first episode of the second season of Burn Notice was what compelled us to face this ordeal. Many of us here at the beach loved the first season, and we were greatly looking forward to the second.

After watching tonight's show, I'm afraid I'm still going to have to reserve judgment. The episode was good, way better than most shows. The dialog was snappy, the tradecraft solid, and the returning characters all in fine form. Despite all that, to me this first installment felt a bit forced and also lacked the spark that set the previous season apart from its competition. Having said that, I'm looking forward to the next show, because I think some of what I felt was due to the fact that this show had to serve as a bridge from the past season to the setup of the new one.

So, with those reservations I recommend catching this episode in a later airing this week if you missed it tonight, and I'm hoping for improvement as the season wears on.

It's what America's eating!

The audience thinned to three hearty souls as The Assassination of Jesse James blah blah blah ground away at our hearts, its relentless turtle-like pace rolling over us as if we were road kill in the path of a giant steamroller.

Seven hours later, the film finally behind us, the last bit of Brad Pitt's threatening madness scraped from our shirts and pants, we opened email to find a gem from John.

Holy crap! We have to make this. It was just the laugh we needed. Maybe it will save you, too.

Just don't eat it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Correcting myself on writing

In multiple conversations with others and in blog entries, I've noted that I write every day. I do so with a neurotic passion born of the fear that were I to stop, I might not resume for decades. In my typical compulsive fashion, I feel compelled to confess that I did indeed miss multiple days--to be precise, eight--due to my back injury.

I'd been hurt before and sick before and kept writing, and I'd planned to write through this injury. Typing while flat on your back is not a particularly efficient practice, but I have a MacBook Air that would have been just the ticket for that sort of work. I could also have resorted to longhand, which though nearly unreadable and incredibly slow does allow me to keep making forward progress. Ultimately, however, I chose not to write because I became convinced that the combination of the pain and the pain medication would result in poor work. Yes, my fear of writing badly overcame my fear of not writing at all.

Or, maybe I was just a big old whining wimp, which is what I truly feel even though I try to tell myself otherwise.

Regardless of which factor really led me to not write, I was greatly relieved the first day I returned to writing. (I have, of course, written every day since then.) It wasn't until I closed the file with that first day's work and saved it to all the places I make copies that I realized I'd been holding my psychic breath just a little.

This confession may not seem necessary to you, but ultimately admitting my own weakness seems necessary. I feel a lot better having gotten that off my chest. I sure hope I don't skip again. (If you happen to be someone helping me to a doctor one day, please grab a notebook and a pen, just in case.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Grace in action

In a stunning display of grace and skill, late last night I managed to break the middle toe of my left foot. I was talking about the DVD we'd just finished watching. Without paying adequate attention, I turned, caught my foot under a coffee table, lifted the foot as if to step forward, snapped the toe, and then fell. I fell onto my already sore left side, messing up my knee a little and hurting my back a fair amount. The only good news is that with stretching and sleeping mostly flat, my back returned to its normal soreness this morning. I'd feared far worse, so being in only the usual amount of pain is, in this case, quite a win.

Apparently, walking and talking at the same time is sometimes too much for me.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Writing bios

I've had the good fortune lately to have several different folks ask me for bios for several different purposes. (I'll try to remember to announce the appearance of the bios and the related materials as they occur.) Each of these people, however, wanted a bio that met their particular needs. Cheeky buggers, eh? Seriously, all the requests were quite reasonable, and so I set about to fulfill them.

Unfortunately, that meant I had to, well, write them.

I find that quite uncomfortable. My books and shorter fiction pieces are about the stories I'm telling. These blog entries are about their topics, even if some of their topics happen to be aspects of me. The bios are basically ads for myself, so I always feel like I'm on the edge of mutating into one of those distressing people who talk about themselves in the third person.

"Mark likes fly fishing, thumb wrestling in the dark, and sprinkles and whipped cream on his bacon cheeseburgers."

"A Pisces, Mark often sits at the bottom of a pool when refining his plots for world domination."

"Formerly the lead singer for the instrumental group One Fine Comb, Mark now spends his retirement luring skinks into terrible science experiments."

You get the idea.

Despite these misgivings, I'm doing the best I can with each little bio, and I'm sticking to the truth as best I know it. Here's hoping they're not too boring.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My day

People have asked me, what do you do for excitement at the beach?

The short answer is, nothing. Excitement is not why I come here.

The easiest way to give a longer answer is to walk through a sample day, say today. After reading late, I slept late. I then pulled on my bathing suit, found a few folks of like mind, and walked to the ocean (a fair hike from the house, which even though it's oceanside is still on the order of a quarter mile from the water). We played in the waves for a little bit, then walked back and hung out in the pool for a little bit longer. After a shower, some of us went to lunch, then came back. I wrote and hung out with people. Having rested up, a few of us watched an excellent Doctor Who episode ("Blink"). I then hung out yet more with folks, worked on Overthrowing Heaven--I really like today's work, which probably means it's crap, but so it goes--and then hung out still more. Off we went to dinner, then hanging out (and a little more writing for me), then a comedy DVD, dessert, and soon I'm going to hang out some more and maybe watch something else and definitely read more.

Some days there's more reading than watching, and on action-packed days we might visit a little shop or even drive half an hour to the movie theater.

Nothing exciting, but just the ticket for recharging.

At the beach

Today, our two-week beach vacation began. Around this time each year, a large group of us, biological family and extended family, converge on an eight-bedroom beach house. We play in the ocean, on the beach, or in the house's pool, eat too much food, watch DVDs, and generally relax. I look forward to it every year, but this year I really need it. I've been more burned out at the start of some past beach trips, but not in a while.

Everyone is asleep as I write this. I've tucked in kids, checked on others, turned off lights, and now I'm working at the dining area table. I spent a few moments alone outside on the balcony, listening to the ocean and the howling wind and feeling very, very glad to be here. I also couldn't help but feel alone in a crowded house, as I so often do. I used to think everyone was this way, but I've talked to enough people over the years that I now accept the obvious: feelings on this topic fall along a broad continuum.

I'm often amazed at my own ability to wring loneliness from crowded gatherings. The only saving grace is that the vast majority of the time I don't find being alone or even loneliness to be a negative thing; it's just another way to be. If I were my therapist, of course (and for this discussion I'll pretend I have a therapist), I'd read those few sentences and figure I'd be charging this patient's credit card for many months to come. Fortunately for me, I also feel (and am) a part of many groups, so I don't lack for social contact.

I hope this week to go swimming at night, something I love to do but won't do alone simply for safety reasons. We'll see how successful I am in persuading some others to join me.

Despite what in my review of the above text read like whining, I do love this place. I really do.


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